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Dog jumping on agility course

Helping Your Dog Choose A Job

Dogs are social creatures. They respect the pack structure and in their own canine way end up with a job. If they don’t have help from the pack leader (hopefully, you) they will choose their own job.

Sometimes that job is as simple as accompanying the leader. My mental picture here is my husband’s loyal black lab, Ike, walking slowly behind him everywhere he goes.

Sometimes, however, the job choice isn’t a good one. Left to their own devices and with a lack of human interaction and support, a dog may choose chewing, barking, chasing animals and cars. These are frequently the dogs that find themselves being rehomed or labeled “bad dogs.”

How can you help your dog choose wisely? April is National Canine Fitness Month. It’s an opportunity to include our dogs in our workout and training routines – and give them a worthy, satisfying job.

I personally love agility competitions. I’ve competed with mixed breeds, chihuahuas and even Russian Wolfhounds. Agility is usually a large field covered with obstacles like fences, tunnels, see-saws and tires, basically a large playground. It is a team sport and tests the ability of the team to maneuver a specified path through, over and around obstacles.

Another fitness option is Obedience, where dogs sit, stay, retrieve, follow and perform as a good canine citizen. A new addition to obedience is Rally Obedience, which involves the dog following the owner around several stations instead of just waiting for the judge to ask for tasks.

Fly ball and discus (Frisbee) sports are readily available for those breeds that love to catch and run. There is a degree of fitness and muscle memory needed.

For purpose-bred breeds, owners are finding much more access to options for training and competition. Herding competitions, earth-dog, barn dog and lure coursing are some of the options available.

With all fitness options, remember to start both your dog and yourself slowly.

We all select a dog for different reasons. Our lives are enhanced by physical fitness, mental stimulation, physical activity and companionship. So are our pets’ lives. In honor of Canine Fitness Month, let’s treasure our dogs, enhance their fitness and give them a job. It will be the most fun you have probably never thought you would have.

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Heartworm Post-Happy Dog in Daffodils

Daffodils, Pollen And Heartworms?

The unseasonably warm weather makes me think of spring flowers, outdoor picnics and, yes, heartworms. “Why?” you ask. Because heartworms are carried by mosquitos, who prefer warmer temperatures. As soon as the weather warms up and mosquitos come out, your pets’ risk for heartworm disease increases.

In fact, the American Heartworm Society recommends keeping your pets on preventative medication year-round because it is so hard to keep track of high-risk months. On top of warm weather, the most likely time for your dog to be bitten is in the evening and at night. If your dogs sleep outside, consider screening in their kennel to keep mosquitos, and the heartworm larvae they carry, out.

I hate heartworm disease. I hate it because the symptoms vary, it causes lasting health damage in both dogs and cats and can even be fatal, all the while being preventable.

Since prevention is by far the best option, talk to your vet about the different options for preventative medication. There are many choices – from monthly tablets to twice-a-year shots. If you are like me and have so many things to remember, set up a reminder text through the website of the heartworm product you use (most of the major companies have this service) or you can set up a reminder through www.mypet.com.

While we don’t often think of cats as being susceptible to heartworms, they are as well. Though cats are much less likely to get heartworm infection, if they do, it can be deadly. Even indoor cats are at risk. Approximately 25% of the cats diagnosed with heartworm infection at North Carolina State’s Vet School were indoor-only cats, so I recommend preventatives for them as well.

Remember – prevention is the best option and there are low cost medications available. Like most things, prevention is considerably less expensive than treatment once your pet is ill. If you would like more information about heartworm disease, talk to your vet or go the American Heartworm Society web page www.heartwormsociety.org.

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