Food Aggression in Dogs: What to do about it

Food aggression is a form of resource guarding in which a dog becomes very defensive when eating and uses threats to force others away. It can be directed towards other animals, humans, or both. The behavior can also extend to treats.

Many dog trainers and experts have narrowed down food aggression into three degrees:

Mild: the dog growls and may show its teeth.
Moderate: the dog snaps or lunges when approached.
Severe: the dog bites.

Recognize Signs of Food Aggression

Hovering
When a dog is eating, his body will stiffen and he may keep his head down. He is using his body language to “hover” over the meal and protect it.

Eyes and Ears
The whites of your dog’s eyes may be visible, their ears are held back, their tail is lowered, or their hackles may rise. A dog may show any or all of these signs.

What to do about it

To begin retraining your dog to let her guard down around the food bowl, some behavioral changes need to be made.

Sit and Stay
Before you even begin to prepare your dog’s food, make her sit or lie down and stay, preferably just outside of the room you feed her in. Train her to stay even after you’ve set the bowl down and, once the bowl is down, stand close to it as you release her from the stay and she begins eating. Move away after she’s began eating. She may give you a few hard glances but stand your ground.

You eat first
In wild packs, the alpha dogs eat first, before everyone else, and it should be no different in a human/dog pack. Never feed your dog before or while you are eating. You eat first, then your dog.

Keep a schedule
If the source of your dog’s aggression is fear or anxiety over when the next meal is coming, then be sure that you are feeding your dog at the same times every single day. Dogs have a very good internal clock, and with consistency, they quickly learn how to tell when it’s time to get up, time to go for a walk, or time for the people to come home. Mealtime should be no different. Be regular in feeding to take away the anxiety.

“Win” the bowl
Food aggression can actually be made worse if you back away from the bowl, because that’s what your dog wants.

Here are some of the techniques you can use:

Hand feeding:
Start your dog’s meal by giving him food by hand, and use your hands to put the food in the bowl, which will give it your scent. The goal is to get your dog used to eating while your hands are near and to have no aggressive reaction if you stick your hands in or near the bowl while he’s eating.

Treat tossing:
Drop your dog’s favorite treats into the bowl while she’s eating so she’ll learn that people approaching the bowl is a good thing and not a threat.

“Trade-Up”:
When your dog is eating their regular food, approach them with something better, like meat or a special treat. The goal here is to get your dog to stop eating their food to take the treat from you.

This teaches your dog several things:
One is that no one is going to steal his food if he looks away from it.
Two is that removing his attention from his food when people come around leads to a reward.

Image from DogChannel.com

Halloween Safety Tips

The candy is bought, the pumpkins are carved, and the costumes are on but what about your pet? There are some precautions to take to make sure your pets are safe and not
stressed during this holiday.

6 Halloween Safety Tips

  1. No treats! The candy in the bowl by the door needs to stay out of reach from your dog. Keep the wrappers away from your cat too. Sugar and chocolate are toxic for your pets.
  2. Lights and wires should be tucked away and out of reach of your pets. Like other holidays, if you hang lights or lanterns be careful of the wires. Cats may get tangled in them and dogs might chew on them. Rabbits also tend to chew on wires. Do your best to make sure these are out of reach of your pet.
  3. A carved pumpkin is a traditional festive thing to have on your front porch. If you add a candle to it, take extra care to keep your pets away. Your pet might knock over the pumpkin and the candle could fall out or hot wax could splash them.
  4. If you dress up your pet, do a test run to see if your cat or dog is ok with the costume. Some pets may stress out and panic and fight to get the costume off while others won’t care. If your pet is not ok with dressing up, don’t force it, let them stay home and maybe just buy a decorative halloween leash or cat toy.
  5. During the peak trick or treat times, dogs and cats should be kept in a separate room away from the front door. Too many strangers can be scary and stressful for pets. Also, your pet might be too friendly and go scooting out the front door to say hi and not every person who will stop by your house may be ok with pets.
  6. Always make sure your dog or cat has proper identification. If for any reason your pet escapes and becomes lost, a collar and tags and/or a microchip can be a lifesaver.

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Dog Ate 62 Hair Bands And More

A dog living in Pennsylvania luckily lived after having quite a huge surgery in July. Tiki, a black lab who has a problem with eating things, had to have surgery to remove 62 hairbands and 8 pairs of underwear. There were also some other items in the mix. The owners noticed Tiki was feeling ill and had stopped eating her usual amount of food at meal times. She also began vomiting.

An X-ray at the vet office revealed that Tiki had a large mass in her stomach. The vet recommended surgery to find out what was inside. As the vet started pulling out a few of the items, the team noticed that the hair bands were attached to each other and had wrapped around themselves, several pairs of underwear, a few rubber bands, and a band-aid. The veterinary team was surprised but glad the dog survived the surgery.

Tiki has eaten other things in the past like a toy, pacifier, and some other items but this was the first time her addiction to eating items became dangerous. If your dog has a tendency to eat things make sure to keep items off the floor, supervise your dog, and train your dog as best you can to know the command “leave it.”

We’re all happy that Tiki is healthy and ok! To read the complete story of Tiki, check it out here.

Has your dog ever eaten something crazy? Let us know!

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5 Items That Are Dangerous To Pets

Our homes have cleaners, medications, and other items that are needed but can be dangerous to our pets. We can be as careful as humanly possible and still our dog might find that one piece of chocolate that fell on the floor when making cookies or your cat found that Easter lily that you swore you put on a shelf she couldn’t reach. It happens. Wonder what other items might be dangerous for your pet? Here are 7 items we all have that can harm our pets.

5 Items That Are Dangerous to Pets

Acetaminophen – Tylenol and other medications that help relieve our headaches can hurt the lives of our dogs. Cats are also incredibly sensitive to acetaminophen. The safety bottle caps help keep cats out of the medicine but dogs might grab the bottle and chew on it, breaking it open. Make sure you keep everyday drugs like aspirin in the medicine cabinet or in a drawer that your pets can’t open.

Batteries – My pets never played with batteries but I’ve had friends who have had puppies that grabbed them and run through the house like it’s a game. The chemicals that are in batteries can create burning ulcers in the mouths of dogs and cats if they eat, lick, or break them. Keep the batteries somewhere where your pets can’t reach them. If your pet has a bad habit of chewing on the remote controls, put them away when not in use.

Laundry Detergent – Laundry soap and fabric softener can cause ulcers in the mouth and stomach in dogs and cats. The little new laundry pods which are great for washing are bad for pets. Keep the laundry detergent in a cabinet or in the laundry room with the door closed.

Household Cleaners – Bleach, drain cleaners, window cleaner, and other items are poisonous to pets. When mopping, keep the pets out of the room until the floor is dry and make sure to rinse all cleaners off counters and out of sinks. Many of the cleaners can create problems in the stomach and esophagus of pets.

Windshield Wiper Fluid – Summer means dead bugs smacking into your windshield when you drive and that means more wiper fluid to clean them off. Keep the wiper fluids away from your pets. The ingredients in the fluid can cause low blood sugar in your pets and drunken walking in dogs and cats. All car fluids should be safely put away to prevent your pets from ingesting them accidentally.

Image from Coral Springs Animal Hospital

5 Tips To Keep Pets Safe This Summer

Sunnier days means more time outside. For our pets that can mean they are susceptible to problems that aren’t around during the cooler months. Skin and ear infections rise during the summer and it’s important we do what we can to keep our buddies safe.

5 Tips For Summer

  1. Protect their skin – skin cancer is common among dogs and cats. Even though the fur they have helps protect them, there are areas where their skin is exposed to the sun. Hairless pets are even more susceptible to sunburns. Use a pet specific sunscreen and apply it to the belly, tips of ears, and on your hairless pets, on their backs and legs. Talk to your vet if you want to know what kind and brand are safest.
  2. Hot pavement hurts – when the sun is beating down on the concrete and pavement, it can get so hot that it can burn your pet’s paws. Walk your dog when it’s not as hot such as early in the mornings and evenings.
  3. Indoor temperature – the house can get really hot while you’re out at work. If you have central air you may want to set the temp to keep the house cool for your pet. You can also draw the blinds on the windows to keep the sun from heating up the house.
  4. Playing in water – get your dog a lifejacket when going out on boats and if you two go swimming, keep a close watch on your pet. Sinkholes in lakes may scare your dog as she walks and cause her to panic. Don’t let her drink the water and remember to bathe her and brush her after a day out playing in water to remove algae, dirt, and other debris. To avoid swimmer’s ear, use a canine ear-drying solution.
  5. Don’t forget the parasite preventatives – hookworms, heart worms, fleas, ticks, roundworms, and many other gross parasites need to be kept at bay. Stay on top of administering the preventatives that your vet recommends on your pets.

What else do you do during the summer to protect your pet?
Share your tips with us!

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Ease Your Pet’s Allergies

Spring and summer doesn’t mean we are the only ones sneezing and sniffling. Your pets may have some allergies to the changes around them as well. If your pet is showing signs of reacting to seasonal changes and has displayed some symptoms like scratching more, chewing at her paws, and hair loss from overgrooming, a visit to the vet may be in order.

Hot Spots

If your pet has hot spots, the painful red spots of irritated skin, there are several sprays you can buy at your local pet store that can help control your pet’s need to scratch the area.

You can also try clipping away the fur from the spot and letting it dry up on its own. A little hydrogen peroxide on the spot can also help keep it clean and dry it out.

Epsom salt can help soothe the hot spots. If a bath is not possible, a cloth with warm water and epsom salt placed on the irritated area can naturally ease the itchiness and infection.

Pollen

Some dogs and cats react to pollen and other environmental changes by having irritated skin everywhere on their body. If your pet is reacting with scratching all over, pet shampoos that have natural plant-based ingredients can help soothe the itchiness.

Dogs and cats may also be ok with a few drops of apple cider vinegar added to their meal. It is believed to help alleviate skin irritations.

When allergens are removed from the environment, the allergic reactions disappear. When your pets are inside, make sure their bedding and areas they hang out are kept clean.

Wipe your dog’s paws when coming back in from playing, regular brushing can remove pollen and debris, and vacuuming will cut down on allergens making their way into the house.

When airborne pollen is high minimize the time spent outside with your pets to reduce the amount of time they are exposed to the allergens.

Boost Immune Systems

Dogs may benefit from a little flaxseed oil added to their meals. It strengthens their immunity to contact irritants. Salmon oil can also help. If your pet doesn’t like flaxseed oil, don’t let it go to waste, a little for us can help our skin as well as our moods.

Don’t forget to always wipe your pet’s paws when they come back inside and mark on your calendar when it’s time to give them their flea and tick preventives and heartworm preventatives. Every little bit helps keep your pets happy and healthy.

High quality pet food is essential for healthy teeth, fur, eyes, and muscle tone. A healthy pet rarely gets ill and can fight off infections with ease.

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Ease Your Pet’s Anxiety At The Groomers

Some dogs don’t mind being bathed, clipped, and primped but other dogs become nervous, want to jump off the table, and run. If your dog tries to do the latter, there are ways to help make grooming time a little less nerve-wracking. It’s important to take some preventative steps to address their anxiety before it escalates into a total panic attack or manifests as aggression.

Here are 5 tips to reduce fear at the groomer

  1. Make the car ride fun – if your dog only associates the car ride with going to things that are scary like the groomer or vet, mix it up a little. Take small trips to the dog park and counter condition your dog’s fear with praise and rewards. Show your dog that not every car ride means it is followed up with strangers poking and prodding and even if does, your dog will get a reward for getting out of the car, for walking into the office, and afterwards when getting back in the car.
  2. Get your dog used to being touched – if your dog is weary of having his/her ears and paws touched, work with your dog at home to get him/her used to being handled. You can try using words and touch together to let your dog know what area is about to be touched. “Ears” and “Paw” a second before touching and a little moving around will help your dog understand as well as a reward immediately afterwards. Go slowly and remember to make all training sessions fun.
  3. Make the groomer a fun place to go – See if your groomer is ok with you stopping by when you don’t have an appointment so your dog learns it’s not always going to be a “scary place.” Pair the visit with fun things like a little play time in the parking lot, treats from the staff, and use the visits as a way to accustom your dog to the sounds, smells, and sights of the place.
  4. Look for ways to make it less stressful – If your dog hates being picked up, see if your groomer has stairs or a ramp that your dog can walk up to get onto the table. Maybe your groomer will even consider grooming your dog while sitting on the floor. If your dog hates having his/her face washed, a wet cloth could be an alternative to the whole shampoo and shower routine on the muzzle and around the eyes. All this can help reduce the stress levels in your dog.
  5. Worse comes to worse use a soft muzzle – If your dog tries to mouth or gives warning nips to the groomer, a muzzle may be necessary. Muzzle training can reduce the need for other types of restraint and keep everyone safe. However, try the other tactics first as muzzles can sometimes make a dog more anxious.

Have other tips? Share them with us!

Image from Doggy Clips

Spring time safety tips

It’s spring! It’s sunny! It’s warmer! But what about spring time dangers? Seasonal changes mean that there are new things to be aware of that could harm your pet as other ones are no longer a big deal.

6 Springtime pet tips

Easter Treats and Decorations
Keep Easter lilies and candy bunnies in check—chocolate goodies are toxic to cats, dogs and ferrets, and lilies can be fatal if ingested by our furry friends. Kitties like to nibble on colorful plastic grass, which can lead to an obstructed digestive tract, severe vomiting and dehydration.

Screen Yourself
Check your windows and put the screens in to prevent a pet from falling out or jumping out the window. If you have adjustable screens, make sure they are tightly wedged into window frames.

Buckle Up!
While we know dogs love to feel the wind on their furry faces, allowing them to ride in the bed of pick-up trucks or stick their heads out of moving-car windows is dangerous. Flying debris and insects can cause inner ear or eye injuries and lung infections, and abrupt stops or turns can cause major injury, or worse! Pets in cars should always be secured in cars.

Spring Cleaning
Spring cleaning is a tradition in many households, but keep all cleaners and chemicals out of your pets’ way! Almost all commercially sold cleaning products contain chemicals that are harmful to pets. The key to using them safely is to read and follow label directions for proper use and storage.

Home Improvement
Spring is a good time to make repairs or renovate your home. Carefully read all labels to see if the product is safe to use around your furry friends. Be cautious of physical hazards, including nails, staples, insulation, blades and power tools. It may be wise to confine your dog or cat to a designated pet-friendly room during home improvement projects.

Garden Care
Insecticides and herbicides keep our plants and lawns healthy and green, but their ingredients aren’t meant for four-legged consumption and can be fatal if your pet ingests them. Always store these poisonous products in out-of-the-way places and follow label instructions carefully. Check out our full list of garden care tips.

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3 Ways to Prevent Pets From Ruining Your Stuff

Our pets are lovable, cute, and sometimes just plain annoying. They give us this look where we can’t stay angry at them for more than a few minutes and they know when to give us the sad puppy dog eyes or the innocent big cat eyes. But because our pets are wild at heart, there are some instinctual behaviors they have that can ruin our household items. With some effort, patience, and understanding we can make sure they meet their needs to dig, scratch, chew, and explore and save our furniture.

Here are 3 ways to prevent pets from ruining our stuff

Chewing
Chewing is natural for pets and some stuff is just… chewable. Don’t just let them do it. Taste deterrents like bitter apple can work but after the spray dries, your pet might chew on the items again. Try giving your pet something they will like to chew on and will choose instead of your sneaker or leather bag. Kong toys are great for dogs and cats may like some catnip and a toy to bat around and chew on. Small animals may like an empty toilet paper roll.

Peeing on things
There are many reasons why pets may pee on things they aren’t supposed to pee on. Make sure it’s not a health issue. Pets sometimes mark territory when something or someone new has entered the house. A perceived threat can cause a pet to want to mark. Don’t yell or shove your pet’s face into the mess. That can cause fear of you. Instead, when you clean the pee spot, put the urine soaked paper towel in the designated pee place: spot in the yard, litterbox, etc. Place treats where your pet peed. Pets don’t want to eat where they pee. Use a cleaner that is formulated to break up the composition of pee like Nature’s Miracle and take a deep breath… this won’t last forever.

Scratching
Does your couch have what looks like streamers coming out of the arms? Cats love to scratch for a variety of reasons but often it doesn’t jive with your sense of style. Yelling at your cat won’t work. You can try putting double sided tape on the things your cat wants to scratch. No cat wants to be stuck to a couch and after a few attempts the couch will be seen as a thing to sit on, not scratch. But you must replace the scratching couch with something else your cat will like such as a cardboard scratcher, a post with rope and carpeting on it, or a post that has some natural bark that your cat can dig its claws into. Make sure it’s sturdy and place it in a spot your cat hangs out like by a window or next to the couch.

Have more tips? Share them!

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What To Do If You Find a Lost Pet

Have you ever seen a dog or cat running loose on a busy street? You may have tried to get it out of harm’s way — or you may have wanted to, but weren’t sure how.

Here are some tips that can help next time you see a lost pet:

  • Be cautious: the dog or cat might be very scared and could hurt you. If it seems friendly, approach it slowly and speak calmly. You can use food to coax it over. If you have a garage or other enclosed area, you might be able to lure it into there. If you don’t and you’re feeling sort of brave you can try to leash the dog with a rope or if you have an extra leash… as for cats, you may want to have a cat trap or carrier where the cat can walk into and you can close the door. This may not work out, however, as lost pets tend to be overly nervous, excited, and may dart away.
  • Call the authorities: If the lost dog or cat seems unsure of you and you’re not sure of it, then call your local animal control or police department immediately. Be sure to give the dispatcher the exact street address where the animal was last seen.
  • Check for ID: Sometimes a lost pet will be super friendly and happy to see a person and may walk up to you. Check to see if the animal is wearing an ID tag. If so, you may be able to immediately contact the owner and return the pet to her or him. If the pet doesn’t have tags, your local vet or shelter may have a microchip ID scanner. Call them and let them know you found a pet.
  • Take pets with no ID to an animal shelter: If the animal has no ID tag or microchip, its best chance of being reunited with its owner is generally at an animal shelter. The shelter is the one obvious place where owners are likely to look for lost pets.
  • Post fliers: If possible, take a photo of the pet and post fliers around the area where the pet was found. Be sure to also distribute the fliers to local veterinary clinics. Craigslist is also a free forum where you can post a pic and info of the lost or found pet.
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