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You’re Doing WHAT???!!?

I always giggle a little when I tell people that I’m going to a professional conference. I think it’s funny to tell someone I’m going to “Barkworld” or to a conference where I get to have hands-on education with cats and dogs. We also attend business conferences that enlighten us on the nuances of running a business. But still…it is kind of cool that we get to go to these types of conferences. I can tell you that they are a lot more fun that the conferences that I attended when I was in sales.

The journey begins…

Way before I decided to become a professional dog walker and pet sitter, I adopted my dog, Diesel. It was then that I started to immerse myself in learning more about dogs. After owning him for a couple of years, I began volunteering with Atlanta Pet Rescue and I became more interested in learning. I’ve read many books, many articles, watched many YouTube videos, spoken with many vets and trainers all in the name of becoming an “expert” in dog language, behavior, training, nutrition, safety and health. I don’t have a big enough ego to say that I’m an expert, but I feel confident in saying that I know a whole lot about those topics; way more than the average dog owner. And I’m proud of that.

I’ve always wanted to be a resource to dog owners whether they were clients, adopters, people I met at the park…whomever. I just want the dog-owner relationship to be a positive one because it saddens me to know how many owners surrender their dogs for reasons that could have been addressed and fixed.

What about cats?

Cats. I’ve always loved cats. I’ve read many articles, some books and watched some videos about cats. But mainly I get information from a few close friends that I call “the cat ladies.” I know a lot about cats, but truthfully, not as much as I know about dogs and certainly less than I want to know. Laughing Pets Atlanta has been very lucky to not have cats that: are aggressive towards people, are difficult to medicate, hide in places that cause us to search for a long, long time, never come out of their hiding places and mostly, we’venever had a true cat emergency . No medical emergencies to date. We can definitely handle those scenarios, but there is always more learning to do.

You’re doing WHAT??!!?

So guess what? I get to go to a Cat Conference! Yay me! This weekend, I will attend a two-day conference focused solely on cats. Topics such as:

  • Help for Aging Cats
  • Human-Directed Aggression in the Cat
  • Cat Nutrition and the Relationship Between Food and Behavior

“Do y’all take care of cats?”

There are many people who don’t know that we care for cats. We have a good amount of cat clients and we love them as much as our dog clients. In addition, there are many people who don’t recognize the precarious situations cats can get into when thir owners are away. We enjoy educating them on a variety of topics when the opportunity presents itself. When I return from this conference, I’m sure I will come back with a wealth of knowledge that I will pass onto my staff and on to my clients or prospective clients.

Cats are NOT our red-headed step children. We love our cat clients, we want more cat clients a
nd we really want to be the “experts” in cat behavior, language, health and safety!

My Least Favorite Five Words…..

I’ve been a professional dog walker and pet sitter for five years. I’ve volunteered in rescues for even longer. I work alongside dog owners and dog trainers and I’ve seen firsthand that dogs of all ages are capable of learning. In my line of work, I cross paths with many dogs; some have good manners and some do not.

The apology
Oftentimes, when a dog misbehaves, the owner offers up an apology.  But there’s one apology that makes my skin crawl…”Sorry, he’s a rescue dog.”  Those five words are my least favorite five words.  When I hear that phrase, I feel frustrated and deflated.  There’s part of me that would like to respond with “SO!  What does that mean?  Are you telling me that because he’s a rescue, you are incapable of training him so that he has good manners?”

Can an old dog learn new tricks?
Training a dog is no easy task.  It requires time, patience and consistency.  Sometimes it requires the help of a professional dog trainer.  Training a dog with little to no former training or a dog that has had little positive interaction with people and/or other dogs, is much different than training a puppy.  A puppy is a clean slate with no bad habits to address.  With adult dogs, you are usually “undoing” bad behavior.  So, you are trying to eliminate a bad  behavior and replace it with another behavior, a good one.

Dogs can learn at all ages.  I’ve taught several cues to my 11-year old rescue dog, Diesel.  He’s food motivated.  He wants to please me and he loves the positive praise I give when he gets it right.  And frankly, I have fun teaching him new things.  He’s not too old to learn, and neither is a rescue dog.  It’s true that some rescue dogs suffer some hardships that other dogs don’t suffer, but that doesn’t mean rescues are incapable of changing their behavior.

The sad truth
According to the Humane Society of the United States, there are an estimated 3-4 million dogs in shelters.  It’s estimated that 2.7 million of these dogs, who are healthy, that are not adopted and subsequently euthanized.  In addition, only about 30 percent of pets in homes come from shelters or rescues.  Thirty percent!!?? That number is way too low.

Sorry, he’s a rescue dog.”
These five words give rescue dogs a bad reputation.  Many people think that rescue dogs are damaged goods.  People think that because the dog has landed into a shelter or rescue, that he must be a bad dog.  They assume the dog behaved so badly that the owners gave him up to the shelter.  Or, that he was so mistreated that he’s never going to be able to “get over it,” and thus isn’t fit to be a pet dog.  Combine this mindset to “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” and you are contributing to the stigma of rescue dogs being a bad choice for someone looking for a dog.

Don’t be part of the problem
Next time your dog behaves badly, think about the effect those five words can have on the millions of dogs who are waiting to be adopted.  Think about what message is being received when you say “Sorry, he’s a rescue dog.”  Those five words could be the very words that change the mind of a potential adopter.  That’s one less dog that makes it out of a shelter or a rescue.

The Dangers of Leaving Your Dog in the Back Yard

Things were different when I was growing up in the small town of Columbus, GA. We had a wonderful dog named Max. Max lived outside. He had a dog house and was allowed to run free. We never leashed him, fenced him or neutered him. He rode in the back of a pick-up truck and walked us all to school. He walked himself back home. Because he was an “outside” dog, whenever we tried to bring him into the house, he fought us on coming inside. So, he slept on a bed in the garage or in his dog house.

Times are definitely different. Most of you reading this blog would never raise your dogs the way we did it in the 70’s. Our dogs are like our children. They live in our homes, sleep in our beds, eat premium organic foods and lounge on our furniture when we aren’t home. However, there are many people who leave their “inside” dogs in the fenced in back yard when they aren’t home. Whenever I’ve asked dog owners why they do this, I get various, but similar responses. “He loves being outside.” “She really likes to chase squirrels in the back yard.” “My dog prefers to be outside rather than inside. I know this because she just won’t go inside when we try to get her inside.”

But times are different. There are many dangers of leaving your dog outside unattended. We think that nothing can happen to our dogs because they are in a fence and living in a nice, safe neighborhood. Well, that’s not so. Many things can happen to your dogs while you aren’t home.

Things such as:
– Coyote attack. Yes, there are coyotes in Atlanta. They can jump a 6-foot fence.
– Getting bitten by a snake. Copperheads are venomous and common in Atlanta
– Anaphylactic shock from a bee sting
– Digging out of the yard or jumping a fence
– Being taken by a hawk or an owl if the dog is small

And there is one more thing that can happen. The thing that worries me the most. Our dogs can be stolen, right out of our yard! What? You think that it’s not possible, but it’s becoming increasingly common. Why would anyone steal a dog?

Dogs of all sizes and breeds are being stolen for a myriad of reasons. Maybe the criminal who steals your dog simply did it so they could give your dog as a gift? Take a look at the dogs for sale on Craigslist. Many stolen dogs are being sold. If your dog is lucky, he will end up in a loving home. But not every dog is lucky. Some end up in abusive homes or worse, re-sold to dog fighters.

The worst fate a dog could suffer, in my opinion, is to end up in the hands of people who fight dogs. Many dogs are stolen to become bait to train the fighting dogs. Not only do these dogs suffer brutality in the fighting ring, but they also live in deplorable conditions. They are starved and deprived of water. They live on heavy chains with no shelter. None of them receive proper medical treatment for their wounds or other ailments. Some of these dogs die and rot outside. Life for these dogs is horrific. Death would be a welcomed escape from this existence.

Earlier this week, a dog fighting ring in South Fulton county was busted. Over 35 dogs were seized. They were starved, dehydrated and injured. Many dogs were dead on the property. It’s very possible that some of these dogs were stolen pets. Last year, a multistate dog fighting operation existing in Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi was busted. Over 370 dogs were taken into custody! One of the largest dog fighting operations in the nation. Would you want your dog to end up in the hands of these criminals?

Our job as a pet parent is to reduce risk. We leash our dogs so the risk of them being hit by cars is lowered. Collars with ID Tags or Microchips reduce the risk that our dog will not make it back home should he go missing. We give our dogs heartworm prevention so that they don’t get ill with this deadly disease.

Keeping our dogs inside when we leave home reduces the risk that the above-mentioned dangers will happen to our dogs.

Do not leave your dog outside without supervision! After all, times are different.

Running Errands With Your Dog In the Car….Don’t do it!

Like most people, I love being with my dog, Diesel, as much as possible. That includes bringing him with me when I run errands. Many stores will let me bring Diesel in with me; but there are some that don’t. That’s really a bummer. So what are my options? Well, in the summertime, the best option is to leave him at home and that’s my advice to you.

While walking in extreme heat, dogs are at risk to suffer a heat stroke. But leaving a dog in a hot car greatly increases the risks of heat stroke or death for your dog. I often hear “but I leave my windows cracked.” Unfortunately, leaving a window cracked makes no difference whatsoever.

Energy/Heat from the sun passes through the glass windows and windshields of the car and it warms the interior. Most of that energy stays inside the car. Even on a cloudy day, the temperatures outside are high enough to cause your car to heat up like an oven. The interior of the car is heating at a much faster rate than the energy is escaping the car whether the windows are shut or cracked open. There isn’t enough of an exchange of air to keep the car cool enough for your pet to be inside.

In addition, your dog can’t possibly regulate his body temperature to withstand this kind of heat. Dogs don’t sweat like humans do. They cool themselves off by panting and sweating through their paws. But, if they only have the hot air to breathe, they are not able to lower their body temperatures enough to keep them out of danger of a heat stroke or death.

There is a lot of information about how cars get hot, how long it takes to get hot, why dogs are at risk for heat stroke, but this graphic really sums it up….

Leaving your dog with water to drink won’t help. Neither will parking in the shade. Or running errands on a cloudy day.

You love your dog, so leave him at home when you run errands!

The following video elaborates more on this important safety subject.
http://redrover.org/mydogiscool/how-hot-do-cars-get

Safety in the car and other travel tips….

Keeping your pets safe while in a vehicle is very important.  Laughing Pets Atlanta considers safety with any activity that involves your pet.  All pets ride in the back seat.  Pets will either be harnessed or in a crate.  Should you have these items to give us, that’s great.  Otherwise, Laughing Pets Atlanta will loan you.  If your pet is anxious in the car, we will give him a special toy or special treat such as a Kong to distract him.

The windows will be cracked so your pets can take in the smells along the way, but they will not be able to stick their heads out the window.  I wouldn’t want anything to get into your pet’s eyes.   Loud music is not allowed and the car will be at a comfortable temperature.

How can you keep your pets safe in the car?  What about when you travel by plane?  Or by train?  Traveling with pets has become quite common these days.  There is even an airline dedicated to flying pets!

Don’t forget to take your pets to the vet before you travel.  You may need proof of vaccinations.  Your vet may prescribe a mild sedative to get your pets through the experience.  If this is the case, leave some time for you to do a “test run.”

For additional tips, please check out this article from the ASPCA.
http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/resources/tips/traveling_tips_pets_ships_planes_trains.html

Walking my dog in hot weather?

Laughing Pets Atlanta is committed to keeping your pets safe.  In Atlanta, temperatures in the summer are unbearable.  Lest we not forget the humidity!!  We definitely will take your dog outside, but we will limit the time outside so your dog doesn’t suffer a heat stroke.  We will walk your dog leisurely and make sure all potty business is done.  While walking, we will search for as much shade as possible and try our best to avoid the blacktop.   Walking on white pavement or grass is much safer.  Though we may not spend our time outside, we will definitely work hard to make sure your dog gets some meaningful exercise.

We will come into the house and do some indoor activity.  Did you know that training expends energy and can make your dog tired?  Don’t be surprised if we teach your old dog a new trick!

There are also games to play.  “Go Find It!” and “Hide and Seek” are two fun ones to play.  We might do some doggie pushups.  That’s when we ask your dog to sit, lay down, sit, lay down….you get it, right?

Back to heat stroke…  Please familiarize yourself with the symptoms of heat stroke, what to do if your dog has a heat stroke and of course, what conditions cause a heat stroke.  Link over to Signs of Heatstroke by Drs. Foster and Educational Staff.
http://www.drsfostersmith.com/pic/article.cfm?aid=1375

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