PAMPERING OUR PUPS - BATHES ARE JUST THE BEGINNING!

Nail trimming, ear cleaning, and bathing – all familiar territory for pet parents. But pampering our pets has taken a decidedly modern twist over the past few years and the gap between human pampering services and pet pampering services is slowly shrinking. Now our dogs can not only attend doggy daycare, but they can even visit dog spas and dog gyms! Every option may not be a great fit for all pet parents and all dogs, but reviewing what is out there and available is still quite fun!

DOGGY DAYCARE IS NOT JUST DAYCARE ANYMORE

Some modern doggy daycare facilities have grown to include swimming pools, spa areas and services, and even doggy masseuses. Even included outdoor play areas are not just fenced in grassy places to play, but rather may also have play structures and other activities geared specifically toward dogs. The facilities are designed to make dogs feel as comfortable as possible and to remove the sterile, somewhat isolated environment that can be an all too common characteristic of kennels. In fact, this is why many of our pet parent clients enjoy using SLEEPOVER ROVER®: they know their dog will be given the freedom to play in secure areas as well as the extra love and affection that comes from being in an in-home environment. With the unconditional love that our pups offer us, it is only natural that as pet parents we would seek to provide them with the best, most attentive care possible while we have to be away for work or travel.

TAKING PET GROOMING TO ANOTHER LEVEL

Particularly for long-haired breeds or dogs with grooming anxiety, a professional groomer can take the guesswork out of caring for our dogs’ hair and nails and streamline the process of keeping our dogs in tip-top shape. However, some groomers go beyond simply offering a bath and a nail trim and are starting to provide services such as full service pedicures (including a polish job!) and shampoos and conditioners in exotic fragrances. Additionally, pet hair (fur?) care lines now even offer dry shampoos and fur sprays to keep your pup smelling fancy. (As a sidenote, your dog may be sensitive to added fragrances, so please keep in mind this is just for fun and we’re not advocating dousing your pup in scent!)

DOGGY FITNESS

When you think about keeping your dog fit, what comes to mind? A quick walk around the block, or perhaps on a special summer day a dip in the pool or lake for a quick swim? Particularly in urban areas, dedicated dog gyms are now popping up. These facilities offer large indoor and/or outdoor play spaces and may include a variety of dog-friendly toys and even agility structures. Options vary, but pet parents may be able to book the space for individual playtime or group time with their dog. Alternatively, dog gyms may offer a membership structure much like human fitness facilities, where pet parents pay a monthly fee and can drop-in as they’d like. All in all, for many of us our dogs are part of the family, whether or not we have human children as well. With the unmatched companionship and love that they provide, perhaps it makes sense that the options for spoiling them have expanded as much as they have? Regardless, it certainly is fun to get out there and explore the services and facilities available!

Images courtesy Hi Tricia! and Andrew Magill 

DOGS IN BAD SITUATIONS: RECOGNIZING IT AND WHAT YOU CAN DO

Although as pet parents we realize just how well our dogs can communicate, the fact remains that they cannot speak the same way people do. A dog in a warm car can’t just politely request that a passerby let him out, and similarly a pup that shouldn’t stay outside in the sun all day can’t simply trot over to the fence and ask a neighbor for some shade. However, since we are pet parents and animal lovers, we can take the time to recognize situations that are not okay for dogs whether it is a neighbor pup or one that you see while out and about. We can collectively improve the quality of life for dogs by being aware and taking action when appropriate.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

According to the Humane Society, 49 states have included felony provisions in their animal abuse laws, which means that not only is the mistreatment of animals a serious moral crime, but in many areas the legal system also takes it seriously. In fact, the Humane Society also offers several helpful tips for spotting animal abuse, including watching for: persons that keep more pets than they can manage, animals that show an obvious lack of medical care (very thin, wounds that do not heal, and/or patches of hair loss), and inadequate shelter in hot or cold weather. Summer is in full swing and the risks to dogs left in areas without shade and especially left in closed vehicles is very real. Additionally, dogs that are left chained up for long periods of time are left in an exposed, vulnerable state, and dogs left behind to fend for themselves when their families move need to be taken in and cared for as quickly as possible. Domestic pets simply are not equipped to care for themselves; in addition to loneliness and battling the elements, they are exposed to hunger and, depending on your region, possibly predators. All of these issues are highly time sensitive, but in cases of an animal in a locked car or violence toward an animal, doing something immediately is of the essence.

WHAT TO DO

As mentioned above, dogs in direct danger as a result of extreme temperatures (whether hot or cold) and/or violent conditions need help right away. If you witness either scenario (or any scenario in which you feel a dog is in immediate danger), call the authorities right away! Call 911 in the case of a time sensitive emergency; in cases where you suspect mistreatment of a longer duration, you may want to consider calling your local animal welfare agency. Keep track of what you’ve seen and heard and make sure to let authorities know the details. Local rescues, vet offices, local law enforcement, and even the Humane Society can all also be starting points for finding the right people to help. Even in the event that you come across a lost or stray dog in your neighborhood, it’s important to do something. You may not feel safe personally approaching the animal (and that's okay!). But you can always call for help from someone that does. Protecting our dogs is a community effort; the great news is that animals rescued from bad situations can go on to thrive and live a happy, comfortable life with a family that truly cares for them. They just need a little help from us humans to get them into a safe, loving environment as soon as possible.

Images courtesy Taro the Shiba Inu and Jamie McCaffrey

IT’S SWIMSUIT SEASON – FOR YOUR DOG?

It happens every year: with warmer weather, the water cooler buzz and the newsstands start to fill up with references to swimsuit season and getting fit. For most of us, our New Year’s resolutions lost steam months ago and as we start to pull out the shorts for summer we start to (hopefully!) add some more activities into our days to take advantage of the warm weather and get a little more exercise in. But what if our dogs need the movement just as much as we do? What if we’ve taken our pups with us on our journey to couch potato-dom?

ASSESSING THE SITUATION

Sometimes with our pups, weight gain can creep up and we don’t realize it until the next vet visit. Other times, perhaps we’ve noticed our best friend getting a little thicker around the middle but haven’t had the time or drive to address it. But how can we tell if our dogs need a little more exercise? According to PetMD, getting a handle on whether your pet is at a healthy weight is fairly straightforward: stand above your pet and look down. What do you see? If you see his ribs, he may be too lean. If you can’t see his ribs, place your hands around his chest and see if you can feel them. Still can’t? Your pup may be carrying a little extra. Much like in humans, excess weight can cause health issues and if left unchecked may even decrease longevity. If you are concerned about your pet’s weight and are considering adding in activity or decreasing his dietary intake, as always – check with your vet! He may be more out of shape than you realize, in which case you’ll want to slowly add in activity. Once you are ready to up his movement, keep on reading for some easy suggestions!

GETTING ROVER GOING

When it comes to getting your dog moving, perhaps the simplest way is to bring her with you! If you need to run errands, are any of your errands walkable? Or are they dog-friendly, so that at least if you have to drive you can bring her inside once you arrive? (For some more suggestions on finding ways to bring your dog along, look here and here). Additionally, the more active you are, odds are your dog will become more active as well. Take a look at your daily schedule and see where you can add in some additional movement and activity. For example, during the morning crunch are you more likely to just open the back door for your pup? What if you set your alarm just a few minutes earlier, and took your morning coffee with you in a travel mug so the two of you could do a couple of quick loops in the neighborhood before you head off to work or school? Or if you need to give a friend or family member a call to check-in, what if you brought your pup and made it a walking call? Many of us have certain things that pop up over and over again in our daily routines, and sometimes getting our pups (and ourselves!) moving may be as a simple as a few tweaks to those well-ingrained habits. As a pet parent trying to increase daily activity for our dogs, even ten more minutes of playtime together in the yard or a few more laps around the block can make a significant difference in our dog’s health and well-being over time, not to mention the intangible benefits he will enjoy as a result of getting more quality time with mom and/or dad!

Images courtesy Follow These Instructions and L Church

SUMMER TREATS FOR YOUR DOG

With the mercury rising and the long, sunny days that are at hand, it can be challenging for our furry friends to stay cool. We can keep them in the shade, limit outdoor time, and make sure they stay hydrated, but we can also whip up some tasty cooling treats for them. Every pup enjoys a good snack, and every pet parent loves to keep their furry best friend happy – cooling them down and providing them with treats, sounds like a win-win!

FROZEN SNACKS, AKA PUPSICLES

A long walk (or even a shorter one in very hot weather) can be depleting and downright exhausting for our dogs. Some dogs enjoy it if you grab them an ice cube after a warm stroll, but some dogs just aren’t that interested in that plain old ice cube… luckily there are options! You can freeze pretty much anything into a treat for your pup, and you can use a variety of shapes. For example, you can blend up water, peanut butter, chunks of bananas, and even some berries and pour that mix into a cupcake pan or the bottom of a bundt pan. Or if your dog is more motivated by meaty treats, try blending up a mix of shredded, plain chicken, plain yogurt, water, and peanut butter, and freeze that. When it comes to ingredients, get creative! Think about the meats, fruits, and other ingredients that he or she enjoys and that are acceptable for consumption (for example, skip the raisins and the chocolate as those are not dog-safe ingredients) and blend it up. As mentioned, cupcake pans and bundt pans work well for making frozen treats, and you can also use mini muffin pans, ice cube trays, or even small Tupperware containers to freeze up your dog popsicles (or pupsicles!). One word of warning: you may want to keep an eye on where your dog is when you give him his treat! Depending on the ingredients, your pupsicles might get a little messy while getting eaten. A shady spot in the yard or keeping your dog in one area (such as the kitchen) may not be a bad idea. He might get so excited about his new snack that he wants to run off and enjoy it, that may not end well!

NON-FROZEN SUMMER TREATS

Just as in cooler weather, we can help our dogs to stay healthy and happy by feeding them a nutritionally balanced diet, with appropriate quantities to ensure they remain a healthy weight. When temperatures rise, a dog at a healthy weight and with proper nutrition will fare better than a dog carrying excess weight or not receiving proper nutrition. But how do treats and snacks fit into that picture? When putting together homemade snacks for your dog, whether frozen, raw, or baked, pet parents can give their dogs the advantage of solid nutrition by using whole food, dog-safe ingredients and providing proper quantities. The ASPCA has a handy list of foods to avoid for your dog here: http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-behavior/foods-are-hazardous-dogs. For example, making frozen treats with plain yogurt, a fruit such as bananas, and a healthy fat such as peanut butter or coconut milk and then providing that treat in reasonable quantities will help your dog cool off and also won’t undermine his overall health. Non-frozen treats are no different! You can bake healthy, wholesome treats such as Tidy Mom’s Homemade Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits (http://tidymom.net/2014/homemade-peanut-butter-dog-biscuits/) or the easy Sweet Potato Dog Treats found at Allrecipes.com (http://allrecipes.com/recipe/super-simple-sweet-potato-dog-treats/) and provide your pup with healthy fats and other important nutrients. A homemade cookie or biscuit is a great way to add extra nutrients to your pup’s diet while he’s under the stress of hot weather, and it’s also a fun way to make sure you have healthy rewards on hand after a long walk or when he’s done well with a new skill. Or let’s be honest, perhaps just because!

Images courtesy John Wright and Taro the Shiba Inu

SUMMER TRAVEL WITH YOUR DOG, PART THREE – AIR TRAVEL

Summer is the season for barbeques, long days, and spending time with friends and family, so it is no surprise that it is also the season for travel. According to the U.S Travel Association, only 11% of us opt to travel by plane when it comes to leisure travel; however, given the fact that Americans logged 1.6 billion person trips (a somewhat funny way of saying one person traveling either away from home with paid accommodations for at least a night or on a day or overnight trip at least 50 miles from home), 11% is still significant! Sometimes when traveling to see far flung friends and family or to hit the destination on the top of your travel list, it just makes more sense time-wise, financially, or both to fly. But what do we do when we want to bring our dogs along, too? Realistically, how can you tell whether air travel something that you and your pup can do together? What exactly is involved?

PLAN, PLAN, PLAN AHEAD!

I still remember the first time I had to plan air travel with my dog: we were moving overseas and there simply were not any other options. Although the process seemed overwhelming at first, with proper preparation it ended up being fairly straightforward and he did quite well. As long as your dog is in good health and cleared by your vet to fly, with a little prep work the rest will fall into place. You’ll want to start planning your trip preferably a couple of months out, and if you have a flat-nosed breed (such as a pug) or live in or are flying to a hotter climate, the time of day you fly is going to be highly relevant. If you know the dates of your travel well ahead of time, you may want to start calling airlines to find out exactly when your dog can fly, whether he’ll be considered an in-cabin companion or fly as cargo based on his size, and what documentation they will need from your vet. Most of this info can also be found on an airline’s website, but it cannot hurt to call and double check all information prior to planning your trip. The airline rep may point a regulation or necessary item (such as a health certificate from your vet) that you missed on the website!

WHEN YOU’RE READY TO GO

Once you’ve decided on an itinerary, booked travel for yourself and your dog, and secured a health certificate and any other required information or documentation, you still need to actually get your group checked in and off of the ground, literally! Depending on the length of your flight and the size of your dog, this may mean simply checking in and bringing her as a carry-on or it may mean bringing her to the airline’s cargo hanger (which may be offsite) and prepping her and her kennel for several hours of travel. About 48 hours prior, you may want to do a quick run through and make sure that you have everything you need for the day of; for example, a proper kennel, all of your paperwork, and a set plan for the day of. If you are traveling for a longer period, you may need to freeze water in your pet’s water bowl attachment the night before, and/or portion out food for her trip and bring it with you in a baggy when you check her in (the airline can tape it to the top of the kennel with feeding instructions). Additionally, don’t hesitate to communicate with the airline throughout the process – ask any additional questions that you have when checking her in, and make sure to let flight attendants know you are traveling with a pet in the cargo hold (if applicable) so they can let you know your dog is onboard and safe and sound prior to takeoff. Similarly, when you land make sure you know exactly where you need to be to pick her up. It may be the baggage claim or it may be somewhere else. Take comfort in the fact that you have prepared for your trip, taken the steps necessary, and that the airline staff understand that you are just a concerned parent. They are also invested in your pet’s travel going smoothly! And last but not least, remember to enjoy the vacation you and your dog take. After all, that’s why you set up the air travel in the first place, right? Happy travels!

 

Images courtesy Bukowsky18 and Nora Arden

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