Facts About Parvovirus

Canine parvovirus made the news in DogWatch’s home state of Massachusetts in September, when an outbreak of the virus killed 15 dogs in the city of Lowell and infected hundreds more throughout the state. Outbreaks of the virus were also reported recently in Indiana and New Jersey. Parvovirus (parvo for short) is a very contagious infection that affects a dog’s gastrointestinal tract. It is often fatal, especially to young dogs, but it is also easily preventable. Here are some facts about parvo, and some tips to protect your dog from the virus.

Three puppiesHow is parvo spread?

Parvo is spread from one dog to another via direct or indirect contact with an infected dog’s feces. The virus can survive in the environment of an infected dog, meaning a contaminated leash, bowl, kennel, bed or even his owner’s clothing and shoes could potential spread the virus. Humans cannot contract parvo from dogs. Urban areas may see more outbreaks due to the denser population of dogs and the presence of more stray dogs. Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, American Pit Bull Terriers, English Springer Spaniels and German Shepherds are believed to be at increased risk of infection with parvo.

Symptoms and Treatment

Symptoms of parvo include lethargy, decreased appetite, vomiting, fever and bloody diarrhea. Colin Parrish, Professor of Virology at the Baker Institute for Animal Health, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine and an expert on parvovirus, writes: “If you suspect your dog has parvovirus, take him or her to the veterinarian as quickly as possible. There are diagnostic tests the vet can perform in the clinic using a swab or a fecal sample. If the dog is infected they’ll be able to tell right away, and early supportive treatment will give the best outcomes.” Meanwhile, infected areas of the home will need to cleaned thoroughly with a solution of one part bleach to 32 parts water, in order to disinfect the area.

Even with aggressive treatment, however, parvo can be fatal. This is especially true for young dogs. They have still-developing immune systems that are often not strong enough to fight off the infection.


Veterinarian giving dog a vaccineThe best way to avoid infection, long vet hospital stays, high vet bills and possibly the death of a pet is quite simple – vaccination. At 6-8 weeks old, puppies can receive a combination vaccine that protects against parvo and other canine diseases, including canine distemper virus, leptospirosis, hepatitis, parainfluenza, and coronavirus. Four “boosters” are generally recommended every 2-4 weeks until the puppy reaches 16 weeks. After 16 weeks, boosters are typically recommended annually to maintain protection.

If you are unsure whether parvo was included in your dog’s vaccination protocol, consult your veterinarian. And if you are bringing a new dog home, be sure to inquire about their vaccination history and schedule a vet appointment right away to fill in any gaps. For puppies too young for a parvo vaccine, consider keeping them in the home or away from other dogs until they are old enough for the vaccine.

Finally, if you or someone you know is having trouble affording the cost of vaccinations for their dog, consult your local animal shelter or animal hospital. Many organizations offer discounted vaccinations for pets in their community, sponsoring clinics at local vet hospitals, vet schools or in neighborhoods via mobile pet clinics. The Humane Society of the United States has a state-by-state list of these resources. The risk of a parvo outbreak decreases with every vaccinated dog. Keeping your dog protected from parvo not only helps her stay healthy, but also protects the dogs in your community.

Photo Credit, Top Left: “3 puppies from the same litter: Miss Bambie Buttram, Miss Fuzzy Orange, and Miss Rose Alice Lane, without their brother Blue, Resturant [sic], Baja, Mexico” by WonderlaneCC2.0Rescue dog Bambie, far left, contracted parvo as a puppy, but survived thanks to treatment by a veterinarian.

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Posted in Dog Healthcare

5 Cold Weather Safety Tips for Dogs

Cold weather has officially arrived in many areas of the U.S. this week. Time to pull down the sweaters, put on the gloves and get those shovels ready! Now is also the time to make sure your dog is prepared for the chilly days ahead. To help, DogWatch has put together a list of 5 cold weather safety tips for dog owners.

1. Bundle Up

dog wearing a coat and bootiesSure, dogs in sweaters may look silly to some, but doggie outerwear is actually necessary for certain dogs in the fall and winter months. Small dogs, dogs with short coats, and breeds from warmer climates simply do not tolerate the cold as well as larger dogs, dogs with thicker/longer coats, and dogs from colder climates. Investing in a nice sweater or coat can help you and your dog enjoy your walks more by keeping him safe, warm and dry.

2. Protect Those Paws

Dogs’ paws are naturally thick and leathery and offer some protection against hard surfaces and the elements, but winter weather can be too much for many puppy paws. Salt, sand, snow, ice, and de-icing chemicals can cause dry paws, cracking, irritation, injury, and even infection. Cloth or rubber dog booties are a great way to protect your dog’s paws and prevent slipping, yet not all dogs will tolerate them. In that case, another option is a paw wax like Musher’s Secret, which forms a protective coating over the paws and protects them from direct contact with harmful surfaces or chemicals. When you get back inside, make sure to thoroughly clean off your pup’s paws to remove all traces of the balm and any debris or chemicals your pup may have picked up on your walk. This will keep your dog from licking his paws and potentially getting sick, and will also keep the paws dry and warm.

3. Exercise and Food Check

Husky by lakeThe arrival of cold weather also means that your dog may be spending more time indoors. This is especially true for the thinner coated dogs mentioned earlier, as well as puppies and elderly dogs. You will want to make sure that they are still getting a healthy amount of exercise, though, so set aside some time for indoor play each day. If your dog is one of the cold weather breeds that doesn’t mind the cold (like the Husky on the right), they will enjoy playing outside, but it will require more energy to do so. For these breeds, you may want to increase their food for the winter months, especially if they spend part of the day outside. Check with your vet to find out if you need to make any changes to your dog’s diet.

4. Watch Out For the Ice

Be careful when walking in icy areas – for your sake and your dog’s! In particular, older or arthritic pets can be more prone to slipping, which could result in a significant injury. Picking up some pet-friendly ice melt (i.e. salt-free, available at most pet stores and home supply stores) is great idea to help clear a safe path for your pooch. If you have an active dog that like nature hikes, there’s no need to stop during winter, just be careful around bodies of water. That ice may look thick enough to support your pup, but the possibility of a break is one that’s too serious to risk.

5. Check Your Fence

dog in snowIf you have a DogWatch Hidden Fence installed, we suggest a quick pre-winter fence checkup. Make sure driveway and walkway cuts are sealed and that no wire is exposed that might be damaged by snow plows or shovels. Also, if you have had a fall yard clean-up or aeration, check your transmitter to make sure the wire has not been accidentally cut. If you have questions about your DogWatch system, check out our Customer Service page or contact your local DogWatch Dealer. And if you do not have a hidden fence but are looking to install one soon, think about scheduling an appointment soon, before the ground freezes.

Do you have any additional winter safety tips to share? Leave a comment here or on our Facebook page. Stay warm and don’t forget to have fun!

Photo Credits

“Dressed for the Maple Syrup Festival” by Laurel L. Russwurm via Flickr

“Husky” by stephen bowler via Flickr

Photo of Trilly in the snow from DogWatch of Cape Cod via Facebook

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Posted in Dog Care, Dog Grooming, Dog Healthcare, Winter

Veterans Day Salute to War Dogs

Every November 11, our nation honors the brave men and women who went to war to defend our country. The DogWatch team joins in this salute, and thanks all veterans for their courageous service. In honor of this important day, DogTails is devoting this week’s post to the subject of veterans. With so many heroes to praise, we turn our attention to the subject we know best: dogs.

military working dogsDogs have played an important role in the United States military since the early 1800s. These service dogs have many roles, both on the battlefield and off. They are messengers, trackers, scouts, guards and even mascots. A wide variety breeds – including German shepherds, pit bulls, St. Bernards, retrievers, blood hounds and even Yorkies – have been chosen based on their abilities and suitability for service.

With so many dogs serving over the years in various capacities, we cannot possibility fit all of their history into one post. So we’ve chosen a few remarkable examples of canine combatants, in an effort to show the important ways they helped the brave soldiers they stood beside each day.

In World War Two, the U.S. government recruited pet dogs for aid in the Pacific front. Thousands of dogs, many of them German shepherds, collies and doberman pinschers, were recruited for service, with the understanding that they would return home after the war. The best-selling author Susan Orlean wrote about these civilian pet recruits in her book Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, and appeared on the popular radio show “This American Life” in 2012 to discuss this program. You can listen to the fascinating story here. (Note: This story includes some of the graphic realities of war.)

The dogs served many roles during the war, including some who were trained as scouts, using their keen sense of smell and hearing to alert their handlers of dangers ahead. Cap. William Putney, a commanding officer of one of the “Dog Platoons” who fought in the battle for Guam in 1944, wrote that the dogs “saved hundreds of lives, including my own.” After the war, the surviving dogs were retrained and returned to their homes and their former families.

These WWII dogs paved the way for the increased number of Dog Platoons during the Vietnam War. It is estimated that the dogs and their handlers averted more than 10,000 casualties. In all, over 4,000 dogs served in the Vietnam War. Unfortunately, only 200 dogs came home from the war. Some of the surviving dogs who did not return were euthanized or left in Vietnam, despite the protests of their handlers.

In the years following the war, the dogs’ handlers wanted to thank the dogs who worked alongside them and helped protect them and thousands of others. The veterans worked to establish a War Dog Memorial at the March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, CA, and at four other locations. They also pushed for legislation to create an adoption program for war dogs. President Clinton signed that legislation into law in 2000, ensuring the dogs now serving will have a home when they have finished their battlefield jobs.

In the past decade, thousands more dogs have served alongside U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. These dogs, known as Military Working Dogs (MWD), are specially selected and go through five months of training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX. The most common breeds of MWDs are Belgian Malinois and German shepherds. One of the primary tasks that modern war dogs perform is explosive detection. To see photos of some of these dogs and their handlers both on the battlefield and back home, click here to view this slideshow from The Atlantic.

In addition to their work in combat, dogs also perform a crucial role helping soldiers once they have returned home from war. Dogs assist veterans with physical and mental health challenges. Canine Companions for Independence is one of many non-profit groups that trains assistance dogs to help wounded veterans gain their independence back. This video tells the story of veteran Calvin Smith and his service dog Chesney.

Thanks to the efforts of decades of war dog handlers and their allies, more and more of these dogs are finding homes at the end of their careers. Some dogs even return home to live with their former handlers, continuing the bond they forged while at war.

Again, thank you to all of the men and women – and dogs – who served our country so bravely. We salute you.

Image credit: The U.S. Army via Flickr.

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Posted in Dog Stories, Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs

And the Winners of the DogWatch Halloween Photo Contest Are…

DogWatch asked for the best Halloween photos of your dog in costume, and the results were fantastic! We saw Elvis, pumpkins, skeletons, a ladybug, lions, pirates, and even the Village People (all five of them). It was a difficult choice, but the DogWatch team voted and here are the winners.

Third Place: Pete the French Bulldog

Pete the ElephantWho can resist a tiny dog dressed as the largest land animal on earth? We can’t. Pete’s elephant costume fits his petite frame perfectly, and we love the way the photo captures him mid-waddle, with a big tongue-out smile and his adorable elephant ears and trunk swaying. Speaking of ears, who would have thought you could make a French Bulldog’s ears even cuter then they already are naturally? Bonus points for the spooky jack-o-lanterns in the background.

Pete’s photographer and pet parent is Ashley Edmond (@ashnation). According to Ashley, Pete is the “easiest going French bulldog you’ll ever meet and he loves all people and other animals,” especially his “cousin,” a Rhodesian ridgeback named Joanie. Joanie may be about three times as big as Pete, but that doesn’t matter – they are still “best buds.” Pete and Ashley live in New Mexico. They enjoy traveling together, be it to the beach or the mountains. Pete has even ridden in a motorcycle side car! He loves his pup-cups from Starbucks, his lamb chop toy (which doubles as a pillow), car rides, sleeping in and snoring! Pete will turn 10 next month. Happy early birthday buddy! We look forward to seeing photos from your birthday party.

Second Place: Fumble the Newfoundland

Grumpy Old DogGrumpy is the new cute, right? Fumble the Newfoundland gives a certain cat a run for her money in this great image. The large pup is dressed as Walter Matthau’s character in the 1993 movie Grumpy Old Men, and he’s got the frown and the flannel just right. We love Fumble’s pose, including his perfectly balanced hat. We also appreciate the creativity of the image – adding the wintery backdrop to match the movie’s setting. We can almost hear him barking, “get off my lawn, kids!”

This photo is the work of Eiren Menhennitt of Maine, who has had Fumble ever since he was 8 weeks old and 15 lbs.  Now 9 years old and about 180 lbs, Fumble (full name Ridgerun’s Fumble Recovery for a Touchdown) is Eiren’s “confidant and closest friend.” (aww!) We asked Eiren if Fumble is as grumpy as he looks. She says “in his old age, he is entirely grumpy!” He enjoys brief walks, early dinners, and sleeping all day along, but also likes a good “wiggle on his back” to stay young and silly. He has worn many costumes over the years, including lifeguard, Abe Lincoln and the Grinch, and he tolerates them for the cameras and for the sake of his mom. Eiren reports that the hardest part about capturing a photo of her dog in costume is getting him to look at the camera. It took about 20 shots to get this winning photo. Eiren’s Instagram account (@eirenm) regularly features photos of Fumble, who is becoming a bit of an Instagram star. Eiren reports that one of her Instagram followers ran up to her at a fitness conference recently and said “you’re Fumble’s mom!” Congrats Fumble, you’re famous!

First Place: Winston the English Bulldog

Winston English Bulldog Funny NoseSimple, beautiful and hilarious – our winning photo is all that and more. Winston the English bulldog wears one of those old-fashioned funny nose glasses, complete with a mustache and a pair of bushy eyebrows. We guess he is dressed as a person taking a selfie, but he could be a great Groucho Marx (minus the cigar). We love how the crisp black and white filter makes the image pop, and the New York backdrop is a perfect fit for this cool character. Finally, we love the pose – ears perked and sitting tall, with lots of signature bulldog wrinkles. Winston, you are the winner, and you look like you know it, too.

Winston is five years old and lives in New York City. When he needs a break from the hustle of city life, he visits the Hamptons and enjoys the beach. Winston shares his home with his “#stupidsistercat,” a beautiful white Persian with two different color eyes. Sister cat loves Winston, but Winston admits he is a little jealous of her youthful glow and vigor. Nonetheless, Winston enjoys a good adventure, be it at a dog-friendly espresso bar, an international film festival, on a ferry, or visiting the Apple store. You can follow all of Winston’s excursions on Instagram by following @winstonwinstonwinstonnyc. Be prepared for lots of outfits, fun destinations and of course, plenty of his irresistible jowly smiles.

Thanks to everyone who participated in our DogWatch Halloween Photo Contest! And if you haven’t already, follow us on Instagram (@dogwatchfence) to see the rest of our great Halloween photos as well as some great photos of DogWatch dogs (and cats) from across the country and around the world playing safely and happily in their yards!

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Posted in Halloween

Bath Time for Fido

Some dogs are wonderful bathers, right? They step into the tub willingly, and are patient throughout the shampoo, the rinse and the toweling off. They may shake some water in your face, but mostly, they are on their best behavior. Some dogs may even look forward to washing up time, like Lena the Rottweiler who can’t get enough of the shower.

If your dog is one of these special sweethearts, consider yourself lucky. Because bath time looks very different in some dog homes.

At DogWatch, we’ve known a fair number of pups who are definitely not fans of the bath. Case in point, this pup.

Ok, so we’ve never heard a dog like this one in real life, but you get the idea. Bath time can be stressful for a dog and his people, but it helps keep your pup (and your house!) clean and healthy. To make the process a little bit easier for everyone, here are a few tips.

    Dog in bathtub

  • For puppies and dogs unfamiliar with bathing regularly, start slowly. Get the dog used to the feeling of being wet and the process of moving into and out of the bathtub before you attempt a full bath.
  • Make sure the bath water is lukewarm, and not too deep (3 to 4 inches max).
  • If your dog is acting up in the bath, try introducing a toy into the water to keep their attention focused. Be sure to praise good behavior with a treat and a “good boy.”
  • Pay careful attention so as not to get water in the dog’s eyes, ears or nose.
  • Use a dog shampoo rather than human shampoo, which can dry out your dog’s skin and cause excessive itching.
  • End bath time with treats, toys and encouragement. You want your dog to associate bathing with something enjoyable!

For more bath time survival tips, check out this detailed and informative article from ASPCA. With time and proper encouragement, your dog may grow to love – or at least tolerate – the bath. He may never stop making those classic sad wet puppy faces, though. That look may be here to stay.

Video credits: “Lena the Rottweiler LOVES to take showers!” by Life with Oz the Rottweiler via YouTube and “Wet Dog” by Talking Animals via YouTube
Photo credit: “cosmo’s bath” by Ginny via Flickr

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Posted in Challenges, Dog Behaviors, Dog Grooming, Puppies

DogWatch Halloween Photo Contest on Instagram – Enter Today!

Last week on Dog Tails, we shared 10 homemade dog Halloween costume ideas for you to try. We also just launched our very own DogWatch Instagram (@DogWatchFence) to share our best photos of DogWatch dogs and their people. Why not combine the two for a special DogWatch Halloween Photo Contest on Instagram!

DogWatch Instagram Halloween Contest

We want to see how all of our DogWatch pups and their people celebrate the spookiest night of the year. Starting today, share your best photo of your dog in his or her costume on Instagram using the hashtag #DogWatchHalloween. (Cat photos are welcome too.) Please also include your dog’s name and breed. The DogWatch team will select their favorites, and share the photos here on Dog Tails. The first place winner will receive a gift bag including DogWatch apparel and some presents for the winning pet.

The contest runs through Monday, November 3, 2014. Winners will be announced on Wednesday, November 5, 2014 right here on Dog Tails. We look forward to seeing your dogs in their costumes!

Remember, don’t forget to tag your photos with #DogWatchHalloween. And follow us on Instagram (@dogwatchfence) for more great pet photos all year ’round.


DogWatch Halloween Photo Contest Rules

  1. The contest will run from Saturday, October 25 through Monday, November 3, 2014. The winning photos will be determined by the DogWatch team. Criteria for judging includes creativity, photo composition and quality, attitude of the dog and number of likes and comments on Instagram.
  2. The winning photos will be shared on the Dog Tails blog. The first place winner will receive a gift bag including DogWatch apparel and some presents for the winning pet.
  3. DogWatch employees, dealers and their families are not eligible. (Sorry!)

If you have any questions about the contest, please email us. Now get those cameras out, costumes on, and say cheese!

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Posted in Halloween

Howl-O-Ween: 10 Homemade Halloween Dog Costume Ideas for Beginners to Experts

There’s a lot of love about Halloween – spooky decorations, costumes, pumpkin carving and of course, candy. But why should humans have all the fun? Dog costumes are bigger than ever! For proof, just check out the growing selection at your local pet store. And they are not just for Halloween night – pet costume contests are everywhere this Halloween, both in person and online. Want to join the fun, but can’t come up with any ideas? We’ve found 10 great do-it-yourself options.

Quick and Easy

Charlie BrownSo you want to make your own costume this year, but you don’t have the time (or talent) to build an elaborate getup. Why not try an easy Charlie Brown costume? Great for dogs of all sizes, this project is quick, inexpensive and easy for your dog to wear. All you need is a yellow t-shirt (infant size for small dogs, youth or adult for larger breeds) and a black marker. Draw an outline of Charlie’s famous zig-zag design around the width of the shirt, about a third of the way up from the bottom hem. Then fill it in with the marker, place your dog’s head and arms into the t-shirt and you’re done! You might try using a pipe cleaner (or yarn?) to make Charlie Brown’s signature forehead curl, for the added touch.

Another fun design that is easy to make is the Hostess Cupcake. The quick version is similar to the Charlie Brown costume – replace the yellow t-shirt with a brown one, trace the white frosting swirl along the front lengthwise and fill it in with white t-shirt paint (available at most craft stores). For a more fitted version of the cupcake costume, check out this tutorial (it does require sewing).

Grapes Dog CostumeIf you want to be the talk of neighborhood without spending all weekend at the sewing machine, you can make your dog into an adorable bunch of grapes. All you need is a purple t-shirt, purple balloons and something to attach the balloons to the shirt (tape, glue, zip ties, etc.). Bonus points for leaves on the collar or a headband stem, as shown on Mr. Pork Chops the French bulldog. Remember, keep the real grapes away, as they are toxic to dogs if ingested.

Man’s Best Friend

If you’re going to go homemade this year, why not join in the fun yourself? There are plenty of creative costume ideas that bring together dogs and their people.

Ever been told your dog is a big as a horse? Make it literal by turning your dog into a horse this Halloween. This costume can be as simple as attaching a cowboy toy to a dog harness, or as elaborate as creating your own saddle, mane and tiny jockey out of fabric. Little ones can join in too – perhaps your little cowgirl needs a horse to walk alongside her while she trick-or-treats? Just make sure the “horse” stays away from all that Halloween candy!

Dog Ewok CostumesMovie fans will love recreating the famous bicycle scene from E.T. this Halloween. This eye-catching costume (click and scroll down to #30) involves a bike with a basket, a blanket, a red hoodie and (crucially) a dog willing to sit still long enough to take the picture!

How about the always popular Star Wars films? Lhasa apsos, shih tzus, Brussels griffons, pugs and Pomeranians make excellent Ewoks, the small, teddy bear-like creatures that appeared in The Return of the Jedi. To make an Ewok to walk alongside your Princess Leia or Han Solo costume, all you need is a brown fabric hood and your dog’s natural good looks! (See two adorable examples at right.) Or maybe your dog has the wise face (and ears) of Yoda?

Little Dogs, Big Personalities

Smaller dogs make excellent costume models, as many are already used to wearing sweaters, bows and harnesses. (No offense to the proudly un-clothed small dogs out there!) Martha Stewart, herself a proud parent to two French bulldogs Francesca and Sharkey, shares a detailed tutorial for sewing your own Doggie Dinosaur costume. This fearsomely cute outfit is perfect a small dog with a big attitude!

DogWatch dog Lucy, a Chihuahua-pug mix, is one such pup. This year, she’s going as an Oreo® cookie, which was made in a few hours using an old t-shirt and supplies purchased at a craft store for about $15. The instructions are shown below.

Oreo® Cookie Dog Costume

Oreo cookie dog costumeYou’ll Need:

  • One large or two small cans of black spray paint
  • Two circles of equal size – preferably foam but cardboard might work. The diameter of the circle should be no longer than the length between your dog’s front and back legs.
  • Two strips of adhesive Velcro®
  • An old white t-shirt (one that fits snugly or that you can cut to fit)
  • Measuring tape or a ruler


  1. With your dog standing up, measure the distance between your dog’s front and back legs. This will be the maximum diameter of your circles.
  2. Purchase foam circles at a craft store or cut out circles from a heavy cardboard box.
  3. Go outside to use the spray paint, and paint the two circles on both sides. Make sure you are wearing old clothes and set down paper towels or plastic to protect your lawn or sidewalk.
  4. Let the paint dry for a least 24 hours.
  5. Print out or draw the Oreo pattern on a piece of paper. Cut the paper into a circle just slightly smaller than the ones you just painted.
  6. Tape or glue the Oreo pattern to your (dry) foam or cardboard circles.
  7. As needed, cut the t-shirt to fit your dog.
  8. Place adhesive Velcro on the back of the circles and on the t-shirt, so that the circles rest comfortably at the dog’s sides in between her legs. (The Velcro will allow you to attach and remove the cookie circles so that the dog can walk freely and more comfortably in between photo-ops.)
  9. Put the t-shirt on your dog and attach the Oreo cookies to the cream filling (the t-shirt), and you’re done!

Big Dog D-I-Y

Lest they feel left out, big dog owners can also make costumes for their dogs so that they can join the fun without getting in the way of their dog’s active nature. This Business Dog costume recycles an old dress shirt into a dapper new look for this handsome boxer.

Perhaps the most memorable dog costume of the year so far is this fantastically terrifying Giant Spider costume. Watch this hilarious video and get into the spooky spirit! Expert crafters can try to recreate this costume at home for their own dog, or follow Martha Stewart’s steps to create a cuddlier version.

Check your local pet stores or online listings for local events, and if you try these ideas or any other dog costumes this Halloween, we’d love to see them! Share your dog’s costume on our Facebook page, or via Twitter or Instagram (@dogwatchfence). Don’t forget to have fun and have a very happy Howl-o-ween!

Image Credits:
Charlie Brown from Peanuts Wiki
Bunch of grapes by Jeremy C. Fox, Boston.com

Ewoks photo from Buzzfeed
Oreo Dog by Jaclyn Mosher, DogWatch

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Posted in Halloween

How to Get Rid of Your Dog’s Fleas – and Keep Them Away!

Fleas. Even saying the word makes us itch. These tiny creatures can make your pet miserable, and in turn make you miserable. Plus, once they latch on to your pet and make a home in your house, they are very hard to get rid of. Bottom line, fleas are a pain. Here are some tips to help you avoid this pain and avoid flea infestations in the future.

Dogue de Bordeaux puppy itchingPREVENT

Getting rid of fleas on your pet and in your house can be a long, challenging and expensive process – so why not avoid them all together? There are several widely-available flea prevention products that you can use to protect your pet from fleas.

Topical gels such as Frontline® Plus, Advantage® II, K9 Advantix® II, Sentry® FipoGuard® Plus and more can be found at your veterinarian’s office or local pet store, and are applied in between the pet’s shoulder blades, so that the pet won’t lick it off. The product then seeps into the pet’s oil glands under his skin, and is distributed throughout his hair. If properly applied, these products should kill all fleas on the dog within two days, and the dog will remain protected from infestation for 30 days. Frontline, Advantix and Sentry also work on ticks.

Other flea control products include prescription flea prevention pills (available from your vet), and some over-the-counter options like CapStar, which can kill adult fleas within 30 minutes. This is good for a quick-fix when the dog has fleas but is not a substitute for monthly prevention treatments. Flea collars, which slowly release some of the same chemicals used in the topical gels, are another cost-effective option that can last for 5-8 months.

Before choosing a flea prevention product, we encourage you to talk to your vet about what is best for your pet. Most flea prevention products are not recommended for puppies under 8 weeks – be sure to check the minimum age on the back of the packaging before purchasing and using any product. Also, products containing permethrin (including K9 Advantix II) can be fatal to cats if ingested, and should be used with caution in households with cats. For more information about the active ingredients in flea prevention products, check out this article from Doctors Foster and Smith, an online pet store.


Anti-flea topical gels, pills and collars are powerful prevention tools, but what if you are already seeing fleas on your pet or in your home? Things to look for: Is your pet itching more than usual? Are you seeing flea dust (tiny black specks of dirt) left behind when you pet gets up from a nap? Are you noticing worms in your dog’s stool? All these things are signs of a flea infestation. In that case, we advise you to clean, then clean again . . . and maybe again!

First, bathe your pet using flea shampoo, available at most pet stores. If you don’t have any on hand, you can combine white vinegar, water and dish soap to make this popular homemade flea shampoo recipe from Dogster (see their post for more instructions). Use the shampoo to kill any adult fleas on the pet, and comb the pet’s fur in the bath to capture any remaining fleas. You may need to repeat this several times until the fleas are all removed from your dog and home. In between baths, bring out the flea comb again, and search for fleas in your pet’s fur (hot spots are the head and rear). Keep a bowl of soapy water nearby, and dunk all fleas you capture on the comb into the water. They will not survive in the water long, and can be quickly disposed of after you’re done.

Upon first site of fleas on the dog or in the home, vacuum all areas that the pets frequent, especially flea-friendly areas like couches, rugs and other napping spots. The goal is to vacuum up eggs, larvae (worm-like stage before flea form), pupae (cocoon stage after larvae and before fleas—also the toughest to kill), and the fleas themselves. Before vacuuming, put several broken-up mothballs into the cylinder of the vacuum or in the vacuum bag to help destroy anything that is sucked up.

When vacuuming, be sure to get as many surfaces as possible, including crevices of furniture, under furniture, rugs, and along baseboards; basically, vacuum anywhere the vacuum can reach. When you are done vacuuming once, do it all over again, and maybe even a third time. When finished, seal the vacuum bag or remnants that are in the cylinder in a plastic bag. If you have a bagless vacuum, wash out the cylinder with soap and water after use. This will further help destroy the pests and ensure they don’t escape from the bag or cylinder to re-infest your home or trashcan.

In addition to vacuuming, don’t forget to wash all the areas that the dog or cat frequents. This includes, but is not limited to, dog beds, sheets, cushions, pillows, comforters, blankets, etc. Basically, you will be doing quite a bit of laundry.

Finally, once the initial clean-up is complete, use a home flea-eradication product like a fogger or a spray to get rid of any remaining eggs, larvae, pupae or fleas. Outside the home, check your yard for damp, shady spots where there may be flea nests. Eliminate the environment, if possible, by cutting back brush, picking up debris, etc. At the very least, use the same spray you used inside to help cut down the population. Professional pest removal services can also be very effective; while the cost will be significantly greater that do-it-yourself solutions, it may be worth it in the case of severe home infestations.

If you are still seeing fleas on your dog, you will need to repeat these steps again until all traces of the fleas are gone. Due to the life cycle of the flea and the amount of eggs produced (see video below), you may have to repeat the process for a couple of weeks.


In addition to being proactive and keeping things clean, be sure to keep a close eye on your pet throughout the flea season. Flea activity is strongly influenced by humidity and other weather conditions, meaning that flea season varies depending on geography. To find out when fleas are most active in your area, check out this map and zip code tool on The Weather Channel’s website.

Throughout flea season, it is important to check your dog regularly for fleas. Also keep an eye out for more serious potential reactions to fleas from your pet. If you are seeing generalized hair loss, scabs and excessive itching, your pet may be having an allergic reaction. If your pet has pale gums, has a cold body temperature and is generally listless, it may be parasitic anemia. Both conditions are serious (especially for young animals), and any affected pet should be seen by a vet as soon as possible.

Fleas are tough creatures – the key to getting rid of them is to be tougher than they are. Be vigilant, be proactive and be knowledgeable. With these tools in your arsenal, you can win the battle against those tiny, tricky bugs!

Did we miss anything? Share your own flea prevention tips and tales on this blog, or on our Facebook page.

Flea life cycle video from Pet Health Network.

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Posted in Dog Healthcare

Stop the Digging! Suggestions for your Digging Dog

Congratulations, you are the proud owner of a dog that digs. Whether your dog loves to cover herself in mud or mulch or dig grave-size holes in your backyard, we have some suggestions for you. Here are a few tips that we hope will help.

If your dog is a digger, the first thing to do is to try to figure out why the dog is digging. Is he looking for a cool spot to chill out when it is hot? If so, you may want to create a cool sanctuary in a spot where he cannot dig. When it is hot out, leave plenty of drinking water for him or perhaps even a shallow kiddie pool in the shade where he can cool-off (better wet than holes under the ferns!)

Is he trying to get at critters that may be just beneath the surface of the yard (moles, chipmunks, etc)? If so, then the critters need to go. For that, you may need to consider using live traps or a pest removal service. Or is he just bored? If so, then he may need more exercise, new toys, or a playmate to share the yard. Digging may just be part of what your dog does with his excess energy. More walks, runs, or trips to the dog park can work wonders with certain unwanted behaviors, including digging.

In addition to removing or minimizing the reasons to dig, there are also ways to create ‘off-limits’ areas and to train your dog that digging is not acceptable behavior.

If enjoying a good roll in your flower beds and freshly mulched landscaping are a delight for your pup and a disaster for your yard, DogWatch can help. A Hidden Fence can be used for more than just creating a perimeter boundary where pets can play safely in the yard. The Hidden Fence can also be used to create protected ‘off-limits’ areas where your pets are not allowed to play, such as gardens, shrubbery and sand boxes. It is also a good way to keep pets away from pools and other areas they may not be welcome. Installation is clean and simple and can be done in conjunction with a perimeter Hidden Fence or on its own. Find your local DogWatch dealer at www.dogwatch.com and call them for a free in-yard estimate.

If the digging problem is at random spots throughout your yard, a Remote Trainer may be a helpful training tool. A Remote Trainer is a collar for your dog that delivers an audible sound, a vibration, or a static correction which you initiate from a hand-held transmitter (about the size of a cell phone.) When the dog begins digging, you send a signal to the collar. This distracts the dog from the behavior. Some dogs respond to just a sound or a vibration, other dogs may need the static correction to distract them. If this ‘annoying’ signal is repeated whenever the dog digs, the dog will learn that digging is an unacceptable behavior. Remote Trainers can also be used to help your dog learn basic training commands. You can learn more about Remote Trainers at www.bigleash.com.

We hope these suggestions will help you and your digging dog live together in peace and harmony. And remember, dogs have a natural instinct to dig for a multitude of reasons. Don’t begrudge them a little mud and mess from time-to-time. They are just doing what they are meant to do!


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Posted in Challenges, Dog Behaviors, Dog Training

National Dog Day!

The DogWatch team celebrates National Dog Day with extra treats and walks for our office dogs. National Dog Day is an unofficial holiday that is celebrating its 10th year. Dog lovers don’t need anything official to celebrate their beloved pups, right? Visit the sponsors of National Dog Day  to find ideas for how you can celebrate. With over 60,000 YouTube dog videos, it’s hard to choose the right one for a day like today. However, this one expresses how most dog owners feel about their dogs, and we’re sure you do, too!


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Posted in New & Noteworthy