10 Things Your Dog Can Teach Your Child

A balanced pup can teach a child so much more than how to properly care for an animal.TeachYourChild

In fact, studies have found that a pet encourages a child’s physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development. Children who have pets are more likely to have higher self-esteem, develop better social skills, and even have more friends! Who doesn’t want that for their child?

Here are just a few of the lessons your dog can impart to your human little one.

  1. Love and Loyalty
    There are few (if any!) species on earth that boast the devotion that comes naturally to a dog. Coming home to that happy face and wagging tail every day without fail can help your child develop confidence and self-esteem.
  2. Exercise
    Dogs provide a wealth of opportunities for your child to get active — joining for the walk, romping around the backyard, or playing a game of fetch. They also serve as an example of why exercise is so important. Dogs need regular physical activity to stay emotionally and mentally balanced — that’s true for humans, too.
  3. The Importance of Family
    Dogs are naturally pack animals, and research shows that they bring out that instinct in humans, too. Families spend more time interacting after getting a pet. Use your dog as an opportunity to connect. Get the whole pack out for walks, playtime, and even grooming.
  4. Reading
    Can’t help your child practice reading because you have to cook dinner? No problem! Your dog can take over for awhile. Research shows that he may actually do a better job than you anyway, particularly if your child is struggling. Why? Children are more relaxed, likely because a dog is a nonjudgmental audience.
  5. Patience and Compassion
    A dog isn’t capable of all the things that humans are, and as your dog ages, she will require special care and attention. Understanding those differences can help your child learn to be patient and compassionate with those who suffer from disabilities, the elderly, and younger children.
  6. Communication
    Reading your dog’s body language can help your child pick up on non-verbal communication between humans, too. You can encourage this by taking the time to teach your child about common cues. It’s beneficial for his safety around other dogs, too.
  7. Socialization
    One study asked children what advice they had for kids who had trouble making friends. Their answer? Get a pet! Dogs encourage your child to put their communication skills to use. Since dogs serve as an easy icebreaker and a shared interest, it makes meeting new friends easier.
  8. Trust
    If your child has trouble opening up to you, he may still feel comfortable talking to his dog, providing a safe outlet for private thoughts and secrets. The trust he builds with his dog can help him eventually learn to open up to others, too.
  9. Responsibility
    The more your child is involved in the care of your animal, the more she’ll learn about responsibility. Let your child take the lead on providing for your dog’s basic needs (with your supervision, of course).
  10. Silliness
    Sure, dogs help teach responsibility, but more importantly, they also serve as a reminder to let loose, have some fun, and live in the moment! There are few things more fun (and mood-boosting) than acting nutty with your pup.

Let’s be honest: most of these lessons are valuable for adults, too.

It’s all too easy in this busy day-and-age to lose sight of what’s really important. Take a moment to thank your pup for imparting these important life lessons to your pack — and for bringing you all back to the here and now.

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Homemade Treats for Your Furry Valentine

Another great benefit to having a dog (as if we needed more!) is that you always have a special Valentine in your life! Show your four-legged friend that you love him this February with these delicious Valentine’s Day dog treat recipes, courtesy of Gourmet Dog Treat Recipes.DogValentine

Your pooch may not know it’s Valentine’s Day, but he’ll definitely know you love him when you give him these awesome homemade treats.

Cinnamon Honey Hearts Dog Biscuits

A touch of honey and cinnamon add just the right blend of sweet and spice to this gourmet dog treat.

Cinnamon Honey Hearts

1/4 Cup Water
1/4 Cup pureed Banana
1/2 Cup plain Yogurt
1 Tablespoon Honey
1 Tablespoon Canola Oil
1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 Cup Oat Flour
1/4 Cup Rice Flour
1 Cup Wheat Flour

Instructions:

In a small bowl combine the cinnamon, oat flour, rice flour, and 1/2 cup wheat flour. Set aside. In a separate bowl mix water, banana, yogurt, honey, and canola oil with an electric mixer. Add the dry ingredients and mix until well blended. Mix in remaining wheat flour 1/4 cup at a time until a stiff dough forms.

Place on floured surface and roll to desired thickness. Cut into desired shapes. Bake at 300 degrees. If rolled to 3/8″ baking time is 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Tip: After shutting off the oven I leave the dog biscuits in the oven for a couple hours to make sure they are completely dry and crunchy. Then they can be stored for a long time with out worrying about spoilage.

Carob Doggie Delights

Making homemade dog treats is a fun way to let your canine companions know they are your special valentines.

Carob Doggie Delights

1 1/2 Cups Wheat Flour
1/2 Cup Rolled Oats
1/4 Cup Carob Powder
1 Tablespoon ground Flax Seed (Optional)
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Egg
1/2 Cup Water
1 Tablespoon Honey

Instructions:

In a small bowl combine the wheat flour, rolled oats, carob, flax seed, and baking powder. Set aside. In a separate bowl beat together the egg, water, and honey. Add the dry ingredients and mix until well blended and forms a stiff dough.

Place on floured surface and roll to desired thickness. Cut into heart shapes. Bake at 300 degrees. If rolled to 3/8″ baking time is 30 minutes to 35 minutes.

Tip: Make these valentine dog treats something really special by drizzling with carob. Melt carob chips in the microwave or double boiler and drizzle over treats.

For more recipes, click here.

Brushing Your Pet’s Teeth: How Often To & Why You Absolutely Should

Why It’s Important

Brushing your dog’s teeth isn’t just about fresh breath. It’s an essential part of good oral care, and good oral care is important to your dog’s overall health. Although most people aren’t aware of it, periodontal, or gum disease is a common, serious problem in dogs. Yet brushing your dog’s teeth can prevent it! Veterinarians estimate that 85 percent of dogs over five years of age suffer from periodontal disease, which develops when food particles and bacteria collect along the gum line and form soft deposits called plaque. Over time, the plaque turns into rock-hard tartar. If tartar isn’t removed from your dog’s teeth, it will eventually inflame his gums. As the inflamed gums begin to separate from the teeth, pockets form in which more bacteria grow, causing periodontal disease to worsen. At this point, your dog can experience severe pain, lose teeth, form abscesses in his mouth and develop a bacterial infection that can spread through the bloodstream to the kidneys, liver, heart or brain. Periodontal disease is irreversible, so now is a great time to get started on a regular oral-care regimen for your dog. Prevention is the key to keeping him healthy and happy.

When to Do It

It’s ideal to brush your dog’s teeth daily, just like you brush your own. However, if your schedule doesn’t allow that, aim to brush your dog’s teeth at least several times a week.

Smaller dogs and brachycephalic breeds—dogs with flat or short, broad snouts, like pugs and bulldogs—may need more frequent brushing. Their teeth are often crowded together, which allows more plaque to accumulate and increases their risk of developing periodontal disease.

What You’ll Need

The Brush

Choose a tool that you’re comfortable using. Pet stores carry toothbrushes for dogs as well as small, plastic brushes that fit on your finger and special dental sponges. If these products don’t appeal to you or your dog, just wrap a piece of clean gauze around your finger instead.

The Paste

Purchase toothpaste made for dogs from a pet store or from your veterinarian. Pet toothpaste comes in a variety of flavors, including liver, mint, chicken and peanut butter. You may need to experiment with a few flavors to find out which one your dog prefers. Avoid using human toothpaste on your dog’s teeth. Keep in mind that your dog will end up swallowing a lot of the paste during brushing sessions, and ingesting a paste made for people might upset his stomach.

How to Brush Your Dog’s Teeth

Your dog will probably find the sensation of you poking around in his mouth strange. It might make him nervous at first. However, you can make tooth brushing more pleasant for your dog if you focus on doing two things:

  1. Take it slow. Introduce tooth brushing in small steps so that your dog doesn’t get overwhelmed and upset.
  2. Teach your dog that good things always happen when he gets his teeth brushed.

Before You Start:  Accustom Your Dog to Having His Muzzle and Mouth Handled

Fingers are fine   Before using a brush or paste, teach your dog that tooth brushing can be fun by first getting him used to having your fingers in his mouth. First, dip your finger into something your dog likes, such as chicken broth or peanut butter. Let your dog lick your finger, and as he does, gently rub your fingers against the sides of his teeth and gums. As you do, also lift his lips as you might when brushing. Repeat this exercise twice a day for two or three days. Occasionally use your dog’s toothpaste on your finger so he gets used to its smell and taste.

Open wide   When your dog seems comfortable with your fingers in his mouth for a few seconds at a time, teach him to let you handle his muzzle and open his mouth. First, prepare a handful of delicious treats. Because you want your dog to love it when you handle his mouth and brush his teeth, choose tasty chicken, beef, cheese or hot dog. After gathering the treats, sit down somewhere quiet with your dog. Speak softly to him as you do the following exercise:

  1. Gently put one hand underneath your dog’s chin, letting his head rest in your hand. Then put the other hand over the top of your dog’s muzzle, as though you were going to open his mouth. Instead of doing that, just release his muzzle and immediately give him one of the special treats you prepared. Repeat 8 to 10 times, and end the session. Practice this exercise for two or three days, a couple of times a day.
  2. Repeat Step 1, but instead of releasing your dog right after you take hold of his muzzle, use the hand on top of his snout to gently lift his lips. Keep his lips lifted, with his teeth exposed, for just two seconds. Then let go of your dog’s muzzle, praise him enthusiastically and feed him a treat. Repeat 8 to 10 times, and then end the session. Practice Step 2 for two or three days, at least three times per day.
  3. Now you’re going to get your dog used to letting you hold his muzzle and look at his teeth longer. Repeat Step 2 as described above—but slowly increase the time you hold your dog’s muzzle in your hand and lift his lips. Progress gradually over a week or so. Start with three seconds. Then, the next day, try five. The next day, try eight, and so on. As before, try to have a couple of short sessions per day. When you can hold your dog’s muzzle and examine his teeth for 10 seconds, you’re ready for Step 4.
  1. Position your hands as before—one under your dog’s bottom jaw and the other over the top of his muzzle. Instead of just lifting his lips, open your dog’s mouth about an inch. Right after opening his mouth, touch your finger inside his mouth for a second and then release your dog and give him a treat. Repeat 8 to 10 times. Practice Step 4 for a day or two, aiming for at least three short sessions per day. Each session, try opening your dog’s mouth just a little wider until you can hold it open wide enough to see your dog’s back teeth. (Be careful not to open your dog’s mouth so wide that you cause pain or discomfort.)
  2. Over a week or so, gradually increase the time you hold your dog’s mouth open and keep your finger inside along his teeth and gums. As you did in Step 3, go slowly and deliver plenty of praise and treats. As long as your dog continues to seem comfortable and relaxed, you can hold his mouth open one or two seconds longer each day. When you can hold his mouth open for about 10 seconds, you’re ready to start brushing.

If your dog struggles during any of the exercises above, gently but firmly continue to hold his muzzle until he stops. As soon as he stops struggling and holds still for one second, release his muzzle. You may have progressed a little too fast, so go back and practice the previous step for a few more days. When he seems comfortable at that step for two or three days, try moving to the next step again.

Start Brushing

After you’ve collected supplies—your dog’s toothbrush, sponge or gauze, his special toothpaste and a few tasty treats—take your dog to a quiet, calm area. You might need to keep your dog on a leash to limit his movement during the brushing session. If you do, you can tie the leash to a heavy piece of furniture in order to keep your hands free. It’s okay to keep the leash short, like three feet—but not too short. Make sure there’s enough slack in the leash so that your dog can sit or lie down comfortably while you brush his teeth. Then follow the steps below to start brushing. (The steps are the same, regardless of the brushing tool you choose. We’ll assume you’re using a toothbrush.)

  1. Put some toothpaste on the brush. Placing one hand over the top of your dog’s muzzle, gently lift his lips. With your other hand, brush or rub a few teeth. Your dog can keep his jaws closed at this point. Just focus on cleaning the outer surfaces of his teeth and gums. After only two or three seconds of brushing, stop and release your dog’s muzzle. If he did a great job holding still while you brushed, reward him with a tasty treat. Then end the brushing session.
  2. Repeat Step 1 two or three times a day for one to two weeks. Each day, slowly increase the time you spend brushing. Start with three seconds. Then, the next day, try five. The next day, try eight, and so on. Eventually you’ll be able to brush the outer surfaces of all your dog’s teeth during a single brushing session.
  3. When your dog seems comfortable about you brushing all his teeth while his jaws are closed, you can start to open his mouth. Gently place one hand over the top of your dog’s muzzle and open his mouth, like you practiced before. With your other hand, reach in your dog’s mouth with the brush. Brush a few teeth for a couple of seconds. Then release your dog’s muzzle, praise him and feed him a treat. Repeat three to five times for about three days. Try to practice a couple of times a day.
  4. At this point, you can start alternating between brushing the outer and inner surfaces of your dog’s teeth during brushing sessions. It’s best to keep brushing sessions short (aim for about five minutes), but brush daily if possible. Remember to continue to reward your dog with tasty treats or his favorite game after you brush his teeth. If you do, he’ll come to love brushing sessions because good things always happen afterwards.

As you did during the handling exercises above, gently but firmly hold your dog’s muzzle if he struggles during brushing. As soon as he stops struggling and holds still for one second, release his muzzle. You may have progressed a little too fast for him, so make brushing sessions a little shorter for a while until he seems comfortable again.

Feb_ToothbrushToothpasteAM

For the full article from ASPCA, click here.

How You and Your Cat Can Have More Fun Together

CatPlayOne of the best ways to strengthen the bond between you and your cat is to play games together. “When you play with your cat, you become the most interesting thing in her life,” says Sandy Myers, a pet behavior consultant in Naperville, Illinois. “Your cat starts thinking, ‘Hey, when Mom or Dad are home, I have more fun.’ So the cat welcomes you that much more.” Not only is playtime fun for your cat, she adds, it’s also a great way to get your cat to exercise-both mentally and physically.

Here are six games you can play with your cat. Not every feline will want to play every game on this list, but certainly there are at least a few games here that you and your cat will enjoy. (Please remember that foil balls should always be thrown away at the end of the game-they are fine for games, but are not safe for unsupervised play.)

Paw Hockey
Play this game in a room with hardwood, tile, or linoleum floors that has at least 10 square feet of free floor space. Break off an eight-inch square of aluminum foil and scrunch it up into a hockey puck shape. Show your cat the puck and then flick it with your fingers so that it goes skittering across the floor. Your cat will then chase after the puck, batting it with his paws and making it scoot from one end of the room to the other. If your cat starts to lose interest in the game, pick up the puck and give it another flick.

Staircase Dash
With your cat at the top of the stairs and you at the bottom, fling a ping pong ball to the top of the staircase, against the side wall, one or two steps in front of where your cat is sitting. The ball will bounce down the stairs — and your cat will race down the stairs to chase after it. When the ball reaches the bottom of the stairs — probably with your cat just a step behind — fling the ball back up to the top of the staircase. Keep tossing the ball up the steps until your cat gets tired.

Bathtub Scurry
Put a ping pong ball in a clean, dry bathtub. Remove the bottles of shampoo and bars of soap, and plug the drain so the ping pong ball doesn’t get lodged in there. Put your cat in the bathtub, show him the ping pong ball, and bounce the ball off the side of the bathtub to get it moving. As the ball bounces around, your cat will chase after it. If the ball starts to slow down, give it a good roll off the side to get it moving again and to keep your cat’s interest.

Chase the Thing on the String
Get an aluminum foil ball, hollow plastic Whiffle ball, or catnip mouse and tie it to a three-foot piece of twine or heavy string. Pull the string along the floor in front of you, over the cat furniture, or up and down your staircase and let your cat chase after the object. Be sure to allow your cat to capture the object every once in awhile when you’re playing this game, so that he can feel like a successful predator.

Shadows on the Wall
Turn off the lights in the evening and cast a beam of light on a nearby wall with a large flashlight. Dangle bouncy cat toys or other small objects in the light and move them back and forth so their shadows race up and down the wall. Your cat will leap up at the wall trying to catch the elusive prey.

Chase the Bubbles
On a warm, breezy day, open all the windows and blow your cat a roomful of bubbles to chase. You can buy a jar of bubble solution for children, or make your own by mixing together 1/2 cup dish washing liquid, 1 cup water, 2 tablespoons glycerin, and 1/2 teaspoon sugar. When you blow your bubbles, face in different directions so they scatter around the room. Alternate between blowing through the plastic wand that came with the bubble solution and waving the wand through the air. Your cat will have fun trying to catch the bubbles — and you will be very entertained.

Read the rest of the article here.