Dog Parks: To Go Or Not To Go

by Jennifer Prill, owner of SideKick Dog Training

[NOTE: This post originally appeared on www.sidekick-dogtraining.com]

Dog parks! In a perfect world, they’re such awesome places to take our SideKicks: You can get some great off-leash training practice in; dogs are able to run free and really stretch their legs inside secure fencing (and, sometimes, parks even have agility equipment for your dog to climb around on); and the dog park provides the opportunity to meet new people and other dogs!

 But, there are a few operative words at work there: “In a perfect world.” Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world and a wonderful trip to the dog park can turn south very quickly.

 Dog Park 2Going to the dog park involves so many variables – more than we could ever hope to control or account for – and a lot of the concerning variables revolve around untrained, unruly, off-leash dogs and inattentive or inexperienced dog parents. The dynamics of dog play and dog interactions are sensitive and it only takes the introduction of one new dog to completely throw those dynamics into chaos.

 “But, it’s such a great place to socialize your dog!”

 Well…yes and no.

 As I mentioned, the dog park can be a great place to meet new people and dogs, smell new stuff, experience new sights and places – this is exactly what socialization is! However, proper socialization involves slowly introducing your dog to new things and small challenges in a controlled, positive experience. Proper socialization means you’re doing everything you can to ensure your dog leaves that experience feeling successful!

 Proper socialization is not taking your dog some place and plopping them in the middle of a new situation with new dogs and new people. We cannot wave a magic wand with a flourish and shout, “Socialize!” This method of socialization can quickly result in fear of anything and/or everything and definitely doesn’t help your SideKick feel successful tackling new challenges.

 Suggestions

 I’ve had several clients ask about dog parks, asking if they should go or not; and I’ve had several clients who haven’t had the best experiences with them. To be fair, I’ve probably had a number of clients who have had wonderful experiences at the dog park, but they weren’t noteworthy because nothing went awry.

I’ve never told a client to outright avoid dog parks; they have enough benefits that the dog park experience can be very helpful and a useful tool in the dog-rearing toolbox. However, I’ve made several suggestions to each client who asks:

  1. Go to the dog park during non-peak hours – when there are fewer dogs and you have more control over who your dog interacts with. Fewer dogs means fewer variables to account for in your dog’s interactions.

  2. Go to the park when there are dogs you know there. There’s usually a Saturday or Sunday morning crowd, “the regulars,” or people/dogs who you can socialize with regularly and know already that your dog does well with.

  3. Go when your dog can play appropriately; for instance, avoid the park if your dog is cranky from allergies or is already tired out. An irritable dog is less predictable and not as willing to hang out with other dogs.

  4. Go to the park only when you can dedicate your full, undivided attention to your dog – when you can watch your dog and the other dogs, get yours out of a tight spot if needed, or prevent scuffles from happening in the first place. You’re there to monitor and intervene if necessary. (And there is absolutely no shame in needing to intervene!)

  5. When at the park, try to introduce your dog to the others there one-on-one with appropriate dog greetings. If it doesn’t seem like they’ll be suitable playmates, no worries – just keep them separate. If things really won’t work out or there are too many dogs (or especially if you notice your dog getting overwhelmed or stressed out), pack up and leave. You can go back another time or wander around the park together instead!

 Play it by ear and see how things go! And, hey, if you find someone at the park your SideKick gets along really well with, see if the other dog parent is willing to exchange numbers and set up play dates during non-peak hours for the two to romp around safely!

***

About the Author:

Jennifer Prill is the owner of SideKick Dog Training, providing private dog training services to the Southeastern Wisconsin area. Jennifer promotes better training through better relationships, helping dog guardians improve their training and their relationships with the consistency of force free, positive reinforcement training.
 
Additional Links:

Help! My dog keeps getting hot spots!

by Kristin Clark, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Raw Pet Digest

According to the website petinsurance.com, hot spots are one of the most common reasons that people take their dogs to the vet. In fact, hot spots rank fourth in the top 10 reasons to take dogs to the vet! And it’s no wonder—hot spots (or acute moist dermatitis) are irritated, infected, hot, red, moist lesions that are both painful and itchy to your dog. They often grow rapidly, and in many dogs are chronic and cause a lot of discomfort to the dog and stress (and money, in terms of vet bills and treatments) to the owner.

According to conventional wisdom, hot spots can occur whenever something irritates a dog’s skin and leads to scratching or biting of the irritated area. Most people believe that hot spots are the result of allergies, insect bites, lack of grooming, ear or skin infections, or excessive licking and chewing. However, as in so many things, this does not truly get at the heart of what causes hot spots, and certainly doesn’t lend to being able to address them effectively (hence why, in so many instances, they become a seemingly chronic condition).

Conventional approaches to “treating” hot spots

For the majority of people, if their dog starts to lick or chew excessively, or if there is any indication of a hot spot, they take the dog to the vet. Common conventional approaches to dealing with the hot spot usually include shaving the area around the hot spot, prescribing antibiotics and painkillers, applying or administering medication to kill fleas, ticks, and other parasites, adding a dietary supplement to increase essential fatty acids, prescribing corticosteroids or antihistamines to relive itching, and recommending a hypoallergenic food (which is still processed kibble) to address any potential food allergies. Often, people are also advised to get their dog groomed regularly and get them shaved, especially in the summer, and they are also told to maintain a regular flea and tick prevention program using over-the-counter flea and tick preventives. They are also advised to make sure that their dog gets plenty of exercise and isn’t subjected to lots of stress.

I take my dog to the vet…but the hot spots keep coming back!

What most people find—because the hot spots keep coming back—is that these measures fall short in actually dealing with the issue. That’s because conventional treatments don’t get at the root cause of the hot spots—at best, they suppress the symptoms, and at worst, they exacerbate the problem—and so the hot spots keep reappearing, often even worse than before.

To understand why this is, let’s first take a look at the root cause of hot spots. Because when you think about it logically, saying that hot spots are caused by itching or scratching, or exposure to rain or swimming, or the dog not being clipped in the summer, doesn’t make sense. Dogs itch and scratch, and if they are doing so excessively, it means that something is out of balance, and that imbalance is directly related to the hot spot eruption—it’s not the itching and scratching that caused the hot spot, it’s the imbalance. Similarly, the belief that dogs that are exposed to rain or water will develop hot spots doesn’t make sense. Many dogs spend a great deal of time in the water and never have a problem. Many dogs that don’t spend time in the water do have problems. While getting wet may seem to trigger an eruption, a healthy, balanced dog should be able to swim and get wet without any issues. Dogs in moist environments may be more prone to hot spot eruptions, but again, because not every dog in a moist environment suffers from hot spots, that is not the true root cause of the eruption. While we’re looking at some of the common methods of “preventing” hot spots, let’s take a look at the idea that you should shave your dog every summer to help keep hot spots from erupting. Keeping a dog’s fur shaved in the summer actually removes their protection from the sun and UV rays and eliminates the insulation that their fur provides. Remember, dogs don’t cool themselves by sweating like we do; they pant. In fact, dogs can only release sweat through their foot pads, through what are called merocrine glands. While they do have sweat glands (called apocrine glands) all over their body (found with the hair follicles), these glands do not release sweat, they release pheromones, which aid them in communicating with other dogs.

Understanding the root cause of hot spots

So what is actually going on when a dog presents with hot spots? In essence, when you see hot spots erupting on your dog, it means that the dog’s body is being overwhelmed by toxins that are coming in at a faster rate than the liver and kidneys can handle. The skin is the largest eliminative organ, and so the toxins start to “erupt” out of the skin, as part of the body’s frantic effort to rid itself of them. And when you add antibiotics and steroids and flea/tick preventives on top of it, the toxic overload increases while at the same time the body’s ability to stay balanced and handle the toxins, decreases.

Like us, our dogs are designed to detox every single moment of every day. Interestingly, as I was reading the book The Reboot with Joe Juice Diet, I realized that he conveyed this perfectly. Yes, he was talking about people, but the same holds true for our dogs: “[Your dog’s] liver, kidneys, bowels, lymphatic system, and skin all aid in the elimination of toxins and waste”[1]. Furthermore, just like with us, their systems can get “clogged, inflamed, rusty, and slow because we put too much pressure on them and don’t give them the pure fuel they need. What that means is that [their] natural detoxification processes have a much harder time of it because of [their] lifestyle. Chemicals […] in the environment—herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, petrochemicals, paints, cleaning products—all contribute to taxing [their] natural detox systems, not to mention all the prescription drugs [they are given][2].

I frequently discuss antibiotics and steroids, and their overall impact on our pets, when I’m doing consultations with pet parents who want to help their pets thrive. When I’m discussing them with people, they are often shocked at the profound ramifications of giving their pets antibiotics and steroids. Both antibiotics and steroids throw the body into a state of imbalance. Antibiotics wipe out all the bacteria and gut flora, which severely inhibits the ability of the immune system to do its job, while at the same time leading to future problems because the “bad” bacteria tend to grow back more quickly than the “good” bacteria, leading to further imbalance, which often presents as ear infections, yeast infections, and other issues (which, not surprisingly, do lead to dogs itching and scratching excessively…and that excessive, out-of-balance scratching and itching can cause a flare-up of hot spots in a dog with an excess of toxins. And so the roller coaster continues…). And steroids actually suppress the immune system, so the dog’s body has less capability to stay healthy, ward off pathogens and viruses, and keep the dog in tip-top shape. Administering these when the system is already completely out-of-whack just makes it worse.

Furthermore, applying products topically or administering them internally to control parasites also cause a flood of toxins into the dog’s body. These products contain poison intended to kill the parasites. But what that means is that your dog’s body is exposed to poison—often directly on the skin—at the very same time that the skin is trying to shed out toxins! It’s a lose-lose situation for your dog’s immune system, and therefore, a lose-lose situation for your dog.

So what can I do?

So, if the conventional treatments don’t help—and any of you with pets that suffer from hot spots know exactly how difficult and frustrating this can be—what can be done? It’s actually relatively simple, although not necessarily easy or quick, especially if you’ve been following conventional treatments for a long time and your dog has therefore been flooded with toxins. The first step is to make sure that your dog is on a diet appropriate to their species—what we call a species-appropriate raw food, or SARF, diet. This diet is the best thing you can feed your dog, because it ensures that they receive, in a natural, wholesome, raw form, all the food and nutrients they need, in the correct proportions and ratios they need, while eliminating all the stuff that they don’t need. It supports their entire bodies, including their immune systems, digestive systems, organs, and body processes.

Diet

When you feed a species-appropriate raw food diet, you will be lessening the work that the liver and kidneys have to do, because they won’t have to remove waste at a rate that exceeds what they are designed for. You will reduce the workload of the pancreas, bring the stomach pH to an appropriate level, and flood your dog with the nutrients he or she needs to keep all the body systems in good working order.

Flea, tick, and heartworm preventives

But, to address the toxin issue, you will need to go beyond diet. Flea and tick preventives, such as Frontline and K9 Advantix, are poison, and when you apply them to your dog, the poison goes through their skin and their body must then work to eliminate that poison. Similarly, when you give your dog a heartworm pill every month, you are feeding them a product that contains poison. This may seem shocking, but it is true. As Dr. Karen Becker (who appeared in Pet Fooled) says:

“Heartworm preventives are chemical insecticides with the potential for short- and long-term side effects damaging to your pet’s health. In addition, heartworm “preventives” don’t actually prevent the worms. They poison the larvae at the microfilaria (L1 to L2) stage of development, causing them to die inside your pet’s body.”

And that’s not all: Dr. Will Falconer, a holistic vet, says in his article “How to Stop Poisoning Your Dog in the Name of Prevention“:

 

  • The administration of common monthly heartworm preventatives has been associated with autoimmune disease and even death in dogs
  • The six-month injection for preventing heartworm called Pro-Heart 6 was recalled due to toxic side effects that included fatalities in dogs? (It’s back on the market now. Oh oh.)
  • The drug called Trifexis is all over the internet associated with illness and deaths in dogs taking it. Some after their first dose, some after many doses.
  • The “Monthly Pill” Itself can Kill Your Dog! (emphasis mine)

He goes on to say:

Dr. Jean Dodds [world-renowned expert in hematology and immune diseases…has linked] the two common heartworm preventatives to autoimmune disease and death. Here are just a few examples from her research:

  • German Shepherd, sudden death 2 days after dose
  • Cocker Spaniel, sudden death; seizures and high fever
  • Mini Schnauzer, ataxia, sudden death; another who got ill after 3 years of use
  • Labrador mix, bone marrow failure, reactions after 2nd and 3rd dose
  • Irish Setter, AIHA (autoimmune hemolytic anemia) and death, after first dose

And on the list goes. Many of the cases she reports had no pre-existing illness, and got ill after the first dose to several doses later. Several had recurring sickness in the same week of each month, the very week they got their heartworm preventatives.

 

As you can see, when you give your dog preventives, you are loading his or her system with toxins, and they must work extra hard to rid themselves of the toxins in the preventives. So, another vital step in helping your dog come back to optimal balance, and to reduce the load on the immune system, is to stop flooding your dog’s body, internally and externally, with poisons. Similarly, the adjuvants in vaccines—aluminum and mercury are just a few—enter your dog’s body directly into their bloodstream when you vaccinate them. This is more toxins that the body must frantically work to eject, and if the kidneys and liver are already overloaded because of inappropriate food, parasite preventives, and so on, the skin may have to help remove the toxins, and hot spots may result.

Herbicides, pesticides, and cleaning products

In addition to the things you are putting directly and deliberately into or on your dog, you also have to consider the effects of things like herbicides and pesticides, as well as toxic cleaning products. Our dogs run around outside on the grass and in our yards with no protection between their feet and the ground. They brush up against foliage and sniff everything. This means that they are exposed to everything that you put in your yard, including chemical fertilizers, weed killers, and other herbicides. If your yard or house is sprayed for bugs, they will come into contact with residual pesticides. And because they are closer to the ground and in direct contact with the floors of the house (if you let them inside), they are also exposed to whatever is in what you use to clean your house and floors.

So, take a good look at what you are putting down in your house and yard. If you want to use better cleaners, there are lots of recipes for non-toxic cleaners of every sort on the internet. You can also go to the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) website at www.ewg.org, and take a look at their ratings for various cleaning products (go to http://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/content/top_products). The goal is to reduce or remove toxins in the environment as much as possible, so your dog’s kidneys and liver don’t have to deal with them and get overwhelmed.

Natural modalities

You may also want to support your dog with natural modalities when they are going through a hot spot episode. Various essential oils, such as lavender, feel soothing to the skin, and are really good at helping the body and especially the skin to rebalance (and remember, the hot spots are caused by an imbalance, which the skin is trying to assist in relieving). Additionally, colloidal silver may help support your dog’s immune system while providing antibacterial, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory benefits in a safe and natural way.

The healing response

Keep in mind that it may take some time for the body to flush out all the toxins, and you may see the hot spots get worse as the body goes through a healing response. It’s important to remember the 8th law of health—trust—during this process, and to have patience as the body seeks to heal itself. It took a long time for the imbalance to get to the point where hot spots are seen, and it will take time for everything to rebalance. If you go back to conventional treatments, which suppress the issue without really address the root cause, you may make it more difficult for the body to come back into balance, and you will probably have to start over, with an even more intense case. It can be very difficult, but the natural modalities may provide some relief. If your dog is experiencing hot spots and you want to make sure you are supporting them in every way that you can, you may want to set up a consultation with a certified small animal naturopath (you can find a certified practitioner on the American Council of Animal Naturopathy’s website).

Hot spots can be one of the most frustrating and distressing issues you have to deal with as a dog owner. However, as with most things, when you really get into the root cause of the issue, you will find that you can help support your dog so they can overcome their chronic hot spots in a natural way. By removing toxins and helping to rebalance and strengthen their immune system, you will enable their organs and body systems to function in a normal, natural way, and their bodies will begin to flush out toxins in an effective and normal way. Because there will be significant less toxins going in, their skin will not have to “erupt” in an effort to rid the body of excess toxic material. Your dog will return to a state of balance by healing and rebalance him or herself, just as nature intended.

[1] Cross, Joe. The Reboot with Joe Juice Diet. 2014 Greenleaf Book Group Press, pp 15

[2] Cross, Joe. The Reboot with Joe Juice Diet. 2014 Greenleaf Book Group Press, pp 15-16

How To Keep Your Cat Off The Counter

by Maureen McCarthy,  owner of Love and Kisses Pet Sitting

Having a cat is a great pleasure but how to keep your cat off the counter is not so easy. Most people have pets in their homes. Some of the common pets include dogs, cats, birds and so on. These pets normally provide companionship to their owners. If you have a cat as a pet, you should take good care to make sure it stays off the counters.  You will realize that cats love counters. Some pet owners dislike it when cats prance around the counters. This due to reasons such as hygiene issues and so on. You will realize that cats can carry dirt from outside and can deposit it on your counters. Counter tops can be dangerous for your cat. You cat can get injured by a sharp knife or even touch hot elements. This is the reason why you should keep your cat off the counter. The following are tips on how to keep your cat off the counter:

Make your counter a less enjoyable place for your pet

You can do this in different ways. You can place a double sided tape on your counter. When your cat is walking around up there, he will feel it sticking to his feet. This can be annoying. Your cat will be discouraged and jump back to the floor.

Use Noise

You can actually discourage your pet from jumping on the counter by using noise. You can use a tin can filled with pennies. In order to keep your cat from jumping onto the counter, you have to watch him closely. When it looks like it is ready to pounce, shake that can thus will startle your cat. It is likely to refrain from jumping on the counter.

Vicks

Leave a jar of Vicks Vapor rub on the counter.  The cat will not like the smell of that and hopefully will not want to up there near that smell.

Provide it with something to climb

Cat like naturally like climbing. You should not discourage this behavior. You should instead get him one of those cat towers to play with. You should offer it something to climb. This way, it will stop jumping on your counters.

Feed your cat often

You will realize that cats explore kitchen countertops for food. This is because most of them are normally hungry. In this case, you should consider feeding it more often. You can feed your cat maybe twice a day. Provide free access to food or a timed feeder.

Those are some of the tips on how to keep your cat off the counter. Your counter might have your food and it and it might get contaminated as a result of your cat jumping on the counter. Your cat might also mess around while on the counter and even pour things such as milk, hot tea and so on. It can also get hurt if you have sharp knives on your counter. This is the reason why you should ensure that it stays away from the counter. Follow the above-mentioned tips and you will enjoy the results.

About the Author:

Maureen McCarthy is the author of this blog and the owner of Love and Kisses Pet Sitting. A Dog Walking and Pet Sitting business serving Union county NC since 2006. A passion for all animals is what drives her in her business and making sure all pets are getting the love and attention when their owners can not be there. 

Links:

Pet Business Insurance – What Pet Owners Need to Know About It

Are Your Paws in Protected Hands?

Pet care business insurance is something very few of us think about but really should. Whether you are a pet owner or pet care professional – making certain you are covered when something goes wrong is paramount.

Pet Care Insurance

Pet business insurance I had the great fortune to have met the leader and pioneer in the pet business insurance industry. David Pearsall, CIC, CWCA is Vice President and Co-owner of Business Insurers of the Carolinas which is a multi-line commercial insurance agency specializing in insurance for pet service professionals since 1992. David has headed up Association Liability & Bonding Programs for the largest Pet Sitting and Dog Training Associations in the US, as well as many other national associations for over 20 years. He is a licensed insurance agent in all 50 states and has held the Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC) Designation and the Certified Workers Compensation Advisor (CWCA) Designation since 2002.

Among many other sponsorships, Business Insurers of the Carolinas sponsors the Pet Sitter’s InternationalBusiness Insurers of the Carolinas (PSI) Pet Sitter of the Year Program, the industry’s highest award. I met David during my “crowning” as they say back in early 2010 and from that point forward he has always stood out as the go-to man for questions about insurance. What makes David so genuine and unique is you would never know he’s selling insurance. He actually spends most of his time educating pet professionals (trainers, pet sitters, dog walkers, day care owners etc.) about what they can do to avoid accidents, protect themselves, the animals in their care and their client’s property.

David works closely with the pet care educational associations to bring the greatest coverage possible to both pet owners and pet care professionals while also providing resources on how to prevent accidents from occurring.

While I was initially inspired to bring insurance to the forefront of pet first aid awareness I wanted to do so from the pet owner’s perspective. While there is still so much for pet care business owners to know about, my friend and pet business consultant Bella Vasta from Jump Consulting has covered some great topics on this type of insurance that cater to the pet care professional. As a pet owner though, what the heck does pet business insurance and bonding matter to me?

As a Pet Owner Why Does Pet Business Insurance and Bonding Matter to Me?

David and I jumped on a Skype call to discuss this very matter. Even having done research on what questions to ask and thinking I knew many of the answers – I did not. As a pet owner or owner of property in general, I learned some incredibly valuable tips to protecting me, my animals and my property. I certainly know the next time I have to call a roofer or when the water guys show up to work on my well system today – I am asking to see their insurance certificate! A good way to make an extra buck in our litigious society is to have an accident and sue, it’s sad sad fact.

Listen to This Valuable Conversation about Insurance

We covered a lot of topics pet owners and consequently – pet care providers should know about. We even covered pet insurance, not for the business but for the actual pet. It’s not anything David sells but he still recommends it as a tool to assist in coverage on certain things like diseases – which are not covered by general liability.

In our conversation David helps us understand concepts like animal bailee coverage, what being bonded is, the importance of worker’s compensation even if if a company only has 1 employee (the owner) and makes understanding insurance coverage easy. David makes talking about the topic fun – not something you would think possible about insurance!

Scroll down for the recording, you’re so close just a few more paragraphs! 

Be Proactive Instead of Reactive

Education is the best way to prevent having to use insurance – continuing education helps keep people alert, thinking about the what if’s and preventing more accidents which lead to insurance claims. Obviously this is a natural connection to our pet first aid and CPR course but it’s a very valuable set of skills to have as a pet owner or pet care provider. By being proactive and knowing what is safe for your pets and people coming into your home, you will save yourself pain, time and stress on the back end.

Hiring a pet sitter – especially one with liability insurance and bonding obtained through an educational association – will offer you the best and most precise coverage for that pet care provider’s service. 

Bottom line – if we can limit those accidents that are pure accidents we will all save money, insurance rates will go down, bottom lines improve and the pets, the people that care for them and your property stay safer. Its a sigh of relief knowing and understanding that the person caring for your pet(s) is educated and covered by the correct insurance coverage.

For the full conversation between David and I, hit the play button below.

If you experience an issue that you believe should result in filing a claim, first seek medical help for any humans or animals involved, then contact the insurance agency. For any questions for pet owners hiring a pet care professional using Business Insurers of the Carolinas or for pet care professionals looking to make certain they have the correct coverage, contact David at 1-800-962-4611 Ext #214, or via email at DP@Business-Insurers.com. He’s amazingly responsive, unbelievably knowledgable and a fantastic asset to making our pet industry safer.