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What is Canine Enrichment

Canine Enrichment – What is it and why does my dog need it?

Imagine being stuck in a house with no TV, no internet, no games, and no books for hours at a time. All you had was yourself and a few windows to look out. Sound pretty boring, right? For many dogs, this is how they spend the majority of their days. Most dog owners understand the importance of physical health in dogs, but neglect their mental health. A walk outside once a day is great for improving a dog’s physical health, but dogs need to work their brain muscle too! Thankfully, we are living in a golden age for stimulating your dog’s amazing mind thanks to canine enrichment products and programs. Canine enrichment is a thriving branch of dog health devoted to keeping your pup mentally happy and healthy!

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It’s National Pet ID Week!

1 in 3 pets will go missing…proper pet ID helps them get home faster!

One of the biggest fears for pet owners is for their beloved furry family member to go missing. Unfortunately, it’s a much more likely occurrence than some owners realize. In America, it’s estimated that 1 in 3 pets will get lost at some point in their lives. Even more frightening, only 2% of lost cats and 20% of lost dogs get returned to their families. The ones that do get home, are usually the ones with up-to-date identification. That’s why National Pet ID Week was started: to educate and inform pet owners on the importance of proper pet ID. Without ID, it is incredibly difficult to get a missing pet back to their homes. Here’s what proper pet ID looks like so you can protect your pet!

Visible Identification

The first and most common step in ID’ing your pet is visible identification. The most used form of visible identification is a collar with tags. ID tags are inexpensive and just putting one form of contact, like your phone number, greatly increases your pet’s chances of making it home. You can get personalized ID tags from most pet stores.

Your pet’s collar with tags should be on at all times, even when just at home. You never know when an accident or disaster can occur. If your dog has a collar with tag on, it also makes strangers more likely to approach them if they have escaped from home. A dog without visible ID might just look like a stray and make potential rescuers wary. By putting their tags on all the time, you will have some peace of mind.

Microchipping

Although putting a microchip in your dog or cat sounds scary, it is actually a relatively quick and painless experience. A lot of responsible owners microchip their new puppy or kitten at the time as their neutering. Microchips are a good supplement to visible ID because you can put more contact information in them. Some owners are hesitant to put a lot of contact information on a visible dog tag for privacy reasons. A microchip can hold much more information without putting it on view to the whole world. If for some reason your dog or cats collar falls off while missing, a shelter or vet can still scan them and find out where they belong.

Keep them accurate!

Even if you fully ID and microchip your pet, none of it matters if you don’t keep the information accurate. Most microchip companies require you to register the microchip with them once it’s implanted. Make sure to contact them to register it as soon as the chip is implanted. It also doesn’t hurt to have the chips periodically scanned to ensure they are still working. You can get this done at your pet’s routine vet appointments. ID tags should also be updated every time contact information changes.

Spend some time this week making sure your pet is properly ID’d! Update any inaccurate information and contact your vet to set up a microchipping appointment! You never know when or where your pet can go missing…give them a fighting chance at making it home to you!

Top Five Reasons Why Cats Reject their Litter Box

There’s many things your cat could be telling you be rejecting their litter box…Here’s the top five!

Cats are very particular and fastidious animals. If they are unhappy or don’t like something…they will let you know! Nowhere is this more apparent than with their litter box. This particularity with their bathroom habits is one of the most common sources of frustration between cats and their owners. Statistically, 10% of cats develop an elimination problem. The reason for developing such a problem can range from behavioral, environmental, or medical reasons. To help our cat owners who may be struggling with this, we’ve narrowed these reasons down to the top five.

Medical Issue

The first place to start when it comes to solving an elimination issue is by going to your vet. The vet can rule out if there is any medical reason for your cat to be rejecting their litter box. Common medical conditions that can cause inappropriate elimination include:

  • Urinary tract infection (UTI): If your cat frequently enters their litter box but produces small amounts of urine, they may have a UTI.
  • Feline interstitial cystitis: Feline interstitial cystitis is a complex disease that causes inflammation of the bladder. It can cause a cat to eliminate outside the litter box because of the urgency to urinate.
  • Bladder stones or blockage: If your cat has bladder stones or a blockage, they may frequently enter her litter box. They may experience pain and meow/cry when trying to urinate.

If you see your vet and there is no medical reason for rejecting their litter box, you can start looking into the environmental or behavioral reasons.

Dirty Litter Box

One of the main environmental reasons for a cat to reject their box is because it’s dirty. Cats are naturally very hygienic creatures. A clean litter box is very important for healthy elimination habits. Their sense of smell is much stronger than ours. A litter box that is only mildly smelly to us is probably much stinkier to your kitty.

Ideally, each litter box in your home should be scooped 1-2 times a day. If you are using regular non-clumping clay litter, their box should be completely emptied and refilled once a week. If you are using clumping litter, you can empty and refill every 2 or so weeks. Their boxes should be scrubbed with warm, soapy water each time you empty them.

Litter Box Placement

Some cat owners might be surprised to find that litter box placement is vital for appropriate elimination. Most cats find it offensive to have their food/water close to their litter box. Try to put their litter box in a room or two away from where they eat. If you have an older kitty, putting the litter box way down in the basement might be too much hassle for them to get there. Cats also might avoid using their box if they have to pass a scary stressor on the way there, like a washer or dryer.

Litter Changes

Cats can reject their litter box after a sudden change in type of litter. If you’ve made a sudden change in litter and your cat refuses to use it, switch back to the old one. Cats are individuals after all. A litter that one cat likes, may not be another cats cup of tea. If you have to switch litters for some reason, let your cat help you pick it out. Buy small bags of multiple types of litter. Set out several boxes filled with the different types. Your cat will tell you which one it prefers by using that box more. You can also make the change easier for your kitty by gradually switching litters. Add a little bit of the new litter to the old one to begin with. Over time, gradually add more and more until it’s all new litter.

Overcrowding/Territorial issues

Litter box rejection is also a common issue in multi-cat houses. Dominant cats sometimes use their feces/urine to mark their territory by leaving it uncovered.. A non-dominant cat may start to be reluctant to use a litter box if they come across this. A helpful way to prevent this and overcrowding issues is to have enough litter boxes. Cats need a space to be able to call their own. A good rule of thumb is 1.5 litter boxes per cat. That means a two cat household should have a total of three litter boxes throughout the house.

Although these are some of the top reasons a cat rejects their litter box, there are a number of other reasons for it. Talk with your vet to help narrow down the cause. It is also important to solve litter box issues as soon as possible. Cat can start to develop a surface preference to where they eliminate. That preference could be your favorite rug. With some careful observation and knowledge, solving it can be quick and simple.

 

Has your cat rejected their litter box? What did you do to fix it? Let us know in the comments!

Dog Behavior Series: Play Bow vs Prey Bow

Play or Prey? A dog’s bow says a lot about what they’re thinking about.

 

All dogs have an internal balance between instinctual prey-seeking behaviors and playful domesticated behaviors. As they switch between these “modes” their body language will often change. One of the more apparent instances of this is seen in their bows. Dogs have specific bow for play time and a specific bow for when they’re stalking prey. We’ll refer to these respectively as a play bow and a prey bow. Knowing the difference between these two will help you to be more understanding of what your dog is thinking at any given time.

Play Bow

Play bows are characterized by the dogs elbows touching the ground, often followed by a long pause. The University of Michigan actually completed a scientific study on the purpose of play bows. Since bowing behavior can be nuanced and flexible in their purpose, the researchers wanted to narrow down what they could mean. Here’s what they found:

  • Their first finding was that play bows between two dogs lead to increase in active play behavior. This supported their hypothesis that a play bow functioned to initiate play after a pause
  • Secondly, they found that behaviors prior to and immediately following play bows tended to be similar within pairs, suggesting that play bows also help play partners to synchronize behavior.

The takeaway of this study shows that play bowing is not a random event during play. Rather it is a specific message between dogs. The message appeared to communicating that upcoming behaviors are purely playful and not aggressive or threatening.

Prey Bow

Prey bows differ from play bows in stance and duration. A prey bow is typically characterized by the dog’s elbows remaining off the ground and is not followed by a pause. Despite its name, this bow doesn’t necessarily mean your dog is about to try and kill something. It can be used during play time when play gets a little rougher, but not necessarily aggressive. Instead of the play bow that says “I’m ready to play. Are you okay with that?”…the prey bow says “I’m coming to get you!”. A dog may prey bow after spotting a squirrel or even a tennis ball in the grass.

During group play time between dogs, it’s important to keep tabs on your dog’s body language. If play bows start turning into prey bows, you might want to consider lowering the energy. Playtime can turn aggressive if tensions continue to grow.

 

Have you noticed any of these behaviors in your dog? Let us know in the comments!

 

April Pet Holidays!

These April observances will help keep your precious pets safe and healthy

April isn’t just for celebrating Easter…we’re honoring a few other observances this month! April is all about keeping your dog or cat healthy and disease free. Organizations nationwide will be working with pet owners and pet lovers to raise awareness on three issues: heartworm prevention, pet first-aid, and Lyme disease prevention. Here’s a brief summary of the these three separate observances.

National Heartworm Awareness Month

Heartworm disease is caused by foot-long worms that can live in the heart, lung, and other blood vessels of dogs and cats. These worms are transmitted by mosquitoes through their bites. The worms enter a pet’s system as undeveloped larvae and then mature over 6-7 months. Once fully mature, these worms wreak havoc on a pet’s physiological systems and can be be fatal.

The early signs of heartworm disease include: cough, fatigue, decreased appetite, and weight loss. If left undetected and untreated, heartworms can cause heart failure and fluid build-up in the abdomen. Due to their fatal nature once transmitted, the best way to protect your pets from heartworms is prevention.

At your pet’s next vet appointment, make sure that your dog or cat is is getting all the necessary heartworm prevention medication they need. For more information on this topic, visit the website for the American Heartworm Society.

National Pet First-Aid Awareness Month

Most people probably know general first-aid for humans, but many may not know first-aid for their pets. Since our pets are members of our family, it only makes sense to have a basic understanding of when and how to use first-aid for your pet. Use the month of April to brush up on what you already know, or make a commitment to learn pet first-aid. You never know when an emergency could happen.

The American Red Cross hosts classes nationwide to teach and certify owners and pet professionals on pet first-aid. They also have a mobile app for download to give you first-aid tips at your fingertips. For more information on pet-first aid, check out the American Red Cross website.

Prevent Lyme Disease in Dogs Month

The Lyme Disease Foundation has designated April as a month for increasing awareness about Lyme Disease in dogs. Spread by ticks, Lyme disease causes many serious health problems in humans and dogs alike. Dog owners should be especially aware of the risk of tick-borne illness since dogs spend so much time running outdoors. They are easily spread by running through plants, foliage, and tall grasses.

Ticks emerge in spring and remain active throughout the summer. They also go through bursts of activity during the fall. If a tick latches onto your dog, it’s important to remove it as quickly as possible. Lyme Disease can be transmitted within 24 hours of the tick bite. Your vet can give you many pharmaceutical options for tick prevention and how to handle a tick bite. You can also learn more about signs, symptoms, and treatment of Lyme Disease at the American Lyme Disease Foundation website.

Today is “Take a Walk in the Park” Day!!

 

Get out your walking shoes and a leash . . .

today is Take a Walk in the Park Day!

 

 

Going to the park with your favorite dog is a great way to exercise while building a strong and happy relationship. Dog parks offer plenty opportunities for puppy socialization, obedience training, and simply bonding with your pup. 

Now, go enjoy some quality time with your dog and nature! Here are some local dog parks.

Canton Dog ParkNorthville Dog ParksNovi Dog ParkFarmington Hills Dog Park

 

What are your favorite local parks? Let us know in the comments below…

 

Behavior Series: Hackles Up

A dog’s raised hackles are an involuntary reaction to intense feeling

As we’ve been learning over the past few weeks with our Dog Behavior Series, dogs use every part of their body to communicate. From the tip of their tongue to the tip of their tail, dogs use body language to express a wide variety of emotions. They even use their hair to communicate! All dogs have a line of hair running down their back that raises or lowers in response to certain outside stimuli. Many call these hairs a dog’s hackles. When a dog raises their hackles, their owner might immediately think that the dog is being aggressive. However, raised hackles doesn’t always mean aggression. It can indicate a variety of feelings, including aggression, depending on the circumstance. By learning more about this biological phenomenon, owners can better discern what their dog is trying to tell them.

The biology of “hackles”

The scientific term for raised hackles is “piloerection”. Certain hairs located along the spine of a dog from their neck to the base of their tail are connected to small muscles called arrector pili”. These muscles contract under certain circumstances causing the hair shaft to move, making your dog’s hair stand up and puff out. This contraction of tiny muscles is an involuntary biological phenomenon to outside stimuli. Raised hackles is very similar to humans getting goosebumps during a good song or emotional moment. The phenomenon responds to the sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system creates the fight or flight response. These responses are involuntary and activated by adrenaline and higher stress situations. Dogs have no control over whether their hackles raise or not.

What is the purpose of “hackles”

In terms of evolution, “hackling” is way to increase chances of survival. By raising their hairs, a dog can look much bigger than it actually is. In the wild, if a dog ran across an unfamiliar dog or animal, the adrenaline from the encounter would raise the hair and make them look more intimidating. The hope would be that the other animal would back off and not start a fight.

In the world of domestic dogs, raised hackles can be the result of feelings such as fear, arousal, surprise, insecurity, excitement, nervousness, or defensive behaviors. The meaning behind their raising is all dependent on the context of the situation. Younger dogs who are still unsure of their surroundings and unsure of how to react may raise their hackles. In general, piloerection is just an involuntary reaction to an intense feeling. Stiffness in the body or tail can help you deduce what the specific feeling is. Is your dog very stiff and alert with hackles raised? In this case your dog may be feeling nervous or threatened. If your dog is more relaxed and playful with hackles raised, it could be that they are just feeling very excited!

Because of the involuntary nature of piloerection, it’s important as owners to assess the situation when it happens. Overstimulation and high adrenaline can lead to more aggressive behaviors and should be avoided. If your dog’s hackles are raised, consider modifying their environment to lower the amount of stress.

 

Dog Behavior Series – Calming Signals

Calming Signals – “The Art of Survival”

In today’s world, domesticated dogs aren’t living in packs. A typical household might only have one or two dogs. Despite their more solitary lives, they still resort to pack behaviors to communicate. Millennia of evolution have ingrained these behaviors and instincts into their DNA. Unfortunately, humans don’t use these behaviors to communicate. Because dogs can’t speak like us, it’s our duty to at least try to understand their body languages.

Among these pack behaviors used by dogs are calming signals. Turid Rugaas, a Norwegian canine ethologist and dog trainer, coined the term while studying canines. she noticed that like wolves, dogs used signals to communicate stress and to shut down aggression. Unlike wolves, the signals used by domesticated dogs are much more subtle. According to Rugaas, there may be up to 30 calming signals. Each individual dog may only use a subset of these signals. When a dog senses a high-stress situation, they may display one or more of these behaviors to diffuse tension. The goal is to not have resort to aggression.

What are are these calming behaviors?

Here are some common examples of a dog using calming signals:

  • Yawning: The dog may yawn when someone bends over him. When you sound angry. If there is yelling and quarreling in the family. When the dog is at the vet’s office. If someone is walking directly at the dog. When the dog is excited with happiness and anticipation. Humans can yawn back at a dog to let them know they come in peace.
  • Licking/tongue flicks: Licking is a signal that is used often, especially by black dogs, dogs with a lot of hair around their faces, and others whose facial expressions for some reason are more difficult to see than those of dogs with lighter colors, visible eyes and long noses.
  • Turning head away: The dog can turn his head slightly to one side, turn the head completely over to the side, or turn completely around so that the back and tail is facing whoever the dog is calming. This is one of the more common calming signals. Another variation is simply averting the eyes to break direct contact.
  • Play bow: Going down with front legs in a bowing position can be an invitation to play if the dog is moving legs from side to side in a playful manner. A dog standing still while bowing is often used as a signal to calm someone down. These signals often have double meanings and may be used in many different ways – often the invitation to play is a calming signal by itself because the dog is making a potentially dangerous situation less tense.
  • Sniffing the ground: Sniffing the ground may look anything like moving the nose swiftly down toward the ground and back up again, to sticking the nose to the ground and sniffing persistently for several minutes.
  • Freezing:  This is when the dog is stopping while standing completely still, sitting or laying down and remain in that position. Canine behaviorists believe this is something to do with hunting behavior – when the prey is running, the dog attacks. Once the prey stops, the dog will stop too.
  • Walking in a curve: This signal is frequently used as a calming signal, and it is the main reason why dogs may react so strongly towards meeting dogs when they are forced to walk straight at someone.. Their instincts tell them that it is wrong to approach someone like that – the owner says differently. Dogs, when given a chance, will walk in curves around each other. That’s what they do when they meet off leash and are free to do things their own way. Allow your dog to do the same when he’s with you.

What can you do to help your dog in a stressful situation?

The most important thing that you can do when working with your dog is to simply watch them. Humans have a very different communication system from dogs and many things that we do our canine companions find offensive and distressful. When our pets show us calming signals, we need to observe these and cease what we are doing. Some of the common things we do to inadvertently stress our dogs include: raising our voices, leaning over the dog, staring, patting the dog on the head, and physically manipulating the dogs body position.

 

For more information on calming signals and how you can improve your relationship with your dog, check out Turid Rugaas’s website!

Is Rover an Actual Pet Care Business?

“Tech” Sites like Rover and Wag are becoming increasingly popular with pet parents…but are they providing true pet CARE services? 

Is Rover a Pet Care business?  This is an excellent question and the answer is no. They are not.  Rover is an online platform that allows the public to sign up with them to be pet care providers. What does this mean for pet owners seeking care? Let’s start by taking a look at the structure of Rover:

 

  • In section 2.2 they say “Rover.com is NOT a Service Provider and, except for emergency phone support …does not provide pet care services.”

 

Is a web application that clearly states it does not provide service an ideal source for pet owners to find and secure care for their homes and furkids? It comes down to clients feeling safe and confident with the structure of how services are provided, such as:

  • Is there a local manager available to oversee care and meet clients?  No.  Rover operates nationally through a call center.  There are no local representatives who oversee care.   
  • Are the Rover care providers employees?  No.  Rover operates strictly through an independent contractor (1099) organizational set up.   
  • Are the care providers trained?  No.  By the legal nature of independent contractors, training is strictly prohibited by companies contracting their services.  Rover simply provides access to online materials for providers. 
  • Are interviews conducted when people sign up with Rover?  No.  Rover reviews online profiles that are set up by the public. They approve providers based on that information and a short set of questions.  Rover makes this very clear in section 2.6 of their terms of service which is titled Pet Owners are Solely Responsible for Evaluating Service Providers.”

 

  • Is a background check required for Rover providers?  No.  Rover makes a background check available, however it is optional.

 

  • As independent contractors, does Rover ensure providers are fully insured?  No.  Rover provides a blanket policy and it clearly states in section 8.5; “Service Providers are solely responsible for carrying insurance sufficient to comply with legal requirements in the jurisdictions where Service Providers provide services.  Rover.com makes no commitment that the Insurance Program will suffice for that purpose. Rover.com does not verify whether Service Providers have obtained insurance, and Pet Owners are advised to inquire directly with Service Providers about this subject.”

 

In all respects, Rover sounds, and is advertised like a pet care business.  However, the details of how a company is structured are vitally important when it comes to client confidence and safety.  It is also important that the structure of the business reflect the industry they are in. When it comes to something as personal as pet and home care, the business should embrace and strive for the personal relationships developed as a result of their services.

 

Click here for more information

Top 5 Signs your Dog is Sick

Here are the top 5 warning signs that your dog could be sick

Although it sometimes seems like your dog is talking to you, when it comes to health, dogs can’t always tell you if they’re feeling sick. With something as serious as their health and safety, it’s best not to guess. Luckily, by looking out for some telltale symptoms, determining whether your dog is sick or not doesn’t have to be a guessing game. We’ve compiled the top five signs dogs give when their health is declining.

  1. Vomiting

While vomiting occasionally is not something to be worried about, increased or daily vomiting is something to pay attention to. If your dog starts to vomit multiple times a day, it’s time to seek veterinary attention. What’s in your dog’s vomit is also important. Dark brown or reddish vomit means there could be blood present. Bloody vomit can indicate a serious medical issue and should be brought to your vet’s attention. Foreign bodies, like plastic or bone pieces, in the vomit should also be taken seriously. Contact your veterinarian for advice in such circumstances.

  1. Diarrhea

Like vomiting, occasional diarrhea is not always an indicator of your dog being sick. Changes in your dog’s diet or minor stress can cause temporary diarrhea. Any episodes of diarrhea lasting more than a few days are something to be concerned about. Also, any stools containing blood could indicate your dog is sick.

  1. Lack of Appetite

Anytime your dog refuses to eat for more than 24 hours is reason to be concerned. Dogs that don’t feel well tend to avoid eating. Accompanied with other symptoms, decreased appetite can indicate serious medical conditions.

  1. Lethargy

A sleepy pup isn’t always cause for concern…especially if you just spent the day running around with them. A dog that has been unusually sleepy and unwilling to move to go eat or walk is something else. Any extreme behavioral changes like unwillingness to move or play should be brought up to your vet. A dog who is feeling sick may also start resting or sleeping in unusual places, a behavior known as hiding behavior.

  1. Changes in Urination

Both increased and decreased frequency in urination can indicate a health issue in your dog. Things to look for when it comes to changes in urination habits include: peeing inside the house (if dog is housebroken), straining to pee, drinking excessively, asking to be let outside more that normal.

Bonus –  Pale Gums

A healthy dog should have pink gums. Vets often use gum color as a quick visual indicator of a dog’s health. A sick dog could have gums that are pale, white, bluish, splotchy, or even yellow. If you suspect your dog is sick take a moment to check their gum color. If they are anything but a normal pink, it could indicate a serious problem. Always contact your vet if you notice changes in gum color.

As always, with something as important as your fur-baby’s health, call your vet if you’re ever in doubt!