Category Archives: Dog Training and Pet Health Tips

Adding an additional dog to your home

You saw a sweet dog on Facebook or at an adoption event and you’d love to add a new member to your canine family.  However, you are suffering some apprehension because you are not sure how your current pup is going to feel about sharing his territory with a new dog.

Integrating a new pet into your household is not as difficult as people may think.  With some instruction and a lot of patience, most people can make it work.

The first thing to realize is that when a dog is in a shelter, it has to decompress for a couple of weeks once it’s out and in your home.  You can’t expect this dog to trust you and your other family members right away, especially another dog that is strange to them.

I always tell people to take your dog to the shelter or arrange with the rescue to do a meet and greet with the two dogs in a neutral place, like a park or a shopping mall parking lot in a quiet corner.  Never bring the new dog to your house unless you can meet outside and down the street from where you live.  Dogs can be territorial, some breeds more than others, and you want to first see if the two dogs get along in a neutral place.  Always keep them leashed and allow them to sniff each other.  Never pull on the leash or do anything that could make the dogs feel tense.  Of course, if there is any behavior exhibited that is troublesome, such as growling or lunging, then be sure to separate the dogs and consider bringing another dog into your home.

If the dogs do get along, the next step is to bring them both to your home.  If you have a yard, the best thing to do is to take them into the yard, still on the leash, and see how the dogs act in this environment.  If they are still getting along, the next step would be to bring the dogs into your home.

Always keep the dogs on leashes to make it easier to move them away from each other should either dog exhibit troublesome behavior.

If the meet and greet goes well, you will probably decide to adopt the new dog.  Your work has not ended yet!

It takes a dog from two weeks to a month to show their real nature once they get into your home. During that time be sure to keep anything valuable out of reach of the dog.  Put away TV remotes, favorite shirts, keys and sneakers and shoes.  You never know if the dog you’ve adopted will decide that one of these things is a nice chew toy.

It’s a good idea to crate train your new family member so that both dogs are safe when you are not at home to supervise them.  This is also a good idea if your new dog hasn’t gotten the hang of house training at your house.  New dogs will sometimes have accidents due to nerves or from not being on a regular schedule at the shelter.  Give your new friend time to adjust and don’t make a big issue out of the accidents.  Once you get them on a schedule, the accidents will become less and less.

Don’t bring a lot of people into your home for the first few weeks after you get a new dog.  Lots of activity will just overwhelm a dog who is trying to adjust to a new home, new schedule and new people.  It can be hard for some people who want to show off their friend to their family and friends, but remember – you must do what’s best for your new dog – you will have plenty of time to show him off once he’s adjusted to his new home.

Take time to allow your new pet to get used to his new home and new people, and introduce him to new people slowly.  If you notice any issues with shyness or aggression towards strangers, be sure to engage the services of a professional trainer.  Don’t try and go it alone, there is help out there for you.

Remember, the main thing is to enjoy the company of your new pet and get help if you need it!

House Training – It doesn’t have to be hard!

The cute face, the tiny fluffy body, the cuddling.  Those are all the things that people think about when they consider adopting a puppy.  The one thing they don’t think about – House Training.

Having a puppy can be a nightmare if the dog isn’t housetrained.  I can’t tell you how many dogs are given away or dumped in shelters because the owner didn’t housetrain them properly or not at all.

The good news is that housetraining a dog is relatively easy.  All it takes is some patience and learning to keep the dog on a schedule.

A tool that I recommend to my clients in housetraining is the dog’s crate.  It’s funny, but most people don’t see the value in using a crate to House Train a puppy.

I will get into crate training in another article, but using the crate to keep your dog on a schedule is an invaluable tool.  Putting your dog on a regular feeding schedule is another fool proof way to make House Training easy.

Puppies should be crated at night before they are House Trained.  The crate should be big enough to move around in, but not large enough so that the puppy can eliminate and move away from it.  A dog will never eliminate in the same place it sleeps as long as it gets out on a regular schedule.  You should allow a puppy to eliminate at least every 2-4 hours when you first get it at around 12 weeks old.  Once it gets to be around 4-5 months old, it should be able to hold it for at least 4-6 hours.  These are just general estimates, and your dog may differ, so you have to be diligent and determine what is best for your pup.

First thing in the morning, the dog should be let out of the crate, leashed, and brought outside to the place where the owner wants it to eliminate on a regular basis.  This could be in a spot in your backyard or our in front of you house – you choose – but take the dog there on a consistent basis.  Give the dog time to eliminate, at least 20 minutes before you bring the dog back into the house.  Praise the dog and give it a treat to reinforce the behavior.  Connecting food to the activity will ensure that the dog views this as something rewarding to do. Next thing is to feed and water the dog and place the dog back into the crate for at least 20-30 minutes.  Take the dog and repeat doing the same as when you first took the dog out.  Always wait at least 20-30 minutes to allow the dog to sniff around and get the urge to go.  A lot of people are in a rush, the dog doesn’t eliminate, so they bring the dog back into the house, go about their business of getting ready for work or whatever, and come out to the living room and the dog has left them a lovely present.  Don’t blame this on the dog – you have not given the dog enough time to eliminate.

As an owner, you should arrange to come home during the day to take your puppy out to eliminate, or have someone come to your house to do it for you.  If you don’t have those options, purchase a baby gate and confine the dog to one area.  I don’t recommend leaving a puppy in a crate for more than 4 hours at a time; no dog should be in a crate during the day for more than 4 hours, especially if you crate the dog at night for 8 hours.

The best thing to do when you get a new puppy is to take the time to House Train the dog properly and you will never have problems going forward.  As the dog gets older, it will be able to hold it longer, but don’t expect a puppy to go all day without going to the bathroom.  It’s cruel and just not possible.

For more information on House Training, please contact me.

The Importance of Leadership Exercises

As a dog trainer, I get a lot of calls that start with, “My dog just doesn’t listen to me!!”  The level of frustration is evident in the callers voice, so it’s my job as a trainer to talk them down from the ledge and explain to them that this problem can be fixed.

The first thing that needs to be done, is to build a trust bond between the dog and the owner.  This doesn’t happen when the owner only pays attention to the dog when he’s doing something that the owner perceives to be wrong.  What a lot of owners don’t understand is that good behavior should be rewarded, and bad behavior should be “managed”.  If you only talk to your dog when he’s getting into the garbage, he will soon learn that tipping over the garbage pail gets him your attention and you will be inadvertently reinforcing a bad behavior.  On the other hand, if your dog is sitting quietly in the living room and you give him a pat on the head and tell him he’s a good dog, you will be reinforcing his calm behavior and he will soon connect that when he is quiet is when he gets your attention.

Now to Leadership Exercises.  Every dog appreciates a leader.  If you do not show leadership your dog will become confused and he will take over the role of leadership which humans perceive as dominance and sometimes aggression.  But its just a dog who is longing for a leader.

The best way to become a leader to your dog is to create structured activities that you and your dog can do together.  The simplest one is walking your dog.  Your dog should be walked at least 2 or 3 times a day, for at least 20-30 minutes each time.  If you have a larger dog, longer walks will benefit him greatly.  Not only do walks wind down your dog’s batteries, but they create a bond, especially if you practice the heel command as you walk.

Another way of creating a bond is to play fetch with your dog.  While playing fetch you can teach your dog the Take It and Leave It commands as well.  It will become a real fun experience for both of you as your dog becomes better and better at the game.

There are many other activities that people can do with their dogs, such as agility training and nosework, but I think that you get the general idea – any activity that you can engage in with your dog will promote a bond of trust and in no time at all your dog will be viewing you as leader of the pack!!


Pet Nutrition – Healthy Food or Hefty Veterinarian Bills?

As a long time animal lover, I’ve had to put my share of animals to sleep, and for a few of them, it was much too soon. That’s what prompted me to start doing research on which foods were best and most optimal nutrition for both dogs and cats.

The evolution of both dogs and cats was similar to other predators in that their anatomy is designed to eat an essentially carnivorous diet. Despite outward differences in appearance, dogs and cats are descended from their wild ancestors known as canids and felids, and with whom they share the same genetic code. Therefore, like their wild ancestors, although they have adapted their digestive systems to eating other foods, they prefer eating carnivore. Even their anatomical features indicate this: they have sharp and pointed teeth to tear meat; they have a jaw joint that allows a wide mouth opening for the ingestion of large pieces of meat; and a short digestive system that is simply structured with a strong acid gastric PH suitable to digest and metabolize proteins, such as meat.

Like human foods, pet foods are regulated under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and must be pure and wholesome, and contain no harmful substances. They also must be truthfully labeled. Foods for human or pet consumption do not require FDA approval before they are marketed, but they must be made with ingredients that are “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) or ingredients that are approved food and color additives. If scientific data show that an ingredient or additive presents a health risk to animals, CVM can prohibit or modify its use in pet food.

Pet food ingredients must be listed on the label in descending order by weight. However, the weight includes the moisture in the ingredient, which makes it tricky to interpret. “A moist ingredient, such as chicken,which may be 70 percent water, may be listed ahead of a dry ingredient, such as soybean meal, which is only 10 percent water—yet the soy actually contributes more solids to the diet,” says Susan Donoghue, V.M.D., owner of Nutrition Support Services, Inc., and past president of the American Academy of Veterinary Nutrition.

Similar materials listed as separate ingredients may outweigh other ingredients that precede them on the list of ingredients. For example, chicken may be listed as the first ingredient, then wheat flour, ground wheat, and wheat middlings. The consumer may believe that chicken is the predominant ingredient, but the three wheat products—when added together—may weigh more than the chicken. Dogs and cats have difficulty digesting grains because grains are rather large and complex carbohydrates. These animals lack the specific enzymes to digest these substances.

Why then do most pet food companies put grains in the food they manufacture when the best system of nutrition is one that reproduces as closely as possible the natural diet of carnivores, that is a diet that is a biologically appropriate one?

Well, cost is one reason. Rather than using meat, which costs more, as the first ingredient in a pet food, a lot of manufacturers use something called “meat by-products”. What are meat by-products, you might ask? They can contain meat products that have not been heat processed, which is commonly called rendering, and may also contain heads, feet, viscera and other animal parts that are not particularly appetizing. Another way cheap pet food is made is by adding something called “meal”. “Meal” is another ingredient that you should avoid. In processing meat meal or poultry by-product meal, by-products are rendered (heat processed), which removes the fat and water from the product. Meat or poultry by-product meal contains parts of animals not normally eaten by people and shouldn’t be eaten by dogs and cats either.

The other thing that consumers should avoid when buying pet foods are the ones that contain load of preservatives!! Synthetic preservatives, such as butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), and ethoxyquin. Ethoxyquin, in particular, has been hotly debated. Current scientific data suggest that ethoxyquin is safe, but some pet owners avoid this additive because of a suspected link to liver damage and other health problems in dogs. CVM has asked pet food producers to voluntarily lower their maximum level of ethoxyquin in dog food while more studies are being conducted on this preservative, and the industry is cooperating. I recommend purchasing pet foods preserved with naturally occurring compounds, such as tocopherols (vitamin E) or vitamin C. These products have a much shorter shelf life than those with synthetic preservatives, especially once a bag of food is opened, so I recommend buying a large plastic container and storing the food in the container once the bag has been opened to lengthen the shelf life and keep the food fresh. Since dry foods contain animal fat you want to ensure that they are stored in a tightly lidded container in a cool, dry place to avoid the fats from turning rancid. In addition, always keep canned pet food refrigerated after opening.

The other additive that you want to avoid in pet food is artificial coloring. Artificial colors are only added to a pet food for one sinister reason… to scam humans into believing our pets will be stupid enough to see the colored shapes as real pieces of meat… or fresh garden vegetables. Please don’t fall for that trick. Avoid buying multicolored kibble and always remember… colors and shapes are never put there to satisfy your pet. They’re added to deceive you… to mislead you into thinking you’re buying a higher quality product when you are not.

Artificial dyes are dangerous to both humans and pets and should never be consumed at all.

So now that we have talked about what to avoid in pet food, let’s talk about what types of pet food you should feed your pet.

You have probably heard foods called “Natural” and foods called “Organic”, but they are not the same. The American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), has adopted the idea of “nothing artificial” as its recommended standard for “natural” pet food1 . That means a natural pet food cannot contain any artificial flavor, color or preservatives. For a pet food to be considered “Organic”, according to the National Organics Standards Board, the recommendation proposes that eligible label claims for organic pet food match the requirements for human food: a minimum of 70% organic ingredients for a “made with organic” claim, and at least 95% organic content for an “organic” claim.

There are several different pet foods that either call themselves “Natural” or “Organic”, so I recommend doing your research on the internet or going to Pet Food stores, turning over the bag and reading the ingredients before purchasing. If you are not sure, take your smartphone or digital camera with you, take a picture of the bag and ingredients panel, and go home and do your research before purchasing the food, as most of these natural or organic labeled foods can be rather pricey. You really want to know what you are buying before bringing it home to feed to your beloved pet.

And last but not least, you want to make sure that the company you are purchasing the food from sources all of their ingredients from the US.  A pet food can say, Made in USA,  but some of the ingredients can still be sourced from places like China. This information can usually be found on the internet, so be sure to do your research. It’s a bit harder to determine if the company uses genetically modified ingredients in the food, so it’s best to avoid pet foods that add grains and soybeans as those products can be GMO and the company does not have to note that in the ingredient panel. As I mentioned before, cats and dogs do not have the enzymes to digest grains, so I recommend that you feed grain free foods to your pets at all times and in this way you can feel safer that you will be avoiding adding GMO ingredients to your pets diet.

Please remember that feeding your pet wholesome food works for them as it works for us.  The healthier the food, the less disease and the lower your vet bills……. After all, aren’t they a part of your family?

The Pros and Cons of Pet Vaccines

The American Veterinary Medical Association has made recommendations on which vaccines are considered CORE and which vaccinations are considered Non Core and are considered for only certain types of dogs.

The CORE vaccines are:

  • Parvovirus
  • Canine Distemper
  • Hepatitis
  • Rabies

The Non Core vaccines are:

  • Adenovirus
  • Parainfluenza
  • Bordatella
  • Leptospirosis
  • Coronavirus
  • Lyme

Let’s talk about the CORE vaccines first. When you adopt or buy a puppy or even an older dog, you are required by law to get the dog vaccinated for Rabies. In New York State, a municipality cannot issue a dog license without proof of a rabies vaccine for instance. Even though the risk in the United States is low, there are still areas of the country where there is enough wildlife such as raccoons, bats and coyotes around that necessitate a rabies vaccine.   When dogs are first adopted a one year vaccine is given, and after the first vaccine a 3 year vaccine is given. If the animal is seen by a vet and a vaccine is not administered, the vet can get in trouble with state authorities if there records are audited.

Other vaccines that are very important for your dog are the Distemper and Parvovirus vaccines.  These are 2 diseases that are very deadly, especially for puppies.   It is especially prevalent in warm climates so you see alot of this down south. Some vets give the shot as DHLPP. This stands for Distemper, Hepatitis (CAV-2), Leptospirosis, Parainfluenza, Parvovirus (combined canine vaccine). This is also given as a 3 year vaccine. I don’t, however, recommend this combination shot, and I will explain why.

Earlier I mentioned that there are vaccines that are considered CORE and NON CORE. Two that are considered NON CORE are Hepatitis and Leptospirosis. The Hepatitis vaccine is only important if your dog is going to be close quarters with other dogs in a shelter environment or in a crowded kennel environment. Leptospirosis vaccine prevents the disease that can be transmitted from infected raccoons, rats and mice when your dog picks up something from the street that has the urine of one of these animals on it. It’s very important to train your dog with the Leave It command and to pay close attention when you take them out in the street for a walk. Also, don’t allow them to roam unsupervised in the woods where they can eat leaves and sticks that have been exposed to these animals. Some dogs can be allergic or suffer very bad side effects from the lepto vaccine, such as vomiting and diarrhea, so give this vaccine with caution.   Instead, follow the guidelines I previously mentioned so your dog doesn’t have to suffer the ill effects of this vaccine.

Another vaccine that should be avoided is the Adenovirus since this vaccine is still under study. This virus is related to Hepatitis in dogs and can be spread under crowded and dirty shelter conditions. Since you are providing a sanitary environment for your dog in your home, there really is no reason to subject him to this vaccine. Again, only give this vaccine to your dog if he will be in close and prolonged contact with other dogs in places such as doggy daycare and dog parks.

The Parainfluenza vaccine is recommended if you intend to show your dog or if your dog is in daily doggy daycare. Some vets pair this vaccine with the Parvovirus and Distemper vaccines just to be on the safe side. It is also given as a 3 year vaccine.

The Bordatella vaccine is one that you should use with discretion. This vaccine is used to prevent kennel cough in dogs and is given as a live vaccine. Some dogs may exhibit a mild case of the sniffles for a couple of days after the vaccine is given intranasal. The thing to be careful of with this vaccine is if your dog has issues with breathing. There is a condition prevalent among smaller breed dogs called collapsing trachea. Usually the dog is born with the condition and it doesn’t become evident until the dog gets older and the cartilage starts to soften in the trachea. When this happens the dog finds it harder to breathe and often this will call inflammation and infection in the bronchial tubes. Under no condition should a dog with collapsing trachea be given the Bordatella vaccine. The vaccine is live and can cause the dog to get sick.   If the dog lives with other dogs, none of the other dogs should be given this live vaccine either. Some boarding facilities require that your dog be current on this vaccine or they will not allow him to be boarded…so if you have to go out of town, the better alternative is to seek the services of an in home pet sitter instead.

Some grooming facilities also require an up to date Bordatella vaccine, so if your dog cannot be vaccinated, the alternative might be to have a mobile groomer come to your house and groom your dog. Always better safe than sorry.

Another Non Core vaccine is the Coronavirus. This is another virus that is mostly prevalent in a crowded shelter environment and is not needed for a pet in a private home.

Lastly, I want to mention the Lyme vaccine. First, let’s talk about the cause of Lyme disease for a moment. In certain parts of the country, the tick problem is more prevalent than in other parts of the country. In the northeast for example, the deer tick is responsible for spreading lyme disease.   If this is the case in your area, the smart thing is to not allow your dog to roam in the woods. When you are walking your dog, keep your dog away from dense bushes. It’s also a good practice to surround your lawn with mulch, as ticks tend to not cross a mulch barrier. If your dog does get a tick, be careful to remove the tick completely and not leave the pinchers in the skin as the dog can get a bad infection. You must remove the tick within 48 hours to prevent Lyme disease. It’s also a good practice to put the tick into a vial of alcohol and bring it to your vet to get it analyzed, just in case.   The Lyme vaccine is does not prevent Lyme disease; it only prevents the bacteria from entering the dog’s body, so the dog can get the disease anyway if the tick has been on the dog more than 48 hours. I don’t really support the use of this vaccine for this reason. I feel that prevention is much more effective and following what I said earlier will help prevent your dog from getting the disease.  It is much more important to prevent Lyme disease as treating it is a very expensive and prolonged process.

In conclusion, know what vaccines your pets are getting and why, and discuss it with your vet so that you can know whether the vaccines are required or optional. Your pet’s health is in your hands!

How to Deal with Training Frustration

As a dog trainer, one of the main issues that I find my clients dealing with is frustration.   A lot of the time, a client is already frustrated when they contact me to talk about the issues they are having with their dog or dogs.  Before I start to work with the dog, my first goal is to deal with the owner’s frustration.

The first thing I tell them to do is “CALM DOWN”!!!   The 2nd thing I tell them is “BE PATIENT”!!! This may sound easy, but when a person has been dealing with a dog that’s been jumping on them for months, or peeing everywhere in the house, it’s easier said than done!

I deal with this in a couple of ways. I walk them through deep breathing exercises.  Deep breathing automatically creates a rhythm that is calming and freeing.  The other method I use is visualization. I have the owner visualize the desirable behavior as if it has already happened. This process gets them in a positive mood and sets both the owner and the dog up for success during the training class.

Staying calm is especially important when Loose Leash Walking.  The leash should always be held loosely with the arms down.  Never show frustration if the dog pulls.   Loose Leash Walking practice allows the owner to work on, not just being calm, but also being patient.  I explain to them that stress and frustration travels down the leash, so being calm when they work with their dog is of the utmost importance.

So remember, before you start a training session with your dog, get into a calm mood.  This will ensure that both you and your dog are calm and stress free, and you are both ready for a successful lesson.