Category: Holiday Tips and Tricks Series

Should They Stay or Should They Go? Finding the Right Place for Your Dog at the Holidays

Deciding whether or not to have your pup join in on the holiday festivities can be tough. Whether you’re hosting at home or spending time elsewhere, most of us would like to have our pets with us. After all, they usually make our lives richer, funnier, and sweeter, right?

But let’s take a step back and consider if our pets would in fact enjoy the commotion. Some dogs just don’t like the crowds. If your pup leans towards the fearful or timid side, finding alternative arrangements for them might be the best way to go. You might just be doing your dog a service by giving helping them opt out of the holiday chaos.

Here are some quick questions to help you decide:

Is your pup fearful or reactive to people (known or unknown)?
Will there by other dogs, and if so has your pup met them yet?
If they have met, do they like each other?
Will your pup be able to counter-surf all your holiday delicacies? (i.e. will you be able to supervise them enough to keep them out of trouble?)
Will monitoring them actually take away from your own experience and enjoyment of the holiday?

If your pup is not so social, consider finding a pet sitter or dog walker (and check out the PST article “Who’s Watching the Dog?” for tips on how to find a good option). If your pup loves crowds, is psyched about novel humans and dogs, and an overall party animal (see what I did there?), see our post on good management around the main event(s).

Keeping Your Cool in the Cold

Wintertime can be lots of fun for dogs, and doesn’t need to mean that your pooch is confined indoors. However, there are certain considerations that you need to prepare for if you’re going to be romping with Rover in the snow. Also, see Note #2 at the end of the article if you’re a reasonable human who likes modern amenities like heaters and mini marshmallows and just want to skip the outdoors altogether (but, still read the article, it’s good).

First, think about paws; we take for granted that dogs’ pads protect them from all sorts of evils, but in facts they are just heavy calluses that provide little protection from extreme temperatures. In winter, snow and ice can get packed between a dog’s pads and form a solid, freezing mass that is highly uncomfortable and can damage the dog’s foot. So, whether you’re going for a hike through snowy fields or braving the slushy streets, frequently check your pooch’s pads to clear them of snow and ice. Also consider using booties if you are outdoors for prolonged amounts of time, or if the conditions are especially extreme.

Second, don’t be afraid of clothing. I can no longer count the number of times I’ve heard, “dogs are born with coats, why would they need more?” This is an unfortunate sentiment. Some dogs, certainly, are naturally equipped with the heat-regulating coats that keep them warm in low temperatures; Huskies and other snow dogs, specifically. But most dogs do not, in fact, have “built in” weatherization; my little 12-pounder, Bill, has a thin layer of soft Schnauzer fur over his hide-covering Italian Greyhound stripes. My neighbor’s pitbull has a shiny coating of ¼-inch long hair, and his belly is practically bald. I could go on. Furthermore, when a dog’s coat gets wet, it loses its ability to hold heat next to the skin.

So, please use that incredible human invention, the coat. These can range in type and price from thin knitted sweaters costing $15 to snow- and wind-proof goose down puffers that weigh in at a whopping $100. Each dog and weather condition requires a different level of protection; for Bill, I have invested in water-proof, insulated chest-covering coats that I often layer with a thinner fleece layer underneath. For My Jack Russell Fiske, on the other hand, who never stops moving and is seven years younger than his brother, I generally get away with just the light fleece. In the end, you make the call, but don’t skip the sweater just because you don’t want to be judged. It’s your dog’s well being; would you want to be out in 35-degree weather without a coat?

Finally, don’t push it. Signs of cold are generally pretty obvious and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Remember that your dog is at your mercy; if she’s shaking with cold, she doesn’t want to be out in it anymore. At the first signs of shaking and slow, shallow breathing, it’s time for your pup to get warm. If you’re seeing weakness, muscle stiffness, labored breathing, and a blank stare or mental dullness, it’s time to call the vet and check in, just to be safe.

Note: many of the precautions we take to prevent slippery conditions can be harmful to dogs. Thoroughly wipe down your pup’s feet, legs, and belly after outdoor excursions to remove any salt or antifreeze. Be particularly careful with the latter, as it is highly poisonous.

Note #2: All this being said, consider increasing indoor enrichment activities and reducing outdoor exposure if the temperature is dropping below freezing. Don’t lie; you don’t want to be out their either. So set up an agility course, toss a ball up a flight of stairs, design a fun food puzzle, or build a living-room-sized Game of Thrones-level fort/maze/obstacle course; it’s your call how fancy you get, but there’s plenty to do indoors.

Giardia: Oregon’s Holiday Gift to Dogs and Their Families

Most people associate giardia with backwoods hiking trips and unboiled streamwater. Oregon, always politically correct, rejects this stereotype. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we embrace the scourge of fecal-contaminated water in our backyards, playgrounds and, of course, dog parks! And while most of us may be familiar with the name, and many of us with the symptoms, it’s important to have a little more information when venturing into our shared public spaces.

Giardia is a parasite that is shed in fecal matter (read: poop). Thus, the parasite can end up pretty much anywhere an infected animal eliminates, and can live for weeks in a hospitable environment (read: right here where we live). The parasite can then be ingested by another animal in many ways, such as drinking from puddles, eating mud, chewing on a stick or ball that’s been in the puddles/mud, eating grass, or pretty much anything else a dog does with its mouth. Seem like a losing battle? It probably is.

But no need to panic, giardia is easily treated and there are steps you can take to reduce your dog’s risk. For one, puppies, older dogs, and dogs with compromised immune systems should be restricted to areas that are drier and less contaminated with other dogs’ waste; private yards, clean indoor play spaces, etc. For heartier pooches, or those that give you little choice (my Jack Russell would fall into this category), there are a few suggestions that might help: 1) Try to find parks or other spaces that don’t have standing water; 2) Provide clean water to your dog in a readily-available place (so they are less likely to resort to drinking from puddles); 3) thoroughly clean paws and other lickable areas of your dog’s coat when returning home; and 4) If your dog is a hunger-scavenger, provide a snack or meal before leaving the house to reduce the chances the pup will eat grass, mud, or other questionable items. And always check with a vet if your dog regularly eats mud and other non-food substances, as this could be a sign of nutritional deficiencies or other health problems.

So, what about when your dog has gulped down half a puddle, munched on a few muddy sticks, rolled in the puddle, and licked it all off her coat? Symptoms to watch for are diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, and weight loss. In particular, the diarrhea might be frothy, mucousy, greasy, and have a foul odor (I mean, fouler odor). And these symptoms can come and go, so if you’re seeing them crop up, even with non-symptomatic periods in between, go see your vet.

The most important thing to remember: the world has a lot of gross things in it, and it’s always a balancing act between your dog’s need for exercise, social time, and mental stimulation, and your responsibility to keep the pup safe. We do what we can to help you balance that, but if ever in doubt, call your vet, your trainer, and your life coach. And, if you want the science-ier info about giardia, visit: http://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/be-on-guard-against-giardia.

-The Power Skill Training team