How to Tell Your Child About Putting a Dog Down: Dos and Don’ts………..

 

IN Loving Memory

Death and dying are two of the hardest facts of life to explain to children. Clients commonly ask veterinarians about how to tell a child about putting a dog down. Very often, the death of a family pet such as a dog is a child’s first encounter with this immutable law of nature. How we handle this event can have a far-reaching impact on our children’s understanding of death and dying.

Eleven-year-old Maria, for instance, was used to greeting her cat Feifel every day after school. One day, he didn’t appear. Maria and her mother found Feifel under a bed, breathing weakly. The veterinarian said Feifel had heart disease. He might be able to save him, but Feifel was 14 and suffered from several other age-related problems.

His quality of life would only grow worse. The most humane course to take was euthanasia. Later, her family held a memorial service, and Maria wrote poems about him.

Understanding Pet Death: An Informal Guide to a Child’s Psyche

At 11, Maria understood euthanasia and the finality of death. It didn’t make the grieving and sense of loss any easier, but she knew that all living things eventually die. After some time, she was able to remember her pet with more love than hurt.

But children younger than Maria often view their relationship with a pet as indefinite. They don’t understand that animals run on a different biological clock, or that illness or injury may make euthanasia the best option.

At all ages, honesty is the best policy, says Marty Tously, a bereavement counselor. “That means using the words death and dying, and explaining the permanence of death. You do it gently but without confusing what dying actually means.”

Tously is a counselor with the Pet Grief Support Service. She says that a child’s ability to understand what death means depends on his/her emotional and cognitive development, but she outlined the generally understood guideline of how children perceive death and dying:

Under 2: A child can feel and respond to a pet’s death, based on the reaction of those around him or her. A child picks up the stress felt by family members, no matter what the cause.

2 to 5: The child will miss the animal as a playmate, but not necessarily as a love object. They will see death as a temporary state – something like the way leaves fall off a tree in fall but grow back in the spring. As they perceive the trauma around them, however, they may regress in their behavior (e.g., thumb sucking).

5 to 9: Children begin to perceive death as permanent, but they may indulge in “magical thinking,” believing that death can be defied or bargained with. This is also the period when children recognize a correlation between what they think and what happens. For instance, a child may resent taking care of the pet and wish – however briefly – that the pet would die. If the pet then dies, the child is often consumed with guilt. Parents need to reassure children that they did not cause the pet’s death.

10 and up: Children generally understand that all living things will eventually die and that death is total. Understanding and accepting are two different things, however. They may go through the normal stages of grief that grownups do: denial, bargaining, anger, guilt, depression, and acceptance. (To learn about the stages of grief, see the story Coping with Pet Loss.) Or they may react in other ways:

Depending on the age, the child may regress (sucking their thumb or temper tantrums that they had outgrown).

An older child may withdraw from friends and family for a while. Schoolwork may suffer and they may seem uninterested in extracurricular activities.

Children may fear abandonment. If a pet can die, then they may reason that their parents could die as well.

Children often become intensely curious about death and what happens to the body. They may ask for details that you may find uncomfortable to explain. These are questions you should answer in a straightforward, gentle and careful manner.

How to Tell a Child About Putting a Dog Down: Do’s and Don’ts of Explaining Pet Loss

There are several do’s and don’ts. Treating this delicate topic poorly can scar children for life. Tously explains that the worst course of action is to lie (to say the animal went away) or to use confusing euphemisms, such as the phrase “put to sleep.” Children will eventually learn the truth, and lying can breed resentment and destroy trust between parent and child. “Later in life, when the child learns the truth, they’ll wonder what else the parent lied about,” she says.

Likewise, euphemisms can cause anxiety or confusion because children take what you say literally. “If you say a pet is put to sleep, the child may suffer sleep anxiety,” says Tously. She recalls one child who was told his cocker spaniel just “went away.” He awaited his dog’s return, and upon learning the dog had been buried wanted to unearth the dog. “If you say ‘God has taken your pet because he was special,’ the child may resent God, and fear who might be next.”

Be open and honest. This includes the pet’s health and euthanasia. “If a pet is terminally ill and needs to be euthanized,” Tously says, “the child needs to be told as soon as possible by the parent.” Again, avoid those tempting euphemisms that cloud understanding, such as telling a child the pet was put to sleep. Use the words death and dying to make your meaning clear. Some children want to be present during euthanasia and most will be very curious about the process. Tously says you should answer their questions. As for allowing the child to be present, some veterinarians are firmly against it; others say it depends on the child’s age and maturity.

Make sure the child understands what “dying” means. Explain that the animal’s body stopped working. Depending on your religious beliefs and what the child can understand, you might explain the concept of a soul. However, it is important for the child to know that the pet has died and will not be coming back.

Be available. Take time to allow your child to discuss his/her feelings about what happened. You may want to hold your own service to memorialize the pet and to say goodbye formally. Some people plant trees in a special spot in the yard, others bury the pet in a cemetery so the family can visit. Encourage your child to show his/her feelings by talking or writing about the fun times they had with their pet.

Show your own feelings. This tells the child that the pet was special and that they are not grieving alone. You can also encourage your child to open up, which can help the healing process.

Talk to the teacher. Tell your child’s teachers about the loss, so they will understand why your child is behaving differently.

Don’t blame the veterinarian. Some parents, especially those who fear explaining euthanasia to their children, find it easier to put it all on the vet. This is not only unfair to the veterinarian but potentially harmful to the child. He or she may grow up distrusting veterinarians and, by extension, doctors and other medical professionals. In addition, parents shouldn’t throw the responsibility of telling the children what needs to be done on the veterinarian. Your veterinarian can help the parent explain why euthanasia may be the most humane option, and answer questions the child may have. Parents often want to ease their child’s hurt by rushing out and buying another pet. Tously says this is a mistake. “The last thing you want to do is convey the impression that the pet – a family member – is replaceable,” she says. Wait until the child expresses an interest in another pet.

Children are very resilient, and they usually learn to accept their pet is gone. If a child persists with nightmares or seems unable to cope, however, it may be necessary to talk with a counselor.

The Dog Nanny Website

How to Handle the Loss of a Pet

Tips to Help You and Your Family Deal with the Loss of a Pet

MY Heart still aches

Pets become an important part of our lives, and losing them can be devastating. Every loss is different, and how a person responds is unique. Below we will share some ways people respond to the loss of a pet, provide some tips on how to better deal with the loss of a pet, and share some tips on how to best help support children and help them understand the loss of a pet.

Dealing with the Loss of a Pet – Children vs. Adults

As adults, our understanding of death is very different from a child’s. The understanding and comprehension a child has about death depend largely on their age. Death may or may not be permanent in the mind of a child. Read this article for a good understanding of what children understand about death at different ages. Go to How to Tell Your Child About Putting a Dog Down: Dos and Don’ts. If you have pets and children, this article is a must-read.

As adults, our ability to deal with the loss of a pet can depend on many factors. These can include our prior experience with loss and death, other stressors in our lives, our individual relationship with a particular pet, and our family or social support network. There are many different ways a person can respond to the loss of a pet.

 

How People Deal with the Loss of a Pet

I’ve seen just about every reaction to the loss of a pet you can imagine. For some, the pet was their child or family member. They grieve deeply. Others have verbally told me “it was just a dog,” and that is that. No tears. No emotion. And I’ve seen every emotion in between.

Below are some reactions to the loss of a pet that stand out in my mind:

Hard being strong. Some individuals get their first pet as young adults, start a family, and find themselves losing a pet with their children. As they work through their own grief, they have to be strong for their family. Sometimes there is concurrent guilt as they reflect how their pet was number one for many years, then became a lower priority as life changed.

Suicidal thoughts. I’ve had clients tell me they didn’t want to live after the loss of a pet. This is just about the hardest thing to deal with. Anyone that considers self-harm or contemplates suicide must seek help from a professional. An excellent article that walks you through the stages of grief and support options was written by Bonnie Mader, who was the co-founder of a Pet Loss Support Hotline at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine

Guilt. A number of clients focus on guilt with the loss of a pet. Guilt can originate from thoughts that they were busy and believe they neglected their pet’s signs of illness until it was advanced. Or, it can have to do with limited financial resources to provide possible life-saving medical care. Some find it difficult to grieve properly due to their guilt.

Memorial. Many pet lovers place some of their grief and emotional energy in creating a memorial or tribute to their beloved friend. I’ve seen this in the form of a funeral (some quite elaborate), a photo album, and/or artistic creations such as a painting. Some find a special urn for the ashes and place it in a particular area in their homes and lives.

Save the ashes. Some clients find comfort in having their pets cremated and saving their ashes to be later buried with them or mixed with their own ashes. Several believe that this allows them to be together forever and provides comfort.

Silence. Some pet owners cope by not talking about their loss and trying to put it out of their mind. If I see them, their pet never comes up and if it is mentioned for any reason, they shut that conversation down with a quick topic change.

Lost. Some clients become somewhat lost and want to be alone. They avoid social activities and family functions.

Rituals. Over the years, I’ve had clients perform quite simple to elaborate rituals to mourn the passing of a pet, one client celebrates her dog’s birthday every year with a glass of wine, close friends, and a stroll through memory lane with a photo album.

Sadness. My first pet was named Aksual. He died unexpectedly when I was in college and to say I was devastated is an understatement. I still cry when I think of him and become sad. I’ve learned to box off those emotions, at least most of the time. Occasionally I see a dog that reminds me of him and an involuntary tear is shed. Feelings of loss and sadness are common and can continue for years.

Jewelry. Another way clients take comfort in this difficult time is to have jewelry made from their pet’s ashes. I frequently have clients show their special pieces of jewelry for pets that I have worked with. They have truly found comfort in knowing their pet is with them all the time when they wear their jewelry.

Fake strength. Some try to be strong, they may even say the wrong things, they may even be inappropriate with a joke or laughter, while being devastated by the loss of their special friend.

Many of these responses described can be categorized into the stages of grief that include anger, denial, depression, acceptance, and bargaining.

The Dog Nanny Website

What Causes Aggressive Dog Behavior?

Understanding why a dog displays aggression is the first step to effectively reducing and preventing it.

In a world where our canine companions are often referred to as our “best friends,” it’s a puzzle that so many dog-human communications (or should I say miscommunications?) result in behavior that we perceive as aggression – anything from a freeze (stillness), hard stare, growl, snarl, snap, or bite, all the way to a full-on attack.

If you asked your dog, he would likely say that these behaviors are just varying degrees of canine communication. He might also say, “My human made me do it.”

All these behaviors are natural, normal social expressions – the dog’s attempt to communicate something important. Usually, the mildest of the behaviors that people might recognize as aggressive – say, a soft growl – is not the first sign of a dog’s aggression. A growl is actually well along a continuum of escalating emphasis in canine communication. A dog who is uncomfortable will generally start trying to communicate his discomfort with much more subtle behaviors, such as avoidance, yawns, evasion of ye contact, lowered body posture, pulling ears back, and rolling on his back.

These behaviors are an attempt to resolve a situation without having to resort to serious aggression. Perhaps it’s a claim to a valuable resource: “I don’t want to share my bone!” Maybe it’s an expression of fear: “You’re making me very uncomfortable, please go away!” Maybe the dog is in pain: “That hurts, please stop!”

If the lower-key communications fail to accomplish their purpose, the dog may feel forced to escalate to more forceful or violent action (such as attacking and/or fighting) to get his point across.

Some or all of the mild, avoidant behaviors ordinarily precede the dramatic behaviors that most humans would recognize as aggression – yet most or all of these behaviors typically go completely unnoticed by many humans.

Alternatively, if these signals are ignored or misinterpreted, the human may respond inappropriately (“Oh, you want a tummy rub?”), forcing the dog to increase the intensity of his behavior and eventually escalate to serious aggression. Growling, snarling, snapping, or biting may seem like the “first signs of aggression” to many humans, but most other dogs (or experienced observers of dog behavior) would have recognized many earlier signs.

aggression

 

Why Are Dogs Aggressive?

When dogs display aggressive behaviors, it’s rare for humans to consider whatever the dog was trying to communicate. Instead, the behaviors are just considered unacceptable, threatening, and dangerous. Look at it from their point of view, though. Dogs are expected to just deal with all the situations they are put in (including many that annoy, terrify, or intimidate them) and to just get along with every dog or person they meet (including many that annoy, terrify, or intimidate them), without ever expressing their annoyance, fear, apprehension, or discomfort using their natural, normal canine communication tools.

We give them valuable resources – delicious food, delightful chew objects, comfortable furniture – and tell them not to covet those resources or protect them from someone who may try to take them away. If a dog does attempt to keep something for himself (with a growl or a snarl), he’s often punished. Dogs who try to communicate with normal canine language that they need more space, are annoyed or scared, or would like to keep something for themselves, are often labeled “aggressive.”

Consider this idea for a moment: Dogs are often forced to escalate – from mild growls, a stiff posture, and hard eyes to a lunge and a snap or worse – because we just don’t listen!

Granted, we can’t know for sure exactly what the dog is saying. As the supposedly more intelligent species, though, and with a better understanding of dogs, we can usually extrapolate something pretty close to the dog’s intent. And if we have an idea about what he’s trying to say, we can respond appropriately and take steps that will reduce the intensity of his communication, rather than forcing him to escalate.

The better we humans are at listening to and understanding “Doglish” the more our dogs will be able to communicate in ways that are less threatening to us while still succeeding in getting their needs and wants addressed.

Types of Aggressive Dogs

There is no universally agreed-upon scientific list of aggression labels. Various sources offer various names for different types of aggression, and those labels are constantly changing. There are, however, many commonalities. Below are descriptions of some of the most frequently seen presentations of aggression and the dog’s usual motivation for displaying each type.

For the purposes of this general discussion about aggression, I won’t be discussing specific solutions for each situation in which a dog might display aggressive behavior, but rather, the broad strokes of the most effective approach.

If you are challenged by your dog’s aggressive behavior, I strongly urge you to seek the assistance of a qualified force-free behavior professional who can help you create and implement an appropriate behavior management and modification program.

Fear-Related Aggression

This is by far the most commonly seen type of aggression, and one that humans often responds to most inappropriately. Generally, when a dog shows signs of fear and aggression, she is trying to compel those near her to move away; she needs more space to feel safe.

Many humans assume that a dog who is fearful will choose avoidance rather than aggression – and in many cases, that’s a correct assumption. If, however, a fearful dog is trapped, or has been trapped in the past, she may take a “the best defense is a good offense” approach, especially if there is a history of punishment for her agonistic signals. Keep in mind that “trapped” can include being on leash, being followed and cornered when she tries to retreat, or simply feeling confined in a small enough space that she is uncomfortable (such as your living room).

To make matters worse, it’s natural for humans to try to comfort someone who appears afraid – but this is often exactly what the fearful dog does not want, especially from a stranger or from someone who may have punished the dog in the past.

The first thing to do with a dog who seems to be aggressing out of fear is to give the dog a little more room – to put more space between the dog and the suspected fear-inducing stimuli. Then, start putting a counter-conditioning and desensitization plan into place, with the goal of changing how the dog feels about the stimuli.

Pain-Related Aggression

Every animal control officer knows that when you go to pick up an injured dog that has been hit by a car, you muzzle her first, because pain can easily cause even the nicest dog to bite. Dogs who are in pain generally don’t want to be touched and may show signs of aggression in an effort to get people or other animals to leave them alone.

What many owners don’t realize is that even less obvious pain can be significant contributors to a dog’s propensity to bite. Arthritis, spinal problems, sore muscles, gastrointestinal issues – there are numerous “invisible” conditions that can cause or contribute to a dog’s aggressive behavior.

An aging dog with increasing arthritis pain may begin to growl at approaching children because she knows from past experience that they may fall on or try to play roughly with her. “You’re making me very uncomfortable,” she says. “Please don’t come any closer.” A protective parent, outraged that the family dog would growl at the child, physically punishes the dog, adding to her pain as well as her anticipation of punishment when children approach, thus increasing the likelihood of her becoming more aggressive toward children, not less.

A far better solution: Any time you suspect your dog may be experiencing pain – or for any senior dog, or any dog who hasn’t been seen by a veterinarian for a while – arrange a veterinary examination and consultation as soon as possible. Ideally, your veterinarian can diagnose a condition and prescribe medication to alleviate the dog’s pain. Also, if necessary, use some basic management tools (such as baby gates, crates, or locked doors) to protect her from the unwanted, sometimes inappropriate, attentions of children.

Play Aggression

There is a significant difference between aggressive play and play aggression. Aggressive play is normal and acceptable, as long as both dogs are happily participating. This can include growling, biting, wrestling, chasing, body slamming, and more.

When things go wrong, it turns into play aggression. This can happen when one participant becomes uncomfortable with the escalating level of arousal and tries to signal that she wants to tone things down. If the other dog fails to respond to her signals and continues to escalate, she may aggress in self-defense, in an effort to stop the action. While she is often blamed for starting the fight, it is, in fact, the other dog’s fault for failing to respond appropriately to her request to back off the level of arousal.

The first step toward a solution here is to make sure you are pairing compatible playmates, and monitoring the play, giving both dogs a cheerful time-out when arousal levels are escalating to an unhealthy level.

Possession Aggression

My clients are often surprised, but soon nod in agreement, when I tell them that possession aggression, also called resource guarding, is a natural, normal behavior. If you lock your house when you leave, you are resource guarding! It is also an important survival strategy. In the wild, if you don’t protect your valuable resources, you die.

There is a tragically flawed and arrogant belief among some humans that they have the right to take anything away from their dog any time they please. Some misguided trainers even encourage clients to practice taking their dogs’ food bowls away so the dog learns to accept it. Wrong, wrong, wrong! Our dogs should trust that we won’t challenge them for valuable items, and we need to teach our dogs a voluntary “Trade” behavior, so we can safely ask them to voluntarily relinquish something when we need them to do so.

Take time to convince your dog that more good things happen when humans are near their food bowl and other good stuff, rather than teaching her that you are an unpredictable threat.

Predatory Aggression

Although the result can be devastating for the victim of predatory behavior, this is not true aggression – it is simply grocery shopping. Food acquisition behavior involves a different part of the brain and different emotions from true aggression.

It can be a challenging behavior to modify, but it is possible, depending on the intensity of the behavior, and the ability of the owner to manage the dog’s environment to prevent reinforcement for the behavior. The person also must make a commitment to doing the behavior modification work.

Redirected Aggression

This behavior occurs when a dog is highly aroused, but thwarted from addressing the object of her arousal.

Fence-fighting is a classic example. Unable to reach the dog on the other side of the fence, the dog may redirect aggressively in frustration to her own canine companion on her side of the fence, or to her own human, who is attempting to intervene in the barrier conflict. To avoid setting up the conflict situation, management is important. If intervention is needed, do it from a distance, to avoid being the target of a redirection.

Social Aggression

This is today’s term for what used to be called, unfortunately and inappropriately, “dominance aggression,” as a result of a serious misinterpretation of canine behavior. This label applies to situations where there is conflict between the wishes of the dog and her human(s), often where the human attempts to physically manipulate or control the dog (the phrase “manhandling” comes to mind!). A classic example is the dog who growls or snaps when the human tries to pull her off the sofa or bed, or push her into a crate.

As the supposedly more intelligent species, we should be able to get our dogs to want to do what we want them to do, rather than physically force them. Need your dog to get off the sofa? Toss a treat on the floor. Teach her an “off” cue. Teach her to go to her mat on cue. Teach her to target to your hand, or to an “X” on the wall made of blue painter’s tape. There are lots of ways to invite your dog to move where you need her to without using physical force.

Other Types of Aggression in Dogs

This is by no means a complete list of the various aggression labels. Others in common use include protection aggression, maternal aggression, territorial aggression, barrier aggression, and idiopathic aggression. What you call the behavior is, in many ways, less important than how you interpret and deal with it.

If your dog displays aggressive behavior, get help from a qualified force-free behavior professional who can help you create and implement an appropriate behavior management and modification program. Modifying aggressive behavior can be challenging. Your behavior professional will educate, encourage, and coach you, and support you when you’re feeling discouraged.

As stated by a meme that has been making the rounds recently, “Remember, your dog isn’t giving you a hard time – he’s having a hard time.” Stay strong, stay positive, understand and empathize with your dog’s hard times, commit to a behavior modification program, and you will be best able to help her overcome her challenges.

What Are the Most Aggressive Dog Breeds?

Go ahead: Google “aggressive dog breeds” and see what you get. The lists will be all over the place, from wolf hybrids, to the Tosa Inu, to Bull Terriers and German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Boerboels… I could go on and on.

Most of these lists make the mistake of confusing size and strength with aggression. Still, the Schipperke (at just 12 inches and about 15 pounds) is listed on one insurance company blacklist, and I found the Basenji (16 inches and about 24 pounds) on another list. While large, powerful dogs are capable of inflicting greater injuries on a human, there is absolutely no rhyme or reason to the listing of any breed as inherently “aggressive.”

For sure, there may be some breeds that are more heavily represented in dog bite, mauling, and fatality statistics. There are a number of reasons for this. Some breeds get listed as “dangerous” a result of just one highly publicized event. After a woman was killed by two Presa Canarios in San Francisco in 2001, the previously little-known breed immediately began appearing on “aggressive dog” lists.

Some breeds are just big and scary-looking. Other breeds are present in greater numbers in the pet-owning population, and thus are more likely to be represented in general bite statistics. Then there is the whole question of breed-identification; these days anything with a big head is likely to be identified in bite statistics as a pit bull-mix, even if it’s a Boxer mix or some other big-headed breed. And even if it’s a Lab/pit-mix, it will still likely be listed as a pit-mix rather than a Lab-mix.

Finally, certain breeds and types of dogs may be more appealing to – and more likely to be adopted or purchased by – people who are drawn to the idea of having an aggressive dog and who therefore elicit and reinforce aggression.

Of course, if a Rottweiler bites you, there’s a good chance you’ll be injured worse than if a Pomeranian bites you, and the big dog will be perceived as more aggressive because he has the potential to inflict more damage. But aggression is about behavior, not size, potential, or breed.

Keep in mind that behavior is always a combination of genetics and environment. A dog representing a breed that has been bred for guarding, placed in an environment that reinforces aggressive behavior, will indeed, become very aggressive. But, placed in an environment that reinforces sociability, he may end up well-socialized and friendly. And a dog who has been deliberately bred for sociability can be placed in an environment that reinforces aggressive behavior and end up very aggressive.

The bottom line is: breeds are not aggressive or friendly, individual dogs are.

Keys to Understanding Canine Body Language

Every dog, whether Akita, bichon, or beagle, knows the same language. You and your dog probably pick up on each other’s signals without thinking much about it. But if your dog begins to behave differently, if you are getting to know a new dog, or if you encounter a dog you don’t know, it helps to be able to read the universal body language of dogs.

If you and your dog landed in Tokyo or Timbuktu tomorrow and were greeted by a local person and his dog, it would take only a few minutes for the two dogs to understand each other. Hours later, you would still be wondering if you were bowing properly, making acceptable hand gestures, or using the right table manners. The dogs, on the other hand, would know just what to do – the lead dog eats first.

Signals Dogs Use to Communicatenever tell a dog off for growling

Although a dog can’t speak and has no hands and fingers for gesturing as humans do, you can watch key parts of his body to determine how he’s feeling and reacting to the world around him.

Face. Although the dog’s facial muscles are not as refined as a human’s, he can wrinkle or straighten his forehead to show confusion or determination. If your dog wants you to give him further direction, he may raise his eyelids quizzically and tilt his head to one side.

Eyes. A dog’s eyes brighten when he looks at a creature he considers friendly and when he wants to play. If he is afraid, his pupils dilate and he shows the whites of his eyes. He averts his eyes to avoid confrontation. But if he is angry or ready to defend himself, his eyes narrow and follow your every move. At this point, it’s particularly important not to look the dog in the eye because he sees that as a challenge to defend his position.

Lips, teeth and tongue. A relaxed dog in normal posture may let his tongue loll out of his mouth. If he wants something from you, if he is happy or wants to play, he may pull his lips back in what appears to be a smile and show his teeth, an expression, by the way, dogs show only to humans and not to other dogs. But beware the dog that bares his clenched teeth and wrinkles his nose. He is ready to attack.

Ears. The dog’s sense of hearing is much more acute than ours and even dogs with floppy ears have the ability to move and turn them to follow sounds. If a dog’s ears are raised, he is relaxed, listening, or showing acceptance. If they are back, he may be signaling submission and deference or may be frankly fearful.

Tail. A dog wags his tail when he is happy or wants to play. It is really an energy indicator. When he is submissive, he tucks it between his legs. A taut tail, held down rigidly behind him, may show that he is prepared to spring since he uses his tail for balance when jumping.

Voice. Dogs are vocal animals. They yip, bark, whimper, howl, and growl. The pitch or volume of their sounds can increase with their level of emotion. A bark may be playful or aggressive. Unlike body signals, dog noises can mean different things from different dogs.

Dog Posture Speaks Volumes – What Your Dog is Saying

popped ddb on bed

When two dogs meet, as long as their human companions aren’t tugging tight on their leashes, they carry out a series of actions that looks like a choreographed dance. With their bodies tense and tails taut, they circle and sniff each other, silently gathering and exchanging information, ready to defend themselves at any moment if necessary. They hold their ears back and the hair on their back may stand on end. They often avoid direct eye contact at first, sizing each other up to determine if the stranger is strong or weak, male or female, hostile or non-hostile. One dog may place his head on the nape of the other’s neck or nip at his nose. It seems they are getting ready to fight and then, one lies down. Soon, they may separate and urinate. At this point they have agreed on which dog is dominant.

Dogs learn body language from their mothers during the first 8 weeks of their lives and they test out this form of communication with their littermates. If a dog misses out on such training, he will have trouble communicating with other dogs throughout life.

Normal posture. The dog appears alert with head held high. His tail moves freely. His jaw is relaxed.

Invitation to play. The dog happily signals his desire to play by wagging his tail and dipping down into a “play bow.” His front legs are in a crouch and his backbone swoops up, leaving his rear haunches high. His head is held up expectantly to capture your attention. He may raise a front leg or lean to one side with his head.

Submission. The dog crouches down further and still appears relaxed. He may lift a front foot as in a play invitation, but his ears are back and his tail is down. He may yawn, scratch, or sneeze, which is meant to calm him and the dogs or people confronting him.

Fearful aggression. A dog who is afraid tenses his body and holds his tail rigid, though it may be wagging. His rear legs are ready to run or spring. He bares his teeth, draws back his ears and the hair on his back stands on end. He growls or snarls constantly to warn off the subject of his fear.

Dominance aggression. Teeth bared, this dog stares you down and advances confidently with his tail wagging slowly and his ears in the forward (alert) position.

Total submission. The dog drops his tail and curls it between his legs. He drops his head to avoid eye contact. He rolls over on his side and bares his belly, with one hind leg raised and urinates. If he isn’t afraid, he’ll tilt his head up a bit and raise his ears to show trust.

The Dog Nanny’s Website

How to Make a First-Aid Kit For Your Dog

Emergencies can occur anytime and the best thing to do is be prepared. Having a first-aid kit ready will help to reduce anxiety if an emergency does happen. Keep the kit readily available and periodically check to make sure all the items are up to date and present. A small plastic toolbox or fishing tackle box works well to hold all the necessary equipment.

On the outside of the box, write your name, address and telephone number in case you lose it. Also include the telephone number of your veterinarian as well as the telephone number of a local veterinary emergency facility.

If someone is taking care of your pets while you’re away, be sure to discuss your pets with them. Make sure they understand what you consider an emergency, how to contact you, the name and phone number of a secondary contact person you trust to make decisions on your behalf if you were unavailable, and where to take your pet in case of an emergency. You may want to consider leaving a credit card number to pay for any unplanned expenses relating to your pet’s health.

Once the emergency information is complete, it’s a good idea to have separate information sheets for each pet. Include a photo of each pet with the name, age, breed, sex, identification (microchipping information), and any health problems. This can help if your pet is lost or if someone unfamiliar with your pet is needed to care for him.

What to Put in a Dog’s First-Aid Kit
A well-stocked first aid kit for dogs includes:

Roll cotton
Some cotton balls
Gauze pads
Gauze tape
Hydrogen peroxide (check the expiration date)
Hydrocortisone ointment
Scissors
Eyewash
Silver nitrate
Tweezers
Oral syringes
Pediolyte® or other balanced electrolyte fluid
Baby food – meat flavors work best
Large towel
Exam gloves
1 inch white tape (in addition to gauze tape)
Rolls of elastic wrap
Emergency ice pack
Thermometer (both oral and rectal thermometers can be used rectally)

The Dog Nanny Website

Motion Sickness in Dogs (Cars, Boats and Planes)

Many people are aware of the nauseating signs of motion sickness and the effect it can have on a relaxing vacation. But, did you know that motion sickness could also affect your pet? And a sick pet is not a happy traveling companion.

Motion sickness is an illness associated with motion – as in a car, a boat or an airplane. Since vacations typically involve traveling, pets prone to motion sickness don’t always enjoy the trek to the final destination.

The cause of motion sickness is stimulation of the vestibular apparatus located within the inner ear. When this apparatus is stimulated, your pet feels dizzy and nausea may develop. Usually, the signs of motion sickness stop when the vehicle stops moving. Pets afflicted with motion sickness begin drooling, feel nauseated and may even develop vomiting or diarrhea. If your pet is known to experience motion sickness that is not easily treated, you may want to reconsider bringing him/her along on vacation.

Treatment
There are various ways to treat and even overcome motion sickness.

Frequently, the signs of motion sickness can be overcome by conditioning the pet to travel. Slow, short and frequent trips in the vehicle, gradually increasing length of the ride, can help condition your dog.

Some dogs cannot be conditioned and medication is necessary. Commonly used medications to help reduce the nausea associated with motion sickness include diphenhydramine (Benadryl®), meclizine (Bonine®) and dimenhydrinate (Dramamine®). These medications are available without a prescription but should never be used unless specifically recommended by a veterinarian. Proper dosage and use are crucial to treating and diminishing the signs of motion sickness.

For some pets, the motion sickness and anxiety associated with travel is so severe that sedatives are necessary. Commonly used sedatives include acepromazine and phenobarbital. These are available by prescription and should be used with caution in animals traveling by airplane because of the possibility of side effects. In a cargo hold, there is little direct supervision of animals, so side effects may go unnoticed. In addition, there is little chance that a pet can receive medical help while the airplane is in the air.

The Dog Nanny Website

Driving Daisy: Things to Consider for Dogs Riding in Cars

There’s nothing quite like seeing the joy a dog experiences when he gets to go for a ride in the car. But, for dogs riding in cars, there are safety and health issues you should be aware of before you put the car into drive.dogs riding in car

The mere mention of the word “car” to your average canine, often sends him into paroxysms of joy. Many dogs quickly associate “car” with that wonderful sensation of being carried at great speeds, with the wind blowing through their hair.

But, there are things to consider for dogs riding in cars, such as ensuring that your dog is comfortable, calm, and, of course, safe.

Feeling Queasy
Just like you, dogs can get motion sickness from being in the car. Many people are aware of the nauseating signs of motion sickness and the effect it can have on a relaxing vacation. But, did you know that motion sickness could also affect your dog? A sick dog is not a happy traveling companion.

Motion sickness is an illness associated with motion — as in a car, a boat, or an airplane. Since vacations typically involve traveling, dogs prone to motion sickness don’t always enjoy the trek to the final destination.

The cause of motion sickness is stimulation of the vestibular apparatus located within the inner ear. When this apparatus is stimulated, your dog feels dizzy and nausea may develop. Usually, the signs of motion sickness stop when the vehicle stops moving. Dogs afflicted with motion sickness begin drooling, feel nauseated, and may even develop vomiting or diarrhea. If your dog is known to experience motion sickness that is not easily treated, you may want to reconsider bringing him along on vacation.

Buckle Up
When driving, a seat belt can be the thing that saves your life. This goes for dogs, too. Giving dogs free range in the car is unsafe and can be deadly. Traveling with your dog can be made safer and easier by the use of automotive restraints. Like you, your dog is safer when he is properly secured in the vehicle in the event of an accident or unexpected distraction.

We’ve all seen dogs riding in cars and trucks that had free range of the vehicle. This is a tremendous risk for injury. Dogs that sit in their owner’s laps or bounce from seat to seat can disrupt your field of vision or attention span. Hanging his head out of the window can cause serious eye injuries. A sudden stop with your dog in the back of an open vehicle can send him flying into traffic. Or he may make the decision to jump out at something he finds appealing with no warning.

Even dogs who are well behaved in the vehicle benefit from proper restraints. In the event of an accident, a restraint can keep your dog within your vehicle. Many dogs will run away if they are disoriented or injured. The last thing you want is to have to look for your scared or injured dog in unfamiliar surroundings. Check out your local pet supply store for dog safe automotive restraints.

Driving Dangers
A fun car ride with your dog can quickly turn dangerous if you’re not careful. Be aware of common dangers that can occur with your pooch in the car.

Dogs love to go for car rides. For many dogs, their favorite words are “bye-bye.” Some dogs jump, prance, smile, and bark with delight at the thought of a car ride. How many times have you seen dogs hanging out the car window? Or on the owners lap looking as happy as can be?

Yes, going for a ride in the car can be fun, but driving with dogs can also be very dangerous to both you and your dog. There has been several cases of owners that were in an accident — caused by their dog — in which they were injured, the car they hit had some severe injuries, and their dogs were killed.

There are some very common dangers and causes of injuries that can be prevented — and if you understand them, it will help keep you and your dog safe.

The First Ride
How should you transport your new puppy home in the car? This is probably one of the first questions you ask yourself after you have signed off on your new puppy. Should he be transported in a crate? Should he be allowed to gallivant around between the seats? Should he be on your lap? Is it better to have him in the front or back? What are the issues? What are we trying to achieve and what risks are we trying to avoid?

For starters, make sure the pup has had an opportunity to urinate and/or defecate before embarking on the ride. No solid food should be given to the pup for 2-3 hours prior to a short trip. It may be necessary to bring food for the pup on longer trips. If a pup is not nauseous or fearful, he may want to eat.

Have the pup ride in the rear seat of the car on one person’s lap (yes, you need two people to make this work). He should be rested on or wrapped in a familiar blanket and have at least one familiar toy to play with. Use a crate for older, confident, non crate-shy pups. Again, supply a familiar blanket and toy. Whatever you do, don’t allow the pup in the front seat and don’t allow him to perambulate freely. Quite apart from any possible injury to the pup, he may become a missile in the event of an accident.

Be Prepared

If your dog suffers an injury while you’re driving together, it’s important to be prepared. Emergencies can occur anytime and the best thing to do is to be ready for anything. Having a first-aid kit ready will help to reduce anxiety if an emergency does happen. Keep the kit readily available and periodically check to make sure all the items are up to date and present. A small plastic toolbox or fishing tackle box works well to hold all the necessary equipment.

On the outside of the box, write your name, address, and telephone number in case you lose it. Also include the telephone number of your veterinarian as well as the telephone number of a local veterinary emergency facility.

Once the emergency information is complete, it’s a good idea to have separate information sheets for each pet. Include a photo of each pet with the name, age, breed, sex, identification (micro chipping information), and any health problems. This can help if your pet is lost or if someone unfamiliar with your pet is needed to care for him.

The Dog Nanny Website

 

 

Does Your Female Dog Hump?

Humping comes really naturally to even female dogs, but it is probably the most awkward behavior for people to witness – or be subjected to.

Female dog humping human

Usually humping is associated with male dogs, but humping is also very common amongst female dogs. Some girls will hump toys or other objects, some hump air, others hump other dogs or even people.

Why Do Female Dogs Hump?

Marcia advised that dog guardians shouldn’t panic.  “Although it may be a bit embarrassing, humping is a normal dog behavior. You do not need to demonize it nor glorify it.” People get uncomfortable with dogs humping usually because they are under the impression that it is either a sexual behavior or connected to dominance. However, Marcia explained that humping is usually a result of a heightened arousal state, but that doesn’t mean it is necessarily sexual. She explained that when female dogs hump it may also be a stress response.

Marcia not only has professional experience with female dogs humping, but also personal experience at home: “I had two female dogs that would hump each other any time I had a guest over due to the heightened arousal level; a good outlet for them was humping one another.”

Does Spaying Stop Female Dog Mounting?

It is generally assumed that neutering a male dog will stop him from humping. That isn’t always the case – many male dogs will continue to hump post-neutering if that was a behavior they engaged in before the procedure.

When it comes to female dogs, spaying doesn’t generally have much impact on their humping behavior either. Girls who hump before spaying are likely to continue humping after spaying because it isn’t related to hormones.  “I often see female dog humping as more related to arousal state or environmental stressors, neither of which would be changed by a spaying,” explains Marcia.

Hump Toys for Female Dogs

Object-mounting is a common behavior with female dogs. “When we are trying to determine if a behavior will be reinforced, we try to look at what is encouraging or maintaining that behavior. Often humping may begin based on environmental conditions or stimuli [such as guests in the house], but if that results in, for example, laughter at the dog humping, some dogs find that reinforcing and that may be encouraged.”

So, if your female dog is humping objects like pillows, toys or furniture, the more you direct attention toward her, the more she may continue the behavior. Pat Miller offers advice on how to train your dog away from mounting behavior in this Whole Dog Journal article.

If your dog’s humping doesn’t bother you, letting her use one (or any) of her dog toys as a personal mounting object is acceptable. Toys are a safe outlet for humping behavior, and if it does not offend any nearby witnesses, allowing your dog to do this without reinforcing her is unlikely to create additional behavioral problems.

Female dog humping pillow

What Should You Do to Stop Female Mounting Behavior?

Dog humping isn’t inherently concerning behavior. It is very natural for dogs. The only times humping is a problem are when it makes you uncomfortable and when it makes the object of the humping (a guest or another dog) uncomfortable. In those cases, Marcia suggests that, “it would be best to try and redirect the dog’s attention. This could be done by just attempting to interrupt the behavior or trying to redirect the dog’s focus by asking for a sit or other behavior.”

Nick Marcia also advises that if you know your dog is prone to humping in certain conditions like when guests come over, it’s best to take steps to prevent it by redirecting your dog before she starts the humping. It’s all about creating situations where your dog is going to be successful.

“A great option is always to focus on what you would like your dogs to do [instead of the unwanted behavior]. For example, they can’t hump while also practicing a down-stay on their bed. Help show your dog what you want from them as opposed to telling them to stop,” suggests Marcia.

Isn’t It Best to Prevent Dogs from Humping Altogether?

Again, there isn’t anything wrong with humping unless it makes you or the object of affection uncomfortable. If you want your dog to stop humping, then Marcia suggests the best thing to do is deny her the opportunity to start.

“It is always a good idea to, at a minimum, prevent and manage behavior you don’t want your dog to rehearse because otherwise they become more well-practiced.” Marcia continues, “In my experience, since female dog humping tends to be more linked to arousal and stress, it is best to look at the context of the situations that the behavior presents itself in.” Knowing the situations where your dog is prone to humping means you can give her something else to do at the times when the behavior is usually triggered.

What if My Female Dog Humps Other Dogs?

Some female dogs hump other dogs, and this isn’t always bad. However, some dogs will react very negatively. Marcia believes this comes down to a consent issue between the dogs: “If the dog or person your dog humps does not appear to be okay with the act, it’s a good idea to discourage and redirect your dog’s humping. If they don’t seem to care and neither do you, it comes down to personal preference.”

With that in mind, many dogs do really take offense to being humped, so if you take your dog to dog parks or other meetups with dogs, it’s a good idea to watch her and ensure she doesn’t start humping other dogs – which can lead to a fight.

How to Stop A Female Dog from Humping People

Marcia advises that the best thing you can do is, “Management. Management. Management.” She suggests that if your dog likes to hump and you cannot allow it, it’s a great idea to keep your dog leashed at times she’s likely to engage in humping, even in the house. “If your dog is on-leash, you have much more control over their actions,” Marcia reminds us. Focus your attention on teaching and encouraging your dog to do what you want her to do instead of having to redirect or correct the humping once it has started.

If you are struggling with your female dog’s humping behavior, schedule a consultation with a positive reinforcement-based dog trainer who can support you with gaining a greater understanding of what is triggering or reinforcing the humping behavior with your dog.

The Dog Nanny website

How to Build a first-aid kit for your pet

First-aid kit for pets: The Basics

First aide kit

A card with your veterinarian and emergency clinic’s phone numbers, as well as the number for the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center: 888-4ANI-HELP (888-426-4435) or the Pet Poison Helpline 855-764-7661. These numbers should also be stored in your phone.
1. A card with your veterinarian and emergency clinic’s phone numbers, as well as the number for the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center: 888-4ANI-HELP (888-426-4435) or the Pet Poison Helpline 855-764-7661. These numbers should also be stored in your phone.
2. A copy of your pet’s medical records, including all medications and a complete vaccination history.
3. Tweezers to remove splinters, ticks and more.
4. Gauze to wrap wounds for an injured dog or cat.
5. Scissors with blunt ends to cut the gauze and wraps.
6. A necktie or nylon stocking to use as a makeshift muzzle. Injured or ill pets may lash out when frightened and in pain, and a muzzle helps prevent your pet from biting. However, if your animal is vomiting, do not use a muzzle.
7. A set of nonstick bandages, towels or strips of clean cloth to control bleeding and protect wounds. Avoid using adhesive bandages because they pull out hair upon removal. These can inadvertently harm your animal.
8. A roll of adhesive tape to secure the gauze or bandage wraps.
9. Antiseptic wipes or lotion.
10. A vial containing milk of magnesia and activated charcoal to absorb toxins.
11. A vial of 3% hydrogen peroxide, which can be used to induce vomiting. NOTE: Before inducing vomiting, always contact your veterinarian or local poison control center first.
12. A flexible tip digital fever thermometer for taking the animal’s temperature.
13. Eye dropper or large, needleless syringe to give oral treatments or flush wounds.
All of these items can fit in a small, zip-up pouch that you can carry anywhere you go. If you want to build a more extensive first-aid kit, or your animal has other specific medical needs, consider adding these items:
• Diphenhydramine, such as Benadryl, but only if your veterinarian has approved it for use with your animal’s allergic reactions; your vet will tell you the appropriate dosage for your animal’s size
• Solution for cleaning their ears
• For diabetic dogs or those with low blood sugar, some glucose paste or corn syrup
• Nail clippers
• Penlight or flashlight
• Rubbing alcohol to clean the thermometer
• Splints and tongue depressors
• Towels
• Needle-nose pliers

If you own a dog, you know that they like to get their nose into everything, and cats are just as curious. Because our pets sometimes find trouble, it’s important to put together a comprehensive first-aid kit. Ideally you’ll never have to use your kit, but having one is the first step in being prepared.

Dog Nanny Website

Gardening Tips

pittie in flowersI commonly see and hear about dogs that get sick from the garden or garden products. I noticed this past weekend – tons of gardening going on. Mulching, planting, weeding. I went to Lowes and their garden center was BUSY!

Anyway, this is “flower” month and I want to make sure you know what you need to know about planting a pet safe garden. Maybe your dog or cat doesn’t go into the Flower garden – and if that is the case – good for you. But I know you also want to protect other animals from getting sick.

To help keep your garden pet safe.

The most commonly used lawn care products are of fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides and fungicides. When applied according to package instructions or by a qualified lawn care service most of these products are not harmful. Pets are primarily poisoned by contact with concentrated products. This may occur from inappropriate storage, failure to read package instructions, or by intentionally using more product than needed. Dogs are especially good at finding poorly stored containers, chewing them up and drinking the contents. Pet owners should be especially vigilant when using insecticides as these tend to have a higher degree of toxicity.
Dogs may be exposed by digging up treated earth, chewing on pellets, or rooting around ant mounds shortly after insecticides are applied.

Many pets chew on plants in the yard and garden. Fortunately for dogs, who for some unknown reason seem to enjoy eating grass and then vomiting, most grasses are non-toxic. Holiday ornamental plants such as poinsettias and Easter lily are often put outside for the summer. Ingestion of poinsettia stems and leaves may cause some mild gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting but is not deadly. Ingestion of all parts of the Easter lily causes depression, vomiting and diarrhea in cats. Left untreated most cats die of kidney failure. Tulips (bulbs), Lily of the valley and azaleas are all springtime plants that can be deadly to pets if ingested in large enough quantities. Dogs should be watched carefully when these plants are being cared for.

Most lawn seed and Mulch products are generally not associated with toxic problems in pets. Cacoa bean mulch is perhaps the only product known to cause poisoning in dogs. This mulch is made from the hulls of cacoa beans and when fresh has a rich, chocolate aroma associated with it. Some larger breed dogs have actually eaten several pounds of the mulch, more than enough to develop poisoning associated with the chocolate remnants. These over eager dogs should be kept away from the mulch until the aroma has dissipated. Generally a heavy rainfall or thorough watering is all that is required.

As you work outside be sure to take an extra moment or two to protect your pets. Read all package instructions carefully before any applying products to your lawn or garden. Be sure not only that it is safe to use around your pets but that you are mixing or applying it correctly. Check with your local garden center about the safety of plants you are putting in your garden. Finally, be sure to close the top tightly on all containers and put them in an area where your pets do not have access to them.
With a little careful planning, you and your pet can enjoy a safe and relaxing garden environment. Whether you’re planning a large garden to feed the family or decorating a small space with hanging baskets and containers, here are a few factors to be considered.

lab eat garden

Plant Selection

Plants and flowers are nature’s attention getters. Their fragrance, appearance, and cool shade they create are natural attractants for you and your pet. Curiosity often leads pets to consume the flowers and foliage of ornamental plants, which can produce irritating and sometimes life threatening side effects.
Plants for a Sunny Location

If the location of your garden, gives you 4 or more hours of direct sunlight, a day, you have a long list, of annuals and perennials from which to choose. Annuals grow from seed and last one growing season. They are good choices for fast, instant color impact. Garden and discount centers will offer a wide variety of annual plants at economical prices. Perennials return year after year from growth at the roots, they are a little more expensive, but do not need to be planted every growing season. Most gardeners have their favourites and mix both types for the longest possible color show. Safe choices for sunny locations include:

Annuals
• Zinnia (Zinnia sp.)
• Snapdragons (Antirrhinum sp.)
• Cosmos (Cosmos sp.)
• Calendula (Callendula sp.)
• Petunia (Petunia sp.)

Perennial
• Bee Balm (Monarda sp.)
• Phlox (Phlox sp.)
• Roses (Rose sp.)
• Catmint/catnip (Nepeta sp.)
• Coneflowers (Echinacea purpura)

Plants for Partial Sun

If your garden receives less than 4 hours of direct sunlight a day, the following list of non-toxic annuals and perennials requires less sunlight.

Annuals
• Primrose(Primula sp.)
• Butterfly flower(Schianthus sp.)
• Spider flower (Cleome sp.)
• Nasturtium (Tropaeolum sp.)

Perennials
• Columbine(Aquilegia sp.)
• Coral Bells (Heuchera sp.)
• Turf Lilly (Liriope sp.)
• Goat’s Beard (Aruncus dioicus)

Shade Gardens

A shade garden receives little to no direct sunlight, although the sun may filter through the trees for dappled light. Plant selection for these areas may include the following:

Annuals
• Begonia (Begonia sp.)
• Impatiens (Impatiens sp.)
• New Guinea Impatiens
• Violet (Viola sp.)
• Coleus (Coleus sp.)

Perennials
• Bugbane (Cimifuga racemosa)
• Yellow Corydalis (Corydalis lutea)
• Astilbe (Astilbe sp.)
• Queen of the Meadow (Filipendula ulmaria)

Vegetable Gardens

If you’re interest is vegetables, you’ll need 4 or more hours of full sun for most plants. Keeping your pet out of the vegetable garden may be your biggest task, especially when plants are young and fragile. Some clearly visible fencing may help. Avoid hardware cloth as pets can become entangled. Motion detector sprinkler systems can be useful in keeping pets and wildlife out of newly planted areas, and are not harmful. Most vegetable plants do not pose toxicity problems with a few exceptions. Onions, chives and garlic, which a lot of pets do like, contain compounds that, if ingested, can cause anemia. The leafy part of the potato plant, and the green part of the potato skin contain compounds that are toxic if eaten in sufficient quantities. Fruits also contain toxic chemicals in their seeds/pits. Apple, plum, cherry, apricot and peach seeds/pits contain cyanide, which can cause fatal seizures.

golden gardening

The 10 Least Wanted

The following is a list of plants that is best to avoid altogether due to their toxic nature. It is not a comprehensive list, if you are considering any plant of which you are unsure; consult your local plant nursery.
• Castor bean (Ricinus communis)
• Oleander (Nerium oleander)
• Morning Glory (Ipomea sp.)
• Japanese Yew (Taxus cuspidata)
• Jerusalem Cherry (Solanum pseudocapsicum)
• Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)
• Nightshade (Atropa belladonna)
• Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)
• Precatory Beans (Arbus precatorius)
• Trumpet vine (Campsis radicans)

Lawn and Garden Chemicals

It is very easy to reach for a chemical pesticide, fertilizer or fungicide when faced with a problem in the lawn or garden. Fortunately for the average home gardener, safer alternatives are available for most commonly encountered problems, reducing the risk of a toxic exposure for your pet. You would not think that your pet would have any reason to consume these products but sadly they do, either intentionally or inadvertently and these types of poisonings are all too common. Remember before applying any product to your lawn, vegetables, or ornamental plants to read the label and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Many of these products are designed to persist in the environment days to weeks after application, so a pet can have an exposure days to weeks after initial application.

Alternatives to Chemical Pesticides

If you notice damaging insects on your plants such as aphids, spider mites or thrips, these insects can be eliminated or reduced by a simple spray of water. These soft-bodied insects are easily dislodged. Adjust the nozzle of your hose so a firm spray will not harm your plants and wash them away. If you have only a few plants, use a good stream of water from your watering can and a little hand washing. It may take a day or two but an infestation can be cleared by no more than a good shower!

Soap and Water

If your insect problem is more serious, add a teaspoon of dish soap to a gallon of water and use it in a garden sprayer. The soap is an irritant to a lot of insects and can help break down the protective barriers of their external skeleton. There are commercial insecticidal soaps available that are less toxic than most chemical alternatives.

Compost

The “black gold” of the garden, recycled kitchen and yard waste can be combined to produce the best garden fertilizer at no cost and reduce the need for chemical fertilizers. It can be applied to the lawn and garden twice a year and it will replace the essential nutrients that growing plants and grasses require.

And Don’t Forget

Sometimes we forget the simplest things! Put your pets inside when mowing the lawn. A lawn mower can make a projectile out of a stick or rock that can injure your pet. Paint your garden tools a bright color such as red or yellow so you can see them out in the yard. Many pets step or trip on sharp garden implements. Store your chemicals out of reach and in their original containers. Don’t assume your pet will not be interested in consuming these products. If there is a toxic exposure or consumption, call your veterinarian immediately with the information from the product label. Keep your pets inside when applying any chemicals to the lawn or garden. With a little planning you and your pet can enjoy a safe and beautiful garden.