Get Ready and Go!

Photo from AKC

Hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes, floods– there’s always a chance natural disasters will hit where you or your loved ones live. It’s a good idea to tune the NOAA Weather Radio to your local emergency station to hear the latest reports of weather in your area. And if you’re watching weather conditions where friends and family live, the FEMA app allows you to track National Weather Service reports from five different locations anywhere in the US.

Have a plan! This Pet Disaster Kit Checklist from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (commonly known as the CDC) is one of the best I’ve seen; print copies and keep it with the essential documents you’ll take with you.

The American Kennel Club publishes expert advice and information regarding pet safety in the event you have to flee your home. Your dog’s go-bag should include items such as:

  • bottled drinking water (during an emergency, tap water can be contaminated)
  • food in waterproof containers or cans. (Choose pop-top tins or pack a can opener.) Bring enough for at least two weeks
  • food and water bowls.
  • prescription medications and other required health supplies
  • dog first aid kit
  • poop bags and other clean-up supplies
  • familiar items like toys, bedding, and blankets to comfort your dog.
  • stress-relieving items like an anxiety vest or calming sprays if your dog is prone to anxiety

Build your own “Go” bag.  Use a backpack or small tote to stash extra kibble, leashes, collars, and basic first-aid supplies. Tag everything with your name, address, phone number, and/or email. Collapsible bowls are a great addition and don’t take much space. Put paperwork in sealed plastic bags, and make sure to include your name, address, and phone number!

If you’re traveling by vehicle, add extra jugs of water, towels, tarps, ropes, and bungees. Duct tape and small hand tools can be easily stored beneath a seat. If you have to evacuate on foot, roll up the tarp and fasten it to your backpack with those ropes or bungees.  If you are stranded on the side of the road or have to camp outdoors, you’ll be able to rig up a basic shelter.

For more resources and information about pet-focused disaster planning, check out AKC’s emergency evacuation plan. And take time to review their suggestions for what to include in your first-aid kit for pets.

Identification: Microchips are one smart way to ID your pets. My Sasha and Buddy The Wonder Cat are both microchipped and registered with AKC Reunite. Make sure you complete your registration and keep your contact info current.

Take photos now of your pets. Photograph them standing, left and right profiles, and face-on head shots. Take additional photos showing you with your pets. If you can tag or add metadata to each photo, that’s even better. (To learn how, click here.) Save copies to Dropbox and/or email them to yourself and others. That way, if you lose your phone or computer, you can easily retrieve them.

Check out these helpful resources:

Emergency Preparedness: The Essential Guide for Dog Owners

Create a “bug out bag” for your cat

Pets in Evacuation Centers

How to Pack an Emergency Go-Bag for Pets

Favorite blankets and toys make a portable crate comfortable. Sasha routinely naps in hers!

Communicate! Let family, friends, and co-workers know your plans. Social media can be a great tool to help you stay in contact. And have a back-up plan, to include alternate routes and destinations. And remember: cell towers and Internet providers may be impacted by disasters, so share that info ahead of time.

From the AKC:

Remember that you might not be home when disaster strikes. Plan for being away from your pets and/or being unable to get to them. Consider making arrangements with someone who can get to your dog when you can’t like a neighbor, dog walkerpet sitter, or local doggy daycare. And place a rescue alert sticker at your front door to let people know there are pets inside your house. Be sure it includes the types and number of pets you own as well as your veterinarian’s phone number. If you are able to take your pets with you during an evacuation, please write “Evacuated” across the sticker if time allows so rescue workers don’t waste precious time at your home.

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Wherever you are, I hope you’ll take time today to review your own disaster preparation plans. Safety first!

When Your Work-from-Home Colleague is a Dog

Photo credit: Mirjana Zidar/Shutterstock

As this pandemic drags on, many of us still fortunate to be employed are working from home and doing our best to juggle the chaos that can result when mixing professional obligations with life at home.  Add in a dog that wants to be a part of everything you do and this is what you get:

Or this:

And then there’s the one who insists on a front row seat:

Or maybe your dog prefers to get your attention by barking. If you’re using online meeting venues, that can be downright disruptive–especially if you’re online with your boss or a colleague who might not appreciate your pup’s “contributions” to the conversation.

My dog Sasha had a habit of barking whenever I was listening to recorded presentations or whenever she heard strangers’ voices during a Zoom or Microsoft Teams session. At first I tried shutting the doors separating my home office from the rest of the house, but that didn’t solve the problem. Eventually, I realized I needed to give Sasha more physical and mental stimulation. When I focused on giving her the attention she deserves, the result was a happy, quiet dog who now naps while I’m in online meetings. If this sounds like something you might need, read on for some simple ideas to help you and your dog.

Exercise. This is good for both of you! If you can go outside, walk briskly through the neighborhood. Have an enclosed yard or other area in which you can safely take your dog off-leash? Toss a ball or Frisbee–even a stick–to get your pup running. Sasha won’t chase after a ball (although she’ll watch Buddy The Wonder Cat chase after anything we throw). Challenge your dog to a “race”across the backyard, and reward with praise and a low-calorie treat. The 10-15 minutes spent exercising will make you both happy!

Indoors, use the stairs or a treadmill if available. You can also create your own obstacle course using chairs, tables, and anything that requires you to navigate your way around objects. Put on some lively music and with your dog on-leash, weave your way around the “course” you’ve created. Vary the route and pace. You might be surprised by the energy you expend with such simple activities.

One fun way to exercise body and mind is to practice Rally Obedience activities. This is a team sport that’s fun for people–and dogs!–of all ages. With kids at home right now, this could be a great way to help them focus while bonding with the family dog. To learn more, check out  https://www.akc.org/sports/rally/.

Training time.  I’ve adapted the format common in “learn a new language” CDs. I start with a two-minute refresher of the basics (sit, stay, etc.) and then focus our energies on something new and fun. We’ll toss a stuffed squeaky toy across the room; once Sasha pounces on it we encourage her to “Bring it!” and sweeten the deal with a bit of cheese or some other special savory treat. She’s good for a half-dozen rounds before she signals “that’s enough!” with a short bark. Since each round involves a lot of running back and forth, she’s getting plenty of exercise and earning those treats!

Whatever you choose to do, mix and match activities and vary the complexity of tasks, and train in short bursts of time. Ten minutes of fun can be a terrific stress-buster!

Search-and-Find games. Put your dog in a sit/stay or down/stay. Make sure they can’t see you as you hide treats around the house, and then release them with “Find it!” (Get the kids involved and you can get work done while they’re all busy.)

Looking for something different? Hold off on the dog’s breakfast and instead let them “forage” for their meal. Use a snuffle mat to hide some/all of their morning kibble and watch them work for their meal. If you’re a crafty sort, see this site to learn how you can make a snuffle mat.  If you’d rather buy one ready-made, check out these recommendations from PetGuide and Amazon.

If you prefer something simpler, grab an old (washable) blanket and fold it multiple times to create layers in which to hide kibble or treats. Bits of cheese or hot dog work, too!

Puzzle toys are another great resource when you want your dog’s attention focused away from you and your keyboard. Kong toys stuffed with peanut butter seem to be perennial favorites, and they’re a quiet source of fun. The Dog People have a list of popular toys, and you can find more at Chewy.com or your favorite pet shop.

Need more ideas to keep your dog’s attention away from your keyboard? Check out the AKC’s Trick Dog program. Sasha earned her novice certificate after just one day’s focused training session. Give it a try–it’s fun for people and pets alike!

A closing thought: we’re living in stressful times. Take care of yourself and those you love!

“Life’s short. Let’s play!” Photo ©S. A. Holmes

 

 

 

 

The Value of Purpose-Bred Dogs

While researching information for my Waterside Kennels series, I’ve learned a lot about dogs in general and about the people associated with breeding and training dogs. Sadly, some of these people are all too often motivated by profit. This has given rise to a veritable cottage industry populated by backyard breeders, puppy mills, and stores who may sell puppies (for hundreds of dollars–or more) from people who have limited or no knowledge of bloodlines, standards, or even breed-specific temperament.

In contrast, responsible breeders work diligently to maintain clean, well-managed facilities, follow industry standards for healthy breeding stock, and work hard to preserve breed characteristics. If you’re interested in finding a responsible breeder, the American Kennel Club (AKC) offers a list of breeders as well as tips to help you make an informed decision.

If you’re not sure which breed might be best for you, you can compare breeds, talk to breeders and owners, and watch the dog in action.

For an example of a purpose-bred dog, check out this story of a coon hound that demonstrated her ability to apply tracking skills in a totally unexpected situation.

Coon Hound tracking

Read more about Billie in an article authored by Elaine Waldorf Gewirtz and published online at akc.org.

Give thanks and be safe!

Find this photo and details about food safety at akc.org

Whatever holidays or special events you celebrate as the year draws to a close, take time to remind yourself what’s safe–and what’s not–for your dogs. Here’s “must know” info straight from writer Mary Keal, whose articles have appeared on the American Kennel Club’s website.

It’s not just humans that overeat at the holidays. Some of us may also be a bit indulgent with our dogs. But it doesn’t have to be the turkey bones or other not-so-great items from the Thanksgiving or Christmas menu. There are healthier choices to share with your dog. From green beans to sweet potatoes, plenty of fall favorites can be tasty (and safe) options for your dog to share in small portions during holiday festivities.

It may be tempting to offer up the turkey bones to include your dog in your family’s celebratory feast. But, because they can potentially cause damage to your pet’s digestive tract, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recommends keeping them out of reach. However, though turkey bones are off the table, there’s no need for your pet to feel left out.

Safe and satisfying foods that you can share with your dog this holiday season are discussed by Gary Richter, MS, DVM author of The Ultimate Pet Health Guide: Breakthrough Nutrition and Integrative Care for Dogs and Cats and Veterinary Health Expert with Rover, Sara Ochoa, DVM and small animal and exotic veterinarian in Texas, and the American Kennel Club’s Jerry Klein, CVO and emergency and critical care veterinarian who has been a valued member of the Chicago veterinary community for over 35 years.

Here’s a quick look at “safe” foods your dog can enjoy. Note: read details and disclaimers in the full article online.

      • Sweet potatoes
      • Potatoes
      • Applies
      • Turkey meat (no bones & no skin)
      • Green beans
      • Peas (plain, not creamed)
      • Pumpkin (plain, not pre-spiced)

Photo courtesy of akc.org

Continuing from the article, Dr. Richter, Dr. Ochoa, Dr. Klein, and the AVMA caution the following foods should NOT be served to dogs:

                  • Turkey bones, skin, and gravy
                  • Stuffing
                  • Casseroles
                  • Mashed potatoes
                  • Creamed peas
                  • Chocolate, cookies, pies, and sweets (especially anything containing xylitol)
                  • Alcoholic beverages
                  • Raisins and grapes
                  • Onions, scallions, and garlic
                  • Ham
                  • Yeast dough
                  • Fatty foods
                  • Foods containing spices

Read the entire article online at https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/nutrition/thanksgiving-foods-to-share-with-your-dog-or-avoid/

To read more dog-related articles authored by Mary Kearl, see the list at https://www.akc.org/author/mary-kearl/

As Seasons Change

Source: Sandra/Fotolia

Today we celebrate the Autumnal Equinox (known as the Fall Festival to some and Mabon to others). I’ve been wondering if/how the season’s change might affect the four-legged family members, and found some answers while wandering through the Internet.

Writing for Romper.com in 2018, Beagle owner Abi Berwager Schreier had apparently wondered much the same. Here’s an excerpt from that article:

So am I a crazy dog lady? Perhaps. But I asked Russell Hartstein, a Los Angeles-based certified dog and cat behaviorist and trainer if the fall equinox affects your dog, secretly hoping I’m really not the crazy dog lady who imagines things about her pups. And it turns out, I’m not super wacky. “Dogs are affected by light cycles more than the position of the sun in the sky. Being crepuscular animals (most active during dusk and dawn), the times of a dog’s increased activities somewhat fluctuate with the amount of daylight,” he explains in an email interview with Romper. So that makes sense why they seem so much more active even at 5 a.m. once the equinox has occurred.

Now, what to do with all that energy? Author Leah Ingram suggests five ways to enjoy the season with your dogs. While you’re online, check out this slideshow of happy dogs compiled by dogtime.com. And finally, keep these Fall grooming tips (courtesy of AKC) in mind.

Happy Fall, everyone!