Lotsa Dogs Lotsa Fun

Lotsa Dogs Lotsa Fun
The Big Dogs Wait at The Door

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Dog Daycare for Exercise!

Your dog's most important needs are good nutrition, regular exercise, and tough-love (discipline with plenty of lovin'). Today I want to talk about dogs and exercise.

It's great if you walk your dog twice a day or more, but most breeds will develop nervous habits if that's all they get. They also get fat, which leads to health problems like heart disease and arthritis. Goldens, Dobermans, Labs, Jack Russells, Shih Tzus, Lhasas, Dalmations, Scotties, Westies, Wheatons, Collies, Cockers, Bulldogs... each breed needs a different amount and kind of exercise, but don't kid yourself, they all need some!

Time after time people tell me their dog gets plenty of exercise - she can go out in the back yard anytime she wants (people with dog doors, or whose kids let the dog out). First of all, make sure she's fenced in!! Some people like invisible electric fences; I hate them with a passion. But that's for another posting. The point is PLEASE don't let your dog outside if you don't have a fenced in area for her. Even if you live in the wilds of Australia. Encounters with wildlife always go badly for somebody, and usually it's your dog. Here in New England, we live side-by-side with hungry coyotes and foxes, as soon as you get out of major metropolitan areas. Even in cities, fights with racoons (who can be very aggressive), and chasing squirrels are activities that harm pets all the time.

Even supposing your dog is safe in your yard, you really don't know what she's doing out there unless you supervise her. So, go ahead, let her out to pee if you're in a rush and there's a fenced-in area. But don't be lazy all the time! Go out with her, encourage her to do her business and praise her. Then throw a ball or a frisbee a few times, or even just play with her. That way you know she's getting the elevated heartbeat and mental stimulation she craves. A few dogs can be depended upon to play by themselves, but they're the exception. Most will come back inside as soon as they can, 'cause they're gregarious. They want to be with their pack (you and your family). Run around with her, play tug of war, whatever. Both of you, go ahead, get off that couch!

But you're exhausted when you get home at night, right? Me too!! So who wants to throw a ball for Benny (whose a ballaholic - doesn't want one throw, wants twenty). The answer is... DAYCARE!!!! Dog daycare is the best thing since sliced bread, providing that you find a place that is clean (no smells!) and has high standards around supervision, handling, and the health of each guest. The very best place if you're anywhere near central Massachusetts is The Doggie Den (www.thedoggieden.net). Our doggie guests play in large indoor areas under constant supervision all day long. We wash down both the play areas and the outdoor area where the guests do their business with a high quality animal quarters disinfectant called Cherry 256. It kills all the parasites, bacteria, and virii that make doggie daycare chancey in less fastidious places. Vets will tell you they're not crazy about daycare 'cause it spreads disease. But not us!! Local vets recommend us because we send dogs with a cough or diarrhea home. I've been trained in doggie first aid, and in the basic symptoms of the most common ailments. Our customers are grateful that we signal any problem right away and recommend a trip to the vet's office. We do not let dogs associate with others if we suspect a communicable disease.

The other thing you want to know about your potential play group or day care is: how much exercise does my Baby really get? At The Doggie Den, our guests are free to play from 9am to 6pm. We open at 7am, and we crate the arrivals or leash them in place until 9am, when everyone is freed for the rest of the day. Be sure to ask if doggie guests are crated or restrained for any part of the day. At The Doggie Den we get constant 'thank you's' from customers whose dogs come home exhausted! And that's what you want. Supervised play for extended periods of time! And there should be comfy bedding available in the play areas so the pups can rest when they want to. At The Doggie Den we give everyone a treat at 1pm, then sit down and encourage them to rest. Just like kids' daycare!

Monday, January 10, 2005

Playtime for the big kids Posted by Hello

Sun bathers at The Doggie Den Posted by Hello

Nap time at The Doggie Den Posted by Hello

Dogs in the Snow

In January, dog ownership can get complicated. Some pups love the snow, ice, sleet & hail. Lots of pups are more sensible though, and hate it; so how in the world do you get the haters to do their business outside? Even dogs like Huskeys and Malamutes who are bred for snow will sometimes gleefully run through snow piles outdoors, then come into your living room to pee!

First of all, dogs with thin coats need to be covered when it's below freezing, even if they're only out for a brief time. Boxers, Great Danes, Bulldogs, Chihuahuas, Dobermans, Pointers... all the pups with little to no insulation need a warm coat and possibly foot coverings that are made for dogs. Check petedge.com for coats and boots. If you send these dogs out uncovered, the risk is that after a few moments, all they'll think about is how to get back inside. Where they will procede to dump in your study or pee on baby's highchair.

The next problem is where do they go? If you're like most households, snow shoveling and snow blowing have made Fluffy's favorite spot inaccessible. Most likely, she will try to get to her usual place while looking back at you in great perplexity. Little dogs often stare at piles of snow and give up entirely. So it's advisable to keep an outdoor space clear for your dog(s) in the winter. If someone plows your driveway, you can walk the dogs there, giving them a treat when they relieve themselves, so they'll know that the driveway's ok in the winter. Don't worry about poops in your June driveway - dogs prefer dirt, garden, or lawn if they can get to it.

If there's no driveway option, clear a space on your property. I make a circle about 15 feet in diameter just to the side of the porch steps, because like many canines, Benny and Daphne wander in circles when they need to poop. Daphne even does it before she pees. You need a long-handled pooper-scooper set-up so you can clean up after they do their deed, whether they chose your cleared area or the side of a snowpile. It is rare that nature presents a more revolting spectable than a springtime dogpatch that has not been kept clean. I keep a small covered bucket with a trash bag liner in the cleared area. I clean up pee spots too, 'cause I don't want my lawn to go into shock when the snow melts. Once a week the poopy bucket liner goes out with the trash.

If they're having a good time outside, dogs love to eat snow. Not a great idea. We get lots of intestinal infections in Doggie Den Day Care with dogs who have eaten unclean snow. Even in a pristine area, they like to lick snow where other mysterious beings have trod, and moose pee is not necessarily a good nutrient. So have a good time, keep her warm, limit the snow intake, and keep one area clean and clear for when she needs to get serious.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Dog Bites: Breed-specific Ordinances

Preventing dog bites is an important goal for everyone. Unfortunately, in a world addicted to whatever looks like an easy fix, outraged citizens are asking cities and towns to outlaw certain breeds, thinking that will eliminate, or at least cut down on dog bites.

But this legislative solution is not a solution, because (1)no city or town can effectively enforce such a law and (2)even if the law could be effective, eliminating all the Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, and Dobermans in the world would not address the basic problem: DOG OWNER IRRESPONSIBILITY. Boston recently enacted an ordinance aimed at Pit Bulls and the law has done nothing to reduce the number of dog bites seen in local hospitals and doctors' offices.

What would work, then?

1: Enforcing existing animal control laws, for example. Police can effectively fine people whose dogs run loose, or who walk dogs without a leash. A program of rewards for reporting dogs running loose would help. The key here is to increase funding for animal control!

2: So would mandatory spaying and neutering for all but AKC champions. Only bitches and dogs who have earned their championship should be bred anyway, because the goal should be to improve the temperament, health, and appearance of the breeds. It's highly unlikely that the owner of a champion Staffordshire Terrier (aka "Pit Bull")would breed her or him for killer temperament. If the law obliged veterinarians to report any non-spayed or non-neutered dog to the police, and if owners were fined, there would be fewer intact dogs to cause trouble. Intact male dogs represent 80% of dogs presented to veterinary behaviorists for dominance aggression, and are involved in 70%-76% of reported dog bites in Massachusetts.

But dog bites are only preventable in situations where owners act responsibly. All dogs need appropriate restraint, socialization, obedience training, and safe public areas in which to exercise (dog parks). Dogs and children (especially babies) need very close supervision. A child's attempt to cuddle the family dog can easily result in frightening the animal, and thus put the child at risk of a bite.

As for those who WANT dangerous dogs, they will find them - or create them through deliberate cruelty. Such people should be shot and fed to their dangerous animals.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Back on Track, Jack

Back to work on a "normal" schedule and the pups sense the change. At The Doggie Den, in our day care operation, those who took some vacation are over-the-top barky and crazed to be back. The ones who didn't are glad to see their friends and want to play non-stop. Some have diarrhea from sneaking forbidden holiday treats. At home, Daphne and Benny look at me as though I've lost my mind when I try to corral them into the van to go to work. They were perfectly happy being stay-at-home pets over each of the holiday weekends. Now they have to share me with the hordes again, and they're not happy. Daphne scratches my leg when I walk by at work; if that doesn't work, she grabs my pantleg with her teeth! No dummy she. The amount of lovin' she got over the holiday weekends was just fine, thanks, but why stop? Benny has regressed to displaying his aggressive, snarly mug whenever I greet another dog. He flew off the day care couch to kill a large Golden I was patting (remember, Benny is a small Cocker Spaniel) and almost broke his jaw... smack! on the floor. The Golden thought him a bit eccentric, but seemed unconcerned.

Unseasonably warm weather in Massachusetts and the outdoor area has turned to mud. The dogs love it. They lie down in the mud, sometimes even roll over; they chase each other around so their paws are coated, then leap onto the couches, which look like they do in the Spring, during the real mud season. This year, we get to do extra cleaning twice... at least! The good news is the heating bills won't cause heart attacks this year.

January is a low exercise time for both people and dogs. So get off the couch and take a fast walk with the pooch. Take him to a playgroup or day care while you go to the gym to work off the holiday goodies. Dogs need healthier lifestyles too!