Christmas holiday safety tips

dog-xmas-5By Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA

I am officially in the Christmas mood. The day after Thanksgiving, I turned on the Christmas music, my family and I picked out our Christmas tree, and I am just about done with my Christmas shopping. I am definitely feeling the spirit.

Since my husband and I had kids, we have decided that Christmas will be at our house. Since we no longer travel for the big day, we have an open door policy. We love visitors and welcome friends and family to stop by and celebrate with us. I encourage both two and four-legged visitors, but with kids in the house, I have some rules in place. Because I want the day to be fun and relaxing, I ensure that safety is top priority.

No matter who you celebrate with or how you celebrate, it’s always wise to ensure your dog is set up to enjoy the festivities. Whether you are hosting or visiting, below are some tips to help your dog survive this festive holiday.

Keep presents away: My dog, Bailey, could have cared less about wrapped presents. But as soon as the paper was off, the paper was hers. But some dogs believe that anything on the floor is theirs. If your dog is more like the latter, keep presents up or behind a gate to avoid any disasters.

Pay attention to your décor: I love to decorate the house for Christmas, but I try to be aware of what I decorate with. Tinsel can be very enticing to dogs, but they are a safety concern (if swallowed, they can get tangled in the intestines). Poinsettias are beautiful, but they are poisonous to dogs. And I love lights on the Christmas tree and all around my house. If you do too, just make sure that your dog can’t get to the cords and chew on them. Basically, just use common sense when decorating.

Watch your dog around kids: Christmas is a big holiday for kids. All the presents under the tree, a visit from Santa, cookies, and such can bring a lot of excitement. Because they all might be a little more excited than usual, it is best to keep kids and dogs separated as much as possible. No matter how much your dog enjoys kids, not every kid will feel comfortable around your dog, and your dog might not appreciate the extra chaos that the holidays bring. No matter what, it is better to be safe than sorry, so just keep dogs and kids separated.

Keep a leash on your dog: When your dog is out and about in the house, it is wise to keep a light leash on them. Leashes are a great tool to help keep your dogs away from the Christmas cookies and appetizers, prevent them from jumping up on people, and it doesn’t allow them to escape when the door is left open after Aunt May is welcomed indoors.

Gates, crates, and more gates: Every dog needs some down time, so it is best to have your crate set up in a quiet room. I like to put on some relaxing music or white noise to drown out the noise of party goers and give them a bone or Kong filled with their favorite treat. If you don’t have a crate, set up a small room such as a bathroom or laundry room (make sure there is nothing that they can get into), put down their bed or towel, give them a treat and put up a gate. Make sure that they will be left alone and can have time to relax. If your dog is super stressed and needs to be around people, set up some gates so they are near the commotion, but can’t get out to get into trouble. This also ensures that kids can’t get to them.

Remember, Christmas should be a day of relaxing, sharing memories with friends and family, and letting kids revel in the magic. Pets are such an important part of our lives, so safety is key while we make special holiday memories to make.

No matter how you celebrate the season – Happy Holidays, and stay safe out there!

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Be sure to watch the FetchFind webcast – Safe Holidays are Happy Holidays – Jamie Migdal, Aracely Cordes, DVM, and I talk about how you can keep your pets and family safe during this busy and sometimes overwhelming time of year.

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Erin Schneider 250x300Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA and owner of Touch Dog Training, is a certified professional dog trainer who employs positive reinforcement behavior modification techniques intended to deliver results while building stronger bonds between dogs and their owners. Erin practiced her craft in Chicago for many years as a Senior Trainer for AnimalSense Canine Training & Behavior. There she taught dog training classes and also conducted private, in-home lessons with pets and their owners. In March 2015, Erin relocated to Colorado and is excited to share her knowledge and expertise with dog owners in the Denver/Boulder metro area.

 

Winter activities, part 2: Barn Hunt

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By Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA

In part one of my Winter Activities series, I talked about agility and the great exercise it is for your dog. In part two, I am going to talk about the sport of Barn Hunt.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was not a big fan of being out in the cold for long periods of time, trying to give my dog some exercise. So I was always trying to come up with new ways to exercise my dog without freezing to death. Barn hunt is another great way to stay indoors and out of the cold.

Barn hunt, to put it simply, is a maze made out of straw bales. Within that maze are plastic tubes containing live rats and mice and the goal is for the dog to tunnel through the maze to find the live rats all in a specific amount of time.

I know what you are thinking. “Poor rats! I can’t believe they allow dogs to run after rats.” Let me specify, no rats or mice are hurt during this course. They are safely protected within the plastic containers. Barn hunt allows dogs, specifically terriers, to practice what they were bred to do, which is to find rats.

“Terrier” means “earth” in Latin. Terriers were bred to hunt vermin and even though many don’t have a need to hunt vermin these days, they still have that instinct, so a sport such as barn hunt is great for them. But terriers aren’t the only dogs that can participate. Any dog over six months in age and able to crawl through an 18-inch bale-height tall tunnel made of straw, can participate.

The reason I love barn hunt is because it gives dogs plenty of exercise. They have to run through a maze. They are using their nose, which is great for burning energy, and they are doing something that they were bred for.

There are plenty of associations around the country to join, so you can participate in classes with your dog. If you decide to compete, there are competitions all around the country as well as “fun trials.” If you are interested in competing take a look at the Barn Hunt Rule Book and website.

No matter what you decide to do, barn hunt is a great way to bond with your dog and get some exercise.

Have you tried barn hunt? What was your experience?

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Erin Schneider 250x300Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA and owner of Touch Dog Training, is a certified professional dog trainer who employs positive reinforcement behavior modification techniques intended to deliver results while building stronger bonds between dogs and their owners. Erin practiced her craft in Chicago for many years as a Senior Trainer for AnimalSense Canine Training & Behavior. There she taught dog training classes and also conducted private, in-home lessons with pets and their owners. In March 2015, Erin relocated to Colorado and is excited to share her knowledge and expertise with dog owners in the Denver/Boulder metro area.

How to find a good dog trainer

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By Jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind

Whether you want to teach your new puppy basic commands or help a rescue dog become more comfortable in his new home, it pays to do your research before hiring a trainer. With so many options out there –  big box stores,  boot camps, boutique trainers – trying to make that decision can make your head spin!  Here are some tips to help make the process easier:

Evaluate. What kind of dog do you have? A 10 week old Lab puppy will have different needs than a 10 year old rescue Chihuahua.

Start googling. Find trainers or training companies near you and see what they have to offer. Keep in mind that in-home trainers, whether they are independent or affiliated with a company, have specific service areas and if you’re too far away you probably won’t be able to book sessions.

If you’re feeling confused by the different types of training philosophies, such as positive, balanced, clicker, etc., click here for more information.

Check the qualifications. Most reputable dog trainers will have formal education and official certification. If you see CPDT-KA after their name, you know they’ve put in the hours to become a respected professional.

Get reviews. Once you’ve narrowed down your list of candidates, start checking the online reviews and social media outlets; you should also ask your friends for their recommendations or for references from the trainer.

Trust your gut. If you’ve done all of your homework and you just don’t like the trainer after you’ve met them, move on. If your dog shows unusual signs of stress or fear, take his word for it and find a new trainer.

Enjoy the process! Learning with your pooch is a lot of fun, and it’s a great way to strengthen the bond between you and your best pal.

Finicky cat? Make meals more enticing with these tips

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By Sandie Lee

Cats are notorious for being finicky eaters. They may take one sniff at a perfectly fine dish of food, then turn tail and leave the offending “slop” behind with an air of disgust. This can occur even if the food in her dish has been her favorite up to this point. It’s a cat’s prerogative to change her mind on a moment’s notice, don’t you know?

If this has happened with your feline friend, you’re not alone. Cat owners all over the world have endured this frustration (and probably always will), but there are ways to get Kitty back to the dish.

Is Kitty healthy?

The most important reason a cat may refuse food is illness or stress. Before you try to entice your cat to eat, you have to determine whether it’s simply being picky or has something affecting its physiology. Cats that refuse sustenance for more than 24 hours or exhibit other signs of illness, like vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, or weakness should be taken to a veterinarian to determine the underlying source of these symptoms.

Try same brand, different flavors

Unless your cat has a medical reason that prevents it from exploring new foods, changing the flavor of your present brand is sometimes enough to re-ignite your cat’s vigor for dining. If this is not an option, or you’ve run out of possibilities with a certain brand, beware that a sudden change in food brands may cause some diarrhea in your cat. However, it should clear up once your cat’s system has become accustomed to the dietary change.

Nuke it!

Can food that is refrigerated after being opened will become less aromatic. But putting it in the microwave for about 5 to 10 seconds will be enough to bring out its natural smell and flavor. No microwave (or don’t want to stink up the house)? Mix some warm water into the food.

Add some flavor

There are things you can use to enhance the flavor and smell of your cat’s food. Sprinkle a teaspoon of dried catnip over the food to make it more enticing, use products like powdered cat vitamins or dried Bonito flakes (Japanese skip jack tuna) to enhance the food’s taste, or even drizzle some canned salmon juice over dry kibble and mix well.

Keep those kitty dishes clean!

Cats are repelled by the smell of putrid meat, so be sure to wash the food dish after every meal to rid it of any leftover morsels of food. Food left to spoil in dishes will create bacteria and even mold which can cause illness in your cat. In addition, if you use plastic, switch over to ceramic, glass, or metal as these substances are easier to keep clean and also won’t hold onto the scent of your dishwashing liquid.

Try shallower dishes

Some felines don’t care for deep dishes as this constricts their whiskers. Short-snout breeds, such as the Persian and Himalayan, may have trouble eating out of a deeper dish because of the restriction on their airways.

Don’t hide medication in food

Most medications for animals are extremely bitter tasting, so by grinding it up in your cat’s food, you may be inadvertently tainting the taste and smell. Unfortunately, your cat will remember the taste was unpleasant and most likely will not try it again. Some medications now come pet-friendly-flavored, so ask your vet if it is one that could be hidden in food without any negative consequences (such as malabsorption).

Cats crave variety just like people do, so try new flavors and textures with your cat to see which one she prefers. As long as there’s no medical reason for your cat withdrawing from its regular diet, she may just be craving a change. Today, there are many, many different formulas and flavors of food to try, which may be just what your cat has been waiting for. Don’t give up on the search for the perfect food. It’s only a matter of time before you find the right taste profile that Kitty is sure to dive right into….at least for now.

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sandie-lee-writerSandie Lee has been in the writing industry for over 20 years. She hails from a small city in Ontario, Canada where there are two seasons; winter and not winter! Her husband and two furbabies, Milo and Harry, make sure she is diligently writing each day.

Winter activities, part 1: Agility

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By Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA

Winter is going to be here for real before we know it. I don’t know about you, but I did not enjoy walking my dog, Bailey, in the freezing cold. Of course I did it, but I liked to keep it short.

She, on the other hand, could stay out in the cold all day. She loved the cold weather. Since I am not covered in fur, I had to find ways to exercise my dog without freezing to death. That is when I came across indoor sports.

In this multi-part series, I am going to discuss the magical world of indoor dog sports, which are especially great during the cold months.

I’ll begin by talking about agility. Agility is one of my favorite sports. It has really picked up enthusiasm over the years, so it is pretty easy to find a facility that offers classes in your area.

For those of you that aren’t familiar with agility, Wikipedia defines it as “a dog sport in which a handler directs a dog through an obstacle course in a race for both time and accuracy.” Some of the obstacles consist of the following: A-frame, weave poles, tire jump, jumps, tunnel, dog walk, seesaw, pause table, etc.

Agility is a great way to tire your dog out. It requires a lot of running and mental stimulation. You, the handler, also do some running, so it is best if you are physically able. You can either take agility classes for fun or if you get serious about it, for competition. I only participated with Bailey for fun. She wasn’t the best at it (she got distracted very easily), but she loved the treats and extra attention at the end of each course.

For those of you that decide to compete, you will have to work at it. There are rules to follow and time to keep perfecting. But competitions are a lot of fun. There is a great atmosphere and a lot of camaraderie. If you are interested in competing, take a look at the Agility Rule Book and website from the AKC.

No matter what you decide to do, agility is a great way to bond with your dog and get some exercise for both you and your four-legged companion. And it will keep you out of the cold for an evening, which is reason enough for me.

Have you tried agility? What was your experience?

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Erin with baileyErin Schneider, CPDT-KA and owner of Touch Dog Training, is a certified professional dog trainer who employs positive reinforcement behavior modification techniques intended to deliver results while building stronger bonds between dogs and their owners. Erin practiced her craft in Chicago for many years as a Senior Trainer for AnimalSense Canine Training & Behavior. There she taught dog training classes and also conducted private, in-home lessons with pets and their owners. In March 2015, Erin relocated to Colorado and is excited to share her knowledge and expertise with dog owners in the Denver/Boulder metro area.

 

 

 

Thankful for you — every day of the year

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Thanksgiving Day is a day off for most of us, but for many of you who own pet care businesses, it marks the beginning of one of the busiest weekends of the year.  

Which brings me to my thought and message for the beginning of the holiday season.

This year my family did something very different for Thanksgiving.  We all (40+ of us) had our dinner at a country club where my cousins are members. There was a ton of perfect food and excellent service, all in a gorgeous setting in a very posh area of Chicago.

And while we were enjoying not having to cook, clean, etc., I kept thinking about how everyone on the service team – from the valets to the chefs – were not at home with their families.

I asked our server if she had dinner yet.

You know how she replied?

“Wow, thanks. No I haven’t. You are the only person here who thought to ask. That was really nice of you.”

Ugh.

I remember the years and countless missed dinners, holidays, parties, weddings, and funerals as a pet sitter. My friends and family hardly understood and, truth be told, I hadn’t ever really weighed that consideration as I built my pet care businesses. It was a struggle. But I recall the clients who left me special gifts and notes knowing I was with their pets so that they could be with their families. And that made all the difference.

So what I want to say is:

 I see you.

I respect you.

I admire you.

And I understand.

You – and your team – are my pet care heroes.

Be proud, because pet professionals like you provide an extraordinarily valuable service. Your hard work and dedication allow millions of people to have enjoyable and relaxing holidays knowing their pets are in capable hands.

Hang tight for this holiday season. You got this. And FetchFind is here if you need anything at all.

With great respect,

Jamie Sig Trans - First Only

 

Thanksgiving safety tips

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By Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA

Thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday. I love being surrounded by family and good food. I love the simplicity of it. There are no presents to stress over and no pressure. It is just a day to give thanks. I love the day to spend with family, friends and four-legged companions.

But like any holiday, there can be a lot of chaos. Family and friends are coming in and out, food is all over the kitchen, and kids are running around. For our dogs, it can be a breeding ground of anxiety. It is our responsibility to take extra care to ensure that everyone is having a good time, and that includes our dogs.

Whether you are visiting family or hosting, it is important that you make safety a priority. Below are some tips to help your dog survive this festive holiday.

Give your dog a safe space: It is so important that your dog have a place to go to get away from it all. If you are visiting, make sure you bring your dog’s crate with you. If you are staying home, make sure your dog’s crate is away from all the foot traffic. In either scenario, make sure you set it up in a room that is quiet and away from all of the commotion. Give your dog a Kong filled with his favorite treat, maybe some relaxing music or white noise, and give him a nice break.

Keep a leash on your dog: When your dog is out of his crate, keep a light leash on him. A leash will allow you to grab your dog if they are about to go for the snacks laid out on the coffee table, if they are about to jet out the open front door or if they are acting inappropriately.

Don’t give your dog turkey or turkey bone: If you are like me, you like to give your dog a little treat. Turkey can be great, but make sure you don’t give a piece with any of the skin. Also, no turkey bones. Cooked bones can splinter and cause great harm to dogs. If you really want to get a bone for your dog, purchase a few bully sticks to have on hand. They are safe and you won’t have to make any unexpected trips to the ER.

Watch your dog around kids: I don’t care how much your dog appears to love kids, limit their exposure to kids on a busy day such as Thanksgiving. Your dog might love your kids and put up with their signs of affection, but dogs are less likely to tolerate that same behavior from new people and kids are most likely to get bit. It is best that you teach all children in the house boundaries and to respect your dog’s boundaries. But you are better off just giving your dog a place to be on their own where they don’t have to stress. And the kids should be able to run around without having a dog jumping on them and/or nipping at them.

Thanksgiving is a day to relax and enjoy friends and family, but safety is key. This year my family will be home in Colorado enjoying some of our favorite dishes.

How will you be spending your Thanksgiving? How do you involve your dog in your traditions?

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Erin Schneider 250x300Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA and owner of Touch Dog Training, is a certified professional dog trainer who employs positive reinforcement behavior modification techniques intended to deliver results while building stronger bonds between dogs and their owners. Erin practiced her craft in Chicago for many years as a Senior Trainer for AnimalSense Canine Training & Behavior. There she taught dog training classes and also conducted private, in-home lessons with pets and their owners. In March 2015, Erin relocated to Colorado and is excited to share her knowledge and expertise with dog owners in the Denver/Boulder metro area.

 

 

Can you ear me now? How to keep your dog’s ears clean and healthy.

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by Betsy Lane, MA

Whether your dog’s ears stand up or flop down, checking that they’re healthy should be a part of your weekly routine. Since many of us handle our dogs’ ears on a regular basis, doing a quick health assessment is easily incorporated into the pleasant routine. All that’s involved is a simple, three-point inspection. Each step uses a different one of our senses:

Touch: Does your dog pull away from gentle handling of her ears, indicating they might be sore? Do the ears feel hot? Either is cause for further investigation.

Smell: Sniff your dog’s ears regularly to learn what is normal. If her ears suddenly don’t pass the sniff test (stinky, yeasty, or just “off”), it might indicate an infection.

Sight: If you see your dog pawing at, scratching, or rubbing her ears on the furniture or floor, take a peek inside. Healthy ears look clean and pink, with just a bit of light-yellow wax present. (Just like in humans, this natural wax helps trap debris and move it out of the ear.) Excess wax, dark wax, and/or visible dirt all indicate your dog’s ears need cleaning.

Two quick cautions: Always handle ears gently; they’re sensitive! And never, ever stick anything (a cotton swab, your finger, etc.) into your dog’s ear further than about a half an inch. The last thing you want to do is injure her ears!

If everything seems fine based on your three-point inspection, leave your dog’s ears alone.

If there’s a bit of a problem—a slight odor, a little dirt, or more waxiness than usual—a preventative cleaning is in order. Dr. Marty Becker, DVM, explains the process: “To clean the ears, tilt your dog’s head downward with one hand and squirt a gentle cleanser recommended by your veterinarian into the ear, filling the canal. Holding the ear closed, give it a nice massage, really squishing the cleanser around in there. That softens any gunk inside.” Then just let your dog shake her head (this can be messy!), and gently wipe away any remaining cleanser with a soft cloth. Always use a cleanser made specifically for this purpose; other options such as alcohol and witch hazel are drying and can sting an already-irritated ear.

If there’s a larger problem, or you just aren’t the DIY type, take your pup to any PetSmart Grooming Salon (no appointment necessary!) or your vet. Professional groomers can clean your dog’s ears quickly, safely, and effectively, and also ensure the fur around the ears is thinned and trimmed properly for optimum ear health.

Here’s to your dog’s healthy ears!

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Why do cats pant?

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By Emily Bruer

If you have an active cat, chances are you have seen her pant a time or two. But cats don’t pant the way that dogs do, and so you might be wondering “is panting natural?” or “should I be worried about this?”

For the average cat, the most common time for panting to occur is after strenuous activity. If you have ever seen the TV show “My Cat From Hell” you have likely seen Jackson Galaxy exercising cats until they begin panting. (To be honest, most of our couch-potato cats could benefit from a little more exercise and panting.)

Cats can also pant when experiencing severe anxiety or stress. You may notice it on the car ride to the vet, after a loud party at your house, or a night of fireworks. Depending on the sensitivity of your cat, you may see this behavior a little more or a little less.

When you notice your cat panting in fear or distress it’s best to remove them from the situation and get them somewhere they feel safe. (Vet visits are important trips, so you may not always be able to get your cat somewhere calm, but do your best. One of the easiest ways to reduce stress is to make sure your cat is habituated to the carrier well before that first vet visit.)

If your cat isn’t stressed or tired from exercise, and is just sprawled out on the sofa panting for no reason, that’s a serious matter that could indicate an underlying medical condition.

Get to the vet as soon as you can so that you can get kitty a wellness exam. It’s likely that when you get there they will want to do some diagnostics, such as a full blood work panel that checks organ functions and thyroid levels. (If your cat’s blood work comes back perfect, you will still benefit from knowing what her normal values are so that when she gets sick in the future you will have a good baseline.)

Your vet will likely also want to test your kitty for diseases like FIV, feline leukemia, and heartworms. While heartworms are rare in cats, they can get them, and a large infestation could lead to pulmonary distress and panting.

Radiographs are another diagnostic test your vet may want to perform. Growths in the nasal cavities and lungs can cause panting and should be visible in radiographs. A radiograph of the stomach may also be helpful as well, as severe stomach pain could cause panting.

If none of these tests reveal the cause of your cat’s panting, your vet may recommend you visit a specialist to have an ultrasound done of the heart and the abdomen. Though radiographs can usually pick up tumors, they can’t always detect fluids in the lungs or surrounding areas.

While your vet is working to determine the cause of the panting, he may want to begin treatment for the other symptoms. If your cat has been panting for a very long time, it’s likely she also hasn’t be drinking or eating much. Your vet may want to start your cat on fluids, antibiotics, or even give her a blood transfusion, depending on what the results of the diagnostic tests have been and what he feels might be wrong with her.

Don’t worry if you aren’t able to get an immediate diagnosis; your vet will work with you to figure out exactly what is ailing your feline friend. And in the meantime, make sure that Kitty is getting the appropriate nutrition and medication and has a suitable environment and enrichment for her age and health. 

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emily-bruer-pawedinEmily Bruer has been penning the adventures of her imagination since she was old enough to hold a pencil. Working at animal shelters for the last five years she learned an incredible amount about animal care and behavior. She is currently employed at a vet clinic where she continues her animal education. Emily’s love of animals is evident when you step into her home, which she shares with six dogs and six cats, all of whom were rescues.