Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Where Have I Been?

As you may or may not have noticed, I haven't done a post in a while.  If you're a client at the kennel, you may have also noticed that Hans and I haven't been around as much, and I want to take a moment to explain why.

Let's start with the happy news:

On May 30th, I gave birth to a darling baby girl, Anna.  She was 2 weeks and 1 day early and arrived via emergency c-section.  It was a whirlwind of events, but it was wonderful.  We spent a lovely 8 weeks together, and then I was ready to return to work, but my mom, who was supposed to watch her while I worked, was having severe back issues and couldn't manage.  So, I had to start making alternate arrangements.  That's when we got the bad news.

The bad news:

On July 14th, Hans and my anniversary, I got a call saying that my mom had been admitted to the ER.  She'd had an MRI to find out what was plaguing her back, and they'd found 2 masses on her spine.  Another MRI, a CT scan, and a biopsy, showed us that she had stage iv lung cancer.  Everything came to a halt.

Suddenly, I was left with the task of not just caring for a two month old, but also caring for my mother.

Since then, Mom has moved into our house.  Her dogs have joined our family pack.  Hans and I have kept busy shuttling Mom to and from doctor's appointments, caring for Anna, and simply taking care of daily life.  We've been working hard to stay on top of things at the kennel, and we still love being there, but sometimes family just has to come first.

Whether you're a loyal client, you read this blog regularly, or you're just passing by, I think you deserve to know what's going on.  All of the people who enter the kennel are more than just clients.  They're part of my family.  I miss spending time with my large, lovely family, and I would hate it if any of you thought that I wasn't around simply because I didn't want to be there.  I'll be there as often as possible, and I'll be thrilled to see you.

Note: Some of you may have seen a post on our Facebook page regarding  This is a lovely effort by some friends of mine to try to get others to help out with some of our food needs.  If anyone is interested in assisting, visit:  The last name is Alexander, and the password is lungevity.  Thank you!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Personal Protection

It's time to answer another question!  This one is about a woman who's looking for a little protection.

I have an American Pitbull Terrier who possess zero aggression. I know they are naturally people loving dogs and am grateful that she possesses no dog aggression but, I always thought she would protect me, a single woman in a big city if I ever encountered an aggressive person. Well this very thing has happened and my "vicious pitbull" hid behind me with her tail between her legs, and did nothing but whimper while we were being accosted. Similar situations have occurred and if the approaching party is aggressive, she runs. If they are mentally ill or drunk she tries to make friends, wagging her tail and motioning for them to show her attention which they often do. I have taught her a command (no stranger) and that has helped a bit with ignoring strangers. I have had dogs before and they were always aware and unwelcoming of people in their wrong minds. My dog lacks this sense. I semi-successfully have trained her to growl on the command "protect" but she, lays down, waggs her tail, and looks to me for the treat. I'm afraid I've gone all wrong with this "protect" command. And even more, I'm afraid she will never protect me. She is 4 1/2 years old. Do you have any advice that could help me to increase her discernment and protection?

Ok, my biggest question is why?  I know you want some protection from your dog, but it frankly seems like this dog does not have the temperament for it.  By teaching her, at this point, that it's OK to show any form of aggression or dominance, you could end up creating a mess of trouble.  Rather than teaching her to growl or protect, I'd focus on rewarding her for acting happy and comfortable around people.  Reward her when she's not acting scared or fearful, but rather when she is being outgoing.

So, what do you do about your protection?  Well, there are plenty of options here.  If you want a dog for protection, get a personal protection dog.  These dogs are bred and trained to be there for you with just one command.  You really don't have to worry about them being overly protective, because their drive to bite is not driven by fear.  It's driven by play and obedience...a much safer combination than fear.

You could also opt for non-living forms of protection.  A tazer or mace are both great options and are a great way to protect both yourself AND your dog.  For long walks, I've known more than one person to walk with mace or even something as simple as a bat or stick just to have a little something more. 

You may also want to find a walking buddy or a group to walk with, as there's safety in numbers.

All of these options are better than teaching your 4 1/2 year old pet dog to growl at strangers; particularly if she's a submissive dog who only really wants to be loved to start with.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Preparing For A New Baby

In case you haven't heard yet, my husband and I are expecting our first child in June.  It's a wild and crazy time for us, but this journey doesn't just involve the two of us.  It also involves our dogs and cats (otherwise known as our "first born").  Things may get stressful for us, but at least we know exactly what's happening.  Cody and Lollie, however, may end up having a much harder time of things.  So, for all those who are facing the same predicament, here are some tips.

1)     Train your dog.
Obedience training can definitely be an asset when bringing a new baby into the home.  Imagine taking your dog on a walk.  Now imagine it with a stroller and diaper bag.  Scary thought, huh?  Teaching your dog basic commands such as down, off, stay, and heel will make life much easier once the baby’s in the home.

2)     Keep your dog off furniture.
At the very least, teach your dog to ask permission (sit, down, etc.) before jumping up.  This is important if your child is on your bed.  Your dog could jump up and not even realize the child is there, causing at the least a scratch and the worst serious damage.

3)     Consider Crate Training
Crate training is less for the baby’s safety and more for the dog’s.  The crate provides a quiet, secure, area where your dog can sleep or relax undisturbed.  It is also important to teach your children (and their friends) that the crate is your dog’s quiet area…like a meditation room.

4)     Start Socializing.
Get your dog used to children.  Children cry and scream and run around.  They smell funny and make funny noises.  They don’t pet, they smack.  They often pull on ears and tails, climb on, and chase.  They stick their fingers in eyes and ears and food bowls.  They come along with very odd accessories like diapers and strollers and cribs.  They get cool “dog” toys that the dog can’t have.  Oh, and they get all of Mom’s and Dad’s attention.  Get your dog used to all of these.  Try walking him with a stroller.  Hold a baby doll.  Any sort of baby-item that uses batteries or electricity should be turned on at some point.  Take your dog to play grounds (the younger the dog the better).  Record the sound of a baby crying and play it on a nightly basis for your dog (you might get used to it too).  Oh, and don’t forget that your dog’s schedule will change.  Prepare your dog for early-morning feedings.  Throw off his eating and walking schedule.  Basically, let your dog know that all the changes are not necessarily due to the new baby.

Hans and I are lucky in that both Cody and Lollie have spent a lot of time with small children, and their life is in constant upheaval (ah, the life of a business owner).  But if your dog hasn't gotten used to kids yet, and you're considering children in the near future, don't wait to get started.  Don't assume everything will be fine because your dog loves you.  Start getting her used to the new situation now.  Don't wait for the baby to come home, and don't wait until your pregnant.  Plan ahead a little.  Oh, and have fun!!!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Old Dog, New Trick

Thanks for this blog. I have a question, wondering if you could help. I have an 11-year-old collie, very healthy. We're moving to an area that has no grass or park to let her lose nearby.

The problem is that over the years we have always lived near a park and she got used to ONLY pee or poop over grass, over leaves or snow. She has never peed on asphalt, sidewalk or the curb.

Do you know how can I teach her to go on the curb at this age? Any help will be appreciated. Thank you much!

Alright, so my first thought here is, "Find some grass."  Your dog is 11, and while she's perfectly capable of learning new things, it's not always fair to ask her to change her life that much.  Is there even just a small tree with some dirt that you could take her to?

Let's assume, though, that there really is no other option.  Well, that's when you kind of have to go back go potty training 101.  You do have one advantage, though.  Your dog already knows not to go potty inside.

If your dog doesn't know one yet, start off by teaching a potty command.  When your dog uses the bathroom, put a command with it.  Say something like "Go potty!" or "Hurry up!"  Really, the words you use don't matter so much, just so long as your consistent.  I've had some people use "Ketchup" to mean go pee, and "mustard" to mean go poop.  Then, reward your dog for using the potty by providing a small, tasty treat.  It won't take long before you'll be able to use this command and have your dog respond by using the bathroom.

Next, stop allowing your dog to run loose to potty.  Keep the leash attached and use that "go potty" command.  Reward your dog for using the potty on command.  Now you're ready to go to the city.

When it's about time for your dog to potty, take her outside, and use her go potty command.  She might not respond at first as she's used to the feel and smell of grass and dirt.  If she doesn't potty, don't make a big deal of it.  Just take her back inside.  Here's the key, though.  Don't allow her to simply run around free.  Keep her on leash so she can't just run off and hide her potty somewhere in your house. 

After 5-10 minutes, try again.  Take her outside and tell her, "Go potty."  Repeat these two steps until she actually goes.  When she does, give her tons of praise and rewards (make sure she's actually done going as you don't want to startle her into stopping).  Then, lead her back inside where she can have her usual freedom.

Obviously, this is going to take a little time (a couple weeks to prep at least), and it may take some extra time when you first move, so adjust your schedule accordingly.

A few more tips for when you move: Make sure you keep her potty spot fairly consistent to start off.  She'll quickly start to see that as her potty spot.  Also, if you can find a spot where other area dogs tend to potty, go there.  Their scents may help encourage her to potty as well.

Good luck on your move, and be gentle with your gal.  This is a big adjustment for her too!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Big Bully

Hello all!  I'm so sorry for the delay in posts.  Time just got a little away from me.  I've received some really great questions recently, though, so I'm hoping to catch up here soon.  For this post, I've received a question regarding a large dog and some young kids.

I have a question and would really appreciate any help. My husband and I got a bull mastiff- Rottweiler mix 7 months ago and he started being aggressive with our 3 year old and 1 year old right away. He is fine with me and my husband but growls at the kids. He has growled very viciously since bringing him home. He growls if they pet him on his back or get close to him when he has, food, water, or a bone. Sometimes he growls for no reason. The kids are never mean to him and are never alone with him. We tried getting him trained two weeks straight with no change. He has actually nipped my 3 year old son once that didn't draw blood but did leave a mark and make him cry. My question is there any hope for him or do you think he will always be aggressive? We don't have money to get him trained anymore. He hasn't been fixed yet but people keep saying he will stop being aggressive after he's fixed but he's been doing this all along. Would appreciate your advice on to keep him or not. Thanks so much!

This is actually a really difficult question to answer, but my primary instinct is to say that he's probably not a good fit for you family.  Let me explain.

First, kids are not like normal people.  I'm sure you see your 3 year old a small person who's just cute and learning.  Your dog does not see them this way.  To your dog, a 3 year old is an alien creature who talks in a really weird language and doesn't quite walk right.  That's pretty scary!  Don't even get me started on what a 1 year old is like to your dog!!

Secondly, as much as you work with your dog, you also have to work with your kids.  Most kids see dogs as something soft and snuggly that they can play with.  Even kids that are cautious with dogs end up interacting with differently with them than an adult would.  The way they pet and talk and look at a dog are all different, and the way your dog looks at them is different too.  Trying to teach a very young child the exactly perfect way to approach, pet, and handle your dog is, well I don't like to use the word "impossible," but it's extremely difficult.

Third, your dog has already bitten your 3 year old.  He's already setting the tone, and chances are things will end up getting worse before they get better.  You're putting both the dog and the child at risk by keeping them together.

Fourth, this is not something that developed over time.  You did not bring in a dog 7 months ago who was well-socialized to kids but then developed a few issues.  Your brought in a dog 7 months ago who didn't like kids from the get-go.  Changing that is going to be difficult.

Lastly, simply the time and commitment it would take to make things better.  It's certainly not impossible to help your dog, but it will take a lot of work (far longer than 2 weeks) and a lot of time.  In my experience, most parents of 2 young kids just don't have the time or the energy to handle that (a big applause to you if you do).

Now then, all that being said, there are a couple of things I'd like to clarify about all I said. 

1) Age will make a difference here, and I haven't met your dog.  No offense, but I always worry when someone tells me their dog is aggressive.  Many times, what they see as aggression is really just overgrown hyper puppy.  Having never met your dog or seen how he acts around your kids, I am really just assuming that what you're saying is completely accurate.

2) Notice that at no point did I think your dog should be put down / euthanized.  Just because he's not a great fit for your family doesn't mean he wouldn't be a great fit for someone else.  It could just be that he's not great with kids, but would do wonderfully in a home free of children.

I really hope this answers your question.  I'm sorry I couldn't give you a more positive response, but I really worry when young kids are involved.  Good luck!

Monday, December 16, 2013


It is around this time of year that I get a slew of questions regarding the holidays.  People ask things like:

Should I take my dog with me on vacation?

What should I do with my dog when the family comes over?

Is it safe for my dog to have turkey / ham / pecan pie / etc?

How can I keep my dog from jumping on the table / people / etc?

Are poinsettias really bad for my dog?

Where should I place my Christmas tree so I know my dog won't damage it?

The thing with most of these questions is that they all depend on your dog and your lifestyle.  So, let me first address the more generic questions.

Is it safe for my dog to have turkey / ham / pecan pie / etc?
I'll be honest.  I'm fairly lax here and will often give my dogs a small treat or let them lick my plate.  However, just like with most things, there is definitely such a thing as too much of a good thing.  I would never give my dogs a whole plate of turkey or even their own slice of pie.  Chances are it would make them sick, and I'd be left cleaning up the mess.  And there are a few things that aren't so great for any dog.  Raisins (which are found in many Christmas desserts) can be dangerous and pork is almost guaranteed to make them sick.

How can I keep my dog from jumping on the table / people / etc?
If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times: obedience, obedience, obedience.  A dog who is in a down / stay or place is not going to jump on the table or your grandmother.  In addition to that, though, a lot of exercise will help your dog stay a little more relaxed and that should help keep them on all four paws as well.  Lastly, if your dog is not trained and you don't think you're going to monitor him / her, consider boarding or day care.  I'd rather you drop your dog off somewhere for a night than get horribly frustrated.  There are enough frustrations during the holidays.  Your dog shouldn't be one of them!

Are poinsettias really bad for my dog?
Surprisingly no.  Most people think the white sap and the red leaves in a poinsettia are deadly for both dogs and cats, but that's a myth.  While the berries can be somewhat toxic, poinsettias pretty much have a needlessly bad rap.  Still, though, you must ask yourself if you're OK with your dog or cat eating your plants.  If you're not, you may want to stick with an artificial version (I have one at the kennel that's nice to be able to use year after year).

For all the other questions, it really depends on your dog.  Do you have a calm dog?  Does your dog enjoy traveling?  Is your dog fully house trained?  Are you willing to watch your dog a little more than normal while there are new distractions?  What about your family?  Are they dog people too, or are they having trouble comprehending why you would want anything in your house that has fur on it?

Personally, my dogs are always part of the festivities.  They travel with me, and they're there for everything except Christmas Mass.  They're well-behaved through Christmas dinner, and I just keep a little extra eye on them as people start coming in (they love being around new people and will sometimes get a little over-excited).  Not everyone is like that, though, and not everyone has a family that is as dog-friendly as mine.  If you think your dog may cause more trouble than you can handle, it may be best to board your dog, have a friend watch your dog, or even just put your dog in a separate room for a few hours.

I hope the next few weeks find you relaxed and happy.  No matter what your plans for your dog over the holidays, spend this next week enjoying your dog.  Go for long walks, play games, just have a good time.  I promise it will put you in a good mood and in more of the holiday spirit!


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Jack the Jack Russell Is Being a Jack A**

About 5 months ago, my family adopted a 1 ½ year old neutered jack Russell/poodle mix (we think!) named Jack from the SPCA. He has proven to be a challenge, but until recently we have not had any issues that aren’t fixable through simple training. On Thanksgiving day, Jack somehow got a hold of a cotton swab and took it into his crate with him. I idiotically reached in to get it from him, and he left some nasty bite wounds on my hand. Yesterday, my dad had the leftover turkey on the kitchen counter, and when he left the room for a minute, Jack managed to grab a turkey leg and bring it into his crate. My dad had to use a garden rake to retrieve it, which Jack proceeded to bite and attack the rake throughout the process. Today, my mom had the turkey out on the counter, and when I stepped in front of Jack in attempt to get him away from the turkey, he immediately went into attack mode; if I had not been wearing plush slippers, there’s a good chance I’d be in the emergency room right now. Other than this newfound aggression over turkey, Jack is a sweet, affectionate and playful dog. It would be my worst nightmare to have him put down over this. I understand that there are no quick fixes to such severe behavioral issues, but my family and I obviously cannot go on living in fear of Jack attacking every time we eat. PLEASE HELP!

 Let me start by saying that this is a VERY serious issue.  Biting of any kind is concerning, but the fact that he's biting to the point of breaking skin and possibly needing stitches is worrisome.  So, what should you do?

The first thing I would do would be to take away any possibility of him getting anything he shouldn't have.  How do you do this you ask.  Well, you have to make sure you can monitor him at all times.  The best way to do this is to utilize two different tools: The leash and the crate.  When he's with the family have him on leash, attached to someone who can keep a good hold of him.  When no one can watch him, put him in a crate.

Next comes training.  He needs to learn how to listen to you.  Even just one command will go a long way.  For this instance, I would teach him a solid recall (come) or a sit.  That way, if he does happen to get a hold of something he shouldn't have, you can give him a command to call him away from it.  Ideally, though, you would put him through a good, solid training program.  I like to make dogs work for all the things they really want in life (to go outside, to eat, to play, etc).  Essentially, he'll learn that everything good comes from you and he has to work for it.

After that, we need to work on desensitization.  I'd start when he's eating his food.  Start by giving him his regular food, and every few seconds drop a high-value treat in his bowl (hot dog, cheese, etc).  Don't move around him or pet him.  Just drop the treat in his bowl.  After a while he'll start to recognize that your approach of his food is a good thing.  He may start to wait for you to give him the treat, or he may just start wagging his tail when you approach him.  At that point, you can try moving away from him and returning to him before dropping the treat.  When you get tail wags for that, try taking things up another notch.  Try approaching from different directions, then try touching him, all while giving him treats.  This will help him learn that your approach does not necessarily mean he's going to lose something good.  Rather, he may gain something better.

Lastly, if he does happen to get something he shouldn't, don't just try to take it away.  Try to trade it for something better.  Offer him a toy or a better treat.  See if there's something special enough for him to give up.  That way, it's no longer a fight over who gets the treat, but rather an opportunity for him to have something better (in his eyes anyway).

I will recommend that you consult a professional trainer as well (more than just on this blog).  It's hard to diagnose and treat an issue without meeting the dog or knowing the family dynamic, so it's best if someone is able to meet with you.

Good luck with Jack.  I know it's a lot of hard work, but having someone who is willing to work with him is extremely important for Jack right now.  Many rescues won't spend much time with a dog who shows severe aggression, and even if they do work with him, it becomes difficult to transfer his good behavior into a new home with new rules.  I wish you the best!