Organic Dog Food

Dog Food
A new year is upon us and many of us are making resolutions for self-improvement and quality of life. Maybe this year you also include your dog. More and more dog owners are choosing to feed their canine friends organic or healthier dog food. Much like human food, dog food has to meet a strict set of standards in order to be labeled as organic, whereas normal pet food simply has to meet a minimum nutrition requirement. There are great benefits to the better quality of this food, here are a few of them:

Higher Priced, but Higher Nutrition and Less Consumption

Often times people who want to feed their dog organic food change their minds on the basis of sticker price.

While it’s true that organic food is usually pricier than what you’ll find at the grocery store, your dog will need to eat less of it to get the nutrients that he needs.

This is because organic food has fewer of the fillers and “empty calories” that other foods are prone to having.

Realistically, if you can’t afford it, maybe you simply buy organic for him every other month, or for one month, or 2-3 months out of the year, or some other simple commitment. Just ensure it’s a period of time to get the greatest effects.

Fewer Digestive Problems

Many standard dog foods today contain fillers such as corn which are difficult for dogs to digest. Organic dog food is closer to a dog’s natural diet, which his digestive system has evolved to eat over millions of years. Feeding your dog a diet closer to what he eats in nature will lead to much fewer digestive problems. Remember, going to the washroom is often a good thing as he’s adjusting to healthier food. But still be aware of your dry to wet food mixture.

Fewer Allergy Problems

Many common additives are known to cause allergies in dogs, because the diet is not a natural one for them. The fewer the number of additives and fillers in a diet, the less likely your dog is to develop a food allergy.

Immune System Boost

You may have heard your doctor tell you that you should get most of your vitamins and minerals from actual healthy foods, rather than from a multivitamin or supplement. The same goes for dogs. A dog on an organic diet will be healthier and better equipped to fend off infections.

Safe Foods: Foods labeled organic are strictly regulated, and cannot contain any pesticides, artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives, synthetic growth hormones, antibiotics, or genetically modified organisms. When you feed organic food to your dog, you can be sure his food won’t be contaminated with anything that is questionable or potentially unsafe.

If you think it might be time for your own dog to make the switch, you can also talk to your veterinarian about what foods he or she recommends.

Thanks to all of these benefits and many more, dog owners are increasingly opting to feed their dogs organic food. Maybe this year you give it a try.

Dog Behaviour

Dog Sitting on Snow
Does your dog now have a ‘new trick’ to show you? Is he trying to get your attention with demand barking or whining? This can be very annoying. Unfortunately this is something we have nurtured and shaped inadvertently by rewarding this behaviour.

Here are some tips for curbing these behaviours.

Ignore Bad Ones

This is difficult, but ignoring an unwanted behaviour is one way to fix it. It’s important to realize that barking or whining at you is demanding attention. So even if you correct him, this is attention. Saying “shhhhh” is attention, giving eye contact is attention, laying your hand on him is attention. Talking to him in a sweet voice is attention and worst of all giving what they want is attention while reinforcing the bark or whine. Anything you do that makes the dog think you are communicating with them when they bark is attention.

Reward Positively

If he’s barking, immediately turn away from the dog and walk away. This is puzzling to the dog when you bail on him, but it works. It doesn’t have to be walking away to the other side of the house, room, or yard but walking away 5 or 10 feet is enough. As soon as the dog is quiet give him positive verbal reinforcement and treat him.

Have Patience

Let’s say the dog’s toy rolled under the couch out of reach and it barks. Walk away, reward silence, as above. Then retrieve the toy, have the dog do something like sit. When he sits, reward him with the toy. You will need patience for this as barking has worked for the dog in the past and when you undo a behaviour it can get worse before it gets better.

Stick to It

Here is the list of the reframed behaviours and their rewards:
Sit = toy retrieval
Sit = opening the door to go
Sit = a treat, verbal praise or touch
Sit = a greetings from you

Undoing undesirable behaviours is hard work. So also make sure you nurture and reward the behaviours you like with praise, touch, or treats.

Article submitted by Moira Wegner, Autism Program Instructor, Dogs with Wings Edmonton.

Keeping Chewing in Check

Dog Chew Staulk
Chewing is a perfectly normal behaviour for puppies and adult dogs, but it can become a major problem if you can’t find a suitable way of keeping the habit under control. Puppies and dogs chew for all kinds of reasons, such as boredom relief, teething, and gaining information from the environment. Puppies in particular can chew through things at an alarming rate. Before you can address your pet’s chewing habits, it’s a good idea to understand how a dog’s mind works. Most importantly the fact that dogs don’t think the same way as humans do.

Understanding their Need to Chew

Puppies are inquisitive and may engage in some investigative chewing if they hear any unusual or high pitched sounds from unforeseen areas. They may also chew when they are hungry, especially if their regular feeding time has been delayed, or if they smell spilled food. It is therefore important to give your dog plenty of suitable chewing material and mental stimulation. Once again, one of the best overall things you can do for your dog is get him his exercise and social interaction.

Set Boundaries

If you give your dog an old pair of shoes to chew, it is not going to know the difference between an old pair of shoes and your brand new pair by the door. Stuffed toys will also look the same as the corner of your sofa as far as your dog is concerned. To ensure that your puppy understands what it can and can’t chew in your home, you will need to be prepared to set out some important guidelines for it to follow. A second dog won’t necessarily keep him busy and not chewing. If boundaries haven’t been set, you may end up having two dogs that chew everything in sight instead of one.

Specific Areas

Make sure that your dog is never left unattended until it has learnt to follow certain household rules. You may need to initially house your dog in a safe room, travel crate, or other segregated area when you are unable to watch it carefully or need to leave it alone in the house.

When setting boundaries for your dog, it is important to remember that you should never smack or shout at it for chewing. Your dog may then grow up to be shy and fearful of people. It may even encourage your pet to chew even more in an attempt to calm itself down.

Gently correct your dog’s behaviour by trying to get its attention away from the object it is chewing by offering it a more suitable alternative. Never be tempted to wrestle with your dog over a particular object, as this will only end up turning the situation into a game. If possible, take the offending object away and put it out of sight so that your companion is no longer tempted to chew it.

You could try spraying the areas you don’t want your dog to chew with apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. This can also be sprayed onto items of old clothing to direct your puppy’s attention away from areas like your sofa and chairs, but do so at your own risk.

Choose the Right Toys

Always make sure that any toys you purchase for your dog are safe and non-toxic. Your dog may prefer one particular type of toy over another, so it may be a case of trial and error until you find the most suitable toys. Once you find a particular type of toy that appeals to your dog, buy more of the same type.

Hollow rubber toys are often a good idea for dogs, as you can hide treats inside that will help to keep them occupied and as cited in a previous article, ‘work’ for their food. Teaching your dog to fetch toys is also a good way of encouraging it to play with the toys you provide for it.

Remember that it is necessary to spend as much time as possible playing with your dog, as this will help to keep it happy, occupied, and eventually too tired to engage in any more unwanted chewing.

Your Dog’s Body Language

Dog Face
You probably know when your dog is happy since he wags his tail enthusiastically and his face is relaxed. However, do you also recognize when your dog is nervous or about to become aggressive? He will display many telltale signals as his mood changes. Understanding what they are can help you bond with your dog and second-guess behavior that he is about to display. These points aren’t intended to get you to over analyze his behavior as most of us will react to pets instinctively, accurately, and with care, but for others it is good to know that your dog attempts to communicate with you at times.

Growling

Countless dog owners imagine that when their dog growls he is showing that he is angry. However, not all growls are equal. Puppies and young dogs often growl when they are playing and enjoying themselves. Dogs may also make growling noises when they are nervous and want another dog that seems threatening to back off. Furthermore, they sometimes growl as a warning that they want someone to leave them alone. Their vocals are a sign that they are unhappy, and that real aggression could follow if whomever they want to go away does not leave them alone. If they are dead set on being aggressive, dogs do not bother to provide a warning such as a growl before displaying behavior that is more hostile.

“What’s Going On?”

Your dog is asking what is going on when he raises his ears and tail, and cocks his head to one side. No doubt, he has heard an unfamiliar sound, or is attempting to listen hard so that he can establish what is happening around him. Your dog might also bark when he does not know where a noise originates. When he does, he is alerting you to the possibility that danger may abound. He sees you as the leader of the pack and is hoping that you check out the situation at hand since he is worried.

Pawing Behavior

Puppies and older dogs often use their paws to communicate. They might tap each other on the head with their paws, or even pat you in order to get your attention and engage you in playful activity. Youngsters sometimes use their mouths for the same reason, or engage in mouthing activity since they are teething and feeling uncomfortable.

As already mentioned, you already understand wagging, or do you? Dogs occasionally wag indecisively and slowly when they are unsure about how to react to someone or another animal. Their wag seems to imply that they would like to be friendly, but the situation could alter depending on how the person or animal in front of them reacts.

Knowing what your dog’s body language and vocals mean can help you establish a strong relationship with your pet. At the same time, he will appreciate the effort you are making since, just like humans, animals like to be understood.

Feeding Your Dog

Black Puppy
Your dog’s eating habits are as important for his health as the foods you give him to eat.

There are simple but important rules for feeding your dog, some of which you may consider for yourself. Remember: being a good dog owner takes work, and his feeding may require more attention than you think. ‘Feeding’ is not always keeping his food bowl topped up – although this is a safe and necessary reality at times. It involves everything from cleanliness, water supply, to food selection. Get to know his eating habits including the amount he is normally eating so you can keep his food and bowl fresh and clean, respectively. This advice isn’t meant to institute regimented ownership, just try to get a bit more in tune with him. Once established, you won’t even notice.

Feed your dog at regular times.

It’s important that he knows when he will eat so that he isn’t anxious or hungry between meals. Regular meal times also help stop him begging for food outside those times.

Treat his dish like you treat yours – with the expectation of clean.

Your dog’s feeding bowls should always be thoroughly washed and disinfected after each use as dried or stale remains can carry infections or harbor bacteria. Once the bowls are washed it is a good idea to clear them away, too. Next time you need to buy a new feeding dish, buy 5, so you can set up some sort of washing routine so it always happens – like your own dishes. Here is a link to stackable dog dishes, as an example.

Give him access to a constant supply (always there) of clean water.

It is vital that your dog has free access to a constant supply of fresh, clean drinking water at all times. His water bowl may need not only refilling but cleaning out several times during the day. Do not govern his water intake with your assumptions of health or his thirst, especially if you are not in perfect health. Always have his bowl full of clean water. If you return from a walk or exercise with him, keep filling his bowl if he keeps finishing the water, especially if in the heat of summer.

Never feed scraps to your dog – especially food you wouldn’t eat.

His dietary needs are not the same as yours. He should always be given a properly balanced diet suitable for dogs. Be sure his food has a moist component to it at times, and be in tune with him – when he needs to go for a walk be sure to take him. If you are feeding him from a can, it is important to read the nutritional information on the label and ensure that you supplement your dog’s diet as necessary.

Use an ‘anti-gorge bowl.’

Some dogs tend to eat too fast. This is an instinct of wild behavior. In a wild pack, each dog has to fight for his share and so he will eat as quickly as possible to stop his food being stolen. However, a domestic dog can suffer from indigestion, wind and vomiting if he eats too fast. An excellent and economical solution is to get an ‘anti-gorge bowl’. This type of bowl has an uneven inside surface. As your dog has to eat around the protrusions in the bowl it takes him longer to get to all his food. Most dogs seem to enjoy the little bit of extra work they need to do to obtain their food this way.

Get him his exercise.

There are dog breeds that are well known to be at risk of obesity. Basset Hounds, Labradors and King Charles Spaniels are common breeds that can have issues with weight. Whatever your dog’s breed, you should take care to make sure that his feeding regime is balanced with plenty of outside exercise.

Watch his weight.

A dog that is too thin will have a drawn in tummy, a thin face and ribs that can be seen or felt under the hand. An obese dog will have a distended tummy, folds of fat on the back of the neck, no tuck towards the back legs and ribs covered completely. A healthy dog will have shiny fur with a muscular body and show a slight tuck at the waist.

Get him checked out by a vet if you are unsure about his weight. This is especially important if you know that you are doing everything right but he is still either overweight or underweight.

Your extra work in this feeding area will result in a happy, healthy dog – and your ultimate reward, a better friend.

Hiking With Your Dog

Dogs Running
Dogs love walking and hiking outside just as much as you do. Next time you go hiking, bring your dog along so he can get some fresh air and exercise in the woods. Keep in mind that you’ll need to make a few extra considerations so you, your dog, and fellow hikers have a good time in the woods. Use these tips when you take your dog on a day hike.

Keep a towel in the car for muddy paws.

Some dogs love nothing more than to get wet and muddy. It’s all well and good to let your dog have his fun, but don’t let him make a mess of your car’s upholstery. Keep a few towels and rags in your car. When you arrive back at the trailhead, clean the mud off your dog before allowing him to enter the car. That way, you can let him romp in the woods without worrying too much about the mess.

Bring a water dish so your dog can hydrate.

You can easily drink out of a water bottle, but your dog needs a flat dish in order to drink and stay cool. You need to bring a minimum of two liters of water for yourself. Make sure to bring an extra bottle for your dog. Pack a flat dish or bowl that your dog can comfortably drink from.

Think carefully about letting your dog off the leash.

You may think the woods are a great opportunity for your dog to get some safe off-leash time without the danger of cars, but remember, you’re sharing the trail with other hikers. Some of those hikers might not appreciate a loose dog. Think carefully whether it’s appropriate to let your dog go without a leash on the trail.

Some people say that dogs should be leashed at all times outside the home. While this might make some people more comfortable, it certainly limits your dog’s enjoyment of the wilderness and it may not be necessary. Use some common sense and discretion regarding whether it’s appropriate to let your dog run loose.

Don’t always assume other dogs have been trained socially.

…and almost more importantly, ensure you understand the socialization side of being a dog owner, so your dog is just that, social. If you find yourself on the leash heavily all the time with other dogs around, there might be some work to do – and you should start there before a wide open hike.

Successful dog ownership and dog behavior starts with YOU.

On a secluded trail, you can usually let your dog off the leash without bothering anyone. On busier trails, you may be able to let your dog off the leash intermittently, but pay attention to passing hikers. If you hear big group coming, call your dog back and restrain him while the other hikers pass.

Be considerate.

Don’t give anyone a reason to feel uncomfortable – large dogs can be intimidating to others, as they don’t know the dog’s character or personality. For crowded trails, it’s good etiquette to keep your dog tethered. Consider your dog’s behavior and number of hikers on the trail before letting your dog loose. Don’t let a natural surprise on the path turn into dog aggression or an accident.

Always try to be the considerate dog owner, and learn the social side of a dog’s upbringing. It will be a great benefit to you and your dog, and you can be a great team on any path.

Enjoy your hike!

Introducing a New Dog to a Dog Household

Dog Named Minnie
Introducing new dogs to each other can be a deceptively complicated process. Done incorrectly, you could be setting yourself up for scuffles, scent marking and even dangerous levels of aggression. Many of the signs of fear, frustration or anxiety displayed by dogs can be very subtle, and you may not pick up on them until it’s too late.

Don’t Introduce Them at Home

A nearby park is an excellent place for two dogs to get to know each other. Many dogs, especially particular breeds, become very guarded around their home. This isn’t because they are selfish, it’s because they’re trying to protect you and your belongings. This instinct has been bred into many dogs over years and it sometimes needs a little time to counteract. If your dog gets to know its new friend on neutral territory, however, it will know that it is a friend and a part of the family. This will make it less uneasy about inviting its new friend into its home.

Set Aside Enough Time

It’s best for you to set aside at least a few hours for your old dog and your new dog to interact. You should not feel worried if the dogs seem to be ignoring each other. Ignoring one another is actually a good sign because it means that both dogs feel comfortable and safe. If you push your dogs to interact with each other, they may begin feeling pressured or stressed as they won’t understand exactly what you want.

Learn Your Dog’s Signals

Dogs have a special type of language that they use to communicate with each other. Learning this language is an excellent way to judge how your dogs are doing and bond with your dog on another level. Many people falsely assume that a dog is always happy when wagging its tail. However, wagging may also denote nervousness or fear. If your dog’s tail is wagging slowly and is held close to the ground, it will indicate that your dog is uncomfortable. If your dog is holding its tail high and wagging it quickly, it’s more likely that your dog is happy or having fun.

Getting a new dog can be a difficult but worthwhile pursuit. When done correctly, this process will enrich your life as well as the lives of your pets. It’s very likely that your dogs will soon be inseparable. You may also find that you encounter absolutely no difficulty at all. Like people, dogs are all different. Some simply are not bothered by other dogs or just seem to get along with everyone. However, it’s usually better not to take the risk and to do things the right way, even if you feel that you know your dog well.

Stress and Your Dog

Dog Named Daisy
Experts tell us that dogs are sensitive creatures that pick up on signals both spoken and unspoken in the people around them. Whenever a new stress comes into your household, you can bet that your dog is feeling it as much as you do. However, dogs may show their signs of stress differently than humans. Here are some situations that cause stress in dogs and how you can minimize the tension in the home.

Sickness, Emotion, or Family Events

When a family member is ill or going through hard times, the dog will notice change in family tempo and will pick up on any sadness or worry that occurs in these situations. Again, exercise is the best way to work off his tensions. If possible, allow him to spend time with the relevant family members so that he knows he has not been excluded from this important time in his family group. Having other family members engage in playtime with him will help to allay his fears about changes going on in the household. Imagine yourself being excluded from these family times.

Moving

Moving creates stresses of its own with a complete upheaval of the home environment and a variety of new situations. Your dog will feel the move particularly strongly because your dog depends on the smells in his environment to tell him so much. When the environment changes he has fewer signals to rely on, which can leave him feeling disoriented and unhappy. He may express his feelings with a poor appetite, a short temper or a general air of restlessness.

Make finding a comfortable place for his bed, toys, feeding bowl and other familiar object one of the first actions you take in your new location. Knowing he can rely on these essential items can help to make him feel more at home. Also, spend time acquainting him with the smells, sights and sounds of the neighborhood. This time will help him find his olfactory “home base” so that he can relax and make himself more comfortable in the new setting.

New Animal or New Person Stress

A new animal or person in the household can throw things into turmoil. When a new cat is introduced to a dog, you may have to take special care to separate the two behind a door or gate and gradually accustom the two to living together. For small mammals like hamsters or guinea pigs, you may never be able to have them meet face to face. For some dogs, the presence of a small animal brings out their hunting/killing instincts. Be aware of this engrained instinct to avoid tragedy.

When new people enter the family picture, especially a baby, everything seems to change. Daily rhythms change and different people may visit. Your dog notices all these changes and may feel some of the stress of these changes. He may have accidents in the house, bark excessively at passers by or find a place to hide – especially if a baby is crying. Finding ways to show your dog he is not displaced and that his welfare is still important to you can help to reduce his tension. For new babies, invite him to sit with you during 2 am feeding times to show he is still part of the family group. Make sure his feeding times are on time and take him for an additional walk during the day. Even if you have to call a dog-walker or have neighbor help with walking, it will help him to run off the stress of his nervous energy.

Keep in mind that stress can often be felt, so when there is stress in the air, odds are it is affecting your dog as well. Help you both by staying in touch with your dog and keeping him at your side as a loyal dog owner. He will appreciate it, and so will you.

Keeping Your Dog Safe and Warm

Black Puppy
Pet owners often consider their dogs beloved parts of the family. Keeping them happy, safe, and comfortable is a top priority all year round. However, dogs are especially vulnerable during inclement weather. When the chill hits, there are several ways to help keep your pet safe and warm through the frigid winter days and nights. The best way, of course, being to raise your dog in your home, but for those who use their yards actively, here are some pointers.

Shelter

It is vital, especially in areas hit with snow and freezing temperatures, that your dog has proper shelter if being housed outside. The size of your dog’s house should complement its size. An ideal house is small and cozy enough that your pet can easily warm it with its own body heat. However, the space should be large enough that your dog can move around and lie down comfortably. Make sure the doghouse you choose has a slanted or rounded roof to allow snow to slide off rather than accumulate.

Bedding

When it comes to bedding for your pup, there are many options. Traditional pet beds work well and may be the most obvious choice. You can also make use of old rugs or blankets. Recycle your worn sweaters, and use them as a soothing, warm bed. Whatever bedding you opt for, place it in the dog’s sleeping or relaxing area, whether it be inside or outside. If outside, this will create a barrier between your pet and the cold ground.

Food and Water

As with any time of year, a fresh supply of food and water is essential to your dog’s healthy body functioning including heat regulation.

Walking Warmth

Walking dogs in the cold is a necessary reality for many of us. If you sense your dog is cold or he is holding up a paw indicating ice on his paws, adjust accordingly. Walk only in well shoveled areas, or even purchase winter jackets or paw covers. Take advantage of the warmest part of the day to get your dog its exercise.

Bring Them In

The best thing you can do for your dog when the temperature drops is bring it inside. If your pet is normally an outdoor dweller, you can still let it in without giving it the run of the house. During exceptionally cold nights and long periods of cold weather, use baby gates to partition off a mudroom or the kitchen. With your pet inside, it is sure to have a warm and comfortable night, and you can rest easy knowing that it is safe.

Proper shelter, water supply, bedding and heat sources all contribute to the health and happiness of your pet during cold snaps. As the chill of winter takes hold, take these easy measures to keep your pets safe and warm. Not only will you keep your beloved pet happy, but you will have peace of mind as well.