Costumes and candy and doorbells—oh my! A dog’s-eye view of Halloween

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by Betsy Lane, MA

Ghosts and goblins, capes and masks, and bowls of chocolate—it’s not a holiday for the dogs!

If you have one of those super-easy-going dogs that trainers sometimes call “bombproof,” feel free to stop reading now and go get a Pumpkin Spice Anything at a quaint sidewalk café, your beautifully calm dog relaxing by your feet.

For the rest of us, it takes some care and forethought to keep our pups safe, happy, and healthy on Halloween. Let’s start by looking at things from Fictional Fido’s perspective on Halloween—perhaps the most confusing holiday in a dog’s year:

I know you humans love your holidays, but this one is a little scary.

First, my human family puts on odd costumes. It’s fun, sure—but I sometimes wonder where my normal humans went!

In all the extra excitement leading up to a holiday, I don’t always get my regular walks and napping done. Both of these are Very Important Activities to us dogs!

And then my humans want me to walk WITH them and the costumed kids, in the dark, with all those OTHER excited humans in THEIR weird-looking outfits? Yikes! I’d rather stay home, thankyouverymuch. (Besides, that’s where the big bowl of peanut-butter cups is!)

But at home, the doorbell rings every two minutes, and we’re greeted by ghosts, goblins, superheroes, princesses, and giant black cats shouting, “TRICK OR TREAT!!!” And my humans keep giving THEM treats out of the big bowl, but never give ME any of them. I missed my walk, my nap, and my dinner, and now you deprive me of TREATS?

It’s just not fair. I see the grown-ups sneaking piece after piece of chocolate, making those enticing crinkly-wrapper sounds. Human food = yummy food, so….  I’m just going to have to help myself! I’d better scarf down as much as I can before they stop me!

Uh-oh. Now I feel really, really icky and my humans are talking about a trip to the vet. This is not what I signed up for. I think I need to throw up now… sorry about the rug, Mom.

Poor Fictional Fido! Here are a few tips to help ensure your pups have a much better Halloween than he’s having. And they might just keep you away from the emergency vet and the local hardware store to rent a carpet shampooer.

Keep all candy (not just chocolate) safely out of reach of your pets. Chocolate is especially dangerous because dogs are much more sensitive to methylxanthines than humans. For a good idea of how little it takes to make your pup dangerously ill, check out this Chocolate Toxicity Meter

What goes in, must come out. Those high-fat, high-sugar treats can exit the system rather more quickly and unexpectedly than your dog’s normal, nutritionally balanced food. Just sayin’.

Keep pets away from doors (use a baby gate, or put them in another room with a special, dog-appropriate treat). Don’t take dogs trick-or-treating with you—for their safety and comfort, and that of other trick-or-treaters. And stick to their normal routine as closely as possible; routines are reassuring. (Check out Erin Schneider’s wonderful blog with practical safety tips for Halloween here.) 

Finally, you might LOVE that irresistibly cute dog costume, but your dog doesn’t. (They may tolerate it because they’re good dogs and they love you, but they won’t like it.) If you want to do something festive that isn’t going to make your dog miserable, try a fun seasonal bandanna, non-toxic chalk tattoos, or black-and-orange nail polish, available at the PetSmart Grooming Salon.  

This is a difficult holiday for many dogs, for many reasons. Let’s do what we can to ensure everyone has a safe, fun, happy Halloween! Aw-woooooo!

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Halloween safety tips

 

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By Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA

Halloween is just around the corner. I was never a fan, but I’ve developed a new love for the holiday since moving to Colorado. My husband takes our kids out trick-or-treating and I stay home to pass out candy.

During our first Halloween in Colorado, we were dog sitting my parent’s dog, Dolly. When we lived in Chicago, we had a condo and didn’t get trick-or-treaters, so I never had to worry about how our dog, Bailey, would react to visitors. Still, I know that Halloween is a stressful day for dogs and I was prepared for having a dog on this hectic holiday.

Dolly isn’t crate trained, so I had some gates set up away from our entryway so she couldn’t get out. I set up a nice little spot for her to relax and hang out. Well, my plans didn’t go very well. Dolly was very stressed and barked the entire time. Shortly after trick-or-treating began, I knew I would have to change up my plan. I quickly set up a safe zone for her upstairs where she wouldn’t hear the doorbell and feel stressed by all the visitors. She was already pretty worked up, so it took her some time to calm down.

Halloween is a lot of fun for humans, but not so fun for our four-legged friends.

It’s scary seeing everyone dressed up in weird costumes, some with extra-scary masks. So below are some tips to help your dog survive all those ghouls and goblins!

Keep your dog at home. I know, I know. You have the perfect costume planned for your dog and you want to show it off. Instead, take some photos of them to show off to all of your friends and save your dog the stress. Dogs don’t enjoy being out on such a busy day with “funny looking” people.

Give your dog a safe place to be at home. This is when a crate comes in very handy. Set the crate in a place that is out of the way, give your dog a treat-filled Kong and let them relax. They don’t need to participate in all (or any) of the events of the night; they’ll be much happier on their own.

If you don’t have a crate, set up a spot in a room such as a bathroom or laundry room. Put their bed in there, give them a Kong and put a baby gate up.

Keep your dog away from the door. It is important to keep your dog away from the door, both for their comfort and for the safety of the trick-or-treaters. Not everyone enjoys coming to someone’s door just to be greeted with an over-enthusiastic dog. It can be quite frightening for kids. I don’t care how friendly your dog is, it isn’t fair to little trick-or-treaters to feel uncomfortable on their special night.

Noise sensitive dogs should be far away from the commotion. If you have a noise sensitive dog that reacts to the doorbell, it’s best to put them in a room far away from the commotion. If you have a crate, put their crate in a bedroom, turn on some white noise or relaxing music to drown out the noise and give them something yummy to chew on.

Remember, Halloween is supposed to be a fun night for all, but safety is key. This year, I’ll be handing out candy again while my husband takes our kids around the neighborhood. (I admit – I love seeing all the kids in their adorable costumes.) It should be a fun night!

How do you enjoy Halloween with your dog?

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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.

National Dog Day is August 26, 2017!

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By Betsy Lane, MA

The dog days of summer are drawing to a close, and National Dog Day is heading our way tomorrow, August 26! This American holiday celebrates all dogs—young and old, hero and couch potato, purebred and mixed breed. National Dog Day also has a mission to increase people’s awareness of adoption as an option when adding a new pet to your family. Whether or not you’re thinking about adopting, or have already adopted a new dog (perhaps in one of the many Clear the Shelters events this month), we’re sure you’ll want to do something special to celebrate the dogs in your life!

Alyssa Serafin, PetSmart Salon Leader, recently took a few minutes to share her thoughts on how to celebrate. For newly adopted dogs, Alyssa stresses that a trip to the grooming salon can make a dog feel great, especially if it’s done right. Taking a bit of extra care with newly adopted dogs, Alyssa says many pups seem to leave with the attitude that “they know they look great, feel good, and get to go home to a fun new home with a family that loves them.”

With any first-time visit to a grooming salon, Alyssa recommends taking it slowly. She encourages low-key social visits to make good associations with the shop. “Start slowly; just come in and say hi, get a treat, and leave. The third or fourth time, make an appointment and leave the dog for just a minute or two, maybe for a nail trim or ear cleaning. Make it easy for the dogs in the beginning, and they’ll do better in the long run.”

For dogs comfortable with salon pampering, Alyssa notes that many owners like to get creative with nontoxic chalk coloring for ears or tails, or even a new “hairstyle” (poodle with a Mohawk, anyone?). Sports fans and kids love the temporary “tattoos” offered—spray-on stencils of NFL and MLB team logos and other designs.

Alyssa says, “Dogs are family members. We know your pets are your babies, and once they’re in our care, we treat them as if they were our own. We look forward to seeing the same dogs over time, and building connections with them and their human parents.”

Ultimately, it is exactly that sense of connection that every pet deserves. And that is something worth celebrating, on National Dog Day and every other day of the year!

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7 ways to help your dog get through the 4th of July

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The 4th of July (otherwise known as Happy Scare the Crap Out of Your Dog Day) is looming, and it’s time for some basic management techniques to help your pets make it through the festivities.

  • Make sure your pet’s tags and microchips are up-to-date. If the ID tags have been worn smooth or haven’t been updated with current information, get out the sharpie and write your contact information on the inside of the collar.
  • Even if you normally take off your pet’s collar in the home, consider leaving it on during peak noise and activity times. The sharpie trick won’t help if the collar is hanging on a coat hook when your dog bolts out the door
  • Keep the dog inside the house, in a crate or closed off area, away from high-activity zones. If you just plan to put the dog in the back bedroom, make sure the window is secure; pets have been known to bust right through window screens – and even windows – if they panic. Tape a big piece of cardboard over the window if necessary.
  • If you have a very noise-sensitive or -phobic dog, talk to your vet about possible medications to help keep him calm during the worst of the fireworks.

For other management techniques for noise-sensitive dogs, see our post about helping your dog get through construction season.

  • Take your pup out for a long walk well before the festivities start, so that he’s tired and more inclined to sleep than panic. Make sure he has a safe place to retreat, a Thundershirt or a TTouch wrap to provide calming pressure, a stuffed Kong to keep him distracted, and a human to provide comfort and reassurance.
  • If you’re going to a fireworks show, leave the dog at home. Even well-behaved, well-socialized dogs can get easily overwhelmed in big, noisy crowds with bright lights bursting thunderously overhead.
  • After the fireworks are over, and before you let your dog out into the yard, scan the ground – firework detritus can be sharp as well as poisonous, and no one wants to spend the rest of the holiday weekend at the emergency vet.

If you have any techniques that you find particularly helpful during fireworks and thunderstorm season, tell us about them in the comments. Have a happy and safe holiday!

 

 

 

Summer safety tips for your dogs

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Summer has finally arrived, and it’s only natural for us to want to bring our dogs so that they can enjoy the barbecues and festivals with us.

But the truth is that bringing our dogs with us can be deeply distressing to them. Strange people, unfamiliar dogs, loud noises, and toxic foods can all add up to a one very over-stimulated pup.

What can you do to keep your dogs healthy and safe during the summer?

Set up a quiet retreat. 

This is one of the most important things you can do to make life better for everyone in the household. Even if your pets are people-friendly and sociable, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing, and if you are busy entertaining you won’t necessarily know when they’ve had enough. Make sure you have a crate, bed, or travel cage set up in a quiet space, and give your pet a high-value treat (think stuffed Kong) to keep him happy and distracted during the party. If you must have your dog outside, make sure he’s in a cool, shady, protected spot with plenty of water, and check on him often to make sure he’s okay.

Eliminate temptation.

Keep your pets on their usual diet, and don’t give in to the temptation to let them eat table scraps, chips, soda, or alcohol. Aside from the choking hazard presented by chicken bones or ribs, the high fat content of many party foods can cause pancreatitis, vomiting, and diarrhea. When the food is outside, keep your dogs inside. And remember – crates are your friend, especially when you have a dedicated counter-surfer.

Be especially careful when these items are on the menu: garlic, onions, grapes/raisins, chocolate, and anything with xylitol (you’ll have to check the labels carefully; it’s in a lot of foods you wouldn’t expect it to be in, like some peanut butters).

Have your emergency plan ready.

No matter how much planning and management you do, things can still go wrong. Your dog may bolt out the gate when guests are arriving, or jump through the screen when the fireworks start. Know what to do if your dog does go missing and keep that emergency vet information and poison-control hotline number posted somewhere handy.

 

 

Better than chocolate

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By Jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind

I found this nifty little graph of how much money the average person spent on their pet on Valentine’s Day from 2008-2016 (I love statistics!), and, as always, it got me to thinking about all of the extra special things that we buy to show our pets that we love them, and how many of the necessary things that we tend to put off when our lives get hectic.

So instead of giving you another top ten list on why pets are better than chocolate (though both pets and chocolate are good for your heart), here are some things you can do to show your pets that you love them all year round:

Schedule those annual check ups, vaccinations, and dental cleanings. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve let these important appointments creep past their due dates because of my own overscheduled life.

Take your dog to the groomer. It’s easy to let this slide over the winter when you don’t want to deal with a damp dog and freezing temperatures, but you know your dog needs a bath and trim right about now. If you have a pup that doesn’t care to be touched, extra points for finding a low-stress groomer. 

Sign up for a class. It’s time to start instilling new behaviors (or brushing up on old ones) so that you can be ready for the warmer days, longer walks, and bigger crowds.  

Update your first aid and emergency evacuation kits. Everyone should have fully stocked first aid and evacuation kits. If you have the time, you can also take a pet first aid course.

Learn some relaxation protocols. For noise-sensitive or anxious dogs, spring thunderstorms can be pretty terrifying. Take your pup to a TTouch session, lay in a supply of Rescue Remedy, or – in extreme cases – schedule an appointment with a board-certified veterinary behaviorist.

Start researching pet resort or in-home pet sitting options. If you can find a company or sitter that you trust now, you won’t be scrambling for a reservation when you want to get away for a few days during spring break. 

Re-evaluate your pet’s diet and supplements. A dog’s nutritional needs can change rapidly as he gets older, and it makes sense to evaluate those needs regularly. Replenish the pet supplies, re-read the labels on the food, and make a note to discuss any changes with your vet during the appointment you scheduled after reading item #1, above.

Get those professional photos taken! Ask your friends who they used for their pet photos, or just google “professional pet photographers” and look for the pros in your area. A lot of pet photographers will hold day-long photo shoots on major holidays at local retail stores, so keep an eye out for those opportunities as well.

And, speaking of chocolate:

Bookmark the chocolate toxicity meter and poison control hotline info. Because some of our dogs like to have their own celebrations by getting into what’s left of that giant box of assorted chocolates we mistakenly thought was safe on top of the fridge.

 

 

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 this holiday, so safety is key. This is my son’s first Christmas, so we have extra special memories to make. I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas!

How will you be spending your Christmas? 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.

 

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.