Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Vaccinating Our Pets

I'd like to talk to you about pet vaccinations. I cannot tell you legally what to do since I'm not licensed but I can share with you what I do with my own pets – or in had done!

I actually believe several things happened to my own dogs due to the practice of overvaccinating...

My previous dog, Fridge - a big, beautiful golden retriever boy - was an amazing and wonderful dog. I got him as an 8 week old puppy from a client of the veterinarian I was working for at the time. During that time parvo virus was really wrecking havoc on our dogs and puppies, so the vaccine was being further developed and supposedly made better.

Well, since I was so entrenched in the "traditional" medicine idea that you use preventatives, vaccinate, and feed kibble, then vaccinate some more, I proceeded to REALLY vaccinate Fridge. He got a good series of puppy vaccinations because I was taking him with me to work on a regular basis. I wanted to make sure he was really "protected". Well, I may have ended his life early by overdoing it.

You see, Fridge started having seizures shortly after I started his regimen of vaccinations. I never equated the two either. He always had so many allergies to so many things. I was using regular fertilizers, cleaners, and pesticides on top of it all. It never occurred to me that Fridge was most likely suffering from heavy toxicity due to all the chemicals he was encapsulated in, including the overvaccinating.

Poor guy, I wonder if things would've been different if I had known the truth. I think so. He's one of my primary reasons for publishing AspenbloomWellPet. Shadrach, my Neapolitan Mastiff, is my other primary reason. I want to help pet owners NOT go through what I've gone through with my two special boys.

My husband and I got Shadrach as a rescue. Not a traditional rescue but a rescue nonetheless, meaning my cousin rescued him and we ended up with him. I was a bit further along in my knowledge of a natural approach for humans, in fact much further along but not as savvy on pets, YET. Shadrach has been implemental in my discovering and continuing to discover the way to true wellness for pets using natural remedies, products, and approaches.

I vaccinated Shadrach, a couple of times, normal puppy shots. I didn't overdo it but Shadrach's system was already compromised due to the fact he had been abused and nearly starved to death prior to coming to live with us. He needed raw food, natural care, not more toxicity to battle. He was not well the first year and half we had him and now I wonder if the vaccinating and preventatives (pesticides really) were compromising his system further. I was still feeding "premium" kibble. I used flea and tick shampoo. I used the heartworm preventative. During all this time I also painted my house - more toxins for Shadrach to battle AND my husband and I.

Shadrach had continuing health problems, especially allergies and skin problems. He contracted Bordetella from a dog friend of his. He was so sick for nearly 3 months. He got 2 full courses of antibiotics and got skinny all over again. It was agony for us to see this young dog so sick and we thought we were doing all the right things. In fact, I vaccinated him for Bordetella a few times after his illness thinking I was further protecting him when in reality I was most likely further compromising his system.

Thank God, I started researching things. I thought, "if we can do natural for us, why not our critters". I discovered this whole world of holistic natural care, and you are now reading my findings. I found a couple of great holistic vets willing to help educate me. Now, at 5 1/2 years old, Shadrach is fully "natural". He's healthy and I believe that's why he is healthy. I am hoping that I didn't shorten his sweet life by my unknowing "care". I've met some wonderful people in the holistic industry who've guided me and helped me learn. Now I'm going to be further educated and certified so I can help as many others as are willing to learn. My hope is that many more animals will be spared the harm that was done, albeit unwittingly, to my poor boys.

Animals have always been my passion and now coupled with the need to share natural care, I hope many will be spared unnecessary pain and suffering - critters and their owners.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Guinea Pigs Health

Guinea Pigs make great pets and are fairly easy to care for. They love to be touched and cuddled.

Their Scientific name is Cavia Tschuldi and were discovered in South America. Guinea Pigs are are a rodent.

Have you ever wondered about where they got their name? There are many types of Guinea Pigs.

Over 1,000,000 families in USA alone have them as pets. If you are considering a guinea pig as a pet there are a few things you should be aware of.

But, just like any pet they require a comittment from you as they live for several years. They become a part of the family.

Never keep males and females together as they breed, herd of the saying, "like Guinea Pigs" or 2 males together as they tend to fight to show who is boss.A most important ingredient in a guinea pigs diet is vitamin "C". Hay is the main stay of their diet. Never feed them rhubarb or raw beens,they are extremely poisous to them.

If you would like to learn all about Guinea Pigs,my book reveals evrything you need to know about haveing a happy healthy pig as a pet.

Monday, April 28, 2008

How to Create Your Own Monster

"You've created your own monster, you know", my mother said ominously. My Rex cat, Houdini, had just burrowed his way inside my sweater for the third time that morning, letting out a squeal of indignation when I tried to resist.

Houdini has separation anxiety. But in his tiny little mind, separation means I've been out of his site for at least two minutes. Or I've closed the bathroom door and left him on the other side. Or he hasn't had his ears scratched or his belly rubbed in eons (about ten minutes.) Houdini follows me everywhere, like the most faithful of hounds, and craves my undivided attention almost as much as his next meal.

If all of this seems annoying, it's not nearly as bad as when the little fellow plunks himself down in front of me and literally tears chunks of his own hair out because I'm not paying attention to him. With Houdini, it's always been easier just to give in.

My husband takes all of this in stride. My mother, who (fortunately for Houdini) only visits now and then, thinks it's the height of absurdity.

Growing up under Mom's roof, I learned that dogs and children should obey, and cats just mind their own business. I adopted my mother's dog training philosophies successfully. Cleo (a fine-looking mastiff and our now-famous website mascot), is a perfect lady. She's a wonderful dog with the gift of self composure and not one to question authority. Cleo would never stoop to the kind of antics that are Houdini's specialty. Besides, she's too big to crawl inside my sweater.

So why does this particular pet behave like a spoiled child? Why do I give in to him? Is it because I forgot to have children? Mom swears that those little squealing sounds he makes don't come from a cat. "He's manipulating you", she tells me. "He's learned how to sound like a baby".

Maybe I've got what I like to call "lap dog syndrome". I'm referring how we treat smaller pets who are easily cuddled and coddled, are highly portable, and who look adorable wearing funny little outfits. Some might call it "empty nest syndrome".

Consider my Grandmother Rosie and her Toy Poodle, Cocoa.

Cocoa arrived long after Rosie's children had grown up and left home. Rosie knitted lots of little sweaters and hats for Cocoa to keep him warm and stylish. She kept a mixture of Coke Syrup and Pepto Bismol on hand to settle Cocoa's nervous stomach. And dog food could never pass his lips, so Grandma cooked fresh chicken for Cocoa every night before sitting down to her own dinner.

We had to spell out "c-o-o-k-i-e" and "P-e-p-t-o B-i-s-m-o-l" around the dog so he wouldn't get over-excited. And Grandpa Henry was obsessed with keeping Cocoa clean. This was one poodle who never had tear stains under his eyes, and whose little "tushy" was spotless.

Bear in mind that we're talking about the late 60's, when treating pets like children wasn't really "mainstream".

Today, it's commonplace. The pet industry is huge, and much of it caters to our desire to spoil our "children". So these days it's easier than ever to create your own monster. Besides bending to your dog's every whim, you can shower her with gourmet treats, dress her to the nines, and offer her a standard of living well above what many of the world's humans aspire to.

Today, Grandma wouldn't have to knit any sweaters herself, and there would be plenty of remedies made expressly for Cocoa's nervous tummy. Grandma wouldn't board her baby when traveling. Instead, she'd hire a professional pet sitter, or take Cocoa with her to a pet friendly hotel. The hotel might even have a dog gift shop, with lots of squeaky toys and delicious "c-o-o-k-i-e-s". And Cocoa would go everywhere with Grandma in his own little dog-sized carrying case, probably made from fine imported leather or snakeskin.

I wonder how many owners of large breeds behave this way? Are there other syndromes out there, like "macho dog syndrome" (a guy thing, no doubt)?

The truth is, all pets start out small and cuddly. No one is completely safe from creating their own monster, large or small. So thank goodness there are enough great resources available for anyone to become a virtual dog training expert. (Or cat, or parrot, or horse...)

I've learned my lesson with Houdini: It's much easier to teach your pet the rules from the start. Puppy training is easier than dog training. And un-creating a monster is a heck of a lot tougher than creating one!

But I'm weak. For now, it's easier just to give in. And besides, it time to rub Houdini's belly...

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Dealing With your Pets' Allergies

It is Winter time again, a time of the year when pets and humans are very vulnerable to each other. As this is obviously the chilliest time of the year, animals are much more likely to be cooped up inside the house with us. All of the windows and doors are closed to the world and the heat is blasting around the clock.

These are precisely the conditions which make our winter homes playgrounds for some kinds of allergens. Our dogs and cats are considerably vulnerable to the dust in the carpet, the mold inside the walls of your old house and other pets. But warm moist times of the year are high allergy times as well. Allergies are simply the most common conditions affecting cats and according to the Kansas State University, 15% of dogs suffer from common allergies like pollen and house dust. An allergic reaction is the work of an overactive immune system. It is when an animal responds abnormally to a seemingly everyday substance like grass or general food ingredients.

Of the different kinds of allergies, contact allergies are the least common in cats and dogs. An Example of a contact allergen is a flea collar. Grass and various kinds of bedding such as wool are also examples. An Inhalant Allergy is the most common allergy for cats and is also prevalent in dogs. This particular kind of allergy is caused by the hypersensitivity of the immune system to environmental substances. A Flea Allergy is the single most common dog allergy but is also common cats. The normal dog or cat suffers only somewhat minor irritation in lieu of a flea bite with minimal itching.

A food allergy is also somehat common in pets. Cats often become allergic to their most common protein such as tuna. Dogs can be allergic to proteins like chicken and beef. When it comes to allergies, like most things it's a matter of controlling, not curing. Once an animal's body becomes hypersensitive to certain things, it is then eternally vulnerable to those things.

Regarding treatment of allergies, the most common treatments are topical products like shampoos or antihistamines. There are also certain supplements that you can give to your pets to help support

the insides of their bodies, which to an extent determine the condition of the outside. Studies have shown that if we shampoo our pets' coats on a regularl basis, it is much less likely that foreign substances will enter through the skin. Regular bathing discourages allergens -- irritants such as dander and dead hair. When our pets itch and injure their skin, it leaves their internal landscapes much more vulnerable to skin problems.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Guinea Pig History

Their scientific name is Cavia Tschuldi and their nickname in South America where they were first discovered, is“Cavy. As you might have guessed Guinea Pigs are rodents.

Near the Andes Mountains in Peru over a thousand years ago , some Inca Indians were exploring near the tall grass on the edge of a forest, when they found dozens of little hairy creatures scampering around.

The fat little animals when they bent down to pick them up did not bite or even seem to mind . The Incas soon learned that the cavies or cuy, were wild but safe animals, who liked to hide in tall grass away from the hungry owls and other predators that they were easy prey to.

They searched out burrows and homes made by rabbits or snakes or other creatures and made these spaces their home. When it was night and dark, they would wander out to find food. Wild guinea pigs live all over South America from Argentina to Columbia. Some scientists say that the Inca Indians were the first to tame the wild guinea pigs, but other scientists think that even prehistoric people as far back as 5000 B.C. were keeping guinea pigs as pets and raising them as a source of food.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Herbs for Pets

Let me begin by saying that I am not an herbalist. I do not recommend using herbs as internal medication for your pets unless you have consulted a holistic vet and/or have done extensive reading and research and feel safe treating your pet. There are a lot more holistic veterinarians practicing today than in the past and you should have no trouble finding one if you live in or near an urban area.

The information I share here is strictly a minimalist take on the use of herbs as a natural way to help you and your pet with daily care and common conditions. Herbs can be substituted for many of the topical medications and household chemicals we use with animals. Besides using herbs, be sure that your pet is getting a good overall natural diet and plenty of sunshine. Sunlight is necessary for good health and helps their bodies convert food nutrients. If a regular dose of the outdoors in not possible, use full-spectrum lighting such as Vita-Lites. These are ideal for indoor pets such as birds, reptiles and amphibians.

But back to herbs. Irritated eyes are a common ailment and can be treated with eyebright used as a wash. It can also be administered as a strong tea taken internally to boost the immune system. Or you can make a saline solution for the eyes of 1/8 teaspoon sea salt in ½ cup boiling water. Once the solution has cooled, add 1 drop of goldenseal per tablespoon of the saline solution. It shrinks swollen tissues and disinfects.

Itching: A common cause of itching is fleas and flea bites. Brewer’s yeast can be sprinkled on food, 1 teaspoon per day. BUT, some animals are allergic to Brewer’s yeast, so watch for dry skin that can itch as much as the flea bites. An alternative to Brewer’s yeast is adding a capsule of garlic oil in the food once a week. It helps keep biting insects away and is good for the immune system.

A good herbal flea dip can be made as follows: 2 cups packed fresh peppermint, pennyroyal or rosemary; 1 quart boiling water; 4 quarts warm water – pour the boiling water over the herbs and allow to steep for 30 minutes. Strain the liquid and dilute it with the warm water. Saturate the animal’s coat thoroughly allowing it to air dry. Use at the first sign of flea activity. You will probably need to repeat this treatment every three or four days but it is totally safe.

If you would rather use a dry flea treatment, try an herbal powder made of one part each of eucalyptus, fennel, rosemary, rue, wormwood, and yellow dock. Put this mixture in a shaker (like the kind used for parsley flakes). Apply sparingly to your pet’s coat by brushing the hair backward with your hand or a comb. Sprinkle the powder at the base of the hairs, especially on the neck, back and belly. You may use this several times a week. Put Rover outside after the treatment so that the unhappy fleas may disembark in the backyard, not the house!

To rid your carpeting of fleas, after removing the pet, sprinkle Borax over the carpet and rub it in. Wait a while and then vacuum. This is a good, non-chemical alternative flea control. Use once a week until the problem is gone.

For itchy, dry skin, use tea tree oil anywhere except near the eyes or genitals. Aloe is also good for itching. Itching may be caused by the shampoo or flea collar you use. Bathe the animal in all natural shampoo, (available at Barker and Friends, and find a natural alternative to that flea collar!

Another skin treatment will control mange and overall skin conditions. Thinly slice a whole lemon, including the peel and add it to one pint of near-boiling water. Let it steep overnight. Sponge the solution on your pet’s skin and let it dry. This may be used daily if needed.

Cuts: Use fresh aloe and scrapes and cuts. It is a natural antiseptic and moisturizer. You can clean the wound with a wash of goldenseal before applying the aloe.

Carsickness: Try a few drops of ginger root extract prior to setting out in the car. For long trips, try an additional dose halfway through the trip. Another herb good for carsickness in dogs is peppermint tea or capsules. It will settle his stomach. Cats don’t tolerate peppermint well, so use only for dogs.

Anxiety, Stress: Our pets live in the same stressful world we do. They also suffer anxiety. Try a combination of extracts of Oats, Valerian and Chamomile or rub a little lavender oil near the muzzle or place some on a cotton pad in his bed or sleeping area. It works on humans, too!

Diarrhea, vomiting: Try powdered slippery elm bark.

Shiny coats: one teaspoon cod liver oil sprinkled over food one or twice a week will improve the texture and shine of your pet’s coat and will provide valuable nutrients.

Vitamin C: 500mg to 1000mg daily can ease arthritis in dogs and cats.

I hope this bit of information will help you realize that there are natural alternatives to over the counter, chemical treatments for ordinary conditions in your pet. Contact your local health food store for herbs and herbal extracts. For more in depth information, read All You Ever Wanted to Know About Herbs for Pets by Mary & Gregory Tilford. It is currently out of print, but I had no trouble finding a copy at my local library and there are used copies available through my link at See my Favorite Links page.

Please check out the natural shampoo bar available on my website. It is chock full of herbal herbal oils and promises a safe, natural way to bathe your pets without the risk of irritating, toxic ingredients. It’s called the Critter Bar!

Encouraging Word:

God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake…Psalm 46: 1-3

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Got Fleas?

Author of Keep Fleas Off

Still using all the chemicals you can find to combat those fleas? Have you done everything outside of trying to shoot the fleas off the dog? You are not alone, there are an estimated more than 50 million households with pets, and yes, most are not just fighting the war against these pesky parasites, they are losing the war. Most people do not realize just how devastating the losses are. If only 10 per cent of these pet owners are treating the yard for fleas, can your imagine the amount of harmful chemicals that is getting into the ground water? These chemicals make their way to the sea where they have been found in fish and the seabirds that feed on fish. Clean water is a valuable resource, we cannot afford to destroy it. Think about all the chemicals put in our water now just to make it “safe to drink”; if you want to believe that it is.

Bathe your pet with a so-called flea shampoo, and you leave behind a petrochemical residue that can be unsafe for the pet and the household. If that is not bad enough, the pet will lick himself and yes, take an oral dose. Go into any grocery store and head for the pet care aisle. If you smell the flea products in the store, you are experiencing a nose full of their off-gassing. Face it, chemicals off-gas.

Perhaps, you think that flea powder is a better choice. Guess again! After holding your poor animal down long enough to sift this disagreeable stuff into his fur, he is going to shake off as much of it as possible, and who could blame him. This fine dust will migrate into anything around, the carpet, the furniture, and maybe even your own hair. It is sure to get up your nose. Maybe this is the universe trying to get you to stop this harmful practice. At any rate, now the flea powder is further out into the pet’s fur, clearing the way for the fleas to continue to travel the skin on the pet, biting him and leaving behind debris. At minimum, you have fouled the environment, and you probably did the powdering inside your home. Since we have all probably done it, don’t beat yourself up, at least not the first time.

Flea collars are another dangerous choice that we have all made. The poison is right there on the collar for the purpose of rubbing off onto the pet. Will it rub off on anything else, like the hands of a small child, or even your own? You bet! Does your pet sleep in his collar? In your bed? What do you think is happening here? Essentially, we are just rubbing heaven knows what kind of chemicals all over us when we sleep with a pet that is wearing a poison necklace. Should you quit associating with your pet? Absolutely not! Pets are a valuable part of our lives. They offer companionship and teach us a lot as well. Just show them more respect and stop using those awful flea collars.

Continuing your sojourn through the parasite jungle, the veterinarian’s office is probably going to be your next stop. Aha! The flea dip. It has to work! Well, why not, it contains a contact killer, and because you got it from the vet you will assume it safe. Maybe it will kill the fleas that showed up on the pet today. Of course, submerging him in this poison means that some of it will be absorbed into the pet’s skin. Cats are especially sensitive, and dips have been known to kill some. It makes many sick. If it poisoned or weakened your pet, would you know what to look for? How many hours would you need to monitor your pet? When you pour out the dip, where does the poison go? So many questions, so many freaky answers. This should steer you away from flea dips.

The average pet owner is pretty sure that a flea spray for misting the pet on a regular basis will not only work, but is a real easy solution. Coating the outside of the hair doesn’t work because the fleas will travel under it along the skin where the blood cells can be reached. Use this method, only if you want a toxic cloud that will float above the pet for you to breathe, or maybe, it will make its way into your air conditioning ducts and be well distributed throughout your home. Remember that these sprays contain poisons. If we breathe them in, our bodies can store them. Many people will think that this is just the price that must be paid, after all this is a war on fleas! The bigger question here is: “Do you really want your home to become a toxic waste site?” The residue spewed into your environment is going to stay there until someone cleans it up. And depending upon how you go about the clean up, you could just be making it worse, especially if you are using chemicals for the cleanup. Unless you are a chemist, don’t assume that it is safe to mix one chemical with another.

Of course, you could always use pet meds, that is, medicine for the fleas that the pet must take. That hardly seems fair! Would you be able to tell how bad your pet feels from the side effects? At one time or another we have all taken a medication that we found to be disagreeable. The problem here is one of communication. The pet cannot tell you that the medicine does not suit him.

So, now you are ready for the weapons of “vast destruction”. You go for the big guns. You will start using the poison to the back of the neck. That ought to take care of them, if the fleas come along first, before little hands. Of course, the liquid can be absorbed into the skin of the pet getting into his blood stream and going to all parts of his body. Most hearts and livers don’t really require poisons. How about yourself, did you absorb any? Did you breathe in any vapors? Does the product continue to emit vapors? If you can smell it, maybe you already know that the vapors are there. Keep in mind that many of the spot treatments contain chemicals that are known to be neurotoxins. Like most of the population, you did not read the label, nor would you recognize the names of any neurotoxins. And you probably would not know that neurotoxins can affect the brain. Your pet may develop a twitch from a neurotoxin. Don’t you wonder if the same thing could happen to you? While the pet is in the most danger from this, the person applying it is not home free! This stuff can rub off and be distributed anywhere in the environment of the pet, affecting any life form in this environment. It is important to realize that the difference between poisons to kill fleas and poisons to kill higher life forms is simply the size of the dose. Since our bodies can store and accumulate poisons from the environment, we have no way of knowing what could be in store for us as a result of exposure to these poisons.

Recently, there were more than 28,000 sites, on just one search engine, on the internet related to pesticide poisoning from flea products. No matter what the reasons were, the poisoning happened because the products were available, and a reasonably logical person thought them safe for use. We readily accept whatever we are used to seeing. Harmful flea products are in the mainstream of our lives. Just go to any big food store, home improvement store, drug store, pet food store, and yes, even the Walmart, and you can find an arsenal for combating fleas.

Until 1990, I used everything available for flea control. After many bad experiences, I realized that I was declaring chemical warfare on my pets, my home, my yard, the environment, and on myself as well. Knowing that this had to stop, if I were going survive, I set out to find a pesticide-free way to keep fleas off my cats. My first step was to eliminate everything that had not worked for me in my war against fleas. So, I had to forget all the flea products that I knew about. Living in Florida, meant combing off the fleas every hour if the cats went out on the screened porch, but I did it, in addition to wearing out a good vacuum cleaner. After a couple of years of trial and error, I developed a simple, cheap, and safe method that is so effective that the cats seem to be “invisible to fleas”. Not only am I happy to be able to keep fleas off my cats, but I feel good about giving up my life of crime against the environment.

There are many sites on the internet where you can find out all the names of the harmful chemicals used in flea products. Anti-pesticide groups offer a lot of valuable information, as does the NRDC (National Resource Defense Council) and the CDC (Center for Disease Control). Even some animal rescue organizations post warning against certain products. Personally, I think that the terms KEEP OUT OF THE REACH OF CHILDREN and WASH YOUR HANDS AFTER HANDLING should give us the clues we need. Plain and simple, do not use these products, there is something unsafe about them. Trust me, the manufacturer is not just adding this information to make the label larger. There had to be a law somewhere that forced them to put these warnings on. Restrictions of this sort don’t surface until harm has been done, and until a lot of action has been taken by environmental groups. Your best course of action is to do the research yourself. Do not wait for the mainstream (corporate) media to inform you about what to use to keep fleas off your pet. The information that they decide you should have is influenced by advertising dollars from the chemical industry.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Round Pen: The Great Equalizer

Although many horsemen and trainers extol the virtues of the round pen, many horse owners still overlook just how powerful such a pen can be in developing or maintaining a relationship with a horse. This is a shame because it is truly what I call the Great Equalizer in a horse-human relationship. Perhaps that bears some clarification…
I've found many horse owners to be concerned about their physical strength as opposed to that of their horse. They fear they simply cannot firmly establish themselves as the alpha, or leader, of the relationship because the horse is so much stronger. Thus when their horse displays poor ground manners or commits an inappropriate action they are more prone to ignore it and hope it doesn't develop into worse behaviors. After all, what choice do they have? The horse is just too strong.
The reality is that, except for the youngest of foals, a horse will always possess more raw strength than a human. Any attempts to overpower a horse with sheer strength are doomed to fail. Techniques such as raising your voice towards or slapping a misbehaving horse do not rely on strength – they are psychological. The horse does not want the conflict to escalate as it is uncertain exactly what your capabilities are, therefore it submits.
Of course there are exceptions, and truth be told such techniques are best used on already-trained horses or in situations where you cannot properly establish your authority due to lack of time or proper surroundings. The best way to instill respect and discipline into a naughty horse is by incorporating the Great Equalizer: the round pen.
Whereas many people view a round pen as a means for exercise (and it is true that it's a great exercise tool), the true power behind the round pen is its ability to establish dominance in a completely non-forceful method. In the round pen, physical strength means very little. It is a quick and easy (as opposed to other methods) technique to make your alpha status known.
Allow me to share an example that will better illustrate why a round pen will serve you better than strength.
I once owned a willful young colt raised by a first-time mother, so unfortunately the mare wasn't all that familiar with the need to discipline her colt. In fact although the colt was really quite a nice horse, he was unruly and tended to do whatever he wanted from day one. An experienced mare would not have permitted such antics, and had she "laid down the law" better from the first day the colt would likely have been a little less rambunctious.
Soon it came time to provide halter and lead training to this young upstart, and true to his form he made sure the task was trying. Although more than willing to walk with you, he felt there was little need to do so in an orderly fashion. If he "accidentally" bumped into you, or strayed so far from your side that you had to cling to the lead line with an iron grip, so be it. Snapping or jerking the lead line didn't impress him much.
Even worse, as a colt develops into a mature stallion they often can become very "nippy." This one was no different at first. Just as he did with his mother, he would sneak tiny bites and nips when you weren't watching, and although there wasn't mean intent behind them let's face it – they hurt!
Anytime a horse strikes at you (and a nip should be considered a strike) it's important that you retaliate with conviction so they think twice about doing so again. But when I would give this colt a fairly light slap he would almost smirk to himself and try to nip me again! Was he being mean-spirited? No! This colt grew up with no significant discipline from his mother and no fear of humans – we imprinted him from birth and thus he trusted us. Since he did not fear me, he thought I was engaging in some horseplay as any other colt would do.
A slap, as harsh as it sounds to us, is not always about force. It generally does not cause a horse much pain, but rather it is intended as a shock technique for a horse that already recognizes you as an alpha. Since this colt saw me as a playmate and equal, he possessed no fear of my slaps – my choice was to either escalate the physical force (which is generally not my first choice) or establish my dominance in a gentle way via the round pen.
Once I established that slaps or verbal growls would not have any effect on this colt, anytime he would nip at me or try my patience with his rebellious ways we would march straight to the round pen or enclosed paddock. While this colt found the notion amusing for the first five minutes or so, eventually the round pen will drain the "oats" from nearly any horse and he was no different.
With consistent round pen work, this colt soon learned that I wasn't a simple playmate – I was his leader. Although we could still enjoy each other's company, it had to be on terms that were agreeable to the both of us (no more black and blues!). Due to consistent round pen work, the leading, nipping and general disrespect issues became a thing of the past.
I hope my example of this young colt showed the folly of depending upon physical force to achieve your goals – "outgunning" a horse is not easy, practical or desirable. Never accept poor behavior and do not feel your authority is measured solely by your raw strength; both are mistakes that are all too commonly committed by horse owners. Instead consider the use of a round pen (or in a pinch you can use a longe line) and find out how easy training and discipline can be when using the Great Equalizer.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

So You Want an American Pit Bull Terrier?

You've made up your mind, it's the American Pit Bull Terrier you want as your companion. Are you ready for this breed? Read this article and then decide if you want to go ahead with your decision.
Does your lifestyle fit the American Pit Bull Terrier lifestyle?
These dogs are packed with energy from head to toe. Craving a good run like a champion athlete. Exercise is critical to a heathy, happy bulldog. High energy is their middle name and is a large part of their personalities. Play, work, and activity is something you must be able to give these dogs
If you're a couch potato you should find another breed to live with.
Do you have the security?
American Pit Bull Terriers are the Houdini's of the canine world. Able to leap tall fences with a single bound, dig under them with amazing speed and stealth, and unlock gates that people would have trouble with.
You should have 6' privacy fence, beware of dog signs, hot wiring at the top and bottom of the fence, out door housing that keeps them out of the sun (even if they live indoors), and supervision are required for these dogs. You can't leave them alone for long outside because one of two things may happen:
1. They escape. 2. They're stolen.
Are you prepared for the scrutiny of neighbors and friends?
American Pit Bull Terriers are notorious. They have a bad name and the misinformed public is out to get them. It seems like everyday another "Baby mauled by pit bull" story runs, diminishing your choice of breed.
People will dislike you for your choice. Some may even try to kill your dog. Others will direct comments at you, vulgar, hateful comments, and friends and family may also be in conflict with your choice.
Be prepared for some rude behavior and protect your dog by teaching food refusal from strangers.
Can you train your dog?
There are two methods of training. One is to train your dog by showing it how to sit and lay down and then quitting. The other lasts forever. Real training is life long training that starts when the puppy arrives at your home and ends with death.
Unless you're prepared to work with your dog 5-10-15 minutes per day, everyday, all week, every week, all year, every year, you may want to rethink your decision to get a Pit Bulldog. Actually, if you're not prepared to train your dog, you should rethink getting any dog. Training is a fact of life and must be done in order to prevent a lot of trouble down the road.
If you can not control your dog, you don't need one.
Can you afford them?
Dog food, vet bills, training, leashes and collars, and dog houses all cost money. Money you may not have right now. A quality dog food can cost as much as $800 per year. Do you have this kind of extra money to spend on food? If not, wait until you do before you bring home that puppy.
Do you want a American Pit Bull Terrier to impress people?
If this is the case, stop! Do not, repeat, do not bring one home. You're doing yourself and the dog a great injustice.
American Pit Bull Terriers are in demand because of their all around strength, agility, great looks, and mystic. Breeders are pumping puppies out like unleaded gasoline. Puppies are being neglected and bad breeding practices are producing unstable dogs. Beware before you make any final decisions.
If I may point you in a different direction. Every day there are thousands of great bulldogs put down because no one will adopt them or they are deemed "unadoptable" by shelters.
Consider a Rescue Dog.
People who love this breed have created rescues for these dogs and hundreds of dogs are available for adoption.
Rescues are a win-win-win way to go. You give a dog that would otherwise not have a home, a home. You give your money (which in most cases is a small adoption fee) to the rescue so they can continue their work, and you get an awesome dog that will 9 times out of 10 deliver more than any pure-bred dog could on their best day.
In closing, before you run out and buy a American Pit Bull Terrier, think about your options, make sure you have what it takes to provide and care for the dog, and take your time to find a dog that matches your desires.

Monday, April 21, 2008

With Understanding Comes Success

One of the reasons I strongly encourage horse owners to train their own horses rather than ship them away to a professional trainer is familiarity. Quite simply, an unfamiliar party will not understand your horse nearly as well as you, and this understanding of a horse is the backbone of any successful training plan.
This is not to suggest that all horse trainers are clueless individuals that bumble along hoping to do something right, because most professional trainers will take the time to understand a horse before ever thinking about saddling him and training him to ride. But all too often an impatient or inexperienced "trainer" will misread a horse's problem or intention and react incorrectly due to his lack of understanding. Too many of these incidents can prolong the training process (thereby costing you money) and potentially mentally scar your horse for life.
Far too many head-shy horses can be attributed to inexperienced or abusive past trainers and/or owners who lacked an understanding of the horse they were working with. Once a horse has developed this mistrust or fear of people it can take a good while to reassure the horse that another cuff is not waiting around the corner. And who can blame the horse? If every past exposure with a dog resulted in the dog biting you, chances are you would be very wary, if not outright panicked, by future exposures to canines.
To correct an improper action it is first important to understand the motivation that lies behind it. For example, let's say that you are training a young filly to walk alongside you to your left. Suddenly without permission the filly slams against your side, but being that she's still young it doesn't do much more than get your attention. What would you do?
1. Ignore the behavior – no harm was done after all.
2. Jab your elbow into the filly's shoulder and growl at her to remind her to respect your space.
3. Take a moment to detect the reason why the filly brushed against you.
If you selected the first option, you chose wrong. Although your heart is in the right place in your willingness to "write off" a seemingly harmless action, eventually if you ignore these things they can compound to worse problems. Your filly won't always be so small and light!
If you selected the second option you might have reacted correctly if the filly was gently asked to respect your space previously and elected to ignore the request out of defiance. In such a scenario you would need to reinforce your authority lest she view herself as being the alpha leader amongst you.
But what if the filly stepped against you because the wind was carrying along a plastic bag that startled her? In such a case if you discipline your horse you do her a huge disservice because she's not trying to be defiant or challenge your authority – she's scared and she wanted your reassurance! If you start cuffing your filly for violating your personal space she will be like a deer caught in a car's headlights; the bag to her left and the handler to her right are scaring her and she'll either bolt or become paralyzed.
Had you understood the root of her concern you could have forgiven the invasion of your space and instead showed your filly the plastic bag was nothing to be concerned about. Such reassurances would have put her mind at ease, allow her to regain focus on the task at hand and hopefully become desensitized towards future encounters with plastic bags.
A trainer that believed in the "one size fits all" philosophy would probably have chosen option two in the above scenario since at face value that would be the correct reaction, but without understanding the horse or the motivation behind her action his "correction" would have further compounded the problem. It is essential a handler take the time to understand a horse's behavior before attempting to correct it since one size most definitely does not fit all. And who would better understand your horse than you?
In addition the training process does not have to be the stressful battle of wills that most of us initially believe it to be. Taken slowly, both the horse and the owner can actually look forward to advancing along the lesson plan. As the owner and horse work together, each will develop an even better understanding of the other's mannerisms, personality and expectations… and with understanding comes success.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

What To Do When Your Dog Gets Dehydrated

Your dog can die from dehydration. Please understand how serious this can get. It's not like when humans get dehydrated, can drink some water and cool off, and they will recover quickly. It is much harder for a dog to recover. Caused by sickness, heat exposure, or lack of water intake, the situation must be taken care of immediately. If the dehydration lasts for too long, your dog's organs can start failing and he will die. Unfortunately, it is much easier for a dog to become dehydrated than it is for humans. But, luckily, it is also very easy to prevent it from happening.To be able to prevent dehydration, it is important to understand how and why it occurs in dogs. Dehydration occurs after an extreme loss of bodily fluids. The essential minerals called electrolytes are depleted from the body. Dogs do not have sweat glands to cool them off like humans do. To relieve themselves from heat, they pant to regulate their body temperature. But the process of panting results in a rapid loss of bodily fluids, which will result in dehydration if the electrolytes do not get replaced.Dehydration will not occur if your dog always has access to a fresh supply of water. If you keep your dog indoors, make sure that there is always at least one large bowl of water. If you live in a large home, consider placing two or three bowls of water in other areas of the house. During hot and humid summer months, try to keep your dog indoors as much as possible. If you keep your dog outside during warm temperatures, ensure that he has access to not only a constant supply of water, but also shady areas in which to rest. If you think that your dog is dehydrated, you can check for certain symptoms. The skin will become tight, the eyes will dry out, and the tongue and nose will be dry. If your dog is dehydrated, he will also have problems with the circulatory system. To rest for this, push your finger into its gums until the area under your finger turns white. If the color does not quickly return to normal, a delay is a sign of fluid loss.Once you determine that your dog is probably dehydrated, you need to cool him off and start replenishing fluids. Then immediately take him to the vet. Start by wrapping him in a cool, wet towel. The prime areas you want to cool off are the head and the underbelly, which is the best place to access the internal organs. Do not give the dog too much water. A severely dehydrated dog will start vomiting after a large amount of water intake. This will cause more fluid loss and make the situation even worse. Even if your dog recovers from the dehydration and stops showing any symptoms, you need to take him to a vet as soon as possible to determine the exact cause of the dehydration. Even though most cases are caused by heat and fluid loss, it can also be a result of a larger illness, so the vet needs to do a full checkup to make sure he will stay in good health.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Horse Training 101

Each horse is different in how it learns and how it reacts to outside stimuli. Certain methods of horse training may apply to some horses, but it does not mean that it will be effective to all breeds of horse.To start horse training you must develop a communication system with the horse. This might take time. In the same way as children may not fully grasp the idea of things at an instant, baby horses in training may not get every pressure, pat or way of holding the reins at once. When you apply a certain pressure, you expect a certain response. During horse training, you must make the horse understand that a certain pressure should elicit a corresponding response. We don't expect full compliance in the beginning, but as time goes by, these actions will be part of the horse's vocabulary.Throughout the course of the horse training, one by one these actions will be added to his vocabulary. But these actions should still be broken down into minute details that the horse can take in one at a time. Learn how to pace with each individual horse. Training is something that should be done slowly and surely.You must also learn how to "speak" to your horse in a way that it will be able to comprehend. This manner of speaking would mean fewer words and more body language.Horses are herd animals. They learn well by imitating the leaders of the herd. You should be that "leader" your horse will follow. Patience is a key in training your horses.You must also take into consideration that no one, animal or human, learns well when under stress. You should not force lessons into your horse during horse training. They don't appreciate the yelling and whipping, especially if they do not know what all the harshness is for. Unlike humans who can speak their minds, horses resort to more physical responses. And you certainly wouldn't want your horse to whirl, kick, strike and do out of hand movements.You must create an environment wherein the horse can learn on its own, aside from the horse training that you give it. It is also important to see the difference between having been able to teach the horse something and it just accepting it. If a horse is relaxed when you do something, this does not necessarily mean that it is trained. This might just mean to it as another thing a human being normally does. Resistance at first is needed in order to see that the horse recognizes that something new is being taught to him.The horse's daily training routine should not be based on a set of particular things you want to teach to the horse. It should be based on how your horse reacts to your actions. Don't teach something new to it without reviewing what it already knows.Most importantly - don't force your horse to go on horse training if it doesn't feel well. A good routine does not only maintain the horse's attention level, but also its comfort level.

Choosing the Perfect Horseshoes

Horseshoes have become synonymous with good fortune. Having them on your horse's feet has little to do with attracting good luck, but a lot with answering to your steed's needs.Horses in the wild do not require shoes unlike domesticated breeds of horse. Those horses that are not worked out and trained regularly on hard ground do not need them. If a horse's foot is hurt, you will not be able to ride it. In order to maximize a horse's use, horseshoes are needed in order to protect the horse's feet. In their absence, the hoof walls can crack. And a horse with sore feet will be of little use.One must check all four of the horse's feet everyday. You need to pick them out and ensure that no dirt, stones or other foreign objects get stuck. Daily cleaning of the hooves is essential to proper hoof care, as well as going a long way in preventing any infection in this part of the horse. Failing to clean your horse's hooves on a regular basis puts him at riskYou must also check if the hooves get loose or no longer fits properly. Shoed horses also require the visit of the farrier about every 4 to 6 weeks. Each visit would mean placing new shoes. A horse's hoof grows, just like our nails, thus the shoe will stop fitting correctly after some time. The functions and movements of the foot must be taken into consideration when fitting shoes.Commonly used for shoes are steel and aluminum. Your farrier can help you decide which kind is best for your horse. To make them lighter and to give them a better grip, a groove underneath are placed on most shoes. Those placed in the front limbs are circular, while those on the hinds are diamond-shaped.Few horses have perfect conformation and many have improper feet. Many horses have boxy feet or club feet while other may have broad flat feet and some have feet that turn in or out. And these characteristics of a horse's foot should be properly addressed. Some of these characteristics are dependent on the breed of the horse. Shoes must fit to accommodate the horse's foot.Having the shoe is one thing, but a proper shoeing job is another. You should not try putting on your horse's shoes on your own just to save money. The farrier is a trained professional in this aspect, and he has a more extensive line up of equipment and instruments that will suit the needs of your horse. He has tongs, pincers, pullers, nipper, pritchels and a special hoof knife for paring and trimming the foot. He will have the right size of nails to fit every size and type of shoe.Domesticated breeds of horse are dependent entirely upon humans for their maintenance and comfort. Horses are subject to many ailments. Foot diseases may cause severe lameness and may be made worse by owner neglect, so don't take horseshoeing for granted.