Preventing obesity starts with pet owners

Issues relating to what we eat are in many cases similar to concerns about what our pets eat.

“There definitely is a link,” says Dr. Karyl Hurley, director of Global Scientific Affairs for Mars Petcare, who helped organize the Waltham International Nutritional Sciences Symposium.

Similarly, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, just over half the dogs in America are overweight or obese, and about 60 percent of cats. The parallels to people include a long list of medical repercussions. Just one example is the sharp increase in diabetes among dogs and cats, according to the Banfield State of Pet Health 2011 Report. Read entire story…

There are several ways we can help our pets fight obesity. 50% of pets in the U.S. are overweight, and a lot of that comes from over-treating. One dog biscuit can have up to 50 calories, so the weight can really add up fast! Selecting the right treats is just as important as selecting the right pet food, especially for pets who need to lose weight.

To give your pet the healthiest snacks, look for treats that are:
- Low in calories- less than 10% of your pet’s diet
- Not table scraps, which are often high in fat and hard to digest
- Made with natural ingredients
- Made in the U.S.A. to ensure quality

A dog treadmill can give your dog a great workout regardless of weather or environment, allowing you to maintain a consistent exercise regimen. A treadmill provides increased muscle definition, toning, improved vitality, increased life span and can help curb destructive behavior or excess energy often associated with the lack of regular exercise. Dog treadmills provide a way for you to exercise your pet even when the weather is bad or it is inconvenient to take them out for a walk.

You Got A Puppy Mill Dog – Now What?

Adopting and caring for a puppy is always a rewarding experience. In exchange for food, shelter, exercise, and regular veterinary care, your pet offers loyalty and companionship for the remainder of his life. Dogs that have lived in puppy mills, however, pose a unique challenge for owners. The treatment they received at the mill will likely have made them distrustful of people, and fearful of anything that is unfamiliar to them. Owners who adopt such dogs must take a few extra steps toward making them feel comfortable and secure in their new homes.

In this article, we’ll describe how puppies are treated in mills so you’ll understand the reasons such pups are hesitant and fearful of others. We’ll also describe the typical behaviors puppy mill dogs exhibit once they’re rescued. Lastly, we’ll provide a few suggestions for helping your puppy feel comfortable within your home.

Inside A Puppy Mill

Puppies are treated poorly in mills. Their physical and mental health take a back seat to revenue. The mill generates this revenue by breeding the pups in their care. But there is a key difference between the breeding activity that takes place in a mill, and that which is done by professional breeders.

Professional breeders do everything possible to minimize genetic problems in the puppies they breed. Mills take no such precautions. Instead, they breed pups without consideration for the likelihood that defects may pass to the litters. For this reason, many of the puppies born from this process are saddled with eye, dental, and joint problems.

The pups at the mill are usually housed in overcrowded pens. The living conditions are often dirty to the point of being unhygienic. Moreover, the dogs seldom receive the basic essentials they need to stay physically and mentally healthy. They rarely see the sun, or have access to a constant source of clean air.

When a puppy is adopted from a mill, the transition to a “normal” life can be jarring to him. You may notice behaviors in him during the first few days in your home that seem odd.

Establishing His Personal Den

Keep in mind that everything is new and potentially frightening to your new pet. When you bring him into your home, he may appear especially hesitant. This is because he has lived with fear his entire life. He has learned to dread the unfamiliar.

First, establish a room – or part of a room – as his personal den. Place bowls for food and water in this area along with newspapers on which he can urinate and defecate. Having an area to himself will make him feel safe, and slowly build his confidence.

Second, after a week has passed, begin acclimating him to a collar and leash. Place both on him for short periods, and let him drag the lead as he roams throughout your home. This will help him become accustomed to the feel, and prepare him for going on walks.

Minimizing Fear And Stress

Because your puppy’s exposure to the outside world was so limited while he was at the mill, he may be easily startled by unfamiliar noises. For example, the sound made by a vacuum cleaner may frighten him. A toaster, television, and blow dryer may also cause him stress. Desensitization training will prove invaluable for helping him become used to hearing these sounds. This type of training takes time and requires patience. But it’s the most effective way to minimize your puppy’s fear and stress of routine noises that occur in your household.

Once your dog begins to feel safe and secure within your home, he’ll explore on his own. He’ll start to peek into other rooms to discover what lies beyond the confines of his personal den. Over time, he’ll gain confidence regarding his place within your life, and look to you as his best friend.

Is Your Dog Bored?

Many of the annoying habits dogs display are due to boredom. Chewing, barking, improper elimination, jumping, and even aggression can be traced to a lack of mental stimulation. This often happens when owners leave their pets home all day by themselves. If dogs have nothing with which to occupy their time, they become bored, and look for alternative ways to entertain themselves. This can lead to a host of behavioral problems.

The key is to prevent your canine from becoming bored in the first place. We’ll offer a few suggestions in this article. The following tips will not only curb your pet’s boredom, but will also make him a more pleasant companion.

Provide Plenty Of Stimulating Toys

Toys give your pet something with which to play while he’s alone. There are many different types of dog toys, and they serve different purposes. For example, chew toys are designed to withstand vigorous chewing, which dogs find stimulating. Other toys offer puzzles for dogs to solve, forcing them to use their minds. Still others combine puzzles with treats; if your pet is able to solve the puzzle, the toy will release a small treat as a reward.

These toys stimulate your dog’s mind. In doing so, they give him something on which to focus his attention, and thus help him stave off boredom.

Teach Him New Commands

When you teach your dog to respond to new commands, you’re engaging his mind. He’s forced to focus and learn something that is new to him. He needs to think ahead to respond quickly and appropriately. Many dogs consider this a welcome challenge, and will strive to respond in the way their owners desire. If you provide your pet’s favorite treats as a reward, he’ll be engaged in multiple ways.

You can also enroll him into professional obedience classes, or specific training courses. Most obedience classes will include activities that work your canine’s body and brain. Training courses can vary from therapy training, dog agility classes, and Search and Rescue (SAR) classes. These, too, stimulate your dog’s mind as well as his body.

Give Him Exercise

One of the best ways to stop your pet’s boredom is to provide him an outlet for exercise each day. A daily 20-minute walk is helpful. Two daily walks is better. The benefit of exercise is that it gives your canine an opportunity to expend the energy that builds within him. It also engages his mind since he’ll be able to enjoy the sights, sounds, and scents of his neighborhood.

Some of us do not always have the time to take our dog for a walk. Sometimes, the weather does not allow us to go out with our dog. In these situations, what can you do? Believe it or not, dog treadmills have become very popular with a lot of dog owners. Treadmills are especially popular with urban pet owners and people with very hectic schedules.

The amount of exercise your dog needs depends largely on his normal activity level. He may be content to sit around the house all day. Or, if he is naturally energetic, he may need more daily activity to keep the boredom away.

Provide Opportunities To Socialize

Owners often forget that dogs enjoy the company of their own kind. Interacting and playing with other digs is both fun and stimulating for them. For this reason, consider meeting other owners to schedule play dates for your respective pets. You can also visit dog parks where your pet can socialize and play with others while you mingle with the other owners.

If you’re away during the day, and unable to provide an outlet for socialization, dog daycare may be a good solution. It works in the same manner as daycare for young kids. You can drop your pooch off on the way to the office, and pick him up on the way home. He’ll have a chance to interact with other canines while you’re at work.

There are plenty of ways you can help your dog keep boredom at bay. The suggestions above will engage his mind, and prevent many of the most common behavioral problems from emerging.

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What To Do When Your Dog Begs For Table Scraps

Like most people, dogs love food. They’re willing to sacrifice their dignity in order to obtain it. If food is not given freely, but instead eaten in front of them, they will beg. Some will do so relentlessly.

A begging dog can be particularly frustrating for his owner. He’ll sit and stare longingly at his owner’s plate, hoping to receive a tasty morsel, regardless of size. Unfortunately, many people acquiesce under the pressure, and give their pets table scraps just to send them away. This is a bad idea for a number of reasons.

Below, we’ll explain the side effects table scraps can have on your canine; you’ll learn the reasons you should avoid providing them. We’ll also describe a few methods you can use to discourage the behavior, so you and your family can eat in peace.

Reasons To Avoid Feeding Your Pet Table Scraps

Commercial brands of dog food are specially formulated with the nutrients your pet needs to stay healthy. The vitamins and minerals contained in these brands are necessary for whatever stage of development your canine is in. Table scraps rarely provide the same level of nutrition. Instead, they usually deliver excess calories, which are likely to cause weight problems for your pet. And that leads to avoidable health issues.

Another reason to avoid giving your dog table scraps is because doing so can lead to digestive problems. Even though your pet will eat anything placed in front of him, his body may be unable to tolerate some types of food.

Also, given a steady diet of people food, your canine may eventually become fussy with his own meals. He’ll essentially acquire a taste for the foods you feed your family. And that’s when his begging will begin to take on a new level of urgency.

Preventing Access To Your Table

This method removes your pet’s opportunity to beg. You can use a couple of different approaches depending on whether you would like your canine to remain in the room in which you’re eating, or to stay out.

If you’d like his company in the room, place a lead and collar on him, and secure him to a nearby chair or other piece of furniture. He should be kept far enough away from the table to minimize the temptation to beg. Consider providing a chew toy to give him something to do while you and your family eat.

You can also bar him from the room, which can be done easily with a pet gate. Confine your dog to a room elsewhere in your home, so he’s unable to watch you eat through the gate. This will prevent him from whining to gain your attention.

Sending Him Elsewhere

This method requires more time and patience since there is training involved. The goal is to give your dog something to do elsewhere in your home without confining him to that particular space. You’ll need to train him to stay in his space while you and your family enjoy meals.

At first, your dog will be tempted to abandon his designated spot, and come looking for table scraps. Over time, however, you can teach him to remain there, thereby preventing him from begging.

This method has the added benefit of being helpful in other circumstances. For example, suppose you’re entertaining guests, and would like to prevent your canine from bothering them. Simply instruct him to go to his designated space while your guests are visiting. As long as he has a few toys to occupy his attention, he’ll be fine.

When your dog begs, he does so because he has an expectation his begging will produce results. This is the reason owners who have given in to their canines in the past find it difficult to curb the behavior. But it’s never too late. Use the methods above to turn your begging pooch into a patient, pleasant companion.

Identifying Different Types Of Canine Aggression

Dog Training ProductsOf all dog behavioral issues, aggression is the one that most frustrates owners. It is very common, though canines display signs for very different reasons. Many owners observe hostile behavior in their pets, but are unaware regarding its trigger. Consequently, they are uncertain about how to respond.

First, it’s important to realize that aggressive behavior is natural to dogs. Though most are domesticated, they remain pack animals, and perceive the world around them accordingly.

Second, in order to properly address hostility in your canine, you must first be able to identify the different types of aggression. Once you can determine the trigger, you’ll be better prepared to “cure” the problem.

With this in mind, we’ll provide a brief overview of the most common reasons dogs become antagonistic. The following descriptions will offer a springboard from which you can remedy the problem.

Protect The Family

As pack animals, canines have traditionally protected those within their group from assailants. If an intruder threatens one member, the others will respond quickly to protect him or her.

In your home, your dog considers you and your family to be members of his “pack.” If he feels you, your family, or other pets under your roof are threatened by a perceived attacker, he will behave aggressively to warn the attacker away. The problem is, many canines become overly-protective, and consider any person outside their “pack” to represent a potential threat.

Protect The Home

Similar to guarding their families, dogs also guard their territories. If an intruder approaches their den, they will respond with hostility to discourage that person or animal from coming closer.

Your canine considers your home to be his den, and will respond aggressively to any person or animal he feels to be a threat. Here, too, he may become overly-protective of his home. If he does, he will treat everybody aggressively, even those you consider friends. Interestingly, this type of aggression is very rare in puppies since they have not yet learned to protect their “dens.”

Stemming From Fear

Canines react to elements that frighten them in the same way as humans: they retreat. However, if retreat is not an option, they will fight. In the wild, if a pair of wolves approach a dog, the dog will initially seek a path that provides him an escape route. If, however, such a path is unavailable, he will turn to face the wolves, despite his fear.

Fear aggression is dangerous. If a person unwittingly corners a canine, that person risks being bitten. Thus, always provide an unfamiliar dog a route through which he can escape.

Guard Possessions

Dogs are hard-wired to protect their possessions. While this trait stems from the need to fight for food outside the human-canine relationship, it has carried over to today’s pets. For example, when a person or animal approaches a dog’s food bowl, he may bare his teeth and growl to communicate his ownership.

Within your home, your canine may express possessive behavior over his food, toys, and even the area in which he likes to rest. This may become a problem if visitors – either people or animals – stumble upon your pet’s possessions without realizing they have done so.

Hierarchical Order

Dogs have always functioned within groups according to their understanding of their pack’s hierarchy. As long as they know – and accept – those ranked above and below them, there is minimal conflict. Conflict arises when there is a bid for authority within the group.

This latter problem occasionally happens between canines and their owners, families, and other pets. The dog will compete for authority, and act aggressively when others confront him.

Canine aggression can only be addressed successfully after the behavior’s trigger has been identified. If you’re having difficulty doing so, consider working with your veterinarian or a professional trainer.

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