How My Toddler is Like My Dog – Thinking Outside the Box (House)

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It still amazes me when I’m reading a parenting book…and the advice given is almost word for word the exact same advice as the last dog behavior book I read.  I’m actually not even sure why I still get a kick out of it – it happens so often.  Apparently – when it comes to psychology – toddlers and dogs aren’t so far apart.

(No, I’m not suggesting you crate train your kiddo.)

I just finished The Happiest Toddler on the Block.  The Happiest Baby on the Block is pretty much required reading for every new mom.  Seriously.  (And for good reason, too.  Dr. Karp’s advice is spot on – hence why I picked up the sequel to help me understand how to keep Sebastian happy.)

Dr. Karp advises parents to make sure that their toddlers go outside every day.IMG_3621  “Every” day – he is sure to remind his readers – is “EVERY” day.  Toddlers won’t die (or even catch cold) from going out for short amounts of time even if it is raining, cold, windy, snowing, hot, etc.  The psychological benefits are worth the bundling or being slightly uncomfortable.  We as a species have not primarily resided inside single-family, four-walled, covered structures for all that long.  If you look back at the history of humanity – the majority of it took place outside…or in a cave…it is in our nature to be more comfortable (happier???) outside.  (Think of that blissful moment when you office workers step out for lunch and feel the sun on your face.)  Dr. Karp explains your toddler might be unhappy simply because you are forcing him into an unnatural physical situation.

DOGS ARE THE SAME!

IMG_3546Maybe even more so!  Dogs were built to be outside.  They spent most of their evolutionary lives on the move.  They don’t like to go for walks….they NEED to go for walks.  They NEED to be outside.

Often pup parents try to over think it when their dogs start acting out (chewing, biting…any destructive behavior, really).  Nine times out of ten – they are just bored and/or frustrated.  You are forcing them into an unnatural physical situation.  Your dog wasn’t meant to be kept in a box!

Obviously, you cannot walk your dog for 8 hours a day to fulfill his nomadic tendencies.  Nor am I suggesting you take your sweet, spoiled pooch and suddenly decided she will primarily be an “outdoor dog.”  What I am advising (and I’m no doctor or vet…so no one has given me an authority to give advice) is that you go outside with your pup AND your kid EVERY day.  Even if it’s raining and you all have to towel everyone off when you come back inside.  Even if it’s only while you thumb through the junk mail.  Even if it’s only for 10 minutes!

If for no other reason that this: a tired dog/toddler is a happy dog/toddler!

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Diabetes & Your Pet – Drop the Pounds, Fight the Disease

So, you know the basics about diabetes in your pets and how serious it is here in this country.  You also know that obesity plays a HUGE ugly role in the disease.  What is the best way to fight obesity??  EXERCISE!

Now, as a dog walker, I am obviously going to tell you the best, easiest, cheapest, fun-est way to exercise your dog is by simply taking him or her for a walk.  Not only are you going to see the pounds drop off your pooch, you are going to see the bond between the two of your strengthen.  (Oh, and it’s healthy for you too!)  But maybe you don’t like to do things the easy way!  Maybe you have money burning a hole in your pocket, and dog exercise equipment is what you really love to spend your hard-earned cash on.  No worries!  We’ve got some great suggestions for you:

Go Pet Treadwheelswww.gopetusa.com

Living in New York City, the only pets I had time (or money!) for were two mice.  Those two gals LOVED their wheel and had different, intricate games they would play together using it.  (It was really something to watch…and video of them on their wheel was used as a backdrop for a modern dance piece performed on Broadway…making their NYC performance career more successful than my own!)  Go Pet has taken this mouse-running-on-a-wheel-for-exercise concept and made it dog sized.  While this seems like a clever idea, I just can’t imagine dogs really using this.  (There is even video of a cat running in one of these things on their website! )  The site advertises this as a great way for dogs to exercise when their parents are away (would a pup or cat really do that??) or when the weather is bad, but $475-$1125 seems a lot to pay so that you can sit on your booty while your pet works up a sweat.  On the other hand, I bet it is adorably entertaining to see your dog running on a big hamster wheel!

Canine Fitness Camp – Morris Animal Innwww.morrisanimalinn.com

Reading about Morris Animal Inn’s Weight Loss and Fitness Camp made me wonder if I could go too!  For about $50/day, Fido enjoy swimming, nature hikes, healthy fruit smoothies….along with “pampering massages“, “Doga“, and “Pawlates“.  (Ok, seriously…I REALLY want to go!)  I think this is a GREAT idea.  I know how hard it can be to start a diet/exercise plan – and this seems like the perfect way to kickstart your pooch’s regime.  This camp is sure to get your dog excited about getting out and being active…and the excitement is sure to carry over once you take your pup back home.

Chase It Pet Productswww.chaseit.com

This is another familiar pet toy, super sized!  Cats love these string toys, but for some reason the dog sized version of this just seems ridiculous.  I just can’t see myself lugging this fishing-pole-like contraption to the park…when an old-fashioned ball seems like it would get my pup going just as well.  They retail for about $25 – which isn’t a crazy amount to spend on something for my pet – but seems a bit over priced for something that looks like a fifth grader made it for Invention Convention.  (Does anyone know what I’m talking about?)

So get your dog running on that wheel, send them to boot camp, or get them jumping for joy over a toy!  Go to the park, around the block, or just out in the backyard.  Exercising with a buddy is always more fun – and it will be good for you AND man’s best friend to get some daily cardio in.  By taking such a simple step, you will make a giant leap in preventing diabetes in your pup.

For more information on obesity in pets and how to prevent it – visit The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention’s website.  It’s a great resource!

Diabetes & Your Pets – Obesity

The fact that over a third of the adult population in the United States is obese is startling.  To hear that 45% of our dogs and 58% of our cats are overweight is nothing less than disturbing.

This picture of Sassy has been circulating around the internet for years, but this isn't funny! Overweight pets are a serious problem.

Our pets don’t look in mirrors, count calories, or step on scales, so pet parents are the only ones to blame for these ridiculous statistics.  The more I read about diabetes in our dogs and cats, the more I realized it was obesity rather than genetics that was to blame.  Some of the facts and statistics literally made me sick.

Every pound your cat is overweight is the equivalent of 13 pounds of extra weight on an adult woman (15 pounds on an adult man.)  Are you still not shocked?!  How about this analogy – if you have a lab that weighs 90 pounds…that is like being a 5’4” woman weighing 186 pounds.  Yikes!

Part of the problem is that most people with overweight pets consider them to be a normal weight.  It’s hard to make people address a problem that they don’t see as a problem!  Also, some people think that the extra poundage their poor puppy or kitty is carrying around is “cute”.  While they think the extra fat means more of their pet to love – they are actually taking years off their furbaby’s life.  (Up to 2 YEARS off!)  They are also taking dollars out of their wallet – American pet owners spend about $25 million a year to treat obesity related conditions.

The most ridiculous statistic?  Pet obesity is 100% preventable.  Just as in overweight humans, overweight dogs and cats are eating too much and not exercising enough.  This seems super obvious, right?  Yes and no.

Everyone knows that dogs need to go for walks (although just because people know this doesn’t necessarily mean that they walk their dogs every day.)  Did you know that cats need exercise too?  (Don’t worry…you don’t have to walk them!)  Most people assume cats are fine sleeping the day away, but just getting your cat to be active for 10-15 minutes a day can make a HUGE difference in their weight (and their happiness!)

Food and treats are two not-so-obvious causes of obesity in our pets.  There is no law requiring pet food companies to provide calorie information for their products (unless they are specifically marketing their food as “low calorie.”)  Also, a majority of people are simply feeding their dogs and cats too much.  Following the recommended portions on the bag isn’t always an accurate guideline – these are based on young, active pets that have not been spayed or neutered.  If your pet is older or isn’t being regularly exercised, but you are still following the printed serving sizes, you could be giving your four-legged friend 25% too much food.  Some of us (myself included!) cannot resist giving our little guy or gal a treat….sometimes for just being adorable! Giving your dog a small bone treat is the same as you eating two chocolate doughnuts.  A pig ear treat for your pup is the same as you drinking a six-pack of Coke.  Yuck!  Many treats today are simply loaded with sugar and fat (which is why our pets love them so!)  Am I saying you shouldn’t give your pup a treat for good behavior or for giving you those “puppy dog eyes”?  Of course not!!!  Just as in our own diets – they key word is moderation.

Our pets rely on us for everything.  They bring so much joy to our lives – the least we can do for them is keep them healthy.  Diabetes in dogs and cats is on the rise, and the main cause of this horrible disease is obesity.  They don’t know about cardio or portioning out their meals.  They are animals for Pete’s sake!  It is in their nature to eat whatever they can get their paws on.  It is up to us to make sure they aren’t getting their paws on too much!  This is going to sound harsh, but if you don’t have half an hour every day to devote to exercising your pet – you shouldn’t have gotten one in the first place!

Or maybe you should just call a fabulous dog walker….

Introducing Your 2012 Life Coach – Your Dog

Ah, the dreaded new year’s resolutions.  We have all made them, and I would venture to say a majority of us never stick to them.  Over the past decade, I’ve pretty much given up making resolutions.  It’s not that I don’t want to better myself….it’s just that I really don’t have the time.  Ok. Ok.  I realize that is a horrible thing to say, but I think you understand what I mean.

While mulling over January ideas for the blog (and the inevitable “resolution” post I knew I was sure to make) I realized that it really wasn’t that I didn’t care or didn’t want to invest the time in creating a “New & Improved Jessica”.  It was that I cannot do things alone.  I am just not self motivated when it comes me.  I have no problem accomplishing tasks for work or doing things to help family and friends – but if it is something “Jessica related,” I’m in trouble!  My (somewhat) impressive weight loss last year can be 100% attributed to the fact that my (now) husband works out often and would drag me along.  (I would never go to the gym by myself!)  Any strides I have made in improving my health (I unfortunately struggle with Type 1 diabetes) are simply the result of a mom who guilts and nags me to the doctor and away from cookies.   Simply put – I need a buddy to help me out.

Don’t we all need a buddy to help us reach our goals?  (The last time I checked, the definition of “buddy” did not discriminate against four-legged friends!)

Let’s turn to our dogs for motivation!  We help them….now let’s let them help us!

Diet

What an ugly word,  But let us now use the word “diet” to describe what we eat….not the starvation plan we are attempting to master.  I know most of my readers do not make their own dog food, but that doesn’t mean that your dog has to eat straight from a bag all the time.  Mixing veggies into your dog’s meals is a great way to keep them healthy.  I don’t think I need to explain why (it’s for the same reason YOU need to eat veggies!)  Of course, not all vegetables are dog friendly (check out information on what/how to feed your dog here or here.)  The next time you think it’s a waste to buy or prepare all those green beans, think about your poor pooch.  He can only eat what you feed him!  (Yes, guilt is a powerful tool when it comes to new year’s resolutions.)

Exercise

Many people think the word “exercise” means hours at the gym or a personal trainer or running an insane distance.  Walking, though, is something that can be done by everyone.  Whether you are old, young, fat, thin, canine….everyone benefits from walking.  It is free.  It is painless.  It will not help you magically shed that extra 50 pounds you are looking to lose for bikini season, but it will make a real difference in your health.  Best of all, though, your dog will LOVE you for it.  People really underestimate how much dogs love to go for walks.  Most dogs will walk anywhere with you – and are extremely excited to do so.  As a species, they spent all their time outside roaming for hundreds of years…and we expect them to sit inside and wait for us all day and then sit inside and watch us watch TV at night.  As you start to sink into that chair after a hard day’s work – think of how happy and content your dog is when the two of you are outside.  (Motivation!)

Chill Out

I haven’t read over your resolutions, but I would  guess one  of them has to do with your mental state. (Not that I’m saying you are crazy!)  Maybe you have a hard time leaving things at work.  Maybe day-to-day issues tend to get under your skin.  (I stress about literally EVERYTHING…so one of my resolutions is simply to “chill out.” )  This is where your dog really will be your buddy.  Why did you get a dog?  Seriously….can you answer that question?  Has your pup become one more thing on your to do list?  (Gosh!  I have to feed the dog AGAIN today!?!)  I try to get goofy with my dog daily.  I wait until I’m alone, I make sure all the windows and curtains are shut, and I get nutty.  I run around, I jump over things, I sing, I dance, I kiss her, I make funny faces.  She LOVES it!  She gets just as silly…and we both end up laughing and panting.  Have you ever tried to be stressed out while playing with a dog?  IMPOSSIBLE!  Have you ever cried about your boss yelling at you while watching a puppy chase a ball?  You simply can NOT do it.  Let your pup help you deal with your life.  (They say smiles are contagious amongst us humans….well, I think happiness is contagious and can jump from species to species.)

Good luck achieving those 2012 resolutions.  To summarize this post…and life as I know it:  everything is easier, better, and more fun with a dog.