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Training Tip: Hide and Seek

From Sally Silverman (Freestyle, Tricks, Agility):

“Always set your dog up for success. Plan each training session so that your dog will be successful, and can thereby earn rewards. Marking and rewarding the behaviors we like is how we communicate what we want with our dogs.”

Training should be fun! Your dog should perceive every training session as a game. And there are loads of games you can use for training. Here’s one you and your dog can play just about any time:

Hide and Seek

Put your dog in a sit stay and leave the room. Proof the stay a couple of times by returning to reward him for staying. At first, hide just on the other side of the wall, then call, “Come!” If this game is new to your dog, go back to hiding behind the wall and returning to the dog to deliver the reward a few times. When you are confident that he is up to the challenge, make it harder. Make a fuss and give a treat when he finds you. This game reinforces stays and recalls, and though it is definitely more challenging, it is great to play with multiple dogs.

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Pet Health Insurance Part 1

“Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.”

To insure or not to insure? That is the question – with no easy answer. Your five-year-old dog may have suffered one brief bout of diarrhea after eating some unknown goody – otherwise, nothing. Maybe little more will ever happen. Or he may contract Lyme disease, or injure himself chasing a wayward Frisbee. How comfortable will you be, counting on your good luck and his good health?

There’s no easy answer. Pet insurance has been around for decades, yet there are still plenty of us who would rather keep our fingers crossed than sign up. As more insurers enter the market, there are ever more options to consider: coverage for alternative therapies, for example, such as acupuncture or behavioral problem-solving.

In this article, the first in a series, we look at some of the likeliest options your potential insurer might offer. Our goal is to provide you with the tools to make informed, thoughtful decisions.


If you’ve ever insured a car or a house, you’ve encountered deductibles. A $250 deductible means that your insurer –or YIC (for Your Insurance Company) -- won’t pay the first $250 of your costs. You will. You might skid on a nasty patch of black ice one wintry night and wind up with your car partially squashed against a utility pole. Happily you’re not hurt, but your car will need $1,500 worth of repairs. Because of your $250 deductible, the most YIC will reimburse you for will be $1,250. In addition to the amount of your deductible, YIC might also have offered you another choice: annual or per incident deductible. If you selected annual, and something else goes wrong with your car in that same insurance year, you won’t have to pay that $250 again. With a per incident deductible, you’ll pay that first $250 each time something new goes wrong.

You’ll probably also need to select your reimbursement level (sometimes called a “co-pay”). If you chose a 100% reimbursement level for your newly pleated car, YIC will pay you the entire remaining $1,250 on your repair bill. If you chose a 90% level, YIC will pay you 90% of the $1,250 it owes you. Please note – this is not 90% of the original cost to repair the car, but 90% of the cost after the “deductible.” With a 90% reimbursement level, your payment from YIC is now down to $1,125. And that’s assuming they accept the repair bill as reasonable.

Most pet insurers offer similar options. However, veterinary care is not as cut and dried as car repair. So when you’re ready to consider individual insurers, we suggest talking to your vet(s) and fellow dog trainers about their experiences, including how picky a company has been about veterinary costs and recommended procedures. Do yourself a favor: take careful notes. Each insurer will vary from the next one, but hardly any will vary in the same way. The more details you record, the easier your decision will be.

Of course, each choice you make will affect the annual premium you pay. The lower you make the “deductible,” the higher your premium will be. The lower you make the reimbursement level, the lower your premium will be. It’s a balancing act. And unless you’ve learned how to predict the future, it’s not much better than an informed gamble.

Finally, keep in mind that every pet health insurer excludes “pre-existing conditions.” So once you’ve signed on with YIC, if your dog should develop a chronic condition or a degenerative disease (such as dysplasia), you’ll probably be stuck with YIC.   That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s something to consider when you’re asking others about their pet insurance experiences. Fortunately, you can make changes in other areas. Most insurers allow you to modify your options when you renew. Renewals are usually done annually, but some insurers allow you to modify an option at any time.

Next time, we’ll look at more options. Please let us know if there are aspects of health insurance you’d like us to explore sooner than others, or if you have any questions. We’ll address as many of those as we can, depending on space as well as relevance to our readers. Contact us here.

Barbara Silverstein is an editor of Chew on This

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Fireworks, Noises and Fear, OH MY!

December 31st is a celebratory holiday. But the fireworks, noisy crowds, and flashing lights of New Years’ Eve can be anything but a party for your dog. So before your pup has a panic attack, take some measures to reduce his stress level.

If you anticipate a problem, consider picking up some Rescue Remedy®, a blend of liquid flower extracts that can help relieve stress. Check the label for the dosage, and give it to your dog about 30 minutes before the action starts.

A ThunderShirt® offers proven relief for many stressed out dogs (and cats too!). It wraps around most of the body, applying a comforting pressure that soothes and calms the dog.

Rescue Remedy can be found in many grocery, health, and pet supply stores, and both items are widely available on line.

As midnight approaches, make sure your dog’s environment will help keep her calm. Is her bed, or a favorite chair, ready for her, with a favorite toy or two? Play some music at a volume loud enough to drown out some of the outside noise (though do be mindful of your neighbors). Draw the curtains or close the blinds to reduce the effect of sudden flashes of light. Your stressed-out dog will respond to your cues, so stay calm and relaxed. And breathe: long, slow, calming breaths.

If you know that loud noises will be extremely upsetting to your dog, consider discussing some anxiety-reducing medicine with your veterinarian well before the big day.

Finally, as you make your own New Year’s resolutions, don’t forget a workout routine for both you and your dog.

Have a great holiday season and a splendid New Year!

Adapted from an article by Beverly Jogan, VMD, published in The Wag Times, the monthly newsletter of Whole Animal Gym (WAG), with their permission.

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Holiday Leftovers — dos and don’ts

Holidays are for splurging. We heap our plates with rich and delicious dishes, and eat until we can barely move!

Keep in mind that the high fat content in turkey, goose, duck, and many gravy recipes, can cause a variety of intestinal issues for dogs. They can even cause pancreatitis.

According to Dr. Beverly Jogan of WAG (Whole Animal Gym) in Philadelphia, a little goes a long way. Special treats should not make up more than 25% of your dog’s normal food intake. And when you feed leftovers, make sure to cut down proportionally on regular food. So if your dog normally eats four cups of pet food per day and you give one cup of leftovers, feed no more than three cups of regular food. In the long run, you aren’t doing your pet any favors by overfeeding.

Skip the gravy. It promotes overeating and, because it tends to be fatty, can upset the digestive system.

The best part of the bird to share with Fido is white meat, which is lower in fat than dark meat. And no fat, no skin, no bones. None!

Stuffing and mashed potatoes are fine in very small amounts, and raw or steamed veggies are always great. Green beans, Brussels sprouts, carrots, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes that have been steamed and mashed, are tasty and nutritious additions to any meal. Don’t forget that grapes and raisins can be extremely toxic to dogs. Make sure they aren’t hiding in that leftover stuffing. If you’re not sure, don’t share!

Adapted from an article by Stephanie Valentino, published in The Wag Times, the monthly newsletter of Whole Animal Gym (WAG), with their permission.

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