I want to share with you how I taught my dogs to swim with confidence. Learn how to teach your dog to swim.

Dog Swimming | How To Teach A Dog To Swim

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Raising Your Pets, Dogs and Cats Naturally

How To Teach A Dog To Swim

Dog Swimming 101

I want to share with you how I taught my dogs to swim with confidence. Learn how to teach your dog to swim.
Dog Swimming

Growing up, I loved to swim. I spent every summer day at the local pool from 12-5 and 6-8. When we went to our friend’s cabin on the lake, I spent my days swimming and swimming some more. If I wasn’t swimming, I was walking along the shoreline with my dog, Toby, and the other dogs staying at the cabin. I still have a great fondness for water, but for whatever reason, I’m not a swimmer anymore. I do, however, still love walking the water’s edge and going knee-high to investigate what the water has to offer.

When I brought my golden retriever, Theo, into my life, I thought he would just take to the water and swim without any issues. He did take to the water right away, but he would only go chest-high. He did not want to take that last step where his feet would not touch the ground. The same was true when Dexter came into my life.

Today, I want to share with you how I taught my dogs to swim with confidence. Ideally, find a place in the water that has a gradual decline instead of a drop-off. This will allow you and your dog plenty of fun foot action, and help your dog get comfortable bouncing around in the water and having water splash around his face. Find something your dog thinks is exciting and interesting, and do a little play in the shallows. Maybe it’s a twig that you wiggle around on top of the water, enticing him to investigate and maybe grab. If your dog is a foodie, try luring him to take a few steps in the water, then treat him.

Once your dog is happy frolicking in the water, it’s time to take that first step into no man’s land. If your dog is chasing and retrieving a toy in the shallows, toss the toy about 2 feet past the point where he can touch. If he’s ready, he will go for it! Encourage him as he comes back with the toy. Repeat.

I want to share with you how I taught my dogs to swim with confidence. Learn how to teach your dog to swim.
Dexter Learning To Swim

If your dog isn’t retrieving in the water, squat down with him in the water and place your hands under his belly, gently moving him toward the deeper water, just a foot or two. Keep your arms under his belly for security as he gets his water feet going and doesn’t seem panicked. As you are supporting your dog in the water, turn him toward shore and let him go alone. Again, this is only about 2 feet from the point where he is able to touch the bottom. Repeat this process as he gets comfortable.

I want to share with you how I taught my dogs to swim with confidence. Learn how to teach your dog to swim.
Dog Swimming

A good tip for some dogs is to use a dog life jacket. Because a life jacket proves support and the ability to float, some dogs feel much more secure wearing them while they swim, particularly in the beginning stages.

Precautions and things to consider. If your dog just doesn’t seem that interested in swimming, so be it! Theo loved to swim—I had a hard time keeping him out of the water. Dexter, on the other hand, is a mucker. He likes wading in the water and walking the shoreline, but he prefers not to swim.

I want to share with you how I taught my dogs to swim with confidence. Learn how to teach your dog to swim.
Dexter Chillin’

Also, watch out for signs of water intoxication when your dog is swimming and playing in the water. Water intoxication or hyponatremia in dogs can be life threatening. According to Dr. Karen Becker, “Hyponatremia occurs when more water enters the body than it can process. The presence of so much water dilutes bodily fluids, creating a potentially dangerous shift in electrolyte balance. The excess water depletes sodium levels in extracellular fluid (fluid outside of cells). Sodium maintains blood pressure and nerve and muscle function.”

Who’s at risk for water intoxication? We all are, if we drink too much water too quickly. Babies and smaller-breed dogs are at a higher-risk due to their size, but all breeds and all sizes can develop water intoxication. Dr. Becker explains, “Any dog can develop hyponatremia; however, the condition is most commonly seen in dogs who will stay in the lake, pond, or pool all day if you let them; pets that lap or bite at the water continuously while playing in it; and dogs that swallow water unintentionally as they dive for a ball or other toy.” If your dog is acting strangely when playing in the water, vomits, or seems lethargic or uncoordinated, seek immediate veterinary care.

Remember, all dog activities and dog games need to be played with care and rest.

Water Intoxification: Dr. Karen Becker


Did you teach your dog to swim? Was he a natural swimmer, or did he just say ‘no, thanks’?  Tell me in the comments.

I want to share with you how I taught my dogs to swim with confidence. Learn how to teach your dog to swim.
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Understanding Pet Adoption Practices, Policies and Adoption Fees. Let’s take a look at some of the more common rules and guidelines for adopting a pet from a local animal shelter or pet rescue.

Pet Adoption | Understanding Pet Adoption Practices, Policies and Adoption Fees

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Dog Adoption and Cat Adoption

Understanding Pet Adoption Practices, Policies and Adoption Fees

Understanding Pet Adoption Practices, Policies and Adoption Fees. Let’s take a look at some of the more common rules and guidelines for adopting a pet from a local animal shelter or pet rescue.
Pet Adoption Rules

As you’re going through your Facebook feed, a sad but sweet face of a mixed-breed dog looking for a new home catches your eye. You read his rescue story about how he survived being hit by a car and a good Samaritan turned him into the local animal shelter, then a local dog rescue took him under their care to help him find his forever home. You are totally smitten by his story and he seems like such a great dog to add to your current home (husband, 2 kids, 7-year-old golden retriever).

You eagerly email the contact of the local rescue, explaining how you want to adopt him and make him a family member. To your surprise, the dog rescue coordinator explains that you first need to fill out an application for consideration. What? This dog needs a home, so why won’t the dog rescue group adopt him to your family? Don’t they trust that you would make a good home for him?

Does that scenario sound familiar to you? Maybe you have tried to adopt a pet, only to find out the pet went to a different adoptive home. Or maybe, like me, you are actively involved with animal rescue and you have to explain to people on a regular basis about the pet adoption process of the rescue group you are volunteering for. I’m here to help explain why some of these adoption rules, policies and adoption fees are important, and why some rescue groups may seem strict.

First, just a little background on my background for those who are new to Raising Your Pets Naturally with Tonya Wilhelm. I’ve been in the pet profession full time for two decades. My first role was working at an animal shelter caring for the dogs and cats that came into the shelter. After my stint at the animal shelter, I worked with an organization training rescued dogs to become service dogs. After five years, I transitioned to teaching pet parents how to train their dogs for both basic manners and behavioral issues. I also found myself taking a part-time role at an animal shelter for a year in the intake and euthanasia department. Some years ago, I was the Ohio coordinator for Cavalier Rescue USA for a few years. I ran the intake of Cavaliers coming into the program for Ohio, foster families and the Ohio adoptions. So, I’ve been in the thick of things for many years, and have played many roles in various aspects of pet adoption.

Let’s take a look at some of the more common rules and guidelines for adopting a pet from a local animal shelter or pet rescue.

  1. Application: Most, if not all, pet rescue groups require a potential adopter to fill out an adoption application. This can be as simple as contact information, to more in-depth, asking about your home, yard, other pets, activities, and work schedule. For some, this may feel like an invasion of privacy, but for me as an adoption matchmaker, it is THE key to helping make the best match possible. Maybe your home life is active and busy and you are looking for a dog or cat that would be a good fit and accompany you on your various vacations and outings. The dog you are looking at is quiet, reserved, or maybe even fearful. You feel you can “make it work” and you may be able to, but in my heart and head, this is not the perfect match. It certainly isn’t that you would make a bad dog parent, but this particular dog may not be the one for your family. When matching pets and families, I personally shoot for both the pet and adoptive family to think they have a match made in heaven. I think all parties involved deserve that feeling.
  2. Fence: Now, this is actually one that I do not always agree with. I personally don’t feel a blanket rule that potential adopters “must have a fenced yard” is appropriate for all dogs. I do feel there are some dogs that must have a fence, but this should be case by case. Here is my thought process on why I don’t feel a fence requirement should be mandatory for all dog adoptions, as long as the adopters are committed to walking the dog and not letting him run at large. I don’t have a fence. I’ve only had a fence for one year out of my dog-owning life. My dogs get at least one walk in the neighborhood every day. This is a minimum, and in addition to all their outside leash sniffing and potty breaks throughout the day. This means that I am with my dog outside and paying attention to them. They are not running in the yard alone, possibly eating something they shouldn’t, barking, or even escaping. My dogs have always had more than enough exercise on our walks, indoor ball fetching, and outdoor 50′ leash running. I have never owned a fat dog or a dog who gets so fired up seeing a leash that they race around the house like a nut. Now, don’t get me wrong—I think physical fences are a wonderful thing, and I look forward to the day I can fence my yard. But, when that day comes, I will still accompany my dog outside 100% of the time—he will never be unsupervised outside. A fence in itself is not ensuring a dog receives exercise; the dog guardian is the one to ensure the dog receives quality exercise. There may be a particular dog that needs a fence for a particular reason, but again, I feel that is a case by case situation.
  3. Apartment Living: Here is another blanket rule for some rescue groups. Some pet rescue groups will not adopt a dog or cat to a person if they live in an apartment. I understand their theory, that these people may be in flux and may decide to move to an apartment that does not allow pets, but once again, I feel this should not be a rule, but a consideration. Yes, I lived the majority of my golden retriever’s life in an apartment. As a matter of fact, we moved from Ohio to North Carolina and back to Ohio, and lived in four apartments during that time. Do you think it ever occurred to me to move to an apartment that didn’t allow large dogs? Never. That was not an option or even a consideration. I move with my family.
  4. Landlord Approval: Along the lines of adopting to someone who lives in an apartment or rental home, comes the landlord approval. I am 100% in agreement with this. If you do not have permission to have a pet, or a particular pet, then you should not be adopting. If you truly want to adopt, then the first step would be to find a home where this is acceptable. Then, work on finding the perfect pet to bring into your family.
  5. In-Home Visit: Some rescue groups require an in-home visit. The purpose of this visit is not to discriminate against a person or their way of life, but to help make the best matches and to point out any concerns. If I am looking to adopt an adolescent dog who still has a lot of puppy habits like chewing and getting into mischief, a home that is cluttered or full of expensive antiques may be challenging for both the puppy and the owners. On the other hand, an older dog that is not looking for trouble may be a better fit. It may be an opportunity for educating the potential owners on how to properly puppy-proof the home for a successful transition.
  6. Veterinary Reference: The veterinary care you provided to your past pets is an indicator of the care you can and will provide for future pets. This is not to be confused with yearly vaccinations, but at least a yearly examination with your veterinarian shows that your current or past pets were under the regular care of a professional. Your pet’s vet records will also show if your veterinarian recommended any treatments and if you followed up on those recommendations. A pet’s health care is essential to their longevity.
  7. Adoption Fees: I’m surprised people think they should be able to adopt a pet for a little fee or no fee at all. Wouldn’t it be nice if running a good animal shelter or pet rescue was free? Or if all the pets in rescue were vetted for free? Unfortunately, that is not the case. Sure, rescue groups and shelters receive donations and tax breaks, but this usually does not come even close to meeting their expenses. I know when I was the coordinator for the Ohio chapter of Cavalier Rescue USA, it was not uncommon for a dog to incur $600 or more of veterinary care. The dogs that came into our program were usually in poor health; extreme dental or skin conditions were common, and dogs often needed to see a heart specialist (MVD is common in the breed).

The bottom line is that most pet adoption centers only want to make the best matches for both the pet AND the new family. Sure, there are some groups or people that take advantage of the guidelines or seem holier than others, but this is not the norm, nor is this the intention of the adoption guidelines. Everyone involved keeps in mind the best interests of both the pets and the potential adopters. The goal is to find the perfect home and make the best match possible. Please remember that rescue groups and shelters see the worst of the worst, and only want to make good choices. The lives of these pets are in their hands and they are doing the best that they can with the tools they are given. If you’ve had a bad experience with a pet rescue group or animal shelter, please give them or another one a second chance. Don’t we all deserve second chances?


Have you adopted a pet? Tell me in the comments.

Understanding Pet Adoption Practices, Policies and Adoption Fees. Let’s take a look at some of the more common rules and guidelines for adopting a pet from a local animal shelter or pet rescue.
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I wholeheartedly believe pets are a great way to help teach a child responsibility and caring for another living being. The friendship between a pet and child can be an amazing thing to watch flourish. My family dog was my best friend growing up. But a pet is still not the full responsibility of any child.

Kids and Pets | Buying a Pet for Your Children

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Dogs and Kids

Buying a Pet for Your Children

I wholeheartedly believe pets are a great way to help teach a child responsibility and caring for another living being. The friendship between a pet and child can be an amazing thing to watch flourish. My family dog was my best friend growing up. But a pet is still not the full responsibility of any child.
Pets and Kids

As a professional pet behavior counselor, I’m often called in to assist pet parents with their dog’s or cat’s behavioral “problems.” I love my career and I love helping pet parents learn more about their pets and learn how to communicate better with them. But it really gets under my skin when an adult parent tells me, “It’s the kids’ dog and their responsibility.

These parents may tell me things like, they had long conversations on what role the child was going to play in the pet’s life and that it was a long-term commitment. That it was the child’s job to feed the cat, walk the dog, play with the dog etc. The parents in turn would be financially responsible. Really?

As adults, we can’t really believe that a 7- to 17-year-old child is going to make that commitment, or that they have the mental or physical capacity to train a 6-month-old large dog. What about their school? Friends? College? Think about their favorite game or activity from a year ago—is it still their favorite thing to do?

I wholeheartedly believe pets are a great way to help teach a child responsibility and caring for another living being. The friendship between a pet and child can be an amazing thing to watch flourish. My family dog was my best friend growing up. But a pet is still not the full responsibility of any child.

Dogs are great friends
Toby ’70s

When deciding to bring another member into a family, it’s important to realize that pets are a lot of work! Especially if you are thinking of getting a puppy or kitten. Expect two full years to train that pet, teach him or her life skills, and be prepared for their adolescent period.

In the end, a family pet is the responsibility of the adults in the household. Children can play a very important supporting role. Kids are just that—kids. They should be able to live a kid’s life. After childhood, they have the rest of their lives to be responsible adults, so cut them a little slack. If the adults do not personally have the time, patience, or energy to care for the new dog or cat, then I would advise looking into a goldfish.

Pets for kids
No training required


Do you have a pet as a child? Tell me in the comments.

I wholeheartedly believe pets are a great way to help teach a child responsibility and caring for another living being. The friendship between a pet and child can be an amazing thing to watch flourish. My family dog was my best friend growing up. But a pet is still not the full responsibility of any child.
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Do Cats Get Bloat like Dogs? Recently, my mom asked me if cats can get bloat and die like dogs. Before I go into my findings, I want to explain what we were referring to when talking about dog bloat vs. cat bloat. When the phrase dog bloat is used, it is typically referring to gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV) which can be deadly for dogs.

Bloated Cat: Do Cats Get Bloat like Dogs?

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Cat Bloated Stomach

Do Cats Get Bloat?

Do Cats Get Bloat like Dogs? Recently, my mom asked me if cats can get bloat and die like dogs. Before I go into my findings, I want to explain what we were referring to when talking about dog bloat vs. cat bloat. When the phrase dog bloat is used, it is typically referring to gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV) which can be deadly for dogs.
Do Cats Get Bloat?

Recently, my mom asked me if cats can get bloat and die like dogs. Before I go into my findings, I want to explain what we were referring to when talking about dog bloat vs. cat bloat. When the phrase dog bloat is used, it is typically referring to gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV) which can be deadly for dogs. Bloat in dogs typically occurs with large breed, large-chested dogs during eating. When a dog eats too quickly, or eats at an improper angle for his body, gas and pressure start to build and become trapped inside. The stomach then begins to swell, which can cause a variety of medical conditions including rupture of the stomach wall, leading to death. So, my Mom’s question was if this could happen to cats.

I wasn’t sure on the answer to this question, though I never recalled it happening while I worked in a veterinary hospital, or my 20 years in the pet care industry. So I asked a few veterinary professionals if they experienced GDV in cats.

Dr. Taylor Truitt from The Vet Set said, “If we’re talking about cats, GDV is exceptionally rare.” A few more veterinarians replied that GVD does not happen in cats. Dr. Truitt did offer a few other reasons why a cat may have a bloated stomach. “A cat may be experiencing intestinal parasites, FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis), liver failure, cancer, intestinal foreign bodies, or pregnancy. So, if you have a bloated cat, please take your cat into your veterinarian; however, it is unlikely he has GDV.”


What do you think? Tell me in the comments.

Do Cats Get Bloat like Dogs? Recently, my mom asked me if cats can get bloat and die like dogs. Before I go into my findings, I want to explain what we were referring to when talking about dog bloat vs. cat bloat. When the phrase dog bloat is used, it is typically referring to gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV) which can be deadly for dogs.
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Dog Rehabilitation Exercises for Dog Neurological Conditions: Natural Treatments for Chiari malformation (CM) and syringomyelia (SM). I reached out to one of Dexter's holistic veterinarians, Dr. Mary L. Cardeccia. Dr. Cardeccia focuses on animal rehabilitation and natural healing methods including acupuncture, food therapy, chiropractic, Reiki, and herbology. We both agreed that there were more natural rehabilitation exercises and work I could be doing with Dexter to improve his conscious proprioception and to hopefully help decrease his head bobbing and wobbles (back end weakness).

Dog Rehabilitation Exercises for Dog Neurological Conditions: Natural Treatments for Chiari malformation (CM) and syringomyelia (SM) 

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Raising Your Pets, Dogs and Cats Naturally

Canine Rehabilitation Centers and Treatment Success

An Interview with Dr. Mary L. Cardeccia founder of Animal Rehabilitation Facility (located in Dexter, Michigan)

Dog Rehabilitation Exercises for Dog Neurological Conditions: Natural Treatments for Chiari malformation (CM) and syringomyelia (SM). I reached out to one of Dexter's holistic veterinarians, Dr. Mary L. Cardeccia. Dr. Cardeccia focuses on animal rehabilitation and natural healing methods including acupuncture, food therapy, chiropractic, Reiki, and herbology. We both agreed that there were more natural rehabilitation exercises and work I could be doing with Dexter to improve his conscious proprioception and to hopefully help decrease his head bobbing and wobbles (back end weakness).
K9 Rehabilitation for Dogs

For my followers already familiar with my blog, you know that Dexter The Dog is battling some serious medical conditions. For my new fans, a little fill-in may be necessary. My seven-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Dexter, was diagnosed with Chiari malformation (CM) and syringomyelia (SM) just before his third birthday. CM is basically when the skull is too small to hold the brain, causing pressure on the cerebellum and medulla, and obstructing normal flow of cerebrospinal fluid. You can compare this to holding your finger over half of the opening of a hose; that pressure then causes fluid-filled cavities within the spinal cord, SM. This is a very painful, progressive and incurable disease in both dogs and humans.

I provide Dexter a variety of natural solutions including food therapy, herbs, supplements, monitoring his exercise, and unfortunately, some pharmaceuticals. This past year I’ve noticed Dexter “shuffling” his back feet instead of picking them up. Dexter is not picking his back feet up properly due to his lack of conscious proprioception. This is a lack of awareness he is getting from his back feet to his brain, likely due to his neurological condition. About five months back, Dexter started wearing Dr. Buzby’s ToeGrips for Dogs to help (read how). He has had improvement and his toes are not nearly as worn as before the ToeGrips.

But now, he’s starting to do a little head bopping and wobbling. I felt it was time to look into what else I could do to help improve the quality of Dexter’s life. I reached out to one of Dexter’s holistic veterinarians, Dr. Mary L. Cardeccia. Dr. Cardeccia focuses on animal rehabilitation and natural healing methods including acupuncture, food therapy, chiropractic, Reiki, and herbology. We both agreed that there were more natural rehabilitation exercises and work I could be doing with Dexter to improve his conscious proprioception and to hopefully help decrease his head bobbing and wobbles (back end weakness).

I’ve been taking Dexter to Dr. Cardeccia weekly for the past 6 weeks and working daily at home with some of his canine rehabilitation exercises. I will go into more detail in future blogs, but today I wanted to do a little Q & A with Dr. Cardeccia on exactly what we are doing and why. Hopefully, this article will reach other pet parents who may find themselves in a similar situation and help them know that there is hope and that as pet parents we have a lot of natural options to help improve our pet’s lives. We must always be our pet’s advocate and keep looking and searching for solutions.

Interview with Dr. Cardeccia

I’m the kind of person who wants to know more than just what to do, I try to find out the why and how. I feel this allows me to get a better understanding of what is going on and to continue to make the best choices about Dexter’s care accordingly.

I asked Dr. Cardeccia how and why Dexter’s neurological condition makes him drag his back feet vs picking them up properly.

“Because with the SM there is pressure on his spinal cord (from the pockets cerebrospinal fluid that form within the spinal cord near the brain) it is interfering with the nerves of proprioception, which are on the outer portion of the spinal cord. Proprioception is the internal sense that tells you where your body parts are without your having to look at them, so he is not actually fully aware of where his feet are, and that is why he drags them.”

What is the purpose of doing his footwork? What is it doing?

“The footwork is to help retrain the nerves of proprioception so that he will be more aware of his feet. Some of it can also help to strengthen his core muscles, which will further improve his balance. This is why we want him to go slowly when he is doing these types of exercises. Even if the pressure on his spinal cord is now resolved, if it was there for long enough, the nerves will still be compromised and we need to remind them of what their job is.”

Do we have an end in sight for Dexter’s rehab exercises, or will we need to practice these exercises for life?

“I think a little bit of both. It is our hope that by doing the rehabilitation exercises with him, we will improve his current level of function and get him up to a new plateau; however, given that he has a chronic underlying condition, doing some of the proprioception and core strengthening exercises with him on an ongoing basis will likely help to maintain him at a higher level of function long term.”

During Dexter’s first evaluation, Dr. Cardeccia found a pulled groin muscle. I asked her to explain a little about her thoughts on why he pulled his muscle.

“Dexter strained his iliopsoas muscle, which is made up of the psoas and iliacus muscles.   Between them, they run from the upper lumbar region (just behind his rib cage) along the underside of his vertebrae and pelvis, and attach at the top of his inner thigh. This is a major core muscle, flexing the hip and spine, and is easy to strain when you are having balance issues and having to accommodate for them. He also may have splayed out on the floor at some point if he slipped, which is a common way to ‘pull’ this muscle. In Dexter’s case, I think that he strained the iliopsoas (groin) muscle opposite his weaker leg since he was taking over more of the weight bearing and steering with his ‘good’ side.”

One of the main focuses with Dexter’s canine rehabilitation exercises is to build his core strength. Dr. Cardeccia explains why this is so important.

“Since Dexter is having some issues with balance and not being fully aware of where his hind feet are, including core strengthening in his program will help to improve his balance and ability to adapt, even if for some reason we were not able to get him to actually be any more aware of where his hind feet are.   This core strength will help him not to lose his balance as often, and allows him to accommodate for the occasional loss of balance more easily.”

Dexter has a variety of core strength exercises that he can do on a twice daily basis. I asked her if there is a difference between the exercises. For example, is the larger ball vs. smaller ball vs. working on an air mattresses.

“Some of the core exercises are focusing on different muscle groups, or using them in different ways. For example, standing on or walking across the air mattress focuses more on his abdominal and back muscles in general, while putting his front feet up on a balance ball focuses more on the muscles of his lower abdomen/back and hind legs.   Using a taller ball or less stable ball increases the difficulty of the exercise. By having him do a variety of different exercises we are hoping to maximize the effect of his program in improving his balance and mobility.”

Canine Rehab Video Clip

Dr. Cardeccia wanted to start Dexter on the canine water treadmill. Her animal rehabilitation facility also offers pool therapy, so I asked her why she chose the treadmill vs. the pool for Dexter.

“While hydrotherapy in either a pool or underwater treadmill can be of benefit in a strengthening program, with Dex I am focused on getting him more aware of where those hind feet are as well. Exaggerating his gait while walking through the water serves double duty; it strengthens his legs and core, as well as helping to improve his proprioception.   In addition, I chose the UWTM as our goal is to improve his daily function, and a swimming gait pattern is different that a walking gait pattern. Therefore, using the UWTM is more logical if we are retraining gait in a neurological patient.”

When Dexter feels good, he is a very playful and frisky dog. However, it was during his play that I would see more of his head bobs and hind end weakness. I thought it was imperative to ask Dr. Cardeccia what activities he should avoid and why.

“For now, we want to limit his activities if he is struggling with the coordination to successfully accomplish them. For example, if he is scrambling to find his footing when playing ball, he may injure himself as he rushes to get it if he loses control of his feet and splays out on the floor, or takes a tumble. It is not that he is necessarily going to make his SM symptoms worse, as much as that he is likely to injure something else because he is not in control of his body.”

I’m very lucky with Dexter and his confidence. He is always eager to try new things and tackles new things with gusto. As a dog trainer, I am continually working with puppies and working on confidence boosting games including walking on new textures, wobbly surfaces, and novel equipment.

I asked her if Dexter’s canine rehabilitation exercises would be suitable for puppies.

“In general, yes, using exercises to improve balance and proprioception can be very good for puppies, no matter what their future “job” will be. Helping puppies to be more body aware can prevent injuries in sporting of working dogs as adults, and the balance and proprioception exercises are low impact so could be safe for puppies who are still growing.   Of course, you would want to consult with your veterinarian before starting any rigorous exercise program for your dog.”

Over the last six weeks, I’ve seen a huge improvement in Dexter’s energy and spunk. This proves to me that these exercises and treatments are working. We also had proof in the pudding when Dr. Cardeccia measured his muscle mass. Previously, his one back thigh was smaller and weaker than the other. Now, at his follow-up, they both are larger, and more importantly, his weaker leg has caught up with the other! That is amazing news! I am just so tickled with Dexter’s improvement—this little boy means the world to me. I can’t thank Dr. Cardeccia and her team at Animal Rehabilitation Facility (located in Dexter, Michigan) enough for helping my little boy improve his quality of life. <3


Have you taken any of your pets through rehab? Tell me in the comments.

Dog Rehabilitation Exercises for Dog Neurological Conditions: Natural Treatments for Chiari malformation (CM) and syringomyelia (SM). I reached out to one of Dexter's holistic veterinarians, Dr. Mary L. Cardeccia. Dr. Cardeccia focuses on animal rehabilitation and natural healing methods including acupuncture, food therapy, chiropractic, Reiki, and herbology. We both agreed that there were more natural rehabilitation exercises and work I could be doing with Dexter to improve his conscious proprioception and to hopefully help decrease his head bobbing and wobbles (back end weakness).
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Best Probiotics for Women, Men, Dogs and Cats. Understanding Pre- and Probiotics for Dogs, Cats, and People. You know I'm a big believer in reading the ingredient labels in all our pets’ products, but when I turn over a box or jar of probiotics, I'm totally confused. I'm not a microbiologist! So I asked some experts in the field of microbiology and pet health for help in understanding probiotics for pets and ourselves

What You Need To Know About Probiotics | Best Probiotics for Women, Men, Dogs and Cats

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Best Probiotics for Women, Men, Dogs and Cats

Understanding Pre- and Probiotics for Dogs, Cats, and People

Best Probiotics for Women, Men, Dogs and Cats. Understanding Pre- and Probiotics for Dogs, Cats, and People. You know I'm a big believer in reading the ingredient labels in all our pets’ products, but when I turn over a box or jar of probiotics, I'm totally confused. I'm not a microbiologist! So I asked some experts in the field of microbiology and pet health for help in understanding probiotics for pets and ourselves
Finding the best probiotics

What do you know about probiotics and prebiotics for ourselves and our pets? I’ve learned over the years that probiotics and probiotics are great for our gut health and our pet’s gut, and have many health benefits. I also know that when a dog, cat, or person is on antibiotics, probiotics should be added. I’ve also learned that prebiotics feed the probiotics, so they work well together. But what I don’t know is how probiotics really work from a cellular level and how to choose (besides what my holistic veterinarian suggests) the best probiotics for my dog, cat, or myself. You know I’m a big believer in reading the ingredient labels in all our pets’ products, but when I turn over a box or jar of probiotics, I’m totally confused. I’m not a microbiologist! So I asked some experts in the field of microbiology and pet health for help in understanding probiotics for pets and ourselves. 🙂

Health Benefits of Probiotics for Dogs, Cats and People.

Unless your doctor or veterinarian advises against the use of probiotics, all of us can benefit from the use of daily probiotics. Our health is ruled by our gut. Probiotics aid in good gut health by helping our digestion. They provide good bacteria while inhibiting the bad bacteria. A good probiotic helps soothe the intestines and lessen inflammation, which can assist with diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Stressed pets and people also can benefit from a healthy dose of probiotics, since stress disrupts our gut.

If you find yourself or your pet on antibiotics or steroids, taking a probiotic or even increasing your probiotic dose may be recommended by your doctor or holistic veterinarian. The use of antibiotics or steroids can decrease the good bacteria in the gut and decrease the immune system. By using a natural probiotic, you can increase your gut health, increase the good bacteria and fight off the bad bacteria.

Choosing the Best Probiotics

Trying to figure out the best probiotic for Dexter The Dog and Nutter The Cat has had me confused for quite some time. I’ve previously purchased pet probiotics from the recommendation of a few great holistic veterinarians, but I really want to be able to wrap my head around how to choose myself. How many CFUs should be in a probiotic? What are the best ingredients in a probiotic? How should a probiotic be stored? These were my top three questions when starting this article.

Holistic Housecall Veterinarian Dr. Patrick Mahaney suggests using a variety of bacterial types to benefit both the small and large intestines. Dr. Mahaney says, “Lactobacillus sp. primarily resides and functions in the small intestine while Bifidobacterium sp. populates the large intestine (colon). Other bacterial varieties can exist in a commensal manner in the small or large intestine besides the above-mentioned.”

Douglas Toal, PhD is a board-certified clinical microbiologist and founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Liberty Bion, and he agrees with variety. He provides this helpful scenario. “A high-quality probiotic supplement includes formulations with a diverse set of beneficial strains and high bacterial count. Look for supplements that have at least 10 strains of healthy probiotics. The supplement should include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species. The most common and clinically proven Lactobacillus species is Lactobacillus acidophilus and this organism can be found in almost all supplements and yogurts. Bifidobacterium lactis is also a popular probiotic that has been extensively studied. Other common probiotics include Bifidobacterium longum, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus salivarius, and Lactobacillus casei. I suggest finding probiotic formulations with these species since they have evaluated for efficacy.” Mr. Toal continues by saying, “If you introduce probiotics with variety, your chances of finding one that works for you will improve.” He also suggests changing your probiotic variety or brand every three to four months to add diversity.

How many Colony Forming Units (CFU) of probiotics should dogs, cats or humans take? I fell a little short in my search for the answer for our pets. I looked around and various natural pet websites I trust, and found over 5 CFU would be a good starting point. For people, Dr. Toal says at least 10 CFU per capsule.

Understanding Ingredients in Natural Probiotics

Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus casei….what the heck? You know by now that I want to know exactly what things are and mean when I read a product label. Are those words real food items? Are they synthetic? Healthy? It was time to ask the friendly microbiologist, Douglas Toal. “The strains that are commercialized and sold as probiotic supplements are natural. Keep in mind that these are not food sources nor are they synthesized. Since probiotic strains are living cells – they are able to multiply in the laboratory (i.e., given the right amount of food). Therefore it is possible to grow, multiply and package the strains in manufacturing facilities.” Whew. No way would I have been able to figure that out by reading the label. Dr. Toal continues by telling me, “An interesting aspect of probiotics that most people are not aware of is that each strain was initially isolated from a healthy person (i.e., in the case of Lactobacillus strains, Bifidobacterium strains, and some others) or from an environmental source such as soil (i.e., in the case of Bacillus strains). So the commercial probiotics that we take today were once part of the gut microbiota of a healthy person 10-30 years ago, isolated from the person because of its unique characteristics and then propagated, further evaluated and commercialized.” That’s pretty cool stuff!

Best Probiotics for Women, Men, Dogs and Cats. Understanding Pre- and Probiotics for Dogs, Cats, and People. You know I'm a big believer in reading the ingredient labels in all our pets’ products, but when I turn over a box or jar of probiotics, I'm totally confused. I'm not a microbiologist! So I asked some experts in the field of microbiology and pet health for help in understanding probiotics for pets and ourselves
Growing probiotic strains.

Are Prebiotics Necessary When Taking Probiotics?

A 4th generation Japanese herbalist and macrobiologist, Marc Ching offers these tips about the use of prebioticis. “Prebiotics nourish and support the growth of probiotics that in turn support the digestive health and immune system.” Prebiotics can be eaten as whole foods such as apples, asparagus, bananas, flaxseeds, and seaweed. Dr. Toal recommends people eat 4-8 grams of prebiotic fiber each day. He says, “If you are eating enough fruits and vegetables, then you likely do not need prebiotic supplements – although many supplements contain a wide variety of fiber from different sources (i.e., 10 or more different fruits and vegetables). If you are like me – I only eat 3-4 different fruits/vegetables per day and so there is value in finding a prebiotic with a wide variety of fiber from different fruits and vegetables.” He also offers this additional tip, “Since prebiotic fiber can cause bloating, it is important to start with half doses for about a week until the body adapts.”

Understanding Ingredients in Natural Prebiotics

Now I’m back to that ingredient panel. Now that I’ve learned probiotic strains are living cells with weird-looking names grown in a laboratory, what about prebiotics? How do I recognize them on a label? Dr. Toal explained this to me as well. “Since prebiotics should be extracted from fruit and vegetable sources, the ingredients should include the name of the fruit/vegetable that the fiber was extracted from. For instance when the label reads “chicory root inulin” rather than “inulin” then at least you know that it is from chicory root. Also, I recommend looking for the word “organic” in the ingredients such as “Organic Acacia Fiber.” Also, some prebiotic ingredients may indicate that the ingredient comes from a modified source, such as “modified citrus pectin” or “modified potato resistant starch.” In this case the prebiotic was prepared from a modified source – for instance, perhaps the source/product was treated with acid to lower viscosity. So if the consumer is concerned with modified ingredients, then they should avoid prebiotic supplements that contain ingredients that state “modified.””

Read Your Ingredient Label Carefully

Even though seeing the list of probiotic strands may be a bit overwhelming, it’s still super important to read the ingredient panel. Just because a dog probiotic may have good stuff inside, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have things to avoid inside as well. I was reading one pet probiotic label and found some ingredients that were not only unnecessary such as “beef flavor” but downright scary, such as Polysorbate 80, animal digest and other harmful ingredients. So, be careful and read carefully. As a quick side-note, pets do not digest dairy products very well, so I don’t personally recommend yogurt or other milk products to provide probiotics for my pets.

Storing Probiotics

Remember, probiotics are living cells and must be stored properly to survive and to be beneficial to our health. Mr. Ching gave me these tips, “If you find pet food that says they contain probiotics and it is located on an unrefrigerated shelf, walk away. The probiotic is most likely dead by now. Probiotics are to be kept cool; they are very sensitive to heat and moisture. If not kept at cool temperatures, the living organisms inside will die and they will be useless.”

Final Thoughts on Finding The Best Probiotics

After speaking with microbiologist, macrobiologist, and veterinarian, I feel I finally have a handle on how to find the best probiotic for my dog, cat and myself. I wanted to thank Dr. Douglas Toal, Dr. Patrick Mahaney, and Marc Ching for providing such helpful information and answering my questions on probiotics.


Are you or your pets currently taking probiotics? Tell me in the comments.

Best Probiotics for Women, Men, Dogs and Cats. Understanding Pre- and Probiotics for Dogs, Cats, and People. You know I'm a big believer in reading the ingredient labels in all our pets’ products, but when I turn over a box or jar of probiotics, I'm totally confused. I'm not a microbiologist! So I asked some experts in the field of microbiology and pet health for help in understanding probiotics for pets and ourselves
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Cat Teeth Cleaning-Brushing your cat’s teeth daily with a cat toothbrush, finger pet toothbrush, or just your finger along with a natural cat toothpaste is recommended. If you would like, you can also rotate between brushing and using an oral pet cleansing spray that does not have any unhealthy ingredients.

Cat Teeth Cleaning, Cat Dental Care and How to Brush Your Cat’s Teeth

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Cat Dental Care | How to Brush Cat Teeth

Cat Dental Health | Natural Cat Dental Care

Cat Teeth Cleaning-Brushing your cat’s teeth daily with a cat toothbrush, finger pet toothbrush, or just your finger along with a natural cat toothpaste is recommended. If you would like, you can also rotate between brushing and using an oral pet cleansing spray that does not have any unhealthy ingredients.
Natural Cat Dental Care and Cleaning

Do you think about your cat’s dental care? I sure hope so. Cat teeth cleaning is so important to the overall health of your cat. According to The American Veterinary Dental College, periodontal disease is the most common clinical condition occurring in adult cats by three years of age, and is completely preventable. Bacteria builds under the gum lines and releases toxins that are absorbed into your cat’s bloodstream and can affect the kidneys and liver.

Periodontal disease in cats is pretty scary and can be life threatening if untreated. But you can easily prevent cat dental disease and keep your cat from losing teeth just by brushing your cat’s or kitten’s teeth daily. Daily cat teeth cleaning is also a way to help avoid seeing your cat’s veterinarian for a professional cat teeth cleaning, which can cost anywhere from $200-600.

But your cat is lucky—he has you to ensure his teeth are pristine and that he won’t develop cat dental disease. You can easily create a daily natural dental oral care program for your cat. You should start your cat’s dental care as soon as possible; even kittens should have their teeth brushed.

If your cat is not a fan of being handled, groomed, or having his mouth touched, please start first by reading my article: Teaching Your Kitten or Adult Cat How To be Groomed, Handled, or Petted

Cat Teeth Cleaning-Brushing your cat’s teeth daily with a cat toothbrush, finger pet toothbrush, or just your finger along with a natural cat toothpaste is recommended. If you would like, you can also rotate between brushing and using an oral pet cleansing spray that does not have any unhealthy ingredients.

Some natural dental care ingredients that are safe for cats include seaweed powder, organic coconut oil, chlorophyll, and deer velvet antler extract. When using these products in your cat’s oral care, it is still important to actually gently brush those cat teeth. The action of brushing is one of the best ways to remove bacteria and tartar.

Now, isn’t that easy? Your cat will thank you for helping him have fresh breath and healthy teeth and gums.

Cat Dental Treats– A word about cat dental treats or cat food made for dental care. Most cats do not chew; instead, they swallow things whole. If a treat or food is promoting itself as helping your cat’s dental care by “brushing” as they chew the treat or food, this may actually not be the case. These cat dental treats or dental cat food may more be about the ingredients that are inside instead of the act of chewing. That said, remember to always read the entire ingredient panel, not just the front of the bag and their claims. Dry food and cats….they don’t mix. Please feed your cat either a raw diet, home cooked diet, or healthy canned cat food. Dry cat food should not be in the mix.

Veterinarian Dentistry for Your Cat– Sometimes even with the best preventative cat dental care, cats still must have a dental cleaning from their veterinarian. If your cat is sensitive around his mouth, he may already have some periodontal disease, so please take him to your veterinarian for a check-up.


How often do you brush your cat’s teeth? Tell me in the comments.

Cat Teeth Cleaning-Brushing your cat’s teeth daily with a cat toothbrush, finger pet toothbrush, or just your finger along with a natural cat toothpaste is recommended. If you would like, you can also rotate between brushing and using an oral pet cleansing spray that does not have any unhealthy ingredients.
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Synthetic preservatives and synthetic flavors have been shown to have various side effects. People may experience migraines, heart palpitations, contact rashes, and allergic responses, and some of these synthetic preservatives and flavors have even been linked to cancer. These are unnecessary risks when we have alternatives. It's one thing to have these chemicals in adult food products, but they are also widely accepted in children's food, baby food, and pet food and pet treats. Babies, kids, and pets are not able to read ingredient labels and make choices for themselves—that is OUR responsibility.

Why You and Your Pets Should Avoid Preservatives Such As Sodium Benzoate and Potassium Sorbate

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Chemical Preservatives Are Not Necessary and Are Linked to Cancer

Synthetic preservatives and synthetic flavors have been shown to have various side effects. People may experience migraines, heart palpitations, contact rashes, and allergic responses, and some of these synthetic preservatives and flavors have even been linked to cancer. These are unnecessary risks when we have alternatives. It's one thing to have these chemicals in adult food products, but they are also widely accepted in children's food, baby food, and pet food and pet treats. Babies, kids, and pets are not able to read ingredient labels and make choices for themselves—that is OUR responsibility.
Preservatives are harmful

As someone who suffers from migraines, it is extremely important for me to read the ingredient panel of foods that I eat. If you have been following my blog, you probably know my struggle with eating healthy, especially when I travel with my dog, Dexter. Even if I’m not concerned with eating healthy, I try to avoid food with preservatives. I’ve learned over the years, that if some of these preservatives are in my food, particularly if I eat a lot of foods back to back with preservatives, I will have an intense migraine. And for those that are unfamiliar with the pain of a migraine, let me just say it feels like a knife is inside my head, scraping the sides of my skull. Yeah, not pleasant.

Because of our active lifestyles and wanting food quickly and wanting food to last forever, manufacturers have turned to preservatives. There are some natural food preservatives such as salt, lemon juice, vinegar, cloves, oregano, and rosemary extract, to name a few. Unfortunately, the majority of food companies lean toward the synthetic chemical preservatives such as benzoates (sodium benzoate and benzoic acid), nitrites (sodium nitrite), sulphites (sulphur dioxide), and sorbates (sodium sorbate and potassium sorbate).

Other synthetic food flavoring agents include monosodium glutamate (MSG), disodium guanylate and disodium inosinate. I’m not sure why anyone would want to add a synthetic flavor to a food product when food with fresh herbs and spices can be so tasty!

Synthetic preservatives and synthetic flavors have been shown to have various side effects. People may experience migraines, heart palpitations, contact rashes, and allergic responses, and some of these synthetic preservatives and flavors have even been linked to cancer. Read more.

These are unnecessary risks when we have alternatives. It’s one thing to have these chemicals in adult food products, but they are also widely accepted in children’s food, baby food, and pet food and pet treats. Babies, kids, and pets are not able to read ingredient labels and make choices for themselves—that is OUR responsibility. It is something I try to avoid in my personal life and a 100% no in a product for a creature I’m responsible for. So please, read the ingredient panels of all your food and drink products, and make an educated choice. And when it comes to your children and pets…..please just say no.


Do you read the entire ingredient label in your pet’s products? Tell me in the comments.

Synthetic preservatives and synthetic flavors have been shown to have various side effects. People may experience migraines, heart palpitations, contact rashes, and allergic responses, and some of these synthetic preservatives and flavors have even been linked to cancer. These are unnecessary risks when we have alternatives. It's one thing to have these chemicals in adult food products, but they are also widely accepted in children's food, baby food, and pet food and pet treats. Babies, kids, and pets are not able to read ingredient labels and make choices for themselves—that is OUR responsibility.
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Are you looking for even more ways to stay up to date with Raising Your Pets Naturally? Sign up for the newsletter for more tips and promotions. Don’t forget to be social and Like, Follow and Subscribe. Comments below are always welcome.

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Best dog food for pets
Learn how to home cook for your dogs.

Healthy Dog Treat Recipes
Healthy dog treat recipes
Today is National Dress Your Pet Day. A lot of these fun daily holidays are harmless, but unfortunately, sometimes they can mean putting your pet in a situation they are uncomfortable with. Should you dress up your dog or cat on Dress Your Pet Day? Well, that really depends on your pet.

Should You Dress Up Your Dog, Cat or Pet? Dress Your Pet Day

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Dress Your Pet Day: Should You Dress Up Your Pet?

Today is National Dress Your Pet Day. A lot of these fun daily holidays are harmless, but unfortunately, sometimes they can mean putting your pet in a situation they are uncomfortable with. Should you dress up your dog or cat on Dress Your Pet Day? Well, that really depends on your pet.
Dressing Up Pets

Today is National Dress Your Pet Day. A lot of these fun daily holidays are harmless, but unfortunately, sometimes they can mean putting your pet in a situation they are uncomfortable with. Should you dress up your dog or cat on Dress Your Pet Day? Well, that really depends on your pet.

Here are three things to consider before grabbing a pet costume and slapping it on your helpless pet.

  1. Dressing up your dog or cat doesn’t have to mean crazy outfits or clothing. A simple dog sweater or fancy cat collar with a bow just might do the trick.
  2. Please ensure that your pet’s clothing or outfit allows your pet to move and see freely. A pet outfit that prevents your pet from walking with a normal gait or seeing the world properly isn’t very pet-friendly or kind.
  3. Your pet should really enjoy wearing clothing or costumes if you are going to dress him up. Please. Your pet is there for you day in and day out—don’t show your gratitude by giving him undue stress.
Today is National Dress Your Pet Day. A lot of these fun daily holidays are harmless, but unfortunately, sometimes they can mean putting your pet in a situation they are uncomfortable with. Should you dress up your dog or cat on Dress Your Pet Day? Well, that really depends on your pet.
It’s cold in Ohio

Bonus Tip: If you would like to teach your pet to enjoy clothing or costumes, introduce things slowly and at his pace. For example, loosely tie a pet bandanna on his leg while providing him treats. Stop treating him and take off the bandanna. Bandanna on=food treats. Bandanna off=no food. Build on this concept, allowing the bandanna to be on for longer increments before providing your dog or cat a healthy pet treat. Continue this pet training lesson with other pet clothing items until your pet is happy and comfortable in pet clothing.


Does your pet enjoy costumes or clothing? Tell me in the comments.

Are you looking for even more ways to stay up to date with Raising Your Pets Naturally? Sign up for the newsletter for more tips and promotions. Don’t forget to be social and Like, Follow and Subscribe. Comments below are always welcome.

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Today is National Dress Your Pet Day. A lot of these fun daily holidays are harmless, but unfortunately, sometimes they can mean putting your pet in a situation they are uncomfortable with. Should you dress up your dog or cat on Dress Your Pet Day? Well, that really depends on your pet. Here are three things to consider before grabbing a pet costume and slapping it on your helpless pet.
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Instead of putting weekly good things that happened, I want you to put DAILY connecting with another inside your jar. When I think of connecting with people or connecting with our pets, I think of putting away all distractions (TV, cell phones, internet) and really just being in the moment with the other person or your pet.

Connect With Loved Ones Daily: Daily Connection Jar

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Connecting with Family and Pets Daily Challenge

Instead of putting weekly good things that happened, I want you to put DAILY connecting with another inside your jar. When I think of connecting with people or connecting with our pets, I think of putting away all distractions (TV, cell phones, internet) and really just being in the moment with the other person or your pet.
Connecting with your pets and family.

Have you seen the post about the New Year’s Jar? The gist is that you start each year with an empty jar and each week you write a note about something good that happened during the week, and place the note inside the jar. Then, on New Year’s Eve, you read all the great and positive things that happened in your life. How fun is that?

As someone who works really hard at staying positive and trying to find the good in each situation, I am totally in love with this idea. However, I’m going to challenge you and myself to a little twist on this positive concept.

Here’s what I would like you to do. Instead of putting weekly good things that happened, I want you to put DAILY connecting with another inside your jar. When I think of connecting with people or connecting with our pets, I think of putting away all distractions (TV, cell phones, internet) and really just being in the moment with the other person or your pet. I think too often we get distracted by life, work, careers, etc. and we forget why we are doing everything. I’m no different. I, too, get very distracted and focused on the job vs. my human and furry family.

I want you to put DAILY connecting with another inside your jar. When I think of connecting with people or connecting with our pets, I think of putting away all distractions (TV, cell phones, internet) and really just being in the moment with the other person or your pet.
Connecting daily with your family and pets is important.

Okay, I’m going to log off and go take Dexter The Dog to the dog park for a sniffy walk. Can you shut everything else down for 5 minutes and connect with a family member or co-worker? When you do, write a little note about that time and put it in your jar. Then go back on New Year’s Eve and read about all the moments you created with those who are part of your life.

I want you to put DAILY connecting with another inside your jar. When I think of connecting with people or connecting with our pets, I think of putting away all distractions (TV, cell phones, internet) and really just being in the moment with the other person or your pet.
Bonding with family and pets.


What do you think? Do you think this is a reasonable goal?

Will you join me on this mission of connecting with our loved ones daily?

Tell me in the comments.

Are you looking for even more ways to stay up to date with Raising Your Pets Naturally? Sign up for the newsletter for more tips and promotions. Don’t forget to be social and Like, Follow and Subscribe. Comments below are always welcome.

Facebook   Twitter   Pinterest   Instagram  YouTube  Vimeo

Instead of putting weekly good things that happened, I want you to put DAILY connecting with another inside your jar. When I think of connecting with people or connecting with our pets, I think of putting away all distractions (TV, cell phones, internet) and really just being in the moment with the other person or your pet.