To Stay Active Outside During Winter Select Proper Clothing

Trojan dressed for negative temperatures in Southern Illinois 2014

Trojan dressed for negative temperatures in Southern Illinois 2014

Many of us have seen Christmas Story and the scene that Ralphie is so well insulated that his arms are stuck up as he has been bundled for his walk to school.  He whines “I can’t put my arms down” and his mom comments “ can put your arms down when you get to school.” When I work in locations that require walking dogs in snow and ice, I can’t be bundled up like Ralphie.  When we are out playing with our dogs in winter areas that has snow and ice, we need to be able to move about safely and stay warm.

I lived in Alaska for two years and really had to prepare for travel in subzero temperatures.  Part of that ritual was having my own traveling winter emergency kit available.  It includes extra warm clothing, blankets, dry shoes, a candle, a lighter or water-proof matches, food that doesn’t freeze, access to water, emergency flares, a first aid kit, and the list goes on.  The biggest challenge was dressing for winter.  I had to learn to layer so that I wouldn’t be walking around like Ralphie.  One of the important layers is two pairs of breathable socks or a pair of heavier breathable or insulated socks, if your feet got cold or wet there can be problems.  Then the first layer was the layer closest to the skin after the undergarments and socks.

Trojan hiding behind pole

In Alaska that first layer was a polypropylene top and bottom, this is also called long johns, long underwear, or a base layer. From that I would put on the normal outerwear garments: pants, blouse, or sweater.  I got into the habit of wearing two tops one being a turtle neck and then something on top of that.  That way if I got to hot inside I could remove a layer of clothing.  From there came the coat (my coat in Alaska was gauged for minus weather) or a jacket that covers the butt.  I sometimes will double layer under the coat with a fleece vest.  To protect myself from the wind a light weight pair of ski pants to cover the bottom.  I like to double layer my hands, head, and neck.  For the hands my first layer would be a light weight pair of contact gloves and either another set of heavier gloves on top or a pair of mittens.  There are also gloves out where the wearer can remove the top to expose the fingers just in case one can’t use the fingers with gloves on.  For the neck/chest area I would put a scarf under the jacket and a neck gator that would cover a portion of the neck, mouth and nose.  I use to double layer the head gear as well, using a warm hat and either on or under the hat I would wear ear mittens.

The final dress wear before going out in snow and ice is the shoes.  Your type of shoes will determine how warm and dry your feet are and wearing normal tennis shoes in snow or ice will maintain this goal and will be slip resistant.  Using waterproof shoes or boots that are lightweight will help.  Coating those with a water repellent fabric treatment can help waterproof shoes.  Traction is very important on ice and snow, I keep a pair of slip-on cleats to put on the bottom of my boots, these are similar to the ice shoes worn by those who climb glaciers.  Don’t forget polarized sun glasses to block the glare of ice or snow, it’s important that you see where you going.

In 2013 Southern Illinois got a lot of negative weather temperatures and I actually layered well enough that my main layer was a hunter’s jacket (camouflage on one side and orange on the other) all winter long.

Gitli dressed for negative temperatures in Southern Illinois 2014

Gitli dressed for negative temperatures in Southern Illinois 2014

Take care of dog paws, some dogs won’t put up with dog boots on their feet so using a petroleum jell on their feet will help protect the paws just be sure to wipe off when your back from walks.  Do your best to protect the paws form getting cut by ice or the salt while out walking.  Rinse the paws in warm water to remove ice pellets and other ice melt products, so not to send the body into shock.

Winter can be a wonderful season to be out in about walking dogs and taking care of pets. Take care of yourself and dress appropriately during the winter to protect yourself.  Don’t forget to take care of pet’s paws when out walking.

Joyce Rheal is based in Southern Illinois and is a nationally certified pet care consultant, trainer, and the author of Preparing Your Pets for Emergencies and Disasters and Disaster Plans: Preparing Your Pets for Emergencies and Disasters.

REVIEW: Dog Whisperer Cesar Milan Family Edition

Not at all an interesting show and no real substance to it.

Attribution: Author is Raven Underwood.  Originally posted to, uploaded to Commons using Flickr upload bot on 21:26, 20 May 2007 (UTC) by  Pharaoh Hound (talk).

Attribution: Author is Raven Underwood. Originally posted to, uploaded to Commons using Flickr upload bot on 21:26, 20 May 2007 (UTC) by Pharaoh Hound (talk).


In this episode, actor Kelsey Grammer and his wife have two miniature dachshunds, George and Elvis, who have no manners and call all the shots in the home.  They have no real structure and no consistency in training or stopping bad behaviors.  The dogs bark, get on the table, pull when walking and won’t give way when the door is being answered.



If he is still using those scientifically dis-proven outdated techniques – his dominance theory techniques of hitting, kicking, hanging and other abusive methods to train dogs – it appears they editing it out before broadcast.

I did hear Cesar’s ignorant bull over-generalizing modern dogs and children:  “Modern dogs don’t know how to wait, Modern children and dogs don’t know how to wait.”  He’s playing off something that the older generation believes, despite the fact that, yes, some modern dogs and children do know how to wait, but the trainers/parents must be consistent in remind them that waiting is expected.


He is totally correct about there being no structure and consistency in the house when it comes to training the dogs.  I did notice that they did have pinch collars on the dogs before replacing them with a slip leash prior to  taking the dogs for a walk.  I also notice that he is still using that worthless and annoying “shh” noise.  He used it at the door once or twice and then again when they approach the geese instead of providing a better distraction that interested dog over the geese.

When you stay calm and assertive (not dominant) everyone does benefit.  I mentioned above that the dominance theory is outdated and scientifically proven to be a dangerous training technique.  Positive techniques have been proven to be more successful and increases the bond between the pet parent and animal.  I use to use the dominance theory when I first started training dog’s in the middle 80’s but switched to the positive reinforcement in the early 90’s and found that the positive training was more effective.

Is Your Dog A Wolf

Trojan and Gitli near the fireplaceVictoria Stilwell recent article is Dogs vs. Wolves  and discusses the importance of getting away from comparing dogs to wolves.  Victoria Stilwell  “Many people assume that since dogs evolved from their wolf-like ancestors, we can and should easily draw parallels between the two species and use what we see in wolf behavior to help explain how to understand our domesticated dogs. Bad idea.”

Her article was timed well with another article Dog Behavior and Training – Dominance, Alpha, and Pack Leadership – What Does It Really Mean?

I have had experiences working with wolves and dogs.  I do see a lot of similar behavior between the two.  I have even gotten away from comparing dogs and wolves.  I don’t like the dominance theory training where animals are hit, kicked, hanged, etc just to break their spirit and force them into submission.  First off anyone knows that wolves don’t do this.  As well anyone who is trained well knows that a wolf pack is a family containing a father, a mother, and their siblings.  The Alpha and the Beta theory are long gone and is commonly used in the dominance theory on training dogs.

There is a lot of scientific proof that this type of training does more harm then good.  The other reason why I have gotten away from this theory is because some raw feeders try to justify given only raw meat to their dogs by comparing them to wolves by claiming wolves only eat meat.  YEA RIGHT! I have seen wolves eat vegetables, roots, and fruit.

There is a good article on Science Daily called Genomes of modern dogs and wolves provide new insights on domestication, which does mention that dogs and wolves did evolve from a common ancestor between 9,000 and 34,000 years ago.  According to this article the genetic overlap with wolves and dogs is because of the interbreeding after the dog domestication not because of a direct line of descent from a one group of wolves.

It’s time to learn more about canine behavior especially within a family grouping and stop focusing on outdated information and theories.

Ask Permission Before Approaching A Dog Unknown To You!

The reason why I related this story is because when someone asks you not to approach their dog, there is a reason that you are not aware of.  So when asked please don’t approach, better yet ask for permission first.

Dutch had already touched me a couple of times so I extended my hand as he was raising his paw.  Notice at this time he still wasn't completely looking at me.  Photo Attribution: Lisa Merneigh Thompson

Dutch had already touched me a couple of times so I extended my hand as he was raising his paw. Notice at this time he still wasn’t completely looking at me. Photo Attribution: Lisa Merneigh Thompson

June 8, 2013 at the Union County Animal Control Fund Raiser “Raise the Woof” in the afternoon, I kept watching two women working with a frightened dog.  After watching a while I went out to talk with the ladies.  They had recently adopted Dutch and as I slowly approached they said the dog was afraid of everyone and pretty much everything.  He had been abused with fishing poles and a broom by a man.



So Dutch was even more afraid of men and even more so when they had a hat on.  It also appeared to me he was of afraid of young boys as well.  I asked for permission to approach the dog and I told the ladies what I was going to do at each step.  First I said I am not going to look the dog in the eyes, I don’t want Dutch to feel threatened.  So I gazed at the ground talking to Dutch all happy and knelt down in front of him, after a few moments of talking all happy he reached out for my hand to touch me.

He had turned to look at me.  Shaking hands with a new friend. He also gave me a few kisses.  Photo Attribution: Lisa Merneigh Thompson

He had turned to look at me. Shaking hands with a new friend. He also gave me a few kisses. Photo Attribution: Lisa Merneigh Thompson

After a few touches from Dutch, I proceeded to reach my hand out open palm and he placed is paw in my hand.  His people then gave me some treats to work with him for a few minutes.  The ladies were surprised as to Dutch’s positive behavior with me and we continued to talk and they asked if I would be willing to come to their home to work with Dutch and I said yes and gave them my rates.



While I was working with Dutch a large man approached with his dog and I clearly asked him not to approach us.  He totally ignored me and I watched Dutch’s body language and facial attributes change to fear.  So I kept engaging Dutch so that he would ignore the ignorant man.  This particular man made it clear that no one could touch is service dog in training because it was in training especially when folks asked to pet his dog.  He didn’t feel he had to ask to approach another person’s dog and even when told not to  he would totally ignore the requests of stay back.

I later found him and politely told him when someone tells you to stay back you stay back from their dog.  That particular dog I was working with that you felt was OK to approach and do your own things was AFRAID of you and actually afraid of men.  Just like you don’t want someone touching your service dog when it’s in training and you made that clear.  You have to honor the requests of others about not approaching their dog.  I walked away at that moment to let him think about it.

The ladies and Dutch visited several times so they he could have good interactions with a stranger.  I know that I got caught in the act of dog whispering and a picture had been taken when I was talking and working with the Dutch.  Fear base dogs can be worked with and trained though it’s at a slower pace and when they are opened to it.

Were these women doing the right thing for the dog, yes they were.  They were trying to desensitize  their dog to help it overcome its fears in a positive manner.  They were not there long and knew when it was time to take their dog back to the safety of its home.

Joyce Rheal is based in Southern Illinois and is a nationally certified pet care consultant, trainer, and the author of “Preparing Your Pets for Emergencies and Disasters” and “Disaster Plan: Preparing Your Pets for Emergencies and Disasters.”

Steps to Reducing Dog Aggression

Trojan and Gitli with toysDog aggression is a common and serious behavioral problem in domestic dogs.  The trauma to the human victim is both mental and physical.  When big dogs bite it can result in serious injuries to the victim.  When little dogs show aggression or bite my experience is that folks laugh and think the little dog’s aggression is humorous. But it isn’t humorous to be bitten by any dog regardless of their size.

The human victim isn’t the only one who suffers when a dog bites.  Big dogs that bite can be euthanized.  The news broadcast are usually very negative holding the dog responsible for the bite.  Community government also bans or regulates certain breeds of dogs even though specific dogs have never bitten.

Dog bites can be easily prevented by understanding dog behavior and through dog training.  “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  All dogs can potentially bite.  Dog parents needs to make every effort they can to prevent their dog from developing an aggressive behavior and from biting.

Dogs will bite for any number of reasons and it only takes one bite that can label a dog aggressive.  Chicago Dog Coach Ami Moore suggests Three Easy Steps to Reducing Dog Aggression.

Joyce Rheal is based in Southern Illinois and is a nationally certified pet care consultant, trainer, and the author of Preparing Your Pets for Emergencies and Disasters.

An old wive’s tale says that dogs with dewclaws are resistant to a snake’s venom!

An old wives tale says that dogs with dewclaws are resistant to a snake’s poison!






I was living in Maryland when I saw my first dog snake bitten.  A little dachshund was bitten by a rattlesnake.  Within minutes the dog was to the vet and within hours the little dog was dead and it had its dewclaws.  I watched a grown man who held back his emotions break down in tears, his heart was broken at the death of his little dog.  After a few days of mourning he went out with a gun and a hoe and killed every venomous snake on the property, rattlers, copperheads and cottonmouths.  His grieve for the loss of his little dog turned into pure anger targeted at venomous snakes.  He knew then that the old wives tale saying that dogs with dewclaws are resistant to a snake’s poison was a lie.

I heard this wives tale since 1985, and it’s still being processed through society.  A bite from an non-venomous snake could rarely cause harm.  A bite from a venomous snake can cause severe harm and even death.  Snakes that are dangerous to pets in the United States are rattlesnakes, copperheads, cottonmouths, and coral snakes.  In Central America there is the bushmaster and cord snakes.  In South America there is puff adders and mambas.  In Africa there is the boomslang and taipan.  Cobras in Asia and Africa, the taipan and death adders in Australia.  Other venomous species include cane toad, Californian newt, scorpions, black widow spider, and funnel-web spider.

Signs that the dog has been bitten by something venomous include: restlessness, panting, salivating, depression, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of coordination, shock, and if NOT TREATED death.

The coral snake venom is very potent and is a nerve poison and will cause weakness, constricted pupils, swallowing difficulties, and rapid death from respiratory paralysis.

Pet owners should be aware of what venomous species are in their local region and become familiar with the species by being able to identify them and knowing where they live.  By becoming familiar with them the pet can be trained to avoid them and if the pet is bitten proper emergency treatment can be given to the pet as quickly as possible.

If you take your pets on vacation with you, learn about the venomous species in that local region.  It’s better to be prepared with the knowledge then to find out after it’s too late.

When a bite or a sting happens, try to identify the attacking species as soon as possible.  These wounds will cause areas to swell and itch, apply a cold pack to the area to reduce the swelling, treat with calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream to help relieve the itching.  Antihistamine tablets can be acquired by your vet and Benadryl is often used for over the counter remedies to relieve the symptoms.  Always take your pet to the vet and ensure that the pet will receive treatment or antivenin.  I am not a vet so all home remedies should be cleared with your vet first.

Bees and wasp stings usually leave their stings behind and that is the tiny spike with the venom sac at the end, scrape it out of the skin with a fingernail or the edge of a credit card and take care not to squeeze the sac.  Do not use tweezers.  Mix baking soda with water and form a paste to apply to the area.  Some dogs can and do die from bees and wasp stings.

Snake Bites usually happen around the head, neck, or feet.  If you suspect your pet has been bitten by a snake, keep the pet quiet and get to the vet immediately.  The sooner the antidote is given, the better the chances for survival.

Never wash the wound because this will increase the absorption of the venom.     

Do not cut the wound or try to suck out the venom, this will make it worse and you can absorb the venom.

Some Toads and Salamanders are venomous.  In the United States  the Florida marine toad, Colorado River toad, and the California newt and Australia has the cane toad.  The venom is transmitted by being licked, tasted or just picked up.  Symptoms include drooling saliva as if they tasted something really unpleasant, making faces, pawing at the mouth.  It can lead to convulsions and death especially for smaller dogs and puppies.  Wash out the dog’s mouth immediately with clean fresh water and get the dog to the vet.

Anaphylactic Shock is dangerous and life-threatening and is a result of the allergic reaction to a bite or the toxin in the venom.  Signs include: localized or general skin irritation, anxiety, and difficulty breathing.  If this is not treated quickly by a vet the pet can suffer weakness, collapse, coma and/or die.  Take the pet to the vet immediately for treatment.

The best thing any pet owner can do for their pet is to learn Pet CPR and First Aid.  Always take your pets to the vet before trying home remedies.

Joyce Rheal is Emergency Planning Committee chairwoman of the National Association Professional Pet Sitters and with Pets-life. Joyce is also a federally certified for FEMA’s “Animals in Disasters” program, and a certified pet care consultant based in Southern Illinois.