Tuesday, June 30, 2015

5 easy ways to tempt any dog to play

Boston terrier dog playing ball
Some dogs are just born playful. If you just look at them in the right way, they'll spring into action, hopping, leaping and doing all sorts of wonderful dog-play things.

But there are some dogs that are a little more leery of play, particularly when they're asked to get into a game with strangers.

Sinead is one of these dogs. She'll play like crazy with me, but she rarely feels comfortable interacting in a playful manner with people she doesn't know all that well. And until yesterday, I thought that picky habit had to do with her and her innate thoughtful nature.

But then I stumbled across a study.

Researchers looked closely at the play habits of a bunch of dogs, trying to determine what sorts of human things were the most likely to get these critters in the mood to interact. And, as it turns out, we humans have been getting the dog thing all wrong.

These are the top 5 proven ways to get a dog to play, per this research:
  1. Chase the pup for a second, and then run off to let the pup chase you.
  2. Tap your chest to get the pup to jump up on you. 
  3. Grab or hold a pup's paws.
  4. Play bow.
  5. Lunge forward. 
And here are the least-effective ways to get pups to play:
  1. Touch or pat the floor.
  2. Clap.
  3. Scruff the pup. 
  4. Stomp your feet.
  5. Kiss the dog.
Fascinating stuff right? Especially considering that a lot of the behaviors that don't inspire dogs tend to be the behaviors humans throw out there very frequently. And those habits associated with happy pup play can look (to me) a little like inspiring aggression or bad behavior. For those of us spending weeks of training time on the "down" command, it seems weird to encourage it.
 Pug and whale dog toy
But here's the thing: It's good to know what behaviors inspire dogs, so we can use them judiciously in the right circumstances. If I really want Sinead to play with someone new, for example, because I want her to get over a new and sudden fear of someone I really like, I might encourage that person to do a play bow or chest tap. It could help to break the ice, just once.

And, knowing what makes dogs tick could also help me when I'm meeting dogs I don't know all that well. These tips could help me to entice those pups to play just a little faster (which could make me look a little more dog awesome).

If you'd like to see another summation of this study, click here. But also, if you have opinions about these results and how they apply to dog play, I'd love to hear them! Drop me a note and tell me what techniques work for you.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Multi-pet mania: Why two cats are (almost) always better than one

two cats one cat bed

About half of the households run by cat lovers have more than one cat. That's the conclusion of a study highlighted by Psychology Today, and while it's interesting, it makes me wonder just a little bit.

What's the deal with the other half of these cat households? Why do they have just one feline friend?

It's my solemn belief that cats do better, as a whole, when they live in pairs. And Eamon, my 14-year-old tabby, is the one that taught me that lesson.

Boisterous cats like Eamon enjoy having feline companions when they're young kittens. Where humans don't necessarily enjoy tumbling around on the floor in the middle of the night, a kitty friend might think this is an awesome exercise. And, humans typically don't enjoy games that involve biting and play kicking. Cats, on the other hand, recognize that these moves are all in play (and they have a protective layer of fur that can help them to deflect glancing blows). To Eamon, kitty playmates are a vital part of his daily exercise routine. Without that outlet, he'd probably face a lot of scolding from me. He needs to play, and I just don't like to play like that.

When it's time to snuggle, Eamon also enjoys having another kitty to lie down beside. Humans make for good snuggle buddies, of course, but humans also tend to break up a snuggle with pats and nuzzles. All of those moves can feel great, of course, but they can keep a cat from sleeping. Eamon seems to seek out buddies that will keep him warm and protected, without pestering him as he sleeps. His cat counterparts provide that attention in a way I never could.

And, cat friends also help keep Eamon's fur clean and shiny. As his arthritis progresses, it becomes difficult for Eamon to groom his belly and his back end. He can't quite contort his body in the way he once did. And he still needs to keep all of that stuff clean. His kitty friends can help with those tasks, and while he hates human baths and wipedowns, he seems to enjoy attention delivered by kitties. Having a friend is a vital part of his health as he ages.

Tomorrow, June 30th, is all about celebrating the joys of multi-pet ownership. And there are tons of entries in this blog hop you can check out for more information on why you should share your life with more than one animal at a time. I encourage you to check out those resources.

But if I can leave you with one point, it's this: The next time you find yourself cat-less and you head into the shelter to pick out a new friend, why not take two home? You'll nourish an entirely different kind of bond that might keep your entire household healthy and harmonious. Sounds great, right?

Friday, June 26, 2015

Did you fail during Take Your Dog to Work Day? You need these 5 tips

Pug and Boston terrier with reference books

How many of you are loving PSI's Take Your Dog to Work Day(r)? Most of you? Or none of you?

I'll bet there are people in both camps, and they might even be in the same office!

For those of us who work from home (like me!), every day is Take Your Dog to Work Day. Liam and Sinead are ever-so-helpful with my research, as you can see, and I love having them around to give me a little chuckle.

For example, here's what they looked like when I told them they wouldn't get paid for this photo shoot.

Angry pug and Boston terrier

I kid.

But all joking aside, having a dog at work is truly wonderful. But it's also a lot of work. And that's especially true if you're taking a dog out of a beloved home environment and plopping it down somewhere like an office. Dogs like routine, and until that office becomes part of a routine, taking the dog there can be a trial.

So if you took your dog to work today and it didn't go quite as planned, don't beat yourself up. It was new for you and your dog, and you probably both learned something important. And here are a few tips you can use to make the next visit even better.

1. Bring a bed. 

Asking a dog to sit on industrial carpet for 8 hours just isn't smart. Your dog is much more likely to know when to rest (and where to rest) when you bring a favorite bed from home. Plus, it'll smell like a familiar and safe place, and that might also help your dog to calm down.

2. Limit interactions. 

Meet-and-greet might be your dog's favorite activity in the world. But interactions like this can also be super stimulating which, again, keeps your dog out of the calm zone you need so you can get some work done. Until your dog is used to the routine, keep the visits to a minimum.

3. Give the dog a job. 

Focused dogs are much too busy to be bad. Look for things your dog could do in order to make the time fly right by. Puzzle toys, treat toys or even sturdy chews could keep a dog's mind focused so that you can also get into a focused zone.

Small Boston terrier and book

4. Provide reassurance. 

It's tempting to toss out commands all day long, especially if you're concerned about dog misbehavior. But be sure to sprinkle in a little praise from time to time, too. You'll strengthen the bond you have with your dog and emphasize the good things the pup is doing while on the job.

5. Stick with it.

Don't expect perfection from your dog on the first day at the office. It's a tough environment, and there's a lot to learn. Just be positive and keep working at it. Soon, your dog will have the ropes down perfectly and you'll be the envy of your coworkers.

Any of you bring a pup to work today? How did it go? Love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Shelter stories: Senior cats like Lionel struggle during kitten season

siamese cat with blue eyes

On a typical day landing between October and May, a cat like Lionel here would go flying right out of the shelter as soon as he was deemed adoptable.

But that's not happening right now.

This adorable flame-point Siamese has been waiting for a home for a month now. And I can tell you the reason in just one word: Kittens.

Yup, kitten season has hit in full force in Oregon, so the shelter is swimming with tiny, mewling bundles of fur. They're adorable and cuddly and full of hope, and they're moving right out of the shelter in record times.

Meanwhile, perfect cats like Lionel languish.

And Lionel really is a perfect cat. He's an 8-year-old neutered male with no real health problems to speak of. He's a little bit on the thin side, as he came to the shelter as a stray and probably didn't have access to a reliable source of food when he was on his own. But, in the shelter, he's eating quite a bit and he continues to gain the weight he needs. He's also had a complete dental cleaning, so his teeth are perfect.

Lionel also has perfectly beautiful cat manners. He's been in two multi-cat living situations, and I've been so impressed with his easygoing temperament. In his first placement, his roomie was a grouchy girl that really wanted a big bubble of space around her. Lionel picked up on that and would drift to the other side of the room, should she feel like pacing. Now, he's in a different room with gentle seniors, and he spends most of his day either grooming or head-butting them. Anyone with cats at home could make it work with this guy.

He also really loves people. Minutes before I took this photo, I was sitting down in that empty spot by Lionel's back. As soon as I sat down, he hopped up, settled in and prepared to nap. He's easygoing and gentle with people, but he still has pep enough to engage.

Lionel also comes with a whopper of a $20 adoption fee, and right now, the shelter is holding a special in which his fees could be waived altogether. That means he could go home to a family for free. And, a local veterinarian is also offering free veterinary visits for life for adopted senior cats like Lionel. This guy comes with a ton of cost savings.

Anyone who thinks that breeding cats is an excellent idea should think about older cats like Lionel. These are cats that could make perfect companions, and that have all of the traits that families typically look for in a cat. But they get overlooked when they go head-to-head with tiny kittens. They languish. They wait.

And sometimes, their behaviors deteriorate as they wait. How many more roommates must Lionel go through before someone takes a chance on him? How much longer must he ask for attention from volunteers that don't live there, and that can't give him the around-the-clock love that he wants? Even the nicest of cats can grow bitter and disillusioned when their wait stretches into months. (That's what I saw with Troy, you may remember, as he stopped eating during his long wait.)

So in the short term, I'd love to see Lionel adopted. Anyone within driving distance of Salem, Oregon, can come and pick him up from Willamette Humane Society. More information here.

But the long-term solution is clear. Spay and neuter your cats before they have even one litter of kittens. That's the only way we can protect cats like Lionel, and ensure that these sorts of waits just don't happen anymore.

And should you need more reasons to pick a senior cat over a kitten at a shelter, read this. I have some compelling ideas, just for you! 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Two dogs, one dog bed

pug and Boston terrier in a dog bed

Liam the pug and Sinead the Boston terrier aren't really snugglers. They're wrestlers, tug masters, food fighters and barking buddies. But snuggling? No way.

So when Liam hopped in bed with Sinead, I had to get the camera ready.

And I didn't have much time, as Liam started plotting his move to leave almost immediately.

Boston terrier and pug in dog bed

I managed to bribe him with the promise of treats, but even that idea grew tiresome after awhile. This is the last shot I got.

Yawning pug

Yeah, he's done.

Thanks for looking! Leave me a note, so I'll know you were here.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Gardening with pets: 5 great dog treats you can grow yourself!

Pug protecting his strawberry plants

My garden is absolutely amazing right now. Almost every single plant I tended in the spring is full of fruit that's rapidly ripening in the sun.

And a lot of that fruit will go right in the maw of this pug.

Yup, I've chosen a cornucopia of plants that are safe for dogs to eat. Why? Because fruits and vegetables are easy, low-calorie treats that are perfect rewards for a pug watching his waistline. By growing his treats, I can ensure that he has plenty of healthy things to eat when we go to training class later this summer.

And, growing things that are healthy for dogs may also help me reap safety benefits. While I've worked hard to keep my produce up and away from gobbling mouths, Liam and Sinead have been known to do a little drive-by snacking. So I really shouldn't be growing anything that isn't safe for them to eat. By sticking with healthful stuff, we may all spend a little less time in the emergency room.

So here's what we've got going (and what you might consider for your own garden).

Strawberries 

Strawberries are a perfect dog treat because they produce fruit all summer long. I picked the first berry about a month ago, and last summer, these plants produced fruit until September. That means one plant can produce 5 months of treats for gobbling mouths. That's pretty excellent.

Green beans 

This vine-loving vegetable is almost ideal for dog-friendly gardens, as it will happily grow up a trellis. That means the fruit will stay far from a dog's mouth as it grows, which gives me more time to harvest and provide treats on my own schedule. Plus, beans freeze well. If I put some up this summer, I may have goodies to share all winter long, too.

Blueberries

I am a blueberry-eating fool, so the dogs will have to fight me for these snacks. But, blueberries are pretty great training tools. They're small, so they can be quickly eaten between commands. And blueberries don't tend to squish between fingers, so they can hold up during a long training session. Liam has also been known to gobble frozen blueberries, so these are another potential wintertime treat. 

Cucumber

Most of the cucumbers in my plot are destined for the pickling vat, but the dogs can profit from that process. Slices of cuke that can't fit into my jars can fit right into their mouths, and disks of this vegetable stay cool and wet even when the weather is hot outside. Liam really likes to eat a cuke disk when it's 100+ outside, and now I'll have plenty to give him.

Carrots

This particular choice is for Sinead, not Liam. A few weeks ago, Liam and I played a "My Dog Will Eat That" game at the Willamette Humane Society Willamutt Strut, and Liam was outed when he wouldn't eat a carrot (of all things). He tends to chew them and shred them, but he won't swallow the meat. Sinead will happily eat a carrot, however, so much of this crop is for her. She enjoys a good chew, and the fiber in carrots helps her to stay regular.

Liam the smiling pug

Once my garden comes in, Liam will have all sorts of things to smile about. However, he will also have meat treats to nosh on.

I may be in the minority here, but I think treat variety is key to a happy dog. While Liam and Sinead enjoy veggie treats from time to time, they only go really wild for treats made of meat. Since they only get a few treats per day, I want those snacks to be as yummy as possible. So in addition to their fruits and veggies, they'll get commercial meat treats. They like them, and I like a happy dog.

Anyone else growing veggies or fruits for pets? Leave me a note in the comments!

Monday, June 22, 2015

How to get a picky cat to eat a new cat food: A step-by-step guide

cat and cat food

Over the weekend, pretty blind cat Lucy started the 4-week Solid Gold Free Spirit Challenge, meaning that I got about a month's worth of food for her to try, in trade for writing about the experience. So, over the weekend, I dutifully started transferring her from her old cat food to the new cat kibble.

I expect some challenges.

Lucy is a picky eater. She won't eat any kind of cat food that's wet (regardless of who makes it), and she's recently become quite picky about the dry food she'll put into her little mouth. The food we've been using for years just doesn't seem to appeal to her at all. More often than not, she leaves much of the food in the bowl when mealtime is over.

Transitioning her to a new food might be an excellent solution. But I'll need to go slowly and carefully to make sure everything goes well.

Here's my step-by-step action plan.

Step 1: Introduce the new cat food as a treat. 

Lucy is accustomed to getting a little nibble of something when she comes to my hands when I call her. I started training her to do that when she was a kitten (and I was worried that she'd get lost in my house). If I could get her to run to me when called, I figured, I'd spend less time looking for her.

Normally, I give her a nibble of her old cat food or a touch of a meat-based dog treat. But over the weekend, I used this new food instead. I want her to think of it as something excellent and tasty and unusual. Treat work should help.

Step 2: Transition your cats slowly. 

Popping a cat on a new food plan, all at once, is a sure-fire way to cause digestive upset. And if cats associate the foods they're eating with the sickness they're feeling, that's a recipe for food aversion.

It's best to transition to the new food very slowly. At each meal, Lucy gets just a tiniest bit more new food and the tiniest bit less old kibble. She may not even notice the transition, it's so small, but it's happening at every single meal, at a pace her digestive system can handle.

Cat and solid gold cat food

Step 3: Put the new cat food on top. 

As I'm moving Lucy to her new food, I want to make sure she notices the difference when she's hungry. With a sighted cat, I might worry a little less, as cat food brands tend to look different from one another. But with Lucy, I must rely on smell and mouth feel, and both of those senses probably grow less acute with each bite she takes.

So when I'm moving her over, I use the new food like a meal topper. I want her to notice it and eat it first, right when the meal tastes the best.

So far, I'm happy to report that Lucy is doing well on her Solid Gold food, and I expect that to last. But do check back, as I'll be writing more in-depth cat food reviews as this challenge goes on.

Note: I was not sponsored for this review. Instead, I got several weeks' worth of cat food to try, at no charge, for Lucy, and I agreed to provide my honest opinion about the products and my experience. No monetary compensation was involved.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Hard dog toys and soft dog toys: Why your puppies really need both

pug and rocket dog toy

If you head out to any pet shop in the world, preparing to make a few dog toy purchases, you'll have two different types of products to choose from. Some are hard, and some are soft. And chances are, you might think that your dog prefers just one type of toy and doesn't need the other type at all.

I hear you. In fact, I used to think that myself. But since I've been getting BarkBox shipments, my dogs have been exposed to both types of toys in equal measure (with no shopping required by me!). And here's the thing: They seem to like both types of toys equally.

Pug head tip and alert Boston terrier

This month, our BarkBox had two toys. One, from BarkMade, is soft and is shaped like a shuttle. The other, from Planet Dog, is round and circular. Here's why I think both of these things are great choices.

First up: The soft toy. This has an embedded squeaker, which makes it a good choice for Liam. He likes toys that respond when he bites them. It must be some sort of prey thing.

pug and soft dog toy

When he's done chewing on soft toys like this, he can leave them in his bed and use them as pillows. He doesn't snuggle with toys like this, exactly, but he does seem to enjoy being surrounded with soft toys when it's time for bed.

Hard toys, on the other hand, are great for high-energy pets like Sinead. She enjoys running after toys and snatching them out of the air. I could give her soft toys to run after, of course, but soft toys don't really roll across the floor like hard toys do.

Boston terrier and hard dog toy

Hard toys also make for a good jaw workout for tiny teeth. Sinead is what we like to call a "power chewer," so she can tear a soft toy apart in seconds. Hard toys are made to withstand that kind of abuse, so they're great for industrial-strength play sessions.

Want to try out some of these toys for yourself? Consider signing up for a BarkBox subscription! Use this code and you'll get a nice little discount.

And also: Tell me about the toys your dogs enjoy? Hard or soft? What's the preference?

Disclosure: Some product links in this post are “affiliate links.” If you click on them and make a purchase, I'll get a commission. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I believe provide real value. This disclosure comes in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, June 18, 2015

What is catnip? Now, it's a powder!

cat and catnip scratcher

I'll admit it: I have a house full of catnip addicts. All of my cats seem to love to roll in, lick and otherwise ingest little bits of dried catnip plants, and I love to give it to them, as this is a low-cal treat that comes with no real contraindications. As long as I can ensure that this stuff is grown with no pesticides, I can pretty much hand it out with no worries whatsoever.

But traditional catnip is a bit of a pain. I should know: I even grew my own catnip back in the day. The plants can be finicky and difficult to grow, and unless the harvesting goes just right, some plants lose their potency before you provide the leaves as a treat.

And let's face it: Catnip is messy. It gets all over the house, and no cat I've ever met eats every single leaf. That means people with catnip addicts tend to have houses filled with bits of leaves. Ew.

So I was thrilled to get this free sample of Kitty Kush Catnip Pellets with Built-in-Grinder. This is a whole new way to hand out catnip.

Check this out. Here's a side-by-side of what traditional catnip and Kush catnip look like.

Traditional catnip and Kitty Kush catnip

The stuff on the left is original catnip. I've put it in a shaker jar, and I still managed to get bits of it on the cutting board for this shoot. The stuff on the right is the powdered catnip that comes with a few twists of the grinder on top of Kitty Kush. Much cleaner, right?

I had hoped to do a side-by-side taste test of these two products, so I could determine which was more potent and which the cats preferred. Eamon, as the resident catnip addict, was selected for this challenge. But he didn't really want to play along at first.

Cat and two catnip cardboard scratchers

This is one of the hazards of using cats for product reviews. They get really good at finding their marks and just holding their positions while the camera flashes. Darn!

But when I walked away, Eamon did seem to take a shine to the Kush over the traditional nip.

Cat and catnip

The manufacturer would likely claim that this choice isn't surprising. When I took a quick peek at the company website, I noticed that the developers of this product put a lot of time and thought into the potency issue. The catnip itself is organically grown, and it's sealed in a UV-protected container. So the original herb is strong, and it's protected until it's used.

I worried that the cats wouldn't get the same kind of potency from catnip dust that they might from catnip plants, so I did a second test with Jasper, timing how long he stayed interested in just the powdered form of catnip. Here he is about 20 minutes after I introduced the product.

Cat asleep with catnip

Clearly, he got a potent dose of catnip from the dust, and he also seems to be planning to take in a little more when he wakes up. I think I'll declare that a hit.

There are some drawbacks to this product that I feel compelled to mention. First off, there is a cost issue. I can buy a ton of catnip in the organics section of the grocery store for about $3, and that supply will last me for months. Kitty Kush Catnip Pellets with Built-in-Grinder, on the other hand, sells for about $11. And I'm not yet sure how long that might last me.

But still. I appreciate the idea that this product will keep my house just a little cleaner. And I like the fact that my cats seem to choose this product over the cheaper alternate. If they only get one or two treats per day, they might as well be the best, right?

Any of you using catnip with your critters? Share your tips and tricks in the comments! I'd love to know how you keep your cats interested.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: The perfect pug head tip

pug head tip

Getting the perfect pug head tip is all about asking questions. If Liam thinks he's being somehow put to the test (and that there's a treat for good performance), he'll tip his head any which way.

Good boy!

funny pug expressions

Now I'd better go off and get him a treat, right?

Thanks for stopping by! And do leave me a comment, so I'll know you were here.

And if you have time to spare, visit the other sites on this hop!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Confession time: My pug isn't well trained and needs obedience class

sullen pouting pug

If you look at photos of Liam on this blog, he often looks like a clever, well-trained boy that sits nicely on command. He might seem like a gentle, mellow guy that just wants to please his person. Or he might seem comatose (as he does here). In short, he probably seems like a balanced and well-trained pug.

All lies.

You see, Liam tends to demonstrate the defiant part of the pug personality when we're out in public. At home, he tends to be gentle and sweet, and he's typically sleeping about 2 feet from my feet at any given moment (that's what he's doing right now, as a matter of fact). But when we leave the compound and there's another person present, all hell breaks loose.

Liam pulls on the leash, barks for attention, pees when he gets that attention and is (in general) a very hard dog to handle. He can sometimes come to his senses if I have a treat in my hand. But as soon as that treat has moved from my hand to his stomach, he's back to the badness again.

In the past, I've worked with him on this behavior. I took him all over the place: To Saturday market, to the Lucy Lab Brewpub, to pug meetups, to family gatherings and on vacations and trips. He was difficult, but we worked on it.

And then I got another dog that was just a little easier to handle in public. This little dog.

Sinead small the Boston terrier

Sinead naturally behaves in public. She's concerned about the other dogs around her, so she sticks closely to me. And she doesn't have much interest in other people, either, so I don't have to worry about crowd control. If I have her on the leash, she's paying attention to me.

And since I got Sinead, I've been taking the easy way out. I'll admit it.

I've been taking her places, and I've been leaving poor Liam at home. And his behavior has (not surprisingly) deteriorated.

This weekend, I took him to the Salem Willamutt Strut to benefit the Willamette Humane Society, and he was his predictably jolly and manic little self. He was terribly hard to control, and he was a little frustrating to train.

He, of course, had a wonderful time and celebrated with a little toy time when we got home from the whole thing. Where does he get the energy?

pug and dog toy

I talked with a trainer at the event, and I'm going to enroll Liam in a new class at Willamette Humane Society called "Check in and Chill Out." The idea is that he'll learn how to be in a room with other dogs and with people while paying attention to me, the human with the leash. It's a short class, but it should teach us both a lot. It starts in the fall.

And in the interim, Liam will be heading out on many more public adventures with me, the harried trainer. We'll work on paying attention and focus, and I'll whip out the clicker and try teaching him some new tricks we can throw out when he'd feeling anxious.

We can get through it, the pug and I. Of that, I'm sure.

But if you see us out and about in Oregon, do me a favor, okay? Toss me a word of encouragement? I think I might need it!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Weird cat behavior: Is it kneading or something else?

strange cat behavior explained

Ever since I brought him home, Troy has been unusually attached to me. It's not too surprising, then, that he'd have a little trouble with my absences. When I was gone at BlogPaws for close to a week, he went on a bit of a hunger strike, and he did a little overgrooming, too, and ended up with a few little bald spots.

All of that was bad, but it was easy enough to handle. With a little bit of special food and some TLC, I got him eating again and I kept his self-mutilation stuff to a minimum.

But then something else happened.

Once or twice per day, in the week or so after I got home from the conference, Troy did this weird little happy dance.



It starts with basic kneading and marching. But then, the back end of this cat goes into motion. See the weird tail pulsing and bent knees? I've never seen a cat do this before.

I did a bunch of searches, and there are dozens of us out there with cats that do this. Often, these cats are rescues, and they're overwhelmingly male. Most people who see this had the same "WTF?!?!" reaction that I did, and most people had no idea what was going on.

Thankfully, my lovely Facebook fans had a suggestion. They told me to flip him over, mid-dance, and look for unusual kitten parts.

Bingo!

This is a weird cat-humping thing, it seems. When this cat is dancing, he's also having a little kitty sex episode.

I'm no prude, and I am accustomed to this kind of animal behavior. I live with a very active male pug, after all, and he's destroyed dozens of toys with his evening antics. It's something that animals do, and it's not typically a problem unless it causes some sort of health issue for the pet.

Liam, for example, can develop skin irritations from doing this sort of thing too often. So, when I see him get interested in something, I whisk it away and redirect with a treat. Easy peasy.

Troy, thankfully, doesn't seem to have any sort of health problem from this behavior. And (also thankfully), he's not all that interested in doing it anymore. Now that I've been home for more than a week, he seems a little more accustomed to me, and a little less overwhelmed with emotion.

But I'm curious: Anyone out there have amorous kitties like this? Do you stop them, and if so, why? Love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Dog product review: Dog Tag Art

Boston terrier head tip

In our BlogPaws swag bag, Sinead and I got a coupon for a pet identification tag from DogTagArt. I was pretty intrigued.

As long-time readers of the blog know, I'm passionate about pet identification. Far too many dogs get out of their yards and away from their owners every single year, and when they do, many of these dogs just don't come back home again.

Microchips can help, but many people don't keep their data up-to-date with the chip company (more on that here). And, as well all know, chips just aren't visible to the naked eye. That means a chip can't provide 100% protection, as it may not be linked to current data and/or rescuers might not know that the chip is there.

Tags like those from DogTagArt are different, because they're visible. Anyone who finds Sinead wearing this tag will know she belongs to someone. And I have a visual reminder that her information is up-to-date, with no computer login or call required.

Boston terrier and her dog collar

The tags are also just really neat looking. I ordered a tag that matches Sinead's favorite Lupine collar. Now, she has peacocks on both her collar and her tag. Pretty swift, right?

And while I can't show you the engraving on the tag (social media safety, you know), I can tell you that the typing is crisp, clean and easy to read. Even though the tag is small, I can see everything really clearly.
Boston terrier and dog toy

The tag also came with a little ring I can use for noise reduction. Now, instead of hearing her identification tag banging against her county tag, I hear nothing when she's running. That's a nice little bonus.

Interested in trying your hand at a tag? Go to www.dogtagart.com and start browsing. Use coupon code DTAFRIENDS to save a little dough on the transaction.

Disclosure: I was not paid for this review. I just got a free tag in my swag bag!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

6 ways to celebrate Adopt a Shelter Cat Month (even when you can't adopt)

black cat on kitchen chair

June is Adopt a Shelter Cat Month, per the ASPCA, so it's a great time to head over to your local shelter and pick up a new feline friend to love. The shelters are full to bursting, now that kitten season is in full swing, so adopters are absolutely required.

But what should you do if you just can't adopt right now?

I know there are many people out there that fall into this category. (In fact, I even wrote a blog post about this particular subject, although my views have clearly changed since I wrote this entry, as I did end up adopting a shelter cat.)

Here's the thing: Even if you can't bring home a new cat to love, you can absolutely have an impact on the lives of all sorts of shelter cats (or potential shelter cats). Here are just 6 ideas.

1. Spay/neuter your own pets


Okay, this might sound a little unusual, but bear with me here.

If you're living with a cat that hasn't been altered, you're running the risk of contributing to the shelter cat problem (see this post for some startling statistics about pet overpopulation). If you alter your pets, you ensure that you won't add kittens to the shelter mix. And that could help clear the path for other cats to head home with the families they need. Altering really, really helps.

2. Participate in trap/neuter/release programs


Is your neighborhood teeming with unaltered cats? You can do something about it. TNR programs always need volunteers to set out traps for unaltered cats. That cat, trap and all, can be delivered to an alter site and returned to the area when the surgery is done. That cat will live out a normal lifespan, but it won't add to the kitten problem.

Donating your time, even once, could help this really vital work to continue. Contact your local animal shelter to get connected.

3. Foster


Taking in a cat can be a 15- to 20-year commitment. Just ask old man Eamon here. He's creeping up on 14 right now, and he's still going strong.

Brown tabby cat stretching

If you'd rather not make that sort of long-term promise, consider fostering a litter of kittens, or foster an older cat in recovery from a medical procedure. Your foster commitment might be complete in just weeks, but during that time, you'll help the cats in your care become more adoptable. Your work can, and will, save lives.

4. Advocate


We've all seen the myths that spread about shelter cats. We're told that they're broken or angry or impossible to train. If you have a cat of your own that you've rescued, you can do your part to dispel the myths. Look for ways to respond pleasantly to the incorrect statements you've seen, and do your part to share the wonders that your shelter cat brings to your life.

I like to share photos like this with people who say older shelter cats are grumpy and can't change.

black cat in catnip house

During the few short months that Troy has been here, I've seen his personality blossom. He's a funny, quirky, gentle boy that has adjusted quickly to life with a bunch of cats and two pesky dogs. The idea that shelter cats come pre-programmed is just nonsense. The more we correct that myth, the more cats we can help.

5. Volunteer


If you just can't open up your home to a cat, even on a temporary basis, open up a few hours of your time to help in the shelter. Clean a few cages, hand out a little food and help cats learn how to trust people. Shelter cats thrive with just a little attention, and every shelter out there needs help. By donating your time, you could make a huge difference in your community.

6. Donate


Shelter cats often come in to the system with injuries or ailments that need amendments. Some have dental disease, some have flea infestations and some have fur issues. If Lucy can get matted like this in 2 days flat, you can imagine how rough some long-haired cats have it when they arrive after months of street life.

blind cat cat bed

Every donation you make helps the staff to provide the care that makes shelter cats adoptable. Even a few dollars per month helps a ton. If you have it to spare, send it along. If you can't make that commitment, consider picking up a few cans of cat food and donating that. Doing something is always, hands down, better than doing nothing.

So those are my ideas! Do you have any others? I'd love to hear them in the comments section!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Sunbathing Boston terrier

sunbathing Boston terrier

The thermometer reads 95 degrees in the shade. The cats are all pancaked on the tile. The pug is lying in front of the air conditioner.

And the Boston terrier?

Yup.

Sinead is outside, enjoying a little sunbathing session.

Crazy girl.

Thanks for stopping by, and be sure to leave me a comment! And, as always, do visit a few other blogs included in this hop. You'll be glad you did!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Toys and treats from Purrfectplay: Fun for Boston terriers and pugs alike!

Pug and Boston terrier with dog toys

Earlier this month, while I was at BlogPaws, I had a chance to sit down and talk with the kind folks at Purrfectplay. And I walked away with a few gifts for the pups! I'm thrilled to tell you a little more about them in this review.

But first: A disclaimer. I wasn't paid for this review. I got a few samples as gifts, and I promised to write an honest review of those gifts. And that's what this post is all about!

First up: A bandanna.

I often like to enhance Sinead's black-and-white fur with a pop of color. But when the weather is really hot, as it is now, I don't like to put her in full-on dresses or shirts. However, when I try to put her in a traditional bandanna, I usually get a look like this.

angry Boston terrier

Epic stink-eye, right?

She doesn't like the size of this bandanna, as it seems to restrict her shoulder movement. And she really doesn't like that knot of fabric around her ears. As soon as I put something like this on her, she'll roll around until it comes off.

This Purrfectplay bandana is a little different. It slips through a collar, so there are no knots to deal with. And there's just less fabric in general, so it doesn't seem so bulky.

As I was threading it through the collar here, you can see that Sinead remained suspicious.

angry Boston terrier

So much sass in this little dog!

But anyway, it's very easy to slide a collar through this little bandana. And once that's done, I can just fasten the collar around her neck. As you'll see, she's a ton more comfortable with this design.

Boston terrier in bandana

So we'll be making a lot of use of this bandana this summer. Clearly, the little one approves of it.

And Sinead isn't the only one that got a gift. We also got a Purrfectplay "Ollie's Orca," made of hemp canvas and certified organic cotton. This is a toy I can give to sensitive Liam without worry, because it doesn't contain artificial colors or plastic bits that might inflame his allergies. And he really seems to love to play with this particular toy.

pug and dog toy

Anything that makes it onto the couch for a chew session is considered a big hit. Since Liam took this toy up about 5 minutes after I gave it to him, I expect this orca to be a summertime favorite.

Pug and Boston terrier and dog toys

So thanks to Purrfectplay for the cool care package.

Want to try this stuff for yourself? Visit the main website here, or head to the Etsy site here. Or, connect with them via Twitter or Pinterest.

Monday, June 8, 2015

What to do when you find a bat in your yard (Hint: Don't panic!)

cats under car

Beorn and Jasper spend hot days like today sleeping underneath my car. They may look lazy, but make no mistake: They'll shoot right out of that sleepy spot if they see something that looks small, helpless and edible.

Like a bat.

That's just what happened this morning. As my husband was watering the lawn this morning, he bent down to pick up what looked like a large leaf. Just before he touched it, that leaf hissed. Yup, he was dealing with a downed bat, and I went into research mode.

Apparently, Oregon has 15 different species of bats, and from what I can tell from looking at this description, we were dealing with a California myotis bat. These guys are listed as aerobatic flyers, and this particular bat was lying about a foot away from our front picture window. It's possible that he hit that window mid-flight, got stunned and was too weak to fly away.

Now, I consider myself a bat lover. The average bat can mow down a colony of mosquitoes, which cause all sorts of nastiness in my yard, and they emit the most amazing series of chirps that I love to listen to in the evenings. It's like having a colony of birds that only sing at night. What could be better?

So I was motivated to help this little guy. And here's what we did.

First, we had to get this bat up off the ground. Again, we have outdoor cats that would love to snack on a live creature like this, and about 5 to 10 percent of bats in this area test positive for rabies, per the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife. If I left that bat on the ground, he might not survive the encounter, and my cats might be sickened, too.

So step one involved a towel, a bucket and heavy gloves. We covered the bat with the towel, and used gloves to pop the bat into the bucket, towel and all. We then put him on the rain barrel while we figured out step two.

downed bat

Originally, I thought we'd transport the bat to a local wildlife rehabilitation center for further treatment. But I noticed that our bat was pretty darn active. Within a minute or two, he was out of that towel and exploring his surroundings.


I'm not a wildlife rehabilitator myself, so it's illegal for me to confine a bat, even if I'm trying to nurse it back to health. But I really wondered if this guy had some sort of temporary mishap he'd recover from, since he seemed to be healing so very quickly.

So while I waited for the rehabilitation center to open, I popped this bucket, with the bat and the towel, into a nearby tree. I figured that the bat might just crawl away if he felt well enough to do so, and if he didn't, I'd take him in for care.

Down bat in yard

Within about an hour, the bat was no where to be seen. I didn't see blood on the towel or the bucket, so I can safely assume he made it out on his own horsepower. But I'm going to scour the area tonight, just to make sure that he doesn't go down on the job again.

If you've found a bat in your yard, I recommend taking a peek at this page from Bat World. It's here that I found the ideas about the towel and the bucket. Good stuff.

And if you don't have bats in your yard and want some, consider installing a bat box, like this one: Audubon Bat Shelter Model NABAT. I have a model just like this in my backyard, and it's been a great way to entice these signing creatures to enter my yard.


Disclosure: Some product links in this post are “affiliate links.” If you click on them and make a purchase, I'll get a commission. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I believe provide real value. This disclosure comes in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, June 5, 2015

What do dogs dream about?

sleeping Boston terrier

Liam the pug and Sinead the Boston terrier are epic sleepers. While I'm tapping away on my keyboard, writing up blogs and social media posts, they're lulling me to dreamland with their snorts and snores and wuffles. I even have video to prove it.

Here's Liam in the midst of a nap. Notice how his feet flop around, and turn up the volume to hear him barking.


And here's Sinead in her slumber. She's a bit of a creepy sleeper, as she often snoozes with her eyes partially open. You can see that weirdness at the beginning of this vid.


So these two are sleeping, but they're also very definitely dreaming. And sometimes, I know exactly what they're dreaming about.

Liam often dreams about food. He smacks his lips and moves his jaws, and he even swallows periodically. That makes sense, as he is a very food-motivated dog. If dogs dream about the things that are most important to them, Liam will probably focus his dreams on his meals.

Sinead often dreams about running. Her feet move really quickly, and her eyes seem to be scanning the distance for prey. I have no idea what that is all about, as she does very little running in real life, but it's something she seems to enjoy while she's asleep.

At this point, scientists aren't exactly sure why we humans dream. Is it because we're processing the day's events? Do we dream in order to lay down new memories? Or is it a form of brain-cell entertainment? No one is really sure. And until scientists figure out why humans dream, they may not focus any research money on pets. So we'll have to wait for the definitive answer about why dogs dream and what they dream about.

sleepy pug

But, as someone who spends close to 24/7 with her dogs, I can attest that dogs certainly do dream. And most of the time, they seem to dream about dog-type things, like eating and running. And for the most part, they seem to enjoy their dreams.

Do you have any awesome dog dream tales to share? I'd love to hear them in the comments section.