Dog Blogging 101: Make Your Pet a Social Media Star

Many dog owners share the ins and outs of their pets’ tail-wagging tales in blogs and tweets, as well as on websites and YouTube. Sometimes we see their world through the eyes of pet parents, but other times we can observe life from a dog’s-eye view.

We connected with a few dog parents who use social media for, about and by their dogs. They told us why they created a presence for their four-legged pals -- and how you can start dog blogging too.

Precious
The comment, “That dog ought to write a book,” gave Cheryl Lawson the idea to use social media for communicating the adventures of Precious, her Jack Russell Terrier. The blog has become a social media sensation, attracting corporate sponsors and loyal readers from around the globe. Precious also has a Twitter account (@Imajackrussell).

“My dog has 3,500 Twitter followers; that’s more followers than I have!” says Lawson. Her social media experience has been rewarding in more ways than one. “It helps me create a unique platform for my children’s book series, The Adventures of Precious the Dog. It allows me to speak at social media conferences, helping other pet owners and pet-related businesses understand how to use social media. And it allows me to promote animal welfare causes.”

Bruno
The “Bruno the Brussels” Facebook page and YouTube videos are whimsical anecdotes about a Brussels Griffon. Bruno’s reaction to a giant squirrel statue in Manhattan is one of the funnier featurettes. But Bruno’s owners, Jeff Simmons and Alfonso Quiroz, used their social media presence as a valuable tool when Bruno ran away from a dog walker. “We were frantic in our search and employed every avenue we could to pursue his recovery, including recruiting help through Bruno’s Facebook and Twitter accounts,” says Simmons. “It was amazing how quickly this spread the news and how many new fans this recruited. After Bruno was found, The New York Times and The New Yorker wrote about his adventure, and he developed even more fans.”

Dexter and Peppermint
Puppy love prompted Alana Bjorn to make short videos of Dexter and Peppermint, her two Yorkshire Terriers. Then Bjorn asked herself, “Who wouldn’t love seeing cute puppies on the Internet?” Dexter and Peppermint were soon on YouTube and had their own blog, plus Facebook and Twitter accounts. “People relate to their individual personalities. Dexter is cute and loyal, but also has a very mischievous side,” says Bjorn. The YouTube videos have received more than a million and a half views and are gaining popularity every day. “My main goal is to make people happy,” says Bjorn. “I get emails every day from people thanking me for making them smile, or from someone who recently lost a dog, and my social media sites make them feel a little better.”

Social Media Startup Tips
You can create a social media presence for your dog too. Here are some basic guidelines on dog blogging from our dog blog experts:

  • Ask a friend who is experienced in social media to help you get started, or Google instructions online.

  • Build followers by connecting with all the pet-lovers you know: friends, family, workmates, dog training clubs and breeders.

  • Engage with creative words, pictures and videos. Dogs doing something silly or looking expressive are people-pleasers!

  • Post humorous and entertaining anecdotes. People love to laugh.

  • Focus on what you love about your dog.

  • Update when you have something interesting, unique, helpful or fun to share.

  • Don’t over-blog, flood your Facebook page or tweet nonevents every hour. One or two good updates per day are ideal.

  • “Like” and “follow” other dogs. They’ll probably return the favor.
  • Use the medium correctly: Post short tweets, action-packed videos, adorable pictures and newsworthy blogs.
  • Consider purchasing advertising or accepting sponsorship to grow your readership.

You can also learn a lot about dog blogging by attending social media conferences and joining pet-related social media communities. You’ll know you’re doing it right when you start building followers. Keep in mind that those fans are fellow dog lovers, so consider them friends and not just numbers.

Stop Inappropriate Dog-sniffing

You’re an oncologist in the year 2050, ready to call on a critical tool to determine whether or not your patient has cancer.

Sure, you could subject the individual to a battery of invasive and expensive tests, but it might be simpler to call upon your hospital’s team of German Shepherds to help sniff out an answer. That’s right: Scientists expect that canines will someday be able to detect prostate cancer from smelling a urine sample.

In fact, dogs may already have the capacity; we humans have only to figure out how to get them to identify what it is that they smell. Such remarkable feats can be traced to receptors in your dog’s nose, which is between 10,000 and 100,000 times keener than your own.

This is why your pet knows when you’ve had a bad day at work. She can literally smell the bitter hormone secretions on your body -- and can smell that mustard you had on your cheeseburger for lunch. But that’s not all.

Scientists are discovering new ways to put dogs’ powers of odor detection to work, often in uses that benefit their human companions. For instance, dogs have been trained to detect when their human friends are about to lapse into a diabetic coma, as well as when a person with a fainting disorder is about to faint.

A Nose for News
Your dog uses her sense of smell to understand the world around her. That’s why she can’t stop sniffing. Your jog in the park with your dog presents dozens of points of information indicating the physical and emotional well-being of your dog’s doggie pals, as well as the people who live with them. It tells her what flowers are about to sprout --even the types of pests nibbling on their delicate stems.

Stop Inappropriate Dog-sniffing
Although such an organ is downright miraculous, there are times when you might want to keep your dog from sniffing. After all, many of us have suffered embarrassment when our dog sniffed another person a bit too, um, personally. Or we’ve experienced that inquisitive nose ourselves.

You can help channel your dog’s sniffing in positive ways. Try these alternatives:

1.    Give your dog some exercise prior to any event so she’ll be tuckered out and her nose will be sated.

2.    If you’re expecting to meet a new person or be in a situation in which your dog is inclined to sniff, offer a diversion in the form of a treat or a hand-clap, or rein in her leash.

3.    Crate-train your dog so she’ll willingly stay out of the way during a social event. Learn how to crate-train here.

4.    Hide kibble in food-containing toys around your house and have your dog sniff out her dinner.

5.    Exceptional Canine’s resident trainer, Stacy Braslau-Schneck, recommends scattering your dog’s kibble in the backyard grass. Working to find the kibble exercises your dog’s nose, provides some physical exertion, and keeps your dog mentally engaged.

6.    Take nose-friendly walks, allowing your dog to take a leisurely sniff around the neighborhood.

7.    Offer new, interesting scents to help satiate that curious nose. If you’ve been to the beach or to a zoo, let your dog sniff your shoes or pant legs.

Your dog’s nose is an incredible tool, and you’ll likely find watching her use it just as interesting as she finds all the things she sniffs.

Photo: @iStockphoto.com/stone18

Breed Rescue Groups: Saving Dogs in Need of Homes

You’ve fallen in love with a specific breed but aren’t sure if that breed’s characteristics and your lifestyle are a good match. Perhaps a purebred puppy is beyond your budget. Maybe you simply love your dog and want to help other dogs of his breed. These are all good reasons to check out breed rescue groups.

How Dog Breed Advocates Work
Breed rescue groups collaborate with local animal shelters, breeders and veterinarians to place homeless purebred dogs into new homes. These groups are becoming a trusted resource for people who want to adopt a specific breed, especially adult dogs. “We simplify the search process,” says Cil Henson, president of Golden Beginnings Golden Retriever Rescue in Houston.

Breed rescue groups bring a high level of knowledge and understanding about the breed into the adoption equation. Every breed has unique characteristics, which is one reason why so many purebreds need rescuing. It’s important that a breed and its owner fit well together.

“Our advice to potential adopters about a Golden Retriever’s behavior and care provides the foundation for success,” says Henson. “And, because our dogs live in foster homes with experienced Golden Retriever owners, we can make a good assessment about a specific dog’s temperament, personality and health. It helps us match each dog with a family in which everybody can thrive.”

Education Is Key
People often buy a breed from a pet store or a breeder because they like the look, but they haven’t done any research about the breed. That’s a big mistake. For example, “Siberian Huskies are absolutely adorable as puppies, but after a year or so, that cute puppy is an adult dog that is shedding gobs of fur everywhere and escaping on a regular basis,” says Robert Baker, the PR chair for Tails of the Tundra Siberian Husky Rescue in Colmar, Penn. “Huskies are easily bored, and if they’re not kept busy they will find ways to amuse themselves, including de-stuffing the sofa. That’s when we get the call saying the owner needs to re-home the dog.”

A substantial number of dogs are surrendered to rescues because owners don’t realize how to properly care for a dog or can’t handle the costs involved. Sometimes the dog is an innocent victim of a family breakup. Sometimes it’s a matter of lifestyle. Lap dogs simply won’t thrive as outdoor pets, and high-energy breeds will be unhappy if they’re cooped up in a small living space with no exercise.

Get Involved With Your Favorite Breed

If you love a breed and know a lot about it, your local breed rescue group would love your help. “Lack of enough foster homes is the main factor that limits the number of dogs we are able to help,” says Baker. “Yes, it is a lot of work, but it is also extremely rewarding when you see how happy the dog and the adopter are.” Henson agrees: “Foster homes are the heart and soul of our organization.”

Even if you can’t be a foster parent, you can volunteer your time to help with everything from office work to grooming. Most of these organizations rely heavily on financial contributions because adoption fees cover only a portion of actual foster costs, so you can get involved with fundraising too.

It’s easy to find a breed rescue group for practically any breed. The American Kennel Club has an A-to-Z list on their website, and you can type “breed rescue” into your search engine for additional organizations by breed and by state.

Housebreaking Puppy 101

Housebreaking your new puppy can seem like a daunting task. But with a bit of insight into dog psychology and these proven puppy-training tips, your new puppy will learn quickly.

And if your adult dog isn’t fully housebroken, don’t give up hope. If your dog has accidents daily, weekly or monthly, you’ll find it’s best to treat him like a brand-new puppy that hasn’t been housebroken.

Follow these steps to housebreak puppy:

1.    Select the site. Designate a specific area of your yard for your dog’s “business.” Before your new puppy enters your house, introduce him to this area. He’ll soon associate it with bathroom breaks.

2.    Visit the spot often. It’s best to take your new puppy outside about every two hours as well as upon waking, after playing and feeding, and before going to bed. In addition, be alert to signals like sniffing and circling that might indicate he has to go.

3.    Use a crate. When you can’t be there, crate your dog. Your puppy will respect his new den and will avoid soiling it. If you purchase a crate that’s large enough to accommodate your dog’s adult size, you can partition off part of the crate so he won’t go in a corner.

4.    Be kind. Accidents will happen. Remember that shouting, scolding and punishment serve no purpose and will only confuse your new puppy. Even if you catch your pup mid-act, simply say, “No!” and immediately take your new best friend outside.

5.    Praise your puppy. Lavish praise on your dog each time he goes outside in the assigned spot. Speak in an upbeat voice, smile and reward your pup with treats after he does his business.

When Accidents Happen

When you’re housebreaking your puppy, be ready for accidents with the right cleaning supplies. These steps will make for quick cleanups:

  • Soak up urine with paper towels and remove feces with a plastic bag.
  • Treat the soiled area with a mild detergent solution.
  • On carpeting, blot the stain -- don’t scrub -- and work from the outside toward the center.
  • To neutralize odors, use a veterinarian-approved spray product that’s safe to use around pets.

How to Read Your Dog

A person’s eyes might be the window to his or her soul. We learn to read other people through eye contact, facial expression and body language -- not to mention through what they say to us!

But your best indication of what’s on your dog’s mind comes through his tail. By learning to pay close attention to this literal flag and interpreting its signals, you can better meet your dog’s needs and learn to relate to your best pal.

How Your Dog Communicates

Dogs communicate with their entire bodies. When you get home from work, your dog probably wiggles and waggles from top to bottom, eyes alight, ears perked up and voice greeting you with short, high-pitched yaps. But even if you were to ignore these clues, you could ascertain all the information you need to know to make an accurate judgment about your dog’s mood from his tail alone. Consider these basic communications:

  • The excited wag: This is the equivalent of the human shimmy. The tail whips back and forth; the body fizzes into a frenzy to indicate happiness and pleasure.
  • The wary wag: If your dog is unsure, he might slowly move his tail back and forth at an angle parallel to the ground. Your dog’s head might dip slightly.
  • The sentinel wag: Beware the animal that stands at alert with tail wagging high in the sky. This position is that of a guard dog ready to respond to action.
  • The alpha wag: The dominant dog will let you know he thinks he’s the one in control by hoisting a stiff tail high up in the air and then swinging it back and forth at a quick pace.
  • The beta wag: A submissive dog will drop his tail and quiet its movement. He might even hide it between his legs in a sign of surrender.

Get to Know Your Dog

Every dog has dozens of wags in his repertoire to communicate with you. The key, then, is to slow down and analyze them. It’s important to get to know your own dog well, notes Exceptional Canine expert trainer Stacy Braslau-Schneck. A normal expression can vary from breed to breed and from dog to dog. If you spend more time watching how your dog reacts to situations, you’ll know what is normal. And you’ll be better prepared if your dog is fearful or wary.