Things Every Pet Owner Should Know – Maybe

I read this article today in the September issue of a popular southeast US magazine. I’d tell you what the magazine is called, but I’ve already shown you my picture and I’d prefer you not show up at my front door unless you’ve been invited.  You know how the interwebz can be.

I have always been “a cat person.” I’ve raised a succession of them and currently have a 10-year-old red male “Ragdoll” and a very cranky 7-year-old female who can’t make up her mind whether she’s a “Tortie” or a “Tabby,” so we’ll call her “Calico.” Then, there’s the 2-year-old parakeet (a loud limey) we inherited from my husband’s mother when she felt she had grown too old to care for a critter.  And now, we have Benjamin, the awesome black Lab we brought home from a local back yard breeder at 9 weeks.  Hubby has a family that has raised birds and dogs forever, but this is my first puppy, so I have assumed the role of first-time-parent and taken it very seriously.  I’ve lived with dogs before, but never raised a puppy from scratch! I’m determined to have one of those dogs people marvel over because of his excellent behavior rather than one they are repulsed by because he just peed on their foot or jumped in their face while they were sipping coffee on my couch.  At 5 and a half months, Benjamin is showing real potential.  And, anyone who watches “Dog Whisperer,” or “It’s Me or The Dog,” or any show of that nature will tell you – that’s mostly due to the humans in my household raising their awareness of and building relationship with the critter.

Benj was the same size as the cats the day we brought him home (in the picture here), but he’s now large enough and strong enough to pull me off of my feet if he’s captivated by something…which he often is.  I work with him nearly every day, but I knew I didn’t know what the heck I was doing beyond teaching “sit,” “stay,” “down,” “come,” “leave it,” so we agreed to bring in a professional trainer recommended by our vet.  I’d read through some books on raising a “good” puppy, and understand that the current popular school of thought is that we don’t use “punitive” methods for training any longer…only positive reinforcement and ignoring “bad” behavior.  Well, that may work if you have a Yorkie but I’m going to have a dislocated shoulder and a lot of broken chachkies if I don’t scold and punish by crating every now and then.  Fortunately, the trainer we hired happens to agree that even a couple of fingers across the snout every now and then isn’t going to do any lasting damage.  So, if you disagree and you’re going to comment, please make an effort to keep your words civil.  If you cannot, you’ll just be deleted.  I’ll keep comments that disagree as long as they aren’t spewing hatred.

I teach a seminar about boundary setting which heavily encourages consequences as a necessary aspect of relationship building, whether between parent and child or husband and wife or any relationship. I teach humans that you cannot learn and grow if you don’t understand and experience the consequences of your choices.  So then, why would this not apply to our pets?  Naturally, I am not advocating beating or kicking your dog.  We are tremendous pet lovers.  Benj wakes up Daddy every morning with a lick of the ear and a snoot in the eye.  It is one of our favorite moments of the day. However, exclusively positive reinforcement didn’t work on me or him as children and we don’t believe it will get us where we all want to go here.  Our trainer has worked with birds, cats, lion, and elephants…dogs are a walk in the park for him.  I trust him, I’m seeing results, and I appreciate his knowledge and approach.  But, I was talking about a magazine article, wasn’t I?  Let’s get back to that.

Since I’m interested in raising a dog that integrates well into a human world, I’m doing a lot of reading.  The article I’m talking about here wrote a bunch of stuff under each of their “Things Every Pet Owner Should Know,” but each section started with a quote.  I don’t believe I’ll be plagarizing if I simply reprint those, so that’s what I’m sticking to for this blog. Here they are:

1. “Dogs are 35 times more likely to get skin cancer than  humans, four times more likely to get breast tumors, eight times more likely to get bone cancer and twice as likely to get leukemia. ~Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine

Get them their vaccinations and keep them current. Don’t throw them out in the yard to get them out of your hair unless they have water and shade. I use Advantage Multi for Benjamin…a topical application that protects him from heartworms, several parasites, and flea larvae all at once.  It is, by far, the most cost-effective way to deal with his needs.

2. On an 85-degree day, the temperature inside a car with the windows opened slightly can reach 102 degrees within 10 minutes. At 110 degrees, pets are in danger of heat stroke, a potentially fatal condition. ~The Humane Society of the United States

This one is a no-brainer.  If you can’t take your dog with you wherever you’re going…LEAVE HIM/HER HOME! I want to socialize Benj to everything possible at this stage of his life, but often I am going to a store that won’t allow him inside, so I have to leave him safely crated while I’m out.  But, I do call ahead to ask whenever I think there may be an opportunity for him to come along and we do try to give him lots of custom-created social opportunities.  He’s already been to a pool party, the beach, a few doggie play dates, and walked the neighborhood to meet his neighbors.  He navigated his first flight of stairs last week. Good boy!

3. A 60-pound dog can cause an impact of 2,700 pounds slamming into a car seat, a window, or another passenger. ~Bark Buckle Up

We bought a doggie seat belt and tried it a couple of times.  Not only did Benj hate hate hate it, but it really didn’t seem to allow him to sit comfortably and look out the window from the back seat.  We’ve never had a policy of buckling up the dogs and hubby has a much longer history of traveling with them than I do, so we don’t observe this rule. In all honesty, I only wear my own seat belt half the time. Lots of room for criticism here, I know.  I will, however, take a stand against people who throw their dogs in the back of their open-bed pickup trucks and race down busy roads like maniacs.  That’s just wrong.  And, if you’re going to leave your dog loose in the car while driving and you want to give him a window to stick his head out, I believe you should be sure he can’t use that same window to leap out of the car when something catches his fancy.

4.  Between 2,000 and 3,000 animals died as a result of Hurricane Katrina.  Another 16,000 pets were rescued and sent to shelters. ~Discovery Channel

If you live in an area where a hurricane might strike (even if one hasn’t for some time), it is just as important for you to consider how you would keep your pets safe as yourself.  Understand that if evacuation is necessary during a hurricane, the best thing you can do to protect your pets (according to the Humane Society) is to take them with you.  Pets left behind are vulnerable to injury or worse.  If you have a plan, check out how your pets would fit into that now.  If you don’t have one…for criminy’s sake make one!

5. Dog bite victims requiring medical attention in the United States number 500,000 to 1 million annually. On average, about a dozen people die each year from dog bites. ~State Farm Insurance

Um…know your critter…know critters can sometimes be unpredictable…and be a responsible pet owner?  This article also advises knowing the law in your state.  In some states (mine is one of them) a pet owner is legally responsible for deaths or injuries caused by their dog.

6. If given unlimited access to food, cats will eat between 12 and 20 meals a day, evenly spread out over the 24-hour light-dark cycle. ~National Research Council

I’ve always kept my critters on a dry-only diet.  It’s easier for me and it makes their leavings much easier to deal with (I don’t need a gas mask to clean the litter box). The two cats get fed once a day, in the morning, and they take a good part of the following 24-hour period to consume that.  Works for both of us, I believe.  Somehow, my calico manages to be obese this way, but I’ve had this issue with female spayed cats before, particularly calicos. All critters are on quality food. The cats are on prescription Royal Canin Urinary SO for the male’s sake and Benjamin is on Science Diet Large Breed Puppy food which, my vet informs me, has been shown to reduce the chances of him developing hip dysplasia by 30%.  He is fed twice a day according to package directions and given access to water only at those two times so I can leave him crated during the day without him dying to get out and pee.  Both vet and trainer tell me this is perfectly fine for a developing puppy who is indoors all the time.

7. If the punishment is delivered too late, even seconds later, your pet will not associate the punishment with the undesired behavior. The punishment will seem totally unpredictable to her. ~The Humane Society of the United States

Sorry, but I’m just not buying that one. My vet told me that, but the trainer (the one who has dealt with everything from parakeets to lions) staunchly disagrees.  And, I have clearly seen evidence to the contrary. Benj understands he is supposed to tell us he wants to go outside to potty by ringing a bell tied to the sliding glass door.  He understands when he is doing something other than that, it is wrong.  If we discover his “accident” some time later and bring him over, firmly expressing our disapproval with words he knows (Benjamin, did you potty here?  You know you’re supposed to ring the bell!  No potty inside!), he clearly gets it and it shows on his face. When he was much younger, perhaps this was not the case, but it certainly is now.

8. The average veterinary expenditure per household for all pets was $366 in 2006. ~American Veterinary Medical Association

I believe one should be as selective about their veterinarian as they are about their personal doctors.  If the facility doesn’t look clean, the doctor isn’t personable, and you’re not comfortable with the level of care you are receiving, switch.  Also, if you have a pet that is clearly going to require considerable veterinary care, check into pet medical insurance programs.  They can end up costing much less in the long run.

9. Just one mothball containing naphthalene can cause serious illness to a dog or cat, including liver and kidney damage, swelling of the brain, seizures, coma and even death. ~American Veterinary Medical Association

It is important to be aware of what’s around the house that your pet might find fascinating – even irresistible – when you’re not paying attention. Almost all house plants are toxic to dogs and cats.  Cats usually munch and purge, but dogs will scarf down anything that looks inviting and then lay around looking at you like they really don’t feel so good. Look around for things like citronella candles, fabric softener sheets, and even food items in their reach such as avocado, chocolate, coffee, garlic, grapes, macadamia nuts, onions, raisins and salt.  Did you know that?  If you don’t have a local animal emergency hospital phone number on your refrigerator, I recommend doing that today.  My 24/7 Vet ER happens to also be my regular vet and I’m glad for the fact that they know my pets there.  Not all Vet ERs have regular practices, but if you can find one of these, it’s a good place to consider.

I feel another scripture about having dominion over all the animals coming on!

Genesis 6:19 And of every living thing of all flesh you shall bring two of every sort into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. 20 Of the birds after their kind, of animals after their kind, and of every creeping thing of the earth after its kind, two of every kind will come to you to keep them alive. 21 And you shall take for yourself of all food that is eaten, and you shall gather it to yourself; and it shall be food for you and for them.”


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