BOO! Watch Out for Halloween

This week is Halloween—the start of the fall yard decoration season. The return of cold weather means that winter clothing, including parkas, hats, gloves, and scarves, are making a return as well. What does this mean for you and your dog? Yard decorations can be scary for many dogs. They appear where nothing was before. Many move, flash bright lights, or even make noises, all of which dogs may find unnerving. Halloween decorations will be quickly followed by holiday decorations at many houses. As a dog owner or walker, you are responsible for being aware of these potentially scary objects and planning accordingly. Never force dogs to approach things they may find scary. A forced approach may reinforce fear in the object and also erode your dogs trust in you to keep him safe. Additionally, a sudden movement or sound from a motion sensitive decoration may also startle your dog, increasing fear. Keep in mind that scared dogs may also redirect...
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THUMP! – A reminder travel safely

We had attended two weddings 600 miles apart in less than 24 hours—driving through the night to make it to the second one on time. People said we were crazy, but we didn’t feel we could let down the friends and family that were counting on us. In the end, the trip had been successful, and the car was packed for the trip home. There had been some light rain, but the road conditions were fine, and we expected an uneventful drive. Certainly, we didn’t think anything of having to stop behind several other cars to wait for another vehicle to turn left. That is, until I glanced in the rearview mirror and saw the yellow Jeep coming up behind us. It was braking, but not fast enough to stop on the slightly slippery road. Thump! We both jerked forward in our seatbelts, glanced at each other, and pulled to the side of the road. Maybe it wouldn’t be too bad,...
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Life of the Party: 5 Tips for a Safe and Successful Party – With Pets!

Christmas has come and gone. Stockings have been opened and family have departed, but with New Year's Eve fast approaching, party season is far from over. Whether you are planning to entertain for or in the New Year, here are a few tips to help you host a successful gathering. 1. Consider individual needs. Not everyone is a party animal. You may have your heart set on a free-for-all with children and dogs running gleefully around the backyard (ok, maybe not in Maryland for New Year's), but unless you select your guest list carefully, that just isn't going to be in everyone's best interest. The needs of human and animal guests need to be carefully considered. If you want to let all your friends bring their dogs, are all the dogs likely to get along? Do you have enough room to separate them if you need to, either because they don't get along, or because some are overwhelmed by the number...
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Relax Already!

Never underestimate the power of relaxation. It's a skill that too few people - and very few canines - have truly mastered. I always emphasize the importance of teaching self-control, especially to owners of young and energetic dogs. Having shared my home with a border collie mix for the past four years, it is a skill I can truly appreciate the importance of first-hand. There are numerous ways to teach this important skill, although my go-to method is Dr. Karen Overall's Protocol for Relaxation (from Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Small Animals, First Edition), which provides an excellent systematic method for mastering the three "D"s of a stay - distance, duration and distraction. Additionally, Dr. Overall's basic set-up can be altered to focus on areas of particular concern for a given dog. In this video, Sirius Black demonstrates Day 5 of Dr. Overall's protocol. He has not quite mastered the "relaxed" part of it, as I point out in a few places....
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Site-seeing with dogs

Last weekend, I took my dog out to Mount Vernon on a sunny Sunday afternoon. It was crowded, but we skirted busiest areas, sticking to the woods, the dock, etc. We avoided getting too close to the livestock (despite Sirius's earnest appeal to be allowed to play with the cows). Overall, I think all of us had an enjoyable time. However, as we headed home, I couldn't help but consider questions that I have considered many times before - when and where should your dog accompany you on trips, and how do you make that decision? That night, I posted a few tips on Twitter. However, I wanted to take this opportunity to expand on the comments I made. Today we went to @VisitMtVernon . Love open air places that allow dogs - be around lots of ppl but still have space. pic.twitter.com/PChPmUHjyF — Next Best Pet (@NextBestPet) August 5, 2013   1) Pick your spot. As I said in the tweet above, I...
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Reflections on a Life

This note originally appeared on my personal Facebook wall on June 9, 2010. Sydney passed away on June 8, 2010 (aged approximately 14 years) from kidney failure. She had lived with my family since August 2007. When we adopted her, we were told the kidney disease would probably give her only 6 months to a year to live. That, more than anything else, motivated us to enjoy every day with her and truly see her time with us as something special. I'm reposting this here today in honor of several family members and friends who have recently lost pets, or learned of their beloved companion's terminal illness, including, once again, my own family, in Sydney's steady companion/seeing eye dog/hearing ear dog Bailey. She came to us like most shelter dogs - some good, some bad, but mostly unknown. But her Beagle pride and quirky personality soon shone through, in her tolerance for Bailey's wildly waving tail, her penchant for cat poop and...
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Trouble on Easy Street

This post briefly sets the stage for why we should take time to train our cats. It is the first in our cat-training focused series. I don't know anyone who would argue with the statement that cats love sunbeam. Yesterday morning, I found my cat, Nefertiti, lounging on the bathroom rug right in the path of a morning sunbeam. However, most cats are looking for a lot more out of life than 20 years or so of moving from sunbeam to sunbeam - unfortunately, that is all that is expected of many of them. While there is not a lot of detailed evidence about the exact evolution of cats, most scientists seem to agree that cats evolved to live with people primarily as vermin hunters with a side of companionship. This is in distinct contrast to dogs, who evolved as co-hunters and protectors as well as companions and were subsequently selectively bred for a variety of tasks, including herding, tracking, retrieving, as...
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“Are we there yet?”

"I'm bored." "There's nothing to do." You don't have to be a parent to be able to conjure up the sound of that childish whine. In fact, if you cast your mind back, you might even be guilty of having said something similar in your childhood - or more recently. Unfortunately, boredom often leads to trouble-making, in both both kids and pets. It's not that anyone intends harm, its simply that your pet's idea of a good way to pass the time may not closely match yours. When the weather gets nice in springtime, there is nothing I would like more than to spend all my time walking my dog and playing with my cat. Unfortunately, springtime also means finals time, which eats up a lot of that theoretical pet exercise time. It doesn't help that days that I do have time always seem to be the springtime shower days. However, just because your short on time doesn't mean you can...
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