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Appreciating Everyday Moments with Your Dogs

Appreciating Everyday Moments with Your Dogs

Appreciating Everyday Moments with Your Dogs

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Appreciating Everyday Moments with Your DogsThe older you get the more you realize that some of the most beautiful and memorable things in life are the most simple, everyday moments. I find that this definitely holds true as a dog owner. As much as I am always thinking about and searching for adventures and fun things to do with Jackson and Tinkerbell, perhaps my favorite time with them is mid-morning, just sitting on the floor of our family room to play with them and pet them.

The dogs and I have a very regular schedule that includes their playtime, meals, and potty time. I never consciously set this schedule, it just evolved and the dogs are sticklers about adhering to it, like furry Sheldon Coopers. If they could they might write-up a Dog Owner Agreement for me to sign, but thankfully they don’t have thumbs and can’t read. We seem to fine tune the schedule as time goes on and I have noticed recently that the dogs have added a 9:30 a.m. round of indoor bitey face and zoomies that never used to occur.

Appreciating Everyday Moments with Your Dogs
Tink enjoying a post-lunch antler

At 11 a.m. they are ready for lunch and will remind me of this by sitting and staring at me with great intensity. After lunch, Jackson likes to come to me to do “upside down puppy” which is the name we have given to his odd habit of laying down for a tummy rub headfirst up against a human with a twist onto his back. I have never been able to successfully capture a photo or video of this, but he stands next to me while I sit on the floor leaning against our big chair-and-a-half sized recliner, then puts his head down on the floor next to my leg, and rolls himself head first onto the ground and then onto his back with a gymnast style twist. Once on his back he sticks all four legs into the air and waits for a tummy rub. It is impossibly adorable and puppy-like and is a loveable contrast to his serious, intense appearance.

While I sat on the floor and scratched Jackson’s belly, Tinkerbell relaxed on the love seat across from me and chewed her antler. I sat quietly and enjoyed the moment, the only sounds coming from the open window and the birds and insects outside, Tinkerbell’s chewing, and an occasional contented groan from Jackson.

Appreciating Everyday Moments with Your Dogs
Jackson waiting for me to give the “upside down puppy” go-ahead.

I had watched some of the 9-11 memorials on television earlier in the morning and was feeling some of the emotions that many of us feel every year on this horrible anniversary: reflective, sad, heartbroken for the victims and families of that day, remembering where I was, what I was doing and how the day unfolded so close to my hometown while I was all the way across the country living my life in Indiana. As I peacefully petted Jackson, I  also was overwhelmed with pride for my firefighter husband and the work he does day in and day out, and also grateful for my own life and to be here on this exact day in this exact place.

After awhile Jackson decided he was finished with his tummy rub and he hopped up and chewed on the antler for a few minutes with Tinkerbell who had moved a few feet away from us. They played  back and forth with the antler for a few minutes and then both went to claim a soft spot on the sofa in our front room for their afternoon nap, the next event in their daily routine. They will now nap until around 3 or 4 pm when they find me to let me know that it is time to go outside or go for a walk.

As I thought about today’s blog and what I was going to write about (something I usually do during the aforementioned puppy nap time), I realized that many of my friends and readers could relate to the simple pleasure of just spending quiet time with your dogs, whether they are newly adopted and you are getting to know them or if you have an unspoken schedule and routine that you share from years of living life together. Dogs are the experts at living in the moment, and I think it’s a lesson we can surely take from them, to not just live in the moment, but to enjoy each and every good moment in life even if it’s something as simple sitting on the floor of your family room with your furry best friends.

 

When Guests Don't Like Dogs

When Guests Don’t Like Dogs

When Guests Don’t Like Dogs

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

When Guests Don't Like DogsAs I write this blog, one of the human kids has a friend over who is clearly not a dog person. This is an extremely unusual occurrence in our house, perhaps happening with the frequency of a Leap Year or the recent eclipse. In fact, I think I can count on one hand the number of humans who have stepped into our home who do not like dogs.

Of course Tinkerbell has decided that this young lady is going to be her new Best Friend Forever whether the visiting human likes her or not. That’s just how Tinkerbell lives her life. Imagine if we all had that confidence in who we are!

It isn’t helping matters that our daughter made popcorn and put it into a clear Pyrex bowl and placed the bowl on the sofa. Jackson and Tinkerbell love popcorn and are accustomed to patiently sitting and waiting while we eat it and toss them occasional pieces. And no matter how good they are or how well trained they are, that bowl is in a spot where they could just reach over and grab a mouthful without any human assistance.

Jax and Tink love strangers as much as they love popcorn. Strangers with popcorn are obviously the best thing ever because the new human might not know the rule that the dogs get only an occasional piece of popcorn for every handful the humans consume. There is significant potential that the new human might dispense handfuls of popcorn to the dogs and make it the best day in all of Dogdom. In fact I will never forget the first time our dog sitter watched the dogs, she texted me and asked, “Is it ok if I give the dogs a few pieces of popcorn? They seem to think they are going to get some!” I had laughed that day as I pictured both dogs sitting straight up, their intense brown eyes willing our sitter to give them the popcorn. 

When Guests Don't Like Dogs
If I look sad enough, will you like me?

Getting back to today, I was standing in the kitchen watching them beg for popcorn and saw Tinkerbell reach up and lick the friend’s arm as a little reminder that seemed to say, “Hey, don’t forget me! I’m waiting for my share!”

As I called her off, I watched as the friend wiped her slobbery arm on her shirt with a look of horror as if we had sprayed her with something acidic. I laughed inwardly a little as I headed over to remove the dogs from the room, thinking of the amounts of dog drool that I have had on me over the last forty-plus years and how the allergy test that I did several years ago did not even react one bit to the dog “allergen” that was injected under my skin after a lifetime of exposure to dog hair, dog drool, dog germs. At this point if I was exposed to gamma rays I would probably turn into some sort of Labrador/human Avenger type hero, able to use my big otter tail to knock out villains.

As an avid social media user, I see memes on a regular basis with sentiments like “I live here, you don’t” and while I agree with them in some ways, there is some etiquette that should come into play when visitors come into your home. While I am not one bit concerned if I have dog hair on my sofa and I am not going to lock them away where they cannot be seen just because guests are here, it is also our responsiblity as dog owners to make sure they aren’t climbing and jumping on guests (whether they like dogs or not) or sitting and staring intently at people and begging them for their snacks or food.

About 97% of our guests are perfectly happy with Tinkerbell crawling into their laps and sprawling all 67 pounds of herself across their legs for a tummy rub. The same percentage is ok with Jax thrusting his giant head into their personal space for a chin scratch. For the small percentage of visitors who are not overly thrilled with these things, there is the “off” command. Sometimes it takes a few times, sometimes the dogs try to sit and stare at the guests as if silently willing them to love them, but in the end I prevail and they go to lay on their beds with a big doggie sigh of disappointment.

Of course when service people come to the house the dogs are always put into their kennels for the dual purpose of keeping the dogs away from the door that is opening and closing more than usual and to keep them from pestering the workers who are trying to get done and move to their next job. Often the dog loving workers will ask to pet them when they are done and getting ready to leave, and I am always happy to oblige.

I remember one man who was here to fix our internet and TV services who had to do a lot of work sitting on the floor in our living room. He practically begged me to let the dogs out of their crates because he had grown up with black Labrador Retrievers and wanted to play with them. After a few minutes of playtime I told the dogs “off” and they laid on their beds, although every once in a while one of them would approach him out of nowhere and give his ear or neck a nuzzle or lick. He seemed quite happy with their slobbery love and we were probably his favorite house of the day, but to allow that type of activity is normally completely off-limits.

On the few occasions that we have non-dog people in our home I am grateful for the multi-purpose use of the “off” or “leave it” command that I learned when Jackson was in beginner obedience. I had known of using that command to tell a dog not to grab something off of the ground or the floor although personally I had always used an all-purpose “no” which had worked great with my previous dogs. In fact I almost did not believe the trainer when she taught us that “leave it” could be used to stop a dog from snatching up a contraband item as well as to tell them to stop looking at or focusing on something.

Thankfully the dogs and I have practiced both applications of the command on a regular basis and can tell you that your dog will in fact learn that it means both things, reaffirming my belief that every dog owner should take each and every one of their dogs through a round of obedience classes even if they are knowledgeable, life-long dog owners. In addition to a training class being an incredible bonding experience for you and your dog, you never know what tidbit of knowledge you might pick up from different trainers. We now use “off” equally if I drop a human pill or a grape on the floor or if the dogs are too interested in another dog out on our walks or for those rare instances that we have a human in our home who just isn’t that into Jackson and Tinkerbell.

Of course telling the dogs to leave our guest alone will only last for that particular visit. I’m sure that the next time our daughter’s friend comes over that Jax and Tink will begin their campaign to earn her love all over again, because although they can learn multiple uses of a training command, they will never be able to understand why someone just doesn’t love them like the rest of the humans in their life love them. I cannot fault them that; I do not understand that either, but that leaves more doggie kisses and slobber for those of us who do.

Travel With Your Dog with Kurgo Adventure Products!

Jax and Tink Approved: PupJoy Subscription Box

Jax and Tink Approved: PupJoy Subscription Box

Jax and Tink Approved: PupJoy Subscription Box

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Jax and Tink Approved: PupJoy Subscription BoxSubscription boxes have been around for several years and I have tried many of them for different things like snacks and beauty products. As someone who loves trying out new products and getting a little surprise in the mail each month, I adore the subscription box trend. Until now, though, I have never tried one for Jackson and Tinkerbell.

If you have been following my blog, you know that Jackson and Tinkerbell are my beloved Labrador Retrievers and that providing them with a healthy, holistic lifestyle has been the inspiration for this blog. You also know that I am extremely conscious (i.e.neurotic) about the quality of the food, treats, and toys that I allow them to have.

My criteria for anything that comes near my dogs is that it must be made in the United States, must be made with strict standards by responsible manufacturers, cannot have any wheat, corn, soy, white potatoes, eggs, chicken, beef, animal digest, by-products or menadione. Additionally, one of my dogs is somewhat intolerant to cheese and dairy. As a result, I have avoided the world of the subscription box because I could not necessarily guarantee that what was going to come in the box would meet my extremely strict criteria.

Then I learned about PupJoy!

The funny thing is that I was not really searching for a canine subscription box. In fact I kinda just stumbled across them by accident. As I read through their website and came across this statement, “PupJoy Boxes are filled with natural, organic treats, toys and accessories from responsible artisan brands, all carefully selected and vetted by the most discerning dogs.” Excited about what I was reading, I promptly signed up for a subscription!

Adding to the appeal was the fact that I could customize the box and decide whether it would be for one dog or multiple dogs, if I wanted to receive treats, toys and accessories, just toys and accessories, or just treats. I could specify if I wanted the treats to be All Natural, Grain Sensitive, Protein Sensitive, or Organic. Since I wanted “all of the above” for Jax and Tink, I chose Organic since I have found that most organic treats are all natural and made with grains and proteins that fit my needs. Finally, I could choose the type of toy (plush, durable or a mix of both) and the size of the dog who was going to receive the box.

For our first box, since I figured I could upgrade at a later date, I chose a box for one dog, with a mixture of treats, toys and accessories that included Organic Treats and Durable Toys for Large dogs. I quickly received a confirmation email and I anxiously awaited the box’s arrival.

Jax and Tink Approved: PupJoy Subscription Box
Waiting so patiently!

Now, let me say that I LOVE companies that send beautifully branded packages! It makes an online purchase into a complete shopping experience. Companies like Tervis Tumblers, Ole Henriksen, Stella & Dot, Melissa McCarthy and Lily Pulitzer do this fabulously, so I was super excited to see that the dogs’ PupJoy box came beautifully put together. Of course, the dogs do not care what the box looks like, they just want the goodies inside, but as a frequent online shopper, I most definitely appreciate the extra detail and the whole experience of opening such a beautifully branded box.

Jax and Tink Approved: PupJoy Subscription Box
Even the box is fabulous!

I opened up the navy blue box with the image of the wagging tail and was excited to see that the inside was a cheery hot pink color printed with bone, heart, collar and house icons as well as another of their wagging tail logos. The contents were in white tissue paper with a logo sticker and a glossy flyer that contained PupJoy’s contact information, a link for more information on the products in the box, social media sharing information, an option to earn rewards through referring friends, and information on the Bissell Pet Foundation, to which a portion of each purchase is donated.

Jax and Tink Approved: PupJoy Subscription Box
Super cute!

Last month Jackson and Tinkerbell received a plush Topsy Turvie cow/beaver toy that has (or had, in this case) several squeakers and the head of a cow and the back-end of a beaver. The box also included the PupJoy Brewing Treat Dispenser, which is a rubber treat toy that you can fill with soft or hard treats, similar to a Kong. Treats included Camberville Dog Treats Travel Canister and some other selections, all of which met my super strict, neurotic dog mom criteria. The dogs loved their treats and had a fun-filled evening playing tug-o-war with the Cow/Beaver. I think they believed it was their mission to separate the toy into the individual animals of cow and beaver so that by the time they were done the cow section was detached from the beaver section. You can check out my video of unboxing our first PupJoy box at the end of this post.

Jax and Tink Approved: PupJoy Subscription Box
PupJoy goodies!

This month I decided to change to all treats without toys or accessories so that Jackson and Tinkerbell could share a box more easily. Tinkerbell enjoys plush toys more than Jackson, so this made it more fair.

I was super excited to open the box and find four full-sized packages of treats, all of which met my very strict criteria and limited list of ingredients. Not only am I elated with the quality of the treats and ingredients, I am also impressed that they have sent me brands that I have never seen in any of our local stores. I love to find out about new options that I can reorder for Jackson and Tinkerbell to keep their treat options interesting.

After receiving our first box I immediately wrote to PupJoy to find out of they offered an affiliate program, which they do, so I am pleased to offer my Happy Tails | PupJoyown affiliate link for any friends and Love, Laugh, Woof followers who would like to start your own subscription. I would have recommended this awesome box anyway, but affiliate links are how we bloggers can earn a small income in exchange for sharing information about the products we love. The PupJoy box definitely falls into that category.

 

 

 

Love, Laugh, Woof Dog Stories: Babe and the Downtown Cow

Love, Laugh, Woof Dog Stories: Babe and the Downtown Cow

Love, Laugh, Woof Dog Stories: Babe and the Downtown Cow

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Love, Laugh, Woof Dog Stories: Babe and the Downtown CowI was browsing through Facebook earlier today when I came across a photo in a Labrador Retriever group of someone’s Labrador and their cows. The dog was getting epic kisses from the cows and generally having a great time visiting his bovine buddies in their barn. All of a sudden it reminded me of a morning walk with my late Babe that had drifted back into the far recesses of my memory.

I’ve talked about adopting my then two-year old Labrador Retriever Babe when I rented a tiny one bedroom apartment in the downtown area of the small-ish Midwestern city Valparaiso, Indiana. Not only was the apartment tiny, it was in a house that had essentially no yard and definitely nowhere to fence even if my landlord had allowed it. As a result, Babe and I walked every day, like the proverbial mailman, in sun, rain, snow, sleet, you name it.

My walks with Babe were beyond special. Although they were initially just for the practical function of making sure she went to the bathroom and got plenty of exercise, we quickly developed an incredible bond and mind-meld. She was my first dog of my own and my first heart dog to be all mine. It was Babe and me, together, and our cross-species friendship was the glue that held my life together on more occasions than I can count, in more intense and emotional situations than I am willing to write about right now. Back then I did not view her like my canine child like I do Jax and Tink, but as my very best friend.

Babe and I walked every inch of downtown Valparaiso over the years that we lived there. We walked along the main street that was lined with businesses and hug

Love, Laugh, Woof Dog Stories: Babe and the Downtown Cow
Babe circa 2002

e windows that she loved to look inside. Sometimes patrons of the shops and restaurants would cross our path and she would start to wiggle from a block away, so adorable and Lab-like that they always stopped to pet her. We walked past churches, old Victorian homes, newer homes, the local elementary school, the library, and several banks. She liked to go into the banks because she often got biscuits from the dog loving tellers.

One beautiful autumn morning she and I were walking very early before I had to get ready to go to work. It was September and I remember the weather was absolutely perfect and I had spent most of the walk enjoying the fall decorations that were starting to show up on neighbors’ front porches.

As Babe and I walked in silence, in our special mind-meld between dog and owner, we reached a section of the street that was completely lined by a hedge that was taller than me. As we started to walk on the sidewalk next to the hedge, I heard a moo. Babe heard it too, and she stopped and turned to look up at me with a puzzled look on her face. “Ok, that sounded like a cow!” I said out loud as she wagged her tail as if she understood.

We took a few more steps and heard it again, just on the other side of the hedge.

“Mooooooo!”

We took a few more steps and all of a sudden, Babe started to pull me as she raced forward to a hole in the hedge. She shoved her head into the open area and I watched as she came face to face with an adorable black and white calf.

Oh my gosh, it IS a cow!” I said to Babe as her tail wagged so hard I thought it might fly off of her body, “At least I’m not going crazy!”

We walked to the end of the block to a portion of the yard where the hedge did not block the fence and the calf followed along on her side of the yard. Once there was no hedge to block us, Babe and the calf exchanged kisses and nuzzled as they checked each other out. Babe’s tail wagged even harder as she investigated this strange creature. I knew she would not hurt it and her reaction was sweet and submissive to this bigger, strange creature that was just a baby.

We visited the calf as long as we could before I had to end the interaction and head to get ready to go to work. Of course I told the story to everyone I saw and then a few days later came across an article in our local paper that explained that the homeowners also owned a dairy farm a half hour away and that the calf had been rejected by her mother. Driving back and forth for feedings was too difficult to do for an extended period of time, so they brought the calf to hang out in their downtown yard until it was old enough to rejoin the herd at the farm.

Even though this experience was nearly fifteen years ago I decided to search for the article. Thanks to the paper’s online archives, I found the original article as well as an editorial supporting the cow’s temporary stay in downtown Valparaiso.

As I read the article, I was elated to see a photo of the calf standing in front of the same little fence where she and Babe had licked each other so lovingly that beautiful autumn morning. In the seven years since Babe has gone to the Rainbow Bridge, I had almost forgotten about that morning that was so special at the time.

I sit here trying to remember what else was going on at that time. What had been on my mind that morning besides appreciating the beautiful fall weather before we came across the cow? I cannot recall any those things almost 15 years later, but I can recall everything about Babe and the cow, a true testament to the role that dogs have in our lives and the things that really matter.

 

Unbox Joy | PupJoy

CHASING THE SQUIRRELS OF SUMMER

Chasing the Squirrels of Summer

Chasing the Squirrels of Summer

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

CHASING THE SQUIRRELS OF SUMMERI have had the worst case of writer’s block in recent weeks. As a dog blogger with a goal of five posts a week, writer’s block is not welcome in this brain of mine. Although maybe instead of writer’s block I should call it writer’s distraction, because right now I feel a little like my favorite character Dug from the Disney movie Up in terms of my ability to focus.

SQUIRREL! 

If you are not familiar with the movie Up, you will want to click here to see what the heck I am talking about before moving on with the rest of this blog.

When a Blogger Can't Blog

This year I started planning out my blog posts in an awesome blog planning binder that I learned about from another blogger. Along with a calendar from PetPlan pet health insurance with all of the special pet awareness days, I spent all spring efficiently planning out the topics that I would share with you.

In addition to my binder and that calendar, I have ideas stashed away in Evernote, in various notebooks, on slips of paper, and even old receipts that I’ve used as scrap paper when I am driving or out and about and have a thought or inspiration. I get ideas when I am walking my dogs, playing with my dogs, washing my hair, drying my hair, reading social media. There is an endless array of blog topics at my finger tips as well as in every handbag I have used for the last few months.

That is until I can’t think of anything to say or make my mind focus on one of these fabulous topics.

SQUIRREL!

Chasing the Squirrels of SummerAnyone who knows me would laugh out loud at the notion of me without something to say, without an opinion, without some helpful tip or random fact to share, especially on the topic of creating a happy, healthy, holistic lifestyle for dogs and being a responsible lifelong owner to forever dogs. I mean, the whole reason I created this blog and felt so passionately about turning my passion for taking care of dogs into a career, is that I was already being approached by everyone I knew for dog advice and information. And yet for the last few weeks I have not been able to put my thoughts into my laptop in a way that anybody would want to read.

Summer around our house is like Penn Station, with people coming and going all day, every day, with different destinations and purposes, but always with the utmost urgency. It has been like this for as long as I have lived here, as our human kids have been able to have somewhat of an “old fashioned” childhood, playing with friends outside each and every day until it is dark outside and we force them to come in, instead of sitting inside playing video games in dark, stinky bedrooms.

We are all friends here on our cul de sac and we all have kids ranging in age from mid-twenties to babies and toddlers, which means there are a lot of teenagers and kids coming and going. Although our own teens have outgrown actually “playing” outside, they have swapped it for simply hanging out outside with each other. Sometimes the teens will play with the younger kids or watch them to make sure that they are safe and sound, which warms my heart and reaffirms that they are really growing up like family more than just neighbors.

Although this is wonderful and I would not change it for the world, it also results in our teenagers coming in and out of the house all day, every day. And if you are a parent to human kids, you know that with kids come questions. Lots, and lots of questions.

“Can I go in the _____ family house?”

Yes.

“Can I go for a bike ride with _____ and _____ ?”

Yes.

“Actually we are going to walk instead, is it ok if we walk instead of bike?”

Yes.

“Can _______ and _______ come in our pool?”

Yes.

“Can you help put my bike chain back on?”

Uh, no, but your father can.

“Can we ride to Walgreens?”

Uh, who else is going? Ok, yes.

Then there are the teens with cars, one of whom is 18 and will be attending college in the fall. He does not always have to ask to go somewhere, but we still require he check in with us from time to time.

“I’m going to my girlfriend’s and then to work.”

Ok, keep us posted if plans change.

“I am going to go here, here, here, and then there. And then to eat.”

Yes. Keep me posted from time to time.

The phone rings, “Instead of what we were going to do, can we come hang out at our house instead?”

Yes. Keep me posted if things change again.

Our other teen with a car just obtained her license and car this summer, so she has been fabulous in taking her sister places and making unsolicited coffee runs.

“I’m running to Dunkin Donuts, do you want coffee?”

Heck yes, and you are officially my favorite child for the day! Here’s some money!

I think you get the picture. Again, don’t read this the wrong way. This human family of mine is one of the greatest blessings I have ever known, and I never want the questions to stop. I just would maybe like them spaced apart a bit more.

I laugh at myself often, though, because when I first became a step-parent I was slightly hurt that the kids would walk right past me to ask their father a basic question when I was right there and perfectly capable of telling them if they could have a juice box or go into a friend’s yard. Now I laugh as they text and call me first because they know I have my phone on me at all times. Sometimes I look at Jax and Tink and tell them, “I am glad you two can’t talk!”

I am both proud and happy that our teens listen to us and ask before they do something, tell us if they are going somewhere, even if it is a distraction from my train of thought…and my next thought, and my next thought, and my thought again twenty minutes later until that train of thought is derailed and crumbled up in a heap of blog topics and to-do list items.

The kids are not my only squirrels who are distracting me. My own love of summer is also to blame, like a big fat squirrel with a huge bushy tail, frolicking along right smack in front of me. In fact, it is the most alluring squirrel of all. I love sunshine and water, and when both of those are in my back yard, I am torn between being raised to “do your work first and then have fun” versus the words of my late Nana Fern.

Nana Fern was my mom’s mother and also a writer who published hundreds of childrens’ stories in Highlights and a few other magazines in the 1950s and 1960s. Although she passed away from cancer when I was just two years old, my own mother always told me that Nana would frequently stop in the middle of what she was doing on a sunny summer day, whether she was writing a story or doing housework, and say, “It’s too beautiful outside to work, let’s go to the beach!”

My own mother was a teacher, and so she had every summer off, and we spent essentially every day of her summer break at the beach at our lake on which we lived in New Jersey, and then at our pool in Valparaiso, Indiana after we moved halfway through my high school years. We never missed a sunny day of summer fun, largely inspired my my Nana Fern’s outlook on living life to the fullest, especially when you are blessed with a perfect summer day.

Since I am master of my own schedule, I take Nana Fern’s approach each and every time. In the north we are lucky to get from May through September in our pools before adding the special pool closing chemicals, putting on the cover, watching the pool walls and cover get whipped with ice and snow all winter, and then hoping for the best (no algea or cloudy water) when the cover is removed in the spring.

My other squirrels who distract me are my husband and my dogs, none of whom I can resist when they want my attention. To be married to someone who likes to talk to me, likes to do things with me, is another incredible blessing. And of course when Jax and Tink say it’s time to play, it’s time to play, no questions asked!

Chasing the Squirrels of SummerI follow as many entrepreneur pages and blogs as I follow dog related topics, and most of them talk about the hustle that it takes to make your business work, the non-stop pushing your way to the top, to the point where you feel like everyone else is leaping out of bed, making thousands of dollars in sales each hour, signing the biggest deals of their lives, or whatever it is that they do in their particular business, and essentially living the life of the investors on Shark Tank until they go to bed at night.

I could do that, but I’m not going to.

I could have also done that at my previous job and worked my life away on someone else’s dream in pursuit of promotions and fancy titles that sounded impressive but left my soul empty. Hell would have frozen over before I did that.

I often feel incredibly guilty that I am distracted by the squirrels running around instead of growling at them like a boss and making them run away with their bushy tails between their legs. It seems as if those other entrepreneurs who are always posting about hustle and hard work would never be distracted by squirrels and their bushy tails.

In the middle of writing this blog I had a long talk with my business/mindset coach about the squirrels that I keep chasing and how I’ve been very down on myself the last few weeks that I am not like those other entrepreneurs who work their business from sunrise to sunset. In fact I started to wonder if this blog was to make myself feel better rather than explain why you have not seen as much Love, Laugh, Woof as you are used to.

Of course my coach reminded me that one of the reasons that I am pursuing a life as a dog blogger and self employed solopreneur is because the squirrels who are distracting me, the squirrels that I am chasing, are my squirrels that mean so much to me. They are my why, my reason for choosing a career in which I could be flexible and work when I want to work on my own terms and spend more time with my family, with my husband, with my dogs. Of course the other major why is to help as many people as I can create a happy, holistic lifestyle for their forever dogs like I work so hard to create for Jackson and Tinkerbell. I cannot write about that life if I am not living that life myself!

So while the “work first, have fun later” teachings are telling me to leave those squirrels alone and to focus on business, my Nana Fern’s mindset is winning for a reason. By taking advantage of every chance that I get to spend with our teenagers, with my husband, with Jackson and Tinkerbell, or reading yet another chick-lit novel while floating on my lounger in my pool with nobody else around, I am reminding myself of the whole reason that I embarked upon the whole mission behind Love, Laugh, Woof. We only get so many days with our dogs, we only get so many days with our other humans, and we only get so many days with ourselves, that our focus should be on making the best of them in a way that we want.

 

How Much To Feed Your Dog

How Much To Feed Your Dog

How Much To Feed Your Dog

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

How Much To Feed Your DogThe other day I came across a conversation in a Labrador Retriever focused Facebook group in which a dog owner was asking fellow dog owners how much they fed their dogs. Their puppy was still growing and they were not sure if he was gaining too much weight too quickly and if they were feeding him an appropriate amount of food or if they should pull back his food intake.

IMG_3199I watched the conversation continue as different owners chimed in with the number of cups that they fed to their own Labrador Retrievers as puppies and as adults. Some owners said that they fed three cups split into two meals, others fed four cups of food, others gave two cups. What I found interesting was that nobody mentioned the number of calories that they fed their dogs or took into consideration the brand and formula of pet food that they were each feeding, meaning that their answers were not even remotely close to being helpful for the particular dog owner. It was like comparing apples to cucumbers for the dog owner who had asked the question. Of course this made me wonder how many other dog owners struggle with this question.

Jackson and Tinkerbell both consume roughly 1797 kcals per day, split into three eight once cup servings. Most adult dogs do not get three meals a day but mine are creatures of habit and we just kept on that schedule after puppyhood. In fact, they know the phrase “puppy lunch” quite well and know that it happens at 11:30 on the dot. This amount is perfect for them in the winter months. Tink weighs in around 65 pounds which is perfect for her and Jackson is around 78. They both have a nicely tucked up waist and a lean layer of fat over their rib cages which is ideal for their breed, neither too skinny nor too fat.

Think of kcals as you would think of the number of calories in a serving of human food. A serving of dog food is measured as an 8 ounce measuring cup, so instead of 140 calories for your container of human yogurt, you will see “Kcals per cup” on your dog food bag or manufacturer website. If you want a very detailed explanation of how Kcals are actually calculated you can find it at the Association of American Feed Control Officials, otherwise known as the AAFCO. Since pet food manufacturers have to provide the information, as well as the guaranteed analysis of other nutritional  information, you can just go with the information that is provided instead of figuring it out on your own. It is an interesting read, though, if you have the time.

Brands of food vary dramatically in how many kcals per cup are in their food. I am a committed customer of holistic, organic dog food Canine Caviar, which has around 599 kcals per cup in most of its formulas with the exception of their Special Needs formula, which is just one of the many things that I love about their food. A low quality food like Purina Beneful Originals in beef flavor has 333 kcals per cup, so you would have to feed your dog nearly twice as much of that food in order to match the kcals per day that I feed in Canine Caviar. Zignature Whitefish formula, which is my backup brand for Jackson and Tinkerbell has 424 kcals/cup so I have to increase their portions each day to meet the same caloric count if I feed them that food.

Here are some other brands of food and their kcals/cup:

Wellness Complete Health Adult Deboned Chicken & Chicken Meal Recipe: 386

Fromm Four Star Nutritionals Whitefish & Potato: 360

Hill’s Science Diet Advanced Fitness: 363

Royal Canin Labrador Retriever Adult: 276

Nutro High Endurance Adult Dog Food: 365

Each brand should have feeding guidelines on the bag for a variety of activity levels. It is important to be honest with yourself on how active your dog truly is and also monitor your dog’s weight carefully throughout her life to ensure that she is growing at an appropriate pace during her puppy years and is neither underweight nor overweight as an adult. It is likely that you will need to adjust the number of kcals that you feed your dog as he/she goes through different phases of life and sometimes at different times throughout the year. For example a hunting dog will burn more calories during duck or pheasant season than when just hanging with the family in front of the fireplace. IMG_3200

With both Jackson and Tinkerbell we hit a point where their puppy metabolism slowed and I had to reduce their calories accordingly as they gained more than the desired “layer of fat” between their rib cage and skin. This happened with each of them as they left puppyhood and became adult dogs. I have also learned that they are far more active in the fall, winter and spring than they are during summer, so I reduce their kcals slightly during the summer months when the Chicagoland heat and humidity soars and they take up their residency on top of the air conditioning vents. Usually cutting down to a half a cup at puppy lunch and leaving their breakfast and dinner the same works just fine. I signed a “No Fat Labs” promise when I picked both of my puppies up and I make sure that I abide by it for their overall health.

If you are raising a puppy that you purchased from a professional breeder, go with the guidelines on your bag of food but also make sure that you check with your breeder to find out how much to feed and how quickly your puppy should grow.  Exemplary breeders should be more than happy to answer these questions and provide information on nutrition and other topics throughout your dog’s entire life.

The rate of growth is particularly important for large breed puppies who could have joint issues from too many calories and growing too quickly or becoming too heavy while their joints are growing. You can also ask your veterinarian during your first puppy visit, which should occur within days after bringing that puppy home, and then consult about your puppy’s weight and progress at each of your subsequent puppy vaccination appointments.

IMG_3198Another very interesting resource is a Google Hangout that I was fortunate to participate in with Jeff Baker, the founder and President of Canine Caviar, when I was a content writer for them. He shares what I consider to be extremely interesting information on how the amount of food that you feed to small breed puppies can impact their colon and cause incontinence or colon issues. He also talks about how you can gauge whether or not your puppy is growing too quickly by whether or not their paws turn out to the side or face front.

A great resource on how many calories to feed your dog can be found on the Dog Food Advisor website using their Dog Food Calculator. Also check out their page about How To Determine Your Dog’s Ideal Weight. 

Thank you for reading and following me. Love, Laugh, Woof, and give your dog a tummy rub from me.

 

 

How Many Dogs Should You Have?

How Many Dogs Should You Have?

How Many Dogs Should You Have?

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

How Many Dogs Should You Have? One of the most frequent questions that I am asked after explaining that I blog and write about dogs for a living is, “How many dogs do you have?”

“I have two,” I always reply.

“Oh,” is the frequent response as if the person asking is disappointed that I do not have a house overflowing with dogs like the ending scene of 101 Dalmatians, or perhaps the scene when the Dalmatians look like black Labradors from running through the coal bin.

“I want to make sure I give them the best life possible, so I make myself limit our dog population to two,” I will often add, which is true, but it is also important to point out that the right number of dogs varies for everyone.

Before Jackson and Tinkerbell and before my late Dutch and Maggie were in my life, it was just my sweet black Labrador Babe and me. With a one-to-one human to dog ratio, she went everywhere with me. When my mom passed away and her German Shorthaired Pointer, Dutch, joined Babe and me, the transition was extremely hard on all of us. It took at least six months to acclimate to having two dogs and to get myself to the point where I could enjoy walking both of them at the same time and taking them both on adventures together with me.

How Many Dogs Should You Have?
Babe on a beach adventure

A year later I met my husband and when we joined his household, we suddenly had three dogs. Then as Babe and Dutch headed deeper and deeper into their senior years and each of them passed away at the age of 13, we felt utterly lost with only one dog and started to rebuild our dog family with the addition of Jackson and then Tinkerbell.

The decision of how many dogs to have in your own home is entirely personal based on your lifestyle and the relationship you want to have with your dog or dogs. I have one friend who easily manages five Labradors and Labradoodles, another friend who at one point had over ten dogs without being in a hoarder situation, and many friends who have a “human plus one” relationship with their dog.

My husband, the kids, and I all like to talk in both of our dogs’ fake human voices on a pretty regular basis. When Tinkerbell is pestering big brother Jackson to play with her by squeaking her favorite toy into his face for ten minutes without stopping or she is mounting him to try to get him to play, we often joke “I would have been ok as an only dog, Momma, seriously. I would have been fine, but NOOOOO, you thought I needed a playmate!”

Ninety seven percent of the time he eventually takes the bait (or simply gives up resisting) and starts to play with her, and the other three percent of the time he goes to his kennel and plops down with a huge sigh. At the end of the day, though, they are a truly bonded pair and he would be lost without his crazy little sister.

So why are we 100% set on sticking with “just” two dogs? Why not give Tinkerbell a second option as a playmate for those times when Jackson is not interested?

Our local dog ordinance is a big reason. It dictates that each home in our town can have a maximum of two dogs and two cats. We did live with one “extra” dog for the first few years that we lived together as a result of blending my 2 dog household with his 1 dog household. We would never have given a dog away, but after Babe passed away in 2009 at the age of thirteen, we knew we would remain a law-abiding two dog household because I had been very stressed about breaking a law that could affect my dogs’ actual lives.

A second important reason for limiting ourselves to two dogs is related to our budget. When we brought home first Jackson and then Tinkerbell, we committed ourselves to a lifetime of food, veterinary care, treats, toys, and all other dog related expenses. It would not be fair to them to stretch that budget by taking on another dog and then potentially not be able to care for all of them properly.

So would we get a third dog if we did not have a two dog ordinance and if money was not an object?

Probably not.

How Many Dogs Should You Have?
Babe, Beau, Jake and Dutch

If you have seen the iconic movie Gone With the Wind, you might remember the scene with Scarlett O’Hara eating barbecue with a large group of suitors. “A girl has but two sides to her at a table,” she flirts with them as they hover in a group all around her, attending to her every need. When Babe and I used to dog sit for my mother when all three of her dogs were alive and she was actively going on scuba diving trips in tropical locations, I would sit down on the floor and essentially let all four of them (Mom’s three plus my Babe) wriggle their way in to get petted, to give me kisses, to lay across my lap, and generally be a 350 pound mass of squirming dogs all around me. Just like Scarlett flirting with the boys at the barbecue, I loved every moment of it, but it was impossible to give all of them an equal amount of attention.

I loved when we went outside and all four of them followed me around, everyone making eye contact with me when I said that it was time to go inside or if I offered up a biscuit. I loved bedtime when I squeezed into bed with all four of them and each dog found their spot to sleep. I loved it when I would wake up in the morning with my arm around one, another’s paws pushing into my spine, a third dog’s head on my feet, and a fourth dog laying on my pillow. I loved feeding time when I prepared four bowls and set them all out in their own spot, one at a time. I was in my dog lover glory with four dogs around me.

At the end of the day, though, just like a Southern Belle eating barbecue at a table in the old south, there are but two sides of me. Two hands for chin scratches, two hands to hold leashes, two hands to rub tummies.

When you have gone through a dog’s entire life cycle multiple times with different dogs who you all loved as heart dogs, from puppyhood through the senior years, you know exactly how quickly that time goes and you want to do everything that you can to make the most of the time that you have together. For me that means plenty of one-on-one attention with both of my dogs.

For being in suburbia, we have a nice large yard for potty breaks and playtime. It is perfect for games of zoomies or fetching a ball, but other than that it is not very interesting or mentally stimulating, at least not day after day. For the dogs to go on adventures we have to go to parks or forest preserves, and it is much easier to do so with two dogs instead of three or more.

How Many Dogs Should You Have?
Jackson & Tinkerbell

Although I can and do take both of them together, I really prefer to take one of them at a time so that we can have a very special one-on-one bonding experience as well as so I can make sure that nobody is snarfing down contraband items that humans or nature left behind. With two dogs I can alternate who has that experience with me; if we were to add a third or fourth dog it would reduce the number of times any dog would go off on a fun adventure with me.

This also holds true for snuggle time. Most evenings end up with Jackson laying across my husband’s lap getting ear rubs and tummy scratches while Tinkerbell lays the entire length of my body on top of me on our recliner and gives me kisses and gets an ear rub. If my husband is not home, each dog can take one side of me. When we have had fosters in the house, someone was always being pushed aside or left out during snuggle time.

When our big chocolate Labrador foster named Kodiak was in the house, Jax was the one pushed aside, usually literally. Kodiak was a huge friendly dog who I think was part Great Dane based on his size and the structure of his hips. He loved to snuggle and took up most of the sofa when he laid in my lap for affection. When foster dog Destiny was with us, Tinkerbell pulled back from me entirely because of all of the attention that Destiny was taking from me. In fact my husband pointed it out that Tink was subdued and actually depressed and I did not realize it until after Destiny had gone to her forever home and my sweet happy Tink was back in my lap again.

This does not mean that people with more than two dogs are not giving their dogs enough attention or love, or that my limit of two dogs is the right thing for everyone. My friend/breeder who brought Jackson and Tinkerbell into the world has around eight or so Labradors and she has a special heart-dog relationship with each and every one. She is also a professional trainer with a large piece of land and a pond and an indoor training facility that she owns and operates, so she can handle all of them easily when they go to their favorite beach and offer them much more fun and excitement than a large rectangle of fenced in grass right in their own backyard. My friend with the pack of five Labradors and Labradoodles also has a large piece of property that offers plenty of fun and games and new smells without going into suburbia for something new to sniff or see.

At least once a day I receive a note from someone with a wonderful dog in need of a home. “You love dogs, you need another one!” the message will say. Believe me when I say that there are many times I am tempted to throw all of our logical reasons for staying with two dogs away and adding to our dog family. But I always hold firm and try to share the information with other potential dog owners who can give the dog the one-on-one attention that it deserves while my dogs get the attention that I promised them when they were both little pups.

I do love dogs, without a shadow of a doubt. I love dogs so much that I have committed my life, my profession, my everything to caring for my two dogs, to getting the most out of every precious moment together, to giving them a healthy life that gives us more days than we might otherwise have, and reaching out to the world to help other dog owners create a happy, healthy, holistic lifestyle for their forever dogs. And it is that same love of dogs that forces me to stick with two dogs.

At least for now.

 

 




Networking With Your Dog: Tinkerbell's First Restaurant Trip

Networking With Your Dog: Tinkerbell’s First Restaurant Trip

Networking With Your Dog: Tinkerbell’s First Restaurant Trip

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Networking With Your Dog: Tinkerbell's First Restaurant TripEvery June lucky dogs throughout the country are able to go to work with their humans to celebrate Take Your Dog to Work Day. With a self-employed dog blogger as their dog mom, for Jackson and Tinkerbell, every day is Take Your Dog to Work Day. This year, however, a friend of mine from my all-time favorite networking group, Women Entrepreneur’s Secrets of Success (WESOS) decided to make up her own Take Your Dog to Network Day and arranged a meeting for any of her self-employed dog owner contacts to meet for a networking lunch with our furry best friends.

When the actual Take Your Dog to Network Day came around we had inclement weather, so the meet up was rescheduled for Friday, July 14. Since July is normally extremely warm here in the Chicagoland area, I chose to take Tinkerbell with me since she does a bit better in warmer temperatures.

Tinkerbell enjoying her walk along the Dupage River

A friend asked how I can take just one of them with me at a time, and the answer is that although I feel horrible taking one dog on a fun adventure and leaving the other home, I make sure I alternate who goes with me to make it fair in my own mind. They don’t remember, but I do, and so Jackson will get the next big adventure out into public or that consists of more than just a walk around the neighborhood.

Although they walk well on a leash together and we take the majority of our walks together, it is still easier for me to enjoy our time out on a big adventure with one dog at a time. Otherwise instead of enjoying that time with that particular dog and seeing his or her personality shine through, I am worried that one is snarfing up something from the ground like a piece of random food or animal waste while the other is sniffing something in another direction.

The day of the networking lunch we also received a spur of the moment invitation to be interviewed for a friend’s new webcast in the morning, so Tinkerbell and I headed out around 9:30 am. Part of my friend’s webcast includes her giving her guest a professional blowout in her home based hair salon, so this was Tinkerbell’s first experience in a hair salon. She was so excited to be in this new situation that she kept forgetting that she is not allowed to jump on people, so she jumped a bit on my friend before calming down to sniff every inch of the salon and then chilled by my feet while I had my hair dried.

Tinkerbell in front of the Naperville Carillon

We did the interview outside and Tinkerbell was elated to sniff around the yard and explore a heavily wooded yard which is the complete opposite of our house on what used to be a cornfield. I was elated that although both Jackson and Tinkerbell sometimes have selective hearing in our own yard, that in this strange yard as soon as I said her name or gave her the “come” command that she immediately turned to look at me or ran straight to me.

Tinkerbell at the Riverwalk Cafe
Tinkerbell at the Riverwalk Cafe

After we left our friend’s salon we headed to the Naperville, Illinois Riverwalk, which is a beautiful walking trail and park along the West Branch of the Dupage River. In fact my husband and I had part of our first date there as well as our engagement photos a few years later, so it is definitely a happy place for me. Tinkerbell loved it too and happily trotted along sniffing the smells and wagging her tail at other people as we headed to meet our fellow dog-owning business owners for lunch at the Riverwalk Cafe.

My WESOS sister Mary and her Collie Quincy were already there at an outdoor table so Tinkerbell and I joined them. Quincy was adopted by her family as a senior dog just last fall and it is believed that she lived as an outdoor dog her whole life. She was originally rescued by a horse rescue before she found her way to her forever family who loves her and dotes on her like every senior dog should be loved.

The beautiful Quincy saying hello across the table

A bit later we were joined by another WESOS sister, Cathy, and her one year old Golden Retriever Tucker. It was interesting to me that the dogs did not interact much other than to sniff each other in an introductory fashion. Of course there were a lot of other patrons and people walking around and all three dogs really focused

Tucker gets a drink of water

on us, their humans.

Tinkerbell is so social that I had worried that she might spend the entire lunch trying to get to all of the other humans or engage the other dogs in games of bitey face and zoomies, but she was pretty content to hang out with me. Of course that might have been because I bought Tink her very own side salad, without dressings or croutons of course. And I know, I know what you’re thinking, that I write all the time about the fact that dogs are not small furry people, but I did it on a whim to make the experience even more fun for her. I fed most of it to her well away from the table.

Tink’s salad

While I am an expert on creating a happy, healthy life for dogs, I won’t say that I’m never a pushover for my own dogs. They are well-behaved and trained, but they may or may not have had a piece of cucumber or some sort of treat slipped to them from the table at various times throughout their lives.

I am looking forward to our next Networking With Your Dog meeting so that Jackson can have his first restaurant experience and so that I can share the love of dogs with other female business owners and see how he reacts to dining al fresco with me. Although they are a bonded pair, Jax and Tinkerbell have such different personalities that it is fun to spend one-on-one time with each of them.

Sleepy Tinkerbell on the drive home

I find being out in public around other people and other dogs is a great bonding experience for our own human/dog bond because it confirms the fact that I am their human, their caretaker, and their trusted leader, and that they can and should check in with me for further instructions when they are in a strange place or situation. Well, for further instructions and perhaps a nibble of cucumber and some lettuce.

 

Happy Tails | PupJoy

Dog Collar Safety: When to Let Your Dog Go Naked

Dog Collar Safety: When to Let Your Dog Go Naked

Dog Collar Safety: When to Let Your Dog Go Naked

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Dog Collar Safety: When to Let Your Dog Go Naked Here in our house we have names and phrases for a lot of things that most “normal” people do not when it comes to our dogs. I have found that they have learned more than I ever imagined they would just from us using the same phrase each time they do something or we humans do something. This also applies to our practice of taking off and putting on their dog collars throughout the day.

“Naked dog!” is what we exclaim to them when we remove the collar, said with a happy joyful voice and a neck scratch for them.

“Get dressed” is the phrase that they have learned that means to lean their head forward and wait for their collar to be snapped back into place.

Before Jackson and Tinkerbell were born our other dogs, who have since gone to the Rainbow Bridge, always wore their collars, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. By the time they became a threesome, none of them had to be in crates and they were all older middle-aged or senior dogs so there was really not any rough-housing taking place. They bonded mostly by snuggling and sniffing the yard together instead of playing zoomies and bitey face. Their collars never posed a hazard and our kids and their friends were so young and in and out of the fenced yard so often that the biggest threat was that a gate would be left open and one of the dogs would go exploring the neighborhood on their own, so a tag with identification on it was a must.

When we picked up Jackson as a little eight week old puppy, we noticed that our friend/breeder had entirely naked dogs; not a single one of her ten or so dogs wore a collar as they frolicked in and our of the house to greet us. Of course she is a professional dog trainer who owns a large piece of land in the country and her dogs are absolutely perfectly trained and seem to hang on to her every word, so the need for a collar and identification is not as strong as for some dog owners.

Over time, between watching how my dogs play with each other and from reading articles on crate safety, as well as from anecdotal stories of bad accidents or tragedies from collar related incidents, we now remove or put on Jackson and Tinkerbell’s collars throughout the day depending on the situation. additionally, we have had a few random incidents in which their tags on their collars got caught on things that could have been a hazard if we were not there to help.

When Jackson was a puppy he was persistent in his attempts to lick off our dirty dishes every time I loaded the dishwasher. We had many battles of wills during that time, with me patiently removing him and telling him “off” and him immediately resuming his licking attempts. Over and over, I would remove him, he would try again.

One day when he was around five months old he was sitting a few feet away from me, watching as I loaded the dishwasher. He was being very good in his sit and wait position but I could tell he really wanted to run over and lick off dirty plates.

As I turned to the sink to grab another dish, in the span of just a few seconds, he managed to put his front paws on the dishwasher door, and steal a lick from a dinner plate. I told him “OFF” and as he quickly backed away from the scene of his indiscretion, his tags caught in the wires of the dishwasher rack.

Jax panicked at the pulling sensation on his collar and took off in the opposite direction, but the dishwasher rack was firmly attached. Knives, forks, and plates bounced out and landed on the kitchen floor as Jax and the dishwasher rack went racing through the room like something out of a cartoon. I ran after him and stopped him and quickly unclipped his collar so that I could untangle the tags from the dishwasher rack.

The incident remedied his dish licking and he never approached the dishwasher again, but he could have really been hurt. Oddly enough, the same exact thing happened to Tinkerbell during her dish licking obsession as a puppy, and I had to chase her down and release her collar, like I was in some weird puppy vs. dishwasher deja vu situation. Of course we don’t leave the dishwasher open unless we are cleaning up after a meal, so this is not something likely to happen when an owner is away, but it definitely showed that their tags could get caught in bizarre things as our curious young dogs went about their daily lives.

Last summer we had a scary incident in the middle of the night when Tinkerbell woke me up by standing and whimpering next to my side of the bed. She had a habit of sleeping on top of the air conditioning vent and her tag had gone down through the slats while she was laying down and twisted. As a result, the entire metal vent cover came off of the vent when she stood up and was dangling awkwardly from her collar, the corner of the metal poking her in the neck slightly.

Since I was sound asleep it took me a minute to figure out what was attached to her and I quickly released her collar. Free from the metal grate, she jumped up into our bed and squirmed into my lap, her tail wagging furiously in fear and relief. After that I began to remove both dogs’ collars at night, although I have not seen her sleeping on top of the vent since.

Why Use Collars at All?

The function of the dog collar is of course to attach a leash for walking and to ensure that your dog has identification on him or her. If your dog slips out your front door and runs to a neighbor’s house, they can easily look at the tag, give you a call, and within minutes reunite you with your best friend. In fact, many people who find loose dogs falsely believe that a dog without a collar is a stray or uncared for, even though collars can come off rather easily and you cannot see if a dog is microchipped without having him or her scanned with a chip reader.

I personally prefer a harness for walking dogs because it takes the pressure off of the dogs’ throat and distributes it across their body. Even the best loose leash walking dogs get excited every once in a while when they see a favorite person or a rogue squirrel and could pull and damage their throat, spine, or neck. I cannot remember the last time I actually attached a leash to a collar. Jax and Tink wear their collars on walks but that is to carry their identification; the leash itself is attached to the back ring on their harness.

Dog Collar Hazards

Bitey Face/Zoomies

Naked while playing

Collars can pose a considerable hazard when you have multiple dogs who play with each other. Games of bitey face and zoomies can become dangerous or even deadly if one dog accidentally gets his or her teeth or jaw caught in another dog’s collar, causing damage to the dog whose mouth is stuck and potentially strangling the dog with the collar that is tightly stuck around the other dog’s mouth. You should always remove all collars before allowing your dog to play with another dog. 

Collars while out and about

In our house Jax and Tink are never left unsupervised for very long and I always remove both of their collars when I see their body language and behavior indicate that a game of rough housing is about to happen. They are both good about stopping in mid-play when I intervene, waiting to become “naked dog” and then resuming their play session. As they have become adult dogs and are trusted for longer times without a human in the room, I have started to remove their collars so that if a game erupts when I am in another room of the house they will not become intertwined.

Crates

I am a huge fan of crates but only if they are used correctly and in a positive way, which is to keep your dog safe from harming him or herself when you are not there to supervise their activities and decisions. Crates and collars together are a potentially deadly combination, as collars and tags can easily become caught in the slats of plastic crates or between the wires of metal crates and choke a dog. In fact in the last few weeks I have heard two different stories of dogs being strangled by collars that were caught in crates, which is the tragic and heartbreaking reason for the timing of this blog. Always remove your dog’s collar before putting them in a kennel or crate. 

I follow a very simple process any time the dogs go into their crates. I give the “kennel” command and they run to their specific crate to wait for their treat. First I give Jax his treat and remove his collar, then I give Tink her treat and remove her collar. I place each collar about six inches away from the kennel so that I know exactly where they are and so that they are handy to put back on the dogs when we come home and let them out of their crates.

An On/Off Approach to Dog Collars

I have ultimately taken an on/off approach to our dogs and collars so that they are either naked or wearing their collars depending on the situation. Their collars are always on if we go outside in our own yard or on walks because having my phone number on their collars means that they could be reunited with me quickly and not have to go somewhere to be scanned for their chips. I believe that if they ever slipped out of the gate or front door that they would be the type of dogs to run right up to the next person they saw for belly rubs and treats rather than the type of dog who would run away or evade humans, so having my phone number on their collars would lead to a faster reunion.

When they are in their kennels or I am sleeping or even just hanging out in the house, their collars are off and always put in a place where I can reach them quickly, like hanging from my dresser draw pulls or in front of their kennel doors in case of an emergency. Their harnesses also stay in the same spot on separate hooks that I can access quickly if we needed to leave the house or go into the basement for a tornado warning.

It may sound like a lot to put the collar on, take the collar off, but at the end of the day, it is how I feel safest and prepared for all situations. We take our own shoes on and off multiple times a day, we change our clothes depending on what we are doing, it is literally a few seconds per dog to put a collar on or take the collar off. That is very little time and effort to avoid a potentially life altering accident or tragedy because of a collar related incident.

 

 




Love, Laugh, Woof Product Review: The RV Pet Safety Temperature Monitor

Love, Laugh, Woof Product Review: The RV Pet Safety Temperature Monitor

Love, Laugh, Woof Product Review: The RV Pet Safety Temperature Monitor

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Love, Laugh, Woof Product Review: The RV Pet Safety Temperature MonitorIf you believe in things like the Law of Attraction, you hear frequently that the Universe puts you right where you need to be at exactly the right time. I used to always think this was a mere coincidence, but in the last few years I have come to be a believer in this.

A few weeks ago I wrote about keeping your dog safe in summer weather even if you do not have air conditioning in your home. In fact, I even wrote:

Invest in a remote monitoring device: There are some inexpensive monitoring devices that will monitor the temperature in your home and send you text alerts or provide information via an app on your phone so you can determine if your home is at a safe temperature for your dog while you are away. I have not tried any of them so do not have recommendations but if I do you can be certain I will blog about it.

Yesterday I shared the story of how my husband and I have been shopping for campers and RVs for the last several months. One of our conversations while we were shopping was about our love for Disney and how my husband would love to stay at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground. He mentioned that if we did that, we could take the dogs with us, especially since we always spend as long as a week visiting my father and step-mother and that they have never met their grand-dogs. Plus we would save on a pet sitter, and most importantly, we would not have to be away from them for such a long time.

Of course I brought up the concern that I would not feel comfortable leaving the dogs in a travel trailer in the Florida heat because although we would leave the air conditioning on there was always the possibility that it could fail while we were off exploring the parks. I would rather the dogs stay at home in Illinois than put them at risk in a hot camper.

Love, Laugh, Woof Product Review: The RV Pet Safety Temperature Monitor“There has to be something on the market to monitor the temperature in the RV and send you information via text alerts or an app! It’s 2017, we have an app and monitors for everything, we can see and talk to people through our doorbell anywhere in the world,” I had told him, and we agreed that before we actually took the dogs camping at Disney, or anywhere that we would need to leave them alone for more than five minutes in the camper without us, we would research such a device.

Shortly after I wrote the blog about homes without air conditioning and the hubby and I pondered RV solutions, I attended a pet event and found myself assigned to a booth next to a woman who was sharing information on the RV Pet Safety Device. As I often do when I get excited about something, I am sure I overwhelmed her with my enthusiasm. Let’s face it, there’s a reason I love the Labrador breed so much; they are just like me!

“Oh. My. Gosh! I am so excited, I literally just wrote about devices like this and my husband and I have been shopping for RVs and we were just talking about how we would need something like this,” I exclaimed, “I am so excited to meet you!!”

Throughout the event she and I chatted anytime we had a free moment and we hit it off immediately. Both of us were moms, we had both left the corporate world to pursue careers that allowed us to actually have flexible lives instead of long commutes through suburban Chicago traffic, and we both were super excited about the possibilities of the technology of the product that she represents and its life saving potential.

A few weeks later we met up again and I was excited to borrow a unit that I could test for myself. Although we are not actually camping in an RV yet, I was able to take advantage of the July heat to test it by leaving it in my car on various trips to do errands. It is important to note that my dogs were safe and sound inside our climate controlled home. Only the device was left in the car in the heat while I wandered around various stores.

Here are my findings:

RV Pet Safety Device:

RV Pet Safety Device

The RV Pet Safety monitor is small, compact, and extremely easy to set up. The actual device measures around three inches by three inches and less than an inch thick. It is designed to be able to be moved from home to RV or anywhere your dog or cat stays, and comes with a bracket that you can mount with an adhesive backing to your home or RV. You can also place it on a flat surface like a shelf or counter.

I would suggest mounting the bracket to your RV near an electrical outlet and laying it on a counter top at home. Although they do not sell the bracket separately on their website, I would email the company and ask if you could purchase multiple brackets so you could move it around.

The charger is similar to a mobile phone charger with one end that goes into the device and a USB port at the other. You can plug it into a USB port in a vehicle or laptop to charge it or into the adaptor plug and into a traditional outlet.

RV Pet Safety App:

The RV Pet Safety App is equally easy to use. I set up my test account in just a few minutes, complete with a picture of Jackson and Tinkerbell, my mobile phone information, and custom settings for my desired temperature alerts for the lowest temperature and the warmest temperature that I would want the dogs to experience. It is important to add a buffer in the temperature settings to give you time for the unit to detect the actual temperature and for you to return to the location where your dogs are located in the event of an emergency.

There are also some help options within the app should a user have any problems, including a robust set of FAQs on setting up the app. Here are some screen shots of the easy to navigate pages. Remember, my dogs were happily at home in the air conditioning when I tested this unit in my empty car. 

 

Love, Laugh, Woof Recommendation: Love it! 

I found this device super easy to set up and use. Honestly, they could not have made it much more simple, plus they have a lot of help available should you need it, including a pop-up chat box for help on the website. In fact when I met with my new friend to pick up the test unit, I had arrived a few minutes before she did. While I waited I saw that she had sent me login credentials via email so within one to two minutes I had my app set up with my temperature specifications, alerts and contact information. When she said, “here, let me show you how to set up the app,” I said, “Oh, I already did it!” Now, in all fairness, I am one of those people who runs essentially their entire life from their phone, but it was still extremely user-friendly and simple.

The website is also easy to navigate with plenty of information. Check it out at https://rvpetsafety.com.

Love, Laugh, Woof Suggested Uses:

I want to be crystal clear here: this awesome device does not mean that dog owners can now leave their dogs in the car on a summer day when it’s 90 degrees outside and run into the grocery store for milk and bread with the car off and the windows cracked. That is still not safe because cars get too hot too fast. Period.

Home

I love the fact that the RV Pet Safety monitor can be used anywhere, including your home.  If you do not have central air or if you do have central air and leave the house for more than a few hours at a time, if you live somewhere with rolling brownouts during summer, or if you experience a power outage which can of course happen anytime or anywhere. We have had our central air break and our house got very hot very fast. I would have loved to have this when I was in my twenties and had only a window unit for air conditioning and used to obsess over whether or not my Labrador Babe was safe and comfortable at home while I was at work. Imagine the peace of mind if you are at the office an hour away and you can check in to see the temperature of your home!

RV/Campers

Of course, as the name states, the RV Pet Safety Monitor is also perfect for RV or camper owners who camp with their dogs or cats and want to have peace of mind if they want to go somewhere that does not allow their pets, like a restaurant, a bike ride, a local attraction or to a store. I nearly cried with relief when I found out this device existed because of the peace of mind it will give me when we finally do go get to camp at Walt Disney World’s Fort Wilderness Campground and decide to take Jackson and Tinkerbell with us. It means that we could run over to the Magic Kingdom or Epcot for a few hours with the RV hooked up and the air conditioning running and get alerts to ensure that they are nice and cool despite the Florida heat.

Police/SAR Dogs

Police and Search and Rescue (SAR) dogs work under some of the worst conditions of working dogs. Some experts say that crime rates go up in the hottest months of the year, and police dogs are called upon constantly to help sniff out contraband and catch criminals regardless of the weather or conditions. The RV Pet Safety monitor could send alerts to officers or SAR handlers to let them know if the temperature in the car is safe for the dogs while they are waiting to be called into action.

Dog Show Handlers

Some professional dog show handlers transport and show multiple dogs at the same event, and these dogs are often transported in camper like trailers with built-in kennels. Although they should be equipped with air conditioning, the RV Pet Safety monitor would be able to provide additional peace of mind to handlers in case the air conditioning fails or there is a loss of power to the trailer.

Kennel Owners, Bird Hunters, and anywhere dogs are left alone

There are so many opportunities for the RV Pet Safety monitor to help alert owners or handlers to unsafe temperatures in any place that a dog is left alone without a human present at all times. Dog kennels, hunting dog trailers, doggie day care centers, even the long-term care areas of veterinary offices could all have peace of mind from this little device that was created by a company who gained significant expertise in monitoring food and pharmaceutical businesses before they launched their pet safety device.

Pricing

The RV Pet Safety monitor itself is $199 and you can save $50 with the special coupon code LYNN50 during checkout at https://rvpetsafety.com. Because the device operates with the same technology as mobile phones and goes through the Verizon cellular network, you will need a monthly plan for the device to work.

You can choose from one of two plans. With the Occasional Traveler plan, you pay $19.99 a month but you can stop and start it anytime, giving you the ability to only pay for the months that you use it. This is perfect for someone like me who is really worried about the warm summer months or only camps sporadically or during summer.

There is also the NoMads Plan, which is currently reduced to $14.50 a month and is paid annually in a lump sum of $175 a year. This is perfect for people who are living the dream of living in their 5th wheel or Class A motor coach and traveling the country or who want to monitor their home all year-long. If you are planning on using the device more than nine months out of the year, this plan makes more sense financially than paying monthly.

Finally, there is a discount for non-profit and government organizations and a special link on the RV Pet Safety website: https://rvpetsafety.com/k9-dogs or email me at lovelaughwoof@outlook.com and I will put you in contact with my friend at the company.

The special savings code LYNN50 is an affiliate code and I will earn a commission from any purchase with this code. As always, I will never recommend a product that I do not personally use or strongly believe in as being something extremely beneficial for you and your dog. Like I mentioned at the start, I was so excited to learn of the RV Pet Safety monitor that I simply had to learn more about it because of the peace of mind that it can offer to every dog owner like myself who worries about the conditions in which their dog is left alone when I have to go or choose to go to places that they can not go by my side. Save $50 with code LYNN50

 

Camping World

Our Search for a Labrador Friendly Camping Trailer

Our Search for a Labrador Friendly Camping Trailer

Our Search for a Labrador Friendly Camping Trailer

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Our Search for a Labrador Friendly Camping TrailerMy husband and I have been searching for a camper all spring and summer. We have looked at everything from a luxury fifth wheel (too heavy and too expensive for now) to a teeny tiny 8 foot pop-up camper and everything in between. Well, everything under 4,200 pounds, at least. Throughout our search one thing has remained constant: there must be room for the dogs, a way to kennel them should we need to, and air conditioning to keep them cool.

Camping is a fairly new thing for me. In the past I have gone on a handful of weekend camping trips back in my twenties and thirties with groups of friends, a cheap tent, some hot dogs and chips, and more of the cooler space dedicated to beer than to food. I have never done family style camping or taken any of my dogs except for one night when Babe and I stayed in a tent at a festival style party in a friend’s yard. Even in my younger days I always had the policy of no drinking allowed when responsible for dogs, period.

Growing up in rural New Jersey my family was extremely outdoorsy. We lived lakefront and had a canoe and rowboat at our disposal, went on tons of hikes, went downhill skiing all winter. We fished, rode horses, went ice skating, ice fishing, river rafting down the Delaware, took bicycle trips. My brothers and I played in the stream and the lake and the woods every waking moment that we were not at school until our parents made us come inside around 9 pm each night. But we never once went camping because all of those activities were either right in our yard or just a day trip away, or we went to our beloved Ridin Hy Ranch in upstate New York and stayed in cabins. Of course our black Labrador Retriever Snoop accompanied us on as many of these adventures as she could.

Fast forward to adulthood and although I still love the outdoors and would like to resume most of these things that I did as a kid with my own family, with Jackson and Tinkerbell by our side, I won’t pretend that my idea of camping is more glamping. I love to be outdoors by day and in a nice clean modern room to shower and sleep. If that room happened to have four or five stars, even better! Enter the need for a camper or RV!

With each version that we have viewed we have had the same criteria: room for us and at least two of the three teens, and sufficient room for two seventy pound Labradors. Floor plans with long, narrow areas are out because there is nowhere for a dog bed and for them to snuggle up comfortably. Slide outs to expand the living area or hybrid travel trailers in which the beds are located in tent like areas that extend past the camper walls give more floor space. Even square pop-up units seem to give more floor space for the dogs than a long, narrow travel trailer without slide outs.

I feel like we are on the HGTV show Tiny House Hunters as we contemplate each option and how it fits our life and family. “We can fold the dinette table down to a platform and toss dog beds up there at night, I bet Tinkerbell would sleep up there and Jax will probably prefer a bed on the floor” are among the things that we say. Or, “We could keep their travel crates in the back of the pickup when they aren’t in them and put them on top of the folded down dinette if we want to go somewhere that they are not allowed, like to the pool or a restaurant, as long as the air conditioning is functional and we have some way to monitor the temperature!”

Our Search for a Labrador Friendly Camping TrailerI have learned that 57% of RV owners bring their pets along with them on camping trips, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association. In fact we were recently shopping for campers at a Camping World location and I was happy to see that their selection of food and treats for dogs consisted of healthier, organic and grain free options and brands instead of the mainstream lower quality items that many stores that do not specialize in pets sell.

In fact their dog aisles were stocked nicely with plenty of options for dog beds, bowls, steps and ramps, toys, tie outs*, moveable fences, and a huge selection of Dog is Good clothing and housewares. In fact once we start to camp I will definitely be purchasing the cute hoodie sweatshirt with a black Labrador holding a hot dog roasting stick in her mouth! Since these stores are located near popular camping areas around the country, their selection of products gave me the idea that they are a go-to resource for pet owners who live a RV lifestyle. It was nice to know that as a customer we could look for one of their stores if we needed anything for our own dogs.

Although we began the summer about to purchase a brand new travel trailer with a toilet, a shower and a sofa, a veritable home on wheels, we decided to start small and inexpensively to make sure that we are indeed a family who even likes to camp. With this in mind, we have finally decided on the right option for us and are purchasing a vintage 1965 pop-up camper that we will gut and rehab from top to bottom. It may not have the amenities that I want, and right now it smells the way I imagine 1965 smelled, but we will make it so that it is cute and clean and dog friendly and has a place to go to the bathroom at 3 in the morning if needed.

Of course it had to meet the criteria of having a nice space for Jackson and Tinkerbell to comfortably sleep at night as well as in the event of inclement weather if we are all stuck inside. My husband is designing a table that can act as a platform for them with dog beds that will match the rest of the decor, although I have an idea that the same sleeping arrangement will happen as does at home with Tinkerbell on the bed and Jackson on the floor next to me. Regardless of where they choose to sleep in the camper, they will be right there with us on adventures, which is exactly where a dog should be.

*It is important to note that while I am not in favor of tie outs for dogs at home, I understand their purpose at a campsite to give the dog a bit more freedom as long as the owner is right there with the dog at all times. 


Jackson and the tall, wet grass

Jackson vs. The Tall, Wet Grass

Jackson vs. The Tall, Wet Grass

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Jackson and the tall, wet grassNeither of my black Labrador Retrievers like to walk on our grass when it gets past a certain length.  Jackson objects to this type of surface more than Tinkerbell. While she will run through it, Jackson stubbornly refuses to step foot on it, which is creating quite an issue right now since the entire stairway from our deck is bordered with some very long grass.

We use more water at the edge of our deck than we do in the rest of the yard, between emptying and cleaning out the dog pool, watering the flowers on the deck, and washing off where Jackson insists on peeing on the last step of the wooden deck. As a result, the grass all along the bottom step grows much faster and longer than the rest of the yard.

My husband usually mows at least once a week, but it was rather dry and hot here during the early portion of the month, so the rest of the yard has not needed to be mowed for at least a week and a half, while the area all along the steps to the deck is long, dark green, lush, and growing like crazy. It is the best grass in the yard, unless you are a Labrador who does not like to walk through it. For the last several days, the temperatures have been excessively humid and we have had a lot of rain, so not only is that grass long, but it is now wet. Jackson’s reaction to this grass reminds me of the “hot lava” game that children play, where the floor is lava and you have to jump from furniture to furniture to avoid being burned.

Before I tell the rest of this story, let me backtrack a bit. Last year I attended a fantastic event down in Florida at the Southeastern Guide Dog School in which you get to learn about (and play with) puppies who may grow up to be guide dogs or other service dogs. One of the most interesting things that I learned during this activity was that dogs who make it all the way to being actual guide dogs for the blind have to have a special quality that allows them to think through a situation and consciously disobey their human even when given a command that they would normally obey. The best example of this is a situation in which a human gives the forward command to cross the street and the dog knows that a car is coming and intentionally disobeys to keep the human safe. Not all dogs have this ability, which is why some of the puppies will go to do other jobs and some will be adopted out to families without special needs to be a pet instead of a working dog.

As soon as the presenter told us this, I immediately thought of Jackson and thought that if he had been in such a program as a puppy, that he might have had what it takes to go all the way to actual guide dog. Of course I am glad he was not in the program because I am quite happy having him as my family member and best friend.

I have Jackson go through this type of thought process on many occasions, with the best example being times that I have called him to come inside the house and he has not yet pooped. There have been many times when he started to run to me when I said, “Jax, come,” and then stopped midway to me. Each time he looked at me, looked back into the yard, looked back at me, and then ran the opposite direction to quickly find a spot, do his business, and then race to the door to come inside. I have stood there and watched this and thought, “he is actually thinking through this predicament, he’s being called to come inside but he knows he has to poop and should do it now instead of asking to come outside again.”

I have watched him problem solve on other occasions and can say 100% that he is paws-down the most intelligent dog I have ever had, whether he is outsmarting Tinkerbell to get a toy away from her, or waiting for her to go inside before doing his potty business because she follows him so closely no matter what he is doing and he just wants to poop in peace sometimes without his sister sniffing his rear as he goes. And now, with the tall grass predicament, I am watching him work out this issue with the same intellect.

I assume that it is his sense of smell that alerts him to the fact that it is humid or raining outside. AFter all, that is their strongest sense, with a special part of their brain dedicated to analyzing scents in a way that humans could never dream of doing. He does not even need to go outside to know that the conditions are not to his liking; I can see his nose moving around, nostrils quivering, his snout tilted up before I even open the door. Sometimes he waits until the door opens, takes one whiff of humid air, and backs up as if saying, “Nope, not gonna happen!”

To some extent, this is driving me crazy. He is of course fully house trained and neither a puppy nor a senior, so I can trust him to wait until close to the last-minute to let me know he has to go outside, assuming I am home. However the times that I have had to go somewhere are a challenge.

I have tried every technique, from stern commanding human with a deep voice saying, “Jackson, come here now” to happy silly human with a treat in hand “good boy, come, come on Jax, good boy!” He knows the term, “off the deck” as well as “hurry up, go potty” but is simply not having anything to do with my requests. In addition to not wanting him to have an accident in his kennel when I am not home, I also do not want him to get a UTI from holding in his urine or be uncomfortable. I just want him to pee and find relief and get over this grass aversion.

I am sure my friends who are professional trainers will want to scold me, as well as any old school “your dog must obey you at every command” dog owners, but so far the best method of getting him off the deck and onto the grass when I need him to pee at that moment is to give Tinkerbell a treat in the middle of the yard and then hold up his own treat before giving him the “come” command. I know, I know, I write all the time about training your dog, how the “come” command can save lives, how it’s the most important one for them to know along with “stay”, but when I have to go to a meeting, am starting to run late, and just want my dog to pee, I am not above simple bribery.

Seeing Tinkerbell get a treat has been enough of an incentive for him to run through the awful, long, lush, wet grass to get his own treat, and once he’s beyond the “hot lava” portion of the yard he’s happy to roam around the shorter less offensive blades of grass. Once he is past that area, the grass is short enough that he will sniff around and relieve both his bladder and his bowels.

Yesterday I tried putting an old blanket down over the grass to make a path into the longer grass. He was not falling for it even though Tinkerbell happily trotted on and off the deck with the blanket and I gave him a demo to show him what I wanted.

He did, however, realize that he could leap off the side of the deck, which is fortunately just a foot or so off the ground, to a spot with much shorter grass. Once again, I applaud his problem solving skills and intelligence. It is better than another option that he tried, which was peeing on my husband’s brand new hammock on the deck. That did not go over well; I knew the moment my husband asked, “Do you know what your dog did?” that it was not something good.

Since he will not just get over it on his own, and I want him to be able to walk through surfaces that he does not like in the event of an emergency, I will double down on my training, using positive methods and a bit of creativity and work on getting him over this aversion in a way that is not too traumatic and maybe even a bit fun. If nothing else, fall will come and the grass will go dormant and we won’t have to worry about it until next spring.

 

 

 

 




Love, Laugh, Woof Celebrates All American Pet Photo Day

Love, Laugh, Woof Celebrates All American Pet Photo Day

Love, Laugh, Woof Celebrates All American Pet Photo Day

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Today is All American Pet Photo Day and here at Love, Laugh, Woof I am all for a celebration of photos of Jackson, Tinkerbell. After all, they are the biggest “why” behind what I do! Here are some photos of our summer so far:

 

 

 

 

The Consequences of a Dog Bite

The Consequences of a Dog Bite

The Consequences of a Dog Bite

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

The Consequences of a Dog Bite The last few Love, Laugh, Woof blogs have focused on training and socializing dogs so that they do not bite, or if they do because they are backed into a corner or they are older and caught off guard, that it is a soft warning bite. The reason that bites have been on my mind so much in the last few weeks is two-fold, and those blogs have been leading up to this.

The first thing that happened was that a friend of mine, who is a dog lover and works with dogs professionally, sustained a very bad bite and has been sharing some of her story and experience with me. Shortly after she was bit, the town in which I live also began reviewing their dog bite laws based on two dogs who recently bit a few people. One of our elected officials made some strong statements regarding his feelings on the issue of bites and several of us went to speak to the village board and present our thoughts, even though no official change to the law has been proposed.

Now, let me say that I am not a professional trainer and I am not a dog behaviorist. I am a lifelong dog owner who shares my vast experience in this blog on how to care for dogs, how to give them a healthy, happy lifestyle as a compassionate, forever owner. I am not the person who you are going to take a reactive dog to for training, I have never personally owned a dog who had the slightest bit of aggression or behavioral issues. I have also never been bit, except for my grandfather’s dog who nipped the side of my face when I caught her off guard with a hug. She did not leave a mark and I never told anyone because I felt like I should not have hugged her, that I had crossed some sort of boundary.

However, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that we owe it to our dogs to take every step possible to raise them to be dogs who do not attack humans, do not push past us out the front door to chase someone and bite them, do not jump a fence into a neighbor’s yard to bite someone. People who let their dogs do these behaviors fail them because it is the dogs who are going to pay the highest price for the owner’s mistake. It is the dogs who are going to pay with their lives while the owners pay with their wallet.

Part of taking on the lifelong responsiblity of a dog is to make sure the dog has positive experiences with people of all ages, everyday noises and situations, like we did with Jackson and Tinkerbell when we literally went down a list of things that we wanted to them to experience as puppies. That way you increase the chance that your dog will be view unusual people and experiences with the same chilled out response as they do the everyday things.The last few Love, Laugh, Woof blogs have focused on training and socializing dogs so that they do not bite, or if they do because they are backed into a corner or they are older and caught off guard, that it is a soft warning bite. The reason that bites have been on my mind so much in the last few weeks is two-fold, and those blogs have been leading up to this.

Is it foolproof, that if you socialize your dog that she won’t ever react fearfully or with a growl? No.

Does it mean that your dog won’t be completely freaked out if she sees a big blowup Santa waving in the wind on a December walk through your neighborhood? No.

But the more positive experiences you give them in the world the more likely they will not be fearful in other situations. Training and socializing help your dog understand that the UPS driver or the pizza dude are just more new people and not there to cause you harm.

Training is so much more than just training your dog to perform a command. Training establishes you as your dog’s leader, their trusted human to guide them through a human world. Yes, you are a dog mom or dog dad in your heart, but they are not furry children. We can love our dogs as our children and still do right by them by understanding that they are dogs and have different needs than an actual human child. 

This is why I write so frequently that I believe that every single dog should go to several obedience classes with their human even if the human is a lifelong, experienced dog owner. It is about teaching your dog that you are their go-to source of “what to do next” in a situation. In fact one of my favorite things about going to dog events and expos is that I get to watch people with their dogs out in public, and my number one favorite thing to see is when a dog looks up and checks in with their owner as if to ask, “what do I do in this situation?” When my dogs do that out in public I heap on praise and treats!

I found two great articles for owners to read to learn more about dog aggression and signs to look for in your own dogs. One is called, Dogs Don’t Bite Out of the Blue and the other is Aggression in Dogs.  I think they are both important to read even if you have the most relaxed, socialized, chilled out dog who ever lived. Like I wrote, I am not a behaviorist and will not pretend to be one, so if you have any concerns that your dog may be aggressive in a situation, please seek out a professional trainer through a one-on-one consultation so you can learn what to do so that you do not end up in a situation in which your dog has bitten someone.

If your dog bites or even worse, attacks, a human or another dog, there can be extremely serious consequences. In my friend’s situation, her bite has required surgery and extensive medical care and it is unclear if the dog’s owner will pay for her co-pay and costs that are not covered by insurance. There are lawyers involved on the financial side of things and the dog has had to be quarantined for ten days to determine if he is a dangerous dog. His life could come to a tragic end because of this bite, and my friend could have permanent damage to her arm, all because the owner made several mistakes leading up to the bite.

When dogs bite, the consequences could involve the following:

  • Substantial harm or death to the human who was bit, including muscle damage, infections, mental or emotional issues, a fear of dogs, and missing work or school.
  • Quarantine of your dog, investigation into whether your dog is a dangerous dog, and possible death to your dog by euthanasia.
  • Substantial harm or death to other dogs who were bit.
  • Financial responsibility to humans who were bit or the owners of dogs who were bit.
  • Loss of homeowner’s insurance or increased premiums.
  • Lawsuit against you by the humans who were bit or owners of the dogs who were bit.
  • On overall blight on the dog loving community that is continually working to improve the quality of life for dogs and public opinion of dogs as sentient beings.

The love that an owner has for their dog should be enough to prompt them to proactively take their dog through several obedience classes as a puppy or a new rescue or to specialized training if their dog shows signs of aggression. Once you begin a class you realize that training is the best bonding activity that you can do with your dog and it becomes a fun weekly adventure for both of you.

If love is not enough to make that investment in the dog, owners should consider the total cost of having a trained versus an untrained dog. Most training classes that I have taken are between $150 to $200 for six weeks. That is under $1000 to take your dog’s training from puppy socialization to advanced obedience, even allowing them to retake a class if needed. The cost of paying for medical bills, replacing your home owner’s insurance, or being sued for medical damage, emotional suffering or loss of life could be many times that amount, and could even result in complete financial ruin from a tragic situation that could have been prevented.

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Teaching Children How to Act Around Dogs

Teaching Children How to Act Around Dogs

Teaching Children How to Act Around Dogs

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Teaching Children How to Act Around DogsLast week another cringe-worthy video came across my social media news feed because someone thought it was cute. I suppose if you did not know a single thing about dogs, it might be cute. After all, what could be so awful about a curly-haired, resourceful toddler wearing just a diaper, climbing on top of his Basset Hound’s head and spine in order to reach into the refrigerator to get something?  The dog patiently stood while the child climbed on his back and the video was being shared as an “awe, look at this boy and his dog” moment. Teamwork, right?

Wrong! 

First of all, stepping on a dog’s head and standing on its back is a perfect way for that child to get bit when the dog tires of the game.  Second, the long back and short legs of the Basset Hound make it prone to back problems and damage to their vertebrae without a child standing on its spine. Standing on any part of any dog is wrong, let alone a Basset Hound! 

Our own late Basset Hound Maggie was only saved from a death at a young age by a clinical trial at the Purdue University Veterinary school after she became completely paralyzed from the upper back down to her back legs and tail. She became paralyzed because the overall design of the Basset Hound is flawed and like other dogs with long backs and short legs, she became paralyzed simply from everyday running around and playing. I cannot imagine letting our kids stand on her spine! After surgery she went through six months of physical therapy and kennel rest while we taught her how to walk again.

Six months of kennel rest to a dog whose life lasted twelve years is like over three years of recovery for a human whose life is eighty years. Some Basset Hounds and other breeds with a long back never recover once they are paralyzed like that, so to have a child stand on their spine using it as a step-stool could be deadly to the dog.

This is not the only video that’s gone viral by people who think that it is “cute” when those of us in the dog world view it as downright animal abuse. I have seen videos of babies and toddlers walking on dogs, stepping on their bellies and rib cages, riding them like horses, chasing after them and hitting them while the parents film the activity and laugh along at their poorly behaved child and their beleaguered, stressed out dog. I even saw one with a dog backed into a corner and snarling while the child hugs him, with the caption that the dog is smiling. The dog is not smiling, it is giving a warning that he does not like what is going on, and his next move is to bite to protect himself.

Teaching Children How to Act Around Dogs
Do you see the dog leaning away from the hug?

I personally have been chased down the street by children who did not have their parents with them, running at me screaming “Can we pet your dog??” This has happened with every one of my dogs in every town in which I’ve lived. The most recent time I was chased and followed by two young boys on bikes who wanted to pet my dogs and after I replied, “Sorry, not unless your Mom or Dad is with you,” and they rode off and yelled, “I’m going to kill your dogs!”

I have a firm rule when I walk my dogs, whether it is one dog at a time or both of them together, that kids may not approach or pet my dogs without their parents present. The reason for this is that I have seen far too many children whose parents have never taught them how to act around a dog. And while I have never had a dog who I ever felt would bite a human, my dogs approach the world with a happy, dopey look on their faces with their mouths open and their tongues hanging out. Yes, I tend to err on the side of neurotic caution, but I never want any sort of misunderstanding.

Teaching Children How to Act Around Dogs
This dog looks more stressed out than happy.

Fortunately I have also heard parents stop their children from charging up to me, yelling at them to stop and correcting their child by saying, “You do not run up to strange dogs! You have to ask their owner first if you can pet them and walk up slowly!” In that situation, I am happy to put my dog in a sitting position and give them the “say hello” command while the parent tells their child how to greet my dog.

 

Like I point out in nearly every blog: dogs are amazing creatures who live in harmony with we humans, but at the end of the day, they are a different species. They cannot speak in English or in words, so they must rely on body language when they are trapped into situations that they do not like or that scare them. And yes, they get scared! They are living, breathing, feeling creatures.  Instead of saying, “hey, back up, you are too close and I am kinda freaked out right now” in words like we can, they can only lean away, walk away, turn their head, and if they must, growl or bite.

Here are some basic things that all parents can teach their children to do and not to do when around their own dog or dogs who belong to strangers:

  1. DO NOT climb on top of dogs, whether standing up on them, riding them like a horse, or stepping on their bodies.
  2. DO NOT hit or smack dogs.
  3. DO NOT hug dogs.
  4. DO NOT grab the heads of dogs for kisses.
  5. DO NOT get up close to the face of dogs.
  6. DO NOT wrestle with dogs.
  7. DO NOT grab something out of the dog’s mouth.
  8. DO NOT pull ears, tails, floppy skin, jowls or any body parts.
  9. DO NOT run up behind the dog.
  10. DO NOT run up to strange dogs.
  11. DO NOT corner dogs where they have not exit.
  12. DO NOT reach over or lean over dogs.
  13. DO NOT teach your dog games in which they chase you.
  14. DO NOT pet dogs on the top of their heads.
  15. DO NOT go into fenced areas in someone else’s property without being invited.
  16. DO NOT approach strange dogs who are tethered or tied up.
  17. DO pet dogs under the chin, on the chest.
  18. DO stroke dogs gently along the shoulder.
  19. DO NOT make eye contact with strange dogs.
  20. DO stand at a forty-five degree angle to let the new dog approach.
  21. DO hold your hand out just slightly with the back of your hand facing the dog or with your hand in a loose fist.
  22. DO always ask the owner if you can pet their dog.
  23. DO teach the dog to drop their toys in front of you if they want to play fetch.
  24. DO honor the dog’s decision to walk away and decide when the encounter is done.
  25. DO be calm and confident; dogs can smell the biological changes that occur with stress and fear and may also feel that stress or fear as a result.
  26. DO back away slowly if the dog shows signs of fear or aggression.

There are some things on the list that your own dog might let you get away with even though it is rude in their world simply because they know and trust you. My dogs let me kiss them and are frequently close to my face. I have raised them from puppies and I would never do this with a stranger’s dog or even other dogs that belong to family or friends. As your dog’s owner your dog may let you do things that your own children cannot. Our Maggie was fine if my husband or I held her close to us, but if the children tried to hug her she would give a warning growl, as if she recognized that we moved slowly and were not a threat and they were louder and more rough and tumble and not allowed to hold onto her as tightly. I recommend always watching babies, toddlers and even younger children with your own dogs until you are sure that they understand the rules of living side by side with their canine family members.

 




The Importance of Teaching Puppies and Your Kids About Bite Inhibition

The Importance of Teaching Puppies and Your Kids About Bite Inhibition

The Importance of Teaching Puppies and Your Kids About Bite Inhibition

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

The Importance of Teaching Puppies and Your Kids About Bite InhibitionIf you’ve raised a puppy, the words “razor-sharp puppy teeth” probably make you shudder and think back to those days of puppy rearing when you felt like you had adopted a baby dinosaur instead of a puppy. In fact there’s a meme that circles social media periodically that compares a puppy to a T-Rex that makes everyone who has ever raised a puppy nod along knowingly as they remember the scrapes and scratches all over their hands and arms from those sharp little teeth.

Puppies and adult dogs, lacking thumbs, play with each other with their mouths in games of “bitey face” and wrestling. If you have had multiple dogs in your home, chances are they have played their own version of what we call “bitey face”, which is when dogs play with open mouths or bite and pull on each other’s jowls, ears, necks. Sometimes they lay down and have a lazy game of just sparring with their mouths, other times there is wrestling and rough-housing involved, and sometimes they add in “zoomies” in which they race around the house or yard at top speed in a game of chase.

These games are normal parts of playing together and you should be able to tell when your dogs are playing versus fighting. If you have questions about your specific dogs, as always I would encourage you to talk to a professional dog trainer. There is also some interesting and important information at this link from the American Kennel Club that I recommend: http://www.akc.org/content/dog-training/articles/are-they-playing-or-fighting/The Importance of Teaching Puppies and Your Kids About Bite Inhibition

When you adopt a puppy, chances are they have spent the last six weeks wrestling with and play-biting their siblings and even their mother. One of the most important parts of raising a puppy is to teach him or her that they cannot play with humans in the same way that they play with other dogs. 

Teaching your dog “bite inhibition” means teaching them that they should not bite humans and that if they do, that they should use a soft bite that does not harm the human. In my opinion, this falls under the top 3 things that you must teach your dog, along with house training and the “sit” and “wait” commands.

Other humans in your home can often make teaching bite inhibition difficult because there is some sort of human instinct that overtakes people and causes them to wiggle their fingers in front of a puppy’s face. I cannot tell you the number of times we had to correct our children during puppy raising; it might have been more times than we had to correct the actual puppies. I have also encountered total strangers who did the same thing to my puppies, to the point where I had to tell them, “We are teaching them not to bite, please do not wave your fingers in my puppy’s face!”

Jax was particularly difficult when it came to bite inhibition. He was persistent in trying to play with us by chomping down with his razor-sharp teeth with the full force of his mouth. In addition to Jax’s persistence at trying to play with us with his teeth, our human son (who was twelve at the time) was the worst of all of the kids at wiggling his fingers in front of Jax’s face.

When it came to Jackson’s puppy days and his bite inhibition education, the words “Get your fingers out of the dog’s face!” came out of my mouth more times than I could possibly count. I am surprised Jackson did not learn what it meant I said it so many times. Finally one day I lost my patience with our human son when he shrugged my comments off with an overly cocky tween comment, “big deal, he’s a puppy!”

“Yes, if a fifteen pound puppy bites your hand, it’s cute. If an eighty pound male Labrador bites the hands of one of your friends because he thinks it’s how he plays with kids, then he could even end up being put to death as an aggressive dog, SO GET YOUR HANDS OUT OF THE PUPPY’S FACE!!!!” I scolded him.

Thankfully Jax learned not to bite in play or at all, he learned to take his treats gently, and we’ve never seen him in (or put him in) a position where he needed to bite to protect himself.  His snuggle time is on his terms and while he will drape himself across our laps, he does not usually like to be hugged for too long or held very tightly, and he will either get up and walk away or turn his head and lean the opposite direction. We respect his body language that the situation is not pleasing, and we stop before he needs to even remotely resort to a soft bite.

Our teenagers have also learned how to play with puppies and dogs. By experiencing first Jackson’s and then Tinkerbell’s puppy training, they know that you do not wriggle your hands in front of a puppy, you play with them using toys and playing fetch or tug-0-war, and that the dogs are to put the toys on the floor or the ground instead of reaching into their mouths to get them.  They know that if a puppy is trying to nip at you, you give them a toy instead of a body part to chew. They also know that most dogs don’t really like to be hugged or petted from above, and that as far as a dog is concerned, those actions are rude or aggressive.

It is important to teach your children why you are teaching the puppy not to bite hard or at all and the implications that not teaching your puppy this important information could have as your puppy grows into a full grown dog. I highly recommend that you supervise their play even if they are tweens or teenagers so that you can correct both the puppy and the children when they exhibit undesirable behavior and reward them when they play in a way that both the puppy and the children will grow up knowing how to play in a way that does not encourage biting.

Make sure you ask your puppy class trainer or beginner obedience instructor on tips and methods for working with your own dog. Here are some other good resources on the “how-to” side of teaching bite inhibition:

 https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/issues/13_6/features/Bite-Inhibition_16232-1.html

https://clickertraining.com/node/725

http://pets.webmd.com/dogs/guide/biting-puppy-how-train-puppy-bites#1

 

 

 




Why Your Puppy Should Go to Puppy Class

Why Your Puppy Should Go to Puppy Class

Why Your Puppy Should Go to Puppy Class

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Why Your Puppy Should Go to Puppy Class When my veterinarian suggested to me that I enroll Jackson in the puppy kindergarten class that they had recently started to offer,  I was skeptical. He had come to us pre-trained to sit and wait for his food, so at eight weeks old he already knew sit, stay and we were working on a recall game that our friend/breeder had given us in her packet of information that she gives to all puppy buyers.

I had already selected a beginner obedience class that he would begin once he was fully vaccinated and figured I knew enough about dog rearing to make it through the weeks between his homecoming and training class. Plus “kindergarten” sounded a little silly. Was he going to learn his colors and shapes, too?

Puppy Kindergarten turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made!

Jax was one of around five or six other puppies. He was among the youngest and surprisingly, the smallest, since all of the puppies in the class were large breeds just out of sheer coincidence. Two of the most memorable classmates were German Shepherd pups who were at least a month older than him; they had started to get into the gangly awkward stage where their legs seemed too long for the rest of their bodies while Jackson was still stout and compact.

The first half of each class was spent on an educational topic. We learned how to teach the puppies sit, stay, come, and also worked on introducing them to new experiences like a wheelchair, baby stroller, bicycle, the examination rooms of the vet’s office, and other very basic things that a dog might encounter during their day-to-day life.

During the second half of the class the puppies were allowed to play together as a group. If you are picturing the Puppy Bowl that has become a tradition on Super Bowl Sunday, you are exactly right, only without the announcer and the football themed play area.

I was surprised as I watched Jax playing with the other puppies. Based on his behavior at home and his zest for playing rough with his Basset Hound sister Maggie, I thought he would be one of the most rough and tumble puppies in the group. He engaged the bigger Shepherds in play and then ran back to hide behind my feet when they got too rough, looking up at me for reassurance before running back out to play with them some more.

Playing with other puppies is excellent for your dog’s development because puppies learn about manners from other puppies. Of course the universal dog games are what we call “bitey face” which is the type of play in which they bite and nip each other’s jowls and wrestle, and “zoomies” which is a game in which they chase each other around a room or yard.

If a puppy bites too hard or gets too rough, the other puppy will yelp in protest to tell his playmate, “hey, watch it, that bite was too hard and it hurt!” If the rough puppy continues to play too aggressively, the other puppy will walk away from the game entirely, giving the rough-housing puppy the message of “you’re too rough, I’m out!” Learning these lessons as puppies is extremely important for your dog so that he learns how to interact with other dogs at a young age and knows what is appropriate and what is not.

When your puppy is with their litter, they have this experience with their litter mates, but after they go to their forever homes they are usually the only puppy and often the only dog, leaving you the human as their playmate. Unfortunately, their go-to games that they’ve played with other dogs are not compatible with human playmates, so you have to teach them that you are not going to play bitey-face, or bitey-hand or bitey-achilles tendon no matter how much they try.

Not only is it fun and educational for your puppy to play with other dogs his own age, but watching him play with other puppies is educational for you, too. You can learn a lot from watching your puppy play with other puppies you can use the same skills that other puppies use when you are working on bite inhibition, which refers to the important job of teaching your puppy not to bite humans in play or at any time, which we will cover in a separate blog tomorrow.

At the end of the four-week class, we received a list of suggested experiences that puppies should have, ideally before they reached sixteen weeks of age. This list came with the comment that they did not expect owners to go down the list item by item and make sure their dog experienced them all. Of course my husband and I took the list and did just that, and were able to recreate many of them.

We had neighbors help us by walking by with strollers, had our own kids and their friends ride past on skateboards, bicycles, roller blades, electric scooters, plasma cars and whatever else we could think of. We made sure Jackson heard sounds like our Harley Davidson starting, the lawn mower, the weed whacker, pots banging, doors slamming, even a cap gun, although that was part of his hunting dog training that stopped almost before it started.

With every new experience we made sure that Jackson was happy and comfortable and we were elated at how chilled out he was to each and every experience. To this day he is very relaxed around essentially everything except a neighbor’s Halloween scarecrow decoration, to the point where the loudest thunder doesn’t even make him raise his head.

Tinkerbell went through a similar puppy class elsewhere as our veterinarian stopped offering their class, and we worked just as hard at socializing her. She is just as chilled out when encountering new things as her big brother is, and both are able to meet other adult dogs and play with them without incident, hear loud noises without a second glance, and encounter strange things on walks without fear.

Puppy class also became my favorite day of the week because I took an energetic wild puppy into the class and came home with an exhausted, physically and intellectually spent calm puppy who crashed out like I do after an open to close day at Disney! No matter how unconditionally you love your dog, no matter how committed you are to the next fifteen or so years, or however long you are blessed with your dog’s presence in your life, no matter how calm and positive you are, puppyhood can challenge even the most patient of dog owners.

Your dog’s puppyhood is magical but it is also exhausting. There were days when I wanted to cry as I wondered how much longer it would take me to convince Jackson that the leg of our office chair was not a chew toy or that he could not in fact gnaw the spines off of all of the books on the bookshelf, and I knew that on puppy class days he would sleep like, well, like a puppy, and that I could read a magazine or watch a TV show.

Another benefit of attending a puppy class or puppy kindergarten is that you have a professional dog trainer at your disposal who you can ask about house-training tips and other things that you encounter with your puppy at home during the 167 hours of the week when your puppy is not at class. That is a lot of time for your puppy to get into mischief and by asking the trainer for advice you can correct your dog in the best way instead of instilling bad habits that could last your dog’s entire life.

Watch for tomorrow’s blog on bite inhibition and why it is so important to teach your young puppy that biting humans is not acceptable even in a playful puppy way. 

Why Every Dog Should Go To Obedience Class

Why Every Dog Should Go To Obedience Class

Why Every Dog Should Go To Obedience Class

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Why Every Dog Should Go To Obedience ClassThe last few weeks have been a seemingly endless stream of stories about dogs that are both frustrating and heartbreaking, including dog bites, re-homing requests, and frustrated owners with 8 month old puppies who are still not house-trained. Sadly they all have a similar theme because all of these could have been prevented or could be fixed by one thing: training. 

I have talked to a lot of people who have never taken a class with their dog or who look somewhat confused when I suggest that they take one. There is also the response “Oh, I’ve had dogs my whole life, I don’t need to take an obedience class.”

I think that sometimes there are misconceptions about what an “obedience” class is all about and what an owner can gain from attending a class with their dog, especially for people who have had dogs before or feel like they have a lot of knowledge about dogs. Actually, until Jackson was born I had never taken one either, having grown up with dogs who came to me rescued and pre-trained like my late Babe, or who were trained by my father.

Dogs have been companions to humans for so long that it seems like it should be second nature for us to live together. The reality, though, is that no matter how harmoniously we are able to live together, at the end of the day they are still another species and we can both use all the help we can get at learning how to understand each other and communicate across our separate and very different species.

Dogs are very different from humans. Their bodies are different, their minds are different, their communication methods are different, their learning requirements are different, even the structure of their brain is different as they are blessed with a whole extra area to analyze scents. Things that are acceptable in our world are rude or aggressive in theirs, similar to someone from another country in another part of the world. Just like trying to speak to a fellow human who speaks another language or has different social norms than we do, we need to learn how to speak in a language our dogs understand, learn how to understand what they are saying to us without words, and understand their cultural norms.

However, despite my analogy comparing your dog to someone from another culture in a different part of the world, a dog is also an entirely other species than we are. They are a very special, precious species that deserves to be treated well, loved for all the days of their life, and considered to be a family member, but they are not a small furry person.

Why Every Dog Should Go To Obedience ClassDog obedience school or dog training classes are first and foremost about teaching humans to teach their dogs the rules of life in a human household. In most beginner obedience classes you will learn to teach your dog how to sit, come when called, look at you when you say their name, stay, lay down, settle and start to walk nicely on a leash. Usually around six to eight weeks in duration, the beginner obedience class is just the very tip of the proverbial training iceberg!

When you find a really good dog trainer, you learn so much more than how to teach your dog how to perform those commands. Don’t get me wrong, those are the must-know commands that can literally save your dog’s life, particularly the stay or come command. But the best dog trainers teach owners about how a dog’s mind works, the importance of repetition and patience, the benefits of positive reward based training, and how to understand your dog despite being two very different species and get your dog to understand you.

The first night of my Basic Obedience class with Jackson the trainer spoke to us with made-up, random words that might not have even been actual words. Her words made literally no sense at all.  There were no dogs in the room, the first session was a human-only orientation.

She said it again, only louder. Then even louder. Then with a raised voice and anger, and asked why we could not understand her, she was speaking English! What was wrong with us that we could not understand what she was telling us?

As you might expect, this exercise was to show us what it is like to be a dog with humans randomly saying words to them and growing impatient when they do not instantly understand. It may sound silly, but that was one of the most impactful moments of all of the classes in which I participated and is something that has stuck with me during every moment working with and living with our dogs.

Different trainers have different nuggets of information and different methods that will stick with different people. Add in the fact that every dog is slightly different in terms of what motivates them, how easy or difficult they are to train, with different backgrounds and life experiences, and you arrive at the same suggestion for all dogs: that every human needs to take every one of their dogs to at least one training class and ideally several additional classes after they graduate from beginner.

Dog training classes are really about training owners to teach their dogs. Most of the class time is spent learning from the trainers, and most of your actual training time with your dog is outside of the classroom. In fact, when you do practice the commands in the classroom it is the owner who the trainer is really watching and correcting rather than the dog because the class is to train the owner how to train the dog.

When you find a good trainer you will understand how to take your training beyond basic obedience because you will know the concepts behind teaching your dog. Once you can teach her sit and stay, it’s not a far stretch to teach her other commands, to teach her tricks, to teach her games. Learning about how your dog learns will help you with socializing her, with teaching her not to bite (bite inhibition), with a variety of situations that you might encounter during your dog’s life.

Why Every Dog Should Go To Obedience ClassNot only will you forever have the skills to teach your dog and future dogs, but you will have a go-to resource should something pop up in the future. I often wonder how many dogs would not be re-homed if their owners had a relationship with a trainer so they could easily reach out when a life change happened like a new baby or the introduction of another dog into the house.

Training your dog can be a lot of fun for you and the dog as long as you are patient and realize that the fun part is for you and your dog to be learning together and to build an incredible bond together. In fact I often look for additional classes to take just for fun and I am strongly considering joining a local dog training club so that one of the dogs and I can go once a week and practice their skills, be around other dogs and dog owners with similar goals, and to continually learn from some of the amazing dog trainers that we have in our area.

If you are looking for a professional dog trainer, check with your veterinarian for recommendations.

Also check out these websites:

Association of Professional Dog Trainers (ADPT): https://apdt.com/about/trainer-search/

Karen Pryor Academy: https://www.karenpryoracademy.com/find-a-trainer

 




6 Fun Indoor Things to Do with Your Dog

6 Fun Things to Do Indoors With Your Dog

6 Fun Things to Do Indoors With Your Dog

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

6 Fun Indoor Things to Do with Your DogAs we wrap up a series on summer safety tips for your dog, including Stop Leaving Dogs in Cars! Period!Preventing Burnt Paws on Hot SurfacesKnow Your Dogs Limits, and Keeping Dogs Cool Without Air Conditioning, I have created a free Infographic for you to download called 6 Fun Things to Do Indoors With Your Dog. 

It is not just summer that might create a need to be indoors with your dog. Extreme cold, weather events like hurricanes or tornado warnings, or even feeling under the weather yourself can create a need for fun indoor games for even the most energetic dogs.

With both Jackson and Tinkerbell I encountered days during their puppyhood when I was the only human home and suffering from various ailments like a sinus infection or stomach flu. Some of the fun things I’ve listed have saved the day when I had zero energy to wear out a crazy four-month old puppy with physical exercise. And finally, some have come in handy when our dogs have been on kennel rest like when Jackson and Tinkerbell were neutered and spayed or when foster dog Destiny was on kennel rest for heartworm treatment.

Summer Heat and Dogs: Keeping Dogs Cool Without Air Conditioning

Summer Heat and Dogs: Keeping Dogs Cool Without Air Conditioning

Summer Heat and Dogs: Keeping Dogs Cool Without Air Conditioning

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Summer Heat and Dogs: Keeping Dogs Cool Without Air ConditioningAs a dog owner there are few things for which I am more grateful than central air conditioning. If you are a regular reader of this blog you know that I take the safety of my dogs extremely seriously, so you can imagine the stress in my life when my late Babe was a young dog and we lived in a very old house with just a window unit to cool down our home.

Back then I was in my late twenties and in the “what on earth will I do with this English degree” stage of my life and I was working at a local restaurant. We were only open for dinner so I left for work around 3pm at the very height of the summer heat. My apartment was in an incredibly old house in the downtown area of a pleasant medium sized city in northern Indiana.

With huge radiators for heat, there was no hope of central air conditioning ever being installed and the electricity was sketchy to the point where I could not have my window unit plugged into the same breaker as the refrigerator or the breaker would flip off. As a result, when I went to work each day I turned off the AC and then turned it on immediately after coming home from work each night. I had to take a shower to get rid of the sweat and salt from being in our oven of a kitchen and by the time I was showered the apartment was pretty cool.

I adopted Babe in November so I did not think about the air conditioning situation until the first heat wave of the summer came along almost six months later. I remember standing in my apartment in front of that window unit, terrified about what I should do. Leave it on and risk a fire from the electrical situation? Turn it off and have her bake to death in my apartment since it was in the high 90s outside? I stood there rooted to the spot with fear as the minutes ticked away and I grew more and more late for work. Babe of course stood next to me, her tail wagging and her face turned up toward me waiting to see if the fact that I had shoes on meant that she was going somewhere.

Finally I called my Mom who was a teacher and off for the summer. “Can I bring Babe to your house? I’m afraid to leave her here without the air conditioner on and I’m afraid to leave it on.”

I turned the unit off, took Babe to my mother’s house for the evening, picked her up after work and we headed home. I had left all of the curtains closed to keep the sunlight from warming up the apartment and it was actually surprisingly cool eight hours later with the air conditioning turned off. Fortunately there were several large trees around the house which also helped keep it somewhat cool.

I continued this experiment by taking Babe to Mom’s and leaving the air conditining off at the apartment for a few more days while the heat wave persisted. After a few days I was confident that Babe would be safest home alone with the curtains all closed and the air conditioning unit turned off, but I arranged for Mom to come and check on her halfway through my shift at work. I made sure my bathroom door was open so that she could lay on the cool tile if she got too warm and filled her water bowl up to the top. I still worried every about my girl every single day even though every night I arrived home to a fairly cool apartment and a perfectly fine, non-panting, happy, healthy dog.

Babe and I lived like this for several more summers until I finally moved to an apartment with central air conditioning. Of course that same summer we had the worst heat I had ever experienced as an adult and the little apartment complex central air unit had a hard time keeping up with the searing temperatures outside, so once again I made sure she could reach the cold linoleum of the kitchen and bathroom and had a nice fresh bowl of water. I bought her a cool-down mat that worked by filling it with water, which I don’t think she used once in her life, but at least I felt better knowing that she could if she needed it.

Whether you do not have central air conditioning or your AC has selected the hottest day of the summer to malfunction,  it can be downright terrifying at times, trying to make sure that your dog stays cool, especially when you have to leave the house to go to work or other obligations.

Here are some tips to help you keep your pet safe and cool when it is warm outside:

Leave plenty of water: Dogs should always have access to fresh, cool water but it is even more important during the summer. Depending on the size of your dog’s water bowl you might need to leave a second bowl for them just to be sure they have plenty. Position the bowl in a place where they are least likely to spill it.

Lock It Block It window security bar (affiliate link)
Provide a breeze: Whether it’s a fan or open windows, a breeze can help your dog cool down. It is important to make sure that the fan is in good working order and not a fire hazard and that your dog cannot jump out an open window. You can purchase window security bars to discourage your dog from opening a window all the way. I personally will not leave the house with appliances running or windows open but everyone and every neighborhood is different and you must decide what is right for your dog. If you do leave a fan running while you are gone, make sure your pet cannot tip it over and into curtains or a bed.

Allow your dog access to a cool surface: If your dog is not confined to a crate I suggest allowing her to access a cool surface like a tile or linoleum floor. If you’ve ever watched your dogs on a hot day you have probably seen them seek out the coolest spot in the house. Right now, even with the air conditioning running, Jackson is napping in his crate with the door wide open and his kennel pad pushed to the side because he likes the cool surface. If your dog is crated while you are not home you might need to move the crate to the coolest part of the house.

Have a dog sitter or friend look in on your dog: Just like I did with my Mom, have a dog sitter, friend or family member look in on your dog partially through your work day to make sure that your home is still at a safe temperature for your dog’s comfort and safety.

The Green Pet Shop Self-Cooling Pet Pads (Amazon affiliate link)
Invest in a cooling pet bed: Cooling pet beds help your dog get that nice cool surface that she seeks. Some are filled with water and others are made of special materials that help your dog cool down.

Invest in a remote monitoring device: There are some inexpensive monitoring devices that will monitor the temperature in your home and send you text alerts or provide information via an app on your phone so you can determine if your home is at a safe temperature for your dog while you are away. I have not tried any of them so do not have recommendations but if I do you can be certain I will blog about it.

Purchase blackout or room darkening window treatments: Our subdivision is in a former corn field and we have very few trees, let alone ones that provide shade. I often remark that it is like living on the actual sun; our front door handle gets so hot you literally need an oven mitt to touch it during the summer! Room darkening curtains are fabulous for helping keep the temperature down whether or not you have air conditioning because they prevent the sun from heating up your home. Just make sure you also have a breeze and understand how to get the best cross breeze.

Know how to cool your home naturally: Keeping your house as cool as possible without air conditioning is an art and every home is different. Here is a great resource that I found that might prove helpful as you learn how to keep your own house cool: How to Keep Your House Cool Without Air Conditioning.