Thursday, April 2, 2009

Modern-Day Living With Pets: Crate Training and Dens

Today’s pet owner has many options when it comes to training and caring for their pet from natural food products to orthopedic dog pillows. Crates are a great tool for modern-day pet owners since they provide dogs with their own space inside the home and give pet owners a break. This article helps dog owners understand the short-term and long-term benefits of crate training and provides a guide to ‘dens’, an emerging trend in pet care, and why you need one for lifelong dog training and care.

Benefits of Crates and Crate Training Tips
Crates serve an important purpose in dog and puppy training – housetraining, teaching dog to relax and calm down, giving owners and dog a break, keep dog and house safe.

Crates are great for puppy housetraining as it goes against their nature to soil where they sleep. Crates also serve as a ‘safe place’ for puppies and dogs when there is too much action in the house to properly watch them or care for them. Dogs crave den-like enclosures and feel best in cave-like spaces, so crates appeal to their natural instincts and help them feel comfortable – great for breaks from playtime or after a long walk! Plus crate training is easy.

Here are 3 keys to successful crate training:
1. Make the crate comfy. This begins with making sure you get the right size for your dog. You want your dog to be able to walk in, turn around and lay down. No bigger, no smaller. If the crate is too big, your pup won’t get the benefits the cozy den he craves. If the crate is too small, your dog will feel cramped. Also, be sure to put a comfy bed inside the crate to make it feel snug and keep it warm. Dogs know the difference and appreciate the comfort of a soft bed.

2. Put the crate in a place your dog likes to be, near you in a room you and your family spend a lot of time. Pets want to be near you and all the fun.

3. Get your dog used to its crate gradually. Start with the crate door open, pet and give treats to your pup while inside the crate (lots of treats!). Close the door for a few seconds at first, with treats inside, letting your pup out and giving him lots of praise. Every time you crate your pup, load up the crate with treats. Gradually increase the time your dog spends in the crate, always putting lots of your dog’s favorite treats inside each time he goes in. Once your dog is used to going inside his new home, try this: put treats in, close the crate door with your dog on the outside and watch as he begs to get into the crate. You can even turn training into a fun game like ‘hide and seek’ with his favorite toy.

So, crates are great and crate training is easy, right? It’s a great place to keep your dog safe and to give him the break he needs. But, it’s ugly. We know that and that’s why we’ll next tell you about ‘dens’, sometimes referred to as ‘dog crate furniture’, and it allows you to integrate your pet into your home with just one purchase.

Dens – A Home for Your Pet, Furniture for You
When Sally from Bellevue, WA learned about dog dens for her dog Jasper she recognized the key benefit right away – replacing his plastic training crate and gaining a piece of furniture for herself. What she didn’t know was she was purchasing a product that would bring hundreds of hours of peace and relaxation for Jasper. A den acts as a crate, a bed and an end table (that’s right, furniture) all in one. Dens are a new trend in pet care and are increasing in popularity since they actually provide function beyond the first year of having a dog, serving as a home for your dog and beautiful furniture for you to keep for many years to come. Dens also appeal to a dog’s natural instincts for a cave-like space similar to those their ancestors used and a wall to lean against. A key feature of a den is that it evolves as your dog matures. Sally started out using her den to secure Jasper until he was fully housetrained and to keep the rambunctious pup safe when she entertained guests at home. Now that Japer is older and trained she leaves the door off, using it as Jasper’s home, letting him come and go as he pleases. As you can see, dens are a great compliment to your home and serve an important function in dog training and lifelong care.

Now that you know about dens, it’s important to know what to look for when shopping for one.

Start with Your Home Décor and Lifestyle
Think about where you spend time at home and where you want the dog to spend time with you and your family. Living room? Kitchen? Bedroom? All three? Dens come in many shapes, sizes and materials, so it’s important to think about where the den will be so you can match it to your home furnishings and décor. Since dens are really furniture, it is important to consider where you need a piece of furniture as well. You may elect to get more than one den for multiple rooms in the house. Having a den in the bedroom can be especially helpful if you like to have your dog close at night, but do not want him taking up valuable space in your bed. Since the den will serve as furniture for you for many years to come, you will want to think about whether or not you prefer classic or modern style.

Not all Dens are the Same
Avoid the dens that are wicker or plastic. These are not sturdy enough for most dogs and will not last beyond a few years, if that. Also be sure to look for dens that have the option to lock the door and remove the door or keep it open. This will allow you to get the full benefit of a den as your pet matures. In the beginning years as you train you will want to secure the dog often, then as he learns what he can and can’t chew on, when and where to relieve himself, etc. you can remove the door and the den becomes his space, his home that he can freely enter and exit.

Be Sure to Consider Your Dog’s Personality and Size
When searching for that perfect modern or classic den, consider the size of your pet in terms of height and length. You want to make sure your den is big enough to allow your pet to walk in, turn around and lay down. Also, you want to make sure the den isn’t too big so your dog can feel snug and secure. If you have a puppy, get measurements for a full-grown dog for his breed or for a mix breed, get the measurements for a full-grown in the largest breed in his mix. It is best to measure height and length of your dog and compare with the dimensions of the den to ensure proper fit.

You’re Ready!
Armed with these tips on crate training and den living you’re ready to start living better with your pet at home. After all, better living means better relationships and according to Cesar Millan, professional dog trainer (star of his TV series, The Dog Whisperer), a strong relationship is the key to easy training and an obedient dog.

About the Author
Written by Becky Sparks Parker, member of the
DenHaus Design Team. DenHaus is a Seattle-based firm designing dens that function as furniture for you and homes for pets.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Devotion of Canines: Dogs and Homelessness

Photograph by Tim Hulsizer

Genevieve Frederick is the founder and executive director of Feeding Pets of the Homeless, an organization homeless people care for their pets. The following article is an interview of her given by Felicia Gray, Executive Producer of

What is Feeding Pets of the Homeless?

We are a nonprofit member/volunteer organization located in Carson City, Nevada. We collect pet food and deliver it to food banks and soups kitchens which have agreed to distribute the food to the homeless. Through cash donations we provide grants to veterinarians and other nonprofits that supply medicines and medical care to the pets of homeless.

How many homeless people have pets?

The National Coalition for the Homeless estimated that between 5%-10% of homeless people have dogs and/or cats. Statistics show that over 60% of households have at least one pet. Unfortunately, for those who have to move with pets, it becomes more difficult to find housing or shelter that accept pets. These people are forced to choose between their pet and a roof over their head.

There are obviously several rewards to pet guardianship, but animals probably offer particular solace to people who face the many challenges of life on the streets. How would you describe the benefits of guardianship?

Pets provide a deep comfort for a group of individuals that the majority of society would just as soon forget or treat as invisible. The pets are non-judgmental. They are loyal. Homeless guardians receive a type of normalcy by providing food and water for their pets. In some cases they provide them with reality. Some homeless would sacrifice their own food for their pets.

Do you feel that many guardians would prefer to remain on the streets rather than abandon their pets?

Absolutely, because of the emotions I mentioned. There is a strong bond between animals and humans. Those with pets have the same feelings of love and devotion that parents of children have. I know a lot of people think this is crazy but look at how many people refuse to be rescued rather than abandon their pets after hurricanes, flooding and other natural disasters.

What particular challenges do homeless guardians face?

The major problem is housing. Shelters, motels and other assisted housing programs do not want to have pets on their property. Another challenge is finding food and water for themselves and their pets. Soup kitchens, food banks and shelters can offer pet food thanks to the members of Feeding Pets of the Homeless. Vet care is a challenge because of the costs and transportation issues.

Generally speaking, most homeless guardians often see to their animals' comfort and well-being before their own. At the same time, there are inherent dangers and sacrifices that go hand-in-hand with life on the streets that inevitably must affect animals. What is life like for the pets of the homeless?

I can only imagine, but I think due to the nature of pets, they more than likely do not really care if they live in a mansion and go to a groomer or if they live on the streets as long as the guardian loves and feeds them. They are loyal and nonjudgmental of their guardians. One of the dangers that come with living on the streets is that the pets do not get the proper diet and medical attention that they need. That is why we have a grant program in place to provide medical and preventative care to pets of the homeless.

Do most homeless people obtain their pets by encountering abandoned animals on the street, or does the majority already have companion animals before becoming homeless?

Most bring their pets with them into homelessness. Others meet them on the streets and form a lasting bond.

What can the general public do to help this organization and pets of the homeless?

Volunteer to help a collection site by separating the pet food into quart zip lock bags and delivering the collected pet food to a food bank. Or donate cash to the organization so we can continue to provide grants to veterinarians across the country to administer preventative and medical care to pets of the homeless.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

How to Get Your Pup in Line: Advice from a Professional Sheepdog Trainer

Amelia Smith has been training working Border Collies since 1992. In 2001, she purchased her first sheep trial dog and her career began in earnest. Her dogs qualified for the 2001 United States Border Collie Hander's Association National Nursery Finals, and soon became successful on the open field as well. In this post she talks about what made her a successful dog trainer and how what she learned can apply to everyday dog owners:

When asked for training tips and advice, I always reply with the one that means the most to me, resolve.When I intend for a dog to do something, not do something, or learn something, the effect and time it takes to accomplish is directly related to my commitment to the results. The condition of my dog, his age, temperament, intelligence, all factor in, but I believe that I am more important to the equation. How strongly do I feel that I can get results? What am I willing to do to get results? How long am I willing to wait?

There's also the questions about training implements, namely what kind of tool do you use as an aid in training your dog? Leash? Extra long leash? Rattle paddle? Rake? Rope and rake? Lunge whip? Shock collar? Rolled up newspaper? Lengths of garden hose? Bean bags? Treats?

I'm going to suggest that while tools are useful, the more you rely on your tools, the less you believe in your ability to get results and the lower your resolve. If you are not engendering respect from your dog, you are begging, or you are forcing. Dogs respond just to my direction when they respect me, and they will respond willingly regardless of excitement and external commotion. You will never find the perfect tool that will solve problems with your dog. It is inside of you.

The first year I had real success at a big sheepdog trial, my dog began by ignoring my directions. I remember thinking; "I only have one chance to make the final round, it's slipping away from me and I will stop that." As a result of my determination, I distinctly remember feeling as if my feet had left the ground when I blew my whistle and directed my dog. It was powerful and rewarding to see my dog take my flank whistle, and it got easier after that. In the same way he was convincing the wild ewes, I was convincing him.

Find your inner resolve. Mine is in the middle of my chest, somewhere in the area of my diaphragm, and it seems to me that I have never needed the full extent of it. I can literally summon it up, and it is a physical feeling. We all have it. Sometimes it only shows up in our darkest hour. Sometimes it doesn't show up at all, but it's there. Start with something small. Identify something your dog does that you don't want him to do and determine to stop it. I'm not advocating force, or punishment, but to some degree, these things may play a part. That depends on you and your relationship with your dog. If you start with something easy enough, you will have success and you will build on that. Nurture your intention and you will surprise yourself

Amelia Smith is the owner of BorderSmith Stockdogs. Currently, she raises and trains working Border Collies at her ranch in Southern California. In 2008, Amelia began publishing The Real Time Canine, a weekly subscription based digest sent by e-mail each Sunday describing in words and pictures the real life and training of a puppy. For more information, visit Amelia's blog at

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Canine Vet: Which One's Right For Me?

This is a Guest Posting

Your vet is a pretty significant figure in your dog’s life – and also in yours. Hopefully, you’ll only ever need him or her for routine checkups and preventative procedures. But you never know, so it’s worth taking the time to develop a good relationship with a suitable vet before you need their services.

Where Do I Look?

Sure, you could just pick a vet at random from the Yellow Pages or from an Internet search, but having the right canine vet is crucial to your dog’s health and happiness. Think about it this way, if you were trying to choose a doctor for yourself would you be happy to just select one at random from an impersonal list?

Probably not. The best place to start looking for a canine vet is by word of mouth. If you have any friends or relatives who take good care of their dogs, then that’s a great place to start looking for a good canine vet. Ask them who they’d recommend and why.

This one is particularly important, because everyone has different priorities. For example, perhaps they like their own canine vet because he/she is a specialist in their own particular breed; or they don’t charge very much; or the clinic is only five minutes’ drive. Their priorities are not necessarily yours, so it’s a good idea to make sure that your values coincide with the person giving the recommendations. Once you have a list of canine vets that you’re interested in pursuing further, all you have to do is call up the clinic and explain that you’re looking to find a regular vet for your dog(s) and if you can come in for a quick chat, introduce your dog, and have a look at the premises.

Things to Ask the Vet

While you’re at the clinic, you’ll want to be assessing your potential vet’s overall attitude and approach to health care and animals; and you’ll also probably want answers to some specific questions.

Here’s a list of useful questions to help you on your way:

What kind of testing and analysis capabilities does the clinic have? If they have to send away to a lab for this kind of stuff, it means that the results are going to be delayed. If your dog is very sick, time is an important factor, its best if the clinic has at least blood-analysis testing on hand.

What after-hours services are available?
A lot of clinics close the doors in the evenings and on weekends, which means that if there’s an emergency you’ll have to go somewhere else – and subject your dog (and yourself) to an unfamiliar canine vet. If you don’t mind this, then that’s fine. But be aware that in a high-stress situation when emotions are running high, it’s reassuring for your dog and yourself to deal with someone familiar.

And of course there’s the issue of money: What’s their price range? How are payments made? Do they have payment plans in case of unexpected vet bills? The payment-plan option is particularly important. Even with pet insurance, vet bills can sometimes be astronomical – and not everyone has the resources to deal with large vet bills right away. Ask the clinic how they cater for situations like that.

Making the right choice

When you choose a canine vet, you’re balancing convenience and quality. There’s no right or wrong vet for you and your dog – which is partly why making the choice can be so confusing. There are lots of canine vets to choose from and they’re all different! A good vet knows how to take care of you as well as your dog. The relationship that you have with your vet will hopefully be one that’s based around a healthy mutual respect and positive energy - there should be very little room for misunderstanding. When the two of you see eye to eye, it makes caring for your dog that much easier.

Now off you go, your dog needs some exercise.

T.F. Jackson writes product reviews and articles on dog obedience training and on dog health issues. You can learn more about the wonderful world of dogs by visiting his weblog K-9 Corner:

A Great Solution for Dog Owners in the Snowy North

My mother became increasingly worried this winter when she let the dog out without a leash, especially at dusk. Her dog, Gussie, is a Jack Russell Terrier with a white coat. Gus likes to wander around and in the winter it's impossible to keep an eye on him... until now. Mom bought Gus a Reflective Vest made by Snoozer and her problem is gone. This picture shows the dog in low light, as you can see, his fur blends in but the vest nearly blinds you. This is a great product for anyone with a light colored dog, especially if you live with snow 6 months out of the year.

Check it out! Snoozer Reflective Dog Vest

Jumping Foxes

Who knew foxes were so playful... I always just thought they were sly.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009