5 Tips to Keep Your Dog Calm and Safe During Fireworks

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I was going to wait until closer to July 4th to write about this, since most pets run away around that time of year more than any other. But with Memorial Day weekend upon us—not to mention my crazy neighbors that look for any excuse to set off fireworks—I figured there was no better time than the present.

Over the years, Emma has gone from ignoring fireworks as a puppy to being absolutely terrified as an adult dog. In the last few years, though, she’s gotten much better in dealing with the loud sounds. However, she’s far from ignoring them, as she once did.

Unlike hunting dogs, most dogs have not been desensitized to loud noises. Most likely, your canine companion will not be a fan of the fireworks and will need some extra comforting, as well.

img_8152When dogs hear fireworks, they experience internally something similar to what we do when we are surprised by a sudden loud noise—a rush of adrenaline and increase in heart rate. Now, as humans, we are quick to realize the sudden noise is nothing to worry about. But dogs don’t grasp that same concept.

Whether this is the first time or the hundredth time your dog will be exposed to fireworks, here are a few things that will help keep her calm and safe during the celebrations:

  1. Exercise your dog earlier in the day. Go for long walks and give her extra play time. That way, she will be tired and in a calmer state when the fireworks begin.
  2. This is a no-brainer but keep your dog inside during the fireworks. And make sure you or another human is there to offer comfort. Dogs should not be alone during fireworks. If it’s hot out, crank up the AC.
  3. Create a safe space. Sometimes, dogs will want to hide under the bed or curl up in their crate when they are afraid. Give them access to small, cozy places and put a blanket or shirt that you wore earlier in the day next to them, so they have your scent close. A chew toy is also a good way to keep them busy and distracted.
  4. Stay calm. If your dog is anything like mine during fireworks, she will probably pant, pace and whine. I know that if I hold Emma in my arms, it helps her calm down quicker. During this time, I’ll play white noise on the Sonos with the volume up to drown out the fireworks. This combo works best for Emma.
  5. Be sure your dog is wearing current ID tags and is microchipped in case she gets spooked and runs off unexpectedly. That way, if anyone finds her, you’ll be sure to get a call as to her location.

Hopefully, your neighbors aren’t like mine and won’t set off too many fireworks this weekend! With all the dogs living in my neighborhood, you would think they would be more considerate to those little canine ears, right?!

Do you do anything special to help your pet get through the fireworks? I’d love to hear about it.

Hope everyone has a safe and fun Memorial Day weekend!

Doggy Day Trips—Old Westbury Gardens

img_7860Old Westbury Gardens has always been my absolute favorite escape on Long Island. It is the perfect place to unwind, relax and enjoy nature. As a child, I would go off exploring all that the Gardens has to offer—the thatched cottage, East Lake, the Walled Garden, nature paths and everything else in between—pretending that I lived in Westbury House and the gardens were all mine! It almost felt like I stepped back time, especially when walking through the house.

As the years passed, my love for Old Westbury Gardens grew. Every weekend, my mom and I would take a couple of lawn chairs, pack a picnic and our favorite books and spend an entire day under the shade of one of the massive breezy beech trees or find the perfect spot somewhere near the lake.

No matter the season, there’s always plenty to enjoy—from chamber music in the Red Ballroom and the summer Picnic Pops concerts to yoga on the lawn and members-only events and more. Some of my favorite memories have been from Old Westbury Gardens.

When Emma arrived on the scene, my mom and I felt guilty we couldn’t bring her to enjoy our favorite getaway. Then, shortly thereafter, we were excited to discover the Gardens began a new tradition—Dog Days! Twice a year, visitors are allowed to bring their canine companions to walk the gardens, do some canine shopping, participate in fun activities, meet animal rescue groups, and more.

Last month, when I took Emma to the first Dog Days weekend of 2018, it was a bit more crowded than usual, as they were undergoing landscaping renovations. Portions of the Gardens were closed; but it didn’t deter us from having a fun time. We had perfect weather, which always helps to add to the joy of the day. (Dog Day Festival Weekends are usually slated for spring (April) and fall (Sept/Oct), so be sure to check their calendar of events.)

Regardless of whether you have a dog or not, spending a day at the Gardens is certainly worth the trip. There are year-round activities; and if you become a member, you’ll receive extra perks, discounts and members-only events. Old Westbury Gardens is easily accessible by both Northern State Parkway and the LIE (I-495).

Let me know if you visit—or attend the next Dog Days! Emma and I will be on the lookout for you.

Doggy Day Trips: North Hempstead Beach Park

fullsizeoutput_34acBefore New York’s fourth Nor’easter hit this week (and here I thought spring arrived), I took Emma over to North Hempstead Beach Park, formerly Bar Beach. It has a special meaning for me—it’s the place where my parents met a bazillion years ago—but has become a place that I love to go with Emma since they now allow dogs!

The day that we went, it was extremely windy, but we got to enjoy a long walk back and forth on the promenade, breathe in the salty, sea air and soak in the warm sun, thanks to the cloudless blue skies. Emma and I love the cold, but the 20-degree wind chills were enough to send us home after an hour!

BarBeach2018This park is one of our year-round favorites, especially in cooler months when there aren’t many people there—and we don’t have to worry about the scorching weather. But because it’s right there on the water, there’s not a lot of shade on the promenade. So, if you go in warmer months, be sure to go first thing in the morning or at dusk so the concrete is cooler for your dog’s paws. They have a shaded picnic area, which can be fun in warmer months; but it does get crowded.

The park is free to enter in the off-season, and a season pass (Memorial Day through Labor Day) will cost you $50.

When Your Dog’s Paws Smell Like Corn Chips

img_7340.jpgI was on the phone recently with a friend who mentioned that, although she’d just given her dog a bath, his paws smelled like Fritos! I knew all too well what she was talking about. From time to time, Emma gets that same smell.

The corn chips (or Fritos) smell has to do with yeast and bacteria on your dog’s paws. Pseudomonas or proteus are types of natural bacteria that make their way into the crevices of the paws. This happens when you take your dog outside and whatever is on the street or grass gets stuck on the paws. Like humans, dogs sweat. But they sweat through their paws. So, sometimes when they sweat, the moisture becomes trapped in the fuzz between their foot pads, causing the smell.

To keep the smell to a minimum, be sure to trim the fuzz between your dog’s foot pads, then clean and dry properly. Whenever you come in from outside, wipe your dog’s paws thoroughly. I always keep a pack of paw wipes at the door, so before I let Emma back in the house, she gets her paws (and bum) wiped.

Keep in mind, dogs lick their paws. It’s their way of cleaning themselves. But if you notice the excessive chewing, licking and nibbling, there may be something else going on with your fur baby. He or she might actually be allergic to something and you may want to schedule a visit to the vet.

Healthy Treats for Your Dog

When Emma first came into the family, she was a tiny four-pound bundle of white fluff. I wanted to be a good pet-parent and feed her a healthy diet, so she would live longer. But I didn’t want this to be limited to just her meals; I wanted her to have healthy snacks, as well.

Considering I’m a healthy eater, I’ve made sure my dog is, too. Emma does not get any “junk food,” table scraps (that weren’t prepared with her in mind – no salt, additives, etc.) or dairy (dairy is actually not good for some dogs). She eats a healthy diet of grain-free kibble with a dollop of grain-free soft food. And, if she gets any extra treats, I make sure to reduce her meals slightly so that she maintains her weight and doesn’t gain. (The more overweight your dog is, the shorter their lifespan.)

While she does enjoy her “people food” treats, she does get her usual chewy provided by the vet to help keep tartar at bay and her teeth strong.

Here are some of Emma’s favorite goodies, which happen to be super healthy—and which you can share with your fur baby, too.

Fruit: Since Emma has nixed bananas from her diet, she does love a good apple. Whenever I have one as a snack, I cut up a slice for her so we can enjoy it together. Apples have antioxidants and are loaded with vitamin C. In the summer, we switch to watermelon (seedless, of course), which has plenty of lycopene, vitamins A, B-6 and C.

Veggies: I’m a veggie lover (as I don’t eat meat), and so, I share my love of veggies with Emma. She loves roasted broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and Brussels sprouts, which have plenty of vitamins A, B1, B6 and K, folate, fiber and potassium. Sweet potatoes are the bomb! They’re a good source of vitamins A, B-6, C and E, not to mention calcium and iron.

Peanut Butter: I’ve never met a dog who doesn’t love peanut butter. Peanut butter is a good source of protein and has vitamins B and E and niacin. I buy the no-sugar, no-salt added, all natural kind. This is the best for dogs. And, a little goes a long way. A small dollop will keep Emma licking her chops for ages.

Salmon: This is one of the best things you can feed your dog as it is full of Omega-3 fatty acids. It acts as an anti-inflammatory and is good to keep the joints supple. When Emma goes to agility class, dried salmon treats are her reward. So even if she doesn’t get grilled salmon (yes, I make her grilled salmon on Sundays), she still gets the benefits from the treats.

What does your dog like to eat?

5 Winter Safety Tips for Dog Owners

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I’m sure I’m not the only pet parent whose dog loves the outdoors and the snow. It seems, the colder it gets, the longer Emma wants to stay out. And when it snows, it takes forever to get her back inside. If it were up to her, she’d dive through all the mounds of snow until it melts.

Thankfully, I’ve picked up some helpful tips over the years to keep her safe and warm during the coldest season of the year. Hope these will help you, too.

Protect the Paws

Ice melt and rock salt are irritants and can burn the paw pads, so the best thing to do is cover your dog’s paws with booties or a protective salve before heading out. Once back inside, be sure to have a towel handy to wipe off excess snow or salt. If you need to use an ice-melter on your own driveway or walkway, please be sure to choose one that is pet-friendly.

Limit Outdoor Time

To avoid frostbite, limit time spent outdoors. Instead of longer walks, go out several times a day in shorter spurts. It’ll give your fur baby something to look forward to. And, please, don’t leave your dog outside for extended periods of time. I’ve seen too many stories on the news where dogs are left outside in the cold—without food, water or shelter—and they end up with frostbite, or worse, dying. If it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your dog. Be smart.

IMG_0479Bundle Up

Depending on the temperature, I have several different outerwear options for Emma. From sweaters in the fall, to insulated coats in winter, I always make sure she is protected from the elements. I wouldn’t like to be outside without a coat in the extreme cold, so why would I let her?

Eat Up

Since dogs burn extra energy trying to stay warm, it might be a good idea to give her a little extra food at mealtime. Not too much, mind you. You don’t want your pup gaining a lot weight that she will have a hard time taking off when the weather gets warmer. Also, don’t forget to provide fresh water. This will help keep dogs hydrated and their skin less dry and flaky.

Join a Gym

Yes, they are such things as doggy gyms! Emma goes to one and it’s a great place to be when the weather outside is rotten. Indoors, she can run around, jump through hoops, zip through tunnels, and even swim! Does your neighborhood have a canine fitness center? If so, give it a try. Your dog will love it. Mine does!

How To Choose the Right Dog For Your Lifestyle

My little WestieSo, you want a dog. Great! Being a pet parent is very rewarding. But it is also a big responsibility. There are factors to consider even before you walk into the shelter or choose a breeder to pick your pup.

Before bringing home your new fur baby, please do some research on which breed and/or size of dog would be best for you. Too often, people adopt a dog that doesn’t fit with their current lifestyle, and the dog ends up having adjustment issues (i.e. behavioral) or ends up getting re-homed because it can’t be trained.

When I first considered getting a dog, I gave a lot of thought about how my life would change: Who would she stay with when I went away? Did I have enough room in my small house? How could I exercise her? Did I need a dog-sitter? How long could she be left alone? Overall, I needed to make sure that the dog would fit into my lifestyle.

emmapuppyI did plenty of research on different breeds and sizes of dogs, I even went to several shelters, but as it turned out, I ended up with my first choice, a Westie (West Highland White Terrier). Westies are known for being stubborn (I can certainly attest to that!), energetic (they never slow down), and easily trainable (when they’re not being stubborn!).

Thankfully, I have been blessed with my little Westie over the years. She is a bundle of love that brings joy into my life every day. And she is certainly worth all the time and energy I continue to spend on caring for her.

Here are some things to consider that helped me find my forever fur baby that may help you:

How Much Time Do You Have?

As in, how much time do you have to devote to caring for and training your new dog? While puppies require a lot more attention than adult dogs, bringing home either will demand much of your time.

For the first few weeks, be sure you are home so you can help get her adjusted to the house. If you get a puppy that isn’t trained yet, you’ll need to start potty training on day 2 (yes, that’s right. Don’t wait!), otherwise, your house will be messy and smelly in no time.

But potty training isn’t where it stops. Dogs must be trained to understand the basics: sit, stay, come, wait, etc., otherwise, you’re setting yourself up for an unruly dog that people don’t want to approach or that won’t play well with other dogs. Buy books on training, hire a local dog trainer, go to a canine fitness center, take online courses, do whatever you have to do, but please, train your dog!

Tip: If you’re a workaholic, for the sake and sanity of the dog, please reconsider. Dogs need love, attention and lots of care. If they are left alone for too many hours, they can become depressed—or worse, destructive to the house due to separation anxiety.

Yes, Size Matters

If you live in a small studio apartment, it would not be wise to adopt a dog that can grow to over 100 lbs (a German shepherd, for example). Ideally, the smaller the space, the smaller the dog. In the home, dogs need space to move around and play; and if your dog is too large to spread out or get a quick lap around the living room, chances are, you’ll need a bigger place!

emmabythejumpsExercise is Essential

Are you someone who likes to go for long walks or runs every day or are you a homebody? Dogs need exercise, and lots of it! The worst thing you can do is not exercise your dog, which can lead to other issues (but that’s a story for another post).

Westies are terriers. That means, they are very active. I knew this when I got her. So, every day, I take Emma out for three long walks, each walk being at least one to one and a half miles. In addition to that, I take her to agility classes so she gets to exercise all her muscles and can socialize with other dogs.

Healthy Diet = Healthy Dog

Exercise and diet go hand-in-hand, whether you’re human or canine. And since I’m a healthy eater, so is Emma. While I am careful of what I feed her (grain-free, human-grade ingredients), I make sure I don’t overfeed her with extra treats (only when Grandpa comes to visit does she get extra) or table scraps (never!). An overweight dog, is an unhealthy dog.

When I first took Emma in for evaluation at the canine gym where she goes to agility, the owner of the school told me she was “overweight” and I could be shortening her life by two years (yes, two years!) if she remained this size. Emma is a small dog. The ideal weight for her breed (female) is 14-16 lbs. She was over 18 lbs at this time! I totally freaked out. I want my fur baby around forever!

What did I do? Well, I immediately put her on a crash-diet (no treats, portion control and more veggies!) and enrolled her into agility classes. The weight came off—and has stayed off! She is a healthy 15.5 lbs, and continues to get plenty of exercise, eat a healthy diet, and even get special salmon dinners once a week!

How Much is This Going to Cost Me?

A lot. No matter what breed or size dog you bring home, be prepared to spend a bundle on your pup, especially during that first year of new and changing diets, necessary supplies (crates, beds, travel carriers, etc.), toys, and, of course, vet bills. All this can add up.

Adding a fur-baby to your family can be one of the most rewarding things you can do. These creatures aren’t just your pets—they become part of the family and should be treated as such.