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Thinking About Unleashing Your Dog in Public? Here’s What You Need to Know

It was 7 a.m. and I had just stepped onto the trail in Goosepond Mountain State Park with my dogs when a German shepherd came barreling towards us.  Bella was busy smelling and paid no attention as the shepherd began circling. But Jason is leash reactive and started to lung at the intruder.

I’ve worked hard to manage Jason’s issues. When we see dogs approaching, I remove him from the trail and work on sit, look-at-me and reward exercises to redirect his attention from passing dogs.

Negative interactions such as meeting unsupervised loose dogs on the trail set this training back. On this particular morning Jason was stressed as the shepherd continued to get in his face. I couldn’t safely remove him from the situation, and the owner was nowhere to be seen. When he did finally stroll into view he shouted, “Don’t worry, he gets along with everyone.”

It didn’t matter to this man that I was struggling to prevent a dog fight and to keep his dog from getting tangled in the leashes.  He just passed us by calling to his dog. There was no apology and he didn’t even try to leash the shepherd.

Bella (left), and Jason (right) love to walk with their friend Happy (middle).

The Problem with Unruly Loose Dogs in Public

I’m hearing more and more stories about people whose dogs were attacked or ambushed by loose dogs in the park.  Many, like me, are dealing with leash reactive dogs and these encounters can be a nightmare. Large loose dogs are also horrific for owners of small dogs who can be seriously injured. There are even horror stories about little dogs being killed after attacks by large off-leash dogs.

According to an article by Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, there are no numbers for how often big dogs attack little ones, but it’s a common enough scenario that veterinarians have an acronym for it, BDLD, which means Big Dog Little Dog. Veterinary experts say that these attacks frequently turn into serious medical emergencies.

Norine Twaddell, the owner of DogVentures, Dog Behavior Solutions LLC, a dog training business in New Jersey, has been called by clients for help after their dogs were attacked while out on a walk.

“These attacks can destroy a dog’s nature and it takes a lot of work to get their confidence back,” said Twaddell, who is a certified dog behavior consultant and a clinical member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.

It’s not just leashed dogs and their owners who are affected by unruly off-leash dogs. There are plenty of non-dog people who don’t appreciate being jumped on by dogs. And it’s unfair to children who can easily be knocked down or traumatized. I’m a dog person and I can tell you that it wasn’t fun seeing that big German shepherd coming at us full speed. You just don’t know what to expect!

And now in the age of COVID-19, there’s an added concern. Nobody wants to be forced to have a close-up encounter with the owner of a loose dog.

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10 Ways to Keep Your Dog or Cat Happy When You’re Away

This post first published on Care2.com.

It always makes me smile when I enter my dog-walking clients’ homes to find the cartoon PAW Patrol or the Nature Channel playing on the TV. I totally understand, because I turn on the radio to keep our dogs company when they are home alone, too.

It isn’t easy leaving our pets alone for hours, but there are things we can do to help them. Try these ways to keep your dogs and cats happy when they’re alone.

KEEP DOGS HAPPY WHEN YOU’RE AWAY

1. Break Up the Day with Exercise

Some dogs left home alone can suffer from cabin fever leading to stress and anxiety. According to experts at the Animal Behavior College, access to the backyard is no substitute for a nice long walk. These outings will benefit your dog physically while also providing mental stimulation.

If you work close to home, consider spending your lunchtime walking your dog. When that’s not possible, having a professional dog walker or trusted neighbor take your dog for a mid-day walk helps break up the day.

2. Leave a Treat-Dispensing Toy

Interactive toys that require dogs to work for their treats can help relieve boredom when they’re home alone.

Our favorite is the Classic Kong. We stuff the cavity in the middle with a combination of kibble and peanut butter and freeze it overnight to make it last longer.

The WholeDog Journal offers a helpful evaluation of treat-dispensing toys based on such traits as sturdiness, safety, entertainment value and affordability.

3. Turn on the TV or Radio

Many dog owners leave the TV or radio on to keep their dogs company when home alone. Veterinarian Jeff Werber, founder of Century Veterinary Group in Los Angeles, said in a blog post that some dogs with separation anxiety may respond well to radio music or TV when trained to have a positive association to the sound.

Another entertainment option is DOGTV, which provides audio-visual therapy for dogs to help treat loneliness, anxiety and separation in dogs.

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5 Tips to Attracting Birds to Your Backyard Nesting Boxes

This post first published on Care2.com

We are always so excited when spring arrives and wrens and chickadees start checking out our backyard nesting boxes. It’s such an honor when they finally decide to raise a brood inside the boxes that we built ourselves from leftover wood.

Providing nesting boxes is important, say experts at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, because for many species of birds there’s a shortage of great places to nest. Spring is already underway, and many birds have already chosen their nesting locations, but it’s never too late to hang a birdhouse, say the experts.

Many birds have more than one brood per season and may switch to a new box to raise their second or third broods. In addition, if a bird is unsuccessful in raising its first brood due to a predator, it may be very happy to take advantage of a new box hanging somewhere else on your property.

HERE ARE FIVE TIPS TO HELP ATTRACT BIRDS TO YOUR BACKYARD NESTING BOXES.

1. Location, location, location

Every species of birds has a different habitat requirement. If you choose the right location, you will have the best chance of attracting the type of bird you’re hoping for.

Experts at Birds and Blooms Magazine say that the best location for a bluebird house is an area facing or surrounded by open fields where insects they eat and feed to their young are plentiful. Chickadees, on the other hand, prefer their houses to be located in a cluster of small trees or in a shrubbery.

House wrens are attracted to boxes hanging from small trees in an open yard, and purple martins prefer housing to be placed in open fields or lawns with clear flyways.

If you want to attract tree swallows, and you have a body of water in or near your yard, then you’re in luck. These birds like to nest close to water where they can find aquatic insects to feed to their young.

2. Consider the style of your nesting box

In general, say Birds and Blooms experts, small birds need small houses and big birds will look to the larger backyard nesting boxes, but each species have desires beyond the size.

For example, purple martins like to nest in groups and are attracted to condo-style housing. These community homes should have at least four cavities with between six and 12 being ideal.

Bluebirds look for single room nest boxes, which can be about 50 to 75 yards apart. Unlike the bluebirds, house wrens prefer to live in small single houses away from other nesting boxes.

While commercial nesting boxes come in a wide variety of colors and designs, bird experts caution that it’s best to keep the boxes simple, not stylish.

In addition, experts at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology say that a perch is unnecessary for the birds. In fact, perches can help predators gain access to the nest. We learned this the hard way when last year a blue jay used the perch on one of our boxes to attack the babies inside. We removed all of the perches on our nest boxes and the birds still use them.

Blue tit bird brings caterpillar in nest box

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What Renting Baby Chicks for Easter Really Teaches Kids

This post first published on Care2.com.

Excited that he won a blue chick in a church raffle, a young child ran to show his mom. Like thousands of chicks every year, this baby bird was dyed as an Easter novelty to be sold or raffled off to families.

Thankfully this boy’s mother valued the tiny chick’s life and asked Woodstock Farm Sanctuary in High Falls, NY to give him a home. Picasso has grown into a handsome rooster who loves his life at the sanctuary.

Not all chicks are so lucky. Easter is a time of rejoicing and renewal for Christians, but for thousands of innocent chicks, this season is nothing to chirp about.

Every Easter, families across the country purchase chicks for their children only to drop them off at shelters a few weeks later when the novelty wears off or they can’t commit to caring for the animal. A more recent trend is rent-a-chick programs promoted by retailers and farmers throughout the country in the weeks leading up to Easter.

RENTING BABY CHICKS DOESN’T TEACH CHILDREN RESPONSIBILITY

The rental program is popular because children can enjoy the novelty of caring for a chick without the long-term commitment.

One farmer in New Jersey who rents chicks to families promotes the program as “… teaching kids to appreciate animals and to better understand the responsibility of caring for them.” The farms Facebook Page promotes the rental chick program as a “… great educational way to introduce children to caring for a live animal without a long-term commitment!”

Another farmer in Maryland said his rent-a-chick program allows parents to “…give their children a fluffy surprise on Easter without getting stuck with a new pet.”

picassotheroosterPicasso started out life dyed blue and raffled off as an Easter novelty, but today he is enjoying life at the Woodstock Farm Sanctuary.
Photo courtesy of Woodstock Farm Sanctuary.

Caring for pets has long been credited with teaching children responsibility, trust, compassion, understanding, empathy and respect for animals and by extension other people. Parents who adopt pets from shelters  teach children about the importance of saving a life and committing to the care of that animal for his or her lifetime.

Despite the promotions, renting chicks for Easter does not teach children responsibility, respect or compassion for animals.

“By renting animals for a few weeks and then just sending them back to eventually be slaughtered children are being taught—even if unintentionally—that these animals are disposable,” said Andrea Springirth, animal caretaker and humane educator at Woodstock Farm Sanctuary.

Many farmers and retailers say they started the rent-a-chick program to help cut down on the numbers of chicks being released to the shelters. But what these rental programs actually represent is the further exploitation of animals for profit with little or no concern for the welfare or interests of the animal, said Springirth.

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7 Common Food Items Not Good for Backyard Birds

 


Image by Nancy Buron from Pixabay

We keep our backyard birds supplied with sunflower seed and suet throughout the cold winter months. Recently my husband started to toss old bread to the birds but I was concerned that this might not be helping our little friends.

As it turns out I was right. According to avian experts, throwing bread to the birds on a regular basis can negatively impact their health.

THE FOLLOWING FOODS ARE NOT GOOD FOR WILD BIRDS

Bread

Bread is one of the biggest no-no’s when it comes to feeding backyard birds said Don Torino, president of the Bergen County Audubon Society, NJ.

“Just because they eat bread, that doesn’t mean it’s healthy for them,” Torino said. “The problem is they fill up on bread and get really weak because it has no nutritional value for them.”

When eaten excessively, bread will cause health problems for birds, including malnutrition and obesity. This is particularly prominent among young waterfowl in urban and suburban areas where ducklings and goslings may be fed large amounts of bread. As a result, these young birds fail to get proper nutrients for healthy growth and can develop deformed wings—known as Angel Wing. Feeding bread to waterfowl is illegal in many states for the protection of the birds.

Salt or Salty food like chips or crackers

According to the nonprofit Nature Forever birds differ greatly in their ability to cope with salty food and water. For example, seabirds are able to eat marine animals and drink seawater without a problem, while many songbirds can die if they take in large quantities of salt. Most backyard birds cannot cope with too much salt intake so it’s important not to offer them salty food.

“Salted peanuts are not a good choice for backyard birds,” Torino said. “People should choose unsalted or roasted peanuts instead. The same goes for other types of nuts.”

Moldy or stale food

While it’s true many molds are harmless, some can cause respiratory infections in birds. For this reason, avian experts recommend not feeding moldy or stale foods to backyard birds. It’s also important to remove any stale or moldy seed or other food from feeders. Stale food provides a breeding ground for salmonella bacteria, which can cause food poisoning and even death.

Torino said it’s important to keep bird feeders clean and he recommends periodically washing them with a 10 percent bleach solution. In addition, dropped seed should be raked up from under the feeders.

“It’s also a good idea to move the feeders around so all the droppings aren’t collecting in one place,” Torino said. “That helps to prevent avian diseases being passed around from one bird to another.”

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How to Make Vet Visits Less Stressful for Your Cat

This post first appeared on Care2.com

Routine vet visits are vital to your cat’s health, but they can be stressful for you and your cat. Here’s why regular checkups are important and how to make vet visits less stressful for your cats.

One of the greatest challenges I faced when coordinating the Seniors for Seniors Foster Program at a local shelter was getting cats into carriers for transport to their foster homes or for health check-ups. Rides in the car were no fun either when the most stressed cats howled, hissed, defecated or threw up in their carriers.

My friend, Ann, has seven cats and planning trips to the vet is always quite an ordeal. She has to carefully plan where to stage the cat carriers and which cat to shut in which room. It’s always stressful for the cats and not much fun for my friend either.

“No cat likes being taken to strange places and handled by strangers,” Ann said. “Some of them deal with it better than others, a lot of it is just personality. I think using a sturdy cat carrier that they can’t get out of is probably the most important thing.”

A 2013 study by Bayer and the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) found that 52 percent of cats in the U.S. had not been taken to the veterinarian in the past year for necessary check-ups. The study also found that only half as many cats receive annual exams as dogs.

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Does Your Cat Have What it Takes to do Therapy Work?

This post first appeared on Care2.com

Truman the therapy cat is loved and sought after for what comes naturally—making people feel good.

His many friends at Jewish Senior Services nursing home in Bridgeport, CT, eagerly await his visits and share how much he means to them on Truman’s Facebook page. One doctor even wrote a prescription to have Truman visit a senior patient who was suffering from depression. The gorgeous white loving ball of fluff also helps comfort children at the Cove Center for Grieving Children in Easton, CT. While people are used to hearing about therapy dogs, they are often surprised to hear that cats work as service animals, too. With National Cat Day (Oct. 29) just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to highlight the wonderful work being done by therapy cats.

Truman is just one of 211 cats registered with the Pet Partners Therapy Animal Program. Therapy cats registered through this national nonprofit provide people of all ages and health conditions with unconditional love and comfort. The cats work in a variety of settings including hospitals, assisted living facilities and facilities that serve veterans. Service cats also visit schools and libraries as part of reading programs. Reading to service animals helps students build their confidence and reading skills. Some therapy cats have participated in employee wellness fairs.

childlookingatcatincarriage

Children are especially excited when Truman arrives in his carriage.

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How to Keep Pets Safe on Halloween + Top Ten Pet Costumes

This article first published on Care2.com

One of my favorite Halloween memories is when my friend Joy and I entered our dogs in a fundraising costume contest at our local animal shelter. Lucy, a Rottweiler mix, and Ricky, an English springer spaniel, were dressed as a bride and groom while surrounded by dogs dressed in a wide variety of costumes including a hot dog, a lion, a tiger, Superman, a witch and the devil. While not all dogs enjoy dressing up, these contestants really seemed to enjoy the festivities.

According to a recent survey by the National Retail Federation, Halloween spending this year will reach a record 9.1 billion. When asked about Halloween shopping plans, 16 percent of the 7,013 surveyed said they would be buying a costume for their pets. The respondents were also asked what costumes their pets would be wearing this season. Here are the top ten choices:

  1. Pumpkin
  2. Hotdog
  3. Dog, (cats dressed as dogs), Lion and Pirate
  4. Bumblebee
  5. Devil
  6. Batman Character
  7. Ghost
  8. Cat (dogs dressed as cats)
  9. Witch
  10. Star Wars character

dogdressedaslion

Image credit: Thinkstock

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Sanctuary Gives New Beginning to Chicken Rescued from Religious Ritual

This article first published on Care2.com

Recently as I pulled away from a toll booth on the New York State Thruway I noticed what looked like white feathers blowing across my windshield. Sure enough, when I glanced to my right there was a truck bed stacked high with flat crates each crammed full of live chickens. It was about 90 degrees outside and I couldn’t imagine the pain, fear and confusion of these poor innocent birds as they were driven to slaughter.

I thought about the suffering of chickens again when just a few days later I received an “Emergency Care for the Beloved Birds” email alert from Woodstock Farm Sanctuary. This awesome sanctuary located in High Falls, NY is in desperate need of donations to help cover the cost of emergency care for 14 chickens who survived the annual Kaporos ritual that ended last week in Brooklyn, NY.

Kaporos is a ritual celebrated by some ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities on public streets of Brooklyn prior to Yom Kippur. Practitioners symbolically transfer their sins to a young rooster or hen by swinging the bird around his or her head while reciting a passage and then killing the chicken. Many communities choose to use money instead of live birds but a number persist in this cruel practice.

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Is Your Dog Overweight? Here’s How to Walk Your Dog for Weight Loss

This article first published on Care2.com

I’m embarrassed to say that our collie mix, Jason, is overweight. The pounds crept on as I accepted more freelance and volunteer work leaving less time for daily dog walks.

National Pet Obesity Awareness Day is Oct 11 and we are determined to get Jason back into shape. When it comes to dealing with pet weight issues our family has plenty of company. In fact, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), an estimated 53.9 percent of dogs are overweight or obese and a majority of their owners are blind to the issue.

“Obesity continues to be the greatest health threat to dogs and cats,” said APOP Founder and Veterinarian Ernie Ward. “Obesity is a disease that kills millions of pets prematurely, creates immeasurable pain and suffering and costs pet owners tens of millions of dollars in avoidable medical costs.”

Among all diseases that affect pets, obesity has the greatest negative impact according to APOP. Osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, joint injury, various forms of cancer and decreased life expectancy are all linked to obesity in pets. There are many things that families can do to help a dog get back into shape. For some pets, feeding a special diet or substituting vegetables for commercial treats can help. Any new play or exercise routine should be introduced gradually with owners watching for signs of fatigue or injury. The APOP website offers a chart on the daily caloric needs of dogs that can be paired with an exercise program to help your dog safely lose weight.

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6 Common Myths About Shelter Dogs (and the Truth About Them)

Adopting a dog doesn’t mean you’re inheriting someone else’s problem. Learn the truth and some common myths about shelter animals.

It’s a sad fact that each year approximately 670,000 dogs are euthanized in animal shelters across the United States. It happens because too many dogs enter the shelter and too few people consider adoption when it comes to getting a new pet. Many buy into one of the most common myths that when you adopt a dog from a shelter you are inheriting someone else’s problem.

The truth is that shelters and rescues are brimming with happy, healthy pets just waiting for someone to take them home. Most shelter pets are surrendered because of a human problem like a move or a divorce, not because the animals did anything wrong. Many are already housetrained and used to living with families.

“When you adopt a shelter dog you are most likely bringing home a dog who has good manners, is leash trained and knows some commands,” said Ellen Ribitzki, kennel manager for the Bloomingdale Regional Animal Shelter Society (B.A.S.S.) in New Jersey.  “In addition, shelter dogs are temperament tested so adopters will have an idea of a pet’s personality―whether he/she gets along with other dogs or with cats and young children.”

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