Fido’s Guide to a Stress-free Holiday, early edition!

Do you want this year’s Holidays to be more fun than stressful for you and your favorite canine?

If you answered, “YES!!”, then think about preparing for the holidays now, before the chaos hits.  Use the following suggestions so that you and Fido will be primed and ready to have more fun than stress this holiday season!
  1. Sit! A dog that is sitting is not jumping on Grandma, chasing the grandkids, or running joyfully through the house announcing the visitors. Practice sit everywhere and at all times of the day or night. (50+ sits a day is not over doing it, really.) The more times and places your dog sits, the more it becomes his default behavior and one that he is likely to do when in doubt about the busyness around him.
  2. MerryXmasFireplace_ACD_Page_1Give 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. Call me if you need help or other suggestions on setting up Fido’s happy place. 740-587-042936_kongs and candles
  3. When it is dinner time for people, prevent canine catastrophes at the table by feeding your dogs stuffed Kongs in their happy places. Kongs come in a variety of sizes and are readily available at most pet stores. Recipes for stuffing a Kong can be found at: Or, give me a call! I have a recipe book as well as lots of tasty Kong ideas! 740-587-0429. (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.)
  4. Certain foods can cause serious problems in dogs, and if injested can require immediate veterinary care. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center number is: 888-426-4435 (Note: there is a charge for their services). Some of the foods you need to keep away from your dog:
  • Xylitol: an artificial sweetener, 5 sticks of sugar free gum can sicken a 44 lb dog
  • Grapes and raisins: can cause kidney failure, even in small amounts
  • Macadamia nuts: can cause paralysis
  • Chocolate, coffee, and caffeine (dark chocolate more toxic than milk chocolate)
  • Cooked bones: can perforate the esophagus, stomach, or intestines, or cause  impactions.
  • Safe only in small amounts: nutmeg, sage, onions and garlic.
Preparing now, while you have a few weeks before Halloween will give you and Fido the chance to get his sit perfected as well as establish a safe haven and a routine that will give you the best chance for the very Happiest Holiday Season yet!Happy Hollydogs_ACD_Page_1



Behavior or "What the heck?" Stress: signals, management, & warning signs0 comments

House training: How do I get Sparky to tell me he needs to go out?

19_dog_ringling rainy dayA surprising number of my clients have asked me recently, “How do I get Sparky to tell me he needs to go outside to potty?” This was puzzling to me me at first as I have never had a problem with my dogs telling me they need to go out. I began to wonder why that was, and I came up with these suggestions:
1) Begin with reviewing basic house training techniques, as these are not unrelated matters! Here is an article on house training by Dr. Sophia Yin: (, which is quite good. Remember to set your dog up for success by not giving him the entire run of the house if he is not yet reliable, and err on the side of taking him out more often than less often. And, put him on a leash and lead him to the place you want him to eliminate. Don’t take the leash off, if he doesn’t go to the bathroom! If being free to wander is important to him, make him understand that freedom comes with responsible urination! You can effectively reward success by taking him off the leash and letting him explore the yard.
2) Remember that house training requires diligence, a lot of diligence and consistency. If you are diligent about keeping an eye on Sparky for signals that he needs to go out and respond consistently with taking him out when he shows signs that he needs to go, he will associate going outside with eliminating. I have found that it helps to go out the same door every time you take him out to eliminate as that helps the dog to associate the door with going out to potty.
3) Also, I find it helps to reward him by taking him outside when he wanders over to the door and looks out. You don’t need to take Sparky out every time he goes to the door, but if you do it on a fairly regular basis then once again the door is associated with going outside. During the house training period, EVERY time my dog wanders to the door, he gets a leash put on and is escorted out to the potty place and rewarded heavily if he goes. Consistently and constantly rewarding going to the door with going outside (especially if he has shown signs he needs to eliminate) will get him to go to the door when he wants/needs to go outside.
4) My dogs have also learned that a bark at the door means a person comes and opens the door. If they are barking a lot at someone or some dog passing by, the door is not opened, but one or two barks will get a person to the door. I can tell their “I need to go out” bark from their “SOMEONE IS MOVING OUTSIDE SOMEWHERE!” bark. The first is rewarded, the second is not. If Sparky should go to the door and give a “woof” take him out (on a leash)! This is where the life reward of getting what he wants (to go out) can be effectively used to reward what you want (signaling the need to go out).
5) Patience grasshopper! This is a trying and exasperating time for most owners, but patience, consistency, and rewarding desired behavior will get the desired results. Do not punish Sparky for his accidents, that will not speed up the process and will not teach him to go outside. If you really have reached the end of your rope with house training, call a positive reinforcement based trainer for some assistance.
61_dog_peeing on mailbox

House Training Training or "Why, Why, WHY?"0 comments

Whoever said breakfast had to come in a bowl?

27_dog_nash eatingIf you have a dog that has a hard time settling when you are away, or is bothersome while you try to have a family dinner, try offering him something highly rewarding, such as an intelligence or food distribution toy. These irresistible puzzlers will keep him busy and content while you have your dinner or get ready for work. Mentally stimulating as well rewarding, food distribution toys are a great way to challenge and tire out your dog, especially if you don’t have time for a long walk or game of fetch before leaving for work. Whoever said breakfast had to come in a bowl? Fill your intelligence toy with dry dog food the evening before and give it to him for breakfast. Your dog will love scrounging for his grub!

Here is a list of intelligence toys that I like, but there are many others out there:

Premier (now PetSafe) Toys:

1)     Twist and treat:

This link is to the Premier website and shows and describes the toy. I really like this one for dogs who don’t like noise, or are a bit unsure of new things. It is made of hard rubber and rolls around on the floor distributing treats, without making a lot of noise. You can make it easy or hard, it comes in a variety of sizes to match your dog, and it is pretty durable. All my dogs love it.

2)     Kibble Nibble:

This is another treat distribution toy. It is made of bullet proof plastic, but is banded in rubber so the noise level is low. You fill it with your dog’s kibble and let them roll it around to release the food. It has rubber prongs on the ends with holes that you can trim back to make it easier for your dog if your kibble is large chunks. It distributes pretty fast, so the dogs are quickly rewarded. I will sometimes put treats in the kibble nibble so that the food comes out more randomly and it remains more interesting as one can smell the biscuit, but can’t get it!! Once again, my dogs LOVE this. Dogs who are noise sensitive do well with this one, especially if they have had experience with the Twist and Treat.

3)      Tug-a-Jug:

This too is made of bullet-proof plastic, but has no cushioning plastic, so it is loud, but really fun! It is also designed, in my opinion, for the dog who is well acquainted with food distribution toys as it requires a fair amount of maneuvering to get the kibble out. While all of my dogs will play with it, Bingley is the only one who gets really on fire for it. If your dog likes puzzling things out, this would be good for him.

Other intelligence toys:

1)     Buster cube: (enter Buster cube in the search box)

This is the original treat distribution toy and remains one of my favorites. It comes in two sizes, small and large so little dogs can join the fun too! (Our Shih Tzu loved his buster cube!). The cube has a central cylinder that you put the kibble into, then you shake the cube around to distribute the food into the inner chambers. (It can hold a surprizing amount!). The central cylinder can be rotated to adjust the amount of kibble that is distributed as the dog rolls it around the floor. Start with the easy setting so the dog is set up for success and as he or she masters it, make it harder. It is make of hard plastic, is indestructible, and loud on hard wood floors. Best if played on carpet, or something with a bit of friction so the cube rolls when nudged by the dog. (On slick surfaces, the cube will just slide along the floor and it needs to roll to distribute the kibble). The website above has the best prices on the internet, but you might be able to find it in a local pet store, be sure to call first! When ordering from Arcata, I recommend you call to place the order. The inner cylinder can stick sometimes, so you want to ask them to be sure to check and be sure the cylinder moves easily before they ship it to you. They are very nice about it!

2)     Everlasting fun balls:

If you live in Granville, Danielle Wilson carries these at Bath and Biscuits, and reports that they are durable as well as fun. She has a variety of other treat dispensing toys, so be sure to talk with her about your dog’s chewing habits and needs. Some dogs have soft mouths but need hard puzzles, others just need a lot of movement and durability. Danielle will be happy to explain her toys and help match your dog to the right treat toy. She is always getting in new things, so be sure to stop back often! 740-587-0011, 1616 Columbus Rd. Granville

3)     Kongs:

Kongs are the industry standard for treat delivery toys, and the means by which you can stuff them is limited only by your imagination! These toys can provide your dog with a very satisfying chewing experience and give them something to stimulate their minds as well as satisfy their hunger. Start out by adding your dog’s dry food to the Kong and let them roll it around and play with it to distribute their food. As your dog gets good at getting the food out, make it harder by adding peanut butter or canned food to the kibble before stuffing the Kong. Then, when they really need a challenge, freeze it to extend the fun! Kong stuffing recipes are available at




Dog products, training aids, recipes, instructions, etc. Informational or Doggie Demographics0 comments

Beware of Cement Pigs!


When my dog Mr. Bingley was about 6 months old we walked past a neighbor’s house where a cement pig resides in the front yard. We’d passed this house many times, but for some reason, on this particular day, Bingley noticed the pig and froze, staring at it and puffing up like a bottle brush. He didn’t know what to make of this strange and apparently dangerous object!  To help Bingley overcome his seemingly irrational fear of concrete porkers, I kept his leash loose and gave him a treat as he looked at the pig. I stepped toward the pig and waited, offering him another tasty morsel if he took a step closer. He did. I repeated this procedure until he was able to sniff the offending swine and easily take a treat from the top of its head. This whole procedure took less than 10 minutes and from that day on Bingley has ignored the cement beast. Because he was able to approach and explore the object at his pace and he got rewarded for doing so, Bingley learned that there was nothing to fear.

In working with dogs, cats, and horses, I have noticed that they are most comfortable with new things when given the opportunity to explore novel items at their own pace. Temple Grandin describes this phenomenon nicely in her book Animals Make Us Human, “[N]ovelty can be attractive or scary depending on how it is presented. The single most important factor determining whether a new thing is more interesting than scary is whether the animal has control over whether to approach the object. Animals are terrified by forced novelty. They don’t want new things shoved into their faces, and people don’t either.” Bingley and his encounter with the cement pig, is a classic example of this.

If you need to introduce your cat, goat, dog, guinea pig, horse, or bird to something novel, especially something that is going to be in the animal’s life for awhile, remember that forced novelty is frightening. Give your pet the time and space it needs to explore the item, reward it for its efforts to engage the object and you will likely have a happy and non-traumatic encounter.

Behavior or "What the heck?" Shy dogs2 comments

What’s more exciting than pee on a pole?


I get a lot of questions from friends and clients and here is one that I got recently regarding something that I said about needing to be more interesting than the distractions your dog encounters:

Q: You said we’re supposed to be more interesting than a semi using jake brakes, more interesting than another dog or cat, and more interesting than pee on every pole. I was following you right up to the end. Now does this imply that we are NOT supposed to stop and examine pee on every pole? ‘Cause that really sounds like it takes the fun out of a walk (for a dog). We DO clip along sometimes and when necessary, but sometimes we stop and smell everything ….. surely that can’t be bad!!??? Help!

A: Allow me to clarify! What I meant was, IF you need to get your dog to refocus onto you, THEN you must be more exciting than pee on a pole. I let my dogs do all sorts of sniffing, but I get to be the one to control the amount of time we spend on each activity (if said dog is on lead). If said dog is off-lead, I am more flexible about time spent on olfactory activities, but ultimately I am the one who decides how long and where we go. Hence, a reliable recall (or Come!) is important to instill in your dog so that when it is time for the off-lead dog to move along, he does!  

But, moreover, I was thinking about indoor noise control. While it is difficult for the three canines in my life to believe this, I honestly do not need to have EVERY truck, leaf, bird, biker, insect, or cloud announced to me.  Therefore, I need to make checking in with me worth their while. Thus, I want the thought process to go something like this:

DOG:  “Oh, hey!, there is a shadow by the birdbath!!!  WOOF! Maybe Julie should know about this. I should warn her about the shadow. Maybe there will be a reward for warning her!” *trot trot trot, nudge, nudge, nudge* 
JULIE: “Hey booger head, what’s up? do you need something? Have a yummy chummie!”
DOG: “Hey food! *munch, munch, inhale, hack* Why did I come here? Maybe I should stick around…”
JULIE: “Hey good dog, why don’t you lie down here and chew your bone?”
DOG: “Hey, a bone! I should lie down and chew it!” *gnaw gnaw gnaw, snooze*…
Use what he loves to reward the behaviors you want in your dog! By providing our dogs with desirable things (food, treats, toys, play, ear scratches, belly rubs, etc) and making it interesting (and therefore rewarding) to check in with us, we can more easily manage the noisy behaviors that can make owning canines a challenge.


Loose Lead Walking Training or "Why, Why, WHY?"1 comment

A Facebook Favorite!

photohudson1One of my favorite Facebook pages is Reisner Veterinary Behavior & Consulting Services. They have at least two posts a week (Tuesday’s Pearl and Saturday’s Pet Peeve) that are well worth checking out. The posts are helpful, interesting, and have easy to follow advice and fascinating information about how dogs (and cats) view and interact with their world. I highly recommend you “like” their page, or “like” my Facebook page ( as I share most of their posts.Here are a couple of examples of recent posts by Reisner: July 30 Tuesday’s Pearl: Being petted by strangers is *not* a positive experience for worried dogs. I hear from many people that they will first tell their barking, aroused dog to sit/down/stay and then invite the stranger to approach and pet the dog. This is daunting and unpleasant at best, and can result in a defensive bite at worst. Instead, keep strangers at a safe distance while *you* give him treats or reassurance. Your dog will be relieved and grateful!
August 4: Interesting study: Dogs raise their left eyebrow (left facial lateralization) when reuniting with the person they are attached to. Very cool! From a summary by Ken Pope, PhD: “Dogs show left facial lateralization upon reunion with their owners.” by  Nagasawa, Emi Kawai, Kazutaka Mogi, Takefumi Kikusui, of the Department of Animal Science and Biotechnology, Azabu University, Kanagawa-ken, Japan.

In the study in which dogs from a dozen breeds participated, one of the findings was that when dogs see a person for just a glance (800 milliseconds), they raise their eyebrows a bit. If the person is someone for whom they feel love and affection (i.e., a beloved owner), the left eyebrow rises higher than the right; however, if the person is a stranger, both ears rise the same amount while the left ear moves back a bit in apprehension. A glance of a favorite toy elicits no response, but a quick glance at dreaded nail clippers caused their right ears to twitch.”


Toy Box or stuff that doesn't fit neatly elsewhere0 comments

This is not the dog I wanted…

316073_288083711209743_119922748025841_1095669_199129324_nAll puppies should be interested in the happenings around them, and all should show some hesitation at new experiences. But sometimes puppies can exhibit behaviors that should cause concern in an owner. A sure sign that something is amiss is when an owner says, “This is not the dog I wanted.” It is especially important to realize that at risk behaviors are not likely to resolve themselves and need to be addressed before they develop into adult problems that could lead to aggression.
The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Indoor Pet Initiative lists these red flags in puppies (
Avoiding or hiding from people, places, or objects This may indicate fear that could escalate into aggression as an adult.

Alarm barking, lunging, putting “hackles” up in response to people or animalsThis is another indication of fear that could mean serious problems as an adult dog if not addressed while the dog is young.

Excessive mouthing specifically during physical handling. Puppies should use their mouths to explore the world, but hard biting, especially if accompanied by stiffening, growling, or snarling could indicate underlying fear or pain and should be evaluated.

Reluctance to “sit” or “down” during training.  Pain, especially in the hips or elbows, can cause non-compliance to basic commands. Have the puppy examined to determine if there is an organic cause to his non-compliance. Anxiety is another cause of dogs not “obeying” commands (and is often labeled as stubbornness), and needs to be addressed appropriately. 

Confinement problems.  If  the puppy will not eat while confined, has excessive vocalizations in his crate, and/or will not settle in his crate, he may be showing early signs of separation or confinement anxiety.
Repeated urination or bowel movements in appropriately-sized crate.  This can be an indication of urinary or gastrointestinal infection, inappropriate crate training prior to the owner getting him, or separation anxiety.
More detailed information about these warning signs can be found at The Indoor Pet Initiative as well as valuableinformation for dog owners in general. I strongly recommend that if you suspect a problem please contact me, your veterinarian or Dr. Megan Herron, a Veterinarian Animal Behaviorist at OSU ( We can help you decide on an appropriate course of action. Puppyhood last a very short time, problems can last a lifetime.


Behavior or "What the heck?" Informational or Doggie Demographics Stress: signals, management, & warning signs Your new dog or puppy0 comments