Archive | March, 2013

Dog Training Tip: Nothing In Life Is Free

Does your dog boss you around? Maybe he pushes his head in your lap, demanding attention. He might refuse to come when called, or ignore commands such as “sit”, “stay”, or “down”.

Nothing In Life Is Free (NILIF) is a simple dog training technique that establishes healthy boundaries between you and your dog. Sometimes referred to as “Say Please”, you can think of NILIF as the equivalent of teaching your dog basic manners.

Living with an aggressive dog

I have used Nothing In Life Is Free successfully with 5 different dogs- all with varying temperaments and behavior challenges.

I first learned about Nothing In Life Is Free shortly after I moved to Fort Collins 10 years ago. My former roommate had a small terrier mix that was an absolute terror! He demanded attention, snapped and growled when directed to get off the couch or bed, and was generally unruly. His behavior problems were unmanageable!

Having recently moved to Fort Collins from Denver I was familiar with the awesome Pet Behavior Helpline offered as a free service through the Denver Dumb Friends League. The Behavior Helpline responded to my request and recommended Nothing In Life Is Free as one method to address his aggression.

While Nothing In Life Is Free did not eliminate all of his behavior problems, it made living with him more peaceful and happy for everyone in the household.

How it works

So what is Nothing In Life Is Free? It is a dog training technique that teaches your dog that he will be handsomely rewarded for good behavior. It is a this-for-that method of training; before you do something your dog wants, he must first do something for you.

For example, you may tell your dog to “sit” before giving him a treat. He does not get what he wants (the treat) until he does what you want (sitting at your direction).

At dinner time you may tell your dog to “sit” and “wait” before he can have his food. My dogs must sit and wait until I put the food bowl on the floor and give them the release command, “okay”. This avoids trying to eat the food from my hands before I have a chance to put the bowl on the floor. They want their food, I want to avoid getting bit.

I also use “sit” and “wait” when letting my dogs outside in the yard. This way they do not rush the door and bound outside blindly. They wait as I open the door and survey the yard to ensure there are no hazards before I release them with “okay” when I have determined all is clear. They want to go outside, I want to make sure it’s safe.

I find “wait” to be especially helpful when going down stairs so the dogs don’t trip me up halfway down the stairs. They must wait at the top of the stairs until I am at the bottom and give them the release command. They want to snuggle up on the downstairs couch, I want to make it down the stairs without being tripped!

Nothing In Life Is Free teaches my dogs to look for me for direction before they get what they want. This training method not only improves their house manners it’s also essential in dangerous situations. I want my dogs to defer to me in risky situations instead of taking action on their own. With NILIF they know they are safe under my care and direction.

Maggie showing off her sit-stay.

Maggie waiting for a treat.

More information

You can find more information on Nothing In Life Is Free, along with lots of additional training tips, from the Denver Dumb Friends League.

Have you used Nothing In Life Is Free with your dogs? Was it successful for you?

7 Tips For Dog Park Safety

Are dog parks safe for you and your dog? Dog parks are growing in popularity and safety concerns are also on the rise. While many dogs may enjoy dog parks without incident, all it takes is one injury or illness to cause serious problems for a dog and his owners.

Problems with dog parks more often lay with uneducated or negligent dog owners, not the dogs themselves. Dogs brought to local parks may not be properly socialized or adequately trained, yet some dog owners will bring these dogs into this largely unknown and uncontrolled social situation.

Even if your dog is trained and socialized, with an outstanding temperament, someone else’s dog might not be. Dog parks also increase your dog’s risk of contracting illness or disease.

If your dog has physical characteristics commonly identified as “pit bull” then he is at far greater risk of stereotyping and discrimination should a fight break out at the dog park- regardless whether your dog behaved aggressively.

As the responsible parent to two “pit bulls” I choose not to take my dogs to area dog parks for their own safety. I choose not to risk my dog’s very lives by putting them in situations where they might be profiled and persecuted. If another dog were to attack I believe my dogs would fight back and that’s exactly the situation I want to avoid. More often than not, the “pit bull” takes the blame. (Along with titillating and divisive media coverage, no doubt!)

No matter what type of dog you own, please use caution when it comes to taking your dog to the dog park.

Fort Collins Dog Parks

The city of Fort Collins maintains three dog parks in the city:

Spring Canyon Dog Park, also called Horsetooth Dog Park
2626 W. Horsetooth Road

Soft Gold Dog Park
520 Hickory Street

Fossil Creek Dog Park
5821 S. Lemay

In addition to parks maintained by the city, there are a few other dog parks around town:

Front Range Village Dog Park
2843 Council Tree Avenue

CSU Dog Park
Mathews Street and East Lake Street

If you choose to take advantage of the dog parks in Fort Collins, here are some tips to help keep you and your dogs safe.

Spring Canyon Dog Park

Spring Canyon Dog Park

7 Dog Park Safety Tips

01. Be prepared to leave

It’s a good idea to keep an eye not only on your dog, but other dogs at the dog park. Pay attention to your and your dog’s surroundings the entirety of your stay. Leave immediately if you see signs of a fearful, anxious, or aggressive dog at the park.

02. Go during off-peak hours

Taking your dog to the park during off-peak hours can reduce chances of a fight. The more dogs at the park, the more likely a scuffle will break out. At the very least it’s easier to keep an eye on the situation with fewer dogs in the park.

03. Practice recall

Practice recall exercises away from the dog park and recall your dog in risky situations. Don’t wait for a fight to break out to intervene. Watch for signs your dog or other dogs are escalating, and recall your dog at the first sign of trouble.

04. Stay up-to-date on vaccinations

In the past week four cases of rabies have been confirmed by Larimer County Department of Health and Environment. Protect your dogs by making sure they are up-to-date on all vaccinations.

05. Leave toys at home

Many dogs are perfectly sociable until a toy is introduced to the situation, therefore a good rule of thumb is to leave toys at home.

06. Leave treats at home

Like toys, dogs may get into a fight over treats. Additionally, some dogs have food allergies that can cause sickness when exposed to the wrong type of treat.

07. Don’t bring children

For your child’s safety, please don’t bring children inside the dog park. Playful and rowdy dogs could knock your child down. Worse yet, your child could approach a strange dog in an unsafe manner and get bitten.

If you see children at the dog park it may be the right time to take your dog and go home. No matter how safe you think your dog is with kids, recognize that children can be just as unpredictable as dogs, and kids may behave in a way that is threatening to your dog.

Let’s chat: Do you use Fort Collins dog parks? What other tips do you have to share for dog park safety?

Image courtesy of Sit Stay.

Easter is no treat for rabbits

Rabbits and Easter don’t mix!

Every Easter thousands of rabbits are brought home as Easters gifts for young children. The sad truth is about 80% of rabbits (and chicks) that are brought home as Easter presents die within the first year.

The fortunate “Easter” rabbits are surrendered to animal shelters within a few months. Less fortunate bunnies are abandoned in the wild where they are killed by predators within the first 72 hours.

Other “Easter” bunnies find their short lives come to an end under the care of well-meaning families that don’t fully understand what it takes to care for a rabbit.

Ignorance about rabbit health and care

While access to good information on rabbit health and care improves every day there continues to be a lack of knowledge about this unique and endearing animal.

And it’s no wonder, many of the products marketed specifically for rabbits are a poor choice for raising a healthy, happy rabbit. For example, many “rabbit” cages sold at major pet stores are far too small for rabbits and have wire bottoms that cause pain and injury to rabbit’s feet.

When I brought home bunnies of my own even I didn’t know much about rabbits. I started off with a small wire-bottom “rabbit” cage from the pet store. I was lucky enough to discover House Rabbit Society through a bunny-loving friend and correct my bunny parenting mistakes before my rabbits paid the ultimate price.

Is a pet rabbit right for your family?

Before bringing a rabbit (or any pet) into your care, please consider if a that pet is right for your family. Not only could you save a life, you and your children will get more out of the human-animal relationship when you choose the right pet for your family and lifestyle!

Rabbits are prey animals and, as such, they do not usually enjoy being held and cuddled. They are also easily frightened and physically fragile. Are you looking for a pet to hold and cuddle?

Rabbits need space to run and play. A rabbit that is kept in a cage all day every day will not live a full and healthy life. Do you have a rabbit-proofed space to exercise your bunny?

Rabbits live 10+ years, should be spayed/neutered, and require regular veterinary care. The ASCPA estimates it costs about $730 per year to care for a rabbit. Are you willing to spend at least $7,300 over the life of your pet?

Children get easily excited and may mishandle rabbits, causing serious injury to the pet. Is there an adult in the family that is willing to supervise children at all times with a pet rabbit?

Children may grow bored of rabbits. Parents have babies. Families move. Couples divorce. If your life situation changes, what will you do with your pet rabbit? Are you prepared to make a lifetime commitment?

Okay, you’ve made it this far and maybe you decided a pet rabbit is right for your family- congratulations! You can find a wealth of rabbit information to get you started at House Rabbit Society!

Maybe you are thinking twice about buying your child a bunny this Easter. Thanks for being a caring parent! Read on for fun bunny alternatives to make Easter special for your kids!

A better Easter bunny

I scoured the world, or, you know, Pinterest, for some rabbit-themed gifts to delight your family this Easter!

Easter S’mores on a stick!

Check out this fun treat! I’ve never been a big fan of Peeps but this is one recipe I’d like to try. Look at them- they’re so cute!

Source: via Chrysta on Pinterest

Make it chocolate!

Who doesn’t love chocolate? Okay, I actually know someone that doesn’t like chocolate (weirdo!), but chances are your kids would love a chocolate bunny in their Easter basket.

Source: via Chrysta on Pinterest


Inspire your child’s imagination with a classic bunny tale like The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams.

Build a bunny!

Stuffed animals are soft and cuddly and wonderful gifts for children. You can even make it interactive and take your kids to Build-A-Bear to build a bunny of their very own.

Kids are bunnies, too

Do your kids love to play dress-up? Check out these free printable bunny ears! Now that’s some quality Easter fun!

Source: via Chrysta on Pinterest

 Nibble on this!

Not all Easter treats are unhealthy- check out this adorable and (mostly) healthy snack!

However you celebrate the holiday this year, consider taking the rabbit out of Easter.

5 Reasons To Adopt A Shelter Pet

Looking to bring a pet into your home? It’s never been more advantageous to adopt a shelter pet!

While there are many places to look for a family pet, from backyard breeders to pet stores to craigslist, adopting from one of Northern Colorado’s shelters animal organizations is undoubtedly the smartest choice you can make.

The three major shelters in Fort Collins are Larimer Humane Society, Animal House Rescue and Grooming, and Fort Collins Cat Rescue. These great organizations provide adoption, education, and support to pets and pet owners in our community.

5 Reasons To Adopt a Shelter Pet

01. Save a life

Adopting from a rescue organization frees space in that shelter for another homeless animal.

Millions of healthy, adoptable pets are euthanized in the United States each year. Every pet adopted from the shelter counts for 2 lives saved- the life of your new pet and the life of the adoptable pet that takes her place at the shelter.

02. Find the right match for your family

Responsible rescues like those we have in Fort Collins carefully observe the behavior and temperament of adoptable animals and communicate this information to potential adopters. You’ll have better information about the animal you bring into your home when you adopt from a shelter.

Additionally, shelter pets usually come home with a health report from a licensed veterinarian.

03. Save money

Adoption fees from shelters in Northern Colorado are often less expensive than fees charged by breeders and pet stores. Most of our shelters offer discounted adoption rates for older pets and even have adoption specials.

Family pets adopted from shelters also come home spay/neutered, up-to-date on shots, and often micro-chipped, saving you even more money!

04. Support your community

Pet overpopulation is a serious problem that has many negative effects on communities including the spread of disease, becoming a public nuisance, damage to personal property, and injury to people and animals.

Adopting from a shelter keeps pet population low and reduces negative effects of overpopulation in Fort Collins. And since Larimer Humane Society is partially funded by the taxpayers adopting from the Humane Society offsets the cost to taxpayers for the services the shelter provides.

05. Be a hero!

When you adopt from a shelter you will be a hero to a homeless pet!

Check out these awesome adoptable animals!

Blitz @ FCCRPhoto courtesy of Fort Collins Cat Rescue

This cute kitty is Blitz, available for adoption through Fort Collins Cat Rescue!

Enrico @ Animal HousePhoto courtesy of Animal House Rescue and Grooming

This awesome smile belongs to Enrico, available for adoption through Animal House Rescue and Grooming!

Mimi @ Larimer HumanePhoto courtesy of Larimer Humane Society

Small animals need homes too! Check out this pink-nosed darling named Mimi, available for adoption through Larimer Humane Society!

Animal House Rescue: Celebrating 6 Years of Saving Lives

Six years ago Animal House Rescue and Grooming opened their doors. The husband and I attended the Animal House open house the first weekend in April 2007. Little did we know we’d meet and eventually adopt our sweetheart, Miss Maggie Moo.

We weren’t looking to adopt a dog. In fact, we already shared our home with 3 cats and 2 rabbits- a full house! But Maggie captured our hearts and for weeks my mind kept coming back to the sweet Boxer/American Pit Bull Terrier mix we’d seen at Animal House.

Maggie at Animal House Rescue and Grooming in 2007

Maggie at Animal House Rescue and Grooming in 2007

I had previous experience with Boxers but I only knew “pit bulls” by reputation and, let’s face it, it wasn’t a good reputation. As I thought back to the sweet dog we met I was moved to do some research on the breed. What I discovered was the “pit bull” reputation came with heaps of misinformation and even more hysteria- but that’s a story for another day.

We adopted Maggie just a few weeks after the open house and we’ve been in love with our sweet pup ever since!

Maggie was found as a stray and later surrendered to an out-of-state shelter because she had too much energy for her rescuer. After just a month at that shelter she was on the death list- scheduled for euthanasia because she hadn’t been adopted yet. She didn’t have any health problems or significant behavior issues- she simply didn’t have a home. She didn’t have a chance.

Fortunately for Maggie and for us, she was transferred from the out-of-state shelter to Animal House just in the nick of time. Her life was spared!

Maggie has been part of our family the last 6 years, thanks to Animal House Rescue and Grooming!

Maggie and I at Animal House Rescue and Grooming 6 years later!

Maggie and I at Animal House Rescue and Grooming 6 years later!

Animal House Rescue and Grooming: Six years saving lives

As Animal House approaches it’s 6 year anniversary over 2,700 lives have been saved!

Animal House Executive Director Ali Eccleston is proud of the shelter’s 1% return rate of adopted animals. The national average return rate is 12%. Way to go, Animal House!

Ali is not only the Executive Director, she helped start the shelter in 2007 after getting burned out fostering animals in her home. Ali wanted to continue to help animals and started making plans to start Animal House Rescue and Grooming in June of 2006. Almost 10 months later Animal House was open for business.

Located in Fort Collins, Animal House is a supportive resource partnering with more than 25 over-populated and under-served shelters, both statewide and nationally. They provide relief by decreasing the euthanasia of healthy and adoptable pets, giving dogs like Maggie time to find a forever home.

Animal House is funded entirely by private contributions and support from the community.

AnimalHouseRescue 002

Upcoming Events Supporting Animal House Rescue and Grooming

Choice City Comedy Nite Presents… Sit! Stay! Speakeasy!

On Saturday, April 13 at The Lincoln Center join Brandt Tobler, as seen on Comedy Central, and Animal House for a fundraising (and fun-raising!) event featuring national and local comedians, jazz music, giveaways, prizes and more in a party worthy of the Roaring 20′s.

This event is the main fundraising event for Animal House Rescue and Grooming this year. Register here.

March Madness!

Animal House is redefining March Madness.  In an effort to save a record number of dogs this month they are recruiting new foster homes. Foster homes are provided with all the supplies and tools to temporarily house a shelter dog in their house.  The animals we are currently looking for foster care are at certain risk of euthanasia.   Help save a life through fostering! More information on fostering can be found at the Animal House website.