RSS Feed

Tag Archives: puppies.About.com

Woof Wednesday: Food, Glorious Food & Worry-icity!

Posted on
Tillie & Glen

“Look pitiful–THAT’S how you get treats!” Awesome picture copr. Craig Logan via Flickr

You are what you eat applies to pets just as much as it does to people. After the pet food recall (you remember, the one that killed a bunch of pets and turned the pet food companies into damage control demons?), a lot of dog and cat folks morphed into DIY feeders. In fact, a friend of mine and great pet person and awesome journalist Arden Moore’s fun gift book REAL FOOD FOR DOGS became a best-seller when owners went looking for alternatives. Note: this is a fun book with recipes for treats and suchlike, not for a daily diet, so is great as an adjunct to your dog’s main food.

PROS & CONS OF HOME FEEDING

The veterinary community as well as the FDA cautions pet owners about home cooking food and especially raw diets for two reasons. First, it’s very difficult to create a nutritionally sound diet for your pet on a sustained basis.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, I have friends who have done this for YEARS with great success but it’s not for me–I don’t even cook nutritionally sound meals for myself, LOL! (Cheetohs and M&Ms are my friends…). But with a sound recipe from a vet nutritionist (www.petdiets.com is a good resource) it can be done very successfully, and is particularly helpful for pets with therapeutic dietary needs.

Second is the fear of food contamination, and salmonella is a real danger more for people (especially kids and immune compromised folks) than for pets. Safe handling of food is a must even with people food, though. The fear has been that widespread home cooking and/or raw feeding could result in an outbreak of salmonella.

P1010026

“Num, num, num, num…”

PET FOOD RECALL–REDUX

Yes, it’s happened again and the culprit is salmonella. But it’s not home cooking folks or raw feeders, but commercial foods once again. BRAVO to Diamond Foods, the manufacturer/packager of a number of brands, that kicked off a VOLUNTARY RECALL as a precaution even though only small amounts of product actually was suspected to be a problem. Since that initial announcement, additional foods–dog, puppy, cat, kitten–and brands have been added to the recall list. Brands include:

  • Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul
  • Country Value
  • Diamond
  • Diamond Naturals
  • Premium Edge
  • Professional
  • 4Health
  • Taste of the Wild
  • Apex Foods
  • Solid Gold

You can find links to the various products along with batch codes and dates to ensure your pets’ foods are still safe or should be returned in this recall blog.

PET FOOD SELECTION

How do you know a pet food is the best for your furry wonder? Every pet is different, of course, but there are ways to figure things out. Reading labels gets you part of the way there–but the labels are a legal document and serve to satisfy the regulators more than they do to inform the public. There are terms that have legal definitions but can be misinterpreted by pet owners (ain’t that the way legalese works?), and even some ways the labels can mislead (accidentally on purpose, LOL!) to get you to open up your wallet. After all, dogs don’t have thumbs or bank accounts so it’s up to us to choose wisely.

Here are a few links to further information about pet foods–much of this applies to cats, too:

What’s On Pet Food Labels?

Label “Myth-Information”

How Food Claims Are Verified

What IS That? Additives In Food

So what do you feed your furry wonder? What does your veterinarian recommend? Do you rely on other “expert” advice and if so, where do you get your information? Have you been affected by the pet food recall? How do you advise your pet-loving friends? Do tell!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with excerpts from the forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND, and pet book give-aways!

Woof Wednesday: Making Fleas Flee

Posted on
magic in paintbrush 2

I couldn't resist another Magic picture (when he was much younger) in spring Paintbrush.

It’s time for my annual flea rant. This year the terrific rain that made wildflowers resurrect in drought-parched North Texas also provides lush habitat for bugs. Magical-Dawg has been scratching like crazy, even though he’s on a flea preventive. There’s just too darn many bugs out there. The cat flea (also infests dogs) can cause allergies, anemia, and transmit tapeworms as well as the agent that causes cat scratch disease. And even though Seren-kitty doesn’t go outside, Magic generously shares any hitchhikers with her.

KEEP REFILLS A-COMING!

I’ve also had some frustration getting refills on Magic and Seren’s medications. It used to be that the monthly spot-on or oral heartworm medications could be picked up from my veterinary office. For convenience sake they’ve gone to an online website with a “store” that keeps track of the pets’ Rx which can be refilled with the click of a button. Only the past couple of times the pets have been ready for a refill, their meds either were “unavailable” or missing from the online store. Grrr!

So instead of a separate heartworm preventative along with a flea medication I finally broke down and purchased Revolution, a product formulated to take care of most all available parasites. Hopefully that will quell Magic’s itch–I do believe that the fleas build up resistance to certain treatments and it’s not a bad idea to rotate products when possible.

FLEA PRODUCT DANGERS!

Choose flea and tick products with care. Even those that ARE safe (when used according to directions) can cause problems if you fail to use good judgment. Age of the pet, health status, and species determines the type of product you should choose. Look at the label to make sure the flea or tick protection says it’s safe for your individual pets.

Dogs tolerate certain types of pesticides better than cats. Products containing permethrin or phenothrin labeled for dogs can kill your cat. Kittens and puppies must be old enough to tolerate the treatment (the label will say the best age). And using more than one product at a time on your pet can add up and poison him when one alone might be fine.

NATURAL FLEA PREVENTION

The safest and most “natural” flea control technique involves using a flea-comb. Frequent vacuuming of the carpet removes up to 90 percent of flea eggs and 50 percent of larvae, and gets rid of incidental ticks, too. Don’t neglect washing pet beds, carriers, blankets, and throw rugs as well as any sofa cushions or other favorite dog and cat resting places.

For outdoor habitats, cut the grass short to allow sunlight to shoo away the bugs. Remember all those wildflowers and waist-high grass in the pictures on Monday Mention blog? Yesterday the fields were mowed, and that should cut down not only the pollen count but reduce parasite habitat. Keeping your pets from problem areas and treating the bug habitats helps reduce the pest population. Nematodes—worms that eat immature fleas—are available from lawn and garden supply outlets.

.

Can you see the flea in the picture? Yes, it's there! Ewww!

FLEA BIOLOGY BITES

The adult flea you find crawling through Fluffy and King’s fur represents only the tip of the buggy iceberg. Adult fleas don’t hop on and off your pet. They stay there unless involuntarily dislodged, but they represent only five percent of the total flea population. The remaining 95 percent composed of flea eggs, larvae, and pupae lurk in the environment poised to belly up to the furry banquet.

Fleas can lay 20 to 40 eggs per day, and ten female fleas can create almost a quarter of a million different life stages in a month. Newly emerged flea larvae can survive two weeks without a blood meal, and pre-emerged (pupae/cocoon stage) can survive six months without feeding.

Flea products may address the egg, larvae and adult stages, but no insecticide can kill the cocoon stage. You must wait until it hatches to kill it. It takes fourteen to twenty-one days for the lifecycle to be complete.

Consult with your veterinarian to decide how best to protect your furry family in the bug wars. Some products only are available by prescription. If you choose an over-the-counter product, look at the label and follow product instructions to ensure the health and safety of your pets. You can learn more about fleas and appropriate products in this article, and learn more about ticks here.

How to you keep your dogs itch free and safe from parasites? Do you use “natural” methods along with preventatives? What tips can you offer to others dealing with these nasty vampires? Please share.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with excerpts from the forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND, and pet book give-aways!

Woof Wednesday: Dog Food Info & How To Stop Gassy Dogs

Posted on

2 pups eating

I’ve spent the past couple of weeks writing about pet food to help pet parents best choose what to put in the bowl. It’s up to owners to do research into what fits your furry wonder’s age and lifestyle. Do you know how many calories dogs need, for instance? The newest article answers questions about calories in dog food.

So I’ve provided a primer on how to read pet food labels. Bet you’ll learn some surprising things about what the label can tell you–and what it doesn’t say.

Do you know how they test the food? Animal testing, you betcha–and Magical-Dawg wants to come back as a food taste tester in their food trials. Read all about the testing here.

Pet food manufacturers can be creative when it comes to following the letter of the law and describing what’s in the food, too. Do you know what constitutes a GOOD food additive? Are there bad ones? Why would they even be in the food? Well, many of them are there not for the dog, but to get those of us with pocket books and thumbs to open the wallet and buy the food. Learn about pet food additives here.

Dogs aren’t the best decision makers, even if they had their own wallets. Heck, there’s a reason that at my house all the toilet lids stay CLOSED, and the waste baskets are set on countertops. Magical-Dawg eats just about anything. That, of course, can lead to (ahem) potent results. In fact, today’s Ask Amy video addresses that very issue.

How do you choose food for your dogs? Have they ever had aromatic emissions of the stinky kind? How did you handle that? Do tell!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with excerpts from the forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND, and pet book give-aways!

Woof Wednesday: Cute Babies, Apple Pie & Hug Your Dog

Posted on

.
I had another post set to go today. But then I took an ethical stand (say it ain’t so!) and wrote what appears to be an incredibly unpopular post on my puppies.About.com site. 

Oh dear heaven, by the comments I received you’d think that I said cute babies are evil, apple pie is poison and advocated BEATING YOUR DOG! Part of that has to do with folks reading only the title and ignoring the content of the message. Oh well. That drives home the importance of titles, I suppose.

You see, I took issue with a big-name pet food company that should know better. The Purina Beneful promotion titled “hug your dog day” encouraged folks to take pictures of themselves hugging their dogs and post them.

Sounds delightful, doesn’t it? The promo really struck a chord with pet lovers. After all, who doesn’t love a hug? Hugs mean love, hugs mean happy happy happy, hugs are tail-wagging expressions of the joy we share with dogs. Right? RIGHT?!

Uh, no.

WHY HUGS CAN BE DANGEROUS

There’s a reason that veterinary behaviorists, dog trainers and savvy owners blanched when they learned about this promotion. Why is that? Because while hugs are a natural HUMAN expression of comfort and love, they can send the opposite signal to your dog.

Children get bitten in the face as a result of inappropriate dog interaction (often hugs). Learn ways to help prevent dog bites here. There are other safer, more appropriate ways to show affection to dogs that the dog actually prefers!

“Oh no, you stupid, clueless person–you’re wrong wrong wrong, because MY DOG loves hugs, and every dog I’ve ever had loves hugs and everyone that I know has dogs that hug them back and loves hugs and…” 

Good. In this case I would LOVE to be wrong! If you have a dog that loves hugs and hugs you back, bravo. But that also begs the question, how do you know your dog “loves hugs?”

DEFINING “HUGS” & WHY DOGS HUG

A hug is an embrace, right? Arms go around the body and squeeze–that’s a hug. When do dogs clasp forelegs around another creature and squeeze? I can think of three scenarios:

  • Mating/Dominance displays
  • Prey capture
  • Fights/play fighting

So when your dog “hugs” you what is he saying? And what do your hugs tell him? As a vet tech years ago I was taught the “hug-restraint” technique to immobilize dogs for treatment, and I suspect the dogs were not fooled into thinking that was an expression of affection.

How do dogs actually show love? Here are 12 common ways.

Thank heavens our dogs for the most part are very flexible and forgive humans our sometimes clueless nature, LOL! I know that I’m grateful Magical-Dawg makes allowances when I don’t understand what he’s trying to tell me. At least with people, you can explain your intentions. That can be a challenge with dogs.

FORCING HUGS–IS IT FAIR?

I don’t have two-legged children. But I’ve witnessed gatherings where babies and toddlers get passed around to strangers who hug, pinch cheeks, bounce up and down, and ooh-and-aw over the cuticity. I think we’ve all seen kids wail in protest or fall silent with fear while a clueless relative or acquaintance –or a pediatrician?–insists on continued “loving but unwanted attention.” When you were a kid, do you remember that certain relative who caused no end of angst because as a kid you had no choice but to put up with the hugs, smooches, and cheek pinches? At least with older children, parents can explain what’s going on and help guide the adult (hopefully) into less scary interactions.

As much as we want to believe they read our minds and understand our words, dogs misunderstand a lot–and we misunderstand an equal portion of what they say. Hugs are supposed to express affection and love. So if a hug causes stress, fear, discomfort to the dog you adore, is it fair to inflict those feelings because it “feels good” to the owner?

BUT–MY DOG LOVES HUGS!

Yes, many dogs can learn to tolerate–or even love hugs from a trusted human. For those who have taken the time to do this, BRAVO! Many dogs also can learn to tolerate or love tooth brushing–so is it responsible for a company with dental products to promote sticking your hands in the dog’s mouth, or is it better to explain how to do so safely?

Magical-dog loves close contact. He often pushes his head and shoulders into my lap or squeezes his face under my arm. Is he asking for a hug? I suspect it’s this type of behavior that confuses many of us–but see, he controls that interaction. My arms haven’t come down around him to capture/hold/prevent movement. So some of the confusion, I suspect, has to do with semantics and how people define a hug.

How do you know your dog “loves” hugs? What does your dog do when s/he receives a hug? Do you know what each of these signals mean? Are you sure? Click on a link or two to see if you’re right!

My post seems to have hissed off a large number of folks who remain convinced their dogs love hugs. That’s great. But my entire purpose with these blogs, my books, pet advocacy and more is to EMPOWER PET OWNERS TO MAKE INFORMED CHOICES.

To stand silent and do nothing hurts my soul. I was an expert witness in a dog bite trial where a child was severely injured by a dog she adored–and the dog adored her as well. Read about that in this blog post.

If hissing off some readers saves one child from the trauma of a bite, or one family from the heartbreak of losing a beloved dog by mis-reading intent–I’m fine with that.

Now then, I’ll don my flame-resistant sparkles and prepare for comments. Do your dogs like hugs? How do you know? For trainers and behavior folks out there, how do you help people understand safe dog handling? Do tell!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with excerpts from the forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND, and pet book give-aways!

Woof Wednesday: Putting On the Dog at Dog Shows

Yorkie in papers

Yorkshire Terrier backstage at Westminster.

Last week, I’m sure a number of readers watched the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on television. I’ve attended this event several times–I shot most of the pictures in today’s blog at Westminster–and it’s even more exciting and impressive in person.

In an email communication that mentioned the show, though, one passionate pet advocate expressed the hope that folks NOT watch the show. A finger was pointed at shows for promoting the sale of pets for profit, labeling the practice to be cruelty to animals that created the need for rescue organizations and shelters to deal with the cast offs.

White poodle in show wraps

This Standard Poodle is not yet ready for his close-up! Again, taken in the benching area at Westminster.

Wow. I have to applaud the passion, and I actually agree with some of the comments. I also would like to see an end to the need for rescue and shelters, but I don’t believe banning dog shows (or cat shows) would stop indiscriminate breeding. Just take a look in the paper at the “free puppies” section—those are not dog show animals being bred for profit. Punishing the folks who research pedigrees, perform expensive genetic and other health tests before doggy match-making, fund ultrasounds, support research to improve health of all dogs (or cats) doesn’t account for numbers found in rescue, foster and shelter organizations. I know many breeders who include in their contract that should your circumstances change THEY will take back the dog or cat.

beagle

Notice the saw dust on the floor--the BEST pictures (without people traffic) can be taken at the Westminster doggy potty spot.

The only folks who actually make money breeding dogs and cats would never get one of their dogs into Westminster or a comparable show. If you heard my colleague David Frei comment during the broadcast, you learned that a majority of the exhibitors at these high-venue events are ALSO into rescue work, support shelters, do therapy dog work, visit prisons, are hunting dogs or SAR emergency teams, and help fund health studies that benefit all dogs and cats including shelter animals.

komondor

Corded coats as on this Komondor served to protect the dogs as herders, but critics suggest the emphasis on appearance may not be good for the dogs.

What’s the deal with showing dogs, anyway? The earliest record of a dog show dates to June 1859 in England and featured hunting dogs, while today the show world has expanded to include a much greater variety of breeds, types, and fun canine sports.

Conformation dog shows are the beauty contest of the dog world, like the Westminster show. But conformation goes beyond simple looks. Show judges must know what constitutes the breed “ideal” and measure each competing canine against that mind’s eye image to select the winner that comes closest. Besides looks, the dog’s health, ability to move, and even personality must be up to snuff.

Golden 1

Appearance doesn't have to be extreme--there can be "hidden" issues as in this gorgeous Golden Retriever, a breed known to have a very high incidence of cancer.

Interestingly, after the 2012 Westminster winning Pekingese Malachy was crowned, quite a bit of outcry resulted not only from folks like rescue and shelter organizations, but also from those in the “show” world. You see, dog shows have a public relations problem—as evidenced by the comments that prompted this column. The breeding of some dogs to extravagant extremes that meets a “show” standard but may impact the health and well- being of the dog has been in question for years, from veterinarians and forward-thinking dog lovers. While the Peke breed was developed to be a lap dog/pet in ancient China, and the winner certainly fit today’s standard, the little guy epitomized all the complaints about purebred dog breeding favoring form over function. The coat alone would be crippling and lethal in a Texas summer!

Thank you to everyone who does their part for companion pets everywhere. It shouldn’t be an “us against them” mentality. I just wish that all the “good guys” from every arena—show, shelter, rescue, feral TNR, foster and more—worked together for the mutual benefit and against the common enemy—abuse, neglect, and more.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Woof Wednesday: Puppy Training Tips–Sit, Wait, Come!

baby

"Teach me, please!" Copr. Summer Hughs.

Everyone wants a polite puppy. But how does it happen? Polite behavior doesn’t develop overnight and what’s cute in Junior-Dawg can become a problem when that 10-pound baby turns into a 60+ pound dynamo.

Many folks delay training until it becomes a problem. But actually, puppies are little sponges that soak up lessons with little effort. You can train the little guys and turn it into a game! My Magical-Dawg was doing “puppy push-ups” (sit-down-sit-down) on TV at age 10 weeks. Here’s how you can turn your puppy into a genius–or at least he can play one on TV!

Note, these tips work for adult dogs, too–and also for cats. :O

TEACHING “SIT”

This can be the canine “open sesame” to all good things. You teach kids to say the magic words, right? Well just as please-and-thank-you work for human kids, a “sit” can work for the dog. You can do this using lure training or my favorite, clicker training. I used the clicker training techniques with Magic. It lets the pet puzzle out how to please YOU instead of you trying to out-think the dog. Learn the step-by-step tips here.

TEACHING “WAIT”

These techniques also work for train the “come” command. I like using “wait” with puppies, though, because they rarely have the patience to hold still long enough to win a reward for a “stay.” The “wait” command simply means don’t move forward–but they can get up from a sit or down or whatever. Wait works really well to keep pups from dashing through a door and knocking you off your feet. Here’s how to do it.

2/365

"Come? I'd rather play keep-away!" Copr. Paige Nelson

TEACHING “COME”

This one is a HUGE DEAL when you’ve got a puppy on the loose. After all, the little guy learns very quickly that you can’t catch him and then–wow, watch the fun HE has while you tear your hair and pray he won’t dash into traffic! Of course a safe area to train or confine is best to prevent such awful potential accidents. But it’s also a great idea to teach your baby dog (or your adults!) to come when called. These tips work really well for puppies.  For my Magical-Dawg, his fail-safe recall command has become, “CAR RIDE!”  That really brings him running!

Are your puppies–and adult dogs–well trained? What are some must-knows for your furry crew? How did you train them? Are there any behaviors you wish pup-o-matic would do but don’t know where to begin? Please share!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Woof Wednesday: Stop Dog & Puppy Jumping Up!

Pup Jumps Up for Ball

Hey, it’s cute, right? When you bring that new bundle-‘o-puppy joy home, when that little guy dances on his hind legs and scrabbles at your knees, you reward him with kisses and snuggles. Weekend jumping up can be fun, too, when you play outside with the new pup. What about Monday morning when those puppy claws snag good clothes before you leave for work? If you’re like me, you wear dog hair for a living and a few snags won’t matter. Some bosses, however, frown on the dog-eared look.

What’s the deal with puppy jumping up, anyway? Do your dogs leap high, especially when you return home? See, a face lick is a canine howdy. It’s also a sign of deference. So it’s a normal puppy behavior to lick and try to aim kisses at your face. Here’s an article about why puppies jump up and 7 steps how to manage the little guys.

Sit

GROUNDING JUMPING-JACK DELINQUENTS

Even if you don’t mind the doggy pirouette and hops-along pooch, visitors to the house might object. And once the pooch grows out of the cute-icity stage and becomes an adolescent maniac, all the smiles go away. Big dogs can hurt you–or your guests–and bowl you over with their exuberance.

Hey, voice of experience here. The Magical-Dawg was AWFUL! He leaped, he grabbed, he clawed, he tore my clothes and made me question why I loved him so much. Honestly, I might have given him back if we hadn’t already bonded. I think that’s why they make puppies so cute–so you won’t kill them when they turn into juvenile delinquent dogs!

This isn’t uncommon. Pups that know their manners often begin to test boundaries as they mature. It’s almost a kind of “I DARE YOU TO MAKE ME!” attitude. And when the adolescent has big teeth and outweighs your toddler or Grandma–or shreds your clothes–it’s enough to pull out your hair.

So what do you do? All that advice in the article link (above) probably won’t work at this age. Oh, he knows what you mean but you’ll need to show the dog that you can enforce what you mean. *s* Tough love. And no, you do not need a bull-whip and chair to do this. I called on several of my savvy and incredibly knowledgeable colleagues for tips how they managed hard-headed jump-bean dogs. I added what worked for me with Magic (actually we agreed on several suggestions!) and the results is 10 tips for dealing with adolescent jumping and mouthing.

Have you ever had a jumping maniac? How did you manage the situation? Fortunately, many of these dogs grow out of the insistence on nose boinking and leaping about.

#AskAmy Sweet Tweets

Folks who “follow” me on Twitter @amyshojai and @About_Puppies are the most awesome Sweet Tweets around–they love #cats and #dogs and #pets, many #amwriting.  Just follow and include the #AskAmy in your tweets if’n you’re interested in pithy links to articles, books, blogs, experts, fictioning and sparkle-icity!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Woof Wednesday: How To Give Puppies As Gifts

1 male 3

"I fit in your Christmas stocking..." (Copr. RickieBPhotography)

I’m just home from a WONDERFUL and long-overdue visit with my parents–and got to see my brother and sis-in-law, too. I had a lovely visit and ate and talked way too much AND….(drum roll please)….I didn’t do ANY work. Well, I read and answered a couple emails but that’s it. So today’s blog is brief but also has some important info especially around the holidays. If this is a re-run of some info previously shared, tough cupcakes…it bears repeating. I hope you’ll share with others contemplating a “furry” Christmas morning.

Everyone who adores puppies wants to share the furry love affair and give puppy gifts, but not everyone is ready to receive puppies as gifts. Maybe the recipient will appreciate your thoughtfulness. But don’t gamble with a puppy’s life. Sure, Grandma is lonely and needs a wagging lap-warmer to keep her company. But she may have other plans, such as traveling to visit all the grandkids. A puppy that chews up Aunt Ethel’s hat collection will cost you favorite nephew status. A busy new parent may want a pup for their kids, but have other demands that take priority.

I used to say NEVER EVER give a puppy (or kitty) as a gift, especially around the holidays but new stats from a study by the ASPCA showed that holiday pets actually do stay in homes pretty well. So I’ve amended my recommendations. You can give pets as gifts–you just need to know how to do it. Here are 4 steps to giving a puppy — the right way.

You can also refer to these questions to ask before someone adopts a pet–and put yourself in the recipient’s “paws.” That helps you (and them) choose the best puppy match. Here are 7 questions to ask before you get that puppy.

Finally, how do you know what’s a good puppy (or kitten) source? There are many folks this time of year advertising cute fuzzy pets available for Christmas morning. They’re available from shelters, from breeders,  from newspaper ads, and even in the WalMart parking lot (ew!). Some may become wonderful pets but having a good start in life can make a big difference in how they’ll develop and become family members. Besides, you don’t want to support “bad” establishments even if you feel like rescuing that needy waif. So here are 10 questions to ask that puppy source.

Did you ever give–or receive–a pet as a gift? Was it a good experience–what challenges did you face? Where did you find the dog of your dreams? What are some other tips to think about when “gifting” someone with a new pet? Please share!

#AskAmy Sweet Tweets

Folks who “follow” me on Twitter @amyshojai and @About_Puppies are the most awesome Sweet Tweets around–they love #cats and #dogs and #pets, many #amwriting.  Just follow and include the #AskAmy in your tweets if’n you’re interested in pithy links to articles, books, blogs, experts, fictioning and sparkle-icity!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Woof Wednesday: Pet Proof Christmas & Broken Memories

198/365/928 (December 26, 2010) - Peaceable Kingdom at Christmas

Holiday homes become pet playgrounds at this time of year. Cats delight in un-decking the halls and climbing the tree. Dogs eat decorations and baptize the tree. The result is a holiday that’s anything but merry. My latest Paw Nation article addresses some of the most common holiday safety issues for pets with how to pet proof your holiday.

Dogs and especially puppies chew nearly anything, including plants. Cats rarely eat plants, but they do claw them and then lick/groom away the residue. Fireplaces offer extra warmth and atmosphere to holiday gatherings, but can prompt singed whiskers or burned paws.

Gobbling any sort of candy may cause vomiting and/or diarrhea. But some food items can actually kill your pet.

Holiday trees pose additional challenges for pet families. Refer to these tips to keep your pets safe and your holiday happy.

If you’re planning to board your dogs over the holidays, I urge you to keep him safe with proper vaccinations for kennel cough. You can learn more here about this highly contagious disease in my latest puppy-licious article here.

The holidays is an awful time of year to run short of funds for pet care. For those wanting to make a big difference in the lives of needy pet owners–and their pets–perhaps you’d like to donate to a Good Samaritan fund for vet care help. Or maybe you need a little extra help this year. Here’s a list of several organizations that will help you with vet bills.

MENDED TEARS

Holidays mean memories and damage to “things” may matter more at this time of year than others. My grandmother always displayed a gorgeous white porcelain nativity each year. That nativity symbolized for me all-good-things about Grandma’s house and Christmas–good food, happy reunions, presents, and love shared by our close-nit family. So when Grandma died, I was blessed to keep her Nativity and continue to display it in my own home.

When Seren-kitty arrived, I was nervous about her rambunctious behavior around the Holy Family. But it wasn’t until a decade later that the worst happened while my husband played his nightly fetch game with the dog–it could have been me, so there’s no blame here. The Magical-Dawg’s ball ricocheted off of the delicate nativity and managed to behead Joseph and lop off Mary’s hand.Sounds funny, right?

I had a melt down. You probably could hear my scream for miles and the sobs lasted days. It wasn’t just china, a THING damaged. It was my personal Christmas, my Grandma, childhood happy times–shattered.

Eventually I stopped crying. There was no question of replacing the pieces–they’re hard to find and besides, it was THAT nativity that meant everything to me. We did find a restoration expert able to give Mary back her hand and replace Joseph’s head right in time for the next Christmas. So this weekend, Grandma’s Nativity once again will add to our personal traditions and holiday happiness.

And the Magical-Dawg’s games of fetch are suspended until after New Year’s, at least inside the house! Hey, it wasn’t the dog’s fault. But it’s up to us humans to protect what’s important to us–not just our pets but our memories.

What do you do to keep your Christmas memories safe from doggy damage? Does the baby-gate-of-despair keep the tree and poochie free from harm? Have you ever “lost your head” over holiday damage?

#AskAmy Sweet Tweets

Folks who “follow” me on Twitter @amyshojai and @About_Puppies are the most awesome Sweet Tweets around–they love #cats and #dogs and #pets, many #amwriting.  Just follow and include the #AskAmy in your tweets if’n you’re interested in pithy links to articles, books, blogs, experts, fictioning and sparkle-icity!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Woof Wednesday: Christmas Tree Doggy Safety

They're alllll mine!

"Oh no, he's EATING SANTA!"

Have you decked the halls yet with your howl-iday decor? What do the dogs think? Have they joined in the spirit of ho-ho-ho and wreaked havoc? Or do they ignore the festivities?

Magic with Santa Hat

"You want me to wear what? Why?"

I have to admit that when our Magical-Dawg first arrived, his teeth made their mark on anything that didn’t move faster than he did. The baseboards still need touching up, and even the wall next to the kitchen pet-door could do with some new plaster. There are even toothy paw-tograph remains in the spool-shaped spindles on the base of the pine coffee table in the living room. BAD owner for not watching, BAD owner!

Magic was born in July, and he came to live with us in early October. So when it came time to put up that year’s tree, I weenied out. We didn’t put up a tree until two years ago when he was three years old and had sorta-kinda-in-a-way learned to control himself. I already had practice from dealing with the Seren-kitty’s tree love affair (you’ll see more about THAT on the Feline Friday blog).

So how do you handle doggy interest in your yule plans? Are your puppies ho-hum or holiday happy over the change in scenery? For puppies, the Christmas season can be a challenge for owners. Your puppy may believe the Christmas tree is a special gift just for his entertainment. The attraction is natural, with puppies wanting to chew branches, pull off decorations, or worse. The result is a holiday that’s anything but merry.

Puppies turn everything into a toy. The branches beneath the tree create a great puppy hideout. Tree ornaments that move or make noises lure puppies to grab and chase, garland offers a great game of tug-o’-war, and the twinkling lights draw them to investigate or even chew. That can lead to electrical shock that might even require rescue breathing to save the pup’s life. Trees end up toppled, presents and decorations damaged, and sometimes pets are hurt. My latest article offers you 14 tips for Christmas tree safety for dogs and they apply to any age canine.

LAST DAY TO GET IN ON FREE BOOK DRAWING!

This month as a special “thank you” to all my furry-fantastic-followers, I’ll give away a paw-tographed copy of Complete Care for Your Aging Cat and Complete Care for Your Aging Dog. To get in the running, simply post a comment in the blog about your special pet (old fogey or not) and I’ll draw two names at the end of the month. You can use these award-winning updated books as a resource for yourself or wrap up for a pet-friendly holiday gift to a fur-loving friend. And as an EXTRA-special incentive–and to encourage all of y’all to mentor each other and spread the blogging/twitter/Facebook love–the two winners get to name one purr-son who gives them wags of support and deserves a book, too! Get your comments in TODAY (on any of November’s blogs) and I’ll draw names and announce on Friday.

#AskAmy Sweet Tweets

Folks who “follow” me on Twitter @amyshojai and @About_Puppies are the most awesome Sweet Tweets around–they love #cats and #dogs and #pets, many #amwriting. We’ve become a great community including those in the #MyWANA social network twibe hosted by the awesome @KristenLambTX.  So I’m stealing borrowing Kristen’s methods and creating my own hashtag. Just follow and include the #AskAmy in your tweets if’n you’re interested in pithy links to articles, books, blogs, experts, fictioning and sparkle-icity!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!