Category Archives: Dogs

Picture of a Boston Terrier's face to illustrate dog chaos reigns

Doorbell equals dog chaos

You would think that our dogs are all magnificently trained, polite hosts, and greet people calmly. Nothing could be further from the truth. Dog chaos reigns when the doorbell rings. Are we proud of that? No, of course not. Our only excuse is that most of these dogs’ lives have been in the pandemic era. We’ve gotten out of the habit of having people over.

That proved problematic today. A friend was dropping off a key and rang the doorbell. Ironically, the key was for the training room where Hope is teaching a Dog Manners class. Dog chaos grew. Three of the dogs charged madly for the door. Tango, napping soundly in the office (a.k.a. Hard At Work), didn’t pay any attention. But the other three maniacs acted like they’d never seen another human before. Booker and Torque got out. Torque came right back in when called. Booker didn’t.

Unfortunately, our friend came to the “front” door (which is actually at the side of the house) outside the fence. The people who regularly come by know they should come to the back (inside the fence) door. And latch the gate when they come in. Firmly. And double-check it before taking another step.

He’s so special

Picture of a Boston Terrier's face to illustrate dog chaos reigns

We’ve mentioned before that Booker is special in a not-good way. He’s sweet and he’s smart, but life is a challenge for him. He’s not a danger to anyone, but he doesn’t know how to react to new and different situations. His reaction on being “free” was to look around with confusion. But when called, he started play-bowing and making rocking-horse motions. He was inches from being gone with the wind. 

The fastest way to get a dog to run away from you is to chase it. Since all healthy dogs are faster and more agile than most humans, it’s not a game you can ever win. Most dogs love a “chase” game – especially when they’re the ones being chased. You can almost see the dialogue bubble over their head saying “Yay! Let’s Play Keep Away!”

Luckily, we are dog trainers and our own advice came to the fore: The best way to get your dog to come to you is to run away from them. (It also works with human toddlers, as our former next-door neighbor will attest.) We know it goes against every instinct you have. When somebody you love is running off, potentially facing danger, you really want to go after them, stop them, protect them. In Booker’s case, maybe wring his little neck and feed him gruel for the rest of the week, as well.

Run around the house

Hope remembered to take off running, away from Booker. She ran all the way to the other side of the house, opened the gate, and Booker ran right into our fenced yard. He was actually thrilled to be back on familiar territory. And we were delighted to get him back. He got lots of treats for good behavior.

If you’ve ever had a delivery or service person leave your gate open, you know the sinking feeling and terror that takes over when your dog gets out. We’re hoping our morning’s adventure will help you remember to run away from your dog. It takes a conscious decision, so don’t let the panic take over. The best way to get a dog to come to you is to run away from it. Dogs are, by nature, predators. It’s part of their make–up to chase something that moves. If acting like prey is what it takes to get your dog back, it’s completely worth it.

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Picture of a French Bulldog next to a package of baby wipes to illustrate weather woes for dogs

Weather woes for dogs

Yesterday Torque had his follow-up appointment with the dog eye doctor who operated on him New Year’s Eve. And something pretty upsetting happened that we want to talk about. The check-up went great. It was the peripheral stuff that went wrong. It’s the time of year that brings weather woes for dogs.

Here in the Chicago area we’ve had some pretty hefty bad weather this month. Lots of cold, some snow, generally not-great conditions. Yesterday when we went, traffic was a little slow and sloppy, but not really bad. The parking lot at the eye doctor’s office was well-plowed, no problem at all. And absolutely covered in ice-melt salt. Torque only lasted about half a dozen steps before he was limping. The wet, chemical-laden pavement was hurting his paws.

If we’d known, we could have prepared and put some boots on him. But we never dreamed that a business catering to animals would have a toxic covering in the parking lot. We guess it’s a toss-up decision; car safety or pet safety.

Not what it’s meant for

Torque is a big boy at 29 pounds. We can carry him, but not for long stretches, especially when he’s squirming. He doesn’t like being carried. So Hope carried him into the waiting room and looked around for help. He was letting out little moans, so she was a little frantic.

Picture of a French Bulldog next to a package of baby wipes to illustrate weather woes for dogs

Thankfully, there were paper towels available and a water cooler. Although not what the supplies were meant for, Hope took advantage and got to work. We never trained him to do it, but Torque picked up each of his paws in sequence to get them wiped off. He was so uncomfortable he actually cooperated in paw-wiping for a change.

If the supplies hadn’t been available in the lobby, she’d thought to bring him into the rest room to clean off his paws.

What were they thinking?

We’re sure the veterinary clinic has a contract with a snow removal company. And that company probably had a bunch of clients that all needed snow plowing early that day. Everybody was doing their job, but it wound up being not-so-good for Torque. 

We were caught off guard, which is why we’re mentioning it. Our winter weather preparations will now include a package of wipes in the car. And an individual packet in our pocket for walks. 

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Picture of a woman and brindle French Bulldog heeling to illustrate do something with your dog

Do something with your dog

January is National Train Your Dog month. To get out there and do something with your dog. The timing sucks because most New Year’s resolutions are things that you really don’t want to do but think you should. January is when all the diet, fitness, and organizing commercials hit you in the face. Dog training isn’t a “really should but don’t want to” thing. Because if it’s not fun, you’re doing it wrong. Dog training is a joy, not a chore.

So, you ask, what should you do with your dog? The answer is: it depends on your personality and your interests. As well as your dog’s age, personality, and fitness level. If you love running and your dog does, too, maybe try Agility. If you love precision and your dog adores routine, Obedience may be your sport. Or if you’re somewhere in the middle and like a good walk with some “tricks” or fancy footwork, Rally is your game.

There really is an array of dog activities for everyone. If you want to see your dog using their natural abilities, you might want to look into Barn Hunt or Scent Work. If your dog loves running fast and chasing prey, how about Fast CAT? There’s also sports for dogs who love catching flying discs, fetching stuff, and herding stuff. There are even tricks competitions and, for people who love music and dance, there’s Freestyle. 

You don’t even have to go anywhere, if you don’t want to. You can easily train at home and even enter virtual competitions. If you watch the videos of the Trick Dog competitors, you’ll probably think to yourself “That’s so fun! I bet we could do that!” You’d be absolutely right. Your dog can do that.

Attitude is everything

You have a dog because dogs are fun, affectionate, and smart companions. You love them and want them to have the biggest, happiest life. And we’ll tell you a secret – dogs who know “stuff” are more confident, happier, and better family members. They work with you as a teammate, and can take more responsibility for their actions. 

An additional side benefit is that making your dogs think and learn is more tiring for them than running miles or playing fetch. Remember how tired you got taking finals in school? Using their brains is not only fun, it’s also tiring. Your dog will definitely need a nap after a training session.

Picture of a woman and brindle French Bulldog heeling to illustrate do something with your dog

Our own training site,, is called that because training sessions should be short, really short. Two minutes is extreme, five is more realistic. But for those few minutes, your focus is entirely on your dog. You get to escape from whatever else is going on in life. And your dog will thrive with your exclusive attention.

The first thing to do is change your mindset about the word “training.” Just the sound of it makes people think of sweating, repetitious drills, and other unpleasant things. It’s all about playing fun games with your dog that happens to have the side benefit of teaching them stuff. Don’t think “I have to go train now.” Think “I get to play games with my best friend now!”

Don’t be shy

Another very cool thing about playing training games at home. No one will ever know if you don’t do it “right,” feel awkward, or look stupid. Your dog is never going to tell anyone. And if you do take video (which you should), you never have to show it to anyone. You can watch it and see how darn adorable your team is.

If you go to a class, keep in mind that everyone there is in the same boat you are. If they’re not rank beginners now, it’s only because they started where you are and kept going. They kept at it because they saw what a difference it made in their dog. Everybody starts at the same point. The people who keep going are the ones who are seizing the chance to have a bigger, better life for themselves and their dogs.

You can get started today. Pick a game, any game. Try “Gimme Your Face” to start. You won’t need anything but and some treats

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Picture of a brindle French Bulldog to illustrate Be Ready For A Dog Emergency

Be ready for a dog emergency

We learned the hard way this week that you always have to be ready for a dog emergency. We spent New Year’s Eve in the waiting room at the veterinary ophthalmology clinic. Torque, Hope’s French Bulldog, needed emergency surgery to remove his right eye. We’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say a fairly innocuous corneal ulcer went bad very fast. He’d been seeing his regular vet, who referred us to the specialist when it worsened over four days. And on the sixth day it ruptured. 

Picture of a brindle French Bulldog to illustrate Be Ready For A Dog Emergency

We were at home, relaxing after watching the Rose Bowl Parade. He was just lying on the couch, relaxing too. Then he shrieked in pain and life went into high gear. There were calls to the eye clinic emergency line (leave a message, call back, confirm, call back). One of the details flying by was the hideous expense of the worst possible outcome. Which happened. And had to be paid in full at the time of pick-up.

Don’t be scared. Prepare

We’re not telling you all this so you can feel sorry for Torque, or us. The reason for the post is so that you’re not caught unawares if and when an emergency happens with your dog. When your much-loved dog is in pain, chances are you’re not going to be thinking clearly. If you’ve thought about “what if” ahead of time, you’ll be able to act fast.

The first thing to do is gather the phone numbers and addresses of every place you might need. Call your regular vet if you don’t know their preferred emergency providers and get their list. Enter each and every one as a contact in your phone – including the address and phone number. In a state of panic, you may not remember the exact name of the hospitals, clinics or doctors. So we recommend you start each entry with “Vet – Emergency” or “Vet – Eye” or whatever will mean you can find it. 

Include the address so you can get instant directions as you run out the door. There’s never a time when having a smartphone is more valuable than in an emergency. 

If your not sure what constitutes an animal emergency, check out this list from the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Figure out the funding

If you’ve opted for pet medical insurance, that’s another call you may be required to make. Some require even emergency visits to be authorized prior to treatment. Be very familiar with your policy and provider’s requirements. If you don’t have pet insurance, it might be a good idea to look into it. Compare the options for coverage and pricing while you don’t particularly need it. Most will have a waiting period before coverage begins. Prior conditions may not be covered for a significant amount of time, if at all.

Another choice, if you don’t have pet insurance, is to set aside some amount for an emergency fund of your own. Hopefully, you’ll never have to use it and it will accrue to a nice healthy savings nest egg. Just be sure it’s readily accessible. Emergencies always seem to happen on weekends or holidays. 

If you truly want to be prepared, call the emergency veterinary clinic you might use and ask them what it will cost just to walk in the door. These days just showing up can cost quite a bit. We understand it varies widely by location, but it can be hundreds of dollars, even without surgery or complicated procedures. The bill can easily run into thousands, quickly. 

Knowledge is power

Just taking these steps to be prepared will help. It’s a good thing to be able to concentrate on the important things – getting your dog where they need to be, seeing the professional most qualified to help you in an emergency. We hope you never, ever need to use your emergency preparations. But, as our mother used to say: “It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.”

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