Getting to know dog personality

Aside from you – what’s your dog’s favorite thing in the whole wide world?

Least favorite (aside from a visit to the vet)?

Personality shines through

Dogs have likes and dislikes. We respect that. And we think most dog owners do, too. 

Years ago we had a Brussels Griffon named Whimsy. He was, without doubt, the most adorable dog ever to walk the face of the planet. (Aside from yours, of course!) A non-dog-owning friend of ours couldn’t resist petting him on the top of his head. He hated that. We told her so. And her reaction was pretty much: “too bad. He’s a dog and I’ll do what I want.”

Mr. Personality - a black Brussels Griffon looking into the camera

Needless to say, Whimsy wasn’t a fan and avoided her whenever possible. And, years later when our friend finally got a dog of her own, she finally understood. There were things that her dog didn’t like. So she found herself saying “But he doesn’t like that.” 

People without pets, or unfamiliar with animals don’t really understand that they have personalities, just like people do. It’s more than not liking going to the doctor, or liking car rides, or hating the sound of thunder. They all have distinct personalities and it takes a while to get to know them.

Emerging personalities

Golly Gear is often an early stop after dogs are adopted from a local shelter. And we get to hear how amazing the new family member is – how sweet, cute, quiet, obedient, etc. We ask how long the new addition has been home, and it’s usually less than a month.

We’ve learned, through the years, to share a word or two of caution. Dogs’ real personalities come out when they know they’re secure. A newly-adopted dog is “testing the water” – not sure what’s going on, not sure he/she is staying, not sure who these people are.

Once the dog figures out that he/she is home, safe, and these people belong to him/her – things may change.

The previously angelic dog may turn into a naughty, scampy, mischief-maker. The dog who never put a paw wrong may start testing the rules, just like any teenagers starting to spread their wings.

Getting to know you

One of our favorite places on the planet is the Dolphin Research Center in Grassy Key, Florida. We have many friends there, including the couple dozen dolphins, many of them born at the facility, who live there. 

The reason we love it there is the emphasis on “research.” The dolphins are active participants in all kinds of training and research studies – from learning concepts like “less” and “more,” to imitating behaviors, to husbandry data.

DRC has developed “dolphinality” descriptions of all their resident dolphins. Each has a distinct personality, just as we do, just as our dogs do! And, if they don’t feel like playing that day, or that session, they don’t have to. Because, just like us, they not only have personalities, they have moods!

Moody today

Dogs have moods, too. Today is a stormy, thundery day. Fortunately, none of our dogs is terrified by thunder-boomers, but Booker is a little bit on edge. Distracting him with little training games helps a bit, but he has focus issues at the best of times. That’s his personality. 

What’s your dog’s personality?

According to experts, there are five dog personality types: 

  • Confident – the leader of the pack
  • Shy or Timid – needs time and patience to blossom.
  • Independent – a best friend who enjoys some alone time, too.
  • Happy – loves everyone and everything, sometimes to excess
  • Adaptable – up for anything you want to do, from adventures to chilling on the couch.

Acknowledging your dog’s personality type may help you understand how best to live happily together. A shy dog may not love going to the farmer’s market with you, while a happy dog may be too much.  And that’s okay. If it’s important to you, you can get there in time.

Mixed bag

Like us, most dogs are a mixture of personality types. Mostly this, with a little bit of that and the other thrown in.

What’s your dog’s personality type? 

Is “Obey” a four-letter word?

Sometime in the last few decades, “obey” became a four-letter word. More than just numerically. It used to be a good thing when you had an obedient dog. Obedience training was expected for all dogs. There was no stigma attached – it was just what you did when you got a dog. You signed up for the local dog class – at the park district, 4-H Club, dog club. Wherever the local dog trainer held classes.

Banishing words like obey

Maybe obedience lost its luster around the same time that there was a push to change wedding vows from “love, honor, and obey” to “love, honor, and cherish.” Truthfully – it’s a better deal for women. Dogs? Yes and no.

If people truly do cherish their dogs, they give their pets the skills they need to cope with the world. Which means obedience training. It equips our dogs to behave appropriately, at home and outside. They learn what to expect and what’s expected of them. “Training” is another word that’s lost its luster. Nowadays it means something other than fun. Like exercise. 

Obey was part of the problem

Fortunately, just as the language has changed, so has obedience training over the years. The most forward-thinking trainers have discarded old force-training methods. The days of “yank and crank,” tugging on collars, or “popping” the collar to “correct” the dog are becoming a thing of the past. 

It may be that today’s dog owners, left with memories of the old ways of doing things, are at a loss. They don’t want their dogs tortured by training, but haven’t found good alternatives. They want their dogs to obey, but don’t know where to find help. It does take some research and knowing what to look for.

Trainers who advertise “fast” results are, undoubtedly, force trainers. We know many “board and train” outfits use shock collars to get their rapid results. It works – as long as the dog is wearing the collar, the batteries are charged, you have the remote, and you don’t mind torturing your dog. Terrifying a dog into behaving isn’t training.

Training isn’t torture

For us, training is play time with our dogs. It may be only a couple of minutes at a time – but it’s precious time that we spend with our dogs doing fun stuff. Sometimes we work on fitness stuff. Other times it’s skills we use in obedience, rally, or agility competition. Some days we just play with toys, or learn new tricks like putting their toys away or “tapping,” which is Torque’s absolute favorite!

Torque loves to “tap” and tries to convince Hope to do it every session!

We’re addicted to training because it’s fun. We get to play with our dogs and we all have a good time. Our dogs get excited when they get to class – they know they’re going to have fun. At home, when they see us reach for a clicker or treats, they dash for our little training area. It takes time to teach a dog – just like it takes time to teach a child. You didn’t learn to read overnight. But you did learn. Step by step. At your pace. 

There are some dogs that are “rocket scientists” at some stuff. Torque is a whiz at “sit, stand, down.” But not for anything will he “drop it!” when toys are involved. It’s an ongoing process, because that behavior is difficult for him. So we teach it in little chunks he can cope with – using less-valuable toys, trading them for more-valuable ones, or high-value treats. And when we get frustrated, we leave it be, for now. Tomorrow’s another day.

Failure to connect

There are people we haven’t been able to convince, and it makes us sad. Hope teaches the Novice Obedience Competition class for our dog club. She had an older woman in class with a lovely, 9-month-old Standard Poodle puppy. Lilly is a smart, biddable, trainable dog. But the student wasn’t willing to change the methods that she learned years ago. Hope couldn’t convince her to stop using physical corrections. So the woman found a trainer who uses corrections, and shock collars. It made us sad.

We’ve also had some wonderful victories. A current student was used to force-training. His current puppy, now 10 months old, is the softest dog he’s ever had. This dog would cringe in class, almost as if he expected to be hit. Fortunately, his owner figured out he had to change his training and his demeanor. His puppy trots along happily in class now. It’s a joy to behold.

Be comfortable where you go

When you’re looking for a trainer, class, or method of training, try to visit before you commit. You are your dog’s advocate and protector. If you don’t like what you see, walk away. If a trainer or class won’t let you observe – find another. There are lots of options – take the time to find one that suits you and your dog. 

One of the best ways to cherish our dogs is to teach them to be polite. To become Canine Good Citizens. That way, they’ll be welcome wherever they go. And your lives together will be happy ones.

In a love/hate dog relationship

It’s a love/hate relationship. We’re obsessed with dogs. We live with them, own a business about them. Our hobbies are training dogs and going to dog shows. 

That being said – it’s not all sunshine and lollipops. It’s a love/hate dog relationship. Like most connections – it’s complicated!

Love/hate together

Our dogs are always happy to see us. No matter how incredibly crappy the day has been, the traffic was awful, nothing worked right, the weather sucked – your dog is delighted you’re home. He’s at the door, wiggling his little butt (no tail!). Just because you walked in – his life is complete. We don’t know anybody who gets that reaction from another person. Can you imagine walking in and your dog glances up from his phone, says “hey!” and goes back to his game? 

On the other hand – we’re always on the clock. If our dogs aren’t with us, our time out is limited. Especially with a puppy in the house.

In the same vein – there’s no such thing as a spontaneous get-away. We can’t just pack up and take off for a weekend. Even though there are more and more places accepting dogs as guests – it’s not a “given.” Plans have to be made, packing has to be done. And the dogs require much more “stuff” than the people!


Dogs are up for whatever you want to do. Play time? Sure, let’s do it! Nap time? Absolutely, let’s chill! Cuddle and watch a movie? Especially if there’s popcorn! You never have to worry about being alone.

But you never get to be alone, either. Not even in the bathroom. We’ve drawn the line at the shower, but the dogs aren’t always happy about it. One even whines outside the door like a little baby – not mentioning Torque’s name here.

Tell us about it

dog tilting his head

The good thing is that dogs can’t talk. You can tell them anything – your deepest, darkest secrets. And they’ll never reveal a thing. And when you do talk to dogs, they listen. They get that adorable head tilt. We fall for it every time. And nobody thinks you’re crazy, talking out loud, if your dog is there.

The bad thing is that dogs can’t talk. Like when they don’t feel good and can’t tell you what’s wrong, where it hurts, or that something’s not right. We’re huge admirers of veterinarians. They have to be detectives – solving mysteries for clients who can’t reveal their secrets.

The biggest love/hate of all

We love that we get to experience the unconditional love of dogs. Their devotion to their people is unmatched.

We hate that it’s never long enough.

One sick puppy

It’s not metaphoric at all – Simon was one sick puppy yesterday. He’s better today, thank goodness. But yesterday was messy, stressful, and thoroughly awful.

No early sign of sick puppy

It was a normal morning in the Sister Shack. All four dogs ate their breakfasts, pottied outside. We had a fun little training session. Fran left for work. (Friday is Hope’s day off.) 

I (Hope) was planning a fun day. I love baking and was planning to make Fran’s birthday cake. Red Velvet cake has been our family’s traditional birthday cake all our lives. It’s a process, but a fun one, if you like baking.

There were a few errands that needed doing (we were out of milk!), so I took the butter out of the fridge to soften while I ran them – planning on coming home and getting the cake-baking going. 

Sign of trouble

The first sign of trouble was the smell that hit me when I got home. I was hoping for the best at first – one of the dogs might have been unusually gassy. No such luck.

Simon had rather violent diarrhea. We crate the puppy when we’re not home. That wound up being a good news/bad news result. Good news – the mess was confined. Bad news – the puppy and his crate needed bathing, fumigation, and I needed a nose plug.

Clean up 

The first order of business was to get him out into the yard and see if the issue was over, or a continuing problem. The latter, of course. Tango, Booker, and Torque were kind of puzzled by the situation but avoided the stinky puppy. And cooperated when I needed them back in the house and away from the mess.

Next? Telling his mom (Fran) that we were in crisis mode. It’s never fun to call a baby’s mom to tell her the puppy’s sick.

Boston Terrier sick puppy
Simon’s staying close to Fran today.

And then Simon got a bath. Generally speaking, Simon is an active puppy. Truthfully – he’s a perpetual motion machine. Fortunately, he was more curious about the water, bathtub, and bath process than afraid or worried. Fifteen minutes later – he smelled much better.

Nose plug time

Simon dried off with nice clean bedding in one of the other dog’s crates. Cleaning the crate was next. I have no idea how all surfaces were targeted, but it even included the ceiling. Further detail isn’t required – I’m sure all dog owners (and parents of human babies!) can imagine the rest.

Off to the vet

When we knew the vet was open for afternoon hours, I delivered Simon to Fran. He’d had several more episodes in the meantime. All outside. He was a very good boy and let me know when it was time to make a dash for the great outdoors.

Our wonderful veterinarians got him in right away. He obliged by spewing for the doctors. You know veterinarians are a different breed. Instead of scooping it up as fast as possible, they pored over it like it was a clue in a mystery novel. Which, to them, it was. Simon obviously ate something he shouldn’t have and we have instructions for a restricted diet and medication for a few days.

Duh! Of course it was something he ate

It’s always something they ate. And we have no idea what it might be. We don’t use any chemicals or fertilizers in our yard. But, even though we live in a very urban area, there’s tons of wildlife: squirrels, birds, rabbits, possums. Who knows what they carry in? Not to mention how many assorted mushrooms have sprouted in this incredibly wet season. And Simon is a grazer. We try to keep an eye on him – but with four dogs running around the yard and a next-door neighbor dog that charges ours, it can get hectic. 

The best-laid plans

So the day went sideways. Birthday cake didn’t get made. Butter is back in the fridge. Meals didn’t get made. That’s okay. Because Simon’s better today. Subdued, under scrutiny, but hopefully on the road to recovery.

I usually resist the title “pet parent.” But when the baby’s sick, either human or puppy – it applies. Everything else is put on hold. As it should be.

Do you play with your dog?

I (Hope) teach the first level of competition obedience for our dog club every Tuesday night. This past Tuesday I realized something that kind of freaked me out and made me sad. Most of my students don’t know how to play with their dogs.

It’s not that they don’t love their dogs. Or that they don’t spend time with their dogs. But some of them have the mindset that every interaction with their dog has to have purpose – and that purpose isn’t just fun.

Pet dogs play!

In this instance I think it’s clear that “pet people” have the advantage. They know how to just “hang out,” and spend time with their dogs. Without any guilt about what they “should” be working on to achieve their training goals.

Their dogs get to play – with toys or without. Tug. Fetch. Chew. Zoomies. All those things are important for dogs – and for us. They remind us of the Henry Ward Beecher quote: “The dog is the god of frolic.”

And play is important – for both of you. Studies have shown that dogs that play with their people are happier, healthier, and better-behaved than those that don’t.

Make them play!

We all need a bread from serious stuff. Including dogs. So after a few minutes of training, I told everyone “Exercise finished! Play with your dog.” And got almost a whole roomful of blank stares. Fran and her puppy Simon are in the class. So Fran served as an example for the class – getting on her knees right away and wrestling with her little Boston boy.

woman plays with dog

One of Simon’s latest favorite games is one we call “Throw the puppy away!” When Simon comes up, Fran gives a little push against his chest, backing him up a step or so. He pounces back, ready to get “thrown away” again.

The others in class just kind of stood around. One said her dog likes a ball. He doesn’t actually fetch it, or chase it. He just carries it around. Another said her dog likes stuffed toys, but wouldn’t carry one. A couple others just looked at us blankly.

Lightening things up

So I made them play with their dogs. You don’t need toys, or balls, or anything but yourself and your dog. I told everyone to give their dogs a little shove in the side. And say something happy and excited – “Wanna play?” “How about it?” “Watcha gonna do?” Questions keep everyone engaged – even the dogs.

Most were reluctant – including the dogs. They looked at their owners like they’d lost their minds. “You want me to what?”

So I went around the room and got everyone play-wrestling with their dogs. Only for a couple of minutes. And nothing over the top. Just a little gentle horsing around.

Back to business

Everybody needs to play – dogs and people. Especially when we’re learning. Remember your favorite teachers? Weren’t they always the ones who made class fun?

And then we began another heeling exercise. And everybody – dogs and people – did better. More animated. Better attention. Faster pace. Much more fun.

Keep it fun! Play with your dog!

Sit happens! Dog training in an instant

Have you ever watched a dog show? Remember seeing all those dogs standing in the ring to be judged? When sit happens, it’s not a good thing.

Last week Hope did a bad thing. She taught a show dog to sit in about a minute. Fortunately, the dog’s mom, a friend of ours, laughed about it.

It was sort of an accident

Hope went to see a litter of puppies last week. The breeder has gorgeous dogs, does all the health testing, lives with her dogs in the house – all the things you want from a responsible breeder. Hope really, really thought she was ready to come home with a new puppy. Despite how one little boy tugged at her, it turns out now’s not the right time.

It was disappointing for both Hope and her breeder-friend Sue. But they still enjoyed spending time together and playing with Sue’s dogs.

Starting clicking

When Hope and Sue were talking about their visit, Sue mentioned that she wanted to start training and asked Hope to show her some tips to get her started. There’s a club near where she lives that offers Rally classes. Rally is probably the most fun / least stressful of the performance sports. Rally is the one that lets you talk to your dog, has instructions posted along the way, and speed only matters if there’s a tied score.

French Bulldog sitting with tongue out

So Hope brought Sue a clicker. A clicker isn’t absolutely necessary for training, but it does make it more consistent and easier, once you have the timing. Hope started clicker training Sue’s three dogs – Sharky (darling little boy), Pinch (adorable adult girl), and Alecia (Sue’s gorgeous little show girl).

Teacher’s pet

All three are food-motivated, which always makes training easier. Pinch is a retired show girl and Sue’s pet. She’s not used to having to “do” something to get a treat – she’s a princess and is treated like one. Sharky is a teen-aged boy. His brain is sometimes present. Sometimes not so much.

Alecia is a training superstar! She figured out the “click” in no time.

Click = treat. Got it!

Sit = click. Got it!

And just that fast, sit happens! Alecia learned to sit for just the possibility of a treat.

In a non-showing household, that would have been a wonderful thing. In a show home? It’s not the end of the world, but it’s not great. Show dogs are supposed to stand to be examined by a judge. They’re supposed to show off their physiques. And they can be standing for a while, depending on the number of dogs they’re competing against.

Sorry about that, chief!

Fortunately, Sue was really proud that her girl learned so fast. And understood that “stand” can be a learned (and rewarded!) behavior just like sit. She forgave Hope. Whew!

Can dogs see color – an experiment in dog color vision

What kind of colors do dogs see? What is dogs’ color vision showing them about the world?

Last year Susan Garrett, a world-class agility instructor/competitor posted a video interview discussing what dogs actually see on an agility course – how color and contrast can help or hurt. We found it fascinating – but not particularly useful. We go to competitions in several different venues – all of them differ in lighting, equipment, and flooring. And there’s not much we can do about it.

Change in perspective

Since we’re dog nerds, we filed the information away in the back of our heads. Not particularly useful, but worth remembering.

Then we noticed that Tango, Fran’s 10-year-old Brussels Griffon might not be seeing things all that well. He’s fine. The veterinarian didn’t find anything particular going on with his eyes at this point, just some changes related to his age.

For our little training sessions we added another light to the area. And we try to make sure we’re not standing against the light so he can see better.  Tango flinches if we make sudden moves or a shadow passes over his eyes.

Trying an experiment

Then we remembered about the dogs color vision interview and decided to conduct a little experiment! One of Tango’s favorite games is putting little foam blocks into a bowl. The giant bucket of blocks has lots of colors, so we picked the same blocks in warm colors (yellow and orange) and cool colors (blue and green).

We tried each set individually. Then we put them all together to see if Tango would show a preference. Here’s the video:

Oh, well!

As far as we can tell – Tango didn’t care. He grabbed whatever block he noticed, regardless of color.

It wasn’t scientific, and it doesn’t prove anything. It also doesn’t invalidate the actual findings the experts talked about. But it was interesting and fun!

Does your dog need space?

It seems simple enough. Your sensitive dog needs space.

You do what you can to minimize interaction with other people and/or dogs; walking your dog at “non-peak” hours, avoiding crowds, paying attention to your surroundings.

But every once in a while, you just can’t avoid it. Some unleashed dog comes loping in your direction with the owner, off in the distance, yelling “Don’t worry, he’s friendly!” Or you encounter a child whose parent insists that the child says “Hi!” to the doggy.

You can say no

Our society isn’t receptive to “no.” People want what they want when they want it – and permission denied is often seen as rude, or arrogant, or impolite. Years ago a friend related the story of her three-year-old niece, given a special birthday treat, who refused to share when an adult, male relative asked. My friend was outraged – saying “We were always taught to share!”

Yes – but!

Sharing is fine – if it’s our choice. I remember when we were children, our mother told us to put away any toys we didn’t want to share before our friends arrived. It was our stuff, and the decision was ours.

Since our dogs can’t choose, it’s up to us to make sure their interactions with the world around us are positive and healthy. If for some reason your dog needs some space – you’re entitled to say “No.”

Yellow ribbon notice

It’s been challenging to signal that choice from a distance, until recently. Around the world, a yellow ribbon (or bandana) on the leash (or the dog) is a sign that the dog needs some space. There are a variety of reasons – aggression isn’t the only possibility. It could be that the dog is old or frail. Or it could be recovering from an accident or injury. It could be a bitch in heat. Fearful dogs need space. So do dogs that have come from shelters or rescues.

If you see a dog with a yellow ribbon, take the opportunity to inform those around you what it’s about. It’s about giving everyone the opportunity to do right by their dogs.

Use it if you need it

Once tied onto a leash, the yellow ribbon isn’t necessarily there forever. It could be the dog will recover, or become more confident over time. In dog training, we always say that distance is our friend. If a dog has difficulty handling noise, or motion, or other distractions, we move away to a more comfortable distance and take the time to adjust incrementally.

There’s an Akita that lives in the neighborhood close to our shop. He’s a big, friendly dog. He even knows which pocket Hope keeps treats in. He loves people. But he’s had bad experiences with other dogs and doesn’t do well. Having a yellow ribbon on his leash allows his owner, a young mother often pushing a stroller as she walks, the opportunity to avoid interaction. It lets her give her dog some space.

Spread the word

dog need space poster

To encourage widespread use of the yellow ribbon, Gulahund has developed fliers and posters that are free to reproduce and distribute. We’re going to be sharing them with all the veterinarian’s offices in the area, as well as groomers, dog walkers, and shelters. You can find it on their website:

Some people may hesitate about using the yellow ribbon – people not wanting their dogs to be labelled aggressive for no reason. We understand the concern, but we’d rather promote “yellow-ribbon space” than worry about what other people think. Do what’s best for you and your dog. Dare to say “no!”

Guidance for a puppy search

Most days working in a retail shop are pretty predictable. People come in and buy things. Or they order online. We do get to meet the best people in the world (dog people!) and we get to talk dogs all day. But we don’t usually get to help someone on a puppy search and change her life forever.

But today was really special. A woman came in after visiting the tailor next door, saying “I don’t know if you can help me, but…..”

And we could!

It really brought home the importance of what we do. What we can all do. Help each other.

Helping on her puppy search

Coconut, a purebred Miniature Poodle

This happened to be a question about finding a puppy. In this case, the woman has always been a big-dog person. Now that she’s a little bit older, she’s looking for a smaller breed of dog that she’ll be able to take care of throughout its life – and hers. She needed some ideas and recommendations for breeds of dogs; including personality, fur, trainability, etc.

She actually came in asking if we knew of any reputable “CavaPoo” breeders for her puppy search. We know we’ll catch some flak for what we’re about to say, but there’s no such thing as a “reputable” “***Poo” or “***Doodle” breeder. There may be some people intentionally breeding mixed-breed dogs who are good people. But we haven’t met any.

Finding a reputable breeder

We explained that a reputable breeder is one who:

  • Has had all health tests recommended for the breed performed on both sire (father) and dam (mother) of the planned litter.
  • Breeds only occasionally when he/she is looking to add to their family.
  • Belongs to the parent club of his/her breed and abides by the club’s Code of Ethics. (As an example, the French Bulldog Club of America’s code of ethics is here.)
  • Will not ship puppies to unknown people.
  • Is not a commercial enterprise.
  • Knows where every single dog they ever bred is – and welcomes any/all of them back if circumstances require it.
  • Gives prospective puppy owners the “third degree,” because their hearts and souls are invested in each and every puppy they breed.
  • Considers the future well-being of their chosen breed with every planned litter, including both health and temperament when making those plans.

Know where to look

Good, reputable breeders are easy to find these days if you know where to look. The American Kennel Club recognizes over 150 breeds – there’s one for anyone’s particular circumstances. Every single one of those breeds has a parent club. And every parent club has a website that includes a  “breeder directory” so people can find reputable breeders close to home.

Unfortunately the puppy millers and their outlets (pet shops that sell puppies) are incredibly media-savvy and have slick websites and even slicker sales pitches. When you do an internet search to find a puppy, chances are the “greeders” will be the first ads and entries you find. That just means they’re good marketers, not good breeders.

Better and possibly cheaper

The funny thing is, a healthy, well-tempered puppy from a reputable breeder will probably cost the same, or less. They don’t spend the money on advertising. They’re not part of a well-organized marketing machine. They’re just sharing their love for their chosen breed with people smart enough to look.

We’ve met some lovely people who have adorable mixed-breed “doodles” and “poos.” We’re not condemning anyone for falling in love with an adorable puppy face.

But, just like all of us, no dog gets the “best” genetic makeup from each of its parents. Every pure-breed club details the health concerns prevalent in their breed. As an example: Poodles are prone to epilepsy. (Here is the Poodle Club’s page: Health Concerns.) Has the “poo” or “doodle” breeder tested her dog for the disease? Will that person provide a health guarantee?

Another, less-serious consideration – “poo” and “doodle” coats are unpredictable. Some require a tremendous amount of grooming. Again – no individual get the best genes from their parents. Including hair! Before you consider getting a mixed-breed puppy – ask your favorite groomer how she feels about taking care of “poo” or “doodle” coats.

Happy to help

So today we laid out all of these arguments to the woman who stopped in, not knowing if we could answer her question. She heard a lot more than she expected, stayed a while, and we had a wonderful time talking about dogs. We think she’s headed home to research Havanese. We’re looking forward to meeting her puppy!

Sounds of spring include dogs retching

Ode to spring!

The birds are chirping.

The weather’s fine.

Windows are open and

Clothes dance on the line.

The lawn is greening,

Lilies don’t droop.

Dogs are relishing

Fresh rabbit poop.

Ewww. And then comes retching

We always look forward to the end of winter. Spending pleasant time outside with the dogs. But the idea is usually better than the reality. We actually spend our time in the yard following our dogs around saying “drop that.” “Leave it.” “Eww.” “Don’t do that!” “Quiet – that’s our neighbor.”

And, with multiple dogs, we inevitably miss someone eating something they shouldn’t. And wake up in the middle of the night to the sound that makes dog owners shoot out of bed faster than any other – dogs retching.

Avoiding the pain

With luck, if we’ve heard it fast enough, we manage to move whichever dog’s retching to a surface that’s easy to clean. Or hold them dangling over the toilet. Or at least off the bed so we don’t have to change the sheets in the middle of the night.

A friend of ours calls her dog’s habit “eating salad.” Her girl finds whatever over-grown patch of vegetation there is and starts chowing down. We’ve always called it “being a cow” because our dogs like grass. The lawn kind – not anything almost-not-illegal any more.

Simon’s different

This is Simon’s very first Spring – he’s now nine months old. And he has a taste for dandelions! We’re actually pretty happy about that. Dandelions are sort-of a superfood. Since we don’t use any chemicals on the lawn, Simon’s become our source of dandelion control. He shares an occasional dandelion flower with our bearded dragon, but other than that, he pretty much has them all to himself.

And, so far, so good. Simon’s stomach seems to tolerate the greens. We do make sure he doesn’t do too much “grazing.” It’s not quite the same story for our other dogs.

Rabbit poop

You would think that “survival of the fittest” would dictate that, by now, rabbits would know better than to set up housekeeping in our yard. It’s certainly shouldn’t be any secret to the local wildlife that dogs own our yard. But, if bunnies were bright, they could have a lower rate of reproduction.

rabbit poop causes dog retching

Unfortunately, dogs seem to think rabbit poop is caviar for canines. They can sniff it out at any distance. Teddy was the world-champion, but the resident dogs are no slouches.

We’ve been assured by veterinarians that, while disgusting, eating rabbit poop doesn’t seem to have any long-term ill effects on the dog. It can result in “non-pathogenic yeast” showing up in their system, but other than that, not really a problem. Until they eat too much of it.

Disturbance in the night

When we get that post-midnight wake-up call of retching dogs, and we’re too late, we do know an almost-magical formula for getting stains out of carpet – thanks to our dear friends at Good Housekeeping. Mix a tablespoon of Dawn Dish Soap and a tablespoon of white vinegar into two cups of warm water. Scrub like crazy and repeat daily until the stain disappears.

This time, it took us three days – but it worked!