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Thinking about buying a puppy from a pet store? Think twice.

Posted on: July 20th, 2009 by

Before you buy a pet, you should know that many pet shops do not provide proper veterinary care to animals and often sell sick and injured animals.

I can’t tell you how many pet owners have told me about bad experiences with pet store puppies and kittens. The problem generally stems from the fact that these animals are a commodity, raised for money rather than love. Many come from puppy mills, where they endure inhumane, unhealthy conditions and receive little or no human interaction.

A friend of mine tells me she bought a beautiful Samoyed puppy and quickly discovered that the dog had a long list of fears and emotional problems. “She was afraid of human voice or the wind blowing her fur. She was so afraid of human touch she would fall to the floor and release her bladder and bowels if I touched her!”

My friend’s Samoyed was also found to have serious heart problems including a pansystolic murmur. Inborn health problems like these are often genetic and could be directly caused by inbreeding, a common practice at puppy mills. Worst of all, they can severely shorten the pet’s life span.

I’m not saying all pet stores are bad – of course there may be caring pet stores that sell dogs and cats. And, obviously, not all breeders run money-hungry puppy mills. But according to the information I’ve read, a reputable breeder probably wouldn’t sell their dogs to pet stores.

Also, you should consider the fact that each dog or cat bought at a store means one less adoption home for a shelter animal. Since U.S. animal shelters host up to 12 million homeless animals per year, they need all the caring, loving homes they can get.

If you decide to buy instead of adopting a pet, my advice is to go directly to a reputable breeder. Find out as much as you can about the breeder and their practices – a responsible breeder will be proud to tell you about their methods and take you on a tour of their facilities.

And to be safe, have the animal checked by a veterinarian before the transaction is final. This often-overlooked step could save you thousands of dollars and plenty of heartache down the road.

How to stop my dog from barking?

Posted on: July 15th, 2009 by

Is your dog like mine? He loves to bark; he barks whenever someone delivers a package, when my neighbor mows his lawn, when utility workers arrive, when maintenance crews are working outside. He also loves to have long, barky conversations with other dogs in the neighborhood.

A certain amount of barking is healthy and acceptable, but too much is a problem. So how can I get my dog to stop barking so much?

First, understand that dogs bark to communicate. It’s their native language, so asking them to completely stop barking would be like asking you to stop talking forever.

Dogs might bark to let you know they need to go out or come in, or that they are hungry. They might be warning you about an approaching stranger. But they’ll also bark when they are bored or lonely, releasing pent up energy. And this kind of problem barking can become a bad habit.

The best way to stop a dog from barking is to figure out the reason he is barking and deal with the cause.

Is your dog socially isolated for long periods? Remember that dogs, whose ancestors were pack animals, need plenty of social time with you and your family, who they consider to be their “pack.” A dog who is left alone all day is likely to take up barking as a hobby because no one is there to control him.

Are they just bored? Do they have too much energy? Make sure they have fun things to keep them occupied, like a digging pit or special chew toys. A daily walk can do wonders for burning off extra energy and frustration.

Or they might be scared of something outside, or frustrated because a cat or squirrel is taunting them from the other side of the glass. In these cases, you may need to close the blinds or move the dog to another part of the house. Or consider installing a dog door for easy outdoor access.

For other dogs, the problem is separation anxiety – they may bark for extended periods after you leave the house. They might also become very destructive when left home alone. If your dog has serious separation anxiety issues, consider talking to an animal behaviorist.

Once you’ve removed the causes that make your dog bark, you’ll need to break the barking habit they have developed. It will take time and consistent application of training methods. Here are a few tactics to consider:

  • Consistency is key: Always reprimand inappropriate barking with the same method, and always use the same command, whether that command is “no bark,” “stop barking,” or “hush.”
  • Keep a soda can filled with pennies or marbles. When the dog barks inappropriately, shake the can loudly and command, “stop barking.”
  • Some owners have had good luck with a spray bottle filled with water to squirt the dog in the face before giving the “no bark” command.
  • Some companies sell a shock collar, designed to give a light pulse of electricity each time the dog barks, but I wouldn’t recommend them. Instead, you might consider a no-bark collar that uses citronella oil, emitting a spray every time the dog barks. It’s not harmful, but is unpleasant enough to offer a strong negative reinforcement.
  • For positive reinforcement, hold up a treat when you give the “stop barking” command. Most dogs instantly stop because they can’t sniff and lick the treat while barking. After a few seconds of no barking, let the dog have the treat.
  • Some trainers recommend teaching your dog to bark on command; this will help him learn how to be quieted on command as well.
  • Remember that hitting a barking dog will not solve the problem. It will actually increase a dog’s anxiety and fear, which can lead to more barking.

Neuter / Spay Your Pet

Posted on: July 8th, 2009 by

In most situations a pet available for adoption will either already be spayed/neutered from the shelter or it will be a requirement for adoption. This requirement to spay/neuter is to reduce the number of pets and hopefully reduce the number of pets flowing through shelters and wandering homeless. If the pet “supply” is limited, the thought is that people will take better care of their pets and of course there will be fewer pets abandoned to shelters. This is especially true with cats, where too many unwanted litters cause more kittens than can be adopted.

Neutering/Spaying your pet is good for their health. It reduces the chances for infection of the uterus and it reduces breast cancer in females. In males it reduces testicular cancer and certainly the urge to roam due to females in heat. As a consequence, less roaming reduces injuries from fighting other males or being hit by a car. Neutered males are less aggressive and may also have a decrease in territory marking, or lifting of the leg to urinate leaving their smell.

Neutered pets are better for you, as household companions. They are less likely to develop certain health hazards, are less likely to have aggression, territory and roaming issues and do not have the frustration of heat cycles. Please do not add to the pet overpopulation problem, neuter your adopted pet.

Foster-Adopting a Pet

Posted on: July 2nd, 2009 by

Just like children need the comfort and help a foster home offers until a permanent home can be found, pets can also benefit from fostering. Many rescue groups are looking for good pet families that are willing to foster a pet and save it from being euthanized.

Adopting a pet, even if temporary, is a great way to keep pets from overcrowding shelters and to improve their socialization skills. A more socialized and well-behaved pet is much easier to adopt, and once adopted permanently, more likely to remain in the household.

Pets in shelters are under more stress than when with a private family where they can be trained, socialized and taught proper manners. My own dogs and cats are so used to foster pets coming and going in our household, they accept them readily. We foster dogs to help them find just the right home. Here are some tips for foster adoption:

If you have pets, always introduce the foster dog or cat in neutral territory and allow them to get used to each other slowly. DO NOT simply bring them home and have them meet the “clan” as I call it. This is simply too stressful and may lead to fighting and long term intimidation. Cats may require longer introduction and socialization periods.

Do not shower the foster adoption with affection, because it may cause a problem when the normal household routine and interaction return.
Be patient – ensure a slow introduction where both the regular pets and the foster pet are able to interact without fear or intimidation. It might be hours or days, but very seldom a few minutes (as most introductions are performed.)

Work with the foster pet on leash training, obedience, basic commands and utilize gentling techniques as presented by Dr. Tripp on this site. Never use physical punishment.

Be certain the foster pet was vaccinated for all the normal contagious diseases that can be prevented and checked for parasites. You do not want to bring a contagious disease or internal or external parasites to your own pets.

Review the veterinary exam for any special health problems.
Be happy when the “right home” is found and spend some time with the new owner on the foster pet’s personality, behavior and needs.

Establishing House Rules for Newly Adopted Adult Dogs

Posted on: July 1st, 2009 by

Set house rules from the first day and be consistent. Not being consistent confuses them and only leads to bad results and frustration.

Only greet when they sit. Do not greet or allow jumping on people.
Only allow or not allow on certain pieces of furniture with no exceptions.

They must request permission to exit the house by sitting or waiting before actually exiting.

They must allow any amount of gentle stroking on any part of the body.
Submitted by Dr. Rolan Tripp of the Animal Behavior Network. Visit www.animalbehavior.net to learn more.