Category Archives: Pet Tips – Dogs

Old Dog, New Tricks

By Nikki Senecal

Curly is an old dog willing to learn new tricks!

We hear it all the time, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Many people prefer to adopt puppies because they’ll be able to train the animal to have desirable behaviors whereas adult shelter dogs are “defective.” This line of reasoning relies on so many myths.

Recently, Deb DeSantis, trainer from Going to the Dogs was over to show Stella how to use her agility equipment. She told me that she has taught one of her senior dogs to weave through her legs since the dog no longer has the energy for the agility course. Old dog, new trick. Just think of the senior citizens flocking to community college and adult school classes: just because the body is no longer able, doesn’t mean the mind isn’t willing.

Most dogs—86%–end up in the shelter because of the owners’ circumstances rather than pet problems. But when dogs are turned in, it’s usually the energy required to train and exercise any and all dogs that lands them in the shelter. The owner is either unable or unwilling to exercise the dog as much as it needs to be “good.” Definitely a problem of a “defective owner.”

Choosing an adult rescue over a puppy does not guarantee you will never have any problems with your new dog, but it increases the probability that you won’t.  Of course, with any new pet, there is an adjustment period while the dog learns what you expect of it.  An adult dog can be specially chosen for various traits that will make her compatible with you and your situation.

Consider these reasons for adopting an older dog:

  1. Puppies poop and pee frequently. Puppies can only be expected to “hold it” for short periods.  A two month old puppy will probably need to go out every three hours around the clock. If no one is at home during the day, consider an adult dog. Puppies need to have consistent schedules for feeding, watering, and being let out to for bathroom breaks. Adult dogs are often housetrained, and they have adult bladders.
  2. Puppies chew. Our pup thought of us as human chew toys in the early stages; it took a lot of training to redirect her behavior. I’ve heard of puppies chewing baseboards and drywall, couches, shoes, and clothing. An adult dog is past the teething stage and is more discerning in what he’ll chew. Give an adult dog chew toys and bones to keep him occupied.
  3. Puppies aren’t done yet. An adult dog is what it is; you know her size, temperament, personality, energy level, and relationship with children, other dogs, and cats. With puppies — especially puppies whose heritage is unknown — you never know. If you need to be sure about what you are getting, get an adult. Shelters are full of dogs who became the “wrong” match as they grew up—but who may be right for you whether that is large or small; active or sedentary; sweet or brilliant.  Further, our foster parents can help guide you in choosing just the right match for you.
  4. Puppies need lots of vet care. Veterinary bills for a puppy are more expensive than for an adult dog. All those trips to the vet for puppy inoculations really add up.  Adult dogs are usually already spayed or neutered and have had all their vaccines; a healthy adult should only need to go to the vet once a year.
  5. Puppies are distractible. Adult dogs are better able to focus, and this helps during training. Although puppies can and should be trained, trainers will tell you it’s often easier to train an older dog. Adult dogs are more likely to already have some training from the rescue organization because it makes them more attractive to potential adopters.
  6. Puppies have a ton of energy and need hours and hours of play time. Adult dogs are still playful  but an hour or two of activity can really wear them out.
  7. Puppies must learn to play with kids. Puppies and children are not always a good match—puppies can be more easily injured by children and rambunctious puppies haven’t learned how to play with small humans, and are more likely to hurt or scare children. Children should always be supervised with animals but many adult dogs have figured out little kids aren’t little dogs.
  8. Puppies are very social. Pups are used to being with their litter mates. Time alone can be very stressful for them. Adult dogs still need companionship, but they can tolerate time alone better and they sleep through the night.
  9. Puppies need to grow up. Adult dogs are ready to be your companion now—you don’t have to wait for them to grow up to go to the dog park (after they have all their shots), to go on hikes, to go jogging (after a year, depending on the size of the dog), to travel. With an adult rescue, you select the dog most compatible with you.  You can find one that travels well, loves to play with your friends’ dogs, has the energy for jogging or long hikes, etc.
  10. Puppies can stress out your adult animals. Do you already have a dog or cat that needs a companion? An adult dog that is good with other animals is a better choice than an energetic, exuberant puppy who has to be trained to enjoy the company of other animals. It may be stressful for your animals while the new pup learns.
  11. Puppies aren’t the only ones with time on their paws. Adult dogs have years of life ahead of them. All but the largest breeds average over 10 years. And in the US and UK, mixed breed dogs average 13.2 yrs.

Most people get swept away by puppy love because those little faces are so cute and their awkwardness is endearing.  People come to shelters looking for puppies, so shelter pups have a better chance of being adopted than most adult dogs. But for many of us, adult dogs make the perfect companions. If a senior dog is right for you, please check out Curly.

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New Year’s Resolution: Keep My Family Together!

By The Tidy Cat Whisperer:

2011. It is a new year. Oh yes “whoopee”. So many people are now out celebrating the passage of time and the ritualistic saying goodbye to the year just completed and the eagerly anticipated year to be. The year we’ve just left behind-although flawed and fraught with inequities- is at least familiar territory. Some people are anxious to leave that with which they are familiar. You know, the old “change” thing. Even if we are in a bad situation, we HATE change. The new year ahead?  Unknown territory, and therefore subject to much speculation-and not just where people are concerned.

The Stinky Cat and the Tidy Cat Whisperer (TCW) don’t always agree on everything: but one thing we DO see eye to eye on is the fact that, in the year just completed more pets have been turned into animal shelters and rescues than the aforementioned shelters have room for. Which means that some of these pets never find a second chance for love and a forever home. It is the sad, yet inevitable result of life in a post-economic-meltdown world.

One of the prime reasons that cats and dogs are turned into shelters is due to dreaded “inappropriate elimination”: in other words, failure to use the litterbox (cats) or poor housetraining habits (dogs).  Many rescues and shelters are overwhelmed by more strays than in previous years, coupled with more animals turned in due to financial considerations than usual. Today’s new “economic reality” has been a disaster for animal rescues and shelters, not to mention most human welfare resources. That is why TCW and Stinky  Cat are here: to help.

According to TCW, “often all too often litterbox issues could have been avoided if a little more thought and planning had been in place.” In other words, if you already have a cat and you are not sure how your cat would react to another cat in your home, then before you decide to bring a new cat in do some research. Ask your vet how to integrate a new cat into an environment with an existing cat. Ask friends who have multiple cats how they were able to integrate the cats. And for pete’s sake, ask all these questions BEFORE you make the decision to bring another animal into your house. And, although declawing a cat makes life convenient for people, it quite often makes life for your cat very inconvenient and in many cases can lead to inappropriate urination.

The Stinky Cat adds that “inconsistent housebreaking or lack of any sort of training at all can contribute to a dog’s poor housetraining habits. A dog without proper housebreaking is not the fault of the dog; it is the fault of the people who did not spend the time to train.” Typical life situation: Cute puppy, family loves the puppy, brings the puppy home. All is right with the world. Then reality sets in. Mom & dad work 8 hours a day, kids are in school, no one has time to house train the dog. Yet, the dog is the one who pays the price by being turned into the local shelter, where an uncertain future awaits. Note to dog owners: no matter how old the dog is, it is never too late to house train a dog. It CAN be done-and often is very successfully.

Unfortunately people all too often choose the “easy” way out, either by medication (Xanax, Buspar) or by simply deciding that they can no longer “deal with the situation” and the only alternative is to rehome the pet. This blogpost is a plea to ALL pet owners to please consider every option before making the decision to rehome your pet.

Many vets, rescue groups, dog trainers and shelters will spend time working with you and your pet to try and help resolve the issues that might prevent you and your pet from enjoying your “furrever time” together. In a world that has morphed into moment-to-moment, day-by-day, we remind you that one way to ensure the stability of your own household is to make sure the needs of all the members of your household-including your pets- are properly attended to.

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Filed under ACDC News, Adopting A Dog, Animal Rescue, Animals in our care, Foster Parents, Pet Tips, Pet Tips - Cats, Pet Tips - Dogs, Pet Tips - Guinea Pigs, Pet Tips - Rabbits, Uncategorized

All In A Day’s Work

By Nikki Senecal
Recently rescued by the Animal Coalition of Delaware County (ACDC), Filina is a little Schnauzer/Yorkie mix. Upon her arrival to ACDC however, she was badly matted. Matting is a painful condition caused by lack of grooming—not only does it pinch the animal’s skin, it binds them. In some cases, dogs can’t move about as freely when they are matted. Eventually, it can become a serious health matter.

Enter Gina Newman of Daisy’s Delights Barkery, Boutique, and Bubble Bath in Ridley Park, PA, who volunteered her grooming services to ACDC. She gave Filina badly needed treatment. “She was such a sweetheart. You could tell that she appreciated being groomed,” Gina remembers. Gina has groomed many ACDC dogs, including Benny who is pictured above.

Gina began her business five years ago. Her move to a larger space afforded her the room she needed to provide new services and she became a certified groomer. It didn’t just make good business sense–she sees this as a natural progression. Her grandfather was a barber, and she often cut the hair of people before working with dogs.

She likes working with animals “because you can make them feel better.” At Daisy’s Delights, pets come first. Not only are dogs welcome in the store, but Gina uses aromatherapy to calm skittish dogs. Because of the store, Gina’s time is limited—in fact, I interviewed her while she was watching her two-year-old grandson. Grooming ACDC’s rescued dogs is a way for Gina to help the animals and further the cause. ACDC is so grateful to Gina for sharing her time and talent. It is people like Gina who make ACDC’s work possible!

Gina also knows a thing or two about adopting pets. When her beloved Daisy, for whom the store is named, passed away back in June, she vowed, “never again.” Recently, however, a new lab puppy rescued from Lancaster joined two dogs (and six cats) in the Newman home! Thanks for all you do for ACDC, Gina!

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Filed under ACDC News, Adopting A Dog, Animals in our care, Pet Tips - Dogs

Does the Fourth of July cause your pet to panic?

By Nikki Senecal

When I was growing up, we had a 125-pound Doberman Pinscher. Many people were scared of Humphrey, but there was only one thing he was frightened by: thunder. At the first sign of a summer storm, he would huddle under the dining room table shaking pathetically. It made you want to crawl under the table to hug and reassure him.

That, it turns out, is exactly the wrong thing to do.

Animals who are frightened by loud noises—like thunder or 4th of July fireworks–shouldn’t be babied; that can reinforce the fearful behavior. Nor should you punish an animal for his fears.

Finding A Place to Feel Safe
Letting your dog or cat find a place where they feel safe, however, is one of the many things you can do to help ease phonophobia, whether the cause is thunderstorms, fireworks, or the vacuum cleaner. Allow your cat to hide out under the bed or in a small space. Perhaps put a bed in a closet and let them know it is there. Leave your dog’s crate open—and throw a blanket over it to create a more cave-like space. Rabbits and guinea pigs should be given extra bedding, so they can burrow for comfort.  Wherever your pet finds comfort, don’t try to lure them out; it could increase their stress.

When you know loud noises will occur, like the upcoming 4th of July holiday, your pets should be inside. Make sure the doors and windows are closed, in case the stress causes your pet to attempt an escape. To prepare for this possibility, make sure Fluffy and Fido’s tags are attached and up-to-date.

You could try turning on a radio or television loudly to drown out the outdoor sounds. Your pet is used to having strange sounds come from these devices.

Training
Desensitization training may work for your dog. This technique involves exposing your dog to low levels of the anxiety producing noise while performing positive activities, like obedience training or playing games. However, trainers usually recommend starting this training before you need the dog to behave. Dogs who are afraid of fireworks, should be trained during the winter, for example.

Find a recording of the noise that your pet is afraid of. While playing the sounds at a barely audible volume, engage your pet in an activity like obedience or trick training. Give food or other rewards during the activity when the pet accomplishes what he is supposed to. If your dog shows signs of fear, stop and try again later, playing the recording at an even lower level. It is important that you don’t reward your pup while he is fearful or anxious. Sessions should last about five to 10 minutes.

As training progresses, gradually increase the volume for each session. Because dogs aren’t good at generalizing, you should repeat the exercise in various rooms. When your pup does not show fear when the recording is played at a loud volume, you may want to try playing the recording when you are away from the house for a short time. When Fido appears to have lost his fear, the sessions can be reduced to one per week. These sessions may need to be repeated at regular intervals over the course of your time together. Finally, during a storm or the Fourth of July, use the same activities and rewards you used in the training sessions.

Medication

  • Appeasing pheromones are available for both dogs (DAP) and cats (Feliway). These chemicals mimic the pheromones produced by lactating mothers that give puppies and kittens a sense of well-being. The result is a calmer, less stressed animal.
  • Melatonin can be used in both dogs and cats. Several articles published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medicine Association show that melatonin has a sedative effect. One trainer I know uses it for her German Shepherds who are afraid of thunderstorms.
  • Other medications, like xanax, can be prescribed by your veterinarian if your pet has more severe anxiety.

Although some of these treatments are available without a prescription, you should discuss all of these options with your vet.

Alternative Therapies
Anxiety Wrap – According to some experts, pressure applied to large areas of the body can be comforting. Although no scientific studies have been done on this therapy, T-Touch and Temple Grandin’s “Hug Machine” are both examples of this theory put in practice. There are a number of “maintained pressure” jackets available on the market.

Whatever you do, project a calm attitude. Your pet looks to you for guidance. If you show no fear, it may be calming for your rabbit, guinea pig, dog, or cat. Have a safe and happy Fourth of July!

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Filed under Pet Tips, Pet Tips - Cats, Pet Tips - Dogs, Pet Tips - Guinea Pigs, Pet Tips - Rabbits

How Do I Know My Pet is Sick?

Knowing what to watch for in your pet's behavior can help catch illnesses early.

By Nikki Senecal 

 
There are many times I wish my dog could talk, but that feeling is compounded by worry when she seems to be feeling ill. (Talking animals would make the vet’s job easier too!) 

   

If we remember that we’re mammals too, diagnosing our pets can be a little easier. How do you know you’re sick? Vomiting, diarrhea, appetite changes, abnormal bleeding, and lethargy signal something’s wrong in humans. It turns out many of these symptoms signal problems for our pets too.      

Guinea Pig     

  • Bloated abdomen
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Discharge from the eyes or nose
  • Labored breathing
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss

Rabbit   

  • Loud tooth grinding
  • Very hot or very cold ears
  • Discharge from the eyes or nose
  • Labored breathing
  • Drooling or a wet chin
  • Loss of balance or head tilt
  • Abnormal fecal pellets (smaller, irregular shape, droppings laced with fur)
  • Loss of appetite or lethargy

Cat   

  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased thirst
  • Lethargy
  • Stops using the litter box or strains upon elimination
  • Develops puffiness or a lump under the skin
  • Hides for more than a day
  • Becomes ill-tempered or doesn’t want to be touched
  • Increased head shaking
  • Changes his routine or loses interest in his favorite games
  • Stops grooming
  • The “third eyelid” (nictitating membrance) emerges from the corner of his eye

Dog   

  • Lethargy
  • Disorientation
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased drinking
  • Vomiting or unproductive retching
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or bloody feces
  • Unexplained, sudden weight loss
  • Seizure
  • Pale gums or tongue
  • Increased panting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Persistent cough
  • Straining to urinate, decreased urination, or bloody urination
  • Inflamed ears or skin, or smelly ears
  • Discharge from ears, eyes, or nose
  • Difficulty walking or lameness
  • Head shaking

Take notes on changes in your pet’s habits and health and take him/her to the vet at the first sign of concern. Your vet will want to know details of your pet’s symptoms, including when they began. Until animals learn to talk, your pet needs you to speak for her.

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Fun & Games

By Nikki Senecal

Stella has wonderful parents who have found ways to channel her high energy!

Our Stella is part border collie. You can’t really tell by looking at her, but her high energy level gives her heritage away! We’ve had to come up with some ways to help her burn off her energy when the weather prevents a visit to the dog park or the sun has gone down (and her energy level has gone up).

  • Obedience Class – You can (and should!) continue to review the exercises you do in obedience class at home. A few sessions of 10-15 minutes each day will help redirect some energy. Start with exercises that require more movement like “touch,” “heel,” and “spin.” (Spin is very easy to teach. This link provides good direction.) Move on to less physical tasks like “leave it,” “sit-stay,” and “down-stay” once some of their energy has been released.

  • Hide and Seek – Once your dog has reliable recall, this game can be fun for the whole family. One family member holds the dog while the other(s) hides somewhere in the house. The hider then calls for the dog, “Stella! Come!”—or if your dog knows other commands, alternate. (We use “treat, treat, treat”—but if you use this one, you always have to have a treat!) Dogs have a harder time establishing where a sound is coming from than humans do, so if your dog seems confused call her name again or say “here” so she can locate you. Don’t repeat the command. Give her a small reward when she finds you. Two or more family members can move about the house hiding in different rooms. Hint: if you have a second floor, be sure to get the dog running up and down the stairs as much as possible! (Also, if your dog is afraid of the bathroom, she will still be afraid of the bathroom while you are playing this game. Don’t hide in there!)
  • Fun Agility – You may not have the time or inclination to compete in agility trials with your dog, but that’s no reason you can’t practice agility. All it takes is a couple of buckets and a leftover piece of quarter round to make an agility jump for your dog (ask me how I know). Teach your dog “over,” and she’ll have a new trick to keep her occupied. A hoola hoop can substitute for a tire jump (depending on the size of your dog). A 40” square table from the thrift shop can function as a pause table and some stakes can make a weave course. Click here for more details.
  • Three Card Monte – Dogs are the only other mammals besides humans who reliably understand pointing. Place a treat under a cup and put it in a lineup with other cups. Point the dog in the right direction and see if he can “find” his treat. Of course, the nose knows! (In this case, unlike three card monte version humans play in the street, spread the cups apart so that it’s easier to locate the smell of the treat.)
  • Working Hard for Her Dinner Treat dispensing toys offer an intellectual—and physical—puzzle for Fido. Anything you can do to get pet dogs thinking will help transfer their energy. Two that you can find at our house include the Kong Stuff-a-Ball and the Omega Tricky Treat Ball. The BusterCube comes recommended as well.

Recommended Reading
Two books that are in our library include:

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What Have We Done?

Obedience training can help ease the transition of a new puppy....for both the puppy and the new human parent!

By Nikki Senecal

Editor’s Note: Nikki Senecal and her husband adopted Stella from the Animal Coalition of Delaware County last year.  

At Stella’s first vet visit just days after we adopted her, the doctor declared, “Your dog has behavioral problems.” I replied that we had enrolled her in obedience classes. I was hurt by this diagnosis but completely unsurprised by it. My husband and I had spent the evenings with a dog who basically thought of us as human chew toys. What had we done? 

I told this story to my sister who rescued her dog 11 years ago. She revealed that she had similar doubts for the first few months. In fact, when I was telling this story to a group of ACDC volunteers, one admitted that she wondered what they had done when the dog got in the car to go home with them!  

Whether your cat is pooping on your bed, or your rabbit has chewed through PVC pipe flooding your bathroom, or your guinea pig is waking the kids from their naps, pets don’t always behave perfectly, especially in the early stages of a new relationship.  

While every adoption is different, there are some steps we can take to make them happy and successful.  

  • Talk to other adopters. I can’t tell you how relieved I was when my sister said she had doubts about her dog. Sometimes all you need to know is that the adjustment to the new pet is just as hard for other people as it is for you!
  • Attend obedience training. Not only will your dog learn some basic manners, but you will learn how to respond better to your dog. The classes will help build trust between you. Finally, dogs like to have a job and need intellectual stimulation as well as physical exercise. Obedience training helps with this too.
  • Get specialized training. Stella’s mouthiness wasn’t being addressed in our obedience class. That’s when we hired a certified professional dog trainer. Knowing how to respond to Stella made our evenings much more relaxing.
  • Restrict your pet’s space. Put the cat, its food, and litter box in one room until she begins to get used to her new home.
  • Smells of home. If your new pet comes to you with a bed or toy, continue to use it as a “security blanket.”

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The Temperature’s Rising

Stella taught her mom just how much the heat can affect dogs by refusing to walk during a walk!

By Nikki Senecal

We adopted Stella from the Animal Coalition of Delaware County in late June last year. One day in August, on our regular morning walk, she lay down and simply refused to get up. It was hot, but it didn’t occur to me that my little black dog was even hotter! We cut our 45-minute walks down to 30 when the temperature was over 80 degrees per the vet’s recommendation. (Black animals are particularly susceptible to heat.) Symptoms of overheating in pets include:  

  • Excessive panting or difficulty breathing
  • A deep red or purple tongue
  • White gums
  • Increased heart and respiratory rate
  • Drooling
  • Mild weakness, stupor, or even collapse.

They can also include seizures, bloody diarrhea and vomit along with a temperature over 104 degrees.  Animals exhibiting these symptoms should see a vet as soon as possible. Fortunately for us, Stella knows how to let us know she’s too hot.

When the temperature rises, Stella gets ice cubes in her water. (Though there have been reports of bloat being associated with ice cubes, there seems to be no firm documentation. Know the signs of bloat and know your dog!)  Ice cubes in a cat’s bowl may help interest them in drinking. Sometimes cats will stop drinking when they need to most. 

Neither domestic rabbits nor guinea pigs tolerate extreme temperatures well. They should be kept indoors.   

Other recommendations for the warmer weather:    

  • Make sure pets have access to shade if they are outside.
  • Keep pets indoors if the temperature soars.
  • Beware of high-rise syndrome (pets falling through open windows). Make sure screens are fastened and unscreened windows are closed.
  • Don’t walk your pet on hot asphalt which can raise their body temperatures and burn paw pads.
  • Brush your cats more frequently in hot weather to keep them cool.

And of course, never leave your pets in the car on warm days. Even at 70 degrees, your car can become as hot as an oven in as little as thirty minutes.  

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