Holidays

All About Food!

Happy Thanksgiving!

While we hope that people spend today reflecting on thankfulness and blessings, let’s be honest – most people are thinking about FOOD!

What about your dog?  Have you given much thought to what he/she will eat today?  Or any other day for that matter?

I’ve had the pleasure of working with several different veterinarians in my teens and early twenties.  Clients would often ask them what they should be feeding their dogs, and their response was usually something to the effect of, “whatever works well for your dog that’s a decent quality.”

There’s a lot of ambiguity there – and I can understand why.  The number of feeding options available for your dog is immense – and knowing what to choose and why can be difficult.  It is also worth noting, as the veterinarians did, that each dog is an individual, so what works really well for one might not work at all for another.

My parents’ dog, Kalli, does really well on the PetSmart brand – Authority.  As a puppy, my parents really struggled to find a good food for her that didn’t upset her stomach.  I believe they were quite surprised when that brand ended up working the best!  My dog, Tucker, on the other hand, is a different story.  He has IBS and acid reflux issues, and he did not do well on ProPlan, which is what Leader Dog was feeding when he was in their care.  I switched him to Wellness Core Original, which is grain and gluten free, and we have spent far less time in the vet’s office with explosive diarrhea!

I was recently made aware of a new dog food guide prepared by Reviews.com.  Using a variety of different criteria, they have come up with a guide to the best dog foods available.  Even if their top picks are out of your price range, the questions they raise and research they present may prove quite useful in evaluating the foods that are possibilities for you.  Hopefully, this page will make you take a closer look at the ingredients in your dog’s food!  It appears they have genuinely taken an unbiased look at over 3,000 formulas using their research driven methodology.

Link: Dog Food Guide

Side note:  Tucker and Ellie eat Wellness: Core Original and Wellness Complete Health Grain Free Puppy.  In the original post from reviews.com, Wellness was excluded from their list because of associations with recalls when under different management.  In this new, updated guide, I cannot find their specific formulas, but I think they would both have been eliminated in the “garlic” round.  All I can tell you is that for Tucker, this food has been a big improvement on his quality of life and he’s had enough blood tests done in his few years that I am not currently concerned about any potential side effects from the garlic.

So enjoy your Turkey Day feasts, but don’t forget to evaluate your dog’s menu, too!

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This will forever be one of my favorite “Thanksgiving” pictures of me and Tucker.  Leftovers, cuddles, and proof of what good training and boundaries can allow!

 

 

 

 

 

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It’s Not Worth It

Before you begin reading, it is important to understand that everything I’m about to say is rooted in the following belief:

Canine Life ≠ Human Life

During this Christmas season, I have had several conversations with people about dogs and kids.  Holidays tend to put unfamiliar dogs with unfamiliar kids and, unfortunately, that sometimes leads to horrible consequences.  For the sake of the following information and advice, let’s assume that the child and dog do not belong to the same household.

  • To the PARENTS/ADULTS – I have seen many a child behave inappropriately around a dog.  Please be teaching the children in your life what it means to interact appropriately with a dog.  That means…
    • no pulling on ears, tails, or lips
    • no riding on a dog’s back like a pony
    • no poking eyeballs
    • always asking before you run up to a strange dog to pet it
    • no sitting on the dog
    • no removing toys/bones from the dog’s mouth unless you’re told it’s okay

If the child is too young to fully understand those lessons, then that child should always be ACTIVELY supervised when interacting with the dog.  It’s your job as the adult to watch the child, watch the dog’s body language, and end the playtime as soon as you see signs of stress for the dog (or child).  Even if the child IS old enough to know these lessons, it’s always a good idea to supervise playtime when your child is with someone else’s pet, especially if you are unsure how the dog will respond.

  • To the OWNERS/ADULTS – I have seen many dogs with aggressive or impatient tendencies be allowed to interact with children far past the point when it was safe.  Please be willing to put your dog away or use protective gear if you are unsure how your dog might react to the quick moving, unpredictable actions of a child.  That means…
    • utilizing a crate to keep the dog secure and separate from children (make sure the child is not allowed (or not able) to poke the dog through the bars)
    • putting the dog away in a closed off room or yard away from the stress and commotion
    • using a muzzle if the dog has no choice but to be out around children (make sure to introduce it properly and to get one that allows the dog to breathe/pant freely – don’t forget to take breaks and offer water)

You may be appalled that I would suggest the use of a muzzle, but if that muzzle keeps a child from loosing an eye, getting a scar, or even receiving a lethal bite, isn’t it worth it?  And remember, just because a small dog or toy breed can’t kill you, that doesn’t mean it can’t take a child’s eye out or cause serious physical/emotional damage.

This holiday season, be wise when it comes to dogs and kids.  Remember that dogs are still animals and that it’s your job as the adult to supervise, mediate, and sometimes restrict interaction between kids and dogs if there are any signs of aggression.  A bitten child is not worth it!

Above – Photos from Tucker’s trip to Savannah, GA, spring 2012.  We met this child on the street with his family.  His father made sure to ask if it was okay to pet him and the kid had pretty good manners when it came to petting gently.  You’ll also notice that I’m not standing several feet away talking to my friends or the kid’s family – I’m sitting right next to Tucker, watching his behavior, watching the kid, and making sure that everyone stays happy and healthy.  You’ll see in the first photo that the kid went in for a “hug” of Tucker’s head.  Tucker is okay with hugs, but not all dogs feel the same.  If your dog is great with petting and head scratches but not a fan of hugs, don’t be afraid to tell people who approach you that a hug is not okay!  (Photo Credit – Beth Anne Ho)

Categories: Behavior, Dogs and Kids, Holidays | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Are You Thankful for Your Dog?

Are you thankful for your dog?

Your immediate response might be, “Of course I am!  What a ridiculous question.”

If that is the case, then my second question to you, next Monday post-thanksgiving holiday, would be, “Are you STILL thankful for your dog?”

Did your dog behave well around friends and family this holiday?  Did he/she respect your guests’ personal bubbles, resist the urge to jump on grandma, and leave the feast on the kitchen counter alone?

If you are already fearful your dog may NOT be a good Thanksgiving guest this week, here are a few things to consider:

Dogs are not greater than people

Hear me – I love my dog immensely, but he is not as important as a person.  If I were afraid that Tucker would jump on and injure a guest (especially an older, more frail guest like a grandparent) he would not be allowed to participate in Thanksgiving events (or any other family gathering).  Here’s the thing – treating your dog like a dog for a few hours IS NOT CRUEL.  This is another great example of why I advocate crate training from an early age – if your dog cannot be trusted, a crate is the safest place for him/her to be.  I’m not suggesting you leave your furry friend cooped up all day or all weekend.  If you need to employ a crate, make sure to schedule times for bathroom breaks and exercise.  Remember, a few hours of boredom for your dog is a low price to pay to avoid a hip replacement for grandma.

Leashes are a great invention

If your dog has not been crate trained, or you just can’t bear the thought of locking Fido up for a few hours, a leash could be a great second option.  If you don’t trust him/her not to bug guests, eat leftovers off the counter, or sneak off and destroy your shoes, tethering him/her to yourself with a leash can be a great way to allow your dog some very supervised freedom.  As your friends/family begin to trickle into your living room to watch football or reminisce the day away, grab a chew toy and leash and require your dog to lay next to you on the floor.  If you haven’t done any training, getting your dog to lay calmly at your feet may be a task, but it isn’t impossible, especially if you’ve made time to include some doggy exercise in your day.

There’s still time

Whether you already know that Thanksgiving is likely to be a disaster or you’re reading this post-Thanksgiving and you KNOW it was a disaster, don’t lose heart – there is still time before Christmas!  If you’re unsatisfied with your dog’s holiday behavior, now is a great time to start looking for a trainer in your area who can help you work through problem behaviors.  While few long-standing bad behaviors can be fixed overnight, there is definitely still time to make good progress before Santa comes to town.  Don’t be satisfied with poor dog behavior – make the time to discover your dog’s full potential!

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In this photo from Thanksgiving 2012, Tucker snuggles with me while I eat a plate of leftovers.  Does your dog have the self control to sit with you (or on you) while you eat without begging or trying to steal a bite?  Side note: Tucker had just been released from the Leader Dogs for the Blind training program the month before, so he was all about making up for lost time when it came to recliners and snuggles. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

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