Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Breed spotlight: Poodle

The Poodle is an exceptionally smart dog breed that often competes with the Border Collie for top position in lists of dog intelligence. This friendly breed sheds next to nothing, comes in three sizes, and welcomes all sorts of activities.

Poodles are the national dogs of France, but the breed is actually believed to come from Germany originally. The standard poodle is the oldest version that was bred down to Miniature and Toy sizes. The words “standard,” “miniature,” and “toy” are only used to describe the size - all Poodles are one breed.

These dogs were originally water retrievers, and the traditional haircut was designed to help the dogs swim more efficiently. The patches of hair were intended to protect vital organs and joints. There are many different ways to trim the Poodles’ hair.

Poodles are active dogs and need exercise to stay happy. They do great in many dog sports, as service dogs, and even as circus performers.

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Monday, March 30, 2015

Walk in the park day

Today is "Talk a Walk in the Park Day" - a great opportunity to get a little exercise and relax. Walking is a good remedy for stress, calming, therapeutic, and helps keep the body going. To make it even better, bring your furry friend along!

There are many reasons to take your dog for a walk. It keeps both of you fit, improves your bond, stops the dog from getting bored, and it provides a great opportunity for training.

Your dog wants to know the world, and he or she is dependent on you to take them out to explore. It's also a great idea to vary the places where you walk, to provide new experiences. Investigating smells, sights, and sounds provides great mental stimulation.

Benefits of walking

Amongst the benefits of walking are:

  • Walking helps keep your dog healthy
  • It helps with weight control
  • Assists the digestive system
  • Walking keeps your pet from being bored, which in turn can reduce destructive behaviors
  • Alleviates excess energy and calms down hyperactivity 
  • Gives a good opportunity to spend time together 
  • Promotes your bond and builds trust

Do you take your dog for daily walks? Why, or why not?

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Friday, March 27, 2015

Bake catnip biscuits

It is Friday, and the weekend is a good time to prepare something extra yummy for both humans and pets. This week we have a recipe for catnip biscuits sure to delight cats.

What you need:

  • 1.5 cups of wheat flour
  • 1.5 tsp catnip
  • 1/3 cup powdered milk
  • 0.5 cup milk
  • 2 tbs softened butter
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 1 egg

What to do:

Start with preheating the oven to 350 F so it's ready when you are. Then stir all the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Mix in the egg, honey, milk, and butter, and form a soft dough.

If the dough is too sticky, add a little more flour. Roll it out on parchment paper and cut it into small bite-size squares. You don't have to separate the squares now, just bake for around 20 minutes until the biscuits are golden brown.

When you remove the biscuits from the cookie sheet, break them apart.

Once cool, store in an air-tight container. The biscuits freeze well, and you can thaw a few at a time.

~ Maria Sadowski ~ 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Dog saliva might hold the key to relieving allergies

Dogs are good for our health - this has been proven over and over again in everything from depression to heart problems. They might also hold the key to relieving allergies in humans, and possibly protect children from developing asthma.

Scientists at the University of Arizona recently launched a new study to see if a bacteria found in dog saliva and on dogs can lessen sneezing, itching, and hives. The idea is based on studies showing that infants born in households with dogs have a significantly lower incidence of allergies and asthma than infants in households without pets.

When it comes to asthma, dogs protect children from an infection called RSV - respiratory syncytial virus - that is connected to asthma. While being in contact with a dog is beneficial at all ages, the protection increases the earlier the child meets a dog, and being born into a household with a dog is more likely to protect against RSV and asthma than getting a dog at a later stage in life.

Allergies and asthma have increased in the Western world, and this might be based on our immune systems having too little to react to, and a dog might work as a probiotic, enhancing the human immune response.

The current study will match persons between the ages of 50 and 60 with dogs and measure their immune responses over a period of 12 weeks. If successful, the next study will include children.

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Dog world records

Norman - Image from Guinness World Records
There are quite a few dog world record holders, and some of the records are incredible. Like, fastest five meters on front paws - this record is held by Jiff, a Pomeranian, who runs the distance in 7.76 seconds.

Jiff also holds the record for fastest time on the hind paws. He runs ten meters in 6.56 seconds.

Norman the Scooter Dog is the fastest dog 30 meters on a scooter. He travels that distance in 20.77 seconds. Norman can do other fun things too, like ride a bicycle!

Jack the Black von Muehlrad holds the record in fastest time to retrieve a person from water. The record isn't just about pulling a person up on land - there is a 25 meter distance involved. Jack the Black did it in just under 1.37 minutes.

Another interesting record is "Most treats balanced on a dog's nose." This record is achieved by Monkey, who balanced 26 dog treats at once.

All dogs are remarkable in their own way. Does your dog do something weird or funny?

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Breed spotlight: Saluki

The Saluki looks graceful and fragile, but don’t be fooled by appearances - this is a marathon runner with great strength and endurance. They run at the speed of Greyhounds and can keep the pace over distance.

This is the royal dog of Egypt, and the Saluki is believed to be the oldest breed of domesticated dog. They are independent, gentle, and loyal, but they work alone. No one can keep up with a Saluki!

These dogs are so fast they’ve been used to hunt Gazelles - the fastest of Antelopes. They even have padded feet to minimize the impact of excessive running.

Their hunting instinct is deeply rooted, and the dogs will give chase if something runs. When it comes to grooming, they require weekly brushing and an occasional bath.

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Monday, March 23, 2015

Celebrate puppy day!

Today is national puppy day, a special day to celebrate dogs. Puppies bring so much joy, magic, and love into our lives. National puppy day is also intended to help save puppies in shelters, and to educate about puppy mills.

Here are some ways you can celebrate puppy day:

  • Adopt a dog from a shelter or rescue
  • Donate food, toys, money, or your time to a shelter
  • Post pics of your dog on social media
  • Spend extra time playing with your dog
  • Buy your furry friend a new toy
  • Make sure your dog's information is updated on tags and in the microchip database
  • Bake a treat for your dog

If you're thinking of getting a puppy, the National Puppy Day website has some great tips.

What do you think is the best thing about puppies? Do you have some good puppy advice to share?

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Friday, March 20, 2015

Make bacon flavored dog treats

Running towards the weekend?
It is Friday, a day of the week when many want something extra good. If you want to make the end of the work week special for your dog too, this bacon flavored dog cookies might hit the spot.

What you need:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 0.5 cup water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 10 tbs melted bacon fat
  • 5 cups whole wheat flour

What to do:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F, so it's ready when you're ready to put the cookies in.

Beat the eggs in a large bowl and stir in milk, water, salt, and bacon fat. Gradually add the flour, and make a stiff dough.

Roll balls approximately 2 inches wide and place on a greased cookie sheet, or a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake for 35-40 minutes. You can store the cooled treats in the fridge.

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Is your dog losing its hearing?

Dogs normally hear much better than humans; at least four times better than we do. They also hear a wider range of frequencies than we. The average human can hear sounds between 20 and 20,000 Hz. The average dog can hear frequencies between 40 and 60,000 Hz. 

Dogs can also determine if it's the right or left ear that picks up a sound, and they have a much better ability than humans to filter sounds. Selective hearing is actually a thing; a dog can decide to ignore everything besides the interesting sound coming from behind the bushes.

How do you know if your dog is losing its hearing?

Different dogs will react to loss of hearing in different ways, but here are some signs to watch out for:

  • Unusual disobedience or "forgetting" commands
  • Unresponsive to sounds 
  • Ears that remain still - a dog's ears normally move and twitch as they listen

If you think your dog is losing its hearing, schedule a vet visit.

How can I help my dog that's going deaf?

Since dogs have such superior hearing, a dog that used to hear relies on cues from the ears. Make sure you're keeping your furry friend safe when you're on walks and in public environments. Keep him or her on a leash when walking - your dog can no longer hear cars and other potential dangers - and keep your eyes on your dog if you have him off leash.

Most dog owners have a habit of talking to their dog. That's fine, just remember that your doggie can't hear verbal praise anymore. Reward with physical affection and treats.

It is also a good idea to desensitize your dog from unexpected touch. That is, touch your dog when she doesn't know you're there, and give a treat when she turns around. 

If your dog is losing hearing gradually, you have a chance to re-train both the dog and yourself to visual commands instead of verbal commands. This is easy; start using hand gestures with your commands, and give rewards when the dog does what you want.

Have you had a dog that was deaf or lost its hearing? Share any ideas and experiences!

~ Maria Sadowski ~ 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Is your dog losing its eyesight?

Compared to humans, dogs have superior night vision, and they see things that move better than we do. They see other colors than we do and have a wider field of peripheral vision, but we can focus on things from a longer distance than a dog.

When discussing loss of eyesight in a dog, it is important to know that humans are more dependent on their eyes than dogs are.

There are many reasons a dog might lose all or some of its eyesight. Normal aging, injury, untreated eye infections, and disease can cause vision problems and even blindness, just like in humans. The big difference is that a dog can't tell us what's going on.

No pet owner wants to think about their beloved pup losing vision or hearing, but it might still happen, and if it does, we can help the dog adjust.

How do you know if your dog's eyes are failing?

Different dogs react in different ways, but here are some signs to look for:

  • Difficulty finding things
  • Startle easy or appear jittery
  • Appear clumsy and bump into furniture, or trip

Take your dog to the vet and have its eyes checked out.

Ideas on helping your dog adapt

Look over your home and yard and remove anything that can be dangerous to a blind dog. Close off areas like stairs and swimming pools

Keep things in their place. Avoid moving furniture around, and keep all the dog's things in the same place so he or she can find them.

If you use hand signals, you need to phase them out and transition into verbal commands. For example, many teach their dogs that a downwards movement with open hand means "lie down." Start using the verbal command with the hand signal, and gradually move over to verbal command only. Clicker training works great for many blind dogs.

It is also a good idea to stimulate the dog's other senses. There are, for example, toys and balls with scent, so a blind dog can find them.

Have you had a dog who lost eyesight? Share your ideas and experiences in the comments!

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Service dog at work

Any type of dog can be a service dog.
Service dogs of all kinds perform important jobs. When you meet or see a person with a service dog, the best way to act is politely ignore the dog. It is hard to suppress the instinct to run up to a dog's owner and ask if it's okay to say hi, but when it comes to service dogs, they should be left alone to do their job.

Why is that?

When a service dog works, he or she needs to stay focused on the job. Depending on the handler's disability, the dog's focus can be the difference between life and death.

Some service dog handlers love to talk about their dogs, but many just want to go about their day.

Service dogs come in all breeds, sizes, colors, and specialities. They do not need to wear a special vest, and they are allowed anywhere open to the public. Documentation is not necessary, and while business owners are allowed to ask if a dog is a service dog, they're not allowed to ask about medical information, request paperwork, or anything of the kind.

This is a Norwegian video, but it is subtitled in English, and it illustrates the problem in a pretty funny way.

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Monday, March 16, 2015

Breed spotlight: Havanese

The Havanese is the national dog of Cuba, and its ancestors arrived to the island from Tenerife in the early 16th century. 

At the time Cuban trade was highly restricted by the Spanish, and Tenerife was one of the few open ports. The breed has an interesting history even today; every dog that lives outside of Cuba stems from 11 dogs that fled with their owners at the time of revolution.

This is a small and sturdy breed. Their coat looks warm, but it has developed to insulate and protect the dogs from tropical sun. They require regular grooming, but do not shed.

Havanese are generally friendly and become very attached to their families. They are known for being affectionate, intelligent, playful, and easy to train. This is a quiet breed too; many Havanese never bark, and they get along well with dogs, cats, and other pets.

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Friday, March 13, 2015

Cats like music - just not our music

Does your pet seem less than impressed with music? Many dogs and cats hide from music, ignore it completely, or howl along with it, and it's not just a matter of volume. Turns out that at least cats like music; just not human music.

A recent study has attempted to make music that fits how cats communicate, so the sounds will have meaning to them.

Musician David Teie composed three songs targeted at cat: Cozmo's Air, Rusty's Ballad, and Spook's Ditty. These compositions were tested on 47 different cat along with Bach's Air on a G string and Gabriel Fauré's Elegie.

The music intended for cats gain interest amongst the participating felines, while they didn't care about the human music. Younger and older cats were more interested in music than middle age cats.

The video shows some of the cats listening to tracks. Play it for your kitties and let us know if they react!


~ Maria Sadowski ~

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Harsh winter encourages more anti-tethering laws

Tethering a dog means to tie it to a stationary object. Many states and counties have rules against keeping a pet on a chain, some state how long the tether must be, or for how long the pet can be tethered. Some states have no rules about this. This year's harsh winter might change that in many places. 

California, for instance, prohibits tethering a dog to any stationary object for longer than it takes for the owner to complete a temporary task. That is, it's okay to tie the dog up outside the store when hurrying in for milk, but not okay to tie the dog up in the yard and leave it there.

Connecticut has specific rules for how a tether must look to be allowed, and persons breaking the law can be fined up to $500. Many states classify breaking the tethering laws as a misdemeanor, and D.C. threatens with imprisonment for up to 180 days along with fines.

Gwinnet County is now considering a ban on leaving an animal tethered without supervision. The current law allows tethering up to one hour, but if the change goes through it will be illegal to leave the pet.

Duchess County is considering a law making it illegal to tether puppies outdoor, and any dog in temperatures below 32 degrees or above 80 degrees. The law will also prohibit tethering during thunderstorms, snow storms, high winds, or any other extreme weather. Tethered dogs must have access to an enclosed dog house with a slanted, waterproof roof of appropriate size, clean bedding, and water.

There are still dog owners who think dogs are supposed to be tethered, because that's the way they've always seen dogs. Some believe dogs aren't affected by heat or cold, and that they can't get frostbite. It's great to see an increasing number of lawmakers make decisions to protect the weakest in our society.

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Doggie dreamhouse?

Technology giant Samsung made a survey of 1500 dog owners, and found some interesting numbers. 64 percent answered their furry friend would benefit from more gadgets and technology. 

A full 25 percent of the group wanted their pooch to have a treadmill of its own - and a tablet or a TV. 18 percent wanted their dog to have its own hot tub.

These numbers inspired their Dream Doghouse. Thus far it's a one-off, but future pooches might want to bask in this level of comfort and technology.

The house has a paw-controlled snack dispenser, treadmill covered with AstroTurf, entertainment wall with a tablet, and a hydrotherapy pool. One wall is left free to be covered with photos that can make Fido happy.

Dogs might not be aware of it, but technology plays an increasing part in their lives. Many dogs, cats, and other pets have social media profiles, blogs, books, and websites. Owners leave messages for them on answering machines, make video calls to check in on them, have web-cams to see if they're doing okay when left alone, and use more specialized gadgets to check on the dog's health, or dispense treats at random times every day.

From the point of view of manufacturers, this is a huge market. The American Pet Products Association estimates American spent 58.5 billion dollars on their pets in 2014. Spending on pets has increased dramatically - ten years ago the number was 38.5 billion, and in 1994 a mere 17 billion.

What the pets think? Who knows.

If it were for sale, would you get a Dream Doghouse?

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Japanese island where cats outnumber humans six to one

Aoshima is a remote island in southern Japan, home to 22 humans and over 120 cats. The island has no shops, restaurants, kiosks, or even cars, but it is still becoming a tourist spot with people coming to see the cats.

The first cats arrived to Aoshima to deal with mice, and the island used to have a normal cat-to-person ration. In 1945, the island was home to over 900 people. Since then, humans have migrated away, and cats multiplied.

Most of the houses on the island are abandoned, and cats have moved in. They even live in the old school. The cats have a designated feeding place, and the city official brings them food.

Would you like to visit a cat island? Does it sound like a paradise or a disaster to you?

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Monday, March 9, 2015

Breed spotlight: Pug

The Pug is one of the oldest dog breeds, and has flourished since at least 400 BC. The earliest mentions of the breed come from Chinay, where this sturdy and cheerful little dog was a pet of the Buddhist monasteries in Tibet.

This is a lot of dog in a small package. Pugs are even-tempered, loving, charming, and often filled with mischief. They are curious and love to explore, but don’t need excessive amounts of exercise. A Pug can thrive almost anywhere - as long as they’re close to the family. For a Pug, its family is the sole reason for living.

Pugs are generally happy. They’re happy living in the country or in the city, amongst children or with the elderly, amongst other pets or as an only dog. The average Pug doesn’t care where he or she lives, as long as there is love.

The short coat doesn’t need a lot of grooming, but they shed a little. The wrinkles on the forehead and face must be kept clean and dry. Like all breeds with short snouts, the Pug overheats quickly and can be prone to heatstrokes.

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Friday, March 6, 2015

How good is a dog's sense of smell?

Trained dogs can detect lung cancer from a person's breath, smell termites, or find natural gas buried under 40 feet of dirt. Scientists have attempted to quantify a dog's sense of smell in terms that can make sense to a human; a dog could detect a teaspoon of sugar in a million gallons of water, or sense one rotten apple in two million barrels.

So, how can dogs have such a remarkable sense of smell?

A human has between five and six million olfactory receptors in the nose. An average dog has around 220 million, and some breeds have 300 million. The part of the brain that interprets smells is also much larger in a dog than a human.

There are more interesting differences.

When a human inhales we breathe and smell through the same airway in the nose. Dogs have a separate fold in the nose that separates breathing and smelling. And, when a human exhales we send the air out the same way it came in. Dogs exhale through slits in the sides of their noses, and the spent air helps usher new scents into the dog's nose. This system also lets a dog sniff continuously.

Dogs can wiggle their nostrils independently and determine which nostril a scent came from.

This isn't all. Dogs have a special organ humans lack that picks up pheromones. This means that pheromones are picked up separately from other scents, and are analyzed by another part of the brain.

When a dog greets another dog, they can learn what the other eat during the day, who else they met, what they touched, and what mood they're in.

Dogs with longer noses can generally smell better than breeds with short noses, because they have more olfactory glands. Bloodhounds, basset hounds, and beagles are amongst the breeds with the most sensitive noses.

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Training your dog

There are many dog training guides on the Internet that will tell you how to teach your dog to do something, step by step. Some important points are often forgotten. Here are some easy things that can make your dog training experience easier.

Most dog owners are good at letting their dog know when he or she did something wrong. Don't forget to be generous with your affection when your dog does something right. Being generous with praise and attention can reinforce good behaviors. That is, the dog will associate the act with something positive and do it more, to experience the positive again.

Connected to the above is that dogs will respond to what you reinforce, and this isn't necessarily what you want. Say, for example, that your dog becomes rambunctious in a certain situation and you give them a treat or a chew to calm them down. This will teach the dog that being rambunctious leads to treats. Ask your dog to do something for you before giving the treat. It doesn't have to be something complicated - sitting is fine.

It is also important to have realistic expectations. If your dog has done something for a long time, it will take time to undo the behavior. It's never too late to change a behavior, but it might take time. Typical dog behaviors are the most difficult to change; dogs naturally bark, dig, and jump.

It's tempting to say no when your dog does something you don't want. The problem with that is that it doesn't give the dog enough information. If your dog jumps on someone and you say "no" they might jump higher, lower, or to the side instead of stopping. If you tell your dog what you want them to do - like "sit" - you have a better chance of success.

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Ten fun facts about dogs

Dogs and humans have walked side by side for a long time, and dog lovers have tight bonds with their dogs. Here are ten fun dog facts you might not know.

1. Dogs aren't color blind. They can see a different range of colors than humans do, and they see better than we do in low-light conditions.

2. Some dogs can't swim.

3. A third of American dog owners talk to their dogs on the phone and/or leave answering machine messages for them.

4. All paws aren't the same. Some dog breeds have webbed feet. The Lundehund has six toes.

5. Most dogs run around 20 mph. Greyhounds are considered the fastest dogs in the world, and can run up to 45 mph over short distances, but Salukis have been clocked at 43 mph - and can keep that pace over distance.

6. If you think your dog chases squirrels in her sleep, you're probably right. Dogs have the same type of REM sleep that humans do, and they are able to dream.

7. A Great Dane holds the world record as tallest dog. On average, the Irish Wolfhound is the largest dog breed, but the St. Bernard is the heaviest.

8. Allegedly, the US custom dogs "Barco" and "Rocky" were so good at their jobs that drug lords put a bounty on their heads.

9. The bible mentions dogs fourteen times. It is believed that the Canaan dog is the breed closest to the dogs of that era and part of the world.

10. Around 1,000,000 dogs in the USA are the primary beneficiaries in their owner's will. 70% of Americans sign their pet's name on greeting cards, and 58% put their pets in family portraits.

Do you have a fun dog fact that should be on the list?

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Ten fun facts about cats

Cat lovers will agree that cats are fantastic. Here are ten fun facts about cats you might not know.

1. Cats sleep between 16 and 20 hours in a day. That means they sleep at least 2/3 of every day, and that a nine year old cat has only been awake for three years of its life! Furthermore, they spend about 1/3 of their waking hours cleaning themselves.

2. Cats are good at climbing up trees, but not as good at climbing down. A cat can't climb down with its head first because all the claws point the same way, so they won't get a grip.

3. A cat can hear high-frequency sounds up to two octaves higher than a human.

4. A cat can leap up to five times its own height.

5. The Singapura is the world's smallest cat breed, and an adult Singapura can weigh just 4 pounds. The Maine Coon cat is the largest, and males often weigh 25 pounds or even more.

6. Cats rarely meow at other cats, just at humans.

7. Cats have 32 muscles that control their ears, and can rotate its ears 180 degrees. A human only has six muscles controlling the ear.

8. A cat's nose print is unique, just like a human's fingerprints.

9. An average cat can run at around 30 mph over short distances.

10. Allegedly, the church condemned cats as evil during the time of the Spanish Inquisition. This resulted in a wide-spread killing of cats, followed by an explosion of rats and other small animals the now dead cats would have killed. This, in turn, helped the Black Plague spread, and the disease killed around half of the population in Europe.

Do you have a fun cat fact that should be added to the list?

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Monday, March 2, 2015

Rare Breed Monday: Schipperke

The Schipperke is a small dog with foxlike features that originally worked as companion, watchdog, and vermin hunter. It often worked on boats - the word “schip” means boat - and the breed is nicknamed “Little Captain”.

The Schipperke resembles a nordic breed, but it really stems from a black sheepdog called the Lauvenaar, which was bred down in size.

This is an active little dog known for being enthusiastic and joyful. They’re small dogs built for hard work and love to be included in whatever the family does. The Schipperke is the 109th most popular dog breed in the AKC rankings, and the breed is described as "alert, curious, confident, and intense with a dash of mischief and impudence."

~ Maria Sadowski ~