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by Ethan Rothstein — September 29, 2014 at 3:30 pm 545 0

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Editor’s Note: The Local Woof is a column that’s sponsored and written by the staff of Woofs! Dog Training Center. Woofs! has full-service dog training, boarding, and daycare facilities, near Shirlington and Ballston.

The dog food market has exploded. There is almost an endless variety of dry dog food options, making it more difficult to determine what the best option is for your dog. Here are some tips to help you make an educated decision.

Bottom line, do what works – If your dog is healthy and fit on whatever food you are feeding him or her, there is probably no need to make a change. A couple of ways to determine if things are going well is to evaluate the results: you need to check the poop. If you dog is pooping more than twice a day, or if your dog is not producing solid formed stool, you may need to reevaluate what you are feeding.

Read the Label – Make sure you recognize the ingredients in the food. The first ingredient should be a whole meat product such as “chicken” or “beef.” Not chicken by-products or chicken meals. If you aren’t sure what a by-product or a meal is, don’t feed it. Look for other whole products like “rice” or “carrots” as well. You want as many whole ingredients as possible.

Choose higher quality, ignore the packaging – Do not be fooled by the packaging. Just because there are fruits and vegetables on the bag, doesn’t mean they’re in the food. Those fancy multicolored kibbles are colored with food dye, not natural ingredients. Pay attention to what is in the food, not what food is on the bag.

Don‘t always follow directions – When determining how much to feed your dog, simply look at your dog. It makes no sense to feed a dog by volume. For example, feeding it two cups, two times per day. Not all 50-pound dogs should be eating the same amount of food each day. Age, energy level, fitness level and body type are all much more important than weight.

Also, keep in mind that the faster you finish a bag of dog food, the faster you go out and buy a new bag. The dog food company has an incentive to encourage you to overfeed. If your dog is fat, feed less. If your dog is skinny, feed more. Adjust as necessary.

There is no doubt that good nutrition leads to healthier lives, so try and choose the best possible option for your pup.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — September 15, 2014 at 2:30 pm 781 0

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Editor’s Note: The Local Woof is a column that’s sponsored and written by the staff of Woofs! Dog Training Center. Woofs! has full-service dog training, boarding, and daycare facilities, near Shirlington and Ballston.

We often here people say, “I NEVER give my dog people food.” This surprises me because I do almost all of my dog training using “people food”as treats. My favorites are hot dogs, string cheese and rotisserie chicken.

So is it ok to give dogs people food? Of course it is! High quality dog foods are made from chicken, beef, sweet potato, etc. Dog foods contains the same ingredients that you and I eat, simply molded into a different form that is convenient to purchase and feed to our dogs.

The bottom line is food is food. The only difference is the shape and quality of the food. People grade chicken in generally much better quality than dog grade chicken, and it tastes better too.

I think where people are getting confused is in the context. You should not feed your dog “people food” that you are eating. Do not feed your dog from the table and do not share your sandwich or pizza crust. Any leftovers that you want to give your dog should be delivered to the dog in their bowl or in a training session. It is feeding from your plate that will teach your dog to beg, not the form of the food.

Context is incredibly important to dogs. They can easily learn the difference between chicken on a plate at the dining room table (not theirs) and chicken in a bait bag for a training session (theirs). In fact, one of the characteristics that helped to domesticate dogs from their wolf-like ancestors was their ability to read the intentions and body language of people. They are masters of contextual cues.

I use human grade food and treats for my dogs for two main reasons. First, my dogs deserve the highest quality food products that I can afford to give them. Many dog foods and treats are made from ingredients that people don’t eat like chicken meal (rather than chicken meat), and contain high amounts of corn and grain, which are nothing but filler.

The second reason is that human-quality food generally tastes better.  When training, I want to be sure to offer the dog a high-value reward in order to get the best possible behavior from them.

So don’t be afraid to share your leftovers. Just make sure you are clear about which food belongs to you and which food belongs to your dog. It’s all made of the same stuff anyhow.

Update at 3:15 p.m. — The point of this article is to highlight human foods that dogs can eat safely. As pointed out by a commenter, there are also certain human foods that dogs should not eat.

 The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — August 4, 2014 at 2:30 pm 703 0

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Editor’s Note: The Local Woof is a column that’s sponsored and written by the staff of Woofs! Dog Training Center. Woofs! has full-service dog training, boarding, and daycare facilities, near Shirlington and Ballston.

Many dog owners want their dogs to go to the dog park or attend daycare. Both are great places for dogs to be social, run and play and expend some of that excess energy. Dog owners are often rewarded within a tired and content dog.

But as the owner of two dog daycares, I can tell you that daycare is not good for all dogs. In addition, just because your dog enjoys daily trips to the dog park, does not mean they will do well in daycare. They are very different environments.

To begin with, visits to the dog park are usually limited to something between 30 minutes and two hours. Daycare is usually upwards of six hours. Dog parks are generally larger with fewer dogs per square foot.  The upside of daycare is that dogs are screened for aggression and are monitored by trained staff.

Daycare is a great environment for young social dogs. I often describe daycare like a frat party or a singles bar. Most people enjoy those venues when they are young, but become less and less tolerant of the “shenanigans” at those events as they become older. A similar thing happens at daycare, and we call that “aging out.”  It simply means that your dog is no longer enjoying the rough and tumble of the daily daycare scene.

Not all dogs love the company of lots of other dogs. Just like people, some dogs are introverts and some are extroverts. Some are rough and tumble types that like body slamming, running and wrestling. Some prefer a controlled game of fetch. Not all dogs like all other dogs, nor should they be expected to. Just like not all people become friends with everyone they meet.

So how do you know if your dog is enjoying daycare? First of all, don’t assume that because your dog is tired, they have had a lovely day of play. Stress is also exhausting. Start by listening to your dog. Are they pulling you up the steps to get in the door? That’s a good sign. Is your dog happy to see the staff? Also a good sign.

If you aren’t sure, ask a manager or supervisor at your daycare. Dogs who are stressed or unhappy are often much harder to care for, and hopefully your daycare manager will tell you honestly how your dog is doing.

Finally, don’t be angry if your daycare hints that your dog may no longer be appropriate for daycare. It is perfectly normal for dogs to age out, or decide they no longer feel like playing all day. Trust me, we want your business. But not at the expense of your dog’s happiness.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

by ARLnow.com — July 21, 2014 at 2:30 pm 346 0

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Editor’s Note: The Local Woof is a column that’s sponsored and written by the staff of Woofs! Dog Training Center. Woofs! has full-service dog training, boarding, and daycare facilities, near Shirlington and Ballston.

Socialization is the process of positively introducing your puppy to new things so that as they grow into adulthood, they are able to adapt to new situations without fear or anxiety.

The most important thing to know is that most puppies are only open to the socialization process between the ages of 3 to 16 weeks. This is called the socialization window. During this time, the pup’s brain and sympathetic nervous system is programmed to accept new experiences with less fear and anxiety than normal. As the pup gets older, their neurobiology changes and it becomes more and more difficult to teach your dog to tolerate new things.

The result is that the first 3 to 16 weeks is the most important time of your dogs life. WOOFS! recommends that families consider this before they get a puppy since they are going to need to dedicate several weeks to puppy socialization.

To socialize your pup, you need to be prepared to take them to meet many people, many other safe and friendly dogs and to visit many new places. During these excursions, you will want to bring lots of treats and make all these experiences fun and positive. Exposing a dog to scary situations is NOT socialization. In order for socialization to be effective, the dog must be happy and relaxed.

Puppy socialization events and puppy classes and great ways to get your pup out and about. On the other hand, dog parks and dog daycares are excellent places to bring already socialized dogs but are not great places for socialization to occur. Proper socialization requires much closer supervision.

So what about the dog who is already older than 16 weeks? Well, the socialization window does not slam shut, but trying to introduce an unsocialized dog over 16 weeks to lots of new people and dogs and experiences is going to be much harder to do than if they were younger. Unfortunately, socialization after a certain age may not even be possible. This of course depends a lot on the dog’s genetic make up as well.

If you need help, we recommend contacting a positive reinforcement training center near you. Operation Socialization is another great resource. It is an organization dedicated to safe early socialization and is a great resource for owners of new pups.

Happy Socializing!

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — July 7, 2014 at 2:30 pm 749 0

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Editor’s Note: The Local Woof is a column that’s sponsored and written by the staff of Woofs! Dog Training Center. Woofs! has full-service dog training, boarding, and daycare facilities, near Shirlington and Ballston.

Yup, it’s hot. What’s a dog owner to do? Here are some suggestions to stay safe and cool for the next few months.

Please tell me you already know not to leave your dog in a hot car? Not with the windows down, not under a tree. The outside temperature should be around 60 degrees before it is safe to leave a dog in the car so we have several months before this is an option again. Leave the dog home, or leave someone in the car with the AC running. No exceptions.

Do not shave your double coated dog. I know it seems like shaving your golden retriever is a good idea in the summer, but it’s not. Double coated dogs use their coat as protection and insulation from the sun as well as the cold. If you shave your dog for the convenience of avoiding shedding be aware that your dog is now more susceptible to over heating.

Watch for signs of over heating such as excessive panting, bright red or purple tongue, confusion, and wobbling when walking. If you notice these signs get your dog indoors immediately and contact your vet. Never bathe an overheated dog in cold water. Cool wet rags on the stomach or inside of the thighs will help to cool them down. If your dog has fallen or seems confused an emergency vet visit is in order.

Play early, late or indoors. Walking your dog in the heat of the day is a really bad idea. Just because you can handle it does not mean your dog can. Humans sweat to cool off. Dogs do not. Dogs on leash will also tend to try and keep up with their owners no matter what, even if their bodies are telling them they should stop. Don’t put your dog in that position.

Trade the midday walk for an indoor game of fetch, tug or a tricks training session (your overheated dog walker will love you for it too). Training a roll over can be as exhausting as a good walk anyhow. Be super careful with brachycephalic dogs like pugs and bulldogs. They cannot handle the heat at all.

Swim. Swimming is some of the best exercise a dog can get and it keeps them cool at the same time. Arlington has two dog parks along Four Mile Run, Shirlington and Glen Carlyn. Both have small beach areas near deeper swimming holes where dogs can wade or swim to keep cool. There are also some private pools that can be rented by the hour for the serious canine athlete. A backyard kiddie pool is also a great idea and a lot of fun.

Have fun, stay cool. Fall will be here soon enough.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — June 23, 2014 at 2:30 pm 979 0

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Editor’s Note: The Local Woof is a column that’s sponsored and written by the staff of Woofs! Dog Training Center. Woofs! has full-service dog training, boarding, and daycare facilities, near Shirlington and Ballston.

Small dogs are great for urban environments. They are generally easier to exercise than large dogs and take up less space with their small crates and small beds.

Small dogs are just as smart and trainable as large dogs. Small dogs get a bad rap because too often owners find it faster and easier to just pick up the dog rather than train it, something that is not possible with a large dog. It’s not until the dog is older that some owners realize they missed the boat in teaching their small dog manners.

Small dog training tip: As long as it is safe, put your small dog on the ground and let them walk! Just because you can carry your dog, doesn’t mean you should. Small dogs need the same socialization and life experiences as big dogs and they can’t get that being carried around. If you socialize and train your small dog, they can do everything a large dog can and more.

My biggest concern for small dogs is their safety. Small dogs are, well, small. That makes it much easier for them to get hurt in a world that is 10 times their size. And they seem to be getting smaller and smaller. I have recently seen a lot of dogs who are under 5 pounds! Dogs in the under-20-pound range need some extra protection.

Small dogs should not play with large dogs unless you know the larger dog extremely well. Tiny dogs should never go to a dog park unless there is a designated small dog enclosure. The chances that a tiny dog will be hurt or scared by a larger dog is much too high, even if the larger dog did not intend to hurt the small dog.

Have you ever heard of predatory drift? Predatory drift is something all dog owners need to be aware of and most have never heard about. Predatory drift is a situation in which a dog will suddenly view another, usually much smaller, dog as prey. This is often preceded by the small dog running away and/or yipping in a high pitch.

These prey-like behaviors flip a switch in the dogs brain and the larger dog will then attack and bring down the small dog as if it were a prey animal like a squirrel or rabbit. In the best case scenario, the small dog is terrified and traumatized. In the worst case scenario, the small dog does not survive. This happens so much more often than anyone realizes, and it has happened many times in the past few years right here in Northern Virginia.

If you have a very small dog, make sure you go out of your way to arrange safe, similar-sized play groups. If your dog goes to daycare, ask the staff if they know what predatory drift is and make sure that small dogs are put in appropriate play groups.

Small dogs are smart, trainable and fun. A little bit of caution can make sure they live a long happy life.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — June 9, 2014 at 2:30 pm 704 0

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Editor’s Note: The Local Woof is a column that’s sponsored and written by the staff of Woofs! Dog Training Center. Woofs! has full-service dog training, boarding, and daycare facilities, near Shirlington and Ballston.

Urban living can be tough on our dogs, and one of the toughest situations our dogs encounter is meeting other dogs on leash.

Dogs meeting on leash is a completely artificial situation for them. The leash and the resulting close quarters means that dogs can not greet each other in a natural way. Compare the way unleashed dogs greet each other at a dog park with how they meet when on leash.

At a dog park, friendly dogs will approach each other in an arc. After a brief sniff near the shoulders, they will lower their heads and arrange themselves in the nose-to-butt-to-nose-to-butt circle. This is how friendly dogs great each other. Head down, in a circle. It’s the dog world’s equivalent of a friendly handshake. A straight line, head up greeting is generally considered rude and confrontational.

When dogs greet on leash, they are forced into the straight line, head up position. The taut leash prevents them from being able to circle each other, and the pulling on the collar raises their heads into the air. Despite the inability to arrange themselves in a natural greeting posture, most friendly dogs learn to greet each other on leash without incident.

However, sometimes there are problems. Shy or cautious dogs are particularly put off by the straight line, close quarters greeting. Dogs who find urban living particularly arousing can also encounter problems. Here are some things you can do to help.

First, please ASK before you allow your friendly dog to rush up and greet another dog. Owners of friendly dogs have the greatest gift, an easy-going dog. For those of us with unfriendly or fearful dogs, every uncontrolled greeting is a potential disaster. Please remember that it does not matter that your dog is friendly if the other dog is not.

Second, if possible loosen up on the leash so that the dogs can lower their heads and assume the nose-butt circle. This may require a little bit of a dance while the owners untangle the leashes, but it is totally worth it to give your dogs the chance to communicate naturally.

Third, pay attention to your dog’s body language. If your dog does not look like they want to meet another dog, do not force them! Most humans do not want to stop and greet every person they pass on the street, and neither do our dogs. If either dog looks uncomfortable, simply keep moving.

Questions? Please ask! This is just a the basics about dog-dog greetings. For more information or to continue this conversation please visit us.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com. 

by ARLnow.com — May 12, 2014 at 2:30 pm 1,271 0

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Editor’s Note: The Local Woof is a column that’s sponsored and written by the staff of Woofs! Dog Training Center. Woofs! has full-service dog training, boarding, and daycare facilities, near Shirlington and Ballston.

One of the best ways to enjoy the warm weather in Arlington is to enjoy a meal outside at one of the many restaurants that offer patio seating. But what about bringing your dog along? Unfortunately, it’s not always a good idea.

In most cases, restaurants require that the dog be tied up OUTSIDE of the fenced area that defines the restaurants seating. This means that your dog is in direct contact with all of the sidewalk traffic. This usually includes men and women, toddlers, strollers, bikes, and other dogs, many of which may not be as friendly as your dog. Asking a dog who has no means of retreat to deal with this constant barrage of strangers may be asking too much. I personally never put my dogs in this situation.

There may be a new option however. Last September Arlington allowed restaurants to apply for a variance that allows dogs to be INSIDE the seating area. This means that your dog can now rest comfortably at your feet, under the table or next to you. At the time the variance was announced 27 restaurants had been approved (see the full list here). Hopefully there are many more by now.

So Arlington dog lovers, here’s what you can do. At the restaurants you frequent, ask to speak to a manager and encourage them to apply for this variance if they haven’t already. The more people who request it the more likely the restaurant manager is to look into it. Also, try out some of the restaurants on the list and report back how it went. We would love to hear from you. Finally, before you take your dog to dinner, please consider how the dog feels about the experience. If your dog is stressed, uncomfortable or if it’s just too darn hot, leave the pup at home. That’s what doggy bags are for.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com. 

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