Category Archives: dog friendly

Why You Should Spoil Your Puppy

Let’s be honest with each other, even the most stern efforts to keep your new puppy off the furniture, from begging at the dining table or from getting that extra treat will result in you, the owner, giving in just a little. It’s hard to resist snuggling on the couch with your new puppy. It’s even hard to resist those big eyes putting at you for table scraps. You give in, and you beat yourself up every time because you think spoiling your puppy will ruin her for life.

I’m here to help ease that guilt.

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Who wouldn’t want to snuggle with this puppy?

Before I get going, I am not a vet or a certified trainer. I am an owner, a socializer, a teacher and a volunteer who has devoted a lot of time helping other owners to turn their puppies into well-adjusted dogs. My opinions are from the dozens of dogs I have worked with and the interactions I’ve had with their owners. I have spent hours helping owners to understand that sometimes, giving in is okay.

Your first responsibility as a pet owner is to be their parent. You are responsible for teaching a puppy to be well-mannered, obedient, respectful, and ensuring they are loved. You are NOT an overlord, depriving your puppy of all the joys of being alive. A parent does not dominate their children, rather they guide them through life’s twists and turns, and that is your job as a puppy parent.

If you’re going to take the time to raise a puppy, you should probably take some time to enjoy it, right?

This is what I tell new puppy owners: If your dog does something you want them to do (like snuggle in bed), then why is it a bad thing? Lots of dog trainers are on this kick lately that you must be the dominant alpha overlord of your dog in order for them to be good dogs. After spending a year raising my own dog, I can tell you that’s not the case. So don’t fret if you want to treat your puppy. Turns out, you’ll be treating yourself, too.

If you are okay with your dog being in the bed, then let them cuddle with you at night. Pickle is allowed on our furniture, and she crawls into bed every morning with us before starting the day. But as soon as we walk into someone else’s home, she must adopt the rules of THEIR house. If they don’t allow dogs on the furniture, then Pickle stays on the floor, it’s that easy. She is only allowed to do what we tell her, and she has learned to respect that. Are we spoiling her at home? Maybe, but it’s up to her to maintain the boundaries we have set.

When it comes to treats, string cheese is god’s gift to dog training. Puppies can’t get enough of the stuff, and when you are training you must load up on the tastiest treats you can find. Every good deed should be rewarded and praised like it’s Christmas. I know lots of trainers who believe praise is enough to convince a dog to follow your command, and I think that’s a stretch. You must build trust and rapport with your dog. Treats are the best way to maintain their focus, and front loading the treats keeps their attention through hard training sessions. You can taper the treats as your puppy becomes more responsive. And I stand by the string cheese!

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And what about table scraps? As long as it’s dog friendly, why not? Avoid certain foods from the table, but as long as the dog is taking them under your supervision and with your permission, I say go for it.

So what do you do when a vet scolds you because you are making your puppy fat? Well, you listen. A puppy with an extra pound or two is not a big deal. I would rather have a chunky puppy who listens and trains well then a slim dog that won’t come to me when called. When your dog reaches full size, and is developed enough to exercise extensively, you can easily adapt their diet and increase the exercise. They can shed the weight in a healthy way, and you still get a happy dog!

In the end, spoiling your puppy means you are building a strong and loving relationship. Don’t mistake this for saying your dog is in charge. You are the parent, it is your responsibility to act the part. But while you are spending all that time training and cleaning up after your pup, you should be able to enjoy a cuddle once in a while! If you want to throw your pup an extra piece of bacon from the breakfast table, then do it! Keep things on your terms, train your pup to respect your voice, and treating them will become a reward. You will both be happier for it!

Socialization Project: Off-Leash Dog Park

Seattle has an amazing system of off-leash dog parks. From Dr. Jose Rizal Park and its amazing view of downtown, to Magnuson Park and its access to Lake Washington, there are ample opportunities for dog owners to get their dogs out to romp with other dogs and get out lots of energy.

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Seattle skyline from Dr. Jose Rizal Park

Admittedly, I was not a fan of dog parks when we got Pickle. I had heard bad stories of dogs getting sick, other dog walkers having out of control packs of dogs, or owners who didn’t know how to behave. I had heard so much bad, that I was turned off before I even took my first trip. Luckily, the feeling went away after a couple trips. Pickle loves being around other dogs, and she was well enough socialized that I didn’t have to worry about her getting into a fight, and she does well enough that if she escapes my line of sight for a minute I don’t have to panic.

After my hesitation diminished, I started to work with new dogs at the off-leash area. Typically I’ll do this with dogs that I know have been to the park before, and owners generally grant permission first as a way to reassure me that their dogs will behave. Since I started, it’s become a great way to socialize puppies to being around other dogs, their owners and to changing environments. In the same day, I can go from a gravel covered park under the interstate, to a wooded park with little traffic, to a very dog-filled park with lake access. All with enclosed, fully fenced spaces with lots of room to run and play. It’s difficult to mimic that without off-leash access.

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Making waves at Warren G. Magnuson Park!

Being confined to an urban setting, dog parks are great! But, there are still reasons to be cautious. First, dog parks are heavily populated with strange dogs, which poses the risk for your dog picking up illnesses. Your dog should be fully vaccinated before you bring them to any off-leash area. Otherwise, you could face a heavy vet bill to pay for antibiotics to fix a stomach virus. Never let your dog eat other dogs feces, and be aware of what your dog is getting into in heavy grass (I’ve pulled Pickle and several of my dogs from leftover food, even dead rodents).

Secondly, know your dog. If you have a puppy or young dog that loves to mount or charge at other dogs, maybe a dog park isn’t the best place for them. You will be around lots of strange dogs, and not all of them will be amiable. remember, even the most tolerant dogs don’t like other dogs taking them for a ride. I have taken great strides to make Pickle good at reading signals from other dogs, and it has kept her from getting lots of scars. If your dog isn’t as aware, you need to take them somewhere else.

Lastly, and most importantly, pay attention to body language. Especially with young dogs, it is easy to be overwhelmed when you are surrounded by dozens of older, pushy dogs. If your dog is running away, cowering, tucking their tail, pay attention and don’t force them to be uncomfortable. You can do lots of damage by forcing a dog into a scary situation. Take this time to step back to a quieter part of the park, praise your dog and slowly reintroduce them. I’ve run into lots of intimidating dogs and situations that are overwhelming to me, I could only imagine what goes through the mind of the puppies I care for!

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Dog parks can be great ways to get your dog out of the house and let them run and play. When safely done, off-leash areas expose your dog to lots of good socialization opportunities. But as the human, you are responsible for keeping your dog comfortable and out of harms way. Be smart, be aware, and everyone will have a good time.

If you want to know more about the network of Seattle dog parks, visit the Seattle Park’s page. If you’d like to help out and volunteer in a dog park near you, visit the Seattle COLA page.

1000 Acres Dog Park – Dog Friendly Portland

I have to admit, Portland is pretty cool. Powell’s Books, quirky neighborhoods, Voodoo Doughnuts, hipsters on tall bicycles, Portland has it all and a lot more! But I am a Portland novice, or at least I was until this past weekend, and it turns out that there are plenty of things for you dog to do in (and around) Portland as well.

Friday afternoon, Pickle and I had some time to kill so we ventured out a bit to 1000 Acres Dog Park in Troutdale, just a 15 minutes drive outside of Portland. In a word, this park is stunning! There is a huge space of off leash area that dogs can have free reign of! Pickle and I got out of the car and into the warm sun, and after a small walk beyond the trail head, Pickle found herself in hundreds of acres of open grass to run in. I was simply overtaken by the amount of space she had to run, and with it being a Friday afternoon, we only saw a handful of dogs on the trail so there was plenty of room to rome!

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The view of Mt. Hood was pretty sweet, too!   Photo credit: Bring Fido

After some walking I was worried we would get lost, but Pickle was bound and determined to keep going, and eventually she found herself along a beach where the dogs have access to the Columbia River. She went crazy! We still don’t know what breed Pickle is, but if tests come back with some kind of fish species, I wouldn’t be surprised!

She splashed and swam and barked and got dirtier then I think I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t drag her but out of the water, not with treats or her favorite squeaky ball. Luckily she partied it up with a pack of dogs that were heading out, so I got to meet a few very nice women (shout out to them for helping me out of the park!) and Pickle made a few new play friends.

As the sun was setting more people began to show up to get a reprieve from the hot sun. The trails lead to the Sandy River Delta, where the Columba and the Sandy River meet in a rainbow of blues, greens and browns.

In all Pickle probably got 3 hours of running, chasing and swimming. I’ve never seen her so tired, and here it is Monday, three days later, and she still doesn’t want to be bothered.

Downtown Portland was a bit more forgiving to her. Pickle and I wandered around a really nice Farmer’s Market, I enjoyed some crazy-delicious fresh made noodles from a food truck (Pickle was sure not to let any I dropped on the ground got to waste), we found a couple nice cafes and restaurants with outdoor seating for dogs and their owners, and even snuck in some shopping at Powell’s Books, all while staying in a nice dog friendly hotel!

(By the way, huge thank you to the staff and patrons of Powell’s. It did not occur to me when I brought in Pickle that you were a service animla only establishment, and yet the entire staff was very warm and friendly with myself and Pickle. I’m just happy she was so tired from the dog park and didn’t cause a ruckus 🙂 )

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Food trucks on food trucks on food trucks!     Photo credit: Reflections on Portland

Now, I’ve visited my fair share of dog friendly establishments in Seattle, from parks to bars, but I’ll admit to being a little jealous of the scene in Portland. After visiting 1000 Acres Park, Seattle should really step up their game (yes, that’s hard to do at this point). Luckily, now I know that taking Pickle on a road trip won’t be a hassle.

Thanks Portland, you’re doing it right!

(Wait, I never got a doughnut from Voodoo. Sounds like we’re going back!)