Monday Rufferences and Resources

Here's this week's Rufferences and Resources.

In shelter news this week, read about a new way to transport pups in need of homes: the Rescue Waggin'!

And, did you think shelters were only for dogs and cats? Check out this guinea pig shelter in Aurora CO. I love guinea pigs--they're so cute and personable. Find out more why guinea pigs make great pets in my article at

Looking for a pet? You may find it this way, with a new pet friendly iphone app.

Do you know what Twitter a Critter is? Find out here!

People need a plan for their safety and evacuation in the event of fire, flood, tornado etc. Well, so do our dogs, cats and other animals. We need to be sure they aren't left behind. Learn about disaster preparedness for our pets.

Heading to Orlando? Visit the Woof Gang Bakery, dedicated to the canine clientelle.

Finally, do you have a veterinarian who has been especially caring? Gone above and beyond? Demonstrated lifesaving skills? Nominate your favorite vet for the North American Pet Health Insurance Association award. Or, tell about how pet health insurance helped you and your pet. Entries for both are due by September 30. Click here for more details.

Please check back next Monday for more Rufferences and Resources.

Every Single Cat Matters

By Julia Williams

Two years ago this August, Laurie Cinotto started a little blog called Itty Bitty Kitty Committee (or IBKC). This wonderful blog is a perfect example of how lives can change for the better, thanks to the advent of the internet. In this case, the lives changed are those of itty bitty homeless kitties—lots and lots of them!

I didn’t start reading the IBKC blog until recently, so I don’t know how long it took to “catch on,” but it’s very apparent that it has. The Itty Bitty Kitty Committee chronicles the daily lives of kittens that Laurie fosters for the Humane Society of Tacoma/Pierce County in Washington. Recently, she also participated in their annual Dog-A-Thon fundraiser for the shelter’s homeless dogs and cats.

The IBKC started with a modest goal of $3,000 which was quickly met by her readers. Each day I watched the pledges soar to new heights, and I marveled at the generosity of people from all over the world. Most had no ties to this particular shelter, but were obviously loyal fans of the IBKC. In the end, more than $23,000 was raised to help homeless kitties. This amount is not something one person could easily raise, unless they have a very wealthy circle of friends. Hence, the IBKC’s successful fundraising is a testament to the power of the “world wide web” in bringing people together for a common good – in this case, homeless kitties in need.

A talented Seattle artist named Mimi Torchia Boothby donated a beautiful watercolor painting to auction off for the fundraiser. The painting featured a colony of feral cats that live in a courtyard in a small Italian town. Said Laurie Cinotto, “I think it's amazing that these cats who live on the streets, barely cared for, will be making a difference. These cats touched Mimi and she made a painting of them. The money from the sale of this painting will help fund lifesaving programs for cats and kittens. To me this illustrates that every SINGLE cat matters, and every cat has a purpose.”

Black, white, tortie or tabby…every single cat does matter. And as fantastic as it is for all of the cats that the Itty Bitty Kitty Committee was able to help through this fundraiser, I got to thinking what would happen if every single cat in every single shelter had an IBKC to help them. Imagine how many homeless kitties lives would improve if every shelter had a volunteer who had a blog with such a huge following, and every year they also raised this amount.

I’m so happy for the kitties that the IBKC could help, but at the same time a bit sad for all the other shelter cats (and dogs). The brutal economy of late is forcing people to make some really hard decisions about what’s best for their beloved pet, and many see no alternative but to surrender them. Unfortunately, a fair number of shelters are ill equipped to handle the number of animals they had before the economy tanked, let alone this marked increase. So an “Itty Bitty Kitty Committee for every city” would be a truly great thing, wouldn’t it?

My lifelong dream has been to open a cat sanctuary, because every single cat absolutely matters to me. Not only that, every single cat deserves to live each and every day with plenty of food, a warm place to sleep, and a home with a human who cherishes them. That’s my idea of utopia. I only hope I live long enough to see my lifelong dream become a reality.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

A Flurry of Information

As more and more pet owners pamper their pets and try to avoid the "commercial products," more and more smaller companies are turning towards internet/blog marketing then ever. Over the last few months, I have gotten more emails and questions from small companies telling me about their products in the last few months then I have gotten since I've started this blog.

Maybe I'm just becoming more popular on the web (I doubt it!) or companies are just becoming more grassroots in the way they promote their items.

My biggest issue, of course, is what to believe. It is so difficult for a company to convince someone that they need this product over the products they currently use...especially if the products a consumer currently uses is working for that person.

I read all the emails I get, and try to pass on the ones that look legit, but my I think my dogs are enjoying the products they have and aren't looking to be test animals for my blog. But, at the same time, you never know where that one great product will come around!

Dogs in the Service Industry

By Anna Lee

There is an organization known as “Canine Companions for Independence,” or CCI. They provide and train assistance dogs. CCI provides an extremely valuable service and I would like to tell you about them. Their program is broken down into several categories as follows:

Service Dogs are partnered with adults with physical disabilities to assist with daily tasks and increase independence by reducing reliance on other people. Service Dogs can pull their partner in a manual wheelchair, push buttons for elevators or automatic doors, and even assist with business transactions by transferring money, receipts, and packages.

Skilled Companion Dogs are trained to work with an adult or child with a disability under the guidance of a facilitator. A facilitator is typically a parent, spouse or caregiver who handles and cares for the assistance dog, encourages a strong bond between the recipient and the Skilled Companion Dog, and is responsible for the customized training needs of the dog.

Facility Dogs are expertly trained dogs who partner with a facilitator working in a health care, visitation or education setting. You have probably seen segments on your local news where dogs visit senior centers or nursing homes.

Hearing Dogs are specially bred Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers who alert partners to key sounds by making physical contact such as nudging the leg or arm. Hearing Dogs are trained to recognize and respond to the sound of a doorbell, alarm clock, someone calling a name or a smoke alarm.

One special group that currently uses CCI dogs is disabled veterans. There are some requirements to be met before getting a dog including: recipient must have been disabled in combat, recipient must use a manual wheelchair, must have clear speech so the dog can understand commands, and have a fenced yard. CCI has a section of their website dedicated to the veterans program.

CCI is the largest assistance dog organization in the world. They were formed in 1975 and placed their first service dog in 1976. In the summer of 1984 they placed their 100th dog! They now have training centers throughout the U.S. They only use the Labrador Retriever and the Golden Retriever, or a combination of those two breeds. Dogs are provided free of charge. The students must pay their own transportation to and from the centers plus the cost of meals and housing during training.

A ‘puppy raiser’ has the dog until age 15 months when it is returned to CCI where it goes into either a six month or nine month training program. Dogs also go through a vigorous health screening. At that point some may be released from the program due to a medical condition or temperament problems.

The first three-month semester reviews and builds upon the basic obedience commands the dogs learned as puppies. During this semester the dogs begin to work around the wheelchair and learn the retrieve command. Those that pass the first semester continue into their second semester of training.

The second three-month semester finishes the commands the dogs will need to know such as pull, and light-switch. They learn over 40 commands and practice working in different environments. During training the dogs are screened to see if they truly have what it takes to become a CCI assistance dog.

Next is Team Training, where the dogs are paired with a recipient and both human and dog are trained to work together. This two-week session teaches the recipients proper care and handling of the Canine Companion. After the training session and public access testing, they attend a graduation ceremony where the puppy raiser passes the leash to the Graduate and the Graduate officially receives the Canine Companions assistance dog.

Approximately six weeks after the two-week Team Training class, graduates return to CCI for final testing, certification and fine tuning if needed. Throughout the working life of the dogs, graduates periodically return to campus with their dogs for workshops, seminars and reunions.

CCI instructors remain in close touch with graduates through correspondence, reports and by providing advice via telephone and email. Instructors also travel into the field to conduct workshops and to resolve specific training or behavioral problems in the graduate's home and/or workplace environment.

If you or someone you know could benefit from a Service Dog, check the CCI website for more information and application forms. It is an excellent program and it is giving the recipients a better life all around.

Read more articles by Anna Lee

What is a Dog Breed Club?

By Ruthie Bently

Have you ever been to a dog show? When I was in grade school I went to my first dog show, which was held right down the road from where I lived on an estate called “Tara” (really, I’m not making this up). At first glance, it seemed as if we had walked into a three ring circus. There were dogs running around in several rings with their handlers, dogs in crates in other areas, and there was one main ring with a red carpet laid down in it, without the dogs. Since I had grown up with Boxer dogs, the area where they were kenneled was the area I gravitated to. I met a very kind woman who explained what the show was all about, and she told me about the local breed club as well. This was where I learned about breed clubs for the first time.

There are breed clubs for most of the AKC recognized dogs, and even clubs for some of the rare breeds as well. The purpose of a breed club is to promote their given breed, along with educating anyone interested in their breed. They can also be instrumental in giving you information about the breed you may be considering purchasing or adopting. The breed club is usually also a good place to find out information about rescued dogs of the club’s breed.

Breed club members are people who are dedicated to the preservation of the breed, as it was meant to be used. They also want to preserve the breed’s standard. The breed club members are also careful to ensure that any breeding that takes place between dogs are for the betterment of the breed itself and not the individual breeder. Most breed clubs have a code of ethics that their dog breeders must follow to be a member of the club. The code of ethics for each breed club usually has to do with maintaining the standards of the breed as a whole, and members who do not adhere to them can be evicted from the club. It also helps ensure that anyone getting a new puppy will get a quality puppy – one that is free of health issues and conforms to the standards of the breed.

Breed clubs often hold their own dog shows, and these can be a confirmation show, or a working trial. For example, a Labrador Retriever breed club may host a tracking trial or hunting events for their given breed. The parent club of the breed is responsible for writing the standards that all dogs of that breed are judged by. Any dog that is allowed to be shown at a breed club show must meet the breed standards or be disqualified from competing.

Breed clubs are wonderful places for someone looking for a puppy of a specific breed. They can point a new dog owner in the direction of a breeder who adheres to the code of ethics of the club and who may breed dogs for confirmation or working, and sometimes even for just a great family companion dog. So the next time you want a certain dog, or even a dog to help you around the farm, consider contacting the breed club of the dog you are seeking.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Introducing dogs in blended families

When Stacy Jensen remarried, she wasn't the only one moving in with her new husband, Andy. She was also introducing her dog to the new family--including Andy's dog. Stacy has a Poodle-Pomeranian mix, Eddie. Andy's dog is Mauly, a young Vizsla. They were about 2 years old when they were brought together in one blended family. Introducing dogs into one "pack" can be tricky. Here Stacy tells us about her experience.

Q: How did you introduce Eddie and Mauly?

A: They met at the front door of my house. They were allowed to sniff around and check each other out. We were there in case there was a problem. We pretty much let them get to know each other.

Q: Did one dog become dominant?

A: Neither really. It depends on what is going on whether they display dominance. Mauly will sometimes show dominance due to her size. She can easily push Eddie out of the way. Eddie, of course, acts like he is much bigger than he is.

Q:How do you resolve any fights/disagreements?

A: We separate them. The only disagreements involve treats or food. Mauly is fairly mild mannered about even this. If Eddie abandons his food (because he gets distracted), Mauly will patiently sit next to Eddie's food bowl hoping for permission to eat it.

Q: What is your advice to others?

A: Each dog should have its own crate and bedding to lounge around the house.

Q: Anything else interesting you've noted about your dogs?

A: Eddie is overall more accepting of other dogs. Mauly had a dog try to steal her stick in the past year and ever since she will randomly be aggressive toward other dogs or 100 percent ignores them. This behavior is odd, because Mauly interacts well with other animals like calves, goats and horses we have encountered on walks.

Both dogs love people. Mauly is a bit jealous. If she hears Eddie's name or senses he is getting pets and affection, she runs into the room and will attempt to push Eddie away. Her size makes her triumphant in this endeavor. Eddie never seems to mind.

Andy and I still note that each dog knows his or her person. I may be sleeping in, but Eddie will sit at the bedroom door waiting for me to get up and ignoring Andy. Mauly will listen to me while Andy is at work, but once Andy arrives home she looks to Andy for direction (unless I have a treat!). As long as one of them listens to someone in the house, I'm good.

Thank you Stacy for your insight!

You can read Stacy's blog at:
or follow her on Twitter: @StacyWrites

Hiring a Pet Sitter: What You Need to Know

By Julia Williams

In my last post, I explained the benefits of hiring a professional pet sitter to care for your dog or cat while you’re away, as well as how to find a reputable one and conduct a phone interview. The process of hiring a pet sitter is not overly complicated, but should not be taken lightly. After all, you’ll be entrusting them to take good care of your faithful four-legged friend, and you need to be sure you’re choosing the right person.

With that in mind, the next step in the process is to invite a prospective pet sitter to meet you and your animal in your own home. An in-person meeting will help you decide if this is someone you want to care for your pet. They may sound great over the phone and look good “on paper,” but first impressions are equally important. Notice how they’re dressed, how they carry themselves, and how they interact with you as well as your pet. Does your pet seem to like them and feel comfortable in their presence? Do you feel at ease when talking with them?

It’s imperative at this stage of the hiring process to trust your instincts. If anything about the person makes you or your pet uncomfortable or wary, then do not hire them, because that “gut feeling” is never wrong!

Trade important information

Besides helping you decide if you want to hire a potential pet sitter, the in-home interview also helps them know if they can handle your pets and their specific needs. Be sure to tell the pet sitter everything they might encounter when caring for your pet, such as medications, conditions, dietary concerns, feeding and walking schedules, behavior issues, and any other pertinent information.

A professional pet sitter will likely have a written contract spelling out their services and fees. Before you sign, read it over carefully, and ask any questions you may have. Make sure you understand their rate, how many visits they will make, and what will happen in case of an emergency with your pet. Give them your cell phone number, and/or a number where you can be reached while away. Provide your vet’s name, address and phone number, and consider signing a form which lets your vet know that the sitter is authorized to seek care for your pet. You may also want to give them the phone number of a nearby friend or family member who could help them in an emergency.

If the interview goes well and you’re satisfied that the sitter will take good care of your pet, you may want to start by hiring them for just a day or two first rather than for a week or longer.

Pre-Trip Preparation

Even the most experienced and reliable pet sitter could run into problems if you haven't properly prepared for your absence. Be sure your pet has current identification tags and vaccinations. Stock up on their regular pet food and other supplies, and buy extra just in case your return is delayed. Leave everything in one place, where the pet sitter can find it easily. Give your spare key and the sitter’s phone number to someone you trust as a backup; also give their phone number to the pet sitter. Make sure the pet sitter understands your home's safety features, such as the circuit breaker and alarm system.

Leave Detailed Instructions

During the in-home interview, you should go over the care of your pet verbally, and ask your pet sitter if they have any questions. They will probably take notes as you go over your instructions. However, it’s still a good idea to leave them a detailed written list they can refer to, in case their notes are incomplete or get misplaced.

Write down everything the pet sitter will need to know about your dog or cat — including their likes and dislikes, medications and conditions, habits, fears, and anything else you think may help them when caring for your pet. You may also want to prepare a daily checklist of tasks the pet sitter can use during each visit. This is particularly helpful if medications, special food or specific exercise routines are involved. Post your instructions on the fridge, or leave them with your pet’s food and supplies.

Remember to bring your pet sitter's phone number in case your plans change, or you want to find out how your pet and his temporary caretaker are getting along. Some of these suggestions may seem like overkill to you, but honestly, it’s much better to prepare for anything and everything rather than deal with it on the fly. And when you feel confident that your beloved pet is in the care of a capable pet sitter, your vacation will be all the more enjoyable!

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Oral Hygiene and Your Dog

By Ruthie Bently

Good oral hygiene is as important for canines as it is for humans. Our dogs can get cavities, crack a tooth, and get plaque buildup on their teeth. They can even get gum disease if their teeth are not taken care of properly. Dogs don’t get as many cavities as we do, because they don’t have access to the sugars that we have in our foods or beverages. However, veterinary dentists are noticing a rise in cavities in dogs that are fed dog treats which are high in sugar. CANIDAE Snap-Biscuit® treats are a great choice for a healthy dog treat. They contain high quality chicken and turkey meals, whole grains, essential vitamins, minerals and fatty acids, and their crunchy texture helps scrape away plaque and tartar.

Dogs can crack their teeth if they are chewing on something that is too hard for them, so if you have a very oral dog you might want to consider a hard rubber toy with a bit of flex to it. If they are an aggressive chewer, try a toy that is bigger than their mouth; this way they can’t bite down on it too hard. You can even smear peanut butter in some of these toys to keep your dog occupied.

A dog suffering from gum disease can experience pain and dental issues as they get older if it is not treated. It can also lead to health issues with their kidneys or heart. By getting your dog used to having their teeth brushed when they are as young as possible, you are helping them stay healthier in the long run.

Bad breath is caused by bacteria, and if your dog has it, they might also have a problem with plaque or tartar. If the plaque or tartar is bad on your dog’s teeth you may want to consider a professional cleaning. There are both veterinary dentists and homeopaths that can perform the service for you. In most cases, a veterinary dentist will have to anesthetize your dog to clean their teeth.

There is a bright spot in all this – whether your dog is young or old, there are many good cleaning products on the market for your dog’s teeth. There are actual dog toothbrushes, which are smaller than ours to fit a dog’s mouth. There are also finger toothbrushes and even a wrap that goes on your finger like a piece of gauze. As for toothpaste, there are several varieties with flavors like beef that are sure to please a dog. When purchasing toothpaste for your dog’s teeth, make sure you do not use human toothpaste, because they have chemicals, abrasives and sweeteners in them that can be harmful to dogs.

Although it’s preferable to start your dog on their road to good oral health when they are a puppy, dogs of any age can be taught to accept having their teeth brushed. There are even toys for those dogs that are hard to win over to getting their teeth brushed. These toys have grooves in them that you can apply the toothpaste to, and then you give the toy to your dog and let them play with it. They get their teeth brushed while they are playing and they think you have just given them a treat. Not only that, they will remember and it will be that much easier the next time. As with anything else you are trying to teach your dog, consistency, patience and praise will win the day.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Bonding With Your Pet: What is Trust?

By Linda Cole

Our pets give us unconditional love with no hesitation. Dogs protect our homes as well as their pack leader and the rest of their family. Eager ears listen for the sound of our vehicles as we return home, and we are greeted at the door every time as if we've been gone for months. Most cats are more independent and dignified in their greetings. They would never lower themselves to the level of a dog by giving us wet kisses. Cats show their affection with a nip on the nose, a lick on the arm or head rub on our leg or face. Yet their happiness when we return home equals that of the dog, even though they exhibit the cool attitude of a cat. However, cats and dogs have one thing in common. They trust us, sometimes when it's not deserved. So what is trust?

The trust our pets give to us is non negotiable as far as they are concerned. Dogs work with humans to aid policemen and rescue workers digging through piles of rubble after an earthquake or other natural disaster hits a region. They help the blind and handicapped lead productive lives on their own. Therapy cats and dogs help hospitalized children and those in nursing homes cope with day to day challenges. The only thing pets ask from us in return is to care for their needs and treat them with respect and kindness.

Every time I gaze into the eyes of one of my pets, I see trust. They know I would never do anything to hurt them. What we think of as responsibility, they see as trust, but it's deeper than just us taking care of a pet. It's knowing them so well that we instantly know if they don't feel good, are frightened, curious or something is bothering them. Trust is also being able to look into the eyes of a pet who is sick and know, because they are telling us, it's time to let them go. Trust is an emotional bond between owner and pet. It's not something we think about, it's just there. You can't explain it, you just feel it.

A cat will curl up in your lap with a gentle purr not because you fed him, but because he trusts you. Of course the food doesn't hurt, but he won't sit on the lap of someone he doesn't trust. A dog will fight an intruder to protect his owner because of trust. They curl up at our sides or at our feet because they want to be near us. Our lives are enriched because we share them with our pets. They know when we are happy or sad and share our sorrows and joys. It all comes from trust.

The elements of trust means something different to our pets than it does to us and probably means something different to each of us as responsible pet owners. It's much more than making sure they've been fed and watered or they've had their walk and the cat pan is clean. It's a snuggle, a happy tail wag or gentle purr as we interact with them. It’s a passion we feel for doing what's best for them and making sure they have everything they need.

As pet owners, we see how their eyes light up when they look at us, an undeniable trust that brings a smile to our hearts. We get a warm feeling when they rest their heads on our chest and they give us a look that tells us just how contented they are. It's all because of trust and that's one of the best feelings around. Simply put – trust is love.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Needing A New Fish Tank

As I had posted previously, we are doing some work on our place, namely installing new hard wood floors and getting rid of the old, grungy carpeting.

In the midst of draining my 55 gallon fish tank down to about a quarter full of water and fish, we discovered that it had a slow leak. When we pulled up the old carpet, we found the floor under which the tank had stood was damaged with water. Apparently, the tank had been seeping water. So, what to do? Either replace just the top part with a similarly sized glass aquarium, or find an entirely new system, stand and all.

I never thought it would be so tough to find a good tank, at a good price. Years ago, I had a 45 gallon "high" tank, meaning the size was more vertical and deep, rather then horizontal. This way, a larger tank would fit in a tighter spot. Although my current tank was a "long," I was hoping to find a taller tank, but in the same amount of gallons.

It took stops at 5 different pet stores for me to find what I wanted. It seems as though the stores carry a lot of the "cookie cutter" style tanks, and mostly the long versions, bow front versions, or overpriced hexagon tanks. And most of the tanks were under 30 gallons.

In the end, my persistence to find the perfect tank at an affordable price paid off, but not without a lot of visits to different stores, and a lot of wondering if I would find one in my price range that would do the trick. Even the big box stores carry different tanks at different locations. Due to the size of a tank, and the amount of room they take up on the show room floor (or in storage), many stores don't carry a wide selection as it is more profitable to fill the shelves with other, higher volume items.

So if you're looking for an aquarium, do your research, be persistant, and don't be in a rush. Hopefully you too will find that perfect tank.

Monday Pet Rufferences and Resources

Every Monday I'll be bringing you Pet Rufferences and Resources, a place to keep up with what's happening in the pet world, links to breaking news, tips, good books and movies, and other bits of info you want to know! I hope you'll check back every week, and I'd love to hear your comments!

Last week I wrote a blog entry about traveling on planes with your pet. Here is one writer's opinion of having to fly with pets in the cabin of the plane. I never thought about allergy-sufferers before. Good points.

If you are considering traveling, by plane or otherwise, why not spend your waning summer days at a dog-themed special event, such as the vaudeville style show "Gone to the Dogs" in Texas, or the "Fido Festival" in NJ? Find some great ideas here! Closer to home, have you considered taking your dog out to play in a dog park, but not sure where to locate one? Here's a listing of dog parks by state.

Can your pet get swine flu? Find out more information here.And, if your pet does become ill, which household remedies are safe? Should you give your dog aspirin? What can you do if your dog has a tummy ache? And what in the world does contact lens solution have to do with this? Read these great tips from Good Morning America's Dr. Marty Becker. The Washington Post printed this opinion article today: Should you be compensated for emotional loss if your pet is injured?

And finally, do you have a great photo of your dog? Consider entering one of these pet photo contests.

Great American Photo Contest

Martha Stewart pets Contest

See you next Monday with more Monday Pet Rufferences and Resources!

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

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

Confused About Doggie Day Care?

Confused about Dog Day Care?
Would you take your dog to a day care? Here are some tips from Dogtopia CEO Amy Nichols. Let me know what you think.

Just like parents seeking quality care for their children while they work or travel, dog owners face the same dilemma. Amy Nichols, who has devoted her life to ensuring quality of life for America’s dogs, offers the following information about dog day care to help sort fact from fiction:

* Day care provides quality, structured care: Dog day care provides a structured schedule for your pooch, complete with activities, nap time, snack time and social play. Each Dogtopia location includes a gymnasium, romper room, and lounge to suit the different sizes and play styles of their diverse clientele. There is plenty of open space, which gives your dog the opportunity to interact with other dogs, while running around and burning off plenty of pent-up energy.

* Peace of mind: Dog day care provides all-day service for your pup—that means tons of active play time with plenty of their four-legged friends. There will not be a moment in the day where the owner has to wonder, ‘Is my dog alone?’ The typical Dogtopia location cares for between 50 to 80 dogs per day with a ratio of one caregiver per 10-15 dogs.

* Your dog is never out of your sight: To create even more peace of mind for dog owners, Dogtopia employs web cam technology that allows the dogs’ owners to check on their pets at any time.

* Entrance Exams: A Great Dane might not make the best company for a Dachshund and Dogtopia understands that. All dogs undergo evaluations that include a health assessment, vaccination verification, and a temperament test to insure that the dog is social and comfortable in large groups. Dogs are placed in play groups that suit their style.

* Trained Staff: It’s important that your dog is consistently happy and healthy, so Dogtopia only employs the best. The Dogtopia staff is fully trained to provide the best care for your pup. Store owners attend pet CPR classes and all employees are trained in pack management and dog behavior.

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

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

The Importance of Choosing the Right Cat Food

This guest post is Brought to you by Sean Green at Cat Food Reviews. For more information on Guest Blogging please send me an email at:

Perhaps the single most important part of caring for your cat is ensuring that you are providing them with adequate nutrition. Cats with a consistent supply of balanced, digestible nutrients will enjoy better overall health, and potentially require less veterinary care. However, there are hundreds of different choices of cat food formulas on the market today. How can you be certain that you are providing your cat with the best possible nutrition?

The first step in choosing the right cat food for your cat is to check the first five ingredients. These ingredients represent a large portion of the cat food formula. It is important to be wary of formulas that list corn, wheat or soy in the first five ingredients. These are high-carbohydrate ingredients, and have been potentially suggested to cause allergic reactions or food intolerance in some cats. Many people are opting to switch to low-carbohydrate cat food formulas, since these diets more closely resemble the nutritional needs of felines in the wild. In addition to this, it is ideal for the first ingredient of a cat food formula to be from the primary protein source listed on the front label. Remember, the ingredients in a cat food formula are listed by weight, and the first five ingredients represent a large part of the “bulk” of the formula.

For most cat food formulas, the phrase “You Get what you Pay For” is extremely accurate. Many cat owners are under the misconception that purchasing cheaper cat food formulas is an economical choice when feeding their cats. In reality, this is not true. Many cats need to consume a higher volume of an inexpensive cat food brand in order to satisfy their nutritional cravings. As many cheap cat food formulas are filled with high-carbohydrate products, this can eventually result in obesity. The chance of a cat experiencing a medical problem that requires veterinary attention is much higher when a cat is fed a cheap, high-carbohydrate cat food formula. In the long run, “Budget” cat food could potentially end up being more expensive than purchasing a premium brand.

Cat Food of the Week as recommended by
Wellness Cat Food is manufactured by the “Old Mother Hubbard” pet supply company, which was first founded in 1926. All of the Wellness cat food formulas are produced without artificial colors, artificial flavors, or preservatives. In addition to this, there are no corn, wheat, soy, or meat by-products included in Wellness brand Cat Food. Wellness Cat Food is available in several different dry and canned formulas, which are also available for cats in specific life-stages. Wellness is also available in a grain-free, low-carbohydrate formula, which is named Wellness CORE. This formula contains a Guaranteed Analysis of 50% protein (four of the first five ingredients are protein-based), while all of the other Wellness cat food formulas contain 30% protein or more. All of the Wellness Cat Food formulas are produced from protein that does not contain any hormones, steroids, or artificial growth products.

Flying With Your Pet

The thought of flying with a dog or cat in the cargo area of a plane frightens me. Pets are not luggage. Although experts say the incidence of pet dying while traveling on airlines is rare, I would imagine it’s stressful and scary at the least. And, what if you and your pet become separated, like lost luggage?

More and more airlines are offering the option to fly with your pet in the cabin. Here are some things you should know:

Only Certain Airlines permit this option. AirTran, Spirit, and JetBlue are among the airlines allowing pets in the cabin.

Pets Must be in a Crate. The crate must be small enough to slide under the seat in front of you.

Pets Must be Small Enough to fit comfortably in the crate. This means that only small cats and dogs can travel on these planes. Not possible for those of us with medium to large dogs. (or very large ducks!)

The number of Pets on board at a time may be limited. This may be a total of 3-6 pets on one flight.

There will be an extra charge for bringing your pet. This is generally around $100.

A new option is Pet Airways. This is an all-pets airline; no human passengers. Seats have been replaced by rows of kennels in the main cabin. The pets are monitored every 15 minutes by a trained pet attendant. When the plane lands, the pets are taken out for a “potty break” and then reunited with owners, or kept in a special kennels until the owners arrive.

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

Children, Hospice and the Death of a Pet

I learned yesterday that a terrible tragedy happened for one of our hospice families. Their boxer mix, Petey, slipped out the front door, ran onto a busy street (with the kids chasing him) and was hit by a car and killed. The kids witnessed it all and are devastated. Our patient is their father, a man in his early 40's. When I called the home to offer my condolences, I asked if they would be interested in having Petey cremated at our expense. The patient sounded relieved. He told me that his daughter had asked about having Petey cremated, but because they couldn't afford it, they had tried to bury him in the back yard instead. I called a wonderful local pet cremation business called Companions Forever and told them about the situation. Tina graciously agreed to go out and help the family recover Petey's body for cremation. Later that day, she told me that the kids had buried him with a picture they had drawn and his favorite toy.

Imagine being in grade school, trying to understand and live with the fact that your dad is dying. Life at school is pretty normal, but when you get home, you remember that it's really not normal at all. One of the few things that kids can count on in this kind of situation is the family pet. Pets provide comfort and companionship for kids when life feels upside down and things are too hard to comprehend. They have time to listen, time to play and they are often are a best friend for grieving kids. For these kids to have had the experience of watching their beloved dog die so traumatically is heartbreaking for us as a staff. One of our staff members, Kristin, created this beautiful condolence card with a dog angel on the front of it and a "rainbow bridge" painting of dogs in heaven inside. We all signed it yesterday. I will be taking Petey's cremains to them this afternoon and talking with them a little bit about their grief.

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

What is a pet?

We have a new patient with an iguana named Iggy. I called Mr. Anderson yesterday to ask if we could assist him with food for her. Iguanas thrive on fresh vegetables, something that can be hard to maintain for a hospice patient. Since I owned an iguana myself for several years, we had the chance to share a common interest. Mr. Anderson talked about an elaborate indoor pond that he had designed and built for Iggy. His voice became more animated as he talked about how the harness he had for her to take her on walks. He delighted in the reaction of children to Iggy as they strolled together down the block in better days. He talked about her likes and dislikes, how she slept close to him for warmth at times, how she recognized him and shared his food.

Sometimes we assume that people should only bond to creatures we can all relate to. But the truth is, as human beings, we have the ability to care for all kinds of living things. Who are we to judge another person's choice of a pet? Mr. Anderson was reluctant to accept our help at first, until he realized that we respected and affirmed his bond with his pet. We want to keep him and Iggy together during his time on hospice. I hope to get a picture of the two of them soon. In the meantime, kale and collard greens are on our shopping list this week!

Letting Dogs be Dogs


National Survey Reveals More Common Sense Approach to Pooch Pampering

Forget about doggie day care, spas and designer clothes. According to a recent national survey of American dog owners, the majority say they are pampering their pooches with more simple pleasures, including belly rubs, walks and games of fetch.

The survey, which was conducted by ALPO® brand dog food, reveals that just two percent of dog owners say they have ever pampered their pooches by taking them to a doggie spa and only one percent says they have ever pampered their dog with a professional massage. When it comes to doing special things for their four-legged friends, 79 percent of dog owners say they feed their dogs treats, 73 percent say they give them belly rubs and 69 percent take them for walks. And, when asked when their dog is happiest, 62 percent of owners say it is greeting them when they come home.

To celebrate a more common sense approach to pooch pampering and share its mission to let dogs be dogs, ALPO -- America’s iconic dog food brand -- is announcing the ALPO Real Dogs Tell It Like It Is Contest ( The national contest is searching for real dogs to share their stories about their favorite real dog behaviors, such as rolling in the mud, drooling for dinner or chasing a ball. Up to 20 lucky winning “pawthors” will have their stories published in a first-of-its-kind “how to” manual to help dogs be dogs.

“It’s time to let dogs be dogs again,” said Brian Kilcommons, renowned dog expert and author. “Our four-legged friends really don’t care who designed their collar or what’s happening at the doggie spa. They are happiest when they can express their true inner-dogness – instinctual behaviors including sniffing, digging, eating, playing and sleeping that are in their DNA and define what it means to enjoy a dog’s life.”

In addition to greeting them when they come home, the dog owners surveyed say that their dog is happiest when being taken for a walk or a run (52 percent), receiving treats (48 percent), napping on the couch (32 percent) and chewing a bone (30 percent). And, 78 percent of dog owners say the current economy has not affected their dog’s lifestyle.

“We’re inviting dogs across America to celebrate their real dogness by sharing their stories and inspiring others about what it means to be 100 percent, real, lovable dog,” said Kilcommons. “The winning pawthors’ stories will be published in a common sense guide that should be required reading for dogs and their owners for generations to come.”

The ALPO® Real Dogs Tell It Like It Is contest kicks-off on Tuesday, August 11 and ends on Monday, September 28. Dogs are invited to submit a story (ghost written by their owner) on about their favorite real dog behavior, such as eating, chasing, chewing, drooling and napping, and why it’s time to let dogs be dogs. Stories must be 300 words or less and the entry must also include a color photo of the dog. No purchase is necessary to enter the contest. The entries will be judged by Kilcommons and an independent judging panel based on the following criteria: best description of a “real dog” behavior (50%); and originality and creativity of entry (50%). Up to 20 winners will be selected and their stories will be featured in the first-of-its-kind “how to” manual for real dogs that will be published in 2010.

---The Pet Haven is providing this for informational purposes and is not associated with the promotion----

How to Train a Dog to Sit

By Ruthie Bently

When you live with a dog, they need to be as well-behaved as you would expect your human child to be. Having an unruly dog is just as bad, and can sometimes be worse than having an unruly child. Teaching your dog basic commands, whether in an obedience class with other dogs or with a private trainer, is important. You never know when you may have to use them, but the commands you have trained your dog to obey may be useful in saving their life.

There are no time limits for training your dog and you should not rush them to learn if they are a bit slow. Every dog is different and will learn at their own pace; you just need to have patience. You may even want to keep a training journal, because if you have training issues and need help it can be easier for someone to assess your dog if they can see your progress written down.

In obedience training with my own dogs, I learned that the easiest way to train a dog to sit was to use a tiny bit of bait, like a Snap-Bits® treat. I would put it in my hand, so that my dog could not see it or steal it, but was able to smell it. Then facing my dog, I started with my hand several inches above their nose and ran my hand with the treat, in line with their backbone back towards their tail. The easiest way for them to follow the treat is to lift up their head and they sit.

While my dog is beginning to sit, I say “sit” so they will learn to associate the word with the action. After they sit, I repeat the word “sit” several times and praise my dog for being good. If your hand is too far above your dog’s head, they may try and jump for the treat. Lowering your hand so it is closer to their head should take care of this. Sometimes, Skye will try and back up to get the treat. When she does this, I back her up against a fence, so there is a barrier behind her and she can’t back up any more.

I learned to teach the command ‘down’ by first putting my dog in a sitting position in front of me. Then, using a treat they couldn’t see in my hand or take away but could smell, I put my hand a few inches in front of their nose and lower my hand to the floor. Our trainer also taught us to look at the floor first, because our dog’s eyes would follow ours down to the floor and make it theoretically easier to get our dog to understand what we wanted. After my dog would lie down on the floor, I would put the treat between their front feet and say “down” several times and make much of my dog’s accomplishment.

When training a new command, I usually only work for fifteen to twenty minutes at a time, and about three times a day. If you are working with a puppy, even an older dog; you don’t want them to get bored. Keep it light and fun and they will have no problem with you wanting to train them, because they will think it is a new form of playing. After all is said and done, isn’t a well-behaved dog what we all want?

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

5 Dogs in Weddings

Our pets are part of our family. And for some families, the dog is included in every special event--even the wedding. Here are a few of my favorite pictures of dogs in weddings!

Here's a dog as flower girl, from Martha Stewart Pets

Dog as ring bearer, from Elizabeth Anne Designs

Another dog as ring bearer, from Isn't She Lovely

Dog as Best Man, from Ananova

Dog as Maid of Honor, from Angel K9

If you're thinking of including your pet in a wedding, there's even a website with tips!

Do Pets Have Feelings and Show Emotions?

By Linda Cole

I've been told by veterinarians and animal behavior experts many times that our pets do not have feelings or show emotions. They say pets are incapable of displaying human feelings, and what we think are signs of happiness, sadness or hurt feelings are nothing more than wishful thinking. However, as a lifelong pet owner, I disagree. My pets do have feelings and show emotion, and I see proof of this every day.

We think of feelings or emotions as the ability to show warmth, anger, tenderness, grief and even sulking or pouting. We also tend to believe we are the only species capable of showing feelings and emotions. One does not need to be an animal behaviorist to understand our pets do indeed have feelings which they display. Don't believe me? Then watch carefully how your pet reacts to situations. You might be surprised by what you see.

Meryl is a loving cat who I have belonged to for 14 years. From the moment he was able to walk, I have been his favorite human. He moves a bit slower these days and prefers napping in a sunny window, but when he was a kitten, Meryl was into everything. I use a spray bottle to discipline my pets – it’s safe to use and usually effective. Meryl was a young lad of 4 or 5 months when I discovered the spray bottle wouldn't work on him. He showed me pets do have feelings in his own way, and I still laugh about it today.

I was trying to change the sheets on my bed, and he was sitting on the edge and wouldn't move. Every time I moved him off the bed, he'd spring right back on. We played this game a few more times before I brought out my trusty spray bottle. Three squirts later, Meryl was still on the bed, refusing to move. A couple more doses of water and he still didn't move. However, a twitching tail and sullen eyes told me he was not a happy camper. I finally picked him up and moved him to another room. He gave me the cold shoulder for four days and wouldn't have anything to do with me. He was definitely mad at me. It was quite obvious that I had hurt his feelings by spraying him with water.

When I moved into my first home after college, an American Eskimo named Jack moved in with me. Puff, a handsome yellow cat, joined our little family a couple of months later. I learned from Jack that pets do have feelings and emotions and they react in much the same way we do. Jack was still a pup when I brought Puff home as a kitten. They became best friends and were always together. Puff slept at Jack's side every night. Both had gotten on in years and Puff passed away first. We both grieved his passing, but Jack would return every day to the spot where we had found Puff, sniffing and whining. He would lay on the spot for about an hour, before finally returning to my side. Jack died a year later and I'm not sure he ever recovered from Puff's passing.

I have no doubt pets do have feelings and emotions similar to our own. I have watched my pets display the same kind of reactions to situations as people do. Such as, hurt feelings when I made them mad, grief and depression from losing a friend, signs of affection, displays of anger, and even embarrassment.

Some people believe humans are the only species who can show emotion. However, anyone who has lived with a cat or dog knows when their pet is happy, sad or angry. Pets do have feelings and emotions and show them to us every day. Those who claim pets have no feelings and can't show emotion either don't have pets at home or are simply not paying close enough attention to them.

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5 Good Cat Tips

Some good stuff from about things some cat owners do wrong. Let me know what you think.....
1. They do not have yearly examinations done on their pets. Yearly exams are important and can find health problems early when many are more treatable.

2. They don't keep a current ID tag or microchip on their cat. Many cats don't have a current ID tag or microchip. However, even indoor cats occasionally get out. This is the most vulnerable of cats. An ID tag or microchip is the BEST way a lost cat can be returned to you. At the clinics, we often see pets brought in without a tag or microchip, and they end up going off to Rabies Control or to the Humane Society. Without identification, many of these pets are never reunited with their owners.

3. Skimping on nutrition is also a big problem. A good quality food is important to cats. Cats need a high quality balanced diet that is formulated to meet their life-stage needs.

4. Many pet owners don't pay attention to toxins and medications around their homes that cats can get into. Maybe it comes down to "cat-proofing" your home to ensure your cat can't get into common toxins such as rat poison, antifreeze, medications (cat and human) or the trash. Cats are especially fond of thread and other liner objects such as yarn and ribbon. Keep those items picked up and out of the reach of your cat as well.

5. Some cat owners don't monitor their cats. It is important to do this on a daily basis. Cats are so good at hiding their illnesses that often, by the time we notice, the disease may be quite advanced. For this reason, it is important to look for early signs of problems. Monitor your cat's urinations, defecations, attitude and appetite every day. Don't just keep dry food down and not be sure if your cat is eating, offer a little canned food twice a day to ensure he is eager to eat.

Is Pet Insurance Worth the Cost?

By Linda Cole

The cost of caring for pets has increased just as going to the doctor has for us. Sometimes expensive tests are required. Emergencies ranging from broken hips or legs to life threatening injuries can happen at any time. Is pet insurance really worth the cost to help protect our wallet while insuring our pets have proper care when they need it?

Pet insurance has been around since the early 1980s. Since then, companies providing coverage for pets have come and gone with around 10 companies today. According to a 2009 report issued by the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues, they estimate 850,000 pets are now insured in North America. Considering that the number of dogs and cats in the U.S. is estimated to be around 150 million, pet owners haven't exactly embraced buying pet insurance for their pets. Nonetheless, steadily growing numbers have indicated more people are considering pet insurance as a way to lessen their vet bill.

The main advantage in having pet insurance is that it gives the owner financial peace of mind in making decisions that could affect the animal. Most people don't have an extra $1,000 or more to cover vet bills if a devastating illness or accident happens to a family pet. However, most insurance policies for pets only cover around 50% of the cost. You have to pay the vet bill yourself and then file a claim with the insurance company. Some pet insurance companies do make quick payouts, and I guess some help is better than none at all.

Pre-existing conditions are not covered and if you do have a policy, any claim you may make will be added to the list of pre-existing conditions. Let's say your dog had a run in with a bee. If you take her to your vet, any future mouth or gum problems will then be excluded and considered pre-existing conditions when you renew your policy. Most pet insurance will cost anywhere from $25 to around $40 or more per month depending on the plan you select. Some insurance companies may offer a discount to get you to sign up, but the cost of the premium compared to what they will cover may leave some pet owner to consider other options.

For those with multiple pets, insurance premiums are not a very good solution. Consider a savings account dedicated to your pets instead. A monthly deposit of $25 or more built up over time could certainly help give you peace of mind if your dog or cat needs to go to the vet for a serious or life threatening condition. Instead of having to beg, borrow or steal from a piggy bank to pay the vet, a pet savings account is there when you need it.

Another option is Care Credit for pets. This company offers a line of credit with low monthly payments to help pet owners pay for vet care and prescription food or medications. It can even be used for human care as well. Payments are broken down into 3, 6, 12 or 18 month plans. The monthly payments can be as low as 3% of your balance.

With Care Credit, as long as you pay your minimum monthly agreed amount and the balance is paid within the specified time, there is no interest charge. Those who need more time to pay or want lower monthly payments can go with an expanded payment plan (24, 36, 48 or 60 months) with interest charges of 13.9%. You will find it is similar to a credit card and easy to use, especially for emergencies.

Pet insurance can be a good idea to help defray the costs associated with caring for pets; however, it appears there are still some issues that need to be worked out before it can fully be justified by most pet owners as worth the cost.

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Which Dogs Drool the Most?

By Anna Lee

Most dogs drool a little bit, some dogs drool a lot while others have made it onto the list of “Dogs That Drool the Most.” If you are a neat-freak you may not want to own a drooler. At the least you need to be prepared to follow the drooling dog around with a towel. As they say, forewarned is forearmed!

My husband thinks our dog Abby should be on this list. Labs do drool, but not enough to make the list! Here are the top 5 dogs that drool, in no particular order:

Saint Bernard: I have no personal experience with this dog breed, but I have heard many ‘drool stories’ from my husband. His mother had a Saint Bernard and that dog, Ronnie, drooled day and night. Research contradicts that, saying they drool only after eating or drinking. They are large dogs that are extremely gentle, loyal and they want to please. Early on they need to be taught not to jump on people. The Saint Bernard will reach 200 pounds, which means a lot of CANIDAE® dog food!

Great Pyrenees: These are beautiful dogs with fantastic coats. Great Pyrenees are large dogs who are devoted to their family and love cats, but are wary of strangers. They are obedient and affectionate, and need a lot of exercise to stay in shape. They can weigh up to 100 pounds. There are two Great Pyrenees dogs that live not far from us, and it is a pleasure to see them run in their yard as their hair billows in the wind.

Newfoundland: I love most dogs, but of the large breeds the Newfie is a personal favorite. Years ago my parents owned a summer house on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. A family friend had a Newfoundland, and it was a beautiful sight to watch him jump in the Chesapeake Bay and swim without a care or worry. He was spectacular and as gentle as can be. The Newfie is noble, calm, loyal and trustworthy. Instinct allows them to recognize a dangerous situation and will protect the family. They love to drink lots of water and are not neat about it. The males can reach about 120 pounds. They prefer cooler climates which means one would not do well here in the south where I live.

English Mastiff are self confident, patient and gentle natured dogs. They seldom bark, and prefer gentle obedience. A male can reach 200 pounds. They drool heavily, and they snore and wheeze heavily too. They are prone to hip dysplasia and come across as lazy due to their size.

Bullmastiff: although a good watchdog, this breed is also docile unless provoked. They will knock down an intruder and pin him down, but be gentle and kind to a child. They are extremely powerful and need a strong, confident owner. The males will be about 120 pounds. They are prone to hip dysplasia and tend to be lazy.

Other dogs that drool a lot are the Boxer, Great Dane, English Setter, and most of the Bulldogs. If you want any of the above dogs in your life, you can expect to be drooled on frequently. Consider drool a kiss from your dog!

Read more articles by Anna Lee