5 Things Every Dog Owner Needs

As most people quickly discover, the minute you have a dog, you find a world of endless things to pay attention to and spend money on. From toys to pet spas, fancy collars to puppy pools, there’s no shortage of places, resources, and stuff available to spoil your beloved canine. However, there are a few necessities that should come at the very top of the list, and should be a priority for any new dog owner. Each one of these items could be a separate post, so I’ll just quickly cover the basics right now. Here are 5 of the most important investments you can make in your dog:

1. A vet you trust
Just as you would (I hope!) never see a doctor whose care you don’t trust, you shouldn’t have a vet whose care you find questionable in any way. Yes, it can be a bit of a painstaking process to find the right one… and they may not be the closest to you, they may be more expensive, or they may have crappy parking. But when your dog gets critically injured or ill, you will want to be assured that he or she is in the best hands possible. Your furry family member deserves no less, and you deserve that peace of mind.

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2. A good petsitter
This one is also of huge importance. Dogs require a lot of time and care to thrive. When you’re around to take care of that, it’s ideal. But no one can be tied to home all the time, either. Finding a quality person to look after your dog in your absence is essential. In fact, you might need two people: one who can make a quick visit during your work hours and when you have an unexpected delay in getting home, and one who can do extended care if you need or want to travel. Many people are finding that doggy daycare is a wonderful option for their dog. It’s socialization, playtime and bathroom breaks all day long – versus hour after hour in a crate. Some dogs thrive in daycare, some find it frightening or overwhelming. It’s up to you to figure out if it works for your particular dog’s personality.

For some dogs, a kennel works just fine for extended care. However, many owners find that it’s incredibly stressful for their pet. In that situation, it’s best to find a home for your dog to stay in (try dogvacay.com or rover.com), or a sitter that will stay in yours. Some people are lucky enough that their dog can stay with a trusted friend or family member; others (like me) find a sitter to stay in the home. I’ll admit, finding a professional, trustworthy, compassionate petsitter isn’t always easy – but it is ALWAYS worth it.

3. An emergency first aid kit and plan
The unthinkable happened… Your furry friend found her way into your pantry, and devoured an entire bag of dark chocolate. It’s after hours, and your usual vet is closed. You check the magnet on the fridge, you call the emergency poison hotline, and they instruct you to make your dog vomit using hydrogen peroxide. Oh thank goodness, there’s a way you can help… except you don’t have any hydrogen peroxide. Yikes. Make sure you’re never in this situation. There are a few staples you should always have on-hand to take care of your pet in an emergency. Check this list (http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/resources/tips/pet_first_aid_kit.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/), then GO! Get them and put them somewhere safe right now. I’ll wait.
You should also have an emergency plan in place should your family end up victims of a calamity like a flood, a fire, a hurricane, etc. For EVERYONE in the family – spouse, kids, pets – a plan to keep yourselves fed, sheltered and safe is crucial. Check the American Red Cross website for tips.

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4. Training resources
All dogs require training in order to become the best companions they can be. Thankfully, they usually have a natural desire to please, and the time you spend in training can be a lot of fun for both of you. If you can attend obedience classes together, you can get the basics, meet other dog owners, and help socialize your dog all in one. If however, you don’t have the time or ability to attend classes, you can find a lot of good books on the subject, as well as online advice, but with one big caveat: make sure you hire, follow or read works by a trainer who specializes in positive reinforcement. There are still far too many trainers who rely on shock collars and other methods of fear-based training, and that is the least productive way to train your dog. In the long run, you’ll be much better off with a dog that follows directions because it’s rewarding to do so, not one that obeys out of fear. It’s far healthier for the dog, and for your relationship with him or her.

5. Time.
It might be #5, but that doesn’t make it the least important, by any means. Owning a dog demands time. They are social creatures, and they have been bred over centuries to be devoted companions to humans. As such, a dog is usually happiest when it’s with YOU. That means you need to have at least a little leisure time available that can be devoted to spending with your dog. I do realize that lives get busy, you will go through phases when you don’t have much free time, and bonding with your dog will get bumped down the list. But almost everyone has at least a few extra minutes a day that they can set aside for play, walking and cuddling. And the upside is, it’s not just about your dog. Research has shown that time spent petting, walking and bonding with a dog is good for YOUR health, too. Do both yourself and your furry friend a favor, and make a little doggy downtime a priority every day. Trust me, you’ll never regret it.

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Give Toots the Boot: 5 Strategies to Reduce Your Dog’s Gas

Can we be frank? Yes? Okay, good. Let’s talk about dog farts, then. You know… those noxious, eye-watering, room-clearing, “Holy cow, what did you EAT??” emissions that overwhelm our olfactory senses, and often puzzle or frighten the dog that’s letting ‘em rip. While a little gas is a normal part of almost any digestive process, if your dog is consistently passing fumes that could choke a donkey, it often indicates an underlying issue that could be improved.

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PLEASE NOTE: if your dog is showing ANY other symptoms of distress… bloating, obvious discomfort, frequent diarrhea, vomiting, etc. PLEASE CONTACT YOUR VET IMMEDIATELY! This post is strictly addressing stinky farts in an otherwise healthy dog. That being said – it can never hurt to ask your vet’s input on the subject, either.

The first and most obvious culprit to investigate is your dog’s “extracurricular” eating and drinking. If you have the fortune of a fenced backyard where your dog is free to roam, she may be finding all kinds of delicacies to get into – edible or otherwise. This can wreak havoc in any dog that doesn’t have an iron stomach. It will be worth your time to take a few days to supervise your dog’s outdoor activity every time she is outside, and see if your pup is finding some no-no to snack on. Mulch, sticks, certain plants, stagnant water, rabbit/deer/bird/cat poop, their OWN poop (UGH)… there are endless sources of ick out there your dog may be indulging in. Putting the kibosh on that may quickly solve your flatulence problem. (Well, your dog’s anyway…)

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The second thing to look into is your dog’s diet. Just like people, dog’s digestive systems often have sensitivities and quirks that mean certain foods are better tolerated than others. Thankfully, there is now a plethora of readily available foods out there that can help address common issues in doggy digestive health. If your canine companion has frequent gas, it’s worth giving a different food a try. First, try a completely different protein base. For example, if you feed a chicken-based food, gradually switch him or her over to a beef-, turkey- or fish-based food, and see if that makes an improvement. If that doesn’t seem to do much, you can also try switching to a grain-free diet to see if that eases the gas. Both of our dogs, while not showing any obvious grain allergy, had improved stool consistency and almost zero gas after switching to grain-free. Patience is key in this experiment… you’ll want to make a switch gradually, and then give it a few weeks to see if there is any improvement.

It should also be noted that in general, a higher-quality, less-filler diet is going to help your dog not only have a more comfortable belly, but will also likely improve their skin, coat, and overall well-being. Another bonus that a lot of people don’t realize is that when you switch to a high quality food, you can often feed the dog less, AND the dog produces a smaller stool. It ends up being a better value than you’d expect. So skip the bargain food at your local discount store, and look for a better quality food that’s still in a comfortable price range. If you want to compare the quality of different types of food, www.dogfoodadvisor.com is a great source of information, and can help you narrow down the vast amount of choices available.

 

If your dog is already on a high-quality food, and doesn’t show any other signs of digestive distress outside of the gas, you may want to try adding probiotics. These supplements can help balance the essential bacteria in your dog’s gut, which help him not only digest food more effectively, but also contribute towards overall health. A dog that’s had to take antibiotics is especially vulnerable to having gut bacteria that’s out of balance. Just make sure you purchase probiotics specifically for pets… the human ones don’t have the right mix of bacteria for a canine gut. A probiotic product frequently recommended by vets is Purina’s FortiFlora. It’s available here: FortiFlora on Amazon I personally have also had a lot of success with Ark Naturals’ Gentle Digest: Gentle Digest

Another thing that can cause a lot of gas is dogs wolfing down their food. Just like in people, the faster a dog eats, the more air it’s gulping along with the food. There are a bunch of products on the market that can help your dog slow its eating – from a bowl that forces them to pick at food more slowly (slow food bowl), to puzzles and toys that only dispense a little at a time (interactive food puzzle). Your dog may find them quite frustrating at first, but it will be worth it to help them learn to eat more slowly. It could help curtail the gas, and has the added bonus of being a mental challenge as well, which is healthy for almost any dog. In addition to slowing your dog’s eating, it may also help if you raise their food and bowls to a more comfortable height. If a dog doesn’t have to bend way down to reach his bowl, it makes it easier for him swallow properly. It can be as simple as setting the dishes on a short bench or small stack of boards.

Hopefully one or more of these strategies can help you, with just a little effort, make your dog’s digestion more bearable for everyone. Pinning down and alleviating the source of your dog’s flatulence is sure to leave him or her with a more comfortable belly, and allow you, your family members, and your furry friend to snuggle without fear of choking on a sudden toxic cloud.

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WHY THIS WEBSITE?

Hi, my name is Meg, and I LOVE my dogs. I mean, really, really love my dogs.

I get that this isn’t unusual. A lot of people loooove their dogs. So why would I start a blog about it, when there are thousands of dog-themed blogs already out there?

It’s pretty simple, really. The short answer is: I want to help other people love their dogs as much as I love mine. And hopefully as a by-product of that, I can help more dogs – and their owners – enjoy happier, healthier lives. I’m passionate about people seeing the value of a strong relationship with their pet, and I believe that giving them the tools to understand, care for, and yes, maybe even spoil that pet will help make that happen. In turn, I believe this could help stem the growing tide of abandoned, unwanted, and misunderstood dogs that are languishing in shelters all over the world. (It’s a small drop in a very large bucket, to be sure… but it’s a drop nonetheless, and you’ve gotta start somewhere.)

And now for the second part… the “how”. I wanted to create a site that’s a resource for dog owners who may be overwhelmed with information, and who don’t have time to sift through 6,000 websites and Google results to find good, reliable advice*, products, training info and anything else of burning interest to a dog owner. I am gearing this towards the person who is new to dog ownership and all the joy (and sometimes heartache) it brings; but my hope is it becomes a place for all dog caretakers – new or otherwise – to find valuable, relevant content.

So I sincerely thank you for coming by, and for reading, and I hope you and I have a lot to chat about in the coming days, weeks, months and beyond.

In the meantime, start each day with a wagging tail –

Meg

*The disclaimer: I will never, ever recommend this blog, or any of the comments therein, as a source of reliable medical advice regarding your dog. It will be a topic that will be addressed for sure, and people are welcome to share what has worked for them personally… but I caution you to ALWAYS check with your vet with what you read about diet, health, supplements, etc. Anyone looking for advice about an urgent dog-health matter will be directed to consult a veterinarian – and any direct medical advice (unless from a certified dog health professional) will be deleted.

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