Lifes Abundance content relating to 'pet parents'

Why Consumers Trust Lifeʼs Abundance Pet Food

Lifes-Abundance-Cares-About-Your-Dogs-Health

NOTE: Life’s Abundance is not the subject of any FDA investigations or cases of DCM.

The FDA’s June 27 update linking 16 dog food brands to reports of the canine heart disease dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) has pet parents understandably concerned. Our hearts go out to affected families, and we’re happy to address your questions about our brand.

Our Purpose is You

At Life’s Abundance we are fueled by our passion for helping families, including pets, live longer, happier, healthier lives. You and your family are at the top of our minds as we develop products, select ingredients, choose suppliers and answer your questions.

If you already feed your companion Life’s Abundance food, thank you for placing your trust in us. If you or someone you know is considering making a switch, we hope you will choose Life’s Abundance.

Our way of thinking sets us apart, but it doesn’t end there.

  • Authenticity. We don’t buy into fads and marketing gimmicks. Our formulas are based on proven science and evolve only when research confirms that an adjustment will provide a nutritional benefit. In fact, because we are proactive in our approach, we were among the first to include guaranteed probiotics in our foods.
  • Guaranteed Taurine. We guarantee minimum amounts of taurine in all of our dry dog foods. Though this nutrient is not required by AAFCO, we have always seen it as an important and beneficial supplement in our dog foods.
  • Regular Testing. We regularly test all of our dry foods. Some tests are standard protocol and some go above and beyond standard requirements. For example, after a 2018 FDA report indicated there may be a link between DCM and taurine deficiency, we re-tested taurine levels in all of our dry dog food diets. Then, later that year we re-tested Vitamin D after a series of recalls due to an excess of this nutrient. In all cases, we remain vigilant about the safety of our products.
  • Proven Results. For two decades families like yours have trusted us to provide the best nutrition for their pets. Generations of dogs and cats have thrived on our products and thousands of pet parents have shared their experience through reviews we can be proud of.
  • Feeding Trials in Process. We recognize the importance of standardized, scientific testing and the value of Feeding Trials and we are underway with the process to trial all of our dry dog foods.
  • Quick Notification System. We are proud of the fact that we have never had a recall. But, what we are most thrilled with is our Quick Notification System. Unlike most brands, because we have a direct relationship with customers, in the event there is ever an issue with a product, we will be able to notify consumers immediately. Rather than waiting to hear about a problem in the news, from a friend, or never hearing about it all, Life’s Abundance will contact you directly by email, phone or even mail. That’s a level of service you simply can’t get anywhere else.

As a company and as pet parents ourselves, news of events like DCM makes us pause to acknowledge what it means to be based on a foundation of integrity, and to appreciate those families whose well being our products support.

Be assured, we are monitoring this investigation closely and will provide updates as they become available.

DIY Projects to Make Your Home Pet-Friendly

pet-friendly-DIY-tips

If you're like a lot of new and prospective first-time home buyers, having your own home gives you the opportunity to do something you've always dreamed of ... welcoming a companion animal into your family!

In fact, it turns out that home buying decisions rely significantly on pet-related considerations. For pet parents, a house in a community with pet-oriented features will almost invariably win out over a community with numerous pet restrictions. With over 60% of American households that include a pet or want one, that's many millions of home buyers focused on their pets' needs.

Our love of pets is not just affecting buying habits, it's driving renovation decisions. This summer, countless families will be starting do-it-yourself projects with an eye toward making their homes more suitable or more comfortable for dogs and cats. In this post, we'll be taking a deep dive on some of the most common DIY projects for pet parents. So strap on your toolbelts, recharge your power tools, dig out your measuring tape, crack your knuckles and let's get down to brass tacks. Or, nails, probably nails would be better. To the list!

Hot Dog a Doggie Door!

Your dog wants to go outside. Then he wants to come back in. Then he wants to go outside again. And the cycle repeats. Rather than giving yourself over to the whims of your dog, who quite frankly will be much happier if he can run around the yard whenever the inclination strikes, why not remove yourself from this equation entirely? A dog door offers the ideal solution. And, as far as renovation projects go, relatively easy to install.

Project Difficulty: pretty simple, actually.

Laying Down the P-Lam

Life is not always neat. Dogs and cats can track in all sorts of crud into your home. And sometimes they have accidents, too. Rather than risk a pee incident with your carpeted house, why not upgrade your flooring to something decidedly more pet-friendly? Scratch-resistant, stain-proof plastic laminate flooring offers a great way to avoid the unpleasantness of carpet stains. New homeowners, be forewarned, though ... tearing out old carpet and pads and laying down all new flooring is a bit of a challenge.

Project Difficulty: moderate, but big payoff.

pet-friendly-home-improvement-tips

The Wonderful World of Built-Ins

Like the groovy conversation pits of 60's post-modern ranch houses, the understated elegance of built-ins to accommodate pet food and water bowls, not to mention pet beds, are all the rage with your fellow DIYers. There's no better way to demonstrate that your pets truly matter to you (as in, this house was literally made for you to be here). Functionally, they're a dream. Straightening up for company has never been so simple. Though it is a bit more labor-intensive than first-time DIYers should tackle, if you have a good plan, anything is possible.

Project Difficulty: complex, unless you've had woodworking experience.

The Deluxe Mud Room

Mud rooms are not just for ranches and farm houses anymore. If you have rambunctious doggos who love to romp and wallow in the dirt, and maybe young children who enjoy the same, having a room between the messy great outdoors and the cozy cleanness of your living areas can provide the perfect buffer. Now, savvy homeowners are outfitting their mud rooms with plumbing! While some install an oversized sink that functions as a doggie bathing area, other deluxe mud room conversions also function as a laundry room as well as a changing area. Wouldn't it be nice to peel off dirty clothes and drop them in the wash before you enter your inner sanctuary? The benefits are tangible and numerous, if you're ready for a bigger project.

Project Difficulty: challenging (as they say, when plumbing's involved, best to leave it to the professionals).

The best part of committing to pet-friendly renovation projects, aside from the obvious benefits of each, is that not only is there very little chance you'll regret your decision but also that you'll almost certainly derive great satisfaction from these renos. A recent survey showed that four out five people were very satisfied post-project, even when they paid someone else to do all the work. And that number only goes higher when you do the work yourself! 

So, the only question left now is, what will you build?

Fire Safety & Prevention for Families with Pets

family-fire-safety-prevention

When my mother was five years old, her house burned down due to a stove that was accidentally left on overnight. Decades later, she still remembers that night as if it were yesterday … the smoke filling the hallways, the feel of the grass under her bare feet. It happened, she said, so fast. Fortunately, everyone made it out alive.

When it comes to fire safety, most of us know the basics: pre-plan evacuation routes and during a fire, don’t open doors without first feeling for heat. But do your plans include your pet? An estimated 500,000 pets are adversely affected each year by house fires. For this reason, July 15th is designated as National Pet Fire Safety Day in order to raise awareness of pet safety during house fires and help you prepare so everyone is protected!

Safe Pet Evacuation

The first part of your pet fire safety plan should be to review your evacuation protocol, if you have one. And if not, today’s the day to make one!

1. Designate specific people for specific pets. Knowing in advance who grabs Oliver’s leash and who gets Fiona’s cat carrier streamlines the evacuation. Ideally the leashes and carriers should be kept in easily accessible locations.
2. Know your evacuation routes. A second story window is not going to be an accessible route for a large dog, so plan for exits pets can use whenever possible. It is important to remember that family members should never put themselves in danger for a pet, as difficult as that may be. First responders are trained to rescue our four-legged family members when it is unsafe for us to do so.
3. Display a window cling. Speaking of first responders, did you know you can put a vinyl adhesive sticker near your front door that alerts firefighters that there are pets in your home? Many fire stations make these available to the public, or you can easily shop for them online. Make sure they are updated regularly so first responders know how many pets are living in the home, should an emergency arise when you are away or incapacitated.
4. Keep collars on at all times. This is good practice in general, but in the specific case of house fires this makes it much easier for a firefighter to safely bring your pet out of the house. And, should they escape during an evacuation (not uncommon in times of extreme distress), he or she will have their contact information readily available on their tags.

Fire Prevention

Did you know dogs and cats are blamed for about 1,000 house fires every year? No, these are not deliberately destructive acts of arsonist-inclined companion animals. But still, yikes! Take the time to employ a few preventive strategies to ensure your dog or cat doesn’t inadvertently cause a flammable disaster.

1. Use flameless candles. Pets and open flames are a dangerous mix, particularly when you have a curious cat who likes to knock things off the coffee table. Flameless candles powered by LEDs are a pretty and safe alternative. If you really want to light that scented candle, make sure your pets are never left unattended in the same room.
2. Use knob covers on the stove. Did you know that stove tops are the number one way pets accidentally start fires? One minute they’re trying to get a look over the counter to see if there’s any food up there, the next thing you know you’re getting a call from the fire department while you’re in the middle of a work meeting. Knob covers- the same type used to prevent toddlers from starting the stove- work like a charm.
3. No glass on wooden decks. Many people like using glass bowls for pet dishes. There’s nothing wrong with that, but glass can act like a magnifying glass and set a wooden deck aflame. It might seem crazy, but it happens! Switch the bowls out for ceramic or plastic, and you’re all set.
4. Use a monitored security system or smart alarm. Traditional smoke alarms are a vital component of fire safety, but they’re only useful for people in the house at the time. Pets home alone have no way of alerting us if there’s a problem, but monitored security systems can react quickly before a fire gets out of hand no matter where you are in the world. Conversely, a good alternative to monitored systems are smart alarms. Today’s smoke and carbon monoxide detectors function not only as in-house alarm systems, they can also send text and push notifications wherever you’d like. Our system controls the thermostat, the smoke detector, security camera, and tells us if one of the kids left the front door open.

dog-cat-sleep-soundly

We’ve come a long way since that chilly night decades ago where my mother watched her house disappear. With today’s safety precautions, there’s a lot you can do to make sure your family doesn’t endure a similar tragedy. Or if you do, that everyone makes it out quickly and safely. By taking steps now to minimize the dangers and to develop a well-defined plan, everyone in your home can have peace of mind and rest a little easier.

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Amazing Greyhounds: Fun Facts About the Fastest Dog

greyhounds-are-amazing-dogs

Greyhounds are one of the oldest purebred canines. Ancient paintings of these noble creatures grace the walls of tombs in the great Egyptian pyramids. In fact, Greyhounds are the only breed mentioned by name in the Bible!

Aside from being one of the fastest animals on the planet, they are so good-natured that they are commonly referred to as “Velcro dogs” by their people. 

Would you like to learn more about this elegant, ancient breed? Then look no further, because here’s a handy infographic that reveals some of the most amazing Greyhound facts. To view the full-size PDF, simply click on the image below!

PDF Document

What Pet Parents Need to Know About Vaccines

Loving-couple-and-lab

“Vaccines are good!” “No, they’re bad!” “Do a half dose of the vaccine!” “Titer instead!”

There sure is a lot of noise surrounding vaccines for our pets, isn’t there? I don’t blame you if you think it’s confusing. Heck, I think it’s confusing and I’ve been doing it for almost 20 years. How, when, and what vaccines to use in pets is one of the most common questions I get both in person and online. When it comes to the truth about vaccines, here’s the real life, not-so-neat reality: there is no one size fits all answer. But the more we understand the principles behind the recommendations, the better equipped we are to make good decisions on behalf of our loved ones.

The immune system is complex, as is the science behind how we optimize it using various vaccinations. Here’s the basic information every pet person needs to understand.

How the Body Fights Disease

As we all know, a well-functioning body fights disease using white blood cells. However, not all white blood cells are the same! They come in three general categories:

1. Macrophages: These cells are the first line of defense. They engulf infected and dying cells, and save pieces of it to present to the other immune cells. Think of them as first responders. They save little pieces of the invader, known as antigens, as evidence from the crime scene!
2. B cells: These cells produce antibodies in response to the antigen. An antibody is a substance that helps the body fight disease in a variety of ways. For example, it can neutralize the invader, or act like a homing beacon for other types of cells to identify the invaders quickly. B cells are like Dr. Nefario from "Despicable Me" ... they don’t take part in the fight directly, but they produce all the gadgets that help the good guy win the battle.
3. T cells: These cells directly attack infected cells. They’re trained to identify a specific antigen, so it can react quickly to destroy the invader. T cells are the trained assassins of the body, honed in on their target.

After an infection is overcome, the body retains some T and B cells specific to that antigen, just in case it encounters it again. In order for those B cells and T cells to react quickly, they must have already been exposed to antigens from the infecting agent. That’s where vaccines come in.

How Vaccines Help

Vaccines imitate infection without causing the actual disease. This allows the body the benefit of those B and T cells carrying around a blueprint for how to respond to the disease, without actually having to survive the infection first. Here’s the important thing to note ... not all vaccines work the same way. Here are the most common types of vaccines we use in veterinary medicine:

1. Attenuated vaccines: These are live infective agents that have been weakened or altered in some way so they do not cause the actual disease. Distemper, parvo, and adenovirus-2 are this type.
2. Inactivated vaccines: These are whole bacteria or viruses that have been killed so they cannot replicate. The most common vaccines in this category are rabies, Leptospirosis, Lyme, influzena, FeLV, and injectable Bordetella. Because these organisms are dead, they are often combined with a substance to “draw” the immune system’s attention: like sending a flare into the sky. These substances are called adjuvants. Vaccines in this category are, according to some, the most likely to cause an adverse reaction.
3. Toxoid vaccines: These are a detoxified toxin - these are not actually in response to an infectious agent at all! Rattlesnake vaccine is the most common example.
4. Recombinant vaccines: These vaccines represent a new generation of vaccine technology. They take a piece of DNA or RNA from the infectious agent and insert it into a benign live virus that will not cause infection. Because the organism is live, it triggers a nice strong immune response without the need for adjuvant. If your cat has been vaccinated with adjuvant-free Purevax, then you’re familiar with this type of vaccine.

dog-mom-kissing-shepherd

How often do we need to re-vaccinate?

Well, here’s where it gets tricky. Some vaccines last longer than others because of the nature of the infection itself. Or, the exact same vaccine may last longer in one individual than in another. I have a colleague who needs a rabies vaccine every three years; mine lasted 20! There is no guaranteed answer.

So, what do we do? We make recommendations based on minimizing the number of vaccines while maximizing the level of protection for animals taking into account the wide variability in response. The American Animal Hospital Association assembled a gold star panel of the world experts in immunology who make, in my opinion, the most informed recommendations for dogs. The American Association of Feline Practitioners has done the same for cats. These are guidelines that are tailored to your pet with help from your veterinarian.

When you talk to your vet about what your pet needs, you balance risk versus benefit for the individual. You look at lifestyle, likelihood of exposure to diseases, severity of those diseases, current health, and vaccine history. The two most important factors are risk and health history.

Risk: Not all pets are at equal risk for disease. A pug who lives in a skyscraper in San Francisco is not at the same risk for certain diseases as a hunting dog in Louisiana.

Health History: A healthy one year old who is just finishing up their initial vaccine series has different needs than a sixteen-year-old diabetic who has been vaccinated on time her whole life. A sick pet, one with a history of reactions to vaccines, or one with a history of immune mediated disease will have different recommendations.

The exception is rabies, a disease that kills both pets and people. Most jurisdictions have mandated rabies vaccination guidelines written into law.

Can’t I just titer?

Titers are, for those willing to pay for them, a decent (but not foolproof) way of feeling out a pet’s immune status. Titers check for circulating antibodies to a specific disease. Remember when we were talking about B cells and T cells? Titers only tell you about long term B cell response. A pet with a high antibody titer may still be bottomed out on T cells, and vice versa. It’s only part of the picture. It’s not a guarantee that a pet is protected, but it gives you more information to make an informed decision particularly when it comes to how often to boost vaccines in an adult animal who already has several boosters.

What about half doses for smaller pets?

It’s tempting to think of vaccines the same way that we do drugs, whose efficacy is dependent on the concentration in the blood. Not so with vaccines. Vaccines work more on an all-or-nothing proposition: either they get the body’s attention, or they don’t. The degree of the response is determined by the body’s production of those T and B cells. This is the same as in human medicine: my kiddos get the same volume of flu vaccine as my husband. It’s not worth the risk to gamble with a vaccine not working, with no proven benefit.

It’s challenging to dilute a textbook’s worth of information into a single blog post, but hopefully this gives you a little background for your discussions with your vet. Vaccines, nutrition, weight control, exercise ... lots of moving parts come together to help ensure the best health outcomes for your pets. The best decisions are those you make with your trusted health care providers as a team!

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

References:
“Understanding How Vaccines Work” from CDC.gov
AAHA canine vaccination guidelines
AAFP feline vaccination guidelines

Four Pet Trends to Look for in 2019

Does your dog have her own dedicated Twitter following? Is your cat a fabulous Instagram star? Do you find yourself skimming the trades to make sure your puppy or kitten will have the freshest, from everyday chic wear to the slickest tech toys? If so, trends are def your thing.

Now that 2019 is well and truly underway, we're taking a closer look at pet trends for the coming year. Specifically, we'll check out four distinct areas: smart tech, alternative health, special diets and emotional health.

So, without any further ado, let's check out what's hot and what's not for doggos and kittehs for the immediate future. To view the full-size PDF, simply click on the image below. And be sure to share this handy infographic with other like-minded pet parents, too!

Four-Pet-Trends-for-2019Four-Pet-Trends-for-2019

Ways a New Puppy Improves Life with Teens

Dakota-and-Oliver

For the past three weeks, I have heard “Are you nuts?” more times than I can count. I think the answer is mostly likely “yes,” but then again I challenge any one of you to turn down this face ...

Puppy-Oliver

Yes, our family now has not one but two puppies. Dakota is eight months old, and just getting into that lovely stage where his adult teeth are all in and he’s starting to mellow out. So, of course it’s the perfect time to introduce a Golden Retriever puppy. Meet Ollie!

Dakota was mortified at first, annoyed at second, but now they are best buddies. He gets to bear the brunt of Ollie’s substantial puppy energy, and they spend long hours chasing each other all over the yard, wrestling like two frat brothers, and generally looking for mischief to get into.

Dakota-peeks

For most of my adult life I have had retrievers, and one of our favorite things to do was head over to Grandma’s house on the weekends to go swimming. I’ve never had a dog who could resist going into the pool. Until Dakota, that is. He hates swimming. Despises the water and looks at it like it is acid.

Ollie, not so much. I don’t think you could keep his fuzzy little butt out of the water if you tried.

Oliver-leaps

It’s entirely possible that I only agreed to take on another puppy because sleep deprivation from the first puppy left me delirious, but to be honest we’re all feeling pretty darn good about our decision here in the Vogelsang household. With the exception of the mass amounts of fur we now have to deal with every day (remind me again how a tiny puppy can shed that much?) we were well equipped to take this little guy on.

It's also possible that I agreed to this because my oldest is entering high school this year and I needed a small distraction from both the march of time and her natural (yet still sad) pulling away from wanting to hang out with us. As I sit overseeing Dakota and Ollie's mutual and seemingly perpetual wrestling competition at my feet, it’s a good time to reflect on what puppies bring to the life of a parent with teenagers:

1. Puppies are always overjoyed to see me, which I can’t always say for the teenagers. Any extra joy I feel certainly has an effect on the whole household.

2. The pups are also always excited to see the teenagers, which keeps them around a little longer in the evenings before disappearing to talk to their friends.

3. Puppies are incredibly photogenic, so my kids spend even more time with us taking photos for their Instagram feeds. Whatever it takes, right?

4. Puppies keep you in the moment. I mean, not only are you taking in every cute and adorable moment, you are truly engaged because otherwise they eat all your shoes. It’s easy to spend the day staring at your phone and miss what’s going on right in front of you.

5. Pups remind you that every moment is fleeting. It seems like Ollie and Dakota are literally growing in front of my eyes, a pound a day. They live their lives in fast forward. They remind me that even though my human kiddos grow a little more slowly they, too, are young for only a short while.

6. Puppies remind me to have compassion for other parents. As a vet, it’s very easy to sit in an exam room or on the phone and tell someone what they should be doing, but we forget how truly difficult some of the implementation can be. An act as simple as brushing the dogs every day takes me five times longer than it should as Ollie tries to eat the brush, then the hair, then a sock he found who knows where. The same goes for human parenting. Boy, it’s easy to judge other parents for the lunches they pack or a child’s choice of T-shirts but really, we’re all just trying to do the best we can!

7. Pups put to rest, once and for all, any regrets about the size of our family. One of my neighbors has three dogs and six children. They are lovely and she is very happy. I am very happy with two dogs and two children, and my hands are more than full! I don’t know how she does it, but I am glad she has the family that makes her fulfilled. Everyone creates the family that is right for them.

Any other puppy lessons you care to share? Leave your stories in the comments section below.

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Make Your Dog Happier by Thinking Like One

appreciating-beauty

Most people who have a dog love their dog. Unfortunately, sometimes that love falls short of actual empathy. For example, many of the "problem dog behaviors" that people complain about aren't really your dog's fault. If someone you know keeps getting "bad dogs," chances are that the dogs aren't the source of the problem. By showing your pupper a bit of empathy by viewing recurring issues from their perspective - both physically and mentally - you will develop a deeper appreciation and love for your furry companion. And that translates into a happier dog ... and a happier you!

Dogs are so much more than most people know. Like humans, dogs produce oxytocin, which allows both species to experience love and affection. Canines also have highly evolved limbic systems - more advanced than the majority of other species and comparable to humans - which enables them to experience a range of higher emotions, including an appreciation for beauty and something akin to religious ecstacy. If you've ever caught your dog gazing at a sunset or drinking in the beauty of nature, such meditative moments are caused by flares of limbic activity. 

live-is-better-with-a-pack

The most important point about dogs is that they are pack members. This is one of those facts that everyone knows but hardly anyone ever considers when trying to understand canine behavior. Imagine how confusing it is for animals with a genetic predispostion towards a pack mentality when you - the de facto leader of the pack - don't exhibit pack behavior!

Your dog's socialization instincts are very strong. Pack hierarchy was established millions of years before domestication (search for "Tomarctus," "Miacid" and "Cynodictis" for more details about the ancient progenitors of modern dogs). Humans and dogs began living together starting around 30,000 BC, so there's a long history behind the "man's best friend" descriptor. Because you provide food, shelter, affection and fun, you are the de facto leader of the pack. That's why it's so vital for you to understand how this should inform your interactions with your pup! To get you started on this journey of understanding, here are three examples that frequently crop up for pet parents.

He Stares at Me Every Time I Eat!

regarding-hooman

From pitiful, longing looks to grumpy growl grumbling, dogs all over the world appear to be begging to eat the food on your plate, much to our annoyance. While he may find the smell of your food super appealing, that's not the primary take-away from this behavior. So, what is he trying to communicate? Let's put on our "pack mentality glasses." As social creatures, dogs view mealtime as a social event. As top dog, you are responsible for fairness at mealtime. But when you - and other human family members - partake, your dog feels left out. Punished even. So, in a sense, they are begging ... only they're begging for inclusion. If at mealtime, you provide them food or a healthy treat, then suddenly your dog not only feels included, they also no longer feel ostracized. Try it for yourself and see if everyone isn't happier!

She's Just Scared of Everything!

dogs-eye-view

Again, dogs are sensitive social animals. Recent MRI studies show that dogs are capable of complex emotions and reading the emotional state of their caregivers. When people express anger or annoyance - whether it's at the news, a bad day at work or problems with a spouse or partner - dogs are highly attuned to that. And, if on top of all of that, you're also frustrated with your pup's skittishness or anxiety, well obviously that will likely only exacerbate these very same issues and problem behaviors you wish would go away. Whether you realize it or not, as alpha, you're setting the tone for everyone else in your pack (family, same difference). If you're quick to snap, your dogs will be anxious. If you are tolerant, patient and calm, your dogs will be less anxious. See? Dog logic is not so difficult. For the wellbeing of your entire family, be careful about the emotions you project.

He Keeps Chewing Up My Shoes!

This one is so common, it's hard to find someone who hasn't experienced the heartbreak of losing a favorite pair of shoes. Sadly, many feel their dog was being vindictive and dole out a harsh punishment. And that's not good for the pack. First of all, canine memory works differently than ours. Shaking a slobbery, mangled shoe at your pupper is really going to baffle them, especially if it's been more than 20 minutes since it was destroyed. So, what are dogs trying to tell you when they chew up your shoes? This question is answered best with another question: what is the last thing you do before you leave the house for an extended period of time? You put on your shoes, right! Your dog believes - with evidence gathered literally every day - that destroying your shoes will prevent you from leaving the house (i.e., the pack). She's really not being a jerk, she's just trying to keep you where you belong ... with her! To avoid this happening, simply protect your footwear with a dog gate. Or better yet, take your dog with you when you leave!

intense-focus-pupper

There you have it. Three simple examples of "problem behavior" that can be understood in a completely new way that's more charitable to your dog. Just remember that you're the leader here and your dog looks to you (often lovingly) for reassurance, consideration and safety.

We're very interested to know if this article leads you to reconsider some aspect of your dog's behavior, so please let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!

Dave Mattox
Content Editor

Why is My Dog So Nervous?

scared-pug

My neighbor’s dog Chuckie is, by all accounts, an anxious canine. Sweet as can be, but nervous. Chuckie hides behind his mom when new people show up. He still doesn’t trust his dad, who is the one who lobbied so hard to bring Chuckie home in the first place (three long years ago). He runs away from him and wedges himself under a table whenever my friend's husband looks at him directly - about which the poor guy feels rather despondent.

When a dog is this fearful, many people assume that at some point he or she has been abused. It’s the catch-all people use whenever a dog whose history is unknown shows stress or fear. We say, “He’s scared of men so he must have been abused by one." Or, "She’s scared of ballcaps, so she must have been abused by someone who wore one.” The same sentiments are expressed for men with beards, people wearing sunglasses, pulling out a camera, you name it!

It would be horrifying to think that every dog who exhibits fear (chiefly because there are a lot of them) do so out of a direct result of abuse. While it certainly happens, and it's terrible when it does, a much more likely and less harrowing explanation is that these dogs may not have been adequately socialized as a pup.

nervous-lab

After puppies are born, a great deal of neurological development takes place, much of it occurring in the first 16 weeks. Their early experiences in this crucial time make a lifelong impact on their ability to react to stress. During this period, they are most open to new experiences, sights and sounds. From vacuum cleaners to cats to children (and, yes, men with beards wearing sunglasses and baseball caps), a dog who has a positive experience with these things during this critical time is much less likely to react negatively to them down the road.

Most puppies go to a new home at eight weeks at the youngest, ideally even a little older than that. Back when I started out in veterinary practice, vets were trained to advocate from a health standpoint: keep puppies at home and away from potential sources of illness until they are fully vaccinated at 16 weeks. Unfortunately this "common knowledge" means pups may be missing out on some key socialization time.

As our understanding of the importance of socialization has increased, many trainers are opening up puppy classes to 12-week-olds and veterinarians are re-evaluating the four-month quarantine rule. Each of us needs to assess the risk/benefit analysis of taking puppies out into the world, but in a controlled environment around dogs who are healthy and up-to-date on vaccines, many of us find the socialization benefits are well worth it!

When Dakota came home with us, he was 14 weeks old. He spent his early weeks in a house with nine adult dogs and all of his littermates, which was quite chaotic. But, it led to him being super comfortable meeting new pups. Before coming home with us, he had already gone home with an elderly couple who returned him after a couple days when the reality of living with a puppy set in. So he had been exposed to quite a lot! Nonetheless, as he was current on his preventive care, we also attended socialization classes from the get-go. Based on his reactions at the door, it’s clear he was never exposed to men in UPS uniforms, but we’re working on it. 

happy-poodle

When talking to friends who are experienced breeders, I learned there are several formal programs you can use to socialize puppies at the very early stages of life (aka, “puppy preschool"). These programs are great because they walk people through each important aspect of social exposure needed for good socialization, from touching to meeting strangers, to music and doorbells. In fact, the breeder we are getting our next Golden puppy from is doing it as we speak, and started when the litter was only one week old! And yes, that is my way of saying I am bringing another puppy into the house this summer, which is insane but at least I will have lots to talk about here on the blog! 

As for Chuckie, his family has come to love and accept him as he is. That isn’t to say that dogs can’t change or improve after 16 weeks of age has passed! I often see Chuckie walking to the dog park with the husband, who learned that when Chuckie is in the presence of other dogs he also relaxes more with people. Their patience and love has helped him adjust and modulate his fear, even as an adult.

Have you ever used a puppy kindergarten training program with a new litter? Do you think it helped? What have you done to diminish your dog's outsize fear?

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

The Best Way to Pet a Cat

cat-petting

If you haven't had much experience with cats, or if you want to teach your kids how they can be affectionate without worrying about getting scratched, we’ve got the inside scoop on how felines want to be petted.

So, what’s the correct way to pet a cat? You may think, no one needs to tell me how to do a simple thing. But the truth is that petting a cat isn’t something you can do by intuition alone. If you’ve never had a close relationship with a cat, maybe because you had a bad experience before, don’t worry. We can help you change all that with a short tutorial. Simply follow the guidelines below and you too can begin to know the joys of feline companionship.

If there’s one rule to keep in mind, it’s that petting a cat is very different from petting a dog. While dogs usually love a good belly rub, cats typically do not. Why is this true? It boils down to psychology. Generally speaking, dogs are usually pretty secure in their identity as a predator. You may even know of a few tiny dogs who believe themselves to be big bad wolves (looking at you Chihuahuas and Terriers). However, cats are more cautious, because in the wild, they identify as both predator and prey. That’s why cats remain on high alert much of the time. If a cat feels threatened – like when someone they don’t know unexpectedly touches their soft underbelly - he will act defensively to protect his vital organs. Better you than him, he would say.

right-spot

So, the secret spots where cats enjoy being scratched are where a cat’s scent glands are located: in the cheeks, the top of the head and at the base of the tail. When a cat rubs against a piece of furniture or your leg, it’s referred to as bunting. Bunting is how a cat spreads his scent. It’s his way of saying, “Hey, I like you and want to include you among the things that make me happy.” Bunting releases pheromones, making objects – or people - in his environment smell familiar. It also has the added benefit of reducing stress!

Around the head is a sure-fire hit with most kitties. Rub your cat along the crown at the top of the head, gently under his chin, in front of the ears and cheeks behind the whiskers. Hit this last spot just right and your cat will actually rotate his whiskers forward, indicating interest and friendliness.

With cats, it really pays to be observant about how each individual responds to different kinds of touches. Most cats like it when you run your hand along the spine. Some even enjoy gentle pressure at the base of the tail. In fact, they’ll let you know by sticking their tails straight up. If you notice any growling or tail-swishing, these are clues that your cat is becoming overstimulated and may lash out. For cats with heightened sensitivities, it’s best to stick with gently scratching their head and neck.

kitty-scritches

If you’re interacting with a timid kitty, always let them come to you first. As you might imagine, chasing someone down is not a good way to start a new relationship with a cat (or anyone, for that matter). Instead, try a “peace offering.” When approaching timid cats, give them a couple of tasty morsels, like our Gourmet Cat Treats for Skin & Coat Health, to show that you’re friendly and mean no harm. This positive reinforcement for affectionate behavior could have your cat saying, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

We hope you find these tips helpful for tuning you in to your inner cat nature, and that you too will now feel completely at ease with all kitties.