How to Break Your Protective Dog’s Behavior

Protective Dog

Q: My dog is very protective of me, my husband, and my mother. She doesn’t like it when other dogs are around any of us and even got protective when a kid came running at us. How can I break this behavior?

A: Many dogs are protective of their pack members (humans included), not just the “protective” breeds. As pack animals, dogs want someone to be the leader. Most dogs would just assume not fill that role; it’s a lot of work! However, if no one is confidently doing it, every dog will feel the need to step up. What does that mean? If the human members aren’t acting as the leader (confidence is key), the dog will instinctively do it – protecting them from potential “threats.”

One of the best ways to rehabilitate an overprotective dog is socialization. Unfortunately, she can’t just be forced into meeting people and dogs. It’s just as detrimental, though, to keep her locked away. To find the right balance, socialization must be controlled with calm, assertive handling. If, for example, the handler is nervous that she’ll act out when other people or dogs approach, the dog will read that energy and respond accordingly, protecting the handler from the perceived threat. If, however, the handler remains calm and in control, the dog will feel more at ease and will be less likely to respond negatively to the visitor.

The initial interactions must be well-chosen, then. Choose human and canine visitors who will not be nervous or aggressive themselves. The ideal visitors will be aloof to her behavior, helping her understand they aren’t a threat. It’s helpful to have her leashed in the beginning. Calmly praise and reward her for appropriate interactions, and calmly take her out of the situation when her behavior turns.

One great way to practice these socialization exercises is on a walk. The handler should, of course, be the person in control of the dog (remember to utilize that calm, assertive behavior), but the visitor should accompany you. This puts the dog into a great environment doing something they love, and she has to remain focused on the task at hand. If she acts out with dogs, you can also go for walks with another handler and dog. At first, you may have to walk with some distance between you and the other team. As she gets more comfortable, though, you can move closer together until you’re able to walk together.

It’s also important with this question to mention the fearful dog. Fear is commonly mistaken for overprotective. Be sure to read the dog’s body language. If she’s slinking down, tucking her tail, or drawing her ears back when she’s barking and growling, she probably isn’t overprotective at all. It’s more likely that she is simply scared. Dogs have a natural fight or flight mentality. When they get scared, many dogs will run and hide, attempting to avoid the trigger completely. Some dogs, though, will flip their fight switch on and will bark and growl at the trigger to scare it away. Think of the mailman, for example. When he comes to the door, the dog barks and growls at him, and it works – or at least the dog thinks it does! The mailman walks away. A fearful dog also needs socialization, but the methods are quite different.

by Jodi Hoyt, Hoyt Consulting

Hoyt Consulting


Visitors at the Door

Greeting Visitors Appropriately

Q: My dog gets really excited when someone comes to the door. How can I get her to greet the visitor appropriately without barking and jumping?

A: This question has two big things to address – the sound of the doorbell or knocking and the actual person coming through the door.

To get Fluffy used to the sound of the doorbell or knocking (whichever is more common for you), we need to desensitize her to the noise. Until now, every time she’s heard that magic sound, a visitor has shortly after come through the door, and Fluffy has responded with abounding excitement. To desensitize her to the sound, we’re going to help Fluffy associate it with her favorite reward and her assigned “spot” (bed, kennel, rug, etc.) to wait. This task will require two people: one person will go outside the door and be the “visitor” ringing the bell or knocking while the other person (the “handler”) will work with Fluffy inside.

  1. The handler should have in hand Fluffy’s most valuable reward – a delicious treat, her favorite toy, a Kong toy with peanut butter – whatever she loves the most.
  2. The visitor is responsible for providing the distraction – ringing the doorbell or knocking on the door.
  3. When the handler hears the distraction, she should get Fluffy’s attention with the reward, lure her to her spot, and give her the reward for ignoring the sound and focusing on the handler. Remember, she only gets the reward when she is quiet, ignoring the sound, and staying on her spot. At first, the visitor doesn’t need to enter the home; we’re just working on the sound.

As Fluffy becomes desensitized to the sound, she’ll start to go to her spot and wait for her reward simply at the sound of the bell or knock. At that point, we knows she’s associating the noise with something other than a visitor, and we can start inviting the visitor into the home.

  1. When the visitor is entering the home, continue to reinforce Fluffy’s staying on her spot with the reward.
  2. As long as she is calm, the handler can release her from her spot to greet the visitor.
  3. If she gets over-excited, the visitor should ignore Fluffy, and the handler should lure her back to her spot with the reward. She only gets to greet the visitor in a polite manner – quietly with her feet on the floor.

It’s important to remember that desensitizing a dog from anything takes times. Consistent and frequent practice is essential for success. I recommend practicing three to four times a day for about ten minutes each time. Longer sessions can frustrate both the dog and the handler, making training more difficult. In addition, remember Fluffy will respond to everyone coming through the door in the same manner. If she’s allowed to jump up on and bark at her human pack members, she’ll assume that’s ok for visitors too. Consistency and structure are key!

by Jodi Hoyt, Hoyt Consulting

Hoyt Consulting

Communicating with Dogs

Communicating with Dogs

We’ve all been there. Fluffy is really excited, and you’re frantically pleading, “Fluffy, sit!” While Fluffy may (or may not!) hear you, she certainly isn’t responding to that command learned years ago. Why is that? We know she’s excited, but does that mean she forgot how to sit?

Dogs communicate in a variety of ways, but their preferred method is visual. They use their posture and body language to communicate with other dogs AND with people. If visual communication is the dog’s preference, why do we humans insist on shouting verbal commands at them then? It’s in our nature! We use our voices to communicate so we assume they should too. If you want to really connect with your dog, though, visual communication will be far more successful.

I teach every new command using just my hands (and maybe a delicious treat) to guide them or “lure” them into a behavior. Without saying a word, I can easily get a dog to sit politely simply by providing a visual lure to follow. Once the dog is following the lure consistently, a verbal command can be added if desired, but it isn’t even necessary. In fact, my dogs will often respond to hand signals much more quickly and consistently than verbal commands.

Let’s use the sit command as an example.

  1. Hold a delicious treat between your thumb and first finger.
  2. Hold the treat in front of the dog’s nose for a few seconds without letting her eat it.
  3. When she’s focused on the treat, slowly pull your hand straight above her nose and toward your chest.
  4. If she jumps for the treat, hold your hand still and wait. After a few seconds, many dogs will drop into the sit.
  5. When her bottom falls to the floor (and her front feet remain on the floor), praise and reward her with the treat.
  6. Be careful not to treat her when she’s not in the sit position. For example, if she pops up or paws at you when you reach to give her the treat, start again. She must be in the sit position to receive the reward.

Another great benefit to visual commands is the dog’s desire to match your physical energy. If the human is raising their voice and panicking to communicate with the dog, the dog will also raise their energy level, excitement, and anxiety. If, however, the human is calmly giving quiet visual commands, the dog will respond with quiet compliance.

Next time you’re raising your voice and pleading with your dog to get them to follow a verbal command, try working with your hands instead.

by Jodi Hoyt, Hoyt Consulting


Hoyt Consulting

Blueberries Are Good For Dogs!


There are plenty of human foods that should not be given to dogs, but blueberries are not one of them.

Like us, there are many benefits dogs can reap from eating blueberries.

Blueberries are low in fat and high in fiber and vitamin C. Other nutrients included are manganese and vitamin K.

Lower cholesterol and improved heart function are just two of the benefits from feeding blueberries to your pup.

Sled dogs were fed blueberries for a study conducted by the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 2006. Results showed that these dogs had increased levels of antioxidants in their blood, which help in fighting cancer and heart disease.

It has also been shown in studies that blueberries can lower stroke risk and improve cognitive function in older dogs as well.

There are a few ways to give your dog blueberries. The best way to make sure they get the most nutrients is to feed them fresh berries. Fresh frozen berries also make a nice, crunchy treat for your dog.

Many commercial dog foods and treats contain blueberries. However, these may have less benefits than fresh blueberries, because many of the nutrients will be cooked out or combined with preservatives.

Make sure you don’t give your dog too many blueberries. They should be an occasional snack, not a daily treat. Too many blueberries for your pet can result in gastric upset and diarrhea. Consult your vet on what a safe amount of blueberries is for your dog. In most cases, ten or less will be safe.

Don’t feed your pup sugary treats containing blueberries like muffins or pancakes.

Instead, you can try making some homemade doggy treats with the recipe below.



(Makes about 30)

1½ cups oat flour

2½ cups quinoa flour

¾ cup flax meal

½ cup frozen, organic, unsweetened blueberries

¼ cup olive oil

1 large egg



1. Preheat oven to 350°F

2. In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients with 1 cup water to form dough. Roll out mixture between two sheets of plastic wrap to ¼ inch thick; remove plastic wrap and cut out biscuits with 3 ½ inch bone-shaped cookie cutter. Reroll scraps and continue cutting out biscuits.

3. Space biscuits 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes until nicely browned and firm.

4. Transfer biscuits to a wire rack. Turn off oven and place rack in oven overnight. Remove from oven and store in an airtight container up to 2 weeks.

(recipe from

{article by Brittany, fetch! intern}

Safety Tips: Adventures and Hiking with your Pup


We love exploring new places with our pups (a 10 year-young Golden Retriever, and a 1 yr old Border Collie/JRT mix) and it wouldn’t be an adventure without them.  They love to explore as much as, or even more than, we do.  Because of this, they can sometimes get in over their heads since they don’t know when to call it quits.  That is where we, and all other pet owners, need to be mindful of the activities that can turn from awesome to awful, and how to prevent them.  We’d like to share with you our top 10 tips for keeping your adventures on the awesome side:

1.         Mind the heat: Dogs cannot handle heat like humans can.  Dogs can only sweat lightly through their paw pads and through panting.  These aren’t the most efficient ways to cool off!  Only take your pup out for long walks, hikes, or play dates in the cool morning or late evening.  Brachycephalic (short faced) dogs like bulldogs, boxers, and pekingese have a harder time cooling off because they pant less efficiently than a long faced dog (think labs, goldens, poodles, etc.).  Be especially mindful of their exposure to the sun and heat in length, intensity, and activity level.

2.         Stay Hydrated: Keep them hydrated by stopping every 15-30 minutes for water breaks.  Avoid hot pavement or surfaces for long periods of a time to minimize potential for paw burns.  Try to incorporate clean water sources and shade to help keep them cool.  We like to plan hikes with a water source mid-hike.  It gives the dogs a good opportunity to cool down, and an excuse to take a break.  Always bring more potable water for you and your pup to drink than you think you need.  Animal waste in water streams can make them sick, and no body wants to get dehydrated.

3.         Know your closest veterinarian: This one is especially important if you are traveling or exploring a new place.  A very sad story last week reported about a dog dying from heat exhaustion while on a family hike in 90 degree weather.  Know the warning signs of heat stroke (bright red gums that turn to white or blue, excessive heavy panting, lameness or reluctance to continue walking, and eventually shock) so you can start cooling them off and get them to the nearest vet without having to search for cell service.  Cool your dog off by wrapping them in a large towel soaked in cold water, ice packs to the groin, and rubbing alcohol on their paw pads.  If it has progressed to the point of lameness and shock get them to the vet’s office immediately while applying the previous steps in transit.

4.         Stay out of algae blooms: Algae blooms are more likely to happen in standing water and manifest in large clumps of opaque green or blue-green masses. They are highly toxic.  A dog that ingests algae through drinking or licking themselves may appear to be healthy, and be suddenly very, very sick.  A dog recently died in Minnesota within hours of algae exposure.  His people just wanted to have fun at the lake and didn’t know any different.  Know the risks and what to look for in the water.

5.         Lifejackets aren’t just for kids: Did you know most dogs aren’t born knowing how to swim?  Despite the commonly known “doggie paddle,” you might have to get in the water with your dog to ensure they can keep their snout up, float and kick.  Also, dogs are very good at hiding pain or exhaustion when they want to keep playing.  Doggie lifejackets can be a good idea for dogs that beg for the ball to be thrown off the dock “just one last time.”

6.         Tie-outs and ID tags: Fireworks, large gatherings, new places and bonfires can potentially be scary for dogs.  Keep them on a leash, and don’t leave them unattended on a tether or underground fence.  Not only does it raise the chances for heat stroke, some dogs can achieve super-doggie strength, pain resistance, and stamina when frightened.  Consider getting your pet micro-chipped.  It is an inexpensive form of permanent identification that can be used by vets, animal control, or a humane society if your pet loses their collar or is stolen.  It can keep an older dog or other pet from being euthanized because they are deemed “homeless” in an overcrowded shelter.  And yes, a lost 15 yr old, one eyed dog was just saved from euthanization by a rescue in North Dakota only to be reunited with her owners a week later.  It can happen!

7.         Make a first aid kit: A first aid kit is important for both you and your pup.  Include items such as rubbing alcohol, gauze, saline solution, vet wrap, cotton strips for tying a tourniquet, cornstarch for helping to stop bleeding, wound spray, tweezers, gloves, and a good canine first aid book.  It is also a good idea to have an extra leash, large towels or old blankets if you need to create a makeshift stretcher, a flashlight, and matches.  And again, keep a list of veterinarian’s phone numbers and office locations.  Remember, web service via cell phone might not be available where you are headed.

8.         Clean up after your pets: It is always best to take any waste out with you if possible.  If not, it should be buried, just like human waste, at least 200 feet away from any water sources.  Animal and human waste can pollute our clean waters.  And, frankly, it is really frustrating for non-dog people and responsible pet owners alike.  Always bring extra bags, too!  I know a dog that would poop 3 times on any given walk.

 9.         Bring a Pack: Ok, so you’re looking at this list of things to remember and bring along, and you are asking us, “Hey, Lucky Pup, where am I going to put all this stuff??”  Well, adventurers, let me introduce you to the doggie backpack.  Just like a hiking pack is an asset for any human adventurer, a doggie pack will help keep some weight off your back.  A well fitting pack should sit over the dog’s shoulders and be snug, distribute the load, and not flop around.  And, make sure your pup never carries more than 20-30% of their body weight.  Start them off hiking with the pack nearly empty, and work up to more weight and longer periods of time.  A pack will add to the workout, which can be great for a high-energy dog.  We really like a pack made by Ruffwear that is a removable pack and harness together.  It is more expensive, but you get two high quality items.

10.  Enjoy!!! We are big advocates for taking your pets with you on adventures.  Not only does it strengthen the pet-human bond, but it makes for lasting memories.  Our pets only get to share in our lives for a short amount of time, so our Lucky Pup Adventures goal is to help you make the most of that time.  Get out there and try something new!  Can’t get out as much as you’d like with your furry friend?  Don’t worry, we can help!  Check us out at for more information.

Is Your Pet Afraid of Thunderstorms?


Photo courtesy of The Rein Coat

It has often been said that necessity is the mother of invention.  And that is true for Paula Hege and her beloved English Mastiff, Rabb. Three years ago, Rabb was trapped in a thunderstorm.  So violent was the storm that the creek behind Paula’s home flooded.  The natural instinct of animals is to escape to higher ground in a flood and that’s just what a moccasin did.

Rabb and her sister Roz, a boxer, encountered their first snake.  Rabb and Roz may have thought the snake was another toy to play with.  Scared, the snake bit both dogs, nearly killing both.  Looking out her office window at the intensity of the storm, Paula’s instincts took over.  She raced home to find both dogs lying in her backyard–near death.  Paula rushed both to the N. C. State University Veterinary School where a team of doctors nursed Rabb and Roz back to health.

But that event left Rabb, a 200-pound mastiff, deathly afraid of thunderstorms.  It was painful to see how fearful she was every time a storm occurred.   There wasn’t a product that could help calm Rabb’s fears.  All of Paula’s “TLC” still wouldn’t calm her mastiff.  That’s when Paula decided she had to come up with a solution to help her dog.

The product Paula developed, a new coat and harness technology, work by replicating a naturally occurring behavior between animals and their offspring in a gentle and nurturing manner.  Picture this:  A mother dog picks up her puppy by the scruff of his neck, calming the puppy.  The puppy relaxes because he knows his mommy is taking him safely out of harm’s way.

The Rein Coat® is designed to lightly touch your pet on the nape of the neck—just like the mommy dog or cat—triggering the production of oxytocin to be released by the brain, which then reduces the fear and anxiety in your pet.  In numerous trials, The Rein Coat® has proven effective in reducing anxieties while allowing your pet to move freely without constraint.

The Rein Coat® is a patent pending, therapeutic calming coat.  The technology is totally different than any other dog shirts or coats that are tight-fitting and restrictive.   As with Rabb, many dogs and cats fear thunder, loud noises, a trip to the vet or groomer, or riding in cars or on airplanes.

The Rein Coat® is available in eight sizes and fitting your pet with the proper size is easy to do.

Because each coat is hand made by skilled seamstresses, The Rein Coat® is not sold in most pet stores.  For more information on The Rein Coat® visit

Order online and enter coupon code FETCH and save 10%.

Don’t Leave Dogs In Cars


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Summer is here, which means trips to the lake and family barbeques.  While summer means fun in the sun for us, the warm temperatures can be dangerous to our furry family members if they’re left in our vehicles.

It’s a common misconception that a dog will be okay in a car for “just a few minutes.” However, thousands of dogs suffer from over-heating each year. Most often, this happens during quick stops like picking up dry cleaning or stopping in the local deli. On an 83 degree day, it only takes ten minutes for a car to reach 102 degrees, even with the windows cracked, according to the ASPCA. No matter how much your pets love riding in the car, they should be left at home for their safety.

Of course, our pets are our family, so we want them to come along for our fun summer activities.

If you must travel with your pet in the car, there are precautions you should take.

Bring a large thermos of cold water or a two liter bottle that has been frozen over night with to make sure your pup stays cool and hydrated.

If you need to stop somewhere, use the drive-up if possible, have someone stay in the car with your pet while you’re inside, or stop at a store that welcomes pets. If none of these options are possible, leave your pets at home.

If you see a dog in a car alone, take action.  Don’t be afraid to tell the dog’s owner that it is unsafe to leave dogs in hot cars. If you don’t know who the owner is, attempt to locate them by informing the manager of the store the car is parked in. Call animal control or the local authorities. Don’t leave until you know the dog is safe.

{by Brittany, fetch! intern}


Pet Fire Safety

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July 15th is Pet Fire Safety Day. Did you know that nearly 1,000 fires are accidentally started by pets and approximately 500,000 pets are affected by house fires annually? We’ve compiled a list of seven tips on how to keep your pet safe from a house fire.

1. Include your pet in your family’s fire safety plan. Arrange in advanced a safe place for them to stay in the event that you have to leave your home. Make your pets their own disaster supply kit. You can find a list of what to include here.

2. Remove or cover the knobs on your stove before you leave your home. Exploring stove tops is the number one way that fires are started by pets.

3. Don’t leave open flames unattended. This includes candles, fireplaces or any other type of open flame. Cats are notorious for accidentally knocking over lit candles with their tails and starting fires. Make sure candles are in proper holders and on stable surfaces. To be extra safe, consider investing in flameless candles.

4. Attach a pet alert window cling to your front window. Write down the number of pets in your home, and make sure it is updated. These window clings alert fire rescuers that there are animals in your house and helps them to locate your pets quickly.

5. Secure any wires or cords and keep them out of your pets reach. This is especially important for cats, since they are likely to play with anything that looks like string.

6. Keep pets near the entrance of your home when you’re away. This allows fire rescuers to locate them as quickly as possible. Also make sure to keep collars on your pets and leashes in plain sight in case your pets have to be taken out of the house by rescuers.

7. Make sure you have plenty of fire detectors. There should be at least one on every floor of your house.  If you’re away a lot, consider getting monitored fire detectors. If any smoke is detected in your home, these monitors will alert a call center.

{by Brittany, fetch! intern}


Editor’s note: Sparkles the Fire Safety Dog has several resources for you and your family to learn about fire safety.

SD Flight Dogs

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There are many organizations that run Dock Jumping events. The most popular ones are Dock Dogs and Super Retriever Series (SRS) Super Dock, both established in the year 2000. The Incredible Dog Challenge was the first to have Dock Jumping competition in 1997.

The Dock

The dock is 8 foot wide by 40 foot long and is 2 foot above the water. For the safety of the dogs, make sure the body of water they are jumping in is free from debris and at least 4 foot deep.

Distance Measuring Procedure

Dock Dogs and SRS both measure from the lateral midpoint of the end of the dock to where the base of the dog’s tail breaks the water’s surface. This is done with digital video freeze frame technology.

 photo 1


Big Air (Super Fly) – This is the long jump for dogs. The dog is placed anywhere on the 40’ dock, the dog runs and jumps in after a toy. The record jump is 25’.

Extreme Vertical (Super Fly) – This is the high jump for dogs. The dog starts at the 20’ mark on the dock and runs and jumps to releases a bumper that is suspended above the water with magnets. The bumper toy is extended out 8’ from the dock and starts at 4’6” and goes up 2” increments. The record is 8’ high.

Speed Retrieve (Super Speed) – This event is a timed event. At the far end of the pool a toy is suspended 2” above the water. The dog is placed at the 20’ mark, when the light turns green the dog is released and the time stops when the dog releases the toy from the bracket. Dock Dogs 101 Iron Dog (Super Triathlon) – This is a triathlon for dogs. The dog will compete in the three above events; the dog with the highest total score is the Iron Dog.

photo 2Dock Dogs is for all Breeds

If your dog loves to retrieve and loves the water, Dock Dogs may be the perfect sport for your dog.

Tips on Training

When training your dog for Dock Dogs the first training step is to get your dog to jump off the edge of the dock into the water. This is done by using your dog’s favorite toy and encouraging them to jump in. Once your dog is jumping into the water without hesitation add speed by placing the dog further back on the dock. When your dog is using the full 40’ length of the dock you are ready to improve your jumping distance by adding height. Height can be added by using the proper throwing technique to get your dog to extend for the toy.

South Dakota Flight Dogs

SD Flight Dogs has a four week basic / intermediate class for both Big Air and Extreme Vertical competitions

Current Location: Lake Brandt, SD

Cost: $40 per dog – Class size 8 dogs, sign up to reserve your spot at:

Local Dock Dog Events for South Dakota

Sioux Falls, SD SRS – Scheels August 9th

If you would like to learn more about Dock Dogs, contact your local Dock Training provider at or 605-201-2861. Find them on facebook here!

{Info and photos provided by SD Flight Dogs}


Pet Summer Safety

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Keep Your Pets Safe and Healthy This Summer

Summer is here! That means backyard BBQ’s, spending time on the water, 4th of July and many other outdoor recreation activities. But that also means summer dangers for pets.

You wouldn’t want an unexpected injury or illness of your pet to spoil summer fun, so check out these summertime hazards:


Summer Travel
Most people would agree that leaving your pet in the car on a 90 degree day would be bad for your pet. Cars can heat up fast, even with the windows cracked. But it’s those spring days that may be perfect to you, that can be deadly to pets left in the car. You should also make sure you have contact information for veterinarian offices in the area you are traveling to.

Heat Stroke
If you leave your pet outside during the day, make sure they have shade and fresh water. Also, if they are tied up, make sure there is nothing they can get their rope stuck on that prevents them from getting to shade and water.

shutterstock_111485450Water Safety
Not all dogs are good swimmers. If by chance your dog falls in the water or is hurt in the process, a life preserver can save their life. If your pet has any health problems or the water is cold and choppy, it can make the situation even worse. Don’t allow your pet to drink pool water, since the chemicals can cause an upset stomach and make sure you rinse your pet to get the chlorine and salt off their fur.

A New Doo
Giving your pet a short haircut in the summer can help them from overheating. But don’t cut it too short to the skin so they still have some protection from the hot sun. If you are using sunscreen or insect repellent, make sure it is approved for use on your pet.

BBQ’s & Parties
Food and drink may be the most common threat to pets. Keep alcoholic beverages away from pets, as alcohol has the potential to poison them. Many food items can also be toxic to pets. While you shouldn’t feed your pet any “people food”, keep an extra lookout for these items: grapes, onions, garlic, raisins, rhubarb, gum, nuts and chocolate.


4th of July
Who doesn’t love watching fireworks on the 4th of July? Well, Fido may be one of them. Keep pets away from all fireworks to prevent burns or even catching their hair on fire. Even if they aren’t lit, fireworks contain potentially toxic substances like potassium nitrate, arsenic and heavy metals. The noise can also be something your pet doesn’t like, so make sure there is a safe place your pet can go that is sheltered and escape-proof.

Antifreeze is a year-round hazard to pets. That bright green liquid is sweet tasting to pets and can be very toxic even in small amounts.

While it may be tempting to involve your pets with the summer activities and festivities, some foods, products and activities can be very hazardous to your pets. If you suspect any problem from these summer activities, take your pet to the vet immediately.

{Published in v1i1 of fetch! Sioux Falls Pet Magazine, June/July 2010}