The Latest in Dog News
The pet industry has exploded in the past few years, becoming a 70-billion-dollar-a-year industry (yes - that's billion with a B). It is easy for pet parents to get overwhelmed among the latest trends with toys, snacks, and training. Here are some of our tips to consider as you navigate your way through this world.
Durability is the name of the game when it comes to doggy toys. Some dogs can handle having a plushy toy, and will adorably carry it around with them. Other dogs destroy them in a matter of minutes. Pay attention to which category your dog falls into.
Tearing a toy apart means that a few items such as buttons might be swallowed, either intentionally or unintentionally. Usually these things will just come out the dog's other end, however, in some cases they could lead to an intestinal blockage. This is a severe condition requiring surgery and costing thousands of dollars in vet bills. You will not be able to control everything that goes into your dog's mouth, but you can limit the types of toys they have, particularly if the dogs have the destructive tendency.
Size is also important. Just like with toddlers, you need to be aware of choking hazards. For large dogs, fetch will mean choosing a ball that is meant for them. Even normal tennis balls can be hazardous for extra large dogs. Fortunately your local pet shop should be stocked with larger ones that can also handle the wear and tear of being carried around in a dog's mouth.
Some toys are marketed as being for "tough chewers." Regardless of what the packaging states, make sure that you know how your dog responds to it. Never underestimate the power of your dog to shred an item labeled "destruction-proof."
Speaking of vet-bills, another up-turn in the pet industry is pet-insurance. One dog will cost under a hundred dollars a month to insure (and often much less than that, depending on the deductible you choose). People who purchase it often find it completely worth the expense when their dog has an unexpected trip to the vet. Some insurance companies will cover up to ninety percent of vet expenses, even for pricey cancer treatments or alternative care options, such as pet acupuncture.
One of the trends in the dog world is a renaissance of dog food. Dog parents have been demanding healthier options and companies have been responding in kind. Ingredients should always be the primary thing you look at. Real food should be the number one item rather than a vague term. If the treat is named Chicken Chips then by all means, the number one ingredient ought to be chicken. Anything that has filler with the term "by-product" is not going to be as healthy. "Animal by-product" or "Animal meal" is about as ambiguous as it sounds.
Vegetable protein - via peas or garbanzo beans - is certainly healthy for dogs, and it is available in many dog foods and snacks. However, if you prefer meat for your dogs, make sure that a clear type of meat: chicken/beef/fish is clearly listed as the number one ingredient.
The calorie content of snacks should also be clear on the label. There is a rising trend of obesity in dogs, and this comes primarily from dog owners not knowing their dogs' nutritional needs. Ensure that your dogs treats are not too fatty. Also very importantly, limit the human food given to your dog, particularly human snack foods such as potato chips, ice cream, or cookies. Some people find it adorable to feed these items to their pets but they are not healthy and can lead to health problems in the future.
You can however, safely feed a dog peanut butter in a Kong toy or even give a dog frozen peanut butter treats, made with fruit and yogurt. These do not take much time to prepare and have proven to be very popular in the dog world.
Training is an area that has seen a very big shift. Theories about dominance and terms such as "alpha dog" are being disproved as positive training methods are becoming much more accepted. Theories about dominance began with studies of wolves. While dogs and wolves share much in common, they are different species and the domesticated animals respond very differently. Rather than creating a fear-based environment, positive-training is exactly as the name suggests and focuses on a reward-system for doing something correctly.
Positive training does not mean not setting boundaries. You can still be the boss of your home without creating dread: if you prefer pets to stay off the furniture or for your dog to be crate trained, positive-training can provide sound strategies for you to achieve this.
Positive training helps your dog become a friendlier and less anxious pet. It is a methodology, however, and often requires the help of professionals. Done incorrectly, owners can find themselves rewarding bad behavior with treats in an attempt to get a dog to stop the behavior, such as incessant barking. Learning the timing and consistency is worth the investment as you will find yourself with a more relaxed dog. This, in turn, makes your home a more pleasant and relaxed environment.
Training includes dog collars and harnesses. Trainers often find harnesses to be much more effective at easing the lunge of a strong puller than a choke chain, which can often lead to neck and throat injuries for dogs. A properly fitted harness will combine pressure points which can result in an easier walk for all involved.
The bottom line with all of these trends is that people want what is best for their dog. Whether you have a senior dog whose joints are slowing her down or a high-energy goofball who cannot sit still for a few minutes, it is worth investing the time in learning what is behind the product. Ask vets or trainers for their advice and of course, visit your favorite pet store's blog for their point of view as well!
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