Category: Creating a happy, healthy, holistic life

How Much To Feed Your Dog

How Much To Feed Your Dog

How Much To Feed Your Dog

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fromm Four Star Nutritionals Whitefish & Potato: 360

Hill’s Science Diet Advanced Fitness: 363

Royal Canin Labrador Retriever Adult: 276

Nutro High Endurance Adult Dog Food: 365

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



6 Fun Indoor Things to Do with Your Dog

6 Fun Things to Do Indoors With Your Dog

6 Fun Things to Do Indoors With Your Dog

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

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

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

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

Summer Heat and Dogs: Keeping Dogs Cool Without Air Conditioning

Summer Heat and Dogs: Keeping Dogs Cool Without Air Conditioning

Summer Heat and Dogs: Keeping Dogs Cool Without Air Conditioning

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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







Summer Heat and Dogs: Know Your Dog's Limits

Summer Heat and Dogs: Know Your Dog’s Limits

Summer Heat and Dogs: Know Your Dog’s Limits

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Summer Heat and Dogs: Know Your Dog's LimitsAs committed forever owners to forever dogs, we want our best friends by our side as much as possible, especially when we are fully out of winter hibernation and out exploring the world. Like I’ve written before, spending time with your dog and having fun together is the whole point of getting a dog. It is equally important, though, to know your dog’s limitations and make sure that you are not putting him or her in harm’s way when warm weather hits.

Earlier this week I wrote about dogs in hot cars and about preventing paw pad burns on hot surfaces like concrete and asphalt. Today I want to talk about knowing your dog’s limitations in the heat and making the decision to leave him or her home from your daily run or trip to the local festival.

Every dog is different and some dogs do better in the heat than others. Although mine are young and in good physical condition, I can tell when it gets too hot because they run outside, do their bathroom business, and immediately head to the door or lay in the doggie pool for a bit. When we go on walks I watch for either of them to start panting with a longer tongue than normal or to fall back from their normally exuberant pace. From watching and observing I can tell when they are starting to get warm and we head home.SUMMER HEAT AND DOGS: KNOW YOUR DOG'S LIMITS

Typically once the thermometer goes above seventy degrees I use extreme caution and start with very brief walks keeping the radius to our home short so that we can return to a safe, cool environment quickly. As they become more accustomed to the weather and more conditioned to it, our walks get longer, but it does not have to be very warm to me for it to be too warm for them. Over the last several decades of dog ownership, I can tell you that my dogs and I definitely do more fun things outside in fall, winter and spring than in summer.

Dogs with short muzzles like boxers, bulldogs, and pugs have a particularly hard time in warm temperatures because their muzzles make it harder to breathe, pant and cool down. Dr. Marty Becker, DVM, explains how panting works to cool down a dog on his post Dog Behavior Decoded: Why Do Dogs Pant, “Panting is very rapid, shallow breathing that enhances the evaporation of water from the tongue, mouth and upper respiratory tract. Evaporation dissipates heat as water vapor.

Dogs with super thick coats also have more problems handing summer temperatures, which is no surprise since many of them were bred to live and work in arctic climates. However, dog fur is functional and designed to protect the dog from sun and heat like insulation does to your home, so do not be tempted to shave your dog.  Some breeds may get a shorter “summer cut” by professional groomers or owners who are very experienced at grooming their own dogs, but you should never shave your dog down to the skin.

This does not mean that your short-coated, long-nosed dog is ready to run a summer 5K with you. All dogs are at risk of overheating and developing heat stroke. It is critical to pay close attention to your particular dog and to watch for symptoms that she is not tolerating the heat. Some of these from the PetMD post  Heat Stroke and Hyperthermia in Dogs include:

  • Panting
  • Dehydration
  • Excessive drooling
  • Reddened gums
  • Increased or irregular heartbeat
  • Wobbly behavior/changes in mental status

Always err on the side of caution to prevent getting to the symptoms above. You know what your dog looks like on a normal walk; use that information to continually monitor her to make sure she is not overheating.

SUMMER HEAT AND DOGS: KNOW YOUR DOG'S LIMITSSome dogs are more physically fit and used to athletic activities and may be able to go longer and farther on warm days than your average dog who takes a daily walk and goes on weekend adventures. It’s not unlike my firefighter husband who is used to working outside or in actual fires in the summer heat with massive amounts of bunker gear on his body, versus me who has had an indoor climate controlled job for the last fifteen or so years. He can spend an entire summer day at Disney without looking wilted and I have to drink gallons of water and beg for air conditioning throughout the day.

You can always go back out if you return home from a walk if you are being overly cautious and your dog is fine, but you might not be able to undo the results of pushing her body too far as the heat can be fatal when owners do not recognize and treat heat stroke. In fact if you do not have a fenced yard and must walk your dog, it is better to do shorter walks more frequently, especially in the early morning or later evening hours. Instead of a thirty minute walk, try three ten minute walks for the same amount of exercise.

There have been many occasions when I have seen dogs out on walk

On hot days it’s perfectly fine to leave your dog home in a nice cool place!

s or runs with their owners or at summer festivals when it is far too warm outside and I cringe at their dog’s tongue lolling out of its mouth as far as it will go and their slow and labored gait behind their owner. The temperature on our deck this morning in the sun without shade was 101 degrees. There was no amount of bunny droppings enticing enough to keep them outside in that weather; they both peed and were right back to the door.

My dogs might be bored as they relax inside, but I would rather have a bored dog any day than one who is suffering from heat related issues. They are not going to miss it if I do not take them with me to pick up some dog treats at our favorite store or if we don’t take a long walk on their favorite path. We will make up for it and then some the next time a cold front comes through with a fabulous walk or a grand adventure that all of us can safely enjoy.

This blog is not intended to be medical advice. Please continue to research heat stroke symptoms and what to do in the event of heat stroke and always refer all medical questions to your licensed veterinarian. 


Summer Heat & Dogs: Preventing Burnt Paws on Hot Surfaces

Summer Heat & Dogs: Preventing Burnt Paws on Hot Surfaces

Summer Heat & Dogs: Preventing Burnt Paws on Hot Surfaces

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Summer Heat & Dogs: Preventing Burnt Paws on Hot SurfacesMost of us can remember at least one incident in our lives when we’ve removed our flip-flops and stepped onto hot sand or pool cement in our bare feet and felt the searing pain caused by the summer sun on our delicate feet. In fact just a few years ago my husband broke a few toes while on vacation as he ran across searing hot sand and accidentally kicked a beach chair on his mad dash to the water for relief. Your dog feels the summer heat on their paws in the same way when the temperature soars and can easily sustain very bad burns as a result of hot surfaces like asphalt, bricks, rocks or cement.

In an article on, meteorologist Kim Quintero shares results of tests that she performed when the temperature was 96 degrees outside. Here is what she wrote, “While the air temperature was below 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the thermometer recorded a temperature of 122 on a patch of green grass. Black asphalt was 138 degrees. A nearby rock path was 133. The pavement was 131. A wood dock reached a temperature of 164.”

Depending on your home and yard situation, you may or may not be able to skip walks entirely. For those of us with fenced yards, our walks are strictly for fun and for both physical and mental exercise. Here at my house, once the temperatures go above around seventy degrees, our walks come to a stop and we play in the yard and then inside when it really gets too hot.

If you do not have a fenced yard and you must walk your dog for potty breaks, try to go in the early morning and evening for longer “poop” walks. It helps if you can get your dog on a somewhat regular pooping schedule and teach her the “hurry up, go potty” phrase. Of course your dog is a living/breathing creature and not Sheldon Cooper with his bathroom schedule, but if you can feed your dog at set times of day that will help in getting her to poop on a more regular basis versus sporadically throughout the day. Also try to stay on as much grass as possible if you must go out when the sun is out.

Pet Mesh Shoes with Rugged Anti-Slip Sole (affiliate link)

Dog booties can help protect your dog’s paws from blazing hot surfaces, but make sure you do plenty of research and purchase booties that protect in summer weather, making sure they are made from a breathable material like mesh since dogs do have sweat glands in their feet.

Although not related to the weather, I always recommend giving your dog’s paws a thorough rinse with water and apple cider vinegar after every outing on roads or sidewalks or chemically treated grass. There are a lot of chemicals and toxins in the world and the last thing you want your dog to do is to lick their paws after walking through these substances.

Since most of us do not have the ability to measure the actual temperature of the various surfaces upon which our dogs walk, a good way to determine if the sidewalk or road is too hot for your dog is to place the back of your hand on the surface for seven to ten seconds or stand barefoot without socks. If it is too warm for your hand or bare feet, it is too warm for your dog’s feet. 

Stop Leaving Dogs In Cars! Period!

Stop Leaving Dogs In Cars! Period!

If you have to even think about whether or not it is too hot for your dog to stay in the car, it probably is.

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.




Overcoming Dog Owner Guilt

When Life Gets Crazy: Overcoming Dog Owner Guilt

When Life Gets Crazy: Overcoming Dog Owner Guilt

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Overcoming Dog Owner GuiltHere in our part of Illinois we are less than a week away from wrapping up the school year. With a son graduating high school, along with school trips, band concerts, choir concerts, end of year AP exams, end of year celebrations for all of their clubs for the two girls, our lives have been crazier than normal. Of course, having just written about the fact that having fun with your dog is the whole point of having a dog, we ended up with an unusually busy weekend that was completely un-fun for Jackson and Tinkerbell.

Saturday we were up and out of the house by 9 a.m. and did not arrive home until almost 4 p.m.. Our high school has graduation at a college that is forty-five minutes away to allow all graduates to have more than just two tickets per family. With a blended family we definitely appreciate that we received ten tickets, but it made for a longer day than usual for our dogs. Of course most dogs are alone for that amount of time while their humans work, but with our particular work schedules and nuances of our careers, our dogs are with us for more time than the average American dog with two working humans caring for them. As a result, to have them in their crates for seven hours and to miss their noon Puppy Lunch filled me with extreme guilt.

Of course upon our arrival home they greeted us with their normal excitement and sniffed me all over to try to figure out where we had been. “There were no other puppies, I promise you,” I told them, “Not a single one! I was only around humans today!” We went outside immediately, they ran around and frolicked in the grass, I fed them their lunch even though dinner would be in two more hours, gave them plenty of kisses and tummy rubs, and all was right in their world.

On Sunday we were up and out the door by 6 am for a 5K/10K to raise funds for Run Fur Shelter, a not-for-profit organization that raises money for food, medicine and shelter for the dogs of humans with financial needs. Although the race was to help dogs, I remembered from past years that the actual race was for humans only, and so Jackson and Tinkerbell had to stay behind.

By the time we finished the races (I walked the 5K while my husband ran the 10K), visited the various vendors who had sponsored the event, picked up our free bananas and granola bars and headed home, and admired some puppies who were up for adoption, we did not arrive home until just before noon. Although that resulted in only six hours in their crates, I felt guilty because my husband was going to spend the afternoon tearing down the wooden swing set that nobody used anymore and I had aggravated the tendonitis in my ankle, taking away any walks or adventures for them that day. Plus I had come home from this event smelling like multiple other dogs.

Of course a seven hour day and a six-hour day safely in their climate controlled crates is perfectly humane and reasonable. Most dogs do this every day while their humans are at work. Jackson and Tinkerbell are just very lucky that I work for myself in our own home and have me with them twenty-four hours a day, sometimes for several days in a row! In fact I have been out of the corporate world and without a commute for all of Tink’s life, having left my old job a month before she was born.

I think dog owner guilt is the same as mom-guilt. We see the lives that other dogs are having, with seemingly endless adventures and fun destinations, and we feel like awful pet owners for sometimes just giving the basics like love, shelter, physical affection, food, treats and water. It’s similar to knowing those Pinterest Moms who do incredible craft projects with their teens or take them on grand adventures each weekend into the city and to plays and shows, and I’m here with mine saying “Hey, we can watch a movie, run through Starbucks, and walk the dogs together!” In reality what matters the most with our kids is that we are together, and that’s really the same thing with our dogs.

Happy just snuggling with humans

I always have to remind myself that my dogs have amazing lives, and sometimes I have to go and do things that are only open to humans, like business meetings, professional events, graduations or band concerts. They are safe, they are loved, they are treated well, and they are happy. Sometimes I have to consciously remind myself that spending the day sniffing every inch of the grass in their big fenced yard, getting tummy rubs, and playing a game of fetch with the free frisbee I picked up at the 5K is a perfectly reasonable and fun way to spend the day as a dog, particularly since they are just happy to be having fun and hanging with their humans or sleeping across our laps as we ice our ankles from that early morning 5K.





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!



What To Do If You Find a Lost Dog

Many people are afraid that taking a found dog to the local animal shelter means one thing: certain death. This is not necessarily true, though. In fact the local animal shelter will be one of the first places that a dog owner whose dog has been lost should check and the sooner the dog is taken to the shelter the sooner the owner can find it, potentially saving hours of angst and worry.

Pet ID Week Understanding Microchips and Pet Trackers

Pet ID Week: Understanding Microchips and Pet Trackers

Pet ID Week: Understanding Microchips and Pet Trackers

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Pet ID Week Understanding Microchips and Pet TrackersHere in our neighborhood we have so many dogs  found by residents that I have joked several times that we should purchase our own microchip reader, particularly since some people are reluctant to take found dogs to the local shelter. Unfortunately that belief stems from worries that the dog will be put to sleep instead of reunited with their owner. Microchips need to be read with a scanner, though, so in order for the microchip to do its job it needs to be taken to a shelter, veterinary clinic or somewhere else who owns the appropriate equipment.


Microchips are tiny computer chips a bit larger than a grain of rice that are inserted with a needle into the skin usually between the shoulders in the same way that a vaccination is given. These chips use RFID technology so they do not need a battery and only emit information when they are activated by a scanner.

It is extremely important for pet owners to register their chip and keep the information up to date if their address or phone number changes. Most chip registries ask for a secondary contact, which I suggest be your emergency contact should something happen to you while you are out with your dog. That is morbid, I know, but then again so is most emergency planning. My secondary contact is my friend/breeder and I will make sure that she always has my contact information for the life of my dogs.

Here are some common misconceptions surrounding microchips:

My dog does not need a collar. FALSE

Microchips are a backup to a collar and identification tag. There is not a universal type of tag that is used by all shelters, breeders and veterinarians, which means that there is not a universal scanner. It is possible for your lost dog to be scanned by a shelter with the wrong type of scanner and their chip missed.

A microchip works like a GPS unit to tell me my dog’s location.  FALSE

The technology in microchips only provides information when the chip is activated by a scanner. Unless a scanner is used the chip is idle in your dog’s body.

A microchip stores all of the information needed to get my dog back to me.  FALSE

The only information provided when a microchip is scanned is an identification number. The person who scans the dog must look up the identification number on one or more database to find the dog owner’s contact information. Like any database, the data in it must be maintained to remain accurate.

Once the chip is implanted in my dog I never need to think about it again.  FALSE

Whether you choose to do so on Check the Chip Day in August or at your individual dog’s annual examination with your veterinarian, all dog owners should ask for their dog’s chip to be scanned to ensure that it is still working correctly. Also use this day to check with your chip registry company to make sure all of your contact information is up to date.

The AVMA has a great FAQ list about dog microchips on this page: AVMA Microchipping of Animals

Pet Trackers

More and more pet trackers are entering the market each year. It is important to understand the different options and how they work. Although all of them offer some way of locating your pet’s location, no technology will ever be as good as taking comprehensive preventative measures to keep your dog from getting lost in the first place. A pet tracker can tell you where your dog is but cannot magically teach him or her who to trust or how to avoid cars, predatory animals and other dangerous situations. There is also battery life of one to multiple days to contend with if your dog becomes lost while wearing one. Finally, since they are attached to your dog they are not helpful if your dog’s collar comes off.

Some pet trackers like the TrackR Bravo rely on Bluetooth technology with a range of 100 feet. Once your dog is outside your Bluetooth range, your tracker relies on a network of other TrackR users. While these trackers are fantastic for people who chronically lose their keys or their phones in their own homes, this has some limitations when tracking pets. Unless you have other users of this platform in the area in which your dog is located, you cannot see any information about their whereabouts. At $29.99 this type of tracker is definitely a low-cost option and minimally would fall into the “better than nothing” category. You can get a single TrackR at Amazon for around $24 using your Prime membership.

Other options like the Whistle Pet Tracker use WiFi, Cellular and GPS technology to track where your pet is at all times. These trackers can also act as activity trackers which I suppose could be helpful to see how active an uncrated dog is while you are away. Otherwise my opinion is that if your dog is being active, you should be right there with her.

Jax and Tink both have a Whistle tracker from their initial product launch and looking at their website it appears that they have made several design improvements since that version, including a redesign of the actual unit and the way that it attaches to your dog’s collar. This type of tracker usually requires a monthly service charge. There are other products like the Nuzzle GPS Pet Tracker, the Paw Tracker, and many others. A Google search will yield many results for pet owners who are interested.

At the end of the day, collars, tags, microchips and pet trackers are all emergency resources to help you if your pet is lost. Nothing is as effective as working proactively and tirelessly to prevent your dog from becoming lost. Click here to read 17 Spring Safety Tips to Prevent Lost Dogs and Pet Theft Awareness: Seven Ways to Keep Your Dog Safe from the Love, Laugh, Woof blog archives.

Tomorrow we will discuss what to do if you find a dog as we continue Pet ID Week.

This blog contains affiliate links for products that I use or recommend.

I will receive a small commission for any sales resulting from clicks on my affiliate links. I do not receive customer information and the retail price of your item is not affected. Affiliate links help bloggers earn revenue from their posts in exchange for product recommendations. I only refer products that I truly love and use or strongly recommend after research and careful consideration. 

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Pet ID Week: The Importance of Dog Collars and Identification Tags

Pet ID Week: The Importance of Dog Collars and Identification Tags

Pet ID Week: The Importance of Dog Collars and Identification Tags

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Pet ID Week: The Importance of Dog Collars and Identification Tags As a diehard Disney lover and a lifelong dog person, one of my favorite animated movies is Lady and the Tramp. When I sat down to write about Pet ID Week I remembered a scene from that movie, in which Lady shows off her new collar and tag to her neighborhood friends Jock and Trusty. As they admire her new collar and tag, Trusty the Bloodhound tells her, “It is the greatest honor man an bestow,” with Jock the Schnauzer adding, “A badge of faith and respectability.”

Of course there are many parts of that movie that make me cringe, like letting the dogs run up and down the street on their own, but then again humanizing animals is part of the fun of those movies, and something that all good dog owners know not to do. I mean, if my dogs could speak English and watch for cars and navigate the human world, I might consider letting them do that, but that is a whole other blog all on its own.

The Journal of the American Veterinary Medicine Association shares the following data about lost and stolen dogs:

  • 10 million dogs and cats are lost or stolen each year.
  • 22% of lost dogs entering shelters are returned to their families.
  • 52% of microchipped pets are reunited with their owners.
  • Among dogs who were microchipped, 35% of the ones whose owners could not be found was due to phone numbers that no longer worked or were accurate.

Ensuring that your pet has up to date identification in the form of both a collar/ID tag and a microchip is the most reliable way to be reunited with a lost dog or cat. 

The most low-tech form of identification for your dog is a simple collar and tag. Unlike the fictional Lady, all dogs should have a collar and ID tag from the first day that they arrive at their home as puppies or as adopted adult dogs.

ID Tags: I strongly recommend purchasing a good quality engraved tag that is less likely to scratch and dull over time like cheaper options. The price difference between a cheap tag and a good quality one is not that substantial and it is worth the difference. The last thing you want is for a good Samaritan to catch your dog, try to contact you, and be unable to read the tag. I really like the Red Dingo tags that you can purchase at Dog Tuff, which are guaranteed to be readable for the life of the tag and come in some super cute designs for the humans to enjoy and match to the dog’s collars. I do not personally care for the tags that offer only a scannable code because of the chance that your dog is saved by someone without a smart phone or a phone at all.

Rabies Tags & Microchip Tags: Your dog’s rabies tag is dual purpose; not only does it show that your dog has received his or her rabies vaccine, but each one is numbered and assigned to your particular dog, giving potential rescuers another way to find out who owns the dog. I suggest attaching it with a separate connector so that if one tag gets snagged and falls off your dog’s collar there is a backup that might help your dog find his or her way home. This is the same with the microchip tag that you should have received when your dog was microchipped. My dogs each have at least three tags on their collars: name/address tag, rabies tag and microchip tag. We will discuss microchips at length in tomorrow’s blog.

Collars: A good quality dog collar with a strong, reliable buckle is also important. I will personally only use collars with a quick release buckle versus a closure like a belt buckle. I also recommend the type that can be embroidered with the dog’s name and your phone number in case your dog’s ID tag falls off but his or her collar remains on their neck. I like these from Orvis, particularly because you can choose the color of thread as well as the collar color and you can get 2 for $30.00.

Lupine Eco series from Cherrybrook

I also love Lupine brand collars, which is what Jackson is wearing right now. They have a great line of Eco collars made from recycled water bottles and can be found along with matching leashes at Cherrybrook; they are so super cute I may have to order one for Tinkerbell in purple. I love this brand because they are made in New Hampshire and are guaranteed even if you dog chews it.

If you crate your dog you should not crate them with their collar for safety reasons. I remove each dog’s collar before putting them in their crates and lay each collar on the floor a few inches in front of the corresponding crate so that I can put it back on each dog immediately upon returning home and they are near the dogs in the event of an emergency.

Some dogs who have narrow heads or who are escape artists wear martingale collars, and I personally suggest that you find one that also has an emergency buckle release as well as the martingale feature.

The Wander Tag Holder from Kurgo

Tag Clips/Connectors: I really like the Wander Clip from Kurgo because it allows you to move your dog’s tags easily from collar to collar but more importantly because they say that it breaks away after 45 pounds of pressure are applied to it to prevent choking. I’ve shared the story of Tinkerbell and the Dishwasher before so I can tell you that the chance of your dog’s tags getting stuck on everyday things in the house is real and not some overly paranoid dog mom thing.

Tag Silencers: After forty plus years of having dogs in my life, I do not even notice the jingle of my dogs’ tags anymore. Sometimes we remove their collars to give their necks a good scratching or when they are rough-housing and let them wander around the house without them for a bit in “naked dog” mode. I also refer to this as “stealth mode” because although I do not notice the jingle of the tags, I notice the silent way that they move around the house when “naked” of their collars. For dog owners who do notice the jingle of metal tags against each other and find that noise distracting, there are a variety of types of tag silencers from the type that go over the tags to rubber rings that go around them.

Tomorrow watch for an all new blog about Pet ID Week and Microchips.

This blog contains affiliate links for products that I use or recommend.

I will receive a small commission for any sales resulting from clicks on my affiliate links. I do not receive customer information and the retail price of your item is not affected. Affiliate links help bloggers earn revenue from their posts in exchange for product recommendations. I only refer products that I truly love and use or strongly recommend after research and careful consideration. 

Even the Best Dogs Are Not Always Perfect Dogs

Even the Best Dogs Are Not Always Perfect

Even the Best Dogs Are Not Always Perfect

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Even the Best Dogs Are Not Always Perfect DogsAs much as I write about the importance of training, as much as I work with my own dogs in a “continuing education” sort of way, and pride myself on well-behaved they are, every now and then one of them just isn’t having any part of following the rules they’ve been taught. Yesterday was one of those days.

Jackson was a hard sell on loose-leash walking as a young dog and was not easy to train, but eventually I was able to teach him that if he’s pulling, we aren’t walking. We’ve since earned his Canine Good Citizen and he and I now have a nice mind-meld when we are walking that is one of my favorite things about having dogs as companions. All of this stopped yesterday when he discovered his love of goose poop.

This is the dog who I often tell, “Jax, be a dog, do dog things, live a little!” because he does so few gross dog things. He has zero prey drive, doesn’t have a taste for gross things, avoids mud and puddles and only rarely scents himself on yucky things. Trust me, I don’t mind that he is not the type of dog to ever bring me dead animals or smell bad, but sometimes I wonder if he’s missing out on some part of life as a dog.

Apparently he took my words to heart this spring, because out of nowhere my neat, tidy, non-disgusting dog is obsessed with eating goose poop. Not just mildly interested or sneakily trying to get to some. He is straight up obsessed.

In the park by our house where we take our walks there is no end to this disgusting dog delicacy. Last night Jackson lost his mind over the piles of goose poop everywhere and yanked and pulled with all his might, putting all 70 muscular pounds of force into his efforts. Not one to give up easily, I decided to proceed with the walk and work on correcting his behavior. It did not go well and our walk was horrible.

I finally gave up and turned around on the trail, cutting our walk short, but we still had to go back the way we had come and it turned into frustrating comedy of errors: Jackson lunging and trying to pull me, (even with a short leash in a heeling position) followed by me holding firm and stopping my forward progress until he sat next to me. We would walk nicely for a few steps, he smelled more goose poop, lunged again, I corrected him again.

“JACKSON, NO! OFF!” I exclaimed loudly to him. Not one to yell at my dogs, I raised my voice intentionally, hoping that maybe because I don’t yell, that the unexpected sound would get through to his goose poop obsessed brain, as he was not paying the slightest bit of attention to me every time he smelled or saw another pile.

I came across another dog owner and her dog (who trotted along quite nicely next to her) as she watched me holding back 70 pounds of lunging, desperate dog with one arm as he dove toward the poop with all four paws dug into the ground for leverage. Of course it was at that same time that Tink, who had trotted along happily next to me while I dealt with her brother, decided to see what Jax was so interested in and wrapped her leash around a nearby tree.

“You’ve got your hands full with those two,” she said.

“Yeah, not normally! He’s obsessed with eating this damn goose poop, normally we walk along quite nicely” I answered, completely embarrassed that my dog appeared to be so bad on the leash that she would say something.

Finally we got out of the part of the park where the geese had been and Jax immediately turned back into my well-mannered boy. I am sure he could sense the negative energy coming from me as we headed for home, but he turned and looked up at me with his beautiful head and a huge doggie smile on his face as if saying, “You love me, Momma, you can’t stay mad at me!”

“You are quite pleased with yourself, aren’t you?” I asked him, some of my annoyance fading as I looked at this face I loved so much. Of course I was upset and frustrated, embarrassed to be a dog blogger and writer with my beloved boy acting like a crazy beast, but more than anything I was scared for his health because of all of the germs and diseases that can be spread through goose poop.

Since he was worn out from all of the goose poop lunging and pulling from the first part of our walk and because there didn’t seem to be any of it where we were walking, I gave him a bit more leash and he trotted along next to Tinkerbell, both of them about a foot in front of me with plenty of slack in their leashes.

“See, look at her, she walks both of her big dogs at the same time and they are so good!” I heard a neighbor say to someone as we walked by her yard.

“Oh, you missed the first part of our walk,” I thought to myself, “Jax is just worn out now!”

As we arrived home and I removed the harnesses and leashes from the dogs, my husband greeted me in the kitchen as I went to fill the paw washing buckets. “How was your walk?” he asked.

“Horrific! Do not accept any kisses from YOUR dog, he has a mouth full of goose poop ” I said.

“Uh, oh, Jax, it’s not good when she calls you my dog,” he said to Jax.

Good Dogs Don't Have to Be Perfect Dogs
But momma, I’m so cute!

With paws washed, faces wiped down and their post-walk game of zoomies complete, both dogs crashed on the tile kitchen floor with their tongues happily lolling out of their mouths, and my stress from the walk started to fade. I picked up their food bowls and mixed a probiotic powder with water to give their immune systems a little boost and try to proactively thwart any upset stomach that Jax might get from his goose poop buffet.

Today is a brand new day and I’ve decided that while the geese are around I simply cannot walk both dogs through the park at the same time. I will walk them together elsewhere or I will walk them one at a time through the park.

At the end of the day, Jax is a dog, doing gross dog things. Of course it is my job to protect him from some of those dog instincts and figure out how to handle the situation better next time, but I shouldn’t be embarrassed because he went into some weird dog brain zone and stopped listening and following my rules.

No matter how much training you do, no matter how experienced of a dog owner you are, sometimes they just are going to do things in line with their instincts instead of their training. Jackson is most definitely amazing dog, in fact he is one of the best behaved dogs I have ever known. He is insanely smart with a beautiful disposition that I love unconditionally. If I wanted a perfect dog I could have bought a stuffed animal; good dogs can be the best dogs in the world without being perfect dogs.









The Importance of Giving Puppies and Dogs a Holistic Lifestyle

The Importance of Giving Puppies and Dogs a Holistic Lifestyle

The Importance of Giving Puppies and Dogs a Holistic Lifestyle

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

The Importance of Giving Puppies and Dogs a Holistic LifestyleHaving three dogs in a row diagnosed with serious or terminal illnesses will forever change how you care for your dogs. In fact Babe’s kidney disease, Dutch’s hemangiosarcoma, and Maggie’s lymphoma were the catalyst for the creation of Love, Laugh, Woof and ignited my passion for providing a healthy, holistic lifestyle for my dogs.

When I met my Jackson for the first time he was eight weeks old and I was picking him up from our amazing, loving, professional/hobby breeder who to me is the epitome of how every dog breeder should aspire to be. She and her dogs live in what I can only describe as Labrador Utopia, in a home in rural Iowa with a pond in which to swim, tall grass in which to play and fetch dummies and birds, high quality organic food in their bowls, and an owner with a passion for giving her dogs and puppies the healthiest life possible.

As I picked Jackson up and held him to me I realized that the cells in his body were untainted by toxins and that the beautiful young puppy in my arms was essentially a brand new life, a physical, living, breathing tabula rasa. I realized that it was my responsibility to keep him that way, to prevent him from coming into contact with carcinogens and toxic substances as much as possible, just like his breeder had for the eight weeks before I met him.

To give you a bit of history leading up to the day I met Jackson, my late black Lab Babe was diagnosed with kidney disease in 2007, right around the time many dog foods were being recalled for melamine contamination. I never pursued trying to link her problems to the mainstream food that I was purchasing for her at the big box pet stores, but it did prompt me to start looking into what I was feeding her and to find more natural ways to try to help her live with partial kidney failure. I was successful in slowing down her loss of kidney function and ultimately the reason she was euthanized at the age of fourteen was not because of her kidneys but because her legs just could not carry her anymore and I knew she was in terrible pain.

After Babe passed away I continued learning about how to provide a healthy life for my dogs and changed many of the products that we were giving to Dutch and Maggie, including switching their food and treats. I was still shopping at the big box pet store but we had switched to an up and coming “holistic” brand instead of the mainstream brand with the shiny bags and big advertising budget that took the focus off of their low quality ingredients that we had previously fed. Of course that brand has since adopted the big advertising budget with national televised ads and a two story booth at pet trade shows.

That realization that I had as I held Jackson in my arms while standing in my breeder’s kitchen changed everything and led me to where we are today, with healthy organic food created by one of the great minds in the pet food industry and made with top quality human grade ingredients, carefully selected treats, filtered water in safely made bowls, toys and bedding made in the USA under strict standards, and all of the other things that I do to create a happy, healthy, holistic lifestyle to keep the dogs as safe and healthy as possible in a world that is full of toxins and hazards.

So what exactly do I mean by a happy, healthy, holistic lifestyle? After all, we hear the words healthy, organic, holistic tossed around more than ever these days.

Holistic Lifestyle For DogsWell, the word holistic refers to viewing something as a whole entity rather than just all of its various parts. I consider a holistic lifestyle for dogs to be a life in which we nurture these four areas: mind, body, nutrition/food, and their environment/home. Let’s take a look at how we can impact those areas in our dogs’ lives:

Mind: Stress and anxiety weaken a human or animal’s immune system, which is of course what fights off disease and toxic substances. Keeping your dog’s mind happy and sharp can directly impact their health.

Body: This area really has two subcategories: physical exercise and the things that go into your dog’s body. Plenty of physical exercise and attention to all of the products that you purchase for your dog are an important part of a healthy, holistic lifestyle.

Home: Dogs are in close contact with everything you use in your home, from cleaning products to lawn care chemicals. The more organic and natural options you use to maintain your home, the healthier it is for your dog who is sniffing, breathing, and walking through your house perhaps more than any of the humans who live there.

Food: More and more dog owners are becoming passionate about knowing what goes into their dog’s bodies at mealtime. There are some great dog foods on the market and some horrible options and it is important to understand what to feed and what to avoid.

There is no guarantee that all of these efforts are going to result in a longer lifespan for my beloved Jackson and Tinkerbell, but I can tell you it is not going to hurt them to put a great deal of thought and research into the choices I make for them. Sometimes it is hard to keep from wanting them to live in a bubble that protects them from anything that is not dog momma approved, and I have to push past my fears of what they are walking through or breathing in when we walk in the local park or on other people’s property, especially the large expanses of grass that are weed and dandelion free and most likely treated with harmful lawn products. But I realize that to not take them on walks, to not take them on adventures out into the world, would be detrimental to their mind and spirit, and so I work hard to boost their immune systems to battle those toxins and unhealthy things.

If you have a new puppy or are thinking about getting a puppy, you too have the chance to start off their lives with healthy options and toxic free products. If you have an older dog, it is never too late to learn about ways to make better choices for them just like we are always striving to improve our own health throughout our lives. My thought process is that if I can add even one week or one day to my dog’s life, then it is all worth it. If I can help them feel better throughout their life, it is all worth it. Plus it has impacted how we care for our human bodies in our house, too, but that is a whole other series of blogs for another day!

If you would like to learn more about my version of a holistic lifestyle for dogs, the next Love, Laugh, Woof Happy, Healthy Dog Challenge will begin on Monday, May 1, 2017. The Happy, Healthy Dog Challenge is a fun, educational, FREE workshop that takes place over a one week period in our private Facebook group. You will assess your dog’s current lifestyle in the four areas I mentioned above and watch videos, participate in conversations and learn more about creating a happy, healthy all over (aka holistic) lifestyle for your canine best friend.

Click here to join the Facebook group:

Not on Facebook? Email me at with the subject Happy, Healthy Dog Challenge and I will add you to an email version of this challenge.


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


Why Your Dog is So Full of Energy and How to Put it to Use

Why Your Dog is So Full of Energy and How to Put it to Use (Part 2)

Why Your Dog is So Full of Energy and How to Put it to Use (Part 2)

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Why Your Dog is So Full of Energy and How to Put it to UseIn Part 1 of the topic Why Your Dog is So Full of Energy and How to Put it to Use we talked about why dogs are so full of energy, and how it is a mixture of their wolf heritage and the fact that they have been bred for hundreds of years to help mankind with important jobs that require them to go, go, go. I also promised you a list of dog sports and I am going to fulfill that promise right here.

Just like with humans, before starting any sport, make sure that your dog is in good medical condition and able to participate.  I do not want any dogs to get injured or worse, so please make sure that you are not asking a couch potato pooch to suddenly be ready to set record agility times or start pulling sleds until they are physically ready. Partner with your veterinarian before you and your dog start an exercise program or new sport as she or he will be able to help you determine if your dog is ready and how to prepare and condition for the activity.

The Top Dog Three Sports for Beginners:


Why Your Dog is So Full of Energy and How to Put it to UseIn the sport of agility, dogs race through a series of obstacles like jumps, ramps, tunnels and other things at the direction of a human handler. Their goal is to complete all of the obstacles in the best time with as few mistakes as possible. Purebred dogs and mixed breeds can participate and you can compete or just do agility for the fun of it. Border collies and other medium-sized super fast dogs do great in agility, like in this video: I love to see non-traditional types of dogs doing agility like this Mastiff in this popular YouTube video: Check out the AKC Agility page for information on how to get started: Definitely take classes through a local dog training facility, as agility can be hard on a dog’s joints, so you want to make sure to do it correctly from the start. 

K9 Nosework:

According to the K9 Nosework site, “dogs learn how to search for a specific odor or odors and find the source. Dogs start by searching for their favorite food or toy reward hidden in a variety of environments, increasing the challenges and adding new search skills as the dog progresses.” This is a great low impact activity that you can do just for fun or competitively; it’s open to dogs of all shapes and sizes, and will definitely work their brain. It is also fantastic for the dog/owner bond. You can learn more at these links: and Just like Agility, many dog training centers are offering K9 Nosework classes if you are ready to get your dog started on a fun activity.

Rally Obedience: 

In Rally Obedience, the owner and dog go through a course consisting of obedience commands, doing a different command at each station. Here is a great video demonstrating two Labradors competing in Rally: This is another activity like K9 Nosework that is more mental than physical, so it is not as demanding on your dog’s body.  Rally is another activity with classes offered at many training facilities. The AKC website offers information on getting started: 

Other Fun Dog Sports:

Barn Hunt: 

Any breed or mix of breeds can participate in Barn Hunt, in which dogs search for rats that are safely protected in aerated tubes. The only criteria is that dogs must be able to fit through an 18″ wide tunnel that is as high as a bale of hay. Check out more at this link: Rats are in no way harmed in this sport. According to the information on the site, the rats used are often beloved family pets and they are safe and sound in the tube.


In this sport dogs are harnessed to a weighted cart using special equipment designed for the sport to pull the cart and perform obedience routines and maneuvers. Please make sure you use the correct equipment to avoid injury and never hook a cart or sled up to your dog’s collar. Here is some basic information on carting at this link.

Disc Dogs/Frisbee Dogs:

Why Your Dog is So Full of Energy and How to Put it to UseIn this sport owners toss flying discs to their dogs in a variety of types of competitions. This is a very physical sport, so please check with your vet to make sure your dog is not too young and in good enough physical shape to participate. There is some great information at this link:

Dock Diving/Dock Jumping: 

If your dog loves the water, dock diving is a fun sport in which dogs jump for distance or height from a dock into a pool or body of water. You can often find dock diving events in your local area each summer and some of them allow you to enter your dog the same day as the event and have a few practice jumps before competing. Here is some helpful information for beginners:


Hiking with my late Babe was one of my favorite things to do. We often hiked through the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. It is important to be prepared for emergencies, especially if you live in an area with poisonous snakes or other animals that could harm you or your dog. Here is a fantastic guide from outdoor retailer REI:

Obedience Trials: 

In obedience trials, dogs and owners demonstrate skills like heeling on and off leash, long sit, long down, recall, standing for a physical exam and other skills, depending on the level of the trial. Here is information on how to get started in obedience trials:


Photo credit:
What dog wouldn’t love pushing a giant exercise ball across a field or room? This looks like the best game in the world, and I have to admit I had forgotten about it until researching this blog! There is definitely training and skill involved, though. Check out the American Treibball Association for tons of information

Musical Canine Freestyle: 

I have a funny story about this event and I couldn’t resist including it because I still wouldn’t mind trying it out! My husband and I were in a small town in Michigan, looking at the pamphlets for local attractions and he said, “Hey, we could take Dutch Dancing lessons!”

“Oh my gosh, I’ve always wanted to teach the dogs to dance!” I exclaimed excitedly, thinking about our German Shorthaired Pointer named Dutch.

“What?” he said, giving me the confused look that I see often on his face after I speak.

“Dog dancing! I’ve always wanted to teach Babe or Dutch how to do that!” I said.

“Honey,” he said, “This is Dutch Dancing, like the nationality, you know, dancing with wooden shoes…what on EARTH are YOU talking about?”

What I was talking about was Musical Canine Freestyle, in which you perform obedience and tricks to music with your dogs. Here is a very advanced version of this sport: Here is a more basic beginner version:

Additional Options

There are all sorts of other things to do with your dog, like training for the Canine Good Citizen test and title, working toward becoming a therapy dog or reading dog. There are sports like hunt tests for retrievers and other sporting group dogs, herding for herding dogs, Flyball, Mushing, Skijoring for people who love to cross-country ski and want to add their dogs to the fun. Weiner dog races for Dachshunds, lure coursing for sight hounds, Tracking Trials for dogs with great noses, and all sorts of breed specific things that are fun for both you and your dog. 

The best thing about putting your dog’s energy and brain to use is that you get to do it with them, so not only do you have a happy, calm, satisfied dog, you have worked with her or him to learn the activity. We are best friends with dogs because we work and play so well together, and any time you and your dog are training together, working on a common goal, going out on adventures together, your relationship is going to be that much stronger, that much closer. You will likely find that when you do want that much-needed down time in front of the TV at the end of a long work day that your dog is more cuddly and close to you at those times, too, and not just when you are at play.

Why Your Dog is So Full of Energy

Why Your Dog is So Full of Energy & How To Put It To Use (Part 1)

Why Your Dog is So Full of Energy & How To Put It To Use (Part 1)

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

The other day I was talking to someone whose friends recently adopted a shelter dog, a two-year old mixed breed who won them over with his loving personality, snuggle pup tendencies, and adorable mixed breed looks. When I had originally learned that they were looking for a dog to adopt I had promptly made sure that they had a copy of my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog’s Forever Owner to help prepare them for this new chapter of their lives.

“How’s their new dog,” I asked.

“Whew, he is crazy, full of energy! He does zoomies on his own all through the downstairs and leaps over the baby gate that they put up to keep him out of the kitty litter!”

“Yep, sounds like a two-year old dog to me!” I answered.

“He was so calm at first, he just laid around! I don’t know what’s up with that dog!” was the answer.

“Well, it takes awhile for their personality to come out, you act differently around people and a new place at first, too, don’t you?”

Fortunately for this young dog and his family they are taking him to obedience school where they should get tips on how to wear him out and wrangle that energy level so that the dog is happy and satisfied and that the humans are not pulling their hair out with frustration. I give major kudos to them that they are taking it in stride and working with him through training. Every new dog, whether rescued adult or puppy, should go to obedience school with their new owner even if that owner is a veteran dog parent.

The seemingly endless amount of energy that a dog has doesn’t surprise me, but it does surprise me that other humans are so caught off guard that their dogs are such energetic creatures. After all, dogs ultimately are descendants of some sort of wolf species and wolves are extremely active creatures. From there we have bred and fine tuned most dog breeds into doing specific functions for us, most of which focus on jobs that require a lot of energy and intelligence.

Let’s first think about our dogs’ original ancestors. According to an article in the New York Times, “When wolves are active, they are really active. On a daily basis, wolves burn about 70 percent more calories compared to typical animals of similar size.” The researchers note that while hunting, wolves may burn calories at 10 to 20 times the rate they do while resting.”  Wolves sometimes walk eight hours a day, averaging thirty miles a day and 4,000 miles a year and spend 30% of their time sleeping. 

Of course it’s been a long, long time since our dogs were wolves, but then consider the functions for which dogs have been bred over the years. Dogs like the Labrador Retriever and the Newfoundland helped drag fishing nets in from ice-cold northern seas, and then the Labrador proved its worth in racing into frigid lakes and ponds and swimming and running long distances over and over again to retrieve ducks and geese that their humans shot. Dachshunds burrowed through tunnels and hunted badgers and other animals. Corgis chased after cows to herd them for people. Even the little Yorkie was bred to help hunt rats. The Rhodesian Ridgeback was bred to hunt lions. LIONS!

Since dogs and humans became friends it is really we who have changed, from hunters and gatherers, fishermen and farmers to accountants and analysts and actuaries. Of course we still want our beloved dogs by our side because of the incredible companionship that they provide. But they are still ready to go, go, go!  They can’t wait to learn to do activities and jobs with us, to put those canine brains to work, to burn off that energy that our ancestors bred them to have, that they still hold onto from their wolf ancestors who had to hunt and travel all day. But then we leave them for the day to go to the office, we get home and take a quick walk around the block and settle down for dinner and TV, and then wonder why the dog is bouncing off the walls when all they’ve done all day is lay around in a sedentary lifestyle that they weren’t bred to enjoy.

Now, don’t get me wrong, plenty of dogs are happy with that lifestyle and just want to be home snuggling with their humans all evening. And in no way am I saying that someone with an office job or a moderately active lifestyle can’t have a high energy breed as their canine best friend. But if you find yourself with a dog who is bursting at the seams doing indoor zoomies and leaving you wondering if you could somehow harness their energy to help reduce your electric bill, there are tons of options for dog sports and activities.

Just like with humans, sometimes the best of exercise is just walking. Take your dog for a nice long walk before and after work, alternating your route each time to the extent possible. This is how I had a young, happy, well-exercised Labrador in a one bedroom apartment without a fenced yard for years. Babe and I walked forty-five minutes in the morning and about an hour in the evenings, taking different routes every time. Sometimes we would add a midday walk depending on my work schedule.

On weekends we took hikes through wooded state parks and the Indiana Dunes State Park or went to my Mom’s house so that she could play zoomies and bitey-face with her dogs. With basic long walks on varying routes as her primary exercise, Babe was quite happy and her energy was never overwhelming or on the verge of driving me crazy; she was happy, socialized and calm from two nice long walks a day where she got to sniff to her heart’s content and occasionally meet new people.

Of course the amazing benefit for dogs is that walks are not just physical exercise, but they are fantastic mental exercise too.  The reason that long walks on different routes burn up so much energy is that a dog’s brain has a very large area dedicated to the business of analyzing scents. When you change up their walking route and they smell new things each time, you are working their brain, they are concentrating on the business of smelling, and in turn getting tired more quickly than doing mindless physical exercise.

According to a NOVA article on the PBS website dogs have, “300 million olfactory receptors in their noses, compared to about six million in us. And the part of a dog’s brain that is devoted to analyzing smells is, proportionally speaking, 40 times greater than ours.” Knowing how their brains are made up physiologically, it’s no wonder that a walk that provides plenty of sniffing, aka mental exercise, can use up all of that extra energy and make them a happy and satisfied member of a family made up of lower energy beings like we humans.

Watch for Part 2 of 

Why Your Dog is So Full of Energy & How To Put It To Use

on Saturday, March 18, where we will explore a massive list of dog sports and activities for you and your dog to do together! 


Fruits and Veggies for Dogs: Jackson & Tinkerbell's Top 7 Produce Picks

Fruits and Veggies for Dogs: Jackson & Tinkerbell’s Top 7 Produce Picks

Fruits and Veggies for Dogs: Jackson & Tinkerbell’s Top 7 Produce Picks

By Lynn Stacy-Smith

Fruits and Veggies for Dogs: Jackson & Tinkerbell's Top 7 Produce PicksYesterday was National Biscuit Day and I shared my favorite and trusted brands of dog treats, so today is a perfect time to share some of Jackson and Tinkerbell’s favorite fruits and veggies for dogs. My teenagers joke that our dogs are “nerds” of the dog world because they beg for things like kale and cucumber slices but don’t even wake from their slumber if we cook a nice juicy steak or burgers on the grill.

It doesn’t help that I do not allow the dogs to eat wheat, corn, soy, white potatoes, chicken, any other poultry products, beef, or any of the more “mainstream” brands of food or treats that you might find at a big box retailer. By-products and anything with the word “animal” is a huge no-no in this house and I have not shopped at big box stores for pet products for over six years. Part of this list of things they cannot have is due to food sensitivities in one or the other dog, and part is simply because I am extremely cautious with what they are allowed to ingest. Losing two dogs in a row to cancer will do that to a dog owner.

Here are the produce department items that send Jax and Tink racing into the kitchen waiting for their portion to be handed to them or for something to drop onto the floor. These are Jackson & Tinkerbell’s Top 7 Produce Picks:

1. Kale, spinach & green leaf lettuce: I make my salads with my own mix of kale, spinach and green leaf lettuce and both dogs come running into the kitchen the moment they smell the greens coming out of the fridge. They stand patiently, one dog on each side of me, eyes firmly on the counter top, and I had them small bunches of leaves that they wolf down happily. Sometimes I will put a handful into their bowls like their very own salad. I try not to do this when any other humans are around; they already think I’m a bit dog crazy so the last thing I need them to catch me doing is making the dogs a salad.

2. Cucumber slices: I can eat just plain slices of cucumbers as a yummy snack and so can the dogs. They were particularly happy the summers we grew our own in our veggie garden. According to Modern Dog Magazine, cucumbers are good sources of calcium, potassium, and beta-carotene.

dog eating carrot
photo credit: Canopener Sally Carrots, oh yum. via photopin (license)

3. Carrots: Carrots are legendary as dog treats, and according to the American Kennel Club, they provide some dental benefits with their crunchy texture and contain vitamin A, potassium, and fiber. Jax and Tink know the word “carrot” very well, to the point that it is almost a reliable recall word. Carrots make an easy to purchase treat when running to the local healthy pet store is not convenient as you can pick up a bag of organic mini carrots at most stores.

4. Bell peppers: Red, yellow and orange bell peppers are right up there with cucumbers as veggies that I love to just eat plain. They are one of my favorite nearly zero calorie treats for me, and the dogs love them too. Just don’t give your dogs any hot peppers, only sweet bell peppers are ok.

5. Bananas: I have officially given up any hope of eating an entire banana on my own, and that’s just fine because there’s nobody I’d rather share it with than Jax and Tink. In fact, on those days when they are so interested in the smells of the yard that they come down with the “selective hearing” that Labradors are prone to get, all I have to say is “Who wants to share a banana with me?” and they will run as fast as they can to the kitchen door while I hope that nobody ate that last banana that was on the counter earlier.

6. Watermelon: We eat a lot of watermelon in this house. Every last one of us loves it and the dogs are no different. We will cut a huge melon into chunks and put it into a massive Tupperware bowl. It usually lasts two days and you end up with two dogs sitting in front of you with drool streaming out of their mouths while you eat it. Pavlov’s dogs had nothing on these two! Just make sure you take the seeds out before giving any to your dog.

7. Celery with peanut butter: Ants on a log are a holiday tradition in our house. Jax and Tink are obsessed with peanut butter so we’ve started making them their own ant-less (aka raisin free) version on Thanksgiving and other holidays. I limit them to one or two small pieces each, though. And always make sure your peanut butter does not contain the potentially deadly fake sweetener xylitol!

Jax and Tink have enjoyed strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, cantaloupe, broccoli, cooked sweet potatoes and green beans from time to time, although not enough to recognize them by smell like the seven items listed above. Tinkerbell is hilarious with blueberries and an odd cherry tomato here and there because of the shape and texture. She spits it out, rolls it around, tries again, looks at Jackson as if to say, “really, I’m supposed to eat this?” before finally consuming the fruit.

Remember that all dogs are different and some will love fruits and veggies as snacks and others will not. Always research whether a dog can safely consume an item before giving it to them as not all fruits and veggies are safe for canine consumption. Here is a nice list from Trupanion so you can make your dogs part of the club of canines who enjoy dog friendly produce.



Photo credit, Carrots oh yum, photo credit: Canopener Sally Carrots, oh yum. via photopin (license)


Walking the Dog Day

Walking the Dog Day

By Lynn Stacy-Smith

Walking the Dog Day by Lynn Stacy-SmithToday is Walking the Dog Day in the United States. It is also National Margarita Day. If you participate in both, please walk your dog first and then have your margaritas. Your dog might think it’s the best walk ever to not have to go in a straight line, but really, no drunk dog walking please.

It was not until I went from a very senior dog to a crazy puppy that I learned that the real value of going for a walk outside of the fenced yard is not so much the physical exercise but the mental exercise that your dog gets.

Yes, walks are important physical exercise for your dog, but if you’ve ever had a young Labrador or other high energy breed, you know that it is rare that you are going to wear him or her out physically from just a walk. Even at three and five years old, Jackson and Tinkerbell both come back from long walks and play a post-walk game of zoomies around the back yard.

Even better than the physical exercise that your dog gets on a walk is the mental exercise they get on a walk.  Between sniffing new smells, seeing new things, meeting new people, your dog is experiencing the world differently on a walk than from within your walls and fence boundaries.

All dog owners know that dog noses are incredible. If you really want to dig deep into how their noses work, check out this very interesting article on the PBS Nova website: According to the article,  “the part of a dog’s brain that is devoted to analyzing smells is, proportionally speaking, 40 times greater than ours.” This means that their brains are working on overdrive as they sniff the ground, the air, other dogs, other humans that they encounter.

Let’s go!!!

Think about your own lives and how you feel after an intense day of thinking versus working your body. I am way more tired after a day at a dog expo or other vendor event after speaking to new people all day long than I am after an open to close day at Walt Disney World in which we walk a good fifteen miles a day. When I used to teach training classes for three hours straight at my former corporate job there was not enough caffeine in the world to rejuvenate me after class because I had to use my mind non-stop, think about what I was going to say, field questions, remember to include everything in my presentation, and have energy and enthusiasm to keep people interested in college textbooks for three hours!

In addition to being great physical exercise and mental exercise, walks are just plain fun to dogs. We humans get to leave the house whenever we want. Dogs rely on us to see the world outside of our property. If you want to see someone who takes a love of walks to a whole new level I will get Tinkerbell on camera the next time I put on her harness and say the magic “w” word.

In fact, since it is Walking the Dog Day and it’s an unseasonably warm 65 degrees in Chicagoland, I’m going to take a page from Ferris Bueller and tell you to stop reading, it’s over, exit out of my page now and go walk your own dog right now, Jackson, Tinkerbell and I are headed out on our own walk. See you later and don’t forget to Love, Laugh, and Woof!

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