The sunny, crisp days of winter present a wonderful opportunity to spend some time in the great outdoors with our dogs, but it is important that we take a few precautions both for ourselves and for our pups in order to prevent cold injuries. We can always take the easy route and opt to stay indoors, but any pet parent will tell you that they have learned the hard way at least once what an unexercised, pent up dog is like, whether they get into mischief or become just generally less agreeable!
PAWS AND LIMBS
For humans and for dogs, our extremities suffer quickly in cold weather. We lose quite a bit of heat from our heads, and the snow, ice, and deicing salt present on sidewalks and roads during the winter can be hazardous for our dogs’ legs and paws. It is important that everyone involved is properly dressed for the season, from top to bottom! For pet parents, a sturdy pair of boots, sweat wicking layers, and a warm set of hat and gloves can provide comfort on winter walks. For dogs, you may want to consider a pair of dog boots to protect his feet from hazards; if temperatures dip low enough in your region, there is also a wide selection of dog jackets and vests available to keep him warm! If you are planning on taking more than just a spin around the block, keep an eye on how much moisture he picks up – a wet dog can quickly turn into a dangerously cold dog, even if he is bundled up in a vest or sweater. And of course before you decide to take your dog for more than just a potty break, always check with your vet to make sure she’s healthy enough to sustain to the cold. You can also inquire as to how long your vet thinks she can be outside comfortably.
THE THING IS, HE HATES IT
Let’s say you’re quite excited about a day out with your pup, but he is just not feeling it. In fact, he is barely interested in even taking a potty break in the cold. Perhaps you even have to shovel a path for him in the yard to get him to use the restroom in the snow… what to do?? Fortunately, there are indoor options available for you! If you live in an apartment building, you can walk the hallways and spend time exploring lobby areas. Granted, that isn’t too exciting, so you may want to look into local doggy gyms and doggy daycares. Interior playgrounds that cater to dogs can be quite fun and a great way for your pup to burn off steam. If you opt to stay at home, the winter months can be a great time to work with your pup on training cues and learning new skills. It won’t be stimulating in the same way that a romp outdoors may be, but keeping your dog engaged and making him feel attended to can do wonders for his (and your!) cabin fever. Feel free to invite pup friends for a doggy playdate, too! Some living room tussling and snuggling may be just what the winter doggy ordered.
Images courtesy John Talbot and Benedicte Thomassen
Thanksgiving is coming up quick – next week in fact! – and so are holiday sales. With Black Friday for those that enjoy shopping in person and Cyber Week/Cyber Monday for those that prefer to shop from the comfort of their own home, the options are seemingly endless! But what to get for your canine best friend?
PLAYING IT SAFE: EDIBLE GIFTS
Let’s be practical for a minute. At the end of the day, most (if not all) dogs love to eat, and the way to a dog’s heart is via his stomach. Home baked treats and store bought dog treats all hit the spot, and with the holidays upon us there are some wonderful, creative options out there. Pet parents can do a quick search via their favorite search engine or on a more specialized site such as Pinterest to find creative, delicious, and dog-friendly recipes for their favorite pups. For the less DIY pet parent, many communities now have specialized dog bakeries. For those that do not, great news! Several dog bakeries also offer shipping right to your front door. One quick tip, though: even if Santa frequents your house, DO NOT leave those gifts under the tree! Expecting a pup not to crack open a package full of peanut butter dog cookies may simply be too much to ask, even of the best-behaved pup.
FUNCTIONAL GIFTS: KEEP ROVER WARM AND TOASTY!
Baby, it’s cold outside. And although your buddy likely has a lovely fur coat on, he is still not immune to the weather. There are a plethora of lovely dog gifts out there that will keep him snuggled up, rain, snow, or shine! For example, you can pick him up a puffy vest or a pup-specific sweater to keep him warm on long walks, and you can even consider getting him some booties to protect his paws from the elements. Delicate foot pads can be irritated by ice and de-icing chemicals alike, and although he may initially scoff at wearing anything on his feet, he’ll likely eventually adapt to his new footwear and will be happy to have healthy feet at the end of the season!
FOR THE PUP THAT LOVES TO NAP (BECAUSE THEY ALL DO!)
Odds are good that your well-loved pup already has at least one comfy dog bed around the house, but the holidays are a great time to replace any that have gotten scruffy and/or simply add another! For example, our pup prefers to have at least two in the house at all times, one upstairs and one downstairs. That way, no matter where the family is, he has a snuggly spot to curl up near the action. Your dog may also enjoy a heated blanket, just make sure to only use it on lower settings and only while you are in close proximity while he enjoys it! Holiday shopping can be somewhat overwhelming in the midst of work, social, and family obligations during the holiday season, but shopping for your pet can be fun and easy if you simply keep his short list of favorites in mind. After all, most dogs just want to be full, snuggly, and comfortable! Easy enough, right?
Images courtesy David J. LaPorte and Doug Waldron
Although statistically it doesn’t happen often, stories of air travel with pets gone wrong seem to crop up as we prepare for the holiday travel season. Whether they are horror stories of missed flight prerequisites leading to delays or an inability to travel, dogs not handling temperature/altitude changes well, or every pet parent’s worst nightmare of escaped pups during transit, air travel with our dogs may bring us as much risk as it does convenience. Thankfully, just as with most aspects of successful pet parenting, a little planning and preparation can exponentially increase our chances of seamless air travel and overall success.
PLAN, PLAN, AND PLAN!
First and foremost – plan ahead. As soon as you even start to roll the idea of air travel with your pet around in your mind, start researching. Proper planning and research will facilitate a successful journey with your pet. You may even uncover travel requirements or fees that rule out air travel completely, thus allowing you to readjust and either alter your holiday plans or set up boarding with a trusted pet host. You’ll want to check in on season-specific travel considerations, such as the temperatures of your departure city, destination, and any possible connections during the dates and times you may fly, as well as any health certificate and/or vaccination requirements for your dog on a particular airline.
You’ll also want to check size and weight guidelines to determine whether your dog can fly in the cabin or will be considered cargo in the plane. Many airlines also limit the number of live animals per flight, so once you narrow down the dates you’ll travel and set a firm itinerary, you’ll need to work with the airline’s reservations department to ensure your pet has his space reserved. Flying with our dogs is much more than simply choosing dates and finding the best rates, and doing the work ahead of time will prevent difficulties when it comes to the actual travel. It may feel somewhat overwhelming making sure all of these considerations are addressed in the beginning, but you will be setting yourself and your canine best friend up for success!
SAFETY AND HEALTH
When prepping for your trip, you’ll likely need to take your dog in to the vet to obtain a health certificate stating that he or she is healthy enough to travel. Do not rush this step! Take the time to research the expected temperatures he’ll deal with, the time he’ll need to wait between meals, and even when he’ll have access to fresh water so you can have an honest conversation with your vet about any possible effects on his health and well-being.
Additionally, when it comes time to travel, work closely with the airline to understand what your dog’s travel day will look like – when will he be loaded on the plane if he is unable to travel in the cabin? When and where will you be able to pick him up? Many airlines have a system in place that involves a flight attendant bringing a pull tag from your dog’s kennel to your seat before takeoff to let you know that she has been loaded on the plane. Do not let a busy flight crew forget this step! As a pet parent, you’re not inconveniencing them, but rather you’re ensuring that they do their job and protect your dog. Just as you are a paying customer for whom they are responsible, so is your dog. This is also where having the proper kennel and supplies comes into play. If your dog can sit, stand, and turn around in his kennel and has the appropriate labels and food/water dishes, you are helping the airline take better care of her. You also should ensure the kennel and door are in good repair before flying to prevent mishaps.
Overall, flying with our dogs can be a daunting task, but by breaking the process down into the proper steps, you can protect your dog and make sure his air travel is uneventful (read: successful!). And remember – you can always find a quality home for him to stay in if air travel is not an option! Either way, enjoying the holidays, seeing faraway friends and family and/or traveling for leisure, and looking out for your pet are not mutually exclusive. You CAN do it!
Images courtesy Evan P. Cordes and Can Do Canines
As pet parents, we know with absolute certainty that we have a special bond with our dogs; they are a part of our family, we think about them when we have to go away, we factor in their schedule when we are setting plans or get that last minute email from our boss about an evening meeting. In fact, about this time last year we did a fun piece that outlined when you KNOW you’re a pet parent. Some of the highlights that you all will recognize: silence never sounds the same after welcoming a dog to your family (because silence sounds like T-R-O-U-B-L-E), it may be a battle of strategy (and will!) to secure real estate for sitting and sleeping, and perhaps most importantly you open up a place in heart for your new furry best friend that perhaps you didn’t even know was there. On that same note, researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital have confirmed what we already know: that the brain of a pet parent changes in ways parallel to that of a maternal brain (sorry guys this study was done on women – we know you take your role as a pet papa seriously!).
For the study, women were shown images of their children and their dogs while their brains were being scanned by researchers, and it was shown that areas such as the amygdala, the medial orbitofrontal cortex, and the dorsal putamen were activated in a similar way when viewing both types of images. According to Science Daily, the amygdala plays a key role in the processing of emotion, the medial orbitofrontal cortex is responsible for social and emotional processes (including anxiety), and the dorsal putamen is involved in learning and reward systems. In contrast, these areas were not activated when the mothers viewed images of unfamiliar children and/or dogs. Realistically, this just proves what we all already know – there is a definite resemblance to be seen when considering the relationship we have with our offspring and our dogs. We view them as part of the family, warmly anticipate them greeting us when we get home, and experience acute grief when we lose them.
All that being said, there are differences in the nature of our interactions with our dogs and thus it makes sense that there may be differences in the areas of the brain activated by our relationships with our pets. For example, the area involved with facial recognition was activated more when moms looked at images of their dogs, perhaps because so much of our relationship with our pets is based on reading expressions rather than language like that of our children. Additionally, two areas of the brain that are heavily involved with the production of dopamine and oxytocin were activated by images of children and not by those of pets; dopamine is associated with reward and oxytocin is commonly referred to as the love hormone, so why would these be more present with regard to the parent-child relationship and not the parent-pet relationship? Virginia Hughes, a freelance journalist that writes for National Geographic and other publications, posits that perhaps these hormones aren’t as important for relationship building with our pets. Whatever the case, even if we are producing less oxytocin during our interactions, any pet parent an testify that there is such a thing as love at first sight and a continuing, resilient bond when it comes to our pups. How else would we be accepting in the face of the trouble our pups get into? And what else explains the way we melt when they give us that adorable sideways look?
Images courtesy of the author and Nan Palmero
Last year at about this time, we did an overview on funny Halloween costumes. And let’s face it: no matter how we dress up our dogs, as long as they are happy and comfortable it’s always at least a little funny! This year we are going to take a little different approach. Rather than simply suggesting funny Halloween costumes, how about costumes that play off of our dog’s natural stance and disposition? That is, let’s choose costumes that are fun because they embrace our pup’s four-legged and energetic ways!
THE SPIDEY DOG
You may have seen this one circulating on the internet, but we are in love with the dog-as-a-spider Halloween costume. It is creative AND sets up our friends and family for some absolutely priceless pranking. We all know someone afraid of spiders, and how fun would it be for your pup to run up dressed as a fuzzy, friendly, and maybe even barking one? Most of the costumes we found on the web were highly unrealistic looking, so don’t worry too much about your friends and family taking it seriously. You could always throw a little extra craftiness into the outfit and tie on some bells so your pup doesn’t sneak up on anyone that may be too rattled by his sudden doubling in legs.
COSTUMES MADE FOR RUNNING
Further capitalizing on our dog’s natural tendency to be full of life and zest, why not think about other creatures that would be likely to zoom around with lots of energy? For example, you could dress your pup as a T-Rex, a centipede, or even as a cat! All of these will be quite enjoyable once your dog is provided with a sidewalk or a living room to enjoy. And given the man’s-best-friend nature of our dogs, they will have even more fun once they realize we are having a blast, too!
Everyone loves a good pun! Whether a food pun, a sports pun, or a pun-based dog costume designed to elicit a chuckle from trick-or-treaters, puns are fun! Putting a little thought into your pup’s Halloween costume can lead to a solid good time come Halloween. For example, you can keep it simple and go with the tried-and-true Hot Dog costume, or think a little further outside the box and dress your pup up as a bell (get it? Pavlov?), a large speaker (a subWOOFer!), or even go for a play on a famous character’s name, such as Arf-too D2 or Arft Vader. Whichever route you go, have fun, be safe, and remember to truly enjoy the holiday with your best friend!
Images courtesy istolethetv and Hello Chaos