Fireworks and fourth of July celebrations go hand in hand, but although we may oooh and aaah at the spectacular sights exploding in the sky, our dogs typically have a very different response – fear!
So, what can you do to reduce your pet’s fear, so the whole household can enjoy the fourth of July?
Never take your pet to a firework display.
Ensure your dog gets plenty of exercise earlier in the day before the display begins
There is a higher incidence of runaway dogs on the fourth of July. Find out when the firework display is likely to start and keep your dog inside during that time.
Close all windows and doors in your home so that noise levels from outside are reduced. If necessary also draw blinds or close drapes.
When the display is taking place, try to distract your dog with other sounds, such as the TV or by playing music.
Make sure that your dog has easy, unobstructed access to his safe area. This may be the crate or dog bed, so allow your dog to take himself there and allow him to stay there for the evening if that is where he feels most comfortable.
Keep calm yourself and do not appear to look hassled. Dogs often pick up on how their owner is feeling and if you are calm your dog is likely to feel calmer too.
Your veterinarian may be able to suggest a dog appeasing pheromone (DAP) or calming scent that you can use to reduce your dog’s anxiety.
The summer is finally here and with it comes the warmer weather that we’ve longed for during the icy winter months. We may be perfectly content with hot sunny days and balmy evenings, but do our four-legged companions share that view? Dogs typically do not enjoy the heat, so what can we do to make this time comfortable for them too? We’ve put together 9 tips to help your pooch not only survive but to enjoy the dog days of summer.
Hydration is vital
Make sure your dog has access to plenty of fresh water regularly throughout the day. This is something that you will do for your dog anyway, but make sure there is an even more plentiful supply of water available than usual.
Exercise your dog during the coolest part of the day
The coolest times tend to be either early morning or later at night. Make sure that your dog still gets exercise, but you may have to reduce the length and speed of the walks if the temperatures are too high. Take extra care if walking on sidewalks, as the temperature of the asphalt can burn a dog’s paws and the heat radiating off the asphalt or cement can be unbearable. Where possible stick to walking on grass, which will be much cooler for your dog and for you too.
Keep your house cool
If your dog is home alone while you are at work, don’t forget to set the air conditioner to run periodically throughout the day. For homes without an air conditioner, keep blinds and drapes closed and set ceiling fans to run counter-clockwise at a slightly higher speed than normal. Tiled floors can provide some cool relief so your dog may prefer to lie down on tile rather than in his usual favorite area in the house. If you don’t have tile, using a wet towel that he can lie on can give a similar effect.
Don’t leave your dog in the car
Temperatures inside a vehicle can soar in a matter of minutes. According to the SPCA, on a day when it is 85 degrees Fahrenheit outside, a car’s temperature can reach 102 degrees Fahrenheit in just 10 minutes and by 30 minutes can be at a sweltering 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Never leave a dog in a car!
Don’t leave your dog outside for extended periods in the heat
When your dog goes out to the backyard, ensure there are shaded areas and that there is access to plenty of water. Dog houses can become very hot areas during warmer weather, so providing some umbrellas for shade is a better option to protect from sunburn and from heat. If you have the double whammy of high temperatures and high humidity, keep your dog inside as the humidity will stop the dog from being able to cool himself off sufficiently when he pants.
Provide dog-appropriate popsicles
Your dog can enjoy some cooling ice treats too. Chicken broth frozen into ice cubes goes down really well with some dogs. Even if you just add ice cubes made from water to the drinking bowl, your dog will appreciate it.
Keep your dog well groomed
For double-coated dogs, the top layer of hair can protect from heat and sunburn, while the hair underneath can act as the dog’s cooling system. Make sure to brush regularly as matted dog hair will interfere with this cooling process. Talk to a groomer about whether trimming your dog’s fur can help make your dog more comfortable – it doesn’t work for all breeds but may be appropriate for your dog’s breed.
Provide a splash zone
Not all dogs like to get wet, but if yours does, providing a little puppy wading pool in the backyard when you are there to supervise can be a fun way for him to cool off.
Pay closer attention to your dog during warmer weather and especially if your dog is very old or very young. If he is panting excessively and drooling more than usual, or if you notice that he is urinating less frequently or not at all, has a red tongue and red gums, and is vomiting blood or has black, tarry stools, these may be signs of heat stroke. Try to gradually reduce the dog’s temperature using cool (but not cold) water and contact your veterinarian immediately for further advice.
Do you have any tips on what helps your dog stay cool during hot weather? We’d love to hear about them.
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The weather’s starting to get warmer, you’re able to spend more time outside with your dog and all is good with the world. You’re in the backyard ready to enjoy an evening kicking back and then you hear that all-too-familiar high-pitched buzzing sound. Yes, they’re back – mosquitoes! For some people, mosquitoes are merely an irritation with bites leaving itchy welts on the skin, but many others fear the health issues that these tiny insects can bring in the form of malaria or the zika virus. Although many of us think about the effects of mosquitoes on humans, we sometimes overlook the harm they can do to pets in the form of heartworm.
Heartworm causes serious disease in dogs affecting the heart, the lungs, and the blood vessels of the dog and ultimately it results in death. Heartworm is a parasitic roundworm that is spread to a dog if he is bitten by a mosquito. It is the only way that dogs can get heartworm – it cannot be caught from another infected dog. When a dog is bitten by an infected mosquito, the larvae migrate from the bite site to the heart, lungs, and blood vessels and this takes approximately 6-7 months. During this 6-7 months, the larvae develop into adult heartworms. These adults then make their homes in these organs and blood vessels and start to reproduce. Adult heartworms can grow up to 12 inches long and can live for 7 years. A dog can have as many as 250 worms in his system. If a dog has been bitten by an infected mosquito, it is likely that there will no symptoms for 7 months.
Symptoms that your dog may have heartworm include the following:
Soft dry cough
This is from the heartworm multiplying in the lungs. The dog may cough more after exercise and may even faint. Exercise does not need to be strenuous for this to occur.
Your dog becomes very lethargic
If your once active dog is suddenly not wanting to be active and preferring to sleep or rest rather going for a walk. This may be a sign of heartworms.
Because your dog is so lethargic, even activities like eating can be too much effort. As a result, the dog may choose to rest in preference to eating. If a dog doesn’t eat normally, weight loss will likely result.
If your dog is experiencing difficulties in breathing, it may be due to heartworm. If the lungs have heartworms living there, it can make breathing difficult and fluid can build up in the lungs and surrounding blood vessels.
Protruding ribs and bulging chest
The dog may look this way because of weight loss and because of fluid on the lungs.
Your dog may appear to be asthmatic or even allergic. This is because of the build up of fluid and heartworm inhabiting the lungs.
When there are large numbers of heartworm it can cause a blockage in the heart resulting in the collapse and ultimately the death of the dog.
The last four symptoms occur when heartworms end up in other parts of the body other than the heart, lungs, and blood vessels.
As with many illnesses, the above symptoms can indicate other health issues, so vets have other ways of detecting heartworms. Blood tests are a good way to determine whether there are heartworms by checking the presence of certain proteins (antigens) in the blood produced by heartworms. The earliest this can be detected is at around 5 months after the dog has been bitten by the mosquito. X-rays, ECG, and echocardiography can also help to determine what is going on in the heart and lungs of the dog.
Treatment is achieved by initially stabilizing the dog’s condition prior to the actual treatment beginning. The veterinarian may start by giving the dog antibiotics (to eliminate the bacteria that the heartworm give out when they die), preventative treatments (to stop heartworm reaching adulthood by eliminating the larvae), and steroids (to stop inflammation). The actual treatment can then begin and may be in the form of a series of injections to eliminate adult heartworm from the dog. Your dog will need to be hospitalized for this process. Pre-treatment stabilization and treatment can take several months to achieve. Following this, the younger heartworm and larvae are eliminated. In certain situations, surgical removal may be required.
Following treatment, the dog will need to rest far more than usual. Physical exercise increases the rate at which the heartworm will cause damage to a dog’s heart or lungs. A very active dog with only a few heartworms can be more at risk than a very inactive dog with lots of heartworms. Your veterinarian will advise when exercise can be resumed and this will need to be introduced slowly and gradually. Six months after the treatment you will need to have your dog tested for heartworms again. This is because the veterinarian needs to check that all heartworms were eliminated during the treatment process. The longer the time that heartworms are present, the more damage they can do.
The best approach to managing heartworms is to prevent them in the first place. There are many products on the market that are designed to prevent a whole variety of problems ranging from heartworm to fleas in one single application. These can be provided in the form of a pill or spot treatments applied to the skin. These monthly treatments do not prevent heartworms but eliminate any larvae that have been acquired by the dog during that month.
It is always advisable to discuss heartworm concerns with your veterinarian. He or she can advise you on the best preventative measures to protect your dog from this parasite.
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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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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.
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.
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.
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.
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*.
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.
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.
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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When you are a busy adult, whether because of work commitments, child care, caring for senior family members, pet care, or perhaps all of the aforementioned, it is often easy to make the mistake of putting yourself last. Admittedly in this 3-part series, I am posting this last, which shows I’m as guilty of thinking along these lines as anybody. Whenever I’ve put my needs first, I’ve always felt a little bit guilty, but recent events at my veterinarian’s office made me rethink what I had previously thought of as selfish actions on my part.
I was attending an appointment with my dog when another dog’s owner experienced a heart attack in the waiting room. Fortunately, the outcome of a long and convoluted story was that the dog’s owner recovered well and the dog received care during the recuperation period. It left me with the realization that in order to ensure someone else’s welfare, we need to ensure our own welfare. Ultimately, if we don’t take proper care of ourselves, we become unable to care for others. Isn’t it, therefore, a wise investment to make time for yourself this spring by reviewing your lifestyle and maybe giving it an overhaul if it is falling short?
Rethink your workout habits
You work out to stay fit and healthy, but if your routine hasn’t really changed in many years, maybe it could do with a refresh to keep you interested and challenged. If you enjoy working out with your dog, activities like canine parcours or doga could be of interest to you. If you love walking with your dog, but are thinking about progressing to running, maybe alternating jogging with walking with your pup may be a good way to ease both of you into the sport.
Improve your diet
We’re not talking about dangerous diets or detox programs, but simply evaluating what you eat and seeing how you can boost your nutritional intake can be beneficial. An easy way to start is with a food diary, in which you write down what and how much you have eaten for every meal for a couple of weeks (or longer if you prefer). You will probably be surprised by the results. If you find your diet is particularly low in vegetables, that is an easy fix. Additionally, if you notice that there is a lot of repetition in your meals, you can add more variety to give a broader range of nutrients and more interest for your palate. In the last couple years particularly, many TV chefs, TV doctors, and celebrity fitness trainers have been focusing on increasing nutritional value in meals to try to help people reduce weight, prevent disease, and ultimately add years to their lives. Their suggested recipes are often simple to fix, absolutely delicious, and many are available free online – it’s worth googling.
Take more time for yourself
No matter what hobbies you have and how you prefer to take time for yourself, make certain that you build some of this time into your week. Make a list of the things that you really want to do for yourself and the things that help you relax. Then look at what you actually do on a daily basis and determine what tasks can be eliminated or even outsourced. If you spend all your spare time catching up on household duties, maybe some of those tasks can be shared with a spouse, leaving you some time to attend a language lesson, catch up on a good book, or whatever you want to do that’s just for you.
Nurture your friendships
Friendships are vital, whether we have busy lives or not. Try to stay in touch with friends on a weekly basis, even if just by phone, and try to get together as often as possible. Friendships help us to feel connected, boost happiness levels, reduce stress, and may even help in preventing early onset dementia.
Your Mom was right, spring cleaning is an important addition to every person’s calendar, but not just for keeping your house spiffy. Take time for yourself, it’s not selfish, it’s essential!
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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?
If you and your pet have been active all year, there should be no reason to become sloth-like during the winter. Admittedly, it can be tempting to hunker down inside when temperatures plummet, but getting active and staying active with your dog will actually change your life. No exaggeration.
With a bit of creativity and planning, it’s possible to enjoy every season with your pet and get more benefits than you might realize at the same time. Here are a few activity suggestions that could help keep you both healthier during the colder months.
Skijoring is a unique combination of cross-country skiing combined with dog power. This sport began hundreds of years ago in Norway and was called skikjøring (or ski driving). Horses and reindeer were used in Norway, but when the concept spread to Alaska, dogs were used instead. The dog wears a skijoring harness and is attached to the skier with a belt and a towline. This sport only works well with larger dogs, but you don’t need to own a Husky. Golden Retrievers, Dalmatians, or Border Collies, for example, can all enjoy the sport. If your dog weighs at least 35 lbs, is healthy, and has a lot of energy and stamina, it could be a good option. Both owner and dog get a fantastic workout (with owners able to burn between 700 and 900 calories per hour) and take advantage of the snowy conditions at the same time. If this sounds like the sport for you, it is advisable to get a health check for you and your dog. If you’re both good to go, start out slowly, building up the length of sessions as you get more familiar with the activity. Look online for Skijor clubs in your local area, which could offer some group sessions and may give you tips specific to your location. SkijorUSA might be a good place to start. Some states that typically get winter snow have designated trail areas, so check out what might be available in your state.
This is becoming increasingly popular in the snowier regions of the country as you can burn between 420 – 1,000 calories in an hour depending on speed. Some dog owners like to carry poles, so prefer to snowshoe with their dog on a waist leash. This activity offers cardio training, strength building, agility, and balance – a serious workout for owner and dog.
Become a mushing team
When we think of mushing, we often think of a sled pulled by multiple dogs, but actually, the term refers to any form of transport that is powered by dogs. Traditional mushing with a sled in the snow is extremely popular in Alaska but is also growing in popularity in the lower 48. Dog mushing has become a popular activity for those wanting to explore the backcountry. There is quite a bit of equipment and training required for this version. If you find the thought of traditional mushing a bit daunting, there are other options, although most of these are better suited to conditions without ice or snow. There is a wide range of products on the market, so why not check out the different options and see if there is something that appeals to you.
Hiking is a very popular activity and shouldn’t be reserved for the warmer months. When there is snow on the ground, it certainly adds to the intensity of a hike. This activity can be achieved without needing to purchase or rent additional equipment, but do take plenty of water, snacks and a first aid kit with you. Ensure that both you and your dog are adequately protected against the elements with appropriate clothing and footwear. With any outdoor activity during the winter, make sure your pet’s paws are washed clean of salt after being outside. If you are likely to be going out into harsh weather conditions regularly, you may want to consider investing in hiking boots for your dog, to protect paws from injury. Not all dogs will wear them so paw wax may be a good alternative to protect the paws from ice and snow.
Practice nose work
Not everyone wants to or is able to participate in intense forms of exercise with their pet, but in addition to regular walking, there are other more moderate activities that you can introduce during the winter months. Practicing nose work is a fun search activity for your dog, based on the scent training that police and rescue dogs undergo. This activity provides great physical exercise but is fantastic for mental stimulation too. Dogs learn to search for a specific odor and find the source of that odor. The nice thing is that it can be done almost anywhere. The wind, rain, and snow can affect scent flow, so practicing in the winter can be a different experience from other seasons. If you would like to develop your skills, K9 Nose Work can help you find an instructor in your area.
Make an indoor agility course
If the weather is just too severe to venture outside, you can set up an agility course in your own living room. It is possible to purchase objects like tunnels, hoops, and hurdles for your pet, but if your budget doesn’t stretch to those, simply look around your home and everyday objects can achieve a similar result. Set up obstacles with items like brooms or rolled up blankets and encourage your pet to jump over these obstacles. You may have to jump too initially but aim to progress to verbal cues. Put items like newspaper or aluminum foil on the ground, so your dog gets used to different textures and sounds under his paws. Add a collapsed tunnel adventure by using a chair draped in a blanket – sit one side and encourage your pet to go through.
Go to an indoor dog park
Designed for year-round use, but particularly helpful in extremes of weather, indoor dog parks are a great option. Many indoor dog parks have opened throughout the United States, so check online to find one in your area. At some, you can sign up for an agility class, a swimming lesson, or even have a go at doga (yep, yoga with your dog!).
How can these activities change your life?
The benefits of getting active with your dog are many, but the following are just a selection of ways in which your life will be changed for the better by exercising with your pet during the winter months:
Any activity or exercise during the winter (whether inside or out) is great for improving cardiovascular health and overall muscle tone for you and your dog.
Exercise has been proven to be helpful in improving mental health, as endorphins released during exercise reduce depression and anxiety.
Being exposed to as much natural sunlight as possible helps in overcoming SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) that can affect many people during the winter months.
Although you are never truly lonely with a dog in your life, engaging in activities that promote greater social interaction (such as going to an indoor dog park or signing up for a class) can be so helpful for anyone struggling with isolation and loneliness at this time of year – again improving mental health.
Embarking on any activity allows you to develop stronger, closer bonds with your pet, which is good for the soul in general.
With countless benefits, whatever you do this winter, pick an activity that you and your pet can enjoy and will do regularly. Get active and maximize your time with your best friend!
What do you and your pet love to do at this time of year? We’d love to hear about it!