“So, What Are Ya In For?”

Why do dogs and cats commonly end up in shelters? Are they ‘damaged goods’? Have they all been abused? Here are the top 10 reasons animals are surrendered as well as resources and practical advice for people who feel as though they need to re-home their animals. Please consider sharing it if you or someone you know is in this unfortunate position.

There is a common belief that animals in shelters are there because they were bad. Or perhaps because the previous owner saw signs of an expensive illness in the near future and dumped them so someone else could pay for them.

"So, What Are Ya In For?"  How animals really wind up in shelters and practical advice for the owner who feels like they have no other option than to give up their pet.I understand the thought process, I really do. I mean, why else would someone give up their companions? As it turns out, there are many reasons higher on the list than poor behavior or medical issues. A study by the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy evaluated the top reasons dogs and cats are surrendered to shelters. They found that the top 7 reasons for dog and cat relinquishment were the same. Continue reading

10 Reasons I Chose A Mutt Over A Purebred Dog

When I found Lana online, I made an appointment to meet her, and the next day to meet a purebred Border Collie from the same rescue. I had already started to picture my life with Ferris, the Collie. I was sure he would be the one for me. But, obviously I chose Lana. There are plenty of dog breeds I adore. But to me, nothing beats a good old fashioned mutt. And I can give you ten reasons why.

"10 Reasons I Chose A Mutt Over A Purebred" -A humorous, not preachy look at why one dog blogger chose her mixed breedMutts live longer. Continue reading

Dog, M.I.A. (What To Do If Your Dog Runs Away)

Earlier this week, I spent nearly an hour helping my neighbor look for his runaway dog. He was stressed, desperate to finder her (a JRT named Jessie) before he had to leave for a business trip and I felt compelled to join the search. If Lana ran off, I think even the moral support of a ‘search party’ larger than myself would do wonders.

Image

You can Pin this image! Just click the Pin It button at the bottom of this post. Sharing is caring!

He took to the roads in his car and I combed the forest-y area around our town homes on foot. I carried a jar of dog treats that I shook every once in a while, assuming she would be more likely to come for food than to greet a girl she only met once. But honestly, I didn’t know. I didn’t know if she liked to chase animals and would go deeper into the trees. I didn’t know if she liked kids and would crawl under the fence to go to the school right next to our neighborhood. I didn’t even know if she was smart enough to stay off the road.

Eventually, our search lead us outside of the neighborhood. It was at that point in time I realized the gravity of the situation. I found myself peering into the distance, looking for a body in the road. My eyes kept darting to the sky to look for vultures. I began to panic. I didn’t have my phone on me, and I had reached a large intersection, with no guess which direction to head.

I jogged back home, deciding the best decision was to call animal control – what I probably should have done first thing. I’m happy to report that as I was jogging home I ran into my neighbor, and he had found little Jessie when he headed the opposite direction on the main road.

Jessie was lucky she was found quickly. But pets get loose often, and aren’t always found. Sometimes it takes hours, days, months. Sometimes they are never found. Animals are unpredictable and don’t always make the best decisions, so it is best to prevent your dog from running away. That being said, I believe it is incredibly important to know what to do if your pet does manage to get loose.

Image

Ideally, to prevent your dog from running away, you HOLD the leash. My bad.

Prevention:
-Most dogs should be on leash or in a fenced in area. You know your dog and I don’t, but everyone thinks bad things won’t happen to them. And bad things definitely do happen. Don’t get lulled into a false sense of security.
-Dogs and cats should always wear collars with updated tags.
-Collars can slip off! It is best to also have your pet microchipped. Again, make sure your information is up to date.
-Make sure your dog is fixed. Unneutered males are extremely likely to run off if they smell a female in heat. Males are said to be able to detect females in heat up to three miles away! It is not uncommon for unaltered males to climb fences, break through screens, etc. to appease their mating instinct, no matter how well behaved they normally are.
-Be extra careful taking your dog outside around New Years and the Fourth of July. Another common reason dogs run away is fear, and many dogs fear the loud noises caused by fireworks. In fact, the fifth of July is the busiest day of the year for animal shelters, and January first is the second busiest. Any guesses why?
-Keep an eye on your fence, if you have one. The day we adopted Desi, she crawled under our fence and ran down the street. There had been a space between the bottom of the fence and the ground, and it took her almost no time to dig and run for it. Some dogs are known to dig, so fences may need to have concrete poured underneath to keep digging dogs in. (Seriously, we had a Lab once who needed this level of security.)
-There is a smartphone app called Tagg Pet Tracker. It is a GPS tracker that looks like a collar. The app is free. The tracker itself, however, is not free. There is also a monthly subscription fee. It’s up to you to decide if the cost is worth it.

Image

Leashes. Leashes are awesome. Look at his pure joy. It’s definitely because of the leash.

If your dog (or cat) goes missing:
-Obviously, look for your pet yourself near your house. Anyone willing to help should be utilized. The sooner you find your pet, the better you’ll feel and the less chance they have of getting hurt or ‘adopted’ by a well-meaning stranger.
-Always make sure there is a fairly recent picture of your dog. Even better if you have a picture of you and your dog, in case you need to prove your dog does actually belong to you.
-Immediately contact animal control, your local shelters, and local veterinarians. Describe your dog and leave them your contact information.
-Don’t underestimate the power of social media. Share your dog’s picture and last known location on your Facebook and any local animal group pages. You could also try Craigslist, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. You never know when luck could be on your side. Also, see if you can use a source like a newspaper (or news website) to get the word out.
-There is a lost pet website called FidoFinder.com (for dogs) and one called TabbyTracker.com (for cats) where you can register lost pets.
-Let your neighbors know your pet is missing. You could hang posters with your pet’s picture and your contact information for any nearby neighbors who might not know you or recognize your pet. I would also hang posters in the windows of pet supply stores/pet service businesses if they allow it. If someone picked up your pet and wanted to buy supplies to care for it (hopefully until they turned it in), they could notice your poster.
-Sometimes search and rescue dogs are trained to search for other animals. I have heard of their handlers assisting in lost pet searches for a small donation.

If you see your dog and he doesn’t want to come to you, try running away from him. If he’s refusing to come because he’s teasing you, he may think you want to play tag and chase you. This especially works well with puppies. Otherwise, bring a nice, edible bribe while looking for your lost dog, or even a toy he or she loves!

Hopefully you never lose your pet, but if you do, I wish you the best of luck finding them.

Image

Yes! I love being on the leash!!   /sarcasm

Keep your friends close, and your dog closer!

Tips For Financially Challenged (Or Just Frugal) Pet Owners

I’m young. I’m a recent graduate. And I’m unemployed. I do my best to live as frugally as I can. That includes how I take care of Lana. I aim to be, if I’m being honest, “cheap” while not sacrificing her health or happiness. I certainly don’t have a perfect system, but I’ve noticed some tricks that help me save money on pet care.

 Image

1. I buy food in bulk. Lana gets a pretty good brand of food, but I buy 40 pounds at a time, bringing the price down to about a dollar a pound. Then I store the leftovers in airtight containers in a closet. I use a charcoal container, but I’ve seen people use tins and garbage cans.

2. I splurge on an all in one flea/tick/worm preventative. This, I also buy in bulk. Trifexis is the biggest chunk of Lana’s vet bills (normally), but I just feel like it does a better job than if I bought separate preventative medications. It’s worth a little extra up front. And don’t forget the rebate!

Image

Lana takes Trifexis, Desi takes Sentinel. Talk to your vet about which prescriptions are best for your dog!

3. Don’t assume 1800petmeds is the cheapest place to get prescriptions. I’ve used them before, but by the time you added in shipping and handling it was about the same price as going through my vet. Plus, it takes longer. Instead, do your research. Check their site, your vet, and even your local pharmacy. Some, like Target, even carry generic versions of many pet medications.

4. Whether or not you need something right now, always keep an eye on sales. (Petsmart has a sale going on right now!) After holiday sales are especially convenient – your dog will never realize they got a brand new Jack-o-Lantern toy in April. If you stockpile items on sale, you never have to pay full price because you need something immediately.

Image

I stock up on Nylabones, Dentastix, a racket balls any chance I get.

5. Groupon sometimes has pet stuff too! I mentioned this on the Facebook Fanpage earlier last week, but I’ll just remind y’all.

6. You could make dog treats yourself or treat your dog to bites of dog-safe human food. Is this actually cheaper than traditional dog treats? Probably not. Is it cheaper than the super healthful, really aromatic dog treats you can buy? Probably. (Unless you bought a bunch on sale like I suggested!) Either way, it’s easy enough to do. You can check out my doggie ice cream recipe here! (And of course I’ll post more recipes soon.)

7. Remember, continuous upkeep is cheaper than quick fixes later. This can be your dog’s weight, their dental health, their grooming, etc. Better to brush their teeth a few times a week than pay the vet to put them under to do a deep clean. Better to brush your dog’s gorgeous coat than wait until it’s matted and you have to turn to a professional groomer. And it is way better to watch your dog’s weight than wait until it has a negative effect on their joints and overall health.

Image

Another option for cheap toys is empty pill bottles or coke bottles. (Under supervision only!)

8. There is no shame in buying used when possible. I bought Lana’s nail clippers from a friend who decided she’d rather just have her vet trim her dog’s nails. (I might do the same if Lana had black nails, so no judgment here, even from a frugal mom!) More realistically, big purchases like outgrown crates and even FURminators can easily be sanitized and reused. It might not be easy to find someone selling one of these things right when you need it, so you might have another item to add to the stockpile when you find it.

9. If your dog is as crazy destructive as some of mine are, you could make your own toys. My father made Lana a rope that has help up pretty well – I definitely need to pin him down on how he did it. Another option is one I shared on the Facebook page recently. Take a muffin tin and put a treat in one of the cups. Then cover all the cups with tennis balls. The cup with the treat could have a different colored tennis ball, but it’s probably not necessary. Dogs will have to use their heads (or at least their noses) to find the treat. It’s a good way to keep them busy and quell that boredom-based, destructive urge.

Image

We always buy the girls’ costumes in November, when they’re on sale.

10. Rather than buying cheap toys all the time, if you don’t want to make them all yourself, invest in a more expensive but more durable toy. It saves money because you don’t have to buy 80 plushies, and because your dog can’t rip them to shreds and eat the pieces and require surgery. Like some dogs we know.

11. Do as much grooming as you can yourself. I’m lucky to have a fairly clean, not overly fluffy dog with a good deal of white nails. I don’t usually have to go to the groomer. Anything you can do yourself to eliminate trips to the groomer, or at least make them fewer and farther between, could really save you money.

12. Training saves you money! Training can eliminate destructive behaviors, keep your dog safe (yay fewer vet bills), and might even save you money on insurance. Ask your home insurance provider if Canine Good Citizen could lower your premium. At the very least, some companies have lifted their ban on certain breeds if the dogs pass the Canine Good Citizen evaluation.

Image

Training can save you the cost of a good pair of work heels, among other things.

13. Speaking of insurance, think about pet health insurance. I can in no way promise this saves you money. It could save you crazy amounts of money. Think boatloads. Or, it could cost you. It’s a complete gamble. But for some of us with accident-prone pooches, it’s probably best to bite the bullet and buy insurance.

14. Consider mobile vets for shots. I shouldn’t even have to remind you that it is definitely better than going without. Also, consider picking up a free or discounted spay or neuter voucher. Want more? Follow your local shelter on Facebook. That’s how I found out about their discount microchipping days. Lana and I waited in line to get some very reasonably priced peace of mind. Worth every penny, and way cheaper than going through a vet.

Image

This blue mess was once a rope.

Dogs are expensive, and not a spur of the moment investment anyone should make. But, like anything else in life, a little bit of planning can make your pet care budget go further. What do you do to save money on pet care?

10 Easy “Tricks” EVERY Dog Should Know

Generally speaking, tricks are fun for dogs and their owners. It’s a way to mentally stimulate your dog and show off to your cat-people friends. But there’s more to it. Some “tricks” serve a greater purpose than others. Just think about it; “come” is far more useful than “roll over”. (And I’m not just saying that because Lana hates/refuses to learn roll over.)

I’ve compiled a list of 10 tricks I believe every dog should know. They should be the first things your dog learns when you adopt him/her, and the behaviors you practice most so they’re never forgotten.

10 Easy Tricks Every Dog Should Know1. Come – I think it’s pretty obvious why this trick is necessary. Say you’re on a walk with Lottie (roll with it, I think it’s an adorable name) and she wanders off a little way. At first it’s no big deal. She’s a good girl and she won’t approach a strange person or dog without permission. She knows to come when called, and usually does, but not 100% of the time. No big deal, if she hesitates, you’ll just call again! Your random train of thought is interrupted with a strange rattling sound. Or a hissing. Or a growling. The sound of whatever animal that lives near you that either caries venom, diseases, or a serious grudge against dogs and a big set of chompers. If you call Lottie and she hesitates, that’s a few seconds longer she is standing next to a dangerous enemy. Or worse, walking closer to it. Or maybe her hesitating means she’s standing in the middle of the road longer. Or even just standing in the rain getting stinky. (This is a choose your own adventure.) So yes, ”come” is obviously important, but a consistent “come” is equally so.

2. Leave it – This command might have worked in the last scenario as well. If it was Lottie checking out the other animal and not vice versa. This trick is amazing in multi-dog households. Lana is a bit toy aggressive, so teaching her and my fosters to ‘leave it’ makes my life easier (and keeps our home harmonious) on a daily basis. If you want to teach ‘leave it’, put your dog on leash and leave treats on the floor. Holding some treats of your own, walk by the treats on the floor. Try to distract your dog with a cheery voice and the scent of the treats you’re holding. Whenever your pooch heads towards the floor treats, gently tug the leash and remind them to leave it. When they ignore the treats on the ground, reward them with a better treat from your hand! (It’s so helpful to carry a bag of treats at all times when training.)

3. Drop it – This is an absolutely wonderful trick. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to drop this order (awkward wording, not a pun) mid-walk because Lana found a random slice of pizza or chicken bone on the ground. “Drop it” can prevent your dog from swallowing choking hazards, toxins, etc. Additionally, if I need to take away a toy she’s in the process of mutilating or grab a ball she wants me to throw, this is the easiest way to do it without fear of accidentally being bitten. Like “come”, this trick requires lots of practice. Probably even more, but it is so worth the time and effort.

4. Wait – Your dog can “wait” for just about anything. Wait before eating dinner, wait before going through a doorway, or wait before jumping into or out of a car. To me, the most important is waiting to enter or exit a car. If they jump out of the car before you have time to grab the leash and they see a squirrel, they’re off! (Mine, at least, would be.) It’s just a safety measure to avoid being hit by cars or running off. It’s not hard to teach and very handy. (Bonus, your dog can ‘wait’ on the scale at the vet’s office to ensure an accurate reading!)

5. Easy/Gentle – This is more of a manner than a trick. If you notice your dog grabs treats or toys out of your hand with a little too much enthusiasm, it may be time to teach them this trick. It took me many aching fingers to realize this. If your pup uses too much teeth, simply close your hand over the treat and don’t give it to them until they approach more gently. It may take a while for your dog to connect the cause and effect, but they’ll figure it out. You may get scratched up at first, but in the end you’ll save yourself a bloody finger or two.

6. Heel – I’m just awful about taking my dog on structured walks. Or walks period. But when I do, she is miserable on leash (except on those occasions we use a prong collar). My boyfriend hates taking her running. She zigs and she zags and she has to check out every darn thing she (thinks she) sees. That’s because we did not practice heel like we should have. Once upon a time she knew to walk by my ankles until I gave her the okay to explore. I think she still associates the prong collar with the command, but I try not to use it often. I think of it as a training aid, not a daily accessory. However, seeing as we really ought to start training again, I should probably give in and use it a little more often.  Heel not only makes walks more pleasant for you and your dog, but anyone walking by definitely appreciates a dog walking well than one pulling to go see them – even if they like dogs. It’s just about being polite.

7. Play – It sounds weird, I know. Teaching your dog to play, as a trick? Yes! Dogs learn to play ‘correctly’ from each other in a pack environment. If you don’t have other dogs to help teach your little one, then it’s up to you! What you need to keep in mind is that play should be fun and good exercise, but it shouldn’t be too rough. If your dog is ever around smaller dogs, much younger or older dogs, cats, older people, or children (which almost every dog will be at some point), they need to learn to play gently. I was fortunate that Lana was raised with other dogs so she understands to be gentle with puppies and let loose with dogs her size. But when she was young, I did discourage rough play, and I’m glad I did.

8. Off – Off should refer to people and to furniture (and other dogs!). Dogs should never habitually jump on you or guests (or other dogs). This is especially important if he or she meets an older person, a child, someone with a handicap, or even someone with a normal injury like a sore back or sunburn. (Take it from a Floridian, dog nails on sunburned skin is unpleasant.) I love that my dog is happy to see me when I get home, but jumping on me is unnecessary. I think it’s just as cute that she always brings me a toy and a shows off her wiggle butt. I feel no love lost. (Also, Lana knows not to jump on her elderly sister, thanks to the command ‘off’. Desi’s arthritic back couldn’t handle that, so it was super important that Lana knew her stuff.)

9. Watch me – Watch me can be useful if you need to distract your dog from something. It could be a squirrel or dog on the other side of the road, something they’re frightened of, or the vet standing next to them getting ready to give them a shot or take their temperature. To teach this, hold a treat near your face and reward them when they look at you.

10. Stand – Admittedly a trick more helpful at the vet’s office than most real life situations. But, it’s one I actually spent today practicing with Miss Lana. All I ask of Lana is that she goes from a sit or down position to standing on all fours. She still doesn’t stand up with only the word “stand”, but the vet probably wouldn’t think to try that anyway. She does stand with the slightest pressure under her tummy from my hand. And, since her recent surgery wound was on her tummy, this turned out to be more useful than I anticipated. (Fun fact, the vet actually commented about how well she behaved the whole time she stayed for supervision. I have no idea, but I like to think she showed off this trick.)

BONUS 11. Check – this is probably more helpful for someone like me, with a fearful dog, than the average dog owner. If Lana sees something scary, I encourage her to ‘check’ it out (by walking over to it and pointing), and then reward her with enthusiastic praise and treats if she comes even a little bit closer. I also do this with my male friends and family, since she’s not the biggest fan of men. I’m not a professional trainer and can’t guarantee it works for everyone (or that it’s even done anything for us), it seems worth a try. At the very least, it doesn’t hurt anything.

*I don’t think clickers are by any means necessary for training. I use one for complicated tricks, but usually I just praise vocally (high pitched and happy sounding tones!) and with food. However, there’s nothing wrong with using the clicker if you want to.

Image

Lana shows off how she gently plays with young puppies.

What other tricks you would recommend to any and every dog owner? Comment and share your wisdom. And don’t forget to add us on Facebook if you haven’t yet!

We Want It Wednesday: Pet Health Insurance

ImageI spent this morning sitting in front of my computer listening to one of the most relaxing sounds in the world. Whenever the erratic clicking of the keyboard stopped, I got to hear Miss Lana’s soft, steady breathing. Not an ugly, loud snore. Just a sweet little feminine cadence of breaths.

And boy was I grateful for that calming white noise, because I was in the middle of shopping for pet insurance. I’ve never bought insurance in my life! How fun it is to be an adult.

My insurance wants and needs were as follows:
-A reputable company
-A low monthly cost, with the option to increase coverage once I get some sort of paying job
-Coverage for the things that seem more likely to affect Lana (like accidents)

What did I find? High monthly payments or absolutely terrifying Yep reviews.

ImageMy lovely mother helped me locate a company recommended to my father (sort of) by his employer. Pets Best Insurance. Their website looked great, their policies wonderful, and their rate just peachy. I Googled them, just to make sure. One star reviews ran rampant on Yelp. Not to mention, far from helpful company responses. It was enough to scare the heck out of me. So I kept searching the internet, hoping for a second source. Their Facebook seemed to elicit pretty positive reviews from customers. I’d hardly trust their social media, but come to think of it, the Yelp reviews (most of them, at least) were pretty old. Maybe a new company had taken over and fixed things? I knew that Pets Best is offered through Progressive, but I didn’t know how long it had been that way.

Never one to like ill informed decisions, I browsed http://www.petinsurancereview.com/ – a third party website where pet owners can leave reviews of their insurance company. The reviews of Pets Best on that site were largely positive, and far more recent than the majority of the Yelp reviews.

ImageHonestly, I was a bit overwhelmed with this experience. Not because there were no options or opinions, but because there were so many. Which is a great problem to have! While I did actually research many companies, I ended up going with the super cheap Pets Best for Lana. I’m positive one day I’ll switch her policy, if not the company, but for now I think the accident only coverage fits my needs best. (Knock on wood!!!)

Unless they change the rates on me, it looks like I’ll be paying just under nine dollars a month for her insurance. (Hello, same price as Netflix.) It’ll cover things like animal/snake/insect bites, getting hit by a car, foreign body ingestion, poisoning, etc. I considered adding the routine care coverage because it helped pay for heartworm prevention, but for me the benefits weren’t worth the added premium. There is a two dollar transaction fee, which of course bothers me, but at least you get the option to pay quarterly, yearly, etc. to limit the number of times you pay that fee.

ImageNow to get back to important things – like napping

I will certainly keep everyone up to date on my honest experiences with Pets Best. Hopefully any of you considering pet health insurance will find the right company for you.