Universal Press Syndicate
Many dogs enjoy swimming as much as people do, and cool times in the local swimming spot or backyard pool are one of the best parts of summer. But you have to look out for your pet around water, since even the strongest, most enthusiastic swimmers can get into trouble.
The keys to water safety for dogs: prevention, preparedness and awareness.
-- Prevention: No dog should be given unsupervised access to a backyard pool or a neighborhood pond or creek. Swimming pools are best fenced off for safety. And if that's not possible, they should be equipped with alarms that sound when the surface of the water is broken by a child or pet falling in. Escape tools like the Skamper-Ramp (www.skamper-ramp.com; 1-877-766-5738) are a good idea, but it's better to prevent pets from getting in unsupervised in the first place.
Prevention also includes teaching your pet what to do when he's in the pool. Dogs don't get the idea that the steps are on one side only, and they may tire and drown trying to crawl out the side. If your pet likes to swim, work with him in the pool to help him learn where the steps are so he can get out easily.
Finally, obedience training is extremely important. Your dog should come when called, even when swimming, so you can call him back before he heads into deeper water or stronger currents. Emergency shortcut: Always carry extra retrieving toys. A dog who's heading out into a dangerous area after a ball or stick can often be lured back into shore with a second item thrown closer in. It's no substitute for training, but it could save your dog's life.
-- Preparedness: Before letting your dog swim in any natural surroundings, survey the area for safety. Rivers and oceans can change frequently, and an area that was safe for swimming one visit can be treacherous the next. Consider currents, tides, underwater hazards and even the condition of the water. In the late summer, algae scum on the top of standing water can be toxic, producing substances that can kill a pet who swallows the tainted water.
When in doubt, no swimming. Better safe than sorry.
One of the best things you can do is take courses in first aid and CPR for your pets. Many local Red Cross chapters offer these classes, and some veterinarians may also teach them in your community. A dog who's pulled out near death from drowning may be saved by your prompt actions -- if you know what to do.
If your dog isn't much of a swimmer, or is older or debilitated, get him a personal floatation device. These are especially great for family boating trips because most have sturdy handles for rescue when a pet goes overboard.
-- Awareness: Be aware of your dog's condition as he plays. Remember that even swimming dogs can get hot, so bring fresh water and offer it constantly. When your dog is tiring, be sure to call it a day. A tired dog is a good dog, but an exhausted dog is in danger of drowning.
-- Be particularly careful of young and old dogs. Both can get themselves into more trouble when a healthy adult dog with lots of swimming experience. Young dogs can panic in the water, and old dogs may not realize they aren't as strong as they used to be. Keep them close to shore, and keep swimming sessions short.
Swimming is great exercise and great fun for all, and with these few simple precautions you can keep the cool times coming, with safety in mind.
Perfect pool play in a small way
Just as it seems that as many "baby" gates are purchased for pets as for children, the ubiquitous kiddie pool has thoroughly gone to the dogs.
The small pools made of hard plastic are perfect for dogs of all sizes, providing a tummy-cooling wallow for an overheated retriever or a safe way to wade for a swim-challenged pug. (Be sure choose the hard-plastic variety; the inflatable kind doesn't hold up well to dog claws.)
Always supervise the pool's use, to prevent any accidents.
Kept clean and stored in a covered spot for winter, a kiddie pool will last for many seasons. Just remember in the summer that standing water is a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes and toxic algae, so rinse it clean after every use and refill it with fresh water every time. -- Gina Spadafori
Managing fear of bad storms
Q: Can you suggest some ways for us to cope with our dog's fear of thunderstorms? They are a constant problem in our part of the country, and our dog is miserable. -- K.R., via e-mail
A: Some breeds and types of dogs seem to be more high-strung and sensitive to noise, but the truth is that any dog can become terrified of storms. After all, a storm is more than just thunder: The atmospheric pressure changes, the sky lights up, static electricity builds and rain pounds on the roof. The smells in the air are so different that even we scent-challenged humans say, "Smells like rain." Imagine what an incoming storm smells like to our dogs!
For some dogs, fear of thunderstorms increases because their people mishandle the early signs of fear -- either by soothing the dog or by punishing her. Soothing a dog ("Poor baby! Don't be afraid. Come here and get a hug.") rewards the behavior, while punishing a dog makes a scary event even more frightening.
Sensitivity to thunder is easier to prevent than to cure, unfortunately. When puppies and young dogs show concern, one strategy is to distract them. Give them something positive to do, such as starting a training session with lots of treats, or playing a favorite game. In other words, ignore the storm, distract the dog and set the tone by acting unconcerned. With a new dog, the first time there is a storm, pretend it is an invitation to a "storm party." With every crack of thunder, respond, "Whoopee! That was a fun one, here's your storm cookie!" Couple this with happy requests for simple obedience commands.
Once a dog has developed a full-blown phobia, though, the fear of storms is quite dramatic and can be dangerous. Some dogs may tremble, others may destroy their surroundings, and still others may bite out of fear.
If your dog is afraid of loud noises that you can predict -- fireworks on holidays, for example -- ask your veterinarian to prescribe a sedative for your pet just for those days.
For fearful dogs who live in areas that get a lot of thunderstorms, your best bet is asking your veterinarian for a referral to a behaviorist. A veterinary behaviorist will work with you on a treatment plan that may include medications, counter-conditioning, pheromones and even anti-static jackets in an effort to help a dog to relax during storms. -- Dr. Marty Becker
(Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "Good Morning America" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are also the authors of several best-selling pet-care books.
On PetConnection.com there's more information on pets and their care, reviews of products, books and "dog cars," and a weekly drawing for pet-care prizes. Contact Pet Connection in care of this newspaper by sending e-mail to email@example.com or visiting PetConnection.com.
Clever brush keeps your pet's toys clean
For years, trainers and behaviorists have recommended stuffing hollow toys such as the popular Kong with peanut butter and bits of dog treats, cheese and more. The idea is that giving a stuffed Kong -- or other toy that can be chewed on safely -- as a special treat to keep a dog busy while he's alone will prevent destruction of household items.
Most of these toys seem to clean up pretty well when run through the dishwasher, impaled on one of the rack spines of the top shelf. But sometimes there's just a little bit of food that never seems to come out ... until now.
The Bamboo Toy Cleaning Brush ($8 from pet-supply retailers) is like a bottle brush, but shaped for use in toys like the Kong, wider at the bottom than the top. There's a smaller brush hidden in the handle, and a suction cup on the bottom for leaving the cleaner upright for air-drying. A pretty clever solution for a problem that most people didn't know they had until they realized it -- and needed something to fix it! -- Gina Spadafori
A cheap fix for a skunk hit
Every summer I get requests from people who "kind of remember" that skunk smell solution, but can't find where they filed the information. And then the dog comes in ... stinking. Here's the cure:
Take 1 quart of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup of baking soda, and 1 teaspoon of liquid dishwashing soap, such as Ivory. Mix and immediately apply to the stinky pet. Rinse thoroughly with tap water.
You can double or triple the recipe if you have a big dog, but always get the solution on your pet as quickly as you can after you combine the ingredients. The chemical reaction is what eliminates the skunk smell, and it doesn't last long.
Don't mix up the solution in advance, and don't try to store it in a closed bottle -- it'll burst any closed container you put it in. But do keep the ingredients on hand ... just in case.
Commercial products are available that do a pretty good job, as well. And what about that old standby, tomato juice? Use it and what you'll end up with is a pink dog who still stinks -- maybe just not quite as much. -- Gina Spadafori
People, dogs have different opinions on what constitutes a 'good' smell
You know those sprays and plug-ins you use to make the house smell fresh? Your dog is not impressed. If your dog were choosing a scent to make the house smell perfect, she might pick Old Dead Squirrel or Pile o'Cat Poop.
As much as we love our dogs, we have a difference of opinion when it comes to defining what smells "good." Considering that our dogs' sense of smell is hundreds of times better than ours, who's to say which species is right about what smells the best?
Now, about that rolling in those malodorous messes. It's pretty simple, actually: People like to put on nice scents, and so do dogs.
One theory on stink-rolling is that it represents a canine celebration of abundance. Now and then a dog will encounter a rewarding tidbit with a pungent smell; it's like a person finding a $20 bill on the ground. Sweet! It's certainly a good reason to stick a canine nose as close to the scent source as possible and inhale all that wonderful aroma. But to discover an entire rotting fish or some other large pile of nastiness often triggers the urge to celebrate with a hearty roll; like a person who won the lottery throwing $100 bills all over the bed and "rolling in dough."
There's a survival element, too. For a hunting animal, there's a tactical advantage to not smelling like a predator: The prey don't know that you're coming. Rolling in strong odors -- feces and even dead animals -- is thought to provide scent cover, to help predators land their lunch a little more easily.
Of course, none of our pet dogs have to hunt for their supper, but old instincts never really go away. That's why if there's a bad smell available, there's a good dog happy to roll in it. And not long after, a spoilsport human with warm water and soap ready to ruin it all -- from the dog's point of view. -- Dr. Marty Becker
BY THE NUMBERS
Stop, in the name of love
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, people struggling to quit smoking can find extra motivation from their pets. The AVMA says owners who smoke are more likely to have dogs with lung and nasal sinus cancer, and cats who have lymphoma. When smokers are told that secondhand smoke can hurt their pets:
-- 22.3 percent would think about quitting smoking
-- 32.2 percent would try to quit.
-- 33.1 percent would ban smoking indoors.
-- 42.5 percent would ask others not to smoke indoors
ON GOOD BEHAVIOR
Punishment sends the wrong message
If you spare the rod, do you spoil the pet? Many pet owners spank their kittens and puppies, hoping to teach the pet a lesson when in fact what they're teaching the animal is that humans are not to be trusted.
For example, your puppy races to you happily when called but jumps up. You spank the puppy for jumping up. Your happy puppy learns not to come when called because that's when you get really angry. Or your cat swats at you and you hit him or kick back. The cat learns never to get close to you, again. That was not the lesson you intended to teach, was it?
Pets who are physically punished tend to develop unstable personalities. They become more aloof, skittish, hand-shy and aggressive.
Pet Connection is produced by a team of team of pet-care experts headed by "Good Morning America" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are also the authors of several best-selling pet-care books. Contact Pet Connection in care of this newspaper, by sending e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting PetConnection.com.
4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600