DOGS STILL GO CRAZY FOR A TOY NEVER MEANT FOR THEM
If there's anything more versatile than a tennis ball, I can't imagine it. One afternoon, I just sat down with a pad and started jotting down all the things you can do with a dog and a tennis ball. Here's what I came up with:
1. Fetch. Toss, return, repeat. You know the drill. This is the game by which all dog activities are measured, and sometimes there's just nothing better than the classic.
2. Find. Hide the tennis ball, then let your dog find it. For dogs who are already retrievers, this game is remarkably easy to learn. Hide the ball in plain sight a couple times so she'll know what you want her to do, then watch how easily she can find it anywhere.
3. Herd. Fetching uses one ball, but if you've got a herding dog, try tossing out a few and giving your dog a place to gather them all together. Since this game works with your dog's natural instincts, most pick it up very quickly for a treat reward.
4. Get wet. Water dogs love nothing more than the chance to go after a favorite ball and get wet. What more could a pup want?
5. Monkey in the middle. Got kids? Got a dog? Amuse everyone with the classic schoolyard game with the dog playing the monkey. Pass the ball by tossing, rolling, kicking -- whatever works, and give Rover a small treat each time he intercepts it and gives it back.
6. Flyball. This one is a real sport, and one that tennis-ball loving dogs live for once they learn to play. Add a series of jumps to a tennis ball, and you've got a fast-paced, wildly entertaining game for both people and pets, participants and spectators.
Tennis balls are even better because you can often get them for free. If you have friends who are tennis players, ask them to save their old balls for you. A tennis ball that hasn't the "oomph" for a good game of tennis is still perfect for playing fetch with your dog.
One important thing to know, though: Tennis balls are not chew toys. Put them away when you're done with your game of fetch. Dogs have been known to compress tennis balls in their mouths, and then die when the ball springs back to full size in the back of the mouth, cutting off the air supply. And even if that never happens, the materials in a tennis ball are designed for ... tennis! They're not made to be chewed on or swallowed by dogs.
So have your fun, and lots of it. But don't leave the ball with your dog when you're done. And now, if you'll excuse me, I have to throw a tennis ball for our family's dogs!
for biking with dog
Q: Is it safe to run a dog with a bike? My dog loves it, but we got a lecture about it from a neighbor who thinks it's dangerous. What do you think? -- via Facebook
A: Letting your dog run alongside a bike is a great way to help him burn off a day's pent-up energy without wearing yourself completely out in the process.
But running with bikes is not for every dog -- in fact, it's not for most dogs. But for those with serious exercise requirements, it can be a perfect fit.
If you choose to bike with your dog, make sure your dog is in good health (check in with your veterinarian), and start slowly (both in terms of speed and distance) to make sure this activity suits him. Don't even try it if he's a puller or doesn't respond to basic commands, including "sit," "leave it" and "heel." Stay on trails if you can and off busy streets if streets are your only choice.
Keep your dog at a trot, not a run, and watch for signs of overheating. Never go out in the hottest part of the day, carry water to offer frequently and walk your bike and your dog for a cool-down before calling it a day.
Finally, invest in a bicycle attachment that holds your dog's leash -- carrying the leash in your hand while biking is a recipe for a wreck, even if you have a well-behaved pup. After all, a darting squirrel or rabbit is more temptation than even most good dogs can take. -- Gina Spadafori
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Seniors want pets
to move with them
-- The Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Sun-Sentinel reports that companies offering housing for seniors are increasingly accepting pets because of business pressures. Some 40 percent of people researching a nursing home or assisted-living situation ask about pet policies at first contact. Science supporting the value of pets staying with their owners no doubt also is having an influence; seniors with pets are typically more active and more social.
-- The American Veterinary Medical Association has produced a free publication offering basic information on cancer in cats and dogs, including a list of symptoms that should signal an alarm and a trip to the veterinarian. Half of all pets over 10 years of age die of cancer, notes the trade group, which adds that many kinds of cancer are treatable, especially if caught early. Animals under care of veterinary oncologists can maintain an excellent, pain-free quality of life. The brochure is available through veterinarians, or a single copy can be downloaded for free from ebusiness.avma.org (click on Brochures, Client Information).
-- Wal-Mart and Sam's Club have joined Target in aggressively pursuing the market for animal medication. The latest salvo comes with the introduction of generic heartworm preventives. Heartworm disease, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, is present in all states, and once established in a dog is difficult to eradicate safely. Preventive medicine has long been considered the better option, and preventive medications have until relatively recently been available through veterinarians only. -- Gina Spadafori
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts headed by "Good Morning America" and "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are affiliated with Vetstreet.com and also the authors of many best-selling pet care books. Dr. Becker can also be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker.