Thursday, January 17, 2013

Winter Advisory

The Richmond area is currently under a winter weather advisory.  They're calling for 2-5" of snow and some areas could see more.  For some people, this is nothing (and admittedly after living in MN for 4 years, I think people are overreacting), but regardless about how you feel about the weather, your dog may need to take some extra precautions.  So, I'm going to take a break for the Questions series today, and I'm going to give y'all some winter weather pointers.

The Paws
There are many things during winter weather that can affect the paws.  The storm that's being predicted has been preceded by lots of rain.  Rain can freeze and turn to ice.  Ice can cut paws.  Trust me, I've seen it happen, and it's not pretty. 

Another thing that can affect the paws is rock salt.  You know?  The stuff that's put down to help melt the ice on sidewalks and driveways.  Most dogs are actually quite sensitive to this stuff, and if their paws have any sort of cut or abrasion on them, the salt can really hurt.  So, it's important to protect their feet.

When looking at different types of foot protection, really any sort of booty will do.  You don't HAVE to spend lots of money on a luxurious boot, particularly if you're just taking your dog out to pee or out to the car.  However, if you're doing more adventuresome things, or if your dog is one who really wants to play in the snow, it might benefit you to go with something a little more high end.

My favorite form of boot is from RuffWear.  Personally I have a pair of their Grip Trex, and they work great.  They have other options for dogs going through deeper snow, but this is fantastic protection from snow and ice, and the hard Vibram sole helps my dogs to grip and keeps them from slipping.  Bonus: You can use them on more than just snowy days.  They're also great for hiking or even just terrain that's a little harder on the paws.

The Cold
Obviously, cold on these days can be a factor, and cold-weather needs will vary from dog to dog.  My two dogs, Cody and Lollie, have very different needs.  Cody can go outside without any protective gear, but he does need to be monitored.  Then, when he comes in, we have to make sure we dry him off and wrap him in blankets to keep his body temperature from dropping.  Lollie, on the other hand, gets cold just thinking about bad weather, so she needs some extra stuff.
To order a sweater for your dog, follow this link.

For just running around town and keeping warm indoors, Lollie has a simple sweater.  Of course, like people clothes, no two sweaters are created equally.  After trying a few options, I've fallen in love with the sweaters from West Paw Design.  They look nice, they're comfortable on her, and they keep her warm.  Plus, they're eco-friendly, so what more could you ask for?

For more extended periods of time out, we actually have a full-blown coat. There are a variety out there, but the one that works best for Lollie is from Canine Styles.  It's actually a mini horse blanket, so it keeps her warm, it's easy to put on, and it's comfortable.  The only downside is that it's dry clean only, but that's a sacrifice I'm willing to make.

Small Dogs
Of course, small dogs have one issue that big dogs don't.  The snow is often over their heads!!!  For a small dog, or a dog who doesn't like his belly to hit the cold, you may need to clear a potty space.  This means get out the shovel, and dig a path from your door to your yard.  Make sure this space stay clear for your dog and scoop any think your dog may leave behind.  Also be careful as you scoop.  Continued scooping may cause the snow to pack, leaving it slick and difficult to maneuver.  To add extra grip to this surface (or to human walk ways as well), try pouring some non-clumping kitty litter on top.  The kitty litter is safe for dog's paws, and it won't degrade your walk way like salt will.  Yay!!

Other Hazards
Other things to look out for are things we use to keep us warm and safe.  Think antifreeze, fireplaces, etc.  Keep your dog far away from antifreeze as it apparently tastes sweet, but is extremely toxic.  Fireplaces can be quite a burn hazards, so if your dog likes to warm up next to the fire, make sure there's a grate to keep embers from rolling out and harming your dog.  Of course, also make sure that your dog doesn't try to fetch those sticks you're throwing in the fire!

All in all, by paying attention to your pet and by using a bit of common sense, you should be able to keep your dog safe, happy, and healthy.  By taking a few precautions, both you and your pet can have a lot of fun outside!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Questions: The Breeder

Recently, I've been asked by quite a few people my position on breeders and purebred dogs versus.  And then I received this question:

I recently purchased a Maltese from a local pet shop.  The Maltese is very cute and has great features, and people have mentioned that I should breed him or stud him out.  What do you think?

Well, I have a few questions for you.  Do you know the dog's parents?  Do you know if they had any health issues?  Do you know if they were related?  If your answer to these questions is no, then I'd say don't breed.

If your answer is yes, and the dogs were healthy and unrelated, I have more questions for you.  Do you plan to have both mother and father on site?  Would you breed your dog as a way to promote the breed rather than just as a way to make money?  Are you willing to take a minimum of 8 weeks to care for a litter of puppies?  This means socializing, cleaning up after, vetting, etc.  If your answer to any of these questions is no, then I'd say don't breed.

Here's the thing with breeding: You really have to be dedicated to the cause.  There are so many dogs out there that need a home, bringing more under-socialized, ill-health dogs is not something I'd recommend.  I'm not against breeding dogs, but I do think there are a lot of bad breeders.  Even those with good intentions, even those who don't run puppy mills, can be bad breeders.  These are people who, even though their intentions are good, don't understand the needs of young puppies.  They don't understand the health concerns or the risk to the mother.  They don't understand that a good breeder knows the family history of the pups and what the future health concerns may be.  They don't understand that good breeding is about more than just a cute puppy.  It's also about intelligence and health and attitude.

If you're considering breeding your dog, please keep in mind that you are bringing a living, breathing creature into this world.  This creature has needs, both emotional and physical, and meeting those needs can be difficult.  A good breeder makes breeding a full time job.  The puppies are part of the family, and finding a family requires interviews and a few rejections.

If you're not willing to put that sort of time and commitment into breeding, then it's probably best to steer clear of the whole situation.  If you are willing to put that sort of time, effort, and research into breeding, then you have my blessing.

Remember, if you have a question for Ask The Dog Trainer, feel free to ask on our Facebook page.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Questions: The Picky Eater

Here's another question for Ask The Dog Trainer:

My dog has not been eating.  He doesn't seem sick, and his energy levels are fine, but he will often skip his meals or just have a nibble or two before abandoning it.  My vet says to just leave food down for 20 minutes and then dump it if he has not eaten, but that seems like such a waste.  I've tried warming his food, but that doesn't seem to help either.  What should I do?

This one is actually pretty simple.  Assuming there's nothing physically or psychologically wrong with your dog (and sense you've asked your vet about this, I'm going to assume there's not), your dog is simply not hungry.

Here's the thing, while some dogs may eat every meal like they're starving and this bit of mushed, compressed chicken is the best thing they've ever seen, many dogs are much more discerning.  Plenty of dogs self regulate how much they eat, and if they're not hungry, they will simply ignore their food.  So, how do we handle this?

Well, I hate to tell you this, but your vet was right.  By leaving food down for him for as long as it takes him to eat it, you are, in fact, encouraging him to take his time with his meal.  You're also allowing him to self reward whenever he feels like it, and that can cause some other behavioral issues.  Look at it this way, most people tend to follow a general schedule when we eat.  We have a certain amount of time for breakfast in the morning, we have a lunch break in the afternoon, and, while dinner can sometimes drag on for a while, there's normally a pretty set beginning and end.  The same should hold true for your dog.

To encourage your dog to eat on your schedule, try the following:
- Feed at regular times in the morning and in the evening (younger dogs may also need a midday meal).
- Feed smaller meals.  If your dog is still full from breakfast, he won't want dinner.
- Limit the amount of time your dog has to eat.  Of course, if he's continuously eating, but is just a VERY slow chewer, don't steal his food.  Just pick it up if he's abandoned it.

Over time, your dog may or may not learn to eat his food right when you set it down.  If he does, great!  If he doesn't, don't stress.  He's not going to starve, and as long as he's physically healthy, missing a meal won't hurt him.

Oh, and if you're concerned about the waste of tossing uneaten food, try switching to dry food.  That will last a little longer than canned or wet food.

Good luck!