The mission of Cincinnati Dog Pages is to "help dogs by helping their owners". We offer resources and information so that dogs can stay in their homes longer and live happy lives. I thought that this month we would explore the main reasons that people give up their pets, and offer some alternatives. Obviously, there are times when the only option is to find the pet a different home, but below are some options we encourage you to explore first before making that decision.
According to the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy , here is a list of the top ten reasons why dogs end up in shelters.
1. Moving - Dogs can handle change, especially if their owners make the change fun. But leaving your pet behind at a shelter, alone, scared and confused, is much more traumatic than riding two days in a car with their friend to a new home. Check PetsWelcome.com , MoversDirectory.com or the GoodCall guide for some great tips and guidelines if you are planning a move with your pets.
2. Landlord issues - Renting means getting approval from the landlord to have a pet. Most apartments have pet policies. There are many that are pet friendly. Check our Pet Friendly Apartments page for some in your area. It's better to find the right home than to lie about your pet and face problems down the road. And yes, most dogs can adjust fine to apartment living, with adequate exercise and training.
3. Cost of pet maintenance - Unfortunately, many people don't take the time to budget for a pet before acquiring one, and that can lead to trouble. Proper care is more than just providing food. The average annual cost of caring for a dog can run anywhere from $500-$1000 or more. Factor in the cost of veterinary care, supplies, toys, bedding, training, etc. Plan ahead and ask yourself if you can truly afford a pet at this time. If you find yourself in a financial crunch, there are resources for help. Check our Financial Assistance page for ideas, there are even organizations that can help with major medical expenses. There is a local pet food pantry that can help. Consider pet insurance, the small monthly payment can be a lifesaver in times of large unexpected veterinary expenses, and many policies are customizable to match your budget..
4. No time for pet - These days it seems we all lead busy lives.. Unfortunately, the family pet usually ends up at the bottom of the priority list. But you'd be surprised just how easy it is to work a little time into your schedule for your pet. Ten minutes of quality time here and there can go a long way. Read this article for some great ideas on how to maximize your time and satisfy your pet's needs. You can also utilize a dog walker, pet sitter, or doggie daycare center. Or if you have a friend or neighbor who has a dog, take turns helping each other out, maybe they can dog-sit for you a few days a week. Incorporate your pet into your daily activities whenever possible, talk to him while doing laundry, let him accompany you to the mailbox, etc. Be creative and you'll find lots of time-saving ideas.
5. Inadequate facilities - Many people mistakenly think that they must have a big, fenced in yard for their dog to run around, get exercise and be happy. The truth is, most dogs will not exercise themselves, even in a big yard, and instead spend their time laying around sleeping in the yard. Regular walks, play time or other forms of exercise are just as beneficial, even if you live in a small home or apartment. You can train your dog to use a treadmill to burn off energy. Take her to a local dog park a few times a week, take her for daily walks, get involved in dog sports or activities or go to the local (fenced) park or school yard and toss a ball or frisbee. A large yard is not necessarily the solution for your dog's needs.
6. Too many pets in home - This is usually the result of one or two things... 1) poor planning ahead of time. Once again, before acquiring a new pet ask yourself if you can realistically take on the additional responsibility and expense. This includes puppy gift-giving as well as rescuing and/or fostering additional pets. 2) Pets that are not neutered or spayed. Check our Spay/Neuter page for low cost options.
7. Pet illness(es) - As mentioned before, pet insurance can be a wonderful option for protection against large, unexpected pet health costs. Most do not pay for routine care, but if your pet is facing a high-cost illness or injury, the insurance will reimburse up to 90% of the cost. It is peace of mind so that you don't have to make that heart wrenching decision to relinquish of euthanize your pet due to finances. Do your homework and research to find the best company to fit your needs. And again, there are organizations available to help with special medical needs for your pets, many are listed on our Financial Assistance page. The best protection though, is quality care starting at an early age. Always feed a quality dog food, keep up to date on vaccinations and health exams and you are less likely to face serious illnesses as your pet ages.
8. Personal Problems - Divorce, job loss, and foreclosure on the home are a few reasons people are forced to give up their pets. Many of the above tips may apply here, such as financial assistance. Consider having a friend or family member temporarily care for your pet for a few weeks or months until you are on your feet again.
9. Biting - Behavioral problems are often a result of the pet feeling frustrated or unhappy in his environment. Be sure to provide the basic needs to keep your pet from becoming bored, restless or frustrated. Seek out the help of a qualified professional trainer to solve behavioral issues. Starting early in life with the proper care, socialization and training can often prevent most behavioral problems later on.
10. No homes for littermates - Many people refuse to spay or neuter their dogs and the result is a few litters a year. While the pet owner may be able to find a home for one or two of the puppies, more often than not, the remaining littermates end up at the animal shelter. Check our Spay/Neuter page for low cost options and please spay and neuter all of your pets.
The website pets.911 has some more great tips and suggestions if you are thinking of giving up your pet.
If, after exhausting all other options, you must relinquish your pet, consider contacting a friend or family member first, as it would be someone the pet knows and you could still visit. Try the many no-kill shelters or breed-specific rescues in the area before just taking your beloved pet to the local humane society.
Sources: petpopulation.org; examiner.com; dogs.about.com; wonderpuppy.net; pets911.com; petpundit.com;petswelcome.com; moversdirectory.com
Original article by Marybeth Bittel, Tails Magazine
When I was a young music student growing up in Chicago’s western suburbs, my family adopted an Airedale puppy we named Beethoven. I picked Beethoven out at the shelter because all the other puppies rushed forward to greet me, while he hid shyly in the corner. Most trainers agree that’s not necessarily the ideal benchmark for selecting a furry friend, but we got lucky. Beethoven matured into an outgoing, even-tempered, fun, and affectionate family member who sternly guarded our front yard one minute, and romped through our sprinkler the next.
But then came the Fourth of July. Fireworks went off at random intervals around the clock. We discovered that when it came to loud noises and ear-popping explosions, Beethoven was absolutely terrified.
At first we wondered how this could have happened. After all, we’d never left our beloved boy outside while pyrotechnics peppered the sky. He hadn’t been exposed to extreme noises as a puppy. In all likelihood, Beethoven’s fireworks aversion, like so many pet fears and phobias, was just one of those things that took hold when his sensitive hearing encountered a sudden trigger he could neither see nor anticipate.
So we did what numerous pet parents do when their cherished companion is struggling: we cuddled him, coddled him, and cooed comforting words of reassurance. We also sat, feeling helpless, watching him cower and hide as the problem held steady each year. In fact, through all the years of Beethoven’s life, he never overcame this disabling sense of distress, no matter how soothing or supportive we attempted to make his surrounding environment.
When my husband and I began working with abused rescue dogs, we noticed that most arrived with an array of deep-rooted anxieties acquired over time. One Bichon was terrified of rotary fans. A Shih Tzu mix became a jittery mess during thunderstorms. A sweet and docile Foxhound routinely hid from houseplants. These fears ran the gamut, but they had one thing in common: They were exceedingly real to the dog, and they had a great impacts on the entire family.
We began working with local animal behaviorists, and that’s when we learned an invaluable truth: The way we, as caregivers, react to our pet’s anxieties can actually perpetuate the patterns.
Why would this be? As Abe Mashal, owner of Marine Corps Dog Training in St. Charles, explains, “Dogs form extremely solid bonds with their humans. That means most canines are highly attuned to any type of interaction with their human ‘pack’ members.” So when something a dog is doing earns our attention—whether that attention takes the form of praise, pampering, or peevish irritation— the behavior is often unintentionally reinforced.
“Reinforcement,” a common term in the world of animal behavioral training, is really just another word for strengthening. In reality, a reinforcer can be anything that strengthens a behavior.
So for those of you thinking, “I never reinforce my dog’s non-stop barking! I scold her on the spot,” see if these examples sound familiar:
“Every interaction with your dog has the potential to teach and reinforce, merely because you’re paying attention,” explains Sara Swan, owner of Narnia Pet Behavior & Training in Plainfield. How can you tell if this is happening? Simply observe over time. Dogs continue to engage in behaviors that provide some sort of payoff. If you’re dealing with a fear or anxiety response that’s ongoing—such as Beethoven’s abhorrence of fireworks—some kind of inducement is likely contributing to the pattern. In Beethoven’s case, his reactions earned him almost round-the-clock nurturing.
Fortunately, we as dog parents can leverage these same dynamics when it comes to re-programming undesirable behaviors. Let’s say your 80-pound “lap dog” excitedly jumps on you whenever you come home from work. When you withhold the coveted attention—immediately going back out the door, or turning your back on him—many pups gradually begin to seek out a different behavior.
The same thing can work with a fear response. If your pet is terrified of your Swiffer mop, for example, try propping it against the family room couch and just leaving it there. Then, simply act like it’s no big deal and go about your daily routine, even if your pup exhibits an unsettled reaction. Very gradually, over time, as your furry friend begins to approach the mop with quiet but tentative curiosity, reward that calm behavior with brief praise or a small treat. Keep it up, and eventually your dog can learn that “mop = calm = good.”
Helping your dog manage his stress is one of the keys to having a happy and healthy pet. If your animal companion has specific challenges beyond what you’re comfortable handling, always reach out to a certified animal behaviorist who can help you develop targeted interventional techniques that will work on your pet’s unique needs. It will not only help with unwanted behaviors, but strengthen your bond, as well.
Safe, Drug Free Ways To Soothe Your Pet’s Stress
The Thundershirt. The ThunderShirt leverages the age-old principle of swaddling an infant to promote calming reassurance. Simply fasten this snug, stretchy shirt around your pet’s ribcage. During anxious episodes of panting or hyperventilation, it provides ongoing sensory feedback that suppresses this common panic response. ( Thundershirt.com )
Music or ASMR. As a musician, I can attest firsthand that deep, resonant tones often work wonders on a nervous pup. You can also try leveraging something called ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response), which is promoted by many hypnotists and human sleep therapists. ASMR is a subjective, perceptual phenomenon characterized by a distinct calming or scalp- tingling sensation in response to quiet, seemingly mundane sound triggers. Certain pets appear especially receptive, and may even be lulled to sleep. To gauge effectiveness, try playing low, calming music or ASMR audio with your dog in the room. Use a meditation CD, or visit YouTube to access ASMR recordings by reputable “ASMRtists” such as The Waterwhispers.
Calming Sprays. Help create a relaxing environment for your pet by using a calming spray on their bedding or by plugging in a calming spray diffuser. Many cats and dogs experience reduced anxiety and stress after being exposed to these non- sedating sprays, which use soothing scents such as lemongrass, cinnamon, and lavender to encourage relaxation.
Original article by Virginia Simpson, Unleashed Canine Obedience
“You’ve got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between”
“Ac-cent-tchu-ate the Positive” - Johnny Mercer
If you are interested in training your dog, you will quickly find that your pup will more than likely respond and learn more quickly through praise for good behavior versus punishment for inappropriate behavior. Seems obvious, but it all starts with how we think about behavior. When people come to me for training advice, they usually start out telling me what they don’t want their dog to do. “I don’t want my dog to jump on people, bark at the mailman, run away, pull on the leash, poo or pee on the floor, etc.” In other words, the definition of a good dog is - not a bad dog.
What I try to do is get people thinking about what they do want their dog to do instead of what they don’t want their dog to do. What does a good dog look like in their mind. For example, “I want my dog to sit on a place mat when people first come over until they are in enough control of themselves to politely say hello.” “A good dog goes to the bathroom outside in the back yard and tells me when they have to go.”
It is easier (and WAY more fun!) to train a dog when you are focusing your attention on what you want your dog to do instead of what you don’t want them to do. This will help you come up with alternatives to “bad” behavior. You can’t just say no all the time; no fun for you, no fun for your dog! You have to redirect and teach appropriate behavior. And it all starts with a positive outlook!
So, make a list of all the things you don’t want your pup to do and then write down the opposite of that. What would you like your dog to do instead? Feel free to contact me if you would like any help!
Virginia L. Simpson
Certified Dog Trainer
Unleashed Canine Obedience, LLC
IACP Member #3141
Original article by Tails Magazine
It’s a terrifying feeling to lose your pet, and an experience that no pet parent ever expects to go through. According to the ASPCA, nearly one in five pets goes missing in the summertime due to triggers like fireworks, thunderstorms, and loud noises. Fortunately, 93% of missing dogs and 75% of missing cats are eventually returned to their homes.
The first step to keeping your pet safe and at home is prevention––make sure your pet is microchipped, that his tags are up to date with your current information, and keep him crated while you’re out if you’re concerned about escaping. If your pet does get loose, these tips from Paul Mann, the founder and CEO of Fetch! Pet Care provide helpful advice for bringing him home safely and quickly:
Original article by Jordan Walker, Tails Magazine
Approximately 10% of dogs suffer from separation anxiety, and if your dog is one of them, you know the stress it can cause on both of you. Disruptive and destructive behaviors are typical of separation anxiety, and are signs of a dog in distress. Read on and find out the causes of separation anxiety and some ideas for dealing with it.
So how come canine pals are bound to suffer from it in the first place? This question is still considered a puzzle to experts. However, there are suggested theories as to why it occurs:
1. Shaky background. Dogs acquired from shelters sometimes had tough beginnings. Neglect or abuse from previous caregivers could be at the root of anxious behaviors. Sometimes just the act of being left at a shelter is enough to spur separation anxiety.
2. Lack of conditioning. When left alone, some dogs are able to make themselves comfortable with their own toys. However, others have been conditioned to rely too much on their caregivers for entertainment and struggle to keep occupied when alone.
3. Unexpected changes. Establishing routines for dogs is very important as it helps foster feelings of comfort. When things suddenly take a different turn (such as with a new work schedule), your dog may act out in response.
What You Can Do
The good thing about separation anxiety in dogs is there are ways to treat it. Consider the tips below for helping your dog get over his separation blues:
1. Let him warm up to being alone. Don’t shock your dog into leaving the house for extended periods. What you can do instead is to gradually get him used to the idea of being left alone. Start at five minutes, extending it to twenty minutes and then increasing it every time you notice he has gotten comfortable with the previous allotted time.
2. Make leaving not a big deal. Touching, eye contact, and talking to your dog before leaving the house and when you arrive could make separation anxiety worse. Make it a rule to leave the house without fanfare. This way, your dog will get the message that your leaving the house is not that big of a deal.
3. Be confident yourself. You are your dog’s pack leader. If he senses you are not confident about him being okay when left alone, he will be inclined to act the part. Stay calm and confident and you have a better chance of your dog following suit.
4. Get his energy out first. Try to walk your dog before leaving him alone. Burning his excess energy will put him in a resting mode, making him calmer for the rest of the day.
If your dog is acting particularly unusual or out of character, a visit to the vet is probably in order. Some of the signs of separation anxiety––such as urinating or defecating inside––can have medical causes and should be treated immediately.
Most importantly, remember that anxious behaviors are a sign of an underlying issue, and punishment is not a helpful tool for fixing the problem––in fact, scolding or punishing will probably just make the issue worse. Instead, be your pet’s best friend and stay calm and consistent. He’ll thank you for it.
Jordan Walker is the lead content curator for Coops And Cages as well as a couple of other pet related blogs. His passion for animals is only matched by his love for ‘attempting’ to play the guitar. If you would like to catch him, you can via Google+ or Twitter: @CoopsAndCages