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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Caring For Your Senior Dog’s Teeth – Importance of Dental Care

As my dog. Ashley, gets older I have begun more and more to research issues that commonly occur in senior dogs. Ashley,  my Australian Shepherd,  is now 10 years old. So, I've decided to start a series of posts on issues that focus on the health issues that are common to most dogs as they age.

Recently, I made a trip to the veterinarian because Ashley was having an issue with excessive licking and drooling. The behavior was very evident after she finished one of her raw hide chews. She would lick as if she had peanut butter on the roof of her mouth. I also noticed that she was licking her paws more and a few times I found a puddle of drool after  It wasn't difficult to conclude that there was something dental in nature going on. Fortunately, I left with some dental salve and directions for some extra brushing. This experience inspired me to look into dental issues more.

The majority of dog owners are well aware that their beloved dog’s teeth will eventually start to wear down as the aging process kicks in. Most owners don’t realize that good dental care can extend the life of your dog by up to two years. Given the average lifespan of canines, two extra years can be a nice chunk of time that you and your family with get to spend with your furry friend.  

Although dental problems can show up in younger dogs, generally it's the older ones that commonly have the most issues. So, what are signs that your pooch may have teeth issues that have to be taken care of? Contrary to popular belief, dogs are not supposed to have bad breath, and if they do, that is the number one indicator that all is not well with their teeth. Failure to remove tartar will make it turn into plaque, which hardens and cannot simply be brushed away. A simple inspection of the teeth will show whether or not your dog has tartar because it will show up as redness in the gum line and teeth discoloration.

A symptom of dental problems, at first, may not seem in any way related in a change in behavior. A lack of energy and a general malaise in your dog can be related to tooth pain. If you notice this in your dog and they show no other signs of sickness, then watch them when they eat; if they favor one side of their mouth over the other, gulps down their  food without chewing, drools excessively, or has a complete loss of appetite, then they may be suffering from dental problems. These are subtle signs and can easily be mistaken as a sign that your dog is slowing down with age.

Even with the proper care, such as regular brushing, giving your dog vet recommended dental bones, and regular vet trips, dental problems may still arise.  Surgery might become the only option available if the condition is very serious. Surgery can be a dangerous prospect for an older dog as there are definite risks when it comes to administering an anesthetic, but your vet will most likely do a series of x-rays and tests beforehand to ensure that your dog is healthy enough to be able to get through the surgery safely.

Sadly, you may be faced with a difficult decision when it comes to surgery. The risk of problems in giving an older dog an anesthetic is almost balanced out by the fact that dental issues in older dogs, when left untreated, can lead to more serious health problems. These issues can lead to serious problems with major organs like the heart, liver, lungs, kidneys, and can even do damage to the bladder. You know your dog best, and with assistance from your vet, you will be able to make the choice that you both believe will give your dog the best shot at having a happy outcome.

For more information on dogs, dog care behavior visit my website, Loving Family Pets, at

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Do Dogs Dream?

When a sleeping dog suddenly yips loudly and her legs start moving as if running, it seems that she's dreaming. I've seen Ashley do this often, particularly after a busy day of chasing rabbits and playing.  I've often wondered, do dogs really dream? I did some research and here's what I found out.

Dogs do, in fact, dream. A dog's brain is really very similar to ours. Also, during sleep, the brain wave patterns of dogs are similar to those of people. A dog's brain goes through the same stages of electrical activity observed in humans, supporting the belief that dog's do dream. Researchers have  found that dogs, like humans, experience two stages of sleep. One sleep stage is NREM, or Non-Rapid Eye Movement sleep, during which you, and your dog, breathe deeply and demonstrate slow brain wave patterns. The second stage is called Rapid eye movement sleep, or REM. During this stage your dog demonstrates jerky eye movements, increased heart rate, and an increased pattern of brain waves. During this stage, humans, and dogs, dream.

There is also evidence that they dream of common dog activities. It makes sense, since much of what we humans dream about is connected to the experiences we have in our waking hours. As I watch Ashley sleep I can imagine that, in her dreams she is chasing a rabbit across the yard or a squirrel up a tree. Maybe she's playing with one of her dog friends. I guess I'll never know for sure but I do hope that her dreams are happy dreams.


Friday, December 9, 2011

Dog Greetings-How To Teach a Polite "Hello"

Nearly every dog gets excited when people come to visit, but some go completely overboard. They run around in circles, bark excessively, or jump as high as they can, leaving dusty little paw prints on your visitor jacket. Even people who love dogs don't enjoy being greeted with so much exuberance. Your visitor will appreciate even less the intrusion of inquisitive noses into embarrassing places.

Apart for walks and meal times, most dogs don't have a lot of high points in their days, so it's not surprising that hey get a little worked up when visitors drop by and liven things up. It's easy to train puppies to greet people with manners, but it's more difficult to teach older dogs to behave more soberly. Not only are they set in their ways but also there may be other reasons for their assertive hello.

In order to understand these dog greetings we need to understand a little about dog behavior. Among people, the most socially unacceptable kind of dog greeting is to have a cold nose pushed into the private place. But among dogs, this is simple the way they do things, and they can't figure out why people get so uncomfortable.  When a guest visits dogs have two things on their minds. First, they are excited about someone new entering the house. Secondly, they are also wondering how this new person will fit into the group, and they aren't quite sure how to respond.  So they display a whole variety of behaviors like jumping up, barking, and nudging in order to test how this new person is going to react to them.

In order to prevent the embarrassing nudge to your guest, quickly distract your dog as soon as you see her make a move. Use the "off" or "no" command and be consistent. An easy solution is to distract your dog as soon as people arrive. Never let One way to do this is to make her sit or lie down straight away. By going into traing mode, you will focus attention more on you than on the new arrivals. When she does what you tell her, give her a treat. Soon she will learn that acting calmly and following commands gets her something good to eat. It will reinforce a desired behavior when visitors arrive. Once your dog has calmed down and is sitting quietly you can let her satisfy her curiosity by sniffing your guests' hands.

When Ashley was young I had friends willing to help me with training stop by so that we could practice this. At first she would get so excited that following a "sit" command was just not working. So, I learned to put her on a leash before opening the door to guests. This gave me a little more control while we worked on the behavior. If she still had trouble I would stand on the leash so that she was forced to stay in the sitting position. I made sure that a reward was ready by keeping a jar of her favorite treats near the door.

Some dogs catch on quickly. Unfortunately, my Ashley took a little time. Remember to be patient. You want a guest visiting to be a positive experience for your dog. Greeting problems can be awkward because you can't deal with them in private-you can only work on it when someone is visiting. Although, at first, you will feel like you are paying more attention to your dog than your guest, over time you can have friends and guests visit without having to apologize for your dog's embarrassing "poke"hello.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Ashley's Favorite Treats

'Tis the Season for Treats!
For many of us the holidays means shopping and decorating but also great food! During this time of year we throw out our diets until after the new year and partake of the many treats that are such a big part of the holiday tradition. Let us not forget, however, our furry friends. Why shouldn't they also enjoy some treats during the holidays? Also, with budgets so tight recently, many people are looking for inexpensive or even homemade gifts for their friends and family.

For this post I thought I would post some of Ashley's favorite homemade treats. These could make a great addition to a pet lovers gift basket for friends or family who have dogs. I've tried each of these recipes and Ashley loved each treat. I should also tell you that I'm really not much of a cook and Ashley is rather picky about her treats so I they worked for us, they should work for anyone :-) 

Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits
 1 1/2 cup water
 1/2 cup vegetable oil
 2 medium eggs
 1/4 cup natural crunchy peanut butter
 2 tablespoons vanilla
 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
 3/4 cup unbleached flour
 1 cup cornmeal
 3/4 cup rolled oats

 Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a medium bowl, mix together the water,
 oil, eggs, peanut butter and vanilla. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine
 the dry ingredients. Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and beat
 with an electric mixer until smooth. Roll the dough into a ball and place it on a
 sheet of floured wax paper. Roll or pat out the dough to a thickness of 1/4 to
 1/2 inch. Cut the dough with a cookie cutter (preferably one shaped like a dog
 biscuit) and place the biscuits on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 20
 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the biscuits in the oven for one hour.

 Makes 1 to 2 dozen biscuits, depending on the size of your cookie cutters.

Pooch Peanut Butter Swirls
 Dough #1
 4 cups whole wheat flour
 1/2 cup cornmeal
 1 1/3 cups water
 1/3 cup peanut butter
 1 egg

 Dough #2
 4 cups whole wheat flour
 2/3 cup cornmeal
 1/2 cup banana -- mashed
 1 egg
 1 1/4 cups water
 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
 2 tablespoons molasses
 2 tablespoons cinnamon
 Combine all #1 ingredients and mix thoroughly. Knead on a lightly floured surface. Set aside.

 Combine all #2 ingredients and mix thoroughly. Knead on a lightly floured surface.

 Roll each dough separately to a 1/8 inch thickness, into rectangles. Lightly brush a little water over the
 top of the light dough. Place the dark dough on top, then roll up like a jelly roll. Wrap the roll in plastic
 and chill in the freezer for one hour. Cut the roll into 1/4 inch slices. Place them on a cookie sheet
 sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour.

Pumpkin-Patch Biscuits
1-1/2 c. whole wheat flour              1 T. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon                1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
4 T. butter flavored shortening         1/2 c. solid pack canned pumpkin
1 egg                                              1/2 c. buttermilk
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Combine flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg and cut in shortening. Beat egg with milk and pumpkin, and combine with flour, mixing well. Stir until soft dough forms. Drop by tablespoons onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool and serve. Enjoy.

Holiday Gifts for Pets and Pet Lovers
I know that it's easy to get treats from the store but there's really nothing like home cooking. Friends will appreciate the time and effort you put into making these treats for their dog. Consider also, the added health benefit that natural food with no artificial flavors and coloring have for your dog. You could put the treats in holiday plastic treat bags to give or include them as a part of the gift basket.

If you are looking for other holiday gift ideas try my Gifts for Pets and Pet Lovers suggestions. Also try Animal Den - this Animal Lovers Gift Shop is highly recommended. Great products, top service, five stars. You can get breed specific gifts here.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Keeping Your Pets Safe In Cold Weather

Here in Wisconsin winter is upon us. Soon we will have snow and temperatures will be dropping into below freezing temperatures. Those cold temperatures should be accompanied by caution when it comes to your pets safety. Here are some tips to keep your dog safe in winter.

1. Never let your dog off the leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm. It's easy for a dog to lose their scent in snow and ice making it easy for them to get lost. It's unsafe for you to go looking for them. More dogs are lost during the winter than during any other season.
2. Thoroughly wipe off your dog's legs and stomach when she comes in out of the rain, snow or ice. Check her sensitive paw pads, which may bleed from snow or ice encrusted in them. Also, your dog may have stepped in salt, antifreeze or other chemicals that could hurt your dog if she ingests them while licking her paws. Consider getting boots for your dog. They will get used to wearing them and they will protect your pups feet from the cold and sidewalk salt.

3. Consider getting a warm coat or sweater for your dog if you have a short-haired breed. Look for one with a high collar or turtleneck that covers your dog from the base of her tail on top and to the belly underneath. It's important to keep their vital organs warm to prevent hypothermia. While this may seem like a luxury, it is a necessity for many dogs.

4.  Never leave your dog alone in a car during cold weather. A car can act as a refrigerator in the winter, holding in the cold. Your dog could freeze to death.
5. If your dog is sensitive to the cold due to age, illness or breed type, take him outdoors only for a bathroom break.
6. If your dog spends a lot of time engaged in outdoor activities, increase his supply of food, particularly protein, to keep his fur thick and healthy. Dogs who must be kept outdoors should have an insulated shelter off the ground and out of the wind. During extreme cold they should be brought into the house. Check their water supply frequently to make sure it isn't frozen.

7. Antifreeze, even in very tiny doses, is a poison for dogs. Because of its sweet taste, animals are attracted to it. Be sure to thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle. To prevent accidental poisonings, more and more people are using animal-friendly products that contain propylene glycol rather than the traditional products containing ethylene glycol. Call your veterinarian or The ASPCA National Animal Poison Control Center (ASPCA/NAPCC) if you suspect your animal has been poisoned.

8. Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter. Leave the coat in a longer style, which provides more warmth. Remember that such a style will require more frequent brushing due to dry winter air and static electricity. When you bathe your dog, make sure she is completely dry before you take her out for a walk.

9. Make sure your dog has a warm place to sleep far away from all drafts and off the floor, such as in a dog bed or basket with a warm blanket or pillow in it.

Remember, if it's too cold for you, it's probably too cold for your pet. Although most are covered with a thick coat of fur there are still parts of their bodies that are exposed and susceptible to frostbite. A dog's nose, ears, and feet, depending on the breed, are often not as fur covered leaving them exposed to the cold. Be sure to contact your veterinarian any time your dog is acting strangely or is showing signs of hypothermia. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Cleaning Dogs Teeth Is Critical For Their Good Health

The topic of cleaning dogs teeth is sometimes met with laughter and funny looks but the fact is that there is nothing funny about a dog with bad teeth.  Just like humans, dogs need to practice good oral hygiene as having bad teeth can lead to a lot of health problems, the least of which is bad breath.

Just like in people, bacteria can build up in your dogs mouth.  If his teeth are not brushed regularly this can cause a hard, calcified build up that literally needs to be scraped off with a tool.  If left this way, your dogs teeth will rot and the bacteria will work it’s way into your dogs system damaging important organs and shortening your dogs life span.

One thing you should do to insure this does not happen is make sure your dog has regular Vet appointments that include a dental checkup. Don’t be surprised if your dog has to go in for a “scaling” where the calcified tarter is scraped away from the teeth - especially if his dental care has been neglected for some time.  Don’t worry, though, this procedure is quite harmless although your dog will be anesthetized so he might be groggy (and have sore teeth) for a day or two afterwards.

In order to limit these scaling procedures to a minimum, cleaning dogs teeth on a regular basis is critical.   This may be easier said than done, especially if you have never cleaned your dogs teeth before but patience and perseverance will pay off.

You can, and should, brush your dogs teeth just like you do your own.  There are two types of toothbrushes available for this - one is a rubber tube that fits over your finger and has rubber “bristles” on the end and the other is a toothbrush that looks very similar to a “human” toothbrush but angled a bit differently.  You’ll have to experiment with your dog to see which one works best for you.

The next thing you need is toothpaste.  They actually make special toothpaste for dogs and you don’t want to use “people” toothpaste as this won’t be good for your pet.  The “dog” toothpaste has enticing flavors like poultry and beef which sounds pretty gross to me, but my dog seems to love it!  More importantly than the flavor though is the enzymes that the toothpaste contains - they are specifically for battling the bacteria that builds up in a dogs mouth so you don’t want to skip using the toothpaste when you brush your pets teeth.

When cleaning dogs teeth, you need to be sure to get each and every tooth - even the ones way in the back - as well as around the gums.  Your dog probably isn’t going to like this at first but after a while he will get used to it and you really do need to be persistent and brush his teeth every day.  Doing so will help keep your pet healthy and those doggy kisses smelling sweet and fresh!

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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Nose Knows: How Dogs Use Sense

  One of the main ways that dogs communicate is with their sense of smell. they sniff other dogs to learn about their age, sex, and status. They can even tell a lot about a person's mood by the way he smells. A dog's sense of smell is up to a million times more sensitive than a human's.
  Dog's can detect scents we don't even know exist, and they can identify the faintest of smells, even when they're heavily masked by other scents. Dog's can smell things humans can't because they have more nasal membrane than we do. The nasal membrane is packed with olfactory receptors which are nerve endings that send messages to the brain in order for an odor to be detected.
  Dog's have another advantage. Their noses are always wet. It is believed that the moisture acts like Velcro, trapping scent molecules as they waft by. Along with the sticky mucus in the nasal passages, this allows dogs to collect and store large numbers of molecules as they pass by the nose. A dog's nostrils act like little antennas. dogs wiggle them to collect scents and figure out where they're coming from.
  When dogs raise their leg and urinate they are leaving a message behind to other dogs. This scent mark is unique to each dog just as fingerprints are to humans. When another dog comes by and sniffs these scent messages. These scent messages tell a dog about the originator's age, sex, and status.
  A dog's wagging tail communicates his demeanor but also plays a role in dog communication. Every time a dog moves his tail, it acts like a fan and spreads his scent.  Dogs have glands under their tail called anal glands. These glands contain an odoriferous liquid that's unique to each dog. We have all seen the meeting of two dogs during which they "exchange" information by sniffing under each others' tail. While this form of greeting is a little uncomfortable for the dog owners, it's important that the two dogs get the necessary information about each other to know where they stand with their new acquaintance. From the details they get they can tell how they should, or should not, continue the interaction. Every time the tail moves, the muscles around the anus contract, pressing on the glands, releasing the scent. A dominant dog who carries his tail high will release much more scent than a submissive dog who holds his tail lower.
  One of the reasons a nervous, frightened, or submissive dogs hold their tails between their legs is to prevent other dogs from sniffing them. It's their way of trying to fad into the background and not draw attention to themselves.
  Dog's also recognize their human's scents along with the smells of all the other people he's been introduced to. Experts refer to this as the dog's "scent memory". These memories are associated with the dog's experience with the person whether it was positive or negative.
  Believe it or not, a dog can tell a lot about your mood just by your smell. A person's body odor is blieved to change depending on his or her mood, and dogs are thought to be able to pick up on this.
 There are some smells that dog's dislike. Among these are citrus smells, such as lemon, lime, and orange, and spicy smells like red pepper. They particularly dislike the smell of citronella, which is why it's often used in spray form to keep dogs away from certain areas.There are odors dogs love that their owners really wished they didn't, such as the smell of trash or garbage.
    Some dogs, such as bloodhounds and German shepherds are known for their sense of smell. It's believed that a bloodhounds long ears help collect scent and pull it toward their nose as they move their nose along the ground. These dogs are often used as scent dogs for rescue as well as for drug or bomb sniffing missions.
   Come back in a few days to learn more about how dog's communicate. Until then please visit Your Family Pet to learn more about dogs and other pets such as cats, rabbits, and guinea pigs.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Understanding Dog Communication

Welcome back to my series on dog communication. Ten years ago I adopted my first dog and since then have spent a great deal of time researching dog behavior. Through my research and what I've been taught by animal behavior experts and dog trainers I've decided to share what I've learned. Understanding dog communication and behavior has helped me create a happy bond with my own dog and my hope is that this information will do the same for you. In this article I would like to share what I've learned about how dog's use their voice to communicate.
As humans we tend to be verbal creatures. This makes it natural for us to expect that barking is the main way that dogs communicate with each other. To a dog, though, barking is far less important than other forms of communication, such as body language or scent marking.
Still, barks, whines, howls, and growls are all ways dogs communicate what they want. To understand this you need to look at the sound the dog is making and the context in which the dogs is "speaking".

Barking is the dog equivalent of human conversation. It's a great way to get the attention of your human or another dog. Dogs also use barking to announce territory and it actually releases stress. After all, who doesn't just feel like letting loose with a good holler or scream now and then to let off a little steam. Different barks can mean different things:
  • A series of high-pitched barks means your dog's worried or lonesome and wants attention.
  • A single bark in her regular voice means she's curious and alert and is making contact.
  • Quick, repetitive, high-pitched barks mean your dog's feeling playful, or has spotted something she wants to chase.
  • A low, repetitive bark-the sort your dog makes when a stranger approaches-means she's feeling defensive or protective.
Growling is one of those sounds your dog may make that unmistakeably means there's something wrong. This is a sound that really needs little interpretation. Dog's also growl, however, when they are frightened and even, sometimes, during play.
  • When your dog combines a growl with a dominance posture, he's feeling aggressive.
  • When he combines a growl with a submissive posture, he's feeling fearful or defensive.
  • A growl during play isn't aggressive.
Howling is the way a dog gets in touch with other dogs, even when they're miles away. A sing-song howl is used to contact other dogs, and means your dog is curious or happy. This is probably the howl you hear when your dog "sings" along with a police siren. It's believed that the sound of the siren is close enough to the sound of another dog that it triggers an instinct in your dog to "answer" or join in. Breeds that were bred to work together as a pack, like sled dogs such as the Husky, seem to have a greater tendency to howl. Others, like my Australian Shepherd, who were bred to work alone don't tend to using howling as a means of communication.
A plaintive, mournful howls is a signal of distress or great loneliness.

Whining or Whimpering
Whining and whimpering are sounds that go back to a dog's puppy-hood, when these sounds got him attention. When your dog is excited or lonesome, he'll whine or whimper to get your attention. These can sound like yawns. When he's stressed, fearful, or worried, he'll give repetitive, squeaky whines that may be punctuated with shrill yaps.

Mixed Messages
We spend a lot of time with our dogs and get to know them pretty well. It's important to remember, however, that we have different methods of communication and our motivations for using certain vocalizations can be entirely different. In many cases we send mixed signals to our dogs. A great example of this is yelling at your dog to try and get her to stop barking. To a dog, however, we are say, "Hey, let's all bark! I'm barking, you're barking, let's bark together!"

Stop Excessive Barking
Teaching a dog to curb his barking can take a lot of time and patience. That's why early on it was one of the first commands I taught my dog. Many trainers believe that teaching a dog to bark on command is the key to training a dog to stop barking. I know this sounds strange but I've found this quite effective.
First, find out what you can do to start your dog barking. Speaking in an excited tone may do it or jumping up and down, running, or waving your arms in an excited way. When your dog starts to bark, praise her by telling her "good bark" or "good speak" and give her a treat. Keep doing this until just giving the command will set her off.
Once she barks on command, it's time to teach her to stop on command. Use the command to get her barking. Then when she pauses between barks, give her a treat and tell her "good quiet." dogs can't bark and chew at the same time,, and most dogs will eagerly swap one activity for the other. Keep practicing this until your dog consistently stops barking when you give the "quiet" command.
The ideas isn't to stop the barking entirely. We want our dogs to let us know when something is wrong and some dogs need to get barking our of their system. They also, however, need to learn to respond to the "quiet" command.
Another key to curbing barking is to make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise and interaction with you. Remember, dogs bark for a reason and many times it's their way of making a connection with you.

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Check back for more information on how dog's communicate. Next time we'll explore how dogs use scent to communicate. Until then, take a look at my webpage,Your Family Pet, for more information about dogs and other common family pets.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

How Do Dogs Communicate With Other Dogs: Dog Body Language

  When two dogs meet for the first time it doesn't take long for them to become acquainted. Within minutes of meeting they've determined one another's sex, age, and status, and come to an understanding as to which dog is the more dominant. There may be the quick affirmation of dominance by one dog mounting the other. How do they decide this? Well, dog communication involves several things, body language and scent. In this article we'll cover how dog's speak using body language.
  Throughout a dog's life, body language will be the most important way for dog's to talk with each other. He'll use his eyes, tail ears, and general stance to let them know what's on his mind. When two dogs meet, the first thing they do is establish their rank. A dog who wants to say, "I'm confident, I'm fearless, and what are you going to do about it?" does so by putting his head, tail, ears, and hackles up and by making eye contact. If another dog of lesser rank wants to reply, "O.K, got it." he'll lower his tail and ears and possible crouch or lick his lips.
  When a dog wants to invite another do to play, there's no mistaking his message. He's happy, panting, grinning, and his tail is waging so hard that his whole rear end is wiggling. He may drop into a play-bow, then back up and pretend to run.
  On the other hand, if they've been playing hard and one dog decides he's had enough, he'll start ignoring the other dog. If that doesn't work, he might raise a lip, growl, or even snap to get the other dog to back off. At this point the other dog will either get the message and move on his way or he may try to bring things to a friendly level again. To do this he'll use many gestures. He may lick the other dog's mouth, roll over, and expose his belly. These are all gestures that show submission. The dog might also use other appeasing gestures such as flattening his ears, lower his body and squinting.
  The use of body language in dogs allows them to tell a lot about each other. Here are some other ways dogs communicate with body language.
  • Direct eye contact means a dog is feeling bold and confident.
  • Averted gaze is submissive
  • Ears that are up and forward means a dog is challenging or being assertive
  • Ears laid back show that a dog is worried or scared.
  • Pawing is a submission gesture.
  • Draping the head over another dog's shoulders is a challenge or sign that a dog is asserting dominance.
  • Licking the lips is a sign a dog is worried or is being appeasing.
  • Lips pulled back are a challenging or warning sign.
  • Hackles raise indicate either a dog is frightened or is challenging another dog.
  • Smooth hackles show a dog is calm.
  • Tail held straight out, wagging rhythmically and slowly, means that a dog is cautious or on guard.
  • Tail held up and wagging fast indicates excitement.
  • A tail between the legs is a sign of fear.
  Understanding how dogs communicate with other dogs can be useful in situations where your dog may come in contact with others, such as at the dog park. There have been times when noticing the body language of another dog and my dog's response has caused me to remove my dog from what could be potential conflict. As a dog owner I've learned to be more in-tuned to the subtleties of dog body language which also has come in handy when introducing my dog to other dogs. There are times when I see that they are "working things out" on a doggie level or see that we'll need to approach this new relationship in a more careful way.
  Come back soon as I continue my serious on pet communication and how to speak dog. In my next article I plan to cover how dogs use their voice to communicate. In the mean time feel free to visit my website, Your Family Pet, for more information on dogs and other family pets.

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How To Speak Dog

   Even though our relationships with our dogs have some "human" qualities, such as mutual respect and affection, there's an inevitable distance between us. We belong to different species, after all, and we see the world and communicate in very different ways. Sometimes dogs are telling us things we can't understand. And sometimes we want to tell them things but don't know the best ways to experss them.  This doesn't mean we can't talk to our dogs. It just mans we have to learn how to speak dog language.
  Although we consider our dog a part of our family, dog's aren't like us.  This is why our words and gestures mean nothing to them or, in some cases, mean the opposite of what we're trying to say. Hugging is a good example of this. To us, a nice hug is a sign of affection. But dogs don't feel that way. The nearest they come to hugging in when one dog, in an attempt to dominate, pins another dog's shoulders with her paws. So dogs may view hugs as signs of dominance rather than affection.
   In my next series of blogs I'll explore dog human communication. What are you saying to your dog? What is your dog trying to tell you? Come back each day for more information about how dogs communicate with us and with other dogs. Hopefully, the information and insights in this blog will improve your relationship with your family friend.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dress For Success

Thanks for joining me as we explore the ways we can help our favorite pets get over their fears and anxieties. Training, treats, lots of exercise, and medications can all help your pup stay happy and healthy. For some dogs, one simple plan is all you need. For others, a combination of techniques will be required. And for some, nothing seems to help when faced with loud, scary noises.

Thunderstorms and fireworks are a huge problem for lots of dogs and their owners. I've seen dogs that are normally confident and sassy be reduced to shivering, drooling, frightened pups at the first flash of lightening. The Fourth of July can be a nightmare for these poor dogs, and most of them only get worse as they get older.

As we said before, it's possible to train your dog to expect good things when the thunder booms, and there are pills that can ease his anxiety as well. But there's another option you might want to consider - the Thundershirt
The Thundershirt works by wrapping your dog in a tightly fitted vest. The constant pressure is said to relieve anxiety in much the same way swaddling helps to soothe a crying baby, or a weighted vest can help a nervous child to relax and focus.

Thundershirts are available in sizes to fit nearly every dog from tiny toys to extra large breeds like Rottweillers. They come in three colors, so the fashion-conscious pooch can coordinate her wardrobe. And they offer a 100% money back guarantee. If the Thundershirt doesn't help your dog get over his fears, simply return it within 45 days for a full refund.

I hope you have found these tips helpful. After all, we have our pet as companions and want they to lead happy lives. Look for my next series coming soon.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Who's The Boss

Thanks for joining me as we explore the ways we can help our favorite pets get over their fears and anxieties. Last time we talked about teaching your dog a few tricks to help him gain confidence and to relieve his fears. There's an even bigger benefit to good training, though: It teaches your dog who is boss.

Dogs are pack animals, and in every pack there is a dominant dog who is in charge. That dog provides the meals for the pack, decides where they live, and ensures the safety of all the pack members. To your dog, you and your family are his pack, and if you don't take charge of the pack, he may feel the need to step up and become the leader.

And this can lead to serious anxiety issues for your pet.

Imagine if you're in charge of the safety and health of a group, but every day that group locks you up and goes away. You don't know where they're going or when they'll return, and you have no way to follow them. You'd be a worried mess all day, too.

In order to avoid doing this to your pet, you need to make it clear to him that you are in charge, and that he can relax. In short, you need to establish yourself as the boss. There are books that recommend scary-sounding tricks like the alpha roll, but that's a good way to scare your dog even more. Instead, consistent training is the key.

Never give your dog a command you can't enforce. In other words, unless you're prepared to make your dog sit if she doesn't comply, then don't give the command. Allowing her to disobey you reinforces the idea that you're not the boss - the exact opposite of what you're trying to accomplish. If you tell your dog to come and he doesn't, then go and get him. Not in an angry or upset way, but firmly.

The same goes for repeating a command. Don't do it. When you repeat a command what you're really teaching your dog is that he or she only needs to obey you sometimes, because other times you don't mean what you say. That's a sure fire way to confuse your dog and escalate his anxiety rather than alleviate it.

So give your pup the training he needs and wants, but do it consistently and firmly, so there is never any doubt in his mind just who's in charge.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Home Of Her Own

You know how sometimes the kids and the dog and the spouse and the job all just seem to gang up on you and all you want is to go lie down and relax? Sometimes that's all your dog wants, too. Just a quiet place he won't be disturbed for a while.

For dogs prone to anxiety attacks, this can be especially important. In fact, you'll often find anxious dogs hiding under the bed, behind the sofa, or even in the bathtub - all places that are small and confined and offer a sense of security. Why not give your dog just such a place he or she can call her own?

Safe places come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The most common option is a crate, which can serve double-duty as a place where your pooch can hang out when you're not home, potentially saving your living room rug from certain doggy disasters. Choose a crate that's large enough for your dog to stand, sit, lie down, and turn around in, but not so large that you could put several dogs in it. Think cozy, not palatial.

You'll probably need to experiment with crate placement. Some dogs are unhappy if they're left out of the action, so tucking a crate away in a corner of the basement might just make your pup even more anxious.   If that's the case with your pooch, try setting up her crate in a bedroom, or opt for a decorative crate that serves as a small table as well. Alternately, you might choose a crate that folds up, so you can set it up only when you need it, and tuck it away in the closet when it's not in use.

Another way to make your pup feel safe is to give her a bed or pillow that is her's alone. This is her safe spot, and the place you ask her to go when, for example, company is over. Make sure the family respects her bed, and that no one bothers her when she's in it, otherwise it will fail to provide the sense of security your dog needs.

Also, be sure you never punish your dog by making her get in her crate or her bed. Doing so will associate her home with anxious feelings, and only make her more nervous when it's time to be crated. Her bed and her crate should be a happy place where she can spend time alone, just as your bedroom is your sanctuary when you need some peace and quiet in your day.

For more information on dogs and other pets please visit

Training For Confidence

Thanks for joining me as we explore the ways we can help our favorite pets get over their fears and anxieties. In the last email we talked about giving your pup a workout to help him run off his fear and anxiety. While physical exercise is important (for both of you), mental exercise can be even more critical when it comes to helping your dog get over his fear.

Dogs like to know what's expected of them. Their goal is to please the leader of the pack (you), but unless they know what the leader expects, they can't comply. Basic obedience training addresses your dog's worry that he's not doing the right thing, while  at the same time helping to keep him safe from dangers like traffic.

All dogs are willing and capable of learning basic commands like sit, stay, down, and come. You can begin training pups as young as seven weeks, and no dog is too old to learn. Work with your dog in short sessions, no more than 10 minutes, and be sure to vary the environment, otherwise your dog may learn to sit, but only in the living room. Once you've mastered the basics, consider moving on to more complicated concepts for even greater confidence.

Having a job to do can mean the difference between a bored, anxiety ridden dog, and a confident member of the pack. Your dog's job might be as simple as fetching the toy you asked for, or as complicated as closing the door behind after he comes in the house. Having a dog that can perform these kinds of tasks is not only good for his or her mental health, but it's a lot of fun for you as well, so make training an entertaining part of your day, and you'll both look forward to it.

If you need help getting started, many of the larger pet stores offer dog training classes, or check your local yellow pages for training facilities in your area. Click-a-Trick Education along with other classes are available at PetSmart.

Check back tomorrow for another great tip. Until then . . .

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Good For The Dog! And Good For The Human, Too!

Thanks for joining me as we explore the ways we can help our favorite pets get over their fears and anxieties. Last time we talked about keeping your pup happy by letting him party with his pooch friends. But for some dogs, crowds can be a problem. In fact, some dogs just plain don't like other dogs at all, so dog parks and puppy play dates are out.

Keeping your dog cooped up in the house isn't the answer either. Just like people, dogs need exercise to keep their bodies and their minds healthy. For some dogs, one or two walks per day might be enough, but for high-energy pups like Border Collies and German Shepherd Dogs, you're going to have to do some work.

If you have a fenced yard, a rousing game of frisbee or fetch can tire you both out and help keep the anxiety away. If you don't have a fence, check your local parks. Some have enclosed baseball fields that will work in a pinch - just make sure you clean up after your dog.

No fence and no baseball diamond nearby? No worries. With a little adaptation, you can take your dog for a bike run that will surely tire him out. Simply attach the Springer to your bike, clip the leash to your dog's harness, and you'll be ready to hit the bike trails. Your dog will be able to run freely without getting tangled in the wheels or pedals, and you won't have to worry that he'll run off after another dog and take you down with him.

Remember, a tired dog is a happy dog, so get out there and give your pup some well-deserved exercise to help keep him calm and well-behaved.

An Important Note:  Physical exercise is important for your dog's overall health, but there's another kind of exercise that's critical for a happy dog. Stick around to learn how you can turn your timid pooch into a confident canine.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Doggie Day Care: The Social Scene for Dogs

Thanks for joining me as we explore the ways we can help our favorite pets get over their fears and anxieties. So far we've covered how to help your pup over those rough spots and to remain calm in the face of fear. Whether you were able to sooth his frayed nerves with just a simple change of attitude or something stronger was required, the only way to maintain the calm is to make some lifestyle choices. In short, your pup needs some supportive friends.

Dogs are social creatures. In the wild, they live in packs, but a lot of domesticated dogs have little in the way of social interaction. Sure, you're their best friend, but you're at work all day, leaving puppy isolated, lonely, and bored. That can be a recipe for an anxiety attack.

For a pooch who suffers from separation anxiety, doggy day care might just be the answer. Rather than leaving your pup home alone, drop him off at a day camp where he can run and play with other dogs, hang out with animal-loving staff, and - most importantly - return home tired and happy at the end of the day.

Doggie day care doesn't have to be an expensive boutique experience - although it can be if that's what you and your dog prefer. You can also trade dog-sitting duties with friends. Who ever doesn't have to work that day gets to host a party.

And you don't have to drag your dog to camp every day to see the effect, either. Just a couple of days a week can make a huge difference in the life of a socially isolated dog, so check around and see what facilities are available where you live, or pair up with a friend or two to help keep all your dogs happy and healthy.

An important note: Dogs who are anxious can sometimes be aggressive towards other dogs, so never leave strange dogs alone together. If your dog just can't tolerate the company of others, all is not lost. Check out the next email for ideas about keeping an anti-social pup happier.

Take A Chill Pill, Pup!

Thanks for joining me as we explore the ways we can help our favorite pets get over their fears and anxieties. In the last email we covered how offering a special snack or distracting your dog with a tasty treat during stressful times can help take his mind off the worry. For a lot of dogs, that's enough, especially if you're able to catch their anxious moments early enough.

For some dogs, though, these tricks just won't do it. Particularly nervous dogs might simply ignore a treat, or worse, vomit after eating it. Highly anxious dogs like this might sometimes require intervention in the form of medication.

A popular over-the-counter choice is melatonin, which is a hormone that helps regulate our sleep patterns. Taking melatonin is said to have a positive effect on mood and to have a calming influence. Melatonin is a natural product that can be purchased in the vitamin aisle of nearly every drug store, but just because it's natural and available over the counter doesn't mean it's the right choice for your dog. Always check with your veterinarian before giving your pup any medications.

Another option for fearful dogs is benadryl. This drug, also available over the counter, is used to treat allergies in both humans and dogs. However, one of the major side effects is sleepiness, which can counteract an anxiety attack. Again, check with your vet before giving any animal benadryl or any other medication.

Finally, severely anxious dogs may benefit from taking anti-depressants. Just like their humans, dogs can have a chemical imbalance that causes them to be depressed and anxious, and this imbalance can be controlled with the use of prescription medications. Ask your vet about the options available for your dog if he or she isn't responding to other treatments.

Come back tomorrow for another tip!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Driving Your Dog To Distraction

Thanks for joining me as we explore the ways we can help our favorite pets get over their fears and anxieties. Last time we talked about the power of acting natural, but sometimes ignoring that sad little shivering mess of a dog isn't the answer.

While we'd like to convey to the dog that all is well with the world simply by appearing calm ourselves, a dog that's all wrapped up in his own anxious thoughts might not notice our cool demeanor. He might just need a little help in the form of a tasty snack to take his mind off his troubles.

There are two mechanisms at work here. The first is simple distraction. It's hard to be worried about the noise outside when you're concentrating on that cookie mom's about to toss your way. The second is positive reinforcement. By bringing out those yummy biscuits when bad things start to happen, those bad things begin to look good instead. Thunder = Snausages! Woo-Hoo! Bring on the rain! Or at least that's what we hope will happen.

This is not an instant fix, of course. It takes many frightful episodes paired with delicious snacks before your dog will begin to make the connection. As with anything, consistency and repetition is the key to long-term success.

But what if Fido only gets anxious when you leave? Obviously you can't be there to administer the soothing snack foods, but you can make sure your leaving is something to look forward to by offering your dog a special home-alone treat.

 Kong Toys filled with Peanut Butter or dog treats are a good choice since the dog will have to work at getting all the goodies out. This will keep him occupied long enough to get over the fact that you've left him. If you find he cleans out his Kong too quickly, try filling it with kibble, pouring in some low-sodium beef broth, and freezing it.

Neither of these methods will work, however, if your fearful pup has access to Snausages and Kongs all the time. It has to be a special treat that only comes out during times of stress.

Stop back tomorrow for another great tip!

Just Act Natural

If you're like most dog owners, when your beloved pet is upset or frightened, your first instinct is to cuddle and comfort them. While it can be helpful when dealing with anxious children, this kind of comfort can actually make your dog's anxiety problem worse.

Since your dog doesn't understand logic, you can't explain to him that the thunder isn't going to hurt him, like you can with a child. Instead, what he understands is that the thunder got a reaction out of you, too. Therefore, it must be bad.

Hopefully you would never take the opposite approach and reprimand your dog for his nervousness, but if you did, you'd have the same effect. The dog would see that the thunder (or whatever else is upsetting him) is making you nervous and upset as well. His reaction is then justified, and he's going to become more likely to react in the same way in the future, rather than less likely.

The solution? Just act natural. Don't scold him or praise him or do anything at all differently. As much as you can, simply ignore the anxiety-causing thing that's driving your dog crazy. Your dog looks to you for guidance about how to act in different situations, and if you show him that the storm or fireworks or screaming neighbor kids don't bother you, they'll be less likely to bother him, too.

But that's not to say there's nothing you can do to help your dog remain calm on the Fourth of July. Stick around for the next email, and we'll talk about how to make your dog actually look forward to fireworks.

Check back tomorrow for another tip!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dealing With Doggie Anxiety

It's not just people who suffer from anxiety disorders, your beloved pet dog can have some anxious days as well. And if you're not taking steps to monitor and reduce the stress your puppy feels, you might just find yourself with a basket case for a best friend every time it storms. That's no fun for either of you, so in this 10-part series, we're going to look at some causes of - and cures for - dog anxiety disorders.

First, lets talk about the why of dog anxiety. Like people, every dog has his or her own personality. Their unique traits are formed by a combination of genetics and environment. Some dog breeds are more susceptible to nervousness, particularly toy breeds and certain other purebreds. And some dogs may have been frightened by exposure to loud noises or overly enthusiastic children when they were very young, which can have a negative effect even when they're older.

You can minimize the possibility of having an anxious family pet by carefully choosing the right breed for you and your family, and by training and socializing your new puppy properly. But if you get an older dog, or one of undetermined heritage, it can be a challenge to overcome whatever issues he comes with.

Anxiety in dogs manifests in a variety of ways. You may come home from work one day and find your sofa shredded or your dog may urinate whenever someone reaches to pet her. Some dogs hide in corners, under furniture, or even in the bathtub during thunderstorms, and many simply refuse to respond to commands when under stress. All these situations are frustrating for dog owners, and frustrated owners lead to even greater anxiety for already suffering dogs. It's a vicious cycle that can be hard to break.

Over the next 10 days we're going to take a closer look at the 10 best ways to deal with dog anxiety, some tools you can use to help reduce your pup's stress levels (and your own), and I'll show you my favorite sources for information on this all-too-common dog problem. So stick around. A happier home life for you and your pet is just around the corner!

Come back tomorrow to get another tip for soothing your pup's nerves. Until then, visit Your Family Pet for more information on dogs and other family pets.