We have mentioned travel with your dog several times, including road trips and even just motoring around town to check out local parks and coffee shops, but what about safety concerns? Is it as simple as just putting your pup in the car and going, or are there best practices? We should buckle up each and every time we get in the car, so does that same standard apply to our dogs? From just ensuring that our dog is comfortable and feels safe to actually making sure our dogs are physically safe on the road, the answer is a resounding yes!
ACQUAINTING YOUR DOG TO CAR TRAVEL
As pet parents, we are well aware that making changes takes time. When we get our puppy a new crate or even transition to a new food, we should ideally introduce change in steps to make sure she is comfortable with that change. Incremental changes reassure our pets and can take the discomfort out of said changes, and riding in the car is no exception. Rather than hopping in the car for a long drive, if possible it is a better idea to bring her along for a quick ride around the neighborhood first to help her adapt. The motion of the vehicle and being confined can be jarring, particularly for puppies and rescue dogs that may take a little longer to adapt. In practical terms, this may mean choosing an easy route close to home and allowing her to adjust. Additionally, you can time car rides to further help her feel comfortable. Avoid going for a drive just after mealtime, and if possible wait until after she’s had some fresh air and exercise. Most dogs are more relaxed and less anxious if they’ve had some exercise and attention and had a chance to take a potty break, and of course this applies to car trips, too! A restful dog is typically a more comfortable dog.
CHOOSING SAFETY OPTIONS
So let’s say you have a relaxed, comfortable dog (which is good for their peace of mind and safety as well as yours while on the road!) and now you’re ready to take to the road. What are the options? If your pup is comfortable with a kennel or crate, you can simply bring one along in the car to make sure he’s secure. Having a kennel in the back will serve as a sort of den for your dog and keep him from hopping around while you are driving. And worst case, if an accident or breakdown happens while you’re driving, he will be in a safe place and hopefully the chances of him escaping or getting hurt will be minimized. This will also establish a routine for your dog: when it’s time to hop in the car, he’ll know right where his place is in the vehicle and what to expect. Keep in mind that just as with crate training in the home, make sure to keep the crate a positive experience. Place a treat or favorite toy in the crate and reinforce that it’s not a punishment for him. Don’t force it – it may take time for him to be okay with climbing in at first. There are also dog seat belts and harnesses available at pet stores and online, and these devices can serve the same purpose: keeping your dog in one safe place, both to allow you to drive safely and to keep him safe in the event of an accident or other unforeseen circumstance. Whether a kennel or a harness is a better fit for your dog, remember: your lap is not a safe place for him, and as much as he may enjoy having his head out the window, that isn’t safe either! He may enjoy the freedom, but both of these scenarios can be highly dangerous for you and for him. And of course, please don’t leave your dog in the car in either hot or cold temperatures. She could overheat or sustain cold injuries, both of which can be tragic and are avoidable!! In fact, in many states there are now laws against both unsecured dogs and leaving dogs alone in the vehicle, so at best you’ll add fines or legal trouble to your day, even if nothing else goes wrong. With a little time and planning, car rides with your pup can be fun, safe, and a way for you both to get out and explore together!
Images courtesy Amanda Ray and Sarah Racha
I can still remember clear as day the afternoon we brought Kaiser home: we had driven from the Baltimore area out into the Pennsylvania countryside, and it was a beautiful, crystal clear day. We’d already been to the farm where Kaiser was born, so the terrain, the family, and even the home were familiar to us. Everything seemed so simple; we picked him up, finalized a few details, and within a short time we were back on the road and I had a yellow bundle of fur sleeping on my lap. As the road shot by, I started to think about getting him all set up once we were home. As he was our first puppy I had done research on training, temperament, food, you name it. And perhaps most fortunately, had already sought the advice of a local trainer on sleeping arrangements.
PUPPY SLEEPS, WE ALL SLEEP!
For a first time pet parent, the puppy stage can be somewhat alarming. One knows on some level that it is going to be demanding. House breaking, setting up a new routine, and managing your pup’s angry little chewing habit while he or she is teething. It’s genuinely a matter of taking a completely unsocialized little guy and teaching him what is and what is not acceptable behavior, and that can be a daunting process. And on top of all of that, new pet parents are also likely struggling with sleep deprivation. Puppies need lots of potty breaks, even at night, and initially may have trouble adjusting to a conventional sleep schedule. But in order to maintain one’s responsibilities and just for the health of you, your family, and your new puppy, getting on a sleep schedule is highly important.
WHY A CRATE?
Of course as a pet parent we all ultimately find what works best for us and for our puppies. That being said, a crate may be a good way to get on a sleep schedule and establish a safe place in your home that is your puppy’s special space. According to the Humane Society, as natural den animals having a crate in the home can serve as a his “own personal den where he can find comfort and solitude while you know he's safe and secure—and not shredding your house while you're out running errands”. When attempting to get your puppy used to her crate, try to focus on the theme of safe and comfortable – pick out a soft, safe puppy bed made for use in a crate, or perhaps a soft blanket that can be folded and laid in the bottom. You can even consider draping a blanket or large towel over the top to make it more den-like, and tuck the crate in corner or along a wall where it won’t be in the way and generating traffic. Your puppy will likely be more comfortable if she feels tucked out of the way and snug when she’s in her crate. If she’s hesitant to go in, remember: never force it. Hide a couple of treats inside as a special reward for when she does check it out. Pick a cue and work on reinforcing that command, such as “go to your bed” or “go to your house”. Consistency is key, as your puppy will learn quickly that listening to your cue and doing the expected behavior leads to ear scratches, a cookie, or whatever reward you set for the behavior. On their website, the Humane Society lists several chronological steps for crate training your pup. Once he’s okay with going in and out, you can start to lengthen the time he spends inside, gradually working up to leaving him in it for periods during the day and eventually at night. With patience and lots of love, the end goal will benefit everyone in the home: a puppy that happily snuggles up in her crate for a good night’s sleep!!
Images courtesy John Star5115 and Moxkyr
Just prior to the start of the current Olympics in Sochi, Russia, local Russian authorities made headlines with their plans to eliminate the thousands of stray dogs in the area. Rather than set up shelters or even move the dogs to areas with shelter facilities available, authorities intended to carry out a mass euthanization of the animals. Thankfully, a local benefactor has funded the establishment of three shelter facilities, but now local and international interested parties are left with the question of how exactly to go about rescuing the dogs. Unless you have traveled or are planning to travel to Sochi, adopting one of the shelter dogs there may be impractical; however, you can make a difference in your local community by choosing to adopt or even foster a shelter dog. But how?
HOW MUCH CAN YOU COMMIT?
The first step is to take honest stock of how much your household can contribute; that is, are you in a position to adopt an animal? Do you already have a dog or dogs, and if so, are they amenable to other animals? Do you have the space, resources, and time to commit to adding another member of the family? Or do you perhaps have the space but a more temporary option would be a better fit? Once you’ve taken stock of your resources and intentions, you’ll have a much better idea as to whether adoption, fostering, or perhaps even volunteering is a good fit for your current situation. And remember, volunteering makes a huge difference! Many organizations have small operating budgets and will take all of the help that they can get, whether it be admin help or walking dogs. If you are not quite ready to adopt or don’t really have the space, committing to regular volunteer commitments can make a significant difference in the lives of many dogs at once.
SETTING YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS
Once you know what your intentions are, you can look into your local options and start inquiring for more info. There may be local shelters that have dogs up for adoption, or you may know exactly what breed is a good fit for you and choose to seek out a rescue organization that specializes in that breed. Either way, be patient. You may come home right away with a dog, but odds are that the process will take time. This is in the best interest of you and your adopted pup – if a group is willing to just hand you a dog, how thorough are they really being in screening you? Once you adopt your dog, you want it to be a forever situation for both of you, so taking some time to see what your household is like and the sort of environment the dog’s disposition is best suited for is a good idea for all parties involved! And even though waiting can be excruciating once you’ve made the decision and commitment to expand your family, remember you’ll have plenty of time for snuggles, play, and good times with your new pup once you welcome him or her into your household.
Images courtesy CCT Thompson and Kristine Paulus
Yes, the Super Bowl was yesterday. Yes, Denver, Seattle, New York (and probably everywhere in between!) are still consumed with football fever as the post action reviews and internet memes fill our inboxes and newsfeeds. But my fellow dog loving friends, what about the puppy bowl??
A LITTLE BIT OF BACKGROUND
Animal Planet produced its first puppy bowl as a Super Bowl alternative in 2005, making this year’s event the Tenth Annual Puppy Bowl. Aside from the puppies-on-a-field antics one would expect from such a production, the Puppy Bowl also typically includes special guests, a halftime show, and even the requisite pre-game singing of the National Anthem. In order to ensure the adorable stars (aka puppies) are safe and well taken care of, the Humane Society and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals both take on supporting roles monitoring the production, and a veterinarian is kept on hand just in case any of the pups get overzealous and need a quick checkup. Additionally, each puppy has its own human handler to guarantee proper supervision over the two to three days of filming needed to produce the show.
THIS YEAR’S PRODUCTION
For this year’s event, First Lady Michelle Obama made an appearance in a highlight reel of the pups’ training (held on the White House lawn of all places!), and there were also guest spots by the Muppets and representatives of New York City’s K9 Unit. This year was also unique in that the focus for the show was on canine adoptions; traditionally, all of the stars of the Puppy Bowl are shelter pups, and all are found homes by the time the show airs. This year, Animal Planet chose to highlight that element via a focus on the adoption journey of Rosie, a Chihuahua mix. Although the show is done with a lighthearted feel, the journey of shelter animals is all too real. According to the Humane Society, in 2012-2013 there were approximately 3,500 shelters in the United States, and of the between 6 and 8 million animals that entered those shelters, only 4 to 6 million were rehomed, leaving a surplus of about 2.7 million adoptable cats and dogs subject to euthanization (the Humane Society does not separate out its statistics by species, but rather combines figures for cats and dogs).
As pet parents, we all have chosen to include a dog in our family and in our life, and as such we do our part every day to ensure their safety and well-being. However, these statistics drive home the point that we can also contribute to the solution for shelter animals in our everyday decisions that we make; for example, when it’s time to add to our family again, we can consider adopting from a shelter or a rescue organization, and we can also make sure to neuter or spay our pups to prevent unexpected puppies. Additionally, if we have the time or resources, we can help out or donate to our local no-kill shelter to aid in the adoption process and reduce euthanizations. Overall, this sports commentator finds the whole concept of the Puppy Bowl a win-win – adorable, well-monitored puppy antics and attention brought to a very important cause. Bring on next year’s kickoff!
Images courtesy Mike Licht and Cindy Funk
Last week we talked about the many health benefits of being a dog parent, and we also touched on dealing with dog allergies. According to WebMD, one in five Americans have either allergy or asthma symptoms, 39% of households have a family dog, and 100% of households have detectable levels of dog or cat dander. So keeping these figures (and of course our love and attachment to our family pets) in mind, let’s talk a little more about this. Can allergies be prevented or at least reduced, and if so, how? Is there such a thing as a hypoallergenic dog breed? Do our dogs get allergies, too?!
PREVENTION AND CARE
So let’s say you are a current pet owner having trouble with allergies or asthma. Obviously, finding a new home for your dog is either your last resort, or realistically not even an option. Our dogs are a part of our family, so the ideal is to find a way to work around the problem so as to keep everyone right where they belong. There are many suggestions out there to address dog allergies, but some are more viable than others. For example, some may suggest letting your dog have as much outdoor time as possible, but is that really in the best interest of your dog? Particularly in colder weather, simply sending your dog outside all of the time may be physically uncomfortable for her and also sends the message that you do not want to spend time with her. As loving pet parents, neither of those things are what we want. It may, however, be a viable option to limit your dog’s access within the home. You can use a baby gate to secure the bedroom of the allergy sufferer, or limit your dog’s access to areas that are predominantly wood and tile rather than carpet, and thus possibly easier to clean. If you do choose to do that, make sure your dog has cozy beds and throw rugs in those areas so he does not get chilled on non-soft flooring.
You can also take other simple steps: use a vacuum with a HEPA filter, and clean and dust often (ideally when the allergy sufferer is not home). For the person suffering from symptoms, make sure to wash hands frequently after petting and before touching the eyes or face. Avoid using fans or even close the heat registers in areas where the allergy sufferer will be spending time to reduce circulation of dander in the air. And you may also want to limit or altogether prevent pet’s access to furniture as soft surfaces may hold more dander. Talk to your vet about the best bathing schedule; you want to keep him clean, but you do not want to over wash him as that can cause dry skin and more dander! You may want to consult your doctor about an over-the-counter allergy medication if you notice that allergies get worse at certain times of the year. Sometimes our pets pick up environmental allergens on walks or during playtime and that may be what’s actually aggravating your symptoms. And finally – regarding the myth of the hypoallergenic dog. Although there are internet articles galore, there are not yet definitive studies to show certain breeds are indeed hypoallergenic. At this point, if we find out a human household member has allergies to our dog(s), our best option is to try and work through various prevention options and try to reduce the allergic nature of our environment.
EVEN OUR PUPS GET THEM
In dogs, the reactions are similar to that of humans. According to the ASPCA, allergies to environmental factors (soaps, cleaners, trees), to foods, and even to fleas may manifest as itchy eyes, swollen paws, itchy skin (identified by constant scratching), constant licking, and even gastrointestinal upset. It may take time, but if you suspect your dog is suffering from allergies, consult your vet and develop a plan to systematically eliminate environmental and/or food suspects and determine the culprit. If symptoms are manifesting as stomach problems and skin problems, you may want to start with food changes to see if you can determine what is irritating him. For example, our Lab had problems with red, itchy paws for quite some time. We initially attributed it to chemicals underfoot – carpet air fresheners used while vacuuming, fertilizer in the grass, salts spread when it was frosty. We stopped using said chemicals, bought him some little booties, and were very careful to clean his feet often and use balms when necessary. But only after a trusted vet suggested a grain allergy were we able to address the problem. He now eats grain free dog food and is doing just fine. It may take some sleuthing, but for both humans and dogs with allergies, often there are practical solutions that can improve everyone’s quality of life!
Images courtesy TwentyFour Students and Lucian Venutian