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Adopting the unadoptable

What makes a dog “unadoptable?” When does a dog “need” to be euthanized due to its behavior? Under what circumstances do owners, shelter workers or veterinarians decide that a dog is unable to be rehabilitated?

The term “red zone dogs” was coined by the Dog Whisperer, Cesar Milan. A red zone dog is a dog that is dangerously aggressive, unpredictable and thought to be a lost cause. Often these dogs have bitten humans and sometimes they have hurt of killed other dogs.

Think of the expression “seeing red” when we talk about a person seeing red, we mean that they are so angry, they can’t see clearly or think rationally. Getting into the red zone indicates that a dog has crossed over or “snapped” and is no longer him or her self. Sometimes these dogs end up in shelter situations because owners can no longer manage them or are fearful of them; sometimes these dogs are euthanized.

Unadoptable?
One problem with a dog that has been labeled aggressive or “red zone,” is that dogs are notoriously difficult to evaluate when they are in the shelter environment. The shelter environment may exacerbate any tendencies toward fear-based aggression, or may have an opposite effect. Even in a safe and supportive foster home, it can take months before a dog shows its true colors. During a settling in period, dogs may be more reserved, and more wary; they may also be more food or toy aggressive while they attempt to stake out their claim and boundaries.

Once labeled “red zone,” aggressive, dog-aggressive, or not recommended for families with young children or other pets, the potential pool of adopters shrinks. In a busy, overcrowded shelter, this is a real problem. In addition, in crowded conditions, one “red zone” dog can traumatize other dogs, creating a ripple effect throughout the shelter of anxious or poorly behaved dogs.

Some shelters manage this problem by creating a separate room or area for dogs that have been labeled aggressive or red zone. Some shelters give these dogs a shorter amount of time in which to be adopted before they are euthanized. Other shelters manage by determining in advance through various types of assessment techniques which dogs are deemed “behaviorally adoptable.” Those that are not behaviorally adoptable are euthanized.

Is There an Alternative?
According to some experts, once a red zone dog, always a red zone dog. The dangers and risks of an attack, bite, or worse, outweigh the possible good to come from being rehabilitated. Others stress that becoming a red zone dog is a process: owners, through ignorance or cruelty, create red zone dogs and that training and proper care can heal them. What all experts seem to agree upon is that the level of expertise involved in healing a red zone dog is far beyond what most dog owners and most trainers can address.

The first step in determining whether or not to proceed is always to assess. Aggression can be complex and easily misunderstood. For example, a young male shepherd mix was pulled from a shelter having been labeled “dog aggressive.” He did well in foster care, with no aggression issues detected at any time, neither toward people nor dogs. He was adopted by a family with young children, and after two months in the new environment, the family contacted the rescue organization indicating that he was “aggressive, frightening and had ‘gone after’ the baby.” After a visit by a seasoned trainer familiar with herding dogs, the verdict was that the dog had engaged in some very typical herding behaviors: nudging and “hip checking” and had done some “rude barking.” One man’s aggression is another’s man’s boredom.

Some breeds are notorious for being “nippy.” A firm and confident owner can easily work with these dogs do develop a safe and pleasant environment for both the dog and anyone who might interact with the dog – from neighborhood children to the parcel delivery guy – but an owner who is not ready, able or knowledgeable regarding managing such behaviors could end up with a real problem and a dog unfairly labeled “aggressive.”

Safety First!
Any owner, any dog, any situation that involves biting warrants thorough professional assessment. And any dog that has been considered unadoptable, red zone, aggressive or dangerous needs a level of professional intervention beyond the expertise of most owners or trainers. Truly understanding what you are dealing with is always the first step. What comes next could well be years of work, and years of stress, as you keep both dogs and humans safe.

Implementing the Nothing in Life is Free Training Approach

A well-behaved dog is a joy be around. Confident and calm, quiet and capable, when sweet little Rover knows what’s expected of him and understands that you call the shots. You can readily expect to enjoy his company without a constant battle over unwanted behaviors. Does this sound too good to be true? It might be time to try the “Nothing in Life is Free” (NILIF) approach.

What is the NILIF approach?
More of a life philosophy than a specific training technique or set of techniques, NILIF works from the perspective that helps your dog accept you as the leader and feel secure and confident in his or her position as pack member. Not unlike what some parents refer to as “Grandma’s Rule,” NILIF predicates all positive rewards on you, the pack leader, getting what you want first. In Spike’s case, Spikey-boy wants what you have: attention, food, treats or toys. You provide these things for Spike after he does what you want (e.g. sits before you place his food bowl down, or backs up before the door is opened).

Some more examples of how this philosophy looks in practice would include insisting that Spot sit still before his leash is put on to go outside, or that he lie down before receiving a belly rub. You as the pack leader are frequently giving commands, and Spot executes the command before receiving any “goodies” (praise, treats or even going outside).

How Do You Get Started?
First, teach Zoe a few basic commands such a sit, come and lie down. Use positive reinforcement (big praise, and/or small food treat) to reinforce the correct behavior. Second, stop giving away things your dog wants “for free.” What does that mean? Stop petting your dog “just because” or when he shoves his head under your hand. Don’t give treats “just because” or “for dessert.” Start to think in terms of these treats (praise, food treats or attention/affection) in terms of exchanges: Zoe gives me correct and appropriate behavior, and I give her something positive in return.

Soon, every interaction with your dog will offer opportunities for this kind of exchange. You want to play ball? Give me your paw first. You want a treat? Speak to me. You want to go outside? Sit still before I put your leash on. Lance will start to get it that you, the human in charge, receive what you want from him before he gets any goodies at all.

Remember, Rascal needs to understand the basic commands and be able to obey them before you initiate the NILIF approach. What is the key to making this work? Be consistent.

Special Circumstances:
Sometimes, situations develop where Jasper needs extra help getting his behavior together. Maybe he’s brand new to you and your household and has come from a very unstructured environment. Or maybe he’s just young, strong, full of himself and going through adolescent growing pains. Whatever the situation, a “pushy” dog can develop truly bad habits that can end up being annoying at best and dangerous at worst.

The NILIF approach in this circumstance gets a little more elaborate. Combining crate training with “tethering” can help rewire Jasper’s behavior. Crate training involves using a dog crate as a safe “time out:” a den-like refuge for Jasper where he stays when he is not tied to you. Yes, using this technique you actually tie ol’ Jasper to your waist using a fairly short leash, and insist that he go where you go, at your speed, on your whim. Tethering in this way helps convey to Jasper that you are in charge in a very intense and powerful way. Tethering is sometimes suggested for growling or biting behaviors, and in such cases is also combined with all the NILIF concepts outlined above.

These techniques are extensions of establishing the human owner as the alpha, but are best used with the help and guidance of a professional trainer to ensure that all discipline is just that: teaching, training, shaping and supporting positive behaviors without ever, even inadvertently, punishing with cruelty or harsh responses.

A well-trained dog does so much more than offer robotic correct responses to commands. A well-trained dog has the potential to bond with his or her owner in a profound and deeply satisfying way. For both dog and owner, there is no question: the investment in training is well worth it!

RedCloud’s Journey: From Abandoned to Beloved

Every rescue dog’s story is different, but the theme is the same: it takes a village, sometimes a global village, to come together to save those in need. Just how does that happen, and what are all the steps along the way? If you have ever wondered, read on and RedCloud’s story will give you a pretty good idea of a typical rescue.

RedCloud showed up in the Miami-Dade animal shelter in October 2010, skin and bones and all smiles. The 16-month old male Belgian Malinois was a stray, found running the streets, riddled with hookworms and weighing under 50 pounds. He looked like an anatomical model of a dog with some fur glued on. His head was several times too big for his body, and his stature left you wondering if he were part Shetland pony. But his spirit was totally unbroken: by all accounts he was a goofball, through and through.

At the Shelter
Preliminary veterinary care included identifying the intestinal parasites as hookworms and getting Red neutered. Terribly overcrowded, Red was placed in a cage with a terrier who, despite being about one quarter RedCloud’s size, bossed him around something fierce. Mr. Terrier jumped up placing his paws on Red’s shoulders and growled, bullying him into the back of the cage.

A volunteer from the Malinois rescue organization met with Red and checked him out. Young, mouthy, and ill, but sweet and goofy with lots of potential was how she characterized him. Within a day or so his photo was listed on the “Needs Foster” page of the organization’s website, which has worldwide visibility.

On the Web:
A middle-aged writer and owner of two Belgian Malinois shepherd dogs living in the Catskill region of New York saw Red’s picture and sent out some emails, “just checking” to see if anyone local had stepped up to help out the poor skinny dog with the big doofy grin. We can call her Maya. No one had. Florida is inundated with strays, the shelters are struggling to manage with overcrowding and meager budgets, and the problems just seem to pile up: dogs seized in drug raids, dogs turned in by owners unable to afford their care, owners forced to relinquish dogs due to illness or death… The shelter and rescue worlds in Florida are the front lines for this battle and Red was caught in the cross fire.

Emails ensued. Red was ready to roll once transport could be arranged, but he needed to be moved 1500 miles. A transport coordinator stepped in, calling upon her cadre of volunteers up and down the East Coast, seeking folks who could give Red a ride for about 100 miles or so, until the next volunteer could be found. A few key legs of the journey were established this way, when Maya got on Facebook. Posting a request for help, people came out of the woodwork. A college buddy, a hiking companion, a friend’s older sister’s college roommate… soon every leg was filled from Miami to the Catskills, and Red was on his way.

Into the Woods
Maya cried when she first saw him: he looked like it must hurt to exist. His ribs, hips, chest, legs… all bones and fur. No muscles, no flesh anywhere. He had wicked diarrhea: he was quickly nicknamed “Firehose Butt.” The writer’s own dogs avoided him, giving him only polite, cursory sniffs and then a wide berth.

Days of tiny meals of mashed yams with white rice and boiled chicken, fed every two hours, and then four hours, and then adding a sprinkling of dry dog food slowly yielded some weight. Those first few days were a blur of frequent short walks and lots of rest. Fear, lack of familiarity or just plain weakness rendered him unable to climb stairs.

The turning point came sometime during the second week when Iske, one of the writer’s other Malinois, approached Red and groomed him. She washed his face carefully, bathing his entire muzzle with strong, motherly licks. She was accepting him into the pack, and letting him know that she would take him on as her charge. After that, hiking with his foster mom and her dogs on Catskills trails helped him develop muscles and balance, strength and self-confidence. Going for lengthy runs with her daughter, who is on her high school track team, helped him gather his wits and get his “ya-yas” out. He was still a goofy boy, but over about six weeks or so, he started to learn about settling down and following the household rules.

Back to the City:
The canine equivalent of online dating, many rescue sites maintain a profile and photo database of the dogs available for adoption. RedCloud was listed and applications were received by his coordinator in Florida. One family stood out: they had owned a Malinois before, and understood the breed. They had no other pets and were ready to adopt. They were looking for a young dog with a happy-go-lucky personality. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a match!

His foster mom walked him alone that last morning before his forever family came to pick him up. On their solo walk, she remembered his first few days with her; emaciated and ill, weak and needy. She looked at the fine young dog before her and threw the stick for him one last time. Her job was done and now he was ready to live with his forever family. On some level, Maya was ready to have him leave but it is difficult to forget a special dog like RedCloud. He hopped into the back of his forever family’s station wagon as if he knew where he was headed. Weekly correspondence gives Maya confidence that RedCloud is doing extremely well in his new home and continues to gain weight and more self confidence.

From shelter to forever home in less than three months: good boy, Red!

Similar in both temperament and looks to German Shepherds, Malinois make excellent dogs for homes with or without children. They are protective, loyal, sweet, extremely intelligent, attentive and respond well to training. Although not as well known as their cousins the GSDs, it is difficult not to fall in love with them.

Why It is a Bad Idea to Turn Your Dog Into an Accessory

Thumbing through a copy of your latest celebrity magazine, you come across a photo of hotel heiress Paris Hilton strolling through Beverly Hills that catches your eye. Clad in Gucci sunglasses, an Hermès scarf, which prevents her hair from being too tussled by the gentle Santa Ana winds and Ferragamo strappy sandals that make her feet look oh so much smaller than they really are. For all her chicness, there is really one thing that you can’t stop staring at. In fact, it transfixes you. You bring the magazine to your boyfriend to show him. His reaction annoys you. You slump down in the chair and ask yourself, “How can he not fawn over the contents of her $1500 Dolce & Gabbana “hold everything” bag? Paris, you think to yourself, is hot, but, Tinkerbell, her teacup Chihuahua in all her adorableness is the most incredible being you have ever seen. “I want one!” You declare to your boyfriend. Listening to you with only half an ear, he utters, “Okay.”

What Kind of Dog Goes Best With Your Style?
Although you want to emulate the celebutante, you decide it is best to get another breed. You start scouring the Internet for photos of dogs. You come across a Maltipoo. You have no idea what this dog is, but he looks cute. You show him to your boyfriend, he agrees that this little guy is cute, although he is perhaps a little too cute for a man who owns a pick up truck and does construction for a living. Surely his buddies will make fun of him. But this doesn’t concern you.

When Luciano comes home with you, you can hardly stop and catch your breath. You rush to your local mall and buy him a baby stroller, his very own bed, which is a replica of Paris’s “Chewy Vuitton” and although you can’t afford a $1500 D&G purse, the one from Target is just as large and elegant as the one Tinkerbell is often seen toted around in.

Showing Your New Accessory Off to Friends and Family
Unable to contain your excitement, you decide that you must throw a party for Luciano’s arrival. You call it his coming out party and you invite all your friends and family.

The doorbell rings, Luciano runs from the sofa in his bedroom to see who is here to see him. As you open the door and your mother steps in to greet her new grandson, Luciano greets her by jumping on her. “Oh he’s so adorable!” your mother exclaims. Before you can close the door, your sister arrives. She, too is anxious to meet her new nephew. She bends down to greet him. Luciano has hardly finished jumping all over your mom and shows his irritation with your sister by biting her hand. She snaps her hand back and looks sternly at Luciano and says in a baby voice, “Now, Luciano, no biting, that’s not polite.”

Luciano saunters back to his sofa unamused by your guests, but on the way he lifts his leg and pees on your favorite sofa.

“I bet you Paris doesn’t have to deal with this!” You whine, “Luciano, why are you treating me this way?”

What Went Wrong and And How Can You Fix it, NOW?
The first mistake you made is in assuming Luciano is a small human. Dogs are pack animals and have no understanding of being fawned over. It is their job to fawn all over you, protect you and do some kind of job for you. Each breed performs different work, but going out for strolls in a baby stroller, being carried around in a purse, for all its cuteness is confusing for your dog. In fact, confusion can bring about agression.

New dog owners are rarely prepared for the amount of training that goes into raising a dog and oftentimes those with toy dogs are the least aware of the necessity. The sooner you start understanding that you have a dog and not an accessory, the sooner you can train Luciano and be thrilled to live with him again.

While you can hire a trainer to assist you in remove the aggressive little Napolean out of Luciano, a cheaper way is to avail yourself of the myriad free information on the Internet. But training Luciano is a must.

Some Examples of Good Training
First and foremost, in this new pack, you are the alpha. Luciano is a member but he is not the leader. But if you let him run roughshod all over you, he will never let up. Some dogs respond to clicker training, others to hand signs in combination with verbal cues. Some do very well with positive reinforcements in the form of treats. When your dog does well, praise him and reset. Dogs learn by repetition, and it may take upwards of 30 times for him or her to figure out that your command, for example, ’sit’, means for him to do so. If, when you tell him to sit, and he does so, praise him, maybe give him a treat. Whichever method you decide to use, you must remain consistent in order to see both short term and long term results.

Furniture
Dogs, especially those who have shown signs of agression, do not need their own sofas. In fact, most trained dog owners don’t even allow their dogs on furniture. If the sofa you have gotten Lucian is small enough, give it to your sister who can put in her daughter’s room. In its place buy a crate and begin crate training. Luciano will do much better in his program if crate training is added to the regimine.

As for de-accessorizing your pet, there’s nothing wrong with dressing him or her for the weather. Small dogs have a heck of a time moderating their body temperature in the winter, so it is good to keep them toasty. But do you need to treat them like your personal quadrupedal Barbie? Certainly not.

Adopting Siblings – They May Be Related But Can Be As Different As Night and Day

Adopting a puppy can be a wonderful and enriching experience; one that’s filled with delight, hysterics and education for the new dog owner. Adopt two and you are of course doubling the fun and education. Surely you thought when you decided to bring home two puppies, that this was in an effort for each to keep the other company while you are at work all day. After all, they were raised together and are from the same litter. When your friends and family asked why you brought home two from the shelter when your intention was to adopt only one your, response is almost standard, “I saw them huddled together, how could I separate them? They’re brothers! They need each other.”

Like a new mother or father who has just brought home his or her bundle of joy from the hospital, you send out an adoption notice to your friends and family. You waste no photo opportunity and any chance you get, you post them on Facebook to the delight of your 700 friends. “If my sister wants to post photos of her son, I can do the same with my ‘sons’ Yin and Yang.” You reason. And why not? Your mother has already accepted that she is a grandmother twice over and her new grandbabies just happen to bark instead of say goo goo.

In the first few months, you will likely be so taken by the experience and your mutual love affair that you won’t notice how different they are. All you can tell is that they’re both sweet, give you unconditional love and run to greet you when you come home from work. That whimper from Yin and whine from Yang as you walk through the door is all the evidence you need that you made the right decision.

Aging, Ailments and Temperament – Each Dog is Unique
As puppies, Yin and Yang are simply balls of loving fur – living to serve you and ensure your happiness. Over time you will start to notice just how different each of your canines is. Although your pups seem as though they are two halves of the same coin – indeed that’s why you named them Yin and Yang, by the time they hit about 18 months to two years, individual and very distinct characteristics will start to form. From their respective personalities to how each reacts to strangers to how each is affected by changes in the seasons, it won’t be long before you see that you have two completely different dogs living with you.

While Yin took to his crate and proves that dogs are den animals, Yang prefers to sleep sprawled out on the floor. Sometimes he makes it to the bed you got him and other times he sleeps in the tub or the shower. On the few occasions he has to be in his crate, Yang is clearly uncomfortable. Yin is also more than happy to hang out indoors. In fact, on those days when you are working from home, Yin is sure to be lying next to your desk, still as air. What is that noise you hear? Is Yang running around your front yard barking his head off at the neighbor’s cat or some other potential threat to your security?

When friends come to visit, does Yang sit patiently by the door and almost stare people down while Yin can’t wait to greet them and lick them in the face? Only upon your instruction, will Yang cautiously ‘say hello’? He’s by no means aggressive with anyone, you’ve made sure to train them both, well, in fact. You are perhaps more inclined to call Yang cautious and Yin as sweet and loving to your friends as both dogs are with you.

As the leaves change from green to brilliant shades of red and yellow, do you notice that Yang is at his happiest? In fact, as snow begins to fall, do you find that he wants to sleep outside buried in a blanket of snow? What’s that noise you hear now? Is that Yin whining until he manages to find the Vermont stove to lie in front of?

Although you feed them the same, two things are seemingly unavoidable. Despite how much you exercise them, one may have a tendency toward weight gain and need to hike just a little longer than the other. And while this is a pain for you as you hadn’t expected to get up an extra 45 minutes early each morning to make sure Yin gets all the exercise he needs to keep his pudge down, it is well worth it. And while Yin tends toward a slightly larger midsection, Yang for some reason is at the Vet more frequently. He’s already had three steroid injections because of that occasional limp of his. Your Vet assures you that neither appears to be predisposed to hip dysplasia and so while Yang may seem slimmer, you only play fetch with them twice a week instead of every night, the way you used to as it seems to be harder on his joints.

Assuming you did your best to train them the same, were careful to respect their established pack order and maintain your position as peak leader, some things are inevitable. In other words, it all boils down to this: Although you adopted two of the same breed, indeed siblings and moreover, twins, they are as different as night and day. In spite of their large stature, Yin was destined to be a lap dog while Yang was born to be your protector. They may each receive the same nutrition, as with humans, some are healthy as an ox while others are ‘sickly’ and catch every cold that goes around.

About the only thing that you can do differently that nature plays no part in is this: from the moment you get your dogs home, handle them. Grooming is not just to ensure cleanliness, minimize matting hair and so forth, but it also strengthens the bond between your dog(s) and you. Brush them at least daily; learn how to properly wipe their paws and when doing so, check for foreign objects between their toes and in their pads. Bathe them once a month (never more frequently), and preferably in a sulfate-free shampoo. Clean their ears with cotton balls and/or the same 6” cotton swabs your Vet uses. Just like people, some dogs are more prone to earwax than others. Check their teeth and gums at least weekly. Poke around in there and rub your fingers along their gums.

Why are you doing this? We all hope for our dogs to be the pinnacle of good health. We hope that the only time they have to see a Vet is for their annual shots, to be spayed/neutered and when it’s their time to go over the rainbow bridge. The reality is, this isn’t the case. You will be required at times to administer everything from monthly flea medicine to heartworm medicine to the occasional parasite medicine. It is important to know how to do this and to do so with authority.

Apart from that, love your kids. They are grateful to be in your life at least as grateful as you feel for owning them.

Your Cat Is Not A Book – But You Can Learn to Read Him

While we don’t spend lots of time on cats, I did want to talk a little about them today. Cats are not humans but neither are they just brainless animals, despite what some people seem to believe. They have thoughts (however instintual and primitive they may be) and feelings, they can mourn for a favorite cat or person when that loved one goes away. They show happiness when being petted, anger at being provoked, it’s all just a matter of reading their signals to know what they’re after. They, like humans, come in a wide array of shapes, sizes and personalities. What upsets one may not faze another. What sends one into paroxysms of delight may only garner an indifferent glare from another cat. But how can you tell what your cat is thinking? Short of someone inventing a collar like Dug the Dog wore in the movie “Up”, where his thoughts were turned into words that humans could understand, you have to know what his body language is saying. The nuances of emotion are fairly easy to understand once you have a grasp. Let’s start from the head and work our way back, shall we?

Eyes
A common expression says that the eyes are windows to the soul. Not sure if this is true in a cat’s case, but they can be a very good indication of the cat’s frame of mind/physical condition.
• An intense, direct gaze could be a sign of hostility or merely that Pablo wants something. When locking your gaze with him, blink slowly. When Pablo blinks, flutters or otherwise closes his eyes when looking at you or being petted by you, he is showing you that he’s happy with your presence and what you’re doing.
• Cats can see a whole lot better than we can. When Pablo’s pupils are huge in a dark room, it’s so he can make the most of the limited light. When they’re wide open in a brightly lit room, this is likely a sign of ‘fight or flight’ or that the cat is in pain or distress. If the former, leave him alone for a bit until he calms down.

Ears
As with Pablo’s sense of sight, his hearing and other senses are vastly superior to our own. He’ll move his ears to catch sounds depending on their location, but his ears are also a great way to gauge his mindset.
• When they’re erect and forward, the cat’s alert, his attention focused in front of him
• When he presses his ears back flush to his skull, he’s angry and probably on the offensive. It’s therefore advisable not to mess with him when he gets like this.
• His ears are sensitive, so when you pet him, don’t play with his ears exessively, or he’ll likely get overstimulated very quickly. This leads to the…

Tail
Lash, thump, twitch – Pablo’s tail seems to have a mind of its own, apparently moving of its own volition. But we assure you that he’s in control the whole time. Understanding what such movements mean can be the difference between a happy, content kitty, and one who is not all that happy with you.
• When he sees you, or some other well-loved human, or he’s alert but otherwise in a good mood, his tail will be erect, perhaps waving a bit at the tip.
• When he holds it low to the ground, the tip twitching, it means he’s stalking – either you or that laser pointer in your hand. Perhaps you have a mouse in the house that you weren’t aware of, but Pablo is.
• When he holds his tail vertically, but curved to one side or another, he’s feeling friendly, playful.

Additionally, there are other behaviors that Pablo might display to show you his feelings. Headbutting is a sign of trust and affection, as is rubbing his face against you. In doing so, his whiskers are marking you as ‘his’. (Given an option, wouldn’t you rather have him do that, than urinate on you as he does on objects he wishes to mark?) As tactile creatures, cats will groom one another as a bonding exercise. We are not cats, but Pablo may see you as a large hairless kitty, potentially a parental unit. This may compel him to lick you. This is yet another sign of his complete trust and faith in you.

Heated Dog Bed for Christmas

Are you having difficulty deciding on a present for your dog? Although the question might imply that you are about to indulge your dog and create a spoiled brat, this is not the intent of this article. Deeply rooted in practicality, an interesting gift that you can get your dog this Christmas that will be both beneficial and also very appreciated is a heated dog bed. Heated dog beds are fairly common, especially in northern climates where it is cold much of the year or with dogs who have thin coats, thin blood, arthritis or are older and have a difficult time staying warm. Heated dog beds are a great way to make your dog more comfortable and happier overall.

Heated dog beds work much the same way as an electric blanket does for you. The bed has either a battery or can be plugged into the wall to heat up the fabric evenly and entices any dog seeking warmth to lie down. The heating element is deep in the bed so there’s no chance of your dog coming into contact with it and burning him or herself. If your dog is prone to chewing, you will want to look for one whose cords are chew proof so that your dog won’t wreck the bed by chewing on it. You’ll also want to ensure that the one you purchase has a washable cover so that you can keep the bed clean as well and sanitized. There are even fancier versions of heated dog beds, which not only heat, but vibrate as well, so that your dog gets a warming massage. If all of this is too rich for your blood, you can make your own heated dog bed by inserting a microwavable pad or a low voltage heating element into a dog bed that is safe to use and saves you some you money at the same time.

Keep in mind that the majority of heated dog beds are intended for indoor use only, so if your dog spends a lot of time outside, you’ll have to do some additional searching. There are heated dog beds that are safe for outdoor use, but you should check before you buy one so that you can ensure that the bed will survive a long harsh winter and will last for years to come.

Although you may be comfortable lowering the heater to 77° to keep your utility bills low, this may not be warm enough for some dogs, in particular older ones or smaller breeds. As mentioned earlier, as dogs age, like humans, their joints stiffen, muscles take a little longer to loosen up and their blood is thinner, taking longer to warm up. Smaller dogs will never have quite the same insulation as their larger canine friends. So, while it might seem like an indulgence, offering your dog the warmth he or she needs to sleep comfortably and get going in the morning is merely kindness for your companion.

If you are looking for a good, long lasting gift that your dog will love, will use all winter long and last for years, a heated bed will be a welcome gift. These beds are safe to use, easy to take care of and will really make your dog feel better, sleep better, and make even the most stubborn dog stay in its own bed! There are plenty of beds to choose from, so you can get one that is the right size, a brand you are comfortable with and has all the features you want from being chew proof to massaging your pet! Help your best friend stay comfortable all winter; put a heated dog bed under the Christmas tree this year and enjoy having a happy, pain free pet again.

Some Basic Things to Know Before You Bring a Dog into Your Home

Regardless where you choose to get your dog, whether it be a breeder, animal shelter or from someone who rescues and fosters animals, there are some things you want to be concerned with to ensure your dog is as healthy as she or he can be before she or he even steps one paw in your home.

Are their shots current?

- At minimum they should have rabies and distemper

- Puppies purchased from a breeder or rescued at a young age, prior to 16 weeks will not have had a rabies shot.

- They should have DPPH (Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza, and Parvovirus)

Have they been spayed or neutered?

- Unless you intend to breed your dog, he or she should be altered. There is much debate about the age for this. Some literature suggests this should occur by six months and others suggest that a female (yes commonly referred to as a bitch) should be spayed after her first heat to avoid uterine cancer. You will want to read literature from advocating both perspectives and make the determination that is best for you.

- Again, if your dog is less than six months old, chances are, neither a male nor a female will have been spayed. There is an exception to this. Most shelters will not release an animal for adoption until he or she has been altered. Their jobs are difficult enough trying to keep the animal homeless population down; they aren’t about to add to the problem.

Ensure they don’t have worms and parasites

- Whether they’re from the shelter, a rescuer or a breeder, all dogs eat myriad of things, including feces (one’s own, other dog’s and cat’s) that give them parasites

- Don’t assume because your dog is from “a top breeder” he or she is immune to worms and parasites

Breeders, unlike shelters, are not mandated by the same city and state regulatory agencies and some are not very clean or ethical. Some breeders admit to inbreeding father/daughter, mother/son, brother/sister and see nothing wrong with it. In their view, it’s all to ensure the “champion blood line” is preserved. If this is the case, you would hate to learn that because of inbreeding your pet suffers from:

Hip dysplasia

- Very common in German Shepherds (GSDs), Huskies, Akitas and other large breeds

Neurological problems and has seizures

- Very common in English Springer Spaniels

Retinal problems and/or deafness

- Can occur any breed

Difficulty breathing easily and is prone to allergies and asthma

- Pugs sadly present with this often.

Overheats easily

- Pekingese are well-known to suffer from this

It’s important to do your homework, wherever, regardless where you feel it’s best to find your beloved animal companion. These are just a few of the examples to look for with respect to breed and known problems that can occur in any dog. If you don’t do your homework, you run the risk of getting an animal prone to problems and being unsure what to do. This is by no means a suggestion to find another breed, especially if your heart is set on a particular one. It’s merely a guide to share so you can go in with eyes wide open.

Nursing a Dog Back to Health

When we get sick or hurt, who doesn’t want someone we love to take care of us? Whether it is to give us medicine, hold our hand, fluff up our pillows, read to us or make us soup, we like knowing that someone is there who will watch over us and see us through our hard time. The same goes for pets. Yes, as much as we hate to admit it, sometimes our pets need us for the unspeakable things that tear at our hearts when they happen. It can be so painful, but we promise that his pain is worse. All you can do is sit and hope, after making sure your best friend has the very best medical care that you can find. Beyond that, it is in the vet’s hands. From malnourishment to auto accidents, there are many things that don’t bear thinking about but must be kept in mind if you want to help your furry friend when he needs you most.

Starvation is arguably the worst way for a pet or former pet to lose his life. It is a slow, lingering and painful process. But you can help. If you encounter a stray who is malnourished, after you determine whether or not he is sick, you can start her off on small doses of easy food several times a day. You don’t want him to gorge himself, which he will try to do if you overfeed him. This only complicates things. Let him get plenty of rest too, as he will probably want to sleep a lot in order to regain his energy – since most of it went to keeping him alive all this time.

If he is sick with a viral or parasitic ailment, make sure he gets prompt treatment – no amount of TLC and good quality food will make a difference if he’s got parasites crawling around inside him. After a time, when you can tell his health, mood and overall manner are improved, you can start getting him exercise so he can build back up the muscle and mass he lost while wandering the streets. Once he is feeling better, you will be rewarded when your new sweet friend gets a glossy coat and looks at you with those happy, shiny eyes.

For surgery, whether routine or unexpected, once your sweet boy is home from the vet, you should keep him calm. This ensures he won’t aggravate his hurts and open the wounds the vet worked so diligently to seal. If you have more than one dog, especially one who likes to play, try separating them for a little while. Your pooch in need of pampering may feel fine and want to roughhouse, but be in no shape to do so. If there are stitches, you would also do well to stick an Elizabethan collar on him. It may make him look like a cosmonaut and he will gaze upon you most pitifully but stand firm! Without it, he is likely to scratch or chew his stitches, which can lead to complications neither of you needs. This goes for any type of invasive procedure and of course the more stressful it is, the more you will want to do for your friend to help him recover. Pay extra special attention to your vet’s instructions in regards to care and medicine if s/he gave you any.

For more traumatic injuries, such as when your pet is hit by a car, loses a limb or otherwise finds his mobility impaired, you might not feel like you can go on. It hurts so much and you can’t stand to see your pet suffering the way he is. But you have to be strong for him because he can’t. Many animals that have suffered either naturally occurring, breed-based ailments that limit their mobility (anything from joint pain to paralysis) or lost a leg due to an accident have gone on to have fruitful, happy lives. So it means your poor boy who lost the use of his hind legs now has to haul himself around in a doggy wheelchair. Before this happened to your best buddy, this may have been a sign of humiliation and a magnet for pity when seeing it in another dog. That would be a mistake! They heal eventually and old wounds are, if not forgotten, adapted to. Thankfully there are many reputable suppliers and manufacturers who will gladly provide you with what your fine boy needs, for a decent price. Whatever you have, whatever breed you fancy - from a Corgi to a Collie, from a Dachshund to a Dane, there is no dog too great or too small.

Whatever happens to your furry friend, you can guarantee that he will thank you and love you all the more for your conscientious, loving and tender care even if at the time he turns spiteful or withdraws. What you have done shows that you are his pack leader and he looks up to you like no other. You have done him a solid and he won’t soon forget it.

The Welsh Corgi: A Little Spitfire

Considering one of these sweet, intelligent, energetic little fellas to add to the family? Well, you’ve chosen a gem to consider! Even Queen Elizabeth II owns a handful of these fun little moppets, and this breed has been favored by the British royalty for the better part of a century. Throughout their history, corgis have proven their worth time and time again, being bred for herding and corralling, proving irreplaceable for Welsh farmers, and useful additions to the farm. These mighty mites can very easily handle herding cattle, sheep, bulls, horses, and even geese. (Moms might use them to herd children away from the TV.) They accomplish their tasks by nipping at the heels of the animals and using a semicircle pattern to press them forward. If a herded animal shows aggression and turns on the dog, the fearless little spitfire bites it on the nose to turn it back. Their low slung bodies allow them to avoid being kicked.

Their line started in Wales around the 10th century, though there are conflicts around their base origins. The AKC believes their beginning to have been in the 12th century when Flemish weavers brought the direct ancestors of the Pembroke Corgi over on boats. Another suggestion was a breeding between Cardigan Cordis and the Swedish Vallhund, brought my Norse invaders to Wales. Sadly, clear historical records regarding these dogs are not clear on the matter.

There are two main corgis breeds: the Cardigan and the Pembroke. They were both developed in Wales for a similar purpose and only a few miles apart in their respective counties. Interbreeding was popular until the 1930s when a show judge declared them to be too dissimilar to be considered the same breed. After that, the Pembroke became the more popular and remains so to this day.

Appearance
There is a difference between the two corgi breeds, just as the judge declared, but they are very similar in appearance to the untrained eye; the biggest difference between the two seems to be the tail. The Pembroke lacks a tail, or has a bob tail, while the Cardigan sports a long one. Other differences include:
• The Pembroke has straighter legs
• The Cardigan has a longer body
• The Pembroke’s head tends to be more of a wedge-shape
• The Cardigan has larger, farther set ears
• The Pembroke is not as heavy as the Cardigan

So generally speaking, they both stand about 10-13 inches at the shoulder and weigh between 28-30 pounds for males and 24-28 pounds for females. Both breeds are low-slung and muscular, with large, rounded ears and faces resembling a fox. Corgis have double coats, with a fine, soft undercoat, and shorter, coarser top coat. The shed year-round and need a good brushing at least once a week. They’ll have extensive fur dumps twice a year, too, so be ready for puff balls.

Color range is red, black, tricolor, sable, fawn, or tan. Some white may be splashed in there, as well. Fluffy or long-haired corgis exist and are very cute little dogs, making fine, trainable pets, but they cannot be shown in competition as they are recognized as cosmetically flawed.

Possible Health Issues
Obesity in these dogs is deadly, as their spines can’t take the added weight. This can cause painful arthritis in the backbone. Pembrokes are at risk for hip dysplasia, where the hip joint or socket is deformed, a clotting disorder called Von Willebrand’s disease, eye disorders, and Canine degenerative myelopathy, which is a progressive disease of the spinal chord that ends in paralysis. A test can be performed on dogs over 10 years old to see if this condition exists. Cardigans are susceptible to glaucoma and back disorders, plus Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), which is the deterioration of the retinas and eventually leads to blindness. A test can be performed to see if your dog has this disorder.

Temperament
Both dog breeds are very active and energetic, needing good long walks daily. However, the Corgi needs more than the Pembroke. They are both highly intelligent, obedient, loyal, neither shy nor aggressive, protective, sturdy, and good with well-behaved children. While not shy, they are wary of strangers, and tend to bark a lot, which make them good watchdogs. If barking is not desired, they need to be communicated this. They get along well with other animals as long as they are socialized young. These little guys may also try to herd their family, which should not be allowed. As with all dogs, pack order must be established if the canine is to be happy, so make sure any dog you own, especially the corgis, know their place in the pack is below any human, else you will have dominance issues.

Corgis are, bottom line, fun little dogs. Smart and loyal, cute and full of energy, they will love you all their lives, which is 11-14 years. Keep them trim, give plenty of exercise, and you’ll have a companion like no other. Just ask the Queen Mum!

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