Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Yea Billy! Billy Earns Another Prestigious Certification

We are proud and pleased to announce that Happy Dog Land's own Billy Rafferty earned his Master Pet Stylist (MPS) certification from the prestigious International Society of Canine Cosmetologists. The ISCC offers continuing education and strives to advance the pet stylist profession by developing and promoting recognizable standards of pet styling excellence. The ISCC also has a code of ethics for it's members and certified pet stylists.

To attain the MPS certification, Billy attended numerous seminars and passed a variety of comprehensive written and practical skills examinations. The rigorous course of study includes, "educational and validation programs encompassing understanding and overall knowledge of breed standards, basic and advanced clipper techniques, scissor and hand-stripping techniques as well as rules of perception, locomotion and geometrics as applied to the ideal sculpting and design of canine coats." For all you regular dog lovers, this means that Billy knows virtually everything there is to know about styling a pet safely, properly and artistically! Few groomers have successfully earned this certification due to the exceptionally challenging course content.

Congratulations Billy! In addition to his Master Pet Stylist (MPS) certification, Billy is a Certified Master Groomer (CMG), DermaTech Specialist (DTS) and Companion Animal Hygienist (CAH). Billy, we are proud of you and applaud your efforts to continue your education.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Guest Column: Keeping Fido Organized Means More Time For Fun!

Organization guru Molly Boren of Simplicity Works Home and Office Organizing Services is a long time friend of Happy Dog Land. Not only did Molly organize Jill (a notorious slob), but she introduced Jill and Billy to their wonderful agent Rebecca Oliver.

If Molly can successfully teach Jill how to keep her clutter under control, she can help anyone, including your four-legged pal! Like many dogs, Jill's dog Shadow had his things strewn throughout the house. Shadow wasted way too much time hunting for his bone or poop bags. Finding his stuffed Hedgie was becoming a chore. Molly to the rescue! Shadow is organized and everyone in the house knows where to find all the canine accessories.

We asked Molly for some advice on keeping all the dog accessories organized and accessible. Here's what she said:

With a little organizational forethought, you can avoid some of the frustrations of dog ownership -- and better focus on its joys! Here are some ideas to consider:
  • "A Place for Everything and Everything in Its Place"
This old chestnut has endured for a reason. If everything has one "home," there's only one place to look for it or to return it. Give each broad category of things a home, preferably one near the area in which the items are used.

- Label containers. This is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to stay organized -- a Sharpie or a Post-It note works fine. (Ed. Note: A battery operated label maker is loads more fun!)
-Corral those little bags of pet snacks in one open bin.
- Decide whether to keep pet-related cleaning supplies in the "pet supply" home or in the "cleaning supply" home. Either works; just be consistent.
- Tell everyone in the household about these "homes"! Only once they're fully informed can you get annoyed with them for not picking up after themselves.
  • Everyday vs. Extras
- Keep all everyday grooming and feeding supplies on a shelf or in a cabinet near the pantry, main entrance, or other often-used area.
- Transfer a manageable amount of food from a large bag to a smaller, air-tight container, or use a binder clip to keep the contents of a smaller, open bag fresh.
- Keep extras such as surplus food, seldom-used medicine or out-of-rotation toys in a less accessible home like a high shelf. These items don't need the "prime real estate" required by everyday items.
  • Grab and Go
- Store supplies for walks at every entrance/exit point: leash, towels, plastic bags, etc. for Fido, and perhaps gloves, a scarf, a flashlight, and a lint roller for you.
- Establish a system for moving dirty post-walk towels toward the laundry. Do they go straight to the laundry room? Is there a small hamper near the back door?
  • Triggers for Reducing and Replenishing
- Use the changing of seasons or Fido's birthday as triggers to go through his supplies and toys and recycle, donate, or toss what's no longer useful, expired or broken.
- When a supply container becomes less than half-full, check your "extras" area; if no surplus exists for the item, add it to your shopping list.
  • Contain the Slosh
- Put Fido's water and food bowls on a tray. Not only does he deserve a little fanciness, but this also contains spills and saves you elbow grease.
  • In Case of Emergency
- Be sure that Fido's veterinary and health information are clearly recorded in a binder or posted on the fridge with your other family emergency information so that anyone can find it when they need it.
  • Have Fun
- With the time and energy you've saved by getting organized, take Fido to the park!

Visit Molly's website and learn how she helps busy people streamline their lives with tips, tools, and hands-on projects that make everyday routines and spaces more efficient and less cluttered. Be sure to sign up for Molly's helpful newsletter.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Puppies and Prisoners

"The program has taught me to be patient, honest with myself, and how to work without ego. My last dog, Yankee, went to a war veteran somewhere in Colorado. Just knowing that I helped to change someone's life makes me feel as if I have a purpose and a destiny. These dogs have a way of touching a person's spirit." --Tyrone, has served 8.5 years in Fishkill Correctional Facility for a violent crime.

Time Magazine's article on Puppies in Prison is a must read. The photo essay explores the program Puppies Behind Bars, which "trains inmates to raise puppies to become service dogs for the disabled and explosive detection canines for law enforcement." The photo essay shows us how dogs can change the lives of prisoners and give them a sense of purpose and positive place in the world.

And, that's a good thing for everyone!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Goodbye to a furry friend who made us laugh and crave fast food.

Gidget the Chihuahua who stared in many Taco Bell ads proclaiming "¡Yo quiero Taco Bell!" has passed away. Gidget was 15 when she suffered a stroke on July 21, 2009 that ended her life.

Gidget made us laugh and we hope she's playing near the Rainbow Bridge. It's a fitting reward for a talented pooch.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What to Feed Fido: Some Quick Tips

Lately, many people have been asking us advice about dog food. To tide you over until September 1st when you can read the detailed, but pithy nutrition chapter in our book Happy Dog Caring for Your Dog's Body, Mind and Spirit, here's some information.
  • Learn to read labels. The length of the ingredient list doesn’t always indicate the quality of the food. The ingredient list must show the ingredients in descending order by weight. A protein from a specified animal should be the first ingredient. Avoid generic proteins such as “meat” or “poultry.” Although dogs like to eat some of the animal parts we don’t, proteins from a specified animal are better than by-products. Likewise, by-products are better than rendered meals and digests.
  • Watch for ingredient splitting. A manufacturer can list similar ingredients separately to make you think that it’s using less of a lower-quality ingredient. For example, corn is a mediocre, but cheap protein source. Rather than put it first, a manufacturer might order its list of ingredients this way: “Chicken, Ground Corn, Meat and Bone Meal, Corn Gluten Meal, Cellulose, Corn Germ Meal,” etc. Because Chicken comes first, you’d think Chicken is the main ingredient. However, when you add up the three “corns,” they could well outweigh the Chicken.
  • Don't fall victim to marketing. Just because a package is covered with beautiful pictures of fruit and veggies or uses the terms “natural” or “organic” doesn’t mean that the food is actually nutritious or healthful. You must read the label and see what’s actually in the food.
Remember, just as with you, Fido is what he eats! Obesity is a growing problem for dogs too. Feeding good quality food and treats will help keep Fido’s waistline in check. This also maximizes his quantity and quality of life.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Ask Billy: How Do I Choose The Right Dog For Me?

Q: Emily from New York wants to know how to determine what type of dog is best for her lifestyle and family.

A: Emily, I'm so glad you asked this question because bringing a dog into your household is an important decision that cannot be taken lightly --EVER! A dog is a lifelong commitment and should never be an impulsive acquisition -- many dogs live 12-17 years.

First things first, do a lot of research and analysis. Many respectable websites offer sound advice for potential dog owners. Here are a few articles to start you off:

Realistically assess your capabilities, time commitment, and budget. A Poodle requires much more professional grooming than a Pug. Don’t get a Border Collie or a Portuguese Water Dog unless you are willing and able to provide a safe means to release all the innate energy. Read books and talk to friends, family, and dog care professionals.

Visit shelters and reputable breeders. A good breeder is picky and will want to ensure that you know the pros and cons of a specific breed before you take a dog home. Similarly, if you’re considering a mixed breed, try to get a sense of the dog’s personality and learn about the breeds in the mix. Spend time with the breed or dog you like before making a final decision.

Never get a dog unless everyone in the family or household wants one. Likewise, dogs make lousy gifts. The recipient may not have the time, money or energy to care for the pooch.

Remember to check you local shelter for your new best pal and don't buy a dog from any person or store that supports puppy mills.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Don't Skimp on These Dog Care Necessities

You dog depends on you to keep him healthy and happy. So, spend your doggie dollars wisely on these necessities:
  1. Regular veterinary care, including vaccinations and parasite preventatives, is critical. Don’t skimp on the “routine” care. Flea prevention is cheaper than treatment for a flea infestation. Heartworm preventatives can save your dog’s life and keep you from spending much more money to treat the disease.
  2. A collar, leash, and proper identification (including a microchip) are essential and help keep Fido safe and sound.
  3. Always buy the best food you can afford. Cheap food is cheap for a reason, and the old adage “you are what you eat” is true for dogs too. Moreover, when a manufacturer uses cheap ingredients, it has to bulk up the food with fillers to meet the government’s minimum nutritional requirements. As a result, the portion size for cheap food is typically larger than for more-expensive food with higher-quality, more-digestible ingredients. In the end, you’ll be buying more of the cheap food, which usually works out to be more expensive than buying the higher-quality food in the first place.
  4. Purchasing a few good quality toys that will withstand your dog’s chewing strength is better than buying many cheap toys that break up and become choking or obstruction risks.
  5. Buy yourself a pair of good walking shoes. Walking with your dog is free, and is good for you and your pooch. More than anything, our pets want our time, which costs nothing! You can save money by skipping the movie and babysitter and having game night at home with your cat in your lap and your dog at your feet.
  6. Buy only essential grooming tools: for most dogs all you need is a good quality slicker brush and a metal comb. Many of the tools now sold to dog owners are really meant for professionals. These tools can be dangerous in unskilled hands. For example, clippers can scratch or cut skin, or render your pooch accidentally bald! The blades heat up quickly and can burn Fido’s skin. Many tools are just a waste of money. In your kitchen, you don’t really need a tool for each separate task, and the same is true for grooming. Save money by NOT buying the gimmick tools—they are often specialty items that do more dust-collecting than hair-collecting.
  7. Forgo fancy spa products. There is no reason to purchase a shampoo for every doggie dirt situation either. A proper wash using a hypoallergenic dog shampoo and conditioner is sufficient. It’s crucial to use only those products formulated for canine skin. The skin and hair on humans and dogs have different pH requirements, which means that most human shampoos (including baby shampoos) dry out a dog’s coat or irritate her delicate skin. In some cases, the resulting skin problem may require veterinary attention. It should go without saying: never use household or industrial cleaners on a dog. The horror stories Billy could tell and does in our book Happy Dog Caring For Your Dog's Body, Mind and Spirit (available 9/1/09)
If you skimp on these necessities, you'll end up paying through the nose later.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Keeping Fido Clean and Healthy On A Budget

Times are tough all over right now and many people have to cut back on dog expenses. Thankfully, there are many things you can do at home to keep Fido healthy and in tip top shape while saving money. Here's a few suggestions:
  1. Inspect your dog. Fido can’t tell you if he’s under the weather, or even if he's uncomfortably dirty—you have to discover these problems yourself. An inspection allows you to gather, track, monitor, and assess the state of your dog’s health and cleanliness in a systematic and thorough manner. Moreover you’ll discover medical and grooming issues well before they become painful to your dog and your pocketbook. Once a week, using your hands, eyes, ears and nose, give your pooch the once over. Fido's eyes, however, require daily inspections. Be sure you check every nook and cranny. The entire process takes about five to ten minutes, and your dog will appreciate the attention. If at any time you see, feel, smell, or sense trouble brewing, call your veterinarian immediately. Your inspection may save your dog's life (and your bank account).
  2. Dog-proof your house. Many household items are dangerous to dogs as poisons, or as choking/obstruction risks. Spending a few minutes a day clearing your counters, closing drawers and doors, and putting away medicine, cleaners, food, and small objects will safeguard your dog. It’s easier to clean up than to pay a huge a vet bill or replace chewed or swallowed items.
  3. Brush, brush, brush! Brushing saves time, money, and is an excellent opportunity to bond with your dog. Brushing also extends the time between professional grooming appointments, loosens and lifts dirt, and keeps skin healthy. Brushing removes the dead coat before it can fall off your dog or cause mats, which can increase professional grooming costs. For most dogs, a slicker brush is all you need. If your dog has extremely short hair, such as a Boxer, Doberman, Dalmatian or a Pug, you can use a rubber curry. You don’t even have to brush the entire dog every time. Brush a quarter of your dog each day and by the end of the week, he’ll have been completely brushed twice. Besides, more fur in the brush means you'll spend less on lint rollers and dry cleaning!
  4. Be smart about products. Most people use far too much product when bathing their dog at home, which wastes money and makes rinsing difficult. Dilute shampoo in a bowl or separate bottle. Don’t dilute it in the original bottle because adding water can spoil the product. All you need is one quality hypoallergenic CANINE shampoo and one CANINE conditioner. Although they’re fun to use, you don’t need fancy spa products. And there is no reason to purchase a shampoo for every doggie dirt situation—a proper wash with a regular dog shampoo followed by a regular conditioner is sufficient. Make sure you rinse thoroughly because product left on the skin can cause painful and costly skin infections.
  5. Ask for a shorter haircut. When your dog gets a haircut, ask your groomer to cut the coat a “step” (or slightly) shorter. The shorter haircut can stretch the time between professional appointments, but make sure the cut isn’t too short since exposed skin is prone to sunburn. And because you’ll extend the time between appointments, brushing becomes critical—the coat on some dogs can mat up overnight.
In our next post, we'll talk about the most efficient way to spend your dog care dollars.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Get to Know Adopt a Pet.com

At Happy Dog Land, we are dedicated to helping animals in need. For instance, on our book tour, we will be partnering with companies to help raise money for local and national animal welfare organizations. (Stay tuned for more details!) and our soon to be ready website www.happydogland.com will highlight stories from our readers who have helped animals. Billy and Jill also volunteer at Chicago Animal Care and Control and other Chicago animal welfare organizations.

We are always meeting new people and organizations that help animals. Today we are talking to Jeff Howard of Adopt-A-Pet.com to learn more about the organization.

Q: What is Adopt-a-Pet.com?
A: Adopt-a-Pet.com is the world's largest non-profit adoption website. We are like an ad agency for shelters and shelter pets. Sadly, there are 4 million healthy and adoptable companion animals killed in shelters each year due to overcrowding. We do our best to relieve that problem and put pets from shelters in the homes of pet seekers all over the country.

Q: What can we find on your website?

A. Our website makes it easy for anyone with an internet connection to find profiles and pictures of adoptable animals by location, breed, gender, age, size, and color. Over 8,000 shelters posts pets on our website displaying over 125,000 pets available for adoption at any given time. We also help volunteers connect with shelters, and currently host thousands of people listed in our volunteer database for shelters.

Q: Do you work with any other animals in addition to dogs and cats?
A: Yes we do! In addition to dogs and cats, we now feature all kinds of pets for adoption, including rabbits, farm animals, ferrets, hamsters and other small animals, horses, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and even fish. This was a major initiative that took many months to research and program into the site, and it is being well-received within the shelter community.

Q: What are some of the unique features on your website?
A: On our website, people can use something we call “Search Saver.” This feature will notify users by e-mail when a particular pet fitting their specifications in available for adoption. For example, I can tell “Search Saver” where I live and what type of breed I am looking for. When that animal is available, I am notified the next time a pet matching my search is added on Adopt-a-Pet.com.

As of this summer we have now made it easy for our visitors to find pets and then recommend them to friends and family via Facebook, Twitter and other social applications. We are calling the idea “Social Petworking.” Here is how it works; once you have searched and found a pet in need, on the pet details page simply hover over the button labeled “SHARE,” there you can send the pet details page to any of your friends.

Q: You've teamed up with a well-known artisit to help raise awareness and money for animals in need. Please share this exciting news!
A: We have teamed up with renowned street-artist Shepard Fairey, who designed the iconic Obama "Hope" image. As a result, we have available a number of stylish ways to promote pet adoption. Shepard was able to translate his work with Obama to an image that can be used to represent pet adoption support. You can download the image to share, embed it on your website or print it. T-shirts and clothing and stickers are available too and these purchases help raise money to help homeless pets.

Q: What other kind of information can we find on the website?
A: Adopt-a-Pet.com has recently begun blogging, and every week we publish posts from two separate columns. On Tuesday, we blog about pet care tips, and on Fridays we do our best to find heartwarming stories about adopted pets all over the country. Here are a few highlights from our blog:

Adopt-a-pet is also on Facebook and you can follow it on Twitter at AdoptaPetcom.

Friday, July 10, 2009


Here's the trailer for our book:

If you don't see you dog, please email us a photo at info@happydogland.com and we'll include it on our website, which is coming soon at www.happydogland.com.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Tips To Keep Fido in Tip-Top Shape

Here's some easy ways to keep Fido's body, mind and spirit healthy. Print this tip sheet out and post it on your refrigerator.

  • Insect the dog from head to toe and front to back, every week for growths, injuries abnormalities or grooming issues.
  • Clean teeth, eyes, ears, paws, rear end and genitals regularly. Keep nails trimmed.
  • Visit the veterinarian at least once a year for a check up and as often as necessary for emergencies or mishaps.
  • Keep your dog’s vaccinations current.
  • Spay and neuter.
  • Don’t forget doggie dental care at home and with the vet.
  • Feed your dog the most nutritional food and treats you can afford.
  • Love and play with your dog every day.
  • Use preventatives to protect against parasites such as fleas, ticks and heartworm.
  • The dog must wear current identification at all times.
  • Keep your dog on leash or in a 100% secure area if off leash.
  • Be a canine ambassador: clean up after your dog and train him to be well behaved.
  • Help dogs in need and speak out to protect animals.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Arthur Finds His Inner-Herder or How Breed Based-Activties Equal Big Fun For Fido

Billy's Cocker Spaniel Arthur herds chicken at a friend's farm in Indiana.

You know what they say, you can take the dog out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the dog.

Arthur, a normally mellow, urbane and beautifully- coiffed Cocker Spaniel typically spends his day greeting clients at Billy's salon, strolling the Chicago sidewalks and romping with his brother Zeke in a high-rise apartment. Yet, this weekend Arthur's ancestral yearnings took over and Arthur went from city dog to Barnyard Dawg faster than you can say "Foghorn Leghorn."

Why did this happen?

Through the magic of genetics, Arthur found his inner gun dog. Despite his years in the city, Arthur's innate urge to flush game and retrieve never left him. Arthur chased, herded and retrieved chickens to his hearts content. His tail never stopped wagging.

No matter how citified Fido may be, his breed (or breeds) often reveal a new way to exercise, play and relieve boredom. Historically, breeds had specific jobs. For example, Portuguese Water dogs worked in the water with fishermen, herding fish into nets, moving nets in the water and delivering messages between ships. Basset Hounds, with their long ears and highly developed sense of smell and slow pace, assisted hunters in tracking prey. Border Collies herded and protected flocks of sheep.

Dogs require mental and physical stimulation to prevent boredom and destructive behavior. Today, most dogs are unemployed and spend their days in backyards, parks and living rooms. Discovering your dog's hereditary job offers a new way to keep Fido mentally and physically fit--it also decrease the chances that Fido will chew your furniture to release energy or stress.

So, do some research and learn about your furry friend's history. Then, find an activity that emphasizes the job your dog was meant to perform. If your pooch is a genetic mix, try out jobs from all his breeds.

Hide snacks in your yard and set your Beagle loose to uncover the treasure. Join a hunting club for your pointer, spaniel, terrier or hound, but dress her in orange to keep her safe from other hunters. Or buy a stuffed squirrel and play fetch. A farmer may require help herding his sheep (or chickens) or a golf course may need a dog to keep birds off the grass. Here in Chicago, the Park District occasionally uses Border Collies to chase seagulls and geese away from beaches and parks. The possibilities are limitless. An uber-yuppie friend of Happy Dog Land now spends his weekends in the brush instead of in the artisanal cheese shoppe so his German Short-haired Pointer can hunt with other members of a hunting club. Who knows, you may even find your inner-Homo Erectus.

Before we go, we state for the record, that no chickens were harmed in the making of this blog entry.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

July 4th: Pets and Fireworks Don't Mix

Even though it seems logical to bring Fido along to outside celebrations, sometimes it is better to leave him home. Fourth of July is not a dog-friendly holiday. Many dogs are easily spooked by fireworks. Indeed, dogs often become noise sensitive as they age.

When fireworks are booming, Fido should always be inside, sequestered in a safe, quiet room. In addition, never leave Fido unattended in your yard on July 4th (or any other time). Stray fireworks can land there or the noise of neighboring fireworks can scare him and he’ll desperately try to escape. Whether or not he succeeds, he can seriously injure himself.

If you do bring Fido with you to a celebration, keep him on leash at all times. Your normally calm dog may dart off unexpectedly and terrible accidents happen to dogs off leash, especially when you throw pyrotechnics into the mix. Fido should be nowhere near cherry bombs, Roman candles, sparklers or anything else that involves fire and gunpowder. If he gets too close, he can be burned, lose an eye or suffer hearing loss from the explosions.

Immediately dispose of all unused fireworks and remnants, as they are toxic if ingested. After the holiday, look for firework pieces when you’re out walking or playing. Protect everyone’s pet by throwing away anything you find.

Besides, if you leave Fido safe at home, you can relax and celebrate the birthday of our great nation!