The 20 worst foods for your dog to consume

 

As with much dietary advice, there is often confusion and sometimes conflicting advice about what is and what isn’t good for us to consume.  Food for dogs also falls into this zone as people are often unsure what foods are suitable for dogs and what foods aren’t.

Veterinarians advise that it is better to give dogs only food and treats designed for dogs.  In real life, many dog owners give their pets scraps from the table or use human food as a treat. So how can we be sure that what we are giving our dogs is not doing more harm than good?  In an attempt to make things a little clearer for dog owners, the following is our guide showing what NOT to feed your dog and the reasons why.

Avocado

avocado

A superfood for humans, but not for our canine friends.  Avocados contain a substance called persin, which causes vomiting and diarrhea in dogs.

Alcohol

Not just restricted to beverages, this also includes food that contains alcohol.  Never give alcohol to a dog as this can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, abnormal blood acidity, coma, and even death.

Hops

This is an ingredient used in beermaking and just like the alcohol itself, is toxic for dogs, causing panting, an increased heart rate, fever, seizures, and can result in death.

Happy Farmer

Onions and garlic

Not only do these vegetables cause gastrointestinal upset, they can also damage red blood cells in dogs. This can be fatal.  It should be noted that garlic in very small doses could be OK for dogs, but larger quantities are dangerous. Because of this, it is recommended to steer clear of garlic.

Coffee, tea, caffeine, and chocolate

All of the above items contain methylxanthines, specifically caffeine in coffee and theobromine in chocolate.  These cause vomiting, diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst, arrhythmia, seizures, and can also result in death.  Even though these products have different levels of methylxanthines, it is best to avoid any kind of chocolate and caffeine entirely.

dog-eyeing-chocolate-cake

Grapes and raisins

Grapes and raisins cause kidney failure.  Experts do not entirely understand why this is the case, but it is simply advised that dogs do not consume these fruits because of that potential outcome.

grapes

Milk and dairy products

Dogs do not produce large quantities of the lactase enzyme, so are unable to break down the lactose in dairy products.  Although small amounts of dairy products can be tolerated, larger quantities are likely to result in gastrointestinal upset.

Nuts

Macadamia nuts are particularly problematic. Although excellent for humans, these nuts cause weakness, tremors, vomiting, and hyperthermia. Not all nuts are bad for dogs, but the high fat content can cause vomiting and diarrhea in dogs and can ultimately lead to pancreatitis.

macademia-nuts

Bones

Although this may sound like a good idea, stick to raw bones. Never ever give chicken bones, as these are too fragile for your dog. Cooked bones can splinter and cause a choking hazard for dogs.

Fat trimmings

Feeding your dog with these can result in pancreatitis in dogs, so should be avoided.

Liver

Liver contains a lot of vitamin A, which although good for humans can adversely affect a dog’s muscles and bones.

Citrus

Although it is ok to eat small amounts of the actual fruit, other parts are toxic to animals.  Keep peel, leaves, and stems away from dogs as the oils can affect the central nervous system.

orange-peel

Corn on the cob

Although dogs can tolerate some vegetables, corn on the cob is not well digested in a dog’s stomach. If your dog eats a large amount of the cob itself, look for signs of gastrointestinal upset or constipation as there may be an intestinal blockage.

Persimmons, peaches, and plums

The seeds of all these fruits can lead to gastrointestinal obstruction. The pit of a peach is particularly dangerous to a dog’s health as it degrades to hydrogen cyanide when metabolized.

peach

Coconut and coconut oil

Small amounts of the flesh may be eaten, but this can sometimes result in vomiting and diarrhea. Never give your dog coconut with the shell still on, as this can result in choking or even abdominal obstruction.

Raw meat and fish

Consuming raw fish on a regular basis can actually lead to a vitamin B deficiency in dogs. This may shows as a loss of appetite initially, followed by seizures, and possibly death.

Salt

Just as with humans, consuming large amounts of salt leads to excessive thirst in dogs.  It can also result in sodium ion poisoning, so salty snacks should be avoided.

Yeast dough

Raw dough can continue to rise inside the dog, causing bloating and intestinal discomfort.  It can sometimes result in a twisted stomach, which is a life-threatening condition.

dog-looking-at-raw-dough

Mushrooms

If they are store bought mushrooms, chances are that your dog will not have an allergic reaction.  Do not attempt to give your dog wild mushrooms as there is a higher potential that these may be toxic.

Xylitol

Used as a sweetener in many different applications including gum and candy, xylitol can cause insulin release, which leads to liver failure. The increase in insulin leads to hypoglycemia. Initial signs of toxicosis include vomiting, lethargy, and loss of coordination. These symptoms can progress to seizures. Elevated liver enzymes and liver failure can be seen within a few days. Avoid this product entirely.

gum

What to do if your dog consumes these items

If your dog consumes any of the above foods, but currently shows no symptoms, call your local poison control center straight away for advice. The ASPCA poison control number is (888) 426-4435 and there may be a fee applied for a consultation. For all other cases take your pet immediately to an animal emergency hospital or your local veterinarian.

As always, if in doubt about what is best for your dog’s health and welfare, consult with your veterinarian.

 

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Five dog-specific apps to Help you Live Better

Today, there are mobile apps for almost every conceivable topic or need and because so many people now own smartphones and tablets, mobile app usage has seen huge growth worldwide.  It is estimated that by 2020, mobile apps will generate a staggering $189 billion worldwide.1 

There are some really interesting apps that have been developed specifically for dog owners.  We’ve taken a look at five free apps (all available for Android and iOS), which could potentially assist dog owners with many aspects of dog care.

Dog Vacay

Despite the boom in dog-friendly hotel options across the nation, there are times when you need to travel but just can’t take your favorite companion with you.  Although there are excellent kennels available in the US, some people prefer their dogs to have a more personalized pet-sitting service and this led to the development of the DogVacay app.

Dog Vacay allows you to connect with dog sitters in your area who offer services ranging from dog walking, to taking your dog to vet appointments, or caring for your dog in your home or theirs when you are out of town.

With a 24/7 customer support service and daily photo or video updates, you can travel or use the daycare option knowing that your dog is in good hands.

dog-vacay
Pet First Aid

Just like people, pets get sick and have accidents too.  Although many of us are familiar with the correct first aid procedures when dealing with people, we’re not necessarily as confident when required to be first responders in pet emergencies. The Pet First Aid app developed by the American Red Cross remedies that situation, allowing you to check symptoms and watch videos on how best to respond to common emergency situations.

You can learn about early warning signs, learn first aid steps, and take quizzes on pet health and safety. For more serious conditions, the app will also tell you the location of the nearest emergency animal hospital or veterinarian’s office.

A great app to use in emergencies and a great resource to help you provide emergency care for your pet until you can get to a veterinarian.

pet-first-aid

BarkCam

If you’re a dog owner, you will know that no matter how adorable your dog’s appearance, trying to capture “that look” in a photo can be extremely difficult.  This is where BarkCam comes in.  Using a variety of different sounds to get your dog’s attention, the sounds are linked to the camera’s shutter button, so you trigger sound and take the photo at the same time.

When you’ve got your favorite picture, you can edit to your heart’s content using filters, stickers or even text.  You can share pictures on the platform itself or share it on either Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

bark-cam

Whistle

This app requires a phone for you and a Whistle GPS collar for your dog, which then allows you to track not only your dog’s location but also his heart rate.  Designed to help avoid dog’s getting lost, it also allows you to create custom activity goals for your dog, based on breed, size, and age and can be modified depending on which family member is walking the dog at that particular time.

It is important to keep in mind that because this app has nationwide GPS coverage in the US, there is potential to run down your phone battery much faster on longer walks.

Although this app is free, the required collar costs around $50*.

 

whistle-device
Whistle GPS dog collar

 

 

MapMyDogWalk

There are plenty of apps on the market for runners and walkers and this app is quite similar, but designed specifically for those who walk dogs. The app gives you information on the best dog walking routes in your area and if you use one of these or add one of your own, the app allows you to track progress made and allows you to save this data to compare against future walks. Information on dog parks, waste-bag dispensers, dog-friendly areas and water fountains are all given in this dog-friendly app.
Once again, it is important to note that continually using GPS, does dramatically drain battery power.

map-my-dog-walk

 

We have only taken a look at 5 free apps, but there are far more on the market for dog owners to use. Why not look for one that would make your lifestyle easier?  As businesses are increasingly being encouraged to develop apps, it is possible that in the not too distant future we will see an even greater number of dog-friendly apps, which will likely become more interactive and more personalized to meet user need.

Do you currently use any apps on your cell phone or tablet that make your dog care duties more manageable or is there an app that you would love to see available for dog owners? Let us know which apps make your life with your dog better.

*Price correct at time of article posting.

References

  1. https://www.statista.com/topics/1002/mobile-app-usage/

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Taking the plunge with dogs and kids: Part 2

Part 2: Dogs

dog-diving-into-ocean

People often automatically assume that just because many dogs love water and love swimming that all dogs love it and can swim instinctively.  This is not necessarily the case and when it comes to dogs and swimming, there are actually three distinct groups.

Group 1: Those that inherently know how to swim

Examples in this category are Labrador retrievers, who typically love water and once they are in it’s often pretty difficult to get them back out.

swimming-dog-2

Group 2: Those that can be taught

If your dog is a breed that could swim and could enjoy swimming you can encourage him by beginning in shallow, calm water.  If he responds well to that and likes to chase tennis balls or floating toys, you could try tempting him with the toys.

Group 3: Those that need to stay away from pools or other bodies of water at all costs

Dogs that fall into this category are typically those with large heavy chests relative to their hindquarters, short legs, and short muzzles. Examples of this are English bulldogs, pugs, French bulldogs, corgis and basset hounds.  Some of these breeds have very low body fat too, making them far more susceptible to hypothermia in colder waters. If you own a dog with these physical characteristics it would definitely be advisable to keep him or her away from bodies of water or be equipped with a life vest if you cannot avoid this.

swimming-dog

Teaching your dog to swim

Start off slowly by introducing your dog to shallow water.  It is often advisable to put a life vest on the dog and/or a leash.  If your dog responds well to this, gradually move to deeper water so that he needs to do some paddling. Support your dog underneath the belly area to encourage him to use all 4 legs to swim.  Just as with teaching children to swim, it is advisable to keep swim sessions with your dog fairly short, but done regularly.

dog-in-the-water-on-a-leash

It is important to keep in mind that many dogs just simply don’t enjoy swimming. Even breeds that were bred for swimming (such as Labrador retrievers) don’t always enjoy it.  Some may be able to swim but are actually scared of the water.  Fear can increase fatigue, so always monitor whether your dog is showing signs of being fearful.

Never let your dog swim in areas where the water is too cold or where there are currents.  Don’t let your dog get overly tired while swimming. This is particularly important if you have a puppy or a senior dog. Do bear in mind that dogs can get disoriented when swimming, so keep a close eye on your dog’s location in the water.

There are lots of different options available for life vests.  These should be used when your dog goes on a boat, or if he is included in activities such as river floats or paddle boarding.

dog-wearing-life-jacket-2

After all the fun of the water, do remember to give your dog a shower or bath to rinse any residual chlorine or salts from his coat. Cleanse ears with an appropriate product and ensure that they are gently but thoroughly dried to prevent ear infections. Provide fresh water for drinking after swimming.

Is your dog a natural swimmer or afraid of the water?  What tips worked best for you?

 

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Why Mom was Right About Spring Cleaning: Part 1, Grooming

 

Do the words “Spring Cleaning” make you roll your eyes and think of  The Stepford Wives, bleach, and enormous rubber gloves?  If the answer to this is yes, you’re not alone. Although it is common and often necessary to look at giving our homes an extra deep clean at this time of year, other aspects of our lives could potentially benefit from a good spring clean too. This 3-part series looks at a few facets of our lives where a little extra TLC could be worthwhile.

Part 1: Grooming Dogs

During the wetter and colder months, dogs tend to get more dirty, more frequently.  If your pocketbook is still feeling a little light after the holiday season, making extra visits to the groomer may not be a practical option.  To keep your dog healthy and smelling fresh, a more intensive session of at-home grooming may be the answer.

dog-in-bath

Don’t Give Brushing the Brush Off

Although a relatively simple task, the benefits of brushing shouldn’t be ignored. Brushing is excellent for your dog’s coat as it removes any dead hair and avoids mats.  It also helps to distribute the natural oils within the coat, which keeps the coat healthy and looking good too. Most dogs are quite happy to be brushed, but the frequency and duration will depend on the dog’s breed – some will require extensive brushing as part of the daily routine while others will not need brushing as frequently or for as long.  Check what is required for your breed, but also bear in mind that brushing is a fantastic way to bond with your dog, so you may want to brush him more frequently than the bare minimum requirement.

brushing-a-dogs-coat

Splish, Splash

Unlike people, dogs do not need a daily bath.  Experts recommend once a month (unless there is a medical condition), as more frequent bathing strips the coat of the natural oils necessary to keep it shiny and healthy.  Never use shampoo or conditioners designed for humans.  There are plenty of dog shampoos on the market that have been specifically formulated to avoid irritating your pet’s skin, to remove dirt but not the important oils from their coats, and to be easily rinsed from the fur.

After removing your dog’s collar, clean your dog’s ears with an ear cleanser before placing her in the bath, and then gently place cotton balls in her ears to keep them dry during the bathing process.  Use warm water, checking the temperature on your own skin first and then thoroughly saturate the coat. Shampoo the dirtier areas first, working up to the head last, using your hands to massage the skin through the coat.  Use a washcloth to remove dirt from the face. Rinse your dog’s head first and then work down the body, keeping water and shampoo away from the eyes and face where possible. When you rinse the shampoo from the coat, ensure that you rinse all of it out thoroughly to prevent itchy skin. Following up with a leave-in conditioner can be helpful so the coat is more manageable and so it doesn’t get dirty again too quickly. Comb out your dog’s fur while it is wet to prevent tangles – you may find that a detangling spray will help with that also.

dog-in-bath

Drying your dog after a bath can be a challenge, as some dogs (mine included) may enjoy the bathing process, but hate the feeling of being wet after a bath.  One way is to take the natural drying approach, allowing the dog to shake the water from his coat and then letting the coat air dry.  Impressively dogs can shake about 70% of the water from their fur in this way. If you don’t want that amount of water sprayed around your bathroom, towelling your dog dry is probably the way to go.  For those that cannot even tolerate the towel-dry wet feeling, following up with a hair dryer is helpful.  Not all dogs enjoy having a hair dryer blown at them, so if it is a new experience for your dog, introduce her gradually being sure to keep heat and air moving over the entire dog and not concentrated in one area as that could be uncomfortable or even burn skin. If your dog resists the hair dryer or is visibly fearful, just stick to the towel method.

dog-shaking-water-out-of-coat

Keeping Those  Pearly Whites Clean

Ideally, brushing your dog’s teeth should be part of your daily routine.  Use toothpaste specifically formulated for dogs – do not use human toothpaste as the fluoride is toxic to dogs.  In the real world however, no matter how much we love our pets and want the best for their health, incorporating daily brushing of their teeth into our hectic schedules often doesn’t happen.  There are other ways to keep your dog’s teeth clean and breath fresher. One way is to give your dog raw bones, which are excellent for a dog’s teeth, but never give chicken bones or other fragile bones that can splinter easily.  Dental treats can be used as an alternative to regular treats.  Be careful of weight gain in your pet if using these, as some are quite high in calories.

If your dog’s breath smells bad, there is plaque still building up around the gums, your dog has lumps or bumps in the mouth or bleeding gums, or you have other concerns with your dog’s oral health, you should turn to a veterinarian for assistance.

brushing-dogs-teeth

A mani-pedi

For some dogs, walking daily on a sidewalk is sufficient to keep nails at a decent length until a visit to the groomers is possible. For others, this just isn’t sufficient, but many dog owners are fearful of trimming their dog’s nails in case they do it incorrectly.  If your dog has regularly had his nails clipped from a young age, he is probably quite comfortable with the procedure.  Talk to your vet about the best way to trim the nails so that they remain at a manageable length in between groomer visits. Don’t forget the dewclaw, if your dog’s breed has them.

nail-trim-guide

A buzz cut or bangs?

This is another area of dog care that many owners prefer to leave to the professionals, especially if your dog’s breed requires hand stripping.  Again, depending on your dog’s breed, you may be able to tackle some trimming at home, so talk to your vet about how frequently your dog needs its fur trimmed and by how much. If you are feeling brave and decide to have a go, make sure clippers and scissors are sharp, choose a location without distractions and remember that many dogs will get restless quickly, so make it brief.

under-the-dryer

 

Lots of self-service dog wash stores have opened up across the United States over the last few years. These are more expensive than washing your dog in your own home, but are considerably cheaper than taking your dog to a groomer.  Self-service dog washes give you the convenience and ease of using professional-grade grooming equipment to groom your pooch effectively – you can often grab a latte there too!

Wherever you choose to do it, grooming your pet is not only good for the dog’s health and hygiene but provides a great bonding process between owner and dog.  Regular grooming enables the owner to be aware (more quickly) of any health changes that their pet is experiencing. So, Mom was right about spring cleaning, to not only keep your dog fresher and healthier, but hopefully by your side for that bit longer.

Why don’t you share any tips you have for making grooming a fun experience for you and your pooch?

 

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To pet or not to pet: That is the Question

 

When asked to consider animals who assist people, most of us immediately think of dogs that aid blind or partially sighted individuals. This is thanks to organizations such as Guide Dogs of America and The Seeing Eye who work hard to ensure that those with vision challenges receive assistance. Over the last couple of decades, different types of animals are increasingly used to help people dealing with a broader range of physical and behavioral conditions.  The benefits of using these animals are numerous, with the result that they are being employed more widely and with greater frequency. Today, chances are that you are more likely to meet service animals in your daily routine than in the past. As they are actually “at work” and are not pets, what are the best approaches to take when encountering these animals?

Categories of assistance animals

Assistance animals fall into differing categories depending on the type of assistance required.

Service animals

Service animals are specifically trained to perform tasks relating to the handler’s needs. Not just for the visually impaired, hearing dogs for the deaf, and mobility dogs have become available allowing people with differing needs to be able to go about daily tasks with a greater level of autonomy and liberty than in previous generations.  People dealing with issues such as seizures, post-traumatic stress disorder, autism, anxiety, and diabetes also benefit from using service dogs.

Working dogs

Police or military dogs are in the working dog category. Sadly, with terror threats being a more common occurrence over the last 15 years, we tend to see more of these dogs on duty.  This is particularly true at airports where they are now an intrinsic part of the security process, rather than just used to detect contraband at customs.

airport-security-dog

Therapy animals

In recent years there has been a rise in the number of therapy dogs used in various settings such as hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and even in courtrooms. These dogs differ from service dogs in that they are used to provide affection and comfort to people, helping to reduce anxiety, stress and sometimes acting as an intermediary between the care recipient and professional staff.

dog-with-person-in-hospital

Emotional support animals

Typically used by people with specific behavioral health conditions requiring extra support and comfort, these animals may accompany an owner or may be employed by a business to help improve customer experience.

Only dogs allowed?

According to an article in the Huffington Post,¹  the cost of a service dog in 2016 was around $20,000. At that time, one Web site that places 75-100 service dogs a year, had a wait list of 1,600 people. This equates to a potential wait time of 16-22 years, which for people requiring assistance is simply too long.

Fortunately, given the level of need, dogs are not the only animals being used in this capacity. Other animals are also suitable to assist with different medical conditions. Ferrets alert owners of seizures. Boa constrictors (yes, you read it correctly!) are used for seizure alerts, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and panic disorder. Parrots have a calming influence on those with bipolar disorder. Miniature horses help the visually impaired. The Guide Horse Foundation believes that miniature horses are a great option for people who love horses, for those allergic to dogs, and for people wanting longevity from their service animal.

CUDDLES 11

Capuchin monkeys are great for people with dexterity issues who struggle to pick up or hold items. Pigs can help visually or physically impaired individuals or can act as therapy animals. For example, San Francisco airport employs Lilou a Juliana breed pig to comfort anxious travelers in the terminal.

Dos and Don’ts of interacting with working animals

Dos

Do interact with the owner or handler

Interact with the owner but not with the animal.  The owner and animal are a team and the owner’s life could depend on his team member staying focused on the job.  It is better (and not considered rude) to ignore the service animal altogether. Let the owner know if his dog approaches you, and allow him to correct the situation. Therapy and emotional support animals are slightly different.  For example, if the animal is employed by an airport to help calm passengers, then do ask the handler if it is OK to interact with the animal.

Do be respectful

Be respectful of the owner. Just as a police officer will not be prepared to discuss details of why she is on duty with her dog, other service dog owners will not want to discuss their personal details with a stranger.  If you cannot figure out why the owner needs a service animal, don’t ask them. Equally, if your offers of help are refused, don’t be offended, just accept that this can interfere with the work of the service dog and can confuse commands previously given by the owner.

Do keep your own dog on a tight leash

Keep your own dog away from the service dog completely as other pets can be distracting for the working animal.

Do allow service animals into your business

If you are a business owner in an establishment that normally does not allow pets, make sure you do allow service dogs and their owners to enter. This is required under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The law applies to any service animal that gives assistance when there is a disability.

Do educate children about service animals

Explain to children that service animals and working animals are not like regular household pets and that they have a special job to do to help the owner.  Keep children at a distance from a service dog and do not allow them to pet the dog.

Don’ts

Don’t pet the animal

You may be the biggest dog lover in the nation, but don’t be tempted to pet a service dog unless you have the owner’s permission. Petting the dog distracts him and may prevent him from following out a complete command.  An example of this is with dogs trained to detect seizures, who need to give a 10-minute warning so that the owner can get to a safe place or get help.  If you distract the dog by petting him, he may not be able to warn the owner in time, which could be catastrophic.

dont-pet-me-im-working

Don’t give treats

You may love giving treats to dogs, but please don’t give treats to dogs that are on duty. Not only can it distract the dog, making for a dangerous situation, but many service dogs are on specific diets and should not be given anything that does not meet the diet criteria.

Don’t make assumptions

  • Don’t assume that if a service dog is asleep he is off duty. If he is out with his owner, he is working.
  • Don’t assume that these dogs have a worse life than other dogs.  They have fantastic bonds with their owners and when off duty they get to relax like any other dog.
  • Don’t assume that the owner has a certificate proving the dog is a service dog.  Not all states require such certification and, in the states that do, owners are not always required to carry the paperwork.
  • Don’t assume that only dogs and only certain breeds of dog can be service animals. Many breeds of dog and different types of animal are trained to work.
  • Don’t assume that service dogs are only for adults.  Many children with many different needs benefit from service dogs.  Interestingly, one county in Colorado now uses dogs in the courtroom to help comfort children when giving testimony.

autism-service-dog

Don’t fake it

Don’t pretend to have your own service dog.  You may be tempted to put a special coat on your pet and take him to places where pets aren’t ordinarily permitted, but please don’t. Not only does it confuse the distinction between pets and service animals, it is actually a federal crime.  Allow people with genuine needs to be helped by genuine service dogs.

The best approach

For a moment, put yourself in the shoes of an individual living with physical or mental conditions, which in some cases are life threatening.  If an animal gave you the opportunity to live the fullest, most independent life possible, how would you react to someone interfering with and compromising the hard work of that service animal?

The following YouTube clip shows Windsor, a remarkable service dog, assisting his handler in running errands.

To pet or not to pet: that is the question. The answer?  If you are not the individual receiving therapy or service, do not pet. Encountering a working service animal is perhaps one of the most appropriate situations in life to adopt a don’t-touch approach. Following this guideline and the others mentioned above, we can allow these incredible animals to carry out their invaluable work. You can’t help but be in awe of them – I know I am.

Reference

  1. Lillibridge L. What’s the Harm in Faking a Service Dog? Huffington Post. August 13, 2016

5 Amazing (but true) Things About Dogparents

Encouraging kids to grow up to be well-rounded individuals is something that every parent or caregiver tries to achieve.  We already know that having a pet in the home makes for a memorable childhood, but we perhaps fail to appreciate the more profound effects that pet ownership has upon child development. It is typical to ask friends to become godparents and be involved in our children’s lives, but what about the role of dogparents that our pets perform, sometimes without us even realizing. Aspects such as physical and social development, to name just a couple, are enhanced if a child helps to nurture a pet at home.

Benefits of pet ownership for children

Physical development

Dog walking is a great form of exercise and an easy way to burn calories. In a world where our kids live more sedentary lives and are more prone to obesity than previous generations, going for a daily walk or run with the dog is a great habit to form. Fantastic for the child’s physical and mental health, it is a habit that can be continued into adulthood.

boy-running-with-dog

Social development

Encouraging a child to be respectful and caring of a pet, also transitions into his or her treatment of other people. There are obviously exceptions, but for the most part, children who have been shown how to behave with pets and have looked after a pet have a tendency to become more caring, more compassionate and more responsible adults. Emotional intelligence, interpersonal interaction, and impulse control are vital attributes to have. Acquiring and further developing these strengths can be facilitated by pet ownership. It is very important to note that simply having a pet in the home is not sufficient for these skills to be acquired. It is vital that kids are shown the best ways in which to interact with and treat other living creatures and they often learn these skills from examples set by parents or caregivers. Kids with dogs have plenty of opportunities to learn patience, kindness, sharing, and generosity; all character traits that can help them to develop closer human friendships. In providing care for an animal they also start to develop some basic parenting skills useful for later in life.

Cognitive development

Cognitive development is the way in which information processing, intelligence, reasoning, language development, and memory all develop through childhood into adulthood. As we know, not all learning takes place in a classroom. Having a pet in the family can help with all aspects of cognitive development.  Encouraging a child to read about his own dog’s breed, to be involved in puppy care and the training of the dog, and to be involved in learning how to care for the dog are all valuable ways of learning. Reading skills and confidence improve when a child reads to a pet, and some school districts are introducing READ (Reading Education Assistance Dogs) programs with these benefits in mind.

child-reading-to-a-dog

Emotional development

Caring for a dog allows a child to interact with a live being without being judged. This enables self-esteem to build and can help a shy kid overcome timidity.  Dogs also make superb service helpers for children living with physical or behavioral health conditions.

Interacting with dogs also releases endorphins in a child’s body, making the child happier, more relaxed, and less anxious. Additionally, as dogs have a relatively short life cycle, children learn about life and death and how to work through the bereavement and grief process.

girl-whispering-to-dog

Immune system development

In a 2015 study published in JAMA Pediatrics1, Swedish scientists analyzed the relationship between dog ownership in the first year of a child’s life and the incidence of asthma in children up to the age of six. They found that children in Sweden who have grown up with dogs in the house since birth had a 15% decreased risk of asthma by the time they attended school compared with children whose families did not have a dog. The researchers believe the findings would also be applicable to other developed countries such as the US.

How do you increase kid-dog interaction?

Get the kids involved! There are lots of little tasks involved in pet care and if your children are involved in some of them it can make them feel important and responsible.  For young children, setting up a chart with small rewards for tasks completed can be a good way to start – there are even apps for that these days! Carrying out simple age-appropriate duties like filling the dog bowl with fresh water or measuring out kibble can make children feel more grown up, trusted and helpful.

girl-feeding-dog

Give your dog extra praise and attention, for being a terrific dogparent, helping you in your quest to raise your kid to be a balanced, content adult.

Why not share how having a pet has enhanced your child’s development?

Reference

  1. Fall T, Lundholm C, Örtqvist AK, et al. Early exposure to dogs and farm animals and the risk of childhood asthma. JAMA Pediatr. 2015;169:e153219. doi:1001/jamapediatrics. 2015.3219. Epub 2015 Nov.

The 5 Biggest Puppy Care Blunders: Are you Guilty?

Whether you received a little bundle of fluff during the Holidays or you’re about to get a puppy as the weather starts to get warmer, you know that there’s going to be a lot of work and fun ahead of you.  Just like having a new baby at home, the first few weeks or months with a new puppy can be tiring and somewhat frustrating. So what are the biggest mistakes that new puppy owners make and how do you get on the right track to raising your new best friend to be an adorable, well-behaved adult?

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Blunder 1

Not starting as you mean to go on

It’s important to remember that when raising a puppy, dogs think in terms of the dog pack hierarchy. For your dog, where every family member is part of a hierarchy that matters to him, he needs to see you as the pack leader or alpha (top ranked) in the household. You should eat first, go through a doorway first, sit and sleep in the best places in your home. By doing these simple things, your dog understands that you are the boss. It is very difficult to break undesirable habits, so it is better to begin as you mean to continue. You decide on the household rules and if you want your puppy to behave you need to not only enforce the rules but also stick to them. Be firm and consistent with your dog so he knows what you expect.

Blunder 2

Overlooking issues that affect health and safety

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It is so tempting to want to try out the new leash and introduce your lil’ buddy to the neighbors, but unless your pup has received all stages of vaccinations, it can threaten his health. Vaccinations are vitally important. Your puppy’s immune system is in its infancy and needs the protection of the vaccinations to prevent him from contracting diseases from other dogs. If you have an enclosed yard that is not accessed by dogs outside of your immediate family, that is absolutely fine, but don’t be tempted to go for walks yet as he will be susceptible to airborne infections or could even contract something from the sidewalk.  When all vaccinations are completed and you are ready to go out, make sure that your puppy also has a safe area to travel in your vehicle.  Placing him in the rear with a vehicle-specific pet barrier installed is one of the best options for avoiding driving distractions and giving your pup a secure, comfortable area.

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Blunder 3

Trying to be the Mom

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There is always going to be a certain amount of separation anxiety when a puppy leaves his mother, but your role is different and it is important to adopt your differing role from the outset.  A puppy should not be allowed to be by your side for every single minute of the day and night, or the separation anxiety will only increase into adulthood. There are many and varied approaches to training puppies. Crate training has become increasingly popular in recent years and for many it just makes sense.  One of the great reasons is that it gives the puppy his own private, safe space to which he can retreat for some quiet time, allowing him to learn to be on his own for short periods.

Blunder 4

Feeding table scraps

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Although we are so easily persuaded to give into big, soulful eyes staring at us longingly while we wolf down a cheeseburger, feeding table scraps is a bad habit to get into.  If you start to feed your puppy scraps from the table, he will come to expect food from your plate (and from others) at every meal.  It is far better for your puppy’s health if he is only fed with dog food and far better for your dinner guests if your puppy is kept at a distance from the table during mealtimes.

Blunder 5

Taking him out of the crate

dog-crate

As mentioned above, crate training is great for giving your dog his own personal space and this can be the perfect place to sleep at night too.  Initially adjusting to being in the crate overnight can take a while as the puppy is used to sleeping with his mother and the rest of the litter. It is common for the puppy to cry in the crate at first, but don’t be tempted to take him out of the crate.  Allow the puppy to fall asleep by himself by covering the crate with a blanket (or a cute fabric crate cover) so that it is darker inside. Sometimes placing a ticking clock outside of the crate can have a  soothing effect on a pup.

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Above all, when training your dog, be kind,  patient, and consistent.  You will absolutely reap the rewards in the long term and will be able to enjoy your precious time together. January is National Train Your Dog Month; what better time to start?

Have you had any hilarious experiences when training puppies? We’d love to hear about them.