Food Storage Tips for Your Pets

food-storage-pet

I work for a nonprofit consumer education and protection organization. This means I spend my entire day learning about all of the ways food is going to kill me.

Blue Bell and Sabra Hummus might have been big recalls that have hit the news lately, but hardly a day goes by that I don’t get a recall notice from the federal government. Recalls for food, consumer goods and cars happen every single day, but few people really hear about them unless they are personally affected.

While finding myself in recall hell might make for a depressing day, it has helped me become a better and more conscious consumer.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or don’t have pets, no doubt you’ve heard about the thousands of dogs that got sick after eating chicken jerky treats. Beneful found itself in the middle of a class action lawsuit after dogs allegedly became sick after eating food made by the company. Nylabone recently recalled puppy treats due to possible salmonella contamination.

It can be pretty scary.

So, what can do you? Well, honestly, not too much. Keeping salmonella out of your dog’s food is up to the company and I could go on for another 10,000 words about how we should be doing more to keep our food supply safe.

But, you can do something that can help your pet should they get sick. Full disclosure, I can’t take credit for this tip. C told me and he heard it from Purina, of all places.

The next time you buy a bag of food, take a scoop and put it in a ziplock bag. If you’re like most pet owners, you transfer the food from the bag to a plastic container of some kind. Before tossing the packaging, cut out the production code, add it to the ziplock bag and toss it into the freezer.

frozen-pet-food-sample

After the Knot

 

If your pet gets sick and you think it may have been her food, the sample can be tested and the production code will help identify where and when it was manufactured.

There isn’t much you can do if contamination happens on the production line, but you can prevent your pet from getting sick by properly storing her food.

The Dog Food Advisor writes,

Air and moisture are the enemies of dry dog food. Be sure to store all kibbles in a cool, dry location. Squeeze out any excess air as you seal the open bag.

If you prefer to use a resealable container, try to leave the food in its original package inside that container. Or save the bag in a safe location.

Until recently, we kept a small bin of Bailey’s food in the house and the remainder in a larger bin in the shed. As I learned about more dog food recalls I started to rethink our storage situation. The heat and humidity in the shed suddenly seemed like a recipe for mold and bacteria.

I specifically needed a tall and narrow storage bin to fit a tight spot in our pantry. Since Target didn’t seem to have anything fitting this description in the storage aisle, I picked up a $20 garbage can that fit just right.

After the Knot

After the Knot

Sometimes, things are just out of our control. But our pets depend on us to keep them safe and it’s our job to make sure we do whatever we can to keep them healthy.

 

 

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Adventures in Dog Training: Preparing for the Not-Yet-Conceived Baby

I’m just going to come right out and say it:

My dog fucking rocks. She’s awesome. She really is the best dog on the face of the Earth.

But, she’s far from perfect.

She’s really great with a lot of her basic skills, like Sit, Stay, Leave-It, etc. She’s less great with more complicated skills like recall. When she sees people she wants to say hello to she charges forward and barks like a maniac. It’s incredibly disturbing to anyone that doesn’t know her. We’re slowly working on this one.

The stress of a foster kitten has made her a little food aggressive toward the cats so I enlisted the help of our trainer for some advice.

I mentioned that I also wanted to teach Bailey how to stop barking on cue because I know the skill will come in handy once we have a baby.

Our trainer suggested also working on some other skills are great for when a baby is around, like not rushing to the front door and learning to stay out of a room when asked.

Setting Barriers

One of the first things I learned about training a dog is that they need boundaries. Now, not only are we teaching boundaries, but we’re setting barriers.

We’re teaching Bailey the cue Wait which in effect means, “don’t move forward. There is a line and you cannot cross it.” I could use this cue when I’m putting Future Baby in her crib and I don’t want Bailey following me into her room. I would ask Bailey to wait in the doorway and she would not follow me in. If she wants to leave, that’s fine, but she can’t move forward.

We practice Wait at every doorway, including this one from the hallway to the kitchen. / After the Knot

We practice Wait at every doorway, including this one from the hallway to the kitchen. / After the Knot

Wait is different than stay which is, stay here until I tell you to move. I guess you could argue they should be the other way around, but she’s a dog. I could use the word shishkabob and it wouldn’t matter.

Door Manners

I started teaching Bailey door manners a while back, but even though it should have been a high-priority, I was never consistent with her training.

We’re now trying to teach Bailey to stay on her bed when we answer the door. The same skills for wait apply here.

A note letting people know that it might take a minute to answer the door. We're not trying to be rude, we're just trying to train our dog. / After the Knot

A note letting people know that it might take a minute to answer the door. We’re not trying to be rude, we’re just trying to train our dog. / After the Knot

While you can use audio files of door bells and door knocks to practice, we practice this every day when we come home.

(Our trainer suggested we do this. It’s so common sense, I’m not sure why we didn’t think of it earlier.)

For example, when I come home from work, or anywhere, I don’t go to the side door anymore. Like a guest would, I go to the front door. I ring the bell and watch C work to get Bailey on her bed.  Right now, we release her almost immediately, slowly building up her ability to stay.

This enables us to practice this skill every day without needing people to come over regularly.

We’re hoping that by the time Future Baby arrives, guests will be able to enter the house without pushing by a very excited Lab.

This video from trainer Victoria Stillwell shows the process that we’re using teach Bailey this skill.

Quiet

With at least half a dozen dogs outdoor dogs near my house, it’s very easy for the howls to start. Someone coming home from work down the street could trigger the chorus of the barking dogs. Naturally, Bailey has to get in on this action.

Power of Barking

As Puppy Bailey has taught me, I’m not very functional without sleep. I cry. A lot. I also get angry really easily.

At some point, we’ll have a baby and I fully intend to attempt to sleep while Future Baby sleeps. If a chorus of barking dogs causes Bailey to bark and wake up Future Baby and the precious moments of sleep I have are gone, I’m going to flip. the. fuck. out.

So, I figured if we started now we’d have at least a year and a half to teach Bailey to STFU when we ask her.

Training quiet has been a little more difficult, just because it’s unpredictable. This involves rewarding Bailey the moment she stops barking, knowing she would likely start up again almost immediately. This skill will take a long time to learn, which is why we wanted a good amount of time before we’d have to apply it.

Since working on this though, I’ve noticed Bailey does settle down a little bit more quickly, but we have a long way to go.

Our Trainer

Words can’t describe how excited I am to have found Kassondra from Always Pawsitive. It’s been really hard to find a positive reinforcement trainer that doesn’t use “positive training” as a marketing buzzword. If you live in southeastern Wake County or northwestern Johnston County, I hope you’ll look her up.

 

What did you do to prepare you dog for a new little human? 

What My Dog Tells Me About Future Parenthood

OK. I confess. This isn’t a totally original post. About seven months ago, I posted something similar to my Tumblr, which focuses on my life as a new dog mom. I wanted to share it here with a few updates. 

There’s some emerging research that suggests that women, in particular, love their dogs like children. Well, yes. Shocker. The research says that our brains respond to our dogs the way we would respond to our children.

Well, if that’s the case, Bailey has given me a pretty clear picture of how I’ll be as a parent.

My kids will be spoiled: I really hope I can keep this from happening, but considering the fact that every time I go to the pet store, I come home with a new toy for Bailey, it’s highly unlikely.

 

After bath bully stick? Sure.

After bath bully stick? Don’t mind if I do. 

I won’t trust anyone: There is a small handful of people that I trust to care for Bailey for more than an afternoon. Daycare for a human child is going to be a nightmare. On top of that, the look Bailey gives me as I drive away from the house breaks my heart.

I will be slightly paranoid: I really don’t want to be a helicopter parent, but I did buy my dog a light so I could keep an eye on her when she’s in the yard at night. That’s really one step away from implanting a GPS chip in your child.

If using this light makes you feel better, momma, sure. I'll wear it.

If using this light makes you feel better, momma, sure. I’ll wear it.

I won’t be a cry-it-out parent: The first night of Bailey’s crate training, I gave in to her wails and howls, and I let her out. We slept on the floor together next to her crate. A week later, we brought her into our room, and she slept on the floor next to our bed for the next couple of months.

And, in case you’re wondering, this system actually worked out just fine for us. Bailey was housebroken very quickly. She was crated during the day and while she never learned to absolutely love her crate, she was just fine in it. 

I will give in to sharing the bed: Originally, I didn’t want Bailey sleeping in our bed. It’s just too small for two people, two cats and a 60-pound dog. This went to hell when we brought her home from the vet after being spayed. She was unusually whiny so we let her up in our room for the first time. After 45 minutes of trying to get her to stay in her own bed, she spent the night in ours. For a few months, Bailey slept with us all night. Thankfully, without any real formal training, Bailey spends most of the night in her own.

If my kid has a nightmare, you can sure bet I’ll let her sleep in my bed.

Training tip: I always make sure I reward Bailey when she goes on her bed voluntarily. I keep a bag of treats in my nightstand so when she hops off our bed and into hers, I toss her a treat. She started this behavior on her own, but now I’m working on reinforcing it. 

Your bed is much more comfortable that my bed.

Your bed is much more comfortable that my bed.

I won’t handle the exhaustion well. At all:  I’m told that the first month with an 8-week-old puppy is much like the first few weeks of parenthood. I didn’t sleep at all and could barely function at work. I was so tired I cried all the time. I felt emotionally broken and thought about taking her to a shelter every day*. I’m really looking forward to that, said no one ever.

*Obviously I didn’t, and my life would actually be a giant mess without this dog, so clearly we got through it. 

Maybe I won’t suck at parenting: I would never equate raising a dog to raising a child, but I was pretty damn terrified to raise a dog. I never had a dog and I had an overwhelming fear that I was going to turn her into this aggressive, misbehaved monster. I was sure that I was going to seriously screw Bailey up.

Bailey is by no means perfect, but she’s pretty awesome. People often remark how well behaved she is, especially for her age. So maybe I won’t royally suck at parenting. Maybe I won’t screw up my kids’ lives all that much. Maybe they’ll turn out fairly normal.

Now can I have it?

Now can I have it?

Hopefully.

 

Did your pets teach you anything about parenting? Leave me a note in the comments.