Let Your Dog Sniff – Pros vs. Cons

The time that a dog spends sniffing and processing the information that he gathers provides a form of mental exercise.

A doggo’s sniffer is his strongest sense.  Scent is how he recognizes people and other animals. It is how he keeps himself mentally stimulated and it is how he finds his way home if he’s lost.  Sniffing can even tell him if his human is sick. A dog’s sense of smell is more that 40 times more powerful than a human’s, and this allows him to learn and retain details about everything around him. Letting your dog sniff has many benefits.

When a dog sniffs he is gathering and processing information, providing mental stimulation.

When you are walking your dog, it is tempting to rush him along when he tries to stop and sniff every single tree, bush, fence or lamppost. It may not always be possible to stop at every “good sniff”, but if you are able to, your dog will benefit greatly from your patience.

When a dog sniffs the right spot, he can learn about the animals or people that have preceded him.  The time that he spends processing the information that his nose has gathered provides a form of mental exercise.  It acts like a puzzle that the dog must put together and retain. Because dogs don’t have a lot of things to exercise their brains in the house, this is a vital part of his daily activity while they are out. This mental stimulation is one of the most significant benefits of letting your dog sniff.

If they are confronted with another dog, they can learn everything about that dog through a few moments of sniffing.  They can determine the gender of the other dog, where that dog has been, the humans or dogs that this new friend has met.  He can even determine the other dog’s emotional state.

What are the cons?

Having said all of this, there are a few things to be concerned about when your dog is out sniffing the neighborhood.  If your doggo finds poop that has been left behind by another dog, there can be some dangers lurking in that little pile.  Poop from a sick dog can contain worms and bacteria, including E. coli and Canine Coronavirus.

I remember my German Shepherd becoming ill. She was vomiting and had severe diarrhea.  When I took her to the vet, she was diagnosed with a bacterial infection (gastroenteritis) that was treatable with antibiotics.  When I asked where she would have contracted this, and the vet said it probably came from something she sniffed along a walk.  After that I was very cautious.  I am still very aware of what my own dog and all of my clients are getting their noses into. 

What have I learned?

Nothing is 100% safe, but the benefits that your pup will gain from those short sniff sessions far outweigh the possible negatives.  The likelihood of your dog getting sick is very slim, especially if you are vigilant about watching them. 

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Stay Safe While Walking Your Dog

Remember, if we are not taking care of ourselves, we are not going to be able to properly care for our pets.

Now that we have chosen the appropriate harness and leash for our pups, we have made sure that their paws are protected from the elements and we have found the best winter and rain coats to be sure they are comfortable while outside walking or playing, it’s time to make sure we are prepared as well. We all do everything in our power to keep our doggos protected and safe while we are on our walks, but we don’t always think about ourselves. Remember, if we are not taking care of ourselves, we are not going to be able to properly care for our pets. If we slip and fall, suffer from heat stroke or get frost bite, we are not going to be of any value to them, and could actually put them in danger if we were to lose control of the leash. It’s important to stay safe while walking your dog.

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Last year was a particularly cold and snowy winter. This made for great adventures while walking with my clients. They loved to play and run in the white stuff, but the sidewalks and park paths were never free of ice. Sometimes it was black ice, or hidden below a layer of snow. This left me vulnerable to falling, which I did – several times! Some of these falls put not only me in jeopardy, but after the fact, I realized that the dog could have been as well.

“…she fell on a patch of ice and hit her head on the ground. She was unconscious for several minutes and the dog stayed with her.”

One incident that was cause for concern was when I fell forward toward a driveway entrance. Fortunately, the Golden Retriever I was walking was on a long lead so he was well past the area where a car might drive. I did drop the lead when I hit the ground. Not only did I land in a very precarious position with regard to traffic, but if it had been a dog who was a runner, he might have bolted.

Coincidently, he was walking with his owner a few weeks later, when she fell on a patch of ice and hit her head on the ground. She was unconscious for several minutes and the dog stayed with her. Again, a dog who is a flight risk could have been long gone.

Why am I telling you these stories? To demonstrate the importance of safe walking practices. While all accidents are not 100% preventable, we should do our best to reduce the risk.

How to dress in winter:

If you are out in the colder months, check the weather before going out. Wearing appropriate jackets, hats, gloves and boots will help you to be comfortable. This will also allow you to enjoy your walk as well as focus on your dog’s needs.

If there is snow or ice, I would highly recommend spikes for the bottom of your boots. I have been using a pair this year and the stability while walking has kept me upright. They provide traction when you walk on slippery surfaces. Although they do not completely prevent falls, they have made a significant difference to the way I walk. In addition to preventing slips and falls, they have kept me from tensing up. This has helped to reduce sore muscles and back pain.

Always wear something bright colored and/or reflective. In the shorter days of winter, you will likely be walking at dawn, dusk or in complete darkness. Wearing reflective jackets or vests will ensure that you are visible when crossing streets or walking along roadsides. A reflective vest, leash or flashing collar will make sure your dog is visible as well.

The Best Hot Weather Clothing and Accessories:

Aside from wearing cool and comfortable attire when outside in summer, you should be sure to wear a hat. Keeping the hot sun from beating down on your head will prevent heat stroke. Heat stroke can cause dizziness and weakness which could result in passing out. Again, this leaves your dog unattended and vulnerable.

Wear proper walking shoes. Flip flops and sandals will not support your feet and ankles properly and could cause permanent damage. If you step on uneven terrain you can easily slip off a sandal or flip flop causing you to fall. You could also wind up spraining or breaking your ankle rendering you useless for doggy walks over the next several days or weeks.

Carrying and consuming water is as important for you as it is for your doggo, as maintaining hydration is another key factor in preventing heat stroke.

Wear sunblock. Though this will not prevent any sudden issues while on a walk, if you get a nasty sunburn, you are not going to want to walk tomorrow, and your pup will not get his proper exercise.

Rain Gear:

Many people ask me if I have my umbrella on rainy days. Truthfully, I try to avoid carrying an umbrella. Because I have one hand on the leash, I need the other free to pick up poop, clean burrs off of fur or remove mud or pine needles from paw pads. Carrying an umbrella can be a hindrance. I opt for a hooded cape or raincoat with a rain hat to keep me warm and dry. They usually come in bright colors, so they cover the visibility issue on foggy, misty, rainy days.

Be prepared:

Always carry a flashlight when walking on particularly cloudy days or in the dark. This not only makes you more visible, but it can protect you and your pup from coyotes or any other animals that may pose a threat. If your area is known to have a strong presence of a specific wild animal, learn all safety and protective measures to keep you and your pup safe from attacks.

When you are on an airplane, the flight attendant always tells you to use the mask first. If you are not safe, your partner or child isn’t either. It is the same with walking our pets. Make sure you are protected so that you can keep them as safe as possible.

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GPS Trackers for Dogs and Cats

It’s always better to be safe than sorry. If you have a pet who is deaf, a flight risk, new to you and your home or fearful. If you are travelling with your doggo or just driving around your home town, keeping a tracker on her will bring peace of mind.

So, you have your pet microchipped, why would you need GPS trackers for dogs and cats? A microchip is perfect if your pet has been found and the good Samaritan who found her does his due diligence and takes her to a vet or shelter to have the chip scanned. In a perfect world, this would be enough. Unfortunately, not all pets are lost in an area where a human is likely to find them and not all humans are willing to go through the process of picking up a stray animal and going through the process. Some will even keep the found pet for themselves. These scenarios call for a tracker so that you can go to your pet, rather than hoping she will be returned to you.

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What should I look for in a tracker?

Many tracking devices offer similar functions that are key to bringing your doggo home. The three most important features that I have come across are battery life, range of coverage and that it be waterproof. It is the combination of these three features that provides the highest chance of a successful reunion.

Battery Life and Charging:

The battery life should be no less than a couple of days. You will need to have enough time to get to your pet once she is located. If she accidentally becomes stuck in a vehicle and transported to a different city, you need time to reach her. If she is lost in the woods, you may need time to hike to her location. You will need a battery that provides you with ample time to do so.

A minimal charging time is important as it ensures that she will not be without her tracker for too long. You can charge it while you are all inside and be sure that she is wearing the collar before anyone opens the door to head out to enjoy your day. If you are driving it is best to keep the tracker on in case of an accident. Often, an accident situation results in a dog bolting from the scene because she is afraid or, even worse, injured. Having the tracker on her will help you to get to her and care for her as soon as possible.

Range of Coverage:

Having a tracker that has a limited tracking range limits your chances of bringing your pet home. There are several trackers out there that have many wonderful features, but can only be used within a limited number of kilometres/miles. This is great if she doesn’t get far, but as in the scenario where she gets stuck in a vehicle and driven down the highway, this could render the tracker useless. There are some that only provide coverage within a specific country. This seems like plenty of range, but if you are travelling or live close to a border, your dog could travel across the border and you would lose the ability to track her beyond a certain point.

Waterproof:

Dogs swim, dogs roll in mud puddles, dogs run in the rain. A tracker that will withstand being wet will ensure that you can maintain a solid connection between your app and your pet regardless of where she goes. until you are able to catch up with her and bring her home safely. It also provides the opportunity to take your pet to the beach without having to remove the tracking device, putting your pet at risk of running around unmonitored.

Many believe that their pup will never run far from them. Although this may seem like the case, circumstances come into play that can cause your pet to become lost. A frightening noise could cause her to hide. She may chase a squirrel until she doesn’t recognize her surroundings. Some run into situations, like sleeping in the bed of a truck that suddenly begins to move. Others may swim out too far from shore. Any of these can take them far from home. Wearing a tracker on will help you pinpoint her exact location so that you can get to her sooner.

These may sound like unlikely scenarios, but they do happen more often than we think.

It’s always better to be safe than sorry. If your pet is deaf, a flight risk, new to you and your home or fearful, you should consider a tracker. When travelling or just driving around your neighborhood, keeping a tracker on your pup will bring peace of mind.

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Tick Bites and Lyme Disease

I am not a veterinarian nor medical professional. The information in this article has been researched and sourced at the end of the post. All medical issues or questions regarding your pet’s health or symptoms should always be brought to the attention of your veterinarian for clarification, assessment, advice and treatment

I had always known that along with the sunny spring weather came the increased risk of tick bites and Lyme Disease, but recently I learned that they can be found year-round in different areas. The rule of thumb is that temperatures over five degrees present a nice living environment for ticks, and increase the chances of your dog coming home with a stowaway on board. These pesky intruders can be very dangerous for your pet as well as you and your family. They carry and spread diseases, the most common being Lyme Disease.

This post may contain affiliate links.  Although we may make a small commission it is at no cost to you.  See “Disclosure and Legal Things” section for complete details.

How do I know if my dog has a tick?

After each walk, it is recommended that you do a full body inspection of your dog. This is even more important if you have been in tall grass or wooded areas, as ticks tend to hide in these environments. If your dog sits, lays down, rolls around or even just sniffs the ground, one of these little insects can latch itself onto your pup and begin its mission to burrow into the surface of her skin. By doing a nose to tail inspection, you can find, remove and clean the area of the bite before the tick has enough time to do any damage. The longer a tick remains on your dog, the harder it is to remove. It also has more time to potentially spread any diseases it may be carrying. Ticks can stay on your dog for up to 10 days depending on the age of the tick.

What do ticks look like?
Ticks range in size, from the size of a flea up to about a centimeter long.
Tick bites and Lyme Disease can be dangerous to your pets and family
Tick bites and Lyme Disease can be dangerous to your pets and family.

Ticks range in size, from the size of a flea up to about a centimeter long. They have an oval-shaped body and a small head, with spider like legs. When you see or feel one on your dog, you will most likely see the body, as they burrow head-first into the skin. When you do your inspection, be sure you are in a well-lit area. Do both a visual and manual examination. Sometimes the tick buries itself in a particularly furry area, making it difficult to see. By using your finger tips to feel for bumps, you may find one that you overlooked.

How do I remove a tick from my dog?

To remove the tick safely, you must be sure to pull the entire head and body from the skin. There are special tools available for tick removal. People will tell you to use regular tweezers, but they can be very sharp on the ends. This can result in the body being detached from the head, and the head remaining in the dog. This is the one thing you are trying to avoid. The head is the part that is stuck in your dog’s body and the highest risk to your dog’s health.

You may have been told to use a dish soap or Vaseline concoction that will cause the tick to retreat on it’s own. Any vet I have spoken to has advised against these processes as they take longer and may or may not work.

Getting the tick out as quickly as possible is the goal. After it has been plucked out of your dog’s skin, wash the area with hydrogen peroxide and or rubbing alcohol. This will clean the wound left behind by the bite.

Once you have removed the tick, it is advisable to put it in a sealed bag and take it to your vet to be tested for Lyme Disease.

What symptoms should I watch for?

It can take several months for symptoms associated with a tick bite, most notably Lyme Disease, to appear. If at any time during this period she shows signs of fatigue, lethargy, muscle stiffness, joint pain or fever, you should take her to a vet to be tested. Even the testing can take several months. Sometimes the antibody that indicates Lyme Disease takes a while to show up in the blood. This test may have to be repeated a few times. The results will be compared to the previous levels of the antibody to monitor any increases in the levels.

How is Lyme Disease treated?

If found early enough, Lyme Disease can be treated with a simple antibiotic. Your vet may also prescribe pain meds to help with the stiffness and joint pain until the antibiotics run their course and the disease has been cleared from your pup’s system.

How do I prevent my dog from tick related illness?
  • Avoiding wooded or grassy areas during peak seasons.
  • Early detection from thorough daily inspection.
  • Fast removal of any ticks that are present during inspection.
  • Topical prevention medication applied between the shoulder blades.
  • Oral prevention medication taken at prescribed intervals

DO NOT USE TOPICAL PREVENTION MEDICATION IN A HOME WITH CATS AS THIS MEDICATION IS TOXIC TO CATS

ONLY USE MEDICATION AS PRESCRIBED OR ADVISED BY YOUR TRUSTED VETERINARIAN

Sources

https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/how-to-remove-a-tick#1

https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/akcs-chief-veterinary-officer-on-tick-borne-disease-symptoms-prevention/

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Collar vs. Harness – Protecting Your Dog’s Neck and Spine

There are many potential hazards associated with the pressure a collar places on a dog’s neck, throat and spine.

Wearing collars in the house:

Dog collars are great for attaching dog tags and licences to, but that is about it.  Many pet parents are unaware that puppies and dogs who spend time in crates while wearing regular collars are put in jeopardy every time you leave them unsupervised. There are thousands of cases annually where dogs have accidentally strangled or hung themselves by getting caught on the bars of the crate and were unable to wriggle themselves free. Choosing the safest dog collar or harness depends on your dog’s needs and habits.

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This can best be avoided by removing the collar altogether before entering the crate or pen. Another option is to use a break away collar. In the case of an emergency, the dog pulling to get loose will release the clasp on the collar and the dog will be free and safe. I actually experienced this recently with my cat. We came home to find that the cat had no collar on. It was several days before we found the collar. It was wrapped around the floor-level hooks on our coat rack. Had he not been wearing a break-away collar; he may not have survived. Because of this incident, he no longer wears a collar at all. It’s just too dangerous.

Wearing collars on a walk:

Collars were traditionally used to attach leashes to when walking your dog. We are now learning that there are many potential hazards associated with the pressure a collar places on a dog’s neck, throat and spine. If the dog walks easily beside you, and never pulls, there is little chance of damage. The likelihood that your dog never pulls for any reason, is very slim. If a dog sees a squirrel, another dog, a favorite person, if he gets startled or needs correcting, the leash will probably reach full tension. As soon as this happens pressure is placed on the dog’s neck. This is where the decision between dog collar or harness comes in.

Below the area of the neck where a standard collar rests on a dog’s neck is a thin layer of skin which covers the trachea, larynx, thyroid and cervical spine. When the dog pulls (or is pulled) the collar can place pressure on any of these areas causing permanent damage. Pressure on the neck can even result in damage to the eyes. Sometimes when I am walking, I see a dog who is pulling so hard on the leash that I can actually hear the dog struggling to breathe. I am not sure why they don’t stop pulling when this level of discomfort is reached. I don’t think that dogs have the mental capacity to logically associate that if they were to stop pulling it would make it easier to breathe.

Harness
If you use a well-fitting harness – one that rests below the neck and does not rub behind the front legs – your dog will be safe and comfortable.

Now that we know that, for most dogs, we probably don’t want to attach our dog’s leash to a collar, we have to choose an alternative. A shock collar is out of the question for me. Controlling a dog with pain is, in my opinion, cruel and inhumane. What’s the safest choice? A harness. If you use a well-fitting harness – one that rests below the neck and does not rub behind the front legs – your dog will be safe and comfortable.

A leash can be attached in two places on a harness. Some have the D-link on the back, allowing the leash to pull from behind. There is little control over pulling, jumping or for training purposes when attached in this location. For a trained dog, this provides a safe and comfortable option. Deciding on a harness with the D-link in the front at the chest level offers more control over the dog’s movements. When training this serves as a gentle reminder not to pull. The resistance comes from a place that does no physical damage at all to your dog. When training or when more control is desired, choose a harness that is reversible or has a D-link in both places .

When deciding whether to choose a dog collar or harness, please consider your doggo’s safety and comfort. They will protect us from anything. We should do the same for them.

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