Guest blog by Emily Schneider, a proud mom of two feisty Yorkies and a two-year-old living in the Garden State. Emily works in media and public relations for the ASPCA. Find her onTwitter.
I read recently in a New York Times article that doctors are encouraging parents to read aloud to their infants from birth, as it enhances vocabulary and other important communication skills in children. I also learned that reading has benefits for shy or timid four-legged family members as well.
I asked ASPCA animal behavior experts if reading is a good socialization activity for dogs nervous around people, and found out that reading helps fearful dogs become more comfortable with people without forcing interaction. As an individual reads out loud, he or she is focusing on something other than on the dog. In turn, the dog grows accustomed to the person’s presence and voice, which is much less intimidating than being handled or stared at (see the ASPCA’s article on canine body language. If you have a dog who is terrified of people or specific individuals, you may want to seek professional help to find out how to help reduce your dog’s anxiety.
Reading is also a good activity for those who aren’t yet skilled enough—e.g., my two-year-old son—to handle a timid dog. If there’s a choice between playing with your iPhone and reading a book, encourage your kids to go for the book and make it a family activity. You might be surprised by the results, as I was—my dogs Olive and Mikey sat quietly nearby while we read a story about Splat the Cat. Our next book? Skippyjon Jones, a story about a irrepressible Siamese cat who thinks he’s a Chihuahua.
Danielle Sullivan, a mom of three, has worked as a writer and editor in the parenting world for over 10 years. Danielle also writes about pets and parenting for Disney’s Babble.com. Find her on her blog, Some Puppy To Love, Twitter, or Facebook.
For my kids, summer equals water: the pool, ocean waves and even the garden hose will ensure sunny day amusement. Nearly every day since school ended has involved time spent in the pool. Our dogs, Hayley, the Chihuahua, and Django, the Lab, enjoy accompanying us to the pool. They sit with us by the water and join the party. They snack, run and play, so we thought they must want to swim, too. Especially Django—her breed is known to enjoy the water.
Dogs will naturally start “dog paddling” when they find themselves in water, but that doesn’t mean that they can stay afloat for any length of time, that they like being in the water or that they can safely swim.
To see if our dogs would even enjoy being in the water, we bought a child-sized pool, filled it halfway and placed Hayley in the water. She swam across it, paddling her little paws non-stop. She really seemed to enjoy it. But Django wanted to get out of the pool immediately. She didn’t like the water and didn’t attempt to swim. Later on, we let Hayley in our 4-foot pool with my daughter staying right by her side, ready to intervene if she needed help. Hayley made her way across the pool and then we took her out. She was one proud and cool girl.
Every dog is as individual as is each person, and although dogs of a specific breed may embody similar personality traits, they certainly won’t display every characteristic of their breed. The most important thing as a pet parent is tuning into your dog’s individual personality—just as you do your child.
Spring is finally here, and the sun is shining at last. It’s the season for spring cleaning and outdoor adventures, but before you start enjoying the fresh air, consider a few tips for keeping your furry friends safe and happy this season:
Screen it: After months cooped up indoors, it’s tempting to throw open your windows to let the breeze in. However, pets—especially cats— are apt to jump or fall through open windows. Make sure your windows are fitted with screens before opening them.
Grow a green thumb: As you work to beautify your lawn and garden, be mindful that some popular springtime plants including Easter lilies, rhododendron and azaleas are highly toxic to pets and can easily prove fatal if eaten. Fertilizers, insecticides and herbicides are dangerous to pets as well. Visit our full list of garden tips, and consider teaching your kids which plants are potentially harmful to your furry friends.
Ah-choo!: Like humans, pets may suffer from allergies during the spring season. Dogs and cats can experience allergic reactions to pollens, plants, dust and foods. If you suspect your pet is suffering from allergies, take him or her to the vet as soon as possible.
Spring cleaning: As you prepare to divvy up the chore list and give your house a deep cleaning, be sure to keep all cleaners and chemicals away from your pets. Most commercially sold cleaning products contain chemicals that are harmful to pets. Always read and follow label directions for proper use and storage.
When you’re out and about: Chances are that as the weather warms up, your family will spend more and more time outdoors. If your family likes to ride in the car with the windows down, be sure your pet is safely buckled in or rides in a crate. Going for a walk in the park? Be sure your pet is wearing an ID tag and has been microchipped.
Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and it’s a great occasion to have your family join you in the kitchen for a fun day of food prep. When the enticing aromas of food start wafting through your house, it’s likely that your pets will want to get in on the action. However, the hectic environment in the kitchen on this food-filled holiday poses some potential health risks for your pets. Remember these safety tips as you whip up the perfect batch of mashed potatoes and gravy:
Let’s talk turkey: If you decide to give your pet a nibble of your Thanksgiving turkey, make sure it’s boneless and well-cooked—no raw or undercooked turkey, which may contain salmonella bacteria.
Sage advice: While sage can be a delicious addition to your Thanksgiving stuffing, it and many other herbs contain essential oils and resins that can cause gastrointestinal upset and central nervous system depression in pets. Cats are especially sensitive.
Doughy dangers: When an animal ingests raw bread dough, his body heat causes the dough to rise in his stomach. Ouch! This may cause vomiting, severe abdominal pain and bloating, which could become a life-threatening emergency. Cake batters made with raw eggs are also dangerous to pets.
Portion control, please: While it’s ok to share a bit of well-cooked turkey with your furry friend, it’s best to stick to your pet’s regular diet during the holidays. Allowing your pets to over indulge could cause stomach upset, diarrhea or pancreatitis.
There are still a few weeks left to enjoy the beautiful autumn weather! Before the winter cold sets in, one of the best ways to take advantage of the season is to load your family in the car (including your pets!) and hit the trail for an afternoon hike. As you plan your next outdoor adventure, be sure to sit down with your kids to go over some important pet safety tips.
Pack a leash: Extension leashes are great for wide open spaces, but if your romp is taking you through wooded areas, it's best to leave the flexi-leads at home so your dog won’t find herself tangled in the brush. Unless the trail allows off-leash dogs and your dog knows to come when called, it’s best to keep your dog’s leash on at all times.
IDs, please: Always make sure that your current contact information, including your cell phone number, is attached to your dog's collar or body harness.
Leave no trace: Bring baggies along so you can scoop up after your dog when she uses the bathroom. It’s courteous to clean up after your dog in the woods as you would in your neighborhood or local park.
Stay hydrated: Be sure to pack enough water for your whole family, including your furry friends! Don’t allow your dog to drink from ponds, streams or puddles—they may contain nasty parasites or toxins that could cause her harm.
It’s also a good idea to check your pet’s veterinary records to ensure that all of her vaccinations are up-to-date. Pack our printable PDF of hiking safety tips for quick reference while you’re on the trail. Enjoy the great outdoors!