Choosing the Best Dog for Your Family

VSSF Admin - Monday, December 15, 2014

Many years ago after the movie “101 Dalmatians” hit theaters, parents ran out and bought or adopted Dalmatians and then promptly took them to. They’re beautiful and for the right home, they are wonderful pets. But they are not a breed that is generally good with children.

This is a common mistake people make when they don’t do their research. Certainly, as stated last week, some Dalmatians are great with kids and if you happen across one that is and you want to adopt him, go for it. Don’t, however, seek one out if you have children at home.

The same goes for Chihuahuas and miniature pinschers, to name just a couple. They’re small and toy-like and this makes people think they’re perfect for children. That’s a mistake. Small dogs often are the worst choice for a home with children. Children are loud. They want to pick the dogs up, sometimes they pull tails, ears, hair (this is behavior parents must keep an eye out for and discourage, no matter what, but sometimes accidents happen). Small dogs are particularly nervous about such behavior because they are more vulnerable than larger dogs and it’s more difficult for a small dog to get away.

That isn’t to say that if you have children you can’t get a small dog. Many terriers do well in homes with children, as do English bull dogs. And you may get lucky and find that one in a thousand Chihuahua that loves kids. Beagle is also a child-friendly breed.
Surprising to many, bull terriers are wonderful with children. Years ago, people used them as canine nannies and they are very protective.

If you go for a poodle, make sure it’s the standard poodle and not the toy poodle, which falls into the “small dogs aren’t a good choice” category. Collies and German shepherds also fall into the protective category and will generally put up with a small child’s energy and curiosity. And, of course, there is always the good old mutt with the right personality.

So when choosing a family pet, keep in mind the unique dynamics of your home and lifestyle and research breed traits so that when you finally make your decision, there won’t be any surprises and your new friend will be able to stay with you for life.

So Your Kid Wants a Dog...

VSSF Admin - Monday, December 08, 2014

It’s hard to believe it’s December already and the year is almost over. Now that Halloween and Thanksgiving are behind, we’re ready to turn our attention to Christmas and that means shopping for gifts.

This is the time of year parents start considering a pet for their children. It makes an adorable and fun photo op on Christmas morning, but it’s important to make sure that happy moment isn’t the only one your family has with your new member. It’s important to remember that a new pet is more than a present – it’s a long-term responsibility for a living creature that depends on you.

There are several things to consider when making this decision. One is to think about how much responsibility you want your children to take for the animal’s care, keeping in mind that no matter their ages, most of the care will probably fall on Mom and Dad. Even teenagers will forget sometimes and the pet might not be their first priority. Regardless, dogs need to be walked, litter boxes need cleaning and all animals need feeding. The animal shouldn’t suffer due to a child’s natural lack of responsibility. So while it’s OK to use a new pet as a teaching tool for your children, you should still be prepared to take on the bulk of the care.

In that vein, the next decision you need to make is what kind of pet to get. Dog or cat? Puppy or kitten? Of them all, puppies are going to require the most attention. Kittens tend to be easier, if you’re set on a baby pet, but you should consider your family’s lifestyle in the decision between a cat or dog. Kittens also can be somewhat destructive, though, so be prepared for clawing and chewing.

Do you want to adopt from a shelter or buy from a reputable breeder? If you’re going with an adult animal, you’ll likely be looking at rescues. You can find breed-specific rescue groups through a quick online search if you want a specific or purebred dog or cat; or you can go to a local shelter if you’re not picky about breed. While breeds all have specific common traits, each dog has its own personality, so while Dalmatians aren’t known for being good with children, as a breed, some love children.

If you’ve considered all of these things and still want to bring a cat or dog home for the holidays, all that’s left is to make sure you have all the necessary supplies (especially food!) and enjoy your new friend.
Next week, more about dog breeds and which ones are best depending on your family’s makeup.

Dog Lovers vs. Cat Lovers

VSSF Admin - Monday, December 01, 2014

A study from Carroll University in Waukesha, WI, reveals that there are real personality differences between cat lovers and dog lovers.

Dog lovers, the study says, are more likely to be outgoing and rule-followers, while cat lovers are more open-minded, though introverted and sensitive. Also of note, cat lovers tend to prefer to do things their own way rather than follow set rules and standards. Cat lovers, also, tend to be smarter than dog lovers.
In the study, cat lovers cited affection from their pets as most important to them. Dog lovers cited companionship.

The researcher, Denise Guastello, concluded that people’s preconceived notions of animal stereotypes tend to influence their choice in pets. Cat lovers value independence and a certain amount of caution. People generally think of cats as loners and nonconformists. Dogs, on the other hand, crave attention and validation.

For practical purposes, pet therapy programs can use the study’s findings to better match animals with their therapy subjects. Observing a person and noting whether that person displays traits that identify him or her as a dog or cat person can inform with which owner/animal the program should match the patient.
And if you like both equally? You just might need to wait for the next study to tell you about yourself.

Keep Pets in Mind this Thanksgiving

VSSF Admin - Monday, November 24, 2014
It’s one again that time of year where Americans get together with family they either love or hate and maybe even some friends – who they probably at least like – and stuff themselves with lots and lots of wonderful food. For many it means either traveling or hosting a houseful of people. Either can be stressful for your pets and you must keep them in mind as the food is flying because it isn’t all safe for them.

Whether you are taking your pet with you on a trip or having people to your house, be mindful of your cat or dog’s tolerance and personality. Animals that do fine with adults can be wary and unfriendly with unpredictable and hyper children. You don’t want your holiday ruined by a well-placed cat scratch or dog bite because no one was making sure child-pet interactions were appropriate and safe. Children also are less likely to ask permission before feeding your pet table food. While most traditional Thanksgiving fare is not poisonous, an animal with a sensitive stomach could end up having an accident in the middle of your nice dinner.

And keep in mind that even the most well-behaved dog or cat can become overwhelmed by too much activity that he isn’t used to. Cats can and will generally remove themselves well from a distressing situation, but dogs often want to be in the middle of everything, even if it isn’t the best place for them. Keep an eye on your pets and make sure they are happy and comfortable.

A few traditional foods to avoid giving to your dog are:

  • Meat with the bone still in it.
  • Macadamia nuts.
  • Turkey skin.
  • Onions and garlic.
  • Mushrooms.
  • Nutmeg.
  • Sage.

Is a Leash Really Necessary?

VSSF Admin - Monday, November 17, 2014

Most municipalities have leash laws and while most dog owners obey the law, many people think they don’t need to. It may be because your dog is well-behaved and easily controlled – your dog would never bite anyone so why does it need to be on a leash, right?

While that may be true, leashing your dog is about much more than how safe other people are around him. It’s also about your dog’s safety and well-being.

In public places, you will encounter many kinds of people and some of them have great fear of dogs. Most dogs are naturally curious and friendly and will often approach people they aren’t familiar with in order to say hello. If your dog does this to someone with a fear of dogs, it can cause great distress and even cause that person to run without thinking into a dangerous situation. Your dog will also want to approach other dogs to say hello and those other dogs may not be friendly or safe. Remember – just because you have a friendly, well-behaved dog doesn’t mean everyone’s dog is friendly and well-behaved.

Even in your own neighborhood, though, where you know the people and animals, it’s important to restrain your dog for safety. Dogs don’t understand the danger of running into the road and they will do so to chase after another animal, a toy or if something frightens them. Most won’t stop to make sure a car isn’t coming. The only thing worse than being the person driving the car that hits and kills an animal is being that animal. As the owner, who probably loves the dog, you can avoid having to bury your previously happy, healthy pet by making sure he can’t run in front of a car.

There are fines for not obeying leash laws, often enforced sporadically and inconsistently. But a few dollars to the court is the least of the bad things that can happen. Think about that the next time you think about taking your dog outside unleashed.

So You Found a Stray. Now What?

VSSF Admin - Monday, November 10, 2014

It’s easy to think when you find a dog or cat wandering your neighborhood that it’s a stray – either because it always was or because someone decided he or she didn’t want a pet anymore and turned the animal out to the hard, scary streets. But even the most rough-looking animal might simply be lost and its family is looking for it.

It isn’t uncommon for a dog or cat to slip out unnoticed and find itself disoriented and frightened enough that it wanders away from its home and can’t find its way back. Owners should do what they can to make it easy on anyone who finds a lost pet to find where it belongs. This includes a registered microchip – many shelters hold clinics where you can get a chip for cheap or even free – and identifying tags. The tags should include contact information and you should make sure it’s legible at all times. Dogs have a tendency to sink their teeth into anything they can find and chew it to bits. Some of them have the dexterity to do this to something hanging around their necks.

Any veterinarian’s office of animal shelter has the equipment to scan for a microchip and contact the owner. Also, if the animal doesn’t have a tag with the owner’s contact information but has a tag with its veterinarian’s contact information, you can usually find an owner by calling the vet.

But if you are the finder and the owner hasn’t provided any easy way to identify the animal, there are still steps you can take to try to track the owner down. First, call local shelters to find out if someone has reported a missing pet and if not, leave the animal’s description and your contact information so the shelter can reach you if the owner makes contact.

Next, make use of the Internet. You can post about the animal on Facebook – your personal page works, but most areas also have Facebook pages dedicated to the area’s lost pets. Those looking and those finding can use the pages to locate each other. Craig’s List (www.craigslist.com) also has space for advertising lost and found animals. If you make use of Craig’s List, be careful to make sure if the owner finds you there that it really is the owner. Do not post a photo of the animal and hold back a specific descriptive detail that only someone who knows the animal would know. One example is if the animal had on a collar, ask the person to describe it or ask about a unique pattern on the animal’s coat. You can also ask for someone who contacts you to send a photo. Put up posters in the neighborhood if you wish.

And finally, while becoming a bit antiquated, local newspapers remain a good source. Most newspapers will put a free ad in their lost and found section – both in print and online – for found animals. Use the same precautions as you would on Craig’s List.

Once you’ve exhausted all of these methods and you still can’t find who the animal belongs to, it’s safe to assume it belongs to no one, even if it once did. Sadly, many people will turn an unwanted animal out without a second thought or because they cannot care for it anymore and think it’s better off on the street than in a shelter. At that point, you’re free to keep the animal or turn it over to a rescue.

Fear is high, but risk is minimal

VSSF Admin - Monday, November 03, 2014



 Click here to learn more.

Pets Like to Dress Up, Too

VSSF Admin - Monday, October 27, 2014













Keep Pet Safety in Mind this Halloween

VSSF Admin - Monday, October 20, 2014
Halloween can be both fun and frightening for humans, but it carries its own set of dangers for your pets.

The obvious for dogs is the abundance of chocolate that will be in your house – whether it’s the candy your children bring home from trick-or-treating or the candy you buy to hand out at your front door. Make sure to keep the human treats as far out of your dog’s reach as possible and keep an eye out for stray pieces that might fall on the floor.

Another possible digestive system danger is the glow sticks children carry so that passing cars can see them. A dog may find a dropped one and chew it and that can cause poisoning.

If you give out candy, there will be a lot of knocks on the door and strangers dressed oddly – often in masks – stopping by. Even if you aren’t handing it out, there will be increased traffic and noise outside that cats and dogs will hear and respond to. This can be confusing to both cats and dogs, though cats are most likely to find a hiding spot far from the action. Dogs, however, no matter how afraid they are, like to be near their people.

With the door constantly opening and closing, there is also the danger that your pet can slip out unnoticed. Be sure to know where they are at all times and watch for a furry little body streaking by when you open the door.

If you like to dress your pet up for the holiday, make sure there aren’t any parts of the costume that could become lodged in a throat. And make sure the costume fits correctly and is comfortable. Don’t force a costume on an animal that clearly doesn’t want to wear one and behaves in a distressed manner.

Finally, Halloween – including the weeks leading up to it – presents a particular danger to black cats. Many shelters refuse to adopt them out at this time of year for this exact reason and if your black cat is caught outside by the wrong people, it could prove fatal. We like to think that everyone shares our love of animals, but there are some people in the world who don’t and they will harm them if given the chance. If your black cat normally spends time outdoors, consider keeping her inside this time of year. A little annoyance for Kitty is worth it to keep him safe.

Diagnosing and Treating Food Allergies Can be Tricky Business

VSSF Admin - Monday, October 13, 2014
Something common in dogs is having an allergy or intolerance to their food. Some breeds are more susceptible to it than others, but they all can be born with or develop and allergy.

Symptoms to look out for:

  • Head shaking.
  • Skin issues – hair loss or constant itching.
  • Chronic, recurring ear infections.
  • Three or more bowel movements a day.
  • Chronic diarrhea.
One of the most common culprits is grain, which is in most commercial dog foods. The best way to determine which ingredient is affecting your dog is to do an elimination diet. This means giving your dog only his food each day and no treats until you’ve identified the allergen. Also avoid giving parasite treatments or medicines that aren’t absolutely necessary during this time. Expect to continue the elimination diet for 12 full weeks.

If your dog exhibits any of the food allergy symptoms, make sure to get him to a vet before trying the elimination diet. It’s never a good idea to try to diagnose your pet’s condition without professional assistance, as symptoms can indicate any number of possible conditions, some more serious than others. Don’t lose valuable time assuming an allergy, in case that isn’t the problem.

If you and your vet determine it’s an allergy, work with your vet to figure out what diet your dog needs to be on. Some people will feed a commercial food that doesn’t include the allergen, while others turn to making their own dog food. If you choose to do so, make sure your dog is getting all the nutrients he needs or you’ll end up with even worse problems than what you started with.


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