Monthly Archives: May 2010

How to Teach Your Dog the “Drop It” Command


By Linda Cole

Dogs are great at finding things around the home or hidden in the grass. Sometimes they find things they shouldn’t have for one reason or another. Instead of engaging in what he thinks is a game of keep away with you chasing him, the easiest thing you can do is teach your dog to drop it. This is one of the more important commands for your dog to learn, and it can save you a lot of wasted time and energy trying to retrieve whatever your dog has in his mouth.

Anyone who’s raised a puppy knows how inquisitive they are. As far as they’re concerned, anything on the floor or within their grasp is fair game. They have no idea how harmful something they’ve grabbed may be to them. If you try to take the object or food from them, that’s a signal to the pup to run and if they can get you to chase them, all the more fun. Too many times, the puppy ends up swallowing what he had in his mouth.

When one of my dogs was a puppy, she had a hard time understanding what I was trying to teach her. At the same time, one of my cats was very interested in the treats I was using to help teach my dog. The cat would sit beside us, pick up one of the small toys I was using and when I commanded the dog to drop what she had in her mouth, the cat dropped his toy and waited for his treat. I still laugh when I think about the cat sitting there with a frog toy in his mouth waiting patiently for me to tell the dog to drop it. My dog learned to drop it when she saw the cat getting treats. So I was able to teach two at the same time. When the cat wanted a treat, he would bring the frog and sit down in front of me, waiting for the command.

Some dogs learn to drop it easier than others. And, as I found out, cats can also learn the command, even if it’s by accident. It was a good lesson for me because until that training session, I never considered trying to teach a cat to drop it.

Playing catch is more fun when you’ve taken the time to teach your dog to drop it. Instead of having to pry a slobbery ball out of his mouth every time, the drop it command puts it at your feet or directly in your hand. It also keeps you from having to grope around in his mouth searching for something he picked up that was more interesting than the ball.

Stay patient and calm when engaging in any training sessions. If your dog is more interested in playing than learning, put him on a leash to keep him from running away. Let it drag on the ground so you can step on it. Make the training fun and keep it short.

Before you start to teach your dog to drop it, gather several of his favorite toys. The idea is to have your dog take one of the toys in his mouth and play with it for awhile. Give him the command and wait for him to drop what he has in his mouth. Only say it once. Don’t attempt to take the toy because he’ll be more defensive and less willing to drop it if he thinks you’re trying to take it from him.

Entice your dog with a favorite treat, and give it to him as soon as he drops the object. Add lots of praise along with the treat. This might take a little time, especially if he wants the toy more than the treat. Don’t try to teach your dog to drop it right after a meal. If he won’t give up the toy, find something else he might be more willing to trade for a treat. Of course, you want to make sure the treat you use is irresistible to your dog. CANIDAE Snap-Bits and Snap-Biscuit® dog treats are two great choices.

If your dog takes his toy and runs away, don’t chase him. Let him play for awhile and try again later on. It’s not difficult to teach your dog to drop it, but it could take more than one training session. Keep at it because it’s important for him to learn, and it could save him from a trip to the vet and you from an expensive vet bill.

For more information on training your dog to obey basic commands, read Teaching Come and Stay, or Heel and Stand.

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.

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Should We Let Dogs Hang Their Heads Out Car Windows?


By Linda Cole

Why does your dog look at you like, “Is that really necessary” when you blow in his face, yet loves hanging his head out a car window going 60 MPH down the road? But just because dogs like hanging their heads out car windows doesn’t mean we should let them do it.

I had a dog, Kirby, who loved to ride in the car and I took him with me as often as I could. I wouldn’t let him hang his head out the window when we were going down the highway, but didn’t think he could get into trouble in town. My car had high seats in the front and I made him ride in the back seat with the back windows rolled up. So, I figured he was safe. As it turned out, I was wrong. One day as I went around a corner, Kirby was excited and leaned out my open window before I knew what he was doing. Thankfully, I was going slow and slammed on the brakes in time to avoid running over him. He was fine, but needless to say, I was shaken and from that moment on, I never roll car windows down all the way when I have a dog with me in the car.

Falling out of a moving vehicle isn’t the only danger for dogs who hang their heads out car windows. A dog’s eyes can become targets for bugs, small rocks, pieces of debris on the roadway and dust. Think about what a small rock can do to your windshield if it hits just right, even at a slow speed. How many little chips does your car grill have from all the tiny rocks that have hit it? Imagine what a rock could do to your dog’s eye, not to mention what the vet bill could do for your wallet. And if your dog has allergies, the dust and pollen rushing into his face isn’t going to help his condition.

Dogs who hang their heads out car windows are also at risk for ear infections from wind blown particles or just by the wind blowing their ears. As their ears flap in the wind, blood can pool in the soft tissue of their ear flaps. The constant flapping of the ears against their head can cause the ear flaps to swell which is painful. If a dog is allowed to hang his head out the car window a lot, scar tissue will form in the soft tissue of the ears. This can damage them permanently and give the dog lifelong ear problems.

Riding in a car for a dog is exciting, with all kinds of smells rushing through an open window. Think about it like this. Imagine all of the sights and smells you’re surrounded with at the county fair. Popcorn, hot dogs, cotton candy, burgers, people laughing and having a good time, eating and going on rides. A county fair is full of new experiences and smells that stimulate us from head to toe. That’s how a dog feels riding down the road in the car. Their senses are on overdrive as they sniff out and see all sorts of things that change as the car moves down the road. But as responsible pet owners, safety should come first, and letting dogs hang their heads out car windows isn’t a good idea.

That’s not saying your dog can’t enjoy their ride in a car. The window only needs to be cracked to allow all the wonderful smells to enter the car and surround your dog. There’s nothing wrong with open windows in the car, if your dog is buckled in like the rest of the family which will keep him from falling out the window and still allow him to sniff all the enticing smells. That way he has the best of both worlds without hanging his head out the car window, and you can concentrate on driving the car.

Letting a dog ride in the bed of a truck isn’t a good idea either. The dog risks injury from falling out of the truck, has increased risk from flying debris and can burn the soft tissue on their paws by standing on the hot metal of the truck bed. Dogs have no idea what a vehicle’s speed means and if they get the urge to jump, they will. If you want to take your dog with you in your truck, please read How to Transport Dogs Safely in Pickup Trucks.

Responsible parents don’t let their children do things that could put them in danger. As responsible pet owners, we shouldn’t put our dog’s safety and health in danger by letting them hang their heads out car windows.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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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.

Can an Outdoor-Loving Cat Be Happy Living Indoors?


By Julia Williams

Many people nowadays choose to keep their cats indoors, largely because it’s so much safer for the cat. I think given a choice, most cats would probably prefer being able to roam outside whenever and wherever they wished. It’s in their feline nature to want to climb trees, hunt mice and take long naps in the sun. But cats can’t comprehend the dangers that lurk outdoors. They don’t understand that we just want them to be alive and well. Nevertheless, it’s our choice to make, not theirs.

As I said in my article on Indoor Versus Outdoor Cats, I don’t believe there’s only one right way. Whether to keep them inside or let them go out is a personal decision that every responsible pet owner must make for themselves and their cat(s). Situations often change too, which may require a new decision. That’s what happened to me a few years ago, and now my outdoor loving kitties primarily stay indoors.

I wasn’t certain they would be able to adjust to indoor life, since they’d been able to roam outside for years. Certainly, it’s easier if a kitten is never allowed outside. After all, they don’t know what they are missing if they never go out. But I’m happy to report that even cats who’ve tasted freedom can be happy indoors. Because mine were raised being able to go outside, I do allow them some limited time outdoors in the summer. I think this helps them to be more content with living indoors. There are also many other things I do that contribute to them having a rich, fulfilling life indoors. You really can’t expect any indoor cat to be happy without meeting the three basic needs of mental stimulation, daily activity, and love & companionship.

Here are some ways to make an indoor cat’s life enjoyable.

1. Window perches let them watch the birds and squirrels, and provide a cozy place to nap in the warm sun. They’re inexpensive and very easy to install. For a no-cost alternative, place a cat blanket on the back of a chair or couch that’s located by a sunny window.

2. Cat trees, towers and perches give them a place to play, climb, observe, nap and scratch. There is a mind-boggling array of cat furniture available today, so it should be a snap to find things that match your décor and your budget.

3. Keep plenty of different cat toys on hand. You’ll want to have lots of toys that your cat can play with alone, such as furry mice, balls and catnip-laced soft toys. There are also toys that stimulate them mentally – one I love is a wooden box with lots of cut-out holes. You place toys and/or treats inside for your cat to “hunt,” and ultimately fish out of the holes. Equally important are the interactive cat toys that require your company, such as feathers or furry toys that dangle from a pole. My cats love their remote-control mouse that zooms across the floor, and watching them scurry after it makes me laugh, so it’s a win-win toy. Besides alleviating boredom, playing games with your cat can deepen your bond.

4. Cat runs are designed to let your kitty enjoy some fresh air, bird-watching and sunshine from the safety of your backyard. They’re made from a sturdy mesh material, come in lots of different sizes, and are quick and easy to set up. Some models have add-on sections so you can make the run larger or customize it.

5. DVDs for cats let them watch all sorts of wildlife on your television. They’re designed to loop continuously, so you can put it on before you go to work and it will play for them all day long.

6. Spend some quality quiet time with your cat each day. This can include petting and brushing them, or simply sitting with them and talking to them. That last suggestion might sound a little “crazy cat lady” like to you, but I really do believe cats enjoy human companionship, and they like to feel loved just like we do.

7. If you have an “only cat,” consider getting another cat for company, especially if no one is home all day. Cats may be solitary creatures by nature, but that doesn’t mean they won’t enjoy having some company in the house. If your cat is still relatively young, a new cat or kitten may encourage their playful side to come out more often.

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.

Is Your Dog Right or Left Footed?


By Ruthie Bently

I never considered that my dog might favor one foot over the other until I noticed it firsthand. Just as humans have a dominant hand and are either right or left-handed, so do our pets. Dogs have a dominant foot, either right or left. I first became interested one day watching Skye climb the attic stairs; she always began (led) with her left foot. This made me wonder if she favored one foot over the other, so I watched her and found out that she did. When we are outside playing and I toss her ball, she goes racing up to it and hits it with her left foot first to get it to spin. When she is investigating something in the yard and wants to turn it over, she uses her left foot.

That made me curious as to how many other dogs are right or left-pawed, what the percentage of right over left might be, and if there were there any ambidextrous dogs. According to one report I read from 2001, dogs are about 80% right footed and 20% left footed. According to a study conducted by psychologists of Queen’s University in Belfast, Ireland, female dogs are right-footed and males are left-footed until they are spayed or neutered. Then the report says the differences disappear and it further suggests that hormones play a part in whether a dog is right or left-footed. That theory goes out the window with Skye. She is spayed and she is definitely a left-footed dog.

Using one paw in favor of the other is called lateralization, and until recently most scientists thought our animals were ambidextrous. Now they are finding that we are not the only species on the planet to favor one hand (or paw) over the other. It is believed that favoring one foot over the other improves an animal’s chances to find a mate, forage for food or escape predators. Do our left-footed companions suffer from the same stigmas as left-handed people used to? Not according to the faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Sydney. They say left-pawed dogs are favored for training as guide and police dogs.

So how do you discover if your dog is right or left-pawed? Here is a test to help you find out. You need a tube and several dog treats. The tube can be made of either cardboard or plastic; I used the tube from a roll of gift wrap. It should be wide enough for your dog to reach into with their paw but not their head. I tried this test and used CANIDAE Snap-Bits™ which worked great. Put the treat in the end of the tube and hold the tube out to your dog, making sure they can see the treat. Encourage them to get the treat. Do this test three times with three treats. If your dog is afraid of the tube, try setting the treat about six inches in from the edge of a piece of furniture within your pet’s reach, and watch what happens. Which paw does your pet use to reach for the treat?

If your dog uses their right paw most of the time, they are probably right-footed. If your dog uses their left paw most of the time, they are left-footed. If they don’t seem to have a preference and use both paws to reach the treat, they are probably ambidextrous. I am sure there will be more research into this subject in the future. It is also thought that the research done so far will further dog training and the appropriate age to train a dog (as it refers to being right or left-footed), as well as improving the bond between people and their dogs.

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 Right Way to “Treat” Pets


By Julia Williams

Doling out the dog treats and cat snacks is one of the more fun parts of pet ownership. It’s a ritual we all enjoy, but none more so than the pets themselves. I like giving treats to my cats because they really seem to love them, as evidenced by all the meowing, purring and leg rubbing that occurs when the treat canister comes out. They recognize this container and literally go wild when they see it. If treats make our pets so deliriously happy, there’s no harm in giving them, right? Well, not exactly. Too many treats, or the wrong kind of treats, can actually do more harm than good. Our dogs and cats can’t read labels, and they don’t know a thing about calories or what ingredients might be good for them or bad for them. Which means it’s up to us as responsible pet owners to make sure we’re “treating” them right.

Calories count!

People often joke about fat cats and pudgy pooches, but overweight pets are not funny. Excess weight can contribute to many serious health problems and can make a pet’s life miserable. To avoid over-treating your pet, ask your vet how much to feed your dog or cat each day, and include the calories from treats in their daily food allotment. A good rule of thumb is to make sure that no more than 10 to 20% of the day’s calories are coming from treats. Be aware that some treats have significantly more calories than others, so read the nutrition labels and choose your treats wisely.

Quality counts too!

Pet treats vary a great deal in terms of the nutrition and health benefits they provide. Some treats are as nutritionally devoid and bad for pets as a greasy bag of chips is for us. They contain little in the way of healthy ingredients and may also contain unhealthy things like by-products, chemical preservatives and fillers. Other pet treats, like the CANIDAE Snap-Bits™ and Snap-Biscuit® dog treats, are made with premium quality ingredients and other things that actually benefit the pet. Such as: viable micro-organisms for GI tract health and good digestion, balanced omega 6 & 3 fatty acids, essential vitamins and minerals, skin and coat conditioners and natural preservatives. These nutritionally complete treats are low in calories and fat, and high in protein. I don’t mean to sound like a commercial for CANIDAE here, but honestly, I consider these to be the crème de la crème of dog treats.

Don’t give treats for begging

Dogs and cats are incredibly smart creatures. It doesn’t take long for them to figure out that they can use those “sad puppy dog eyes” and feline wiles to manipulate their owners into giving them a treat. It can be hard to resist those plaintive looks or insistent meows, but resist you should. Giving in to their begging is rewarding them for inappropriate behavior, and once you do, they’ll never stop begging. I made this mistake with my cats. I started giving them each a handful of crunchies before I went to bed. Now, every single night without fail, as I am getting ready for bed there is loud, insistent meowing and pacing going on in the kitchen. I am 100% certain this begging is not from a place of “We’re starving here, give us some food already!” Nevertheless, it can be awfully hard to resist, and I hate that I created a situation where they expect – no, demand – these treats every night.

Use treats as a reward

During and after playtime is a perfect time to offer your cat or dog treats. This helps them to associate positive things with exercise, and they’ll look forward to this daily activity even more than they already do. Treats are also great to use for training sessions and teaching your dog or cat tricks (don’t laugh – cats can be taught to perform tricks!). Just remember to adjust the amount of their regular food to avoid overfeeding.

Giving treats is a pleasure, and it builds upon that amazing human/animal bond we have with our beloved pets. When we “treat” them right, they give us many years of love and companionship in return.

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.

What to Do If a Snake Bites Your Pet


By Linda Cole

It’s not uncommon to run into snakes while out on the hiking trail or camping. Snakes also live in our backyards. Pets can cross paths with one, although most of the time the snake will do everything it can to avoid pets and humans. Once in awhile they bite, and immediate vet care is needed. Knowing what kind of snake bit your pet is important for the vet to know. What to do if a snake bites your pet is something every responsible pet owner should know, but you also need to know what not to do.

Garter snakes are common all over the country. At one time, it was thought they weren’t venomous, but new information has found they do have a small amount of venom. It’s always prudent to know what kind of snakes you may encounter in your backyard or when visiting other parts of the country with a pet. When taking your dog hiking, fishing, hunting or camping, be aware of what species of snakes you could run across. It’s a good idea to have the phone number of a local vet too, just in case.

When we see a snake slithering through the grass or hear a telltale rattle, we turn around and walk away, but a curious pet is likely to check it out. A coiled up snake is not something you want to see in close proximity to you or your pet.

Most of the time, if a snake bites your pet, it’s around the face or neck. A bite on the body is more serious. Snake venom attacks the nervous and cardiopulmonary systems of the body and affects how the blood clots. However, any snake bite to your pet is serious whether it’s poisonous or not, and your first order of business is to get your pet to a vet immediately.

You’ll see swelling around a snake bite and puncture wounds in the skin. Snake bites cause intense pain and swelling, but usually less if the bite comes from a non poisonous snake or if the venom wasn’t injected into your pet. You need to be very cautious when touching the area because if the snake injected venom and it was poisonous, your pet may react in an aggressive manner because of the pain. It’s best to avoid touching the area around the bite. If a venomous snake bites your pet, do not attempt to suck out the poison, bleed the wound, put ice on it or put a tourniquet on. That only wastes time and if you aren’t sure what you’re doing, you could be doing more harm than good. What you can do is keep the affected area below heart level while on your way to the vet.

If a snake bites your pet while you’re walking in the woods or away from home, stay calm and keep your pet as quiet as possible. Walk, don’t run, to your car. The faster you make him move, the faster the venom will spread through his system. Carrying your dog will help keep the venom from spreading as fast, but if you carry him out, be very careful not to touch the area around the bite. If your dog is bitten around the neck, take off his collar.

The seriousness of a bite is determined by how many times your pet was bitten, where he was bitten, the amount of venom in the snake, the time of year and how much your pet has moved. If he received a bite on a limb, you can immobilize it, but not so much it can’t be used. Again, keep the wound below heart level.

If possible, try to identify the snake because your vet will need that information to properly treat your pet. Even if you think the snake is dead, don’t pick it up. Dead snakes can still bite because of muscle contractions and it’s a good idea to not let your pet inspect or play with a dead snake for that reason. Unless you are an expert snake handler, never try to catch or kill a snake that bit your pet. If you have no idea what kind of snake it is, try to remember what it looked like so you can describe it to the vet.

If a snake bites your pet, you will see small puncture wounds, bleeding, bruising, tissue damage and swelling with pain, which can be intense. Severe signs that may not begin to show up for several hours include: weakness, lethargy, shock, vomiting, nausea, slow or depressed breathing, muscle tremors or any neurological problems. Vet care will depend on how severe the bite is and what kind of snake bit your pet.

To read about snake aversion therapy for dogs, check out this article.

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.