Smarty Tips

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Spring is in the Air

Puppy Mills

How to Choose a Responsible Breeder

Be Gone, Beggar, Be Gone!

cSpring is in the Air!  The Time to Protect is NOW!

Spring is here and with the warm weather you and your dog are likely to be outdoors more and more.  Fresh air, sunshine, you and your dog – life just doesn’t get much better than that!  You know what else is out there enjoying the warm weather with you?  Fleas, ticks and mosquitoes.   Oh, and let’s not forget about your lawn and garden.

Fleas & Ticks
Go to fullsize imageGo to fullsize imageFleas and ticks will emerge from their dormant life cycles and begin their full life and breeding cycles.   Fleas generally begin their optimal life cycle when the temperature is above 70°F and as the humidity increases.  The full breeding cycle peaks with temperatures (70°F to 85°F) and high humidity (70%). An adult flea can lay 15 to 20 eggs per day and over 500 in her lifetime.  One flea can become as many as 100,000 in just 30 days in ideal conditions!  The best cure is prevention.

There are many preventive medications available on the market today.  Speak to your vet about an appropriate preventive flea and tick medication for your dog.  Although there are many brands of over-the-counter flea and tick products available at supermarkets and pet supply stores, it is critical to read their labels and consult with your veterinarian before using them on your dog.  These products may contain ingredients that could harm pets and children.  You can visit the HSUS website to learn more about flea & tick products.

cLawns & Gardens
Spring is often a time when people fertilize their lawns and work in their gardens.  BEWARE!  Plant food, fertilizer, and insecticides can be fatal if your pet ingests them.  In addition, more than 700 plants can produce physiologically active or toxic substances in sufficient amounts to cause harmful effects in animals.  You can visit the HSUS or ASPCA websites for a list of common poisonous plants.
Mosquitoes
Mosquitoes transmit heartworm – a fatal disease.  Heartworm is transmitted to animals through a bite from a mosquito containing the infected larval form of the heartworm.  When an animal is infected, the heartworm larva can grow and develop into worms.  These worms live inside blood vessels within and surrounding the heart and lungs.  The adult worms mate inside the blood vessels, and their offspring—which are called microfilaria—circulate in the bloodstream.  These microfilaria can be picked up by another biting mosquito, and then passed to another animal.
Once infected, animals with heartworm can be treated if the disease is caught in time, but there are several drawbacks.  The treatment, although effective, is painful, expensive, and can have side effects.  If the disease goes untreated, the results can be fatal.  The best cure is prevention.
If your dog has not been on year-round heartworm preventive medication, NOW is the time to bring your dog to your veterinarian for a blood test and then start him on preventive medication.  Dogs must be tested to ensure they don't have heartworm before putting them on preventive medication.  If your dog has been on year-round medication but it has been 2 or more years since his last heartworm blood test, you should bring your dog to your veterinarian to be tested again before continuing medication.  By federal law, heartworm preventive medicine is only available through a prescription.

NOW YOU KNOW!

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puppy mills

Puppy Mills

Thinking of getting a dog this year?  We’ve all been tempted by that cute little puppy in the pet store window. Before you give in to the temptation and buy that furry bundle of joy, there are some things you should know. 
For one thing, that adorable little puppy probably came from a large-scale, substandard commercial breeding operation, commonly known as a puppy mill.  Puppy mills usually house dogs in overcrowded and often unsanitary conditions, without adequate veterinary care, food, water and socialization.  The breeding stocks at puppy mills (including the parents of that cute little puppy in the pet store that caught your eye) are bred as often as possible in order to increase profits.  Unlike that lucky puppy that will most likely go home with a nice family, the mom and dad will probably never make it out of the mill.

Impulse Buying

All right, we’ve all done it.  I still do it – but NOT with puppies – at least, not any more.  I’ve purchased pups from pet stores in the past.  Back then I didn’t know any better but now I do.  Yeah, I still pass them in the window and sometimes think, “Why not?  I’m here, that little guy is here, it’s meant to be.  Some one is going to buy him – why not me?”  My advice on this is, Walk on By!  Whenever I get the urge to see and hold puppies, I head over to North Shore Animal League or Little Shelter or some other shelter.  There are plenty of puppies there to get my “puppy fix”.  If I do fall head-over-heels in love and take one home, I won’t be part of the problem.
Harsh Realities
By buying a pet shop puppy, not only are you likely perpetuating and supporting a cruel industry, you—the consumer—run the risk of taking home a sick puppy!   Dogs from puppy mills have been reportedly diagnosed with ailments such as respiratory infections and pneumonia, as well as hereditary defects like hip dysplasia.  They may also be poorly socialized to people and other animals.  Also, your new “purebred” puppy might not really be a purebred.  Dogs at puppy mills are often bred indiscriminately and lineage records are sometimes falsified to misrepresent that the dog is a purebred when, in fact, the animal is a mixed breed.  Responsible breeders do NOT sell their dogs through pet stores.
How You Can Help
If you’re looking to make a puppy part of your family, check your local shelters first.  There are so many amazing dogs that need homes.  If your heart is set on a specific breed, keep in mind that one in four shelter dogs is a purebred.  Additionally, you can do an Internet search for breed-specific rescue organizations.  If those attempts still don’t give you the purebred puppy you’re looking for, you’ll need to learn how to choose a responsible breeder.

If you’ve already purchased a pup from a pet store, so be it.  But, please, please,PLEASE think twice before doing so again because…

NOW YOU KNOW!

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breeder

How to Choose a Responsible Breeder

 

Responsible breeders are individuals who have focused their efforts on one or a select few breeds.  They are experts on the breed’s health, heritable conditions, temperament and behavior.  They acquire and grow their expertise through breeding, historical research and ongoing study, mentoring relationships, club memberships, showing, raising and training of these breeds.  Responsible breeders are well suited to educate and screen potential buyers/adopters and provide follow-up support after purchase or adoption. Responsible breeders take lifetime responsibility for the animals they have bred.

Practices of a Responsible Breeder:

  • Never sells puppies to a dealer or pet shop.
  • Screens breeding stock for heritable diseases and removes affected animals from breeding program.
  • Affected animals are altered and may be placed as pets as long as health issues are disclosed to buyers/adopters.
  • Removes aggressive animals from breeding program.
  • Keeps breeding stock healthy and well socialized.
  • Never keeps more dogs than they can provide with the highest level of care, including quality food, clean water, proper shelter from heat or cold, exercise, socialization and professional veterinary care.
  • Has working knowledge of genetics and generally avoids inbreeding.
  • Bases breeding frequency on mother’s health, age, condition and recuperative abilities.
  • Does not breed extremely young or old animals.
  • Often breeds and rears dogs in the home, where they are considered part of the family.
  • Ensures neonates are kept clean, warm, fed, vetted and with the mother until weaned.
  • Begins socialization of neonates at three weeks of age.
  • Screens potential guardians; discusses positive and negative aspects of animal/breed.
  • Ensures animals are weaned (eight to ten weeks of age) before placement.
  • Offers guidance and support to new guardians.
  • Provides an adoption/purchase contract in plain English that spells out breeder’s responsibilities, adopter’s responsibilities, health guarantees and return policy.
  • Provides accurate and reliable health, vaccination and pedigree information.
  • Makes sure pet-quality animals are sold on a limited registration, spay/neuter contract, or are altered before placement.
  • Will take back any animal of their breeding, at any time and for any reason.

You CAN and SHOULD meet the breeder in person and view the breeding stock, puppies and living areas for yourself.  When meeting a breeder and touring the facility, you may not be able to determine if the breeder practices all aspects of a responsible breeder, but you can readily look for yourself for the practices indicated in red.  Those should be your minimum requirements when choosing a breeder.  In addition, talk to the breeder about any concerns you may have about his/her practices.  Any responsible breeder should welcome a dialogue and respect your concerns without taking offense.  If the breeder becomes defensive – beware!

NOW YOU KNOW!

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Be Gone, Beggar, Be Gone!

begging

You sit down at the table with your family for dinner and Fido is right there, circling like a vulture.  Maybe he even whines, paws at you or tries to grab the food from the table himself.  Is he so persistent that you finally give him something just to shut him up and make him go away?  Well, that worked for about 10 seconds and now the cycle starts all over again!  Of course, you just taught him that if being annoying doesn’t work, then being really, really annoying does!  Shouldn’t the family dinner be about enjoying your dinner and interacting with the human members of the family?  Well, it can be!

All feeding of your dog from the table MUST stop!  It’s best not to feed tidbits from the counter, either.  Your dog will have trouble making a distinction between food from the table and food from the counter.  In addition, you don’t want to add “Counter Surfing” to your dog’s repertoire of behaviors.  The entire family must consistently ignore all of your dog’s begging behavior.  Do not look at him, talk to him or touch him.  If he gets in your face, turn your body the other way.  If your dog does not receive a reward for begging, the behavior will stop.  Dogs do not continue a behavior that is not rewarded.

beggingIf your dog is a persistent beggar than, no doubt, he’s been rewarded for begging in the past.  When you decide not to reward him any more, beware!  The begging is bound to get plenty worse before he gives up!  Why?  Because it has always worked before and your dog will do what he has learned works.  When it stops working, he won’t be convinced at first and will try even harder to make it work for him.  But, fear not.  Stick to your resolve, don’t give in and, eventually Fido will give up begging as a dead-end behavior.

If his begging is so persistent that you think you can’t take it, don’t give in!  That will only teach him to be an even more persistent beggar.  Instead, put him in his crate or try putting him on a leash.  Tie the leash to a chair or wedge it in the door while you eat.  Tie your dog so that he is in sight but not able to reach the table.  Praise your dog when he is lying or sitting quietly.

You can also try distracting your dog with a nylabone soaked in broth or some other tasty chewy, just BEFORE you sit down to eat.  Don’t wait for him to start begging!  Remember, when your dog fixates on chewing his bone, he is much less likely to bother you at the table.

After the meal is over, you can reward your dog for good behavior with tidbits from the table if you so choose.  Just be sure to put them in his bowl and have him perform a sit-wait before you place the bowl on the floor.  Don’t allow him to go to the bowl until you have released him.  Now you are practicing good leadership while rewarding good behavior!

My dogs have never been rewarded from the table (at least not from me!)  They know traditional begging is useless and don’t bother.  They occasionally try it with guests (hope springs eternal, after all!), but they don’t persist.  They do beg, but they do it MY way and that’s a way I can live with.  They sit or lie quietly around the table, ever watchful.  They’ve learned that NOT begging is the only successful way to beg.  They know that’s the only way they will be rewarded, when the meal is over, with tasty little morsels in their food bowls.

These photos of Bam Bam would seem to tell a different story but all is not as it appears.  I had to pose my pooch for these photos and, I must confess, he was quite uncomfortable with his feet up on the table (as he should be!)  But, as always, he was a real good sport.

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