Tag Archives: dog health

Picker-upper’s guide to dog poop

You know you’re among dog people when the conversation turns to poop. No one gets disgusted and walks away. 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. And even the best-trained dog won’t be able to resist an offered goodie. 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

cartoon image to illustrate all dogs poop

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. Dogs are quick and there’s lots of new plant growth this time of year. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

We have addressed this topic before, but it’s been several years and, unfortunately, we needed to look up the information. A refresher never hurts.

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How much should dogs sleep?

Is your dog a sleepy head? Are you worried about it? The truth is that dogs sleep more than people do. 

The average dog needs between 10 and 15 hours of sleep every day. Puppies need even more.

Not lazy at all

One of the concerns we hear from our dog training students is their dogs are “bored,” and sleep out of boredom. The truth is a bit different. After a training game, or any kind of exertion, dogs need a nap. That’s the way most predatory animals are built. They have periods of intense activity, then dogs nap. 

When you think about it, it makes sense. Intense activity uses lots of calories. For predators, this would be hunting. Then eating. Then napping. As if every day were Thanksgiving!

For dogs, that could be playing fetch, going for a walk, or even playing dog-training games. Asking our dogs to think is just as tiring as physical activity. Remember when you were in school and were really tired after tests? Same thing, but training games are lots more fun.

Let it sink in

Boston Terrier Dog sleeping
Booker (Boston Terrier) napping

Dogs sleep for both physical and mental rest. They need the down time to process things they’ve learned. That’s one of the reasons puppies need so much sleep – up to 20 hours a day. Growing takes a lot out of a pup. So does thinking.

Research has shown that dogs learn more, retain that learning better, and are more confident when short training sessions are followed by longer breaks. 

Let sleeping dogs lie

There’s no reason to be concerned if your dog sleeps most of the day away. They don’t need constant entertainment or stimulation. 

That’s why we’re not huge fans of the doggy day care concept. Dogs don’t need to play all day. The constant activity and excitement floods their systems. That makes it even harder for them to relax. 

If you do need to use a day care, try to set limits on the amount of time your dog is expected to be active, especially with other dogs. Some “down time” during the day will help him learn to settle when at home with you.

Old dogs sleep a lot

Older dogs, like puppies, may need more sleep. And they sometimes give us a fright when we try to wake them. Either they don’t hear as well, or they sleep deeper, but it can take some doing to wake an old dog from his nap. 

When your old dog does awaken, give him a moment to get oriented and figure out what’s going on. Whatever dreams they were having, it may take a bit to get focused. That’s where we are with 13-year-old Tango now.

That contrasts with young, healthy adult dogs who can startle from sleep into instant attention and barking. We’ve got that, too. Simon (3) and Booker (9) our Boston Terriers can go from snoring to watchdog-at-attention in nothing flat. It can be startling if you were napping, too!


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 dogfoodadvisor.com 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. 

Tips for stinky dogs

Do you have a stinky dog? 

Possible sources of unpleasant odors can be ears, mouth, or even the dog’s coat. Some dogs are more prone to smelling than others, but for most, a malodorous mutt may mean something’s going on.

Skin condition

Last week we talked about how a dog was rubbed raw underneath a harness. While this particular dog’s condition hadn’t gotten to a stinky dog stage yet, her skin was probably only days away. If you detect a  not-so-good smell wafting over when your dog goes by, it’s time to check all the possible spots that a collar, harness, or other dog gear may be rubbing. 

We know that not all dogs like tummy rubs, so getting a good look at your dog’s underside may not be easy. But it’s crucial to check for mats, sore spots, and chafing especially around the dog’s “underarms” and around their private parts. Sometimes it’s easiest to have two people, one holding the dog and the other doing the exam. 

All dogs should be brushed, all over, at least once a week. More often for dogs who either shed a lot or have long coats. It’s a chance to get rid of dead hair and distribute the coat’s natural oils. And the simple act of brushing, just a couple of minutes, will also tell you if your dog is sensitive someplace and let you assess the health of your dog’s skin.

Bad breath

Dental surgery saved Dax from being a stinky dog

If you detect an odor from your dog’s mouth that’s not cured by tooth brushing, it may be time to see a vet. While dogs don’t generally get cavities, they can have issues with their gums. Broken teeth can also happen, especially if your dog is a strong chewer, or chews on hard items. 

We learned about broken teeth the hard way. One of our dogs (Dax, a French Bulldog) thought it was her duty to protect us from the vacuum cleaner. She broke a tooth attacking it. The surgical removal of an otherwise healthy tooth was tough on everybody. Now our dogs are crated when we vacuum. An ounce of prevention…

Smelly ears 

If the stinky bit is your dog’s ears, again, it’s time to consult a vet. Checking if there’s something going on can be as simple as looking, or wiping a facial tissue around the visible ear parts. If your dog has ears that fold, rather than stand up, they may be especially prone to retaining moisture and the problems that can cause. 

Speaking of folding, facial folds are another big cause of dog stink. Flat-faced dogs are notorious for “fold dermatitis,” which is difficult to clear once established. After cleaning the dog’s folds, a little bit of corn starch can help dry the area. 

Stinky feet

We’re not talking about the wonderful, corn-chip smell that many dogs get. We know it’s caused by a harmless bacteria, but we still like it. If that’s not the smell you’re getting from your dog’s paws, take a good look. Lots of dogs with allergies lick their paws. That can cause problems with moisture, redness, irritation, and worse. Keeping the paws dry is key. We’ve had good luck using medicated foot powder for our dogs’ paws.

No more stinky dog

Healthy dogs shouldn’t be offensive to your sense of smell. At-home grooming and health checks only take a few minutes a week. And the effort pays off when your dog is cuddled next to you on the couch.