golden retriever puppy getting nail trim

How to Nail Your Pet’s Nail Trims at Home

Trimming our dog’s nails regularly is a very important part of overall health. It doesn’t have to be an unpleasant, stressful experience, or cost a lot of our money and our time at the vet’s office!

Nail Trims Are Important

First of all, nail trimming is important because long nails can lead to:

  • Broken and painful nails (which can cause infection)
  • Irregular gait
  • Loss of traction
  • Unnecessary stress on hips and joints

So, we can take our dogs to the vet for a medical bill, gas money, and loss of our time and energy, OR we can learn to trim our dog’s nails at home and use the time together as a bonding experience with our pets!

I know you dog parents worry that you may hurt your doggy by trimming his nails at home, or your dog may be stressed out or aggressive during a nail trim. You will have to judge your dog’s temperament, but there are some tricks to making a home nail trim much easier.

The First Step

The first step to a successful nail trim really starts when we bring our new puppy home. We should start to desensitize our puppy to having his feet touched right away. Play with his paws every day for a few minutes. Massage them and push his nails out of his paw to their full extension. Don’t let your puppy tell you “No!” when you do this-we are the ones in control! Pretty soon he won’t mind that we mess with his feet, and he will probably enjoy it and even sleep through it. This can be done with a new dog of any age, of course…it just may take a little more time to unlearn bad habits and reactions to having feet touched if we’re working with an older dog. Be patient and keep massaging those paws until he feels comfortable with it!

Pick a Tool


I prefer scissor-style nail clippers to guillotine clippers. I think they are a faster cut and less likely to break the dog’s nail. You should choose the tool that makes you feel most comfortable.

Grab a Partner

Now, for the first few nail trims, you should have a partner to help you. This partner will help you control any squirming that could lead to bad cuts. You may want to trim only one paw at a time for the first few attempts, and then gradually increase to trimming all of the paws in one sitting. If you are worried that your dog may bite you out of fear, then you may want to put a muzzle on him (I know, I know…but only for a few minutes!) or take him to a professional.

Not Too Deep!

Be sure not to cut down too far on the nail, where you may hit the quick. This will be painful, cause your doggy to yelp and jerk away, and will bleed like crazy. Just in case, keep some quick clotting powder around so you can stop any bleeding quickly.

You will probably end up cutting into the quick at least a few times as you are learning to trim your dog’s nails, but don’t give up. I promise, your dog will be okay, and you will feel worse than he does.

If your dog has clear nails, you should be able to see the blood vessel inside the toe/nail. Don’t trim down far enough to knick it! If your dog has dark nails, you can try backlighting the nail with a flashlight to make the quick appear.

Through regular trims, your dog’s quicks will recede a little, giving you less of a chance to cut them. Some people even use a special dremmel tool to sand their dog’s nails-but again, this method will probably require some desensitization to the noise and vibration of the dremmel.

Cats?

Cats lose their nails regularly. This is natural and beneficial. Under each claw they shed is a sharper, newer claw. But this does not mean that we can’t trim our cat’s nails as well! These same methods can be used on a cat! Once again, you will need to judge your own cat’s temperament to avoid harm.

Rewards and Treats, Also Known As Distractions

It can also be a good idea to give our dogs a distraction (treat) while we trim his nails, or give him a reward (rawhide, long walk, a game of fetch) for a job well done. That way, our dog associates a nail trim with something he loves! Just don’t let him win the argument if he does not want to have his nails trimmed!

If you remain calm and firm and don’t get upset if your dog seems upset, then things will go more smoothly. You can set the example for your dog and the tone of the whole nail trimming experience!

sad chocolate lab puppy missed the training pad and peed on the floor

Oopsy! There’s a Poopsy! What to do if your pup has an accident in the crate or house.

It’s important to know how to handle an accident in the house. Never scold your dog. This can teach him to pick a more secluded area, away from you, in the house to eliminate. It can also encourage a dog to eat his feces to hide the fact that he had an accident. It’s your fault if they have had an accident because you didn’t take them out frequently enough, or you weren’t supervising them. You can go ahead and punish yourself by rubbing your nose in the accident, instead of your puppy’s.

If you see your puppy in the middle of eliminating in the house:

  1. Interrupt them with by saying “oops!” and carry them outside immediately. Place him down in the appropriate potty spot and wait for him to finish.
  2. As he is eliminating calmly say your cue word and “good boy.” When he’s finished, give him tons of praise!
  3. Be sure to clean up the mess thoroughly. Use an enzymatic cleaner to eliminate any traces of animal waste.
  4. Now, supervise your puppy better, and give him the opportunity to potty in the appropriate spot by taking him out more frequently.
  5. It’s important to watch your puppy and if you suspect they potty more frequently than they should, take them to the vet. There are several common issues that could be present and are easily fixed with medication, including a urinary tract infection.

Check out our Crate Training Guide here.

curly dog looks down empty rural road

I Found a Lost Dog, Now What?

Is That a Lost Dog I Spy?

Have you ever seen a lost dog on the side of the road and wanted to help…but you weren’t sure what to do? This is a guide for you. There are certain steps you need to take to have the best chance at reuniting this dog (or cat!!) with her owner.

Safety First

Be safe when trying to catch an unfamiliar dog or cat! They could be injured, aggressive, have a communicable disease such as rabies, or be scared and run from you right into traffic. Here are some tips:

  • Use a calm voice and have a calm demeanor
  • Walk calmly and slowly toward the dog or cat and crouch down to her level
  • Use some tasty food to lure the dog toward you
  • Grab a leash (or a belt or rope if you don’t carry leashes in your car like I do). For a cat, you may want to consider using a cloth bag, blanket, or pillowcase to catch it. You don’t know if a strange cat has claws and is willing to use them.
  • If the animal appears to be too aggressive, don’t put yourself at risk. Call a rescue group, shelter, or friend that may be willing to come out and help.
  • LAST RESORT: Call animal services or police ONLY if you must. Their involvement means the animal will likely be euthanized within a week if they are unable to contact or find the owner.

Please, Let There Be an ID Tag

 

Now that you have successfully leashed the unfamiliar dog, you should first assess her to see if she seems injured, and check for ID tags.

Finding ID tags is your best-case scenario. If you do find ID tags and the dog seems healthy, here are three possible outcomes:

  • You call the owner, he answers and thanks you from the bottom of his heart, and you meet up (in a public place) and return his beloved dog.
  • You call the owner, and he does not answer. You leave a message and decide to take the dog to your home for a while to wait for his grateful return call. (More on how to bring an unfamiliar dog into your home later.)
  • You call the owner, and he does not answer. You leave a message letting him know you found his dog and you are taking it to a specific no-kill shelter or rescue group to anxiously await his arrival. (More on this and resources later.)

If the dog IS injured, then you have three options:

  • You were able to contact the owner right away and he is going to meet you at the vet! Perfect!
  • You were not able to contact the owner. You take her to a veterinarian-where you will be required to pay for the medical treatment. If you decide to do this, you should explain the situation and ask if the vet can give you a discount. Many offices will take pity on you and the dog.
  • You were not able to contact the owner. You take her to a local shelter or rescue group that specializes in injured animals. I know that in Memphis, The Humane Society memphishumane.org will take in injured animals and treat them while looking for an owner. They are also a no-kill shelter.

What If There Is No ID Tag?

This is where things can get tricky and time-consuming. Let’s start with the easiest methods:

  • Maybe there is no ID tag, but there is a rabies vaccination tag. There should be a phone number on the rabies tag that you can call, and you can trace the owner through the specific number assigned to that tag/dog.
  • Maybe there’s a microchip. You won’t know unless you take the dog to a nearby veterinary office or shelter. Most places these days will have a scanner they can use to check for microchips. If the dog has one, you can contact the owner.
  • The dog could possibly be tattooed. This is becoming more popular (and more permanent than a tag that can pull off a collar). Check the dog’s ear, belly and inner legs. The tattoo could be the owner’s phone number, or it could be a code assigned through a registry. You can contact the registry and get the owner’s information from there.

There is absolutely no way to identify this dog! Now what do you do? If you’re willing to keep the dog in your home while you search for the owner, you can:

  • Check online resources, such as petfinder.com to see if the owner is looking for his beloved dog online. You can post found pets on this website, too.
  • Check the area you found the dog or cat in for lost posters the owner may have posted.
  • Put up found posters in the area in which you found the dog-just remember that the dog may have traveled far from home, or been lost while he was away from home with the owner.
  • Post fliers at local veterinary offices, pet supply stores and shelters in case the owner comes looking.
  • Call local veterinary offices, rescue groups and shelters and report that you found a dog, give a description of the dog and the area in which she was found. This way if the owner starts looking around for the dog, the vet or shelter will be able to contact you.

 

If you’re not able or willing to keep the dog or cat in your home, call local rescue groups and shelters, VERIFY THAT THEY ARE NO-KILL, and see which of them may have room to accept the lost dog. This may require several phone calls, but be persistent!

Should I Keep This Dog at My House While Searching?

If the lost dog or cat you find is uninjured and not aggressive, then you may consider having her stay at your home while you search for her owner. There are a few things to consider:

  • She may not get along with other animals
  • She may have a communicable disease
  • She may have separation anxiety that results in chewing up everything in your house
  • She may not be housebroken
  • You may feed her something that does not agree with her sensitive stomach or GI tract

To be safe, keep the dog separate from your other animals in case she becomes aggressive or may be sick. Use a kennel to make sure she doesn’t pee in your house or destroy your things. Feed her food that will be well tolerated by most any dog.

Verify Ownership

If you are posting fliers and found posters, you will want to make sure you have a way to verify the caller’s ownership of the dog. You can consider not putting a full body photo of the dog on your posters so that the owner will have to describe markings to you. You could have the caller describe the color and pattern of the collar the dog was wearing (if they were wearing one). Or have the caller tell you the dog’s name and see if you get a valid reaction from the dog when she hears you call her by name. Be creative.

Wow, That Sounds Like a Lot of Work

All of this may seem like a lot of effort…I mean, what if the dog is a stray and there is nobody out there looking for it? What if she ran away from an abusive home? Consider that just because a dog is frightened, thin, dirty or matted, it does not mean she is a stray or has been abused. She could just have a naturally skittish temperament, been lost for days in the rain, mud or heat, and gone without food the whole time she has been lost because she is a poor scavenger.

Consider if this was your pet that bolted from the house and you have been looking for her for days. You would want someone to try to find you, right?

black dog sits next to pile of fur

Shedding Season is Upon Us

My first sign of Spring???? SHEDDING!

It’s true, many dogs shed year round, but twice a year (spring and fall) dogs with double coats “blow” their coat. It seems as if they shed so much they should be bald. Huge clumps of hair just fall from their bodies and roll along down my hallways. Double-coated canines must shed their undercoats in the spring to stay cool in the summer heat and again in the fall to make room for their winter coat.

One of the signs of a dog blowing his coat is large clumps of hair coming off the dog when you barely touch him. Unusual scruffiness, change in coat color (the undercoat is showing through the top coat), and excessive shedding are other signs your canine is blowing his coat!

Blowing their coat can last several weeks but you can help prevent the hair from ending up all over your house. When you spot the first sign of your dog blowing their coat take them outside, with a trash can and a Furminator, and brush them thoroughly. Repeat this for the next few days and you will not only remove a lot of hair but also stimulate the hair follicles to release the rest of the coat sooner. You’ll be able to brush away the undercoat and put it in the trash can, instead of finding it all over your house!


The lesson can we learn from this? You know you’re a dog person when the shedding no longer matters 🙂

4 jack russell terriers on sofa

Professional Pet-Sitter Perks

This week, March 1st -7th 2015, is Professional Pet-Sitters Week! Being a professional pet-sitter myself, I thought I should write a little about the different options you have for pet supervision while you are away from home, and the pros and cons of each so you can compare them.

I Need a Dog-Sitter

 

It can be difficult to figure out what to do about caring for your pets when you must travel, whether for business or for pleasure. Sometimes your dog can come with you on vacation, but that requires finding an affordable pet-friendly hotel where you are staying, plus taking him down an elevator and through the lobby every time he needs to go out and trying to find activities around a strange town to which you can bring your dog.

This is where professional pet-sitters can be a life-saver! The way I see it, there are really four different types of pet supervision you can provide for your dog while you are gone: conventional kenneling or veterinarian boarding, doggy daycares, in-your-home pet-sitters, and in-their-home pet-sitters.

Conventional Kennel or Vet Office

 

This is the old go-to for pet-sitting. You take your dog into a boarding facility or veterinarian office and leave him there while you are away. I suggest that you ask for a tour of the kennels your dog will be staying in to make sure they are clean and the dogs who are staying there currently look well-cared for. Also, check references and reviews if you are using a kennel for the first time.

Pros:

  • You will already be familiar with the staff at your veterinary office
  • Medical professionals will be available in case there is an emergency
  • You will not have to give a pet-sitter access to your home while you are away
  • They should have liability insurance to cover you and your dog in case anything happens while you are away

Cons:

 

  • Your doggy will be kept in a kennel almost 24/7, and only let out to be given short walks a few times a day (some kennels and veterinary offices that do boarding will give your doggy more attention for a higher price, so you will have to make sure you ask questions)
  • No one will be with the dogs overnight (usually)
  • Many times kennels are very loud and stressful, and they are filled with strange dogs (and smells)
  • Dogs with anxiety issues will have trouble in this setting
  • You will still have to get a neighbor to collect your mail and papers, or cancel service while you are gone, and your house will be empty

Doggy Daycares

Doggy daycares have become very popular lately. This type of pet-supervision allows for your dog to spend more time out of a kennel, playing with other dogs. Many doggy daycare facilities are even set up like dog spas with lots of amenities (if you pay).

Pros:

 

  • There will be many other dogs boarding here as well, and they usually get to spend most of their time playing in a big open area; good for your dog’s socialization
  • Your dog will retreat to a room or kennel of his own in the evening, and many of these rooms (and the open play areas) have cameras installed so that you can remotely view what your dog is doing in real time
  • You will not have to give a pet-sitter access to your home while you are away
  • They should have liability insurance to cover you and your dog in case anything happens while you are away

Cons:

  • Your doggy will be kept in a kennel or room alone at night
  • Doggy daycares can be loud and stressful, and filled with strange dogs whose temperaments are unknown to you
  • Dogs who are aggressive toward other dogs will have trouble in this setting
  • You will still have to have a neighbor collect your mail and papers, or cancel service while you are gone, and your house will be empty
  • Having lots of other dogs around means that your dog may not get the attention and supervision you think he is

Overnights or Visits to Your Home

For this type of pet-sitting, you can have a professional pet-sitter come and stay at your home while you are gone, or make multiple visits to your home each day to walk your dog, feed him and play with him.

Pros:

 

  • Your dog (or cat) will feel more comfortable being in his own home
  • Your pet-sitter is also your house-sitter! If you have birds, fish, or gerbils, then the pet-sitter can care for them, too. Many in-home sitters will throw these services in for free. They may also be able to turn lights off and on in your home, collect your mail and paper, and even take the trash to the street. You will, of course, have to discuss these details with the person you hire!
  • Someone will be spending more time with your dog than at boarding facilities, so your dog will not have to be kenneled as often and maybe not at all
  • Your dog will get individualized attention and affection without other dogs around to hog the cuddles or cause anxiety

Cons:

  • You will be allowing someone access to your home while you are away
  • Your dog will probably not have constant supervision, unless your pet-sitter hangs out in your house and does not have another job (which may be likely)
  • This is not the best option for dogs with separation anxiety, unless the pet-sitter really is spending all of her time at your home. Otherwise your house may be destroyed, or your dog will have to be kenneled between the visits your pet-sitter makes to your home.
  • At-your-home pet-sitters may not have liability insurance, in case something happens while you are away

Hotel Services in Pet-Sitter’s Home

I must admit, this is my favorite style of pet-sitting! Mostly because it means I get to watch your doggy in the comfort of my own home. Your dog will go stay at the home of the pet-sitter while you are on vacation.

 

Pros:

  • Someone will be around most of the time with your dogs (some in-home pet-sitters may leave the house to work a second job, but many work from home or are professional pet-sitters with no other income source)
  • Your dog will not need to be kenneled unless there are aggression issues or destructive behaviors
  • Your dog will get to hang out with your pet-sitter’s animals, so he will have some friends to play with or will be able to get some socialization experience
  • You will not have to give someone access to your home while you are away
  • There will be no shortage of affection or attention for your dog
  • Sometimes the dogs that stay at my house get to sleep in the bed with me, too!

Cons:

  • Your at-home pet-sitter may not have liability insurance, in case something happens while you are away
  • You will not know the temperament of your pet-sitters animals and if they will get along with your dog(s) unless you schedule a meet and greet first
  • You will still have to have a neighbor collect your mail and papers, or cancel service while you are gone, and your house will be empty

Now that you’re armed with the information you need to make the best decision for you and your doggy, go out and book your professional pet-sitter for your next vacation!

four puppies in a kennel

Crate Training Guide: A Guide to Getting Your Dog Acquainted to a New Crate

Yes. Your puppy is adorable. And yes, it’s fun to have him running about the house and sleeping in the bed at night, but unless you enjoy cleaning up after your bundle of fur when he poops and tee tees in the floor, you’ll need to house train him.

House training is probably the most important behavior to teach a new puppy. It’s your job to cultivate the pup’s natural instincts and help teach him where he can potty and what’s totally off limits. When puppies first begin to walk they naturally leave their “den” to eliminate. You, as the new owner, must provide an appropriate potty area, and timely trips outside, so the puppy can continue with their natural desire to leave their living area to potty. Many dogs, that never learn proper potty protocol, end up in shelters or turned out on the streets and homeless. There’s no reason for this to happen. It’s an easily trained behavior and with a little effort and consistency on your part, your puppy will be house trained in no time.

Prevention is Key

In order to prevent your puppy from ever having an accident you need to supervise your puppy whenever they aren’t in their crate. Keep them in either an enclosed area of your home or in a playpen where you can supervise their play. You can also have them on leash, with you, while you are walking about the house, or sitting and reading a book. Just make sure they cannot walk away and potty somewhere in the house.

A young puppy should be taken outside and given the chance to eliminate every two hours. It’s also necessary to give them the chance to potty outside after a play session and after they’ve had water. Typically a puppy can hold it for as many hours as his age in months. For example, an eight week old puppy needs to go out every two hours. Just like us they can hold it for longer at night, because they are inactive, but they should still go out to potty about every four hours. By four months old, a puppy can hold it for four hours, and can usually sleep through the night.

Home Sweet Home

Puppies learn to love their crates fairly quickly. It’s natural for them to need a place of their own. In the wild, their den is a safe and comfortable retreat where they can get adequate rest without worry of becoming someone else’s meal. Young puppies need frequent naps, so several two hour nap sessions, in the crate, spread out throughout the day are appropriate. Your pup should also sleep in the crate at night. Not only does the crate provide a cozy place for them to rest, but it also keeps them out of trouble when you are sleeping. A young pup is curious and has a need to chew. The vet bills can become enormous if your pup chewed and swallowed something during the night that becomes lodged in their gastrointestinal tract.

Follow These Steps to Teach Your New Pup to Love Their Crate:

  1. When you introduce your puppy to their new crate, don’t shove them inside! Instead, sit on the floor next to the crate, with the puppy standing beside you, and feed him some kibble. Next, place kibble on the floor of the crate and see if he will walk inside to get it. If he does, reward him by telling him “good boy!” and giving him a few more pieces of kibble. If he doesn’t readily walk in, you can pick him up and gently place him in the crate and drop a few more pieces of kibble. Speak very enthusiastically to the pup. Keep this fun and exciting! Don’t close the crate door, but allow your pup to enter and exit as they please, always rewarding them for entering the crate. Once your pup has gone inside the crate once, only give them kibble when they are inside. Do this for 5 minutes and then take your puppy out for a potty break and a short walk.
  2. After your walk, repeat step one.
  3. After your second walk, you can rest assured that your puppy is pooped. This time, sit beside the kennel and place kibble inside. When the puppy goes inside, reward him with some type of toy, and close the door. Kong toys, stuffed with peanut butter, make great crate rewards because it gives the puppy something to do until they fall asleep. When in the crate, don’t give them toys such as stuffed animals that can easily be ripped apart and ingested.

Remember to keep the crate door open when your dog is not confined, allowing him access to his home. Praise him when he goes inside voluntarily.

Important Things to Remember about Crate Training:

  1. Don’t isolate your puppy in another room by themselves. Remember, this is the first time they have been away from their mother and littermates. Keep them in a quiet area of the house that you will be in a good bit. Most pups will whine the first time they’re crated, and maybe even for several days. It’s important that they learn it’s ok to be separated from their family, and confinement is ok. If they don’t learn this now, they could develop anxiety disorders in the future.
  2. NEVER let your puppy out when he whines. Dogs continue to use behaviors that get them desired results. Don’t underestimate your pup and think he isn’t yet smart enough to figure out what gets him out of the crate! Just a few mishaps on your part and you can create quite a noisy dog that won’t give up and stop the whining because he knows you will eventually give in. Only open the crate door to let them out when they are quiet. This is teaching them that quiet and calm behavior opens the door.
  3. It’s important that you not put a puppy in the crate when they will need to potty. Make sure they eliminate before you put them in their crate, and then be sure to give them the opportunity to go out every two hours. If you notice your puppy waking up in the crate go get them and take them out immediately before they have the chance to start whining or have an accident.
  4. Set an alarm at night so you can wake up and take your puppy out before he wakes up and either starts whining or has an accident.
  5. It’s also very important that you be observant of your puppy and start reading his behavior. If you hear a whine that you think isn’t a typical “let me loose!” whine, go get him and give him the opportunity to eliminate. You want to prevent an accident at all costs. After the potty break, place him back in his crate. Don’t give him time to play. This was just a potty break.
  6. Reward your puppy every time you put them in their crate by giving them a treat, a toy, or some kibble. This makes a positive association with the crate and it becomes a great place for them to go.
  7. To put the behavior of going in their crate on cue, start by saying the cue every time you put them in the crate. When you place the kibble on the floor and the dog starts to walk in, say “Kennel! Good kennel! Good boy!” You can use any cue you choose.
  8. When you take your puppy out first thing in the morning, pick him up and go straight outside to your chosen potty spot. Once they’re a few weeks older and can hold it longer, you can start letting them walk from their crates outside so they learn the route to the appropriate potty spot. Make sure you still run to the door once you let the puppy out. They just woke up and have to go! Get them outside!

Adult Dogs

Whether your dog is a seasoned professional when it comes to house training, or new to the business, she’ll enjoy a new crate as her own space. If she’s never had a crate before you’ll want to follow along with the puppy training procedures in this guide to properly introduce her to her new room. If you’re welcoming a new adult dog into your home and don’t know if they have been previously house trained, follow the steps in this guide to get them started on the path to success!

Lola often chooses to hang out in her crate with the door open. A comfy crate mat and an assortment of toys makes it an enjoyable space of her own.

A Quick Overview of Important Things to Remember:

  • Never scold or punish your dog while inside his crate.
  • Never force your dog into his crate.
  • Keep the crate door open when your dog is not confined, allowing him access to his home. Praise him when he goes inside voluntarily.
  • At times, put your dog in his crate to rest while you’re in the room with him.
  • Provide toys inside the crate so your dog doesn’t get bored.
  • Never allow children or guests to taunt or tease your dog while inside his crate.
  • Never clean your dog’s crate while he is watching you.
  • Never lock your dog in his crate with his collar on or leash attached.
  • Never overuse your dog’s crate. He needs exercise and to be a part of the family.

For tips on how to handle an accident in the house or crate, visit the Oopsy! There’s a Poopsy! blog post.