A little bit of this, a little bit of that…



Quandary: What to write about when you don’t have enough for a short dissertation?

Solution: Let other people do the work!

As a result of this stunning insight, I decided that this week I would do a blog with links to articles, advice, etc., that I really like, but I am not sure need an entire blog post. There isn’t a common theme per se, but two of them are by Robin Bennett, one of my training mentors in Virginia and they have quick, easy directions that will dramatically improve the quality of your life and/or your dogs.

The first is how to get your dog to sit when it wants to jump on people. I posted this a few weeks back on Facebook and I got a message from the sister of a woman I met on a plane that it really works! If that isn’t a ringing endorsement, I just don’t know what is.

So, how do you get crazy dog to sit? Find out here:

Then, this last week, Robin posted a terrific blog on how to tell when your dog is ready to go home from an outing (specifically the dog park, but the signals are universal). I LOVED this post:

Apparently last week was a real treasure trove, as I found this article on cat bites in the Wall Street Journal:

According to the article:

‘Cat bites can be very serious, and when you do get an infection, it can be very difficult to treat,’ said Brian T. Carlsen, a Mayo surgeon…That’s particularly true with a hand injury because of the structure of the tendons and the joints, he said.

In a study at the Mayo Clinic, in which Dr. Carlsen participated, the researchers found that of “193 patients who came in for 29_cat_pensivecat bites on their hands over a three-year period, 30% had to be hospitalized for an average stay of 3.2 days. Most of those admitted…needed their wounds surgically cleaned to eliminate infections.” (emphasis mine). Other research has “suggested a possible link between cat bites and depression.” A University of Michigan Medical School study analyzed health records of 1.3 million patients and “found that 41% of those treated for cat bites were also diagnosed at some point with depression.” Apparently, this needed a study because the researchers were not convinced that being bitten by your beloved feline is a depressing event…?

But in all seriousness, cat bites are particularly troublesome due to those sharp teeth penetrating deeply and driving bacteria into the wound. If you are bitten by a cat, please do not delay, but get to your doctor or an emergency room quickly. Dog bites can also be quite nasty. When our daughter Emma was 9 she was bitten by a friend’s dog whose teeth raked down the finger. We washed it thoroughly and throughout the day I periodically changed the bandage and cleaned the wound, but by bedtime, when I went to clean it for the last time, her finger was red, and swollen twice its size. We went straight to the ER, and though she was not hospitalized, she was given a very strong antibiotic. We also went to the pediatrician’s office every morning for almost a week to have it cleaned and checked. They were quite concerned that the infection might enter the joints on her finger causing arthritis like problems.

And, lastly, just for the fun of it, here is a link to a video of the Nelson family (Ozzie and Harriet) trying to teach the neighbor’s dog a trick. My favorite part is where they wave the toy behind the dog’s head so he can’t see it! Not very valuable as either a lure or a reward. Perhaps if they used some of  that tasty Ken L Ration horse meat, the trick training would go a bit faster…

Toy Box or stuff that doesn't fit neatly elsewhere

Le Bing et le Pew: a modern folktail….

small_heroic_bingleyFebruary is not only Groundhog month, but the time when skunks begin to emerge from hibernation. In their honor I have crafted a modern folktale: Le Bing et le Pew:

Once upon a time there was a young and very happy flattie named Mr. Bingley (aka: “No, No Bingley!” or “What the heck…?”). He loved to play and go for walks with his decent-enough dog trainer/owner, Julie. One balmy springtime evening, Mr. Bingley and his brother Hudson convinced their people that it would be lovely to go strolling on the campus of the nearby institution of higher learning.

While walking along the path that winds around the football stadium, Bingley suddenly launched himself up the hill bordering the path as if he were lava spewing from Mt. Vesuvius. Julie watched in horror as he rocketed up the incline towards the object of his desire: a skunk.

Faster than a toddler lurching toward a body of water, Mr. No No! grabbed the monochromatic carnivore and began to shake it back and forth, while said carnivore retaliated by spraying impressive amounts of olfactory-challenging liquid in every perceivable direction. Julie, continued to watch in horror (realio trulio, this did seem like the best response at the time…) and then realized that this stinky drama would continue ad infinitum without direct intervention.

Forthwith, Julie sprang to the crime scene and told “What the Heck…?” to  “Drop it, NOW!”, which amazingly, he did. 39_skunk_signsHowever, the skunk landed on its side, rolled and got tangled in the leash, thereby lashing the dog to the malodorous mammal. Without a moment’s hesitation, Julie grabbed the dog end of the leash and snapped it, thus flicking the skunk into the air where it performed a maneuver similar to Shawn White’s 720 backside corkscrew, landed on its feet (receiving top scores from the judges for perfect execution) and waddled off into the emerging darkness.

Mr. No No and Julie faced each other, enveloped in noxious fumes and far from home. Thus began the long and stinky trek back to the land of late night baths and seemingly futile odor management. But, the fates were feeling magnanimous that day and as luck would have it, this was the Bingster’s third intimate encounter with a skunk, so Julie was prepared! Once home, she bathed Bingley with the following mixture that really did remove the stench enough that Bingley slept in blissful contentment on the foot of the bed that night dreaming of high adventure and stunning aerial take downs.

Here is the magic formula that Julie’s Fairy godmother bestowed upon her:

Nota bena: AVOID EYE CONTACT!! This stuff can cause blindness, so be careful using it around the dog’s head. I folded a hand towel into quarters lengthwise and held it over Bing’s eyes (holding it by the ends under his chin) while I bathed his head. It is much easier with a helper, but doable on one’s own. (For some reason, I have a hard time recruiting people to help with this task…) Because of the risk of blindness, I use this only on the back of his head, holding his chin up while rinsing. On his snout I use a paste of baking soda and a small amount of liquid soap and rinse well. It is not as effective as the hydrogen peroxide mixture, but it eliminates most of the smell. 

  • 1 quart Hydrogen peroxide
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon liquid soap

After applying this liberally to the miscreant and rubbing it in thoroughly, I rinse and rinse and rinse, then repeat the treatment, each time thoroughly rinsing his until the water runs clear, his hair is squeaky clean, and the odor is gone.

Here’s hoping that you have a fresh smelling spring, but in off chance that some malodorous event is in your future, you too can be prepared!IMG_2386

Dog products, training aids, recipes, instructions, etc. Informational or Doggie Demographics

This for that

IMG_2571Imagine this scenario: You have a steaming cup of tea, a good book, and a couch with your name on it. Just as you settle in, your pup trots into the room proudly carrying one of your favorite Italian loafers. What do you do? The way I see it, you have 3 basic options:
Option 1: Panic! Leap up from the couch shouting,”NO, NO, NO  YOU SILLY DOG!!! DROP IT! DROP IT! DROP IT!” while you run after him and try to tug it from his deadly grip.
Option 2: Anger! Reach down, grab the shoe while yelling at the dog and swat him to make him drop it.
Option 3: Stay calm. Look at the dog, ask him quietly, “What’ja got boogerhead?” and offer him a tasty treat in exchange for your penny loafer.
          With option 1 and 2, you may well get the loafer back, but what are you teaching the dog? In the first option, you are likely teaching him that bringing you an object results in a very exciting game of chase in which you become quite animated and end the affair with a terrific game of tug. Probably not a scenario likely to teach him to drop it on command.
          Option 2 may well result in a dog who is afraid of you and who will not bring objects to you. Most likely, he will run off and hide with them, or perhaps learn to guard them (resulting in growling and possessiveness of objects he finds valuable). What happens if your dog picks up something truly dangerous to it and instead of bringing it to you, slinks off to chew on it, perhaps poisoning himself, or swallowing something that chokes him?
          Option 3, as you probably guessed, is my preferred method of object retrieval. Trading with your dog is important as it will teach your dog to bring you things, rather than run off and hide with them, it will help to prevent your dog from guarding objects it desires or values and, as I hinted at earlier, it can also save your dog’s life. My trainer in Virginia practiced trades with her Lab from day one. When he was about 2 she heard him heading down the hall to her office doing his “I have something for Robin!” prance. She reached for the treat jar on her desk, turned to Denver and asked, “What ya got bubblehead?” He dropped a paring knife at her feet that one of her children had knocked off the counter. Instead of running off with it he brought it to her because he knew she would trade it for something wonderful.
          If you are going to teach your dog to trade with you, here are a few key things to remember:
1) Always trade up! If your dog has a dead bird, he probably won’t give it up for a dry milkbone, but is likely to relinquish it for some hotdog, hamburger or roast chicken.
2) Show your dog what you are offering, but do not let him have it until he gives up the object you want him to drop. As soon as he relinquishes the object, give him the tasty treat you have promised to him. This should be nearly simultaneous.
3) Do not force your dog to give up something, instead, practice trading with him on all sorts of things so it becomes a fun game for him. That way, when you really need to get him to drop something, it will be a lot easier to get him to let go.
This is my cellophane stealing buddy.

This is my cellophane stealing buddy.

At a recent dog training conference I was working with a young dog, who went behind my chair, into my purse and pulled out some cellophane that had been on a cookie. I saw what he had stolen and fortunately had some treats I could offer him for the wrapper. He would not give up the wrapper for a piece of hot dog, but he loved cheese and happily traded the cellophane for cheese. I had never worked with this dog before, but I knew that if I could offer something he really liked, I would be able to get the wrapper without fighting with him. It worked! How much better will that work for you if you have practiced this regularly with your dog and if you use what you know he truly loves. For example, Bingley is so ball motivated that he once dropped a half a frozen groundhog to chase his beloved tennis ball. Within a second of dropping the frigid rodent, I threw his ball long and hard, picked up the ground hog, and tossed it to my husband who chucked it into the woods while Bingley zoomed after the golden orb. He, Bingley that is, never gave the groundhog a second thought! Whether or not my husband has nightmares about frozen rodents being chucked at him, that I do not know…

General Training or "Why, Why, WHY?"



Playing with your dog enriches your relationship with her. It’s as simple and as beautiful as that.

– Karen B. London, PhD and Patricia B. McConnell, PhD, Play Together, Stay Together: Happy and Healthy Play Between People and Dogs

26_dog_there it is

Learn how to get Fido to bring the ball back!


Well-written and funny, this delightful booklet is filled with easy to follow directions for engaging in a variety of games and activities with your best canine buddy.  They plunge right into activities such as “The Chase Game”, “The Crazy Owner Game”,  “Hide and Seek”, and “Play Ball!” They also provide a fine collection of tricks to teach your dog, and an overview of organized classes that promote owner and dog sports such as agility, tracking, herding or mushing. They cover toys (Toys: The Good, the Bad, and the Squeaky) that are interactive between owners and dogs, as well as puzzle toys for independent play. Plus, there is a chapter on incorporating obedience training into your play sessions. They are thorough enough to cover “How Not to Play with Your Dog”, and have a nice index of resources. All this in just 90 pages!

37_dog_dreamingofrunningOne of my favorite entries is the Chase Game. Dogs love to play chase, just watch two dogs tearing around a dog park, running, jumping, pausing, changing directions, changing leaders, pausing again and starting over. As Drs. London and McConnell put it, “it’s hard to find a happier expression than that of a dog engrossed in a chase game. But, why leave all the fun to the dogs?”

The instructions for The Chase game are easy and you do not have to be a runner to enjoy it!

All you need to do is clap or “smooch”to get your dog’s attention, then take off running away from him as soon as he looks at you. We like to clap as we run; giggles are optional, but they make it more fun. Of course, the best place to play chase with your dog is outside in an area where you know your dog is safe off-leash. That gives you room to run ten yards one way and then sprint off in another direction before your dog catches up.”

24_dog_zombie run away

Grace plays Zombie chase!

It is possible to have a modified game of chase in the house. Bingley and I do that on occasion, but be careful of rugs, furniture, stray shoes, or other dog toys that can literally trip you up! Also, no matter where you choose to play Chase, there are some rules that help to keep it safe, fun, and effective:

1) One way play. The most important aspect of Chase is that you always run away from the dog so that he is chasing you! This is important because if you start chasing him, he will learn to run away from you when you move toward him thinking you are going to play. This makes it very hard to get him to come to you later, especially if he perceives you are leaning, even slightly towards him.

2) Know when to stop. Balanced play in dogs includes a lull in the action. Build lulls into your Chase play so your dog does not get overly excited. Moreover, in the prey sequence, the chase is followed by a grab bite, which is not exactly what most owners are looking for in their family dog. So, “when he is four or five feet away, turn toward him and reinforce him with a treat, toy, or the beginning of another chase game,” or throw in a couple of obedience commands (Sit! Down! Spin! Target! etc.) to get him to re-focus, calm down a bit and learn not to bite at the end of a chase sequence.

3) Also, you don’t have to run far before changing directions. You can go 5 yards in one direction, then 8 in another, then 6 in yet another, followed by 10 yards back towards where you started. This will make the game more fun for non-runners and may help to keep him focused on following his crazy owner rather than going in for the take down.

Play Together, Stay Together: Happy and Healthy Play Between People and Dogs is available through ( or on Fun, easy and quick to read, Play Together offers all the incentives and instructions to do just that!


Tennis anyone?



Beds are for dogs, and not for silly rabbits…

“I know this is terrible and I am embarrassed to tell you this…”

“I know I shouldn’t do this, and you will be upset with me…”

“I just know this is wrong. You will not approve. but….”

What horrible thing are these clients confessing to me in great angst, sure that I will declare them incorrigible dog owners with no possibility of redemption? The answer: They let their dogs sleep on the bed!



Guess what?

So do I, and have for 30+ years.IMG_2618

So you can imagine how delighted I was when Reisner Veterinary Services, in a facebook post on January 21, 2014 openly declared. “It’s fine to allow a dog to share your bed.”

Of course, there are circumstances where it is not advisable for your dog to be on the bed. For example, dogs who resource guard or are aggressive. Or, if you have more than one dog on the bed and there have been skirmishes between them over space on the bed.  If the dog (or dogs) has snapped or growled when someone approaches the bed or jostles it, then I would not be inviting the perturbed canine onto “the big dog bed” (as it seems to be known in our house!)

But, there are advantages to having the dog on the bed. It’s warm and cozy to have a fur-covered space heater warming the bed for you. My dog Bingley sleeps on the end of the bed in a tidy ball and provides wonderful warmth for my toes on wintry nights. In the morning he nuzzles me, then lies right next to me with his head tucked into my waist at just the right level to stroke his silky ears. His brother Buckley also snuggles in the morning, and there are times I find myself sandwiched between two fur coats! I enjoy this comfort level with my dogs, and refuse to forsake this quality time together, mud, dirt, and dog hair notwithstanding. I remind myself regularly that dogs pass through our lives much too quickly, and I want to enjoy as much time together as possible.

I do recognize, as Reisner so aptly puts it, that: “It’s obviously a personal choice whether or not to invite the hairiest family member onto the bed.” Those who are afraid that it might cause your dog to disrespect you and think it is the “Alpha”dog, have no fear:

[T]he habit itself does not lead to problems, and it certainly has nothing to do with social dominance. I do advise clients to keep their bed and other furniture dog-free when there is any history of resource-guarding (“my bed, not yours”) or conflict-related aggression (“nudge me again and I’ll bite you”). For most dogs, however, “spoiling” them by snuggling does not have anything to do with behavior problems. (Reisner Veterinary Services)

So, welcome aboard! And please note, if you want to have your dog sleep on your bed, not only will I not judge you, I will likely cheer you on!IMG_0903


General Informational or Doggie Demographics

What’s good for the goose…

5:54 AM: Nudge. Nudge. Nudge. Wuffle. Nudge. Wuffle. Nudge. (Buckley)62_dog_how dogs envision-31

5:56 AM: Pad, pad, pad, pad. Nudge. THUMP! Paw, wiggle, wuffle. (Bingley)

5:58 AM: Wuffle, wuffle, wuffle, wuffle, nudge, wuffle, poke. (Hudson)

6:00 AM: “I’m up. I’m up. I’m up. Good morning boys!” (Me)

Thus starts another day in the Smith household as I am poked, prodded, whispered to, and assaulted with gifts of tennis balls, by the beasts who set the rhythm of my life. Summer is a relatively easy time to slide out of bed at 6 am, but come the long days surrounding the winter solstice, I am reluctant, at the very least, to relinquish my snug recumbency. And yet, even on my most reluctant mornings, I find that getting up and taking care of the dogs is as good for me as it is for them. There is a quiet rhythm to our routine that satisfies and cares for all of us.

Their needs are a daily reminder of what I also need to be happy and healthy. Good nutrition, plenty of fresh water, daily exercise, companionship, naps, chew toys, rolling in dead weasel….well perhaps we differ a bit on entertainment choices, but if you look past the differences (after all there is no accounting for taste…) the reality is that owning and caring for a pet dog keeps you healthier and happier in a variety of ways.

According to an article on  ( sm

The Journal of Physical Activity & Health found that dog owners are more likely to reach their fitness goals than those without canine companions. Researchers at Michigan State University found that dog owners are 34  percent more likely to fit in 150 minutes of walking per week than non-dog owners. The study also found that owning a dog promotes health and fitness even after you take your pup for a stroll, increasing leisure-time physical activity by 69 percent.

Dog ownership can also help prevent chronic diseases such as diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and allergies. “Dog owners 65C_dog_lollipop-01who walk their dogs regularly have one-third the risk of diabetes than those who don’t own a dog, according to exercise scientist, Cindy Lentino…Researchers at the University of Cinncinati College of Medicine found that children from families with a history of allergies are less likely to develop eczema and asthma (atopy) if they grow up with a pet dog starting at birth.”

Management of chronic diseases and recovery from surgery or a medical condition (such as a heart attack) is also enhanced by the presence of canines. “Loyola university researchers found that people who regularly petted dogs needed 50 percent less pain medication when recovering from surgery.” And, a “study from the National Institutes of Health found dog owners had a better one-year survival rate following a heart attack than non-dog owners…Other studies “show that the mere act of petting a dog decreases blood pressure.”

Dogs are good for our mental health as well. They keep us engaged with the world by getting us out the door for walks and they are a great conversation starter! I cannot walk my three pups downtown without someone coming up to meet them. It’s a great way to get me out of my own head and connected with the world around me.

Being close with a dog helps improve human relationships. Studies find that owning and walking a dog increases social interaction. Dogs help ease people out of social isolation or shyness, says Nadine Kaslow, IMG_0586IMG_0586PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University in Atlanta…Children who IMG_0585experience caring for a dog have higher levels of empathy and self-esteem than children without pet dogs, shows child psychologist Robert Bierer.

So, next time your dog nudges you to get up and play, take a walk, or just to say “I love you” remember that the interactions you have with your dog today can keep you healthier, help you live longer, and make your life a whole lot happier.

21_dog_kenny pool cheers



General Informational or Doggie Demographics Toy Box or stuff that doesn't fit neatly elsewhere

And baby makes four….

HenryandGoldenKids and dogs. They go together like milk and cookies, peanut butter and jelly, water and oil…

Hold it! Water and oil? Yes, water and oil.

Why on earth would I say this?

There are a lot of reasons, but the most common one is because many dogs of young couples may be well socialized to adults, but were not introduced to many children when they were puppies. Thus, the squealing, flailing, small mysterious object who arrives suddenly one day, may smell like a mammal, but the noise it generates sounds like a squeaky toy and it’s movement is like a wounded prey. Older children are oddities to many dogs as well. They run around, yelling, squealing with delight, flinging arms, toys, and generally having a grand time that excites the dog to join in, (or in the case of herding breeds, to bring into line), it may scare the dog as the excited play escalates, or their inappropriate attention (sitting on him, pulling his tail, poking his ears) may drive even the most tolerant of canines to total distraction. Thus, from the dog’s point of view, this new arrival may not be a bundle of joy, but instead a tempting bundle of intrigue or a frightening source of discomfort, which is off limits, and which occupies the near constant attention of his people.

So, what’s a new set of parents to do? There are several things that you can do to make this transition easier for all involved. The key is to start before Junior comes home from the hospital!

1) Be sure Fido knows his manners. Key behaviors to have in place are: sit, sit, sit, and sit. That is to say, sit should be your dog’s default behavior so that if he does not know what to do, he offers you a sit. He should also know to sit when asked (the first time, not the 5th), as well as to hold the sit until given the next directive. Remember, sit is your friend and can be the quickest way to keep your dog and your child safe.

2) Just as important as sit, is a good reliable recall. Imagine your toddler careening towards Fifi as she is curled up on her bed in the corner. If Junior gets there, Fifi has no escape route. So, before a close encounter of the canine kind happens, call Fifi to you and have her sit. Then direct Junior towards one of his toys or at the least, in the opposite direction of Fifi’s domain.

3) Give Fido a safe haven where he can retreat to rest and be away from the baby. This can be a crate, an exercise pen, a baby gated area, or his own room (such as the guest bedroom, the laundry room, a corner of your home office). As your child gets older, make sure he understands that the dog’s bed/blanket/crate is the dog’s and not a play place for him. Everyone needs a place to decompress, be sure your dog has one.

4) Teach Fido that bad things can mean good things for him. For instance, handle your dog all over (think ears, paws, tail) while providing tasty treats. i.e: lift his ear with one hand while giving liver treats with the other. Teach him that people approaching him while eating means tasty things happen. As he eats, approach him and call his name, when he looks up, drop some cheese or other yummy item in his food bowl. (If your dog stiffens or is otherwise leary about having people approach him while eating, get a positive reinforcement trainer to help you.) This way, if your child grabs his tail, for instance, he will be far more tolerant than if you have never paired touching his tail with treats.

When the time does come for Junior to make his entrance, here are a few things that might make the transition easier for Fifi:

1) Before the baby comes home, bring home a blanket or something else with the baby’s scent on it. Allow Fido to smell it and get used to the scent. When you do bring the baby home, keep her at a safe distance but have Fido sit near you and give him treats for being calm and quiet around the baby. If needed, have one person give the treats while another holds the baby. The key is that the baby and the treats happen at the same time. If the baby leaves the room, the treats cease as well.


2) As counter intuitive as this may seem, ignore Fido when the baby is not around and pay attention to Fido in some positive way when the baby is around. Your goal should be to have your dog not just tolerate, but actually enjoy the presence of your child. This is best accomplished by pairing the presence of the child with the presence of things the dog enjoys. Perhaps Fido gets a stuffed Kong while the baby eats, or you can scratch his ears while the baby is sleeping in a bassinet nearby, or you can toss his kibble piece by piece around the room while you sit on the couch with Junior. In this way, your dog begins to understand that the mystery object is a good thing, as good things happen to him in its presence.

3) Get yourself a copy of “Living with Kids and Dogs…Without Losing Your Mind!” by Colleen Pelar Colleen’s book is the best on the market for helping parents deal with the chaos of a life filled with kids and dogs. Colleen has lived the life as a mother of 3 boys and 2 dogs and she has practical, easy to follow advice for kids and dogs of all ages, from infancy to the teen years, puppyhood to old dog. If you buy only one book on kids and dogs, please make it this one! It is also available on Amazon,,  and I generally have a few copies available for purchase as well.

Also, be sure to check out all the useful information on Colleen’s website:

If you are nervous about adding either a dog to a family of kids, or a child to a family of dogs, do not hesitate to call or email me with your concerns or questions. I am happy to help you make the easiest transition to this new state of being and I want you to enjoy your life of canine/kid chaos to the fullest.


Blogs with book recommendations General Informational or Doggie Demographics Training or "Why, Why, WHY?"