Fun & Games with Your Dog

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.  
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.
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: https://i2.wp.com/images.buddytv.com/btv_2_505920305_0_350_10000_-1_/once-upon-a-time-evi.jpg?resize=389%2C263 Image credit: http://images.buddytv.com/btv_2_505920305_0_350_10000_-1_/once-upon-a-time-evi.jpg[/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 lovelaughwoof@outlook.com 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="love-laugh-woof.myshopify.com" product_handle="hooded-sweatshirt" show="all"]    
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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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: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/nature/dogs-sense-of-smell.html. 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]    
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 https://lovelaughwoof.com/tools/ .   You can also shop for my favorite eco friendly dog toys on Amazon.com 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. 
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.