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Medicating Your Pet Doesn’t Have to Be a Pill

medicating your petIt’s no fun seeing your pet unwell. And going home from the vet with a bottle of meds and that pit of dread in your stomach just adds to the stress. How will you get them to take their pills? Will it be a simple process or a battle of wits? Nobody likes the idea of prying their pets’ jaws open and shoving the pills down their throats by force, so here are a few tips and alternatives on medicating your pet. 

 

Let’s start with the medication itself. There’s more than one way when medicating your pet. If your pet is difficult to medicate, talk to your veterinarian about your concerns. Depending on the medicine, they may be able to offer it in a different form, such as a palatable chewable or even a transdermal gel. Keep in mind that if they didn’t offer this as a first option, there may be some reason. It may, for example, be more expensive, somewhat less effective, or have to be special ordered. If you’re not otherwise able to get your pet to take the medicine, though, it may be worth it. 

 

But let’s say you’re not sharing your home with a medication-hating evil genius. How do you give meds then? The simplest way is to put it in food. A dollop of wet food or a little parcel of cheese like a maraschino cherry on top of their meal can disguise a bitter pill quite nicely and a food-motivated cat or dog will happily gulp it down without stopping to investigate. 

 

Is your pet a little too clever for that? Here’s a trick I learned about medicating your pet a while back. Some dogs tend to eat the cheese, pill pocket, or other casing, and then daintily spit the pill out. If that sounds familiar, try feeding them the pill-in-treat and then IMMEDIATELY, like before they’ve even got it down, offering them a series of really delicious high-value treats. Most dogs will swallow what they’ve got in their mouth in order to get to the next treat, especially if that treat is straight-up ham or something. Also, make sure the pill is concealed in the smallest amount of treat necessary to conceal it. Using only a partial pill pocket and molding it firmly around the pill not only makes the pill pockets go further, but also means there’s less for the dog to chew and less chance for them to spit out the part they find unsavory. 

 

For cats, the pill-in-treat trick tends to be less effective. Treats may sweeten the deal and encourage the cat to come willingly for pill time, but medicating a cat will usually have to involve some manhandling. Not to worry- there are ways to make it safer and less unpleasant. A pet piller, also known as a pill gun or a pill popper, is a game-changer. It allows you to push the pill further down a cat’s throat without sticking your fingers in his mouth, which can be dangerous for you and requires his poor little mouth to be pried uncomfortably wide. The other trick with cats? Hold them gently, but firmly, by the scruff and flip them onto their backs. Their mouths will usually open a little, which means you can sneak that pill popper in without having to pry their jaw open manually. Once the pill is down, if they haven’t swallowed it, hold their jaw closed for a moment and blow gently in their noses. That usually does the trick. And, of course, in order to make everyone feel better after, give them whatever they love most when it’s all done- a cookie, some catnip, a brushing session, whatever. 

 

Unfortunately, sometimes, none of these will work and you just have to do your best when medicating your pet. I have a dog and two cats. The dog gets her daily meds tossed on top of her breakfast and she scarfs the whole thing down quite happily. One cat takes his pills willingly with the help of a pill popper and the promise of a bit of squeeze-up treat after. The other absolutely will not tolerate being handled in that way and attempting to give her daily oral meds would end up being traumatic, frustrating, dangerous, and ultimately futile. An antibiotic shot, for example, may be an imperfect solution for some ailments, but it’s better than nothing. You know your pet better than anyone. Sometimes, care and advocacy for them means you go ahead and do something not-so-fun and deal with the dirty looks they give you after because it’s the best way to take care of their health. And sometimes, it means exploring alternatives and doing what you can. 

 

Does pilling your pet involve some sleight of hand, a false-backed wardrobe, and two or three lovely assistants? Worried about how they’ll get their meds while you’re out of town? Leave it to our dedicated pet experts- it’s not our first magic show! You can find out more about our services and REQUEST for your special need 4-Legged Kids.

Should I Change My Rescue Dog’s Name?

During a recent visit with my family, my sister told me she liked the most recent adoptable dog I had posted on social media, but could not imagine ever having a pet named “Bentley” and worried about changing the name. She asked if this was common and if names ever stand in the way of adoption for shelter animals. Should you change your rescue dog’s name?

 

And yes- of course they do. One of my very first foster dogs was a completely housebroken shih tzu named “Puddles.” You can imagine the conversations I had with potential adopters.

 

There are the names with clear implications- Lucifer, Felony, Psycho, and Jaws may be perfectly lovely animals, but it can be tough for an adopter to get past the name.

 

There are those that are references to something you might be unfamiliar with- I might think Chevalier Tialys and Archchancellor Mustrum Ridcully are great names for my own pets, but your random adopter who doesn’t have the same excellent taste in books I do isn’t going to be able to appreciate them in the same way.

 

And there are those that just… don’t quite fit. Too common, too bougie, too cutesy, too human- whatever the reason, not everyone will vibe with every name.

 

So… can you change your rescue dog’s name? Will it traumatize the animal to learn a new name? Are they attached to their old ones?

 

And the good news is: absolutely! Here are a few ways you might go about it. 

 

The first thing to keep in mind is that animals are not attached to their own names in the same way that humans are. For people, names have a lot of weight. They may come with history, legacy, or cultural significance. They may be given and cherished as a gift or taken and loved as a choice, but either way, your name is part of who you are. For dogs and cats? It’s just the sound the person makes to mean “I am talking to you now”. 

 

The second is that a lot of names are given in the shelter or by fosters. When an animal comes into rescue, their pasts are often unknown, so the best we can do is give them a clean slate and a name that lets them know they’re loved. So there’s a very good chance the animal you’re adopting has only been “Ziggy Stardust” for two weeks of his life, has no clue that those words are supposed to refer to him, and will not care in the slightest if you decide to call him “Jeremy” instead.

 

But wait- what if they DO know their name? When I got my dog, she was about 12 years old and had been named “Ella” for about 10 of those years. There’s nothing wrong with the name “Ella.” It’s a perfectly lovely name. But it didn’t really fit her. It’s fairy-tale-whimsical. A name for a sweet little girl. What I had was a dignified dame with a twinkle in her eye. Also, I knew like four other dogs named Ella. I went back and forth on changing it. I experimented with different names in a cheery tone to see if she really actually knew it or was just responding to an inviting voice. She knew it and answered to it, so calling her “Margot” or “Ramona” or “Diane” seemed like it would be unfairly confusing to her. Also, if the work has already been done to teach her her name, why throw it away? So Ella it was for the first couple months, but I couldn’t get over the sense that it just didn’t fit us. 

 

So I opted to change it, but to choose a similar name. It’s amazing the difference one letter can make. She’s Nella now (or, usually, just Nell), which suits her beautifully and she never skipped a beat and still answers to it. It was the easiest to implement in terms of training and asks little of the dog.

 

The drawback is, of course, that it takes a little creativity and compromise to come up with just the right name. Gunner can become Sonny or Gus or even Aragorn, but if you had your heart set on naming him Beverly, you’ll have to come up with a different tactic. 

 

For a whole new name, try using the old name as the first and the new as the middle for a while. Maybe you took home an Albert, but you just know that, deep in his soul, he’s really meant to be a Spaghettio. For the first couple weeks, call him Albert Spaghettio. Use the name a lot, especially when good things are happening, and then gradually drop the first name. He’ll learn pretty quickly that when you say “Spaghettio,” you mean him… and might even mean that he’s getting a treat or a walk or some ear scratches, which is awesome. 

 

Of course, the truth is, a dog or cat clever and engaged enough to learn one name will be able to learn a new one with time. And there are many, many animals who are happy enough to respond to their person’s tone of voice and will answer to any variety of nicknames and never have any clue what their actual name is. If you simply start calling your new pet by their desired name and rewarding them when they respond, they’ll catch on with or without extra measures to ease the transition. 

 

Whether you call them Babycakes, Bear, or Optimus Prime, and whether you keep the name they came with or give them a brand-new one, the important thing is that they’re safe and adored. A new name is a small price to pay for a loving family, so don’t let a goofy one be the thing that comes between you and your potential new four-legged soulmate! If you are looking for a great place to GET your soulmate try Second Chance Ranch or Tenth Life Cat Rescue

 

If you need someone to help you with Babycakes when you are at work or traveling give us a call at 4-Legged Kids! 636-405-0400

You can also head straight to our service request system online HERE

6 Essentials to Having a Great Dog Walk

Going for a walk with your dog seems like such a simple thing. Grab a leash and go! But anyone who has been dragged down the road by an energetic pup knows better than that: sometimes, you need a little help. The array of tools at your disposal can be dizzying. How do you choose? Which is best? Here are 6 essentials to having a great dog walk.

 

#1 Poo bags. This one’s not complicated. Poop happens. Be a decent human being and pick up after your dog. A few grocery bags stuffed in your pocket will do the trick, but if your dog is the cheeky type who always somehow knows how many bags you’ve got and poops once more than that, invest in a few store-bought rolls.

 

#2 Lights and reflective apparel. If you regularly walk in the evenings or early mornings, you want your pet to be visible! Many collars and leashes come with reflective threads woven into them, but if your road is especially perilous, try a light-up collar or tag for extra visibility.

 

#3 Martingales. Martingale collars are regular dog collars with a fabric loop that allows the collar to tighten a limited amount. Sometimes called “no-slip” collars, these are ideal for dogs who try to back out of regular collars or who just need a little bit of feedback when they pull. Because they can only tighten a little, they won’t choke or strangle your pet and can be worn as their regular everyday collar. For dogs who are very motivated and tend to pull very hard on walks, martingales won’t be a magical solution, but they’re ideal for a generally well-mannered dog who just needs a reminder.

 

#4 No-pull harnesses. The pros? These seem to be fairly comfortable on dogs. Once they’re on, dogs are generally happy to go about their business without being too fussed about the harness. The cons? They can be confusing to put on at first (if I had a penny for every time someone put my dog’s on wrong…) and, while they help a lot for some dogs, a determined dog can still pull pretty hard.

 

#5 Head collars. These come in two types: the “gentle leader” type and the “halti” type. These consist of a loop that goes around the dog’s muzzle and a second loop that goes around the dog’s head. The leash attaches under the dog’s chin.

 

On the “Gentle Leader” type, it’s just those two loops. Both should be pretty tight, although the dog should still be able to open their mouth if it’s properly fitted. The advantage of this type over the “Halti” type is that there’s less bulk overall. For some dogs who dislike having something on their face, lighter is better.

 

On the “Halti” type, there are extra straps on the cheeks. This allows both loops to be looser on the dog’s head and still effective, but it does create more bulk.

 

If your goal is to stop your dog from pulling pretty much entirely, a head collar is the way to go. The cons, though? It takes some training to get the dog to accept the collar and to learn to walk on it. It’s not ideal for dogs who are nervous about their faces being touched. It may not work well on short-nosed breeds. And many dogs seem to find it fairly uncomfortable.

 

#6 Training. While these tools can have great instant results, as soon as you try to use a regular collar, they’ll be back to their old shenanigans. The best way to instill good leash manners in your dog? Train them!

The technique I’ve found most effective for dogs who simply want to charge forward at full-speed is “surprise walks.” While walking your dog, stop, start, walk backwards, or change direction abruptly and without warning. Your dog will quickly learn that if they want to know which way they’re going, they’d better pay attention to you. Once they’re starting to get the hang of it, just stop short any time they start pulling and stare straight ahead. The dog will learn that in order for the thing they want (attention and walks) to continue, they have to mind their manners.

 

The important thing, as always, is to remember that all dogs are individuals and no one thing will work for all people, all dogs, or all situations. Some lucky dog parents will find that their pooch walks like an angel with no training at all, while others will have to exhaust every tool at their disposal in order to get through to their total knucklehead of a dog. The important thing is not that the dog is walked perfectly every time. It takes steps to get there. The most important thing is that your dog gets walked for exercise and mental stimulation.

 

Need help? Call us! Whether it’s for exercise, adventure, or just a mid-day potty break, our talented team of dog walkers is there to help you make sure your best pal gets the leash time they deserve. Reserve a spot HERE

Post-Pandemic Pup Syndrome ™ in Your Dog

Are you getting ready to go back to work? Going on a vacation? We are seeing what we are calling the Post-Pandemic Pup Syndrome ™ with our current clients and our new clients that you need to consider before you schedule your next trip or answer the call to go back to the office!

 

We are at about 15 months since this whole thing started. With the average life expectancy of a dog being 10-13 years, you have to consider that is the equivalent of 10-12 percent OF THEIR LIFE! Changes the way you look at the impact on them, doesn’t it? We have seen that the Post-Pandemic Pup Syndrome ™ has resulted in two significant behavioral changes in many dogs. They are exhibiting more outward signs of separation anxiety when away from home and familiar faces and they seem to have lost some socialization skills.

 

Increased Separation Anxiety

 

One thing we have seen is an increase in separation anxieties. Dogs who were used to, and very comfortable with their owners absence during the day are more stressed when their owners leave for extended periods of time. When we have investigated, we have discovered that during Covid many of these dogs were only left for 1-2 hours EVER due to lockdowns. Please be kind to your dog. Understand that any extended time away from your home will be a significant emotional and behavioral adjustment for them. Make a plan NOW to gradually start increasing the amount of time your pets spend by themselves at home. Remember their pre-Covid routine and move the needle a bit each week if you can. Max 2 hours alone during Covid? Next week increase that to 3 hours alone.  The week after that to 4 hours. Re-acclimate them to their kennel or den area if it is needed. Invest in some busy toys like stuffed Kongs or other mentally stimulating toys. Go to our website at www.4leggedkids.com and download our Separation Anxiety Guide for some more tips to decrease anxieties when you are leaving home.

 

Lost Socialization Skills

 

Another issue that is just now becoming apparent with our travelers, especially our boarders, is the effects of a long-term lack of socialization with both people and pets. In some cases, dogs haven’t seen and socialized with ANY other dogs (besides passing on the street) for over a year! We have seen formerly well-socialized dogs be immediately defensive and become aggressive quickly when being presented in an open, neutral environment. The same goes for new people coming in their home. Give them a little break and slowly work them back into comfortable socializers if that was their pre-covid baseline.

Are you planning to have our team coming into your home when you travel, or do you plan to have them in a boarding environment around strange people and other dogs? Use friends and family to set up controlled environments with other well-socialized, calm dogs.  Slowly introduce back into “doggo society”.

 

How to Re-socialize

 

  • Start with a low-stress neutral meeting on a walk. Gradually decrease the distance between the dogs as long as they are exhibiting accepting body language. Here is a good real-life explanation of body language in dog interactions DOG BODY LANGUAGE . Use liberal amounts of high-value dog treats when the dogs are relaxed, asking them for tandem sits and downs if they have received previous training.
  • Once you see them exhibiting calm interested or indifferent behavior consistently (and after a good walk to mentally stimulate and tire them), take them to a neutral open outdoor area if possible (like a secure fenced dog area with no other dogs, an empty fence tennis court, a fenced back yard that doesn’t belong to either dog). Walk them together around the yard watching for a repeat of the calm, interested or accepting body language (ears, tail, loosey-goosey soft bodies).
  • When they are comfortable in the environment, discreetly disconnect their leashes making sure to keep your own body language neutral. Walk the yard with the other adult dog owner while watching your dog’s behavior. With the proper assessment of body language through the process they will hopefully be doing the zoomies together soon like no time has passed!
  • Do be aware of any tension building and use the “splitting” technique if things become a bit heated. Splitting is when you use your own body to walk between the dogs, a form of “body blocking” while you each redirect your dog’s behavior. This will decrease the tension and allow you to redirect whenever needed.
  • Rinse and repeat until you gradually reintroduce your dog to the joys of hanging with the other dogs!

 

With some advanced planning and scheduling starting now you can ensure that your travel or return to work will be as satisfying for your pets as it is for you!

 

For more information about our dog walking and pet sitting services and to download our Separation Anxiety Guide check out our WEBSITE.

Grilling With Dogs on Memorial Day

Many pet owners will be firing up their BBQ grill this weekend for the holiday.  I don’t know about your dog, but around here they go nuts with sizzling meat on the grill.  Unfortunately, each year thousands of animals are brought to pet emergency rooms because of the dangers associated with summer grilling.  Many of these mishaps can easily be prevented. There are many things to remember when you are grilling with dogs over Memorial Day weekend.

 

 

Dangers of grilling with dogs

 

  • -Some of the most dangerous foods include corn cobs and any meat with bones.  Dogs love to chew on these, but the cobs and bones can get lodged in their intestines.
  • -One of the most overlooked items is the meat juices and drippings from the grill spilling on loose gravel, dirt or mulch.  Dogs will lick and swallow the juice and end up with a belly full of rocks, dirt or mulch.   Be careful with drippings and clean up spills as soon as possible.
  • -Be aware of foil, plastic wrap, skewers and string we use to prepare and cook foods.  Make sure these are safely placed in garbage cans (that your dog cannot get into).
  • -Be smart about scraps.   While your pet will happily gobble up pretty much anything that comes off the grill, remind your guests not to feed your pets.  Keep a watchful eye over the food tables to make sure your determined dogs don’t help themselves to the goodies.
  • -Many foods are poisonous to animals, including:  onions, garlic, chives, chocolate, macadamia nuts, grapes, raisins, avocados, and many candies.
  • -Don’t forget the grill itself.  Make sure to keep pets away from the hot grill and coals until they are completely cooled down.  Burns for pets are as dangerous and painful as they are for people.
  • -One last reminder…don’t forget all those cups of alcoholic beverages.  Make sure they stay out of reach of your pets.

 

We wish you all a happy Memorial Day and hope you enjoy the day safely with family, friends, and your 4-legged kids.

Why Does My Cat Do That? Here are some answers

Have you ever wondered  “why does my cat do that?”

 

This is for all Pet Parents of Feline Kids…

 

Cats can be pretty funny creatures, but there is actually a method to all the madness.  Cats sleep for the majority of the time (sometimes up to 20 hours a day!).  For those few hours they are awake, they can do some strange things.  Here are a few that will keep you wondering…

 

Why does he jump up on the bannister, freeze, then jump back down?

  • He is practicing his hunting and survival skills.  This also explains why he may make an obstacle course out of your house and run through it a few times before settling down.

 

Why does my cat knead?

  • This is a behavior he learned as a kitten and was still nursing.  In order to get more milk from a mother cat, kittens will knead the area around her teat while they are suckling.  This helps the flow of milk to the teat and enables them to consume more.  Once cats grow up they sometimes still do this just as a comfort activity, perhaps it reminds them of their mom.

 

Why does she bump and rub me with the front part of her head?

  • This is called bunting and it is how cats show affection.  It’s a cat instinct to mark you with their scent and he is actually claiming you as his territory.

 

Why do my cats claw on the back of my couch?

  • This is an instinctual behavior for cats to work their claws and mark their territory.  Once a cat claws something, their scent is left on that object, so they will come back again to claw it. (hint – give them something appropriate to sharpen their claws on and smother it in catnip!)

 

Why does my cat wake me up to play at 3:00 am?

  • Cats are nocturnal animals and do not understand that you need to sleep at night.  Your cat simply wants some attention.

 

Why does a cat always land on its feet when it falls?

  •  Cats have an exceptional sensory system.  When it falls, the cat’s nervous system knows that it is upside down and falling.  Because of this, the cat can use his tail and very flexible body to twist and right himself for a safer landing.   This built-in ability to adjust its position in mid-air saves many cats from injuries when they fall.

 

Why does my cat put his toy in his bowls?

  • Cats look upon their food area as part of their territory.  Cats are putting their favorite toy in a “safe” place.

 

Why does my cat love drinking from a dripping faucet?

  • Cats prefer their food and water fresh, and running water is as fresh as it gets.  Plus, the motion of water coming out of a faucet is appealing to their sense of hearing and sight.

 

Hopefully this helps you understand a little bit more about why your kitty does some of those quirky things.  Please let us know if you have other questions about things your cat does and we’ll find the answers for you. We speak fluent feline and would love to get to know your cats the next time you travel. Read more about our CAT SITTING

Foster a Homeless Pet – Tips to Get Started

My family has fostered dogs and cats for at least the last 20 years. We have fostered dogs, cats, and kittens for Open Door Animal Sanctuary and dogs from several other local rescues over the years. There are many ways to approach being a foster for a homeless pet, but here are some tips to get you started.

 

So many people have questioned me over the years. First of all, they question my sanity for always having a revolving door. They also ask how I can foster and then let them go.

 

To be perfectly honest, letting them go can be hard. I always approach the process knowing that these are not my babies. My job is to care for them and prepare them to be the best members for the family they just don’t know yet.

 

Some of my fosters have been “specialty fosters” and others have been a more long-term variety. Here are two of my favorite stories:

 

The Joy of Kittens

I have a special love for working with pregnant mamas. I help them through the queening process (delivery) and raise and socialize the kittens until they are adopted. This is such a fun and rewarding experience and I can certainly tell you has been full of life lessons for my kids as they’ve grown up.

 

About five years ago we had a huge influx of pregnant mamas at the sanctuary. We would all brace ourselves when it was kitten season because at times the nursery would have well over a dozen pregnant mamas or mamas with young litters. For some reason I made a crazy decision and took in two mamas with their very young litters at the same time. I knew it would be a little squishy with two large cages in my office, but I figured that in about six weeks the babies would be a lovely playgroup.

 

We had two very large dog crates next to each other in my office. I would open one and let the mama run around while I cleaned her space and then I would put her back in with her babies and go to the next cage. Mamas can be very protective of their babies and it was not safe to have them too close to each other.

 

One day when I was done cleaning I couldn’t find the mama to put her back in. I turned around and saw that I hadn’t latched the other kennel correctly and she was in grooming the other mama! I had always known that they were both young mamas and were of similar coloring, but I realized at that point that they were in fact sisters themselves! The rest of their time with me was a blissful combination of two mamas with their litters co-parenting!

 

Bella the Franken-Dog

A memorable long-term foster of mine was Bella. When I first started rescue I worked with small foster-based rescue groups. I was the intake coordinator for one early on for a year. You have to be a bit crazy to do that level of front-line rescue. Rescue volunteers have huge hearts and when faced with the mind-numbing number of homeless pets in kill shelters…we tend to go a little nuts. I  would personally drive to Jefferson County Animal Control weekly to see who was on the “chopping block“ and didn’t have any time left. I would temperance test them and load my poor minivan with dogs and puppies. One one memorable trip I had two mamas with seven puppies between them, and four other adult dogs.

 

It was a full day affair every week. I would head straight from Animal Control to a local Chesterfield veterinarian who pretty much opened his back area for me to process the dogs. That is where my veterinary technician background came in handy! I would heartworm test them, vaccinate them, check their stool for parasites, and get them ready for a quick health check by the veterinarian rabies vaccinations. Then came the work of calling down the list of fosters to see who had one more space available…or even who was willing to squeeze one more in. It was a frenzy every week! My hat and my heart goes to those that still do that every week. It is a labor of love and I have to say it takes a crazy person to do it, but where would we be without them?

 

Bella was actually the first foster I had with this particular group. I was at a large pet adoption event in Queeny Park when I met a foster for this organization (it doesn’t take much more than that to be “volunteered”). She called me within the next week with a Rottweiler mix who was “super sweet“ and needed a place so she wouldn’t be euthanized. I brought her home to settle in for a “short” time to wait for her veterinary visit to check out her right eye. She had a genetically recessed eye and the eyelids rolled in and caused her pain and irritation.

 

Guess what? The vet visit also showed she was pregnant! Woo-hoo! We were then responsible for getting heathy babies out of an emaciated and dehydrated mama. We were lucky to safely delivered her babies and we enjoyed raising a litter of puppies. Our one and only. If you have ever done it do you know why I say that. That four to ten week timeframe is adorable but messy!

 

We had Bella spayed after we found wonderful homes for her puppies and she settled in to our routine. She was a knucklehead. We were pretty sure she was part rottweiler and part boxer by her energy and mannerisms. When we would play in the yard she would run along behind us and try to hook our legs with her front paws. Very boxer-ish.

 

The next step to get her adoptable was to determine the best plan with her eye. It was decided that it was causing her so much pain it had to be removed. After her surgery we we’re so relieved that she was no longer in pain. At that point she received many additional monikers such as “Franken-dog“ and “Eye-gor“. She was always our sweet but nutty Bella.

 

As for long-term foster… from start to finish she was with us for 11 months. She was definitely a long-hauler! The main issue was that she did not “present well“ at adoption events. Give these poor dogs and cats some grace when you see them act a bit hyper and anxious at local pet stores or adoption events. They’ve been pulled from their foster homes to these events in the hopes that someone will fall in love. They are out of their environment and under a lot of stress. They will not behave in these scenarios as they would when they settle into your home. See the potential.

 

What Can I Do To Help?

I’ve had many experiences and I wanted to share several tips for you should you decide to join the ranks as a foster parent:

 

  • Make sure you have the lifestyle for it. You don’t have to be home at all times, but being able to provide a stable, consistent environment is important for their security and rehabilitation. We have had several clients over the years who became foster parents along with their own household of dogs. They relied on our Dog Walking service for their own dogs and for foster dogs and puppy care management during the day.

 

  • If you have a longer-term foster care situation (I would say more than a month assignment) understand that dogs will not even begin to settle in until about three weeks. You won’t even know their true personality until they do. This is the same with bringing any new dog in your home. The first three weeks will be your “honeymoon phase“. The dog will be a little bit more unsure and will express themselves in a more guarded way. You will gradually start to see little behaviors come out that will need some training and management. That comes with the territory! Your responsibility will be to ensure a consistent dependable environment with loving limits as you mold them into good family members.

 

  • Make sure you check your regulations for fostering. If you are renting, this is your first hurdle. Make sure that your landlord will allow you to foster. Some will be pet lovers themselves and be happy to support you and others might require a pet deposit or consider them to fall under “pet rent”. You need to additionally check your municipal or county regulations for number of pets in a household, especially if you already have your own pets.

 

  • Make sure you have no issues with your homeowners or renters insurance. This might (unfortunately) come into play with certain breeds.

 

  • Consider the supplies and materials you will need. Most supplies will come from the rescue group but make sure you keep these items in mind: a secure kennel (you will want to keep them kenneled when not under direct observation), food, bowls, flea and tick treatment, heartworm preventative, a bed or some form of bedding, a Kong or some other indestructible toy (until you determine if they consider “death to the squeaker” as their favorite game). Also consider how to “dog proof” your home. Petfinder has a great article How to Prepare Your Home for a Foster Pet.

 

  • If you have other pets you will need to introduce them to your own pets. You will want to do this gradually. Seattle Animal Shelter does a good job preparing their fosters with some of these following suggestions:

~Do be alert and make the reintroductions gradually and calmly. Even if they got along great at the shelter, your dog may be extremely territorial in the home.
~If possible, go for a walk around your neighborhood with both dogs and two handlers.Walk the dogs side by side on leashes and allow them to sniff one another and become familiar with each other.
~Do give your own dog LOTS of love and praise.
~Do leave leashes on the dogs when you are in the home, so that you can get immediate control if needed. You may only need to do this for a short time.
~Do talk normally. Letting the dogs know that you are fine; they are fine; everything is fine!
~Be patient and go slowly with your foster dog as they may have been through a stressful surgery, abusive situation or a lot of recent changes.
~Don’t leave your foster dog unattended with your resident dog. Even if they seem to get along well in your presence, you should separate the dogs when you leave your house. After a while, you may determine that this is no longer necessary, but be sure to always remove all toys, food, chews and start slowly

 

Fostering a homeless pet is a challenge, but can be so rewarding to know that you have helped save a life and helped shape someone’s new family member! 4-Legged Kids has a mission to Connect and Support pets and people with our Dog Walking and Pet Sitting services and our commitment to local St. Louis Rescue. You can read more on our LOCAL GIVING page. Let us know if we can help you get started on your foster journey!

Perfect Pet Photography – Get the Best Shots

You all have seen the amazing pictures that our staff take of your pets when you can’t be there. Our staff training includes education on pet photography to get the “best” of your pets and not always butt shots. We know you enjoy them! Here is a bit of information from our team on perfect pet photography – and how to do it!

 

With the new cameras available we have come SUCH a long way from our early picture uploads a decade ago!  Here are some tips we have learned along the way that will hopefully help you get some good shots of your 4-Legged Kid…

 

Best Tips for Perfect Pet Photography
  1.  Start With Your Pet’s Personality.  If your pet is a bit lazy, capture him laying down or yawning.  If your pet is always active, capture him playing with a favorite toy or performing his favorite trick.  Think about what your pet loves to do and try to capture that.
  2. Think About Location.  Make sure that wherever you take the pictures, your pet is comfortable and at ease.  Also, think about the background of the shots…typically simple is better.  You want to capture your pet and not the surroundings.
  3. Get in Close.   Most of the time, pets are smaller than us and many times end up getting lost in a picture.  The closer you get to your pet, the better your shot will be.
  4. Get on Their Level.  Get down on your pets level and look at them eye to eye.  If you photograph while standing up, you’ll get a “human perspective” on your pet.  You’ll be much more impressed with your results taking the shot from their level.
  5. Mix Up Your Framing.  Take different shots of your pet…just his face, a ¾ length shot, a full body shot, and even just his eyes, whiskers or nose.  You’ll be able to capture your pet in a variety of ways.
  6. Catch them Unaware.  Like children, pets rarely sit still or pose for photographs.  Sit back and start snapping pictures as your pet plays.  You’ll be amazed at what you capture.
  7. Use Natural Light.  If possible, take pictures outside and avoid using a flash.  The flash does not only cause red-eye, but can also scare your pet.
  8. Be Patient.  When you get excited, so does your pet.  If you relax and wait, so will your pet and you’ll be able to capture that perfect shot.

 

Check Out Some of Our Fun Photos

We LOVE using the “Portrait” mode on our phones to really highlight your pets and minimize the background. These can really result in some nearly professional-quality photos! You can take a look at some of our cool pics in our 2020 Dog Walking Yearbook.

 

Hopefully these tips will help you get that perfect shot of your 4-Legged Kid!

How to prepare your pets for your upcoming vacation

One of our favorite times of the year…vacation season!  Of course we have vacation season for some people all year round, but we really peak May through August. Why do we like vacation season?  We get to meet new friends and see some of our long-time friends. We have been assisting pet parents with their vacation planning since 1997 and wanted to share some tips to make sure that you prepare your pets for your upcoming vacation.

 

Prepare Your Pets for Your Vacation
  • Make your pet comfortable with someone coming into their home. Some pets are slow to warm up. Ensure their success by having some of their favorite treats and toys available for your pet sitter to grab on the way in the door.
  • Leave a telephone number where you can be reached.  Sometimes your pet sitter has a question or concern about your pet when they visit.
  • Share your pet’s feeding schedule, a typical daily schedule, how your pet walks on a leash, any medications your pet needs, and any “quirks” your pet might have that need to be understood for the best time for all. 4-Legged Kids has an integrated online platform for all notes to be updated before you leave home.
  • Double check your reservation on your secure online client portal several days before you leave. Changes happen in your schedule and you want to make sure your pets have the care scheduled that they need.
  • Stock up on everything your pets need while you are gone. This includes: extra food, medicine, treats, a properly fitting collar or harness, and a few favorite toys.  Provide lick mats with peanut butter and easy cheese or instructions for frozen stuffed Kongs. We are happy to leave any approved mental stimulation toys and treats for your dogs when we leave.

 

Some Other Things to Consider
  • Is your pet up-to-date on vaccinations, flea and tick treatment, and heartworm treatment.  If it happens to be time for a treatment while you are gone we are happy to administer!
  • Keep our office phone number with you (636)405-0400 if you have any schedule changes or concerns while you are gone. Be mindful of time zones. Many times it is easier and quicker to contact us through your secure online client portal.
  • Advise your veterinarian that someone else will be caring for your pet(s) and authorize the vet to provide medical care in your absence if it becomes necessary. It is a good practice to have your card on file with your veterinarian.

 

Does your pet suffer from anxieties? Download our Guide for you to help prepare your pets for vacation. Get your Separation Anxiety Guide.

 

When you return, allow for a short transition period for you and your pet to adjust back to your normal routine at home.

 

 

Is your dog afraid of thunderstorms?

Is your dog afraid of thunderstorms? While we are all grateful for the rain and the recent storms (especially to knock out some of the pollen), some of our 4-Legged Kids are less than thrilled with the thunderstorms. Do you have a dog that gets anxious (or even terrified) when thunderstorms roll in? Many of these dogs sense a storm coming from a long way away and will become more alert and their anxiety behaviors will start to ramp up.

 

Here are some strategies to help your 4-Legged Kid handle storms.

 

  • Find a “safe place” where your dog can stay during the storm…this is sometimes a bathroom, a closet, or a crate covered by a blanket.  Playing white sounds or music can also help calm your dog (or at least drown out some of the sounds of the storm).
  • Never leave your dog outside during a thunderstorm.
  • Examine your own behavior and the behavior of other people in the house.  Dogs react to human anxiety, fear and stress.  Try to remain relaxed.
  • Don’t just ignore your dog’s fear and anxiety. It is real and is an extreme source of discomfort to them.
  • Try distracting your pet by practicing basic commands or playing games together.  Reward your pet for calm behavior with praise and treats.
  • Several clients have had success with a “thundershirt.”  These can be purchased at many local pet stores or online.   Make sure to read the instructions on how to introduce your pet to a thundershirt and use it properly.

 

If your pet has extreme anxiety, you’ll want to consult your veterinarian or a dog behaviorist.  Many pets with extreme anxiety need a combination of medication and behavior therapy.

 

If your dog exhibits anxieties such as separation anxiety, you can get some practical tips in our Separation Anxiety Guide.

 

Fear Free Happy Homes has a video series on anxieties you can learn from Preventing and Alleviating Anxieties 101

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