Monday, April 29, 2013

Focusing on the mission

If you've noticed a change in direction here at the GollyLog lately - you're right. We've tightened our focus to become more useful.

Being helpful to owners of small dogs was the original reason we started our shop - Golly Gear. As small dog owners all of our adult lives, we knew it was difficult to find the "right" stuff for our dogs - harnesses/collars/leashes that fit, toys our dogs could carry, treats that weren't larger than their meals, etc.

We may have wandered off that tight focus for a while - 2012 was a difficult time for us, as well as many of you. We've gotten back on track - reaffirming that original mission for ourselves and our shop.

Our focus at Golly Gear has tightened - emphasizing the needs of people like us, whose dogs are companions, partners, and family members - not accessories or fashion statements.

With a new website and renewed focus, we have a new energy to serve our Golly Gear community even better - finding and offering fun, affordable and practical products for small dogs.

Dogs are integral parts of our lives - both professionally and personally. We like spending time with them, training them, playing with them, and holding down the couch with them.

And one of the best things our dogs have brought us is the connection with other "dog people." We are members of the North Shore Dog Training Club - the oldest AKC-member obedience club in the U.S. And we're proud to be part of the "All Fours Agility Team" - even though we're not the most experienced or skilled team-members and we'll never be asked to play for the softball team, we're just that awful at throwing toys or treats., NSDTC, and All Fours have brought us wonderful friends, people who we never would have had the good fortune to meet if we weren't all "dog people."

Dog people are among the best in the world. We've found, as a community, that most dog-lovers have a wonderful compassion for others - perhaps because we all know the real meaning of unconditional love. We may all be incredibly busy - most have jobs in the "real world" and make time for "dog stuff" when we can, but there's always seems to be time for dog people to lend a hand, or answer a question, or provide a shoulder to cry on.

We're lucky enough to know very few people who would say "It's just a dog." And we feel sorry for anyone who would.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Play with your dog!

Playing tug with my Teddy

I was assisting the instructor at our obedience club's puppy class on Tuesday night and a very sad thing occurred to me. Most people don't seem to know how to play with their dogs.

Sounds odd, doesn't it? And it was a strange realization for me, too. The half-dozen people in class range in age from teens to mid-sixties. Their puppies run the gamut, too; from a four-pound Chihuahua to a six-month old Viszla, with a Boston Terrier, a KleeKai, and two French Bulldogs in the mix.

One of the Frenchie people was having trouble getting her dog's attention. He was interested in the other dogs, in me, in the instructor, in the dogs in the Rally class across the room - everything but his very nice "mom." There were a couple of reasons for that - the first one being that he didn't have to look for "mom" because she had his leash so tight he knew exactly where she was - at the other end of the very taut leash. The other reason is that mom's not much fun.

I encouraged her to get his attention by playing with him - and she responded that she hadn't brought a toy to class. And she seemed astonished when I said "You don't need a toy - have him play with you!"

It never seemed to occur to her - or most of the other people in class.

So I got down on my knees and gave her dog a little poke. Then I put my hand against his chest and gently pushed. It got his attention. So I gave him another chest push. And he rebounded back, ready to play and eager to interact with me. And we had a lovely few minutes playing "throw the puppy away." And his mom was astounded - she'd never seen him so happy to play with someone and she'd had no idea how to start the game.

Dogs are many things in our lives; companions, friends, protectors, comforters, but they're also play machines. Let yourself play with your dog - get down on the floor and be a silly kid for a while. Toys are wonderful - play fetch, play tug, play keep-away. If you don't have a toy, play shove-the-puppy, or tummy-tickle, or you-can't-catch-me. Don't worry about anyone else seeing you, or what anyone else will think. If they have any sense they'll admire your spirit and be a little bit jealous that you know how to have fun.

Dogs can live a lot of fun in just a few minutes and they're excellent reminders to live in the moment we have.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Live healthy - get a dog!

In keeping with Earth Day, I "Googled" pets and pollution - figuring I'd write about the impact our dogs have on the environment and what we could do to minimize it.
All I found was a bunch of articles about cleaning up after your dog. So scoop the poop, people!

What I did find that was much more interesting was the positive effect of pet ownership on human health. As aggravating as they may be at times - it turns out my dogs are good for me. (Remind me of this, please, the next time I complain about those "rolling ocean" sounds coming from Dax at 3 o'clock in the morning.)

There are lots of ways that pets have a positive impact on our health; lowering blood pressure and anxiety, and now we discover that pets are good for kids with allergies - good to know this record-pollen-level Spring!

Back in the dark ages when I was a child with allergies, my mother was instructed to get rid of carpeting, drapes, upholstered furniture and the dog. So, a bit obnoxious even then, I asked the doctor what the effect of not following instructions would be. A Spartan lifestyle may be good for some, but not my taste, even then. And there was no way my dog was going anywhere without me. Basically, he told me that my nose would be stuffed. Like it had been forever.

So we went home and changed little, if anything, around the house. And umpteen years later, I can still breathe. And my face does make noise sometimes (sniffing, coughing and sneezing), which upsets my dog Roc (Mom's face is NOT allowed to make noise), but I'm fine.

And it was the right thing to do. According to researcher James E. Gern, MD, a pediatrician at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in an article in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology cited in, children living with "furred animals" have fewer allergies. 
In his recent study, Gern analyzed the blood of babies immediately after birth and one year later. He was looking for evidence of an allergic reaction, immunity changes, and for reactions to bacteria in the environment.
If a dog lived in the home, infants were less likely to show evidence of pet allergies -- 19% vs. 33%. They also were less likely to have eczema, a common allergy skin condition that causes red patches and itching. In addition, they had higher levels of some immune system chemicals -- a sign of stronger immune system activation.
"Dogs are dirty animals, and this suggests that babies who have greater exposure to dirt and allergens have a stronger immune system," Gern says.

Of course, we also did all kinds of things back in the day that are frowned upon now. We have a precious home movie of me, about three years old, dashing over to a pile of rocks and sticking them in my mouth. With my mother hot on my heels to extract them.

In our neighborhood the kids all played in rain puddles (especially the ones with worms); we dug in the unsanitized, neighborhood dirt; we let ants and butterflies and fireflies crawl on us and we were all okay.

I believe that the human immune system is one of the "use it or lose it" things. Healthy people should give their bodies some challenges. We all know the "five-second rule" is bogus - but if the last cookie falls on the floor, I'm still going to eat it, unless one of the dogs beats me to it.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Dealing with Booker's "hairy eyeball"

This morning we're on tenterhooks. Booker, Fran's five-month-old Boston Terrier puppy is having surgery today to remove a growth (dermoid cyst) from his right eye.
Aside from being good fodder for jokes (Booker's quite literal "hairy eyeball"), there's nothing good or fun about it. From the stress of diagnosis, to finding a good specialty vet, to figuring out how to pay, to worrying about the procedure, the follow-up, and the long-term ramifications - it's all a source of stress. And it's one that every pet owner faces at some point.
So how do you find a good veterinarian? It takes some research, which is easier now than ever before. The internet makes it both simpler and more perplexing - after you've read umpteen dozen reviews of a particular veterinary hospital, what impression are you left with? Good, bad, more confused than when you started?
We've been going to the same veterinarian since before there was an internet. But I still remember how we found her - a friend whose opinion we trusted referred us - with glowing accolades. So we tried her and we liked her. And she listens to us. Which is increasingly rare and much appreciated. When we take one of our dogs in because "he's just not right" - she takes us seriously and works to find the source of the issue.
So the first resource for finding a good vet is to ask people you trust - people who take care of their pets the way you want to. People whose pets are healthy and happy.
If you have several to choose among, secondary considerations may be costs, hours, and distance. When you've made your decision, it may be a good idea to make an appointment and take your pet for a "wellness check." It's an opportunity to assess the facility, personnel, and the vet - before you and your pet are in urgent need.

Monday, April 15, 2013

What should I feed my dog? (Part II - Who do you trust?)

Who do you trust?

It's an important consideration when considering what you'll feed your dog.

Gone are the days when dogs ate table scraps and their diet was given little, if any consideration. Dogs are treated as members of our families and addressing their well-being, including the food they eat, is part of our lives.

There's a rumor out there that veterinarians don't know much about canine nutrition and their training consists of dog-food-company-sponsored lectures of a day or two in vet school. While not quite accurate, it is true that most veterinarians don't specialize in nutritional considerations. And the controversy over raw feeding and BARF (Bones and Raw Food) feeding rages not only in the consumer sector, but in professional circles as well.

So - is your veterinarian's word final when it comes to your dog's food? No - but it should be considered. As should the opinion of your "dog friends" whose dogs are active, happy, healthy and look great. It can also be helpful to get the viewpoints of all the dog "professionals" you're in contact with - the breeder you got your puppy from, the groomer who makes your dog look great, the trainer who taught your obedience class.

All of them have found some feeding system, brand or company whose products they trust.

Listen to everybody. Ask why they do what they do. Follow up with online research of the brands, or methods that sound best to you. And then employ the most valuable tool you have - your common sense.

When I first heard about raw feeding, it was accompanied by phrases like "what wolves eat in the wild." Thinking about it - my dogs bear little, if any resemblance to wolves. And I found no research that wolves in the wild are particularly long-lived, or healthy. It may be that a raw diet is good for dogs (some people swear by it, too), but that reasoning wasn't good enough for me - it defied common sense.

And once your decision is made, don't rest on your laurels. News reports have been coming out almost weekly on dog food recalls, either enforced or voluntary, at various companies. Stay aware - it's not difficult these days. One of the most current sources for information is The Dog Food Advisor; you can even sign up for email alerts.

At our shop, Golly Gear, we don't carry dog food, so I have no stake in the argument. If/when we ever decide to carry dog food, I hope we'll use the same criteria we do for the treats we do stock. We know where they're made. We know all of the ingredients. The ingredient list is minimal. And the company stands by its products - as do we.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

What should I feed my dog? (Part 1)

The one question every dog professional is probably asked most often is; "What food is best for my dog?"

And the absolute truth is that there is no best dog food. There are best choices for a particular dog, but there's no "easy button" for finding your dog's best food.

It takes some research to find it - and a check list of your and your dog's requirements.

Some checklist items you should consider before you go shopping:

1. Cost. Some people can afford to give their dogs the finest, imported Kobe beef. Most of us can't and wouldn't even if we could. Set a realistic budget for feeding your dog each week/month.
How big is your dog and how much does she eat? If you have a small dog that eats less than a cup of dry food a day, maybe a more expensive brand of food that meets all of your other requirements is worth considering. If you have a massive dog that eats several cups of food a day, you may have to consider less expensive choices.

2. Convenience. There is a trend these days toward raw food and/or freshly prepared, homemade dog food. It may be wonderful if you can fit it into your schedule and freezer, but it may not be an option for those who, more often than we'd like to admit, settle for cereal for dinner because we just don't have the time or energy to cook after work.

3. Quality. Another recent trend is to include ingredients that are "in the news" as providing health benefits. Blueberries and cranberries and oatmeal and on and on and on may be great foods, but does your dog's food need to include them? I tend to believe that fewer ingredients is better, but that's probably because I've tried, more than once, to figure out which ingredient is triggering my dog's allergies.
Also pay attention to where the food is made, and how. We've all been frightened by the tainted, imported dog foods. And many smaller dog food companies in this country use common packing facilities to make and package their products. This is called "co-packing." It means that while one company's food may be perfect for your dog, another company's recipe may contain ingredients you don't want, and it was made on the same equipment. Something to consider.

4. Health and Allergies. Is your dog sensitive or allergic to some foods? I have one dog that can't eat chicken and/or turkey and I have to scour the dog food labels to find products that exclude "poultry by-products." 

So what do we feed our dogs? Between my sister and I we have five dogs and feed them four different foods - because there is no "right" food for all of them. One has allergies, one has kidney issues, one's a puppy, and two (thank goodness) are normal, healthy adult dogs.

Friday, April 05, 2013

More puppy training tips

Tango and Booker
  • Train one dog at a time! Put the other dog away for a few minutes (in his crate or in another room) - he'll be fine.
  • Let him watch, if possible. Jealousy is a powerful training motivator.
  • But, keep the training times about equivalent, and as short as 5 minutes per session.
  • Review yesterday's lesson. And review it again tomorrow.
  • Bring the best treats to class, to try to maintain your puppy's attention. Use the next best for daily training sessions. - Fran