Responsible Pet Ownership

Taking Time to “Heel”

Growing up in Southern California I’ve been used to seeing dogs on leashes at all times, unless I’m at a dog park. I knew there were other parts of the world where people were able to walk off-leash with their dogs, but I had only seen it in the movies—until I visited Austria, that is.

On my first day there, sitting in my first café, I noticed an ordinary enough man walking at a regular pace towards me. Then I saw the astonishing part…his dog was walking right next to him, calm as can be, and there was no leash in sight. I tried not to be obvious but I was staring, and watched them until they were out of sight. Neither man nor dog seemed at all surprised at the situation. It was just like an every day occurrence to them…because it was an every day occurrence.

Turns out that Austrian folk talk their dogs into restaurants (where they happily lie at their owner’s feet), on trains (where they are required to wear “cages” or muzzles), on busses, you name it. People rarely, if ever, bother with leashes.

How is this possible, you might ask? Well, it all starts with the basic “heel” training you are likely familiar with but rarely enforce. Many people these days opt for the retractable leashes (I used to use these before I knew better) because they have so little time to exercise their dog that this serves as their only form of exercise, so why not let the dog run back and forth a little?

Yes, I can see the logic in this…however, before you give your dog this kind of freedom, you need to establish some rules first. Your dog needs to know that his place when walking out in public is by your side, not in front of you and not behind you. This is important for several reasons. Dogs need to have rules in place, and feel more comfortable when they know what the rules are, what their role is, and when you expect it of them.

[pullquote]Teaching your dog that the proper place to walk in public is at your side will give you more control over your dog, and give your dog more security about where his place is supposed to be.[/pullquote]This does not mean that you can never let them wander on a longer lead…this comes later. Teaching your dog that the proper place to walk in public is at your side will give you more control over your dog, and give your dog more security about where his place is supposed to be. You may love dogs, but not everyone feels this way, and they will appreciate that you keep your dog close at hand and not have to worry about whether or not your dog will come in contact with them.

Other dog owners will appreciate it as well, because they will know that you have control of your dog and they don’t have to worry about an unwanted dog encounter. They may be training their dog, or their dog may not be friendly towards other dogs, so when you are walking down city sidewalks, especially, this is the most courteous and responsible course of action.

Your dog may respond well to your holding the leash close, or it may be a chore to keep him held back, in which case you will save yourself from a lot of arm strain by investing in an easy walk harness, which has a clasp in front of the dog’s chest rather than on the dog’s back. The same company also makes a head harness, which some people prefer, but I find the chest harness is sufficient (I’ve also had dogs pull out of the head harness). Connecting the leash at the chest causes the dog to turn himself around if he pulls too hard, so eventually he gives up trying to pull.

off-leash heelingSince your dog’s instinct after being cooped up all day long in the house will be to want to run, you may want to play a little ball with him before going out for your walk. I recommend setting a routine where you keep the dog on a fairly short leash so the dog stays beside you when you are on city sidewalks, and then when you get to a park or a grassy area, give him more leash and let him sniff around as much as he wants to. You may also let him sniff and mark bushes when he his on a short leash, but only within the constraints you have set for him.

Remember that you dog looks to you to know what is appropriate, and when he knows the “routine,” it will be both reassuring and something he looks forward to. Ideally you should walk your dog once in the morning and again in the evening, so he has something to look forward to, and you will get a bit of fresh air in the bargain.

Photo Credit: Johan Appelgren (top), redteam

Why Spay/Neuter your pet?

Unbelievably, just one unaltered female dog, her mate, and their litters can produce over 67,000 puppies in a scant six years!  While in the U.S., more than four million unwanted dogs and cats are euthanized annually, taxpayers rest assured that, in spite of this grim statistic, most of these animals die humanely and without undue suffering in the pounds and shelters across the country.

Last year, over 15 million cats and dogs were killed in animal shelters and pounds in the United States, and this figure does not include the many pets who were thrown out of cars, left by the side of the road, or dropped in woods and fields. Yet we can’t kill the myths that are perpetuating their destruction.

Then why don’t more people spay or neuter their pets? There are a number of myths that people believe which hinder their decisionmaking.

Which of these myths do you still believe?

MYTH: It’s better to allow your female to have one litter before she is spayed.
FACT: Not true! There is no information to substantiate this claim. In fact, the best time to spay your female dog or cat is before her first heat.

Here are the details:

  • Spaying your female at a young age prevents uterine infections, such as pyometra, which can be fatal. Infections of the uterus are a major cause of illness in unspayed pets.
  • Spaying reduces the incidence of mammary (breast) cancer. This is a very common cancer in unspayed females, and the most common cancer to spread to the lungs.
  • Spaying can be done while your pet is pregnant. While this means aborting the offspring, it is more humane than taking them to the pound later. Also, for every litter you bring into the world, a litter at the pound dies.
  • Spaying eliminates unwanted males from harassing your pet.
MYTH: Preventing pets form having litters is unnatural.
FACT: We have already interfered with nature by domesticating dogs and cats. We domesticated the dog 15,000 years ago and the cat 8,000 years ago.

In doing so, we helped create this problem. Now it’s our responsibility to solve it. It’s also unnatural to be killing so many of them in our pounds and shelters each year.

MYTH: I want my children to see the miracle of birth.
FACT: Frequently animals go off by themselves to give birth, usually in the middle of the night.

Teach your children instead about humaneness and kindness to all living creatures by educating them about the importance of spaying and neutering.

MYTH: I’ll find good homes for all the puppies and kittens.
FACT: You may find homes for all of your pet’s litter. But each home you find means one less home for the dogs and cats in shelters who need good homes.

Also, in less than one year’s time, each of your pet’s offspring may have his or her own litter, adding even more animals to the population. The problem of pet overpopulation is created and perpetuated one litter at a time.

MYTH: Pets become fat and lazy after being spayed or neutered.
FACT: Fat animals are usually over fed and under exercised.

It’s true there can be a tendency for a pet to put on some weight after the operation. But what is not true is that the operation causes the condition. If your pet shows signs of putting on a little weight, reduce the calories and increase the walks or play sessions. That will keep the waistline trim.

MYTH: A pet’s behavior changes dramatically after surgery.
FACT: The only changes in behavior you’ll see are positive ones! Here are the facts:
  • Male cats tend to reduce their territorial spraying depending upon the age at which they are neutered. If neutered young enough, before they develop the habit of spraying, they may never develop the behavior.
  • Neutered male cats and dogs fight less resulting in fewer battle scars, contagious diseases, and abscesses. They also wander less since they aren’t interested in pursuing the female in heat. Therefore, their chances of being hit by a car or getting lost are greatly reduced.
  • In fact, spayed and neutered animals live longer, happier, healthier lives.
MYTH: We don’t need to neuter males, because they aren’t the ones having the litters.
FACT: This is most prevalent myth yet the most ridiculous. Immaculate conception doesn’t explain canine and feline pregnancies.

It takes two to tango. Help to become a part of the solution to bring an end to the pet over population problem spay/neuter your pets.

MYTH: Neutering male cats causes urethral obstructions.
FACT: Exhaustive studies have indicated that obstructions are not affected by whether or not a cat is neutered.

In fact, neutering diminishes the likelihood of prostate and testicular cancers and perineal hernias later in life. To prevent urethral obstructions, make sure your pet is eating the best diet possible.

MYTH: I can find “good” homes for all the puppies or kittens that female birth to.
FACT: Finding truly good, lasting homes for kittens and puppies is very difficult.

Many pets are taken to the pound or otherwise discarded once they start to grow. And, who is to ensure that your pet’s offspring won’t mature, breed, and contribute to the existing problem?

There is no way you can guarantee these animals will be spayed or neutered. Also, for every animal you bring into the world, one at the pound will die. Do yourself a favor and avoid the agonizing job of trying to find homes for your pet’s litter. If you know of some good homes, send your friends to the pound. There are many animals waiting there. And their time is running out.

MYTH: My dog won’t be a good watchdog if I neuter him.
FACT: If he was a good watchdog before the surgery, he will be a good watchdog after the surgery.
MYTH: The operation costs too much money.
FACT: There is A LOT of financial help available. Call us (909-801-0012) or your local humane agency about the cost- effective ways you can get your pets spayed and neutered. You’ll be surprised how inexpensive it can be!

If your pet isn’t spayed or neutered, make an appointment today for surgery. The more altered animals there are, the fewer homeless ones there will be.

If you would like to find low-cost spay/neuter services, we hope you will find the following information helpful.

  • SPAY/USA, a program of The Pet Savers Foundation, is a nationwide network and referral service for affordable spay/neuter services.Call 1-800-248-SPAY (7729) or go to for more information. Hours are Monday-Friday from 9 am- 4:30 pm (Eastern time).
  • For families in the Los Angeles area with income of under $40,000/yr, the San Simeon Foundation offers FREE spay/neuter services for free out of their mobile van. For more information, please call (888) 364-7729 or visit the San Simeon Foundation website.
  • Actors and Others for Animals provides FREE spay/neuter for pit bulls and pitbull mixes, as well as Rottweiler and Rottweiler mixes. Participants must meet certain qualifications. For more information, please call (818) 755-6045 or (818) 755-6323.
  • The L.A. Spaymobile state-of-the-art mobile clinic provides free spay and neuter surgery for dogs and cats living with income-qualified families in the City of Los Angeles. If you receive a Department of Water and Power bill, then you live within the city limits. For information on qualifications, as well as a schedule of clinic locations, visit L.A. Animal Services website at or call (800) 772-9452 to make an appointment.
  • Try a zipcode search on the ASPCA website to find providers in your area.

Microchipping: Quick & Easy!

How Microchips Save Lives

The single most important thing you can do to protect your animal from theft or loss is to make sure that your animal has identification on at ALL times. Although collars with ID tags and licenses are very important (and often required by law), they can fall off or intentionally be removed if your animal is stolen or becomes lost. Don’t wait until it’s too late!

Developed by a veterinarian, the AVID® and HomeAgainTM microchips are safe, permanent and take only seconds to administer. The tiny injectable “chip” contains a one-of-a-kind identification number and is recognized worldwide. A special scanner is used to read the microchip through the skin of the animal. The animal feels nothing as the chip’s number quickly appears in the scanner’s viewing window. With a phone call, the registered chip can be traced back to the purchaser if necessary.

Microchips are a permanent, positive form of identification that cannot be intentionally removed or lost. They are one of the safest, simplest and least expensive ways to protect your companion animal. It’s no wonder the animal welfare and veterinary communities are touting microchips as the wave of the future!

A microchip is a tiny computer chip programmed with an identification number, comprised of biocompatible material. The device is approximately the size of a grain of rice and small enough to fit inside a hypodermic needle. The chip is simply injected under the animal’s skin, often in the scruff of the neck, where it stays safely lodged for the rest of the animal’s life. Animals of any age can be injected with microchips, although some veterinarians prefer to wait until cats are six months of age.

The computer memory in the microchip contains a unique identification number. No two animals are ever assigned the same number. A radio signal is used to read the number with a scanner through the skin of the animal. Most shelters and veterinary offices have scanners in their offices and use them regularly.

When a shelter staff member or veterinarian discovers an animal with a microchip and identification number, he or she immediately contacts the microchip company. A telephone representative for the microchip company will access a database and provide the caller with the animal guardian’s contact information. If the animal is not registered on the microchip company’s national database, the name and number of the veterinarian or shelter who installed the microchip will be provided. Veterinarians and shelters maintain their own separate databases that are often used in conjunction with the microchip company’s national database or registry.

How Much Does A Microchip Cost?

Microchips generally cost around $40. Although veterinarians only charge approximately $25 to implant the microchip and register on their database, it costs $15 extra to register on the microchip company’s national database. Some people balk at the extra $15 charge, but we highly recommend signing up on the national registry. This can significantly increase the chances that your lost animal will be reunited with you, should he or she become lost. The national registry is staffed around the clock, while vets and shelters are usually not open 24 hours a day.

The chips most commonly used in the United States companion animal industry are AVID® and HomeAgainTM. Shelters know and trust these microchip companies to provide fast recovery services for lost pets. In the mid 90’s, shelter groups asked microchip companies to provide shelters with a “universal” scanner that could read both chips. Since then, rescue groups, shelters and humane societies can use a single scanner to detect any 125 kHz microchip.

United Hope for Animals fostered dogs are micro-chipped. We strongly suggest that you also microchip your current pets. When you adopt one of our dogs your dog’s foster person will guide your through the microchip process and answer any questions that you might have.

Photos by: Adam Lisagor