Keep dogs’ paws safe this winter

As most dog owners know, regular walks and outdoor playtime are hard on paws in winter. Here are some tips for keeping your pup’s paws safe.

  • Don’t leave your dog outside unattended, even in a secured area that they’re used to roaming during warm weather. Keeping a close eye on your pooch is key to making sure the cold isn’t taking its toll.

    Dogs welcome at Alvern Gardens Apartments
    Just because I’m fluffy doesn’t mean I’m impervious to cold. Keep me safe in winter!
  • Shorten time spent outdoors, especially in extreme cold. Obviously, the less time exposed, the better. If you’re on a walk and your dog starts showing signs of being too cold (shaking his paws when he picks them up or even limping), it’s time to turn around and go home—whether he did his business or not.
  • Gear up with a coat and booties, if your dog will tolerate it. Some dogs can’t stand wearing clothes, and some don’t even need them, but if your dog has a wiry or thin coat with just a single layer of fur, it needs some protective gear. Even if she’ll only wear booties on her hind paws, it’s still better than nothing in extreme cold.
  • Stick to the grass instead of salted pavement. The salt that’s essential to keeping sidewalks safe for human pedestrians can seriously hurt a dog’s paws, so keep your dog walking in grassy areas, and if possible/necessary, carry her over salted patches of pavement.
  • Clean your dog’s paws as soon as you get back inside. Use a clean towel to wipe down all four paws, thaw out any clumps of snow that might have gotten caught in long fur, and check between the pads of each paw to make sure no salt has gotten stuck.
  • Don’t allow your dog to lick its paws. Excessive licking can cause sores (and stinky feet!), but it’s also a sign that your dog’s paws hurt. If you notice him licking, give his paws a closer look and make sure they’re clean and  not injured in any way.

Why you should take out your window ac in winter

Window air conditioning units work wonders in summer, but in winter, they should be removed and put in storage. Why? Because energy conservation, that’s why.

First of all, no matter how snugly your ac fits in the window—and let’s face it, it probably doesn’t fit very well at all—there’s still a draft coming through. Only a fully shut and locked window is truly sealed against the elements. Ask anyone who’s sensitive to drafts and they’ll tell you they feel one when they stand in front of a window with an ac in it.

window air conditioning unit
At Alvern Gardens Apartments, residents are allowed to install as many window a/c units as they’d like, but it’s important that they remove them all before winter sets in.

Any sort of draft causes the energy output of your heating system to skyrocket because it’s constantly trying to compensate for that continuous flow of cold air. Taking out your window ac is the fastest, easiest, and most obvious way to stop drafts.

The more energy your heating system uses, the more money it costs to run it (obviously), but if you’re renting an apartment where “heat is included in rent,” you don’t notice that money blowing away in the winter breeze. But it absolutely is. When your lease renewal runs around, you’ll see that money again in the form of raised rent. When utilities are included in rent, the amount of rent reflects that. So if you’re causing your landlord to pay high utility bills for your unit by wasting energy, you can bet that your landlord will pass those costs onto you by raising your rent.

Now, there is another important reason to remove your window ac that applies only to those with radiator heat who have their ac installed directly above a radiator (which, if you have radiator heat, is probably exactly where you ac is… it’s more or less unavoidable). Radiators are made of cast iron and they can withstand a great deal, but one thing that is definitely a danger to them is the frigid cold air of deep winter in Pittsburgh. During extreme cold you should never open a window directly above a running radiator because that radiator can crack and leak. An ac inside a window directly above a radiator is pretty much the same thing as an open window above a radiator. If it gets cold enough, that little draft is going to crack your already overworked radiator.

Radiators are not easy to replace because, firstly they’re getting harder and harder to come by, and secondly the entire heating system has to be shut down to do the work. Then there’s the matter of repairing the damage from the leak. A single radiator can leak a whole lot of water and that water will not only destroy your flooring, it will destroy the ceiling in the apartment below yours. You can bet that if your radiator cracks because you opened the window, your landlord will charge for the full cost of repairs, and that’s going to add up to hundreds of dollars.

So when we say you should remove your window ac because it will allow you to conserve energy, what we mean is, you should remove your window ac because it will save you money.

Winter is coming (again): Is your home ready?

We’ve done quite a few posts now about energy conservation, spring cleaning, winterizing, and general home care stuff. As temperatures continue to drop in the Pittsburgh area, we thought we’d round up some of our past posts on staying warm, conserving energy, and preparing for winter.

Pittsburgh in Autumn
While we enjoy the gorgeous fall foliage, it’s also time to start preparing for winter.
By John [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Winter is around the corner

Pittsburgh’s cold winters call for special precautions

Snow is falling on Pittsburgh

Easy ways to conserve energy and save money

The good news for residents of Prudential Realty Communities like Alvern Gardens, Cornell Place, and Garden Villa is that the heat systems have been turned on for the season. Everyone should be warm and cozy even as outdoor temperatures drop.

Make yourself at home with window treatments

When you first move into a place, one of your first steps in nesting should be to put up window treatments. They reduce echo, make a place look cared for and lived-in, and even make your home more energy efficient.

Window Treatments
Not all window treatments have to be exclusively for privacy and blocking out the sun. Even simple sheers can add a homey feel.

Lots of rentals don’t have blinds as a standard feature, so you’ll want to put up something in a hurry for privacy on that first night, but remember that this is a temporary stopgap. Unless you’re living in a college dorm, it’s just plain tacky to use a blanket or flag as a curtain, especially when decent window treatments aren’t that expensive.

  1. Start with is blinds. If you have a pet or a child, you’ll want to stay away from corded blinds to keep your loves safe. Also, you’ll want to know the rules about whether you’re even allowed to drill into the walls and window frames to mount blinds. Chances are, it’s not allowed or you’d have to pay the maintenance man to do it. Luckily, Redi Shade has your back! They make cordless blinds that you trim, peel, and stick. Now, we are a bit skeptical as to how long they stay put and how annoying it will be to clean the glue residue off the window frame once the blinds are removed, but color us intrigued!
  2. Next: drapes. If you’re lucky, you’re renting from a place like Alvern Gardens, where each window comes with its own curtain rod. If not, you’ll need to buy those. Luckily there are sturdy temporary options. If your window frame isn’t conducive to spring-loaded rods, you can use Command hooks to mount your rod instead. Now, you’ll want to measure your window not just for fitting the rod but for finding the right size curtains. Floor-to-ceiling drapes in a heavy fabric lend luxurious drama, but you don’t want the bottoms to drag across the floor.
  3. Finally, maintenance. Now that you have blinds and drapes, you’ll want to clean them regularly. Give blinds a good dusting every week or so, and take drapes down once or twice a year to wash them. We recommend taking drapes to a laundromat with commercial sized washers and dryers to get them fully and properly clean.

Tips for beating the heat on the cheap

It’s been a bit stifling recently, and air conditioning is probably causing a spike in everyone’s bills. So we thought we’d share some tips for staying cool while saving money. (See our previous post on saving on air conditioning for additional tips and tricks.)

pool
Swimming is one of the best forms of exercise, and it’s a great way to stay cool on a hot day. (Residents of Alvern Gardens Apartments can enjoy their summer poolside for a $10 season pass.)
  • Use your ac wisely by turning it off while you’re not home, adjusting the temperature at night, and using any energy saving mode your unit might have. For example, here at the Alvern Gardens leasing office, we set our ac to “energy saver mode” where it shuts off as soon as the desired indoor temp is reached, and then it turns back on if it gets too warm.
  • Circulate air with ceiling and floor fans to spread the ac’s magic throughout your home.
  • Close doors to closets and unused rooms to make the work easier on your ac. The smaller you can make the space, the faster it will cool off, and the more energy you save.
  • Open your windows at night to let cooler air in, then close them in the morning before temperatures start to rise to trap that nice cool night air inside. If you have a box or window fan, run it in your open window at night to suck even more cool air in.
  • Close your curtains and blinds to block out added heat from direct sunlight. This works especially well if you have insulated energy saving curtains.
  • Avoid cooking when you can, and definitely don’t bake. There are plenty of no cook/no bake meals and desserts out there, so there’s no need to add to the heat in your home by using the stove. What a great excuse to add some new recipes to your repertoire!
  • Hang out in cooler places like the basement or under the shade of a tree. Better still, spend a day lake- or pool-side.

Put a leash on it

As most dog owners know, leash laws vary from place to place and the rules about whether your dog is allowed off leash in a certain area or not aren’t always clear. When in doubt, keep your dog on its leash.

Even dogs that are well trained and obedient when running off leash can become unpredictable in new situations. Some of the worst areas to let your dog off the leash are high traffic areas where cars and people, some of them with other dogs, pass by frequently. This area might be right outside your front door and your dog might think of it as an extension of its territory, but that doesn’t mean it will stay put no matter what. A new dog or a new person might come by and provoke a reaction. Even if your dog wants to run off just to say hi, it’s still running off and out of your control. Especially if it turns out that the other dog isn’t friendly, things could get ugly. Another scenario to consider: what if your dog wants to greet a person who is afraid of dogs? You might assure them that your dog is friendly and won’t hurt them, but that’s like trying to tell Indiana Jones that the snakes in the pit don’t mean him harm. As a dog owner, it’s your responsibility to not only keep your dog safe, but to make sure it respects other animals and people who don’t want to interact with it.

Dogs welcome at Alvern Gardens Apartments
Even the best behaved dog can have a lapse in obedience. Keep your dog safe by keeping it on its leash.

So where is it OK to let your dog roam off leash? Your local dog park is the ideal place. The area is fenced in so Fido can’t run far, and the whole point of it is to have a safe space for friendly dogs to socialize. Many dog friendly apartment communities like Alvern Gardens and Cloverleaf Village have dog parks for their residents to enjoy. These parks are designed for those who don’t have a fenced in yard of their own to give their dogs exercise in a safe place. So why even bother letting your dog off the leash anywhere else?

Consider this as well: if you live in an apartment community, your landlord might have rules about keeping your dog on a leash when walking the community grounds. Abiding the rules of your community is important not just because the rules are in place for a reason, but because breaking the rules has consequences. For example, if you let your dog off the leash in and your landlord has prohibited this, you could lose the privilege of having a pet in the apartment at all. You could even be evicted for breaking the terms of your lease.

Whether you already have a dog or are thinking about adopting one, familiarize yourself with the leash laws of your county and state, as well as any ordinances that might be in place in your municipality. If you do choose to let your dog off its leash, always have the leash handy to reel your dog back under your control if needed.

FAQ: Do you have a gym?

Here at Alvern Gardens, visitors frequently ask if we have a gym. We don’t, but we do have a pool and a dog park. We’re also close to several gyms and yoga studios. So for the convenience of current and prospective residents, we’ve rounded up a list of places close by where our residents can get their exercise.

Gyms

fitness
Swimming is one of the best forms of exercise, but if you’re looking for something more, there are plenty of gyms and yoga studios to choose from in the area. (Residents of Alvern Gardens Apartments can enjoy their summer poolside for a $10 season pass.)

Fitness 19 seems to be one of the most affordable gyms in the area, and Alvern Gardens residents frequently receive mailers with special offers.

Healthtrax is an affordable gym in Bethel Park, and based on their website, a friendly place for people of all  fitness levels who are looking to get healthy and stay healthy.

We have not one, but two LA Fitness clubs close by. One is in Bethel Park, and the other is in Bridgeville. Both offer a variety of amenities for about $30/month.

Club One Fitness, reportedly the best gym in Pittsburgh, has a South Hills location on Castle Shannon Blvd. They’re pricier but it looks like they might be worth it.

If you’re looking for a 24-hour gym, consider Snap Fitness in South Park. If you join before the end of the month, you’ll get 50% off!

Yoga

Because there are quite a few places to do yoga around here, we thought we’d round up some of the most affordable, convenient options.

The Mt. Lebanon Public Library hosts a free weekly yoga class Wednesday evenings. Participants don’t have to register, but they do have to bring all their own equipment.

Health Thru Yoga is the closest studio to Alvern Gardens (walking distance!). There are discounts for seniors and T riders as well as free classes for military families. You can even schedule a private session if you’d like.

Yoga Innovations is a little yoga studio in Bethel Park. They offer kids yoga and Mommy and Me Yoga, as well as a pay what you can class for adults every Wednesday evening. The studio welcomes walk-ins, and they even rent mats if you don’t have your own.