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.

 

 

7 ways to help your dog get through construction season

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By Jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind

If you live in the city, you can tell when it’s 8:00 am in most neighborhoods because that’s when the construction noises begin. Loud, dusty, and nerve-wracking, construction and road work projects are a near-constant feature of urban life in the warmer months. (And we had a pretty mild winter here in Chicago, so the construction started weeks earlier than usual! Good times.)

If you find the noises aggravating and stressful, just imagine how your dog feels about them. Even the sound of jackhammers several blocks away is going to be impossible to ignore; for dogs with a hypersensitivity to noise (such as certain herding breeds), it can be downright torture.

So what can you do to help your dog get through construction season? First, you’ll want to observe your dog’s behavior and see if anything is deviating from the norm – has she stopped going to bathroom at her usual time/place? Is she ignoring food? Are her ears always back while she rushes through her once-leisurely walks? These are all signs that your dog is suffering from stress, and, in the absence of other obvious stressors (such as illness or a new housemate), there is a good chance that elevated noise levels are to blame.

Keep the windows closed. Sure, you’d like to get keep the air circulating in the house, but the benefit of less noise for your dog outweighs the benefit of fresh air for you. Besides, if you’re close enough to the construction to be bothered by it yourself, those gentle breezes come with a hefty payload of dust and other nasty particulate matter. Keep the ceiling fan on. Turn on the air conditioner (which will also help to mask the sound of construction). If your dog responds favorably to music or the television playing in the background, turn it on before you leave for work.

Create a cozy den. If your dog is crate trained, put a bedspread or a quilt over half of the crate so he has a place to tuck himself away when the noise starts to get to him. The fabric will also help to muffle some of the sounds. If your dog isn’t a chewer, throw a couple of favorite stuffed toys onto the bed so he can bury his head under them and be comforted by their presence. If your dog is free range during the day, try making a tent of sorts by draping a quilt or a couple of beach towels over the usual resting place.

Change the venue. If the rooms on one side of your house are less noisy, move your dog (and his crate/bed/toys/water dish) there during the day. Putting half of a house and a closed door between your dog and the noise can make a big difference. Make sure that you dog-proof the day room before moving Fido in, especially if he won’t be crated.

Put that ThunderShirt on. I’ve seen ThunderShirts work miracles on anxious dogs; you can also try a TTouch wrap (however, if your dog is a dedicated sock-eater putting a long bandage on her while you’re away from home isn’t a great idea). Keep in mind that the ThunderShirt or wrap can make your dog very warm, so if it’s hot outside you’ll need to put the air conditioner on.

Consider doggy daycare. If you have a dog that is okay being around other dogs, daycare can be a great solution. Many daycares are in large buildings in less densely-populated (and therefore less noisy) parts of town, and the presence of other dogs is a great distraction no matter what is going on outside.

Help your dog shake it off.  Let’s be honest – it can be very hard to motivate yourself to take the dog out for more than a potty break when you get home after work. But your dog has effectively been under siege all day long, and you can help him shake it off by doing something fun or relaxing. Take a long walk in a different place with plenty of sniff breaks, treat your pup to a nice canine massage or TTouch session, or play a rousing game of “I’m gonna get you” in the hallway on the way back into the apartment. (Note: a dog that has been stressed all day can get overexcited or go over threshold more quickly than usual, so don’t let things get out of hand.)

Visit your veterinarian. If all of your efforts still haven’t helped mitigate your dog’s stress, go to your vet and discuss medical treatment options. Anti-anxiety medication doesn’t have to be a lifetime commitment, and it can help break the stress cycle so that your dog isn’t forced to develop other self-soothing strategies like chewing, excessive licking, or barking.

What do I recommend for humans trying to deal with the construction noise? A good set of noise-canceling headphones. 🙂

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Summer training update: Chester edition

By Bill Mayeroff

Chester sweet potato

One of the best things about being a dog owner studying to be a dog trainer is that I always have a dog around on which to practice what I learned in class and what I saw during my observations.

Chester took some classes through a local PetSmart a few years ago, but admittedly, I wasn’t great about keeping up his training once the classes ended. Studying at FetchFind and observing a bunch of great trainers in action gave me a second chance to work with my dog. It’s not that his behavior was terrible, but it’s always worth trying to improve a bit, right?

One of the first things I did with Chester was teach him “touch.” It’s a simple enough trick: get the dog to bop your outstretched hand with their nose. But what’s cool about it is that not only do dogs love it, but it can also be a great tool to help with recall, which is something Chester still needs work on. 

When teaching recall (in lay terms, “recall” is when you call the dog to come to you, using a command like “come” or “here”), you have to teach your dog that whatever awaits them when they come to you is better than whatever they were doing. And that’s hard, especially when trying to call a dog in from outside. A dog wants to sniff things and chase squirrels and bark at airplanes overhead. So you, as the owner, need to be more enticing than all that to get your dog to come to you.

But a touch command changes things a bit. It turns coming to you into a game. So instead of trying to convince your dog to leave all sorts of fun things behind to come to you, you’re giving your dog a new game to play. 

It’s a game Chester took to almost immediately. It took me almost no time to teach him “touch.” And unlike his recall command, I can get him to respond to “touch” pretty much every time, even from across my apartment. 

That’s not to say “touch” is a replacement for teaching your dog recall, by the way. But it’s a nice tool to keep in your back pocket.

As easy as it was to teach Chester “touch,” loose-leash walking took a good bit more effort. Chester is a terrier. He wants to smell everything. He wants to chase all the little critters running around. Outside is his playground and as a result, his leash is often fairly taut. 

So I had to start at the beginning. The first step? Get Chester to pay attention to me (rather than the surroundings) when we walk. To do that, I faced him and walked backwards. Chester would follow me and every few steps, he’d get a treat and some praise for keeping his eyes on me. Once he had that down, I started walking in the same direction as him, again treating him fairly frequently. That was coupled with coming to a complete stop when he would pull and not moving again until he made the decision to come closer to me and create some slack in his leash. 

His touch command also helped with leash walking. To keep him from paying attention to his surroundings and stay at my side, I’d occasionally put my hand out and tell him “touch.” Two or three of those when I saw him eyeing something and he’d refocus enough to stay with me for a bit longer.

Chester will never be perfect on a leash, and I don’t really need him to be. But he’s better. 

And ultimately, that’s what training is about. It’s not about creating a “perfect” dog (which doesn’t really exist, by the way). It’s about peaceful coexistence, whatever that entails. In my case, I can live with Chester sniffing plants and occasionally pulling a little when we walk. That’s what works for us and as long as the behavior doesn’t get worse, it’s fine. 

But that’s just me. Other owners might want their dog to stick tightly to their side. Other owners might want a dog that never pulls or who keeps their eyes forward rather than sniffing things. It’s up to each owner to decide what they can live with. 

Long story short: Chester and I still have work to do. But we’re having fun training together. We’re both learning. We’re both improving. And that’s what’s most important.  

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Look at these two handsome gents.

After five years as a newspaper reporter in western Illinois and two more as a freelancer in Chicago, Bill Mayeroff‘s life has gone to the dogs in the best way possible. These days, Bill lives in Chicago with his terrier mix, Chester, and works at a small, no-kill animal shelter while he studies to be a professional dog trainer at FetchFind Academy. Bill also blogs about his two favorite things – dogs and beer – at Pints and Pups. 

Fido of All Trades: How having so many pet industry jobs helped me fetch my calling

 

LyndaBy Lynda Lobo, CPDT-KA

Confession time. I started working in the pet industry by chance, not by choice.

I graduated from college in 2008. Needless to say, the job market was rough. I ended up as a bather at a small groom shop and, although I’d always dreamed of working with animals, I thought it was a temporary way to get by.

Things took off from there. My career has taken me from bathing and grooming to daycare to reception to walking to management to training. It took me a while to find my calling, but I’m grateful because all this experience brings a unique perspective to my role as Director of Education at FetchFind.

When I first started out, I was lost. I had four years of college under my belt, but I lacked canine knowledge, despite being a life-long dog owner and lover. To make matters worse, I was given conflicting information, and so was basically left to figure things out for myself.

Essentially, I tried it all. What consistently worked best to help me work effectively with the dogs in my care was using methods based on science, compassion, and a whole lot of patience. Through some research and lots of trial-and-error, I learned how to expertly clip nails, how to get 25 dogs to sit at once, nutrition requirements, what’s the very best gear for dog walkers, how to talk to a client about their dog’s matted coat, and how to train new employees.

I also learned where the gaps are in staff training. By helping to produce content for FetchFind, my goal is to bring awesome, relatable, and practical information to pet businesses so that everyone feels empowered to take the very best care of every animal (and human client!) they meet. More education means higher job satisfaction, lower turnover, and happy clients.

I may have fallen into the pet industry by chance, but I choose it every single day. I love what I do and I want to help others do the same!

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Tell us your story!

How did you get started in the pet industry? What do you wish you had known when you started? What do you love about what you do?

Top 5 Must-Have Apps for Dog Walkers


By Jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind

When I started my first business, Out-U-Go, in 1995, we did just about everything on paper. It wasn’t all that common to even have a cell phone, back in the day. (It was a very long time ago.) Those of us who did have one of those fancy StarTAC phones tended to keep emergency numbers on a piece of paper taped to the back, because you could only store ten numbers in the speed dial list.

Now, of course, we’re spoiled for choice in the mobile phone and app department. I can’t help you choose the right hardware, but I can direct you to a few apps and bookmarks that I find particularly helpful (and not just for professional dog walkers).

Pet First Aid – The American Red Cross Pet First Aid app is my favorite; it’s pretty comprehensive and well-organized, and has sections for both cats and dogs. (Available on Google Play and iTunes.)

Hazardous Substances – The ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center app is your best bet here. It has listings for dogs, cats, horses, and birds. (Available on Google Play and iTunes.)

Vet Locator – I don’t really like the vet locator apps for either iOS or Android. I do like the MyPet.com website quite a bit, and keep that one bookmarked.  VetLocator.com and WebVet.com are also pretty good.

Pet-Friendly – Find the nearest pet-friendly venues with BringFido, the #1 pet travel site on the internet (app available on iTunes). Android users, bookmark the website.  Don’t forget Yelp and Foursquare when searching for pet-friendly restaurants, pubs, and stores.

Lost Pets – Be prepared and set up pictures and info for all of your canine clients in your phone in advance. If the unthinkable happens and a dog does go missing, you’ll have all the information ready to deploy on Finding Rover. (Available on Google Play and iTunes.) Note: I like the facial recognition feature on Finding Rover, but depending on your location and even the age of your phone, you might get better coverage and functionality with a different lost pet app. There are a lot of options for both Android and iOS, and most are free, so try a few and see which ones work best for you.

And in the “Not Necessary But Fun to Have” category:

Dog Breeds – Because who doesn’t love a good game of “What Kind of Dog is That?” Download Petsie on Google Play and Dog Breeds A-Z on iTunes. Or skip the apps altogether and bookmark the AKC’s Breeds section.

What are your must-have pet apps?

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The Dog Trainer’s Dilemma: What to Do When People Ask You for Free Advice

dog collars

By Jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind

A professional in any field soon realizes that complete strangers often have no compunction whatsoever about soliciting advice well beyond what you should be expected to give in a casual social setting.

Don’t get me wrong – I am always happy to find teaching moments that can help both pets and their people, but at a certain point being asked for advice starts to feel less like a sharing opportunity and more like a shakedown.

Certainly I have had conversations with acquaintances who are doctors and lawyers and accountants during which I have asked them for referrals and resources, but it’s generally acknowledged that asking them for a full-blown, off the cuff consultation is very bad form. At best, it’s wildly inconsiderate to put people in a position where you’re expecting them to give you possibly life-altering advice without access to the proper diagnostic tools.

However, if you’re a dog trainer, this happens All. The. Time.  Random people routinely ask us to come up with an entire training plan based solely on their puppy’s age and breed. I think that a large part of the problem is that many people don’t see “dog trainer” as a real career. It’s true that we don’t go through years of medical or law school; it’s also true that plenty of trainers hang out their shingles without knowing very much about canine behavior or scientifically-based training methods. What most people don’t know is how many hours (years!) that responsible trainers put into both their formal and hands-on training.

But times, they are a-changin’, and the pet industry as a whole is making a concerted move toward more meaningful standards and certifications. The entire focus of the FetchFind online learning platform is to make high-quality training and education available to all pet professionals. I hope that as the industry becomes (and is perceived as) more professional, the number of people who expect you to work for free (or “for the exposure”) will begin to drop.

In the meantime – what is a “best practices” response when you’re asked for training advice for a dog you’ve never met that belongs to a person you barely know? You empower them, firmly-compassionately-professionally, to find the resources that can help them with their particular issues:

Puppies – Direct them to Ian Dunbar’s free puppy books, send links to Sophia Yin’s Perfect Puppy in 7 Days and Paul Owens’ The Puppy Whisperer, and give them the name of a reputable dog walking company that offers puppy packages to keep housetraining on track.

Rescue dogs – Send a link to Patricia McConnell’s Love Has No Age Limits (also good for senior dogs), tell them about the excellent A Sound Beginning program, and remind them that many dog training companies and shelters have reduced rates for rescue dogs.

Senior dogs – Steer them to the Grey Muzzle Organization website, and direct them to any of Lisa Rodier’s blog posts or articles dealing with special considerations for older dogs. For a good omnibus volume on senior dog issues and treatments, Your Dog’s Golden Years by Jennifer Kachnic is a great resource.

Behavioral issues – Send a link to DogStarDaily.com and the ASPCA, and offer the name of a good veterinary behaviorist. If you live in Chicago, refer them to Kristin Buller’s workshops for people who love pets with behavioral problems.

My short list for the best all-around websites for canine training and behavior information:

And last but not least – keep your business cards ready to hand out whenever someone needs a good trainer.