Is Your Dog Fit2BPawsome?

April is National Canine Fitness Month. To celebrate, KC Pet Collective has created a free 6 week challenge to help you get your dog moving.  Join Fit2BPawsome for education, support, discounts, and a chance to win prize packages from our local sponsors.  The challenge begins on April 30.

Do you find it challenging to keep your dog in top condition?

You are not alone.  Over half the dogs in the US are overweight or obese.  Dogs today are more like to live indoors with people than at any other time in history.  And being housebound can lead to weight gain when pet parents don’t make enough time for dog exercise.

A recent study showed that dogs spend just five minutes a day running and about an hour walking each day.  Depending on breed, more vigorous exercise is probably needed to keep the weight off.  Yet busy schedules can keep pet parents from getting their dog out to play.

KC Pet Collective has joined with generous sponsors to create a fitness challenge designed to keep you motivated for success.

Fit2BPawsome has all the key components to get your dog in the shape of her life.

  1. Incentives.  That’s right.  Experts agree that having something to work for increases your chances of success.  All challenge participants will be eligible for prize packages including board, play, and /or grooming packages from Dog Pawz and Camp Bow Wow Liberty, a gift certificate for high quality, natural pet food from Pet Wants Olathe, a dog-walking kit from Four Leg Stretch, and a gift package from Tail Waggin Pet Stop.
  2. Support.  Support and accountability increase commitment to fitness goals. Join our Facebook group, or share your progress on social media using the hashtag #fit2bpawsome.  Post a photo of your dog every week,create videos of your best workout activities, and discuss the obstacles you face to get your dog moving.  We’re hoping you’ll find new friends and fitness partners to help you stay on track.
  3. Tools.  We’lll help you find the tools you need for success.  Participants in the challenge will receive a 25% discount on dog fitness trackers from Babel Bark.  Pair the tracker with the free app to connect to your veterinarian, service providers, and favorite pet stores.  The app tracks activity level and lets you sets goals for your dog.  You’ll receive discounts for doggie day care to keep your dog active when you aren’t available. We have even partnered with Flexy Body Babes to provide workout moves for dogs and humans.
  4. Tips and tricks. We’ll keep you up to date on the best dog fitness hacks here in the blog and on the Fit2BPawsome Facebook page.

 

Spring is one of the best times to get outdoors.  As the weather improves, make a commitment today to creating more physical exercise opportunities for your best friend.  Sign up now!

 

 

It’s Canine Fitness Month. Get Your Dog Moving.

April is National Canine Fitness Month.  This event is sponsored annually by FitPaws to raise awareness of the growing problem of canine obesity.  Don’t leave your dog’s fitness to chance. Take charge, get moving, and keep him fit for life!

national canine fitness month badge from fitpaws
National Canine Fitness Month

Pet Obesity is Epidemic in the US

Pet obesity is on the rise in the US.  According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 54% of US dogs were overweight or obese in 2016 according to their veterinarian.     An estimated 49.1 million dogs and 50.5 million cats are overweight or obese in the United States.

Obesity decreases longevity and quality of life

Obesity is a significant health issue for both dogs and cats.  Several diseases have been linked, either directly or indirectly, to obesity.  Obese animals are at risk of osteoarthritis, heart disease, pancreatitis, and some types of cancers (American Animal Hospital Association).  Diabetes mellitus may be linked to obesity in dogs, although the evidence for this is not as strong.

Both quality and length of life are decreased in obese pets (AAHA).  In the Golden Retriever Lifespan study, scientists found that when Goldens were even moderately overweight their life expectancy was reduced by almost two years.

The good news is that obesity is preventable. The bad news is that pet obesity is still difficult for pet parents to recognize.  When pet parents were asked about their own dogs weight, 81% of pet parents and 87% of veterinarians said their dogs were a normal and healthy weight.  If 54% of dogs in the US are overweight,  it’s clear that many owners and even veterinarians are thinking wishfully about their pet’s weight.

Take control of your dog’s fitness.

Exercise

How can you take charge of your dog’s fitness?  You can start by beginning a healthy exercise program.  In general, dogs should be active 30 minutes to 2 hours per day, depending on their breed.  Some active working breeds like border collies need at least 45 minutes of vigorous activity each day.

Work your dog gradually into fitness.  If your dog has been relatively sedentary, start with short 5-10 minute walks and move up.  Your goal should be 45 minutes of activity for your dog each day.

Always consult your veterinarian before beginning any exercise or diet program for your pet.  Remember that certain breeds, especially short-nosed dogs like bulldogs, are not well-suited to vigorous activity, and special monitoring is needed.

Diet

The other side of the fitness equation is diet.  Start by understanding what is an ideal body condition and weight for your dog’s breed.  Set a goal with your veterinarian for a healthy weight and feeding plan.  It’s important to consult your veterinarian before you start any diet or fitness program with your pet.

KC Pet Collective wants your pet to be in her best condition.  Stay tuned for an exciting new challenge featuring prizes, incentives, motivation, support, and more.

 

How Much Do You Know About Dog Bite Prevention? Take Our Quiz.

It’s National Dog Bite Prevention Week.  Each year the American Veterinary Medical Association partners with a coalition of companies and non-profits to present information about dog bites in the US and ways to prevent them. Because any dog may bite, and too many of them do.

How big is the problem of dog bites in the US?   The answers may surprise you.

National Dog Bite Prevention Week: How Much Do You Know About Dog Bites?

Take our quiz to learn more.  

Now that you know the basics, keep reading to learn more about ways you can help prevent dog bites.

Respect your dog as a dog

All dogs have the potential to be dangerous by virtue of their instincts as a predatory species. For this reason, you should never assume that any dog will not bite.  Dog breeds involved in fatal dog attacks in the US include those with a positive reputation as excellent family pets.

Although our dogs are beloved family members, it is important to remember that they are not human.  Dog parents should respect their dog’s natural tendencies.  Aggression is a natural and context-dependent behavior, according to the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (ASVAB).  Whether and how a dog expresses aggression is influenced by early environment, genetics, learning, and physical and mental health.

Understand your dog’s breed characteristics

Since 1998, dog bite reports do not not include breed information for many reasons including the difficulty of accurate breed identification.  However, this does not mean that breed-specific behaviors are not important.  Humans have bred dogs through many generations for specific character traits.  Working breeds such as border collies and German shepherds often strongly express such traits. Therefore it is important to know what types of behaviors your dog may express as result of her breed.  For instance, herding dogs have a strong tendency to chase moving objects.  Bites, especially to the lower legs, can be a result of overzealous herding behavior.  Learn more about the tendencies of specific dog breeds at the American Kennel Club (AKC).

Know your dog’s triggers

Dogs are individuals, and you will quickly learn your own dog’s triggers for aggression. Even if your dog does not generally express aggression, it is important to remember that any dog may lash out when pushed too far. There are certain triggers common to most dogs.  These include resource guarding (think food bowl, toys, and territory) and response to sudden or fast movements.  Consequently, people running, biking, or skating may trigger aggression. Dogs may learn other triggers as a result of adverse experiences.  For instance, a dog that has been punished by hitting may learn to snap at an outreached hand.

The key to preventing dog bites is to avoid these triggers.  Don’t become too complacent if your dog is very well-behaved.  Always be observant and react quickly if a situation arises.  For those living in apartments or dense urban housing communities, avoiding triggers may be especially important.  Check out our post on dealing with reactive dogs for some helpful tips to keep your dog safe.

Socialize early and often

For those of you lucky enough to have a puppy at home, the importance of proper socialization cannot be overemphasized.  Take your puppy to as many places as you can.  Find a puppy class near you.  Expose her to new situations. Join a social group.  In the Kansas City area, the KC Dog Club and the Bar K Dog Bar offer opportunities for socialization.

Most dog bites can be prevented by taking common-sense precautions.

Preventing dog bites doesn’t have to be difficult.  In most, but not all, dog-attack incidents, pet parents failed to follow basic, common sense rules for dog safety.

Always supervise your dog when small children are present.

Unfortunately, small children are often the victims of dog aggression.  Never leave a baby or small child alone with any dog. Period.  However, even a well supervised dog may bite.  If your dog stiffens, closes her mouth, or licks her lips, she may not be happy with her situation.  Learn how to recognize the signs of stress in your dog at the Association of Professional Dog Trainers.

Always supervise your dog closely in novel situations.

Dogs are creatures of habit, and they like their routines.  Exposure to new places, people, or experiences can make dogs fearful.  When dogs are fearful, their threshold for aggressive response to triggers may be lower.

Do not chain or tie your dog outside.

Avoid chaining any dog, for many reasons.  A chained or tied-up dog can easily become protective of her limited territory. Chained dogs may also become frustrated and irritable.  Additionally, a chained dog is usually easily accessible from the street or sidewalk.  Therefore, a chained dog can easily become a recipe for disaster when a passer-by approaches the dog and is taken by surprise.  One thing is very clear.  Dogs that are kept outside (or inside) with minimal human interaction are more likely to express aggression.  Simply by making your dog an important member of your household you have taken an important step in minimizing dog bites or attacks.

Do not let your dog run free.

Your dog is your responsibility.  A dog left to his own devices can easily become dangerous, either to himself, local wildlife, or other people.  Always supervise your dog as you would your child.

Use an appropriate muzzle when needed

Don’t underestimate the value of a muzzle in preventing dog bites, especially if you know your dog may snap in certain situations.  You will find a good guide to types of muzzles and when to use them at the AKC.  Muzzles are always a temporary solution, and are no substitute for training and desensitization.

Seek professional help if your dog is aggressive

Finally, seek the help of a professional right away if your dog is aggressive.  All too often, dogs involved in bites or attacks have a history of aggressive behavior that their pet parents did not address. Don’t simply tolerate aggressive behavior.  Treat it before it becomes a problem. Dog aggression is a complex behavior, and professional help is almost always necessary to correct it.  Using the wrong techniques can cause the behavior to worsen, or may lead your dog to become aggressive to you.

You can learn more about National Dog Bite Prevention Week at the AVMA.

 

Image: Shutterstock.com

Citizen Science: Understanding Breed-Specific Behavior and Dog Genetics

How well can we identify the breeds in a mixed-breed dog by appearance alone? How much is breed-specific behavior influenced by the way different breeds are treated?  Now you can help scientists find out!

The Mutt-Mix Project

Darwin’s Dogs and the International Association of Animal Behavioral Consultants are collaborating to learn more about the ways small changes in the DNA of dogs over time have influenced canine behavior.  Project Mutt-Mix uses a citizen science survey to gather information about how well people can identify dog breeds in a mixed-breed animal.

The survey is the first step towards a larger goal of understanding how people perceive different breeds, and how this perception influences our relationship to dogs.

You don’t have to be a dog parent to participate!  Anyone will be able to test his/her breed recognition skills through a short survey.  Participants will receive a certificate of participation as well as the answers to the survey in about two months  This survey hasn’t launched, but those who are interested can sign up now.

A better understanding of breed-specific behaviors may help to prevent breed discrimination.  This knowledge may also help advance training techniques to better match breed characteristics and owner expectations.

Darwin’s Dogs

Darwin’s Dogs is run by the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT and UMass Medical School.  The project studies canine genetics to understand and to develop treatments for psychiatric and neurological disease in both humans and animals.  Like the Mutt-Mix project, Darwin’s Dogs relies on citizen science surveys.

Participating dog owners complete a series of brief surveys.  Once an owner completes ten surveys, they are eligible to submit a saliva sample for their dog.  From each sample analyzed, owners will receive information about their dog’s genetics and breed.  Scientists will compare the genetic information to behavioral data provided by the owner.  Scientists will not analyze every sample submitted.  Instead, the scientists will select samples for analysis based on the needs of the project.  Enroll your dog(s) at Darwin’s Dogs enroll to begin.

Get involved

Together, the Mutt-Mix project and Darwin’s Dogs provide an opportunity for dog lovers to contribute to science.  Sign up today and get started.

What do you think?  Are you already participating in Darwin’s Dogs?  Comment below to share your story.

 

Fostering Pets Is a Win for Everyone

Pet foster programs are on the rise, and why not?  Fostering pets is a win for everyone.  Here are some reasons why you should consider becoming a pet foster parent.

Experience all the love without long-term commitment

I have heard too often from people who have recently lost pets that they will not replace their beloved friend.  For some people, the grief associated with losing a companion of many years outweighs the joy they share with their pets while they are alive.  Fostering provides a great solution for these people, who otherwise would miss out on the benefits of pet parenting.  The foster relationship is meant to be temporary, and knowing that at the outset can help prevent grief when the foster pet is adopted to a forever home.  Plus, the anticipation of bringing in and getting to know a new foster pet can also help ease the pain.

Fostering is perfect for those who may not want to commit long-term to a pet due to life circumstances.  Those whose work requires extended business travel or frequent moves and those anticipating a major life change may find that fostering provides a way to enjoy a pet for the short term.   Fostering is a great solution for those who are older and fear making a long-term commitment to a pet for health or other reasons.

A word of caution: fostering is probably not the solution for those who are on the fence about pet ownership.  Pets that are fostered may have special needs for attention and training that only a truly dedicated foster parent can provide.  Fostering should not be viewed as a rent to own program.  It’s a serious, if short-term, commitment.

Increase adoptions

Pets that aren’t adopted quickly from the shelter may need a loving foster home to help them shine.  Whether there are behavior issues that must be addressed, or simply a need for affection and confidence, these pets may become more adoptable after they are fostered.  Foster parents have the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of these pets.

Free up space in shelters

Shelters struggle to find places for all the pets that need help. Fostering pets reduces stocking pressure and provides homeless pets with a safe and nurturing environment while they wait to be adopted.  In extreme cases, fostering a dog that otherwise may not find a place in a shelter can prevent euthanasia. Some rescue organizations work solely through fostering.  This practice eliminates land, building, and maintenance costs.  Donations may go farther when the costs of sheltering and feeding a pet are assumed by foster parents rather than a centralized shelter.

Build community

Most rescue organizations provide training and support for foster parents.  Foster parents often build rich and lasting friendships through local networks.  And foster parents build the community of pet owners by helping a loving family adopt a new pet.  Parents of a foster animal often keep in touch with the forever family and provide additional support.

Are you a foster parent?  Comment below and share your story!

photo credit: Yvonne Kubo