Category Archives: Dogs

Picture of four small dogs sitting to illustrate Rainy with a chance of poop

Rainy with a chance of poop in the kitchen

We’d love to know why dogs who love splashing through puddles, rolling in mud (or even worse-smelling things) think they’ll melt if a drop of rain touches them. Because around here, if it’s rainy, there’s a chance of poop in the kitchen.

Our normal “ME FIRST!” horde dashing out the door comes to a screeching halt when they get a glimpse of the puddles on the walk and the ripples of continuing drops. You’ve never seen dogs learn how to “back up” quite as fast. Then they earnestly and adorably meet our eyes with the promise that they can hold it. Possibly forever, but definitely until the sun comes out.

Picture of four small dogs sitting to illustrate Rainy with a chance of poop

Of course they lie. Especially the old dude who’s absolutely ornery about his elimination habits. We realize a walk to the back yard is like a marathon for 14-year-old Tango, whose knees don’t really bend any more. But he topples his way back there and stands. Just stands. We’re pretty sure our neighbors are tired of hearing us chant “Tango, go pee. Go pee, dude. Pee right there.” And, honestly, we’re pretty tired of saying it.

Out too often

We know we take our dogs outside much more than necessary. It’s a bad habit we developed when Hope’s Brussels Griffon Roc got older and had to go out about every two hours. And as everyone with multiple dogs will agree, you can never take just one dog out. Since we always go with our dogs, even in our own yard, we got in the habit of getting up, taking a break, and stretching every couple of hours. It gives us a refresher on our day that we just never stopped after Roc passed a few years ago. 

So we’re not fans of soaker days like this one. We have a pile of towels waiting inside. All the dogs like getting rubbed off – if you can catch them. The Bostons, Booker and Simon, run around the house like crazy dogs if they’re wet. Booker’s notorious for rubbing himself on rugs and/or furniture in an effort to dry off. Simon doesn’t quite understand the concept – he rubs himself on the wood floor. 

Depending on how hard it’s raining, “business” may or may not be conducted. And that’s why we keep the cleaning supplies out and handy on rainy days. Because no matter how well-trained your dog is, when you gotta go, you gotta go.

The cobbler’s children

We can hear you wondering “Why don’t they use raincoats?” Good question! With a bad answer. Like the cobbler’s children who have no shoes, the dog-shop dogs won’t move if they’re wearing clothes. We’ve tried. All of them, for all of their lives. Raincoats, winter coats, boots, sweaters, etc. They become canine statuary if we put anything other than a collar or harness on them. 

Fortunately, snow doesn’t spark the same fear and loathing as rain. They don’t know it’s the same stuff, only colder. And we’re not someplace that’s constantly drippy, so there’s that. An occasional day of incredible inconvenience isn’t so bad. 

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Picture of a Boston Terrier carrying a foam block to illustrate Expect More From Small Dogs

Expect more from small dogs

Small dogs are just as smart (if not smarter) than medium or large dogs. Many breeds of small dogs had the job of controlling pests, like rats. They were bred to work hard and independently, to solve problems and figure out ways to outsmart their prey. So why don’t more small dog people get involved in dog training and dog performance sports? Why don’t people expect more from small dogs?

We see lots more people with medium or large dogs in our training classes than small dogs. Which contradicts the demographics in the nation, since there are more small dogs than any other group. We think we know why. People know medium and large dogs must be trained because they cannot physically control them. Small dog people can. If a little dog’s being obnoxious, the person can just pick them up and remove them from the situation.

While we understand what’s going on, we wish it weren’t so. It deprives both people and dogs of the fun they could be having together. If you’ve never seen your dog’s glee when it figures out a new trick or behavior, you’re missing out.

Try some tricks

Almost every dog, large and small, knows the basics; sit, down, wait, off, etc. But what about all the adorable things your dog does spontaneously? Have you ever wished you could capture those little behaviors and teach your dog to do them on command? You can! It’s really easy. 

Just like it’s actually easy to teach your dog a “polite greeting” for occasions when you have visitors, or meet someone when out and about. It just takes a few minutes a day, it’s a lot of fun, and your dog will be happier when they know what’s expected of them. It leads to a richer, bigger life for both of you.

Smart dogs are troublemakers

Picture of a Boston Terrier carrying a foam block to illustrate Expect More From Small Dogs
Booker putting his blocks away

The smarter a dog is, the more likely they are to find ways to get into trouble. They’re not content to just lounge around and eat bonbons. They’re curious about the world and want to explore. You may not think it’s exploring when your dog topples the bathroom wastebasket to see what’s inside. But your dog does!

Channeling your dog’s natural curiosity into learning can be a great outlet. And only your imagination limits what you can teach your dog. If you want to see a great example of how little “tricks” can lead to big things, watch the winner of the 2022 AKC Virtual Trick Dog Competition. Maddie-Moo, an Australian Terrier, won with “Dogwarts: School of Witchcraft” routine. This little bitty dog did some wonderful tricks – that your dog can do, too!

Start today

If you watch that video and think to yourself “My dog can do that!” You’re absolutely right. You can start right away – you have everything you need. A good place to start is by teaching your dog to touch a “target” – which can be something as simple as the (clean) lid of a yogurt container. We talked about it in a 2-Minute-Dog-Training tip here.

It’s called 2-Minute Training because that’s all you need. Dogs don’t have the attention span or the focus to concentrate for long stretches. And they don’t need to. With the right motivation (treats, toys, pets, praise), dogs are very willing “workers” and love interacting with you. 

You don’t want your dog to fall into the stereotype of “obnoxious little dog.” Expect more from your small dog. You and your dog can do it!

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Picture of a Brussels Griffon to illustrate Famiy Dog

Is a “family dog” possible?

The family dog – is there such a thing?

Everyone in the house has a unique relationship with the dog. But is there really such a thing as a family dog? There can be – depending on the dog and the people.

In the dog training classes we teach it’s very obvious who plays training games with the dog. One of the games we play is the “collar grab game” – it teaches dogs to come when they’re called. Basically, family members each have some treats, stand in a circle, and take turns calling the dog to them. One couple in the class this week was really struggling. The dog went dashing to “mom” as soon as she called. And went visiting other people and puppies when “dad” called.

When we went over to talk about what we’d noticed, “mom” kept making excuses for “dad.” “He’s very busy.” “He works a lot.” “He doesn’t have time.” And yet, they both claim he loves the dog and wants to build a bond with him. We’ve got news for them. If you don’t have five minutes a day to spend with your puppy, you shouldn’t have one.

Every single person in the family gets to have a special relationship with the dog. But it’s up to everyone to do it themselves. No one can teach a dog to love somebody else. It’s definitely a “DIY” job.

“My” dog vs. “Our” dog

The most extreme case we’ve ever dealt with was here in our own house. Fran’s Brussels Griffon Tango, now 14, bonded instantly with Fran. The moment they met, he was her dog. She could do anything with him, pet him, brush him, pick him up. Nobody else could get anywhere near him. Including Fran’s sister Hope, living in the same house.

Picture of a Brussels Griffon to illustrate Family Dog

It took months of active training to change things. Fran could certainly work with him everywhere to change his attitude about the world. And she did, documented in her book: Tango: Transforming My Hellhound . But there’s a big difference between being able to act nice in public and actually having a relationship with a dog. We worked out a plan to build Hope’s relationship with Tango. She hand-fed him for weeks, teaching him that good things come from other people. 

The process was gradual, but it did work. From being unable to look at him without risking a bite, Hope was able to pet him, pick him up, brush him, etc. To this day, he’s still very much Fran’s dog. But he’s a sweet old guy now and can interact with anyone.

Becoming a family dog

For any dog to be a family dog, every member of the family has to build a special relationship with the dog. There are lots of things that help. Every “chore” caring for the dog is a chance to build the bond; feeding, brushing, walking, and especially training. All of it is time spent together and helps. The roles don’t have to stay the same all the time. If different people feed the dog, the dog learns that good things come from everybody. On the other hand, if one person always feeds the dog, that person is going to be the dog’s favorite. Dogs aren’t stupid.

There are circumstances where you want a dog to be one person’s dog, whether that’s a child’s best friend, a running partner, dog sport teammate, or even a cuddle buddy. In that case, it’s just the opposite. The dog’s special person has to take the lead in all dog care. As we all know, caring for a dog is a lot of responsibility, but also a great joy.

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Black Brussels Griffon dog play-bowing to illustrate Throw Your Dog Away

Throw your dog away & other games

Did you ever throw your dog away? No? Why not? Dogs love playing this game and you don’t need anything but you and your dog to play. And it gets your dog to run toward you. A “Come!” without training!

We have a feeling that people don’t know how to play with their dogs without “stuff.” We see it in our training classes, particularly puppy class, all the time. It’s probably because nobody’s advertising the fun you can have with your dog without toys, props, or equipment. As dogs are accepted as members of the family, they’re also targets of merchandising.

Don’t get us wrong. We’re just as likely to check out the latest innovations in dog toys as anybody. Probably more so, since we’re always looking for really unique, well-made items for our shop. But we also know that you don’t actually need anything to play with your dog.

Throw your dog away

The absolute, sure-fire, fun game almost every puppy and dog on the planet love is “Throw your dog away.” With your palm, you just gently shove your dog in the chest to move him/her back an inch or two. At first, most dogs seem a little surprised. But they quickly get into the game. Especially if you’re teasing them: “I don’t want you.” “Get away, silly beastie!” “What are you doing here? Didn’t I throw you away?”

Black Brussels Griffon dog play-bowing to illustrate Throw Your Dog Away

Almost 100 percent of dogs will crouch back on their haunches, then stick their butts in the air in a classic play-bow, and come bounding back to you for more. They love this game. And it’s fun to see the dogs, and their people, grinning as they learn the game and love playing it. Just this week we got to see the biggest grin on the face of both owner and dog and a year-old Standard Poodle got “thrown away” and learned his mom is actually fun!

Playing tug

Another great game with minimal stuff is tug. A few years ago there were all kinds of experts telling people not to play tug with their dogs. It went along with making sure you go through a door first, or not letting dogs on furniture. All nonsense, to us. Tug is a great game. When we hear people say “my dog won’t tug,” we show them how. Slowly drag your tug object back and forth in front of your dog’s paws. If your dog is just staring at it, make sure you drag it across their paws. Be annoying and engage your dog’s prey drive. It’s the same thing puppies do to get older dogs to play with them – be annoying. 

We particularly like tug because it’s a workout for your dog’s core and legs, and they can’t play it alone. Simon tries – stepping on the tug toy and reaching back as far as his neck will go. But it doesn’t work too well – he’d rather play with his mom.

Boop your dog

Another silly little game we play with our dogs is “nose button.” It doesn’t really have a name, but it’s fun and engaging and makes us and our dogs happy. When we touch (boop) our dog’s noses, they lick. So we call it the nose button game. When they don’t lick, we make a whole production out of their button being busted. And push it some more to “fix” it.

The point of all of this is to have more fun with your dog. Henry Ward Beecher’s quote “The dog is the god of frolic.” We have no idea who he was, or what he was famous for, but he was right about this. You got a dog for fun and companionship. Have more fun with your dog!

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