The cute, cuddly puppy–and 5 things every new dog owner must do right away

Editor’s note:  Puppies are adorable but, just like children, they require care to grow and thrive.  Unfortunately, a lot of people just see those cute big brown eyes–and then get overwhelmed, even resentful, at the care involved. That means the puppy, unfortunately, can end up in a shelter.

So what are some simple things to do to ensure a smooth transition?  Who better to answer this than my friend (and a member of my board of directors), Shelby Semel.


Shelby Semel is a certified Dog Trainer in NYC ( Her goal is to help owners understand how to become trainers for their own dogs.
Shelby lives with her two pups, Taz & Xena, whose behavioral issues help keep her skills up to par 🙂

Congratulations! You’re the proud parent of a brand new puppy. But often time the days that follow can be hectic and confusing, leading owners to go into a bit of a frenzy.

While you should always talk to a professional if you need clarity, here are five things every new dog-owner should do right away.

#1: Head to a professionally led puppy class and/or get some one on one playdates with your friends who have friendly dogs. Your pup needs to learn to play with dogs of all shapes and sizes so they don’t develop fear, fear-based aggression, or become the dog park bully. This needs to start as soon as your pup has its FIRST round of vaccinations and given a clean bill of health.

#2: Take your dog to a new place or two each day. Sit on a bench or stairwell outside with a bag full of goodies. Teach your puppy to adjust to new sights, sounds and people while they are still impressionable and moldable! Each time something unusual passes (for example, an ambulance, a woman in an electric wheelchair, a dog walker with two Great Danes) praise and treat your pup.

#3: Practice putting on the leash and collar and harness a couple of times a day and walk around your home or have some playtime. Use a piece of chewy treat as you put that harness and collar on so your pup isn’t wiggling around and spray bitter apple on your leash if your pup has a tendency to chew on it.

#4: Crate or pen your dog. For the next decade, your furry friend will be living in your home, and there will be times you need to be able to isolate them (friend who is allergic or scared, illness or injury). If you’ve adjusted them to this as a puppy, there will be no stress when the time comes to manage this sort of situation.

# 5: Introduce your pup to young kids.  Pick children (one at a time) that you know well and are above the age of 5 and can follow directions. Have the child do simple commands with the puppy or just drop treats


About Irene:

Irene Ross, CHHC, AADP is an integrative nutrition and wellness coach who helps people alter unhealthy habits so that they can balance their lives. She works with both people and pets because, “Our pets are prone to many of the same things we are, from the obesity epidemic to lifestyle-related diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure.”

Author of the forthcoming book, 25 Ways To Fire Up Your Day: Increase Energy, Get More Done in Less Time, Balance Your Life, her website is:


How to Find a Reliable and Professional Pet Sitter

This is National Pet Sitters Week, and you want to be sure you always have the best in mind for your little fur-baby. If you haven’t already, it’s a good time to think about what you’d want in a pet sitter. Even if you have a trusted friend or family member, he or she may not be available if you have to take a sudden overnight trip–and the last thing you want to do is scramble to find someone, especially if their quality is sub-par, at the last-minute.


The first thing you should know is that there are two kinds of pet sitters: One is a dog-walker or cat feeder who comes into your home once or twice a day. Ask if they’ll also do things like pick up newspapers, remove trash or rotate the curtains.  The downside with this is that your pet will be alone much of the time.

The other is a house sitter who, just as the word implies, moves right into your home while you’re gone. While a little more pricey, it provides the least disruption to your pet; there is constant supervision and, of course, your house is always occupied.

The second thing you should know is that you shouldn’t be afraid to interview several candidates or ask a lot of questions. If the person seems abrupt, discourteous or unprofessional in any manner–or if your animal appears not to like them (and, remember, animals are great judges of character)– that won’t be the person for you to hire. Also, it’s a red-flag if the person shows up late–would that mean the person would skip times to come in for walking and feeding??

Third, check with your local ASPCA or Humane Society to see if they have guidelines on selecting a pet sitter.

Here are some guidelines when interviewing:       canstockphoto3465918dogcockerspanielonleaves

  • Ask for referrals: This includes veterinarians, groomers and neighbors.
  • Check fees and services: Sometimes a pet sitter will also take animals to the vet or groomer–but be sure to ask if it’s included as part of the overall package or if it’s an additional fee.
  • Ask if they are members of organizations such as NAPPS (National Association of Professional Pet Sitters) or PSI (Professional Pet Sitters International).  If the candidate is certified in animal CPR, that just adds more marketability!
  • Ask for references, and check them. Be sure to ask any reference whether they have a cat or dog, because you don’t want someone who’s inexperienced with your species; for instance, you wouldn’t hire a dog sitter if the person’s only experienced with cats–and vice versa.
  • Find out if he or she insured and bonded. This is a legal agreement and gives an element of trust when deciding to hire a pet sitter. Liability insurance to protect the client’s pets or homes in the event of an accident, as well as insurance that covers bodily injuries while caring for a pet. Remember, this person will have full access to your home. They can easily get it through NAPPS or PSI.
  • Get everything in writing. It’s a good idea to have a contact to avoid any misunderstandings.
  • Once you go, leave detailed instructions, with your’s, your vet’s and a family member’s contact information.


About Irene:

Irene Ross, CHHC, AADP is an integrative nutrition and wellness coach who helps people alter unhealthy habits so that they can balance their lives. She works with both people and pets because, “Our pets are prone to many of the same things we are, from the obesity epidemic to lifestyle-related diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure.”

Author of the forthcoming book, 25 Ways To Fire Up Your Day: Increase Energy, Get More Done in Less Time, Balance Your Life, her website is:

Valentines for Animals

I received the ASPCA newsletter today, and they featured a really sweet Valentine’s Day gift that would also help animals.  You make a gift in the name of your favorite animal lover and they send out a card to that person.

The gift can be things like donating supplies to keep shelter animals and resuced horses comfortable or perhaps therapy-cat training kits.



Isn’t this a wonderful idea?

To learn more, call your local ASPCA look online at


Wouldn’t you be grouchy if you had a toothache that wasn’t treated?

February is both National Pet Health Month and National Pet Dental Month.  What better way to celebrate than to take your furry little child to the vet for a check-up?canstockphoto5976994dogcat

A lot of people tend to ignore pet dental disease;  in fact, I remember the time when a former co-worker overheard me booking a dental cleaning for my cairn terrier, Dudley.  “Oh, come on,” he said, “That really isn’t necesssary.”

Oh, but it is! The fact is, pets suffer from the same things we do–cavities, gingivitis and the like.  And, just like us, an untreated tooth infection can lead to other problems–like the heart.

So get your pet used to brushing at a very early age; the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) recommends once daily–but if that isn’t possible, at least do it several times a week.  There are special toothpastes and mouthwashes made just for pets (NEVER use human toothpaste as it contains substances that can be toxic. And don’t use a toothpaste formulated for cats on your dog and vice versa, because one species might have a stronger reaction to something that another).  There are also dental foods and treats that are formulated to help reduce tartar.

And don’t forget about professional cleaning and X-rays!  Discuss a schedule with your vet.


Irene Ross is a certified nutrition and wellness coach.  Her core program is called “The canstockphoto8139755petscookiesWellness-Centered Family”–and that includes everyone, even the 4-legged furry children. “Everyone in the family absorbs the energy of each other, and pets are just as prone to things, such as obesity, stress, flu, arthritis and more.”

Author of the e-book, Sugar’s Sour Story, and of the forthcoming book, 25 Ways to Fire Up Your Day:  Increase Energy, Get More Done in Less Time, Balance Your Life, her website is:




We’ve all heard the stories about the flu epidemic among people and, even though it’s not all that common, pets can also get the flu.  Know also that it can be highly contagious among animals, so shelters, boarding kennels, daycare facilities, etc.can be hotbeds.

Remember 2009?  People got the H1N1 virus from pigs–and then gave that virus to cats and dogs who often fell ill or died.canstockphoto7741255pethealthsign

Bacteria and viruses have zoonotic properties.  Zoonotic means simply that it can be passed back and forth between people and pets.

So here’s what to look out for in your dog or cat: Labored breathing and cough, whether wet or dry, are common symptoms.  So is lethargy or discharge from the nose or eyes. Gastrointestinal tract problems can also occur, so if you see them, check for any additional symptoms, above.

A healthy lifestyle–plenty of sleep, high-quality food and plenty of fresh, clean water, is critical always, but especially now.  Also check that your pets’ vaccinations are up-to-date.  If you board, groom, or send your pet to day-care, ask them about their health policies, particularly regarding the flu.  Since it is so contagious among animals, keep yours away from any cat or dog who looks sick.

You should also discuss any other preventative measures with your vet.


Irene Ross, CHHC, AADP, is a certified health and nutrition coach who specializes in wellness for the entire family, including the 4-legged furry children.  “Everyone absorbs the energy of each other, so it’s best to coach as a family–and animals are just as vulnerable to the same things as people, including obesity (which is now up to 54 percent in this country), arthritis, stress and lifestyle-based diseases, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

Author of the e-book, Sugar’s Sour Story, and of the forthcoming book, 25 Ways to Fire Up Your Day: Increase Energy, Get More Done in Less Time, Balance Your Life, her website is:


canstockphoto5976994dogcatFor years we’ve been hearing that pets are good for our health and, today, 62 percent of all households in the United States own a dog or a cat. That compares to 56 percent in 1988. In 2011, pet owners spent a total of $51 billion–and that number is expected to increase in 2012. Of course, a big reason is there are just more pets–but, overall, they’re now, more than ever, seen as part of the family.

Everyone in the family absorbs the energy from each other so, in effect, their problems become ours, whether it’s a spouse, 2-legged child or 4-legged one. As one vet recently said, “If someone comes in with an overweight pet, 9 times out of 10, the owner will be overweight as well.”

So why have pets become such a big part of the family?

  • Americans have about a third fewer close friends today than they did 20 years ago — averaging two rather than the three they had, on average, in 1985—and pets fill those vacuums. Other interesting stats include:
  • Nearly a third of all pet owners say they’d rather rather chat with their cat after a long day than anyone else, and 39% say their cat is more likely than a romantic partner to pick up on their current mood.
  • Almost 95% of pet owners say their pet makes them smile at least once at least once a day and there have been multiple studies showing that pets lower blood pressure, alleviate depression, and boost mental and physical resiliency.
  • In 1994, roughly 15% of Americans reported increased anxiety in their lives. By 2009 that number had risen 49%, and it’s predicted to be even higher now. Want the SCIENTIFIC reason why pets help us reduce stress? It’s simple, really. When we cuddle, play with, and even just look at our pets we get a hefty boost of oxytocin, our body’s naturally occurring feel-good, stress-relieving, emotional-bonding hormone. So do our pets, by the way. Which makes all parties more relaxed and happy, and more deeply bonded.


When it comes to wellness, humans and non-humans aren’t really that different. Our pets get many of the same illnesses we do, from the simple common cold to the very common arthritis–and the even more serious illnesses like cancer. They also get stressed-out; many don’t think that can happen but, truthfully it does–did you know the German Shepherd is one of the most stress-prone animals around? Animal waistlines are expanding as rapidly as pet ones; in fact, according to the AMERICAN ASSOCIATION FOR PET OBESITY PREVENTION, 54 percent–that’s 88.4 million cats and dogs– of all pets in the United States are classified as overweight or obese by their veterinarians. Simply, that means pet waistlines are expanding as rapidly as human ones.

So let’s think of everyone, pets included, when considering family wellness and nutrition!


About Irene:

Irene Ross is a certified nutrition and health coach who helps people alter unhealthy habits so they can balance their lives.  A wellness educator, for both the 2-legged and 4-legged, she conducts speeches, lunch ‘n learns, workshops, groups and individual classes.

Author of the e-book, Sugar’s Sour Story and of the forthcoming book, 25 Ways to Fire Up Your Day: Increase Energy, Get More Done in Less Time, Balance Your Life, her website is:

We Know Pets Can Help Keep Us Youthful, But Do They Also Keep Us Healthier?

There has been a lot of research as to how animals can help keep us youthful, but a study from Finland recently found that children who are around pets the first years of their lives are less prone to illnesses, especially ones like the ear infections for which kids are so known.

Although those around cats were still protected, they were a little less so than infants who were around dogs.

No one really knows for sure why and, although officials readily acknowledge that more research is needed, one thought is perhaps that the more time a dog spends outside, the more dirt he or she drags in–and that somehow stimulates the child’s immune response.

This story was reported on CNN; to read the entire story, click here.

What do you think about this?