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Pet Care

Learn about how to choose and care for your pet.

Sleeping Kitten.

Pets are wonderful companions, providing a lifetime of fun and requiring a lifetime of care and commitment. At The Animal Rescue Site, we want to provide resources to help you and your pet get off to a great start together. The following are several informative articles that can help you choose, care for, and understand your pet.

Internet Adoption Guidelines

ASPCA National Shelter Outreach, article courtesy of

Congratulations! You've decided you have the time and resources to adopt a new pet. Cyber-shelters like let you search hundreds of shelters and rescue groups for the pet of your dreams without leaving your comfortable chair. Today's shelters and rescue groups are better trained and more willing to provide tips for making your adoption a wonderfully rewarding experience. Before you begin your cyber-journey, here are a few tips to keep in mind when looking for your new pet.

  1. In person is best!
    There's no substitute for meeting the pet in person to see if the match is right for you... and the pet. Adopting is a relationship that should last the lifetime of the pet. Impulse buying or the wrong lifestyle match leads to many returned pets. If you truly don't want to go into the shelter, or the rescue group doesn't have a facility, ask about off-site adoption opportunities or special appointments.
  2. Who are you adopting?
    The best possible match to your family and lifestyle will help your adoption be a lifelong, rewarding one. Some websites like allow you the opportunity to search by breed, sex, size and other criteria. Be flexible when looking at the available pets. Medical history. Is the pet spayed or neutered? Will the shelter provide this surgery or do they offer low-cost alternatives? Does it have all its shots (and which ones are given as part of your adoption contract)? If you don't know about breed-specific characteristics, ask!
  3. Visit often... and don't give up!
    Pets come into shelters and rescue groups every day. Keep looking. Check as many sites as possible. Post your needs on's "Pet Wanted!" listing in the Classified section.
  4. Who are you adopting from? What will you need?
    Policies and procedures vary from group to group. Find out as much about the group as you can... are they a non-profit, municipal, private, rescue? What will you need to bring including a vet reference, proof your other pets are altered, landlord permission, etc. Is there an adoption fee? What does it include? (Shots, leash, spay/neuter). What are the group's spay-neuter policies? You may have to wait a day to pick up your pet after it is altered. Or, you may have to schedule the appointment on your own. Do they have low-cost spay-neuter options? What is the group's return policy? Even though you've done your homework, the adoption may not work out. Can you bring the pet back at any time? Is there a fee?
  5. Follow-up
    What help does the organization offer after adoption? Do they provide information on medical or behavior issues when you adopt? Do they have a phone or web help line, etc.? Can they recommend vets, trainers, or behavior specialists?

Some other helpful sites:

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Selecting the Family Dog: How To Find the Dog of Your Dreams

Jacque Lynn Schultz, C.P.D.T., Companion Animal Programs Adviser. National Shelter Outreach, ASPCA
Article courtesy of

"Select" is defined in the dictionary by such phrases as "a preferred choice" or "carefully chosen". Selecting the family dog should be a well-researched and carefully soul-searched activity. Are you and your family willing to make a 10 - 15 year commitment to this sentient being in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer, for as long as all shall live? Let's pose some of the questions family members should discuss before obtaining a dog, after which we will look at where to obtain the carefully chosen dog of your dreams.

How Old Are The Members Of My Family?

If the youngsters in your household are under seven years old, they are usually not developmentally suited for puppies 5 months old and under or toy-sized (under 15 pounds) dogs of any age. Puppies have ultra sharp "milk teeth" and toenails and often teethe on and scratch children, resulting in unintentional injury to the child. The puppy becomes something to be feared rather than loved. Toy dogs are fine-boned, touch-sensitive creatures that do not weather rough or clumsy handling well. They break relatively easily and are quicker to bite than their larger boned, mellower relatives. Unless your children are unusually sensitive, low-key, respectful individuals, a medium-to-large sized dog over 5 months old is usually the safer choice. Regardless of size, all interactions between small children and dogs should be monitored by a responsible adult. When there is no one to watch over them, they should be separated.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, are there frail elderly or physically challenged individuals in the household? If so, strong vigorous adolescent dogs are not a wise idea. No aging hips or wrists are safe from these yahoos. People who were one-breed fans throughout their lives may one day find that their favorite breed demands more than they can physically handle. The new dog must fit the current physical capabilities of his keepers with an eye toward what the next 10-15 years will bring.

Who Will Be The Dog's Primary Caretaker?

A decade or so back, this was an easy question to answer—Mom. She stayed home and cooked, cleaned and raised the family dog. Most families these days do not have that option. All adults have to go to work and the kids head off to school. This leaves the family dog to be sandwiched in between lessons and sports and household chores and so on. One parent should be designated Primary Caretaker to make sure the dog does not get lost in the shuffle. Some parents bow to the pressure their children put on them to get a dog. The kids promise with tears in their eyes that they will religiously take care of this soon-to-be best friend. The truth of the matter is, during the 10 - 15 year lifespan of the average dog, your children will be growing in and out of various life stages and the family dog's importance in their lives will wax and wain like the Moon. You cannot saddle a child with total responsibility for the family dog and threaten to get rid of it if the child is not providing that care. It is not fair to child or dog.

Choosing the family dog should include input from all family members with the cooler-headed, more experienced family members' opinions carrying a bit more weight. The family dog should not be a gift from one family member to all the others. The selection experience is one the entire family can share. Doing some research and polling each family member about what is important to them in a dog will help pin down what you will be looking for. Books like Daniel Tortora's THE RIGHT DOG FOR YOU or The ASPCA Complete Guide to Dogs can be tremendously helpful and can warn you away from unsuitable choices for your family's circumstances.

How Much Can I Spend?

The price to obtain a dog runs the gamut from free-to-a-good-home to several thousand dollars. It does not always hold true that you get what you pay for. The price you pay in a pet shop is usually 2 to 3 times higher than what you pay a reputable breeder for a puppy of similar (or usually better) quality. Too many folks spend all their available cash on a pet shop purchase and then have no money left for initial veterinary care, a training crate or obedience classes—all necessary expenses. Remember, the purchase price of a dog is a very small part of what the dog will actually cost. Save money for food (especially if it is a large or giant breed), grooming (fancy coated breeds such as Poodles, Cockers, and Shih Tzus need to be clipped every 4 to 6 weeks), chew toys (the vigorous chewers like a Bull Terrier or Mastiff can work their way through a $8.00 rawhide bone in a single sitting), outerwear (short-coated breeds like Greyhounds, Chihuahuas, and Whippets must have sweaters and coats in the winter or in lavishly air conditioned interiors), and miscellaneous supplies (bowls, beds, brushes, shampoos, flea products, odor neutralizers for accidents, baby gates, leashes, collars, heartworm preventative etc.). And then, there is the veterinary emergency! Very few dogs live their entire lives without at least one accident. Your puppy eats a battery or pair of pantihose, your fine-boned toy breaks a leg, your big boy has bad hips, your dog gets hit by a car or beaten'bitten by the neighborhood bully. These surprises can cost $500 or more. Unlike our children, most of our dogs are not covered by health insurance.

But "How much can I spend?" is not only a question of money. How much time and energy can you spend on a new dog? Various breeds and ages of dog make different demands on our precious spare time. In general, the Sporting, Hounds, Herding, and Terrier breeds will demand more time in training and daily exercise than will the Guardian or Companion breeds. A puppy or adolescent will need more exercise, training, and supervision than will an adult dog. And the first year with any new dog regardless of age or breed type will put more demands on the owner than any other time, for this is when you are setting up house rules and routines which will last for the lifetime of your dog.

Where To Get The Dog Of Your Dreams

Where you go to get the family dog depends on whether you have decided on a purebred or a mixed breed dog. If knowing what size, shape, and general temperament your puppy is going to be when he grows up is important to you or you wish to compete in American or United Kennel Club dog activities, then getting a purebred would be right for you. If a one-of-a-kind look and a loving personality combined with the warm glow you get from "saving" a dog is more important, then a mixed breed would be right up your alley. Puppies are cute but demand lots of supervision & training. In a full-time working house-hold, older dogs are easier to integrate than are puppies. The following are eight avenues to obtain a dog. The first three are highly recommended, the next two can work out but leave more to chance, and the last three should be avoided like the Plague.

  1. Local Humane Societies, SPCAs, Animal Shelters: Most shelters offer adoption programs and are staffed with trained counselors experienced in matching families with suitable companions. An application is usually filled out so the staff is made familiar with your needs and limitations. Most animals have been screened for major health and temperament problems. Many shelters offer additional free services such as training materials, shots, initial check-up, and spay-neuter surgery. Both pure and mixed breed dogs can found in shelters, but purebred puppies are seldom found here. The cost is usually quite reasonable especially considering the entire Adoptions package you get. For a list of shelters in your area, check your Yellow Pages under "Animal Shelters."
  2. Reputable Breeders: For those searching for a sound, purebred puppy, a reputable breeder is the answer. This person specializes in only one or two breeds of dog, has been linked with this particular breed for at least five years, is a member in good standing of his'her national breed club, and will usually take back the dog if for some reason it does not work out. Often a reputable breeder will not breed a litter unless she has pre-screened candidates on a waiting list for the puppies. They breed no more than a few times a year because their puppies are raised in the home and provided with early socialization and stimulation. They would never take a pup from the mother and littermates earlier than seven weeks of age, sometimes even later. They can discuss the Pros and Cons of this breed with you in depth. They will screen you as vigorously as a humane society would for they feel totally responsible for the puppies they bring into this world. The cost of the dog will depend on its age, and whether it is show quality, pet quality or breeding stock. The pet quality puppy prices are usually much more reasonable than in a pet shop, plus most breeders make themselves available to knowledgably answer your various questions on this particular dog or breed in general — something most pet shop employees cannot do. Finding a good breeder can take some time. Contact the national breed club or your local dog clubs to see if they have a breeder referral service. Go to a dog show in your area, buy the catalogue and go talk to the folks whose dogs most appeal to you — after they leave the show ring. Subscribe to the breed magazine and contact people who advertise in it. These are usually serious show people who care about the placement of their dogs and puppies. Check the American Kennel Club website ( for breeder and club referrals. A reputable breeder will serve as a safety net for her puppies throughout their lives and will generally take them back should there be problems.
  3. Purebred Rescue Group: With the substantial number of purebred dogs being turned in at shelters, many breed organizations have started rescue networks. Here, people with knowledge of a particular breed either rescue a dog turned in to a shelter or they send someone from their waiting list to adopt the dog from the shelter. The cost to adopt is usually quite minimal ($100-300), but often these rescue dogs may need immediate medical treatment and'or a committment to neuter the dog as soon as possible- if it has not already been done. Often little is known about their individual backgrounds, but the rescue contact can help the adoptor with general breed questions and training methods. In some cases, breed experts go to the shelter to evaluate the rescue candidates. Most potential adoptors are carefully screened before being put on a waiting list. Rescue groups can be found by contacting the national breed club or your local animal shelter.
  4. Rescuing A Stray Off The Street: In this situation, the heart leads the way. Taking in a stray is taking in an unknown entity— no history and no safety net. It can work for some people, especially if the timing is right and you were looking for a dog of this type anyway. Often times, there are medical and temperament problems that are not solveable without considerable time and expense. Go cautiously with your eyes open, if this is the route you choose to obtain the family dog.
  5. Newspaper Ads, Signs In Grocery Stores And The Like: If someone is giving away his dog for an acceptable reason, obtaining a dog this way can be advantageous. You have a chance to speak with the former owner, find out the dog's routine and habits, and have a chance to see the dog in a relatively nonstressful environment. However, you are relying on the fact that the former owner is not lying to you. Many people find they have created dogs whose habits they cannot live with; yet they still love those dogs and want to see them in a homes — just not their homes.
  6. Pet Shop: Most pet shops deal only in purebred puppies. These dogs are usually purchased from puppy mills or big scale commercial breeders. These puppies are not brought up in a healthy home environment, nor are they well-socialized and stimulated to the world around them. They are taken from their undersocialized mother and littermates too early to be developmentally sound and placed in a stressful, unsanitary environment. The results are all too often sickly puppies that are nearly impossible to housebreak and have lost all bite inhibition. Pet shops thrive primarily because of two segments of society: (1) the impulse buyer and (2) the person who is averse to a screening process. Those who have taken the time to research their options are seldom best served by acquiring a pet shop pup. Note: In the last few years, large pet supply chains have invited local shelters and rescue groups to bring their adoptable dogs to the stores for meet-and-greet sessions. The resulting adoptions are ruled by the individual group's policies. This can be a win-win situation for all parties.
  7. Backyard Breeders: These are those "savvy" economists who believe that because they purchased a dog, this dog should earn back its purchase price by producing puppies or generating big stud fees. The truth is, if you do it right, there is no profit on a litter of puppies. You are lucky if you don't end up in debt! Do not support this nonsense. If Fred finds out that there is no market for his poorly bred, garage-raised puppies, maybe he will stop mating his snappish Cocker with Millie's down the road.
  8. Commercial Breeders: Whether they are Midwest puppy mill farms or one-breed kennels so big that they always have puppies for sale, they are commercial breeders and that's not the kind of start in life you want for your special family companion. The high volume of these operations does not provide for the close daily examination a new pup deserves. How can they possible know if the puppy is eating enough, warm enough, healthy enough? Many of the puppies available through puppy brokers found on the internet come out these kennels. Use your consumer powers and boycott these facilities that treat puppies like "products."

America has become a nation of disposable pet owners. Doesn't your family dog deserve better? Choose wisely, for when the bond breaks, everybody concerned suffers. Make selecting your new family dog a life-affirming act.

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Cat Care, Adoption and Behavior Tips

ASPCA, article courtesy of

Before Adopting a Cat...

Happy cat, happy human.

The sight of cat or kitten may be irresistible to just about everybody, but the decision to adopt a feline should never an impulse decision. Owning a pet requires a commitment from you to provide for all of your cat's needs and that includes understandings subtle cat behavior. Here are some issues to consider before taking that first feline step:

Are you and your family willing to make a 15-20 year commitment to the cat?You will have to provide food, litter, and ongoing veterinary care including possible surgeries. Don't forget to take the ongoing cost of food, water bowls, a litter box, scratching post, carrying case, grooming tools and toys into consideration as well.

Cats require a litter box, and you will have to clean it daily and scrub it once a week. Cats are very clean animals and they won't go in a box that is soiled and smelly. So if you're not keeping it clean, don't blame your cat for going outside the box!

Cats require daily love, attention and care despite their independent nature. Don't get a cat just because you want a pet and think it is fine to leave the animal alone for long stretches of time! If your job requires you to travel, you may want to reconsider or you will have to get someone to take care of your pet while you're away.

Planning to give a cat as a gift? Then make sure the recipient knows of your plan. Never give a companion animal as a surprise present since animals are not inanimate objects and should not be treated as "returnable."

When considering a feline companion for your cat, remember the best match is usually younger, smaller, and the opposite sex. A three-to six-month-old kitten is a good choice for almost all but geriatric cats, where a mellower, older feline is better. Remember that it will take your new feline friend a while to feel comfortable at home. Be patient, allow the cat to explore his'her new environment and provide lots of gentle handling and petting in a quiet, calm place.

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General Information on Cat Care


Premium-quality dry or canned cat food provides a healthy diet for your pet. Fresh, clean water must be available at all times. All water bowls should be washed and refilled daily.


  1. An adult cat should be fed one large meal or two smaller meals each day. Kittens 6 to 12 weeks old need to be fed four times a day, and kittens 12 to 24 weeks old need to be fed three times a day.
  2. Always keep food bowls and utensils clean.
  3. Do not give a cat food that is even slightly spoiled.
  4. Carefully remove small bones from fish and chicken.
  5. Serve food at room temperature.
  6. Dispose of uneaten food once the cat walks away.
  7. Monitor your cat's weight, and do not let your cat overeat.
  8. Consult a vet if your cat has refused food for 24 hours.
  9. Do not put reheated food back in the refrigerator.


Cats should have a warm, dry place of their own in the house. Line the bed with something warm and soft, such as a towel or blanket. Be sure to wash the bedding often. It's safer to keep your cat indoors. Outdoor cats can get poisoned, hit by cars and hurt in fights. They are also more apt to pick up diseases and parasites.


Your cat should see a veterinarian at least once a year for an examination and shots. Also take your feline to a vet if he becomes sick or injured. Carefully go over your cat's body at least once a week and check for fleas, ear mites, bumps or cuts. Whenever you contact your veterinarian, it is helpful to supply some details about the condition of your cat. Here is a list of questions you may be asked:

  • Is it alert and active?
  • Is it eating and drinking?
  • Is it vomiting or retching?
  • Is it passing urine and feces normally?
  • Is it coughing or sneezing?
  • Is it pawing at its eyes or ears?
  • Is it showing any signs of pain?

Litter Box

All cats need a litter box. The bathroom, utility room or screened porch are all good places to put the box. Always keep it in the same place since moving it will probably upset your cat. Scoop solids out at least once a day. Dump everything, wash the box with a mild detergent and refill it at least once a week. Cats won't use a smelly, dirty litter box.


Cats keep themselves relatively clean. Most cats rarely need a bath, but they do need to be brushed or combed. Frequent grooming helps keep your feline's coat clean and reduces both shedding and hairballs.


If allowed outdoors (we do not recommend this!), a cat should always wear a collar and an identification tag. A safety collar or "breakaway collar" has an elastic panel that will allow your cat to free himself if the collar becomes caught on something. Please remember that I.D. tags are essential for cat safety! It makes it possible for someone to return your pet to you if he or she should become lost.


All cats need to scratch to loosen old nail sheathes and allow new nails to grow. Cutting your cat's nails every 10 to 14 days will keep them relatively blunt and make them less likely to scratch people and furniture. Provide your cat with a sturdy scratching post covered with rough material such as sisal or tree bark to prevent further destruction.

Why Spay and Neuter?

This sterilization prevents your female cat from having unwanted litters and protects both males and females from certain diseases of the reproductive system. Neutering cats reduces the urge to roam, mate, spray, and fight and focuses the cat's attention on his or her human family. And you will be helping to reduce the serious pet overpopulation problem in the country. Remember that one female can and her offspring can produce 420,000 kittens over 7 years!

© 2000 ASPCA

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Home Sweet Home: Tips for Helping Your New Pet Adjust

by Amanda Brothers, CPDT, reprinted with permission from the Journal Newspapers

Congratulations! You've just added a four-legged friend to the family. It's tempting to take a few days off to spend with your new friend, but what will happen when reality sets in and the long weekend ends? Here are some tips to ensure a smooth adjustment for both of you.

Confine and supervise.

It's tempting to give a new animal free run of your house, especially if he's arrived from a shelter. He was cooped up in a cage and now you feel cruel for restricting his access to some areas of your home. Don't! Your new pet may feel overwhelmed in a large space; confining him to a smaller area can actually help him feel comfortable sooner. Confinement also prevents house-training, chewing, and scratching accidents and promotes good house habits from the start.

Keep a leash on your dog at all times when you are home (even in the house) to prevent him from wandering off and getting into mischief: hook it to your belt loop or simply let it drag on the ground for easy containment if needed.

A large crate with a cozy bed is a wonderful place for dogs to settle and sleep. Balance crate time with closely supervised play time in other areas of the house and frequent trips outdoors for bathroom breaks and exercise. For cats, bathrooms or laundry rooms are a good home base, as long as the washing machine doesn't startle him. As your pet becomes acclimated, you can gradually allow more freedom.

Resist the urge to smother.

Your inclination will be to shower your new friend with love and affection, spending every waking minute with her. This can lead to problems if you normally work 9 to 5, so it's important to get your pet used to the fact that she will be left home alone. Spend some time ignoring her each day, even if you're not otherwise occupied. For minutes at a time, don't talk to her, look at her or otherwise engage. Also, practice short absences: settle her in a crate or bathroom with a safe chew toy while you get the mail, go grocery shopping or run a quick errand. These exercises are recommended even if you never plan to leave your pet; circumstances change, and it will pay off in the long run to have a pet who is comfortable being alone.

Attentive Terrier Laying Down

It's imperative that you schedule a vet appointment for your new dog or cat as soon as possible. Even if he is not technically due for anything, it is important for your vet to review his vaccination history and perform a thorough exam. A trusted vet is vital to your pet's health — early detection of health issues can prevent more serious problems in the long term, and you don't want to be flipping through the yellow pages when faced with an emergency (it's a good idea to have the number of the nearest emergency vet on hand, too). Most shelters and rescue groups provide a free office visit with adoption, so take advantage of the offer to establish a relationship with your pet's second best friend: his vet.

Teach new tricks.

Taking a dog training class is an excellent way to bond with your canine in addition to teaching him valuable new skills. There are many wonderful training classes available in our area. Be sure to pick a trainer who uses positive methods to shape your dog's behavior. Contrary to popular belief, cats can also be trained. The clicker method is especially fun for felines.

Patience is a virtue.

Like any new child or roommate, your pet will need time to adjust to her new surroundings. Adding a dog or cat to the home is certainly disruptive, so be prepared for some bumps along the road, including sleepless nights, chewed slippers and soiled carpets. Do your best to remain patient, consistent and fair. Focus on the positive aspects of Fido or Fluffy's presence. If you need professional help, your friendly neighborhood trainer is ready and willing to assist you.

Amanda Brothers is founder and owner of Sidekick Dog Training in Bothell, Washington.

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Socializing Your Puppy is a Top Priority

by Amanda Brothers, reprinted with permission from the Journal Newspapers

Puppy socialization is part of the early learning process that will help your puppy become a well-adapted, well-behaved companion. The term "socialization" in this context means introducing your puppy to the world around her, including unfamiliar people and animals, different surroundings, and new situations.

For new puppy guardians, socialization is a top priority. Domestic dogs have a finite period of time to become accustomed to the people, places, and things that comprise the modern world in which they live. Guardians who proactively socialize their puppies during this time greatly reduce the likelihood of fear-related behavior problems, including aggression, and can enjoy a socially stable companion for many years to come. The window of opportunity closes between 12 and 14 weeks, giving most people just a few short weeks to prepare their puppy for life as a well-adjusted adult dog.

Unfortunately, the prime period for exposure to the world ends prior to puppies receiving a full set of vaccinations. Your puppy's physical health is of course important, but socialization is equally vital and cannot be delayed until your puppy's shots are complete.

Here are some tips to make the socialization process fun, safe, and effective for you and your puppy.

Choose wisely

Whether you adopt your puppy from a breeder, a shelter, or the next door neighbor, it is important to select one that has gotten off on the right paw. Although your heart may go out to the shy puppy cowering in the corner, keep in mind that naturally timid puppies require much more socialization than the outgoing puppy at the front of the kennel, especially if the puppy is over 14 weeks of age.

Ask questions about the puppy's early life. Was he handled frequently? Was he gently exposed to the sights, sounds, and smells of the household? Frequent handling and indoor living better prepare a developing puppy for life in a new home. At what age was he separated from his mother and littermates? Opinions vary, but in general puppies should remain with their mother until at least five weeks and with at least one littermate until the age of eight weeks to ensure proper interactions with other canines.

Enroll in a reputable puppy class

These classes cater specifically to puppies and will address their socialization needs in addition to basic training. The class should include supervised off-leash time with other puppies and other structured socialization exercises. A reputable class will follow procedures to minimize any health risk to its students. When searching for a class, be sure to ask about disinfection protocol and vaccine requirements. Since there are so many classes available, it may be a good idea to observe prior to signing up. However, don't delay for long, the socialization clock is ticking.

Be positive, proactive and prepared

Don't assume your puppy will get necessary exposure to the world through his daily routine. Obtain a socialization schedule and attack it with vigor. Things that frighten your puppy between the ages of 8 and 11 weeks can become lasting phobias, so aim to make each encounter a positive experience. The surest way to any dog's heart is food, so fill your pockets with lots of tasty bite-sized treats whenever you and your puppy leave the house. Dispense treats liberally in the presence of any new stimuli, including bicycles, skateboards, construction sites, people wearing hats, and anything else that is novel and "weird." If your puppy is fearful, do not coddle her. Instead, use a cheerful voice as you create some distance from the feared object. Then praise her calm behavior as you gradually inch closer, rewarding her all the way.

Carry a pocket-sized bottle of hand sanitizer and ask people to use it before petting your puppy. Trips can be made safer by carrying your puppy instead of placing her on the ground.

Dr. Ian Dunbar, internationally recognized dog expert and father of positive puppy training, recommends hosting multiple parties in your puppy's first weeks at home. Invite a diverse crowd, including people from different age groups, ethnic backgrounds and of varying physical descriptions. Ask guests to leave their shoes outside the door and wash their hands prior to handling your puppy.

When it comes to socialization, an ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure; your efforts will be continually rewarded as you enjoy life with your social dog.

Amanda Brothers is founder and owner of Sidekick Dog Training in Bothell, Washington.

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Coming in from the Cold: Transitioning An Outdoor Cat To Indoors

Jacque Lynn Schultz, C.P.D.T., Companion Animal Programs Adviser.
National Shelter Outreach, ASPCA, article courtesy of

Autumn is slowly making way for Old Man Winter, and your concern is steadily growing for the stray cat who settled into your backyard last summer. Homeless Hildegarde has been enjoying your fresh-air hospitality under the deck all season, but with cold weather approaching, there's no better time to introduce her to the pleasures of indoor living. Luckily, bringing a friendly stray in from the cold or keeping an indoor-outdoor feline entirely inside is not as difficult as one might think. All it takes is some environmental enrichment and a bit of training.

Litter box training is the biggest concern for most people. If the cat was ever box trained, she will likely fall right back into the habit. For the former indoor-outdoor cat, a two-box system filled with fine-grain, clumping litter works best. Place one where you want the litter box to permanently reside, and put the transitional box at the door the cat once used to exit the house. When she finds that she can't get outside to the topsoil, she will use the box by the door. After that habit is established, slowly move the transitional box closer to the permanent setup. Once the boxes are side by side you can remove one of them.

For the cat who has never been litter box trained, a confinement method is usually necessary. Set the cat up in a cattery cage or a large dog crate complete with litter box, resting space, food, water and toys. When the cat is consistently using her litter box, she can be moved to a small room, like a bathroom or galley kitchen. After she gets the hang of that, you can increase her space yet again. If she has a lapse, return to the last space the cat kept clean. Don't forget to visit her often and release her for supervised exercise, grooming and affection during the confinement period. Also, once she has earned the free run of your home, make sure she isn't tempted to use your potted plants as a litter box. Cover soil with aluminum foil, or pack glass pebbles or marbles around the plant.

Enhancing Your Cat's Habitat: When litter box training is complete, you can begin to enrich your cat's new environment. Since her days will no longer be spent searching for her supper, she'll need something else to while away the hours. Window perches allow your indoor cat to keep an eye on the backyard bird population while safely basking in the sun. An indoor planter containing feline favorites such as catnip and wheat grass enables your cat to nosh on cat-safe greenery. Toys are a must for these reformed hunters; interactive playthings sporting feathers are especially enticing. Just remember to rotate toys every week or two to keep your feline's interest piqued. To safeguard furniture from a cat who's used to scratching wherever she pleases, offer several kinds of scratching posts and determine her pleasure. Look for posts that are sturdy enough to climb. Cat tree furniture, which usually includes several resting platforms atop natural tree trunks or posts wrapped in sisal, is a good bet. Placement near a sunny window or patio door guarantees enjoyment. In addition, cardboard scratch pads embedded with catnip are inexpensive and can be scattered throughout your home.

Cat on pillow. Overcoming the Lure of the Outdoors: Although indoor living has many perks, the call of the wild can be intense for some cats. Given the opportunity, these cats will attempt to dash for freedom whenever a window is opened or a door is left ajar. Make sure screens fit snugly in windows and cannot be dislodged by a persistent cat. Dissuade door-dashing by drawing your cat away from doorways before entering and departing your home. Roll a toy or toss a treat across the room to focus kitty's attention away from the door. If there are children in your home who come and go frequently, stage practice runs with your cat. Leave the door ajar; if she begins to saunter out of it, startle her with a blast of canned air or a spritz of water from the outside. If the outdoors proves inhospitable, it's likely to dampen her ardor for adventuring. A backyard cat enclosure can fulfill the fresh air needs of a hardcore outdoor lover while keeping the cat and nature safe from one another. By the time winter sets in, you'll be able to sit back and enjoy watching the first snowflakes fly. Hildegarde will be napping on the hearth, safe and warm and there to stay.

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General Dog Care

ASPCA, article courtesy of


All dogs are descended from their wild cousin, the wolf, and share many traits seen in wolves. Dogs, and puppies in particular, are denning creatures and feel more secure in small, snug areas with low roofs, thus the success of the training crate. Dogs are pack animals and do not enjoy being alone. Puppies who stay with their litters until eight weeks old easily will become members of human packs'families. Each pack needs a leader. Ideally all human family members should be ahead of the dog in the pack order. Your dog should not be the leader, as this can result in aggression or other dominance displays.

Before You Bring Your Dog Home

You will need food, water and food bowls, leash, collar, training crate, brush, comb and canine chew toys.

Cleaning Up

Keep your dog on a leash when you are outside, unless in a secured (fenced-in) area. If your dog defecates on a neighbor's lawn, the sidewalk or any other public place, please clean it up.


Puppies 8 to 12 weeks old need four meals a day. Puppies three to six months old need three meals a day. Puppies six months to one year need two meals a day. When your dog is one year old, one meal a day is usually enough. For some dogs (such as larger ones or those prone to bloat), it's better to continue to feed two smaller meals. Premium-quality dry food provides a well-balanced diet and may be mixed with water, broth or some canned food. Your dog may enjoy cottage cheese, cooked egg, fruits and vegetables, but these additions should not total more than 10 percent of your dog's daily food intake. Puppies should be fed a high-quality brand-name puppy food (avoid generic brands) two to four times a day. Please limit "people food," however, because it can cause puppies to suffer vitamin and mineral imbalances, bone and teeth problems and may cause very picky eating habits, as well as obesity. Have clean, fresh water available at all times. Wash food and water dishes frequently.


Every dog needs daily exercise for mental and physical stimulation. The proper amount depends on the breed type, age and health status of your dog. Providing enough exercise will improve your dog's health and prevent household destruction and other behavior problems common in underexercised dogs.


You can help keep your dog clean and reduce shedding by brushing her frequently. Check for fleas and ticks daily during warm weather. Most dogs don't need to be bathed more than a few times a year. Before bathing, comb or cut out all mats from the coat. Carefully rinse all soap out of the coat, or dirt will stick to soap residue.


Small dogs, sometimes referred to as "lap dogs," are the easiest to handle. The larger breeds, such as German Shepherd dogs, are usually too large to lift. If you want to carry a puppy or small dog, place one hand under the dog's chest, with either your forearm or other hand supporting the hind legs and rump. Never attempt to lift or grab your puppy or small dog by the forelegs, tail or back of the neck. If you do have to lift a large dog, lift from the under-side, supporting his chest with one arm and his rear end with the other.


You will need to provide your pet with a warm, quiet place to rest away from all drafts and off of the floor. A training crate is ideal. You may wish to buy a dog bed, or make one out of a wooden box. Place a clean blanket or pillow inside the bed. Wash the dog's bedding often. If your dog will be spending a great deal of time outdoors, you will need to provide her with shade and plenty of cool water in hot weather and a warm, dry, covered shelter when it's cold.

Licensing and Identification

Follow your community's licensing regulations. When you buy your license, be sure to attach it to your dog's collar. A dog license, ID tag, implanted microchip or tattoo can help secure your dog's return if he becomes lost.


A well-behaved companion animal is a joy. But left untrained, your dog can cause nothing but trouble. Teaching your dog the basics—"sit," "stay," "come," "down," "heel," "off" and "leave it"—will improve your relationship with both your dog and your neighbors. Start teaching puppies basic sit and stay commands. Use little bits of food as a lure and reward. Puppies can be enrolled in obedience courses when your veterinarian believes they are adequately vaccinated. Contact your local humane society or SPCA for training class recommendations. Start teaching your puppy manners NOW!

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Puppy with cone.

See a veterinarian if your dog is sick or injured. Take him for a full check-up, shots and a heartworm blood test every year

Dental Health

Puppies replace their baby teeth with permanent teeth between four and seven months of age. Clean their teeth with a dog toothpaste or a baking-soda-and-water paste once or twice a week. Use a child's soft toothbrush, a gauze pad or a piece of nylon pantyhose stretched over your finger. Some dogs develop periodontal disease, a pocket of infection between the tooth and the gum. This painful condition can result in tooth loss and is a source of infection for the rest of the body. Veterinarians can clean the teeth as a regular part of your dog's health program.

Fleas and Ticks

Daily inspections of your dog for fleas and ticks during the warm seasons are important. Use a flea comb to find and remove fleas. There are several new methods of flea and tick control. Speak to your veterinarian about these and other options.


This parasite lives in the heart and is passed from dog to dog by mosquitoes. Heartworm infections can be fatal. Your dog should have a blood test for heartworm every spring, because it is important to detect infections from the previous year. A once-a-month pill given during mosquito season (which varies in different areas of the country) will protect your dog. If you travel south with your pet during the winter, your dog should be on the preventive medicine during the trip. In some warmer regions, veterinarians recommend preventive heartworm medication throughout the year.


Females should be spayed (ovaries and uterus removed) and males neutered (testicles removed) by six months of age. Spaying before maturity significantly reduces the risk of breast cancer, a common and frequently fatal disease of older female dogs. Spaying also eliminates the risk of pyometra (an infected uterus), a very serious problem in older females that requires surgery and intensive medical care. And spaying protects your female pet from having unwanted litters. Neutering males prevents testicular and prostate diseases, some hernias and certain types of aggression (which differ from protectiveness, which this surgery won't affect)

Medicines and Poisons

  • Consult a veterinarian about using any over-the-counter or prescription medication.
  • Do not give your dog chocolate.
  • Make sure your dog does not have access to rat poison or other rodenticides.
  • Call your veterinarian or The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (ASPCA'APCC) for 24-hour animal poison information if you suspect your animal has ingested a poisonous substance. The numbers are: (888) 4ANI-HELP (888-426-4435), or (900) 680-0000. A consultation fee applies.


Vaccines protect animals and people from specific viral and bacterial infections. They are not a treatment. If your pet gets sick because he is not properly vaccinated, the vaccination should be given after your companion animal recovers.

  • Puppies should be vaccinated with a combination vaccine (called a 5 in 1) at 2, 3 and 4 months of age and then once annually. This vaccine protects the puppy from distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus, and parainfluenza. A puppy's vaccination program cannot be finished before four months of age. Rottweilers, Doberman pinschers and American Staffordshire terriers'pit bulls should be vaccinated until five months of age. If you have an unvaccinated dog older than four or five months, the dog needs a series of two vaccinations given two to three weeks apart, followed by a yearly vaccination. Do not walk your puppy or your unvaccinated dog outside or put her on the floor of an animal hospital until several days after her final vaccination.
  • Since laws vary around the country, contact a local veterinarian for information on rabies vaccination. In New York City, for example, the law requires all pets older than three months of age to be vaccinated for rabies. The first rabies vaccine must be followed by a vaccination a year later and then every three years.
  • Other vaccines for dogs are appropriate in certain situations. Your dog's veterinarian can tell you about these vaccines.


It is common for dogs, even in urban areas, to be exposed to worms and possible infestation. Microscopic eggs produced by intestinal worms in infected dogs and passed in their feces provide a source of infection for other dogs. There are several types of worms and a few microscopic parasites that commonly affect dogs. Because most of these cannot be seen in feces, a microscopic fecal evaluation is the only satisfactory way to have your puppy or dog checked for intestinal worms and other parasites. Most puppies, even from healthy mothers in good homes, carry roundworms or hookworms. All puppies should be dewormed by a veterinarian regardless of fecal evaluation.

Additional Information

The average life span of a dog varies from 8 to 16 years, depending on breed type, size, genetics and care.

For more information

Search the dog care section on our web site: , or Write to ASPCA Animal Sciences at 424 East 92nd St., New York, NY 10128 for a list of free behavioral materials.

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