What do you do when Father’s Day is just around the corner and you’re stumped for a good, original gift idea? Here at Pet Barrier, we have a couple suggestions that give protection to three things that are dear to a dad’s heart – his kids, his dogs, and his car.
Did you know that the AAA has calculated that the average American driver spends around seven 40-hour working weeks behind the wheel of a car in a year? This means that passengers including our children and our dogs are spending more time in our vehicles than we may realize, so giving extra thought to making vehicles as comfortable as possible is a priority.
You may already have the best car seat for your child’s age, height, and weight, but there is one addition that you may not have thought about – a Travall® Guard. During a collision items that are unsecured in the trunk can be flung around the vehicle, putting passengers at risk of injury. This can occur during the smallest fender bender or even when braking hard. To shield vulnerable infants and young kids from these items, savvy parents are installing vehicle-specific barriers to keep kids protected and maximize valuable trunk space at the same time. Pet parents enjoy the ability to drive with fewer distractions while their favorite pooch is securely positioned to the rear of the vehicle.
Travall has been manufacturing the Travall® Guard for nearly thirty years. Its use has grown rapidly by Europeans who understand and embrace the benefits of using vehicle-specific barriers in their vehicles. Thankfully, the Travall® Guard is now available in America, so that we can provide that same level of protection for our most precious cargo.
The barrier offers a snug, precision fit, that can be installed without medication to your vehicle. Installation takes an average of 30 minutes and unlike traditional, permanently installed cargo barriers, the Travall® Guard can be removed in minutes for use at another time. To give you further peace of mind and confidence in your purchase, the Travall® Guard comes with a limited lifetime warranty. It’s the one essential piece of gear that children and dogs won’t outgrow.
Want an additional suggestion? Consider vehicle-specific rubber car mats to give full-coverage protection against dropped sippy cups and other spills. We hear Travall has an excellent range…
Inspector Clouseau: [bending down to pet dog] Nice doggie
[Dog bites Clouseau on the hand]
Inspector Clouseau: I thought you said your dog did not bite!
Hotel clerk: That is not my dog
The above quote and image are taken from “The Pink Panther Strikes Again” (1976) and it is one of the funniest skits that Peter Sellars played in his role of Inspector Clouseau. In real life, dog bites are no laughing matter. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are approximately 4.5 million dog bites occurring in the United States every year. Regrettably, in 2016 there were 41 dog bite-related fatalities in the US. Even dog lovers who have grown up with dogs and are used to being around dogs are not immune to being bitten. So what can you do to protect yourself?
Signs that a dog is about to bite
Just as with people, you can tell a lot about a dog’s mood by the body language he is using. Dogs can bite in 1/40th of a second, so knowing what to be aware of in the lead up to that can be helpful. There are 9 key signs to look for that can indicate when a dog may be about to bite. Some of them are subtle and may easily be confused with other moods.
A dog may growl for a whole range of reasons, and not all of these are a sign of bad things to come. If you start to hear a quiet, low growling sound, this can indicate that it is time to be concerned that the dog is going to be aggressive. If he is also snapping at the same time you need to take action.
Showing front teeth
When a dog bares his teeth, this may be for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it is because he is being submissive, but other times it is because he is being aggressive. An aggressive “smile” is often accompanied by other behaviors as given below, so look out for a combination of all of these things.
If the dog’s body suddenly stiffens and the tail raises slightly, you are being given a warning sign.
Direct eye contact and whales eyes
The above image shows a dog whaling his eyes. If a dog is showing more of the whites of his eyes than usual by turning his head away but is still staring at the thing that he feels is threatening him, it is a clear signal that the dog is uncomfortable.
Shaking and drooling
A dog may start shaking from the adrenaline rush from the stressful situation. The stress can also cause a dog to drool more than usual.
Commonly thought of as a sign of happiness, this is not always the case. If the dog’s tail is raised higher than the normal wagging position and his body is perfectly still, you know there is a potential for a problem.
Licks lips, turns away, and averts gaze
Dogs will tend to lick their lips when they are nervous. A combination of all three of the above movements can indicate trouble ahead.
The hairs on the back of the dog suddenly become raised erect and the dog may even smell differently as odors from glands are released.
Due to tension in the body and the face, a dog’s whiskers will begin to twitch.
If you observe any of the above 9 behaviors in a dog, remain motionless, do not run or scream, and avoid direct eye contact with the dog. Especially if you are encountering a large dog, it is easy to get knocked over by the dog. If you are knocked over, it is best to roll yourself into a ball covering your ears and neck with your hands and arms. Continue to avoid making eye contact with the dog.
How to prevent yourself from being bitten by a dog
Once you recognize the signs that a dog is about to bite, what can you do to prevent provoking this behavior in the first place? One initial suggestion is not to approach a dog that is unfamiliar to you. Secondly, you should not run away from a dog, or appear to be panicked. If you are approached by an unfamiliar dog, do not move, run, or scream, and make sure you don’t make direct eye contact. Thirdly, you should never disturb a dog if she is eating, sleeping, or when caring for puppies. Fourthly, don’t pet a dog before she has had a chance to sniff and smell you. Following this, you should never pat her on the head, instead just scratch her under the chin. Finally, it is never advisable to engage in rough, aggressive play with a dog.
Steps to take to prevent your dog biting others
We’ve considered what to do about being bitten by someone else’s dog, but how can you stop your own dog from being a threat to you and your family or to others. Before choosing a dog for your family pet, try to do as much research as possible and ask a professional such as a vet or a dog trainer, so that you can find the breed that best meets your family’s needs. In addition to looking at dog temperament and exercise requirements, you should also consider that certain breeds have much stronger bites than others. Bite strength is measured in pound-force per square inch (PSI). Examples of breeds with the strongest bite are the Kangal and the Doberman.
If you are considering adopting a rescue dog, you may not know much about the dog’s history or whether it has aggressive tendencies. In this case, it is better to spend plenty of time with the dog before adopting him, to make sure the dog is a good fit for your home. This is especially important if you have young children at home or if you have relatives or friends with young children regularly coming to your home.
When you decide on a dog, make sure you exercise your dog regularly to build bonds, reduce excess energy, and to keep your dog mentally stimulated. Ensure that your puppy has proper socialization with exposure to as many different people and different situations as possible. Train your dog so that he understands and responds to basic training commands.
It’s important to educate children on how to behave with dogs appropriately so that they are not bringing out aggression in the dog. Don’t play wrestling games or tug of war games with your dog and don’t allow children to play roughly with him either.
Finally, spaying or neutering dogs helps to reduce aggression and is highly recommended if you are not a dog breeder.
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Many families like to vacation near beaches, rivers or lakes and all of these have one thing in common – water! When there are large bodies of water present, we should always think of the safety of our children and our dogs. This two-part series looks at how to keep dogs and kids safe so that everyone can have a fun and safe time on vacation or on weekend trips.
Part 1: Kids
Ideally, swimming is an activity that should be introduced when children are still infants. Many pools and community programs offer instructor-led “Mommy and Me” swim sessions that allow the babies to get used to being in the water and are great for Moms and babies to bond further.
It is preferable to then progress to swimming lessons with a trained swimming instructor who can show your child the correct techniques from the beginning – it is a lot more difficult to unlearn bad habits and techniques. This type of swimming instruction is usually available on a group or an individual basis. Group sessions tend to be less expensive, but as there are more children involved there tends to be less actual swimming time. If your budget won’t stretch to professional lessons, you may want to consider teaching them to swim yourself. This does not always work, as learning to swim can be a frustrating process and sometimes kids will take instruction better from a swimming instructor than from a parent. It is also problematic if you have multiple children. If you are keen to give it a go and will be working with just one child, here are some ideas to make parent-child swimming instruction successful.
Make it a regular date
In order for parent-child swimming instruction to work, kids need to swim regularly and preferably once a week. Make a point of assigning this time in your calendar once a week and sticking to it, except when your child is sick.
Keep it short and keep it varied
Swimming is a very tiring activity and as much as we want our kids to sleep well at night, having prolonged swimming sessions when they are learning to swim can be counterproductive. It’s far better to keep it short (15 – 20 minutes for very young and new swimmers) and to keep lesson activities varied.
Make it fun
Making the swimming lessons fun with games and other activities is crucial to keeping children engaged and in building their confidence in the water. For very young kids, use games involving nursery rhymes and plastic toys. As they get older, continue to use those techniques, but also introduce games such as “red light, green light,” (where children kick like crazy on green, slow down on amber, and stop on red) to help improve specific swimming techniques. As they get slightly older, drop the nursery rhymes and include the use of more games, varying the games from session to session.
Kids of all ages will learn better if there is variety in the lesson. If they get to use kickboards, pool noodles, and other flotation devices once in a while this will be beneficial. Using these items helps to improve stroke technique, keeps them interested, and will leave them wanting to come back for more. Not all community pools will allow their use, so check on that before taking yours along.
Make swimming enjoyable
Building up confidence in the water is vital so that kids are not afraid of the water and want to swim. As your little swimmer progresses in ability and confidence, you may want to think about enrolling in swimming clubs where a range of swimming and social opportunities will be offered.
Make sure that your children know how to stay safe near a swimming pool. They must always ask for permission to go in a pool and must have adult supervision during this time. Rules such as not running by a pool are really important to follow. Use life vests or floaties for young kids when they are not actually practicing their swimming strokes, but do not rely on the floaties for safety. For young kids and those who are not strong swimmers, life vests should be worn for activities such as river floating or when in lake water. If swimming in the ocean, be conscious of the tide and possible currents. Where possible try to swim in a lifeguard supervised zone.
Even when your child has become a good swimmer, it is possible to get into difficulties in the water. Always ensure that children are supervised to minimize risk and ensure that you are all able to enjoy a fun and safe vacation.
Learning to swim is not a luxury, it is a necessity! Being able to swim is such an important skill to have. Swimming provides fantastic exercise for able-bodied children and those with physical challenges and is an activity that can be continued throughout their lives.
Some of my happiest and most memorable times have taken place around water with my children. What experiences have you had? We’d love to hear about them.
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Have you ever had to spend any time in the hospital as a patient? If you have, it is likely that you may have experienced periods of feeling low, anxious, stressed, and frustrated as a result of your illness or injury and because of being away from family, friends, and your home. If any of this sounds like your hospital experience, you were not alone, as it is not uncommon for hospitalized patients to experience a downturn in mental wellbeing, sometimes with physiological changes too.
In order to counteract some of these multi-factor stressors that hospitalized patients experience, many hospitals have introduced a variety of therapeutic programs. One program that you are increasingly likely to see on that list is animal-assisted therapy sometimes simply called pet therapy.
Why is animal-assisted therapy being used?
The idea of animal-assisted therapy is not new. For many years, it was considered to be a “nice” thing for hospital patients to experience, but thanks to increasing amounts of research into the topic by clinicians, there has been proven to be a wider range of benefits.
What are the benefits of animal-assisted therapy to patients?
An article by Cole, Gawlinski, Steers, and Kotlerman1 in the American Journal of Critical Care showed that when patients had only a 12-minute visit from a pet, there was an improvement in heart and lung function and a significant lowering of blood pressure, a reduction in the release of harmful hormones, and a decrease in anxiety. The study was conducted with hospitalized heart failure patients. It indicated that there was far more benefit shown in those patients that received a visit from a pet than in those patients who were only visited by a human volunteer or those who were left alone.
Specifically, the benefits to patients of animal-assisted therapy include:
Mental health benefits
Reduced problem behaviors for patients with dementia (less agitation, less verbal aggression, and more social behavior)
Improved self-esteem and self-acceptance
Physical health benefits
Lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure when exposed to stress
Reduced serum epinephrine concentrations
Lower pain perception
Endorphins (oxytocin) released giving a calming effect
Reduced need for medication
What are the dangers for patients?
If patients are allergic to pets, animal-assisted therapy cannot be used. Guidelines from the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) indicate that only dogs should be used, not cats. Cats cannot be trained in the same way as dogs, with more likelihood of scratches and bites from cats. Additionally, people are more likely to be allergic to cats than to dogs.
There has been a lot of research done on the benefit of having dogs in the hospital, but not much research on the spread of bacteria from having dogs in the hospital rooms. The SHEA developed new guidelines for how hospitals can approach having pets visiting with patients at the hospital. Dogs used for pet therapy purposes and their handlers need to undergo specific training and be evaluated prior to having hospital access and ideally should be certified by a pet training organization. The American Kennel Club (AKC) lists the organizations through which it accepts dogs to have received their certification and to be given the official title of AKC Therapy Dog.
A study done in a Canadian hospital tested dogs’ paws and fur prior to hospital entry and then again after visiting patients. Of the 26 dogs studied, one picked up C Difficile on his paws during the visit and one had MRSA on his fur and on the handler’s hands following the visit.2 This highlights that although sanitizing pets is difficult, there is a definite need for thorough handwashing by anyone visiting patients prior to visiting and following the visit. When visiting with multiple patients, handwashing between visits is essential.
Hospitals have very distinct protocols in place to ensure that the transmission of infection is kept at a minimum. The animals have to be clean, vaccinated, trained, and have a good temperament before being allowed into the hospital in the first place. In some cases, such as patients in isolation units or patients in the intensive care unit, pet therapy can only take place with extra measures in place, but in certain situations it is unsuitable.
Examples of successful animal-assisted therapy?
There are two types of patient-pet interactions: animal-assisted therapy and animal-assisted activity. Animal-assisted therapy is specifically directed toward patients with cancer, heart disease, or mental health concerns and needs to have a credentialed staff member involved in the process. Animal-assisted activities have a wider scope and are typically used to provide comfort and enjoyment focusing on mental health benefits rather than trying to achieve specific physiological outcomes such as reduced blood pressure, etc. This latter form of activity is typically staffed by volunteer handlers.
Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Center in New York City is an example of a hospital where canines have successfully been introduced in the Caring Canines program.
There are many programs of a similar type being introduced across the nation as the full benefits are increasingly being understood. Dogs are not only being used in surgical and treatment settings but are being used for physical therapy and rehabilitation. Tasks such as brushing a dog can make for more interesting arm strengthening exercises for patients than just doing weight training.3 Dogs can also be used to encourage walking and other rehabilitative exercises.
More and more research is being done on the subject of pet therapy to ascertain the relative merits. Here at Pet Barrier, we think the answer is simple. If having a therapy or activity session with a dog can at the bare minimum brighten a patient’s day during difficult times, pet therapy is absolutely worth it. It has been clinically proven that animal-assisted therapy achieves far more than that, with benefits to patients’ mental and physical health being achieved across all age groups, from children through to seniors. Animal-assisted therapy and activity should be available at all healthcare facilities across the nation. Is US healthcare going to the dogs? We welcome it!
We’d love to hear about your experiences with pet therapy – please share if you are able.
1. Gole, Gawlinski, Steers, Kotlerman. Animal-Assisted Therapy in Patients Hospitalized With Heart Failure. Am J Crit Care. November 2007 vol. 16 no. 6 575-585
“You can never have too many…” have been the words to start many quotes over the decades, from a variety of people ranging from authors to actors. Most of these quotes are completed with words such as “friends,” “shoes,” or “books.” At Pet Barrier, I say, “You can never have too many reminders about distracted driving.”Regular blog followers may remember a couple of posts on distracted driving in 2016 and you may be asking why, with all the subjects that I could be writing about, I am covering the topic of distracted driving yet again. The answer is simple and sobering. Distracted driving is now considered to be at epidemic levels in the US.1
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), US traffic accident fatalities rose by 7.2% in 2015, which is the largest increase in the last 50 years. Early estimates by the NHTSA for the first 9 months of 2016 indicate that fatalities have increased by a further 8%. After having experienced many years of decline in fatality rates during the early 2000s, this trend toward an increase in fatalities is worrying.
What exactly is distracted driving?
Many people consider themselves to be cautious, considerate, safe drivers and sometimes don’t realize that things that they do in addition to driving can be fatal. Causes of distractions on the road are numerous, ranging from events occurring outside the vehicle, restless pets or children or adult passengers within the vehicle, eating, drinking, shaving, applying makeup, smoking, adjusting controls on the stereo, downloading music, dealing with hand-held devices, and last but by no means least, using cell phones for phone calls and texting.
According to EndDD,2 there are three types of distraction:
Manual distractions – your hands are taken away from the steering wheel to perform a task. An example is reaching for a soda
Visual distractions – your eyes are taken off the road. They give the example of when you spill the soda and look down at your clothes to see the outcome
Cognitive distractions – your mind wanders away from the task at hand. They finish the example with you thinking about how to get your clothes cleaned.
In Washington State alone, 30% of fatal road accidents in 2016 were caused by distracted driving. Taking your eye off the road for even 2 seconds can result in an accident. If you talk on a cell phone while driving, your risk of an accident quadruples. If you text while driving, your risk of an accident is increased by eight times. According to Alexis Myers of the Associated Press,3 14 states currently ban hand-held cell phone use while driving in a car. 46 states prohibit texting messaging for all drivers. Research by AAA4 suggests that even when drivers put down the phone or the navigation device, the driver is still not fully engaged with the task of driving as the driver’s mind still remains distracted. An article by Bart Jansen in USA Today indicated that millennials are the age group most likely to engage in risky practices behind the wheel.5 Although the millennial statistics were the highest, other age groups did not fare well either. This suggests that greater education and awareness across the entire population of driving age would be advantageous.
How can you avoid driving distractions?
There will always be incidents that arise when we are driving that are totally unexpected and cannot be planned for ahead of the journey. But for many of the distracted driving scenarios, a little bit of planning ahead by trying to manage these distractions before setting out on the road can help to avoid some of these distractions entirely.
Turn cell phones off or switch to silent, before starting your journey
No phone call, social media update, or text message is more important than a person’s life. Don’t talk, or (even worse) text, on the phone while driving. If you absolutely need to make a call or send a text message during your journey, pull over and make the call or send the text when your vehicle is stationary. As for selfies, nobody wants to see a selfie of you driving, they’d far rather see you in person and more importantly alive.
Take care of personal hygiene before getting in the car
This may seem like an obvious thing to say, but we’ve all seen drivers shaving on their commute, or applying mascara. It is far better to take care of your personal hygiene before setting out on a journey. If you can’t do that then wait until you get to your destination to apply your makeup or remove your stubble.
Secure pets correctly
Ensure that pets are securely placed to the rear of your vehicle. Using a vehicle-specific pet barrier is an excellent choice and if you have multiple pets, having a trunk divider added to this mix can prevent them from becoming rambunctious during a journey. Other options are to harness your pet in one of the rear seats, in a similar way to using a seat belt. There are a wide variety of products on the market to ensure your pet is positioned in the most appropriate area of the vehicle so that the driver is not suddenly surprised by a furry friend wanting a hug. Check out what can work best for your vehicle and for your pet.
Set your GPS system before starting the journey
This also applies if your GPS system is on your cell phone. Ensure that the device is located in an area where you can see both the device and the road easily and clearly and ensure it can be operated hands free.
Eat and drink before or after your journey, not during it
Your car will remain cleaner, your clothes will be cleaner, and more importantly you will not be distracted from the road.
Take care of your kid’s needs before starting the journey
Ensure that children are comfortable and securely buckled in a car seat that is appropriate for their current age, height, and weight. Make sure that they have their toys, pacifiers, sippy cup or whatever else they need within their easy reach, so they are able to get to items, leaving the driver free to deal with the important task of driving. If a toy or any other item gets dropped on the floor, leave it there until you can get to a safe place to pull over. Don’t try to reach behind your seat to return it to the child while you are driving.
The following You Tube video was put together by The Try Guys6 as they considered the effects of distracted driving. They were certainly surprised by the results.
The Try Guys Try Distracted Driving
Don’t become complacent about driving. Every trip, take the time to plan ahead and when you are driving ensure that your mind is on the road and not on the other things going on in your life. Multitasking behind the wheel is simply asking for trouble. Retweet, share on Facebook, reblog, or do whatever you can to get the message out to friends, family, and strangers, so that everyone, no matter what age, is educated about and fully understands the risks of distracted driving. Let’s all work to make American roads safer for 2017 and beyond.
Do you have any tips that have helped avoid distractions when you’ve been traveling with pets, kids or other passengers? We’d love to hear about them.
Please drive mindfully every trip – every life is worth it!
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
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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?