Massage Therapy for Your Pets

By Cate Burnette


A Holistic Treatment You Can Share With Your Pets

Just as it has in human medicine, the practice of less invasive and more holistic approaches to the care and treatment of animals is gaining in popularity. Consultations for nutritional help, physical therapy, acupuncture and massage therapy are becoming more routine in both equine and companion animal veterinary medicine.

Pet massage therapy is in the forefront of treatments that pet parents can easily continue at home while maintaining ongoing contact with the veterinarian on regular health issues of our furry companions.


What IS animal massage therapy and how can it help my pet?

Massage therapy is the therapeutic application of hands-on deep tissue techniques to the voluntary muscle system – those muscles that all animals, including humans, use for movement.


Massage has been shown to:

…increase muscular circulation and help eliminate toxins and waste from the body.

…improve joint flexibility and muscle tone, which can be very beneficial to older animals and those with active lives
    such as performance animals. Massage is very popular with agility dogs and sport horses.

…promote healing and increase the range of motion in all dogs, horses and some cats.

…reduce muscle spasms and soreness and relieve tension.

…correct the condition of the skin, coat, gums and teeth because of increased blood circulation.

…enable atrophying muscles to work the way they are supposed to.

…reduce recovery time from soft tissue injuries.

…relieve the pain and discomfort associated with such joint conditions as hip dysplasia and arthritis.

Additionally, pet massage helps calm nervous and anxious animals through the act of being kindly and consistently touched, allows these pets to trust their human counterparts, helps a shy or submissive animal feel more confident and secure and, on the other side, can relax an aggressive or dominant animal.


Can I do this at home?

Because of the health-promoting qualities of massage, as well as its restorative properties, knowledgeable owners and trainers are incorporating this therapy as an integral part of their dogs’ and horses’ total and continuous health care program.

The therapy is certainly transferable – by virtue of its generally universal effectiveness and similarity of technique – to other companion animals, such as cats and ferrets, but we urge that you contact a veterinarian or professional animal massage therapist before trying these techniques on your own.

There are a number of animal massage demonstrations on YouTube that you can watch for guidance, including one by noted British dog trainer Victoria Stilwell.


What are some precautions with massage therapy for animals?

As noted above, if your animal is acting injured or ill, you should consult with your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis to make sure massage therapy is appropriate and beneficial, not detrimental to veterinary treatment, and/or contraindicative with any prescribed medications.

Furthermore, never massage an animal that has low blood pressure, a fever, any type of poisoning, severe tissue trauma, severe debilitation, is in shock, has heat stroke, indicates symptoms of a limb or hindquarters having a circulatory problem due to thrombosis (blood clots), or an injury or illness not diagnosed by a vet.


Certification of Professional Pet Massage Therapists

When seeking massage therapy for your dog, cat or horse, first ask your veterinarian for a recommendation. Many equine and small animal vets now have qualified massage therapists either on staff or on call that can work with you and your animal to provide whatever treatment is needed.

A professional, qualified therapist will have taken classes and studied the appropriate techniques in both the lecture and hands-on format. Many therapists will have interned under holistic vets or other therapists while learning.

Look for a massage therapist certified by the National Board of Certification for Animal Acupressure & Massage. This national organization, founded in 2008, develops standardized national certification examinations in order to establish and uphold professional standards for acupressure and massage practitioners. The NBCAAM examinations for Equine Massage, Equine Acupressure, Canine Massage and Canine Acupressure are entirely based on the Scope of Practice for each discipline.

The minimum standard for sitting for the NCEAAM is documented proof of attendance at a school or schools of either animal massage or animal acupressure resulting in an accumulated course of study equaling a minimum of 200 hours.


PLEASE NOTE: Natural remedies and alternative therapies can complement traditional veterinary or medical care. If your pet is sick, injured, on medication, or you have any other concerns, we recommend that you can check with your veterinarian prior to offering any remedy or massage therapy. Be aware that your vet or medical professional may advise you to not use the natural/holistic/alternative remedy or therapy. Do your homework and explore your options. If your pet is seriously ill or has a life-threatening condition, please always seek proper veterinary care.



Cate Burnette is a semi-retired registered veterinary technician with clinical experience in small and large animal medicine. With 30-plus years of journalism experience, she went back to school after 9/11 to work with her first love: animals. The pet parent of four cats, three dogs and one ex-racehorse, Cate is a certified rescue volunteer with the American Humane Association’s Red Star Emergency Services and served with the group in New Orleans doing animal search and rescue after Hurricane Katrina. She is also a horse safety and horse management expert, and has volunteered with US Pony Clubs as a district commissioner and horse management judge.


Dehydration & Pets

By Cate Burnette


When Texas summers get as hot as they normally do, all pet parents need to watch out for our dogs and cats becoming dehydrated from a lack of body water. Dehydration occurs when the total body water is less than normal and involves loss of both water and electrolytes (minerals such as sodium, chloride and potassium).

When there is not enough body water, fluid shifts out of the body cells to compensate, leaving the cells deficient in necessary water. This leads to dehydration. The severity of the dehydration is based on the magnitude of these body water shifts. Pets normally lose fluid through breathing, panting, urinating and defecating and those fluids must be restored regularly to maintain optimum health.


Causes and Symptoms of Dehydration

There are a number of ways your dog or cat can become dehydrated. Your pet may not be eating or drinking enough to take in appropriate amounts of water. Dehydration can cause the loss of appetite and, in a frustrating cycle, your animal loses even more body water when she won’t eat or drink. Illnesses that cause bouts of frequent vomiting or diarrhea and/or high fevers can result in your pet becoming dehydrated. Any dog or cat that is overheated may also be suffering from dehydration.

So what are some of the symptoms that you need to watch for?

There are basically 3 levels of clinical dehydration, with the final levels being the most serious.

Beginning Signs

  • Excessive panting and warm skin
  • Dry mouth, nose and gums
  • Visibly tired, less animated
  • Sunken eyes, lack of moisture

Intermediate Signs

  • Loss of skin elasticity – If a gentle pinch of shoulder or neck skin doesn’t immediately pop back into place, your pet is probably dehydrated. As the tissue under the skin loses moisture, the skin moves back more slowly. In extreme cases, the skin doesn’t pop back at all.
  • Delayed Capillary Refill Time (CRT) – Place your thumb or index finger firmly against your pet’s gums so that they whiten. Remove your finger and count how many seconds it takes for the gums to become pink. Any time longer than 2 seconds is a sign of dehydration and/or other illness.
  • Rectal temperature greater than 105º F

Final Signs

  • Your pet is wobbly and unsteady on her feet
  • You notice hind end weakness


How to Prevent Dehydration

Maintaining a constant body fluid level is as important in animals as it is in humans. The Humane Society of the United States issues these tips for keeping your pet hydrated in even the warmest weather.

  • Leave several bowls of water around the house so that your cats and dogs get enough to drink.
  • If you notice your pet hasn’t had a drink in a while, start by allowing her to have a few sips of water every few minutes. Overdrinking can easily lead to nausea and vomiting and losing even more fluids that she needs.
  • After strenuous exercise, monitor the amount of water your dog drinks and don’t allow overdrinking.
  • Take a collapsible bowl and plenty of cool water with you when you’re exercising or playing outside with your pet. Allow plenty of down time (especially on hot days) and find a place for shade so your pet can cool down.
  • If your dog or cat is outside for any length of time, ensure there are bowls of clean, cool water available for drinking.


What can I do if I suspect my pet is dehydrated?

  • Give an electrolyte (such as Gatorade®) mixed with water if your pet is showing the early signs of dehydration. While water helps in replenishing a lot of nutrients, electrolytes can do the job more quickly.
  • Animals who have gone a long time without drinking water may have a hard time holding it down. Allow your dog or cat to lick ice. She’ll rehydrate herself as the ice melts.


  • If your pet refuses to drink for any extended period of time, see your veterinarian immediately!


Veterinary Treatment of Dehydration

The veterinary care for moderately and severely dehydrated pets revolves around the administration of supplemental fluids. Typically, fluids are given either subcutaneously (SQ) under the first layer of skin or intravenously (IV) through a vein. The latter requires hospitalization and the insertion of an intravenous catheter. Your vet can determine the amount of fluids to be given and the route of administration in the best interests of your pet.



Cate Burnette is a semi-retired registered veterinary technician with clinical experience in small and large animal medicine. With 30-plus years of journalism experience, she went back to school after 9/11 to work with her first love: animals. The pet parent of four cats, three dogs and one ex-racehorse, Cate is a certified rescue volunteer with the American Humane Association’s Red Star Emergency Services and served with the group in New Orleans doing animal search and rescue after Hurricane Katrina. She is also a horse safety and horse management expert, and has volunteered with US Pony Clubs as a district commissioner and horse management judge.


Why It’s Important to Clean Up the Poop


For a healthy yard, healthy pets and healthy kids … Clean Up The Poop!

One of those necessary chores when we have pets is cleaning the waste from our yards and walkways. If you’re like most pet parents, carrying a plastic bag full of poop while out on walks is not a new – or fun – experience with our animals. What you may not know is that there are significant reasons why removing and disposing of that waste may be essential for the health of your family, your pets and your environment.

Zoonotic diseases are illnesses that can be passed from animals to humans. When it comes to pet feces, there are 4 major parasitic ailments that can be passed to humans by contact with infected feces.

Hookworms are intestinal parasites transmitted by fecal to oral contamination from infected animal to non-infected animal. Your pet may eat contaminated feces or dirt, or run through contaminated soil, then lick its paws and ingest the worm eggs or larvae in that manner. Humans can pick up the eggs or larvae on the skin from soil or animal feces and acquire a “traveling” rash at the site of infestation.

Roundworms, commonly found in puppies and kittens, pass across the placenta from the pregnant mother to her unborn fetuses. The infection develops while the babies are in the uterus and they are born positive for roundworms. Most often, humans ingest soil contaminated by roundworm eggs or larvae by not washing their hands or by eating vegetables raised in contaminated soil.

While the adult immune system is able to fight off the worst of a roundworm infection, some organ damage has been diagnosed in patients with chronic roundworm infections. In small children, roundworm infection shows most often as “ocular larva migrans.” Roundworm larva travels underneath the skin to the eye and reside inside the globe of the eye, causing irritation and sight disorders.

Toxoplasmosis is a zoonotic disease found most often in cats. Outdoor cats – and those that eat raw meat – are more likely to contract the disease from their food sources. Children and immune compromised adults are advised not to scoop or sanitize a cat’s litter box as any toxoplasmosis-positive kitty can be shedding the infection in the stool.

Cryptosporidiosis is a protozoan parasite found in water. Infected animals can transmit “crypto” by defecating in lakes, ponds, and other bodies of water. You and your pet can acquire the disease through swimming or other contact with contaminated water. Pets become infected when they swallow Giardia that may be present in water or other substances that have been soiled with feces.

Environmental contamination is a common problem resulting from leftover pet poop. Pet waste and other pollutants are carried directly into gutters and waterways by storm water. That waste may contain harmful organisms such as Giardia, Salmonella and E. coli that can be transmitted to humans and other animals by ingesting that contaminated water. Additionally, animal waste adds nitrogen to the water. Excess nitrogen depletes oxygen in water necessary for the livelihoods of fish, wildlife and underwater grasses.

It might be the law in your area to pick up your pet’s feces. Many urban and suburban communities require that you clean up after your animal. Even without any restrictions, cleaning up pet poop is the right thing to do.

Neighborhood harmony results when your good manners prevent your neighbors from stepping in pet waste and spreading it into homes, cars and businesses. Daily scooping stops those nasty dog and cat odors that can creep into backyards and outdoor festivities. Cleaning up feces halts the growth of the fly population that can carry disease indoors.

If you need help keeping your yard clear of pet poop, contact VIP Pet Services to assist with your waste pickup needs.

Valentine's Day is for Pet Lovers

February 14th is more than just a day for exchanging colorful paper love notes and chocolates. Valentine’s Day is also a very important day for your pets – it’s Pet Theft Awareness Day (PTAD).

PTAD was created in 1988 by Last Chance for Animals, a U.S. non-profit animal rights organization, to bring awareness to the high number of stolen pets each year. According to LCA, each year about 2 million pets are stolen in the U.S.

So how do we safeguard our furry friends against theft? Here are some tips keep your pet safe:

1. Chips Anyone? Microchipping is efficient and can be injected into your pet in about as much time as it takes to draw blood.

2. Stay Current: Make sure your pet has current ID tags. If they go missing, having updated tags can be crucial.

3. Say ‘Cheese’: Keep current photos of your pet on hand. If the worst does happen and your pet goes missing; updated photos will be useful for making posters and creating awareness.

4. Take Precautions: Always keep your pets on a leash, make sure your yard is secure and never tie your pet up outside a store.

This Valentine’s Day, honor Pet Theft Awareness Day and take steps to keep your pet safe. It’s a great way to ensure you’ll be spending many holidays together.

Have questions or need other ideas on how to keep your pets safe? Don’t hesitate to let us know – VIP Pets is here to help!

Five Fun Indoor Games to Play with Your Pet

When it’s cold out, it’s not only hard for you to get enough fresh air, sunshine, and exercise – it’s hard for your pet, too.

When the temperature drops, pets tend to spend more time indoors staying warm (much like their owners) and less time outside running around. But you can still keep your pet engaged and in good shape with these fun indoor activities he’ll love.

1. Play fetch.

You don’t need a big yard – all you need is a hallway (or even a flight of stairs). Throw the toy and let your dog or cat run after it to his heart’s content. Or, if your pet follows you everywhere you go, run up and down the stairs and get yourself some exercise at the same time!

2. Which hand?

Hide a treat in one of your closed fists and see if your dog can figure out which one. Dogs have sharp senses of smell but need to practice using them, so this game is both fun and educational.

3. Hide and seek.

Have your dog sit and stay (or wait) and go find a hiding spot – then call your dog to you. When he finds you, reward him generously with lots of praise and hugs.

4. Teach a new trick.

Can he jump through a hoop? Weave through your legs? Play dead? Take advantage of being stuck inside and teach him something new.

5. Pet massage.

A nice massage can relax and soothe your dog, and it’s a great way to give him lots of attention and love. Use your time indoors to master the art.

Need someone to play with your pets (and take care of them!) during the day or if you’re out of town on vacation?  We can help!  Contact us today.

Training Your Dog: Factors That Can Make the Difference Between Success and Failure

By: Cate Burnette

“National Train Your Dog Month” is January 2016

Bringing a new dog of any age into your home can be a challenge to your patience, your confidence and your housekeeping abilities. A new furry family member won’t know the rules of the household or how he should behave…so it is up to you to teach your pup what is appropriate – and what is inappropriate – behavior.

You can choose to teach your dog on your own, engage the services of a professional dog trainer, or take training classes together at your local pet supply or feed store. Regardless of who teaches your pup the importance of not pooping in the house and how to best walk on a leash, it is your interaction as the pet parent and your expectations that can make the difference in your dog’s success or failure.

The Elements of Training Your Dog

There are several components of canine training that need to be taken into consideration when it comes to working with your dog.

  • Socialization of your pooch is absolutely essential to training good behavior regardless of your pet’s age. According to the website, begin introducing your puppy to new people, places and other animals as soon as his puppy vaccinations are complete. The majority of puppy socialization occurs in the first 16 to 20 weeks of life and waiting past that time period puts you and your dog at a disadvantage. Older un-socialized dogs may take a bit longer to get past fears and other concerns. These animals may also require a professional trainer or veterinary behaviorist to move through pre-existing psychological and emotional issues.
  • The relationship between you and your dog is of primary importance. Working with him on a daily basis allows you to learn about each other’s personalities, habits, like and dislikes. A confident, calm and kind pet parent can help a fearful or less-socialized pet to mature and feel safe in new or strange situations. On the other side of the training coin, spending time with your pet allows you to adjust your training regimen to fit the needs of your individual dog.
  • Genetics plays a part in behavior. Fear and aggression-based behaviors – those dogs who bite, urinate around new people, appear shy and timid until you get too close, for example – have problems dealing with everyday stress. These issues are often breed-related and/or may be seen in the parents or littermates of these animals. Conversely, confident dogs react little or not at all to environmental stresses. They are curious, easier to distract, like to explore and they get bored easily. In most cases, new dog owners may find difficulties handling dogs with these “outgoing” and “demanding” behavior temperaments.
  • The training and living environment plays a part in your dog’s adjustment to family life, good behaviors and socialization. Presenting your family members, home and yard to your new dog can either be a confidence-building experience, or one that reinforces fears, depending on the way your work it. Training your dog in different parts of your house and yard, teaching on walks, working with him as you both go through his everyday life can promote curiosity and confidence in your new dog.

Why is Training Necessary?

Training your pup fulfills several purposes in our relationships with our animal companions. We can teach them appropriate behaviors and fix already existing bad habits (jumping on people, begging for food at the table, for example).

But there are some commands that are so critical for your dog’s safety that they should always be taught, and taught well. These three lifesaving obedience commands are “come when called,” “wait at doors” and “leave an object (or creature) alone.” Dogs that don’t understand, or refuse to listen, to these directives can become seriously hurt and/or die.

To help you learn how to teach these commands, you can hire a personal, professional dog trainer who works with both you and your pooch to teach the proper techniques. You can enroll you and your dog in-group training classes (this can help with socialization). You can also go online and read good training tips from such websites as and the ASPCA. Please note: If you choose to hire a professional trainer, insist on finding one that is bonded, belongs to professional dog care associations, and comes with recommendations from satisfied clients and veterinarians.

Positive vs. Negative Reinforcement

The Humane Society of the United States recommends using positive reinforcement when training your new dog. Positive reinforcement training uses praise and/or treats to reward your dog for doing something you want him to do. Because the reward makes him more likely to repeat the behavior, positive reinforcement is one of your most powerful tools for shaping or changing your dog’s behavior.

Proper timing is necessary when using positive reinforcement. The reward must occur immediately—within seconds—or your pet may not associate it with the proper action. For example, if you have your dog sit, but reward him after he stands back up, he’ll think he’s being rewarded for standing up.

Your commands must be short and uncomplicated, preferably using one-word statements. “Sit,” “stay,” “down,” “come” and “leave it,” assert the animal’s natural instincts for quick, distinct sounds.

When your pet is learning a new behavior, reward him every time he does the behavior. This is called continuous reinforcement. Once your dog has reliably learned the behavior, you will want to switch to intermittent reinforcement, in which you continue with praise, but gradually reduce the number of times he receives a treat for doing the desired behavior. Ensure that you don’t decrease the rewards so rapidly that you frustrate your learning dog.

Negative reinforcement revolves around punishing inappropriate behavior and is a sure sign whatever you’re doing to train your dog isn’t working. Rather than punishing your dog for mistakes he has made in the past, you should concentrate on teaching your puppy how he should act in the future.

It is much quicker to teach your dog what you want him to do and to reward him for doing it. Thus, your pooch learns to want to do what you need him to do all on his own. Frequent or extreme punishment is a major reason why many dogs dislike being handled, and why they dislike and fear the handler. It is much more efficient and effective to reward your dog for doing it your way – the one way you consider to be right – rather than attempt to punish him for the many, many ways he could do the task incorrectly.

Training Mature Dogs Vs. Puppies

The Austin Humane Society details training guidelines when deciding what age of dog is appropriate for you, your family and your lifestyle.

For PUPPIES (Ages 2 months – 1 year-old)

  • Their training needs are HIGH. Young dogs need crate training, basic dog training, house training, leash training and other behavioral guidance techniques in order to fit well into a family.
  • Time commitment is HIGH, requiring daily training sessions, often over weeks to months of time depending on the dog and the needs of the household.
  • Puppies are NOT ALWAYS a good fit for families. Their high energy levels need a great deal of play and exercise to keep them from acting out and they cannot be trusted to be left alone and unsupervised lest they get into trouble.
  • While you may never be sure what their adult size, personality and temperament will be, you can usually garner a FAIRLY GOOD idea of their past history.

For Mature Dogs (Ages 1 year and up)

  • Their training needs are MEDIUM. Many adult dogs available for adoption in shelters are already housetrained, crate-trained, know several tricks and can walk on a leash.
  • The time commitment is MEDIUM to LOW, depending on the age of the dog. Adult dogs still want your attention, but they are typically more self-sufficient than a puppy. Depending on your dog’s breed, behavior and age, his energy levels and exercise needs will vary, but are typically much lower than that of a puppy.
  • With an adult dog, what you see is typically what you get. While a dog may act slightly different in a shelter than they do in your home, when you leave the shelter, you will have a good idea of what size, personality and temperament your new pet is. However, discovering any past history that may hinder training can be PROBLEMATIC, to say the least.

When Training Doesn’t Work

If your pup appears to not be able to learn or is resistant to training there may be very good reasons that what you’re doing isn’t working. You may need to ask yourself the following 7 questions:

1. Are you training your pooch often enough or inconsistently? Instead of “training then forgetting,” keep your dog’s established behaviors sharp by working them randomly and regularly, several times each day.

2. Do you repeat commands over and over in an effort to make your dog comply? Once you are sure a dog knows a behavior, ask only once. If you are ignored, it’s either because you haven’t taught it properly, or the dog is distracted or simply rebellious. Move your dog to a quiet spot and try again. If the response is still not there, go back to basics and re-train.

3. Are your training sessions too long or too short? Each teaching session should only last around 20 minutes. Any longer than that and your dog’s attention span will wander. If your dog appears bored, shorten the session and make sure to end it on a positive note. Ten 1-minute sessions in a day trumps one 10-minute session every time.

4. Have you moved your training sessions from one environment to another or are you always working in one room only? You’ll need to stay in a safe, enclosed arena in the beginning of teaching your dog. As training progresses, however, the more times you work with your dog in different places, around new people, or other animals, the better he’ll respond in busy situations when you need him to.

5. Do you rely too much on treats and not enough on praise and esteem? Treats are a great way to start the learning process. But once your pooch learns the behavior, replace treats with praise, play, toy interludes, or whatever else he likes.

6. Do you get too emotional during sessions? Train with force, anger, or irritation and you’ll intimidate your dog and turn training sessions into inquisitions. Likewise, train with excessive energy, high squeals of delight, and over-the-top displays of forced elation, and you will stoke his energy levels far beyond what is needed to focus and learn. Calm, kind, and confident behavior will get your best results.

7. Do you train to the quirks of your individual dog? Just like human children, our furry children have varying personalities and idiosyncrasies that require us to teach to the way they learn the best. Bring confidence and patience to a shy dog, control and reason to the big oaf of a dog, and base your training strategy on your pup’s personality, age, size, breed, energy level and history.

Some animals have issues that resist training, that can be considered dangerous, and that are not easily taken care of with in-home training. Separation anxiety, storm – and other – phobias, inappropriate elimination, resource guarding, people aggression, animal aggression, compulsive/obsessive behavior, and unruly manners such as jumping, digging and compulsively barking may require that you seek additional help.

Seek a consultation with a veterinary behaviorist. A veterinary behaviorist is a veterinarian who has undergone rigorous specialized advanced training through a residency. This specialty is much like being a psychiatrist for animals. Vet behaviorists are trained to diagnose and treat behavioral issues in your pet through cognitive therapy, training issues and the use of medication if necessary. Your regular veterinarian should be able to recommend a behaviorist in your area.


Cate Burnette is a semi-retired registered veterinary technician with clinical experience in small and large animal medicine. With 30-plus years of journalism experience, she went back to school after 9/11 to work with her first love: animals. The pet parent of four cats, three dogs and one ex-racehorse, Cate is a certified rescue volunteer with the American Humane Association’s Red Star Emergency Services and served with the group in New Orleans doing animal search and rescue after Hurricane Katrina. She is also a horse safety and horse management expert, and has volunteered with US Pony Clubs as a district commissioner and horse management judge.

10 Tips For Holiday Car Travel With Your Pets

The holidays are always a grand time to get together and celebrate the end of one year and the beginning of the next with family and friends. When our families include our furry, four-legged members, taking pets along to visit can prove challenging.

Listed below are 10 easy tips that can make your car trip stress-free for you, your family AND your pets.


1. Feed your pet a light meal 3 to 4 hours prior to travel.

To avoid carsickness, you won’t want to feed in a moving vehicle, and your animal will feel more secure if she has a full tummy as she rides along.

2. Don’t allow your dogs to roam in your car for your safety and theirs.

Harness/seatbelts are a functional answer, but have not proven reliable in case of an accident. The safest alternative to a harness is to keep your dog in a crate that is tied down by the seatbelt.

3. Cats need to ride in a carrier restrained by seatbelt around the front of the crate so that it doesn’t bounce around.

Find a well-ventilated crate that is large enough for your cat’s bed, a couple of toys, a water bowl and a small litter box. (I’ve always used those aluminum cake tins found at the supermarket that can be easily thrown away.) Most pet stores and online pet supply sites offer a variety of wire mesh, hard plastic and soft-sided carriers. Whatever you choose, make sure the carrier is large enough for your pet to stand up, sit, lie down and turn around.

4. Tape a card with your name, address, and cell phone number on the outside of the carrier in case of emergency.

A photo of your pet with her name and your veterinarian’s name and phone number also need to be posted somewhere on the crate in case of loss. Remember: Microchip your pets and place all identification tags (your pets’ names, your name, and your cell number) on their collars before you get in the car.


5. Allow for plenty of rest stops.

Every 3 to 4 hours, pull over and give your dog an on-leash potty break and leg stretch. This might also be a good time to offer water to stave off dehydration. Please remember, unless your cats are leash-trained, leave them in the car.

6. Carry your own pre-packaged food in small plastic bags for each meal.

If you have more than one pet, label each one’s food separately, and always bring spares in case you get stuck. Do the same with treats/biscuits.

7. Bring your own water.

Opt for bottled water or tap water stored in plastic jugs. According to the ASPCA, drinking water from an area she’s not used to could result in tummy upset for your pet.


8. Don’t leave your pet alone in the car.

We’ve all heard of the dangers of leaving a pet in the car on very hot and very cold days. With pet theft on the rise, you don’t want to take any chances that your beloved companion can fall into the wrong hands.

9. Pack your ‘on-the-road’ traveling kit.

In addition to travel papers, food, bowl, leash, a waste scoop, plastic bags for cleanup, grooming supplies, medication and a pet first-aid kit, pack a favorite toy or pillow to give your pet a sense of familiarity. Bring along some old towels to use for clean-up and bedding. Your own cleaning supplies are a necessity, as is kitty litter if you’re traveling with your cat.

10. Bring your rabies vaccination record with you if you are crossing state lines.

Although most states don’t require these records, some do, and if your pet should become lost, you’ll need this paperwork to get her out of Animal Control or a rescue when she is found.

Early preparation for car trips with your pets can provide ALL members of your family a fun, stress-free holiday.


Tools for Happier Walks Part II: Dog Body Harnesses

By: Chris Pearcey

There are many tools on the market that can help you teach your dog not to pull on walks. In a previous post, I discussed head harnesses. Another option is a body harness, but it is important to know that all body harnesses are not built equally.

Choosing a Body Harness

If you are hoping to reduce pulling on walks, choose a body harness that allows you to hook the leash to the front of your dog’s chest.

Walking your dog on a harness with the leash attached on the dog’s back between the shoulder blades can encourage pulling. If your dog likes to pull, this type of harness will make it much more comfortable to do so. While I would rather a dog pull in a harness than on a collar around his/her neck, I would really rather a dog learn not to pull at all, and an appropriate body harness can help with that training.

The harness that I recommend is the Easy Walk, but there are several others out there that seem to perform well. I like the Easy Walk because it is almost infinitely adjustable—and I dislike the Easy Walk for the same reason. Fitting the harness for the first time can be a bit of a challenge.

There are excellent videos online to help you properly fit the harness. You might also consider asking a qualified dog trainer or other pet professional to help you.

If the harness is too loose, the dog has the freedom to ignore the communication coming down the leash from you. If the harness is too tight, it can chaff.

It is best to purchase a separate harness for each dog in the family and have it fitted to each individual dog. Always remember that some adjustment may be needed if the harness gets wet and stretches, and as it becomes broken in.


As with the head harness, you’ll need to use a regular leash, not a flexi (retractable) leash.

When your dog pulls ahead of you, the body harness will pull them around to face you. Your dog will learn that when the leash tightens at his/her chest, it is time to slow down and pay attention. Dog learn that pulling doesn’t do any more than turn them around back to where they started.

If you use a flexi, or retractable, leash with a head harness, you will be training your dog to work against the instructions he/she is receiving from the harness. There is constant pressure from the leash, so eventually, the dog will learn to ignore the pressure because it is meaningless.

As with other training tools, have treats ready as your dog learns what is expected. If your dog is in the correct position, walking nicely and not pulling, praise your dog and give treats. When your dog starts to associate praise and treats with walking, he/she will start checking in with you more often, and the connection begins to build. With training, your dog learns to check in with you constantly and make adjustments.


A body harness will allow you to work with your dog on proper leash etiquette without potentially damaging their neck. It will allow you to give clearer signals to your dog and ultimately enjoy your walks.

Image courtesy of Amazon.

Chris Pearcey is a Certified Behavior and Training Specialist working in Central Texas. She has worked with dogs and their owners to improve their relationships since 2006. Feel free to contact her at

Tools for Happier Walks Part I: Head Harnesses

By: Chris Pearcey

It just isn’t fun walking a dog that pulls. While there are products that can provide a quick fix for some dogs, ultimately, training and time will build the connection with your dog. In the meantime, let’s just get walking.

Head Harnesses

There are several brands of head harness out there. My preference is the Halti, but the Gentle Leader is an excellent choice as well

Head harnesses function much like head halters used on a horses. “Where the nose goes, the body will follow,” so the saying goes.

I have yet to work with a dog who is thrilled to wear a head harness. The most important thing you can do to avoid wasting your money and becoming frustrated is to acclimate your dog to the harness. It takes a little time, but if you don’t do it, you’ll have a dog that is constantly working to get the harness off of his/her face, and that doesn’t make for an enjoyable walk.

The average dog can be convinced that wearing a head harness is a good thing in just a few short training sessions. Some dogs will take longer—be patient. It is worth it. You’ll need lots of tasty treats and a distraction free environment.

There are several excellent videos and articles on how to acclimate your dog to a head harness, such as the following:

Gentle Leader Training Video
ASPCA: Head Halter Introduction Article

Fitting the collar can be tricky. Don’t hesitate to ask for help. Check with a local pet care professional-trainer, dog walker, pet store owner – and see if they’ll help you.

Remember to check the fit each time you put the harness on your dog. As your dog grows, it will need to be adjusted. In addition, as the harness becomes broken in it may become looser.

Halti vs Gentle Leader

The only reason I typically recommend the Halti over the Easy Walk head harness is that the Halti has a built in safety mechanism just in case your dog slips out of the harness.

With the Easy Walk harness, if your dog slips the harness off, you are left standing with a leash and a harness in your hand, while your dog runs free.

The Halti has an additional clip that connects the harness to your dog’s collar. Because of this, if your dog slips out of the harness, you are still connected to your dog.

It is an extra step in getting ready for a walk, but one that I find well worth it.


You’ll need to use a regular leash with a head harness, not a flexi (retractable) leash.

Much of the control you gain over your dog with the head harness is because he/she is more connected to you. The slightest movement of your hand can communicate information down the leash.

A tight leash gives the dog information that your speed or direction has changed. Your dog should turn his/her head towards you for a check in. With training, your dog learns to check in with you constantly and make adjustments.

If you use a flexi, or retractable, leash with a head harness, you will be training your dog to work against the instructions he/she is receiving from you through the harness. There is constant pressure from the leash, so eventually, the dog will learn to ignore the pressure because the information it provides is meaningless.


If a head harness is properly fitted and the dog is properly acclimated to it, pulling by most dogs will be reduced. You can now begin to communicate more effectively with your dog and enjoy your walks!

Image courtesy of Amazon.

Chris Pearcey is a Certified Behavior and Training Specialist working in Central Texas. She has worked with dogs and their owners to improve their relationships since 2006. Feel free to contact her at

Book Pet Sitter Playtime and Enjoy a Worry-Free Tailgate Party


In the great State of Texas, tailgating at Longhorns or Dallas Cowboys games is a time-honored tradition enjoyed by millions of football fans every year.

However, safety concerns like moving vehicles, toxic foods, and extreme heat or cold are more than enough to convince anyone not to take their dog along with them.

But what about leaving your dog at home alone for most of the day? Our pets are very sensitive to changes in our routine, and being alone on a day when people are usually home can make even the most patient dog nervous.

Dogs are sometimes referred to as “four-legged toddlers,” and it doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to know why. Too much alone time frequently leads dogs to disruptive or even destructive behavior like digging, chewing, barking, and howling.

The good news is there is an easy way to enjoy your tailgating party without worrying about leaving your pup lonely at home. Pet sitters are an invaluable resource for keeping your dog safe and occupied while you’re gone, even if it’s just for the day.

Great pet sitting services, such as VIP Pets, offer easy online booking so you can arrange for a reputable pet sitter quickly and then start on packing your cooler and marinating the steaks.

Don’t forget to give your pet sitter information for how to reach you and where to take your pet in an emergency. Show them where to find your Pet First Aid Kit and familiarize them with your disaster plan.

Have a great time tailgating! And don’t forget to contact your friends at VIP Pets for coverage!