Holiday festivities often include foods and treats that can have your dog begging at the table. It’s important to know which foods dogs can safely enjoy, and which foods can be hazardous to their health. Writing for the American Kennel Club (AKC), dog expert and author Mary Kearl offers detailed information here to help you keep your pup healthy and happy at holiday gatherings.
Another helpful guide is the image below, courtesy of the Dog Food Advisor. This guide organizes food commonly enjoyed at Thanksgiving and other holidays into three easy-to-see categories.
Please note: I’ve added an important warning from the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) about the danger of products containing Xylitol. Find that just below the Dog Food Advisor’s list.
*Warning: Xylitol is being marketed as wood sugar, birch sugar, and birch bark extract. This product is deadly for dogs. Call your veterinarian, emergency animal clinic, or animal poison control center if you think your dog may have ingested something containing Xylitol.
The FDA provides detailed information about the dangers of Xylitol for dogs. Find that here.
Whatever and wherever you celebrate, may the days to come be filled with peace and joy for you and your loved ones!
Question: What’s the best training method for you and your dog?
Answer: The one that works!
I’ve lost track of the number of training books, videos, and how-to seminars I studied while writing the Waterside Kennels mystery series and this blog. In addition to ensuring authentic details are added to the plots, I found many of those resources personally helpful when Sasha joined our household after having been rescued from a bad situation. I relied on those resources to find a “just right” training program that would build her confidence and help overcome her fear of men and extreme aversion to noise.
It didn’t take long to realize that typical training methods were not always the best choice for her. While Sasha quickly mastered the commands taught in beginner and intermediate obedience classes, the clicker training method was an ordeal for her. Since our local training facility uses clickers as the foundation for all their classes, I chose not to pursue additional training there. Instead, I adopted a DIY approach that focuses on improving everyday behavior through positive reinforcement and situational awareness. Along the way, I discovered a few simple commands that work for us: “take it,” “leave it,” “drop it,” and “watch me.”
Those commands make an appearance in Dangerous Deeds (currently in the editing pipeline) where my protagonist Maggie Porter includes them as part of her “Good Dog” training sessions. They’re also used elsewhere in the book–including one memorable scene where Maggie’s dog Sweet Pea finds an injured kitten beneath the dock. Unlike training classes with a structured curriculum, Maggie’s “Good Dog” sessions are customized to address specific behaviors. (As both a writer and a dog owner, I personally like the flexibility this sort of training format offers.)
If you’d like to learn more about these commands to use with your own dog, here’s a list of helpful articles to get you started:
Prefer watching videos? Drop by YouTube and search for any or all of these commands. And remember: learning new commands can be hard work for both you and your dog. Be patient, and include some fun activities along the way. The results will be worth it!
In celebration of National Dog Day, I’m sharing an article that highlights two of my passions: dogs and writing. The American Kennel Club (AKC) staff has compiled an inspiring list of quotes and images focused on dogs. Enjoy!
You ever wonder what your dog is thinking? What he or she wants to say? We’d all love it if our dogs could talk — some of the time, at least. (If nothing else we’d be guaranteed some good dog quotes!) In lieu of that, we have some quotes about dogs, by the humans who love them. They’re like family to us, and why not celebrate it? Here are great quotes about man’s best friend.
“Everything I know I learned from dogs.” – Nora Roberts (author, The Search)
“Dogs do speak, but only to those who know how to listen.”–Orhan Pamuk (author, My Name Is Red)
“Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really.” – Agnes Sligh Turnbull (author, The Wedding Bargain)
“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” – Roger Caras (photographer and writer)
Working dogs come in all shapes, sizes, and breeds, and provide essential support for individuals and agencies alike. One particular type of working dog is the explosive detection dog. These dogs are often referred to as bomb sniffing dogs or more simply as bomb dogs, and are trained to detect a variety of explosive materials. As the threat of terrorism and other violent crimes continues to increase around the world, there’s an ongoing need for these specially trained dogs and their handlers. As a 2013 article in The Smithsonian notes, these dogs are are trained “to sniff out danger” in varied environments. Conflict zones, airports, buildings, and vehicles are among the locations where you’ll find these dogs and their handlers searching for explosive materials.
According to the AKC’s Dection Dog Task Force FAQ page, some breeds are particularly well suited to the work:
Sporting breeds are the most popular breeds used in explosive detection work. Breeds that excel at this work include Labrador Retrievers, German Shorthaired Pointers, German Wirehaired Pointers, Vizslas and Golden Retrievers. Sporting breeds have been found to be less intimidating to the public, and their keen noses and hunting ability are easily transferred to the search for explosives. German Shepherd Dogs, Belgian Malinois and Dutch Shepherds are still the preferred breeds for patrol work and dual-purpose patrol/detection dogs.
You might be surprised to learn that here in the United States, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which is part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has more than a thousand trained canine teams and their handlers. That number reflects the scope of TSA’s mission and the agency’s work in the United States and with other nations around the world. Within the United States, TSA’s scope includes commercial and general aviation, mass transit systems, freight and passenger rail, highways, pipelines and ports. Around the world, TSA-trained dogs and their handlers work with international partners to strengthen global aviation security. Here’s more from TSA regarding the long and intensive training of “TSA airport dogs” and their handlers:
The dogs work in a variety of environments, including mock aircraft and airport terminals. Trainers use classical conditioning to teach the dogs to search for odors from explosive materials. After six to eight weeks of training, the dogs are paired with a handler, whom they’ll finish the course and graduate with. Roughly 90% of all canine teams graduate from the course.
If you’re wondering about the connection between the AKC and government agencies, consider this comment from AKC Board Member Dr. Carmen Battaglia, a longtime German Shepherd Dog fancier:
“AKC has always been a leader in purpose-bred, purebred dogs. And these purpose-bred, purebred dogs have the skills, ability, and breeding to produce the traits needed for detection dogs to successfully do their important jobs,” Battaglia said. “It is a natural role for AKC to assist in meeting this national need to protect our country.“
As I move closer to retirement, I’m slowly disengaging myself from some of my academic obligations and making time for more personal interests and activities. One of those is genealogical research. Exploring family origins is a grand adventure!
According to my DNA results, nearly half of my ethnic roots can be traced to the Scottish Highlands and Islands, an area of northern Scotland that stretches west and northward to the Shetland Islands. Another third comes from Scandinavia, which many researchers and dog fanciers consider the origins of the modern-day Sheltie. Given that my home includes a Sheltie, I love the thought of having a shared history of place!
My Sheltie, by the way, is officially recognized by the AKC as Ozark Summer Highlands Sasha. We chose Ozark for our locale and Highlands for her heritage; we’re actually in the Ozark Highlands, so it’s a double play on that word. We included Summer because she has a warm, sunny spirit. And because she came to us with the call name Sasha, we included that as a bridge between her past and present. The word Highlands in her name has taken on even greater significance now that I’ve confirmed I have a close, personal connection to that region.
It has been long supposed that the beginnings of this breed could be traced to influence by a Northern Spitz type dog brought from Scandinavia by the early inhabitants, a King Charles Spaniel, the original Pomeranian and other dogs indigenous to the islands as well as the Scotch Collie. The actual mix of what went into developing this breed is shrouded in mystery and still debated.
Becky Casal, who runs the popular website Sheltie Planet, suggests “all modern Shelties, whether the American or English type, descend from common bloodlines first developed on the Shetland Islands in the 1700s.” She goes on to say the imported dogs “were crossbred extensively with mainland working dogs” and in particular with the “Rough Collie and Border Collie.”
Whatever their origins, records suggest the breed may have become a source of income for some farmers, as visitors to the Scottish Isles found the dog’s small stature appealing as companion dogs. As the breed became more widely known southward through Scotland into England, an interest in the breed and the increasing demand for small dogs may have contributed to the continued crossbreeding.
Through my research I discovered the breed had been registered as the Shetland Collie with the English Kennel Club, which might explain why some visitors to refer to the breed as Lilliputian Collies or Miniature Collies. From the ASSA’s Pat Ferrel I learned that other names included Toonie Dog, Peerie Dog, and Fairy Dog. (Who knew?) I also learned that the Shetland Collie name created controversy among established Collie fanciers; consequently, the breed name was changed from Shetland Collie to Shetland Sheepdog in 1909.
Today, the Shetland Sheepdog is recognized by the AKC as a member of the Herding Group (and the Pastoral Group in the UK). Still appreciated as a working breed, today’s Sheltie excels in agility, rally, and herding, as well as conformation and obedience. The Sheltie also thrives in performing therapy work and providing emotional support to those in need. No matter their role, a Sheltie is a loyal companion and a treasured member of the family.
For a more in-depth study of the breed, visit Charlotte McGowan’s article on the ASSA website.
To learn more about today’s Sheltie, check out Jan Reisen’s article on the AKC website highlighting seven important things to know about a Sheltie.
And to learn how to groom a Sheltie (an adventure in itself!) check out this excellent step-by-step guide at the Sheltie Planet website.
Causes of heat stroke may be non-exertional or exertional. Non-exertional heat gain is the result of being in a hot environment, such as a hot car, or spending time outside in direct sun. Exertional heat gain is due to exercise, such as playing catch or running. It is important to note that increased body temperature due to heat stroke is not the same as fever, which is caused by the body’s reaction to an infection or other disease process.
In AKC time, Sasha is seven years old today! We chose July 4th for her “official” birthday in declaration of her independence from the old and in celebration of her new life. She’s now formally recognized by the AKC as Ozark Summer Highlands Sasha.
For those new to the story, here’s a quick recap of how her AKC name came to be:
We chose Ozark for our locale and Highlands for her heritage; we’re actually in the Ozark Highlands, so it’s a double play on that last word. We included Summer because she has a warm, sunny spirit. And I wanted her call name included because she came to us with that, so including Sasha gave us a bridge between her past and present.
This sweet pup wakes up happy, every single day. She’s become a big fan of the post-breakfast ritual, when she enjoys a scavenger hunt for treats before wandering out to the garden with her best friend, Buddy The Wonder Cat.
Between trips to the park (with a brief bark-fest along the way, of course) and herding me through my own exercise sessions, Sasha has proven herself a champion at napping while I’m working in the office. Following dinner it’s more treats (dental chews, actually, but don’t tell her that) and then it’s time for evening patrol of the yard. This past week, she’s discovered lightning bugs and has us laughing at her excitement as she leaps and jumps in pursuit.
Here’s to another year of laughter and love with our sweet Sheltie!
The pandemic has turned much of the world upside down, including many dog-related activities and special events. Of these, the Westminster Kennel Club dog show may be one of the best known. Typically held in February in Madison Square Garden with all the glitter and glamour you’d expect of a 145-year-old tradition, expect this year’s event to be different. Read on to learn more about the show that’s happening this weekend.
Quoting from the AP Wire Services:
The show was rescheduled from its usual February dates and isn’t allowing in-person spectators. Human participants must be vaccinated or newly tested. Dogs will compete as usual on green carpet for televised parts of the competition, but some other rounds will happen on an even more traditional green carpet — the lawn at the Lyndhurst estate in Tarrytown, New York….
Some off-the-beaten-path breeds are in the hunt for the big prize this year. Dog cognoscenti are keeping an eye on high-ranking hopefuls including a lagotto Romagnolo — an Italian truffle-hunting breed that first appeared at Westminster only five years ago — and a Dandie Dinmont terrier, the 15th-rarest U.S. breed, by the American Kennel Club’s count. The Dandie, named for a character in Sir Walter Scott’s 1815 novel “Guy Mannering,” is considered to be at risk of disappearing even in its homeland, the United Kingdom.
Hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes, floods– there’s always a chance natural disasters will hit where you or your loved ones live. It’s a good idea to tune the NOAA Weather Radio to your local emergency station to hear the latest reports of weather in your area. And if you’re watching weather conditions where friends and family live, the FEMA app allows you to track National Weather Service reports from five different locations anywhere in the US.
Have a plan! This Pet Disaster Kit Checklist from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (commonly known as the CDC) is one of the best I’ve seen; print copies and keep it with the essential documents you’ll take with you.
The American Kennel Club publishes expert advice and information regarding pet safety in the event you have to flee your home. Your dog’s go-bag should include items such as:
bottled drinking water (during an emergency, tap water can be contaminated)
food in waterproof containers or cans. (Choose pop-top tins or pack a can opener.) Bring enough for at least two weeks
food and water bowls.
prescription medications and other required health supplies
familiar items like toys, bedding, and blankets to comfort your dog.
stress-relieving items like an anxiety vest or calming sprays if your dog is prone to anxiety
Build your own “Go” bag. Use a backpack or small tote to stash extra kibble, leashes, collars, and basic first-aid supplies. Tag everything with your name, address, phone number, and/or email. Collapsible bowls are a great addition and don’t take much space. Put paperwork in sealed plastic bags, and make sure to include your name, address, and phone number!
If you’re traveling by vehicle, add extra jugs of water, towels, tarps, ropes, and bungees. Duct tape and small hand tools can be easily stored beneath a seat. If you have to evacuate on foot, roll up the tarp and fasten it to your backpack with those ropes or bungees. If you are stranded on the side of the road or have to camp outdoors, you’ll be able to rig up a basic shelter.
Identification: Microchips are one smart way to ID your pets. My Sasha and Buddy The Wonder Cat are both microchipped and registered with AKC Reunite. Make sure you complete your registration and keep your contact info current.
Take photos now of your pets. Photograph them standing, left and right profiles, and face-on head shots. Take additional photos showing you with your pets. If you can tag or add metadata to each photo, that’s even better. (To learn how, click here.) Save copies to Dropbox and/or email them to yourself and others. That way, if you lose your phone or computer, you can easily retrieve them.
Communicate! Let family, friends, and co-workers know your plans. Social media can be a great tool to help you stay in contact. And have a back-up plan, to include alternate routes and destinations. And remember: cell towers and Internet providers may be impacted by disasters, so share that info ahead of time.
Remember that you might not be home when disaster strikes. Plan for being away from your pets and/or being unable to get to them. Consider making arrangements with someone who can get to your dog when you can’t like a neighbor, dog walker, pet sitter, or local doggy daycare. And place a rescue alert sticker at your front door to let people know there are pets inside your house. Be sure it includes the types and number of pets you own as well as your veterinarian’s phone number. If you are able to take your pets with you during an evacuation, please write “Evacuated” across the sticker if time allows so rescue workers don’t waste precious time at your home.
Wherever you are, I hope you’ll take time today to review your own disaster preparation plans. Safety first!
As this pandemic drags on, many of us still fortunate to be employed are working from home and doing our best to juggle the chaos that can result when mixing professional obligations with life at home. Add in a dog that wants to be a part of everything you do and this is what you get:
And then there’s the one who insists on a front row seat:
Or maybe your dog prefers to get your attention by barking. If you’re using online meeting venues, that can be downright disruptive–especially if you’re online with your boss or a colleague who might not appreciate your pup’s “contributions” to the conversation.
My dog Sasha had a habit of barking whenever I was listening to recorded presentations or whenever she heard strangers’ voices during a Zoom or Microsoft Teams session. At first I tried shutting the doors separating my home office from the rest of the house, but that didn’t solve the problem. Eventually, I realized I needed to give Sasha more physical and mental stimulation. When I focused on giving her the attention she deserves, the result was a happy, quiet dog who now naps while I’m in online meetings. If this sounds like something you might need, read on for some simple ideas to help you and your dog.
Exercise. This is good for both of you! If you can go outside, walk briskly through the neighborhood. Have an enclosed yard or other area in which you can safely take your dog off-leash? Toss a ball or Frisbee–even a stick–to get your pup running. Sasha won’t chase after a ball (although she’ll watch Buddy The Wonder Cat chase after anything we throw). Challenge your dog to a “race”across the backyard, and reward with praise and a low-calorie treat. The 10-15 minutes spent exercising will make you both happy!
Indoors, use the stairs or a treadmill if available. You can also create your own obstacle course using chairs, tables, and anything that requires you to navigate your way around objects. Put on some lively music and with your dog on-leash, weave your way around the “course” you’ve created. Vary the route and pace. You might be surprised by the energy you expend with such simple activities.
One fun way to exercise body and mind is to practice Rally Obedience activities. This is a team sport that’s fun for people–and dogs!–of all ages. With kids at home right now, this could be a great way to help them focus while bonding with the family dog. To learn more, check out https://www.akc.org/sports/rally/.
Training time. I’ve adapted the format common in “learn a new language” CDs. I start with a two-minute refresher of the basics (sit, stay, etc.) and then focus our energies on something new and fun. We’ll toss a stuffed squeaky toy across the room; once Sasha pounces on it we encourage her to “Bring it!” and sweeten the deal with a bit of cheese or some other special savory treat. She’s good for a half-dozen rounds before she signals “that’s enough!” with a short bark. Since each round involves a lot of running back and forth, she’s getting plenty of exercise and earning those treats!
Whatever you choose to do, mix and match activities and vary the complexity of tasks, and train in short bursts of time. Ten minutes of fun can be a terrific stress-buster!
Search-and-Find games. Put your dog in a sit/stay or down/stay. Make sure they can’t see you as you hide treats around the house, and then release them with “Find it!” (Get the kids involved and you can get work done while they’re all busy.)
Looking for something different? Hold off on the dog’s breakfast and instead let them “forage” for their meal. Use a snuffle mat to hide some/all of their morning kibble and watch them work for their meal. If you’re a crafty sort, see this site to learn how you can make a snuffle mat. If you’d rather buy one ready-made, check out these recommendations from PetGuide and Amazon.
If you prefer something simpler, grab an old (washable) blanket and fold it multiple times to create layers in which to hide kibble or treats. Bits of cheese or hot dog work, too!
Puzzle toys are another great resource when you want your dog’s attention focused away from you and your keyboard. Kong toys stuffed with peanut butter seem to be perennial favorites, and they’re a quiet source of fun. The Dog People have a list of popular toys, and you can find more at Chewy.com or your favorite pet shop.
Need more ideas to keep your dog’s attention away from your keyboard? Check out the AKC’s Trick Dogprogram. Sasha earned her novice certificate after just one day’s focused training session. Give it a try–it’s fun for people and pets alike!
A closing thought: we’re living in stressful times. Take care of yourself and those you love!