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Furry Friday: Spay & Neuter

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It has been quite a week–and I’ve gotten snowed under with a number of challenging issues both professional and personal. So today’s post is a bit late because (confession time!) I took the day off and went for a LONG walk with the Magical-Dawg and then took a nap with Seren-Kitty.

June is Adopt-A-Cat Month and all the kittens “littering” shelters need your love and care. But don’t neglect the adults and older felines–or the dogs, either. Today’s “Ask Amy” offer some basics you already know about spaying and neutering pets and here’s more details for fixing puppies.

Are you in the market for a new furry friend? Will you adopt this month? How did you find your special cat friend? How do you feel about adopting “older” pets?

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

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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: How To Talk To Dogs

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Puppy

"Say, what? I don't get it..." Image copr. Lewis Gardner

Once you understand the language of dogs and what your puppy “says” with his barks, wagging tail talk and other body language, you’ll know how to talk to a dog with effective puppy communication. Remember that your puppy is not a mind reader and what’s “normal” behavior for people may be a totally foreign language and offensive to dogs. Instead, you can use “dog talk” to get your message across. Here’s an article with some detailed “do’s and don’ts” about how to talk to your dog.

Are there certain words, phrases or silent signals (hand gesture commands?) that you’ve taught your dog? Did you teach them, or did the dog simply pick them up? Magic understands “car ride” and “Frisbee” and learned on his own, but I taught him hand signals for sit, down and wait. Here’s the first in what I hope will be a series of Ask Amy videos on how to talk to your dog. What else would you like to see?

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 pet book give-aways!

Woof Wednesday: Puppy Love & Valentine’s Day

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Puppy Love...it's ALL it's cracked up to be!

Magic runs to me with his ears down and tail a-wag, wanting attention. He rolls on his back for a tummy rub or brings me a treasured toy to share. How do your dogs show love…or do they?

Dogs have well-known reputations as loyal, loving companions—the quintessential “man’s best friend” and deservedly so. Dogs thrive on social interaction. Heck, Magical-Dawg even enjoys the cat’s company (he won’t admit it!). With Valentine’s Day in the offing, I’d love to hear from y’all the various ways YOUR furry wonder’s show love.

To get you started, here’s what I’ve come up with — 12 ways puppies show love.  And on a related note, here’s a fun article on a GREAT way for you to offer the ideal Valentine’s gift to your pet-loving significant other.   If’n your Valentine would like a pet book, well you’ve come to the right place!

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 Brush Puppy Teeth

Chewing is my passion

Special dental chews can help with tooth care.

Pungent pet breath goes beyond offending houseguests; it signals the beginning of dental disease that’s not only painful, but can cut short your pet’s life. February is National Pet Dental Health Month so it’s the perfect time to “brush up” on recognizing and preventing tooth trouble.

Eighty percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats develop dental problems (periodontal disease) by the age of three. Pets don’t brush their teeth, so bacteria grow in left-behind food, mineralize, and forms plaque. The bacteria also release enzymes that cause receding gums that loosen teeth, and redness and swelling (gingivitis). If that’s not enough, chewing pumps bacteria into the bloodstream through the raw gums. That damages your pet’s heart, liver and kidneys.

There are many products out there for dogs to help keep those teeth pearly white. But the absolutely best way to prevent dental issues is to GASP! brush your dog’s teeth.

I can see y’all quivering in your socks at the thought. But it really isn’t all that difficult. I’ve just posted a step-by-step how-to in this article on how to brush puppy teeth (it works for adult dogs, too). You’ll also want to take a look at the video, below, from my friend Dr. Jim Humphries.

Do you brush your dog’s teeth? Does he have breath that’d knock over a moose? How do you manage Poochie’s dental care? 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!  NOTE: the Pet Peeves newsletter will have a special VALENTINE’S DAY ISSUE you won’t want to miss!

Woof Wednesday: Ask Amy & Puppy House Training

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Page with Christmas present 2011

A Christmas puppy named Page has fun with the gifts. (Copr Esagirl/Flickr)

Did you get a puppy for Christmas? SQUEEEEE! What fun! The joy of watching a baby dog play, and learning all about the little guy can be a special time. But the new baby doesn’t come knowing all the rules of your house. House training is a biggie and can spoil and interrupt the bonding experience for you both. After all, the puppy wants to please you but just can’t help natural urges to squat.

Dogs can be potty trained at any age, but puppies learn much more quickly than adults. Puppies are so cute that owners forgive puppy-size accidents, but adult-size deposits aren’t cute and often lose the grown-up pet his home. I’ve offered a couple of the biggies–most important tips–in the Ask Amy video below. You can use these 8 puppy potty training tips to housebreak puppies and ensure he grows up to be the best friend he’s meant to be.

Have you ever had a potty training challenge? What did you do? What are some other dog bathroom training tips that worked for you? Senior citizen dogs also can have issues with being able to “hold it.” You can find tips for the old doggy incontinence issues in the book Complete Care for Your Aging Dog.

#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!

Feline Friday: Copy Cat & Socializing Kittens

kitten with blue window

Squeeeeee, kittens!

It’s Black Friday–and the cats don’t care, unless you’re in the market for another feline. Some time ago one of my feline followers ask about kitty copy cat behavior (asked and answered in today’s ASK AMY video, below). And with the holidays off to a purring start, and some folks likely to add to their cat quotient, today’s blog addresses feline socialization.

Persian kittens on chair

Copy cat behavior begins with watching--cats pay exquisite attention to the world around them.

Dog people seem better at this. If you’ve adopted a new puppy, this article offers 10 ways to socialize puppies. But with kittens, the prime socialization period comes much, much earlier–age TWO TO SEVEN WEEKS!

WHAT IS SOCIALIZATION?

To be good pets, all kittens require early-age socialization. That’s a fancy way of describing how they learn to interact with the world around them.

Basket kitten
You can use natural kitten curiosity to teach confidence–a confident kitten is more emotionally healthy than a shrinking-violet-cat.
Nose to Nose cats

"Watch me, Junior, and I'll show you where they hide the tuna."

Cats can be trained (yes, they can!) at any age, and continue to learn throughout their lives. But kittens are furry sponges that absorb lessons, both good and bad, at an incredible pace. This prime kitten socialization period is a narrow window during babyhood when learning the “wrong” lessons can emotionally cripple the cat. For example, kittens not exposed to positive experiences with humans during this period will be wild (feral) critters and never accept people.

Proper socialization teaches a cat how to be a cat, proper feline manners, how to communicate with other felines, and who the cat’s friends and enemies are. Read more about 8 reasons to socialize kittens here. Of course, if you have a new kitten or plan to adopt soon, I’d strongly urge you to prepare by reading my COMPLETE KITTEN CARE book–the pictures in today’s blog are just a few from that book, available in print and/or all Ebook formats.

What about older cats? Can they be socialized? Do kitties copy the behaviors of adult cats? Do yours? What many folks may not realize is that the copied behavior can be either a good one (learning “clicker training” by watching your other pets), or a bad one (figuring out how to swipe turkey from the frig). What are some things YOUR cats have learned from other pets? C’mon, you know you want to share! Do tell!

SPECIAL THANKS

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!

#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!

Thoughty Thursday: Thanksgiving & Rainbow Pets

Happy Thanksgiving! After a whirlwind trip last weekend to New York and back, I’m grateful to be home safe again. The Cat Writers’ Association conference has been good to me, and this year was no exception. While I’m thankful for the business opportunities and awards bestowed, those pale compared to the friendships developed through my work. I am honored to be in the company of these wonderful, dedicated professionals.

I’m thankful to be home with my family—furry and human—rather than on the bumpy road and bumpier plane. I’m thankful my human family, though miles away, remain close-nit and loving. And I’m thankful all remain healthy.

I’m thankful for veterinarians who make life better for the pets we adore. I’m thankful for researchers who work to find diagnoses, treatments, and cures for our ailments, both for pets and for people. I’m thankful for the animal welfare volunteers who do the work of the angels when others somehow let pets down.

I’m thankful that I have the best job in the world, sharing information about the cats and dogs that have become so important to our emotional and physical health. I’m thankful for publishers, editors, magazines, newspapers, TV and radio shows, websites, bloggers and email lists that share these important resources to benefit cats and dogs and the people who love them. And I’m thankful to writing organizations, teachers, agents and all those who promote the craft of good communication and help others pursue this rewarding craft.

I’m thankful that I found a dumped kitten fifteen years ago and brought her into my home and heart. I’m thankful that Seren-kitty still acts like a kitten and stays so healthy. I’m sure my veterinarian also is thankful Seren remains spry, since she is not a happy patient and the clinic staff likes to keep their fingers intact. I’m thankful Seren only rarely presents a hairball “gift” and that I’ve not found it barefooted at 3 a.m. for many months. I’m thankful she’s given up playing “gravity experiments” with my fine breakables, and has decided it’s okay to nap on my lap now and then. I’m also thankful that she’s decided the dog is a boob and great fun to torment, rather than spending all of her time sequestered upstairs.

I’m thankful for responsible breeders who ensure purebred dogs and pedigreed cats have a healthy paw-start in life. I’m thankful that Magic-dawg at age five has become a bit…just a bit…less driven. I’m thankful for water hoses, and tennis balls, stuffed teddy bears and Frisbees that wear Magic out without exhausting me at the same time. I’m thankful my roughneck dawg hasn’t had any injury or digestive “whoops” this year. I’m thankful Magic is smart, funny, a comedian, and a wonder to train—and doesn’t argue but has accepted that the cat is the boss of him.

I’m thankful that although he never grew up with pets, my husband loves Seren and Magic as much as I do. I’m even more thankful they adore him back (that could get awkward!). I’m thankful for my church family—pet lovers or not—who also support my furry notions. I’m particularly thankful to the Cuchara Gang (you know who you are) who lift me up with friendship and love.

I’m thankful for music that has always been so much a part of my life. I’m thankful for theater that feeds my soul. And I’m thankful my co-author helps me combine music, writing, theater  and pets into exciting new possibilities–see the sample in video, below. Note that all the CUTE DOG AND CAT PICTURES are in the video. *s*

Finally, I’m thankful to you—yes, those who read this blog or any of the other writer-icity hangouts I frequent. Without you, I would not have a career, and my life’s passion would remain unfulfilled. Without you, your pets wouldn’t have the wonderful love and care you provide. Without you, there wouldn’t be any reason for this heartfelt—THANK YOU.

RAINBOW PETS

Black and white, brindle or tabby,
Merle or brown, sable, Abby,
Persian, Collie, whole or fixed,
Rainbow pets a perfect mix.

I was young, I was old.
I was rescued, I was sold.
I was sick, and you were kind.
By some mystic Master’s design
Can’t you see, meant to be
You will always be mine.

Whoops or planned, shown or banned,
Shelter, rescue, foster, pound,
Bottle babies, purebred ladies,
Perfect, damaged, all are found.

You were clueless, so were we.
Lessons learned don’t come for free.
Can’t go back, regrets define.
By some mystic Master’s design
Shed no tear, have no fear,
Pay it forward in kind.

Blond or blue, calico, curly,
Pointed, smooth, wirehair, surly,
Sweetheart, bold, or shy thereof,
Rainbow pets—we’re yours to love.

Love me now, love me then,
Love me when we meet again
At the bridge, the rainbow shines
By some mystic Master’s design
In its light, Ever bright,
You will always be mine.

Tuesday Tips: Safety for Doggy Table Moochers

Magic day 3

"Can I have a taste?"

Tuesday Tips has been the day for everything from cat and dog quick advice to writerly series on everything from Indy Kindle publishing and advice from best-selling authors to Media Training. This week I prepare to attend the Cat Writers’ Association Conference and also have a few timely topical posts (see tomorrow’s Pet ‘Net Event!). So since the Woof Wednesday blog got hijacked by the cats, it’s only fair that today’s Tuesday Tips goes to the dawgs. And the topic is one of my fur-family’s favorites.

FOOD.

But first you have to get to the treat party.

Holiday Travel

Will you travel to a relative’s home for the upcoming holiday events? My Magic wants to remind you–DON’T FORGET THE DOG! They’re part of the family, too. And unlike cats who often despise new places/people/pets–more on that on tomorrow’s blog–dogs seem to relish family gatherings. For those with canines who have problems with car rides, you can start training now with these car ride tips for dogs and he’ll be ready to roll by Thanksgiving. And yes, you’ll see the Magical-Dawg in the article’s picture in HIS car!

tibetan spaniel

Dogs perfect the "I'm starving!" look.

It doesn’t have to be the holidays for us to want to treat our dogs. Magic has three favorites in his life–car rides, Frisbee and TREATS. We love to indulge ourselves-and them-and are careful to avoid poisoning pets with high-risk foods like chocolate, macadamia nuts, avocados, or raisons/grapes. Artificial sweeteners keep owners lean, but any goodies sweetened with Xylitol could cause canine liver failure. There also are some people foods that we relish that can land our dogs in the hospital–or worse! Some table food can actually KILL your fur-kid. Learn about the high-risk treats here, along with some first-aid tips just in case.

Why is it that dogs beg? Are they really all that hungry? Heck, Magic even begs for green beans and then spits them out. Puppies are notorious moochers so if you have a new fur-kid, take a moment to read these puppy-specific tips on why puppies beg. Learn ways to safely treat puppies without turning them into begging fools.

When the aroma of baking and roasting turns on the doggy drool, what human foods are safe for dogs to snack on? Actually, dogs have been eating the same foods people do for centuries and not only live to tell about it, they thrive. And holistic vets often recommend some of these foods for a more natural way to treat your doggy best friend. The latest Paw Nation article explains about 10 Healthy Table Foods your dog can eat–right in time for the howl-lidays!

Helping the Medicine Go Down

You can find out even more “natural remedies” for your fur-kids in my book New Choices in Natural Healing for Dogs & Cats–I just found out it’s available on Kindle, too. And on a related note, if you have a pet that needs medicine, there’s a nifty way to help the medicine go down–with veterinary compounding. I just interviewed a very kewl pharmacist who has all sorts of Pupcicles with pain and antibiotics combined, peanut-flavored treatments for parrots, and transdermal (through the skin) ointments so you don’t have to pill your cat. You can listen on my latest Pet Peeves radio show Helping The Medicine Go Down.

Have happy–and SAFE–holiday meals for your entire family, furry and otherwise.

SPECIAL THANKS

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!

#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!