Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Great Crate Debate: The Joy of Being and Having #CrateHappyPets

This post is sponsored by PetSmart, and the BlogPaws Professional Pet Blogger Network. I am being compensated for helping spread the word about Containment Products and Education for your pet, but 'Pixel Blue Eyes: Her Tails of Adventure' blog only shares information we feel is relevant to our readers. PetSmart is not responsible for the content of this article.

Ahhhh, the great "Crate Debate". Are crates good? Do pets like them? Is crate training cruel? Why try using crates at all...isn't that like a cage?  Mommy and I have heard so many questions, so many uncertainties. Hence, when we heard that our friends at PetSmart®, whose vision is to provide Total Lifetime CareSM for every pet, every parent, every time, believe like we do...that crates and pet carriers should be a safe, happy place that pets will actually choose to go to on their own...we were thrilled to team up with them and spread the word about how great crates are!

My sisters and I, and all dogs in my family since long before I was born 7 years ago, have used crates since day one with our family. For over 22 years, Mommy has been crate training dogs with love, affection, and great success. Dogs don't and shouldn't live in crates, or be forced to stay in them for extended periods of time, but they are a great tool when needed and a safe haven when used correctly. Since we now have four little girl dogs in the family, we call them our "Princess Towers" and we LOVE them. We have open "princess towers" all the time in the house so us pups can go in and take a nap, chew on a favorite bone or toy, or go some place to "feel safe" if we hear loud noises, such as someone mowing the lawn outside (it is getting to be spring after all). Whether we were adopted as puppies or adults, we learned quickly that crates were our friends. Let me tell you what I mean...

Training a New Puppy to be a #CrateHappyPet
When I first adopted Mommy, she was in school and living alone in a small apartment with lots of things I could have gotten into if left alone. Mommy wanted me safe, but unfortunately, she had to leave me at times to go to class. She bought me a large metal crate (but not too large) and a comfortable padded liner to go in the bottom. Then she got me a very plush bed to fit inside the crate, where there would then be plenty of room for a water bowl that would not tip over, and a few safe toys in the crate as well.

She rolled up blankets around the edge as sort of a bolster for padding, as in this photo here. Then she introduced me to my first "princess tower". Now, of course I was a puppy and didn't understand why I couldn't be in Mommy's arms every single second so she started slowly introducing me to it. She left it open and hid treats in it for me to find on occasion and we'd "play" in it. I loved that! No wonder I became the "finder of long lost kibble" later in life. Then she started placing me in the crate with some treats and the door closed for only a couple of minutes. I'd cry. She'd wait, and then let me out tell me I was a good girl for being in there. She slowly lengthened the time and would walk out of the room on occasion so I couldn't see her. I'd cry at first, but she'd wait until I stopped for a second. When she'd come back, and whenever she opened that door, it was always the BEST most HAPPIEST REUNION!! Even if it was just 5 or 10 minutes. Within a week, she was taking showers or cooking supper and I'd stay in the crate just for practice. Always, always, when she'd open up that door, we had the most loving time together, where she told me I was such a good girl and I'd get a few treats. She'd still leave it open and inviting all the time, and she soon saw that I'd go in there for naps if she was busy cooking supper or doing something else where I couldn't lay right beside her.
When Mommy had to leave for class, she'd put me in the crate with several treats (of course I protested at first, but then I loved it after learning it was such a great place!) and I'd happily wait until she returned. She always returned to me, and that is how I learned that the crate was such a happy place. I associated the crate with Mommy coming home to me and a wonderful cuddle fest afterwards. She'd open that door, and I'd roll on my back immediately and rub my little eyes, giving her a big smile. She'd stick her head and arms in that big crate and she would hug and kiss me so much! It was the best thing. To this day, I roll on my back like that for hugs and kisses from Mommy!

There are so Many Great Crate Uses. Here are some of the many other ways that our family uses crates to make me and my sisters #CrateHappyPets:

One look at Sassy's face, and the terms "joyful haven" and #CrateHappyPets will speak for themselves. My sisters and I love going into our "princess tower" crates to chew on a bone, take a nap together or play with our favorite toys. Sassy and I both LOVE to chew a rawhide or sweet potato chew in them as well.
Peanut and I will go in sometimes and lay together, or Dixie Mae and I will have rubber duckie squeaking contests in the "princess tower" crates. If a family member wants to find one of us, where will they often look? In one of the crates.
Now, we sleep with our family members in their beds, and spend the day on the couches, or dog beds around the house near them, or going out with them etc, but we also choose to spend time in our princess towers. We get to choose where we hang out at in the house.

And let's not forget the kitties love the crates too. Noel had quite the collection of toys she kept in her crate we always had available. We constantly found her in one of the crates bringing her "treasures" and making a collection pile.

Just like humans, pets get sick, have injuries or need to get surgery sometimes. We use both metal and soft sided crates, depending on the situation, for rest and recovery during those times.
After my tail surgery a few years ago, Mommy set up a large metal crate right beside our bed so she could watch me every second. The vet required me to stay still, and I was not able to sleep on the bed with her like I normally do. I needed to be on a flat, cushioned area and not running around on the bed at risk of jumping down, so the crate was safer and wiser for me to be in. My sweet sister Peanut lay on the bed by the crate many a time with her nose almost through the bars so I would know she was close. It was such a comfort to me and showed just how devoted and loving we animals are to each other.

Fast forward to this very month. My newest sister Sassy, who is 6 months old, just got spayed, but at the same time, poor sweet Peanut, who is 10 years old, has a bad neck problem and is having trouble walking and using her legs. Peanut HAD to remain stationary so she would not harm her neck further, and Sassy had to remain calm and contained because she had an open wound in her abdomen and needed to rest. So we have had TWO dogs "convalescing" at once...both needing their own crate to rest and recover in. So, we set up two crates in the living room, one for each of them. They are never left alone. There was always at least one adult watching them at all times. They got bathroom breaks, water breaks, proper feeding times, lots of loving affection, but LOTS of required rest. And even though Sassy was not thrilled about it, we found ways to help her through.
Would it have been better for us to let a puppy with stitches run around all over the place, have full freedom right after surgery and potentially break open those stitches, requiring further surgery? NO. We've experienced that horrible mistake before. Sassy is all healed now and back to full fun times with no crate needed of course. It was just a necessary tool, like being in the hospital basically. If you had surgery, your doctor wouldn't allow you to run around and play would he?

As we all know, some dogs get scared of things like thunderstorms, jets flying overhead, lawn mowers outside, even the vacuum cleaner. By having an open crate available to your pet, they will always have a "safe place" to go to if they at all feel uncertain and can't run into your arms immediately.
I actually go to one of my princess tower crates at times when my tail nerve pain acts up. I have written about it in previous blog posts about tail docking. It's a way for Mommy to know that I might be in pain if she sees me run to the crate for no apparent reason and act distressed or start going after my tail.

Dixie Mae has special circumstances that makes her afraid of things including thunderstorms and loud airplanes too. She escaped a horrible puppy mill after years of abuse, neglect, and then being shot. She was rescued and we were blessed to have her become a part of our family. But she still carries the bullet, and she still carries some of the fear. So when she hears loud bangs, she runs away and tries to hide under anything she can. We found she feels safest in my little travel crate, so we have it set up for her to go to anytime she wants to. We watch the weather close during thunderstorm season, are careful about hunting season since we live in the mountains, and make sure a cozy crate is available for her to feel safe and protected 24/7.

Our family takes a vacation every year together, plus we go on drives and run errands all the time. If we need to travel in a carrier for safety, Mommy will have the carrier open for us ahead of time in preparation for the trip. We always give it an "inspection" and usually take at least one nap inside it before we are on our way. My sister Dixie Mae loves playing with our rubber duckie toys in one of our little travel crates that Mommy sometimes keeps open on the bed before a trip. She likes to have it open so we get used to going in and out of it before the trip, so it's not just a "grab and shove" type of surprise for us. We love to travel with our family, and love our crates, but she still likes for us to be used to things and never get "surprised".

We are a family that has both dogs and cats, and we've fostered several kitties over the years. With each one, there's a time of quarantine, then spay/neuter, then introduction into the family. As I mentioned before, a really comfortable crate is an excellent place for a pet to rest and recover from surgery. It's also perfect time for pets to get to know one another from a safe distance, without the feeling of being "threatened" in a way, especially if some of them had a rocky start to life. That is how I got to know several of my foster kitty sisters, including Noel a few years ago. She and I were especially close after we got to know one another. But first, I observed her at a safe distance while she was recovering from her spay surgery in a safe crate. After several days of just looking at her, I eventually sniffed the crate, and one day we finally met. But that crate gave us a safe way to be close without being "too close".

This is a photo of Sunny, a very special dog that Mommy helped rescue a couple of years ago. Mommy has worked in rescue for years, and Sunny was just extra special. Sunny climbed the fencing of her kennel every single day multiple times, just like an escape artist. But she didn't run away, she just wanted to be with the people at the shelter. Mommy used her connections to help find a way for Sunny to get to a new home where she got trained to be an agility dog. It was a wonderful happy ending! Mommy used a metal crate to transport Sunny to get spayed and a crate was used to transport her all the way to her new loving home in northern Virginia. It was a wonderful experience and Sunny's life was saved thanks to the good use of crates that helped keep her safe during travel.

Our family has fostered and adopted many rescues over the years, and on occasion there's been a dog who had food issues. Whatever the reason might be, some dogs have a fear of their food being taken away, or they just can't eat around other pets. You can train pets to eat near each other by using a crate. Start by having two pets eating far away from each other, the aggressor in the crate with their food. With a lot of time, and careful proximity, you can slowly bring the two dogs closer together until they are within a few feet of one another. Mommy always recommends giving each dog "food eating space" because that is just proper and respectful to each dog. You can also help train the dog to lose food aggression towards human interaction while eating, but always consult a professional with any questions on this.


MAKE THE CRATE/CARRIER AS COMFORTABLE AND INVITING AS POSSIBLE. Soft bedding, plush padding, bolster blankets around the edges, whatever it takes to make that crate a haven. Try to think of what your pets needs are. Do they have arthritis? Do they get cold easily? Do they tend to overheat? Are their paws sensitive? Alter the customization according to the pet.

DON'T LOSE PATIENCE WITH YOUR PET. They are learning and unsure. They need all the reassurance they can get. When Mommy would put me in the crate (right outside the bathroom) and then take a shower, I cried so many times all the way through Mommy's entire shower when I first was learning about it, but I needed to know it was okay. I wasn't being hurt. Mommy had to let me sit in there, safe, surrounded in comfort, and let me realize in my own time that it was really an awesome, safe place to be when she went to class for 2 hours.

ALWAYS KEEP THE CRATE EXPERIENCE POSITIVE. Never ever punish a dog while they are inside the crate. They can have a few minutes of a time out in the crate, but don't punish, yell or make the crate a negative experience or they will fear the crate.

NEVER TRAP YOUR PET IN A CRATE FOR ANY LONG EXTENDED PERIODS OF TIME. Crates are not meant to be a long term living quarter for your pet. Your pet is meant to live and be with you! I live with my Mommy, sit and lay on the couch with her, sleep on our bed with her, follow her everywhere. However, a crate can be a safe haven in various circumstances, including the ones I mentioned.

These are just a few of the ways that crates can be used in a positive and healthy way with pets to help them be #CrateHappyPets. The benefits of crate training are tremendous and will last a lifetime with your pet. Here is my final thought on why crates are a good thing for pet parents to consider for their beloved little (and big) ones: When used in the manner that I spoke of above, crates are safe, loving way to deal with separation anxiety, travel needs, pet safety, pet health, and pet happiness. When you use a crate for transport safety or to help your beloved pet recover from surgery, and they are surrounded by plush warm comfort better than some humans, and spoiled in the best way with a loving human right there watching over them in case they need anything...how can that be anything but loving?

To learn more about making your pet a successful #CrateHappyPet, here are a couple of helpful links:
PetMD Puppy Crate Training
Positive Portable Kennel Training


All through the month of March, Petsmart is having a sale on all their pet carrier and containment items in stores. They have a huge selection of soft sided and metal fold up crates, like the ones you have seen in my photos, as well as great looking and highly durable plastic crates. They are all great choices, it just depends on your needs.
Can't find a Petsmart near you? Use this store locator link to find your nearest Petsmart.

So tell me friends, is your pet a #CrateHappyPet? If you have any questions on my experiences I'd love to talk more, so please ask me a question in the comment section.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Joy of Helping Your Pet Maintain a #PerfectWeight

This post is sponsored by Hill’s. I am being compensated for helping spread the word about Hill’s® Science Diet® Perfect Weight 10 Week Turnaround, but 'Pixel Blue Eyes: Her Tails of Adventure' blog only shares information we feel is relevant to our readers. Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc. is not responsible for the content of this article.

"Being a pet parent is one of the greatest joys in the entire world!" Mommy said that to me just this morning when we were having our special morning time before breakfast. There is so much love shared between a pet and their human. I know Mommy wants to spoil me like crazy, but I also know she wants what is best for me, so I can imagine that being a pet parent can also be a challenge, as she balances her need to spoil me with doing what is best for me. Keeping me at a perfect weight is one of the greatest and most loving things she does for me. It's also one of her biggest challenges. Thankfully she, and many other pet parents, don't have to tackle that challenge alone.

Many pet parents may ask, "Is my precious little one overweight?". I've shared with you in the past that I had a bit of a weight issue a few years ago when I was 2.5 pounds over my ideal weight. Now, that may not sound like much, but 5 lbs on a small dog is like 30 lbs on a human, so I was carrying the equivalent of 15 extra pounds on me. Watch this "Is your pet overweight" video by Dr. Ashley Gallagher:

It turns out that over 50% of all pets are overweight. Excess weight can cause many issues for pets, but it's difficult to shed those extra pounds, whether you are human or canine. It is very important to address a weight issue as soon as possible. Talk to your veterinarian and set up a plan to help your pet shed the pounds. There are things you can do, tools you can use, and products that can help overweight pets.

The most important thing to do is to make an appointment to have your pet(s) evaluated by your veterinarian. They can best identify a plan of action for your pet.

If your pet is overweight, your vet might suggest the Hill's® Science Diet® Perfect Weight pet food. Yes, my friends at Hills have done it again! They are always concerned about pets being at a healthy weight, and continually strive to create pet foods that help pets successfully lose weight. Hills strives to work in partnership with pet parents to get their dogs and cats to a healthy weight so their pets live longer, healthier, happier lives. I'm super excited about their breakthrough nutrition formulated to achieve & maintain a healthy weight & improve quality of life in small & toy breed dogs like me: Hill's® Science Diet® Small and Toy Breed Formula. You can read all about it here: http://www.hillspet.com/products/sd-canine-adultperfect-weight-small-and-toy-dry.html. 70% of cats and dogs who used Science Diet Perfect Weight lost weight within 10 weeks.

Tips and tools to help you and your pet succeed in achieving and keeping a perfect weight:
1. Always measure out your pet's food each time you feed them. Find out what the total amount of food is they can have for the day, then split it out to the number of meals you want them to have for that day. For example, I have to take medicine 4 times a day, so I get my total amount of food split into 4 meals. I LOVE getting all those mini meals from Mommy throughout the day.
2. Exercise your pet. Even in the dead of winter, your pet can still get exercise. We love to play in the snow, even if we get cold quickly. You could try incorporating several small indoor or outdoor play times, or small exercise/activity times throughout the day. Even 5 minutes of throwing the ball down the hall with your pet is excellent way to keep you both active, happy and a little healthier.
3. Learn a new trick together. It will keep both the mind AND the body active.
4. Check out your pet's weight using the petMD Healthy Weight Tool - Enter in some basic information to get the answer.
5. Discover just how negative an impact "people food" from your plate can be on your pet by visiting the Treat Translator Tool - You only think that "one tiny bite of cheese" isn't much.

Being a pet parent is both rewarding and challenging, but we're all here for each other. A healthy weight for your dog or cat is one of the most loving thing you can do for them. Achieving a perfect weight for your pet is possible. If you'd like to read some success stories of cats and dogs who have achieved their perfect weight with the Hills 10 Week Turnaround, visit the Hillspet website. Hills Science Diet Perfect Weight pet food is available at your licensed veterinarian or at Pet 360.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Joy of Surprises: Operation Red Wagon with Purple Patrick Duckie

As you know, I adore my duckies with a passion that is beyond compare. We have lots of fun and adventures, but nothing could have prepared me for the adventure I'm about to share....
About a month ago one of my favorite duckies, Purple Patrick Duckie had been missing for a while. I'd looked and looked, but he was nowhere to be found. Then one day I was minding my own business tearing up an empty kleenex box (I love doing it & Mommy takes out the plastic liner first) when my missing purple Duckie Patrick shows up out of nowhere. He jumped into the box and told me to "just act normal" but let him "lay low" for a while in there. It turned out he was part of a covert operation called "Operation Red Wagon" and I was recruited to help out. He couldn't tell me anything further but I was now unwittingly up to my neck in it too. I looked around cautiously as I thought to myself, "Goodness knows what he's got himself into...and now I'm involved too!"

Purple Patrick Duckie and I hung out together acting as "normal" as possible, but then he suddenly "disappeared" again one afternoon. I had started wearing my purple spotted hoodie, that matches him perfectly, as a show of solidarity and support of his covert "Operation Red Wagon" that he had recruited me into. Details were still sketchy, but he was teaching me some things. The day he again disappeared, we practiced the "duck and cover" technique, but he was acting a bit odd during practice...standing a little too close, commenting on how comfy my hoodie looked and saying that being invisible was a "state of mind". I lay down for a nap after our covert "duck and cover" training, but when I awoke, Patrick Duckie was gone. I just figured, "that's how it is when you're a covert duckie operative..."

Three days later, right after finding out about my scary ear lump and upcoming surgery (at the time it was the end if January), there was a faint knock at the door. Mommy insisted I be the one to answer it. There sat Purple Patrick Duckie with Minkie Duckie (Pinkie Tuskadero Duckie's sister) by his side. I was so happy to see them both I didn't initially see what was behind them. We greeted each other with love and then Patrick said, "Pixel, I have a surprise for you. Operation Red Wagon has one last critical stage that needs your help. Will you be a part of it's final success?" "Of course!" I exclaimed with excitement. I'm always there to help my friends, and I knew it had to be something of utter importance for him to be gone for so long. I told him I missed him and hated that he just up and disappeared on me. He promised never to do that again but that it was important that he do this operation in secret.

"Look behind me Pixel..." Patrick Duckie said. That is when I heard the low murmuring of little quacks here and there. Then I saw the most amazing sight my little duckie loving eyes had ever seen. A red wagon filled with a bunch of little rubber duckies that needed a home! "This is 'Operation Red Wagon' Pixel," Patrick Duckie said with delight.

I kissed Minkie Duckie and thanked her for helping greet them. They were all relatives of course. Can't you see the family resemblance? They'd been looking for a loving forever family home together and they found mine! I adopted every single one right on the spot.

I greeted each one and told them how much fun we'd have, what a nice place they were at now and what a great life they ALL would have with me and my family. They all seemed very excited, just like me. Mommy was kind enough to document the whole thing.

I checked around to make sure they were safe and then we all went inside for a nice dinner together.

This was truly one of the best surprises ever! I think I'm going to like these covert operations!!

I hope you enjoyed my "Operation Red Wagon" Tail of Adventure! Please leave a comment below and tell me what you think...

Happy Wordless Wednesday friends!! This blog hop is hosted by my friends at BlogPaws, and today's theme was "spoiling your pets" since February is "Spoil Your Pet month. I do believe I've found my favorite month...

Pixel Ear Surgery Update: A Serious & Unexpected Result

I just wanted to share a quick and unexpected update on my ear surgery. I've been telling everyone how well I've been healing up and that the ear looks good in spite of a big ugly looking scab that covered the entire length of the suture area where they sewed my ear back together. For those that don't know, I had a scary growth removed from my right ear and tested for cancer last month. Believe it or not, we still don't have the final results from pathology. Now for my ear update...

Things appeared to be healing well...
I had a large scab (sorry to be doggie gross but it's important) that was worrisome, however the vet said to leave it alone. We did. Mommy protected it like it was gold. No touching, scratching, poking, etc from me or my sisters. Mommy kept watching it, and slowly it got a little smaller. Finally, it was just a dot in the center on the top side of my ear but was still big on the underside. She noticed that it appeared to go right through my ear. Mommy was really worried I might have a hole going through my ear but thought, "No way. Pixel had two layers of heavy duty stitches." But were those stitches TOO heavy for my tender little delicate ears? I ask this because yesterday that big scab finally fell off.

Now for the not so good surprise...
You are not going to believe this...when Mommy saw where it fell out, and it lay on my blanket, she looked at my ear and I now have a large hole in my ear where the surgery was done. It's so large, that a toothpick could go through it and not touch the sides of the hole! We are NOT happy about this at all. One wrong scratch of my paw nail or one wrong playful tug with my sisters and my newly healed ear could split right open and into split butterfly wings. It's basically shaped like the center of a funnel cone where the hole is the center point of where they cut the wedge out of my ear. This shocked Mommy and she's not happy about it at all. She's very worried.

What to do now...
We are watching it for now, being careful not to let it get snagged, but we will be talking to the vet about it. There's barely 1/8th of an inch (0.3175 cm) of newly healed tissue between the hole and the edge of the ear now. We are snowed in right now but when we are able to go to the vet, we will, and we will talk to them about corrective measures. Our point in sharing this is to point out that as pet parents, you must always be "on top of things" when your pet gets treated or has surgery of any kind. Things can happen, and you must keep a watchful eye for circumstances to change, even when everything appears to be healing or going well.

A Pet Parent Reminder...
Remember that you are your pet's only advocate, they cannot speak for themselves, you must speak for them in all things. Mommy will be taking care of me in this, just as she always has.
I promise we'll continue to keep you updated on what happens. We've joked that I could always become a pirate and just get a huge hoop earring to go through that ear, but in all reality, the danger of it tearing is just too great.

What are your thoughts on this friends? Is Mommy overreacting with her concern or would you feel the same way? Please leave a comment below and let me know. We love to hear from you!

Watch Videos of Pixel on the 'Pixel Blue Eyes' YouTube Channel!

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