Its Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas!

Ho Ho Ho, and all that Christmas cheer to you! Whether you are a Scrooge or you love to deck the halls for Christmas, we all know that you have to remember your dogs at Christmas. Here are some fun ways to include your dogs in your holiday plans.

Decorating. You may not want your dogs to actually decorate your home for Christmas but you do need to be mindful of them when you’re doing your decorating. If you’re putting up a tree you should hang any breakable ornaments up high so your dog will be less likely to knock it off. Be careful if you intend to hang any gingerbread or other edible ornaments on the tree. Your dog may be inclined to eat them, knocking over the tree in the process. As a matter of fact, dogs have been known to knock over trees so, if possible, put your tree in a corner or use a sturdy tree stand so it will be less likely to tumble over if your dog crashes into it.

Holiday parties and get-togethers. Many of you may be planning holiday gatherings during this Christmas season. If so, then consider your dog. While some dogs are the life of the party, it’s usually a good idea to make your dog comfortable in a quiet room for the evening with some safe toys and chews. Perhaps turn the TV on for him or play some music. This is particularly true if you’re expecting a lot of people. Many dogs can become anxious when there are a lot of people in their home and they may go looking for a place to hide anyway. Keeping your dog safely in a room of his own for the evening may also make some of your guests feel better. Not everyone is a dog lover and some people are afraid of dogs.

Visiting. It’s fun to go places with your dog but you should only take your dog with you to someone’s home if your dog has good manners. And, be sure to ask first before taking your dog to someone’s home. It’s really very rude to just show up at someone’s house with your dog without any warning! If they don’t have pets, that may be because they don’t particularly like dogs. And, if they do have cats or dogs, they may not welcome a strange dog into their home. So, always ask first before your take your dog with you to someone’s home.

Holiday baking. Lots of people love to cook and bake for the holidays. When you’re making that Christmas feast, don’t forget your dog! That’s the perfect time to pull out all the stops and make some delicious dog cookies and treats for your dog. Even if you’re not a good cook, your dog won’t mind. He’ll probably love anything you make.

Besides these tips, there are some other things you can do with your dog to get in the holiday spirit. How about having a Christmas photo made with your dog looking his best? You can use the timer on your camera, or have a friend take a picture of you with your dog in front of your tree, for example. It would make a beautiful Christmas card or e-card. Or, perhaps you can take your dog to visit Santa? Let your dog tell the jolly old elf all the things he’d like for Christmas! Pet stores sometimes have Santas visiting and taking pictures with dogs to raise funds for rescue dogs.

And, of course, at this time of year when your dog may be meeting so many of your friends, be sure to have him looking his best. Bathing and grooming are definitely a must! Check your dog’s ears, trim his nails, and brush his teeth, too. Perhaps a full spa treatment is in order?

Whatever you and your dog do for Christmas, we hope you have a wonderful holiday season. And, Happy Christmas to you!

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How to test your dogs IQ

Of course, each of us knows we have a very special dog.  Without even meeting you, I’m guessing that your dog is cute, funny, smart, and probably very intuitive.  He or she probably knows how you’re feeling most of the time and is able to cheer you up when you’re feeling down.  It’s a funny thing about dogs, but they seem to have these wonderful traits in common.  Plus, every owner seems to get just the right dog they need in their lives.  But, have you ever wondered just how smart your dog really is?

There are lots of different ways to define intelligence in dogs, and many people have tried.  One of the most talked about measures of dog intelligence is found in Dr. Stanley Coren’s book, The Intelligence of Dogs.  Dr. Coren is a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.  Dr. Coren based his measures of intelligence on a dog’s ability to understand new commands and to obey the first command given.  He took his approach after surveying approximately 200 dog trainers.  It’s not surprising that dogs that excel at obedience ranked very highly in his rankings of intelligent dogs, while dogs that are more independent ranked lower.  According to Dr. Coren’s book, the top 10 most intelligence breeds were:

1. Border Collie

2. Poodle

3. German Shepherd

4. Golden Retriever

5. Doberman Pinscher

6. Shetland Sheepdog

7. Labrador Retriever

8. Papillon

9. Rottweiler

10. Australian Cattle Dog

However, you can conduct your own IQ tests for your dog, which don’t rely quite so much on dog obedience.  These tests are based more on your dog’s problem-solving abilities.

You can do these tests with your dog and there is a scoring index included.  Don’t try to do all of the tests in one day or you may confuse your dog.  Try to keep things fun for your dog and treat the tests like games.  And, no matter how your dog does with the tests, reward your dog and keep things positive.

The Towel Test

With this test you should take a large towel or a blanket and place it gently over your dog’s head.  The object is to see how long it takes your dog to free himself from the covering. If your dog emerges in less than 15 seconds, award him 3 points.  If it takes him 15-30 seconds, give him 2 points.  If it takes him longer than 30 seconds, give him 1 point.  (It’s best not to try this test when your dog is sleepy or he may choose to stay under the blanket.)

The Bucket Test

Set up three small buckets placed next to each other.  Place one of your dog’s favorite treats under one of the buckets, allowing your dog to see which one you place it under.  Then turn your dog away from the buckets for a few seconds.  Let go, and allow your dog to find the treat.  If your dog goes straight for the bucket with the treat, give your dog 3 points.  If it takes your dog 2 tries, give him 2 points.  If your dog goes to the other 2 buckets first, give your dog 1 point.

Chair Puzzle

Put one of your dog’s favorite treats under a chair or table that is just low enough so your dog can just put a paw underneath and can’t reach the treat with their head.  If your dog figures out how to reach the treat in under a minute, give your dog 3 points.  If your dog uses his paw and nose, give him 2 points.  If your dog gives up, give him 1 point.

Go For A Walk

This one is easy for most dogs.  Choose a time when you don’t usually go for a walk or take your dog anywhere.  Calmly pick up your keys and your dog’s leash when your dog isn’t watching you.  If your dog gets excited right away, give your dog 3 points.  If you have to walk to the door before your dog realizes you’re going to take him out, give him 2 points.  If your dog just sits and looks at you in confusion, give him 1 point.

Barrier Test

Make a cardboard barrier that is 5 feet wide and taller than your dog when he’s standing up on two legs, so he can’t see over it.  Packing boxes or appliance boxes are good for this test.  Then attach two boxes on each side of the barrier for support.  In the center of the cardboard you should cut a 3 inch-wide rectangular opening.  The dog should be able to see through the opening but not go through it.  Toss a treat or toy through to the other side of the barrier or have a friend stand on the other side of the barrier.  If your dog walks around the barrier in under 30 seconds, give him 3 points.  If it takes him between 30 seconds and a minute to go around the barrier, give him 2 points.  If he gets his head stuck in the opening trying to go through, give him 1 point for trying.

Scoring and your dog’s results:

13 points or higher:  Excellent!

10 to 12 points:  Far above average

7 to 9 points:  Average

5 to 8 points:  Below average

1 to 4 points:  You love your dog no matter what!

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How Smart Are Dogs?

I often find myself wondering just how smart dogs are.  I know my own dogs understand many different words.  We have no trouble communicating. They know what words mean and I understand them when they want something, most of the time, whether they give me a look or make a sound.  But I’m always curious about how much dogs understand.

I came across a fascinating article on the ScienceDaily.com web site about a dog that knows over 1000 words.  He could have learned more words but the researchers simply ran out of time to train him. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110106144252.htm

According to the article, Chaser not only knows more than 1000 words for different toys, but he also knows the difference between the names for toys and the commands involved in using them.

In another experiment with Chaser, the researchers proved that he understands different categories and how they related to the words he knew.  For instance, he understood that “toy” meant all of his toys, and he knew which toys were balls and which toys were frisbees. He could categorize his toys into those subsections.

It’s probably not surprising that Chaser is a Border Collie.  There have been several other Border Collies in the last few years who have displayed these amazing verbal abilities.  <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A31130-2004Jun10.html&gt;

The researchers said they would like to find out if other breeds have the same abilities.  It seems likely that other dogs can learn in similar ways.  Most breeds of dogs seem to be very attuned to people.  It’s not unusual for a dog to hang on a person’s every word, with their eyes and ears focused on what the person is saying.  It’s often so easy to teach a dog a word or phrase.  I think that researchers will probably find that many breeds understand lots of words.  Whether they all test as well as the Border Collies have been testing is another matter.  Not all breeds of dog are as focused as Border Collies or as intent on pleasing.

There are several other good articles on the ScienceDaily.com web site concerning dogs.  According to one article on the site <http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101127105348.htm&gt;, dogs have larger brains than cats because they are more sociable. (Don’t tell the cats!)  Actually, the article discusses an Oxford study that claims more sociable animals, in general, have developed larger brains than less sociable animals.  Among the more sociable animals with larger brains are monkeys, horses, dolphins, camels, and dogs.  “The research team analysed available data on the brain size and body size of more than 500 species of living and fossilised mammals. It found that the brains of monkeys grew the most over time, followed by horses, dolphins, camels and dogs. The study shows that groups of mammals with relatively bigger brains tend to live in stable social groups. The brains of more solitary mammals, such as cats, deer and rhino, grew much more slowly during the same period.”  What about cows, I wonder?  Why should horses and camels have developed larger brains, but cows aren’t mentioned?  Or pigs, for that matter.  They’re sociable.  They live in stable social groups.  Interesting, nonetheless.

Also interesting on the site is an article about the way that dogs help autistic children adapt.  <http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101019121814.htm>  “Our findings showed that the dogs had a clear impact on the children’s stress hormone levels,” says Sonia Lupien, senior researcher and a professor at the Université de Montréal Department of Psychiatry and Director of the Centre for Studies on Human Stress at Louis-H. Lafontaine Hospital, “I have not seen such a dramatic effect before.”

There is also a very interesting article on the site about dogs with separation anxiety.  “Dogs Showing Separation-Related behaviour Exhibit a ‘Pessimistic Mood’”  <http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101011125828.htm>  The article reports on a new study that finds that separation anxiety in dogs most often occurs in dogs with “pessimistic-like” behaviours.  “We know that people’s emotional states affect their judgments; happy people are more likely to judge an ambiguous situation positively,” said Mike Mendl of the University of Bristol. “Now it seems that this may also apply to dogs; dogs that behaved anxiously when left alone also tended to judge ambiguous events negatively. Their anxious behaviour may reflect an underlying negative emotional state.”

ScienceDaily.com is an excellent site for reading the latest news about dogs and other animals as findings are released from scientific studies.  If you’re interested in dogs and what science is discovering about them, you should visit this site from time to time.


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Halloween Safety Tips for Your Dog

Lots of dogs owners look forward to Halloween. Some of them even dress up their pets in Halloween costumes so they can go trick-or-treating or enjoy a doggy costume party. Perhaps you can have a party for some of your dog’s friends in your home, or there’s a party at your local pet store. But Halloween can also pose risks for pets. Here are some safety tips so you can keep your dog safe this Halloween.

1. Keep the chocolate away from your dog! You probably already know that chocolate is bad for your dog, but in case you don’t, chocolate can be toxic to dogs. The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it can be for your dog. Chocolate contains a substance called theobromine which is related to caffeine. It acts as a mild stimulant for humans but it can be very harmful to dogs, causing increased heart rate, trembling, seizures, and, if your dog eats enough of it, it can even lead to death.

Dark chocolate contains about 390 mg of theobromine per ounce; semisweet chocolate has about 150 mg per ounce; and milk chocolate contains about 44 mg per ounce. A fatal dose can occur if your dog eats between 50 and 100 mg of theobromine per pound of body weight. Cats are even more sensitive. So keep the chocolate candy away from your pet!

2. Keep All Halloween Treats Away from Your Dog. Other Halloween treats can be hazardous to your dog, too. Raisins and grapes, macadamia nuts, nutmeg, and candy foil wraps can all be toxic to dogs. Diet treats which contain the substance xylitol, found in sugar-free candy, gum, and cookies, can also be deadly. Don’t leave candy and treats out for your dog to eat even if they don’t contain chocolate.

3. Be Careful with Jack O’Lanterns and Candles. If you plan to have Jack O’Lanterns or candles with real flames for Halloween, keep them well away from areas where your dog will be. Dogs may see the pumpkins as potential food and they can easily knock over pumpkins and candles, starting a fire in your home. If possible, use battery-operated lights instead of candles.

4. Be Careful with Decorations. Be careful with decorations if you plan to decorate your home for Halloween. Artificial spider webs are not the best thing for your dog to eat. If you use polyurethane glue to put up decorations, dogs are inclined to eat the glue which can be dangerous once in their intestines.

5. Use Care with Halloween Costumes. It’s great fun to put your dog in a Halloween Costume but dogs don’t always enjoy them. Your dog may try to pull his costume off and become entangled in it. If he tries to chew pieces of it off he could end up choking on it. Always supervise your dog when he’s wearing the costume and remove it when the fun is over.

6. Beware Mischief Makers. Halloween can bring out the worst in some people so do be careful with your pets around Halloween. Make sure your gates are securely locked and keep your pets indoors when you can’t supervise them outdoors. Pets can be stolen at Halloween or go missing so exercise caution.

Conclusion
The suggestions here should help you keep your dog safe this Halloween. Watch what your dog eats; keep him away from decorations that could be dangerous; and supervise him when he’s wearing a costumer or going outside during the Halloween season. Keep these tips in mind and you should keep the dog goblins away!

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Fun Games To Play With Your Dog On A Walk

Do you ever get tired of walking your dog?  Well, chances are that your dog may get a little bored, too.  If you are taking the same route every day he may start to lose interest in his walks.  But you can make your outings fun again if you put your mind to it.  There are some things you can do to stimulate your dog’s mind and encourage some extra physical exercise.  Here’s how.

First of all, try varying your walks.  You may have your favorite places to visit, but why not go somewhere different?  There may be a new duck pond to see or some new flowers to view.  Your dog enjoys seeing new places and things as much as you do.  Live a little!  Vary your routine.

Second, Take a ball with you.  It’s even better if it’s one of your dog’s favorite toys.  This works best if your dog is reliable off-leash or if you’re visiting a park or other area where dogs can’t run off.  Try throwing the ball for your dog and playing a game of fetch when you go out.  Make your walks a time for fun and games.

How about a game of hide and seek?  Again, this works best if you are walking your dog in an area where he can’t run off, or if your dog is very reliable off-leash.  Hide from your dog and let him try to find you!  Of course, most dogs are great at this game.

Whenever you play games with your dog on your walks you should always have a little bag of treats with you.  What good are games without some snacks?  Let your dog know how pleased you are to be playing with him.

You can vary these games with a frisbee or another favorite toy.  Or, try playing football with your dog!  Treibball is a great new dog sport where your dog uses his nose to move a large round ball.  Any dog can play but herding breeds seem to really get into the action.  It’s like urban herding.  Treibball is a great way to give your dog both mental and physical stimulation.  http://americantreibballassociation.org/

So, take your dog out for a walk and spend some time playing with him.  Most dogs will really get into it.  And, if you have a more sedentary type dog, try taking him on some new and more interesting routes so he can see some new things.  This is your special time with your dog so make it fun and interesting for both of you.

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Dog Collectibles

One of the great things I love to do is to collect dog things.  Any time I go to a dog show or even a pet store, I can’t resist checking them out to see if they have some interesting statues or paintings or even knic-knacs that I haven’t seen before.  I spend far too much money on doggy items.  I can’t even put half of them up in my house or the dogs will knock them over with their tails!

I like old pictures and new ones.  I’ve bought stationery, key chains, Royal Doulton, and everything in between.  Some of my items are purely junk but I do have a few nice things.

One great place to check for doggy items is ebay. You can find some nice things there. If you have a particular breed you like you can often simply type it into the search feature and see what’s available.  I did that for one breed once and came up with thousands of hits!  So you do have to be selective.

Some lovely bronze collectibles:  <http://collectables.shop.ebay.co.uk/Dogs-/10823/i.html?_nkw=bronze>  Just a random sample.

Estate sales and simple yard sales are also great places to search for doggy items.  You can sometimes find small treasures for a good price.

If you know other people who collect doggy items you can keep an eye open for things for each other.  I’ve had people bring me back a few nice things from trips because they knew I liked certain things.  And I’ve picked up a few things for other people because I happened to see them at a market for a good price.

You certainly don’t have to spend a fortune to have a few doggy items that you like.  I have a breed umbrella that I love.  I bought it straight out of a pet catalog for a fair price.  It didn’t cost a lot but they don’t make it anymore so I’m glad I got it.

I think it’s better to get things that you really like instead of trying to build a fabulous collection, but that’s just my opinion.  I actually wear the sweat shirts and t-shirts, caps and other things with doggy pictures on them that I buy. I don’t try to save them for special occasions.  I guess you can tell that my wardrobe is centred around dogs!

Of course, if you’re very serious about collecting, there are some magazines to help you know what to collect:  what companies, what years, what craftsmen.

Do you collect doggy items?  Do you have a favorite breed or kind of dog? What items do you like to collect?

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Dog Clubs

Do you have dog clubs where you live?  They don’t have to be kennel club-sanctioned.  They could be any kind of group that gets together to do things with their dogs, whether it’s practicing obedience or agility, taking walks in the park together, doing a little field work or tracking.  You name it, there’s probably a club that enjoys doing it.

Some of my friends are getting together in a couple of weeks to have a Fun Day with our dogs.  There will be an agility/obedience seminar, a grooming demo, FOOD, and other things to do with our dogs.  We’re meeting at someone’s house who has some land so the dogs will be able to run off-leash.  It should be a fun day for everyone.

Whether you have crossbred dogs or pedigree dogs, it really doesn’t matter.  If you have some friends with dogs then getting together to share your interests and letting your dogs mingle a bit can be a great way to spend a day.  Of course, the Kennel Club does offer plenty of activities that you can do if you are interested in competing with your dog.  There are lots of team sports as well as individual activities.

If you haven’t gotten involved in an activity before, you might consider doing so.  Dog people are usually very friendly to newcomers, especially if you introduce yourself and tell them that you’d like to get involved, or you’d like to find out more.

If you don’t know about dog clubs in your area, ask around at your vet’s office or when you see people walking their dogs.  If you visit a dog show, talk to people there to find out what other kinds of activities they’re involved in with their dogs.  Chances are that they do other things besides show their dogs.  Ask people who rescue dogs if they are involved in any fun activities with their dogs.

Lots of people think that dog activities are only for pedigree dogs, or that the only events that go on are conformation dog shows.  Not at all!  There are dog events for everyone.  Britain is full of dog lovers of all kinds, and there are plenty of fun activities for everyone.  I love pedigree dogs but I love other dogs, too.  I think there’s plenty of room for everyone to have the kind of dog that suits them.  They’re all dogs when you really get down to it.  Live and let live, I say.  And do things with your dog that make you both happy.

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