5 Things to Bring to the Dog Park

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What to bring to a dog park

What to bring to a dog park

A exclusive by Teresa Barker

Going to the dog park can be a rewarding experience for both dog and owner. Watching your canine loved one play with other dogs, get exercise, and socialize is a fun and free activity for you and your pooch.
Before you jump in the car and head off, remember to bring the following items with you to ensure a positive experience at the dog park.

  1. Extra poop bags (to share and/or leave with others):
    Not every park supplies poop bags, or they may have run out just before you get there. My dogs always take the opportunity to poop as many times as they can on walks and on “new grass”. Don’t assume that they won’t go #2, just because they went at home earlier. Also, bring extras. It’s a great way to meet new people and we’ve all been in the embarrassing position when a kind stranger helped us out with a poop bag after an unforeseen emergency.
  • Water (and lots of it!):
    The same is true for water supplies at dog parks. Not every park supplies water, and you can’t count on the functionality of the water system, without being prepared with back up. I keep a gallon jug of water in the refrigerator with cold, filtered water in it, ready to pack. You can bet that if you pour a bowl of water at the park, your dog won’t be the only one interested in hydrating. So bring more! It’s another good way to make new people friends, too. Reuse the jug by rinsing it out,  refilling it with filtered water and putting it right back in the refrigerator when you get home. Don’t leave the jug in your car, where heat will make the plastic leach into the water and make the water unhealthy to drink.
  • You:
    Your presence might be the most important thing you bring to the dog park. Don’t plan on heading to the park and finally making that call to catch up with mom. You owe it to your dog, as well as the safety of all the other dogs, to monitor your dog’s behavior the entire time. Watch your dog’s body language to ensure that play with others doesn’t become too aggressive or that bullying doesn’t occur. You might also have eyes on dogs whose owners aren’t supervising their dogs. If you see that other owners aren’t paying attention, play is getting too aggressive, or that your dog simply doesn’t seem that interested, just leave! Try again another time, maybe at a different time of the day. People who take their dogs to the dog park regularly are often regular about the times they go, as well. Try an off-peak time when supervising your dog might be easier.
  • Leash:
    It’s important to keep your dog on a leash until you reach the double-gated entry area. Their excitement to get into the party and play will make them highly distractible and they may not respond to verbal cues. Keep your dog and other dogs safe by staying on leash until the double gates and immediately after exiting, again, leashing up in the double-gated area. Always leash and unleash before and after exiting the dog park, in the double-gated area, not inside the dog park.  Dogs on leashes tend to be more aggressive, and you don’t want to put your dog in a place of vulnerability right from the start.
  • Towels:
    Dog parks can be down-right dirty fun! Dirt, mud, grass, and lots of running and rolling around can make for dirty dogs after the party. Pack a few extra towels, in case you need to wipe down your own “paws” or protect the car seat.

Take the time to be prepared before heading to the dog park. It will save you embarrassment, hassle, and it will ensure the safety of your dog. Have fun, stay alert, and enjoy socializing with your pooch!

Find a dog park near you >>

January 2, 2014 |

28 Items Poisonous to Pets In Your House

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28 Items Poisonous to Pets In Your House

28 Items Poisonous to Pets In Your House

We’ve all been there, cleaning up around the house and next thing you know your dog is into something they shouldn’t be. Below are common items around your house that can be poisonous to your pet.

  • Chocolate – Chocolate can caue seziures, comas and even death. The darker the chocolate, the more concentrated it is and the more dangerous it becomes. An ounce of chocolate can poison a 30 lb dog.
  • Coffee Grounds/Caffeine – Caffeine contains a substance called methylxanthines that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, panding, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity and death.
  • Batteries – Just as with humans, batteries can be toxic if eaten. To dogs, they look like rocks or other plaything they might carry around.
  • Yard Bug Killer – Diggin around in the garage is a common thing arouns our house. Make sure all bug killers are up on high ground. Find organic/chemical free ways to rid your yard of fleas and other pests.
  • Grapes/Raisins – Grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure. As small as a single serving of raisins can kill them.
  • Alcohol – Dog’s bodies are not made to break down alcohol like a human’s body.
  • Laundry Detergents – No, it will not make your dog fluffy like the teddy bear on the front. This can irritate your dog’s stomach and esophafus.
  • Antifreeze – I don’t know what has taken them so long but they are finally starting to put an ingredient to make it taste bad. Currently though, antifreeze is sweet to dogs and cats so keep it away.
  • Fertilizers – Just as with yard bug killers, this can contain items that are poisonous to pets. Keep out of the way on high ground and your dogs away from it when you put it out in the yard.
  • Kerosene & Citronella – Everyone loves a tiki tourch on the deck or back yard during the summer but remember that what makes them light up can also hurt.
  • Prescriptions – For you or your dog. When you are cleaning out the cabinets, make sure you don’t leave them lieing around on the ground in open trash.
  • Nonprescription Medications – The same with your prescriptions, just because it’s over the counter doesn’t mean that they are good in large quantities or at all for your pet.
  • Wiper Fluid – When cleaning up the car and getting it ready for summer, don’t leave this around either as it can contain methanol or ethylene glycol.
  • Lilies – Who knew that such a pretty flower could cause kidney failure in cats and heart rhythm problems in both dogs and cats?
  • Mothballs – OK this one seems to only happen at grandma’s house now. But when putting those winter sweaters away, keep these out of site also.
  • Bread Dough/Raw Yeast – When ingested, the unbaked bread dough expands and can cause bloat. It can also cause alcohol poisoning and gas.
  • Xylitol – Diet food with Xylitol can cause an increase in insulin secretion and sudden drip in blood sugar resulting in depression, loss of coordination and seizures.
  • Onions – They destroy a dog’s red blood cells and can cause anemia, weakness and breathing difficulty.
  • Garlic – Large amounts can cause the same issues as onions.
  • Rhubarb – Rhubarb contains a substance called oxalate in the leaves and can cause severe problems like kidney failure, tremors and salivation.
  • Avocados and Pitted Fruits (ie Peache, Pears, etc…) – The pits are toxic to dogs. They can cause difficulty breathing, fluid accumulation in the chest, abdomen, heart or pancreatitis.
  • Macadamia Nuts – Can cause weakness, muscle and nervous-system issues and paralysis.
  • Walnuts – Especially English Walnuts, can cause gastric intestinal upset and can cause obstruction in your dog’s body.
  • Nuts – While most nuts are not poisonous to dogs, they can cause a very upset stomach as their bodies can not easily digest them.
  • Tomatoes -Tomatoes can cause tremors and heart arrhuthmias in dogs. The actual tomato plants are the worst thing to eat, but the tomatoes are also unsafe.
  • Nutmeg – Known to cause tremors and seizures.
  • Milk – Pets do not possess significant amounts of lactase to break down milk. Milk and other dairy based products can cause diarrhea and other digestive problems.
  • Mouse/Rat poisons – These contain a number of different ingredients that are not only poisonous to mice, but other animals too.

Some signs to show if your pet was poisoned

  • Pale gums
  • Weak or fast pulse
  • Rapid breathing
  • Increased or decreased body temp
  • Difficulty standing
  • Paralysis
  • Loss of conscieousness
  • Seizures
  • Bleeding

Keep your pets safe and call the emergency vet if needed. For more information on poisons and your pet, visit the ASPCA’s Poison Control Center.

December 31, 2013 |

How to Choose a Dog Day Care

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How to Choose a Dog Day Care

How to Choose a Dog Day Care

When it comes to dog daycare there are many options. It’s important that you know how to choose the right daycare for your dog.  Daycare can be a great outlet and learning experience for your dog, but if the facility has not trained their employees properly it can cause your dog to have behavior issues or make behavior issues worse.  Be sure to ask the following questions when you tour a facility:

  1. What is your dog/supervisor ratio?
    Depending on the amount of training and experience the supervisor has will depend on how many dogs they can handle. For supervisors that only have a year or less of experience, they should stick with below fifteen dogs. For supervisors over a year, they can increase their group to twenty-five. I have seen very experienced supervisors handle up to forty dogs. Keep in mind that often times it’s not how many dogs but the personality types the group consists of. I’ve supervised groups of forty dogs that I’ve had very little problem with and other days have only twenty dogs that give me a lot of trouble. Also, a supervisor handling small dogs will often be able to have more in their group than a group of large dogs. Bottom line is to ask about the supervisor that will be specifically in your dog’s group. Ask how long they’ve been supervising dogs in daycare and how many dogs are typically in their group.
  • How do you test new dogs that come into the facility?
    This is one of the few questions I’m looking for a specific answer. How a dog is introduced into a new playgroup can set up success or failure. We’ve all heard that a first impression is everything and this is no different. There are certain steps that should take place when evaluating a new dog. This isn’t just important on how they’re going to introduce and evaluate your dog, but how they’re going to do each dog afterwards that may play with yours. Below are the steps that should take place when evaluating new dogs for daycare.
    a. New dog should be allowed to enter play area alone with supervisor. Supervisor will engage with dog to understand dog’s level of human comfort. Supervisor will then allow dog to roam the play area without interruption. This will allow the supervisor to evaluate the dog’s confidence level and temperament in order to introduce the appropriate dogs first.
    b. Once supervisor has an idea on the dog’s personality, he/she will choose an appropriate opposite dog to introduce. For example, if the testing dog is shy and nervous, the first dog that I would use to test with would be a confident dog with great signals and great patience as well as an interest in playing but not overwhelming for the nervous dog. Sometimes this type of dog isn’t available so the supervisor has to have enough knowledge of the regular groups to know the best dog to test with. During this evaluation the supervisor is looking to see what level of dog skills the new dog has as well as patience and confidence.
    c. Supervisor will continue introducing different personalities to the new dog until the supervisor has reached at least three testing dogs and has a good understanding of the new dog’s personality.
  • What kind of training does your staff receive?
    Facility should be able to explain in detail the type of training their staff receives. Don’t accept just the name of a training program or certification program, ask for the details. You want to ensure that supervisors understand dog communication skills, body language, personalities and how to evaluate them, dog interaction and fights as well as how to break up a fight or interrupt inappropriate behavior appropriately.
  • Are dogs split up by size or play type?
    Most facilities will answer, by size. This isn’t necessarily wrong; however, there are appropriate times that dogs are not split up by size but by play type. Many small dogs that have lots of energy don’t do well with the small dog group. They tend to be overzealous and often times won’t have a good playmate. It’s more important to understand how the supervisors are educated. If the supervisors are well educated, they’ll know the best way to split up dog groups.
  • Are the daycare dogs put away for naptime?
    Dogs get tired as we do. When they’re playing for hours, physical depletion is bound to happen; especially since that’s what we want for them. However, it’s crucial that dogs have a chance to nap during the day. Dogs that are left out tend to lose their patience and disagreements are going to occur.

There are a few things you want to watch for while supervising a play group. If you see any of these things during the play group you’ll know that the supervisors are not trained properly.

  1. Rewarding jumping or excessive barking.
  2. Allowing dogs to sit in laps.
  3. Excessive fetch playing with dogs.
  4. Excessive play or petting of daycare dogs.
  5. Screaming or yelling at dogs.
  6. Not cleaning up yard.
  7. Inappropriately interrupting unwanted behavior by grabbing scruffs, hitting or rolling dogs over.
  8. Not keeping water fresh and clean.
  9. Using the water hose as a toy.
  10. Using the water hose as a tool to break up a fight.

A few other things you want to keep an eye on are the following…

  1. Facilities that allow dogs to resource guard toys, beds, chairs, couches, supervisor or other dogs.
  2. Facilities that encourage dogs to get upon furniture.
  3. Dogs that go home dirty or stinky.
  4. Dogs that are allowed to continually aggravate another dog that clearly doesn’t want to play.
  5. If the facility gives you an excuse as to why you can’t supervise a play group without an appointment.
  6. Uses any type of aversion training such as correction collars, bark collars or leash corrections.

If you already have a daycare, be sure you check in every few months as employees leave and new ones arrive. You want to ensure that they’re all trained properly and your dog is still enjoying his days playing with all of his buddies.

DogSpeak dog training

Nikki Ivey, founder of DogSpeak, is a dog trainer and behavior consultant in Nashville, TN.  She has been teaching owners, dogs, shelters and daycare facilities for 17 years. Visit DogSpeak

December 31, 2013 |

Before you hire a pet-sitter

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Before you hire a pet-sitter

Find a dog sitter near you

A exclusive by Teresa Barker

There are so many details to plan for when going out of town on vacation. The one thing that you don’t want to have to worry about is whether or not your dogs are in capable, loving hands back at home. If you’ve decided that your dogs would be most comfortable at home while you’re gone, in their own environment, then you will be looking to hire a pet-sitter.

Here are a few considerations when looking for the perfect pet-sitter for your dogs. Use this list at least 2 months in advance of your vacation to avoid last-minute stress and frustration, and to make sure that your travel dates aren’t already taken by your first-pick candidate!

  1. Ask your friends for referrals.
    While it might seem easy to pay your co-worker’s college-aged daughter to watch your dog, you will want to find a pet-sitter that isn’t “doing you a favor.” Ask all of your dog mom and dad friends who they use when they go away. Your vet and your locally owned pet supply store can also be a great place to seek referrals. If you are new to your area, check out our section right here at for sitters in your area.
  • Interview as many people as you can.
    The initial meeting is a great time to “size-up” candidates. From personality to qualifications and experience, you will want to be comfortable with the person sleeping at your house and caring for your special loved ones. Ask questions! Whether he/she knows pet CPR, if they licensed and bonded, if they carry insurance, and how much they charge, are questions that will help you compare candidates based on what is most important to you.
  • Ask for a list of references. Then call them!
    This is a good step once you’ve narrowed your search down to a few candidates. Ask for details about the type of care that was provided to the referenced client. For example, did the pet-sitter provide overnight care for a series of days (live-in service) or just come by for feeding/watering/walking services? Also, ask about the details of the types of dogs the pet-sitter candidate cared for. Do the references have small or big dogs? More than 1 dog? Look for details in a pet-sitters experience that resemble your home environment.
  • Arrange a home visit before you hire.
    This is a good step in assessing your potential dog sitters’ ability to interact with your dogs. Does he/she seem confident and loving? Is he/she asking you questions that are important (emergency contacts, vet info, favorite toys, sleeping/eating schedule)?  Most importantly, do your dogs like the potential candidate? Dogs are intuitive, so they will be able to read if someone genuinely likes them.

Leaving your dog while you are away on vacation can make a supposedly relaxing experience very stressful. You can reduce your anxiety by taking the time to hire a competent and experienced pet sitter to provide your dog the love and care it deserves and the piece of mind you need to enjoy your vacation!

Find a dog sitter near you >>

June 27, 2013 |
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