Good Dog: Behavior & Training
How do you refer to your canine companion?
The way that we refer to our associates says a lot about the relationship. Several decades ago, there was a very awkward period when many couples began to live together without being married, and boyfriend/girlfriend seemed inadequate. Partner and life partner became more common. The very cumbersome term coined by the United States Census Bureau “POSSLQ” (Person of Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters) never achieved widespread use. The change in relationships—serious and not married—gave rise to a number of new ways to refer to each other.
Now, I think we are in the middle of a similar period of trying out terms with our dogs as our view of human-canine relationship changes. We already switched the way we refer to ourselves in relation to our dogs. The antiquated term “master” is (thankfully) hardly ever seen, and owner is also less common. The terms guardian and pet parent seem to be on the rise.
The special canines in our lives have long been called “my dog” or “my best friend” but these are hardly the only options any more. I hear people refer to dogs as their fur kids, their four-legged kids, or just as their family members.
Personally, I lean towards saying “my dog” because I like the benefit of the simple description without the opportunity for unwanted connotation. To me, it seems that there is great love and respect in the term “dog,” as it is one of my very favorite species. I understand why many people prefer terms that more directly take note of the familial relationship, and I think there is great value in that. I also realize that many people consider the possessive “my” problematic with dogs as it suggests ownership, but I also say, “my sons” and “my husband” without suggesting that I own them.
How do you refer to the dogs in your life, and why? Has your terminology changed over time?
While we on the west coast are contending with a very robust El Nino rainy season, we aren’t complaining after so many years of drought. But it does make dog walks and exercising extra challenging. But for most of the rest of the country dealing with harsh and cold winter weather is even more difficult. So today when we received a press release from the Central Veterinary Associates in Long Island, NY we thought that they had many good ideas to help you prepare for wintery conditions.
● Always Dry Off: When your dog comes in from the snow, ice or sleet, be sure to thoroughly wipe down their paws and stomach. He or she may have rock salt, antifreeze or other potentially dangerous chemicals on their paws which, if ingested, can cause severe stomach problems. Antifreeze should especially be watched for as it can lead to kidney failure. In addition, paw pads may get cut from hard snow or encrusted ice, so it’s important to check them over and treat them accordingly.
● Hold Off on Haircuts: Save for extreme circumstances, you should never shave down your dog during the winter. Their long, thick coats are vital for protection from the cold. If you have a short-haired breed, consider getting him a coat or a sweater with a high collar or turtleneck with coverage from the base of the tail to the belly.
● Keep Bedtime Warm: Make sure your dog has a warm place to sleep, off the floor and away from all drafty areas. A cozy pet bed with a warm blanket or pillow is ideal.
● Bathroom Breaks: If you have a puppy or aging pet that may be sensitive to the cold, it may be difficult to take them outside. Use wee-pads or old newspapers to train puppies or to allow older pets to relieve themselves.
● Bring Pets Inside: If domesticated animals are left outdoors during winter months, they run the risk of health conditions caused by extreme temperatures. Cats are especially susceptible as they have free reign of the outdoors, and become lost during a storm, or taken in by a neighbor. In similar fashion to summer months, you should never leave your pet alone in a car in cold weather, as they could freeze and develop serious cold-related health conditions.
● Keep a Short Leash: Never let your dog off the leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm as they can lose their scent and easily become lost. More dogs are lost during the winter than any other season, so make sure that your dog always wears his identification tags. It is highly recommended that all pets are outfitted with a microchipping device, which it makes available as part of a low-cost service.
● Check Your Engine: As you’re getting into your car in the morning, bang loudly on the hood of the car before getting in. Outdoor cats and wild animals like to sleep under cars or within the engine compartment or wheel base, as the engines keep the vehicle warm long after the car is parked. However, once the car is started or in motion, the cat can be injured or killed by the fan belt or tires.
● Clean Up Spills: If you spill any antifreeze or winter-weather windshield fluid, be sure to clean it up immediately. Pets, especially cats, are enticed by the sweet-tasting liquid, but it is poisonous. Ingesting antifreeze leads to potentially life-threatening illness in all animals, domesticated or otherwise. If possible, use products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol.
Also, Dr. Aaron Vine, DVM, Vice President, Central Veterinary Associates adds that, “It is very important to keep your pet safe and healthy during the winter season, especially during storms like the one in the forecast this weekend. The extreme cold may have an adverse effect on your pet’s health, so pet owners must take the necessary precautions for their pets when bringing them outside. It is especially important during extreme weather circumstances to ensure that your pet is microchipped, which makes it easier to locate them. In the event they become ill as a result of being exposed to the elements, please bring them to a veterinarian immediately.”
Do check out their Holiday Safety Tips blog and visit www.centralvets.com.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
The CNN anchor donates ballistic vests to the Norfolk Police K9 Unit.
Three days after Krijger, a Norfolk, Virginia police dog, was shot and killed in a standoff following a domestic dispute, Anderson Cooper made a touching tribute in memory of the heroic Belgian Malinois.
The CNN anchor donated his fee from an upcoming lecture in Norfolk to buy 18 canine ballistic vests for the city’s police dogs. It’s likely that Krijger would have survived if he was wearing one of the $2,200 Kevlar vests.
The donation was facilitated by Spike’s K9 Fund, an organization started by retired SEAL, Jimmy Hatch to help military and police pups. The non-profit is named after Jimmy’s loyal war dog, Spike, who was killed in Iraq back in 2006.
Jimmy also volunteers with the police department, sharing advice learned while handling dogs in combat zones. Through that work, Jimmy knew Krijger, so he was extra determined to create a fundraiser to honor him. After seeing the effort on social media, Anderson contacted Jimmy to help out. The two had met last year when Anderson interviewed Jimmy about Spike’s K9 Fund.
The police plan on holding a memorial service for Krijger next Tuesday at the Norfolk Police K9 Range, followed by an interment with full police honors at the Garden of the Pines Pet Cemetery in Virginia Beach. While both services are private, the public is invited to pay tribute along the funeral procession route.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
My last blog I wrote about Dillon and Molly, my two elderly foster dogs who lost their home in the devastating Valley Fires. The entire time that Dillon and Molly were in the shelter their 92 year old owner, Karen, was unable to visit. When the dogs came home with me I was determined to change that. I was able to reach the family members that Karen was staying with and arranged to bring the dogs to visit. I really didn’t know what to expect. It had been months since they had last seen each other and under terrifying circumstances as they fled the roaring fire.
The old dogs seemed happy to go on an adventure and scrambled to climb into my car. Both are frail with bad hips and I had to lift them the last little bit into the vehicle but they rode happily for the hour and a half drive. My friend Angie came along to help and the time passed quickly in good conversation. When we arrived a grandson greeted us at the door and invited us into the small cluttered room where multiple family members had been staying since the fire. Molly and Dillon heard a voice across the darkened room and dragged me to where Karen sat in a comfy chair dimly lit by the sliding glass door behind her. Karen’s shaking voice cried out “I thought I would never see you again!” as Dillon pulled me to her and buried his huge head in her lap with Molly following. It was hard to see through my tears but I could hear Karen saying “I love you, I love you” over and over.
Molly had greeted Karen eagerly but was somewhat restless and paced around the room. I had been told that Dillon had always been totally devoted to Karen and sure enough, he wouldn’t leave her side. His hips gave out a few minutes later and he collapsed next to her while she stroked him over and over. We chatted for a while and the entire time Karen’s frail hands were on Dillon’s big noble head. Karen kept saying that she was going to get a place where she could have the dogs and I told her that of course when that happened I would bring the dogs back to her. After a while I could see that Karen was tiring and we prepared to leave. I promised her that we would try to visit again and that I would take good care of her dogs as long as needed.
The dogs slept quietly on the way home and Angie and I chatted about the experience. It had been a wonderful reunion but we both knew that chances were slim that Karen would be able to find a place where she could have her two large dogs. Still, we can always dream.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
An Italian town considers banning loud pyrotechnics in consideration of animals.
While most people are thrilled by fireworks, dog families often brace themselves around holidays like Forth of July because many pets are afraid of the loud noises. Not only are these sounds out of the ordinary, they're extremely deafening, especially for sensitive animal ears. Every year, there are always stories about dogs who ran away from home after being startled by fireworks.
Domestic pets aren't the only animals to be affected. Researchers at the University of Guelph and Acadia University found that fireworks can disorient flying birds, even causing some to abandon their nests. Scientists also discovered that the day after fireworks, hens show extremely low egg production with an increase in malformed eggs.
The town of Collecchio, in the province of Parma, Italy, was concerned enough by these effects that their local government introduced legislation to mandate the use of quiet fireworks as a way of respecting animals and reducing stress. As crazy as it sounds, these fireworks do exist! The Italian company Setti is just one company that sells products to create a light show without the loud noises.I hope that the use of quiet fireworks becomes more popular around the world!
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
No, thanks, I have a dog so I’m used to being crowded
I don’t have a large personal space, which works out great given the amount of time I spend with dogs. Many dogs choose to be right next to or on top of others in their social circles. Some only act this way with their best friends, but for others, anybody nearby will do.
Personal preferences vary among the canine set, just as they do within our own species. There are certainly dogs who really need space and don’t care for a lot of physical contact. Such dogs never try to sit on your head. However, there are lots of dogs who consider any space between themselves and others to be too much distance.
It may not always be pleasant to live with dogs who violate your personal space, but the photographs of them doing it can be pretty hilarious. Here are some excellent examples of such pictures.
Do you have a dog who would rather be on top of (or right next to) you, another dog or even the family cat?
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
The electronics world loves it, but will the dog world embrace it, too?
At the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) start up competition last week in Las Vegas, a game console for dogs called CleverPet took first place, beating out accessories for virtual reality experiences and a number of smart home products. The prize was a free booth at the evening’s ShowStopper Event, guaranteeing more press for this product.
There are already plenty of digital products for dog guardians, such as pet trackers and health monitors, but this product aims to serve the needs of the dog directly, not the needs of the people. CleverPet is a digital entertainment device that can help dogs who are bored and lack mental stimulation. There are several games available, and they update automatically by Wi-fi. In one game, dogs must remember and correctly respond to patterns of lights and sounds. Puzzles start out simple and progressively get harder. In another game, they must respond to words such as “left” and “right” to hit the correct touch pad. In the squirrel game, the dog must properly respond to catch the squirrel as the light (the squirrel) darts from pad to pad at increasing speeds. In all games, correct responses lead to food rewards. Videos of dogs engaged with the device look promising.
Many people may be put off by the thought of their dogs learning how to respond to this device, but as the inventors point out, it’s not really a new concept. Mice and rats have been asked to perform similar tasks in the interests of scientific research for years. CleverPet is simply bringing this concept directly to consumers for the benefit of our dogs.
The benefits of mental stimulation and the relief of boredom are obvious. Additionally, I think dogs benefit by being successful which makes them feel good. I’m not one to underestimate the advantage of earning food by making choices and being right to dogs’ self esteem and happiness. On the other hand, there could be drawbacks to this product.
It can become a digital pet sitter, meaning that people could use it to keep their dogs busy instead of engaging with them directly. If people find that their dogs are entertained by CleverPet, they could use it as an excuse not to walk them or to play with them. Lack of exercise and a decrease in social interactions can make for less social dogs who are more prone to weight gain. As long as people limit the amount of time that their dogs spend having fun with it, there’s not a problem.
I’m curious about the physiological affects on dogs of this product. Will the lights influence their sleep as screen time does to us? Will they become frustrated if they do not succeed often enough or if the device is turned off? Can dogs become addicted to digital play as so many human gamers have?
Even with the possible drawbacks to having dogs play with CleverPet, I’m enthusiastic about the potential it has to be a positive experience. People can track a dog’s progress, game levels and food intake throughout the day on their phones. They can set CleverPet to be on at only a certain time of day, or turn it on and off remotely.
It’s no surprise to me that this product is already making such a splash in the electronics world. After all, in addition to videos of dogs using CleverPet, the inventors had an exceptionally clever pitch to the judges: “Our users literally have nothing better to do with their time.” (You can argue whether or not that statement is true, but it’s hard to argue that it’s not a good sales pitch.)
CleverPet will be available in April 2016, and like game consoles for people, it’s pricey, going for $269. Are you interested?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
The Empire State designates a progressive choice as their official dog.
Not many states have an official state dog. Until recently, there were only eleven. But as of December 23rd, New York is joining that small group after Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation naming the "working dog" as New York's state canine. While other states are represented by a single breed, the Empire State is celebrating all breeds, from the Belgian Malinois patrolling the streets of Manhattan to the Labrador Retriever helping a visually impaired person cross a busy intersection.
The inspiration for this bill came from Bari, the dog of Assemblyman Matthew Titone (D-Staten Island), who is trained as a therapy dog. Together they've worked with preschool autistic children and homeless young adults. Seeing Bari in action, Matthew wanted to sponsor this bill in order to honor pups like Bari.
This wasn't the first time that New York tried to designate a progressive choice as their state pup. In 2011, State Assemblyman Micah Kellner, Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, and Senator Joseph Robach co-sponsored a bill to designate "the rescue dog" as the state pup. Although that attempt was unsuccessful, I'm glad my home state finally has its own official canine that also honors the work hard they do for us each day!
News: Guest Posts
This inforgraphic is a good reminder that we should consider our dogs when picking plants for both inside and out. According the ASPCA, their poison control hotline receives around 150,000 calls annually from pet owners needing assistance with possible poison-related emergencies. This inforgraphic is based on a list of toxic plants from UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine's most common causes of emergency calls and Texas A&M ’s “Common Poisonous Plants and Plant Parts ”. The infographic gives you a break down of the risks to your dog (and cat!) and warning signs to look out for.
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Let the buyer beware when it comes to car safety
Advice about restraining dogs in cars is everywhere, and for good reason. In the event of an accident or sudden stop, unrestrained pets can become projectiles. That puts them at great risk for serious injury from hitting the inside of the car or flying out of it, perhaps through a window. Others in the car or on the road can also be hurt because of dogs who are not restrained.
Naturally, one would think that products that claim to protect pets in the event of a car accident would protect pets in the event of a car accident. Sadly, this is not always true. Many pet restraint products do not perform well in crash tests, but these products are unregulated because pet products are not considered consumer products. That means that promises on the packaging and in ads are not to be trusted.
In one report, 25 of 29 pet restraint products failed crash tests at the very modest speed of 30 miles per hour, and that included at least one crate. It’s up to each of us to find out as much information as possible about the products that do actually work and buy accordingly to protect our pets.
If you’ve been in an accident with a dog who was restrained, did the product perform as promised?
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