Dog Owner Education Center

Organic Lawn Care Options: DIY or Hiring a Service
Organic Lawn Care Options: DIY or Hiring a Service
Growing up where I did, we never cared about having a perfect lawn. In fact, most of our property was heavily wooded and forest-like, which was the whole reason my parents purchased it in the first place. Once a week Dad would mow while I used the hand trimmers around the rock gardens, and that was about it for lawn care. In fact, my first experience with lawn obsessed home owners was when I moved in with my husband into our subdivision eleven years ago and a woman from our HOA had the nerve to come into our yard and measure our grass with a ruler and then report us for it being too long. Over a decade later, I now know that suburbanites take their green grass seriously. In past years we have had the streets crawling with lawn care service salesmen, going door to door to try to shame us into hiring them because our neighbors did. Personally, I don't care if we have dandelions or clover in the grass or if the yard is one giant weed. As they say on the television show, Once Upon a Time, "Magic always comes with a price, dearie," and I am not willing to gamble on what that price might be later on. I am not willing to gamble with my dogs' lives on which studies are correct, those done by the lawn care chemical companies or those done by comparative oncology programs at respected universities. dogs and lawn careSo how can we all live happily together in suburbia? How can lawn aficionados and dog lovers be at peace with each other instead of glaring at each other from across their 4 foot fences, without the grass being noticeably greener on the chemically treated side? Fortunately there is an abundance of organic lawn care advice on the internet, and some lawn care companies are stepping up to offer organic lawn care services to people who have a passion for a green lawn and a healthy environment for their children and dogs.

DIY Organic Lawn Care

Organic lawn care focuses on the overall condition of your soil and your grass instead of applying a magical chemical formula (2,4-D or glyphosate) that somehow knows to kill the weeds and leave the grass. According to the various blogs and articles that I have found on this topic, organic lawn care requires more attention, planning and work,  but I personally think it is a fair trade-off when you can watch your dogs rolling around on the grass or having a green leafy snack without worrying about what they are ingesting. Essentially the way it works is that by promoting healthy soil, watering appropriately, cutting the grass higher than most homeowners do, and letting the trimmings act as mulch, you create a lawn that is so healthy and robust that it naturally chokes out the weeds instead of perpetuating an unhealthy environment in which weeds flourish. It sounds very logical when you think about it, kind of like figuring out why a certain part of your body hurts and fixing it instead of popping Advil every four hours! Here are some great links I found that are a good starting point if you are going to pursue your own organic lawn care regimen: 6 Steps To Create A Vibrant And Lush Organic Lawn The Organic Way to Mow Your Lawn Tips for a Lush Organic Lawn Organic Lawn Care for the Cheap and Lazy 

Hiring a Service

Good old Google is a great way to find organic lawn care providers in your area. In researching this topic for blogs over the years, I have learned that in addition to companies who offer only organic solutions, some of the more "traditional" big name companies are now offering organic services, too. This makes me very happy because I am not anti-lawn care company, I just want them to offer services with products that are guaranteed to be safe for everyone. It is important to ask a lot of questions before choosing a service and make sure you know exactly what is being applied to your grass. Here are some questions to ask when interviewing lawn care companies:
  • Do you use the chemicals 2,4-Dglyphosate in your fertilizers?
  • Do you use the chemicals 2,4-Dglyphosate or any other type of broadleaf herbicides for weeds?
  • What do you use as fertilizer? Is it 100% natural?
  • Can you guarantee that your technician will not apply a broadleaf herbicide or fertilizer that contains 2,4-D or glyphosate to my yard without my approval or upon my request?
  • How do you treat insects and other pests?
Personally, I would go with a company who specializes in treating my soil and grass as a whole living ecosystem and who has a passion specifically for organic practices. If nobody like that is in your area, some of the bigger names in the industry are starting to offer more dog and child friendly options, just make sure that you are an educated consumer and know what products to avoid and questions to ask.        
7 shareable links about lawn care herbicides
7 Sharable Links About Lawn Care Herbicides and Dogs
In my most recent post, The White Flags of Springtime, I wrote about lawn care chemicals, dogs,  the studies that several universities have done linking lawn care chemicals like 2,4-D to dogs, and some measures that I take on a daily basis to try to minimize Jackson and Tinkerbell's exposure to these chemicals. I also promised a blog with links that you could share via social media or to start conversations with neighbors who you know use these chemicals. Let's face it, we all want to yell, "Stop, are you crazy, don't you know what you are doing!?!?" when you see the lawn care companies out en masse, or stop and glare angrily every time you see someone outside spraying grass that is far too close to home for you.  However, it is not going to go over well with your neighbors to boldly accuse them of poisoning the earth and its creatures, even if those creatures are us, our kids, and our animals. So what can we do instead? Social media is a powerful tool, and Facebook is a perfect platform for you to share articles on things about which you are passionate. You can help raise awareness by sharing posts like this:
  1. There are more and more studies pointing to the dangers of lawn care chemicals. I say why chance it when we don't need to use this stuff! 
  2. I just read an interesting article on lawn care products. You might find it really interesting, too.
  3. Check this out, there is some concerning information about lawn care products and kids at this link:
  4. Hey animal lover friends, this might interest you. There is some alarming information on how lawn care products may be harming animals, from pets to butterflies and bees!
  5. So basically this says that lawn care chemicals might not cause cancer in dogs, but do we really want to use something that was tested by being fed to beagles for a year????
  6. Honestly, if there's even a chance that this stuff causes cancer in dogs or in anyone, I don't want it on my grass!
  7. I just read a concerning post from a professional beekeeper whose bee colonies were sprayed with 2,4-D, one of the chemicals in lawn care products. Check it out!
Is this a little passive aggressive? Maybe, but it's a good start to increasing the level of awareness that these products may not be as safe as the people who make them want us to believe. Just because it has been used for over six decades does not mean that it is safe for our day-to-day lives or that we need it right in our actual back yards. We have banned other substances created after WWII because they were unsafe, like DDT and aldicarb. If you change just one homeowners lawn care practices, it is definitely worth learning about this topic and sharing your knowledge on the topic.          
Beware the Little White Flags of Springtime (1)
The White Flags of Springtime: Being a Dog Owner in a World of Chemically Treated Lawns
The white flags are back, a sign of spring here in suburbia. I saw them yesterday as I walked with Jackson and Tinkerbell through our neighborhood, and I felt the annual flood of stress, frustration and disappointment that I feel every spring when so many homeowners in our neighborhood hire traditional lawn care companies to spray their yards with chemicals in pursuit of the perfect expanse of green grass. You know the chemicals that I mean, the ones that the industry says are so safe that they fed it to beagles as part of their testing and did not see any negative results, but that still require little white warning flags to let the world know that the products have been applied so that we do not walk or frolic in that grass for 48 hours. This is not the first time I've written about this topic, and it won't be the last. In the past I have written several blogs on the topic of dogs, lawn care products, and studies that link increased rates of cancer in dogs on chemically treated grass. You can read more about this topic at: Lawn Care Chemicals Linked to Cancer in Dogs and No Dogs on the Grass: Studies on Canine Cancer and Lawn Care Products.  I have to admit, I dream of a world in which all homeowners realize the benefits of using an organic lawn care company that relies on all natural lawn care techniques instead of broadleaf weedkillers. A world in which we can watch our kids and dogs rolling around on the grass and not have to worry about whether or not the study done by veterinary team at Purdue University or the task force created to promote the use of 2,4-D had the accurate study. A world in which we can reduce the amount of plant waste that we send to landfills because we are using compost and grass clippings to achieve the American dream of a lush, green lawn. I will also admit that after losing two dogs in row to cancer, the fear of any unseen toxins that my dogs are walking through sometimes makes me want to avoid walks in our neighborhood entirely. Just the other day I did not see the white flags in a neighbor's yard until long after Jackson and Tinkerbell had thoroughly sniffed a large portion of his treated grass. But I cannot keep them in a protective bubble, simply because it is not fair to them to deny them the simple canine joy of going out and exploring the world with me. Until we live in a world that embraces natural lawn care, here are the things that I do for my own dogs in an effort to minimize the effects of these chemicals in our lives. Avoid Treated Lawns Depending where you live, this can be extremely hard. Like I mentioned above, just the other day we the dogs and I walked through a yard in which some of the flags were missing at one end of the property, so I did not see them until we had walked the full length of the yard. Try to avoid treated lawns and know that Purdue University determined in 2013 that lawn care products drift substantially from the area in which they are actually applied. As you see lawn care flags, make notes so that you can adjust your walking route and avoid those lawns on your daily walks. Shorten your dog's leash when walking through affected yards and stick to the sidewalk or cross the street if possible. You can also contact your local park department to inquire about what products are used in your municipal parks and if they have a routine schedule for when they apply pesticides. Look for natural areas that are not treated for weeds and take your dog on fun adventures to those locations, using an all natural tick preventative since the more natural the terrain, the more likely you are to encounter pests like ticks. Post Walk Paw Wash & Wipe 1. Wash all paws in a foot soak using water with apple cider vinegar (1/2 cup vinegar per gallon of water) or an organic pet shampoo. Swoosh the paw through the water and use your fingers to massage the paws for a few second while in the soak. Rinse thoroughly in a second container of plain water and then dry well, including between the toe pads and webbing for breeds with webbed feet. 2. Wipe the entire dog from nose to tail with a damp cloth, including their legs, belly, nose and jowls. You can also use the same ratio of apple cider vinegar to water to soak the cloth or spray on them with a spray bottle, avoiding the eyes. 3. Wash my own feet (if wearing sandals or flip flops), ankles and calves to keep from spreading toxins on the floor, furniture and bedding that the dogs lay upon. This is also a good idea for owners whose dogs like to lick human toes or feet. Dietary Supplements Note: this is not intended as veterinary advice. Always consult with your veterinarian before adding any food or supplement to your dog's diet.  MicroFlora Plus or other probiotic for dogs: many experts believe that digestive health has a positive impact on an animal's immune system. Although the food that I feed has a prebiotic and probiotic in it, I also add MicroFlora Plus to my dog's bowls. Wholistic Pet Organics diatomaceous earth: Scientific research has indicated that diatomaceous earth has a detoxifying property to it, so I add food grade diatomaceous earth from Wholistic Pet. Just make sure you purchase food grade diatomaceous earth, not the variety that is sold for outdoor use.

Watch for our next blog in which we talk about positive links to share with friends and family to encourage all natural lawn care practices. 

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.
Finding reliable pet care worksheet cover
Workshop: Finding Reliable Pet Care for Those Times You Cannot Be There
This course teaches you how to create a pet care binder in case someone else needs to take care of your dog, how to determine if a pet sitter, boarding kennel or other option is right for your dog, how to find a reliable dog care provider, and a list of people to keep in your life in case you need to travel or are unable to care for your dog for awhile. Also includes an interview with an estate planning attorney who provides tips on how to include your dog in your will in the event of accidental death of an owner.

This course is included in the Happy, Healthy Dogs Group as part of the membership fee. Click here to join: The Happy, Healthy Dogs Group.

compassionate pet owner
Workshop: The Compassionate Pet Owner
compassionate pet ownerLearn about ways to bond with your dog, understand how they think and learn, and put yourself in their proverbial paws. Leave this class with ten ways to bond with your dog. Click here to view scheduled classes Click here to schedule a FREE one-on-one coaching discovery call with Lynn
senior dog workshop
Workshop: Senior Dog Special Considerations
senior dog workshop Just like with aging humans, senior dogs need special care. Learn about changing dietary needs, the importance of more frequent vet visits, lifestyle adjustments, and keeping a sense of compassion as their bodies and minds change. Click here to view scheduled classes Click here to schedule a FREE one-on-one coaching discovery call with Lynn
Creating a holistic lifestyle for your dog
Workshop: Creating a Happy, Healthy Lifestyle for Your Dog
This workshop focuses on providing a healthy lifestyle for dogs in three areas: mind, body, and environment. Topics include physical versus mental activities, food and nutrition, treats, lawn care considerations, cleaning products, and bedding and toy recommendations.   Click here to view scheduled classes Click here to schedule a FREE one-on-one coaching discovery call with Lynn Check out the video below to find out what it means to create a "holistic" lifestyle for your dog.   .
Safety and emergency prepping for dogs
Workshop: Safety and Emergency Prepping for Dogs
Safety and emergency prepping for dogsThis course focuses on safety around the house, toxic substances to avoid, collar safety, car safety, identifying and preparing for natural disasters, emergency supplies to have on-hand, and preventing lost/stolen dogs. Click here to view scheduled classes Click here to schedule a FREE one-on-one coaching discovery call with Lynn
Planning for a new puppy or dog
Workshop: Planning for a New Puppy or Dog
Planning for a new puppy or dogLearn what to expect when adopting a new puppy or dog and what you will need before their gotcha date, including training your human children to be around a dog, the importance of training, and the dog professionals you need in your life. This class is an in-depth look at what life with a dog is really, truly like, and whether it is right for you. Click here to view scheduled classes Click here to schedule a FREE one-on-one coaching discovery call with Lynn
Christmas Puppies & Winter House Training Tips
Christmas Puppies & Winter House Training Tips

Christmas Puppies & Winter House Training Tips

by Lynn Stacy-Smith Christmas Puppies & Winter House Training TipsAs I stood outside with Jackson and Tinkerbell today in the 2 degree weather, waiting for them to do their bathroom business, I thought about the puppies who found new homes over the holidays and the owners who are hopefully going through the extremely important house training process right now as I type this post. It's hard enough to make sure everyone is warm and safe in this weather with adult dogs who are neither puppies nor senior dogs, who have the ability to hold their bowels and bladders for fairly long periods of time. I do not envy those new puppy owners who will be inside and outside, inside and outside, inside and outside, over and over as they teach their puppy that they need to "hurry up, go potty" outside. Jackson is great about finding a spot quickly when it gets this cold outside. He runs out, picks a spot, does his thing, and then runs back to the house. There is no sniffing around for rabbit droppings, no lazy rambling around to look for a few blades of grass to eat. Out and back before the bitter cold starts to hurt his feet and he tries to walk without touching the ground. Tinkerbell, in true Tinkerbell fashion, still tries to dilly-dally and take her time, roaming the yard, sniffing every square inch of the snow. This usually results in me hurrying her along as soon she starts to pick up her feet with a pained expression on her face. Unlike her big brother, she has not figured out that she has a limited amount of time before her feet start to hurt and that she'd better hurry up. Christmas Puppies & Winter House Training Tips When house training a new puppy, the first few days I like to limit their outdoor time anyway, to teach them first and foremost that outside is for potty time. After they start to catch on to the fact that outdoors is the appropriate place to alleviate their bowels and bladders, you can start to play more with them outside, but for at least the first few days, the outside is strictly for learning where to go to the bathroom. Temperatures in single digits or below zero at least means that you are not missing out on a beautiful day for walking or playing with your dog outside. In addition to the steps that I provide for house training in my post, "Puppy House Training: Best Practices & Tips", here are some winter weather considerations for puppy owners who are working on house training in a cold environment, whether it is a frozen tundra or a winter wonderland. 
  1. Shovel or brush off an area of the grass so that your puppy can still smell and see it and associate the grass with going potty. Make it sizeable enough that your puppy can choose which spot she prefers.
  2. Keep a pair of shoes or boots by the door at all times. Choose a style that slips on easily and quickly without a lot of work.
  3. Use a leash, even if you have a fenced yard, to ensure that your puppy does not wander off and get distracted.
  4. Keep a coat with gloves in the pockets by the back door.
  5. As soon as your puppy pees or poops, praise him with substantial praise and then promptly take him inside.
  6. Pay close attention to your puppy's body language; walking gingerly or trying to pick some or all of his or her paws up off the ground is a sign that the cold is hurting their feet.
  7. Avoid using ice melting products where your puppy is walking; traditional products can damage paw pads in grown dogs, so you definitely do not want corrosive agents near a puppy's gentle little feet. If your puppy does walk through ice melting products, rinse them in warm water once you are inside.
Dogs are most susceptible to frostbite on their paws, ears, and tails. If you have a puppy with short hair or a sparse coat, you can purchase a coat and booties for planned walks, although you may not have a chance to put all of these things on your puppy if you catch her in the act of peeing or pooping in your house. The secret to successful house training is to be extremely observant of your puppy and catch her sniffing for a spot to go potty and moving her outside before she actually does the act. Christmas Puppies & Winter House Training Tips Christmas Puppies & Winter House Training Tips Christmas Puppies & Winter House Training Tips If you are concerned that it might be too cold for your specific breed of puppy to go outside during extremely cold weather, check with your breeder, rescue organization or veterinarian. Of course a Newfoundland puppy will do better in winter weather than a Chihuahua puppy, but extreme winter temperatures can be dangerous for all puppies and dogs. If it is too cold for your puppy to safely go outside, you can use puppy potty pads for house training. With Labrador Retrievers who were all born in the spring, I have never used these, so I do not have personal experience with how to utilize them. You can find instructions on the American Kennel Club website at this link: I prefer to teach the dogs to go outside from the very start to give them just one thing to master, rather than learning one thing and then learning a second part of it, but not at the sake of subjecting them to subzero temperatures.

Read more about raising puppies in my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog's Forever Human, available at in print or Kindle.

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.
The Problem with
The Problem with “Rescuing” Pet Store Puppies: Saving a Life or Creating Open to Buy?

The Problem with "Rescuing" Pet Store Puppies: Saving a Life or Creating Open to Buy?

by Lynn Stacy-Smith The Problem with "Rescuing" Pet Store Puppies: Saving a Life or Creating Open to Buy? Sometimes it seems unbelievable that I am still writing anti-puppy mill content in my mid-forties, since I first learned about the horrific practice of commercially breeding dogs in puppy "mills" all the way back in high school in the 1980s. With the speed at which information is relayed today through the internet and social media, and the number of people we can reach through a single post, it seems like certainly we dog advocates would have successfully gotten the word out about the hell that is commercial dog breeding. Yet at this very moment, as I am typing this, someone who is doing some Christmas shopping at your local mall has stopped in the pet store and is falling in love with a puppy in a baby crib, making a purchase, and creating an economic demand for a new puppy to be born at a commercial puppy mill. Before I was a dog blogger, I was employed at the home office of a large retailer. As a result, I understand very well how retail inventory works. And so, when a fellow dog lover with a big heart tells me that they just purchased a puppy from a pet store because their heart was breaking at the thought of that puppy not finding a home, I know that what that purchase did was to open up what is known as "open to buy" in the world of retail. So why am I talking about retail practices in a dog blog? Here's the deal: retail stores have sales goals. In order to meet those sales goals, they need to have sufficient inventory to sell to their customers. There is a lot of analysis that is done to figure out how much inventory they need, and how much money they need to budget to purchase that inventory. That budget is called their Open to Buy. The easiest way to define Open to Buy is this: "Open-To-Buy (OTB) is merchandise budgeted for purchase by a retail store during a certain time period that has not yet been ordered."  When a store sells something that's in their inventory, they need to replace that inventory with more products that they can sell to keep meeting their sales goals. For example, if you buy 8 cans of soup from the grocery store, they need to bring in 8 more cans of soup so that they can keep selling soup to the next customer that comes into the store. Understand where I am going with this? Pet store puppies are viewed as inventory for resale, and puppy mills are the manufacturer creating that inventory. To you and me, to refer to puppies as being manufactured  sounds awful, and it is awful Buying a puppy from a pet store is not like buying a can of soup from the grocery store. The grocery store simply orders more cans of soup from their supplier and puts into motion a whole series of events that creates jobs for a variety of people, from the people growing the vegetables to the person driving the delivery truck. Buying a puppy from a pet store is a purchase that kicks off a series of events that perpetuates the miserable life of puppy mill breeding dogs, and that is why we are still pleading and begging with people to stop buying puppies from retail stores.  You and I  know that a puppy is a living, breathing, sentient, intelligent animal that deserves to be born into a loving environment, not mass-produced by unfeeling humans from dog parents who are tortured, miserable, riddled with genetic defects that they pass on en masse to their offspring, and who never lead a regular life as a healthy or even remotely happy dog. For the puppy mill operator point of view, they are simply creating a supply of puppies to be sold on a purchase order to a pet store or puppy broker. As long as there is a demand for their puppies, they will keep producing puppies. Having the conversation with someone who has purchased a puppy from a pet store or other source supplied by puppy mills is not an easy task. They feel attacked, as if they did something wrong or that they are being told that their puppy is not as worthy of love or is as valuable as a rescue puppy or one from a very responsible professional/hobby breeder. I know, because I have offended more than one friend in this way. While many puppy mill puppies have substantial medical issues, whether infectious diseases or genetic defects, they are still worthy of love, they still could grow into great dogs with patience and training, and they will still be beloved family members. The reason I beg these owners not to get any additional puppies from a pet store is not that their dog is "bad" in any way, shape or form, and not that the dog owner is a bad person, but simply because their purchase will perpetuate the cycle of misery by creating an economic demand for more puppies from the puppy mill operator.  To dog owners who have their dogs for the right reasons, to rescue and adoption advocates, and to responsible breeders, dogs are a miracle with paws and a wet nose. They are our lifeline, our therapists, our exercise buddies, our best friends, our constant companions, our heart dogs. To puppy mill operators and the more unscrupulous backyard breeders, they are simply a product to be sold for income, and the easiest way for the average citizen to help stop them and their cycle of misery for the breeding dogs is to minimize or eliminate the demand for their puppies by not shopping at pet stores and from puppy brokers who sell mass-produced puppy mill puppies.    
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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The Right Way to Add a Dog to Your Home at Christmas
The Right Way to Add a Dog to Your Home at Christmas

The Right Way to Add a Dog to Your Home at Christmas

by Lynn Stacy-Smith The Right Way to Add a Dog to Your Home at ChristmasIn our last blog, The Christmas Puppy Problem, we talked about the problem with Christmas puppies that are purchased on a whim by humans who have not considered the lifetime commitment and the work involved. We discussed how the adorable puppy in a baby crib in that mall pet store can end up being euthanized at a shelter or living a dismal and lonely life because a family or individual has realized too late that they were not prepared for that puppy to grow into an adult dog that depends them for its very survival and happiness. And finally, we talked about the Christmas puppy in our society and how the concept is promoted through photos, films, and even catalogs from merchants. As I continue to focus on this important topic all throughout the month of December, today we are going to present the flip side to that scenario and explore how to bring home a puppy or adult dog the right way during the holidays. Taking Advantage of School and Office Closures As much as people seem to be super busy at Christmas time, some people find themselves with extra time off of work, which puts them at an advantage in terms of puppy rearing. In my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog’s Forever Owner, I write, “I strongly recommend taking vacation time from work the first week of your dog or puppy’s arrival home, like a canine maternity leave.” When Jackson was a puppy I was able to take some time off the first few days he was home and then either work from home or take additional days off whenever my husband had to also work, to ensure that someone was always home with him the first two weeks. By the time we had to have a dog sitter start coming to let him out, he was essentially house trained and able to hold his bladder a bit longer than when he first arrived. Once Tinkerbell joined the family, I was already working from home, so I was able to be with her all the time. She was house trained even faster than Jackson, and her puppyhood was much easier as a result. For the simple purpose of house training alone, being with your dog 24 hours a day, seven days a week the first week or so should shorten your puppy’s learning curve dramatically. In addition to helping speed up the house training process, you will appreciate being able to nap during the day when the puppy sleeps. After all, they are infants and they usually wake up several times a night to go outside which of course means that you are also awake and heading outside. Finally, the first few days of a puppy’s life in their new home should be as calm and positive as possible with essentially just the immediate family. They are figuring things out, getting comfortable with you and with their surroundings, and there is a considerable amount of bonding happening. It is good for you to be with them instead of having them left alone in the house just days after leaving their mother, their litter mates and everything they ever knew in their young life. If you have been planning on getting a puppy or a rescued dog, you know what you are getting into and the lifelong commitment, you are not traveling or hosting any huge gatherings for the holidays, and you work for an office or school that closes for all or most of the time between Christmas and New Year’s Day, then over the Christmas holiday might be a great time to get a dog, particularly from a rescue organization or shelter. Most responsible breeders will not plan a litter of puppies around the holidays so are set on a certain breed you may not be able to find an available dog from a top breeder at Christmas time, but the sad fact is that rescues and shelters take in pregnant females on a regular basis and those puppies are desperately in need of homes. A purebred puppy is not necessarily the right choice for everyone, so unless you are set on a particular breed, you can find amazing mixed breed puppies at shelters and rescues who are ready to grow up and be your best friend.  Rescuing an Adult Dog Puppy rearing is not for everyone, and adult dogs will bond with you just as much as puppies. My late Babe became my dog when she was two, and she was my best friend and constant companion. She and I had the same exact type of love and emotional bond as I do with Jax and Tink, who both came home to me at eight weeks old. Our late Basset Hound, Maggie, had been abused before my husband rescued her, and she was the most affectionate and snuggly of any of our dogs. In fact, I have a theory based on my own personal observation and experience that some rescued dogs are often more affectionate and attached to their owners because they know what it is like to not have a safe and loving home, to be scared and alone, and they are so happy to finally feel love that they want to be near you all the time. Some people will say that dogs do not think about the past, and although it is true that for training purposes they live in the moment, I believe that they still remember their old lives. It was not just Maggie who showed this behavior, but also my fosters Kodiak and Destiny. Kodiak had been found as a stray and while I was fostering him he would not leave my side. At night we would watch TV as a family and I essentially had a giant Labrador/Great Dane mix as a living, breathing blanket as he napped completely on top of me, his back paws down by my feet, his front paws and head on my chest. Destiny had been tied to a tree in the woods and left to die before a good Samaritan found her and saved her. Even while she was learning to trust me, she was virtually attached to me, and within weeks was snuggling with me as if she’d known me her entire life. With Christmas as a time of love and giving, what better gift to give than to give a dog a safe haven and forever home to live out the rest of its years. There are so many amazing adult dogs that are waiting at shelters to be your best friend, particularly if you do not care about finding a specific breed. If you simply want a best friend, you can spare yourself the part-time job of puppy rearing (because it is indeed a part-time if not full-time job) and find an amazing best friend in an adult dog. And if you do want a specific breed, there are breed specific rescues in every part of the country with dogs who need homes. Giving one of them a home will open up a spot in that foster’s house for a shelter dog to make it further through the adoption process. And just like with puppies, to have extra time off of work while your new dog is adapting to his or her new home will only help the bonding process and help your dog become more secure in his or her surroundings. Involving the Kids No matter the age, it is never too young to start teaching children about the fact that dogs are living breathing creatures that rely on us for their survival. Instead of surprising the child with a puppy under the Christmas tree and reinforcing the belief that the puppy is a toy like a doll or basketball or some other inanimate object, consider wrapping the supplies that you will need for the puppy or dog and unwrapping them as a family. After the gifts are unwrapped, you can explain that you have thought about it for a long time and that it’s the right time to bring a dog into the family and that you bought the puppy’s gifts in advance so that he or she has everything they need when it comes home. You can tell them that after Christmas is over, you are going to all pick out the puppy or go get a puppy that you have pre-selected, and that everyone in the family is going to need to work together to make sure that the puppy grows into a nice, well-behaved adult dog. By fulfilling your child’s wish for a dog this way, you avoid the mindset that the puppy is a toy. If you have experienced Christmas with kids, you know that often they receive so many new toys and gifts that they are overwhelmed by the bounty, and some things get pushed to the side and never played with. The last thing you want to do is to include a puppy in that category. By introducing the puppy as a family member after the excitement of the holidays is over, you start your child’s view of animals off to a healthier start that will carry through their adult lives and in turn help them be responsible pet owners when they are grown. It is extremely important to add that if your child wants a dog, but the adults do not really want a dog, you should not get a dog. Period. I also cover this in my book, and it may sound harsh, but it needs to be harsh because a dog’s life is at stake, and at the end of the day it is going to be the parents who are responsible for the dog for its entire life. Kids can learn to be responsible dog owners by watching their parents and by helping their parents under close supervision. I have spent probably as much time teaching our kids how to act around the dogs as I have spent teaching the dogs how to act around the kids. As a result, now that they are teens, I can trust them to check the gates when they take the dogs outside and to stay out there with them and ensure that they are not getting into mischief. I do not believe in putting kids in charge of a dog no matter how responsible they are. Between school, activities, friends, and all of the things on their minds, it is too easy to forget a feeding or to give medicine or how long it has been since the dog went outside. They will learn to be responsible pet owners by watching you and by you explaining what you are doing and why you are doing something, but it is too early in their lives to be in charge of an animal's life. Watch for the next blog, in which we address winter weather considerations when caring for puppies. Travel With Your Dog!
The Christmas Puppy Problem
The Christmas Puppy Problem

The Christmas Puppy Problem

by Lynn Stacy-Smith The Christmas Puppy ProblemI was browsing through Facebook several days ago when I came across a video from our local Fox affiliate, Fox 32. The first sentence of the story was, "If a dog or puppy is on your holiday shopping list - be careful." "Are you kidding me?" I said out loud in horror. "Let's just go ahead and promote the notion of puppies as Christmas gifts to all of the Chicagoland area!!!!" I fumed some more.  I promptly sent a message to their Facebook page that read, "As a dog blogger who is on a mission to help prevent owner surrenders of dogs, the lead into your article about the puppy FB scam is disheartening. Puppies are never gifts, those of us who promote responsible pet ownership work hard to get this message through to the people who buy puppies as gifts with as much thought as they give a sweater or handbag. Please don't undo our work as you report the news!" To date I have not received a response or have any evidence that they've read my message. The rest of their story was warning potential puppy buyers not to fall for scams involving puppies for sale, which is definitely important. Of course, they did not go into detail on how to successfully find a reputable breeder or look at rescue or shelter pups or grown dogs, but the advice to not purchase puppies from random strangers in a Facebook group is certainly something that many people need to know. Let me explain why I was, and still am, so upset by that one short sentence that was broadcast to their entire viewing area: puppies are living breathing creatures that require a lot of time, patience, training and work. They do not belong on a "shopping list" like a cashmere sweater, a toolbox and an X-box game. Unfortunately every year these living breathing, feeling creatures do indeed make it onto a Christmas list.  Puppies are then purchased through pet stores or backyard/amateur breeders as gifts either on a whim or to fulfill heartfelt requests to Santa from children who want a puppy. In other scenarios they are an impulse buy as holiday shoppers wander through the mall pet stores and are wooed by the siren like pull of the adorable, fluffy puppies in baby cribs that downplay the fact that puppies are a different species with different needs than a human and that there is a learning curve for novice dog owners who are tackling puppyhood for the first time. The shoppers fall in love at first sight with these puppies with designer "breed" names like Cavachon and Huskimo, and take them home without thinking about the fact that they have just committed to anywhere from ten to fifteen years of caring for an animal that will need them for every aspect of their survival. Many of these puppies are then abandoned at shelters just days, weeks, or months later after the adults realize that a puppy was not on their list of responsibilities that they were ready to handle. Other puppies end up living the majority of life in crates or in the back yards of owners who feel too much guilt for what they've done to abandon or re-home the dog but have no idea how to handle a dog that quickly went from adorable fluff ball to a wild, untrained, and seemingly unmanageable dog. That life is almost as tragic as landing in a shelter; it is in fact no life at all for a dog to suffer like that, alone and unloved. As a culture, we love Christmas and we love puppies, and so it is understandable that when you put them both together, the idea of a Christmas puppy seems genius. I mean, seriously, what is cuter than a puppy with a bow around its neck under the Christmas tree? And when you are the person presenting this gift, either to your children, to your significant other, or to a parent, in that moment you are the hero of gift giving. You are like a rock star only better! You are not handing over a new gaming system or some piece of jewelry that every other person has bought, you are literally bestowing new life and the promise of unconditional love on the recipient...whether they want the accompanying responsibility of that new life or not. Movies, TV shows, catalogs, all show endless photos of happy Christmas puppies. These images are all over our culture. Google "Christmas puppies" and you will receive pages upon pages of results. Do the same search with "movies about Christmas puppies" and you will receive another robust list of results. It is no wonder children ask Santa for a puppy or parents finally concede to their child's pleas to get them a dog over the Christmas holiday. Our culture is full of the idea of puppies at Christmas time, under trees, in boxes, in Christmas stockings, complete with bright red bows to make the gift complete. Just today I received a catalog from my beloved retailer L.L. Bean with a fluffy Golden Retriever puppy on the front, snoozing away under the Christmas tree with the other holiday presents with a red bow around its neck. The puppy looks perfectly angelic in the photo, but as a lifelong Labrador owner, I can tell you that it takes one hell of a lot of work to achieve a sleepy puppy for a photo shoot, and the moment that puppy wakes up, a human will be telling him "NO" and removing his little razor-sharp puppy teeth from the lights on the tree, the bow wrapped around the box, and even the box itself. I can forgive L.L.Bean for this, because their products at least promote the outdoor, active lifestyle that is suited for a Labrador or a Golden Retriever, so their customers are slightly more likely to own the boots, hats, gloves, and parkas that will be needed to house train the puppy in the middle of December and into January. But that is one photo among thousands of other images and sources that glamorize the puppy as a holiday gift. Personally, I obviously love dogs and I definitely love Christmas, and I love them together, in real life and in photos. I adore puppies, and I loved raising my own puppies into big sturdy dogs, even the moments that had me close to tears because Jax was a hard sell on the "no bite" concept or when his energy level was at a 14 on a scale of 1 to 10 and my own was a 3 from lack of sleep. I love looking at them now and thinking about how tiny they were, how I could pick them up and they would fall asleep on my chest, and how I taught them day in and day out all of the things that they would need to know as dogs in our household. I equally love to look at them and think about all of the things that they have taught me in return, about dog ownership and about life. I love how I raised them from puppies to adults and how close we are as two separate species who went from being total strangers to sharing a special bond. So when I talk about the work that lies ahead for puppy owners, it is with the firm belief that the work is worth it, but I would be doing a disservice to other puppy owners to minimize the work that it takes to go from puppyhood to adulthood, because trust me. There is a lot of work ahead. Before I had my own dogs, I helped my parents with their dogs. My freshman year of college, my parents acquired our Labrador Retriever Jake the weekend of Thanksgiving, so we have tons of adorable puppy pictures of him around the Christmas tree. Jake's puppyhood is also how I know that the adorable puppy under the tree will also be the same puppy who is trying to eat the lights, steal the ornaments, and chew on all of the gifts immediately after peeing on the carpet and trying to drink the tree water. I don't make these things up when I am blogging, I've lived life with many puppies and know that that's what puppies do. One minute they are adorable balls of fluff with liverwurst-meets-Starbucks scented puppy breath; the next they are like a tiny little ball of destruction wreaking havoc in your home.  Are all Christmas puppies abandoned at shelters or destined to living life in a crate or a back yard in an unprepared owner's home? No, of course not. I have personal friends who have brought home puppies at Christmas and who would never dream of abandoning them; those dogs are as beloved and well cared for as my own dogs. As someone once told me when they were attending a training class where I used to work, "We don't know what we don't know." That applies 100% to new puppy owners who have big hearts and great expectations but simply have no idea what they are getting into with an eight week old puppy and the work that lies ahead for at least the next few months to go from adorable Christmas puppy to well-behaved, socialized dog. As a result, during the month of December, the Love, Laugh, Woof blog will focus on the idea of puppies and Christmas, to help reach people who are contemplating getting a puppy as a holiday addition to their families. From winter specific considerations, to how to do a holiday puppy or grown dog the right way, conversations to have with the kids, and other important topics, we will focus entirely on spreading the word that dogs are a lifelong commitment, not something to be bought on a whim.   Subscribe
Jax and Tink Prove How Quickly Your Dog Can Get into Trouble 
Jax and Tink Prove How Quickly Your Dog Can Get into Trouble 

Jax and Tink Prove How Quickly Your Dog Can Get into Trouble

by Lynn Stacy-Smith Jax and Tink Prove How Quickly Your Dog Can Get into Trouble If you've followed my blog or read my book, you know that I have a very firm rule about never allowing Jackson and Tinkerbell to go outside without a human present at all times. This rule is in place for a variety of reasons, including making certain that the gates are shut and latched, that nobody (like a utility worker or neighborhood child) comes into the yard while we are out there, and to make sure that the dogs stay out of the type of mischief that a curious dog can easily create. [caption id="attachment_3519" align="alignright" width="300"]Jax and Tink Prove How Quickly Your Dog Can Get into Trouble  Chilling in the yard[/caption] As the dogs have grown from puppies to adults, the fear of them getting into something that they shouldn't be eating or touching has diminished somewhat, but they are still dogs, and dogs explore the world with their noses and mouths. Most days, though, I stand outside with them while the most exciting thing that they do is sniff their world and search for treasures of rabbit poop or the certain type of grass on which they love to graze like adorable, small black cows. At four and six years old they get into fewer and fewer situations that would require my intervention, but the "humans outside with dogs at all times" rule will stand for the their entire lives, no exceptions. Last week I had grand plans of filming a product demo for the KeepSafe Breakaway Safety Collar as promised in the blog in which I reviewed this amazing collar. The first part of the video went great, I sat on my deck steps and recorded an introduction to the product, and both dogs came over to give me kisses and "say hello" to the audience, without being told to do so. They were well-behaved as I showed the features of the collar using Jackson as my model, how you hook it to the metal loops if you want to take your dog for a walk and how that acts as an "override" for the breakaway function, since you don't want a collar that breaks apart if your dog pulls on a walk, you only want that breakaway functionality when your dog is wearing it off leash. After I watched the video, there were some changes in lighting I wanted to make and a few edits to my comments, so I set about the task of doing a few more versions, as well as recording demonstrations without the dogs so that I could show the collar around the slats of our fence and deck. Jax and Tink were happy to come and duplicate the "giving kisses" part of the intro and be my model to show how to hook the leash to the collar and override the breakaway function, but when it was time for me to record without them, I swear they knew that they did not have my attention like normal and set about being intentionally naughty. I had expected them to do their normal thing and sniff around the yard, calm and mellow like normal adult dogs. Instead they chose to "exceed" my expectations by getting into every single thing that they could in our yard. Many experts will say that dogs don't think this way, but it was like they were working together and doing "bad" things on purpose. Over the summer our decorative bird house had gone crashing onto our deck during a storm, breaking it apart. It seemed as though it could be put back together, though, and since it was a gift that my husband had brought back to me from a motorcycle trip the first year we knew each other, I did not want to just throw it out. I had carefully placed all of the pieces on top of a deck box on our deck for him to try to fix when he got a chance, and the dogs had not noticed it or touched it since it happened in June. Also over the summer, my husband had purchased a hammock for himself and set it up it on the deck. Because it is so windy in our back yard, instead of leaving it set up, he took one side down so that both ends of the hammock hung from the same side of the metal stand and the hammock stayed folded in half until we wanted to use it. This has also been in the same spot on the deck since June and except for Jax trying to pee on it once, both dogs have also left this item alone. [caption id="attachment_3718" align="alignleft" width="297"]Jax and Tink Prove How Quickly Your Dog Can Get into Trouble  Jax proving that a human should always be watching[/caption] As I filmed a few versions of the demonstration of the collar's breakaway feature, I saw Tinkerbell race across the yard out of my peripheral vision. I know my dogs very well, and I could tell immediately that she had her "I've got something and I'm not going to give it to you" posture as she ran across the yard, her athletic body tucked down low and fast so that she could take corners with ease and play "keep away from Momma" with her contraband item. "WHOA!" I called out to her, "Stop!!" She stopped and went down into a play stance, a huge piece of cardboard hanging from her mouth. "Drop it!" I told her and approached her slowly. She took off at top speed and raced around me, stopping behind me and dropping into her play stance again. "Tinkerbell, I'm not playing," I said in my deepest, most stern dog training voice, "DROP IT." That did the trick and she let me take the cardboard, her tail wagging furiously as if saying, "But Momma, that was FUN!" I walked up onto the deck to put the cardboard on our table, gave Jax (who was just standing on the deck waiting to go inside) a scratch under the chin and told him that he was a good dog, and went back over to our fence to try to get another video recorded. Less than a minute passed and I glanced over to make sure that Tinkerbell had not grabbed anything else, and I saw Jackson tangled completely in the ropes that attach the hammock to the stand. "Jackson, what are you doing, crazy dog?" I called, and ran over to free him. "Buddy, what the heck are you doing?" I asked him. He had his head tangled up in the ropes, one was double wrapped around his leg, and as I walked up he tried to free himself and became even more entangled. "Whoa!" I told him, feeling thankful twice in literally a few minutes that we had taught that command to both dogs. As I freed him, I turned around to see Tinkerbell snatch a long black strip of wood from the bird house, leap off the deck, and run top speed across the yard as far as she could. "Tinkerbell, STOP!" I called again, "What the hell is wrong with you dogs??" I asked to the air, both frustrated and laughing at the same time. This time she gave up her treasure without any fuss, standing there while I came over and took it from her. "Ok, I think we're going to stop making this video for the day," I told her as she trotted along happily next to me. As I reached the deck I saw Jackson trying to make his way behind our gas grill to get to the fat trap that was full of rainwater and disgusting grease from a summer of grilling. "Jackson, OFF!" I told him just in time and body blocked him before he could take a lick of watery grease. I had blocked the access to this doggie delicacy with deck chairs because he had tried this on many other occasions. We headed inside the house and I sat on the floor with them and played like we normally do every day at 4 pm and I laughed to myself about their behavior. "What on earth were you guys doing, Momma has to work to buy you food and cookies!" I told them as they brought me bones to hold and engaged me in our favorite game of 3-way-tug-o-war. My video attempt was most definitely the epitome of the "laugh" of Love, Laugh, Woof. Sure they were going out of their way to be "bad" but I could not help but laugh at their timing and how it really seemed intentional to get my attention back to them. Since I was losing daylight, instead of filming my own video, I found an excellent video featuring the creator of the collar and shared that instead. I thought about how Jax and Tink had done an excellent job of proving my point that you should always go outside with your dogs and pay attention to what they are doing no matter how old they are, because they can find themselves in a dangerous position within a matter of seconds. Jax's escapades with the ropes of the hammock could have become a deadly choking hazard within minutes, and Tink could have easily swallowed shards of wood or perhaps nails or staples had she snatched up a piece with those in it if I had not been there to make her give it up. I will also be checking to see how dog proofed our yard is and not assume that because I am outside with them all the time or that they are grown adult dogs that certain items will not become hazardous on any given day. While this was intended to be a somewhat humorous story of how they were naughty on purpose to get my attention and that I will be recruiting a helper for videos going forward, it is dual purpose as it points out the very serious matter that it only takes a few seconds for your dog to end up in danger in your own yard or inside your home with everyday objects, with or without a collar on. The KeepSafe Breakaway Collar definitely helps alleviate some of the risks involving choking by a collar, but I also strongly recommend always supervising your dog in the yard whether on their own or when playing with the other dog(s) in your home.  

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Collar Safety Awareness Week: The KeepSafe Break-Away Collar
Collar Safety Awareness Week: The KeepSafe Break-Away Collar

Collar Safety Awareness Week: The KeepSafe Break-Away Collar

by Lynn Stacy-Smith   Collar Safety Awareness Week: The KeepSafe Break-Away Collar Earlier this year, I shared with you the importance of ensuring that the information on your dog's identification tags is up to date in case he or she is lost. Later in the summer I also shared some important information on pet collar safety, common dog collar and dog tag hazards, and my own approach to when my dogs should wear their collars and when they should not wear them, in the post Dog Collar Safety: When to Let Your Dog Go Naked.  A few weeks ago I was thrilled when PetSafe contacted me and told me about their upcoming Collar Safety Awareness Week and asked if they could send me one of the KeepSafe Break-Away Collars for me to test. PetSafe is known for products including wireless and in-ground fences, automatic self-cleaning litter boxes for cats (something else I would happily test), digital feeders, electronic pet doors, and a variety of other products for cats and dogs. Of course I replied that I was happy to test out a collar, given my obsession with pet safety and my recent post about collar safety in particular. I was thrilled when not one but two collars arrived last week.  [caption id="attachment_3713" align="alignright" width="225"]Tinkerbell looks stunning in the pawprint KeepSafe Break-Away collar! Tinkerbell looks stunning in the pawprint KeepSafe Break-Away colla[/caption] According to the PetSafe website, over 19 million dogs wear collars every day, and more than 26,000 collar related injuries happen each year. There are 71 incidents a day and over 50% of pet professionals have experienced a collar related incident. In my own blogs I have shared the personal stories of Jackson and Tinkerbell, both of whom have gotten their tags stuck in the wires of the dishwasher while sneaking a lick off the plates, and the story of when Tinkerbell's tags became caught in the heating/cooling vent one night as she enjoyed her habit of snoozing on top of the air conditioning vent. 
Last summer we had a scary incident in the middle of the night when Tinkerbell woke me up by standing and whimpering next to my side of the bed. She had a habit of sleeping on top of the air conditioning vent and her tag had gone down through the slats while she was laying down and twisted. As a result, the entire metal vent cover came off of the vent when she stood up and was dangling awkwardly from her collar, the corner of the metal poking her in the neck slightly. Since I was sound asleep it took me a minute to figure out what was attached to her and I quickly released her collar. Free from the metal grate, she jumped up into our bed and squirmed into my lap, her tail wagging furiously in fear and relief. After that I began to remove both dogs’ collars at night, although I have not seen her sleeping on top of the vent since.
In my post Dog Collar Safety: When to Let Your Pet Go Naked, I mention a variety of collar hazards including playtime between two or more dogs, crates/kennels, the dishwasher, and heating/cooling vents. In addition to those, the PetSafe also lists the slats of your deck, fences, and shrubs and bushes as potential choking hazards. Both the tags on the collar and the collar itself pose a risk that can turn deadly quickly, particularly as the dog begins to panic and try to pull or run away even more.  Dog owner Tenney Mudge invented the KeepSafe Break-Away Safety Collar after the tragic death of her beloved Samoyed/Australian Shepherd named Chinook, who she lost to a collar strangulation accident. In order to prevent similar tragedies, Tenney developed and patented the special safety buckle on the KeepSafe Break-Away Safety Collar that releases when pressure is applied. The safety buckle is designed so that it will release, the collar will fall off, and the dog will be free of the hazard.  [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="334"] Photo source:[/caption] I could not wait to try this out on Jackson and Tinkerbell. The collar is excellent quality, made of a strong but silky polyester fabric. I received the limited edition Bones/Paws pattern which has brightly colored bones on a black background on one side and paw prints on the other, so that when you size the collar to fit your dog, you can see both prints. I love the way the aqua, coral and yellow print pops against their black fur but will also look adorable on any color fur. It also comes in a nylon fabric in black, orange, red, blue and purple.  There is a regular heavy plastic buckle for regular use as well as the special breakaway buckle. There is also a small plastic tag holder to which you can attach your dog's tags.  [caption id="" align="alignright" width="346"] Photo source:[/caption] So how do you keep this collar on if you have a dog who pulls on the leash? That is where the genius of the two metal rings comes in! The emergency release buckle is located behind the rings, so to attach a leash you just need to hook the leash to both rings, taking the pressure off the buckle and making it so that it will not release if your dog pulls on the leash. It is important to note that you should never leave a leash or tie-out attached to your dog when you are not present and awake regardless of which collar you use.  [caption id="" align="alignright" width="360"] Photo source:[/caption] I definitely love this collar, the ingenious design, the nice quality materials, and I am extremely happy that PetSafe reached out to me to test it. I will also share my review of it via video so that you can see it with a leash attached and show you the safety release by pulling on it. Of course I will not put Jackson or Tinkerbell in harm's way for a demo, so I will also try to recreate the situations in which they became entangled to the extent possible without their involvement.  Even with this great safety feature, I will still continue to recommend that you remove all collars when putting your dog into their crate or kennel or if your dogs are about to start a game of what we call Zoomies or Bitey Face. However, this collar offers a  potentially lifesaving release in case someone forgets to remove a collar before the dogs go into their crates or if they become entangled while their humans are asleep, in the shower, or simply elsewhere in the house.  [gallery size="full" ids="3709,3711,3710"]   You can shop for the KeepSafe Breakaway Safety Collar from Petsafe at my affiliate link below.
KeepSafe® Collars Designed to prevent dogs from getting entangled by their collars; the KeepSafe® Break-A... [More]
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Appreciating Everyday Moments with Your Dogs
Appreciating Everyday Moments with Your Dogs

Appreciating Everyday Moments with Your Dogs

by Lynn Stacy-Smith Appreciating Everyday Moments with Your DogsThe older you get the more you realize that some of the most beautiful and memorable things in life are the most simple, everyday moments. I find that this definitely holds true as a dog owner. As much as I am always thinking about and searching for adventures and fun things to do with Jackson and Tinkerbell, perhaps my favorite time with them is mid-morning, just sitting on the floor of our family room to play with them and pet them. The dogs and I have a very regular schedule that includes their playtime, meals, and potty time. I never consciously set this schedule, it just evolved and the dogs are sticklers about adhering to it, like furry Sheldon Coopers. If they could they might write-up a Dog Owner Agreement for me to sign, but thankfully they don't have thumbs and can't read. We seem to fine tune the schedule as time goes on and I have noticed recently that the dogs have added a 9:30 a.m. round of indoor bitey face and zoomies that never used to occur. [caption id="attachment_3650" align="alignleft" width="300"]Appreciating Everyday Moments with Your Dogs Tink enjoying a post-lunch antler[/caption] At 11 a.m. they are ready for lunch and will remind me of this by sitting and staring at me with great intensity. After lunch, Jackson likes to come to me to do "upside down puppy" which is the name we have given to his odd habit of laying down for a tummy rub headfirst up against a human with a twist onto his back. I have never been able to successfully capture a photo or video of this, but he stands next to me while I sit on the floor leaning against our big chair-and-a-half sized recliner, then puts his head down on the floor next to my leg, and rolls himself head first onto the ground and then onto his back with a gymnast style twist. Once on his back he sticks all four legs into the air and waits for a tummy rub. It is impossibly adorable and puppy-like and is a loveable contrast to his serious, intense appearance. While I sat on the floor and scratched Jackson's belly, Tinkerbell relaxed on the love seat across from me and chewed her antler. I sat quietly and enjoyed the moment, the only sounds coming from the open window and the birds and insects outside, Tinkerbell's chewing, and an occasional contented groan from Jackson. [caption id="attachment_3652" align="alignleft" width="300"]Appreciating Everyday Moments with Your Dogs Jackson waiting for me to give the "upside down puppy" go-ahead.[/caption] I had watched some of the 9-11 memorials on television earlier in the morning and was feeling some of the emotions that many of us feel every year on this horrible anniversary: reflective, sad, heartbroken for the victims and families of that day, remembering where I was, what I was doing and how the day unfolded so close to my hometown while I was all the way across the country living my life in Indiana. As I peacefully petted Jackson, I  also was overwhelmed with pride for my firefighter husband and the work he does day in and day out, and also grateful for my own life and to be here on this exact day in this exact place. After awhile Jackson decided he was finished with his tummy rub and he hopped up and chewed on the antler for a few minutes with Tinkerbell who had moved a few feet away from us. They played  back and forth with the antler for a few minutes and then both went to claim a soft spot on the sofa in our front room for their afternoon nap, the next event in their daily routine. They will now nap until around 3 or 4 pm when they find me to let me know that it is time to go outside or go for a walk. As I thought about today's blog and what I was going to write about (something I usually do during the aforementioned puppy nap time), I realized that many of my friends and readers could relate to the simple pleasure of just spending quiet time with your dogs, whether they are newly adopted and you are getting to know them or if you have an unspoken schedule and routine that you share from years of living life together. Dogs are the experts at living in the moment, and I think it's a lesson we can surely take from them, to not just live in the moment, but to enjoy each and every good moment in life even if it's something as simple sitting on the floor of your family room with your furry best friends.  
How Many Dogs Should You Have?
How Many Dogs Should You Have?

How Many Dogs Should You Have?

by Lynn Stacy-Smith How Many Dogs Should You Have? One of the most frequent questions that I am asked after explaining that I blog and write about dogs for a living is, "How many dogs do you have?" "I have two," I always reply. "Oh," is the frequent response as if the person asking is disappointed that I do not have a house overflowing with dogs like the ending scene of 101 Dalmatians, or perhaps the scene when the Dalmatians look like black Labradors from running through the coal bin. "I want to make sure I give them the best life possible, so I make myself limit our dog population to two," I will often add, which is true, but it is also important to point out that the right number of dogs varies for everyone. Before Jackson and Tinkerbell and before my late Dutch and Maggie were in my life, it was just my sweet black Labrador Babe and me. With a one-to-one human to dog ratio, she went everywhere with me. When my mom passed away and her German Shorthaired Pointer, Dutch, joined Babe and me, the transition was extremely hard on all of us. It took at least six months to acclimate to having two dogs and to get myself to the point where I could enjoy walking both of them at the same time and taking them both on adventures together with me. [caption id="attachment_2630" align="alignleft" width="300"]How Many Dogs Should You Have? Babe on a beach adventure[/caption] A year later I met my husband and when we joined his household, we suddenly had three dogs. Then as Babe and Dutch headed deeper and deeper into their senior years and each of them passed away at the age of 13, we felt utterly lost with only one dog and started to rebuild our dog family with the addition of Jackson and then Tinkerbell. The decision of how many dogs to have in your own home is entirely personal based on your lifestyle and the relationship you want to have with your dog or dogs. I have one friend who easily manages five Labradors and Labradoodles, another friend who at one point had over ten dogs without being in a hoarder situation, and many friends who have a "human plus one" relationship with their dog. My husband, the kids, and I all like to talk in both of our dogs' fake human voices on a pretty regular basis. When Tinkerbell is pestering big brother Jackson to play with her by squeaking her favorite toy into his face for ten minutes without stopping or she is mounting him to try to get him to play, we often joke "I would have been ok as an only dog, Momma, seriously. I would have been fine, but NOOOOO, you thought I needed a playmate!" Ninety seven percent of the time he eventually takes the bait (or simply gives up resisting) and starts to play with her, and the other three percent of the time he goes to his kennel and plops down with a huge sigh. At the end of the day, though, they are a truly bonded pair and he would be lost without his crazy little sister. So why are we 100% set on sticking with "just" two dogs? Why not give Tinkerbell a second option as a playmate for those times when Jackson is not interested? Our local dog ordinance is a big reason. It dictates that each home in our town can have a maximum of two dogs and two cats. We did live with one "extra" dog for the first few years that we lived together as a result of blending my 2 dog household with his 1 dog household. We would never have given a dog away, but after Babe passed away in 2009 at the age of thirteen, we knew we would remain a law-abiding two dog household because I had been very stressed about breaking a law that could affect my dogs' actual lives. A second important reason for limiting ourselves to two dogs is related to our budget. When we brought home first Jackson and then Tinkerbell, we committed ourselves to a lifetime of food, veterinary care, treats, toys, and all other dog related expenses. It would not be fair to them to stretch that budget by taking on another dog and then potentially not be able to care for all of them properly. So would we get a third dog if we did not have a two dog ordinance and if money was not an object? Probably not. [caption id="attachment_3231" align="alignright" width="300"]How Many Dogs Should You Have? Babe, Beau, Jake and Dutch[/caption] If you have seen the iconic movie Gone With the Wind, you might remember the scene with Scarlett O'Hara eating barbecue with a large group of suitors. "A girl has but two sides to her at a table," she flirts with them as they hover in a group all around her, attending to her every need. When Babe and I used to dog sit for my mother when all three of her dogs were alive and she was actively going on scuba diving trips in tropical locations, I would sit down on the floor and essentially let all four of them (Mom's three plus my Babe) wriggle their way in to get petted, to give me kisses, to lay across my lap, and generally be a 350 pound mass of squirming dogs all around me. Just like Scarlett flirting with the boys at the barbecue, I loved every moment of it, but it was impossible to give all of them an equal amount of attention. I loved when we went outside and all four of them followed me around, everyone making eye contact with me when I said that it was time to go inside or if I offered up a biscuit. I loved bedtime when I squeezed into bed with all four of them and each dog found their spot to sleep. I loved it when I would wake up in the morning with my arm around one, another's paws pushing into my spine, a third dog's head on my feet, and a fourth dog laying on my pillow. I loved feeding time when I prepared four bowls and set them all out in their own spot, one at a time. I was in my dog lover glory with four dogs around me. At the end of the day, though, just like a Southern Belle eating barbecue at a table in the old south, there are but two sides of me. Two hands for chin scratches, two hands to hold leashes, two hands to rub tummies. When you have gone through a dog's entire life cycle multiple times with different dogs who you all loved as heart dogs, from puppyhood through the senior years, you know exactly how quickly that time goes and you want to do everything that you can to make the most of the time that you have together. For me that means plenty of one-on-one attention with both of my dogs. For being in suburbia, we have a nice large yard for potty breaks and playtime. It is perfect for games of zoomies or fetching a ball, but other than that it is not very interesting or mentally stimulating, at least not day after day. For the dogs to go on adventures we have to go to parks or forest preserves, and it is much easier to do so with two dogs instead of three or more. [caption id="attachment_2886" align="alignright" width="225"]How Many Dogs Should You Have? Jackson & Tinkerbell[/caption] Although I can and do take both of them together, I really prefer to take one of them at a time so that we can have a very special one-on-one bonding experience as well as so I can make sure that nobody is snarfing down contraband items that humans or nature left behind. With two dogs I can alternate who has that experience with me; if we were to add a third or fourth dog it would reduce the number of times any dog would go off on a fun adventure with me. This also holds true for snuggle time. Most evenings end up with Jackson laying across my husband's lap getting ear rubs and tummy scratches while Tinkerbell lays the entire length of my body on top of me on our recliner and gives me kisses and gets an ear rub. If my husband is not home, each dog can take one side of me. When we have had fosters in the house, someone was always being pushed aside or left out during snuggle time. When our big chocolate Labrador foster named Kodiak was in the house, Jax was the one pushed aside, usually literally. Kodiak was a huge friendly dog who I think was part Great Dane based on his size and the structure of his hips. He loved to snuggle and took up most of the sofa when he laid in my lap for affection. When foster dog Destiny was with us, Tinkerbell pulled back from me entirely because of all of the attention that Destiny was taking from me. In fact my husband pointed it out that Tink was subdued and actually depressed and I did not realize it until after Destiny had gone to her forever home and my sweet happy Tink was back in my lap again. This does not mean that people with more than two dogs are not giving their dogs enough attention or love, or that my limit of two dogs is the right thing for everyone. My friend/breeder who brought Jackson and Tinkerbell into the world has around eight or so Labradors and she has a special heart-dog relationship with each and every one. She is also a professional trainer with a large piece of land and a pond and an indoor training facility that she owns and operates, so she can handle all of them easily when they go to their favorite beach and offer them much more fun and excitement than a large rectangle of fenced in grass right in their own backyard. My friend with the pack of five Labradors and Labradoodles also has a large piece of property that offers plenty of fun and games and new smells without going into suburbia for something new to sniff or see. At least once a day I receive a note from someone with a wonderful dog in need of a home. "You love dogs, you need another one!" the message will say. Believe me when I say that there are many times I am tempted to throw all of our logical reasons for staying with two dogs away and adding to our dog family. But I always hold firm and try to share the information with other potential dog owners who can give the dog the one-on-one attention that it deserves while my dogs get the attention that I promised them when they were both little pups. I do love dogs, without a shadow of a doubt. I love dogs so much that I have committed my life, my profession, my everything to caring for my two dogs, to getting the most out of every precious moment together, to giving them a healthy life that gives us more days than we might otherwise have, and reaching out to the world to help other dog owners create a happy, healthy, holistic lifestyle for their forever dogs. And it is that same love of dogs that forces me to stick with two dogs. At least for now.    
Dog Collar Safety: When to Let Your Dog Go Naked
Dog Collar Safety: When to Let Your Dog Go Naked

Dog Collar Safety: When to Let Your Dog Go Naked

by Lynn Stacy-Smith Dog Collar Safety: When to Let Your Dog Go Naked Here in our house we have names and phrases for a lot of things that most "normal" people do not when it comes to our dogs. I have found that they have learned more than I ever imagined they would just from us using the same phrase each time they do something or we humans do something. This also applies to our practice of taking off and putting on their dog collars throughout the day. "Naked dog!" is what we exclaim to them when we remove the collar, said with a happy joyful voice and a neck scratch for them. "Get dressed" is the phrase that they have learned that means to lean their head forward and wait for their collar to be snapped back into place. Before Jackson and Tinkerbell were born our other dogs, who have since gone to the Rainbow Bridge, always wore their collars, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. By the time they became a threesome, none of them had to be in crates and they were all older middle-aged or senior dogs so there was really not any rough-housing taking place. They bonded mostly by snuggling and sniffing the yard together instead of playing zoomies and bitey face. Their collars never posed a hazard and our kids and their friends were so young and in and out of the fenced yard so often that the biggest threat was that a gate would be left open and one of the dogs would go exploring the neighborhood on their own, so a tag with identification on it was a must. When we picked up Jackson as a little eight week old puppy, we noticed that our friend/breeder had entirely naked dogs; not a single one of her ten or so dogs wore a collar as they frolicked in and our of the house to greet us. Of course she is a professional dog trainer who owns a large piece of land in the country and her dogs are absolutely perfectly trained and seem to hang on to her every word, so the need for a collar and identification is not as strong as for some dog owners. Over time, between watching how my dogs play with each other and from reading articles on crate safety, as well as from anecdotal stories of bad accidents or tragedies from collar related incidents, we now remove or put on Jackson and Tinkerbell's collars throughout the day depending on the situation. additionally, we have had a few random incidents in which their tags on their collars got caught on things that could have been a hazard if we were not there to help. When Jackson was a puppy he was persistent in his attempts to lick off our dirty dishes every time I loaded the dishwasher. We had many battles of wills during that time, with me patiently removing him and telling him "off" and him immediately resuming his licking attempts. Over and over, I would remove him, he would try again. One day when he was around five months old he was sitting a few feet away from me, watching as I loaded the dishwasher. He was being very good in his sit and wait position but I could tell he really wanted to run over and lick off dirty plates. As I turned to the sink to grab another dish, in the span of just a few seconds, he managed to put his front paws on the dishwasher door, and steal a lick from a dinner plate. I told him "OFF" and as he quickly backed away from the scene of his indiscretion, his tags caught in the wires of the dishwasher rack. Jax panicked at the pulling sensation on his collar and took off in the opposite direction, but the dishwasher rack was firmly attached. Knives, forks, and plates bounced out and landed on the kitchen floor as Jax and the dishwasher rack went racing through the room like something out of a cartoon. I ran after him and stopped him and quickly unclipped his collar so that I could untangle the tags from the dishwasher rack. The incident remedied his dish licking and he never approached the dishwasher again, but he could have really been hurt. Oddly enough, the same exact thing happened to Tinkerbell during her dish licking obsession as a puppy, and I had to chase her down and release her collar, like I was in some weird puppy vs. dishwasher deja vu situation. Of course we don't leave the dishwasher open unless we are cleaning up after a meal, so this is not something likely to happen when an owner is away, but it definitely showed that their tags could get caught in bizarre things as our curious young dogs went about their daily lives. Last summer we had a scary incident in the middle of the night when Tinkerbell woke me up by standing and whimpering next to my side of the bed. She had a habit of sleeping on top of the air conditioning vent and her tag had gone down through the slats while she was laying down and twisted. As a result, the entire metal vent cover came off of the vent when she stood up and was dangling awkwardly from her collar, the corner of the metal poking her in the neck slightly. Since I was sound asleep it took me a minute to figure out what was attached to her and I quickly released her collar. Free from the metal grate, she jumped up into our bed and squirmed into my lap, her tail wagging furiously in fear and relief. After that I began to remove both dogs' collars at night, although I have not seen her sleeping on top of the vent since.

Why Use Collars at All?

The function of the dog collar is of course to attach a leash for walking and to ensure that your dog has identification on him or her. If your dog slips out your front door and runs to a neighbor's house, they can easily look at the tag, give you a call, and within minutes reunite you with your best friend. In fact, many people who find loose dogs falsely believe that a dog without a collar is a stray or uncared for, even though collars can come off rather easily and you cannot see if a dog is microchipped without having him or her scanned with a chip reader. I personally prefer a harness for walking dogs because it takes the pressure off of the dogs' throat and distributes it across their body. Even the best loose leash walking dogs get excited every once in a while when they see a favorite person or a rogue squirrel and could pull and damage their throat, spine, or neck. I cannot remember the last time I actually attached a leash to a collar. Jax and Tink wear their collars on walks but that is to carry their identification; the leash itself is attached to the back ring on their harness.

Dog Collar Hazards

Bitey Face/Zoomies

[caption id="attachment_3562" align="alignleft" width="318"] Naked while playing[/caption] Collars can pose a considerable hazard when you have multiple dogs who play with each other. Games of bitey face and zoomies can become dangerous or even deadly if one dog accidentally gets his or her teeth or jaw caught in another dog's collar, causing damage to the dog whose mouth is stuck and potentially strangling the dog with the collar that is tightly stuck around the other dog's mouth. You should always remove all collars before allowing your dog to play with another dog.  [caption id="attachment_3564" align="alignright" width="225"] Collars while out and about[/caption] In our house Jax and Tink are never left unsupervised for very long and I always remove both of their collars when I see their body language and behavior indicate that a game of rough housing is about to happen. They are both good about stopping in mid-play when I intervene, waiting to become "naked dog" and then resuming their play session. As they have become adult dogs and are trusted for longer times without a human in the room, I have started to remove their collars so that if a game erupts when I am in another room of the house they will not become intertwined.


I am a huge fan of crates but only if they are used correctly and in a positive way, which is to keep your dog safe from harming him or herself when you are not there to supervise their activities and decisions. Crates and collars together are a potentially deadly combination, as collars and tags can easily become caught in the slats of plastic crates or between the wires of metal crates and choke a dog. In fact in the last few weeks I have heard two different stories of dogs being strangled by collars that were caught in crates, which is the tragic and heartbreaking reason for the timing of this blog. Always remove your dog's collar before putting them in a kennel or crate.  I follow a very simple process any time the dogs go into their crates. I give the "kennel" command and they run to their specific crate to wait for their treat. First I give Jax his treat and remove his collar, then I give Tink her treat and remove her collar. I place each collar about six inches away from the kennel so that I know exactly where they are and so that they are handy to put back on the dogs when we come home and let them out of their crates.

An On/Off Approach to Dog Collars

I have ultimately taken an on/off approach to our dogs and collars so that they are either naked or wearing their collars depending on the situation. Their collars are always on if we go outside in our own yard or on walks because having my phone number on their collars means that they could be reunited with me quickly and not have to go somewhere to be scanned for their chips. I believe that if they ever slipped out of the gate or front door that they would be the type of dogs to run right up to the next person they saw for belly rubs and treats rather than the type of dog who would run away or evade humans, so having my phone number on their collars would lead to a faster reunion. When they are in their kennels or I am sleeping or even just hanging out in the house, their collars are off and always put in a place where I can reach them quickly, like hanging from my dresser draw pulls or in front of their kennel doors in case of an emergency. Their harnesses also stay in the same spot on separate hooks that I can access quickly if we needed to leave the house or go into the basement for a tornado warning. It may sound like a lot to put the collar on, take the collar off, but at the end of the day, it is how I feel safest and prepared for all situations. We take our own shoes on and off multiple times a day, we change our clothes depending on what we are doing, it is literally a few seconds per dog to put a collar on or take the collar off. That is very little time and effort to avoid a potentially life altering accident or tragedy because of a collar related incident.    
Love, Laugh, Woof Product Review: The RV Pet Safety Temperature Monitor
Love, Laugh, Woof Product Review: The RV Pet Safety Temperature Monitor

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

by Lynn Stacy-Smith Love, Laugh, Woof Product Review: The RV Pet Safety Temperature MonitorIf you believe in things like the Law of Attraction, you hear frequently that the Universe puts you right where you need to be at exactly the right time. I used to always think this was a mere coincidence, but in the last few years I have come to be a believer in this. A few weeks ago I wrote about keeping your dog safe in summer weather even if you do not have air conditioning in your home. In fact, I even wrote:
Invest in a remote monitoring device: There are some inexpensive monitoring devices that will monitor the temperature in your home and send you text alerts or provide information via an app on your phone so you can determine if your home is at a safe temperature for your dog while you are away. I have not tried any of them so do not have recommendations but if I do you can be certain I will blog about it.
Yesterday I shared the story of how my husband and I have been shopping for campers and RVs for the last several months. One of our conversations while we were shopping was about our love for Disney and how my husband would love to stay at Disney's Fort Wilderness Campground. He mentioned that if we did that, we could take the dogs with us, especially since we always spend as long as a week visiting my father and step-mother and that they have never met their grand-dogs. Plus we would save on a pet sitter, and most importantly, we would not have to be away from them for such a long time. Of course I brought up the concern that I would not feel comfortable leaving the dogs in a travel trailer in the Florida heat because although we would leave the air conditioning on there was always the possibility that it could fail while we were off exploring the parks. I would rather the dogs stay at home in Illinois than put them at risk in a hot camper. Love, Laugh, Woof Product Review: The RV Pet Safety Temperature Monitor"There has to be something on the market to monitor the temperature in the RV and send you information via text alerts or an app! It's 2017, we have an app and monitors for everything, we can see and talk to people through our doorbell anywhere in the world," I had told him, and we agreed that before we actually took the dogs camping at Disney, or anywhere that we would need to leave them alone for more than five minutes in the camper without us, we would research such a device. Shortly after I wrote the blog about homes without air conditioning and the hubby and I pondered RV solutions, I attended a pet event and found myself assigned to a booth next to a woman who was sharing information on the RV Pet Safety Device. As I often do when I get excited about something, I am sure I overwhelmed her with my enthusiasm. Let's face it, there's a reason I love the Labrador breed so much; they are just like me! "Oh. My. Gosh! I am so excited, I literally just wrote about devices like this and my husband and I have been shopping for RVs and we were just talking about how we would need something like this," I exclaimed, "I am so excited to meet you!!" Throughout the event she and I chatted anytime we had a free moment and we hit it off immediately. Both of us were moms, we had both left the corporate world to pursue careers that allowed us to actually have flexible lives instead of long commutes through suburban Chicago traffic, and we both were super excited about the possibilities of the technology of the product that she represents and its life saving potential. A few weeks later we met up again and I was excited to borrow a unit that I could test for myself. Although we are not actually camping in an RV yet, I was able to take advantage of the July heat to test it by leaving it in my car on various trips to do errands. It is important to note that my dogs were safe and sound inside our climate controlled home. Only the device was left in the car in the heat while I wandered around various stores. Here are my findings:

RV Pet Safety Device:

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="250"] RV Pet Safety Device[/caption] The RV Pet Safety monitor is small, compact, and extremely easy to set up. The actual device measures around three inches by three inches and less than an inch thick. It is designed to be able to be moved from home to RV or anywhere your dog or cat stays, and comes with a bracket that you can mount with an adhesive backing to your home or RV. You can also place it on a flat surface like a shelf or counter. I would suggest mounting the bracket to your RV near an electrical outlet and laying it on a counter top at home. Although they do not sell the bracket separately on their website, I would email the company and ask if you could purchase multiple brackets so you could move it around. The charger is similar to a mobile phone charger with one end that goes into the device and a USB port at the other. You can plug it into a USB port in a vehicle or laptop to charge it or into the adaptor plug and into a traditional outlet.

RV Pet Safety App:

The RV Pet Safety App is equally easy to use. I set up my test account in just a few minutes, complete with a picture of Jackson and Tinkerbell, my mobile phone information, and custom settings for my desired temperature alerts for the lowest temperature and the warmest temperature that I would want the dogs to experience. It is important to add a buffer in the temperature settings to give you time for the unit to detect the actual temperature and for you to return to the location where your dogs are located in the event of an emergency. There are also some help options within the app should a user have any problems, including a robust set of FAQs on setting up the app. Here are some screen shots of the easy to navigate pages. Remember, my dogs were happily at home in the air conditioning when I tested this unit in my empty car.    [gallery size="full" ids="3543,3542,3541"] [gallery size="full" ids="3544,3538,3539"] [gallery size="full" ids="3545,3549,3547"]

Love, Laugh, Woof Recommendation: Love it! 

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

Love, Laugh, Woof Suggested Uses:

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


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


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

Police/SAR Dogs

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

Dog Show Handlers

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

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

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


The RV Pet Safety monitor itself is $199 and you can save $50 with the special coupon code LYNN50 during checkout at Because the device operates with the same technology as mobile phones and goes through the Verizon cellular network, you will need a monthly plan for the device to work. You can choose from one of two plans. With the Occasional Traveler plan, you pay $19.99 a month but you can stop and start it anytime, giving you the ability to only pay for the months that you use it. This is perfect for someone like me who is really worried about the warm summer months or only camps sporadically or during summer. There is also the NoMads Plan, which is currently reduced to $14.50 a month and is paid annually in a lump sum of $175 a year. This is perfect for people who are living the dream of living in their 5th wheel or Class A motor coach and traveling the country or who want to monitor their home all year-long. If you are planning on using the device more than nine months out of the year, this plan makes more sense financially than paying monthly. Finally, there is a discount for non-profit and government organizations and a special link on the RV Pet Safety website: or email me at and I will put you in contact with my friend at the company. The special savings code LYNN50 is an affiliate code and I will earn a commission from any purchase with this code. As always, I will never recommend a product that I do not personally use or strongly believe in as being something extremely beneficial for you and your dog. Like I mentioned at the start, I was so excited to learn of the RV Pet Safety monitor that I simply had to learn more about it because of the peace of mind that it can offer to every dog owner like myself who worries about the conditions in which their dog is left alone when I have to go or choose to go to places that they can not go by my side. Save $50 with code LYNN50   Camping World
The Consequences of a Dog Bite
The Consequences of a Dog Bite

The Consequences of a Dog Bite

by Lynn Stacy-Smith The Consequences of a Dog Bite The last few Love, Laugh, Woof blogs have focused on training and socializing dogs so that they do not bite, or if they do because they are backed into a corner or they are older and caught off guard, that it is a soft warning bite. The reason that bites have been on my mind so much in the last few weeks is two-fold, and those blogs have been leading up to this. The first thing that happened was that a friend of mine, who is a dog lover and works with dogs professionally, sustained a very bad bite and has been sharing some of her story and experience with me. Shortly after she was bit, the town in which I live also began reviewing their dog bite laws based on two dogs who recently bit a few people. One of our elected officials made some strong statements regarding his feelings on the issue of bites and several of us went to speak to the village board and present our thoughts, even though no official change to the law has been proposed. Now, let me say that I am not a professional trainer and I am not a dog behaviorist. I am a lifelong dog owner who shares my vast experience in this blog on how to care for dogs, how to give them a healthy, happy lifestyle as a compassionate, forever owner. I am not the person who you are going to take a reactive dog to for training, I have never personally owned a dog who had the slightest bit of aggression or behavioral issues. I have also never been bit, except for my grandfather's dog who nipped the side of my face when I caught her off guard with a hug. She did not leave a mark and I never told anyone because I felt like I should not have hugged her, that I had crossed some sort of boundary. However, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that we owe it to our dogs to take every step possible to raise them to be dogs who do not attack humans, do not push past us out the front door to chase someone and bite them, do not jump a fence into a neighbor's yard to bite someone. People who let their dogs do these behaviors fail them because it is the dogs who are going to pay the highest price for the owner's mistake. It is the dogs who are going to pay with their lives while the owners pay with their wallet. Part of taking on the lifelong responsiblity of a dog is to make sure the dog has positive experiences with people of all ages, everyday noises and situations, like we did with Jackson and Tinkerbell when we literally went down a list of things that we wanted to them to experience as puppies. That way you increase the chance that your dog will be view unusual people and experiences with the same chilled out response as they do the everyday things.The last few Love, Laugh, Woof blogs have focused on training and socializing dogs so that they do not bite, or if they do because they are backed into a corner or they are older and caught off guard, that it is a soft warning bite. The reason that bites have been on my mind so much in the last few weeks is two-fold, and those blogs have been leading up to this. Is it foolproof, that if you socialize your dog that she won't ever react fearfully or with a growl? No. Does it mean that your dog won't be completely freaked out if she sees a big blowup Santa waving in the wind on a December walk through your neighborhood? No.

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

Training is so much more than just training your dog to perform a command. Training establishes you as your dog's leader, their trusted human to guide them through a human world. Yes, you are a dog mom or dog dad in your heart, but they are not furry children. We can love our dogs as our children and still do right by them by understanding that they are dogs and have different needs than an actual human child.  This is why I write so frequently that I believe that every single dog should go to several obedience classes with their human even if the human is a lifelong, experienced dog owner. It is about teaching your dog that you are their go-to source of "what to do next" in a situation. In fact one of my favorite things about going to dog events and expos is that I get to watch people with their dogs out in public, and my number one favorite thing to see is when a dog looks up and checks in with their owner as if to ask, "what do I do in this situation?" When my dogs do that out in public I heap on praise and treats! I found two great articles for owners to read to learn more about dog aggression and signs to look for in your own dogs. One is called, Dogs Don't Bite Out of the Blue and the other is Aggression in Dogs.  I think they are both important to read even if you have the most relaxed, socialized, chilled out dog who ever lived. Like I wrote, I am not a behaviorist and will not pretend to be one, so if you have any concerns that your dog may be aggressive in a situation, please seek out a professional trainer through a one-on-one consultation so you can learn what to do so that you do not end up in a situation in which your dog has bitten someone. If your dog bites or even worse, attacks, a human or another dog, there can be extremely serious consequences. In my friend's situation, her bite has required surgery and extensive medical care and it is unclear if the dog's owner will pay for her co-pay and costs that are not covered by insurance. There are lawyers involved on the financial side of things and the dog has had to be quarantined for ten days to determine if he is a dangerous dog. His life could come to a tragic end because of this bite, and my friend could have permanent damage to her arm, all because the owner made several mistakes leading up to the bite. When dogs bite, the consequences could involve the following:
  • Substantial harm or death to the human who was bit, including muscle damage, infections, mental or emotional issues, a fear of dogs, and missing work or school.
  • Quarantine of your dog, investigation into whether your dog is a dangerous dog, and possible death to your dog by euthanasia.
  • Substantial harm or death to other dogs who were bit.
  • Financial responsibility to humans who were bit or the owners of dogs who were bit.
  • Loss of homeowner's insurance or increased premiums.
  • Lawsuit against you by the humans who were bit or owners of the dogs who were bit.
  • On overall blight on the dog loving community that is continually working to improve the quality of life for dogs and public opinion of dogs as sentient beings.
The love that an owner has for their dog should be enough to prompt them to proactively take their dog through several obedience classes as a puppy or a new rescue or to specialized training if their dog shows signs of aggression. Once you begin a class you realize that training is the best bonding activity that you can do with your dog and it becomes a fun weekly adventure for both of you. If love is not enough to make that investment in the dog, owners should consider the total cost of having a trained versus an untrained dog. Most training classes that I have taken are between $150 to $200 for six weeks. That is under $1000 to take your dog's training from puppy socialization to advanced obedience, even allowing them to retake a class if needed. The cost of paying for medical bills, replacing your home owner's insurance, or being sued for medical damage, emotional suffering or loss of life could be many times that amount, and could even result in complete financial ruin from a tragic situation that could have been prevented. Subscribe
Teaching Children How to Act Around Dogs
Teaching Children How to Act Around Dogs

Teaching Children How to Act Around Dogs

by Lynn Stacy-Smith Teaching Children How to Act Around DogsLast week another cringe-worthy video came across my social media news feed because someone thought it was cute. I suppose if you did not know a single thing about dogs, it might be cute. After all, what could be so awful about a curly-haired, resourceful toddler wearing just a diaper, climbing on top of his Basset Hound's head and spine in order to reach into the refrigerator to get something?  The dog patiently stood while the child climbed on his back and the video was being shared as an "awe, look at this boy and his dog" moment. Teamwork, right? Wrong!  First of all, stepping on a dog's head and standing on its back is a perfect way for that child to get bit when the dog tires of the game.  Second, the long back and short legs of the Basset Hound make it prone to back problems and damage to their vertebrae without a child standing on its spine. Standing on any part of any dog is wrong, let alone a Basset Hound!  Our own late Basset Hound Maggie was only saved from a death at a young age by a clinical trial at the Purdue University Veterinary school after she became completely paralyzed from the upper back down to her back legs and tail. She became paralyzed because the overall design of the Basset Hound is flawed and like other dogs with long backs and short legs, she became paralyzed simply from everyday running around and playing. I cannot imagine letting our kids stand on her spine! After surgery she went through six months of physical therapy and kennel rest while we taught her how to walk again. Six months of kennel rest to a dog whose life lasted twelve years is like over three years of recovery for a human whose life is eighty years. Some Basset Hounds and other breeds with a long back never recover once they are paralyzed like that, so to have a child stand on their spine using it as a step-stool could be deadly to the dog. This is not the only video that's gone viral by people who think that it is "cute" when those of us in the dog world view it as downright animal abuse. I have seen videos of babies and toddlers walking on dogs, stepping on their bellies and rib cages, riding them like horses, chasing after them and hitting them while the parents film the activity and laugh along at their poorly behaved child and their beleaguered, stressed out dog. I even saw one with a dog backed into a corner and snarling while the child hugs him, with the caption that the dog is smiling. The dog is not smiling, it is giving a warning that he does not like what is going on, and his next move is to bite to protect himself. [caption id="attachment_3489" align="alignright" width="300"]Teaching Children How to Act Around Dogs Do you see the dog leaning away from the hug?[/caption] I personally have been chased down the street by children who did not have their parents with them, running at me screaming "Can we pet your dog??" This has happened with every one of my dogs in every town in which I've lived. The most recent time I was chased and followed by two young boys on bikes who wanted to pet my dogs and after I replied, "Sorry, not unless your Mom or Dad is with you," and they rode off and yelled, "I'm going to kill your dogs!" I have a firm rule when I walk my dogs, whether it is one dog at a time or both of them together, that kids may not approach or pet my dogs without their parents present. The reason for this is that I have seen far too many children whose parents have never taught them how to act around a dog. And while I have never had a dog who I ever felt would bite a human, my dogs approach the world with a happy, dopey look on their faces with their mouths open and their tongues hanging out. Yes, I tend to err on the side of neurotic caution, but I never want any sort of misunderstanding. [caption id="attachment_3488" align="alignleft" width="300"]Teaching Children How to Act Around Dogs This dog looks more stressed out than happy.[/caption] Fortunately I have also heard parents stop their children from charging up to me, yelling at them to stop and correcting their child by saying, "You do not run up to strange dogs! You have to ask their owner first if you can pet them and walk up slowly!" In that situation, I am happy to put my dog in a sitting position and give them the "say hello" command while the parent tells their child how to greet my dog.   Like I point out in nearly every blog: dogs are amazing creatures who live in harmony with we humans, but at the end of the day, they are a different species. They cannot speak in English or in words, so they must rely on body language when they are trapped into situations that they do not like or that scare them. And yes, they get scared! They are living, breathing, feeling creatures.  Instead of saying, "hey, back up, you are too close and I am kinda freaked out right now" in words like we can, they can only lean away, walk away, turn their head, and if they must, growl or bite. Here are some basic things that all parents can teach their children to do and not to do when around their own dog or dogs who belong to strangers:
  1. DO NOT climb on top of dogs, whether standing up on them, riding them like a horse, or stepping on their bodies.
  2. DO NOT hit or smack dogs.
  3. DO NOT hug dogs.
  4. DO NOT grab the heads of dogs for kisses.
  5. DO NOT get up close to the face of dogs.
  6. DO NOT wrestle with dogs.
  7. DO NOT grab something out of the dog's mouth.
  8. DO NOT pull ears, tails, floppy skin, jowls or any body parts.
  9. DO NOT run up behind the dog.
  10. DO NOT run up to strange dogs.
  11. DO NOT corner dogs where they have not exit.
  12. DO NOT reach over or lean over dogs.
  13. DO NOT teach your dog games in which they chase you.
  14. DO NOT pet dogs on the top of their heads.
  15. DO NOT go into fenced areas in someone else's property without being invited.
  16. DO NOT approach strange dogs who are tethered or tied up.
  17. DO pet dogs under the chin, on the chest.
  18. DO stroke dogs gently along the shoulder.
  19. DO NOT make eye contact with strange dogs.
  20. DO stand at a forty-five degree angle to let the new dog approach.
  21. DO hold your hand out just slightly with the back of your hand facing the dog or with your hand in a loose fist.
  22. DO always ask the owner if you can pet their dog.
  23. DO teach the dog to drop their toys in front of you if they want to play fetch.
  24. DO honor the dog's decision to walk away and decide when the encounter is done.
  25. DO be calm and confident; dogs can smell the biological changes that occur with stress and fear and may also feel that stress or fear as a result.
  26. DO back away slowly if the dog shows signs of fear or aggression.
There are some things on the list that your own dog might let you get away with even though it is rude in their world simply because they know and trust you. My dogs let me kiss them and are frequently close to my face. I have raised them from puppies and I would never do this with a stranger's dog or even other dogs that belong to family or friends. As your dog's owner your dog may let you do things that your own children cannot. Our Maggie was fine if my husband or I held her close to us, but if the children tried to hug her she would give a warning growl, as if she recognized that we moved slowly and were not a threat and they were louder and more rough and tumble and not allowed to hold onto her as tightly. I recommend always watching babies, toddlers and even younger children with your own dogs until you are sure that they understand the rules of living side by side with their canine family members.  
The Importance of Teaching Puppies and Your Kids About Bite Inhibition (3)
The Importance of Teaching Puppies and Your Kids About Bite Inhibition

The Importance of Teaching Puppies and Your Kids About Bite Inhibition

by Lynn Stacy-Smith The Importance of Teaching Puppies and Your Kids About Bite Inhibition (3)If you've raised a puppy, the words "razor-sharp puppy teeth" probably make you shudder and think back to those days of puppy rearing when you felt like you had adopted a baby dinosaur instead of a puppy. In fact there's a meme that circles social media periodically that compares a puppy to a T-Rex that makes everyone who has ever raised a puppy nod along knowingly as they remember the scrapes and scratches all over their hands and arms from those sharp little teeth. Puppies and adult dogs, lacking thumbs, play with each other with their mouths in games of "bitey face" and wrestling. If you have had multiple dogs in your home, chances are they have played their own version of what we call "bitey face", which is when dogs play with open mouths or bite and pull on each other's jowls, ears, necks. Sometimes they lay down and have a lazy game of just sparring with their mouths, other times there is wrestling and rough-housing involved, and sometimes they add in "zoomies" in which they race around the house or yard at top speed in a game of chase. These games are normal parts of playing together and you should be able to tell when your dogs are playing versus fighting. If you have questions about your specific dogs, as always I would encourage you to talk to a professional dog trainer. There is also some interesting and important information at this link from the American Kennel Club that I recommend: Importance of Teaching Puppies and Your Kids About Bite Inhibition When you adopt a puppy, chances are they have spent the last six weeks wrestling with and play-biting their siblings and even their mother. One of the most important parts of raising a puppy is to teach him or her that they cannot play with humans in the same way that they play with other dogs.  Teaching your dog "bite inhibition" means teaching them that they should not bite humans and that if they do, that they should use a soft bite that does not harm the human. In my opinion, this falls under the top 3 things that you must teach your dog, along with house training and the "sit" and "wait" commands. Other humans in your home can often make teaching bite inhibition difficult because there is some sort of human instinct that overtakes people and causes them to wiggle their fingers in front of a puppy's face. I cannot tell you the number of times we had to correct our children during puppy raising; it might have been more times than we had to correct the actual puppies. I have also encountered total strangers who did the same thing to my puppies, to the point where I had to tell them, "We are teaching them not to bite, please do not wave your fingers in my puppy's face!" Jax was particularly difficult when it came to bite inhibition. He was persistent in trying to play with us by chomping down with his razor-sharp teeth with the full force of his mouth. In addition to Jax's persistence at trying to play with us with his teeth, our human son (who was twelve at the time) was the worst of all of the kids at wiggling his fingers in front of Jax's face. When it came to Jackson's puppy days and his bite inhibition education, the words "Get your fingers out of the dog's face!" came out of my mouth more times than I could possibly count. I am surprised Jackson did not learn what it meant I said it so many times. Finally one day I lost my patience with our human son when he shrugged my comments off with an overly cocky tween comment, "big deal, he's a puppy!" "Yes, if a fifteen pound puppy bites your hand, it's cute. If an eighty pound male Labrador bites the hands of one of your friends because he thinks it's how he plays with kids, then he could even end up being put to death as an aggressive dog, SO GET YOUR HANDS OUT OF THE PUPPY'S FACE!!!!" I scolded him. Thankfully Jax learned not to bite in play or at all, he learned to take his treats gently, and we've never seen him in (or put him in) a position where he needed to bite to protect himself.  His snuggle time is on his terms and while he will drape himself across our laps, he does not usually like to be hugged for too long or held very tightly, and he will either get up and walk away or turn his head and lean the opposite direction. We respect his body language that the situation is not pleasing, and we stop before he needs to even remotely resort to a soft bite. Our teenagers have also learned how to play with puppies and dogs. By experiencing first Jackson's and then Tinkerbell's puppy training, they know that you do not wriggle your hands in front of a puppy, you play with them using toys and playing fetch or tug-0-war, and that the dogs are to put the toys on the floor or the ground instead of reaching into their mouths to get them.  They know that if a puppy is trying to nip at you, you give them a toy instead of a body part to chew. They also know that most dogs don't really like to be hugged or petted from above, and that as far as a dog is concerned, those actions are rude or aggressive. It is important to teach your children why you are teaching the puppy not to bite hard or at all and the implications that not teaching your puppy this important information could have as your puppy grows into a full grown dog. I highly recommend that you supervise their play even if they are tweens or teenagers so that you can correct both the puppy and the children when they exhibit undesirable behavior and reward them when they play in a way that both the puppy and the children will grow up knowing how to play in a way that does not encourage biting.

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

Why Every Dog Should Go To Obedience Class
Why Every Dog Should Go To Obedience Class

Why Every Dog Should Go To Obedience Class

by Lynn Stacy-Smith Why Every Dog Should Go To Obedience ClassThe last few weeks have been a seemingly endless stream of stories about dogs that are both frustrating and heartbreaking, including dog bites, re-homing requests, and frustrated owners with 8 month old puppies who are still not house-trained. Sadly they all have a similar theme because all of these could have been prevented or could be fixed by one thing: training.  I have talked to a lot of people who have never taken a class with their dog or who look somewhat confused when I suggest that they take one. There is also the response "Oh, I've had dogs my whole life, I don't need to take an obedience class." I think that sometimes there are misconceptions about what an "obedience" class is all about and what an owner can gain from attending a class with their dog, especially for people who have had dogs before or feel like they have a lot of knowledge about dogs. Actually, until Jackson was born I had never taken one either, having grown up with dogs who came to me rescued and pre-trained like my late Babe, or who were trained by my father. Dogs have been companions to humans for so long that it seems like it should be second nature for us to live together. The reality, though, is that no matter how harmoniously we are able to live together, at the end of the day they are still another species and we can both use all the help we can get at learning how to understand each other and communicate across our separate and very different species. Dogs are very different from humans. Their bodies are different, their minds are different, their communication methods are different, their learning requirements are different, even the structure of their brain is different as they are blessed with a whole extra area to analyze scents. Things that are acceptable in our world are rude or aggressive in theirs, similar to someone from another country in another part of the world. Just like trying to speak to a fellow human who speaks another language or has different social norms than we do, we need to learn how to speak in a language our dogs understand, learn how to understand what they are saying to us without words, and understand their cultural norms. However, despite my analogy comparing your dog to someone from another culture in a different part of the world, a dog is also an entirely other species than we are. They are a very special, precious species that deserves to be treated well, loved for all the days of their life, and considered to be a family member, but they are not a small furry person. Why Every Dog Should Go To Obedience ClassDog obedience school or dog training classes are first and foremost about teaching humans to teach their dogs the rules of life in a human household. In most beginner obedience classes you will learn to teach your dog how to sit, come when called, look at you when you say their name, stay, lay down, settle and start to walk nicely on a leash. Usually around six to eight weeks in duration, the beginner obedience class is just the very tip of the proverbial training iceberg! When you find a really good dog trainer, you learn so much more than how to teach your dog how to perform those commands. Don't get me wrong, those are the must-know commands that can literally save your dog's life, particularly the stay or come command. But the best dog trainers teach owners about how a dog's mind works, the importance of repetition and patience, the benefits of positive reward based training, and how to understand your dog despite being two very different species and get your dog to understand you. The first night of my Basic Obedience class with Jackson the trainer spoke to us with made-up, random words that might not have even been actual words. Her words made literally no sense at all.  There were no dogs in the room, the first session was a human-only orientation. She said it again, only louder. Then even louder. Then with a raised voice and anger, and asked why we could not understand her, she was speaking English! What was wrong with us that we could not understand what she was telling us? As you might expect, this exercise was to show us what it is like to be a dog with humans randomly saying words to them and growing impatient when they do not instantly understand. It may sound silly, but that was one of the most impactful moments of all of the classes in which I participated and is something that has stuck with me during every moment working with and living with our dogs. Different trainers have different nuggets of information and different methods that will stick with different people. Add in the fact that every dog is slightly different in terms of what motivates them, how easy or difficult they are to train, with different backgrounds and life experiences, and you arrive at the same suggestion for all dogs: that every human needs to take every one of their dogs to at least one training class and ideally several additional classes after they graduate from beginner. Dog training classes are really about training owners to teach their dogs. Most of the class time is spent learning from the trainers, and most of your actual training time with your dog is outside of the classroom. In fact, when you do practice the commands in the classroom it is the owner who the trainer is really watching and correcting rather than the dog because the class is to train the owner how to train the dog. When you find a good trainer you will understand how to take your training beyond basic obedience because you will know the concepts behind teaching your dog. Once you can teach her sit and stay, it's not a far stretch to teach her other commands, to teach her tricks, to teach her games. Learning about how your dog learns will help you with socializing her, with teaching her not to bite (bite inhibition), with a variety of situations that you might encounter during your dog's life. Why Every Dog Should Go To Obedience ClassNot only will you forever have the skills to teach your dog and future dogs, but you will have a go-to resource should something pop up in the future. I often wonder how many dogs would not be re-homed if their owners had a relationship with a trainer so they could easily reach out when a life change happened like a new baby or the introduction of another dog into the house. Training your dog can be a lot of fun for you and the dog as long as you are patient and realize that the fun part is for you and your dog to be learning together and to build an incredible bond together. In fact I often look for additional classes to take just for fun and I am strongly considering joining a local dog training club so that one of the dogs and I can go once a week and practice their skills, be around other dogs and dog owners with similar goals, and to continually learn from some of the amazing dog trainers that we have in our area.

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

Also check out these websites:

Association of Professional Dog Trainers (ADPT):

Karen Pryor Academy:

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. [caption width="160" align="alignleft"] Lock It Block It window security bar (affiliate link)[/caption]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. [caption width="256" align="alignleft"] The Green Pet Shop Self-Cooling Pet Pads (Amazon affiliate link)[/caption]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 [caption id="attachment_3432" align="alignright" width="300"]SUMMER HEAT AND DOGS: KNOW YOUR DOG'S LIMITS On hot days it's perfectly fine to leave your dog home in a nice cool place![/caption] 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. [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="160"] Pet Mesh Shoes with Rugged Anti-Slip Sole (affiliate link)[/caption] 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!

Stop Leaving Dogs In Cars! Period!

by Lynn Stacy-Smith Stop Leaving Dogs In Cars! Period!I normally do not blog when I am angry. Today is an exception because I just watched this video: Police Officers Save 1 Month Old Puppy Trapped In Hot Car. I am astounded that this is still happening, I am pissed off as I wonder what the hell is wrong with people? I normally write with the utmost of diplomacy, perhaps from my corporate background, but also because that's just who I am. I am diplomatic, I try to see all of the shades of gray in an issue instead of just the black and white. But I cannot help but wonder today, are the people who leave their dogs (and their children) in hot cars just plain old stupid or do they simply not care? Idiots, or monsters? Although it doesn't matter because the result is the same: death of an innocent creature. I am not even going to comment on the fact that they believe the puppy in the video was just one month old, or ponder why someone had such a young  puppy out alone instead of at home with its mother and littermates. Had he already left his litter to be placed with such a negligent owner? Of course if that is the case it is no wonder that the puppy ended up in the hands of such negligent, irresponsible and selfish humans, because everyone in the dog world with half a brain knows that puppies should be with their mothers until they are eight weeks old. Not only should that puppy have not been in that car, it was far too early for him to go to his forever home unless something had happened to his mother. With the worst heat of the summer upon us in most parts of the country, I see heat related warnings for dogs and children on a daily basis. In fact rather than reinvent the wheel and create my own graphic for this blog I decided to share an existing one. This is the result of my Google Search and it went on for pages and pages! dogs hot cars goodle search screenshot   What gets me about this rampant problem is that there is no lack of information on this topic, as evidenced by my Google search, so why are some dog owners so utterly clueless? Why are they still inflicting this torture on their dogs? Is it not just common sense? Do people not believe the dire warnings? Do they think that it will actually take just two minutes to run in for a gallon of milk or to pick up a prescription? Do they not know that even if it DID take two minutes, that the temperature is already soaring in those minutes and seconds? I don't know about you, but I cannot ever recall a trip into a store for even the most basic item taking less than ten minutes in recent years. Just the other day my husband and I were going to dinner and I got into the car thinking that he was right behind me. Instead he had stopped to get something he forgot inside the house and so I waited about 45 seconds in the sweltering car. Even with my passenger door open the heat was so intense that in that short a period of time I felt woozy. FORTY FIVE SECONDS! And I'm a grown adult who could have just got out; I actually sat there and waited just to experience the heat as a bit of research, and that was before I thought about writing this blog. My heart breaks for the dogs who have no way to escape. Unless you are literally fleeing your home and running for your life and stopping for life sustaining supplies, there is absolutely no reason to leave a dog in a parked car where he or she will perish in a slow and miserable way. And quite frankly, if I was bugging out or being evacuated and fleeing with my dogs, I STILL  would not leave them in a hot car, I'd go through the closest drive through of a restaurant that served bottled water and let them drink from a cup and figure out food after it was cooler outside! In my (experienced and unwavering) opinion, the only place a dog really needs to go when the temperature soars is to the veterinarian. Other destinations like to obedience school, the groomer, doggie daycare, a walk along a tree covered dirt path, to your local dog friendly beach or to your local holistic pet store can be done successfully as long as the dog never is left in the car alone. Straight to the destination and then back home. Period. Want to make a Starbucks stop? Hit the drive-thru. Need milk? Take the dog home and go back out. Need to figure out what to feed the family for dinner? Take the dog home and go back out. Need cash? ATM or drive up. Dry cleaning on the way? Hmmm...the dog's life versus some clean clothes? Take the dog home and go back out.

The answer to all of these is to take the dog home and go back out. 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. 

This is an area in which Woof really applies because Woof means honoring the fact that your dog is a dog and that he or she does not need to be treated like a child even though you love him or her with the same love that you have for a child. Yes, it is fun for your dog to go on car rides with you if you are not stopping anywhere and you have icy cold air conditioning blasting through your vents. But unlike children who might want to tag along to sweet talk you into a treat, your dog does not need to run to Walmart because you ran out of coffee and then sit and wait in an oven on wheels for you to return. Your dog can stay home and do dog things and when you get your coffee back home you will have a live dog to pet while your drink your coffee, instead of a dead one from leaving it in the car and killing it.

When Jackson and Tinkerbell go places with me when it is warm outside, I actually use my remote car starter and start the car before we get inside so that the air conditioner will start to work before we enter the vehicle. Before I had a remote starter I would start the car, turn on the AC, let my dog take a quick potty break before getting into the car, and then enter once some of the oven-like heat had subsided. And back in the day when I drove really awful old cars and my AC didn't work, I would roll down the windows and let some air flow through the car before my late Babe and I entered.

Of course if you are following me you are probably already living a life dedicated to your dog, a life of Love, Laugh, and Woof, so you know these things and I am preaching to the proverbial choir. I don't know exactly what we do from here to help dogs.  Some parts of the country have passed laws against leaving dogs in too hot or too cold conditions like here in Illinois. Others have passed laws allowing citizens to take matters into heir own hands and break the windows of cars with dogs and children trapped inside to save more lives. Do we keep bombarding people with memes on social media? Start a network of volunteers around the country to pass out flyers in parking lots? We have a National Pet Travel Safety Day as well as Heat Safety Awareness Day; it seems redundant to have a specific day for Hot Car Awareness, but maybe that is the next step for both dogs and children because the tragedies are still occurring all across the country. For now, join me in continuing to educate the public, share one of the many, many pieces of information that you can find on a Google Search, and keep on calling the police when you see dogs trapped inside ovens on wheels whenever the weather is above 70 degrees. [caption id="attachment_1683" align="alignnone" width="530"] source:[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1682" align="alignnone" width="480"] source:[/caption]  
Emergency Preparedness: Emergency Prepping Supplies for Dogs
Emergency Preparedness: Emergency Prepping Supplies for Dogs

Emergency Preparedness: Emergency Prepping Supplies for Dogs

by Lynn Stacy-Smith Emergency Preparedness: Emergency Prepping Supplies for DogsJune kicks off Pet Preparedness Month, a month dedicated to helping pet owners make sure that they have a plan of action for all of the types of emergency situations that could arise and how to include pets and other animals in those plans. Of course I kicked this blog series off with a look at the fictional world of The Walking Dead, but although that scenario is more than unlikely, a show like that makes you think about how you would act if you had to either hunker down in your home without the day-to-day services of everyday civilization or evacuate and leave your house in a hurry. In the most recent blog we covered what to include in your dog first aid kit, so let's take at dog related supplies that you should consider in order to be self-reliant in your home for a long period of time or on the road and away from your home. I suggest creating your kit in a water tight bin like a Rubbermaid container that you can easily load into your car should you need to evacuate. Food: I like to keep two extra bags of food on hand in addition to the one that I am currently using. With large dogs like Labrador Retrievers, I purchase 23 pound bags of food. I feed Canine Caviar, which is in a bag designed specifically to keep the food fresh, so I keep the food in the bag and then put the bag itself inside a plastic bin on wheels with a locking lid. I also have a second plastic bin exactly like it to put the other two bags of food. Make sure you rotate your stock so that you are always using the oldest food first. When you take the next bag out of the overstock bin, that's when you should order the replacement bag so that you maintain two bags on-hand at all times. I found these bins at Amazon and you can order them at my affiliate link: They are a worthwhile investment that I made after I lost two bags of food to ants on the floor of our pantry one summer. If you have small dogs who go through their food less quickly, keep the same size bag on hand as your extra stock as you normally order for daily use. A five-pound dog might not go through a 23 pound bag of food fast enough to keep it fresh, so if you purchase a four pound bag of food, keep two four pound bags on-hand as your extras, not large bags like I do with big dogs. Water: Dogs can pick up germs from contaminated water just like humans, so plan on one gallon of water per dog per day. You can purchase gallons from the grocery store and use them for daily use before the expiration date and then replace them, or purchase emergency water options that have a thirty or fifty year shelf life, like these options from Amazon: Blue Can Premium Emergency Drinking Water or Mainstay Emergency Drinking Water. If you have access to fresh water in the form of a lake or stream, you could also consider a survival water filter. These are quite different from your everyday Brita filter for your home as they filter out far more contaminants. These filters are used for survival situations as well as hiking and camping. This option pictured is from Amazon at this link: Harness and extra leash: I cannot stress it enough that I prefer a harness for emergencies and just everyday use over a regular collar. I have had multiple dogs slip backwards out of a correctly sized collar, including my Babe when I foolishly took her to a parade right as the marching band was starting, and Tinkerbell when she was a young puppy. Extra leashes are inexpensive and easy to store. First Aid Kit for Dogs: If you do not have one already, check out my post about putting together a first aid kit specifically for your dog or adding dog specific items to your human first aid kit. Crate: Even if your dog is not crated at home, I recommend having a crate of some sort for an emergency situation. If you used a plastic travel crate in your bedroom for puppy rearing, you can stash it aside for emergencies if your dog is no longer using it. If you are going to an emergency shelter, you may be required to keep your dog crated while at the shelter. If you are evacuating to a hotel or friend's home it might be a handy "just in case" option. If it turns out you don't need it, you can stash your supplies in it.      Plastic travel crate: A hard plastic travel crate is my personal preference for emergencies. If you transport your dog in your car using a harness and canine seat belt, you can easily take the crate apart and then store supplies in it or leave it together and stash supplies in it if you are evacuating somewhere so that the space is not wasted. You may need or want the crate when you get to your destination to keep your dog contained and safe and you can put your supplies in the crate, roll it along on a hand truck or dolly and walk your dog next to you, which I found to be a handy method of transporting his crate and all of our things when Jackson was competing in conformation shows. In an emergency where you had to walk instead of drive, you could also move an injured or exhausted dog in it by rolling it on a dolly or folding hand truck.      Wire crate: While this is the type of crate I prefer for everyday use when the dogs are home alone, this would not be my first choice for emergencies because they just don't seem as durable as the very hard plastic airline approved options. Most do fold completely flat, so depending on your vehicle this might be your best option. These crates also have better airflow and visibility for your dog to see what is going on around him versus the plastic options that are more den-like. Treats: If your dog is food motivated like mine, you are going to want extra dog training treats in your emergency supplies. Make sure they are your normal brand and variety so that you are not introducing new foods into your dog's diet at a time of stress. I know you might think I am nuts, that you're going to train your dog in the middle of a hurricane or while you're waiting out a tornado watch in your basement, but whether you are reviewing existing knowledge or training them to do a new trick, working on something like this is a great way to get your dog's mind off of the strange noises and smells, even if it's as simple as sit-down-sit or to make eye contact with you when you say their name. Toys and antlers: These are the dog version of the coloring book, fidget spinner or iPod. Toss a moose antler and some durable US made dog toys like those from West Paw Design or Planet Dog into your emergency box. If you are evacuated for several days in an unfamiliar place, your dog may be elated to have something to chew on or play with even if it's an indoor game of hotel room fetch. Indoor potty grass or piddle pads: During house-training I am a firm believer in showing your dog that potty activities all occur outdoors and as a result, I have never used either of these products. However, I have also never lived in a high-rise or in a neighborhood that would make night-time potty breaks undesirable. If you anticipate not being able to go outside for more than your dog's usual bladder and bowel time limits, you could consider purchasing something like this as a "just in case" option. If you've taught your dog "good dog, go potty" you can try to use that during your time inside to show them that these are an ok indoor alternative. Personally, this would be an absolute last resort for extreme situations like if you were stranded indoors due to flooding, civil unrest, a curfew or military/police instructions, or basically something as bad as a zombie apocalypse, because otherwise I would not encourage a house trained dog to go potty inside. I wouldn't get upset with them if it happened, but I wouldn't encourage it. Dog Poop Bags: Unless it really is a zombie apocalypse, toss a few extra rolls of dog poop bags in your emergency supplies. Dog poop carries germs, something that you want to minimize in emergency situations when stress, lack of food and nutrition and other factors can reduce a human's or a dog's immune system. Extra bowls: If you need to get out-of-town, make sure you have an extra water bowl and food bowl for your dog in your emergency supplies so that you don't have to stop to grab their regular bowls. Information about your pet: Print or photocopy your essential veterinary information, microchip number and health information in case someone else would need to take care of your pet. I recommend including a copy of the dog care binder that I have at the house for pet sitters. Also include a printed photo of your pet and put all of these items in a large Ziploc bag. Although the last thing you want to happen is to be separated from your pet, these are items that would be critical if you were. Evacuation information: As much as we rely on our phones for information, in an emergency you might not have access to WiFi or cellular towers. Print out information on pet friendly hotels, shelters that allow pets, maps, and phone numbers and address of friends and family and put in a separate Ziploc baggie from your dog care information. Medications and heartworm pills: Keep your pet's daily medications and heartworm pills in a place where you can grab them easily or set aside one or two heart worm pills and a week or two supply of your pet's essential medications. Just make sure you rotate them out and replace with new medicines so that they do not expire. You do not want them to go to waste if you never need to use your dog emergency kit. Blanket or kennel pad: This gives your dog a spot to go to,  a comfortable place to rest, and something that smells of home. Dog life-preserver:  Even if you are not likely to encounter flood waters or other water dangers in an emergency, this type of item can be dual purpose because it has reflective materials and a handle in case you have to lift your dog to safety. This particular option also has a water activated LED strobe light for additional emergency visibility. Protective booties: Yes, your dog will forgive you for putting boots on her. All joking aside, though, include a set of protective dog boots in your emergency supplies for each dog to prevent burns and cuts if you have to walk over hot, bitterly cold, or rough surfaces or areas with substantial debris. You can practice putting these on in your home or yard from time to time and taking a walk around the block so that they are not completely foreign to your dog. Winter coat: With big sturdy Labradors, I have only put coats on them a handful of times when the temperatures went down to thirty degrees below zero and even then they were in and out in record time to prevent frozen paws. Depending on the heartiness of your dog, a coat may be a regular part of winter. Either way, I suggest including this item in your emergency kit. Safety vest: Brightly colored vests can offer visibility in the woods to make sure your dog is not mistaken for a deer, provide protection from insects and ticks, help keep grasses and thorns from penetrating their body, and are generally helpful in outdoor and emergency situations. In a perfect world we would never need to use such an emergency kit, but that is the nature of planning for emergencies. Just like carrying insurance, we hope to never need it, but it is there if we do.  

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Emergency Preparedness: Creating a Dog First Aid Kit
Emergency Preparedness: Creating a Dog First Aid Kit

Emergency Preparedness: Creating a Dog First Aid Kit

by Lynn Stacy-Smith Emergency Preparedness: Creating a Dog First Aid Kit In my most recent blog I wrote about the hypothetical world of the television show The Walking Dead and what it would be like to be a dog owner in that world, which has been my entertainment obsession of the last month of so. Although that world is made up and as far as I know, not going to happen, there are other instances like natural disasters or man-made disasters in which some of the lessons learned from watching that television show can help, including making sure you have emergency medical supplies. In fact, in one episode of the show, a veterinary college storeroom played heavily into the story because humans and animals can often take the same medications.  Many of the items in your human first aid kit are useful for dog first aid emergencies but I prefer to have a dog specific kit. I recommend a water tight plastic bin for your dog first aid kit or a backpack or other bag that you can grab and go. Keep items separate in zip top baggies and also include a copy of your dog's veterinary records and instructions for each product also in baggies. Remember that in an emergency you might not have your mobile phone or access to the internet, so going old school with written instructions can be useful or even lifesaving. You can build your own kit entirely or purchase a dog first aid kit like this one from Kurgo and then add additional items to it. Here are some recommended items: Bandages: Include a variety of sizes and types of bandages and band aids, including large and small, rolls of gauze, rolls of bandage tape, and square pads. Feminine pads and tampons: These products can be surprisingly useful for medical emergencies and they are individually wrapped and clean. My dog Dutch wore a snug human tank top with maxi pads stuck to it after he had a large fatty tumor removed and it worked perfectly to keep the site clean and keep it from leaking on our carpets and furniture. I felt pretty silly adhering them each time and smoothing the wings out, but such is the life of a dog owner. Tampons can be used to stop the bleeding in bullet wounds and other puncture wounds.  Hydrogen peroxide & a measuring spoon: This can be used to induce vomiting; I suggest printing out instructions to include in your kit so you can access the correct dosage quickly. Put the bottle and spoon in a plastic bag and tape the instructions to the outside. Cotton balls & cotton swabs for cleaning cuts, scrapes and wounds. Buffered aspirin, Benadryl, Immodium, Pepcid AC and contact lense saline solution: Many over the counter medicines for humans can be beneficial in an emergency. Print out dosage information for your particular dog(s) and keep in a plastic zip top baggie with the medicine so that you do not have to scramble for the information in an emergency. Always check with your veterinarian on the correct dosage and safety information of these if your dog were to need them in an emergency.
This blog does not constitute medical advice; always contact your veterinarian before giving your dog any medicine that is not prescribed by them regardless of what you read anywhere on the internet. 
Blanket: Include either a traditional blanket or an emergency foil blanket in your kit to keep your pets warm and dry. Towels Human t-shirt: This can help keep a large cut or wound clean in an emergency. Muzzle:  I am not recommending a muzzle for normal every day situations, but no matter how close you and your dog are, if she is severely injured, she could nip or bite when you are cleaning a wound or setting a broken bone. The last thing you want is for you and your dog to both be injured during an emergency situation. She will forgive you after you give her plenty of treats after it's all done. This is a worst case scenario item and not something to be used on a regular basis or in an inhumane way. Antibacterial soap: To clean your hands before tending to an injury or to clean out a wound. Harness and extra leash: Always use a harness in an emergency situation, as a dog can slip out of a collar and run away in fear. A way to carry your dog: Whether it is a SAR (Search and Rescue) type harness or a solution like a sheet or a big Sam's Club or Ikea Shopping bag with slits in it for their legs, make sure you have a way to carry even a large dog if he or she becomes unable to walk on their own. Scissors with safety/medical endsTo cut blanket, sheet, towels or gauze wrap or pads Battery operated hair trimmer or safety razor: In case you need to shave hair to access a cut or wound. Tweezers Tick key or other tick removal device Needle nosed pliers  Flashlight or head lamp Styptic powderUsed to stop bleeding in torn or cut nails and superficial wounds. Neosporin or similar antibacterial ointment  Apple Cider Vinegar: This can be made into an ear wash (50% water, 50% ACV), or mixed with water to be a paw soak, a hot spot spray, a food additive, and many other uses. Print a list of how you can use this natural remedy so you have it without relying on the internet. Emergency Splints for broken bones or sprains. Peanut Butter & spoon: This is the ultimate distraction for a dog if you have to tend to a medical issue. Latex gloves Oral syringe Ice packs Alcohol wipes Rubbing alcohol: Use to sterilize any tools before using them on your dog's injury or wound. Vet wrapsThese are self adherent bandages that can be used on wounds, sprains, and other medical issues. Dog care first aid book: Include a first aid book in your kit so that you do not have to rely on the internet or your mobile phone working during an emergency situation. The Pet Emergency Pocket Guide is easy to toss into your kit. Map and addresses of local 24 hour veterinary clinics Lavender Essential Oil can be soothing to anxious dogs and is so concentrated that you can simply let your dog smell the bottle or sniff a drop out of your own hands. Make sure you use only pure, good quality oils and not deodorizers masquerading as pure oils. Do not put on your dog topically or have your ingest any oils without asking the advice of your veterinarian. 

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

A Dog Lover's Thoughts on The Walking Dead
A Dog Lover’s Thoughts on The Walking Dead

A Dog Lover's Thoughts on The Walking Dead

by Lynn Stacy-Smith A Dog Lover's Thoughts on The Walking Dead Right now I am catching up on the television series The Walking Dead. I say "catching up" because it's not so much "binge watching" as "having a second helping", if we are going to use a food metaphor. Or maybe a second helping and then some desert...and coffee...and a mint. Ok, it's a bunch of episodes each night after dinner. Every night. There, my secret is out. I do have a blog to write, after all, so I can't just sit around and watch all day long, but there is considerable viewing time every evening. I am not a person who likes gory or disgusting things, in fact I am a complete Nervous Nellie when it comes to horror movies and shows. But when I found that one of my favorite actors from a different show had joined the cast as the latest despicable villain, I stayed in the room a few times during Season 7 when my husband and middle teen were watching. After a few episodes I saw that the story line is about the humans and not so much the walkers, and I learned when to look away from some of the bloody stuff. Fortunately those zombies are a noisy bunch and the sound effect of a blade being unsheathed is always helpful, too! As a result, I've gone from pilot to season to Season 7, Episode 3 in a few weeks. As I've watched, I've noticed the complete lack of dogs. I keep wondering, where did all of the dogs go? Were they smart enough to run away? Did they all perish? Where on earth are they? I mean, the ASPCA estimates that 44% of homes have a dog, so where are they? Are they all in some dog sanctuary with nice secure walls? If so, I want to go there now! Part of me is ok with not having too many dogs in the show because the horses in it have not fared very well nor did the few dogs that I have seen, and I am most definitely someone who cries when an animal dies on-screen. But seriously, where ARE all of the dogs? Several times I've turned to my husband and said, "If society were to go to hell, you know we are not leaving without the dogs. I am not leaving them behind, I am not eating them, nobody else is eating them, we can forage for supplies for them while we forage for our own supplies, they go with us anywhere and everywhere!" He is of course in agreement, as I made sure of his shared love of dogs before we got married, or else he would just be another ex-boyfriend and not my beloved husband. Now, I don't think we are going to be plunged into a world of flesh-eating zombies, don't worry, I haven't lost my mind. However, keeping your dog safe and by your side applies to natural disasters or other emergency situations. Like I wrote about earlier this week in the blog Sharing the Love of Dogs with the Non-Dog Lovers in Your Life, I cannot and will not feel in my heart like my dogs deserve less care than we do. How could I ever look at their sweet faces, their trusting eyes, and leave them behind for an uncertain future? How could I deny them medical care, love, protection, nourishment, and live with myself for even a second, knowing that they are sentient, feeling creatures who put their trust in me on a daily basis. Now, I'm not going to lie. I have thought through what would be the best way to be a dog owner if we were suddenly thrust into the world of Rick Grimes and Daryl Dixon and dead humans chasing us to eat us. It brings up a lot of what-ifs and wondering what the best option would be. For example: Leashed or unleashed: I have a runner's leash here at the house for each dog with a belt that goes around my waist that I attach a special leash to, giving me a hands free option. I bought this to try it out and haven't used it since (that's a whole other blog topic), but if you were fighting off walkers, you could keep your dog close and make sure that he or she did not run off in fear. On the other hand, your dog is probably faster than you are, so would they be better off loose, able to be more agile? Would having your dog attached to you mean that you were tripping over the leash and would be less able to defend both of you? A rock sold reliable recall would mean that they could be off leash, outrun walkers on their own, and come to you when called. Barking: If gunshots attract walkers, and a crying baby is a risk, what about a barking dog? Would you muzzle your dog periodically if they went on a barking spree? I mean, barking is an instinct but if you were hiding quietly you might have to squelch that instinct in a way we wouldn't do in our normal civilized world. But what if you muzzled them briefly and then they ran off, they would be unable to defend themselves or drink or eat. A dog's senses: Since our dogs can hear and smell things better than we can and see better at night, wouldn't they be helpful in detecting when walkers, other humans and other threats were near? People-loving domesticated dogs: I know Jackson and Tinkerbell would probably run right up to a walker looking for tummy rubs and ear scratches. Would they be able to eventually figure out that some people were "different" from others, aka dead and trying to eat them? I know I've read that SAR dogs and cadaver dogs can differentiate between the scent of someone alive versus deceased. Would the walkers have a unique scent? Would dogs in a zombie apocalypse train themselves to stay away from that smell the same way my dogs have trained themselves to come running for peanut butter and run the opposite way when they smell ear cleaner? It seems to me that at the end of the day, dogs would be a helpful companion more than a burden. After all, the world of The Walking Dead has gone back to a dangerous uncivilized world that is more similar to what the world was like when humans first befriended the wolf. Well, there weren't infected dead people wandering around, but people had to rely on hunting and gathering, whether or not to trust other humans and whether other groups were going to be allies or enemies, and somewhere in the middle of that we befriended the wolf (or the wolf befriended us) so that we could be companions, hunting partners, and help defend each other. One conversation that my husband and I had about The Walking Dead is that it definitely makes you think about how you might have to act in the event a catastrophe and how you could prepare for such a thing. As a neurotic worrier and planner, I am 100% on board with planning for emergencies, so in the next two blogs we will talk about how you can include your dog in emergency preparation plans for a world not inhabited by walkers  but still afflicted by a natural disaster or other emergency situation.     Whistle 3 GPS Pet Tracker
Dog Owners Beware: Always Watch out for Products with Xylitol
Dog Owners Beware: Always Watch out for Products with Xylitol

Dog Owners Beware: Always Watch out for Products with Xylitol

by Lynn Stacy-Smith Dog Owners Beware:  Always Watch out for Products with XylitolI had a terrifying moment yesterday. We returned from the Run Fur Shelter 5K/10K races that I wrote about in yesterday's blog, I had let the dogs out of their kennels, taken them outside for potty breaks, and then brought them inside. All of the water I had consumed after the race caught up with me and I rushed into our powder room, recklessly tossing onto our living room side table a handful of things that I had brought in from my husband's truck as I ran to avoid what he calls a "third grade emergency" situation. Those things that I dropped onto the table were my iPhone, ear buds, running armband/phone holder, and three samples of a drink mix called Slender Sticks. As I washed my hands I had a panicky thought, remembering Jackson's mostly dormant bad habit of stealing and destroying things from that side table when he wanted to get my attention. I say mostly dormant because every now and then he surprises me by snatching up my book or a magazine to get my attention. I know his motivation is purely attention seeking because he does not touch anything else that is not his in the entire house, and he only does it with my things and when I am home. These days, now that he is six years young, he only does this about twice a year and I always imagine a twinkle in his eye when he does it, like, "Look, Momma, I'm still your naughty puppy!" I burst out of the bathroom and around the corner into our living room to find him standing in the middle of the room, both suspicious and innocent at the same time. He looked startled as I came into the room in a rush and ran to the side table. I breathed a huge sigh of relief as I saw that my things were untouched and that he had not consumed or touched the three samples of Slender Sticks beverage flavor packets that I had received as samples from the health food store that was sponsoring the event. I had not looked at the ingredients but I knew I did not want him eating any powdered energy drink mixes. I felt goosebumps on my arms as I looked at the packets and saw the first ingredient in them: Xylitol. I nearly cried with relief that he had not chosen that day for his semi-annual foray into his previous puppy antics. There have been plenty of blogs and articles about the extreme dangers of Xylitol when consumed by dogs. As defined on WebMD, "Xylitol is a naturally occurring alcohol found in most plant material, including many fruits and vegetables." When consumed by dogs, Xylitol can cause extreme and deadly  hypoglycemia or liver failure.  Dogs who consume products with Xylitol should be taken to the vet immediately. As a result, I have been on Xylitol patrol for years, carefully making sure that the kids do not leave gum or candy anywhere the dogs can reach it and generally banning it from our home. Xylitol is commonly found in sugar-free gum and candy, toothpaste and mouthwash and other sugar-free products. If you are on social media you may have seen frequent warnings about at least one brand of peanut butter with it, terrifying all dog owners who rely on peanut butter for giving medicine or simply treating their dog from time to time. It is even in at least one nasal spray and a skin care product called Micellar Water. You can also buy it in a large bag like sugar; when I saw it in the local health food store I shuddered at the thought of that being in a dog owner's pantry where it could be knocked over and spilled. My dogs are generally well-behaved and do not snatch up things left behind on our side tables anymore now that we have grown out of puppyhood. This is both a blessing and a curse; because they are grown up dogs and not crazy puppies we can be lazy and leave things on the table like the remote control or a magazine, but just one product like the Slender Sticks that I brought home from the 5K could be deadly if one or both dogs decided to break into naughty puppy mode.I am hyper vigilant about making sure Xylitol containing products are nowhere near my dogs and am appalled that I forgot to look at the contents of those samples before so casually tossing them down within reach of my dogs. Yesterday was a reminder to check all labels, particularly if something is labeled "healthy" or "sugar-free" or low in calories, and that you cannot be lazy and toss things down where your dogs can reach them without thinking.  Thankfully nothing happened, but it was a scary reminder of how differently our dogs process some of the things that we humans can consume. I personally avoid fake sugars as much as possible; I would rather go without or just use normal sugar, and the Xylitol trend is one trend in sweeteners that cannot go away fast enough for this dog owner, because we must always watch out for products with this ingredient.   
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. [caption id="attachment_3345" align="alignright" width="225"] Happy just snuggling with humans[/caption] 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. [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="389"]Image credit: Image credit:[/caption] 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! [gallery size="medium" ids="3291,3288,3013,2330,632,206"] [shopify embed_type="product" shop="" product_handle="hooded-sweatshirt" show="all"]    
The Next Generation of Animal Lovers: Your Children Are Listening
The Next Generation of Animal Lovers: Your Children Are Listening

The Next Generation of Animal Lovers: Your Children Are Listening

by Lynn Stacy-Smith The Next Generation of Animal LoversYesterday was Mother's Day, a day that used to be very difficult for several years after my own Mom passed away when I was just thirty-four, an age at which you are a full-fledged adult but also assume that you are going to have your parents around for a good twenty or more years. These days, though, I am blessed to be celebrated for my own maternal role in the lives of my kids. I became a step-mom in April 2007 when I moved in with my husband and his three young children. He shares custody with the kids' mother but because he has residential custody and the kids go to school in our district they are with us perhaps 60% to 70% of the time, especially now that they take the bus to school. This means that I became much more than an every-other-weekend step-mom, and I have been quite happy to take on the increased responsibilities and time with these incredible kids. In 2013 when I left my corporate job to become self-employed, I really dug into the role of being a mother as I was able to give rides to school and actually make it to games and concerts instead of getting stuck in traffic during my commute home and feeling like I was missing out on everything that was important in life. In those last four years of being extremely active and present in their lives I have developed an even greater love for them and truly feel like they are my own. They are far more than "step" kids to me. In addition to receiving awesome gifts like my favorite Starbucks drink, a card with a giraffe Mom and baby, and a new Pandora bracelet, their hand written messages in my card were the true gifts. They were at their mom's house for the day so for dinner my husband took me for sushi, my favorite dinner out. We came home and resumed my catching up on The Walking Dead (I am on Season 5, episode 6, Chuck and our middle teen watch it as it happens) and chilling with Jackson and Tinkerbell. When the kids came home from their mother's house later that evening, our youngest girl filled me in on her progress with her 8th grade English project in which they had to write about a cause that was close to their heart and use Pathos, Ethos and Logos to prove their point. Her cause: ending animal abuse.  She told my husband and me all the information she had researched and written about, including the difference between direct physical abuse and indirect abuse/neglect. She went on to talk about how she had researched puppy mills and included those conditions as being abusive and also concluded that the lack of screening of potential puppy buyers in the pet stores that sell puppy mill and backyard breeder puppies could mean that abusive humans were able to easily purchase puppies from these stores and continue the abuse. She also concluded that this same lack of screening could contribute to dogs being surrendered to animal shelters because it meant that anyone could buy a puppy and then decide they did not want it anymore. "Have you read my book?" I asked her. "No," she replied. "Uh, ok, because you just touched on a number of topics that I am extremely passionate about in my blog and my book, so I am super proud that you came up with that on your own!" "No, I haven't read your blog at all but I understand why you said it takes so long to write and research each post, I have a new respect for what you do!" That right there was the mic-drop moment of parenting, my friends! We are pretty old school parents and we refuse to raise entitled self-centered brats. My firefighter husband sees the best and the worst of humanity. He won't bring the stresses and horrors of his job home to us but every now and then he has shared stories with the kids now that they are teens, when they get a bit too big for their decision-making britches and think they know everything, and those stories of "what can happen when you make bad decisions" are eye-opening.  Same with my job only much different and less hands on: I hear about the heartwarming stories of dog lovers going above and beyond for their dogs, and I hear the tragic "what the hell is wrong with people" stories that stick with you and make you wonder what could cause such evil. For our 14-year-old daughter to come up with those concepts and thoughts on animal abuse on her own and then say "I have a new respect for what you do" is an incredible feeling. It was hands down the most incredible mother's day gift that I could have received. One of the main focuses of my book and my blog is to encourage people to be compassionate dog owners. Putting yourself in your dog's position is the Woof in Love, Laugh, Woof. I am not naive enough to think that I can change the entire world and make everyone loving and compassionate toward animals. But I do know one thing: our kids are listening to what we say. Our kids are among those who we can impact with lessons about being kind to dogs and to all animals. They are the next generation of dog owners and will use the lessons they learned about pet care in the same way many of us learned from our own parents, so keep talking to them about topics like preventing animal abuse, being a responsible owner, why it is so important to do your research before getting any pet, making sure you make time in your life for your cats and dogs, and all of the other things that are so important in raising compassionate human beings. It can make a difference, it will make a difference, and we are already making a difference.   [shopify embed_type="product" shop="" product_handle="love-laugh-woof-a-guide-to-being-your-dogs-forever-owner" show="all"]    
Owner Surrenders: When Dog Owners Give Up for All the Wrong Reasons
Owner Surrenders: When Dog Owners Give Up for All the Wrong Reasons
Owner Surrenders: When Dog Owners Give Up for All the Wrong Reasons The other day I was at a business networking event and I ran into a woman who volunteers in dog rescue in addition to owning her own business. She told me that she had read my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog's Forever Owner and also bought a copy for the rescue organization with which she volunteers. I was delighted to hear this and we chatted for a bit. As we discussed my book and dogs in general she mentioned that Chapter 4: Are You Ready for a Dog? REALLY Ready? was very intense and might actually scare away some potential first time dog owners. She was not being critical, just sharing her thoughts on the book. For the last several days I have thought about her input and wondered if I should have toned down that chapter a bit. I mean, I am from a long line of outspoken women from New Jersey, but I also do not want to risk any dog not having a home because I scared the owner away from life with a dog with my book! Was the chapter too intense? Was it too much to talk about the hair, the mud, the slobber, the gross things in which they scent themselves, the dead animals that some bring to you like children bringing home a trophy? Was it too much to talk about house training, obedience training, to share that my dog care bill for a 10 day vacation is $500 and that's on the inexpensive side in our area? Was it too much to share the reality of having a senior citizen dog, that when we had three senior dogs at once my entire paycheck seemed to go straight to the vet every payday and we had a drawer full of medicines like a canine nursing home? Is it fair to tell them all of the harsh realities that can happen with dog ownership to try to desperately avoid the owner surrenders that happen as a result of unprepared humans getting dogs on a whim? I mean, of course I follow-up those negative things, the sharing all of those downsides, with the beautiful relationship that we create with our dogs, the miracle of having a best friend and constant companion who is more loyal than any human could ever be. I share that I would die of a broken heart without a wet nose waking me at 6 a.m. every single day of my life, without Labrador hair to vacuum every few days, without a 70 pound Tinkerbell stretched across my lap daily. I was not offended by her critique; getting feedback is part of being a writer and putting your ideas and words out for the world to consume. When you put strong opinions out into the world, you must have a thick skin to go along with those opinions. But I really, honestly worried that perhaps I had been too honest. [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="400"] Photo credit:[/caption] Then I came across a post about a German Shepherd puppy on Facebook from another blogger who shared that the reason of the owner surrender was that "they just didn't want her anymore." Now, we all know that everything you read online or on Facebook is subject to being completely wrong or made up, but the reality is that I have no reason to doubt that blogger because this is a reason dogs are surrendered all the time For some dogs their crime against humanity (insert frustrated sarcastic tone) is that they shed too much, that they got too big, they had too much energy, that they ate too much. One poor dog pooped too much for his owner and ended up being abandoned at a shelter, wondering when his family was ever coming back. I don't know what these owners expected; if they wanted a big stuffed animal, they have realistic versions at Amazon that won't eat, shed or poop and are perfectly huggable. And that is not a joke, I would recommend a snuggly fake dog to them. Any living breathing creature is going to do these things. We humans do, too! My husband snaking the drain of our shower every few months is testament to how much we shed! It is absurd to adopt a dog and think that she will not shed, poop, grow, or want to play and release their energy. For the dogs who get adopted into happy homes, their owner surrender was probably the best thing that could have happened to them when it is all said and done. For the ones who are euthanized, though, the people who gave up on them for absurd and preventable reasons killed them as if they had murdered them in cold blood. Unfortunately when someone surrenders a dog to a shelter, there is no way to guarantee which fate the dog is going to meet, the happy ending or the tragic loss of life.  I shared the post about the German Shepherd puppy on my personal Facebook page and a friend of mine who I met while volunteering at a rescue group commented immediately. She works at an animal clinic and she replied, "Your chapter is 100% spot on and I couldn't agree more. Believe me, I've actually wanted to throw your book at people and tell them to read it. Around March/April I start getting calls at the clinic asking if I know a rescue that will take their puppy because they had no idea." When you follow as many dog related organizations, businesses and dog lover friends as I do, you end up seeing horrific stories about animal abuse. Sometimes I cannot bear to read another and I have to take a break. In fact that was one of the most beautiful things about watching April the Giraffe for all of those weeks; the wait for "Baby G" was a nice respite from political news and tragic stories that make up social media and the regular TV news. It is extremely important to point out that there are sometimes valid reasons to re-home a dog. My late Babe came to me because her owners, who were not extremely old when they got her, both suddenly declined in health at the same time with extremely serious and debilitating issues. In the blink of an eye they went from recently retired and looking forward to ten or twelve more years with their beloved young Lab to being completely unable to care for her. I am in no way shape or form talking about situations like that, or extremely dire financial circumstances or life threatening allergies in a child. I am not commenting on situations in under-served communities with extreme poverty. My disgust is directed at people who simply didn't bother to prepare themselves or look for a solution.  There is a solution to a dog who has "too much energy" in the form of training, walks, exercise, dog games, interaction with the humans. There is a solution to shedding, in the form of frequent brushing, good quality food, regular grooming appointments. There is a solution to "being too big" at least in terms of what I can imagine would be the issue with size, like leash pulling or accidentally knocking things and people over, again in the form of obedience training, walks, exercise, dog games, structured playtime. When trained correctly a huge dog should be as easy to walk as a small dog. A big tired dog will curl up to nap just like a small tired dog after a mentally and physically engaging activity with his owner. There is even a solution to pooping too much, in the form of finding a better quality food. If you feed a dog a 600 Kcal/cup food you feed half the amount as if you feed your dog a 300 Kcal/cup, which equals less poop with which to contend. At the end of the day, I stand by Chapter 4 of my book. Someone who wants a dog badly enough is going to say "Ok, dog hair, no problem, vet bills, I'm signing up for pet insurance, puking at 3 am, geez I hope not, but I've got my cleaning supplies!" I can only hope that someone who is iffy and perhaps at risk of making a decision about a dog on a whim will read those things and think, "Whoa, I had no idea it was like that!" and either prepare themselves or decide not to get a dog at that time. [caption id="attachment_3271" align="alignright" width="300"] It takes hours upon hours of work and patience to go from puppyhood to this![/caption] If I can help even one dog be saved from going through an owner surrender, then it will make a difference for that dog and for the one who will be saved by the opening at the shelter that the first one did not fill. As I write in my book, "I had to lay out the negatives, every last one of them. It would be unfair to dogs to do any less. Those cute puppy dog eyes are a blessing and a curse for many dogs, like the dogs who are bought on a whim because the owner is caught up in the cuteness and novelty of a dog, but not ready for the reality of one and then casts the dog aside without any regard for the fact that it is a living, breathing feeling creature whose heart will break once he or she is abandoned in a shelter to fend for him or herself. If you are ok with the negatives, if you go into dog ownership prepared for all of them, the cost, the mess, the inconvenience, the responsibility of another life, then you are ready for the positives, because when you are ready to be a dog owner the positives make up for any amount of dog hair and early morning potty breaks." Sign up for the Love, Laugh, Woof Mailing list [shopify embed_type="product" shop="" product_handle="love-laugh-woof-necklace" show="all"]
What to do if you lose your dog.
What to Do if You Lose Your Dog

What to Do if You Lose Your Dog

by Lynn Stacy-Smith What to do if you lose your dog.A few weeks ago a friend of mine relayed a story about a terrifying event in which two of her three young Doberman Pinschers slipped under their fence and took off. I've known this particular friend since high school and know that she is an amazing dog owner, as attentive and careful as any of us whose dogs are beloved family members. She relayed the story to me and said, "Even though I am an educated dog owner, in those particular moments, the panic, fear, sadness just took over. I never expected to be in that situation, and I don't want to be in it again." I definitely understand that panic and have felt it myself. Almost ten years ago I had let our late dogs Babe,  Dutch, and Maggie out into the yard. It was before my rule of "always go outside with your dogs no matter what" was in place. They were all adult dogs between the ages of eight and ten and I trusted them not to eat random contraband objects or jump the fence. While they were outside I always prepared my coffee and watched until one-by-one they came to the door. That morning Babe came in first. I could see Maggie sniffing the perimeter of the fence like she did each day. About five minutes later I needed to get my morning routine underway so I leaned out and called for Maggie and Dutch. At first I thought she was ignoring me, but each time I called Dutch's name, Maggie turned her head and looked toward the gate that was out of view. Thinking that she was acting odd, I ran outside into the back yard in my socks, rounded the corner around our house and felt my stomach drop in fear as I stared at the open gate. I ran out the gate, shut it behind me and into the front yard, yelling "Dutch!" as I went. I spotted him trotting down the street away from me about to round a corner into our local playground/park. He was on the other side of the street and I yelled "DUTCH!" and he turned and looked at me. I ran down the street and held up my hand in a "wait" hand gesture and told him "WHOA!" which was his command to be motionless and stay. That command had been drilled into him; in a bird hunting situation there is no room for error and dogs are trained hour upon hour. I felt a wave of relief wash over me as Dutch sat and waited for me to get him and lead him back home. The carabiner clips went on our gates that same day. After that incident I became the gate police. We started off with always checking the gates when the dogs went outside and when Jackson and Tinkerbell came home, we changed the rule to include spending the entire time outside with them. But as our foster dog Destiny taught us (by leaping the fence while a potential family was here to see her), and as my friend's Dobermans taught her earlier this month, young agile dogs can go over or under the fence even when you are standing there watching. What to do if you lose your dog. At my friend's request and to conclude our series on the importance of pet IDs, the difference between microchips and pet trackers, and preventing lost dogs, here are some things to review before you are in a situation in which your dog has gone missing.  Stay as Calm as Possible  I know it may seem impossible, but try to stay as calm as possible. When your adrenaline starts pumping your dog can smell the hormonal changes to your body. Dogs are also extremely good at reading body language, so the more you can remain someone your dog wants to come back to, the better. If you can see your dog: 
  • Use your Reliable Recall. This is a word that your dog will come to no matter what type of distractions there are, because you have taught her that when she gets to you she is going to have the best few minutes ever, with toys, treats, and a huge happy dance from you. This is the exact situation for which you train on this concept.
  • Do Not Chase Your Dog! Either you will make your dog think it is a game and that you are trying to chase him, or you will freak him out, both with the result of making him run more. Instead of chasing, if you have your dog's attention and eye contact, run the other way and encourage him to chase you. Or sit down on the ground and pretend that you are discovering the coolest thing ever in the dirt or sidewalk. You can even proactively practice these things in your yard from time to time and give them plenty of treats as a reward when he comes to you.
Immediately begin searching for your dog: 
  • Before you go looking, put something that smells like you or your home in front of your house. This will help your dog use her incredible sense of smell to find her way home, whether it's her dog bed, a blanket, your sweatshirt from the laundry or all of the above. Grab these things as you are heading out the door to search for your dog.
  • Search your neighborhood on foot and by car if applicable. If you have other family members or neighbors who know your dog, they can help, but too many strangers looking may scare your dog. Search along your most common walking routes, in friends/neighbors yards, local parks and other places that you and your dog might frequent or that are likely to have good smells that would attract your dog, like the scent of other dogs. On your way out grab your phone, a squeaky toy and some sort of stinky treat that your dog would like, like a hot dog or their favorite human food like a banana or jar of peanut butter. Make sure you have those open and wave them around while you are walking the neighborhood; your dog's nose is much more powerful than yours and there is a chance that she will smell the food and look for the source. If you see your dog, make sure you use a happy, fun voice that indicates that you want to play. Big dogs can easily run five miles from home so make sure your radius considers that your dog could be running.
  • Notify friends and neighbors via text and social media. Quickly text your dog's photo to friends and neighbors who can post the information to social media. If you do not have resources for this, quickly post to your neighborhood or local Facebook groups and include your dog's name, your contact information and any information like "do not chase!" or specific instructions. If your dog's collar fell off, someone may be trying to locate an owner at the same time that you are looking for your dog. If using Facebook make sure your privacy setting is set to public if you want friends to share with other people. If you post a photo of your dog and it is restricted to your friends, they cannot share your post, the most they can do is download the photo and repost. If they do not understand how privacy settings work, they may not know this.
  • Check home frequently. Your dog may have gone the opposite way from you and found his way back home. Circle back home often to see if he is laying on the bed you put outside for him waiting for your return.
  • Go door to door. Someone may have caught your loose dog and is letting him or her hang out in their yard or home while they figure out how to locate you. Many people have the best of intentions and will hold onto a dog instead of turning them into the shelter.
  • Contact local businesses. If you have a retail store or other business near you, make sure you tell the employees that you are looking for a lost dog. My friend whose Dobermans temporarily went missing told me, "We were extremely fortunate that they were found and brought home safe even though they were 1.5 miles away. I learned that in addition to calling the obvious agencies, that making a call to the less obvious, in my case a tiny little lone gas station on a corner, could make all the difference in the world."
In addition to searching your neighborhood: 
  • Call all somewhat local shelters including outside of your town/county. Do not limit your search to the shelter in your town or county. Make a wide radius around your home and contact them all once or twice a day. It is possible that someone may have been passing through the area and picked up your dog and took him to the closest shelter that they knew about instead of the one that you would consider closest.
  • Notify your town or state Lost Dog website and Facebook pages. Here in Illinois we have Lost Dogs Illinois. Find this information in advance so that you know who to contact in the event of an emergency.
  • Alert your microchip provider. Depending on the chip registry that you use, a lost pet notice will go out to veterinary clinics and shelters so that they will be on alert should a good Samaritan bring your dog to them.
  • Contact local veterinarian offices. Once again, some people are afraid to take dogs that they have found to the shelter but might take them to their veterinarian or a nearby vet to scan for a microchip.
  • Contact the local police. People may report sightings of your dog to the police or notify them if they are able to get her to come to them. In some locations the police are the ones who pick up found pets or stray dogs and take them to animal control. Sometimes the police will recognize habitual escape artist dogs and know who their owner is.
  • Contact local rescue groups, especially if your dog is a purebred. If someone finds your boxer they may contact a boxer rescue instead of the local shelter. Remember that not everyone knows what to do when they find a lost dog.
  • Print posters and share them liberally. Throw together a "lost dog" poster with a photo of your dog, your dog's name, other dog specific information, and your contact information. You can also offer a monetary reward. Hand them out to people you encounter and post them on every available surface including light posts, telephone poles and neighborhood notice boards.
  • Create a Facebook page for your dog. I have a circle of friends who I met when one woman's Labrador/Basset Hound mix was spooked by a large and unexpected crowd at her veterinarian's office, slipped out of her grasp, and ran off into the woods. He went into survival mode  immediately and spent a month in the subzero January weather while owners did everything they could to capture him and bring him home. Fortunately they were successful and although part of his tail had to be amputated, he was otherwise fine. If your dog is missing for more than a day, social media is a good way to share photos, get tips on sightings and share information on what not to do for people with good intentions who want to help but may hinder your efforts if they do the wrong thing.
One of the most important things is to not give up and don't lose hope. There are stories every day of dogs being reunited with their owners after weeks, months or even years. Keep calling the shelters daily, keep sharing flyers and your social media posts. Additionally, please research other blogs and resources in addition to this post. Sometimes one blogger or pet professional will have a suggestion or information that someone else does not know or think to share.

Additional Resources: 

The Humane Society of the United States: What to Do if You Lose Your Pet

Petfinder: How to Find Your Lost Dog

Missing Pet Partnership: Lost Dog Behavior

Patricia McConnell: How to Find a Lost Dog

  Whistle 3 GPS Pet Tracker
What To Do If You Find a Lost Dog

What To Do If You Find a Lost Dog

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

What To Do If You Find a Lost DogLiving in a populated suburban area that consists of mostly subdivisions, we have frequent occurrences of dogs who are lost or found by local residents. Fortunately most of us are connected through our neighborhood Facebook groups and most of the lost dogs are returned to their owners rather quickly, but as much as it seems that everyone is on Facebook 24 hours a day, there is still a large part of the population who does not embrace social media as a regular part of everyday life.

It also seems that many people are reluctant to contact animal control, take the dog to the local animal shelter or contact the police department. This stems from a fear 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 for both the owner and the dog.

It is important to remember that the lack of a collar or tags does not indicate whether a dog has a home or not. Collars can fall off or break as can ID tags. Some dog owners do not leave collars on the dog when the dog is in the house because they can cause injury to a dog who is crated or when multiple dogs are playing and rough-housing. It is quite feasible and common that a well cared for and much-loved dog without a collar can slip out the front door or from a collar and leash and become lost.

More and more dogs are getting microchips at puppyhood or when adopted out through rescue organizations, but a chip is only good if it is scanned. As we discussed in the blog Pet ID Week: Understanding Microchips and Pet Trackers, microchips are not GPS units. They only work when scanned by a RFID scanner. The shelter will scan the dog to see if it has a microchip. If they do not do this automatically, make sure you request that they scan for a chip. A veterinarian's office can also do this and some police departments now have scanners for this purpose. Keeping a dog because it is not wearing a collar or because of the risk of being euthanized at a shelter is not fair to the dog or the owners who will likely be worried sick over their missing family member, no matter how good the intentions or motive of the person who found the dog. I cannot imagine the anguish in the hearts of anyone whose dog is missing, not knowing if their dog is alive or not, and that anguish being extended because the person who found the dog was not aware of the proper protocol. [caption id="attachment_3255" align="alignright" width="300"]What To Do If You Find a Lost Dog Collars can easily fall off or a dog can pull out of a collar and leash.[/caption] In recent years a friend of mine lost their elderly Yorkie and were desperately searching for him on social media, with the police, at the local shelters. Many people went out searching for him for hours each day. A neighbor who they did not know had found him and was keeping him "safe" at their home while my friend spent days searching, sick with worry and under immense stress to find her beloved dog, not knowing if he had been hit by a car, attacked by a coyote or picked up by someone with ill intent.

Here are the steps I recommend if you find a lost dog:

  1. If you come across a stray dog, do not chase it. If the dog comes to you willingly and you recognize its body language as welcoming and unafraid, err on the side of caution and keep the dog away from your own dogs or children. You do not want to put your own dogs at risk of bites, fleas, parasites or other illnesses.
  2. Check for a collar and tags and call the phone number on the identification tag. If the dog is in your car you can drive to the address on the tag to see if the owners are home. Finally, you can look the owner's name up on Facebook to see if you have any mutual friends if you live in the same community.
  3. Contact your local animal shelter and the police. This is a good contact to add to your phone before you need it, along with your police department's non-emergency number. Procedures can vary by area and they can tell you what to do next and how to get the dog to them.
  4. Post in your neighborhood Facebook groups that you found a dog and that it has been turned over to the shelter or police, whichever applies to your situation. This will let the owner know that their dog is safe and they can go there to pick it up.
  5. Add a post to any applicable lost/found dog social media pages. For example, here in Illinois we have Lost Dogs Illinois where owners can post information and photos of lost and found dogs.
  6. Share a post in your local Nextdoor network. If you are not a member of Nextdoor, it is a website/app for neighbors to share information. There is not the social aspect of sharing pictures or what you ate for dinner last night, it is strictly informational.
  7. Print posters and post them in your area in case the owner is not on social media. Include information letting them know that the dog was taken to the local shelter for them to claim.
  8. When sharing via social media, consider that dogs can easily travel across county lines or state lines, so if you have access to Facebook groups in nearby areas, post to those, too.
[caption id="attachment_3256" align="alignleft" width="300"]What To Do If You Find a Lost Dog Lost dogs are often scared, watch for body language that says they are approachable.[/caption] Unfortunately there are some unscrupulous and just plain evil people in the world who may try to claim a dog as their own even when they are not the owner. I believe that the shelter is better equipped to weed out these people than the average resident, which is another reason to ensure that found dogs are put into the hands of trained and experienced individuals. This applies to dogs who do not have contact information in the form of a tag and collar or microchip. Finally, as much as people with loving intentions may bond with a dog who they find or want to keep the dog for their own pet, it is morally the right thing to do to take all steps possible to get the dog home to their owner. A lost dog does not mean a bad owner, there are plenty of great dog owners whose dogs slip away out of a leash or an open gate. If you have room in your life for another dog and find that you want to keep the particular dog that you have found, please work with your shelter and ask them to contact you if nobody comes forward to claim the dog and he or she becomes available for adoption.
Tomorrow we will discuss what to do if you lose your dog on the Love, Laugh, Woof blog as we continue to discuss Pet ID Week. 

In addition to this blog, here is some information from the Missing Pet Partnership and The Whole Dog Journal that you may also find helpful.

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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.

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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. [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="290"] Lupine Eco series from Cherrybrook[/caption] 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. [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="236"] The Wander Tag Holder from Kurgo[/caption] 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.

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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. [caption id="attachment_207" align="alignright" width="225"]Good Dogs Don't Have to Be Perfect Dogs But momma, I'm so cute![/caption] 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.

Puppy House Training: Best Practices & Tips
Puppy House Training: Best Practices & Tips

Puppy House Training: Best Practices & Tips

by Lynn Stacy-Smith Puppy House Training: Best Practices & Tips I am not afraid to admit that back in 2011 as Jackson's Gotcha Date was looming, the thing that terrified me the most about starting off life with a new puppy was house training. Since Babe was a two-year old rescue dog when I adopted her, the last puppy I had helped house train was Dutch, and that had been thirteen years prior and only for a week. Dutch had started off as my parents' dog and only became mine after Mom passed away, so my only time house training him was when I watched their dogs for a week when Dutch was 9 weeks old. Fortunately our breeder gave us extensive information to prepare us for all aspects of puppyhood, and I studied the PDFs that she sent like I was studying for a state board exam. I was determined to house train him quickly with as few accidents as possible. When it was all said and done, Jackson peed in the house fewer than five times and pooped only once. Tink also had very few accidents and never pooped in the house during her puppyhood; she only has pooped once inside in the last three and a half years and that was when experiencing extreme intestinal distress in the middle of the night and she was unable to wake me to go outside. Puppy Bladders A good rule of thumb when considering how long your puppy can be left home alone is that puppies can hold their bladders for the same number of hours as they are months old. For example, an 8 week old puppy is approximately 2 months old, which equals two hours during calm waking hours or light sleep. When extremely tired puppies are sleeping, this time can be longer. When puppies are playing or rough-housing, this timeframe is substantially shorter, with puppies sometimes feeling the urge to urinate as often as every fifteen minutes when extremely active.

Access the full version of this article in the Happy, Healthy Dogs of Love, Laugh, Woof group. Click here to join:

Funny Puppy Stories, the Laugh in Love Laugh Woof
Funny Puppy Stories: The “Laugh” in Love, Laugh, Woof

Funny Puppy Stories: The "Laugh" in Love, Laugh, Woof

by Lynn Stacy-Smith Funny Puppy Stories, the Laugh in Love Laugh WoofThe Laugh in Love, Laugh, Woof is all about including laughter and fun in your life with your dog. Whether it is laughing at the funny things dogs do, understanding that dogs enjoy the sound of our laughter and realize it is a fun and happy sound, or wryly laughing at something naughty or frustrating that your dog has done, laughing is important in life and with dogs. Sometimes laughter falls into the category best described by my favorite songwriter Bruce Springsteen, like the lyric from Rosalita that says, "someday we'll look back on this and it will all seem funny."  Stories like the one I wrote about earlier this week in The Big Black Dog and the Cherry Tree  fall into this category. That day was terrifying and stressful when it happened, but now I can tell it with a type of self-deprecating humor about how I tore the cherry tree right out of the ground and whisked Jax off to the vet only to later learn that it wasn't the harmful type of cherry tree, as well with some laughter about what a naughty puppy Jackson often was when he was little. As we continue our theme of puppies for the next week, here are two of my favorite puppy stories from each of my dogs. 
Jax Mistakes Inside for Outside
Jackson came home to us on May 5, 2011, and like most summers in the Midwest the temperatures stayed consistently in the 80s and 90s from Memorial Day until after Labor Day. Because we have zero shade trees and it feels like we are living on the sun, our air conditioning runs pretty much non-stop. The front of our house gets so hot for most of the day that you literally cannot touch the metal door knob without burning yourself and I'm afraid to hang a decorative wreath for fear of it combusting! As a result, virtually all of Jackson's first four months with us were spent with the windows closed and the lined drapes in the front of the house closed to help keep the house cool. [caption id="attachment_3193" align="alignleft" width="300"]Funny Puppy Stories, the Laugh in Love, Laugh, Woof Sorry, Mom, I thought I was outside![/caption] As we headed into fall that first year of his life, Jackson was 100% house trained. In fact he had not had an accident for about two months, a major accomplishment that we are actually going to talk about in my next blog. As a fully house trained dog I no longer followed him around watching to see if he would squat, and he had not yet started to lift his leg. We were keeping him intact until his first birthday for health considerations and thankfully he did not have any obnoxious boy dog behavior yet. On the first day that the temperatures dropped we turned off the air conditioning and opened all of the windows. In the front room of our house we have large picture windows that are quite low to the floor. That afternoon I was sitting in the front room reading a magazine and Jax started to explore the world through the picture windows, his black nose pushed up against the screen while he sniffed the outside air. I watched and smiled as he moved along the length of the window, pausing periodically to sniff some more. "Whatcha smelling, sweet boy, do you like having the windows open?" I asked him and he wagged his tail in response, nose still smushed up against the screen. My warm fuzzy feeling came to a screeching halt when he got to the bushes at the far side of the window. They were planted outside but tall enough that they actually touched the screen and he sniffed with great interest before squatting and peeing a little right where he stood sniffing. "NO!" I exclaimed loudly and told him, "Outside, outside!" I grabbed his leash and snapped it onto his collar and took him out the front door, praising him heartily as he finished urinating near the same bush only outside the house. Once inside he watched with great interest as I sopped up the pee with paper towels and then squirted it heavily with a mixture of white vinegar and water. I pointed to the violated area and calmly said, "no" while his eyes searched my face as if he understood. I didn't say another word, not wanting to do anything to accidentally reinforce this behavior.
Note: It is important to reinforce that you have to correct your dog while they're doing the behavior but since he was looking at the pee I took the chance that he'd understand. Remember to never punish your dog by rubbing their nose in a potty accident. 
Later on I shared the story with my husband. "So you know how Jackson hasn't gone potty inside in a few months? He was sniffing out the front screens and when he got to the bush he peed on the floor! I swear he got confused and thought he was outside!" That was the last accident we ever had and five and a half years later he's never even had an accident when sick. We still joke about it anytime the weather is right for open windows. "Ok, Jaxy boy, you are inside the house, ok?" we laugh as he wags his big otter tail and nuzzles us lovingly. Part of me thinks he understands and is laughing along with us.
Tinkerbell vs. The Dishwasher 
[caption id="attachment_3192" align="alignright" width="225"]Funny Puppy Stories, the Laugh in Love Laugh Woof Tink at obedience school with plenty of homework to work on the "off" command![/caption] It is quite normal for a dog to be interested in the dirty dishes in the dishwasher. I mean, come on, it's at their level and all of the dishes have remnants of actual food or at least the scents of human delicacies that are usually off-limits to dogs. They cannot resist trying to take a little lick as you turn to grab the next dish to put on the racks. Tinkerbell was particularly persistent in her obsession with licking the dirty dishes. She was around five months old and we had been working on the "off" command, blocking her from licking the plates and silverware and telling her off. In typical puppy rearing fashion this process was done over, and over, and over, and over. Her desire to get a taste of our dinner kept winning over her desire to please us by following our instructions. After all, dogs want to please their humans, unless it involves a young Labrador and their mutated gene that gives them their love of food. One night I was cleaning up after dinner and Tinkerbell was in her normal spot, watching me and waiting for her chance to get a lick of a semi-dirty plate. The door was open and the bottom rack pulled out all the way.  I turned to the sink to rinse out a pan and swiveled back to the dishwasher just in time to see the bottom rack go flying off of the door, bouncing and clattering across the kitchen floor with plates and silverware flying out of it and Tinkerbell racing at top speed in front of it as if she was being chased. [caption id="attachment_3191" align="alignleft" width="225"]Funny Puppy Stories, the Laugh in Love Laugh Woof Helpful appliance or terrifying contraption?[/caption] I ran after Tinkerbell and the dishwasher rack and caught up to her in our family room. She was panicked as I caught her and quickly removed her collar from her neck. One of the tags on her collar had somehow gotten caught in the narrow side portions of the wire rack and attached her to the rack, startling her. When she tried to pull away she had jerked the wire rack off its channel, which scared her even more, and she took off with the entire dishwasher rack "chasing" her. It all happened so fast that it was like a scene out of a cartoon, her paws slipping on the tile floor as she tried to run faster than she could with dishes flying out all around her. You could have substituted Pluto for Tinkerbell and animated it for a surefire Disney hit! These days at three and a half years old, Tinkerbell still loves to stand by the dishwasher and watch me. She embraces the "off" concept, though, but every now and then she darts in to try to get a lick. I tell her a stern "off" and she backs up and looks at me like they are trained to do with that command, waiting for further direction. Sometimes I ask her, "Don't you remember what happened the day the dishes chased you, sweet girl?" as she wags her tail sweetly, "Now, out of the room!" With a big doggie sigh she heeds the "out" command and goes to join Jackson in the living room, away from the potential attack of the dishwasher.

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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. [caption id="attachment_3179" align="alignleft" width="300"]How to Be a Compassionate Puppy Owner I am looking to you for guidance every step of the way![/caption] 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. [caption id="attachment_3180" align="alignleft" width="300"]How to Be a Compassionate Puppy Owner Jax took every chance to learn and explore![/caption] 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. [caption id="attachment_3181" align="alignleft" width="300"]How to Be a Compassionate Puppy Owner Jax planning his next puppy mischief or dreaming about the future?[/caption] 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!  


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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. [caption id="attachment_3166" align="alignright" width="300"] Dutch enjoying an adventure prior to cancer[/caption] 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. [caption id="attachment_3163" align="alignright" width="300"] Maggie going for a car ride[/caption] When Jackson was a young puppy, he and I were out on a walk when we came across a lawn care company spraying chemicals on a neighboring yard. Once again, as a result of growing up in the woods in a rural area I didn't understand the suburban desire to have a perfect expanse of green grass, and so we did not use a service like this. It seemed unnecessary when our grass was just fine in its imperfect natural state. Jax and I made a wide arc around that property and as soon as we got home I started to Google the side effects of those chemicals.

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

September 4, 1991: Lawn Herbicide Called Cancer Risk for Dogs, NY Times In this article the New York Times shares the results of a study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in which researchers found that dogs were two times as likely to develop lymphoma when their owners "sprayed or sprinkled the 2,4-D herbicide on the lawn four or more times a year." 
2004,Purdue University: CANINE BLADDER CANCER by Deborah W. Knapp, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM Purdue University found an association between herbicide treated lawns and bladder cancer in Scottish Terriers. The risk of transitional cell carcinoma  was four to seven times higher in dogs who were exposed to 2,4-D.
2011,Environmental Research journal: Household chemical exposures and the risk of canine malignant lymphoma The Journal of Environmental Research printed a study that showed that exposure to professionally applied lawn care pesticides resulted in a 70% higher risk of malignant lymphoma in dogs. According to page 176 of the study, "Dose of exposure to environmental chemicals such as lawn care products used at home may be substantial, especially for dogs spending a considerable amount of time outdoors on lawns."
2013, Purdue University: Detection of Herbicides in the Urine of Pet Dogs Following Home Lawn Chemical Application Purdue University studied dogs from treated and untreated yards and found that untreated grass contained chemicals from drift from other yards and half of the dogs studied who lived in untreated yards still had chemicals in their urine.
This study is perhaps the most troubling to me because it demonstrated that even if owners use precautions and do not treat their own yards that their dogs are still at risk from other homeowners' toxic pesticides and herbicides drifting onto their grass. It also showed that the 48 hour waiting period in which residents are instructed to keep children and pets off of the grass is insufficient to keep them safe. Once homeowners remove the signs from their yard, assuming that the lawn care company provides signs, there is no way of discerning which lawns have been treated, although because of the drift of the toxins into neighboring yards it may not matter which are treated and which are not.
According to the PuppyUP Foundation, "it is estimated between 4 and 6 million dogs die from cancer each year and recently it was announced that 36 children a day are diagnosed with cancer." These studies are not new, you just have to Google "lawn care chemicals dogs" and you will find page after page of scientific research and articles linking lawn care treatments to cancer in dogs. Change "dogs" to "children" and the results are similar. Lawn Care Chemicals Linked to Cancer in DogsI have neighbors all around me as well as a very large local park who treat their lawns and I live in constant fear of what my dogs are absorbing through their noses and paws, what they are ingesting when they nibble on the grass in our yard or clean themselves after spending time outdoors. I go through daily routines to wash their paws and wipe down their faces and bodies and I make sure I provide a healthy holistic life to try to keep their immune systems strong and able to fight the carcinogens that so easily drift onto our own grass, onto our own property against our will. There is no way for us to stop this toxic drift other than putting our house in a giant bubble, and so education and awareness is our biggest ally in this battle. As we head quickly toward warm weather, please reconsider how much that perfect green lawn means in the grand scheme of life.  I implore you to help educate your own friends and neighbors on the benefits of organic lawn care and organic gardening. Push back on your HOA and local park departments that also often use these toxins to ensure that the grass looks healthy. Lawn Care Chemicals Linked to Cancer in DogsIf not for the dogs themselves, do it for the humans in the house who are walking on the same floors as the dogs, sitting on the same furniture, and petting the fur of the dogs who are out in the world just trying to be dogs but falling victim to the misguided dream of a perfect expanse of green grass. Do it for the children who are playing in the grass, running barefoot and innocently rolling around on a beautiful day. Do it for the bees who need the dandelions that grow when lawns are not treated. What is the point of buying organic at the grocery store, of eating healthy foods and trying to take care of our bodies if we poison our animals, our children and ourselves right in our own back yards?

Here are previous posts that I have written on this topic

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

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

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

Keeping Your Dog Safe From Lawn & Garden Hazards
Keeping Your Dog Safe From Lawn & Garden Hazards

Keeping Your Dog Safe From Lawn & Garden Hazards

by Lynn Stacy-Smith Keeping Your Dog Safe From Lawn & Garden HazardsThe first day of spring is such a happy day, full of the promise of better weather, green leaves and grass, and flowers. As the temperatures rise, our neighbors start to come out of hibernation and the snow shovels and containers of ice melting salt at the garden store are replaced by seeds, plants and mulch and people start to pay attention to their neglected gardens and lawns. Yesterday I shared an older post from when Jackson was a puppy that I like to call The Big Black Dog and the Cherry Tree in a play on words on the KT Tunstall song. The story of The Big Black Dog and the Cherry Tree is a cautionary tale about the importance of researching the trees and plants that you plant in an area that your dog can access. Jax was fine after eating the cherry tree leaves, and we learned that our particular tree was not poisonous, but it was definitely a wake up call. I grew up in the woods. Not a wooded lot, but the woods in the mountains. I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that my parents never purchased a tree for that house or had to plant additional trees. In fact we also never had to purchase firewood, another suburban thing that mystified me after moving to this area. And so as an adult it never occurred to me that I could end up purchasing a tree for our suburban yard that could hurt or kill my dogs. Fortunately the ASPCA has an extensive list of poisonous plants and trees on their website. Anytime you plant a tree, flower, shrub, herb, fruit, vegetable or any sort of vegetation in an area that your dog can access, consult this list There is also a printable version that you can print and take to the garden store with you: if for some reason you cannot pull up the list on your mobile phone. There are also Pet Poison apps that you can and should add to your phone that can be helpful when at the garden center as well as if your dog eats something questionable. [caption id="attachment_3153" align="alignright" width="300"] Puppies explore the world with their mouth and no fear or knowledge of what can hurt them![/caption] Mulch is another area to use caution and do your research. A fairly new and eco-friendly option is the Cocoa hull or cocoa shell mulch. However, it is far from dog friendly; in fact cocoa mulch is quite toxic to dogs if they eat it. I suggest watching your dog around any type of mulch, wood or rubber, because consuming any of these items is not going to be great for your dog. Here is a link with some suggestions on the best mulch options to use in your fenced areas if you use any at all: We use stones in our garden areas in our back yard; although the dogs tried to chew on the rocks as little puppies, they leave them alone as adult dogs, unlike wood mulch which they still try to eat if given a chance. Fertilizers and pesticides are also harmful to dogs, so going organic in your own yard or garden is much safer for pets as well as the humans who live in your home. There are some great ideas for organic gardening at this link:  Use caution if you follow their advice to use coffee grounds in your garden; you don't want your pets eating the coffee grounds as those can make them quite ill. As a general rule, I always recommend supervising your dogs anytime you are outside in addition to dog proofing your yard. A persistent dog can still get into something with you there, like Jackson proved with the cherry tree. A fast and determined puppy can still snatch up and eat something they shouldn't like Tinkerbell proved when she managed to get a rotten cantaloupe that we had not noticed rolled away from our garden and up against our fence a few years ago. No matter how much we train them, sometimes a dog on a mission is just going to ignore your stern commands to "drop it" or "leave it" and they are going to wolf down a contraband item with the speed and determination of someone competing in the Coney Island hot dog eating contest.          
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:
[caption width="300" id="attachment_3122" align="alignright"] Photo credit:[/caption]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! 

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Create Your Own Dog Care Binder
Create Your Own Dog Care Binder with Instructions for PetSitters

Create Your Own Dog Care Binder with Instructions for Pet Sitters

by Lynn Stacy-Smith Create Your Own Dog Care BinderSeveral years ago when I was updating my annual dog care instructions for our pet sitter I noticed a spare binder on my desk. I added a cover photo, got out the three-hole punch, and the dog care binder was born. I won't lie, I've taken some loving teasing about the dog care binder, or the "manual" as some in my family and inner circle have called it. My husband joked that we never left so many instructions to care for the kids as we do for the dogs. When it comes down to it, though, the human kids can talk; the dogs cannot, at least not in a way that someone new would understand right away like I do through our daily life together. The truth is, you never know when you might get called away at the last-minute. Emergencies come up and you might find yourself booking a flight for that same day and hopping on a plane, leaving your home and dogs in the hands of someone else while you go to be with a sick family member or an emergency work meeting. Creating a dog care binder with details on everything someone needs to know to care for your dogs as well as your home will give you incredible peace of mind. Trust me on this, I have walked the walk.

To access the rest of this topic, join us in the Happy, Healthy Dogs Group, where you can take a four week self paced mini-course on finding reliable pet care options or simply learn about the pet care binder.

Professional Pet Sitter Week: Finding Pet Sitters & Kennels You Can Trust
Professional Pet Sitter Week: Finding Pet Sitters & Kennels You Can Trust

Professional Pet Sitter Week: Finding Pet Sitters & Kennels You Can Trust

by Lynn Stacy-Smith Professional Pet Sitter Week: Finding Pet Sitters & Kennels You Can TrustBack in 2005 when I first moved to Illinois I had to travel for work with just a few days notice. Being new in town, I desperately researched local kennels to care for my black Labrador Babe, and found one that looked promising. I spoke to the owner on the phone, asked her a lot of questions about the facility, how long she had been in business, her experience with dogs, what she did in the event of an emergency, and then I booked Babe's stay. The owner was somewhat gruff as I dropped Babe off but I had no other options and I was literally headed to the airport immediately after dropping her off. Plus I was hiring her based on her pet care experience, not her human communication skills. Two days later I arrived back home and sped to the kennel to pick up my Babe. She reeked of urine, dog smell and something else that was just generally bad and stale. Her dog bed also smelled so badly of urine that I ended up just throwing it out and buying her a new one. I also had to take her to the vet to be treated for a UTI. I was appalled that she had suffered through those conditions for just a few days; I felt like the worst dog owner ever. As I sat down to write this blog I decided to look on Yelp to see what type of feedback they were getting twelve years later. At first glance there were four reviews, three extremely positive and one with a photo of a dog with sores and lameness. There was also a link that read "Four other reviews that are not currently recommended." Of course I clicked that link, and this is what I found:
"I am in shock!  I asked about coming for a visit to see where my dog would be and was told no, they don't allow that!  She said I could drive by the property and look in the window!  Really!" "That place scares me. I stopped in and the whole property reeked." "My dog came home smelling horrible.... like urine and feces. The whole location always smells horrible. He seems to have a urinary tract infection as he is peeing constantly. He also has been throwing up for two days." "When I picked her up she appeared dirty and was limping.  After a cursory examination I found feces dried on her fur (not near her rectal area) and red-scaly spots between her toes.  The vet determined that she has both a yeast and bacterial infection between the pads of her feet.  This is most likely the result of standing in her own feces and urine for an extended period of time.  The stench of fecal matter and urine was overwhelming inside the facility."
So how do you avoid ending up somewhere like that kennel and find pet sitters and kennels who you can trust ? Research, research, research and more research. Fortunately there is far more information that you can find now in 2017 from online sources and connecting with other humans online.  
Resources for Finding Kennels & Pet Sitters: 
Other Dog Professionals: Reach out to the other dog professionals in your life, like your veterinarian, your dog groomer, your training facility. Not only are they likely to have their own pets who need to be boarded occasionally, but they will probably know other people int he pet care industry. Facebook neighborhood groups: Most towns and even neighborhoods have Facebook groups that you can use to ask for suggestions on local businesses. You may end up with ten entirely different suggestions or find that the same business is recommended over and over. Yelp: When searching Yelp, make sure you look at all of the reviews, even the ones like I found that were listed as "not currently recommended."  Yelp gives an explanation about why they recommend certain reviews over others and based on their explanation, I would personally consider all of the reviews posted by dog owners when finding a pet care facility.  In my opinion, if someone is inspired enough by a positive or negative experience to create an account and draft their first review, I want to know about it. Better Business BureauThe Better Business Bureau website includes business ratings, owner information, how long the business has been open and also has an area for customer reviews and complaints along with the ability for the business owner to address and respond to the complaint. I have not found as much information on here as other sites but it is worth checking. I believe you can tell a lot by the way that a business owner handles complaints. Angie's ListAngie's List lets users grade businesses on price, quality, responsiveness, punctuality and professionalism using the A-F system like you find in academia. You are now able to create a free membership. Judy's Book: Judy's Book consists of user reviews posted directly to the site as well as reviews from other sources. There is also a spot for the best and the worst review, but again when it comes to finding a trusted boarding facility for your dog, I suggest reading every review thoroughly. Google: Ok, recommending you use Google is not exactly rocket science. Most users only go through the first page of results; for this type of research, my suggestion is to go many pages deep and not only Google the name of the business but the owner's name and the address as well. DogVacay: You can search for pet sitters to watch your dog in your own home or in their home, a concept that is growing in popularity more and more. According to the DogVacay information, they have an extensive vetting process and educational courses for their pet sitters and as I spot checked sitters near me they all had rave reviews and five stars (the maximum) with only a few exceptions. You can also find pet sitters who watch your dog in your own home either overnight, go to your home to let your dog outside for potty and play breaks and meals, or for dog walking. RoverJust like DogVacay, you can search for boarding in a pet sitter's home, dog sitting in your home, drop-in visits, dog walking and doggie day care in a sitter's home. You can research ratings, repeat customers, detailed reviews, whether or not the pet sitter has passed a background check, if they have taken courses, and if they have access to the pet care hotline. National Association of Professional Pet Sitters:  The mission statement of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters is "The only National non-profit professional pet sitting association dedicated to setting the industry standard and championing the welfare of animals." You can search for pet sitters in your area who are part of the group through their Pet Sitter Locator function. Pet Sitters International: Pet Sitters International is "a pioneer in the pet-sitting industry and a trusted educational resource for pet sitters and pet owners alike." You can search for a local pet sitter who is a member of their organization  at this link:
Questions to Ask: 
Here are two fantastic must use resources whether you are choosing a pet sitter or a boarding kennel: Pet Sitter International Tips for Conducting a Professional Pet Sitter International Boarding & Pet Services association: Questions to ask a pet boarding or daycare facility. 

Tomorrow I will share my dog care binder and information on why it's important to keep dog care instruction handy should you have to leave your dogs with a pet sitter.

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Dog Care Options: Pet Sitter or Boarding?
Dog Care Options: Pet Sitter or Boarding?

Dog Care Options: Pet Sitter or Boarding?

by Lynn Stacy-Smith Dog Care Options: Pet Sitter or Boarding?If you are like me, the thought of leaving your dog in someone else's care is one of the things in life that can cause your anxiety level to soar to levels previously unknown. The list of people I trust to care for Jackson and Tinkerbell is extremely short and even some of my closest friends are not on it. So how do you decide your dog care options and whether a pet sitter or boarding is right for your dog? Fortunately I have found an amazing friend who I also hire professionally to watch my dog who graciously accepts my many post-it notes throughout the house, frequent check-ins, my dog care binder, and all of my other quirks as a dog owner. If you are blessed to have someone like this in your life to take care of your dogs, then you know what an incredible relief it is. Shower them with thanks and pay them well! Even if you rarely travel or if you take vacations with your dog, I strongly suggest having at least one trusted dog care option on-call in the event of an emergency. You never know when you will have to go out-of-town for a family emergency. In fact, in the almost six years since Jackson was born we had three incidents in which we had to leave town on a moment's notice for a family emergency. In honor of Professional Pet Sitter Week we will examine this topic in a series of blogs for both new and veteran dog owners.

Boarding Options

 There are many, many options for finding pet sitters and boarding facilities these days, with DogVacay,,, Yelp and more. So how do you choose what is right for you? Vet Clinic Boarding: Many vet clinics offer boarding for non-medical stays, either in traditional dog runs or in crates in a designated area. Depending on the clinic, boarding is open to just clients or the general public. Traditional Dog Boarding: Traditional boarding kennels have indoor runs for each dog or bonded pair. Some are built with outside areas that your dog can access when their specific gate is open and others are entirely inside and dogs are walked to the outdoor area. Dogs are kept separate from each other throughout their stay and each get solo time outside for potty and play breaks. Doggie Daycare: Doggie daycare is a type of dog care facility in which the dogs are allowed to play together and interact with each other for either portions of the day or the entire day. Dogs are typically separated at night when they are not being watched by a staff of humans and sleep either in crates or traditional dog runs depending on the facility. Dog Care Options: Pet Sitter or Boarding? Pet sitter at your own home: Pet sitters come into your home to tend to your dog in his or her own environment. Some pet sitters are willing to live at your home while you are gone and sleep there overnight. Others make visits approximately every eight hours or more depending on your particular dog's needs. These visits include potty breaks, playtime, meals and fresh water. Pet sitting at the sitter's Home: Some pet sitters now offer dog care in their own home, so that your dog stays with the pet sitter and his or her own pets and family.

Kennel versus At Home?

With so many options for dog care,  how do you decide if you should board your dog in a traditional kennel versus letting them stay at home?  1. Are your dogs in crates/kennels at home? One of my main requirements for an at-home dog sitter is that they be available to stay at my home overnight and sleep here. This is primarily because my dogs are in large wire dog kennels when we are not home. While this is fine for as long as eight hours to ten hours for an average workday, running errands, going to a social event or everyday activity, there is no way I would want them in there for twenty-four hours at a time with just periodic potty breaks. 2. Is the space at the boarding kennel larger than their crates at home?When we board them, we book the "Luxury" kennels in large, which are about three times the size of their crates at home and can fit both of them together. So not only do they have plenty of room to move around, they can be together and snuggle and do a little bit of playing. I also pay for as many extra play sessions outside as I can, to give them extra time to run and stretch their legs. 3. What type of  security is there at the kennel versus at home? I will be the first one to admit that I am a bit on the neurotic side when it comes to the safety of my dogs, but security is something to consider no matter where your pet stays. Does the boarding kennel have a security system connected to the police department? What is their protocol in the event of fire or a break-in? What type of neighborhood are they in? If you choose a pet sitter who is not sleeping at your home, do you have neighbors nearby? Will your police department do vacation monitoring? Do you have a security service for your home like ADT with cameras and fire and flood monitoring? Do you have a doorbell like Ring that records all of the people who come to your door? Do you have a thermostat like Nest to monitor the temperature of your home remotely? Do you have neighbors to help keep an eye out on your house? 4. Does your dog have special needs? When we went on vacation, our senior dogs Babe, Dutch, and Maggie were perfectly fine and happy staying at home with a pet sitter who came to the house four times a day. All three dogs were seniors who got along great, slept about 90% of the day, and had the entire downstairs to roam. When Jackson came into our life and before we knew our current dog sitter, we decided to board him at the kennel to give him more room to move around than his crate would allow. He and Maggie stayed at our veterinary clinic in separate dog runs so that puppy Jax would not trample his elderly sister and re-injure her spine that had been operated on years before. When Tinkerbell joined the family,  she shared a run with Jax at the vet clinic. Once we found our dog sitter who would sleep over, we started leaving the dogs at home with her while she lives in our home while we are away. Different dogs with different needs and different situations. 5. Does your dog do well with other dogs? If your dog is used to playing with other dogs and generally gets along well with other dogs, a doggie daycare option will be fun and your dog might never want to come home. Well, not really, your dog will always choose you, but as long as they play nicely with others, a doggie daycare is like camp for your dog and they are generally worn out from playing and socializing by the time you get home from your trip. Of course your primary goal is to choose the safest, most comfortable option for your particular dog so that he or she is safe and happy upon your arrival home. You want your dog to be happy to see you and as happy and healthy as you left her with her caretaker when you arrive home.

 Tomorrow we will discuss how to find the pet sitter or boarding kennel that is right for you and your dogs at  

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World Spay Day Worldwide Issues and How to Help
World Spay Day: Worldwide Issues and How to Help

World Spay Day: Worldwide Issues and How to Help

by Lynn Stacy-Smith World Spay Day Worldwide Issues and How to Help Two years ago my foster dog Destiny changed my life forever. She did it in small ways, by letting me teach her to trust people, to transitioning from being terrified of anyone touching her anywhere other than under her face to being the type of 60 pound lap dog who sprawled across your entire lap in a deep sleep. She did it by letting me rehab her from a terrified former stray into a beloved and happy dog headed into her forever home. One of the most noticeable thing about Destiny was that her nipples were extended as if she had had puppies recently or just so many litters of puppies that they never went back to normal. When found as a stray, tied to a tree and left to die in a wooded area of Puerto Rico, she was around six or seven years old and un-spayed. Like many rescue dogs, she was promptly spayed before making her journey from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Chicago, Illinois. [caption id="attachment_116" align="alignleft" width="448"] Destiny crashed out after a game of ball[/caption] Because of Destiny, I began following the work of the non-profit organization Love Puerto Rico Goldens on Facebook. Because of Facebook translations I was able to learn about their near-daily task of rescuing purebred Golden Retrievers and Golden Retriever mixed breed dogs and puppies who have been abandoned and left entirely homeless. Because most of them are intact and able to reproduce, they do, in plentiful numbers. A few months after Destiny found her forever home a friend of mine went to Puerto Rico for a wedding. "You can probably bring a few puppies back in your carry on," I joked, although it was a joke with a wish that she could save a few dogs while down there. She texted me from there and said, "Oh, Lynn, it's so heart breaking, there are dogs and puppies everywhere, just wandering along the streets." According to an article on CNN Money, "People are literally fleeing Puerto Rico because the island's economy is so bad. One in 10 people is out of work. The island's government has run out of money and is $72 billion in debt. Over 10% of the population has booked a one-way ticket out (mostly to Florida, Texas and elsewhere in the mainland U.S.) in the past decade. Sometimes people just leave their homes and lock their dogs inside, never to return." The same CNN Money article includes ways to help with dogs in Puerto Rico: . You can also donate directly to Love Puerto Rico Goldens, which is 100% dependent on donations: Even more heartbreaking is that this issue is in no way unique to Puerto Rico. If you remember leading up to the Sochi Winter Olympics there was a massive culling of stray dogs and the despicable and inhumane term "biological trash" used to describe the innocent dogs who are a victim of irresponsible humans. These situations happen all over the world. How can you help?Donations, spreading awareness, volunteering and spaying or neutering your own dog(s) are important things that you can do to help with pet overpopulation problems both here and around the world.I found three web sites with important information on how you can make a difference. Click on these links to read more:   
Spay/Neuter Awareness Month: Reasons to Not
Spay and Neuter Awareness Month: Mythbusting Reasons to Not “Fix” Your Dog

Spay/Neuter Awareness Month:  Mythbusting Reasons to Not "Fix" Your Dog

by Lynn Stacy-Smith Spay/Neuter Awareness Month: Reasons to Not "Fix" Your DogI did not neuter Jackson until he was a little over two and a half years old. I spent a good two years running into issues when I wanted to take him to training classes, dog parks and other areas. "He's still intact because he's competing in conformation shows," I would explain, "Not because of ignorance or any other reason." On Jackson's first birthday I sent several photos of him to our breeder as well as a Happy Birthday message to his litter mate who she had kept. She messaged me back and said, "Jackson is turning out to be spectacular, if you want you can hold of neutering him and try him out in a few UKC (United Kennel Club) shows and then depending how he does maybe we will change his AKC registration from Limited to full and think about using him as a stud dog." I cancelled the appointment I had already made to have him neutered, registered him with the UKC, and started training with him on the skills he would need in a dog show. We practiced gaiting and stacking, and I envisioned him going all the way to Madison Square Garden and being on TV representing his breed in Best In Group and being the Labrador to finally win Best in Show. I found hot pink dress pants to pop against his black fur, put on functional shoes and we were ready! In reality we did three dog shows. We earned a few Best of Breeds and a third in the Gun Dog Group, which is the UKC version of the Sporting Group. Each time I laughed at myself as we drove to shows that took place in warehouse type spaces in industrial parks in suburban Illinois, a far cry from Madison Square Garden. At the third show we won Best of Breed and headed to the group competition. There were a ton of dogs there that day, far more than the first few shows. Jax was more interested in playing that day and tried to befriend the Golden the middle of the competition. When the judge came to inspect him, Jackson rolled over on his back with all four paws in the air. Then we ran out of bait and I lost his focus entirely. As he tried to jump on top of the Golden again, I politely took my dog and left the ring. I wasn't angry, I wasn't upset, I doubt it was proper etiquette, but I just did not want to be that person whose dog was distracting the other well-behaved dogs. "Well, big man, I think that is the end of your show career, what do you think?" He nuzzled my face and snorted, which is one of my favorite Jax signature moves. "Come on, let's go home to Daddy and Tinkerbell. I'll get you a puppacino on the way home, my handsome boy." A few weeks later I made the appointment to neuter him and spay Tinkerbell, who was coming up on seven months old, the same day. Had I hired a professional handler, I'm sure Jax could have had a stellar show career; the reality was that he already had a full-time dog job: to be my best friend and companion. I would never be the person to send him off with a handler, on airplanes and in strange places without me, just for him to be a champion. After the procedures, Jax was my same quirky and special boy and Tinkerbell my same crazy girl. Literally nothing about their activity level or temperament changed, at least once they healed. Of course you have to keep them calm and on kennel rest while they heal, but after that they were the exact same dogs. Jax was still a typical boy, peeing on every single tree, light post and mailbox (if I'd let him) on our walks, somehow able to ration his urine to make it through a long walk and still be able to claim every single vertical object as his own. Tink was still insane with endless energy, running zoomies as fast as her legs could carry her and then snuggling sweetly with us every night. Too often I hear some interesting reasons for not spaying or neutering a dog, usually online in various groups and forums and occasionally at pet expos. It goes back to the Woof in Love, Laugh, Woof. Woof means celebrating the differences between our species and understanding that your dog is a dog and not trying to push human feelings onto them. Let's take a look at some of the wrong reasons for not spaying/neutering a dog: Females need to experience giving birth to a litter: Emotional regret over not having offspring is entirely a human thing. Although I love to celebrate a mother dog's love for her puppies, your dog is not staring out the window wondering why she never had puppies. That doesn't mean a dog doesn't have a strong maternal instinct, but it kicks in after she is pregnant. Dogs live in the moment, your dog is perfectly happy experiencing other things besides giving birth to puppies. Take her on adventures instead, she will love you even more for sharing such amazing bonding experiences and it will never cross her mind that she did not "get" to have pups. [caption id="attachment_614" align="alignright" width="221"] Still a big boy, happily neutered![/caption] Neutering makes males less male: Well, if you're talking about moving mountains to get to females in heat, embarrassing dog erections for no reason, or marking your furniture, yes, neutering will change that. But in terms of the good parts of a boy dog, there is no difference. Your male dog does not care that he lost his testicles. That's a human hangup. Although the procedures are definitely different, your male dog is still just as male as a man who has a vasectomy. All that's changed is their ability to have an heir. Unless your dog is the King of England, he doesn't need an heir. Period. "Fixing" a dog makes them fat: Just like we humans, too many calories and too little activity makes dogs fat. If you see them gaining weight, adjust their calories. I promised a "no fat Labs" promise and have kept to it. Jax and Tink weigh exactly the same as before they were spayed and neutered.  You are in control of how much you feed your dog, how much exercise he or she gets, and ultimately how much they weigh, intact or sterilized. Children should experience the miracle of life: I call BS on this. I am a parent, there are books for that, they take classes on that in health class. There is no logical reason for a child to learn about the miracle of life by bringing innocent puppies into the world. Parents who really want their children to see the process can view a variety of births on YouTube. It is miraculous, I once sat and watched a professional breeder's dog give birth via webcam for an entire afternoon; I was not going to submit Tinkerbell to that just for the experience. If you hear friends talking about breeding their dogs, please have the important conversation with them, asking them to reconsider and ask them not to become a backyard breeder. If none of the arguments above are sufficient, there are 1.2 million other reasons not to breed, in the form of dogs who are euthanized each year because a home was not available to them.    
National Prevent a Litter Month: The Importance of Spaying and Neutering
National Prevent a Litter Month: The Importance of Spaying and Neutering

National Prevent a Litter Month: The Importance of Spaying and Neutering

by Lynn Stacy-Smith National Prevent a Litter Month: The Importance of Spaying and NeuteringEarlier this month I blogged about Responsible Pet Owner Month and how virtually all of the special dog days in this month all tie back into the idea of being a responsible pet owner. It makes sense that February is also National Prevent a Litter Month, a time for us to talk about the importance of spaying and neutering. Unless you are a professional/show/hobby breeder, it is my belief that to allow your female to become pregnant or your male dog to father puppies is among the most irresponsible things that a pet owner can do.  According to data from the ASPCA Shelter Intake and Surrender page, 90% of the dogs who enter a shelter, as strays and owner surrenders, are intact and able to create a litter of puppies. Also according to their data, "the average number of litters a fertile dog produces is one a year; the average number of puppies is four to six." If 3,900,000 dogs enter shelters each year, that means that 3,510,000 are not spayed or neutered. If we were to imagine that half are females, that means 1,755,000 dogs able to produce approximately 7,020,000 puppies a year. That is the equivalent of one puppy for every single resident of the state of Washington.  In my blog, Understanding the Different Types of Dog Breeders, I wrote about responsible breeders and that they require that their puppies be spayed/neutered and that the owner submit proof that the procedure has been performed by a certain date. Some responsible breeders include in their contract that they can take the dog back if the puppy buyer fails to have their dog neutered or spayed. Additionally, responsible breeders sell their puppies with Limited Registration instead of full AKC registration in order to keep puppy buyers from breeding AKC registered dogs on their own. Shelters and dog rescue organizations also require that their adopted dogs be spayed or neutered and usually the procedure is done before the dog is available for adoption. So if responsible breeders are requiring that puppies be altered and so do rescue groups and shelters, how are so many dogs living their life intact and able to create more dogs? According to additional data on the ASPCA site, 28% of owners acquire dogs from breeders, 29% from rescue groups and shelters, and 43% from family and other acquaintances. Unfortunately the site does not specify what type of breeder they include in the 28%, but unlike responsible breeders, backyard breeders and puppy mill operators are unlikely to require that the puppies be fixed or that the puppy buyers are educated about puppies and ready to assume responsibility for the dog for life.  In the family and other acquaintance category you will find those owners who either intentionally or accidentally created a litter of puppies and now have the difficult task of finding homes for the puppies. It's a common scenario: someone's intact male found his way to someone else's fertile female and created a litter of puppies. They are free to a good home or inexpensive to cover the cost of their puppy shots, and the owner of the female is desperate to find homes for them all. They do not know how to screen a puppy buyer and they don't have a way to demand that the puppy be spayed. Both scenarios present the same two problems: too many puppies and not enough of a screening process to ensure that those puppies do not end up in shelters or as strays.  When you look at the reasons for owner surrender of dogs to shelters, 29% of owners cannot have pets in their home or apartment. Behavioral issues, divorce/death, and not enough time are all equal at 10%, and other issues make up the final 41% of owner surrenders. All of those named issues, even death, are part of comprehensive screening of potential owners by both responsible breeders and shelter/rescues. That means at least 59% of those owners would have been asked:
  1. What is your training philosophy? Where will you take the dog for training issues? How will you handle behavioral issues? What books have you read about training dogs?
  2. When will you spend time with the dog? What activities will you do with the dog? Who will take care of the dog if you are called out-of-town or have to work late?
  3. What will happen to the dog in the event of divorce or death?
  4. What is your current living situation? What will you do if you have to move? How will you ensure that you will live somewhere pet friendly?
Spaying and neutering not only prevents overpopulation of dogs and cats, it also means that unprepared owners are not in a position to deal with litters of puppies. At the end of the day, just because you find a home for a dog does not mean the dog is safe from being abandoned as a stray or at a shelter. Responsible breeders and rescue groups typically work extremely hard to filter out the bad homes, the people who are getting a dog on a whim, all to make sure their dogs go to loving, capable forever owners. Spaying and neutering is the most effective way of preventing the pet overpopulation problem and the tragic and unnecessary death of 1.2 million dogs each year.            
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. [caption id="attachment_2971" align="alignright" width="362"]dog eating carrot photo credit: Canopener Sally Carrots, oh yum. via photopin (license)[/caption] 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)  
National Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day
National Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day: Jax and Tink’s Five Favorite Brands

National Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day: Jax and Tink's Five Favorite Brands

By Lynn Stacy-Smith National Dog Biscuit Appreciation DayToday is National Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day! If it seems like I've had a lot of "national (fill in the blank) day" posts, you are correct. February is chock full of them. Some are for extremely important educational topics and some, like this one, are just plain fun! Dog treats do serve a function when used for training. In addition to training and getting your dog's attention, most dogs just love to have a little treat here and there. Since chewing crunchy food can help keep dogs' teeth clean you might get a few dental benefits out of larger biscuits. On the downside, treat calories do add up, so make sure you incorporate those calories into your dog's day and adjust their amount of food accordingly. Treat ingredients matter and it is important to avoid allergens in treats just like you do in your dog's food, reading labels carefully and thoroughly. And just like food, the quality of treats varies wildly across brands, so make sure you are looking for companies with a good reputation and quality ingredients, made in the United States. [caption id="attachment_2633" align="alignright" width="202"] "Did you say fish cookies??"[/caption] Jackson and Tinkerbell, typical Labradors who love, love, love to eat, are dog biscuit connoisseurs. They love to train for treats, they get treats when they come inside, when they go into their crates, and before bed. (I told you I'm an expert dog owner, I never said I wasn't a pushover!) We even have a little series of tricks that they do at bedtime, both sitting side by side on our human bed and showing us Shake Hands, High Five, Speak, and Touch, in which they reach up and touch our hand with their noses. Here are some of our favorite trusted brands that Jackson and Tinkerbell give four paws up and a wagging tail and get my approval as a careful dog mom: Dogs Love Kale: My dogs love kale. My teenagers joke with me that our dogs are nerdy dogs because they don't beg for meat or normal things, but the moment I start to make a salad they come running into the kitchen, at which point I give them dog friendly veggies, including kale. When I found this brand I did a happy dance and promptly ordered one of every flavor! You can purchase from Amazon in a single package in a variety of flavors, including quite a few that are made without chicken or poultry. Fruitables: I switched to Fruitables for Jax and Tink when Zukes sold out to Purina. I use the Skinny Mini variety for training because they are tiny and have a strong smell. I buy the small crunchy treats for everyday treats. They also offer dental chews and meat jerky strips. Jax and Tink love the salmon strips! I purchase either from my local independent pet food store or through Petflow. Fruitables Chewy Skinny Minis Pumpkin Mango Flavor Dog Treats - $8.99 from: Fruitables Crunchy Pumpkin and Apple Dog Treats - $5.99 from: Fruitables BioActive Fresh Mouth Grain Free Dental Chews for Dogs - $15.99 from: Fruitables Whole Jerky Alaskan Salmon Dog Treats - $10.99 from: Cloud Star: Cloud Star makes a grain free line and I like the Peanut Butter option for Jax and Tink. The Buddy Biscuits are larger than Dogs Love Kale or Fruitables and are more of a traditional biscuit size. These I feed less frequently but I like them because they give a little more crunchy chewing than the small options. Canine Caviar: I feed Canine Caviar food and so I also trust their treats with my dogs. I prefer the Paddywacks which are a part of the buffalo "other" than the bully stick or pizzle. Sure, the dogs love bully sticks, but the thought of what they are is kinda a turn off for a lot of humans. I'd rather they chew on "other" parts. You can get a huge box of them from PetFlow with free shipping! Canine Caviar Buffalo 12-Inch Paddywack Dog Treats from: Earthborn Holistics: I purchase the peanut butter treats and what we call the "fishy cookies" in our house. The fish variety has a very strong odor but the dogs get very excited for them so I can't deny them their fishy cookies! Earthborn Holistic EarthBites Peanut Flavor Dog Treats - $5.99 from: Earthborn Holistic Grain Free Oven Baked Biscuits Whitefish Meal Recipe Dog Treats - $9.99 from:           Isle of Dogs: This is the newest brand that I've tried after stopping in to a more mainstream store to see what they had. After a very long time browsing the treat aisle and not finding anything I would consider giving them, I found these. So far I've been happy with several varieties like this blueberry option and the "Breath" formula even though neither of my dogs has a breath issue because of good nutrition and overall good health.    
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. [caption id="attachment_199" align="alignright" width="240"] Let's go!!![/caption] 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! [caption id="attachment_2789" align="aligncenter" width="200"] Sign up for the Love, Laugh, Woof email list and receive a coupon for 20% off at Love, Laugh, Woof Shop after you confirm your email address![/caption]    
Ten Traits of Responsible Dog Owners

Ten Traits of Responsible Dog Owners

By Lynn Stacy-Smith Ten Traits of Responsible Dog Owners The month of February has quite a few different awareness events and in the end, all of them fall under the umbrella of being a responsible pet owner. In fact, that is what Love, Laugh, Woof is all about: being a responsible and forever owner from the moment your dog steps their first paw into your life until the last breath that they take by your side. So while every single month is Responsible Pet Owner month in reality, let's take this opportunity to share ten traits of responsible dog owners: [caption id="attachment_693" align="alignleft" width="236"] Jax is everything a lab stud dog should be...we neutered him anyway! No puppies from this boy![/caption] 1. Responsible owners spay or neuter their dogs: Responsible owners leave the breeding up to professional/hobby/show breeders who already have a demand for their dogs before they create the supply. By spaying your females you never have to worry about them going into heat (as messy and miserable as it is for human women) or having unwanted canine suitors lining up outside your fence to get to your female like Scarlett O'Hara at the barbecue. In the same way, neutering your male means that he can focus on being your best friend instead of searching out a mate and acting like a testosterone driven dog. Let's face it, there's a reason we refer to overly promiscuous men as "dogs", right? Take that desire off your male dog's mind and let him just be your best friend; he does not need a female dog to be his friend with benefits. 2. Responsible dog owners provide good medical care: I once had a vet who told me "thank you" for choosing to go with more elaborate tests to seek a diagnosis for my now late German Shorthaired Pointer Dutch. "Why are you thanking me?" I asked, legitimately confused. Dutch was my dog, a part of my heart and soul, why wouldn't I do everything possible for him? "Not everyone goes this far to try to keep their dog healthy," was their answer. What an eye-opening lesson that was! In my mind proper medical care was a given. A sick dog went to the vet, period. You did everything in your power and budget to help them. Responsible pet owners provide basic care like annual exams (or even better, twice a year), heartworm pills, and vaccinations. They also know how their dog looks and behaves when healthy, notices changes like acting lethargic or a change in appetite or lumps and bumps that appear, takes them to the vet, pays for testing and treatments and follows the vet's orders for home care. [caption id="attachment_53" align="alignright" width="315"] Dogs on the sofa? Totally![/caption] 3. Responsible owners create a comfortable living environment: Today I shared via Facebook a heart wrenching video of extremely young puppies covered in flea bites, scabs and a horrible skin disease. All they had known was disease, misery, pain, suffering and filth for the few weeks since they had been born, and they were so young that they were not even ready to leave their mother. Luckily they had been rescued after their owner literally dumped them off somewhere. There was no sign of their mother and my heart breaks even more wondering what her fate is. Responsible owners provide a clean, climate controlled, bug and pest free, safe, comfortable environment for their dog in their residence. Dogs are pack animals and want to be with their humans. They should live inside the family home with the human family, whether it is a family of one or ten, and be with the humans when they are home or safely in their own secured, climate controlled spot with access to water when the humans are away. 4. Responsible owners train their dogs what to do: Imagine being hired for a new job. Nobody tells you what to do, what they expect of you, or how to do it. When you try to do it your own way they yell at you for doing it wrong. That is what it is like for a dog who does not receive training. Although we are able to create loving bonds and incredible friendships across our different species, living in a human world does not come automatically to a dog. Training them what to do is responsible and gives them the confidence to go about their day-to-day lives with you with joy and the relaxing knowledge that they are pleasing you. 5. Responsible owners are calm, fair, kind and compassionate: Good leaders do not need to yell and use aggression to motivate and lead people. This is the same with dogs. Your dog needs you to be their leader, establish rules and be firm, but they also need you to be calm, fair, kind and compassionate. Anything else will just scare and confuse them and break their trust in you. The fact of the matter is that dogs living in a human world need you. Their entire life revolves around you, for love and companionship, food, water, and every basic need. Any good leader respects her team, and it is quite possible to respect and honor your dog while still being their leader. 6. Responsible owners provide quality nutrition: You don't have to be able to afford the most expensive food on the market for your dog, but providing a good quality food made with safe ingredients is important. Dogs are like computers: garbage in, garbage out, and the better the food your provide the healthier your dog should be. If you are on a super strict budget, try to avoid anything with the words "animal" or "by-product" and the controversial menadione. Dog Food Advisor is an amazing website that can help you research particular brands of food. 7. Responsible owners exercise with their dogs: Whether you participate in an official dog sport like agility, or if long walks are your thing, responsible dog owners make sure their dogs get plenty of exercise and enjoy getting exercise together. There is a mind meld that you get with your dog when you are out exploring the world together. [caption id="attachment_1975" align="alignleft" width="279"] Tink going on an adventure[/caption] 8. Responsible owners make time for their dogs: Obviously life happens and sometimes you have to work long hours or go to human only events, but spending time with your dog is the whole reason you got them. One of the cruelest things you can do to a dog is to ignore them or stick them in a kennel or room away from their humans. Dogs are fun, they are comforting, and they are some of the best friends I know I've ever had, and all they ask in return is for our companionship. Even when I was a single dog owner with a full time job and an active social life, I made sure I carved out substantial and frequent blocks of time that were dedicated just to my dog Babe. 9. Responsible owners are their dog's rock solid support system at the end of their life: I have lain on the floor of the vet's office with four different dogs at different times in the last twelve years as the veterinarian gave them the two injections to end their lives. All four times I held my own self together, not showing my fear or my grief or pain until they had all passed on to the Rainbow Bridge. It was only after the vet told me that each of them was gone that I let myself howl with grief, finally able to let my own pain out. Why? Because I did not want to stress them, worry them, scare them, or have any sort of negative energy around them during the final moments of their lives. My job was to be their rock, after all of the times that they had been there for me, it was the most important moment for me to be there for them. There are no excuses to not be there with your best friend, I don't care how hard it is or how painful. It is an unwritten promise that we give to them the moment we accept them as our dog. [caption id="attachment_2630" align="alignright" width="302"] Babe[/caption] 10. Responsible owners are forever owners: From the moment your dog steps their first paw into your life until the final breath that they take with you by their side. Forever. Responsible owners do not surrender their dogs to kill shelters, let them loose in the woods and drive off to let them fend for themselves, list them on Craigslist or anywhere else "free to a good home," tie them to trees, tape their muzzles, or any of the other truly evil things that have been done to innocent dogs to "get rid" of them. They do not give up on them or harm them in any way. Period. And if extenuating circumstances happen, they reach out to every rescue group until they can find a no-kill option, pay the surrender fees, and make sure that their dog will find a new, loving, forever home. Please share this with anyone you know who is considering getting a dog or who is a new dog owner. Irresponsible pet ownership is, in my opinion, the primary reason for the massive pet overpopulation problem in this country. It is my mission to help educate owners to become forever owners to help reduce the number of innocent dogs who are surrendered and euthanized each year. [caption id="attachment_2789" align="aligncenter" width="200"] Don't miss a single blog or message, click here to sign up for my mailing list and Your Weekly Woof![/caption]  
Pet Theft Awareness How to Keep Your Dog Safe
Pet Theft Awareness: Seven Ways to Keep Your Dog Safe

Pet Theft Awareness: Seven Ways to Keep Your Dog Safe

By Lynn Stacy-Smith Pet Theft Awareness How to Keep Your Dog SafeLast summer I made a new friend for a horrible reason: six very young puppies were stolen from the whelping pen of a hobby breeder and I was one of many people helping these strangers share information via social media to help locate them. Located in the country, they had felt safe putting the momma and whelping pen in their climate controlled barn, not knowing that someone would find out they were there and steal them to try to resell them. A Facebook post advertising the stolen puppies for sale helped the police and breeder start to track down their location. Four of the stolen puppies were located in a box in a dumpster after someone gave a tip that they were there. Of those four, only one was alive; the others had died alone and terrified, away from their mother or their breeder, in a dirty and disgusting dumpster. The other two were found running along a beach in Chicago and were picked up by a good Samaritan and returned safely to their breeder. I was lucky enough to meet two of the surviving puppies and their breeder a few weeks after the incident, and felt incredibly lucky to get puppy kisses from these survivors of such a horrific act. February 14 was Pet Theft Awareness Day, a day originally created in 1988 to increase awareness of pet owners to the crime of pet theft. Here are seven things you can do as a pet owner to help prevent your dog from being stolen or lost. 1. Do not let your pet roam freely: I often think about growing up in an extremely rural area where our dog was allowed to go outside without us and without a fence. Right after that thought I get goosebumps imagining doing that today. That was another time and another place. Yes, we talk about surviving the 70s as human kids with our lack of booster seats, bicycle helmets and seat belts, but things are different and we know better now. Just like you would not transport your toddler without a car seat in 2017, do not let your dog roam freely without a fence. Period. I don't care if you own 1,000 acres, put up a fence to protect your dog. 2. Always go outside with your dog: One of our teenagers asked me a few years ago, "So, the dogs are not puppies any more, when are they going to be allowed in the yard on their own?" My response, "Um, NEVER!" A fence allows your dog to run and frolic and select a place to eliminate waste without a leash. It is not the dog equivalent of plopping your child in front of the TV so you can get stuff done. I will freely admit that when I first moved to our home I did let the dogs outside on their own without a human. One day as I pulled into the driveway after work, all three dogs ran to greet me, right out of the gate that one of the kids had left open while playing with friends. Another day our escape artist Dutch opened the gate on his own and took off down the street before I realized he was gone. My parents' late Beau and my former foster dog Destiny could both jump a regular fence from a standing position. Between dogs going over fences, digging under them, opening up gates on their own, kids or meter readers accidentally leaving gates open, and the risk of pet theft, there are simply too many risks of losing your dog or having them stolen, not to mention things that they can get into when left to their own decision-making. It's not hard to go outside with them each and every time, I've been doing it for six years. In fact, you can stay warm with my winter gear suggestions from last week if you live in cold climates.  3. Do not leave your dog in the car alone: Unless you are only going to places where you can take your dog, skip the car ride and leave them at home. For one thing, in most parts of the country it is simply too hot to leave them in the car for at least six months out of the year if not longer, but it is also extremely easy to break into your car and take your dog. Several years ago there was a tragic story in a nearby suburb in which a man  stopped at a business for a quick errand and left his elderly dog in his van. The van was stolen with the dog inside and the dog was never recovered. I love having my dogs with me every moment I can, too, but I would rather them be safe and sound at home. 4. Do not tie your dog out...anywhere: Last week we addressed the problem of chained dogs, but not in terms of your dog getting lost or stolen. I also do not recommend tying your dog anywhere, even to run into a store for a moment or two. If you are with your dog and your dog cannot go into a business, neither should you. It is far too easy to untie the leash or unclip their collar. There are some locking leashes on the market, but collars can be cut or slipped over a dog's head if someone is really motivated to steal your dog.  5. Utilize cameras and home security systems: There are now many products on the market to help secure your home through alarms and cameras, most of which have apps to send alerts to your phone. Some even allow you to listen to sounds in your yard and speak to people who come to your door even if you are thousands of miles away. 6. Research potential pet sitters & groomers: Hire reputable pet sitters and groomers that you know already, are suggested by trusted friends or other dog professionals, or through pet sitting or grooming companies with reliable reputations. 7. Microchip your dog: Microchips are a permanent way of identifying your dog, but they do rely on someone scanning them with a microchip scanner. It is also essential to keep your chip information current if you move or change your phone number. Microchips won't help in some instances of pet theft when the thieves have no intention of providing veterinary care, but they make it possible that if someone takes your dog to the vet or if your dog escapes or runs away from the thieves. The bottom line: any time your dog is out of your home, keep them on-leash and in your sight. It may seem dramatic to give such strong warnings, but the fact is that dogs are stolen on a regular basis, and this is not a fate you want for your best friend. [caption id="attachment_2789" align="aligncenter" width="200"] Don't miss another blog, sign up for the Love, Laugh, Woof email list![/caption]      
How Responsible Dog Breeders Help Prevent Pet Overpopulation
How Responsible Dog Breeders Help Prevent Pet Overpopulation

How Responsible Dog Breeders Help Prevent Pet Overpopulation

By Lynn Stacy-Smith How Responsible Dog Breeders Help Prevent Pet OverpopulationAs I wrap up our three part series during Westminster Dog Show week, here are some ways that hobby/show/professional breeders help prevent their dogs from ending up homeless, abandoned or in shelters: 1. The application process: Good breeders will require an extensive application to be submitted by potential puppy buyers to ensure that their puppies are going to forever homes where they will receive the appropriate care, socialization, training, affection and exercise. Our application for Jax was multiple pages long including questions about our philosophy on dog training, books we had read, our experience with dogs, what had happened to other dogs in our life, and a variety of other questions. 2. Lifetime Return Policy: This means that the breeder will take the dog back at any point in its life and dictates that the owner is not allowed to surrender the dog to a shelter or rescue under any circumstances. Some breeders (including ours) ask to be the backup contact on the dog's microchip for life and will take the dog back if the owner passes away. 3. Limited Registration: Many show/hobby/professional breeders will only sell dogs with a Limited Registration, meaning that the dog itself is fully registered with the American Kennel Club but any puppies that he or she produces cannot be registered. This protects the bloodline and means that puppy buyers cannot sell registered puppies from their dog, which would take away some of the monetary value that they could receive for puppies and reduces the likelihood that they will breed the dog. 4. Having a Demand Before Creating the Supply: Responsible breeders wait for a demand for their puppies before they create a supply. Jax was already in utero when we found him and we honestly got lucky. There was one spot left for a puppy buyer because his mother was pregnant with one "extra" puppy. Otherwise we would have been on a waiting list for the next litter which was planned for the following winter. He was born in March. Of course if we had not come along he would have simply stayed with the breeder just like his brother. If you look at the page of the German Shorthaired Pointer who won Best in Show at Westminster in 2016 as of today it says, "We are sorry but at this time we have no litters available." The Planned Litters page indicates that two litters are planned for the spring and that potential buyers can join the waitlist. This is the same with the Labrador Retriever who won Best of Breed last year and is indicative of a very responsible dog breeder who is committed to not creating dogs without a list of puppy buyers waiting to take them into loving homes. 5. Mandatory Spay/Neuter Clauses Many breeders require their puppy buyers to spay/neuter their dogs within a certain time period. This also helps reduce unwanted litters, both intentional and accidental. This is dual purpose in helping decrease the pet population and potentially reducing the risk of certain cancers for both male and female dogs. 6. Co-owning Unaltered Dogs Another common practice is for show/hobby/professional breeders to only allow co-owned dogs to be kept intact and able to reproduce. A co-owned dog typically lives with the puppy buyer full time and is only bred when the original breeder chooses. 7. Promoting Rescue and Shelter Adoptions Of course purebred puppies from a breeder are not going to be the right option for everyone, and there are plenty of incredible purebred or mixed breed dogs waiting for their forever home in shelters and rescue organizations everywhere. Responsible breeders are often extremely supportive of dog adoption and rescue and will send potential puppy buyers to these resources if they do not have litters on the way or when they think that a buyer might do better with a grown dog or a different type of dog. This type of breeder is an overall dog lover and is just as upset by the rampant dog overpopulation problem and heart breaking euthanasia of healthy, innocent dogs as other dog lovers. Rather than pointing the finger at responsible hobby/show/professional breeders who love their dogs and care about what happens to each and every puppy that they produce, we should continue to work on the extremely important work of stopping puppy mills, encouraging the adoption of both purebred and mixed breed dogs from shelters and rescue organizations, educating about why it is so important to spay and neuter all dogs who are not going to be bred by responsible breeders, and to teach current and future generations that dogs are a lifetime commitment, not something to be picked up at the mall or from a classified ad with the same amount of consideration as a sweater or a new handbag.
Understanding the Different Types of Dog Breeders
Understanding the Different Types of Dog Breeders

Understanding the Different Types of Dog Breeders

By Lynn Stacy-Smith Understanding the Different Types of Dog BreedersToday is the second day of the Westminster Kennel Club show, a prestigious event that celebrates breeding stock of purebred dogs and my favorite sporting event of the year. With a pet overpopulation problem that results in 2.4 million innocent and healthy dogs and cats being euthanized each year, there are sometimes critics who say that we don't need anyone breeding dogs and bringing additional animals into the world. I disagree, though, and feel that our purebred dog breeds are all an important part of the dog world that should be preserved for future generations. To make that assumption that all breeders are responsible for homeless pets is unfair, and I think it is important to educate people that not all breeders are the same. In fact there are vast differences between responsible breeders and puppy mill operators. This is a topic that I cover in detail in my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog's Forever Owner in Chapter 5: Breeder or Rescue, Where to Get Your Next Dog. Rather than re-write the wheel, here is an excerpt from my book:
"The words 'dog breeder' can elicit some very negative responses from individuals in the dog community. The truth is that there are a variety of different types of dog breeders ranging across a wide spectrums of levels of care, and it is neither fair nor accurate to lump them all in together. Some breeders love their dogs as if they gave birth to them, and they put care and love into each litter. Others are unscrupulous and inhumane to their dogs and help contribute to the pet overpopulation problem in two ways: producing more dogs than they have a need for and not sufficiently screening puppy buyers to ensure that they are committed to caring for the dog humanely for its entire life. Unfortunately, too often good breeders are lumped in with bad breeders, but the fact of the matter is that there are many wonderful breeders who operate in such a way that if everyone who bred dogs followed their lead we would not have the heart wrenching pet overpopulation problem that we do in this country and across the world. While I agree with the 'don't shop, adopt' concept, it is important to note that good breeders of purebred dogs are important to the world of dogs and to maintaining the breed standard of the breeds that we love so much."
Here's the difference: Large Commercial Breeders: Large commercial breeders breed and house puppies in a manner similar to raising livestock: in large quantities in cages. These operations are known as "puppy mills" because they breed in large quantities. There are many horror stories of puppy mills in which dogs are undernourished, dehydrated and kept in cages too small where they bred over and over and over again. It is not uncommon for puppy mill dogs to never touch grass, run around or live a normal life. These puppies are usually sold through pet stores. Because of the lack of attention to care, genetic issues, temperament or socialization from the puppy mill operators, many puppy mill puppies have substantial health issues. Adding to the tragedy is the fact that most pet stores do not full screen buyers sufficiently, if at all, to ensure that they are making a lifetime commitment instead of an impulse buy. Backyard Breeders: The term "backyard breeder" typically refers to people who breed their own dogs but do not offer the same health guarantees and health checks as Hobby/Professional/Show Breeders. Some backyard breeders will breed just one litter because they have a beloved female dog and want one of her puppies to keep for their own, or because a friend or family member wants one of her puppies. In this situation it is quite possible that the parents and puppies are well-loved, quite healthy, and receive the utmost care and socialization. Other backyard breeders are less scrupulous and breed their dogs for profit without the same high quality care and treatment. Backyard breeders who fall into this category often neglect their dogs and simply view them as a way to bring in income, similar to puppy mill operations but on a smaller scale. [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="377"] Photo source:[/caption] Hobby/Show/Professional Dog Breeders: Professional dog breeders, sometimes called hobby or show breeders, breed for love of the breed and usually possess extensive knowledge of genetics, their bloodline, and common health problems of the breed. They are dedicated to maintaining the breed standard in all areas: health, appearance and temperament. Professional breeders will ensure that all of their stud dogs and dams pass the standard tests for their breeds with the OFFA, also called the OFA, which is the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. For example, with the Labrador Retriever, you should look for breeders who test for hips, elbows and eyes. Their females lead regular happy lives and only produce a few litters in their lifetime before they are spayed and retired. Some hobby/show/professional breed multiple litters a year and rely on that income and others breed just once or twice a year or when they would like to add another dog to their own dog family. This type of breeder is the type involved in conformation shows like the Westminster Kennel Club show. They also participate in common sports and activities for the breed. For example, our friend/breeder from whom we purchased Jackson and Tinkerbell is actively involved in Hunt Tests, Conformation, Obedience, works professionally as a dog trainer and runs a boarding kennel in her community. One of her labs is in agility and another has worked as a reading dog, going into classrooms where children read to the dog to help their confidence and reading skills. Her dogs all live in the house with her and are beloved pets.  What type of breeder can make it to Westminster?  Often the Westminster coverage includes information on the day to day lives of some of the dogs in the competition. To debunk the myth that show dogs are only "good" for shows, many of the dogs who compete also participate in the sports and activities for which they were bred. For example many of the sporting breeds also hunt birds and have other jobs outside of the show ring as well as being beloved pets and companions. The Westminster Kennel Club Show website has a great page called Find the Right Dog for You and includes this paragraph,
"As we have for many years during our televised broadcast, The Westminster Kennel Club will continue to make the following announcement: “If you are planning to add a dog to your life and have come to look over the best of the best, please note, no dog you have seen here (yesterday or today) came from a pet shop, or was the ‘product’, if you will, of a puppy mill. If you want a dog, go to the people who care – the dedicated specialty breeders who have made dogs like those you see here – a lifetime effort. Talk dogs with dog people who care and understand.”

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

Watching the Westminster Kennel Club Show: Dog Show Basics
For some it's the Super Bowl that is the Holy Grail of sports, for other's the Stanley Cup Finals. Other people live for the NBA Playoffs, and some (especially here in the Chicagoland area last Fall) are all about the World Series. For me, though, the sporting event of the year is hands down the Westminster Kennel Club Show.  I've been watching Westminster for over twenty years and every February I circle the dates on the calendar, pointing out that this is as serious to me as the Walking Dead finale is to my husband and that we shall not talk over the announcer or have other such interruptions. Westminster is serious business, particularly Night Two when the Sporting Group gaits and stacks for the judges.  For those of you not familiar with the world of dog shows, they are known as Conformation because dogs are judged to determine how they conform to the breed standard as set forth by each "parent club" of the breed. The Westminster Kennel Club, the host of the show, is part of the American Kennel Club (AKC). Labradors who enter the show are judged against the breed standard of The Labrador Retriever Club, which is the AKC parent club of the breed. The breed standard dictates everything about how a Labrador Retriever should appear, from their height and weight to the shape of their eyes, the color of their coat, their temperament and many, many other criteria. There are other kennel clubs with different parent clubs and breed standards, like the United Kennel Club, or UKC. [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="432"] Labrador Breed standard from Erlastyn Kennels website[/caption] Sometimes criticized as being nothing but beauty contests, dog shows actually are intended to evaluate breeding stock in order to continue to produce puppies who meet the breed standard. The breed standard exists for functional and health reasons even though many of the traits are things that we love so much about our dogs because of their appearance. For example, the shape of a dog's head can help or hinder him when hunting because it will impact their eyesight. The right or wrong build for shoulders and legs can impact how they move in the water or on land. If you are a Labrador Retriever owner like me, that big thick otter tail that knocks glasses and knick-knacks off of your coffee table is actually so big and thick to act as a rudder when the dog is swimming. The double coat that sheds so much is designed to insulate the dog in cold weather or cold water to maximize the use of calories so that their energy is spent on the task at hand rather than staying warm. The webbed feet that pick up mud and track them into the house each spring are designed to help make them more efficient swimmers for their original purpose of helping fisherman with nets and hunters retrieve birds. Westminster is my favorite show that is televised because they provide so much information on the dogs. Although I will always miss the signature voice of the late Roger Karas, the announcers usually do a good job of pointing out things to viewers like the fact that dogs who are meant to run a lot have large deep chests, and dogs with big floppy jowls and ears like Basset Hounds and Bloodhounds use those to pick a scent that they are tracking. On Monday and Tuesday during the day, individual breeds will be judged together with the winner of each breed being dubbed Best of Breed. You can watch the live streaming online on the Westminster Kennel Club website. The coverage on TV each evening is of the Best of Group category. [caption id="attachment_2827" align="alignright" width="387"] Jackson[/caption] Because each dog is judged against the breed standard and not each other, it is quite impressive that the judges are able to retain such vast knowledge of each breed standard in their group. Judges are incredibly experienced within the dog show world in order to be able to judge this category. Of course most viewers, myself included, root for their favorite breeds. I would love for the Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever and German Shorthaired Pointer to take spots one, two and three in that order, but so far that has not happened. That's ok, though, because I have the best male and female example of the Labrador Retriever in my own home, at least as far as I'm concerned. Tomorrow I will share information about the different types of dog breeders and how responsible loving breeders are too frequently lumped in with puppy mill operators. That topic is also an important part of my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog's Forever Owner. Also check out this page from the Westminster Kennel Club called Find the Right Dog for You. Finally, if you haven't yet, I invite you to read my blog from last year's show, called Not Just Another Pretty Face: Researching that Show Dog on TV.  For more detailed information on how dog shows are judged, click here:
Have a Heart for Chained Dogs Week
We are in the middle of Have a Heart for Chained Dogs Week. If you are like me, it breaks your heart that such a week is even necessary. Sadly, it is. [caption id="attachment_2810" align="alignleft" width="327"] Photo courtesy of Pixabay[/caption] There are many reasons why a dog can end up on a chain outside. Some owners who chain their dogs outside do care about their dogs but cannot afford a fence, so they believe that they are doing the right thing in letting their dog spend time outside on a chain instead of taking the dog on multiple walks a day and seeking out dog parks and other areas for periodic romps. The bad thing about this is that even spending the daytime hours or part of the day on a chain is not good for dogs physically or mentally. A theft or tragedy like the dog accidentally hanging itself can occur in a matter of minutes.  Over time dogs on chains become bored, anxious, aggressive and more likely to bite than dogs who are not chained. I believe that there is a lot of possibility to educate people in this category, to teach them that their dogs will be happier and safer by going on either multiple short walks each day or a nice long walk for exercise. I understand that the chain might just be for potty breaks, so it's important to let them know that a long lead is a better alternative for potty breaks, so that the owner is outside with the dog to prevent theft or entanglement. For owners who do use a chain or tie-out cable, they should only do so if they are always outside with the dog when he or she is attached, but only if the dog is never left alone and there is no way for the dog to jump off of something like a deck or land that drops off. I personally do not advise anyone to use a tie-out and prefer a long lead (known as a check cord in bird hunting training) for very experienced dog owners who want to give their dog a bit more leash while still attached to a human. Other dog owners have an extremely outdated mindset that dogs should live outside and are happier there than in a warm loving home. I cannot fathom why they would have a dog in the first place unless it is for some sort of security measure. A home security system like ADT is going to be much cheaper and can be installed without being cruel and heartless to thinking, breathing sentient creatures. And finally some dogs are chained because they are part of dog fighting rings or are owned by sinister humans who are neglectful and cruel. I do not have sufficient words to describe how heinous I believe dog fighting to be. So as dog lover, how can you help the dogs who are chained? With the first group that I described, the owners who think they are doing the right thing and who care for their dogs, there are ways that you can reach out to them to help educate them in a non-judgmental way. However, please do not read this blog and then go knocking on the doors of unsafe owners and people running dog fighting rings. There are other things that you can do in the resources that I have shared below like reporting them to the proper authorities and working on passing stronger laws to fight these horrific acts.
Note: there are links to both Peta and the HSUS in these resources; both of these groups are controversial and although I do not generally support them personally, their advice on this particular topic is acceptable and logical.
Unchain Your Dog: This organization was started by a woman who rescued a dog who was chained to a dilapidated doghouse, fed twice a week and rarely had water. There is some great information that you can use to help dogs in your area. There is a lot of great information on this page about how to unchain your own dog, how to reach out to other dog owners, and how to help pass laws against chaining dogs. Unchained Melodies Dog Rescue: Located in Missouri, this site's help page has more great information on how to help by speaking to fellow dog owners and fighting for local legislation. SOAR (Speak Out and Rescue): in Kentucky, SOAR also has information on what they are doing to help and how to help in your own community. Coalition to Unchain Dogs: group has helped other charities get started rescuing chained dogs and building fences to help free chained dogs from a live attached to a tether. They have extremely helpful information on starting your own group, how to help, and organizations in other parts of the country. Fences for Fido: I follow this group on Facebook and love seeing their success stories and the videos of dogs who are freed from life on a chain. The joy in these dogs as they run their first zoomies around the yard is incredible. They are located in the Washington/Oregon/Northern California area. [caption id="attachment_2814" align="alignleft" width="350"] Wearing a shirt like this in a public place like Disney, a festival, a sporting event can help spread awareness to all of the people walking behind you![/caption] Dogs Deserve Better: Located in Virginia, this group also has extensive resources on their site as well as a CafePress store where you can purchase t-shirts, signs, stickers and other items to help share the word about chained dogs. You can shop their store and help raise money and also purchase items to start conversations whether you are wearing a t-shirt in public or a showing a bumper sticker on your car. Wear their shirts places like Disney, sporting events, festivals, so that everyone walking behind you sees the message! Here are additional resources to share via social media to help spread the word: Whole Dog Journal: Be Cautious About Tying Up Your Dog in the Backyard  How to Help Chained Dogs in Your Community Do You Chain Your Dog?  The Canine Escape Artistthis link contains information on dog proofing your fence if a canine escape artist is the reason for a chain.  
Winter Weather: Protecting Your Dog from Cold and Chemicals
Recently a video by the renowned holistic veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker went through social media channels promoting a method to help protect your dog's paws from the snowy, slushy sloppy mess that waits outside for many of us. If you watch her video here you will probably be just as plain old "grossed out" as I am by the chemicals and toxins in our snow, at least the snow that is getting dirtier by the minute by our roads and sidewalks. Of course those same chemicals and toxins, with the exception of the rock salt (which is replaced by lawn care chemicals in warm months), are on and near our roads and sidewalks all year round, we just don't see them. Being able to witness all of these potentially toxic things on our once pristine snow is enough to consider putting booties on our dogs' feet all year round...and perhaps a canine hazmat suit. Awhile ago I wrote about summer chemicals and how I wash all eight of my dogs' paws after each and every walk or excursion off of our property. This is not limited to summer; I do the post-walk paw wash all year round regardless of the weather. Paw pads may protect your dog from rough terrain, but they can still benefit from a good cleansing after walking through our chemical laden world, especially since it's highly likely that those paws are going to go right into your dog's mouth for their own thorough cleaning.
Here are the steps that I take after walks or once a day if the dogs stay on our own property: 1. Wash all paws in a foot soak using water with apple cider vinegar (1/2 cup vinegar per gallon of water) or an organic pet shampoo. Swoosh the paw through the water and use your fingers to massage the paws for a few second while in the soak. Rinse thoroughly in a second container of plain water and then dry well, including between the toe pads and webbing for breeds with webbed feet. 2. Wipe the entire dog from nose to tail with a damp cloth, including their legs, belly, nose and jowls. You can also use the same ratio of apple cider vinegar to water to soak the cloth or spray on them with a spray bottle, avoiding the eyes.
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="295"] Kurgo Step & Strobe Dog Shoes[/caption] If your dog will tolerate them, booties are a great way to help protect your dog's paws from the cold and chemicals. There are disposable, biodegradable rubber options at PetFlow  but I love these well-engineered Step-N-Strobe Dog Shoes from Kurgo. After seeing Dr. Becker's video I came across a shop selling a very similar product and I promptly purchased a tin. I am excited to try it out before our next walk. Of course I will still wash their paws when we return home in a dual prong attack on the toxins of the world. You can purchase the Puppy Paw Protection Salve on Etsy here.  A side benefit of products like this made with all natural ingredients is that you can often use them on yourself, too, although I would save the running through the grass barefoot for six months from now when the sun is shining and the grass is not hidden under ice and snow. [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="570"] Puppy Protection Paw Salve[/caption]  

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Winter Weather & Why We Teach Our Dogs “Hurry Up, Go Potty!”
[caption id="attachment_2593" align="alignright" width="269"] Temperature earlier this week! COLD!!!![/caption] Today was the first opportunity in days that I could actually play with the dogs outside. After several days of below zero lows and single digit highs, today the temperatures soared to around 28 above zero. And yes, I have to write "above zero" because we've had a handful of days that I can remember that were 28 below zero. In case you think you missed an announcement that we've moved to Antarctica or are working holiday jobs up at the North Pole, you did not. We are still here in suburban Illinois, where we see subzero temps in the winter and 90 and above for many days each summer. In fact it would be a great parody of a Miley Cyrus song...Chicago weather being "The Worst of Both Worlds." Of course neither extreme is good for dogs and so we retreat to the climate controlled indoors during times like this. In the summer the dogs don't have to be coaxed inside. When the heat soars above 90, my shiny black dogs want nothing to do with being out there soaking up the sun like I do. They are happiest sprawled on top of the central air vents and we play after the sun has gone to the other side of the house. However, like many Labradors, they see no issue being outside in the freezing cold until their paws start to burn with the cold and they start picking up their feet while trying to figure out what's wrong. Because of my unbreakable rule that I must always be outside with them at all times no matter what the weather or time of day, I am there to intervene before they get frostbite on their paws. Some days it is so cold that my husband and I have to help them plan ahead when it's time to go out. "Hurry up, go potty" one of us will tell them, looking them both in the eye before we open the door. "Got it? Hurry up, go potty!" After saying the words,  I open the door and both dogs leap off the deck and run to find a spot, first to pee, then to eliminate their bowels. "Hurry up, go potty! Good dog, go potty!" my husband or I will call to them. [caption id="attachment_2592" align="alignleft" width="289"] Hurry up, Jackson![/caption] About 90% of the time both dogs heed our words and run to find a place to poop. As soon as they are done we call them back to us, and it is usually about that time that they start to pick up their feet from the cold and head back to the house. When the ground is snow-covered and the temperature is below zero we get about a minute before they pick their paws up in confusion and pain. These moments are the reason we taught the phrase, "Hurry up, go potty" to them. It was something I had taught my late Babe, who I lived with in an apartment and had to leash walk 100% of the time, with the exception of visits to Grandma's to run and frolic in my Mom's fenced yard. It seemed natural to teach it to Jax and Tink while we were house breaking them, especially since it's so easy and I was outside with them anyway watching them do their bathroom business. Most of the time this command has come in handy it has been in times of inclement weather, like thunderstorms or very windy days when I do not want the dogs or myself outside because of flying objects. One time we were under a Tornado Watch when Jackson told me in no uncertain terms that he needed to go outside and by the way he held his tail I knew which type of business he needed to conduct. I gave him the "Good boy, go potty, hurry up!" talk and off he went, taking care of all of his bodily functions in less than a minute before running back to the house with me. So how do you get your dog to go to the bathroom almost on command? Just like anything you teach your dog, it's all about patience and consistency. We simply stayed nearby when our dogs pooped and said very calmly, "Good dog, go potty, hurry up, good dog, hurry up, go potty, good dog, go potty, hurry up" from the moment they assumed their position until they were done. Afterward we would add in a "Yessss, good dog, go potty, hurry up!!" with tons of excitement and praise. Even after they knew it, like now, we will reinforce their training by saying it when they are going even if we do not in fact need them to hurry up. It is important to remember that they are dogs and this is a bodily function, so they will not always go as fast as my dogs do when it's bitterly cold. They still need to sniff to find a spot and won't go if their bodies are not ready for them to go. You can often tell by their body language, the urgency of their request to go outside or even the way they hold their tail if they need to rid themselves of solids. At the end of the day, though, they are living breathing creatures and none of us can go on command if we don't need to.  Don't worry if your dog is already house trained or if you adopt a new rescued dog. Babe was two when I adopted her and she learned very quickly. All dogs are different and learn at different rates, so don't be frustrated if yours is not as fast of a learner; you're out there anyway with them, so you might as well keep working on it. You will be happy the day you give the command and they comply, getting both of you back inside the house faster.      
Dogs as Gifts? Dos and Don’ts of Getting a Dog During the Holidays

In my last blog I wrote about the right and wrong way to bring a dog home for the holidays. In this second part I share the dos and don'ts of getting a new dog or puppy over Christmas and New Year's:

[caption id="attachment_2587" align="alignleft" width="288"] Image from[/caption] DO NOT purchase a puppy on a whim from a backyard breeder or pet store. Maybe you have wanted to get a dog forever, but wanting is not the same as researching and analyzing. Those puppies who look adorable in their baby cribs at mall pet stores may look like adorable little balls of fluff, and don't get me wrong, they are. But they also need house training, obedience training, bite inhibition training, veterinary care, food, water, physical exercise, mental exercise and a lot more for ten, fifteen, even as long as twenty years. If you want an honest account of what being a dog owner is like, read Chapter 4 of my book. DO NOT purchase a puppy or dog for someone else. Choosing a dog for someone else is not ok, unless it is a very specific situation like a service dog who is matched with a person with specific needs. For the everyday pet, though, never buy a dog as a gift. Once again, a dog is a living, breathing, feeling creature who will depend on their human for as long as twenty years. Becoming a dog owner is a decision only the owner can make. I recently saw a post on Facebook in a dog owner group about a woman whose dog had recently passed away and her grown son decided to get her another puppy to cheer her up. The woman was distraught because as a responsible dog owner, she had very specific thoughts on when another dog would be right for her, what type of dog she wanted to get next, and she was not ready to just move on yet, but was suddenly responsible for a new dog based on someone else's idea of what they thought she would want. DO take advantage of a long break from work to bring a new dog or puppy home only after careful consideration and analysis of your lifestyle and budget. There are some situations in which bringing a new dog home at the holidays could be ok. For some, the time over Christmas and New Year's is insane with holiday gatherings and places to go, people to visit. If this is your situation, this is not the right time to get a new dog. However, if you have done the research about the right dog, given an honest assessment of your lifestyle and if a dog fits into your life, reviewed your budget and living situation to make sure that you will not find yourself unable to pay vet bills or unable to find a suitable place for you and the dog to live, then taking advantage of a long break from work over the holidays might be a good time for a new dog to come home if you are planning a long and home based break. I am a big fan of taking at least a week off of work when a new dog or puppy comes home, and some adults like teachers or people who work in corporate offices that close over Christmas might find that this time is perfect for bonding with a new dog, working on house training and getting your new family member acclimated to your home and life as long as you do not need to travel or be out of the house attending to other commitments. It is important for the first two or three days of life with your new puppy or dog to be quiet, calm, stress-free and positive for your dog, so if you are the type to spend Christmas week in your PJs at home, you and your new dog could develop the start of a beautiful new friendship over your break. DO INCLUDE YOUR CHILDREN in the entire process. Surprising kids with a puppy under the tree with a ribbon around her neck is not a good learning experience. How often do kids get bored with their new toys within a month or less after Christmas? Ours certainly did when they were little. Instead of surprising kids, have this conversation instead, "Instead of us getting you a bunch of presents this year, we have been thinking about this for a very long time, and the time is finally right to go to the shelter or rescue and pick out a dog and give him or her a new forever home with us. We are also going to give a donation to the shelter to help the other dogs who are still looking for their homes." Of course you should adjust this based on the age of your children, but even little kids can understand the basics of giving a homeless dog a warm and loving home. Part of my book focuses on the importance of training human children and how they need to be taught how to act around dogs as much as your dog needs to learn how to act around them. By explaining to them the thought process that you went through before adding a dog to your family, by teaching them how to act around the dog, and how important it is that you train the dog to understand the rules of their home, you are setting them up to be amazing dog owners when they are adults. DO NOT cave to your kids' pleas to get a dog if you are not ready. Please do not do this, I beg of you. This has disaster all over it, just the same as getting a dog to teach kids about responsibility is not fair to a dog. You can teach your kids how to care for a dog by having them watch what you do or guiding them step by step through the process, but turning over all of the responsibility to a child or teenager is not fair to the dog. If your kids are very young, they are too little to care for a dog on their own. If they are older, chances are they will go off to college while the dog is still alive. Either way, if you do not want a dog, don't get a dog, because you are going to be the person caring for it and it is not fair to have a dog and view it as a burden or an afterthought. A dog should only be brought home as a cherished and beloved family member in order to receive the best treatment and care that it deserves.

For additional information on bringing a new dog into your home, check out my one-on-one owner coaching and workshops Preparing for a New Puppy or Dog and Surviving Puppyhood.

Dogs as Gifts? The Right & Wrong Way to Bring a Dog Home During the Holidays
  Christmas is just 11 days away. In our house, we are enjoying nightly Christmas movies on TV, Labradors sleeping in front of the Christmas tree, and counting the number of Star Shower Motion Laser lights in our neighborhood. Of course all of the commercials during the Christmas movies are also holiday themed, and I had an educational conversation with my 13 year old daughter recently when we were watching a commercial in which a puppy was given as a Christmas present. "Just for the record, dogs are NEVER a Christmas present," I scornfully trash talked at the TV. "Why not?" she asked, a little annoyed with me. "Well, because it's a living breathing creature that should only be brought into your home after a lot of thought and consideration to the fact that it is likely to be with you for the next 10-15 years and will need tons of time, training , money and attention. Plus people should pick out their own dogs, AND because most of the holiday puppies that are purchased are from pet stores who are selling puppy mill puppies. And if you're not familiar with what a puppy mill puppy is, it's a puppy born onto what's basically a dog farm where their mothers and fathers are kept in cages their entire lives, the mothers give birth to litter after litter without a break, they never get to run and play and they are treated quite cruelly. So no, dogs are NEVER a Christmas present," I answered. "Oh." I continued to explain the circumstances in which getting a dog around the holidays would be ok. "Now, if a family or a couple has thought through all of the things that a dog needs, decided that their schedule is suitable for a dog, their lifestyle is suitable for a dog, their budget is ok for a dog, and that they understand that they are making a lifetime commitment, what they could do is tell the kids that instead of buying them as many presents as other years, that they are all going to go to a shelter and choose a dog together to give the dog a new home for Christmas, then that's a whole other story. Then they can involve the kids in the process and share with them the very special and important decision that they are making." After that, she was on board with what I was saying. In fact, because she attends most of my dog events with me as my helper, she is very knowledgable about the plight of dogs and the incredible responsibility involved in owning a dog, probably more than other thirteen year olds. I know that her initial annoyance with me was because she was thinking that any dog would be lucky to get a new home at Christmas, probably picturing happy families and furry puppies in a utopian scenario of love and commitment, without realizing that many of those Christmas puppies are purchased on a whim and end up in shelters after the new year because the owners did not think through what they were doing. Because she lives in a family that values the life of animals, she doesn't realize how many people do not value their lives. The older she gets, the more we fill her in on the things that happen to far too many dogs because of cruelty, neglect, and sometimes people simply losing interest in a dog they brought home on a whim. Until recently I don't think she knew how many shelter dogs never make it back out of the shelter. We go to so many rescue and adoption events that I think she thought all dogs went to new homes, and she was horrified to find out that millions of them do not and that they are put to death for no fault of their own because of the vast pet overpopulation problem. I am going to cost lots of money in food, training, vet visits, toys, treats and other supplies for as long as 15 years. Are you ready for me- (4)In my book I talk about how being an adorable little puppy is both a blessing and a curse to far too many dogs, because those fluffy little bodies and kissable puppy faces cause some humans to lose all logic and purchase them without a thought to what the puppy will need for the next ten to twenty years of their life. They might have gone to the mall for a sweater and a sale on bath products; instead they brought home a living breathing creature that they are not prepared to raise. Puppy mills are manufacturers and do not deserve the name breeders; they create the supply of puppies to stock the cribs and cages of the pet stores who sell them. In the same way that if you purchase a pair of jeans from a clothing store, the clothing store will replenish the supply of jeans that were sold, the puppy mill will continue to keep dogs in misery producing more puppies to fill the demand that the purchase of that puppy created. This happens regardless of whether or not the puppy that was purchased stays in its home forever or is surrendered to a shelter a month later because it was "too hard" to care for. Truly responsible breeders have a demand before the female is even pregnant, because they do not ever want a puppy that they bred to be in danger or be put to sleep unnecessarily. Breeders like this are dedicated to making sure that each and every puppy that they create is loved, nurtured and cared for his or her entire life. They are actually unlikely to even have a litter of "Christmas puppies" available because their dogs are forever dogs, not something selected on a whim, not something given as a gift or selected as if it were the season's hottest toy.

Watch for Dos and Don'ts to Bringing Home a New Dog at Christmas

in the next Love, Laugh, Woof blog.

When in Doubt, Hire a Dog Trainer
When in Doubt, Hire a Dog Trainer

When in Doubt, Hire a Dog TrainerWhen in Doubt, Hire a Dog Trainer

by Lynn Stacy-Smith As a dog blogger and author, I am in several dog related Facebook groups and spend a lot of time on social media sites. Behavioral questions are among the most frequent questions that I see dog owners reaching out to their peers for assistance. It makes sense to ask fellow dog owners, since the whole point of social media is to interact with friends and others who share your interests. Unfortunately, the answers that you can expect to receive can vary from being helpful solutions to downright dangerous to both dog and owner. In my book, "Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog's Forever Owner," I talk a lot about the importance of training. I am a firm believer that every dog should go through at least one obedience class, whether the dog was adopted as a puppy or as a grown dog. Veteran owners and new dog parents alike will benefit from a good training class. I have even spoken with dog trainers who have said that they take all of their dogs to someone else's class because they never know when they might learn something new from a fellow trainer. When Jackson came into our lives we had spent the last four or so years caring for senior dogs, so to jump suddenly into puppyhood meant calling upon training skills and a mindset that had not been put into use for many years. Attending training classes was the best thing I did because I learned many helpful training tips even as someone who had owned and raised dogs my entire life. Every trainer has that special nugget of information that you might not have heard before, or teaches something in a way that finally clicks in your mind that might not have before. In fact, when I took Tinkerbell to training classes at the same facility where Jackson went, just two years later, there was a new concept in training dogs that helped immensely, not just with Tinkerbell but also with Jackson's continuing education. It's one thing to teach a dog to sit, lay down and stay at home in an environment that they are used to. It's a whole other experience to teach them to focus on you in a public place with four or five other dogs and humans around. When you can get your dog to check in with you visually for guidance in a public place, you are well on your way to having a dog who understands the expectations of life in the human world and a life in which you are their leader. This reduces a ton of stress on both you and your dog and could be potentially life saving depending on the situation. Not only will you learn how to teach your dog the basic commands in a good obedience class, you will learn extremely critical training concepts like bite inhibition (teaching your dog not to bite humans) and how to get your dog accustomed to people being around them or touching them, their food, or their food bowl when they are eating. In these screen shot examples, I fear the owners did not correctly understand what to do with their dogs when they were younger in order to have their dog react safely as older dogs.   Fortunately you do not have to write off your dog's behavior as unfixable. In fact, the ability for dogs to learn and change as a result of positive training and plenty of patience is what makes it possible for many shelter dogs to acclimate into a new home and lead happy lives after coming out of abusive or neglectful situations. The saying, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks" is far from the reality of what dogs can learn throughout their life. Any time you need help with something behavioral related, check with a dog trainer, especially if it involves biting, food aggression, or both. These things in particular are too important to get wrong; a good trainer will help you solve it the right way. It may take a while, it may take more patience and consistency than you thought you had in you, but you can solve these issues the right way with the right trainer. Hiring a professional dog trainer who shares your beliefs in how to care for your dog is the best investment you will ever make for your dog's future and place in your home as a forever dog. I also suggest talking to your veterinarian if your dog suddenly starts growling or biting; dogs do not have the ability to say to us that they do not feel good in words and so sometimes a behavioral issue can stem from a physical problem. Your veterinarian can also be an excellent source of information on good dog trainers in your area; ask them for suggestions on training facilities or individuals who they recommend. Another good resource for finding a dog trainer in your area is the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (ADPT) Dog Trainer Search page: Just enter your zip code, choose the radius around your home that you want to search, and decide if you only want to see results for ADPT certified trainers. Facebook friends are great for giving advice on some dog related topics, like good places for hikes or fun toys that they use, but if biting or growling issues begin, always seek out a professional trainer. If you let a problem develop without fixing it correctly, you are setting your dog up for failure and that is simply not fair to him or her. While there is not a best case scenario when a biting issue is ignored, the worst case scenario is that your dog bites someone and causes injury or death to a human, another dog, and ultimately ends up euthanized for vicious behavior.            
Seven Days of Giving Thanks for Dogs
Seven Days of Giving Thanks for Dogs

Seven Days of Giving Thanks for Dogs

by Lynn Stacy-Smith As we approach another Thanksgiving, I am thankful for everything good in my life. My husband, my step-kids, my Labrador Retrievers Jackson and Tinkerbell, our cat Nala. For the ability to write and self-publish a book this year, and for all of the new friends and fans who I've met. For my family in Florida, Virginia, and Michigan. For clothes, food on our table, a car to drive, a home in which to live. If you've followed me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram you may have seen the Seven Days of Giving Thanks for dogs. If not, here they are again. I hope you enjoy, and stop by on social media and share what you are thankful for this year! [gallery ids="2276,2277,2275,2274,2278,2272,2273" type="rectangular"]  
The “Why” Behind Love, Laugh, Woof

The "Why" Behind Love, Laugh, Woof

by Lynn Stacy-Smith The "Why" Behind Love, Laugh, WoofIn the world of the self-employed, entrepreneurs focus on the "why" that is driving them to pursue dreams that seem crazy to others. The "why" is that thing that makes them give up perfectly good, stable jobs. It is that thing that makes them work twice the hours that they would in a 9-5 job. It is that thing that drives them to work for literally no money for a very long time. The "why" is what they push back up to the front of their mind the hundred times a day they ask themselves the question, "Am I insane to try to do this?" For the longest time I looked at my "why" for creating Love, Laugh, Woof as revolving around my human and dog family in my own home. After all, self employment offers flexibility so that I can be there for teenage taxi services (aka rides to and from extracurricular activities) and I can work at home with my dogs with me instead of at a corporate office. If I could succeed at writing about dogs and teaching people how to raise their dogs I wouldn't need a dog sitter of my own to perform potty breaks and afternoon play time. Then there was my husband; I could spend long hours working when my husband was working and spend time with him when he was off. 1609792_10154770914397178_3340714313924513731_nNow, do not get me wrong. I live and breathe for my husband, dogs and human kids. They are a huge "why"for me. But they were also all quite satisfied and well cared for when I worked a corporate job. They still got all of my free time, plus I had a whole lot more discretionary income to spend on them. So I missed a lot of band concerts and sporting events and was still grumpy and aggravated by office politics and suburban traffic upon my arrival home, that was normal for working parents. In the last few weeks, though, I had a massive awakening, a  mind-blowing revelation  and huge "A-HA!!!!!" moment that the "why" for Love, Laugh, Woof is ALL ABOUT the millions of dogs who are not Jackson and Tinkerbell, who are not in loving forever homes with organic food, plenty of affection and a doting human mother. I am doing this not because I couldn't walk down the same well-worn hallway in the cube farm or spend another day teaching another college bookstore manager how many textbooks to order, I am doing this to save dog's lives!!  My "why" is the approximately 760,000 dogs who are relinquished to shelters because their owners do not have time for them! My "why" is the approximately 760,000 dogs who are relinquished to shelters because of behavioral issues! My "why" is the approximately 2,204,000 dogs who are relinquished to shelters because their owner cannot find a dog friendly place to live! These numbers are from the ASPCA Pet Statistics web page and are approximate, but they still show that owner surrenders contribute hugely to the heart wrenching shelter problem. If these dogs got out of the shelter and into a happy new home, it would be one thing. But 31% of dogs who go into animal shelters  (from all sources, not just owner surrenders) are killed every year. Many owner surrenders never leave the shelter again. These numbers are despite incredible efforts and the nonstop work of dog lovers who work on spay/neuter programs, stopping puppy mill operations and pet shop sales, and on increasing the adoption of shelter animals. These numbers also do not include strays who are also in dire need of forever homes and are on their own because they were simply allowed to run loose, intentionally cast off into the world or lost without proper identification.

The "why" behind Love, Laugh, Woof is to influence in particular the dog owners who relinquish their dogs because they do not have all of the information that they need to be a forever owner.

The "why" behind Love, Laugh, Woof is to influence in particular the dog owners who relinquish their dogs because they do not have all of the information that they need to be a forever owner. Maybe they were not educated enough about dogs before buying a dog, whether it was about how to approach dog ownership with housing in mind, what to expect in terms of time commitment, how to work with a temporary time constraint, who to seek in the event of behavioral issues. Maybe they have been through a major life change and do not know how to work through a new situation and keep their dog in their home. My mission is to help decrease the number of owner surrenders who could be prevented by teaching their owners how to be forever owners. As an avid social media user I see endless posts about dogs who need new homes because they shed too much, they had too much energy, a new baby was born, the owner did not have time for the dog, and all sorts of other reasons that can be fixed or prevented. It is daily and it tortures me to see them. My "why" is to help people in these situations, to perhaps show them another alternative, a way to keep their dog with them. I am blessed that along with a "why" I also have a "how". My "how" is through using my background as a corporate trainer and my writing ability, combined with my lifetime of raising dogs. I am thankful every single day of my life that I have some of the tools that I need to help solve the problem that keeps me up at night, that tortures me when I log onto social media, wanting only to see what my friends had for dinner, what their kids were for Halloween or bought on their latest shopping trip. My "how" also includes you, my followers, friends and family. I need you to help me spread the word, to share the message, the excitement of Love, Laugh, Woof. I ask you to share your commitment to being your dog's owner forever owner, what that means, and how you are doing that. I need you with me on this mission so we can truly get the word out that dog ownership is forever, that there are educational resources for dog owners, and that they can learn to be forever owners like you are. Maybe we cannot impact hundreds of thousands of dogs lives, and maybe we can. At least once a day I think, "you are insane, what are you doing, go back to the cube farm" and the other 23 hours and 59 minutes and 55 seconds of the day I remember that I am JerseyStrong, that I was raised to work nonstop on a goal, that this is what I have a heart for, and that I was raised along side these beautiful furry creatures that I love so much and I can finally give back to their species, and then I get back to work. If we help even one dog owner be more compassionate, be more understanding, more willing to see what it is like to live life as a dog in a human world, then we are on our way to fulfilling the "why" behind Love, Laugh, Woof. If we help one dog owner see that maybe they don't have to surrender their dog to the shelter, that they can solve different issues or work through situations that might be putting their dog's future in peril, we are on our way to fulling the "why" behind Love, Laugh, Woof. If we prevent one dog owner from dropping their dog off at a shelter or listing them on Craigslist, we are on our way to fulfilling the "why" behind Love, Laugh, Woof. If we help one dog, that one dog will be better off and we are one step closer to filling the "why" behind Love, Laugh, Woof. One step closer to filling OUR COLLECTIVE WHY.

Join the new Love, Laugh, Woof Forever Owners group on Facebook:

This group serves the dual purpose of being a place for forever owners to socialize and enjoy the company of other dog owners as well as promoting the importance of responsible dog ownership for all the days of a dog's life.

Household Toxins That Make Your Dog Sick
[caption id="attachment_854" align="alignleft" width="266"]16899418635_ce9636c8c3 photo credit: Dogs Playing via photopin (license)[/caption] As you know from following my blogs and social media posts, one of the areas about which I am the most passionate is creating an environment for dogs that is free of as many toxins as possible both inside and outside your home. When Leigh Marcos, Content Manager of PennJersey Building Services reached out to me with information from their website I was more than thrilled to share it with you, my friends and pack of fellow dog lovers.  

By Leigh Marcos, PennJersey Building Services

When you clean the home, you probably consider a good living environment for you and your family, but does that include your pet? Many pet owners naturally forget that toxins affect their pets too, sometimes more so, and that not only is there a range of substances that might affect them, but the very cleaning agents being used to clean the home.

When we think of harmful toxins, we might think of asbestos which causes mesothelioma, but there is also garbage, and the cleaning chemicals. The reason they affect pets more is not just because of their relatively smaller size, but because they operate closer to the ground which means they interact with substances more often.

It is vital to carefully investigate your home to see what substances exist within it, and which one your pets can interact with. To help you out, PennJersey have created a handy guide the main substances dog owners should be aware of and crucially, important advice on how to make homes safer and use less toxic cleaning products. Click here to access the PennJersey guide. 

17 Spring Safety Tips To Prevent Lost Dogs
Now that spring is here (well, depending on the day of the week here in Chicagoland) I have watched as our neighborhood has started to come out of winter hibernation.  With so many adults and kids out and about again, it is a good time to have a refresher course with your dogs and your human kids on methods of making sure the dogs do not get out of fenced yards, screen doors or front doors that open and close constantly. In our neighborhood we are blessed that not only are we adults friends, but our kids are friends too, and they love to play outdoors all day and every day whenever the weather permits. I compare their movement throughout our connecting yards to a school of fish that suddenly darts to a new location without warning. Don't get me wrong, this is fantastic and certainly beats having them in their rooms playing video games, but it also creates some stress on my part because of the amount of time the doors and gates to the yard open and close. Here are my spring training suggestions to keep your dogs safe this season:

Screen doors:

  1. Latch your screen doors: We do this ever since the day we were at a graduation party and we watched one of the host's dogs jump up on the screen door to see something outside and accidentally press down the screen door handle. Without skipping a beat the dog and it's canine sibling were out the door and racing down the street with a roomful of humans racing outside to try to lure them back inside. Fortunately the dogs came back quickly and nothing bad happened. Our screen door has been latched ever since on nice days when we have the front door open.
  2. Check your screen doors for holes and weak spots: Give your screen doors a thorough examination to ensure that there are not places that a young dog (or one who loses all training and composure when someone is outside) could jump through.
  3. Consider replacing screen doors with special pet screen like Phifer Pet Screen or New York wire. Pet screen is considerably stronger and more resistant to nail scratches. We switched to this after my late German Shorthaired Pointer went through our screen door and it has survived two Labrador puppies since then.
[caption width="321" id="attachment_1164" align="alignright"]11707984104_c974bb71ff_m Sit/wait is a potentially life saving skill. photo credit: Miko & Luca via photopin (license)[/caption]

Fence gates:

  1. Teach your kids the importance of making sure the fence gates are closed each and every time they go through them and how your dog's safety depends upon them.
  2. Instill in your children the importance of shutting and checking the gates themselves rather than relying on their friends to do so, so that they let their friends in or out first before they go through.
  3. If you have multiple gates, lock all but one of them to reduce the chances of a gate being left open.
  4. Check each gate every time you let your dogs outside and accompany them outside.
  5. Teach the dogs to sit/wait if you take them through the gate.
  6. Lock gates or use a carabiner or other method of securing the gates to ensure that a dog does not accidentally open them by jumping up on them like Dutch once did.
  7. Keep your dog on leash with you or in their crates inside the house when having large groups or parties in your yard. 
 [caption width="270" align="alignleft"] A carabiner keeps the gate shut but not locked. [/caption] 

Front door:

  1. Train your dogs to sit/wait at the door whenever someone comes to the door or a visitor enters the house.
  2. Require your dogs to sit/wait any time you go in and out of the house with them.
  3. Use a leash when answering the door if you are uncertain about your dog's willingness to sit/wait with an open door.
  4. Teach your children the dog's rules of sitting and waiting before the door is opened.
  5. Instruct kids to step outside to talk to their friends or invite the friend inside (if you do not have a screen door) instead of holding the door open to talk to friends.
  6. Teach everyone in the family the art of body blocking the dog's access to the door in case they break their sit/wait. Body blocking means using your body to restrict the dog's movement.
  7. Depending on the design of your home and your dog's obedience abilities, consider blocking off your foyer or front hallway with pet gates to prevent your dog from lingering by the front door.
This blog post contains affiliate links. If you click on these links and make a purchase I may receive a small commission from the merchant. This does not impact the retail price that you pay for these items. Affiliate links help bloggers promote their favorite products and receive a small commission from those recommendations. 
Human’s Guide to Dog Toys
Over the last year I've set up a table at various pet events and local events and offered a selection of safely made pet toys from West Paw Design and Planet Dog. Without a physical store front these events are a nice way for me to get out and meet pet parents and share the word about creating a healthy, toxin-free lifestyle for their dogs. West Paw and Planet Dog are my two favorite brands of toys for my dogs because they are made in the USA from non-toxic materials with a focus on the health and safety of our dogs, so I love to share the word of these brands with fellow dog owners. After all, dogs play with toys with their mouths, so anything that goes into your dog's mouth (and sometimes into their belly) should be as safely made as possible. [caption width="202" id="attachment_84" align="alignright"]11044532_10153751445692178_955949249100267768_n Destiny and her pile of toys[/caption]A common complaint that I have heard from other dog owners is that their dogs will destroy any toy given to them, with many dog owners no longer purchasing toys for that reason. Since dogs do not have nearly as much with which to entertain themselves as we do, that makes me sad. Of course I can relate to purchasing a $15 stuffed squeaky toy only for Jackson and Tinkerbell to rip it to pieces within ten minutes of presenting them with their new toy, but when it comes down to it, that's part of the fun for them, part of the joy of the stuffed squeaky toy. They still play with it once the squeaker and stuffing has been thoroughly removed by them and confiscated and disposed of by me. [caption width="221" id="attachment_245" align="alignleft"]IMG_8244 Jax and his favorite shark[/caption]  Jackson and Tinkebell love to play tug-o-war with the remaining shell of the squeaky toy. Normally the game begins with Tinkerbell literally shoving the toy into Jackson's mouth until he takes the bait and joins in. Sometimes Jackson (our adorable but evil genius) will grab a toy and start a game of tug-o-war with me, sometimes because he wants to play with me and other times in order to lure Tinkerbell over to join into the game so he can steal the antler that he wants but she has. Both our late Maggie and our former foster dog Destiny loved to take the empty squeaky toys and toss them high up into the air and then fetch the toy and repeat the process over and over. In order to help my fellow humans with the "my dog will destroy that" dilemma, I have made a helpful guide called The Human's Guide to Dog Toys to help pet parents understand the best way to use each toy and make it last longer than previous toys. You can download the guide on the Dog Owner Resources page at .   You can also shop for my favorite eco friendly dog toys on at my affiliate store by clicking here.
This blog post contains affiliate links. If you click on these links and make a purchase I may receive a small commission from the merchant. This does not impact the retail price that you pay for these items. Affiliate links help bloggers promote their favorite products and receive a small commission from those recommendations. 
Tornado Warnings and Dogs Preparing to Take Cover With Your Canine Best Friend
Tornado Warnings & Dogs: Preparing to Take Cover With Your Canine Best Friend

Tornado Warnings & Dogs: Preparing to Take Cover With Your Canine Best Friend

by Lynn Stacy-Smith Tornado Warnings and Dogs Preparing to Take Cover With Your Canine Best FriendRecently we enjoyed a warm 70 degree day and as I played ball outside with the dogs,  I noticed that our grass is getting nice and green and changing from its dismal dormant brown color. Of course the downside of such a warm spring day here in Illinois is that it sometimes means it is ushering in some wild weather and at least a tornado watch if not a tornado warning. Growing up in the mountains in northern New Jersey meant that I did not grow up with tornadoes. Although I obviously do not want to experience an actual tornado I have become much calmer over the years when a tornado siren sounds, but I still take every watch and warning quite seriously and have several tips to offer to dog owners on what to do when it's time to seek cover during a tornado watch or warning. 21lwzbrgfilHarness & Collar: Regardless of which you use for regular leash walking, I prefer a harness over a collar for emergency situations simply because it is harder for your dog to slip out of a harness. Trust me, I have experienced a terrified dog slipping her head out of a collar when I walked my late Labrador Retriever Babe too close to a marching band in a parade and after the drum section started up out of nowhere I suddenly found myself with an empty collar and a scared dog on the run. Fortunately I found her quickly and tragedy was averted, but during a tornado warning you do not want to recreate the iconic scene from The Wizard of Oz with a dog on the run and a funnel cloud coming toward you. Depending on the size of your dog you can go with something simple like a regular harness for walking, 71lowkipbbl-_sy800_or opt for something you can use if you need to lift or carry a large dog in an emergency like the Rock-n-Rescue dog harness that is made for Search and Rescue (SAR) work. If you have a very small dog you can invest in a carrier similar to what you would use to take your dog on a plane so that you can easily carry him with you. Dog Supplies:  Make sure you have a box of supplies with which you can entertain your dog in addition to a canine first aid kit, even if your basement is finished and somewhere that you and your dog frequently spend time. We have found ourselves hanging out in the basement for as long as an hour  during some storms and I recommend keeping the following on hand: The toys and treats will help distract your dog from her unusual surroundings, the sounds of the storm, the wail of the tornado siren and from your own nervous energy that you might be giving off without realizing it. Practicing basic training like sit, down, stay and other commands that your dog already knows is also a great way to distract them. Both Jackson and Tinkerbell spent time as very small puppies in our basement with me during tornado warnings and these things were invaluable for entertaining very young puppies when they really wanted to get into trouble in an area that had not been puppy proofed. Keeping an extra leash and harness for each dog in the house will ensure that you have them in the event that you find yourself in the basement without time to harness them before you seek cover. I firmly believe that dog owner can never have too many spare leashes stashed in various rooms in case of an emergency situation. Tornado Drills: Yes, I do tornado drills with my dogs. No, I am not crazy. Our canine tornado drills go like this: on the first Tuesday of every month our village tests the tornado sirens. As soon as they start to sound, I jump up and call the dogs to me and reward them with plenty of treats, praise, chin scratches and every good thing that I have at my disposal at that time. Depending where we are at the time, I put them in their harnesses, put their leashes on, and we go into the basement, where they receive more praise and treats. Sometimes we are out in the yard and they follow me to the house, and other times I simply have them sit and stay. [caption id="attachment_3238" align="alignright" width="300"] Work with your dog on an extremely reliable recall for emergencies.[/caption]   A few times I have forgotten that it was the first Tuesday of the month and I have been doing something else when the test sirens sounded. Both times I was thrilled that both dogs woke up from their naps and made eye contact with me, watching me for my next move or phrase. The whole point of this exercise is that I want them to make the association in their head that the sound of the tornado siren means that they look to me, make eye contact, and wait for my next command. If you are at work or away from the house when a tornado siren occurs, practice having your dog come to you during other loud situations or when you can catch the siren when the test happens during the weekend. You can also use this Tornado Warning Siren Sound Effect video from You Tube. In fact as I tested it to include in this blog, both Jackson and Tinkerbell went on alert and made eye contact before running over to me. Of course Tinkerbell, in true Tinkerbell style, jumped into my lap and showered me with kisses, but I consider that a happy little price to pay while doing research for this blog. This blog post contains affiliate links. If you click on these links and make a purchase I may receive a small commission from the merchant. This does not impact the retail price that you pay for these items. Affiliate links help bloggers promote their favorite products and receive a small commission from those recommendations.   
Ice, Ice, Zoomies Part 2: The Perfect DIY Block of Ice
Last week I wrote about the joyful play session that Jackson and Tinkerbell enjoyed after we gave them a huge block of ice from on top of our swimming pool cover. Although a chunk of swimming pool ice was great for a one time thing, it definitely does not meet my standards of safe, filtered water and toxic free toys, so I found a way to make a better chunk of ice that is still tons of fun for Jackson and Tinkerbell. I purchased a More Cuisine Essentials silicone loaf pan from Amazon and it arrived a few days after my last post. I chose this particular one because of its eco friendly qualities and the fact that it is dishwasher and freezer safe. After running it through a cycle in the dishwasher, I filled the loaf pan with filtered water and put it in the freezer for a few days. "Why is there a huge block of ice in the freezer?" each one of my family members asked. "You'll see," I replied. Yesterday was a beautiful day in the 50s but I felt physically terrible, as if I was starting to come down with a cold. I had planned a nice long walk with the dogs but just could not bring myself to do it, so I decided it was time to break out the giant piece of ice for them since it had been a week since the last one and I knew they would be thrilled to play with something new. This simple creation was the source of great joy and fun for them. Jackson got so excited that he tried to take the silicon loaf pan before I could remove the ice from it. As soon as we freed the ice from the mold the fun began and the dogs had a great play session as they raced around the yard each stealing the block of ice back and forth and generally playing Labrador games. I don't want to overdo it with this fun toy and wear out the novelty of it, but I the mold is back in the freezer, ready to go when they least expect it. And unlike the ice that they find in the yard or that comes off of our pool cover, this one meets their criteria for fun as well as my criteria for safe and non-toxic dog toys. [gallery ids="636,639,640,641,642,638,637,633,632,634,635" type="rectangular"]   This blog post contains affiliate links. If you click on these links and make a purchase I may receive a small commission from the merchant. This does not impact the retail price that you pay for these items. Affiliate links help bloggers promote their favorite products and receive a small commission from those recommendations.
Not Just Another Pretty Face: Researching That Beautiful Show Dog On TV
Last night was my favorite night in televised sports. It has been on the calendar for months, a night when my family knows that they should not plan on anything other than my favorite event being on the television. Last night was night two of the Westminster Kennel Club show. Night two of the Westminster Kennel Club show always starts off with the Sporting Group. If you  are not familiar with the different groups of a dog show, this group includes breeds who have been bred to assist bird hunters in various ways like finding birds, flushing them from tall grasses, or retrieving them from fields and ponds for the hunter. I grew up with Labrador Retrievers and German Shorthaired Pointers because my father hunted waterfowl and upland game, so our dogs were beloved pets all week and hunted with Dad on weekends. While they loved snuggling in bed with us, playing games of fetch and swimming with us, they were never happier than when they were out in a marsh or a field with Dad as the sun rose on a Saturday morning, waiting for their chance to fetch some ducks or quail. They would come home later in the day and crash in front of the fireplace, sound asleep, paws twitching as they ran in their sleep and most likely dreaming of their next hunting trip. [caption id="attachment_458" align="alignright" width="300"]puppydutchstacking Dutch as a puppy[/caption] Dad always gave me his issues of Gun Dog magazine when he was finished reading them because he knew how much I loved to look at the puppy photos that readers had sent to the magazine. Although I had no interest in actually going hunting, I loved reading the articles about the different types of dogs, how they worked, the connection between dog and hunter, and how using a trained dog helped preserve wildlife because they insured that each bird that was killed was brought to the hunter instead of lying un-utilized in the field. Each bird that Dad and our dogs brought home ended up on our dinner table. As a result of a lifetime of browsing through Gun Dog magazine, I have vast knowledge of the breeds of the sporting group and they are my "favorite" types of dogs. Watching the Sporting Group at Westminster is like sports fans watching their teams advance through the playoffs; first and foremost I am team Labrador, with the German Shorthaired Pointer as a very close second. One time one time when my mom and I were out for a hike and met a woman who was walking a medium-sized reddish dog with white markings. I had just read about the "toller" who has a very unique job of luring ducks closer to the shoreline. "Oh my gosh, is that a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever?" I asked, bursting with excitement. "Uh, no, it's a mixed breed of some sort," she responded as both she and my mother looked at me as if I had gone crazy. "What?" I asked Mom as we walked away and she was laughing at me, "I read Dad's hunting magazines all the time." As a three-year old German Shorthaired Pointer named CJ won Best In Show last night I stood in my living room cheering the same way we cheered the years Chicago BlackHawks won the Stanley Cup. I missed my own late German Shorthaired Pointer Dutch as I watched CJ gait around the ring and then stack up for judging, such a perfect example of the breed with his speckled coat, the regal lines of the dog's perfectly muscled body,  and the piercing intelligent eyes. And then I had an "oh no" moment. And that "oh no" moment was followed by "what if?" [caption id="attachment_457" align="alignleft" width="242"]dutchnye The "Regal Jester"[/caption] The "regal jester" as the GSP is nicknamed is a magnificent looking dog that houses a whole lot of energy and, to quote the great Margaret Mitchell in Gone With the Wind, "a passion for living." Or as I like to call them: crazy dogs. What if people went out and bought German Shorthaired puppies based on seeing this beautiful and unique looking dog win Best In Show and did not do their research to find out what the breed is really like? How many of those puppies will end up surrendered, or locked up in kennels and crates as punishment because their owners don't know what to do with their energy? How many puppy mill and backyard breeders would increase their supply of GSPs to keep up with a demand that "good" breeders would be smart enough not to respond to? In the late 1990s animal shelters around the country reported an alarming increase in Dalmatian surrenders following the release of the live action 101 Dalmatians movie. This was a result of parents purchasing Dalmatian puppies because of the way the dogs were portrayed in the movie without doing their research about whether or not the breed would be a good fit for their family. Conversely, a 2004 study of Best In Show winners from 1946 to 2002 showed that winning Westminster did not cause an increase in the popularity of the winning breed, but that study is now 12 years old and was done before social media became a factor, so I would personally be interested in the authors of the study doing an update. As a result of my "oh no" and "what if" moments, I came up with some suggestions on watching the Westminster Kennel Club show or browsing the descriptions of different breeds and how to translate some of the descriptive phrases about each breed into regular everyday language. "And with enough exercise, he's well suited to family life, too.This was on the Westminster Kennel Club website to describe the German Shorthaired Pointer and I had to laugh, wondering if they wanted to write, "This breed is insane and full of energy." Every German Shorthaired Pointer I have ever known has had endless energy and was full of silly antics. Dutch took games of zoomies to an entirely new level and showed no signs of slowing down even in his senior years. When Jackson was a puppy and full of youthful Labrador energy we met a neighbor with a GSP puppy the exact same age, so of course we visited a few times for puppy play dates. Little Banelli would run circles around my Jackson and tire him out so much that I had to carry him the few blocks home because he was too tired to walk. Before their play dates I would not have believed it was possible to wear out my sweet and energetic puppy, except that I had previously had my own GSP and knew how much energy was contained in that regal looking body. Active family: This means ACTIVE, in all caps, bolded and in italics. Active like interested in hiking or taking long, long, LONG walks and spending plenty of time outside playing fetch and other games with the dog. Couch potatoes need not apply. A dog who needs an active family will drive you crazy if you are not truly active and 100% committed to taking time to exercise with your dog. A quick walk around the block is going to be insufficient and unfair to such a dog. Without an active family the dog will be bouncing off the walls, getting into "trouble" though no fault of his or her own, all because a potential owner did not understand how active the dog needs to be. Keen intellect: Dogs with a keen intellect will be eager to learn. However, if you do not train your super smart dog, he or she will find something to do with that sharp mind, and it probably will not be something you like or want your dog to do. If you cannot make a commitment to putting a lot of time and energy into training a dog who has a keen intellect, as well as doing lifetime continuing education with the dog, you and your dog will be equally miserable. Dogs with a keen intellect will excel in a job like a therapy dog or a fun dog sport with you by their side. Once again, this is a warning to owners who want a dog who is happy chilling on the sofa and simply spending time with their humans. Not a Breed for the First Time Dog Owner: I heard this used to describe a large breed from the working group. What does this mean? This means that you will need to be a firm (but humane and fair) leader to your dog to ensure that your dog knows the rules of the house and that you are always in charge. Training will be critical to your dog's future as well as your own; training is not something that can be skipped or taken lightly. With Strong Character and Extreme Stubbornness: These go along with the above listed, "not a breed for the first time dog owner" and should be taken seriously. Unless you are an experienced dog owner with the ability to put in the time and train your dog correctly, including proper socialization and temperament training, some breeds are just not for everyone. No matter what sort of gorgeous coat or unique look that they have, if your dog is in control of you (instead of vice versa) and unwilling to obey the rules of living in a human house, you will do both of you a disservice by adding him or her to your home. Fortunately there are many dogs who are described as "easy to train", "easy-going" or "gentle nature" who are great for new or less experienced dog owners whether you are going with a purebred dog or a mixture of breeds. There are also plenty of dog trainers available to guide you every step of the way since no matter the breed description, raising a healthy and happy dog will always require patience and continual training whether they are extremely stubborn, keenly intellectual or easy-going. Some great resources for researching a particular breed of dog include: Westminster Kennel Club: American Kennel Club: Pet finder: Most importantly, if you find yourself set on getting a purebred dog, definitely check with breed specific rescue groups. Sadly millions of purebred dogs are abandoned by owners who did not do the research needed before acquiring a dog and you can give one of those dogs a new life and the loving and committed home that every dog deserves.        
No Dogs on the Grass Part 3: Promoting a Strong Immune System for Your Dog
[caption id="attachment_206" align="alignleft" width="182"]Tinkerbell is all about fun and joy! Tinkerbell is all about fun and joy![/caption] Just like in humans, there is not a magic recipe for preventing cancer in dogs. There is no secret food or magical herb or pill that will prevent the cancer cells from invading their bodies.  With that understood, the smartest thing to do for your dog is to give him or her a lifestyle that promotes a healthy immune system. While the immune system does not always prevent cancerous cells from growing, a healthy dog will do better than a dog in poor condition during cancer treatment, whether chemotherapy, radiation or surgery. In order to help you adopt habits that promote a strong immune system for your dog I created the following infographic: Promoting a Healthy Immune System. Please note that I am not a veterinarian, so always check with your veterinarian before starting your dog on an exercise program or a new supplement to ensure that it is safe for your pet and does not conflict with other health issues or medicines that your dog currently takes.Promoting a Healthy Immune System for your Pet V2 Let's take a look at what I have implemented in my own dogs' lives:

Feed a High Quality Food

All dog foods are not created equal. As recently as 2010 I was feeding what I would later find out was an extremely low quality food from a big name brand with a reputation for being a healthy "high end" option for dogs. My education began when I innocently answered the question, "What do you feed your dog?" in a Facebook dog group. After being slammed by several other dog owners I began to research and question what was in the food I was feeding. I was stunned and horrified. When Jackson was born in 2011 our friend/breeder told me about Canine Caviar. She has known the founder of the company for a long time and swears by the food for her own dogs. Jackson's mother is on Canine Caviar and it was the first mushy food the puppies ate in their bowl once they were old enough. I researched the food online and from that research and the recommendation of my trusted friend/breeder, I became an instant fan of Canine Caviar. Jackson and Tinkerbell still eat it and I have no plans on changing any time soon. The best resource for anyone getting started researching their pet food is Dog Food Advisor. You may not find the exact formula of the brand that you serve but you can usually find something very close to it. I also love this Dog Food Grading form available at the Elk County Animal Shelter page. You'll need your bag of dog food or the list of ingredients from your food company's website. Both of these are eye opening. I prefer to feed all organic ingredients because to me it seems logical that the fewer pesticides used to grow a food means that there are fewer toxins going into my dogs' bodies. 2015-06-02_13-21-47Remember that a high price tag does not guarantee a healthy dog food, but overall the foods with the better quality ingredients will likely have a higher price tag. Most of the higher quality foods use organic ingredients but simply being an organic food does not necessarily guarantee that the food is the best one for your pet. Make sure you look at the ingredients, where they come from, what they are, and what they do in your dog's body. I prefer to send friends and fellow dog owners to smaller privately owned health conscious pet stores instead of the big box retailers for a food. When calculating the price of the bag it is important to find out the number of Kcals per cup to really determine the total cost of feeding the food. For example, the formula of Canine Caviar that I feed is 599 Kcals per cup. A popular and controversial brand that I looked up has 333 Kcals per cup. This means that to feed the 1350 Kcals a day that Jackson and Tinkerbell consume that I would need to use almost twice as much of the cheaper food, going through the bag twice as fast as the "more expensive" Canine Caviar. When you think of the cost in terms of how far it will stretch and the benefit to your dog's body they are not as far apart as the initial sticker shock may have seemed.

Feed An Alkaline Diet

Canine Caviar's claim to fame is that it is the only alkaline diet for dogs in the United States. According to the Canine Caviar website, "An alkaline based diet puts more oxygen in your pet’s blood, making his/her immune system stronger. With more oxygen in the blood the internal organs also work more efficiently and your dog ages at a slower rate."  In addition to feeding an alkaline food, I also like to offer treats like baby carrots and other vegetables that are safe for dogs. When I make my own salad we have a ritual where both dogs come and wait for their own pieces of kale, lettuce, and cucumbers as I'm building my own lunch. Just make sure you talk to your vet about whether your own dog can tolerate a more alkaline diet. Here is additional information on this link: and Canine Caviar Infographic: Alkaline Diet for Dogs .

Protein Rotation 

The importance of rotating proteins is something else that I learned about while writing for Canine Caviar. When you switch proteins with each bag you are giving your dog a different protein, which means that they are getting a different amino acid, which in turn boosts your dog's immune system. Here's an infographic from the Canine Caviar website that explains more: I rotate between Canine Caviar Wild Ocean (herring) and Canine Caviar Wilderness. My backup brand if I cannot get one of those formulas is Zignature Trout & Salmon, although I prefer to stay with one brand of food.

IMG_7381Fun, Exercise, Love & Joy

According to VetInfo, "Insufficient exercise can also lead to decreased immunity, as exercise stimulates your dog's lymph glands, which are vital to immunity."  For dogs, being happy and getting exercise typically go together. Stress takes a terrible toll on the body and dogs can live in stressful states just like humans can. By making sure your dog's world is fun, full of enjoyable exercise as well as relaxation and love, your dog will benefit physically as well as mentally.

Filtered Water

This is a recent change that we just made. Earlier this year we purchased a simple Brita pitcher for our human and canine family members. We are looking now at something more efficient for the faucet itself or the whole house, but for now we fill our Brita pitcher many, many times a day for our own glasses as well as Jackson and Tinkerbell's bowl to keep contaminants from tap water out of our bodies.


We hear a lot about the connection between intestinal health and the immune system in humans and the same thing applies to dogs. Probiotics add friendly bacteria to your dog's digestive system to help him/her break down food and absorb nutrients better. Some dog foods have probiotics added to them. Because my dogs' food has a probiotic in it, I keep Herbsmith Microflora on-hand for upset stomachs, but as the canine flu was spreading through the Chicagoland area I added it to their diet for an extra boost to their immune system. I also add it to their diet during the warmer months when lawn care pesticide usage is at its highest.

Essential Oils

Recently I started to explore essential oils for the humans and dogs in our family. I have always loved holistic remedies for many things, particularly preventative/maintenance uses and non-life threatening medical issues. and this is the same approach I use for my dogs. As with any of the things that I am doing to benefit my own dogs, please make sure you ask your own vet before starting something new with your own dog and make sure you use high quality pure essential oils. Frankincense oil is sometimes referred to as the "king of the essential oils" for its array of benefits. One of the benefits is believed to be a positive impact on the immune system. This is one of the oils that is safe for use with dogs, although it is extremely important to remember that a dog's sense of smell is substantially stronger than ours so you can dilute the oil if applying topically. I like to mix about a tablespoon of Fractionated Coconut Oil and around 6 drops of Frankincense oil and place a few drops of that mixture on Jackson and Tinkerbell's back in the same method that you would use if you were applying a topical flea or tick preventative, on their shoulder blades directly to their skin. You can also add in a few drops of Lavender oil for the soothing and calming benefits.
No Dogs on the Grass Part 2: Post-Walk Paw Wash
For the last two years, ever since I learned about the connection between lawn care pesticides and herbicides and canine cancer I have been extremely reluctant to take my dogs for walks off of our property. Actually reluctant is a mild term for it. Downright terrified is quite frankly the most appropriate way to express how I feel about walking my dogs on any piece of grass. With each walk around the block I have pictured my Jackson and Tinkerbell with their noses full of carcinogenic substances, sniffing innocently and so unaware that humans sometimes intentionally cover the ground with toxins to keep weeds from marring their perfect green grass. For a few weeks after my initial Google binge during which I learned about the connection between lawn care pesticides and cancer in dogs, I kept Jackson's walks limited to the local park, naively thinking that he would be safe there. But one day as I was driving past the park I saw a tractor spraying chemicals onto the grass on the park. An email from the park department revealed that they were spraying a broadleaf herbicide on that grass on which our puppies frolicked and our children ran around barefooted and innocent. So much for the park being safe. During the winter I have walked them with a bit more mental peace but anyone who lives in the Chicagoland area knows that we go straight from warm weather to winter with ice covered sidewalks and ice melting salt all over and then back to warm weather without much of a fall or spring in between. As a result, most of my dogs' exercise has been in our fairly large fenced in back yard. Fortunately our yard is large enough for our dogs to race around as fast as their muscular legs will carry them as they play their games of chase and "bitey face" which is the popular name for the dog game of play-biting and snarling at each other either with or without full contact wrestling. We often joke that any of our neighbors who do not have multiple dogs probably wonder why on earth we let our dogs do this, but it is a standard and time tested type of play among many canine siblings and they rarely actually make contact with their large gleaming teeth. At least as far as our own dogs go, the second that one of them accidentally nips the other they stop the game for a few minutes to calm down.  I also accompany the dogs outside on each and every outing and so I have ample opportunity to throw their favorite West Paw Zisc to them and do lots and lots of training practice. I play outside with them all winter and their favorite game of all time is to play "snow zoomies" in which they run through the snow chasing each other as fast as they can.They also love to chase snowballs that I make and I am always amazed that they can find the snowball in the rest of the snow from the scent of my hands through my gloves. With room to run and each other to play with I know that they are getting plenty of physical exercise. However, I have spent as much time feeing guilty over their lack of mental exercise as I have spent obsessing over the lawn carcinogens that they are picking up on walks. This spring I have thought more and more about what they are missing out on by not going on leash walks. For awhile when the canine flu was new I had an excuse beyond lawn chemicals: they should not go out because of the threat of the dog flu. The panic of the dog flu has somewhat subsided even though the actual flu has not, and I am back to feeling guilty that they are missing out on exploring new places, working their minds, and doing the dog version of reading the trending stories of the day. The smells of the neighborhood sidewalks are the equivalent of our own Facebook and Instagram feeds yet mine have been missing out because of an overprotective dog mom. When it comes down to it, raising a healthy dog is similar to living a healthy life as a human in the sense that there are hazards all around us but we cannot, or should not, choose to live our lives in fear of leaving our safely maintained homes. We know the sun causes skin cancer but I spend plenty of time outside, about 75% of it with sunblock and the other 25% without. We know that smoking causes lung cancer and a myriad of other issues, yet I smoked until four years ago when puppy Jax was my motivation to quit. Some people joke that everything is bad for us, and sometimes I think it's not that far from the truth. So this year I have resumed periodic walks into our neighborhood. Just like I take precautions for myself and my family, though, I am also taking precautions with the dogs, including paw soaks and body wipedowns after each walk or at the end of each day. Although we cannot guarantee that we can prevent cancer, promoting a healthy immune system is one way that we can help our body fight back against antigens. As I have increased Jackson and Tinkerbell's walks off of our property I have also increased some of the measures that I am taking to boost their immune system to battle the cancer causing lawn chemicals and other harmful substances. Here are the steps that I take after walks or once a day if the dogs stay on our own property: 1. Wash all paws in a foot soak using water with apple cider vinegar (1/2 cup vinegar per gallon of water) or an organic pet shampoo. Swoosh the paw through the water and use your fingers to massage the paws for a few second while in the soak. Rinse thoroughly in a second container of plain water and then dry well, including between the toe pads and webbing for breeds with webbed feet. 2. Wipe the entire dog from nose to tail with a damp cloth, including their legs, belly, nose and jowls. You can also use the same ratio of apple cider vinegar to water to soak the cloth or spray on them with a spray bottle, avoiding the eyes. 3. Wash feet and lower legs of humans if wearing sandals or flip flops to keep from spreading toxins on the floor, furniture and bedding that the dogs lay upon. This is also a good idea for owners whose dogs lick toes or feet.

Watch for the next blog in this series in which I will elaborate on this infographic titled Promoting a Strong Immune System for Your Dog. 

No Dogs on the Grass: Studies on Canine Cancer and Lawn Care Products
It has been about two years since I began obsessing over lawn care pesticides and herbicides and the chemicals that my dogs were being exposed to as a result of the American aversion to anything but beautiful perfect grass. Since that day I have tried to spread the word that the perfect weed free lawn that is part of the American dream is a direct threat to the other part of that dream: the children and pets who play on that grass. [caption id="attachment_186" align="alignleft" width="300"]Maggie sniffing the grass before succumbing to Canine Malignant Lymphoma Maggie sniffing the grass in happier days before succumbing to Canine Malignant Lymphoma[/caption] It was a beautiful day in May 2013 and I had just quit my corporate job to become a self-employed writer. Being around our neighborhood in the daytime was still a novelty to me and I loved being able to stop in the middle of whatever I was doing and run to the store or go for a walk with Jackson. Our Basset Hound Maggie had just died from lymphoma a month before and Tinkerbell was just a teeny pup in the whelping pen and far from being able to come home to us. This meant that I spent a lot of one-on-one time with Jackson to keep him from being lonely and to shower him with all of the human attention before his new puppy sister came and changed the dynamic of the house, making the best of the sad situation that had left him an only dog. Halfway through our walk that day I came across a lawn service truck in a neighbor's yard and a man spraying the grass with some sort of spray. With canine cancer still weighing heavily on my mind following Maggie's death, we took a very wide path around the truck and the man spraying chemicals into the yard. [caption id="attachment_187" align="alignright" width="300"]Jax chillin in our yard Jax chillin in our yard[/caption] Later that evening, as I watched Jax performing his normal grooming activities which included a lot of paw licking, I started to obsess over the other yards that we may have walked through with potentially toxic chemicals or contaminants. The more I thought about it, the more uneasy I became. Some yards were marked with signs, but what about the DIY treatments that can be applied by the homeowner? How many yards had we walked through that had been treated with products available at home improvement stores? I had no way of knowing what Jackson had on his paws as he trotted along happily, innocently smelling the grass and the dog version of the trending stories of the day. I remember jumping up as I watched him licking himself clean and filling up a large container with warm water and his organic shampoo and another container with clear water. I called him over and washed all of his paws, swishing them through the soapy mixture, rinsing them, and then drying them between his paw pads. I grabbed a wash cloth and wet it with warm water and ran it all over his body, his head, jowls and even his nose. And then I Googled. It seems I was extremely late to the game associating lawn treatments with the rising number of canine cancer cases. I was astounded that it never clicked in my head before, although this is the first time I have lived in a subdivision, where the lawn is king and people obsess over the state of their grass. Growing up in a rural lake community in northern New Jersey, most of our property was in the woods, with two grassy areas that Dad mowed weekly but did not tend to much more than that. Once I moved out on my own after college I never noticed the companies spraying toxins onto the grass.  I was too oblivious in my 20s and in my 30s because I did not get home from my commute until 6:30.

Here are some of the things that I found.This is an extraordinarily small sampling of the information available online. 

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.

Watch for my next blog on to read about the measures that we take in our home to protect Jackson and Tinkerbell from the impact of potentially deadly lawn care products from neighboring lawns and parks.

Infographic: Promoting a Strong Immune System For Your Dog

Click here to view my infographic: Promoting a Strong Immune System for Your Dog PDF Promoting a Healthy Immune System for your Pet V2which includes tips for promoting a strong immune system for your dog, from feeding an alkaline diet like Canine Caviar holistic pet food, providing filtered water and plenty of fun and exercise to supplements to consider. Please remember to always partner with your veterinarian with food changes, exercise changes or supplements. 

Infographic: Dogs and Lawn Care, Protecting Our Best Friends
Click here to access my infogDogs and Lawn Care Productsraphic Dogs and Lawn Care: Protecting Our Best Friends for information on recent studies linking lawn care products and cancer rates in dogs, tips on washing your dog's paws and body after walks and information and links to maintain an organic lawn that is safe for pets and humans.
The Love, Laugh, Woof Philosophy
The Love, Laugh, Woof Philosophy

The Love, Laugh, Woof Philosophy

by Lynn Stacy-Smith The Love, Laugh, Woof PhilosophyI am very flattered that several times in the last year I have heard a similar message from some of my friends who are not dog lovers. "You have shown me why people love their dogs so much" they have said. This is the ultimate compliment to me, even more powerful than when other dog owners ask for my input or advice on something dog related. To hear this sentiment from non-dog people means that I have opened their minds and hearts to the joys that dogs can bring to the human world. If I can influence a handful of friends, maybe I can influence more by continuing to share stories and advice on my favorite topic. It was not until recently that I realized that I have my own philosophy on dog ownership, a mindset that I call Love, Laugh, Woof. Over the last six years I have tended to my three senior dogs, all with their own serious medical conditions, and ultimately said goodbye to them one at a time when those medical conditions ravaged their bodies and took away their quality of life. I have also raised two puppies into grown dogs over that time, giving me ample experience in those moments when you need your patience and understanding the most. Love [caption id="attachment_56" align="alignright" width="225"]Tinkerbell sleeping jan 2015 My heart swells with love watching them sleep so innocently.[/caption] Sure, loving your dog sounds easy. After all, dogs are cute and wiggly and sweet. Dogs want to please us and make us happy. Who wouldn't love a dog? Unfortunately, too many people. By love I mean real, true lifelong love. I mean the real love that never wavers when things get hard, the love that keeps you going through sickness and in health, like the words spoken in a marriage vow. By love I mean never giving up on your dogs, opening your heart fully to them, having compassion for the reasons behind their behavior. Real love means never abandoning them in a shelter or leaving them with just veterinary personnel when their time here on earth is about to come to an end. Real love means forgiving them when they do something "wrong" and never forgetting that we chose to bring them into our lives, not the other way around. Real love means real commitment from the moment they step that first paw into your life until the last breath that they take with you by their side. Laugh [caption id="attachment_55" align="alignleft" width="225"]Tinkerbell under curtain jan 2015 Tinkerbell makes us laugh every day.[/caption] If there is a way to get through life without a sense of humor then I am not aware of it! Laughter just makes most situations better, even the hard ones. Having a sense of humor and having fun with your dogs makes you an overall better dog owner and a happier person, whether you are laughing with them or at something they've done. With two young Labrador Retrievers, I laugh a lot. Let's flash back to Tinkerbell's puppyhood when she was just a four-month old pup. We had worked with her for two months on understanding which of the items in our house were her toys and which were off-limits. For a young pup she was doing fantastic. Let's face it, from a dog's perspective it is not easy to understand why one furry stuffed object is ok to chew and the other is a decorative pillow that is off-limits. Both stuffed, both equally chewable. One night I sat on the sofa watching a TV show with her entertaining herself on the floor a few feet away. I glanced at her every few minutes while she happily chewed her giant moose antler with those razor-sharp little puppy teeth. Later that night when it was time for bed I noticed that the carpet right where she had been laying looked matted down. I went to inspect and to try to fluff it up and make sure it was not wet. We had only had one accident inside since coming home two months earlier so I would have been surprised if she had peed there. She was an A+ student in the lessons being taught. To my surprise the carpet was neither wet nor matted down; it was gone. Yes, gone. The mesh was still intact, but the carpet fibers were gone. I remember thinking, "Oh, so that's how carpet is made." While I thought she was chewing her bone she was actually pulling individual carpet fibers out with her little puppy teeth and had made a golf ball sized bare patch in our carpet, right smack in the middle of the floor! The next morning I showed my husband what she had done, and I laughed as I relayed the story and took all of the blame. I couldn't be mad, it was my own fault for missing that point where she switched from antler to carpet fiber. All I could do now was watch for her to do it again and correct her in that moment, but for this piece of carpet the moment was gone. Plus in the grand scheme of life, a small patch of missing carpet fibers was not a big deal. And so I relayed the story to my husband with greatly exaggerated detail of how she was chewing the bone one minute and the next I had missed her using her little pointy sharp puppy teeth to carefully pull the fibers out of the carpet but still leave the mesh. His reply was classic and one of the reasons I love him so much as a husband, a father, and my partner in dog-parenting, "Eh, we want to put down hard wood at some point anyway, right?" But how many puppies end up in shelters because the owners can not laugh at the situation, cannot laugh at themselves for not watching the puppy closely enough? Laughing with your dog is equally important. Have you ever noticed your dog's tail go into overdrive when you are laughing and having fun, maybe playing fetch or tug or giggling when they lick your face? They respond to that, they live for that happy sound to come trickling out of our mouths, it is an emotional reward for them, like giving applause to someone doing a live performance. Dogs like to have fun just as much as we do and they recognize that human laughter is a happy sound. In fact according to an article in The Scientific American that I found on The Huffington Post, researchers in Europe studied MRIs of the brain activity of dogs and found that they have more neural activity when they heard positive sounds like laughter versus negative sounds like crying. You can see that in your own dog without a MRI machine just by looking at their happy and relaxed wagging tail when their humans are laughing. Woof [caption id="attachment_54" align="alignleft" width="231"]jax 2 years old Jackson is a dog who likes a routine and watches our body language constantly![/caption] The Woof part of my philosophy on how to be a great dog owner means putting yourself in your dog's proverbial paws from time to time. Woof means being empathetic to the fact that your dog is a dog. Your dog is not a small furry human. Although we may refer to ourselves as pet parents or in our house momma/daddy, I know without a shadow of a doubt that my dogs are dogs. It would be disrespectful to them to treat them as anything else. So I treat my dogs like dogs. But that does not mean I treat my dogs poorly, it means I treat them with respect, love and kindness, but I always honor the fact that they are dogs. Because they live in our human world I am a parent to them in the sense that I set the rules, I keep them safe from harm, I choose their dog food, their organic treats, I tend to their medical care. I teach and enforce the rules and do all of those things that a human parent would do for their kids. By honoring the fact that they are dogs, though, I respect their culture, their body language, their rules for communicating and the way they view the world. It is similar to respecting another country and it's culture in the sense that different does not mean lesser. Understanding that dogs are dogs lets you give them what they need to be happy in our human world. As a result,  as much as I would like them to be with me 24/7 I don't drag them out to blazing hot summer festivals, I don't take them places where there is something happening that would cause them stress. I let them stop and sniff interesting stuff on our walks, knowing that just because I don't see it doesn't mean it's not important. I don't smother them with nonstop hugs that they do not appreciate, although I do sneak some kisses and a few hugs here and there. I've learned where it is polite to be petted and I no longer pet the tops of their heads. I provide them routine like they need and both physical and mental exercise to keep them happy and I watch and pay attention to their verbal cues and how they interact with each other. And finally, I marvel every single day that we have a friendship and a love for each other than spans different species, where we do not speak the same language but we can still communicate, and that I give as much to them as they give to me.
A Mother's Love Celebrating Mothers and their Puppies
A Mother’s Love: Celebrating Mothers and their Puppies
A Mother's Love Celebrating Mothers and their PuppiesI have spent the majority of today glued to my laptop watching a black Labrador give birth to her puppies via a breeder webcam. It is not my breeder but I happened to see somebody else on Facebook who commented on a post with it and I thought I would just glance at it from time to time to try to catch a glimpse of a puppy entering the world.   Four hours and five beautiful wiggling puppies later I am still watching. [caption id="attachment_25" align="alignright" width="365"]Tinkerbell's mother and litter mates, 3 weeks old Tinkerbell's mother and litter mates, 3 weeks old[/caption] In a world where our news programs depict so much anger, violence and hatred towards each other, towards children, towards animals, this is the most beautiful four hours of anything that I have watched in a long time. When I first logged onto the site the mother dog was restless and panting, moving around in her whelping pen, clearly as uncomfortable as any pregnant female about to deliver a baby. She had the classically beautiful Labrador face that looked like she was panting and smiling but also thinking "I am so ready to get these babies out of me." As the hours progressed she produced five gorgeous puppies, two yellow males and three black females. As each one was born she licked tenderly licked at their sacs, but as a well cared for dog giving birth in a home whelping pen she had a human to assist her immediately. She watched as the human helped remove the sac and took the puppy away to tend to it. As each puppy was brought back to her whelping pen she licked it tenderly, cleaning it as only a mother dog can, as it nursed its first drops of mother's milk. One after another a puppy joined its sibling to nurse and join the rest of the family. Now the mother on the puppy cam is relaxing comfortably with her five babies nursing hungrily. Every now and then she leans up to give one of them a lick, and her human appears to move one to a better nursing position. She has curved her body into a crescent shape as if to keep the puppies close and to shield them with her body. Her front and back paws form a barrier that they cannot yet cross so they are safely ensconced within her reach. [caption id="attachment_27" align="alignleft" width="425"]IMG_0167_1 (2) Tinkerbell and littermates at four weeks old playing with their mother.[/caption] This is this same maternal love between mother dogs and their puppies that hit me hard when we picked up our Tinkerbell as an eight week old puppy. After months of counting down the days until we could pick her up from our breeder we were finally at her farm to pick out our puppy. We were choosing between two different females and I had fallen in love with the puppies and their mother from all of the photos that our breeder shared with us. I smiled every time I saw our future puppy and her litter mates with their mom and I waffled between feeling bad that I was going to remove her from her siblings and mother and excitement that she was going to join our family. We arrived at the perfect time, our breeder was about to let the mother dog and the puppies outside to play. Watching the puppies and their mother frolic on that summer evening was a magnificent experience. It was obvious that she was having as much fun as they were as they scampered around her, some of them climbing on her or chasing her and some of them exploring their world. She was able to play with some of them while still keeping a watchful eye on the others, and she would break away from the ones with whom she was playing to round-up the ones who were checking out their surroundings. [caption id="attachment_28" align="alignright" width="357"]Tinkerbell and her littermates with their mother, 8 weeks old Tinkerbell and her litter mates with their mother, 8 weeks old[/caption] At one point Tinkerbell's mother laid down to take a break and all seven of her chubby black puppies piled on top of her. She licked them and wagged her tail and my heart swelled with love as I watched their  play session. I made a promise in my head and in my heart that I would watch over her puppy who was about to become our puppy, with the same amount of care, a mother's love. Her puppy was a gift to us to be respected, trained, loved and cared for from the moment we signed the paperwork until the moment she crossed to the rainbow bridge, a moment that I hoped would not happen for at least fourteen or fifteen years. [caption id="attachment_29" align="alignleft" width="375"]Tinkerbell's mother with two of her pups Tinkerbell's mother with two of her pups[/caption] My wish for all dogs is that their humans love them with the same love that their canine mothers did. That this love spans our different species is one of the most beautiful parts of having a dog; it is one of the reasons many of us continually own dogs throughout our entire lives. Like I said in my first blog and I will say again many times, our dogs did not choose us as their owner. We choose our dogs and by making that choice we assume total responsibility for their care and to provide not just food, shelter and medical care but also the love that any living creature needs and deserves, just like any mother would provide.



The Reality

Dogs are messy, hairy, time consuming, needy creatures. They are often stinky, they love to eat and roll around in the grossest things. They bring you disgusting things, sometimes alive, sometimes not. Most of them shed. A lot. Count on vacuuming multiple times a week. Your vacuum will smell like dog. You yourself will shed. You will have lint rollers in every room, in your desk, in every handbag. People who drop in unannounced will likely see dog-hair tumbleweeds drifting across your hard surfaces if you haven't vacuumed in a day or so. During puppyhood you will go in and out of the house at least every twenty minutes while they are awake, at least for the first few weeks. The first few days home you will likely be outside with them at midnight, 2 am, 4am, 6am. You will be so tired you want to cry. You will follow them around keeping them out of trouble and teaching them the word "no". You will say "no" more than you ever thought possible. You will spend the first six to twelve months training them, for hour upon hour. I've heard it said that it takes 100 hours of training to form a well behaved pet dog. Those fun and carefree walks you dreamt of? You will spend months walking just a few feet at a time teaching loose leash walking and heel before you get to that point. When they are senior citizens you will carry them up stairs, lift them into your vehicle, pick them up when they fall down. They will require medicines, many trips to the vet, expensive tests. They may develop incontinence problems that make them feel such shame that you cannot scold them. They may revert back to naughty puppy behaviors, their bodies failing them but their minds still going strong and no way to keep themselves entertained. You will not be able to leave the house for more than 10 to 12 hours at a time without arranging for a pet sitter. Add the expense of a kennel or pet sitter whenever you want to travel for work, for vacation. Say goodbye to after work drinks with friends unless someone is home to let them out. You will have just enough time to run into the convenience store for a gallon of milk on your way home, because you are playing beat the clock with their bladder. You will need a midday potty break for them when they are puppies, when they are seniors or if you work long days or have a long commute. Dogs will eat grass, lots of it, and then puke it up on your floors. There will be middle of the night trips outside for upset bowels. You will have a special section under your sink just for pet cleanup supplies. You will have puddles of water and slobber in your kitchen, where you will step in it and get a wet sock. You will have random slobber marks on your clothing from where they laid their heads on you. You will get up far earlier than you would like, every day of the week, every week of the year that your dog is in your life. Dogs don't know it's the weekend. They just know that their stomachs are empty and their bladders are full, and both need to be remedied immediately. If you are lucky you will master the art of falling back asleep after you have cared for your dog's needs. You can also add at least a half hour to your morning routine as you will no longer be the only one who needs attention each day before work. When you take a dog into your home you take on an expensive, time consuming and life long burden in which you are 100% responsible for the safety and well being of another creature for life, anywhere from 10 to 20 years depending on the breed. It is a huge responsibiilty, nearly as much as having a human child You are the center of your dog's universe. And you chose that role. They had no choice. I know this because this is my life. I am a dog owner. My dogs are forever dogs. And I wouldn't want it any other way. The mess, the expense, the "inconvenience", the lack of sleep, the slobber on my pants, the hair nearly woven into my favorite sweater, the doggie nose art on my windows...I cannot imagine my life without my dogs. They are part of my soul. They are a part of who I am. Not everyone goes into dog ownership knowing the honest truth of what is involved. And that is the reason why so many dogs end up in shelters, or maltreated and tossed aside like a piece of trash. Not everyone understands the work, the monetary cost, the dedication that it takes to be a dog owner. Not everyone understands it is forever.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line: if you do not think you can handle the reality of dog ownership, do not do it. Period. Visit other people's dogs, volunteer at shelters, or find a way to have periodic contact with dogs, but do not get one unless you are fully prepared to be there for life. It is simply not fair to the dog. Dog ownership carries the same dedication as marriage vows, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, as long as you both shall live. The difference? If you want to separate from your dog, they cannot be self sufficient. They must find a new home, and those homes are not always easy to come by. If you want to separate from your dog, it is often a death sentence. A death sentence that you can avoid by really thinking through if your life is right for the tremendous and amazing responsbility of sharing your life with a dog.

The Reward

If you are ok with all of the negatives that I have listed, then you will love the positives. The sweet loving eyes, wagging tails, and warm greetings when you get home. The silly antics, playful spirit, the games of fetch and their uncomplicated friendship and companionship. The snuggles, the love in your heart when you catch them dreaming with paws twitching and tails wagging. The look that says to you, 365 days a year, that they love you, that you are their world, their human, and that they too cannot imagine their life without you in the same way that you cannot fathom a world without them. The long walks, the expeditions, the car rides, the you-and-me-against-the-world mind-meld. If you are ok with the negatives, then you are ready for the positives, because they sure do make up for any amount of dog hair and early morning potty breaks.
Five important puppy raising tips
Five Important Puppy Raising Tips

Five Important Puppy Raising Tips

by Lynn Stacy-Smith Five important puppy raising tipsRight now we are approaching the best years with Jackson. The two-year mark is when Labradors start to really get control of their brains but are still young and the fun type of crazy…the nicely trained version of crazy. A few of my friends across the country have tiny new puppies in their home. Every time I see their photos I look at my big strong boy and for a few seconds I miss the days when he was just 15 pounds and I could pick him up. And then I wrap my arms around his strong 75 pound body for a hug and I am happy he’s a big boy now. Although we still have some training issues and things where Jackson is not quite perfectly trained I feel so blessed that we had so much help in knowing what, how and why to train him on several key areas. Between our breeder, our veterinarian’s in –house puppy socialization class and our amazing dog training school we have raised a fine young dog. So here are my tips to new puppy owners:

Bite inhibition, bite inhibition, bite inhibition.

When we bring puppies into our homes at the usual eight weeks old they explore everything with their mouths…including you. Although it can seem cute for a tiny little puppy to nibble on your hand you want to stop this behavior immediately. Puppies tell each other that a sibling has bit them too hard by yelping in pain and removing themselves from their puppy play session. This tells the biting puppy that they went too far. As their human you need to draw the line that any biting is too far. When your cute little sweetheart nips you in play or tries to gnaw on your hand make a yelping sound as if you are in pain. Once those razor-sharp puppy teeth get some jaw muscles behind them is quite easy to make a sincere yelp of pain! Quickly get up and remove yourself from their play session immediately after yelping.  Eventually they learn that biting humans is not acceptable.

Teach your children how to play with the dog.

This was a huge lesson for us and something I did not expect. Every time we looked it seemed as if one of the kids was playing with Jackson with their hands or playing chase with him, and neither of those things is ok! We had to quickly teach the human children that they were encouraging him to bite and that we did not want him to grow up running after people, biting them and jumping on them. We explained time and time again when we corrected their behavior that he was growing to be a large dog, and a jet black one at that. We explained the Black Dog Syndrome in which people tend to fear black dogs. We explained that if he playfully bit a friend of theirs or knocked them down we could have an issue with the parents that could possibly put our beloved Jackson in jeopardy. [caption id="attachment_3180" align="alignright" width="300"] Puppies are curious to explore and learn[/caption] We taught them that they could pet him, play fetch with him and play tug with his toys, but no waving their hands in front of his face, no wrestling or rough housing and no games of chase. We let them practice his commands like sit and down, and we involved them with the recall game in which he learned to come to us on command.

Socialize like a starlet.

Our veterinarian gave us a list of fifty things that a puppy should experience before a certain age and that we should avoid consoling him or coddling him too much when faced with something new and potentially scary. Gushing “oh, puppy, it’s ok” and rewarding him with affection over his fears would only confirm in his brain that the scary thing was indeed scary and that his reaction was appropriate. Instead we were taught to act like it was the most fun and exciting thing in the world, clapping in joy and exclaiming “good boy, good boy” in our happiest puppy party voices whenever we saw something on the list or something new in his world. I can tell you that I looked like an absolute idiot for a good six months, but today at almost two years old our dog is beautifully socialized, not at all fearful and doesn’t flinch when things like the lawnmower or the motorcycle start or he hears a loud noise. We took the list and found or recreated many of the new experiences.  I stood with the puppy on the leash while my husband started the Harley near  him. I clapped and happily exclaimed  “good boy, yaye, Jax, yaye good boy”. We had our kids and all of their friends ride their skateboards and bikes in front of the puppy. We found an old baby stroller and rolled that around in front of him. We waited for the garbage truck, the UPS man, the garage door. All while jumping up and down exclaiming that he was a good boy and that this was fun and exciting.

Don’t home school exclusively and always do your homework.

Enroll in at least a basic obedience class. We have done several different levels of training and are about to resume classes to really fine tune his obedience skills. A basic obedience class is not just to make your dog a more pleasant member of human society, but  most of the commands can save a dog’s life in some situations. Sit/stay is essential at the front door. You cannot spend your entire life body blocking your dog to keep them from running out the door. A lost dog can happen in the blink of an eye. You can open the door to deal with the pizza delivery and your dog can bolt from the house and get lost or hit by a car. The off/leave it command is important if you drop something that is toxic to them like a medication or a candy bar or if you drop a glass on the floor. Down will make your life easier at the veterinarian’s office every time you need to weigh them. The best item we learned at obedience school was reliable recall, a word that means that he is to run directly to us as fast as he can and that he will be showered with the most amazing array of treats and toys that a dog has ever seen. I train it periodically now and used it for real when he was nose deep in a yard exploration project and the tornado sirens went off.

Be patient as they explore our world.

Our dogs did not ask to live in a human world. They were born, plucked from their mothers at just eight weeks old and brought into a strange house where they know nobody. Be patient. They are not furry humans. I know a lot of people think that I view my dogs the same as humans. The fact of the matter is that I LOVE them like humans but I know that they are dogs. So while they deserve the same excellent treatment that any of my family receives I have to respect that they are dogs for their own benefit. They do not have hands to explore; they must use their mouths. They cannot magically know that a stuffed dog toy and a child’s teddy bear are not the same. They do not know that peeing inside is not ok. They do not know that the balls on the Christmas tree are different from their tennis balls. We must teach them, be kind to them, be patient with them, love them, protect them, teach them and communicate with them in a way that they understand.