Road Trips with your Dog!

So you're off to visit Grandma and Grandpa for Christmas, but you don't want to leave your four-legged buddy at home. If your relatives are amenable to having your pet visit with you, make sure that he's welcome back next year, too. Here's how.


To get ready to travel anywhere, you prepare for your trip, don't you? Now you just need to add a few extra preparations to make sure your dog is welcome wherever you go. Here are some handy tips to help you do just that.

  1. Ask. Don't assume that pets are or are not welcome when you travel. Check with the hotel you plan to stay in. Ask specifically what their pet policies are and if you decide to stay there, abide by those rules.
  2. Pet apps can help you find places that welcome Fido. Consider these: 
    • All Trails. This crowdsourced app has the largest collection of trail maps with a search function that helps you find dog-friendly trails.
    • Bring Fido. This is the best travel-with-your-dog app available. Every one of the places this app finds has the Bring Fido Guarantee, so you know you're seeing the truth when it says dog-friendly, whether it is a hotel, a restaurant, a trail, or any of a host of other attractions and places that welcome Fido.
    • Pet First Aid by American Red Cross. A guide for step-by-step instructions for common pet emergencies, it also helps you locate the nearest emergency animal hospital.
  3. Pack the essentials. 
    • Food and water. Food goes without saying, but bringing the water he is used to can well prevent an upset stomach.
    • Bowls. The collapsible ones pack easily and don't take up much space.
    • Toys. Let Fido chew on his favorite toys to alleviate both anxiety and boredom.
    • Bed. He'll sleep best if his own bed is packed. 
    • Crate. A crate is the safest place for your dog to travel in a car. Be sure to put it on a flat surface (not a seat) where he can lie comfortably. Secure the crate so it doesn't go flying in case of a collision or accident. Alternatively, you can purchase a dog "seat belt" that secures him on the seat and allows him to lie down safely. A warning, though. Keep an eye out to make sure he isn't chewing on the seat belt!
  4. Pack his medical records and be sure he is microchipped and his vaccines are current.

Make him the perfect houseguest.

If you want to be welcomed back next year with Fido along, follow these suggestions to turn him into the ideal houseguest.

  1. Let Fido say thank you with a gift. Bring a host/hostess gift from your dog. Any dog-themed item such as hand towels or coffee-table books will be welcome. If your host has dogs, bring them something, too. Maybe a bag of gourmet dog biscuits!
  2. Find a neutral place to introduce Fido to your host's dog. Meet at a dog park or around the corner where they can walk together before "invading" the other dog's territory. Occasionally give Fido a break from resident dogs so that his alert-level can be let down.
  3. Stick as close to his schedule at home as possible, especially when it comes to feeding and potty breaks. Take the time zone into consideration. A dog who never has accidents at home may not be as trustworthy in another place, particularly if there is another dog already living there. 
  4. Even if the host has a fenced-in yard, go outside with him to make sure he "did his business" and then reward him for a job well-done. 
  5. Don't assume you know the rules. Ask what their dog on the furniture preferences are and whether there are any off-limits spaces in the house, like the dining room or upstairs. Is there a specific place you should take him to potty or any places in the yard they'd prefer Fido didn't visit? Your best bet of being asked back next year is by following the rules.

What if he just won't behave?

If issues arise while you're visiting someone's home, be prepared to keep Fido tethered near you so he can't sneak off and get in trouble. Increase the number of times you take him outside and utilize his crate when you can't supervise him. Preparation, training, and socializing your dog before your road trip should make you and Fido welcome. 

Why We Love Our Pets So Much – American Culture and Its Pets

Have you ever heard the term "anthrozoology"? In 1990, biologist John Bradshaw, an honorary research fellow at the University of Bristol in England, coined the term to define a field of study that deals with how humans think about their animals. Since that time, researchers have spent a lot of time exploring "human-animal interactions" or "the human-animal bond." 

Bradshaw authored a book called "The Animals Among Us: How Pets Make Us Human" in which he explains this fascination with pets. A century ago, animals were useful and although humans appreciated their usefulness, they didn't normally keep them as pets, at least not in the numbers we do today. "Pet-keeping," he writes, "is an intrinsic part of human nature, one rooted deeply in our own species' evolution."

It has been widely reported that pets make us live longer, and there is some truth to the claim that they reduce stress, a component in many fatal diseases like heart disease. 'Good interactions," he says, "do have quite a profound effect, causing changes in oxytocin and in beta endorphins. Those are actual changes going on in the body of somebody who is stroking a friendly dog." 

Having a friendly dog makes you instantly more trustworthy in the eyes of a person you're meeting for the first time. Animal-assisted therapy also benefits from this explanation, because it makes the therapist more approachable.

Regardless of the research Bradshaw has done. When SurveyMonkey did a survey of pet owners, the majority believed the research that was done in Sweden was more reliable. That study suggested that owning a dog is linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and death when demographic data on 3.4 million Swedes aged 40-80 years was compared. Time Magazine cited several studies leading to the conclusion that science says your pet is good for your mental health.

If you just aren't sure about which study to believe, I offer you my own personal experience. When my daughter outgrew the abilities of her retired Western Pleasure horse, she decided to donate her to an assisted therapy organization near us. We visited Image often, and each time we were met with astounding stories from the parents whose children had benefited from their interaction with this gentle, beautiful horse. Two teenage boys who had never spoken began to verbalize when they were with Image. To me, the science is settled. I've seen it with my own eyes. So I join the ranks of those Americans who are totally in love with their pets.

Happy Healthy Cat Month!

Hey all you cat moms and dads! Did you know that September is the official month for celebrating your feline companion? Cats are family too, and it’s important to keep them healthy. Take care of your kitty's needs so that you can spend as many years together as possible.

Practicing Prey Instincts

Although they spend much of their time indoors, cats are still naturally inclined to live and behave as they once did in the wild. Felines will always be natural born hunters, and much like their domesticated canine counterparts, that internal need must be satisfied. If not, they get bored and become destructive.

While it does depend on your cat's specific energy levels, many felines aren't opposed to going for walks. You can find cat harnesses online or at just about any pet store. Be sure to avoid retractable leashes as they can become tangled if your kitty decides to climb up a tree.

Cat owners who spend a lot of time at work may find it difficult to give their companions enough exercise. If this sounds like you, don't worry! A laser pointer or motion toy works just as well for the days when you're just a little too tired for a walk.

Meowlitosis and Other Dental Issues

Whew! Does your cat's breath smell a little worse than usual lately? If so, it could be one of the first signs that something is wrong. Periodontal disease is one of the most common problems that veterinarians see in felines. While it is a natural part of aging, more severe issues such as tooth resorption can arise. 

Small lesions form around the gumline, sort of like what you'd see with gingivitis in a human. If left unchecked, the inflammation increases over time causing a breakdown of the root tissue, and the tooth eventually retracts. 

Veterinarians are still unclear as to the exact reason behind tooth resorption. What we do know is that there's a direct link between poor oral hygiene and the gum inflammation that initiates root destruction. If it’s been awhile since your cat has seen the dentist, make an appointment this month!

Preventing Feline Leukemia

Did you know that Feline Leukemia Virus is the most common cause of cancer in cats? This disease is spread through bodily fluids such as urine, saliva, and blood. Feline Leukemia progresses similarly to the way that AIDS and HIV do in humans. It is incurable, and slowly destroys your cat's immune system.

The good news is that a vaccine does exist, and it can be administered to kittens as early as nine weeks of age. Believe it or not, FLV is most often spread through mutual grooming and milk. So, if there's any chance your female kitty might become a mama, make sure she's vaccinated against the virus first!

Even if your cat tests positive for the disease someday, it doesn't necessarily mean that the end is nigh. Many felines live for three plus years after being diagnosed, and with a great quality of life I might add.

Great DIY Pet Projects to Create at Home!

Cat lovers love their homes, too, and sometimes their BFFFFs (best four-footed forever friends) shred their furniture, making them have to choose between their homes and their cats. In days-gone-by, declawing was the way many people solved the dilemma, but today we know that declawing actually amputates the first part of every one of the cat's toes, a cruel and unnecessary process.  The cruelty is obvious, but why unnecessary? Because you can easily make a great-looking cat scratcher that kitty will much prefer to your sofa and will not look like "cat furniture." We found this project on

Creating this wonderful cat scratcher starts with the IKEA Rast bedside table ($14.95) and a few other supplies. All the instructions are available on An easy evening or weekend project and your decor is safe from kitty's claws!

Cats aren't the only pets that can be destructive. When dogs are left at home for an extended period of time (like when you're at work), they can get bored and look for ways to entertain themselves. Sometimes, they get destructive. Even if Spot isn't destructive, if he likes to chew, here is a way to make a no-sew chew toy that will allow him to entertain himself for hours on end.  It  may look complicated, but these easy-to-follow tutorials will have you churning out these delightful chew toys in no time. You can find the tutorial here

Cats love to get inside things, as all cat lovers know. An empty box or paper shopping bag is alluring to cats, but they are kind of, well, trashy-looking lying around your home. Instead, find a brightly colored t-shirt at your local resale shop (or recycle one only our own), add a piece of cardboard and a couple of wire coat hangers and voila! A great-looking cat hide-out that is as much fun to look at as it is for kitty to hide in. To find the simple tutorial, just follow this link. Make several to go in every room your cat lives in to match or complement the colors and patterns in the room.

With a few tools and some imagination,the folks at The Owner Builder Network have put together this fun self-groomer for cats, but small dogs would love it, too. It comprises a board, a couple of toilet-bowl brushes, and a little time that produces this innovative groomer that takes some of the grooming chore off your hands and puts it in the cat's paws. Fun and useful, and it only uses basic tools and techniques. 

To find even more pet projects to make great things for your cat and dog, why not check out Pinterest? There's a wealth of fun things to make and do for you and your BFFFF's!

National Deaf Dog Week

Every year in America, the last week of September is set side to celebrate our four-footed friends that are deaf. This year National Deaf Dog Week falls from September 24 to October 1. And around our nation, people are finding good reasons to celebrate!

One of the most endearing qualities of dogs who are deaf is that they "hear with their hearts." Not only do they love their human BFFs, they also love their deaf buddies as well. Yes, all dogs love their humans, but deaf dogs seem to have a greater capacity for emotional bonding than do their hearing counterparts. 

Many people believe that when a dog loses one physical sense---such as the ability to hear---their other senses become sharper to "take over.' But according to science, that's not actually what is happening.

In his ground-breaking work on deafness in dogs, Stanley Coren (How Dogs Think: Understanding the Canine Mind) describes eight different modalities that allow deaf dogs to substitute touch for hearing. Their adaptation to sensing the world differently is truly amazing, and you see it demonstrated in pet dogs that cannot hear. 

These special canines are called "Velcro" dogs, because they stick to their human handlers like the hook-and-link fastener. Laughably, other reasons deaf dogs rock are because they don't freak out during thunderstorms. You can sneak into the kitchen for a late night snack, open a bag of potato chips and your deaf dog doesn't wake up and they don't lose their cool when surrounded by other barking dogs. 

Deaf dogs make excellent therapy dogs, emotional support dogs, and even service dogs because they don't react with fear and anxiety exhibited by some hearing dogs. Not only do they tolerate lots of strange hands petting them, they revel in the attention.

Some people have the mistaken notion that all white dogs are deaf. Of course, some dogs (of any color) become deaf through accident or illness, but the inheritance of deafness does seem to go along with white coloration.  The reason for that lies in the fact that the cells that enable the ability to hear and the cells that determine coat color come from the same stem cells. Congenital hearing loss occurs frequently in breeds with white,  piebald, or merle coats. Some of the breeds with these color patterns include Bull Terriers, Boxers, English Setters, Dalmatians, Old English Sheepdogs, Dachshunds, Welsh Corgis, and Border Collies.

Remember this about deaf dogs: the loss of hearing seems to sharpen one sense above all others… the sense of love!

How To Take Great Fall Photos With Your Pets

No matter the species, we can all agree that our pets are family. We raise them, we adore them, and we want to hold onto the timeless memories that we've shared with them. Luckily, we live in an age where every phone has a camera attached to it, so you don't have to shell out hundreds of dollars for a professional photographer. 

However, you can get the same eye-catching pics by applying these simple, effective methods.

Polly Want a Cracker?

Dogs aren't the only animals that are motivated by food. Cats, birds, horses, and just about any rodent can be persuaded through the prospect of a tasty snack. Don't waste time trying to capture 0.003 seconds of your pet listening to the screech of some nearby katydid; the best you'll get are a few questionable, blurry photos once they become distracted again.

Instead, capture their attention by holding their favorite treat or toy up to where you want them to focus. For example, if you want your dog to look directly at the camera, use your other hand to hold the morsel just above the shutter. Once you've got the shot, give them the treat!

Pro Tip: Cut the flash. It’s usually counterproductive and frightens most animals.

It’s All About the Angles, Honey

Don't let the Instafluencers trick you into thinking that it’s necessary to travel to exotic lands, or even outside of your neighborhood to find a fantastic backdrop for your pet. You can take something as simple as an old brick house and make it beautiful with a few props. Using the wall as your canvas, add some "antique-like" items to the foreground. This could be a pair of boots, an old cowboy hat, even a small wooden chair. Placed in between the wall and the props, your pet becomes the focal point. 

Move items around as needed, and don't be afraid to get eye-level with your animal. Both owners and photographers tend to lean on shots from above, but experimenting with juxtaposition will give your photos a more unique look.

Pro Tip: Too many additional elements can turn an otherwise beautiful photo into a cluttered mess. Keep it simple.

Keep it Natural

There's no need to try to force your pet to recreate something you saw another owner do on social media. Allow your dog to sniff as they normally would. Throw a toy or have them perform a trick for you while someone else takes the photo. 

The best pictures are the ones that make us smile. Sure, the artificial situations and setups we see on social media are certainly cute, but they won't provoke the same kind of emotions or memories that a walk in the park or a swim in the lake would. Keep your camera on guard, and be ready to snap a pic when your dog looks up at the sky and smiles.

Pro Tip: If you can't find an extra person and the timer on your camera is too short, you can also use your phone to record a video. Then, screenshot the stills you like and have them edited!

National Dog Day

Your dog has been there for you through the best of times, and the worst of times. They've given you loyalty and unconditional love since the moment you walked into their life. Don't you think they deserve a special day to celebrate all the amazing memories you've created together?

Well, it just so happens that you can make one more, because August 26th is National Dog Day! Here are some fun ways to honor your furry best friend on this wonderful occasion.

Take Your Pup Shopping

Everyone likes surprise gifts, but who wouldn't love a surprise shopping spree? Hit up your local pet shop or pet store and let your dog browse the toy aisle. Allow them to take a good long gander and sniff the objects that interest them. If your pup gives you mixed signals, just grab the first couple of items that make their nose wiggle the most.

Don't forget to pick up a few yummy snacks along the way!

Get a Puppuccino

You probably love your regular Starbucks coffee, and you know that your dog loves their car rides. While you're in the drive-thru, add a delicious puppuccino to your order. It’s just a bit of whipped cream in a small dixie cup, but it’s free and your pal will think they're getting an extra-special treat.

Have a Date Night

Between working to take care of bills and making time to take care of our own needs, it can be difficult to live in the moment. Since today is all about showing appreciation for your best bud, set up some one-on-one time. Head out to a dog-friendly bar or social setting where you can show everyone how cool your pup is and let them meet and greet.

If you'd rather have a "Just the Two of Us" kind of evening, cook up a tasty feast that you and your pet can enjoy. Canines can actually eat quite a bit of the same ingredients we use in our meals. Steak, carrots, celery, potatoes, peas, green beans, and broth all fine to serve. While you're hanging out, be present! Take a few pics for your Snap and IG, then put the phone away and get back to your dinner date.

Give Your Pet a Spa Treatment

Anyone who's been to a spa, or seen a spa on TV, knows that it’s all about getting pampered. After a day of facials, foot massages, back rubs, and aromatherapy, you walk out feeling like a whole new person. Recreate this relaxing environment for your dog! 

Set up some soft music, warm towels, and put some home-made treats in the oven for "aromatherapy" purposes. While they're baking, take the time to massage your pup's legs and paws. For the canines who don't particularly like people touching their feet, move on up to the head, neck, and shoulders. 

It won't take long for your little buddy to doze off into dreamland. Once they wake up, Fido (or Fida) will be ready for their Dog Day snacks.

Cat Sounds and What They Mean

As adorable and bubbly as they are at times, our feline companions are still highly intelligent, athletic, hunting machines. In their transition from feral to domesticated, the roar of a lion has dwindled down to a meow. However, that tiny meow serves a purpose. 

Since our cats have sort of gotten used to life indoors, they've also figured out how to use their voice as a means of letting us know what they're thinking, how they're feeling, and what their needs are. 


We all know how much our kitties love to be stroked and pet by the gentle humming sound that it produces. Happiness and comfort aren't the only reasons that cats purr, though. While scientists are still testing this theory, it is believed that felines emit a low-frequency pitch of 25 to 150 Hertz that discourages osteoporosis.

This could be why cats are able to sleep for 17+ hours a day without losing strength or bone density. Perhaps, it is an evolutionary response to a more sedentary lifestyle. Cat owners may benefit from the sound of purr as well; statistically, they're less likely to suffer from a stroke!

Chirping & Chattering

You've probably seen your kitty click or chatter at birds, squirrels, and other small prey. They might even make a chirping sound toward you every now and again. So, what does it mean? Currently, the most accepted theory is that it could just be their internal predatory hunting instincts kicking in. 

When hunting, felines use a grinding motion to sever the spinal cord of the animal they've caught. The prey is dispatched quickly, and the cat can eat without a struggle. Some owners notice that the chattering is accompanied by flicking of the tail or repositioning of the ears.

However, mother cats use clicking as a means of getting the attention of their kittens while on the move. If your cat appears to be chattering toward you, they may just be hungry or wanting to play. 

Yowling vs. Growling

For the most part, growling is a pretty universal sound that we as humans recognize as "stay away." Cats growl too, and when they do, it’s best not to disturb them. That said, if your kitty appears to be more agitated or grumpy than usual, it could be a signal that they're in pain or not feeling very well.

Yowling is a bit different and sounds more like a distress call. Think of it as a long, drawn-out, higher-pitched growl. It’s usually not a good sign, especially when coming from a cat that's typically on the quiet side. Yowls are often a representation of pain, injury, confrontation, or a call for help when felines find themselves stuck in tight places.

Now, keep in mind that it’s not always an indicator of trouble. Siamese cats in particular are extremely vocal about what they want, and they're not shy about yowling to the top of their lungs to get it! Caterwauling is also used to find potential mates in the area.

Your Kitty is Special

Sure, the sounds that our feline companions make have somewhat of a universal meaning. However, it doesn't necessarily mean that they don't have a unique set of meows and yowls that indicate something other than what's listed here. The only way to know for sure is to spend some time with your cat and observe their "talkative" ways. Who knows, you might be meowing back soon enough!

Keeping Your Puppy Happy & Well Adjusted Outdoors

One of the great joys of raising a puppy is being granted the opportunity to guide their journey through life. Since a good chunk of that time will be spent outdoors, it’s your job to ensure that they get familiarized with their surroundings before they reach their adult years.

Once you've got a full-grown dog on your hands, you'll want to take them to the beach, the park, and to public places without a struggle. Here are some things you can do right now to help ease your little pup into this big, crazy world.

Start Socializing Early

The first few months of social integration are pivotal. It’s not impossible to teach an old dog new tricks, but it is much easier to do while their life experiences are still fresh. From eight weeks of age and beyond, expose your pup to new people, dogs, cats, and children. 

They may be a bit apprehensive at first, but encourage your puppy to welcome sniffs from other animals and strokes from other humans. Allow new people to gently handle, pick up, and touch your pet. Some puppies adore attention, they're happy and relaxed, gladly returning the affection. Others might take a little more time to adjust.

As you're observing, correct unwanted behaviors such as nipping or excessive barking. An adult dog that plays nicely, respects boundaries, is non-reactive, and well-balanced is the end goal.

How Much is Too Much

Those of us who have been roaming the planet for a few years have acclimated to the constant stimulation that we live with. However, we all need a break sometimes, and that includes your puppy. Ease into unfamiliar situations starting with a lower intensity and slowly take it up a few notches.

If the sound of a garbage truck or a busy road sends your pup into Fight or Flight mode, it’s probably best to stick to neighborhoods with less traffic on walks. If they feel uncertain or appear anxious around new canines, schedule a play-date instead of heading straight to the dog park.

Allow your pup to move at his or her own pace; once they dip their toes, they'll see that the water is just fine!

Master the "Come" Command

Much like a small child, you are responsible for your dog, their behavior, and the consequences of that behavior. If they were to run up to someone today, the person might say "aw, what a cute puppy!" 

However, that response could turn into "uh-oh…that's a big dog coming my way" in just a few short months. 

Teaching your pup to sit, stay, and come will prevent years of frustration going forward. Even if they're friendly, greeting another dog that is anxious or territorial can rapidly ignite an altercation. Should you plan on taking your pup to off-leash parks, keep in mind that most policies require pets to stay within a certain range of their owner.

You know your furkid best, so it’s up to you to determine whether or not a situation is appropriate for them. Breeds with a natural inclination for chasing prey will likely have difficulty on loose-leash hikes where rodents are roaming free. On the other hand, they might fare well chasing a ball or a frisbee in a fenced-off area. Either way, it’s never too soon to start command training!

9 Garden Plants to Keep Away From Your Cat

Not all things are edible! Here are plants to make sure your cat stays away from indoors and out.

 Our cats seem to love to rub up against houseplants and those that grow in our gardens. They even chew the leaves of many of them. But did you know that some of the plants you may have around the house may be toxic to your cat?

Lilies. Among favorite plants are members of the Lilium and the Hemerocallis families. The primary concern is nephrotoxicity (toxicity in the kidneys). Other lily plants can cause cardiotoxicity (toxicity in the heart) or irritation to the mouth. All parts of the plant are toxic and can cause severe toxicosis and acute kidney injury (AKI). Even just the pollen can cause AKI.

Sago Palm. The ancient sago palm has been around since the dinosaurs and makes a potted plant. But every part of the plant is poisonous. The seeds are the most toxic and eating just one or two seeds can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, depression, and liver failure. As beautiful as these plants are, they have no place in a home where a cat lives.

Tulip and Narcissus Bulbs. People love to see tulips pop up in the spring and to send bouquets as gifts. Before you bring one home or plant those bulbs in the fall, consider the problems they can cause if your cat nibbles, especially on the bulbs: intense gastrointestinal irritation, loss of appetite, drooling, central nervous system depression, convulsions, and heart abnormalities.

Azalea/Rhododendron. Substances called grayantoxins in these plants produce vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, and depression of the central nervous system. Azalea toxicity can even lead to coma and death.

Oleander. In the Nerium oleander, every part is toxic. Cardiac glycosides cause gastrointestinal tract irritation, abnormal heart function, hypothermia, or death, in cats and humans alike. Definitely admire the beauty of the oleander from afar and keep it away from your house and garden.

Cyclamen. The beautiful leaves and blooms of the cyclamen make it a favorite houseplant, but Cyclamen species contain cyclamine, which is toxic especially at the root. Intense vomiting is typical of the significant gastrointestinal irritation it causes, and fatalities have been reported.

Amaryllis. Another plant from a bulb is the amaryllis, popular around Easter. One of the two varieties is called belladonna, which should send shivers up your spine as it is toxic even to touch. Keep this one far away from your cat!

Autumn Crocus. This autumn-blooming plant is not a true crocus, but a very popular houseplant that when ingested can cause severe vomiting, gastrointestinal bleeding, liver and kidney damage, and respiratory failure.  Don't be fooled because you saw your cat eat the plant and nothing happened. The effects can be delayed and deadly. Best practice? Don't have one in your house.

Chrysanthemum. This highly popular flowering plant contains pyrethrins. If your cat eats these lovely blooms, gastrointestinal upset, drooling, vomiting and diarrhea may follow. Ingestion of enough of any part of the plant can cause depression and loss of coordination.

If you are in doubt about a plant in your house or garden, do your research. Anytime your cat eats any part of any plant, consider it toxic until you know otherwise. Call Poison Help (1-800-222-1222), which connects you to your local poison center, to find out if your plant is toxic to your cat.