Traveling With Your Dog

August 31, 2011

With pet-friendly hotels, cabins, and resort spots popping up all over the map, traveling with your best friend has never been easier. But while jetting off without planning in advance sounds romantic, it can cause sticky situations if your dog is along for the ride.

Practice first

In any endeavor, practice makes perfect. Your angel of a dog could turn into a devil in transit if you embark on a lengthy trip without preparing properly. But with a little advance work, you can help your pup learn to take travel in stride.

  • Acclimate your dog to his carrier or crate. Set the carrier up in the comfort of home well in advance, to help your dog view it as a safe and familiar den that’s just his. Be sure the carrier’s big enough so your dog can stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably.
  • Stick to day trips at first. This is especially helpful for a puppy who hasn’t been away from home much. A Saturday visit to an unfamiliar locale can help your dog get used to exploring new terrain and meeting new people.
  • Try an overnight trip next. Once he’s used to short journeys, arrange to spend a night with a friend or relative, or go to a pet-friendly hotel. This will introduce your dog to a variety of potentially anxiety-producing situations, such as sleeping in a new place, meeting strangers, and dealing with the odd noises of a different household or a hotel.

Cats and Exercise

August 29, 2011

Cats have short attention spans, so putting them on an exercise program doesn’t take a lot of time. Keep sessions short. Two to five minutes a few times a day is plenty. And remember that cats are nocturnal. They’ll be more interested in playing once the sun goes down. Most important, introduce exercise gently and gradually. Obese cats can injure their joints if you try to get them to do too much too quickly. Hold off on the jumping and stair running until your cat has lost some weight.

So how can you end your cat’s life in the fat lane? Cats are predators, so key in on their ability and desire to stalk and chase. Look for toys and treats that will encourage him to chase or bat at objects. Think electronic mice, balls that light up when they move, laser pointers and catnip-filled toys that make a crinkling sound when pounced on. If your tastes are simpler, toss a Ping Pong ball in the bathtub to simulate a feline hockey rink.

Aim the laser down the hall, up and down the stairs, onto the furniture or up the wall for a little vertical action. Beyond the basic red dot, some laser pointers can produce different images, including butterflies, mice and stars. Be careful not to shine it in your cat’s eyes.

Wand- and fishing pole-type toys are favorites, too. Some fishing-pole toys mimic the real thing, with a fly reel that has a catnip-stuffed mouse attached at the end. Cast it down the hall, reel it in, and watch your cat go wild chasing it.

Cats are climbers. Put up a floor-to-ceiling cat tree that gives your cat a view of the outdoors, or install window box bird feeders that encourage the cat to jump onto the windowsill.

If your cat yawns at toys, appeal to his self-interest: food and its whereabouts.

During hot, dry summer days, the risk of wildfires that threaten communities and individual homes reaches its peak. If you live in a vulnerable area, you can significantly cut the risk of becoming a victim by clearing all flammable brush and other vegetation within 50 to 100 feet around your home and by cutting off tree limbs that overhang your roof.

Because sparks, glowing embers and smoke can be wind-borne, you need to ensure your neighbors are savvy about the risks too. Maybe you share common areas that you can clear together. In fact, it’s a good idea for whole communities to organize a fire defense plan that includes other nearby property and an effective way of communicating and acting together if the worst happens – because you won’t have time to think of it then.

If you’re unfortunate enough to be trapped by fire, call 911 and stay outdoors, ideally on a road or bare land. If you can’t get outside, close doors and windows and stay away from outside walls. If you’re in a car, close windows and get on the floor. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers advice at 1-800-621-FEMA or

According to Insurance Journal, dog bites cost the insurance industry over $412 million dollars in 2009 and has risen 30% in the past 6 years.  They also state that individual dog bite claims cost about $25,000. More than 4.7 million people in the United States are bitten by dogs annually, and nearly 900,000 of those, half of them children, require medical care, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Of those injured, 386,000 require treatment in an emergency department and about 16 die.

As care-givers to animals, it is important to know the three most common types of laws that impose liability on owners:

1. Dog-bite statute: The dog owner is automatically liable for any injury or property damage the dog causes, even without provocation.

2.  “One-bite” rule: In some states, the owner is not held liable for the first bite the dog inflicts. Once an animal has demonstrated vicious behavior, such as biting or otherwise displaying a “vicious propensity,” the owner can be held liable. Some states have moved away from the one-bite rule and hold owners responsible for any injury, regardless of whether the animal has previously bitten someone.

3.  Negligence laws: The dog owner is liable if the injury occurred because he or she was unreasonably careless (negligent) in controlling the dog.

A dog owner who is legally responsible for an injury to a person or property may be responsible for reimbursing the injured person for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and property damage.  Also, as an animal welfare organization, you could also be held responsible if the dog bites a member of its new family and the family shows that you knew that the dog was aggressive but did not inform them of this.

In order to prevent this from occurring, it is important to do temperament testing on a dog to provide the best placement for their future homes.  This is a good way to see if the dog exhibits aggressive tendencies and their personality traits.

The Partnership for Animal Welfare says that this effort can result in:

  • Identifying potential problems.
  • Allowing shelters to address problems through behavior modification and training sessions.
  • Information that helps shelter and rescue people make better matches between dogs and their potential owners.
  • Increases the potential for successful adoptions.

According to Community Animal Rescue Effort (C.A.R.E.), temperament testing can be performed by veterinarians, trainers, and other pet professionals trained in temperament testing.  The animals should ideally be given at least three days in the shelter to adjust to its surroundings before given a temperament test for a more accurate test result.  Also, forms should be used to record results of these tests and be included in the adoption packet of the animal.  The American Temperament Test Society, Inc. recommends that dogs should be about 18 months old before a temperament test is performed.

The organization should have established guidelines to give staff some direction as to which types of events are reportable and the procedures for doing so.  A written policy should also identify those events which would be considered critical events and might require a more extensive follow-up.

The following list of reportable events, while not all inclusive, should be considered:

  • Falls (both staff and visitor)
  • Burns
  • Medication errors
  • Unplanned absence of caregiver
  • Animal elopement
  • Volunteer or caregiver to perform procedure as taught
  • Mishaps due to faulty equipment
  • Mishaps due to misuse of equipment (user error)
  • Alleged theft
  • Failure of staff to report accident-causing hazard in facility
  • Breakage or damage to personal property
  • Abuse/neglect of animal
  • Failure to respond in a timely fashion to request for assistance, information, or treatment
  • Complaints
  • Thefts of organization equipment, such as laptops
  • Security incidents
  • Motor vehicle accidents

Marketing is everything.  I know we often think when operating a shelter, rescue, humane society, SPCA or the like that marketing is the last thing on the agenda; however, the reality is it should be the first thing on the agenda every day.  Marketing can make the difference in if or how fast an animal (s) is adopted out.

Dad just sent me an email about a very wise man, Mike Arms, President of Helen Woodward Animal Center in San Diego, CA.  Mike was speaking at the New Mexico Humane Conference and his topic focused a great deal on marketing the animals and using the media.  Yes, it takes some creativity and thinking outside the box.  As an example Mike’s shelter had been contacted to pick-up a 6-year-old Rottweiler and her 6 new born puppies.  When these wonderful canines arrived at the shelter, the volunteer said how are we going to adopt a 6 year Rottweiler?  Mike said, we aren’t, so the headline for these new mother and her 6 puppies read: 63-year-old gives birth to Sextuplets”.  Now that’s thinking outside the box.  Mike and his team are very good at this.  In another situation a few months back if you will recall, Charlie Sheen and his 2 girlfriends were all over the news and media.  Well a male and 2 female pups had been dropped at the shelter and the team decided to take advantage of the media hype at the time and named the male Charlie and the females after Charlie’s girlfriends.  The sent a news release to all the local media to the effect of “You had the stories on Charlie and his girlfriends, but we got to neuter Charlie”.  They even think outside the box when marketing their fundraisers and events from having volunteers dress as Santa around Christmas and deliver the new puppy or kitten to the home to a Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon.  Take a look at their website at

You need to also change the public’s perception of who you are and what you do.  This starts by not under valuing your services.  Many organizations charge minimal and sometimes nothing when an animal is surrendered.  We need to make the public aware of the cost involved in the shelter taking the pet and make them accountable.  One suggestion is to pull out an invoice and begin listing with values what they are asking of you when they surrender their pet to you:

  •  Love my pet                                                        $ Invaluable
  • Provide medical care for pet                               $ 150.00
  • Provide food for pet                                             $   20.00
  • Provide shelter for pet                                        $ 100.00
  • Screen potential adopters for pet                      $  50.00

Total Cost for services                                       $ 320.00


Special price for the love of animals       $ 200.00

Of course if they bulk at this, you don’t want them to walk away with the pet, so, now they know the cost to you, perhaps ask can you give some kind of donation to help offset our expenses?

Wow, and that is just from one session at the conference.  I can’t wait till dad provides some additional information on the others.

Oh, and by the way, Thanks for all you do for the animals!


Sky Barrick

Ages & Stages

August 19, 2011

From bouncing baby pup to elderly matriarch, your dog will express different needs–and tender a range of rewards–at each stage of her life. Puppies are demanding and energetic, adolescents unpredictable. Adult dogs are eager and self-assured, and by the time they’re seniors, they will have slowed to a comfortably lazy pace.

As with human relationships, ups and downs are guaranteed throughout your years together, but knowing what to expect will keep you one step ahead of the pack. During your dog’s life, she will:

  • Upset you–or, at the very least, frustrate you. House training is no picnic, nor is cleaning up vomit or finding your slippers chewed beyond recognition. Even if your puppy never misbehaves (ha!), her never-ending need for you will sometimes feel overwhelming.
  • Surprise you. Your Australian Shepherd loves agility training. Your Doberman can bark her name. Or your Cocker Spaniel actually draws a smile from the grumpy neighbor across the street. Sometimes, you’ll just be astonished by your adolescent dog’s endless desire to please you.
  • Bring you incredible joy. She doesn’t care whether you made your sales goals or how good you look for your high school reunion. Your dog is thrilled simply to be around you–and she’ll demonstrate those feelings on a regular basis.
  • And probably grief. No matter how long she lives, saying goodbye to a treasured friend is difficult. If it weren’t, the relationship wouldn’t be worth it.

How long each stage lasts

On average, smaller dogs mature faster and live longer than larger breeds; bigger dogs mature later and generally know shorter spans of adulthood and senior citizenship. That said, every dog develops and ages at her own rate. The following is a rough breakdown of the stages of canine life:

  • Puppyhood ends between six and 18 months of age.
  • Adolescence starts between six and 18 months of age.
  • Adulthood starts between 12 months and three years of age.
  • The senior years begin between six and 10 years of age.

Keep in mind

Dogs are as individual as people; there’s no hard-and-fast rule for what she’ll do and when she’ll do it. If you treat your dog with the love and respect she deserves, what you can count on in return is devotion, adoration, and a mistake or two along the way as the two of you learn to communicate across the human-canine divide.

Bottom line: Dogs age at different speeds, with large dogs generally maturing more slowly than small dogs. But timing aside, they all go through the same stages: energetic puppyhood, unpredictable adolescence, the relatively smooth ride of adulthood, and the slower, lazier senior years.

Day Care for Your Dog

August 17, 2011

Congratulations. You’ve chosen to add a needy, vulnerable, opposable thumb-less member to your family. Of course, you intend to give her the best life possible, and this means plenty of mental and physical exercise as well as lots of opportunities to play, sniff, and explore.

After all, dogs are sentient, thinking beings–pack animals who don’t do well left alone all day. But the fact is, your own life doesn’t stop when Buffy arrives; you’ve still got to go to work and bring home the bacon (or at least the bacon flavored treats).

Fortunately, there are some very practical solutions for keeping your dog stimulated (as opposed to chewing, digging, and barking) when you’re not home.

Day care

While its mere existence may seem like an extravagance (or a marketing scheme aimed at people with way too much disposable income), doggie day care is actually a legitimate service. In some cases, it’s an absolute necessity, alleviating boredom and offering essential human and canine interaction for dogs who would otherwise spend long days alone. While not a substitute for the quality time your dog needs with you, day care goes a long way toward keeping your dog happy and out of trouble.

Walkers and sitters

Those who roll their eyes about your decision to put your dog in day care may be a little more understanding when you tell them you’re hiring a dog walker. No one can argue with the fact that dogs need exercise or–even more indisputable–that they need to pee. And a good walker offers more than just a walk and a bathroom break: She provides companionship, positive reinforcement, and a safe and rigorous workout. For a puppy or older dog, hiring someone to simply come over and pet, talk to, and see that your dog gets an outdoor break is well worth the investment.

Adopt a Dog

August 15, 2011

If you want to feel like you’ve made a real difference as a dog owner, adopt a dog from a shelter or rescue group. There are few other ways to make such a huge difference in another creature’s life.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) estimates that six to eight million dogs and cats are surrendered to shelters each year. Of those animals, about half are adopted, and half are euthanized. There are simply more dogs than there are good homes for them (one reason why spaying and neutering is so important).

Some people steer clear of shelters or rescues because they believe the dogs there aren’t good dogs. Nothing could be further from the truth.

  • While many dogs are surrendered for behavior problems, the vast majority of those problems could have been prevented, and can be treated, with training, attention, and exercise.
  • Many dogs are surrendered because of a family’s change in circumstances–a move, financial loss, illness, blending of families–and not because of the dog.
  • Some people don’t realize how much time and work puppies, and even adult dogs, require and become fed up with the responsibility.

You can find a good fit for your home by carefully evaluating a shelter dog or puppy and introducing him to every person who lives with you.

Your Dog’s Health

August 11, 2011

Those without dogs often jokingly equate dog owners’ concern for their pets to that of a new parent. “Well, of course,” any dog lover will tell you. The love can be overpowering, the worry and anxiety is every bit as real, as is the frustration that your little one can’t tell you when something’s wrong.

When it comes to keeping your dog healthy, the most important first step is the right attitude. A healthy pet requires more than a yearly visit to the vet for shots and a checkup. Health, as with humans, depends on some basic building blocks.

Feed him well

Why bother feeding your dog high quality food? While dog nutrition is still a young science, a growing number of people believe good nutrition can lead to better health and a longer life for your dog. It’s more expensive but you don’t have to fill your dog’s bowl with as much of it because of its higher density. Here’s something else to think about: Cheap food produces more backyard waste thanks to all those fillers!

Exercise him daily

Even “couch potato” breeds require regular activity to stay fit, and a daily walk is a minimum requirement for any dog. Active breeds, such as Weimaraners, need multiple chances to exercise each day. Not giving your dog enough exercise almost guarantees a pet who’s destructive and unhappy.

Keep life interesting

Dogs need to be mentally challenged to feel life is good, just as people do. So toss him a ball or frisbee, teach him new tricks and regularly run him through old ones, introduce him to other dogs and people, and take him to new places. If your dog is game, and you are too, you might want to try agility training.

A fit mind requires exercise, just like a fit body. Your dog will no doubt remind you of this the first time he shows up carrying his leash.

Practice health maintenance

Treat your dog as you would any other member of your family. Find a good vet and make sure he’s up to date on his shots. Give him monthly heartworm and flea medications. Learn how to brush your dog’s teeth. Brush and bathe him often.

Prepare to spend $$

When you first stare into your new furry friend’s eyes, it’s hard to imagine anything but sunny romps through the park. So the reality of caring for a pet may come as a shock to many dog owners, and never more so than in the first year when costs can range from $800 to well into the thousands.

The expenses are one reason as many as half of all dogs adopted as puppies are surrendered in the first year of their life. So be sure to ask yourself before you get a dog whether you’re ready to spend what it takes.