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 Demographics0 comments

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 elsewhere1 comment

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?"0 comments

Spontaneous Recovery, or “What the heck? I thought we were over this!”

Sometimes when owners decide to fix bad behaviors, the behaviors seems to take a while to disappear, or the bad behaviors still keep cropping up. In fact, sometimes owners get frustrated because at first the behavior may even get worse. – Dr. Sophia Yin, How to Behave So Your Dog Behaves

43_dog_it was an alienWhen a bad behavior gets worse rather than better while an owner is trying to correct it, the owner may feel that positive reinforcement training is not working, and it’s now time to “get serious” about training. But, generally, I have found that what is really needed is a better understanding of behavior. We all try harder to get what we want when what use to work isn’t working any more. For example, when you put your $2.00 into a pop machine and press the button for the cold drink of your choice, you expect the machine to burp and grind and shove an overpriced sugary drink at you within seconds of inhaling your hard earned cash. If, after pushing the button, the machine does not perform correctly, you do not shrug your shoulders and say “Oh well, I didn’t need it anyway,” and walk away. No, if you are like 100% of the population, you will push the button again. When that doesn’t work, you push it again, harder, and maybe call the machine names it doesn’t understand. You might even hit the button, shove the machine, stick your hand up it’s throat, etc.* In other words, you try the same behavior repeatedly, or more intensely, because in the past it has worked and it ought to work this time!

Similarly, if you are trying to correct a bad behavior in your dog, such as barking at you at 4:49 am because it just might be breakfast time, you need to understand that when you ignore this behavior in your dog, he will try harder (ie: bark more or louder) to get what he wants because the behavior worked in the past. “How hard he tries depends on how much he’s had to bark to get his way in the past.” (Dr. Yin). Understandably, many people give into the dog at the peak of his bad behavior, just to get him to stop. Unfortunately, having rewarded the bad behavior at its worst, they have now succeeded  in making the behavior stronger and more obnoxious. What is actually needed here is to stay the course. Do not reward him for the undesired behavior by reacting to it. Instead, wait for the desired behavior and reward Kitchen Buckleythat. Thus, in the case of the early rising Bernese Mountain Dog, what I did was ignore his huffing and puffing until he was quiet for about 10 seconds, then I invited him onto the bed. He snuggled in and slept until I got up at 6:00.

Another misunderstanding that owners sometimes have is the idea that when a dog learns an incompatible behavior (such as sitting to be petted rather than jumping on guests) the bad behavior (jumping) is somehow eradicated from memory. The reality is: behaviors are not un-learned. Moreover, given a strong enough motivation, or if the new behavior is not reinforced adequately, the undesired behavior will rear its ugly head. As Dr. Yin puts it,

information is never erased from an animal’s brain. Instead it lurks there, and when inexperienced trainers least expect it, the behavior bursts out…If the desirable behaviors are reinforced frequently in a short period of time and the undesirable behaviors are not reinforced at all, then the new behavior may become a habit. But if training is inconsistent and the dog’s motivation for the undesirable behavior is extremely high, then the training may need to be lifelong. (emphasis mine)

So, what’s an owner to do? First of all, remember that most of Fifi’s bad habits are annoyances, not truly dangerous or destructive behaviors, so keeping  your sense of humor and perspective will aid you in staying the course and getting through the extinction burst and the spontaneous recovery of a bad behavior. (Nota bena: If your dog’s behaviors are dangerous or destructive, talk to a positive reinforcement trainer for help on how to handle these problems. To find a trainer in your area, go to

2) Work to consistently prevent reinforcement of the undesired behavior in order to extinguish it, and

3) Reward the desired behavior in a way that is meaningful to your dog. For example, our early rising Berner is motivated by snuggling with us and by food. So, when he barks to get up on the bed, I do not let him on the bed, but when he is quiet, then he is invited. Thus, the next time he wants up at 4:49, I expect the huffing and puffing to be shorter in duration, and the quiet to come sooner and longer. Now, he will have to be quiet for 15 seconds before being allowed on the bed. My goal is to get his signal down to one little “woof”. With that he can join us. Mr. Bingley my flat-coated retriever, on the other hand, is motivated by balls and I have used this motivation to successfully get him to sit, stay, lie down, or sit at side, instead of jumping or barking to get me to play with him. When he is very excited however, he may resort to jumping or barking. Nothing fun happens when he does that. Instead, I wait until he offers me a behavior such as sit. Then, when he does what Mom wants, he gets what he wants: to chase his beloved tennis ball.


*Interestingly, vending machines kill about 2-3 people per year. According to the website,, “how do people die from a vending machine? Vending machines are not known carcinogens. I imagine that the machine takes someone’s money and malfunctions. The customer then shakes it to free the snack, whereupon the machine tips over and crushes the hot-tempered purchaser.” (emphasis mine)

Behavior or "What the heck?" Blogs with book recommendations General Informational or Doggie Demographics4 comments

A Preview of Coming Attractions!

I am surprisingly happy about galloping towards the new year. Usually, I do not easily relinquish the old and boldly go forth into the great unknown of the next year, but we have some things planned for A Positive Connection next year that make me quite excited! For those of you who missed our Client Appreciation Open House earlier in the month, here is a recap of what we introduced:

First of all, we want to be your 360 degree trainers…

…giving you tools, information, and outlets to be the best owner possible! To accomplish this, in 2014 you can expect the following:

A yearly theme…62_dog_how dogs envision-31

…which guides every aspect of A Positive Connection’s interactions with you, and helps you become the best owner possible so that you can have the best dog possible. The theme for 2014 is: Savvy Owners: Happy Dogs

Newly added Seasonal Seminars…

3ballsbingley.jpg.w300h225An opportunity to delve into specific behavioral, training, and obedience issues. In 2014, you can expect 2-3 Seasonal Seminars, covering anything from Kids and Dogs, to Summer Concerns, and Dog Body Language. A perfect chance to complement and enhance your knowledge, not only of your dog, but of dogs in general!

And our brand new Focused Classes…


Our new Focused Classes are 6 – 8 week courses dedicated to working on singular behaviors. Focused Class offerings will include Loose Leash Walking classes and Recall Classes. We start in February with 6 weeks on creating a dog who comes back like a boomerang! Stay tuned for details!

We will also be offering Puppy Classes..PP1.71

…designed to get our youngest canines off to the right start, these 6 week classes will be offered to puppies up to 12 weeks of age and will help prepare your dog to earn his AKC S.T.A.R. puppy designation!

Click here for more info on the S.T.A.R. puppy program:


Blogposts will continue…

…your weekly connection to the greater dog world, giving you information not covered in class, but which supplements your relationship and training with your dog, and with dogs in general.

And keep an eye out for new designs and products from AnimalCentric Designs…49_dog_lawyer_reading in chair-01

…not only do I offer a variety of color, and black and white cards, but I have a yearly calendar, and I will design a custom card just for you! I have done cards for an attorney, mortgage broker, pig farmer, and carpet cleaner! Call (740-587-0429) or email ( to set up an initial appointment and let’s bring your business or personal message to life.

We look forward to helping you and your dog become the best team possible and wish you a very happy and healthy New Year!

Julie and Emma

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Santa Paws is coming to town!

76C_dog_cat_xmas-01Earlier this year (Sept. 23rd to be precise: I published “Fido’s Guide to a Stress-free Holiday, early edition!” hoping to motivate people to start preparing sooner rather than later for the Holiday season. Now I have no way of knowing if anyone, or everyone took this advice, but I have to assume that some took it, and some did not. So, I decided that perhaps reiterating some of the advice (and adding in some new items, yay!) might be handy for those of you who perhaps had good intentions, but somewhat less than perfect execution.

1) When it is dinner time for people, prevent canine catastrophes at the table by feeding your dogs stuffed Kongs. Kongs come in a variety of sizes and are readily available at most pet stores. Recipes for stuffing a Kong can be found at: And, be sure to check out my September 2nd blog, “Whoever said breakfast had to come in a bowl?” ( for more recommendations on intelligence toys you can use instead of Kongs.

MerryXmasFireplace_ACD_Page_12) Give Fido a happy place. I insist that each of my dogs have a place in the house that is his “Do Not Disturb” zone. Give your buddy a comfy place to curl up, a special treat to chew on, and perhaps some lavender oil on its blanket, in a quiet place in the house. If you need Fido to leave Nirvana, call him to you, and offer a tasty treat for his co-operation. Don’t drag Fido out of his comfort zone as it might lose its specialness and he will no longer have that safe place to re-group. If Fido seems too excited or restless during the festivities, consider giving him that tasty Kong in his special spot or crate as a way to decompress and get himself re-oriented and ready to join the fun.

3) Careful of small toys! Your dog may decide that the replica of the Starship Enterprise, or Diagon Alley in Legos are chew toys. If your dog does swallow plastic do not immediately induce vomiting as sharp edges on chewed plastic can cause serious problems on the way back up. They can also cause gastrointestinal blockages, which can become quite serious quite quickly. (We lost a beloved dog to a blockage due to eating chicken bones he heisted from the trash. In 24 hours he was gone.) Please call the Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435, and be prepared for an emergency vet visit.

4) Rich foods can cause tummy problems! I have posted a lot about toxic materials during the holidays (See Sept 23 and Dec. 75C_dog_thanksgiving-01, but many things that aren’t toxic, should be monitored so Fido does not get an upset tummy or diarrhea. Christmas Cookies, eggnog, candy canes, holiday breads, candy, turkey skins, or anything that he does not normally eat and is high in fat and/or calories can cause tummy upsets. I had a Shih Tzu once who LOVED chocolate. My sister-in-law failed to tell me one of the presents she sent was a two pound bag of M&M’s. Bilbo found it under the tree, ate the entire thing, and promptly threw up all of it on my white rug on Christmas Eve. Luckily he did not poison himself, and my neighbor loaned me her steam-vac, so it all ended well enough, but I certainly don’t wish that on any of you!

What I do wish is that you and your pets have a wonderful, safe Christmas and a very Happy New Year. I also hope that you all know how very grateful we at A Positive Connection for all of you and your delightful dogs. We look forward to serving you in 2014.Happy Hollydogs for website

Behavior or "What the heck?" Care and management or living together in harmony Stress: signals, management, & warning signs4 comments

Raisins are not a dog’s best friend…

Unlike our fairly picky grandchildren, Buckley, our Bernese Mountain Dog has a robust interest in all things edible. This includes manyKitchen Buckley things that are on the Doggie No-No list. On one occasion, I left the house for an hour to meet a client and upon my return, found a large box of raisins on the dining room floor, in the spot where Buckley retreats to eat stolen goods. The box, of course, had been nearly full and was now empty. The three dogs stared at me as I asked them in turn who had eaten 2+ cups of raisins. No confessions were forthcoming, and even when questioned in separate interrogations, no one rolled.

I had little choice but to call the National Pet Poison Control Hotline, 800-213-6680, (it was after regular vet office hours, of course) and ask for some advice. I knew the time frame, the weight of each dog, what the toxin was, the amount, and that it was ingested, which was important information for determining a course of action. I was instructed to induce vomiting in all the dogs as we didn’t know who the culprit was (Well, all evidence pointed to Buckley, but I wasn’t sure if he’d shared his bounty or kept it all to his lonesome).

So, out came the hydrogen peroxide and I started to induce vomiting in my dogs. While simple in theory, this is not easy in execution. I did get them to throw up some, but not nearly the quantity I knew had gone down. So, off to MedVet it was. The reason for this is because raisins are a tricky toxin. It isn’t known exactly what about raisins makes them toxic to some dogs, nor do we know the amount that will cause problems. (Though there is a ratio between mass of raisins and mass of dog above which your dog is more likely to have problems. Even with Buckley’s heft, 2 cups of raisins far exceeds this ratio). There is also no correlation between size, or type of dog and whether 1 raisin or 50 will make them ill. The danger in leaving it to nature’s course is that raisin poisoning affects the kidneys, and while the damage may not show up immediately, once done there is no remedy. Another reason I headed to MedVet was because inducing vomiting with Hydrogen peroxide only brings up about 70% of the stomach contents. Since we were way over the ratio (mentioned above), I knew we had to evacuate the entire stomach contents, probably give them some activated charcoal, and possibly hydrate them 71C_dog_park not vet-01through the skin to protect the kidneys.

Once at MedVet (where I wrangled three large dogs by myself as it is a universal maxim in our house that when accidents/crisis/mayhem hits, my husband is not at home), they acted quickly and induced vomiting in all the dogs and lo and behold, Buckley threw up ~2 cups of raisins and the other dogs nothing. They gave him activated charcoal and hydrated him through the skin so that he looked like a Camel-backed Berner. This is the point that Brad was able to join me and pay the $650 vet bill. At this point you would think that raisins would NEVER be allowed back in our house, but just 2 months later, a nearly full box was left on the kitchen table, just at Berner nose level. Once again I was out of the house for only a hour or so, but it was time enough for a certain large dog to eat the whole box. Needless to say, we were back at Medvet, but this time I only took Buckley. Since then, raisins have been a scarce commodity here at the Smith household, and when present are guarded more carefully than San Quentin prison.

Because I want you to have a stress-free/vet-free holiday, here is a short list of things that you may have around the house or encounter during the Christmas Season that you will want to keep away from your favorite canine. Included as well as are dosing instructions for Hydrogen peroxide and the number for the Pet Poison Control Hotline (there is a charge for their services, ~$65.) Be sure to keep this number and the number of your vet someplace you can find it easily. My list is on the front of my refrigerator and in my phone.

Common Holiday Items that are Toxic for your Pet:

  • cinnamon                       imported snow-globes (contain anti-freeze)
  • nutmeg                            garlic
  • fruitcakes                        tinsel
  • poinsettia                       star of Bethlehem
  • lilies                                 macadamia nuts
  • holly                                 liquid potpourri
  • mistletoe                         alcohol
  • grapes                              chocolate
  • raisins
  • currants

To induce vomiting:  3% hydrogen peroxide, 1 tsp per 10 lbs of dog, up to 3 Tbls.

If you suspect poisoning, call your vet or the Pet Poison Control Helpline immediately! 800-213-6680

We at A Positive Connection wish you a very Happy and Safe Christmas!

Brad + Buckley 4069

Care and management or living together in harmony Dog products, training aids, recipes, instructions, etc. Informational or Doggie Demographics0 comments