Category: For the Good of All Dogs

National Pit Bull Awareness Month: A Celebration of “Pit Bull” Type Dogs

National Pit Bull Awareness Month: A Celebration of “Pit Bull” Type  Dogs

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

I had so much fun celebrating black dogs and cats on Friday, October 13 and featuring the awesome dogs of my readers, that I could not let National Pit Bull Awareness Month come to an end without a celebration of the beloved “pit bull” type dogs who share their lives with some of the readers and friends from the Love, Laugh, Woof community.

According to the National Pit Bull Awareness Month website, the goal of this month is to change misconceptions and stereotypes about “pit bull” type dogs. Originally celebrated on a single day before being extended to a full month, the website explains, “NPBAD was established to educate and foster positive communications and experiences in the communities in which we and our dogs live, and it is an initiative dedicated to restoring the image of the American Pit Bull Terrier.”

Another organization that works extremely hard to change the perception of “pit bull” type breeds is the Bryan & Amanda Bickell Foundation.  I learned of this former Chicago Blackhawks player’s foundation while my husband and I were lunching at a Meatheads restaurant a few years ago. At that time a special hot dog was on the menu that earned the foundation 10% of the price of the hot dog each time one was sold. After lunch we went home and I read about his foundation, and he promptly became my favorite Blackhawks player.

According to the Bryan & Amanda Bickell Foundation website,

“Here’s the thing about “pit bulls” – the “breed” doesn’t exist. In fact, the American Kennel Club does not recognize “pit bull” as a breed because it is a mixture of breeds. “Pit bull” is a slang term that has been used loosely and taken advantage of by the media to describe a dog with a big head and muscular build. When a dog has been labeled a “pit bull” it is based simply on their look and not on; personality, traits or DNA. Even we at the Bickell Foundation are guilty of calling a dog a “pit bull,” but we are ready to stop.”


I remember one day a few years ago when I was volunteering for Chicagoland Lab Rescue and I went to the local animal shelter to pick up a yellow Labrador who was being pulled for rescue. I was his transport, aka freedom ride from the shelter to the veterinarian who would check him out before he continued his journey to his foster home. While I waited for the shelter to gather the paperwork and bring him out to me, they told me, “You can go ahead and walk around and see if there are any other dogs you want to pull for the rescue.”

I did not want to walk through the shelter because I knew my head was about to see things that would break my heart, but I told myself that to not take that walk was weak compared to what the actual dogs were going through. As I walked down row after row of kennels, “pit bull” type dog after dog stared up at me with anticipation, as if they wondered what my role in their life was going to be. There were dozens of them and I stopped to visit with as many as I could before going back out to pick up the dog who the rescue had sent me to get, hoping to provide just a tiny bit of human love.

Having grown up entirely with sporting breeds like Labradors and German Shorthaired Pointers, I was not as familiar back then with the heart wrenching “pit bull” overpopulation problem. “Do you have a pittie specific rescue group that pulls dogs like the Lab rescue does?” I asked the woman at the front desk. She answered that there were several organizations that came through every week, particularly anytime they started to near the capacity of the shelter, and my heart broke even more at the thought of so many dogs either dumped off, no longer wanted or lost as strays and never claimed. Regardless of how they had ended up in the shelter, the result was the same: they had been failed by their humans and now needed a different type of human to come and save them.

So why are there so many “pit bull” type dogs in shelters and in dire need of rescue?

According to the Best Friends site, on the page All About Pit Bulls, “Because pit bull terriers have become so popular, some people are over breeding them. Others neglect to have their dogs spayed or neutered, resulting in unwanted litters. These two factors have led to an influx of pit bull terrier–like dogs in shelters. When there are a lot of the same types of pets available for adoption, people can easily get overwhelmed when trying to choose one to bring home, and they often end up leaving the shelter without a pet.

There are many ways to help these misunderstood dogs, even if you are not ready to add another dog into your home at this time. Foster based dog rescue organizations depend on volunteers to provide transportation to dogs and to foster them with the goal of helping them find their forever home. Unfortunately, I have never found a dog rescue organization with enough money to cover all of the work that they want to do so monetary donations are always needed. Please consider donating to any of the groups that I have mentioned in this blog, to your local animal shelter, or to your local “pit bull type dog ” rescue organizations.

On a happy note, many of these once discarded dogs are living their happily ever after stories with their forever owners in loving homes, where they receive good food, plenty of treats, training and guidance, and most importantly: tons of love and a lifelong committment. Some of these dogs are the best friends and constant companions of my own friends and readers. Here is what they had to say about their canine cohorts.

Kona & Renny

Here’s what Kona and Renny’s Momma had to say, “Kona (the fawn colored pup) was rescued from a dog fighting ring after the FBI & ASPCA did a raid on the property and removed approximately 70 dogs. Despite her beginnings, she is the most loving dog & wants to meet every person she sees from babies on up. Kisses for everyone!

She is extremely intelligent & requires A LOT of physical & mental stimulation otherwise she will make a toy out of whatever she finds. Lol. All of her quirks makes me love her more than I thought it possible to love anything. Kona does have some fear issues but we had hoped to adopt another dog (another pittie/pittie mix pup) and after introductions we found she drew comfort from the other so we adopted Renny (the black brindle).

Renny is our quiet little shadow that is content to just lay next to you all day & get belly rubs & give kisses too! The two have developed a bond that melts your heart. We are the luckiest people to get to share our home & life with these two.”


Love Laugh Woof Blog
Meagan and Chase

Meagan Giarratano, founder and owner of Au Pair for Paws Dog Training in Ocean Beach, New York, shared this story, “I have two pit mixes that keep me laughing all day. I spend a lot of time with my dogs and if it weren’t for them I don’t know where I would be. The love of my first pit, Chase (pictured below) was what started my business endeavor to become a dog trainer. The challenging start we had caused the respect and love for each other to grow from there. Training actually saved his life. That love turned into a lot of laughs and a lot of woofs throughout the last few years thanks to amazing clients I have met. He is my best friend and I don’t know what I would do without him.”




Love Laugh Woof blog Jax

Not to be confused with my own handsome Jax, this boy is special in his own right. His Momma says, “This is Jax…pit-mix and major lover-boy. He spends more time licking the faces of his pack-mates than you could imagine. He was chained up on a 3 foot leash in the yard & forgotten when his former owners grew bored with him and got a different dog. All this boy wants is to give & receive love every moment of every day.”








Sammy is a rescued Jack Russell Terrier/”pit bull” mix whose mom says, “Sammy is a classic ‘mama’s boy’. The look in his eyes is the only proof I need that dogs feel love and emotional connection. He is my heart dog in every sense possible.”


“This is my handsome boy, Jake. He’s 7 years old and has brought more love, laughter and plenty of woofs than I ever would have thought possible. This pup has brought more amazing people into my life and is the reason I joined the board of Live, Love, Bark dog rescue.”


Beau’s human mom shared the story of her sweet boy, “This is Beau, my 2-year-old pittie mix. He’s a lover with a loud bark. He loves his ‘sissy’ and protects her all of the time! He sleeps under the covers every night with his nose sticking out! People are terrified of him but he would only lick them to death. My pittie!”

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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.


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.


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?”


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


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


“Can _______ and _______ come in our pool?”


“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.


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.


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?


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: 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:




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):

Karen Pryor Academy:


Emergency Preparedness: Creating a Dog First Aid Kit

Emergency Preparedness: Creating a Dog First Aid Kit

Emergency Preparedness: Creating a Dog First Aid Kit

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Emergency Preparedness: Creating a Dog First Aid Kit In my most recent blog I wrote about the hypothetical world of the television show The Walking Dead and what it would be like to be a dog owner in that world, which has been my entertainment obsession of the last month of so. Although that world is made up and as far as I know, not going to happen, there are other instances like natural disasters or man-made disasters in which some of the lessons learned from watching that television show can help, including making sure you have emergency medical supplies. In fact, in one episode of the show, a veterinary college storeroom played heavily into the story because humans and animals can often take the same medications. 

Many of the items in your human first aid kit are useful for dog first aid emergencies but I prefer to have a dog specific kit. I recommend a water tight plastic bin for your dog first aid kit or a backpack or other bag that you can grab and go. Keep items separate in zip top baggies and also include a copy of your dog’s veterinary records and instructions for each product also in baggies. Remember that in an emergency you might not have your mobile phone or access to the internet, so going old school with written instructions can be useful or even lifesaving.

You can build your own kit entirely or purchase a dog first aid kit like this one from Kurgo and then add additional items to it. Here are some recommended items:

Bandages: Include a variety of sizes and types of bandages and band aids, including large and small, rolls of gauze, rolls of bandage tape, and square pads.

Feminine pads and tampons: These products can be surprisingly useful for medical emergencies and they are individually wrapped and clean. My dog Dutch wore a snug human tank top with maxi pads stuck to it after he had a large fatty tumor removed and it worked perfectly to keep the site clean and keep it from leaking on our carpets and furniture. I felt pretty silly adhering them each time and smoothing the wings out, but such is the life of a dog owner. Tampons can be used to stop the bleeding in bullet wounds and other puncture wounds. 

Hydrogen peroxide & a measuring spoon: This can be used to induce vomiting; I suggest printing out instructions to include in your kit so you can access the correct dosage quickly. Put the bottle and spoon in a plastic bag and tape the instructions to the outside.

Cotton balls & cotton swabs for cleaning cuts, scrapes and wounds.

Buffered aspirin, Benadryl, Immodium, Pepcid AC and contact lense saline solution: Many over the counter medicines for humans can be beneficial in an emergency. Print out dosage information for your particular dog(s) and keep in a plastic zip top baggie with the medicine so that you do not have to scramble for the information in an emergency. Always check with your veterinarian on the correct dosage and safety information of these if your dog were to need them in an emergency.

This blog does not constitute medical advice; always contact your veterinarian before giving your dog any medicine that is not prescribed by them regardless of what you read anywhere on the internet. 

Blanket: Include either a traditional blanket or an emergency foil blanket in your kit to keep your pets warm and dry.


Human t-shirt: This can help keep a large cut or wound clean in an emergency.

Muzzle:  I am not recommending a muzzle for normal every day situations, but no matter how close you and your dog are, if she is severely injured, she could nip or bite when you are cleaning a wound or setting a broken bone. The last thing you want is for you and your dog to both be injured during an emergency situation. She will forgive you after you give her plenty of treats after it’s all done. This is a worst case scenario item and not something to be used on a regular basis or in an inhumane way.

Antibacterial soap: To clean your hands before tending to an injury or to clean out a wound.

Harness and extra leash: Always use a harness in an emergency situation, as a dog can slip out of a collar and run away in fear.

A way to carry your dog: Whether it is a SAR (Search and Rescue) type harness or a solution like a sheet or a big Sam’s Club or Ikea Shopping bag with slits in it for their legs, make sure you have a way to carry even a large dog if he or she becomes unable to walk on their own.

Scissors with safety/medical endsTo cut blanket, sheet, towels or gauze wrap or pads

Battery operated hair trimmer or safety razor: In case you need to shave hair to access a cut or wound.


Tick key or other tick removal device

Needle nosed pliers 

Flashlight or head lamp

Styptic powderUsed to stop bleeding in torn or cut nails and superficial wounds.

Neosporin or similar antibacterial ointment 

Apple Cider Vinegar: This can be made into an ear wash (50% water, 50% ACV), or mixed with water to be a paw soak, a hot spot spray, a food additive, and many other uses. Print a list of how you can use this natural remedy so you have it without relying on the internet.

Emergency Splints for broken bones or sprains.

Peanut Butter & spoon: This is the ultimate distraction for a dog if you have to tend to a medical issue.

Latex gloves

Oral syringe

Ice packs

Alcohol wipes

Rubbing alcohol: Use to sterilize any tools before using them on your dog’s injury or wound.

Vet wrapsThese are self adherent bandages that can be used on wounds, sprains, and other medical issues.

Dog care first aid book: Include a first aid book in your kit so that you do not have to rely on the internet or your mobile phone working during an emergency situation. The Pet Emergency Pocket Guide is easy to toss into your kit.

Map and addresses of local 24 hour veterinary clinics

Lavender Essential Oil can be soothing to anxious dogs and is so concentrated that you can simply let your dog smell the bottle or sniff a drop out of your own hands. Make sure you use only pure, good quality oils and not deodorizers masquerading as pure oils. Do not put on your dog topically or have your ingest any oils without asking the advice of your veterinarian. 

In the next blog we will talk about what you should have on hand for emergencies that would put you in a position in which you have to evacuate your home or remain in your home without normal day-to-day services. 


Sharing the love of dogs with The Non-Dog Lovers in Your Life

Sharing the Love Of Dogs with the Non-Dog Lovers in Your Life

Sharing the Love Of Dogs with the Non-Dog Lovers in Your Life

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Sharing the love of dogs with  The Non-Dog Lovers in Your LifeWhen I think about the people with whom I surround myself, I think that about 90% of them are diehard animal lovers. My parents, my grandparents, my husband, my kids all love all types of animals. I credit both Mom and Dad with my love of dogs and other animals, the outdoors and the planet as a whole. As for friends, I just gravitate toward animal lovers because of common interests, the same way any of us make friends as adults outside of work or our neighbors.

As a result, when I find myself in a conversation with someone in my life who is not a dog lover, and when they say something that goes completely against everything in which I believe, I find myself completely shocked. How could someone who I like and respect feel so negatively about something about which I am so passionate, something to which I have dedicated not just my entire profession but also my heart and soul?

Unfortunately a scenario like that happened yesterday when I read someone’s social media post that let me know that they most definitely viewed dogs as lesser beings than humans. We interacted briefly, equally offended by the other, and I departed the conversation quickly as it would have been futile for either of us to continue. I don’t like arguing with people, but when it comes to animals I will not stay quiet, I will speak my mind.

My dogs are part of my family. Period. I love them. I love humans, too. I cannot and will not try to differentiate the type of love, except for my husband and that is a unique kind of love and relationship.

In my opinion, to say that one group is more worthy of love than another is not how the heart works. It is not how humanity works. The heart can expand to hold multiple species, it can expand to love many people and many animals. My heart hurts when people are treated poorly, when children are treated poorly, when dogs are treated poorly, and when all animals are treated poorly. I don’t want anyone to suffer.

I sometimes hear non-dog people say, “Geez, you treat your dogs better than some people treat their kids!” That is not what was said yesterday, but that statement still bothers me because it feeds into the notion that dogs and other animals are not worthy of being treated equally well as humans. And that notion promotes the fact that dogs are disposable, that they are not forever family members, and that mindset ultimately contributes to the vast numbers of them being put to death in shelters every year. 

In my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog’s Forever Owner, I talk a lot about the concept of treating our dogs like dogs rather than furry children in order to honor your dog and give her what she needs to thrive as a dog. I stress the important concept that different does not mean lesser. To love your dog like a dog instead of a small furry human never means that you should love her less, it simply means that they have different needs in terms of how they learn, what mental and physical exercise they need to be happy, and how they communicate.

Am I treating my dogs too well by providing organic, alkaline, single protein, grain-free food? Am I treating them too well because I work hard to keep carcinogens out of their lives? Am I somehow demeaning the life of a human by loving my dog so much, by taking so many precautions to keep them safe? Am I harming a human because I want my dogs to be happy and healthy and safe? Of course not! In fact many of the causes about which I am passionate for dogs also help children, like educating people on the chemicals they use on their lawns and in their homes and raising funds and awareness for canine cancer research which usually takes place in the form of comparative oncology programs that benefit humans and dogs.

Loving a dog takes nothing away from humans or from children.  In fact there are childcare experts who state that having a dog helps children develop better self esteem, acquire better motor skills, and even do better in school. Loving a dog adds a beauty and grace to the world and to humanity and promotes more love. There is no limit to kindness, no limit to love, no limit to philanthropy, no limit to positivity.

I have had two friends who are not dog lovers tell me the same thing, which is that I have helped them understand why people love their dogs so much. That is a tremendous compliment and makes me happy to have helped dogs as a species in that way. I respect both of these women because they both have said no to getting dogs of their own despite the pleas of others in their households because they know the responsiblity involved in having a dog and they know what is fair and what is not fair to the dog when you take on that role.

I know that I will continue to share the love of dogs with everyone who will listen. I will continue to promote that we are forever owners to forever dogs in their forever homes. I encourage you to do the same thing, so share your love of dogs with your dog lover friends and non-dog lover friends alike, to share the notion that every dog should be a forever dog in a forever home to a forever human. The more we promote the fact that dogs are living, breathing, feeling creatures, the more we help combat the notion of a dog as disposable or less than worthy of a lifetime of care and love.




Having Fun with your dog, It's Kinda the Whole Point

Having Fun With Your Dog: It’s Kinda the Whole Point!

Having Fun With Your Dog: It’s Kinda the Whole Point!

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Having Fun with your dog, It's Kinda the Whole PointWhen I was a little girl I was so shy that to even say hello to my kindergarten playmate out in public was sheer torture. Flash forward forty or so years and I have been told I have a “strong personality” that overwhelms some people. Although I initially took that as somewhat of an insult, I realized it was not meant to be mean, and that I am proud of that strong personality and that it is one of my strongest tools in the proverbial toolbox of life. After all, I am a New Jersey native with a slew of really awesome people in my family tree who helped me develop that strong personality, all I can do is own it. Plus my husband, dogs and kids like it, so that’s a win!

I realized yesterday that my content of this blog has been so serious and sometimes intense, propelled by my passion for sharing information to help dogs and that strong personality. I suppose it’s the nature of being on a mission to help people create a happy, healthy lifestyle for their dogs based on the lifestyle I strive to maintain for my own dogs. I have so much information to share and am not even remotely close to running out of educational topics, and I want to make sure that every dog owner I can reach has this important information that I have learned along my own journey as a dog lover.

Image credit:
Image credit:

Maybe I have never put it out to the world like this, but the whole mission behind my obsession with creating a happy, healthy life for my dogs is that Jackson and Tinkerbell showed me that I could have multiple heart dogs, multiple soul dogs, in my lifetime. When Babe, Dutch and then Maggie all passed away, my heart was crushed like on the fictional show Once Upon a Time. If you watch that show you know that the villains will reach into a person’s chest cavity, pull out their glowing, beating heart, and crush it into black dust. That is how I felt as I watched first Babe, then Dutch, then Maggie, take their last breath on the floor of the veterinary clinic, that my heart was disintegrating into black dust. Jackson and Tinkerbell are the heroes who shared their hearts with me and inserted a part of their glowing, beating hearts back into my chest and who are now a part of their very soul.

As a result of this bond with both of dogs, my motivation for creating the healthiest lifestyle possible for them is that I do not want to feel the pain of losing a dog anytime soon. A healthy life, a safe life, a life with good food and as few toxins and chemicals as possible equates to a longer life in my mind, and the longer their lives, the longer we can share our love for each other, our friendship that spans our species, our heart dog and human relationship. My motivation is for them and for me, so that they can enjoy their lives and so that I do not have to feel that feeling any time soon.

What I’ve forgotten to talk about lately is that having fun is a huge part of a happy, healthy lifestyle for your dog and for you. Having fun has a positive impact on your mind, body, and soul. So while organic food and using vinegar to clean carpets and kill weeds are extremely important topics, so is sharing fun times and laughter with your dog! And contrary to my instinct to back it up with a study or a link to some research, I am just going to throw it out there that having fun and being happy help the overall health of everyone involved! And isn’t that the whole point of having such an energetic creature as our best friends? Having fun with dogs is kinda the whole point! 

Back when I was single and dating I would often get asked on first dates what my hobbies were. “Uh….” was normally my response, followed up with , “My dog, I guess!”

“Your dog??” I would receive in response with a look like I was a crazy dog lady. “Yes, my dog! My hobby is finding fun things for us to do together!” Of course that might have helped weed out the Mr. Wrongs who weren’t ready to choose the crazy dog lady, leaving a clear path for me to find my husband who incidentally included a walk for Babe and Dutch in his plans for our first date.

When you are a committed, loving dog owner, your dog is essentially your hobby, at least if you work full-time or have other commitments like children or running a household. There is only so much time in the day and when you have an active breed dog, your hobby is probably going to be hiking or walking with your dog, playing with your dog, doing an organized sport with your dog, or other dog activities.


My dogs are a lot of fun to be around, they both love to go and explore new places. Tinkerbell is a high energy crazy girl, so silly and loving and a little bit nuts, but in a controlled obedient sort of way except for a love of jumping that we are still working on through training. Jackson is pretty chilled and lovable and as sweet as they come, always watching my every move with his serious, soulful expression. I am excited to share more of the fun that we have with you, my awesome friends and readers, and ways that you can have fun with your own dogs, mixed in with the serious topics and information. So stay tuned, thank you for reading, and if you have ways that you have fun with your dog, send an email to and we can feature your life with dogs in an upcoming post. Now exit this screen and go have fun with your own dog!



How to Be a Compassionate Puppy Owner

How to Be a Compassionate Puppy Owner

How to Be a Compassionate Puppy Owner

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

How to Be a Compassionate Puppy OwnerI. Love. Puppies! If you read that with the same tone of voice as Oprah saying that she loves bread on her Wight Watchers commercial, then you read it correctly! I. Love. Puppies!

When I see a puppy I am the same way that most women are around babies. I cannot wait to hold that puppy in my arms and get puppy kisses and snuggles. Large breeds in particular are my favorite to hold and snuggle because they stay that small for such a short time. I often look at my own dogs and reminisce about when I could hold them in my arms while they slept when they weighed just fifteen pounds, and how they are now big sturdy adult dogs who I love more with each passing day.

How to Be a Compassionate Puppy OwnerIn my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog’s Forever Owner, I write extensively about puppies, how to prepare for them, how to choose where to get your puppy, how to house train them, the first few days with you, and a variety of other important topics. I am able to guide other puppy owners through these essential areas because of the experience I have from raising dogs my entire life and my recent puppy rearing of first Jackson and then Tinkerbell. I have definitely walked the walk of the puppy owner!

Perhaps the most important thing to master as a new puppy owner is to be a compassionate puppy owner. And although I am loath to rely on the dictionary definition of a word to make a point, this is a word that we hear frequently but may not understand entirely. If you’re like me I think about compassion in terms of being understanding and putting myself in the other person or animal’s position. But the definition of compassion, according to Merriam Webster’s online dictionary, has another element to it. The definition reads that compassion is “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” So compassion is not just being understanding, there is an important element of helping to actively alleviate the distress that the other is feeling.

How to Be a Compassionate Puppy Owner
I am looking to you for guidance every step of the way!

So how do we translate this into raising a puppy? It means that we as humans are conscious of the difficulties of being a puppy and trying to figure out the rules of the human world and that we have a desire to help them understand the rules and alleviate any stress that they are going through as they go along the puppy learning curve.

No matter where your puppy comes from, to leave their mother and litter mates is traumatic. No matter how much you love them and plan to care for them, all they know is that everything they have grown used to has changed without warning. Some puppies, like those born into puppy mills, backyard breeders or even worse situations in which the humans do not care about the mothers of the puppies or the puppies themselves, may have never known the love of a human, the comforts of a responsible breeder or foster home.  It is even more terrifying for them to go into the unknown.

Before your puppy comes home, or when you can take a few minutes to yourself if your puppy is already living in your home, take a few minutes to sit quietly and close your eyes. Try to picture a movie screen and the experiences of your puppy playing out on the movie screen. Imagine their life before you adopted them, imagine you are watching from outside the situation as they spend time with their mother and their litter mates, and then imagine your puppy leaving them and making their journey to your home.

Picture how everything looks to them from their point of view. Imagine them trying to figure out their sleeping arrangements, where to go to the bathroom, how to explore new things when they do not have hands or thumbs or the ability to talk to us. Imagine what it must be like to have to explore their environment through trial and error, choosing to chew on something and then being corrected over and over. Imagine what it is like to be lonely in another room without the understanding of when or if you will ever return. Imagine what it is like for all of their basic needs to be fulfilled by you.

How to Be a Compassionate Puppy Owner
Jax took every chance to learn and explore!

When you step back from the situation, watch their journey and experiences as if you were watching a movie, and put yourself in the puppy’s position it is easier to have compassion. It is easier to be sympathetic to their situation and have the desire to alleviate their stress and help them learn in a patient and repetitive manner. When you put yourself in your puppy’s position it is easier to understand that not only do you have an infant of an entirely other species, but that there is a language barrier and different natural instincts.

In my book I talk frequently about the fact that dogs and puppies are not furry humans. They are a completely different species from us. It doesn’t mean we should treat them poorly because of it, it doesn’t mean that we can justify being unkind or unfair. It just means that it is critical to be compassionate, to figure out how they learn, to learn how you can teach them the rules of the house, to understand how you can communicate with each other. It is important to remember that puppies and dogs are sentient beings, full of emotions, thoughts, and feelings like us, but with many differences, too. You love them like they are furry humans but you must treat them like they are dogs and honor the fact that they are dogs.

How to Be a Compassionate Puppy Owner
Jax planning his next puppy mischief or dreaming about the future?

Of course being a compassionate owner does not mean that you never correct your dog or train them. Just like when you parent human children, your job is to teach your puppy the rules of living in their environment to keep them safe and to keep them from destroying your home. A great puppy owner does that with a never-ending amount of patience, fairness, love, and firmness, by teaching and correcting wrong behaviors with repetition, guidance and compassion.

The Love, Laugh, Woof blog is being taken over by puppies!

Watch for more puppy blogs tomorrow and all of next week!  





Lawn Care Chemicals Linked to Cancer in Dogs

Lawn Care Chemicals Linked to Cancer in Dogs

Lawn Care Chemicals Linked to Cancer in Dogs

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Lawn Care Chemicals Linked to Cancer in Dogs

Losing a dog is one of the most heart wrenching parts of being a dog lover. Watching them slowly succumb to cancer before their time makes it even worse. Experiencing it twice with two separate dogs within a few years will forever change your approach to how you care for your dogs.

Dutch’s body was still working great at age thirteen. He showed no signs of arthritis and ran and played like a puppy most days. At an age when some dogs were plagued by arthritis and other medical problems, Dutch still jumped in circles like a typical crazy and lovable German Shorthaired Pointer whenever we asked the magical words, “Do you wanna go outside?” He showed not a bit of pain when he jumped onto the bed or raced around the yard chasing rabbits and birds. We thought we might have several more years with our big goofball by our sides.

Within months after being diagnosed with a mass on his spleen that we found by accident while making sure his stomach was not twisting from bloat, Dutch lost his voracious appetite, so we hand fed him hamburger and chicken breasts cooked just for him. He would lay on his bed shaking and we covered him with a blanket and comforted him until he fell asleep. It was the vivid red splashes of blood from his urine on some freshly fallen white snow that told us that it was time to let him go to the Rainbow Bridge. The cancer had spread throughout his entire body and was wreaking havoc through all of his organs.

Dutch enjoying an adventure prior to cancer

Maggie, our rescued Basset Hound, had survived major surgery to her spine, had learned to walk all over again through physical therapy when she was six years old, and we were thrilled that she had a love of life and the energy of a young dog at her advanced age of thirteen. We had read that the average lifespan of a Basset Hound was eight to twelve years, so for her to be thirteen and to have hours of fun playing with her one year old Labrador brother was an incredible gift.

One day we found a lump on her neck and two months after her diagnosis with Lymphoma she also lost her appetite. One night her throat swelled up so much from the cancer ravaging her body and her lymph nodes that we were afraid she would suffocate before we could get her to the vet the next morning. My husband and I stayed up with her all night to monitor her, each of us taking turns laying on the floor next to her. In the morning we lay with her on the floor of the vet’s office while they gave her the two injections that took our Maggie May from our lives.

Maggie going for a car ride

When Jackson was a young puppy, he and I were out on a walk when we came across a lawn care company spraying chemicals on a neighboring yard. Once again, as a result of growing up in the woods in a rural area I didn’t understand the suburban desire to have a perfect expanse of green grass, and so we did not use a service like this. It seemed unnecessary when our grass was just fine in its imperfect natural state. Jax and I made a wide arc around that property and as soon as we got home I started to Google the side effects of those chemicals.

This is an extraordinarily small sampling of the information I found: 

September 4, 1991: Lawn Herbicide Called Cancer Risk for Dogs, NY Times In this article the New York Times shares the results of a study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in which researchers found that dogs were two times as likely to develop lymphoma when their owners “sprayed or sprinkled the 2,4-D herbicide on the lawn four or more times a year.” 

2004,Purdue University: CANINE BLADDER CANCER by Deborah W. Knapp, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM Purdue University found an association between herbicide treated lawns and bladder cancer in Scottish Terriers. The risk of transitional cell carcinoma  was four to seven times higher in dogs who were exposed to 2,4-D.

2011,Environmental Research journal: Household chemical exposures and the risk of canine malignant lymphoma The Journal of Environmental Research printed a study that showed that exposure to professionally applied lawn care pesticides resulted in a 70% higher risk of malignant lymphoma in dogs. According to page 176 of the study, “Dose of exposure to environmental chemicals such as lawn care products used at home may be substantial, especially for dogs spending a considerable amount of time outdoors on lawns.”

2013, Purdue University: Detection of Herbicides in the Urine of Pet Dogs Following Home Lawn Chemical Application Purdue University studied dogs from treated and untreated yards and found that untreated grass contained chemicals from drift from other yards and half of the dogs studied who lived in untreated yards still had chemicals in their urine.

This study is perhaps the most troubling to me because it demonstrated that even if owners use precautions and do not treat their own yards that their dogs are still at risk from other homeowners’ toxic pesticides and herbicides drifting onto their grass. It also showed that the 48 hour waiting period in which residents are instructed to keep children and pets off of the grass is insufficient to keep them safe. Once homeowners remove the signs from their yard, assuming that the lawn care company provides signs, there is no way of discerning which lawns have been treated, although because of the drift of the toxins into neighboring yards it may not matter which are treated and which are not.

According to the PuppyUP Foundation, “it is estimated between 4 and 6 million dogs die from cancer each year and recently it was announced that 36 children a day are diagnosed with cancer.” These studies are not new, you just have to Google “lawn care chemicals dogs” and you will find page after page of scientific research and articles linking lawn care treatments to cancer in dogs. Change “dogs” to “children” and the results are similar.

Lawn Care Chemicals Linked to Cancer in DogsI have neighbors all around me as well as a very large local park who treat their lawns and I live in constant fear of what my dogs are absorbing through their noses and paws, what they are ingesting when they nibble on the grass in our yard or clean themselves after spending time outdoors.

I go through daily routines to wash their paws and wipe down their faces and bodies and I make sure I provide a healthy holistic life to try to keep their immune systems strong and able to fight the carcinogens that so easily drift onto our own grass, onto our own property against our will. There is no way for us to stop this toxic drift other than putting our house in a giant bubble, and so education and awareness is our biggest ally in this battle.

As we head quickly toward warm weather, please reconsider how much that perfect green lawn means in the grand scheme of life.  I implore you to help educate your own friends and neighbors on the benefits of organic lawn care and organic gardening. Push back on your HOA and local park departments that also often use these toxins to ensure that the grass looks healthy.

Lawn Care Chemicals Linked to Cancer in DogsIf not for the dogs themselves, do it for the humans in the house who are walking on the same floors as the dogs, sitting on the same furniture, and petting the fur of the dogs who are out in the world just trying to be dogs but falling victim to the misguided dream of a perfect expanse of green grass. Do it for the children who are playing in the grass, running barefoot and innocently rolling around on a beautiful day. Do it for the bees who need the dandelions that grow when lawns are not treated. What is the point of buying organic at the grocery store, of eating healthy foods and trying to take care of our bodies if we poison our animals, our children and ourselves right in our own back yards?

Here are previous posts that I have written on this topic

No Dogs on the Grass: Studies on Canine Cancer and Lawn Care Products

No Dogs on the Grass Part 2: Post-Walk Paw Wash: I encourage ALL dog owners to perform this after each walk or adventure and once a day during months when lawn care products are likely to be applied.

No Dogs on the Grass Part 3: Promoting a Strong Immune System for Your Dog


Keeping Your Dog Safe From Lawn & Garden Hazards

Keeping Your Dog Safe From Lawn & Garden Hazards

Keeping Your Dog Safe From Lawn & Garden Hazards

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Keeping Your Dog Safe From Lawn & Garden HazardsThe first day of spring is such a happy day, full of the promise of better weather, green leaves and grass, and flowers. As the temperatures rise, our neighbors start to come out of hibernation and the snow shovels and containers of ice melting salt at the garden store are replaced by seeds, plants and mulch and people start to pay attention to their neglected gardens and lawns.

Yesterday I shared an older post from when Jackson was a puppy that I like to call The Big Black Dog and the Cherry Tree in a play on words on the KT Tunstall song. The story of The Big Black Dog and the Cherry Tree is a cautionary tale about the importance of researching the trees and plants that you plant in an area that your dog can access. Jax was fine after eating the cherry tree leaves, and we learned that our particular tree was not poisonous, but it was definitely a wake up call.

I grew up in the woods. Not a wooded lot, but the woods in the mountains. I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that my parents never purchased a tree for that house or had to plant additional trees. In fact we also never had to purchase firewood, another suburban thing that mystified me after moving to this area. And so as an adult it never occurred to me that I could end up purchasing a tree for our suburban yard that could hurt or kill my dogs.

Fortunately the ASPCA has an extensive list of poisonous plants and trees on their website. Anytime you plant a tree, flower, shrub, herb, fruit, vegetable or any sort of vegetation in an area that your dog can access, consult this list There is also a printable version that you can print and take to the garden store with you: if for some reason you cannot pull up the list on your mobile phone. There are also Pet Poison apps that you can and should add to your phone that can be helpful when at the garden center as well as if your dog eats something questionable.

Puppies explore the world with their mouth and no fear or knowledge of what can hurt them!

Mulch is another area to use caution and do your research. A fairly new and eco-friendly option is the Cocoa hull or cocoa shell mulch. However, it is far from dog friendly; in fact cocoa mulch is quite toxic to dogs if they eat it. I suggest watching your dog around any type of mulch, wood or rubber, because consuming any of these items is not going to be great for your dog. Here is a link with some suggestions on the best mulch options to use in your fenced areas if you use any at all: We use stones in our garden areas in our back yard; although the dogs tried to chew on the rocks as little puppies, they leave them alone as adult dogs, unlike wood mulch which they still try to eat if given a chance.

Fertilizers and pesticides are also harmful to dogs, so going organic in your own yard or garden is much safer for pets as well as the humans who live in your home. There are some great ideas for organic gardening at this link:  Use caution if you follow their advice to use coffee grounds in your garden; you don’t want your pets eating the coffee grounds as those can make them quite ill.

As a general rule, I always recommend supervising your dogs anytime you are outside in addition to dog proofing your yard. A persistent dog can still get into something with you there, like Jackson proved with the cherry tree. A fast and determined puppy can still snatch up and eat something they shouldn’t like Tinkerbell proved when she managed to get a rotten cantaloupe that we had not noticed rolled away from our garden and up against our fence a few years ago. No matter how much we train them, sometimes a dog on a mission is just going to ignore your stern commands to “drop it” or “leave it” and they are going to wolf down a contraband item with the speed and determination of someone competing in the Coney Island hot dog eating contest.






Celebrate National Love Your Pet Day: Share Your Love of Dogs Daily

Celebrate National Love Your Pet Day: Share Your Love of Dogs Daily

Celebrate National Love Your Pet Day: Share Your Love of Dogs Daily

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Celebrate National Love Your Pet Day: Share Your Love of Dogs DailyToday is National Love Your Pet Day. I can safely assume that anyone reading this blog is going to say along with me, “But that’s every day, or at least it should be!”

As a lifelong dog lover, most of my friends are also dog lovers who share not only my love of dogs, but also my commitment to my dogs. We are there for each other when we have fun with our dogs, when we worry about our dogs, when we have to say goodbye to a dog who has gone to the Rainbow Bridge.

Dog lovers understand each other. In fact, my cat owner friends also understand; they may not share the same obsession with dogs but they understand what it is to be best friends with an entirely other species. They all understand that my dogs are not “just dogs” and I understand that their cats are not “just cats.”

Although most of the people in my life are animal lovers, I have a handful of friends who just are not into having a dog or a cat or any sort of pet. They don’t oooh and ahhh at my photos, they don’t understand how I am best friends with dogs, they aren’t interested in affectionate welcomes by my dogs when they come over and they probably think I’m their slightly crazy dog lady friend. Well, “slightly” might be an understatement.

I admire them for knowing how they feel and for not bringing a dog or cat into their life despite periodic requests from their spouse or children to have an animal in their home. I respect that they understand that they will be the one caring for the dog or cat and that it would not be fair to the animal if they were to get one without being as passionate about being a pet owner as a pet owner should be.

Jax is putting the Laugh in Love, Laugh, Woof!

I would estimate that 99% of what I share on social media revolves around dogs, whether it’s available dogs who need a forever home, articles about dog care, my own blogs and posts from my Love, Laugh, Woof page, or pictures of Jackson and Tinkerbell. Their photos make up the majority of my posts. I always assume that my non-dog loving friends just scroll on past those photos, but over the last year or so I have had not one but two of them give me the same compliment.

“Your love for your dogs has made me understand why people love their pets so much.” 

What an amazing thing to hear!

Two different friends who do not know each other said those exact words. I consider that the ultimate compliment, the ultimate success that I am making an impact by helping change the minds and hearts of those who do not feel the same as I do about our beloved dogs.

Celebrate your love of dogs daily and share the word about how much you love your best friend!

So how can this help you celebrate National Love Your Pet Day? It means that you, too, can make a difference simply by sharing the love you have for your pets with all of your friends, dog lovers and non-dog lovers. Whether it’s you and your dog on an adventure or a photo of them sleeping, people are listening to what you have to say.

Share the reasons why a simple photo of your dog napping fills your heart with so much love. In fact, share not just the love you have for your dogs but the whole Love, Laugh, Woof philosophy!

Share the laughter you have with your dog, the laughter you enjoy because of your dog. When you illustrate through your own experiences that dogs are downright funny creatures with a sense of humor, you can help open the minds of people who have never experienced that, never considered that dogs are funny or how human laughter is one of the happiest sounds your dog can hear.

Share the woof of Love, Laugh, Woof by sharing what it must be like to be a dog in a human world. Share the photos of the terrified dog in the shelter who is confused and heartbroken and explain how dogs feel emotional pain and fear just like us.

Share your stories of training your dog and teaching her how to be a dog in a human world,  share how special it is to have that interspecies friendship where we communicate without words, and love each other so much despite our differences. Many people who do not live with dogs do not understand how special this is or that it’s not always easy for dogs to acclimate to our lives and homes.

Anyone can be a dog/human ambassador just by sharing with friends!

You may not turn everyone on your friends list into a dog lover or a dog owner, and that’s ok, because not everyone should be a dog owner.  Helping even one person understand why we love our dogs so much, why dogs are considered sentient beings with real feelings and emotions,  is one more step in the right direction of creating a more humane environment for all dogs.




Ten Traits of Responsible Dog Owners

Ten Traits of Responsible Dog Owners

By Lynn Stacy-Smith

Ten Traits of Responsible Dog Owners The month of February has quite a few different awareness events and in the end, all of them fall under the umbrella of being a responsible pet owner. In fact, that is what Love, Laugh, Woof is all about: being a responsible and forever owner from the moment your dog steps their first paw into your life until the last breath that they take by your side. So while every single month is Responsible Pet Owner month in reality, let’s take this opportunity to share ten traits of responsible dog owners:

Jax is everything a lab stud dog should be…we neutered him anyway! No puppies from this boy!

1. Responsible owners spay or neuter their dogs: Responsible owners leave the breeding up to professional/hobby/show breeders who already have a demand for their dogs before they create the supply. By spaying your females you never have to worry about them going into heat (as messy and miserable as it is for human women) or having unwanted canine suitors lining up outside your fence to get to your female like Scarlett O’Hara at the barbecue. In the same way, neutering your male means that he can focus on being your best friend instead of searching out a mate and acting like a testosterone driven dog. Let’s face it, there’s a reason we refer to overly promiscuous men as “dogs”, right? Take that desire off your male dog’s mind and let him just be your best friend; he does not need a female dog to be his friend with benefits.

2. Responsible dog owners provide good medical care: I once had a vet who told me “thank you” for choosing to go with more elaborate tests to seek a diagnosis for my now late German Shorthaired Pointer Dutch. “Why are you thanking me?” I asked, legitimately confused. Dutch was my dog, a part of my heart and soul, why wouldn’t I do everything possible for him? “Not everyone goes this far to try to keep their dog healthy,” was their answer.

What an eye-opening lesson that was! In my mind proper medical care was a given. A sick dog went to the vet, period. You did everything in your power and budget to help them.

Responsible pet owners provide basic care like annual exams (or even better, twice a year), heartworm pills, and vaccinations. They also know how their dog looks and behaves when healthy, notices changes like acting lethargic or a change in appetite or lumps and bumps that appear, takes them to the vet, pays for testing and treatments and follows the vet’s orders for home care.

Dogs on the sofa? Totally!

3. Responsible owners create a comfortable living environment: Today I shared via Facebook a heart wrenching video of extremely young puppies covered in flea bites, scabs and a horrible skin disease. All they had known was disease, misery, pain, suffering and filth for the few weeks since they had been born, and they were so young that they were not even ready to leave their mother. Luckily they had been rescued after their owner literally dumped them off somewhere. There was no sign of their mother and my heart breaks even more wondering what her fate is.

Responsible owners provide a clean, climate controlled, bug and pest free, safe, comfortable environment for their dog in their residence. Dogs are pack animals and want to be with their humans. They should live inside the family home with the human family, whether it is a family of one or ten, and be with the humans when they are home or safely in their own secured, climate controlled spot with access to water when the humans are away.

4. Responsible owners train their dogs what to do: Imagine being hired for a new job. Nobody tells you what to do, what they expect of you, or how to do it. When you try to do it your own way they yell at you for doing it wrong. That is what it is like for a dog who does not receive training. Although we are able to create loving bonds and incredible friendships across our different species, living in a human world does not come automatically to a dog. Training them what to do is responsible and gives them the confidence to go about their day-to-day lives with you with joy and the relaxing knowledge that they are pleasing you.

5. Responsible owners are calm, fair, kind and compassionate: Good leaders do not need to yell and use aggression to motivate and lead people. This is the same with dogs. Your dog needs you to be their leader, establish rules and be firm, but they also need you to be calm, fair, kind and compassionate. Anything else will just scare and confuse them and break their trust in you. The fact of the matter is that dogs living in a human world need you. Their entire life revolves around you, for love and companionship, food, water, and every basic need. Any good leader respects her team, and it is quite possible to respect and honor your dog while still being their leader.

6. Responsible owners provide quality nutrition: You don’t have to be able to afford the most expensive food on the market for your dog, but providing a good quality food made with safe ingredients is important. Dogs are like computers: garbage in, garbage out, and the better the food your provide the healthier your dog should be. If you are on a super strict budget, try to avoid anything with the words “animal” or “by-product” and the controversial menadione. Dog Food Advisor is an amazing website that can help you research particular brands of food.

7. Responsible owners exercise with their dogs: Whether you participate in an official dog sport like agility, or if long walks are your thing, responsible dog owners make sure their dogs get plenty of exercise and enjoy getting exercise together. There is a mind meld that you get with your dog when you are out exploring the world together.

Tink going on an adventure

8. Responsible owners make time for their dogs: Obviously life happens and sometimes you have to work long hours or go to human only events, but spending time with your dog is the whole reason you got them. One of the cruelest things you can do to a dog is to ignore them or stick them in a kennel or room away from their humans. Dogs are fun, they are comforting, and they are some of the best friends I know I’ve ever had, and all they ask in return is for our companionship. Even when I was a single dog owner with a full time job and an active social life, I made sure I carved out substantial and frequent blocks of time that were dedicated just to my dog Babe.

9. Responsible owners are their dog’s rock solid support system at the end of their life: I have lain on the floor of the vet’s office with four different dogs at different times in the last twelve years as the veterinarian gave them the two injections to end their lives. All four times I held my own self together, not showing my fear or my grief or pain until they had all passed on to the Rainbow Bridge. It was only after the vet told me that each of them was gone that I let myself howl with grief, finally able to let my own pain out. Why? Because I did not want to stress them, worry them, scare them, or have any sort of negative energy around them during the final moments of their lives. My job was to be their rock, after all of the times that they had been there for me, it was the most important moment for me to be there for them. There are no excuses to not be there with your best friend, I don’t care how hard it is or how painful. It is an unwritten promise that we give to them the moment we accept them as our dog.


10. Responsible owners are forever owners: From the moment your dog steps their first paw into your life until the final breath that they take with you by their side. Forever. Responsible owners do not surrender their dogs to kill shelters, let them loose in the woods and drive off to let them fend for themselves, list them on Craigslist or anywhere else “free to a good home,” tie them to trees, tape their muzzles, or any of the other truly evil things that have been done to innocent dogs to “get rid” of them. They do not give up on them or harm them in any way. Period. And if extenuating circumstances happen, they reach out to every rescue group until they can find a no-kill option, pay the surrender fees, and make sure that their dog will find a new, loving, forever home.

Please share this with anyone you know who is considering getting a dog or who is a new dog owner. Irresponsible pet ownership is, in my opinion, the primary reason for the massive pet overpopulation problem in this country. It is my mission to help educate owners to become forever owners to help reduce the number of innocent dogs who are surrendered and euthanized each year.

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Pet Theft Awareness How to Keep Your Dog Safe

Pet Theft Awareness: Seven Ways to Keep Your Dog Safe

Pet Theft Awareness: Seven Ways to Keep Your Dog Safe

By Lynn Stacy-Smith

Pet Theft Awareness How to Keep Your Dog SafeLast summer I made a new friend for a horrible reason: six very young puppies were stolen from the whelping pen of a hobby breeder and I was one of many people helping these strangers share information via social media to help locate them. Located in the country, they had felt safe putting the momma and whelping pen in their climate controlled barn, not knowing that someone would find out they were there and steal them to try to resell them.

A Facebook post advertising the stolen puppies for sale helped the police and breeder start to track down their location. Four of the stolen puppies were located in a box in a dumpster after someone gave a tip that they were there. Of those four, only one was alive; the others had died alone and terrified, away from their mother or their breeder, in a dirty and disgusting dumpster. The other two were found running along a beach in Chicago and were picked up by a good Samaritan and returned safely to their breeder. I was lucky enough to meet two of the surviving puppies and their breeder a few weeks after the incident, and felt incredibly lucky to get puppy kisses from these survivors of such a horrific act.

February 14 was Pet Theft Awareness Day, a day originally created in 1988 to increase awareness of pet owners to the crime of pet theft. Here are seven things you can do as a pet owner to help prevent your dog from being stolen or lost.

1. Do not let your pet roam freely: I often think about growing up in an extremely rural area where our dog was allowed to go outside without us and without a fence. Right after that thought I get goosebumps imagining doing that today. That was another time and another place. Yes, we talk about surviving the 70s as human kids with our lack of booster seats, bicycle helmets and seat belts, but things are different and we know better now. Just like you would not transport your toddler without a car seat in 2017, do not let your dog roam freely without a fence. Period. I don’t care if you own 1,000 acres, put up a fence to protect your dog.

2. Always go outside with your dog: One of our teenagers asked me a few years ago, “So, the dogs are not puppies any more, when are they going to be allowed in the yard on their own?” My response, “Um, NEVER!” A fence allows your dog to run and frolic and select a place to eliminate waste without a leash. It is not the dog equivalent of plopping your child in front of the TV so you can get stuff done. I will freely admit that when I first moved to our home I did let the dogs outside on their own without a human. One day as I pulled into the driveway after work, all three dogs ran to greet me, right out of the gate that one of the kids had left open while playing with friends. Another day our escape artist Dutch opened the gate on his own and took off down the street before I realized he was gone.

My parents’ late Beau and my former foster dog Destiny could both jump a regular fence from a standing position. Between dogs going over fences, digging under them, opening up gates on their own, kids or meter readers accidentally leaving gates open, and the risk of pet theft, there are simply too many risks of losing your dog or having them stolen, not to mention things that they can get into when left to their own decision-making. It’s not hard to go outside with them each and every time, I’ve been doing it for six years. In fact, you can stay warm with my winter gear suggestions from last week if you live in cold climates. 

3. Do not leave your dog in the car alone: Unless you are only going to places where you can take your dog, skip the car ride and leave them at home. For one thing, in most parts of the country it is simply too hot to leave them in the car for at least six months out of the year if not longer, but it is also extremely easy to break into your car and take your dog. Several years ago there was a tragic story in a nearby suburb in which a man  stopped at a business for a quick errand and left his elderly dog in his van. The van was stolen with the dog inside and the dog was never recovered. I love having my dogs with me every moment I can, too, but I would rather them be safe and sound at home.

4. Do not tie your dog out…anywhere: Last week we addressed the problem of chained dogs, but not in terms of your dog getting lost or stolen. I also do not recommend tying your dog anywhere, even to run into a store for a moment or two. If you are with your dog and your dog cannot go into a business, neither should you. It is far too easy to untie the leash or unclip their collar. There are some locking leashes on the market, but collars can be cut or slipped over a dog’s head if someone is really motivated to steal your dog. 

5. Utilize cameras and home security systems: There are now many products on the market to help secure your home through alarms and cameras, most of which have apps to send alerts to your phone. Some even allow you to listen to sounds in your yard and speak to people who come to your door even if you are thousands of miles away.

6. Research potential pet sitters & groomers: Hire reputable pet sitters and groomers that you know already, are suggested by trusted friends or other dog professionals, or through pet sitting or grooming companies with reliable reputations.

7. Microchip your dog: Microchips are a permanent way of identifying your dog, but they do rely on someone scanning them with a microchip scanner. It is also essential to keep your chip information current if you move or change your phone number. Microchips won’t help in some instances of pet theft when the thieves have no intention of providing veterinary care, but they make it possible that if someone takes your dog to the vet or if your dog escapes or runs away from the thieves.

The bottom line: any time your dog is out of your home, keep them on-leash and in your sight. It may seem dramatic to give such strong warnings, but the fact is that dogs are stolen on a regular basis, and this is not a fate you want for your best friend.

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How Responsible Dog Breeders Help Prevent Pet Overpopulation

How Responsible Dog Breeders Help Prevent Pet Overpopulation

How Responsible Dog Breeders Help Prevent Pet Overpopulation

By Lynn Stacy-Smith

How Responsible Dog Breeders Help Prevent Pet OverpopulationAs I wrap up our three part series during Westminster Dog Show week, here are some ways that hobby/show/professional breeders help prevent their dogs from ending up homeless, abandoned or in shelters:

1. The application process: Good breeders will require an extensive application to be submitted by potential puppy buyers to ensure that their puppies are going to forever homes where they will receive the appropriate care, socialization, training, affection and exercise. Our application for Jax was multiple pages long including questions about our philosophy on dog training, books we had read, our experience with dogs, what had happened to other dogs in our life, and a variety of other questions.

2. Lifetime Return Policy: This means that the breeder will take the dog back at any point in its life and dictates that the owner is not allowed to surrender the dog to a shelter or rescue under any circumstances. Some breeders (including ours) ask to be the backup contact on the dog’s microchip for life and will take the dog back if the owner passes away.

3. Limited Registration: Many show/hobby/professional breeders will only sell dogs with a Limited Registration, meaning that the dog itself is fully registered with the American Kennel Club but any puppies that he or she produces cannot be registered. This protects the bloodline and means that puppy buyers cannot sell registered puppies from their dog, which would take away some of the monetary value that they could receive for puppies and reduces the likelihood that they will breed the dog.

4. Having a Demand Before Creating the Supply: Responsible breeders wait for a demand for their puppies before they create a supply. Jax was already in utero when we found him and we honestly got lucky. There was one spot left for a puppy buyer because his mother was pregnant with one “extra” puppy. Otherwise we would have been on a waiting list for the next litter which was planned for the following winter. He was born in March. Of course if we had not come along he would have simply stayed with the breeder just like his brother.

If you look at the page of the German Shorthaired Pointer who won Best in Show at Westminster in 2016 as of today it says, “We are sorry but at this time we have no litters available.” The Planned Litters page indicates that two litters are planned for the spring and that potential buyers can join the waitlist. This is the same with the Labrador Retriever who won Best of Breed last year and is indicative of a very responsible dog breeder who is committed to not creating dogs without a list of puppy buyers waiting to take them into loving homes.

5. Mandatory Spay/Neuter Clauses

Many breeders require their puppy buyers to spay/neuter their dogs within a certain time period. This also helps reduce unwanted litters, both intentional and accidental. This is dual purpose in helping decrease the pet population and potentially reducing the risk of certain cancers for both male and female dogs.

6. Co-owning Unaltered Dogs

Another common practice is for show/hobby/professional breeders to only allow co-owned dogs to be kept intact and able to reproduce. A co-owned dog typically lives with the puppy buyer full time and is only bred when the original breeder chooses.

7. Promoting Rescue and Shelter Adoptions

Of course purebred puppies from a breeder are not going to be the right option for everyone, and there are plenty of incredible purebred or mixed breed dogs waiting for their forever home in shelters and rescue organizations everywhere. Responsible breeders are often extremely supportive of dog adoption and rescue and will send potential puppy buyers to these resources if they do not have litters on the way or when they think that a buyer might do better with a grown dog or a different type of dog. This type of breeder is an overall dog lover and is just as upset by the rampant dog overpopulation problem and heart breaking euthanasia of healthy, innocent dogs as other dog lovers.

Rather than pointing the finger at responsible hobby/show/professional breeders who love their dogs and care about what happens to each and every puppy that they produce, we should continue to work on the extremely important work of stopping puppy mills, encouraging the adoption of both purebred and mixed breed dogs from shelters and rescue organizations, educating about why it is so important to spay and neuter all dogs who are not going to be bred by responsible breeders, and to teach current and future generations that dogs are a lifetime commitment, not something to be picked up at the mall or from a classified ad with the same amount of consideration as a sweater or a new handbag.

Different Types of Dog Breeders

Understanding the Different Types of Dog Breeders

Understanding the Different Types of Dog Breeders

By Lynn Stacy-Smith

Today is the second day of the Westminster Kennel Club show, a prestigious event that celebrates breeding stock of purebred dogs and my favorite sporting event of the year. With a pet overpopulation problem that results in 2.4 million innocent and healthy dogs and cats being euthanized each year, there are sometimes critics who say that we don’t need anyone breeding dogs and bringing additional animals into the world. I disagree, though, and feel that our purebred dog breeds are all an important part of the dog world that should be preserved for future generaDifferent Types of Dog Breederstions.

To make that assumption that all breeders are responsible for homeless pets is unfair, and I think it is important to educate people that not all breeders are the same. In fact there are vast differences between responsible breeders and puppy mill operators. This is a topic that I cover in detail in my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog’s Forever Owner in Chapter 5: Breeder or Rescue, Where to Get Your Next Dog. Rather than re-write the wheel, here is an excerpt from my book:

“The words ‘dog breeder’ can elicit some very negative responses from individuals in the dog community. The truth is that there are a variety of different types of dog breeders ranging across a wide spectrums of levels of care, and it is neither fair nor accurate to lump them all in together. Some breeders love their dogs as if they gave birth to them, and they put care and love into each litter. Others are unscrupulous and inhumane to their dogs and help contribute to the pet overpopulation problem in two ways: producing more dogs than they have a need for and not sufficiently screening puppy buyers to ensure that they are committed to caring for the dog humanely for its entire life.

Unfortunately, too often good breeders are lumped in with bad breeders, but the fact of the matter is that there are many wonderful breeders who operate in such a way that if everyone who bred dogs followed their lead we would not have the heart wrenching pet overpopulation problem that we do in this country and across the world. While I agree with the ‘don’t shop, adopt’ concept, it is important to note that good breeders of purebred dogs are important to the world of dogs and to maintaining the breed standard of the breeds that we love so much.”

Here’s the difference:

Large Commercial Breeders: Large commercial breeders breed and house puppies in a manner similar to raising livestock: in large quantities in cages. These operations are known as “puppy mills” because they breed in large quantities. There are many horror stories of puppy mills in which dogs are undernourished, dehydrated and kept in cages too small where they bred over and over and over again. It is not uncommon for puppy mill dogs to never touch grass, run around or live a normal life.

These puppies are usually sold through pet stores. Because of the lack of attention to care, genetic issues, temperament or socialization from the puppy mill operators, many puppy mill puppies have substantial health issues. Adding to the tragedy is the fact that most pet stores do not full screen buyers sufficiently, if at all, to ensure that they are making a lifetime commitment instead of an impulse buy.

Backyard Breeders: The term “backyard breeder” typically refers to people who breed their own dogs but do not offer the same health guarantees and health checks as Hobby/Professional/Show Breeders. Some backyard breeders will breed just one litter because they have a beloved female dog and want one of her puppies to keep for their own, or because a friend or family member wants one of her puppies. In this situation it is quite possible that the parents and puppies are well-loved, quite healthy, and receive the utmost care and socialization.

Other backyard breeders are less scrupulous and breed their dogs for profit without the same high quality care and treatment. Backyard breeders who fall into this category often neglect their dogs and simply view them as a way to bring in income, similar to puppy mill operations but on a smaller scale.

Photo source:

Hobby/Show/Professional Dog Breeders: Professional dog breeders, sometimes called hobby or show breeders, breed for love of the breed and usually possess extensive knowledge of genetics, their bloodline, and common health problems of the breed. They are dedicated to maintaining the breed standard in all areas: health, appearance and temperament.

Professional breeders will ensure that all of their stud dogs and dams pass the standard tests for their breeds with the OFFA, also called the OFA, which is the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. For example, with the Labrador Retriever, you should look for breeders who test for hips, elbows and eyes. Their females lead regular happy lives and only produce a few litters in their lifetime before they are spayed and retired. Some hobby/show/professional breed multiple litters a year and rely on that income and others breed just once or twice a year or when they would like to add another dog to their own dog family.

This type of breeder is the type involved in conformation shows like the Westminster Kennel Club show. They also participate in common sports and activities for the breed. For example, our friend/breeder from whom we purchased Jackson and Tinkerbell is actively involved in Hunt Tests, Conformation, Obedience, works professionally as a dog trainer and runs a boarding kennel in her community. One of her labs is in agility and another has worked as a reading dog, going into classrooms where children read to the dog to help their confidence and reading skills. Her dogs all live in the house with her and are beloved pets. 

What type of breeder can make it to Westminster? 

Often the Westminster coverage includes information on the day to day lives of some of the dogs in the competition. To debunk the myth that show dogs are only “good” for shows, many of the dogs who compete also participate in the sports and activities for which they were bred. For example many of the sporting breeds also hunt birds and have other jobs outside of the show ring as well as being beloved pets and companions.

The Westminster Kennel Club Show website has a great page called Find the Right Dog for You and includes this paragraph,

“As we have for many years during our televised broadcast, The Westminster Kennel Club will continue to make the following announcement: “If you are planning to add a dog to your life and have come to look over the best of the best, please note, no dog you have seen here (yesterday or today) came from a pet shop, or was the ‘product’, if you will, of a puppy mill. If you want a dog, go to the people who care – the dedicated specialty breeders who have made dogs like those you see here – a lifetime effort. Talk dogs with dog people who care and understand.”

Watch tomorrow for a related blog about tactics professional/show/hobby breeders use to help prevent pet overpopulation. 



Watching the Westminster Kennel Club Show: Dog Show Basics

For some it’s the Super Bowl that is the Holy Grail of sports, for other’s the Stanley Cup Finals. Other people live for the NBA Playoffs, and some (especially here in the Chicagoland area last Fall) are all about the World Series. For me, though, the sporting event of the year is hands down the Westminster Kennel Club Show. 

I’ve been watching Westminster for over twenty years and every February I circle the dates on the calendar, pointing out that this is as serious to me as the Walking Dead finale is to my husband and that we shall not talk over the announcer or have other such interruptions. Westminster is serious business, particularly Night Two when the Sporting Group gaits and stacks for the judges. 

For those of you not familiar with the world of dog shows, they are known as Conformation because dogs are judged to determine how they conform to the breed standard as set forth by each “parent club” of the breed. The Westminster Kennel Club, the host of the show, is part of the American Kennel Club (AKC). Labradors who enter the show are judged against the breed standard of The Labrador Retriever Club, which is the AKC parent club of the breed. The breed standard dictates everything about how a Labrador Retriever should appear, from their height and weight to the shape of their eyes, the color of their coat, their temperament and many, many other criteria. There are other kennel clubs with different parent clubs and breed standards, like the United Kennel Club, or UKC.

Labrador Breed standard from Erlastyn Kennels website

Sometimes criticized as being nothing but beauty contests, dog shows actually are intended to evaluate breeding stock in order to continue to produce puppies who meet the breed standard. The breed standard exists for functional and health reasons even though many of the traits are things that we love so much about our dogs because of their appearance. For example, the shape of a dog’s head can help or hinder him when hunting because it will impact their eyesight. The right or wrong build for shoulders and legs can impact how they move in the water or on land.

If you are a Labrador Retriever owner like me, that big thick otter tail that knocks glasses and knick-knacks off of your coffee table is actually so big and thick to act as a rudder when the dog is swimming. The double coat that sheds so much is designed to insulate the dog in cold weather or cold water to maximize the use of calories so that their energy is spent on the task at hand rather than staying warm. The webbed feet that pick up mud and track them into the house each spring are designed to help make them more efficient swimmers for their original purpose of helping fisherman with nets and hunters retrieve birds.

Westminster is my favorite show that is televised because they provide so much information on the dogs. Although I will always miss the signature voice of the late Roger Karas, the announcers usually do a good job of pointing out things to viewers like the fact that dogs who are meant to run a lot have large deep chests, and dogs with big floppy jowls and ears like Basset Hounds and Bloodhounds use those to pick a scent that they are tracking.

On Monday and Tuesday during the day, individual breeds will be judged together with the winner of each breed being dubbed Best of Breed. You can watch the live streaming online on the Westminster Kennel Club website. The coverage on TV each evening is of the Best of Group category.


Because each dog is judged against the breed standard and not each other, it is quite impressive that the judges are able to retain such vast knowledge of each breed standard in their group. Judges are incredibly experienced within the dog show world in order to be able to judge this category. Of course most viewers, myself included, root for their favorite breeds. I would love for the Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever and German Shorthaired Pointer to take spots one, two and three in that order, but so far that has not happened. That’s ok, though, because I have the best male and female example of the Labrador Retriever in my own home, at least as far as I’m concerned.

Tomorrow I will share information about the different types of dog breeders and how responsible loving breeders are too frequently lumped in with puppy mill operators. That topic is also an important part of my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog’s Forever Owner. Also check out this page from the Westminster Kennel Club called Find the Right Dog for You. Finally, if you haven’t yet, I invite you to read my blog from last year’s show, called Not Just Another Pretty Face: Researching that Show Dog on TV. 

For more detailed information on how dog shows are judged, click here:

Have a Heart for Chained Dogs Week

We are in the middle of Have a Heart for Chained Dogs Week. If you are like me, it breaks your heart that such a week is even necessary. Sadly, it is.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

There are many reasons why a dog can end up on a chain outside. Some owners who chain their dogs outside do care about their dogs but cannot afford a fence, so they believe that they are doing the right thing in letting their dog spend time outside on a chain instead of taking the dog on multiple walks a day and seeking out dog parks and other areas for periodic romps.

The bad thing about this is that even spending the daytime hours or part of the day on a chain is not good for dogs physically or mentally. A theft or tragedy like the dog accidentally hanging itself can occur in a matter of minutes.  Over time dogs on chains become bored, anxious, aggressive and more likely to bite than dogs who are not chained.

I believe that there is a lot of possibility to educate people in this category, to teach them that their dogs will be happier and safer by going on either multiple short walks each day or a nice long walk for exercise. I understand that the chain might just be for potty breaks, so it’s important to let them know that a long lead is a better alternative for potty breaks, so that the owner is outside with the dog to prevent theft or entanglement.

For owners who do use a chain or tie-out cable, they should only do so if they are always outside with the dog when he or she is attached, but only if the dog is never left alone and there is no way for the dog to jump off of something like a deck or land that drops off. I personally do not advise anyone to use a tie-out and prefer a long lead (known as a check cord in bird hunting training) for very experienced dog owners who want to give their dog a bit more leash while still attached to a human.

Other dog owners have an extremely outdated mindset that dogs should live outside and are happier there than in a warm loving home. I cannot fathom why they would have a dog in the first place unless it is for some sort of security measure. A home security system like ADT is going to be much cheaper and can be installed without being cruel and heartless to thinking, breathing sentient creatures. And finally some dogs are chained because they are part of dog fighting rings or are owned by sinister humans who are neglectful and cruel. I do not have sufficient words to describe how heinous I believe dog fighting to be.

So as dog lover, how can you help the dogs who are chained? With the first group that I described, the owners who think they are doing the right thing and who care for their dogs, there are ways that you can reach out to them to help educate them in a non-judgmental way. However, please do not read this blog and then go knocking on the doors of unsafe owners and people running dog fighting rings. There are other things that you can do in the resources that I have shared below like reporting them to the proper authorities and working on passing stronger laws to fight these horrific acts.

Note: there are links to both Peta and the HSUS in these resources; both of these groups are controversial and although I do not generally support them personally, their advice on this particular topic is acceptable and logical.

Unchain Your Dog: This organization was started by a woman who rescued a dog who was chained to a dilapidated doghouse, fed twice a week and rarely had water. There is some great information that you can use to help dogs in your area. There is a lot of great information on this page about how to unchain your own dog, how to reach out to other dog owners, and how to help pass laws against chaining dogs.

Unchained Melodies Dog Rescue: Located in Missouri, this site’s help page has more great information on how to help by speaking to fellow dog owners and fighting for local legislation.

SOAR (Speak Out and Rescue): in Kentucky, SOAR also has information on what they are doing to help and how to help in your own community.

Coalition to Unchain Dogs: group has helped other charities get started rescuing chained dogs and building fences to help free chained dogs from a live attached to a tether. They have extremely helpful information on starting your own group, how to help, and organizations in other parts of the country.

Fences for Fido: I follow this group on Facebook and love seeing their success stories and the videos of dogs who are freed from life on a chain. The joy in these dogs as they run their first zoomies around the yard is incredible. They are located in the Washington/Oregon/Northern California area.

Wearing a shirt like this in a public place like Disney, a festival, a sporting event can help spread awareness to all of the people walking behind you!

Dogs Deserve Better: Located in Virginia, this group also has extensive resources on their site as well as a CafePress store where you can purchase t-shirts, signs, stickers and other items to help share the word about chained dogs. You can shop their store and help raise money and also purchase items to start conversations whether you are wearing a t-shirt in public or a showing a bumper sticker on your car. Wear their shirts places like Disney, sporting events, festivals, so that everyone walking behind you sees the message!

Here are additional resources to share via social media to help spread the word:

Whole Dog Journal: Be Cautious About Tying Up Your Dog in the Backyard 

How to Help Chained Dogs in Your Community

Do You Chain Your Dog?

 The Canine Escape Artistthis link contains information on dog proofing your fence if a canine escape artist is the reason for a chain.


Not Just Another Pretty Face: Researching That Beautiful Show Dog On TV

Last night was my favorite night in televised sports. It has been on the calendar for months, a night when my family knows that they should not plan on anything other than my favorite event being on the television. Last night was night two of the Westminster Kennel Club show.

Night two of the Westminster Kennel Club show always starts off with the Sporting Group. If you  are not familiar with the different groups of a dog show, this group includes breeds who have been bred to assist bird hunters in various ways like finding birds, flushing them from tall grasses, or retrieving them from fields and ponds for the hunter.

I grew up with Labrador Retrievers and German Shorthaired Pointers because my father hunted waterfowl and upland game, so our dogs were beloved pets all week and hunted with Dad on weekends. While they loved snuggling in bed with us, playing games of fetch and swimming with us, they were never happier than when they were out in a marsh or a field with Dad as the sun rose on a Saturday morning, waiting for their chance to fetch some ducks or quail. They would come home later in the day and crash in front of the fireplace, sound asleep, paws twitching as they ran in their sleep and most likely dreaming of their next hunting trip.

Dutch as a puppy

Dad always gave me his issues of Gun Dog magazine when he was finished reading them because he knew how much I loved to look at the puppy photos that readers had sent to the magazine. Although I had no interest in actually going hunting, I loved reading the articles about the different types of dogs, how they worked, the connection between dog and hunter, and how using a trained dog helped preserve wildlife because they insured that each bird that was killed was brought to the hunter instead of lying un-utilized in the field. Each bird that Dad and our dogs brought home ended up on our dinner table.

As a result of a lifetime of browsing through Gun Dog magazine, I have vast knowledge of the breeds of the sporting group and they are my “favorite” types of dogs. Watching the Sporting Group at Westminster is like sports fans watching their teams advance through the playoffs; first and foremost I am team Labrador, with the German Shorthaired Pointer as a very close second.

One time one time when my mom and I were out for a hike and met a woman who was walking a medium-sized reddish dog with white markings. I had just read about the “toller” who has a very unique job of luring ducks closer to the shoreline. “Oh my gosh, is that a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever?” I asked, bursting with excitement. “Uh, no, it’s a mixed breed of some sort,” she responded as both she and my mother looked at me as if I had gone crazy. “What?” I asked Mom as we walked away and she was laughing at me, “I read Dad’s hunting magazines all the time.”

As a three-year old German Shorthaired Pointer named CJ won Best In Show last night I stood in my living room cheering the same way we cheered the years Chicago BlackHawks won the Stanley Cup. I missed my own late German Shorthaired Pointer Dutch as I watched CJ gait around the ring and then stack up for judging, such a perfect example of the breed with his speckled coat, the regal lines of the dog’s perfectly muscled body,  and the piercing intelligent eyes.

And then I had an “oh no” moment. And that “oh no” moment was followed by “what if?”

The “Regal Jester”

The “regal jester” as the GSP is nicknamed is a magnificent looking dog that houses a whole lot of energy and, to quote the great Margaret Mitchell in Gone With the Wind, “a passion for living.” Or as I like to call them: crazy dogs.

What if people went out and bought German Shorthaired puppies based on seeing this beautiful and unique looking dog win Best In Show and did not do their research to find out what the breed is really like? How many of those puppies will end up surrendered, or locked up in kennels and crates as punishment because their owners don’t know what to do with their energy? How many puppy mill and backyard breeders would increase their supply of GSPs to keep up with a demand that “good” breeders would be smart enough not to respond to?

In the late 1990s animal shelters around the country reported an alarming increase in Dalmatian surrenders following the release of the live action 101 Dalmatians movie. This was a result of parents purchasing Dalmatian puppies because of the way the dogs were portrayed in the movie without doing their research about whether or not the breed would be a good fit for their family. Conversely, a 2004 study of Best In Show winners from 1946 to 2002 showed that winning Westminster did not cause an increase in the popularity of the winning breed, but that study is now 12 years old and was done before social media became a factor, so I would personally be interested in the authors of the study doing an update.

As a result of my “oh no” and “what if” moments, I came up with some suggestions on watching the Westminster Kennel Club show or browsing the descriptions of different breeds and how to translate some of the descriptive phrases about each breed into regular everyday language.

“And with enough exercise, he’s well suited to family life, too.” This was on the Westminster Kennel Club website to describe the German Shorthaired Pointer and I had to laugh, wondering if they wanted to write, “This breed is insane and full of energy.” Every German Shorthaired Pointer I have ever known has had endless energy and was full of silly antics. Dutch took games of zoomies to an entirely new level and showed no signs of slowing down even in his senior years.

When Jackson was a puppy and full of youthful Labrador energy we met a neighbor with a GSP puppy the exact same age, so of course we visited a few times for puppy play dates. Little Banelli would run circles around my Jackson and tire him out so much that I had to carry him the few blocks home because he was too tired to walk. Before their play dates I would not have believed it was possible to wear out my sweet and energetic puppy, except that I had previously had my own GSP and knew how much energy was contained in that regal looking body.

Active family: This means ACTIVE, in all caps, bolded and in italics. Active like interested in hiking or taking long, long, LONG walks and spending plenty of time outside playing fetch and other games with the dog. Couch potatoes need not apply. A dog who needs an active family will drive you crazy if you are not truly active and 100% committed to taking time to exercise with your dog. A quick walk around the block is going to be insufficient and unfair to such a dog. Without an active family the dog will be bouncing off the walls, getting into “trouble” though no fault of his or her own, all because a potential owner did not understand how active the dog needs to be.

Keen intellect: Dogs with a keen intellect will be eager to learn. However, if you do not train your super smart dog, he or she will find something to do with that sharp mind, and it probably will not be something you like or want your dog to do. If you cannot make a commitment to putting a lot of time and energy into training a dog who has a keen intellect, as well as doing lifetime continuing education with the dog, you and your dog will be equally miserable. Dogs with a keen intellect will excel in a job like a therapy dog or a fun dog sport with you by their side. Once again, this is a warning to owners who want a dog who is happy chilling on the sofa and simply spending time with their humans.

Not a Breed for the First Time Dog Owner: I heard this used to describe a large breed from the working group. What does this mean? This means that you will need to be a firm (but humane and fair) leader to your dog to ensure that your dog knows the rules of the house and that you are always in charge. Training will be critical to your dog’s future as well as your own; training is not something that can be skipped or taken lightly.

With Strong Character and Extreme Stubbornness: These go along with the above listed, “not a breed for the first time dog owner” and should be taken seriously. Unless you are an experienced dog owner with the ability to put in the time and train your dog correctly, including proper socialization and temperament training, some breeds are just not for everyone. No matter what sort of gorgeous coat or unique look that they have, if your dog is in control of you (instead of vice versa) and unwilling to obey the rules of living in a human house, you will do both of you a disservice by adding him or her to your home.

Fortunately there are many dogs who are described as “easy to train”, “easy-going” or “gentle nature” who are great for new or less experienced dog owners whether you are going with a purebred dog or a mixture of breeds. There are also plenty of dog trainers available to guide you every step of the way since no matter the breed description, raising a healthy and happy dog will always require patience and continual training whether they are extremely stubborn, keenly intellectual or easy-going.

Some great resources for researching a particular breed of dog include:

Westminster Kennel Club:

American Kennel Club:

Pet finder:

Most importantly, if you find yourself set on getting a purebred dog, definitely check with breed specific rescue groups. Sadly millions of purebred dogs are abandoned by owners who did not do the research needed before acquiring a dog and you can give one of those dogs a new life and the loving and committed home that every dog deserves.