HAPPY EARTH DAY!

earth.jpg Earth Day is always a great time to take a look at little ways we can be more conscious of our actions and our consumer choices as they relate to the health of our environment. It can act as a New Year’s resolution of sorts. We like to make it easy for people to make good consumer choices when they shop with us, but we thought it might be appropriate to offer a few suggestions that might be helpful for the rest of you who don’t live nearby.

Buy Locally whenever you can. Not only does it support your local economy, items that travel to you from down the street use far fewer resources like fossil fuels than those items traveling to you from places like China.

Try to refrain from using chemicals and pesticides in your yards and when you clean your house. Pets and children can be especially vulnerable to the health affects of exposure to these chemicals, and they can have a detrimental affect on the other wildlife in your yard, as well as leaching into our drinking water. Check out beneficial insects as good ways to fight pests in your yard. Beneficial Nematodes are an especially great way to fight fleas on your property!

Natural cleaners work very well and keep pollutants out of our homes. Check out Seventh Generation website for tons of useful information about the benefits of natural home cleaners to us and to our environment. Remember, your pets are in closer contact with your grass and your floors than you are, and they will ingest chemicals that they groom off of their coats and feet. Chemical cleaners can also irritate their eyes, ears, throats and skin, can have negative affects on their central nervous system, and could contribute to certain cancers.

Switch from clay cat litter to a more sustainable material like corn, wheat, or pine. Clay cat litter must be mined from the earth creating habitat loss (did you know that 1.5 million tons of clay is strip-mined every year to make cat litter?), and must be landfilled when you are done (one source says it’s about 50,000 lbs a week in the U.S.). Did you know that more clay litter is put into landfills than dirty diapers? Litters made from corn, etc are easy to use, they clump well and can be composted or flushed. (Cat feces should never be composted, and in many states like California, they are discouraging flushing cat feces because sea otters are showing high levels of toxoplasmosis which is carried in cat feces. The urine clumps are fine to flush and compost though)

Choose products with less packaging when you have the choice. Let companies know that you aren’t choosing their products because of their wasteful packaging. Recycling what you can is good, but buying products which create less waste to begin with is even better. We see quite a few unnecessarily wasteful products out there for pets, like disposable plastic food bowl liners. Just say no to needless landfill!

Check out other green tips on this blog – I try to post simple tips that all of us can use to make our daily lives have a little less impact on our environment. Thanks for reading!

Natural Balance Venison Products Recalled

Melamine was found in the rice protein concentrate (described by the company as rice gluten) used by Natural Balance in their Venison dog and cat formulas.
Carrie Peyton Dahlberg of the Sacramento Bee is reporting Tuesday that:
Natural Balance, a Pacoima-based company, is “99.9 percent sure” that a rice protein made in Asia is responsible for the melamine detected Tuesday in some of its pet foods, company president Joey Herrick said.

“It was pretty shocking,” he said in a phone interview after the company recalled several of its venison-based foods. “I was livid.”Herrick declined to name the supplier of the rice protein or the country it came from, saying only that a large American company acquired the ingredient for Diamond Pet Foods, which makes venison products for Natural Balance.

Because both wheat gluten and rice protein enhance protein content of pet food, “It certainly is suspicious” that melamine now is associated with both, said Bob Poppenga, a UC Davis veterinary toxicology professor.” Read the entire article here
We have found a few excellent links to blogs/sites that have very current information on the recalls as they unfold. If you are interested in staying current on these issues, check in with them often:

http://www.itchmo.com/ – these folks have several updates per day and are a great source for very current info as it breaks. Also of note, there is a call to action – we can all get involved by visiting our local stores with lists in hand of recalled products to see if they have gotten them off of the shelves. We’re hearing far too many reports of foods still found on shelves that should have been pulled. There are links to good instructions on how to do this at the top of this site. I hope people all over the country take it upon themselves to print these lists and check their local stores, for the sake of the pets who might be eating them.
http://petconnection.com/blog/ is another good current blog with excellent discussion about the issue and excellent links.
In other news, on 4/17, Natural Life canned foods were also added to the Menu Foods recall list. Please check all foods for wheat gluten and avoid them, and check back here or at the blogs mentioned above for new info. There are allegedly 5 more companies being tested right now for the Chinese rice protein ingredient that was implicated in the Natural Balance recall. They are not releasing their brand names yet of course, as they have not finished with the testing.
It definitely could be a global problem – Royal Canin pulled all of its South African foods on 4/16
Did you know that the FDA’s current list of recalled items now is over 5,000 items long?? List available here.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT — RAW MEAT AND BONES FOR CATS AND DOGS


Given the events of the past few weeks (recalls due to pet foods tainted with Melamine from China) , I thought I might publish a few of my old newsletter articles on nutrition to the blog. If human grade prepared foods/kibbles are not available in your area of the country, you might want to consider making your own pet’s food. One option is to feed raw food to your pet. Our kitty eats a little canned food combined with prepared raw food, as well as pieces of whatever fish or poultry we might be preparing for ourselves as treats. I’ll tell you, I’ve always known that raw food is great, but she has really driven the point home for me. She’sshinykitty.jpg nearly 20 years old, and she looks far better then when she was 10. Or maybe ever. When she was 18 we thought she was nearing her end. She looked like a really old lady – she was bony and skinny, she’d lost most of the muscle mass in her back end and couldn’t jump up in the window very well any more. Her coat was dull and greasy looking, and her black was looking brown. Not now! She agreed finally to eat raw food, and she’s as glossy as a seal. Her coat is black again and thick and soft and her muscle mass is back, and she’s able to jump up in the window again – she’s gorgeous, and looks better than she did when she was half this age. (Note added 8/12: She also had early stage kidney and liver disease and had a hard lump the size of a Canellini bean on her arm. The time table of changes went like this: within 2 weeks we noticed dramatic improvements in her coat quality. Within 2 months her muscle mass had improved greatly and she was more mobile. Her stiffness was definitely reduced as well. Less than a year later, the lump on her arm was gone, and her blood work showed significant improvement in both her kidney and liver values. She lived to be 22, and was the primary reason we started to be much more conscious of the benefits of raw food. It’s stunning to watch rapid changes happen like that right in front of your eyes! In her last year when she sometimes would refuse her raw food, we’d watch her start to waste away again, and in just the course of a week or two, she’d look very old again and lose weight, and her coat started to look pretty dull again, even though she was eating other things. As soon as she’d agree to eat the raw food again, she’d blossom again, and her coat was shinier and prettier within the week, and her weight would come back just as quickly as well. It’s a testament to the digestibility of the raw food – you could literally see her body better able to heal itself and make repairs. She ate well and looked gorgeous right up to the end, and we know that the Rad Cat raw food added those precious extra years to her life).

A few months ago a little pug named Edgar came in – he was so incredibly cute but clearly had some strange issues going on. He was thin and a little wobbly, and couldn’t take a treat easily as his tongue stuck way out of the side of his mouth making it very difficult to chew and swallow. His mom said that he had been to many vets to try and figure it out to no avail. She visited a holistic vet who put him on raw food. You should see him now – he zooms in to the store with incredible vibrancy, his coat is glossy and healthy, his eyes are clearer, and his tongue is back in his head where it belongs. It’s amazing. Just a week ago a regular customer came in understandably upset about her cute boxer, Jake. He has chronic food sensitivities, and has tried just about every kind of kibble, including prescription foods without relief from the terrible itching. We tried him on Duck and Potato most recently and he was doing pretty well on that one for a few months. But, like has happened to him before, eating the same thing every day creates a bad reaction for him. He started itching severely – the poor guy was clawing at his face nonstop. (it makes some sense that a dog with food sensitivities can easily become sensitized to any food – his body decides he’s had too much of that thing and reacts) We decided it was time to try raw food, as it very well may not be any specific protein or grain that he’s allergic to, it may simply be that Jake’s body can’t handle processed food, and he tends to not tolerate a lack of variety. (though he was in the typical catch-22 of not being able to have variety as everything made his skin react). Within 2 days of starting raw food, his skin calmed down and he was able to rest easier. I believe that he will be able to tolerate and benefit from variety, as long as we keep feeding him whole uncooked foods.
We are constantly amazed at the power of real food on the health of animals (and people! The more unprocessed whole foods that we can eat, the healthier we are too).
At any rate, here’s the raw food article from the newsletter. Please remember that the information in my articles are based on my opinions and are not to be treated as medical advice, or to replace a good one-on-one relationship with a holisitic veterinarian.

Some folks call it the BARF diet — which stands for “Bones and Raw Food”, or for “Biologically Appropriate Raw Food”. What’s it all about?

Of all of the creatures that roam the earth — the carnivores, the omnivores and the herbivores, we humans are the first and only animals to cook the food we eat. Over the past few decades, Americans are eating more and more processed food, and we’re seeing a corresponding rise in many health problems, including diabetes, cancer, etc. We know that whole foods are the most nutritionally complete and that a steady diet of fast food can make us unhealthy pretty quickly. So what about our pets? Do they do best on cooked, processed food? Aren’t they supposed to eat kibble to stay healthy?

Kibble diets are a relatively recent development (compared to how long cats and dogs have lived with humans) and were of course developed for convenience. There’s no doubt that the quality of kibble available is improving all the time, and there is also no doubt that a higher quality kibble (with higher quality meat proteins and fewer carbohydrates) results in a healthier dog that sheds less, smells better, and looks shinier than a dog on a grocery store brand. However, like humans in this society, the rate of chronic disease in our pets has risen dramatically. Many holistic vets and nutritionists attribute this to the amount of work the body has to go through to digest these processed foods, and the fact that many nutrients and digestive enzymes are lost in the cooking process. When a dog comes through our doors that’s eaten raw food and bones their whole lives, we can tell right away. These dogs make you say “WOW”. The shine, the body condition, the gleaming white teeth — these dogs look fantastic.

Cats do especially well on raw food. It makes sense, as feral cats feed themselves quite well on whole rodents and birds. They crunch right through meat, bones and organs, perhaps eating trace amounts of greens/seeds in the stomach contents of their prey. Raw food mimics this perfectly for them. A natural cat diet wouldn’t really contain any carbohydrates, while most commercial dry cat foods are heavy with wheat, corn, etc. Some brands have hardly any meat at all, just by-products (waste parts like heads, feet, and entrails – a very inconsistent ingredient due to varying proportions of the contents)

A recent study evaluated the effects of dietary carbohydrates on urine volume, struvite crystal formation, and calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium balance in clinically normal cats. It concluded that diets high in grains stimulate the formation of struvite crystals, and led to a net loss of body calcium, phosphorus and magnesium. 1

What’s different about raw food?

Dogs only manufacture about 25% of the digestive enzymes needed to break down their food — the other 75% is supposed to come from the meat they eat. Unfortunately the cooking process destroys these enzymes and a large percentage of their nutrient value. A few of the better kibbles add digestive enzymes after they are cooked, but all dogs on kibble could benefit from the addition of digestive enzymes to their diet (check out Animal Essentials). Raw foods have their vitamins and digestive enzymes in tact, meaning the body doesn’t have to work as hard to generate the enzymes needed to break down the food, or filter out the toxins created by the cooking process. In poor quality kibble, there is an added burden on organs like the liver to process the poor quality proteins and fats sources used.Add to this the presence of chemical preservatives, artificial colors, etc and it’s a lot for the body to handle over the course of a lifetime.

Isn’t it dangerous to feed raw meat?

All meat should be handled carefully, and kept cold from farm to bowl. Dogs and cats do handle bacterial contamination better than we do — especially dogs, who are designed as scavengers as well as predators. (We regularly hear gross stories like the dog last week who ate the bloated decaying rat he found in the yard and was fine, aside from some bad breath.) Pets with immune system deficiencies or those going through chemo may be more susceptible to bacterial contamination, and they might be safer eating dehydrated raw food, as dehydration kills any pathogenic bacteria. (This is also a good tip for those families that have human toddlers in the house that might get into pet bowls). Companies that manufacture prepared raw pet food handle the meat knowing that it will be eaten raw and use extremely clean equipment and keep it even colder from slaughter to store. (whereas in grocery stores it is sold under the assumption that it will be cooked before being eaten). When purchasing meat from grocery stores for raw food, some people disinfect meat they’re preparing at home with grapefruit seed extract or food grade hydrogen peroxide especially when they first start feeding raw. However, as they become more comfortable with the concept of raw food diets, they just make sure that the meat is fresh, purchased from a reliable source, and handled properly. (and make sure you remove uneaten food after mealtime and use clean bowls each time you offer new food) Raw food enthusiasts will tell you that the health risks of feeding processed food far outweigh the risks of feeding raw.

Check out this article, “Claiming Raw Foods Are Dangerous Isn’t Backed Up With Data”
and: Raw Foods Treated Unfairly (again) By The FDA

Bones are another subject that gets people a bit worried. They are absolutely crucial to include in some form when feeding fresh meat(or at least some sort of calcium supplement should be given), due to nutritional requirements of carnivores (meat and organs alone have too much phosphorus if not balanced by calcium in the diet. This is also true if you’re home cooking meat for your pet – you still need some calcium to make your diet balanced. See resources at the end of this article for more info). Dogs are quite capable of consuming turkey necks, chicken backs and wings, etc. This is surprising to people, as we’ve been told all of our lives that chicken bones are dangerous. It is absolutely true that cooked chicken bones are very dangerous, as the cooking process turns them brittle and splintery. Raw bones are more pliable and safer to eat. Many people choose to stick to ground bones — your butcher should be able to grind whole chickens for you, and the prepared raw diets we carry contain ground bone. Large raw meaty bones are absolutely the best teeth cleaners you can find, and keep a dog occupied like nothing else. (Note — we carry raw buffalo bones in three sizes in our freezer).

 

Isn’t it difficult to feed raw?

Making your own balanced, complete raw diets takes a bit of research in the beginning, and a bit of extra effort to shop for and prepare. Most folks say that they get the butcher to grind their meat and bones for them, and then spend about an hour or so adding fruits and veggies, portioning and freezing the diets that will last the whole month. Check out great tips here for making balanced meals at home.  Some people are still daunted by the project though, and it is very important that their meals are balanced. A homemade diet can be the very best thing you can do for your pet, and also could be the very worst thing you can do if the diet isn’t balanced properly. The good news is that there are a number of really nice prepared raw foods on the market. We carry several brands in our freezer. For example, Nature’s Variety comes in both patties and nuggets (making it convenient to thaw a little at a time). Flavors include chicken + turkey, lamb, rabbit, venison, and beef. Check out this ingredient list: chicken, turkey, turkey liver, turkey heart, ground chicken bone, ground turkey bone, apples, carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, lettuce, spinach, ground flax seeds, chicken eggs, Montmorillonite (it’s a type of clay that acts as a powerful detoxifying agent), dried kelp, salmon oil, cold pressed olive oil, apple cider vinegar, parsley, honey, persimmons, blueberries, duck eggs, pheasant eggs, quail eggs, garlic, alfalfa sprouts, barley sprouts, millet sprouts, quinoa sprouts, inulin, grapefruit seed extract, rosemary, sage, and clove.Fabulous! We should eat so well.

To sum it up

Dog food companies have spent millions of dollars convincing us that commercial dog and cat food is the ONLY way to feed a pet and that you must feed the same exact kibble for the pet’s whole life, when the evidence suggests that it might actually be detrimental to limit a diet so severely, causing deficiencies and food sensitivities. A recent study found that Irish Setters consuming a single food type were three times more likely to develop GDV (bloat) than Irish Setters fed a variety of food types. Inclusion of table foods in the diet of large-breed and giant-breed dogs was associated with a 59% decreased risk of bloat, while inclusion of canned foods was associated with a 28% decreased risk. 2

While “table foods” like Doritos and french fries are not appropriate foods for pets, the inclusion of fresh whole foods to a pet’s diet can be beneficial, even if you’re just supplementing your current diet with these foods. Many kibbles have chicken, lamb, brown rice, sweet potatoes, carrots, apples, etc in them – why not feed things like this in their whole form? Food is food, and we should think less (in my opinion) about “human food” vs “pet food” and start thinking of processed food vs whole food. (Note: when whole foods given as toppers equal more than 20% of the food given, it’s time to start doing your homework on how to balance your meals (see above link about making diets at home)

Pet owners who switch to raw food often see a reduction or elimination of chronic health problems. This is especially true of dogs with “food allergies” who can’t seem to find a kibble that works for them. Though some dogs may actually have allergies to some foods, or have become overly sensitized to a certain ingredient by having it every day for years, many dogs who appear to have allergies may actually be exhibiting sensitivities to the processed food — poor quality proteins and fats, toxins, and a lack of amino acids, vitamins and enzymes. I would encourage anyone whose pet has chronically itchy skin, ear infections, etc to try transitioning to a raw diet. Other benefits include:

·  – Teeth are whiter and gums are healthier. This is in part due to the digestive enzymes in the meat creating a healthy atmosphere in the mouth. Dogs who chew raw bones also have the physical scraping and cleaning action from chewing.

 – Arthritic conditions are often helped (the essential fatty acids help to reduce inflammation, and glucosamine, chondroitin, and collagen are natural components of raw meat)

·   – Large breed puppies have less chance of growing too quickly and developing joint problems

·   – Stool volume and odor is greatly reduced

·   – Shedding is reduced and the coat is shinier and smells better

– Immune system becomes stronger, making the pet have better resistance to parasites like fleas.

 Â·It’s important to remember that any time you switch foods it’s important to transition slowly to avoid digestive upset. It takes different digestive flora to digest different types of food, so mixing it in gradually is recommended to allow your pet to adjust. Some cats love the meat right away, and some are really resistant to new things. Making sure it’s not too cold is helpful (you can put a little in a baggie and into a bowl of warm water for a few minutes. Never microwave raw food as the bones can become brittle). Some cats (and picky dogs) do well with mixing the tiniest bit of raw food into canned food until they adjust to the taste, and some just need to see a little on a plate next to their food regularly until they get used to seeing it there and decide to try it. (though throw that bit away each day – don’t leave the same old crusty bit there). When introducing meaty bones to dogs, give one for 10 or 15 minutes a day over several days and refrigerate it in between. You may want to introduce additional digestive enzymes and probiotics to your diet during the transition as well.
Once your pet is eating raw food well, then you may choose to feed 100% raw (make sure you do some reading of the resources listed below if you’re making your own to be sure it’s balanced) or you may decide to feed a human grade kibble in the morning and raw food at night. Even if you only use raw food as a supplement, it’s likely you’ll notice some benefit.


References:


1. Funaba, M. et al., 2004. Evaluation of effects of dietary carbohydrate on formation of struvite crystals in urine and
macromineral balance in clinically normal cats. Amer J Vet Res 65(2):138-142.


2. M, Raghavan, et al., 2004. Diet related risk factors for gastric dilation-volvulus in dogs of high-risk breeds. JAAHA 40:192-203.


Related Reading:


Billinghurst, Ian, DVM, B.V.Sc (Hons), B.Sc.Agr., Dip.Ed., “Evolutionary Nutrition for Pets – Hearsay and Dangerous, or Hard Science and Healthy?” — Proceedings, 2002 Annual Conference of American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, Eugene, Oregon.


http://www.barfworld.com/


Schultze, Kymythy C.C.N., A.H.I., “Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats — The Ultimate Diet”. Hay House Inc, 1998. (Available at Green Dog)


MacDonald, Carina Beth, “Raw Dog Food — Make it easy for you and your dog!”. Dogwise Publishing, 2004. (available at Green Dog)


Kerns, Nancy. “Getting to the Meat of the Matter” Whole Dog Journal , January 1999

Many other raw food articles accessible through http:// www.whole-dog-journal.com

some resources for food

I realized that there could be people from all over the country looking for what to feed their animals after the recall, and thought it might be useful to you to have a few manufacturers’ websites at hand. They all have store locators, so you can check to see if they are sold in your area. This is not a complete list of human grade foods by any means, but stores in your area that carry one or more of these products should be a good resource for you for quality foods. The Natura site is an especially good one for information – check out their comparisons page under “tools and resources”- there are great explanations of food ingredients and will help you read your own labels better.
http://www.naturapet.com/

http://www.canidae.com/

http://www.naturesvariety.com/

http://www.oldmotherhubbard.com/

http://www.precisepet.com/pplus.asp

http://www.wysong.net/

http://www.thehonestkitchen.com/index.shtml (Note – honest Kitchen ships their food)

more recall information

Hello – sadly, the recall is being extended to new brands and even a dry food formula. Here’s an article that explains the details well:
http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/03/31/pet.food.recall.ap/index.html 
As before, there is still nothing affected in any of the foods that Green Dog sells. All of our foods are made with “human grade” ingredients (ingredients are of the same quality as human foods, and are from the same sources). One interesting thing we’ve found out is that there are actually only a handful of canneries for pet food in all of North America, and Menu handles far more than the list of foods that were recalled. There are separate facilities for cuts and gravies than for canned foods.  As each brand of food is responsible for choosing the ingredients that are used, it really comes down to that – the quality of ingredients that are chosen. We feel confident that the brands we carry are diligent about the sources and types of ingredients they choose, and they are never choosing poor quality fillers and protein sources like wheat gluten over good quality meat proteins.

Fun video of dog and handler dancing

The Musical Dog Sport Association defines Canine Freestyle as a dog sport in which training, teamwork, music and movement combine to create an artistic, choreographed performance highlighting the canine partner in a manner that celebrates the unique qualities of each individual dog. It is built upon the foundation of a positive working relationship of a dog and handler team.
Although I can’t help thinking Freestyle is a tad goofy with its costumes and routines, I am also in awe of how much you can accomplish with positive training, and I think it’s a testament to how much fun we can have with dogs when you engage their minds and bodies in activities that challenge them and allow them to have fun at the same time. Check out this amazing video – any one of these moves could be a fun trick to work on with your dog.

HaIqw2O3Kro

Pet Hair Everywhere! (and my pet won’t let me groom her!)

pet-hair.jpgNow that the weather’s getting warmer, we’re seeing dogs in the store who are “blowing their coat” – another term for seasonal shedding. Some of you might say, “Seasonal shedding?? But my pet sheds all the time!” This is a common complaint, and one that can often be cleared up with the addition of fatty acids to your pet’s diet. We have a few great brands in the store, and you’ll be amazed at how either a switch to a better food, or the addition of a fatty acid supplement can improve your pet’s skin and coat. Fatty acids have been shown to help inflammation, to slow the growth of yeast infections, to help joint pain, and of course to lessen shedding! Dogs will smell better when their skin is healthier. Cats won’t have as many problems with hairballs when they’re ingesting less hair.

But even pets with healthy glossy coats still will lose hair as the weather gets warmer, and some breeds lose entire layers of their coats as the season changes. We certainly have a variety of tools in the store that can help get that shedding hair out, but what’s to be done if your pet won’t let you brush him or perform routine grooming tasks? Make sure that your pet likes to be groomed, so it’s not such a hassle when you need to do it. Grooming is necessary for all hair types (even short-haired dogs benefit from brushing, which gets rid of dead skin and hair and distributes the natural oils through the coat. For cats, the less loose hair there is to ingest, the fewer hairballs they’ll have) and can either be a pleasant bonding experience or a nightmare. Toenail clipping is something some people don’t even attempt to do, but wouldn’t it be better if they weren’t scared by it when the groomer does it? If you have a puppy or kitten, start making grooming a fun experience right from the beginning. Play with your puppy in the bathtub a few times before you introduce water. Then just rinse him and dry him off to start with. Pair really super treats with brushing for both cats and dogs. Handle your animal’s feet as often as possible — especially with puppies and kittens — get them used to a foot massage right from the beginning. Make them like it. Even older animals can be taught to like grooming and handling, as long as you go slowly enough. Our old lady kitty, Zoe, hated the brushing until I worked on a minute or two of interaction with the brush every night followed by the best treat I could find. She now loves it and I no longer have to use the treats! Here’s how I did it:
Identify your motivator. What’s the best, most mind-blowing treat you can think of for that individual? You might have to try a few things they’ve never had before – real bits of chicken? Cheese? Once you find it, save it only for this task. For her it was a tablespoon of canned cat food. At the time she only ate kibble and the wet food rocked her world (now she eats raw food and canned cat food only).
Think about what you can get away with without this animal becoming nervous. If you can’t handle his feet, can you touch his legs? Can you brush her back but not her belly? For Zoe, she would rub her face on a metal flea comb, but if I moved it to her body she’d run away. At least I knew where I could start – rubbing her face on the flea comb was my starting point.
Set up a routine. Animals almost universally like a routine. Every night around the same time, I called Zoe into the living room and sat on the floor with my flea comb. I’d let her rub her face on the flea comb for a minute, then I’d hop up all excited and ask her if she wanted her soft food. We’d run into the kitchen together and I’d put her canned food on a plate. The next night, I called her in, she rubbed on the brush, and we ran into the kitchen to get her treat. By the third or fourth night, she was showing up for our appointment. She didn’t know I was up to anything, she just liked the idea of this new easy way to get her favorite thing.
Take it slow, and only move forward when the step you’re on is very easy. If your dog is very upset by having his feet touched but loves a back rub, just do the back rub for a while and then occasionally move down to the shoulders and right back up to the back. You certainly can have little yummy treats there with you as well that you slip him when you’ve strayed to the shoulders without a problem. Then when he no longer notices the shoulders, stray a little down the legs, reward, and move back up to the shoulders. When Zoe was really comfortable with the face rubbing, I’d push it along her cheek to the shoulder every once in a while. If I overstepped my bounds, she’d leave. Trick is, if she left, she wouldn’t get her treat, so she’d inevitably come back a few minutes later for a little more. I’d just do a few more moments, then I’d end the session on that good note. With dogs, watch for them to stiffen or freeze a little when you go too far for them too fast. Or, they may turn their heads towards the spot you’re touching, or maybe give you that wall-eyed warning look. Cats will start to flick that tail, or their ears may flatten a little. Be sensitive to their signals and try to keep it all to what they currently find enjoyable, and just pushing the edge a little at a time.
Incorporate more steps than you think you’d need to if your pet is wary of the final goal. For example, for nail trims, you’d move from leg massage to foot touching, to foot massage, to foot massage with clippers on the floor nearby but never touched. Then to picking up the clippers, giving a treat, and putting the clippers right back down again. Once you can pick them up without the animal noticing, touch them to the paw without using them. Work up to tap tap tapping on the nails for treats. Then pretend to clip a nail (I even read somewhere of a trainer that clipped a wooden matchstick held under the nail to simulate the clip sound of the nail trimming. Clever!).
Always end on a positive note. When you get a tiny bit further than you usually do, jump up for the big finishing treat, or play a game they love. If you went too far, do something easier that you can then give this big reward.

Within a very short time, you should see very good progress. It doesn’t have to be but a few minutes a day, and this fairly easy work will really pay off – imagine a lifetime of stress-free brushing or nail trimming for just a few minutes a day of interacting and rewarding your pet. Zoe now lets me brush her whole body, and the bonus is, she loves it. It was paired with so much love and so many treats over and over (classical conditioning at work) that she now finds a previously scary experience quite pleasurable. She was 15 when I started this — who says an old animal can’t be taught something new?).

Have a situation where you’re having too much trouble desensitizing them to something scary like nail trims or other handling? Never hesitate to bring in a positive reinforcement trainer to help set up a plan that will work for you and your pet.