Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Finding the right groomer

Once I took the oldest dog to a well-known pet store that offered grooming services. He shook the whole time he was there and cried when we left. It broke our hearts but the place came highly recommended and he needed to be groomed.

When we got him back at the appointed time, which was six hours later, he looked great. Well groomed, relatively calm...but he was sure happy to see us.

I didn't know how we were going to do it the next time. I guess part of me does trust these companies to some extent, but then again how do you know how your pet is really being treated?

Enter the mobile grooming service. I had researched the concept and decided to try one. Well, the woman arrived with her own table, a cover for the floor and all the tools she needed to properly groom a Shitsu. She doesn't bathe them, but because I started bathing them regularly when they were young, they don't give me any problems so that really wasn't an issue.

Our dog was a bit nervous at first, but because he was in his own home and my husband and I were there for reassurance, she didn't really have any problem with him. We were happy with her and called her back.

As time went one, our dog was so comfortable with her and his surroundings that he sat still the whole time, even when she clipped his face. There is no need for the neck chain with him.

When our new puppy needed a cut, we just included him on the bill. We made sure he watched while his brother got cut and then, when it was his turn, he imitated his brother and was perfectly still and quiet while the groomer worked on him.

I can't recommend a good mobile groomer enough...your dogs will be comfortable, well groomed, and you can be assured that they are not being abused in any way because you are there watching them.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Dog food or "people" food?

The great debate continues. It doesn't matter who you talk to, everyone has a very strong opinion as to what constitutes "healthy" food for dogs.

My doctor told me she feeds her Maltese nothing but people food because in her studies on the subject, she found that dogs that ate nothing but dog food were prone to diabetes because of the high level of carbohydrates in dog food.

My friend had a dog growing up that got nothing but rice and fresh cooked ground beef and whatever else he managed to scrounge up on their family farm. Their dog was healthy until he passed away at the age of 18.

I think people food is fine, as long as you know what is toxic (onions, chocolate, etc.), what is unhealthy and what they can eat. You have to believe that these little creatures want variety just like we do.

I've done a lot of research on the topic. Right now, my dogs have dog food that they snack on. Each day they get some meat - liver, ground beef or steak. Sometimes a bit of chicken or turkey but you have to be careful with that as it can give them the runs. They get rice, whole grain crackers and they love fresh vegetables, especially lettuce, cucumber, celery and baby carrots. I can't eat a salad without them going goofy if I don't give them any so I make little salads for them. It doesn't take much to add some fresh vegetables and put it on a plate for them.

They are happy and healthy. My vet says that they are two of the healthiest dogs he's ever seen. Their coats are thick and shiny...their eyes are bright...their teeth are strong and white...and they are bursting with energy.

So, it's your choice. But after doing my research, I've found that feeding them a mixture of meat, vegetables, grains and the odd bit of dog food keeps them at their best.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Are two dogs better than one?

I have two male Shitzus, Bruiser and Rocky.

Bruiser was the first and after a lot of observation and thinking, I decided that we had room in our hearts and our home for a second dog. After much research, it appeared that the best time to get a second dog was while Bruiser was still young. However, the question became male or female? Female was a no-no...they tend not to take well to a male. However, if we were going to get another male, the best time was within the first year.

One of the hardest things to do is to bring in another dog because you just don't know how the first one is going to react. If they get along, that's great. But what if they don't...what do you do?

My first attempt came out of the blue. My husband's step-daughter called to tell him they needed a home for her Cocker Spaniel named Coco. My husband remembered Coco and told me she was a sweet, loving dog and, based on this, I agreed that we would give her a home. I was worried about bringing an older female into the household a they can be very territorial and set in their ways. However, I said it was dependent upon whether Bruiser got along with her.

Well, we brought Coco home. Bruiser, still being a puppy, was quite curious and did his best to impress her by instinctively being the submissive dog. Coco, who at this time was seven years old, made it very clear that she did not have any patience nor any desire to bond with Bruiser. I introduced them on neutral the front yard...and right from the start Coco had no use for him. I told my husband that if she couldn't get along with Bruiser in the yard, there was no way I was leaving my tiny little boy alone with a much larger female. We ended up returning Coco to her owner who said she would try and and find another home for her.

I then got a call from my husband's cousin. Her Shitzu just had another litter - all males - and would we be interested in getting Bruiser a brother?

I thought about it and decided that we would try with a puppy who we could train right from the get-go. I agreed and brought little Rocky home, thinking that Bruiser finally had a little friend.

Well, so much for easy street. Bruiser went from a sweet, obedient, trusting little guy to an angry, obstinate dog who refused to eat or drink and salivated incessantly from stress. Of course, it was too late...I already had Rocky. What was I to do?

Although Bruiser was terribly curious about this tiny thing that was just like him, it took about 5 days of constant reassurance before he calmed down and accepted this little being. As each day went on, he started becaming more and more protective of Rocky.

Now, after 6 months, they are the best of friends. They eat together, sleep together and basically do everything in unison. Rocky has learned from Bruiser and Bruiser has taken the role of mother, father and big brother. He cleans Rocky twice a day like a little mother, teaches him like a father, and is a friend to him like a brother.

In the end, these two little guys are inseparable. Thinking back, it was the best decision we ever made.