Read Your Breed: Doberman Pinscher

Noble, intelligent, brave, loyal—there are so many words that could be used to describe the Doberman Pinscher. But perhaps more than any other, the word versatility comes to mind. In fact, this breed may simply be the dog world’s most versatile member.

Where did he come from?

The Doberman’s origins date back to the mid-1800s in the region of Apolda, Germany. A man named Karl Friedrich Louis Dobermann took it upon himself to create a breed of dog with traits of unsurpassed fearlessness, ferocity, and loyalty. Dobermann was tax collector, dog catcher, and night watchman, roles that exposed him to dangerous areas and unsavoury characters. Common sense dictated that a fierce dog alongside would prove useful, and Dobermann had a clear vision of the mix of physical and mental traits that, combined, would create the ideal guard dog.Continue reading

Read Your Breed: Pomeranian

Tip, tap, tip, tap, tip, tap…. That’s the sound of a Pomeranian walking by, and I dare you not to smile. After all, these pint-sized pooches don’t just walk—they prance. The friendly Pomeranian pairs his animated gait with a joyful spirit and endearing personality. And does this little dog have attitude? You bet—with a capital A. Although a member of the Toy group today, the Pomeranian descended from the hearty Spitz family of dogs native to Iceland and Lapland. The early Pomeranian was substantially larger than today’s, weighing on average close to 30 pounds, and worked in both herding and sledding capacities. The breed was named after the region of Pomerania, now absorbed into parts of Germany and Poland. It was in this region where much of the breed’s development occurred, including its significant reduction in size and transformation from a tough working animal to a lovable lapdog.Continue reading

Read Your Breed: Great Dane

Looking for a dog you can take for a quiet, uninterrupted stroll? The Great Dane may not fit the bill. When you’re out and about with a Great Dane, you certainly won’t be under the radar. These giant dogs—some weighing close to 200 pounds— attract a lot of attention.

Just where did this giant breed originate?Continue reading

5 Signs Your Dog Loves You

From loving gazes to simple nearness, these five signs indicate a connection that goes far past a room-and-board relationship


# 1 Your dog greets you at the door
This doesn’t necessarily mean an all out bonkers greeting. In fact, a super-crazy over-the-top greeting can be a sign of separation anxiety, not an indicator of affection. Your dog approaching you with a wagging tail is enough to indicate your dog is happy to see you.
#2 Your dog gazes at you with round, relaxed, “soft” eyes
No doubt about it, our dogs look to us because we make things happen—outings, dinners, play sessions. But a recent study found that our dogs make eye contact with us for more than just social cues. The new study, by Miho Nagasawa of Azabu University in Japan and colleagues, found that dogs making puppy dog eyes at their owner experienced a spike in oxytocin, the “love hormone.” Furthermore, it’s mutual; researchers found that a held gaze between dog and guardian caused an uptick in oxytocin in the person as well, creating a positive feedback loop. This same oxytocin release occurs when a mom gazes at her newborn infant, leading the researchers to conclude that their finding was “a manifestation of attachment behaviour” and that a sustained gaze between a dog and their human shares similar properties to mother–infant relationships.

(Note that in the canine world there is also such thing as a dominant stare, which is definitely not the same as a loving gaze. In fact, it’s an act of aggression, so don’t stare down an unknown dog; maintained eye contact can be perceived as a threat.)
#3 Your dog comes to cuddle with you, even when he doesn’t want something
This is a pure and simple sign of affection as it’s devoid of motivation other than the pleasure of your company (as opposed to the pleasure of scarfing down a biscuit from the dog-treat cupboard, not that there’s anything wrong with that!).
#4 Your dog wants to be in your vicinity
Maybe your dog is in the same room as you, but is paying you no mind or is snoozing away. But the fact that she’s chosen the dog bed closest to you indicates she wants to be in your company.
#5 Your dog brings toys over to where you are and tries to engage you in a play session
Like people, dogs that are depressed, scared or anxious aren’t as inclined to play. Happy dogs, i.e. dogs that love their people, are more likely to race around madly squeaking their squeaky toy (oh joy).


What’s NOT a sign of affection?

Your dog freaking out when you leave. Neuroscientist Gregory Berns, author of How Dogs Love Us, spent two years teaching dogs to go in an MRI in order to decode the canine brain. He says: “Sorry to disappoint, but that is not a sign of love. Separation anxiety is very common and a leading cause of behavioural problems. And while your dog may be unconditionally bonded to you, well-adjusted dogs also know that you will return and do not display the frenetic activity of the anxious dog. Nobody really knows why some dogs develop separation anxiety. Our neuroimaging project is trying to figure out if it is the case of an overactive social-reward system—like ‘I really, really love you, master’—or whether the anxiety is driven by a hyperactive fear system.”

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Getting Your Pet Microchipped

Many of us take every precaution we can to protect our pets. With growing technology in the veterinary field, new measures of protection for companion animals are now available to owners at a low cost. Microchipping, one of the newest ways to locate and identify lost animals, is growing in popularity and efficiency.

A microchip is a glass-encased device that bears an identification number unique to every marked animal. Once the microchip is inserted under the animal’s skin and registered with the devices company, the microchip can be activated with a scanner at a veterinarian’s office or local animal shelter. With no batteries or power source required to activate a microchip, this device will provide a permanent identity for your pet that will last their entire lifetime.

Many owners protect and identify their pet with a personalized collar. While this method can certainly help identify your pet, there are many strong advantages in microchipping your animal. For instance, pet collars may fall or slip off, and personalized tags may become unreadable after several years. Microchips do not face any of these challenges and have no chance of being removed, no matter where Fido wanders off to.

Dr. James Barr, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, explains the biggest advantage microchipping has over other methods of identifying animals: “The biggest advantage is that a microchip can’t be lost. It allows access to detailed information about the pet and its owner with a quick phone call to the company.” Barr also adds that most microchips can be installed at veterinarian offices and sometimes even spay and neuter clinics. He further explains that the process of installing a microchip is very quick and does not hurt the animal, contrary to what some owners might believe. “A microchip is implanted under the skin between the shoulder blades using a needle and plunger, which is similar to a syringe,” he said. “The needle is a rather large needle comparatively to what would be used for a vaccine, but it usually does not require sedation and is only transiently uncomfortable for the animal.”

Microchips, which are about the size of a grain of rice, can be installed into dogs, cats, horses, ferrets and most other mammals. If you are considering microchipping your pet, consult your local veterinarian to see which microchipping companies are most commonly used in your area. Some chips are more universally read than others, so it is important to consider which microchips your local veterinarian and animal shelters can read. Finally, do not forget to register your chip to your name and phone number. If you move to another address or change phone numbers, you will be required to update this information with your microchip’s company. A microchip will only bring your pet home if your contact information is kept up-to-date.

Although personalized collars have been traditionally used as a method of identification in pets, microchipping is fast becoming the modern solution for lost animals. Even if your pet has been microchipped, providing a collar for your pet is still important. Remember to register your pet’s microchip to your name and updated contact information in order for your pet to return safely home if they ever become lost.

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Is Your Dog Manipulating You?

Soko, a German Shepherd, is ball obsessed. Mojo, her Malmute-mix housemate, enjoys taking Soko’s ball, placing it in the middle of the floor, and then lying down and looking at her as if to say, “Go ahead. Make my day.” Soko, being smaller and non-confrontational, will suddenly prick up her ears as though she hears something outside. She’ll spring up and dart out the dog door, with Mojo hot on her heels. That accomplished, she’ll immediately race back inside and grab the ball.Continue reading

Ten Tips to Discourage Destructive Behavior in Dogs

For those of you following this blog, you may have read some of my previous posts about Gatsby, my incredibly destructive, adopted German Shepherd mix. I’d like to share some of the techniques I used to help curb Gatsby’s destructive tendencies.

If you have a destructive pet, the first thing you have to do is find the root of the behavior. Does he have separation anxiety? Is he under-stimulated? Or maybe there was a recent change in routine or environment? All of these can be common triggers of destructive dog behavior. Your ‘treatment’ of the bad behavior will depend on the cause, and you may require some professional help if you are dealing with dangerous or extreme destruction in your home.

1. Exercise. A common cause of destructive chewing and digging can be cured with a simple walk. If you dog isn’t getting adequate exercise during the day, boredom can manifest itself through shredded cushions, carpets, or other destructive behaviors. Try to get your dog out at least 30 minutes a day, if not twice a day, depending on the breed and energy level of your dog.

2. Mental Stimulation. Even if you are exercising your dog’s body, you also need to stimulate his brain to reduce boredom. Try daily training sessions, but keep them short; maybe 5 minutes at a time, 2 or 3 times per day. Practice old tricks and try out some new ones, too.

Puppy with a KONG toy3. Stimulation, stimulation, stimulation. Starting to see a pattern here? If a dog is under-stimulated, mentally or physically, the results could be disastrous. Try using puzzle toys or a treat-stuffed Kong while you are away to challenge your dog.

4. Provide proper toys and bones. If chewing is your problem, be sure that you have plenty of tough dog toys and bones as an alternative to your furniture.

5. Calm them naturally. You can specially designed music to calm your canine while you are away. I have found Through a Dog’s Ear to be especially effective.

6. Supplements. There are some homeopathic remedies on the market to help curb anxiety. They use natural herbs and supplements that have calming effects.

7. Pheromones. Start using a product that employs the use of appeasing pheromones, like Comfort Zone. Spray it or use the plug-in diffuser to release a calming chemical in the air that replicates a nursing mother’s pheromones which naturally calms your canine friend.

8. Change your behavior. Believe it or not, your actions just before you leave or when you return may be root of the anxiety. Through a dog’s eyes, when you make a big fuss over leaving the house in the morning with hugs and kisses and lots of goodbyes he can sense your anxiety about leaving him and cause additional anxiety for your dog. When you leave the house, don’t make it a big deal, just give a treat and calmly walk out the door.

9. Crate Training. When a dog is properly crate trained, the crate becomes a place of security and comfort. It’s a safe place to and can keep him out of potentially dangerous destructive behaviors. Make sure you aren’t using the crate as a tool for punishment.

10. Doggie Day Care. There are many facilities that offer a doggie day care services. Your dog can play with other dogs, receive training, and be stimulated all day outside of your house when you can’t be home to supervise.

If you have any other tried and true techniques or tips for curbing destructive dog behavior be sure to share them in the comments section.

Pet Fire Safety Check – How Does Your Home Compare?

Last Thursday was National Pet Fire Safety Day. A house fire has always been one of my greatest fears so when the AKC put out their tips on avoiding this potential tragedy I was shocked to learn that almost 1,000 house fires last year were actually started by the family pets themselves. Some of the pet fire safety tips the AKC gave were obvious to me, but others were more subtle. Planning for the unexpected tragedy is an integral part of responsible pet ownership.

How to prevent your pet from starting fires

Extinguish open flames – Curious by nature, pets will often investigate candles or stovetops. Never leave an open flame, such as a candle or gas stove, unattended and be sure to double check that all flames have been put out before leaving your home.

Invest in stove knob covers – A stove is the number one cause in pet related fires. Consider buying knob covers for your stove, or remove them altogether when you leave the house.

Love candles? Go flameless – Flameless candles often create the same atmosphere as a regular candle, but with less risk. Don’t let kitty burn her tail on an open flame candle, try flameless candles that use small light bulbs to generate the flickering visual.

Confine dangerous pups – Consider confining curious young puppies or destructive dogs away from potential fire-starting hazards while you’re away using crates or baby gates.

Replace the glass water bowl – If you use glass water bowls avoid leaving them outside or on a wooden deck. The sun’s rays are surprisingly powerful and can ignite materials under or around the glass bowls. Use stainless steel or ceramic bowls instead.

How to keep your pet safer in an emergency

Collars and leashes at the ready – Keep your pet’s collars on them and keep leashes near the door in case firefighters need to rescue your pet from a dangerous situation while you are away.

Confine pets to areas near entrances – When you’re leaving your pets home alone consider leaving them confined in areas or rooms near an entrance, and make sure to mark it on your fire safety cling.

Monitored smoke detectors – Invest in a monitoring system that alerts emergency personnel when a fire has been detected and no one is home.

Fire Safety ClingPet window clings – Write down how many and what type of pets are in your home on the cling and attach it to a window at the front of your house. Make sure it’s visible! Include any information that may help responders find your pets, like where they prefer to hide or where the dog is confined. Update it the number of pets you have as soon as a change occurs.  You can request a free pet safety window cling on ADT’s website.

Often times no one wants to plan for the worst, but prevention and planning are your best bets when you’re trying to save your best friend. What other steps do you take to avoid fire disasters? Feel free to add tips in the comments below.


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