Pet Advice: Aquariums, Bird Pups, and Safety Tips for the 4th of July

8 Tips to Keep Your Pets Safe This Independence Day

July 4 is no "blast" for pets.

The Arizona Animal Welfare League shares some tips to help pet owners have a safe Independence Day holiday:

•Resist the urge to take pets to Independence Day festivities. Instead, keep them safe from the noise in a quiet, sheltered and escape-proof area inside your home.

•Never leave pets outside unattended, even in a fenced yard or on a chain. In their fear, pets who normally wouldn't leave the yard may escape and become lost, or become entangled in their chain, risking injury or death.

•Leave a television or radio playing at normal volume to keep your pet company while you're attending picnics, parades, and other celebrations. Some animals can become destructive when frightened, so remove any items your pet could destroy or that would be harmful to your pet if chewed.

•Never use fireworks around pets. Exposure to lit fireworks can result in severe burns and trauma to the face and paws of curious pets.

•Even unused fireworks can pose a danger. Many types contain potentially toxic substances, including potassium nitrate, arsenic and other heavy metals.

•Make sure your pets have a microchip and are wearing identification tags so that if they do become lost, they can be returned promptly. Animals found running at-large should be taken to Maricopa Animal Care and Control, where they will have the best chance of being reunited with their owners.

•Do not leave your pet in the car. With only hot air to breathe inside a car, your pet can suffer serious health effects—even death—in a few short minutes. Partially opened windows do not provide sufficient air, but they do provide an opportunity for your pet to be stolen.

•Never leave alcoholic drinks unattended where pets can reach them. Alcoholic beverages have the potential to poison pets. If ingested, the animal could become very intoxicated and weak, severely depressed or could go into a coma. Death from respiratory failure is also possible.

Eukanuba Debuts Dog-Park Locator

Procter & Gamble pet food brand Eukanuba is offering an iPhone application that gives pooch owners the location of the nearest dog parks.

The free application can be downloaded here. By tapping the “Locate Me” feature, users can find the five dog parks nearest to their location, plus a map and driving directions, according to a news release. The application will work on all iPhone and iPod Touch models.

The pet food maker is also asking users to add their favorite dog parks to its database, which it will update every two to three weeks.

Eukanuba is part of Cincinnati-based P&G’s (NYSE: PG) Procter & Gamble Pet Care unit. P&G announced in May that it is moving the operation, which includes the Iams pet food brand, from Vandalia, north of Dayton, to the Mason Business Center, beginning in early October.

Pets Q&A: Should Dogs be Allowed to Poke Heads Out Windows of Moving Cars?

Q: I've been taking my new puppy with me in my car to get him used to it. He really likes hanging his head out of the window while I drive. Is it OK to let him do it?

A: For most dogs, a car ride with their favorite human with their head hung out the window seems to be one of their favorite activities. From a health perspective, it's not the safest way for your puppy to join you in your travels.

Taking your puppy for car rides, starting with short ones, is a great way to get him used to traveling and to help prevent him from developing motion sickness. Proper restraint is as important for our pets' safety as it is for our own. Many options are available depending on the length of the trip and the size of the pet.

For cats and small dogs, especially on longer trips, a pet carrier is the best choice. Get a size appropriate for the pet and provide material for a comfy bed. For larger dogs, harnesses are available that attach to the vehicle's seat belt. For rides in SUVs, your pet might enjoy the ample space and view in the back compartment. Grates are available to keep the back seat doggies from hopping over the seat into the front.

If your pet is already in the habit of riding unrestrained, take some minimal precautions by only rolling down the window a few inches (with power windows, use the child lock feature to deactivate the switch so a stray paw doesn't roll the window down. Encourage them to sit or lie down and never let them ride in your lap while driving.

As always, avoid leaving pets in vehicles during the heat of summer. The temperature in a closed car can quickly reach dangerous levels even on a mild day.
Roger Smith is a veterinarian at Animal Medical Center.

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Housekeeping: Advice I’m Not Qualified to Give
By Gina Spadafori -

A co-worker comes over to my desk and asks if he can ask a pet question. This happens all the time, of course, so I nod.

He tells me that his wife left for a weekend to stay with a friend, and when she got there the house smelled like cat pee. The friend has “too many cats” (four, according to my co-worker), and asks the best way to let the friend know that her house smells.

“She knows,” I told him. And then I asked if her cats seemed ill-cared-for, or if she was. Was the house, er, dangerous to her health or the cats? No, he said. But the house still smelled. “How do we tell her?”

I told him not to, and to book a hotel the next trip.

Now, I’m a little sensitive on this subject. I have a lot of pets, and I’m not that diligent a house-keeper in any way. I have a cleaning service come over a couple times a month, and if I have a big event — like Christmas dinner — I work on the house and have the house-keepers help even more. When I’m really, really busy — like on a book deadline — things can get pretty bad. I develop a sort of tunnel vision, and I just don’t notice the fur-bunnies under the furniture until the situation changes. Things have gotten pretty bad at times, to be bluntly honest.

When the pressure eases, I get busy. I clean what I can and pay for help to catch up with the rest. I send all the laundry out to be done at once, even though I have a washer-dryer. I have had people clean up my yard and organize my garage. My rational: My time is more productively spent writing (which I’m good at, like and make money at) than cleaning (which I’m bad at, hate and takes too much time).

But honestly, there’s no way on God’s green earth that someone can’t tell even under the very best of conditions that I have a lot of pets. I would have to have live-in staff for that to happen, and believe me, I’m not that successful a writer (or even remotely close to it).

When people visit, I don’t offer my home for them to stay in. There’s a nice motel down the street, and I know we’ll all be more comfortable if they’re staying in it.

So that’s my story. And I told the co-worker that the friend was probably coping as best she could to the extent that the messiness of her pets bothered her. And to let it be.

He didn’t much like the advice, I could tell, and I didn’t really know what to say to fix that. And after all, I’m not in the business of giving advice for people about people — just for people about animals. And he didn’t seem to think this friend was looking for advice at all.

Yes, I know people who have pets and a scrupulously clean home. Christie usually does, for one, and the nice couple from whom I got Clara and Ilario have upwards of a dozen indoor cats and a house as neat as a pin with no smell at all. But I also know people like me, for whom “house beautiful” isn’t as high a priority as meeting a deadline, reading a book, training the dogs or heading for a hike along the river parkway.

So I’m throwing it open: How clean is your house? How much does pet smell/fur bother you and at what point? What do you do when friends or relatives are critical (silently or directly)?

And when would you say something to a friend?

Cat Training Tips - How to Train Your Cat
So That it Does Not Scratch Your Furniture
By Paul Kramer

It is not practical to allow your cat access to one chair and forbid access to another. She will not understand the difference between the two chairs and you will end up with a nervous and unhappy cat. However, if you do not want her to scratch your furniture, there are several methods of training.

If you are in the room, keep a water gun or spray bottle full of water at hand and squirt her the moment she starts to scratch. If she likes the water (yes, some cats do) then throw a rolled up newspaper or a bunch of keys in the floor near her.

The loud sound of the magazine or keys landing, as well as the surprise, should stop her scratching. Be sure your aim is good, and remember, the objective is to frighten her away, not to injure her.

These methods are good as long as you are awake and in the room. For those other times, try confining her to a room or pen so she cannot scratch the furniture. If this does not appeal to you, then tape orange peel to those areas where she likes to scratch.

Or cover her favorite scratching areas with clear heavy plastic, available at pet stores. Another suggestion is to attach a small scratching post to either end of the couch or chair. Do not try the trick of inflating rubber balloons and taping them to furniture to make certain areas off limits to her.

The balloons are dangerous and even fatal, when punctured and the remnants inhaled by her. To discourage your cat from scratching the furniture, attach orange peel to it, she will hate the smell and quickly back away.

Although a cat flap is a good way to allow your cat access, it is also an invitation to neighboring cats. To avoid this, you can buy an electronic or magnetized cat flap than can be activated only by a special collar worn by your cat.

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Hints From Heloise: Pet Travel Bag

Dear Heloise: We travel quite a bit and either take our dog, Bo, with us or have him stay with a family member. He has his own travel bag that stays filled with a toy, blanket, small bed, leash, and medical and veterinary-clinic information.

All I have to do is add enough food and treats for the duration of our stay. When he sees his bag, Bo knows he is going somewhere. As we leave the house for a trip, everyone has his own travel bag, including Bo. — Stella R., Colorado

We have a doggie bag for our Cabbie, too. She knows if she sees it, she's going to the coast or the "spa." — Heloise

Dear Heloise: I read in your column about the person seeking a solution to keep birdseed from falling on the ground and all the weeds springing up underneath the feeder. I dealt with this problem for years, as I love to watch all the pretty birds that come to feed.

We purchased a resin plant plate that goes under potted plants and is larger than the feeder. My husband, being very handy with projects, inserted a screw in the middle of the plant water catcher and attached it to the feeder's post, and then the feeder also was attached to the middle of the plant plate. Problem solved! — Shirley A. Dudley, Palmdale, Calif.

Dear Readers: When you select a new collar for your pet, get one that expands as your pet grows. Make it a point to check the fit periodically. Slip two fingers between the neck and the collar. If you can't get two fingers in, you need to enlarge the collar or buy a bigger one. — Heloise

Dear Readers: There is an easy way to remove hard-water deposits on your pet's drinking bowl. Just heat white or apple-cider vinegar, pour it into the bowl and watch the deposits bubble off! Scrub with a brush and rinse well. — Heloise

Dear Heloise: Here is a hint we just stumbled upon. We had mallard ducks landing every day and spending time in our swimming pool and yard. Just by accident, our granddaughter left her small blow-up ball that she was playing with in the pool. The ball floats around in the pool with the wind currents. This seems to have discouraged the ducks from returning to our pool and yard. — Rick, Tustin, Calif.

Send a great hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, TX 78279-5000, e-mail it to or fax it to 210-HELOISE.

The Great Outdoors: Training Bird Pups
Takes Skill, Patience

An ominous storm cell brewed to the west of Jim White’s metal barn, the dark clouds pushing much appreciated zephyrs of cool air across our backs as we sat in folding chairs, overlooking the countryside. On our right were a pair of inquisitive horses, and to our left sat a small assembly of bird dogs with eyes and ears fixed intently on me, the loud stranger who had invaded their peaceful morning domain.

White calls southern Warren County home but is known far and wide as a premier bird dog trainer and field trial judge, a reputation earned through several decades of producing top-end dogs for both the trial circuit and his own hunting pleasure.

This sultry morning, I sought advice from Jim about his system for starting dogs off on the right foot. As it turned out, Jim’s effective and gentle approach to training pups has much more to do with patience and a nurturing spirit than by-the-book drills and the complicated regimens sometimes associated with sporting dogs.

“I think training starts as soon as the pups are born - pups need to be fooled with every day,” he said.

Jim advises a great deal of human contact to build a bond: “Get your hands on them, play with them, get them used to their name and it will all help you down the road.”

Although most dogs that fall under Jim’s tutelage go on to a career of competition in field trials all over the nation, the initial training is the same no matter if a particular pup is going to be running at the Ames Plantation or the back 40.

“I try to get them into wild birds as much as possible because the pups cannot catch the wild birds and this teaches them how to hunt, where to hunt and how to find objectives,” he said.

Among the most essential elements in training a bird pup is when the puppy finally discovers he cannot catch his quarry and would rather stand perfectly still pointing the quail instead of unsuccessfully pouncing and flushing the bird as he has been doing before. Much like the cartoons, where a light bulb switches on overhead, this is an important time when pointing dogs learn that hunting is a team effort with man.

When does this happen? Well, it depends.

“It is very unusual, but I’ve had bird dogs on preserve hunts at 5 months old,” Jim said. “A lot of people say one year, but I don’t think there is an exact date.”

Jim notes that the dog should dictate the pace and progression of his training - much like athletes, sporting dogs develop at different rates. Amateur trainers often fall victim to overloading a pup and becoming overanxious for results, based on generic timelines from publications or videos. Jim approaches each dog as a separate entity.

“It is individual to each dog as to when the right time comes for that dog to be broke,” he said.

“Broke” is a term used to describe a trained dog, and the breaking process includes in-depth methods which will teach the dog his “manners” in the field.

In the next segment, we’ll explore further what goes on during a bird pup’s training after this important period when he is introduced to birds, human interaction and the wonderful outdoor arena where he will perform his duties for years.

Before the lightning began to crash and colossal rain drops fell, Jim imparted a bit of simple, yet often understated wisdom from his lifetime of living in the company of bird dogs: “Training is a process all through a dog’s life, it doesn’t just begin and end.”

— Geordon T. Howell is outdoors columnist for the Daily News. He may be reached by e-mailing

Gary Bogue: Raccoons Do NOT Make Good Pets
By Gary Bogue - Contra Costa Times

It's hot today. Do you know where your pets are?

Dear Gary:

I recently have spoken to two people who have found baby raccoons. One is trying to capture them to take them to a pound or a place like the Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek. The other caught one that he intends to keep as a pet.

What are your thoughts on keeping a baby raccoon as a pet?

Fred C., El Sobrante

Dear Fred:

If you find what you think is an orphan wild animal, like a baby raccoon, it's always best to call the Lindsay Wildlife Museum (925-935-1978) or a wildlife rescue center near you if it's closer "... BEFORE you take it to them, to make sure you are doing the right thing.

Some wild animal babies (especially fawns and baby jackrabbits) are often left alone for long periods while parent animals are off foraging for food. The wildlife center will question you and evaluate the situation and let you know if you need to bring the animal to them.

It is NOT a good thing to catch young raccoons and keep them as pets.

For one, it is against the law to keep raccoons as pets in California. They don't make good pets and are also potentially dangerous.

There's always the possibility of some disease (like rabies). And I know of one case where a young "pet" raccoon climbed up a young girl's dress to try to reach an ice cream cone she was eating. As the raccoon grabbed frantically for the ice cream, one of the girl's ears was sliced halfway off by the raccoon's sharp claws.

Wild animals, even "tame" ones, are still wild animals. Their actions and reactions are not those of a domestic dog or cat.

Look, but don't touch.

Ethical to lie to a dog?

Responses to "Is it ethical to lie to a dog?" in Thursday's column:

I lie to my dog Ruby every day. We have two rescued black labs. The older of the two (Ruby) is not aging well but every day I tell her she is a pretty girl, which is a big lie. Honestly, she is one ugly dog.

She can't go on long walks anymore so when we take the younger one (Molly) for a walk; we either sneak out when Ruby isn't looking or we tell Ruby that Molly is going to the vet. I think it is OK to lie to your dogs if it spares their feelings. (Jeanne Krieg, in cyberspace)

Of course it is ethical to lie to a dog if you do so because you don't want to hurt their feelings. (Sisulmom in cyberspace)

n For humans, lying is never ethical ("do unto otters as otters would do unto you"); however, animal ethics are a bit different. For example: The King of the Beasts, who is in charge of all animals, has a name — LION — that suggests that all animals are lie-able.

I knew that the Degree in Philosophy would come in handy some day. (Bob Pitta, Rio Vista)

Animal music lovers

For many years we had a cat, Agnes, who liked to sing along when I chanted bar mitzvah portions with my students.

She only sang along when we chanted the sections in minor mode, not the ones in major.

I would have to lock her in a bedroom when I needed to make a tape for students to practice with, or they would have meowing to chant along with every time!

It was always a mystery how she could differentiate between major and minor, as I'd had many human students who couldn't tell the difference.

Agnes had no interest in singing other kinds of music with us, either, such as folk songs or opera. She was just partial to the sections from the Prophets. (Beth Wilson, Livermore)

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Pet Birds and Asthma Attacks - 5 Ways to Avoid
Asthma Attacks in Spite of Your Pet Bird
By Debbie Davis

If you own a bird, you probably didn't count on developing a sensitivity to the feathers, dander and dust that would aggravate your asthma. But now that you have totally bonded with your bird, and giving it up is just not an option, here are 5 ways that you can keep your asthma under control and still enjoy your bird.

1. Get a Spouse or Friend to Help with Cleaning-If you find that your asthma flares up when you do the necessary cleaning that comes with owning a bird; ask your spouse or a friend to help. This would make a great part time job for a responsible high school or college student.

2. Wear a Mask-If you find you must do the cleaning, wear a mask to cut down on the number of particles to which you are exposed. Cleaning frequently will lessen the amount of particles that need to be cleared away. Using a damp cloth and mop rather than sweeping or dusting will keep the air cleaner while you work.

3. Use a HEPA Vacuum-Once particles have fallen out of the air onto the furniture, floors, and other surfaces a high efficiency particle arresting vacuum can take the particles off the floor and trap them so they are not sent back into the air. This is healthier for you and your birds.

4. Bathe Your Bird-How much your bird will enjoy a bath depends on the type of bird you have, but all birds need to be given an opportunity to bathe. Some prefer a clean bowl of water in the cage, and others would be adventurous enough to share a shower with you if a shower perch for birds was installed. Regular bathing keeps feathers and skin in good condition, and reduces dander considerably. Check with your avian vet for best frequency for our particular bird and before deciding to use anything for bathing other than water. Taking a shower together is another opportunity for you and your bird to bond, and it will help both of you feel better.

5. Filter the Air Continuously-Removing the fine particulates of dander, dust, and feathers from the air before they have a chance to clog your bird's air passages and cause infection and before they can get into your lungs and cause you to have an asthma attack is a proactive way to maintain a clean bird room and a healthy home. Using a purifier with HEPA technology will insure that you are removing the most airborne pollutants from the air.

An excellent HEPA air purifier to remove airborne pollutants from your bird's air is offered by the Bird Dander Purifier See it now at

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How Do I Make My Aquarium Eco-Friendly?
By Nina Shen Rastogi -

Keep it small and track your fish.

What's the greenest way to keep a home aquarium? I love tropical fish, but I feel bad about running the filters and lights for so many hours.

The Lantern has always had a soft spot for aquariums—as a kid, she sat through a lot of long, boring dinner parties at Chinese restaurants, where the massive fish tanks were reliable sources of entertainment. But not all aquariums are created equal when it comes to sustainability. There are the energy concerns you cite, but where your fish come from is also a major issue—as is what you do with your pets at the end of your relationship.

Energy usage for aquariums can vary widely, depending on the kind of setup you have. According to a 1997 report from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a small freshwater aquarium—say, 10 gallons in size—might use as little as 90 to 120 kilowatt-hours a year to run its lights, filters, and aerators. That's about as much as a typical coffeemaker uses in a year—hardly a major energy suck in the grand scheme of things.

As you go up in size, your electricity costs will naturally rise. A big, 55-gallon freshwater tank might use between 280 and 400 kilowatt-hours annually. Adding in a lot of plants also increases your aquarium's appetite, since you'll need heavier-duty lighting to keep those plants alive. And generally speaking, saltwater tanks will use more energy than freshwater ones, due to an increased need for pumps and powerheads to create water currents; marine aquariums can pull between 230 kilowatt-hours a year for a small tank to almost 800 for a large tank.

And those big coral tanks the Lantern loved in her younger days at Hong Fu? They probably drew a whopping amount of energy—a 180-gallon reef tank requires upward of 6,000 kilowatt-hours a year. (Or at least it did 12 years ago.) With that kind of electricity usage, you could power four or five refrigerators.

Since the Berkeley lab report came out, there have been a few advances in aquarium equipment efficiency. You can shave off a few kilowatt-hours by using LED lights, for example, and there are newer, energy-saving pumps and ballasts on the market. One equipment salesperson the Lantern spoke with estimated that, overall, the amount of electricity used by aquariums today might be about 25 percent lower than in 1997.

Aquarium keeping can also have hidden environmental costs upstream. In some parts of Southeast Asia, where the vast majority of the world's saltwater "ornamental" organisms come from, fish are caught using squirt bottles filled with cyanide, which stuns the animals and makes them easier to extract from coral reefs. But the chemical can also damage the corals, as well as other organisms living in the reefs—not to mention weakening the fish so that fewer of them survive transport. (Keeping fish healthy isn't just an animal-rights issue, after all, it's also an ecological concern. The fewer animals that survive the process, the more intensive the harvesting has to be.) When buying wild-caught fish, look for those that have been captured with hand nets rather than chemicals.

Overfishing can also be a concern with certain species, such as the Banggai cardinalfish. Only found in a few pockets off the coast of Indonesia, these silvery, black-striped fish have been labeled an endangered species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, largely due to overzealous harvesting for the aquarium trade.

Sustainable collection is less of an issue with freshwater aquarium species, since 90 percent of them are farm-raised. (Saltwater fish are much harder to breed in captivity— as of six years ago, when the U.N.'s environmental office came out with an extensive report on the aquarium trade, less than 10 percent of marine ornamental species were capable of being farm-cultured.) Captive breeding helps reduce pressure on wild animal populations, but, as many conservationists argue, maintaining a sustainable trade in wild-caught organisms—both freshwater and marine—can be an environmentally friendly strategy as well, if it provides economic incentives for fishermen to keep their local ecosystems healthy.

Before you head to the pet store, then, do some homework to find out where your fish come from. If you're lucky enough to live near one of the four Marine Aquarium Council-certified retailers in the United States—located in Florida, Illinois, Michigan, and New Jersey—you can purchase saltwater fish that have been verified to be sustainably collected or cultured and then properly handled throughout the supply chain. (In the coming months, a new licensing program should increase the number of stores where you can buy MAC-approved fish.) You should also check out Reef Protection International's Reef Fish Guide, which assesses popular marine species based on four criteria: survivability in home aquaria, abundance in the wild, availability and potential for captive breeding, and collection methods used. Local hobbyist groups can also be great sources of information—and, occasionally, homebred pets.

Finally, if you have kids in the house, make sure they don't harbor any Finding Nemo fantasies. Releasing non-native species into the wild can cause all kinds of ecological problems, particularly if those species become established populations. If you find yourself needing to get rid of a pet fish, try to find a new home for it or see if your local pet store will take it. If you must send your fish to sleep with its brothers, just don't do it literally—there are much more humane ways to euthanize your pet than dumping it in a pond or, God forbid, flushing it down a toilet.

Better yet, avoid getting yourself into that situation in the first place: Make sure you only buy fish that won't get too big for your aquarium and won't start turf wars with their tank-mates. As with anything else you might purchase, the greenest fish is going to be the one you don't have to replace.

Veterinary Surgeon Trampled to Death by
Cows While Protecting Dogs
By Paul Stokes -

A veterinary surgeon was trampled to death by a herd of cows on the Pennine Way in North Yorkshire while apparently trying to protect her two dogs.

The 49 year-old single woman was walking along a public right of way with her pets just outside Gayle, near Hawes.

She was suddenly surrounded by the dairy cattle which were with their calves and became trapped against a dry stone wall topped by wire fencing.

A couple staying in a holiday cottage at nearby Gaudy House Farm heard an bellowing noise from the cows in the field.

The husband, from Lancashire, who did not wish to be named, said: "A little time before, my wife had seen a woman with two dogs which were off the lead walking up the side of the field. She was carrying a stick.

"We thought nothing of it until we heard this noise then I thought something was not right. I looked out of the window and saw several cows crowded in one area. They were pawing the ground.

"I went outside and picked up a wooden post that was nearby and went over to the cows and shooed them away.

"As soon as I saw the woman, I knew something was seriously wrong. Her head was bent to an unnatural angle. I checked her vital signs, but there was no pulse."

He called an ambulance which arrived within ten minutes, but she was pronounced dead at the scene.

The farmer who owned the livestock said that it was likely the cows were with their first calves of which they are very protective.

The woman, from Warrington, Cheshire, had two mobile phones on her which were taken by police to assist in identifying her.

Her name was not being released until all relatives had been informed and she is believed to have been a regular visitor to that area of Yorkshire Dales.

Police and the Health and Safety Executive are investigating the incident and a report will be prepared for the coroner.

They would like to speak to anyone who saw the woman before the incident shortly after mid-day on Sunday.

She is described as 5ft 2ins tall, slim, with short, greying hair, and dressed in a T-shirt, grey trousers tucked into her socks and walking shoes.

Her dogs were a white and brown spaniel and a small, collie-type dog, one with a white lead and one with a red lead.

They were found nearby and had been fitted with electronic chips which were scanned to help trace the name of their owner.

Sgt Jerry Perrin, of North Yorkshire Police, said: "It is a very tragic matter and has caused some shock in this little community. The advice from the National Farmer's Union for people who find themselves in that situation is to let their dogs go off the lead to run free rather than trying to protect them. The dogs will fend for themselves and most likely get out of the way."

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