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!