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MJ's Animal Blog

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Fostering Dogs From A Shelter

photo credit: Pixabay

Play a role in helping shelter dogs by considering being a foster dog home. Shelters are overcrowded, and foster care families offer a temporary home to train and socialize dogs. Each year, 670,000 dogs are euthanized in U.S. shelters. By opening up your home to foster, you provide individual attention and love the dog desperately needs and help create more space in shelters for more dogs to be saved.
Dogs can be surrendered to shelters for a variety of reasons, and often it’s due to lifestyle changes of the prior owners. The left behind dog is now in a smaller space with less comfort and contact with people. Dogs can get stressed in their new normal and may become anxious and even destructive. By serving as a foster home, you are providing a homeless dog with the stepping stones to be ready for their furever home.
Puppies also need to be fostered because they are too young to stay in a shelter. Puppies don’t have the needed vaccinations to remain healthy in a shelter, and puppies need extra love and attention to be properly socialized. Whelping mothers and puppies thrive in a quiet place where they can be raised and grow. Also many shelters wait to adopt puppies until they can be spayed or neutered.
Due to health costs, some dogs are surrendered because owners can’t afford the treatments. Many shelters will get the treatments the dogs need, but then they need someone who can offer more constant and direct care during the healing process.
photo credit: Pixabay
Older dogs often do best with a foster family rather than being in a shelter. The loud noises and barking can be extremely stressful to an older dog. Give this older dog a special place in your home, maybe on a blanket or towels where they can relax throughout the day.
Before you decide to foster a dog, review the application carefully and ask a variety of questions. You will want to know who is responsible paying for medical bills, food, a crate, a leash, among other items. Ask whether you will have to administer medications. Some shelters also require foster families to meet with prospective dog owners or attend adoption events. Training may be another requirement of fostering and knowing the level of expectation will be important to the success of the placement. Another aspect to check is whether the dog has to have a fenced in yard or has to be microchipped. Discuss the health history of the dog with the shelter and your veterinarian, especially if you have other pets at home. Shelter dogs may have communicable diseases and a quarantine period between pets in your home may be necessary. Find out what you need to do in case the fostering is not a good fit with you and the dog or if you need to go out of town. Some shelters ask for 24 hour notice before the foster time is over. Also, ask about time expectations and how much you need to be home with the dog.
Discuss the daily care routine expectations. Find out how often your dog needs to eat, what kind of food, and whether it’s acceptable to give treats.  Many shelter dogs will not used to daily walks and may need some help with house training. Working with your dog on house training is extremely helpful, as dogs with good inside manners are more likely to be adopted. Practice with your dog on crate training as well. This will provide a safe haven for him, but don’t force the dog in the crate if he is fearful and never use the crate as discipline or punishment. Also spend time brushing and bathing your dog. You may consider taking him to a groomer, especially if you don’t feel comfortable trimming nails. It is also recommended that most shelter dogs get at least two 30-minute play sessions or walks with you per day. Offer many different toys to play with but always discourage the dog from playing with your hands. Mouthing is not a desirable behavior to adopters. If your dog bites and breaks skin, notify the shelter immediately.
In most areas, the primary caregiver of the fostered dog must be at least 18 years old. However, teenagers can help at home and some schools will issue school credit. Ask your school counselor about whether this is as added bonus for fostering.
Fostering may only be a couple week commitment. It can be a longer period of time up to several months, depending on when the dog is adopted. Depending on your lifestyle, having a full-time companion may not be the best option, and then you may opt to have a dog for the weekend to break up its time in the shelter.
By acting as a foster care provider, you can give the future dog owner a better picture of the dog’s personality and abilities. This extra level of attention will provide a better match between the dog and owner, and as an added benefit, it should reduce the number of dogs ending up in shelters.
Consider fostering a dog today. Talk with your local shelter about how you can play an important bridge between the shelter and the dog’s new owners.


Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Giving Your Dog A Bath

Photo Credit: Pixabay
A dirty, smelly dog is inevitable once you adopt him from a shelter. Whether you go hiking in the hills, swimming at the lake, or he finds mud in the backyard, a good scrubbing at bath time will become a regular part of your care routine. The ASPCA recommends bathing your dog at least once every three months. Depending on the breed, amount of time outdoors, and whether skin problems persist, your dog may require frequent baths every 2-4 weeks. Washing dogs too frequently can remove skin oil, making your dog itch or develop skin breakdowns. However, if your dog stinks, it is time to give him a bath.
           Because you don’t know all the past history with your shelter dog, first create positive associations with the bath tub or specific area where you will give your dog a bath. If your dog is older, it may take them longer to become comfortable taking a bath. Be gentle, patient, and calm with him. Throw their favorite toy or treat in the tub and reward them with praise when they jump in the tub. Allow them to spend time in the space until they are comfortable and repeat this training – with or without treats - until he will do the same with water in the tub. A bath tub may be out of the equation for your shelter dog. You may have to bathe your dog outside because the dog feels trapped in the small space. Some dog owners have even resorted to showering with their dog.
           Regardless of where you plan to bathe your dog, brush him before bath time. Brushing keeps the dog’s coat in good condition by removing loose hair and preventing hair mats or knots. Brushing helps distribute healthy natural skin oils over the hair shaft and allows dirt to slide off the hair making the shampooing process more effective. Gently cut away any mats or knots with a sharp scissors as they can reduce the amount of air flow to the skin trapping moisture, causing skin irritation and infection.
           Gather all supplies before running water to the bath. Prep the area with hypoallergenic shampoo, a bath tool or wash cloth for scrubbing, a pitcher, cup, or hose for rinsing, and towels. Some experts recommend three towels – one for the bottom of the tub to increase traction and reduce slipping (or use a non-skid mat), one for draping on the dog between washing and rinsing so he doesn’t shake, and another for drying off.
           Start the warm water and fill the basin with 3-4 inches. If your dog will allow, place cotton balls in the dog’s ear canals to prevent water from entering the ear. Dogs ears are extremely sensitive so you do not want water getting in them, along with the eyes, nose, and mouth. You can use a towel with baby oil or apple cider vinegar to wipe out the inside of the ear. Using a damp cloth to wash the head can effectively clean it. Remember to remove the cotton after the bath.
           Wash your dog by starting from the neck down, getting completely down to the skin.  While praising your dog, you may either put shampoo in your hands to scrub it in or place the shampoo on the dog’s back in a “W” pattern. Scrub from head to tail, massaging to relax and clean him.  (If you have a dog who scoots across the floor on his backside, you may want to suppress the anal glands. Ask your veterinarian to show you how to empty them.) Drain the dirty water out and rinse the dog thoroughly with clean water.
           Dry him completely with a large towel. If your dog is used to the noise, you can use a blow dryer on their hair on a low setting. Continue to praise your dog, building a stronger bond between the two of you. You may want to wait until he is fully dry to let him go outside – or he’ll find some dirt to roll in! Another grooming opportunity presents itself at this time as your dog’s nails will have softened in the water. It is a great time to clip his nails.
Photo Credit: Pixabay
           But what if my dog has that wet dog smell even after I bathed him? Oil, known as Sebum, and water together create a bacteria causing the unpleasant odor. The Sebum, along with microorganisms, collect on the hair shaft and follicles to protect a dog’s skin from dehydration. You may need to bathe your dog every week or bi-weekly until the smell lessens, being careful not to overwash the dog because the skin can dry out. Be extra vigilant with a dog who has skin folds to wash and dry between the folds, as these can be problematic areas. If smells persist, consult your veterinarian to check for skin conditions or disease.
           In addition, wash toys, bedding, blankets, or other areas where your dog frequents. You may consider natural options, rather than chemicals found in common household detergents. Diluted vinegar wash or baking soda rinses will help reduce microorganisms causing odors to emit from your dog.
           If your shelter dog despises bath time, other options exist. Handy and portable pet wipes can eliminate odors but avoid the eyes. Groom your dog with a deshedding tool and grooming tool to reduce the amount of dirt and allergens in your dog’s hair. Sometimes dry shampoo, such as baking soda and cornstarch or commercial dry shampoo, can alleviate dog smell. Massage the dry shampoo through your dog’s coat using a towel. Doggy sprays can freshen up a dog and help detangle their coat as well. Get rid of doggie breath by brushing your dog’s teeth or use dental chews.  
           Be patient, calm, and assertive to create pleasant associations with the dog and bath time. View bath time as a positive opportunity to build the bond with you and your shelter dog!

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

First Three Days of Your Dog’s Adoption

Photo Credit: Pixabay

           Adopting a dog is an extremely rewarding experience. Creating a lasting relationship will take time and patience. In fact, the first three days of adoption are important to build a bond with your dog to prevent the dog getting returned to the shelter. A 2013 study by the American Humane Association found that one in ten pets were no longer in the home six months later. By carefully planning and anticipating struggles you can prevent the likelihood that you have to make the heartbreaking decision to bring your dog back to the shelter.

Day 1:

           Critical to the first 24 hours is to reduce stress and avoid triggers. Your first hurdle may be to get your new dog into the car. Try a combination of treats and gentle leash pressure to lead to get your dog in the car – ideally a crate for safe travel. Travel straight home – avoiding pet stores or stopping by the neighbor to show off your new dog. Once you arrive home, take him outside on the leash to show him where you want him to go potty and take him for a long walk. In your home, show him where safe places are including the crate and where the dog is allowed in the house. Leave the crate door open so he can come and go as he likes.
           It is best to set boundaries. You are establishing your role as the alpha leader. Do not let him have free reign over your house. Begin training immediately, even small things like having him wait for permission to go through a door outside. Teach proper leash handling, correcting behavior when your dog pulls on the leash. You can give treats for positive reinforcement.
           Plan for a very uneventful day without guests. Watch your dog and allow him to come to you when he is ready. If you have children, teach them to give the dog space and not to hang on the dog, hug him, or put their face next to the dog’s face. Because you don’t know the complete history of your dog, too much interaction in the dog’s space could seem as a threat to their territory. Take your dog out frequently for training breaks.
           If you already have pets in the home, you will have to decide whether to introduce them on the first day. Some trainers and shelters recommend separating them for at least 24 hours to lessen the stress and to avoid conflict.
           Feed your dog the same food he or she was getting in the shelter to reduce the risk of stomach aches. Encourage him to drink water even if he doesn’t want to eat.
           Call your veterinarian to set up a time to check over your new pet, if you haven’t done it yet. The veterinarian should look over any health records and make recommendations as necessary.
           For the first night, try to have your dog sleep in his crate. You may keep the crate close to you – such as a bathroom – but do not have him sleep in your bed. If he whines and cries, reassure him with touch and talk telling him that he is okay. Don’t let him out of the crate unless you have to take him to the bathroom.
Photo Credit: Pixabay

Day 2:

           Your dog is continuing to decompress. The decompression stage may last a couple of days, weeks, or even a months. He may explore the house more or may continue to hide. Both are normal. Freedom in your home should stay to a minimum. Show you are in control, and you will protect and provide for him. This will help to prevent unwanted behaviors and domination.
           Be prepared for your dog to be reluctant to new situations. He may have never gone done stairs, been on a walk, or even watched television. Remain positive, calm, and reassuring. And just as you would do if you fell off your bike, try experiencing those things again to show him he can trust you and he doesn’t have to be fearful.
           Introduce your dog to your other pets today. Meeting outside can be less stressful for both pets because it is more of a neutral area. You may walk them together or try some games.

Day 3-7:

           The first three days of adoption are extremely overwhelming for your dog, and he may act out and exhibit uncharacteristic behaviors. Until he is comfortable, it will be difficult for him to let his guard down to relax.
           Time to secure the routine. Make a schedule and stick to it with when you will walk or exercise your dog and feed him. Slowly add additional activities and introduce him to friends or other family members. Offer grace if he has potty training accidents because this could take days, weeks, or even months to achieve.
           Continue to be the alpha leader. It’s easy to feel sorry for your dog because he has been in a shelter and maybe some difficult situations prior to that. However, any poor manners you will want to correct.
           Enjoy learning more and more about your dog and bonding with him.
           In addition to the first week of creating a home for your adopted dog, Drs. London and McConnell,outlined timing for new dogs with a three days, three weeks, three months of transition. The first three days is described as the “detox period” as your dog gets used to the new stimulating activities and freedoms the shelter could not provide. The quietness of your home may be completely opposite of the loud, bustling shelter. After three weeks, your dog should know your routine and should know when you will come and go. By three months, your dog will understand they are “home.” Throughout these three months, be consistent with your training plan, routines, and bonding.  
           Adopting a dog takes a lot of patience and understanding. It is also one of the most rewarding experiences to see the future and potential of your new pet.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Why Dogs End Up In Shelters

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Approximately 3.3 million dogs end up U.S. shelters every year, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Thankfully statistics show dogs entering shelters has declined from 3.9 million to 3.3 million since 2011. Each year, 1.6 million dogs will become adopted and about 620,000 dogs will be returned to their owners. However, these numbers are still staggering, and many dogs remain in shelters or are euthanized. As a person who is passionate about dogs and loves the companionship they provide, it is difficult to understand how a pet owner would surrender a dog to a shelter.
According to ASPCA’s National Rehoming Survey, pet problems are the number one reason owners rehome their dog. The study defined pet problems - accounting for 47% of rehomed dogs - as problematic behaviors, aggressive behaviors, grew larger than expected, or health problems the owner couldn’t handle. Making the commitment to adopt a dog needs to analyzed thoroughly or it could lead to yet another dog being surrendered to a shelter.
Here are six reasons why dogs are surrendered to shelters.

1. Problematic Behaviors

Problematic behaviors such as a lack of potty training or destroying part of the couch often surface because pet owners fail to realize how much training is required for a dog - especially a new puppy. Each dog needs a strong leader to guide and set boundaries. Teaching dogs basic commands takes hours and hours of repetitive work. Many poor behaviors are ignored as a puppy - such as jumping on people when they arrive at your house - because it seems harmless. However, it’s no longer acceptable as a two-year-old 95 pound dog, and the dog almost knocks over an adult. When this dog, who hasn’t been trained differently, fails to listen to commands he is often deemed as problematic. However, the reality is that the pet owner has failed to teach it basic social standards. The list of “problematic behaviors” ranges from excessive barking, failure to listen, destruction of property, and so on, but the problem generally lies with the pet owners inability to train effectively.

2. Aggression

Aggressive behaviors such as gnarling, growling, snapping, biting, barking, or lunging often surface when dogs guard their territories, defend their offspring, or protect themselves. If your dog starts showing any of these behaviors, stop the behavior immediately. If a puppy was weaned too early, he or she may not have learned from the alpha dog - often the mother - that mouthing is not an acceptable behavior. Giving your dog a suitable chew toy is a much better alternative to your hand or ankles. Socialize your dog to be around other dogs at an early age and give him strict guidelines like not barking at other dogs or controlling him with a leash. Sign your dog up for a dog obedience class as early as possible to teach acceptable behaviors around people and other animals.

3. Health issues

Just like people, dogs get sick. Some of the surgeries and treatment plans can be very experience, according to the Cost of Pet Health Care Report 2018 by Healthy Paws Pet Insurance. If your dog suffers from a skin condition, the vet costs can be upwards of $5,000. Stomach issues, including the stomach flu, accidental poisonings, and parasitic infections can be as expensive as $28,000. Treatment for ear infections can be as costly as $6,400. A growth or lump might total up to $15,500. In addition to the day to day care of a dog, health problems can exceed the budget, and the dog is surrendered to a shelter. As your dog gets older, more and more health problems may present themselves. Family members can also be allergic to the dog leaving no other option but to remove the dog from the home.

4. Unexpected size

Unmet expectations are the cause of conflict in many relationships but the same holds true for mets. You spent hundreds of dollars potentially to have a mini-goldendoodle that you expected to comfortably fit in your lap. However, your “mini” dog turns out not to be so mini after all and is way bigger than you had hoped.

5. Lifestyle changes

Families change throughout a dog’s life cycle. Some people get divorced, someone loses a job, a new baby is born, or health problems arise. Sometimes there isn’t time for the dog or it becomes too stressful. There have even been cases when a couple who is going through a divorce can’t decide who gets the dog so the resolution is to surrender him or her.

6. Moving

Relocation can lead to a dog having to be left behind. Maybe the new apartment doesn’t accept pets. Unfortunately, due to the Camp Fire in Northern California about 2,000 animals are now in shelters due to being displaced by the fire.

Do your part to help control the dog population in shelters. Evaluate your financial ability to pay for all the dog’s expenses from food, toys, grooming, vet bills, boarding, and potential health issues. Examine the amount of time you can devote to spending time with your dog and training him or her. Do a careful examination of whether anyone in your family is allergic to a dog and get your dog spayed or neutered. The number of dogs in a shelter is slowly declining, and with careful examination we can all help to lessen these numbers even more!

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Training Your Shelter Dog To Become A Therapy Dog

    Photo Credit: Pixabay
Big, soulful eyes. A wag of the tag. The quiet down at your feet. The unconditional love from your shelter dog brings joy to your life every day. Unfortunately, shelter dogs often get labeled as “broken” or “damaged;” however, these faithful four-legged creatures are not seen for the compassionate and forgiving animals they can become. Besides being an amazing and loyal companion, your shelter dog may qualify as a great candidate for a therapy dog too.
        Therapy dogs, along with their volunteer, are used in facilities such as nursing homes, schools, hospitals, and even prison to comfort people and give affection (American Kennel Club). Some veterans also benefit from contact with therapy animals. Many years ago, nursing homes prohibited animals from entering facilities. Today, more than half have pet therapy programs. Specifically for the elderly, therapy dogs provide a source of touch, increase communication between neighbors, boost morale, cope with loss or illness, lower stress levels, and simply bring joy and laughter to their daily life.
        With a simple pet, dogs can help patients relax, feel comforted or less lonely, lower blood pressure and heart rate, reduce medications needed, diminish overall physical discomfort or pain, according to UCLA Health. Putting hands on a dog releases serotonin, prolactin and oxytocin which help to elevate patients’ moods. Time spent with a therapy dog provides an escape and happy distraction and can motivate people to exercise. Children with autism, anxiety, or trauma also benefit by teaching empathy, appropriate interpersonal skills,developing social skills, help them pick up on social cues, and see how their behavior affects others.
Photo Credit: Pixabay

        In the recent school shootings in Florida, therapy dogs were present to provide comfort and support for students returning to school. Dogs reduce stress and help reconnect people to their surroundings in a difficult situation. In the regular day to day educational setting, therapy dogs help students improve their reading skills, confidence and self-esteem, and enhance the relationships with fellow peers and teachers by learning how to trust and accept unconditional love from their therapy dog. If you’re like me and are getting ready to head off to college, it is interesting to note that college students reported significantly less stress and anxietyand increased happiness and energy following their time spent with a interacting with a therapy dog.
        As a volunteer with your rescue dog turned therapy dog, a recent study reports your own mental health will improve and help you live longer. Volunteers reported lower levels of depression and increased life satisfaction. Once again, your adopted pet is making you a healthier, happier person!
        But before you enroll your dog to become a registered therapy dog, spend time evaluating his personality. The most important characteristic is temperament. Your dog must be friendly, patient, confident, gentle, and easy going no matter the situation. Like people, he needs an extroverted personality who loves to spend time with people. Your dog must completely trust you so anyone can pet, cuddle, and or handle him – and not always by the most gentle touch.
        Here is a list of behavior and temperament requirements from Therapy Dog United:
·      Friendly and accepting of strangers
·      Gets along with all sizes and breeds of dogs
·      Calm, able to sit on command, and stay for long periods of time
·      Ability to walk calmly through a crowd of people
·      Ignores distractions and stays focused
·      Enjoys being groomed and pet by strangers
·      Relaxed in all situations including loud, disruptive noises
·      Displays good manners even when you’re not in the room
·      Comfortable in a new or changing environmental space
·      Engages in eye contact
        The national therapy dog registration/certification program is through the American Kennel Club. Organizations including the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dogs, Love on a Leash, Pet Partners, Therapy Dogs Incorporated, and Therapy Dogs International all can help you earn the title of AKC Therapy Dog where your dog must:
1)   Be certified/registered by an AKC recognized therapy dog organization.
2)   Pass the AKC Canine Good Citizen Test
3)   Perform the required number of visits for the title you are applying for:
 400 visits to earn the AKC Therapy Dog Distinguished (THDD) title
200 visits to earn the AKC Therapy Dog Excellent (THDX) title.
100 visits to earn the AKC Therapy Dog Advanced (THDA) title.
50 visits to earn the AKC Therapy Dog (THD) title.
10 visits to earn the AKC Therapy Dog Novice (THDN) title.
4)   Get a dog number in AKC records.
        As a volunteer, you may have to pass a criminal background check and child abuse background check.
        Making the commitment to volunteer and use your shelter dog as a therapy dog is one that will change lives including your own. Even if your dog came from a difficult situation or abusive household, the bond you create with them can also help others with their innate abilities to communicate unconditional love, compassion, and joy. It doesn’t matter on the size or breed of your dog. Your dog’s temperament may be the perfect fit to help others

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Pets Are Not Toys

    A box with a big, red bow is moving under the tree. No, it’s not that pesky squirrel from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation but a surprise for a loved one – a new puppy! You have the best intentions, but pets are not toys. This gift is a long-term commitment, and the new owner may not be ready for all the daily responsibilities the new dog brings. 
A dog’s life is approximately 10-13 years for mid-sized dogs. A surprise gift of a dog may be perfect for Christmas morning, but caring for the daily necessities may be as exciting as getting fruitcake as a gift for an unexpected pet owner. Unfortunately, when pets are unwanted they can end up being abused, neglected, and surrendered to shelters. In an American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals, approximately 86% of pets given as gifts remain in the home, leaving a portion of pets who are unwelcome. Many shelters have guidelines in place to reduce the risk of impulse homing, but the local pet store will sell to anyone who has cash or a plastic card.
A puppy can be the perfect present, if the potential owner has expressed a genuine interest in owning a dog and can provide for its daily needs. Make a calculated list to decide whether the recipient is ready for the role of a pet owner: Can they be the leader of the pack? What type of breed would be a good fit? Can they exercise the dog? Can they afford a dog? Do they want a puppy? Do they have the time to bond with the dog? Are they allergic to dogs? 

Dog ownership is simultaneous with responsibility. For adults, a gifted dog can seem like a great idea for companionship or maybe to add another dog to the pack, but don’t make a guess that is what they want or that is what is best for them. The extra care may become overwhelming, or if you pick out a puppy, it can be difficult to determine the future temperament.
            Maybe a dog was the #1 item on a child’s Christmas list. Never give a dog as a gift without parent permission or analyzing whether the child can handle the day to day commitments. A child has promised he or she will feed, walk, and give the dog a bath, but yet you know they can’t remember to make their bed in the morning. If you, as the parent, give a dog as a gift to your child, ask yourself if you are ready for the responsibilities of the pet and all the financial obligations too.
           Instead, consider giving a dog adoption certificate, along with an adoption kit or a dog obedience training gift certificate. Pick out a dog pillow and toys for the person to unwrap with a certificate to cover adoption costs. Allow the future pet owner time to figure out which dog is the best fit for him or her when the hustle and bustle of the holidays are over. This gift supports shelter efforts to end puppy mills and overpopulation – a win-win for both parties!