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Celebrating Old Dogs: What Is Old?

Celebrating Old Dogs: What Is Old?

Celebrating Old Dogs

FTC noticeEach November, we celebrate old dogs during their “official” month. But when is your dog considered old? Shadow-Pup at just over two year’s old, has a way to go. We love our senior citizen dogs for the special joy they bring every day. But once a year, we celebrate old dogs during November Adopt A Senior Pet Month. Here are 8 reasons to consider adopting a senior pet.

I’ve already posted about celebrating old cats. It’s time to give equal time to old dogs. I’ve written about how to care for an elderly dog before, but this post addresses how to know when your canine friends become old dogs.

I’ve updated some of the information from when it first published back when my Magical-Dawg and Seren-Kitty were still around. For instance, we’ve recently replaced our carpets with hardwood floors. So when our Shadow-Pup reaches senior status, we’ll help him out with some accommodations like these “toe grips” from Dr. Buzby that help reduce unsteady gaits.

old dogs

What Is Old for Dogs?

Magic was just over eleven years old when he passed away, and my first GSD lived to thirteen and a half. One is middle-aged and the other considered geriatric, and a lot of it has to do with the size of the pet. When our furry friends reach a “certain age” it becomes much more important to stay on top of changes, and just keep ’em comfy during their golden years.

My first GSD (below) launched my pet-writing career. He waited until we got home from work, and died with us beside him, on Halloween night. I still miss him.

old dogs

How Old are Old Dogs?

What is considered “old?” There are individual differences between pets, just as there are for people. While one person may act, look and feel “old” at fifty-five, another fifty-five-year-old remains active with a youthful attitude and appearance. Aging is influenced by a combination of genetics, environment, and health care over a lifetime. The oldest dog on record was an Australian Cattle Dog who lived for twenty-nine years and five months.

A good definition of old age for an animal is the last 25 percent of her life. However, we can’t accurately predict what an individual pet’s lifespan will be, so pinpointing when old age begins is tough. Ask the breeder about the lifespan of your pet’s parents and grandparents. That’s a good predictor of how long you could expect your cat or dog to live. Mixed-ancestry pets are more difficult to predict, but you can make a few generalities.

old dog

How to Predict Old Dogs Lifespan

In the past fifty years, the average lifespan of small dogs like the Maltese above, has tripled. They used to live to be only six or seven years old, but today it’s not unusual for your Chihuahua to live into late teens or early twenties. With an average potential lifespan of fifteen to seventeen years, the onset of old age—when a little dog becomes “senior”—would be about age eleven to thirteen.

Even large-breed dogs, which age more quickly, commonly reach ten to thirteen years of age—double the lifespan of the past few decades. They would, therefore, be considered old starting at about seven years.

Giant breed dogs (those weighing over eighty pounds or so) tend to age more quickly than smaller pets. Great Danes, for example, are considered “senior” at age five, and typically live only seven to nine years. There are exceptions, of course, with some very large dogs living healthy, happy lives well into their teens. Though he’s no longer a puppy, Bravo (below) weighs just over 100 pounds (he lost 20 pounds when he lost his leg to cancer). As a “giant” breed, we tried to keep him happy and healthy as long as possible. Although his chemo treatment slowed his disease we cherished every day as a win!

bullmastiff puppy

Old Dogs & Youthful Doggedness?

So you have an old fogey doggy–how do you keep him youthful? What happens when that go-go-go puppy attitude turns into a yen for snoozing the day away? Dogs can become frustrated when their youthful abilities fade away and they’re no longer able to leap tall buildings–or onto sofas–with a single bound, or chase the Frisbee and catch it without effort. They may suffer from brain aging, but you can reverse or slow senility with these tips.

old dogs

I have one word for you: ACCOMMODATION.

Enrich the Environment

Enrich the dog’s environment and make accommodations for his new skill set. Agility dogs can still perform all those tricks of fetch and vault, just lower the bar a bit. For blind dogs, put a bell inside the ball or scent with liverwurst so his nose knows where to find it. For deaf dogs, you can use hand signals and replace the clicker with a flashlight beam flicking on and off.

I have a boatload of more tips and advice in the book Complete Care for Your Aging Dog.

What about your old dogs–what games do they love? Have you made accommodations for their aging abilities? Please share!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. 

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

 

DON’T Hug Your Dog on National Hug Your Hound Day! Here’s Why

DON’T Hug Your Dog on National Hug Your Hound Day! Here’s Why

Several years ago when I wrote for the puppies.about.com site (now TheSprucePets) I took issue with a promotion advertised by a big-name pet food company that encouraged people to post pictures of themselves hugging dogs. Hoo-boy…Oh dear heaven, by the comments I received you’d think that I said cute babies are evil, apple pie is poison and advocated BEATING YOUR DOG! Part of that has to do with folks reading only the title and ignoring the content of the message. Oh well. That drives home the importance of titles, I suppose.

The promo really struck a chord with pet lovers. After all, who doesn’t love a hug? Hugs mean love, hugs mean happy happy happy, hugs are tail-wagging expressions of the joy we share with dogs. Right? RIGHT?!

Uh, no. And glory be, the promotion lives on. Today, September 11, has been named “National Hug Your Hound Day.”

national hug your hound day

WHY HUGS CAN BE DANGEROUS

There’s a reason that veterinary behaviorists, dog trainers and savvy owners blanched when they learned about this promotion. Why is that? Because while hugs are a natural HUMAN expression of comfort and love, they can send the opposite signal to your dog.

Children get bitten in the face as a result of inappropriate dog interaction (often hugs). Learn ways to help prevent dog bites here. There are other safer, more appropriate ways to show affection to dogs that the dog actually prefers!

“Oh no, you stupid, clueless person–you’re wrong wrong wrong, because MY DOG loves hugs, and every dog I’ve ever had loves hugs and everyone that I know has dogs that hug them back and loves hugs and…” 

Good. In this case, I would LOVE to be wrong! If you have a dog that loves hugs and hugs you back, bravo. But that also begs the question, how do you know your dog “loves hugs?”

hug your houndDEFINING “HUGS” & WHY DOGS HUG

A hug is an embrace, right? Arms go around the body and squeeze–that’s a hug. When do dogs clasp forelegs around another creature and squeeze? I can think of three scenarios:

  • Mating/Dominance displays
  • Prey capture
  • Fights/play fighting

So when your dog “hugs” you, what is he saying? And what do your hugs tell him? As a vet tech years ago, I was taught the “hug-restraint” technique to immobilize dogs for treatment. I suspect the dogs were not fooled into thinking that expressed affection. Today, of course, we know better ways to reduce fear and anxiety in dogs so we don’t have to hold ’em down.

How do dogs actually show love? Here are common ways dogs show love.

Thank heavens our dogs for the most part are very flexible and forgive humans our sometimes clueless nature, LOL! I know that I’m grateful Magical-Dawg made allowances when I didn’t understand what he tried to tell me. At least with people, you can explain your intentions. That can be a challenge with dogs.

hug your dog

FORCING HUGSIS IT FAIR?

I don’t have two-legged children. But I’ve witnessed gatherings where babies and toddlers get passed around to strangers who hug, pinch cheeks, bounce up and down, and ooh-and-aw over the cuticity. I think we’ve all seen kids wail in protest or fall silent with fear while a clueless relative or acquaintance—or a pediatrician?–insists on continued “loving but unwanted attention.” When you were a kid, do you remember that certain relative who caused no end of angst because, as a kid, you had no choice but to put up with the hugs, smooches, and cheek pinches? At least with older children, parents can explain what’s going on and help guide the adult (hopefully) into less scary interactions.

As much as we want to believe they read our minds and understand our words, dogs misunderstand a lot—and we misunderstand an equal portion of what they say. Hugs are supposed to express affection and love. So if a hug causes stress, fear, discomfort to the dog you adore, is it fair to inflict those feelings because it “feels good” to the owner?

hug your dog day

BUT—MY DOG LOVES HUGS!

Yes, many dogs can learn to tolerate–or even love hugs from a trusted human. For those who have taken the time to do this, BRAVO! Many dogs also can learn to tolerate or love tooth brushing–so is it responsible for a company with dental products to promote sticking your hands in the dog’s mouth, or is it better to explain how to do so safely?

Magical-dog loved close contact. He often pushed his head and shoulders into my lap or squeezed his face under my arm. Was he asking for a hug? Shadow-Pup does the same. I suspect it’s this type of behavior that confuses many of us–but see, he controls that interaction. My arms haven’t come down around him to capture/hold/prevent movement. So some of the confusion, I suspect, has to do with semantics and how people define a hug.

How do you know your dog “loves” hugs? What does your dog do when s/he receives a hug? Do you know what each of these signals mean? Are you sure? Click on a link or two to see if you’re right!

Sorry—Not Sorry

Perhaps your dog loves hugs. That’s great. But my entire purpose with these blogs, my books, pet advocacy and more is to EMPOWER PET OWNERS TO MAKE INFORMED CHOICES.

To stand silent and do nothing hurts my soul. I was an expert witness more than a decade ago in a trial where a dog tragically attacked and severely injured a child—and they adored each other. We don’t know why (no witnesses to the attack), but I remember this case every time a clueless cute-and-fuzzy promo makes the rounds. Read about that in this blog post.

If hissing off some readers saves one child from the trauma of a bite, or one family from the heartbreak of losing a beloved dog by mis-reading intent—I’m fine with that.

Now then, I’ll don my flame-resistant sparkles and prepare for comments. Do your dogs like hugs? How do you know? For trainers and behavior folks out there, how do you help people understand safe dog handling? Do tell!

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

What A Pain! Understanding Pet Pain & What to Do When Pets Hurt

What A Pain! Understanding Pet Pain & What to Do When Pets Hurt

September is Animal Pain Awareness Month, so I wanted to share this vital information again. We know pain hurts, but pain in pets and treating pet pain when pets hurt confuses us. They can’t tell us they feel pain, or where it hurts. Not like humans.

Because I get to work at home, there are certain perks I enjoy–such as going barefoot to work. But one afternoon last fall I moved too fast and kicked the whey outta my big toe. This wasn’t just a stubbed toe, either—it lifted and peeled the nail back to the quick, bled everywhere and hurt like the devil! Yes, I said a few choice words as I hobbled down the stairs from my office (trying not to leave a bloody trail) to get bandage material. Ooooooh, that puppy throbbed and made me whimper and howl, let me tell you.

shepherds prone to hot spots

Magic was always ready for a treat!

Pet Pain Matters, Too

I understand how Magical-Dawg felt several years ago. After a run in the field playing fetch, he started shivering when he came inside. The ninety-degree weather argued that he was not chilled. I checked him head-to-tail, and found nothing wrong. But later in the week, he again started shivering, and even growled at me when I asked him to move—very uncharacteristic.

FCC noticeFinally, after several days and two vet visits, we figured out his problem. He’d torn a dewclaw back to the quick. it hadn’t come off, so the injury remained hidden. Seren-kitty had this happen once, too, when her claw caught on bedding as she leaped from the pillow. She hid. But Magic’s short temper, shivers, and hyper-alert behavior resulted from being in pain.

I attended an online conference co-sponsored by Fear Free Pets and the San Francisco SPCA (you can still register/view the on-demand sessions). A session led by Dr. Ralph Harvey titled The Behaviors of Pain: Assessment, Scoring, and the Impacts of Animal Pain, offered information important for practitioners and pet parents to know.

Dr. Harvey noted that the gold standard for assessing human pain is self reporting. We’re asked, how bad is your pain on a scale of one-to-ten? Animals can’t do that, so veterinarians need to determine discomfort in other ways.

dog painSIGNS OF PAIN IN DOGS & CATS

The onset of pain can be sudden (acute) or chronic (ongoing). Pet parents may not notice discomfort when it progresses. You might attribute your dogs’ behavior changes to old age. Today, veterinarians consider the presence (or absence) of pain as a vital sign, and keep track of it. Pet parents can (and should!) do the same. Watch for changes in:

  • Temperament
  • Vocalization
  • Posture
  • Locomotion (movement)
  • Severe and dramatic behavior changes

What does that mean? Dogs in pain might whimper, whine, cry, or yelp when touched. They may hold up an injured leg, limp, hunch their backs, and beg for attention. Friendly pets shun attention or hide, while shy animals become more demanding. Feline pain symptoms look like fearful behavior, with the cat staying still and quiet, or trembling. Cats often hide; when you touch them they nail you. In addition, pain increases arterial blood pressure and heart rate, increases stress, and affects neurological activity.

PET PAIN BEHAVIORS

Pets in pain display a suite of signs. Dog pain signs include any one or combination of the following.

  • Hunched or prayer position
  • Glazed facial expression
  • Attention-seeking and whining (the bond with you may influence that)
  • Licking the painful area
  • Usually won’t hide the painful body part
  • Appetite rarely affected

Cats are not small dogs, and display their own pain signs:

  • Poor or lack of grooming
  • Hissing or aggression upon manipulation of painful part
  • Hide the painful part to look “normal”
  • Dissociation from environment
  • Vocalization is RARE as a sign of pain
  • Isolation or hiding
  • Hit or miss litter box issues
  • Pain faces—Feline Grimace Scale

If you love cats but haven’t heard of The Feline Grimace Scale you MUST check it out and become familiar with this. Dogs have very expressive faces–cats not so much. So providing pictures for comparison helps enormously when trying to figure out if (and how much) discomfort cats feel. You can download the fact sheet (below) plus a four-page detailed training help at https://www.felinegrimacescale.com/

cat pain feline grimace scale

Pain Varies from Pet to Pet

Pain tolerances vary from pet to pet just as in people. A one-size-fits-all program won’t work. Experts say there is a five-fold variation in pain tolerance for the same surgical procedure in humans. So if a condition would be painful in a person, assume it’s also painful in your pet.

Dang, I had no idea! My toe-throb injury kept me awake the first night despite multiple doses of Advil, and only subsided to a dull roar three days later. I waited a week before I got up the courage to look under the BandAid…Ew. Not pretty. I retired my sparkly sandals early and hoped socks and bandages would keep the loose nail from tearing away. About six weeks later, the dead nail lifted off. I said “ouch” many-several-times. And increased the dose of Advil.

cat painWhat Is Pain? The Technical Version…

How does pain work? Damaged tissue releases chemicals that sensitize nerve endings. Aggravated nerves send pain signals up the spinal cord to the brain. The brain recognizes the sensation and shouts, “Dang, that smarts!” and triggers a protective reflex. This “learned avoidance” teaches Kitty to pull back her nose from the candle flame, for instance, and urges Poochie to hold up his hurt paw so it heals.

Not all pain is severe or sudden, or requires pain drugs. For instance, antibiotics relieve pain by curing a sore throat. Heat lamps relieve chronic arthritis pain. Water is a natural anesthetic for your pet’s burning skin allergy pain.

Extreme pain, though, causes a more complicated natural response that depresses immune function, interferes with blood clotting and wound healing, and negatively affects the cardiovascular system. Extreme pain can also permanently rewire neural pathways to create a “pain memory” that keeps pets feeling pain long after the injury has healed. It’s as if the normal highway nerve impulse travels must repeatedly “detour” from the safe path and instead leap off the same painful cliff.

How to Treat Dog Pain and Ways to Relieve Cat Pain

But pets require specific dosages and metabolize drugs differently than people—human pain medicines may be dangerous to pets. For example, dogs can develop ulcers from human-type aspirin products. Cats can DIE if given people- or dog-specific pain medicines. Pain control options from your veterinarian are always the best and safest choice for cats and dogs.

Narcotic pain relievers for severe pain, such as morphine, codeine and Demerol, are available only by prescription. Veterinarians can compound some medicines into peanut butter or fish paste so your pet willingly accepts it. After surgery, drains can deliver continued pain relief into the chest and abdominal cavity, the joint, or even into the bloodstream. Chemotherapy and radiation relieves certain kinds of cancer pain. A “pain patch” delivers an opioid drug transdermally (through the skin). After we had to amputate Bravo-Dawg’s leg due to bone cancer, pain medication kept him comfortable. In most cases, your veterinarian prescribes the drugs for your pet. Once approved by the doctor, you can order them at online sources such as Chewy.

There are quite a few products for chronic arthritis pain in dogs. Not so much for cats. However, recently the FDA approved injectable Solensia (frunevetmab) specifically for cat arthritis pain. It’s the first monoclonal antibody drug approved for animals. Hurray for cats! If you have a senior feline friend, chances are the cat could benefit from arthritis pain relief. Ask your vet if this treatment is right for your cat.

Ask For Pain Relief–Advocate for Your Pets!

Depending on the condition being treated, pain medication may—or may not—be included. Ask your veterinarian about pain policies and procedures, and if there might be an extra cost or if it’s part of the fee. Any time your pet has a sudden change in behavior, please have him checked by the doctor. Treating a health issue that prompts behavior change usually solves the problem.

Some animal hospitals cut costs by eliminating pain medicine. Be aware that while anesthetics and tranquilizers keep pets asleep during a treatment, they do not relieve pain once your pet wakes up. If your veterinarian doesn’t mention it, ask about pain relief options for your cat and dog.

Over the Counter Pain Pills for Pets?

Yes, there are OTC pain treatment options for pets. Since every dog and cat needs different things, always run things by your veterinarian first.

CBD products offer a popular and effective way to address chronic pain for such things as arthritis. I recently learned about products from ElleVet, available only from veterinarians or direct from their store (click the link, below). Cornell University has clinically tested these for dose effectiveness. Even better, one product ElleVet’s Feline Complete Paste has been developed specifically for cats, in a chicken liver flavored paste that cats love. It’s suggested for joint discomfort, stress, and neuro support.

What About Magical-Dawg (and my) Toes?

We took Magic to get his boo-boo fixed. The veterinarian sedated him, clipped off the torn nail, bandaged his paw, and prescribed dog-safe pain meds with antibiotics while he healed. And the pain in my big toe also went away, and after six months, a new nail grew to replace the damage (yay!). Whether human or furred, no creature should suffer pain. Providing proper pain medicine helps pets recover more quickly and completely.

Learn about other home remedies that safely help relieve pet pain!

It’s also the right thing to do.

Have your pets ever needed pain medication–after surgery or an injury? How do you know when your pet hurts? And have you ever had an injury similar to your pets, like me?

I’m keeping my fingers (and toes!) crossed that Shadow-Pup and Karma-Kat never need pain meds! Or that a heating pad or cold compress does the trick for minor whoopsies (as discussed in the natural healing book).

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers?  up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

How To Give Pets As Gifts

How To Give Pets As Gifts

Giving pets as gifts prompts discussions every time the subject comes up. Most recently, we got our “gift puppy” and “gift kitten” when they adopted us, and we’re so glad Karma-Kat and Shadow-Pup are part of our holidays. But for many folks, this year means a new puppy or new kitten for Christmas. Learn how to gift pets–and please share your experiences in the comments!

puppy with ribbon

Pictures courtesy of Deposit Photos

The professionals used to say that the holidays were a TERRIBLE time to get a new pet–that impulse adoptions could leave the cat or dog without a home after the cute-holiday-thrills wore off. More recently, though, the ASPCA conducted some surveys and discovered that when done properly, these adoptions can be lasting, loving adoptions. So I had to re-think my advice.

Holidays tend to be hectic times when normal routines go out the window. Whether a baby, adult or senior rescue cat or dog, new animals need the stability of knowing what to expect. In fact, some holiday schedules may allow you to be home more during this time to help the new kitty or pooch adjust.

Holiday pets take more work, true. But just think: you’re not only giving the pet to a person—you’re giving a special human to a waiting cat or dog, a fur-kid hungry for a loving, permanent home. Happy holidays, indeed!

Everyone who adores puppies and kittens wants to share the furry love affair but not everyone is ready to receive puppies as gifts. Maybe the recipient will appreciate your thoughtfulness. But don’t gamble with a pet’s life.

Sure, Grandma is lonely and needs a wagging lap-warmer to keep her company. But she may have other plans, such as visits to the grandkids. Will the new kitten climb the Christmas tree and land in kitty jail? A puppy that eats Aunt Ethel’s hat collection will cost you favorite nephew status. A busy new parent may want a pup or kitten for their kids, but have other demands that take priority.

small cute kittenGiving Puppies and Kittens As Gifts

Before you put a bow around his neck, ask yourself these questions. Will the new owner have the time, ability, and funds to care for the dog or cat over the next 10 to 20 years? Is their space better suited for a Chihuahua, Persian or Great Dane? Do they already have a fenced yard? Will Uncle Jim’s knees keep up when hunting with that Pointer pup? Does your mom really want to chase Junior Cat off the mantel every day?

Children delight in pets as gifts but living things can’t be shoved under the bed and forgotten when the latest must-have-kid-gadget has more appeal. Remember—even if Fluffy is for the kids, the ADULT ultimately holds responsibility for the well-being of the pet. Will the child’s parents have the time to spend on one-on-one attention a new pet needs, and deserves? Be sure that the recipient truly wants and is ready for a puppy or kitten.

pet proof holidays to keep pets safe

Be sure to PET PROOF your decorations for the new baby!

I Want A Puppy/Kitten!

What if the kids, your spouse, Aunt Ethel, or a best friend have made it clear they want a furry wonder, are prepared for the responsibility and feel ready RIGHT NOW for a furry loved one in their life? You’re sure, and so are they. What can you do?

The time, the place, the person, and the pet must be right for love to bloom into a lifetime commitment. The selection should be made by the person who will live with, care for, and hopefully fall in love with the baby for the next decade or more. You still want the recipient to make this important choice, so give them that gift. Here’s 6 tips for giving pets as gifts.

6 Steps for Giving Pets As Gifts

  • Plot With Professionals. Contact the professional breeder, shelter, and/or rescue organization and explain the situation. Ask them to conspire with you—arrange to pay a deposit, or fund the purchase FOR the recipient, with the puppy or kitten to be chosen later. Perhaps also pre-pay puppy clicker training classes for the new family member, or fund the cost of the kitten’s first veterinary visit.
  • Avoid Puppy Mills. Those cute babies sold in some retail environments are born and raised in horrendous conditions. The ASPCA urges you to know what you’re getting, and pledge to avoid supporting that awful system.
  • Go Shopping. Create a “puppy or kitty care package” for the big day. Fill a puppy bed with treats, food, training and grooming equipmenthow to give pets as gifts and lots—lots!—of appropriate toys. Don’t forget to include a book or two about the pet’s breed, training or behavior tips, or other fun information.
  • Get Creative. Why not make a “gift certificate” that details this special surprise, and have that ready to present on the big day. Perhaps it could be packaged inside a pet carrier, or in an envelope attached to the collar of a stuffed St. Bernard or Siamese Cat toy.
  • dog life coverTake Your Time. Holidays can be hectic when normal routines go out the window. New puppies and kittens–even newbie adult pets–need the stability of knowing what to expect. But you can “gift” with the certificate on the special day, and the recipient can choose the best time to bring the pet home. Hopefully you also have the fun of accompanying the person later, when they choose their own furry wonder.
  • Keep Them Safe. Be sure to “pet proof” your holidays.

When you do it right, gifting with a pet can be magic. You’re not only giving the pet to a person—you’re giving a special human to a waiting fur-kid.

Have you ever given–or received–a pet as a gift? How did you prepare? What was the result? Please share! I’d love to hear your experiences.

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Why Do Dogs Roll on Poop and Like Stinky Nasty Schtuff

why dogs roll in poopDoes your dog roll in poop? We lived on the river when I grew up, and our Shelties always loved to find dead fish and roll in the stink. Here in Texas, our German Shepherd loved to visit the next-door neighbor horse, and not only roll in nasty stuff, but sometimes even EAT the crap, ew! Learn why dogs eat poop and how to stop it in this post.

Why Dogs Roll On Their Backs

I’ve written about why dogs roll on their backs before. This behavior signal can be used during play, or as way to diffuse a perceived danger. Rolling on their back to expose the tummy and genitals, with submissive urinating, signals “no threat” like a canine version of crying uncle. Here’s a fun Ask Amy video covering the topic.

Why Do Dogs Roll In Poop and Other Nasty Smells?

Dogs live through their noses, and certain pungent scents prompt rolling behavior in some dogs. This scent ecstasy is like what cats experience when exposed to catnip. Doggy indulgence is a good bit more noxious and tends toward offal.

When a dog finds what he considers an attractive odor, he rolls to rub his shoulders, back, and neck into the offering. Nobody knows for sure why dogs roll in nasty things like rotting garbage, dead animals, or feces. Experts theorize that perfuming themselves with strong, pungent scents may allow the dog to carry the smelly message home, so other dogs can “read” all about it. Here’s also a fun Ask Amy video on the topic with some suggestions how to manage the nasty habit.

So, do your dogs roll in (ahem) crappiocca? How do you manage the situation? Please share your tips in the comments section. Oh, and for more doggy MUST KNOWS with a deeper dive into the information, get the Dog Facts book.

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I recommend nothing unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Why Do Pets Drink from the Toilet

Why Do Pets Drink from the Toilet

Do your pets drink from toilets? New puppy or kitten owners often feel disgusted but also curious and wonder why pets drink from toilets. After all, that’s not the cleanest place to find water, and with the puppy’s acute sense of smell, you’d think that he’d realize that!

With tiny puppies and kittens, there’s also a danger of them falling into the toilet and being unable to get out. Babies can drown in very little water. Adult pets suffer poisoning from bathroom cleaners left in the water. If your pets indulge in toilet slurping, take these safety precautions. It may be as simple as remembering to latch the bathroom door or close the lid.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/53606983@N00/208593051/in/photolist-jr6rV-8smu9-6YtNGv-fiVw95-fkWkPA-fvJSDf-fiFGmn-fuVUq7-fffEBW-7GPei5-ffDM16-7LjmE9-fHAvZ4-4uvPK3-fCTZy5-ffTTtd-mBiaR-fmiH5X-bSQEUg-froqLt-5x1D1c-ad7HLW-6e5zHU-fmSPvD-fmSPoi-55Eee1-9XHB8k-cCdXG-9B3nuH-6xjc8z-fjVtje-EXpas-9VqJj-4QXWBo-4QTJ5g-4QTJ3P-4QXWzo-3cWvrB-5Ep8Ui-5Uqp4P-FJcYk-apEKWZ-4uDxuY-HinC5-u7RD-6vvqhV-4mPmjZ-aAgQRN-7TJYJK-4pkCQP-5UGCtT

Do your pets indulge? Image Copr. ArtGoesHere/Flickr

Puppies and adult dogs are creatures of habit, so once they find a “drinking fountain” they like, chances are they’ll make a beeline for the commode. Learn more about how pets drink in this fun post with videos. But exactly why do pets drink from toilets?

Why Pets Drink from Toilets

Smells Good. Part of the attraction may be the scent. After all, your own personal signature odor identifies you as the love-of-his-life, and nothing is more personal to you than the scent of elimination. What’s nasty to us offers the puppy lots of important information, so surrounding himself with “eau de YOU” when he dips his head into the tank may be the thrill of a puppy lifetime.

Cool Drink. The toilet also keeps water cool. The porcelain container insulates and the larger water surface compared to a tiny puppy bowl also helps so it doesn’t heat up as quickly. On hot summer days, water in the toilet may be more tempting just from a temperature standpoint. You may wish to invest in a water bowl that keeps the contents cool to stop dogs drinking from the toilet.

dog-in-the-toilet-article

Image via izismile.com

Cool Room. It’s not only the water that’s cooler. Human bathrooms stay cooler than any other part of the house, because of the tile on the floors. For a hot, panting pup on a warm summer day, this may be the best snooze spot ever. And he doesn’t want to range too far from the cool nap zone to get a drink, so he just nips over a few paw-steps to take a slurp from the commode. It’s not unusual for cats to follow you to the toilet, either, and puppies have some of the same reasons.

Fresh Drink. Water that sets in the pet’s bowl not only can become warm, it can get stale quickly. Every time you flush the toilet, a fresh flood of water—oxygenated for even better taste—floods into the holding area. Yum!

Tastes Good. Some kinds of water bowls hold odor or flavors, too. Plastic and metal containers may be off-putting to the dog or cat, but drinking from the toilet container doesn’t absorb these odors and the water stays clean tasting.

Some folks believe this “throne” is more appropriate for devil cats!

Cleaner Water. From the puppy’s standpoint, water in the toilet may be cleaner than that found in his bowl. My dog Shadow uses his water bowl to wash out his mouth after he’s played tackle-the-ball in the grass and dirt. That means his first gulps of water leave grass and dirt in the water.

Instinctive Choice. Some experts speculate that drinking from constantly refreshed water instead of a bowl may hearken back to how dogs evolved to survive. Moving water—as in a rushing mountain stream—prevents the dangers of stagnation where all kinds of bugs like mosquitoes or molds and parasites like coccidia and giardia may be found. So dogs may be instinctively drawn to prefer “toilet water” to that in the bowl.

Of course, the “stuff” that ends up in the toilet (when puppy isn’t drinking) doesn’t provide the best water-fountain option. Aside from it being unappealing from a human standpoint, the cleansers we use in the toilet can be quite dangerous of the puppy ingests these toxic substances.

We have a rule at our house. When the human has finished—the lid goes down. Of course, that gives the CAT a great perch, as well.

 

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Weird Stuff Dogs & Cats Eat

Weird Stuff Dogs & Cats Eat

Owners fill bowls with nutritious food to keep dogs healthy. So what’s up with all the weird stuff dogs eat? why do dogs eat rocks, eat dirt, eat poop, and even eat dangerous stuff?

Weird Stuff Dogs Eat–And Why They Do It

Dogs use their mouths the way we use our hands. They pick up objects and explore their world by mouthing, tasting, and chewing. That sometimes gets them into trouble if they swallow something they shouldn’t. Find out why dogs eat grass in this post. Cats also eat grass for similar reasons. But that’s not nearly as objectionable as some other targets.
rottweiler chihuahua and food bowl

Poop Eating Pups

Poop eating—called coprophagia—disgusts owners but this common habit comes naturally, especially to puppies. Mom-dogs keep the nest clean by picking up after the babies, and youngsters typically copy-cat the behavior. Most pups outgrow the habit. But many dogs continue to snack on cat box “treats” or the leavings of cows and horses because—well—it must taste good to them. Also, the cat, horse, or other critters may not have completely digested all the nutrients so the dog relishes giving the poop another chance. I wrote more about litter box grazing in this post, and you’ll get some quick tips in the Ask Amy videos, below.

Why Do Dogs Eat Dirt

We’re not sure why dogs eat dirt but many seem to relish certain types of soil. Some wild animals target clay-like soils that naturally absorb toxins, and others eat mineral-rich dirt to supplement their diet.

For dogs, scent probably plays a role. Perhaps another animal has “marked” that spot of dirt, so the dog tastes to get a better “read” on the message. Dogs target specific types or locations of dirt, too. Eating too much dirt can plug up doggy plumbing but an occasional taste probably isn’t worry-worthy. Here;s more information on why dogs eat dirt.

Dogs Eating Weird Stuff

Dogs swallow an amazing range of non-edible items and it goes beyond eating the kid’s homework. The behavior, called pica, can happen accidentally when the dog gulps down a piece of a toy. Pica may be purposeful if the object proves too tempting—baby bottle nipples that smell of milk, used tampons, and grease-smeared foil or turkey-basted string prove irresistible to dogs.

The most common item is socks, followed by underwear, pantyhose, rocks, balls, chew toys, bones, hair ties/ribbons, and sticks. Most items tend to be owner-scented objects and dirty diapers are another favorite—it combines the attraction of poop-eating.

But some dogs seem drawn to such weird items as pagers, hearing aids, drywall, batteries, rubber bands, or anything (including sand!) with bacon grease poured on it. Dogs develop bad habits out of boredom, stress, or even obsessive-compulsive behaviors and turn into garbage disposals. These dogs chew and suck down rocks and sticks. In these cases, you may need to make your dog vomit to get rid of the dangerous item.

Poke The Poop

In most cases, small objects pass harmlessly through the body and end up on the lawn within 24-72 hours. Get a stick and wear gloves to poke through the doggy droppings to be sure he’s gotten rid of the object. Feeding your dog a meal can turn on digestive juices, cushion the item, and help move it along.

But sharp objects can cut, heavy stones can plug the system, and string-type material (thread, ribbon, Easter grass, tape from a cassette) can cut and strangle the intestines. Swallowed coins, batteries, or other metal objects can poison pets once they react with digestive juices. Don’t touch string hanging out of either end of the dog, or you risk hurting him worse.

If you’ve seen the pet swallow something he shouldn’t but it doesn’t pass, or the dog vomits, retching without result, won’t eat, looks or behaves distressed, or coughs repeatedly, seek help. It may require X-rays to figure out what’s wrong on the inside of your pet, and surgery to get it out.

Most puppies outgrow indiscriminate munching. But if your dog vacuums up anything that hits the floor, pet-proof doggy toys as well as your home. It could save you veterinary bills—and your pet’s life.

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

 

Why Dogs Bark & How to Stop A Dog from Barking

Why Dogs Bark & How to Stop A Dog from Barking

Do you know how to stop dog barking? “Will you please, for the love of doG, stop barking!” When Shadow-Pup joined our family, he and Bravo-Dawg egged each other on. Now that he’s the only dog, he and the cat tease each other and prompt bark-fest and meow-athons.

We love our dogs, but when noisy dogs get revved up, dog barking can drive us nuts. Shadow has a “demand attention” barking problem that shatters glass. He also loves barking at squirrels and tells on Karma-Kat when the cat gets on a counter, and at us when we can’t read his mind.

So what’s the answer–how to stop a dog from barking? The key to stop barking includes understanding why dogs bark.

Learn what canine howls mean here. And refer to this post on doggy (and kitty) tail talk.

Dogs bark to communicate--so what's he saying?

Dogs bark to communicate–so what’s he saying?

A Fun Dog Barking Poll

How to stop a dog from barking got the most canine topic votes on my informal Facebook poll (stay tuned for a cat-centric one, too!). See, I want my next big project (an on-demand pet behavior course) to answer YOUR must-know questions.

So here’s your turn. Fill in the blank in the comments: “I wish I knew how to fix my cat/dog’s (…..)”

WHY DOGS BARK

On Facebook, some of the comments were very specific. Some of these included barking at:

  1. motorcycles and skateboards (bicycles are a biggie, and so are joggers!)
  2. doorbells
  3. TV doorbells
  4. other dogs
  5. in the backyard (squirrels!)
  6. when (known) visitors arrive

The key to stop dogs barking is to understand why the dog barks. There’s no single answer, but in all cases, the dog is REWARDED (gets something s/he wants) out of the barking. It’s a simple cause/effect situation. Take a look again at the above complaints, and see where they might fit in this list of some common barking reasons. Ask yourself–how do I respond to the barking?

KINDS OF DOG BARKS

  • Play bark (“Gotta shout about the game!”)
  • Howdy-do bark (“Nice to see you.”)
  • Defensive bark (“I’m scared, go away.”) Refer to this post on dogfighting for more information.
  • Offensive bark (“It’s MY property, don’t come near!”)
  • Fire alarm bark (“warning, Will Robinson!”)
  • “Look at that!” bark (strangers, friends, garbage truck, your new hat, SQUIRREL!)
  • Boredom bark (“Come entertain me…”)
  • Lonely (“Poor me” or separation anxiety)

Personally, I want my Shadow-Pup to bark. You should want YOUR dog to bark, too–at the appropriate times. I don’t want him silent when that burglar prowls outside. So after several barks, he gets praise and then a treat (and it’s hard for dogs to bark while chewing).

HOW TO STOP DOG BARKING

How do you stop barking? It sounds counter-intuitive, but to teach dogs to SHUSH you must first teach them to SPEAK on command. Here’s how.

  1. Set up “trigger” situations with the doorbell, a friendly visitor, or whatever gets the bark-aholic going.
  2. Just as the doorbell rings, say “SPEAK.”
  3. When the dog barks, praise him and offer a toy or treat or whatever floats his boat as a reward.

It will take several repeats before your dog recognizes that the command SPEAK means permission to yap. Practice this (even without the doorbell), and for the first several days ALWAYS reward the dog with a yummy or fun game he loves. Once the lightbulb goes off in his furry noggin, and he recognizes he gets PAID to bark on command, he’ll be eager to win your approval with this new skill.

TEACH BARKING DOGS TO “SHUSH”

Once he will SPEAK on command, it’s time to teach SHUSH. That’s easy–after he’s barked, do NOT give him the reward, but instead say SHUSH…and hold out the treat in your closed fist. Dogs stop barking to sniff and chew, so that typically stops the noise mid-yap. Give him the treat, while repeating GOOD SHUSH, while he chomps the yummy.

Again, it will take several repeats, but that’s the basics. You’ll slowly expand the amount of time he must SHUSH in order to earn the treat. Once your dog knows both SPEAK and SHUSH, you’ll be ready to move on to practice in the specific circumstances that are most bothersome.

I’d love to help you stop your dog barking, with more prescriptive how-to tips. Meanwhile, don’t forget to get YOUR biggest pets peeves on my list. Fill in the blank in the comments: “I wish I knew how to fix my cat/dog’s (…..)”


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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? 

NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Doggy Moans, Groans & Itchy Ear Zones

Do your dogs make weird sounds? What do all those moans and groans mean? Do they mean the same thing–even pleasure?

I’ve found some past YouTube posts and decided to update and share them. I have to admit, Bravo-Dawg talks the most of any dog we’ve ever had, and he yodels, moans, groans, and happy-snarls when he wants attention. What fun! To anyone else, he might seem to be threatening–but we’ve become used to his special way to express himself.

How can you tell whether the noises mean he loves it — or is in pain? What sorts of sounds does your pooch make when he’s enjoying himself? Perhaps he enjoys having his ears rubbed and expresses his pleasure, as in this Ask Amy video. What other ways do your dogs have to express themselves?

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

5 Kinds of Dog Aggression: #GetTough on Dog Fighting

5 Kinds of Dog Aggression: #GetTough on Dog Fighting

April 8th is DOG FIGHTING AWARENESS DAY, and I’ve written about dog aggression and stopping dog fights before. It’s a good time to review the 5 common kinds of dog aggression and what to do.

According to the ASPCA, dog fighting happens all over the country and in all kinds of communities–rich, poor, middle class, it doesn’t matter, it’s there festering just beneath the surface. When fight rings are located, cases are built, offenders are prosecuted, and abuse survivors find loving homes.

dog aggression

Images courtesy of DepositPhotos.com

Patrick Stewart lends his voice to the cause, seeking to help the ASPCA educate as many folks as possible about this cruel sport. Yep, can you believe it? it’s considered a SPORT by fight proponents. #GetTough on Dog Fighting campaign offers free information and ways for all animal lovers to get involved.

DOG FIGHTS AFFECT ALL PETS & PEOPLE

Hey, a dog fight issue doesn’t affect just about one breed. It impacts ALL dog owners–and cat lovers, too, because dogs are trained to fight by “practicing” on other animal victims.

Spectators even bring kids to the fights to introduce them to the sport. *wiping eyes* The thought makes me weep with anger. That’s why my 3rd pet-centric thriller SHOW AND TELL shines a light on this dirty practice (and for once, the bad guys get appropriate justice!).

While breed bans might suggest that “dog aggressive breeds” are at the heart of this issue, let’s get real here. All dogs, even the one snoozing on your lap, may from time to time act in an aggressive manner. The fight industry exploits and perverts canine behavior for its own ends. Still, it’s important for all dog lovers and even those who do NOT have dogs, to understand what’s going on with “aggression.”

dog aggression

5 Kinds of Dog Aggression

Here’s the deal. Aggression is a NORMAL part of being a dog, and while dog-on-dog aggression is more prevalent in some breeds, ALL dogs have the potential to fight and bite. Aggression can arise out of pain or health issues. Growly dogs believe they have a good reason to aggress (they often do!) whether owners agree or not.

Aggression can be complicated and require professional help, but here’s how to recognize 5 common types and learn how to keep the peace.

dog fightPlay Aggression looks scary but dogs tell each other it’s just pretend by using gestures like the play bow (butt up, front down). Puppies learn to inhibit bites when they play with other dogs, and owners also can teach limits.

If the mouthing hurts, YELP like another puppy. Whimper and say, “You hurt me.” Immediately after you yelp, give the dog a 10-minute time out—no mouthing allowed—to teach him that hard bites make the fun stop.

Predatory Aggression includes stalking, chasing, catching and biting like in play, but predatory dogs won’t play bow—they’re deadly serious. Joggers, bicyclist, and moving cars and cries of young children, babies and smaller pets can trigger prey drive.

Predatory behavior may go away as the youngster grows up, but keep targets safe with strict supervision. Identify triggers (like joggers) and avoid them. Teach dogs to control natural impulses with obedience drills. A “happy” word the dog can’t resist (ball, cookie, ride) can often change the dog’s attitude and interrupts the behavior.

dog fearFear Aggression results when a dog can’t escape a scary situation. Caged, chained or cornered dogs often bite out of fear. Snarls, growls or bites make the scary “thing” go away, which rewards the dog so she’ll repeat the behavior. Reaching for the scared dog’s collar almost always prompts a bite, because a hand descending toward the head looks threatening.

Dogs may be fearful of strangers. And if you wear a hat, your dog may not recognize you! Learn about dogs hating hats in this post.

Avoid petting on the top of the head. Instead, pet the dog’s sides or chest. Don’t stare, which can intensify intimidation. Play builds confidence, so teach “fetch” while avoiding tug-games that can encourage fear-biting behavior. Use pheromone therapy such as Comfort Zone with DAP to help calm fears.

Territorial aggression typically involves herding and protection breeds. Dogs bark, lunge and growl at the fence or doorway, and are rewarded when the mailman, new dog, or your fiancé goes away. Conspire with visitors so the outcome changes.

Have the mailman toss treats to the dog, but without making eye contact or saying anything. Once the dog quiets to munch the treat, the mailman can say, “Good Rex!” and walk away. He should NOT walk away as long as the dog barks and lunges. If Rex ignores the treat and continues to bark and lunge, then YOU call the dog and reward him with a treat or toy for coming. The mailman leaves as the dog retreats—so essentially neither won.

solve dog aggression

Learn what to DO about dog-to-dog aggression here!

Guarding Food, Toys, Furniture are all part of dominance aggression. These dogs often object to being restrained—as for nail trims—and the aggression can gets worse with punishment or confrontation. They’re often young intact male dogs who want to call the shots with people, but then tremble or seem to act “remorseful” afterwards. An argument over toys or mealtime that prompts a first instinctive snarl teaches the dog that aggression keeps others a safe distance from important resources.

Dominance aggression can be complicated and dangerous to solve and usually requires a professional. Neutering the dog and managing resources can help. If the dog protects toys, remove them so he has nothing to guard. Require the dog to “earn” privileges by paying with good behavior. For instance, ask him to “sit” (he sits), which earns him what he wants (attention/food bowl/open door/verbal praise). He should get NOTHING unless he earns it by responding in a positive way to your command.

Learn where to find professional pet behavior help in this post.

Are dog fights a problem in your community? Have you ever had an issue with aggression in your dogs or in a dog that belongs to someone else? How did you handle it?

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Why Dogs Bark & How to Stop A Dog from Barking

Have You Howled Today? Why Dogs Howl & What it Means

Do your dogs howl? Lately, Magical-Dawg has begun howling more often. For northern breeds, dog howling comes very naturally, but for my aging German Shepherd, his howls are more unusual. Oh, he’s always howled when I sing certain notes (everyone’s a critic!), and the coyotes sing a chorus when the tornado sirens sound. This was different.

WHY DOGS HOWL

Magic began a low “ar-ooooo-woo-woo” and slowly cranked it up. This happened early in the morning, before we’d got up. My husband and I figured he needed out–he did–and didn’t pay that much attention to it. But then Magic also howled outside the bathroom door when my husband showered. He came into the room and howled during my shower, too.

This went on for three or four days, just prior to his yearly veterinary exam. We’d been a bit worried about some of Magic’s aging issues anyway (read about his check up in this post). And I now realize I never mentioned the howling to the vet.

But…once Magic was given medication for his achy 10-year-old arthritic issues, the howling stopped. Lesson learned–howling may be MORE than the “usual suspects,” which I cover in the short Ask Amy video, below. Enjoy!

Dogs bark and howl to communicate–so what’s he saying?

Do You Speak Dog?

Dogs know how to communicate. You gotta go “low tech” to really connect with doggy wags, growls, whines and more. Do your dogs howl? When do they howl–and why? Have you howled today? Try it–for a terrific stress relief (and you might get your canine’s singing along). Lately the tornado sirens have stirred up the canine chorus at my house.

Learn about barking communication here, and what tail wags mean in this post.

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I recommend nothing unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Dog Bites & Kid Safety: 9 Tips to Prevent Dog Bites (and Keep Dogs Safe, Too!)

Dog Bites & Kid Safety: 9 Tips to Prevent Dog Bites (and Keep Dogs Safe, Too!)

In March 2011, I served as an expert witness in a dog bite case in which a child was mauled, and the child’s grandmother who owned the home where the Pit Bull mix lived was prosecuted as responsible. I learned a lot during this trial, one of the biggest lessons having to do with the many misconceptions regarding dogs, dog language, and dog bites. In fact, I address quite a lot of these issues in my thriller SHOW AND TELL, that includes Pit Bulls, dog fighting, and misconceptions about dogs.

Angry aggressive barking dog in a steel cage

How to Stop Dogs Biting

You can’t. All dogs bite. In fact, canine jaws easily tear flesh and break bones. Don’t be fooled by size, either. They may be tiny but even Chihuahua-size pooches expertly use their choppers. And when they’re big dogs like this Belgian Malinois below, the damage can be severe.

portrait of a very angry purebred belgian shepherd malinois

Dog Fights & Dog Bites & Child Dog Bite Safety

All dogs squabble just as all people sometimes get upset and argue, but that doesn’t mean dangerous bites always results. That also doesn’t mean the dog is aggressive. Dogs have exquisite control of their jaws and know exactly how close they can snap without making contact. Pugs don’t miss unless they mean to. Consider air-snaps and bites that DON’T break the skin as calculated warnings. Learning to master the power of their jaws—bite inhibition—allows dogs to make important points and resolve differences without hurting each other, or you.

Children suffer dog bites more often than anyone else. Dog bites injure nearly 5 million people every year. Half of all kids in the United States get bitten by age 12, and five-to-nine-year-old boys are at highest risk. Scary stuff!

Curious chained dog on a pile of wood.

These statistics, though, are somewhat skewed. Every bite is cause for alarm, but did you know that the numbers include ALL dog injuries that break the skin, even “bandaid” situations. That is, if the puppy’s nail scratches the infant, technically it’s reported under bite stats. Bites from working K-9 (police) dogs also are included in the report. Bites to a medical person rendering assistance to an injured, in pain dog also are bundled in these figures.

However, if your child is bitten, he’s 100 percent bitten and it can be a tragedy—one that doesn’t have to happen. Dog bites not only hurt you or your kids, they result in pricy medical bills and insurance rates. Dog bites can lose your dog his home or even his life.

That’s what happened in the dog bite case referenced in the opening. There were no winners–oh, the little girl survived, with scars; her grandmother was acquitted. Buddy, the dog, was killed. You can read details of the case here.

Don't tempt fate! How stooopid is this?

Don’t tempt fate! How stooopid is this?

Most dog bites result from inappropriate interaction with the family pet, with a neighbor’s or a friend’s dog. But you can teach yourself and your kids ways to be safe with these 9 easy tips.

9 Tips To Prevent Dog Bites

  1. Respect Doggy Space. Children should not approach, touch or play with any dog who is sleeping or eating. NEVER approach a tethered or chained dog, which restricts the dog’s movement and elevates his potential for arousal. Mom-dogs caring for puppies are especially protective. Even friendly dogs may react with a bite if they feel their food or toys might be stolen by a playful child.dog tied to a tree
  2. Ask First. Always ask permission of the owner before petting. Not all owners recognize danger signs, though, so when in doubt, decline the petting. Before touching, let the dog sniff a closed hand. Remember that petting the top of the dog’s head can look threatening from a pet perspective, so instead scratch the front of his chest, neck or stroke underneath the dog’s chin.
  3. Supervise. Accidents happen even with friendly dogs. In the court case, above, the dog knew and loved the toddler. Kids, toddlers, adults and dogs make mistakes. An adult should always be present when kids and dogs mix.
  4. Nix the Hugs and Kisses. Kids get bitten on the face most often when they try to hug or kiss the dog. It’s much safer to show your puppy love with a scratch on the chest or side of the neck.
  5. Alert Adults. If a child sees a dog off-leash outside, he should tell an adult immediately. Also alert adults to multiple loose dogs. Groups of dogs egg each other on into a “mob mentality” when individuals in that same group likely would never offer a threat.
  6. Look Away. Eye contact with a dog can be interpreted as a threat or challenge, and set off an otherwise calm dog. Young kids at eye-level with big dogs may pose a challenge without being aware of the danger.
  7. Be A Tree. Teach your child to stand still and quiet around strange dogs—be a tree. Trees are boring, so the dog will go away or at least not be excited. Walking, running, arm-waving and high-pitched loud talking, giggling, and laughing excites the dog even further and invites dogs to play chase-bite games. Even friendly dogs may bite out of enthusiasm, just as well-behaved children might accidentally strike out and hurt a classmate during play. That also works to calm down a puppy that gets too excited during play.
  8. Be A Log. If a puppy knocks the child down, teach her to roll up in a ball and be still—like a log—until the dog goes away. Movement encourages the game of jumping, tugging and wrestling and can escalate the dog’s excitement and tendency to bite.
  9. Train the Puppy. Teach your puppy with love. Dogs bullied or hurt during training can get pushy or aggressive to weaker family members—the kids. Teach kids to enjoy and respect dogs, and socialize puppies to kids so they grow up to enjoy and love each other.

You can learn more about puppy socialization and teaching dogs bite inhibition in my book COMPLETE PUPPY CARE.

Have you ever been bitten by a dog? What were the circumstances? I have…when I was a vet tech. Tell me yours and I’ll tell you mine! What did you learn?

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Cat Behavior & Dog Training Gift Books for Parents and Lovers

MERRY CAT-MAS & HAPPY HOWL-IDAYS! This time of year means visitors of all ages and your pets may object to these INTERLOPERS. These tips can help–and the books are FREE today (Weds), Thursday & Friday! Please share with anyone you think could use the help!

My Cat Hates my Date: Teach Cats to Accept Babies, Toddlers & Lovers

My Dog Hates my Date: Teach Dogs to Accept Babies, Toddlers & Lovers

CatHatesDateDogHatesDate

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Got Strays? Pet-Astic Theater Celebration Helps #Cats & #Dogs

Got Strays? Pet-Astic Theater Celebration Helps #Cats & #Dogs

FullStraysCastSTRAYS, an original musical by local playwrights Amy Shojai and Frank Steele, premiers at the Honey McGee Playhouse for three nights only November 6, 7, 8, 2014 at 7:00 pm. Cast with 30 local talents, the review-style show explores furry foibles from the PETS’ point of view.

STRAYS was written to be performed for (and by) animal rescue organizations as a fund raiser, and isn’t specifically a “kids show,” although talented thespians from the Theatricks program are cast. All ages will enjoy STRAYS.

“I’ve been a fan of STRAYS since I saw the concert preview back in 2013,” says Susan McGinn, “so I’m delighted that my husband John, daughter Sarah, and I are cast for the first fully staged production! It’s been fascinating (and unique in all my theater experience) to be directed by the co-writers of the show and watch them refine and tweaked the script and score during the rehearsal process. It’s an honor for all of us who are acting in the production to know that our work has contributed to shaping STRAYS.”

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Susan McGinn (far left) and the other “cats” intimidate the Pariah Cat (crouched center) played by Kaitlyn Casmedes.

Jim Barnes recorded the show songs for the preview cast album, and decided to audition for the staged performance. He portrays the only boy cat, a feline who has used up 8 of his 9 lives. “I like performing in STRAYS because it gives me a chance to make people laugh,” he says. “Everyone should see it. You will laugh, you will cry a little and you will learn some insight on the behaviors of animals.”

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Jim Barnes sings how he’s wasted 8 of his 9 lives, while two dogs (played by Theresa Littlefield and Lew Cohn) look on.

The large cast has become close. Lew Cohn says, “It is great to see talented performers of such a wide variety of ages come together to perform original material that is so well written and informative about the plight of stray animals. My favorite scene is the Old Dogs Talking, in which I play a Bassett hound with various “difficulties” that make for a lot of fun. But there’s something for everyone—bust a gut comedy, tear jerking drama and great original songs that tell a story.”

LewCohn-SteveMildward

Two dogs played by Lew Cohn (left) and Steven Mildward (right) discuss bulldogs, bullfrogs, worms and Poodles–and other important dog schtuff.

Steve Mildward has been involved in many productions, both onstage and backstage. “I can address the excitement that comes from the direct involvement with the writers. In the classics, you can’t ask what the intent was. In this production, the directors are there to lend that insight.”

Cohn also appreciates being able to create a role from the ground up. “This is an exciting opportunity to set the bar in an original show.”

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Abraham (a puppy) and kittens Eliana and Sofia Guerra have featured roles in the show.

For some actors, STRAYS is their first onstage experience. Carolina Guerra and her daughters Sofia and Eliana are first-time performers cast when Carolina’s son Abraham decided to audition. She especially enjoys being able to share the experience with her family. “My kiddos love to perform but I am more of an introvert so I was not sure how it would go. Much to my surprise, the play has been both educational and fun for all of us. It has been a great introduction to being in a theatrical production. I might even consider trying out for another one.”

Her son Abraham is a veteran of Theatricks productions, and says he likes getting to wear a bone as one of the puppies. He also performs a dog rap. His favorite scene is Show Dog, because it’s so funny. “The main difference (compared to other plays) is being on stage the whole time,” he says. “In some ways it is easier because we are not running back and forth but it is also hard because you have to stay in character the whole time.”

Both Sofia and Eliana Guerra like playing kittens. Sofia loves to sing and march in GOTCHA DAY, while Eliana prefers the fun song NORMAL.

“It’s a wonderful feeling to be not only working on a new show but a show with an important message,” says Kaitlyn Casmedes, who choreographed STRAYS and portrays the “pariah” cat. “Anyone whose heart goes out to animals will love this show.”

Carolina says her favorite song is RAINBOW PETS, the finale. “In particular the lines, “Lessons learned don’t come for free…shed no tear have no fear pay it forward in kind.” What a great life lesson not just about pet ownership but everything in life. I hope my kiddos will remember these words forever.”

“There’s a line in STRAYS that I think describes perfectly why the show is so appealing,” adds Susan McGinn. “There’s a lot of love represented here, a lot of love.” When the joyous finale arrives, we all truly feel it. We want the audience to know about the happiness that comes from helping cats and dogs in need. We can’t wait for opening night!”

The Honey McGee Playhouse hosts three performances November 6, 7, 8. Tickets are $10 each available for sale at the door or can be reserved online at https://www.theatricks.org/ by clicking on the STRAYS link.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

FREE WORKSHOP FOR #PETS CENTRIC MUSICAL

KarmaStrays4Those who regularly read this blog know that I not only write about pets, but also give talks about pet behavior. You may be surprised to learn that sometimes I write music about pet behavior, too and even SING about cats and dogs. (Magical-Dawg howls, Seren-Kitty does her lion cough and Karma yawns…everyone’s a critic!) Now you have a chance to sing along!

I’m proud to partner with local actor/writer/musician Frank Steele to co-write STRAYS, THE MUSICAL. Next Saturday, September 13 from 10-noon at the Honey McGee Playhouse in Sherman, we’ll present a free workshop about the show. The workshop is designed to help pet loving performers prepare to audition for STRAYS on September 23, 24, 25. Those who attend may learn a thing or two about cat and dog behavior, too!

I’ve written lots of pet-centric schtuff, and Frank and I have written other scripts and performed on stage a great deal. But STRAYS combines all our loves—writing, music, acting and pets. Now we want to share STRAYS with area actors and audiences.

Love theater? Love pets? You’ll fall in love with STRAYS!

MagicStraysWe’re looking for up to 20 performers and production folks to bring STRAYS to life. A few human characters appear in the show but most actors portray cats or dogs—but without any special makeup or costumes. That’s right! You get to create your own character using your skill as a performer—are you a Great Dane? Chihuahua or Siamese? Mutt or tabby? We’d love to cast families, too—with the kids playing kittens/puppies and parents as the adult pets.

During the workshop, you’ll practice channeling your inner pet. Feel free to bring a dog or cat toy to help get into character. Participants will learn one of the songs from the show and practice pet-centric moves. Are you a rapper or beat box expert? Come show your skills! Dogs and cats move and act in very specific ways that communicate to each other (and to clueless humans!). Shake your puppy tail or display kitty ballet moves to evoke the pet’s mood. During the workshop you’ll also practice reading funny or poignant scenes from the script.

Two featured parts call for 14-year old actor/singers to play the parts of Girl Kitten and Boy Puppy. But all other parts have no age or type limitations and performers aged 9 to 99 are welcome. STRAYS includes solos, ensembles, rap, featured dancers, non-singing actor roles, and fun company numbers in styles ranging from pop rock to blues, calypso, gospel, jazz, and Celtic. If you’re like me, you often “speak” for your pets and now’s your chance to bring that cat or dog character to the stage.

We look forward to working with Supporting Cast members from SCP-Theatricks. We also seek technical assistance with lighting, sound, projection, choreography, stage managing and more.

Dr. John McGinn will assist us as rehearsal pianist, and the show will be performed with a CD of full orchestration on November 6, 7, 8, 2014. We hope STRAYS will benefit animal welfare organizations in their fund raising efforts, as well as entertain pet lovers. And purr-haps bring a new audience to Sherman Community Players.

Now is your chance—come to the STRAYS workshop Saturday September 13 from 10-Noon to learn more. Please SHARE this post with cat and dog lovers and theater peeps. 🙂

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered–post in the comments. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Balancing Act: New Fur Kid, New Schedule

Valentine’s Day is Friday, so love is in the air, right?

Right???

*sigh*

I’m used to how Magic and Seren get along–or at least, respect each other. Sure, it took Seren a few years to learn to tolerate the Magical-Dawg, and it took hard-headed Magic the same length of time to stop testing her “boss-icity.”

Now a new clueless fur-kid has joined the family. That’s thrown both pets for a loop. And they’re not the only ones having to adjust. Oh, I’m in love all right, and Magic is smitten and the kitten is gloating and Seren is hissed off. And MY schedule’s in tatters and likely will remain so for the foreseeable future.

Bliss!

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Magic can’t get enough sniffs…and Karma seems to enjoy the game. Image Copr. Amy Shojai, CABC

Balancing the needs and demands of Karma with what the resident pets have come to expect takes skill and patience. Probably it’s good for me. I need to be more flexible but in reality I’m much more like Seren-Kitty and love routine.

Magic, on the other paw, enjoys having something new and exciting to break up the day, so he’s enjoying kitten antics. When Magic first arrived, we had to set waste baskets on countertops to keep him from grazing the soiled tissues and shredding or scattering other “fun” edibles from the trash.

Countertops don’t stop Karma. It’s actually sort of fun trying to guess what new trouble he’ll find. When I lecture about cat personalities I like to describe the broad types as “Shrinking Violet” and “Christopher Columbus” cats. Before now, I thought of Seren as the Border Collie of cats, always busy and finding things to do.

Karma trumped her antics. He steals the dog’s toys. And he has the gumption to invite Magic to play and then flop on his back and paw-smack the dog’s paws to get a rise out of him. Oh please help me…My to-do list has become the to-don’t list, or maybe the “Deal-With-Karma-Then-To-Do List.”

SerenKarma

Seren remains watchful, and above it all. That’s as it should be for the Queen, don’t you think? Image Copr. Amy Shojai, CABC

No doubt about it, Seren comes first and then Magic. It’s not that I have favorites, it comes down to individual critter needs. Simply put, Seren’s old and takes coddling. Magic is potentially lethal–even if he is a teddy bear behind that ferocious 91-pound body–and he was here first.

Pet world is not a democracy. People make mistakes trying to treat their fur kids equally. Karma needs to understand his place in the household not just to keep the peace with the other pets, but to protect him–and them.

Karma is like the Nermal character in Garfield.But cute will wear off as he becomes a mature, handsome fellow. Adult pets like Magic and Seren do often seem to recognize baby-behaviors and make allowances. Once Karma is grown up, everyone needs to respect each other, though, because I want this fur-gang to be together and get along for years to come.

THE NEW REALITY

Karma touched my heart in a very different way than the other two. While Seren is prim and proper, Magic is a play-focused bruiser. Karma is all juvenile delinquent but so dang cute you can’t stay mad at him. My three furry stooges each bring me joy in a very different way and I find myself laughing more watching their interaction and growing relationship.

I’d forgotten just how active youngsters can be. Seren used to chew up paper from my fax machine and answer the phone, and at least he’s not learned to do that yet.

Karma weighs a bit over eight pounds and really makes the stairway thunder when he tornadoes up and down with the “zoomies.” He’s discovered the joys of attacking the roll of toilet paper. And he’s a bottomless pit eager to munch anything that smells like food–even Seren’s kidney diet (she is NOT amused) and including Magic’s kibble (he’s been tolerant, surprisingly so.) I need to get a picture of Karma STANDING in the dog’s water bowl while drinking.

WHAT’S WORK GOT TO DO WITH IT?

At this point, I can’t leave the three alone together. Supervision is a must, but I can’t work and run interference with the furry crew at the same time. So my schedule had to change.

Now I spend the night with Karma and Magic. After we wake up and take care of the business of Karma-Kitten’s food, potty and exercise, the rest of the morning belongs to Seren and Magic. I read the paper and we all eat breakfast, before I start the work day–and Karma spends time alone in “his” room. Break time during the day for Magical-Dawg is another good time to check on Karma and allow some free-run playtime. Usually Seren continues to sleep. And then back to work for another few hours before shutting down work for the evening and riding herd on ALL the pets out at once.

Eventually my schedule will change again, once all three have accepted (or at least learned to tolerate) the new reality. For now, we’re taking it very slow. Seren’s a bit more active these days, watching for that “evil interloper” and (dare I suggest?) enjoying the opportunity to school the new kid.

Personally, I’m having a ball. 🙂

How have you handled introductions of new pets in your home? Did the resident critters fall head over heels in love–or hate? Do tell!

By the way, today is the LAST DAY to nominate blogs (maybe even this one? 🙂 )for the Nose to Nose Awards. Details here (hint-hint!).

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered–post in the comments. Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Dog Viewpoint HIDE AND SEEK Releases!

It’s here! My dog viewpoint thriller HIDE AND SEEK “officially” releases–and those who subscribe to my PET PEEVES newsletter got this info last week (yes, there’s perks to subscribing *s*) but I couldn’t hold in the SNOOPY-DANCE-‘O-JOY! any longer. This is the SEQUEL to my first thriller, and brings back the characters you love plus some new ones.

There’s still dog-viewpoint (yay, Shadow!) and now more cat-centric stuff too (go, Macy!). I hope you’ll enjoy the book, post reviews, and recommend to your pet-loving, thrill-seeking friends.

My deepest gratitude to those who reviewed ARCs for advance looks and reviews. Y’all make my virtual tail wag and purrs a-rumble. And without further delay, behold the latest thriller.

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A mysterious contagion will shatter countless lives unless a service dog and his trainer find a missing cat . . . in 24 hours.

FireHIDE AND SEEK on Amazon (Kindle & Trade Paperback)

A STALKER hides in plain sight.
A VICTIM faces her worst fear.
AND A DOG seeks the missing—and finds hope.

Eight years ago, animal behaviorist September Day escaped a sadistic captor who left her ashamed, terrified, and struggling with PTSD. She trusts no one—except her cat Macy and service dog Shadow.

Shadow also struggles with trust. A German Shepherd autism service dog who rescued his child partner only to lose his-boy forever, Shadow’s crippling fear of abandonment shakes his faith in humans.

They are each others’ only chance to survive the stalker’s vicious payback, but have only 24 hours to uncover the truth about Macy’s mysterious illness or pay the deadly consequences. When September learns to trust again, and a good-dog takes a chance on love, together they find hope in the midst of despair–and discover what family really means.

WHAT OTHERS SAY ABOUT HIDE AND SEEK!

HIDE AND SEEK proves Shojai’s masterful skill at blending ripped-from-the-headlines urgency with an emotional story of real characters in escalating dangers. Add in revelatory dose of animal psychology and behavior, and you have a thriller that had me turning pages deep into the night. Here is a novel written with authority and with a deft brilliance that any lover of animals or nerve-jangling thrillers will cherish.” James Rollins, New York Times bestseller of “The Eye of God”

“Recommended for anyone who likes a ‘bite-your-nails hold-your-breath’ kind of  thriller.” Dr. Lorie Huston, Cat Writers’ Association President

“Featuring a young animal behaviorist struggling to regain her bearings after a shocking betrayal, a reality TV show gone horribly wrong, and a series of murders and disappearances seemingly related to an unthinkable cause, HIDE AND SEEK is a mystery/thriller you won’t be able to put down!”
Alan Leverone, best-selling thriller author of “Mr. Midnight” and “The Lonely Mile”

THE STORY BEGAN WITH THE CRITICALLY ACCLAIMED

LOST AND FOUND

An autism cure will kill millions unless a service dog and his trainer

find a missing child . . . in 24 hours.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered–post in the comments. Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Ask Amy: Why Does My Dog Hug & Lean?

puppyfaceThere was a bit of controversy last year over a big pet products brand that promoted “Hug Your Dog Day” and got a lot of flack over it (including from me!). But what if it’s the DOG that does the hugging? What does it mean when your pooch leans against you (some can knock you flat!). Today’s Ask Amy addresses the question.

Does your dog lean on you? How about hugging? Adolescent pooches may want to hug your leg (ahem!) but that’s a subject for another Ask Amy. More dog behavior answers are found in my ComPETability: Dogs book, too, but how do you handle the situation?

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter.

Ask Amy: What To Do With Sniff-A-Holic Dogs

nose

I’m traveling today and may not be able to reply as quickly. But I wanted to share this fun new ASK AMY and find out how y’all handle your “nosy” dogs.

Dogs are lead around by the nose throughout life, and it starts early–as in this Ask Amy “rude” puppy behavior! What about your furry wonder? Has your dog’s nosy behavior ever gotten him or her in trouble? Created embarrassing moments? (Once our Magical-Dawg puppy stole underwear from the laundry basket and brought it out to show guests…sigh). Your turn, do tell!

In my forthcoming thriller HIDE AND SEEK, the dog hero character has been trained to track lost pets. So Shadow’s nose actually saves the day–with the help of Macy the Maine Coon cat. In these cases, savvy dogs may detect very important info that humans miss, and it’s up to the person to trust the dog’s nose. Shadow even laments the fact that scent-blind humans should pay closer attention to good-dogs able to smell important stuff. What do you think?

Here’s an article about a dog’s nose structure and sense of smell that explains a lot of what’s going on. What have I missed?

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter.

Catnip Clues & STARE-‘o-DEATH!

Okay, my blog “burped” last Saturday…and posted this blog early. So if you already read it, sorry about that.

I’m repeating this blog covering catnip and why dogs stare from 2011 because…well, I’ve got a whole bunch new followers, AND the schedule for fiction-ing leaves me little time these days. Besides, it’s my blog and I make up the rules as I go along. So there! Also, I figured the blog needed a serious influsion of sparkle-icity to keep with the “bling” theme. I’ve not posted any “new” Ask Amy videos in a while but that’s on my to-do list so please offer suggestions for topics in the comments.

Please share–do your cats carry the “catnip gene?” How often do they get a kitty fix? Did you get ’em on film? *snicker*

And for the dog-matic followers, have you ever experienced the canine stare-‘o-death? Of course my Magical-dawg also stares at me when he wants me to read his mind….  “Time for a car ride, yes yes yes???!”

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Lost and Found: THE NEXT BIG THING BLOG HOP

Welcome to the NEXT  BIG THING blog hop.

What is a blog hop? Basically, it’s a way that readers can discover new authors, because with bookstores closing and publishers not promoting new authors as much, we need to find a way to introduce readers to authors they may not see in their local bookstore. So I get to give a shout-out to the wonderful author who invited me to this “dance” and then invite (and highlight) five more terrific authors at the end of the blog.

Debut thriller author Donna Galanti invited me to join the “hop” and I’d met her first by email and later in person at Thrillerfest last summer. Her paranormal suspense novel, A Human Element, is a spooky, thrilling read–don’t take my word for it. NY Times bestselling author Jonathan Maberry calls her story, “an elegant and haunting first novel. Unrelenting, devious but full of heart.” See the links at the end for to five other authors you really MUST check out. Check out Donna Galanti’s website here, and you can buy A HUMAN ELEMENT at amazon or B&N or even iTunes.

Magic homecoming 3

What’s going on inside that furry head? …my answer is in LOST AND FOUND.

9: Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My dog Magic inspired me to write this book. For years I’ve looked for a book that I wanted to read, one that included thrills and made the hear trace, a story that incorporated medical issues, and above all, one that respected animal characters as ANIMALS and wrote them from that perspective–not as little humans wearing fur. Finally I wrote the book that I wanted to read.

10: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The story is science based. Yes, there really are drugs given to children without having been tested on the children. And yes, dogs CAN learn vocabulary just as quickly as Shadow does in the “name game” scene. And finally yes, cats can be trained–and Macy’s “hero cat” scene where she “nails” the bad guys at the end is also based on something that really happened.

Below you will find authors (in no particular order) who will be joining me by blog, next Wednesday. Do be sure to bookmark and add them to your calendars for updates on WIPs and New Releases! Happy Writing and Reading!

  1. Clea Simon writes awesome cat-centric mysteries and I know her through membership in the Cat Writers Association. Check out her great blog at Cats, Crime & Rock & Roll
  2. Arden Moore, America’s Pet Edu-Tainer, writes terrific cat and dog care books, one of which was ranked #3 of ALL BOOKS on amazon!  In a former life Arden was my editor, and we share a birthday (one month apart). She has some new books in the pipeline and blogs at Four Legged Life
  3. Carol Shenold has been in my writers group for more than 20 years and is one of my dearest friends and a talented tech writer and novelist. She writes paranormal mysteries. Learn about her work and check out her Monster Under The Bed blog.
  4. Check out Michael W. Sherer blog here. He writes terrific mysteries AND thrillers. I met him through Thriller Writers, and he invited me to participate in an AWESOME Kindle Fire give-away (plus some autographed books from famous thriller authors).
  5. Victor DiGenti (writing as Parker Francis) publishes mysteries and has also written award-winning YA cat fantasy. Like Clea, we also met through Cat Writers Association.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Oh Behave!

puppy licking dishes in dishwasher

Dogs aim to help us out–whether we want them to or not! Image Copr. Claire Hodkinson

In reality, pet-loving owners can have unrealistic expectations. Few of us speak “dog” or understand “felinese” at least without practice, and people easily misunderstand normal pet behaviors—and may actually encourage bad antics without even knowing any better. So what do you do?

HELP IS AVAILABLE

Too often, these socially inept cats and dogs (and owners!) means the pet ends up in shelters! Yet there is help available that can literally can save your pet relationship or even the dog and cat’s life. To promote that idea, the Keep the L.O.V.E. Alive Behavior Express Tour sponsored by Ceva Animal Health and the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists may be coming to a city near you!

Dr. Marty Becker, America’s Veterinarian, is a spokesperson at the September 8, 2012 Dallas event (THAT’S SATURDAY, GANG!) where you’ll find free behavior tips, shelter pet adoptions, behavior demonstrations, giveaways and more. My friend and colleague Dr. Amanda Florsheim, a veterinary behaviorist, will also be on hand to field your dog and cat questions. For a preview, check out this hot-off-the-virtual-press radio interview with Dr. Marty at Pet Peeves Radio.

FINDING PET BEHAVIOR HELP

You really can’t separate pet behavior from their health and well being. For instance, the kitty that gets “creative” outside the box may, indeed, be a behavior problem to you but due to a health condition–or a combination of both. Getting the dog checked by the veterinarian can help pinpoint an anal gland abscess, for instance, that makes him snarl when approached from the rear.

The vet can also direct you to the best person for helping you with a potential behavior issue. Some puppy problems can be fixed with training from a reputable dog trainer. Kitty angst prompting frenzied furniture scratching may be soothed with some help from a cat behavior consultant’s tips about enriching the environment. And veterinarians are the ONLY folks able to prescribe medication (for physical or emotional issues) that may be the tipping point for solving big-time problems. Learn about some of the professional behavior organizations here.  You can learn more about questions to ask to find a dog trainer in this article. Of course, your local veterinarian should know who might be available in your neck of the woods. Many of my referrals come from veterinarians.

ComPetability: Dog Behavior ProblemsComPETability: Cat Behavior ProblemsComPETability: Dog/Cat Behavior Problems

MAKING IT PURR-SONAL

Have you ever needed the help of a pet professional like a dog training specialist or a cat behavior consultant? Where do you go for behavior advice? Yes, you can find some solid, helpful tips on the Internet or even in my books–that first one on dog behavior problems is brand new!–but honestly, it’s a toss up how good “free” info might be, and it could do more harm than good. Your pets rely on you to get the best help possible. And the longer a behavior gets “practiced” the more time it will take to un-learn. Just sayin…

What are your top kitty or doggy behavior complaints? How do you manage them? Please share! And if you’re in the area, say “howdy” to Dr. Marty Becker and the other behavior experts at the event. They truly do want to help your pets behave!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay tuned for more news about my forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND!

Dog Shows & Putting On “The Dog”

Golden with owner

Have you and your dog ever competed in a dog show? It’s some of the most fun you can have with your canine companion, and isn’t a new activity by any means.

The earliest record of a dog show dates to June 1859 in England, with only 60 hunting dogs (Pointers and Setters) shown. Today the sport of dogs has grown to include more than 200 separate breeds, and expanded beyond pedigree-only dogs to embrace mutts in a variety of shaggy competitions.

DOG SHOW BASICS

I am NOT an expert in purebred dogs or the show fancy. In fact my Magical-Dawg isn’t the right “type” to do well in conformation, although he has the drive and talent to be extraordinary in tracking or other performance sports. It’s not him–it’s me. It takes lots of time and energy and I just can’t manage that right now. If I look the other way and Magic swipes the keys to the Magic-Mobile, no doubt he’ll be heading off to a show of his choice.

clumber spaniel

This gorgeous fellow was one of the first Clumber spaniels shown at Westminster!

A group match features all the breeds that belong to a general “type” of dog–say, the Toy group, which includes the Chihuahua, Pug, Pekingese, Yorkshire terrier and Toy poodle (to name only a few). The American Kennel Club (AKC) divides the groups by function and purpose for which the dogs were bred, or by size.

Sporting Group consists of Labs, Setters, Spaniels, pointers, retrievers; Hounds includes Greyhounds, beagles, foxhounds, etc; Working group includes the sled dogs, draft dogs, Doberman, etc.; Terriers consists of nearly any breed with ‘terrier’ in the name; Toys are by size–the little guys; Non-sporting includes Chow chow, Dalmation, Bichon, Lhasa Apso, etc.; Herding are all the shepherds, sheepdogs, cattle dogs, etc; and the Miscellaneous Class is an odd catchall category for dogs that don’t fit in any of the others. A terrific book to find out more is Cheryl Smith’s The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Dog Shows . . . I believe she’ll soon bring it back into print.

FUN SHOWS

Is your pooch a show-stopper? There are lots of summertime dog-centric events that you and your dog may enjoy. For instance, this Saturday September 8 can compete and win prizes locally at a fun Bark and Paw Dog Show in Denison, Texas. For the second annual event, Downtown Denison’s Bark & Paw show has certain requirements and “groups” –but your pooch does NOT have to be a purebred.

Register your dogs for free—and then sign up for a variety of contests for $1 each at Heritage Park beginning at 9:00 for the day’s events that run from 10 am to 4 pm. All dogs must be up to date on rabies vaccines and stay on leash for the event (except for specific off-leash contests). Anyone can purchase $1 tickets for fun door prizes, too.

I’m one of the judges—but I don’t know which contest yet. It promises to be a dog-gone fun event! Weinie Dog Races leads off at 10 a.m. followed by a retriever contest, most obedient, best trick, and even contests for the biggest, littlest, ugliest, oldest, and one that traveled farthest.

Don’t miss the 11:00 Pet Parade that travels from Forest Park to Heritage Park with Parade Grand Marshal Luke Robinson, founder of 2 Million Dogs and the Puppy Up walks for dog cancer research (2milliondogs.com). The theme is patriotic so owners can “put on the dog” with matching costumes.

Off leash events are at Forest Park while vendors are located on Burnett next to Heritage Park. You’ll find chair massage, pet massage, veterinarian, groomers, trainers, pet adoption, tee shirts, dog bandanas and munchies for both four-legged and two-legged attendees. You’ll even have the opportunity to drool over and then bid on some awesome custom doghouses at 12:30.

Have you ever participated in a doggy “fun show” event? How’d that work out? Do you dress up your dogs for parades, Halloween, or other holiday events? Do tell!

Remember that all dogs are winners when they have someone to love them. Be sure your dog enjoys events where other dogs and people are present, because some pooches prefer to be home-bodies. Please be especially mindful of the weather and keep your hot dogs safe as cool companions. If your dog loves the spotlight, you’ll all have a howling good time.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay tuned for more news about my forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND!

Why Does My Cat Eat Grass?

why cats eat grass

Of course, be sure to keep your outside cats safe!   Image Copr Elise Feinstein via Flickr

Recently a fun and interesting discussion on my Facebook page generated an Ask Amy video about why dogs eat dirt so it’s not that much of a stretch to ask why does my cat eat grass? Yep, Seren does it too. I suspect many kitties relish the taste of fresh greens. You’ve already seen this Ask Amy about why cats love catnip. The veggie munchies is something different, but what? And why?

Why Does My Cat Eat Grass?

I mean, we consider dogs omnivores like humans–able and even eager to eat a variety of foods and derive nourishment. Heck, the Magical-Dawg would munch used Kleenex and socks if we let him (no, those are NOT in the doggy foods list!). So it makes a weird kind of sense that dogs sometimes crave grass since they eat green stuff as a matter of course.

But kitties are obligate carnivores. They MUST eat meat to derive the correct nutrients to live and thrive. So what’s the deal with grazing? Most times after munching, the kitty hurls–oh goody, more stains on the white carpet. That’s because since they are carnivores, kitty digestion isn’t suited to breaking down grass so it gets purged. The tickle-going-down probably adds to that effect.

A Natural Emetic

Does the cat know eating grass will make him hurl? Actually, there have been some studies that show cats DO quickly associate eating (X-FOOD) with feeling (good-bad-sick-whatever). A cat that eats a favorite meal and then gets diarrhea or painful constipation (even though it’s from parasites) may blame the food and thereafter snub a previous favorite treat. Huh. So maybe cats DO know grass will make them hurl–and they use it to purge?

Grass also contains some nutrients the cat’s body CAN use–like folic acid. Oh, and grass or other veggies can help push nondigestibles on through the body, sort of a kitty colonic. Hey, better the cat goes with a DIY, don’t you think? As a former vet tech I’ve been on that (ahem) other end of cleaning out a plugged up kitty and it ain’t fun for anyone!

Do your cats eat grass? Do you provide gazing ops? Here’s a bit more in this latest Ask Amy.

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!