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!

Painless fitness for your pup

If, for some reason, you had no idea what time of year it was, had no access to a calendar, and didn’t know it was January, all you’d have to do is turn on the television and you’d know. As soon as the commercials started.

Flood of fitness ads

We’re inundated with ads for fitness programs, gyms, diets, exercise programs, exercise equipment, yoga programs, and everything else that could we could possibly spend on to help us keep our resolutions. One of the statistics we saw said that 85% of New Year’s resolutions had something to do with fitness, losing weight, and/or getting in shape.

It’s a noble ambition. We do it ourselves and we wish everyone else good fortune with their resolutions. And we’re here to remind you not to forget your dogs in the fitness commitment.

Dogs’ fitness can slide, too

Just this week one of Hope’s students in her competition obedience class asked for some help in getting her dog slimmed down.

This nice lady is a convert to positive reinforcement training and she’s seen her dog, while improving his obedience skills, gain about a pound every month since she began training. Her boy Rizzo, a Nederlandse Kooikerhondje (read more about the breed here) is a small sized dog. Rizzo (named for the Chicago Cubs 1st baseman!) has lost his waist!

Not alone

We have a feeling that Rizzo isn’t alone in his weight gain. We read that about half of all American dogs are overweight. So it’s time to share what we know about keeping your dogs in shape, painlessly. We’ve found that hungry dogs, like hungry people, aren’t very happy souls. So we want everybody satisfied and feeling full, while still accomplishing our fitness goals.

We’re guilty, too

Because we want to minimize possible injury for our dogs, especially since we enjoy dog sports like obedience, rally, and agility, we try to be aware of our dogs’ weight and fitness. Hope let Torque’s physique get out of control last year, but pulled him back into fitness with these tips.

If you, like Rizzo’s mom, are using lots of treats for training, good for you! Instead of those training goodies being “in addition” to your dog’s regular meals – make your dog’s meals part of training.

Use what you’ve got

It’s simple if your dog eats kibble regularly. After you fill the bowl with the normal amount of food, grab a handful back and stash it in a separate container for that day’s training session. If you think your dog will notice and miss the volume, replace it with frozen string beans. We don’t know why dogs love frozen string beans, but we’ve never met one that doesn’t. You can use other vegetables, but be careful of carrots and/or fruits that contain a lot of sugar. We’re minimizing additional calories, not adding to the problem.

If your dog eats moist food, it’s a bit more challenging to use as training treats. You can certainly give less and add the string beans, but using the food as training rewards if more difficult. One solution is to teach your dog to eat from a spoon. Another is to find refillable squeeze tubes, often available from camping supply places, and fill them with your dog’s moist food. They work just like toothpaste tubes, as long as you make sure they’re tightly closed. We can’t even describe the mess the first time we used one and didn’t close it right.

Getting real

We’re not going to advocate some kind of exercise program where you have to get out there and walk your dog for miles, or even 15 minutes. Mostly because it’s cold, wet, windy, and miserable out today and the last thing we want to do is spend any time in the great outdoors. And our dogs would, frankly, refuse. Even the most obedient dog will dig in its heels when Mom’s acting crazy!

What we will suggest is a few minutes of active play and/or training a couple of times a day. It’s good for everyone, combats cabin fever, and can use up a few extra calories. We do use reward-based training, so we’re careful to use tiny pieces of treats. It’s one of the reasons we like the freeze-dried Chicken Heart Treats. They break up into non-messy, tiny bits that are big on flavor, so dogs love them.

Mix it up

We like to use a “trail mix” of treats for dog snacks, with containers in just about every room. We use some kibble, some Chicken Heart Treats, and some Cheerios, mixed all together. The dog never knows what tasty tidbit she’s getting, so the excitement level is always high. And the higher-calorie treats are offset by the lower ones, just as the not-so-favorite treats are balanced by the high-value ones.

Even if you aren’t going to be training, we suggest you keep a container of your own doggy trail mix on hand. We’re always giving our dogs treats for one thing or another – sometimes just because we can’t resist those puppy-dog eyes. If there’s a healthy snack already prepared, we’re less inclined to share our potato chips with our pups.

Dogs create instant bond

This week Hope met some friends from college for dinner. We share the bond of memories, history, and common experience. One friend is a bff who was in town for a few days , another a friend, the third a friendly acquaintance. College was a long time ago, so there’s a lot of history and a lot of changes.

Bonding over history

Despite the fact we haven’t seen each other in nine years (!), the bond was instantly back and conversation was easy, interesting, involved a lot of laughing, a little reminiscing, and no politics whatsoever. One of us is not on the same end of that spectrum as the others. Since we’re all grown up, we chose to cherish friendship over whatever disagreements we may have.

We wound up closing the place down – talking for hours. Since all we drank was water, it was a fun evening fueled by personality alone.

And dogs

Looking at the evening from a next-day perspective, one really interesting factor stands out. Three of us were dog people. The fourth, Hope’s college bff, has never had a dog, isn’t interested in dogs, and “wouldn’t let an animal dictate my schedule.”

She very politely tolerated the rest of us – because half the evening was spent talking dogs.

The commonality creates an instant connection. The woman Hope barely knew in college is the one she wound up sharing pictures, videos, and swapping dog stories with. The fourth woman, whose last dog passed away about four years ago, was telling dog stories with us – recalling with much love and many laughs our dogs’ individual personalities, quirks, brilliance, and naughtiness.

Understanding the connection

All three of the others are teachers. We didn’t talk about school much. We talked about dogs. That instant bond of shared experience clicked in. We’ve talked before about how dogs create community. This is just another example.

Hope is the only one who does “stuff” with her dog. And the others weren’t really interested in that stuff. Their dogs, past, and current, are integral parts of their lives and the source of great joy, amusement, companionship, and, ultimately, sorrow.

Dog people get it

Of course Hope asked the woman who lost her dog a while back asked if/when she was planning another. Her response was telling – yes, after she retires in a few years. Because, at this point, “it wouldn’t be fair to the dog.”

We understand completely. She works long hours, travels to conferences often, and makes trips to the west coast to see one of her children.

She is planning the next dog, though. A smaller one (her Killian was a black Lab mix) that she could travel with. One that wouldn’t shed quite as much – she’d prefer not to deal with the fur.

She never said she didn’t want to be “tied down.” Or that dogs are inconvenient.

Home is where are dogs are

Brussels Griffon Tango

The evening came to an end when the woman Hope barely knew before and had the longest drive home, looked at the time and announced she had to get home to Eli, her Sheltie. That’s when Hope’s friend said she’d never allow her comings and goings to be dictated by an animal’s needs.

The three of us looked at her like she was nuts and, in unison, said “They’re so worth it.”

Get the scoop on dog poop

You know you’re at a dog club party when the conversation turns to dog poop. And everyone has something to say about it.


Dog poop. We all deal with it on a daily basis, so we may as well talk about it. Especially since, more than likely, at some point in the next couple of weeks the dog will eat something he shouldn’t and there will be either massive quantities of it, or none at all.

No matter how careful you are, if you have company, someone won’t be able to resist those puppy-dog eyes and share a tidbit. Or many someones, considering how cute your dog is. The best strategy is to be prepared for whatever indiscretion may occur.

Everybody does it

Regardless of what you feed your dog, and we understand that friendships are won and lost over the topic of dog food, at some point your dog is going to get some kind of tummy upset and you’ll be left with the consequences. Speaking of which – for the inevitable “stepped in it” situation, we keep an old vegetable brush outside near our back door just to deal with “poop vs. shoe” consequences. It works like a charm, even on athletic shoes. Next time you’re in the local dollar store, pick up a couple extra. You won’t be sorry.

Primer on poop

poop emoji

We’ve learned there are 4 “C” of poop – Consistency, Color, Contents, and Coating (thank you PetMD). There are variations on normal, depending on the individual dog and what he/she may be eating. If you know that a certain combination of these “C’s” is normal for your dog, there’s probably no reason to be concerned if your dog’s poop lies outside the “ideals” for each trait.


None of us goes around feeling our dog’s poop on purpose. But as responsible citizens, we all know what it feels like through the barrier of a plastic bag. Ideally, dog poop should “give” when pressed, much like Play Doh. Experts say it shouldn’t be hard and chalky (although some of my friends who feed the BARF diet would disagree), nor should it be formless and puddle-like. An occasional puddle or two indicates a dietary “oopsy” and if it persists, requires a visit to the vet.


When we first heard the “Tootsie Roll” analogy, we couldn’t eat a former favorite candy for months.“Good” poop is brown. Other colors may indicate something going on in the dog’s system. Black can be a sign of bleeding, as can red, depending on where the irritation is in the dog’s system. Other indicators of something amiss can be gray or yellow. We’ve been known to panic when there’s pink in the pooper-scooper, until we remember our dogs ate something with beets the previous day. The AKC has published a “Color Wheel of Poop” you can check.


If you see something you can identify – it’s not a good thing. Unless it’s corn. Corn never changes.

But seriously, we’ve all dissected an occasional poop when something in the house is missing – whether it be a child’s toy, a sock, a piece of jewelry or coins. If you see something that looks like rice – that could be worms and requires professional attention.


If there’s something around your dog’s poop, it’s probably mucus and can mean a couple of things. Your dog could have a cold and be a mucus machine, just like us. Or it could be another indicator of a tummy upset. If you see streaks of blood, or your dog is straining to poop, it could mean he’s constipated. Again, if it persists more than a poop or two – go see your veterinarian.

Be prepared

We can cope with occasional poop problems with items from our pantry. We know our veterinarian always recommends not feeding for a day if your dog has loose poop. We’ve never been able to do that. Those puppy-dog eyes get us every time. So our staples include:

  • Canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling). Just a spoonful or two with a small portion of regular food has tightened things up promptly.
  • Saltine crackers. We actually don’t know why it works, but it can. We think it dates back to when we were kids and had tummy upsets – it’s what our mother gave us.
  • Pepto Bismol. Ask your vet before administering. And be aware that it will turn your pup’s poop black.
  • Rice. An oldie but a goodie for that “bland diet” veterinarians talk about. Make it with chicken or beef broth instead of water to make it more palatable for your dog.

Nothing but the poop

Keep in mind that any problems that persist more than a day or two merit a professional consultation. If your dog is in distress – don’t wait at all.

This time of year, it may be just a case of your dog convincing your guests that cheese and crackers are a regular puppy snack. Be kind – you can’t resist that face, either.

2018 ends in pain

2018 wasn’t the best year on record – better than some. Worse than others. Until this week.

Anyone who uses Facebook has seen friends “sharing” their Facebook-generated “Your 2018” videos. Our “feeds” are full of them. We were kind of looking forward to our own popping up, until this week. This week 2018 went from a bit challenging to agonizing.

Teddy is gone

Hope’s 8-year-old French Bulldog, Teddy, died on Sunday. We were relaxing and watching television that evening. Teddy, as usual, was cuddled up next to Hope. He woke from his nap, panting and in distress. She ran with him to the emergency vet and learned that an unknown abdominal mass had ruptured and he was gravely ill. We couldn’t let him suffer and chose euthanasia.

A friend of ours told us: “Euthanasia is the last, best gift we give our pets. We take their pain and make it our own.” Teddy is free of pain. Ours is a throbbing behemoth.

Nothing stays the same

As everyone who’s lost a beloved pet knows – everything changes. Even with other animals in the house, everything’s different. And when you have multiple dogs, the dynamics of the family change.

As I (Hope) write this, we’re less than 48 hours without Teddy. Tango is sleeping more. Booker isn’t sure what to do with himself. Torque is unwilling to play. They’re not actively looking, but they know Teddy is missing.

Simon is barely four months old – a happy, clueless puppy. Thank goodness he’s here – we need to smile.

Feeling cheated

Beyond sad and unsettled, we also feel cheated, in an odd way. We’ve mentioned before that Teddy was diagnosed with Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) early in the summer. It’s a fatal disease the takes away a dog’s ability to move, progressing from back to front. It’s caused by the same gene mutation responsible for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease).

Battle plan

Hope had a plan in place to battle back against DM:

Rear lift assist harness
  • Special diet
  • Supplements
  • Physical therapy exercises to replace nerve loss with muscle memory
  • Massage
  • Cold laser
  • Training games to keep him engaged, thinking, and happy
  • Rear lift harness (pictured) purchased & ready when needed
  • Pet stroller so Teddy would never be left behind

The best-laid plans

Now all of it’s useless. Teddy saw his vets last Friday for routine stuff, including a check-in to evaluate the progression of his disease. They were thrilled with how he was doing – still walking. Still happy. They even got Teddy kisses. Six months after DM diagnosis, most dogs are “down” in the back. Teddy was still mobile. They tell us they fully expected him to have at least a year, very possibly more, before the DM took over.

So we were winning the daily battle against DM. And now?

No enemy to fight

This will sound like a non-sequitur, but stay with us for a minute: Is anybody out there a fan of the Monkees? Or even remember them? We were huge fans when we were kids.

Remember the song “Zor and Zam?”

The last line keeps playing in my mind: “They gave a war, and nobody came. And nobody came.”

How to get your dog to love Pawz boots

It’s December. If it snows where you are – your dog needs Pawz boots.

In our decade-plus of experience, Pawz are the only dog boots that stay on, dogs don’t mind wearing, and don’t make you crazy if your dog loses one.

We can hear the resistance:

  • My dog won’t wear boots
  • I can’t get them on
  • They look like balloons
  • Pawz aren’t warm
  • The boots don’t fit

If that sounds like you – you’re doing it wrong. Perfectly understandable – because no one ever told you how to do it right.

We’re here to help

Using Pawz is a bit of a process, but it’s one you only have to do once. We’ll take you through step-by-step so we get it right the first time and you and your dog can live happily ever after.

What are Pawz?Fluffy in Pawz boots

Pawz are semi-disposable, natural rubber dog boots that come in packages of 12. They can be re-used as long as they stay intact. Keeping them clean (rinsing after use) and keeping the dog’s nails short, extends the life of the boot. On city sidewalks, a single boot may be good for 10 or so outings, depending on the surface and the dog.

Warmth isn’t really an issue for dogs. As long as their feet are dry, with no snowballs between their toes, no melting ice on their nails, most dogs don’t care. If you’re still uncomfortable, you can get socks to put on underneath the Pawz. For the smallest dogs, you may have to go to the toy department and get doll socks, otherwise baby or toddler socks would be fine.

First: Fitting Pawz right

Most dog owners haven’t noticed that their dogs’ front feet are wider than the hind feet. Or they may have noticed, but the implication didn’t sink in. Your dog may need two different sizes of Pawz. Which is another reason these are the best boots – you don’t have to spend a fortune for two different sizes.

The best way to get a proper fit is to bring your dog into Golly Gear and let us do it.

Unfortunately, that’s probably not possible for most of you.

measuring for Pawz The second best way is to get: a piece of paper, a pencil, some kind of measure, a couple of dog treats, and your dog. Go into a room with a hard floor (wood, tile, laminate). Have your dog stand on the paper and mark each side of the dog’s paw. You don’t need to trace the paw, you don’t need the front or back – just the sides. Do it for a front paw and a back paw. Give your dog a cookie and let him/her go play.

Measure twice

Measure the distance between your marks and compare it to the “Paw Width” column on the Pawz page on our website here. If both your dog’s paws fall into the same size – terrific! If not, plan on getting two different sizes for your dog. Probably the larger size for the front, especially if your dog has dew claws. The smaller size will generally be for the back paws.

Getting your dog to love his/her Pawz

Most dog boots don’t bend. And the smallest sizes bend even less. It’s one of the reasons most dogs hate boots. And why they resist wearing them and can fling them off.

Another reason they hate boots is because they can’t feel the ground under their feet. Most people don’t care about feeling the ground, but dogs do. It’s what they’re used to and they rely on it to connect to the world around them. When they see they’re outside, they don’t expect a smooth surface under their feet. It creates a disconnect that can result in an unhappy dog.

Get used to it

When you first get Pawz for your dog it will be very new for both of you. You have to figure out how to get them on the dog. And the dog has to figure out how to navigate wearing them. We’re going to make it easy. Watch the video on our Pawz page on how to get them on. It’s easier to show than describe.

Do it one at a time

The dog’s hind paws are less flexible than the front, so they’re easier to maneuver the Pawz onto. The very first time you’re trying Pawz, or, if your dog has resisted in the past and you’re trying to re-introduce them, here’s what you do: put one Pawz on a rear dog paw. Do it in the house, with your dog on leash. Put on the boot, then just walk around the house, talking calmly to your dog. Let him get used to the boot for a few minutes. If he/she is adjusting fine, put another boot on the opposite front foot. And again, just walk around, letting him/her get used to it.

Generally speaking, introduced this way, most dogs adjust easily to wearing Pawz in just a few minutes. If your dog is extremely resistant, leave one boot on for 10 minutes or so, then take it off and try again later.

Don’t make a fuss

Please resist the temptation to laugh at your dog while he/she gets used to Pawz. Some dogs are pretty sensitive and don’t like being laughed at, regardless of how funny they look. Dogs trying to walk without putting their feet on the floor is pretty funny, but be strong! You can do it!

You can also get your dog used to wearing Pawz. Get the right fit, take your time, go at your dog’s pace. It’ll be worth it. Your dog will walk comfortably outside through snow, ice, and salt. And stay out long enough to finish his/her business!


Blizzard adventure! Freezing – yes! Fun – not so much

We had a blizzard adventure this week!

Golly Gear is just north of Chicago, which was hit by a blizzard Sunday night/Monday morning. We also live in Skokie, the suburb where the shop is located.

The sound of silence

At 4 o’clock Monday morning, our entire household (two sisters, five dogs, one lizard) woke to the sound of nothing. In our connected world, I don’t think we even realize how much noise, how many sounds, are an intrinsic part of our daily lives. When it all turns off – it’s deafening.

A power outage isn’t the end of the world. We know that. But it’s damned inconvenient, especially when you have a desert lizard and a four-month-old puppy. And the forecast says nothing but below freezing for days.

If it was just us sisters – we’d pack a couple of bags by flashlight and check into a local hotel (with power) for a day. Not so simple with the dogs.

It’s complicated

We make our own dog food. Some eat raw, others cooked. We also keep their systems accustomed to a quality kibble for “just in case” episodes. This was one of those cases. You open the fridge and freezer as little as possible during an outage. So the dogs thought they were having a rare treat – a whole meal of kibble!

We actually didn’t start getting concerned until it was time to go to the shop and the power was still out. Our local power company has, historically, been pretty good about restoring service promptly. Six hours in, the “outage map” told us crews were “being assigned.” The cause of the outage was “severe weather” and restoration estimate was “damage being assessed.”

No way out

Another consequence we sort of forgot about was only having one available car. The other? Securely locked in the unattached garage behind the electric garage door. Oops.blizzard scene

So Fran, having parked on the street, went to see how the shop fared. Fortunately, power was on there, internet was on. We may not have had a good place to live, but we were still in business. Unfortunately, the shop isn’t large enough or set up so we could bring our dogs, not to mention transporting the bearded dragon.

Creativity is key

Meanwhile, Hope was getting creative at home. The temperature was dropping about a degree an hour in the house. She huddled on the couch with five dogs. But when the temperature was down to 61 degrees and there was still no update from the power company, she worried about the dragon. Good husbandry says they shouldn’t get below 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

The only non-electric heat source was the outdoor barbecue grill – under six inches of snow. Hope knocked off the snow and ice, dragged off the frozen cover, and put a pot of water on the grill to heat. She found a couple of hot water bottles. Diogenes (the lizard) got one. Hope and the dogs shared the other.

There’s no people like dog people

Meanwhile – we came to appreciate that we have the most wonderful friends in the world. Hope used a bit of cell phone power to post an update and, within moments, had four friends offer shelter to the whole crew – including the lizard. We’ve said it before and we’ll repeat it until everybody believes – dog people are the best in the world!

But it’s daunting to consider packing up a household of eight souls – even for a night. With still no power company update, we looked for alternatives. And found an indoor-safe, propane heater available at a store just a short drive away.

Blizzard action plan!

Fran loaded up the day’s orders from the shop, dashed off to the store (and the post office) and saved the day!

When Fran & the heater got home, the temperature was 58 degrees and still falling. We got the heater going and Hope went back into the puppy huddle while Fran got back to business. (Taking Hope’s cell phone and charger.)

At 2:30 p.m., with no advance update, the power came on!

Just when Hope and the dogs were starting to feel cozy with the heater, of course. But that’s just fine with us. If/when a blizzard happens again, we’ll be better prepared. Even better when we get an oil lamp, for just-in-case days, like Monday.

Reverse sneezing – sounds scarier than it is

Reverse sneezing is terrifying the first time you see it.

You think your dog is having some kind of horrible asthmatic, choking, wheezing seizure. You think a trip to the emergency vet is in your immediate future, and that your dog’s life is threatened.

No such thing.

Don’t worry. Be happy!

Reverse sneezing is common, especially in short-faced dogs. And especially in small dogs. The medical terms for it are “inspiratory paroxysmal respiration,” “mechanosensitive aspiration reflex,” and “pharyngeal gag reflex.” Basically, it means that instead of blowing out when the dog sneezes, he (or she) sucks air in.

Having had small, short-faced dogs all of our lives, we’re used to it. Back in the day, when we first asked our veterinarian about it, we learned it was pretty common and nothing to worry about. It’s usually no more serious than a regular sneeze.

But the dog may pass out

The most striking thing he told us was that the worst that could happen was our dog would pass out from lack of air. When he was unconscious we could open his mouth and free up his airway. No harm done.

Fortunately, none of our dogs has ever gotten to the point of fainting from a reverse sneeze. Some dogs (including one of ours) panic when it happens, which does prolong the episode and requires intervention to break the cycle.

Roc always looked shocked when Hope sneezed!

On a side note – and just because it’s kind of funny – Hope’s Brussels Griffon boy Roc would freak out when Hope sneezed. Or coughed. Basically, he got this outraged look on his face when his mom’s face made any noise other than talking. She managed to capture “the look” one time. Thought you’d get a kick out of it.



How do you know your dog is reverse sneezing?

Most dogs signal a reverse sneeze about to happen by coming to a standstill, elbows out, head either extended down or thrown back. At this point, it could be either vomit or reverse sneezing about to happen. Then they let out a “snorking” sound that lets you know it’s a reverse sneeze.

Dogs that panic when they reverse sneeze will worsen the situation in their distress. They try to gasp for air while their soft palate is extended. When they can’t breathe, they get more distressed, which circles back again.

Make it stop!

We have lots of ways of trying to stop the panic and get them calm and breathing normally again. The first is just to offer them a treat. Most of our dogs are highly food motivated. You can almost see the dialogue bubble over their heads: Should I stop and get a cookie? Or do I need to continue choking over here?

Another technique to try is to block their nostrils, pinch the nose gently, so that they have to open their mouths to get air. You can also gently massage the dog’s throat while you do. Remember to speak calmly and soothingly – let your dog know it’s nothing to be scared of. These work a good portion of the time, too. For a mild episode, it’s enough.

When things are a bit worse, we step up to the next level. We ask for a kiss. All of our dogs are huge kissers and will generally stop whatever they’re doing if they see an available face to slobber on. Again, it just breaks the panic cycle and lets their mouth and tongue get back in a more normal configuration.

These distraction techniques have worked most of the time to get our dogs out of panic mode and back to normal.

If that doesn’t work

On the rare occasions they failed, with some dogs we would actually stick our thumbs in their mouths to push up the soft palate and allow air to get in their windpipe. With one other, we couldn’t – her “bite inhibition” wasn’t good, and we weren’t willing to risk it. We were willing to let her pass out to get her breathing back to normal.

Since we knew what was happening and what the “worst case scenario” would be – it wasn’t worth being bitten. That’s a judgement call that every dog owner has to decide for herself.

Pay attention and prevent

What can you do to prevent reverse sneezing?

Paying attention is the first step. According to Veterinarian Karen Becker, the most common causes are: “excitement, exercise intolerance, a collar that’s too tight, pulling on the leash, an environmental irritant like pollen, perfume, or even a household chemical or cleaner, room sprays, or even a sudden change in temperature.” If you notice it happening under similar circumstances on multiple occasions, chances are you’ve discovered the trigger and can take steps to avoid or prevent the episode.

As frightening as reverse sneezing can look and sound, it’s not a big deal. If your dog does it chronically, it’s probably worth mentioning it to your vet. Remember to be calm for your dog and yourself – you’re not worried when your dog sneezes. Reverse sneezing isn’t any more serious.

Sick dogs – the downside to having a pack

We always say that two dogs is better than one. There are lots of advantages (dogs learn from each other, keep each other company, play together, etc.). The only downside is when a virus rampages there’s a houseful of sick dogs. They drop like dominoes, one by one.

Cue the spew

It happened to us last November. Torque was the first to fall prey to whatever plague it was that turned our house into a spew festival. Unsavory, unmentionable, unattractive, and unaromatic secretions were coming out of every opening. And he was just the first sick dog.

Torque was a sick dogThey fell, one by one, prey to the vicious little bug that crept in. Next it was Tango, then Booker. We were hoping, when Teddy seemed healthy after a week, that the onslaught was over. No such luck. He resisted like a trooper, but succumbed in the end.

Why are we revisiting this unpleasantness? Because we were afraid (and are still somewhat worried) that it was about to start again. Last Friday was the last time Torque kept a meal down. Sometimes we’d see it again almost instantaneously. Other times, hours would pass.

Sick dogs – time to visit the vet

By Monday, we figured it was time to see the veterinarian. After a couple of days, dogs, like people, can get dehydrated, so we wanted to make sure that wasn’t happening. It wasn’t an urgent situation (Blue Pearl lists the symptoms that would require an emergency vet visit.) But in our case, it obviously wasn’t going to resolve on its own.

Worrywart that she is, Hope started imagining all of the horrible things that it could be: obstruction, ulcer, or (heaven forfend) a repeat appearance of the spew virus that ruined last November. That would be particularly alarming with a new puppy in the house. (Have you seen Fran’s Simon on social media? He’s a little joy!)

Our vet is an old-fashioned, calm, go slow, don’t-panic kind of person. She’s definitely a hands-on-the-dog vet, and since she’s know all of ours since they were pups, she knows when they’re not normal and we have sick dogs.

Inquiring minds want to know

So – while she’s examining all of Torque’s bits, Hope’s getting the inquisition:

When did it start?

Did you see him eat anything unusual?

Is anything missing? (This one was specifically directed – about 15 or more years ago, our Razzmatazz (Brussels Griffon)  ate one of Hope’s shoe insoles. She never missed it.)

Has there been a change in his food?

Is the schedule different?

Is it a new batch of food?

When does he throw up – right after he eats, or later?

What does it look like? Do you recognize bits of food?

Does it smell like food or sour?

Is he acting normally?




Any coughing or sneezing? (Running out of Snow White’s dwarfs now.)

When did he poop last? Was it normal?

Has he tried to poop and nothing happened?

Is he drinking water? More or less than usual?

And every single question gives the vet a little more information about my sick dog.

Take note of changes

We’re hopeful that it was just a rather severe tummy upset. From her exam and our answers, the vet didn’t think it was an obstruction. Torque’s treatment is a bland diet for a few days, and a couple of medications to get him back on track. After two days (knocking madly on wood), he seems better. And there are no other sick dogs in the house (knocking more!).

You might ask why we’re trampling over your delicate sensibilities to go over all this. Because all those questions are things that every dog owner should pay attention to. When your dog is out of sorts, or sick, we need to notice differences. That information could help our sick dogs get well.