The next letter of the alphabet brings us to N, for nail trimming.
Nail trimming. Who knew such a simple act could be so intimidating? This seemingly innocuous act that I had been doing my entire life to all of my fingers and toes was all of a sudden very foreboding when it came time to try it on an animal--Like many pet parents, I was terrified of hitting the quick and hurting them.
We had pets for years before I adopted my own, but never had the struggles of nail trimming; our dogs and cats were outdoor animals and our house was off of a gravel driveway that served as its own nail trimmer of sorts. After I found my cats and adopted them, I had to learn the ways of a nail trimmer; with them being indoor cats, their nails were going to need trimming at some point, as the act is very important for their health. After a while, the cats and I realized it wasn't that big of a deal and adjusted to at home nail trimming. When I got Arie, the same fear ensued, as her massive paws were more intimidating that a feline's, and her nails were of a different texture. She's due for a trim now, so I can show you what I mean:
My friends who are new to pets have asked me before how to trim their pets' nails. The easiest way for you?
This easy three-step plan is not your most affordable option, but it does put a lot less pressure on you. On the other hand, you could:
If you're pet is comfortable with you clipping their nails, go ahead with option two. If you have a young pet, be sure to play with their paws a lot, as this gets them used to you handling their feet, and makes trimming nails much, much easier later on in life. When you've got your clippers and you're ready to trim, I suggest watching a video before you get started--It helps give you a visual and get your ready for the task at hand. I'm a little partial to this one, probably because it opens with a White German Shepherd Dog:
For the cat people out there, this was pretty good, even if a little awkward:
Do you trim your pets' nails at home or do you go to the groomer's or vet's office to get it done? Why did you choose your method?
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.
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!
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?
Did you know that this week is National Animal Poison Prevention Week? March 18-24 is set aside to remind us of the dangers that various foods and items pose to our pets. 2012 marks the 50th annual observation of this week, and to commemorate this effort to preserve the lives of our beloved pets, we're listing 50 different items that may be in your house and posing hazards to your pets:
In the Kitchen
In the Garden/House Plant Pots
Last year, the top three pet poisons were:
1. Prescription Medications
3. Over-the-Counter Drugs
In the Garage
For more information on items that may be poison your pet, please review the following sources: ASPCA list of toxic and non-toxic plants, Oregon Veterinary Medical Association list of toxic items, The Humane Society of the United States list of hazardous items, Catster, Paw-Rescue "Dog Tips: Household Hazards", and Animal Planet.
Have you had a close call with your pet? Have an item you want to add to the list? Put your story or item addition in a comment!
Today marks the Chinese New Year as we welcome in the year of the dragon. It's been a while since I made Arie some treats, so I decided to put a fun twist on it: Let's make fortune cookie treats for the new year! Fortunately, someone had already had that creative genius . The Doggy Dessert Chef had a recipe and a game plan ready for use! I put to to the test tonight in the kitchen.
You're going to need whole wheat flower, two eggs, chicken broth, butter, and baking powder.
Get your ingredients ready to mix. You'll need a cup of butter, 3 and 1/2 cups flower, 1/2 cup chicken broth, and 1/2 tsp. baking powder.
You're ready to make the cookies!
I love my rolling pin. It's so much better than the empty wine bottle I used to use (no joke).
Okay okay, so the inspiration cookie isn't an actual step. Still, I did find that having this cookie (preserved from the Chinese we ordered a few nights ago) was helpful, even though the Doggy Dessert Chef's directions were simple and easy to follow. Also, who doesn't love fortune cookies? This little baby was set to be my reward while the pet-friendly ones were in the oven.
While the cookies baked, I wondered if Arie would enjoy them as much as she was thinking she would. My inspiration cookie had the answer.
The cookies cooled after coming out of the oven. While not as pretty as the Doggy Dessert Chef's, I still think they were a valiant effort.
Answer to my question and the smart ass fortune? Arie loves the treats. This is a recipe I have to use every Chinese New Year, otherwise there might be a strike on White German Shepherd cuteness in my apartment. Happy New Year everyone!
***Even though we wrote this on Monday for the holiday, our friend Kol suggested we include it in the Tasty Tuesday blog hop! Be sure to check out the other tasty recipes!
Let's face it. Everyone loves presents. You can say that the holidays are all about togetherness and family, which they are, but that doesn't mean that people still don't like receiving gifts. In our last post, we covered mine and Arie's drool worthy wishlist for the holidays. The reason we presented it though, is that this year we will not be able to get anything on it. At all. We're moving to a more Arie friendly locale, and as many people know, moving gets expensive. Instead, these are the items my White German Shepherd and I will be enjoying this year, off our low cost/free Christmas gifts for pet lovers list:
Wish List Item #1 The Sappy Trio of Love, Patience, and Time.
We decided to get our heart-warming items out of the way all at once. Sappy though they may be, they are also the best things that you can give your pet, or pet lovers that you know and love. When it comes to giving them to your own four legged family, patience and time are the things that new pet lovers most often don't account for. Hundreds of thousands of animals end up in shelters every year because people underestimate how much time and patience pets need. By taking the time to properly train your pet and to play with them and enrich their lives, and by being patient through their mistakes, you ensure that the love you feel for that cute little ball of fur continues and grows on even when their old and ornery. You can help other pet lovers by giving them patience and time as well--help your friend by walking their dog twice a week, or taking their cat on weekends that they're away. Help them and encourage them through training.
Wish List Item #2 Home made cookies! er...treats.
We've all seen the numerous recalls on pet food and treats and many of us deal with pet allergies every day. While most of us still have companies that we trust, (Arie and I are Nutro enthusiasts), it's fun and rewarding to bake treats in the kitchen you trust the most--You're own! Before you hop on the baking train, be sure you know what you're making is good for your pet, and you may even want to talk to your vet. After you do your homework, get baking! We make peanut butter treats and liver bites (smelly, but beloved) for Arie and Shady, and they love'em!
Wish List Item #3 Belly scratches.
I mean really, have you ever met a dog that didn't go NUTS for a belly scratch? Briseis, our cat, loves them too!
Wish List Item #4 A spa night at home.
Animal people are animal people. Hated by few, understood by many, and fiercely devoted to our own kind, animal people hold a special place in their hearts, souls, and wallets for our four legged friends. We're often guilty of over committing, and that can stretch us too thin, bringing unnecessary stress and fatigue. At least once a month, I let Arie go play with Randy or have a quiet night in the other room while I take a long hot bath, do my nails, and have some me time. There's nothing like a steaming tub and a chilled whiskey (wine is for sissy's...or at least migraines) to give you some R&R.
Wish List Item #5 Further your education.
An educated pet parent is a good pet parent. Give the gift of a pet CPR class, which are usually very affordable, or even just spend some free time with a trainer you know. Use your time and maybe a few bucks to educate yourself and your friends more on animals, what they need, and how to have your best relationship with them possible.
What are the free or affordable gifts that you give to your pets, yourself, and other pet lovers? Share your ideas so we can add them to the list!
Right before Thanksgiving we discussed the idea of two gift lists for you and your pet, or, in particular, for Arie and me. We're starting out with super-amazing-oh-my-goodness-I-wish-I-could wish list. These are the items that we would love to have in our home for our pets, to make our lives a tiny bit easier or just to give the dog and the cats some amusement. Thanks to moving and the holidays, we're on a very tight budget, so each of these will have to wait:
Wish List Item #1 A Roomba iRobot Vacuum
For a long time I thought Roomba's were a joke. There was no way a little robotic vacuum could do a really good job on your carpet--That was until I saw my friend Jorden's in action. That baby scooted around her apartment perfectly, and the most attractive feature was how it handled her dog's hair. Arie, as a typical White German Shepherd with a double coat, sheds little white strands of fur all day along, leaving a light dusting like a first snow on our carpet within a day or two. Daily vacuuming can be an arduous task--a little robotic help would be appreciated!
Wish List Item #2 The Automatic Litter Box
Arie's two siblings are two black cats, Jasper and Briseis. While I love them, they do produce a lot of...well, you know. As dogs sometimes do, Arie and Shady have a bad habit of trying to get into the litter box as well, so between regular scooping and playing defense with the dogs, the litter box can be a major point of hassle on our home. Automatic scooping would help move the temptation away from the dogs and make daily maintenance a little easier.
Wish List Item #3 Biters by Meirav Barzilay
I have to admit...I stole this idea from Lauren and Claire...again...but these toys are epic-ly awesome. Yes, I said epic-ly awesome like an intoxicated frat boy, or Bill & Ted, but they're just that cool. These designer toys (oh so chic) tear apart for dogs who like to rip and tear their toys, revealing treats and more. At $4.95 a pop, they're also cheaper than the stuffing-less toys that Arie has now.
Wish List Item #4 The Coco Dog Bed from Oscar and Lulu
I have a confession...I'm kind of a design whore...and I use that word in the nicest way possible. After writing for interior design firms, architects, and more, I have spent way too much time looking at the latest in modern interior design to ever go back to just throwing furniture together. Now, I work to hone the design and aesthetic of my home. One trend I'm absolutely in love with is the grey trend. Grey has efficiently and effectively surpassed brown as the go-to neutral, and I love these. These dog beds from Oscar and Lulu are trendy, chic, well made, and have the perfect color palette for our new apartment (more on the move in a later post).
Wish List Item #5 Greenies for Joints
While they may not seem splurge gift list worthy, Greenies can be pretty pricey, especially when the size appropriate for your 95 lb. jaws of steel German Shepherd is higher than the teeny weeny ones that work for most dogs. As a breed prone to hip and joint issues, the Greenies for Joints are perfect for Arie, and still help keep her teeth and breath clean and minty-fresh.
What items top your dream pet list? Share your Wish list in a comment.
I want to start this post off by saying that the holidays are not all about gifts. Holidays are about spending time with the people you care about, whether their family, friends, or the voices in your head, and about taking some time to sit back and reflect on life, appreciating all of the little things (like Caramel Brulée Lattes at Starbucks and Arie's big brown eyes as they stand out against her white fur). Still, part of celebrating the holidays is by showing the people we love how much we care about them by giving them something they value: a gift.
This year brings an interesting light on holiday giving: Arie and I are moving into a new apartment in January (more on that pursuit later), but the cost of moving basically absorbs our holiday gift budget--and then some. To celebrate our frugal holiday season, we're going to go over two gift lists for pet owners and the pets they love: The oh-my-goodness-I-can't-believe-you're-this-AWESOME list, and the holy-moses-who-knew-something-this-affordable-could-be-so-AWESOME list.
What items would be on your holiday lists this year? (For a few ideas, check out the post that inspired this one on our friend's blog, Life With Claire) On one, share your absolute dream gifts, whether they're just a special chew toy or a house with great pet capabilities. On the other, share the little things in life that are free or VERY affordable and why they're such great gifts for your pet or pet-loving people.
We'll be covering each list this week, so stay tuned to the blog to see what they contain. For those of you who met us at the Dog Dash 5K or the Atlanta Pet Expo, we'll be sharing our coverage of those events this week as well.
Remember this post? It has been almost a month since I started my series on pet food. With all of the blog changes, from getting our own URL to working on a new blog design (Don't worry, we're not done yet!) I bet you thought I'd forgotten about talking to you about pet food. I'm still here, and I'm still ready to tell you more about your food selection.
So far, we've talked about what to think about when selecting your food. After you've narrowed down your selection to your food choice, it's time to start your dog on their new food.
Do not pour that bag of dog food goodness into your pet's bowl just yet. Your puppy's sensitive tummy needs a few TLC precautions as you switch their diet.There are a few steps to the process:
To complete my series on choosing your dog food, look for my final post in this three part plan to read about why I chose Nutro Natural Choice as my dog food, and how it's working out. What is your dog eating?