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Category Archives: Free Tips & Ideas from Dog Owners

These are your ideas for solving problems, training dogs, keeping them occupied and getting around with your dogs. Add yours here.

A Dog Owner’s Guide to Hiring a Nanny

My friend Sara works full-time from home. It allows her to spend more time with her children and husband. But she still needs help. So she got a nanny to come over on weekday mornings, and it’s been working great for the past six years. She also has two terriers. Her nanny gets along well with everyone, but it’s not always like that.

We dog owners think that everyone is as enamored of our dogs as we are. It’s one thing to enjoy a dog at the park; it’s another thing to spend every weekday with the dog, especially if you’ve never had a dog. So before you hire a nanny, here are some things to think about.

  1. Not everyone likes dogs. Be up-front about the fact that you have dogs, and the kind of dogs you have. Don’t take it personally if some applicants are not interested in a position in a home with pets.
  2. Some people are allergic to dogs. Allergies can develop — or go away — with age, so if an applicant says she’s not allergic and then shows signs that she is, she may have an allergy she doesn’t know about. It’s a good idea to invite the applicant over to spend some time with your children and pets to find out if there are any allergies (as well as to see if everyone gets along).
  3. Not everyone who likes dogs knows how to care for them. If caring for your dog will be part of your nanny’s responsibilities, clarify that at the beginning. Training will be required, especially if the applicant has never owned a dog. Diligence on your part will help her to become comfortable with keeping the door closed, not leaving food on the kitchen counters, etc. She should go through the daily pet routine with you several times before being asked to do it herself.
  4. Be clear about responsibilities. If you’re advertising for a nanny, spell out which pet duties your nanny is expected to take care of, then honor the list. Review it periodically to assure that the list of pet duties hasn’t expanded over time from walking and feeding the dog to training it or cleaning up messes.

Check out this website for finding a nanny. They also have a good article for nannies whose employers have pets; it’s a good read.

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How to Get Kids to Take Care of Pets

“What do I have to do to get Austin to feed the dog?”

“I’m so sick of having to walk the dog. Sophie begged us to get a dog. She said she’d do all the work. Now I end up doing everything. I’m tired of it.”

“We’ve tried bribes, a sticker chart, taking away privileges … nothing works. I’m at my wit’s end with Tyler. Max is HIS dog! Why can’t he understand that?”

“Hailey runs off to play with her friends and just leaves everything for me to do. I’m tempted to stop going behind her to make sure it gets done. If she doesn’t feed the dog, he doesn’t get fed. Period.”

“If the girls aren’t going to take care of the dog, we’re just going to take it back.”

I’ve heard this type of comment from frustrated moms repeatedly over the years. There’s one thing that eliminates all this stress and drama. It’s the one solution you probably don’t want to hear, but here it is.

Mom, no matter whose dog it is, it’s your dog. If you don’t want to take care of a dog, then don’t get a dog.

Ouch.

But think about it. Dads and kids love their dogs, but no matter whose dog it is, mom is the one who makes sure it’s fed, takes it to the vet, remembers vaccinations, remembers to refill the water even when everyone else forgets, housebreaks it, notices every limp and bump … even fixes a comforting place for the dog to stay during fireworks and trick-or-treating.

We can either resent this responsibility and create all sorts of drama for everyone, or we can embrace it and be not only better dog owners, but better wives and parents, too.

What if we looked at pet ownership as a great opportunity to train and teach our children, and walk alongside our kids as they learn? When children are raised with dogs, they learn about treating animals with compassion. They learn about the circle of life. And yes, they learn about responsibility. But putting an eight-year-old in charge of another living thing is not the way to teach these things. It’s unfair to both the child and the dog.

Here’s how to raise your kids with dogs and let them take part in their care.

YOUNGER KIDS

If your children are under 10, give them jobs to do that you can do with them. If your son’s job is to feed the dog, be sure you do it with him so you can see how much food he’s giving the dog, and verify that the dog has been fed. There’s no opportunity for him to forget. He gets into the healthy habit of doing something faithfully every day. It’s enjoyable, and he has the security of knowing that you’ll ensure that the two of you get it done. Feeding time turns into one-on-one time with mom, which totally rocks. Your son will look forward to this special time when you and he do something together, and you’ll find that he guards that time fiercely. As you do, there will be dozens of conversations about dog health, how the digestive system process food, why we all need food, how a dog’s diet differs from our diet … and so much more. This is good talk time. And when he’s older, you’ll be glad you got him in the habit of working and talking together.

OLDER KIDS

If your children are old enough to do some of the dog’s care duties by themselves, that does’t mean you abdicate responsibility for them. Check behind them. Verify that the job has been done. Every time. Every day. Not in a nagging way, but with a heart that says, “The kids help, but this is my responsibility.” Accountability will help your children to avoid the all-too-common slide into the habit of not doing something if they don’t feel like it.

When it’s time to feed the dog, a child can focus on the job, or she can focus on whether she feels like doing the job. If she focuses on her feelings, she’ll almost always talk herself out of it. Teaching children to act on their values rather than their feelings is very difficult in today’s culture. If she doesn’t learn to do the right thing in spite of how she feels, how will she ever do anything long enough to get good at it? How will she do her history homework on time? When she’s an adult, how will she get up every morning and go to work? How will she stay faithful to her husband? How will she restrain herself to a healthy diet, or get to the gym?

Show your child she must follow through on her responsibility to feed the dog. Don’t give her a way out. Help her develop the habit of rain-or-shine dependability. It’s better to verify that it’s done every day than to disengage from the process and then punish when it doesn’t get done. When you help her to remember every day, you’re on her side. You’re helping her. You’re teaching her. When you leave it up to her, and then take away privileges when the inevitable neglect occurs, you’re teaching her to resent the dog, the work, and you. Instead of seeing the dog as a beloved family member and taking pride in her role in caring for it, she’ll start resenting responsibility, which will set her up to be a child all her life.

“GIVING UP” TEACHES THE WRONG THINGS

Some parents at the end of their rope desperately cast about for big-impact ways to show their kids how important it is to care for their pets. They threaten to stop feeding the dog if the child forgets, or they threaten to give the dog away. These solutions are not fair to the dog and they’re damaging to kids.

Giving up on a pet weakens a child’s sense of security. Your kids need to know that you’ll be there for him no matter what. When you demonstrate a lack of concern for the health, comfort and security of a pet, the child will internalize it. He’ll start to wonder, “If I’m too much trouble or expense, what will happen to me?” Is it rational? No. But children aren’t rational. The younger they are, the more feelings-driven they are. And they need security more than almost anything else.

Isn’t it better to teach them how to be faithful to another living thing? Isn’t it easier on the parents, too? There’s so much less drama, fewer arguments, lower stress, less anger and less resentment if mom just takes responsibility for the family dog.

Parenting is tough. I think we get into a habit of looking for solutions that will give us less to do. This one takes more time, and we don’t like solutions that take more time. But it does make our lives easier, our relationships closer, our kids better, our self respect higher, and our dogs happier.

Let’s all stop worrying about what’s fair and do what’s best.

And you know what? At the end of the day, the dog knows. She know who loves her, who watches out for her, who knows her best, who’s always there. The hidden blessing peeks out when your dog curls up on your lap and looks up at you as if to say, “Thanks, mom.”

 

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Does Your Dog Need a Vet? 10 Signs

how to tell if my dog needs to see a vet

It’s late in the evening. Your dog has vomited twice. You’re starting to wonder if you should go to bed or get dressed and get him to a vet.

It’s sometimes a tough call because emergency vet bills are high. Between office visit fees, x-rays, tests and medications, most of us can’t easily absorb an unexpected hit of $1,000 or more.

Yet even more than that, we don’t want to endanger our dogs’ life or prolong their suffering. We want to help them when they’re in pain or distress.

So how do you make the right decision?

Here are 10 signs that you should get your dog to the vet, especially if your dog is exhibiting other signs of distress or discomfort.

  1. Restlessness. Dogs who get enough exercise during the day usually lie down or nap in the evening. If your dog is pacing, or lying down and then getting up within a few minutes, it could be a sign of anxiety and pain. You know your dog’s routine. If she is restless and there’s no other cause that it could be attributed to (i.e., houseguests, fireworks, a new neighborhood dog barking outside), get to the vet.
  2. High temperature. It can be tricky to take a dog’s temperature, especially if he’s not feeling well. So when he’s feeling fine, take his temperature a couple of times to get him used to the procedure and to establish a baseline normal temp for him. For most dogs, it’s 101 to 102.5. When he’s exhibiting some of the other signs mentioned here, an accompanying high temperature — which can indicate a viral or bacterial infection — might clinch your decision to seek veterinary attention.
  3. Hesitation to jump or climb. If your dog, who normally jumps into the car or onto the bed readily, or climbs stairs with no problem, suddenly looks unsure or waits for help, he could have an internal or structural problem you can’t see.
  4. Changes in body posture. Bloat is a serious illness that can take the life of a dog within hours. Dogs experiencing bloat will have a distended stomach due to gas buildup (hence the name). They will also exhibit other signs of illness, such as restlessness and panting. Your dog might be reluctant to sit down, yet looks as if he wants to, or he’s lying or sleeping in an unusual posture. Maybe his mouth is open but he’s not panting, or he’s holding one or both ears at an awkward position. These are things that may indicate he needs a vet.
  5. Hiding. Dogs who are in pain often don’t want to be bothered. If your dog hides in an uncharacteristic way, see if a treat or toy that she would normally respond to can coax her out. If not, she may be in trouble.
  6. Unusual ways of getting your attention. Dog’s can’t tell us they’re in pain, so they just usually deal with it by withdrawing or trying to make themselves more comfortable. However, sometimes, they do seek us out, because they know we’re their source of safety and comfort. If your dog uncharacteristically pesters you for attention, and your attention doesn’t seem to satisfy her need, there may be something more serious she’s seeking help for.
  7. Disruption in elimination patterns. Frequency, volume and condition of urine and feces is a good indicator of health. Get to know your dog’s normal patterns so that if they change, you’ll see it early on. When changing your dog’s food, watch for new elimination patterns and don’t be surprised if there’s a little diarrhea the first day or two as his system adjusts to the new food. But after that, things should get back to normal. It’s harder for homeowners who let their dogs eliminate in the back yard, because we often don’t see the result of the dog’s visit to the yard. But daily cleanups will give you an indicator, and it’s important to know what’s normal for your dog.
  8. Vomiting or retching with other symptoms. It’s not unusual for dogs to vomit. Some individuals hardly ever vomit while others vomit more regularly. Sometimes it’s because they didn’t chew properly, but it can be his body rejecting a toxic substance or bacterial infection. If your dog vomits once or twice, but otherwise acts and eats normally, it’s probably not an emergency. But if she can’t seem to stop vomiting, becomes listless, has diarrhea, or refuses food, she needs a vet. Also, if she’s retching but not bringing up anything, she could be bloating or have an obstruction, which also require quick veterinary intervention.
  9. ways to tell if my dog needs a vetUnusual vocalizing. Dogs usually don’t cry when they’re in pain. They tend to isolate. But if your dog is whimpering, crying, or wheezing in a way that’s not normal, definitely get to a vet.
  10. Unusual panting. Dogs pant when they’re hot, but if your dog is panting when he’s inside and would normally be resting (i.e., evening), there may be a problem. Our collie seemed to pant all the time, even in the air conditioning. The groomer took his beautiful coat off for the summer to help him stay cool, but he still panted. After some tests by the vet, we learned he had leukemia. If your dog shows unusual panting, especially when combined with weakness or unusual thirst, get him to the vet.

Remember, any of these signs could mean your dog needs to see the vet, but if your dog shows more than one sign, it’s even more likely that veterinary attention is needed. When in doubt, see the vet. It’s better to spend some money needlessly than to endanger your dog’s life because you’re unsure.

 

Natural Disasters: How to Help Our Dogs

Guest post by Pamela Schaub, Cape Cod (MA) Animal Disaster Response Team

When a disaster strikes we are usually unprepared. The good news is that it only takes a little forethought and preparation to preserve the safety or life of our beloved pets. In the past 10 years, an estimated 20 million Americans have been affected by natural disasters such as flooding, tornados, hurricanes, and severe lightning storms.

Order your free Rescue Alert Sticker from the ASPCA

Here are a few of the most basic ways to prepare, now, before a disaster strikes:

1) Take a clear photo of your dog so that he may be identified in the event he becomes separated from you.

2) Get a secure collar with appropriate I.D. tag containing at least one phone number. Better yet, microchip your dog. Most vets and shelters scan incoming lost pets for a chip.

3) Prepare an emergency “Go Kit” for you and your pet.  It’s an inexpensive way to have a piece of mind. Always know where it is. RedRover.org recommends the following items be packed for each animal in your home:

  • One-week supply of food. Store it in a water-tight container and rotate it every three months to keep it fresh. If you use canned food, include a spare can opener.
  • One-week supply of fresh water. If officials declare your household water unfit to drink, it’s also unsafe for your pets. Follow American Red Cross guidelines for storing emergency water for your family and your pets.
  • Medication. If your animal takes medication, a replacement supply may not be easily available following a disaster.
  • Copies of vaccination records
  • Photographs of you with your pets to prove ownership
  • Photographs of your pets in case you need to make “lost pet” fliers
  • Pet first aid kit
  • Temporary ID tags. If you’ve evacuated, use this to record your temporary contact informationand/or the phone number of an unaffected friend or relative.
  • Carrier or leash for each animal. Caregivers of multiple cats or other small animals can use an EvacSak, which is easy to store and use for transport.

4) Have a plan and share it with family. If a disaster should force you from your home, determine a safe place to stay, and do it ahead of time. Find out where a local emergency pet sheltering facility is located. During times of disaster, temporary shelters are often facilitated by the ASPCA, IFAW, HSUS, etc.

5) Be sure your smartphone directory has phone numbers for emergency contacts and 24 hour veterinarians.

Remember, your own safety comes first. Be wary before, during, and after a disaster strikes, and never leave your household pet alone, tied up, or encumbered to fend for themselves.

Resources

 

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6 Big Mistakes Most Dog Owners Make

dogpatted

We all mean well (bless our hearts), but most of us make mistakes in the care, feeding and training of our dogs. Here are six common mistakes that we dog owners make. I know I was. Take a look and see if you are, too, and share your comments about these and other mistakes we fall into.

1. FEEDING TOO MANY CARBS

Left to their own devices, dogs would eat nothing but protein. Yet we modern dog owners give them acommercially produced diet of cereal kibble. It’s not natural, and dogs’ health statistics show it. Dogs are not omnivores; they’re carnivores. You can increase your dog’s protein intake by adding chicken, fish, pork or beef to his dinner. If you can’t stomach feeding raw meat to your dog (which is most like their natural diet), you can cook it. But either way, getting more protein into your dog will improve her health, increase digestibility and be more tasty. Your dog will love you for it!

2. LEAVING THE DOG ALONE WITH NOTHING TO DO

It’s irritating to come home to find the sofa torn open, or the cabinets chewed up, or a favorite pair of shoes shredded beyond recognition. But when we leave the dog home alone with no constructive outlet for his boredom and frustration, what do we expect? Dogs need something to keep them busy, especially when the house is quiet and empty. Tough chews, treat-dispensing toys and other “approved” toys and treats can help. Try freezing a rope bone, or filling a marrow bone with peanut butter. Or fill a treat-dispensing toy with carrots or small treats.

It doesn’t have to be your dog in the picture. The point of the picture is to help someone get your dog to safety.

3. USING A BAD PICTURE IN A “LOST DOG” POSTER

Heaven forbid you ever lose your dogs. Doesn’t it break your heart when you see those “Lost Dog” flyers stapled to telephone poles around your neighborhood? What breaks my heart even more are the bad snapshots shown on the posters.

That picture you took with your phone of your dog sitting at your feet, in the house, at night, is not going to help your neighbors to recognize your dog when he’s loose. The dog will probably be spotted running from yard to yard, or along a roadway. So use a picture that shows your dog’s entire body, preferably running or walking, as seen from the side. HINT: The best photo might be a stock photo of a dog of the same breed who’s walking or running. Only you will know it’s not the same dog. To everyone else, it might mean the difference between recognizing your dog or not.

4. USING HO-HUM TREATS (THAT ARE TOO BIG) FOR TRAINING

Training treats are different from cookies or biscuits. A training treat should be a great smelling treat that your dog will do ANYTHING for. Examples include small bits of red meat, cheese, cubed hot dogs or vienna sausages. Training treats should also be small, so that the dog can eat them in one gulp, and not fill up after 5 minutes of training. When a dog has to stop and chew up a treat — or clean up pieces of it off the floor — your timing is thrown off. Experiment with different treats. Some dogs love cubed carrots. Others will do anything for a mini marshmallow.

5. SHARING MEDS

Some human medicines can be used to help dogs, but some are toxic to dogs. The most common cause of pet poisoning is non-steroidal anit-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Other medications can cause problems or be poisonous to dogs, too. Learn about them and keep a list in your medicine cabinet, or ask your veterinarian what to give.

6. NOT PROTECTING OUR DOGS

The dog park isn’t for everyone, or every dog. Some dogs are very sociable and LOVE the dog park. Others are fearful, anxious and completely miserable there. We make the mistake of thinking that because there are other dogs there, plus room to run, that our dog should and does love to go. But watch your dog’s reactions to other dogs. If he cowers, runs to you for protection, or spends most of the time hiding under the bench, it may be that he really doesn’t like it there. Another area where we should protect our dogs is when we’re on a walk and a person or dog approaches. We should definitely be confident and relaxed, but we should consider if an approaching dog is friendly before allowing it to get within contact range of ours.

If your dog is being harassed by other dogs – either on leash or at the dog park – remove your dog to a safer area. If your dog thinks that you will not protect her, it will impact the trust she feels for you. Not only that, she may assume a leadership role over you if the thinks that you are not a leader who cares for and protects the pack.

Fortunately, dogs are very forgiving, and there are few mistakes that we cannot make right. Give your dog a hug today and share your comments on the subject below.

 

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Top 5 Skills to Teach Your Dog

Article courtesy of Trips With Pets. When I began my dog training career in 1997, I started out by training service dogs. A service dog is an animal that has been trained to assist a disabled person with such specialized tasks such as picking up dropped items, finding lost keys or even reminding their person to take medications.  It takes many months and hundreds of hours’ worth of training to teach the skills that a dog will need to become a service dog.

While most pet dog owners don’t require that level of training for their dog, I do believe that the average dog owner would like his dog to have the same kind of self-restraint that a person with a disability expects from his working dog.

Here is my list of the five most critical skills I would want any dog to learn.

  1. Default Sit:  I’ll be honest here – I’m not crazy about dogs that jump all over me.  Not many people are – even the most enthusiastic dog lover.  Bearing that in mind, I would start right away to teach my dog that it is more beneficial to sit rather than to jump. Sitting is incompatible with jumping.  A dog simply cannot sit and jump at the same time.To do this, first set the dog up so that he or she can’t make many (or preferably any) paws on people mistakes.  I would make sure my dog was either on a leash or on a tether whenever new people were around.  This takes the anxiety out of any human/dog interaction. It means that you no longer have to worry about whether your dog will jump on someone because she/he can’t.Dog TrainingNext, get some high value rewards to help ensure that your dog will want to work with you even if there are exciting things happening all around him or her.  Since the goal is to teach the dog to automatically sit whenever new people appear, don’t give the command to sit (he/she might not choose to respond anyway and I wouldn’t want to inadvertently teach my dog to ignore my commands). When the dog takes the initiative to sit, give a tasty treat. Any behavior that is rewarded should happen more often. Be patient during this process.  It can take a bit of time before the dog figures out that it is the sitting that is getting him the tasty treats.  Once my dog became more reliable about responding to each new person that came along with a sit, I would begin to work on teaching my dog or pup to maintain his or her sit for longer and longer periods of time.
  2. Chill On a Mat:  This is one of my favorite skills to teach.  The idea is that you will be able to send your dog over to a portable mat (like a bath mat or towel) where he or she will lie down and remain until released.  The little Goldendoodle pup (pictured above) is 16 weeks old and he is lying on his mat in the middle of a soccer field with a team playing in the distance.  What the photo doesn’t show are the four other soccer teams on either side of him. He shows all of this skill at such a young age.  What a good dog and what good parents he has to spend so much time teaching him how to behave in public places!

  3. Come:  We all want our dogs to come when called but a lot of dogs that I work with just don’t.  They are completely unreliable.  You need to teach your dog that it is totally worth giving up whatever he or she is engaged with to come running to you.  It is important to reinforce this behavior every time with a super tasty treat (if your dog is food motivated) or a game of tug (if your dog is play motivated).If your dog isn’t reliable, work on this skill with your dog on a long leash and then inside an enclosed area before ever trusting him off leash. If your dog does NOT come when she is called, whatever you do, don’t nag her.  Repeating commands is the quickest way to teach your dog to ignore you. Go and get her and go back to working with the dog on a line until he or she is more reliable.
  4. Eye Contact:  Eye contact is a great way to teach your dog to keep his or her focus on you.  I start this skill by rewarding my dog every time he or she chooses to look at me – on walks, at the dog park, when kids are around, in the house etc.  I call these “check-ins,” but you can use any signal word you like, such as “look” or “focus.”  Check-ins are a great way to start to teach your dog or pup that it pays to focus on you.
  5. Leave It:  The purpose of this skill is to teach your dog to back away and not to touch, sniff or eat the thing that he’s headed for. The “it” in question could be a cat, a hamburger bun, a sock.  Imagine how handy that would be. Imagine if you dropped a pill on the floor.

A qualified trainer can help you teach these 5 essential skills if you need help. Remember to dedicate time to training your dog or pup.  It’s not fair to get angry with your dog for misbehaving if you haven’t taken the time to teach your dog what is expected of him or her.

No matter which skills you find important for your dog to learn, understand that desirable behaviors need to be rewarded often and well and you will need to limit your dogs opportunity to make the wrong choices by using better management—head halters or no pull harnesses for a dog who pulls, leashes and tethers for jumpers and long lines for a dog who won’t come when he or she is called. If you feel like you some additional help, you can search for a professional trainer in your area at www.apdt.com.

About Elsa Larsen:
Elsa started her dog training career as a volunteer for an organization in Santa Rosa, California that trained dogs for people with disabilities.  In June 2000, Elsa moved to the east coast and created My Wonderful Dog, a non profit that that engaged at risk youth in the care and training of service dogs.  The non profit had to close its doors in 2008 due to lack of funding, but under the original banner of My Wonderful Dog, Elsa continues to bring her expertise and knowledge to bear in her quest to create harmony between pet dogs and their owners in and around Portland, Maine and the greater Boston area. With over 15 years experience, Elsa has had the pleasure of working with hundreds of dogs on issues as diverse as dog aggression to puppy management and care.

To follow Elsa and My Wonderful Dog on Facebook, click here.

 

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Easy Tip for Emptying Bagless Vacuums

Dog owners know that vacuuming dog hair can be … well, hairy. Between clogged hoses and hard-to-reach buildup in your bagless canister, the hair can overwhelm even the sturdiest vacuum cleaner.

I like bagless vacuums because I don’t have to buy bags. But I don’t like them because of how nasty it can be to empty the dirt canister when it’s full. And with two big dogs, mine gets full quickly.  The commercials show a neatly manicured hand pressing a button and the bottom popping off to let the debris fall into the trash. But when there’s hair involved, it gets tricky. The hair balls up behind the cone where you can’t get it out without reaching up there and pulling with your fingertips. Seriously, how gross is it to stick your hand up into the canister and pull on all that dog-hair cotton candy that’s literally infused with dust and crumbs? It’s the most unhygienic housecleaning task that I have … and I clean toilets. And I have a five-year-old son. ‘Nuff said.

But I discovered that the Cobra plastic drain stick will pull that knot of hair out the canister easily and quickly. It’s a plastic stick with barbs all down the sides. It’s used for pulling hair clogs out of drains.

I got to thinking one day, as my hand was covered with dust and there were clumps of dust and hair on the floor all around my trash can, “there must be a better way.” Yes, there are some vacuum canisters that you can pry open and slide the cone out from the outer cylinder. But first of all, it’s not easy to get them apart. And secondly, when you do, the hair and dust go everywhere.

My husband had purchased a couple of these disposable drain cleaners for our bathtub and sink drains. I grabbed one and stuck it up into the canister. And presto! A bunch of hair came sliding out the canister and into my trash can.

Now, a warning. You can’t wait until the canister is so full that the hair is backing up into the hose. We have an Irish Setter and a Shiloh Shepherd, and I have to empty my canister three times when I do my 2,000 sf house. I vacuum every 4 days or so to avoid too much buildup. But if you empty when it’s getting full, you can use this handy tool to grab that hair and pull it out.

It’s about $3 at home improvements stores. Cool, huh?