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!