How I Grew To Love My Dog

When I was young, I was severely allergic to dogs, cats and virtually everything outside –  mold, pollen and even Christmas trees. The only pets I had growing up were a turtle and goldfish! I am not alone — according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, allergies to dogs or cats occur in approximately 15% of the population. I took allergy shots for 25 years and had a lifetime of itchy eyes and a runny nose. Kleenex and I were best friends.

To make matters worse, my Mom had been bitten by a dog when she was young and had to have rabies shots. I have heard those are extremely painful. Therefore, she passed on to us an unnatural fear of dogs, big or small. Every time I approached a dog I would just stand still and almost quake with dread. Would he bite me? Would he jump on me? Dogs, especially those that are not well trained, can be unpredictable.

However, I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything because I didn’t know any better.

Then I married a man who loves dogs and the playing field changed.

Coping Mechanisms
Bark Busters - Buddy and Oscar
My husband has had a dog since birth and definitely treats his dogs like they are his children. At first I did not understand his attachment to his dogs. He particularly loves Labradors and apparently he is not alone – the American Kennel Club reports that for the 24th year in a row, the Labrador retriever is the nation’s top dog.  Sure I could have asked him to give up his dogs, but that would be like asking a mother to give up her children. And as a mother, I knew that couldn’t happen.

So in the spirit of every good marriage, we learned to compromise.

At first, the dogs lived outside in a heated kennel. However, slowly but surely, their cute faces at the front door would tug on my motherly instincts. We started out by restricting them to the first floor, because our bedroom was on the second floor. Before I knew it, they had the run of the house and my heart.

Here’s how an allergy sufferer with a dog can cope:

  • We bathe them once a week with a special allergy shampoo.
  • My husband brushes them weekly to get rid of the excess hair and dander (dead skin that is continually shed).
  • The dogs only ride in my husband’s car – not mine.
  • I vacuum the carpeting twice/week with a special vacuum for pet hair.
  • I put a HEPA filter on the furnace.
  • The dogs are not allowed in our bed or on the furniture, but they have comfy pet beds all over the house. I wash the covers of their pet beds every week.
  • After I pet the dogs, I always wash my hands.
  • I use a nasal spray and a daily antihistamine to combat my allergy symptoms.

The biggest change? I get what pet owners have been telling me for years – I have learned to LOVE our dogs. I can’t imagine our family without “Buddy” and “Oscar”. They greet me at the door when I am gone as if they haven’t seen me in years. They are always happy to see me (unlike my teenagers). When I am feeling sad, they are a great comfort to me and when I am happy, they playfully share in my joy.

Plus, I was introduced to Bark Busters three years ago, and in addition to helping me train our dogs, they have helped me overcome my fear of dogs!

So if you are allergic to dogs, with some adjustments you may be able to coincide with a dog or cat without suffering if you are willing to make some lifestyle changes. And the few runny noses I get from them are well worth the happiness they bring!

P.S. Oscar is camera shy. This is the best picture I have of the two of them!

Bark Busters Celebrates Spay Your Dog Day


There are many benefits to spaying or neutering your dog … both to you and your dog. While many puppies are spayed between six and nine months, as long as your puppy is healthy, it can be spayed or neutered as early as eight weeks.  Spaying—which involves removing the ovaries and uterus of a female pet—occurs at a vet’s office and requires minimal hospitalization. Neutering—removing the testicles of your male dog or cat—will vastly improve your pet’s behavior and keep him close to home.

For You
Advantages to Dog Owners

  • Your dog will be less hyper & have less behavioral problems
  • Reduces marking of territory
  • Generally makes your pet friendlier
  • Prevents the stress of your dog having a litter
  • Cuts licensing fees by half

For The Dog
Advantages to Spaying (Females)

  • Less desire to roam
  • Reduce animal overpopulation
  • Reduces the chances of ovarian or uterine cancer
  • Reduces the risk of breast cancer
  • Helps dogs live longer, healthier lives
  • Carrying and giving birth to puppies can be both physically dangerous and stressful for a dog. Spaying eliminates these potential risks.

Advantages to Neutering (Males)

  • Less desire to roam leading to getting lost or hurt
  • Decreases incidence of prostate cancer and eliminates testicular cancer
  • Decreases aggression
  • Reduces spaying and marking

What Spaying or Neutering Is Not

  • A easy fix for behavior problems
  • A bad idea because it will increase your pet’s weight

According to the ASPCA, spaying or neutering won’t affect your dog’s working abilities, friendliness, playfulness or personality. Millions of dogs are euthanized every year, because there are not enough homes to shelter them. As a responsible dog owner, do your part by spaying your dog!

Pet Dental Health Month 2015

petdentalhealthIt is estimated that more than 80% of dogs have significant problems in their mouths, including loose teeth, sore gums and rotting sockets. Dog’s mouths are ripe for all kinds of bacteria, particularly when you think of how often they lick and chew and what goes in their mouths! Just like humans, dogs can get periodontal disease, halitosis, tartar buildup, and mouth cysts that need to be treated by your vet. Here are some tips to make sure your dog has good oral hygiene!

  1. Check his breath. Although we have all heard of the phrase “doggie breath”, if your dog’s breath is particularly offensive, it may be a sign of gum disease. The same holds true for excessive drooling and red gums. While your dog is safely relaxing on your lap, lift his tongue and check to make sure there is not tartar on his teeth (brownish in color) or any cysts. If your dog doesn’t like your fingers in his mouth, coat one with some peanut butter.
  2. Either get a canine tooth brushing kit or wrap a clean piece of soft gauze around your finger. You can buy doggie toothpaste or make a paste of baking soda and water. DO NOT use human toothpaste because the fluoride can be poisonous to puppies and irritate a dog’s stomach! Make sure you talk to him soothingly to allay any of his fears as he gets used to your oral routine. Place the brush or your gauze-wrapped finger at a 45-degree angle to the teeth and clean in small, circular motions. Work on one area of your dog’s mouth at a time. Not sure how to brush your dog’s teeth? Here’s a great video you can watch.
  3. Chew bones and chew toys. There are many great chew bones and chew toys on the market to help keep your dog’s teeth cleaned. Gnawing on a chew toy can also help massage his gums and help keep his teeth clean by scraping away soft tartar. Make sure the objects are not too hard so they don’t break his teeth. Crunchy kibble is better for your dog’s teeth than soft food, as soft food is more likely to stick to the teeth and cause decay.
  4. Have his teeth checked by a vet. When you take your dog for an annual exam at the vet, make sure he checks his teeth.

While February is National Pet Dental Health Month, dental health should be a daily ritual for pet owners all year long.

photo credit 

How to Jet With Your Pet

Let’s admit it, traveling is a hassle even for us humans, between airport security, parking and travel delays. Are you planning to fly with your pet in the near future? Fortunately, millions of dogs fly with their pet owners every year. The sooner you can let the airlines know you will be flying with a pet, the better. Just as there is a limited number of people that can fly on the plane, so too is there a limited number of dogs.

Traveling can be highly stressful, both for you and your dog. But with thoughtful preparation, you can ensure a safe and comfortable trip for everyone.

If a pet is too large to fit in a crate under your seat, they are checked as personal luggage. Don’t fret – they are placed in a pressurized, temperature controlled compartment.

Here are some tips to make flying your pet as easy as possible:

  • Pet reservations can’t be made online — they must be done by phone.
  • The number of animals per aircraft is limited, so reserve ahead.
  • Fly early in the day and non-stop if at all possible.
  • Make sure your pet has a microchip for identification and is wearing a collar and ID tag. Breakaway collars are best for cats. The collar should also include destination information in the unlikely event your pet escapes.
  • No airline will guarantee acceptance of a dog it has not seen.
  • “Airline Veterinary Health Certificates” must be signed by the vet within 7 to 10 days of travel. Make sure all vaccinations are up-to-date. For travel outside of the continental United States, additional planning and health care requirements may be necessary. Contact the foreign office of the country you are traveling to for more information.
  • Sedation is not allowed by some airlines, because pets lose their equilibrium when sedated. Natural calming tablets, however, are generally allowed. All medications must be declared upon check-in.
  • Under-seat cargo crates must meet the size for federal and airline criteria. Purchase a USDA-approved shipping crate that is large enough for your pet to stand, sit and turn around in comfortably. Shipping crates can be purchased from many pet supply stores and airlines. Affix a current photograph of your pet to the top of the crate for identification purposes.

For a list of all rules applying to pet travel, click here.

As always, if you need help with ANY of your dog’s behaviors, call your local Bark Busters dog trainer.

Who Is Smarter … Cats or Dogs?

cats-and-dogs-06Who is smarter: dogs or cats? This debate will probably never be solved, much like the heredity versus environment debate that has been going on for centuries. Even though we are dog trainers, we love all pets and probably each has our own prejudices. However, let’s look at the facts versus the fiction:

What Dog Lovers Say:

  1. Dogs have bigger brains than cats. Cats’ brains account for about 0.9 percent of their body mass, whereasdogs’ brains make up 1.2 percent of their body mass. However, a bigger brain doesn’t actually mean smarter. Although the dog brain has been evolving, the cat’s brain has remained unchanged for approximately 8,000 years. Why? The theory is that dogs are more social, thus increasing the size of their brain.
  2. Dogs can be trained to help humans such as fire dogs, seeing-eye dogs, therapy dogs, rescue dogs, etc. Cats cannot be trained to help humans (ever heard of a seeing-eye cat?)
  3. Dogs have larger vocabularies than cats and generally score higher on IQ tests.

What Cat Lovers Say:

  1. Cats are more independent than dogs, as they can fend for themselves and don’t depend on their owners for hunting or grooming.
  2. Cats have twice as many neurons (300 million versus 160 million) in their cerebral cortex, the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory.
  3. A dog’s memory is five minutes long, while a cat can remember up to 16 hours.

It’s not just about the pet’s themselves … there is research on the owners as well. A study at the University of Bristol in England found that more cat owners have advanced degrees or college degrees than their dog counterparts in the U.K. However, a study in the U.S. by the American Veterinary Association found that dog owners are better educated. (can’t open link)

And so the debates rages on.

The bottom line? There is no scientific proof to show that dogs are smarter than cats or vice versa. Because dogs and cats are different species of animals, it’s like comparing apples and oranges. Sorry.

Are you a cat lover, dog owner, or both? Give us your comments!