Wednesday, May 30, 2012


We all love taking cute, adorable photos of our pets. However, most of us can agree that the task is far easier said than done as pets can sometimes be as wiggly and unfocused as toddlers. If you are not an experienced pet photographer, this can sometimes seem like an impossible feat best left to the experts. We have some tips that will help boost your pet photography skills to the next level!


Unless you have studio lights lying around, your best bet is to photograph your pet using natural light. A flash will startle your dog or cat and will cause the demon red-eye effect. Instead, take your dog outside in your backyard on a sunny day where they will feel at ease in the familiar environment. If your backyard is fenced-in, you can keep your dog off the leash, freeing up your hands. Furthermore, dog portraits always look better without an attached leash since the line of the leash leads the eye outside the photo. Allow your dog to run around and sniff before you begin snapping so they can use up that extra energy. The perfect time to catch a great shot is when he or she is lying down in the grass, basking in the sunlight. Natural sunlight is the most flattering light source as it captures the rich hues and subtle tones of your pet's fur.

Freeze Frame  

Dogs move so quickly when they hear a sound or catch a whiff of something in the air that they often appear as a blur. Use your digital camera's stop action setting to capture all of your pet's movements. Sometimes the funniest and most candid shots are a result of snapping your camera successively in a row as your dog runs towards you, licks their nose, or yawns. No other camera setting can capture the unique expressions that occur during those simple movements. Even the human eye often misses the spaces between these fascinating moments because they occur too quickly.

Level With Them

Chances are, your pet is smaller than you when you stand. This forces you to look down at them and they must look up at you. This is a good way of highlighting their size but that's probably not the look you are going for. Wear clothes you don't mind getting dirty and squat down or even lay down flat on your stomach so that you are level with your pet. This low vantage point will allow you to get a great portrait since you can photograph their whole face, including their expressive eyes.


In order to get your dog to stay, it helps to entice them with a treat held to the side or just above the camera. Dogs look adorable when they tilt their heads to the side and raise their ears slightly. An easy way to achieve this look and to get your dog's attention is to use a squeaky toy or ask a question in a high-pitched tone. The most fool-proof way to achieve great pet photography is to teach your dog simple training commands, specifically stay. With one simple word you can snap away and easily put your dog in different settings without having them squirm or move at the first distraction. To master this command, try our Manners Training program.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Did you know that this week, from May 20 - 26, is Bite Prevention Week? This initiative was created by the non-profit organization Doggone Safe whose mission is dog bite prevention through education. Their goal is to not only protect children from dog bites that could have been prevented by knowing dog body language, but to also save dogs from being uselessly euthanized or sent to a shelter. Since we cannot strike up an easy conversational rapport with the canine member of our family, we must rely on more subtle signs of communication that consist of dog body language. Learning to read what your dog and other dogs are feeling is the key to safety. In honor of Bite Prevention Week, we are elaborating on canine body language.

Watch Out!

-Tail between the legs
-Ears back
-Whites of the eyes showing
-Teeth bared
-Head down
-Excessive yawning or licking
-Tense furrowed brow

Situations to Avoid

-Do not approach a dog that is eating or chewing a bone
-Adhere to the old adage, let sleeping dogs lie. Never interrupt a slumbering dog.
-Do not force a dog into a submissive position.
-Do not approach a dog that is tethered

Be My Pal!

-Tail wagging
-Relaxed expression
-Tongue out, mouth open

Doggonesafe has made an informative slideshow illustrating these important canine cues.

Dogs may not be able to tap you on the shoulder and say, “Hey, I’m scared!” or “Hey, I’m annoyed right now!” but their body exhibits these signs in numerous ways. Subtle though it is, we would all benefit from tuning our radar to these important canine signals.

Friday, May 18, 2012


If you spent the first months of this season spring cleaning with your sleeves rolled up and dust in your hair, you probably wound up with a pile of miscellaneous objects that you no longer use and would like to discard. Before you empty your house of these items consider upcycling, (the process of converting waste materials into new materials of better quality), the salvageable objects with a DIY creation for your pet! Check out these fun, pawesome ideas!


There seems to be no shortage of amazing recycled beds out there for cats and dogs alike. If you are not the DIY type, Etsy has some fab options. Check these out!

Old Soda Crate Bed

Photo Source: Etsy CharlieHeartsDiesel

Techie Cat Beds
Do you have an old TV or desktop computer lying around? "Think different" like the Etsy shop, Atomic Attic and convert these old electronics into shockingly snugly cat beds!

Photo Source: Etsy Atomic Attic TV Cat Bed

Photo Source: Etsy Atomic Attic Apple Computer Pet Bed

Suitcase Bed
Remove the top of the suitcase, add some legs from an old table and stuff it with your dog's bed or use an old pillow.

Photo Source: Etsy Spaghetteria


Charlotte Reed from Petside suggests stuffing old baby socks with cellophane and catnip. Sew it up and you have little mouse-size toys your cat will love pouncing on! Martha Stewart recommends using the fabric from old suits and pants to create Menswear Mouse Toys! Stewart also has a brilliant idea for constructing a cat playhouse made of cardboard boxes for your cat to enjoy. For a lazier approach but one your cat will appreciate just the same, simply throw the cardboard box on the floor! If the infamous Maru the cat has taught us anything, it's that joy and happiness can be found in the simplest of objects!

Pet Pouches

Amy Bethune suggests using leftover fabric to sew small, handy pet pouches that hook onto your dog's collar and can hold poop bags or even a key and money. For step-by-step directions, check out her blog.

Photo Source: Amy Bethune the b-line

What DIY creations have you crafted for your pet?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Lisa (left) and Michelle (right) with some of their canine students
We recently launched our new Manners Training program! This new activity package and daycare option offers a variation to your dog's stay, with group and individual manners sessions tied in with walks and play times. So your dog gets to play and learn! Combining mental and physical stimulation, your dog gets the best of both worlds!

Leading this exciting new program are long time Morris Animal Inn staffers, Lisa and Michelle.

Michelle VanWinkle, Program Leader

Q: What is your background working with dogs?
A:   In 2009, I graduated from the Tom Rose School for Professional Dog Trainers, a nationally recognized school, studying dog behavior and training for over a year. After earning my Associates, Professional, and Masters Dog Training Certification, and graduating first in the class, I owned and operated my own dog training business for four years. I have experience training different breeds, ages and temperaments in the avenues of general obedience; agility; competition and much more. I am an active competitor in many dog sports including AKC, PSA, French Ring, Shutzhund and IPO. I have been nationally recognized with my own dogs, Xander, a Belgian Malinois and Gracie, a Golden Retriever, for competition obedience and apprehension. I've worked with local shelter dogs teaching general obedience to improve their chances of finding a new home. I have been with Morris Animal Inn for five years in various positions including Activities staff, Group Play Evaluator, Lodging staff and am currently the Manners and Fitness Program Leader.

Q: Could you describe Morris Animal Inn's Manners Training program in your own words?
A: Our program teaches general obedience commands with real life distractions. Using the most up-to-date and humane training approach, the program allows for clear communication and creates a dog that loves to learn. Teaching your pet manners is crucial because it opens doors to a lasting bond between canine and owner.

Q: What do you believe is the most important skill to teach a dog?
A: The most important command for a dog to learn is to come. Every year, countless canines are lost because they never learned this basic command. For the safety of our pets, this is an important and necessary skill to teach.

Q: What is your main goal when training a dog?
A: My goal is to help enhance the healthy, happy relationship owners already have with their dog and to help make their dog a more enjoyable and respected member of the family.

Lisa Kaune, Program Leader

Q: What is your background working with dogs?
A: I've been an animal lover my whole life and professionally working with dogs for five years, first as a Lodging Team Leader at Morris Animal Inn and now as a Program Leader for the Manners and Fitness programs. After heavily researching dog behavior and psychology along with spending countless hours training my two dogs, Zeke, a black lab and Archu, a shepherd mix, I have successfully trained them both. Eventually, I would like to participate in the sport of Competitive Obedience. 

Q: What is the most important message to get across to those who are interested in this program?
A: Learning is a journey, not a destination. We will give the dog the foundation in manners but best results are achieved with consistent reinforcement at home. In doing this, the dog has a clear understanding of what is expected from him/her.

Q: What is your dog training philosophy?
A: My dog training philosophy is pretty simple - clear communication. Too often people assume that dogs just automatically understand what is expected from them. This is, of course, not the case. It must be taught and reinforced over and over again. The same commands must be used everytime and by every member in the household.

Reservations are now being accepted. Call us today! 

Thursday, May 3, 2012


If you have a cat, you have probably sustained a couple bites from your feline friend. However, oftentimes a cat’s bite is misinterpreted as aggressive when it was simply their form of play. Read on for tips to help you read your cat’s body language and prevent their biting from getting out-of-hand.

It Starts as a Kitten…

According to Margaret Schill, if kittens are separated from their mothers before they reach 12 weeks, they miss a crucial training period. It is during this time that both their mother and littermates teach them what acceptable behavior is. If a kitten bites its mother too hard, she will correct her baby by hissing or holding the kitten down with her mouth.When playing, littermates let out a startling squeal if their brother or sister is too rough. As a result, kittens learn early on what is tolerable and what is not.

Is it Play or Aggression?

If you are not familiar with cats, it can be difficult to discern what is considered play-biting and what isn’t. When a cat reaches out to grab your hand or leg and bites it, that is play-biting and is not meant to harm you. Your darting hand and leg can be similar to a quickly moving mouse or a small critter. When your cat lays waiting and then pounces, he or she is mimicking instinctive hunting behavior, the same behavior you may praise when your cat catches that pesky mouse that’s been hiding in your attic all winter. If there are no real creatures to be caught, your feline will use his or her surroundings, be it the drapes or your moving leg.

The Need for Toys

To discourage your cat from gnawing on your hand like a piece of tuna, don’t use your hand as a play toy. If you do, you will teach your cat that this form of play is acceptable when you really don’t want it to be. Instead, encourage playtime with fun cat toys like lasers, feathers, and stuffed mice. Make sure you devote a certain amount of playtime with your cat everyday so he or she does not get bored.

Read the Signs

Some cats are not fans of affection. They may like to be held and petted occasionally, but there is a time limit. This varies from feline to feline but all cats give subtle signs that you can learn to look for. If your cat is squirming, twitching their tail from side to side rather fast, laying their ears flat against their head, or stiffening up, your cat has had enough. Now would be the time to put Fluffy down. Respect your cat’s need for space and your cat will respect you!