Thursday, December 7, 2017

Six Ways To Reduce Holiday Stress In Your Canine

It's getting to be crunch time, people. The Holidays are no longer sneaking up on us, but rather we are frantically trying to catch up. Holiday shopping, meal planning, parties, guests, you name it. It can be a stressful time of year, especially for our furry family members. They don't know about Holidays or what the big excitement is about, all they know is that energy is up and their human companions are stressed out. This in turn, causes them to be frantic and stress out as well. Here are a few signs of stress you can keep a watch for in your canine companion:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Lack of energy and interest in things they used to love
  • Lip licking and yawning
  • Boisterous behavior  or excessive whining
  • Hiding and cowering when you call to them
  • Chewing on furniture and things they are not supposed to chew on when they haven't done that in ages.
  • Velcro dog-- basically following you around EVERYWHERE and being right under your feet all the time.
  • They seemed to have forgotten they are potty trained. 
Of course, these behaviors could also be an underlying health problem. It may be good to take your dog to the vet, just to rule out something physical. But once you have ruled out something biological, here is what you can do to help ease the tension in Fido:

  1. Stick to your routine: Routine is very important to canines. It brings them comfort. Make sure you are feeding your furry loved one at the same time(s) you would each day and walk/play with them at your normal times. 
  2. Physical Exercise: It's easy to cut corners on physical exercise when things are coming at you at all directions. But physical exercise is not only good for you, it's good for Fido. Setting aside a regular time everyday to exercise will help reduce stress in both of you and will be good for bonding/ strengthening trust in your relationship. Plus Fido will be less likely to engage in destructive behavior.
  3. Mental Exercise: Giving your dog mental exercises each day helps keep boredom at bay. A bored dog = a dog more likely to get into trouble! You can challenge your dog with enrichment puzzles or brush up on some training behaviors. All of this will help reduce stress and keep your dog happy.
  4. Enlist Help: If you are just too busy to keep a normal routine with your pet, you may want to think about enlisting some help! You can hire someone or recruit a family member to take over walking and feeding the dog at the normal time. OR you can opt for your dog to come play at a doggy daycare. Personally, we think Bark City Doggy Daycare is the best. 😉
  5. Manage Your Own Stress: Often your dog will figure out your stressed before you have figured it out. If your dog is a walking around mental health case, chances are you are too. Dog's don't know why you are stressed, they just can feel you radiating that energy and it makes them nervous! Maybe it's time to sit down and evaluate the stress in your own life and find ways to calm down and BREATHE.
  6. Quiet Sanctuary: If you are having a party or lots of guests, set aside a room away from all the chaos for your dog that is quiet. Put their kennel (aka personal sleeping den) in that room with their favorite toys, water, ect. This is a place just for them. People are not allowed.
The Holidays are stressful for humans and furry family members. Taking steps and precautions to minimize stress is a must in order to keep insanity at bay. We can't avoid all the hustle and bustle, but at least we can try to be a lion tamer. Happy Holidays everyone! 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Seven Alternatives To Rawhide Chews


The above video has been circulating around Facebook for quite a while. I am sure most of us have watched it. I also am guestimatting that most of us have also given our dogs rawhide chews. I know I have! Until one of my dogs inhaled a huge chunk of it and then hacked it up hours later. It made me realize that a rawhide is like playing Russian Roulette with your dog. It's only a matter of time until that twisted hunk of hide becomes an obstruction in your furry friend's stomach. And let's face it, watching the above video and actually seeing how a rawhide is made is somewhat cringeworthy. GROSS.

Dogs need to chew on things. It not only cleans their teeth and is a natural way to strengthen their jaws, but it also combats boredom and relieves stress and anxiety. For puppies it also alleviates the pain that comes along with teething. Today, I have made a list of seven alternatives to a rawhide chew. I think some of them you will find somewhat surprising!

  1. (I am inserting a shamless advertisement plug in here.) KONGS We love kongs here at Bark City and we offer frozen kongs to our doggy clients! Kongs can be stuffed with hunks of meat, peanut butter, favorite treats, the list goes on and on. At Bark City, sometimes we stuff them with a mixture of cottage cheese, green beans and a protein, sometimes it's a yogurt mixture, sometimes it's an Honest Kitchen recipe... basically, whatever suits our fancy and is seasonal.
  2. Frozen Fruit and Veggies: Yep, you can give your dogs frozen apples, sweet potatoes, bananas and or carrots. Don't bother with chopping them up. Just toss the whole fruit (or veggie) in the freezer. This is a great option for summer months to keep your dog cool.
  3. Dehydrated Yams You can make these yourself if you'd like. There are a bunch of recipes out there on the world wide web. Basically, you slice up a yam and dehydrate it (or cook it on a really low temperature in your oven). There are also a lot of companies out there that make them for your convenience. 
  4. Deer antlers Deer antlers are a great alternative and last forever. They are good for aggressive chewers if you choose the right size for your dog and still monitor your aggressive chewer. Basically, you should always monitor your dog while they are gnawing away at something. 
  5. Himalayan Dog Chews What the heck are these? Basically, a Himalayan Dog Chew is a hardened hunk of cheese. These chews were born from an ancient recipe for a snack chewed by the people of the Himalayas. It is traditionally made from yak and/or cows milk. Once your dog has officially chewed it down to a 1" chunk, you can microwave it into a puffed up treat to give back to Fido! 
  6. Fish Skin Bones The name of this treat is kind of misleading if read wrong. No, you are not giving your dog fish bones. What you are giving your dog is something that looks similar to a rawhide bone, but is instead made of fish skin! We all know how good fish oil is for our precious pets! ..also...p.s... Honest Kitchen makes some dried fish skin sticks. They are called "Beam Talls".
  7. Raw knuckle bones Basically, you just go to your local butcher and ask them for dog bones. These should not be cooked, because that is what causes bones to splinter off and cause choking. These bones should be raw, hefty and will have a bit of flesh left on it. Raw butcher bones provide your dog with minerals, proteins, enzymes, and essential fatty acids. Your dog will love you forever.
Finding something your four-legged friend can chew on that isn't your shoes, furniture or door frame is a must for keeping mental health (and their teeth and jaws healthy!), but please don't give your dog a rawhide. Instead opt for one of these alternatives. If more people start turning away the rawhide, eventually companies are going to have to follow suit and make better alternatives. Plus, really...rawhides are gross.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Why Socializing Your Dog With Other Dogs Is Important

Often as dog owners, we do everything in our power to make sure our furry family member is healthy and happy. We feed them top-notch food, we exercise them physically and mentally, but in our busy lives, we often forget one important element: Letting our dog play with other dogs. In my blog posts I have often talked about the issues owners have with treating their dog like a human. Dogs are not humans, they are dogs! And the more we humanize our dogs, the more neurotic our dog becomes. In fact, dogs crave other dog interactions and when these needs are not met, we often get a depressed, stressed out canine companion. In turn, this leads to health problems, because stress and depression break down the immune system.

As a human, imagine going your whole life living with an alien species that does not speak your language. I suspect, eventually you would forget your native language or even how to be a human. You would eventually take on the behaviors of your alien family all the while fighting against your human instincts.You would be at odds.  I often think about this when I read articles about feral children. A dog, by instinct, is born knowing how to be a dog. In a natural pack, these dog behaviors in the puppy are reinforced by the mother and then by other dogs. But, we have a problem, this natural process is interrupted by humans. A human will often adopt a puppy into their human pack and thus disrupt this natural learning process! We now have a puppy that needs to learn how to be a dog AND how to properly behave around humans. As humans, we often do a good job (or a kinda good job) at training our dog how to behave around the human pack, but we often neglect the dog aspect and we get a depressed, frustrated dog. Allowing your dog to interact with other dogs in a pack setting can alleviate a lot of behavioral problems you may be experiencing with your dog. In fact, dog packs can often do it faster. Take for instance, biting too hard during play or becoming completely crazy-town all over the place. A dog interacting with other dogs, will quickly learn that if they bite too hard or act all crazy, they will lose their dog friends and being cast out of a dog pack is the ultimate punishment for a dog. Let's face it, dogs need dogs in order to be a dog, because we humans can't do it. We aren't dogs.

I know that there has been a big scare around the Gallatin Valley regarding Kennel Cough and other viruses. This has left a lot of owners worried about their dog getting sick. But, I would like to point out something Veterinary behaviorist R.K. Anderson DVM, Diplomate ACVB and ACVPM, Professor and Director Emeritus, Animal Behavior Clinic and Center to Study Human/Animal Relationships and Environments, University of Minnesota, offered to her colleagues in an open letter: "the risk of a dog dying because of infection with distemper or parvo disease is far less than the much higher risk of a dog dying (euthanasia) because of a behavior problem." This letter was written regarding puppy socialization classes and you can read the full letter if you click HERE.  We often think that the best way to keep our dog from getting sick is to keep them at home. But this is an honest mistake by loving dog parents. The key to a healthy immune system is exercise, a healthy diet including real foods, regular vet visits and mental health through enrichment puzzles and social interaction with other dogs.

For more information on this topic, you can click on these links: