=> Avoid pet toys and treats from China - they are made cheaply and potentially (and probably) contain toxic ingredients.

=> Don't use tea tree oil on your pets - it's harmful to dogs.

=> Of all the toys our dogs have, their favorites are made from ropes and socks. Tug of war play with the ropes plus chewing on them (acts like our flossing) keeps them happy. An old sock is used to put a ball in, then tie a knot to keep it from falling out. The dogs love it and eventually chew the ball out of it, but even just the sock with a knot in it seems to occupy their playing with it.

=> Brush your pets in the fall - as the weather gets cooler, they will be shedding their winter fur and getting ready for heavier summer fur - if you live in a place with climate changes. Make sure to check for lumps or fleas or scabs as you brush - see if there is anything unusual and tell your vet about that. Keep feeding your pet decent food so his coat stays nice. If the coat is drab or flat-like, try to feed him a better diet, or if that doesn't work, ask your vet about it. This may be a symptom of something else.

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=> Give your pets positive reinforcement - so they will want to do what makes you happy with them.

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=> Brush your dog's teeth at least twice a week - use a toothpaste for dogs - there are harmful ingredients for dogs in human toothpaste - put some toothpaste on the brush and let the dog lick it off to get used to it.

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=> Take your pets to the vet for regular check-ups, and keep their shots up to date.

=> Make sure your dog/cat is legally licensed and registered in your county and/or city. Make sure your pet is microchipped and registered . Get an ID tag. Have current rabies tags on as well. Keep all this on a collar on the animal. If your dog gets lost, people can refer to the tags and find a way to get hold of you. This happened recently to us - the puppy ran off several times, being unfamiliar to the new house and area, but the times we didn't know he had gone, the people who found him and called the old animal control number and the rabies tag was the way they found us. We hadn't had a chance to get new tags or ID for him yet, but be assured he's up to date now!

=> Keep your birds away from the kitchen - some odors can literally kill them. When cooking with Teflon, for instance, the fumes from the pan can be deadly to birds.

=> For a quick food for your dog, in case you run out of food - boil some rice and add some meat and fruits or veggies - see what's in your fridge. Don't use corn, but broccoli is good, beans, blueberries, etc. Don't give onion, garlic, grapes, macadamia nuts, or raisins to your dog. These, along with chocolate, can cause harmful effects to your dog, even so bad as to kill him. Stay away from lots of fat as well - it can cause severe inflammation.

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=> Have a puppy? They love to be wild, play hard, chew and all. We found a great "toy" for our puppy and he can spend an hour at a time with it - and it's cheap! Get a 3 liter soda bottle and empty it, then screw the cap back on - it rolls in a wind or with any push. The puppy loves to try to pounce it or catch it, but he can't catch it until his mouth gets much bigger than the bottle. He can't grasp his teeth on pretty much any part of the bottle - the air inside won't let it collapse. He just jumps it, rolls over it, bats it (and it goes rolling away or flipping up), chases it and barks at it. What a great pastime! Be sure to remove all of the labeling before letting him play - so he won't try to eat it or choke. When it does get a break, throw it away (recycle it) so he doesn't figure out how to chew it apart or eat it - keep an eye on him while he plays with it.

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=> Find a dog food that does not contain corn or cornmeal (corn gluten appears to be ok) - that is a major ingredient in most dry dog foods - but corn is not useful in a dog's diet, and not really digested - just eliminated as waste. Why spend money buying food that is not food to a dog? Why buy food that makes you have to scoop more poop?

=> Make sure to punish your pet at the same time he misbehaves - he doesn't process old information. If she pees on the floor - you need to catch her as she does it and say "no" at the same time you put her outside - then when she finishes peeing outside, say "good." Don't find the pee later and stick the pet's face in it and say "no" - it is already forgotten about and the poor pet doesn't understand you.

=> Make sure to be consistent with your pets. Use the same command and preferably the same tone of voice when talking to them. Make the commands simple, like "out" or "back" or "room" to go to a certain area. Use the same word each time, and encourage others to do so. They will soon understand what you mean, and will do it willingly, to please you. Dogs are especially receptive to tones and words.

=> If you want less stools to clean up from your dog(s), then you should feed your pet a premium type of dog food or cat food. The cheap ones just pass through and have a lot of matter that cannot be digested - you are actually paying more for the waste product than if you pay more for pet food that is more digestible. Your dog and/or cat will be healthier and happier, too. Our finicky eater dog will eat nothing else, and her health came back to normal. We thought she had a digestive defect but once she started on her super premium all natural food, she gained weight and began to eat normally.

=> If your dog is sick or older, and having accidents, not in control of his/her bowels and/or bladder, or is having a "period" with messy bleeding, you might benefit from doggy diapers. They aren't necessarily easy to find, or economically priced, so you can make your own. Get some of the products for elderly or bladder-problem people from the local department store, or even diapers for babies – see which size seems more compatible for your dog. We got the small adult sized ones for my 65 pound dog. Then just cut a tail hole in the "diaper" and tape it on. Less household mess – but more daily cleansing needed for the dog.

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=> Make sure to keep identification on your pets, in case they ever get away. Take them on walks in your neighborhood so they will recognize it - in case they get away, they will know how to get back.

=> NEVER leave your pets locked up in the car while you go somewhere - it takes only minutes for the temperature to climb to deadly levels. If you must, make sure to crack open at least two windows for air circulation, park in the shade, make sure there is water for your pet - and be gone for ONLY a couple of minutes. (I know the intent may be good to be gone for a couple of minutes, but sometimes it ends up being longer - at least the pet has a chance of being ok if there is moving air and water.) The same goes for children - NEVER leave anyone - person or pet - in a closed up car.


=> If you have a fussy eater in your pet, try different types of nutritious pet foods (don't give leftovers as you will spoil the pet and it might refuse to try pet food), and feed it small amounts frequently during the day, with personal attention, encouraging the pet to eat. You might flavor it a little more with broth to help.

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=> Use POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT on your pet - praise and give treats when the pet does the right thing. Don't scold, and don't scold often. It is more effective. If the pet knows more love from you, and wants the praise and affection, he/she will be more hurt when scolded, and it will not want to hear that tone of your voice. You won't even need to "spank" the pet - your voice will be plenty sufficient.

=> Your dog's teeth need to be brushed, so you should brush them yourself (yes, there are dog toothbrushes and toothpaste which isn't harmful), have your vet do an occasional cleaning, or give the dog lots of hard chew toys and rope, plus chew hooves or other hard treats to chew on. The rope and hard treats work through the teeth, grinding off plaque with the hard bits that are abrasive, and the rope can work like floss if played hard with. Dogs can have teeth problems just as we do, especially if you give them leftovers from dinner - there is sugar in the foods we eat.

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=> If you keep your dogs in a backyard and work away from home - consider putting a lock on the gate. Curious kids and malicious people are known to open gates to either check out your dog or to purposely let the dog out. This happened to my dog below and he was hit by a car, ran to hide, was chased by the humane society someone had called in, and was both severly injured and traumatized. The cost was huge to care for him. After that we put locks on the gate and it's been a huge relief.

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=> Keep your dog leashed when out in neighborhoods - loose dogs can pose a threat to a leashed dog - while the loose dog may be playful and jump up on a leashed dog - the leashed dog sees it as an aggresive act of dominance. A leashed dog may also be protective or non-social. Don't assume a meeting between dogs on a walk will go well. A leashed dog to leashed dog meeting doesn't always go well - an alpha personality may cause conflict.

=> Teach your dog the command "Go Home" or "home" whenever you approach your home - I have come across loose dogs and even an aggressive loose dog - when I firmly say "go home" they run off and presumably home.

=> To easily teach your dog to catch things from the air, or to want to catch a ball or frisbee in flight, start with having him try to catch popped popcorn (perhaps flavor it if he's not a popcorn fan) - it floats slower and gives him time to figure out how to catch it. Do not feed him much, though, since corn is not good for a dog's diet.

=> During the holiday season, refrain from giving chocolate to your dogs and pets. It can be quite toxic, if the dog has enough of it. In any case, it's not healthy, it's bad for teeth, and it encourages a love of sweets.

=> Nervous When Meeting People? My dog used to get very nervous when introduced to new people. We got him as a puppy, but he was just dropped off in the field next to the pound, and so no one knew where he came from. He was so young, just weaned from his mother. We were able to take him home right away and didn't realize that he probably was abused before we got him. Everything scared him. He is still scared of things coming at him, or the vacuum, or a broom. We could not get him to feel ok around other people. He bonded to me very tightly and is so loving. He's gotten better in his later years, but still has some fearful quirks.

The only way he could be introduced to people was to not look at them. He didn't want anyone to pet his head or come at him. The only thing we could do was to introduce people to him from his hind end first. People had to pet him on his back, and work up to his front, if he felt comfortable. Sometimes we had to repeat the process several times to get someone to be able to pet his head. I always had to be around to assure him it was ok. From this quirk, I knew something had happened to him at his previous home (not to mention being taken from his mother and dumped into a field for a night as a puppy).

Now he does better when meeting people, but he still does not want anyone coming to his face, or petting his head until he gets to a comfort level. The main thing to remember, when meeting any animal, is to offer the back of your hand (it's less threatening - doesn't look like you'll hit) for the dog to sniff. Get down closer to the dog's face level, so you aren't big and hovering over him (also a threat). If you speak gently and allow him to make the first move, it will go better. If he still seems agitated, back away and try later, after he's noticed you around for awhile. Don't risk getting growled at or bitten if he's still nervous, and make sure to keep your face away from his teeth. Eventually, the dog may start checking you out and may even let you pet him. Take the time he needs - don't rush it. He needs to be able to trust what is happening to him.

=> Respect Your Animals - Your pets need to be treated with respect - they depend on you to live. They need fresh food and water every day. They need to exercise, just like we do. They need your love and attention - even if you are very busy, let your pet be with you in the room you are working in (unless it's dangerous or you are cleaning with chemicals causing fumes). They are happy to just lie down and watch, just to be near you and hear you talk to them, or follow you around and feel part of your day. Let them sit with you when you watch TV or read the paper or work on your computer. Don't just always yell at your pet or shoo him away. He loves you unconditionally - show him you care about him. Take him for a walk or play ball - it will be a good thing for you, as well - get your exercise while having a fun time with your dog. It might help you see that there is more to life. Pets help soothe people - give your pet the respect he deserves. He doesn't ask for much - appreciate him.

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=> Be Cautious When Hair is Raised - Be wary if you come up on an animal - dog, cat, wild animal, etc. - with its hair raised on its back or neck. That is a defensive stance an animal takes when feeling threatened. It's getting ready to pounce or attack. Slowly back away and show it you are leaving it alone, posing no threat. There is no sense in challenging the animal - they have sharp teeth and your defenses are weak in comparison.

=> Beware of Car Heat - Never leave anyone - no child, baby, pet or person, in your car when it's warm or hot outside. The heat in a car can rise 40 degrees within an hour - so if it's already 80 degrees outside, it can get up to 120 pretty fast. It won't take long to cause serious, if not fatal, problems with anyone in the car. Even if you leave the windows down, it can still get hot in the car. Dogs don't even have many ways to sweat, as humans do - so they can succumb to the heat pretty fast. Report any instances you find of a child or pet in a closed car on a hot day - it could save a life.

=> Info for the Vet Visit - When taking your pet to the vet, whether it's a regular check up or a "sick" visit, make sure to notice any and all symptoms that the vet can get more information from. Is the dog eating or drinking more or less than usual? Are the poops solid, runny, soft, colored, bloody, dripping in the house? Is the dog urinating or having trouble? Does the dog favor one side or part of his body or paw? Does he seem to see and hear ok? What clues can you pick up that can tell the vet more about what may be wrong? Make notes and talk to the vet about it. Call the vet prior to taking your pet in - see if you need to include a stool or urine sample, etc.

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=> Used Tennis Balls - Make sure the tennis balls you give your dog to play with are used and beaten up already. New balls have a dye on them that can be picked up from the dog's saliva, and it's not good for them. So give them what they enjoy best, anyway - a good, used tennis ball. You should probably wash it first.

=> Keep Records & ID for Your Pets - In the same way you would keep records for yourself or your child, keep records for your pets. List markings, special characteristics, behavior patterns, and such. List all medications the pet is on and needs. Keep a vet visit log, or at least place the vet info in the records so the vet can be called for updated information. Also keep current photos of your pet - from varied viewpoints, so a proper identification can be made. Get a chip implanted if you are concerned about the pet running off or being stolen. Keep that information in your pet's file. Place this file with your own files that you would grab in case of emergency.

=> Keep Your Pets Away From Chemicals & Fumes. If you have a pest or weed control person working in your home or yard - put your pets away while the process is going on, and for some time afterwards - ask your sprayer how long a pet should stay out of the area being treated - some are 20-30 minutes, others longer. If you cook with Teflon (and you should not), keep all pets out of the kitchen area so they don't get the fumes. Any time you work on the yard, fertilizing or using any chemicals - consult the directions to know how long your pets need to be restrained from the areas affected.

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=> Exercise Your Pets. Your pets need to exercise just like people need exercise. Birds should be allowed to fly or walk around to get their exercise, in an enclosed area so they don't escape. Dogs need to run or walk daily - if there is no yard, make sure to walk him and take a ball or saucer he can chase. Cats usually can get around on their own, as well as fish - but make sure there is ample room for them to swim or wander. Pets need to metabolize their food so they don't get obese. They need to work their heart rate with activity. I once had a lazy dog, and one day, with no warning, he went to sleep and didn't wake up. He didn't get enough activity (his choice - I tried) and his heart just gave up on him. If you have a pet that doesn't like to be active, check with the vet - he might require less vigorous activity, or he might need to get more activity - figure out what is fun for your pet - following you? Fetching for you? Being chased? Make it fun for both of you and see how healthy you both can be.

=> Sudden Symptoms. Call your vet if your pet develops symptoms very suddenly, or even gradually. If you pet gains or loses weight fast, or if there is a big or noticeable difference in a few months, suspect a problem until your vet can tell you it's ok. Maybe discomfort and weight gain and then lack of eating may indicate blocked bowels. If your dog loses her site almost overnight, it can be Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration (SARDS) - it happened to us - and it's not reversible. The only way to possibly save your pet from more serious problems is to keep track of changes and report these to your vet - some may give clues as to what else may be going on (our female dog had a definite weight gain prior to losing her sight - it could have given a clue about what might be happening to the dog - perhaps there could have been some treatment to slow down the site loss problem, or give some hope before it's too late. Maybe there is at some point a new treatment or experimental treatment that can help your pet. Always ask the vet about radical or sudden changes in your pet.

=> Holidays With Your Pet. Be aware of anxieties your pet may have during the holidays, when there is so much going on, so much noise and commotion. If they are anxious, find a quiet place for your pet to find solace - a room, a dog run, anywhere to give it space. Cordon off areas that might get messed up by a pet run amuck. Don't leave candies accessible to pets, and refrain from giving rich leftovers. You want to keep your pet healthy. A dog with an active tail - put tree ornaments higher than the tail can reach, and keep glasses off tables the dog runs by. Keep your desserts, your turkey, your alcoholic drinks, etc., out of reach from your pets. Keep poinsettias and other toxic plants up high and out of your pet's reach. Use common sense and help your pets deal with the holidays in the safest manner.

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=> Is your Pet Angry? Does your normally calm pet snap at you for no apparent reason? It could be the pet is having a bad day, or needs some quiet time, just like humans need. If he is tired of playing a certain game, or a certain way, he might just let you know to stop by snapping or growling. Let him have these episodes without discipline (unless he harms someone) because it's his only way to communicate with you. Just take his cue and end the playing that is annoying him. If he snaps at you for pulling his food away, that is a cause for discipline and training, but not when he is just asking to be left alone. When there is too much activity, the pet can feel overwhelmed and need to get away from it for awhile. It's not a sign of misbehaving, but a plea to let him be.

=> Check Pet's Teeth. For pets that have teeth (big enough to check) - look at them every so often, perhaps weekly or at least monthly - if they look bad, missing, covered with crusty plaque, have bleeding gums, etc., go take the pet to a vet for cleaning and treatment. You should try to brush the teeth daily or every other day or so if you can, but this can be a process your pet resists. There are special dog toothbrushes, and even meat flavored toothpastes made for dogs, and probably cats. Don't use your own toothpaste on the pets - there are ingredients that are not good for animals (not to mention for humans, either).

Rotten or missing teeth can cause more problems - affect the heart, allow poisons into the bloodstream from the roots, or the jaw bone may be rotting. There are so many problems that can happen if you don't take care of your pet's teeth.

=> Birds Losing Blood. If your bird tears his foot, loses a claw, gets scratched, or otherwise somehow gets injured and loses any blood, stop the bleeding immediately and call a vet to see what to do next. For small birds, such as parakeets, even a couple drops of lost blood can cause problems for the bird - they can't lost much because they don't have so much blood in their little system. Keep a styptic stick or pencil or powder around (remember when your dad or grandpa used to apply it when he cut himself shaving with a blade?) and use it on your bird if the bird gets cut. It can save its life.

=> Artificial Sweeteners Can Kill. Never let your pets eat sweets that are dietary, having artificial sweeteners. These can kill - xyletol, which may be known by another name, is lethal for dogs. And while we're at it, why give sugared sweets to your pets? It's nothing that is good for them, or has nutritional value. It just rots their teeth and can make them picky eaters.

=> Wipe Those Paws. It's getting to be another mud season - rain, sleet, snow are coming up. Paws will get muddy and messy. Place a doormat for them to walk on prior to coming into the house, or let them go into the garage until they dry off. Place a towel for them to use when they come in. When it's snowing, melt off the ice and snow from the paws - don't rip them off since these are stuck to the fur between the toes. You can run water over the paws or just let them thaw out inside (or in the garage). If the pads do rip, clean out the wound, put antiseptic (like Polysporin) on it, and wrap it up. Yes, the dog will try to chew off the wrapping, and possibly try to chew the flapping skin off. Try to get him to leave it alone the best you can. You might need to keep him in a room with a floor you can mop, in case he bleeds. Keep good care of his paws and he'll be a happier dog.

=> Senior Dogs. Senior dogs should not have much fat or protein - make sure to get a dog food that is low in both fat and protein. Don't feed him scraps of meat or fat, either, since it can hurt him. Young dogs need more, but not older dogs, starting in perhaps 6-8 years old - depending on the breed. Exercise your dog, as well - he may not run fast anymore but he does need to move. He'll likely eventually start losing his hearing, his sight, and start growing bumps. You should have all lumps examining by a vet - make sure they are not cancerous or dangerous tumors. If the dog loses eyesight almost overnight, it may be a condition that cannot be reversed. If the dog is losing or has lose his sight, try to make the dog as comfortable as you can, and teach him where things are in his path so he can get around. He can usually adjust amazingly fast, and not even seem depressed or handicapped. He'll eventually lose control of his bladder and bowels, if he lives long enough. You can buy doggy diapers - or get human baby diapers and cut a tail hole in them. Even with a diaper, you'll have to wash his bottom off each day, at least once or more, or he'll smell bad. If he tends to lie down in his piles or in mud that he has urinated in, he's probably getting ready to give up on himself, knowing he's close to death. If he feels happy with you, you can keep him alive and with you in as much comfort as possible. If he is suffering or miserable, and doesn't even perk up with attention from you, you should consider having him put down by the vet. If his quality of life isn't good, it's not good for him to suffer day after day. Your dog may exhibit other signs of growing old, as well, but the main thing is to see a vet when necessary, and to keep him happy and comfortable.

=> Pay Attention to Pet Quirks. Make sure to monitor your pet for odd behavior, and ask the vet if you should be concerned. Is your pet eating or drinking more or less than usual? Is he actual lethargic or turning in circles? Does he have a hard time eliminating - urine or other? Is he throwing up? Eating poops? Loose stools? All this needs to be watched for - to make sure your dog or pet is well. If you notice anything abnormal about your pet's routine, call the vet and ask. It might be nothing, might be seasonal, might be mating season action, or might signal a problem that needs to be dealt with.

=> Spend Time With Your Pet. Your pet loves, trust, depends on you. You need to spend time caring for and communicating with your pet (maybe fish aren't so dependent on your company). Clean up after them, feed and water them, and play with them. Dogs and cats will just rest with you, hang out with you, and be with you. Pet them, play a game with them, exercise with them, show them you care. Let your birds fly and walk around your desk area, or sit on your shoulder. If you make a routine of exercising with your pets - it will help both of you. Walk your dog, play frisbee, jog, bike, hike - dogs enjoy doing all of that with you. And chances are you will enjoy the activity by having a partner in doing it with you. That means better health for you both! Both physically and mentally.

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=> Have Your Vet Look at Pet's Teeth. Just like humans, animals with teeth need dental care. If the teeth gets cavities or full of tartar, there can be toxins that may be pulled into the bloodstream, or trauma, or infection, etc. The heart and lungs, for example, can have problems stemming from improper tooth care. Gum disease can cause more problems. Teeth can fall out when gum disease progresses and there is bone loss. There are so many problems that can be averted with proper dental care. Make an appointment with your vet every yeqar or preferably twice a year to check the pet's teeth, and get a thorough cleaning. If you feed your dog dry crunchy food, it is best for teeth care - but most dogs and cats get treats that can be sticky or sugary or unhealthy.

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=> Positive Reinforcement. When training and disciplining your pets - offer lots of praise and positive reinforcement when they do the right thing or show you loving. Try not to say "no" or yell much - they will crave the "good boy" phrase with the loving, excited way you say it. The not so often "no's" will mean a lot more to the dog and he won't want to hear it - it will hurt his feelings more because he wants the praise. I have had dogs that feel very bad when told "no" or "bad" - they really want to be "good" and hear it. Make sure you offer lots of love and encouragement - it will go a long, long way.

=> Bird Sluggish? If you have a pet bird, pay attention to it daily. Make sure to keep the cage clean, and always have fresh food and water available. Offer your bird fruits and vegetables along with a seed diet - make sure it's organic with no chemicals.

If you notice the bird acting differently, start to monitor if he's eating, drinking, and eliminating as usual. The sooner you catch a problem with a bird, the sooner you can help it. When a bird gets sick or weak, it tries to mask its symptoms, especially when with other birds. Since birds tend to ignore the weakest, a bird will try to present itself as being as strong as the rest. Weak birds are pushed aside and may not be able to fight their way to the food and water. Once a bird starts acting noticeably sick or weak, it is often too late to help it, and you may lose the bird to death. If you see anything different, pull the bird away from others and place in a cage or box by itself with fresh food and water, plus warmth and no draft. Don't handle or move the bird any more than you need to.

Some situations may look like a problem, but aren't - such as molting. Read up on the normal behavior for your bird during such natural events, so not to confuse with sickness - but if it looks the same as sickness, you might need to isolate the bird until you figure it out.

If there is blood - get the bleeding stopped as soon as possible - birds cannot lose much blood. Keep some styptic powder in the house in case of bleeding - and blot it on to stop the blood flow.

Call a vet for more guidance, or perhaps you can take the bird in to be checked out by the vet.

=> Walk Your Dog. Unless you really try to get your dog to be active, he will usually spend all day just walking around and lying down, getting little quality exercise. Even in a big yard, unless he is provoked into running, he'll just spend the day napping and walking, running maybe just a little.

Make a habit of walking your dog daily, or at least playing catch and frisbee with him to get him moving. For overly hyper dogs - get him to be physically active for 2-3 hours a day in order to keep him calm - he has too much energy to run off in a house or fenced yard. Other dogs do well with an hour or two - but make it an active time - chasing, running, walking, hiking - get him moving.

=> Approaching a Dog With Your Hand. When you meet a new or unfamiliar dog, give your hand to the dog under his chin, so he can sniff it and accept it. Don't put your hand on or over the dog's head - this can cause a defensive reaction - he might snap at you. Dogs may feel charged or threatened when a hand approaches them from above, so be very aware of such action. Many dogs have been hit by their owners from above, and may take if ok from their masters, but are not about to take it from a stranger or non-master. It is a bad idea to discipline a dog by hitting from above the head or on their head. Just be aware that many dogs cannot be approached by a hand coming at them from over hteir heads. It doesn't mean this is a bad dog - it's just not a good practice for any dog - it's likely an inbred behavior to dislike the above-the-head action.

=> Holiday Pets as Gifts. Don't ever give a pet as a gift unless you know the recipient even wants it or can afford it. A child may want a dog or cat, but his parents may not want one (allergies, too much work, not enough room or time, can't afford to feed another stomach, etc.). Make sure you clear all avenues of concern and permission before ever considering giving a pet for a gift.

If you do get a dog, even for yourself - be aware that many, if not most, smaller pet stores sell puppies that have been brought up in puppy mills. These puppies are cruelly ignored and minimally cared for, cramped in small crates with others, no ground under their feet - just the grating of the crate. These pups may have inbred problems - and certainly can carry kennel cough or parvo or other diseases. Their immune systems are compromised and they have even been known to die after a few weeks once purchased. Be certain of where the animals were brought into the stores from before purchasing - yes they are cute, but likely not healthy - and you don't want to support a business that promotes such cruelty to animals! When you ask - be aware that employees may not have been told the truth about the origination of the animals that are being sold. Or they may blatantly lie - so keep aware of how the questions are answered. Better yet - just go to a Humane Society and adopt a pet that needs a home, or call a breed rescue group.

=> Kitchen Rules for the Dog. Holiday time of year calls for lots of baking and cooking. Your dog will be tempted a lot. You should feed your dog with his normal dog food and not let him be hungry as he smells all the wonderful foods. You might want to ban your dog from the kitchen while cooking - you can easily drop bits of food on the floor to be immediately sucked up by the dog. Many of the foods are potentially dangerous for your dog to eat. Chocolate, raisins, wine, onions, garlic - these are all bad for your dog. Don't give him people food as a snack - he may learn to be picky about his own food.

=> Dogs Have Temper Problems. When playing hard with your dog, or when laying on him, or when teasing him - he may growl or snap to let you know he wants to stop the game or be left alone. Perhaps he's tired of the game, or something hurts, or he just gets in a bad mood. The main thing to do is leave him alone. Just like trying to get a human out of a bad mood by demanding more of him, the same goes for your dog. If he snaps, however - make sure you let the dog know that isn't acceptable - tell him "no" firmly. Then let him be.

If your dog raises his fur or growls or snaps at another dog - it doesn't necessarily mean he's being bad - sometimes it means he's intimidated, or wants the other dog to leave him alone. A dog doesn't like to have a shadow that even gets in his way when trying to eliminate. An alpha dog will likely get the power struggle going quickly. He wants to assert his position and make it clear to other dogs. Two alpha dogs often cannot get along. It's not always easy to help the problem - sometimes you just need to support your dog and separate the dogs to solve the problem.

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=> Careful With Dog Bones. When you have leftover bones, make sure not to give certain bones to your dog. It's generally ok to let the dog chew on very hard bones and quite large bones.

Cooked bones are more healthy - raw meat can be bad. Raw meat bones can, if the dog doesn't work off all the raw parts, flies may lay eggs and you'll find maggots all over it. Also, many people don't want their dogs to get used to the taste of blood. Fresh meat goes rotten and you don't want your dog to get that in his system, either.

Don't give your dog any bones that shatter and splinter - like chicken or turkey leg bones. These splinters can cut into or lodge into the dog's throat or even intestines and cause problems. Give bones that are hard to chew and can take time. Pork chop bones, rib bones, large roast bones, ham bones - these are all ok for a dog.

=> Urban Wildlife. The pro's and con's of living with wild animals in the urban area - I love seeing the foxes, the rabbits and other creatures we share the land and our homes with. They are all so cute - but watch out.

We had a fox family under our porch, a mom, a dad and 4 kits. They would come out at off times, in the middle of the night, 9 pm, 3 pm, 11 am, 6am - and then rearranged their schedule once we had a handle on them. They were so incredible to watch, but other people began coming by to watch them and throw left-over food at their hole.

The rules about wild animals - let them forage for their own food - they had hunting instincts. Foxes can go after the over-abundance of rabbits and thin them. Not only does giving them food hurt their natural hunting skills, but people food is bad for them. We have so many preservatives, so many harmful spices and ingredients in our food.

Another rule -stay back from them - do not try to approach or put your hand into their hole. These are wild animals and should not trust humans. Let them live by their natural instincts and don't take a chance that the animals might bite or attack.

These animals have been displaced from their natural homes and habitat by people moving into their areas. They have to learn to co-exist with man now, and man has to let them be.

There are problems, however - our foxes brought back fleas from wherever they were foraging at - got the fleas on the dogs, the neighbor's dogs, and in the yard. Another fox attacked a little girl several months back. These animals can get afraid and attack, They can get rabies or other sicknesses and attack.

We had foxes in the mountains, as well, and these foxes would taunt and tease our dogs, going right up close to the fence but just barely out of reach. They are cunning animals. In the mountains, they also stole things - any glove or mitten was a prize for them. Someone missing one could naturally assume a fox took it. They also liked other toys and bright things. One fox jumped into a car and took the foil sun shade.

Urban wildlife is protected - no one has a right to harm them. However, if you want them off your property, you can do what needs to be done to have them trapped and re-located, or apply deterrent-type measures - no poisoning or anything that can make them sick. Call your local animal control people to know what is ok to do. After the fleas, my husband just waited until the family left and then concreted the opening shut. The foxes do have an emergency home they go to when threatened, so we know they weren't displaced completely.

So - if you see the urban wildlife - enjoy watching them, keep your distance, and don't feed them. If they turn up living in your yard, decide if you want them to stay - if prone to fleas, you probably want them to move out.

=> Dog Tracks in House. Instead of always complaining about the mess your dog makes when he comes in from outside, especially on a rainy day, tracking in dirt, mud and water, get pro-active and do something. Buy a mat to place at the door, and leave a towel (one you don't care about) nearby. Let the dog in and make him walk over the mat, and if he needs more walking, have him do a couple or so turns on the mat. If needed, use the towel to wipe up the paws - have him sit or lie down and wipe paws clean.

OR - if you have a garage, let him in there until his feet dry off and then let him in the house.

=> Ear Problems? If your pet had floppy ears, and runs through fields, it might get burrs or things in the ears - they can get far enough in the ear to cause problems - with hearing, with infection, etc. Check in the ears - shine a light and look deep - see if you can pull it out, maybe with tweezers (but be VERY careful not to hit the eardrum). If you can't get it out, go see a vet.

Your pet may be shaking his head or trying to scratch on the ears - whether the ears are floppy or not. Check the ears - sometimes a little bug may be stuck on earwax and be annoying. You can get an ear product for pets that might help, from the pet stores, or take it to a vet. You can try gently spraying a stream of warm water in the ear - that might clear out the bothersome item.

=> Air Travel with Your Pet. If you must travel with your pet - check with the airline to see what requirements there are. Some may let a small pet in a small travel cage come with you as a carry-on. Be sure if you do, not to annoy anyone with the pet - many people are highly allergic to cats and rodents, some to dogs. It can cause problems for other passengers.

If you need to put the pet in with your luggage, try to schedule flights for best temperatures - and try for short flights. Remember that air temperatures up high are quite cold. Also be aware that it can get quite hot while on the ground, especially if outdoor temperatures are high. For hot times, pick an early morning flight that can help keep the heat down. For cooler weather, you can pick the best time of day for higher temperatures, if able.

Give your pet some sort of sedative as approved by a vet - to help calm the pet and to help him sleep while on the flight. You might be able to give a vet-prescribed dose of Benadryl.

Before the flight, get your pet used to the crate he will be traveling in. He needs to feel safe in it, not go into panic. Keep him in it while you are in the living room, watching TV - so he knows he is safe and not being a bad boy (feeling punished).

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=> Acclimate Your Pet for Care While Gone. We were gone to Scandinavia for the last several weeks - thus unable to update my blog but we're now back. We had to leave our pets behind. The nervous dog we left with my sister, along with extra food, dishes, leash, muzzle (in case), glucosamine, toys, dog bed, etc. We had a previous trip where we stayed in their city for almost a week, and took this dog with us, and let him stay at their house. We saw him every day but let my sister feed and care for him. Then when we went on this recent trip he was more used to their home and yard, but still had anxiety over us not being there. He didn't want to come when called, but my sister figured out two ways to coax him - offer food treats (like pieces of meat or dog treat) to bribe him, and also to put him on a leash - both ways worked for his not resisting them. They had to be firm with him so he knew who was boss, and they hugged and played with him, took him on walks, and paid attention to him. It took several days but he started to be more comfortable. By the 2nd week he was jumping up on them and hugging them, so they broke through his barrier!

The parakeets we left with a family with one child - a friend my daughter went to school with. She was excited to care for them, and had the time to spend with them. They would be around for the time we were gone, and we told them all we could about the care and personalities of each bird. We gave them a parakeet care book, extra food, toys (to change around in the cage for variety), styptic powder (in case of bleeding), some treats, etc. They took the birds a couple days prior to our leaving so that they could see any problems or questions that might come up, but all went well.

Our other dog went to my husband's hunting friend's house - this dog is sooooooo full of energy and gets wild - he needed lots of running room and a firm voice (they have 4 of the same breed of dog).

All animals survived and did well. They are now well adjusted and back to normal schedules and routines, in only a day or two, as if they were never gone. My advice - always let someone take care of and acquaint with your pets before leaving them - let questions come up and allow the animals to trust the care they are put in. Say goodbyes easily and don't make a dramatic scene - the pets may sense something wrong, rather then just thinking you'll be back (eventually).

=> Fleas - ugh! Well, our resident wild foxes under the porch brought over a slew of fleas - and one of our dogs picked them up, as did the dogs next door. This is in Colorado where fleas are rare, and it's not widely known how to deal with fleas. To figure out if your dog has fleas, pull back the fur along his shoulder blades and see if you see flecks of black, or if a flea pops out. If you find the black flecks - they may be flea droppings. Get some of the flecks and drop on the counter - then squirt some isopropyl alcohol on them - if they turn red, they are flea droppings. If not, then it's likely just dirt. It is said that once you find one flea, there are at least 100 right in the area. If you find evidence of a flea - take care of it immediately - on your dog, in your house, and in your yard. For the dog - get a prescribed dose of Frontline or other brand that will last for 3 months - it is regulated and kills fleas and their eggs. Most over the counter treatments aren't strong enough to kill all phases of a flea life. Check the packaging and make sure they that any treatment will kill it all - if you buy it from a store. For the house - you can sprinkle Borax powder around areas the dog has been and where fleas may have migrated into. You can also get a flea "bomb" or room fogger - a canister that will set up a times release spray - make sure to do this while you are not home - it is very strong. It will be effective, however. Read the instructions carefully. For the yard, you can use flea sprays or cover your yard with Sevin dust from a garden store.

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=> Fireworks Stress. Remember to keep your pets inside during the 4th of July fireworks shows - they can stress out and scare your animals badly. This can also go on for several evenings before and after - over-zealous kids (and adults) send up their own fireworks in neighborhoods which can still intimidate your pets. If you pet gets nervous, put him inside and in an area in the house where the sounds are less likely to be heard (and an area he can't destroy if he gets upset). Put on some soothing music or a TV show that isn't showing a fireworks special, to try to cover up the noise of the fireworks. Leave his favorite toys and bedding with him, and perhaps give him a treat to work on that will take all his concentration. If you are near a fireworks display area, the boom can shake your house and that can further traumatize your pets - in that case, you may want to take them elsewhere for the night, or stay home where you can comfort your pet.

=> Changing Pet Foods. When trying a new pet food, slowly introduce him to the new food, or you'll likely notice he gets gassy and perhaps doesn't feel well in his stomach. Start mixing 75% old food with 25% new food, and every day increase the amount of new food while weaning the old food, until you reach 100% of the new food - take about a week to do this, or at least 3 days. Don't let him have other food scraps or treats so he will have to eat the new food mixture because he is hungry. He can turn into a picky eater and refuse to eat any food that isn't like a treat. Don't let him get away with this.

If you are switching from wet food to dry food, switch in the same way, by gradually working him over to the new food, and not giving him other treats. You can also mix warm water into some of the dry food and even try microwaving the food for a few seconds. Try this for a few days and then get it back to dry food. He just needs to adjust. Make sure to get rid of any uneaten food after about 20-30 minutes so it won't spoil.

=> Aspirin for Dogs. If your dog is in pain, you can give him an aspirin - 5-10 mg. per pound, twice a day, and see if it helps. Like people, aspirin may affect the stomach and you should take him off of it. For those that can tolerate it, aspirin may help in cases of pain or swelling. Our dog was recently limping, then picking up his right foot completely - running and walking on only 3 legs. We tried to see where the pain could be, but he really didn't react to any of our prodding. We figured it must be an injury because only an hour prior to the limping, he was running around chasing a ball with my daughter, and nothing seemed wrong with him. He may have twisted his foot or stepped on a sharp rock that then hurts on the bottom of the pads when bearing down weight. We weren't sure, so we tried aspirin, the lower dosage at 5 mg/lb. Within 20 minutes he was walking and bearing weight on the foot. We then figured it probably wasn't a major injury because he would still have a problem bearing weight on the foot if twisted or torn muscle. We keep him walking so not to stiffen up, but no running so he won't re-injure himself in case it is not healing yet. We massage his hip and leg, ice it, and make sure he gets full motion from it. So far he is doing great on all four legs while we continue giving him the aspirin, low dose, twice a day. We'll keep it up for about 4 - 5 days total and then stop, to see if he goes back to the limp or seems better. If he does go back to limping, we'll then call the vet. If he heals on his own, we can save the vet bill.

=> Test Your Dogs for Heartworms. Have your dog tested for heartworms yearly. It is best to try to prevent it - once the heartworms (there can be as many as 50-100 worms in a severe infection, or maybe only 12 worms - they are 12-16 inches long) are in your dog, it gets into the large artery and the treatment is not easy. Heartworms are found in all 50 states, and there is enough fluctuation in temperatures in every month that can allow larvae to develop and grow. They can develop and grow in warmer areas, in buildings that are heated, near heavily used roads that might retain heat, etc. The best prevention is to treat your pets year-round. Give your dog a heartworm pill monthly in states that are warmer and have mosquitoes - in states where mosquitoes are not an issue in cold months, you might be able to skip the doses during those months. Check with your vet. My dog has side effects to the medication, so I only give during the summer months.

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=> More Eating Concerns. Dog and cat food recall - if you feed your pets soft food - check to see if you have been feeding them the recalled products. You can verify if your food is within the recalled products at - if so, don't feed any more to your pets, and call your vet if your precious pet shows any odd symptoms, or just call and let the vet know - there might be something particular to your pet to look for (especially in combination with other known conditions).

If you have been feeding dry food, no worries for the most part. If you do feed dry food - keep it sealed and out of moist areas. You don't want bugs or mice crawling into the bags, and you don't want any mold to grow in the food. Keep it inside the house and perhaps in a cabinet in your kitchen, or somewhere where it is clean and safe. I prefer dry dog food because it can help with tartar and cleaning the teeth. Soft food sticks on the teeth and can build up tartar more easily. Sometimes I flavor the dog food with a bit of gravy or broth when the dog is not eating - they go through cycles and then get back on track (when it's hot outside, the dogs tend to eat less).

More foods to avoid giving to your dogs - no macadamia nuts, no xylitol (an artificial sweetener), and avoid giving them fatty foods or salty foods. Don't put spices in their food - not good for the dogs or cats, or other animals. Look for foods that don't list corn as a main ingredient (corn gluten is better but lower on the ingredient list) - corn is just a cheap filler, not digested.

Ask your vet before feeding your pet raw food. Some people swear by it and others are leery. Check with your vet for proper use and handling for your pet.

=> Quick Doggy Diapers. When my dog was getting old, she cold not hold and leaked everything everywhere. I could not find a doggy diaper, and so I bought some very small adult diapers (like Depends) and cut a hole in them for the tail. Since then, more stores carry a more fitting doggy diaper but if you are in a pinch, it can be worked out. You might need a bit of extra tape to hold it up - but it sure beats the mess. Be prepared, either way, to have to wash the pet's bottom daily or more often to keep it cleaned off.

=> Keep License and Tags Up to Date. Make sure you have a current license for your dogs and other pets if required - check with your county or city for ordinance requirements. Do not let these lapse or you can face fines - you can easily get stopped by an animal control person while on a walk or if your dog runs off, the animal control people will find out he isn't currently licensed, if caught. It is a good way to identify a dog, as well. Current rabies certificates are also required - and should be required prior to getting licensed. Make sure to keep these tags on his collar (make sure the collar fits him well so it doesn't come off) at all times. It can save you a lot of grief if something happens. While you're at it, get a recent photo of your pet and update it regularly so you can post it if the dog gets lost. Check with your animal shelter for more information and to find out the requirements. Also - don't keep more than the legally allowed number of pets - you can get a cited.

=> No Onions or Garlic for Dogs! Onions are very bad for your dog or cat. Garlic is as well, but onion is worse. When they eat them, they can get anemic. Don't feed them any form of either - not in left-overs or in any other way. No flavoring of food with either. The sickness could start a few days after eating such - the pet could be weak, or seems out of breath, or may have bloody urine. The red blood cells burst while circulating through the body, due to the toxic ingredient thiosulphate which is in both onions and garlic. By feeding small amounts over time, poisoning could take place. One large meal with either could start the poisoning immediately. You may be able to reverse the symptoms by taking all onions and garlic from their available foods. See more problem foods here. Also more food concerns here.

=> Dog Eating Poop? Gross - yes! Some dogs like to eat other animal's poop - disgusting. Well, perhaps your dog is hungry and hasn't been fed - he might start looking for anything to eat, and he might eat other poops - then decides he likes it. It might be that the poops passed out undigested food that your dog might crave. I don't know why the dog would want to eat that, but we have one dog that does. Needless to say, I don't let him lick me most of the time! He'll eat any animal's poop - our other dog's, or while hiking he runs into deer, horse & elk poop - he'll chow it down voraciously, ugh! You might have to try feeding him earlier in the day, before he gets hungry, so he fills up before starting to look for poops - then he won't be interested. If this doesn't work, see your vet - there is a product that can be used that makes poop taste really bad to the dog - don't ask me why you'd need to make it taste worse, but there is a product that can do that. Ok, enough on this subject!

=> Pet Coughing or Sneezing? If your pet starts sneezing a lot, perhaps even violently, think about where he's been. If recently in a field, he might have sniffed up something from the plants, and it can be stuck in his nose. Try getting a baby nose syringe and some saline solution - squirt some into both nostrils and see if he will then have an easier time sneezing it out - if he doesn't sneeze right away, try taking him outside and into the sun (yes, dogs can sneeze from the bright sun the same way humans do). If in the course of the day he doesn't quit sneezing, or it gets worse, get him to a vet.

If your dog is coughing, you will probably need to take him to the vet. He could have kennel cough, from being around a sick dog, or perhaps some other sickness. He might have a piece of bone or something splinterish lodged in his throat and it can be painful, especially if it gets pushed further in when he swallows food. He could be trying to get it out, and it may appear to you he is getting ready to vomit - he is trying too hard and using every way he can think of to get that feeling out of his throat. If it seems he has dislodged the piece on his own, let him rest and see if the irritation is gone the next day, or if he is still fighting with it. See the vet if it lasts. If your pet seems to have an allergy, see if medication may help.

=> If You Run Out of Dog Food. If you run out of dog food, you can prepare a quick substitute for a few days. Make some rice, and add a bit of broth for flavor (although many dogs like the taste of plain rice). You can look in your refrigerator and add some vegetables in - not corn, however - it doesn't digest in dogs. Also make sure not to put anything that has onions or garlic in it. Dogs generally don't like lettuce, either, but there are many vegetables they will eat. You can also add some left-over meat - don't feed much meat to an older dog. Stir it all together and give to your dog until you can get to the store and buy dog food (or order it online for delivery).

=> Pet Lonely? The end of the holidays - back to work and back to school - your pets probably miss the attention they got while everyone was home more. This may translate into sulky behavior, perhaps clinginess, and that same barking or noise as described below - seemingly "just for the heck of it" but likely a cry for attention. Your pet misses you.

If you find your pet acting clingy while you're home, you'll need to re-train him and wean him off of you. Give him a special chew treat or toy to play with and keep him in another room - while you're home, perhaps for a half hour - to give you and him space from each other. Don't keep him all the time with you or he'll feel lost when you are not there. Do re-assure him you love him, but you might need to keep him off your feet (not sleeping on your bed or being in your lap or right next to you on the couch) for some amount of time, to force him to be somewhat independent of you.

When you come home, greet your pet calmly - not like a tornado of emotions to overly excite the animal. Teach the animal restraint and calming behavior so anxiety doesn't rule. If the animal is too hyper or excitable, you might refrain from greeting him until he settles down. (Wish my husband would adhere to this with the hyper dog.)

You can try to give him a treat or reward as you leave - so he will be occupied with the treat as you leave, and not feel like he's being punished by your leaving.

Perhaps your pet needs company - another bird in the cage, or another dog to play with. If you are up to adding on another pet, great. If not, perhaps you have a friend who has a companion pet you can leave your pet with, or there are pet-sitters or care centers that may provide your pet the social atmosphere he may be wanting. We have contacts with dogs and lots of land who would be able to take the dog for a few days during the days until his anxiety may decrease. Unless you can make a permanent arrangement of this, use it as a weaning tool to help you train your pet.

If none of these tactics work, go pick up an animal behavior book and try more tactics - not all dogs respond to the same tactics as some other dogs (same as with human situations).

=> Night Barking or Chirping. If you have birds that chirp at night, make sure the room is dark, and throw a cloth cover over the cage to give a better shade from light.

If you have a dog that barks only at night, see if there is something different in the area he is sleeping. There may be a vacuum left nearby, and might be freaking out the dog. Perhaps there is a drippy noise, or the heater noise is too close - sometimes a late running clothes dryer can bother a dog. Perhaps he wants his favorite bed but it's in the wash at the moment, or the other dog nudged him off his bed.

You may need to put the dog to bed on your own, giving love, but being firm about the barking. Train him perhaps with a spray of water when he barks, or a shock collar (but that may freak him out even worse, and understandably). You might try a muzzle at night - but if you do, place it on him lovingly and let him know he is not being punished (make sure the muzzle isn't tight on the snout - he should be able to breathe easily and stick his tongue out - just not able to open the mouth big enough to bark). Give lots of praise in the morning and take it off gently. You might have to find a more quiet-proofed room if he wakes you up while working on the cessation of the barking.

If you have a puppy, he'll probably whine for several nights. Give him a warm blanket to snuggle in, and perhaps put a battery-powered clock in the room so he hears the soothing tick-tock which may lull him to sleep. Short of getting up and comforting him, there isn't much you can do until he understands that morning comes after every night, and the whining doesn't help.

=> What If Your Pet Gets Lost? First - make sure you keep a collar and tags on your pets that can escape - dogs, cats, etc. You should get a chip in them, as well, if you cannot bear or afford to lose them.

If your pet gets out and lost, check the local animal shelters. You can try calling the police, but likely they'll just refer you to the shelter - they might be able to update you on a loose dog in traffic, or of one that may have been hit, however. Give the shelters your information on your pet (always have recent photos and keep track of any unusual markings or words that the pet responds to). You may be required to drive to the shelter in person to make your report. Do this for all the nearest shelters around, as soon as you can. Check the websites at the shelters daily in case your pet's photo shows up as a found animal.

Place fliers at mailbox units, at neighborhood club houses, or anywhere that many people will pass it and see it. Make sure to include a photo. You can also post them in certain grocery stores.

Keep driving or walking the areas that your pet is most familiar with or most likely to have wandered to. Call out so he will respond to your familiar voice.

Leave some familiar blankets or toys at your front porch so your pet will recognize he's home if he wanders back into the area.

If your pet returns to you, give him lots of praise so perhaps he'll know he doesn't want to leave your safe area again. Don't punish him - he won't know what is wrong - only that he is back with his family.

=> Keep Bad Foods Out of Reach! It's so easy to leave things lying around that your pets can eat. Food drops on the floor and dogs vacuum it up. Keep the dog outside and sweep up before letting him pick it up for you. There could be alcohol in some foods, or the sugars. Chocolate, grapes and raisins can be fatal if a dog ingests it (especially bad are dark chocolates and baking chocolates - more potent in the bad ingredient - but avoid milk chocolate as well - they just need more of it to cause a problem). There are foods that are bad for any animal, and precautions should be taken to keep the best care of your pets as possible. Animals should not eat processed foods that humans eat. Give organic, fresh fruits and vegetables which are fine for your pet. Check the guidelines or ask your vet what may be ok. Dogs love grapes, raisins, and chocolate - but these can all kill.

=> Treat Your Pet to Natural. Why give your pet the cheapest products, full of garbage? If you really care, use the most natural and freshest foods and products for your pets. Many foods and products are full of fillers that don't digest, or toys can rip to shreds, leaving plastic pieces all over. When pets don't digest all the food, they will eliminate the bulk of it, leaving you to clean up more often after them. Small pieces of ripped up plastic can choke your pet. Be more careful with what you give your pet, and be safe - for their sake.

=> Fresh Food & Water. Make sure to give FRESH food and water to your pets daily - water that is exposed can get dust in it, droppings, bugs, and other various things in it. If you wouldn't drink it, don't expect your pet to drink it. Food can go bad, as well. Standing water may contain Giardia, which can make your pets ill, and pass on to you. Wash their dishes regularly - they can harbor germs or mold or old stuff that can pass onto the new food or water. Old fat or meat from leftovers that may have been mixed into the dog food for a treat - can go rancid and rotten, causing problems for the dog.

=> See the Vet. Make sure to take your pets to the vet regularly - check with your vet to see how often. Dogs should be seen at least once a year, optimally twice, for check-ups. Pets age faster than humans, so taking a dog once a year is like us going to the doctor once in about 7 years. Keep up with their shots and vaccinations. The vet can notice little changes that may require attention. If you don't give heartworm pills all year 'round, for example, they should run a test to check for heartworm. Medication all year may be less expensive than the test. Check these things with your vet.

=> Notice a Change? If there is a change in your pet, take note of it. See if it's constant or has a pattern. If there is a growth, have a vet check it out. If there is a cloudiness in the eyes, see a vet. If it's a change in behavior, call a vet and ask. Your best resource is a vet. For any change, call and ask. Sometimes it can be discounted easily enough - perhaps it's mating season and your pet is trying to call for a mate. Or perhaps it's an early sign of a disease, or oncoming blindness. Some conditions can worsen incredibly fast, like blindness. One of our dogs seemed to go blind in one day. Perhaps we could have noticed a change in her sureness in walking if we had paid more attention. Just call the vet - it may or may not indicate a problem.

=> Bad Breath? Your dog's breath might smell bad - if so, check the gums and mouth for sores, for tartar, for other problems. It could indicate other problems. If your dog's breath smells bad on a regular basis, you might want to give him a

Read more about Dog Breath.

=> Teach the Dog Who is Master. If you have a dog and a young child, or a new baby, or someone additional in your family, make sure the dog realizes who is boss. The dog may try to "herd" your child, or may think a toddler is at the same level as the dog - like a puppy. You need to teach the child commands and make sure she knows how to say them firmly. If the speech isn't there yet, try hand signals. The child needs to assert his role as "master" to the dog, so the dog will obey and not try to lead the child. Once that habit starts, it may be hard to break the dog of it.

=> Cheap Toys. Your pets need playthings, toys, to keep occupied. You need not get the most expensive - pets respond well to cheap toys as well. However, don't buy toys made in China - those are known to be made with potentially toxic ingredients. For example, birds like beads hanging on string - you can make your own versions with thick string and large sold beads (not fragile ones). Dogs can have a blast with a 2 or 3 liter soda bottle, with labels taken off, and tightly capped to make sure it's quite full of air, not limp. Or even a plastic milk bottle - they can push it around, and try to lock their jaws around the slippery round body of the bottle. Make sure to remove it once it's destroyed, or while you can't watch the dog - in case a piece breaks off and he tries to swallow it. These only last so long, but are a great source of fun. Old tennis balls are great - once they lose the bounce to be useful for you, let the dog have it. Take old towels and tie a knot in them, and toss them around for the dog or cat. Large bones are great, too, as long as they don't splinter, like chicken leg bones (don't give these to the dog - there are pieces that can harm him). Look around and see what is safe, and you'll soon have a great choice of toys for your pet.

=> Dog Eating the Fence? If your dog chews up your wood fence, and pulls out the boards, try applying extremely hot or nasty tasting concoction to it - paint it on and reapply as needed. If the dog doesn't back away, then try other measures. It could be putting up an "invisible fence" to keep your dog away prior to getting to the wood fence. Or you can fix the wood fence, and then put up tough chicken wire, with small links and holes. Staple it to the fence all along the run that is getting chewed up. Staple it along the top so it's hard for the dog to grab with his teeth, and along the bottom so he can't pry it up. After a few unsuccessful attempts, the dog should just give up on the fence destruction.

=> Dog Runs Away? If you have a dog that always finds a way to get out of your yard, you need to take measures in order to keep him in, or you might lose him if he darts in front of a moving car. Does your dog have a pattern? Does he take off when there is thunder or lightning, or a similar noise? He might be afraid and have no shelter to go to that he feels safe in. Make sure he knows he has a doghouse or a pet door into the house. Does the dog get out when you are leaving him alone? He might be bored. He might need more attention from you, or perhaps spend time in the house with you while you watch TV or do housework. He won't be so bored, and he'll bond further with you, not wanting to run off so easily. If he knows it's good at home, he might not be so inclined to run off. Does he get out during the mating season? He is just wanting to find a mate, and you can't really stop the urge of nature. However - you need to secure your yard better. Find out how he's getting out and reinforce the area - perhaps a higher fence, or chicken wire, or heavy rocks to prevent digging. You might need to set up a video camera to catch him in the act, or stand outside or look through a window - where he won't see you. Do not move - dogs don't see well and if you stand still, he won't notice you if you are on an upper deck or somewhere away from him. You might have to resort to chaining up the dog, or finding him a room in the house where he can stay while you are gone. Also - make sure to properly identify your dog - take photos of him, including close-ups. Make sure you keep identification tags on his collar (make sure the collar is tight enough for him not to be able to wriggle out of). You might need to get a chip installed for absolute identification - see your vet to find out more.

=> Muddy Feet. When the weather is rainy, or your pets are outside when the sprinklers are going, you need to worry about their muddy feet when you let them in. Get a mat that the dog can step on before walking onto the carpet. Keep some towels there to wipe the feet with. We line the laudry room with towels so the dogs walk on them as they come in from the garage. Teach the dog to come in and sit, then lift one paw at a time. The routine becomes easier if you do it consistently. If you have a garage that enters into the house, you might put the dog into the garage first, until the feet dry off, then let him in when feet are dry - you might still want to flick off any mud from feet bottoms and from the fur.

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=> Caretaker Consideration. If you leave on a trip, make sure to first introduce your pets to whomever you will have caring for them, before you go. You need to make sure to develop trust between your pet and the caretaker, so in your absence won't make them defensive. Leave them alone to get acquainted - let them play with toys, get treats, etc. Also make sure to leave some familiar toys or a bed, or even a shirt of yours with your scent, so the dog will not feel abandoned.

=> Use Consistent Commands. Use consistent commands with your pets - they don't know what you mean if you alternate between "stop" and "whoa", and they don't understand lectures. They can pick up on your mood and tone of voice, however. Pick one phrase and stick to it. My dogs know "back" means to go to their area (inside - their room, outside - their pen). These may be different commands for different people, but you need to use whichever command you pick consistently. If you have a pet caretaker come in, make sure to write down these commands so the person knows what your pets respond to.

=> Pets Need Your Contact & Love. If you have a pet, make sure to daily spend time with it - pet it and hug it if you can (depending on the type of pet it is). Most types of pets need contact from you every day to feel loved and cared about. Dogs are very social creatures, pack animals - they need to feel you are in charge of the pack. They need to feel you love them. Most animals will get into trouble if you don't bother to take care of them.

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