Helping your child deal with the death of your dog

 

As much as we hate to think of it, every life eventually ends and there comes a time when every pet owner has to face the death of his or her pet. The average lifespan of a dog is 10 – 13 years. Even if you have one of the breeds that can live to around 17 years such as a Chihuahua, health issues or accidents can occur along the way that can mean your dog’s life is brought to an end earlier than that typical of the breed.  This can be devastating to pet owners and can be particularly hard for children to deal with. As a parent, you want to help your child learn how to tackle what life brings whether happy or sad and helping them to cope with the death of a pet fits into this category. So, this somewhat sombre post considers how you can make things easier for your child during the saddest of times.

Child walking dog

 

What to say to your child when a pet dies

Your child may see the family dog as not only a family member but also a best friend.  The pet is often a source of comfort when your child is upset, so how can you help your child through this time when that source of comfort is now the source of their biggest grief?  A lot of how you will approach this depends not only on the age of your child but also on the level of maturity.

If your pet died as a result of illness, don’t avoid talking with your child about this.  Explain that the dog was very sick and that the veterinarians tried everything possible to help him.  Telling your child that the dog dying was the kindest outcome, because if the dog lived he or she would be in too much pain can make it more bearable. Don’t confuse younger kids by using phrases such as “put to sleep,” as this can send mixed messages and children should view sleeping as a good thing, not something with scary consequences.

If your dog has died because of an accident, that can be more of a shock for everyone as it is an entirely unexpected event. Be truthful about what has happened, explaining events in a calm way, but keep it simple and don’t go into elaborate detail.

Although the death of a pet is difficult, it is a way for children to learn about how to cope with loss later in life.  It is important for them to learn that they can work their way through grief.

 

Why is dealing with a dog’s death so intense? 

When your dog dies, your entire daily routine is affected.  It is not always as easy to have the grieving time normally afforded to those who lose a human family member. For many people, who view dogs as their children, it is the same feeling as losing a family member.  Children sometimes view their dogs as they would a sibling, so it can be similar to losing a brother or sister for them.

As with any loss, the grieving process may mean going through a whole series of emotions at different times, ranging from sadness at the loss itself, guilt for not being a better pet owner, and anger that nothing could be done to save the pet. Let children know that it is perfectly OK to feel all these emotions and that they are not alone with that because other family members are feeling the same way too.

Sad child being comforted

Moving on

Having a small memorial ceremony to remember your pet can be helpful. Some families like to put together a memory book so that they can look through it together and remember the good times. Explain that you’ll always have happy memories of your pet and talk about some of those good times together.

Child hugging dog

 

If you have helped your child through this experience, please share what was helpful for you and your family during this time.

Dog's live are too short

 

 

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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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Love Me, Love My Dog!

Change can be hard.  This is true for people and dogs alike and as we progress through our lives with inevitable changes along the way, we may encounter some interesting situations with our loved ones, whether human or canine. Dating or embarking on a new relationship can be one of those times.  Relationships are complex and if there are animals involved, things can get more complicated. A study published in a British newspaper in 2012suggested that dogs can cause more than 2,000 arguments in a household over the dog’s lifetime. In a poll conducted in October 2010 by the Associated Press-Petside,approximately 14% of people would choose their dog over their own spouse.  These remarkable statistics prove that Shakespeare was not wrong and “the course of true love never did run smooth.”3  If you’re reading this and seeing some parallels with your own life, what can be done to make things a little less choppy?

Is your partner a dog lover?

a-house-is-not-a-homeWhether your partner is a dog lover or not is a question that ideally needs to be answered at the beginning of a relationship, because if he is not and you are, there could be trouble ahead.  Some people cannot possibly imagine being without a dog in their home, whereas others cannot imagine sharing their home with a pet.  It can be very difficult for someone who does not like (or is perhaps afraid of) dogs to adjust to having a pet in his or her space. If your partner is allergic to pets, it can be downright disastrous. A dog sensing fear or dislike from your partner does not make for a comfortable situation. Determining what will work for you both at the outset, could be a smart move in the long term.

Blending households

Introducing a new person into a household can be extremely confusing for dogs who are pack animals and enjoy the comfort of knowing where everyone sits in the pecking order.  Your dog’s home is his territory and he will protect that territory as much as possible. Introduce a partner gradually with initial contact being on neutral ground.  By the time you get to the moving-in stage, your partner and your pet should be very used to being around one another. When the partner does move in, try to make sure that the pet’s normal sleeping areas are not compromised, as dogs are creatures of habit and will not necessarily feel comfortable with lots of change.  If you are blending households that both contain pets, you have another variable to add to the equation.  Again, make sure that initial pet introductions are done on neutral ground.  The pets should be very familiar with each other before living under the same roof.

cake-topper

Compromise

For many dog owners, the dog is often treated like a substitute child or grandchild, but just as parents would with regard to raising children, owners should discuss how they both feel about dealing with training, behavioral issues, and how much time, money, and attention should be devoted to the dog.  As with any relationship, compromises should be made while respecting wishes on either side.  Disputes over the dog can include who should walk the dog, where the dog sits in your vehicle, money spent on the dog, feeding the dog from the table, or damage caused by the dog, to name just a few.  Sit down with your partner and determine what the issues are in your household and how you can resolve them. For example, pets on the furniture may be acceptable to one person, but not to the other.  This is particularly an issue if you like your dog to share the bed, but your partner doesn’t. Talk about what you can both tolerate and when you decide on a household rule, stick to it.

dogs-on-the-bed-cartoon

Don’t expect your partner to love your pet as much as you do.  As long as your pet is treated well by your partner and your pet is friendly in return, that can be OK.  Try to share out tasks involved in the care of your pet between you, but if your partner is just not keen, be prepared (and content) to take on the lion’s share of the work.

Coping with jealousy

You mean everything to your dog and you mean everything to your partner! Sometimes it can be difficult for your dog and for your significant other to see affection being directed elsewhere.  Don’t neglect to spend time with your dog after your partner has moved in and try to ensure that your partner also builds a relationship with your dog by spending time, giving treats and other attention.

Tackle issues before they escalate

If your normally well-behaved dog starts acting out or behaving badly, that could be a sign that your pup is not happy with the new situation.  Don’t allow your dog to get away with bad behavior, and try to tackle the issue as soon as possible.  It may be that you need to call on the help of an expert, whether a trainer or a veterinarian, to see if there is an underlying concern that needs addressing.

Whatever the problems that you encounter, don’t just let them fester.  Communicate with your partner so you are aware of each other’s feelings.  If you are comfortable talking with friends about your situation, they might be able to assist in problem resolution. If this doesn’t help or is not a good option for you, a licensed marriage and family therapist, who will be familiar with these kinds of issues, could help steer your relationship to a better place.

If you’ve had some pup-induced relationship challenges, why not share how you were able to resolve them?

Sending love to all our Pet Barrier blog readers this Valentine’s Day.

dog-with-rose-in-mouth
Hope your Valentine’s Day is pawsome!

References

  1. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2084835/Mans-worst-friend-Average-dog-causes-2-000-family-arguments-lifetime.html#ixzz4W2PLYhQ2
  2. http://www.apgfkpoll.com October 2010.
  3. Shakespeare, W. A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Act 1, Scene 1. 1600.