Thursday, June 24, 2010

Riding Out A Storm With Your Pet

It's that time of year again, storm season, and Michigan has already had a number of dangerous storms.  All this wild weather is stressful for humans and their four legged friends.

Those of us who have grown up in Michigan know the importance of being prepared for tornados, floods, thunder and lightening, etc. We know to have flashlights, candles, bottled water, radio, cell phone, designated shelter in our home such as a basement or interior hallway. When the weather man says 'take cover' we know just what to do, grab the family and take cover, this includes our pets too!

We want to be sure that our pets are indoors as the storms start rolling in, especially if there is lightening. In the event that you could become separated from your pet make sure they're wearing collars with Identification. When ever our family is under the threat of severe weather I not only collar my dogs, I also have them on drag lines, leashes, to ensure that I can keep them with us. A dog can panic during a storm causing them to want to run and hide and we want to be sure they don't escape or become separated from us. Have an assortment of chew toys to give your dog something to do. It's helpful to distract your dog with a fun game of fetch or run through their list of obedience skills, anything to keep them occupied. If your dog is most comfortable in a crate, be sure to provide that safe place for them to rest and relax. With a youngter in our home we are quick to redirect him during storms and try to keep the mood light. Even when we are hunkered down in our basement we try to play with him, offer him treats anything that will help him not feel fearful or stressed. At 6 months  of age Bolt rarely notices thunder or lightening and can sleep through just about anything. I think living in a home with 3 teenagers has pretty much desensitized him to noise *grin*.

For dogs who are fearful or anxious during storms,  it's an especially stressful time. If your dog is experiencing fear and anxiety during storms, speak with your Vet. There are things you can do to help your dog be more comfortable such as using DAP products and if necessary prescription medication. A dog with storm phobia  rarely will improve without medical and behavioral intervention, so seek help.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Can You Meet Your Breeds Needs?

Over the years I have had many different breeds of dogs. The past 10 years I've had Labradors. I like their personality, size and energy level. I have a young active family and wanted a dog that would enjoy and tolerate the fast paced and often chaotic lifestyle of my home. I have a BIG fenced yard, enjoy being outside, love to walk and spend time at the water so the Labrador is a great fit for our family.

When people ask me 'whats a good breed of dog' I'm quick to start firing off a list of questions for them to consider:

How big of a dog do you want?
Do you care about shedding or have allergies?
Do you have a fenced yard?
How much time do you spend away from your home each day?
Do you have the time to committ to a puppy or would an adult dog be better?
Do you have other pets?

These are just some of the questions I ask people. There is so much to consider when adding a pet to your family. Most people research the purchase of a new car longer than they do the decision to add a dog to their home. True a car may cost more, but most people only have their cars 5 years and a dog lives an average of 12-15 years. Basing your decision to get a dog on solid information can help make owning a dog an enriching experience that changes your life for the better.

I often work with families who are not prepared to meet the needs that their particular breed of dog requires. A young lab, pointer, shepard for example will need daily vigorous exercise for years. All dogs need training, supervision, companionship and socialization. The average terrier LOVES to dig and without appropriate outlets for this behavior can make your backyard look like a scene from Caddy Shack. You have your herding breeds, yes they DO love to chase and herd things, even children. You have your hunting dogs with powerful noses ready and willing to follow a scent. The toys breeds tend to need less exercise and are popular with people who live in apartments or condos but are typically slower to housebreak. All dog breeds have unique needs. It's unrealistic to think that a dog will conform to our lifestyle, they are after all animals and are genetically hardwired to live up to their breed tendencies.

It is also important to note that mix breed dogs are true to ALL their breed tendencies so as best you can try to know their genetic makeup.