If you were ever looking for new ways to get involved and bond with your dog, Dog Scouts of America may be the perfect organization for you. Similar to Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, Dog Scouts focus on responsibility, community involvement, and education. Founded in 1995, Dog Scouts is a nonprofit organization that continues to grow in more and more communities. There is an emphasis on dog owner responsibility, particularly towards the dogs in their care; thus, the organization requires time and effort on the part of the dog owner to ensure that they are providing a quality of life that is appropriate for a living, thinking, feeling being.
Through the efforts of Dog Scouts, challenging dogs who have behavioral problems are often able to be rehabilitated, thus preventing the dog from being judged a “lost cause” and/or put down. Likewise, it can help owners curb inappropriate behaviors early on in a dog’s development or simply prevent them altogether. The organization teaches owners how to engage with their dogs, understand your dog’s natural needs and desires, stimulate and exercise each dog’s and mental and physical capacity, and so on. Dog Scouts also provides owners an opportunity to socialize their dog among people and canines in a safe and supportive environment. And of course, communities love Dog Scouts because it places such a high value on raising well mannered canine citizens as well as responsible owners.
There are several steps to becoming a member of Dog Scouts or – more accurately – having your pooch be considered a Dog Scout. You can join the organization simply by paying but you and your dog will have to pass several tests to be a full fledged member. Because of the focus on responsibility and training inherent in the Dog Scouts organization, it is necessary for the owner to pass a Handler Test and for the dog to pass the Dog Scouts Certification Test which will indicate that your dog is willing and able to display exemplary behavior and that you, as their handler, are committed to doing the same. After passing these initial tests, you and your dog are full members and are eligible to pursue merit badges. Badge categories include obedience, agility, community service, nose work, trails, pulling, water, existing sports, and other miscellaneous badges. It is also critical that each dog performs the exercises willingly and confidently in order to receive their merit badge. Moreover, owners/handlers it can only use training methods that do not conflict with the Position on Punishment of the DSA.
To get started with Dog Scouts, visit their website at www.dogscouts.org to find out how to join a local troop or how to start one in your area. You can also find information regarding DSA dog camps and other events and you and your pup may want to check out. Although the camps can be pricey, getting started on the journey towards qualifying your dog as a Scout is inexpensive and may be fun and educational for the whole family.
For many people, providing care to their pet consists of giving food, water, a place to sleep, perhaps a little love and affection, and taking them to the vet for shots and when they get sick. If that’s the sum of what you do for your beloved Fido or Patches, then while you may be amongst the majority of pet owners, you are also not fulfilling the needs of your pet. Providing hygiene care for your cat or dog not only helps them look better, it can help curb problems like bad breath and matting of the fur, plus it can help keep your pet healthy for longer. Dental care for your pet is an absolute necessity.
Why is dental health important?
In humans, dental care not only helps prevent cavities and gum disease, but gum disease has been linked to heart disease, demonstrating how important dental care really is not only for your mouth but for your overall health and well being. It is much the same for pets. Many dogs show signs of gum disease before they are even four years old and this lack of dental care can have long-term consequences. With a human child, they will reach an age where they are able to provide their own simple dental care such as brushing and flossing; with a pet, it is always up to you. Their dental health is 100% your responsibility so you need to take it seriously to keep them healthy.
If providing dental health care to your pet and the subsequent improvement to their health still is not enough motivation for you, consider that poor dental health results in bad breath (which can be awfully annoying) and may result in bigger problems down the line such as infections or major cavities (which likewise can cost a lot of money to fix).
What health care should I provide?
For starters, both cats and dogs should receive annual checkups with their vet which should include dental exams. Responsible pet owners will also perform home examinations of their pet’s teeth. Brushing an animal’s teeth is the most basic form of dental health care, yet many pet owners neglect this simple activity. A cat or dog who is not use to receiving dental care will likely be resistant at first but you will be able to train them to allow you to brush their teeth. Make sure you use appropriate toothpaste; human toothpaste is not safe for cats and dogs; you must purchase an appropriate toothpaste. You do have options for the brush – there are toothbrushes you can purchase in correlation with your pet’s size; brushing with a brush is ideal. Until your pet gets used to having their teeth brushed, however, it may be easier to use your finger as a brush, putting the toothpaste on a piece of gauze or similar that is slipped over your finger. Brushing should be done on a daily basis ideally; twice weekly is the bare minimum. There are also some rinses you can administer to your cat or dog that may help with maintaining healthy teeth and gums.
You can also promote dental health by using a few easy tips and tricks – namely chews, treats, and toys. Many treats, chew toys, and other toys can help both cats and dogs be acting as a brushing and/or flossing tool. These items can help scrape off plaque, get at hard-to-reach areas of the mouth, and remove debris and food remainders. When you choose toys and treats, look for ones that offer rich textures, are stringy or rope-like, or require a lot of chewing.
photo credit: The Human Photography Project via photopincc
FiXiT wants to make a big impact for 25 animals hand-picked from GetYourFix.org by featuring them during the best time of the year: World Spay Day. Starting on Monday, February 24, we will launch an individual microfunding campaign for 6 of the 25 chosen cats and dogs. You can help us change their lives by donating as little as $10 to fund the actual cost of their spay/neuter surgeries. When the total cost has been raised for one animal, a fundraising campaign for a new cat or dog will take its place. We will continue all week long with the goal of raising funds for 25 animals!
Success! Animals funded during FiX 25 Spay Day campaign:
GetYourFix.org, a program of nonprofit organization FiXiT, is an online resource whose primary purpose is to introduce people in need of financial assistance to get the animals they care for fixed to generous people willing to sponsor a spay/neuter surgery. The site was created in response to the heartbreaking requests that we received from people wanting to do the right thing – telling us of their personal hardships and asking for our help to end the cycle of unwanted kittens and puppies. GetYourFix-registered pet owners have an extremely low income, 70 percent have a household income of less than $25,000, and 95 percent have a household income less than $50,000. As a result of this program, over 1500 surgeries have been sponsored since the launch of GetYourFix in 2011 in these low income households.
In late 2013, FiXiT launched a novel strategy to get 52 additional surgeries sponsored per year: GetYourFix Fix of the Week. A new animal profiled on GetYourFix is featured every week to allow multiple sponsors to microfund or pool their donations – as little as $10 – to raise the money to get that animal fixed. For World Spay Day 2014, GetYourFix will dramatically ramp up our Fix of the Week microfunding feature to meet a goal of helping 25 animals’ get fixed, offered to sponsors at a discounted rate from Monday February 24 – 28. Profiles will be chosen based on several criteria, including the caregiver and animal’s story, level of need, and risk of unwanted pregnancy, such as in homes with both an unaltered male and female of the same species. Please support this unique opportunity to help families in need and eliminate the risk of accidental breeding.
All pets, like all people, eventually die. While this can be incredibly difficult and emotionally demanding for an adult, its ability to reach emotional havoc on a child is significant. But there are some things and a parent can do to make everything a little bit easier for a child to handle. If you anticipate an upcoming death or have recently faced the loss of a pet and have a grieving child, here are some tips on how to handle it:
Be honest with your child. By telling your child if that their pet is going to live somewhere else or by using other euphemisms, you are not only inappropriately shielding your child from important life lessons (which will certainly cost you down the line), you are also doing it not for your child’s comfort but for your own. Children are remarkably resilient but they need your help and guidance to get through this difficult time. Talking with your child about death and dying will always be difficult but it can be perfectly age appropriate if and will help your child trust you and your reassurances that everything will be okay the even though their beloved pet has passed away.
If you have the opportunity to let your child know ahead of time about the death of a pet, do so. While obviously this may not always be an option, when it is it can give your child an opportunity to say goodbye and get a little closure. If your child is old enough and wishes to be there when the pet dies (for times when euthanizing a pet is necessary), allow them to do so. As hard as it may be on them emotionally, it may also bring them great comfort and to be there for their friend at the end.
Do not minimize or question the validity of their feelings. While many adults mourn and tremendously the passing of a pet, others may not fully understand the strength of their child’s emotions regarding the issue. As a parent, it is not your job to criticize your child’s feelings or tell them they shouldn’t care that much about their pet. It is a parent’s job too except that your child is having any life changing experience that will take some time to process, whether you understand it or not.
Have an event to commemorate the pet. Some families choose to hold small funerals at home for a pet, allowing each child the opportunity to talk about what the pet meant to them. If this seems too morbid for your comfort, consider having a small “celebration” of your pets life and and allow each child to share a special memory or tell their favorite thing about their pet.
Don’t rush out for a new pet. There may come a time when getting a new pet may help your child, but now is probably not it. Unless you have a very young child (say two or three), even if your child wanted and new pet, they would likely be unhappy with it soon once they realize that their new pet has its own personality and preferences and cannot truly replace the pet they lost.
Keep pictures of the pet. For the time being, keep any pictures you may have taken over the years with your pet. As your child goes through their grief process, allow their feelings to dictate whether or not you keep any of those pictures on display around the house. But even if you get to a point where you think you are ready to take down any pictures of their pet, don’t throw those pictures away. There may be a time in the future when one or two of those pictures may be a treasure to your child.
One highly controversial topic when it comes to pet owners and lovers is regarding the morality or ethics of declawing a cat. While many people choose to do it, many others feel that it is inhumane and unnecessarily cruel. Read on to determine for yourself whether or not declawing a cat is an ethical choice.
What does declawing your cat consist of?
In order to determine the cruelty of declawing a cat, one must first understand what the declawing procedure is. Many people are unaware that they are actually two main processes by which declawing occurs: the guillotine method and cosmetic declawing. The guillotine method is far and away the most common method by which cats are declined. In this procedure, the guillotine-like tool cuts a straight line through each joint of the cat’s claws, cutting a small piece of bone that is required to be removed for a successful declawing; it also cuts off the next piece of bone which is considerably bigger. During this process, the cat’s pad beneath each claw is also cut off in half. Essentially, in this process up, it would be akin to having the tips of all of your fingers cut off predictably, it takes cats much longer to recover from this process and will experience some considerable pain during the healing process as cats typically put most (or all) of their body weight on the pads of their feet as they walk, climb, or do anything other than laying down.
With cosmetic declawing, only the cat’s claw and the bone it necessary to decline the cat are removed. The pad is left intact with all its soft tissue which dramatically decreases the pain your cat experiences through the decline process however, cosmetic declawing is not an easy procedure; it requires time, experience, and equipment, which is expensive and complex if, which is why most vets will not perform cosmetic declawing and instead offer only the much simpler guillotine process.
Does declawing hurt the cat?
Yes. The experience of declawing and the recovery from it are both going to hurt your cat, regardless of the procedure performed. As outlined, cosmetic declawing will hurt your cat less and is definitely preferable but the process will still be painful to your cat. Also, declawing is a surgery that comes with risks of infection which can also be painful.
If it’s so bad, why the vets do it?
While there are some vets who will not declaw a cat, most of them will (albeit reluctantly for many of them) for a number of reasons. Generally speaking, most pet owners who want to declaw their cats are doing it for their own preferences and not for the benefit of the cat. While many vets oppose this practice, the difficult choice remains the if the cat is not declawed, some pet owners will simply get rid of the cat or make the cat live outside exclusively, both of which can significantly decrease the quality of a cat’s life as well as its life span. Thus, many vets prefer to declaw a cat in order to ensure that they continue to have safe home.
Are there any good reasons to declaw a cat?
Actually, yes, but there are not many. A cat who has been neglected and has claws that are damaged beyond repair or a cat who has a tumor may need to have in their claws removed – these would be examples of the few times that declawing is in the best interests of the pet. Likewise, sometimes owners may have suppressed immune systems or be on blood thinners and cannot be exposed to the bacteria that would be on a cat’s claws. In these cases, there is a legitimate need for declawing.
Nonetheless, please remember that the vast majority of pet owners who want to declaw a cat do so for superficial reasons like protecting their furniture or curtains. In these cases, the danger and pain the cat experiences is cruel.
When it comes to making sure that your beloved pet is receiving the best care possible, it can sometimes be a challenge to find the right veterinarian. And if you have a healthy, happy pet, this may seem like an easy task. But unfortunately, many of us have learned the hard way that choosing a vet you trust can be very difficult when you have a pet with health problems. Thankfully, there are a few things you can do that will help you make the best decision you can.
1. Ask for recommendations. Chances are that many of your friends and family have found a vet they trust; all you have to do is ask who it is. If you’re active on social media, a quick query on Facebook will likely generate a number of helpful responses. In particular, be sure to ask individuals who have pets with past or chronic health problems. If you’re new to an area, ask your old vet for a recommendation or referral if they know someone in your new area. Even if they don’t personally know someone in the area, they may know someone who does.
2. Find one vet for all your pets. If you just have cats or dogs, most vets can provide the services you need. However, if you happen to have any other pets, chances are excellent that not every vet can provide all of the services you need. Even if it eliminates some possibilities, it’s still going to be easier to find one that you trust that can provide care for all of your animals rather than multiple vets you trust. A quick phone call or a visit to their website will help you identify whether a potential vet provides care for “exotic” animals such as Guinea pigs or snakes.
3. Check out the website of any potential vet. Although there are certainly lots of wonderful vets who have not yet established a website, most of them have and it can help you get a better feel for their practice, especially compared to others. Look for information regarding each vet’s education and licensing, what types of services they provide, their hours, and so on.
4. Ask your vet what they would do. Any time you see a vet and they are recommending a particular course of action, establish the course of action your vet would take if it were their pet. A good vet should only recommend procedures, medications, tests, and any other treatment (or lack thereof) that they would also undertake if it was their own pet on the line.
5. Trust your instincts. If you start seeing a vet and you begin to feel as though your vet is not taking you or your pets’ needs seriously, is unable to identify or solve potential problems you’re having, or otherwise is not meeting meet your needs, trust your instincts or at least seek a second opinion. If what a vet said as does not match up with what you know to be the case, then it is clearly not the vet for you. If you would not continue to see a doctor who did not listen to you or help you, why in the world would you keep seeing a vet who is doing the same? Your pet is relying on you to ensure they get the medical attention they need – don’t do them an injustice simply because you feel uncomfortable breaking up with your vet.
6. Monitor their follow-up. If you see your vet for your dog’s skin problem and the vet prescribes a certain medication, a good vet’s office will take the time to contact you to establish whether or not the medication is helping and to ensure there have not been any negative side effects. Moreover, they will respond appropriately to any issues you identify.
Unfortunately, not all vets are created equal. Thankfully, you don’t have to be tied down to one you don’t like or don’t trust. It’s okay to play the field – just remember that when you find one you really like and trust, you stick with them to ensure the best ongoing care for your pet.
If you haven’t ever had the opportunity to visit your local animal shelter, you may be surprised to discover how overrun and overpopulated it is. As spring and kitten season approaches (I know it seems so far away), more and more puppies and kittens will be taken in, often only to be euthanized later. Even many no-kill shelters eventually have to close their doors to new animals.
Unfortunately, there simply tend to be far too many animals for shelters, especially small facilities, to be able to provide for the needs of these pets. Likewise, many animals that come into the shelter and are expected to be adoptable (such as young or newborn puppies or kittens) require additional care that shelter staff and even volunteers aren’t able to provide. Now is the time to consider becoming part of a foster network.
So what can these places do?
Many of them rely on animal foster care providers. An animal foster care provider typically takes one or more animals into their home to provide for its care until it is ready to be adopted out or there is more space available at the shelter.
What are the qualifications to foster a pet?
Some animal foster care providers have to be very selective if they are unable to provide round the clock care (which is perfectly understandable and something animal shelters are more than willing to work with. Some foster care providers choose to take an multiple pets while others can only accommodate one pet at a time; again, this is perfectly acceptable the number, type, and size of pets that you may take in an can depend upon a number of factors including your residence, past experience with animals, and of course your preferences and abilities. Many shelters will require background checks as well as training and home inspection, at least initially.
What’s the commitment of animal foster care?
The beauty of foster care is that you are only providing care on a temporary basis. Many times providers are needed to help for animals with special needs a shelter is unable to provide for them 24/7 or are too young to be adopted out yet. Some shelters also foster animals out when the owner is facing a temporary situation where they are unable to provide care for their pet but is likely to be able to resume caring for their pet at a later time. All in all, fostering a pet can allow you to enjoy the experience of pet ownership without the commitment of actually a owning a pet.
What are the other benefits of fostering an animal?
In addition to simply getting to enjoy the fun of a pet, fostering can also provide an individual or family with the experience of testing out pet ownership. It’s also a great way to help kids learn about responsibility and even to see if you might find the right cat or dog for your home.
What happens if it doesn’t work out?
The policy of each shelter may be different in regards to how they handle the situation of a foster provider no longer wishing to foster or needing to relocate a particular pet. However, shelters understand that life doesn’t always work out as we hope it will and they want what’s best for the animal (so if that means moving it out of your home, they will understand).
Fostering a pet can bring joy and laughter to a home without any animals or additional fun to your current four-legged brood. You can enjoy the benefits without many of the challenges of permanent pet ownership. Contact your local animal shelter to get started.
In 2013, FiXiT made a big impact on the pit bull terrier population with several promotions that resulted in over 250 dogs getting spayed and neutered. The reason is that about one third of the animals entering shelters every year are pit bulls.
But to start 2014, we want to make sure to target another group of animals contributing to the companion animal overpopulation problem: female cats. This is the time of year when females cats born last season are reaching maturity in order to contribute their own accidental litter or two of kittens to the problem. Most cat breeding is accidental – estimated to be at least 59 percent of all litters. We all know that spay and neuter is the answer, but in times of budgetary challenges getting a fix can not always be a priority.
In fact, last month we hit the landmark of 5000 cats that have been profiled on GetYourFix.org, whose owners need financial support to get them fixed. Many of these cats were first abandoned and then brought in by kind-hearted people that couldn’t stand and do nothing. For example, this week’s Fix of the Week, Kirah, was found abandoned by her mama cat and went through her first heat cycle just weeks ago. She needs fixed before an accident happens.
Queue celebratory horns…FIX FEMALE FELINES
FiXiT is now able to make it SUPER CHEAP to be a sponsor for these cats that need to be fixed with our NEW Fix Female Felines promotion. For just $25, you can sponsor one of the 100 female cats profiled on GetYourFix each month (get the detailshere). The majority of people profiling cats on our site have more than one cat that needs fixed – making these high risk situations that we can make a huge impact on by preventing accidental breeding.
This offer only lasts for a short time. Make a difference by helping those that help animals. Sponsor the fix for a female feline today!
After our recent blog regarding pet manners, you may be under the impression that we here at FiXiT think that training our dogs is unnecessary. To be entirely truthful, we would love it if all dogs behaved at all times. If puppies came out of their mother properly socialized, potty trained, responsive to commands, and otherwise well mannered, we would be thrilled. Unfortunately, we have yet to see this actually take place and and we are willing to bet that you haven’t seen it either.
So if our dogs are not born trained, it thus stands to reason that we will need to train them ourselves. Of course, their mother and litter mates will help them learn the basics like how to eat, how to go to the bathroom, that they need to drink, and so on. They will not, however, teach them how to eat politely, where to go to the bathroom, what not to drink, and so forth. If you purchase a dog from a licensed breeder, they may already be relatively trained when you get them, but if you rescue an animal or adopt one from an accidental litter, the onus of training will definitely be on you.
Now, perhaps you have trained a dog successfully. Maybe you have trained several. Possibly if you are perplexed as to why other dog owners seem to struggle so much; you may even be in a position where you are struggling despite past success. You may be surprised at the myriad of reasons why some dogs aren’t as polite and the number of possibilities that may be able to help.
Consider potential reasons for a dog to be poorly trained:
The dog may be very young – young puppies often lack the physical and sometimes mental capacity to control themselves or learn complex patterns
The dog may be old – while older dogs can sometimes learn new tricks, a dog that is older than you expect may have trouble controlling their bathroom functions and may not be able to hear your commands
The dog may suffer from some disability – dogs with impaired vision, smell, hearing, or taste may be more challenging to train or may not recognize what you expect from them
The dog may be sick – a dog with an acute illness may lack self control or may not respond to commands; a dog with a chronic or progressive illness may lack control over their body as well
If your dog has been difficult to train and does not fit any of these categories, congratulations! Your dog is trainable. In point of fact, if your dog fits one of these categories, they may still be trainable, just in a different way or to a different extent. What is likely happening is that you are not properly educated on how to train a dog or how to train one with one of these challenges. Certain breeds are more challenging to train as well. It may be a lack of knowledge (which is perfectly understandable and fixable), a lack of consistency (which is extremely important), or some kind of an X-factor that is interfering with your training.
So what can you do?
Identify the problem. If you’re concerned that your dog may have a disability or illness, take them to the vet and get a professional opinion. Otherwise, try to identify what is happening in your life or in your dog’s experience to pinpoint the particular challenge you are having.
Seek advice. If your dog is sick, a vet will advise you. If your dog has a disability, your vet may be able to point you in the right direction to learn how to modify your training. Professional dog trainers or even your local pet store may be able to point you in the right direction whether that is towards self help items (such as books), classes, or one-on-one training.
Make training a priority. You may have a very busy schedule, have mobility or disability issues, have an inconsistent schedule, or other considerations. We understand. Identify your priorities for dog training (such as potty training or aggression issues) and work on those consistently. Once you have determined at what is most important, you can tackle other training issues later.
Lastly, love your dog. This isn’t really going to necessarily help you train your dog any better. But it will help you be patient, loving, and encouraging and your dog deserves that – after all, they are usually working just as hard as you are to become trained, even when it doesn’t feel like it.
Tia, one of Jill’s sponsored pit bull terriers. Click to see more on Pinterest!
This year the frontrunner for our esteemed honor of 2013 Sponsor of the Year came out of the blue. On November 7, Jill sponsored her first dog, Stinky, and from then on a whirlwind of activity made her the clear choice for making an impact on the animals profiled on GetYourFix. Since that first one, 42 surgeries have been sponsored — 19 fixes are completed so far. Remember, this process started less than two months ago!
Like previous Sponsors of the Year, Robin and Sophie, Jill has a passion for animals that goes beyond the animals she helps on GetYourFix. She herself has three dogs and another she rescued just last Friday. Her rescue experience goes back 15 years and during that time she developed a passion for pit bulls. “I decided years ago, based on what I had experienced and learned, that I wanted, I needed, to do something to help the plight of pit bulls.” Her worry is the misrepresentation of pit bulls by the media, and wants to “raise awareness about the true nature of pit bulls and what wonderful pets they make.”
The key to solving this problem is population control. She remarks, “The majority of dogs in animal controls across the US are pit bulls and pit bull mixes. The majority of the dogs being euthanized……are pit bulls.” Therefore, spay and neuter is of the utmost importance to her. She has taken advantage of the now completed Half the Pits – Half the Price promotion on GetYourFix, allowing her donation dollars to go a long way. In addition to her amazing generosity with animals from all over the country on GetYourFix, she runs a free pit bull spay/neuter program, Fix-A-Bull, in her local area in collaboration with the HELP Low Cost Spay/Neuter clinic.
Since becoming a sponsor, Jill has kindly spread the word about GetYourFix to friends, family, and colleagues and points out these things about the program that she appreciates (her words!):
“(1) you get to pick the animal you want to help,
(2) FiXiT will do all the coordination/communication unless you want to get involved,
(3) you know exactly what your donation will be used for….surgery for the animal you select and
(4) the servicing vet or clinic does not get paid until the surgery has been performed.”
Jill is an inspiration to all of us on the FiXiT team. If her generosity and compassion has inspired you, too, consider becoming a sponsor on GetYourFix! It’s super easy – register here – and in minutes we bet your find a furry face that you want to help. Or start small by helping our Fix of the Week – pool your donation, as little as $10, with others to get a fix for a special featured animal!