On today's episode of Pet Lover Geek, powered by PetHub, Lorien talks with Carole Feeney, co-founder of Project Blue Collar. Lorien and Carole dive into all of the best tips for finding the best collars, leashes and harnesses for your pup. Carole also provides some great advice to pet parents who have a newly adopted dog -- and how to keep them safe at home as they adjust to their new life. In honor of Lost Pet Prevention Month, Lorien is talking with pet industry experts throughout July about the basics of lost pet prevention and recovery techniques and resources. PetHub started Lost Pet Prevention Month in 2014 to drive deeper conversations around all of the ways pet parents can prevent a pet from becoming lost, as well as how to get them home quickly if they go AWOL (Absent WithOut a Leash).
Lorien Clemens Welcome to Pet Lover Geek, pet lovers. We’re powered by PetHub, and I’m Lorien Clemens. Today we’re talking about some of the most fundamental tools pet parents can use to ensure that their pet is healthy, happy and safe.
Here at PetHub, we started Lost Pet Prevention Month in 2014 to help educate pet parents on all the resources available when it comes to lost pet prevention and recovery. Throughout July, I am interviewing pet experts who are sharing their tips and tricks for keeping Fido healthy and home.
I am so excited to introduce today’s guest, Carole Feeney, the co-founder of Project Blue Collar. As a pet foster parent herself, Carole brings years of hands-on experience of caring for adopted and stray pets to her customers. Today, Carole is here to share some of her essential tips for rescue-dog parents: collars, leashes, and all of the gear needed to keep your rescued pet safe. Carole, welcome to the show!
Carole Feeney Thank you, I am glad to be here.
Lorien Clemens Before we get into the tips for pet parents, I would love it if you could start our conversation off by talking about your background and how Project Blue Collar started. I mean, you’ve fostered over 500 puppies and kittens - I love watching them on Facebook, by the way, it’s one of my favorite things to do - and your home is warmly referred to as the Project Blue Collar Puppy Hostel. So how did your career in business development lead to Project Blue Collar?
Carole Feeney Most of my career I’ve been in business development and I’ve always been an idea person. As I started fostering more and more dogs - I am also super observant - and I always paid attention to how other people reacted to learning a dog that they met was a rescue dog. I was always shocked by two main things. One, was their reaction that a dog that was so well-behaved and in such good health could be a rescue dog. The second was the reaction of people who had rescued a dog. The first words out of their mouth when you meet their dog is “Oh it’s a rescue!”.
And so I thought, what if we had a way of showing rescue dogs out in public so people could quickly identify that rescue dogs are healthy, happy family members. They aren’t the, you know, deplorable things that you see from the “Sarah McLaughlin” commercials. While those are real images, that’s not who we adopt out. Once they come into foster care, we get them health before they go out for adoption.
And then also, [I wanted] a way that people could show their rescue pride, and that’s when I came up with Project Blue Collar. It was a way to identify rescue dogs out in public and put a positive image on them and try and remove the negative preconceptions that we have.
Lorien Clemens I love everything about Project Blue Collar. As you know, PetHub has been working with you guys for years now, so we just love what you do. Let’s talk about some of the preconceptions that are out there, and like all preconceptions they are a little bit based in fact. So let’s talk about that because animal shelters are one of the most common places that people adopt dogs and cats. In fact, nearly 44% of dogs and cats that are acquired by pet parents are from shelters and rescues.
So, what do pet parents need to know about their new fur kid that they just adopted from a rescue or shelter? Are these pets more likely to run away? I mean this is about lost pet prevention, so what would pet parents need to know to be able to transition[new pets] into their home and be safe?
Carole Feeney You bring up really good points because they have pasts that we don’t necessarily know. Oftentimes, they might be more fearful and so we try to educate every pet parent to treat every new dog they are bringing into their home as a potential runner. Just assume that they are.
We do a lot of training and education in regards to how to keep your pet safe. [For example] check your fence for any weakness areas. You know, if you have a digger there is the potential that they could dig under; if you have a jumper, they can jump over. For all of these reasons, make sure that you have ID tags on them, that they are chipped, that there is a way that people are going to be able to contact you if in fact your dog does get lose.
And when you are walking them, you have to have a properly fitted collar. We don’t recommend any retractable leashes - those are kind of the worst thing you can do. Have a leash that is the appropriate length.
Lorien Clemens Let’s break this down actually into two things. So you’ve got the “keeping them safe at home” and then “keeping them safe while you’re out and about”. So you’ve mentioned at home - you know, we call it here at PetHub “Houdini Proofing Your House”. I mean, I personally knew a little Border Collie who lived near us who would jump the six-foot fence just like that - it was like woah! Then she would actually jump back in and her parents never knew she was gone.
So you’ve mentioned some of those things, but let’s go through them again. Like what are those kinds of things when you’re going around and looking at your house and yard? What are those things when you’ve got this brand new dog - and you don’t know their personality - what are those things you should be looking at with that critical eye?
Carole Feeney So, definitely if you have a fenced yard, check it. Check the perimeter, walk around, make sure there aren't any weak areas: spots where they can dig under, holes in the fence, anything they could push through. You want to be careful that there aren’t any areas because they are going to find them. Trust me, if you’ve got a runner, they are going to find them immediately.
Inside your house [some things to think about are like if] your front door is something that stays open - that doesn’t swing shut easily - because that’s a very easy escape route for dogs that are looking to run. Especially if it’s open to a street area, you have to be really, really careful about that. Hopefully you have some kind of screen or something that’s a second layer of protection.
Lorien Clemens I would also say - just from personal experience living in a place that snows a lot - be really aware, especially if you’ve got a dog, in the wintertime the snow can drift up against the fence. So you might have a fence that’s tall enough in the summertime, but in the wintertime it gets shorter.
One of my favorite lost pet stories was about a rescue - it’s about a black German Shepherd - who had been fine like two months before and as soon as it snowed he launched himself over the fence because of the snow and he was gone. PetHub found him, but still they were like “Whoa, how did he get out?” It was because of the snow!
So let’s talk about the car. When you get in the car and you’re going to go out to the park and take a walk or what have you - there are some essentials. So I would love it if you could talk about collar types and leash types. Let’s start with collar types because you mentioned the Freedom No-Pull Harness but there are different kinds of collar types that are better suited for different types and sizes of dogs. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Carole Feeney Yeah, so I highly recommend martingale collars, which are the no-slip collar so the dog can’t slip their head out of it. The second they start to pull, it tightens. They come in different widths too, you know, a big bully dog you’re going to want a big thick collar for their thick neck. But you can get them in any size - even for Chihuahuas - they are some of the biggest runners we have are Chihuahuas
Lorien Clemens Yeah, their little heads can duck out of those collars so fast!
Carole Feeney Exactly! So it is so important to have a [no-slip] collar when you think you have a runner, or even if you don’t think you do because they can become a runner given the right situation.
Lorien Clemens Right, and you don’t know the dog yet. That’s the key. LIke, even if it came from a foster parent and you’ve gotten a great, little dossier on the dog, you still don’t know the dog, you know?
What about harnesses because I know a lot of people - you know, we recommend the pet always has a collar because that is where the ID tag needs to stay, but for some dogs having the collar and the neck be the source for the leash is not necessarily the best idea. What about harnesses?
Carole Feeney Harnesses are great. They have to be fitted properly because the dog can also slip out of a harness. So make sure you get one that’s fitted properly. The one that we use, the Freedom No-Pull, actually has two areas where you hook the leash on to it, so it’s kind of a double protection. They are super safe.
Lorien Clemens And I think it’s important to recommend taking the dog with you to the store. Most stores - most really good pet stores especially independent pet stores - will help you properly fit it.
Carole Feeney Absolutely!
Lorien Clemens So then, let’s talk about leashes because you mentioned one of my big pain points which is retractable leashes - as soon as you said that I cringed because I have been burned by those in many different ways. So let’s talk about the leash: what you should absolutely not use and what are good to use, and then the variations within those good to use leashes.
Carole Feeney We actually have one leash that we sell from Lupine that is a 2 foot leash, and I love it because I am in the city so I want them as close to me as possible. So to me, the shorter the leash the better.
If you’re walking out in a park, I’d say a six foot leash, but you’re going to want to make sure it has a good handle on it. You also have to make sure the clip is good because they can break through something that’s plastic. So there is a lot to consider.
Lorien Clemens I like the leashes too that have the six foot leash for doing a longer walk but then they have a hold right there at two feet so you can quickly get hold of them and get them closer.
Carole Feeney Yeah, those are great because you have both options.
Lorien Clemens Exactly. What about leashes that have the elastic in it, you know, the stretchy kind, because with retractable leashes it’s an absolute no-go, yes?
Carole Feeney 100% no-go. I don’t see any situation where those are recommended.
Lorien Clemens Yeah, okay, me neither. But what about some people who are like “Well I’m out hiking, I’m out running” and I want to have a little bit more give, and so what about the leashes that have the, you know, the scrunchie (for the lack of a better term), but you know, they have the elastic part of it?
Carole Feeney I’ve tried them out and I am just not a huge fan of them. When a dog sees another dog or something of interest - a squirrel or something - sometimes you’re not prepared for that “give-and-pull”. But some people love them, I’m just not personally a fan of them. What do you think?
Lorien Clemens For me, I’m a runner. I am a trail runner and I run with my dog on the trails everyday. For me, it’s a matter of training. So we have a lot of commands that he and I get right away, and so we are comfortable with each other out on the trail. If I say “With me”, he immediately slows down and comes up against my leg. But we’ve also been together for nine years, so we know each other really well. And yes, he was a rescue puppy, but he came when he was nine months old, so we know him.
I guess for me, I would say it depends on the dog. And to that point, like, how long does it take before you know the dog or the dog knows you. I know you’ve talked about this in the past. I’d love it if you could talk a little bit about when do I know that the dog is comfortable?
Carole Feeney You know, there’s no answer to that because every dog is different. Some dogs come directly into your home and they’re at home and they trust you and they have complete confidence the moment they get in there. And other dogs, it takes months, sometimes years for them to have the right confidence.
Lorien Clemens Can you give some tips that maybe you give to people that adopt through your organization, about how to help the dog find comfort? Because once the person has the dog in their home, I mean, there are definitely things that you can do and clues you can get from the dog that tell you they are not comfortable. So can you talk a little bit about that?
Carole Feeney One thing we say is patience, patience, patience. And, you know, we always recommend as a standard to give the dog at least three months. It kind of takes them three months to start getting your rhythm down, getting your agenda down, and understanding the rules. So that is kind of just a standard.
But, just watch for cues. You’ve got to really pay attention and pick up on what they are trying to tell you. Are there situations that scare the dog? Avoid those. When I see new pet parents always wanting to take a pet parent to a dog park, and I am like are you sure they are comfortable? Some are not. So really pay attention to the cues they are giving you, because they are going to tell you.
Lorien Clemens Talk about those cues because I’ve been a pet parent since I was a baby, you know, I grew up with dogs, but there are a lot of new pet parents who literally have never had a dog in their lives. They love dogs, but they’re not in tune with those signs that the dog is clearly giving. I’d love it if you could talk a little but about those signs that the dog is telling you that right now they are not comfortable.
Carole Feeney Watch their ears, watch tail. When the tail tucks under they are fearful. You know, their “mohawk” goes up when something scares them, or they might actually start shaking. You can tell when they are not comfortable or confident in a situation. And then that’s your job to either remove them from the situation or help guide them through it.
Lorien Clemens By giving them space, by giving them treats -- and I found too, the other one that was a big one for me is panting. I have one dog and she starts panting when she is nervous and I am immediately like “oh, something is going on.” And she looks like she is smiling, but she is really nervous.
Okay, before we go, I want to make sure that we touch on the Project Blue Collar program, I want you to tell us all about it: how it works, how people can get involved.
Carole Feeney At Project Blue Collar we sell a line of collars, leashes, and harnesses. As we’ve talked about before, it’s a way to identify dogs out in the public as rescue dogs - they day “I am a rescue” on them or “Support the underdog”.
For all of our collars and leashes we do a Buy One, Give One. So every time someone buys one, we donate one (of the same product) to a rescue or shelter.
Lorien Clemens Awesome, and tell them where they can go to find out more.
Carole Feeney ProjectBlueCollar.com - and if you guys have any rescues or shelters you want to refer to us, we can work with them and we’d love to have them as partners.
Lorien Clemens Awesome, and how many partners do you have? I am curious.
Carole Feeney We’ve worked with hundreds of rescues all of the country and even in Canada.
Lorien Clemens Wonderful! And I have to ask if the puppy hostel is filling up again soon?
Carole Feeney We’re on a break right now. We just had a litter of four that were adorable, so those have all been adopted. It will fill up again.
Lorien Clemens Excellent, I look forward to seeing those pictures and videos on Facebook for sure. Carole, thank you so much for joining us today. We really appreciate it. It’s an honor to work with Project Blue Collar and to be able to highlight the amazing work you do and the animals that you work with.
Carole Feeney Thank you Lorien. We love working with PetHub, so thank you so much for this opportunity.
Lorien Clemens Wonderful! And a reminder to everybody to learn more about Project Blue Collar and their projects - their program - head over to www.projectbluecollar.com - there are some great stories there and you’ll fall in love with the project immediately.
Well we’ve learned so much today about some of the fundamentals of lost pet prevention and recovery. PetHub along with partners like Project Blue Bollar are celebrating National Lost Pet Prevention Month through the month of July. We’ve collected a library of resources and tips for pet parents to keep their pet safe and at home. To learn more simply visit lostpetpreventionmonth.com - there is tons of stuff to check out there. I want to thank Carole with Project Blue Collar one last time for joining us today, and we can’t wait to learn more from industry experts next time on Pet Lover Geek, powered by PetHub.