Puppy panic! Pay attention!

Simon is seven months old now. He’s a constant source of fun, laughter, and love, with a healthy dose of puppy panic added! When you have a new dog in the house, every time you turn around there’s something new to think about.

Pure puppy panic – that was a close one

We’ve learned over the last few month with Simon to watch. Everything. Carefully.

Just because no dog did it before, doesn’t mean this one won’t.

Simon “tried” drain cleaner today. No dog’s ever gone anywhere near the bathroom cleaning stuff before. Simon did!

A quick call to the Pet Poison Helpline (and $60) later and now we know that he’ll be fine. But that was a panicked moment we could have lived happily without.

Making us laugh – that was a funny one

boston terrier puppy simon

We prepare our dogs’ food so they eat at the same time we do. We choose to feed them in their crates so our mealtimes are relaxed for everyone. Their food waits on the table while we finish getting our own plates ready. From the kitchen, we hear the sound of a dining room chair moving. Simon was helping himself to dinner! None of our dogs ever did that before.

Simon did!

This one’s just interesting

Simon loves chew toys. His style is unique. Whatever he’s chewing has to be elevated. He stands on the couch with the bone between his front paws, resting against the back of the couch. And then, of course, it falls. Behind the couch, between the cushions, the most inaccessible places possible.

He’s a hoarder

He hoards his bones. For training reasons, the only always-available toys in the house are chew toys. There are at least a dozen and a half lying around at any time. And yet, they disappear. Because Simon has collected as many as he can find and hides them in “his” place.

When we disrupt the stash and put them back in circulation, the other dogs think we’ve just given them all sorts of new toys. It’s been days since they’ve seen so many!

He’s learning

Simon is not only creative on his own – he also learns quickly from the other dogs.

If he’s bored, he justs goes up to Tango to start trouble. Tango doesn’t see terribly well these days and startles pretty easily. Simon comes up behind him and bounces his front feet on Tango. Which makes Tango dash after Simon, barking, cranky, and wagging his tail. Simon does it on purpose.

From Torque, Simon’s learning to play “bitey face.” Some people call it “mouth wars.” It looks and sounds nasty, but it’s not. There’s a lot of noise and wiggling around. The only casualty so far seems to be Torque’s whiskers. We think Simon’s bitten them all off!

And from Booker, Simon’s learning how to be a Boston Terrier. With slightly better weather, we’ve been able to enjoy the yard. And the running of the Bostons has begun.

Remembering why we prefer dogs

We’ve always tried to space out getting dogs so we’re not faced with a bunch of oldsters at once. It hasn’t always worked out as planned, but there’s usually been a few years between puppies. Plenty of time to forget how challenging, stressful, joyful, and fun puppyhood can be.

What are your best and worst puppy experiences? And do you love the pups? Or prefer older dogs?

Winning against winter weight

Did your dog put on some winter weight?

Ours did – and so did we!

We’ve been having this discussion in the shop this week. As we get the first hints of warmer weather, we’re getting out more. And we’ve had a few people comment on how their dogs have gained some unwanted weight over the last few months.

Ice & snow make it hard

It’s certainly understandable. It was impossible to go for a long walk when everything is covered in ice and salt. But now we’re paying the price – a few pounds heavier and a out of shape.

We know dogs aren’t, technically, people. But they are a lot like us. (Unlike cats, which are aliens. We know – we’ve had cats.) Just like us, they tend to be less active indoors, moving less, sleeping more, and generally burning fewer calories.

Packing on winter pounds

And just like us, they can get out of shape. Fran is a fitness fan – Hope (me), not so much. I’ll go months without exercising. Then I’ll decide it’s time to get going again. So I do a workout from months ago, when I was “into it,” and be in major pain the next day. The price we pay for that inactivity is sore muscles.

French Bulldog and Boston Terrier puppy cuddling
Torque and Simon in “winter mode.”

Dogs are the same. Their little bodies, just like ours, lose strength, stamina, and fitness.

Don’t go for that hour-long walk the first nice day! Your dog will pay in pain tomorrow. Ease back into a regular routine. If you haven’t done anything with your dog in months, a 10-minute walk is probably enough the first day back. Increase the time and distance gradually.

Take it slow

If exercise, or activity, is one side of the winter weight “coin,” the other face is diet. While we don’t necessarily eat more during the winter, the calories have a tendency to stick around. Increasing activity will help with weight loss, as long as no extra treats are involved. If they are, either as rewards or motivation, you can modify what you’re giving.

Swap out some calories

Remember – your dog doesn’t make his/her own food decisions. We know exactly how hard it is to say “no” to those puppy dog eyes, so we’ve developed some tricks we’re happy to share:

  • Replace a portion of your dog’s food with frozen string beans. We know it’s weird, but they’re low-calorie, nutritious, and most dogs love them.
  • Make a “trail mix” of treats for rewards. Include your dog’s regular food, a smaller portion of his/her favorite dry treats (we use Chicken Heart Treats), and circle-oat-cereal. Stir up a big batch, pour it into a plastic bag, and keep it conveniently at hand. The cereal should be about half of the mix. (True confessions: one of our dogs doesn’t like the plain cereal, so we use the honey-nut flavor. Still low calorie for one piece and all the dogs love it.)
  • Some dogs actually love playing with and chewing ice cubes. We’ve talked to many vets and all of them say it doesn’t hurt the dog to chew ice. Action without calories – it’s a win/win!
  • Carrots and/or celery are also good, low-calorie treats many dogs enjoy.
  • If your dog isn’t crazy about chasing balls around the yard – try a small apple! They’ll get all the benefit of a workout and think they’re getting a treat!

We can do it!

It’s hard to win the winter weight battle. For our dogs’ health – we have to keep an eye on their waists. Last year I didn’t notice when Torque gained four pounds and it took us months to make it go away. I’m paying attention better this year – we started walking as soon as the ice melted.

What “steps” are you taking to keep your dog in shape?

Scared of strangers? Your dog doesn’t have to be!

Is your dog scared of strangers?

Either out and about or at home?

Does he/she “go ballistic” whenever the doorbell rings? Have you stopped inviting people over because it’s just too stressful? When repairs are needed do you have to lock your little dog away?

Most of the “aggressive” behaviors small dogs display are rooted in fear. It’s the dog saying to the world, “I’m tough and I’ll hurt you before you hurt me!”

Warning – danger approaching!

Small dogs know their size. And many of them aren’t particularly confident. They’ll bark and lunge, hoping the display will be enough to keep others away so they’ll be safe. And many owners react by indulging the behavior, either soothing their dogs with a comforting “you’re okay! It’s fine!” or by picking them up to remove the threat.

Many dogs will try to hide behind their owners for protection, then lunge out when they feel a threat. Some trainers encourage dogs to sit between owners feet as a “safe place,” but it can work in reverse if the dog thinks you’re acting as his “back up.”

We feel your pain – Tango was scared of strangers

Our own experience with aggressive dogs is first hand. Unfortunately, Fran’s Tango was a lunging, snapping maniac when she got him. He was fear aggressive and extremely scared of strangers. She had no hint – their instant connection meant she could do anything with him from the moment they met. No one else could get near him – including Hope!

Brussels Griffon Tango

It took time and patience to bring out the best in Tango. He became a dog Fran could take places and compete with in Agility and Rally. There were times we thought it would never happen.

And there are some people who prefer their small dogs to stay aggressive to the rest of the world. We know one woman who firmly believes her Chihuahua’s snarling and snapping keeps both of them safer. And if that’s where you’re at, that’s fine.

Turn it around

But if you want your dog to be a welcome guest and companion, there are simple things you can do to turn things around.

If, like Fran, you’re able to do anything with your dog, you’ll need to enlist an understanding friend to help.

You’ll need some absolutely irresistible treats. Use something smelly, like pieces of hot dogs. And, with your dog on collar or harness and leash, have your helper drop treats in front of the dog. Be sure you’re far enough away that the dog can’t reach your friend. If necessary, the treats can be gently tossed on the ground.

If your dog is nicer than Tango was, your friend put a treat in an open hand and offer it to the dog. Tango would bite, so that wasn’t an option.

Repeat 10 times – 10 treats.

That’s it. The friend shouldn’t try to engage with the dog at all – don’t meet his/her eyes, don’t talk to the dog, nothing. Especially don’t lean over! As tempting as it is to bend over to look at, or pet, a dog, to the dog it’s a threat. Either stay standing, or, even better, have your friend sit on the floor and toss the treats where the dog can reach them. Remember to stay out of range to keep everyone safe!

This sets up the idea, in the dog’s mind, that this person is not threatening, doesn’t want anything from me, and just wants to give me treats. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll like this person!

Enlist some help

The next time you try, maybe your dog will have a more relaxed posture. Maybe he/she will actually seem happy to see your friend. As time goes by, your friend will be able to hand the dog a treat.

And that’s the key. Over time, there were many friends of ours who became “cookie ladies!” Fran packed lots of treats whenever she went out with Tango, and handed a few to whoever she saw. Over just a couple of months, Tango became a dog Fran could take anywhere. He expects strangers to be treat dispensers, not dangers.

When you have a dog that’s fear-aggressive, one eye should always be on him/her, to make sure everyone will be safe. Time, patience, and “cookie people” can help fix the problem, but it may never be cured.

What works for you?

Have you had a reactive, or fear-aggressive dog? Is he/she scared of strangers? What works for you to help your dog cope with the world a little better?

Does dog size matter? Big vs. little dogs

Does the size of the dog matter? Are little dogs smaller in anything but size?

There are all kinds of sayings about dogs. The one we hear all the time is “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog!”

Which is nonsense, of course. Except that it does point out that it’s attitude that matters more than actual size.

We love little dogs!

Many times when people come into the shop they say “We have big dogs, can we come in?”

And our absolutely truthful answer is: “We love all dogs – you and your dog are welcome here!” And the next comment, inevitably, is why little dogs?

Simply put – it’s harder to find “stuff” for small dogs, so, as small dog people, we created the shop we needed.

Put in perspective: there’s not a lot of size difference between a harness for a 60 lb. dog and a 70 lb. dog. There’s a huge size difference between a harness for a 5 lb. dog and a 15 lb. dog. The 15 lb. dog is three times the size of the five pounder!

Talking dog breed sizes

This week Hope was interviewed for a story about “small dog breeds for big dog people.” We suppose that when people are looking to downsize, they may want to shrink their dogs, too!

But as we told the reporter, different dog breeds were developed to do different “jobs” – and most of those jobs aren’t interchangeable.

Born this way

mastiff looking at camera

Most bigger dog breeds have the jobs of protecting, herding, sporting, or hunting. All of those jobs are done alongside people, with dog and human acting as a team. The sport of dog obedience, to this day, follows some of the traditions of long ago. Dogs “heel” on the left so that their humans’ right hand was free for fighting, or shooting, or using whatever tool the job required.

Different jobs, different looks

Smaller dog breeds do different jobs – the ones they were bred to do. Pest control is a specialty of most little dog breeds. For example, the adorable and elegant-looking Yorkshire Terrier is a determined little ratter whose original job was to keep the fabric mills of Yorkshire free of pests.

Bred for the job

Fox terrier head shot, 3/4 view looking to left

The other main “job” of little dogs is companionship. In today’s world, dogs of all sizes fill this role. Although it’s always a good idea to keep in mind the dog’s original function. A Border Collie isn’t well-suited to life in a city apartment where the owner works all day. Just as a Pug may not be the best companion for a marathon runner who wants an exercise buddy.

Kinder, gentler dog training

We joined a dogh training cluhb more than 20 years ago. This week it hit us how much has changed in two decades. Thank goodness! Kinder, gentler dog training is lots more fun than it used to be!

Hope teaches the Novice Class for the club, the first competition level. Lots about competition obedience is precise and picky – but most of it, like all dog training, is having fun with your dog while you do the “stuff” that qualifies you for the American Kennel Club’s “Companion Dog” title.

Starting a new puppy

A friend and fellow club member is just starting in obedience with his year-old Cocker Spaniel girl. Rich has been a club member and instructor longer than we have, but it’s been quite a while since he’s taken a puppy through our classes. Suffice it to say, he got side-tracked by retirement, grandkids, and the allure of agility. He shelved the obedience stuff.

Rich was also one of Hope’s first instructors back in the day. He learned and taught with negative reinforcement, also known as corrections. It’s what he knows and a habit he’s been successful with for many, many years.

cocker spaniel puppy

His new puppy’s personality is different than his previous Cocker Spaniels. All of Rich’s dogs have been easy-going, love-everybody dogs. One dog’s initial shyness was quickly overcome and his dogs have always been people and dog friendly.

Every dog is different

Bella, the new girl, has a different mind set. She’s wary in new situations and can light up if she takes exception to what’s going on. She met Fran’s puppy Simon this week and, to put it politely, she wasn’t impressed. She was still a bit riled up when Hope walked in and she grabbed Hope’s pant leg as she walked by. No damage done. No one hurt in any way.

None of this is to say that Bella’s unreliable, or naughty, or a “bad” dog. She’s not. She’s just a bit more cautious than Rich’s other dogs have been.

Which means that Rich is going to have to adapt his training to reflect this dog’s personality, learning style, and tendencies. We hope he’ll have fun with it – but it won’t be easy breaking old habits.

Learning new habits

We have a family joke that habit is the most powerful force in the universe. We’ve all heard the statistics about how long it takes to form a new habit – and how difficult it is to break an old one. We’re going to do everything we can to help our friend form some good, new habits.

In the “olden” days, our trainers told us we should never let a dog make a decision because they’d always make the wrong one. We controlled pretty much every aspect of our dogs’ lives; made every decision, made every choice for them.

Making good decisions

Now? A complete turn-around. Training is all about teaching our dogs to make good decisions! It’s so much more fun! Rather than having our dogs just obey us, we come together as a team to do “stuff” we both enjoy.

If Rich retains that old way of thinking, rather than the kinder, gentler current dog training mode, it’s possible that Bella will have a hard time in new situations – especially if Rich’s attention wanders and leaves her to make her own decisions.

Our dogs aren’t afraid doing the “wrong” thing, because there is no “wrong.” (Except going potty in the house. That’s always wrong.)

Dogs trained with positive reinforcement know that when they do something we want, they’ll get a treat and a celebration. If they do something else, there’s no reward.

Reward or ignore – gentler dog training

It’s as simple as that. Reward the behavior you want. Ignore what you don’t.

Sounds simple, but so very complicated. Fortunately, Rich will have our help every step of the way on the new adventure. We hope he has an easy adjustment. Because it’s so much more fun to be a kinder, gentler dog trainer.

Lefty or righty? Which “pawed” is your dog?

Did you know most dogs prefer one paw over the other? Yes, dogs are either lefty or righty, too!

Just like people, most dogs have a “dominant” or preferred side! Unlike people, most dogs aren’t “right-pawed.” The vast majority of human beings are right-handed – we’ve seen statistics saying that up to 90 percent of  people are right-handed. Dogs, not so much.

Some research indicates that most dogs prefer the left side, other studies say that dogs are pretty evenly divided in thirds among left, right, and no preference.

You might wonder why it matters. For us, it helps with training – especially in agility and obedience. If a dog prefers one side over the other and we know about it, we can strengthen the “weak” side. Just like human athletes, if a dog trains exclusively to his strength, his balance and equilibrium will be off. We actually try to work the less-dominant side more, so the dog will be comfortable going to either side.

How do you tell?

Even if you have no ambitions for dog sport competition, it’s still fun to try new games with your dog and see how much they can learn and enjoy new things.

So – how do you figure out which “pawed” your dog is?

French Bulldog Teddy learning "high five"
Teddy practicing tricks

There are a couple of different games you can play. The first requires some treats and some space to play by a wall. You may also want a notepad and pen to keep track.

Get your dog to sit facing the wall. You and your dog should be at least four or five feet away from the wall (depending on the size of the dog. Smaller dogs can be closer.) Hold your dog by the collar and toss a treat so it lands close to the wall. Let your pup go – taking note of which way he/she turns back to you. Did he turn to the left? Chances are he’s in the majority of dogs. Or did she turn to her right?

One “turn” won’t provide a definitive answer. Play the “toss the treat” game at least 10 times and see if a pattern emerges. Did your dog go left eight of the 10 times? Probably a lefty!

If no pattern emerges, you can try another set of treat tosses another time. Or try the next game to double-check your results.

Another left- or right- determiner

The research study that concluded that dogs are evenly divided in thirds (left, right, and no preference) involved observing, rather than actively participating with your dog.

Get a treat-dispensing toy (like a Kong) and fill it with treats. Make a little chart in your notepad with columns for “left” and “right.” While your dog is playing with the toy, make a mark every time he/she reaches with a paw to move the toy. You may need a few sessions to see a pattern emerge, but you’ll soon be able to tell if your dog is left-pawed, right-pawed, or even.

Just like us

Aside from just fun, knowing which “pawed” your dog is may help down the road.

If your dog strongly prefers one side over the other, chances are that dominant side is the one that will show signs of trouble as your dog ages. Just like us, dogs are prone to diseases like arthritis as they age. And the joints used most often are likely the ones that will be most prone to suffer.

It makes sense to do a little work to strengthen the “weak” side, or get your dog more used to using it.

Building balance

One of the things we do to help strengthen our dogs’ cores and improve their balance is to have them sit and stand on an unstable surface. We use an inflatable balance disc, but you can just as easily use a sofa cushion. Just a few repetitions a couple of times a week can make a difference.

Another fun “trick” is to teach them to spin in either direction. Most dogs will spin when they’re excited – doesn’t yours do it when you come home? Have you ever noticed whether your dog always spins in the same direction? That’s another indicator of his/her “pawed” preference. It’s easy to teach them to spin the other way – all you need is a yummy treat.

Is your dog a righty or a lefty?

We’d love to know what kind of results you get from any of these games! Let us know in the comments if your dog is a lefty, righty, or an even-pawed pup!

Dog names – getting ready for Westminster

Dog names have certainly changed over the years. When was the last time you met a dog named ‘Spot?” Or Fido? Or even Rover?

We haven’t conducted any scientific studies, but it seems to us that, as society accepts that dogs are members of the family, more and more sport “people” names. We’ve jumped on board ourselves – first with Teddy and now Simon in the family.

This week we’ll be watching lots of dogs on TV as the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show kicks off. And as each of the dogs takes his/her turn around the ring, we’ll be hearing the “registered name” as well as the dog’s “call name.”

What does “registered” dog name mean?

In order to compete in any American Kennel Club event, the dog must be “registered.” Actually, that’s really what the AKC does – it’s a registry that keeps track of all the dogs. In order to be considered a “purebreed” dog, the dog’s ancestry must be traceable through generations. And that’s what the AKC does – it keeps track of the lineage of all the dogs.

As a side note – we’re supporters of the AKC because of all the things it does to advocate for dogs. Things like the Canine Health Foundation that supports research and awards grants to further the health of our best friends. And keep track of legislation, in both the states and nationally, to protect both the dogs and the rights of dog owners. We’re not blind to the shortcomings of the organization. But we also know that it’s the only legitimate registry that’s trying to help dogs.

Back to the “registered name” stuff!

All dogs competing in AKC events must be registered. But not all registered dogs have to be purebreds. All dogs are welcome to compete in AKC performance and companion events like obedience, rally, agility, barn hunt, nose work, etc.

And, when applying for AKC registration, as owners we choose a formal name for our dogs that becomes part of the permanent history of dogs in this country.

We have a friend who adopted a mixed-breed dog from a shelter and named her “Lucy” – her “call name.”  Our friend Lisa started taking agility lessons and wanted to compete with her girl. So she filled out the registration papers and chose the name “Heaven on Harlem’s Lucy I’m Home” to be Lucy’s “registered name.”

Breaking it down

Most breeders have a name for their “kennel,” which is not really a place or a building, but a reputation they build. When you get a dog from a reputable breeder, most times they’ll want their kennel name to be part of the dog’s registered name.

Without a breeder’s name to use, our friend Lisa, who’s home was on Harlem Avenue, decided on “Heaven on Harlem” as the name she’d use for her rescued dogs. And the “Lucy I’m Home” part was to recognize her favorite TV show, I Love Lucy.

So the “call name” is what you yell across the yard when you want your dog to come inside. The registered name is the one that you enter when you’re signing up for agility trials, or obedience trials, or conformation shows. And it’s the one that appears on title certificates when things work out the way you want at those trials and shows.

The call name and registered name don’t have to be closely related, as Lucy’s is. Hope’s Teddy’s registered name was Bullmarket To Catch A Thief. The breeder’s kennel is Bullmarket. “To Catch A Thief” because the breeder had a theme for this litter, which was Hitchcock movies. To Catch A Thief is Hope’s favorite Hitchcock movie.

Speaking of titles

All of those shows and events dogs participate in, aside from being fun, can also result in the dogs earning “titles” which become part of the dog’s name.

In AKC parlance, championship titles come before the dog’s registered name, and all other go after the dog’s registered name. And that goes for all championship titles, whether in conformation or in performance events.

So these titles go before the dog’s name:

  • CH (conformation champion)
  • GCH (conformation grand champion)
  • OTCH (obedience champion)
  • MACH (agility champion)
  • RACH (rally champion)

And there are many, many titles that go after the dog’s name. For example, although Teddy never earned any championships, he did have a few titles. His registered name was Bullmarket To Catch A Thief BN, RN, AX, OAJ, CGC:

French Bulldogs posing with title certificates adding to the dog names
Torque and Teddy with newly-arrived title certificates from the AKC
  • BN (Beginner Novice – obedience
  • RN (Rally Novice)
  • AX (Agility Excellent)
  • OAJ (Open Agility Jumpers)
  • CGC (Canine Good Citizen)

Most important dog names

All of those titles just meant I loved spending time with my dog and doing “stuff” with him. The most important names? The ones I used when we were cuddling on the couch watching tv. “Teds,” “Tedster,” “Teddums,” and, when he got into mischief “Theodore!”

Because the nicknames we call our dogs are the most special names they have. What are some of the nicknames you call your dogs?

3 dog games to play inside

The weather outside is frightful, you and your dog are both missing those nice long walks. We can break up the boredom with these three dog games – no special equipment required!

These games are designed to make the dogs think, which is actually just as tiring, if not more exhausting, than physical exercise. Remember back when you were in school? Which was more taxing, a final exam or a soccer game? For most people, the answer is that they’re about the same. Each is tiring in its own way. For dogs, it’s the same. A short brain-game wears out your dog just like a game of “fetch.”

These are all short-session games – no more than a few minutes at a time. You can certainly play more than once a day, but dogs learn better if they’re given a break after any new behavior.

Short and sweet dog games

dog training clickers

All of these games can be played with a clicker to “mark” when your dog gets it right. It’s a terrific training tool, and makes timing and consistency a little easier. Whether you use a verbal “yes!” or click – let your dog know when he/she does it right.

Don’t worry about it if your dog doesn’t “get” the game the first time you play. Dogs sometimes need time to process things, according to an article in Psychology Today, and your dog may be one of them. Don’t abandon a game just because he or she doesn’t excel right away. Give it another go and you may be amazed!

Game #1: Touch

You’ll need: a bunch of treats. The plastic lid from some food container. Our favorite is an ice cream pint lid. It’s not really any better than a cottage cheese lid, but we’d rather have an empty ice cream than an empty cottage cheese.

Instructions: Hold the lid in front of your dog. When he/she touches it with his/her nose, say “good touch” and give him a treat. Move the lid to the other hand. Repeat!

The tricky part is transferring it to other places, other circumstances, and “fading” the lid. So try it in another room. If somebody else is around, have them try it.

Game #2: Hide and seek

Did you know dogs can play it, too? It’s easier if you have two people, but you can certainly play with just you and your dog. If you have somebody else around, have that person hold your dog’s collar. Meanwhile, you grab a handful of treats and go “hide.” It can be anywhere in the house – even the bathtub! If you’re alone with your dog, drop a few treats where she’s sitting and, while she’s chomping them up, go hide (be sure to bring treats with you!) When you’re in your hiding place, call your dog’s name one time. Celebrate when she finds you! A good game of tug can be as much of a reward as treats.

Game #3: Switch

Does your dog have a favorite toy? One that’s the best toy in the whole wide world and when it gets destroyed (we won’t mention any culprits by name) you run around frantically looking for a replacement? We did, too, until we learned this game.

dog toys at Golly Gear

Get two toys (or more), not including the “favorite.” Start playing “tug” with your dog. If he seems not “into” it at first – be annoying! That’s how puppies get older dogs to play with them, as we’ve learned in the last couple of months with Simon. Wiggle the toy at their feet. Give them a gentle push. Blow in their face. If your dog has any kind of “prey drive,” undulate the toy across the floor. Sooner or later one of these tactics will annoy your dog sufficiently that he’ll “give up” and play with you.

When he’s truly into the game, drop the toy you’re tugging with, grab one of the others, and tell him “I wanna play with this one now!” And start being annoying. Pay no attention to the first toy until he grabs the second one.

Keep switching!

If your dog runs away to play with the toy by himself, it’s up to you how you treat it. On the one hand, you’re happy he’s playing with a different toy. One the other hand, he’s supposed to be playing with you! If you want him to play with you, just pester the dickens out of him until you have his attention back and the game can continue.


It doesn’t take a lot of time, special training, or complicated equipment to play interactive games with your dog. It just takes a little energy, some stuff you have around the house, a minute of planning, and the will to do it. If your dog is stricken with cabin fever and driving you crazy, these games will help take the edge off and restore peace and quiet.

These ideas will get you started. What other “indoor games” do you play with your dog?

Diving into dog food – 5 resources for every dog owner

Once upon a time the family dog ate scraps from the dinner table.

Then dog food evolved. There was kibble. And canned food. Along came semi-dry (remember Gaines Burgers?). Prescription food. Breed-specific food. Size-specific food. Raw food. Freeze-dried food. Allergy foods. Grain-free food. Limited-ingredient food. Exotic proteins food. Even vegetarian food.

And the recalls started coming, too. Much like human foods – there are articles extolling the benefits of an ingredient one week, and the next week the same ingredient is high risk.

What’s a responsible dog owner to do?

So close he could taste it.

We all want to do what’s right. Our dogs are family members and want to give them the best diet we can, fulfilling their nutritional needs and giving them food they’ll love. How can we know? We can’t even necessarily believe our veterinarians – most receive minimal education in nutrition and the information they do get in school may be sponsored by the dog food manufacturers!

There isn’t a single “best” dog food, but there is a best choice for your circumstances, your dog, and you. Our choice is to make our dogs’ food – although we do keep dry food in the house as well. We keep our dogs accustomed to eating a dry food so if there’s an emergency, we don’t have to worry about feeding them. Kibble also makes a handy training treat.

We know our choice isn’t right for everyone. But we all want to give our dogs the best food we can. These dog food resources will help you choose that best option. Note: we are NOT affiliates of any of these websites and receive no compensation. We want you to have the best information available for feeding your dog.

Dog food resources:

Website – DogFoodAdvisor.com

We’ve been consulting DogFoodAdvisor.com for years – whenever someone tells us about a wonderful new dog food we just have to check out. You’ll find ratings for just about every food available in the U.S. market; including both dry and canned food. You can also sign up for email notices when another recall is announced.

DogFoodAdvisor.com doesn’t just rate the foods. They also give you a breakdown of what’s good, what’s okay, and what should be avoided in each brand. Not every flavor of each brand is reviewed, but there are enough to give you a good idea of the company’s food.

You can also find the best-rated foods in each category, if you’re inclined to change. We’ve used it ourselves when we needed a “back-up” dry food.

Book – Your Pet Chef Cookbook by Lisa Hennessy

Your Pet Chef Cookbook

Your Pet Chef Cookbook is the book we use to make our own dogs’ food. Complete disclosure – the author is a friend of ours and we learned to make dog food right in her kitchen. You’ll find that some dog food experts resist adding vegetables and fruits to their dogs’ meals, but, as veggie-lovers ourselves, we had a hard time accepting that idea. Besides, we’d always heard that dogs are omnivores, like people. And our dogs absolutely adore their veggies. In fact, when our agility instructor insisted that all dogs learn to play “tug,” the only thing Hope could get her first agility dog (Dax) to tug on was a stalk of celery!

Book – The Royal Treatment: A natural approach to wildly healthy pets by Barbara Royal, D.V.M.

Book - The Royal Treatment. A natural approach to wildly healthy pets

Her name really is Royal! And she’s also someone we actually know and whose expertise we value and trust. Dr. Royal is a veterinarian and practitioner of both Western and Eastern medicines. Many years ago, when she was first embarking on her journey in acupuncture, she would come to our family’s book store to give our shop cat (Merlyn) acupuncture treatments. She kept him going, despite his arthritis and kidney failure, until the ripe old age of 19!

The Royal Treatment will help you make common-sense decisions about the care and feeding of your pets. It goes into food and much more – from learning how to tell if your pet is sick, to the best way to clean their ears, using herbs and supplements, and figuring out what your pet’s behavior may mean for his/her health.

Book – Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs: The Definitive Guide to Homemade Meals by Lew Olson, Ph.D.

Book - Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs

Funny how it keeps coming up – we know Lew Olson! She’s actually a Brussels Griffon person, so although we haven’t had the pleasure in person, we’ve known her name for years. Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs is a terrific book that addresses specific issues and how we can use food as medicine, as well as feeding puppies, senior dogs, picky eaters, and more. Lew is active in both conformation and performance showing with her dogs, in addition to being an AKC and UKC judge. This book includes plans for all types of food – raw, cooked, even kibble. She also addresses the need for supplements and minerals. It does make making dog food at home simpler.

Facebook group – K9 Nutrition

This is kind of cheat – K9 Nutrition is Lew Olson’s Facebook group. You do have to ask to become a member of the group, which is a large and diverse one. The community members – and Lew herself, will answer questions and address specific issues members have. There is no judgment allowed – whatever you’re currently feeding won’t be criticized.

If you’re like us and you’ve become unsure which commercial dog food is best for your dog, we hope you’ll take advantage of these resources and that your pup thrives – no matter what you choose! And check out our selection of tasty, healthy treats for your dog!

Dealing with a naughty puppy!

All good dogs are good the same. As we’ve recently rediscovered, a naughty puppy is creative and unique.

Good is all the same

When your dog is being good, he/she is listening to you, knows the rules of the house and sticks to them, and when there’s quiet in the house, it doesn’t raise any red flags.

Naughty puppy takes many forms

When you have a puppy (or new dog in the house) who doesn’t yet know the rules, it’s a different story. Silence is very, very suspicious. And the smarter that pup is, the more potential he/she has for incredible, creative naughtiness. As you learn your new dog’s particular brand of evil, you adapt. If you have a garbage picker, you learn to make sure the garbage is either enclosed or untippable. A toilet paper un-roller? You restrict access to the bathroom. Shoe-chewer? You learn to put your shoes away.

It’s been four years since there was a puppy in our house. That doesn’t sound like a long time, but memory is a very subjective, and selective thing. That being said – Torque was a wonderful puppy. Obedient, trainable, housebroken in no time, didn’t chew anything he shouldn’t have. Affectionate, biddable, playful, snuggly, a delight in every way. Please don’t ask us to go back and review our posts from four years ago. We’re positive we’re right about this. Not a naughty puppy at all.

And now there’s Simon.

We’ve got a system

First a bit of background. With all dog training, there are battles you choose to fight and others you choose to manage. One of the things we manage is dinner time. We won’t have dogs begging at the table, and we don’t want to play trainer when we’re relaxing over a meal. So the system we’ve developed is that the whole family eats at the same time and the dogs eat in their crates. It works for us.

To make the system work, one person prepares the dogs’ bowls, the other preps the “people” food. We try to have everything ready simultaneously, give or take a couple of minutes.

Beware the quiet

Of course the dogs all know what we’re doing – they’re ready for supper as soon as they hear the bowls come out. Simon finds this the perfect time to harass the other dogs into playing with him. Tango gets annoyed and yells at him, Booker barks incessantly, and Torque, after doing his best to ignore the puppy, gives in and starts wrestling with him underfoot.

Simon, a five-month old Boston Terrier naughty puppy

The other evening things were progressing as per usual. Or so we thought. Neither one of us paid much attention when the noise level diminished. We were used to quiet during meal prep – the only noise pre-Simon noise was Teddy complaining at us from a kitchen chair to “hurry up!”

Tricks are for puppies

Silly people! It’s ALWAYS suspicious when the noise level changes and there’s a five-month-old puppy in the house. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Simon, it turns out, is an evil genius. He moved the dining room chair, jumped up on it, and was helping himself to dinner – at the dinner table!

Fortunately, it was his own dinner.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have a camera handy at the time.

Fortunately, we were laughing too hard to be angry with him.

And we’ve learned our lesson. Line up the dogs’ bowls where they can’t possibly reach them. And, if silence reigns, check on the naughty puppy!