Category Archives: Dogs

Dogs love routine. Habit reigns supreme

Dogs love routine. Schedules are well inside their comfort zones. Don’t agree? Think about the last time you had a non-routine day off and wanted to sleep in. How did that work out for you? 

If your dogs are at all typical, not so well. If you were lucky, you managed to convince your dog to go back to sleep after a quick potty trip. Unless Fido insists on breakfast first. And then, maybe a nap. 

Habit rules the universe

Scientists will tell you that the driving force of the universe is gravity. It’s not. It’s habit. For the most part, we take advantage of its power. We get the dogs used to the morning schedule: potty break, breakfast, small nap (while people get morning stuff done!), morning chores (usually grooming), play training games, potty break, off to work.

Dogs love routine like this French Bulldog playing a training game.

Which is just ideal for work days, since we get everything done that we need to do, and still make time to smile and play with our dogs. Each one gets individual time. We get the gift of starting every day with some fun. 

What happens on days we don’t have to work? On Sundays, the only day the shop is closed, we have a different, regular routine. The dogs don’t love this routine, but they’re used to it, and it all gets done. Sunday mornings are nails – all the dogs’ nails. And, on occasion, the Bearded Dragon’s nails, too. 

It’s akin to a factory assembly line, each one in turn: nails, teeth, face, ears.  Nails, teeth, face, ears. Rinse and repeat, quite literally. It’s all quite exhausting (for them), so after lunch there’s vast quantities of dog napping. There’s nothing more peaceful than relaxing with your comfy, clean, napping dogs around you.

Glitch in the system

As much as dogs love routine, they’re totally thrown off by silly human things like holidays. And vacations in place completely throw them for a loop. It’s the same – but different. And they have absolutely no idea what to do with themselves.

Which means our hopes and dreams for a nice, relaxing day off are dashed. The morning starts at the same time. Because dogs’ internal clocks are eerily accurate. We do all the regular morning things. And then try to relax.

Which the dogs don’t understand at all. They either get crazy chasing each other around and playing. Or else they sit and stare at us. Booker, Fran’s very special 8-year-old Boston, is particularly discombobulated by schedule changes. 

Worth figuring out

In the last year and a half certainly, there’s been no getting away, no vacation, and only rare days off. Too few to develop an alternate routine the dogs can recognize and adapt to. In the olden days, pre-pandemic, we enjoyed some time away for vacation and usually the dogs came along. And they adapted just fine to the “anything goes” freedom of vacation days.

That may be the key – developing an alternative, holiday routine for the dogs. They’ll love it!

Dogs’ lives are too short

The longer you live, the more dogs you love, the more mourning you’ll have to do. As author Agnes Sligh Turnbull said: “Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really.” 

Picture of a short-haired brown dog's face for the post Dogs lives are too short

A friend of a friend got some awful news this week – her dog has an untreatable condition that will soon take the dog’s life. “Coco” is small and only nine years old. The woman expected to have many more years with her best friend. And now has to reshape her vision of the future.

Dog bucket lists

In the last couple of years we’ve seen stories about dogs completing “bucket lists.” And if it helps the people cope with the impending loss of their dogs, that’s what they should do. But we’ve never been big fans of lists of “things to do before death.” 

If there’s a goal you want to reach, accomplish, attempt – make plans and go do it. For yourself and your dog. 

If you’re facing a similar situation, instead of projecting new stuff on your dog, do more of the stuff your dog loves. Not all dogs will enjoy, or even understand, a sudden change in routine. As we’ve said many times, most dogs are big fans of schedules.

Preparing for the day

Some people think it’s better to have time to prepare for a dog’s death. We’re not so sure. Over the years we’ve lost dogs in all different ways – none of them is “better.” Sudden is shocking. Slow is a constant ache. And, no matter how you try, you’re never prepared for the quiet emptiness when you come home.

Coco has been diagnosed with the same silent killer that took our dog Teddy a couple of years ago. That’s probably why the news is hitting us hard. We’ll never “get over” it, but we have learned to live with it.  

And, fortunately, the community of people who understand and sympathize is easier to reach and larger than it was before the internet. Back in the day, there weren’t social groups whose common interest was dogs. And non-dog people just don’t understand the impact. 

Sorry for them

Actually, we feel sorriest for people who have never known the love, and loss, of a dog. They don’t understand the selfless, unconditional love that dogs bring to life. As badly as it eventually hurts, loving a dog is never a mistake.  Their loss never overshadows the smiles they brought. We can’t let it. 

It’s advice we’ve given many times over the years. People, mourning their dog’s death, will say “I’m never getting another dog. It hurts too much.” 

Yes, it does. But to honor  your dog’s life, you can’t let their death be more important. Dogs’ lives are too short. The joy they bring is disproportionately large. Hug your dogs.

Dogs eat better than we do

It occurred to us, during our once-a-month dog-food-making marathon, that most pet dogs eat better than we do. It’s a tribute to the care and love that most pet owners lavish on their dogs – and we think it’s true. When was the last time your dog ate “junk food” for a meal? We’re not talking about sharing a cheese puff or two. We’re talking about that dog food bowl being full of “empty calories!” 

People eat junk food all the time. But they would never give it to their dogs on a regular basis. Why?

It’s easier for the dogs

When you think about it – wouldn’t it be just great if all you had to do was show up for a meal and it was presented to you? No shopping, no preparation, no work, and no bill at the end! It seems like our dogs have it made!

Whether your dog’s food is a high-quality packaged food (check to see how your brand rates), or home-made, we’re confident our dogs are getting complete, nutritious food. When was the last time you can honestly say you got all the fruits and veggies the FDA recommends?

So, our dogs eat better. The commercial dog food manufacturers have to meet standards to market their products widely. We may not always admire some of their ingredient choices, but they do provide for dogs’ nutritional needs. 

picture of home made dog food in oven for dogs eat better
Four dog food batches ready to bake

And those of us making dog food at home know we’re responsible for the meeting our dogs’ dietary needs and get lots of help – from experts like Judy Morgan, D.V.M., Lew Olson, even social media groups devoted to helping each other out with recipes and techniques. For example: did you know you can save the shells from hard-boiled eggs in the freezer, grind them into powder, and add to your dog’s food as a source of calcium?

Junk food junkies

Of course our dogs, like most, get to share when we have snacks. We’ve never met a dog who didn’t love popcorn (hold the butter!). But we’ve also never met a dog who didn’t love carrots, or frozen green beans. They don’t know it’s healthy food. They just know if you’re giving it to them, it’s got to be good! We only carry treats that are good for dogs – we just don’t tell them that part of it.

During the pandemic, with options restricted and choices limited, many people started preparing their own meals more than ever. And we’re thoroughly sick and tired of it. We think that’s why we’ve seen an explosion of prepared-and-delivered meal companies. 

Much as we’d like to hand over the responsibility to somebody else – we’re afraid we just can’t justify it. If we didn’t before, we now know how to put a (human) meal together in very little time.

Planning means dogs eat better

Planning ahead is the hiccup in the system. We know when we’re running low on dog food that it’s time to either go get it, or make it. For ourselves, we can always “grab something.” And that something isn’t always the healthiest choice – it’s what our taste buds dictate that day.

Another major difference – dogs don’t seem to care whether they eat the same thing, every meal, every day. Ours certainly disappear their food in record time. Every time – morning and night, seven days a week. They don’t seem to care that it tastes the same as it did last time. And the same as it will next time.

Dogs eat better, but taste worse

We may be saying it wrong. It’s more accurate that our dogs eat healthier than we do. That’s what responsible dog owners do. 

The repetition would get old, fast, for people. It turns out that we have dogs beat as far as tasting goes. According to research, dogs only have about 1700 taste buds. People have about 9,000! 

So while our dogs can out-sniff us all day long – we have the advantage in sensing taste. Which, considering the disgusting stuff we’ve seen dogs try to consume, is a very good thing. 

Adding a new dog to the family

How do you add a new dog into the family? It’s a question that has almost as many answers as families, because there’s really no “right” way to do it.

We know people who live their lives in shifts. Members of their canine family don’t get along with others, so they allot time with each and shift them around. We’re not willing to live that way, and don’t think you should, either. Our dogs have to get along. 

Make the decision

Picture of a black and tan dachshund puppy being held - a new dog in the family

The first thing to do is take Yoda’s advice: “Do or do not. There is no try.” If you go into the situation knowing there’s a way out, you’re not fully committed to making it work. Give the situation your best effort. Don’t look for an escape.

Unless you have the mellowest dog on the planet, and the one you’re considering is the same, there are going to be some bumps in the road. Puppies are selfish, annoying, and often noisy creatures. Many times adult dogs are on their “best behavior” in a new environment. Their true personalities may only emerge after several weeks.

Plan ahead for a new dog

If you are considering adding a new dog, think about your life and schedule, as well as your available space. Think about how and where the new dog will fit in. How will you adjust times? How much time do you spend caring for the existing dog? Do you have time for another? Do your current dogs like other dogs? Or does he/she take time to warm up? Is the dog food available at all times? What about toys? Is your dog possessive?

These are all things to consider – there aren’t any right or wrong answers. You just have to think about them and make a plan. Maybe the dogs do have to be in different areas until they adjust. Do you have the space? Is your dog crate-trained? Do you have another crate or exercise pen? 

Maybe you’ll have to wake up 15 minutes earlier. Can you do that? Or stay up later? Or come home at lunch to walk and feed. Puppies especially need to go outside for potty training frequently.

Actual meeting

Most experts advise letting dogs meet for the first time on “neutral” territory. Think of someplace the resident dog doesn’t feel he needs to defend.. If possible, it’s even a good idea to walk the two dogs together, on leash, away from home. 

It doesn’t have to be love at first sight. It’s wonderful, but rare. Friendly interest in the other dog is great. Ignoring is good. Hostility will need some time and effort to make it work. In that case, the best thing is to consult a professional, positive-reinforcement trainer. It can be done, but it will require commitment, consistency, and the patience of a saint. 

Make it work

Commitment is key. If you’re adopting a dog from a shelter or rescue, give it time. Dogs are adaptable, in time. Be sure your resident dog sees the same level of interaction, love, play, walking, and affection from everybody in the family. A new dog should add more joy and fun for everyone – even the other dog.