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How to answer: “Can I Pet Your Dog?”

How to answer: “Can I Pet Your Dog?”

I walk my dogs daily in my neighborhood where we often encounter children playing.  It’s common for them to run toward me expecting a happy, furry greeting as they shout cheerfully, “Can I pet your dog?”  My pets aren’t used to kids and, I don’t know if the children have been taught to approach dogs. 

The answer when walking Davy, my German shepherd, is a clear, “No… We are in training right now.” I would never put him at risk.  Sometimes, I will ask the children if they want to give Davy a treat for doing something I ask him to do.  Then I will hand them a treat and ask Davy to perform one of his tricks. A good spin left, spin right, down, sit, or paw always elicits a smile from the audience and the children can toss a treat on the ground in front of him for his reward. 

With my Walker Hound, my answer to the petting question is, “You can try, but she is very shy.” I’m careful with my dogs around children.  Ginger is skittish of many things.  I ask the children to let her choose to approach.  Then I give them a treat to offer her.  She is getting good at this because she is greedy about yummy food, but not because she likes other people.


In both scenarios, I make it a good experience for everyone.  I know my dogs well and understand their body language.  But I am aware that most dogs don’t like close encounters with people they don’t know well.   I am happier keeping mine in our comfort zone. 

Ginger is a rescued Walker Hound that was found running down HWY 70 in Havelock.  The story I concocted about her previous life is that she was never socialized well and didn’t turn into a good hunting dog.  When she went missing from her pack – no one ventured to find her.  I met her at a local rescue where she was in foster care.  She hid behind her foster Mom’s legs when I went to see the pets available. “I’ll take that one,” I said and took her home.  After ten years, she is still shy. 

Davy, my GSD, got a great start in life.  Good breeder, excellent lines, and a caring home.  He joined my family when he was nine weeks old.  I followed the “puppy right start to do” list so was able to shape his experiences.  His exuberance, high-energy, low impulse control, and loud bark are in his genes.  He is a good dog for me, but not a magnet for petting by strangers.  He gets a lot of attention for his good looks, but I keep him at a safe distance from people on our walks.  

Do your dogs enjoy being petted?  Do they like strangers?  Have they been socialized to children?  What does your dog want to do? Some dogs love attention from people of all ages and sizes and some don’t.  Can you read your dogs body language well enough to know if they are “into” greeting strangers or not?  If that stranger is young, do you know if their parents have taught them how to approach dogs?  These factors contribute to a pleasant or unpleasant experience for a pet.  This is one area when I chose to play it safe.  When children ask me if they can pet my dog, my answer depends on what benefits my pet in that moment and whether they consent to the greeting.


Happy Pet! Happy Home!

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Did you Know…?  Cool Ideas for Hot Dogs

Did you Know…? Cool Ideas for Hot Dogs

You and your dog don’t have to swelter in the heat and humidity on hot summer days.  There are awesome alternatives to walking your dog that can be done inside the comfortable temperature of your home.  After all, why do we walk our dogs?  We want them to have exercise, mental stimulation, a chance to rummage around a bit, and have a special time with us. But, when the weather too hot, there are other options.

Exercise can be high or low impact.  For an active experience – take them to a secure field, a friend’s large yard, a tennis court, or a dog park.  For low impact exercises, ACE (Animal Centered Education) Free Work such as distributing food on different surfaces and at different levels instead of filling a bowl, provides opportunities to seek, find, chew, and eat. 

Swimming is a fun activity that dogs love.  Games are awesome activities – try a flirt pole, urban agility (rudimentary course on your property – Parkour can even be done in your living room), tug games, playing pattern games (left to right, up and down, circle, figure 8’s), tossing a Frisbee or a ball are all great forms of exercise in place of a walk.  

Mental stimulation can be satisfied through games and smell.  Consider sniffing games, scent work, sniffaris, hide and seek around the house, snuffle mats, licky mats, food puzzles, and trick training.

Scavenging – snuffle mats, snuffle boxes, ACE Free Work, and peanut better filled Kong toys can delight your dog for longer than it takes to catch a treat!

Companionship – play games, give your dog a brushing or a massage, talk to them or just relax with them.

Davy, my German shepherd, loves attention, being brushed, brainwork activities, and exploring.  Ginger, my hound dog, likes sniffing and eating.  Both are easy to please without taking them for a walk on a hot summer day.  You can keep your dogs safe, comfortable, happy, and content with some new exciting choices.   What would your dog choose if they could?   I challenge you to include three things besides a walk that you can do with your dog this week.  Share your experience with a post and a picture.

Pet Tips for Spring

Pet Tips for Spring

Spring has arrived! Here are some tips to keep your pets safe and happy as the weather warms up.

  • Use pet-friendly products for spring cleaning; follow the directions for cleaning and storage.
  • Hide the antifreeze. If you suspect your pet may have come in contact with or ingested a poisonous substance – call the Animal Poison Control Center immediately at (888) 426-4435.
  • Clean up the yard. Pick up sticks and acorns that you pet could chew on. These can cause harm to your dog’s mouth and throat. Remove leaf litter where ticks and fleas could hide. Make your yard and garden unattractive to snakes by keeping them tidy.
  • Cats and screens: Be careful to use strong and sturdy screens in your windows and have them fit snugly. Curious cats can pry screens off their hinges and storms can blow screens off their frames.
  • Never leave your pet in a parked car. Travel with pets inside the car (not in the back of a pickup) and in a secure crate or seat belt harness to keep them safe, unable to stick their head out the window, or interfere with your driving.
  • Watch your pet for signs of seasonal allergies. Pets can be allergic to pollen, dust, grasses, and plants. For many pets, this reaction shows up in skin issues. You may notice itching, minor sniffling and sneezing or life-threatening anaphylactic shock from insect bites and stings. If your pet suffers each spring, see the vet to ease their suffering.
  • Flea and tick control. Check your pet for these pesky critters regularly – especially after they have been in tall grass.
  • ID tags will help your pet be returned to you, if they go astray.
  • Xylitol poisoning: there is a significant increase in pets being poisoned by ingesting this artificial sweetener. A tiny amount can be fatal. It can be found in some sugar-free gum, candies, breath mints, baked goods, pudding snacks, cough syrup, children’s chewable or gummy vitamins and supplements, mouthwash, and toothpaste. Xylitol is also showing up in over-the-counter nasal sprays, laxatives, digestive aids, allergy medicines, and prescription human medications, especially those formulated as disintegrating drug tablets (sleep aids, pain relievers, anti-psychotics, etc.) or liquids.
  • Prep for storms. Gather your hurricane kit together, teach your pet to go into a crate or carrier, and have important papers handy. If your dog is frightened of thunderstorms, ask your vet about medications that can ease your dog’s fears.
  • Standing water can cause health concerns (Leptospirosis) so don’t let your pet drink from puddles. Steer clear of communal water bowls.
  • Blue-green algae – keep your dog out of water sources that have been known to be contaminated with this toxin. Always wash your dog after swimming outside. Last August three pets died hours after swimming in a pond in Wilmington, NC.
  • Sign up for alerts from Dog Food Advisor regarding pet food recalls.
  • Take your dog out for a special treat to any of our beautiful parks.

Happy Pet! Happy Home!

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TRUE TALES: Willow: A Budding Blossom

TRUE TALES: Willow: A Budding Blossom

Willow is a shy golden mix learns to warm up to the world.

I was delighted to hear from a returning client that she had adopted a rescue and wanted to schedule regular dog walks. I met Willow, an adult Golden Retriever mix, in December. Little is known about her past. She was raised as a farm dog, owners lost the farm, and she ended up in a rescue. She is an adult dog with good house manners. She likes food, brushing, cats, and her new owner. She dislikes car rides, noise, and nail trims. She is anxious around strangers. The only one she will go for a walk with is her owner. She has a lot of boundaries and won’t cross them unless she wants to.

At first, she remained in the closet on my visits. I lured her out with food – mostly string cheese. She would eat kibble in her bowl and retreat to the closet immediately after. A walk was not happening. This was our routine for about one month. Then I started distributing her kibble and a few treats around the house instead of in her bowl. At least she would have to sniff and move to eat. I started getting creative and placing food at different levels, surfaces, and hiding places. She’s a good hunter and sought out every morsel. Still no walk, but she would let me attach her leash. If I tried to get her to walk with me, she sat and put on the brakes.

She was getting used to me and would sit next to me for petting and brushing after her hunting expedition instead of retreating to her quiet spot. I always held back something yummy so she would associate me with things she liked. She didn’t mind dragging the leash around, but still sat when I picked up my end. Not going to walk outside for me yet. By now I am visiting Willow four times a week for four months. Our progress is measured in baby steps and wanes from time to time. I decided it was time for her to meet one of my employees. David is kind and gentle with animals and was able to entice Willow into the backyard first. Little breakthroughs finally led to a big win.

I’m glad that Willow has a wonderful home with a doting owner. Willow has come a long way from our first meeting. We still dream of taking her for a walk, but we will let her decide when that will happen. For now, we take pleasure that has accepted us enough to venture out of the closet to spend time with us and will go outside for a midday potty break. Our patience and kindness paid off.


DID YOU KNOW? Synergy Integrative Veterinary Clinic

DID YOU KNOW? Synergy Integrative Veterinary Clinic

Let me introduce you to a local veterinary clinic that provide special services to pets in New Bern, including Physical Rehabilitation, Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM), Regeneration Medicine, Pain Management, and Holistic Care. Below is an interview from me to Dr. Joyce Gerardi.

  1. Why did you decide to study and practice holistic veterinary medicine?
    I began practicing general veterinary medicine and surgery 27 years ago. I loved both internal medicine and general surgery. I enjoyed really “fixing” the patient and having a happy pet and pleased pet parent. However, for nearly the past 15 years, I was on a quest to treat and return health to the “whole pet” and sought to understand true functional medicine.

    I finally learned, if I can take the time to understand the “root” cause of organ dysfunction (I call this dis-ease) then I can have a positive healing in patients. I learned how to do this by finally completing an extensive Master’s degree training in Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (MS-TCVM) at the Chi University. This discipline taught the following methods in conjunction with all the years of my conventional medical training. I have learned to practice Integrative Healing with the following treatments:
    • Whole food nutrition for each patient using the properties and energetic of food as real medicine. I develop a prescription or a custom diet for each patient. I never was taught nutrition in Veterinary School. So, I went on to become a certified Veterinary Food Nutritionist and this therapy makes all the difference in the world for my patients.
    • Acupuncture to stimulate the nervous system in order to move blood and facilitate electrical conduction within the tissues and organ systems. This can be done a number of ways with dry needle placement, electro-acupuncture for general pain management and nerve dysfunction, Cold Laser acupoint acupuncture and Injection of Stem Cells, Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) and B12 into specific joints and or acupoints to provide a specific functional response of healing within the body.
    • Medical acupuncture massage (Tui-na) is a custom “homework” therapy to be applied to the acupuncture meridians for each patient based on the pets diagnosis.
    • Physical Rehabilitation and home exercise programs. We offer an underwater Treadmill and numerous manual therapies to help restore the musculoskeletal system in both the young and older dog and cat. Just as people reap the benefits of physical rehab so do our pets. This is a tremendous benefit in both pre-op and post-op dogs and cats. If you spend thousands of dollars for an orthopedic surgery you actually need this service to ensure a full and complete return to function and recovery for your pet. Think of this an an insurance policy to ensure that all the money spent on surgery is actually going to be for the overall good.

2. How did you and Dr. Alexis Vidaurri partner to open up your clinic?
Synergy Integrative Veterinary Clinic was a collaborative vision of Dr. Joyce Gerardi and Dr. Alexis Vidaurri, with the goal of providing quality holistic, regenerative, pain management and rehabilitative care. As the name Synergy implies, our goal is to work together, with the primary care veterinarian and the pet owner, to provide the greatest opportunity for a successful treatment outcome. So many of the conditions we treat in veterinary medicine benefit from a multi-modal treatment approach, and we aim to provide alternative, minimally invasive therapies not previously available in our area.

3. Do you specialize in different areas?

  • Dr. Gerardi is certified and specializes in the areas of Acupuncture, Food Therapy, Herbology and Regenerative Medicine.
  • Dr. Vidaurri is certified and specializes as a CCRP (Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner) and is the only CCRP in Craven county.
  • Dr. Alexis Vidaurri received her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) from North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine. After 15 years in general, small animal practice, she decided it was time for a change and enrolled in the Canine Rehabilitation Certificate Program offered by the University of Tennessee. As a Certified Canine Rehab Practitioner (CCRP), Dr. Vidaurri concentrates her care on helping patients, both canine and feline, that are recovering from injury or suffering from chronic degenerative diseases and arthritis. Physical Rehab helps the musculoskeletal system which includes the bones, cartilage, ligaments, tendons and connective tissues. Your Pet’s skeleton provides a framework for the muscles and soft tissues. Together, they support your pet’s body’s weight, maintains posture and helps their overall mobility.

4. What are the some of the successes that you have seen?
Paralyzed dogs returning to full function, Hind-end weakness, General Pain Management, Intervertebral Disc disease (IVDD), Degenerative Myelopathy, Osteoarthritis pain, 90% success of non-surgical healing of Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL) partial tears, Seizures, Behavioral disorders, endocrine disorders, immune system disorders, Hepatitis, pancreatitis, Inflammatory bowel disease, skin disorders, Cancer Care Therapy, end of life palliative care plus custom wheelchair fittings, orthotics and custom limb braces.

5. What are some of the commonalities? By that I mean age, breed, reasons for coming to your clinic?
Many pets have chronic degenerative disease just like people. The outward symptoms are often treated or noted much later in life. I see both young and old patients. The sooner we can work on a proactive preventative wellness plan the better off each pet will be. We see the active agility dog, working dog to the everyday dog and cat and the limited mobility in senior pets.

6. What are some of the alternative treatment plans that you offer your clients?
I use both conventional medications but as a certified Veterinary Herbologist I will prescribe Herbal Medications to treat a given diagnosis without the side effects of conventional medicine. I will work with the pets general DVM and when we all work together to offer the best treatment plan for our community family pets.

7. What do you wish people knew about holistic medicine?
The best medicine is a proactive preventative care plan. Holistic care is actually very detailed and treats the underlying cause of disease. For instance, so many dogs that I treat non-surgically for a CCL tear actually have an internal imbalance in their Liver. This imbalance actually causes less efficient blood flow to the tendons and ligaments making this part of the body very vulnerable to an injury which then causes the tear and leads to chronic joint disease and joint pain.

8. What is the best time for a pet owner to bring in their pet?
The younger the better! We all wait to be sick before getting help. I believe the best care is to treat before the dis-ease or disease begins. I like to educate to begin to feed a proper nutrient dense diet to help address organ health before outward signs of disease occurs. I like to see my patients for proactive wellness visits at least 4-5 times a year and especially at seasonal changes as this is when there are often internal changes noted in the body such as, seasonal pancreatitis, vomiting and diarrhea.

Please visit Synergy’s website for more information: https://synergyintegrativevet.com/.

Happy Pet! Happy Home!


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Tips for Walking a Reactive Dog

Tips for Walking a Reactive Dog

Does your dog pull excessively on the leash and yank you off balance when he sees a squirrel, cat, or dog? 
Does he go berserk when he hears or sees the mail truck?
Does his hyper vigilance at the window turn nuclear when he sees anything moving past your house? 
Is he always in motion seemingly unable to relax?
Is he too noisy (whining, barking, or howling)?

These are some of the common responses presented by reactive dogs.  It’s a challenge to take them for a walk, have visitors, take them to the vet or enroll them in a dog class. 

Misha getting Reactive Dog Training

This is not the dog you imagined when you brought him home.  You may even be an experienced pet owner and find yourself baffled/embarrassed as to what to do next. If your pup’s fearfulness or anxieties are getting in the way of your quality of life – I want to reassure you that it is not your fault and that there is hope.  I know what it’s like to own a reactive dog, the disappointment of being asked to leave dog school, and the frustration of finding a solution.  I set out on a quest to learn about them and how to help them.  What I discovered was game changing!

I found the solutions from world-class trainers who have made it their niche to focus specifically on reactivity.  I applied their wisdom first to Davy, my German Shepherd, and then trialed it with several pet owners who sought my help with their dogs.  I am so encouraged by the results that followed that I am offering a Reactive Dog Training program as my signature service.  From my own experience, I will tell you that I always loved Davy, but now I like him better.  At five-years-old, he is easier to be around.  We have a stronger bond and a better partnership.  I can show you how to obtain this with your dog too!

We will look at your situation, the needs of you and your dog, and the results that you want.  Our progress will include lowering your dog’s arousal and teaching him to relax, identifying and practicing essential skills (recall, walking on a loose lead) that will help you the most, and bringing joy back into your relationship (games, scent work, maybe a trick or two). We will begin in quiet places to build up our foundations before venturing out into more challenging environments.  We will set you and your dog up for success through consistency, practice, and using the right tools. 

Conventional training did not provide the solution to Davy’s reactivity.  In fact, I did not even know where to go or what to do until embarking on a personal quest for the answers.  I am ready to share them with you.  If you find yourself in a similar situation – contact me, Jeanne, the owner of Crockett’s Critter Care for a discovery call. Learn more about our Reactive Dog Training program here.


Happy Pet! Happy Home!

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