Cooper's Mom - Affordable Pet Care
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So, you're thinking of getting a dog...
A dog park is no place for a dog.
Even kitties get the blues
But his tail is wagging so everything must be okay.
To Board or not to Board?

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So, you're thinking of getting a dog...

Terrific!  But, please, do your homework first.

First, be honest with yourself about handling the commitment - being home, walking, training, expense, etc.

Second, be honest with yourself about your experience with dogs and your abilities with regard to training. Do you want a dog who will run with you? A couch potato? Loves other dogs? Loves people? Protective? Able to stay home alone?

Third, research different breeds which fit into your life the best, given what you figured out about yourself in the first two steps. This is more of an elimination step. If you want a dog to be able to be off leash, you wouldn't want a Beagle.  If you can only take him on short walks, you don't want a Border Collie, for example. 

Fourth, decide if you want to adopt a puppy or an adult dog. Rescuing is a wonderful thing, but it's not for everyone.  Please don't be bullied into rescuing a dog you may not be able to handle, that doesn't do you or the dog any favors. Especially if you end up returning the dog, then he/she goes back with one or more strikes against it. The way I look at it, whether you get a dog from a breeder or a rescue, if you raise it well and keep it from needing to be rescued, you've performed a great service either way. I always say that if you get a dog as a puppy, then all the mistakes have been your own. 

Fifth, plan ahead for your pet's arrival.  I've had way too many frantic weekend calls from people who got an animal on a whim and realize they can't leave their new pet home alone when they go to work on Monday. Educate yourself and be prepared. 

Sixth, train, train, train.  Walk, walk, walk. Dogs need to know what is expected of them.  Crate training is an extremely useful tool.  It's not cruel, it keeps your dog safe from injury until they can be alone.  Walking is a great way for them to explore while building a bond with you.

Last. Love, love, love. 



A dog park is no place for a dog.

It seems like a great idea, dogs hanging out and playing in a secure, fenced in area while their owners socialize. Except, when it's not.  Here are a few of the reasons that I believe dog parks work better for people than dogs. 

First, the initial greetings can be intimidating for even the most confident dog as all of the dogs in the park rush up to your dog.  Imagine walking in the door at a party and everyone there rushes up to you at once and surrounds you.  They are all saying hello, wanting to shake your hand, patting you on the back, the arm, the head until you feel claustrophobic.  You don't know if they are all friendly, maybe they are, maybe some are intimidating.  All you know is that you're feeling overwhelmed and react by saying, "Hey, give me some space!"  Suddenly, you're branded unfriendly or aggressive. That's exactly how your dog feels entering the dog park. 

Second, there is nowhere for a scared dog to hide or escape in the dog park.  If your dog gets intimidated by another dog, he can't go anywhere to collect himself.  He hides behind you and you tell him it's okay.  Well, maybe it's not to him. 

Third, too many people truly do not understand dog behavior.  Or worse yet, many people think they do and really do not, especially with regard to aggression.  Some dogs are noisy, growly greeters and players; they are not aggressive dogs, but they can intimidate people and dogs.  Other dogs are truly aggressive and their owners don't recognize it and don't discourage the behavior.  Dogs can learn a lot of bad behaviors from other dogs at the dog park. 

Fourth, take a look at how much exercise your dog is really getting in that dog park.  There's some running, then a lot of sitting around, maybe a little more running, but mostly sitting around. 

Obviously, this may not apply to all dog park situations, but it's common enough that an honest look is warranted.  Dogs definitely need canine companionship and exercise, but from what I've experienced, dog parks aren't the ticket.  








Even kitties get the blues

No matter which side of the indoor/outdoor cat debate you fall on, it's important to remember that all cats need attention and stimulation.  Cats are so autonomous and independent that it's easy to forget that they do need us, no matter how indifferent to us they may seem.

Outdoor cats may get plenty of stimulation, action and maybe food and water, but they still need love.  In our area, it's a good idea to bring them in at night to protect them from coyotes, too.  We had a sad period in our neighborhood a few years ago when there were several different missing cat posters everywhere. Luckily, coyotes are wanderers, but they do come back.

Indoor cats may get plenty of love and have food and water at their disposal, but it's easy to forget to stimulate them with playtime.  They may have a safer life indoors, but we must make sure it's a quality life. Even older cats may have a few bats at a swinging toy. 




But his tail is wagging so everything must be okay.

It happens all the time, two or more dogs greet each other and their owners misinterpret the signs the dogs are displaying. There is some posturing, maybe some teeth bearing but, some tail wagging so the owners think everything is okay.  What people don't realize is that there are different types of tail wagging.  Let's look at tail wagging a littler closer by looking at the situation and the rest of the dog's body language. Of course, it all depends on the individual dog. 

Usually, a happy wag is a low, slower, wide wag, usually but not always. Look at your dog's wagging tail the next time he sees you approaching, obviously, that's his happy wag. Now, if you have, or know, a dog that gets nervous, aggressive or barks at strangers, look at that wag.  Chances are, his tail will be straight up, maybe pointing forward and moving back and forth very quickly.  He may also have hackles, partial or full, his ears may be up and he may be growling or baring teeth. These are not the signs of a happy dog. 

There are some pugs in our neighborhood that Cooper absolutely loathes. He will sit in the window, happily watching the street when suddenly, he will stand up, ears go up, hackles rise and his tail gets erect, goes forward and rapidly whips back and forth. Sure enough, there they are. It's absolutely classic.

So, remember, the next time you're trying to assess a dog's comfort level, don't assume everything is okay because her tail is wagging. There could be pugs out there!

To Board or not to Board?

People sometimes wonder if their dog would be happier at home with a pet sitter or boarding in a home or facility when they need to be out of town. The answer depends a lot on the dog and the dog's usual environment. 

I have found that older or nervous dogs who live in a quiet adult home, usually do better staying at home and having a professional pet sitter stay with them.

Younger, well-socialized dogs do just fine in a boarding environment. Naturally, I think that in-home boarding is preferred to a kennel.  Our boarding dogs become part of our family and after the first day or so, they learn the routine and it seems like they forget that they live somewhere else and thrive in our busy house.  If I went out of town and left Cooper at home, he would sit in the den and watch for me until I returned. 

Dogs are remarkably adaptive and will do well as long as they are well loved and cared for in your absence.  The important thing is that YOU feel comfortable and confident about where they are while you're gone. 


Wind cools people off, but dogs...not so much

It's a curious thing, you're walking your dog on a breezy day and you feel nice and cool, then you look at your dog who is panting like it's 93°  It took me a few years too long to figure out that wind doesn't cool dogs off.  Dogs have fewer sweat glands than we do and cool off primarily through panting.  
While wind may cool off the overall air temperature, walking in the sun, even on a windy day, may overheat your dog. 

Make sure you give your dog lots of water and check frequently for signs of overheating.  Since dogs do have sweat glands in their paws, they can cool off by walking in water. Puppies and older dogs may also have more difficulty regulating their body temps, so they need extra watching

We still do group dog walks in summer, even on hot days, but we carry plenty of water, walk on the shadiest trails around and if it's really hot, we go from one shady spot to the next with plenty of rest.

Fifteen minutes is not a walk. Or, if you're not walker, don't get a dog.

That is a quote from a very wise client and friend. People say that dogs are a lot of work and I've never understood what that meant.  You need to love them, pay attention to them, feed them a couple of times a day, make sure they have water and walk them every day.  What is hard about that?  Oh, it's the walking part. 

ALL DOGS NEED WALKS.  Yes, even little dogs. They need the stimulation from new sights, sounds and smells.  Fifteen minutes does not constitute a walk, that's a sniff around.  In my opinion, a walk should be a bare minimum of 30 minutes and at least one walk a day should be 45 minutes.  Your dog should come home tired and settled. This is not only their entertainment time, but their bonding time with you and hopefully you're not on your cell phone the whole time.  And as in a previous post, running around in the backyard or being at dog day care (unless a walk is included) is not a substitute.

Obviously, there is nothing wrong with paying someone to walk your dog for you if you're not a walker.  The important thing to remember is that daily, long walks are as necessary for a dog as food and water is. Remember, a tired dog is good. 

Pet food bag directions are there to sell more food

It happens all the time.  People get a dog and feed him according to the recommended amounts on the bag of dog food and wind up with a chubby puppy.  Unfortunately, those directions are there primarily to sell more dog food than to keep your dog at a healthy weight.  

On an ideal weight dog, you can feel her ribs, but not see them.  She will have a "waist" that narrows where her torso meets her hips and a tuck underneath.  Obviously, this is easier to tell on some breeds than others, but these are good guidelines.  Cooper's ideal weight is around 60 lbs and I feed him just under one cup of food twice a day, with treats being a rarity.  

As far as what kind of food to feed, I'm a big fan of the Kirkland food from Costco.  They are corn free, wheat free and have a lot of the extra ingredients pets need and they love them.  I use the Lamb and Rice food for Cooper and also as the treats I give the dogs on the trail and 95% of the dogs love it. 

I also use a Kong filled with leftover vegetables, meat and water and freeze it for a special treat for Cooper.  It keeps him occupied for a long time, without a lot of extra calories.

Dogs fears of strangers, usually men

Have you ever wondered why your dog, the one you've raised from puppy hood, the one who has never been abused seems afraid of men sometimes?  Me, too. But, I have a theory. 

When dogs are puppies, they are people magnets.  People coo and shriek and cuddle them, but most of the people that find puppies irresistible are female.  Girls, women or little kids all greet them with warm tummy rubs and high voices.  Men, for the most part will give them a pat or ask a few questions of the human, but not give the barrage of affection they get from females.  This continues into the dog's adult years so that the puppy makes this association. 

Men can also usually be taller, have deeper voices and put off more of a dominant energy.  Men also tend to wear hats more, which the dog often thinks of as something that doesn't belong. 

This is another of the reasons that if you have a puppy, you need to get it out there in the world.  Get him with other dogs, other people, other places anything you can think of to make him comfortable with everyone and everything.

The Very Personal Side of Pet Care

Taking care of people's pets has a very personal side to it.  You are a part of their lives in many of the events that take place.  You have knowledge of their whereabouts and the happenings that you wouldn't normally have.  You are in their home when they are not there, or you know where they are and when they will return.

Sometimes the events are happy and big, like vacations, weddings and the birth of babies.  Sometimes the events are happy and small, like out of town sports tournaments and competitions.  But, sometimes the events that require pet care are sad, like accidents, illnesses and even death and again, you have details and a connection to the pet owner that others don't have. 

The one common thread that all of the events have is that you are giving them peace of mind. The peace of mind from knowing that their beloved pet is being well cared for and there is at least one thing that they don't have to worry about. This is one part of my job that gives it meaning and makes it so rewarding.  
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