How many dogs is the right number?

What’s the perfect number of dogs?

Torque, Booker, Tango and Teddy

For us, it’s four. Same number as hands available to hold leashes. Two per person – one to cuddle on each side. Staggered in age so puppies have a chance to be puppies. Oldsters can avoid the chaos and mayhem if they choose. And, theoretically, our hearts won’t be broken too close together. It didn’t go quite as planned in the past, so we have two dogs at eight years old, one is five, and one is three.

If you have a dog and you’re thinking of getting another – fantastic! It’s much easier to teach a second dog (or puppy) the “rules of the road” if there’s another dog to show him the ropes. Housebreaking is much easier with an older dog around. Adult dogs are usually fairly tolerant of puppies. They may not be best friends right away, but they’ll probably be okay. When Hope got Teddy, Dax (her adult female Frenchie) wanted absolutely no part of him. Puppy Teddy would grab Dax’s face and hang on, as she stared off into the distance. Her obvious philosophy was that if she ignored him, he would go away. Teddy was persistent and eventually won her over – they were playing together within six months. However, that being said, your adult dog should be able to get away from the puppy when it wants to – everyone needs a break!

Generally speaking, experts advise if you have a dog to get one of the opposite sex. Two dogs or two bitches are thought to be more likely to fight. It depends on the circumstances, the dogs, the personalities involved.

If you decide to get an adult or rescue dog rather than a puppy, be prepared to keep some separation between them until they can get used to each other and establish their own relationship. Especially with a rescue, you don’t know what the dog’s triggers or “buttons” may be – you probably know little of its history. All interactions should be supervised.

We meet a lot of people when they first adopt their new dogs from a shelter or rescue. The vast majority tell us how wonderful, well-behaved, and quiet the new dog is. We help them get established with the gear they need for the new acquisition and congratulate them on their new family member. A few months later, after the dog is comfortable in its new home, he or she will abandon “company manners” and show his/her true personality.

The real dog that emerges will probably be more fun, happier, more loving, and more trouble than the polite little “guest” you adopted. He/she will also be more challenging than you imagined. When the dog figures out it’s really not going anywhere else, it may challenge the resident dog’s place in the family. This may be the time to find a trainer to work with your family.

We know lots of people with multiple dogs. And we know lots of people with only one. Only you know the “right” number of dogs for your family. For ours: one is not enough. Two is good. Three is better. Four is ideal. Five is crazy. Trust us, we’ve tried it!

Results will amaze you! But wait, there’s more!

Sounds like a bad infomercial, doesn’t it? We had to have a little fun with the headline – it’s so unusual for us to get so excited about a product.

We try to find the absolute best, safest, highest-quality products to carry in the shop.
We don’t carry anything we wouldn’t use for our own pups. This means finding out where every treat is made, how it’s made, where it’s sourced.

It means finding products without toxins, additives, or chemicals that can cause short- or long-term effects for the dogs.

Once in a very great while, we get a surprise. This time – it was a terrific one!
A couple of months ago we started carrying Animal Scents Shampoo. It has none of the chemicals, dyes, or perfumes that could harm dogs. And we brought a bottle home to use for our own dogs.

We don’t often bathe our dogs – but we do wash their faces. Depending on what they’ve gotten into in the backyard, it can be much more often. Tango, Fran’s Brussels Griffon, is rough-coated, with a full beard and mustache. Torque and Teddy, Hope’s French Bulldogs, have skin folds on their faces that must be kept clean. Booker is the tidiest-built of the bunch, but the most adventurous checking out “nasties” he finds. They all get their faces washed frequently.

At first, we noticed the smell of the Animal Scents shampoo. It’s pleasant, but not powerful. The shampoo doesn’t foam up the way we’re used to – there is foam, but not a lot. And it’s highly concentrated, so a little goes a long way. Fortunately, it also rinses out easily.
None of the dogs seemed to mind it, so the experiment was off to a good start.

Then we started noticing some effects of the new regimen.

The redness between Torque’s toes started to disappear and his fur started growing back!
Then, just this week, we noticed that Booker’s tear stains had vanished.

Tango's beard changes color

Tango’s beard and mustache hair are now growing in white, instead of rusty. You can see when we started using the new shampoo

And we took another look at Tango and realized that the “rust” in his beard and mustache was growing out. I’ve included a picture of Tango from this week. We weren’t expecting the result, so we didn’t take a “before” to go with this “midstream” photo. Can you see the line where we started using the new shampoo? We’ll follow up with an “after” picture in a few weeks when the rust is gone.

We haven’t done anything else differently in our care routine, his food’s the same. The only thing we can attribute this to is the new shampoo – which we not only sell happily, but endorse heartily!

Some may think we’re way too excited about such a small thing.

But when the most popular tear stain treatment contains antibiotics, making it a product we wouldn’t use or sell, our only option was to ignore our dogs’ tear stains. Which was hard for me (Hope). Teddy is the first light-colored dog in the family, and I pretty much hated seeing the staining. The others only had visible staining when they got older and started turning gray. Teddy’s stains are minimal, Tango’s are growing out, and Booker has none! We have a winner!

Don’t shoot that dog! Think before you vaccinate

A very nice woman came into the shop the other day and we had a lovely time talking dogs. She has two – a young, little energetic fellow and a 15-year-old Dachshund named Sammy. Her objective that day was to find a harness for her young dog, so we were having a good time discussing his personality, habits, training, etc.
Boston Terrier Frankie in his ComfortFlex Sport HarnessIt turned out that Linda was the “aunt” of a Boston Terrier we’d known since the day his family brought him home – Frankie was a wonderful model for us. So, as dog people do, we started talking about all the things that go along with having dogs.
The world is a very small place – Linda’s veterinarian was the same one we’d been referred to when Golly was a puppy and had a congenital heart defect. Dr. Johnson recently retired and sold his practice. Linda hasn’t been very happy with the new veterinarians.
She told me that she and Dr. Johnson had reached consensus with her little old Sammy – they would treat whatever symptoms he had with medications. Sammy is okay for a 15-year-old Dachshund – he eats, he sleeps, he cuddles and he’s happy. He has some senior dog health issues, and they think he may have a liver problem, but they’re not going to harass him with tests and biopsies. As long as he’s happy.
The new vets apparently want to take blood tests every quarter. They want to see Sammy for regular exams. And Linda’s really not interested in that. She says Sammy doesn’t need the stress of going to the vet, or being stuck with needles.
And then Linda said, “I’ll just take him for his rabies shot.”
I asked “Why?”
At this point, why would you vaccinate Sammy? What chance is there that Sammy will be bitten by a wild animal? Or that he’ll bite someone else? And after 15 years of religiously getting the vaccination, odds are strongly in favor of Sammy having long-lasting protection from rabies.
We’re not anti-vaccine. Our dogs are up-to-date on vaccines to participate in our dog classes and sports. But we don’t vaccinate automatically – we try to put some thought into it!
When we get a new puppy, we separate out the “regular” vaccines as much as possible. If a dog does have a reaction, we know what caused it. It’s a bit inconvenient to go to the vet every couple of weeks, but we think it’s worth it.
As our dogs grow up, we still separate vaccines. We have small dogs. We don’t want to overwhelm their bodies. And we want to keep them safe.
Many of our friends subscribe to the minimal vaccination protocol developed by veterinarian Dr. Jean Dodds. Here’s a link if you want to take a look at it:
We want you to think and decide what’s best for your dog. As consumers, we’re entitled to ask questions and explore options. If any pet professional doesn’t listen to your concerns – it may be time to take your concerns elsewhere.

The cabin fever cure – for you and your dog

With a long bout of sub-zero wind chills, long walks just can’t happen. With the holidays, our regular training class and home schedule have been shot to heck. And we’re all starting to get on each other’s nerves. When our dogs want our attention, they seem to know exactly which button to push to annoy us the most.

We’re making a point of practicing what we preach. 10 minutes of training is as exhausting to dogs as twice as much ‘fetch”. Exercising their minds is tiring. Remember how exhausted you were after final exams? Same kind of thing!

Creativity is key – make a game out of your sessions. It’s really fascinating and fun to see the dogs try to figure out what we’re asking them to do. You don’t need any elaborate equipment, just some great treats, some common household items, and a plan.

Get your plan in place first. Figure out what object you want to use, and what you want your dog to do with it.

Example: you’d like your dog to put her toys back in the toy box

Equipment needed: yummy treats (and lots of them!), a box or bin, your dog’s regular toys, and, (if your dog is clicker-trained) your clicker. (If you haven’t clicker-trained your dog, now is a great time to start! Check out the Clicker Training Kit – everything you need.)

Setup: With the dog out of the room, put the toys in a pile on one side of the room. Put the box or bin a few feet away.

Note: if you have more than one dog, only play with one at a time. The other dog(s) can watch, if you have crates available for them, or from the other side of a gate. Play-training needs your attention – the timing of your reward lets your dog know how good she is!

Start playing!

Let your dog in the room. You stand by the box or bin. Chances are he’ll go check the pile of toys: Click (or say yes!) and treat! Important – reward the same behavior (sniffing the pile) only about three times. If you don’t “up the ante,” your dog will think that’s the “end” behavior you want, instead of trying for something more.

Next step: wait for her to pick up one of the toys. (If your dog is already choosing and holding a toy, move on.) Watch for any progress beyond sniffing, like mouthing a toy, and reward. (Don’t reward pawing at the toys – she needs to use her mouth to pick up the toy.) Again, the 3x rule applies. Mouthing is good, but we’re looking for something more.

Note: You’re teaching your dog to think and make good decisions – to work with you figuring out what you want. Resist the temptation to “help” – just be quiet and let your dog try different things. If she doesn’t hear the “click” – she knows she needs to try something else.

After your dog is holding the toy, the next step is carrying it. At this point, just call your dog’s name, while he’s holding the toy. Reward a look toward you, a step would be wonderful – but only if he’s still got the toy. If he drops the toy when you call – just wait for him to pick it up and Reward!

Play-training sessions should be, at most, about 10 minutes long. Once you start seeing your dog catch on, you’ll probably want to keep going. It’s better to leave it be until the next time. If your dog isn’t catching on, don’t get frustrated. Just note where you left off and try again later. You may have to back up a step, but that’s okay! Everybody and every dog learn at their own pace. If your pup hasn’t done anything like this before, give her a chance to learn.

You may find that at your next play-training session (you can try two or three a day, if you have time), your dog will be brilliant – knowing everything you thought wasn’t getting through. Or your fast-learner will have forgotten everything from last time. There are ups and downs in training. Don’t worry about it. Give the forgetter a quick refresher and move on.

The next step is to get your dog to cross to the bin and you. If you have to take it step by step – that’s fine. If you have to run away from your dog to get him/her to move toward the bin, that’s fine. As long as you’re clear in your rewards, your dog will figure out what you want.

Part of being clear is ignoring the “stuff” you don’t want and just waiting patiently for the “stuff” you do want. Don’t say “no” or “uh oh” or any of that. Your reward is telling the dog she’s on the right track. No reward = not right.

When you’re got your dog carrying the toy by the bin, you can “cheat” a bit and put a yummy treat in the bin so your dog will “trade” the toy for the treat. If your dog knows “drop it,” you can certainly use the command, or start teaching it with the “trade.”

Note: If you’re not in a good mood or if you’re getting frustrated, stop the session. Your dog is probably tuned in to your emotions. He’ll just get frustrated, too, and you won’t accomplish much. Put it aside until the next time, when you’re feeling it more.

Quick checklist:

  • Get your “plan” together in your mind – what are the steps toward your goal? What will you reward? Where did you leave off?
  • Gather the “stuff” you need for your session
  • Set up
  • Set a timer for 10 minutes
  • Get your dog
  • Get play-training!

The basis for all play-training is having fun – for both of you. There are tons of other benefits; a better-behaved dog, a more confident dog, a closer relationship with your dog, and a tired dog. And we all know – a tired dog is a good dog!

Protect your dog from the cold

We’re smart enough to “bundle up” in the cold weather – and we’re getting plenty of experience this year!
But our dogs depend on us to keep them safe in the cold. Getting them out to do their “business” is essential – but keeping our dogs safe is paramount.

A few keys to remember:

  • Sub-zero wind chill weather is not the time for long walks. Exercise your dog indoors with vigorous tug sessions, training games, and even “hide and seek.” Remember that 10 minutes of brain work is as tiring for your dog as a half an hour of fetch.
  • Keep to your regular schedule for “potty walks.” If you dog has a favorite spot to eliminate, consider carrying your dog directly to that place to minimize cold exposure on his/her paws.
  • Protect your dogs’ paws from snow, salt, and ice. If you live in an urban area where road salt is used, it can quickly damage your dog’s naked pads. We recommend using Pawz Dog Boots, but if you need something now – wrap a plastic bag around your dog’s foot and fasten with masking tape. Do NOT use rubber bands – they can cut off the dog’s circulation and do serious damage.
  • If your dog has a short or minimal fur, a coat is crucial, too. We prefer coats that cover the
    Teddy in his Chillybuddy Winter Jacket

    Teddy in his Chillybuddy Winter Jacket

    dog’s chest. If you do have a “horse-blanket” style of dog coat that just covers the back, sponge off any salt, slush, or snow from your dog’s underside when you get back indoors. The salt can burn your dog.

  • Dogs also benefit from the same layering we do. Put a sweater or t-shirt on under the coat on extra-cold days.
  • Your dog may use more calories during cold weather – it takes some effort just to stay warm. Feeding a little extra is a good idea if your dog is slim.
  • Your dog may need an extra layer inside, as well.

Some of our favorite products for protecting our dogs in extreme cold:

Pawz boots
Chillybuddy Winter Jacket
Stretch Fleece Jacket
Hoodie Sweat Shirt

There’s no people like dog people

I (Hope) just got back from a week celebrating dogs. French Bulldogs in particular – it was the French Bulldog Club of America 2017 National Specialty.

There was competition in conformation (the beauty pageants of the dog world), barn hunt (dogs sniffing out rodents), obedience, rally obedience, agility, and even lure coursing.

Hope and Torque

Hope and Torque in conformation.

Frenchies aren’t generally known for their athletic prowess or trainability, but our dogs strutted their stuff and we had a wonderful time.

My dogs and I competed in several events, and, measured in “wins,” weren’t particularly successful. We came home with a couple of ribbons – but those aren’t the reasons we went.

The “Nationals” are our yearly chance to catch up with friends from around the country, and the world. We share a common bond – loving all the quirky looks, personalities, foibles and bizarre sounds that make up French Bulldogs.

Some of those friends are long standing. Others are new. And some fall into a unique 2st century category – people I’ve “friended” online and never met until this week.

Virtual friends are now actual. And it’s the community that our dogs create that make dog clubs invaluable. We’ve already started planning more get-togethers, a couple days a year isn’t enough.

For that bubble of time, we’re just friends having fun with our dogs. The pressures of “real life” are a step removed. Truthfully, I don’t even know what some of my “Frenchie friends” do in real life. Or whether they’re married, or have children. I know nothing about their politics, religions, or professions. I do know we all like to share a laugh, a meal, and our love for our dogs.

If you could use a chance to relax and just have fun with your dog, look for a dog community near you. There are meetups around for every kind of dog; by size, breed, maybe even color. There are clubs for every possible dog event or interest.

You may find you and your dog discover hidden talents you never knew you had. You’ll definitely find friends among the best people ever – dog people.

I almost killed your dog today

The dog was right where that yellow Google Maps line sits.

I almost killed a dog today.

I was on my way to work, driving down a fairly quiet street in our neighborhood. And a Sheltie was standing in the middle of the street.

Where was the owner, you ask? She was actually being a very conscientious dog owner, busily engaged in picking up her other Sheltie’s deposit on the parkway.

Both dogs were on leash, leashes in her hand. Retractable leashes.

She probably thought her dogs were safe. One dog was by her side, helping with the clean up. The other had wandered into the middle of the street.

And this is just one reason we don’t carry retractable leashes in our shop and advocate against them.

When people come into the shop and ask for them, I’ve often referenced the story of dogs being hit by cars in the middle of the street while their owners were on the sidewalk. But, honestly, I secretly thought it was an urban myth. A horror story that could be true, but that had never really happened.

Until it almost happened to me today.

If I’d been going more than five mph, or not paying attention, that adorable dog would be dead. Instead, I braked in the middle of the street and waited for her to notice the danger her dog was in. I didn’t honk, didn’t get angry, just waited. I knew if it were me, realizing the peril I’d put my dog in, I’d be defensive and panicky. I didn’t want that to happen. When she finally looked up and saw my car sitting, then saw her dog 15 feet from my front bumper, she worked the leash frantically to reel her dog in.

You can say all’s well that ends well, and hope that she’ll be more aware of her dog’s location in the future, or even trash the leash. If the dog had been on a six foot leash, he wouldn’t have been in the middle of the street.

The only possible uses for retractable leashes:
1. In an open field where no other dogs can interfere with yours.
2. Training a dog for the recall (come).

And in both those instances, a length of clothesline or a long line would be even better. Retractable leashes put a constant pressure on the dog’s neck, so dogs don’t ever learn to walk nicely with a loose leash. Retractable leashes are also responsible for many finger and hand injuries – especially the ones that have a rope instead of a flat webbing length.

We know retractables are popular – that doesn’t make them a good idea.

French Bulldog Teddy learning "high five"

Dog Tip – Change your life in two minutes with PRT

I (Hope) was on the phone with a customer this morning and she said something that really surprised me. I don’t remember her exact words, but the gist was her dog couldn’t be trained. And she really believed it!

To back up a couple of steps, we were talking about choosing the best harness for her dog, a young Miniature Pinscher that’s a bit wild, fearful, and uncomfortable around other dogs.

We decided that the best harness would be the Wrap-N-Go – it’s the one we recommend for dogs who try to escape. In addition to other issues, her dog is also an extreme wiggler. Her only hesitation was that her dog is also afraid of the sound hook-and-loop closures (trade name Velcro) make. It’s not an uncommon problem, so I said “well, you can train her to get used to the velcro.”

I was completely taken aback by her “I can’t train her. It wouldn’t work. She’s untrainable.”

We know that no healthy dog is untrainable. And we need a new word for “train.”

Whenever we think about it – the word “training” has some unfortunate baggage attached. When I think about training, I equate it with exercise and working out. Which I loathe.

So do people think of “dog training” the same way? Unpleasant, frustrating, hard work that accomplishes nothing quickly?

If that’s the case – we absolutely, positively, definitely need a new word to use instead of training.

Especially since, when I explained what I meant by “training her dog” to get used to Velcro, she turned right around and said, “Oh, I can do that! That’s easy!”

Dog training is easy. And fun. And doesn’t take long – just a couple minutes at a time. How long results take depend on the dog and how consistent you are – but if it’s not pretty fun, you’re doing it wrong.

To train your dog to get used to Velcro:
Put on your dog’s collar (or harness) and leash
Grab a handful of treats
Sit on the floor with a velcro something – it doesn’t matter what
Give the dog the entire length of the leash – don’t “make” him/her do anything
Start playing with the velcro. Every time it makes a noise, give the dog a cookie.
If the dog isn’t in arm’s reach, toss the treat to him/her
Keep doing it.
If the dog approaches, give even more treats.
When you’re out of treats, the session is over.

Don’t say anything to the dog. Nothing. Not “come here.” Not “it’s okay, sweetie.” Nothing.
Soon your dog will decide that only good things happen when he/she hears Velcro.

It’s almost miraculous how quickly dogs will learn how to get treats. And in the process, you’re both having a little bit of fun (it’s incredibly fun to watch your dog figure things out), you’re spending time with your dog, and your dog is learning to trust you and figuring out how to get what he/she wants.

The same technique can be used to teach your dog just about anything. Give them the opportunity to figure stuff out. Your dog is smart – he/she will get it! And that’s Positive Reinforcement training (PRT)!

Mythbusters Canine Edition – Part 2

Continuing to debunk these popular, wrong, notions about dogs

Dogs are colorblind

dog vision myth

Dogs’ vision includes some color, but not the full range humans enjoy.

Well, sort of. Dogs see the world differently than most people. Their color perception is actually similar to people who have red/green color blindness, with most tones in yellows and blues. As much as you may like seeing your dog in a bright red collar, it doesn’t make any difference to your dog. And the reason she loves that bright yellow tennis ball? Because it’s probably the one she can see the best.

Dogs’ mouths are cleaner than people’s

French bulldog panting

Dogs’ mouths aren’t any cleaner than people’s.

All mouths have natural bacteria and “flora” populations. Dogs’ mouths are by no means “sterile” or germ-free. Which is not to say there’s any problem with a dog licking you – for healthy people and dogs, it’s no problem at all. The notion probably arose because anaerobic bacteria, which die in an oxygen-rich environment, aren’t generally present in dog’s mouths because they pant, exposing their entire mouths to air. It’s the old wives’ tale we heard back in the day.

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks

French Bulldog high five

Dogs can learn new behaviors at any age – and most love learning new things (or the treats they get!)

Nonsense! Just like people, dogs are able to learn, adapt, and grow throughout their lives. Teaching your dog something new is a great way to shake everybody out of their ruts. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated – see how many tricks you and your dog can come up with using a box, or a step stool, or other household objects. Just remember to train in small increments (five or 10 minutes at a time), and never when you’re angry or frustrated. Training takes time and patience, but it’s fun for everybody to show off your dog’s new trick at the next family gathering.

A wagging tail means the dog is happy

French Bulldog butt

Out of our experience, but we hear tails wag for more than one reason.

We have no way of know this for sure – none of our dogs have tails! We’re told that a quickly-wagging tail does mean the dog is happy and in a playful mood, but a slower wag may mean the dog is nervous or unsure of the situation. We do know that the faster our cat’s tail was moving, the angrier he was. It was definitely a “no go” signal for our 18-lb. cat.

Mythbusters Canine Editions – Part 1

There’s lots of stuff “everybody knows” about dogs. Some of it’s true. These are not:

A cold, wet nose is the sign of a healthy dog

French Bulldog nose

Healthy dogs’ noses can be warm or cold, wet or dry.

Healthy dogs’ noses vary. If they’re sleeping or just waking up, their noses may be warm.  If they’re running around, active, panting, their noses may be warm. Temperature also goes up and down through the day – just as ours do. When we’re active our noses are warmer than when we’re sedentary. Similarly, the moisture of a dog’s nose varies throughout the day. A dog with a dry nose may be perfectly healthy, just as one with a wet nose may actually have a respiratory infection or other disease process going on. Noses just aren’t a very good indicator of a dog’s health. It’s much better to rely on better indicators; is the dog eating, drinking, pooping, active, etc. In other words, if your dog is acting normally, don’t worry about the temperature or dampness of his/her nose.

Dogs age 7 years to every human year

old dog

Seven to one isn’t really a good ratio for comparing dogs’ ages to humans’.

Not really. A one-year-old dog is probably more mature than a seven-year-old child. And athree-year-old dog may or may not be fully adult. It also depends on the dog’s size. Smaller dogs tend to have longer life spans than larger ones. It’s not unusual for a Chihuahua to live into its late teens or early 20s. A Great Dane may be geriatric at eight. Dogs also tend to mature at different rates. While most are as long and as tall as they’re going to get by about eight months, dogs will still “fill out” and mature for about another year and a half. Dogs aren’t really “adults” at one year old, even though they may have reached their adult size.

Dogs eat grass to settle their stomachs

French bulldog sniffing dandelion

Dogs don’t need to graze on your lawn. It’s not good for either one.

No. Domestic dogs don’t really know how to self-medicate if they don’t feel well. Eating grass is normal dog behavior, according to experts. But it doesn’t mean they don’t feel well, need to vomit, or are lacking fiber or other nutrition in their diets. It’s pretty much just something dogs do. Most of ours promptly throw up after eating grass and we’ve looked at them and said “We told you so!” more than once while cleaning up the mess. Not all dogs throw up after grass eating and there doesn’t seem to be any adverse effect for most.

However – it’s not a good idea, especially if you don’t know exactly what sort of chemicals (weed-killers, fertilizers) have been used on the grass your dog is munching. Not to mention the various illnesses/parasites that can be spread through contact with wild animals’ (rabbits, squirrels, skunks, possums, deer, raccoons, birds, etc.) droppings.