Christmas is a time to pause, count our blessings, and reach out to family, friends, our beloved companion animals, and those less fortunate. IT IS A TIME OF LOVE, but it is also a time to avoid holiday hazards with pets:
- Foods of the season may be dangerous even in small portions. Keep all bones out of reach…they can easily damage the digestive tract. Keep pets away from chocolate, alcoholic drinks, grapes, raisins, and onions (or dips and dressings that contain onions.) Garlic, fatty skin from the turkey, many spices and bones may do more than just sicken your pet. And never give your pet any yeast dough when you are baking. Coffee, coffee grounds, or coffee beans can also be harmful.
- Many holiday plants, including lilies, holly, Christmas cactus, mistletoe, and poinsettias, are poisonous if eaten, and many florists now use cocoa mulch which is extremely toxic in potted plants
- Secure all extension cords to prevent pets from chewing on them, and keep all candles out of reach of curious paws. Never leave lit candles unattended with pets around.
- Make sure your tree is solidly secured, and keep tree preservatives inaccessible to pets—they are toxic. Keep the area under the tree free of pine needles which can puncture intestines if swallowed.
- Select your decorations carefully. If you have breakable glass bulbs and other decorations, place them out of reach of curious paws. One of the biggest hazards is tinsel which, if ingested, can cause serious problems which may require surgery. Avoid hanging edibles on your tree. Popcorn strings should be avoided because most dogs will eat both the popcorn and the string.
- Provide a quiet, safe place for your pets to retreat if they feel stressed during your holiday festivities.
- As you spend time with your family, friends, and furbaby, don’t be too busy to include something for a less fortunate dog…you can do this any time of year, but please do something to make the holiday more special for a lonely dog.. or two..or three! Companion animals play important roles in the lives of the people who love them, but sometimes the elderly or ill have trouble providing essential pet care. Perhaps you could offer to assist—walk the dog, help with grooming or feeding, pick up supplies, or drive her to the veterinarian. Your local rescue group or shelter always appreciates volunteers. There are dozens of things you can do…contact your local organization to get specific suggestions as to how you can brighten a lonely dog’s life…and donations are always welcome…money, towels, food, blankets, or equipment…all shelters have wish lists.
Tis the day before Christmas and all through the house,
the puppies are squabbling over an old rubber mouse.
The stockings that hung in neat little rows boast obvious holes in all of the toes.
The tree purposely placed way up high leans badly and looks ready to die.
I catch them and hold them, “Be good,” I insist.
They lick me, then run off to see what they’ve missed.
As I watch them, the thought comes to me that they’re the spirit that Christmas should be!
Perhaps children and puppies can show us the way,
and teach us the joy that comes each new day!
Could they convince us of the message sent from above
That Christmas is kindness and compassion…
CHRISTMAS IS LOVE!!!
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and humans are busily making their lists. To many people, a puppy is the perfect symbol of the true spirit of Christmas… innocence, exuberant energy, wonderment, and unconditional love. And what young child doesn’t beg for a puppy? Indeed advertisers and marketing experts have capitalized on this idea, and movies and TV have given us the idea that puppies make the perfect, heartwarming holiday gifts. They count on the flood of emotions and spur impulse purchases. But think of what happens to most of the toys and gifts that start out under the Christmas tree… by Valentine’s Day, most of them have been shelved or broken or traded or forgotten. The excitement wears off, and the once exciting toy becomes something to use, use up, and then discard in favor of something newer.
A living puppy is not a Christmas toy, and the reality is that there is an influx of pets that were given as gifts showing up at shelters around February because the recipients of these wonderful living gifts discover that they really weren’t prepared for a pet in their lives. There are dozens of reasons, but the bottom line is that thousands of puppies wind up with rescue groups or just abandoned a few months after Christmas. If you are considering a puppy as a gift, unless you are TOTALLY committed to the LIFETIME care of an animal, we suggest that you reconsider. Pets are living beings that require daily care, plus expenses for food, obedience training and vet bills, and “pets as playthings” is the wrong message to send to our children!
LAST YEAR’S CHRISTMAS PRESENT
T’was the night before Christmas, and all through the house,
not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
with no thought of their dog filling their heads.
And mama in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap knew he was cold,
but didn’t care about that.
Then out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
figuring the dog was free and into the trash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
gave the luster of midday to objects below,
And what to my wondering eyes should appear,
but Santa Claus—his eyes filled with tears.
He unchained the dog, once so lively and quick….
last year’s Christmas puppy, now thin and sick.
More rapid than eagles he called the dog’s name,
and the dog ran to him, in spite of his pain.
Now, Dasher, now, Dancer, now Prancer and Vixen…
on Comet, on Cupid. On Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch… to the top of the wall;
let’s find this dog a home where he’ll be loved by all.
In an instant I was sad and ashamed and filled with fear,
for Santa had made one thing quite clear:
The gift of a dog is not just for the season.
We had gotten the pup for all the wrong reasons.
In our haste to find the kids the perfect gift,
there was an important fact we had missed.
A dog should be family, and cared for the same;
you don’t give a gift, then put him on a chain.
And I heard Santa exclaim as he drove out of sight,
“You weren’t given a gift! You were given a life!”
I am a forever dog…not an “until” dog. I’m not an “until you get bored with me” dog. I’m not an “until you have a baby” dog. I’m not an “until you have decide to move” dog. I’m not an “until you have no time” dog. I’M A FOREVER DOG If you can’t give me your forever, then I’m not your dog. IT’S REALLY THAT SIMPLE.
The weather outside is frightful, reminding us that winter will soon be here, and we are beginning our seasonal rituals to prepare for cold weather. We bring out heavier clothing, weatherproof our homes, and spend less time outdoors, but sadly, many pet caregivers seem to forget that pets can’t put on a sweater, or add a warm, cozy blanket to their beds, and if you look around your neighborhood, you will see dogs living outdoors with inadequate care. Millions of dogs live outdoors…all day, every day. When it rains, they are out there. When it’s 99 degrees, they are out there, often without shade, and when the temp drops to 10 degrees with blowing snow and winds, they are still out there, shivering, whimpering, longing to be inside. Some people just assume that their animals can adapt to live outdoors regardless of the weather, and a concerned neighbor may be the only hope for these poor animals. Without being judgmental, you may be able to convince them that they are putting their pets in danger…they may agree to make some changes…or they may not. If the dog is in distress, and no one will do anything, please don’t ignore the situation. Get involved…offer to help…and set a positive example by protecting your own pet companions in cold weather.
- Take your dog for a winter check-up before winter really hits. Your vet can check to make sure he doesn’t have any medical problems that will make him more vulnerable to the cold.
- Keep your dog inside! If you have to take her out, stay outside with her. Remember if you are feeling any distress from the cold, so is she!
- It’s a good idea to have your furnace checked for carbon monoxide leaks before you turn it on, both for your own health and that of your pets. Carbon monoxide is invisible and odorless, but can cause problems ranging from fatigue and headaches to difficulty breathing. Space heaters, electric blankets, and other heating products that may cause house fires should be closely monitored.
- Some products made for winter can be very dangerous or even lethal to pets. Ice melts and salt, if ingested can cause serious gastrointestinal inflammation. The best way to prevent ingestion of salts and ice melts is to wash your pet’s feet after coming indoors from walks. Antifreeze poisoning is common in winter, and even a small amount of the traditional antifreeze is extremely toxic. We suggest that you use products containing less-dangerous propylene glycol instead of ethylene glycol.
- Never leave your dog alone in your car during the winter. Just as the sweltering heat of summer can kill car-bound dogs, frigid winter temperatures can freeze them to death. Never let your dog off leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm—dogs can lose their scent and easily become lost.
- I don’t promote “dressing up” your dog, but some dogs would really benefit from a sweater with a high collar or a coat with coverage from the neck to the base of the tail, also covering the belly. Our favorites are Fido Fleece coats by Premier Pets because they are easy on, easy off, and cover the underside of the dog.
As the cold winds howl outside your door, and your thoughts turn to burrowing under a cozy blanket, remember that your dog needs creature comforts too. Make sure she has a warm place to sleep, off the floor and away from all drafts. A cozy dog bed with a warm blanket or pillow is perfect.
Winter is a beautiful time of year, and if you take a few precautions, you and your dog can have a fabulous time!
If winter comes, can Spring be far behind?—Percy Bysshe Shelley
Thanksgiving is almost here, and it appears that everyone is already frantically searching for the “perfect” Christmas gifts for those people who already have everything, but let’s pause and reflect on our many, many blessings. Edgar Guest echoes my feelings about this neglected holiday:
“It may be I am getting old and like too much to dwell on the days of bygone years, the days I loved so well, but thinking of them now I wish somehow that I could know a simple old Thanksgiving Day, like those of long ago… get-together days with laughter ringing throughout the house, chatting, and sharing our hopes and dreams.”
Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful for our faith, family, and friends, and let’s not forget our furbabies. Our pets bring comfort and unconditional love to our lives with their nurturing, therapeutic spirits, and we are thankful for them, but sharing our dinner with them on this food-oriented holiday is not a good idea. With the usual abundance of food, it’s a temptation to share, but too much fatty, rich food can give your pet pancreatitis which can be life-threatening. Bones can splinter and stick in your dog’s throat, stomach or intestines, causing choking and intestinal blockage, and if a bone perforates the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, its contents will spill into the abdomen, resulting in infection and possibly death. The tasty string often used to tie up the turkey during roasting can also tie up their innards, and even the bag your turkey comes in and the little red “popper” pose threats. Dogs should be kept away from alcohol, coffee and tea, bones, chocolate, garlic and onions, potato skins, grapes, nuts, yeast dough, and fruit seeds and pits, and you should store leftovers, trash and garbage securely away from your pets. According to the ASPCA, the number one problem that veterinarians see during the holidays is dogs eating food that they shouldn’t eat. Foods that cause the most problems include bones, turkey skin, gravy, dough and cake batter, beer, macadamia nuts, mushrooms, onions and garlic, sage, nutmeg (which is often found in sweet potatoes, yams, pumpkin pies and many desserts) and chocolate. The risk to your dog’s health isn’t worth “treating” him to any of those foods, (and it’s tough to be thankful if you are missing out on all the fun while you sit in the emergency vet clinic with a sick dog.) When those beseeching, soulful eyes look at you, begging for a thanksgiving treat, remember that much of your feast is not fit for your pet. Webvet.com offers these suggestions for healthy treats that can safely be given in SMALL portions:
- Sweet potatoes without the skin or seasoning
- Raw apple slices
- Either raw carrots or steamed carrots (or green beans) without seasoning
- Yams with NO brown sugar or marshmallows (or nutmeg)
- Mashed potatoes without the gravy
- Pumpkin BEFORE you turn it into pie mix….PLAIN pumpkin (again without nutmeg or seasoning)
- Small bits of turkey without skin or bone
By following a few basic tips, both you and your dog will enjoy a fun, safe Thanksgiving. Have a great day GIVING THANKS for your faith, family, friends and furbabies! No price tag can be placed on any of them.
This has been a year of economic uncertainty and unwanted stress for just about everyone, and it almost seems that Thanksgiving is being overlooked. It’s beginning to look like Christmas everywhere as you are encouraged to “Celebrate the holidays”… with reminders of Christmas I love Christmas, but I am sad to see Thanksgiving being given so little attention. We are truly blessed and what better time to count our many blessing with grateful hearts, and as Samuel Pugh says “as fortunate as we are, when we have food, help us to remember the hungry; when we have work, help us remember the jobless; when we have homes, help us remember those who have no home at all, and destroy our complacency, and raise our compassion to be concerned enough to help, by word and deed, those who cry out for what we take for granted..” Let’s also not forget to reflect on the role that companion animals play in our lives. Their cheerful spirits, their total loyalty, and their unconditional love are priceless gifts.
- BE THANKFUL when your dog forgets the rules and jumps up to greet you. It means she, though old and stiff, still has plenty of life!
- BE THANKFUL when you have a messed up living room; it means you have a healthy, spirited dog.
- BE THANKFUL when an entire roll of toilet paper is strewn throughout the house; smile as you visualize what fun your puppy must have had.
- BE THANKFUL when your dog clings to you when you leave the house; it means you have unconditional love waiting when you return.
- BE THANKFUL when your dog just wants to lie contentedly by your side, because the day will come when memories will be all you have.
Rescued Dogs Everywhere offer their prayer of thanks:
I am thankful that I will never know the loneliness that I hear in the barks of dogs still “out there.” I will never have to shiver in the cold or be afraid, because I am loved and accepted for who I am and not someone’s idea of what I should be. I will feel the sun’s warmth and the rain’s coolness and be allowed to smell all that can reach my nose.
I can trust arms that hold, hands that touch…knowing that no matter what happens, they are there for me. I will be talked to and even if I don’t understand, I can enjoy the conversation, and the honest effort to communicate with me on my level. I will be taught the things I need to know to be loved by others, and if I do not learn a lesson well, they will exercise patience, not anger.
I will never be cast out because I am too old, too ill, too unruly or just not cute enough. If ill, I will be doctored. If scared, I will be calmed. If sad, I will be cheered. My life is a responsibility, and not an afterthought. My heart overflows with thankfulness, because I have a loving, forever home.
THANKS for each new morning with its light; for rest and shelter of the night; for health and food; for love and friends; for everything God’s goodness sends.—Ralph Waldo Emerson
“I looked at all the unfortunate, homeless, neglected animals…the cast-offs of human society. I saw in their eyes, love and hope, fear and dread, sadness and betrayal. And I said, “God, this is terrible. Why don’t You do something? God was quiet for a moment, and then spoke softly, “I have done something. I created you.” –Jim Willis
In l996 Capital Humane Society in Lincoln, Nebraska, designed a campaign to acknowledge and promote the important role of shelters and other animal welfare organizations and to increase public awareness of the needy dogs found in every community. National Animal Shelter and Rescue Appreciation Week now proclaims the message: YOUR LOCAL SHELTER OR RESCUE GROUP NEEDS YOU. These groups help untold numbers of animals, usually with limited resources and very little recognition. You don’t have to be an animal expert to help; everyone has skills and talents that can be utilized; you just need the desire to lend a helping hand. If you don’t know your local group, there is no better time to get acquainted. Do a little research to check them out and if you feel comfortable with them, call and find out how you can help support the work they do for the animals in your community.
- Give monetary donations. Most groups are struggling financially, so every penny counts. It’s great to send a check to the national animal welfare organizations, but don’t forget the legitimate, hardworking groups in your own back yard.
- Spread the word. Does your community really appreciate the local shelter’s dedication to needy animals? Talk to your family, co-workers and neighbors about the importance of supporting local groups. Many people don’t realize that shelters not only take in homeless animals, but often rescue injured, abused or neglected critters. Stay alert to what is going on in your own neighborhood, and if you suspect abuse or neglect, document your suspicions and report them.
- Involve your family, friends, and co-workers. Designate a day to donate spare change or tips for the benefit of the shelter. Make it an event, and remind everyone of the important work the shelter does. Suggest donations rather than personal gifts for holidays and birthdays. Have a jar on the counter at home where the kids (and adults!) can drop small change. Then when a sizable amount is collected, make a family trip to the shelter.
- Do your part. Spaying or neutering your pet is one important thing you can do to reduce the number of homeless pets in your area. Our shelters are already overcrowded with unwanted pets, and spaying or neutering will reduce the number of homeless pets. If you have a neighbor or friend who has an intact animal, perhaps you can influence them….if cost is an issue, maybe offering to pay a portion of the bill would be an incentive. Learn about possible programs that offer affordable programs.
- Two simple words. The words, THANK YOU, are powerful, and will encourage overworked, underpaid, and often discouraged shelter workers. Send a letter, card, or e-mail to your local group, and let them know you care.
In the ideal world, there would be none left to rescue, none left to buy, none left to suffer, none left to die, none to be beaten, none to be kicked….all would be loved. Until then it is up to you and me to help just one, or two, or three…until they’re all free…one dog at a time.
In about two weeks, it will be Trick or Treat Night, a fun time for the human kids, but it can be a scary experience for your animal companion, and although scary is good to your human kids, your dog probably doesn’t understand the difference between “good” scary and “threatening” scary. As much as you want to include your pets in your own celebration, look at Halloween from your pet’s point of view. There are some very sudden changes in a normally sane household— odd clothing, loud music, and alteration in schedules, and wild excitement. The front door opens and closes a lot and there are unusual sounds, with noisy, costumed strangers appearing…many dogs will feel threatened and may even try to protect you from these intruders, or they may try to decide to just run out and follow the group. Frankly, when it’s Trick or Treat time, most pets prefer a quiet room and a favorite toy. We urge you to NOT plan to include your dog in the festivities, and we really encourage you to NOT rush out and buy a costume for her to wear.
Stores and catalogs are filled with absolutely the cutest pet costumes you could imagine, to make your pooch look spectacular, and you are probably tempted to spend a few bucks on one, but if you are honest, you will probably admit that your dog would be more comfortable ”au natural” than she would be wearing a costume. The fact is that if you dress up your dog, it is for humans’ enjoyment, not for the dogs. Dogs are dogs, and most of them dislike the confinement of costumes, and dress-up usually becomes a major mess-up for the animals.
I realize that many pet caregivers are not going to take my advice… some of you have probably already spent more than a few bucks on a super outfit, so here are a few tips:
- Safety is a major concern when choosing a costume for your dog. It should not restrict his movement, hearing, or vision, and should not hinder his ability to breathe, (almost no costumes that I have seen pass those requirements, and poorly fitting costumes can get twisted or caught on external objects, leading to injuries.)
- Avoid costumes with dangling or small pieces that could be chewed off. If ingested, buttons, ribbons and tassels could cause serious intestinal blockage.
- Many dogs have sensitive skin, and even those with heavy coats can have allergic reactions to the synthetic materials found in most costumes. If your dog tries to chew or lick at himself when you put a costume on him, he is likely either stressed or allergic to something in the costume, which will result in an evening of uncomfortable scratching and skin irritations.
- Don’t wait until the BIG NIGHT to try on the costume. Schedule several dress rehearsals, and if she seems distressed, pay attention. Sure she is cute, but is forcing her to do something that she does not want to do really that important to you?
Dogs are dogs, and Halloween is a fright night for most of them anyway, without the added stress of an uncomfortable costume. Unless your dog is HONESTLY one of the few that enjoy “dress up,” my advice is FORGET THE COSTUMES, and if you have already purchased a costume, why not exchange it for a cute bandana or decorative collar. Your dog will be happier and everyone will have a more enjoyable holiday.
Some pet caregivers still recall the huge 2007 pet food recall for melamine contamination from ingredients imported from China. More than 40 pet food brands, including some of the best known names, were involved in the 2007 recall. Have things changed? Not much. According to About.com Pet Supplies, not a month has gone by in 2013 without several recalls. Last month both Nestle Purina and Proctor and Gamble recalled products. The Veterinary Information Network reported health problems linked to sweet potato treats similar to those related to chicken jerky treats (also sourced from China) which they had reported earlier this year. The seemingly endless list of recalls leave people worried that the items they bought on Monday will be recalled on Friday. How do you determine which foods and treats are safe for your dog? Read the labels carefully, and PLEASE don’t buy ANY treats sourced in China. Not chicken jerky treats, chicken tenders, chicken strips, chicken treats, or sweet potato treats. Buying only food and treats made in the U.S. won’t remove all risk of winding up with a tainted product, but it will certainly improve your chances of keeping your pet safe. I recommend not feeding any commercial treats. Most of them are NOT healthy, and there are many great easy-to-make recipes for homemade treats.
Pet food/treat packaging usually has a toll free number listed on the packaging. Take the time to call, and be prepared for vague, unsatisfactory responses. Be polite but insistent about the source and origin of ALL ingredients, and locations of production facilities. (Being imported from a responsible place does not mean that they were not sourced in China, shipped to another destination, and then sent to the U.S. pet food companies.)
Human grade ingredients means that meats and everything, including the grains are USDA inspected. …ask for authentication of this claim. There are few regulations as far as the ingredients in pet food, and commercials show fresh chickens and whole grains. Realize that the green nuggets are NOT green vegetables…they are nuggets that are dyed green with very little vegetable content. Same with other colored kibble or treats. With much confusing, misleading info in pet food labeling and advertising, bear in mind that most of the ingredients in most pet foods, including meat by-products and meat meal, are at the low end of the food chain, and are NOT human grade: they come from whatever remains of the animal parts not deemed fit for human consumption.
The hallmarks of a high quality pet food or treat include:
- A whole meat source should be listed as one of the main ingredients. (Primary sources are listed first on labeling)
- Superior sources of protein. This means either whole meats or single source meats. Generic fats such as “animal fat” can be anything from recycled grease from restaurants to a mystery mix of various fats. What do you think is in “animal digest,” for example?
- Natural preservatives. No artificial preservatives, flavors, or colors. A healthy product with top quality ingredients shouldn’t need additives or extra sweeteners…
Choices have to be made regarding what to feed your companion animal, and cost doesn’t necessarily guarantee the best nutrition, and “premium,” “natural”, and “gourmet” are simply gimmicky marketing terms which are usually meaningless… To find out how a specific food is rated, go to www.dogfoodadvisor.com; you can also request that they notify you of any new food or treat recall. With literally hundreds of different brands available, navigating the maze of canine nutrition can be overwhelming, but if your dog’s food is negatively impacting her health and well-being, changes need to be made… not easy, but possible!.
It is definitely Fall, and we welcome a break from the hot, sticky summer weather, but there are many autumn hazards lurking for our companion animals. Knowing what these hazards are, and taking simple precautions will keep your pet healthy through the season.
Fall is notorious for the smell of outdoor bonfires or the crackling of the fireplaces replacing air conditioning, both of which can pose a danger for your pets. Animals are curious by nature, so it is important that you close up fireplace openings or block off any fire pits in order to keep your dog protected. Free standing heaters like ceramic space heaters can be tipped over by active pets and also pose a fire hazard, so be sure that any heating system is safe for your family and your animals.
The sights and smells of autumn make a great excuse for heading out to the woods for a long walk with your dog, but it is easy to find yourselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Most mushrooms have little or no toxicity, but a few of them are highly toxic and can cause life-threatening problems in pets. Unfortunately, most of the toxic ones are difficult to distinguish from harmless ones, so it is best to keep the animals away from areas where mushrooms are growing. Foxtails swaying in the breeze are pretty, but keep a wide berth when walking your dog in areas where there are foxtails or sand burrs. Be aware of the potential dangers if your dog comes in contact with foxtails: irritation, infection, chronic illness, and in some cases, death!
Fewer hours of daylight mean that dog caregivers often end up walking or exercising their canine companions in the darkness of early morning or evening. Reduced light makes it difficult to see animals and people, so it is important to wear reflective clothing and maintain close observation and control.
Autumn is the season when snakes who are preparing for hibernation may be particularly cranky, increasing the possibility of bites to those unlucky pups who want to play with the slippery critters. It you know where snakes are most likely to be found, keep your dog away from those areas!
If you have school age kids, you probably have school-related supplies lying around that your dog may decide are chew toys. Glue sticks, magic markers, and pencils are low in toxicity, but plastic shards from a chewed marker or wood splinters from chewed pencils can harm a dog’s mouth or innards.
Most antifreeze/coolants contain ethylene glycol which is highly toxic, but because of its sweet taste, animals are attracted to it. It is very fast acting and ingestion of just small amounts result in kidney failure and death. Consider switching to newer products that contain propylene glycol which are much safer. Always store new antifreeze in its original container, out of reach of pets and children, and dispose of old antifreeze in a sealed container; don’t hose it down the driveway. A thirsty pet may relieve his thirst with antifreeze that is left out or hosed down the driveway.
Fall’s cooler temperatures drive rodents in search of shelter, so the use of rodenticides increases, and if these poisons are ingested, the results can be fatal. If you must use these products, use extreme caution and put them in places inaccessible to your pets, realizing that mice and rats can transport chunks of rodenticide from a container to a location that is accessible to other animals.
If you move your plants inside for winter, be aware that there are many plants that are poisonous to pets, including amaryllis, aloe, lilies, carnations, chrysanthemums, daffodils, daisies, philodendron, some palms and grasses, poinsettias, holly and common herbs. For a complete list of poisonous plants, check www.petmd.com or www.humanesociety.org
Our companion animals who depend on humans to keep them safe, healthy and happy will enjoy a wonderful fall if we just follow a few guidelines
Backyard dogs can be found in any community, and left outdoors with little attention, they have suffered terribly this hot weather. Forcing a dog to live outside is one of the worst things you can do in any weather , because being alone goes against dogs’ most basic instinct. They do not get “used to it.” Think of all the barking, whining, digging dogs you have seen alone outside, desperately trying to get the attention of their humans. When the stress of enforced solitude becomes too much to cope with, the dogs usually become hyperactive, listless, fearful, or vicious. Some dogs develop obsessive behaviors, including tail chasing, fly snapping, and self-mutilation as a result of their boredom and frustration. A recent study by the Michigan Humane Society reveals that most dogs exiled to the lonely life of a backyard, with little human companionship, usually suffer from physical neglect in addition to the emotional deprivation they experience. Fleas and other parasites are common; fly-bitten ears are ignored, worsen, and become more uncomfortable for the dog. Symptoms of disease often go unnoticed in an outside dog.
Another concern is the failure of commitment you made to provide a lifelong, loving home for your dog. Outdoor dogs are often surrendered or abandoned because of the inappropriate behaviors they commonly display. Responsible humans cannot banish their dog outside for extended periods of time, and rationalize that the dog is happy with that existence.
“Out of sight, out of mind” neglect is common with backyard dogs. Often the children are given the responsibility of being caregiver, but even if the animal is the child’s pet, and his responsibility, adults must pay attention to the care the dog is receiving, (or not receiving) and provide for the dog, regardless if they are busy with work or other activities.
Dogs need to be part of the family…even years ago when man and all animals lived “outside” there was a cave or den for shelter, and man and dogs lived in small groups or “packs.” Maybe you grew up in a home where the dog lived outside….but probably there was a warm barn and other animals for companionship, and usually someone was home most of the day, encouraging interaction between canine and human. Times have changed, but it seems that attitudes toward dogs have not changed much. Some caregivers have the best intentions to bring the dog indoors as soon as he stops behaving like a crazy dog, but unfortunately he won’t learn how to behave properly in the house until he is allowed in the house…nor will he be house trained until he spends supervised time in the house, and is routinely taken outside. Good manners don’t just happen; they have to be taught.
Dogs offer steadfast devotion, unconditional love, and joyful companionship, and unless you are committed to responsibly care for a dog, please do not get one. If you already have an “outside” dog, please consider changing your relationship with him. A sad, lonely, bewildered dog, kept outdoors, wondering why he cannot be with his family, brings only sadness and unhappiness to the world. Forcing a dog to live outside is no way to treat man’s best friend!
I did then what I knew how to do; now that I know better, I do better —Maya Angelou