DIY Organic Lawn CareOrganic lawn care focuses on the overall condition of your soil and your grass instead of applying a magical chemical formula (2,4-D or glyphosate) that somehow knows to kill the weeds and leave the grass. According to the various blogs and articles that I have found on this topic, organic lawn care requires more attention, planning and work, but I personally think it is a fair trade-off when you can watch your dogs rolling around on the grass or having a green leafy snack without worrying about what they are ingesting. Essentially the way it works is that by promoting healthy soil, watering appropriately, cutting the grass higher than most homeowners do, and letting the trimmings act as mulch, you create a lawn that is so healthy and robust that it naturally chokes out the weeds instead of perpetuating an unhealthy environment in which weeds flourish. It sounds very logical when you think about it, kind of like figuring out why a certain part of your body hurts and fixing it instead of popping Advil every four hours! Here are some great links I found that are a good starting point if you are going to pursue your own organic lawn care regimen: 6 Steps To Create A Vibrant And Lush Organic Lawn The Organic Way to Mow Your Lawn Tips for a Lush Organic Lawn Organic Lawn Care for the Cheap and Lazy
Hiring a ServiceGood old Google is a great way to find organic lawn care providers in your area. In researching this topic for blogs over the years, I have learned that in addition to companies who offer only organic solutions, some of the more "traditional" big name companies are now offering organic services, too. This makes me very happy because I am not anti-lawn care company, I just want them to offer services with products that are guaranteed to be safe for everyone. It is important to ask a lot of questions before choosing a service and make sure you know exactly what is being applied to your grass. Here are some questions to ask when interviewing lawn care companies:
- Do you use the chemicals 2,4-D, glyphosate in your fertilizers?
- Do you use the chemicals 2,4-D, glyphosate or any other type of broadleaf herbicides for weeds?
- What do you use as fertilizer? Is it 100% natural?
- Can you guarantee that your technician will not apply a broadleaf herbicide or fertilizer that contains 2,4-D or glyphosate to my yard without my approval or upon my request?
- How do you treat insects and other pests?
- There are more and more studies pointing to the dangers of lawn care chemicals. I say why chance it when we don't need to use this stuff! https://www.nrdc.org/stories/24-d-most-dangerous-pesticide-youve-never-heard
- I just read an interesting article on lawn care products. You might find it really interesting, too. https://www.rd.com/home/gardening/lawn-fertilizer-dangers/
- Check this out, there is some concerning information about lawn care products and kids at this link: https://www.ewg.org/research/24D/risks-to-children-from-24D#.WtjNIdPwZsM.
- Hey animal lover friends, this might interest you. There is some alarming information on how lawn care products may be harming animals, from pets to butterflies and bees! https://www.ewg.org/research/24D/pets-wildlife-24D#.WtjjzdPwZsM
- So basically this says that lawn care chemicals might not cause cancer in dogs, but do we really want to use something that was tested by being fed to beagles for a year???? https://www.24d.org/PDF/Scientific_Backgrounders/The%20Myth%20of%20Cancer%20in%20Dogs.pdf
- Honestly, if there's even a chance that this stuff causes cancer in dogs or in anyone, I don't want it on my grass! https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/issues/15_4/features/Canine-Malignant-Lymphoma-and-Lawn-Pesticides_20494-1.html
- I just read a concerning post from a professional beekeeper whose bee colonies were sprayed with 2,4-D, one of the chemicals in lawn care products. Check it out! http://saulcreekapiary.com/honeybees-2-4-d/
Watch for our next blog in which we talk about positive links to share with friends and family to encourage all natural lawn care practices.
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Teaching Children How to Act Around Dogsby Lynn Stacy-Smith Last week another cringe-worthy video came across my social media news feed because someone thought it was cute. I suppose if you did not know a single thing about dogs, it might be cute. After all, what could be so awful about a curly-haired, resourceful toddler wearing just a diaper, climbing on top of his Basset Hound's head and spine in order to reach into the refrigerator to get something? The dog patiently stood while the child climbed on his back and the video was being shared as an "awe, look at this boy and his dog" moment. Teamwork, right? Wrong! First of all, stepping on a dog's head and standing on its back is a perfect way for that child to get bit when the dog tires of the game. Second, the long back and short legs of the Basset Hound make it prone to back problems and damage to their vertebrae without a child standing on its spine. Standing on any part of any dog is wrong, let alone a Basset Hound! Our own late Basset Hound Maggie was only saved from a death at a young age by a clinical trial at the Purdue University Veterinary school after she became completely paralyzed from the upper back down to her back legs and tail. She became paralyzed because the overall design of the Basset Hound is flawed and like other dogs with long backs and short legs, she became paralyzed simply from everyday running around and playing. I cannot imagine letting our kids stand on her spine! After surgery she went through six months of physical therapy and kennel rest while we taught her how to walk again. Six months of kennel rest to a dog whose life lasted twelve years is like over three years of recovery for a human whose life is eighty years. Some Basset Hounds and other breeds with a long back never recover once they are paralyzed like that, so to have a child stand on their spine using it as a step-stool could be deadly to the dog. This is not the only video that's gone viral by people who think that it is "cute" when those of us in the dog world view it as downright animal abuse. I have seen videos of babies and toddlers walking on dogs, stepping on their bellies and rib cages, riding them like horses, chasing after them and hitting them while the parents film the activity and laugh along at their poorly behaved child and their beleaguered, stressed out dog. I even saw one with a dog backed into a corner and snarling while the child hugs him, with the caption that the dog is smiling. The dog is not smiling, it is giving a warning that he does not like what is going on, and his next move is to bite to protect himself. [caption id="attachment_3489" align="alignright" width="300"] Do you see the dog leaning away from the hug?[/caption] I personally have been chased down the street by children who did not have their parents with them, running at me screaming "Can we pet your dog??" This has happened with every one of my dogs in every town in which I've lived. The most recent time I was chased and followed by two young boys on bikes who wanted to pet my dogs and after I replied, "Sorry, not unless your Mom or Dad is with you," and they rode off and yelled, "I'm going to kill your dogs!" I have a firm rule when I walk my dogs, whether it is one dog at a time or both of them together, that kids may not approach or pet my dogs without their parents present. The reason for this is that I have seen far too many children whose parents have never taught them how to act around a dog. And while I have never had a dog who I ever felt would bite a human, my dogs approach the world with a happy, dopey look on their faces with their mouths open and their tongues hanging out. Yes, I tend to err on the side of neurotic caution, but I never want any sort of misunderstanding. [caption id="attachment_3488" align="alignleft" width="300"] This dog looks more stressed out than happy.[/caption] Fortunately I have also heard parents stop their children from charging up to me, yelling at them to stop and correcting their child by saying, "You do not run up to strange dogs! You have to ask their owner first if you can pet them and walk up slowly!" In that situation, I am happy to put my dog in a sitting position and give them the "say hello" command while the parent tells their child how to greet my dog. Like I point out in nearly every blog: dogs are amazing creatures who live in harmony with we humans, but at the end of the day, they are a different species. They cannot speak in English or in words, so they must rely on body language when they are trapped into situations that they do not like or that scare them. And yes, they get scared! They are living, breathing, feeling creatures. Instead of saying, "hey, back up, you are too close and I am kinda freaked out right now" in words like we can, they can only lean away, walk away, turn their head, and if they must, growl or bite. Here are some basic things that all parents can teach their children to do and not to do when around their own dog or dogs who belong to strangers:
- DO NOT climb on top of dogs, whether standing up on them, riding them like a horse, or stepping on their bodies.
- DO NOT hit or smack dogs.
- DO NOT hug dogs.
- DO NOT grab the heads of dogs for kisses.
- DO NOT get up close to the face of dogs.
- DO NOT wrestle with dogs.
- DO NOT grab something out of the dog's mouth.
- DO NOT pull ears, tails, floppy skin, jowls or any body parts.
- DO NOT run up behind the dog.
- DO NOT run up to strange dogs.
- DO NOT corner dogs where they have not exit.
- DO NOT reach over or lean over dogs.
- DO NOT teach your dog games in which they chase you.
- DO NOT pet dogs on the top of their heads.
- DO NOT go into fenced areas in someone else's property without being invited.
- DO NOT approach strange dogs who are tethered or tied up.
- DO pet dogs under the chin, on the chest.
- DO stroke dogs gently along the shoulder.
- DO NOT make eye contact with strange dogs.
- DO stand at a forty-five degree angle to let the new dog approach.
- DO hold your hand out just slightly with the back of your hand facing the dog or with your hand in a loose fist.
- DO always ask the owner if you can pet their dog.
- DO teach the dog to drop their toys in front of you if they want to play fetch.
- DO honor the dog's decision to walk away and decide when the encounter is done.
- DO be calm and confident; dogs can smell the biological changes that occur with stress and fear and may also feel that stress or fear as a result.
- DO back away slowly if the dog shows signs of fear or aggression.
Why Every Dog Should Go To Obedience Classby Lynn Stacy-Smith The last few weeks have been a seemingly endless stream of stories about dogs that are both frustrating and heartbreaking, including dog bites, re-homing requests, and frustrated owners with 8 month old puppies who are still not house-trained. Sadly they all have a similar theme because all of these could have been prevented or could be fixed by one thing: training. I have talked to a lot of people who have never taken a class with their dog or who look somewhat confused when I suggest that they take one. There is also the response "Oh, I've had dogs my whole life, I don't need to take an obedience class." I think that sometimes there are misconceptions about what an "obedience" class is all about and what an owner can gain from attending a class with their dog, especially for people who have had dogs before or feel like they have a lot of knowledge about dogs. Actually, until Jackson was born I had never taken one either, having grown up with dogs who came to me rescued and pre-trained like my late Babe, or who were trained by my father. Dogs have been companions to humans for so long that it seems like it should be second nature for us to live together. The reality, though, is that no matter how harmoniously we are able to live together, at the end of the day they are still another species and we can both use all the help we can get at learning how to understand each other and communicate across our separate and very different species. Dogs are very different from humans. Their bodies are different, their minds are different, their communication methods are different, their learning requirements are different, even the structure of their brain is different as they are blessed with a whole extra area to analyze scents. Things that are acceptable in our world are rude or aggressive in theirs, similar to someone from another country in another part of the world. Just like trying to speak to a fellow human who speaks another language or has different social norms than we do, we need to learn how to speak in a language our dogs understand, learn how to understand what they are saying to us without words, and understand their cultural norms. However, despite my analogy comparing your dog to someone from another culture in a different part of the world, a dog is also an entirely other species than we are. They are a very special, precious species that deserves to be treated well, loved for all the days of their life, and considered to be a family member, but they are not a small furry person. Dog obedience school or dog training classes are first and foremost about teaching humans to teach their dogs the rules of life in a human household. In most beginner obedience classes you will learn to teach your dog how to sit, come when called, look at you when you say their name, stay, lay down, settle and start to walk nicely on a leash. Usually around six to eight weeks in duration, the beginner obedience class is just the very tip of the proverbial training iceberg! When you find a really good dog trainer, you learn so much more than how to teach your dog how to perform those commands. Don't get me wrong, those are the must-know commands that can literally save your dog's life, particularly the stay or come command. But the best dog trainers teach owners about how a dog's mind works, the importance of repetition and patience, the benefits of positive reward based training, and how to understand your dog despite being two very different species and get your dog to understand you. The first night of my Basic Obedience class with Jackson the trainer spoke to us with made-up, random words that might not have even been actual words. Her words made literally no sense at all. There were no dogs in the room, the first session was a human-only orientation. She said it again, only louder. Then even louder. Then with a raised voice and anger, and asked why we could not understand her, she was speaking English! What was wrong with us that we could not understand what she was telling us? As you might expect, this exercise was to show us what it is like to be a dog with humans randomly saying words to them and growing impatient when they do not instantly understand. It may sound silly, but that was one of the most impactful moments of all of the classes in which I participated and is something that has stuck with me during every moment working with and living with our dogs. Different trainers have different nuggets of information and different methods that will stick with different people. Add in the fact that every dog is slightly different in terms of what motivates them, how easy or difficult they are to train, with different backgrounds and life experiences, and you arrive at the same suggestion for all dogs: that every human needs to take every one of their dogs to at least one training class and ideally several additional classes after they graduate from beginner. Dog training classes are really about training owners to teach their dogs. Most of the class time is spent learning from the trainers, and most of your actual training time with your dog is outside of the classroom. In fact, when you do practice the commands in the classroom it is the owner who the trainer is really watching and correcting rather than the dog because the class is to train the owner how to train the dog. When you find a good trainer you will understand how to take your training beyond basic obedience because you will know the concepts behind teaching your dog. Once you can teach her sit and stay, it's not a far stretch to teach her other commands, to teach her tricks, to teach her games. Learning about how your dog learns will help you with socializing her, with teaching her not to bite (bite inhibition), with a variety of situations that you might encounter during your dog's life. Not only will you forever have the skills to teach your dog and future dogs, but you will have a go-to resource should something pop up in the future. I often wonder how many dogs would not be re-homed if their owners had a relationship with a trainer so they could easily reach out when a life change happened like a new baby or the introduction of another dog into the house. Training your dog can be a lot of fun for you and the dog as long as you are patient and realize that the fun part is for you and your dog to be learning together and to build an incredible bond together. In fact I often look for additional classes to take just for fun and I am strongly considering joining a local dog training club so that one of the dogs and I can go once a week and practice their skills, be around other dogs and dog owners with similar goals, and to continually learn from some of the amazing dog trainers that we have in our area.
If you are looking for a professional dog trainer, check with your veterinarian for recommendations.
Also check out these websites:
Association of Professional Dog Trainers (ADPT): https://apdt.com/about/trainer-search/
Karen Pryor Academy: https://www.karenpryoracademy.com/find-a-trainer
Even the Best Dogs Are Not Always Perfectby Lynn Stacy-Smith As much as I write about the importance of training, as much as I work with my own dogs in a "continuing education" sort of way, and pride myself on well-behaved they are, every now and then one of them just isn't having any part of following the rules they've been taught. Yesterday was one of those days. Jackson was a hard sell on loose-leash walking as a young dog and was not easy to train, but eventually I was able to teach him that if he's pulling, we aren't walking. We've since earned his Canine Good Citizen and he and I now have a nice mind-meld when we are walking that is one of my favorite things about having dogs as companions. All of this stopped yesterday when he discovered his love of goose poop. This is the dog who I often tell, "Jax, be a dog, do dog things, live a little!" because he does so few gross dog things. He has zero prey drive, doesn't have a taste for gross things, avoids mud and puddles and only rarely scents himself on yucky things. Trust me, I don't mind that he is not the type of dog to ever bring me dead animals or smell bad, but sometimes I wonder if he's missing out on some part of life as a dog. Apparently he took my words to heart this spring, because out of nowhere my neat, tidy, non-disgusting dog is obsessed with eating goose poop. Not just mildly interested or sneakily trying to get to some. He is straight up obsessed. In the park by our house where we take our walks there is no end to this disgusting dog delicacy. Last night Jackson lost his mind over the piles of goose poop everywhere and yanked and pulled with all his might, putting all 70 muscular pounds of force into his efforts. Not one to give up easily, I decided to proceed with the walk and work on correcting his behavior. It did not go well and our walk was horrible. I finally gave up and turned around on the trail, cutting our walk short, but we still had to go back the way we had come and it turned into frustrating comedy of errors: Jackson lunging and trying to pull me, (even with a short leash in a heeling position) followed by me holding firm and stopping my forward progress until he sat next to me. We would walk nicely for a few steps, he smelled more goose poop, lunged again, I corrected him again. "JACKSON, NO! OFF!" I exclaimed loudly to him. Not one to yell at my dogs, I raised my voice intentionally, hoping that maybe because I don't yell, that the unexpected sound would get through to his goose poop obsessed brain, as he was not paying the slightest bit of attention to me every time he smelled or saw another pile. I came across another dog owner and her dog (who trotted along quite nicely next to her) as she watched me holding back 70 pounds of lunging, desperate dog with one arm as he dove toward the poop with all four paws dug into the ground for leverage. Of course it was at that same time that Tink, who had trotted along happily next to me while I dealt with her brother, decided to see what Jax was so interested in and wrapped her leash around a nearby tree. "You've got your hands full with those two," she said. "Yeah, not normally! He's obsessed with eating this damn goose poop, normally we walk along quite nicely" I answered, completely embarrassed that my dog appeared to be so bad on the leash that she would say something. Finally we got out of the part of the park where the geese had been and Jax immediately turned back into my well-mannered boy. I am sure he could sense the negative energy coming from me as we headed for home, but he turned and looked up at me with his beautiful head and a huge doggie smile on his face as if saying, "You love me, Momma, you can't stay mad at me!" "You are quite pleased with yourself, aren't you?" I asked him, some of my annoyance fading as I looked at this face I loved so much. Of course I was upset and frustrated, embarrassed to be a dog blogger and writer with my beloved boy acting like a crazy beast, but more than anything I was scared for his health because of all of the germs and diseases that can be spread through goose poop. Since he was worn out from all of the goose poop lunging and pulling from the first part of our walk and because there didn't seem to be any of it where we were walking, I gave him a bit more leash and he trotted along next to Tinkerbell, both of them about a foot in front of me with plenty of slack in their leashes. "See, look at her, she walks both of her big dogs at the same time and they are so good!" I heard a neighbor say to someone as we walked by her yard. "Oh, you missed the first part of our walk," I thought to myself, "Jax is just worn out now!" As we arrived home and I removed the harnesses and leashes from the dogs, my husband greeted me in the kitchen as I went to fill the paw washing buckets. "How was your walk?" he asked. "Horrific! Do not accept any kisses from YOUR dog, he has a mouth full of goose poop " I said. "Uh, oh, Jax, it's not good when she calls you my dog," he said to Jax. [caption id="attachment_207" align="alignright" width="225"] But momma, I'm so cute![/caption] With paws washed, faces wiped down and their post-walk game of zoomies complete, both dogs crashed on the tile kitchen floor with their tongues happily lolling out of their mouths, and my stress from the walk started to fade. I picked up their food bowls and mixed a probiotic powder with water to give their immune systems a little boost and try to proactively thwart any upset stomach that Jax might get from his goose poop buffet. Today is a brand new day and I've decided that while the geese are around I simply cannot walk both dogs through the park at the same time. I will walk them together elsewhere or I will walk them one at a time through the park. At the end of the day, Jax is a dog, doing gross dog things. Of course it is my job to protect him from some of those dog instincts and figure out how to handle the situation better next time, but I shouldn't be embarrassed because he went into some weird dog brain zone and stopped listening and following my rules. No matter how much training you do, no matter how experienced of a dog owner you are, sometimes they just are going to do things in line with their instincts instead of their training. Jackson is most definitely amazing dog, in fact he is one of the best behaved dogs I have ever known. He is insanely smart with a beautiful disposition that I love unconditionally. If I wanted a perfect dog I could have bought a stuffed animal; good dogs can be the best dogs in the world without being perfect dogs.
The Importance of Giving Puppies and Dogs a Holistic Lifestyleby Lynn Stacy-Smith Having three dogs in a row diagnosed with serious or terminal illnesses will forever change how you care for your dogs. In fact Babe's kidney disease, Dutch's hemangiosarcoma, and Maggie's lymphoma were the catalyst for the creation of Love, Laugh, Woof and ignited my passion for providing a healthy, holistic lifestyle for my dogs. When I met my Jackson for the first time he was eight weeks old and I was picking him up from our amazing, loving, professional/hobby breeder who to me is the epitome of how every dog breeder should aspire to be. She and her dogs live in what I can only describe as Labrador Utopia, in a home in rural Iowa with a pond in which to swim, tall grass in which to play and fetch dummies and birds, high quality organic food in their bowls, and an owner with a passion for giving her dogs and puppies the healthiest life possible. As I picked Jackson up and held him to me I realized that the cells in his body were untainted by toxins and that the beautiful young puppy in my arms was essentially a brand new life, a physical, living, breathing tabula rasa. I realized that it was my responsibility to keep him that way, to prevent him from coming into contact with carcinogens and toxic substances as much as possible, just like his breeder had for the eight weeks before I met him. To give you a bit of history leading up to the day I met Jackson, my late black Lab Babe was diagnosed with kidney disease in 2007, right around the time many dog foods were being recalled for melamine contamination. I never pursued trying to link her problems to the mainstream food that I was purchasing for her at the big box pet stores, but it did prompt me to start looking into what I was feeding her and to find more natural ways to try to help her live with partial kidney failure. I was successful in slowing down her loss of kidney function and ultimately the reason she was euthanized at the age of fourteen was not because of her kidneys but because her legs just could not carry her anymore and I knew she was in terrible pain. After Babe passed away I continued learning about how to provide a healthy life for my dogs and changed many of the products that we were giving to Dutch and Maggie, including switching their food and treats. I was still shopping at the big box pet store but we had switched to an up and coming "holistic" brand instead of the mainstream brand with the shiny bags and big advertising budget that took the focus off of their low quality ingredients that we had previously fed. Of course that brand has since adopted the big advertising budget with national televised ads and a two story booth at pet trade shows. That realization that I had as I held Jackson in my arms while standing in my breeder's kitchen changed everything and led me to where we are today, with healthy organic food created by one of the great minds in the pet food industry and made with top quality human grade ingredients, carefully selected treats, filtered water in safely made bowls, toys and bedding made in the USA under strict standards, and all of the other things that I do to create a happy, healthy, holistic lifestyle to keep the dogs as safe and healthy as possible in a world that is full of toxins and hazards. So what exactly do I mean by a happy, healthy, holistic lifestyle? After all, we hear the words healthy, organic, holistic tossed around more than ever these days. Well, the word holistic refers to viewing something as a whole entity rather than just all of its various parts. I consider a holistic lifestyle for dogs to be a life in which we nurture these four areas: mind, body, nutrition/food, and their environment/home. Let's take a look at how we can impact those areas in our dogs' lives: Mind: Stress and anxiety weaken a human or animal's immune system, which is of course what fights off disease and toxic substances. Keeping your dog's mind happy and sharp can directly impact their health. Body: This area really has two subcategories: physical exercise and the things that go into your dog's body. Plenty of physical exercise and attention to all of the products that you purchase for your dog are an important part of a healthy, holistic lifestyle. Home: Dogs are in close contact with everything you use in your home, from cleaning products to lawn care chemicals. The more organic and natural options you use to maintain your home, the healthier it is for your dog who is sniffing, breathing, and walking through your house perhaps more than any of the humans who live there. Food: More and more dog owners are becoming passionate about knowing what goes into their dog's bodies at mealtime. There are some great dog foods on the market and some horrible options and it is important to understand what to feed and what to avoid. There is no guarantee that all of these efforts are going to result in a longer lifespan for my beloved Jackson and Tinkerbell, but I can tell you it is not going to hurt them to put a great deal of thought and research into the choices I make for them. Sometimes it is hard to keep from wanting them to live in a bubble that protects them from anything that is not dog momma approved, and I have to push past my fears of what they are walking through or breathing in when we walk in the local park or on other people's property, especially the large expanses of grass that are weed and dandelion free and most likely treated with harmful lawn products. But I realize that to not take them on walks, to not take them on adventures out into the world, would be detrimental to their mind and spirit, and so I work hard to boost their immune systems to battle those toxins and unhealthy things. If you have a new puppy or are thinking about getting a puppy, you too have the chance to start off their lives with healthy options and toxic free products. If you have an older dog, it is never too late to learn about ways to make better choices for them just like we are always striving to improve our own health throughout our lives. My thought process is that if I can add even one week or one day to my dog's life, then it is all worth it. If I can help them feel better throughout their life, it is all worth it. Plus it has impacted how we care for our human bodies in our house, too, but that is a whole other series of blogs for another day! If you would like to learn more about my version of a holistic lifestyle for dogs, the next Love, Laugh, Woof Happy, Healthy Dog Challenge will begin on Monday, May 1, 2017. The Happy, Healthy Dog Challenge is a fun, educational, FREE workshop that takes place over a one week period in our private Facebook group. You will assess your dog's current lifestyle in the four areas I mentioned above and watch videos, participate in conversations and learn more about creating a happy, healthy all over (aka holistic) lifestyle for your canine best friend.
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Keeping Your Dog Safe From Lawn & Garden Hazardsby Lynn Stacy-Smith The first day of spring is such a happy day, full of the promise of better weather, green leaves and grass, and flowers. As the temperatures rise, our neighbors start to come out of hibernation and the snow shovels and containers of ice melting salt at the garden store are replaced by seeds, plants and mulch and people start to pay attention to their neglected gardens and lawns. Yesterday I shared an older post from when Jackson was a puppy that I like to call The Big Black Dog and the Cherry Tree in a play on words on the KT Tunstall song. The story of The Big Black Dog and the Cherry Tree is a cautionary tale about the importance of researching the trees and plants that you plant in an area that your dog can access. Jax was fine after eating the cherry tree leaves, and we learned that our particular tree was not poisonous, but it was definitely a wake up call. I grew up in the woods. Not a wooded lot, but the woods in the mountains. I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that my parents never purchased a tree for that house or had to plant additional trees. In fact we also never had to purchase firewood, another suburban thing that mystified me after moving to this area. And so as an adult it never occurred to me that I could end up purchasing a tree for our suburban yard that could hurt or kill my dogs. Fortunately the ASPCA has an extensive list of poisonous plants and trees on their website. Anytime you plant a tree, flower, shrub, herb, fruit, vegetable or any sort of vegetation in an area that your dog can access, consult this list: http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants. There is also a printable version that you can print and take to the garden store with you: http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/dogs-plant-list if for some reason you cannot pull up the list on your mobile phone. There are also Pet Poison apps that you can and should add to your phone that can be helpful when at the garden center as well as if your dog eats something questionable. [caption id="attachment_3153" align="alignright" width="300"] Puppies explore the world with their mouth and no fear or knowledge of what can hurt them![/caption] Mulch is another area to use caution and do your research. A fairly new and eco-friendly option is the Cocoa hull or cocoa shell mulch. However, it is far from dog friendly; in fact cocoa mulch is quite toxic to dogs if they eat it. I suggest watching your dog around any type of mulch, wood or rubber, because consuming any of these items is not going to be great for your dog. Here is a link with some suggestions on the best mulch options to use in your fenced areas if you use any at all: http://homeguides.sfgate.com/mulch-use-around-animals-36077.htm. We use stones in our garden areas in our back yard; although the dogs tried to chew on the rocks as little puppies, they leave them alone as adult dogs, unlike wood mulch which they still try to eat if given a chance. Fertilizers and pesticides are also harmful to dogs, so going organic in your own yard or garden is much safer for pets as well as the humans who live in your home. There are some great ideas for organic gardening at this link: http://www.birdsandblooms.com/gardening/grow-chemical-free-garden/. Use caution if you follow their advice to use coffee grounds in your garden; you don't want your pets eating the coffee grounds as those can make them quite ill. As a general rule, I always recommend supervising your dogs anytime you are outside in addition to dog proofing your yard. A persistent dog can still get into something with you there, like Jackson proved with the cherry tree. A fast and determined puppy can still snatch up and eat something they shouldn't like Tinkerbell proved when she managed to get a rotten cantaloupe that we had not noticed rolled away from our garden and up against our fence a few years ago. No matter how much we train them, sometimes a dog on a mission is just going to ignore your stern commands to "drop it" or "leave it" and they are going to wolf down a contraband item with the speed and determination of someone competing in the Coney Island hot dog eating contest.
Why Your Dog is So Full of Energy and How to Put it to Use (Part 2)by Lynn Stacy-Smith In Part 1 of the topic Why Your Dog is So Full of Energy and How to Put it to Use we talked about why dogs are so full of energy, and how it is a mixture of their wolf heritage and the fact that they have been bred for hundreds of years to help mankind with important jobs that require them to go, go, go. I also promised you a list of dog sports and I am going to fulfill that promise right here. Just like with humans, before starting any sport, make sure that your dog is in good medical condition and able to participate. I do not want any dogs to get injured or worse, so please make sure that you are not asking a couch potato pooch to suddenly be ready to set record agility times or start pulling sleds until they are physically ready. Partner with your veterinarian before you and your dog start an exercise program or new sport as she or he will be able to help you determine if your dog is ready and how to prepare and condition for the activity.
The Top Dog Three Sports for Beginners:
Agility:In the sport of agility, dogs race through a series of obstacles like jumps, ramps, tunnels and other things at the direction of a human handler. Their goal is to complete all of the obstacles in the best time with as few mistakes as possible. Purebred dogs and mixed breeds can participate and you can compete or just do agility for the fun of it. Border collies and other medium-sized super fast dogs do great in agility, like in this video: https://youtu.be/JL8CbCryZs4. I love to see non-traditional types of dogs doing agility like this Mastiff in this popular YouTube video: https://youtu.be/GjqtwNUE148. Check out the AKC Agility page for information on how to get started: http://www.akc.org/events/agility/. Definitely take classes through a local dog training facility, as agility can be hard on a dog's joints, so you want to make sure to do it correctly from the start.
K9 Nosework:According to the K9 Nosework site, "dogs learn how to search for a specific odor or odors and find the source. Dogs start by searching for their favorite food or toy reward hidden in a variety of environments, increasing the challenges and adding new search skills as the dog progresses." This is a great low impact activity that you can do just for fun or competitively; it's open to dogs of all shapes and sizes, and will definitely work their brain. It is also fantastic for the dog/owner bond. You can learn more at these links: http://www.k9nosework.com/about-us/what-k9-nose-work and https://www.ukcdogs.com/nosework. Just like Agility, many dog training centers are offering K9 Nosework classes if you are ready to get your dog started on a fun activity.
Rally Obedience:In Rally Obedience, the owner and dog go through a course consisting of obedience commands, doing a different command at each station. Here is a great video demonstrating two Labradors competing in Rally: https://youtu.be/rnfPOebctCQ. This is another activity like K9 Nosework that is more mental than physical, so it is not as demanding on your dog's body. Rally is another activity with classes offered at many training facilities. The AKC website offers information on getting started: http://www.akc.org/events/rally/getting-started/.
Other Fun Dog Sports:
Barn Hunt:Any breed or mix of breeds can participate in Barn Hunt, in which dogs search for rats that are safely protected in aerated tubes. The only criteria is that dogs must be able to fit through an 18" wide tunnel that is as high as a bale of hay. Check out more at this link: https://www.barnhunt.com/faq.html. Rats are in no way harmed in this sport. According to the information on the site, the rats used are often beloved family pets and they are safe and sound in the tube.
Carting/Drafting:In this sport dogs are harnessed to a weighted cart using special equipment designed for the sport to pull the cart and perform obedience routines and maneuvers. Please make sure you use the correct equipment to avoid injury and never hook a cart or sled up to your dog's collar. Here is some basic information on carting at this link.
Disc Dogs/Frisbee Dogs:In this sport owners toss flying discs to their dogs in a variety of types of competitions. This is a very physical sport, so please check with your vet to make sure your dog is not too young and in good enough physical shape to participate. There is some great information at this link: http://www.discdogg.com/disc-dog-training/.
Dock Diving/Dock Jumping:If your dog loves the water, dock diving is a fun sport in which dogs jump for distance or height from a dock into a pool or body of water. You can often find dock diving events in your local area each summer and some of them allow you to enter your dog the same day as the event and have a few practice jumps before competing. Here is some helpful information for beginners: http://www.splashdogs.com/events/Newcomers.php.
Hiking:Hiking with my late Babe was one of my favorite things to do. We often hiked through the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. It is important to be prepared for emergencies, especially if you live in an area with poisonous snakes or other animals that could harm you or your dog. Here is a fantastic guide from outdoor retailer REI: https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/hiking-dogs.html.
Obedience Trials:In obedience trials, dogs and owners demonstrate skills like heeling on and off leash, long sit, long down, recall, standing for a physical exam and other skills, depending on the level of the trial. Here is information on how to get started in obedience trials: http://www.akc.org/events/obedience/getting-started/.
Treibball:[caption width="300" id="attachment_3122" align="alignright"] Photo credit: http://psiakosc.twojpies.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/20150727-DSC_0147.jpg[/caption]What dog wouldn't love pushing a giant exercise ball across a field or room? This looks like the best game in the world, and I have to admit I had forgotten about it until researching this blog! There is definitely training and skill involved, though. Check out the American Treibball Association for tons of information http://www.americantreibballassociation.org.
Musical Canine Freestyle:I have a funny story about this event and I couldn't resist including it because I still wouldn't mind trying it out! My husband and I were in a small town in Michigan, looking at the pamphlets for local attractions and he said, "Hey, we could take Dutch Dancing lessons!" "Oh my gosh, I've always wanted to teach the dogs to dance!" I exclaimed excitedly, thinking about our German Shorthaired Pointer named Dutch. "What?" he said, giving me the confused look that I see often on his face after I speak. "Dog dancing! I've always wanted to teach Babe or Dutch how to do that!" I said. "Honey," he said, "This is Dutch Dancing, like the nationality, you know, dancing with wooden shoes...what on EARTH are YOU talking about?" What I was talking about was Musical Canine Freestyle, in which you perform obedience and tricks to music with your dogs. Here is a very advanced version of this sport: https://youtu.be/yRrHGmc9Ojs. Here is a more basic beginner version: https://youtu.be/6ZO7Qc4dYuU. Additional Options There are all sorts of other things to do with your dog, like training for the Canine Good Citizen test and title, working toward becoming a therapy dog or reading dog. There are sports like hunt tests for retrievers and other sporting group dogs, herding for herding dogs, Flyball, Mushing, Skijoring for people who love to cross-country ski and want to add their dogs to the fun. Weiner dog races for Dachshunds, lure coursing for sight hounds, Tracking Trials for dogs with great noses, and all sorts of breed specific things that are fun for both you and your dog. The best thing about putting your dog's energy and brain to use is that you get to do it with them, so not only do you have a happy, calm, satisfied dog, you have worked with her or him to learn the activity. We are best friends with dogs because we work and play so well together, and any time you and your dog are training together, working on a common goal, going out on adventures together, your relationship is going to be that much stronger, that much closer. You will likely find that when you do want that much-needed down time in front of the TV at the end of a long work day that your dog is more cuddly and close to you at those times, too, and not just when you are at play.
Why Your Dog is So Full of Energy & How To Put It To Use (Part 1)by Lynn Stacy-Smith The other day I was talking to someone whose friends recently adopted a shelter dog, a two-year old mixed breed who won them over with his loving personality, snuggle pup tendencies, and adorable mixed breed looks. When I had originally learned that they were looking for a dog to adopt I had promptly made sure that they had a copy of my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog's Forever Owner to help prepare them for this new chapter of their lives. "How's their new dog," I asked. "Whew, he is crazy, full of energy! He does zoomies on his own all through the downstairs and leaps over the baby gate that they put up to keep him out of the kitty litter!" "Yep, sounds like a two-year old dog to me!" I answered. "He was so calm at first, he just laid around! I don't know what's up with that dog!" was the answer. "Well, it takes awhile for their personality to come out, you act differently around people and a new place at first, too, don't you?" Fortunately for this young dog and his family they are taking him to obedience school where they should get tips on how to wear him out and wrangle that energy level so that the dog is happy and satisfied and that the humans are not pulling their hair out with frustration. I give major kudos to them that they are taking it in stride and working with him through training. Every new dog, whether rescued adult or puppy, should go to obedience school with their new owner even if that owner is a veteran dog parent. The seemingly endless amount of energy that a dog has doesn't surprise me, but it does surprise me that other humans are so caught off guard that their dogs are such energetic creatures. After all, dogs ultimately are descendants of some sort of wolf species and wolves are extremely active creatures. From there we have bred and fine tuned most dog breeds into doing specific functions for us, most of which focus on jobs that require a lot of energy and intelligence. Let's first think about our dogs' original ancestors. According to an article in the New York Times, "When wolves are active, they are really active. On a daily basis, wolves burn about 70 percent more calories compared to typical animals of similar size.” The researchers note that while hunting, wolves may burn calories at 10 to 20 times the rate they do while resting." Wolves sometimes walk eight hours a day, averaging thirty miles a day and 4,000 miles a year and spend 30% of their time sleeping. " Of course it's been a long, long time since our dogs were wolves, but then consider the functions for which dogs have been bred over the years. Dogs like the Labrador Retriever and the Newfoundland helped drag fishing nets in from ice-cold northern seas, and then the Labrador proved its worth in racing into frigid lakes and ponds and swimming and running long distances over and over again to retrieve ducks and geese that their humans shot. Dachshunds burrowed through tunnels and hunted badgers and other animals. Corgis chased after cows to herd them for people. Even the little Yorkie was bred to help hunt rats. The Rhodesian Ridgeback was bred to hunt lions. LIONS! Since dogs and humans became friends it is really we who have changed, from hunters and gatherers, fishermen and farmers to accountants and analysts and actuaries. Of course we still want our beloved dogs by our side because of the incredible companionship that they provide. But they are still ready to go, go, go! They can't wait to learn to do activities and jobs with us, to put those canine brains to work, to burn off that energy that our ancestors bred them to have, that they still hold onto from their wolf ancestors who had to hunt and travel all day. But then we leave them for the day to go to the office, we get home and take a quick walk around the block and settle down for dinner and TV, and then wonder why the dog is bouncing off the walls when all they've done all day is lay around in a sedentary lifestyle that they weren't bred to enjoy. Now, don't get me wrong, plenty of dogs are happy with that lifestyle and just want to be home snuggling with their humans all evening. And in no way am I saying that someone with an office job or a moderately active lifestyle can't have a high energy breed as their canine best friend. But if you find yourself with a dog who is bursting at the seams doing indoor zoomies and leaving you wondering if you could somehow harness their energy to help reduce your electric bill, there are tons of options for dog sports and activities. Just like with humans, sometimes the best of exercise is just walking. Take your dog for a nice long walk before and after work, alternating your route each time to the extent possible. This is how I had a young, happy, well-exercised Labrador in a one bedroom apartment without a fenced yard for years. Babe and I walked forty-five minutes in the morning and about an hour in the evenings, taking different routes every time. Sometimes we would add a midday walk depending on my work schedule. On weekends we took hikes through wooded state parks and the Indiana Dunes State Park or went to my Mom's house so that she could play zoomies and bitey-face with her dogs. With basic long walks on varying routes as her primary exercise, Babe was quite happy and her energy was never overwhelming or on the verge of driving me crazy; she was happy, socialized and calm from two nice long walks a day where she got to sniff to her heart's content and occasionally meet new people. Of course the amazing benefit for dogs is that walks are not just physical exercise, but they are fantastic mental exercise too. The reason that long walks on different routes burn up so much energy is that a dog's brain has a very large area dedicated to the business of analyzing scents. When you change up their walking route and they smell new things each time, you are working their brain, they are concentrating on the business of smelling, and in turn getting tired more quickly than doing mindless physical exercise. According to a NOVA article on the PBS website dogs have, "300 million olfactory receptors in their noses, compared to about six million in us. And the part of a dog's brain that is devoted to analyzing smells is, proportionally speaking, 40 times greater than ours." Knowing how their brains are made up physiologically, it's no wonder that a walk that provides plenty of sniffing, aka mental exercise, can use up all of that extra energy and make them a happy and satisfied member of a family made up of lower energy beings like we humans.
Watch for Part 2 of
Why Your Dog is So Full of Energy & How To Put It To Use
on Saturday, March 18, where we will explore a massive list of dog sports and activities for you and your dog to do together!
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Spay/Neuter Awareness Month: Mythbusting Reasons to Not "Fix" Your Dogby Lynn Stacy-Smith I did not neuter Jackson until he was a little over two and a half years old. I spent a good two years running into issues when I wanted to take him to training classes, dog parks and other areas. "He's still intact because he's competing in conformation shows," I would explain, "Not because of ignorance or any other reason." On Jackson's first birthday I sent several photos of him to our breeder as well as a Happy Birthday message to his litter mate who she had kept. She messaged me back and said, "Jackson is turning out to be spectacular, if you want you can hold of neutering him and try him out in a few UKC (United Kennel Club) shows and then depending how he does maybe we will change his AKC registration from Limited to full and think about using him as a stud dog." I cancelled the appointment I had already made to have him neutered, registered him with the UKC, and started training with him on the skills he would need in a dog show. We practiced gaiting and stacking, and I envisioned him going all the way to Madison Square Garden and being on TV representing his breed in Best In Group and being the Labrador to finally win Best in Show. I found hot pink dress pants to pop against his black fur, put on functional shoes and we were ready! In reality we did three dog shows. We earned a few Best of Breeds and a third in the Gun Dog Group, which is the UKC version of the Sporting Group. Each time I laughed at myself as we drove to shows that took place in warehouse type spaces in industrial parks in suburban Illinois, a far cry from Madison Square Garden. At the third show we won Best of Breed and headed to the group competition. There were a ton of dogs there that day, far more than the first few shows. Jax was more interested in playing that day and tried to befriend the Golden Retriever...in the middle of the competition. When the judge came to inspect him, Jackson rolled over on his back with all four paws in the air. Then we ran out of bait and I lost his focus entirely. As he tried to jump on top of the Golden again, I politely took my dog and left the ring. I wasn't angry, I wasn't upset, I doubt it was proper etiquette, but I just did not want to be that person whose dog was distracting the other well-behaved dogs. "Well, big man, I think that is the end of your show career, what do you think?" He nuzzled my face and snorted, which is one of my favorite Jax signature moves. "Come on, let's go home to Daddy and Tinkerbell. I'll get you a puppacino on the way home, my handsome boy." A few weeks later I made the appointment to neuter him and spay Tinkerbell, who was coming up on seven months old, the same day. Had I hired a professional handler, I'm sure Jax could have had a stellar show career; the reality was that he already had a full-time dog job: to be my best friend and companion. I would never be the person to send him off with a handler, on airplanes and in strange places without me, just for him to be a champion. After the procedures, Jax was my same quirky and special boy and Tinkerbell my same crazy girl. Literally nothing about their activity level or temperament changed, at least once they healed. Of course you have to keep them calm and on kennel rest while they heal, but after that they were the exact same dogs. Jax was still a typical boy, peeing on every single tree, light post and mailbox (if I'd let him) on our walks, somehow able to ration his urine to make it through a long walk and still be able to claim every single vertical object as his own. Tink was still insane with endless energy, running zoomies as fast as her legs could carry her and then snuggling sweetly with us every night. Too often I hear some interesting reasons for not spaying or neutering a dog, usually online in various groups and forums and occasionally at pet expos. It goes back to the Woof in Love, Laugh, Woof. Woof means celebrating the differences between our species and understanding that your dog is a dog and not trying to push human feelings onto them. Let's take a look at some of the wrong reasons for not spaying/neutering a dog: Females need to experience giving birth to a litter: Emotional regret over not having offspring is entirely a human thing. Although I love to celebrate a mother dog's love for her puppies, your dog is not staring out the window wondering why she never had puppies. That doesn't mean a dog doesn't have a strong maternal instinct, but it kicks in after she is pregnant. Dogs live in the moment, your dog is perfectly happy experiencing other things besides giving birth to puppies. Take her on adventures instead, she will love you even more for sharing such amazing bonding experiences and it will never cross her mind that she did not "get" to have pups. [caption id="attachment_614" align="alignright" width="221"] Still a big boy, happily neutered![/caption] Neutering makes males less male: Well, if you're talking about moving mountains to get to females in heat, embarrassing dog erections for no reason, or marking your furniture, yes, neutering will change that. But in terms of the good parts of a boy dog, there is no difference. Your male dog does not care that he lost his testicles. That's a human hangup. Although the procedures are definitely different, your male dog is still just as male as a man who has a vasectomy. All that's changed is their ability to have an heir. Unless your dog is the King of England, he doesn't need an heir. Period. "Fixing" a dog makes them fat: Just like we humans, too many calories and too little activity makes dogs fat. If you see them gaining weight, adjust their calories. I promised a "no fat Labs" promise and have kept to it. Jax and Tink weigh exactly the same as before they were spayed and neutered. You are in control of how much you feed your dog, how much exercise he or she gets, and ultimately how much they weigh, intact or sterilized. Children should experience the miracle of life: I call BS on this. I am a parent, there are books for that, they take classes on that in health class. There is no logical reason for a child to learn about the miracle of life by bringing innocent puppies into the world. Parents who really want their children to see the process can view a variety of births on YouTube. It is miraculous, I once sat and watched a professional breeder's dog give birth via webcam for an entire afternoon; I was not going to submit Tinkerbell to that just for the experience. If you hear friends talking about breeding their dogs, please have the important conversation with them, asking them to reconsider and ask them not to become a backyard breeder. If none of the arguments above are sufficient, there are 1.2 million other reasons not to breed, in the form of dogs who are euthanized each year because a home was not available to them.
Fruits and Veggies for Dogs: Jackson & Tinkerbell's Top 7 Produce PicksBy Lynn Stacy-Smith Yesterday was National Biscuit Day and I shared my favorite and trusted brands of dog treats, so today is a perfect time to share some of Jackson and Tinkerbell's favorite fruits and veggies for dogs. My teenagers joke that our dogs are "nerds" of the dog world because they beg for things like kale and cucumber slices but don't even wake from their slumber if we cook a nice juicy steak or burgers on the grill. It doesn't help that I do not allow the dogs to eat wheat, corn, soy, white potatoes, chicken, any other poultry products, beef, or any of the more "mainstream" brands of food or treats that you might find at a big box retailer. By-products and anything with the word "animal" is a huge no-no in this house and I have not shopped at big box stores for pet products for over six years. Part of this list of things they cannot have is due to food sensitivities in one or the other dog, and part is simply because I am extremely cautious with what they are allowed to ingest. Losing two dogs in a row to cancer will do that to a dog owner. Here are the produce department items that send Jax and Tink racing into the kitchen waiting for their portion to be handed to them or for something to drop onto the floor. These are Jackson & Tinkerbell's Top 7 Produce Picks: 1. Kale, spinach & green leaf lettuce: I make my salads with my own mix of kale, spinach and green leaf lettuce and both dogs come running into the kitchen the moment they smell the greens coming out of the fridge. They stand patiently, one dog on each side of me, eyes firmly on the counter top, and I had them small bunches of leaves that they wolf down happily. Sometimes I will put a handful into their bowls like their very own salad. I try not to do this when any other humans are around; they already think I'm a bit dog crazy so the last thing I need them to catch me doing is making the dogs a salad. 2. Cucumber slices: I can eat just plain slices of cucumbers as a yummy snack and so can the dogs. They were particularly happy the summers we grew our own in our veggie garden. According to Modern Dog Magazine, cucumbers are good sources of calcium, potassium, and beta-carotene. [caption id="attachment_2971" align="alignright" width="362"] photo credit: Canopener Sally Carrots, oh yum. via photopin (license)[/caption] 3. Carrots: Carrots are legendary as dog treats, and according to the American Kennel Club, they provide some dental benefits with their crunchy texture and contain vitamin A, potassium, and fiber. Jax and Tink know the word "carrot" very well, to the point that it is almost a reliable recall word. Carrots make an easy to purchase treat when running to the local healthy pet store is not convenient as you can pick up a bag of organic mini carrots at most stores. 4. Bell peppers: Red, yellow and orange bell peppers are right up there with cucumbers as veggies that I love to just eat plain. They are one of my favorite nearly zero calorie treats for me, and the dogs love them too. Just don't give your dogs any hot peppers, only sweet bell peppers are ok. 5. Bananas: I have officially given up any hope of eating an entire banana on my own, and that's just fine because there's nobody I'd rather share it with than Jax and Tink. In fact, on those days when they are so interested in the smells of the yard that they come down with the "selective hearing" that Labradors are prone to get, all I have to say is "Who wants to share a banana with me?" and they will run as fast as they can to the kitchen door while I hope that nobody ate that last banana that was on the counter earlier. 6. Watermelon: We eat a lot of watermelon in this house. Every last one of us loves it and the dogs are no different. We will cut a huge melon into chunks and put it into a massive Tupperware bowl. It usually lasts two days and you end up with two dogs sitting in front of you with drool streaming out of their mouths while you eat it. Pavlov's dogs had nothing on these two! Just make sure you take the seeds out before giving any to your dog. 7. Celery with peanut butter: Ants on a log are a holiday tradition in our house. Jax and Tink are obsessed with peanut butter so we've started making them their own ant-less (aka raisin free) version on Thanksgiving and other holidays. I limit them to one or two small pieces each, though. And always make sure your peanut butter does not contain the potentially deadly fake sweetener xylitol! Jax and Tink have enjoyed strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, cantaloupe, broccoli, cooked sweet potatoes and green beans from time to time, although not enough to recognize them by smell like the seven items listed above. Tinkerbell is hilarious with blueberries and an odd cherry tomato here and there because of the shape and texture. She spits it out, rolls it around, tries again, looks at Jackson as if to say, "really, I'm supposed to eat this?" before finally consuming the fruit. Remember that all dogs are different and some will love fruits and veggies as snacks and others will not. Always research whether a dog can safely consume an item before giving it to them as not all fruits and veggies are safe for canine consumption. Here is a nice list from Trupanion so you can make your dogs part of the club of canines who enjoy dog friendly produce. Photo credit, Carrots oh yum, photo credit: Canopener Sally Carrots, oh yum. via photopin (license)
National Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day: Jax and Tink's Five Favorite BrandsBy Lynn Stacy-Smith Today is National Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day! If it seems like I've had a lot of "national (fill in the blank) day" posts, you are correct. February is chock full of them. Some are for extremely important educational topics and some, like this one, are just plain fun! Dog treats do serve a function when used for training. In addition to training and getting your dog's attention, most dogs just love to have a little treat here and there. Since chewing crunchy food can help keep dogs' teeth clean you might get a few dental benefits out of larger biscuits. On the downside, treat calories do add up, so make sure you incorporate those calories into your dog's day and adjust their amount of food accordingly. Treat ingredients matter and it is important to avoid allergens in treats just like you do in your dog's food, reading labels carefully and thoroughly. And just like food, the quality of treats varies wildly across brands, so make sure you are looking for companies with a good reputation and quality ingredients, made in the United States. [caption id="attachment_2633" align="alignright" width="202"] "Did you say fish cookies??"[/caption] Jackson and Tinkerbell, typical Labradors who love, love, love to eat, are dog biscuit connoisseurs. They love to train for treats, they get treats when they come inside, when they go into their crates, and before bed. (I told you I'm an expert dog owner, I never said I wasn't a pushover!) We even have a little series of tricks that they do at bedtime, both sitting side by side on our human bed and showing us Shake Hands, High Five, Speak, and Touch, in which they reach up and touch our hand with their noses. Here are some of our favorite trusted brands that Jackson and Tinkerbell give four paws up and a wagging tail and get my approval as a careful dog mom: Dogs Love Kale: My dogs love kale. My teenagers joke with me that our dogs are nerdy dogs because they don't beg for meat or normal things, but the moment I start to make a salad they come running into the kitchen, at which point I give them dog friendly veggies, including kale. When I found this brand I did a happy dance and promptly ordered one of every flavor! You can purchase from Amazon in a single package in a variety of flavors, including quite a few that are made without chicken or poultry. Fruitables: I switched to Fruitables for Jax and Tink when Zukes sold out to Purina. I use the Skinny Mini variety for training because they are tiny and have a strong smell. I buy the small crunchy treats for everyday treats. They also offer dental chews and meat jerky strips. Jax and Tink love the salmon strips! I purchase either from my local independent pet food store or through Petflow. Fruitables Chewy Skinny Minis Pumpkin Mango Flavor Dog Treats - $8.99 from: PetFlow.com Fruitables Crunchy Pumpkin and Apple Dog Treats - $5.99 from: PetFlow.com Fruitables BioActive Fresh Mouth Grain Free Dental Chews for Dogs - $15.99 from: PetFlow.com Fruitables Whole Jerky Alaskan Salmon Dog Treats - $10.99 from: PetFlow.com Cloud Star: Cloud Star makes a grain free line and I like the Peanut Butter option for Jax and Tink. The Buddy Biscuits are larger than Dogs Love Kale or Fruitables and are more of a traditional biscuit size. These I feed less frequently but I like them because they give a little more crunchy chewing than the small options. Canine Caviar: I feed Canine Caviar food and so I also trust their treats with my dogs. I prefer the Paddywacks which are a part of the buffalo "other" than the bully stick or pizzle. Sure, the dogs love bully sticks, but the thought of what they are is kinda a turn off for a lot of humans. I'd rather they chew on "other" parts. You can get a huge box of them from PetFlow with free shipping! Canine Caviar Buffalo 12-Inch Paddywack Dog Treats from: PetFlow.com Earthborn Holistics: I purchase the peanut butter treats and what we call the "fishy cookies" in our house. The fish variety has a very strong odor but the dogs get very excited for them so I can't deny them their fishy cookies! Earthborn Holistic EarthBites Peanut Flavor Dog Treats - $5.99 from: PetFlow.com Earthborn Holistic Grain Free Oven Baked Biscuits Whitefish Meal Recipe Dog Treats - $9.99 from: PetFlow.com Isle of Dogs: This is the newest brand that I've tried after stopping in to a more mainstream store to see what they had. After a very long time browsing the treat aisle and not finding anything I would consider giving them, I found these. So far I've been happy with several varieties like this blueberry option and the "Breath" formula even though neither of my dogs has a breath issue because of good nutrition and overall good health.
Here are the steps that I take after walks or once a day if the dogs stay on our own property: 1. Wash all paws in a foot soak using water with apple cider vinegar (1/2 cup vinegar per gallon of water) or an organic pet shampoo. Swoosh the paw through the water and use your fingers to massage the paws for a few second while in the soak. Rinse thoroughly in a second container of plain water and then dry well, including between the toe pads and webbing for breeds with webbed feet. 2. Wipe the entire dog from nose to tail with a damp cloth, including their legs, belly, nose and jowls. You can also use the same ratio of apple cider vinegar to water to soak the cloth or spray on them with a spray bottle, avoiding the eyes.[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="295"] Kurgo Step & Strobe Dog Shoes[/caption] If your dog will tolerate them, booties are a great way to help protect your dog's paws from the cold and chemicals. There are disposable, biodegradable rubber options at PetFlow but I love these well-engineered Step-N-Strobe Dog Shoes from Kurgo. After seeing Dr. Becker's video I came across a shop selling a very similar product and I promptly purchased a tin. I am excited to try it out before our next walk. Of course I will still wash their paws when we return home in a dual prong attack on the toxins of the world. You can purchase the Puppy Paw Protection Salve on Etsy here. A side benefit of products like this made with all natural ingredients is that you can often use them on yourself, too, although I would save the running through the grass barefoot for six months from now when the sun is shining and the grass is not hidden under ice and snow. [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="570"] Puppy Protection Paw Salve[/caption]
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When in Doubt, Hire a Dog Trainerby Lynn Stacy-Smith As a dog blogger and author, I am in several dog related Facebook groups and spend a lot of time on social media sites. Behavioral questions are among the most frequent questions that I see dog owners reaching out to their peers for assistance. It makes sense to ask fellow dog owners, since the whole point of social media is to interact with friends and others who share your interests. Unfortunately, the answers that you can expect to receive can vary from being helpful solutions to downright dangerous to both dog and owner. In my book, "Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog's Forever Owner," I talk a lot about the importance of training. I am a firm believer that every dog should go through at least one obedience class, whether the dog was adopted as a puppy or as a grown dog. Veteran owners and new dog parents alike will benefit from a good training class. I have even spoken with dog trainers who have said that they take all of their dogs to someone else's class because they never know when they might learn something new from a fellow trainer. When Jackson came into our lives we had spent the last four or so years caring for senior dogs, so to jump suddenly into puppyhood meant calling upon training skills and a mindset that had not been put into use for many years. Attending training classes was the best thing I did because I learned many helpful training tips even as someone who had owned and raised dogs my entire life. Every trainer has that special nugget of information that you might not have heard before, or teaches something in a way that finally clicks in your mind that might not have before. In fact, when I took Tinkerbell to training classes at the same facility where Jackson went, just two years later, there was a new concept in training dogs that helped immensely, not just with Tinkerbell but also with Jackson's continuing education. It's one thing to teach a dog to sit, lay down and stay at home in an environment that they are used to. It's a whole other experience to teach them to focus on you in a public place with four or five other dogs and humans around. When you can get your dog to check in with you visually for guidance in a public place, you are well on your way to having a dog who understands the expectations of life in the human world and a life in which you are their leader. This reduces a ton of stress on both you and your dog and could be potentially life saving depending on the situation. Not only will you learn how to teach your dog the basic commands in a good obedience class, you will learn extremely critical training concepts like bite inhibition (teaching your dog not to bite humans) and how to get your dog accustomed to people being around them or touching them, their food, or their food bowl when they are eating. In these screen shot examples, I fear the owners did not correctly understand what to do with their dogs when they were younger in order to have their dog react safely as older dogs. Fortunately you do not have to write off your dog's behavior as unfixable. In fact, the ability for dogs to learn and change as a result of positive training and plenty of patience is what makes it possible for many shelter dogs to acclimate into a new home and lead happy lives after coming out of abusive or neglectful situations. The saying, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks" is far from the reality of what dogs can learn throughout their life. Any time you need help with something behavioral related, check with a dog trainer, especially if it involves biting, food aggression, or both. These things in particular are too important to get wrong; a good trainer will help you solve it the right way. It may take a while, it may take more patience and consistency than you thought you had in you, but you can solve these issues the right way with the right trainer. Hiring a professional dog trainer who shares your beliefs in how to care for your dog is the best investment you will ever make for your dog's future and place in your home as a forever dog. I also suggest talking to your veterinarian if your dog suddenly starts growling or biting; dogs do not have the ability to say to us that they do not feel good in words and so sometimes a behavioral issue can stem from a physical problem. Your veterinarian can also be an excellent source of information on good dog trainers in your area; ask them for suggestions on training facilities or individuals who they recommend. Another good resource for finding a dog trainer in your area is the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (ADPT) Dog Trainer Search page: https://apdt.com/trainer-search/. Just enter your zip code, choose the radius around your home that you want to search, and decide if you only want to see results for ADPT certified trainers. Facebook friends are great for giving advice on some dog related topics, like good places for hikes or fun toys that they use, but if biting or growling issues begin, always seek out a professional trainer. If you let a problem develop without fixing it correctly, you are setting your dog up for failure and that is simply not fair to him or her. While there is not a best case scenario when a biting issue is ignored, the worst case scenario is that your dog bites someone and causes injury or death to a human, another dog, and ultimately ends up euthanized for vicious behavior.
By Leigh Marcos, PennJersey Building Services
When you clean the home, you probably consider a good living environment for you and your family, but does that include your pet? Many pet owners naturally forget that toxins affect their pets too, sometimes more so, and that not only is there a range of substances that might affect them, but the very cleaning agents being used to clean the home.
When we think of harmful toxins, we might think of asbestos which causes mesothelioma, but there is also garbage, and the cleaning chemicals. The reason they affect pets more is not just because of their relatively smaller size, but because they operate closer to the ground which means they interact with substances more often.
It is vital to carefully investigate your home to see what substances exist within it, and which one your pets can interact with. To help you out, PennJersey have created a handy guide the main substances dog owners should be aware of and crucially, important advice on how to make homes safer and use less toxic cleaning products. Click here to access the PennJersey guide.
Feed a High Quality FoodAll dog foods are not created equal. As recently as 2010 I was feeding what I would later find out was an extremely low quality food from a big name brand with a reputation for being a healthy "high end" option for dogs. My education began when I innocently answered the question, "What do you feed your dog?" in a Facebook dog group. After being slammed by several other dog owners I began to research and question what was in the food I was feeding. I was stunned and horrified. When Jackson was born in 2011 our friend/breeder told me about Canine Caviar. She has known the founder of the company for a long time and swears by the food for her own dogs. Jackson's mother is on Canine Caviar and it was the first mushy food the puppies ate in their bowl once they were old enough. I researched the food online and from that research and the recommendation of my trusted friend/breeder, I became an instant fan of Canine Caviar. Jackson and Tinkerbell still eat it and I have no plans on changing any time soon. The best resource for anyone getting started researching their pet food is Dog Food Advisor. You may not find the exact formula of the brand that you serve but you can usually find something very close to it. I also love this Dog Food Grading form available at the Elk County Animal Shelter page. You'll need your bag of dog food or the list of ingredients from your food company's website. Both of these are eye opening. I prefer to feed all organic ingredients because to me it seems logical that the fewer pesticides used to grow a food means that there are fewer toxins going into my dogs' bodies. Remember that a high price tag does not guarantee a healthy dog food, but overall the foods with the better quality ingredients will likely have a higher price tag. Most of the higher quality foods use organic ingredients but simply being an organic food does not necessarily guarantee that the food is the best one for your pet. Make sure you look at the ingredients, where they come from, what they are, and what they do in your dog's body. I prefer to send friends and fellow dog owners to smaller privately owned health conscious pet stores instead of the big box retailers for a food. When calculating the price of the bag it is important to find out the number of Kcals per cup to really determine the total cost of feeding the food. For example, the formula of Canine Caviar that I feed is 599 Kcals per cup. A popular and controversial brand that I looked up has 333 Kcals per cup. This means that to feed the 1350 Kcals a day that Jackson and Tinkerbell consume that I would need to use almost twice as much of the cheaper food, going through the bag twice as fast as the "more expensive" Canine Caviar. When you think of the cost in terms of how far it will stretch and the benefit to your dog's body they are not as far apart as the initial sticker shock may have seemed.
Feed An Alkaline DietCanine Caviar's claim to fame is that it is the only alkaline diet for dogs in the United States. According to the Canine Caviar website, "An alkaline based diet puts more oxygen in your pet’s blood, making his/her immune system stronger. With more oxygen in the blood the internal organs also work more efficiently and your dog ages at a slower rate." In addition to feeding an alkaline food, I also like to offer treats like baby carrots and other vegetables that are safe for dogs. When I make my own salad we have a ritual where both dogs come and wait for their own pieces of kale, lettuce, and cucumbers as I'm building my own lunch. Just make sure you talk to your vet about whether your own dog can tolerate a more alkaline diet. Here is additional information on this link: http://www.vetinfo.com/alkaline-diet-for-dogs.html#b and Canine Caviar Infographic: Alkaline Diet for Dogs .
Protein RotationThe importance of rotating proteins is something else that I learned about while writing for Canine Caviar. When you switch proteins with each bag you are giving your dog a different protein, which means that they are getting a different amino acid, which in turn boosts your dog's immune system. Here's an infographic from the Canine Caviar website that explains more: http://social.caninecaviar.com/blog/2014/06/protein-rotation-pet-health/. I rotate between Canine Caviar Wild Ocean (herring) and Canine Caviar Wilderness. My backup brand if I cannot get one of those formulas is Zignature Trout & Salmon, although I prefer to stay with one brand of food. "Insufficient exercise can also lead to decreased immunity, as exercise stimulates your dog's lymph glands, which are vital to immunity." For dogs, being happy and getting exercise typically go together. Stress takes a terrible toll on the body and dogs can live in stressful states just like humans can. By making sure your dog's world is fun, full of enjoyable exercise as well as relaxation and love, your dog will benefit physically as well as mentally.
Filtered WaterThis is a recent change that we just made. Earlier this year we purchased a simple Brita pitcher for our human and canine family members. We are looking now at something more efficient for the faucet itself or the whole house, but for now we fill our Brita pitcher many, many times a day for our own glasses as well as Jackson and Tinkerbell's bowl to keep contaminants from tap water out of our bodies.
ProbioticsWe hear a lot about the connection between intestinal health and the immune system in humans and the same thing applies to dogs. Probiotics add friendly bacteria to your dog's digestive system to help him/her break down food and absorb nutrients better. Some dog foods have probiotics added to them. Because my dogs' food has a probiotic in it, I keep Herbsmith Microflora on-hand for upset stomachs, but as the canine flu was spreading through the Chicagoland area I added it to their diet for an extra boost to their immune system. I also add it to their diet during the warmer months when lawn care pesticide usage is at its highest.
Essential OilsRecently I started to explore essential oils for the humans and dogs in our family. I have always loved holistic remedies for many things, particularly preventative/maintenance uses and non-life threatening medical issues. and this is the same approach I use for my dogs. As with any of the things that I am doing to benefit my own dogs, please make sure you ask your own vet before starting something new with your own dog and make sure you use high quality pure essential oils. Frankincense oil is sometimes referred to as the "king of the essential oils" for its array of benefits. One of the benefits is believed to be a positive impact on the immune system. This is one of the oils that is safe for use with dogs, although it is extremely important to remember that a dog's sense of smell is substantially stronger than ours so you can dilute the oil if applying topically. I like to mix about a tablespoon of Fractionated Coconut Oil and around 6 drops of Frankincense oil and place a few drops of that mixture on Jackson and Tinkerbell's back in the same method that you would use if you were applying a topical flea or tick preventative, on their shoulder blades directly to their skin. You can also add in a few drops of Lavender oil for the soothing and calming benefits.
Here are some of the things that I found.This is an extraordinarily small sampling of the information available online.September 4, 1991: Lawn Herbicide Called Cancer Risk for Dogs, NY Times In this article the New York Times shares the results of a study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in which researchers found that dogs were two times as likely to develop lymphoma when their owners "sprayed or sprinkled the 2,4-D herbicide on the lawn four or more times a year."
Watch for my next blog on www.lovelaughwoof.com to read about the measures that we take in our home to protect Jackson and Tinkerbell from the impact of potentially deadly lawn care products from neighboring lawns and parks.
Click here to view my infographic: PDF Promoting a Healthy Immune System for your Pet V2which includes tips for promoting a strong immune system for your dog, from feeding an alkaline diet like Canine Caviar holistic pet food, providing filtered water and plenty of fun and exercise to supplements to consider. Please remember to always partner with your veterinarian with food changes, exercise changes or supplements.