Monday, January 28, 2013

Microchips Help Pets Return Home More Quickly

I still remember those dreaded words, choked out by my husband that early August morning: "Gayle, Sage is lost." We were camping on the property we had just purchased; I had unzipped the tent and let Sage outside to do her business. I went back into the tent with no thought about her running away. However, her spaniel nose probably picked up the scent of a squirrel, or her acute hearing caught the sound of deer hooves -- whatever transpired, within a short window of time, our blind dog had vanished. We searched for three days, and finally, with the help of caring people, we found our nomadic blind dog, running a circular roadway two miles from our camping area. Our lost dog story had a happy ending.... many do not.

What Would You Do?
If your dog or cat were to become lost, what would you do? Like many pet owners, you'd probably post flyers, knock on doors, post to social media sites like Facebook, and contact your local animal shelter. Tags on collars with the pet owners' name and address also help, however, collars can become entangled, drop off, or (in the event of a stolen pet) be taken off. Microchips are permanent and help bring pets home.

Not Always a Happy Ending
According to some animal experts, one in three pets become lost, and nearly 90% don't return home. Microchipping is simple procedure that is done at your veterinarian’s office and is similar to providing your pet a vaccination – it requires no anesthetic and takes only a few seconds. The chip is injected between your pet's shoulder blades and contains a unique identification number that is associated with your contact information, thereby allowing your lost pet to return to you more quickly. The microchips are not tracking devices, but instead, are radio-frequency identification implants that provide permanent identification for your pet. The chip lasts the lifetime of your dog or cat. It can never fall off (like collars and tags), be removed by pet thieves (like collars and tags), and never impossible to read via a scanner (which most animal shelters have on hand to use on stray animals, checking for identification). Your pet's microchip information needs to be registered with a pet recovery database; your vet will do that for you, but some vets may require you to do so. Talk with your veterinarian about the next step once the microchip is implanted.

Collar and ID Tags Integrate with Microchips
Just because you have your pet microchipped doesn't mean it doesn't still need a collar and tags. Many communities require licensing of pets in the city limits, therefore, at a minimum, your pet needs a collar and license ID. Collars and identification tags are also important to have on your cat or dog in case a Good Samaritan who finds your lost pet can return it to you. A microchip, though, is permanent, and so should your dog or cat's collar and tags be removed either accidentally or on purpose, your lost pet can still return home.

Microchips Help Bring Those Happy Endings!
There are many stories of lost pets being reunited with their owners because of a microchip. Sometimes, it's years later, as in the case of Vanilla, a cat who was missing almost a decade (being cared for, however, and not just roaming the streets – see Vanilla's story at or of Cassie, the border collie mix lost from her family for four years (see In both cases, these pets had microchips. Holly, a tortiseshell kitty that walked nearly 200 miles trying to reach home, also had help because she had a microchip (see

Cats Need ID, Too
Many owners don't put collars and tags on their cats. Studies show that only two percent of lost kitties return home because they have no identification tags and are not microchipped. However, the return-to-owner rate climbs by 20% for those cats that are microchipped. The cats as well as the cocker spaniel that share my home are chipped.

Keep Your Contact Information Updated
One of the key factors for a pet owner who does microchip his/her animal is to keep the contact information updated. If you do microchip your pet and move or change phone numbers, please contact either the vet who did the procedure to find out how to update your contact information, or contact the manufacturer of the implant and update your contact information. It does no good to have your pet microchipped and then fail to keep your information current should your pet become lost.

So, help your lost pet get home more quickly with a microchip implant. Cost averages $50 for the one-time procedure. Talk with your vet and research the options. You can find more information about microchipping your pet at

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Take Your Dog to School!

Even though children hit the books several months ago, with this New Year and all the resolutions people make, now might be a good time to also think of schooling your dog. How is that possible, you might ask? Consider taking your dog through training.

Why Train My Dog?
Most dogs need activity to prevent boredom, especially the breeds of the herding, working and hunting classifications, such as border collies, German shepherd dogs, huskies, spaniels, setters and pointers. These and many other breeds respond well to training, to obedience, agility and hunting trials.

Keeping a dog occupied with instruction alleviates boredom and thus also lessens bad behaviors, such as chewing, howling, and jumping. Working dogs were bred to work, and many canine club events provide that opportunity. Dogs that are not trained in at least basic obedience are often the dogs left at animal shelters and rescue groups with the excuse, “I can’t handle this dog.”

Obedience training bonds a dog more closely with its owner, for that interaction time is quality time. Just like spending time with one’s children, focusing on their concerns, their joys, their interests creates a stronger parent-child relationship, so, too, does spending solid, quality time with our dogs bond them more closely to us. Dogs are pack animals; they are social, and they want to engage with their people. Obedience, agility, hunting, tracking, even search and rescue and animal assistance therapy training strengthens a dog’s bond with its human. According to animal behavior specialists training a dog has been shown to be the single most important thing that keeps a dog in its “forever” home. Training builds a mutual bond, enhances the pet-human partnership, and enriches the relationship a person shares with his/her dog.

Where Can I Go to Train My Dog?
A variety of prospects abound to enroll your dog in school. For example, some of the American Kennel Club's regional and local clubs provide obedience classes, tracking and agility trials, and Canine Good Citizen evaluations. To find a club in your area visit you will find a list of obedience, agility, tracking and training clubs.

Some community colleges offer classes through their Community Education programs, and several of the big box pet and pet supply stores, such as PetCo and PetSmart, also provide obedience and puppy training programs. Additionally, some smaller businesses, such as boarding kennels and grooming salons, provide opportunities for dog owners to train their dogs. Check with your local businesses, including your veterinarian – perhaps, if they don't offer obedience or other training sessions, they can provide a recommendation and give you a local trainer's contact information.

Specialized programs, such as Sit Means Sit, are found in various communities, and various pet experts, such as Cesar Milan (“The Dog Whisperer”) offers books and DVD to help pet owners train their pets at home.

Advantages of Training Your Dog
Having a pet in the home can be a physical and emotional health benefit to people. Scientists have documented the positive affects pets have on humans such as lowered blood pressure and cholesterol. Yet, if your dog doesn’t come when it’s called, jumps on people constantly, and takes the hamburger off the counter while you’re waiting for the grill to get hot, obviously your stress level is going to be high, not low.

But, if your dog sits and waits patiently, returns upon command, and doesn’t chase the neighbor’s cat, everyone will be happier, including your dog. The bond with your dog is strengthened when you positively interact with it, and training times offer that bonding opportunity.

Go Back to School!
So, consider taking your dog – and yourself – back to school this New Year! Become involved with a local obedience class, and perhaps even an agility, conformation, or track and field event. Learn together, become more deeply bonded, and enjoy the companionship, affection, and devotion your dog longs to give you… if you will only give your dog the time and opportunity it needs!