Tuesday, February 28, 2017

If your dog is ever admitted to a veterinary emergency clinic: Here's one small way to help them stress less during their stay.

I worked at a veterinary emergency clinic for over 4 years before having to quit my job (because it's hard to make a living in the veterinary business...!).  I loved my time there.  I saw and learned a lot; even up until the end new scenarios would come into the clinic and I'd learn new things (always, it seemed, when I was training a new employee...  Murphy's law at work there...).  I'd like to share an observation with you in hopes that it could possibly help your dog be less stressed out if it ever has to stay at a veterinary ER, though I hope it never does (quick, knock on wood!!).

A stressful experience.
As you can imagine, it's a stressful experience for a pet to be at an ER.  And while I know taking a pet to the emergency clinic is stressful for the owner, too, this post is about it being stressful for the animals.  
How could it not be??  They're sick and injured, so they're already stressed about that, and then a barrage of strangers poke and prod at them while in a strange place with, sometimes, lots of other animals around.  We always tried our hardest to keep animal stress to a minimum (while still treating the animals and making sure they were receiving good care), but some amount of stress is inevitable in a place and situation like that.

Less stress.
One thing I noticed was that dogs would often panic less and were more calm if they were walked away from their owners as opposed to their owners walking away from them.

Let me explain.
Sometimes dogs needed to be admitted to the clinic for continued treatment and observation.  In that case, dogs would be brought back into our treatment area, where they would be housed in their own kennel or pen.  Often, especially for dogs who stayed extended periods of time, owners would come to visit their injured or sick furry family member.

When an owner came to visit, we would do one of two things:
A)  Have the owners walk back to the treatment room and visit their dog in/around their kennel, and then the owner would walk back up front when they were done.
B)  We would bring the dog to them to visit in one of the private rooms out front (normally used for veterinarians to first see a new patient).  When the owner was done visiting with their dog, we would come get the dog and bring it back to it's kennel in the treatment room.

There are always exceptions, but in many cases, scenario A would result in a very upset doggy.  Something about having their owner walk away from them while they're left behind in a strange place seemed to trigger anxiety.  Dogs clawed at their kennel door, barked, whined, and/or cried, sometimes for hours afterwards.  
Scenario B resulted in a stressed out dog much less often.

All humans subjected to constant barking can confirm that it's an unpleasant experience, but perhaps more importantly is that the increase in anxiety and stress does not promote healing for the animal itself.  It can also cause an increase in anxiety and stress for other animals currently at the clinic.
And while it probably doesn't mean life or death for your dog, if you're anything like me, I prefer to reduce the amount of stress and anxiety my dogs experience as much as possible.  And in emergency cases, I would want to give my dog the best chance at getting better as quickly as possible.

Scenario B isn't always possible; sometimes dogs are hooked up to so many life-saving things or need extra oxygen (and so are in a special oxygen cage) that they can't really be moved from their kennels.  And it's possible that a clinic could be so busy that there aren't any rooms available for an owner to visit with their dog.

But if it is possible when visiting, having your dog brought to you and then taken back to it's kennel by an ER staff member is one way you might be able to reduce the amount of stress your dog is experiencing if it has to stay at a veterinary emergency clinic.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Frustrated by a non-stop, stubborn sniffer? I may have a solution for you.

Leopold being stubborn on a walk.
So you're on a walk with your dog, and your dog pulls you over to a bunch of grass to sniff around.  Then he spends a while there before walking three more feet and stopping again to smell a stump. Then more time passes and he finally moves on: four more feet and he stops at a rock.  Then two feet and it's some random bit of who knows what that you can't even see because it's so small.  And every time your dog stops, you stop, because you're attached to him.
Sound like your experience?

It's certainly my experience with one of my dogs:  Leopold will stop dead and dig in his heals in order to thoroughly inspect an area with his nose.  If I let him, our walks would take hours.  I don't have hours, so Leopold's excessive sniffing behavior just can't happen.  I used to spend a good deal of our walk hollering at him to get a move on and eventually putting my weight into the leash to get him walking again.  Let me tell you, 70 lbs of stubborn dog can be hard to get moving, and all the hollering and pulling sure puts a damper on our walk.

But dogs like to sniff, and it's good for them.  It's an engaging activity that's great for mental health.  I'm all for doggy mental stimulation, but I'm a busy person and can't spend hours on walks.  I concluded that Leopold should get to sniff, but I get to decide when enough is enough and it's time to move on.  The trick is communicating this to Leopold so that I can avoid the whole forceful haul.

My solution was a countdown.
Here's how it works:
Leopold gets to stop and sniff, but when I feel like we need to continue on our walk, I say "Leopold, Three, Two, One" and then I start walking again.
And it works--Leopold starts walking again without me having to pull and yank on the leash.

It took a little time to teach Leopold the countdown, just as it takes time to teach anyone anything.  In the beginning, I would count down, and then give him a pull to get him walking. It didn't take long for him to learn that the countdown means he better get in one last sniff or finally pick something to pee on already, because when I get to "one", we're headed away from the area.

Both of us are a lot less frustrated, and walks are much more pleasant.  As with so many things, communication is key.

If you're frustrated by a dog that likes to sniff non-stop on walks, you might give this trick a try.  If you do, leave a comment and let me know if it worked for you, too!

Leopold gets to stop and sniff, but when I want to keep moving, I do a count down.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Have a short-haired dog? This brush is perfect for grooming!

Leopold sniffs a ZoomGroom

Short hair stumped

My childhood dog, Max, had medium-ish fur.  We used a human bristle brush to brush his fur, and it worked great.  We'd brush him, the brush would fill with fur, we'd pick the fur out and throw it away or toss it in the wind, and then repeat.  Fun for a kid.  (Even funner was shedding season-- lots of "pick-ables" to pull right off his rump...!)

Leopold, however, has short fur.  One layer. No undercoat.  Short and bristly.
When I first got him, I was kind of at a loss on how to brush him -- and I really wanted to brush him because the more loose fur I got out with a brush, the less would end up on my floor... and on my clothes... and in my food...

I tried all sort of brushes including fine-tooth combs and even a brush meant for horses (ha!).  None of those worked very well, though.  I was stumped.

Brush discovery

knobby brush
And then I started volunteering at a vet clinic.  The clinic started me out with brushing dogs. Yep. That's all I came in for: brushing the dogs they were boarding. Hey, you got to start somewhere, right??

The clinic had a great arsenal of brushes, and one of them was the answer to all my short-hair fur problems: the ZoomGroom.  It was not a brush in the traditional sense; it was more like a knobby piece of silicone that could be used to push loose fur out of a dog's coat (as opposed to pulling it out like traditional brushes and combs).  And once I discovered how well it worked, I bought one for myself and have needed no other brush since.

It works well on Halo, too, who has longer fur and an undercoat.  The product description says that it works for all coat types, though I can't speak to that because I've only used it on dogs with shorter fur.  And there are lots of brush choices for long hair dogs, so who cares.  Finding a brush that actually worked on short-hair dog is all I cared about!

fur pile pushed out by a ZoomGroom!

Advantages of using the ZoomGroom

1.  It works SO well!  I'm really amazed at the amount of fur I get out with this brush.  And fast!  Though... somehow we always seem to still have dog hair tumbleweeds rolling through our house.  I can only imagine how bad it'd be if we didn't brush our dogs!

2.  Can be used to help with baths.  This brush is great for scrubbing a dog really well and really working in shampoo.  Fingers work to lather a dog, but the ZoomGroom works better.

3.  Easy to clean.  Not a lot of hair gets stuck in the brush, except sometimes when it gets used during doggy baths. I just run it under some water, though, and the hair washes right out.  And because the knobs are so far apart, the brush doesn't really retain any water so it dries quickly.

4.  Massages your dogs while you brush.  This is a feature that I love!   The knobs are big enough and spaced far enough apart that they also massage your dog as you apply gentle but firm pressure to push loose fur out.  I've tried it on my own skin -- it feels nice!  The fact that this brush also massages helps make brushing my dogs a bonding activity.  My dogs were a little unsure of the brush when I first introduced it, but after some sniffing and a little brushing, they decided they love it.  Both of my dogs sort of melt when I start brushing them.  And then their eyes start to close in that contented sort of way. You know what I'm talking about--The look of a happy and relaxed dog.

The only disadvantage, really, is that the brush doesn't collect the hair, like traditional brushes do.  It might gather some, but most of the hair get pushed out of the coat and onto the floor.  This is why I like to brush my dogs outside.  Then the hair just blows away and gets recycled back into the ground (eventually).  When I do brush them inside, I like to work the fur into a little pile on their rump and then scoop it all off at the end. But you know... do what works for you.

There are other rubber/silicone brushes out there, also.  I have one that fits over my hand as a mitt and has smaller teeth-- I think it's Petmate brand.  I don't like it as much as the ZoomGroom.  I haven't tried some of the other brands.  If I do, I'll report back.  But for now I'm quite pleased with my ZoonGroom.

Think your dog would benefit from a ZoomGroom?  I've seen them at most pet stores.  The brand is Kong.  Otherwise, you can buy one here from amazon.com: KONG ZoomGroom, Dog Grooming Brush

Happy Grooming!

Also, this:

Convenient Product Link:

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Where's the poop! In a bag, because you're a good owner and you picked it up.

If you're one of those lucky people who have enough land that your dog can go poop in the woods or field, and you can just leave it there without fear that you or someone else will step in it (or that your toddler will pick it up.... which happened to me not long ago...) then this post isn't for you.

If, however, you're one of the many, many people who don't have that luxury, then let's talk poop!  That's right, I'm blogging about picking up dog poop.

I realize this is maybe an odd topic to discuss, but I just can't help but feel that I'm somewhat of an expert poop picker-upper considering the sheer number of poops I've bagged--and in different climes, too (which can make a difference!).  I've even been praised for my poo-bag-tying abilities (thanks for noticing, Dad! :-D  ).  Basically, I've got the poo-grab down to a science and can knot a bag up with a flip of the wrist.  Bingo, bango, bagged.

Want to be an expert, too?  Then let's talk about some of the different ways to pick up poop in different poop scenarios:

Poop in grass
This is probably one of the most common scenarios you'll run into.  I've found there are two ways to handle the poo-grab when a poop is in grass.  One, I push back the blades of grass as much as I can, because grabbing a stalk is a good way to make a mess of the whole grab because then the poop gets smeared on the grass and you either have to leave the poop grass (and pray the owner of the yard doesn't accidentally walk in the poo smear!) or somehow break off the poo-grass blades mid-pick-up and get it stuffed into your bag, which doesn't always work because if the grass is too long, it can flop around and risk getting poo on the outside of the bag or on your hand, a scenario that I've had happen, which was clearly a traumatic experience because it has caused me to write a horribly run-on sentence.
The second option, then, is to purposefully grab the grass below the poop and pluck it as you're picking up the poop.  I find that this method works well if the poop is too "embedded" in the grass.

Soft serve poop
Which brings me to what husband and I refer to as "soft serve poop".  You know what I'm talking about... When it's soft, but still forms a pile?  These poos are tough.  Probably the toughest to pick up aside from runny poops, which don't really have a chance of being picked up at all unless they've been deposited on leaves or debris or sand.
But you do have a chance with the soft serve poop.  Usually just one chance.  You've got to get it right if you want to get it all.  You may be temped to do a full-out grab, but that's a mistake!  And usually results in a quite a bit of poo-smear residue (that I've seen my husband try to basically wipe into the ground... ha! He's adorable).
The trick is to use a light touch and roll.  Don't push down, because that causes the smear.  Just grab as much as you can with a very light touch and gently roll the poo to the side and into your bag.  If you get it right, you won't even be able to tell there was a poo there at all.  If you can master this poo-grab, I recommend you add "dog-poop picker-upper expert" to your resume, because that's what you are.

Runny poop
Unless the runny poop has been deposited on leaves or debris or sand, the method we use for runny poops usually goes something like this:
Blurt out "Crap!" (which functions as both an exclamation of discontent but also points out what is now on the ground), curse our dog's gastro system for having issues, attempt to pick up at least some of the poo--usually just so that any passers-by know we at least tried, and then walk away quickly from the scene of the crime and hope that no one notices the nasty poo we just left on the ground!  And then we hurry home in case there is more runny poop on the way.  If it has to be in someone's yard, it's only polite to have it it my own.  Plus then I can wash it away with a hose if I want.

Poop in leaves or debris or sand
This has got to be my favorite substrate from which to pick up poop.  So EASY.  And if it's a sloppy poop, all you do is pick up a little of whatever the substrate is around the poop and ta-da! Not a bit of poop left behind.  A clean grab.  When I lived in South Bend, IN, I would purposefully take Leopold for walks on routes that had areas like this, and I would encourage him to poop in those areas.  We don't really have leafy or sandy or debris-y areas like that along our walking routes now here in South Texas...  But it was nice while it lasted.

Poop in snow
When I lived in South Bend, we knew it was spring when we started to smell the malodorous stench drifting off the large piles of accumulated dog poop as they emerged from the melting snow.  I can only assume that no one in South Bend knew how to pick up their dog's poop when it fell in snow and would instead just kick a bit of all-too convenient and abundant snow over top to hide it.  Good thing I'm writing this post.
And while it's going to be some time before I need to pick up another snow-poop, I have spent the majority of my life, so far, in areas with winters, so I've picked up my fair share of turds from the snow.  I'll admit that snow-poop pick-ups were kind of hit or miss for me at first.  If you just go for the turd, there's always a bit of brown left in the snow, which is just gross.  To avoid leaving brown snow, I would often try to also grab a bit of the snow that was under and around the poop.  Occasionally, though, I would misjudge and grab too much snow, making it hard to then close the bag.  And then I'd have to compress the snow inside the bag, sort of like making a poo snowball, in order to get the bag tied shut.  But in my opinion, better a poo snowball inside a bag than gigantic poo mounds on sidewalks and back alleys come springtime.

Baked poop
Partially petrified poop.
I currently live in South Texas, where the sun is fierce.  Around here the poops that my dogs leave in the yard bake in the sun so fast that I actually leave them on purpose (unless we're having company over or my kid is running around in the back yard!), because a baked poop is infinitely easier to pick up than a freshy.  Dog leaves a pile in the morning, and by the afternoon the poo has a hard exterior and is a breeze to pick up and leaves little, if any, residue.  And if I miss a poo (it happens... even to me!), by the time I find the pile, it's often petrified to the point that I have to look twice to tell if it's a poo or a light-colored rock.  As a midwest girl at heart, I've been trying to find the bright side of living in South Texas; the sun's poo-baking abilities is certainly a benefit of being down here.

Poo too far up the side the bag
If you pick up dog poop on a regular basis, you're bound to mess up the poo-grab at some point.  If you end up with poo smears too far up the side of the bag, I recommend that you do NOT try to tie that bag shut.  You will almost certainly end up squeezing the poop out and onto your hand.  Again, this has happened to me.  Instead, just toss the now-compromised bag onto the ground and try again with a second bag.  I recommend grabbing the open side of the messy bag to make sure any errant poop ends up in the bottom of the second bag.

Poop walker trails
Most dogs squat and deposit their poops in a nice, singular pile.  However, some of us have a special breed of dog: the poop walker.  Halo is such a dog.  Sometimes she starts pooping before she stops walking, which results in a trail of turds.  If you have a poop walker as well, just remember to back-track a bit and try to find all the offending nuggets.

Just picked up some trash bits, now time to pick up a poop!
(Seriously... where does this stuff come from??)
Double dooty
I'm always pleased when my dogs decide to poop at the same time while on walks.  It means I can use one bag for two poops!  And saving bags saves money and resources.  Helps offset the occasions when I mess up a grab and need to double bag....!  A tip for cramming two piles in one bag: it sometimes helps to reposition your hand between poops in a way that sort of partially closes the bag around the first poop.  Sometimes I even use two hands: one to secure the first poop in the bag and the second to grab the second poo.  Otherwise, it's very probable that little poo nuggets will drop out as you're picking up the second poop, and then more will drop out when you go to pick up the firstly dropped poo nuggets, and so on and so on.

Another way to use a bag for "double dooty" is to pick up some trash in the bag, also.  We moved into our house about a year ago and are still finding little bits of pieces of plastic and who-knows-what in our yard (I think I've got it all and then more appears... I don't get it!).  When I'm picking up poops in our yard, I keep an eye out for some pieces of garbage that I can pick up, too.  This practice can also be applied to dog walk poops.  Look for some litter on the ground, pick that up first, then pick up your dog's poo.  It's just one small piece of trash, but could you imagine if everyone picked up one small piece of trash every time they picked up their dog's poop?
I suppose that would require everyone to pick up their dog's poop...  But that's another issue. And not one that applies to you, because now you know how to pick up every type of pile of poop in existence.
...Except runny poop. If you figure out how to do that, leave a comment with instructions, and know that you are a true poo-grab master!

This is from my amateur comic strip "Living with Animals".  I felt it was relevant.
Though I should add an event: "(g) write a blog post on dog poop"; it would cause a rather large spike in the graph!