Thanks again for stopping by the blog! I love getting to know each and every one of you and your pets, and hearing what you have to say, whether we met through our blog friends or in person at Bark World. You're all pretty darn awesome!
Growing up, I never had dogs that liked toys. No, really. My parent's miniature dachshund, Watson, is the first to even take to the infamous Loofa dogs, a seemingly universal favorite. When Arie was a wee bitty thing, she loved the loofa dogs as well--and then she discovered stuffing. After the stuffing discovery, a move to stuffing-less toys solved her tug o' war needs, but there was still something missing. Arie needed something to chew on when she just wants to lay down and gnaw away--something other than a wooden vase. Enter Kong.
Kong is one of the most quickly recognized dog toy brands on the market today. They tout their durability and enrichment for dogs, with the motto:
"We satisfy your pets' instinctive, predatory, and environmental needs in a safe and domestic way."
Consumer terms: We make things that make your dog happy that your dog won't break in five seconds.
As I mentioned in my first review of a Kong product, the Kong Tug Dog Toy, which we gave Arie on her birthday, German Shepherd Dogs have some of the most powerful jaws on a domestic canine, meaning that their chew toys have to be hardcore. So far, Kong has been the only brand that we've tried that has truly stood the test of Arie's mouth, so we do have quite the collection:
Do you have a lot of Kong toys for your pets? What are your other favorite brands? I don't want to just hear about them--I want to see them! Share photos with us on our Facebook wall of your pet and their favorite toy. Don't be shy! While your there, if you haven't had a chance to already, go ahead and "Like" us. You know you want to. ;-)
This post is a continuation of my A to Z Challenge and Ultimate Blog Challenge series. To see the rest of the series, find your favorite letters here:
A is for Alphabet Challenges, American Shepherds, Alsatian Shepherds, and More!
B is for Built-Ins for Pet-Friendly Homes
C is for…Cautious Car Rides for Arie
Deciding to Get a Dog: The Do’s and Dont’s of Adding a Pet to Your Family
Ears: Caring For Your Dog’s Ears and Discussing Arie’s Best Feature!
F is for Fleas, Facebook, Farm life, and Failure
Grain Free Diets: The Way to Happiness for Dogs with Allergies
Habit Forming Behavior: The Curse and Blessing of an Intelligent Dog
Ice: Could one of Arie’s favorite things be a health risk for dogs?
J is for Jellyfish and Other Fun Atlanta Animals
Additional posts for the Ultimate Blog Challenge: Happy Easter, Happy Puppy
**Fun turn of events: Today Arie was featured on Kong's Pinterest boards--Check it out!
Here's my first, and almost Wordless Wednesday. Usually I don't do wordless posts, but today I'll make an exception. I always talk about Arie, my beautiful White Shepherd, and pet topics relevant for various pet owners and for people in Atlanta. The animals that have my heart in Atlanta don't stop at the domestic ones--I love going to the zoo and the Georgia Aquarium, the largest in the world, to see various creatures from around the world. Two weeks ago I had the chance to head to the aquarium--Here are a few snapshots of jellyfish and their friends, just for you.
Last but not least, check out this adorable otter juggling shells!
We find ourselves today (with only thirty minutes to spare!) on the letter I, for Ice. I had originally planned this to be a light hearted post, as we've been talking about a lot of the heavy stuff lately, but alas, the internet had other plans.
Arie LOVES ice. If I open the freezer door, Arie becomes suctioned to my side with her eyes trained on the freezer. Nothing will pass by that portal unless she sees it. As soon as she hears the rustle of the ice in the ice tray, it's over. I'm getting sad puppy eyes and that little "treat please" dance--The one where they seem to bounce a little on their two front paws?
I don't give her the ice without her earning it. We use it to practice stay commands and a few others, like sit, lay down, and so forth. Sometimes, resisting the urge is hard.
Arie usually eats one or two ice cubes a week, depending on the day. We don't regularly give them to her after a hot walk or to cool her down, just as a treat that she likes. When I logged on to write to this post, I did a little Google search on ice and dogs to find out if there was anything interesting on the topic. I was truly surprised by what I found.
Apparently there was an email that circulated the web on the matter, discussing how one pet parent had a life-endangering experience with her pooch after feeding them ice. The email details her account of giving the dog ice and having to rush to the emergency vet because of severe bloat and issues for the dog. I found the exact same story in several forums, and even on an Examiner pet writer's page.
"In an effort to keep your dog cool you may give them some ice to chew or put some cubes in their water bowl. Sounds logical? NO!!! Ice, ice water or very cold water can cause severe muscle spasms that result in bloat." - LA Pet Care Examiner
After years as a dedicated student and 24 years with a type A personality, I don't usually accept information lightly. I had only read about this risk on various chat forums and then in this Examiner article, so I kept searching. I did find an article on PetPlace.com about the matter.
"There are several known risk factors associated with bloat but eating ice cubes has not been firmly documented. Apparently, an email has been floating around the internet identifying ice cubes as a problem. I found some information in blogs but nothing solid. I talked to several veterinarians and none of them confirmed this claim." -Dr. Jon Rappaport, PetPlace
While my gut and research tend to lean towards Arie's ice cube habit being okay, I know that we have a lot of amazingly well informed pet parents in our circle of bloggers. What do you guys know about the ice debate? If you're new to the blog, weigh in as well! I'd love to get your opinions.
We're onto H now, and onto the topic of habit forming behavior. If you haven't been able to read recent posts, I'm doing the A to Z blog challenge in April, where I post using topics inspired by the alphabet almost every day. To stay up to date on the series, subscribe to my blog to have it delivered to your inbox or to your reader.
With people, we talk about our bad habits. Nail biting (guilty), caffeine (guilty), lying (just white ones), etc. By calling them bad habits, in a way we excuse our actions...it's something we slipped into, an accident--one day we bite one nail, then two, then three...and all of the sudden it's a habit.
With dogs, we talk about bad behavior. Your dog barks when someone walks by the door--bad dog. Your dog chews on your stuff--Bad dog. By calling it bad behavior, we imply that the issue is something to do with the dog. We give ourselves excuses, but somewhat blame the dog for their actions in the way we describe these things.
Dog behavior is just your dog developing a habit, bad or good.
I've been thinking about this a lot today, all because of a stupid move on the Internet. I made the mistake of wandering onto Craigslist for furniture, and being the sap that I am, checked the pets section. Being completely masochistic, I searched for "German Shepherd". Sure enough, a list of dogs popped up. Most of these dogs ran along the 1 and a half year mark, the perfect age to stop being a puppy, and, if not raised properly, to start being a really big problem. People give reasons like "the dog is too hyper for us" or mention that this dog, at a year and a half old, "isn't house trained and needs to be an outdoor dog". In other words, their dog has formed bad habits, and they can't deal with it anymore.
Dogs often develop bad habits when they are in search of fulfilling a need that they have. Dogs who are highly energetic breeds, like a Border Collie, German Shepherd, or Jack Russell can develop destructive habits if their energy needs are not met. Intelligent breeds, with several names from the same list I just gave (Shepherds are number 3!), also fall into this category. Dogs are smart. When you don't play games or don't give them toys, they'll make their own. Take this little guy--he taught himself to play fetch!
Arie, when she was about a year old, taught herself one such form of entertainment as a tantrum. Any time you went to the bathroom, Arie would follow you into the room and smack her big face in your lap while you were occupied. After growing up in a family with four people (6 after my sister had kids) and one bathroom, my bathroom time is precious to me. While I love my dog, my time in that room is a private affair, and even she is not invited. We began shutting Arie out of the bathroom and leaving her on the other side of the door, much to her dismay.
At first she whined. Then she barked. And then the crazy girl figured out how to OPEN THE DOOR. This wasn't a jump-and-hit-it-with-your-paw by chance venture either. Arie knew how the handle worked. She used her muzzle to push the lever down while pushing on the bottom of the door with her paw to pop it open.
My dog taught herself a habit as a way to "stick it to the man" for trying to bar her from bathroom time. When we moved to our new apartment, the handles were, thank goodness, round door knobs, so she can no longer practice this feat.
To help Arie avoid learning any other bad habits, I try to do what is required of all pet parents: train, entertain, and occupy.
Train your dog by teaching them good habits. Sit, stay, speak, roll over, lay down, down, crate, etc. By giving your dog a positive task, you create a stronger bond between you and your dog, give them a sense of purpose, and keep their brains busy with good things.
Entertain your dog by giving them the exercise and play time they need. In my last post, I mentioned that I'm upping Arie's walk time to get her energy out. We play catch with her favorite tennis balls and stuffing-less toys, and we always play "tag", another game of Arie's device---Arie will get into her play bow, then bounce toward me, then run away. If I run, she'll chase me and tap me with her nose, then run away, waiting for me to come touch her on the back, then so forth and so forth. I've taught that, even while playing tag, if I call her the game is over to avoid letting this behavior become problematic and instead keeping it fun.
Occupy your dog when you can't be there to train or entertain. For Arie, right now I use puzzle toys and treat hiding toys, like her Kong, while I'm at work. You can also try boarding your dog or taking them to a day camp for dogs, where they can interact with other people and other dogs to have a great time.
What funny or odd habits have your dogs formed? I know that many of you are amazing trainers and great at working with your dogs, so share your secrets to training, entertaining, and occupying your pooch with the rest of us in the comment section. I'd love to hear them for help with Arie! I don't usually post on training or my thoughts on it either, so tell me what you think---Do you agree with the post? Disagree? Love it? Hate it? Weigh in with your thoughts.
First things first: Happy Easter! Easter is one of my favorite holidays because it's one of the first big celebrations of Spring, and because it holds extreme religious significance for me and my family.
Whew. So far I've made it through A-G in the A to Z challenge, and I've posted everyday (except one over-sleeping mishap) since April began to fulfill my Ultimate Blog Challenge. You can check out my post thus far in the A-Z Series by reading:
Needless to say, I'm a little tired, and was glad to have a nice, relaxing lazy day. I had planned to drive back to SC, but ended up spending Easter in Atlanta.
Today I started a new initiative with Arie--trying to exhaust my dog on a daily basis. I've noticed that on days when I really give Arie a true workout, she's much more laid back--helping with the issues we've had in the past with other dogs. Instead of her usual walks and potty breaks during the day, I'm going to add in running/walking the trail near our apartment with her twice a day to really get her tuckered out. Perhaps with a little bit more regular exercise, she'll be a much more enjoyable companion for my neighbors, so that they can see the true sweetheart that I know and love inside and outside of the apartment.
One thing I hate about long walks: Trying to carry everything I need. I need 1) my cell phone in case of emergencies, 2) treats for Arie, 3) My keys, 4) my gate card for my apartment community, 5) Arie. This means that, in my hands and pockets, I have several items that require my attention and space. The ladies out there know how problematic this can be, as the pockets in women's pants were apparently made for either women with no thigh definition at all or were not made to hold much of anything. Out of personal frustration and a hatred of fanny packs or most products of the sort, I made my own impromptu treat/keys bag, my second dog-centric sewing project:
I had a spare patch of wonky shaped fabric in this cute red and white polka dot pattern, so i trimmed it into a some-what decent rectangle. I then folded about a quarter of an inch over and each end and sewed them to form a smooth edge to avoid fraying. Then, I folded the fabric in half, inside out, and sewed the seams to make my little square.
Now, I needed it to be able to adhere to my belt loop on my jeans. I took the remaining strip of fabric and sewed a little strip of fabric--I sewed one end to the backside of the pouch, leaving space between the seams for a little loop of my own. To hook it my belt loop, I just loop the remaining part of the strip through my belt loop, then through the loop on the pouch, and tie a little knot or bow. Now, to add the treats.
These treats contain salmon which is great for Arie's coat, and they're also small enough for great training treats. We can do consistent training throughout her walk without me having to break the treats.
I didn't want the moisture of the treats to get all over my keys or to absorb into my newly made treat bag, so I put these tiny morsels into a plastic treat back that I received in a gift pack at an event---the treat that had been inside was laden with food coloring, and so not something I would give Arie, so I tossed that cookie away, trimmed the bag down, and used it as moisture defense.
With the treats, keys, gate card, phone, etc. stashed in my new handy bag or a pocket and Arie safely on her leash, we were on our way. We took a long walk around the trail several times. Throughout the walk, we practiced the "Look at me" command; this command requires that Arie stop whatever she's doing and look me in the eye. If she masters this command, it will be much easier to distract her from enticing situations with other dogs, squirrels, etc, and will have her looking to me for direction. We also spontaneously practiced her usual commands, like "sit" and "lay down" to test her recall. We definitely have some room to improve on recall in a stimulus rich environment, so we'll keep practicing. After we got home, Arie drank a little water and then settled into her favorite post-walk spot, the tiles by the front door. There's nothing like cold tiles on the belly after a summer walk.
Perhaps after we get over the hump of her training challenges now we'll be able to move into agility training. What do you do to exhaust your dog?
scratch-scratch-scratch-scratch-scratch. scratch-scratch-scratch-scratch-scratch. SCRATCH SCRATCH SCRATCH.
This used to the be sound that you could hear all over my apartment, coming from, you guessed it, Arie. Certain dog breeds are prone to allergies, including German Shepherd Dogs, and dogs with lighter coat coloration seem to be more susceptible to allergies as well, giving Arie a double dose of bad news when it comes to allergic reactions. Arie was scratching her skin constantly, and rubbing her face into the carpet, leaving the sides of her mouth red and irritated; even the skin under her fur started to darken in color from irritation.
When I went to the vet, I expected to hear that Arie's allergies were from the environment around her, like a persons' allergies to dust, grass, etc. Instead, I found out that her reactions could be due to a protein in her food.
"Food allergies are the over-response of your dog’s immune system to an invading protein. In the case of a food allergy, this protein is contained in your dog’s food. Proteins are present in most of the foods your dog eats. While most people recognize that meats are a source of proteins, there are also proteins present in grains and vegetables. Any one of these proteins has the potential to cause a food allergy." - Modern Dog Magazine, "Food Allergies 101".
In my research, I found that it's not exactly uncommon for dogs to have a bad reaction to proteins in chicken, which was the main source of protein in Arie's food. To help with this issue, I switched Arie to Nutro Natural Choice, a premium dog food made 100% in the US (very important to me considering all of the pet food and snack dangers that seem to be stemming from products made in China right now) that has a wide range of products with various protein sources. We started her out on the Nutro Natural Choice Venison and Brown Rice formula.
For a while, and I mean about a year, she was doing much better, but then her symptoms started to come back. After discussing the issue with 1) my vet, and 2) professionals Edna and Renee from Nutro, who can tweet with at @reneeatnutro and @ednaatnutro, I decided to switch out Arie's food with one of the new grain free formulas from Nutro, as grains are a very common cause of allergies in dogs.
Now, Arie is eating the Grain Free Lamb and Potato formula or the Grain Free Venison and Potato formula. We vary the two throughout the year (mixing the bags, of course) so that her body doesn't start to develop a resistance to either venison or lamb. The scratching is gone and she no longer tries to rub her face into the carpet. We've also introduced salmon treats from Blue Buffalo and from Zeke's, as fish and the healthy fats found in fish can be great for dogs with allergies. All of these changes and now paying more attention to Arie's diet has helped me to make Arie's life more enjoyable and itch-free.
Just as an FYI for this post, Nutro does not pay me in free product or monetarily to tell you how awesome their food has been. I do that all on my own.
Do your pets have allergies? How do you cope with them? Have you tried a Grain Free diet? Weigh in with your thoughts!
F is a term filled post for us, so I'm going to be discussing a variety of subjects briefly. Let's start off with the last one... Failure.
The A to Z Challenge is a daily posting challenge with Sundays off. Yesterday, I was supposed to have written my F post. That, sadly, did not happen. I'm 24 years old. I usually have a lot of energy and stay pretty active, except after a very long week at work. This was such a week. After a few drinks with friends after 5 PM freedom, I came home for a quiet night of blogging and bumming around the apartment. I tuned into Grimm, one of my guilty TV pleasures....and fell asleep. I fell asleep, around 9:45 ish, and slept until 1 AM. I not only failed my blog challenge, in that I didn't write my "F" post, I also failed my generation of sleep deprived post-collegiate professionals. Oh well--better job next time.
So, today you will be getting my belated F post...and G later on in the day. Bear with me as double down on the posting today. Now onto the rest of the F's:
Fleas. Fleas are a threat pets face every year. These nasty little buggers cause discomfort, irritation, and even infections--they are also very determined in their pursuit of a host. "Fleas are hearty and nimble, and when searching for a host, they can jump 10,000 times in a row, the length of three football fields" (Web MD). I've been trying to lead a "greener" life; I recycle, use organic, natural cleaning products, drive a fuel efficient car and walk to destinations when I can, etc. I would like to find a natural flea repellent, as I already use other natural bug repellents. Fun fact: You can use vinegar to deter ants from your home. We had some getting into a window, so I sprayed the outside and inside sills with vinegar. No more ants! Still, I haven't found a natural flea repellent that works quite as well as the one we're using now, so this change will have to wait.
Facebook. Did you know that Life with Arie now has a Facebook page? I confess, I have been less than diligent when it comes to Facebook, but I'm trying to post more actively now and grow that online community, as Facebook makes it so easy to share information quickly. Stop by for a laugh, and post a link to your page so that I can "Like" it too!
Farm life. For old friends on this page, some of you may remember my post about going home for the holidays, and about my family's farm. For those of you who are new, or for a refresher, you can read that post here. I love taking Arie home, because she can run free in the field and enjoy some time off leash without being hindered by a fence. The farm isn't only a happy place for Arie, but for myself as well. There's something very calming about being out in open nature, even though I prefer to live in a more populated area for now. In the future, I'd like to talk to my family about buying some of the land we have for a rescue and adoption center. Perhaps one day I can make that a realty.
I'd love to hear of any natural flea preventatives you may use on your pets; if you have a Facebook page for your blog, or just for yourself, post a link in the comments so I can connect with you! Do you have a dream for the future that involves helping animals? What is it?
We all have our quirky features. Arie's are her ears.
A German Shepherd Dog's ears are probably their most recognizable feature. These satellites of sound sit atop their heads, giving them the look of attentiveness and awareness as adults. As puppies...well, let's be honest...they're hilariously disproportionate. Arie's ears, as a 3 month old little thing (at the size of many fully grown toy breeds), looked like a baby elephants:
Cuteness aside, Arie's massive ears make the risk of her getting an ear infection much lower. As young puppies, the German Shepherd Dog has ears that are folded over, but as they age, their ears stand. These upright, open ears help to keep Arie's ears free of bacteria:
"Open ears are a benefit to the dog in that there is increased air circulation in the ear canal. If a shepherd has an imbalance in the naturally occurring yeast or bacteria in the ear, the ensuing ear infection will not progress as rapidly as it would in a dog that has a flap covering the ear canal. (Ear flaps create a warm, wet area in which yeast and bacteria can multiply quickly.)" - Net Places
Though the natural posture of her ears helps keep Arie free of infection, that doesn't mean that she won't get one. Knowing the signs of an ear infection are important, as ear infections that go untreated can result in very serious effects, including hearing loss. Here are a few things to look for:
If you suspect that your dog has an ear infection, go to the vet. I repeat: Go to the vet! Unless you a) used to work in a vet's office, b) volunteered at a shelter and helped with their veterinary care, or c) have been shown...in detail (NOT from the internet) how to clean your dog's ears, you need to consult a vet before you try.
Okay...your dogs ears a smelling a little funky and he tossing his head like it's a maraca. It's time to go to the vet. The vet may clean your dogs' ears there, but they may also send medicine home with you and directions on how to continue to clean his ears. Here are a few things to do before you try to clean the infected ears:
Finally, clean your dogs ears, as directed by the vet. So far, I haven't had to clean Arie's ears after an infection, and her vet keeps a nice eye on those bat ears to ensure that they're doing fine each time we visit. Have you had to clean your dog's ears? Was it an easy or difficult task?
Today the alphabet takes us to the letter D in the A to Z Challenge, and it's time to discuss deciding to get a dog. While every day, some families and individuals find their animal companion that will enjoy a happy and active life with them for the duration of their life span, so many more people are adopting a pet they're not ready for, that will eventually end up back at the shelter. An average 6-8 million pets are surrendered to the shelter each year, with 3-4 million of those eventually being euthanized. You can help cut down on these senseless deaths by ensuring a few things before adopting a pet.
1. Are you ready for the costs and responsibilities of having a pet?
The expenses of having a pet don't stop there. With new cats, dogs, ferretts, and more, you'll have to be able to afford the damage they'll inflict as well. When I first got Arie, she luckily was not a big chewer--Even then, I had to have my carpet cleaned several times and replace a pair of shoes. Emergencies also arise, as do emergency vet expenses. Even common problems, like UTI's in dogs, cost you for a vet visit and treatment.
If you can afford to have a pet, are ready to love one for the long haul, and have the time to spend with them for walking, feeding, vet visits, and more, you're ready to move on to the next question.
2. What kind of a dog should you get?
You're heart is set on a dog, you have the funds you need to support a furry addition to your family, and your schedule allows you time for training, walks, and play time. Now, it's time to decide what kind of dog fits your lifestyle. When people adopt dogs that don't fit their lifestyle, both the people and the dogs often end up miserable. That Shih-Tsu may look sweet, but these notoriously hard to train and stubborn dogs can be too much for someone who can't handle little mistakes in the house. Are you a couch potato? Your Border Collie could develop destructive behavior when you aren't able to meet their exercise needs. Mixed breeds, or mutts, still require this consideration. One trip to the shelter isn't enough to know if the doggy behind the glass is right for you--You need to spend time with a dog before bringing them home, and ask about their temperament. Many shelters offer overnight trials with pets so that you can see how a certain dog fits into your life at home before you make the set commitment to give them a forever home.
Here are a few considerations to keep in mind while selecting a dog:
3. Can you truly be committed to a pet?
Being committed to a pet goes so far beyond the financial and time commitments. When you adopt a pet, you adopt them for life. Are you ready to stay with your dog if they develop health issues, such as seizures or cataracts that hinder how the see? Are you prepared to live through the sleepless nights of howling in their crates during crate training, to leave your vacation early because your dog is sick at the kennel, or to pick a different apartment because the one you're in does not welcome your dog? Having a dog changes your life--even in the end. On the day you bring home that bouncing puppy or your newly adopted adult dog, you need to be prepared for the day you go into a vets office to say goodbye to them forever. Having a pet is like a miniature marriage--that commitment must survive through rich, poor, sickness and health, until the end of a life separates you. While it's hard to think about such things, stories from our friends and family, and even movies (ala Marley and Me, My Dog Skip, Old Yeller) all tell us that this is something we have to be prepared to handle.
Are you considering getting a dog? Do you have one, and have other recommendations for those considering taking the leap? Share your thoughts.