Does Having an Aquarium Decrease Stress?

Ever hear of aquarium therapy?

For millions of Americans, long hours, too much coffee, and a frenetic work pace are the norm, not to mention the added stress of day-to-day deadlines, commitments, and to-dos.

So, what’s a good, healthy way to soothe your jangled nerves?

Aquarium Therapy

One proven way is to prop your feet up and watch your fish swim serenely through your aquarium. Research has found that pets calm nerves and lower blood pressure. And aquariums — and aquarium therapy — particularly seem to have a soothing effect. In fact, many doctor offices keep aquariums in the waiting room. Watching fish swim to and fro lowers the stress of waiting to be examined.

Research buttressed what many fish enthusiasts already know: the therapeutic benefits of aquariums — aquarium therapy. In 1999, a study showed that displaying tanks of brightly colored fish curtailed disruptive behaviors of Alzheimer patients. The fish were also credited with improving eating habits. Other studies also showed that fish calmed children diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

In general, pets have been shown to reduce stress and boost emotional well-being, even during tough times. When Jerry Greider lost his job and spent three months looking for work, it was a rough period in his life. “I spent a lot of time going on job interviews and sending out resumes, with nothing panning out,” the Seattle resident recalls. “Some days, the only thing that kept me smiling was my dog licking my face and wagging his tail. And often that was just what it took to put me in a positive frame-of-mind before an interview.”

Rachel Rushing, of Indianapolis, Ind., says when she’s fighting the blahs, all she has to do is watch her three kittens playing together. “They like to jump in and out of paper bags and hide behind furniture, as if they’re playing a game of hide-and-seek with each other,” she says. “It’s really entertaining. If I’m having a bad day, I can’t help but feel cheered up watching them play.”

Then there are the documented health benefits of pet ownership. Many studies have proven the link between a healthier, longer life and pet ownership. Though the studies have largely focused on the effects of dogs and cats, other species provide benefits as well. Keeping a pet can give you a sense of purpose and the feeling of being needed, a feeling that is especially important for people who live alone.

And coming home to your family, whether you have one pet or many, gives you something to look forward to.

“Watching your pet’s silly antics can make you laugh and help relieve stress,” says David Frei, spokesperson for the Delta Society, a nonprofit organization interested in relationships between people and animals. “Pets take away the tension that’s in your daily life, whether it’s for work or family-related problems. When you see a dog looking at you with his big, brown adoring eyes, that brings a certain relaxation to people.”

Decreased Feeling of Loneliness

Pets decrease feelings of loneliness and isolation, explains Alan Beck, Ph.D., director of the Center for Human-Animal Bond at the School of Veterinary Medicine at Purdue University. “A pet is someone to share your life with,” he says. “There’s a lot of people in this world who live alone. As a society, many of us live in apartments in big cities. We may not know our neighbors. We may be separated geographically from our extended families. Maybe we’re divorced or widowed and live alone. And so for people in these circumstance, pets can help fill the ‘people void’ in their lives.”

10 New Year’s Resolutions for Your Dog

The impending arrival of the New Year brings the inevitable resolutions: trim your girth, be nicer toward your in-laws, spend more time with the family. We’re all familiar with the promises we make to improve ourselves in the coming year.

As you make this ironclad list (you mean it this time – really!), have you wondered what resolutions your pet may be thinking of? Your dog also vows to improve himself (and he means it this time – really!). We conducted a survey of the resolutions pets may want to make for the coming year and found some surprises. Here are the Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions from the dog’s perspective.

Just don’t say anything if he falls a little short of the goal. You keep his secrets and he’ll keep yours.

New Year’s Resolutions for Dogs

Resolution #1: I will eat less and exercise more.

Too many nights on the couch, too many dog biscuits and too little time running around the local dog park has made me a little, well, fluffier. I don’t think the old “I’m-just-big-boned” excuse will work anymore. I resolve to bug my owner to take me out to the doggy park several times a week.

Resolution #2: I will beg less

I’ve got begging down to a fine art – he’s puddy in my paws – but it sure is demeaning. I promise to reserve the begging for worthwhile things, like going out to the park and T-bone steak.

Resolution #3: I will recognize the difference between furniture and fire hydrants.

I promise not to treat the furniture and walls the way I do fire hydrants. It drives my owners batty and has no lasting benefit for me (they clear away the scent almost as fast as I can “deposit” it.)

Resolution #4: I’ll stay out of the cat’s litter box.

I vow to resist the urge to snoop around the cat’s private lavatory – even though it’s a lot of fun and really makes her go nuts.

Resolution #5: I won’t bite the vet anymore.

I’ll remember that the vets and their staff are just trying to help in their own, inscrutable way, although they really know how to push my buttons with those needles!

Resolution #6: I won’t steal food as much.

I won’t go out of my way to steal food, although all bets are off if they make it really easy for me.

Resolution #7: I’ll introduce myself in more appropriate ways.

In other words, I’ll focus above the waist when introducing myself to humans. Somehow, I get the feeling my normal greeting methods invade their private space.

Resolution #8: I’ll do better “holding it” until morning.

When nature calls, I’ll steel my resolve to wait for my normal morning walk, unless special considerations apply. I’ll decide what those special considerations are.

Resolution #9: I’ll bark at the mailman less.

Even though it works to put him in his place, I’ll try not to exercise my authority over him and other delivery people, although my self-esteem does get a boost when they retreat.

Resolution #10: I’ll tolerate those homemade bandannas more.

My owner has gone to a lot of trouble to make these things, so I’ll just put up with the way they feel and the taunts of the other dogs.

10 New Year’s Resolutions for Your Cat

With the coming of the New Year, the inevitable resolutions begin. Trim your girth, be nicer toward your in-laws, spend more time with the family. We’re all familiar with the promises we make to improve ourselves in the coming year.

Your cat, believe it or not, also wants to embark on a program of self-improvement in the spirit of the New Year. Perhaps self-improvement is overstating the case; she wishes to fine-tune herself. Although she comes close, your cat realizes no one is perfect.

Here are the Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions for your cat, from her perspective. Just don’t say anything if she falls a little short of the goal. You keep her secret and she’ll keep yours.

New Year’s Resolutions for Your Cat

Resolution #1: I promise to trim down a little.

Being bigger means there is more of me to love, but perhaps I can stand to lose a little weight, if I’m given the opportunity and the right kinds of toys to play with.

Resolution #2: I’ll be friendlier to strangers.

I won’t turn my nose up at newcomers right away. Instead, I’ll give them a chance to scratch my ears before disappearing under the bed.

Resolution #3: I’ll be cuddlier to family members.

I’ll purr more and be more affectionate to everyone in the family, except the dog – unless he promises to stay the heck out of my litter box!

Resolution #4: I’ll be nicer to the birds and fish in household.

Sure, I’ll be very nice to them. Perhaps if I’m nice, they’d want to come out and play with me …

Resolution #5: I won’t be as finicky about my food.

Just as long as it’s the right texture, taste and temperature, and given at the right time each day.

Resolution #6: I’ll lay off the furniture and stick to my scratching post.

After all, that’s what the scratching post is for. Besides, I’ve made enough marks to show who really owns this place. To do any more would be just cad.

Resolution #7: I’ll stop hiding stuff behind the couch.

It’s getting a little cluttered behind there anyways. Someone in the house is really trying to find that diamond ring – they’re making too much of a racket.

Resolution #8: I’ll let everyone else sleep later.

I suppose 5 a.m. is a little too early to get everyone up to feed me. I think I can hold on until 5:30 a.m.

Resolution #9: I’ll stay off the counters, at least when company is around.

I only get chased off anyways. Sooner or later everyone leaves, so I can patrol the countertops if I’m just a little patient.

Resolution #10: I’ll be more tolerant of those homemade bandannas.

They feel a little funny, and I dislike having something put on me, but the colors really do match my hair coat, and they set off my eyes nicely.

Faithful Service: A Salute to the Dogs of War

There are many great stories of dogs in war. Here’s one of them.

The patch of jungle patrolled by Spec. Jose Palacios and his platoon had been designated a “secured” area. But as any Vietnam veteran knows, the words “secured” and “Vietnam” were mutually exclusive terms.

His platoon, a unit of the 101st Airborne Division, was led by a scout dog and his handler, about 15 feet ahead. A battalion of Viet Cong waited silently in the jungle, spread out in a semicircle – a classic horseshoe ambush. The platoon was walking within the horseshoe’s mouth.

The dog stopped and became agitated. He picked up a scent. His handler froze, then gave a hand-down signal, which told the platoon to drop to the ground. The jungle came alive with gunfire, from the left, the center and the right. The scout dog and handler were killed almost immediately, but the warning saved Palacios’ platoon from destruction. Without the heroism of the scout dog and his handler, Palacios doesn’t believe he would have made it out of there.

“We’d been in-country for just 15 or 20 days,” the Chicago resident said. “And they saved our lives.”

Palacios’ experience with dogs in war is not unique. During the 10,000 days of the Vietnam War, more than 4,000 dogs served in all branches of the armed services. Records show that 263 handlers and about 500 dogs were killed in action, but their efforts saved an estimated 10,000 American lives.

Popular recognition of the sacrifice of dogs in war has been slow, but progress is being made. Around the nation, memorials, such as one in Riverside, Calif., are going up to commemorate the sacrifice of scout dogs in the nation’s military history.

On May 27, 2001, the day before Memorial Day, a bronze sculpture designed by Anthony Quickle was unveiled in Streamwood, Illinois. The unveiling coincided with the arrival of the traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall, scale version of the memorial in Washington, DC. In this latest memorial, Quickle emphasizes the teamwork and the genuine affection between the handler and the scout dog. The soldier, alerted by the dog, is pointing to some action in the distance, with his other hand on the dog. The dog is in an alert posture, ready to jump. The soldier is kneeling, with his head almost on an even plane with the dog’s.

“They willingly, without thought to themselves, laid down their lives for us,” said Quickle. “I wanted to do a life-sized sculpture that kids can touch, and that older people can feel is an intimate portrayal of their experience.”

History of Dogs in War

Quickle, who served in the Air Force in the seventies, didn’t have to look far to find that affection. Stories of heroism are common, as are websites dedicated to the history and memories of combat dogs and their handlers. 

Dogs have been used in the world’s armies for thousands of years as sentries and attack dogs, but the U.S. Army had been comparatively slow in forming official dog units. The nation’s first recognized military dog hero was a bull terrier named Stubby. He served during World War I in the 102nd Infantry, which smuggled him overseas.

Stubby’s performance in World War I was the stuff of legends. He warned of pending gas attacks, stopped a German infiltrator, found wounded soldiers on the battlefield and was wounded in action. He became the most decorated dog in war, winning a gold medal and honorary rank of sergeant from General Pershing. That was just from the American side. The French awarded him a Victory medal, and French women knitted him a blanket, upon which more medals would be pinned. After the war, presidents Wilson, Harding and Coolidge all had audiences with Stubby. 

Before the bombs dropped on Pearl Harbor, dog enthusiasts had tried to interest the military in the usefulness of dogs in war, citing their loyalty, stamina, intelligence and natural abilities. But except for a few sled dogs used in places too harsh for mules or horses, interest was minimal.

The attack on Pearl Harbor changed all that: the United States faced a two-front war, and had thousands of miles of coastline to protect from infiltration by saboteurs and spies. A month after the Pearl Harbor attack shattered the Pacific Fleet, a call went out to American citizens, asking them to donate their pets for sentry duty.

For the first time in American history, canine units were formed. Many helped to patrol beaches and guard military and industrial centers, but about 800 were sent overseas to participate more directly in the war effort. They were employed as scouts, messengers and sentries in both the European and Pacific theaters of war. 

Besides scouting and delivering messages under fire, dogs have saved the lives of soldiers by fearlessly attacking the enemy. One such celebrated dog, Chips, was even briefly awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart. The Army later revoked both after a minor controversy erupted over whether it was appropriate to award dogs such high honors. But there was no denying Chips’ heroism.

Chips, one of the first to go overseas from the United States, single-handedly attacked an Italian pillbox containing four soldiers. He tackled one enemy soldier and, as American troops arrived, the rest surrendered. Though his official medals were revoked, his unit (of the 3rd Division) unofficially awarded him the Theater Ribbon and a battle star for each of the eight campaigns in which he took part.

But it was in the jungles of the Pacific where dogs made their greatest contributions to the war effort. Time and again, they foiled night infiltration attacks and discovered enemy patrols and troop movements. In one campaign, dogs were credited with helping to inflict 180 casualties and capture 20 prisoners.

The Japanese army was a master of night infiltration. According to the history of dogs in World War II, compiled by the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps, “The ability of the dog to pick up enemy bivouacs, positions, patrols … long before our patrol reached them frequently enabled our troops to achieve surprise and inflict heavy casualties.”

After the war, the dogs went through a “debriefing” program, to re-socialize them with civilian life and their original owners, and each returned with Honorable Discharge papers.

Tragically, the dogs in war would soon be treated not as comrades-in-arms, but as excess military equipment. The military decided that acquiring dogs from patriotic citizens was impractical and uneconomical, and began purchasing its own dogs.

Until the Vietnam War began in earnest, only small numbers of dogs were used for military purposes. (In the Korean War, a single scout dog platoon, the 26th, served with great distinction.) But the jungle nature of the war, and the need to protect against infiltrations forced the Pentagon to reverse itself. Their success was soon obvious: the Viet Cong began placing bounties on killing the dogs and their handlers. 

But when American troops began pulling out of Vietnam, these dogs were labeled as surplus equipment, and were euthanized or left behind to fend for themselves. The disclosure of what had been a tragic footnote of a tragic war has given momentum to the drive to recognize the service of these “war dogs.” 

In 1999, the guidelines regarding service dogs finally changed to allow their handlers to take them home after their tour of duty. Until then, military dogs routinely faced euthanasia as a reward for their faithful service. 

Today, organizations such as the Vietnam Dog Handlers Association are striving to commemorate the service provided by these dogs.

Stolen Dogs: Nine Ways to Prevent Theft

Just before walking into a Manhattan deli, a man ties his dog to a parking meter outside the store. He grabs a coffee, pays for it and walks out. Total time: about 5 minutes.

The dog is gone without a trace. He never sees him again. Unfortunately, this is not a made-up scenario to highlight a growing problem. “This happens frequently,” notes Linda Fields, a journalist who founded, a nonprofit pet locater site, where people can post pictures and notices of lost pets.

Dog theft is a crime that is hard to measure in statistics. Some have put the number of total pet thefts at 2 million a year. (Because pets are considered property, the numbers are lumped with other property crimes). However, it is often hard to discern whether a pet was stolen or simply wandered off and got lost. In her experience, Fields estimates that about 10 percent of the 1,460 dogs listed on were stolen.

According to National Pet Recovery, a private pet recovery company, about 41 percent of the cases reported to them involved a stolen dog. About 47 percent of lost dogs were those allowed to run loose.

Whatever the numbers, dogs are stolen for several reasons:

  • Money. This may take the form of an outright ransom, but the usual method is to wait for a reward to be posted, then call the dog’s owners and say they found him wandering around.
  • Dog fighting. This may seem unusual because most stolen dogs have sweet temperaments – otherwise a thief may be deterred. Unfortunately, dogs are either “conditioned” to fight by cruel training methods, or used as “bait” to train other dogs to fight.
  • Cult rituals. Often done for kicks, black dogs (and cats) are at particular risk around Halloween.


Some animal rights and welfare people also say that stolen dogs often wind up at laboratories across the country. Under a procurement practice called “random source collection,” the U.S. Department of Agriculture licenses individuals to sell animals to laboratories.

  • There are two types of licenses: Class A and Class B. Class A are breeders. Class B are individuals who obtain dogs and other animals from various other sources. The USDA investigates to ensure the animals are legally obtained. However, animal groups contend that pets are being stolen and sold for profit by Class B licensees (called “bunchers”). A bill, HR 594, is under consideration now in Congress to eliminate Class B licenses.

    Sometimes theft is no more complicated than an angry neighbor who takes your dog to the pound when you’re not around.


Keeping Your Dog Safe 


  • Secure your yard. Ring it with a fence and make sure the gate is closed (and preferably locked).
  • Don’t leave your dog outside when you’re not around.
  • Never leave your dog unattended. It takes only a moment to untie him and lead him off.
  • Be aware, and make sure your neighbors are aware, of the problem of pet theft. Let your neighbors know if you are expecting people on your property if you are not around, so they know to call the police if someone unexpected shows up.
  • Never allow your dog to roam free in the neighborhood for everyone’s sake.
  • Never leave your dog unattended in a car.
  • Always make sure he wears a collar with his ID tags. You might want to consider implanting a microchip under his skin. Shelters and veterinary hospitals use microchips to identify lost animals and reunite them with their owners.
  • Keep recent photos of your dog, taken from different angles that clearly show coat type and coloring, close-ups of the face and any exceptional physical characteristics.
  • Keep all your proof-of-ownership papers (adoption, breeding contract, bill of sale) in one place to prove ownership.




  • If the unthinkable happens, don’t panic. Call the police if you believe your dog has been stolen, then begin your own search. Search the area, talk to neighbors and passersby. Walk or drive slowly through the area several times daily. Hand out copies of recent photographs.

    You should also post notices with pictures of your dog throughout the neighborhood, in newspapers and with radio stations. The Internet has become a more widely used tool to track down lost pets in recent years. There are a number of free sites on which people post images and exchange information. Three sites of these sites include:


    For more information on what steps to take to find a lost pet, see the story What to Do If Your Dog Is Lost.


Why Do Dogs Growl?

The Growl – What is Your Dog Saying? 

Coming across a growling dog is a frightening experience, as any mail carrier can tell you. The sound of a growl heralds the menacing possibility of sudden attack. Our first instinct – to leave the dog alone – is a good one.

But there are different qualities of growls used in different situations. Growling is one of the few forms of “verbal” communication dogs possess. Most forms of growling serve one purpose – to get someone or something to back off.

Before explaining what the various tones and pitches may mean, it’s helpful to understand why dogs growl in the first place. One theory is that most creatures (including humans) instinctively associate pitch and tone to convey the message they want. A larger animal is more intimidating than a smaller one – and a lower tone is associated with a larger animal. So a growl – a low, throaty noise – makes an animal appear more menacing.

People react the same way. If you hear a deep, gravely voice, you probably assume that the speaker is more massive. In reality, he may be a 150-pound weakling. (People are often surprised when they meet disc jockeys after hearing them on the radio – they rarely match up to their voices.)

The reverse is true, by the way. A high-pitch voice is associated with a smaller frame. Among dogs, that high-pitch is usually a whine, which is sometimes paired with submissive signals.

The Bottom Line About the Growl

Growling is usually meant to intimidate someone or something to leave property or valued resources (food, toys) alone, or to indicate that the dog is scared and may bite. In other words, growling is meant to repel.

  • A high-pitched throaty growl usually means the dog just wants to be left alone. It doesn’t normally indicate that an attack is imminent – it’s a warning.
  • A medium-pitched, growl resonating from the chest indicates the dog is prepared to do battle. If pushed, the dog may attack.
  • A low-pitched, “belly growl” or growl-bark indicates that the dog is about to bite.

    Why a dog growls depends on the dog and the situation, but it is usually associated with aggression. There are different types of aggression. 

    A dog may growl when he is scared (e.g. fear-aggression) or because he is asserting his status as the alpha dog (dominance aggression). On his own property, he may growl to protect his turf from encroachment (territorial aggression) or to guard some valued resource (food or toys). He may also growl or bark when chasing or cornering some small varmint as part of a predatory sequence (in which the object is not to intimidate, but to obtain food). The dogs may also growl at people who approach them or touch them when they are in pain (pain-induced aggression). Bitches may show maternal aggression, involving growling to warn off people or other dogs after delivering their puppies or if experiencing a false pregnancy.

    Dogs sometimes growl during play, such as during a rousing game of tug-of-war. A growl in this playful context is not generally meant as a threat. However, if the play gets too rough and the dog is growling, it may be better to stop playing and let everyone calm down.

    Five Games That Will Delight Your Dog

    Summer is a wonderful time to spend outdoors with your dog. Here’s your chance to reclaim the outdoors. Get your dog and go out to your yard or the park for some fun. To help you along, we’ve compiled some activities and tips on how to make them more enjoyable.


    This time-honored game requires nothing but a lightweight ball of relatively soft material (if it is too hard, the ball could damage your dog’s teeth) and a willing dog. Make sure the ball isn’t too small, otherwise he could accidentally swallow it while leaping. (Depending on the size of the dog, even a tennis ball could be too small.)
    The object is of course to have your dog bring the ball back to you. That isn’t always the case; sometimes the dog trains the owner to run after the ball. Unless you don’t mind running at your dog’s whim, here are a few suggestions:

    • Don’t play if your dog pushes the ball at you then snatches it away as you reach for it, or if he dances around with the ball in his mouth, teasing you. You’re just reinforcing the idea that he can give you orders.
    • As the pack leader, YOU decide when to bring the ball out and when to throw it. Keep the ball in a special area that your dog is aware of, so when he sees you bring the ball out, he becomes excited and eager to please.
    • Follow the practice of performers to “leave ’em begging for more.” In canine parlance, that means quit the game while he’s still interested, not when he becomes bored.
    • Lavish praise on him immediately when he retrieves the ball and brings it to you.You can substitute the ball with a Frisbee. To learn how to teach him the game, see the story Teaching Your Dog to Love Frisbee.



    What would you rather do, watch overpaid athletes strut around a basketball court or play hoops with your dog? Teaching him how isn’t difficult, and he’ll be grateful for the chance.

    • Take a container such as a big cooking pot, laundry basket or large plastic pail and weight it down with a heavy object (so it won’t get knocked over).
    • Introduce your dog to the basket and the ball. As he watches, drop the ball into the bucket several times, while saying “drop.”
    • Give him the ball, then bring him over to the bucket and say “Drop.” Do this until he drops the ball in the basket, then immediately praise him (you might give him a small treat as well). You’ll have to repeat this several times before he makes the connection between the reward and the action.
    • When the connection is made, roll or throw the ball to him and watch him doggie-dunk it!



    If there’s a body of water nearby, your dog may want to go for a dip (only allow this if it’s safe AND permitted). Most dogs take to the water like ducks, but if he’s new to swimming, you’ll want to make sure he can swim. Never just throw him into the water, and always supervise his water activities.

    • Stand in shallow water and call to your dog. You may want to coax him with a toy or a treat.
    • Your dog should use all four legs to doggie paddle. If he paddles with just his front paws, lift his rear legs to help him float. He’ll quickly understand that he needs all his legs to swim.
    • Swimming is strenuous to any creature not used to it, so don’t let your dog swim for too long. If you’re at the beach, watch out for strong tides, and don’t let your dog drink saltwater. (You should also be aware that your dog is a target for sea lice and jellyfish.)Incidentally, if you take your dog to the beach, you should bring along fresh water and shade. Dogs can get sunburned too.



    Hula Hoop

    Begin by holding a hula hoop (still available at most toy stores, believe it or not!) upright, but on the floor. Lead your dog through the hoop, then reward him with praise or a treat (or both). Repeat several times.

    • Raise the hoop several inches off the ground and lead him through again. Then let him go at it!
    • Keep raising the hoop a little more each time to make it more of a challenge, rewarding your dog each time he makes it through. Quit before he gets bored or no longer wants the treats.



    Dogs like playing tug-of-war, but it is important not to let the game get out of hand. Because dogs are, by instinct, hunters, the game reminds them of catching prey. For that reason, stop playing when the game starts to appear too serious. If your dog starts to take winning seriously, it’s time to play a less competitive game. And don’t ever show off your dog’s grip by picking him up with the rope in his teeth.

    Pets and Guests: Can They Get Along?

    When it comes to holiday guests and your pets, there are a lot of possible outcomes to the mixing of the two. One side of the scale is a wonderful evening for all. On the other, an unending horror for you, your guests and/or your pets.

    What’s the best way to entertain guests without making your pet feel unwelcome in his own home?

    The first rule is so obvious that it is frequently overlooked: Make sure all your guests know you have a pet in the first place. Sure, your in-laws, siblings and parents may know, but are they bringing anyone else? You may want to contact all the guests yourself to tell them about your dog or cat.

    The second rule is to always prepare a room ahead of time for your pet. This may not sound fair on the surface. It is, after all, your pet’s home too. But you have some weighty responsibilities: seeing to your guests’ comfort and enjoyment, while taking care of your pet’s safety. Sometimes it is better for your dog or cat to spend a few hours in a safe, comfortable place. You know you’ll make it up to them. Here are some situations and suggestions on how to handle them:


    Pet dander is a pernicious thing. It’s not enough to tell your guests that you own a dog or cat. Tell them the breed and whether your pet tends to shed. An allergic person may do fine with a shorthaired pet. Then again, they may succumb to the slightest hint of pet hair. You’ll know to spend extra time vacuuming and cleaning your home.

    Some allergies are so severe that it is best if the person declines the invitation. They may have a reaction even if the pet is sequestered in another room and you vacuumed diligently.


    You probably don’t have to worry about your guest panicking over your tabby or bichon frise, but some people feel intimidated by larger dogs. Telling all your guests what sort of dog you have, and reassuring them he is well behaved, will go a long way to relieving fears. You should also tell them what to expect. If your dog has a loud bark, for instance, let them know to expect it when they knock.

    Guests may have had some bad experiences with dogs in the past, or they may just be inexperienced. You can go a long way to overcome fears and phobias by planning ahead. If he’s willing, give your guest a treat to give to your dog. Have him offer it flat on his palm and let your dog walk up on his own to take it. You may also want to give your guest a short lesson in “doggie etiquette”:

  • Don’t stare directly into the eyes of a dog. He may take this as a challenge. Instead, give the dog a quick glance and look away.
  • Greet a dog by holding the hand out to be sniffed, with the palm flat and upward.
  • When petting a new dog, avoid touching the top of his head, which may be misread as a sign of dominance. Speak softly and with a happy tone in the voice. Dogs can sense fear and confidence, and will react accordingly.

    Of course, if your dog has reacted aggressively to guests before, it is far better and safer for you to keep him in a room, away from guests. Prepare the room comfortably for him, with water bowl, food and toys. Be sure to check on him during the course of the evening.


    He Just Wants to be Loved …Is That So Wrong?

    What if your pet is just overly exuberant or affectionate? Isn’t your cat or dog just adding to the warm, friendly, holiday atmosphere? That depends on how your guest feels. If your cat or dog is demanding attention, your guest may feel obligated (out of respect for you) to pet them.

    Take note of whether your pet is becoming a nuisance. Remember that what is cute and normal for you may be a bother for your guest, especially if your pet is keeping him from enjoying your delicious hors d’oeuvres.

    Begging should be discouraged as well. Barking, loud meowing, jumping on guests – all should be discouraged. Dogs or cats that are just too much of a lovable handful may need a time out in his special room.

    You can head off holiday problems such as these by prepping your pet: get him used to people coming over to the house. Reward him for behaving himself. If he doesn’t, tell your helpers to just ignore him until he behaves. Any sort of attention, even negative attention, is a reward. By ignoring him (which means not even looking at him), you are teaching your pet what behaviors are acceptable.

    Why Do Dogs Wag Their Tails?

    Why Do Dogs Wag Their Tails?

    An old joke about wagging tails goes like this: A young boy is afraid to pet a dog. An adult says, “He’s friendly – look, he’s even wagging his tail.” The boy responds, “Yeah, but he’s barking and growling – I don’t know which end to believe!”

    This poor excuse for a joke contains a lot of truth, because a wagging tail does not necessarily mean a dog is friendly. So, if a wagging tail does not always indicate friendliness, what does it mean?

    A dog’s tail position and motion is incorporated as a component of a complex system of body language that domestic dogs use, along with “verbal” cues such as barking, growling or whining, in order to communicate. A wagging tail indicates excitement or agitation. But whether the dog means it as an invitation to play, or to warn another dog or person to stay back, depends on other body language.

    A slowly wagging tail that curves down and back up into a “U” usually indicates a relaxed, playful dog. If his ears are erect and pointing forward, and he is in the classic “play bow” position, he’s inviting you to play.

    A tail that is held higher, whether wagging or not, indicates dominance and/or increased interest in something. If the end of the tail arches over the back, and is twitching, you may be faced with an aggressive dog.
    Tail position and movement is simply used as a social indicator for other living things. Dogs generally don’t wag their tails when they are alone. For example, if you pour your dog a bowl of food, he may wag his tail excitedly at the prospect of eating. But if he finds the bowl already filled – without anyone being around – he will usually not wag his tail. He may still be happy to eat, but there’s no one around with whom to communicate his happiness.

    The Best Way to Clean Up After Your Dog’s House-Soiling Accidents

    There is nothing like that new car smell, the odor promising thousands of worry-free miles. Unfortunately, your beloved dog had an accident in the back seat and that new car smell is now just a dream within a dream.

    You can get your car (or area rug, or carpet) clean again, but you need to work fast. Cleaning up accidents is a race against time and chemistry. The longer the urine sits, the more time it has to leave a permanent impression. Even if the stain is lifted, the smell may remain. It is extremely important to get the odor out completely – so that your pet’s supersensitive nose can’t detect it. Otherwise, your pet may hit the same spot again. And again. And again.

    Urine Stains

    Mop up the puddle as quickly as you can, especially on carpets. You don’t want the urine to seep into the underlying carpet pad – otherwise the smell will always be there. Use absorbent material, such as a sponge or paper towel, to soak it up and be sure not to make the situation worse by spreading the urine around.

    Getting the odor out is extremely important because the odor signals that the area is an “acceptable” toilet.

    There are many products available to get out pet stains and odors. These are typically pet bacteria/enzyme digesters designed to eliminate stains and odors completely. (Products such as Nature’s Miracle® work very well on both.) Use enough of the digester to penetrate the carpet pad. Let it sit for as long as the directions say – it takes time for digesters to break down the urine.

    Cover the area with plastic and step on it several times to make sure the area is well saturated. Leave the plastic on, so the area does not dry out before the digester has had time to work.

    To ensure there is no after odor, try mixing lavender oil (about 10 to 12 drops, depending on the size of the stain) with 1 cup of bicarbonate of soda. Sprinkle the mixture over the spot; let it sit for a couple of hours, then vacuum.

    Fecal Stains

    The same principles apply to fecal matter, except that you want to be careful in scooping up the poop. The concept, of course, is to get it all up without pushing any into a pile or spreading it further than you have to. Try using a spatula (one you will not ever use again for cooking!) or a piece of cardboard.

    Use paper towels or coffee filters to absorb the moisture. Then sponge the area with warm water (ring the sponge of excess water). Apply a digester to the spot.

    Older Stains

    Unfortunately, getting old stains out of carpets ranges from the very difficult to impossible. You can give the enzyme digester a shot, but if the area has been used many times by a pet, the digester may not work. If this is the case, try the following:

  • Let the digester work for about 4 hours, then apply a mixture of 1 cup of vinegar to a gallon of warm water.
  • After rinsing the area with the mixture, try the digester solution again.

    If this doesn’t work, you may need to cut out that section of rug and replace it with a patch taken from a hidden area of the rug (such as under the couch). Remember that you have to replace the pad underneath as well. This is one reason why tiled or laminate flooring and pets go together so well. 

  • Cleaning Vomit

    Vomit presents a special challenge because it is very acidic. If not cleaned up quickly and well, the color of your carpet or floor may change. You should treat the area with a professional carpet detergent and then rinse it with hot water.