Should You Train With a Head Halter?

If your dog gets a bit overeager on walks, it might pull you along, making it hard for you to control it. That’s where a head halter comes in handy. These devices are also used by people who have service dogs, again for better control.

The Humane Society of the United States provides instructions on how to use head halters, which consist of a strap that fits around your dog’s nose, and a second strap that fits around your dog’s neck and behind its ears. You attach the leash under your dog’s chin. It’s also connected to the nose strap. While this might all seem a bit severe, the device is actually quite safe and is considered to be a “humane method of restraint,” according to The Humane Society.

Make sure the device fits properly, and give your dog some time to get used to it -- but not too much time. Dogs that are left with a head halter on while inside the home usually find a way to remove it. Once your pet learns how to do this, it can be difficult to keep the halter on.

The Humane Society advises that you should not:

  • Think of the halter like a muzzle; they are two entirely different things
  • Jerk the leash hard while your dog is wearing the halter
  • Use the head halter with a retractable lead
  • Allow your dog to run speedily to the lead’s end, because your dog could be jerked backward

Do, on the other hand, only use the head halter during on-leash walks when you are present for supervision. Additionally, take time to read the informational sheet that comes with your particular halter.

Photo: Amazon.com

Apps for Dogs

Our pets are often interested in what grabs our attention, so it’s no surprise that dogs and cats show interest in tablet devices like the iPad. Perhaps the size of these high-tech gadgets has app creators targeting cats more often than dogs. Dogs, however, are clever enough to find their own fun -- even if the game was originally meant for another species.

Case in point: The dog that loves to play air hockey on its owner’s iPad. A video showing this clever canine went viral a few years ago. In the video, you can see how the dog keenly watches the puck movements, controlling each shot with incredible precision. Many dogs -- depending on the breed and individual -- are good at tracking, so it makes sense that a game such as this would work for certain dogs.

In addition to dogs playing human games and even games meant for cats, there are indeed interactive apps for dogs. Here are just a few:

iSqueek
As the name suggests, this app turns your phone or electronic device into a squeaky toy. Different types of balls and other toys appear on the screen. You just press down on the picture of the object and, like a real toy, it squeaks and reacts to your push. Your dog might be compelled to push down with its paw too.
Cost: $1.99

Pet Acoustics
You may spend time grooving to music stored on your electronic device, but what about your dog? That’s where Pet Acoustics comes in. This app offers music that has been specifically designed for the hearing sensitivities of your pet, both in frequency, volume and rhythm. The manufacturers claim it will “calm and soothe your pet anytime, anywhere.”
Cost: $1.99

Dogs and cats may have found the real value of electronic devices, however. During tests of these apps and more, pets often discover that the gadgets get warm over time, prompting some cats and dogs to lie on top of the tablets and take a nice nap.

Feng Shui … For Dogs

“Fido Feng Shui,” as it’s sometimes known, has an increasing number of followers. Feng Shui is an ancient system based on the belief that the flow of chi, or energy, permeates both our inner selves and the environments that we inhabit. It has to do with the art of placing objects appropriately to improve overall well-being.

Feng shui can take on a spiritual approach, or it can simply be considered from an interior design standpoint. There is no question that certain spaces make us feel better due to the lighting, furniture, color schemes and more. Dogs also respond to all of these elements, so they too can potentially benefit from feng shui practices.

Wendy Nan Rees and Kristen Hampshire, authors of the Dog Lover’s Daily Companion: 365 Days of Tips, Tricks and Techniques for Living a Rich Life With Your Dog, offer the following tips:

  • Don’t place your dog’s bed under a window or in a corner. Chi could stagnate in such spots, say Rees and Hampshire.
  • There shouldn’t be any water elements where the dog sleeps, since they could disturb rest, according to feng shui beliefs.
  • Don’t place your dog’s bed directly across from an open door at the end of a long corridor. Feng shui holds that chi could flow away from the bed and out the door too quickly.
  • Don’t put heavy objects above or behind your dog’s bed.
  • Minimize usage of mirrors, which reflect light and could frighten your pet.
  • Avoid using bedding that is made of synthetic fabrics.
  • Put your dog’s bed against a solid wall away from any doors that could swing open.
  • Consider placing your dog’s bed on the opposite side of the house from the active front door or garage.

Some of these tips are based on common sense. Heavy objects, such as lighting, shelves or cabinets, shouldn’t be placed behind your dog’s bed in case they fall. There’s also a sense of awareness that we have around such objects. If you are standing under a heavy bookcase, for example, part of you might be concerned about it toppling over. Dogs may not have such a worry, but they would perceive the bookcase and therefore be affected by it in some way.

Feng shui also seeks to maintain balance in life. You are probably familiar with the terms “yin” and “yang,” which represent opposite extremes. It’s just one belief system of many that, for followers, can help make life a bit more pleasant and harmonious for people and their pets.

Safe Holiday Dog Toys

With the winter holidays now upon us, many dog owners are considering buying new toys for their pets. According to the American Pet Products Association’s (APPA) 2011-2012 National Pet Owners Survey, 53 percent of dogs and 38 percent of cats receive gifts at Christmas. Pets are more likely to get gifts during the holidays than at any other time of the year, and many of these presents are toys.

For safety reasons, the Humane Society of the United States advises that you avoid toys with the following:

  • String
  • Ribbon
  • Rubber bands
  • Eyes or any other parts that might come out and be ingested
  • Small balls and other small objects that could be swallowed
  • Rawhide (unless you check with your veterinarian to determine which rawhide toys may be safe for your dog)

The Humane Society also reminds us that some rawhide products may be made from byproducts of the “cruel international fur trade.” As an alternative, very hard rubber toys may be safer and last longer.

The APPA shares that the following are some popular presents -- both toys and other useful objects -- appropriate for gift-giving:

  • Booties by Ultra Paws are lightweight and prevent snow from balling up on paws. A single Velcro strap ensures an easy closure, and the Booties feature foam comfort pads to stay snug on paws. Suggested retail: from $12.95.
  • The CinnaMutt bowl by ModaPet is BPA-free and features an Italian-inspired design, adding affordable flare to any style this holiday season. Suggested retail: $24.99.
  • Bags on Board Waste Pick-up Dispensers easily attach to leashes and include 30 disposable bags for on-the-go convenience. Suggested retail: $6.39.
  • Loofa Santa Dogs by MultiPet are elongated plush toys, complete with Santa hats, and are available in different colors and sizes. They also feature squeaky sounds that pets love. Suggested retail: approximately $3.99 to $10.99 online.
  • The Wander Coat by Kurgo features a waterproof top layer for protection from rain, wind and snow, and is combined with inner quilted fleece for warm insulation during winter. Suggested retail: $13.
  • The Reflective Safety System by Petflect includes a leash, vest and collar. It ensures that dogs are safely visible from more than 500 feet away during outdoor activities or winter walks when the days grow shorter. Suggested retail: $35.99.
  • The Bitter Cherry Spray by OUT! International is a safe, alcohol-free taste deterrent that discourages pets from chewing, nibbling and licking certain spots and materials (like the gifts under the tree). Plus, the clear, non-staining formula has a pleasant scent. Suggested retail: $6.28 online.
  • The Good, Bad, Hol-ee and Fuzz Cuz Toys by JW Pet are sure to be a hit. Awarded the Best New Dog Product title at the 2011 Global Pet Expo, the Hol-ee Cuz and the all-new Fuzz Cuz toys feature all-natural rubber for nibbling and soft plush that any dog will love. Suggested retail: $4.59 to $10.99.

Benefits of DHA for Your Growing Puppy

While proper training is important in teaching your dog good manners, diet also plays a critical role in your puppy’s development. If you want a smart and healthy puppy, the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), is an essential component of your dog’s diet.

DHA’s Essential Role
DHA is a major structural component in the brains of all mammals, explains Dr. Amy Dicke, a technical services veterinarian with Iams. “Healthy brains are about 60 percent structural fat, and 30 percent of the fat in gray matter is DHA, the most abundant fatty acid in the brain,” says Dicke.

Just like a human baby, your puppy’s brain develops after birth. “Puppies have acquired only 70 percent of their adult brain mass by 6 weeks of age, and 90 percent by 12 weeks,” notes Dicke.

Pregnant dogs pass DHA to their unborn pups, aiding in their development. Dr. Tracy Dewhirst -- a Knoxville, Tenn., veterinarian -- recommends feeding puppy food that contains DHA to the mother during the last two weeks of gestation and then until the puppies are weaned.

Research shows that puppies fed high levels of DHA are easier to train than puppies with low levels of DHA. The research highlighted a significant statistical difference, notes Dr. Katy Nelson, a veterinarian. “The puppies were given the same amount of training, the same interaction each day and were of the same breed and line,” adds Nelson.

Benefits of feeding your puppy a commercial food containing DHA include:

  • Better socialization. Your pup is likely to adjust better to your home environment and your family.
  • Quicker understanding. You’re more likely to be able to quickly teach your furry friend new concepts and obedience challenges.
  • Less destructive behavior. Your pup is less likely to engage in the sorts of behavior that cause stress for you and your household.

Other Benefits of DHA
Your puppy needs DHA for proper development in other areas as well. For instance, the omega-3 fatty acid is essential in the development of your dog’s central nervous system and eyes.

“Omega-3s are also potent anti-inflammatory agents within the body,” says Nelson. “They help with inflammation in joints, gums, skin, the GI tract and more. A dog fed a diet high in DHA is very likely to have a shiny coat, healthy teeth and gums, as well as normal stools.”

The Source of DHA
In commercial dog food, fish, fishmeal and fish oil are sources of DHA. It’s difficult for dog owners to provide appropriate levels of DHA and the right combination of essential fatty acids through homemade diets or the use of supplements. “Homemade diets have proved to be nutritionally deficient in most cases,” explains Dewhirst, “unless formulated by a veterinary nutritionist -- especially for the percentage of protein, vitamins and essentially fatty acids.”