portland Archives - Hot Diggity! Pet Sitting

Hello everyone and welcome to Know Your Pet Sitter! Today your host is me, Lana!

Outside of Hot Diggity! and ever since I was 12 years old, on and off, I’ve been a piano teacher. During some seasons of life, I took a break from the music world due to burnout, and other times it took a break from me – like when we moved 7 times in 4 years and I couldn’t bring my instrument with me, or when my children were young and wild. Now, though, I have 10 students that I see weekly, and just recently, I brought home a beautiful new grand piano that will be with me for a long, long time. I named her Esme.

What’s the thing I love the most about my life besides Hot Diggity? It seems too easy, but I can’t answer this question without saying it’s my family. My husband is my high school sweetheart, and we’ve been married for 15 years now. We have two boys who are growing like weeds before my very eyes and I can see glimpses of the amazing men they will become. I am perpetually thankful to God for our health and our collective spirit of adventure that we get to live out in crazy beautiful Oregon together.

Another thing I love is this little Chinese dive in Aloha, called Szechuan House, lodged in between an underground sports bar and a laundromat. The food comes to the table literally two minutes after you order it, like they started making it when they saw you pull into the parking lot. I really don’t know how they do it! The portions are huge, and as a random bonus, it was a film location for a Jennifer Aniston movie, so you can gaze upon her autographed vestige framed on the wall and try to get yourself seated at the same table she used in the movie.

There are so many things to look back on from the summer! This past June, I went to visit my home state of Minnesota for the first time in 6 years, and my husband bought me tickets to the Bruno Mars concert in July; which was amazing. Then in August, there was the solar eclipse. Since I didn’t know about it years in advance, I wasn’t quick enough to get a hotel room or campsite in the prime viewing area, but I didn’t give up.

Long-term, I want to stay active and healthy until I am a tiny, wizened old woman. When I am 75, I still want to be hiking the trails and have leathery brown skin and wind burned cheeks from being outdoors daily in the sun and breeze. I have a huge sweet tooth that I have to fight to curb, but I try hard to keep my body moving and strong and eat mostly clean foods so that I can get a running start at that longevity. I have had serious back and foot issues before that have taken me down for months at a time, and it makes me deeply grateful for healing when it comes and a renewed appreciation of just being able to walk/run and be independent, and a reminder to never take a single day of that freedom for granted.

When it comes to Hot Diggity! the thing I love the most is hands down our team. I don’t know how they plucked all the most amazing people out of Portland and made them Hot Diggity-ites, but they did it. The mutual encouragement, support, respect and appreciation among the walkers and the office staff is truly special. The positive energy starts there and radiates out to every client we serve during the day. I go through my walks feeling privileged to be entrusted with the care of people’s furriest family members while they are away. The icing on top of the cake is those bright, shiny puppy eyes and unfettered joy that waits for me behind every door, every time. Then out into the fresh Oregon air we go together – how can it not be a great day??

This is a special guest post by the Synergy Behavior Solutions Team, a stellar veterinary behavior and training team dedicated to improving the lives of pets with behavioral issues. To learn more about them, read on and then visit them at their website.

It is not unusual for dogs to be worried or fearful of new people in their homes. For some dogs these behaviors are more pronounced when the owners are present. Some dogs are more worried when they are alone and a stranger (like a new dog walker) comes into the house. Here are a couple tips to help your dog feel more comfortable.

The first step to helping your dog be more comfortable is to learn how to “speak” dog by reading your dog’s body language. Dogs have a lot to communicate, if we just open our eyes to see them, instead of just our listening with our ears. Many people recognize the overly fearful dog who is hiding in the corner or the ones who are barking and lunging at people. What many people miss are the more subtle signs of stress and worry they might be showing before they are “screaming” (shaking, barking) with their body language. More subtle signs might include: avoiding eye contact, pinning ears back along the head, panting when it’s not hot, or refusing food. If your dog is giving you those more subtle signs of stress, remove them from the situation before they feel the need to escalate to more aggressive behavior. To learn more about dog body language and learn more about how to speak “dog” check out http://www.ispeakdog.org.

An essential part of dog care is knowing the dog's preference for treats or their dietary needs. Our Portland dog sitters and dog walkers always make sure to know these critical details!

The second step is to let your dog choose when to (or when not to) interact with the new person. Frequently, strangers want to make friends instantly with your dog. Like many people, dogs need time to warm up to strangers. When we let our dogs choose if they want to meet a person, it can be on their terms, when they feel comfortable. Don’t force your dog to interact by dragging them to meet the person, or even having the person hold out treats. Once your dog wants to approach the new person, have them ignore them. Have them avoid staring at the dog. Reaching out or leaning towards or over them can be an invasion of their personal space and scary. Instead let your dog sniff, approach and retreat as they deem necessary without physical interaction. Let your dog set their own time table of comfort. It may take minutes, it may be hours and it may be days. Slow and steady is the safest path to making new friends.

The next step is letting your dog choose how to interact with the new person. This is where reading body language is very important. Some dogs might like to play a game of treat tossing, where the person throws a treat away from them and your dog gets to find it. Then when they start approaching the person again, they toss another treat away. With this game, the dog is being rewarded for approaching but they do not need to come all the way to the new person. They are getting a double reward of the treat and also increasing distance away from the new person.

Some dogs eventually like to be touched. We suggest “touch testing” for these dogs. Start petting their chest or shoulder, but only for one to 3 seconds (yes seconds!) and stop. See if the dog moves closer or maybe nudges your hand, that is a yes from the dog to please continue. If when you stop the dog steps away, then it is time to stop touching them and give them a break. Do not encourage them to come back, wait, remember it’s their choice.

A cute dog cuddles their favorite Portland dog walkerThese are just a few helpful tips to get you started understand what your dog is saying and helping them be more comfortable. If your dog is showing signs of aggression towards strangers we recommend keeping everyone safe and avoiding interaction with strangers. Then, we recommend reaching out to your dog’s veterinarian, then an experienced reward-based behavior professional, for suggestions on training and behavior modification. Remember that using punishment may suppress reactivity towards people, but won’t address the underlying reasons (the emotional causes) for the negative behavior. There is a lot that can be done to decrease a dog’s anxiety and improve their relationships with people, so don’t wait! Ask for help.

Like most dogs, my dog Merry loves playing outside. Living in the Portland metro area, that usually means we’re limited to backyards or fenced-in parks. While the parks in the Hillsboro area where Merry and I live aren’t bad (although the winter pebble section does hurt his paws) Portland has one huge secret paradise for dogs that is absolutely incredible; the Sandy River Delta Park.

Sandy River Delta Park is open year-round and is the doggie equivalent to Disney World. It’s a massive, thousand-acre park where dogs are allowed to roam free (except for the parking lot and the Confluence Trail), and us humans can get in a lovely, easy, walk. People also bring their horses here, so if you’ve ever wanted to let Buster see a horse in real life (Merry loves watching them on TV) there’s a pretty good chance of that here!

The park encompasses a large forest section, grassland area and, of course, the Sandy River section. It is seldom busy (even on summer weekends) and there is always plenty of parking available. All the dogs we’ve met have been friendly, as have the people. If you’re considering taking your dog to a beach, Sandy River is a wonderful alternative to ocean beach. It’s safer, has shaded areas, and tends to have fewer small children present

When it’s hot out we both love to play in the water. Most areas are shallow and gentle enough that we’ve only lost one toy thus far. Later in the summer there are ample blackberries to pick–who loves pie?!  Aside from foxtail seeds, Merry and I have never encountered anything dangerous here at any time of year.

Note of Caution: Dogs must be on-leash on the Confluence Trail–there’s a $100 fine if you are caught without your dog on a leash. If you’re looking for an off-leash friendly option, try the The Meadow Trail.

Recommendations for when you go:

  • Bring something to carry your full doggie bags with you, trashcans are few and far between and often overflowing.
  • Bring a towel (for the car)–double use as a place to sit on the riverbank.
  • Bug repellant is especially helpful in late Summer/Fall.
  • In warmer months remember to wear sunscreen and put a little sunscreen on your dog’s nose too!
  • When grasses are going to seed bring something to cover your dog’s nose and ears so that they don’t breathe in the harmful seeds called foxtails. These can get lodged in a dog’s lungs, nose, or ears and later require vet attention. The OutFox Field Guard is the best solution I’ve seen so far, but any other product or DIY suggestions are welcome!

If you do head out to the Sandy River Delta Park, send some pictures. If you have other favorite parks in the area, we’d love to hear about them too! If you see Merry and I out & about, please stop and say ‘Hello!’

Have fun!

Growing up, my grandparent’s car was a greater treasure chest than my mom’s kitchen. Why? Packets of gum stashed everywhere. Gum in the glove compartment, gum in the back of the passenger seat, gum in the cupholders, gum gum gum! I’m sure my dog Merry would have thought the same thing. However if they’d lived long enough to meet him and have him in their car, that could have been a potentially deadly treasure trove for him. Why? Because my grandparent’s only ever bought sugar free gum that almost always contained xylitol.

Xylitol is perfectly harmless towards humans and used as an artificial sweetener in a variety of different products including chewing gum and even peanut butter. However it is extremely dangerous for dogs! Xylitol can cause dog’s blood sugar to dramatically decrease, causing potentially fatal hypoglycemia or liver failure. Symptoms of hypoglycemia in dogs include weakness, lethargy, discoordination, vomiting, and potentially seizures. If you notice your dog having these symptoms, especially if you realize they’ve just consumed something with xylitol, you should immediately call your vet (Source: Pet Poison Helpline). There isn’t documented evidence to say one way or the other if xylitol is toxic to cats and other pets as well, but let’s just say sugar free gum ain’t the best way to treat Mr. Whisker’s bad breath anyways.

Since prevention is the best medicine of all, make sure that you aren’t putting your dog into a situation where potentially dangerous treats abound and be aware of the gum that you buy for yourself and making sure that it is in a safe place. Just a few sticks of Orbit sugar free gum could be enough to put your precious pup in danger. Other common sources of xylitol poisoning in dogs include other “sugar free” products such as mints, toothpastes, pudding, and peanut butter. If something says “sugar free” you should check that its ingredients don’t include “xylitol” or “sugar alcohols” which can often be xylitol.

Peanut butter is an especially insidious food to include xylitol because so many of us love using it as an easy treat for our pets or a way to easily get medications down. If you’re giving your dog peanut butter make sure that you check the ingredients of the brand that you’re using. It’s best to use as plain of a peanut butter product as possible anyways because added sugar and salt is also unhealthy for dogs, although it probably won’t kill them quickly like xylitol can. Merry’s favorite brand of peanut butter is Adam’s 100% Natural Crunchy Peanut Butter: Unsalted.

 

More Information:

Snopes: Xylitol Danger

VCA Hospitals: Xylitol Toxicity in Dogs

Most of us spend so much of every day managing the various responsibilities of parenthood, holding down a job, keeping our families fed and our relationships happy, that it’s difficult to notice inconsistencies in our pets’ normal behavior. It’s important to pay close attention, however, as changes in behavior often signify an illness. Since animals can’t necessarily voice their complaints to us in an easily understandable way, we have to be proactive as owners to keep an eye on their health. There are countless lists on the internet of “things to watch out for” according to various veterinarians, and it can get a bit overwhelming. So, we’ve compiled our own list of the most oft-recurring points, so you have a basic care manual to refer to in your own home. Prevention is the best medicine, so print this out and keep it on the fridge; pet care is a family affair!

Yearly check ups are crucial!

  • Yearly exams actually save money in the long run because they increase the chance that a serious illness will be caught early on. If something about your pet’s health is abnormal, it will be easier to notice if the vet has a compendium of data reflecting their baseline good health. Differences don’t stand out as clearly without a baseline background.

Pay extra attention to your cat.

  • Cats don’t present symptoms as obviously as other animals, so many vets recommend taking them in for checkups twice a year. Pay attention to behavioural changes in between appointments such as peeing outside the litterbox, not greeting you at the door, weight loss, and lack of appetite.

Exercise and a good diet are crucial.

  • Funny how pet healthcare echoes our own, eh? Don’t overfeed your pet: excessive weight can lead to a variety of problems, even in young animals. If you’re not able to take Buster on a daily walk or run, don’t fret! Hot Diggity! offers high energy runs for dogs that need a little extra oomph in their daily routine. We all need a little extra motivation sometimes!

Don’t neglect dental care!

  • In addition to preventing cavities and extra-icky dog breath, regular appointments can identify receding or abscessed gums and infection which often lead to infections of the heart or kidneys. In short: don’t ever be embarrassed by toothbrush treats for your dog and make sure dental checkups are part of their yearly exam.

With the summer travel season coming up, one of the peak seasons for travel is also on the horizon. And if you’re getting together with loved ones, these trips can be wonderful occasions to take your most loved ones along with you — your pets! Whether you are headed for the mountains or some fun in the sun, having your best four-legged friend along makes the trip that much more enjoyable. And to make the trip easier too, check out these tips for getting prepared to bring your pet on the road:

  1. Try AAA for pet-friendly planning. When putting together any vacation with animals, check out AAA’s Petbook. Updated annually, the AAA Petbook features more than 14,000 AAA-approved and Diamond-rated hotels, campgrounds, and other attractions that welcome four-footed travelers. The book also provides information about emergency clinics in case you run into medical trouble, and dog parks for those necessary breaks from being cooped up (for humans and pets alike!). The book can be found at participating AAA/CAA club offices, select bookstores, and online booksellers.
  2. Control parasites for your pet’s comfort. No matter where you’re traveling, be wary of fleas, ticks, and other parasites. These pesky pests cause distress in dogs and cats alike — and can be an expensive health hazard to you. Recently, the number of generic, vet-quality flea-and-tick products on the market makes giving your pets protection throughout the year economical and easier to obtain. Always be sure to consult your pet’s vet before using a medication and follow the instructions carefully. Additionally, pet owners who travel with the pooches need to take care that bed bugs that hide in carpets, mattress seams, and headboards aren’t carried home in your dog’s carrier. Check for bedbugs before accepting a hotel room. As a preventative measure there are many bed bug repellents on the market, many rely on plant oils such as rosemary, but the ASPCA says that bed bug pesticides containing pyrethrin are safe for pets so long as they are used correctly.
  3. Send pet food ahead to your destination. To avoid carrying more weight on the road and preventing stomach upset in your pet, order food ahead of time from an online retailer so that your pet’s familiar diet is waiting for you at your destination when you arrive. It’s also a great idea to purchase chew toys from the same online merchant. No matter how confident you are about your pet’s behavior on the road, a strange environment can cause them to behave differently So be prepared by having a few chews sent along with the food.
  4. Limit driver distraction with a pet car restraint. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, driver distraction is an increasing epidemic on America’s roadways. Pets can be a major cause of distraction, making drivers take their eyes, hands, and minds off of the road. One of the best ways to limit driver distraction is to provide car restraints for pets. Use a well-constructed body harness, made specifically for car travel. And if you and your pet are in an accident, the pet harness spreads the crash forces across the dog’s body, protecting both them and you. Kurgo body harnesses are available in sizes XS-XL with prices starting at $23, and the company’s bench covers also keep your car upholstery protected. You could also put up a barrier in your car between the front seats and the back so that your pet cannot continually come up to the front to distract you. There are also a lot of really nice dog car seats available nowadays that often include straps.

Now that you’re all ready, get out there and enjoy your pet friendly vacation!

And don’t forget that Hot Diggity! offers home security check-ins and drop-in visits if you take your dog, but leave the cat at home!

Chewing is always a difficult problem with puppies, and it’s one that needs to be resolved for your pet to be a part of your household as well as to protect your new family member. The good news is that most dogs do grow out of their chewing behavior. The bad news is that they can do quite a lot of damage before they outgrow the habit, and often dogs with anxiety issues will continue having chewing problems into adulthood. Here are some ways to train your puppy (and protect your home!) as well as help your puppies grow into calm adult dogs:

Reward conditioning: Essentially, treat your new puppy like a toddler. When you are around, watch them like a hawk. When you see them grab onto your leather loafers or a chair leg, distract them with some other, more attractive option. When they take the rawhide chew or nylon bone or whatever “good” toy you want them to chew, give them lots of praise, petting, and treats. Absolutely do not try to chase your puppy to get the shoe or bra out of their mouth. That will tell them that it’s all just a big game to you and will encourage them to continue stealing things they know you’ll want to chase them to get back. Even though it is a lot of fun, you must resist! Play chase with good toys instead!

Chew toys: Figure out what kind of chew toys your dog likes and don’t forget to switch them up frequently. Some dogs love cow bones, some antlers, some prefer balls, some prefer stuffed animals, and some prefer ropes! Oftentimes even if the toy is the exact same your puppy will be excited about getting a second, new version of it. And pay attention to how strong of a chewer your puppy or new dog is. You don’t want to buy them toys that they’ll rip to shreds in less than an hour both because it’s a waste of money and not good for them to be eating so much plastic!

Chew toys such as hooves are great for dogs, but if they chew them too much then they can get diarrhea (not to mention the smell is horrendous…). Strong chewers can also tend to whittle away hooves and bones down to such a point that they’re very small and can be easily swallowed. These small fragments aren’t usually digestible and will either lead to vomiting or diarrhea or worse. So make sure to throw them out before they get to that point! Don’t give in, no matter how sad Buster’s puppy eyes are!

West Paw Design makes EXTREMELY durable dog toys. So durable in fact, that if your dog does manage to destroy them they will replace them for you for free! Besides the Zogoflex line by WPD the only other toys my dog Merry has never managed to destroy are the Chuckit! balls and Kong toys.

Crate training: Crate training is the most feasible option for many people, and it can keep your puppy feeling safe and secure when you’re away. This is one of the easiest ways to train a dog to be calm during separation. It takes a lot of practice when you’re home at first, but beyond the reward of an intact couch your dog will also be much happier and calmer when you are away. Working on training with a puppy or any new dog also increases the bond between you two, no matter what you work on. Plus if you ever move crate training is a fantastic way to make your dog comfortable with such a major transition.

Preventing chewing: If your puppy tends to chew on a surface that is color safe and won’t be damaged (like your fingers), you can coat the surface in white vinegar or rubbing alcohol. The smell and taste will make the object much less tempting. There are also better smelling alternatives such as Bitter Apple spray.

But more than using sprays to discourage chewing you could also use this as an opportunity to puppy-proof your house by being as diligent as possible about cleaning up. Even for adult dogs open trash can be a danger. Make sure trash is kept securely away and it would be best if electric wires such as chargers were also hidden away too. Even if they’re not plugged in they contain metals which may pose a danger to a puppy if they eat them. Cleaning up or using preventative sprays won’t change your puppy’s underlying behavior or your adult dog’s anxiety issues, but it’s a good way to help keep them (and your stuff) safe while you work on training them to chew safer toys or have less separation anxiety.
Don’t give up on your puppy: It can be hard to retrain an instinctive behavior like chewing, but it’s well worth it to have a happy, well-adjusted dog, who lives a long life as your best companion!