Announcing the DogWatch Cutest Puppy Contest Winners!

After weeks of overdosing on cuteness as we’ve perused the puppy pics you entered in our Cutest Puppy Contest, we’re happy to announce the 2011 DogWatch Cutest Puppy Contest Winners!
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Fireworks and Fido: Why it Might be Better to Leave Your Dog Inside on the 4th

fireworks

We here at DogWatch know that your dog is an important part of your life. You want to share as many special moments with him as you can, so it only makes sense that you’d want him with you for the 4th of July fireworks. Your dog, on the other hand, may very well prefer to be anywhere else. In fact, more than 20% of dogs have severe adverse reactions to fireworks. Dogs have been known to injure themselves and others due to anxiety and stress from the fireworks, run away from home to escape them, and in some sad cases, get hit by cars while escaping or wind up in the animal shelter because they couldn’t find their way back. Here’s what can contribute to a dog’s anxious reaction to fireworks and why keeping Fido away from the flash and bang might be in his best interest:

Hearing: A dog’s hearing is ten times more sensitive than a human’s. If the fireworks sound that loud to you, imagine what they must sound like to your dog! Also, the sudden silence after all the booming and banging is over can be quite jarring to a dog.

Flashing lights: More skittish dogs may not be able to handle the random, flashing light of the fireworks well. It may leave them confused and disoriented, or conversely, make them agitated.

Lots of people: If you’re taking your dog to a large park or festival where there will be a great deal of people, your dog might get overwhelmed if he’s not used to being around that many strangers. Many experts recommend not bringing your dogs to public venues for fireworks, as the potential for harm to your dog or others is too high.

Your reactions: A dog might interpret your “ooh” and “aah” as pain or fear and become agitated because he wants to protect you.

General Anxiety: If your dog is skittish and anxious to begin with, fireworks will more than likely send him into panic mode. It’s important to know your dog’s temperament before even considering exposing him to fireworks.

To learn more about how to prepare your dog for fireworks, and to help alleviate fear and anxiety during and after them, check out our 4th of July blog from last year.

From all of us at DogWatch Hidden Fences to all of you, have a safe and happy 4th of July!

Image by Amani Hasan via Flickr

Chihuahua puppy on carpet

Housebreaking Your Puppy (Without Losing Your Mind)

There are lots of things to look forward to when adopting a puppy: cuddling, playtime, kisses, and the pitter-patter those four tiny little feet. One thing that dog owners do not look forward to, however, is housebreaking their new puppy. A notoriously challenging task that can try your patience and lead to some embarrassing moments, housebreaking is a necessary part of puppyhood.

Dog Tails’ Puppy Month continues with the best advice we can find to quickly and successfully train your puppy to “go outside.” Trust us, we’ve been through it all with our dogs, so we understand!

Based on our experience and what we’ve learned from dog trainers around the country, we believe that there are three universal rules of housebreaking your puppy:

1) Consistency

Dogs thrive on routine, especially when they are young. Housebreaking is no exception. The “Dog Whisperer” himself, Cesar Millan, asserts that daily consistency is the key to successfully housebreaking your dog.

Basset Hound sitting in front of doorEven before you bring your puppy home for the first time, work with your family to a devise a daily dog schedule. Meals, walks, playtime, sleep, trips outside – try work in these activities at the same time every day. Your puppy will soon learn to associate these times with these activities. “7:00AM, I eat. 7:30AM, I go outside. 8:00AM, I play with toys…”

When creating this schedule, be sure to include plenty of “potty breaks,” and not just first thing in the morning and before bed. A good rule of thumb from the Humane Society of the United States: a puppy can typically control his bladder for one hour for every month of age. Because of this fact, Millan suggests scheduling “potty breaks” at various times throughout the day, including immediately following each meal, after waking up from a nap and after long play sessions.

Finally, be aware and vigilant about where your puppy spends his time in your home. Set clear rules about what rooms are off-limits to the puppy, and make sure everyone (even the kids and visitors), follows them. You can use baby gates to help enforce these rules, or you can talk to your DogWatch dealer about indoor hidden boundary solutions.  These safe, small, wireless systems will teach your dog to recognize “off-limits” areas, such as formal rooms, kitchen counters, couches and even the cat litter box. Your DogWatch dealer can help you design a system for your home, and work with you to determine the right age for your puppy to start training with an indoor boundary system.

We know it will be challenging to fit a rigid schedule into your fast-paced, crowded, multi-tasking life. Just remember: establishing a routine and sticking to it is the fastest way to rid your house of puppy “accidents.”

2) Commitment

Neglecting the routine, on the other hand, can quickly lead to housebreaking failures and months of frustration. This brings us to the second rule of housebreaking – be committed. Teaching your dog important lessons like housebreaking when they are young is a great way to set up your pet for a healthy, well-behaved future.

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Welcome Home, Puppy! Introducing Your New Dog to Your Other Pets

Your puppy checklist is complete, and you’ve purchased everything from chew toys to puppy pads to a monogrammed food dish. You’re almost ready to bring home your new arrival, but in the excitement you forgot about one thing: your other pets.

Well, we’ve got you covered. Week 3 of Dog Tails’ Puppy Month is all about introductions. We’ve consulted the experts, and shared their rules, tips and tricks with you. Learn the correct steps to a successful first meeting between puppy and the resident pet, and hopefully it will be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. And don’t forget to capture these eventful first meetings with your camera – a perfect way to preserve the memory AND a perfect way to capture a great image to enter into our Puppy Photo Contest on Facebook!

dog and catIntroducing Your Puppy to Your Cat

The most important rule of introducing your new puppy to your cat is to take it slow.  When it comes to a dog and a cat’s first meeting, do not just open the door and let them chase each other.  Instead, let the two animals slowly move closer to each other, while maintaining control of them at all times. For this reason, it is best to have another person help with the introductions, so that both animals can be quickly pulled away if necessary. Finally, for particularly nervous cats and boisterous pups, we suggest starting off with the pets in crates placed near each other, or separated by a baby gate.

On your puppy’s first day home, schedule sufficient time for the introduction. The best time for it is often after your puppy has had some exercise and a meal. This will put him or her in a more calm mood for what can be a stressful situation for all involved.

During the introduction, be sure to reward good behavior. As always, treats are helpful signal for both animals. Ask the puppy to look away from the cat and look at you. If he complies, give him a treat – he is doing very well! If he does not comply, continue working with the dog to calm him down and divert his attention away from the animal. Toys and treats and words of praise are all helpful here.

Finally, don’t forget about your cat in these whirlwind first days. Make sure to give your cat plenty of time and space to adjust to this new situation. You should designate areas that are off-limits to your puppy. The blog Raising Spot suggests giving your cat “safe zones” where she can roam peacefully and not feel “evicted” by the puppy.

One last note: some dogs will need more guidance and training than others – it depends on the dog’s breed, and prior history. It is also important to remember that some dogs may not be suitable for a home with a cat or cats. Certain breeds – specifically, sighthounds (greyhounds, whippets, etc.), pit bulls and terriers – are more likely to be aggressive towards cats. We says this not to malign these wonderful breeds, but to prepare you. Some aggressive and predatory dogs may attack or even kill a cat if left unsupervised.  This activity could occur even if the dog and cat appear to get along when you are present; as a result, experts recommend separating the animals when you leave the house.

Luckily, starting early is often the key to a good dog-cat relationship. According to the ASPCA, puppies raised with cats are less likely to be predatory towards them as they grow older.  Most dog experts report that nearly any dog can learn to live comfortably around cats, if they are properly introduced and trained.

Introducing Your Puppy to Your Dog

When it comes to dog-dog introductions, the same basic rules apply: take it slow, reward good behavior, and be alert. At the same time, resident dogs require their own set of tips and tricks.

One of our favorite dog sites, Dogster, suggests starting with your dog’s strongest asset: his nose. Prepare both your new puppy and your current dog(s) by letting them sniff objects with each other’s scents (for example, toys, towels, beds or even you own clothes). These “smelling sessions” give the dogs opportunities to pick up information about each other and be prepared for their first meeting.

When the big day comes, we suggest enlisting a family member or friend to assist you. That way, each pet has his own handler, who can give treats and encouragement for good behavior, and, importantly, can pull a dog away if he or she senses hostility or aggression. If your current dog has a history of aggressive behavior towards other dogs, we strongly recommend that you hire a skilled professional dog trainer to supervise and guide you through the introduction process.

dog and puppyThe initial introduction should take place in a “neutral” area – such as your neighbor’s yard or a nearby park. That way, your resident dog will be less protective of his turf. Allow the dogs to approach each other slowly. If the puppy is very small, ask your assistant to hold him while you allow your bigger dog to watch and sniff briefly. After a few of these quick “visits,” you can start to put the puppy down and slowly walk him towards the older dog.

With all dog-dog introductions, start with short periods of sniffing and greeting, followed by time apart. Be alert at all times during these meetings, and watch out for aggressive behaviors, such as hair standing up on one dog’s back, teeth-baring, deep growls, a stiff-legged gait, or a prolonged stare. If you notice any of these behaviors, separate the dogs immediately. Distract both dogs with toys and treats, and reward them when they switch their attention away from the other dog and back to you. Once they both have calmed down, you can try again.

As with most dog training tasks, consistency is key. Repeat these meetings over and over again, extending them a little bit each time. Once they are comfortable together, try the introductions at home, again starting with quick meetings and then gradually increasing the length. Stay positive and patient – it will help you and your dogs get through the process much more smoothly. Eventually, if all goes well, you can progress to group walks and off-leash play sessions!

For those of you blessed with a full house of dogs, experts suggest introducing new puppies to one resident dog at a time – for your sake and the dogs! Another good tip for multiple dogs: start with the least excitable dog first, and work your way up to the feistiest one!

We hope these tips help your new puppy make a great first impression! Share you own experiences here in the comments, or via Facebook. And don’t forget to check back soon for more Puppy Month fun!

Dog and cat photo by fazen via Flickr.

Dog and puppy photo by Jim Winstead via Flickr.