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It’s Getting Hot in Here!

Texans love to say that we have three seasons: winter, early summer, summer, and late summer. This year, we didn’t have much of a winter, and our spring (early summer) temperatures were the highest in recent history. What does that mean for our upcoming summer? Since we can’t trust The Weather Channel to accurately tell us what will happen an hour from now, the best we can do is assume it’ll be hot, hot, hot! 

As pet parents, we need to pay close attention to what the Texas sun does to our pets. Some pets can handle the heat better than others, but none are particularly happy about our constantly rising temperatures. Here are a few tips to get you started in the right direction:

1. Walk when it’s cool. Yes, I know that sounds ridiculous, but “cool” is relative. I don’t walk my own dogs between 10am-6pm in the summer months. Early morning and late evening walks are best. Two of my dogs are bracyphallic breeds (Boston terriers, pugs, boxers, bulldogs), which means they have short noses. It makes it harder for them to breed, especially in the heat. I pay special attention to them and am sure to walk when it isn’t hot.

2. Place your hand on the pavement for 30 seconds. If you can’t hold your hand there for half a minute, then your pup certainly can’t be expected to walk for 30 minutes. Remember, the heat can burn their paw pads. It often takes till after 8pm for the street to fully cool in July and August.

3. NEVER, EVER LEAVE YOUR DOG OR CAT IN THE CAR! When the outside temperature is 85F (a dream for us May-September), the inside of your car, even with the windows open, will reach 120F within minutes. Dogs die yearly because a pet parent thought they were just stopping into the store for a few minutes. Running into CVS? That’s never a quick trip with those lines and slow cashiers. Take your dog home and come back. Yes, it takes extra time, but it also saves his life.

4. Have fresh water for your dog with you all the time. I have bowls outside, inside, and water bottles on our walks. I clean indoor bowls 3-5 times a week and outdoor bowls daily. 

5. Buy them a pool. Seriously! My pups aren’t swimmers, but they love a fun way to cool off after a walk. They have a blue plastic baby pool ($10 at Academy), and all 4 of them find different uses for it. Buckley plays and splashes around in it. Oliver climbs in to rescue tennis balls from what he believes will be their certain demise. Lily and Daisy treat as a giant water bowl. No matter what the use, all four get to cool of their bellies. 

6. Dogs don’t sweat. They pant. Try cooling them off by spraying their bellies, which helps much faster than spraying their backs. I also have “cooling bandanas.” You soak the bandana for 15-20 minutes, and it expands. They then wear them on our walks to keep cool. You can also pack a washcloth with you on a walk and soak it after or during your walk. Wipe their bellies with the cool washcloth, and you’ll have a happy pup.

7. ICE! After playing in the yard or exercising, give them ice as a treat. It helps them from drinking too much too quickly, cools them off, and it’s a zero calorie treat.

8. Puppy ice cream. The store bought kind is full of all sorts of preservatives and things that don’t need to be in your dog’s body. Try the homemade version: 2 cups plain yogurt mixed with 1/2 cup peanut butter. Pour the batter into paper cups (bathroom kind), and then place the cups in the freezer. You’ll have puppy ice cream in no time!

These are just a few of the many ways to keep your dogs happy, safe, and healthy this summer. Stay tuned to the blog and Ollie and Friends’ facebook page for more tips.

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Go, Go, Gadget Arm!

The most common behavioral problem my pet sitting clients list on their forms is leash pulling. It’s also biggest window into how often, and long, a dog is walked.

Many trainers and pet sitters hear “I would walk him more often, but he pulls me down the street.” Instead of working on the pulling issue, pet parents often resort to purchasing products that advertise fixing the problem, or worse, they completely stop walking their dog. They may leash their dog to go potty or from the car to the dog park, but their dogs no longer get the benefits from a walk or run with their parent.

There is a way to improve how much and how hard your dog pulls. The first thing you should do is gather any pinch collars or choke collars and toss them in the trash. The point of those is for your dog to feel a pinch in his throat every time he pulls. Most dogs develop a tolerance to the pain and keep pulling, and the long term effects on the inside of their throat will make your stomach turn. If you do feel you need a tool to aid you, get a Gentle Leader. The key is to remember it’s a tool. Use it for a week or so while you follow the tips I’ll provide later in this post. As your dog improves and you gain confidence, wean off the Gentle Leader. Eventually you won’t need it unless you try walking your dog in a new park with lots of pups around and want the extra help. Again, remember it’s a tool and not magic.

Before you leave on a walk, take a deep breath, and do your dog (and yourself) a favor: keep your phone in your pocket. The more your focus is on your dog, the walk, and the environment around you, the better off you are. If you are distracted or tense, that will be communicated to your dog through the leash*. Now, let’s walk!

The following are different exercises I do when a dog, whether my own or a client’s, pulls:

1. My dogs rarely pull anymore, but if they miss a day of walking, which only happens because of rain, then the next walk starts off a little nuts. To regroup, I call them to me by saying “Puppies, watch!” They all ignore what has their attention and sit at my feet, watching their mom. 8 eyes are on me, and they each get a tiny training treat. I do this as many times as we need for them to get back in their normal walk routine. It typically only takes one or two regroup sessions for them to calm down and walk on a loose leash.

2. Stop walking: If you plant your feet in the ground, your dog may continue to pull and even make choking noises. He’s fine, but the second he loosens up, take a few steps and praise him. Repeat when he pulls again, even if you only took two steps. You could do this once or for 10 minutes straight, it depends on how stubborn your pup is. He will soon learn that not pulling means walking forward comfortably.

3. 90 Degree Turn: If your dog pulls in a certain direction, such as when you leave the house and he immediately heads to the right, then make a 90 degree turn. He will have to follow you. If he pulls again, turn. It doesn’t matter if you end up walking in a square for a bit.The point is, you, the pack leader, chose the direction and your pup followed you.

4. Double the Training: Take advantage of the no-pulling training session to review other basic obedience commands. For example: Stop walking the second your dog pulls, and happily say “Charlie, come!” When he trots back to you, praise him. You can work on come, sit, and sit stay.

The above four tips are not the only solutions to end leash pulling, but they are certainly my favorites. Many trainers want your dog to walk next to you, on the left, on a loose leash. Others say your dog should be at your side or behind you. I don’t agree. Sure, if you are doing obedience trials, then you need to follow those rules. But what I want for you is to enjoy walking your dog. He wants you to take him on walks, and you will do it more often and for longer periods of time if you enjoy it.

My hope is that you can walk your dog on a loose leash, even if he’s a few feet ahead of you. I just want you and your dog to get all the benefits from a good walk. For your pup, it is a mental and physical experience. For you, it’s exercise, time outdoors, and getting to know your pup. If your dog sees a squirrel or another dog and lunges, just call him back to you. Be consistent with your training, especially if multiple people in your house walk the dog.

Happy walking!

*Be sure to work with your dog on a 4-6 foot leash, not a retractable leash. You need as much control of your pup as possible.

Hello, Houston Pet Parents!

Thank you for checking out The 4-Legged Houstonian! Please dog ear…er…bookmark, subscribe and follow posts that will cover topics ranging from dog park reviews to dog friendly restaurants to great places to walk your dogs.

Join my dogs and I on a journey exploring what the great city of Houston has to offer us!

~Jessica, Oliver, Buckley, Daisy, and Lily

 

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