Monday, February 28, 2011

buy that new toy now rather than later

Dogs tend to get tired of their toys, which is something that you probably know. Before your dog gets tired of his or her toys, consider preparing for that event and shopping for a new toy.

A lot of those toys are expensive, but all you really need is one toy that your dog may play with. An example is a squeak toy. This toy gives your dog something to do, as the dog hears the squeak and runs after the toy.

Another idea is finding a toy that features a quality that your dog likes, but is different from what he or she already uses. Examples are frisbees and rope toys.

Most important of all, try to avoid shopping for a different toy at the last minute, which will have you paying more money than you intended to spend and winding up with something that your dog will not enjoy using.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Owner is forced to give up his dog. Now what?

I think that one of the hardest things to do is to give up a dog that you've owned for a few years in a row to a shelter. I'd have a hard time doing that myself. But if I were up and years and had a few health issues, I'd probably have no other option ----unless I could find a family member who would agree to care for my pet.

That probably would not happen.

But today, I read an article about this older guy who had to go to an assisted living facility --- and give up a dog he owned for eight years. On the day that he bought the dog to the shelter, he asked the staff if he could walk his dog one last time. And the staff agreed. That turned out to be an emotional event for staff and other people. When it was over, there wasn't a dry eye in the house. Got to be honest. I cried as I read this story.

Because this event had such an impact, the shelter did find a great person to take care of the dog, thanks to the efforts of Mr. and Mrs. Howard Stern. The dog is going to have an excellent home!  I know, I know, this won't be much of a consolation for the original owner. He'll still think about and miss his dog. He won't be able to see or pet his dog anymore, unless of course, the new owner can bring the dog to the assisted-living facility to see its previous master.

But at least, the dog now is assured of a good home for the rest of its life. It's a win-win situation for the dog.

Monday, February 21, 2011

There's no such thing as one size fits all in choosing a dog

Look in any book about dogs and go online and you'll find a lot of advice on choosing a dog or puppy. The strangest thing about all of this advice is that much of it sounds the same and very little is adapted to a given age group of potential owners.

It's like one size --- or bit of advice on choosing the right dog for you --- is uniform, regardless of your age and circumstances/situation.

That simply isn't true. For the most part, you have to adapt much of that advice. And you're pretty much on your own when it comes down to doing so. That's got to be so unfair!  But I guess that in the interest in reaching as wide an audience as possible, many authors and their publishers overlook differences in potential dog owners, such as age and circumstance that they aim for the middle and hope that their message reaches at least most of their audience, even if it doesn't quite fit.

Friday, February 18, 2011

the toy "guard" dog

My now-deceased aunt always lived alone in a relatively safe, quiet neighborhood. She always remembered to lock her doors when she was leaving the house and of course, remembered to lock them when she was inside. She took other precautions that kept her safe throughout her life.

And yes, she did own a little dog, Skippy, for a few years. But as always happens, dogs age and finally die. So when Skippy died, my aunt didn't adopt any more pets, cats or dogs. My dad knew this and understood that my aunt, because of her age, knew that she couldn't take care of any more animals.

So my dad did the next best thing and bought her a rather large stuffed toy dog. My aunt propped the toy dog close to the window, giving the impression that her house was protected by a guard dog. From the street, that stuffed dog looked like a real dog and I suppose, fooled anyone who happened to be passing by. That strategy must have worked because no one ever tried to get in, thanks to that stuffed guard dog and neighbors who knew her situation and were there when she needed help.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

the closest thing to owning a dog

I think I've found a way to overcome doubts about owning a dog, and that way is to volunteer to walk a dog at a local shelter. You begin to know dogs and their behavior first hand and learn useful ways to deal with them as well.

To do this, visit a local shelter and let them know that you'd like to volunteer and you'll likely be handed an application. A few shelters actually provide some initial training once you're accepted. This is done in the best interests of your efforts and the dog's well-being. Your success will practically be guaranteed!

Altogether, this is a win-win situation for you, the shelter, and most important of all, the dog.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Celebrating Valentine's Day with your dog

- Buy him or her a trreat

- Buy a special toy that only he or she will like

- Decorate his or her collar for Valentine's Day

- Have him or her wear a red sweater

- Play with him or her a lot today

- Throw a red frisbee for your dog to catch and bring back to you

Sunday, February 13, 2011

on the prospect of having a St. Bernard dog

Lately, I've been fantasizing about adopting a St. Bernard dog. I like the way it looks and would probably be able to manage and care for such a dog properly. I would imagine that St. Bernards eat a lot, but could be wrong. There have to be proven ways to provide a good diet without putting oneself in the poor house.

Even more important, I think that a St. Bernard would be a cool dog to walk. Just the sight of him should make neighborhood dog owners, especially the owner of that little white yippy dog around the corner, bow their heads in respect and even acknowledge that my dog is more royal and well-behaved than any of their small and medium-sized squeakers called dogs.

I would also need a good name for this dog and a few tips for his care.

In the meantime, I'm researching St. Bernard dogs. Regardless, I still think that they are cool!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

sharing living quarters with a cat

I think that a lot depends on the way a dog owner arranges things to prepare for another animal, especially a cat, for the arrival of a new dog. If the cat has had the run of the house in the past, it's unlikely that he or she will willingly allow a dog to roam in his or her territory. On the other hand, it's unlikely that a dog will be willing to remain confined to a single room.

The only solution seems to be temporarily confining the cat to its favorite room, making sure that it has a high enough perch to jump on and sit should the dog accidentally wander in that room. And the challenge is magnified if an owner already has three or four indoor cats and is taking in a dog besides. Maybe in this case, it's a good idea to hold off on getting a dog for awhile. Biding one's time is extremely important, as you don't want to rush things too quickly just yet.

The good news is that if you take things one step at a time, the cat(s) and new dog will eventually get along or at least co-exist peacefully. .

Friday, February 11, 2011

We don't really train dogs, they train us

It's true. A dog that's ill doesn't respond well to us or eat or play or do much of anything, making us take him or her to the vet. A dog that barks a lot prompts us to find out what or who is making him bark, then look for ways to stop it or at least decrease its frequency. A dog that paws at the door trains us to let him in or out. A dog that begs at the table trains us to focus our attention on him and even sneak him some of the food we're eating. A dog that stops playing with one toy trains us to remove that toy and replace it with a different one.

Sometimes, there's a fine line, as in the case of a dog who insists on smelling the grass or a dried piece of another dog's poop and no calling or shouting or pulling can make that dog pay attention to us and what we want, at least not right away. About all we can do is say "No" and hope that the dog listens.

Compare all of that to our efforts to train dogs. Wow!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Adopt a senior dog? Why not?

I've been reading a book called, The 50+ Dog Owner by Mary Jane Checchi (TEH Publications, 2010) and thinking about some of the things this author mentions in her book.

Like opting to adopt a senior dog. Undoubtedly, a senior dog would not tug on his or her leash, but would need to exercise regularly in reasonable weather, not too hot, not too cold. That dog might even need some kind of sweater in cold weather, but even providing such a sweater should not be a big deal.

Other issues include greater potential for diseases as arthritis and kidney problems. And all too true, fewer years of remaining life. Hey, no one and no animal lives forever. And to the contrary, a senior dog could likely outlive quite a few of its counterparts. So there.

The more I think about the possibility of adopting a senior dog as a pet, the better I like it. I'm not so young myself nor am I crazy about having to go out in inclement weather. I also tend to be laid-back and hope that my senior dog would be laid-back also.

The question is what kind of dog. I know that I would adopt such a dog from a shelter.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Older people who own dogs have problems too

My now-deceased aunt had to be somewhere in her late sixties when she was left to care for Skippy, a little terrier that her brother bought for her mother. Skippy wasn't a large dog by any means, nor was he really hyper. Basically, he had a rather loud shrill bark. Even more important, Skippy was also aging.

My aunt took good care of him while she could. She babied him and gave him a lot of attention. I thought that caring for a little dog would be good for her also, giving her something to care for and have as company. For awhile, that was the case and the two of them had a good life together. At times, Skippy would resist being bathed, though I don't know what exactly went on.

The point here, however, is that while having a dog as a pet can be a healthy situation for the dog and its old owner, it can still present problems in shopping, buying dog food, cleaning up after the dog, walking it, and taking it to the vet. If an elderly person has a hard time managing those chores, maybe he or she can get some assistance.

Right now, I'm doing some research on this very problem and will share it in the next few posts.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

should your dog wear boots in ice and snow?

At last, only a few more weeks of winter are left and hopefully, no more snow or sleet. Walking in that stuff is tough enough for us, in spite of our protective foot gear. But for dogs of all sizes, it's probably tougher. Little chunks of ice and salt can easily become trapped in their foot pads during a walk. So it's important to check your dog's feet after a walk and even wipe them off with a damp towel or paper towel. Pay extra attention to the dog's paws and gently wipe away traces of salt and remove those bits of ice.

I understand that there are little booties for dogs!  The sight of a dog wearing booties may be amusing and reason to smile, but maybe it's the best protection for your dog's feet as you'll ever find. Not having experience with this, I would, if I had a dog, take him or her to one of the major pet stores and get a sales associate to help me select and even place the booties on the dog's feet. Maybe I'm wrong, but already I'm thinking that doing this is very much like putting boots on a child's feet. It's work and involves some aggravation, but in the end, your dog is more comfortable and your walk with him or her is more enjoyable.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Are dog owners more friendly when ........

they are walking their dogs? 

Say you're walking your dog on one side of the street and another dog owner is walking his or her dog on the other side of the street in the opposite direction.

From my experience, I tend to ignore that dog-walking person because I'm too busy keeping my dog focused on walking calmly in the direction we're headed, rather than exchanging smiles or a pleasant "good morning/afternoon" with a total stranger. So I have no way of knowing what they're up to at the moment, and to be honest, I really don't care.

Now, if we're on the same side of the street, walking in different directions, I might take a second or two to smile and acknowledge the other dog walker. And that's about it. He or she goes his or her way and I go my own. Rarely do I ever see anyone I know and am friendly with, so whether I acknowledge or not makes little or no difference. Nor would the dog I'm walking.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

giving a dog a bath

From what I've seen and heard, giving a dog a bath is not fun. It's often a messy, soaking affair where everyone gets splashed except the dog. This was especially true at my friend's house, where her father attempted to give the family's shaggy dog, Mitzi, a bath. He prepared by having a wooden tub half filled with tepid, soapy water. Then he made the biggest mistake by plunking Mitzi in the drink. The poor man did not get an opportunity to scrub Mitzi down because Mitzi leaped out of that tub like greased lightning, ran to the open door and ran outside, leaving a trail of suds behind her.

That was the funniest thing to watch. Needless to say, Mitzi went unwashed for another couple of days or weeks, I forget which.

Another dog I knew was in a similar position of needing a bath. My now-deceased aunt must have tried to give her little terrier, Skippy, a bath and failed miserably. From that point on, every time my aunt said the word "bath" to Skippy, the dog would growl and show his teeth. That was so funny to witness and I wished that I had a picture of Skippy doing just that. I don't know how he was bathed after that or by whom. My aunt gave up after that attempt.

Before adopting any dog, one of the first things I would want to find out is the best way to bathe him or her. I have a few ideas as to how I could do this, but somehow, too much would go wrong and my dog would join the ranks of the unbathed.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

older dogs still need love and attention

An older dog can be a loyal companion and friend, yet will need additional attention to potential health issues involving cataracts, bone problems such as arthritis, hearing, to mention just a few. This is not to say that younger dogs don't have these or other health problems because they do. But for an older dog, even so-called minor problems can become a big deal, just as they would for an elderly person.

At the same time, an older dog will likely survive that much longer with love and affection. It shouldn't make any difference what health issues he or she may be experiencing. Such a dog is and always be a good friend.

The older dog that comes to my mind is Princess, a mixed breed "mutt" that my sister gave to my father years ago. That dog went nearly everywhere with my dad and enjoyed riding as a passenger in his van. She'd sit up and quietly observe as my dad drove. As she aged, Princess reached a point at which she could barely get in and out of the van without some assistance, which my dad always provided. She never barked or acted aggressively toward him or anyone else. A short time later, Princess passed away from natural causes and my dad had her remains cremated.

Friday, February 4, 2011

How long should you leave your dog outside in the cold?

I'm really surprised to see how many people who leave their dogs in the backyard for an extended period of time in the cold, like all morning long. That doesn't seem to be humane. And if I were a dog, I'd be very uncomfortable after a few minutes outside in the cold, and would want to get back in the house asap.

Also, none of the dogs left outside seemed to be supervised. That is, there wasn't a person peering out the window to check on the dog every so often. I mean, what's up with that?  How can such people be allowed to own a dog, or any other animal for that matter? And how would they like it if THEIR partners forced them to stay outside in the cold?

I'm not saying that a dog should not be allowed outside, even in the cold, for a few minutes. My sister, for example, lets her dogs out in the backyard for a few minutes. She also checks up on them to make sure that they are all right, and then lets them in when they paw at the door. But for an entire morning or day?  I think that leaving a dog out that long is heartless and cruel.  It's also unfair to the neighbors who are forced to listen to barking and/or howling for a long time.

Thank God that very few heartless dog owners even tried this and get away with it.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

get a professional dog trainer ---- or not?

Before training my dog, I think that I would spend some time getting to know it and its behavior. Of course, I would call it by name and take it for walks. I'd buy a few toys and find out which ones appealed to the dog. Then I;d begin simple training, like having the dog walking with me instead of pulling at its leash all of the time and find out what caused it to bark if that was an issue.

There are quite a few books on dog training and a lot of them include instructions for basic training. The instructions are easy and are sometimes accompanied by photos or drawings. Of course, the "doing" part is the most challenging and at that point, I might even consider a professional trainer.

Not just any old professional trainer, but one that was recommended, charged reasonable prices, did a great job and loved dogs. Already, the idea of getting a professional trainer seems to involve a lot of hassle and at this point, I'm not so sure that I would want to go through all of that.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Amusing dogs indoors --- can you count the ways?

With the prolonged cold, snowy, icy weather conditions, sometimes it's better not to bother walking the dog outside, period, though it can be done. This morning, for instance, I've seen one or two people walking their dogs on icy sidewalks as the rain came down. Those people have a lot more nerve and courage than I do.

But anyway, the question soon becomes, what can you do to amuse a dog while you are indoors all day? Well, you can probably play with him or her. Now's a good time to bring out that toy that you've put away for a long time and let your dog play with it. You can also, as one commenter on http://www.discussdogs.com/ suggested, teach your dog tricks. Hey, I'm not that ambitious, and being a new owner, I'm not that sure that I could do so very well.....although as I've said before, it can be done.

My sister's dogs tend to sleep on the bed or sit on a table near the window. Sometimes they play with each other. During the day at some point, my sister will let her dogs out in the backyard to get some exercise and a chance to pee or poo outside. Her dog Chloe loves the snow anyway, so at least for that husky mix, snow is not a big problem.

But I gotta admit that I'm short of ideas, other than the ones included here. You can always hope that your dog will just sleep somewhere in the house and not worry or expect to be amused.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

When in doubt, use your own veterinarian

There was a story this morning about a police dog that was shot while on duty. The bullet lodged itself somewhere between the dog's skin and ribs. Nothing really serious and the dog survived, happily. But he will need surgery to get that bullet out sometime soon.

According to the story, the initial examination at a general veterinary hospital was something like 9 thousand dollars!!! Nothing was done other than the exam. Nothing was given.

This kind of thing is just outrageous and unfair. But thankfully, other vets and animal hospitals called in, stating that they wouldn't charge anything to treat a service dog, especially an outrageous sum of money.

I can imagine what happens when a dog owner uses one of those general veterinary hospitals instead of his or her own vet. That dog owner can expect to pay a fortune in fees and yet the animal's recovery can't be guaranteed. It's even possible to wind up with a misdiagnosis.