Blog Contributor: Gloria Boyce gloria

March 10, 2014

bobbarkerWho doesn’t know this face?! He was the face Americans saw 5 times a week for 35 years. He was the person who gave prizes and made people’s dreams come true. Not many of us have the ability to make the dream of a lifetime come true day in and day out like that. Oh wait.. we do!

I am Bob Barker. YOU are Bob Barker! No, you may not be able to give someone a brand new car (if you do have that ability, I’d like to meet you!) or $1k for spinning a big wheel just right… but you’re still able to make the dream of a lifetime come true.

How? By LISTENING to Bob Barker. Who doesn’t remember the infamous “And remember! Help control the pet population, have your pets spayed or neutered!” It’s not just a line! By spaying and neutering, you are helping move this nation one step closer to being the no-kill nation so many of us dream of. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that animal shelters care for 6-8 million dogs and cats every year in the United States, of whom approximately 3-4 million are euthanized. The first step in getting us to be a no kill nation is to help control the pet population via spaying and neutering.

What’s that? You say you might want your dog, who is the best and prettiest/handsome-est dog in the world to produce beautiful and wonderful offspring someday? Interesting. I deeply wish we were on the same page about getting to be a no-kill nation. But, since we’re not, here are some statistics I hope you remember: Sterilization helps increase the healthy years of a pets life; a dog’s healthy lifespan increases an avg of 1 – 3 years because of sterilization (spayUSA.org) by reducing the risk of cancer and other illnesses related to remaining unaltered. Sterilization also helps reduce the risk of roaming away from their house/yard, which reduces the risk of permanent loss of your pet via getting hit by a car or getting so lost they are never found.

So, my friends, my plea to you is this – listen to Bob Barker… if not for the reason of helping control the pet population, then for the reason of giving them a longer and healthier life.

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December 27, 2013

People are going to rehome their pet from time to time unfortunately, it’s a fact of life. We try to educate them on ways to help keep them, but the fact is, some people just have to or will rehome.

Before you rehome your pet ask yourself these questions: Can you keep the pet? What would it take for you to be able to keep the pet… Allergy shots? Finding a pet-friendly apartment? A loan to cover spaying, neutering and shots? There are often options out there if you just take the time to look, which your loved one deserves. When you took your pet into your home, you became responsible for him/her for the rest of its life.

But if they just can’t keep it, we’ve found educating them on how to best approach rehoming, especially on Craigslist, is key. And frankly, we appreciate when people try to rehome their pet themselves instead of making it a shelter’s or rescue’s problem since they are too often overflowing as it is. It keeps one animal out of the shelter so another can enter it to hopefully live. It’s just critical to be smart about it.

free-to-good-home-craigslist-abuse-victimAt UU, we try to get dogs off Craigslist as fast as possible due to the issues that can come from Craigslist rehoming. It’s a great tool to sell your ‘things’, but when it comes to living beings, take caution. When people choose to rehome via Craigslist (I would try every option first before this method like sharing on Facebook, talking to your network, putting up flyers, etc.), here are some tips to avoid the dog ending up in the wrong hands by someone wanting the dog for something other than a family pet:

  • Meet in person with potential new owners.
  • Do a reference check to see if the person is employed and may have a pet in their home. Also, PLEASE do a background check (simply search on http://wcca.wicourts.gov/index.xsl),  and landlord check (if applicable).
  • Visit your pet’s new home to see what type of environment it will be and to see if the whole family is on board with the pet adoption. Check to see if the new home is safe? Will your dog have a yard or someplace to walk? What is the family interaction like?
  • If the person has a pet, talk with their veterinarian to see what type of care they provide or provided for their pet.
  • Ask for a rehoming fee to put value on your pet and to see if this person can afford a pet and is willing to do what it takes to own a pet. Good to a free home may sound great to get your pet in a new place fast, but it can bring in the unwanted dangers below or those who aren’t considering the long-term commitment of the pet or the cost of owning one.
  • Have a plan in case things don’t work out. Many private rehoming agreements result in a pet being returned or rehomed again. If you don’t want to see your pet back on Craigslist in six months, make sure you’re prepared to potentially take it back and find another new home.

The reasons Craigslist is so dangerous to rehome are severe, as pets can often fall into the wrong hands (these reasons are much more often found on Craigslist than most other methods largely due to the ability to be rather anonymous) :

  • They may be used as bait animals for dog fighting.
  • People who torture and kill animals like to search Craigslist listings for new victims.
  • Other people that source animals for research facilities all use these ads to find pets.
  • A newer phenomena is pet flipping – searching free adds for pets to sell for a profit elsewhere (they often end up in one of the above categories).

Think this won’t really happen to your dog? Puppy Doe was a solid example of how it really can.

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Blog Contributor: Katie Nechodom Katie Bio Picture

December 13, 2013

Why Dogs Chew The Furniture And How To Stop ThemAs a dog trainer, the most common thing I hear from dog owners is: My dog was so good when we first brought him/her home! Now, they are destroying everything and are not listening!

Typically this happens unexpectedly to dog owners. When you bring your new dog home, they’re cute, playful, and new. Because of that, many dog owners set aside training for a later date and accidentally reinforce unwanted behaviors (chewing, biting, jumping, barking, etc).

So the question remains: How do you fix the problem behaviors?

Answer: No Free Lunch Policy

The “No Free Lunch Policy” (also been called nothing in life is free or the “learn-to-earn program” helps dog owners develop the communication skills needed while training dogs using positive reinforcement.

Become a leader your dog can trust: Setting guidelines and communicating the rules by consistently rewarding desired behavior while removing rewards for unwanted behavior until the desired behaviors are a habit, then the owners are seen as a leader to whom they can trust.

Master and her obedient (rhodesian ridgeback) dogPut away the food bowl: For the fastest training, dogs should earn their meal throughout the day while you’re home. This means carrying their food around in a bait bag, in your pockets, or having it easily accessible on countertops. Throughout the day, you will reward appropriate behavior. Your dog will get 100 rewards for desired behavior instead of a free meal.

Require the dog to say please by sitting: is important to help teach your dog patience. Whereas snatching things from the counter and jumping for attention worked before, now the only thing that works is to automatically say please by sitting.

Use all motivators to your advantage: If on top of that, you require her/him to sit for all other resources (such as petting, attention, and play) when she/he wants these things, you’ll increase your toolbox of rewards.

Keep your dog attached to you: Tethering the dog to you teaches your dog that when he/she doesn’t want to pay attention to you, she can’t just walk away and then get rewarded by something else. Ultimately, tethering helps prevent rewarding unwanted behavior.

Walk with a loose leash: When your dog is attached to you on leash, she/he should sit and remain seated when you are stationary and walk by your side when you move place to place.

Katie Nechodom owns Second Chance K9 Training and is an Animal Behavior Certified dog trainer. She provides private and in-home training, and focuses on positive reinforcement based training, along with behaviors including but not limited to basic obedience, anxiety, aggression and problem solving. Read more about the services she offers on her website or to book a session!

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December 4, 2013

Recently I had an opportunity to provide some education around dog food choices. It brought me back to the MANY years I had no idea how important it was to do research and pick the right food for your dog. Thought I’d share some info on this recent research adventure of mine.

218011_213363258676989_4570948_nOne site I LOVE is Dog Food Advisor. In the ideal world you’d want to choose a 4 or 5 star food as indicated on this website, because they include ingredients that are best for your dog, but financially I get that’s not always possible so there are lower ratings that still can work. Generally, I suggest being in a category of 3 or above.

I took a look at Purina Dog Chow since this is one of the foods that is found everywhere. I knew nothing about it (other than I knew it wasn’t going to be highly rated), so dug into the details and found this a 1 star food. What does this mean? Well, for starters, there are several top ingredients in this food that are ‘controversial’ or bad for a dog. There are the top ingredients:

  • whole grain corn
  • meat and bone meal
  • corn gluten meal
  • animal fat preserved with mixed tocopherols
  • soybean meal
  • poultry by-product meal
  • egg and chicken flavor
  • whole grain wheat
  • animal digest
  • salt

A few ingredients that are considered inferior are: corn (a terrible first ingredient – dogs can’t tolerate grains well), meat/bone meal (meat source is not identified), poultry meal, animal fat, ‘by products’, animal digest, grains, and many cheap fillers. And if I can get passed all the ingredients I can’t even pronounce, I don’t even see vegetables in there, not to mention one specific meat type (like chicken). 8 of the 10 top ingredients are ‘controversial’, scary. So then I dug into what some of these mean, so glad it wasn’t dinner time…

Animal fat. According to dogfoodadvisor.com, The problem with generic animal fat is that it can come from almost anywhere — anonymous, unidentified sources such as…

  • Dead, dying, diseased, or disabled farm animals
  • Slaughterhouse waste
  • Dead zoo animals
  • Meat by-products
  • Road kill
  • There’s also disturbing evidence rendered fats could even be sourced from euthanized cats and dogs.

By Product. Basically, animal by-products are what’s left of a slaughtered animal after the edible parts have been removed. They include the waste of meat processing not intended for human consumption. For example…

  • Feet
  • Backs
  • Livers
  • Lungs
  • Heads
  • Brains
  • Spleen Frames
  • Kidneys
  • Stomachs
  • Intestines
  • Undeveloped egg

Animal Digest. This is material which results from chemical and/or enzymatic hydrolysis of clean and un-decomposed animal tissue. The animal tissues used shall be exclusive of hair, horns, teeth, hooves and feathers, except in such trace amounts as might occur unavoidably in good factory practice and shall be suitable for animal feed.”

So in a nutshell, this food is not good. A reasonably priced brand that we use in rescue is Purina Pro Plan. It is a slightly higher star rating – 2.5. The first ingredient is real chicken so that’s good. There are less ‘controversial’ ingredients here but still a number of them.

Dog_eating-good-dog-foodSo what to do if you feed your dog a brand that isn’t looking so hot? Well, I always first look to Grain Free foods if possible as those are the best for dogs – the best ratios for food are 50% meat, 50% vegetables, grain-free, wheat-free, and no cheap fillers. But again, I definitely get there is a budget, dog food can be EXPENSIVE. I personally feed my dogs Taste of the Wild,  which has a good source of protein, real vegetables and meat (or in my case, fish), no cheap fillers or grains, to name a few. I feed my two little ones Fromm Gold, which is pretty similar to Horizon but has grains in it that can be undesirable. There are many great options there, and I suggest you utilize Dog Food Advisor’s website in the 3, 4 or 5 start star categories to determine what food you want to look at. View our comparison chart>>

According to dogster.com, some things to consider for buying or making are:

  • Look for natural and/or organic ingredients. A dog food package with “Natural” stamped on it means nothing – there are no regulations in place to define this. So sifting through the ingredients is vital.
  • Avoid corn, cornmeal, soy and wheat. These are difficult for dogs to digest and can cause allergies.
  • Instead, choose your grains from barley, rolled oats, millet, quinoa, and brown rice.
  • Depending on your dog’s ability to digest, check the digestibility of the protein source. For instance, fish is more digestible than muscle and organ meats.
  • Check digestibility of the carbohydrate source. Rice is at the top, followed by, in part, oats and yeast.
  • Avoid animal-by-products which may contain heads, feet, and other animal parts.
  • Avoid preservatives and additives – they have been shown to cause health problems in dogs.
  • Look for Vitamin E and C; they are natural, healthful preservatives.
  • Look for Omega-3; it is good for your dog’s coat.
  • Some dog owners prefer to look for “human-grade” food in their dog food. This simply means the food is purchased from human-grade food facilities.

I went almost 8 years before I realized how important it was to consider what I was feeding my dogs. And that I couldn’t just trust that the dog food I buy was ok for them, in fact I’ve realized most AREN’T good. Downright deadly sometimes (Beneful is one). So now I pay so much closer attention because I don’t want the food I give my dogs to affect their overall or long term health.

This post in no way addresses individual dog needs and could go into much deeper analysis of ingredients. Every dog is different and can react different ways to foods, and many dogs have numerous types of allergies that can be affected by the food they eat. The important thing is to do your research for your own individual situation and keep trying to find the best food for your dog.

So you want to reconsider what you feed your dog? Check out Dog Food Advisor’s best dry dog foods page and best grain free dog foods page for a quick way to narrow down your options to research. And remember, if you do switch your dog’s food, be sure to do it gradually by mixing the old and new food together (start 75/25 and move up from there) so the dog can tolerate the change ok.

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December 4, 2013

Kate, an Unforgettable Underdog fan, recently sent in her story about her amazing rescue dog. I was so moved by the story, I had to read it twice, and cried both times…

My name is Kate. I have been involved in animal rescue, specifically special needs/puppy mill dog advocacy, for about five years now and it is my goal to continue rescuing and eventually start my own “real” rescue/foster network for shy and fearful dogs who don’t do well in shelter situations. I wanted to send you a story I wrote about my first rescue dog, Lavida, who was saved from a puppy mill in 2009. She passed away in my arms last November from cancer, and I wrote her this story a few days before she died. She meant the entire world to me and I miss her every day.

lavidaNobody has ever complimented me on your looks. You are not a champion athlete, you do not have strong legs, and you don’t have beautiful fur that shines in the sunlight. You are small but robust, gangly and wobbly, and you barely have any teeth. The ones you do have are brown and slimy. But despite your dull coat not shimmering, you still love the sunlight. And despite your lack of teeth, you can rip apart a chicken leg and intimidate the champion athletes with your toothless snarl. You are my beautiful friend, and we were brought together for our need of friendship, not our good looks.

Lavida, you and I were united in the fall of 2009. Do you remember our first time meeting? I could paint every detail. You looked so small in that kennel. I heard you came from a place where your kennel was much smaller, and dirtier. I saw so much anguish in your eyes that it hurt my heart. We were left alone to bond in an empty room, with a table and a chair. You hid under the table the entire time, quivering in your sagging skin, rattling your bones. I sat in the chair, looking at the floor, letting you make the first move. We darted eyes at each other for a while, before I decided to move a bit closer to you. It was a slow, patient game of chase, until you had nowhere left to run but my arms. Our relationship has not changed. Today, you still run from me, but now your tail wags high- in a cheeky way, as if you are proud to have gotten to a place where somebody chases you for your love. It has become a game for us, and my heart is breaking tonight because you have stopped making me chase you.

Tonight, you let me approach you. That isn’t the Lavida I know. I wish you would get up and run from me, you silly little thing. Please make me work for your love- it’s all I’ve ever known! You are curled up in your bed, tired from a life far too eventful for someone your size. I apologize to you from the stars and back, that we could not have played our game of chase sooner in your life. I am sick to my stomach that these horrible humans stole your youth. We could have shared so many more bowls of cereal together, walked so many more circles around the neighborhood together, snarled at so many more stupid puppies together, and cuddled under the blankets during so many more thunderstorms together. We could have been together. It would have meant so much to both of us. But all things happen for some reason that none of us ever realize until the beauty is gone that we miss so much. My heart was lead to you because you were hurting. I fell in love with you because you needed me, and I you. Those barking puppies next to you did not need me- they would have loved anybody who came along. But a broken soul like yours needed somebody who was not expecting this to be easy.

And oh god, was it difficult. You spent the first 3 months hiding behind a couch. You peed on yourself if that meant you didn’t have to come out from behind the couch. And every evening, I would corner you and gently wipe you down and clean you up. I set pieces of deli meat in front you, and watched your eyes slowly look down, lick your lips, and wait for me to leave. The moment I did, I heard your tongue slapping the floor. And cheese- your first experience eating cheese! Probably the best moment of your entire life. I remember the expression of delight on your face- I hadn’t seen it before- as if to say “they didn’t have THIS in the puppy mill!” I was told at the shelter that you may never come out of your shell. Well, I guess they never offered you cheese. You CHARGED out of your shell!

Thank you for being so accepting of our new baby we welcomed this year. It’s almost as if you understand that he is a part of me, and therefore someone else who will be kind and loving toward you. He is on our side, and you instantly knew that. You sit near him wherever he is, in a protective manner, ready to fight anyone who dares to come close. Someday, he will read this and know there was a dog who his mother loved before he came along, who stepped aside and allowed him to take the spotlight. For that, Lavida, I am so thankful to you.

I will miss your obnoxious, walrus bark. For the most part, you were very quiet. But then, I’d come home and you’d be there in the living room, waiting to see who would turn the corner. You’d see it was me and out came the most awful, screeching, horrific noise one could imagine. But that bark was full of so much love, it couldn’t be contained. And for that, I’d say, scream on Lavida!

Lavida, I could go on forever painting the details of our bond, but you’ve given me so much in these past few years, and it will all stay in my head, and my heart, forever and ever. We have found a common thread between us, one that celebrates life after obstacles, love after pain, and salty foods at the end of a long day. We both have a lot of anger at the world, but have been willing to let that go to enjoy sweet moments together. I will probably live for a long time without you, and my heart will break repeatedly at the thought of what was done to you in your life. I can only hope and pray so hard that the few, short years we spent basking in the glow of our new lives was enough to erase some of those memories. All I want for you is rest. You are so loved.

There will never be another. I love you, I love you, I love you.

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Do you have an awesome, special rescue story of a dog you saved? One beyond saving a cute puppy from a rescue or shelter (which is great too). I want to hear and share the stories like Naomi, or the seniors and the ones everyone looks past, that you gave a chance. Send me an email and I’d love to put them here and on my Facebook page!

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