Paws First: Considerations When Getting A Dog

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sleeping puppy “Let’s get a puppy!” When we start to think about welcoming a dog into our lives, we all-too-often get swept away in the romance of the idea. We hear about all the mental and physical benefits of being a canine caregiver. The good news is they are true! Us “dog people” know that being with our four-legged friends is nothing short of awesome! But, let’s come back down to Earth for a minute. There are some real logistics and important considerations to take into account before you take the leap into puppy parenthood.

I’ve been asked numerous times about “what it’s like getting a dog.” By request, the following is an essentials guide to adopting a canine into your family. The basic considerations form three categories: Time, Cost (initial and annual) and Lifestyle Impact. The purpose here is not to overwhelm you, but instead offer some variables to consider that can be overlooked (and make for “fun” surprises later!).  All to often the large picture of getting a dog and what that means is overlooked, leading to these fantastic companions being left to fend for themselves or integrated into a adoption system hoping they are taken home before it is to late.

Note: Each category could include much more detail than what is listed here. If you’d like more information on any particular topic or want to add something that I’ve missed, please leave a comment below.

Time:  

Dogs are social creatures. They love to be with their calendar:clockfamily “pack” and need to get out and socialize with their human and canine communities. Time investment depends on many, many factors. Regardless of breed, size or age, all dogs need daily appropriate (safe, healthy and fun) activity. This includes both mental and physical stimulation. Going for walks, meeting a friends at the off-leash park, dropping and picking up from doggy daycare, trips to the beach, going out to do their business, and regular training sessions all take time during your day. Depending on your living situation (e.g. within the city or in a condo/apartment) getting to locations with green space, off-leash zoning, etc. can increase the time allotment required for each activity. Scheduling plans and arrangements beforehand can make sure you and your family has your canine’s needs covered before you get stuck with no time and no fun.

Puppies

Bringing a puppy into the home is a grand adventure. Just like any adventure, it that takes some planning and forethought to accomplish. We all have jobs and schedules we need to keep – but puppies do too. They need to go out and do their business on a frequent, set schedule as they learn the household rules. They also have a high requirement for socialization. It is extremely important that puppies are taken out into their communities to meet lots of new people and dogs regularly and that they are involved in educational programs such as puppy, basic and advanced training. If you work full time at a facility or office that does not have a pet policy in place, you should inquire as to the reasons/rules and see if they are open for change. In the meantime, taking some vacation time and/or having a network of people that can help fill in those moments is vital and could mean the difference between coming back to a happy puppy and a mess on the carpet or a trip to the vet (or both).

Rescues

Rescues, whether they are adults, puppies or seniors, need special time consideration as they adjust to their new lives in their forever home. Rescuing is an extremely rewarding experience but we need recognize that these canines have been through recent trauma. Regardless of their past lives and the dog rescuebehaviours they have learned from those experiences, simply going through a rescue situation and adjusting to a new life (with a new home, new smells and new parents) is a lot to go through. It is reasonable to assume that the behaviour you see within the first few days may change as they become more comfortable with their new surroundings. For some, that means they will settle down; for others, they can become more adventurous as they explore their new boundaries. You need time to begin to understand their behaviours, likes and dislikes. Make sure you account for this, especially over the first three to four weeks and then make a plan to ensure they keep learning good behaviours and unlearn some of their past, less productive, behaviours.

Remember…

You can’t expect perfect behaviour (there is no such thing), so you should be ready to reward the best behaviour and redirect the less-than-perfect habits. Developing a balance between structured events and “fun time” within their routine early on can help them understand what is expected of them in their new home and out in the world – a framework that will certainly pay off for you both tenfold down the road. Unsure of how your canine will react in a particular scenario? Check out our post on the Yellow Dog Project to find out how you can be more prepared!

Cost:

You want to comfortably budget your new family member into your life. What can you expect to pay up front and what do dollar-551932_1280annual costs look like? Below is a breakdown of the costs to begin care for a canine, with information sourced from the BC SPCA. Some one-time costs may vary depending on the organization, region and the size of dog you are interested in (e.g. crates can range up towards $200 depending on size and quality and bedding can be quite expensive depending on the materials used [e.g. memory foam]).

One Time Costs

Adoption fee
(Approximate estimation only, please check with your local Branch for current adoption prices)
 $145.00-$395.00
Spaying (female) and tattoo
(Approximate estimation only, please check with your local Veterinarian for actual prices. BC SPCA adoption fee includes spay/neuter & tattoo)
 $156.00-$265.00
Food and water dishes  $15.00
Collar and leash  $25.00
Brush and comb  $15.00
Toys – balls, frisbees, etc.  $25.00
Crate  $65.00
Total  $290.00-$540.00*

*Please note that is not the adoption cost at a BC SPCA shelter, rather the estimated expenses related to being an animal guardian.

Annual Expenses (12-15 years)

The annual expenses here were again retrieved from the BC SPCA website. I would treat these numbers as guide to the very basic costs that each category could represent. Cost of food and treats will depend on size, breed, activity and type of food being fed (large bags of food can range up to $85-90/bag versus the given $45.00/bag, and raw diets can be more). Veterinary care can cost more, especially while you are getting “comfortable” with your canine, their tendencies and behaviours. One extra trip a year that includes a test and/or medication will potentially double the value given and it goes up from there. It is also more likely that puppies and senior canines will need more frequent care as puppies get their initial checkups and seniors receive their continual preventative care such as blood panels and teeth cleaning.

You can also save money by learning basic groomingdollar-42338_1280 techniques and performing them on your own. Brushing your canine’s teeth regularly can save huge costs later in life when periodontal disease can be disastrous. Knowing how to properly trim your canine’s nails in a low stress and positive way can save in time and money in the long run. Want to learn a fast, low stress technique? Contact me to set up a grooming training session!

Food  12 bags dog food (18kg) @ $45.00  $540.00
Biscuit treats  2 boxes per month @ $5.00  $120.00
Veterinary care  Yearly Visit – exam and vaccinations  $200.00+
Nail clipping  6 trips to the vet  @ $15.00  $90.00
License fee  $30.00
Grooming  Spring bath and brush out  $40.00
Vacation  2 weeks dog care  @ $25/day  $350.00
Total  $1,370.00*

*Please note that is not the adoption cost at a BC SPCA shelter, rather the estimated expenses related to being an animal guardian.

Reference: http://www.spca.bc.ca/pet-care/adoption/5-steps-to-adoption/cost-of-care.html#.VLVnOyeqQio

Lifestyle Impact:

The introduction of a canine family member into our life is a truly amazing experience, but it does bring significant and very road tripreal changes to our routines. Without over-personifying the relationship, the easiest way to describe the change is like being responsible for a younger sibling or having a child in our care. While we still have flexibility in our time, we are now stewards for the mental and physical needs of a dependent living creature. Dogs cannot feed themselves, take themselves for a walk or go to the vet without our help. Each activity and checklist item above is a reason to consider how your daily schedule will change when you address their needs.

A good way to picture your day as a canine caregiver is to write on a weekly calendar what your normal “me” day would be. Now add in 2-3 daily feeding times, training time, play time, and snuggle time with your new family member and then take a look at your new schedule. Is it feasible? Is it something that you can realistically do?  That you still want to do? Some day-to-day activities and events can/will change, but a dog’s basic needs (mental and physical) will not.

Some of us are lucky to work in a pet friendly office, work from home or use our house as a base of operations, and/or have a spouse or a committed friend who does. Having someone to help can be a big relief, especially when emergencies and last minute things come up (and they will). Determine if this new lifestyle is fair to both of you. Are you willing to give up a date night to take care of a sick puppy, or change your old routine so that they can get out a few times during the day? Alternatively, do you have a budget for doggy daycare or a dog walker? , and making sure that both the caregiver and canine are able to find a happy one.

Other situations to take into account are events like traveling, which usually means your spouse/partner will be withSleepypod1 you. We don’t want our vacation to turn into our canine’s nightmare, so we need to plan out house sitters, determine how long to be away and make sure all their needs will continue to be met. If your canine is coming with you on your trip, you might find you can no longer stay at your forever favorite hotel in location “X” because they don’t have a pet policy in place to allow four-legged guests. While finding pet friendly hotels is becoming easier, they aren’t everywhere. Beyond hotels, there are many other considerations to take into account when canines travel with us. Canines By Design tackled this subject so if you would like more information, check out our post on traveling with your dogs.

Offering a loving home to canine previously exempt from the opportunity, or watching a puppy grow up and develop their own personalities as a beloved family member is in itself a rewarding experience, regardless of our personal gains as a “dog person”. We know that becoming active canine caregivers is a remarkable experience that brings us many mental and physical benefits, but is important that we take a step back to first assess the topics above to ensure that we continue to feel this way throughout our canines’ lives. While 12 to 15 years is only a snapshot in our own lifelines, it is the entirety of our dogs’ lives. Considering their daily quality of life will help make sure we are prepared to be there for the entirety of the good and the bad that life throws at us.

He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion.     — Author Unknown

Nose to Tail: Canines By Design Product Review: Ruffwear® Booties!

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Ruffwear GripTex Booties and Web Master Harness.  Photo from gearfordogs.com

Ruffwear GripTex Booties and Web Master Harness. Photo from gearfordogs.com

Wet, snowy, muddy paw prints… ah, the joys of oncoming winter! With much of Canada and the United States enduring cold, wet weather for up to 8 months at a time, we can’t exactly just press pause on our normal routines and wait for a better day. Kudos to all you weather warriors – rain or shine, sleet or snow – we get on our gear and get our canines out to play, walk and run. I do want to give a special shout out to our canine companions here: While we usually have appropriate footwear on for snow or rain, our canines head out on the bare paws their momma gave them!

Paws are amazing things; incredibly engineered and designed to work. I could write an entire article about their physiological design and how incredibly robust they are… but that wouldn’t get to what I’ve found to help you, and your canine, with those extra-extreme weather days. I would rather introduce you to a company and product line they offer that will not only help with cleanup each time you come back from a messy outing, but also help your canine paws guard against the extreme cold, irritation from being constantly wet and dirty and exposed to man-made items such as snow melt, cut pads or webbing, and even help those dogs prone to yeast infections.

Ruffwear®, Inc. is a company that, according to their website, is inspired to keep people and their canines enjoying their outdoor pursuits, whatever the climate, and since 2000, have been creating functional dog products. You might be interested in their high visibility jacket for your canine so you can be safe on dark wintery night runs. For those of you with extreme adventuring dogs, they do make a harness designed specifically to allow you to lift and lower your dogs safely while out mountain climbing. Ruffwear® thinks outside the box when they come up with new products and, I find, their final piece is always well engineered and does just what they say. Check out their website to view their expansive product line.

Ruffwear Snow Trex Boot.  Photo courtesy of www.ruffwear.com

Ruffwear Polar Trex Boot. Photo courtesy of ruffwear.com

With all that said, I want to focus on Ruffwear’s dog boot line. You might be thinking “a whole line”!? Yes, they make three different boots for three different purposes. They sell them as a set of four, or individually if you need to replace a lost or worn out one. For Northerners that find themselves in deep snow or on ice, their Polar Trex™ boots are a great option. With a secure buckling system and built in insulation, these boots are designed to stay on and provide traction and warmth for both short and longer outings on the ice and snow.

Does your dog have dewclaws up front and on the back? Their Bark’n Boot Liners™ can enhance the fit of the boot if your canine’s legs are thin, and also make putting on the boots a cinch since the dewclaws and other pads are already in the sock!

Polar Trex Boots and Omnijore Ruffwear Harness System.  Photo from blessthisstuff.com

Polar Trex Boots and Omnijore Ruffwear Harness System. Photo from blessthisstuff.com

For less snow but still cold climates, where our canines might be playing in muddy or frosty parks, running on wet rocks and shells at the beach and walking over ice melt (or other abrasive/caustic surfaces), their lighter duty Summit Trex™ Boots might be the right fit. They are great for everyday traction needs and for runs on the bike path.

GripTex Boots in Action!  Photo courtesy of ruffwear.com

GripTex Boots in Action! Photo courtesy of ruffwear.com

If you are like me and other West Coasters that are owned by their adventurous dogs, we tend to find ourselves on a mix of surfaces. Muddy trails, wood chips, beaches with sharp rocks and shells, and the occasional jaunt on concrete… the Grip Tex™ boots answer the call. With a robust Vibram® outsole, these boots will make sure that your canine is sure-footed and safe no matter what their day brings along.

Determining functionality and purpose is so important in a marketplace being blasted with new companies and concepts everyday. We want products to do what they are being sold to do: to work and to perform. Ruffwear boots meet these expectations and, in many ways, exceed them. Best of all, their boots can be washed and air-dried so they are clean and ready for the next adventure!

I wasn’t paid or incentivized by Ruffwear® to write this. I just believe that they are doing the right stuff when it comes to canine focused products. Check out their “find a retailer” to locate a dealer close to you. I can’t wait for Canines By Design to have a store in Victoria! When it happens, this is definitely a company you will see well represented on my shelves.

Please contact me at jeremyryder[@]caninesbydesign.ca if you have questions or comments about Ruffwear products or this blog post. Happy Trails!

Fall Blues… Back To School and Back to Reality: Fostering Canine Adaptability, not Destruction

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Nick and Rusty Enjoying the Bergin University Master's Class

Rusty (L) and Nick (R) Enjoying the Bergin University Master’s Program

August has faded into September and thousands of students are heading back for another school year. While students might be dragging their feet, the arrival of fall is usually accompanied by a smile of relief from their parents! (OK, not for parents in B.C., but hopefully the strike will end soon) It means a return to normalcy and a schedule. Summertime activities keep everyone busy and entertained, including your canines: Everyone is home, people are happy and excited, and nice weather usually means frequent trips to a favorite beach, lake or park. When September hits, the kids sigh with procrastination, the parents sigh with relief… and, in many cases, our canines sigh with sadness because their home dynamic changes drastically.

At home, things can get quiet quickly without children playing and moms and dads temporarily home on holidays. Two months is enough time for this level of elevated activity and companionship to become a constant fixture in our canine’s life. With back-to-school and back to work, schedules are shuffled and new routines are made. Sometimes in all the chaos, our furry companions can get missed, and some assurances that they have become used to, and somewhat reliant on, might not happen.

I could spend this whole article talking about variables and how they can have a resultant effect on your canine, but my goal here is to help you ensure your canine has the skills to deal with changes in their routines and help make sure they are adaptable and not destructive.

Pro Tips:

  1. Start new routines slowly and gradually.
  • If you know there is going to be a schedule change for your canine, start preparing for that change by modifying your current schedule gradually over a few days.
  • Have family help out by explaining why this gradual change is important.
  1. Plan ahead to make sure your canine will still get all their necessary exercise, both mental and physical.
  • We have our social lives, work, friends and an integrated community. Your canine has you and a select few others that they rely on for everything. Don’t forget that! If it means waking up earlier to ensure they have had a decent walk and training session prior to a period of time on their own, then schedule it in!
  • Again, have family help out. If you have children, small 10-minute training sessions can become part of their regular schedules before or after school. These moments can become great family bonding time where everyone is together smiling and having fun… including your puppy.
  • If you think an 8 hour work day feels long for you, try being a dog waiting patiently at home. I am blessed that I work in the canine world, which means Zoom is almost always with me. When he isn’t, we try to think of our day in three-hour blocks. Modify your schedule, utilize a trustworthy neighbor or friend, or join a local community walking group. There are many ways to make sure your pup doesn’t have to spend countless hours and days alone waiting to relieve themselves or go socialize.
  1. Always, always set your canine up for success during alone time.
  • Leave music or the TV on to add some ambient noise to the environment so that the house isn’t silent all day as silence can heighten anxiety in canines.
  • Use the same routine when leaving every time. Tell your canine “you will be back” every time. Offer a Kong with a little peanut butter or frozen pumpkin in it to help ease the initial separation and keep them distracted when you go. Doing this consistently will also help your canine pair “positive feelings and excitement” when you leave versus feelings of negativity and fear.
  • Make sure that your canine is in an environment that is safe and enriched. By cleaning up garbage, removing chewable items (power cords), leaving the floors clean and making sure they have access to safe items (items you have had success leaving with them) such as their bed, you help make sure that if they do become anxious that they don’t take it out on something they shouldn’t.
  • As noted above, make sure both their physical and mental needs are taken care of BEFORE you go. A bored mind will wander and an anxious body will only compound this, creating a situation in which your dog may try or do something they have never done before (e.g. chew furniture).

Taking the mental and physical needs of our canines into consideration during periods of transition and change will only help to make your dog adaptable and flexible, decreasing your already-long list of worries and stress.

If you are unsure of what you can leave or do with your canine in your situation, I’m here to help. Contact Canines By Design and I would be glad to help set you and your canine up for success by creating safe space solutions in and around your home.

Nose to Tail Product Review: GoughNuts Toys

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GoughNuts.com Stick

GoughNuts.com Stick

At Canines By Design, we are always looking into new and exciting ways for you and your dog to interact and have fun. Both Zoom and I love checking out new products, games, puzzles, and gear that is geared for positive and safe experiences (and sometimes it’s hard to tell which of us geeking out more!).

I know I don’t have to look too far to find those of you who have a canine with some serious chewing power. I bet they are the kind of dog that has made those “indestructible” claims seem like a bit of a stretch. I also know that this… enthusiasm can make finding appropriate toys difficult, expensive and, frankly, distressing when yet another product fails miserably.

GoughNuts, LLC has created a line of safe dog products, made in the USA, that have specifically catered to the needs of champion chewers. Alongside Mechanical and Polymer Engineers, Goughnuts has developed products made of high quality materials with wear indicators to let caregivers know when the toy’s integrity has been compromised. They also come with a multi-Axis Groove System to help prevent potential choking/air blockage, bite-strength statistics and a return/replace policy for both Canada and the U.S.

Products with these types of considerations make canine safety a top priority, and GoughNuts makes sure customers know it when visiting their website. They go into detail about how to properly size their products based on your canine’s size and also give detailed information about when it is time to remove the toy to ensure your pet stays safe. They make a range of GoughNut Sticks and Rings with different bite strengths and sizes for both small/medium and large dogs, and have also recently released a tug toy and a ball design that follows their strict “Safety-First” policy.

Nothing is indestructible – this is always part of our environmental enrichment discussions with clients. Playtimes with toys should be monitored, especially with strong chewers. Developing safe and enriching spaces means working with the specific personalities, needs, and behaviours of each individual dog as well as all the variables (such as durability and budget) introduced in each case to strike a balance between an entertaining space and a safe one. No one wants to lay on a tile floor in a bare room with nothing to do! The GoughNuts company is helping this process for us all, by ensuring that the products they develop, produce, and promote already encompass major components of canine safety.

Always research your canine-related products. While those that offer bargain prices and multi-packs may seem enticing to those of us who have canines who don’t seem to know their own strength, the level of ingredient control and quality in these products can be quite varied. While I can offer many examples of dog-related surgeries due to the ingestion of toys and other materials in the environment, I thought I would post one that we will all be dealing with right now as it is BBQ season and we are all on the hunt for what we think is a deal: http://www.edmontonsun.com/2014/07/07/woman-hospitalized-by-cheap-bbq-brush.

 

 

 

 

Canine Label Wars: Santa Checks His List Twice. You Should Too.

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FreeDigitalPhotos.net Doctor Dog

Yet another disturbing case has surfaced this morning about how a lack of industry standards is making it tough on canine caregivers and dog lovers everywhere to make informed, educated, and safe decisions. CBC News published an article this morning about Costco selling, and continuing to sell, a jerky–treat product that has been linked by a veterinarian to renal failure and death, in as little as three weeks of starting to ingest the products.

What does this mean for us? I would like to believe that no canine-caregiver would ever intentionally feed, or harm a dog by feeding it something toxic or known to be toxic. Obviously animal cruelty cases exist, but what about the population of caregivers who are genuinely proactive, who try to ensure that they understand the products they are supplying for their canine?

The easiest way is to read the labels on everything. And I mean EVERYTHING. I grew up in a family who was taught to read and understand labels when we were at the grocery store. Later, as I grew into a young teenager pulled in many directions by brands, slogans, and promises for goods, this practice translated from food-related items, to all kinds of consumer goods. It seems simple that the quality of whole products are affected by its parts and that understanding these differences should be straight forward, but things get messy when governmental regulations, standards across countries, and the drive to make a profit are injected into the equation.

Let’s start with food and edible products: First off, never take the front message of the package at face value. Turn it over and get right into the nitty gritty of the ingredients list. Read everything, even the small print at the bottom just to make sure you know the whole story. The front of the package is there to sell you; the back of the package is there to inform you. Natural, Organic, Pet-Friendly, not tested on animals, etc. are widely used terms that draw us in, but these terms rarely give us the whole story. In the CBC article, the jerky treat in question has a label on the front that says “quality checked in Canada certified laboratories” but, in actuality, the testing had been done in China. While this statement was likely not completely fabricated, the more complex the story becomes, the higher the chance that brand messaging isn’t revealing all the details.

To truly “read” the ingredients, make sure you understand what the ingredients in the products are for. I use this rule of thumb: If I cannot understand the first five ingredients on the list, the product goes back on the shelf. Ingredients higher on the list compose a larger percentage of that particular product than ingredients lower on the list. Simplicity is best.

For non-edible products such as stuffies, bowls, balls, puzzles, and ropes, the same due diligence applies. Look at where the product was made. Why does this matter? Each country has different policies when it comes to manufacturing processes. Companies manufacture or source in other countries because it is profitable to do so, and it is up to those companies to ensure that their own countries standards are upheld in the final product. While many industries have developed tests and standards, the pet industry is not one of those yet. How do you get around that? Shop Local!! Many companies are very proud of their heritage, of their products, and the high-end “ingredients” or “parts” that go into making their final products. Again simplicity is best. Single ingredient balls (e.g. high grade rubber) manufactured in Canada will likely have less variation in all aspects of the product than a toy composed of multiple ingredients (e.g. rubber and plastic) that was manufactured in one country, assembled in another, and sold in yet another.

There is no easy answer for canine caregivers as we navigate the ever-expanding world of pet-related products except be vigilant and read the labels, stay educated, and let others know when you have found that amazing product! Whistleblowing on poorly constructed products and/or unsafe food is how recalls get started, and how we can all help keep our dogs safe!