Bits And Pieces

FOCUS ON PETS

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The Payson Humane Society Chili Supper was bigger and better than ever. People poured in throughout the evening and lent their support to this great cause. The financial results are not yet available as I write this, but judging by the turnout, the event was a success.

Many people donated a huge amount of time and energy to prepare for the event. Pictures of the shelter's dogs and cats available for adoption were showcased on the bulletin board and centerpieces. No doubt this crew worked hard out of their love for these animals. Many wonderful auction items were donated and people were generous with their bids. The terrific food was all donated as well, so the proceeds should go a long way to help the shelter.

I just returned from Tucson where I attended a dog training seminar hosted by the top musical freestyle experts in the world. I look forward to putting what I learned into practice. The seminar was fun and up beat.

The best part was seeing all these people having fun with their dogs. I wish every dog and owner could have the opportunity to experience this interaction. Watching the dogs learning and working with their handlers is heartwarming.

In spite of the rewards, obedience training can be tedious for dog and owner. Learning to heel can be boring for a spirited dog. That's why freestyle and trick training or are so important to balance a dog's learning process. If the handler makes training fun, the dog's true sprit will show.

Obedience training is vital for any dog coming into a family. An untrained dog, like an undisciplined child, is challenging. A dog, just like a child, is not to blame for poor behavior. Proper training and care are the owner's responsibilities.

A balance of obedience training and play makes for a happy dog.

Occasionally, there are freestyle demonstrations on television. If you catch one, watch the tails, watch the attention of the dog. You know they love the attention. You can see a dog's enthusiasm in any activity where they are doing something fun -- whether hunting, agility, fly ball or freestyle -- with their handler.

Cold weather means preparing a comfortable place for dogs during the winter. At night dogs should be kept inside the house or given a warm place, which is off the ground, in the garage or shed. A space in the garage or shed can be closed off to keep warm air in. An oil-filled, radiator-like heater that has a thermostat is a safe option. One of these can keep a small space very comfortable on a cold night.

Even in the garage or shed, make sure the dog is up off the cold ground.

Although most dogs love being outside during the day, be sure to have a place for them to bask in the sun that is off the cold ground. Wooden pallets are great for this. Find one where the boards are fairly close together or put a board over the top of the pallet. The surface quickly dries in the sun. A cold, damp ground is hard on joints and bones -- particularly for older dogs.

Warm outdoor dog houses by hanging a towel or light rug over the door. This insulates the space with the dog's warm body temperature while keeping cold air out. During the day, unless the weather is very cold, move the covering to the side so that the dog house can air out. Dogs who spend nights outside should most certainly have an insulated shelter. A doorless kennel or crate covered in blankets keeps the dog warm. Used blankets are inexpensive at our local thrift stores. Make sure the house is off the ground. A wooden pallet works well for this also. A bale of straw in a dog house allows the dog to make a warm nest. Straw also dries moisture quickly. Fluff the straw occasionally to keep it light and fresh.

Placement of the dog house is vital. Avoid exposure to the north wind. A shelter facing the south will benefit from the warming early morning sun.

Providing fresh water every morning avoids the worry of water freezing overnight. Dogs should have access to more than one supply of water in case one tips over or becomes dirty.

Dogs should be fed twice a day -- especially in the winter. On cold mornings, dogs welcome a hot breakfast. A little hot oatmeal added to the food is a special treat. A small amount of hot water mixed into the food warms your dog from the inside out.

Dogs like to take walks no matter how cold it is. Bundle up and get out there. They will thank you and you will enjoy it too.

Christy Wrather is a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at cpwrather@ earthlink.net or by snail mail at HC1 Box 210, Strawberry, AZ 85544.

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