Lotsa Dogs Lotsa Fun

Lotsa Dogs Lotsa Fun
The Big Dogs Wait at The Door

Monday, December 19, 2005

Pup-Pup enjoys her holiday gift Posted by Picasa

Safe holidays for the Dogs

Here are some tips about how to make the holidays safe and fun for the family dog, as well as for yourself. First, be aware of holiday hazards and supervise your dog when she's exposed to them. For example tinsel, Christmas lights, wires, glass ornaments and holiday decorations can be deadly to pets. Don't leave Pup-Pup alone with any hazardous materials, not even for a minute! Make sure your holidays aren't interrupted by an emergency visit to a veterinary hospital.

To help Pup-Pup share in the fun, place dog-safe toys and ornaments on the bottom branches of your tree, and let her play with them. Attach them with string, not wire hangers. And beware of chewing on evergreen branches or pine needles, for they can make her quite sick.

Of course, she'll make every effort to convince you to share your Christmas pudding. Don't give in! Cakes, pies, puddings, and especially candies contain ingredients that dogs can't digest (rich, processed fats, sugars and dairy products). At best, such ingredients cause diarrhea; at worst, they can be toxic (for example chocolate is a big "no-no"). Does Pup-Pup deserve her share or holiday treats? YOU BET! For yummy holiday treats fit for Fido, check out The Dogfather Bakery on Main Street in Westbor (next to the Bagel Bistro); Pets Gone Healthy on route 20 on the Marlboro/Northboro line; and Pet Source, in the RK Mall in Marlboro, next to Hannaford's Supermarket.

The Doggie Den Homepage

Friday, December 16, 2005

Holiday puppies a No! No!

By now, your local puppy store is in high holiday gear. They want to convince you that puppies make the perfect holiday gift. What could be cuter than a new puppy on Christmas morning?

Actually, it would be hard to make a worse choice!! Reputable breeders are loath to sell in December, because thy know that by February the puppy is likely to find himself relinquished to a dog shelter or, if he's lucky, returned to the breeder. The holidays are a busy, stressful time. If you're like me, you're already exhausted. It's a time when we struggle to meet our on-going commitments, along with preparing for the holidays. It's certainly not a time to take on the work of a new puppy!

A couple of weeks into January, the kids will be back in school and mom and dad will be rushing off to work every morning. The weather will make you want to hibernate. Just when everyone could use a break, adorable puppy will be soiling the carpets, chewing on furniture, stealing food, throwing up on clean clothes, and acting generally out of control.

If your family is ready for a dog, Please! wait until February or March when things will have calmed down, and Spring is on the way. Winter weather makes house training difficult, if not impossible; and the spirit of the season prevents you from making a realistic decision about a new dog. In the Spring your family will have more time outside, and a greater inclination to train the new family member. If you don't train him, he will quickly metamorphose from cute puppy to black sheep!!

The Doggie Den Homepage

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Morgan gets lots of lovin' from the daycare crew Posted by Picasa

Sue Sternberg

This week I spent a couple of days with Sue Sternberg learning how to evaluate dogs for aggression. The seminar was intended largely for shelter workers; it focused on determining whether a shelter dog is adoptable. But even for a doggie daycare owner, the it was excellent!!

Sue has been evaluating dogs for years and her method has been studied and determined to be statistically predictive of aggression. That's impressive enough. But what really struck me was her commitment to open-minded education and dialog. She euthanizes unadoptable dogs at her shelter and I had always been against that. After listening to her experiences and the litany of misery that dogs endure in long-term kenneling situations, I'm now open to the euthanasia solution. She's a person with a big heart - it shows when she teaches; that's what convinced me that if there were another solution besides euthanizing unadoptable dogs, she would have found it.

Her method ranks dogs as (1) okay for the average family (2) in need of a firm hand with people who have clear desires and limits in terms of how they'll live with a dog, and (3) dogs that need to live with a dog professional. Before she taught us the procedure for evaluating a dog, she took us through a whole day of learning how to observe details in the dog's behavior, then collect a set of observations to make the judgment. For example, a stiff posture and upright tail don't mean anything clear all by themselves. But if the dog gives those cues, plus a hard stare, and a lack of interest in socializing with the handler, then then the dog could very well be a biter. I was impressed with the "gather a set of data" approach. It seemed much more scientific then approaches that assign meaning to specific behaviors. It allows for differences among individuals.

If you're a dog professional of any kind go to a Sue Sternberg seminar!
The Doggie Den Homepage

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Just Say No to Halloween Candy

Trick or treat, and here come the kids with satchels full of candy. Zillions of mini-portions: Snickers, Charleston chews, Almond Joy, Milky Way, Milk Duds, Smores, Twix, Hersheys, and on and on. It's the beginning of the most fattening time of year, and I'm as much of a junky as anyone else.

It's also time to JUST SAY NO to your dog, who's drooling over the Halloween booty. Not because dogs should eat better and exercise, but because excessive sugar, fat and chocolate can make him very sick! Veterinarians' journals are replete with cases of dogs that need hospitalization after finding Junior's Halloween stash. Dog's digestive systems can't handle all that fat and sugar, and chocolate can be fatal if a dog eats too much of it. At the very least, you will get the same behavioral problems that your daugter's poor school teacher has to deal with after Halloween: hyper activity, inability to focus, crankiness, and generally unruly conduct.

So PLEASE, keep the candy away from the dog, and tell your kids that it can make El Poocho very sick. Keep aromatic, upscale dog treats on hand so pup can have a taste treat along with the kids. For home-baked dog treats, check out www.dogfatherbakery.com, or www.boneappetit.com. Help the pups have a safe Halloween!!

The Doggie Den Homepage

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Back to School Blues

The days grow shorter and the nights are cooler; September is a time of change for both dogs and their owners. With the kids back at school, our canine companions have to readjust. For many dogs, fall means "home alone", which brings boredom, anxiety and loneliness. Even when the kids are home, they don't have as much free time as they did during the leisurely summer days.

To help your dog through the transition, make sure his favorite toys are available when he's alone. To counteract his boredom, provide toys he's allowed to chew like kongs, dentabones and greenies. The benefit of a treat given as you leave the house lasts only as long as the treat itself. Put treats, peanut butter, or cottage cheese inside a kong toy so he'll have to work at getting the goodies. Set up a schedule that fits your lifestyle and stay with it so he'll begin to see that life is predictable again. Take him outside or walk him at the same time each day. Set aside certain times when his family "pack" can play with him. For example, ask the kids to play with him for a while every day after school and make sure he gets to be with you on weekends.

Most of all, cut your pup some slack. Dogs are pack animals; prolonged isolation can be painful. Consider enrolling him in The Doggie Den's playcare program at least a couple of days a week so he can play with his buddies and relieve the boredom.

If you don't help your pup through these first weeks of school, he may show difficult or destructive behaviors like jumping all over everyone who comes into the house, chewing on furniture or having accidents in the house. These behaviors aren't to "get back at you". Dogs don't think like that! They're just signs that he's anxious because things are changing.

The Doggie Den Homepage

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Hot hot dogs!

It's about 110 in the shade today - warm, even for August in New England. I can't resist reminding people to keep their dogs cool! Dogs have no way to cool down except if you wet their coats to the skin, because their only heat valves are panting and sweat glands in their feet.

Speaking of feet, I see so many people walking their dogs on asphalt in the middle of the day. Please don't do that!!! Sometimes dogs won't even tell their owners when their feet are burning - in fact we get cases of burnt pads in day care on a regular basis. The dog will start to limp slightly while playing and it's because his pads are sore. So find grass, dirt, even concrete to walk your dog, but not asphalt. As a test, put your palm flat against the roadway or sidewalk. If it's uncomfortable on your skin, you can bet it's hurting your dog. In addition, when dogs' pads are very hot, the sweat that is excreted doesn't do any good in terms of cooling them, because it dries instantly.

Dogs with long, dark coats just shouldn't be in the sun when it's over 75 degrees fahrenheit and humid. They can get heatstroke very quickly. So find shady walks, or a place where your dog can run into water or get hosed down frequently.

My Sheltie, Daphne, has an extremely thick coat. I don't shave her in the summer, because it's good insulation if she does walk through sunny areas, and besides it would be quite unattractive when it grew back. Coats that are meant to be long grow back thicker, usually dryer, and with less color. The result is a faded, unhealthy look. People who insist upon having their Goldens shaved in our grooming shop often complain about the quality of the coat come November. No amount of education seems to dissuade some owners - usually they are upset with us because the coat doesn't look great when it grows back!

Anyway, what I do with Daphne is shave her belly. It's called a "shell". You can't see that her skin is showing under there because of her long coat and it allows for excelerated cooling when she lies on a cool surface. At The Doggie Den we always recommend this in the summer for long-coated dogs. When Daphne and I are near a pool or other body of water, I dip her gently so her belly and bum get wet, and she loves it (though she positively hates water and will not go in by herself no matter what the temperature - it's a breed thing). She always trots around happily after her "dip".

Check out these dog links!

The Doggie Den Homepage
www.nadda.com (for dog day care owners)

Saturday, July 23, 2005

The Dog Days of Summer

The days are longer, the nights are warmer, and opportunities for dogs to play outside abound. Like us, our pets feel the changes of season and rush to meet them. But they don't always know how to tell us when they're uncomfortable, overheated, ill or injured; they rely on us to protect them from summer hazards.

Dogs have a harder time cooling themselves than we do. They release heat by panting, and by sweating through their paws; they don't have sweat glands anywhere else. On hot days, exercise your dog in the early morning or in the evening, and always carry water so she can drink frequently. In extreme heat, you can spray down her coat with cool (not cold) water before and after exercise. NEVER leave her in a parked car, even with the windows open. Every summer, we hear about dogs who die when exposed to the heat trapped in a car.

Keep your dog out of direct sunlight, and steer clear of asphalt, which heats quickly and burns paws. Don't shave your pet to the skin, as dogs sunburn easily and are as vulnerable to skin cancer as we are. Keep at least an inch of hair on longer coated pups. Fur actually keeps some dogs coooler, and always acts as a natural sunscreen. Before going outside, put sun block on his ear tips, his nose, and any other exposed areas.

And, oh by the way, please don't allow your dog to hang out of a moving car, especially the back of a pick up truck!!!

Check out these dog links!

The Doggie Den Homepage

Signs of Heat Stroke

In hot weather, watch out for these signs:

  • Heavy panting
  • Glazed eyes
  • Rapid pulse
  • Unsteadiness or staggering
  • Vomiting
  • A deep red or purple tongue

If you see these signs, take your dog to a veterinarian immediately!

Check out these dog links!

The Doggie Den Homepage

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Pleasures and Perils of Pools

Backyard pools are one of the joys of summer. However, we need to remember that they represent a drowning hazard to pets and wildlife alike; safety should be a priority for animals as well as people.

Not all dogs can handle water. Breeders and rescue groups will often refuse to place their dogs with families who have unfenced pools. Some breeds have a front heavy design (bulldogs, boxers, pugs) which makes swimming difficult, if not impossible. They can tire quickly and risk drowning. Even dogs who love to swim need to be supervised, and it's a good idea to teach them to go to the pool steps. It's safer for them and will save your pool liner! One person should be in the water with the dog, helping him toward the steps. Another person should be on the steps encouraging him in the right direction and offering a treat as a reward for using the steps.

Even the best intentions don't always keep gates closed to unsupervised animals, so the best solution is an exit ramp, such as the Skamper-Ramp. These ramps anchor to the side of the pool and are designed to attract animals. Once your pet steps onto the submerged end of the ramp, the ramp surface helps him crawl to safety. The Skamper-Ramp is available in pool supply outlets and online: www.skamper-ramp.com.

If your dog enjoys the pool regularly, remember to hose her off with fresh waterwhen she's done. Chlorine and other pool chemicals leave the coat sticky, and damage it over time. Dry, lifeless fur, dry skin, and rashes can be the result.

The Doggie Den Homepage

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Paws in the Park

On Sunday June 12th, Save A Dog held its annual fundraiser, "Paws in the Park", on the grounds of the VA Hospital in Bedford, MA. Save A Dog is an all-volunteer dog rescue based in Framingham that has found permanent homes for hundreds of unwanted dogs. The Doggie Den works with them to raise money.

It was a scorcher of a day - over 100 degrees in the field where vendors set up booths. Many breed rescues attended, including Boxer rescue, Greyhound Rescue, and Cocker Spaniel Rescue of New England. The Doggie Den donated a trainer (Janet) and equipment for the agility trials; and lots of folks contributed $5.00 for Janet to guide them through the various obstacles on the course. We all looked a bit like a wet t-shirt contest, as it was impossible to stay dry in the heat and humidity. Even the talented pups in the Blue Dog Group were slow to go into their frisbee dance act. There was lots of activity on the part of both dogs and people at the misting area and at the hoses. Some people just held a running hose over their heads! I bought a bottle of water, took a sip and poured the rest over the back of my neck. Heavenly!

There were various contests in the center of the field, including Best Dressed Dog; Best Dog Vocals; and Largest and Smallest Dog. I saw a well-dressed Cocker (in her flowered sun dress, matching visor, shoes and sunglasses) dart away from Mom to leap into a nice cool wading pool, one of many that Save A Dog had provided to chill out the pups.

Despite the heat, it was a rocking good time, and Save A Dog earned about $15,000, thanks to numerous contributors of food, equipment, and activities. If you live in Massachusetts or surrounding states, look for this event next year. It's really fun! We'll post it in advance on this blog.

Check out these dog links!

The Doggie Den Homepage

Monday, June 13, 2005

Fleas and Ticks: The Price of Good Weather

In the Spring, nature waxes abundant. But, ick! Fleas and ticks come along with the seasonal plenty. Be sure to protect your dog and your family by using a spot-on anti-flea and tick medication on your pup.

In New England, the ticks seem to be bent on repopulating the region. We pick them off our grooming guests every day (our day care guests are required to be treated with monthly medications). Massachusetts hosts several varieties: brown dog ticks, American dog ticks, and deer ticks (the tiny ones which may carry Lyme disease). When pup brings these ugly critters into your home, the ticks attach themselves to anything warm-blooded. An engorged tick then drops off its host and completes its life cycle. Which means your home becomes infested with tick eggs. Fleas will do the same, after biting your dog or your family.

All of this is fairly disgusting, as well as dangerous to human health. Fleas and ticks carry several diseases, the most common of which is Lyme disease, a bacterial infection that causes flu-like symptoms, rashes, arthritis, fatigue and neurolgic or heart problems. Lyme disease is life-threatening if it's not treated.

Pet stores and veterinarians carry monthly medications that you dribble onto your dog's skin between the shoulder blades. Check to make sure the medication breaks the flea and tick life cycle by killing the bugs AND their eggs. Other methods, such as flea/tick collars, are not as effective, because they don't render the dog's blood poisonous to the biting invaders.

Check out these dog links!

The Doggie Den Homepage

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Dog Rescue Ban Leaves Thousands Vulnerable

This Spring, the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture issued a "cease and desist" order to prevent animal shelters and animal rescue organizations from bringing dogs into Massachusetts from out of state, and putting them up for adoption. The only alternative is to house imported dogs in regulated facilities (which the shelters and rescue orgs must buy, establish and maintain); and have them examined by a state-approved veterinarian. The order effectively puts dog rescue organizations out of business.

At The Doggie Den we work with Save A Dog, an all-breed rescue organization based in Framingham, MA. Like virtually all such organizations, it is staffed by volunteers and operates on an extremely tight budget that consists solely of funds that the volunteers raise. On their own time and money, volunteers drive to locations where distressed dogs are being held, and bring the dogs back to Massachusetts. The new arrivals live in volunteer foster homes while they are vaccinated, treated for health problems, and trained so they'll be adoptable. The Doggie Den and other grooming shops groom rescue dogs for free, often to diagnose the extent of coat and skin ailments that may require the volunteer foster parent to take the dog to a vet.

This entire process takes years of organizing, fund raising, skill acquisition, and volunteer training. The D. of A. order sent hundreds of hard working volunteers into shock. It meant that years of dedication were cut short; and speaking of cut short, we cannot help but think of the thousands of animals currently dying of starvation, disease, dehydration, or euthanization because Mass. rescue workers cannot save them. The reason for the D. of A. ban is that unethical opportunists go to states that are known for their plethora of unwanted dogs and bring the dogs back to Massachusetts to sell them. These people often neglect to provide new arrivals with medical care, nutritional support, or training. Their neglect has caused multiple problems, including the discovery of locations where large numbers of sick animals have been abandonned. It falls to the Commonwealth to euthanize these poor creatures.

Within Massachusetts, there are comparatively few adoptable animals to be rescued. In contrast, in some areas of the South there are thousands. To save lives, dog rescue organizations must be able to bring animals in from out-of-state. The only organizations that are currently permitted to do so are established shelters that have facilities that the Mass. D. of A. can inspect, rather than volunteers with adoptable dogs in foster care. Ironically many shelters are less stringent than volunteer rescue orgs. in checking out potential new owners. Rescue orgs. often do home visits, which shelters seldom do. Some state-approved shelters also euthanize dogs that have not been adopted, while rescue volunteers foster, vaccinate, heal, and train dogs until the dogs become adoptable.

Many rescue organizations like Save A Dog are now scurrying around to raise enough money to buy an inspectable facility where new arrivals can be held for adoption. Of course, this is a major undertaking, and some groups will not succeed. If you can help, please do! Rescue organizations need supplies, skills and money. Go to saveadog.org; or any one of a number of breed rescue sites like pugrescuenetwork.org; greyhound.org; and ygrr.oprg (Golden Retrievers). Also check out Especially for Pets in Westboro; The Buddy Dog Humane Society in Sudbury; or the Bay Path Humane Society in Hopkinton.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Daphne can't watch TV anymore since she saw the (gulp) debarked Shelties Posted by Hello

Janet doing behavioral therapy with Nervous Benny Posted by Hello

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Debarking? Huh?

Every once in a while I see something about dogs online or on TV that makes me crazy. For example, I never watch America's Funniest Video's because the one time I did, they showed shots of dogs having weird accidents. It looked to me like the dogs were hurt, though not seriously. I was furious, then I saw that they do the same thing with children! There were scenes of toddlers falling down steps and, in one case, into a swimming pool. The audience thought it was hilarious. So a parent can earn thousands of dollars showing their kid having a funny accident. In several of the entries, the child was crying at the end. Guess I shouldn't be surprised that dogs were fair game.

Then the other night I saw a major network feature on debarking dogs. At first I thought it couldn't be what it sounded like. But... lest we not have a clear picture, the producers showed dog after dog having their vocal cords cut or otherwise damaged, as with a laser. Per the usual network practice of "balancing the story", we heard from those who were in favor of this practice, as well as those who were against. Didn't help, as far as I was concerned. One of the dog owners was a Sheltie breeder who had had consistent complaints from neighbors because of barking. So she debarked her dogs! I watched 20 seconds of Shelties in her back yard opening their mouths to emit a sound that resembled a sick cough. Daphne was appalled. She slunk out of the room, looking over her shoulder at me in unmistakable rebuke. I felt ashamed for humans.

Debarking involves cutting the vocal cords, or otherwise impeding their vibration. The dog is anesthezied, then an incision is made under his/her chin. It only takes minutes. Whoopee for efficiency. And the neighbors don't complain... how nice. This practice is barbaric!! It reminds me of another century when prison guards cut peoples' Achilles tendons to prevent them from bolting. It's just one example of the lengths people will go to to avoid the work of training their faithful companions. People will use electric shocks; collars that spray stinging fluids like citronella in their eyes and mouth; prong collars with barbs that dig into the flesh of the dog's throat and damage his/her esophagus; and now surgery, rather than teach the dog how to live with humans. Sorry, but there's no excuse. It's sheer laziness, not to say the need for instant gratification. Would you use a citronella collar to stop your 3 month old daughter from crying??? Would you put barbs around the neck of a toddler who constantly pulls away from you and gets herself into trouble?

I know, dogs are not children. But they are mammels with nerve endings and they hurt. It's just that they don't always show that they're in pain. So a Rottweiler with a prong collar who's dragging his master down the street doesn't look like he's hurt. If it hurt, he would stop, right? WRONG! Lots of dogs don't make the connection between pain and bad behavior. Almost all dogs can make a connection between good behavior and rewards. So why doesn't the guy teach his Rottweiler to walk nicely by giving him lots of hugs and treats when he does well?? It's just too hard, I guess. And then there's the issue of guys and macho dog breeds, but we'll leave that for another post.

The argument was made that some people would have to put their dogs down if they didn't cut their vocal chords. One judge even ordered a dog owner to have it done or euthanize the dog. Thank heavens, that judge no longer issues such orders because someone showed him exactly what's involved, and it repelled him. He now orders people to train their animals or give them up for adoption. Anyway the argument is ridulous. If you can't or won't take the time and effort to teach your dog not to bark, then give your dog to someone who will. Get help!! (from a trained canine behaviorist). It'll cost maybe the price of a dinner for two and a movie.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

What's really in dog food?

Recently my curiosity got the best of me and I set out to research what's really in dog food. Every vendor from Alpo canned to Bil Jac's Frozen swears their products are the best, used by champion breeders, etc. Some of it sounds like you could feed their food to your kids.

I don't know if curiosity killed the cat; but evidently pet foods can help kill your dog. The first piece of bad news is that the pet food industry is a way for the human food industry to turn waste into profits. What that means is that slaughterhouse offal, like intestines, udders, and esophagi; mildewed or rotting grains; and decaying vegetable and fruit cores and skins are bought up by the mass marketers, and processed into what you buy in that can or bag that promises "choice beef cuts", "whole grains", and "fresh vegetables". There are few laws or regulations controling the biological condition of the waste that pet food manufacturers buy, not to mention the cleanliness of containers and wrapping materials, or the mode of storage and transportation.

The major dog and cat food producers are subsidiairies of huge multinationals whose relationship to dog care is zero to none: Nestle (Alpo, Fancy Feast, Friskies, Mighty Dog); Heinz (9 Lives, Amore, Nature's Recipe, Kibbles-n-Bits, Gravy Train); and Colgate-Palmolive (Hill's Science Diet). Proctor and Gamble produces Eukanuba and Iams. So, if you thought the above waste-into-profits scenario didn't apply because you buy the "gourmet" foods like Iams, well, think again.

So what's a dog owner to do? There are small, independent producers who make dog food with human grade ingredients. Most of these people are dog loving entrepreneurs who set out to address the problem of mass marketed pet food. Many of them are devoted to the cause because they have had pets who were unsuccessfully treated by a veterinarian for a variety of ailments for long periods of time, before someone told them to feed their beloved companion wholesome food. For many ailments, and behavioral problems, a good diet solved the problem.

Some human-grade dry foods: Wellness, Flint River Ranch, Life's Abundance, The Honest Kitchen, Merrick, Dr. Harvey's, Solid Gold, and Fromm Family Nutritionals. Wet, freeze-dried and frozen diets include: Wellness, Spot's Stew by Halo, Red Barn, Fromm Family Nutritionals, Pooch Bowls and Steve's Real Food.

You can easily order these foods online. Try feedmypet.com, petfoodcafe.com, poochbowls.com, or just4pooches.com.

Friday, April 15, 2005

The Perfect Idiot Posted by Hello

Breeding Your Dog

Along with spring cleaning, April brings thoughts of starting a puppy family to many a dog owner. This time of year, customers ask me about breeding at least once a week. Mr. and Mrs. LoveDog feel that Fluffy Ann would make a terrific mom; or that Gentleman Jim is just the best looking stud around. And they're usually right! So, it makes sense that they would look for a stud (or a bitch) to breed their beloved to... at least once. Often, dog moms and dads tell me they're going to have Fluffy Ann spayed but not before they breed her, just once! It's like a refrain.

So here I come, the (excuse the pun) party pooper. There are already too many dogs in the world. Every year, thousands upon thousands of dogs are euthanized in veterinarians' offices and in animal shelters across the country. Many thousands more are wandering the countryside or the city streets, or living in the woods (barely). The luckiest of the wanderers and wood dwellers get found by kind samaritans who get them to no-kill shelters or animal rescue organizations. I've adopted my canine companions from rescues for years, and I've never been disappointed. And every one of my dog loves has been pure bred! Benny, for example looks like a typical cocker spaniel. However, he is (forgive me, Benny) a perfect idiot. An idiot with attention deficit disorder! Only a dog junkie could love him. And it's likely he was bred by a well-meaning amateur who couldn't bear not to reproduce his or her adorable cocker... or maybe by a puppy mill, but that's another subject. My point is that the endless "just once" breeders, even those who own a dog with an excellent pedigree, are adding to the "unwanted dog" problem. So much so that there are rescues that specialize in particular breeds of dog. If you don't believe me, Google "breed rescues".

So, please, let's leave the breeding to the professionals. Responsible breeders only breed after a dog has become an AKC champion. That means he or she has been shown numerous times, at specified kinds of events, and has won a certain number of points from various AKC-certified judges. The reason for this is that the goal for an ethical breeder is to improve his or her breed. Good breeders match adult mates for body structure, temperment, quality of coat and, most of all, excellent health. For example no reputable breeder would breed a dog with hip dysplasia, even if it had been shown successfully. This is important!! You have to know what you're doing! You have to know what to look for and who to exclude. You have to know your breed inside out and backwards. Cherish your dog, take a zillion pictures, brag about her to anyone who'll listen. But, please, let her off the parenthood hook.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Spring Cleaning's for the Dogs

Along with March Madness, we get the reappearing yard. The snow has melted, spring rain is on the way and already there're mud puddles everywhere. My yard looks like New York harbor from the air: little brown islands surrounded by turgid water with floating debris. (I'm from New York, I can say things like that). I think people mistake my property for a recycling center; currently an abundance of soda cans, Big Gulp cups, broken beer bottles and assorted paper flyers are protecting the soil from erosion. I was outside with Daphne and Benny this morning enjoying the emerging colors and warm sun when I remembered the joy of raking rotting leaves off the gardens. Still it was wonderful.

What's not so wonderful for dog owners is that the reappearing yard contains - you guessed it - a winter's worth of dog doo. Even if you've been good about cleaning up during the frigid months, there's always a certain number of poops that hide in the snow, or just get overlooked. It's extremely important to go after those sneaky ones NOW. Fecal matter spreads disease that endangers everyone from you and your family to the lawn or garden... and of course your pets! Once fecal bacteria find their way down into the soil, it's very difficult to get rid of them. Both your pets and wildlife pick up the bacteria and carry it wherever it is they're about to go. So get out there and pooper scoop before it's too late!! I only have to think of my kitties dancing on my head in the morning (for them breakfast time is 5 am) to want the area around the house where their little feet tread to be CLEAN.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Get Doggie a new coat for Easter!

The New England winter has hung on in a disgraceful manner. There's dirty snow everywhere, people are fed up, dog's have no clean place to pee, and once a week we get a threat of more snow! In some drinking establishments they're taking bets on whether we'll have to shovel ourselves out for the Easter parade!

Nevertheless Spring is in the air. You know it well if you're around dogs that shed.
Also the days are getting longer (yay!) and single-digit temps are history. As the weather gradually warms, many breeds of dog lose the coat that has kept them warm all winter and grow another one. They do the same thing in the fall. So it's a time when you definitely need to take Fluffy to a pet groomers. A professional "do" will ensure that old hair gets stripped out to make room for the new. If the old hair isn't removed some of it will decorate your furniture, and some of it will settle against the dog's skin. This settling is called "packing" in the dog grooming business. The loose hair packs itself down under the outer coat, against the skin. When that happens it's harder to get the old hair out, and your pup becomes ultra-susceptible to skin problems - anything from dryness and rashes to inflamed "hot spots" that your pup chews and licks incessantly. Dogs prone to allergies and eczema are especially at risk when their coat gets packed.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Friday, February 25, 2005

Stop barking!

Dogs are bound to bark. It goes with the territory (no pun intended). Anything new, or suspicious, or stimulating can produce a woof-fest. It's an instinctive, "vestigial" thing (a behavior left over from when dogs were wild). When dogs live in packs, they bark to let each other know where they are; they also bark to let each other know that a stranger is approaching their territory, and to let the interloper know "this seat is taken!"

Dogs will also bark because someone is going away, which leaves the pack one dog less secure. Dogs hate being alone, and when we domesticated them, that meant they hated being without us. Anyway, it's good to try to figure out why your pup is mouthing off, because that will influence how you should address the problem. First of all, you can't cure barking until you have worked on training him in general. To change a behavior, he has to understand the basic deal: do what is asked and you get a reward. It takes a while for him to get it; he'll want to go straight to the reward and forget the obedience part. So be persistent over weeks and months!!!

There are basically two techniques: distraction and reward. Some people say there's also "correction", like electric shock or citronella bark collars. Forget it. Would you stop your infant son's crying by giving him a shock or squirting him in the face with citronella??? Come on, dogs have nerve endings too. Instead of "house of corrections" training, settle on the command you'll use to stop barking, like "no bark!" Use the command as soon as the dog starts to bark; approach him and stare him in the face as you say "no bark!" Put your hand gently but firmly around his snout and repeat the command. When he stops, reward him (food, praise, both...it all works). Distraction can be any benign event that will interest the dog. Throw a ball or otherwise play with him; give him a hug; take him someplace (like out). With Benny, who needs a barker's 12-step program, I bounce a ball and act all excited about it. Most times he forgets what he was barking about.

When you leave the house, don't pay attention to him for 15 minutes before you leave and 15 minutes after you get home. This is counter intuitive but ESSENTIAL! If you make a big deal out of coming or going his anxiety is going to skyrocket! WOOF! WOOF!

Friday, February 18, 2005

Runaway Dogs

In spite of the best care and training, some dogs run away. Sometimes they're frightened and want to get away from something specific, like loud noise (especially an owner yelling at them). Some dogs just yearn to run as far and as fast as they can. And then, sometimes there's something "out there" that they can't resist - like garbage! Beagles and Bassets are known for bolting on trash collection day. They can smell the goodness in the air! I used to have a Cocker Spaniel who raced me to the gate every Friday morning,'cause he knew what goodies all those curbside containers held! Then we'd do this foot thing with him trying to bolt between my legs and me fending him off with my lower extremities. He occasionally won; the good part was that he never got further than my next door neighbor's goodie bags.

What to do when your dog runs away? If you're there and see her go, grab her favorite food or treat and try to get in front of her and lead her to the treat. For example, you can jump in your car and go in the same direction as your dog, but go ahead of her; stop, open the car door, and try to lure her in with the treats. It's best to offer something that smells good. I've used cheese and raw meat in the past.

If that doesn't work, don't continue to pursue your dog. It's likely that he'll get caught up in the chase and go farther away than if you didn't pursue him. Animal control officers and rescue organizations have learned that dogs who are loose will generally stay within a 1 mile radius of where they got loose, unless chased further. So notify the local police, the local animal control officer, animal shelters, and near-by veterinarians and tell them that your dog is running loose. Describe him and any collar or leash attached to him. If he's not found in a few hours, put up lots of posters, with his picture (keep a jpg. photo of your dog on your computer!!); circle around the point where he got loose as you post. The first line on the poster should read REWARD! because that's what gets peoples' attention. And include your home and cell phone numbers, as well as the phone number of your animal control officer.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Janet and Benny during a training class Posted by Hello

Monday, February 07, 2005


Sometimes the term "housebroken" means you have a dog and he/she has broken your house! My elderly Sheltie, Daphne, has begun to make indoor mistakes on my beautiful Chinese rug in the study. Partly, I think her cues are subtle, and she doesn't have much time 'cause her bladder and bowels aren't as tough as they used to be. So she goes to the door and looks back over her shoulder at me. If I'm not there, or I don't notice right away, she heads for the study. Last Spring I had the Chinese rug professionally cleaned and the guy made me feel guilty about the odor in his shop!

Anyway, I went back to some house training tips that I'll share with you

  • Supervision: young pups and old folks need to be watched more carefully than other dogs.
  • Confinement: dogs that are vulnerable (the young and the old) should be taken out before you leave them alone, then confined to a small, safe place. The dog should have enough room to stand up, take a few steps, turn around, stretch.
  • Praise, praise and more praise: make a big fuss when the vulnerable ones go outside, as in "good girl, Daphne! Good girl!" Then give a gentle hug and some pats.
  • Scheduling: always feed at the same time and don't leave the food down for more than 30 minutes. Feed two meals, morning and evening. Evening should be three to five hours before bedtime.
  • Clean, clean, clean: use a product made especially for pet stains, like "Resolve". Buy a stiff brush to be used only for pet clean-up. After picking up, or soaking up urine with paper towels, spray the affected areas and brush vigorously. If you don't do these things the dog will surely pee or poop in the same place again.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

NAPPS: National Association of Professional Pet Sitters

This weekend (Jan 28-31) I was off to Atlanta (from Boston) for the annual NAPPS conference. It was terrific! There was an unusual ice storm in Atlanta but we holed up in a very nice Sheraton for the conference. There were about 125 petsitters and lots of information was exchanged. I was delighted to spend 3 days with other small business owners, swapping stories and resource hints. NAPPS members come from all over the United States, and it is the most respected professional pet care organization that I know of. While most NAPPS members go to their clients' homes to do pet care, which The Doggie Den doesn't do, we still had lots in common. I found out how others get the word out about their services, especially via veterinarians, pet stores, shelters, and humane societies. In fact, many members volunteer to care for animals at shelters. One woman I met volunteers at a National Wildlife Center in New Jersey where sick and injured wildlife is cared for, then released back into the wild. For more information about NAPPS, or for a list of petsitters in your area, check out www.petsitters.org.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Dog Daycare for Exercise!

Your dog's most important needs are good nutrition, regular exercise, and tough-love (discipline with plenty of lovin'). Today I want to talk about dogs and exercise.

It's great if you walk your dog twice a day or more, but most breeds will develop nervous habits if that's all they get. They also get fat, which leads to health problems like heart disease and arthritis. Goldens, Dobermans, Labs, Jack Russells, Shih Tzus, Lhasas, Dalmations, Scotties, Westies, Wheatons, Collies, Cockers, Bulldogs... each breed needs a different amount and kind of exercise, but don't kid yourself, they all need some!

Time after time people tell me their dog gets plenty of exercise - she can go out in the back yard anytime she wants (people with dog doors, or whose kids let the dog out). First of all, make sure she's fenced in!! Some people like invisible electric fences; I hate them with a passion. But that's for another posting. The point is PLEASE don't let your dog outside if you don't have a fenced in area for her. Even if you live in the wilds of Australia. Encounters with wildlife always go badly for somebody, and usually it's your dog. Here in New England, we live side-by-side with hungry coyotes and foxes, as soon as you get out of major metropolitan areas. Even in cities, fights with racoons (who can be very aggressive), and chasing squirrels are activities that harm pets all the time.

Even supposing your dog is safe in your yard, you really don't know what she's doing out there unless you supervise her. So, go ahead, let her out to pee if you're in a rush and there's a fenced-in area. But don't be lazy all the time! Go out with her, encourage her to do her business and praise her. Then throw a ball or a frisbee a few times, or even just play with her. That way you know she's getting the elevated heartbeat and mental stimulation she craves. A few dogs can be depended upon to play by themselves, but they're the exception. Most will come back inside as soon as they can, 'cause they're gregarious. They want to be with their pack (you and your family). Run around with her, play tug of war, whatever. Both of you, go ahead, get off that couch!

But you're exhausted when you get home at night, right? Me too!! So who wants to throw a ball for Benny (whose a ballaholic - doesn't want one throw, wants twenty). The answer is... DAYCARE!!!! Dog daycare is the best thing since sliced bread, providing that you find a place that is clean (no smells!) and has high standards around supervision, handling, and the health of each guest. The very best place if you're anywhere near central Massachusetts is The Doggie Den (www.thedoggieden.net). Our doggie guests play in large indoor areas under constant supervision all day long. We wash down both the play areas and the outdoor area where the guests do their business with a high quality animal quarters disinfectant called Cherry 256. It kills all the parasites, bacteria, and virii that make doggie daycare chancey in less fastidious places. Vets will tell you they're not crazy about daycare 'cause it spreads disease. But not us!! Local vets recommend us because we send dogs with a cough or diarrhea home. I've been trained in doggie first aid, and in the basic symptoms of the most common ailments. Our customers are grateful that we signal any problem right away and recommend a trip to the vet's office. We do not let dogs associate with others if we suspect a communicable disease.

The other thing you want to know about your potential play group or day care is: how much exercise does my Baby really get? At The Doggie Den, our guests are free to play from 9am to 6pm. We open at 7am, and we crate the arrivals or leash them in place until 9am, when everyone is freed for the rest of the day. Be sure to ask if doggie guests are crated or restrained for any part of the day. At The Doggie Den we get constant 'thank you's' from customers whose dogs come home exhausted! And that's what you want. Supervised play for extended periods of time! And there should be comfy bedding available in the play areas so the pups can rest when they want to. At The Doggie Den we give everyone a treat at 1pm, then sit down and encourage them to rest. Just like kids' daycare!

Monday, January 10, 2005

Playtime for the big kids Posted by Hello

Sun bathers at The Doggie Den Posted by Hello

Nap time at The Doggie Den Posted by Hello

Dogs in the Snow

In January, dog ownership can get complicated. Some pups love the snow, ice, sleet & hail. Lots of pups are more sensible though, and hate it; so how in the world do you get the haters to do their business outside? Even dogs like Huskeys and Malamutes who are bred for snow will sometimes gleefully run through snow piles outdoors, then come into your living room to pee!

First of all, dogs with thin coats need to be covered when it's below freezing, even if they're only out for a brief time. Boxers, Great Danes, Bulldogs, Chihuahuas, Dobermans, Pointers... all the pups with little to no insulation need a warm coat and possibly foot coverings that are made for dogs. Check petedge.com for coats and boots. If you send these dogs out uncovered, the risk is that after a few moments, all they'll think about is how to get back inside. Where they will procede to dump in your study or pee on baby's highchair.

The next problem is where do they go? If you're like most households, snow shoveling and snow blowing have made Fluffy's favorite spot inaccessible. Most likely, she will try to get to her usual place while looking back at you in great perplexity. Little dogs often stare at piles of snow and give up entirely. So it's advisable to keep an outdoor space clear for your dog(s) in the winter. If someone plows your driveway, you can walk the dogs there, giving them a treat when they relieve themselves, so they'll know that the driveway's ok in the winter. Don't worry about poops in your June driveway - dogs prefer dirt, garden, or lawn if they can get to it.

If there's no driveway option, clear a space on your property. I make a circle about 15 feet in diameter just to the side of the porch steps, because like many canines, Benny and Daphne wander in circles when they need to poop. Daphne even does it before she pees. You need a long-handled pooper-scooper set-up so you can clean up after they do their deed, whether they chose your cleared area or the side of a snowpile. It is rare that nature presents a more revolting spectable than a springtime dogpatch that has not been kept clean. I keep a small covered bucket with a trash bag liner in the cleared area. I clean up pee spots too, 'cause I don't want my lawn to go into shock when the snow melts. Once a week the poopy bucket liner goes out with the trash.

If they're having a good time outside, dogs love to eat snow. Not a great idea. We get lots of intestinal infections in Doggie Den Day Care with dogs who have eaten unclean snow. Even in a pristine area, they like to lick snow where other mysterious beings have trod, and moose pee is not necessarily a good nutrient. So have a good time, keep her warm, limit the snow intake, and keep one area clean and clear for when she needs to get serious.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Dog Bites: Breed-specific Ordinances

Preventing dog bites is an important goal for everyone. Unfortunately, in a world addicted to whatever looks like an easy fix, outraged citizens are asking cities and towns to outlaw certain breeds, thinking that will eliminate, or at least cut down on dog bites.

But this legislative solution is not a solution, because (1)no city or town can effectively enforce such a law and (2)even if the law could be effective, eliminating all the Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, and Dobermans in the world would not address the basic problem: DOG OWNER IRRESPONSIBILITY. Boston recently enacted an ordinance aimed at Pit Bulls and the law has done nothing to reduce the number of dog bites seen in local hospitals and doctors' offices.

What would work, then?

1: Enforcing existing animal control laws, for example. Police can effectively fine people whose dogs run loose, or who walk dogs without a leash. A program of rewards for reporting dogs running loose would help. The key here is to increase funding for animal control!

2: So would mandatory spaying and neutering for all but AKC champions. Only bitches and dogs who have earned their championship should be bred anyway, because the goal should be to improve the temperament, health, and appearance of the breeds. It's highly unlikely that the owner of a champion Staffordshire Terrier (aka "Pit Bull")would breed her or him for killer temperament. If the law obliged veterinarians to report any non-spayed or non-neutered dog to the police, and if owners were fined, there would be fewer intact dogs to cause trouble. Intact male dogs represent 80% of dogs presented to veterinary behaviorists for dominance aggression, and are involved in 70%-76% of reported dog bites in Massachusetts.

But dog bites are only preventable in situations where owners act responsibly. All dogs need appropriate restraint, socialization, obedience training, and safe public areas in which to exercise (dog parks). Dogs and children (especially babies) need very close supervision. A child's attempt to cuddle the family dog can easily result in frightening the animal, and thus put the child at risk of a bite.

As for those who WANT dangerous dogs, they will find them - or create them through deliberate cruelty. Such people should be shot and fed to their dangerous animals.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Back on Track, Jack

Back to work on a "normal" schedule and the pups sense the change. At The Doggie Den, in our day care operation, those who took some vacation are over-the-top barky and crazed to be back. The ones who didn't are glad to see their friends and want to play non-stop. Some have diarrhea from sneaking forbidden holiday treats. At home, Daphne and Benny look at me as though I've lost my mind when I try to corral them into the van to go to work. They were perfectly happy being stay-at-home pets over each of the holiday weekends. Now they have to share me with the hordes again, and they're not happy. Daphne scratches my leg when I walk by at work; if that doesn't work, she grabs my pantleg with her teeth! No dummy she. The amount of lovin' she got over the holiday weekends was just fine, thanks, but why stop? Benny has regressed to displaying his aggressive, snarly mug whenever I greet another dog. He flew off the day care couch to kill a large Golden I was patting (remember, Benny is a small Cocker Spaniel) and almost broke his jaw... smack! on the floor. The Golden thought him a bit eccentric, but seemed unconcerned.

Unseasonably warm weather in Massachusetts and the outdoor area has turned to mud. The dogs love it. They lie down in the mud, sometimes even roll over; they chase each other around so their paws are coated, then leap onto the couches, which look like they do in the Spring, during the real mud season. This year, we get to do extra cleaning twice... at least! The good news is the heating bills won't cause heart attacks this year.

January is a low exercise time for both people and dogs. So get off the couch and take a fast walk with the pooch. Take him to a playgroup or day care while you go to the gym to work off the holiday goodies. Dogs need healthier lifestyles too!