For myself, having pets often is for very self-centered reasons. They bring me joy and amusement and they have their “jobs” on our farm/ranch whether it be to work the cows and sheep or to keep watch of the yard (a self-appointed job really). So as a veterinarian and lover of dogs, I thought what are 5 things I really wish my clients would do for their dogs TODAY and what does my own pack need right now.
Five Things to Do for your Dog TODAY
Go for a walk. Get out of the house and yard and I promise it will be not only good for your dog but for yourself as well. (5 Benefits of Walks with your Dog). Your pet will benefit from the exercise (a tired dog is a good dog right?) and also the environmental stimulation of new sights, sounds, and aromas. We too often assume a yard is enough but in some cases it just becomes a prison yard! Let your dog see and socialize with the bigger world. Just like we need fresh air and exercise for our emotional and physical health so do our pets.
Lift the Lip. Dental health is so overlooked but I hear time and time again how an older dog feels like a puppy again after we treat years of pain and disease or of the dog with the fractured tooth that now treated is playing again, picking up toys, and eating better. If we wait for a complaint from our pets we have waited too long. The stats are shocking…. by the age of two years old, 80% of dogs will have some form of periodontal disease. Does your pet have dental disease? Click here . If you see calculus or tarter, red and inflamed gums, smell odor, or see fractured or mobile teeth see your vet.
Throw Away the Food Bowl. I have long done away with food bowls and have replaced them with treat dispensing toys and creative “hunts” for food. My own dogs can consume their breakfast in a time that would make a professional eating contestant jealous. (Throw Away that Bowl) By having them “work” for their food it is engaging their minds, slowing their intake, and leading to portion control.
Feel those Ribs. When you rub your hands along your pets rib cage it should feel much like the back of your hand with each rib clearly felt. If your pet has a little extra cushion or a poorly defined waist line now is the time to get the weight off. Purina did a landmark study and showed those dogs fed to a lean body condition score lived 1.8 years longer than those that were moderately overweight. Click here for more info
Give your Dog a Massage and check for lumps, bumps, sores, or other abnormalities. Early detection can save lives. Chase Away K9 Cancer has this great handout outlining monthly cancer checks. Cancer Check How-To
Having kiddos brings its own kind of crazy to life. Add a puppy and it is borderline insanity!
Pregnant woman go into a nesting stage where they want to love and care for another creature and at around 6 months pregnant the urge is strong but there will be no baby for months. It seems the next best thing to love and cradle is a puppy or kitten. I myself grew up with a dog, Bud, that was just 8 weeks older than I. My mother thought “Well I will be home anyway. I might as well get a puppy to housebreak, train, and love while I have the baby.” Now as a parent the story sounds like a disastrous bomb waiting to go off and not the makings of a beautiful friendship between the family dog and a household of daughters.
For many families the cute and cuddly puppy grows older, more boisterous and reckless. Keeping a tiny helpless infant alive while surviving on minimal sleep is hard and so the puppy child may get forgotten and the training and direction promised isn’t given priority. The 6 month old formerly adorable puddle of wrinkles Lab is now a wild maniac teenager and becomes too much. Puppies as future parent trainers often fail.
So when we thought of getting a puppy we looked at pros and cons. Our first dog, Brody, was a surrogate child. I didn’t say that then but now that I have human children it was pretty obvious. When my human children arrived I had to pick the camera back up afraid of the shame if they discovered the “dog child” had more baby books of pictures then they would have.
This new puppy would not be just our baby but a member of this new family unit that has been created since our last puppy. We realized that this puppy would be the dog of childhood memories. We all remember our childhood dog and they are always PERFECT….never chewed or barked, as well trained as Lassie, and saved us from our certain destruction in childhood. The connection to this new puppy would be different…not a surrogate but an addition.
We are about a month or so in and having a toddler and puppy at the same time is for fools I tell you. As if your hands aren’t full enough keeping a rambunctious and daring toddler from certain self-destruction, now you give him a side kick in crime.
I have learned that puppies and kiddos can thrive on some common principles though:
Feed them well. But here is the kicker…both Sidekick Puppy and Toddler love dog food and cat food is a delicacy for unrestrained gluttony. Forget those silly baby fruit-flavored puffs. If they made a complete baby kibble or adult kibble for that matter I’d buy it by the case. We have to keep the food locked from both pets and toddler. More than once both little creatures have shared the after breath of those disgusting faux bacon treats. Excuse me while I dry heave after doing a mouth sweep of kibble from Toddler and disgusting cow placenta jerky from Puppy!
Consistency is key. Rules are rules until well the young ones look cute and you are tired and weak. Then rules are broken and you vow to be stronger next time. It is good to have a partner that will start to see the cracking and intervene so that consistency remains.
Life is stimulating and sometimes you just need a time out or a nap. Both puppies and toddlers get cranky without!
The best toy is the one you can’t have or that wasn’t even meant to be a toy in the first place. I just throw some boxes around the house and the cats and toddler love them. I bought that $30 Sophia the Giraffe teething toy because that is what good mothers do in today’s society. Guess what…Kongs rule in our house.
Imitation is a step in learning. But it gets tricky when the toddler mimics the dog. The other night toddler brought a toy in mouth and requested a game of fetch. But there is hope that by watching older brother pee in the toilet and older dogs pee outside there may be a spark of discovery for toddler and puppy.
What is mine is mine and yours is mine too. Sharing is hard. The other night toddler was sleeping with pacifier in mouth (and yes I was that mom that vowed no pacifiers at this age, ever, ever and then I decided sleep and peaceful living was more important than this pacifier war.) and puppy just stole it in one swoop. So lesson is: if puppy has a toy don’t steal and if child has a toy don’t steal. Teeth and/or tears could be consequences.
Showing love can be a bit rough for the littles. Bite inhibition and hand inhibition training are real. Toddler please note pets don’t love hugs, especially if there is risk of a head popping off and Puppy please note we people don’t like your mouth on our flesh.
I think it is a start of a beautiful friendship and I hope that in the years to follow we look back with fond memories of their childhood dog. But for today I will just take a deep breath and vow to keep on teaching, guiding, and preventing mayhem and destruction.
“Got to go…Toddler is using the dog food bin as a tasty sensory bin and Puppy is torturing the cats.”
Anyone else crazy like me raising a puppy and a baby? How is your adventure going?