Backyard Sheds

Soft Paws: Advice on man’s best friend


By Charlene Marchand

For Capital Region Independent Media

Lila is an 11-year-old Catahoula Leopard Dog mix, pictured with CGHS Adoption Counselor Samantha Link. She unfortunately cannot be placed in a home with cats, and she would need to be carefully managed with other dogs due to her age. Lila loves to be outside and go on walks, and she loves to cuddle up with her favorite person! Contributed photo

At running the risk of this column seeming disjointed, I’m putting some spontaneous musings and observations:

  • Many owners have their dog’s “day” collars on too tight. You need to check that two fingers (side to side) can fit between the widest part of a dog’s neck and the collar. Don’t forget to tighten it when walking, to prevent a dog from slipping out.
  • While on the “collar thing,” use of nylon and chain slip collars (choke) are very safe pieces of equipment to use in tandem with a buckle “day collar.” Dogs can’t slip out of them when fitted properly. A too-tight collar can make a dog frantic to escape the “restraint.”
  • Do not allow dogs to play hard (with each other) in any collar. Countless reports of injuries, dog fights, etc. plagued innocent owners who didn’t realize the potential danger of a collar in this situation.
  • Still on this same note, no dog should be crated with a collar on.
  • I have been observing for quite some time now that many dogs are carrying insufficient weight. Although I’m well aware of the general population’s concern about obesity and secondary health problems, we may be overzealous in not differentiating between fit and too thin. Certainly, there are individuals who have to be treated for a number of malabsorption syndromes. I’m not referring to them. I’m talking about dogs that are innocently calorie-deprived. If your dog is absolutely frantic about food, look into this as a possibility. My German Shepherd Dogs are greedy, but not frantic. There’s a big difference.
  • Many of my clients’ dogs seem to be experiencing “seasonal allergies.” These individuals are uncomfortable, scratching, biting, etc., but they are not typical presentations for a food allergy. Speak with your veterinarian about trying Zyrtec or Claritin. Do not medicate on your own! An accurate diagnosis is absolutely necessary. Your dog could be experiencing flea-bite dermatitis – meaning that your protocol for external parasite control may be experiencing a breakthrough.
  • I’ve mentioned this issue before in my columns on grooming, and here we go again. The nails on your dog’s feet are too long. You should not hear them on your floors, and the pasterns (wrists) of your canine should not be slapping back to avoid hitting the tips of long nails. Have your clinic or our shelter trim them if this task is too formidable for you.
  • If you bring home a new puppy, crate-train it. So many advantages! It’s a great aid in housebreaking, it will help to prevent separation anxieties from developing, and if your dog is injured, it will have a safe, quiet place to rest. Crates are a fabulous tool for safe travel and overnight stays at friends’ homes or in motels. They’re also excellent for brief periods of time-outs to assist in home management.
  • Do not crate excessively, for this safe den can become an anxiety-producing prison. Dogs who have clinical separation anxiety cannot be crated, but many can be confined in a larger play/exercise/pen/kennel situation.

Whew. Guess that’s enough for today! Please remember the shelter’s constant need to replenish our public pet food bank – we are especially in need of dry cat food!
Feel free to call us with any questions at 518-828-6044 or visit our website at Our food bank is open to any from the public in need of pet food or for those wishing to donate food from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

Charlene Marchand is the chairperson of the Columbia-Greene Humane Society/SPCA Board of Directors. She may be contacted at

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