Pet Safety Tips: Labor Day Advice For Keeping Dogs And Cats Safe

Labor Day always feels like the last hurrah of summer. Sure, many kids are already back in school and the real last day of summer is still a couple of weeks away, but in backyards and parks, on balconies and patios, grills are being readied and tables are being set. It’s time for one final summer party.

Labor Day weekend is no time to ignore the hazards of summer. As with many other holidays, the long Labor Day weekend promises to be a busy one at veterinary emergency centers. Keeping your pet safe, though, is easy to do. This year, spend your Labor Day celebrating another great summer — not patching up an injured pet.

Prevent an Escape – 
While nothing tops the Fourth of July when it comes to lost pets (fireworks send many pets fleeing every year), any time you break from routine, you up the risk of a pet escape. If you’re having guests over to the house, particularly younger kids, they may not be as careful about closing doors and gates as you are. And when you’re busy entertaining, it’s easy to overlook that your pet has gotten out. Visiting someone else’s home with your pet? You might not notice right away that the dog you thought was by your side isn’t there any longer.

We are not suggesting you leave your pet at home if he’s welcome at the party, or lock him up when company comes over. But do check that your pet is wearing a collar with ID (and license, if required) — or better yet, ID and a microchip, with current contact information. Keep your dog on leash in crowded parks or other open areas, and give someone else the task of keeping doors and gates closed if you’ll busy welcoming guests or manning the grill. A lost pet — or one hit by a car while roaming after escape — is a tragedy that can often be prevented.

Avoid Food Dangers –
 If your dog is the type to steal food off the table, warn your guests to be extra careful with their plates. Even if your dog has the manners of a saint, make sure guests know not to give your pet any food without permission (this is even more important if your pet is on a restricted diet for weight loss or a health issue). Keep an eye on the trash: Leftover fat from meat, juice-soaked strings from roasts, leftover bones and even corn cobs can have you and your pets at the E.R. in no time flat. Even if your pet gets off easy, your carpets may not be so lucky, since even mild cases of stomach upset can cause vomiting and diarrhea.

But an upset tummy isn’t the only concern when pets eat things they shouldn’t. Poison-control experts say medications — both prescription and over-the-counter — are one of the top dangers to pets. If you have stay-over guests, make sure they know to put any medications in a closed drawer or behind a cabinet door. Keep guests’ purses and bags closed and put away as well, to prevent pets from gobbling candies or gum sweetened with xylitol, which is toxic. Finally, if you’ve worked your yard over to make it gorgeous for one last outdoor bash, make sure any pesticides or herbicides (or lighter fluid, for that matter) are safely put away where pets can’t get to them.

Beat the Heat
 – While the stores may already be filled with cold-weather gear, Labor Day is still a hot holiday. Keep your guard up when it comes to keeping pets cool. No running into the store for “just a few minutes” with the dog in the car, and no heat-of-the-day outdoor exercise, especially for short-nosed or elderly dogs, who can overheat very quickly. Watch for signs of overheating — such as rapid panting and glassy eyes; apply cool water to the belly and groin for first aid to a hot pet while you head for the vet. (But don’t use ice-cold water, which can lock in body heat.)

Swimming is often part of the last bash of the season, and it may well be just the cool ticket for pets and people alike. But again, use common sense: Don’t let pets swim unattended, and don’t be shy about putting a life vest on your pet. That’s true even with an older dog who used to swim with the enthusiasm of Michael Phelps; if he gets tired in the water, he can find himself in serious trouble without a flotation device.

With just a little preparation, some simple oversight and a lot of common sense, your pet will be safe on this holiday and all others. And that’s the way we like it!

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10 Easy Games You Can Play With Your Cat

Playing with your cat brings many benefits both for your cat and you. Games provide cats with mental stimulation and exercise which they need just as much as we do. Playing with your cat also helps you bond with them and builds trust and affection. Here are ten easy games that you and your feline companions can enjoy playing day after day after day:

  • You will need only one object for this game: a ping pong ball. It’s self-explanatory, really. You bounce the pingpong ball on the floor or against a wall and watch your cat bounce along with it. I’ve done this many times and have ended up laughing at the many odd ways my cats can twist and contort their bodies just to get a swipe at the little orange ball.
  • Crumple a piece of paper, roll it across the floor, and watch what happens. There’s something about the sound crumpled paper makes that they just cannot resist. Be sure to keep the ball of paper when you’re done playing though or you’ll have confetti everywhere the next day.
  • Cut about two feet of yarn or ribbon and drag it across the bed or floor. Your cats’ eyes will literally bulge out of their heads when they see the alluring piece of string and they’ll bolt right for it.
  • Hide one of your hands under the blanket and wiggle them so that the blanket moves. Your cats will think there’s a mouse under the covers and dive right for it. Move your hand around so they have room to pounce.
  • Play hide and seek. Hide behind a couch, bed, desk, anything. Cats will stalk you as if you’re their prey. Be alert though, cats are crafty. They’ll be right overhead or underfoot before you know it.
  • Play newspaper dance. You know how to play this game, right? You put a sheet or two of newspaper on the floor, but instead of you stepping on it, put your cat on top of it and entice him with your fingers wiggling under the newspaper. He’ll fall in love with the crinkly newspaper at first pounce. You can also blow a little air so the edges of the newspaper fly up a bit. Your cat won’t know which corner to attack first.
  • Play “tag”. Run and they will chase after you. It’s very good exercise for cats
  • This one isn’t really exercise, but it’s lots of fun. Sit in front of the computer with your cat on your lap facing the screen. Find an interesting video, watch it together, and see how your cat likes it.
  • Put a large paper bag on the floor and stand back. Your cats will gravitate to it like moths to a flame. Once they jump in it, gently poke the sides of the paper bag with your fingers. The cat inside will have a grand old time trying to catch your fingers.
  • If you don’t mind your possessions getting misplaced, leave your bag open on your bed and watch your curious cats try to find out what’s inside it.

Now aren’t all these games easy and fun?

 

 


 

 

 

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BEYOND FETCH: 10 OTHER GAMES TO PLAY WITH YOUR DOG

Dog owners can agree that while having a dog is a lot of work, it is also a ton of fun. But just like kids, coming up with games to play with your pooch can be difficult. The good news is that there are countless ways to entertain your canine outside the game of fetch. Not only are these activities extremely fun for both pet owners and pup participants, they also allow family members to bond with their pets in addition to helping them increase agility, mental alertness and sociability. Here are 10 simple and entertaining games that you never thought to play with your dog.

1. Blanket Hurdles

While buying an outdoor agility course for your pooch would be ideal, not all of us have the money or space for it. Be creative and make a simple obstacle course inside your home with the help of a few everyday objects, like a couple of old blankets (or towels, whichever you prefer). Clear out enough space in the living room so your dog can run freely without hurting himself or your valuables. Place one or two rolled-up blankets on the ground (depending on how tall or agile your dog is). Walk your dog through the course and have him hop over the blanket a couple of times. Once he’s got the hang of it, ask him to stay at one end of the room and then call him from the other. He’ll use the rolled-up blankets as a fun and safe hurdle. If you find that your dog is an expert at this game, mix it up and use a few more rolled-up blankets throughout his “course.”

2. Hide and Seek

This childhood game isn’t just reserved for the human kids. Your pup can partake in the fun, too. Find one of your dog’s favorite toys or grab a handful of treats. Have your dog sit and stay in one room. Then, go and hide in another. Once you’ve situated yourself in a good hiding place, call your dog. When she finds you, reward her enthusiastically with treats and praise. This game will work both her brains and her senses.

3. Doggy Treat Hunt

It doesn’t have to be Easter for your dog to play this egg-hunt-inspired game. Grab his favorite smelly treats, either alone or stuffed inside a treat-holding toy, and hide them around the living room or backyard. Make sure your canine companion is in another room so he doesn’t see or smell the secret hiding spots. Then invite your dog into the room or backyard and watch him sniff away.

4. Tug of War

This game may seem basic, but it can be really beneficial for your pooch. Not only does it help her release her inner canine aggression, but it can also be a way for you to teach her how to “get it” and “let go,” all while getting in a good exercise. Try to teach your dog not to grab the toy until you say so. Do this by rewarding her for staying while you leave the toy on the ground. Once she has that down, move on to the action word “get it!” This will teach her that she is allowed to grab the toy. Now you can initiate the game. Next, your dog must learn how to let go. Let go of the toy and say “let go.” Once your dog releases the toy, reward her immediately. Keep practicing this as it’s probably the trickiest command a dog can learn in this game. Once she has that down, put them all together and have a fun and educational game of tug of war.

5.  The Name Game

You may not think your dog can actually understand you, but he totally can. The key to word recognition is practice, practice, practice. Start off simple using two of your dog’s favorite toys. Give them each a name. Make sure there are no other toys in the room to distract him. Now, call out the name of each toy. Try to keep the names basic, like “bear” or “cat.” Say the name of one of the toys and throw it so he can fetch it. Repeat this a few times. Next, do the same with the other toy. Once you think your dog knows the name of both the toys, put them both on the ground and ask him to fetch one of them. Reward him with treats and praise every time he gets it right. Repeat this until you are certain your dog knows the names. If you have an extremely intelligent dog who easily gets both of the toys’ names, try introducing a few more to his vocabulary.

6. Simon Says

This game is great for dogs who already know the basics: sit, stay, down, roll over, shake, etc. Grab some treats and test your dog on his ability to understand command after command. Make sure to mix up the order every once in awhile to really keep your pup on his toes.

7. Round Robin

This fun activity is perfect for a family with children. Every member sits around the room (at least 20 feet from one another) with a handful of treats. Then, every person will take turns calling out their dog’s name. Every time the dog comes, he should be rewarded with treats and praise. When he has accomplished the game indoors, try taking it outside and spread out even further from one another!

8. Frisbee Toss

Any dog can catch a tennis ball, but what about a Frisbee? It truly takes agility and concentration for a pup to learn how to catch one of these flying discs. If your dog doesn’t innately know to jump and catch the Frisbee in the air, start off small. Roll the Frisbee on the ground towards your dog. After getting over the strange object, he will instinctually want to grab it in his mouth. Once you’ve accomplished this, try tossing it — at a very low level first — to your dog. If you feel like your dog is ready to go to the next level, toss the disc a little higher and further, and so on and so forth. Frisbee may turn out to be his new favorite game!

9. Doggie Basketball

Grab an empty laundry basket and your dog’s favorite ball. Demonstrate what you would like your dog to do. Drop the ball into the basket while saying “drop.” Make sure your dog is paying attention to this command and the motion. Once you think you’ve done it enough times, pass the ball to your puppy player. Every time he drops the ball into the basket when you say “drop,” reward him enthusiastically. It might take some time for him to learn that the goal is to put the ball into the basket, so coax him with treats. Make sure you emphasize the command “drop!”

10.  Red Light, Green Light

This game is perfect for children and family dogs who know how to “stay” and “come.” All participants, both humans and dog, spread out in an open yard. One person is the game moderator. Instead of saying “red light” and “green light,” the keywords will be “stay” and “come.” The moderator will then call out the commands, which both humans and dog will have to abide by. Be sure to treat your dog after each command.

HAVE FUN!

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11 things humans do that dogs hate

There are many ways you can drive a dog nuts — and you probably aren’t even aware of them. So if you want to be your dog’s best friend, find out how you can fix your annoying habits.

Dogs try to be our best friends, but boy do we ever make it difficult sometimes. Here are some of the things we do that might make dogs question whether they want to remain best buds or cut ties completely.

Using words more than body language

We’re a vocal species. We love to chatter away, even at our pets, who can’t understand the vast majority of what we’re saying. Dogs might be able to deduce what a few key words mean — walk, treat, toy, off — and maybe even learn hundreds of words as some border collies have done. But they can’t understand human language. What they rely on to figure out what we mean is our body language. Dogs have evolved to be expert readers of the human body and can figure out what you’re thinking and feeling before you even realize you’re thinking and feeling it. But we can easily send mixed signals if we are only paying attention to what our mouths are saying and not what our bodies are saying. If you go to any beginning dog training class, you’ll see plenty of people saying one thing, doing another, and a confused dog trying to figure out what in the world is wanted of them. For instance, telling a dog to “stay” while leaning forward toward the dog and holding out a hand like a traffic cop is, in body language, actually inviting the dog to come toward you. But when the dog does, she gets reprimanded for breaking her stay command. It’s all so confusing!

A great experiment (and something that will probably have your dog sighing with relief) is to try to spend a whole day not saying a word to your dog, but communicating only with your body. You’ll realize just how much you “talk” with your body without realizing it, how to use your movements and body position to get the response you need from your dog during training, and how involved a conversation can be without emitting a single sound.

Hugging your dog

While you might love wrapping your arms around a furry canine friend, most dogs hate hugs. We as primates think hugs are awesome and express support, love, joy and other emotions through hugs. It’s totally normal to us to wrap our arms around something and squeeze, and it only means good things. But dogs did not evolve this way. Dogs don’t have arms and they don’t hug. Rather than camaraderie, if a dog places a foreleg or paw on the back of another dog, this is considered an act of dominance. No matter your intentions with hugging, a dog is hardwired to view the act of hugging as you exerting your dominance. Many dogs will tolerate it with grace — the smiling face of the family golden retriever with a child’s arms wrapped around it comes to mind. But some dogs will feel threatened, fearful, or just flat out loathe the feeling — and in fact, a child grabbing a dog for a hug is why many dog bites occur. Also, the same dog that enjoys one person’s hug might react entirely differently with another family member who tries the same thing. You’d be hard-pressed to find a dog that actually enjoys or seeks out hugs.

If you’re wondering if your dog hates your hugs, just pay attention to her body language when you go in for a cuddle. Does she tense up? Lean her head away from you? Avoid even a hint of eye contact? Lick her lips? Keep her mouth closed? Pull her ears back against her head? All of these are signs that a dog is uncomfortable. Yes, even the dog licking her lips while someone snuggles her is not showing that she is overcome with love, it is showing submissive, even nervous behavior. So next time you want to go in for a hug, pay very close attention to whether or not the dog is okay with it. After all, you’re putting your face right next to a set of sharp teeth.

Petting a dog’s face or patting her head

Do you like to be patted on the head? My guess is no. Having someone reach out and tap us on the head, no matter how lovingly, is not something most of us enjoy. It’s annoying at best and painful at worst. And we really don’t want the hands of strangers reaching toward our face. If someone were to reach their hand toward your face, I’m guessing your reaction would be to pull your head back and lean away, and get a little tense about the invasion of personal space. Yet most humans think that dogs like being patted on the head. The reality is that while many dogs will put up with this if it’s someone they know and trust, most dogs don’t enjoy it. You may notice that even the loving family dog might lean away slightly when you reach for her face to pet her. She’ll let you because you’re the boss, but she doesn’t like it. It’s a personal space issue for dogs just as much as it is for us. This is why responsible parents teach their children to gently pet a dog’s back or rear, but don’t pat, and definitely don’t go for the dog’s face. If you really want to reward your dog for being awesome, don’t bang on their head, but give them a rub on their rear end right by the tail. They’ll thank you for it!

Walking up to a strange dog while looking her in the eye

We all know how powerful eye contact is. While we view steady eye contact as important, as a sign of trustworthiness or focus, we have to also be aware that eye contact can feel unnerving, uncomfortable and domineering. It’s creepy when a stranger looks us in the eye without breaking contact, especially as they’re approaching. It’s clear their attention is zeroed in, but what is their intention? We have to read the rest of their face for the cues. Eye contact is part of establishing dominance for many species, and in humans, we can use the tiniest of details about the rest of the face — the softness or hardness of the muscles around the eyes and mouth — to determine if the stare is friendly or not. And even then, it’s still creepy to have a stranger stare at us! It feels the same way for dogs. When you look a strange dog right in the eye, unblinking, you might be smiling and trying to warm up to them but the dog is probably reading it as an act of dominance or even aggression. They might display a submissive response — looking away, doing a little wiggle for pets, rolling over onto their backs — or they might start backing up and barking. Either way, for most dogs, a stranger looking it right in the eye while approaching is not a comfortable situation.

If you want to say hello to a new dog in a way that is comfortable for both of you, approach with your body angled slightly (not with your shoulders squared toward the dog), your eyes slightly averted, and speak quietly with a gentle voice. All these body language cues of friendship will help a dog understand you mean no harm. The dog might still want nothing to do with you, but at least you didn’t approach in a scary way that could cause a defensive or aggressive reaction.

Not providing structure and rules

Dogs want, need, and love having rules. You might think having strict rules makes life boring or unhappy for your dog. But dogs really want to know what’s what according to their leader. And really, it’s not so hard to relate as humans. Children thrive when they have a consistent set of rules to follow, and they do less well in environments that provide them a free-for-all. Think about polite, well-balanced kids you know, and the spoiled kids who lack social skills or throw temper tantrums when they don’t get what they want. Which set of kids are the ones with consistently enforced rules and boundaries? And which set tends to be most consistently happy? With dogs, it’s pretty much the same thing. Rules make life a lot more predictable, a lot less confusing and a lot less stressful. 

And speaking of confusing, dogs don’t understand exceptions to rules. They don’t understand that they’re allowed to jump on you when you have leisure clothes on but not when you have work clothes on. They don’t understand that they’re allowed on the couch after a bath but not after coming in from a romp in the mud. Additionally, saying “No” for breaking a rule but not actually doing something to help the dog stop the behavior and learn the rule doesn’t count as enforcement. Dogs thrive when they know where the boundaries are, and when you spend time enforcing consistent boundaries with positive rewards, you also are building up their trust in you as a leader. You’re setting up conditions for a very happy dog!

Forcing your dog to interact with dogs or people she clearly doesn’t like

Just like so many other social species, dogs have their favorite friends and their enemies. It is easy to see what other dogs — and people, for that matter — that a dog wants to hang out with and those with whom she’d rather not associate. Yet, there are a lot of dog owners who go into denial about this or simply fail to read the cues their dog is giving them. It is common for overly enthusiastic owners to push their dog (sometimes literally) into social situations at dog parks when their dog would rather just go home. Or they allow strangers to pet their dog even when she is showing clear signs of wanting to be left alone.

It is important to note that there is a difference between positive encouragement with shy, fearful, or reactive dogs. Taking small steps to encourage them out of their comfort zone and giving them rewards for any amount of calm, happy social behavior is important to helping them live a balanced life. But knowing the difference between gentle, rewards-based boundary pushing and forcing an interaction is vital to your dog’s safety and sanity. When dogs are pushed too far in social situations, they’re more likely to lash out with a bite or a fight. They’ve given cue after cue — ignoring, avoiding, maybe even growling — and finally they’ve had enough and give the clearest message of all with their teeth. What is possibly even worse, is that their trust in you as a protective leader is eroded, and they have an even more negative association with a park, a certain dog or person, or a general social setting. So do your dog a favor: read the body language she gives you when she doesn’t want to be around certain other individuals and don’t force it.

Going for walks without opportunity to explore and smell

There are walks, and there are walks. It’s definitely important to have a dog that knows how to walk obediently on a leash. However, it’s also important to allow a dog to have some time to explore her surroundings while walking obediently on a leash. Dogs see with their noses, and they place as much importance on their sense of smell as we humans place on our sense of vision for interpreting the world around us. It’s probably safe to say that dogs appreciate the smell of a tree trunk the way we appreciate a beautiful sunset. Dogs loathe not being able to take in their world for at least a few minutes a day, and too often we humans are focused on going on walks for the sole purpose of exercise or potty breaks. We trudge along the same old route, often without any variety or sense of leisure, and in too much of a hurry to get back home again.

Do your dog a favor and dedicate one of your daily walks to having a “smell walk” — going slow and letting your dog take in the world with her nose. Go somewhere entirely new, explore a different neighborhood or trail, let your dog sniff at a spot until she gets her fill, even if it’s for minutes at a time before moving forward. For helping your dog know the difference between a walk where she should be obedient and stay beside you, and a walk where she is free to explore, you can have a special backpack or harness that you use only for smell walks. Just make sure it is something very different from your usual collar and leash set-up so the different purpose for the walk is obvious to your dog. These walks are a wonderful opportunity for your dog to get some of the mental and sensory stimulation that keeps life interesting for her.

Keeping a tight leash, literally

Just as dogs are amazing at reading our body language, they’re amazing at reading our tension levels even through the leash. By keeping a tight leash on a dog, you’re raising the level of stress, frustration, and excitement for your dog, and conversely, for you. I know what you might be thinking: “I don’t want to hold a tight leash, but I have to. My dog is the one pulling, not me!” But this is why it is so important to teach a dog how to walk on a slack leash.

An amazing amount of energy is transferred between you and your dog through that little strip of canvas or leather. By keeping a loose leash, you’re letting your dog know that everything is fine and dandy, that there’s no reason to be worried or tense. With a slack leash you’re saying to your dog that you are calm and have everything under control so your dog is free to be calm as well. On the other hand, by keeping a tight leash you’re sending a message to your dog that you’re tense, nervous, on alert, ready to fight or fly, and your dog responds in kind. Just as you don’t like your dog pulling you around, it doesn’t feel good to your dog to constantly be pulled and thus cued to be on alert. They’re also well-aware that they can’t get away from you even if they think they need to. A dog that walks on a tight leash is more apt to bark or be reactive in even the most mild of social situations. But a dog that can walk on a slack leash is more likely to be calm. This is a difficult thing to master, and something the majority of dog owners can commiserate about, but it is so important to having pleasant walks with a relaxed dog.

Being tense

Tension on the leash isn’t the only way a dog can pick up how you’re feeling. You can tell when a person you’re around is feeling tense, even if you don’t realize it. Dogs have the same ability. The more stressed and wound-up you are, the more stressed and wound-up your dog is. And dogs, just like us, don’t like that feeling. You might roll your eyes, but the next time your dog is acting frustrated and tense, check in with yourself — have you been feeling that way for the last few minutes, for the last few hours, or the last few days? Your dog might just be acting as your mirror. If you need a reason to meditate, helping your dog calm down is a great one.

Being boring

You know that feeling of being stuck hanging around someone who is totally boring? Think back: remember having to be with your parents while they ran grown-up errands? None of which revolved around a toy store or park, of course. Remember that feeling of barely being able to contain yourself, of wanting to squirm and groan and complain. You couldn’t take part in the adult conversation, which was boring anyway, and you were told to sit still and hush. But oh boy did you ever want to just moooove! Just run around the block or something to break the monotony. That’s how your dog feels when you’re busy being that boring grown-up. Dogs abhor it when we’re boring. And it’s hard not to be! We get home from work and we want to unwind, to get a few chores done, to make dinner and sack out on the couch and relax. But that’s about the most annoying thing we could do to our dogs who have been waiting around all day for us to finally play with them.

If your dog is making trouble — getting into boxes or closets, eating shoes or chewing on table legs — she’s basically showing you just how incredibly bored she is. Luckily, there is a quick and easy solution to this: training games. Teaching your dog a new trick, working on old tricks, playing a game of “find it” with a favorite toy, or going out and using a walk as a chance to work on urban agility, are all ways to stimulate both your dog’s mind and body. An hour of training is worth a couple hours playing a repetitive game of fetch in terms of wearing a dog out. While of course exercise and walks are important, adding in some brain work will make your dog happy-tired. Even just 15-30 minutes of trick training a day will make a big difference.

Teasing

This should be obvious, and we won’t spend too much time on it. But it’s worth pointing out because too many people still think it’s funny. Don’t bark at a dog as you pass it on the street. Don’t wave or talk to a dog that is barking at you from behind a window or door. Don’t pull on a dog’s tail. The list can go on and on, but in short, don’t do something you know makes a dog mad just because you think it’s funny. It’s not funny to the dog and can lead to some serious behavioral problems — and, perhaps deservedly, you getting to sport some new dog-shaped teeth marks.

 

 

 

 

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