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Animal Court: Great Idea or Fleecin...

As a responsible dog owner, you keep your big girl Athena leashed at all times when outside right? You would never let her roam your neighborhood risking her getting into a fight, getting hit by a car, or heaven forbid biting someone who got on her nerves. You also keep her up to date on her shots and vaccinations, keep her registered with the city or county and make sure she wears her tags, right? Well, you may be one of many responsible dog owners, but for every one of you, there is one or more who is not. Every major city, and even smaller ones, have problems with animals because the owners, and for numerous reasons, are not taking proper care of them or supervising them adequately.

More municipalities are taking their court systems and separating them into individual courts for specific needs. San Antonio, Texas is one such place. Indeed they are probably credited with being the first to create a division that only hears cases on animal offenses. The specialized court was created ten months ago to address the issue of the approximately 150,000 stray dogs and 3,000 dog bites that occur annually thanks to thoughtless and negligent dog owners. Officials in the city of over one million residents felt that problems resulting from bad and even abusive dog owners were not getting enough attention. With the animal court, they can now crack down on these people in hope of reducing the number of issues.

Next Up on the Docket? Your Precious Dog
Proponents of this type of special court cite other cities that are creating similar tribunals for a variety of population segments: drug addicts, the mentally ill, and pet owners. They say that this allows a judge to develop a specialty. The rationale being that the judge who serves in San Antonio’s animal court every Friday morning can gain a deeper understanding of laws relating to pets and their owners and therefore serve the community better. The city also says that having a tribunal just for animal crimes forces the public to take the issue of pet safety and overpopulation more seriously. Previously, judges had little time to concern themselves with dog bites, stray dogs, and unlicensed dogs. Now, they can address the issues and force dog owners to take their responsibilities more seriously.

Those who oppose the new court tend to be those who have been burned by it already. Some people are complaining that the fines are too high and that the whole idea is a waste of taxpayer money. Fines that people are facing in the new court range from $269 for a Chihuahua bite to $4,000 for four unlicensed, unvaccinated, free-roaming Shih Tzus. Others who oppose the court suggest that education for animal owners would be more effective than fines and court dates.

Coming to a Courtroom Near You
With 150,000 stray dogs and people who believe their dogs should be allowed to roam free without having been neutered or spayed, it is clear that the city of San Antonio needed to do something. Animal lovers and residents will agree or disagree with the method, but dealing with the issue of animal overpopulation, abuse, and bites could no longer be ignored. There may be plenty of responsible dog owners out there, but it’s those who are not that cause these problems in the first place. That the city has chosen to take what some see as drastic measures to curb the problem indicates its severity. The dog owners of San Antonio need to understand how serious it is when dogs are loose and free to spread diseases, bite people, and make more stray puppies.

San Antonio can’t be all that unique. These are issues that plague streets all across America. Please do your part to ensure your Athena has her shots, is spayed or neutered, isn’t roaming free and that she is trained. If every dog owner did this, the stray population would diminish almost overnight, the incidences of dog bites would be drastically reduced and there would be no need to haul Athena into court.

Give Your Wife or Girlfriend a Gift...

Since you love your wife or girlfriend, you probably want to give her a gift that lasts a long time. You won’t find that if you give her chocolates or flowers. The chocolates will get eaten and the flowers will die. You don’t have to give her diamonds either, although she would probably like some diamonds too! Instead, you can give her a gift that will love her back by adopting a dog from the local shelter.

Benefits of Adopting a Dog from a Shelter
When you adopt Lucy from a shelter, you are taking her out of a less-than-ideal environment and providing her with the love and stability she craves. Some shelters are no-kill shelters, so if you adopt Lucy from one of these, you aren’t saving her life, but you are giving her a better life. If the shelter is a kill shelter, you are saving Lucy’s life if you adopt her.

Many shelters socialize dogs with humans and other animals, so if you adopt Lucy from a shelter, you don’t have to worry about how she will act toward people or other animals. The shelter staff can usually tell you how she acts around children, women and men, as well as cats and other dogs. If you have special concerns about what Lucy will encounter, be sure to speak to the shelter staff to find out how they think she will respond.

Choosing the Right Dog
At most shelters, you can find dogs of various sizes and ages. When you start looking at the dogs, don’t get stuck on a puppy. Be sure to check out the adult dogs, too. Puppies are cute and cuddly, but they grow up and you have to do all the work of training them. Older dogs are cute and cuddly, too, but they are sometimes already housebroken and know basic commands.

Remember that Lucy’s needs will have to fit in with your girlfriend or wife’s lifestyle. If she is active, Lucy should be an active breed. A bulldog mix isn’t usually a good fit for an active woman, as an example. Because choosing a dog from a shelter is a very personal experience, it may be best for you to bring your wife or girlfriend to the shelter and allow her to pick out Lucy. Some shelters offer gift certificates for adoptions, so this is a good option if you want to give your girlfriend or wife something to unwrap. You can always wrap the adoption gift certificate with that diamond encrusted bracelet!

Stretching Your Budget
When you head to the shelter, you will have to pay an adoption fee for the dog. Call the shelter to find out how much the adoption fee is so that you can have it ready. When you call, ask if the shelter gives out a voucher for the first veterinary visit. In some cases, the shelter won’t give out a voucher because Lucy has already been evaluated by a vet and she wasn’t spayed upon entering the shelter, she will have been once she arrived. If either of those is true, you don’t have to worry about taking Lucy to the vet when you leave the shelter. Of course, you also have to buy Lucy a collar, leash, bed, crate, food, bowls and toys. You may get a discount from a local pet store when you bring the adoption paperwork in with you.

Even with those costs, you will likely still have some money left from your gift budget. If you do, donate it to the shelter in your wife or girlfriend’s name or use it to buy supplies that you can donate to the shelter. Your wife or girlfriend will love knowing that you helped out other animals in her name. Women eat that stuff up!

What’s In a Dog Name?...

Okay, so maybe naming your Boxer, Jimi, during your Hendrix phase wasn’t the best idea, and letting the kids name your bloodhound, Fanny, was even worse. If you don’t like your dogs’ names, why can’t you just change them to something different? It is not like Jimi and Fanny understand English; it is not like they would notice, right?

While the argument that Jimi and Fanny do not speak English does have some merit, that doesn’t make it airtight. Your dogs would notice if you changed their names. In fact, there are a whole slew of reasons not to go about renaming your dogs whenever the whim strikes you. These reasons can be sorted into two categories: the ways it would affect them, and the ways that it would affect you. You may be surprised how much of a difference renaming your pooch can make.

The Effects On Them
The biggest problem with changing your dogs’ names is that it is confusing to them. Learning a new name is just like learning a new trick. It takes time, effort, and training – for both of you. The likelihood that this process of adapting Jimi to his new name will be stressful for the two of you is very high indeed. No one, neither human nor canine likes to encounter stress, so why add more to the relationship between man and beast?

This can be especially true for dogs that have a harder time learning tricks due to breeding, attention span, or other factors. Boxer can be hyperactive, and a bit slow on the uptake. It could take Jimi months to learn his new name and incorporate it into his human vocabulary. So, you will have effectively spent months fixing something that is not broken. Renaming Jimi or Fanny would be possible with training, to be sure, but you would want to have a very good, important reason for doing so.

Also, once you’ve successfully changed your pup’s name once, what’s to stop you from changing your mind again, and renaming him again – which would cause even more stress for both of you.

The Effects On You
The biggest effect that it will have on you is that it will damage your relationship to Fanny to rename him. Renaming your dog takes away the identity that you associate with his name. To you, Fanny is not just some bloodhound whose name happens to be Fanny, but rather, she is your bloodhound Fanny. Rename her Droopy or whatever you feel like, but understand that he will become some bloodhound named Droopy for a while before he becomes your bloodhound Droopy.

Many people who pick out dogs from shelters want to rename them because they “don’t like the name that their dog comes with.” What they don’t understand is that the very first time they learn their dog’s name, they create a sort of identity for their pet in their mind. This paradigm creation of your dog is forced to shift and change as new information about their pet becomes available. Changing your pet’s name is not just another shift in this paradigm. It is a complete alteration of your identification of this paradigm.

If you haven’t noticed by now, the effects that changing Fanny and Jimi’s names have on them also affect you, and vise versa. The names, “Fanny” and “Jimi” are the fulcrum point of the special relationship that you share with them. Don’t fix what isn’t broken. Just like you wouldn’t rename your children on a whim, you shouldn’t rename your dogs. Fanny and Jimi are the perfect names for Fanny and Jimi, because it is who they have always been and will forever be.

Deaf Mute Dog Trainer...

You love dogs and you have always wanted one. So you pick up little Mikey from the shelter. He’s an adorable and lovable little terrier who puts a smile on your face. You get him home and find out that Mikey is less a little angel and more a troublesome terror. He rips up the toilet paper, gets into the garbage, and pulls like mad on his leash when you go for walks. You love your new little guy, but his habits are a real pain. It’s time to learn to train your new buddy, but you are deaf and mute and you’ve been told that you will be unable to teach him commands. What if you want to try anyway? Little Mikey isn’t aggressive; he just needs some obedience. Can you do it? The answer is an emphatic yes!

There are many qualities that a good dog trainer should have and none of them are the ability to hear or speak. Many a deaf dog has learned obedience through the use of hand signals and other kinds of body language. There is no reason you can’t use the same techniques with Mikey.

Qualities of a Good Trainer
Deafness in no way should prevent anyone from training their dog. A good dog trainer is someone who is patient. Dogs don’t learn in an instant. It takes time, consistency, and patience to teach a dog tricks or obedience. A good trainer is also someone who is calm. It can be very frustrating when little Mikey refuses to acknowledge your sign for sit. You must remain calm. Throwing a tantrum will only disrupt and set back the training process.

A good trainer has knowledge and skills. You can’t expect to train Mikey successfully simply because you think you know how to do it. You need to go out and do some research. Read books about training techniques, watch shows about training, or take a class with a professional dog trainer. However you learn about training, take those lessons home and use them on Mikey.

Using Hand Signals
Even dogs and people who can hear can learn obedience by hand signals. Using hand signals works just as well as using vocal commands. In fact, many trainers combine spoken commands with hand signals when training dogs. You and Mikey can learn some signals and will be able to communicate with each other with ease.

Introduce Mikey to a hand signal and the behavior that goes with it using basic positive reinforcement training. The trick is to catch Mike doing what you want him to do and to give him your signal and a reward, such as a treat. For example, your signal for sit could be pointing at the floor. Get Mikey’s attention and point at the floor. Wait for him to sit and when he does, give him a treat. It could take a long time when you first introduce a new signal and behavior, but eventually he will begin to associate a pointed finger with sitting and getting a treat. This is basically what trainers who use vocal commands do to introduce a new behavior. The only difference is the signal.

You and Mikey have the potential to have a great relationship with each other. The more you train him, the more you will bond and communicate. He will understand what you expect of him and that makes dogs very happy. A happy Mikey means no more trash on the floor or chewed up shoes. When Mikey is happy, you’re happy. Be patient, consistent, and calm and you and Mikey will be successful.

Halloween Costumes for Your Dog...

With Halloween quickly approaching, you might be scrambling for something to make your pooch look festive. The most important thing is to be considerate to them. If they appear to be frightened, don’t push them to wear an item. If they are laid back, you are likely to have better luck. They might not wear the costume for an entire evening, but at least long enough to get some fun photos taken, so at the very least, you can plaster them all over Facebook.

Basic Guidelines
The guidelines are similar to those to bear in mind with costumes for children. Masks are always best avoided when possible. If anything could cause a tripping or falling hazard or impair vision, it should be removed from the costume. Many costumes can be altered to suit your dog’s needs. Costumes often involve some sort of hat that goes over their ears. Many are fine with this. If there is anything that wraps around their chest or stomach, be sure that it’s not too tight. You want to be sure their breathing is not restricted, which could cause them to panic.

Homemade Costumes
If there’s nothing at your local pet store that really suits your dog’s personality, or you can’t find something to properly fit your large dog, you might try making them a costume. When making your own costume, you can use velcro, which is a lot easier than buttons, snaps or zippers and definitely safer for your pooch should they decide to remove the costume. If they do, you can always pop on a festive bandana. Most dogs are OK with this, as it feels similar to their collar.

Trick or Treating
If you decide to take your dog along and make trick or treating a family affair, be aware of your dog’s behavior. There will be lots of stimulating activity, noise and sights they aren’t used to. Even the most well behaved dog can act out when they are frightened or over stimulated. There will be lots of children tempted to pet your dog. If you have any doubts at all about whether your dog will be OK with this, you should leave them at home, which is the safest option. If your dog has been in such situations before, be sure that they have reflective tape on their collar and part of their costume so that they can easily be seen.

If you have a dog that is particularly shy or skittish, you might find them a safe place to stay while trick or treaters are visiting your house. All of the commotion with door knocking and doorbell ringing might be too much for them. Create a safe haven for them with some food, water, a bed or blanket and a favorite toy. Be sure to check on them every hour or so to be sure they don’t have to go out.

Halloween Treats
Pet stores often have special treats for different holidays so that your furry family members can be included as well. It is especially important to keep candy away from your dog or even anywhere they can even potentially reach it. Chocolate is especially dangerous, as it contains not only caffeine, but also theobromine, which is toxic to dogs and cats. If you see any nausea or vomiting in your dog, and suspect they may have eaten some chocolate, get them to the vet immediately.

Another danger that might not come to mind as quickly are the shiny wrappers candy comes in. They are crinkly, shiny and make fun sounds when they’re chewed on. Unfortunately, they can wreak havoc on your dog’s digestive tract, especially if they’re made of foil. Plastic wrappers can make their way through and out without incident, but can also cause problems. Best to be sure all wrappers are disposed of properly.

Halloween can really be as fun for your dog as it is for you and the family. By following these simple guidelines, your dog may even look forward to next year.

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