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Dog ownership is extremely rewarding, and owning a dog can be associated with overall wellbeing. As with most things in life, dog ownership comes with certain responsibilities which contribute to happy and healthy lives with our dogs.

This page will feature information about dog ownership, as well as helpful hints and training tips, behavioural information and, of course, cute dogs!

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Kids and dogs – can we leave them alone together?

Kids and dogs – can we leave them alone together?

kids and dogsGrowing up with a dog can be a wonderful life experience. Watching your kids and dog play and learn together is heart warming. They can share a special bond with memories to last a lifetime. Despite this bond, leaving them alone unsupervised together, even for just a minute, is not worth the risk. The potential of miscommunications and misunderstandings between kids and dogs are high. When left alone, behaviours can change quickly. Supervision is not just about watching child and dog, it is also about intervening quickly and effectively when needed.

Can you identify signs of fear or stress in your dog? Do you know what to do if you see them? How do you tell if your dog or child is becoming over the top, hyper-excitable, insecure or overwhelmed?

Teach your dog and your child how to share their environment appropriately and safely around each other and recognise when either your dog or child may need a break from the other. This includes helping your child to respect your dog’s right to say no if they want to take themselves to bed or try to get away.

Some of the best ways for kids and dogs to interact are through training and games. Kids can:

  • Set up treasure hunts (with dog food or toys) around the house or the backyard (make sure they remember where they left everything!)
  • Train tricks or easy behaviours like ‘sit’, ‘drop’ or ‘hand targeting’
  • Create enrichment toys with food inside out of cardboard, rinsed bottles or the like
  • Throwing toys around the backyard (lots of toys!)
  • Going for walks with mum or dad
  • Exploring new areas together

For more information on dog body language please see our Quiz here:

Dog Speak Quiz

Keep pets calm and busy indoors in the wet and cold season

Keep pets calm and busy indoors in the wet and cold season

dogs indoorsDogs are bred and built for a purpose! And dogs will be dogs! If you leave them to their own devices, they won’t make the best choices!

One of the most valuable ways to provide them with mental and physical enrichment while you’re at work during the day is to take them for a walk in the morning! That way, they’ve released some energy and got some mental enrichment for the quiet day ahead.

In winter, taking your dog for extra walks to help tire them out and give them adequate enrichment during the day is more difficult! No one wants to go out in the cold after a long day at work, or first thing in the morning before the sun’s up!

Here are some options that you might be able to utilise to help keep your dog busy and sane during the winter months…

Many enrichment options utilise your dog’s daily food ration (instead of getting fed for free in a bowl). Dogs are contra-freeloading – that means that most of the time, they prefer to work for their food rather than get it for free.

  • You can stuff your dog’s breakfast or dinner into food dispensing toys so that they spend more time problem solving on how to get the food out.
  • Scatter their dry food on the back lawn or pavers so they can search for every single piece.
  • Rotate their toys every few days so they think they’ve got a whole new one to play with!
  • Take them for car rides on short errands so they can sniff out the window! However please do not leave your dog in the car for long periods unsupervised, and especially in the sun or warm weather.
  • Use snuffle mats to help utilise your dogs sniffing capabilities – this will help calm them down and tire them out.
  • When you do get your dog out – let them sniff! Dogs perceive their world through their noses. Where you can smell a cake cooking in the microwave, they can smell each individual ingredient, how long it’s been cooked for and who touched the ingredients before they went in the oven. Giving them ample access to smells and new areas is integral to their well being.
  • Change up your dogs exercise regime – go for longer walks, runs, play sessions with friends and ambling sniffs.
  • Do some training at home!
  • If your dog really struggles – you might consider a dog walker, dog trainer or doggy day care facility once a week or fortnight to help alleviate any stress or boredom. Just make sure you interview the people and are able to see behind the scenes while your dog is there if it’s a doggy day care facility. If your dog is shy or timid, or aggressive doggy day care centres won’t be the place for you. Some dogs love play dates with their best mates, but don’t need to meet new dogs every day – ensure your dog is happy to attend doggy day care and is provided with several breaks throughout the day to give them time to calm down and relax.
  • Ensure your dog has shelter and feels warm, safe and comfortable when you leave them during the day.

Does your dog go into a fireworks frenzy?

Does your dog go into a fireworks frenzy?

dogs and fireworksFireworks can be terrifying for our pets because they’re sudden and loud, unpredictable and make the ground shake.

If your dog hates fireworks they might:

  • hide or cower
  • attempt to escape
  • shake or tremble
  • urinate or defecate
  • drool excessively
  • refuse treats (where they normally would love them)
  • bark, howl or whine

Find out more about what your dog is trying to say with their body language here:  http://www.charlessturt.sa.gov.au/DogSpeakQuiz

Here are some tips that might help your dog during fireworks:

  • Ensure your dog’s ID is up to date. Registered and microchipped dogs, with ID on collars, are easier to reunite with their owners
  • Keep your dog company or ask friends or family they trust to look after them
  • Double check gates and doors are secure, there’s no gaps in the fence, and there’s nothing against the fence (e.g. bins or pot plants) the dog can use to escape.
  • Avoid tying your dog up or using a crate to control them – they may injure themselves in a panic
  • Leave them inside (they don’t need free run of the house, but being inside, even in just one room, might help them feel safer
  • Shut blinds or windows to reduce noise and the sight of fireworks
  • An additional walk or training game late in the day will help tire them out
  • They may want to hide to feel safe. This can be in weird locations like under the bed, under the couch, in the laundry, in a cupboard, or they might try to burrow in with you – - let them if you can
  • Turn the TV up or play music (especially classical music) to help muffle the sound
  • Play games or use long lasting, high-value treats like stuffed Kongs, chews or bones  (dependent on advice from your veterinarian) as a distraction
  • Speak to your vet about short-term medication as an option
  • Leave your dog at home if you’re celebrating near fireworks. The closer they are, the more frightening it can be!
  • Invest in training: Trainers can also help you with a specific counter-conditioning plan for next time: You can find a list of qualified, experienced trainers on the RSPCA SA website: http://www.rspcasa.org.au/the-issues/force-free-dog-trainers/

Most importantly: comfort them. ‘Reinforcing fear’ is a myth – you can’t make an emotion worse by being compassionate. None of us choose to be scared – if your dog is scared, they need your patience and support! Be there for them.

Keeping pets safe in Summer!

Keeping pets safe in Summer!

heat stressed dogsThis summer, think twice before taking your dog out in extreme temperatures. Unlike us, dogs can’t sweat to cool down and heatstroke is a very real risk.

Dogs that are older, overweight, puppies or brachycephalic (short-nosed, like pugs, bulldogs and boxers) are especially vulnerable to the heat. It’s safest to keep them at home on hot days (even over 27° and sunny).

Never leave your dog in a vehicle, even in the shade with the windows down. Dogs die in hot cars.

Heatstroke is a medical emergency. If you suspect your dog has, or is recovering from, heatstroke, don’t hesitate - get them to a vet immediately.

What are the signs?

  • Heavy panting
  • Drooling, excessive salivation
  • Restlessness
  • Very red or pale gums
  • Bright red tongue
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Vomiting or diarrhoea
  • Confusion
  • Lethargy, weakness
  • Muscle tremors / seizures
  • Little/no urination
  • Collapsing, stumbling, staggering

Some dogs may look happy to continue their walks regardless of whether it’s good for them or not. It’s safest to shorten your walk so they can cool off quickly. In fact, missing a walk every now and then won’t be detrimental if the alternative is a risk of heat stroke.

Exercise tips for hot days:

  • Fill a paddling pool with water and bob for treats or toys in the shade
  • Alternatively, fill it with sand and bury some treats for them to dig up
  • Create a treasure hunt for hidden treats around the house
  • Freeze your dog’s breakfast or dinner to cool them down while they eat
  • Create large blocks of ice for them to play with during the day
  • Play tug-o-war inside or do some trick training
  • It’s never too early or too late to start training – and it’s mentally stimulating!
  • Use treat dispensers, or cardboard boxes to feed your dog in – they love problem solving and working for their food
  • Organise a supervised play date with a really good friend in the cool of the evening, or inside.
  • Some dogs like to dig in their water to cool down, so ensure your dog has multiple sources of water and shade at home on hot days

If you must walk your dog on a hot day make sure it is really early in the morning (where the ground has cooled down), keep it shorter than normal, and choose a route that includes lots of shade. If you can’t stand bare foot on the pavement for 7 seconds, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws! 

More ideas about exercise and enrichment can be found in our Animal Management Kit and ‘What’s the Barking Deal’ booklets, available on our website (see related links). Please consult your vet if you have any questions about weather or health appropriate exercise for your dog.

Body Language - accordion - Dog Blog

Body Language

Animal-Body-LanguageLiving with pets is incredibly rewarding. They provide us with companionship, unconditional love, someone to talk to without judgement, social interaction and, in the case of dogs, often get us out of the house for exercise and training. Our pets give us so much. And just like parents of human children, we can often feel guilty for not providing for them as much as we feel is ideal, or worry about the mental and physical wellbeing.

One of the best things we can do for our pets is to learn more about what they’re trying to say. Our pets communicate via body language. That is, they use body posture and positioning to let you and others know whether they are happy and relaxed, feeling nervous or stressed, fearful or aggressive. Body language that shows your dog or cat is stressed, fearful or unhappy are signs that they need more space. That means pause when you notice, give them time to choose to come to you, or to approach the thing that caused the stress in the first place. If you see these signs, it’s important you respond accordingly and give them space however you can if it’s safe to do so.

Body language can also let you know that they’re happy and content. For instance, you can ask your dog or cat what their favourite space for pats is. Give them a scratch on one spot (their chin, chest, rump or shoulders, or massage their ears) and stop after a few seconds. If they look back at you, lean in, paw or nudge you to continue, you’ll know they loved it. If they remain still, turn their head, lean away or walk away, that’s valuable information they weren’t that interested at that moment. This is especially important to teach children when interacting with any animal! Allow the animal space to approach them, and then stop pats after a few seconds to see whether the animal is still comfortable. Continue to check in to confirm consent in every interaction you have. It’s a small thing you can do for your pet, but will make a world of difference to them.

Take a moment to study your pet so that you can tell what is ‘normal’ for them.  Below are some examples of dog and cat body language by Lili Chin (www.doggiedrawings.net) that can get you started. Have you seen your dog or cat display these body language signs before? In what contexts? Discuss it with your family and let your pet’s behaviour give you the information you need about what they enjoy or dislike.

We often think of training and pats as something we do to our pets, but gaining a better understanding of how they’re feeling in any given context means we are better equipped to train, walk and communicate with our pets. Conversation is a two-way street.  You’ll be surprised at how big a simple change like respecting their right to say ‘no’ for pats can make to your relationship with them.

Also try our Dog Body Language Quiz

Doggie Language

cat language

Is your home pet ready? - accordion - Dog Blog

Is your home pet ready?

Pet readyBringing a new pet home is an incredible experience. They add so much to our daily lives and teach us so much about living in the present and enjoying life to its fullest. They also help us teach our children about compassion, patience and responsibility. In fact, living with pets has been associated with healthy living and overall greater enjoyment of life. Australians have among the highest rates of pet ownership around the world, with more than 2 million homes owning more than one type of pet. In fact, approximately 38% of Australian households have dogs and 29% of homes have cats (AMA, 2016).

However, bringing a new pet home needs careful consideration – after all, the quality of life of our pets is vitally dependent on how well and compassionately we care for them. The RSPCA highlights the importance of not only caring for your pet’s obvious needs like food, exercise, housing, grooming and veterinary or preventative health, but also emphasises how vital meeting their psychological, behavioural and social needs are.

Before you commit to your new pet, here are some things to consider:

  • Is everyone in the household ready?
    It’s important everyone is eager to add a new member to the family before you take the leap. Dogs and cats can live for over a decade, and some birds or reptiles longer still – that’s a long time to live with an animal whose care and wellbeing is partly or wholly your responsibility.
  • Why are you thinking about it?
    Often, pet owners purchase a second pet in order to keep their first pet company. This can be a wonderful source of social interaction and comfort for your first pet, but equally can result in double the effort and resources for the owner. Animals are often social learners, so while it is possible that the well-trained first pet can teach the new one the ropes, the reverse is equally true. And if your first pet doesn’t have great manners to start with the chances of having double the trouble are high. Your pet does not need a pet – purchase a second pet when you are ready.
  • What type of pet will suit you the best?
    Investigate all the options. Do your research on the care, and mental and physical welfare requirements for a variety of pets (including different breeds/ species). Are you a busy family? Do you have the time and resources to provide for each of your pets’ physical, mental and social well-being? Pets bring so much into our lives with their unconditional love and loyalty, but can you give them the time and enrichment they deserve individually too? Are you aware of any potential health issues to prevent or manage for the pet you choose? If you’re unsure, chat to a qualified trainer or vet about which pet might suit you best. You can find a list of qualified trainers in Adelaide here: https://www.rspcasa.org.au/the-issues/force-free-dog-trainers/.

Bringing a new pet into your home is exciting. But please bear in mind that it can be quite a culture shock for the pet to be moved from their existing home (potentially all they’ve known) into a new social situation with new rules and expectations. Be patient as they adapt. Here are few things you can do to help them acclimatise:

  • Does the family agree on the house rules?
    What are the expectations around feeding from the table, access to bedrooms, beds or couches? Where will you leave the pet when you’re out of the house? Walking, feeding, cleaning up and training responsibilities? Your house rules need to suit you, your family and your pet first and foremost. If you want the dog on the couch that’s great, just make sure you teach them to get off when you ask. Don’t mind feeding them from the table – all good! Just feed when they’re as settled as possible, and not looking at you or begging for scraps. Avoid getting a social animal if you don’t want them inside the house and a part of the family. Social animals rarely thrive as outside or isolated pets. For instance - unless you spend all of your time at home outside with your dog, they will benefit greatly from being allowed inside (even if it’s restricted access to parts of the house and under supervision). All pets will learn best and most efficiently through consistency and routine, so making sure the family is on the same page is essential to a smooth transition for your pet.
  • Is the house or their area pet-friendly and safe?
    You’ll need to dog/cat/bird/ferret/rabbit proof your house, just like you would baby proof it – invest in pens, baby gates or crates, pet-friendly cleaning products and ensure electrical wires, bins and valuable items are out of reach. Should they remain in mostly carpet or tiled areas – small pets (rabbits, ferrets, etc.) can make a big mess and be destructive too. Please ensure each of your pets have their own safe space to escape to (from children or each other) if they need. Do your research on your backyard plants and fertilisers – many can be poisonous to pets (and they might differ per pet). Can they dig under your fence or jump over it? Solid, high fences are most appropriate for ensuring dogs are safe in your backyard. Cats can also be kept safe (and very happy) with outdoor cat runs or oscillot-style fencing systems to prevent them from exploring the neighbourhood after dark and potentially getting into fights or crossing busy roads. Find out more about keeping cats safe and happy indoors in our Animal Management Kit
  • Have you done your research?
    Just like all professions, some vets, trainers, groomers, pet-sitters or other animal care professionals are better than others. Have you chosen yours? Call a few and make a decision based on the connection you made over the phone, as well as their fees and availability and, most importantly, their attitude toward caring for your animal. Good pet industry professionals are often busy and need to be booked perhaps weeks in advance. Do you know how to read your pet? Do some research on what their body language means and how to tell whether they’re comfortable in different circumstances. You may find they’re not too happy with pats on the head, but love scratches on the chest – knowing how to read them will help you ensure they feel safe and comfortable as they learn more about their new home and life.
  • Do you have everything ready?
    Different pets will need different home area set ups, equipment, food and enrichment products to ensure they thrive with you. Ensure the equipment you purchase for your pet is humane and follows the recommendations by the RSPCA SA Lead By Example campaign. Food and water bowls, bedding, toilet areas, play pens, toys, food, shampoos, nail clippers, brushes and scratch posts can be purchased from pet stores. Good pet stores also provide a variety of enrichment toys and products for dogs, cats, and sometimes birds, but other options specific for any pet can be found in places like: http://www.petsneedalifetoo.com/products/index.php.
    Your vet can provide you with recommendations on food, enrichment, and preventative medical care like vaccinations and regular treatments for worms or fleas. Do you know what you’ll feed them? How will you transition them to the new food? Have you booked in their first health check or for dogs, booked in for puppy pre school? Puppy school is specifically for unvaccinated puppies 8-12-16 weeks of age. Many qualified trainers offer in home consultations prior to your pet arriving to help brainstorm the house rules, set up and transition process, or they can help with a smooth transition once the pet has arrived. Legally, you will also need to register your new dog with council (www.dogsandcatsonline.com.au)within 2 weeks of getting them, or by 3 months of age. Dogs and cats must also be microchipped, and must be desexed by 6 months of age if born after 1 July 2018.
  • Can you ease the transition?
    Are you able to spend ample time with the pet in their original home before bringing them to yours? Sometimes this isn’t possible, but it’s always worth asking the question. Any extra visits you can do while they’re in their original home (even just an hour at a time, for a few visits) before you bring them home can really help – you are then no longer a stranger, but someone they’ve met before and enjoyed spending time with. Can you take something of their original home with you? Again old smells may help them feel more comfortable in a new environment – literally a security blanket. For cats and dogs, pheromones may also help. These are specifies-specific, synthetically created smells that help dogs and cats feel safe and calmer that mimic those given off by their mums.  There are no known negative side effects, and they might really help. You can purchase Adaptil for dogs or Feliway for cats from most good pet stores or vets.
  • How will you build your relationship with them?
    Training using positive reinforcement (using toys, treats or social interaction as rewards for nice behaviour) is one of the best ways to build a trusting and lasting relationship with your new pet. Not only does it give them valuable information about the behaviours that will work well for them in their new home, but also help them associate you with good things. Training animals to go to a place (pen or aviary, or a specific place within those like a bed or perch) is a great first step that can help you manage your pet around the home. Similarly, teaching them to come to you (or to choose to step up onto your hand) are equally invaluable. Reinforce them with parts of their breakfast/ dinner as often as possible for performing these behaviours, even if they’re not perfect to begin with.

Bringing a new pet into your home is a big deal. Taking time to consider the above carefully will help make the transition from original home to yours as easy and simple as possible and give you a great foundation to start your new adventures together on the right foot.

You can find out more about animal management in the City of Charles Sturt here: https://www.charlessturt.sa.gov.au/AnimalManagement, and more about dog behaviour and training specifically here: https://www.charlessturt.sa.gov.au/dog-blog.

Why does my dog need to be on a lead? - accordion - dog blog

Why does my dog need to be on a lead?

why on leadThis is a question Charles Sturt officers get asked a lot. Often dog owners feel the by-laws are unnecessary because their dog is friendly and well trained… or small… or old… or needs to toilet… or is a puppy that needs to learn and socialise… We’ve heard them all.

In fact, we’re sure “It’s okay, he’s friendly” are words every dog owner has heard on their walks, or perhaps yelled in haste as their own dog approaches another person or dog in the distance.

The phrase is well intentioned - designed to reduce any worry the other person might feel about being approached by an unknown dog. But it misses one small and incredibly important concept – it’s not about your dog at all.

While we understand a dog owner’s frustration that their well-behaved dog can’t explore to their heart’s content, it is important to remember we have an equal number of people who are unable to relax in our public spaces without fear of being approached by a dog. These include people with dog-related allergies, phobias and fears or are simply not comfortable around dogs and that is okay. Let’s also remember that not all dogs are social butterflies (and that’s okay too) as they might prefer the company of their family alone.

Our laws exist to ensure everyone in our community can feel safe, happy and comfortable in our public spaces.

Most owners understand the risks associated with walking their dogs off lead on our public footpaths. Life is unpredictable. Even your well trained, sociable dog might chase a cat across a road or eat dangerous food scraps left by others in the gutter or panic and run if a car backfires unexpectedly.

It is also equally important that pet owners adhere to our lead laws in off-lead zones. That is, dogs must be on lead (2m or less) on our foreshore between 10am and 8pm on daylight savings times. Dogs can only ever be off lead outside of those times or in our off-lead reserves and dog parks if they are under effective control – they’re within sight at all times, close to you and under verbal control. If you can’t call your dog away from another dog or person, he shouldn’t be off lead in the first place.

Regardless of how sociable your dog is or whether you’re in an off lead or on lead zone, it’s polite and respectful to ensure your off lead dog doesn’t encroach on another’s space (especially if they have another dog that is on lead) unless invited.

We ask that dog owners respect others that are using the same space in the community. Please call your dog away from other people or dogs that are on lead (even in an off lead space), or put your dog on lead while passing that dog and let them off again when it’s safe to do so.  

There are also a few things to consider from a behavioural perspective:

  • As dogs age, their preference for friendship moves from quantity to quality – they don’t need to (or necessary like to) meet and play with lots of new dogs – instead they prefer to hang with a few good friends.
  • Off lead play for puppies can be detrimental if their play partner doesn’t tailor their play to the puppy’s needs (puppies can get overwhelmed very quickly as they learn about life.)
  • Interactions where one or both dogs are on lead can often seriously restrict the ability for the dogs to communicate with each other via body language (their primary language) – because of this, misunderstandings are more likely to occur and the risk of dogs having negative experiences with other dogs is high.

You can find out more about your dog’s behaviour, appropriate play, body language, exercise and the leash laws in our Animal Management Kit.

We value all in our community and want to ensure all can feel safe and enjoy our public spaces equally. Regardless of your dog’s temperament, we need your help to achieve this.

Leash No Leash Flowchart

 

Your dog and the law

Your dog and the law

RegulationsFrom 1 July 2018,  new laws were introduced surrounding dog and cat ownership in South Australia. That is, all dogs and cats must be:

  • Microchipped prior to 3 months of age or within 28 days of getting them,
  • Desexed before 6 months of age, or within 28 days of getting them, if they are born after 1 July 2018.

Under the Dog and Cat Management Act and Council By-Laws, you are required to:

  • Register your dog by 3 months of age (or within 2 weeks of getting them).
  • Renew your dog’s registration on DACO (www.dogsandcatsonline.com.au) each year between 1 July and 31 August.
  • Ensure your dog has their lifetime registration number clearly displayed on their collar or a disc attached to collar or harness.
  • Update your dog’s registration on DACO if the dog moves to a different premises, the dog passes away or is missing for more than 72 hours or if ownership of the dog is transferred to someone else.
  • Put your dog on lead (<2m) in any public space including footpaths, ovals and squares unless otherwise signed.
  • Put your dog on lead within 5m of a playground.
  • Carry a poo bag with you at all times, regardless of whether your dog toilets away from home or not.
  • Have effective control over your dog (keep them within sight and close by and have verbal control) in off lead spaces.

You can find out more about the animal management laws in the City of Charles Sturt Council in our Animal Management Kit or online at https://www.charlessturt.sa.gov.au/AnimalManagement.

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