Are Dog Parks Right for your Pooch?

There are many things to consider when making the decision to adopt a dog or puppy; what supplies you will need,  choosing a veterinarian, selecting a good food, and how you will socialize them. Many new and veteran dog owners immediately think  of dog parks as the perfect way to exercise and socialize their dog-but are dog parks the right choice for your pooch?

There are both advantages and disadvantages to going to a dog park, and deciding whether your pet is suited for this kind of dog-to-dog interaction should be evaluated thoroughly to ensure that this will benefit his socialization skills rather than hinder them.

Would my dog enjoy going to the dog park?

When considering taking your dog to a dog park, owners should first evaluate their dog on a few different levels, such as age,  play style, health, and their overall temperament.

Age: Puppies under 4 months of age should never go to a dog park as their immune systems are more susceptible to illness. Dogs that have reached maturity (generally around 2 years) and elderly dogs are more selective with their friends and may not be as outgoing or welcoming as they were when they were puppies. When introducing your mature dog to new friends, you should always proceed slowly and not assume that because your pooch has other doggie friends that he would appreciate being thrown into a new situation with a large number of “strangers”.

Play style: Different breeds of dogs have very different styles of playing, and you should evaluate the other dogs in the park at the time you arrive to see if your baby would fit in. For example, if the majority of the park patrons are large breed dogs that like to body slam each other (i.e., Labradors), then it may not be the best time to bring in your Australian Shepard who has a more reserved play style.

Health: Dogs who have had any communicable health issues in the past 30 days should not go to dog parks. It is always a good idea to visit your veterinarian beforehand to ensure that your dog is healthy enough to go to dog parks. Official dog parks should always have posted signs requiring that all dogs that enter the play area must be vaccinated; make sure that your pooch is up-to-date on his Rabies, Distemper/Parvo, and Bordetella shots (for more information on Canine Cough, see our post here). Dog park regulations also usually stipulate that all dogs over a certain age (usually 6 months) must be spayed or neutered to use the park, however, just because these rules are posted does not mean that all pet owners will adhere to them, keep this in mind when deciding if your pet should attend play time at the park. If you notice intact males or a dog whose health is questionable, do not use the park at that time.

Temperament: Dogs who have not been socialized should be integrated into the dog park slowly, and not at a time when there are a lot of dogs; one fight or bad experience can traumatize your dog. Remember, what we as the owner might think of as a minor event can often color your dog’s future reactions to similar situations. If you have a small breed dog, find a dog park that provides two or more separated areas, one for larger dogs and one for smaller dogs. Often times larger breeds will over power the weaker dogs thus teaching the smaller dog to be afraid of larger dogs if the owner does not step in to correct the behavior. Also, there is the risk that a smaller dog will get stepped on and injured if not properly supervised. If your dog has issues with aggression, either towards other canines or towards humans, do not take them to a dog park. Similarly, do not take your nervous/anxious dog to the dog park either, this will not help them overcome their issues, just exacerbate them. Beginning socialization in both of these instances should only be attempted with the help of a professional trainer.

Choosing the right Dog Park

So you’ve decided you want to take Fido to the dog park, which one do you choose? Picking the right dog park is as important as deciding if your dog would do well in one and the correct set up will help your dog integrate into the pack better. Always choose an area that is specifically zoned as a dog park, NOT your local field or other open space as there may be regulations against having dogs off-leash in these areas and not be fully enclosed.

Look for parks that have at least two gated entrances and that are preferably shielded from the view of the dogs that are already inside. Dog patrons will tend to gather around the entrances and can cause anxiety and a higher state of arousal in the incoming dog, creating a higher risk for an incident to break out. Do not force your dog to enter the park if they seem nervous or anxious; the other dogs will be able to pick up on their energy and try to control the situation by going after the dog whose energy is ‘off’.

Parks with a large space to run are best so that dogs who do not wish to interact with the others are not forced to due to proximity. Ponds, lakes, trees, and hillocks are good features to look for not just for the dog’s enjoyment, but also to prevent them from racing full speed towards other dogs and potentially colliding with each other. Other structures or obstacles are a plus for frightened dogs that wish to hide or keep to themselves.

Dog Park Basic Do’s and Don’ts

Do:

  • Clean up after your dog.
  • Supervise your dog at all times and interrupt interactions if they are inappropriate or too rough. Remember, you are responsible for your own dog’s actions, there are not dog park workers there to take care of your dog for you.
  • Exit the park if your dog is being bullied/your dog is bullying others.
  • Bring one person per dog.
  • Adhere to and respect all posted signs and regulations.
  • Move around the park; don’t separate yourself too far from your dog.

Don’t:

  • Bring toys or treats, these can cause guarding and aggression between the dogs.
  • Allow dogs to bully others.
  • Talk on your phone or form a group with the owners and ignore your dog.
  • Bring children, they can easily be knocked over and you do not know how other dogs will react to them.
  • Take advice from dog park patrons unless they are trained dog professionals.

Dog Park Alternatives

If your pet is not suited to dog parks or you are uncomfortable having them around dogs whose temperament you are unsure of but you are intent on having them socialized, then Doggie Daycare would be better fit for both you and your dog. While doggie daycare is not free, the peace of mind owners receive from knowing that their pet is being supervised by trained professionals and is playing with dogs who have been pre-approved and temperament tested in order to be in a group setting makes up for the financial cost. Another advantage to doggie daycare is knowing that the facility has requirements for health, vaccinations, and spaying or neutering that all the dogs must adhere to in order to be allowed in the door. However, just like choosing a dog park, you must do your due diligence and choose the pet care facility that adheres to the highest standards of cleanliness, care, and safety.

Attitude is Everything at Fit ‘N’ Furry

“Attitude is everything,” especially when it comes to training your dog!

Keeping a positive attitude and perspective is critical for the success of your dog’s training. A proper attitude and mindset should be considered the prerequisite to training your dog.  Your outlook and disposition towards training are even more important than the tools purchased, system used, or even the breed of dog.  Owners with a negative outlook on the training process can prove detrimental to the prospect of effective training.

Developing a solid bond between owner and dog is the key to creating a successful foundation for training.  It is a dog’s nature to reflect the personal temperament of their owners.  A pleasant owner who maintains a calm, confident, friendly disposition while training will see results in a pleasant dog.  Using positive reinforcements such as: compliments, encouragement, and praise will motivate your dog to perform well and eliminate the need to rely on treats or other methods.

As a trainer you need to manage firm and friendly control, but remember to make it fun for both you and your dog.  Trainers who keep a solid positive attitude are guaranteed a successful outcome. Owners with negative tendencies will come to find the training process an undesirable chore.  Their dog will sense this negative attitude, pick-up on it, and start to mirror their owner’s behaviors.  The training progress is then sidelined, causing frustration and undermining the process.

Canines, by nature, are routine oriented and naturally crave a balanced, structured lifestyle.  Maintaining a productive behavioral routine is your job as an owner/trainer to provide consistency throughout your dog’s training. Make training a treat with continued exemplary actions and nurtured reinforcements.

Positive-Proven-Effective

Holiday Safety Tips by Fit ‘N’ Furry

With Christmas and New Year’s just right around the corner we want to make sure that both you and your four-legged companions enjoy this festive season safely.  It’s best to keep-up your pets eating and exercise routine as much as possible. During this busy time we often get distracted and tend to break away from our normal daily activities, and since pets, dogs especially, are so routine based, they too can pick up on our bad behavior and start acting up. Here are a few tips to keep in mind this holiday:

  • NO TABLE SCRAPS – We know it’s tempting to give your furry pals a treat from the dinner table, but holiday foods tend to be richer than what they are used to eating and can cause severe diarrhea and stomach upset.  Bones are really bad idea because they can be swallowed and get stuck in the digestive tract, causing painful stomach cramps for your pooch and painful cramps in your wallet from the visit to the vet.  Avoid the passing of human foods and opt for a pet-friendly treat, you’ll be thankful when you’re not stuck cleaning up a dog mess right before the friends and relatives arrive.
  • NO TINSEL – These shiny, light reflecting strands are very attractive to kitties. They love batting it around and getting all tangled up in it, but whats even worse is when they start biting on these little strands. If swallowed your cat may suffer from severe vomiting, dehydration, and an obstructed digestive tract, which could require expensive surgery.
  • NO HOLLY or MISTLETOE – When ingested by four-legged pals gastrointestinal and cardiovascular problems may occur. Try artificial plants. Contrary to popular belief Poinsettias, also known as the Christmas Star plant, are not poisonous to you or your pets.  Also be sure your Christmas tree is safely secured to prevent it tipping over and possibly injuring a pet, family member, or guest.
  • NO WIRES – Be sure to keep wires such as tree lights or electronics up off the floor and out of reach from your pets. They could get a severe shock if they took a nibble on those wires.  Be especially aware of new puppies, we all know they find everything to get into.

If you are traveling this season keep your pets in mind.  Ask yourself,  “Who’s going to take care of Sparky and Garfield?”  Check out local pet care facilities and ask the right questions.

  • Are they able to provide the care and attention you give at home? Remember, pets are very routine-based, they probably let you know when it’s time to eat or go to the bathroom, right?
  • Are the pets indoors or outdoors for most of their visit? Keep in mind the weather temperatures and climate of your area or the area you are traveling to.
  • What vaccinations are required for your pets?
  • Will the facility need to meet your pets before they come to visit?
  • What kind of pet food they serve?  Can you bring your own?
  • Can they administer medication for pets who need extra-special care?

These are all important things to know before checking your pets in for a holiday.  Hope everyone and their beloved furry, four-legged friends have a Happy Holiday and a Merry New Year!

Canine’s and Leadership According to Fit ‘N’ Furry

Whether you’re looking to train your new pup or teach your old dog new tricks, it’s never an easy task. It’s always a good idea to start training right away with a new pooch, they learn to take direction and understand that you’re the pack leader. Socialization is also key when acclimating a new puppy. Basic and foundation commands should be established between you and your dog. Dogs sense of hearing tend to be much better than humans, so when giving commands, you don’t need to yell, just use a very “mater-of-fact” tone.

We tend to humanize our pets with lots of affection and not enough discipline. Because of this, many of us find it difficult to scold our pets or provide consequences in regards to behavior.  It is important for us to find a balance between affection and discipline. The most important thing to remember is to not expect results immediately, especially with an older dog. A dog’s behavior might take weeks to break, but consistency is of the utmost importance.

Many trainers use different techniques when training. When looking for a trainer, keep in mind the necessary tasks that may need to be incorporated into your pet’s home life, for example: new commands, feeding habits, new accessories, etc. Be sure to ask your trainer questions and follow up on their recommendations. Many trainers can customize training sessions for the specific needs of you and your dog. Call around to local trainers in your area for more information on the kind of training they provide. Like children, dogs crave structure, discipline and leadership. Remember to be patient, calm, and balanced, but also have fun when working with your pet!

Fit ‘n’ Furry’s Pet Grooming Tips

If you’re a new pet owner, you may be surprised by all the necessary tasks and things it takes to raise a pet. For example: the cost of food, the veterinary visits, daily activities such as walks, trips to the dog park, and did you ever imagine the grooming upkeep of a pet? Maintenance grooming of your pet varies by type of pet and breed. Some breeds need more routine upkeep of their coats. They may require more frequent hair cuts or trims and daily brushings to keep their coats from getting matted. Nail trims are also recommended for all dogs about once a month. Ear cleaning should also be incorporated into your pet’s grooming routine. Pets can also develop cavities, just like humans. Most grooming facilities offer teeth brushing, and for a more thorough cleaning, ask your veterinarian.

Many think grooming is just for the dogs, but cats sometimes require upkeep too. Cat’s fur tends to require brushing and occasional hair cuts to keep from matting. It’s not necessary to cut the nails of a cat, but if you want to keep them from scratching you when you pick them up or tearing apart your furniture, you may want to consider routine nail trims. Don’t forget about your cat’s ears and teeth, they too may need some cleaning.

Some pets are self-groomers, but still require some help to ensure that they are properly groomed. Grooming isn’t just about keeping your pet’s coat clean, maintenance of all parts help in keeping your pet more hygienic and contributes to their physical appearance. Check with groomers in your area, some specialize in hair cuts/bathing of certain breeds; many also do a variety of breeds. Most groomers will need to assess new pets and speak to the owners about their temperament; you can schedule appointments to guarantee a convenient time for you and your pet. Here’s to a clean, healthy, beautiful pet!

Fit’n’Furry’s Canine Summer Safety Tips

Keeping your canine companion cool during these hot summer months is crucial to your pet’s health.  Dogs are very susceptible to dehydration and heat exhaustion, especially those “short-faced” breeds, such as pugs and bulldogs because of their vulnerable breathing ability. A canine’s only way of releasing heat is through the bottoms of their paws, where the sweat glands are located, and by panting. Even with these unique cooling systems, when temperatures climb, your pet may become overwhelmed, especially in humid conditions.

So what happens when dogs get too hot? The most common result is heatstroke. Symptoms of canine heatstroke can include an increase in heart rate, labored breathing, purplish gum color, weakness resulting in collapsing, and even seizures, coma, or sudden death can be an onset of heatstroke. Most cases involving canine heatstroke are a result of confinement to a non-ventilated area, such as a car. Temperatures inside a vehicle even with the windows rolled down can rise to above 120 degrees.

Heatstroke can also occur due to over-activity on hot days. The excitement of chasing a ball or a Frisbee outweighs everything else in a dog mind. Your dog may not know when it’s time to stop playing and take a break, so be aware of your dog’s activity and breathing.

Also keep in mind that you are wearing shoes to protect your feet from the hot surfaces on the ground but your pooch isn’t and the severe heat of pavement or sand on a hot summer day can be very damaging to their little pads. Most pet stores or boutiques will carry adjustable dog booties that come in different sizes to protect your dog’s paws. Dr. Nancy Kay, author of Speaking for Spot, suggests going for walks in the early morning or evening hours when temperatures are generally cooler.

Another suggestion Martha Stewart makes is putting Vaseline on the pads of your pooch to reduce its heat level.

Summertime and playtime go hand-in-hand for both humans and their beloved furry pals. We especially want to take them everywhere with us on our exciting adventures, but be advised that the best place for your pet is indoors. You may want to consider taking your canine companion to an indoor doggie play area where temperatures are controlled and your dog can be monitored. This would provide your pet with some fun exercise without getting overheated or burning their paws.

Be sure your dog has access to plenty of fresh, cool water throughout the day and is kept in a cool area, preferably in an air-conditioned home or facility. Sunscreen is also important for our furry friends, especially dogs with white noses and/or markings. When slathering on the sunscreen, be sure to put some on those white spots of your pooch.

Here’s to a cool, comfortable, fun-for-all canine summer!

Fit ‘N’ Furry says, “Make Sure Your Pet Is Safe And Has Fun On The 4th of July!”

Are you and your pets ready for the 4th of July festivities?  More pets are lost on this holiday than at any other time during the year.  To keep your pets safe the first step is securing a safe location for your pets.  Look for an indoor facility to occupy and shield your pets from the loud blasts of the fireworks. These are exciting times for both you and your pet, but your pet may start to demonstrate some nervous behaviors he or she normally wouldn’t, such as: chewing through leashes, jumping over walls, bolting away from you, running into traffic, etc. I suggest taking them to a facility where they’ll be kept busy playing with the other pets and monitored closely.

Keeping the pets at home this year? Here are a few tips to keep them safe:

  1. Do not bring your pets to a fireworks display. (This should go without saying)
  2. Keep a collar and ID tag on them at all times, even if they are micro-chipped.
  3. Keep pets indoors in a cool, quiet, familiar room with music or the TV on to mask the sound of the fireworks.
  4. Do not leave your pet outside in the yard on a leash or chain.
  5. Do not leave them in the car.
  6. If you know that your pet is seriously distressed by loud noises like fireworks and thunder, consult your veterinarian before the 4th of July for ways to alleviate the fear and anxiety your pet may experience.
  7. If you find a lost a pet, please take it to your local animal shelter immediately so that it may be reunited with its family.

Whether you’re celebrating at home or joining the community to watch your local fireworks displays make sure your pets are in a safe and secure place.  Happy 4th everyone!