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Lacey and her friends bring you the latest dog information on health, safety, and humor in one easy location, from professionals and a collection of bloggers active in the pet industry with a blend of writing styles. We look forward to sharing with you and your fur babies; keep those tails wagging!

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Let’s focus on what we want to accomplish

Many times I hear how some animal owners are annoyed of behaviors which are performed by their pets; dog or any other animal.

“How can I fix that barging or screaming?”, or hopping or whatever it is they’d like to change at that time.

I believe that often times we focus more on so called “wrong” behaviors our animals are performing than to the proper ones.  Therefore we are actually giving more attention to the misbehaved patterns than to the ones we’d consider to be the good behaviors. In short we are … yes; reinforcing the behaviors we consider being the bad ones.

Great ! That is exactly what we don’t want to do! The balance of our communication and interaction is gradually getting more and more into the negative side of reinforcement.Sherlokki koira close1 300x300 Let’s focus on what we want to accomplish

I do many times refer to small children when talking about animal training. We humans are of course more complex when it comes to behavior management but still there are many-many things common with us and animals. How some of our basic behaviors can be modified is following often similar trends as what we are using in animal training. Many of the animal training “tips” or methods are after all from inventions in human psychological research which have been studied on us humans.

I believe that small kids are reactive just like animals are. If there’s something they don’t like – they will surely show it instantly. The same goes for the things they like. Make a game out of cleaning their toys and you are winner of the situation.  I believe the salt in working or being with kids and animals is the enthusiasm and intensity they react upon on our feedback. Therefore, in my opinion, it is far more fruitful to try to redirect their attention into something that is interesting and which makes them focus on a positive way of acting. It is also far better to get there a little bit in advance than a little too late. I believe many of you have experienced this.  If you know your animal well enough you can tell if it is going to bark or jump.  

Absolutely the best way to correct that behavior is when it has not yet happened!

Does that surprise you?

Well this is true. If you can anticipate correctly i.e. you dogs or bird’s behavior – you can modify its behavior before the misbehaving occurs. This methodology can be found in most articles and literature concerning any kind of aggressive behavior management.  Just redirect the attention of your pet into something more acceptable when you see the first small hints or the “head lifting” of the unwanted behavior.  On the other hand we have to be careful not to anticipate too much as the animals tend to take advantage of our predictable behaviors. Balance between these two therefore plays a key role in finding the proper way of behavior management in this kind of situations.

Quite some time ago I was listening to one psychologist and I think the best thought she gave to me was that when we are focusing ourselves on some action or emotion, we are at the same time emphasizing our energy to that state of mind. In general I don’t like to talk about energy when I’m talking about animal training but there are a few exceptions. This one is one of them.

 I believe that animal training in many cases is actually redirecting the attention of the animal in question to something that will avoid the execution of the disliked misbehavior. By paying our attention to these kinds of disliked behaviors we are at the same time focusing our energy on that particular action.

Anticipation is very important together with successive approximation.

Let me tell you an example from our cat at home.  She is a sort of a wild one as she was an orphan for quite some time after she was born. Therefore she never fully got marked to humans at her early days. We knew that there would be occasions when we’d have to transport her by car for quite some distance. The trip would take more than 6 hour. By using good approximations, taking short trips with her i.e. to the nearby grocery occasionally we managed to have her successfully in our car also on those long trips. We even have taken that “wildish” little fellow in a plane to fly small distances.

In short we focused on a behavior we wanted her to do. We focused on a calm response of being in a car for a short period of time. By using a little anticipation and approximation one can make a great difference. Gradually we extended the time of transportation and ended the trips on a high note. We managed to keep her in good comfort level and therefore we were not forced to direct our energy into that particular type of bad behavior.

Try it and you’ll fall in love with this simple way of behavior managing.

 

Kai Mattsson

Meritime Consulting, Finland

www.meritime.net

Find Meritime on Facebook; 

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Meritime/345171735503394

Volhard Motivational Method, I am not moved.

Being a Force Free/Reward Based trainer I am always reading about different training methods. There are several training facilities that use the Volhard Motivational Method in this area. What caused me to write about this is that I met a 4 month old puppy that had attended a puppy class at one of these facilities and we had a great discussion.

You are given a “training” collar, that may or may not tighten around the puppies neck ie CHOCK COLLAR depending on what ring you use to attach the leash. Of course Training collar sounds much..well..nicer. This type of collar is used to “correct” the puppy. Why in the world would you have to correct a puppy, they don’t know anything yet.

As I said before, just because a trainer uses treats and says they are positive reinforcement trainers doesn’t mean they don’t use force, fear, compulsion or pain to get the desired behaviors OR because they have 20 years experience training dogs does not qualify them as a professional or educated trainer.
It sounds so good, very impressive, but that is how people are sucked into believing that they are attending a school or class that know what they are doing.
“So Ada..how are you different?”

  1. Puppies do not have anything around their neck. Why? because I do not use physical corrections or manipulation. Puppies have harnesses on so the owners cannot force the puppy into positions nor pull or nag. Any restriction/compression around a dog’s throat (or yours) is not force free training. I don’t “make” or force a puppy, or dog, to do anything. It doesn’t teach them anything but to  avoid the pain/pressure. It doesn’t get the puppy to think. It certainly does nag them and I am not sure how it would endear them to you.
  2.  I don’t COMMAND a dog. I don’t like to be commanded and neither does your dog. I reward and mark behaviors that I like and I capture the behavior I want as the dog is doing it with a reward to follow. Once the dog knows the skill, a Cue is given. The puppy is rewarded for responding to the Cue.
  3.  Pack leader…no I do not teach you to be a pack leader. That term has been rebuked by Dr. David Mech who more or less developed that term from studying wolves 30 or more years ago. He also wrote a rebuttal to his findings after truly studying wolves and says that domestic dogs are not wolves. (That is a whole different comment)
  4.  ”Do not pay attention to your dog if they ask or bother you. Here is the direct text: “There are no restrictions at all as to how many times you interact with your dog during the day – in fact the more times the better, but, it is important that you start and finish every interaction. If your dog comes to you to ask for attention at other times, he or she must be ignored.” 

SO TELL ME HOW DOES THIS BUILD THE RELATIONSHIP? It is utterly ridiculous. Relationships are formed by mutual interactions. Dogs are sentient beings experiencing many of the same emotions and needs as a person. CAN YOU IMAGINE IGNORING YOUR CHILD WHEN THEY TUG ON YOUR PANT LEG OR ASK A QUESTION OR WANT TO BE COMFORTED.

Oh and this “Humans start all interactions. Humans finish all interactions.”
I don’t want a prisoner nor do I want a slave. I want a relationship based on trust.
There are some points that are valid..rewarding what you want, and asking a dog to perform a behavior and then provide the rewards.

Sorry Volhard Method, this is not positively motivating to me. But thank you, I have a new puppy client

(PS this is my first blog post. Please refrain from commenting on grammer, thought process, etc. I just hope I got the point across)

Ada Lana Simms CPDT-KA, OSCT

W.Henrietta NY

www.rewardthatpuppy.com

 

Seniors Love Just As Much

After fostering dogs for five years my husband and I have welcomed three of them (at various times) to be part of our forever pack.   One thing that I learned with our second adoption was that sometimes people actually equate the value of a dog (or cat) with the number of years they MAY have left to live.  To hear someone say “$150 to adopt a ‘rescue’, the dog is eight years old,” then look at the dog they are talking about.  Sad.  So what?  Look in the dogs eyes…does she seem less lovable because she’s old?  NO. Don’t kids value their grandparents more as THEY age…interesting irony here!  However, I do understand that humans and pets aren’t the same (to some).

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Dolly was a happy girl to the end (confused at times and not feeling well but happy)

As my own pack ages, we have twin eight year old beagles and two unrelated rescue beagles that are over 10, I don’t think, “Gee furballs, I don’t love you quite as much now that you’re older?” Good grief. Granted when you are adopting a companion for another dog it may be very prudent to get one closer in age and of course temperament.

We adopted a nine year old pitbull into our pack, that’s right, a double whammy she was old AND she was a pitbull!  Dolly was the calm my rowdy beagle boys needed and a great friend to us.  After taking her to several adoption events and people sort of snarking at her, my husband and I just thought this dog just needs a place to ride out her years, a place to either feel love again or for the FIRST time.  She loves us, we love her, and never looked back.

She came pretty healthy, a 7-8 year old. Our rescue group vaccinated and fixed her (this old gal had a litter of puppies several months before she came to us–poor thing–and then ended up being found as a stray and in a shelter for about 2 months before she came to our rescue group).  About eight months after we adopted her she developed a lump in one breast, we had it removed and didn’t bother testing for cancer, as treatment for cancer at her age would’ve reduced her quality of life significantly.

About 3 months before her time… Dolly started having seizures, actually she probably was having small ones we weren’t noticing according to the vet — when she started having full body seizures we definitely noticed.  The vet gave us an emergency medication in case she had another and otherwise she was healthy, she did markedly begin to decline mentally after the “big ones”…she would be disoriented easily, and began to look as though she just didn’t feel well or care to go outside to potty.  The rest of the pack seemed to notice as well that Dolly was slowing down.

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I don’t remember who I am at times, and I don’t remember you either…but I know whoever you are–you love me. –Dolly

After only about a year and a half with us, Dolly’s time came and we had to lay her to rest.  When I look back though I still feel like we were able to squeeze in a lifetime of love for her and from her in the little time we had with her.  We don’t feel like we got ‘jipped’ or that it wasn’t worth the minor cost to remove her lump (which didn’t return).

Sometimes an elderly dog does come with a little more health related baggage…sometimes they don’t, but in the scheme of things it doesn’t reduce their ‘doggy value,’ at least to me.

Now when someone says “that dog is old” about a dog looking for a new home I am sure to try to share with them, “it’s not  the number of years but the life  and love  in the dog.”

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Surprisingly, yes, we did all sleep here. Not sure where the humans will sleep!

 

My Weight study

Hello old friends! Sorry I have been out of touch. My clinical trial of the weight medication is over. I loss about 2 pounds in 5 months. We changed nothing during this tijme. They measured me in kilos so I was a bit confussed but I ended up at 13.4 in the kilos.Just the sound of being ,measured that way is better. Momma Jean said she wish the human doctor would wiegh her that way too. Now I am on a month of just observation and no more pills.  I only took 2 pills once a week. AT the end of this last month the doctor is going to go over my diet and we will discuss how to continue my success.  I wanted to add a picture of me smiling but for some reason my blog won’t take a picture. Sorry.

What makes an exceptional animal trainer?

That’s a question I’ve been asking myself several times. What are the skills or abilities that make one a good animal trainer? Or actually I should say an exceptional animal trainer?  Who has the ability to mold the animal nature into the direction we humans want it to be formed?dog love pieni 275x300 What makes an exceptional animal trainer?

I’ve had several discussions on this topic with my colleagues.  We have listed several skills that an exceptional animal trainer should possess; among them are patience, creativity, innovativity, joyfulness, being consistent, playful mind, visionary etc. All these describe the quality features of a good animal trainer. But as we know there are trainers and then there are those trainers who have something extra in their relationship with animals. What is it that makes the difference?

Good trainer has to know the animal and be aware of the circumstances the animals are exposed to; environmental wise and the reinforcements they are affected by. Surely we must know the ins and outs of animal behaviorism and the geometrics of animal behavior management, i.e.  different forces that  affect the animals in our care. How are we capable of changing the balance in reinforcements?

Basically, that’s all it is, the balance of reinforcement.  How do get our dog or any other animal to behave the way we’d like it to behave.  We just need to find a way to give a stronger feedback, reinforcement, than the feedback, enrichment or stimulus the animal´s environment is providing to it.

Needless to say, the training methods have to be based on positive reinforcement and operant conditioning. When we are talking about positive way of animal training we should remember that it doesn’t mean that everything is allowed for the animal in question. It is just the way we handle the animals, whether they are dogs, cats, horses, otters, dolphins or rhinos etc. The idea is to redirect the focus of the animal with positive and more powerful secondary or primary reinforcement into a trail of success.

But let’s get back to the original question. In my opinion what makes an exceptional animal trainer is the ability of closeness.

We all love and cherish our animals. Especial attention is given to domestic animals because we spend a great deal of time with them. The closeness I am thinking of is not the same as love. Of course we have to love our animals and get involved with them but love is a bit different matter than closeness. What I mean by closeness is:  all the quality features listed above combined with sensitivity, intuition and capability to read the small signals animals in our care are giving to us. It’s neither supernatural nor superstitious but a way to read the animal´s motions and signals, to be sensitive to what they might do next and to be just a little bit ahead of them – as no animal trainer should be surprised in training situation by our four legged companions.

 

Kai Mattsson

Meritime

www.meritime.net

Find Meritime on Facebook

 

Riding in the Car Safely with Fido: Seat Belts & Harnesses

You are about to go on vacation and you are thinking about taking your dog with you.  Should you get poochie a seat belt or let him roam free?

You are headed to the grocery store, it’s just three blocks away.  Spot just loves to stick his head out the window, why not let him come along too?

You need to go to the nursery and pick up some mulch and Smokey wants to ride in the back of the truck.  There’s more than enough room for the both of them.  Why not let Smokey do what he wants and be happy?

According to AAA, “An overwhelming 84 percent of survey respondents stated that they have driven with their pets on a variety of car trips, including day trips, local errands and leisure trips, the pet store, dog parks, and to work. However, only 16 percent use any form of pet restraint system when driving with their dog.”

According to this report from ABCNews, here is some info on why you want to restrain your  pet when out and about.  The full video can be found here.

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ABCNews Report on Distracting Dogs.

That New Jersey Pet Safety Belt Amendment mentioned in the report was passed, so if you have a pet who is loose in the car and you live in New Jersey, you will be facing a fine equal to the amount you would pay for an unbelted person ($250 to $1,000 and up to 6 months in jail).  The New Jersey Pet Safety Belt Amendment states that “(f)or example, an unsecured, 25-pound dog in a 40 miles per hour crash becomes a 1,000-pound mass flying object inside the vehicle that could produce serious injury or death to vehicle passengers.” How horrible.  Which begs the question: Why wouldn’t you want to restrain your pet?  Other states are looking into adding this law and many states have laws against driving with your dog in the back of your truck unrestrained.

Think about it.  Inside your car, on the loose, they can roam around, jump into your lap and distract you.  AAA says that, 52% of drivers have pet their dog while driving and another 17% allowed Snuggums up into their lap. And if you have one of those pocket pooches?  What is to stop them from running around in the wheelwell and then crossing over to your driver’s side and getting in the way of the gas and break pedal?  Dangerous, dangerous!

Not to mention all the dangers that can occur just by letting them stick their heads out the window.  Let’s see: getting debris in their eyes, ears, mouth.  Accidentally ingesting bugs.  Oh, is your dog allergic to bees?  Sticking his head out the window, certainly isn’t a good idea. Ever had your husband not pay to close attention to where he was going and scrape the side of the car against the bushes?  If your dog’s face is hanging out there, it could get ugly and expensive and cost you a trip to the vets.

Fortunately, there are many types of restraints out there to purchase.  Jenna Stregowske, an RVT and an About.com guide has an excellent post on car restraints for dogs. In it she outlines four main types of restraints that are available:

  1. Crate or Kennel:  This is what is recommended by AAA, vets, and most places as the first course of action.  Make sure that the crate is stabilized in your car and that the crate is not in a crumple zone.  You want to have a smaller crate because there will still be some movement of the dog in the crate, so a smaller crate limits the area he/she will be thrown around in the event of an accident.  Remember to have your dog’s collar, leash and tags on while in the crate and traveling.
  2. Car Harness/Seat Belt:These allow the dog to sit up on the seat in the back.  The back seat is the safest seat for the dog to be seated as it is away from the airbag.  The airbag can be very hazardous to a dog sitting in the front seat.  You want to try on several types of harnesses and belts and make sure that you are comfortable with how they fit on your dog.  You also want to make sure that the belt/harness works with how your dog sits in the car.  Below I have some links to actual users of the seat belts, so you can get a feel for what real people like and dislike about different belts.  Make sure the system latches into your car’s safety belt system. Note: avoid anything that asks you to hook something onto your dog’s neck.  That’s a sure way to strangle your dog or snap its neck.
      Reviews of Seatbelts:

    • Reviews of the Roadie and Champion belts from Dogster are here.
    • Reviews of the PetBuckle Seat Belt Harness are here.
    • Reviews of the USA K9 Outfitters Seat Belts are here.
  3. Car Seat/Basket:  These should only be used with small dogs.  Make sure that you are actually getting something that will protect your pet and isn’t just a pet bed.  You need something that will secure them and hook them into the car’s safety system.  Note: avoid anything that asks you to hook something onto your dog’s neck.  That’s a sure way to strangle your dog or snap its neck.
  4. Car Barrier:  My impression was that AAA felt like the car barrier was next to useless.  Jenna seemed to think it was better than nothing.  I say, use a crate or a seat belt.

The College of Veterinary Medicine at Purdue University advises that you use a dog seat belt or a crate when transporting your dog.  They also recommend that your pet’s collar and leash with ID tags are on your pet.  This idea is to help in the recovery of your pet should there be an accident and your dog escapes from the car.

Another reason to have your dog restrained is to help emergency workers in the event of an accident.  Hurt and injured dogs are unpredictable.  Having your pet restrained protects him and the emergency workers from harm.  It also helps ensure that he won’t escape or if he does, that it will be easier to find him because he has all of his ID on him with a leash to easily snag him.

 A Personal Story

In researching reviews and background for this post, I came across a very moving personal story.  I thought I would share part of it here, with a link to the whole piece if you were still interested.  Paula is handicapped and uses a wheelchair and is assisted by her service dog Joella.  One day, there was an accident.

Slip Sliding Away….

It was pouring rain. The dirt road was rutted, slick, steep, and had that big hump in the middle. Just as it started to level off, we slid into a ditch. We landed partway on the driver’s side of the van. My wheelchair was almost in my lap, its simple restraint broken. But Joella, who was in the back of the van, got tossed through the air, hitting all sorts of things along the way.

I was trapped in the driver’s seat. Joella was whimpering.

But God and luck where on our side. A woman happened to be coming down the hill just behind me. She rushed to the van, made sure I was okay, and called the Fire Department. Her husband works there and she was on her way to take his lunch. The big fire truck arrived and, while they could get me out, they could not get to Joella. They hooked the van (a giant Chevy G20) to a winch and, after some fancy tricks using the rope, the winch, and a tree, the van was pulled out of the ditch.

One of the firemen checked Joella out for me. She was scared and still whining, but fine. After much thanks, we got back into the van and continued on our way. I do well in a crisis and remain cool headed and intelligent. However, once it is over, I turn into a quivering mass of jelly. We pulled into a parking lot and I lay on the back bench with Joella, crying and holding her tight.

Joella now has a seat belt of her very own and I now have a truck with four wheel drive. Joella’s seatbelt, after trying out various ones, is a padded harness attached to the seat belt via a tab (short loop leash) that has the seat belt through it. Joella goes everywhere with me in the truck. On these country roads, you never know what will be in the road around the bend: anything from a stalled tractor to an irritated bull to cyclists. Brake slamming and swerves are a regular occurrence. Our Service Dogs do a lot to help us and it is our duty to keep them safe and healthy.

Here’s a link to her full story and recommendations/reviews.

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This issue is very important.  You shouldn’t be driving with your dog unrestrained.  You wouldn’t do it with your child.  So, read some reviews, pick out something that works for you and your furry baby.

At Southeastern Guide Dogs, as puppy raisers, our manual instructs us to have our dog either in a crate or on a tie down in the floorboard of the car in a down-stay.  The tie down is not needed if there is a passenger to hold the leash and make sure the down-stay command is adhered to.  Our dogs are never allowed to roam free, be alone in the car, stick their heads out of the window of a moving car, ride on the seats, or ride in the back of a truck.  And I can tell you, they all love riding in the car.  It hasn’t damaged them one bit!

Trust me.  Being safe, is the better choice.  Be safe out there!

Valentine’s Day and Your Pooch

Valentine’s Day is coming up.  If you have a significant other, you probably already have some special chocolate (keep it up high out of puppy’s way!!) or flowers or shiny gold jewelry picked out.  Or maybe you are more of a homemade dinner or specialty gift kind of person.  But have you thought of everyone in your house?  Did you remember your bestest friend?  The one by your side through thick and thin?  Who loves you know matter what you look like?  Who never gossips about you or talks behind your back?  The one who is always excited to see you and sad when you leave for work or school or an errand?

Basket of Treats:

Yes.  Your pooch needs a little something for his or her devotion.  And trust me, there are tons of options out there.  For starters, I bet that Lacey would make you up a killer Valentine’s day basket of treats!!  OMG!  Would that be amazing or what?  Willow and Coach go nuts for the peanut butter treats (I need to put in another order!). So, consider some homemade, specialty treats as a Valentines Day gift for your furry loved one.

Homemade:

OK.  You want to do something special for your pooch.  Something you made by hand.  How about some soap?  Check out the instructions at the Candle and Soap About.com page.

Of course if you crochet, there are lots of options for dog sweaters.  If you do a search on you tube, you can find some tutorials on how to crochet a sweater super fast (time is running out, my friends!).  Check out the great sweaters in the video below.

Etsy (Handmade, but by Someone Else!):

Or, you could go to Etsy if you want handmade without the bother of making it yourself.  Etsy has plenty of fabulous artists and crafters who are making wonderful things and then selling them online.  For instance, you could get a Valentine dog collar: Dogologie has one at their Etsy shop and Clementine also has a red rose collar (my personal favorite! See photo below).

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Clementine Red Rose Valentine Collar From Clementine’s Etsy site.

There are also sewn sweaters for dogs, such as the Valentine’s Love Jacket for Fido as seen in the photo below.

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I Love You Dog Reversible Dog Jacket small/medium

Pet Portrait:

If you are really in an expansive mood, you could have your pooch’s portrait made.  Christina Lindley is an artist who does pet portraits (see photo below) and her mom is a fellow puppy raiser. Her website is at Pet portrait’s by Christina.

spanky Valentines Day and Your Pooch
Spanky, one of Christina’s pet portraits.

Conclusion:

If those suggestions aren’t enough, there is also a Pinterest page that has oodles of Valentine’s dogs and lots of ideas for Valentine’s Day and your dog.  Check it out.  You might just surprise yourself and your fur baby!  Have a great Valentine’s Day.  Coach and Willow and I wish you lots of love and kisses!!

Slow Pull Retractable Leashes

Here is some very exciting news.  Shortly we are expecting the release of the new Slow Pull Retractable Leashes to hit the market. The retractable dog leashes are found in many dog households in the USA.  But the new Life’s Abundance version is an exciting and superior product because of its unique and industry-changing technology.

This innovative leash works like any other retractable leash when a dog walks at a controlled pace.  However when a dog suddenly takes off running, this unique leash will instantly increase resistance in

slowpull 300x201 Slow Pull Retractable Leashes

Slow Pull Retractable Leashes

proportion to the dog’s force, enough to almost stop the dog completely.  In addition, since the leashes design prevents the leash cord from rapidly pulling out, it could save dog owners from injuries including burns, abrasions, lacerations and even amputations.  This leash also protects pets and their owners by eliminating the force generated when a dog runs out the length of the leash cord.

These “hard stops” from traditional retractable dog leashes have resulted in dog walker injuries to the shoulder, elbow and wrist and dog injuries to the trachea, eyes and even death.

By gradually slowing the dog down, the Slow Pull Retractable Leashes will give the dog walker time to hit the emergency brake and or regain control of the dog with verbal commands.  This promises to be like no other retractable leash available on the market today!

If you are interested in getting on our list to be notified as soon as these Slow Pull Retractable Leashes are released for sale please email us at slowpullretractableleashes@aol.com.  The Slow Pull Retractable Leashes will be sold thru Doggies Unlimited (www.doggiesunlimited.com), Life’s Healthy Pet Food (www.lifeshealthypetfood.com) and Slow Pull Retractable Leashes (www.slowpullretractableleashes.com)

 

Meet Ranger or “Smiles”

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“Ranger or ‘Smiles’”

I took the assignment because of my love for dogs.  Through no fault of his own, this fella lost his home and family.  They were being transferred and couldn’t take him.  So far, none of the possible adoptions were working out for him.

I walked through the backyard with confidence- not thinking I could get bit or worse, I was just interested in the dog.  I wanted to meet the dog I drove across the universe to photograph- driving from Virginia around Washington DC to Maryland often seems like another world.

The foster informed me of his luck, or lack thereof, and then the future possibilities. I felt sorry for him because people were missing the “greatness” in this dog.

So to work I went- I petted him, he played, and I followed him around.  Not long after we started, I got a photograph of him which has been one of my favorites- “Smiles”.

As a side note, he did find a “Forever Home” soon after I saw him last.

It’s NOT Too Late!  Resolutions for Pet Parents

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Best Pet Tip of all…Spend Quality Time Together EVERY DAY!

Often times the best of intentions go by the way side with that list of New Year’s Resolutions being broken by January 3rd. We’re embarking on Month Two of 2013, so it’s time to reassess and catch up on anything you bombed out on or that wasn’t on the list to begin with. That should include enhancing the relationship with your dog or cat and taking even better care of them. Set realistic goals that you can practice for a lifetime!

1. REALLY GET TO KNOW YOUR PET! Knowing what is normal can help you more quickly determine when something is not. Do a weekly Head-to-Tail Check feeling for lumps and bumps; noticing the condition of the skin and coat and feeling for any tender spots. Also pay attention to your pet’s habits — is he drinking more than usual or asking to go outside more frequently? Any change in habit can be a tell tale sign of something “not quite right” and should not be ignored. Getting prompt medical attention could be a lifesaver!

2. DON’T SKIP ANNUAL VETERINARY VISITS! Unfortunately our dogs and cats don’t live as long as we do, so each calendar year for them compares to approximately 7 years worth of physiological changes in us.  Have your Vet examine your pet and if you haven’t already, spay or neuter your dog or cat! Doing so will lower the risks of many cancers as well as the number of homeless animals, and…if you didn’t know it, 80% of all dogs and cats hit by cars are un-neutered males!

3. SOCIALIZE & OBEDIENCE TRAIN. An obedient dog is less likely to get into trouble. He’ll “leave it” and not ingest poison and will “stay” out of traffic. Good mannered pets are welcomed family members able to go on outings and be part of gatherings. A well-socialized dog or cat is less likely to bite a person or get into a fight with another animal. Exercise does a canine, feline and human body good and besides keeping joints limber, it provides much-needed oxygen to the brain, so exercise, train, socialize and spend good quality time with your pets daily!

4. READ PET FOOD LABELS! Know which human foods are dangerous to your four-legged best friend and don’t create your own dishes until you become knowledgeable in pet nutrition. Just because it’s good for humans does not make it good for Fido or Fluffy! Read ingredient labels and know WHAT you are putting into your critter’s body. Fillers and chemicals you can’t pronounce do not a healthy pet make.  Look for a high quality protein listed first on the label — no by-products and what the heck is “meat?” Have you ever seen a “meat” roaming on the range? Do keep your pets at a healthy weight where you can feel the ribs, but not see them.

5. PLAN FOR THE UNEXPECTED by learning Pet First-Aid & CPR before you need it. Have at least one well-stocked pet first aid kit on hand, know where your nearest 24-hour emergency animal hospital is and have a means to pay when the worst happens. Also, develop a Disaster Preparedness Plan for the WHOLE family…two-legged, four-legged, feathered, finned and scaled. Dangers lurk everywhere and don’t think it won’t happen to you!