Questions you should ask a potential dog sitter

questionspotentialdogsitterdogdaycare

What is their experience?

This should be your #1 question. You want someone who will know when an emergency is dire or can be waited out until you get home. They should also know the signs of, and how to break up a dog fight. You don't want someone whose only experience with dogs is that they love them and had a family pet growing up. Bonus points if they are going to school for, or work/ed in veterinary medicine.

what times they are available to check on your pet?

The potential pet sitter should be willing to work with your pet’s regular routine and come at the specific times you request. Don’t be too strict and ask them to be there right at the 15 mark, but give them up to an hour before and after to get to your place. Also, check if they charge extra for early morning or late night visits. Don't forget a dog should be let out to go potty at least three times per day minimum, preferably four! 

are they insured?

A responsible company will be fully insured and have that information available to share with you. If they are an individual sitter working alone, at least get a copy of their driver’s license. I have had so many owners ask to make a copy of my ID and I am always more than happy to provide it for them!

are they comfortable with your dogs and their breed?

Always, always, always have the person come by and meet your pets first! Check that your animals like and feel comfortable around them. Bonus points if the sitter owns or has specific experience with your breed or mixes. I’ve been to many dog shows and have met and worked with (on some level) almost every single breed in the U.S. Owners really loved this and found comfort knowing that I wasn’t a stranger to their Afghan Hound/Coton de Tulear/Nova Duck Tolling Retriever and so on.

are they okay with your list of instructions?

If you have a sitter who negatively reacts to specific instructions you ask them to do - such as administering medications, run. They should be taking excellent care of your pet, that’s literally their one job.

Do they have good reviews or referrals?

If other people seem to have good things to say about the sitter, then they probably are trustworthy and can take good care of your dog. If the dog sitter or company has even one negative review… don’t be afraid to reach out and ask both the owner and sitter what happened in that scenario to get both sides of the story. Sometimes it could be something as trivial as the owner being upset the sitter charged a holiday fee. Just makes sure to ask and get as much info as possible!

I could go on and write a novel about what to look for in a good dog sitter, but here is a good place to start! Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions and openly communicate any concerns or specific requests with your potential pet sitter before hiring them.

Reasons you need to clean your dog's ears, and how to do it

reasonstocleandogsearshowto

I feel like this is one of the most overlooked parts of a grooming routine that owners easily forget about or choose not to do.

A dog’s ears are like warm and damp traps just begging for bacteria and debris to find them. If you don’t keep your pet’s ears clean, they can quickly get infections and have oily, foul smelling ears that you won't want to pet or stand to be near.  

How-to clean your dog’s ears

I promise this is very simple!

  1. I prefer to use a cleaning solution that has alcohol in the formula so it will dry on its own and not add any moisture to the already damp ear.

  2. Wet a cotton ball with whatever solution you choose and gently rub the entire ear area - this includes; the inner flap, opening of the ear, and base of the ear canal. Do not push your finger or the cotton ball too far into the canal or you can do more harm than good, the next step will take care of the inner canal.

  3. Then, pour a couple drops of the solution straight into the canal and gently rub the ear and head area (as if you are petting them) to push the solution deeper.

  4. And you are done! Give your dog a treat for the torture they just endured. I suggest cleaning their ears at least once per week, minimum once per month (especially for breeds with floppy ears). If your dog goes swimming or has spent time rolling in a big mud puddle, clean them immediately afterwards!

How to get your dog to let you clean their ears

This simple grooming task can become so difficult for owners if the dog does not like their ears being touched. Fortunately, my dogs do not mind and don’t put up too much of a fight. But, I’ve seen dogs run away in fear as soon the owners bring out the ear solution!

If your dog is afraid, try touching and rubbing your their ears in several places with just your hands and give them lots of treats and praise. Do this several times per day so they associate you touching their ears with treats and positive attention. Make sure to be extra gentle when cleaning their ears from this point forward, you could have been too aggressive in the past and caused them pain.

If this doesn’t work and your dog has extreme or aggressive behavior when having their ears touched, take them to your vet and have a technician help hold or muzzle them to get them cleaned. Do not let months or years go by without cleaning their ears just because they do not like them touched. Do whatever you need to (within reason), to make sure their ears stay healthy. It’s your responsibility as a good dog owner!

Owner and Dog workout ideas

Nothing is more satisfying than getting a workout in and knowing your dog is tired and happy, too!

Try exercising with your dog to build a stronger bond and work off some of their energy at the same time. Also, go for something more exciting than just a walk to mix it up and challenge both of you!

How to make an anxious dog feel more comfortable (5).jpg

Here is a list of some exercises both dog and owner can enjoy:

Swimming

If your dog doesn't know how to swim, you should try it with him because this is hands down one of the best workouts for dogs. It’s also fun for owners to enjoy some time outside, feel free to jump in and swim also. This is a great way to tire your dog out quickly without putting a lot of stress on their bodies. One minute of swimming is the equivalent to four minutes of walking. So keep this in mind and don't accidentally overwork them. Please use a life jacket to help keep their heads above water, otherwise they can ingest too much which can cause water intoxication or other issues. 

 

Paddleboarding

Your dog will need to know how to swim first, but it makes a swimming session even more fun if you can be paddling alongside them. Use the paddle board as a floating dock for you and your dog to rest on and jump off of. Don’t forget life jackets!

 

 image from Google

image from Google

Hiking

This is a great exercise for those who enjoy spending time in the outdoors. The altitude will help build your dog’s endurance compared to a normal walk. Start slow and short though, you can do more harm than good if you work your dog too hard in high altitude, especially if they aren’t used to it. Watch out for wildlife!

 

Play tug

This is perfect if you're stuck indoors due to weather or health reasons. If you have a strong dog prepare for a tough game that will also leave you sweating! Make sure you use a proper tugging toy that won't damage their teeth or easily break apart. 

 

Hide and Seek

A fun game we play with our boys! Hide treats or toys around the house and watch them go crazy looking for the items. This is a great way to give them some mental stimulation, similar to if they were hunting a small critter in the wild. You can also do this in your backyard with their food bowl!

 

 image from MaineToday

image from MaineToday

Skijoring

I have always wanted to try this! Your dog must already be fit and have good endurance (goes for you, too), they should also know some directional commands. This is probably the hardest exercise for both dog and owner on this list, but you will both sleep great that night from being so worn out.

 

Biking

Note: Do not start biking with your dog unless he is already used to running!

Use a special harness and rod that connect to your bike so he can safely run alongside you. If you have access to dog-friendly biking trails you can let your dog run off-leash, but make sure they have a good recall! When we would take Ruger mountain biking, we made sure to bring a squeaky toy in case he got distracted and wanted to take off. Fortunately, he would usually be so focused on the bike it wasn’t necessary! Take breaks and don't bike at your normal pace or you can injure and overheat your pup.

 

Sledding

If you have bigger dogs and live somewhere where it snows, this is perfect for you both! Let your dog pull you or run down the hill with you. If he is doing the pulling - use a harness rather than a flat collar, and don't go down too steep of a hill that you could accidentally run into your dog. 

 

 image from Google

image from Google

Take a class together

The options are endless! If you have a fast dog you can try agility or flyball. If your dog loves to swim perhaps try dock diving. Or, if you have a herding breed you can try treibball; which uses large exercise balls your dog can "herd" on command by pushing with his nose! 

 

Play date

This one is more for the dogs, but you can chat with the owners or run around with the pups! This also provides great socialization opportunities, just make sure all dogs participating are vaccinated and that everyone is playing nice with each other!

 

Note - You must gauge how tired your dog is when exercising him. Most dogs do not know when to stop and will push themselves to a dangerous point. Make sure to take breaks and check on their breathing. If your dog is frantically panting, it's time to stop! Also, make sure temps aren't too extreme and always consider your dog's breed and their limitations.

Why you should be talking to your dogs

Do you talk to your dog?

I totally do! I can't help it, they're just so cute.

Even though our dogs don't understand the actual words we are saying, they pay attention and are sensitive to the tone we use when talking to them. If you feel like you might be a little crazy for talking to your dog, I'm here to tell you that science says you're actually not and that’s it’s good for both of you!

talktodogbenefits

 

1. Strengthens your bond

The more you talk to your dog, the stronger your bond will grow… easy as that! They may not understand your language, but they do understand your facial expressions, mannerisms, and tone of voice. Through these different cues they get the gist of what you're trying to communicate to them. Eventually, they will learn some of the words you repeat through association, and pretty soon you two will have a language of your own! 

 

2. helps puppies & rescue dogs feel more comfortable

Again, they don't understand exactly what you are saying, but they can tell if you have good or bad intentions. Using a calm voice can be very soothing and help them to feel more comfortable in their new environment. The more you talk to your new friend, the more they will come out of their shell!

 

3. dogs are social creatures

Dogs do not enjoy being isolated - they need attention and interaction to thrive. They are very social animals and need to form a bond with other creatures to flourish. If you have more than one dog, you'll notice that they have their own way of interacting with one another - whether they play nonstop or prefer to quietly lay next to each other, they like to know someone else is there. So talk to them and let them know you're there. 

 

4. You will love it!

Nothing makes me happier than a dog wagging its tail back at you when you’re talking to him. One thing I love that Boomer does is when he decides he would like some attention. He will randomly look over at me and let out a little noise like "hey, over here!" and I’ll happily talk back to him. A fun little exchange like this will help lighten your mood and show you how wonderful it is to share a bond with an animal that loves you!

Boomer's DNA Results

If you own a mixed breed dog and have ever been curious about what breeds he may be, then you definitely have to try out a DNA test!

We’ve always wondered what Boomer has in him because we know he’s a mix of some sort. It’s fun to guess and google random mixes to see if any look similar to him, but we got to a point where we were just dying to know the truth. This was like a fun little science experiment for us! I had a knot in my stomach when I got the email with his results, because I was that excited. Below I share more info about the test, how to make sure you get a good DNA sample, and Boomer’s exciting results!

This is not an ad, I just wanted to share my experience and the specific test I chose based off the research I did beforehand.

boomerfetchingfloralsdogdnaresults

 

Boomer's History Based off of what i knew

When I got Boomer, he came from a farm where the breeder (I use this word loosely, this was an accidental pregnancy) only owned the mother of the litter. He had no idea who the father was, except he assumed it was one of the neighbor's many Australian Cattle Dogs that roamed the area. So, I was told Boomer was half Labrador Retriever and half Australian Cattle Dog. I noticed the other puppies in the litter had big black and white spots (similar to a Dalmatian) which I found bizarre and not fitting to these two breeds. Plus, Boomer has a longer coat than a Labrador or Cattle Dog, along with a bushier tail than these breeds usually have. So, I always thought the farmer guessed incorrectly - and that the Cattle dog was perhaps an Australian Shepherd instead. Which would then explain the longer coat and bushy tail!

We were both wrong! And you’ll see why later!

 

THe DNA Test We Chose

I did some research online and the best test I found was the Wisdom Panel by Mars. It seemed like the most accurate and well known at-home test on the market. We ordered it off Amazon for about $80. All you have to do is use two swabs to collect saliva samples from your dog and send them back for the DNA testing. Again, this is not an ad at all. Here is the link to the test on Amazon and their website if you'd like to try it out for yourself.

 

Wisdom Panel by Mars - Link here!

wisompaneldogdnatestresultslabbordercollie

 

how to take the test (correctly)

A good chunk of the reviews on Amazon complained about inaccurate results. I called the company to ask about this and the rep I spoke with was very helpful. She explained that results coming from multiple pet households can easily produce incorrect DNA results. To make sure your sample is isolated to the pet you are specifically testing for, you have to take a few precautions to make sure the saliva in their mouth doesn’t get contaminated by any other pets.

I took away both of the water bowls in our house at around 9 pm the evening before collecting Boomer’s saliva. I also put away all of their toys and chews, and they got no treats or kibble for the rest of the night. The following morning I took the sample as soon as I woke up. This way, Boomer’s mouth was clear of any food or debris, and he had not been swapping spit with Ruger (to put it simply).

If you allow your pets to share anything that goes into their mouth, you will contaminate the sample and pick up the breeds from those other pets and therefore get inaccurate results. You want the best sample possible, so take your time swabbing. One big tip is to make sure you let the sample dry completely, minimum 10-20 minutes. Boomer drools a lot so I got a very wet (and good) sample, which I had to let dry for almost 2 hours before I could put them back in the package.

boomerdogdnaresultsbordercollielab

AND THE RESULTS ARE IN!

I was so excited to see if the test was legitimate and what it had to say about Boomer…

He is 37.5% Labrador Retriever, 25% Australian Cattle Dog, 12.5% American Bulldog (I'll explain this result later), 12.5% Border Collie, and 12.5% Golden Retriever.

I couldn't believe the results! Especially the American Bulldog (think Chance from 'Homeward Bound'). American Bulldogs almost look like a (regular) Bulldog with a Pitbull’s body, and I felt confused by this result because he literally looks nothing like one. I imagine his coat would be much shorter if he were American Bulldog combined with the coat of the Australian Cattle Dog. But, once I went through the explanation of each breed from the test results, it mentioned that the American Bulldog gene was the only one that wasn't very prominent in his DNA. So it is much higher up in the lineage and basically has almost been bred out of him, which makes much more sense when considering his looks!

His mother was a Labrador/Golden Retriever mix. I saw her myself, and just assumed she was a purebred yellow Lab. I googled mixes that are 3/4 Lab and 1/4 Goldens - and they basically look like a yellow or red Labrador, so I can see why the owner assumed she was purebred. Again, he was a farmer (not a breeder) and did not own registered dogs, so it’s easy to see why he didn’t have full knowledge of her breed lineage. Then I googled what the father probably looked like... He was part Australian Cattle Dog and part Border Collie (with that tiny bit of American Bulldog). And, this mix usually looks like a Cattle Dog with a slightly longer coat! This all makes sense why the owner assumed the puppies were half Lab/Cattle dog at a glance, when in reality their mixes were much more diverse! Without this test, we would have never known any of this. This has cleared up so much for us!

Here is a pie chart of Boomer’s official results:

wisdompaneldnaresultsdogbreeds

Now that we’ve done this for Boomer we’d like to try it on Ruger next! We think Ruger is Border Collie/Lab because we’ve seen dogs that are this exact mix, and they look exactly like him. Only time, or a DNA test, will tell! If you try out a DNA test, let me know your results!

Here's why you need to wash your dog's food and water bowls

dogwaterfoodbowlsbacteria

I know it's easy to think dogs don't need to have their food bowls cleaned when they do gross things like drink from the toilet, or eat dead animals without hesitation. I was guilty of cleaning my boys' bowls maybe once every couple weeks. I never considered doing it more often since the bowls never *technically* looked dirty, so I thought what was the harm? Until one day, I happened to touch the bottom of a water bowl that was empty and found that it was covered in a slick, clear film. I genuinely thought it looked clean! Yuck! So, here's why you need to wash those bowls.

 

The film at the bottom of the bowl

That film is actually a layer of bacteria that comes from many different things; like your dog's saliva, whatever particles are floating around in your home, or whatever is in your dog's mouth at the time they take a drink or eat from the bowl. Your dog's bowl is almost like a petri dish (gross), and sometimes what grows inside can be harmful and cause health problems, like digestive issues. It's been studied that even bacteria like, Staph and Salmonella, can be found in your pet's bowls! If you have children in your home, that can be very harmful if they love to get into the dog's things. 

 

What to do

It's very easy to avoid dirty bowls, just be mindful and wash your dog's bowls at least twice per week with hot water and regular dish soap. Easy as that!

You can also put them into the dishwasher if that makes your life even easier, but I would scrub them down first to get that film removed. I've also heard you should use stainless steel or glass bowls only. Plastic is porous on a microscopic level and that bacteria can sit there even after being thoroughly washed. If bowls are worn down, peeling, or chipped, make sure you replace them so chemicals don't leak out of the materials into your dog's food or water.

What is xylitol? And why you must keep it away from your dog

dogxylitolharmfuldeadly

Most foods or ingredients that are toxic to dogs have to be eaten in a certain amount relative to the dog's weight to be seriously harmful or deadly. Unfortunately, even a small amount of an ingredient called xylitol can do serious damage to a dog of any size. 

WHat it is

Xylitol (pronouced zye-leh-tall) is an artificial sweetener that works as a substitute for sugar, its use in everyday products is increasing quickly. It's most commonly used as an ingredient in foods that are labeled "sugar-free" or oral care products, such as toothpaste. Xylitol causes no harm to humans, but can be detrimental to dogs. As a pet owner, pay attention to all of the human food products you give to your pups. A big one to keep in mind is peanut butter - sometimes they contain artificial sweeteners and it would be fatal if, for example, you gave your dog a couple spoonfuls in their Kong toy.

 

What it does

When dogs eat xylitol, it causes a rapid decrease of their blood glucose levels. This causes low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), which can lead to liver toxicity and damage. 

Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can occur within 30 to 60 minutes of xylitol ingestion with levels as low as 0.1g xylitol/kg body weight. - Dr. Dana Brooks

That is scary to think about because that is a fairly small amount... and if a dog is getting into something they're not supposed to, they're obviously not going to limit themselves... Most dogs will probably eat as much as possible before they get caught, and that can get them into some serious trouble. 

 

What to do

Obviously, keep these products out of reach from your pets. After you read this article, do me a huge favor and proof your home of anything with xylitol in it!

If your dog does ingest some they will become lethargic and seem very weak, they may even collapse and have trouble walking. As soon as you see any of these signs, take them to the vet immediately. Don't waste time trying to google info about how much they have to eat or what symptoms to look for, etc. I'm telling you now - just put them in the car and start driving. The longer they have it in their system the more fatal and irreversible the damage is! If you're able to, bring the packaging of whatever your dog ate to the veterinarian so that they are able to see a complete list of the ingredients. The sooner you take your dog to the vet, the better their chances are after ingesting xylitol!