Category: Dog safety

Pup-sicles? Keeping your pets warm in winter


A winter’s day in my part of the world, East Coast of Florida, is often scoffed at. We have our lower temperatures, in the teens or below? No. But then we are not prepared for that, and neither are our animals.

As I was leaving the post office last week a woman in shorts and  a t-shirt jokingly told me to take off my coat, saying it was too pretty a day.(The temperature was in the high 50s).

The request was barely out of her mouth when she stated, “You live here don’t you?” My response, “Yes, and you don’t” as I looked  at her choice of clothing for they day. Did I NEED the jacket? Maybe not. Was I comfortable? Definitely. These same considerations should be applied to our pets.


You don’t want to overdress, and thereby overheat your dog, but if he’s chilly, and especially if your pup is a short-haired dog, a sweater may be appreciated. So far my dogs have not needed clothing, though as a knitter I have checked out a couple of patterns and even considered converting an old sweater into a dog vest. (There’s a pinterest link below for a neat way to make a pooch sweater)

Folks in the north, or those traveling with their dogs in the north, have more to worry about than ice and snow. Something far more dangerous to your pet – the chemicals and salt used to remove the ice and snow.

So if you live in an area where you have to melt the ice and snow, or are traveling to an area like this, it is important to be aware of where your dog is walking. A Florida dog is probably not going to want to walk on the snow and will stick to the treated sidewalk and roads.

5 Tips before you take your dog outside:

  1. Put a small pan of water (one the dog could step into) and a towel by the door into the house.
  2. Wash and dry your pup’s paws before you go back into the house.
  3. Do not let your dog lick his paws. If he starts paying attention to his paws instead of what he is outside to do, wash them immediately, the chemicals are probably burning the pads of his paws.
  4. You do not want him licking his paws and ingesting the chemicals or salt. These are toxic and can do permanent harm, or even be fatal, to your dog.
  5. If you pup wears a coat/sweater, make sure it fits. Once you are back inside, remove it immediately or supervise your dog while he has it on.

Dogs are fun to watch outside, but remember, boundaries all look the same when everything is covered in snow. Keep them on a leash or in a fenced in area and have fun!

Need a quick sweater for your pooch? I found this easy-to-follow pattern on Pinterest

The dog days of summer are here

I live in Florida where we expect the summer to be hot, but this summer is a scorcher — and not just in Florida. It’s unusally hot in sections of the country, and the world, that don’t have to deal with high temperatures.

Today I want to share my weekly column with you, because, even though I am on the East coast of Florida, it’s important advice for everyone, and every dog.

Buddy Beach


Please share — maybe we can make a difference this year. It’s not just the pets: Combat veterans can also be affected by backyard fireworks

Pet Dish Fourth

I have always encouraged my readers to refrain from exploding loud fireworks on the Fourth of July, because of the adverse effect it has on pets, especially – dogs. But the noise, and vibrations, can also be upsetting to our combat veterans, many suffering from PTSD.

Everyone flies flags, praises our veterans and supports them, but then, on Independence Day, seem to forget what these men and women have been through. Please, if you are sincere about your support of the troops, reconsider those fireworks in the backyard.

Most communities have free firework displays. Go to them instead of spending money on store bought fireworks that may traumatize your military neighbors, and  the pets in the area. Wouldn’t you rather spend that money on some more stuff for the barbecue?

Getting away from the sound of fireworks isn’t easy, especially if you live near one of the public display sites. Before dusk, take your pups out, securely on a leash. I don’t care how well-behaved your pets are normally, please don’t take the chance – use a leash. One exploded firework can send the best dog running.

Once inside, set them up in their crate, or a quiet room in the house, soothing music on low (not the time for John Philip Sousa), and a favorite blanket or toy. If you are not going out, stay in the room with them. The company will be appreciated. Leave lights on. The flash from the fireworks will be less noticeable in a room that is lit.

Thundershirts may also help with some of the fear. These don’t work on all dogs. For us, it takes the edge off for Buddy, but it doesn’t completely calm him.

Do not take your dog to public displays. It isn’t good on their ears or their nerves.

If you are having a family barbecue, make sure your dog is safe and secure inside. Many dogs will dig out, or jump a fence, to “get away” from unfamiliar noises.

Should your dog get out, please check with local humane societies, and post on local animal rescue Facebook sites. As always, make sure your pets have up-to-date identification on them.

For our veterans, I hope I have dissuaded some of your neighbors from exploding fireworks. There are noise reduction headphones, which I have been told work fairly well, and I know some of you will go camping to get away from the celebrations.

Our thoughts are with you this weekend, and Thank You.

Shelter from the storm

Dogs, but generally not cats, often have a fear of storms, making States like Florida a tough place to live.

EESamantha's things 2

Our household is hoping for a quiet hurricane season. On June 6, Tropical Storm Colin rolled through our section of the state with some wind and rain. Certainly no Hurricane Frances or Charley – thank goodness.

The Estes dogs were not impressed with Tropical Storm Colin. This is especially true for Buddy, the Jack Russell.

Buddy was adopted in Orlando but was moved to Arizona almost immediately. Arizona doesn’t have hurricanes, and not that many thunderstorms . 

He came home with us last December because he was not adapting well to our granddaughters’ new found mobility. He liked her fine – if she stayed in one place.

So to keep the peace, and the dog, good old mom and dad brought him back to Florida. A place where there are thunderstorms, tropical storms and hurricanes.

As the bands of rain from Colin passed through the area, both dogs were quite upset, even while wearing their ThunderShirts. Buddy curled up on the bed, curtains drawn, and Kodi went to a favorite spot by the couch. They are where they feel safe, and that’s all that matters.hurricane

Tropical Storm Colin was a weather nudge. We are into hurricane season, and we need to be prepared.

If you live in an area where you might have to evacuate; this include wildfires, hurricanes, or even into your own tornado shelter, your emergency preparations need to inlcude your pets. Preparing an evacuation bag now for your pets will only take a bit of your time. It will be time well spent.

The kit isn’t just for those who live in evacuation areas. It’s for those inland, who may lose power, or be unable to get out for a couple of days.

Here are a few items to gather for your pet: Veterinary records for proof of vaccinations (put these in a zip lock bag. Tags are not recognized as proof of vaccination); pet medication; two, 2-liter plastic soda bottles for water; zip lock bags of dry food or extra cans of pet food; plastic food and water dishes; cat litter and disposable pan; crates for each pet and blankets; extra leash; doggie bags; one or two favorite toys (these can be tossed in at the last minute); ThunderShirts (if your dog uses them).

If you need to evacuate, or if you are sheltering in place, fill up the 2-liter bottles when you fill up your family’s water needs – before the storm.

Microchip 1
The dog is scanned for a micro chip. Like most dogs that come into shelters. this one did not have a micro chip.

Now is also the time to verify that your pet’s ID is up to date on their collar or their microchip.

The best crates I have found are the open wire style. These allow for more ventiation than the hard side, airline-style crates. Select one that is large enough for your dog too stand and turn around in. Too big is not better. When scared, most dogs prefer a smaller “cave.”

This is also a good time to find out where the emergency shelters that are pet-friendly are, in your area. These are last resort, for survival, shelters. They are not like sleeping in a hotel far away from the disaster or hunkering down in your, or a friend’s, home.

Expect the unexpected

car dog
Would you let your child hang out of the window of your vehicle? Then why your dog?

I’m a worrier. I see situations and consider the “what ifs.” I have been working on this but sometimes, well sometimes I just can’t help myself.

Recently I had an early assignment. One of the many advantages of working from home is I can usually schedule things so I don’t have to rush out in the morning and I don’t have to get into the morning traffic.

However, this morning I find myself at 8 a.m. and in traffic. I was sitting at a light at a Route U.S. 1 intersection when a head, and then three quarters of a body, lean out of the driver’s window of the pickup truck in front of me.

It’s a little terrier. A big arm offers more cushioning than protection as the dog turns to look at me.

I want to get out and tell the driver that he is putting his pup at risk. Of course as much as I want to do this I don’t because unsolicited advice is rarely welcomed and just as rarely accepted — in my experience.

So I sit quietly, snap a few pictures and watch as the light changes and the man accelerates through the intersection.

I hope that he doesn’t get hit and the dog escapes, or his air bag activates with the dog between him and the steering wheel. I hope the pup doesn’t see something and jump out the window. Heck I hope the pup doesn’t get a kicked up rock or bug in his eye.

I change lanes. If he does fall out I don’t want to be the one to run him over.

Right leash

Walking a dog should be enjoyable for both of you. In my opinion the dog should be able to explore safely without the owner having to be pulled down the street.

Training your dog to walk on a leash is easier if you have the right collar and leash. Extensive training is not involved unless of course you want to train you dog for show or are very rigid on how you want your pup to walk with you.

For me, it’s a combination. I want Kodi to have fun on his walks, be able to explore safely and be able to get a good walk in myself.

Kodi has several leashes. Which one I snap to his collar depends on what type of walk we are taking. Yes, there are different types of walks.

First there is the standard leash, a 4-8 foot length of nylon or leather webbing. I prefer the nylon as they are easier to keep clean. The length depends on the type of dog and how close you want to keep him to you. Folks in city environments or crowded dog friendly events often like the shorter leash so their dog stays right by their side.

One of my favorite leashes is the Weiss Walkie developed by Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist Emily Weiss.

The Weiss walking humanely allows an owner to keep their dog in control on walks without extensive training.

The rounded webbed leash is attached to the dog’s collar and then wrapped under the midsection and then the handle is threaded through a ring on the leash. This applies gentle pressure to the rib cage area (which naturally has some give) keeping the dog by your side without tugging on his neck.

The versatile aspect of this leash is you can clip in on as a regular leash when you want to give a little extra length for him to do business and when he’s done, adjust it as it’s meant to be used for the rest of your walk.

Retractable leashes are great for certain situations but often misused by owners. Too often owners simply allow the leash to extend to its fullest giving them no control over their dog and, in crowded situations, annoying those around them.

I use our retractable leash when we travel. At every stop we leash Kodi up and walk him around the doggie area at the rest stops to do his business. The leash is retracted and locked as we get out of the car and walk to the exercise area. These are the areas we encounter people who, while they smiled and may even stop to pet him, were not generally  interested in being jumped on or herded.

At the exercise area I would first look around to make sure he wasn’t going to come in contact with any other dog’s business (it is not healthy for your dog).

Also known as a flexi-leash, the retractable leash allows variable leash length. Like a tape measure, the leash pulls out from a heavy handle with a stopping mechanism that you control. Although such leashes are easy to store and use, “Consumer Reports” and The Dogington Post noted several potential problems. If you do not tightly set the stopping mechanism or leave it loose to give your dog freedom, you are at risk of cuts and abrasions if the dog suddenly lunges forward causing the leash to rapidly unravel from the base. Even with the mechanism set, your dog could pull the entire handle out of your hands, injuring himself, you or a bystander in the process. Likewise, the dog is at risk for strangulation when he suddenly runs out of leash or if he becomes entangled in the leash. Choose a retractable leash only when walking a dog that responds well to voice commands and in situations where you can maintain control.

Maintaining control is not just your control over the dog, it is also over other humans and their dogs.It seems I always come across people who want our dogs to meet. It always starts out with “it’s okay he’s friendly.”

Friendly is fine but when two strange dogs are on leashes no one really knows what’s in store. Kodi is protective of me, wants to be top dog and has little tolerance for having his butt sniffed. He’s fine with adults and children but when it comes to other dogs he has a limited threshold of tolerance and I respect that. He doesn’t have anything to prove and he doesn’t have to “make friends” with a dog we are never going to see again.

If someone comes up to you and their dog is not on a leash do not let the dogs interact. Your dog is at a disadvantage and immediately seen by the other dog as submissive. Politely (no reason to be rude) ask the owner to leash their dog or, if they won’t (and there are people who have to prove how well-behaved their dog is), gently shorten your lead and walk to your car or a building. Hopefully the owner will get the hint and call his dog back.

If he thinks you are being rude fine. Your dog’s well-being is your concern.