Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Halloween: a few safety tips for your pet

My Dog's Scout Costume

With Halloween quickly approaching, I just wanted to highlight some safety tips for our pets:

Bring your pets indoors—even if your pet is used to being outdoors, bring your cats and dogs indoors. Unfortunately, animals can be the target of pranks and teasing during Halloween, especially black cats.

Keep your pet in a safe room —little children and energetic teenagers dressed up as goblins, pirates, scarecrows or the Grim Reaper may be a bit too much for our furry friends, especially if they are on the fearful side. Sometimes, it is best to have our pets in a safe room (covered crate, a gated-off area or a back bedroom) with a stuffed Kong or bully stick. With the door constantly opening and closing, we want to make sure our pets do not accidentally run out the door.  So, keeping them in a safe room will prevent accidental escapes.

Make sure your dog has an I.D. tag and is microchipped - during the holidays is when a lot of lost pets are turned into shelters.  Pets can accidentally run out of the door either because of fear or someone carelessly leaving the door open.  Microchipping has saved many pets lives and resulted in happy returns. 

Make sure your dog knows how to "wait" behind the door or keep your dog on a leash - If your dog is going to be loose in your home (I prefer using a safe room), make sure he/she understands the cue for “waiting” behind the door and can handle seeing people in costumes. Keep your dog on a leash to prevent darting out the door. If he/she shows any signs of stress, anxiety, or aggression, put your dog in a safe room.  Pet gates are another good option. 

Keep your pet at home—Although it is tempting to have your dog go trick or treating with the kids, with so many strange looking people out and about, it can scare your dog. Your dog may panic and get loose or react negatively and nip a costumed stranger trying to pet him/her.

Go on Candy Patrol—often the day after Halloween, I find candy and cellophane wrappers on my porch and front yard. Make sure you check your home and front yard for stray candy so that your pet does not accidentally swallow it. Raisins and chocolate can be toxic to dogs as well as the artificial sweetener, xylitol found in chewing gum and other sugarless candies.

Beware of Jack-O-Lanterns & Candles—sometimes our pets are a little clueless about fire. Happy dogs with big wagging tails or cats jumping on a table can knock over a candle.   Also young animals may be overly curious and burn themselves.  Keeping your dog in a safe room can prevent these mishaps.

Some dogs hate costumes—while cute, some dogs are not very tolerant of costumes and can get cranky and snappy. If your dog looks stressed, unhappy or uncomfortable, take it off.  Here is a primer on dog body language so that you can identify the more common canine stress signals.  

A bandana is as much as my dog can handle. A costume would put her in a very foul mood.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Summer Heat Wave - Keeping your pups cool

3 Hot, Sleepy Dogs - heat will make your dogs more lethargic than usual.

We are having a prolonged heat wave here in Southern California and many people who live near the coast do not have central AC.  Imagine having a fur coat and dealing with this heat.  Here are a few tips to keep your pets a little more comfortable in this heat:

1)  Walk your pets in the early morning or after the sun goes down.  Not only is it cooler but the pavement won't burn the pads of their feet.  My last post reviewed how to test the pavement to make sure it is safe for your dogs.   Avoid hiking during a heat wave so that you do not expose your dog to the risk of heat exhaustion.

Walk your pet in the early AM or evening to keep them cool and protect their paws.

2)  Evaporative Cooling - I will wet down the fur between the shoulder blades and back of the neck to help cool down my dog via evaporative cooling.  If you set up a fan, dogs will sleep in front of the fan to enhance this effect.

3)  Freeze a partially filled water bottle - wrap it up in a towel and place it near your dog.  Often they will sleep against it or use it as a pillow.  Senior dogs may not be able to tolerate the heat as well as younger dogs.

Kiku is sleeping against a frozen water bottle wrapped with a towel.

4)  Raised loungers - raised bed or loungers can help with air circulation.  And, many dogs like sleeping on them when it is hot.  The lounger in the picture below is from Doggie Loungers.

5) Hydration - it goes without saying that you want to make sure your pet is well-hydrated.  Keep extra bowls of water out if you are going to be out of the house for long periods of time.

Do you have any other tips you would like to share.  Post them below.  Happy Training!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Hot Weather Tips - Have You Done the Barefoot Test?

On hot summer days I often see people walking their dogs on the sidewalk and asphalt in the middle of the day.   I often cringe when I see this because the pavement can heat up significantly and because we humans wear shoes, we often don't realize how hot the pavement is.  


I often have to work with clients using my dog, Kiku, as a decoy dog and I will not schedule sessions in the middle of the day because I fear the sidewalk and black asphalt will burn her pads.  

I will often do what I call the barefoot test and put my barefoot on the asphalt to test out how hot it is. This last weekend the temperature in my neighborhood reached 88 degrees F.  I did the barefoot test on my street and I could hold my foot on the pavement for only a few seconds because it was so hot.

At 88 degrees my foot started burning after a few seconds.

Avoid Peak Heat Hours - avoid peak hours by walking your dog early in the morning and in evening.  Even then you may want to do the barefoot test because the sidewalk may still retain heat from earlier in the day.  This test applies to all hard surfaces  cement, asphalt and gravel.

Watch for signs that your dog is under distress:  limping, licking feet, whimpering, walking gingerly, trying to get to the grass, lying down in the shade.

Puppy foot pads are more delicate - if you have a puppy, their feet are more delicate because the pads have not yet developed tough callouses.  Be extra careful during the period when your puppy is in this phase.  

Check your dogs pads for cracks, blisters, bleeding or burns.  If you find any injuries, wash the wound with soap and water and take your dog to the vet for further treatment.  

Check all hard surfaces including gravel.  Here is a hot Kiku trying to get some shade

So this summer be mindful of your dog overheating and burning those cute doggy feet.