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October Celebration!

Birthday Flyer 3Our Annie Girl turns 13 on October 13th!  She wants to celebrate by helping other dogs have fun so we are offering our packages of ten thirty minute fitness sessions for only $130.  That is just $13 per session!

Are your curious about what a 30 minute fitness session looks like?  Here is an overview.

Upon arrival, your dog is greeted with an enthusiastic hug and lots of love!  After gathering our things, leash, water, waste bags, etc., we head out!  Before we begin the session, we take care of the necessities by allowing time for a potty break, water, and some sniffing and exploring.  We also use this time to review basic training commands.  We then begin our thirty minute fitness session.  Each fitness session consists of a warm up, a work-out, and a cool down.

The work-out will vary by dog and by day.  Some of our work-out activities are:

  • Dog Bed to 5k Programs
  • Game Day – Fetch, Chase, Hide and Seek
  • Agility training

Through out the workout, training is reinforced and water is offered.  Your dog’s health is constantly monitored and the workout is adjusted as needed.  Back at home, your dog is treated to a gentle massage and comforting farewell, usually as they drift off for a nap!

Sounds great, right?  As you can see, our thirty minute fitness sessions are truly thirty minutes of fitness time.  We are actually with your dog for longer, usually 45 minutes to an hour.  Owners receive a detailed note, email and/or pictures of the days activities.  Most importantly, they return home to a happy, relaxed dog.

Fitness Sessions occur rain or shine.  Most dogs love to run in the rain, however some absolutely detest the rain.  No problem.  We will adapt the workout to the weather and space available.

Still have questions?  See our Frequently Asked Questions page or even better, give us a call at 704.607.1221!

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National Walk Your Dog Week October 1st – 7th

Walking on the GreenwayNational Walk Your Dog Week was founded in 2010 to bring awareness to the ever-increasing problem of dog behavior issues and dog obesity.  Walking your dog improves your health as well as the health of your dog.

In addition to the physical benefits of heart health, muscle tone, and weight management, walking provides many mental benefits.  Regular walks will raise the levels of endorphins in your brain, which combats depression and anxiety.  A walk can help your dog eliminate extra energy and anxiety, and reduce or eliminate destructive behaviors like chewing and digging.  Excessive barking and whining are difficult behaviors to deal with after a long day of work.  However, they are not signs of bad behavior, they are signs that your dog wants some attention.  Regular walks together will give them the attention they crave.  Exposing your dog to sights, smells and sounds beyond their home provides mental stimulation to keep the brain healthy and prevent or delay cognitive disorders.  With you there to comfort your dog as he or she experience these new environments, your dog will learn to be more comfortable around you and trust you.  This can be extremely important with newly adopted or rescued dogs.  Thirty minutes a day will make a big difference and result in a healthier, happier dog and owner!

There’s the catch.  Thirty minutes a day.  For some of us, that makes walking the dog more of a chore than a fun event on the day’s calendar.  So add some fun.  Schedule a morning or evening walk with a neighbor.  Invite your child along and use the time to share the things in the day that made you laugh or quiz children on their spelling words or math facts.  Listen to an audio book or podcast.  Let your mind get lost in your favorite music.  Spend time talking to your spouse or significant other.  Talk to your dog!  A friend’s son told me the other day, as I was talking to my dog, “she won’t talk back, you know?”  Yes, I know.  And perhaps that is why I like talking to her so much!

Hopefully you will find a least one day a week when you can spend more than thirty minutes walking with your dog.  Charlotte is a city full of history and culture.  Take advantage of it!  With that in mind, here is a list of a few places to walk your dog in Charlotte that may be a little more exciting than a walk around the block.

Charlotte Greenways – There are almost 40 miles of developed trails in the current Charlotte Greenway system.  The greenways offer a variety of scenery and nature watching opportunities.  Add a walk on each of the greenways to your bucket list.  Map of Charlotte Greenways

Freedom Park – Freedom Park is one of Charlotte’s most popular parks.  Add some time playing frisbee or fetch to a walk around the lake for additional fun.

Fourth Ward Walking Tour – In the late 1800s, Charlotte was divided into four political quadrants.  Historic Fourth Ward remains in tact, boasting beautiful Victorian homes with lots of history.  Pick up a free walking map from INFO!Charlotte at 330 South Tryon Street or print one from this link, Fourth Ward Walking Tour.

Charlotte Rail Trail – Charlotte’s Rail Trail currently runs along the Lynx Blue Line connecting South End to Uptown.  It is a great place to walk with restaurants and shopping along the way, many of whom welcome dogs such as Triple C Brewing Company and Canine Cafe Charlotte.  The trail is family friendly and offers a place for walkers, runners, cyclists and skaters.

Crowder’s Mountain – Crowder’s Mountain is less than an hour drive southwest of Charlotte.  There are several trails ranging from under a mile to close to 3 miles (one-way) offering varying degrees of challenge.  Hiking Trails at Crowder’s Mountain

Anne Springs Close Greenway – Anne Springs Close Greenway is located just south of Charlotte in Fort Mill, SC.  There are several historical trails with links back to the Native Americans, European settlers, Revolutionary and Civil War time period.  Escape to nature!

Running Clubs – There are several running clubs in Charlotte with four-legged members.  Friends, running, dogs, and beer are a great way to end any day of the week!  Don’t let the word “running” scare you.  You can walk and they will still embrace you and your dog.  Just a few are the Triple C Beer Runners (starting from Triple C Brewing Co.), Running for Brews (starting from Brazwells , and the NoDa Brewing Run Club (starting from NoDa Brewing Company).

Now it’s your turn.  Where are your favorite places to walk your dog?  How will you celebrate National Walk Your Dog Week?  Share with us on Facebook or Twitter!  Happy Walking!

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It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas…

I was stunned to see Christmas merchandise in a store this week.  It was peeking out from in between the clearance summer items and the Halloween costumes.  I am not ready to think about Christmas yet.  Can’t we get past Halloween first?  Maybe watch the leaves on the trees change colors first?  But ready or not, here it comes!

Annie Girl'One of the holiday traditions I enjoy most is exchanging Christmas cards.  Ironically, that is the same holiday tradition that creates the most stress!  For the past 12 years my card has featured, you guessed it, Annie Girl.  When we added a baby into the picture, the challenge to find the perfect picture grew.  I am convinced they team up before all photo sessions to make sure they never cooperate at the same time.

In hopes of sparing others a few of those frazzled, want to pull your hair out moments, here are a few dog photography tips I’ve learned.  The great news is they work year round, not just for Christmas cards.

  1. Seize the moment.  I was once told that the best camera is the one you have with you.  So true!
  2. Get on her eye-level.  This angle captures more than the top of her head and shows more of her personality.
  3. Use trained commands such as sit and stay to keep her in the frame.
  4. Allow sniff time.  Allow time for her to get used to the surroundings, props, people, and equipment.
  5. Make a new, fun noise.  If I can make a sound she has not heard before, I can usually get a curious, fun look.
  6. Work with her energy.  If I want her sitting peacefully, I need to photograph her when she is tired out a bit.  I can get action shots she is energetic and playful.
  7. Turn off the flash to avoid the crazy eyes look.  Look for  natural light.  Shoot near a window if inside.  Cloudy days can be the easiest to photograph outdoors.
  8. Limit props.  Too many props may stress her and/or clutter the photo.  Allow her to interact naturally with the prop rather than being posed.
  9. Be patient and flexible.  Try not to get caught up in recreating a perfect pose I saw somewhere.  Have fun with her and let her play and move naturally.  Allow time for her to take a break or two to play.
  10. Reward her by petting her, praising her, and maybe even giving her a few of her favorite treats for a job well done.

Coincidentally, most of these work well for photographing kids as well.  If you are working with dogs and kids, I suggest an extra dose of number 9!

When all else fails, know that they have to fall asleep sometime and they all look like angels when sleeping!

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Playtime Isn’t Just For Kids

Iron ManI mentioned in an earlier post that we were entering into the birthday months in our house.  This past weekend we celebrated my husband’s birthday.   Our son is 4 1/2.  I mention the 1/2 because it is a very important distinction to him.  Four year olds might as well be three or two or one.  They are not nearly as grown up as a four and a half-year old.  As soon as I bought up the discussion of what he wanted to give his daddy for his birthday, he knew exactly what he wanted.  He wanted to get his daddy an Iron Man action figure to protect him when he is away on business trips.  There was no doubt in his mind about which superhero he wanted to get his daddy and why.  Iron Man is not just a Superhero, he is the leader of the Superheros.  He can make anything happen.  As a quick disclaimer, I have no idea if this is true or not.  I didn’t argue though.  Iron Man will protect daddy from the bad guys and will fly him home quickly if needed.  He was so proud to give this gift.  Of course my husband loved it!  Both faces were all smiles as they immediately began playing superheros together.  Both faces were all smiles as they talked using FaceTime yesterday.  My husband’s Iron Man perched on the headboard of his hotel bed and our son wearing an Iron Man mask.  You are never too old for playtime!

Now please do not reference my earlier post about birthdays and senior and think I am in any way saying my husband is a senior.  He is far from the senior category.  And I am not saying he is a dog. Please don’t tell him I said either or I’ll be sleeping alone on the sofa!  However, this interaction reminded me how important playtime is at all ages, and for dogs as well as humans.  Spending time playing has mental and physical benefits.  It helps reduces stress and anxiety which leads to heart health, better sleep, and digestive benefits.  Games are a great way to fill playtime with physical activity, mental activity and lots of fun.

  • Fetch is likely to be a favorite!  Try playing it not only with you throwing the ball and your dog running to fetch the it but create a competition by throwing the ball and seeing who can get to the ball first.  This will also give him a mental workout as he or waits for the command to “go get it” after the ball is thrown.  Switch up the direction you throw the ball to increase the mental stimulation.
  • Hide & Seek can be done several ways.  You can hide yourself, a toy, or a treat.  Work on the “stay” command while hiding and then have them “go find it.”
  • Agility training is a fun and easy way to play.  You can purchase agility kits made specifically for dogs, or you can make your own.  A hula hoop from the dollar store to walk or jump through, a few cones placed in a zigzag pattern to run around and a few soft items of varying height to jump over.
  • There are various mental challenge games you can purchase.  We have several from Kyjen that we, and Annie Girl, love.

It is important to introduce a variety of activities so your dog does not get stressed by an obsession with, or bored with, one particular activity.  Of course every dog is different.  Let your dog express the special needs and abilities of their breed.  They are going to enjoy some activities more than others.  They are going to need different balances between physical and mental stimulation.  Weather and busy schedules will also dictate what is needed and what is possible.  Dogs naturally get more stimulation when the weather is nice and they are outside.  On those rainy or cold days however they most likely will not get the amount of physical exercise they need.  To help alleviate stress and burn extra energy on these days, incorporating additional mental exercise is needed.

Playtime should be a part of the fitness routine for dogs of all ages.  For puppies, it provides an opportunity to learn and reinforce obedience commands while exerting energy.  For adult dogs it provides an opportunity for cross training and less active “rest” days.  For senior dogs, it provides strength training and maintains mental health.  For everyone, it provides the opportunity to have fun and enjoy being together.

As adults we often forget to set aside time to play.  We get lost in the routine of all the practical things we must do each day.  Incorporating playtime into your dog’s fitness routine will enable you to fit it in without adding yet another task to your to-do list.  Incorporate your dog into your personal time and  into the things you enjoy doing.  Playing with your dog just may help you create a little more playtime in your life and end up creating a healthier lifestyle for yourself too!

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Our Panthers Girl

Our Panthers Girl - Ready for some football!

Our Panthers Girl – Let’s get this season started! Go Panthers!

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Senior Moments

Annie Girl's 11th bday signAnnie Girl's 11th bdaySeptember, October, and November are big birthday months at our house.  Birthdays mean celebrations.  Remembering cherished moments and looking forward to the possibilities of the next year.  Birthdays also mean getting older, becoming “seniors”.

Annie Girl walks a little slower and the stairs are a bit more challenging.  There is more grey on her face with each passing year.  You won’t hear her complain though.  And, to be honest, I don’t mind that she doesn’t jump out of bed at 6 every morning ready to eat, go outside, and play.  I enjoy the extra snuggle time with her.  Annie Girl will be 13 in October.  She is a senior.

How do you know when your dog is a “senior”?  It varies among breeds with large breeds tending to age earlier than small breeds.  For most dogs, the senior title is earned between the ages of six and eight.  Some signs of aging are graying around the muzzle, hearing loss, and sleeping more.  These changes may occur so slowly that you won’t notice until someone else points it out or you pull out a picture to post for “Throw Back Thursday”.

So what can you do to help your senior dog age gracefully and comfortably?  Here are a few tips.

  • Nutrition – Aging dogs undergo metabolic and body composition changes.  Some dogs may tend to become obese while others may become thin.  Since dogs experience age-related changes at different times and in different ways, more frequent trips to your vet may be needed to ensure your dog is eating the appropriate food.
  • Digestive System – More frequent feedings are easier on an older dog’s digestive system.
  • Body Temperature – Regulating body temperature is more difficult for older dogs.  They are extra sensitive to heat, humidity, and cold.  Keep them warm and dry.
  • Arthritis – Older dogs are prone to joint pain and arthritis.  To ease the pain, consider ramps and an orthopedic bed.  Your vet may also recommend supplements or pain medications.
  • Hearing/Vision Loss – If your dog shows signs of hearing/vision loss, make sure they see/hear you before you touch them.  Sudden movements may startle them and cause them to react in fear.  Keep floors clear of clutter and remove obstacles in pathways.

As mentioned above, some symptoms may be subtle.  You may notice other changes immediately.  Call your vet right away if you notice any sudden or significant behavior change.  Be aware of any changes in weight, appetite, urination or water intake.

Age is not an excuse to stop exercising.  Exercise continues to play a vital part in the health of senior dogs.  However, you will need to monitor and adjust the fitness routine as he or she ages.  You may need to slow the pace, take more frequent breaks, and add more  lower impact and stretching exercises.  Warm-up and cool-downs become more important.  Consult your vet to make sure there are no specific restrictions or special considerations as a result of medical conditions or medications.

Good health habits throughout life will help your dog not simply live longer but live happier.

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Back to School Routines

Bailey Swimming - 14 years old

Bailey – 14 years old and still swimming strong!

Back to School time means new routines.  New school routines are starting and fall sports are kicking off.  Even if you don’t have children, you may be adjusting to new traffic patterns and the changing schedules of those around you.  For everyone, this is a great time of year to regroup and determine how you will fit everything into your daily schedule over the next few months.

If you are a dog owner, one of the things you must fit in is time to maintain your dog’s health.  Most dogs need 30 to 60 minutes of vigorous exercise a day.  Vigorous exercise means getting your dog’s heart rate up and keeping it up for a sustained amount of time.  There are many ways for dogs to get the exercise they need.  Here are a few.

  • Running – Running is the most natural exercise for dogs.  Walks typically do not provide enough exercise for most dogs.  One reason we love running is the flexibility it allows.  You can run almost anywhere, anytime.  With a few cones, you can turn your backyard or other small space into a running course for your dog.
  • Fetch – You know how this game works and your dog probably does too!  To put a new spin on the game, throw the ball and then run for it yourself!  Make it a race for the ball.
  • Tug of War – The key to this game is teaching your dog some basic tug rules. Proper playing of this game is key to making sure you are not promoting aggressive behavior.
  • Swimming – Swimming is a great, low impact exercise for your dog.  Check out our picture above of Bailey.  She is fourteen and still swimming.  Some breeds are natural swimmers like Labradors and golden retrievers but others may need to be taught.  Dogs with short legs like dachshunds may find they can not move quickly enough to keep them afloat.  Use safety precautions near water with all dogs.

We know finding 30 minutes each day to exercise ourselves is often tough, much less an extra 30 minutes to properly exercise our dogs.  Combining the two activities is a great way to accomplish both at the same time.  You will also get to spend some fun, quality time with your four-legged friend!

One of the keys to creating a consistent routine is convenience.  Here are a few tips to help make providing your dog the proper fitness each day more convenient.

  • Minimize travel distance.  Travel distance usually means time and aren’t we all trying to find extra time in our days?
  • Choose the best time for your schedule.  For many this means mornings before distractions and excuses have a chance to creep in your brain.
  • Have a backup plan.  You know the saying.  Life happens.  A five or ten minute game of fetch can burn a lot of calories and is far better than skipping the workout entirely.

Without proper rest and recovery, your body and your dog’s body can be more susceptible to injury.  Be sure to schedule days of rest!  These are great days for slower paced walks and focus on mental stimulation.

Making sure your dog receives the vigorous exercise he or she needs has many benefits.  Be sure your new back to school routine creates health and happiness for all of your family members…even the four-legged ones!

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Dog-Friendly Cake Tips

Anne's pawty cakeThere are a lot of reasons to celebrate with our dogs.  Birthdays, adoption anniversaries, puppy showers, and celebrating friendships to name a few!  All occasions go well with cake (or cupcakes!) so you may find yourself in need of a dog-friendly cake.  Your dog may be dreaming of a layer of bacon topped with peanut butter followed by a layer of chicken topped with more peanut butter but that is going to be hard to decorate!  Of course you can order a cake from a local pet bakery but you can also make one at home.  The key is to avoid sugar and chocolate, both of which could cause gastrointestinal problems and make your dog very ill.  There is no lack of recipes for dog cakes online.  This one is from Allrecipes.  Doggie Birthday Cake Recipe from allrecipes.com 

A few other guidelines for dog-friendly cakes:

  • Use peanut butter or yogurt for icing.
  • Dogs can have difficulty digesting nuts.  Either leave them out or chop them into very small pieces.
  • Use carob instead of chocolate.  Chocolate can be poisonous to dogs.  Carob is a dog-safe substitute.  It is available in powdered and chip form.
  • To avoid a fire hazard, consider using a dog treat instead of a candle.  Dogs move fast…especially when smelling a tasty treat and may knock a candle over unexpectedly.
  • Don’t over feed your dog.  Even though it may be tempting to let your dog dive into and devour a large slice of cake, too much of an unfamiliar food might make your dog sick.  A few bites is the perfect portion size.
  • If you are serving multiple dogs, make sure they each have their own plate to avoid unintended altercations!

Have fun baking!  There are a lot of dog themed cooking supplies out there waiting for you!  We would love to see your finished products and have you share your recipes.   Share them with us on Facebook and Pinterest!

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Check the Chip!

Check the Chip DayAugust 15th is Check the Chip Day!  Microchips greatly increase the chances you will get your dog back if he/she is lost, but they only work if you register them and keep the information up to date.  

Did you know that different microchip manufacturers use different microchip technology and databases?  While there are many databases that allow you to register your dog’s microchip, there is one that really counts.  American Animal Hospital Associate (AAHA) Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool is the one that animal shelters and vets will use.  It is linked to the registries of the majority of microchip manufacturers.  A number of public microchip registries are also linked to the AAHA Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool.

If you are not sure if your dog’s chip is registered and/or up to date, visit the AAHA Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool at petmicrochiplookup.org.  To update your dog’s registration, you will need the microchip number.  If you haven’t already created an account with the manufacturer, you will need to do that as well so you can access the registration in the future to update information.

If your dog does not have a microchip, it is quick, painless, and can make all the difference if your dog gets lost.  For more information, contact your veterinarian or check out this video.  In the Charlotte area, the Human Society of Charlotte and CMPD Animal Care & Control hold clinics throughout the year which provide low-cost microchipping.

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