Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Blog will return in December 2013

Hello fellow dog lovers!!

  As much as it pains us, we have to suspend the Blog until December 1st, 2013. Just too many upcoming deadlines to deal with, and unless we can put 100% focus into this blog, well, it's just not right.

  So hang on for a couple of months, and we will back as soon as we can!

  Thanks so much for all your understanding and patience!!

 Kelly & Ross Levy
The Mindful Dog


Monday, October 7, 2013


 No other canine character/actor has had a stronger impact on the American dog culture than Lassie.  She represented the quintessential relationship between a boy and his dog while at the same time serving as a symbolic representation of loyalty, honesty and true companionship. She was as important and emblematic to American culture as apple pie, Babe Ruth and the 57 Chevy.  Everyone wanted their own Lassie; that dog who could rescue Timmy from the well, find her way home from 2,000 miles away, battered and bruised, and fall into the arms of her loving family.  But who is this stunning Lass really?  Does her breed stand up to the mythology?  Why don't you see more of them nowadays?

HISTORY:  The Lassie (or Rough) Collie we know of today was not the original look of the breed.  The Rough Collie originated in the 1800's,  a product of crossing a larger type of collie used and bred for herding from Scotland, with a smaller sheepdog from Wales.  The Scottish "collie-type" was large, strong, quite aggressive and used to herd highland sheep.  The "collie-type" from Wales was small and nimble, much more domesticated and friendly and used for herding goats.  This cross of the Scottish and Welsh Collies was later bred with the Borzoi (the Russian Wolfhound) to produce that beautiful "noble head" Rough Collie we see today, with their signature long, pronounced nose.  (The Borzoi addition to the breed was honestly used to improve the look of the breed because they were quite popular with royalty, including Queen Victoria).

Eric Knight
Albert Payson Terhune
INTERESTING INFO:   Where to start. This breed is so incredibly interesting, what we discovered quite frankly blew our minds!  But here goes; The collie is arguably the most domesticated of all herding breeds.  They were not only used to herd and guard livestock, but were also excellent family dogs with an affinity towards children,  even being used as babysitters.  Can you imagine an animal with the tenacity to herd and guard livestock also being so gentle that their owners trusted the dog in the home alone with children?!  Impressive to say the least. Speaking of impressive, the earlier larger version of this breed could travel up to 100 miles A DAY on their four legs alone! (Is this starting to sound like any familiar "fictional" canine character to you?)  If that isn't impressive enough the Collie has an UNCANNY sense of direction.  One could intelligently argue that if this dog were lost or stolen and ended up thousands of miles away from home, they could indeed find their way back. What we are left with then, is an animal with an incredible devotion and loyalty to family who also is able to travel 100 miles a day and has an uncanny sense of direction.. In other words, the Mythology of Lassie is true indeed. Eric Knight, the Author of "Lassie Come Home", the 1940 book that started it all, knew a little something about this breed. We assumed research on this author would reveal a man who thought the breed beautiful, and that simple admiration would be what inspired him to create Lassie.  But it turns out this man could "walk the walk" as he was a professional Collie breeder.  Knight's work on a fictional Collie was, in fact, preceded by the writings of Albert Payson Terhune,  who introduced the world to the Collie via a series of short stories called "Lad Stories",  based upon his own dog named Lad.  He eventually turned the stories into the 1919 novel "Lad: A Dog".  Terhune not only raised Collies but owned the most famous and prestigious Collie breeding facility in America, the Sunnybank Kennels, whose lines still exist in today's Rough Collies. Both Terhune and Knight's firsthand experience with this extraordinary breed gave them the true insight and knowledge to create the Lassie and Lad characters. Dog's whose exploits, it turns out, are not so far-fetched after all.  

The Smooth Collie

IMPORTANT BREED INFORMATION:  Other than herding and flock guardian, the Collie can also be trained for search and rescue, therapy dogs, agility, guide dogs for the blind and as a watchdog.  It is important to note that they are big barkers. This would probably discourage people from entering  your home. But if they persisted, the Collie would either do little or perhaps want to be friends. (Especially if the person is a child!)  The Collie is available in the long-haired "Rough" version or the short-haired "Smooth" version.  In our research we could find no personality differences.  Other than the coat, they are considered variations of the same breed through the AKC and UKC.  

HEALTH:  They have a lifespan of 14-16 years, which is quite impressive and optimistic considering the size of this breed (between 50-75 pounds).  They are not prone to cancer like so many other breeds are, but they do have certain ailments.  CEA (Collie eye anomaly) is common.  It is caused by improper development of the eye and can lead to blindness. Canine cyclic neutropenia is a cyclic blood disorder that is fatal to puppies.  DNA testing can conclude whether a collie pup is infected.  Hip dysplasia is quite common as well. It is important to note Rough Collies may carry a mutant MdrI gene that results in a sensitivity to Invermectin and related drugs.  Invermectin is common in heartworm prevention medication.  Giving this drug to a collie with the mutant gene can result in neurological impairment and even death.  Collies are also prone to epilepsy, bloat, allergies and hypothyroidism. 

PERSONAL OBSERVATION:  We have had the pleasure of working with four Rough Collies during the last 14 years.  Never have we seen any aggression toward people or any animal.  We also agree with the references used for this blog which indicate that they are a herding breed so highly domesticated as to result in a dog much more outgoing and friendly dog than many other herding breeds.  Our pack loves Collies and would always welcomed even those who were not part of their pack to join in the play while we were at the dog park.  Our pack showed reservations over many dogs and certain breeds, but the Collie was never one of them. (and we think our pack has an outstanding judge of character!)  They definitely do bark a lot.  But interestingly enough, the barks from this breed never bothered us, as the resonance of their voice doesn't seem as piercing as many other breeds (like our Goldens!).   

IS THIS BREED RIGHT FOR YOU?  If we didn't have three Goldens, we'd be looking into getting a Collie.  It seems when Lassie went off the air the passion for the breed diminished, which is a shame.  We also believe many are scared off by the grooming necessary to keep that beautiful coat in tact.  They definitely require a strong commitment to regular brushing.  But if this is the only reason discouraging you, think about the Smooth Collie, which has a short coat and requires much less grooming time.  If you live in an apartment, the barking could be an issue.  But if temperment is your main concern, as far as we are concerned, the Rough Collie is a slam dunk, a home run, and is still as All American as apple pie, baseball and hot dogs!

We hope you have enjoyed this blog and found it informative and interesting.  We would love  to hear your comments and share any stories pertaining to sharing a part of your life with this amazing breed!

Monday, September 23, 2013


There is so much information out there on dogs it's dizzying.  And that's good!  There really can never be too much knowledge about any subject.  But is the information all true?  Like everything in life, new discoveries are constantly being made and when that happens, many times, it means certain information we thought was once true has become dated and, quite frankly, inaccurate.  So that's where we come in. This week we're going to give you a few topics that were once considered to be a fact, and some that have become just plain misconceptions.

IF MY DOG HAS A WET NOSE THAT MEANS HE/SHE IS HEALTHY:  This is one of the most popular myths out there and it's been around forever!  We grew up hearing our grandparents and parents teach us this "myth" and we then passed it on to everyone we knew who had a dog.  Here's the REAL reason dogs have wet noses, all of which have nothing to do with their health status:

1.  They lick their noses alot.  Most dogs have pretty large (yet beautiful!) noses.  When they eat, their noses get dirty.  They lick them to clean them off.  Dogs also lick their noses to keep them cool in hot temperatures.
2.  They pick up moisture from smelling wet grass, plants, etc.
3.  Wet canine noses are perfectly designed for tracking. When a dog's nose is wet scent molecules stick to it, making it much easier for a dog to track prey and do search and rescue work. That is why the breeds with the highest developed sniffers are used in tracking.

So next time your dog's nose is dry, there's no need to rush him to the vet.  It's only dry because there  is no need at that moment for it to be wet!

IF MY DOG PULLS ON THE LEASH TO GO AHEAD OF ME THAT MEANS THE DOG IS DOMINATING ME AND MUST HEEL AT MY SIDE:  This one is, quite frankly, pathetic. It's pathetic because some supposed "experts" actually still believe it.  And we've got some news for you:  if two dog walkers have information to present to show this is not true and some of those "experts" don't....  well THEY'RE CERTAINLY NOT EXPERTS.  (And neither are we.  But at least we don't pretend that we are.)  OK so down to business.  If your dog isn't trying to dominate you then why do they pull you down the street and insist on walking in front of you?   Because dogs as a species were not bred to walk next to you unless they are a companion breed and because they have four legs and are able to cover a lot of distance a lot faster than we can.  That's it in a nutshell.   Now for a little broader explanation in terms of breed specifics on this.

Herding dogs:  These breeds were bred to NOT walk beside the shepherd.  If they did, however would they herd sheep, cattle, etc?  So walking in front of you is their proper place.

Sporting Dogs:  This includes retrievers, spaniels (other than cavaliers), pointers and the Viszla.  How could these dogs assist the hunter in pointing toward the fowl, flushing out the fowl, and retrieving the fowl if they are standing next to them?

Terriers:  These tenacious little buggers are too busy finding fox and rodents to even think about heeling, and rightly so!

Hounds: These expert trackers could never lead the hunter to any prey, or do any search and rescue work, standing next to a human.

Sled Dogs:  If you have a Husky, Malamute or a Samoyed who doesn't want to pull you down the street, get them to the vet immediately!  There is no other group that is more "entitled" to pulling you ,due to the fact they were specifically bred to pull a sled and/or freight.

Please note we are not encouraging your dogs to drag you down the street. What you ideally want is a dog walking in front of you in a relaxed pace, preferably not pulling.  But keep in mind they will pull when they spot a cat or squirrel and/or pick up the scent of something great.  And they're not wrong for doing this.

DOGS HUMPING MEANS THEY'RE AGGRESSIVE OR...  WELL YOU KNOW! (begins with an h, ends in a y, with orn in between):

Dogs hump for many reasons:

Dominance:  One dog decides to claim a higher Pack-status over the other dog so he (and sometimes she) will hump to do this.

To Play:  Let's face it, if a dog wants to get another dog's attention to say "Hey I'm here lets play!", there is no more effective way than a little good old humping to get the point across!

Control:  You will sometimes see a canine pack leader do this to a lower-status pack member acting erratically. Humping the lower-status dog literally stops them in their tracks and helps to calm them down.

Procreate:  Now for the obvious.  An unneutered  male who finds a female "in season" may, of course, want to start a family with her because that's what they're supposed to do.  

ANY TIME A DOG SHOWS THEIR TEETH THEY ARE BEING AGGRESSIVE:  This is true in many cases.  Dogs will "flash/bear" their teeth to show they are serious about something and when that flashing is accompanied by a low growl, erect tail, pricked ears, and forward body posture you should stay away from this dog.  But there is another reason for showing their teeth and this is called a "submissive grin".  Sadly, before behaviorists and vets knew the difference between the two reasons for showing teeth, many dogs were euthanized for this grin.  It's so very easy to tell when it is a submissive grin:  the ears are back in submission, the body posture is focused more on the hind legs than the front and the back half of their body is wagging in excitement.  So body language is key here in telling the difference.  We once had a dog named Savannah in our pack.  Savannah was a certified therapy dog with not even an ounce of aggression in her angelic being.  Every time we would go to pick up Savannah for daycare she always greeted us with that wonderful submissive grin and wagging body.  It really is such a dear term of endearment!

A WAGGING TAIL ALWAYS MEANS THE DOG IF FRIENDLY:  Okay everyone, this one is extremely important as it may mean the difference of your dog having a friendly encounter or ending up in the vets office!  Many of you who have taken your dog further than your yard (vet office, leash walk,, off lead dog park), have had at least one encounter that went like this;  A dog comes up to your dog wagging their tail. You assumed the dog was friendly (because of their wagging tail). Suddenly the dog lunges aggressively at your dog. What is going on here?  Like the showing of teeth illustrated above, there are two main reasons dogs wag their tail and again, body language is key.

1.  The obvious first reason is that the dog is friendly. The tail will wag back and forth and might even wag in circles accompanied by a part of the body wagging.  The mouth is relaxed and the ears are not forward.  This is a happy, excited dog.  The worse this one might do is jump on you or your dog with excitement.
2.  The other wagging is called "flagging" and this is indeed a red flag.  The ears of the dog will be forward.  The body will be stiff, except the tail.  Expert behaviorist Patricia McConnell (whose readings we cannot recommend highly enough), calls this a "phony grin".  It's used to lure a dog closer for an aggressive encounter.  It's also used to spread the pheromones emitted from their anus,  letting the other dog know this he or she is "big man on campus, king of the jungle" and just an overall bad ass and/or bully.  Far too many dogs have been injured by this myth.  We saw this repeatedly back in our dog park days.  Luckily, we knew the difference and were able to avoid our dogs becoming a victim.  But so many others said "the dog's tail was wagging.  He/she looked friendly!" as they were in tears, carrying their dog to the car for a fast trip to the vet.

IF A DOG SMELLS A PERSONS CROTCH/BEHIND THEY'RE A PERVERT!!:  It's Thanksgiving.  In walk Uncle Fred and Aunt Mildred. Spot immediately runs up and shoves his nose in their crotch, or does a  close encounter with their behind.  Humiliation and embarrassment ensues.  You scold Spot and quickly fix Fred and Mildred the strongest drink possible after locking Spot in the bedroom. Why does Spot plot such embarrassing moments for you?  What have you possibly done to piss him off so?!  Remember most dogs strongest sense organ is the nose.  Sniffing the pheromones of  dogs and humans is the quickest way to find out who they are,  and what their intentions may be.  That's why dogs sniff each others behinds (males sniff behinds more and females sniff mouths more).   Yes it will always be embarrassing, but at least now you can put everyone's mind (including your own!) at ease knowing that Spot is not a perv!  And if Spot is a very friendly dog, gives a human a sniff and reacts negatively.  Guess what?  You probably don't want to be hangin with that individual.

So that wraps things up for this week.  We hope you have enjoyed it and found it informative and useful.  We always love to hear your comments which can of course be your own experiences regarding any topic we cover.  See you in two weeks!

Monday, September 9, 2013


The Great Dane. It is impossible not to turn your head and watch this immense beauty pass by, be you a dog lover or not.  The sheer size (100-200 pounds) and power of the Great Dane makes it impossible not to be stared at. (Especially if you see one riding in a Mini Cooper with their head sticking out the sunroof, ears flapping in the wind, as we were lucky enough to see once and laugh hysterically at!)  The Great Dane has earned themselves the right to be called one of the most beloved breeds in America, thanks to a comic strip called Marmaduke, space age Jetson's dog Astro,  of course, Scooby Doo.  All three depict this breed as a fun-loving, goofy giant.  But just how did this breed evolve? Was this giant bred to just be a goof ball (which undoubtedly they are), or is there a little something more to this majestic animal than meets the eye?

HISTORY: Not that this breed is particularly ancient or anything- BUT dogs "resembling" the Great Dane have been seen on Egyptian monuments dating back to 3,000 BC!  Similar looking dogs have also been depicted on rune stones in Scandinavia, on ancient coins in Denmark, on Greek money dating back to 36 BC and the University of Copenhagen Zoological  Museum has at least seven skeletons of very large hunting dogs dating from 5th Century BC through to the year 1000 AD!  And if that's not enough to get your head spinning, giant dogs sounding an awful lot like the Dane were depicted in Chinese literature dating back to 1121 BC.  Okay enough history, now how they became the breed we see today.

ORIGIN:  In 407 AD The Asiatic people (called the "Alans") invaded German Gaul, part of Italy and Spain, bringing with them powerful mastiff-like dogs.  Theses dogs were used to hunt and physically bring down bear and wild boar. They were believed to have been mostly a cross of Wolfhounds (particularly the Irish Wolfhound) and the old English Mastiffs.  The Alans later added the Greyhound to this breed, creating the Great Dane we know of today. We think it is important to note the Alans were a nomad tribe.  Nomads had no home base to speak of,  constantly traveling as a means of survival.  The Alans were warriors that relied on their Danes to hunt and guard their tribes.  Because they were not in castles, but the wilderness, there became much more of an "inter-dependence" between man and canine. Nomad tribes are notorious for developing a closer relationship with their dogs than many other people. It is our theory that the amount of time Danes spent around human species so early on in their development, combined with a shared existence with one another in a very primal and dangerous environment, could have imprinted more "human type personality-traits" on these nomadic-companion dogs. Perhaps that is why we see more of these traits (such as an increased sense of humor and higher sensitivity levels we see in todays Great Danes)  than is displayed in, say, herding breeds like Border Collies, who have historically that spent much time as solo working herders independent of their companion/human  shepherds.

INTERESTING INFO:  The Great Dane became widely spread throughout Europe between the 16th-18th century and countries such as Denmark, England and Germany all like to take credit for the Dane's increased popularity and refined breeding.  Not only were they used in these countries as powerful hunters, but also as guard dogs. Unlike other canine guardians such as their breed-stock Mastiffs,  Danes were not kept outside to guard the royal grounds  but rather in their lord's bed chambers to guard their companions  from assassins (we believe this also contributed to human personality being a stronger influence in the Dane).  What we also find incredibly interesting is that the  three breeds used to create the original Great Danes were hunters possessing powerful prey drives, yet todays Great Danes possess not only a goofy personality, but they can also be around other animals without displaying hunting traits that could cause serious harm.  For example, Irish Wolfhounds are the largest  breed  in the world, and the most powerful of the sighthounds.  Their extraordinary eyesight makes it possible to spot prey from long distances, lock in on their movement and run fast to  intercept the prey (original prey being Wolves). The English Mastiff is not only a powerful giant, but a fearless guardian and war dog.  The Greyhound is an extraordinary sighthound and the second fastest animal in the world (able to run 39 miles per hour).   When you put those three breeds together, combining speed, hunting ability, superb eyesight and fearless guarding ability, you have todays Great Dane.  And yet, this breed, which has been called  the "comedians of the canine world", can easily be around screaming children (running here there and everywhere), as well as small animals!  It's information like this that continues to impress and blow our minds,  and strengthens our belief on how much our human personality has influenced the psychological development of this extraordinary breed. 

PERSONAL OBSERVATION   Being at a dog park for a decade afforded us an extraordinary  opportunity to observe numerous breeds in an uncontrolled, quite primal, environment.  Observing the Dane there, we witnessed the prey drive the majority of them seem to possess.  Please note we are not speaking of witnessing attacks by Danes! What we did see was an innate and immense amount of speed and power  used to chase other dogs. When combined with their size, these instinctual traits of speed/power had a tendency to put other dogs into a  mode of total submission due to fear called "shut down".  These poor dogs just had no idea on how to react to such huge, fast dogs chasing them! And the Danes who DID the chasing seemed to be confused as to how "fun" (in their eyes), could cause other dogs to be so afraid.   The result was confusion among both "chaser" and "chasee". That is why the majority of Danes have never worked out with our pack. What is most important to understand is that it's not the breed's fault and it's not the owners fault (as long as the breed has had proper socialization).  It is simply the nature of the breed.  Only the exceptions of Bison and Estella have ever worked out with our pack.  If we traced these two's lineage, combined with their excellent early socialization, we would probably have our answer as to why they are the exceptions.

HEALTH PROBLEMS:  The wonderful  Great Dane is subject to health problems that comes along with the territory of being a giant breed.  Hip dysplasia, heart disease and bloat are common,  as are mast cell tumors.  Most unfortunately what also goes along with being a giant breed is a shorter lifespan.  The average is approximately eight years, but many do live up to 12.  (We believe this has a lot to do with the wonderful goofiness which seems to prevent them from taking life too seriously. This can   diminish stress considerably in the breed.) It is also important that owners of the breed understand the species they have committed themselves too, and dedicate themselves to the proper upkeep of the breed.

IS THIS THE RIGHT BREED FOR YOU?:  Many people find themselves scared off of owning a Great Dane due to their size and strength. And it is true they are enormous and strong.  But if you frequent the gym and are ready for a commitment to this wonderful goofball, it could easily be one of the most rewarding and entertaining experiences of a lifetime!  They can live in an apartment as  long as they are taken out for long walks (running/jogging them is not necessary nor recommended until they have physically developed).  They do love a yard though!  And, as they are an excellent guard dog, they thrive on having that open space to strut their stuff.  But what they clearly thrive on the most is close human contact. This is NOT a breed to be kept alone and isolated outside.

We hope you have enjoyed this blog and we would love to hear from you regarding input (or really anything you feel like contributing!)

Monday, August 26, 2013


We've been covering some heavy duty subjects that are indeed informative but not necessarily pleasant.  So this week, we thought we would "take a walk on the lighter side" and present to you something not only illuminating, but a bit more fun as well!

Dogs may never send a rocket to the moon, but what they instinctively know versus what we require "outside information" for is quite remarkable.  Here's a look at a few of the things that occur naturally in the wonderful world of dogs that we, as humans, could learn a lot from!

SUNBATHING:  Dogs instinctively know they need the sun.  Not only for warmth, but also for their RDA  of Vitamin D (sunshine is THE best and most natural source of vitamin D).  We humans have abused our time in the sun, and pay for it with sunburns and skin cancer.  But dogs know that a little vitamin D goes a long way!  Ever wonder why your dog goes out and lies in the sun on a hot day only to come in a few minutes later panting???  You think "why would  you do such a thing, now you're hot!"  But  note the AMOUNT of time they spend in the sun. They're not out for hours, they're out for probably 10-20 minutes,  which is exactly the right amount of time for them (and for us) to get the proper amount of Vitamin D.  We need sunscreen because we spend hours in the sun. Dogs don't because they know when to come in!

NAUSEA:  If we feel like we may throw up, we go strait to the medicine cabinet and grab our pepto bismol or pepsid or maybe some ginger ale.  ANYTHING to prevent throwing up.  Guess what a dog does?  They find  the most bitter patch of grass, ingest a huge chunk of it and vomit as a way  to speed up the healing process in their system.  Now we're not encouraging any humans to go chomping grass next time a little nausea crops up, but we are encouraging you to let your dog eat that grass and throw up whatever is upsetting their system. They definitely know best in this case.  It's important to note there are actually two different types of grass and each poses a different function.  The first are short, fat blades which are the bitter grass dogs eat when they don't feel well.  The second is what we call "spring grass".  It's the long slender blades of grass that taste sweet to dogs and give them a healthy dose of chlorophyll.   

NAPPING:  Dogs know when they're tired, and napping is a part of their daily regimen.  Napping has been proven to improve overall health not only for those in the animal kingdom, but also for us in the the human kingdom. Now in all fairness how many of us have time each day for a little midday shuteye?  Not many.  However, how about the weekend, or when we have days off, or even when we take a vacation?  Our species has a tendency to be obsessed with filling every moment doing something, or reading something, or watching something and that's not exactly healthy.  Once again the logic of a dog's world is much simpler and smarter here:  I'm tired so I'm going to take a break and take a nap.

STRETCHING:  Studies have proven stretching for us humans is AS IMPORTANT as exercise.   But how many of us stretch upon rising? Or periodically throughout the day, even though it may only take a few minutes?  Dogs always stretch and do it through a full range of motion from head to tail. The yoga world learned a lesson or two long ago by observing dogs stretching. After all, they don't call it "downward dog" for nothing!  Also note that dogs do that wonderful "head to tail" body shake.  Ever wonder why?  There are a few reasons for this but the main reason is a complete spinal chiropractic adjustment. We think if we tried to imitate that one, we'd need a chiropractor!  But dogs, well they just know and have known long before chiropractors or yoga came into play.

MEDITATION:  You've put up with the blog this long but now you have serious doubts. You think to yourself  "Fido cannot possibly don the spandex, sit cross-legged on a comfy mat  and go 'ommmmmmm.'" You are absolutely right!  But isn't meditation is more about being in, and enjoying the present moment?  Welcome to the wonderful world of dogs where living in the present moment is the ONLY way they live!!

Our golden retriever Babe is an expert meditator.  Every morning, for at least two hours, he goes out to the back lawn and lies there watching his squirrel and bird friends.  He doesn't bark, he doesn't run back and forth, he just observes the activity of the world around him, content to just "sit still and be in the present moment"' We don't know about you, but if someone instructed us to go sit and watch squirrels and birds  or just generally watch the world go by for two hours at a time, we'd go bonkers!  We haven't "trained ourselves" to think that way and if we do decide to meditate,  we usually require a class or an instructional DVD to TEACH us how to be in the present moment and just enjoy breathing!  Just one more example of a dogs instincts being a little more advanced than ours.

We could  go on and on because let's face it, the more we all learn about the world of dogs, the more  extraordinary it and they become.  So we are going to cover one last topic  and this one is our personal  favorite:

NEVER LETTING THE KID IN THEM DIE:   In all fairness to our human species, dogs at their height of emotional maturity are teenagers A grown dog's personality is essentially that of a juvenile wolf.   But we can still learn from their extraordinary example of always  retaining a hearty amount of goofiness.  This is one area  where many of us have spent hard earned dollars to LEARN how to "lighten up" and have more fun.  A veterinarian we knew some time ago referred to something he called "frapping":  "Frequent Random Acts of Playfulness".  It's when a dog simply runs in large circles, or runs from room-to-room, or just runs back and forth with no apparent reason, but just for the joy of doing it. We heard this term 21 years ago, and yet it still sticks in our mind every time we  see that wonderful random act of playing we all are privileged enough to witness in our four-legged friends.  And what's so wonderful about such goofiness is how contagious it can be. There are many times we ourselves are immersed in our day, being a bit too serious about life,  when out of the corner of our eyes, one of our wonderful pups comes flying through the house with running like there's  no tomorrow. Literally,  they are having the time of their lives for no apparent reason other than just to have fun.  WOW!  Could we ask for a better life than that?  What a lesson and what wonderful teachers they all are.

Dogs don't have the responsibilities we have (thank goodness!).  There are completely dependent upon us for comfort, food, and health and well-being, making their life considerably less stressful than ours.   But we don't think it would hurt any of us to take a break to not only to be with them and enjoy them, but also to observe and learn from them. We can honestly say in the past 14 plus years that we have been lucky enough to do this "job", we have learned  more from observation than we have ever learned from a course, DVD and/or book about the world  of canines.  Not that supplemental learning isn't essential but it ain't the whole deal!  So next time you're behind a car that has a bumper sticker saying "my dog is smarter than your honor student.........", don't laugh or shake your head, but give it a thought or two.

We hope you enjoyed this blog as much as we did bringing it to you and of course, we welcome your comments because without all of you, we're just kind of writing for ourselves and our imaginary friends. And if you do find these blogs interesting and informative, please don't hesitate to share it with your friends.  Our mission is to help as many people and their dogs as possible, and you sharing this information will advance the cause considerably. Incidentally, the blog will now be every other week  instead of weekly.  We  feel bad about this, but unfortunately we do not have as much free time as our furry friends do!  Thanks  as always for tuning in!

Monday, August 12, 2013


If there is a breed who has earned the right to be a snob, it's this one.  After all, they are literally named after a King!  And yet, this breed is anything but snobby.  They have proven to be extraordinary companions, highly adaptable to their surroundings and great with children and other household pets. Welcome to the world of the adorable Cavalier King Charles Spaniel!

ORIGIN:  You've seen them in various paintings with (of course) royalty.  Shakespeare even gave them a roll in "The Taming of the Shrew".  The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel dates back to roughly the 16th century.  King Charles I,  and his son King Charles II, were huge fans of this little dog.  When Charles I was beheaded he had one of them hidden under his robe to offer him comfort (the dog was not harmed in the beheading!)  King Charles  II had as many as a dozen in his bedchambers. ("Fan"  may be a bit of an understatement!)  This is how "King Charles" fits into their name.  They were used as a hunting dog for small birds, and were even fast enough to keep up with a trotting horse. However most sought them out to be used as a companion dog; perfect to fit on one's lap! The breed originally descended from the "King Charles Spaniel", which was then combined with other toy spaniels (especially the Toy Trawler Spaniel, a breed now extinct).  The original look of the CKCS (Cavalier King Charles Spaniel), was that of a longer nose and a flatter skull.  But as the Pug gained in popularity in England, these early examples of the breed were bred with Pugs to create a shorter pushed up snout and larger eyes with lower set ears.  The obsession of royalty with small companion dogs is what prompted breeding the CKCS with the pug to create a dog that looked more like a human infant (smaller nose, larger eyes, lower set ears).  There is an actual term used for this human-like resemblance in animals ; Neoteny.  Unfortunately, like so many other things in life, this new look created unintended consequences such as in increase in health problems with the CKCS (we will cover that below). After decades of popularity the CKCS began to die off due to the hardship created by WWII .Interestingly enough it was an American, Roswell Eldridge from New York, that saved the breed from extinction by seeking out CKCSs from the original stock (those with longer noses, smaller eyes, and ears set higher on the head) to rebuild the breed. Eldridge single handily saved the breed and we are certainly glad he did!  

INTERESTING INFO:  The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is actually a different breed from it's cousin the King Charles Spaniel (also called the English Toy Spaniel).   The CKCS is the larger version of the two, outweighing the King Charles by a whopping five pounds!  The CKCS is the largest of the toy breeds. They are available in four different color varieties:  Blenheim (red and white), Tricolor (black/white/tan), Black and Tan, and Ruby.  As stated above, they could be used to hunt small birds and were bred to run fast enough to keep up with a trotting horse. But their preferred use was as a lap and food warmer for mostly royalty, and they were even used to attract the fleas off of their royal human companions onto themselves!  So one could deem them "Royal Flea Bags!"  A bit of an oxymoron to us!  

PERSONAL OBSERVATION/ASSESSMENT:  In doing our research, it seemed quite clear, in five out of six references,  that when the breed was "restocked" (1920-present) the stock was to be of the original look,  to bring back the longer nose, smaller eyes and different ear set.  However, look at any of these adorable pups and NONE we have seen have any of the original facial features.  They all seem to retain that Neotonized look created when the original breed was bred with the pug to produce that "cute little pug nose", large eyes and lowered ears. The correct breeding would be to go back to the original look rather than the pug look.  Why?  Because with that short nose and larger eyes came a host of health problems.  Only one source we referenced  mentioned that most breeders did not adapt the original breeding principals because people favored the pug-like features.  What a shame that "aesthetics" have overrun health preservation in this (and so many other) breeds.  We love this breed and have thoroughly enjoyed each and every one we have had in our pack.  They are so affectionate and literally just want to be loved and entertained one on one.  Because of this, they aren't the type of breed you will see running with the pack in pictures, but rather hanging with the smaller dogs and the humans awaiting a hug, some petting and a vacant lap!

HEALTH ISSUES:  This is the down side to this wonderful breed.  They are prone to many health problems.  Eye issues such as cataracts, retinal dysplasia and dry eyes are quite common, as are hearing problems  They are also very prone to hip dysplasia, luxating patella and syringomelia (which can be extremely painful and even result in paralysis).  But the most common disorder of the CKCS is mitral valve disease.  Nearly all Cavaliers suffer from this disease, which causes a heart murmur and can lead to heart failure. It's simply far too common.  And if a Cavalier is diagnosed with this at an early age, they can have a much shorter life than the expected lifespan of 9-14 years.

IS THIS BREED FOR YOU:  Don't get scared away by the health issues!  The good news is that there are responsible breeders who have worked to minimize the mitral valve disease.  As with any breed, if you choose to go with a breeder, do your research!! You can find a much healthier strain of any breed in which  responsible breeders have worked hard to keep their breeds as healthy as humanly possible (that is why we need professional breeders who will do it right).  The temperament of this breed makes them easy to adapt to apartment living.  They do need exercise, and will act out if not properly exercised, but they don't need a five mile hike.  They do very well with moderate daily exercise and lots of one on one time with their human companions.  If there is a breed "addicted to love", it's this one!! After all "Love" is what they were truly bred for.  They are not fans of hot weather.  They come from England (not a whole lot of heat waves there), and their main purpose was to warm laps in palaces.  So they definitely prefer a cooler environment. ( Not the breed to take on a hike through the Sahara!)  They are wonderful with every human, from infants to seniors, as long as they are properly socialized.  Because they do have the "bird dog" spaniel in them, they will chase birds and even have the potential to chase cars.  Definitely not a breed to walk off lead (just for the record, we do not recommend ANY dog be walked off lead except for in a safe off lead environment).  If you are looking for the perfect smaller companion dog, it's hard to beat the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.  Sharing a slice of your life with this little partner will create memories you will cherish forever.

Monday, August 5, 2013


Life is confusing enough for us humans trying to keep healthy and read our own food labels as we try to  decipher sodium and fat content, etc,.  Now add to that your dog's food label! So many big words! Confusing context such as "meal" vs. "meat", or a potato "product" vs. potato!  Then you get into the grains;   Some say "rice", some say "brewers rice".  Then if your head isn't spinning enough you get to the different oils! Then the grand finale of "chelated" or "non-chelated" minerals!!

Only a BIT complicated and incredibly confusing.  BUT DON'T GIVE UP AND SHUT OFF THIS BLOG!  We're here to help you with all that stuff so you can look at your dog's food ingredient list and say "OK, I get that now" instead of "what the 'bleep' does  that mean???  I give up!"

We cannot possibly cover every ingredient appearing on every dog food label or this would become a thesis and we'd lose you (deservedly so) after the first couple paragraphs.  So we're going to cover the major ingredients you see in most dog food.  

The first thing you look at on the label is the ingredient listed first. This first ingredient is what your dog's food contains the most of (as well as our food and all other pet food).  From there it goes in order from "most of" to the last ingredients, which it contains the "least of".  So the first ingredient is the most important one regarding the quality of the food.

Here are some things you may be seeing in your label:

1.  Chicken/Beef/Turkey/Rabbit/Ostrich/Venison/Buffalo/Fish:  You may see one or a  combination of these.  We like to see these ingredients first,  because dogs require a good amount of protein in their diet.  But all meat is not created equal!  And MEAT vs. MEAL is extremely important to understand.  Let's use chicken as an example.  Chicken meat is the stuff we eat:  the white and dark meat along with the skin.  Chicken meal is chicken, including that from dead, dying, diseased or disabled animals. This meal is put through a process called "rendering" which is supposed to remove bacteria, viruses, parasites and other organisms. Once completed this rendering is supposed to make the  the meal fine for animal consumption but not safe for humans.  So you make the call on that one.  Our thoughts are if a chicken is riddled with, say cancer, and that chicken is used  to produce a dog's food, does that not have a "possible" impact on a dog's health?  Again this is just our thought on this.  We  are not drawing from any evidence.

2.  Potato Produce vs. Potato.  "Potato" means the potato we  humans eat.  "Potato Product" means potato pieces,  peelings  and the rotten (inedible for humans) parts of the potato.  Product also applies to   other ingredients such as "egg product", etc.

3.  Grain such as wheat, rice, bulgar, quinoa, oats, and corn (yes corn is actually a cereal grain). You want to see this grain in its "whole form" not "brewers" form.  Brewer's grains are the scrapings off the floor that are not good enough to go into human food. So if you see "brewer's rice", there's a good chance this is an inferior food. Also keep in mind that many dogs are allergic to wheat and corn (much like some of us are!).

4.  Oil.  The following oils are high in monounsaturated fat and are excellent anti-inflammatory agents:  olive, fish, flax and canola.  We would caution using a food high in "polyunsaturated fats" which can promote inflammation (for dogs and people!). This can be especially crucial for dogs with arthritis and heart problems.  Oils best to avoid if possible:  soybean, corn and safflower, which are the top ones on the list that may be found in dog food. 

5.  "Hydrolyzed" protein such as chicken, liver, etc...  Hydrolyzed is a method of breaking down the protein so it is more easily digested and is less likely to cause an allergic reaction. This is fine with us.

6.  Tocopherols (aka Vitamin E).  Usually an ingredient label will specify this is being used as a natural preservative to keep ingredients from spoiling.  Vitamin E as a preservative is absolutely fine and definitely preferred to synthetic preservatives, some of which can have adverse reactions on your dog. Speaking of which.....

7.  Synthetic Preservatives.  Best to stay clear of the following if you can:  BHA, BHT, Ethhoxquin, Propyl Gallate.

8.  Artificial Colors.  Completely unnecessary and potentially hazardous:  Blue 2, Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6 are some common ones.

9.  Salt.  Salt is essential to our bodies as well as animal's bodies.  However, dogs can suffer high blood pressure and other dangers such as heart disease from too much sodium just like us.  So if salt is in your dog's food, you do NOT want it in the top five ingredients.  Sodium too high on the list means too much sodium for your dog!

10.  Poultry Fat.  This one's a bit scary.  One would assume this means fat from chicken.  We did.  Wrong!  This is fat from any "rendered" bird such as roadkill, seagulls, bird euthanized at shelters, etc.  Disgusting.  

11.  Animal Digest.  This is a cooked down broth made from any "rendered" animal including rats, horses and any euthanized animal.  Equally disgusting!

12.  By Products.  Any "by products" in dog food are the "inferior" parts of the animal, such as beaks, feet, guts and so on.   And another "ditto" on disgusting.  HOWEVER, organ meat is considered a by-product and contains a high percentage of very important and usable protein. Good quality dog foods will list organ meat on its own, letting you know you've got the quality protein without the literally "throwaway protein."

13.  "Chelated" vs. "Non-Chelated" minerals.  Chelated is a word we like.  Chelated is a process with makes minerals easier for a dog to absorb.  Non-chelated minerals can mean an inferior food.

14.  Vitamins and Minerals.  We need 'em and so do our dogs.  Sometimes everything can be obtained without fortification, but that's pretty darned difficult.  So here's a list of vitamins and minerals you may see in your dog's food:  Choline Chloride, Ascorbyl, Polyphosphate, Niacin, Thiamine, Vitamin A, Calcium, Biotin, Vitamin B 12, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Vitamin D3, Folic Acid, Potassium Chloride, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Manganese, D-Methionine, Taurine.

15.  Sugar.  If this ingredient is in your dog's food run far, run fast and don't look back,  change your dog's food period.  If a dog food company adds sugar the food is so inferior your dog may get more benefit from eating dirt and bugs.  Seriously!  In fact they probably would.  We are not encouraging your dog to eat dirt as this could be dangerous and that's a whole other blog!  Just please don't feed your dog a dog food that contains sugar as an actual ingredient.

Now lets talk poop!  Not your first topic of choice for sure but a very important one nonetheless.  So you've been patient enough to listen to our spiel about ingredients.  Maybe you're completely satisfied with your dogs food.  Maybe you're not.  Maybe you just don't know at this point.  Here's a simple question to help settle any confusion:  How's your dogs poop?  Poop is a sure sign of how your dogs food is or isn't agreeing with him/her.  So what to look for?  First; is it a solid form? This is what you want to see.  Second;  how much is too much?  (Huh???)   Bottom line- the more your dog poops, the less your dog is assimilating into their body!   The less poop (pooping twice a day and not too much for the size of the dog) the better.  So if you have a chihuahua,  and her poop size resembles that of a Labrador retriever, not enough food is being absorbed into her body, consequently not enough nutrients are being absorbed either.  Third; look for undigested pieces of food, especially for dogs on a dehydrated dog food diet.  If you can SEE what food is in your dogs poop, it's something your dog is rejecting and cannot absorb (hint: carrots and corn are a big one).

That's as much as we're going to hit you with this time.  There are many other ingredients that can be found in your dog's food, and if there are some we haven't covered, please feel free to ask us and we will be happy to have a good ole "one on one" with you and discuss the ingredient(s) in question.  There is also an excellent website we used as one  of our references for this blog.  It's called  You can reference any dog food and they will give you an unbiased analysis, and they also keep up-to-date  with any and all dog food recalls. We cannot say enough good things about  these guys!!  Check it out.  You'll be glad you did!

Here's an easy bottom line:  Meat, Fruit, Vegetables, whole non-allergenic grains, potato, sweet potato or yams (even better than potato), vitamins and minerals, probiotics, and kelp (a seaweed full of iodine which can help regulate the thyroid) are all good.  Anything else deserves questioning. 

 We hope you have enjoyed this week's blog and found it helpful and useful.  We apologize for skipping a week for this but there was so much information for us to sift  through we thought it better to skip a week and give you all the thorough blog you deserve!  Happy feeding to you!

Monday, July 22, 2013


This breed is so intelligent they have been "accused" of being able to read minds.  They are able to perform extraordinary and complicated herding maneuvers with a single voice command or a whistle.  If ever there was a breed that "needed a job", it is definitely this one.  Welcome to the incredible and sometimes frustrating world of the Border Collie.

ORIGIN:  Many breeds we have covered are truly an "ancient breed", many dating back to the 1600's.  The Border Collie, however, is not one of them. There are conflicting stories about exactly how this breed came to be. One reference stated it descends from a Viking herding dog used to herd Reindeer (which we found fascinating!) However, several other reliable sources stated this "sheep dog" originated in the British Isles, most likely from Scottish descent. What everyone seems to agree upon is the origination of the breed began in Northumberland along the borders of Scotland and England. It is believed one dominant breed used to create the Border Collie was the "landrace collie" and also some type of spaniel. One of the original Border Collies used as a main stud dog for the breed was "Old Help" (1893-1902).  Old Hemp was a quiet, powerful dog that sheep responded to easily and whose  working style became the Border Collie method. Every pure bred Border Collie alive today has a lineage connection to Old Hemp. Another famous Border Collie stud dog is Winston Cap (born 1963).

INTERESTING INFO: Okay, we did NOT make up what you are about to read: The Border Collie literally has an eye that can "hypnotize" cattle and "mesmerize" sheep and other livestock. Their style of crouching down, and the ultra intense and penetrating stare of the Border Collie, enables them to control every animal they herd. They also have an extraordinary ear. A professional working Border Collie will take direction from the shepherd by a single voice or whistle command a long distance from the Shepherd (sometimes as far away as a mile!).  Now it becomes more clear why this breed has been accused of being a mind reader!  Border Collies (and other excellent sheepdogs) can easily do the work of three humans. While this breed is most famous for herding cattle and sheep, these skills are also used in controlling poultry, pigs and ostriches. Border Collies are also used to "herd off" unwanted wild birds from airport runways, golf courses and other areas. But herding is not the only job this extraordinarily intelligent breed can be used for. They've got a great set of springs and can easily out perform an NBA center at catching a frisbee!  They excel (and usually win) agility competitions, and even perform exceptionally well in "dog dancing competitions" (nope, that was not a typo).  As for professional human-assisting jobs, they can easily be trained for narcotics detection, search and rescue and some even perform well as guide dogs for the blind. Also, because they have a highly evolved sense of smell,  they can compete in tracking trials. Wow!  Quite an impressive resume of skills!

HEALTH:  Hip dysplasia, Collie eye anomaly, epilepsy and deafness top the list.  Some herding dogs carry a certain MDR 1 gene that makes them hypersensitive to certain drugs.  It's imperative if you have a herding breed to have them tested for this gene because many are killed by certain meds that other dogs do absolutely fine with.

IS THIS BREED A GOOD FIT FOR YOU?  This breed requires a good amount of exercise. They usually do not do well in an apartment. They require leadership above and beyond most other breeds or they can become very neurotic and destructive. But for those who have been willing to make the time and commitment to this breed they all insist there's no going back. Border Collies are renowned for their loyalty, understanding and quick response to praise.  We just wouldn't recommend a staring competition with one, or you might end up running around in your underwear flapping your arms and clucking like a chicken!

Monday, July 15, 2013


    You have been going to "Dr. So & So" for X amount of years.  His/her office sends you the annual "vaccination card" saying Fido needs this & that, so you bring your dog in and they give him all the shots for a good deal. You see Dr. So & So from time to time when Fido has a problem.  He/she says it's such and such, usually gives you some pills, sometimes runs tests (which can be incredibly costly) and sends you on your way after your bank account takes a big dip.

 Sound familiar?

This blog is dedicated to making your future vet visits easier and possibly less expensive by providing you with certain questions to ask your Vet which can help determine exactly what Fido needs or doesn't need at that specific time. We will also touch upon how your vet can, and should, help you in not just treating the needs of that specific visit, but also provide a "maintenance plan" to keep Fido in tip top shape!

Each time we bring one of our pups to the vet, we always go in with a notepad compiled with questions regarding what we are seeing her for, and any other questions we may have about our pets health and well-being.  She is always more than happy to answer all of our questions and share with us the latest findings/discoveries related to the topics we are discussing. Any vet (and doctor for that matter) should be pleased with your questions and happy to address them.  If you find your vet does not  show interest in your questions, don't be afraid to look elsewhere.

1.  Questions regarding why you are there.  Compile a list complete with your pup's symptoms, when it started and your own ideas about why it may have started.  When your vet provides their diagnosis, and "prescribes" the necessary meds and/or tests, don't be shy to ask why they feel this is needed.  Many times meds and tests are needed, but some vets can be a bit too "overly and unnecessarily cautious", and you could end up with tests and meds that not only are costly but uncomfortable for your pup.  If meds are needed, find out the side effects that may effect your pup and possible food/treats that could interfere with the meds.

2. Vaccines.  Maybe you're getting a little bored with this blog.  You think "Yeah yeah yeah, ok I'll ask some questions next time.  Can I watch "Sharknado" now????"   If there is only ONE THING you come away from this blog with it's the info we're about to share with you about vaccines because the following information could not only extend your dog's life, but possibly even SAVE your dog's life. And no, we are not exaggerating.  The next time you get one of those cards saying "it's time for Fido's annual round of shots" please throw it away and discuss the following information with your vet:

TITER TESTING:  This is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your dog!! A Titer Test is a blood test that finds out if your dog has enough immunity against specific core diseases (parvo, distemper and hepatitis) to possibly eliminate the need to be vaccinated for them.  It is more expensive than several vaccine shots, but think of it as a kind of "health insurance." If your  dog is vaccinated for something he/she has already built  up an immunity to, it could easily cause many problems that will be much more costly than a titer test.

Rabies vaccination:  It IS required by law. This vaccine is also the toughest on a dog's system. The USDA Center for Veterinary Biologics reports that "the rabies vaccine is responsible for more adverse reactions than other vaccines. Do not give this vaccine during surgery or with other drugs.  Give THREE OR MORE WEEKS APART from other vaccine boosters."  It is required by law every THREE YEARS.  

BORDATELLA:  Many vets are vehement your dog must have this if they are socialized around other dogs.  Bordatella protects against kennel cough.  Let's be honest here folks; Kennel Cough is simply the "common cold for dogs."  Now we've all had those miserable colds, but it's part of life. And as dog's get Kennel Cough  it builds up antibodies, allowing them to be more immune to kennel cough in the future. The only dogs who should have this are those highly susceptible to pneumonia and/or lung ailments.  In that case Bordatella vaccine will prevent complications with the kennel cough. But if Fido is healthy, please at least think twice, and have your vet give a very convincing argument before those drops go up their nose. 

BORRELIA BURGDORFERI (LYME DISEASE), AND LEPTOSPIROSIS:  These are "non-core" diseases that we do not need to bore you with details about. Bottom line:  these are advised only to dogs living in an area or have a lifestyle that puts them at a high risk of contracting them.  Look them up and have your  vet explain them to you.

Congratulations you survived the vaccine section of the blog!!  No onto much more simple topics and questions....

3.  How does my dog look?  Have your vet discuss how the ears, eyes and teeth look, and if your dog is at a healthy weight.

4.  Emergency Care:  Have your vet recommend the closest, best 24 hour emergency care facility and keep that info in a handy location (on the fridge, in your phone or your wallet...)

5.  Breed - Specific issues.  Each breed is predisposed to certain problems and it's important you and your vet are aware of what behavioral issues and health issues your pup is more susceptible to based upon his/her breed.

6. Flea/Tick/Heartworm Program:  Many vets insist that pets stay on a year round program for "proper treatment" of these parasites.  But is that REALLY necessary?????  Discuss with your vet if this could be a "seasonal" program instead,  when fleas, ticks and mosquitoes are more prevalent.  All these parasites can cause harm, but remember it is a pesticide you are either administering topically or having your dog ingest. It's worth your time to see if a full-time program is necessary.

7. The "annual check up".  This is our favorite time to go to the vet.  Even if there's nothing wrong with your dog, you should get the following done to ensure everything is healthy and working properly:  blood test, stool sample and urinalysis. This costs money but consider it "preventative health care"

8.  Pet Health Insurance.  Don't leave home without it!  Ask your vet which kind they recommend.  The right insurance can end up saving you thousands of dollars, especially if your pup ends up with a condition or disease that requires extensive tests, treatment and medication.

  Many dogs are cautious and even terrified to walk into a vet's office. Who can blame them?  It's no fun being poked and prodded by someone you may rarely see, and it's especially no fun to have needles stuck into them! Spin this visit into a positive experience for your dog. You know what your dog loves.... maybe it's a favorite, horribly obnoxious squeaky toy (speaking from experience!), or maybe it's a delicious liver or chicken treat.  Whatever it is, have it with you  to comfort and reward Fido, and make sure they get tons of praise and belly rubs for braving the visit!

Thanks so much for tuning in to this blog.  It's not as fun and entertaining as some of the other ones but we hope you found it informative and helpful. We of course welcome your questions and comments.

Monday, July 8, 2013


 This English Bulldog is definitely an "acquired taste" for anyone interested in spending a portion of their life with them.  There is also much controversy surrounding this breed.  So, whether you are a Bulldog enthusiast, or one who has knows nothing about the breed, this blog will be a very interesting and informative one. We encourage you to pull up a chair, grab a snack and learn about one of the most  fascinating and controversial breeds The Mindful Dog will ever cover.

WARNING:  There is explicitly graphic information regarding what this breed was originally bred to do, so if you tend to be queasy, DON'T grab a snack first!  (But you might want to grab a drink!)

Over the course of the past 14 plus years we have been in business, we have learned there are certain breeds which don't work out with the nature of our pack.  We tried many bulldogs when we first began to work with dogs,  and found out quickly that "only an exception to the breed" would work out with our Pack. (That sole exception, out of 8-10 we had tried out, has been Beatrice.)  The following information explains why.

ORIGIN:  The English Bulldog  (different from the American and French Bulldog) originated in the British Isles sometime in the 1500's.  The only breed we could reference used in the creation of this breed was the Asiatic Mastiff.  Now here's the queasy part.... the breed was created for the sole purpose  of "Bull Baiting", (hence the name "Bulldog").  Bull Baiting was a cruel fighting sport where several bulldogs were set upon a tethered bull to see which dog could bring it down.  How did a bulldog bring down a bull you ask?  They would start by attacking and biting at the underneath of the bull.  The bull would reach down to defend itself.  At this point, the bulldog would attach itself to the bulls nose, cutting off the oxygen supply and creating excruciating pain as it shook and ripped until the bull collapsed and the dog was able to completely pin it. (What a lovely way to spend an afternoon!)  Many dogs were maimed and/or killed by the bull in the attempt and people bet on which dog they thought would be the victor.  Thankfully, this "sport" was deemed cruel and made illegal by the Cruelty to Animals Act in 1835.  After Bull Baiting was outlawed England no longer had a use for the breed and many were exported to America. At the time New York City had a problem with wild bulls running about the city and wreaking havoc. Americans trained the bulldogs to attach to the nose of a bull long enough to allow people to get a rope around the bulls neck and dispose of them. The breed was later crossed with the pug to create more of a "companion dog".

INTERESTING INFO:  The skin folds on the face of the English Bulldog were developed by breeders, who saw these folds as being useful in catching the blood from the bull, so as not to run into the bulldog's eyes during Bull Baiting matches.  The under bite was also a breeder creation, being more effective than an overbite in being able to lock hold of the bull.  The English Bulldog remains the most popular dog breed used as a mascot.  They are still  used to represent England or the United Kingdom.  It's the official mascot of the United States Marine Corps and many bases actually have the mascot on base.  Thirty-nine American Universities use a Bulldog as their mascot (we do not believe every one of these is the English Bulldog though.)

HEALTH ISSUES:  Breathing problems, windpipes that are too small, poor eyesight, heat intolerant. Bulldogs are very prone to heat stroke, and are very cold sensitive as well.  They are also subject to mast cell tumors, skin infections and hip and knee problems.  They are also a smelly bed partner because they are very prone to flatulence  (Sorry Beatrice, but we KNOW this is true.)

THE CONTROVERSY:  This breed is so riddled with health problems that the AKC, in 2009, stepped in and created stricter breeding standards, as the problems are so severe, it diminished the life expectancy by several years for most bulldogs.  There is also "hush hush talk" by some of the leading authorities about exactly how much more needs to be done by science and breeders in order for bulldogs to lead a healthy life, and if this can actually be accomplished or not.

PERSONAL OBSERVATION:  We stated above Beatrice is the only bulldog to succeed with our pack.  Even though much has been done to breed out the original aggression needed for bull baiting, bulldogs can be very "possessive" with toys.  This "possession aggression" has it's roots in the genetic instincts created for the breed. Other bulldogs we tried would jump up at other other dog's mouth (mimicking bull baiting) and attempt to take their toy. Often they missed the toy and instead latched onto the dog's mouth.  Needless to say, this is a behavior we cannot tolerate for the sake of our pack. Beatrice is the ONLY bulldog we have had who just chooses a toy she wants, runs along with the pack and never tries to take a toy out of another dog's mouth. Pretty impressive Beatrice!  We also attended an exhibit years ago at the Museum of Natural History on the origination of the dog.  They grouped every breed of dogs together except  one: The Bulldog. This is because of the myriad of health problems and their physical structure, both have which have been drastically altered by humans, is so dramatically different from that of other breeds.  They are also the most stubborn breed we have ever encountered (bull-headed).
It may appear we have done a bit of "dishing" on the English Bulldog.We don't mean to shed a negative light on the breed. Like all breeds, a bulldog simply "is what is is", and their behavior and health issues are simply a reflection of their genetic instincts. In truth there are many positive aspects associated with bulldogs. They can be very sweet companion and family dogs. They do require exercise, but not overly so and can easily live in an apartment comfortably and happily.  They are also very affectionate with all family members, requiring lots of attention and love. We absolutely love Beatrice and she conveys every positive, wonderful aspect associated with the breed.

Is a bulldog right for you?  It could be the start of a beautiful relationship just as long as you are aware of ALL aspects of Bulldogs!! It also helps if you are a heavy sleeper (they snore big time!)  With their  many health problems it's also important to get good pet insurance. And finally, you must be more stubborn than this courageous, loving breed in order to be the leader of your home pack.

Monday, July 1, 2013


In light of the fact July 4 is Thursday, we thought it appropriate and necessary to have the subject of this weeks blog be about noises that frighten our dogs.  July 4 is Animal Control's busiest day of the year,  and it is heartbreaking to see all the "missing dog" signs posted July 5. This can easily be prevented. So this weeks post covers how certain noises affect dogs and what you can do to help them.

The most common noises that scare dogs are as follows:

Car backfires
Sonic boom
Construction (hammering, heavy materials being dropped, pounding, etc)
Parades (parades you ask??   Loud band instruments such as drums and horn instruments)
Fires in the fireplace (crackling logs)

Why do these types of noises scare dogs?  

The above noises to us humans can be startling, but would rarely evoke the fear response seen in many canines.  There are two reasons to explain their fear of these noises: the first is that some of these noises sounds like the loud growl or bark of a very large animal their ancesters would have heard in the wild.  The other reason for their reaction is a learned response.  The dog may have come to associate the noise from either a bad experience from their past, or a behavior a dog in a multi dog household learns from the reaction from another dog in the house.  For example; a dog is left outside in a thunderstorm and there is no way for him/her to escape the sound of the thunder.  That could easily carry through the rest of their life,  hearing the sound of thunder causes them to reliving that feeling of fear with no way to escape it, even though now they may be inside completely safe.  An example of this type of learned fear response is something our dog Bailey picked up from our other dog Taki. Bailey was here living with us before Taki, and we loved a nice fire in the fireplace on a cold night.  Bailey would always lie close to the fireplace and enjoy the ambience with us.  When we rescued Taki we saw she was afraid of the fire and would go hide in the bedroom.  Bailey saw her response, and soon began to hide with her. The crackling of the fire frightened Taki, and her response was so impressionable on Bailey that she started having the same response even though she didn't used to be afraid of the fire. 

How Dogs React to sounds that frighten them:

Like humans, dogs have a "fight or flight" response to things they perceive as threatening, whether it be an aggressive dog charging at them or the loud, threatening sound of fireworks.  Our Malamute Buddy hated the sound of fireworks but because he was a pack leader, he would run outside (in our fenced backyard while we were home) and bark at them, letting the inanimate perpetrator know he would "fight"  if this sound entered his territory. The other more common response of a dog is that of a "flight" response: he or she will get as far away from the sound as soon as possible, retreating to a place where they feel safe.  All dogs need a "safe" place within their home. To some, it resembles a small den such as a bathroom, shower, bathtub, closet or under the bed.  Other dogs are more comfmortable on their favorite sleeping spot such as a dog bed, couch or actual bed. So it is imperative that all dogs have a place within their home where they feel safe.  Most dogs feel safer in small, even cramped spaces and many, when frightened, will actually get themselves stuck under a large object because the confinement makes them feel safer.  The reason for so many "missing dog" signs after July 4 is an extreme flight reaction from a dog to run aimlessly and frantically as far away from the sound of fireworks as fast as possible.  Dogs will dig their way out of an enclosed yard or jump a fence if necessary.  They will even jump out of an open window whether the window is five feet off the ground of fifty feet.  A tragedy indeed.

What You can do to help:

The above information is sad and disturbing but the good news is there is plenty you can do to help your dog.  

1.  If the frightening sound can be avoided, the simplest solution is to shield your dog from being exposed to the sound.

2.  If the sound cannot be avoided, make sure your dog has a safe place within the home to hide.

3.  Never ever leave a window open on July 4th (or any other day for that matter)  unless you are home and are certain, without any possible doubt, that  your dog would NEVER attempt jumping out of it.

4.  Sometimes a "thunder shirt" can be comforting to a dog because it  mimics being held close or being in a confined space where a dog will feel safer. you can read all about this product here.

5.  Counter the frightening sound with a familiar, calming sound such as the TV, classical music or a sound machine that has a setting for white or pink noise.

6.  Behavioral Therapy at home.  This can turn a negative situation into a positive one. Basically when a dog hears a constant noise that scares him/her,  he gets a new toy or special treat (like rewarding your dog before and after taking a bath).  This can work in cases where the dog is mildly to moderately afraid, but is extremely difficult to apply when they are terrified as survival is their only thought and motive in extreme fear situations.

7.  Physically comfort them.  For years, behaviorists believed "comforting a dog only reinforced their fears".  Fortunately that theory has recently been debunked by leading canine behaviorists.  Just be aware to comfort with gentle and reassuring tones. be careful not to join in their fear or becoming impatient with them. Tone and body language are key here!  Be their gentle, loving, reassuring pack leader.

8.  There is a homeopathic remedy called "Rescue Remedy" that can help calm a nervous dog.  You can get it from Whole Foods, any Natural Pet Store or online.  It's all natural and has no side effects.  You can add it to the water or squirt it directly in their mouth.  We have had first hand experiience with this, and have found it can be helpful.  Benadryl and dramamine (drowsy formula)  can also help. We are not saying drug your dog, but if your dog is that fearful of this loud holiday, an occasional "sleepy cocktail" won't hurt them a bit. It's akin to a human taking a drink to calm their nerves.

As this extraordinary country of ours turns one year older, we are not trying to discourage anyone from partaking in and enjoying all the fun and frivolity that goes along with it.  With awareness and the right  preparation, you and your dog can enjoy a healthy and happy Fourth of July!