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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!

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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.
 
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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.   (more…)

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5 Reasons Your Dog Needs a Chiropractor

by Dr. Alisha Jacobs, Certified Animal Chiropractor

Your dog has a chiropractor? It is not as crazy as it sounds. There are numerous reasons why regular chiropractic care can significantly improve the quality of life for your dog.

Here are the top 5 reasons your dog needs a chiropractor:

1. They have a body.

Bodywork is extremely important for any being whether that is yourself or your dog. Just as you can experience back and neck pain from day to day activities, so can your dog. It is evolutionarily beneficial for them to hide their pain (they wouldn’t want to become a target for predators) so it can be difficult to tell if they are hurting. However, they do have little aches and pains that can go unaddressed for years. If you have ever had a stiff neck, you can relate that although it is not debilitating, it is quite annoying and after an adjustment or massage, you feel significantly better.

2. They are super silly and playful.

If you have ever watched your dog play, you can see how silly and goofy they can be. They tend to run into things at full speed or jump on and off things with extreme exuberance. All that wear and tear will eventually take a toll on their body. It is much easier to address injuries early on than to wait until arthritic changes set in.

3. Save yourself some money!

The old adage is true: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!” Preventive care is extremely important in saving yourself some money, time, and heartache and saving your pet from extra pain and injuries. When you calculate the cost of preventive care (chiropractic, massage, acupuncture, physical therapy) versus the cost of surgery, you end up saving yourself a ton of money.

4. Improved quality of life.

Chiropractic care can help your pet to be more comfortable and pain free by improving motion in their spine, shoulders and hips. By improving joint motion, you can improve overall joint health and reduce muscle tightness and nerve tension. Chiropractic care also stimulates circulation which helps improve organ and immune system function. The goal of care is to improve overall body health which allows your pet to be as happy and healthy as possible for as long as possible.

5. More adventures…

There are so many things that you want to do with your dog whether that is camping and hiking or evening strolls and cuddling on the couch. Unfortunately, once injuries take place, these activities can come to an abrupt halt. By making sure your pet is as healthy as possible, you will ensure many more years of fun and adventures together.

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About the Author:

dr-alicia-jacobsDr. Alisha Jacobs received her bachelors degree in zoology at Colorado State University and her Chiropractic Doctorate degree from the University of Western States in Portland, Oregon. She then attended the rigorous and well known animal chiropractic program at Parker University in Dallas, Texas. The curriculum centered around identification of common veterinary conditions, canine and equine anatomy, and chiropractic condition identification and proper treatment. Dr. Alisha is certified by the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association (AVCA). The AVCA is the premier national accredited animal chiropractic association, where members are held to the highest standards in knowledge and care. 

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Veterinary Specialty Telemedicine

by Melissa Eisenschenk, DVM, DACVD, Veterinary Dermatologist

It is always a good idea to get a second opinion when it really matters.  Just like for humans, there are medical specialists for dogs and cats too.  Specialists are board-certified veterinarians with years of advanced training in specific areas like Dermatology, Anesthesia, or Neurology that know the best cutting edge treatments for pets with special medical conditions.  Does your dog or cat have a medical condition like recurrent ear infections, itchiness, or epilepsy that you would love a veterinary specialist’s opinion on, but you live too far away or don’t want to drive to the city to visit a specialty clinic?

If you would like the best and safest anesthetic to be used when your older pet desperately needs a dental cleaning, there are specialists that can help!  Your family veterinarian can pay a fee to send blood work, biopsies, photos, or videos of your pet to a specialist and get answers about the best and safest treatments rapidly.   In addition, your primary vet can send updates to the specialist over time so medications can be tweaked based on how the patient is doing.   If you would like a second opinion for your pet, but traveling to a referral veterinary clinic is not an option, ask your veterinarian about Veterinary Specialty Telemedicine.

vet telemedicine photo 2
A Veterinary Dermatologist examines a sample to see what bacteria are causing a recurrent ear infection

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About the Author:

Melissa Eisenschenk Veterinary DermatologistDr. Melissa Eisenschenk is a board-certified veterinary dermatologist.  She completed her Bachelor of Science with minors in Animal Science and Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin- River Falls and attended veterinary school at the University of Minnesota.  After vet school, she was in private practice for 4 years in Rochester and Minneapolis, and then returned in 2006 to the University of Minnesota for a dermatology residency (3 year program) and Master’s degree. She passed dermatology board exams in 2009.  Dr. Eisenschenk worked out of the Oakdale Animal Emergency and Referral Center as a Veterinary Dermatologist for 3.5 years before starting Pet Dermatology Clinic.  She has a bunch of city chickens, a husband, and 2 daughters, Mae and Bea. 

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Grandma the Chicken: Recollections of a Farm Girl

by Homestead Deb of RentTheChicken.com

When I grew up… lets just say “a few years down the road” I never heard of chicken factory farms or antibiotics given to chickens. All I remember is running to the grainery after school to see if the baby chicks arrived!! They came in cardboard boxes with little round holes and made a lot of cheeping noises! We had a big metal looking
“roof” that had big lights in it and it hung from a rafter in the ceiling down to about 15 inches above the floor and that kept them warm.

I always stood there mesmerized watching them scurry around looking for food and when they were getting too cold they huddled under the lighted roof. Of course being the farm girl that I was, I always had to try to make friends with them. As a matter of fact, I did have one particular dark Brahma that just decided to follow me around the farm. I didn’t even bribe her with food! It didn’t take this girl long to begin carrying her around under my arm and enjoying time together in the summer sun. Everyone would chuckle when they came over and witnessed the little blonde girl with glasses and her hen running around the farm behind her. This hen wasn’t your standard Leghorn which it seems we usually had to raise for eggs and meat. That breed of chicken is so flighty and will run away if you look at them crossways! No, this hen was different! She was gray and had feathers on her legs. My Grandmother informed me that “those feathers were her stockings and she looked like an old Grandma”. That is how my sweet little hen lovingly received her name “Grandma”. Yes it was her “stockings” that had me convinced to name her that but also I loved my Grandma very much so the name was given in her honor as well.

My Grandmother and I would always feed, water and yes… butcher the chickens for our dinner table. We also collected the eggs together until I was old enough to do it on my own. I still have the same metal little oblong pail to this day. I use it to collect my eggs now. My hope is that when I have grandchildren we can carry that same pail to collect the eggs together.

I believe because of that wonderful woman and our special bond for 37 years, is a huge reason why I am partial to a lot of the old fashioned days and ways and especially my love of chickens.

I feel very lucky to have been born in an age where maybe some things were tougher like working outside, but things were also much simpler. I was very adamant about handing down some of the lessons I learned back then to my kids and yes that included chicken keeping. It also included collecting the eggs in the same metal pail.

Now days unfortunately there are less and less farms and kids that are able to learn about and care for farm animals. People are really missing out.

Oh I know that some people think there is a lot to chicken keeping but there really isn’t much at all. Maybe they feel that they can’t keep them over winter or that you need a rooster for eggs and they don’t want to listen to a noisy rooster. To get eggs from a hen you do not need to have a rooster hanging around waking you and the neighbors up at 5:00 in the morning! Those sweet hens don’t need the aggravation of a big loudmouth rooster to lay eggs.

When you think about the pros versus the cons you may think differently about taking up chicken keeping.

I work at a high school and my chickens can not produce enough eggs for all the people that want to buy them at $2.00 a dozen. I was always thinking in my head, “good grief your kids won’t like these once they find out they didn’t come from a store.” Was I ever wrong!! Now the kids are asking their parents who work with me to buy fresh eggs! They absolutely love the taste…and some of these “kids” are teenage girls!! So a very big resounding PRO is the taste! I don’t tell them how good the eggs are for them, but if they knew that there are more Omega fatty acids that are essential to our body to prevent diseases in a farm fresh egg because the chickens eat bugs, worms, grass, corn and the list goes on, maybe they wouldn’t eat them…or maybe they would eat more?

Fresh eggs are also a valuable source of vitamin D. Yes all eggs do have cholesterol. I can not say for sure if fresh eggs have more of the good cholesterol, but I can tell you that they certainly are not injected with any growth hormones which is another huge PRO!

I for one am absolutely sickened when I read how “commercial” chickens are treated. The chickens are in a tiny cage that they can barely turn around in. Their bodies must be in pain being cramped up in there as they are not allowed to do what chickens are put on this earth to do and that is to run around eating grass, bugs, scratching in the dirt and laying eggs.

The public needs to be careful of the “cage free” label as well. Yes these birds are cage free…. living in a huge pole building with hundreds of other birds with them. Picture it….not enough room, little if any natural light, while some are sick and dying and others already dead laying there for who knows how long being walked over and around.

USDA Certified Organic I believe to be legit. I believe the chickens see the light of day and are treated humanely. Chickens need to be chickens to get the correct egg production. My chickens run around outside trying to spot the elusive bug or eating grass and then lounging around in the sun taking a well deserved dust bath….hence the reason I have a few “pot holes” in the chicken yard. That is a small price to pay for healthy happy chickens. Dust baths are also a must for chickens. It keeps mites away which in turn keeps them healthy. In the end all we really need are happy healthy chickens for healthy tasty eggs we can serve to our families.

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Homestead Deb and family are serving the Greater Wausau Area. Deb with her husband Wayne, son Duston, and daughter Nikki help with the chicken business. Currently they have 22 chickens, two Welsh Harlequin ducks, an outside cat that sleeps with the chickens and ducks, and 3 dogs. Deb is an avid flower and vegetable gardener. Deb’s other hobbies include canning, crafts, crocheting, playing a little banjo, and racing in the mud bogs with her family and friends. www.RentTheChicken.com

Additional links:
Rent The Chicken on Petmasters