A Safe Trip to the Dog Park

It may seem like a great idea to take your dog to the dog park. The weather is getting better and he can play and socialize with other dogs.

What most dog owners don’t think about is  the dog park is there are some hazards lurking in a dog park  for both you and your dog, particularly if they allow the dogs to roam off leash. Here  some tips to keep both of you safe and well protected at the park.

  • Basic commands. Before you even venture to a dog park, make sure your dog responds to the command “come”. Although you can’t control what other dogs may do, it is imperative you have control of your own dog. In fact, you might want to visit the park the first time without your dog so you can familiarize yourself with the park and the dogs that play there. Make sure the park is well maintained and that dog owners clean up after their dogs. Avoid parks that are riddled with weeds, dog poop or mud pits. Keep the first few visits to the dog park short. No longer than 15 minutes. Then you can increase how long you stay as your dog gets more comfortable.
  • Closely supervise your dog. It is best not to take your eye off your dog. Try not to get distracted by talking to other dog owners, because in a split second your dog could be facing an aggressive dog. Check your dog’s body language to help you avoid any trouble before it starts. You know your dog better than anyone. Not all dogs love other dogs nor do they socialize well with other dogs.
  • Look for potential hazards. Be aware of any potential hazards that may be in the park, such as toxic chemicals, garbage or noxious plants. If the park has just been sprayed for weeds or fertilized, avoid it for at least 24 hours. Make sure your dog is up-to-date on all vaccinations and worm medication.
  • Leave small puppies at home. Puppies less than four months old aren’t fully immunized yet and are at a higher risk for contracting diseases. They are extremely vulnerable to being traumatized by another dog’s aggressive behavior. Also, many parks have separate areas for big dogs and small dogs. Many large dogs like to play rough and lunge at all dogs.
  • Let your dog off leash as soon as you enter unleashed areas. Mixing leashed and unleashed dogs can lead to a hostile situation. A leashed dog may not know if he is supposed to “fight or flight” – if he cannot take flight, he may have to fight. Also, if you keep him on his leash, he could get his leash tangled up with another dog, and one or both of them could get hurt.
  • Know when to leave. Like a good party, you have to take the cue to leave. If your dog is afraid, tired, threatened or overexcited, leave so you both don’t have a bad experience. Keep your dog’s welfare a top priority. As soon as you sense that your dog is not having fun, then it’s time to leave.  Dog parks can be a source of over-stimulation for some dogs (like sensitive or shy dogs).

And never,  ever reach in to break up fighting dogs. Squirt the dogs in the face with a water bottle or try to distract them by throwing something near them. Never intervene.

Bark Busters wants you and your dog to have a safe and happy experience.


Could Your Dog Have Lyme Disease?

Although Lyme disease was originally discovered in humans in 1975, it was quickly discovered in dogs, horses, cattle and cats. Lyme disease is one of the most common tick-transmitted diseases in the world and is caused by a bacteria from the Borrelia burgdorferi group. Here we’ll talk about the symptoms and treatment so you can help your dog if he begins to display symptoms.

What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?

  • Lameness due to inflammation of the joints and severe pain (lameness in dogs can occur anywhere from 2 – 5 months after tic exposure)
  • Joints sensitive to touch
  • Lack of appetite
  • Fever and lethargy
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Depression
  • Kidney problems which if left untreated can lead to kidney failure, vomiting, diarrhea, increased urination and thirst.
  • Walking stiff

Fortunately, studies have shown that female dogs that become infected while pregnant do not transmit Lyme disease to their unborn pups,  nor do the pups exhibit symptoms after they are born.

How does a vet detect Lyme disease?
There seems to be four factors veterinarians take into account when diagnosing Lyme disease:

  • Exposure to ticks in a tic-infested area
  • Lameness
  • Positive antibody test (blood test and a urinalysis)
  • Quick results from antibiotics

Generally, three or four of these criteria must exist to be accurately diagnosed with Lyme disease.

How are dogs with Lyme disease treated?
Like in humans, dogs are treated with antibiotics. Chances are your vet will prescribe either tetracycline (e.g. doxycycline) or an antibiotic containing penicillin (amoxicillin or ceftriaxone) will be the most effective. One word of caution: tetracycline should not be used on growing dogs. Although you will probably see an improvement after just three or four days, the antibiotics should be taken for 3 to 4 weeks to prevent re-infection. In most cases, the Lyme disease symptoms will go away and are rarely chronic. It is important that you keep your dog warm and dry and limit his activity until the symptoms have improved.

Research has shown that dogs cannot give Lyme disease to humans.

Do your dog a favor and either get him vaccinated against ticks or use either a spray, collar, and spot-on topical products to kill and repel ticks Groom him often and remove any ticks by hand.

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