Close X


Abby K9's Links & Things

March 13 is K-9 Veterans Day

March 10th 2009 10:40 pm
[ Leave A Comment ]

Please mark your calendars and let your friends, family, and blog readers know that March 13th is K-9 Veterans Day. You can click here to read more about K-9 Veterans Day and what you can do to help make this an official event in your town, state, and in the United States.

K-9 Veterans Day, started by Vietnam dog handler Joe Wight, is a grassroots movement that tries to draw attention to our nation's working dogs and their contribution to our country and our armed forces, and to get them the recognition they deserve. We have three holidays to honor our human soldiers - Memorial Day, Armed Forces Day, and Veterans Day - but none to honor our four-legged troops who have, in the last seventy years, saved countless thousands of lives through their special abilities and training, working as sentry dogs, scout dogs, tracking dogs, messenger dog, explosives dogs, and mine and tunnel dogs.

K-9 Veterans Day, however, doesn't just seek to remember our military working dogs, but also all working K-9's, whether they are working for police departments, the fire department's arson unit, border patrol, or at our nation's airports. Even therapy dogs working with our wounded soldiers are part of the group of canines behind honored here.

Joe's website has some ideas for things you can do to celebrate K-9 Veterans Day this year, and the most important of those is getting the word out and asking people to sign the petition to make this an official day in the United States.

I've created some graphics you can download and use on brochures, fliers, your blogs, your websites, and wallpaper on your computer, to help raise awareness. You can download them for free here, and they don't require a link back to me, but a link back to Joe's website would be great if you use them on your page.


Tag, I'm It

November 17th 2008 9:54 pm
[ Leave A Comment ]

I just got a nice paw mail from Lexie asking me to play tag by posting the questions (and my answers) and tagging some of my friends in return. I don't usually play tag because I don't use my Dogster blog very much, because I have a regular blog here, but what the heck.....

Whats your favorite toy?

Mind you, I'm not really "into" toys like some of my dog pals, but right now I have two favorite toys: my big fluffy sheep and my duck. Mom bought the sheep for me at Wal Mart just after Easter, and even though I pulled the eyes out of it when I was bored, I still play with the sheep. It also makes a great pillow to rest my head on. Mom got the duck from the pet store and it makes a loud honking duck sound.

What Jobs do you have?

At home, my main job is making sure mom and dad don't get cold at night, because I sleep on the bed with them and keep them nice and warm. I also make sure nobody steals the couch and that the cat doesn't get in trouble.

I also go and visit soldiers on base so they can pet me and play with me. Mom calls me a "therapy dog", but I'm just having a good time, so I'm not even convinced I'm actually working. When we lived in Northern Virginia, I visited an old folks' home instead of the soldiers, and worked with people who had Alzheimer's and other memory impairments. They were pretty funny sometimes and never remembered my name, but they liked me just as much. I do think I have more fun with the soldiers, though, because I don't have to be quite as careful and calm all the time as I did at the old folks' home.

In northern Virginia, I also worked as a mascot for Army Recruiting and I even got an "Honorary Recruiter" certificate in my name. We would go to some of the bigger events in the area, like the big air show at Andrews Air Force Base and the Army Ten Miler and talk to people about the Army. (Don't let them fool you, they just wanted to pet ME!)

What are your favorite places to go?

I like going anywhere at all, as long as it involves riding in the car. I get so excited about going places. When mom takes the keys from her box by the front door, I know it's time to go in the car and I literally bounce up and down and am ready to go. I'm happy to just go to the grocery store if I get to ride in the car!

What are your favortie things to do?

I like snoozing on my big dog bed in the living room, curling up with my cat pal Finnegan, going places, and meeting people. I love meeting lots of new people.

Tag 7 Friends

Well, I don't usually tag, but if any of my friends would like to do this, please feel free to do so and consider yourselves tagged. :)


My Real Blog

March 19th 2008 3:30 am
[ Leave A Comment ]

If you're checking out my blog here on Dogster, you might be disappointed to see that it's pretty empty. That's because I have a real blog, outside of Dogster, where I write my updates and post pictures (something I can't do on Dogster). So make sure to check out my real blog at the link below -

AbbyK9 @ Blogspot

Make sure to check out my photo page, too. I love to take pictures, especially now that I finally got a Nikon D40, which takes excellent photos, and what better subject than Abby!

Abby K9 @ Fotki


My Dogs Live Here

December 10th 2007 7:11 pm
[ Leave A Comment ]

My Dogs Live Here
by Unknown Author

My dogs live here, they're here to stay.
You don't like pets, be on your way.
They share my home, my food, my space.
This is their home, this is their place.

You will find dog hair on the floor,
they will alert you're at the door.
They may request a little pat,
a simple "no" will settle that.

It gripes me when I hear you say:
“Just how is it you live this way?
They smell, they shed, they're in the way!”
"Who asked you?" is all I can say.

They love me more than anyone.
My voice is like the rising sun;
they merely have to hear me say
“C'mon, it's time to go and play!”

Then tails wag and faces grin,
they bounce and hop and make a din.
They never say “no time for you."
They're always there, to go and do.

And if I'm sad? They're by my side.
And if I'm mad? They circle wide.
And if I laugh, they laugh with me.
They understand, they always see.

So once again, I say to you
"Come visit me, but know this, too:

My dogs live here, they're here to stay.
You don't like pets, be on your way.
They share my home, my food, my space.
This is their home, this is their place."


Thanksgiving Tag

November 11th 2007 11:32 pm
[ Leave A Comment ]

I've been tagged by Draco.

Here are the Rules:
Because it’s Thanksgiving time, there is a change to the rules. Each player needs to tell seven special things they are thankful for. Tagged dogs must post the rules in their diary and their 7 things. Then choose 7 pups to tag and list their names. Let them know by pawmail or rosette that they have been tagged and to read your diary for the instructions on how to play.

Seven Things I’m Thankful For:

1. I'm thankful my humans rescued me before I was put to sleep at the shelter.
2. I'm thankful for long hikes in the forest.
3. I'm thankful for raw meat and bones, especially crunchy chicken feet.
4. I'm thankful for getting to ride in the car so often.
5. I'm thankful for the people I spend time with during therapy visits.
6. I'm thankful for the many great places my humans take me.
7. I'm thankful for my comfortable dog beds (plural) throughout the house.

I've tagged:
Sasha Chanel
Chesney Angus


Raw Feeding 101

October 26th 2007 3:12 pm
[ Leave A Comment ]

I was looking through some of the Resources pages on Dogster and happened across an article in the Ask A Vet section where Dr. Barchas addresses raw feeding. You can find that article here.

I think Dr. Barchas really tried his best to answer the question with the limited knowledge on raw feeding that he has, but I found the end result to be somewhat misleading and confusing to people who have no knowledge of a raw diet, and I want to address this in this entry.


I want to say a couple of things in regards to vets, nutrition, and learning about raw feeding up front.

First, the majority of veterinarians are NOT nutritionists, nor have they ever taken any in-depth classes on canine nutrition. The majority of their materials come from pet food companies, so naturally many vets support certain brands (such as Science Diet) because they base their opinions on the materials they were provided with.

Second, while I raw feed, I don't advocate the raw diet for everyone. Raw feeding is more work and requires a lot of research. I've done a lot of research on my own, but also rely on many other people who have done research long before me.

Raw feeding is not new, it's not some new fad or trend. Many breeders and dog owners in the United States have been feeding raw for decades, not in response to pet food recalls but because they want to provide their pets with proper nutrition instead of the filler-laden canine "junk food" sold at the pet store. However, the recent recalls have led a lot more people to look into alternative diets such as raw and home-cooked foods, and many people don't take the proper time to understand and feed these CORRECTLY.

That all said, let me get to Dr. Barchas' article.

Bones in the Raw Diet

I want to address the issue of bones first. Dr. Barchas writes, "When whole bones are added to the diet, new risks develop. Although many animals can tolerate bones, many others will break their teeth on bones or chew the bones into fragments that can lodge in the intestines. The latter problem can be life-threatening." The problem with Dr. Barcha's statment is that he doesn't go into detail. He is partially correct, but he is also incorrect by omission.

If you feed a raw diet, RMBs - raw meaty bones - should make up approximately 60% of every meal your dog eats. Bones are an important part of the diet and provide nutrients both through the actual bone as well as through the bone marrow. A raw meaty bone is a piece such as a chicken wing, chicken leg, chicken leg quarter, pork rib, pork neck, turkey neck, chicken neck, etc. It is a consists both of bone as well as the meat on that bone. The majority of raw feeders use chicken leg quarters as their "staple" raw meaty bone because it has a lot of meat and they're cheap, too.

It is completely safe to feed any of the bones I've named above, just as long as they are RAW. They become unsafe once they have been cooked because cooking alters their consistency and makeup, making them easy to splinter and dangerous. In their raw form, these are "soft" bones that can be crunched up by a dog (this is what dogs have those strong back molars for), swallowed, and digested. And yes, in a raw diet, these bones are supposed to be eaten whole.

The only time these bones are dangerous is if your dog tends to gulp them down rather than chew them - in which case you will want to give them a larger piece, puree the whole thing in a blender, or hold one end while they're eating to control how fast they get at it.

Recreational Bones

There are also recreational bones. Recreational bones are the large bones in animals such as pigs and cows that bear the animal's weight, such as the leg bones. Those are NOT bones you feed or add into your dog's daily diet because they are too hard to be chewed up and digested and yes, these types of bones can damage a dog's teeth (they are much denser than the RMBs named above), splinter, and cause damage. Some people give them as "chew bones" under supervision. It's a much better (and safer) chew bone than commercially processed raw hides.

Raw Feeding - How it's done SAFELY

With the bones question out of the way, let me now address the issue of safety, and particularly safety when it comes to things such as e.Coli, Salmonella, and the like which may be found in raw meats.

If you're considering feeding a homemade raw diet, you're going to have to buy and handle raw meat in order to prepare and feed that diet. It's a part of it.

An alternative: pre-made raw diets

Now, mind you, you can raw feed without having to do this! There are many prepared raw foods, dehydrated raw foods, and pre-made frozen raw foods that you can purchase. These are a great alternative if you don't want to go through the trouble of learning about feeding, percentages, and supplements, and if you don't have the time to make a homemade raw diet in a way that is both balanced and safe. You can purchase these types of diet - for example, dehydrated raw foods made by The Honest Kitchen, or prepared frozen raw foods by Nature's Variety or FreshPet - from specialty stores or even order them online. Smaller, independently owned pet stores will be more likely to carry them or special order them for you.

How I feed Raw

That said, I feed a homemade raw diet. This means that I purchase all of my ingredients separately and put them together at home. I buy all of my ingredients at two local stores: Global Foods and Giant. Each of my ingredients is human-grade, human-quality, sold in a human grocery store.

I buy my raw food in bulk about every two weeks since I have a limited amount of freezer space at my disposal. If I had a standing freezer, I would probably keep more food at hand, but I don't, so the freezer above my refrigerator has to do. The night I buy the food, I bring it home and bag it into meal-sized protions, each packaged in a Ziploc bag before freezing. This saves me from having to handle messy meat everyday, having to thaw and defrost, etc.

An average meal pack consists of the following:

60% raw meaty bones
35% muscle meat
5% organ meat

Variety is important in raw feeding, so I vary my meaty bones, muscle meat and organ meats pretty frequently. However, as an example, a meal for my dog may look something like this:

1 large chicken thigh quarter
2-3 chicken necks
large piece of beef heart
small piece of beef liver

After I bag all of the meals for the next two weeks, I seal the Ziploc bags up and then stack them up in my freezer. Whenever you have quantities of raw meat, you want to keep them frozen until you're ready to feed them, which helps keep down the threat of food-borne diseases. Once I've put it all away, I place my utensils in the dishwasher and wipe down my counter-tops using antibacterial wipes. Then I wash my hands thoroughly.

It's very important that you practice good hygiene and safe food handling techniques when you are raw feeding. If you're careful with how you handle the meat, and clean up diligently, there is very little chance that you will contract any food-borne illnesses. The chances of getting a food-borne illness from feeding raw is about the same than getting it from handling meat in preparing meals for yourself. So be smart about it.

In the mornings, I take out a Ziploced meal and place it in my stainless steel sink while it's still in the bag. I do this first thing after getting dressed and feeding the cats, and before I take my dog out on her morning walk. Then I grab my leash and we're off for our morning walk. We first stop at our potty spot and then go on a 45 minute brisk walk. (It's an exercise walk - no stopping or sniffing!)

When we come back, the meat is mostly defrosted. It's okay if the meat is still partially frozen, too, and many dogs like it that way - especially in summer when it's hot out. I use a large, shallow stainless steel feed pan that is much larger than a regular food bowl. This helps accommodate the raw food a lot better than a regular bowl.

I now mix in various supplements. With each meal, Abby gets a tablespoon full of plain, unsweetened yogurt which helps with her digestion. She also gets fish oil and Vitamin E. The Vitamin E is needed to properly absorb the fish oil if you add fish oil to a dog's diet. She gets a combination pill of Glucosamine, MSM, and Chondroitin for joint health. (You can use the "human" kind they sell at the grocery store. Same with the Vitamin E and fish oil.) Every other day, I add a complete raw egg with the shell, and every day opposite of that, she gets two tablespoons of ground green tripe.

Once I've plopped everything in a bowl, I put the bowl down for feeding time. I use a folded-up vinyl tablecloth to cover the surface where I feed because raw feeding can be quite messy. I like the strong vinyl table cloths because you can wash them, but you can just as easily wipe them down using disinfecting wipes or Chlorox spray after removing the bowls.

When Abby is done eating, I clean up. I put the food bowl and water dish in the sink and rinse them thoroughly using soap and a scrub brush I only use for her dishes. I wipe the vinyl surface clean with disinfecting wipes, as well as the surrounding area (my kitchen floor, which is linoleum). Then I refill the water dish and put the water dish back down, and put the food pan away until the next meal.

Again - if you clean up after feeding, wash your hands, and wipe your countertops, you'll be perfectly fine feeding a raw diet. Obviously, you will also want to keep your dogs from licking you, particularly in the face, after they have eaten and for about an hour after feeding. After that, you should be fine. Your dog will be fine, too, even if the meat contains Salmonella or e.Coli. Unlike people, dogs very rarely get sick from these.

Raw Feeding Resources

You can learn more about raw feeding from some of the sites below. These are sites of breeders, owners, and veterinarians who have been feeding a raw diet to their dogs for many years and have lots of good advice on how it's done.

The Raw Dog Ranch
Feeding a Raw Diet Questions and Answers
Jane Anderson's Raw Diet Site
Monica Segal's Site - Consultations & Books on raw feeding
K-9's Naturally - Has a list of Pro-Raw-Feeding Vets
Switching to Raw


How to stop a puppy from biting?

October 18th 2007 10:45 pm
[ Leave A Comment ]

There are some questions that come up with a much greater frequency than others. One of those questions is, "My puppy keeps biting me. How can I stop her?" I think I have probably answered this question in one form or another approximately 20 times in the last three days, and as such, I guess it warrants an entry in the FAQ.

The puppies vary by breed, but the questions always have two things in common:

1) The puppy is biting peoples' hands, feet, clothing, socks, etc.
2) The puppy is most commonly 8 to 15 weeks or 5 and 6 months old.

Older Puppies Biting

I'm going to address the second age group first, because it's a lot easier and requires less explanation. Just like human babies, puppies go through a teething stage. Most dogs go through this stage around five or six months of age. Because teething is painful for a puppy, they often relieve this pain by gnawing on things. Some things they gnaw on are perfectly appropriate, such as dog toys, while others are not, such as your hands or favorite pair of sneakers.

The good news is that teething is a stage that will pass - and it's easy to help your puppy get through this without eating your furniture if you provide him with things to gnaw on. Pet stores now pretty commonly sell a variety of teething toys. In my opinion, the best toy for teething is a toy like the Cool Teether, which is made from a soft plush cloth. The great thing about a teething toy like this is that it is designed to be frozen before giving it to puppy. This helps relieve the pain of teething by cooling and soothing the gums!

If you don't want to purchase special teething toys, any rugged canvas dog toy will work for this purpose and can also be frozen. You can also offer your puppy a frozen terrycloth towel to gnaw on during his teething period.

Needless to say, while your puppy is teething, please supervise your puppy around your belongings so that he does not take out his teething pain on your couch or sneakers. Always have an appropriate toy within reach and always encourage the puppy to spend time gnawing on that. If the puppy does get a hold of your shoes, don't scold him or yell at him - he's doing this because his gums hurt, not because it's fun. Offer an appropriate toy instead.

Young Puppies Biting

With the older age group out of the way, I now want to address young puppies biting and how to deal with that.

Over on Yahoo Answers, the young puppies that people write about are usually in the seven to ten week age group, which is very, very young for puppies to be away from their litter mates and mother. It's very unfortunate, in my opinion, that people would actually sell or give away a puppy at seven weeks, and even though the law allows for them to be sold by eight weeks old (nine in some areas), it is not always the best idea. I'll explain why.

Young puppies learn a lot of their social skills early on in life, through interacting with their litter mates and their mother. Much of this learning takes place around the time they are weaned (usually around five to six weeks old) and are able to walk around, and try to get out of the whelping box to explore that big, big world out there. There are now many breeders who acknowledge how important this period is for puppies, and many will not sell their pups until 12 weeks of age, sometimes even older.

Puppies have to learn that biting people and other animals is not a proper thing to do. The easiest way to teach this is to do the following:

When your puppy bites you, regardless of how hard, give a loud, high-pitched yelping sound. This is designed to communicate your pain and also to startle the puppy. Startled puppies tend to let go immediately, which is what you want. Once your puppy has let go of you after you've yelped, you want to look away from the puppy, and, without saying anything, get up and turn away, completely ignoring your puppy.

What your puppy learns from this is that putting teeth on you immediately stops all play and you become very, very boring. This works because dogs are pack animals, and they enjoy play and crave attention. Stopping all interaction and ignoring them is, to a puppy, a very harsh punishment, and it causes them to learn quite quickly that if they would like to enjoy your attention and play with you, they must not bite.

This method also works (for the same reasons) with a lot of other unwanted behaviors, such as a dog that jumps up on people. Jumping gets the dog attention, therefore the dog jumps. When jumping gets the dog nothing but people turning away and ignoring her, the jumping stops. When the method is used for other behavior problems, it's done without the yelping, of course.

Negative Reinforcement / Attention

I also want to add a brief note about negative reinforcement, because a lot of people make the mistake of inadvertently reinforcing certain behaviors that they are attempting to correct. Jumping dogs are a good example, but it works the same when talking about other behaviors, including biting puppies.

When a dog jumps on a person, most peoples' natural reaction is to push the dog away and tell them "No!" or "No Jump!" To a human, this is obvious - telling the dog no or pushing the dog away communicates that this is a behavior you don't want. To a dog, however, this isn't quite as clear. Dogs jump for attention - so even if the dog gets negative attention such as being told No or being pushed away, he is still getting attention. You're talking to him and you're making physical contact, both of which are actually reinforcing his jumping behavior.

In some dogs, you can even escalate the behavior with negative reinforcement. Take, for example, a dog that is used to pretty rough play. When this dog jumps on you and you're pushing him off, he may see this as a fun new game, or even a challenge - so he now jumps harder, higher, more consistently. Why? Because every time he jumps, you "play back".


What would Fido choose?

October 18th 2007 10:42 pm
[ Leave A Comment ]

A couple of months ago, I asked the question - "What do you feed your dog?"

I didn't ask it on a breed-specific forum or even a dog forum, but a general forum. That might seem like an odd choice, but the reason I did it is that there are different types of dog owners and I felt that asking on a general board would give me a bigger cross-section of owner types to really get an idea what most people feed.

Let's put a scale on owner types.

On one end, you have Type 1 who are extremely knowledgeable, keep up with the latest research and developments on training, health, nutrition, and are active in dog sports or competition. One the opposite end, you have Type 2 who owns a dog in the same way they own a car. They love their dog, but don't train, read up on health or nutrition issues, and don't care about doing things and going places with their dog. Between the two, you have the majority of dog owners, who are somewhere between the two extremes.

When I asked the question about feeding, I realized that most people are Type 2 owners or in-betweens who lean more toward Type 2 than they do toward Type 1. The poll results were as follows:

What do you feed your dog?

35% - commercial brands such as Beneful, Purina, Iams, Pedigree
19% - any kind, as long as it's on sale
12% - I feed raw, without vegetables
12% - I frequently change brands. Dogs need variety.
08% - I feed mostly table scraps
08% - holistic brands such as Innova Evo, Canidae, TimberWolf
04% - premium brands, like Royal Canin, Nutro Ultra, Blue Buffalo
04% - I'm not sure / don't know
00% - home-made food using human-grade ingredients
00% - I feed raw, with vegetables

I believe the people who answered "commercial", "any kind, as long as it's on sale" and "frequently change brands", which make up a total of 66% of dog owners who were polled, probably all feed the same kinds of easily available store foods.

I asked them about how they choose the dog food, and most said that they picked based on recommendations from their veterinarian, family members, and friends, as well as the price and availability of the food. I also asked them whether they had ever researched any of the foods, and most said that they would read the front of the bag ("with real chicken") but not ingredient labels, and that they hadn't looked any foods up online to compare them.

Aside from not reading about what actually is in the food, I think the biggest mistake pet owners make is asking their veterinarian to recommend a dog food. I compare that to asking your primary care physician to set up a complete balanced meal plan for your family - he won't. He may recommend to eat fruits and vegetables and show you a flier of the Food Pyramid, but if you want a real meal plan, you need to go see a specialist, a nutritionist. In the same manner, I believe that if you want nutrition advice for your dog, you should ask a veterinary nutritionist and not a veterinary primary care physician (your general vet).

Most general veterinarians don't receive a lot of instruction about nutrition at their schools, and what they receive is often sponsored by pet food companies. A lot of their materials and hand-outs are also sponsored by pet food companies. Because of this, I don't find it surprising that many vets will tell you: "Don't feed a homemade or raw diet. You don't have the knowledge to make sure it's balanced. You would do better feeding Science Diet, which provides complete, balanced nutrition. It's a lot easier, a lot cheaper, and you can buy it right here at the office." I'm sure that your vet probably believes this, but that doesn't make it right, nor does it make it your only choice or the most educated opinion.

Vets believe that we (dog owners) don't have the knowledge to provide a balanced diet for our dogs. Yet we're perfectly capable to make decisions about our own, human, nutritional needs - what to eat, when to eat, what to supplement with. I think that with all of the sources available to us - dog nutritionists, books, pamphlets and websites - the average adult is perfectly able to feed a balanced diet to his or her dog.

Vets also think that we'll be scared off if they tell us that home-cooking or raw feeding is too expensive and too time consuming and therefore we're better off feeding kibble. The way I look at this argument is this: It's much easier and cheaper for me to get a Happy Meal at McDonald's than it is to buy fresh ingredients and cook at home, but I don't do it (often) because I know that doesn't give me all the nutrition I need, and I know that the ingredients are unhealthy. I feel the same way about feeding kibble. Just because it's easier doesn't mean it's better.

Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a lot of discussion about alternatives to cheap grocery store kibbles in the main stream media, even though the pet food recalls this year made many owners wonder whether there is anything left that they can safely feed. Oprah is one of those shows that has really put good information about alternatives to kibble on the air recently, featuring holistic veterinarian Dr. Marty Goldstein who talked about "real food". I would love to see more sound nutrition advice like Dr. Marty's in the mainstream media, but unfortunately, media like Parade Magazine choose to print articles (like this one) by veterinarians like Dr. Karen Halligan, a "featured spokesperson for pet nutrition companies".

So I have a challenge: Read, Learn and Educate.

What I mean by this is, read about dog nutrition. You could start by finding out what the dog food labels actually mean and how to identify better foods over at The Dog Food Project. Or you could learn about raw feeding from the Leerburg website or the Raw Dog Ranch. Or you could check out some books at the book store, Google the subject, even start reading the Magazine of Veterinary Medicine.

By reading, you learn about different foods and different viewpoints which will help you make a better decision about nutrition for your dog. Then use the knowledge you have gained to educate others.


Summer Safety

July 1st 2007 10:26 pm
[ Leave A Comment ]

I hate to talk about the summer heat - mainly because my local news stations have been talking about it ad nauseam since the temperatures went above 80, in a manner that suggests that once we hit over 90 degrees, Washington, DC might spontaneously combust somehow.

But since this is a dog blog, I feel I should talk about how the heat affects our dogs, and how to keep them safe and sound in this weather.

Do not shave your dog!

I first want to address a myth that people are often repeating - "If you want to know how a dog feels in the heat, put on a fur coat and stand outside for awhile." The truth is that this does not at all simulate how a dog feels in the heat.

A dog's coat, particularly on double-coated dogs such as German Shepherds, serves the function of protecting the dog. In winter, that's done by trapping air between the layers of fur, helping to regulate body temperature and keeping the dog warm. It's not so much the fur that keeps the dog warm, it's the air that is trapped between the fur. In summer, the same principle applies. The dogs coat actually helps the dog deal better with the heat.

So the first rule of summer safety - don't take your dog's natural defense to the heat, especially if your dog is long-coated or plush coated. Don't get the fur trimmed or shaved, because that does nothing to protect your dog from the heat - as a matter of fact, it does the opposite. It exposes the skin, making your dog susceptible to heat stroke, and since it takes away the regulatory function of the fur, your dog is much more likely to suffer from heat-related problems than if he had his coat.

However, do keep the fur well groomed by brushing frequently. The dog's fur cannot protect the dog properly if it is tangled or matted up. Plush-coated and long-coated dogs should be brushed or combed at least twice a week.

Keep your dog cool - from the inside!

Being safe in summer doesn't mean canning all outside activities with your dog because of the heat. Most dogs do fine in summer if they get a chance to get used to the warmer temperatures by being exposed to them, just as long as you are smart, don't overdo the exercises, and make sure your dog's body temperature remains regulated.

The best way to keep your dog's body temperature down is keeping him cool from the inside, not the outside. You should always have water available for your dog in summer, in a place that is easily accessible. If you're outside and exercising your dog, make sure you have water on hand and offer it frequently.

For humans, the rule of thumb is as follows: When you're exercising outside in the heat, you should drink one cup of water every 15 minutes to replenish fluid lost by sweating - whether you're thirsty or not. You should also know that if you feel thirsty, you're most likely already dehydrated.

For your dog, a good rule of thumb would be to offer water when you're having it - more often if your dog is exercising more than you are. For example, if you're standing and tossing the ball and your dog's doing all the running, you'll want to make sure to address your dog's need for water more frequently than your own.

Water for your dog should always be cool in summer - not freezing cold, but cool. If you're normally using metal bowls, consider using ceramic or plastic bowls* in summer because metal is a conductor and will hold the heat more so than ceramic of plastic will - therefore, water in a metal bowl won't stay cold as long.

(* I personally don't like using plastic bowls because plastic is porous and an ideal breeding ground for all sorts of bacteria. If you must use plastic, please get bowls that are dishwasher safe and run them through the dishwasher frequently, along with cleaning them out daily.)

You can add ice cubes to the water, which will keep it cool longer and many dogs enjoy them as frozen treats, too. Alternatively you could freeze a second bowl and put it out with the regular one, so your dog can chew on the ice, or lap it up as it melts.

If you and your dog exercise a lot because you're involved in, for example, dog sports such as Schutzhund or agility, you may also consider additives to the water that help rehydrate your dog and replenish electrolytes. Many places sell products such as K-9 Bluelite, which are basically the dog version of products like Gatorade or Pedialyte that help rehydrate and quickly. (You can use human Pedialyte, by the way - just as long as it's the kind without artificial flavors or sweeteners.)

When your dog needs to cool off - NOW!

If you notice that your dog is becoming overheated - some of the warning signs are rapid panting and drooling - it's time to cool him down before the situation gets worse and your dog ends up with heat stroke.

Just like humans, an overheated dog should never be doused in ice cold water. (Dousing someone with cold water if they are overheated can lead to heart failure.)

Instead, bring the dog into the shade and begin cooling him down using room temperature or cool water (and offering water to drink, of course). Pour the water on the dog's belly and inside of the back legs first. This is where major blood vessels are close to the skin, and the dog's fur is usually a lot less dense than elsewhere on the body - making it the quickest way to cool down your dog (short of a cool water enema).

You can also use this method to keep your dog cool during training - wet down his belly and inside of the back legs with cool water using a washcloth, sponge, squirt bottle, or water hose. It's much more effective than wetting the dog's head, neck, or back.

Help your dog keep Cool and Comfy

As with anything, setting yourself and your dog up for success is the best way to go - better to plan ahead than deal with issues when they occur. There are a lot of cooling products that you can use to help regulate your dog's body temperature. What works best for you depends on both your situation as well as your dog.

One thing you need to remember is that the breed and age of the dog play a big role. Short-nosed dogs such as Pugs have a much more difficult time in hot weather and can become overheated quickly with moderate exercise, even on a day that is not overly warm. Senior dogs and puppies are also more susceptible to heat-related problems, as are overweight and out-of-shape dogs.

If your dog is outside a lot, or you travel a lot together, I would recommend that you give a cooling pad or cooling mat a try. Those are great because your dog can lay on them and get cooled on all of their body - to include that belly area where cooling makes the biggest difference. There are varying types - some that are filled with water, others that use polymer crystals which soak up and store water for a long period of time. I personally like the latter because they stay cool longer.

There are also cooling bandanas, cooling neckbands, and cooling vests of various types and styles. Some work by putting them into the freezer. Others work by inserting ice packs into them. Yet others have polymer crystals that soak up cold water.

These kinds of products all work if you use them correctly. They need to be checked frequently to make sure they are still cool, and they must be refilled or re-wetted as needed. They also only make a real difference if they are on the dog before overheating becomes a problem - you want the temperature to be regulated, not to rely on a product to help you drop the temperature once it has already become dangerous.

I'm currently working on a study that shows how big a difference cooling products make in a dog, so make sure to check back frequently for when I put it up.

Some Products you can use to Keep Cool

Linked below are some products that can help keep your dogs comfortable in the summer heat. Please note that inclusion of these products does not mean I personally recommend that particular brand name, manufacturer, or the online merchant selling the item.

Cooling Mats and Beds

Canine Cooler
Cool Bed II
Cool Bed III
Coldanna Cooling Mat
Miracool Dog Mat
Canine Cool Pad

Cooling Vests and Wraps

Canine Cool Vest
Cool Champions K-9 Vest
Thermalwear CCS Vest
Cool K-9 Vest
Coolmedics Coat
Cool Vest
RPCM ChillyDog Vest

Hydration, Bowls and Portable Water Devices

K-9 Bluelite
K-9 Quencher
The Pet Top
Handi-Drink Travel Dish
The Waterboy
The Buddy Bowl

Crate and Vehicle Fans

Metro Air Force Crate Fan
Pro Select Crate Fan
Cool K-9 Vehicle AC
Portable K-9 Cooler

  Sort By Oldest First



Family Pets



(What does RSS do?)