Friday, October 30, 2009

Does your pet do costumes?

Howl-oween is almost here, and the big question is: does your pet wear a costume, or not?

** Pet costume photos from Costume Craze.

After years of struggling with my infant daughter to stop ripping off her bonnet (Can you believe I made a child wear bonnets? What was I thinking, we were in Little House on the Prairie?) I'm not endeared to the idea of forcing anything small and cute into an outfit against their will. But, if the dog is into it, then why not? Extra attention for a pooch is always a good thing.

I'm guessing that those who are into dressing up for Halloweeen are also those who enjoy dressing their pets up for Halloween. I'm not big on costumes myself, so I rarely put a costume on my dog. I don't think Kelly would go for it anyway. But I must admit, I did just see the cutest reindeer costume in Target's bargain bins for $2.50, and at that price, I figured why not give it a try? But when I got it home and held it up to 28-lb Kelly, it was too small. Oh darn.

Numerous parades and parties for your canine trick or treaters abound. This Halloween pet event in the St. Louis area benefits humane shelters.

Buzzfeed posts some amusing pictures of creative dog costumes. Some of the dogs, such as Orange Juice Dog and Eaten by an Anaconda Dog seem to be enjoying their outfits. Others, such as Milipede Dog and Pot Roast Dog, not so much.

If you want to help your pet feel comfortable while on display, ArkAnimals offers these tips to train your pet to wear a Halloween costume.

Finally, in addition to costumes, there is also "creative grooming." Woman's Day offers these photos of painted poodles and otherwise wackily-groomed pooches. As Woman's Day reports, "we don't condone it, we just report it."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Training Tips from a New Dog Mom- part 2

Last week we shared one dog owner's experience with training her adorable new puppy, Bailey. This week she joins us again to share some of her challenges in training this spunky terrier, and what they've both learned.

What is Bailey's most unusual training quirk? How are you handling it?

Bailey repeatedly has a quirky problem with barking at things. By things I mean if there is something new in the neighborhood or inside the house, she immediately begins to bark uncontrollably at it. The only way I have found to get her to stop barking is to take her to the object and show it to her, let her sniff it, and then the barking stops. I have talked with other terrier owners who have explained the same scenario with their dogs. I hope that as she grows into an adult dog, this will stop. I think she is still getting more aware of her environment and what is in it.

We also had a unique situation when Bailey became afraid of the dark – outside only. Her trainer guessed that Bailey must have heard or seen a raccoon or fox at night which scared her. The trainer suggested that I go outside with her at night and talk her through her fear. I felt rather silly but I took her on night walks and said, “good Bailey” or “Brave Bailey” to assure her that night time was okay. When letting her outside in the backyard now, I turn on the outside light and the seems to alleviate any of her fears or scare away any critters.

What is the next step in training for Bailey?

Bailey has learned most of the basic commands like come, off, no, sit, lay down, and eat. Bailey is beginning intermediate training classes where she will learn more fun activities, in my opinion, such as play dead, agility courses, and other tricks to entertain people. Because Bailey learns quickly, I am considering training her to be a therapy dog. She is very social – loves people and dogs. If we could share her love with others in hospitals or kids who need a reading buddy, that would be a wonderful opportunity. We will see how she progresses. Therapy dogs must be at least one year old and Bailey is currently six months. Right now I am looking forward to learning more techniques that will keep both of us on our toes.

Thank you Linda for sharing your training experiences with Bailey! They've already given me a few ideas of what I can do with Kelly. And good luck- I'm sure Bailey will make a wonderful therapy dog.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Monday Rufferences and Mews

Welcome to Monday Rufferences and Mews, with the latest news and information on the pets we love.
If you're looking for a dog-friendly car that is also fuel-efficient, here's good news. The Petconnection blog reports on the Environmental Protection Agency's fuel economy guide for 2010 vehicles, which includes four hybrids containing desirable features for dog owners, such as space for dog crates and other design pluses.
"The Ford hybrid triplets of the Ford Escape, Mazda Tribute and Mercury Mariner all rate multiple paws in reviews on, our website that puts dog-lovers in the driver's seat when shopping for a new canine carrier."

My friend is in the middle of relocating, and wonders how to make the situation easier on her Golden Retriever. Moving can be stressful on a pet, but Pawluxury blog offers these tips on ways to ease the transition. Some suggestions are walking your dog through the neighborhood to get him acquainted with the smells, and waiting to move your dog in until your furniture and familiar possessions are in place.

I've heard this advice before, and even though my neighborhood is full of outdoor cats, never really thought about it until now: be sure there isn't a cat snuggled up under the hood of your car before you start your engine! The problem is created when cats attempt to get out of the chilly weather by squeezing under the hood of a car to get close to the engine's warmth. As reported in the New York Daily News, this white and orange tabby survived a two-mile ride under the hood of an SUV. The driver investigated after hearing strange noises, and the cat was soon freed and found to be in good shape. According to Petfinders blog, always bang on the hood before getting in your car, and then honk the horn before turning the key.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Training Tips from a New Pet Owner

When it comes to training dogs, maybe you've heard that it's the owner who really needs to be trained. New dog mom Linda, from upstate New York, is quick to agree. She's mom to pup Bailey, a 6 month old wheaten Cairn Terrier. Linda's learned about training her dog from research and talking to experts, and Bailey's caught on very quickly. After teaching the basics like crate training and house breaking, Linda and Bailey began puppy classes together.

How did you find a good puppy class for Bailey? What should an owner look for in a class?

I found a good puppy training class for Bailey by first talking with other dog owners then making phone calls to dog trainers. I knew what was important for Bailey and me, so I asked questions based on my goals of having a dog who listens and is obedient to my commands.

One of the first situations I discovered in contacting trainers is that many appeared to be largely money driven. How did I learn that? They didn’t care about the age of my dog or the number of animals in a class. There were also the trainers who were too busy to talk to me but happy to have me enroll without knowledge of what we would be doing in class.

A class should be age appropriate. Puppies are learning to socialize and it is much easier with other puppies in the same situation. Older dogs often have not had the opportunity to play around puppies so being with other older dogs may be challenging.

Size can be an important factor. This depends on the trainer and how much room in available for a class but I have learned that 8 to 10 dogs in a class is quite large.

I wanted a trainer that took an interest in our specific goals and needs, who would be interested in us as individuals. Fortunately by calling and meeting ahead of time, I found a trainer who is great. She asks what the class wants to work on, and is available in between classes if we have any problems or issues we need guidance on.

As Bailey grew and responded to commands like sitting or barking by the door when she needed to go outside, I grew to trust her and allowed larger areas of the house for her to explore. She earned her way into being free to run around our home as time went on. For us that meant no mistakes on the carpet. If that happened, more gates went back into place until another week went by without an accident.

Some people don’t want puppies on furniture or they prefer to keep them within certain rooms of the house. Those boundaries and guidelines need to be considered and taught in each situation.

What training styles work for Bailey? What do you notice that doesn't work well with dogs?

All breeds are very unique but each breeds looks to a leader. Consistent training is the key with all dogs. Some require much more time and patience than others. Bailey follows commands easily once I learn what to do and say according to the trainers expertise.

I have observed that some dogs struggle with simple commands such as sitting because the owner is not consistent. Different owners have discussed problems in class which shows that they either are very lenient because they have young kids at home and think it’s cute when the dog eats food off the counter and don’t stop the behavior or they work and are tired at the end of the day and simply want to play with the puppy rather than give commands.

Check in next Wednesday where Linda will share some of Bailey's challenges (like barking at shrubs!) and how she's learned to handle them. We'd love to hear your training tips and experiences too!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Dogs in School a Neccessity for Some

You may take your dog to school. For some children, those words have a profound impact.

Earlier this fall I read about Carter, a 5-year old autistic boy in Illinois who has responded well to his shaggy gray therapy dog. When the time came to enter Kindergarten, however, the dog, who had become so vital to Carter, was denied. Lawsuits soon resulted, with the parents aiming to get the dog recognized as a "service dog" and therefor allowed in school.

Nancy Freedman-Smith, a certified pet dog trainer, comments in her blog A Dog's Life,

You may have seen the news stories from around the country where Autism Assist dogs are being denied access to schools and many lawsuits are resulting. At the core of this controversy is the definition of what an Autism Assist dog does or doesn't do.

Freedman-Smith, who has trained a dog to work with a middle school boy, recently announced on her blog that the dog has been approved to accompany the boy to school.

Before the dog enters the school, we have a lot of work to do. On my part, I have been working with the dog to polish her skills and be sure that she is prepared for her new job. I will be meeting with the school to help set everyone up for success and we will most likely make a short movie or two to show to staff and kids as well an inservice about the dog. The boy and dog have two aids that also need to train with me. The aids will be the dog's primary handlers. She will have a crate in the room for chill time if needed and to get to school, she will be taking the bus!

This is wonderful news. As for young Carter in Illinois, although his family won their case, all has not been smooth. Even in the face of the court order, the school declined to allow the dog. The boy--and his dog--are now attending a special school 30 miles from their home.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday Rufferences and Mews

Welcome to Monday's Rufferences and Mews!

Could your dog be the next National Spokesdog for Cesar Millan? Why not enter your lovable pooch today? The grand prize winner will appear with Cesar Millan in a public service campaign to educate on spaying and neutering. In addition, they'll win an autographed pair of Landroller skates and $1000 shopping spree at Petco. Finalists will also be eligible to compete for Best Pack, Most Outrageous Feat, Best Camera Face and Most Hilarious Costume.

It sounds like a Halloween murder mystery: Toxic-choc, or chocolate poisoning. But for dogs, it's all too real. While we might indulge in a few mini-Hersheys bars or bite size Snickers, it's important to keep these candies away from our dogs. Years ago, I was given a giant Hersheys kiss--you know, one of those gifts the size of a grapefruit but not as healthy? I placed it safely on a table, but my agile dalmatian found a way to get at it and eat the whole thing. He became extremely sick, but fortunately survived. So remember to hide the treats this Halloween.
The headmaster of my kids' school brings his dog to work. The auto dealership where we bought our van features several dogs in the office. What's with this trend for bringing dogs to work? For one thing, dogs are good for our morale. They have a calming effect on people. They also might open up communication. According to an article in K9 magazine, a dog in the office can help your business. The article offers tips on how to implement a dog friendly workplace, and guidelines for proper dog-owner behavior. Maybe it's time you considered bringing your dog to work!

What category would your dog best win in Cesar Millan's contest? And why is he offering roller skates for a prize anyway? How do you and your pet celebrate Halloween? And do you bring your dog to work? I'm looking forward to your comments. And check back next Monday for more Rufferences and Mews!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Is a Digital Dog Mag for You?

Is it time to change our definition of "magazine"? I like to think of a magazine as pages of print bound with a glossy cover, able to be stacked in a pile, stuffed in a tote bag, folded or spindled. Read while sprawled across couch, in the passenger seat of a car or on crowded commuter train. Held in one hand while the other hand remains free for turning pages, folding down corners or ripping out recipes and interesting articles.

Recently, however, I discovered a fully digital version of K-9 magazine. You can get a free issue too. I found it easy to navigate, user-friendly and quick responding. The two-page spread on my monitor revealed an image similar to the type of magazine with which we are all familiar. With the click of a button I could turn the pages, with a satisfying page flipping sound effect.

A recent issue covered a wide variety of helpful dog-related topics such as Pet-friendly hotels, canine CPR, dogs for adoption, and healthy food and play ideas. Audio, video and interactive features added to the content.

One negative: I was distracted by the background music, which (at the risk of sounding old) was too loud with an annoying techno beat. There must be a way to turn it off, I'll have to check.

There are many benefits to the digital magazine. It's handy, it won't clutter up my coffee table or take up room in the landfill when I'm done. It's easy to enter contests or search additional information. It's bright and attractive. I'm just still trying to get used to the new concept. Since I work in front of a computer all day, I don't know if I want to spend my leisure time there too.

What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

God and dog

This video has been going around like crazy, but I couldn't resist posting it here because every time I watch it, I smile. To me, the simple words are sweet and true. I just love the message. And when, at the end, the dog smiles. It's a nice way to start my day, to think about how my dog loves me, and also how God loves me.

Written, recorded and animated
By Wendy Francisco

Monday, October 12, 2009

Monday Rufferences and Mews

Monday Rufferences and Mews

Twitter is a great social networking tool, but can it really help pets? Absolutely! And Romeo and Dougal would tell you how, but I guess it's up to their owners to explain. It has something to do with a Twitter event called a Pawpawty, or all day messaging events where tweeple can pledge money to support specific pet causes. You can follow Romeo on @Romeothecat and maybe join in on a Pawpawty soon!

Does the total on your pet's veterinarian bill look more like a month's rent? I'm always shocked at how much every little item adds up for my dog Kelly's routine visits--usually between $100-$200 if immunizations are included. No, I don't begrudge a single penny spent on her care. But, I'm also searching for ways to economize. One tip is to spend more money on quality pet food. By providing the healthiest, high quality options, you may prevent certain health issues--which means fewer visits to the vet's. Find out more ways to save here. Although geared for cats, many of the tips apply to dogs also.

Guiness Book of World Records wannabe Boomer (Photo: Associated Press) is hoping to land the record for world's tallest dog. At 36 inches tall at the shoulder, he just might win. Boomer, a Newfoundland dog, is 180 pounds and 7 feet long. The previous record was held by a Great Dane.

Kelly and I would love to hear from you! What causes would you like to see supported in a pawpawty? And, what are your tips for saving money on pet care?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Teeny tiny micro piglets

Teeny tiny piggies! Dubbed teacup pigs or micro pigs, these little oinkers are adorable. Just check out this image, from the Today Show (left)

They're the latest pet craze in the UK. But do they make good pets?

Seen yesterday on the Today Show, Englander Jane Croft showed off her miniature porcine pals to Meredith Vieira and Ann Curry.

At birth, the piglets weigh about 9 ounces. Full grown, they are only 65 lbs, about the size of a Border Collie or English Bulldog.

Here are some reasons why these tiny piggies make good pets.

Teacup Pigs are:

1. Intelligent

2. Clean

3. Love attention

4. Can be litter box trained

5. non-allergenic

Keep in mind these drawbacks:

Teacup Pigs are:

1. Expensive ($1,000 or more)

2. Happiest with company. Croft only sells her piglets in pairs.

3. Considered livestock. In England, owners must be licensed to keep livestock.

4. Not currently available in the United States. But, never fear, it's only a matter of time!
I'd like to get one, but first I need to know if they get along well with dogs. After seeing this adorable video, I think yes!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Can you Help Presents 4 Pets?

Now until November 7th, there is something you can do. Whether you're a pet owner, looking to adopt, or just love animals. We can all help.

Do you have old towels, blankets or rugs you could donate to provide comfortable bedding for a shelter pet? Leashes, collars, toys, treats are also welcome. In addition, newspapers, bleach and pet food coupons are among the items requested by shelters for the "Presents 4 Pets" program.

Sponsored by The National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS) “Presents 4 Pets” collection drive will benefit animal shelters for the fourth year now. According to the organizations' website, the goal is "To benefit local animal shelters and foster organizations by collecting and donating pet supplies to ease the financial strain these organizations and their volunteer’s experience. Additional goals include improving the quality of life for shelter animals, increasing their opportunities for adoption and recruiting foster homes for local needy pets."

To donate, contact a NAPPS pet sitter in your area. Or, by making a purchase online at, a percentage of your purchase will be contributed to the campaign.

Other items on the wish list are:
crate fans
dog and cat food
cat travel carriers
dog beds
kitty igloos
scratching posts
kitty litter, scoops, etc.
pee pads
pet shampoos

Monday, October 5, 2009

Monday Rufferences and Mews

Hi and Welcome to Monday Rufferences and Mews.

10 feet? 12 feet? 20 feet? How long should a dog's chain be, if you're chaining out your dog? Or, is it ethical to even chain out a dog at all? A new law passed in Reno, NV states that chains should be at least 14 feet, and dogs should not be left out for more than 12 hours. Seriously, if you're going to chain your dog outside all day, what is the point of having a dog? I put my dog outside in the fenced-in yard several times a day, usually for 10-30 minutes, take her on 1 or 2 walks a day, and the rest of the time she's inside with me. Dog trainer Victoria Stilwell claims that chaining dogs can make them mean. Pet owners spoke up. What do you think is right?

Should non-farm areas allow chickens as pets? My vote is yes, if the proper space, housing and food is provided, why shouldn't suburban and city-dwellers raise chickens? As for the noise issue, they couldn't be any noisier than many of the dogs in my neighborhood.

Speaking of neighborhood dogs that bark, here is a great site with tips on how to deal with your neighbor's barking dog. It deals with lazy dog owners as well as difficult and "total nut jobs. The article thoroughly covers how, when and what to say to handle the situation nicely. One suggestion, if talking nicely fails, is to post a video of your neighbor's barking dog on YouTube. (wow!)

What would happen to your pet if you decide it's time to move to an independent or assisted living facility? For many, it's devastating to consider having to give up our pets. The good news, some retirement communities allow pets, especially cats or small dogs. This is wise, because research supports pets as contributing to health and long life.

My friend recently found a stray dog. Luckily, she was able to give it proper veterinary care and, even though the dog was 8-9 years old, decided to provide her with a loving home. What should you do if you find a stray? First, determine if it's a stray/abandoned pet, or a lost pet. Look for a tag or other form of ID. Even if the cat or dog is not wearing a collar, it could have slipped off. You may notice a ring of thin hair around the neck where the collar once was. Does the animal appear well-fed and groomed? Or is it skinny, ravenous, caked in dirt?
This booklet contains sound advice on how to help frightened, injured, pregnant, and other stray animals.

Our kids' school used to have a day for Blessing of the Animals. Students were encouraged to bring their dog, cat, hamster, turtle or other pet, to be blessed. We all gathered around the fountain in the front yard, and took turns presenting our furry friends for their special moment and thanking God for all creatures, great and small. This went on every year until, inevitably, one time a dog bit a student. That was the last Blessing of the Animals. But the tradition is still carried on many places, to coincide with the Roman Catholic feast day of St. Francis of Asisi. This year it is October 4th.

An arrest has been made in the case of Sticky the cat, found in a Philly suburb abandoned and wrapped in duct tape. A 19-year old is said to be the abuser. I hope the young man is dealt with severely and receives some sort of counseling, as it's well documented that people who abuse animals have a greater potential to commit violent crimes against people. Sticky is recovering well.

Find out: Do dogs get mosquito bites?

Join us next Monday for more Rufferences and Mews. I'm looking forward to reading your thoughts and comments.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

And your little dog, too.

If The Wizard of Oz was one of your favorite childhood movies (and maybe adult, too) you may be aware that this week marks its release in Blu Ray DVD. It seems an appropriate time, therefore, to celebrate one of the most famous cinema dogs--Toto.

I've seen The Wizard of Oz so many times I don't need to concentrate on the plot, so I focus on Toto, played by canine actor Terry. I try to see if I can figure out where her trainer may be hiding, and what tricks were used to get the little terrier to tag along at Dorothy's heels or jump up in just the right place. The dog never fails to bring a smile to my face, she's so cute and happy, portraying that loyal pet who follows Dorothy all the way to Oz.

In the book The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum describes Toto as "a little black dog, with long, silky hair and small black eyes that twinkled merrily on either side of his funny, wee nose." The 1939 movie Toto, actually a Cairn Terrier, fits the bill. According to IMDb (Internet Movie Database) here are 5 facts about Terry.

1. Terry was born in 1933.

2. She broke her foot during the filming of the movie

3. She was afraid of the powerful wind machines used in the tornado scenes.

4. Her first film was Bright Eyes with Shirley Temple

5. She earned $125/week in the making of The Wizard of Oz.