Tag Archives: pet

Have A Holly, Jolly and Oh-So-Safe Holiday!

Have a Safe Holiday Season

Walking in a winter wonderland of waving Santas, prancing reindeer and swirling snow globes may seem like paradise to us but it can feel like a battleground to a nervous pooch. Remember when dealing with a Nervous-Nellie introduce new, scary, stimuli slowly and with a lot of patience and praise.  To keep your dog under the threshold of having a freak-out, we want to start changing your dog’s association to new the items.  The secret: start well in advance of his anxiety, try to anticipate things that will be stressful, and reward and praise your dog profusely as you approach and pass the item.  You should be as jolly as a little elf yourself, praising your dog for bravery as you pass. Your happy body language is key to building your dogs confidence.  Remember if you are tense yourself that communication transmits down the leash and only feeds your dogs anxiety. My rule of thumb is if I don’t feel silly and over the top I’m not doing it right!

Ultimately if your pet ever starts to really react negatively to an item and you can’t divert their attention, do the emergency u-turn and give them some space.  Let them sniff the object while you praise like crazy, and never force your pet or drag them over to “meet” something scary.

Of course you want to include your furry companions in the festivities,  but as you celebrate this holiday season, try to keep your pet’s eating and exercise habits as close to their normal routine as possible. And to keep your pet safe and decking the halls for years to come,  the ASPCA has the following great tips for pet holiday safety:

O Christmas Tree Securely anchor your Christmas tree so it doesn’t tip and fall, causing possible injury to your pet. This will also prevent the tree water—which may contain fertilizers that can cause stomach upset—from spilling. Stagnant tree water is a breeding ground for bacteria and your pet could end up with nausea or diarrhea should he decide to drink it, so discourage this behavior.  You may even have to barricade the bottom of the tree area so that curious pets don’t make the tree dish their own personal drinking fountain. Or worse yet, decide you brought the outhouse into your house, and mark the tree!

Tinsel-less Town
Some pups love this sparkly, light-catching “toy” that’s easy to bat around and carry in their mouths. But a nibble can lead to a swallow, which can lead to an obstructed digestive tract, severe vomiting, dehydration and possible surgery. It’s best to brighten your boughs with something other than tinsel.

No Feasting for the Furries
By now you know not to feed your pets chocolate and anything sweetened with xylitol, but do you know the lengths to which an enterprising pooch will go to chomp on something yummy? Make sure to keep your pets away from the table and unattended plates of food, and be sure to secure the lids on garbage cans.

Toy Joy
Looking to stuff your pet’s stockings? Choose gifts that are safe.

  • Dogs have been known to tear their toys apart and swallowing the pieces, which can then become lodged in the esophagus, stomach or intestines. Stick with chew toys that are basically indestructible, Kongs that can be stuffed with healthy foods or chew treats that are designed to be safely digestible. I recommend staying away from un-processed rawhide.

Forget the Mistletoe & Holly
Holly, when ingested, can cause pets to suffer nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Mistletoe can cause gastrointestinal upset and cardiovascular problems. And many varieties of lilies, can cause kidney failure in cats if ingested. Opt for just-as-jolly artificial plants made from silk or plastic, or choose a pet-safe bouquet.

Leave the Leftovers
Fatty, spicy and no-no human foods, as well as bones, should not be fed to your furry friends. Pets can join the festivities in other fun ways that won’t lead to costly medical bills.

That Festival of Lights
Don’t leave lighted candles unattended. Pets may burn themselves or cause a fire if they knock candles over. Be sure to use appropriate candle holders, placed on a stable surface. And if you leave the room, put the candle out!

Wired Up
Keep wires, batteries and glass or plastic ornaments out of paws’ reach. A wire can deliver a potentially lethal electrical shock and a punctured battery can cause burns to the mouth and esophagus, while shards of breakable ornaments can damage your pet’s mouth.

House Rules
If your animal-loving guests would like to give your pet a little extra attention and exercise while you’re busy tending to the party, ask them to feel free to start a nice play or petting session. Keep  a lot of fun toys on hand so that dogs can be encouraged to fetch a toy and not mouth a guest. Go-get-the-toy is a great distraction for a dog that loves to jump on guests as they enter and hasn’t perfected his sit-to-greet.

Put the Meds Away
Make sure all of your medications are locked behind secure doors, and be sure to tell your guests to keep their meds zipped up and packed away, too.

Careful with Cocktails
If your celebration includes adult holiday beverages, be sure to place your unattended alcoholic drinks where pets cannot get to them. If ingested, your pet could become weak, ill and may even go into a coma, possibly resulting in death from respiratory failure.

A Room of Their Own
Remember your normally quiet home may have a lot more hustle and bustle than usual. Give your pet his own quiet space to retreat to—complete with fresh water and a place to snuggle. Shy pups might want to hide out under a piece of furniture, in their carrying case or in a separate room away from the hubbub.

New Year’s Noise
As you count down to the new year, please keep in mind that strings of thrown confetti can get lodged in a dog’s intestines, if ingested, perhaps necessitating surgery. Noisy poppers can terrify pets and cause possible damage to sensitive ears.

Take into consideration all these tips and your holiday season is sure to be merry and bright for all the members of your family!!!

This article taken directly from the ASPCA website at : http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/pet-care-tips/holiday-safety-tips.aspx

Fireworks and Pets: An Explosive Mix

Originally posted at BestFriends.org on June 30, 2009 : 12:17 PM

At almost every fireworks display, you see someone who has brought their beloved pooch with them. That is almost never a good idea. Fireworks displays can be stressful, disorienting and frightening for dogs. Your normally calm pooch might get spooked and confused by the noise, crowds and bright lights and become afraid or aggressive or run off. Even if you leave your dog at home, dogs who are not normally frightened by loud noises may panic from the cumulative effects of fireworks, noisy crowds outside the house and being left alone. Please keep your pets indoors. Remember, the 5th of July is the busiest day of the year for animal control officers and shelters!

Dogs and cats have an acute sense of hearing and fireworks will be particularly loud and frightening to them. Pets frequently become more sensitive to loud noises as they grow older. Even if they have not reacted in the past they may become unexpectedly or uncharacteristically fearful.

Pets, children and fireworks can create a particularly dangerous situation as frightened animals can unintentionally hurt a child. Children may not realize that waving sparklers or setting off firecrackers could upset the family pet. Educate your children on the dangers of fireworks around pets.

Some pets don’t even seem to notice fireworks. Others do well simply by having their owner nearby, talking to them and petting or holding them. Others cannot be calmed by anything because they are simply too frightened.

Common signs of noise phobia:

Some of the normal signs that you pet is afraid of fireworks or other loud noises include shaking and trembling, barking and howling, excessive drooling, frantic pacing, attempting to hide, not eating and trying to escape from the house, car or enclosed yard.

The signs noted above are general signs and could be related to diseases or conditions unrelated to noise phobia. Contact your veterinarian if these signs continue after the fireworks are over or if you suspect that your pet has been injured or poisoned during the holiday celebrations.

Tips for keeping your pets safe over the Fourth of July holiday

Preventing pet problems during holiday celebrations is easy by simply planning ahead, practicing safety and taking some basic precautions. You and your human family can enjoy the excitement of the Fourth of July and know that your animal companions are safe and enjoying peace and quiet in the safety of familiar surroundings.

• Never leave your pets alone outside where they can become frightened and panic. Even in a fenced yard, a frightened pet can escape and get lost, injure himself or get hit by a car while trying to seek refuge.
• If you must have your pet outside, keep him on a leash or in a carrier.
• Walk your dog early in the evening before the fireworks begin.
• Keep your pets inside your house preferably in a room without any outside exposure or in a room with windows that are covered by curtains or blinds. Create a safe, secure sanctuary for them with a favorite blanket or toy and special treats. Be sure you have removed any items that could be destroyed by your pet or be harmful to them. Leave a TV or radio on to provide a distraction from the noise – preferably calming sounds or classical music. If possible, leave someone at home to comfort them if they become afraid.

• Don’t leave your pet unattended in your car – panic may cause them to damage your car and hurt themselves. With only hot air to breath, your pet can suffer serious injury in a short period of time. Partially opened windows do not provide sufficient air for your pet and can provide an invitation for your pet to be stolen.

• Make sure your pets have current ID tags in case they do run away during the festivities. On July 5, many dogs are found miles from their homes – disoriented and exhausted. Animal shelters across the country will receive “July 4th Dogs” – dogs who escape during celebrations and are rescued by animal control personnel and good Samaritans who take them to shelters.

• Never use fireworks around your pets, even on your own property. Keep your personal fireworks stored in an area inaccessible to them. Pets may try to eat fireworks and pet hair can easily catch fire if they are too close to the fireworks. If you do use fireworks on your property, pick up the fireworks debris, including used sparklers, which can be dangerous if ingested.

Ways for your pets to celebrate with you

Many people want to include their pets in their holiday celebrations. However, most cats and dogs are much more comfortable if they stay at home and maintain their normal routine during fireworks displays.

There are many safe ways to include your pet in your Fourth of July festivities. Bring them along on your picnic, take them with you to the lake or beach, or include them in your family gatherings at home. Just make sure they are safely inside with a safe place to relax before the fireworks begin.

“Each year on the 4th of July pets panic and run away from the people they love. Please keep your pets safe inside your home,” urges Sherry Woodard, Best Friends’ animal behavior consultant.

Originally posted at BestFriends.org on June 30, 2009 : 12:17 PM
Tips for keeping your pets safe on the Fourth of July
by Barbara J. Koll, Best Friends Network voluntee

Dog Days of Summer Part II : Pool Safety

Yippee, Pool Party!

Whether your dog loves to swim, or would happily sun bathe instead, if you are around a pool teaching your dog pool safety is a must.  Water safety tips are important because even a dog that doesn’t like to swim can fall into the pool and drown trying to get out.  Also not all dogs are seaworthy, stubby legged, heavy bodied breeds like English Bulldogs and Basset Hounds shouldn’t swim, as buoyancy is near impossible. Dogs, just like people, can panic in the water and try to climb on top of a rescuer, so it is safer to throw them something that floats, like a life preserver on a rope, they can “grab.”Image

Although not all dogs are fond of water, they should be exposed to it for their own safety. With some simple training and safety devices, you can ease your mind and protect your dog this summer.

Some Water Safety Training Tips to Keep in Mind (courtesy of APDT)

  • Give him a gradual introduction into the pool or lake by holding him snugly and slowly walking into the water. Let him get wet a little at a time and eventually let him swim to the exit. Make it a positive experience with lots of encouragement and praise.
  • Teach proper swimming technique. All dogs will instinctively paddle when submerged in water, but as inexperienced swimmers, many dogs try to rely on their front legs and do little with their rear legs. This results in an almost vertical swim technique with lots of splashing. It’s exhausting and very easy for a dog to become over-tired this way. With proper training, the most vertical of swimmers can learn to use their rear legs, evening out their performance and swimming much more effectively and safely. Keep a close eye on your dog – if you see them become over-stimulated or fatigued, it’s time to call them out. If you see your accomplished swimmer dog lowering his rear, this is a sign that he is getting tired.
  • Dogs have poor depth perception so if the pool has steps, mark them with a big potted plant and make sure he associates the plant as the exit marker. If there are no steps, provide a non-slip ramp for getting out. Spend sufficient time training him to go up the ramp if he’s alone.
  • If your dog plays in a lake, make sure to stand at the place on the shore where he can easily walk out.
  • Always use a life jacket on your dog in ponds, lakes, rivers, or the open water. Just like with people, it’s easy for a dog to develop a cramp in a leg, become exhausted too far from shore, or in the case of rivers or oceans, overwhelmed by tides. Life jackets give your dog the extra protection to stay buoyant.
  • Keep safety floatation devices nearby, just in the case of an emergency. If your dog gets into trouble, a life preserver attached to a long line is the best course of action to take. Dogs panic easily in the water when trouble hits, and a panicked, flailing dog can accidentally drown any person trying to assist it. Get the dog to grab out to the preserver first and try to reel it in closer to shore before physically trying to help it out.
  • Training polite pool manners is a must. A big Golden Retriever sailing through the air in her excitement to get in the water is a no-no. Train the canine to “Wait” at pool’s edge or to always use the steps or the ramp.
  • Also teach her that the “Come” command applies to the pool as much as it does to dry land.
  • Be mindful of the specific needs of your dog’s breed. Each dog’s physical structure and body-type will greatly impact his swimming ability. Heavily muscled bully breeds exert more energy while swimming due to their increased body mass. Consider using a lifejacket with such dogs for added protection.
  • Watch your dog’s nails! Dogs can quickly wear their nails down to the point of bleeding as they excitedly race around the pool’s exterior. Keep a watchful eye on the pads of their feet as well. Repeated launching from pool steps can tear up paw pads; especially for dogs who spend most of their time on grass.
  • Unless your pool cover is solid and strong enough to support your weight, do not leave it on when your dog is unattended near the pool. Countless dogs, even accomplished swimmers, have lost their lives following an unexpected tumble into a covered pool. Once they’re in, the cover is disorienting and it’s almost always impossible for a dog to find his way out. If your dog needs to spend time in the yard unsupervised, consider erecting a pool safety fence.
  • Avoid letting your dog drink pool water. Always keep an ample supply of fresh water around so your dog can drink without attempting to drink from the pool. Also make sure you give your dog many opportunities to relieve himself after a swim as he is likely to ingest water from wherever he is swimming (pool, pond, lake or ocean) and may need to urinate more often.
  • Make sure you rinse your dog off after a swim to get chlorine and other pool chemicals, as well as bacteria or dirt he might get on him from a pond or lake. Don’t let your dog sit in a wet collar as hot spots can develop. Be mindful of areas where water can collect, like ears, groin, and armpits, where moisture-induced infections can occur.
  • If your dog is overweight or a senior, check with your veterinarian first before allowing him to swim. This is also important for dogs who are generally sedentary. Dogs, like people, experience muscle soreness and stiffness and they’re counting on us to lookout for their best interests.

Keep in mind all these great tips and you and your dog will have a fun safe summer!!

The Dog Days of Summer Part 1

The dog days of summer are upon us! It’s the perfect time of year to incorporate some extra activities into your pet’s schedule. The warmer weather and longer daylight hours offer additional time outside. When planning vacations, weekend getaways, or even weeknight outings, now’s a great time to include activities that are pet-friendly. Try these tips and share in an active summer with your four-legged friends.

If you’re lucky enough to be traveling to the coastline this summer consider bringing your dog to the beach. Most dogs, particularly outgoing breeds like retrievers and spaniels love to swim in the ocean! If you’re nervous about letting Fido loose in the vast aquatic beyond that surrounds our country, start off with a short leash and let him wade in the baby waves and move slowly on to greater depths.  If you can’t get to the surf, a small plastic kiddie pool can be just as refreshing without the tumult of waves or the mess of sandy fur! Remember though, just because a dog is wet doesn’t mean he still won’t be thirsty. This much activity combined with the heat from the beach will necessitate for him larger amounts of drinking water.

Safety Tips:

  • ALWAYS supervise your dog. You can even find doggie life vests in most pet stores for some extra peace of mind!
  • If you are unsure how your dog will react to the water, make sure to bring him to a controlled environment first. An enclosed pool area can be great, and for smaller dogs, your bath tub can also provide a great training experience.
  • Chemicals and dirt in the water can be harmful to your dog’s coat and health, so you should always give your dog a bath after you return home. If there is a shower facility at the beach, pool or lake, you may even want to give him a good rinse before you leave.
  • Drying your dog’s ears after swimming can help prevent ear infections.

Websites which chronicle lists of many dog-friendly beaches in the US:
General US: http://www.petfriendlytravel.com/dog_beaches
California:  http://www.totalescape.com/active/animals/dogs/beaches.html
Life Jackets, etc. for your dog:  http://www.cabelas.com/vests-boots.shtml


Getting out in the great outdoors is a thrill for dogs – everywhere they turn, there’s something to sniff, look at or maybe even chase. Hit the trails with him for an active outing that’s refreshing, healthy and fun. It’s important to be well-supplied for hikes. Be sure to bring plenty of water for both you and your canine companion. Hiking can be hard work, so be sure your dog is physically up to the task. If you have any doubts, contact your veterinarian. Remember to build up to long hikes, just like you would for yourself.If you are going on a long hike, you may want to bring a small first aid kit with you, just in case.Be aware that your dog has tender paws, so try to avoid rough terrain, such as sharp rocks or dense underbrush. Be sure to use precautions against ticks and fleas, and check your dog when you get home.Consider inviting other friends and their balanced dogs along. A group hike is safer and more fun!

There are a number of off leash dog parks and hiking areas.  Me and my dog Sam love Runyon Canyon, Fryman Canyon and Tree People for hiking.

Check here for a list of Los Angles off-leash Dog Parks:


Explore new neighborhoods. Most people and pets have a well-worn path on their neighborhood walks, so why not switch up the scenery? Stray off the usual route, or drive somewhere different to go for a stroll. Try to find dog-friendly business districts that encourage visitors to bring pets along. Many restaurants and coffee shops with outdoor dining areas will let your dog join you as long as they don’t enter the restaurant and are well-behaved. Bring some treats along, this is a great opportunity to practice your down/stay!


A great way to include your pooch for a weekend away is to camp. Most campsites allow leashed dogs and just like you, your dog will be delighted and rejuvenated with the new scenery. He’ll want to spend plenty of time sniffing all the new smells around. Take him for a hike or swim during the days to help drain his energy so he’s ready to rest by the fire at night with you. Pack food and water for him to avoid upsetting his stomach or having him drink tainted water. If you have to hike into your camp, you can have him carry in his own supplies in a doggy backpack.

Not the outdoorsy type check out a pet friendly hotel at Pets Welcome.com


Another idea is to look into venues and events near you that cater to our four-legged companions. Ball fields, movie theaters, museums and other local places will sometimes hold special days they dedicate to allowing dog lovers and their dogs to enjoy the day together. During summer there are usually at least a few dog-related events like fairs or races in most areas.

Burbank for example has a special day when the public pool is open for dogs to swim check it out at : Doggie Splash

Petco Park also has a bring your dog to the game night. Check it out at: Petco Park


Never leave a dog in a parked car on a warm day. It’s a simple message that every dog owner should remember. This past weekend a Chocolate Lab passed away after being left alone in a car for over two hours. A sad wake-up call to pet owners everywhere.

It only takes minutes for the temperature in a stationary car to climb above 100ºF  which would be uncomfortable for any human. Since most of us aren’t covered head to toe in fur – imagine yourself wrapped in a sweater, unable to sweat. The heat becomes unbearable.

Dogs don’t have the same temperature control functions that we have. They can’t sweat like we do. They can only alleviate warmth by panting or releasing small amounts of heat through their paws. Without air circulation or water, there’s no way to escape the heat. Again, never leave a dog in a parked car when the weather is warm, if your not sure if it is too warm don’t leave your dog!

To beat the heat, and to prevent distress, PETA has a few pointers:

  • If you see a dog in a car and in distress, take down the car’s color, model, make, and license-plate number, have the owner paged inside nearby stores, and call local humane authorities or police. Have someone keep an eye on the dog. If police are unresponsive or too slow and the dog’s life appears to be in imminent danger, find a witness (or several) who will back your assessment, take steps to remove the suffering animal, and then wait for authorities to arrive.
  • Don’t carry your dog in the bed of a pickup truck. This is always dangerous, but the heat brings the added danger of burning the dog’s feet on the hot metal.
  • Don’t take your dog jogging—except on cool mornings or evenings—and don’t force exercise.
  • On long walks, rest often and take plenty of water. Hot pavement can burn dogs’ paws; choose shady, grassy routes.
  • Trim heavy-coated dogs’ fur, but leave an inch for protection against insects and sunburn. Keep an eye on areas where hair is thin, like eyelids, ears, and nose as they can get sunburned.
  • Keep your dog indoors. If he or she must stay outside for long, avoid the hottest part of the day.
  • Provide shade, water, and a kiddie pool if possible. Keep drinking water in an anchored bucket or a heavy bowl that won’t tip over.
  • Be a watchdog for chained dogs. Make sure that they have food, water, and shelter. If you see a dog in distress, contact humane authorities. Give the dog immediate relief by providing water.

Have a safe and fun summer everyone!!!

“Don’t Leave Me!!!” A Plan for Preventing and Treating Separation Anxiety

Summer time is coming, and that means more outdoor time for you and your dog! It also means lot’s of family activities that your dog may not get to attend. Which means more time alone in the house or yard. Some dogs don’t mind this R & R time, while others get nervous about being separated from their pack. Destruction and barking can be a troublesome side effect.

Remember dogs don’t have a lot of natural hobbies, digging, chewing and alert barking is their way of stress relief.  They don’t do naughty things to punish you or “let you know their upset” as is commonly thought.  They just can’t think of another way to relieve all this pent up nervous energy. Remember dogs are pack animals, they don’t understand why we have to separate they wouldn’t do this under natural circumstances.  Here are some good ways to work on preparing your dog for your separation.

A behavior modification plan:

  • Give your dog a minimum of 30 minutes to 1 hour of aerobic exercise each day. If possible I like to do this before you leave. Remember a tired dog is a good dog!
  • Work on basic obedience commands (come, sit, sit-stay, down, down-stay) for 15 or 20 minutes each day. Use rewards for compliance (praise, a quick pat on the chest, a food treat) rather than reprimands or punishment for lack of compliance. If you need help getting consistent obedience from your dog, work with a professional trainer (like me!).
  • Wean your “Velcro dog” from being attached to you at all times when you’re home. Use a baby gate to barricade her in a separate room for part of the time when you’re home.
  • Provide her with a delicious distraction, such as a Kong (click here to get great recipes and game ideas) toy stuffed with a food treat (peanut butter is a popular Kong stuffer) while she’s by herself. You can also use a “down-stay” or “get in your bed” command to put some distance between you. Also creating a doggie scavenger hunt hiding food-based chewies and things in her area is very helpful.
  • Ignore her for 20 minutes before you leave and 20 minutes after you return. Effusive goodbyes and hellos make a dog with separation anxiety feel worse.
  • When you leave her alone, don’t give her the run of the house or apartment. Instead, use a baby gate to confine her to one room, such as the bedroom, bathroom, or kitchen—wherever she’s least likely to do damage or disturb the neighbors. Leave a radio or TV on very low to provide distracting background noise.
  • Do not leave a dog with separation anxiety in a closed crate unless he/ she is comforted by being in her den. Many dogs with separation anxiety have panic attacks when crated and will injure their mouths or front feet trying to bite or claw their way out of the crate. Test run this before you leave for hours. If the crate is very wet when you return (excessive salivation) this is signs of a panic attack.
  • Don’t use an anti-bark collar. It’s unlikely to work on a dog with separation anxiety.
  • Start a program of desensitization or “flooding.” Flooding for separation anxiety would involve setting aside several hours on a weekend during which you enter and leave your apartment so often that you essentially wear the dog out. Leave the apartment every few minutes, on a varying schedule, for a minute or two at a time then come back. Be sure not to return while your dog is barking or howling, or else you will be rewarding her for that behaviour. If it’s impossible to walk out the door without having your dog bark, you might have a friend remain in the apartment while you go in and out. Desensitization for a dog with separation anxiety involves giving her your customary cues that you’re leaving—such as picking up your car keys or briefcase, opening the coat closet, putting on your “work shoes,” and so on—without actually leaving.
  • A DAP (Doggie Pheromones) diffuser or collar may help calm an anxious dog.
  • An antidepressant may be helpful for a dog with separation anxiety. Clomicalm (clomipramine) is widely used for that purpose. In severe cases and for occasional use, an anti-anxiety medication can also be given one hour before your departure. No drug can extinguish separation anxiety on its own, however. Desensitization is essential.

Excerpted from Hound Health Handbook © 2004, 2009 by Urbanhound, LLC Used by permission of Workman Publishing Co., Inc. New York All Rights Reserved Available wherever books are sold.

Does Housebreaking Feel Like it is Destroying your House?

Ahh, the potty training problem… Aside from socialization issues, this is the next most frequent problem I get calls for.  But before we fully explore the basic principles for potty training, let’s talk about why we have such problems to begin with.

As times change I am seeing an increase of smaller and smaller breed dogs living in smaller and smaller spaces with parents with very busy lifestyles.  Gone are the days  where everyone has a house with a yard and someone is home all day long tending to the family (able to let the dog out).  Now the norm is everyone is living bunched up one onl top of one another and all the members of our family live on a tight schedule of activities.  Space for dogs to roam is a rarity, and time for training can be hard to schedule in.  Combine that with a tiny breed dog and you have a recipie for potty training disaster.

You see dogs are naturally a letrining animal.  They like to relieve themselves far away from their nest or den.  If given the opportunity they will choose to go as far away as possible to do their business.  This is one of the reason why dogs make such great companions.  Unfortunately due to our busy schedules many young dogs don’t get enough opportunities to go away from their nest to relieve themselves.  Instead they may be confined for to many hours and put in a situation where they learn to live with their own waste.  This destroys that natural instinct to keep your home clean.

The other issue is that as our dogs get smaller and smaller our square footage appears larger.  To a small breed dog a 1 bedroom apartment can be a lot of space.  Certainly enough to urinate in one spot and return to play in another.  The guest bedroom, or fancy living room may even appear to not be part of our nest at all, people rarely go in there.  So to a dog that is having frequent “accidents” in these areas it may seem to him like this is the apropriate place to go.

The other most common issue I see when folks call me about potty training problems, is too much freedom and not enough direction.  A young dog cannot be trusted to manage its own bladder and bowels, much the same way you would not trust a crawling baby without a diaper.  Giving your dog the run of the house when it’s under 1-year-old is risky at best.

So what’s a good puppy parent to do? Right now you might be feeling very confused. Thinking to yourself, “Melissa, you told me not to confine my dog a minute ago! Now your telling me I can’t let him run free! What the heck am I supposed to do!”

The solution is balance and direction.  I don’t mean to get philosophical, but isn’t that the solution to all our problems in life?!  Every puppy should have a space to call their own: a crate, a pen, a washroom, a kitchen with a baby gate.  It all starts here.  This is the first place your dog learns to keep clean because it is where his food, his bed, his toys, are located; and he doesn’t want to soil his area any more than you want him to soil yours.  But as I stated earlier if you want this instinct to continue you need to give him frequent, and I mean frequent, opportunities to relieve himself elsewhere.  I encourage you to pick a place, somewhere easily accessible to your dog and take him there every time.  Preferably through the same exit so he learns the path, this will help him later for signaling that he needs to go out.  So in the beginning, it lots of trips from his space to the bathroom and vice versa.  If you feel like a slave to your dogs bladder and bowels you’re doing it right!  The secret here is setting them up for success. Do not wait for your dog to fail and then correct, that is not fair!  You wouldn’t wait for your toddler to wet his pants and then punish him as a way of teaching him. It is the same thing.

If things are going well, you will start seeing that your dogs area is staying cleaner.  Your dog is realizing that you will give him the chance to relieve himself elsewhere and is learning how to hold it until you let him out.  As he ages he will be able to hold it for longer and longer.  I encourage you to put him on a schedule during the hours that he is awake. Dogs are great anticipators, that paired with vigorous praise when he goes in the right place will help things move along quickly.

So now your dog has learned how to keep his space clean what about yours? Once again balance and direction.  If your dog never spends any time loose in your house he is never going to learn how to behave in that area.  I recommend you practice in small doses.  Also set yourself up for success, let your dog have freedom only after you are POSITIVE they are empty, only for a short while, and only in the room that you are in so you can keep an eye on him.  Use freedom in your house as the reward for relieving himself in the right place. As things progress you will see your dog spending more and more time out of the pen and longer and longer between bathroom breaks.

It is a tedious process but one that goes quickly if you are very consistent. I promise you can do it!

Licks and Wags,


P.S. Need more one-on-one help to potty train your dog? Or want some advice on how to set-up your environment for your new pup? Call (866) 412-PAWS and setup a Puppy Consultation. Melissa is happy to help!

Catch your dog being good!

A trainer friend of mine sent me an email last night that reminded me of a really important training concept. She always signs off her emails with a tagline that reads “catch your dog being good.” I remember thinking, “wow, what an important concept that is so often forgotten.” I mean how do we expect our dogs to do the right thing if we never show them what we like.

I was reminded again of this concept while walking two of my client’s dogs this afternoon. For whatever reason we were just having a great walk, nobody was pulling or lagging, everyone was just hanging out by my side. I thought to myself, what a great opportunity to show them what behaviors I like. I better praise these dogs soon if I want this behavior to continue.

In the training community this is called capture training.  You capture the behavior the animal does and reinforce it.  Eventually the animal anticipates your reward and offers up the behavior on their own. Dolphin trainers do it all the time during play sessions.  A dolphin will do a really cool jump and the trainers will click and reinforce.  Dolphins are so smart they will often repeat the behavior to solicit more fish.  Parents do it all the time with young children, often without realizing it.  Little Johnny gets done playing with a toy and puts it back in his toy box while he selects another.  His mom pipes up eagerly, “Thanks baby for remembering to put your toy back!”

Whenever I start a new puppy class I encourage my clients to start the Pollyanna Principle.  If you remember the movie Pollyanna from your childhood, Pollyanna was encouraged by her father to look for the good in people.  He said if you look for the good in people you will find it.  More than just perceiving the glass as being half full this encourages us to search for those moments when our loved ones are doing something good and reinforce it.  Even if just with a kind word, you will see that it makes a big difference.

So next time your dog just comes over and lays at your feet instead of jumping all over you, remember to reach down and tell him what a good dog he is, and how much you love it when he lays “DOWN”.  I guarantee if you do this often enough, soon you won’t have to even ask.

Licks and wags,


Welcome to my Dog Blog!

First of all, I want to commend you for taking the first step and coming to my blog.  Behavioral problems are the number one reason that dogs enter shelters today and just the fact that you came here shows that you love your dog and are are interested in transforming your relationship. This blog is all my thoughts and feelings on everything dog.  Come here any time you like and read what has been going on.  Also feel free to contact me with any questions you have I am happy to help.  My journey with animals has been an interesting path and I am excited to share all that I have learned!

The Principle
I believe dog training should work for your life!  It is not some magic science, it is really more intuitive than people think.  There is a lot of common sense that goes into it, I think a lot of dog owners over think stuff sometimes.  I want everyone to have a better more enriching relationship with their pet.  This relationship is built through trust and cooperation.  Through your behavior your dog learns to trust that if he cooperates he will be rewarded. Either with something tangible that he needs (food, water, shelter, etc.), or something he wants (love, a toy thrown, etc.).
This relationship in some ways is like that of an employer and an employee.  Your dog’s one job in life is to pay attention to you and follow the patterns of behavior YOU reinforce.  You one job is reinforce the behaviors you want to stick around and redirect the ones you don’t like.  If you keep this principle in the foreground of your mind you will always see success.

Remember, just like any living creature, training is always occurring for your pet at every moment of the day.  Even right now as you are reading this blog your pet is learning something.  It is your choice what your pet learns.  Just like a human child, raising a puppy is a 24 hour a day, 7 days a week job.  Just as with children, there are no days off from training.  Invest every moment wisely and you will see rewards quickly.

Now if you are one of the fortunate, and you are reading this blog while your puppy is in between the ages of 8 weeks and 16 weeks you are very lucky indeed.  You dog is at the perfect stage to start training, your dog is a clean slate just waiting to be written on.  On the other hand if your dog is a little older, don’t fret, just because your slate may already have some words written on it doesn’t mean they can’t be erased and re-written.  Just recognize you will need to have the patience to take the time to erase and rewrite.  It always takes more time to unlearn a naughty behavior and replace it, than it took to learn the behavior in the first place.

Licks and Wags,