Monthly Archives: August 2010

Dancing with the Dogs: Musical Canine Freestyle

By Julia Williams

Now that the internet is firmly entrenched in my life, the saying, “You learn something new every day” seems true for me. I am amazed at the things I discover by wasting time on Facebook and other sites. One of those recent discoveries was that there is such a thing as “dancing with the dogs,” aka Musical Canine Freestyle competitions. Not only that, they are very popular with dogs, pet owners and audiences alike. Who knew? I mean, I’ve watched dancing dogs perform on television shows like Pet Star and America’s Got Talent, but I had no idea this fast growing dog sport was so prevalent in America, Canada, Japan and many other countries. I spent more time than I care to admit watching dancing canines and their “handlers” strut their stuff on Youtube, and I have to say it really looks like fun. I love my kitties dearly, but now I really wish I had a dog!

What Is Musical Canine Freestyle?

Put simply, Musical Canine Freestyle (or just Canine Freestyle) is choreographed dancing with dogs to music. The objective is to bond with your dog while teaching them to perform a routine that’s enjoyable for all concerned. Wikipedia defines Canine Freestyle as “a modern dog sport that is a mixture of obedience, tricks and dance which allows for creative interaction between dogs and their owners.” According to the Musical Dog Sport Association, “training, teamwork, music and movement combine to create an artistic, choreographed performance that celebrates the unique qualities of each individual dog.”

The Canine Freestyle Federation says the sport is “an excellent discipline to illustrate the conformation and movement of the dog. The reach, drive and beauty of an athletic, trained dog moving to music can take one’s breath away.” And finally, the World Canine Freestyle Organization (WCFO) says that the goal of this sport is to “display the dog and handler in a creative, innovative and original dance, using music and intricate movements to showcase teamwork, artistry, costuming, athleticism and style.”

Freestyle doggie dance got its start in the late 80s as “heel work to music,” which used traditional heeling exercises set to music and added some variations to make it more interesting and challenging. Musical Canine Freestyle takes the concept even further by adding moves that do not maintain the traditional heel position. Several different people claim to have invented this fun new dog sport, including obedience trainers, dressage trainers, choreographers and show biz entertainers.

Canine Freestyle Competitions and Clubs

Musical Canine Freestyle events and competitions take place all over the world. Currently, there are several organizations in the United States that regulate competitive canine freestyle events, including the aforementioned WCFO, Canine Freestyle Federation and Musical Dog Sport Association. Canada and Japan also have Canine Freestyle organizations that sanction competitions.

Competition rules vary from group to group, but are usually based on a variety of technical and artistic merit points. The routines are done without training aids or leashes, except for some beginner categories. Competitions typically involve just one dog and their handler, but sometimes can involve teams of two, three or more dogs.

In addition to organizations that sanction Canine Freestyle events, there are a multitude of canine dance clubs around the world. These friendly groups welcome handlers and dogs of all ages and levels of experience. Their purpose is to develop and promote the sport through workshops, demonstrations, fun matches, discussion groups, fundraisers and sanctioned canine freestyle events.

Teaching Your Dog to Dance

The first thing you need to do is choose the music you would like to dance to. You can use just one song or edit several together to create your own unique composition. The second step is to choreograph a routine to your music. You will need to design steps and movements for both yourself and your dog that relate to your music. This might be basic obedience steps or variations of them, dressage movements, tricks, and any new and/or unusual moves you can dream up. The third step is selecting costumes for you and your doggie dance partner that coordinate with the theme of your music. If you want to enter a competition, there is a fourth step to the process. You need to make sure your routine follows the rules and guidelines set forth by the musical canine freestyle organization for the event.

The great thing about Canine Freestyle competitions is that any breed of dog can do it, from itty-bitty Chihuahuas to medium-sized Shelties, to Labs, Golden Retrievers and Bernese Mountain Dogs. Even if you think your dog has “two left feet,” you can both still have fun with freestyle dance, because the most important thing is spending quality time together. Dance on!

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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Teaching Kids How to Approach an Unfamiliar Dog

By Linda Cole

When I was a kid, old enough to know better, I saw a dog chained to a parking meter. The owner was nowhere in sight. Kids raised with dogs have a tendency to view all dogs like their pet at home. That’s exactly what I did. As I approached the dog, it lunged at me and I had to jump back to avoid getting bit. It was a good lesson to learn. Kids can learn how to look at a dog and understand what the dog is telling them before they approach it. A child is more at risk for dog encounters because of their small size. A more aggressive dog isn’t as intimidated by a child as they are with adults.

It’s just as important to teach your children what to do when meeting an unfamiliar or stray dog as it is to teach them what to do if a stranger approaches them. Dogs are everywhere and sooner or later, kids will find themselves face to face with an unfamiliar or stray dog. The dog could be a family or friend’s pet, a dog in the back of a truck or a stray dog who’s trying to find his way back home.

Teaching kids how to read a dog’s body language is their best defense. Most dogs mean us no harm and they are experts at reading our body language. If a child shows fear or aggression towards the dog, it can lead to an unwanted and unnecessary confrontation, even if the dog and kid know each other.

Avoid direct eye contact with an unfamiliar or stray dog. Teaching kids how to look at a dog is as important as understanding the dog’s body language. To a dog, direct eye contact is perceived as a challenge. It’s alright to keep an eye on it, but don’t stare. If a stray dog starts to walk towards you, walk away from the dog, but do keep an eye on him to see what he’s doing. Even a friendly dog can bite if we give wrong signals.

Never run away from a dog, because running will activate his prey drive. A friendly stray may give chase because he wants to play, but it can be frightening to a child or adult when a dog is chasing them. Don’t kick at them or try to push them away with your hands. Teach kids to stand completely still with their arms held straight down next to their body if a stray dog approaches them outside. Stay calm and try not to tighten up because the dog can tell if we’re frightened. Most dogs will give a few sniffs and then be on their way if they’re completely ignored.

If knocked down by a stray dog, curl up in a ball with your hands over your head and remain still and quiet. Excitement from us will create excitement in the dog. The best way to keep a situation under control is by staying in control and remaining calm.

Enter a home with a dog as if there is no dog. Even if there’s a comfortable and safe relationship between kid and dog, the dog should be ignored until the greetings are over and everyone has calmed down. Dogs get excited when company arrives and the best time to give them attention is when everyone’s in a relaxed state of mind. Encounters with dogs happen because we don’t always understand them. They have days when they aren’t feeling up to par, just like we do.

When meeting someone’s dog who is unfamiliar to them, kids should be taught to always ask before approaching the dog. It’s only natural for kids to want to pet and play with a dog. However, even laid back, friendly dogs don’t always like having a child pull on their ears. Injuries can be avoided with one simple rule. Never try to pet a dog you don’t know. Dogs react the only way they can and will use a growl and bite, if necessary, as a warning to us to leave them alone.

Teaching kids how to approach an unfamiliar or stray dog, even if it looks friendly and is wagging its tail, can help protect them from negative dog encounters. As long as they aren’t threatened by us, most dogs will leave us alone. A stray dog doesn’t know we want to help them and we don’t know what they may have been through while living on the streets. A stray dog can be defensive, fearful or friendly depending on how it’s been treated by people it has met along the way. Teaching kids how to look at a dog and understand the dog’s body language is your child’s best defense when meeting an unfamiliar or stray dog.

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.

How to Get Puppies Off to a Great Start

By Suzanne Alicie

I was toying with the idea of titling this “What to Expect When Your Dog is Expecting,” but because I’m going beyond simple dog pregnancy and into caring for your puppies successfully in order to give them a great start in life, the chosen title is more appropriate.

Confirm Your Dog’s Pregnancy

A visit to the vet will confirm or deny your suspicion that your dog is pregnant. If the result is positive, the vet will advise you as to what stage your dog is in and what care you need to provide. The length of time a dog gestates is around 9 weeks. Much shorter than a human, this gives you only a little time to prepare. Depending upon the stage of pregnancy when you determine your dog is expecting, your vet may vaccinate her to help protect the new puppies after birth until they are able to be vaccinated.

Care During Pregnancy

The stress level of your expecting dog should be kept to a minimum to avoid problems. A proper diet of a good nutritional dog food and plenty of water is all that your female dog requires to keep her healthy through her pregnancy. When your dog is about 4 weeks from whelping the puppies, increase the food intake a little each day. Puppies this close to birth are quite demanding on the mother and can take the nutrition from her body leaving her underweight and on the verge of being ill. At this time it is also a good idea to worm your dog. Never worm your dog before the midway point of pregnancy, and consult your vet to ensure the timing. Worming helps make sure that the mother does not pass round worms to the new puppies through her milk.

Watch for Laboring

Signs that indicate your dog is preparing to give birth include:

• A hollowing of the hip area which indicates that the puppies have moved and are getting in place for birth.
• A temperature of less than 100.
• Nesting behavior, including digging at covers, hiding or being determined to stay in a certain area. This is your dog deciding where she will have her puppies and means that the hormones which trigger labor are working.
• Shivering is actually a sign of contractions, if the dog is calm, or possibly eclampsia.
• Irritability is common in laboring dogs; try to keep her calm and relaxed just as you would a human giving birth.

Giving Birth

You dog will move into the second stage of labor known as hard labor, which will expel the puppies. Puppies are born enclosed in a membrane that must be removed for the puppy to breathe. After the first puppy appears, give the mother a few moments to chew and lick the membrane from the pup. If she doesn’t, you will have to do this for her by removing the membrane and rubbing the puppy with a warm towel. The umbilical cord can be tied and cut about an inch from the puppy. Because it is natural for mother dogs to eat the placenta and often later vomit, it’s best if you clean the placenta up and dispose of it. Generally you can expect one puppy every hour until she is finished. With several puppies the mother may take a break and not push or strain for up to 4 hours before birthing another puppy.

Watch for Illness after Giving Birth

Consult your vet if your new mom has any of the following symptoms, which could be signs of a serious condition like metritis or eclampsia during the days after whelping her puppies.

• Fever
• Loss of appetite
• No interest in puppies
• Vaginal discharge with foul odor
• Not enough milk production
• Stiff painful walking
• Nervousness or restlessness
• Muscle spasms or seizures
• Hard painful mammary glands

The area where the mom and new pups will live temporarily should be in a warm (no less than 70 degrees F) and dry area where the puppies can be enclosed while the mom can come and go. Puppies and mom will enjoy newspapers or disposable diapers to shred and make a soft absorbent nest.

Caring for New Puppies

Nature equips the new mother dog to do most of the work when it comes to caring for her puppies. Nursing and learning from the mother during the first weeks of their lives give puppies the necessary nutrition and basic survival skills they will need. A vet should examine the puppies within a few days of their birth and if any tail docking is to be done it should be taken care of before the puppies are 5 days old.

Puppies’ nails can be clipped when they get sharp. The eyes will open around 2 weeks after birth. To assist your mother dog with weaning, starting at about 4 weeks provide a mixture of puppy food and water or milk. As weaning progresses, establish a regular feeding and toilet training schedule. Encourage socialization by cuddling each puppy for a few minutes twice a day.

At 6-8 weeks of age, puppies should be checked for internal parasites and receive their vaccinations for distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis and parvovirus. The rabies vaccination should not be given before the puppies are 3 months old.

Begin separating the puppies from their mother for a length of time each day when they are around 6 weeks old. This will help the mother stop producing milk, and allow the puppies to learn to spend more time away from mom until they are only together at night. For some excellent advice that goes into more detail on specifically caring for newborn puppies, read this article by Julia Williams.

While much of this may seem to be a natural occurrence, any help you provide as a responsible pet owner will make the whole process easier on your dog and her babies.

Read more articles by Suzanne Alicie

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.

Treating Canine Arthritis in a Multi-Modal Fashion

By Ruthie Bently

Canine arthritis (Degenerative Joint Disease) generally affects our senior canine companions, though younger dogs can be affected also. Nowadays with the advances of veterinary medicine there are several treatment options: allopathic, homeopathic, alternative medicine and herbal remedies can help alleviate their symptoms and pain. Treating canine arthritis in a multi-modal fashion works well for many dogs, and you may find that more than one treatment will suit your dog’s needs the best.

If you go to a holistic veterinarian, some of the alternative therapies they might suggest include: acupuncture, animal chiropractic, Reiki, laser therapy, massage therapy and natural remedies. See my articles on alternative therapies and laser therapy for more information. Natural remedies work well with most dogs, though you should consult with your vet if you have a special needs dog before proceeding with treatment. Your vet may suggest a combination of natural remedies for better results. You can purchase natural remedies at your local herb, health food store or online herb store.

Perna and Greenlip mussels have been shown to assist in the restoration of connective tissues that have been damaged by canine arthritis. Several herbs have been found to be effective against the effects of canine arthritis. Comfrey given daily has been shown to be effective against arthritis. Many vets and dog owners recommend yucca to ease the pain of arthritis. It contains natural steroids that can relieve arthritis inflammation.

Stinging nettle cleans your dog’s blood and removes toxins that may exacerbate the symptoms of arthritis. It can also be made into a tea for your dog. If you don’t want to go through collecting and processing stinging nettle yourself you can get nettle extract instead. Alfalfa is good for soothing joint swelling too. Your dog’s weight and build will determine the daily dose, which will be between one teaspoon and three tablespoons.

Massage therapy is a wonderful way to bond with your dog while helping them deal with the vagaries of canine arthritis. Get an herbal oil suitable for your dog, and if you can’t find one locally then olive or sunflower oil will work too. Rubbing the oil into your dog’s joints can relieve the stiffness and relax their muscles.

A newer drug used in the treatment of canine arthritis is a joint fluid modifier. This is a long term treatment for arthritis and you may want to evaluate all your alternatives before deciding on this. Depending on the severity of the pain, your vet may suggest a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). These reduce inflammation, provide pain relief and while not curing it can slow down the disease. Dosage should be determined by your vet and monitored by you for possible side effects. You should also observe your pet closely when on these medications to make sure they don’t overdo any exercise. By reducing the inflammation your pet will feel better, though not healed, and they may want to play or exercise more than they should.

Preventative medicine is the best course, and regular exercise can help your dog’s joints, as activity delivers lubricating fluid to the joints. You don’t want to run a marathon or go too far, and should discuss the safe amount of daily exercise your dog can have with your vet. If your dog is overweight this compounds the problem and makes the situation worse. An overweight dog will suffer more pain and have more strain and pressure on their joints.

If your dog is used to jumping up on furniture, consider providing them with a set of stairs to make their ascent easier. A bed that keeps your dog off the floor or is cushioned with four or more inches of foam will help them rest their joints more comfortably. Ask your vet if adding a heating pad will help your dog’s situation.

If you suspect your dog may be suffering from canine arthritis you should have them evaluated by your veterinarian to make certain this is what the issue is. After your dog has been diagnosed, your vet will probably have several suggestions for you. Being a responsible pet owner means evaluating all the options available and choosing the ones that will best serve your dog.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

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.

Egyptian Mau Cats: the Oldest Spotted Breed

By Julia Williams

The Egyptian word for cat is Mau (rhymes with wow). A translation from the Egyptian Book of the Dead (240 B.C.) states that “The male cat is Ra himself, and he is called by reason of the speech of the god Sa, who said concerning him, He is like unto that which he hath made, thus his name became Mau.”

You probably already know that cats were worshipped as deities by the ancient Egyptians. Large numbers of sacred cats were mummified and placed in underground galleries. Numerous bronze votive statuettes have also survived, such as the Gayer-Anderson cat now housed in the British Museum. Cats were also cherished as pets, and mourned upon their death. Tombs of the kings revealed not only mummified cats but toys and food as well. It’s been alleged that very often, a family would shave off their eyebrows to mourn the passing of their beloved cat.

Spotted cats were depicted on the walls of the pharaoh’s chambers, and were said to be the kings’ most sacred and revered companions. Many historical experts believe that artwork of the ancient Egyptians clearly identifies the Egyptian Mau. It’s hypothesized that the Egyptian Mau was domesticated from a spotted subspecies of the small African Wildcat.

The Egyptian Mau is the oldest and the only naturally occurring breed of spotted domestic cats, a group that includes Ocicats, Bengals, Savannahs and Safari cats. The Mau’s history in North America began in 1956, when they were imported by an exiled Russian princess named Nathalie Troubetskoy. The Egyptian Mau was recognized by the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) for championship competition in 1977.

The Egyptian Mau is a fascinating cat with a stunning “wild” look and a delightful demeanor. First-time Mau owners are said to become so enchanted with this spotted breed that they almost always want more than one.

Temperament of the Mau

As a rule, the Egyptian Mau is an intelligent and active cat. They are fiercely loyal and devoted to their human companions, and are known to form very strong bonds with their owners. Mau kittens adapt easily to new situations, but an adult Mau cat who has already bonded with a family may experience a challenging adjustment period when going to a new home.

The Egyptian Mau has a soft, melodious voice and is known to use it to express happiness. Another way they demonstrate their contentment is by vigorously wiggling their tails (the equivalent of a dog’s wagging tail, perhaps?) while kneading a person with their front paws.

Physical Attributes of the Mau

The beautiful Egyptian Mau is a medium size cat with well developed muscles and athletic grace. The large, slightly almond-shaped eyes are in a distinctive gooseberry green shade. The Mau has alert, medium-to-large ears that are broad at the base, moderately pointed and sometimes tufted.

The coat is medium long and silky, with a glossy sheen. Three colors can be shown in championship status: Silver, Bronze and Smoke, with Silver being the most popular color by far. In the Egyptian Mau standard, much importance is allocated to pattern and contrast. Spots may be any shape or size, but they must be clearly visible and should not run together.

Cats in Egypt Today

Like most American cat owners, Egyptians typically have just one or two felines in their household. However, cat-keeping is largely confined to members of the upper middle class, which is a tiny minority. Although the Egyptian peoples’ feelings toward cats are conditioned by tradition, many are not fully aware of the sacred history cats have in their country.

Photo courtesy of Lil Shepherd.

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.

Back to School for Kids and Pets

By Linda Cole

Once again, summer vacation is coming to an end for millions of kids around the country. Hopefully, pets were able to spend quality time with their little humans, but like all good things, summer vacation is over and children are off to another year of school. Suddenly, pets are left with nothing to do and boredom can set in. When kids go back to school, what’s a bored pet to do with all the extra time they now have?

Parents are usually the only ones happy to see summer vacation end as kids prepare for their first day of class, a year older and hopefully wiser. Pets, on the other hand, have no idea what’s going on. The first day of school is a flurry of activity as parents pry kids out of bed, which is way too early after a summer of sleeping in. Parents and kids rush out the door so everyone can get where they need to go on time. The house is quiet and the poor pet is still sitting in the middle of the kitchen, alone and confused. Where did everyone go?

Pets don’t do well with sudden changes in their routine, and that’s exactly what back to school means for them. Routines make them feel safe and comfortable. This is the time of year when pets can become confused, depressed or exhibit signs of separation anxiety when the routine they grew accustomed to all summer suddenly changes. Pets get used to certain things happening at a certain time, or close to it, each day. Once school starts, watch your pet for signs of boredom or separation anxiety. This can become a problem when a dog or cat who is used to having someone around most of the day is left on their own to figure out how to entertain themselves.

Sit down with your kids and talk to them about responsible pet ownership. This is a good time to remind them their four legged friends need attention from them after school. Pets don’t require a lot of our time, and spending an extra fifteen minutes in the morning before school exercising the dog will help him get through the day until everyone is back home in the afternoon. A walk or playtime in the backyard after school will reassure a pet they haven’t been forgotten.

Cats don’t usually tear up furniture or leave claw marks on the front door, but even they can experience separation anxiety when it’s time for kids to go back to school. Pets don’t understand why the summer routine they grew accustomed to has suddenly changed, and bored pets can be destructive. Separation anxiety can turn into a serious behavioral problem if it’s not dealt with. Establishing a new routine that includes all members of the family will help kids learn more responsibility in the care of their dog or cat, and help pets deal with their time home alone once they know what to expect before and after school.

Since a pet’s routine will change when the kids head back to school, now is the perfect time to help ease them into a new schedule before they’re left on their own. Start by having your kids give the dog or cat extra attention in the morning. Go for a walk, play tug a war or wiggle a toy for the cat. Once a pet realizes someone will return home to give them attention at a certain time, they have something to look forward to that can help them pass the hours. They may still be bored, but once a pet learns the new schedule, they’re willing to wait for the kids get home from school.

Ask your kids to think of games or activities they can do with their pet to help them adjust to a new routine. Have the kids help put out toys for pets to entertain themselves with while everyone’s gone. Hide treats around the house to give a bored pet something stimulating to do. Fill treat toys for dogs to chew on. If your dog stays in a crate when everyone’s gone, start now and give him time to gradually adjust to spending more time in his crate.

Back to school means a new routine for the entire household and everyone needs to adjust, but it doesn’t have to be upsetting for pets. With a plan in place and your kids help after school, pets can adjust to a new schedule knowing they haven’t been forgotten. They can still spend time with the ones they love. It’s just at a different time of the day.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Find CANIDAE Retailers Near You!

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.