Tag Archives: dogs

Why are Poodle Haircuts so Weird?

Dog hairstyles are often more complex then the longest of salon visits. Dogs are shaved, cut, brushed, trimmed, braided, clipped and colored in all kinds of perplexing fashions. Yet the most recognizable haircut belongs to the Poodle (we can split hairs here and just talk about a standard Poodle, even though the hairdo applies to mini and toy varieties as well).

You know what I’m talking about. Take one look at a recently trimmed Poodle and you see a dog with a large cotton-puff of hair on its chest, around its ankles and on the tip of its tail. You see the bare, closely shaved backside, and the hair pinned back over its’ eyes.

Perplexing, distinct, and, dare I say, functional. Yes, did you know that a Poodle’s cut is actually meant to be functional, not just stylish? Surprise!

The origin of a Poodle’s-do is still debated. Some point to ancient paintings on the walls of Roman tombs, coins, and monuments that date back to 30 AD, which bear the resemblance of Poodles. More common arguments point to late 16th – 17th century Germany, where Poodles were bred as “water retrievers”. (“Poodle” is derived from the German pudel, short for pudelhund, which means “water dog.” The German word pudeln means “splash,” and is the root of the English word “puddle.”)

It was around this time that Poodles gained their distinct cuts out of occupational necessity. The thick, cotton-like fur of a Poodle would surely weigh it down when wet, and shearing the dog’s hind quarters made it buoyant enough to float. They could now swim and maneuver more easily in the water. The long mane around the dog’s head and chest were left in tact to keep the do’s vital organs warm in the cold water. Owners also elected to keep the puffs of hair around the dog’s ankles and joints to help stave of rheumatism. Tying the Poodle’s hair back kept their eyes and mouth free to allow the dog to follow through on their retrieving tasks. Brightly colored bows were later introduced to distinguish dogs at competitions.

Of course, when we talk about extravagant hair styles, we should talk about the extremes. Poodles (especially the smaller breeds) were popular among French nobility in the 18th-century, and they pushed the insanity to another level. They even went so far as to mimic the crazy pompadours that Frenchmen sported at the time!

Today, Poodles sport one of two main styles: The Continental or the English Saddle. (Note that the Continental leaves the hair on the dog’s rear surprisingly short!) AKC competition renders these two cuts as the “standard” for competition. These cuts are meant to reflect the squareness in a well bred Poodle.

Groomers take hours to perfect the look of a Poodle before competition. Outside the arena, Poodles may spot more of a “puppy cut” that is simply meant to keep the hair short, allowing for them to swim and retrieve, like they were naturally bred to do.

I know I learned a fair amount while researching this piece, and I hope that you have learned not to take every silly hair cut for granted. Sometimes, even the craziest of things are done for the best reason!

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Popular Myths About Dogs: DEBUNKED!

Dogs are fascinating creatures. They are loyal, adventurous, curious, able to work dozens of different jobs and be our most loving companion. But there are many things we don’t know and understand about our four legged friends, and as it often happens, misunderstanding breeds misinformation. The dog world is filled with misconceptions and myths about dogs, from behavior to getting rid of worms.

Here is a list of some common dog misconceptions, a little insight into what’s actually going on:

Myth #1: Dogs only see in Black and White:

Some Russian scientists took this popular myth and turned it on it’s head. Research has proven that dogs actually see in shades of blues and yellows, but can’t see shades of red. Who knew?! Check out this link to read more.

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I love that blue shirt you’re wearing!

Myth #2: If you put garlic on your dog’s food, will it help get rid of his worms?

You’ve clearly never read my post about human foods dogs should avoid. Forget you ever heard this one. Garlic can actually be very harmful to a dog’s health, so just stick to putting garlic in your spaghetti sauces.

Myth #3: You can calculate a dog’s age by multiplying it’s human years by seven:

Research has actually shown this method to be outdated. By the time your dog reaches one year, they’ve already become a talking-back teenager, and the way they age varies from as they get older. Check this chart for exact conversions.

Myth #4: A cracked window is enough on a hot day:

Not even going there. Just read this

Myth #5: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks:

I can attest that this couldn’t be further from the truth. Sure, older dogs may suffer from hearing or vision loss, but that doesn’t mean they lose their ability to learn. This myth seems more like a human insult than a dog one.

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I may be old, but I can still learn!

One of the first lessons I teach parents about puppies is how to reduce biting. Simply give them a treat, and if their teeth touch your fingers too aggressively, pull the treat back and make a loud pitched noise. The dog will know to slow down in order to finally get the treat. I have used this trick on much older (8, 9, even 13 year old) dogs and it works great! They’ve learned a simple, new trick, and I get to keep all my fingers!

Still don’t believe me? Check out this video of MythBusters putting it to the test.

Myth #6: A dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s mouth:

Back story: Dog saliva was once believed to be antiseptic, and some people still believe it has healing properties. No one knows how that belief came to be, but it is still a common myth today. Trust me, a dog’s mouth is not “cleaner” than a person’s mouth. Dog saliva is capable of fighting off some bacteria, but carries it’s own army of bacteria and infectious organisms. The types of bacteria carried by humans and dogs is different, mostly because of the differences in diet. There is a reason for the term, “dog breath.”

Myth #7: Sex, litters and fixing your dog:

While compiling this post, I was surprised to see that lots of people wait before getting their dog neutered or spayed because they believe letting their dog have sex is a good thing, or that they need to have one litter  of puppies “for the experience.”

But that’s simply not true. Sex results in puppies without homes or a good support system. Female dogs will not miss “the experience” of having a litter. There remains some controversy as to how early you should have a dog fixed, not fixing your dog leads to further animal population and control issues.

Myth #8: A fenced yard should be entertaining enough:

How would you liked being locked up in one space for long periods of time? The world is full of smells, sounds, animals to socialize with and trees to pee on. It’s important that a dog is exposed to all these things, not only for their socialization, but so they have the mental and physical stimulation to keep them from becoming destructive.

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Sometimes adventure lies outside the backyard!

Myth #9: My dog should tolerate anything my children do:

This is a good way for your child to get a nasty bite wound. Children are terrible with boundaries, and they need to be taught to respect their doggie companions. Allowing a child to sit, tug on or tease a dog is disrespectful. Dogs are living animals that should be cared for, not tormented.

Myth #10: My dog understands me when I talk to him:

Even I fall into the trap of thinking I can “talk” to my dog. While dogs can understand about 500 words and a very talented Border Collie named Chaser can understand thousands, when we talk to our dogs they focus in on a few words, our tone of voice, facial expressions, and our body language.

Myth #11: Dogs wag their tail when they are happy:

A dog trainer I worked with actually debunked this for me. Dogs wag their tail for many reasons, but typically it’s because they are either happy or nervous. The important thing here is that you learn to read a dog’s body language. A stiff, rigid appearance is a good sign that your dog is nervous, even if their tail is wagging. Being able to read a dogs signals will go a long way to building strong relationships with them.

Who knew the dog world was filled with so many myths?

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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.

Misconceptions of Puppy Socialization

I’ve explained before that socialization is a crucial piece of a dogs development. Properly introducing your dog the world around us will lead to your dog being a well-balanced, confident, relaxed dog and will create a healthy and long-lasting bond with you, the owner.

New puppy owners commonly become to focused not the idea that socialization is only about interacting well with people and other dogs. This a huge mistake and an unfortunate misconception of socialization. Socializing a puppy is about getting them used to the world around them, and the other dogs and people you interact with are only a small piece of the world they live in. Puppy owners must remember to acquaint their pups with the environment around them as well as the living things within it.

What do I mean by ‘the environment’? Think about your current living situation. If you live in a small apartment in a major city, you are surrounded by noisy cars, buses, shouting, music, construction, doors and windows opening and closing in neighboring apartments, you name it. If you don’t live on the first floor of your building, you have stairs, elevators, delivery workers, carpets, perhaps even hardwood or concrete floors.

Now look inside your apartment. Maybe you own a blender to make morning smoothies, or you like to watch the football game and jump and scream. Vacuum cleaners, slamming doors, water running in the sink, even the coat rack in the corner.

These are things that many people tend to take for granted because we are around them everyday. But they are brand new to a puppy, and the sound of rushing water or a running fan can be quite alarming when heard for the first time. The environment you live in is full of foreign sights and sounds that a puppy must be introduced to in a slow, positive way. They must be socialized to become familiar and comfortable with them.

So how in the world are you supposed to socialize your puppy to everything in the environment? Take advantage of the fact that you live within that environment. You will have the chance to introduce your dog to hundreds of different things every time you leave for a walk, and it’s your job as the owner to take advantage.

Here are some things to remember when socializing your dog:

Keep it Positive: Remember to keep every new experience positive for your puppy. Get treats that drive your dog crazy and praise them when they are relaxed with new situations. Read your puppies body language carefully. If they are cowering, hanging their heads or tucking their tails then take a step back and give your pup space. Follow every socialization session with games, lots of praise and loads of delicious treats!

Textures: Think about everywhere your puppy will walk. Concrete, grass, sand, asphalt, hardwood, tile, carpet, your dogs need to be socialized to all these surfaces. Dogs can become uncomfortable on new surfaces and properly socializing them can limit any anxieties.

Visuals & Sounds: Busy crowds, festivals, fireworks, traffic, wheelchairs, skateboards, bicycles, door bells, all these are fair game. A major city has lots of firetrucks, garbage trucks and street music. Rural areas have livestock and wildlife. Depending on your neighborhood, your puppy could be facing lots of stressful situations.

Places: Hardware stores, playgrounds, parks, pet shops, vet offices, construction sites, dog friendly bars. Take them anywhere they are happy and comfortable.

Maneuverability: Moving a dog through elevators or up and down stairs can be tough. Exposing them to as many places as possible will make them more confident when navigating new situations.

Socialization is a long and windy road, but the hard work you put in now will pay huge dividends to your puppy becoming a respectful, confident, well-adjusted dog. Remember that socialization goes far beyond the interactions with other dogs and people, and though those are important, exposing your puppy to the environment will make their lives less stressful, and your life much easier!

Dog Park Etiquette

A few trips to the dog park does not make me an expert. But I’m sure if you’ve been to the dog park, you’ve encountered dog owners who cause all sorts of problems. Even in my limited experiences to off leash dog parks, I’ve come across a variety of people who could use a little work on their dog park etiquette.

The Newspaper Reader

I actually saw a man reading his newspaper while walking around the dog park. First, do you actually trust that you won’t step in dog poop (see below). Second, where is your dog? Is he the one that is running around barking in the faces of all the other dogs? Because that’s getting annoying. Keep your eyes out on the dogs and keep track of yours. I don’t want to be breaking up any fights because you needed to read today’s headlines.

This also applies to the ‘I’m on an important business call’ guy. Why are you at the dog park?

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The Poop Neglector

I’ve navigated my way around the park twice now, and I’ve come across a pile or two of poop. Don’t tell me that you forgot your poo bags, because I see some hanging on the fence for public use. You probably didn’t see it because you had your face buried in your Facebook account. I’d like it if it didn’t end up on my shoe, I’d like it even better if my dog wasn’t tempted to eat your dog’s excrement.

The Guy Whose Dog is Wearing a Muzzle

Your dog looks like Hannibal Lecter, and it doesn’t bother you that they can’t drink water or defend themselves in case of a fight that apparently they cause a lot of. Nope, it’s okay because your dog’s jaws are bound behind a strong barrier of plastic. Never mind that they don’t belong in the park because they cause too many issues and they don’t like other dogs (stop with all the “it only happens sometimes” BS). This is the best way for them to get out as much energy as possible without you having to walk them. Good luck with that.

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The 8-Week Old Puppy Daddy

Two things. First, dog parks are not a good way to socialize your puppy. Puppies are not going to learn the tricks and good habits they need in life while getting pushed around by older, bigger adult dogs. Second, dog parks are a great way for your puppy to contract Bordetella and Parvo. A puppies immune system is really freaking compromised, and they will pick up diseases fast. Kennel cough is rough, parvo is potentially deadly. Be smart if you are going to get a puppy and please don’t take them to a dog park before being fully vaccinated.

The Overprotective Type

Your dog is a gorgeous, pure bred animal. You spent thousands of dollars to bring it home and now you are taking the time to show off your prized possession to the rest of us in the dog park. You’re also making an extra effort to keep any dog from getting within 20 feet of your pooch. Seriously, are you just here to gloat? I hope you didn’t come through the front door thinking that every dog here was going to care that your greyhound scratches easy, or that your french bulldogs ears were off limits. No your own boundaries before trying to pass them on to others.

 

You are bound to run into all kinds of people at the dog parks. It’s a public space that everyone should have the right to use, but maybe some people need to second guess that decision. All I ask is that you pay attention to your dog, and understand that not every dog (and not every owner) belongs in a dog park. Be smart folks!

Dog Food: Going Beyond the Kibble (Part 2)

Last week, I talked about some great ways to switch your dog to a whole foods diet while highlighting a handful of tasty and nutritious treats usually reserved for humans.

Unfortunately, not all human food is dog friendly. And though switching to a whole foods diet is great for your dog and your wallet, there are a handful of foods you should avoid. Here are a few of the most common foods to avoid:

Avocado:

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The leaves, bark, and seeds of an avocado contain a chemical called persin. Dogs (and birds, rabbits, and horses) are especially sensitive to avocado as they can have respiratory distress, congestion, fluid accumulation around the heart, and even death from consuming avocado. Though toxic to some animals, avocado does not pose a serious threat to dogs or cats. Usually a mild stomach ache can occur from eating too much avocado flesh or peel. Swallowing the pit can lead to obstruction in the gastrointestinal tract, which is a serious situation and you should get your pet to the vet immediately.

Alcohol:

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Dogs are extremely sensitive to the effects of alcohol (also refered to as ethanol or ethyl alcohol). Even a small amount of alcohol can leave your pooch severely intoxicated. Keep a close eye on your holiday champaign or wine, and don’t give your dog some of that beer your sipping! Alcohol intoxication commonly causes vomiting, loss of coordination, disorientation and stupor (I’m sure many of you can relate). In severe cases, coma, seizures and death may occur. Keep a close eye on your pup if they are showing signs of mild intoxication, but if your dog cannot get up they should be monitored by a vet until they recover.

Onion and Garlic:

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Ingestion of onions and garlic may pose a threat to dogs’ red blood cells. The odds of a dog eating enough raw garlic or onion to cause any serious damage is unlikely, but concentrated forms (dried onions, garlic powder) can pose a much greater risk. Damage caused by eating too much garlic or onion may not show up for a few days, when dogs become easily tired or reluctant to move. Take your dog to the vet immediately if they seem to be having trouble. In severe cases, a blood transfusion may be necessary.

Grapes and Raisins:

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Consuming grapes and raisins has been associated with the development of kidney failure in some dogs, though the cause is unclear.Also confusing is why some dogs can eat these fruits without harm, while others develop life-threatening problems after eating even a few grapes or raisins. Of course it’s better to be safe then sorry and just not let your pup eat any grapes or raisins. Symptoms include vomiting, lethargy or diarrhea within 12 hours of ingestion. As symptoms progress, dogs become increasingly lethargic and dehydrated, refuse to eat and may have a period of frequent urination, followed by little to zero urination. Death due to kidney failure may occur within three to four days, or long-term kidney disease may persist in dogs who survive the acute intoxication.

In case you missed it, don’t let your dogs eat grapes or raisins. In case it happens, successful treatment requires prompt veterinary treatment to maintain good urine flow.

Chocolate:

Here’s the big one! Unless you’re planning for a New Year’s resolution and ridding yourself of chocolate for the year, chocolate is probably in your home and could be a serious problem to your dog. Foods like chocolate candy, cookies, brownies, chocolate baking goods, cocoa powder and cocoa shell-based mulches all pose a risk to your pup. Caffeine and theobromine, which belong to a group of chemicals called methylxanthines, are what cause the issues. The rule of thumb with chocolate is “the darker it is, the more dangerous it is.” White chocolate has very few methylxanthines and is of low toxicity. Dark baker’s chocolate has very high levels of methylxanthines, and plain, dry unsweetened cocoa powder contains the most concentrated levels of methylxanthines. Depending on the type and amount of chocolate ingested, the signs seen can range from vomiting, increased thirst, abdominal discomfort and restlessness to severe agitation, muscle tremors, irregular heart rhythm, high body temperature, seizures and death. Dogs showing more than mild restlessness should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

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Now you have the tools to switch your pup off the kibble. So have at it, get your pup on that whole food diet! Get them off the kibble and mystery meat canned food and help them get to a healthier, happier life!