Archive | February, 2016

Go Green!

Here are some tips on how to become more environmentally friendly:

Energy:

    • Change your light bulbs to fluorescent bulbs. Remember to shut off lights and electronics when they are not in use, especially overnight or when you are leaving the house.
    • Set your thermostat to two degrees cooler in the winter or two degrees warmer in the summer. A seemingly small change such as this could save tons of energy.
    • Hang your clothes to dry. Most European apartments don’t even have driers in them. Be more European.
    • Unplug appliances when not in use. For example, the coffee machine. You probably use it in the morning before work but the rest of the day it sits on the counter displaying the time.

Water:

    • Limit baths. Baths use much more water than showers do, so even though they are relaxing try to avoid taking too many baths.
    • Don’t water your lawn. Grass is meant to dry and replenish with the weather. But if you insist on watering your lawn, water it first thing in the morning or at night. Watering your lawn during the day is ineffective as it all gets evaporated.
    • Shut off water when you are not directly using it, like when you are brushing your teeth.

Waste:

    • Ditch plastic bags once and for all! If you are already using reusable bags, start paying attention to the packaging to some of your favorite food items or products. Go to places where you can buy items in bulk rather than buying it in a plastic container.
    • Donate items you don’t need anymore. Sometimes it is easy to assume no one needs your old junk, but donating it to second hand stores helps get the items to people in need and keeps it out of landfills. Or sometimes people can get crafty with “junk” and make something beautiful from it, you never know.
    • Recycle old cell phones, ink cartridges, and batteries. These items contain toxic substances and need to be disposed of properly. Many places offer free recycling programs for these items.
    • We all love our Dunkins, so invest in their reusable cups for your morning iced coffee and help reduce the amount of waste in landfills. Most coffee places are more than happy to make your drink in a reusable cup. Some places even offer a small discount for doing so.
    • Ditch those Keurigs for a regular coffee make with reusable coffee filters, or purchase a reusable K-cup filter for coffee grounds. K-cups are terrible for the environment, even the inventor himself says so!

Carbon Emissions:

    • Use cruise control when driving along the highway. It helps save gas and will get you better gas mileage!
    • Buy local produce whenever you can. Buying local products reduces the number of items getting shipped by tractor-trailers.
    • Use natural lawn fertilizers and weed killers.
    • Resist the urge to use ice melter. These products go directly into the environment.

 

For more tips on how to be more environmentally friendly, visit this site and share it with your friends and family.

 

Dog Toys

Toys are important for mental and physical stimulation. Many dogs keep themselves well entertained with toys and some need a little more encouragement. You may think toys are pointless because your dog never interacts with them, or will tear them apart in a minute then never go back to it, but there are plenty of ways to keep your dog interested in their toys.

One element to keeping your dog interested in toys is novelty. Dogs love investigating new things and can get bored easily. This does not mean that you need to continuously buy new toys; you just need to get creative. You could begin rotating your dog’s toys. Keep half of them in a closet for a week, and then swap them out. This way your dog becomes re-interested in the toys each time you bring them out and does not have constant access to them all. It also doesn’t hurt to buy them new toys every so often.

Another important element is variety. Just like you, your dog has different moods. Sometimes they may want to chew on something, sometimes they may want to chase a ball, sometimes they want to tear up something plush. Keep a variety of toy types around to fulfill different needs. Some people shy away from buying stuffed plush toys because their dogs destroy them so quickly, but I bet your dog had a GREAT time doing it. Tearing up prey-like items is a very natural part of a dog’s behavioral repertoire so giving them the opportunity is worth it, even if it’s for a short amount of time. And many dogs enjoy continuing to play with the “skins” for years afterwards. Just be sure they aren’t ingesting the toy.

Incorporate toys into your dog’s training routine for additional mental stimulation. Teach your dog names for different toys, and then ask them to retrieve toys by name. Many dogs do this naturally without formal training as long as you are consistent with what you call the toy. You can also train your dog to put the toys away. Have a basket of toys and train them to put the toys into the basket. Mentally stimulating and helpful!

Finally, interactive toys are very important! Throwing a ball to your dog is a great way to get outdoors and get them some exercise. Tug toys can be a lot of fun for some dogs. Interactive toys can also include toys they play with on their own. One example is feeder toys, such as a Kong. Stuff a Kong with some kibble and peanut butter before leaving for work. In the summer, you can even freeze the Kong for even more interaction. There are also many puzzle feeders available that requires your dog to solve cognitive challenges in order to get a food reward. Many are available at your local pet store or on Amazon! Trixie Pet Products are great.

Don’t forget your feline! Many of these same ideas can be applied to cat toys, including puzzle feeders.

 

How to be a Green Pet Owner

There are tons of ways to incorporate environmentally friendly habits into your daily routine, such as reducing water use, limiting waste, and saving energy. But have you every thought about the environmental impacts of pet ownership? Here are some helpful tips on how to be a green pet owner!

  • Pet Waste     

    It’s important to clean up after your furry friends but be mindful of what you use to clean up. Many of us use plastic bags from the grocery store, which seems like a great way to reuse a product, but unfortunately it’s not the best way to dispose of poop. We are taking a naturally biodegradable item and wrapping it in a non-biodegradable container. The best way to dispose of your pet’s waste is to use biodegradable doggy bags, brands such as Poop Bags or BioBag. They can be purchased at most pet stores or on Amazon.

  • Litter

    Clay cat litter, while making our lives easier as cat owners, can be terrible for the environment. Again we tend to dispose of it in plastic bags thrown in the garbage. There are environmentally friendly options out there. They don’t necessarily work as well or last as long as some of the clay litters, but you can rest easy knowing you are helping make the world a little greener and that they will make your pet a little healthier. Read the following article for more information about different litter options.

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/green-friendly-cat-litter-options/

  • Toys & Other Products

    There are plenty of companies out there trying to do the right thing for the environment. While we often just find ourselves buying whatever is cheapest at Petco or PetSmart, a little research into pet supply companies could go a long way. Many companies are using recycled or biodegradable material to make pet products, like toys, collars, beds, and shampoos. Follow the link to discover one company, but a simple Google search returns many more options!

    http://honestpetproducts.com/products/

  • Contain Pets

    Keeping pets in your control at all times is a great way to help the environment. Off-leash dogs tend to wander around, follow scent trails, check out rodent holes, dig in the dirt or any number of other activities. This is great fun for Fido, but it may disturb wild populations of animals so keep your dog by your side to be a little more environmentally friendly.

    Did you know domestic cats are one of the biggest threats to wild populations of birds, and other animals? They are such good predators that they can do real damage to the stability of wild populations, and they do it just for sport. They are given nice balanced meals by you, so they do not need to catch and eat these animals. Keep your cat indoors. Cats can also become leash trained so they can still enjoy the outdoors and birds won’t be at risk. If you have an outdoor cat, like a barn cat, put a bell on their collar. This gives their prey a chance to get away.

Pet Dental Health

When asked to think about what constitutes a healthy pet, we tend to think about proper diet, exercise, and veterinary care. Dental health for our pets is not something we think about very often, but we should because dental health is the most common health issue our pets face. Many dogs and cats develop dental disease by the age of four, which is why we must start integrating dental care into our regular routine. The most common dental health issue is periodontal disease. This is an infection that develops between the teeth and gums. It causes teeth to loosen, and possibly fall out. If left untreated, it can spread to other parts of the body.

Five things are important for dental health:

  1. Species-appropriate diets are important for the dental health of our pets. Proper diet helps promote healthy bacteria in the mouth.
  2. Exercising the mouth. This may sound silly to us, but allowing your pet the proper outlet to chew can be crucial in maintaining good dental health. At TGDS, we sell a variety of chews that can help prevent tartar build up.
  3. Teeth Brushing. Yes, you can brush your pet’s teeth! They may not love it, but it is important to integrate this activity into your regular routine. It is easy to train your pet to accept getting it’s teeth brushed. You can also ask your TGDS groomer to do it when they come in for their hair cut!
  4. Dental Supplements. If your dog resists having their teeth brushed, or you just don’t have time to do it very regularly, supplements can help support dental health. At TGDS, we carry TropiClean and Sentry products, including foams, gels, and water additives.
  5. Regular Dental Check Ups. Last but not least, bring your pet for regular vet visits. This will help detect dental disease early on. You can also arrange dental cleanings with your vet.

Symptoms that may indicate your dog is developing dental disease include bad breath (worse then normal), increased salivation, loss of appetite, favoring a side of the mouth, increased plaque on the teeth, and red or bleeding gums.

Visit the AVMA event page for more information.

Open Mouth Behavior

Asking your dog to open their mouth on cue can be beneficial to monitoring their oral health. It allows you the opportunity to monitor the amount of plaque on their teeth, and keep an eye out for any abnormal growths, or redness of the gums. It can also be the first step to getting your dog to allow you to brush their teeth, or to add additives like foams or gels that aid in cleaning teeth.

This behavior will require a lot of patience on your end. Opening their mouth is such an innate behavior that it takes dogs a bit of time to understand what you are rewarding them for. This trick is best taught with a clicker and shaping. If you remember, shaping is rewarding your dog for small victories until you get the desired behavior. You can also try capturing the behavior, which is when you wait for your dog to offer the behavior on their own.

For shaping, you would have your dog sit or down in front of you, prepared with yummy treats and a clicker. Then wait for your dog to make any movement with their mouth. Your end goal is for your dog to hold their mouth open, so to start, you can click for small movements of the jaw. Then gradually increase the criteria so they have to open their mouth a little more. Eventually your dog will understand what you are asking and you can pair the behavior with a cue. You can then increase the duration of having their mouth open. Once your dog can successfully hold their mouth open on cue, you can pretend to do an exam on them by beginning to touch their teeth and lips. If waiting for your dog to open their mouth on their own isn’t working, you can physically manipulate their mouth to open, but do it gently and start small. You can start that behavior with a target to the hand if you like. You can also try to lure them with a treat to get them to open their mouth.

If your dog is having a hard time learning this behavior, you can instead train your dog to accept oral exams without struggling. To do this, you will touch various parts of your dog’s mouth, click and treat. What this does is teach your dog that having people play with their mouth is a good thing, not something stressful.

World Spay Day

World Spay Day- February 23rd, 2016

There are many benefits to spaying and neutering your pet. First and foremost, you won’t be contributing to the pet overpopulation problem. Animal breeding should be left to reputable breeders who are trained in temperament, health, and who can guarantee a home for their animals. Shelters throughout the country are overrun with healthy pets that need a loveable home and 2.4 million of them get euthanized every year due to overpopulation. Don’t contribute to this problem, spay and neuter!

There are health and behavioral benefits to spaying and neutering. Spaying your female pet reduces their risk of uterine infection and breast cancer. Females that come into heat attract male animals from miles away. Females will fight to escape the house and vocalize relentlessly. It can be difficult and messy living with an un-spayed female. It is also very costly to care for a litter of puppies or kittens, much more expensive than the cost of the spay surgery. Neutered males have a completely reduced risk of developing testicular cancer. Unneutered males are more likely to run away, can become more aggressive, and develop inappropriate marking behavior.

If given the choice, it is best to spay or neuter an animal between six to nine months old. There is no health benefit to allowing a heat cycle or a first litter for females, contrary to urban myth. Adopting an older animal that has not been fixed yet does not guarantee behavior issues though! Many older, unfixed pets make wonderful companions. Luckily, most animal shelters require their animals to be fixed before they are adopted, saving you the trouble of paying for the procedure yourself.

Here in Western Massachusetts, we are lucky enough to have the Dakin Spay and Neuter Clinic in downtown Springfield. They provide low cost spay and neuter to members of our community. They also work tirelessly to guarantee that all the animals adopted out at the shelter are fixed before they go home. Dakin often helps T.J. O’Connor as well. They run a great operation, so if you are interested in helping the pet overpopulation problem, consider making a donation to the Dakin Spay and Neuter Clinic. For more information about how they help our community, visit their website at: https://www.dakinhumane.org/spay-neuter-clinic.html