I was not lucky enough to grow up with pets. Every Christmas, I used to wish for a cute puppy in a big red bow. It never happened, but now I know that it was probably a good thing. I think growing up with a family pet would have been wonderful, but getting one as a holiday gift could have been trouble. That's because dogs given as holiday gifts (especially to children) are all too often forgotten when the novelty wears off.
Choosing to get a new dog is a big family decision that requires advance planning. If you are a parent and the kids are begging to get a dog, then you'll need to consider whether or not you are ready to take on some of the responsibility as well. If you want to give your friend or significant other a dog as a gift, think about the responsibility you will be putting on that person. Either way, if you decide the time is right for a new dog, the announcement itself can be one of the presents. Actually picking out the new dog can wait until after the holidays. After all, it's a big decision!
This is not to say that all dogs given as gifts end up unwanted. There are times when it works out for everyone, but these are situations where the new dog owner is dedicated and responsible. Before giving a dog as a gift, think seriously about the details. Is the person or family ready for a dog? How do you know what kind of dog is right? You might stop yourself and realize that it really can wait until January.
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Rewards make up the foundation of positive reinforcement dog training. Though there are many other training methods out there, I feel that positive training is one of the most effective and humane. Best of all, it's fun and simple. Think about it: if given a choice, would you rather get rewarded when you do a good job, or be chided and intimidated into performing a task? I think it's safe to say that most people would opt for the former. Of course, dogs are not human, but they do experience many of the same emotions that we do. Bottom line: we all know that any dog would pick the reward.
As you train your dog positively, there are many rewards that you can use. Food is most often used as a reward because so many dogs are highly food-motivated. On the other hand, what about those dogs that are NOT food-motivated? I have encountered many dog owners who feel that training is impossible because their dog could care less about food (yes, such dogs do exist). The good news is that there are other ways to reward these dogs. It's all a matter of determining what your dog values. Check out this list of the best ways to reward your dog. Use it as a guide to help you train your dog the positive way.
Photo © Jenna Stregowski
Happy Black Friday, if that's your thing. If you are anything like me, you won't dare step foot in a store today (actually, I mainly shop online all year round). Perhaps Cyber Monday is more your speed. Either way, the holiday shopping season is here. Have you made your gift lists? Personally, I like to buy little presents for my dogs (and dogs owned by friends and family). Sure, pets don't really get the concept of holiday gift giving and all the festivities, but I think the point is that it's fun for us. I have such a blast watching my dog tear open her gifts! Are you ooking for some presents for the dogs in your life? Check out my dog gift guide for a few ideas.
Now on to gifts for the humans. Sometimes it's hard to find just the right thing to give to friends and family. Fortunately, finding great presents for the dog lovers in your life can be pretty simple. I put together a list of some of my favorite gift ideas for dog lovers. See if any of them sound good for the dog lovers in your life.
What is on your gift-giving list? How about your own wish list?
Photo © footloosiety on flickr
At our yearly Thanksgiving dinner, my mom used to recall the story of the time (many years ago) that she and my dog Chloe spent Thanksgiving alone together. Mom made herself a HUGE plate of leftovers that someone brought her, then left the room for a few minutes. When she returned, the plate was perfectly clean and Chloe was happily licking her chops. Fortunately, Chloe did not get sick, but my angry mother missed out on a tasty dinner. It's a good thing she really loved that dog!
Mom and Chloe are no longer with us. Perhaps they are together beyond the Rainbow Bridge eating whatever the heck they want. Now, as a part of our tradition, we tell the story at the Thanksgiving table every year and laugh. On a more serious note, everyone in our family has learned to be extra careful with food around pets.
The take-away message is this: do what you can to keep your pets safe this Thanksgiving. During the holidays, many dogs get very sick from eating rich, fatty foods or getting into decorations. Others run outside because a guest left the door or gate open. Some become lost, while others return with injuries. This time of year, veterinary emergency clinics get busy with pet illnesses and injuries that could have been avoided. Take the time to pay extra attention to details and keep your dog safe. If you plan on spending Thanksgiving with your dog, remember to play it safe. Keep an eye on your dog, the food, the decorations and the doors.
Do you have any fun stories about your dog's holiday adventures? Share them in the comments!
Because it's Adopt a Senior Dog Month, I want to talk about a health concern that is rather common in senior dogs: Osteoarthritis. Dogs can experience some of the same aches and pains we humans may feel in our joints as we age. Senior citizens, canine and human alike, often suffer from some form of arthritis. The key to helping your dog lies in your understanding of the disease.
Arthritis comes in many forms, and it can affect humans, dogs and other animals. Osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease, is characterized by inflammation of a joint caused by a loss of cartilage between the bones of that joint. This bone-on-bone friction leads to pain, stiffness and swelling. While there is no cure for osteoarthritis, there are fortunately many ways to manage it.
Whether or not your dog currently has arthritis, you should know that there is a good chance arthritis will affect him someday. As an owner, it's difficult to watch your canine companion experience pain and stiffness. Fortunately, you can learn how to help your dog live a more comfortable life. Take the time today to learn about canine osteoarthritis. Find out how you can help ease your dog's discomfort by working with your vet and making some changes to your dog's environment and routine.
Have you had a dog with arthritis? Tell us what did you do that really seemed to help your dog.
Last week, I had the honor of talking with Linda Hickey, the owner of this year's ASPCA Dog of The Year, Xena the Warrior Puppy. Xena and her family will be presented with the Dog of the Year Award on Thursday, November 21 at the ASPCA 2013 Humane Awards Luncheon in New York City.
Many of you may have already heard Xena's inspiring story. I have been following the story on Facebook since the beginning, as Xena was rescued in DeKalb County, Georgia, which is adjacent to my own county in Atlanta, GA. In September 2012, an extremely malnourished pit bull was found and taken to the local animal shelter on the verge of death. Miraculously, she was nursed back to health by a dedicated foster family. Meanwhile, she became a kind of celebrity on Facebook. Earlier this year, Xena was adopted by the Hickey family. She immediately bonded with the family and their eight-year-old son, Jonny, who has autism. In fact, Xena changed their lives.
Read Xena's story, including my interview with Linda Hickey to find out about the amazing way Xena has changed lives. Xena and Jonny have been spreading a message of compassion for both animals and those with autism throughout America and around the world. Their efforts include a YouTube video to promote Autism Awareness Month as well as Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month. Xena has participated in the Atlanta Dog Jog and Atlanta Autism Speaks walk, appeared at fundraisers for Friends of DeKalb Animal, and received a medal from the Georgia SPCA. Jonny and Xena's story has also been featured by numerous media outlets, after gaining attention from a profile by Jill Rappaport on "NBC Nightly News" and on Today.com.There is also a Cat of the Year! Cat Expert Franny Syufy hopes to interview the owner of Koshka in the near future.
Photo courtesy of Linda Hickey
I can hardly believe that Thanksgiving is only two weeks away! Now is the time to make plans for all of the holidays that you celebrate. Family, food, and fun are a big part of most holidays, but with that often comes stress. Remember that your stress can rub off on your dog as well. Dogs can be affected by the excitement and energy of the holiday season, whether it's good or bad.
As the holidays approach, we can become overwhelmed with all the preparations that go into festivities and gift-giving. However, your dog and loved ones just want you to be happy and healthy. Make your list and check it twice, but don't go overboard. Try to relax and have a little fun! Take a moment to look over the Dog Lovers' Holiday Survival Guide for information about safety, gift-giving and more. And don't forget to take a breath and enjoy the holidays!
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It's getting cold out there (in most parts of the United States and northern hemisphere at least), and that means it's time to start making preparations for Winter. The changes you need to make to keep your dog safe depend on the climate in which you live. Although we rarely have snow where I live in the Southeast, we still get cold! My pets started their annual heat-seeking routine a few weeks ago. My pit bull-type mixed breed dog is incredibly cold-natured (probably because of her short, thin hair and low body fat). As silly as it may seem, she has her own collection of hoodies and sweaters that she LOVES when it starts to get cold. I've never been a big fan of dressing up dogs just for fun. However, if it's for the dog's own comfort, why not? Since my dog practically begs for her Winter clothes, I feel it's the best thing to keep her comfortable.
Right now, your dog is probably still enjoying the cooler temperatures of Autumn, but Winter will be here soon. Freezing (or near-freezing) temperatures can pose certain risks to dogs and humans alike. That's why it's important to learn about Winter safety for dogs. What steps do you take to keep your dog safe? Do you feel like your dog needs warm clothing? Will your dog even tolerate that?
Photo © Jenna Stregowski
The Miniature Pinscher is a bold and courageous dog breed that is sometimes called the "King of the Toys." These little guys don't quite know their size, or perhaps they just don't care. The spunky Min Pin is also known for its entertaining and mischievous character. Contrary to what many believe, the Min Pin was not bred down from the Doberman Pinscher. In fact, Min Pins came first - and they seem to know it.
The proud owners of Min Pins can tell you how delightful it is to have this breed in your life, but that it also takes some work. This is not your garden-variety "frou-frou" dog, but an extremely active and robust dog that requires plenty of exercise, attention and training. However, if you decide the breed is right for you, you'll be glad you welcomed this lovable dog into your life. Want to learn more? Read more about Miniature Pinschers. You can also find out more about this breed from other Min Pin owners: Read Min Pin Stories!
Photo © Ernst Moeksis on flickr
November is here in just a couple of days, and that means it's Adopt-a-Senior-Pet Month. This is a time to educate the world about how wonderful older animals are, and to encourage the adoption of senior pets. Older dogs are among the hardest pets to adopt out. Sadly, many of them live out their golden years behind cage bars. During the month of November, I plan to focus on topics related to senior dogs. I will be discussing the care of older dogs and covering some diseases that affect aging dogs.
So often, those who visit rescues and shelters in search of a new dog are immediately drawn to puppies. Sure, they are adorable, but you don't really know what you will end up with. Unfortunately, after puppies grow up, some owners decide they are bigger than desired or not the right kind of personality. Other owners no longer wish to care for a senior pet, and these dogs can end up homeless.
Senior Pets are Often Overlooked
People are often hesitant to adopt a senior for fear of ending up with a sickly pet, but most senior animals in shelters and rescue groups are quite healthy. Another reason is that they do not want to think of bonding with a pet that might not live long. Dogs are technically considered "seniors" around age seven, but most live until 12-15 years of age (or longer). So, adopting a senior dog does not necessarily mean that your days together are numbered. Potential adopters also worry that their new pet will be set in his ways and might not behave appropriately. However, this is not usually the case. So many homeless senior pets once lived in a home and are often housebroken and somewhat trained. They are also likely to be less hyperactive and better socialized than young dogs.
Living With Senior Pets
Adopting a senior pet is a kind action and a rewarding experience, but it is still important to understand that senior dogs do have special needs. Fortunately, the extra care is usually minimal - it is often just about prevention and awareness. Older dogs may become a little less active in time and some develop health issues like arthritis, but these are things that are often simple to handle. So, next time you decide to adopt a dog, consider making it a senior dog. It will change your life forever.
More About Senior Pets
- Dog Adoption Guide
- Caring for a Senior Dog
- Choosing the Right Dog
- Reasons to Adopt an Older Cat
- Aging Pet Care Awareness
- Top 10 Reasons to Adopt an Older Dog
Photo © Debbie Madison