Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Garden Safety For Your Pets

Now that the weather is getting warmer, I'm itching to get started on my garden.  I like to plant in pots that I can move around and change up.  This year, I am leaning toward planting flowers and plants that are not only safe for my collies, but beneficial from the standpoint of either being edible, being a good bug repellent, or both! There is always so much talk about what you shouldn't plant in your garden, I figure it's time to talk about what you should!

Roses are safe and with over 100 species, you have lots of choices. Just remember to stick with those in the family Rosacea.  There are many plants with the word "rose" in their name which aren't really roses and which aren't safe for our pets. Sunflowers and gerbera daisies are beautiful to grow and then bring the cut flowers indoors.  Zinnias are in the daisy family and safe for dogs and cats.  I love all the colors of snapdragons and the pretty purple flowers on the sweet potato vine. If you plant marigolds you will not only get to enjoy their vibrant oranges and yellows, but you'll incur insect repelling benefits as well. Marigolds are great for repelling both mosquitoes and aphids, so planting around your roses will help control a pest that you so often find there.

Herb gardens are awesome as you can clip and snip for your own meals, but if your pets get into them, they are safe.  Dill, basil, thyme, rosemary, sage, cilantro, oregano, and lemon balm are just a few to think about.  Parsley CAN be safe; if you have a puppy, however, I'd stay away from parsley as the frilly leaves can be super attractive and high doses of parsley can cause liver and kidney problems. Planting basil will have the added benefit of repelling mosquitoes and flies, while rosemary will repel fleas and ticks. Cat mint is a safe plant that also repels insects, in particular those dreaded mosquitoes destined to be bad this year, thanks to all the rain.

There are also herbs and plants that can be used medicinally for you and your pets!  Echinacea has beautiful, daisy-like flowers and immune boosting properties.  Burdock herb helps with allergies and digestive issues.  Milk thistle can help with liver disorders and peppermint can help with indigestion and nausea, as well as repel spiders, mosquitoes and ants in your garden. Chamomile can be dried for tea and has the cutest, white daisy-like flowers. And my favorite, lavender, repels moths, fleas, flies, and mosquitoes, and both leaves and flowers can be dried and eaten.  If you have a puppy, however, I would avoid lavender if you think the flowers will be too much of a draw for them. In large quantities, lavender can be stomach upsetting for animals.

Finally, if you just can't give up your gardenias, hydrangeas, begonias, or bulbs, why not plant dog's bane (and put up a deterring fence while you are at!) around those toxic plants? Dog's bane is an herb in the mint family with a strong odor that works as a natural deterrent for cats and dogs.

Hope you are now as inspired as I am to get out there and clean up your winter garden and prepare for the hot summer weather ahead.  Be sure and let me know what you're growing in your pet safe garden!

As always, if you have questions about your pets, you know where to find me.

Good thing my neighbors have poppies growing in front of their house and dogs in the back yard since poppies can be toxic!  These gorgeous roses though could be anywhere as they are safe for all animals...except for those thorns!

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Out in Public Spaces

I realize that this is kind of a"part 2/follow up/more thoughts" kind of piece from my post last week about the Husky we met in a Seattle park. So, bear with me because I think this is important.

Desi and I did our pet assisted therapy visit on Sunday where he charmed everyone, as usual. Following our visit, we headed downtown as I needed to run a few errands and it was a lovely day, perfect for a stroll with my buddy.  While walking from the parking garage to the shops, Desi and I saw many dogs walking with their humans.  Some lunged at him (he ignores this), a few barked (that usually gets a tail wag), and a couple made moves to sniff him (he's always good with that).  I generally ask Desi to stay at my side and we try to wait 3 feet or so away from other people and their dogs, so as not to be rude or crowding at stop lights, corners, standing in line, etc.  More than once, Desi was approached and petted without any discussion/acknowledgement of me.  Keep in mind, I was wearing my bright turquoise, Furry Friends Pet Assisted Therapy t-shirt, so there is no way people could miss me.  Maybe they figured if I was wearing a shirt about therapy animals, then it must be okay to approach and touch my dog without asking?  But here's the thing. Yes, Desi IS the quintessential pet assisted therapy dog. He loves EVERYBODY and really does want to meet EVERYONE, ALL OF THE TIME.  However, I saw some of these same people walking up to other dogs who gave no indication whatsoever that they enjoyed that kind of attention from strangers. In fact, I observed a couple of dogs quickly move away from approaching strangers and bark a warning.  Did those approaching strangers apologize? No. They made angry facial expressions and comments to those dogs' owners about how dogs who aren't friendly shouldn't be out in public.  That really ticked me off.

Just because a dog isn't friendly with strangers, is slow to warm up, or simply needs you to get permission from its owner before petting, doesn't negate that dog's right to be out in public.  Don't get me wrong here. I don't think that it is okay to bring an overtly aggressive, people-biting dog out in a congested, high traffic area. None of these dogs were aggressive that I could see. They just didn't want to be approached or touched by strangers.  And the woman walking with the service dog wearing a working dog vest and harness in the department store?  She shouldn't have been approached at all and she shouldn't have had to say, "No, please don't touch my dog. He's working."  What is wrong with the general public?  I am pretty sure these same people would not have wanted strangers walking up and touching their children unsolicited, and yet they think it is okay to do it with people's unfamiliar dogs? And, yes, I understand dogs are not children, but I do believe the analogy is a good one.

I know I am probably preaching to the choir here with a lot of you reading this.  However, I am certain you know people who do this or who admonish other folks for taking their dogs out in public even if they aren't friendly with strangers, don't like other dogs, etc.  Spread the word.  Give dogs and their humans space. Share the sidewalk.  Talk to the human before asking about the dog.  Don't touch or approach service dogs.  Be kind to one another.  And by all means, ask me if you can pet my therapy dog.  I will say yes.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this as well. And, as always, if you have behavior questions or concerns, you know where to find me.

Desi striking a pose in front of a Spring window display on our Sunday outing.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

The Canine Smile

My daughter and I recently took a trip to Seattle.  While there, we had the opportunity to walk around the large park near the Space Needle on a beautiful, sunny day.  Was so nice to see lots of people out walking their well-behaved dogs in a public setting.  We spotted a couple walking a young husky and commented to each other about how calm and happy the dog appeared on leash, exploring all the smells.  At one point, they started walking in our direction.  Both of us made brief eye contact with the dog and were delighted to see the dog "smile" at us (mouth had been closed following a good sniff, then the dog raised her head, softened her gaze, and her mouth opened in a big grin, in case you are wondering what I mean!) and walked over to us doing a full body wag for some sniffs and love.  We were delighted to pet her.  She was so gentle, friendly, and amenable.  The owner commented that the dog always seems to know "dog people."  That got me to thinking about "dog people."

So, sometimes I come across people who label themselves as "dog people," but then behave in ways which indicate that while they may like/love dogs, they really don't "get" dogs or understand them.  Running up to a dog they don't know, patting that dog on the head, getting in the dog's face, or squealing at the dog all seem like very poor behavior on the part of said "dog people." Dogs are so forgiving, most of the time, holding their ground when rushed, tucking their ears away from those head pats, gaze averting and lip licking in response to humans' in their face stares and squeals. Frankly, I think the husky we met was just thrilled to not see any of those things with us.  We took turns petting the dog under her chin, made soft, happy sounds to her, and waited to see if she wanted more attention.  She came back one more time for attention before moving on with her owner.  She glanced back at us over her shoulder once almost as if to say," You two are pretty cool. Nice to meet you both!" We were happy to have made her acquaintance as well.

So, what's my point here? My point is that we all need to try to be better "dog people." Let unfamiliar dogs CHOOSE to approach you or not.  Make yourself approachable by not staring, not squealing, and engaging the owner in a friendly manner. If the dog chooses not to approach, don't take it personally.  But if the dog does approach, give them a gentle scratch or rub under the chin and see if they'd like more from you.  Let them sniff's a dog thing.  And thank the owner for letting you engage their dog.  This seems like common sense to my daughter and me, but then again, we are "dog people."

As always, if you have questions about dog behavior, you know where to find me.  I will likely be teaching another seminar on canine body language and how to speak dog in the near future. Hope to see you there!