Hello pet lovers!

Hi all,

This is just a quick intro to the site. First off, hello! I’m Meg, a lifelong pet lover and proud pet-person to two cats and a dog, as well as being a dog-auntie to a second pupper.

This  blog is meant to help other pet owners discuss topics important to their life with their pets, as well as offering resources, advice, and reviews on everything dogs and cats! I’ll be covering topics from travel to veterinary care to fun hobbies that revolve around pets.

Please feel free to reach out with any questions or requests for topics. I’m looking forward to talking pets with you!

Advertisements

Stress, anxiety, and your furry friend

Hello pet lovers! This week’s article came by request from a good friend, so we’re taking a small diversion from our ongoing travel series to talk about anxiety in pets, specifically in dogs. Our Elsa is a nervous pup, and getting her anxiety under control was a definite source of stress before we got better tools for dealing with it. Enjoy the read, and check out some more resources at the bottom of the article.

Canine anxiety is a real problem for many dogs. It often manifests in unwanted behaviors with other dogs and people, including excessive barking, growling, hiding, and/or running from the frightening stimulus. Fearful animals can lash out in challenging situations, putting them at risk of biting another pet or even a person in a moment of extreme fear.  The anxious dog can be difficult to have in public, and can be scary for any pet parent –  including me! My pup’s anxiety has been a source of fear and frustration and has had me asking, “why her, why us?” a great many times. A cursory look at the research out there shows the sources of anxiety can vary widely –  genetic predisposition, trauma, medical problems, and/or a general lack of confidence can all contribute to canine anxiety. Like us, dogs have physical, mental, and emotional needs, and for the anxious dog, all of these elements can factor into their well-being. For most dogs, including ours, the source is likely a combination of many factors. So, what to do when your dog is anxious? Taking a holistic approach can start anywhere, but I’d recommend reaching out to a trusted pet professional first.

Talk to your veterinarian

It is always wise to consult your veterinarian as your first step in treating any physical or emotional issue in your pet. While there are prescription medications out there to treat canine anxiety, not all cases of anxiety need to be medicated, and there are some wonderful holistic supplements your vet might recommend. Some veterinarians may prescribe supplements available only to veterinary professionals, others will advocate for behavioral interventions before prescribing medications or supplements of any kind. Our vet provided a combination of supplements and training resources that have worked great for our pooch, with the possibility of meds as a backup plan, which has worked great for our girl. Not only can a veterinarian help address any medical causes of anxiety, but they can also be a great resource for behavioral intervention as well, including recommendations for local dog trainers/behaviorist with expertise in anxious pets.

Get that canine brain working through training and exercise.

Even if your veterinarian doesn’t have a particular dog trainer in mind, it is definitely worth the effort to research a qualified dog trainer or canine behaviorist. A dog trainer is another canine professional who can be of great help in managing your dog’s anxiety.  We work with a great local trainer who runs everything from agility classes and Canine Good Citizen (CGC) courses, but her most important quality is her focus on rewards-based training and positive reinforcement. Getting rewards for learning is a great confidence booster for your dog, and a confident dog is often less anxious and less afraid. When researching trainers, look for certification from a dog training association like The Association of Professional Dog trainers (www.adpt.com) or the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (www.ccpdt.org). When looking for a trainer, ask them about their methods and look for a trainer who emphasizes rewards for positive behavior, consistency, and kindness in their classes. These are the qualities that will help your dog overcome their fears through training. Group classes or individual sessions can work equally well. Work with your trainer to pick activities and classes that will build your pup’s confidence and help them learn skills too!

Trainers and veterinarians may also recommend exercise as part of anxiety treatment. Exercise is important for all dogs, but especially for a high-energy, anxious pup. Some high energy breeds will even become physically destructive when not given enough time to run and play, and a destroyed home on top of an anxious dog is no fun for any pet owner. Even a simple game of fetch gets you and your dog out and moving. Daily walks or runs, plenty of yard time, and/or hiking can all help your dog get in their exercise, and help mitigate symptoms of anxiety.  If your dog isn’t much of a “run and play” type, or your home doesn’t have the space for bounding and playing, games can be a great way to get some energy out too. Try some confidence-building games, like gentle sessions of tug where you let your dog win, or hiding treats for them to find in your home (tip: this works best in single-dog households). Remember to give big praise and love when they succeed by getting the toy or treat, and your dog’s confidence will start to blossom.

Treating anxiety can be…fun?

Sometimes, it can be easy to focus on what our dog is frightened of and trying to avoid that. Try taking the opposite approach –  what does your dog like? Working with your dog in situations they enjoy can help to build their confidence and give the two of you the courage to conquer new activities.

If your dog is not so fond of other dogs and is additionally fearful of people, try developing your bond with your dog one-on-one. Even the most fearful, anxious dogs usually enjoy special time with their best friend, and that’s you, their person! You can exercise with them or play some games with them, like those mentioned above.

Does your dog like other dogs? If so, try to incorporate some play time with other pups via play dates, dog parks, or enrolling in a doggie daycare program. Socializing with other dogs can be fun for your dog and can help them increase their confidence, a key factor in overcoming anxiety. If your dog loves dogs and is fearful of new people, the overall confidence-building of puppy playdates and presence of other humans in a dog-based, safe environment can help your dog build positive associations between safe places and people.

Dealing with canine anxiety and fear can be just as scary for us pet parents as it is for our furry companions. The fear that they could hurt themselves or someone else because they are afraid is a terrible feeling. But there is hope! Canine anxiety can be managed and your dog’s quality of life improved with the help qualified professionals and a little bit of time and effort on your end. It can seem a daunting task to work through their anxiety, but remember to be gentle with your dog and yourself – try to have fun! Half of combatting anxiety is playing games, training, and bonding with your dog, which is some of the best parts of pet ownership. Don’t hesitate to talk to your veterinarian today, and start taking steps to a less fearful and more fun life for you and your pet. It’s an ongoing process, but you can do it!

Remember all, I’m not a vet, and if your canine (or feline!) companion is struggling with anxiety, you should talk to your trusted veterinary professional to rule out other medical problems and to treat any symptoms of anxiety in your furry friend. For more resources, check out the links below for further reading on canine anxiety and resources to help.

Medical Resources

The American Veterinary Association (AVMA)

Canine Anxiety https://www.avma.org/News/Journals/Collections/Pages/AVMA-Collections-Canine-Anxiety-Disorders.aspx

Noise Aversion Anxiety and Treatment https://www.avma.org/News/JAVMANews/Pages/170701a.aspx

The American Kennel Club on Anxiety Treatment: http://www.akc.org/content/health/articles/treating-dog-anxiety/

Canine Behavior Associations and Resources

The Association of Professional Dog trainers www.adpt.com

The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers www.ccpdt.org

The International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants https://iaabc.org/

Post Series – Travel and Pets Part Two: Traveling with the Pets!

 

We recently took our dog camping for the first time this year, and it was the best. I mean, it went well, and I didn’t even forget to bring things! And our perpetually nervous doggo had a great time too. I’ve rarely seen her so relaxed. This has been the second vacation we’ve taken with our dog, and let me tell you, there’s nothing more rewarding than a successful vacation that includes (at least one) of your pets.

We’ve only taken our youngest dog, but I imagine our dog-niece, who is an old lady pupper, would enjoy camping given the right tools! Cats can make wonderful camping companions, too, although I think our girls would prefer to stay at home. Heck, I think many types of pet could make a great travel companion as long as you keep them safe and secure (leashes and/or carriers) and bring appropriate supplies.

20150912_133542_edited
Leashed, packed, and ready to go!

So, what’s on the list before you head out on your great pet adventure? Start with getting your resources in order:

Check in with your vet and update vaccines

This one might be the most important – you can always stock up on supplies on the way out-of-town, but vaccines have to get done in advance. Rabies and distemper are the standard vaccines for dogs and cats, but you should check with your veterinarian about additional vaccines that may be needed, especially if you will be camping or in a highly wooded area. Diseases like Lyme Disease and Leptospirosis can be prevalent in these areas, and additional vaccines might be recommended. Your veterinarian is a great resource for additional tips to prepare for your trip, so make sure to pick their brain a bit before you venture off with your furry buddy.

Check out Local Pet Services

Your destination and type of vacation can vary vastly even when pets are involved, so make sure to do a bit of research about the area you’ll be visiting before you head out on your adventure. Doing some city-based traveling? Check out the pet-friendly business and activities in the area so you and your companion can make the most of your trip together. Try a basic Google search for pet-friendly restaurants, parks, and attractions and pick out a couple of things you’d like to try with your pet. Camping, backpacking, or going somewhere more remote? Scope out which trails are dog-friendly, off-leash dog areas (if appropriate for your pet), and any access restrictions that your destination might impose on pets. Regardless of the destination, identify emergency resources, including an emergency vet in the area you will be visiting. None of us want to think about the worst-case scenarios, but it helps to know where you can go for help in the event of an emergency.

Supplies – Make a List!

I am super forgetful when I don’t write things down, so this one is super important for me.  Think about food, water, and shelter –  the basics are a great place to start. Are you going to be an area where access to food and water is going to be difficult? If that’s the case, make sure you factor in your pet’s water and food needs into packing.What about shelter? Even if you’re staying in a hotel, it doesn’t hurt to bring some creature comforts from home.

We have a few things we never leave home without, and our must-bring list includes:

Adjustable leash and harness – The right leash and collar/harness make for more comfortable puppy travels. We have changed harnesses a few times due to evolving needs and training, but the one pictured here is great for a young dog who might struggle with pulling.

2015-05-19 15.52.10_edited
An early trip with a young Elsa- this hands-free leash and no-pull harness made for a great trip!

Doggie bed – Having a bed that packs easily and is washable helps keep your dog comfy. I like an option that is easily rolled into a backpack so we can take it camping. Our current bed of choice is a thicker crate mat made of nylon –  super easy to clean, comfy, and fits neatly into a bag.

A chewy or entertaining toy –  For those moments when the humans want to sit and relax, we like to provide some entertainment and distraction for our pooch too. Especially for a nervous dog, having something fun from home can be very soothing.

a pet-oriented first-aid kit – I always feel better when I’m prepared for worst-case scenarios, and it helps to have pet-specific supplies on hand. I keep vet wrap, gauze, any daily meds, and animal-safe medications like Benadryl and baby aspirin in our kit.

So, that’s where to start. Planning for vacationing with your pets isn’t too far off from planning around your own needs on a trip: it’s just making sure you have a plan for emergencies and the supplies you need to be safe and comfortable during your travels. If it would make you feel safer and happier to have it while traveling, the same is likely true for your furry companion. Get your resources in order before you depart so that your trip is not only stress free, but fun! Vacationing with your pet is about having a great time and making some memories with your best friend, and doing some thorough preparation will set you up for a more relaxing trip.

Some additional resources for traveling with your furry friends:

The American Veterinary Association (AVMA) https://www.avma.org/public/PetCare/CVI/Pages/Traveling-Dog-Cat.aspx

ASPCA

https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/general-pet-care/travel-safety-tips

Huffington Post

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/23/traveling-with-pets_n_3640948.html

American Kennel Club

http://www.akc.org/dog-owners/responsible-dog-ownership/travel-tips/

Stay tuned in for upcoming posts reviewing some of our favorite travel supplies, pet-friendly podcasts for long road trips, and some advice for relocating with your pet. In the meantime, thanks for reading, and happy travels!

Travel and Pets 3 Part Series Part One: Traveling without the Critters

 

This week’s post is the first in a series about traveling and pets, be it travel for fun, relocation, or otherwise. This week, I’m exploring some thoughts around vacationing without our furry loved ones.

We took a really great camping trip this weekend up to the Bristol Renaissance Faire –  it’s an annual tradition, a chance to get our nerdy-time and camping fix. But we couldn’t bring the critters. We left the dogs with my in-laws and the cats stayed home with my brother/roommate. It was set to be a cushy weekend for all of them, full of extra treats and love from family members with a reputation for spoiling our girls.

Nonetheless, I spent a two-hour car ride fretting about the furbabies like it was my profession to fret. What if the grandparents forget their meds? What if it storms and Chessie is scared? WHAT IF THEY FORGET ME AND WON’T LOVE ME ANYMORE?!?! I know that seems extreme. But I mean, what if they did? I often feel like a sub-par pet parent when I do something fun that isn’t focused on the critters.

That said, leaving the animals for a vacation should be no big deal – people leave their dogs and cats and other furry companions and head out of town all the time, right? And our gals didn’t even have to stay in a kennel. But then there’s me, ever the anxious, over-protective dog mom, practically losing my mind on the car ride away from my furry lil’ gals.

So how does a dedicated (read: obsessed) pet parent have a good time without their furry compadres? Actively focusing on something else was super helpful for me. After the car ride was over and we were unpacking our slew of camping supplies, I was more focused on making some tasty grilled cheese over the campfire and planning out the shows we wanted to see at the Faire the next day. Once I came to terms with them being home and me being, well, not, it was a grand weekend. I had a great time with my hubs and friends, even if I didn’t get to share it with my critters.

There was also the returning home bonus – explosive, tag-wagging excitement that only comes from reuniting with your pets after days away; if tails could fall off from too much wagging, our girls would have been down to nubs. Even our cats were vocal about our return. Our senior gal, Gabbie, even gave kisses. Kisses from a cat, now that’s a rare treat! Sometime away from the ones you love most can be good for you, I think.  It gave me time to focus on other kinds of fun, and spending quality time with the humans I care about. Everyone was safe and happy upon our return, and I think next time, I may worry a bit less about leaving. After all, you don’t get the joy of a happy reunion without venturing out in the first place!

A Great Read, Please Check out: Summer Reading: Sound Advice — Companion Animal Psychology

A summer reading list for dog and cat people.This year’s theme is sound advice on dogs and cats. In a world where good information is hard to come by and persistent myths about animals continue to lead people astray, sound advice is well worth sharing. And sharing again.Read on for some of my favourite posts…

via Summer Reading: Sound Advice — Companion Animal Psychology

Welcome pet lovers one and all!

Hi there folks! It’s time for pet stuff, and I mean lots of pet stuff. Ever the obsessed pet parent and animal lover, I created this site to share stories, product recommendations, tips, tricks, and resources for pet lovers everywhere.

This is my first post, and I figured I should introduce the characters in my life. I’ve got four furbeans (my “pet name” for my pets), an ancient kitty named Gabbie, a spry young cat named Val, a short n’ sweet Shih Tzu called Chessie, and a snugglebug mutt named Elsa. They will be featured in most of my stories and reviews, and I can’t wait to share their antics (and mine!) with you.

Thanks for joining me, and don’t forget to snuggle your pet today!