Holiday stress? Yep, dogs get it, too

 Holiday stress? Yep, dogs get it, tooAs much as you might love the holiday season, it can be stressful. So much to fit in to your schedule, so much you feel like you  “have” to do. And while dogs don’t have those same types of stressors, you being stressed, plus the changes in the house and additional visitors can lead to holiday stress for your dog!

For my dogs, the addition of holiday decor that they aren’t supposed to touch, chew, fondle, or otherwise maim, can be a stress. And added visitors are always stressful, as my dog Izzie (pictured) can be a bit territorial.

This year, because we are moving to a new house, none of the Christmas decorations are being unboxed, but in the place of that stress is the stress of a move and the house being overrun by boxes.

Izzie in particular hate hate HATES the sound of the packing tape dispenser gun – which legitimately has to be used repeatedly to put together and seal every moving box.

So when I received an inquiry from the good folks at Pet Naturals of Vermont to try their line of Calming chews for dogs, it couldn’t have come at a better time!

I received some samples of the calming chews in the mail a few weeks ago and decided Izzie would be my test subject.

So, first of all, what’s in Calming chews? [Read more…]

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Intentional or not, dogs learn

One of the best tips I ever read regarding training dogs was something along the lines of “even when you’re not intentionally teaching them, dogs learn.” In other words, if you aren’t correcting a behavior in your dog that you don’t want, you are essentially condoning that behavior.


I have to admit that I haven’t been consistent in the training of our dogs. And as a result, which should come to no surprise to anyone, they have a few…err…issues.

 Intentional or not, dogs learnBelieve it or not, Maddie graduated from not one, but two, training classes. Here she is pictured, with my husband, as she passed level two training a few years ago. I’m still convinced it was sort of a pity pass. Maybe like “no Schnoodle left behind” or something?

At any rate, Maddie is actually a very smart dog. But Maddie has focus issues. When she can focus, she’s a rockstar, but focus is not her strong suit. As a result, we stopped working with her as much because it seemed frustrating for everyone involved. She also has barking issues, and everything we were trying wasn’t really helping. She is an awesome and loving dog, and she’s mostly fine in the house, but not really a dog we could take places. And we wanted to change that.

So, a few weeks ago, we bit the bullet and signed up for an evaluation with a veterinary behaviorist. I really wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve admittedly watched a few episodes of what I assumed were animal behaviorists on tv, and frankly, it’s usually a problem with the people. I became prepared for the behaviorist to tell me it was entirely my husbands our fault.

As it turns out, we didn’t really understand where Maddie was coming from. She had needs that weren’t being met. And our approach wasn’t necessarily what was right for her, even if it had worked with other dogs. Speaking to a veterinary behavioral professional really gave me some insight into what it is going to take for Maddie to effectively learn what she should learn.

Not very far into our reinvigorated focus on training, Maddie loves to learn and be guided. She has been doing well. She is not very food motivated, but is eager to please, and loves to be praised for doing the right thing. This time, what Maddie learns will be intentional.

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My dog, the dingleberry ninja

Real talk here, dog parents…

My dog Izzie, no matter how many times you check her hind end, is as stealth as a ninja when it comes to sneaking in the house with a dingleberry.

Dingleberry My dog, the dingleberry ninja

And by way of definitions, I am using the first definition above. And yes, it IS vulgar.

What causes dingleberries? Heck if I know. She doesn’t have accidents in the house (thank goodness), but rather, these are just little remnants of her visit outside.

We make a point to check her hind end each and every time she goes out. Then sometimes much later, we realize there is a little dried up dingleberry in her fur, or one that has dropped off onto the carpet. The dry ones aren’t bad, to be honest. It’s something I’ve learned to deal with as a pet parent. But when you are all ready to go to sleep and realize the dog is sitting on your bed squishing a fresh dingleberry into her fur AND your sheets? Those times are not so fun. And those are the times I hear my husband start a sentence with “your dog….”

I decided to take one for the team, and hit up Google to see what I could find out about dealing with dingleberries.

Google Dingleberries My dog, the dingleberry ninja

Full disclosure, I didn’t peruse all 881,000 results, and I definitely didn’t click the images button, but in the few entries I chose to look at, I found nothing most dog parents don’t already know.

  • Trim your dog’s hair short around its nether regions. (We do that, always.)
  • Make sure the dog has long enough to eliminate and it isn’t still going when you take it inside. (Uh, I think I know enough to not drag my dog inside while it’s still going.)
  • Make sure your dog isn’t picking up stool other than its own in its fur. (Say what? How is this even possible?)

So the solution to living with a dingleberry ninja?

Realize that sometimes having and loving a dog is fun and rainbows and sprinkles and sunshine; and sometimes it’s cleaning crap out of your dog’s fur, and picking up the occasional dried poo ball off your carpet.

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Guest Post: How to find the right dog bed

dog bed orange stripe Guest Post: How to find the right dog bed

photo credit: djwhelan via photopin cc

There are a plethora of options out there but finding the right bed for your canine is an enormous step that you shouldn’t take lightly. Every dog needs his own space and with the amount of options available these days it can be hard to choose. Your choices are so varied that theirs can become less important in making your bed fit with the décor of your home. Dog beds can last to accommodate your canine for the rest of their life if maintained correctly and kept clean.

Remember, some dogs sleep up to 16 hours a day so their bed can be a massive part of their life.

First of all, evaluate your pooch, his/her size, age, health and needs. Understanding your dog is the fundamental goal in getting the bed correct; smaller dogs and toy breeds prefer beds that they can snuggle into and keep warm such as wool and faux suede fabrics.  Fabrics are much more basic in cheaper beds but are much more suited if your dog malts/sheds an awful lot or gets wet or has a tendency to chew and rip.

Getting a bed with a good pillow and cushioning is another superb addition especially for smaller and older breeds that will enjoy the comfort. Check to see if the coverings are removable and you can wash them; some cheaper beds may be made of poor material that cannot be washed or risks damage from regular washing. Note that these cushioned beds can be a little warm in the summer and your dog may opt for another place to sleep, even on the cold floor.

Waterproof bedding is a great idea if your older dog is suffering from incontinence or they spend a lot of time outside, or if you want an outdoor bed for the summer. Usually waterproof beds are easier to clean and maintain.

Consider your budget, bedding prices can range from £20 – £200+ ($25-$250). There are many points for pricing including quality of the material, size and requirements for your canine. Wool and faux suede and sherpa fleece are always much more expensive, but are not suitable for chewers or for some younger and older breeds. Nothing grows faster than a puppy, so remember buy a bed to accommodate your dog in the long run. Something we have done is buy a smaller bed for a puppy and then buy a more expensive luxury bed when our puppy is getting towards full size.

Chewers and very active dog owners may prefer beds without sides, so a large cushion or memory foam, and flat beds, are a better choice. Is your bed going in a dog crate? If so, look for rectangular dog beds that fit the shape of your crate, maximizing the space for your dog.

Using your dog bed for training, or using it as a reference for bedtime is a great tip. Allowing your dog to sleep in your bed can get them into bad habits and output bad, sometimes dominating behaviour, and often give you a bad nights sleep. Finding a good quality dog bed is easy with Kennelstore.

Chris Turton woks for Kennelstore, the UK’s biggest provider of dog kennels, housing and runs.

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Guest Post: raising Bosco, a German shorthaired pointer

I have a German shorthaired pointer, and let me tell you, they are absolutely crazy! For one, they are a hunting breed. I’m not a hunter. This obviously created an ownership dilemma that caused me to get creative throughout training.

My dog’s name is Bosco, and he’s a classic German shorthaired pointer (GSP). He’s 7 months old and some days he seems younger and other days he seems older. It’s totally unpredictable. He’s all over the place, mentally and physically. Having said that, he’s also come a long way and is starting to fit nicely into a routine.

 Guest Post: raising Bosco, a German shorthaired pointer

Photo of Bosco by Griff Haeger.

Below I list some quick ways that I was able to harness the energy of Bosco, with the goal of helping future owners of German shorthaired pointers.

I taught him how to win

This particular breed of dog is one of the most difficult that I’ve ever dealt with. However, the breed is also very desirable in the sense that once they are trained, they become a wonderful acquaintance. My first step in training Bosco was to teach him how to win. I noticed from the very beginning with Bosco that he always wanted to do things his way. Whether this behavior is the result of his biology or not, I wanted to control it immediately.

 How I did it:

I fell back on the traditional method of dog treats to train him on the basics. For instance, I would show him that I had a treat before hiding it from view. I would wait patiently until he backed up and sat down. Just as he did so, I would provide the treat. I did this over and over. I got control quickly and he learned to listen to me and respect my personal space. For broader training, I learned what he enjoyed, and then showed him when it was tolerable for him to do those things.

 I helped release his energy!

Sometimes pet owners fail to truly understand what makes their animal click. With German shorthaired pointers, movement and action make them click. I knew this going in and am very thankful for the knowledge. As I’m not a hunter, I had to take into account the biology of Bosco and what it would mean to our relationship. His breed has evolved over years and years to form a creature of rambunctious energy and playfulness. I had a plan from the beginning to incorporate him into my life and meet his energy demands.

 How I did it:

  • Golf: I take Bosco with me when I golf at a local course. Not many places allow this, but it’s a great idea if there is one in a particular owner’s area that does. It’s great exercise for both of us. He has plenty of space to run and I get to hit the links while having a leisurely stroll.
  • Frisbee: One of my best friends and I love to huck the Frisbee. This activity is also convenient where Bosco is concerned. Not only does he chase the disc, but the throws are usually of great distance. This gets the guy running! Any adventure that an owner can utilize to tire a GSP is immediately an ideal pastime.
  • Late night bike rides: When I first got Bosco I had a lot of trouble sleeping because he would continue living life until the wee hours of the morning. He didn’t ever want to hit the sack and get some sleep, so I got creative with my bike. My routine is to ride around the neighborhood three or four times before I head to sleep, with him chasing. This gets me outdoors at night and gives him one last chance to expel some energy. This idea has worked wonders.
 Guest Post: raising Bosco, a German shorthaired pointer

Photo of Bosco by Griff Haeger.

I respected him

German shorthaired pointers demand respect, and rightfully so. I did some research before getting Bosco and expected this from the get go. I can’t stress enough how important it is to respect this breed of dog. Not only are they smart, but they have high expectations with regards to their daily life and activity. Bosco is not the type of pet that could survive in a college apartment or sedentary household. I learned to give him what he needs before he demanded it. He began to respect me when he realized this.

How I did it:

I did my research on the breed and gauged his individual personality from day one. I got a sense of what he needed to sleep well at the end of the night and planned my activities around his needs. Oftentimes pets can totally change the livelihood of their owner, and in my case, this held true. My life is different, but much better, with Bosco.

German shorthaired pointers are great dogs. However, they need to have the right owner and caretaker. I don’t think I would be a sufficient guardian if I hadn’t done my research and altered my lifestyle to accommodate Bosco. I hope this article helps future owners of GSPs, because they are a great breed whether used for hunting or simply a family friend.

Griff Haeger is a dog aficionado. When he’s not taking Bosco for a crazy hike or fixing an air conditioner at work, he writes about natural dog food.

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