Boarding Dogs: 6 Steps to Limit Stress

melbourne-pet-kennelsBoarding can be a stressful experience for dogs and humans.  Being prepared and aware of some of the options and concerns can really help make it a reasonable experience for both yourself and your dog.

So what can you do to ensure a pleasant stay?

1 – Have a list of your concerns to ask the business.  These should include things like:

  • Veterinary information and what steps the facility will take in the event of an emergency
  • Insurance information for the boarding facility
  • Where will the dog be kept through the day/night?
  • What exercise the dog will get?
  • How many and what kind of dogs (if any) will be interacting with yours?
  • What kind of supervision will the interactions will get?
  • What inoculations are required?
  • What do they feed?  Some kennels will insist on feeding their own food while others want you to maintain your dog’s current diet.
  • How big will your dog’s area be?
  • Will they have an individual area?

2 – Bring some things that will help your dog feel at home.  These may include their favourite toys, beds and chews.  If you have a puppy or a dog who is likely to stress, the things you include should not be potential dangers if chewed.

3 – Pick the right type of boarding facility for your dog.  There are a few main styles which include:

– in home where you send your dog to someone’s home
– in home where someone else moves into your home
– kennel environment which can include a daycare

What dogs should go where?

In home:
– puppies – puppies can get put off easily by big, noisy environments.  Young puppies especially can have life altering experiences if they are put into overwhelming kennel situations.  The noise of the other dogs, unfamiliar environment and people can be really hard for a puppy to deal with.
– senior dogs – old dogs who are used to quiet environments may also find a kennel environment hard to deal with.  Physically, they may find the cold, hard floor to be too much, especially if they suffer form arthritis.

Kennel:
– Dogs who require a lot of exercise can benefit from an environment that provides stimulation through daycare or board & train programs.  Extra exercise and fun through the day will help them relax through the evening.

4 – Be sure to include a list of instructions such as medications, dietary or social restrictions, as well as anything else the staff should know about your dog.

5 – Try overnight first.  Set your dog up with a single day/night stay prior to your 2-week vacation to  help them acclimate to the new environment.  Let the staff know that you would like feedback on how the dog made out.

6 – Book early!  Don’t wait until the last minute to plan your dog’s stay.  This will lead to a rushed decision that may be the wrong one.  Doing your research and planning their boarding well in advance will ensure you feel confident about the decision you’ve made for their stay.

Enjoy your vacation!

Christmas with Canines: Eliminate the Dangers!

11480754_sChristmas should be a magical time for all.  Don’t ruin your holiday with a trip to the Emergency Vet – be aware of a few Christmas dangers and keep everyone in your family safe this holiday season.

Things to be aware of:

  • Tinsel: Tinsel can be a tempting treat for dogs.  It’s shiny and fun to shred.  Swallowing pieces of tinsel can result in a bowel obstruction.  Even a well trained, older dog may take interest in something novel like tinsel, so try to block access to the tree when you can’t supervise.
  • Glass or plastic ornaments:  Some dogs, who like to crunch and destroy, may be temped by ornaments.  Keeping dogs away from temptations such as these when you can’t intervene is a good way to keep them safe.
  • Wrapped presents: If you’ve ever given your dog a wrapped gift to open, you’ll know that they are very good at quickly getting into them!  Remembering that their sense of smell is far greater than ours, there is a good chance that they can identify items high in scent and perfume even through shrink wrapping and containers.  Wrapped gifts of chocolate, soap, alcohol and other foods can be deadly if dogs sniff them out and get into them.
  • Christmas Trees, Holly, Mistletoe, Poinsettia:  All of these can be mildly to severely toxic depending on how much is ingested.
  • Food:  Dogs love to eat!  If there are nuts, trays of cheese, fruit baskets, cakes, etc. left on the table and your dog is unsure of the rules, they may help themselves.  There are plenty of foods around on the holidays that may cause digestive upset or worse dangers for your dog.  Be aware of the household garbage as well.  Be sure your dog isn’t getting into turkey or chicken bones.  They can splinter and be lethal.

To ensure an enjoyable holiday for you and your canine, take care to supervise closely!  Even a reliably trained dog can fall to temptation when the right ones are presented.  Include them in the festivities so they can be part of the action, but have a place to tuck them away safely, like a crate or room, when the festivities become too busy to properly attend to the dog.

Taking the Fear out of Nail Trimming

“Oh my word, NO!!!!”  That was her response when I asked her if she wanted to practice nail trimming with her Head Start puppy.  Clearly she was terrified of the process.  I asked her why.   “My last dog used to fight so hard, we had to muzzle him and eventually had to resort to anaesthetizing him to get his nails trimmed.  It was awful!”

We hear these and other similar stories all of the time in classes and we consider it all the more reason to work hard with your puppy to get them used to nail trimming.  With a little bit of knowledge and practice, nail trimming can be a simple part of grooming.  Remember that even if you don’t want to trim nails yourself, your dog will have to be part of the process and it’s essential that they are comfortable with it.

For a healthy foot, nails should be trimmed short on a regular basis.  Care should be taken to avoid trimming too close and nipping into the nail’s blood vessel (the “quick”).  Also be aware that some dogs have dewclaws that will need trimming.  If present, they will be on the insides of the lower leg (possibly front and back), though often, breeders will remove these at a few days old.

Whether you are starting with a young puppy or an older dog, a little practice, paired with some well-timed rewards, will help you and your dog overcome any stress about nail trimming.

With that in mind, we’ve prepared this video to help you teach your dogs how to be comfortable with nail trimming!

Stop!  Please keep away!  My dog needs space!!! How do Yellow Ribbons Help?

yellowdog_279x378Presented for your consideration: Donna & Skippy – Skippy is a happy young dog.  Boisterous and energetic, always up for a good time!  Innocently, Donna thinks he should socialize with all dogs – he is super friendly, after all.  Skippy always loves everyone he meets and just wants to play, play, play!  He walks his owner down the street and when he sees another dog, his whole body vibrates as he pulls and lunges to go for a visit.  Now enter Devon and Spike – Spike is insecure.  He approaches other dogs nervously: tail down, ears back, averting his gaze while trying to maintain a polite position at Devon’s side.  Devon recognizes that Spike doesn’t like to greet other dogs and does her best to keep them away, but she has found that all too often, people don’t acknowledge her requests for space.  As they approach each other, Devon says, “please give us space, my dog is nervous.”  Donna, thinking that Skippy is just a super-friendly guy, still allows him to pull into Spike’s space.  Spike reacts poorly with a growl, followed by a snarl, lunge and snap.  Skippy squeals, urinates and then cowers behind his clearly agitated owner.  Donna snaps at Devon, “he just wanted to say, ‘hi’.  Your dog is aggressive and should be muzzled.”

What’s your take on this scenario?  Who is responsible?  Who should take the blame for the altercation?  If you answered Spike, you need to read and re-read until you realize you’re way off.  Not all dogs are friendly – that’s just a fact of life.  Just as you probably wouldn’t appreciate a stranger jumping into your lap at the park, not all dogs want to be greeted by other dogs or people.  Perhaps  you have a reactive dog, or maybe your dog is frightened.  What if you have a dog in training and don’t want visitors interrupting the process?  Maybe you have a dog who’s been injured and can’t risk play.  All very good reasons for you and your dog to be given space.  Both Devon and Spike gave very clear information.  Devon verbally requested space, which Donna ignored.  Spike requested space through body language, which Skippy ignored.  Skippy has never learned to approach other dogs using good manners.  A crucial lesson to be taught to all young dogs is to wait for permission to say hello and if you aren’t given permission, leave the other dog alone.

Poor Spike!  Asking for space is often a hard message to convey, but it’s getting easier!  There has been a global movement in the dog training world.  Perhaps you’ve heard about it?  The Yellow Dog Project (TYDP), born in Red Deer, AB has been gaining momentum since 2012.  It’s a simple, but powerful idea: if you see a yellow ribbon tied to a dog’s collar or leash, don’t approach.  That dog has requested space and we need to give it to them.

What a great way to quickly request that other dogs/people be kept away from your dog!  As a bright colour, it’s clear and easy to see.  Please help us spread the word with TYDP.  If you have a dog who needs space, use a yellow ribbon.  Talk about the project to other dog owners and ask them to spread the word.  Follow TYDP on Facebook for up-to-date events and posters that you can print and use in your community.  Most importantly, if you see a yellow ribbon, give that dog their space and give their owner a smile to thank them for their efforts in helping their dog be happy and safe!884995_344692135632404_65083432_o

Happy Training!

Images courtesy of The Yellow Dog Project

Safe Travels with your Dog

dog-barriersWe’ve all seen dogs traveling in unsafe manners, flinging themselves wildly about the back seat, resting on the drivers lap, heads way out the window or loose in the bed of a pick-up truck.  What are some of the downfalls of loose dogs?

  • Loose dogs in the car who don’t remain in place can be a dangerous distraction causing accidents
  • Drivers can be charged under Distracted Driving laws
  • Loose dogs become a flying missile in the event of a collision or hard braking situation
  • Dogs with their heads out the window or in the open bed of a pick-up are left open to injury caused by flying debris
  • Dogs with full access to windows or in truck beds may get loose while the vehicle is moving or stopped.

So what are the safest ways for our pets to travel? Using an impact tested dog crate, approved for air travel by the IATA (International Air Transport Association) is the best way to ensure safety for both them and the people in the vehicle.  Properly secured to the vehicle, your pet will be more securely protected in the event of a crash.  They will also be kept in place and will not become a dangerous projectile.  Most dogs learn to ride calmly and quietly in a crate, which ensures they are not a distraction to the driver.

Another option in an SUV or Minivan is a car barrier.  Properly installed, it will keep your pet secure in the cargo area of a vehicle.  If you have a very large dog, a barrier may provide a better option for his containment.

If you cannot afford the space a crate or barrier requires, consider a harness restraint system.  Most car harnesses buckle into your vehicle’s existing seatbelt system and keep the pet in place in the event of a crash.  They also keep your dog from roaming far from his allocated seat.

The downside to car harnesses is that they do allow your pet some motion and an untrained dog can get tangled easily.  If you are going to go the harness route, make sure you take some time to train your dog to be mostly still and calm when riding so they don’t become a distraction.

Whatever you choose to keep your pet safe, drive carefully and enjoy your travels!