Halloween Pets


Had mammoth bone in mouth

(NATIONAL) -- How long has man’s best friend been man’s best friend? Answer: a very long time.

The remains of three Paleolithic era domesticated dogs, including one with a mammoth bone in its mouth, have been unearthed at Předmostí in the Czech Republic, according to a discovery.com report here

The Paleolithic (or Palaeolithic) Age, Era or Period, is a prehistoric era distinguished by the development of the most primitive stone tools ever discovered and encompasses roughly 99% of human technological prehistory.

It extends from the earliest known use of stone tools, probably by Hominins such as Australopithecines, 2.6 million years ago, to the end of the Pleistocene around 10,000 BP (before the present era).

During the Paleolithic, humans grouped together in small societies such as bands, and subsisted by gathering plants and hunting or scavenging wild animals.

What is particularly interesting about the case of the dog with the bone is that researchers believe a human inserted the mammoth bone in the dog’s mouth after the death of the animal -- meaning it might have ritual importance.

The large bone in the dog's mouth could signify "that the dog was 'fed' to accompany the soul of the dead person, the dog’s master, on its journey into the afterlife.

Rob Losey, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Alberta, told Discovery News that the new study is "very convincing," and shows "quite clearly that the dog domestication process was underway thousands of years earlier than previously thought."

He thinks the “distinctive treatment given some of the remains also is compelling,’ and this indicates to him that a special connection had developed between people and some dogs early on -- long prior to any good evidence for dogs being buried.

The dogs that were unearthed were described as large animals with an estimated body weight of just over 77 pounds and a shoulder height of at least 2 feet.

The shape of their skulls resembles those of a Siberian husky, but these animals were larger and heavier than the modern Husky.

The dogs died when they were between 4 and 8 years old, suffering from numerous broken teeth during their lifetimes.

Based on what is known of the human culture at the site, the researchers believe these dogs were used as beasts of burden for the hauling of meat, bones and tusks from mammoth kill sites and of firewood, and to help with the transport of equipment.

World's Shortest Cat is 6 Inches Tall

SAN DIEGO -- Guinness World Records says a Munchkin Cat from California measuring only 6 inches tall has been certified as the world's Shortest Living Cat.

The record-keeping organization marked Tuesday's World Animal Day by certifying 3-year-old Fizz Girl, owned by Tiffani Kjeldergaard of Southern California, as the feline with the shortest stature in the world.

Fizz Girl is a Munchkin Cat, a breed known for its unusually short legs.

Kjeldergaard said she has bred Munchkin Cats for years, but Fizz Girl is by far the shortest.

"Fizzgirl knows that she's short, but she has no problems climbing and getting to the highest places in the house," she said.

The previous record holder, a Himalayan/Siamese mix named Itse Bitse, measured 3.75 inches tall, but later went missing.

Pet-Napper Nabbed,
Pug Puppy Reported Safe,
say Colo. Cops
By Barry Leibowitz - cbsnews.com

Pug puppy stolen from, and returned to, a Lone Tree, Colo. pet store
(Credit: KCNC) (CBS/KCNC)

LONE TREE, Colo. - A puppy pilfered from a pet store - a pug, no less - has been returned to its proper owner, and the perpetrator has been arrested, say Denver area police.

Surveillance video recorded the suspect playing with the $1,200 pug in the store in Lone Tree, Colo. Monday afternoon, reported CBS affiliate KCNC.

The woman spent some time with the dog, then left and returned to Just Pets a few hours later.

"(She) really liked her, said she was in love with her; was going to think about her and come back," store owner Lisa Stone said, according to KCNC.

Stone said the woman said she wanted to buy the dog but needed a few more minutes. Meanwhile, another customer came in to look at kittens. When Stone went to the back of the store the pug-napper dashed out the front door.

"I didn't see anybody anywhere; nobody running, no car, no nothing -- gone," Stone said.

According to the American Kennel Club, pet theft is a growing problem nationwide. Approximately 224 pets have been reported stolen in the first 7 months of this year compared with just 150 in the same period of time last year.

Starving Dog Leaps from Third-Story Window

Animal control officials in New Bedford, Mass., are seeking the public’s help in finding the owners of two pit bull-type dogs left in a vacant apartment — one of which, apparently starving, jumped out of a third-story window.

The emaciated 1-year-old female jumped from the window on Sept. 30, breaking her hip and hind leg, according to South Coast Today. She’s now being treated at Cape Cod Veterinary Specialties.

The second dog, a four-month-old puppy (pictured above), was found inside the apartment. The two were believed to have been abandoned two months ago when the tenants moved out.

The Animal Rescue League of Boston is asking for the public’s help to offset the costs associated with the dogs’ care and rehabilitation. Those interested in making a donation can call (617) 426-9170, Ext. 615, or visit www.arlboston.org/donate.

Anyone with information about the dogs or their owners is asked to contact New Bedford Animal Control Officer Emmanuel Maciel at (508) 991- 6366.

“This constitutes felony cruelty against an innocent animal,” says Lt. Alan Borgal, director of the Center for Animal Protection at the Animal Rescue League of Boston. “We are counting on the public to step forward with information to help bring the person or persons responsible to justice.”

Kidnapped Cat Back with Owner
Written by Sharon RoznBk - northwestern.com

TOWN OF CALUMET — A kidnapped cat named Slim is back home with its owners.

The tabby cat was sleeping comfortably at home on Saturday afternoon, said Linda Struye, who owns Little Farmer Orchard on Highway 151 north of Fond du Lac.

"I'm sure he's had a few rough nights. He deserves a rest," Struye said.

Literally hundreds of people contacted Struye with offers to help find her missing cat. She said if it were not for the goodness of strangers, he probably still would be missing.

"It was unbelievable. People called me from as far away as Ohio and Indiana," she said.

The story of Slim was reported Thursday when Struye noticed the friendly feline missing and knew he wasn't the kind of cat to wander away. After posting a lost cat message on the Little Farmer Facebook page, Struye got a call stating a woman with some children was spotted at the Little Farmer around 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2, carrying the struggling cat to the car.

Like something out a dimestore detective novel, Slim was traced to a residence in Ripon, but nothing could be proven and the woman wasn't talking.

Then one night, almost a week later, a vet technician who lives in Ripon spotted a strange cat in the neighborhood she thought might be Slim. When the cat still was outside Saturday morning, she contacted the Green Lake Animal Shelter.

"When I got the call about the cat, I was reasonably sure it was Slim," said shelter manager Janine Rubeck. "When his owners came to get him, he settled right into her arms and started to purr."

Struye said she doesn't know if Slim was let go by his captors or ran away. He seemed no worse for wear, just happy to be home to cuddle with his cat buddy Crispy.

She said everyone from a pizzeria employee to a retired policeman had been on the lookout for her beloved pet. There were midnight forays to scour the city of Ripon. A woman from Oshkosh offered to come down and search the area.

"The fact that people do care and put all this pressure on the family who took Slim is why I have him back. I am overwhelmed right now by the goodness of people," Struye said.

The Green Lake Shelter microchipped Slim to keep him safe in the future.

"It's great to be part of a happy ending like this. It makes everything we do worthwhile," Rubeck said.

Bo Obama Plays Soccer at the White House

Let's move! Bo Obama knows what to do.

When it comes to the First Dog, he's just a chip off the old First Family block. With mom Michelle Obama spearheading physical fitness and healthy eating in her initiatives as First Lady, Bo has an accessible role model and has been following her lead.

During a youth sports clinic at the White House on Thursday, the Portuguese water dog got onto the field and got in some playtime with a soccer ball.

The energetic pooch took the ball in his mouth at one point and even got the First Lady's trip director, Alan Fitts, to kick it around with him. That's some fancy footwork!

Jennifer Aniston Has Puppy Love
Moment Sans Justin Theroux

Jennifer Aniston was spotted solo Monday morning as she headed to Good Morning America to promote the Lifetime movieFive.

After her appearance on Good Morning America, Jennifer stopped to pet and snap a quick photo of an adorable Dachshund puppy. So cute!

The actress directed one of the five shorts, making it her directorial debut. She said of the project earlier this year:

“Our hope with Project Five is to entertain, inform and inspire dialogue, research and prevention. Otherwise, our goals are small. We want these films to move people and empower those affected by breast cancer to stand tall through this challenge, which impacts ALL of our lives, no matter who we are.”

Meanwhile, Jen’s ex Brad Pitt‘s movie Moneyball didn’t win at the box office as expected. The film was beat out by the likes of Lion King in 3D which grossed $22.1 million, while Moneyball only pulled in $20.6 million.

Jen’s appearance heading into GMA is one of the few we’ve seen without her new beau Justin Theroux by her side. The two were out and about in NYC all last week.

5 Pet Costumes for Halloween
By Kevin Letourneau - patch.com

This October, transform man's best friend into the costume contest-winning pooch he's destined to become. Here are a few ideas to get you going.

Put your paws up — October is in full swing and we are at Halloween Ground Zero. Calling all boys, ghouls, critters and creatures. Whether or you love it or leave it, this is our time. Whip out the sewing machine and paint those faces, but please, by all means, don’t leave Sparky behind. It’s his time too.

While you’re sifting through the attic trunks of costume wigs and rags, take a moment and think of what your little pal may be feeling like rocking this season. Charles Barkley? Octokitty? Bunny Madoff?

Here are 5 pet costume ideas to get you going:

Penelope's Castle — Storm the living room castle in one of Penelope's Pet Boutique's medieval line of costumes ranging from Knight, King, Queen and Dragon. We recently bumped into Wendy sporting the fire-breathing dog breath-look.

Batpup and Super-Dog — Comic book legends from the Justice Breed come home with these super powered and super cute costumes from Living With Pets. A perfect pair for a doggy play date, this team-up is sure to keep Kitty Wonder Whiskers at attention and on her paws.

Bat Wings — Go batty with flying rodent wings from Living With Pets. Bat wings make for an easy accessory for the big night. Made by a mother-daughter team in Seattle, all products sold at Living With Pets are made in America.

The Boo-cage — Okay, so the logistics of taking Polly out to play Halloween night might sound like a nightmare, but why not keep things festive by decorating the birdcage? Take an old bed sheet, cut out a couple holes and put your parakeets to sleep with a ghost costume that'd even Charlie Brown would envy.

The Red Baron
Speaking of the Peanuts gang, you could always grab your beagle a pair of goggles, drawstring hood and red scarf to pay tribute to the World War I Flying Ace like Snoopy from It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.' Doggles can be purchased at Penelope's Pet Boutique.

Halloween Pet Safety Tips
By Jasmine Viel - kionrightnow.com

SANTA CRUZ, Calif.- Halloween is a fun time for kids and many adults, but can be a frightening and stressful time for pets.

The Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter is reminding pet owners about safety during the upcoming Halloween holiday. Pets can get very startled by costumes and other unusual activities surrounding the Halloween celebrations. Constant door knocking, bell ringing, and unusual appearing guests can stress pets or spook them. This can contribute to escape or aggression.

Learn what to be aware of to protect your pet and stay safe this year!
Halloween Pet Safety Tips:

•Keep animals confined indoors on Halloween. Seclude them safely in a room away from the door and distractions.

•Walk pets before dark to avoid any altercations with costumed characters.

•House animals indoors just before and during Halloween. This protects pets from pranksters who tease, injure, steal, or harm animals.

•Make sure pets are wearing collars with current identification. Many pets get spooked and escape. Unfortunately they end up in shelters without identification.

•Keep pets away from costumed ghouls and goblins. Halloween bites are not uncommon. Even friendly animals may bite due to stress, fear, or protective aggression.

•Store and dispense candy so that it is not accessible to pets. Many treats are toxic and even lethal to pets. Especially poisonous are "sugar free" sweetener xylitol and chocolate.

•Don't dress up pets unless they love it. If you do dress them up make sure the costume isn't annoying or unsafe. Avoid restriction of movement, vision, hearing or the ability to breathe or vocalize. Costumes should not contain small dangling accessories that could be consumed or cause choking.

•Restrict your pet's access to decorations. Jack o' lanterns with candles are obvious fire hazards, but cats can also get tangled in streamers. Pets can also become ill from eating holiday decor.

Wagging Tails Pet Tips -
My Puppy Is A Chewer,
What Can I Do To Stop Him?
Written by Tracy Blackmore, WaggingTailsKennel.ca

Many new puppies chew on everything when they start teething. The need hard stuff to chew on to help break the teeth through the gums.

There are many people who figure they can just take a soup bone and toss it to the puppy and it will be ok. BUT, this is not always a good idea. A soup bone in the raw state (before cooking) can cause harmful bacteria to your puppy and can cause food poisoning.

Ok, so what if I boil it to kill the bacteria?

Boiling will kill the bacteria, BUT it also softens the bone so that it can splinter and break apart. The best thing to do with a soup bone for a puppy is to microwave it for about 2 minutes to kill the bacteria, let it cool for 15 or 20 minutes then give it to the puppy, but keep a close eye on it, once the puppy starts making ridges in the bone take it away. When a bone splinters it can get into the puppy's throat and cause bleeding, or it can cause splinters in the stomach lining and all this can cost major amounts for vet bills and possibly even death in some cases.

What about rawhide?

The problem with rawhide is that a puppy can not digest it. It is ok to give them a pressed rawhide for a few minutes, but even that is not recommended for puppies under a year old.

So what can I give my puppy to help stop the chewing?

It is recommended that "natural" treats be given to help with chewing, a good sturdy toy, rope toy, solid toy, etc. To help with the chewing phase. Another treat would be a raw carrot, depending on the size of the puppy a carrot stick or for larger puppies a whole carrot, or even some frozen green beans, the whole type. These are terrific natural treats for puppies.

What if they don't like them?

Well, there are also natural biscuits on the market that are hard and take smaller puppies a long time to get through them, the larger puppies are a little harder to help out. But with perseverance you will be able to find natural treats to help with the chewing.

Mutt-I-Grees Mania
Written by - Sharon L. Peters | Special for USA TODAY

Dogs help schools lick bullies

Model Beth Ostrosky Stern poses with puppies for the 2011 North Shore Animal Mutt-i-grees Mania in New York. Mutt-i-grees is a program from the Yale University School of the 21st Century and the Pet Savers Foundation of North Shore Animal League America. / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Sweet-natured dogs lolling about classrooms are helping take a bite out of bullying -- and other bad behaviors -- in Kansas City schools.

No More Bullies teaches, with dogs’ help, responsibility, compassion, self-control and integrity. Since its small launch five years ago, teachers and counselors have become so convinced of the positive impact on kids’ behavior that it’s booked into the 80-classroom max it can handle, and there’s a long waiting list of requests for next year.

The curriculum, developed by ex-teacher Jo Dean Hearn, humane education director at animal rescue group Wayside Waifs, is presented an hour a day for five days by trained volunteers -- accompanied by irresistible canines.

“The animals are the glue that helps the children stay focused and understand the message,” Hearn says.

Adds teacher Peggy Everist: “There’s a lot of specific language, like being fair, and using compassion or integrity, that plays out with the students throughout the year.”

A growing number of programs use animals to get kids’ attention while teaching respect and conflict resolution. Most are free; some charge nominal amounts to cover expenses; some help schools apply for grants to cover costs.

Mutt-i-grees, a program from the Yale University School of the 21st Century and the Pet Savers Foundation of North Shore Animal League America, is just barely out of the gate and is already in 900 schools in 28 states. The curriculum consists of at least 25 age-appropriate 30-minute lessons, each aimed at building social and emotional skills.

Real animals aren’t necessarily in the classroom (though some teachers invite therapy dogs, and many visit shelters). Teachers use dog-shaped hand puppets as instructional aides for younger grades; animals are the pivot point of lessons; and there’s information about keeping safe around dogs developed with dog trainer Cesar Millan, whose foundation pledged $1 million.

“It’s a highly scripted, user-friendly … blueprint teachers can adapt to their own styles and needs,” says Matia Finn-Stevenson, an expert on child development, schools and learning and director of Yale’s School of the 21st Century. She and her team have spent two years developing the Mutt-i-grees curricula now used in two grade ranges (pre-K through third grade, and grades 4 to 6). Grades 7 and 8 are in testing.

Why it works is simple, says Finn-Stevenson: “Children have an affinity for animals. When animals are the topic of their writing or reading exercises, they are engaged.”

The long-term effect on civility is indisputable, says Cheri Brown Thompson, founder of the Orangeburg, S.C.-based Healing Species, a decade-old program that uses rescued dogs in a 13-week classroom course. “Even academic scores go up,” she says, citing the group’s studies comparing standardized test scores a year before and after the class. “The teacher is spending less time refereeing, and kids settle down better.”

Thompson aims to interrupt the violence cycle she learned about in law school: Most violent offenders “were abused as children and began abusing animals when they were still children. The missing component is compassion … not receiving it and not understanding what it is. We can teach compassion. What better way than through a rescued dog that returns love even in the face of hate?”

A Cat Lover Learns How to Talk to Dogs
Jennifer Reed - patch.com

A veterinary student finds that, as Martin Buber said, "an animal's eyes have the power to speak a great language."

In my life, I have always had cats. And I have always talked to them. First, it was the playful gibberish of a six-year-old's imagination, then the secrets of teen angst and eventually, a mutual understanding in silence as my pets and I grew older together.

I tell my cats every day that I love them, that their paws smell good, that they are my best friends, the loves of my life and that I am glad, so glad, they happened to me. Never once have they said anything back, and never once have they needed to.

It goes without saying for me that cats are my passion. I am an animal lover through and through, but for cats there is a special place in my heart — a place that jumps to life every time a feline comes through the treatment door.

Dogs are a different story. I have been pining for a pup of my own for the last decade or so and I gush whenever I see random dogs on the street, but truth be told, I'm kind of afraid of them. And during my first month at the Drake Center, I realized I really don't know how to talk to dogs at all.

I spent my introductory week at the practice tip-toeing around the jumpy, slobbering creatures. I had been around dogs before, of course, but not nearly enough to know what they were thinking, or when they might bite. In an effort to look like I knew what I was doing, though, I put my fear away and jumped into the world of dogs with both feet.

I went about handling them as best I could and the only way I knew how — which, apparently, was like cats. I knew that I was a novice by the way I too-gently restrained nervous patients and the lighthearted laughter of a co-worker who told me I was letting the canine beasts boss me around, but I truly realized the error of my ways when I found myself cooing and clucking for a dog's attention.

A gentle voice and some coaxing go a long way for a cat, a creature for whom commands fall on deaf ears. As any cat's human will tell you, it's the kitty who owns you — not the other way around. Dogs, on the other hand, love and need to be told what to do.

I'm still no professional canine wrangler, but over time my timid voice grew louder, my restraining arms stronger and my commands more confident.

I thought I was finally learning how to talk to dogs, but just when I had gotten the hang of it, I found a lump on one of my favorite boarding patients.

She was a beautiful, middle-aged golden retriever with a sunny personality and unbeknownst to me, she had cancer. The lump would not be removed, I was told, because she was already dying. A few weeks, maybe, was all she had.

That day I took her out to the yard, where for the first time, we did not play ball or tug-of-war. Instead, we sat together in the shade and I began to talk. I gave her a hug and told her she was a good dog who didn't deserve her fate. I told her that it would all be okay and that I would remember her. Then I told her I loved her, to which she responded by offering me her paw.

Some may not believe that animals can understand us, but if there was ever a time I knew they did, that was it. And I found in that moment that I knew how to talk to dogs all along, because the language of love and the bond between human and animal is universal.

Jennifer Reed is a writer and animal lover who recently left her position as a Patch editor to pursue a career in the veterinary field.

Dogs Eat More Than Homework:
Mishaps Often Behind Dog Illnesses

CINCINNATI -- After turning the house upside down in search of her diamond earrings, Deb and Merrell Wreden glanced down at their 2-year-old Jack Russell Terrier and wondered simultaneously the same cringe-inducing thought: "Could Lola have swallowed them?" After all, it wasn't the first time their otherwise lovable pooch had treated various household items as her own personal buffet.

A quick trip to the vet confirmed their suspicions, and the dreaded waiting game was on. Two days later, the earrings were back in place, albeit with a little less luster than before.

The Wredens – and Lola – were lucky. As thousands of pet owners find out each year, left to their own devices, many dogs will eat just about anything.

"Not a week goes by where I don't see at least one dog that has eaten something it shouldn't have," says Dr. Jennifer Coates, a Colorado-based veterinarian and author. "Whether it's from eating people food, gobbling up something disgusting or dangerous on a walk, such as poisonous plants, or chewing on a household item, dogs can get quite sick, and the cost of treatment – sometimes including surgery – can quickly climb."

According to Dr. Coates, some of the more expensive digestive afflictions to treat, which are seen on a regular basis, are:

•Pancreatitis. Dogs can get pancreatitis by eating inappropriate foods from the table – fat drippings from meat, chicken skin or other greasy, high-fat scraps are most commonly to blame. Symptoms can range from a tummy ache to vomiting and diarrhea, and severe cases can even be fatal. Sometimes, pancreatitis develops when there is no identifiable cause. Cost of treatment: averages $535

•Foreign bodies. Puppies, in particular, are apt to consume anything lying around the house – a tennis ball, a child's rubber duck, an empty plastic soda bottle, etc. It can happen to even the most responsible pet parents, and many times surgery is required to remove the item. Cost of treatment: surgery averages $1,800

•Medications. Whether it is a medicine prescribed for Lassie – heartworm pills are tasty, and dogs will polish off the entire package when given the chance – or drugs meant for a human family member where Fido chewed through the bottle, overdoses require fast action and can mean several days of hospitalization. Cost of treatment: averages $610

•Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Some dogs – both young and old – have persistent digestive problems without a history of eating what they shouldn't, and those diagnosed with IBD typically require lifelong treatment, including a special diet and medicines. Cost of treatment: averages $540

Given how common digestive afflictions are in dogs, Dr. Coates recommends that owners consider pet insurance.

Six Ways to Save Money With Your New Dog
By Ed Avis - foxbusiness.com

The kids have been begging for a puppy for six months, and you finally decide a dog might just complete your family. Plus, the canine may teach your kids a few things about responsibility and caring for others, right? Those are good reasons to get a dog, but before you bring Spot home, take a few minutes to consider the finances.

With shots, vet care, food, toys, boarding, insurance…that pup's expenses will add up fast. Here are six tips for trimming some of Fido's bills:

Don't buy from a pet store or breeder

There are several good reasons to avoid pet stores and breeders when you're seeking a new dog, perhaps the least of which is that you'll save money. Some commercial pet businesses such as dog breeders have been accused of mistreating their animals, and sometimes pure-bred dogs - which is what pet stores and breeders typically sell - have more medical issues than mixed-breed dogs.

A much better place to get a new dog is a shelter or canine rescue organization. These non-profit organizations take in animals that are abandoned, neglected, or abused, and try to find new homes for them. Many of these animals make great pets. They're not free - you probably will need to pay for the first round of shots and other veterinary care - but they will cost substantially less than the typical pure-bed puppy at Pet Palace.

Your kids will love the animal no matter where it came from, and a mixed-breed canine will provide essentially the same dog experience as any full-breed.

Skip the vet

One of the most shocking expenses new dog owners encounter is the fat bill from the vet. An urban pet owner will be lucky to walk out of a routine visit with a bill smaller than $300. It's highly likely that you'll want your dog spayed or neutered - figure $300-$500 extra for that surgery. Yikes! That's some serious dough. There are, however, some ways around those expenses.

First, have your animal spayed or neutered at the Humane Society or other shelter - these places will do them at-cost, which is more in the range of $50 to $100. Then, get your shots through organizations such as Luv My Pet. These businesses set up mini-clinics at major pet stores and provide all the necessary immunizations for about a third of the cost of your typical vet. Search under “low cost pet immunizations” to find an organization near you.

But there's a catch: Neither the Humane Society nor Luv My Pet provides regular veterinary attention. You may decide you'd like the comfort of having a regular vet check your pet, keep its records, advise you on diet, etc. You can still visit your vet for those things, even if you do the other things at a low-cost clinic. Your vet won't be happy about it, but she'll still welcome your business.

Skip the kennel

Another chunky bill pet owners face is boarding when they take a dog-less vacation. Depending on location and services, boarding can easily run $25-$75 per night. That week at grandma's suddenly got more expensive! Dodge that expense by hiring a neighborhood kid or nearby relative to walk and feed your dog twice a day. Pay that person $10 per day and everyone will be happy.

Nutrition matters, but you can save money on food

Sure, the ads are compelling: XYZ Super Dog Food will make your dog's coat sleek and keep the pep in his step. But less expensive dog food isn't going to poison Barky - buy him the normal-level stuff and pocket the savings. But don't try to compensate by giving your dog human food - it's not good for her and it will make her into a slobbering, jumpy beggar.

Keep your dog “toys” simple

Let's be honest: Does your dog really need the $25 pet toy in his stocking at Christmas? No, he'll be delighted and amazed that everyone is home an extra day. Give him a few old socks tied into knots and his eyes will bug out with joy.

Skip obedience school

How obedient do you need your dog to be? You can easily spend $150 for a group class or $100 per hour for private classes - crazy, right? Teach your dog a few key basics, such has coming when you call her name and not jumping on visitors, and you're good to go.

Any elementary dog training book from the library can help you teach your pet those tricks and dozens more. Yeah, if you have a problem dog that barks all night, you may need to shell out for professional help. But most families are pleased when Fluffy simply sits on command.

The bottom line

Dogs can be amazing companions that improve the lives of you and your children. But they can also be money drains. Apply the above tips and those expenses won't get between you and your enjoyment of Snowball.

Ask The Vet:
Dog is Friendly with Others
- Until They Get Close
Trish King - San Francisco Chronicle

Q: My 6-year-old chow/retriever mix acts friendly toward other dogs when we are out walking on a leash. She even wags her tail, but as soon as they get close she fiercely growls and lunges at them. How can I stop this annoying behavior?

A: This is often seen as a baffling behavior, and not only by dog owners. Professionals also disagree on why some dogs are friendly until they get too close.

When dogs meet dogs appropriately, they approach the last few feet fairly slowly, arcing their body and wagging their tails in wide sweeping motions to show goodwill. Generally, they sniff the other dog's neck, then hindquarters, and then move back to the neck. After that, both dogs will relax and go on their way.

Sometimes the greeting goes awry. The dogs will meet, and you'll notice one or both of them stiffening - their tails go up, and they rise on their toes. As soon as one moves at all, there could be a fight. It appears that they discover that they don't know each other, but they are too close to retreat.

When flight is not an option, fight can be the result. This is called conflict behavior. There are some dogs that actively challenge others - these dogs trot purposefully up to other dogs and sniff, but do not allow the other dog to sniff back. If the other dog does, they react unfavorably.

If your dog is otherwise friendly, behavior modification usually involves teaching the dog how to greet other dogs quickly and then move on. This process should generally be overseen by a professional who can read canine body language, because the timing can be critical. Sometimes dogs need to meet several times before they feel comfortable enough to actually interact.

Trish King, Marin Humane Society director of behavior and training. www.marinhumanesociety.org.

Lost in Suburbia:
Bathroom Etiquette for Dogs
By Tracy Beckerman - GateHouse News Service

Just when I got the kids to finally stop following me into the bathroom, the dog started doing it.

I thought, actually, that he might have gotten the idea from the kids. Maybe he thought it was a really fun place to be because whenever I was in there, it suddenly became the most popular room in the house. When your kids are little, you kind of expect this and grudgingly learn how to help someone with their two-times table while you are seated with your pants around your ankles. But once they become teenagers and they are still walking in on you so they can ask for money to go get pizza, it becomes significantly less acceptable.

Because we had moved into the house when the kids were little, we never put locks on the bathroom doors. And because we had a really old house, the doors never quite stayed closed when you shut them. Still, I thought that a knock on the door was more than reasonable to at least give me the opportunity to say, “I’m busy” before someone barged in on me.

The kids accepted this new rule.

The dog … not so much.

The first time it happened, I thought it was kind of cute. The second time, a little less so. But when the dog started following me into the bathroom every time I went to answer nature’s call, I finally had it.

“Out, Out, OUT!” I yelled. He tucked his tail between his legs and sulked out of the room, just far enough to get to the other side of the threshold before sitting down to wait. But wait for what? For me to come out? For me to invite him back in? To protect me in case Mr. Whipple arrived and yelled at me for squeezing the Charmin? I was perplexed. Why was the dog so fascinated with the bathroom?

Then one day when I was in there, he followed me in and I let him stay. As I wrapped up my business, I reached out for some toilet paper and dropped a spare square on the bathroom floor. The dog jumped up, dived on the toilet paper and devoured it instantly. I raised an eyebrow. Then two. I had a thought. To test my theory, I ripped off another square of toilet paper and offered it to the dog, he sucked it down like it was a T-bone steak.

So the mystery was solved. My dog was a TP addict. It wasn’t me that interested him in the bathroom, it was the squeezably soft and evidently quite delicious bathroom tissue.

I went to the TP website and checked to make sure there was nothing toxic in the paper and then phoned the vet to make sure this wasn’t a problem for the dog.

The vet said it should be OK, with three conditions:

- Don’t let the dog eat too much of it.

- Make sure the toilet paper is clean.

- Make sure he changes the empty roll when he is done.

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