August 16, 2012

What Toys to Buy a New Puppy

Filed under: Behavior,Dog Behavior,dog biting,dog toys — Dr. Amber Reed @ 10:00 am

Let’s face it: puppies are adorable. They have little paws, soft fur, and a ton of energy. They will need plenty of toys to keep them busy and out of trouble.

Before you bring home your new puppy, make sure you have a few fun things for your puppy to play with. Here’s what to look for.

First, what he shouldn’t play with.

Puppy toys should not have attachments or points that can break off. If he swallows them he can get very sick, costing you a lot of money! Similarly he should not be playing with string, twist ties, or plastic baggies.

He cannot have your kids’ old toys that are made of rubber or sponge. Think about what toys you give your puppy and whether there is a potential for him to chew off small pieces and swallow them.

Consider a great chew toy.

There are all kinds of chew toys you can purchase for your new puppy. You may choose a harder one – such as a beef bone or a softer one – such as a soft rubber toy – depending on his size. Harder toys are best for older dogs. Younger dogs do enjoy a softer chew toy, but do not give them to older pups. Older, stronger dogs can chew off pieces and swallow them.

Or maybe a stuffed toy?

Puppies love soft, plush stuffed toys. They can easily sink their immature teeth into them and they love to throw them around and even cuddle them.

You may find yourself replacing a stuffed toy often. Throw them out as soon as they start to lose stuffing.

Balls. The old standard.

A ball is an inexpensive and easy way to keep your puppy active. Throw a tennis ball around and play a round of fetch with him. Assuming he knows fetch by then. A tennis ball is the perfect size as it poses no choking risk and is soft enough so he won’t damage any teeth.

Try a rope.

Ropes are great for playing tug-of-war with your puppy. Don’t pull to hard or you can hurt his jaw or neck. Ropes won’t damage sensitive puppy teeth, but they’re strong enough not to break off and cause a choking hazard.

Teething toys are sometimes necessary.

Soon enough your puppy will start teething. It’s uncomfortable for dogs and humans alike, so outfit him with some toys like these to keep him soothed.

  • The puppy Kong. Almost any dog owner can attest to how great the Kong is. The Puppy Kong is made of special rubber that makes it durable and satisfying to chew.
  • The Pet Stages Puppy Cool Teether is frozen to soothe irritated gums. Since it is a plush toy, it is popular for chewing.
  • Nylabone Detnal Dinosaur Flexible Chew. This toy comes in a flavoured dinosaur shape. The chewing action massages gums gently.
  • A frozen dishrag. Dip a clean dish cloth into water and twist it into a long thin shape. Freeze it and give it to your puppy when he needs to chew. It will work to numb is pain and it is very cost-effective.
  • An ice cube. Throw an ice cube into his food bowl and soothe his sore gums.

Keeping your puppy busy with plenty of playtime and toys is the best way to discourage him from chewing dangerous and expensive things like cords, shoes, and furniture. Proper toys that are physically and mentally stimulating save both you and your puppy from a lot of “bad dog” experiences!

July 28, 2010

Socializing Dogs

Filed under: Behavior — Dr. Amber Reed @ 8:31 am

When a new friend comes to visit you notice that your dog flattens his ears behind his head, tucks his tail between his legs, and maybe even urinates inappropriately.  These are all signs that your dog has immature social skills and may even suffer from anxiety due to shyness.  Dogs that crouch around new people, refuse to make eye contact, or run away and hide are showing signs that they’re nervous around new people, but what can you do?  Basically, you need to help your dog to develop social skills that never fully developed because of insufficient social contact with people as a puppy, frequent changes in ownership, and even abuse.

When your dog reacts fearfully to new people, it is important to start some behavioral modification training.  Because shy dogs can sometimes act out in inappropriate ways, socializing generally helps to create a happier life for your dog.  First of all, don’t coddle your dog.  When you comfort your dog’s fear, this actually reinforces the behavior.  Instead, demonstrate confidence so that he can learn there is nothing to fear.  Alternatively, don’t force your dog to interact with new people because this can actually lead to more anxiety, rather than less.

Instead, you want to gradually expose your dog to social situations and incrementally introduce more social opportunities.  You want your dog to learn that he can cope with these stressful situations without fear and when he has opportunities to remain calm in these stressful situations he will learn not to be afraid.  For example, start by inviting a new friend over and allowing your dog to become familiar with this friend.  Invite the same friend to your home over several weeks until the dog is no longer afraid.  Then introduce your dog to another new friend.  Eventually, try inviting a new friend and an old friend at the same time.

Over time, your dog should socialize effectively but in some cases, severe anxiety may require the assistance of your veterinarian.

July 27, 2010

Understand Your Dog’s Barking

Filed under: Behavior — Dr. Amber Reed @ 8:24 am

Dogs bark for many reasons and sometimes it seems like they bark too much.  Understanding why your dog barks can help you to gain control over excessive barking so that your neighbors stop complaining.  Yet, excessive barking is also a sign that your dog is under some stress so controlling the problem also helps your dog to deal with stress and ultimately be more content.  Remember that barking is a natural dog behavior but excessive barking could be a sign of a more serious problem.

First of all, when your dog is under extreme stress, he will probably bark.  Many dogs bark throughout the day when they suffer from separation anxiety.  Maybe you spend long hours at work or you’re a social butterfly; while that’s great for you, your dog also needs attention and time with you.  To reduce separation anxiety and the associated barking try spending more quality time with your dog.  If you already spend lots of time together, separation anxiety is probably a sign of a more serious mental health issue.  You need to teach your dog to be comfortable when he is alone for the day.  Start by leaving him alone for short periods and then return when your dog is silent.  Also, don’t give him too much attention when you leave home but greet him lovingly when you return.

Dogs will also bark when they suspect there is danger.  If they hear somebody approaching the door they may emit a series of rapid and aggressive barks, possibly mixed with growls.  This kind of barking is usually acceptable but it can easily be confused with territorial barking.  Strange smells of other dogs, frequent visitors like the mailman, and even the sight of the strangers may elicit this kind of barking.  When your dog barks in these situations, a firm “no” and consistent encouragement not to bark may solve the problem.

Most importantly, dogs will bark excessively when they don’t get enough exercise.  They are finding an outlet for their frustrations, so the first thing you should do as a dog owner is increase the number or length of walks in a day.

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Disclaimer: CritterCures is an educational resource, and all information herein is strictly for educational purposes. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure diseases, nor is it meant to replace the (prescribed) treatment or recommendations of your veterinarian or healthcare provider. Always inform your veterinarian or healthcare provider of any products that your pet are taking, including herbal remedies and supplements.