Monthly Archives: August 2009

What Does a Pet Sitter Do? Should You Hire One?

By Julia Williams

If you have pets, then you know that when vacation time rolls around you can’t simply throw some clothes in a suitcase and take off. Some important questions need to be answered before you go. Can you take your dog with you, and do you want to? If not, then your duty as a responsible pet owner is to ensure that your faithful companion is well cared for in your absence. Due to the nature of most cats, taking them along on a trip is rarely (if ever) a good idea. So then, what do you do with your dog or cat while you’re gone? Although a number of options exist (kennels, the vets, breeders, a friend’s house) I believe the best choice is to hire a professional pet sitter to care for them in your home.

Hiring a professional pet sitter offers many benefits to your pet, and to you as well. Your pet is able to remain in the comfort and security of their own home, and can stay on their regular diet and daily routine as much as possible. Most animals find this much less stressful than being taken off-site to an unfamiliar place. Besides providing food and water for your animals, a pet sitter spends quality time with them, provides exercise opportunities, and focused one-on-one care. This personalized attention means that a pet sitter can spot illnesses or changes in behavior and diet which might require a vet visit.

The primary benefit for you in hiring a pet sitter, is peace of mind. You will have a carefree, fun vacation (or a productive business trip) knowing that your pet is being properly cared for. As an added bonus, many pet sitters offer additional services like collecting your mail and newspapers, watering plants, and turning the lights on and off so burglars don’t know you’re away.

How to locate a pet sitter

Because they will have a key to your home, it’s not advisable to hire a pet sitter from a yellow page ad alone. The best option is to get a recommendation from a friend, your vet, dog trainer, the local shelter, or trusted kennel. Barring that, you can contact the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (800-296-PETS) or Pet Sitters International (336-983-9222) for listings in your area. Both of these organizations also maintain websites which offer a wealth of resources and information on pet sitting and pet care.

Questions to ask a potential pet sitter

Before entrusting anyone with the care of your beloved companion, it’s imperative to find out what their qualifications are, and what services they offer. Prior to inviting them into your home to meet your pet, conduct a brief phone interview. Ask about their background and experience, what they charge and how long their visits are. Are they certified in pet first aid and CPR? Do they have any veterinary training? Can they supply written proof of commercial liability insurance (to cover accidents and negligence) and are they bonded (to protect against theft)? Can they provide references from at least three satisfied clients? Does the pet sitter have a backup plan? In other words, what would happen if they were to become ill, have car trouble or be unable to care for your pet as agreed?

The next step in hiring a pet sitter is to call their references and ask about their experience with them. If all went well for these clients, then it’s time to invite the potential pet sitter over to meet your dog or cat. In my next post, I’ll give you specific information on how to conduct an in-home interview with a potential pet sitter. I’ll also cover important pre-trip preparations and how to leave detailed instructions for the pet sitter.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

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Spaying or Neutering Can Save Your Dog’s Life

By Ruthie Bently

To spay or not to spay, that is the question. There are two schools of thought when considering spaying or neutering a dog. Do you realize that by spaying or neutering your dog, you may actually be saving their life? You cannot adopt a dog from a shelter without having it spayed or neutered; this is a requirement of most shelters these days. Spaying or neutering your dog also helps keep the pet population down and keeps the animal shelter populations down. This can also keep more pets who need homes from being euthanized.

Spaying a female dog keeps her from having an unwanted pregnancy and from getting mammary cancer, which is the equivalent of breast cancer in a human. Did you know that 25% of unsprayed female dogs get mammary cancer? That is one in four, which is even more frequent than women get breast cancer. Not only that, but an unspayed female dog’s chances of getting mammary cancer rise with each heat cycle she goes through before she is spayed. Spaying your female dog, even after she has had a litter of puppies, will decrease her chance of getting cancer.

Spaying a female dog is called an ova-hysterectomy; the operation is done under a general anesthesia, and the ovaries, uterus and fallopian tubes are removed. Because the spaying operation is more involved with a female dog, the fees are usually higher. During the recovery period your female dog should be leash exercised for about two weeks and discouraged from leaping or jumping for at least another month or two, to enable her incision to heal.

Neutering a male dog will keep him from looking for a female to spread his genes, and it can help if he is aggressive to other male dogs or likes to start fights. It can also help keep him from getting prostate cancer. Intact male dogs are quite often more independent than a female and will wander. A male dog can smell a female’s pheromones for up to a distance of three miles. Neutering a male dog is called castration; the vet will remove the dog’s testicles and part of the vas deferens, which carries the sperm to the penis. The operation is done under a general anesthesia.

Some people don’t want to neuter their dog because they’re afraid it will gain weight. This doesn’t always happen and can depend on your dog’s normal activity level. If your dog seems to be less active after spaying or neutering, then their daily food allotment might need to be adjusted. You can also try to help them exercise more. Just like people, our pets can gain weight if they eat too much food. Make sure you speak to your breeder or veterinarian before making any changes to your dog’s food.

Some vets will suggest getting your pet spayed or neutered before they reach six months old, as this is when they can become sexually active. Some will suggest waiting and let the dog go through a heat cycle; however unwanted puppies and possible cancers can come from this.

If spaying or neutering my dog will keep them healthier and prolong their life, I am all for it. Aren’t you?

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

The Best Dogs for Families with Children

By Anna Lee

If you have children, especially small children, you need a dog that can tolerate kids. Not all dog breeds are good for families with children. Many people assume that small dogs are gentle and kid friendly, which is not always true. Some small breeds are gentle with kids. However, large dogs in the working class, herding dogs and retrievers are more placid by nature and often have the patience of a saint when around young children. If you are thinking of adding a dog to your family, here are some great child-friendly breeds to consider.

Boston Terrier – If you prefer a small dog, this little one is gentle, intelligent and well mannered. They do not bark a lot, compared to other small dogs. They are extremely good with children and older people as well. They are playful and want to be part of the family.

Jack Russell Terrier – This is another small dog with a lot of adjectives to describe it, including perky, merry and devoted. Jack Russell Terriers are also kind to children. Be sure to set rules for this breed though; if not they will take over. A few years ago we rented a cottage on a creek in North Carolina. The neighbors let their dogs (an old yellow lab like ours and a Jack Russell Terrier puppy) run free all day, and the Jack Russell (Andy) drove our poor Abby crazy. He chased her and nipped at her, barked non-stop, and we could not make him stay home in his own yard. His owners were not very wise to let a puppy run free all day while they were at work. We found out that he was afraid of the creek that ran across the property. Abby soon realized that if she went in the creek and stood in the water for a bit, Andy would get bored and go home!

Bearded Collie – This dog is full of energy, and requires firm and consistent training. They are fun dogs and are excellent for families with children. The Bearded Collie is a real tail wager, and very adorable. They are the ancestors of the Old English Sheep Dog, and look a little like them.

Beagle – This dog is gentle, lively and curious, and loves everyone. They are excellent with children as well as with other dogs. They do not generally get along well with cats unless they were raised together. Beagles are very determined, as our neighbor’s dog illustrates for us regularly. The dog is a rather chubby older beagle, and on numerous occasions we hear her barking while she chases the rabbits on our property. We have seen her heading back home with her tongue and belly dragging the ground. She will never catch a rabbit, but she will never stop trying.

Boxer – This breed is an easy learner and quite intelligent. Boxers do well in competitive obedience training. They are loyal and affectionate, and they get along very well with children. It is in the Boxer’s nature to want to protect the family and the home.

Golden Retriever – This a beautiful, graceful dog that’s easy to train and is always patient and gentle with children. Golden Retrievers are friendly with everyone; therefore they have little value as a guard dog! They do make wonderful pets for families, though.

Labrador Retriever – I saved this breed for last since I didn’t want to play favorites. This is the breed I know best from experience. A Labrador Retriever is a loving, affectionate and patient dog that is highly intelligent, loyal, willing, and high-spirited. They love to play, especially in water, as they love to swim. Labs have an excellent, reliable, temperament and are extremely friendly, superb with children and get along with other dogs. They crave human leadership and need to feel as though they are part of the family. Labs are easily trained. Abby was easy to train as a pup and even at 11 she learns new things daily. She loves people and age does not matter to her at all!

No matter which breed you choose, you need to remember that puppies chew. If your kids leave toys in reach, those toys will be the object of the pup’s attention! Teach your children to be gentle with the puppy and remind them that puppies need a lot of sleep. Parents may need to put time limits on play early on. Teach the kids that the puppy needs time to be alone, as well as time with the family.

Get your kids involved early on in the care of the new puppy by helping out at feeding time. Let them pour the CANIDAE kibble into the feeding dish. Let the kids know that if they are gentle and loving to the dog, they will have a loyal friend for life.

Read more articles by Anna Lee

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Is Catnip Safe for Cats?

By Ruthie Bently

Here in Minnesota, catnip grows wild in some areas. When I first moved to my present residence there was a catnip plant that was over six feet tall growing in one of the flower beds on the property. Since then, the original plant has died off because it was too sheltered, but it spread its progeny to my garden. I don’t mind at all, because my cats love catnip – even most of the ones that shouldn’t be attracted to it yet, as they are a bit young. So what is catnip exactly, and is it safe for your cat?

Catnip is an herb in the mint family, and the main attractant for our cats is the essential oil in its blossoms, leaves and stems. Cat may roll in it, chew on it or rub against plants, to release this oil that is pleasing to them. Some cats will even eat it, but scientists claim they are reacting to the odor of the plant, not the taste.

The active ingredient in catnip that attracts them is nepetalactone. One variety of Nepeta cataria (catnip) grows wild in many U.S. states; it was imported from Eurasia and the rest is history. The Ojibwa Indians used it for making a tea that had a pleasing taste and was supposed to bring down fevers. In fact humans have been using catnip for centuries for its healing properties.

The catnip plant is a perennial that grows about two to three feet high. It has leaves a bit larger than peppermint leaves, which feel fuzzy to the touch. I have seen its flowers in both a purplish-pink and white, though there are propagated varieties that have a more blue color. Many domestic cats are attracted to catnip and it also attracts their wilder “cousins” like leopards, bobcats, tigers and lions.

The attraction to catnip actually comes from a gene; while many cats have it, not all do. Younger cats do not always respond to catnip and may not until they are about six months old. Scientists believe that the trigger for catnip is the same that triggers sexual activity, hence the reasons that younger kittens may not like catnip.

If your cat is attracted to catnip, it’s interesting to note that two very different reactions can occur. Catnip usually acts as a stimulant when a cat sniffs it, and as a natural sedative if they eat it. Because of its calming effects, many cat owners use it when they have to transport their cat and don’t want to use a sedative from the vet. Catnip is also a great way to teach your cat to use a scratching post. Simply sprinkle some liberally over the post and watch them go wild!

Cats cannot become addicted to catnip, and it is also not harmful to your cat if they eat it. As with anything else, if you have questions, consult your local veterinarian. My cats love catnip and I love watching their antics in my garden where it grows, or when offered a catnip toy. We all get joy from the occasion.

Photo courtesy of Rose at Angelcat Haven, a non-profit feline rescue organization dedicated to helping homeless and stray cats in Plainville, MA and surrounding towns. Angelcat Haven also sells colorful handmade catnip mats on their website, with all proceeds going toward the care of their rescued kitties.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

How to Approach an Unfamiliar Dog

By Linda Cole

Most dog attacks happen because people don’t know how to approach an unfamiliar dog. Because our own pets are comfortable with us, we sometimes forget that dogs who don’t know us as well (such as those belonging to our family and friends), may not accept our advances. Stray or lost dogs don’t know we want to help them and are cautious to the point of running away or snarling, and possibly attacking if we get too close. Approaching an unfamiliar dog has pack rules that need to be adhered to, and a knowledge of the dog’s body language as well as our own.

There are two main reasons people may be attacked or bit by strange dogs. The first one is human nature. If confronted by a dog who is snarling and intimidating, most people, especially children, have an impulse to turn and run. A situation has been created that some dogs take as prey fleeing and they will give chase. A child is more vulnerable to a dog attack because of their smaller size.

The other reason is that when visiting family or friends, we may react to their dogs as we do our own. A dog’s sense of social order actually puts us at a disadvantage when we don’t understand we are the stranger coming into their home. Our best protection when we approach an unfamiliar dog is to establish a role of pack leader as soon as the meeting begins. Children can also be taught to assume a leadership role.

It’s important to enter a home with a dog calmly. Give no attention or eye contact to any dog as you enter their home – even if you know the dog. This signals to them you are a pack leader. Once greetings have been exchanged with the dog’s family and the dog has calmed down and sorted out the new scents you brought with you, then it’s time to greet the dog. If a dog is barking or jumping up on you, turn to the side and ignore them. Pushing them down with your hands can be interpreted as a signal you want to play. Children need to stay calm to avoid exciting the dog. Sudden movements toward the animal and loud noises will raise a dog’s excitement level.

Approach an unfamiliar dog from his side or at his eye level. Never try to pet the head area and never greet them from the top. Hold out a fist and allow the dog to sniff your hand. Then slowly pet them on the side or back. Watch their body language. If the dog is stiff, has his ears laid back or has glaring eyes, it may be wise to just leave him alone until he’s gotten to know you better.

Avoid petting a dog who is chained up, in a car or pickup bed, or in a pen. Most dogs will protect what they believe is theirs and that includes a car, yard or even a parking meter their owner tied them to while they are in a store or business.

Extreme caution must be adhered to in any encounter with stray or injured dogs. Approaching an unfamiliar dog who is lost or a stray can be more challenging. These animals may be more fearful and can be more aggressive. I encounter dogs in my neighborhood all the time. Usually, they are my neighbor’s dogs who managed to break out of their enclosure and are making their rounds. These dogs know me quite well and dutifully follow me back to their home.

Remember two rules to follow if approached by an unfamiliar dog outside. First, never run. Stand as still as a rock with your arms against your side. If the dog comes up to you, allow it to sniff you. Second, stay calm and avoid looking directly into his eyes. Understanding a dog’s body language can help you determine if a dog should be left alone or if you can help him. If a dog is telling you to stay away with barks and snarls, take his word for it and back away slowly, avoiding direct eye contact.

Children should be taught to never approach an unfamiliar dog, ever. If they see a lost or stray dog, teach them to back away slowly and calmly and then find an adult who can better handle the situation. Most lost dogs just need a helping hand getting back home. We need to be understanding as well as knowledgeable enough to know if a dog is dangerous. Usually, they are just looking for a little help from someone who can give them a hand.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

What Should I Name My New Dog?

By Anna Lee

If you are searching for a name for a new puppy, or even an older dog that you just adopted, here are the top favorite names from the last few years, along with some pet specific names. Naming a dog is personal choice but the following lists will give you some ideas. When choosing a good name for a dog, you have to remember an easy rule, ‘two syllables only’ as it is easier for a puppy to comprehend “Annie” compared to “Mistymavenofgreenfieldsgalore.”

Let’s start with some good names for a female dog: Molly, Maggie, Daisy, Sadie, Ginger, Chloe, Bailey, Sophie, Zoe, Princess, Bella, Angel, Lady, Sasha, Abby, Roxy, Missy, Brandy, Coco, Annie, Katie, Sammy, Casey, Gracie, Rosie, Misty, Emma, Sandy and Heidi.

Good names for a male dog include: Max, Buddy, Jake, Rocky, Bailey, Buster, Cody, Charlie, Bear, Jack, Toby, Duke, Lucky, Sam, Harley, Shadow, Rusty, Murphy, Sammy, Zeus, Riley, Oscar, Winston, Casey, Tucker, Teddy, Gizmo, Samson, Oliver, Rex and Bandit.

If you have a brown dog, how about naming them Hershey, Coco, Swiss Miss or Coffee? Some good names for a black dog are Onyx, Raven, Licorice or Tar. For a yellow dog, Sunshine, Butter Cup, Honey and Goldie are all excellent names.

For a hunting dog, why not Shell, Buckshot, Buck, Trigger, Wade, Colt or Browning? A few good names for a small dog are Gizmo, Pixie, Pookie, Tiny and Teenie. If you have a large male dog, consider Brutus, Bubba, Titus, Rocky, Winston and Wolfie.

If you are a Country Western fan, the names Wrangler, George, Stetson, AJ, LeAnn, Toby and Willie are all great choices. What football fan wouldn’t like the name Colt, Bear, Titan, Saint or Jet? Perhaps you are a gardener? Why not name your dog Rose, Tulip, Clover, Daisy, Shasta or Lilly?

Some good dog names that may fit your personality or your dog’s personality would be Star, Sky, Candy, Sugar, Jazzie, Rhett, Digger, Puff, Wizard, Sparkles or Zesty.

When I was young my parents had friends who had four girls. When I got married I thought if I ever had a baby girl I would name it after one of their girls, Andrea, and call her Andy for short. Life took a different turn and I never did have any children. When I got my current dog I thought about naming her Andy. Somehow it didn’t seem right to give her that name, the name I would have given to a daughter. My husband’s first name starts with an “A”, as well as mine, so I knew I wanted an “A” name. I picked Abby, and it suits her just fine. Her full name is, “Abby move out of my way please, thank you.”

When you get a new dog I’m sure you will pick the right name for them, because there is really no wrong name! The above dog names are just some ideas to get you started. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Read more articles by Anna Lee

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.