Category Archives: Dog Training

Causes of Dog Dental Problems– and How to Manage Your Dog’s Tooth Care

When Echo was about 7 years old, she took off after one of my horses who klonked her in the head, breaking one of her molars. That broken tooth would end up causing her premature death.

Besides being kicked by a hooved animal, dogs can find a bunch of other ways to break their teeth. One is chewing rocks. Another is  gnawing on hard bones or sticks. Still another is using their teeth as a tool — to rip off or make escape-sized holes in chain link fencing, for example.

NOTE: I have created a special book — Retro-Fit Your Dog’s Kennel — and if you would like a copy, click this link. It will be delivered to you instantly.

I cannot emphasize enough the role dental hygiene and maintenance plays in preserving good health.

By the time most dogs are just 3 years old, about 70 percent of them have dental disease that will lead to deteriorating health.

Periodontal disease begins with the build up of plaque. This layer thickens into tartar, which won’t disappear on its own.

Tartar travels under the gum. It causes swelling, bleeding, and mouth odor. This inflammation is a breeding ground for bacteria and leads to gum recession.

Left untreated, the tooth, bone and ligament begin to deteriorate. At this stage the impact on health is potentially life-threatening.

Systemic spread of the bacteria in the mouth can poison seemingly unrelated parts of the body: The dog may end up having problems with

  • Heart valve deterioration
  • Lung
  • Kidneys

More and more veterinarians recommending regular tooth-brushing for dogs.

When they were younger, I did not have an issue with teeth in my dogs who eat a primarily raw diet. But I noticed that if I feed kibble (even high quality, which I do from time to time) then the teeth would begin to collect plaque.

While this is a “skill” that is easier to teach when the dog is young, you can still teach that old dog new tricks. You might try flavored toothpaste such as Bluestem. Many customer reviews note that their dogs love the flavor.

For smaller dogs or puppies, you might try this little finger-cap toothbrush.

Be sure to keep an eye on the condition of your dog’s teeth. And keep in mind that teeth covered with tartar pose a life-threat to your dog. So get if your dog’s teeth are not pearly white, thee to a Veterinarian who can clean the teeth – and strive to keep them that way.

Also, as they aged, it seemed they were both more susceptible to plaque. And in Alice’s case, we did have her teeth professionally cleaned. One vet we used suggested we use Clenz-a-dent. Alice got a tiny scoop of that daily for the last few years of her life – and she never needed another cleaning again. So from personal experience, I can wholeheartedly recommend this.

 Tooth plaque  leads to tarter

If you feed kibble, or your dog is aging you might find that your dog’s teeth needing attention. In this case, Clenz-a-dent may either take care of the plaque— or at least extend the amount of time— between professional cleaning. But if that fails, or you want a different option, you can brush your dog’s teeth. It comes with a toothbrush as well.



5 Symptoms Most Veterinarians Miss that Can Kill Your Dog

That title may appear to be flat out hyperbole, but I assure you, it is not.

The fact is that more dogs are put to death because of excessive aggression than are put down because they are too old or sick to go on. And aggression, you will learn from Canine Hypothyroidism: Detection, Diagnosis And Prevention, is but one of dozens of common symptoms dogs suffer from when their Thyroid is not functioning correctly. 

Personally, I found that a shocking statistic.

And I lived it; I lived with the reality that euthanasia was a real and gruesome probability for my Bouvier, Wil. He was 3 years-old when he was given to me by his breeders. They explained that their reason for ditching him with me was that he “didn’t care much for the show world.” They claimed he “showed an aptitude for life on a farm.” (Yeah, right. Decoded, this meant, “He loved farm animals– they are so very tasty!”)

When I got Wil at age 3 he was animal and human aggressive. When he saw a cat (human, dog, etc…) outside, he would attack it through our plate glass window.

You’ll learn in Canine Hypothyroidism: Detection, Diagnosis And Prevention that Wil had a half-dozen hypothyroidism symptoms. These were typical red flags of this easily addressed condition. But for the first year and a half we were together, he suffered them—and no vet spotted them until sudden weight gain drew one vet’s attention.

Since writing this book, I have spoken to several people who made what they thought was the only option left: to put the dog down… Each had exhausted all avenues… except… that which is obvious once one has read this book.

Please do read this book. It contains information every dog lover should know.

From Chicken Foe to Chicken Friend

The blog post, “Chickens are ‘Chum,’ not ‘Chow’” summarized my successes in reforming (or preventing) chicken-killer dogs. I ended the piece telling you about Wil – an x-show dog I adopted at age 3. He was the hardest, most messed up dog I have ever met. In this post I will share that – not only did Wil stop killing chicken—he has developed a fondness and even empathy for them.

Chaunteclear was the most devoted rooster I have ever known.

I’ve told you previously that we had to remediate his chicken habit. A half dozen chickens died because he killed them.

It took two years to totally break him of that behavior.

We moved from our ranch to a rain forest, and the last three of our flock joined s a few months later. Wil had the zoomies one day right after we got them back. He routed his flight plan right through the middle of the hens as they hung out in the back yard.

They scattered like water hit by a rock—flying in three different directions.

“Ha ha ha!” Wil giggled. And he made big zoomie circle around the yard as the hens packed up again.

“Wil! Chickens are ‘chum’ not ‘chow. That’ll do.”

“Awe Chief.”

“That’ll do. Once was fun. No more.”

He turned sharply and ran a few zoomie circles away from the chickens.

Months later a new chicken – a rooster, actually—would join our hens. Oh… Chaunteclear was a gentleman. He had a heart the size of Texas and was as gallant as an English nobleman. Shortly after he discovered our flock of three old hens and five young hens, Chaunteclear began ‘a’courting,

I watched Wil carefully to be sure that he would not eat the new intruder. No worries.

Chaunteclear tried and tried to marry his flock to this new flock, but his old gals would have nothing to do with the integration. They had only scorn for “the Sirens,” as they refereed to the young hens who had captured Chaunteclear’s heart.

But he showed up every day. And finally one night he did not go home. He stayed for days and days. But Wil and I watched him jog down the road like some poor old arthritic Don Quiote. He would disappear for some time— pleading in vain to have his old sweethearts come with him to live with the others.

Each attempt was met with abject failure, and with wilted tail, Chaunteclear would slink back to our hens.

On very early morning in the fall I heard Chaunteclear crowing in the horse pasture. I heard “Er-er-e—-.”

Chaunteclear’s last crow was in the horse pasture when he was abducted by a coyote in mid-crow.

Wil and I set out at once to see what happened. There were feathers where Chaunteclear had stood on the root of an upturned tree to wake up the sun. And while he was thus distracted, a coyote snatched him by the neck and carried him across the creek and into the woods.

“Will,” I said. “Coyote has Chaunteclear.”

“We’ll find him, Chief,” said Wil.

Wil tracked the coyote down the trail. Now Wil did not know how to use his nose when I got him. Through several different games and a LOT of practice, he has learned how to use his sense of smell.

He buried his nose into the feathers. Then he walked off down the trail. We came to the next set of feathers. It did not look good for Chaunteclear.

“He dropped Chaunteclear here, Chief,” Wil said looking at me, then the feathers.

“I think we’re too late, Wil.”

“He might not be not dead yet, Chief.” Will started to make circles until he stopped and said, “Coyote went this way.”

We walked up the trail and then Wil took us into a little thicket and indicated another pile of feathers.

“He’s gone, Chief. Chaunteclear is gone.” He nosed a small chunk of skin and meat stuck to a few feathers. “We need to get Coyote, Chief. He stole our rooster.”

We tracked the coyote up the trail another eight of a mile before I called Wil off. “It’s too late, Wil. We’re too late. Coyote ate Chaunteclear for supper. There is nothing we can do for Chaunteclear now.

“We can kill coyote,” Wil offered.

“No. It is what it is. Let’s go tell the girls.


Chickens are ‘Chum’ not ‘Chow’ Reforming the Chicken-Killer Dog

Some time ago I asked readers of K9 Well Being’s Newsletter what they thought about the possibilities of rehabilitating a confirmed chicken killing dog. One of the possible responses was “I don’t know, but if there is, I sure would like to know how!”

Can any dog be taught to STOP killing chickens?

I have had four dogs – two German Shepherds and two Bouviers—that killed at least two or more birds. There was one more GSD, Echo, I managed to catch in the act of mauling a bird and impressed upon her the crime would not be tolerated. “Chickens are chums not chow. Your responsibility is to protect and defend our animals, not kill them” was my crystal clear communication.

The other Shepherds, Skip and Gaol, were hardened criminals, having killed and eaten my three pet ducks (their first offense executed when I was not home), plus several chickens after that. We had a milk goat at the time of their second wave of terror. One day I after I had milked the goat, I turned to the dogs and said, “Don’t drink this milk,” and as I returned from putting the goat into the pasture, the dogs were drinking the milk. There was a stick nearby and I took that stick and spanked Gaol—she was the instigator in these attacks, not Skippy. I said “No milk, no milk! And don’t touch my chickens either.”

I knew I had made a connection the second I let her go. She took that stick in her mouth and walked past the chickens – the stick tilted away from them and her eyes blinking.

Sure enough, no more chickens were killed. And months later I got a call from a neighbor who told me that the chickens had gotten out of their pen and were in the yard with the dogs. I raced home and dashed into the back yard. I realized after making a quick head count that not a chicken had been harmed. I lavished praise upon the dogs – and Gaol said, “We thought about it. But we didn’t do it.”

And that was that for those two.

Echo – truly the ambassador for the German Shepherd breed—was 16 weeks old when she decided to turn a chicken into a squeak toy. I heard the distressed chicken, ran out and jumped on the two. Echo was not going to give up that chicken, not for nothing, no how, no way. I pried her jaws apart and shook her head until the chicken got free. The we went to war. Echo bit my arm with her razor-sharp puppy teeth as I had her by the neck. I repositioned my grasp — and grabbed both her cheeks. I pinned her to the ground. The fight ended once she conceded defeat.

Bouvier, Alice, had the benefit of Echo’s training and her ethics. But one night she killed Tom Turkey—not by attacking him—but by herding him all night long.

12years later she would kill her first chicken.

When Alice was 10 we watched “The History of the Chicken” (see blog post about that.). But two years later, after adding Molly-Cule to our family, Alice got caught up in a one-up’s-manship with ‘Cule and joined her in an attack of a chicken. It took only a lecture on the theme, “chickens are chums not chow” to remind her of her duties on the ranch.

By far the hardest case of all was Wil. Wil was 3 years old when I adopted him. He was truly a dangerous dog. He was dangerous around people of all ages and genders, any and all farm animals, any dog that “dissed “ him and any dog that gave him the slightest challenge.

Persistence. That’s what it took Persistence and an iron fist.

The first time he killed a chicken, I had tied him to a cinderblock while I fed and watered the birds. One of the birds got too close, and he dragged that block some 20 feet until he caught the bird.

Up until then, his rehab had been through clicker training and non-coercive training. I had him tied to my body at all times – except when I had him tied to a fencepost or some object I thought would hold him. Obviously a cinderblock was about as effective as an egg carton.

I had a tough call to make: What would be the penalty for this murder? I made the call that we had had a few months together and that it was time that he learned that his Chief was mightier than anyone or anything he had ever known. I would take him down – down hard—down to where he would realize that his Chief could, in all reality, kill him with her bare hands.

I knew too that there would be a very thin line… too early, he would not have that realization that he was not the bad-ass he thought he was… too late and he would flip from “holy moly, I am done for” to “Ok, MF, BRING IT ON!” And if we got to the “bring it on” stage, then I would be in a hand-to-paw-and-jaw conflict with an 85 pound grizzly bear.

Fortunately I read him just right. I quit attacking him when I saw the “holy moly” look. And that event changed our lives together forever. From that point on, he understood why everyone referred to me as “your Chief” when speaking to Wil. I was not “Mummy” or “Mom.” I was Chief. And as Chief, he was a to tow the line without question.


Do I believe that every dog can be taught not to kill other animals or to stop killing them once they have started? Honestly, I am not sure. Remember I’ve mentioned Molly-Cule, the Jack Russell- Chihuahua mix I adopted at 11 months? She was a rabbit killer, and if there was a rabbit lose, and she caught it, it was a goner. But a rabbit is not too far off from a rat or mole – which she was encouraged to kill. She never killed a chicken even though they ran around loose from time to time. Not ducks either.

I think at the heart of the matter is respect. In my experience, when the dog respects you, and you impress upon him his responsibility to protecting and defending your other animals, he is more likely to be trustworthy around them. And that is not to say that “just because” a dog respects you he will automatically take care with your other animals.

For example, Bouviers are notoriously bad with cats as a general rule. Well, a couple of weeks ago a feral cat moved into our hay barn. When Wil learned that we now have a cat, he was mortified:

Chief?! A CAT? No no no, Chief! Not a CAT!”


As of this writing, I can guarantee you that Wil will not kill our chickens.

But we are working on “Cats are chums not chow.” And we have a ways to go before he and the cat are buddies.

Stay tuned.

Why A Christmas Present for a Dog Lover Should Not be a Dog – or Puppy

When I was looking at Pets listings on Craigslist, I saw this ad:  “Cane Corso puppies available for their new homes. They would make a great gift for the Holidays.”    You know that feeling you get when you see something that you know is going to end really, really badly? It’s a plummeting blood-pressure dizzy lightheaded feeling. All the reasons why it is wrong to give a dog as a present whipped though my brain like a flash slideshow. And not just any dog. Proposing that an aggressive, dominant breed like Cane Corso would in any way shape or form make a great Christmas present for a dog lover, is so “over the top.”

Cane Corso is a hard dog that affords his master great protection. If he senses danger, he will take matters into his own hands. Cane Corso is not a beginner dog owner’s dog, for sure!

We’ll get to the specifics of a Cane Corso or other experienced-dog-owners-only breeds in a bit. Let’s discuss the general reasons why great gift for the Holidays should not include dogs or puppies.

A dog is a 7-18 year commitment

Assuming the recipient is the responsible type, you are about to saddle him or her with a 7 to 18 year commitment.

Let me assure you: If you gift ME a dog, I will haunt your grave. Forever.

This is the face to make If someone gives you dog as an unsolicited present

Is the soon-to-be new dog owner ready to socialize and train a dog?

If the dog is a puppy, that friend or relative gets to spring into action to properly socialize and work to provide basic obedience training for that puppy—a commitment that will require daily energy for a period not less than one year.

… There’s potty training.

… … There’s basic obedience training.

… … … There’s etiquette training

  • Do not eat the cat…
  • Do not jump out of a car window…
  • Do not eat the USP delivery person…
  • Do not jump on the nice old lady wobbling behind that walker.

Dogs must be taught never to exit a car without a clear command to do so.

Is the new owner set up to receive a dog? … And how does the rest of the family feel about having a dog?

Before getting a dog, a proactive person has a chance to prepare his or her house for the new dog.

Does your recipient have a secure fence, or will the dog end up on a chain in the back yard?

Is the dog already housebroken? If not, does the new owner have a crate? Enzyme cleaners? A carpet cleaner?

Has the new owner ever had a dog or puppy? What will s/he need in order to create a successful relationship with the new dog?

If the dog is an adult, is he well behaved? Will he get along with the other pets, guests, and members of the family? Even if the new owner is equipped with the knowledge and tools needed to reform a dog, is s/he prepared and willing to do so?

Will this dog fit with the new owner’s plans? If s/he wanted to do agility training, a Borzoi may not prove to be competitive with an Australian Sheepdog. If Lure coursing was the sport of choice, then the Aussie will be outpaced by the Borzoi. And not all dogs are created equal anyway.

There was a fun episode of the Beverly Hillbillies that ran the gamut of dog enthusiasts vs those who view dogs as a giant nuisance.

Your enthusiasm for a dog or multiple dogs may not be shared with your intended recipient!

Does the new owner work? If so, how much time will the new dog have to be around people?

Whose fault is it when the dog trashes the house? (Hint: Not the dog’s)?

Are there other animals in the home? If so, will this dog get along with them? And will they get along with the dog?

Before anyone gets a dog, it is best to consider what other pets are in the home and what pets might be in the home in the future.

While there are exceptions to every rule, there are some breeds that get along marvelously with other pets. But then there are others — my favorite, the Bouvier, for one– that do NOT get along with some other species. Some rescue/ shelter websites address compatibility questions such as whether or not the dog:

  • Gets along with children
  • Gets along with cats
  • Gets along with other dogs

… From those notations, you will begin to recognize a pattern. I don’t know if anyone has ever conducted an official survey, but I am pretty sure the Bouvier would rate in singe-digit percentile as a dog that is marked as one that “Gets along with cats.”

And again, that does not mean that every dog in that breed will follow the norm. But it should raise red flags if you have or plan to have children or other pets.

Do you know enough about the breed and this dog to ask the right questions?

If it is a puppy, find out all you can with regard to these issues:

  • What is the breed and pedigree of the parents. (On Craigslist I found a listing that stated, “The complete bloodline breakdown is 75% German Shepherd and 25% Labrador.” This is NOT the lingo of a responsible, purposeful breeder.)
  • What do you know of the breeder’s reputation—What details do you have about his/her breeding program, attitude and action with regard to disease/ hips, etc. testing of the puppy’s dam and sire, vaccination schedule. (If you have not already done so, read my book, Canine Hypothyroidism: Detection, Diagnosis And Prevention in which I discuss vaccinations, medications as well as breeds that have high rates of thyroid disease.) This book will give you a number of “heads up” warnings about things that can damage the endocrine system. Be proactive. Don’t damage the endocrine system.
  • How did the breeder structure the socialization program for the puppies, (or was there a program at all?) See the next post to read about the importance of proper socialization for puppies age 3 weeks to 12 weeks. 

Do you have a list of questions you should ask when considering an older dog

– Why are the previous owners letting him go? What are this dog’s vices? Typical reasons include:

  • Fearful of children, of men, of women, of strangers, of other pets
  • Aggressive – toward dogs, or cats, or farm animals, or children, or men or women or the owner…
  • Destructive – chews up everything
  • Not housebroken
  • Behaviorally out of control
  • Separation Anxiety
  • Cannot be controlled
  • Cannot be contained
  • Is an “illegal” breed for that city

What does your friend / family member know about this breed?

Dog Breed Characteristics may not match the person you are giving the dog to

My first dog was a Shepherd-Husky mix that we found at a pet shop when I was ten. He was my inseparable partner as I grew up. He disappeared at 5:30 a.m. in Seattle on March 30, 1979. I was devastated. A three-month search failed to turn up any sign of him.

When I finally conceded failure, I adopted Buck, the 6 month old GSD/Lab mix. He was as committed to his previous owner as Baron was to me. For years, Buck dragged me across streets whenever he saw a tall, thin man in a business suit.

Buck was brilliant. He had a powerful vocabulary and sophisticated comprehension of English. However, we were ill-suited.

It is not that he was not a good dog. In fact, he was a great dog. But temperamentally, we were not a good match. He was too happy, too playful. He was a classically terrific Lab!

But I wanted a more serious, down-to-business type of dog.

Years later I would find Wayne Curry, who was then breeding exceptional German Shepherds of European lines. I would meet all the puppies at 5 weeks old, hold one of them for 20 minutes and return 3 weeks later to bring one home.

I am pretty sure that the puppy I held at 5 weeks old was the one who chose me. I threw my little change purse over and over and over again, and she raced her brothers and sisters to that purse, grabbed it, and returned it to me every time.

Echo was the ambassador of the German Shepherd breed – a dog with the finest temperament I have ever known. No one could have picked out that dog for me. We created that bond from the time we met and selected one another.

When the horses were turned out to graze in the high country, Echo could always find them.

Please do not deny your friend or relative that honor.

And to bring this all back to the Cane Corso. You, yourself, may not be knowledgeable about the dog’s breed in terms of typical hereditary illnesses, or breed temperament tendencies.

Cane Corso is not a breed for a novice dog owner.

Cane Corso is a breed I might consider once my Bouvier is no longer able to protect me. They are one-man (or one family) dogs who view outsiders as potential threats. They have fewer qualms of defending their people than even a Bouvier has.

They are absolutely not a “beginners” dog as they are not touchie-feelie, love-peace-tie-dye dogs. They will attack cats, small dogs, and uninvited intruders, and their large size and solid body means that if you have not gained full control of this dog when he was a little sprout, you will have your hands full and your shoulders dislocated if you wait until he is a year old.

And THIS is the dog advertised on Craigslist as a dog that would make “great gift for the Holidays.”

How to Chose a Dog for Your Personality and Lifestyle

In K9 Well Being’s newsletter, I provide resources that can help readers make an informed decision when it comes to selecting a breed of dog that will best suit them.

As we grow older or our living situations change, so might our choice of dogs. For example, a high-drive dog may have been well suited to a life on the farm, but if you sell the farm and move to the city, that breed may not work out very well in an apartment in the city.

In our last post I spent a little time discussing the breed, Cane Corso, saying that this is not a breed for a novice owner. But if I were a single woman living in a dicey area – and I had a sound foundation training hard-dogs- this is a breed I would seriously consider.

If you are unfamiliar with the attributes of a breed, do your research. Physical attraction is only a part of your relationship equation with a dog.

My favorite breed of all time is the Bouvier. They’re like a non-whining, standoffish, stoic-to-a-fault European German Shepherd.

My first Bouv, Alice, was 12 when she did something she’d never done before.

My mom was visiting the ranch when Alice dashed after Molly-Cule — the little Jack Russel- Chihuahua mix. They ducked under and electric fence to chase one of my mules.

Molly-Cule missed the strike, but that mule nailed Alice. Broke her humerus bone. But Alice did not yelp. She did not whine. The only reason I knew she was hurt was that she broke off her chase and slunk discreetly into the horse trailer. If she’d been any of my German Shepherds, there would have at least been a quick yelp. The word “stoic” is quite the understatement for a Bouv.

My Bouvier, Alice, was a wonderful trail-mate… but she began that training at 8 weeks… and had additional mentorship with Echo — A GSD who was truly the ambassador for the breed.

I don’t want to be around a dog that whines, begs or pesters me. I want a dog that is laid back and easy going, yet will hup-to when duty calls. Bouvier, Wil, and I spent a few hours one afternoon (in 100 degree heat) moving our bull who had fallen in love with a neighbor’s heifer and was intent on tearing down all our fences so he could go say howdy-do.

That was a grueling afternoon. But a Bouv is a partner, and he will stick with you like a European Shepherd to “get’er done.’ Dang near killed us both with heatstroke.

I want a dog that will be my back up.

One day, Alice (age 15) , Wil (age 7) and I were south of Seattle at a car wash in a run down part of town. Some vagrant-looking guys approached me as I was putting things back in my truck after vacuuming it. The dogs were tied to rhododendron bushes in the shade.

“Lady, want some help?” one asked.

“No thanks.” I said

But they kept approaching. And I knew they’d heard me.

“Lady, want some help?” the same man asked again.

“No. Thank you.” I said.

But still they advanced.

“Stop!” I said forcefully, putting my hand out like a traffic cop. They did stop.

“Look at the bushes,” I said. My gaze followed my finger, and what I observed caused white tingling fear spread to across my body.

Wil was on high alert. He drilled into those guys with a look that said, “One more step, I’m taking you out.”

Not everyone wants or needs or wants a dog for defense. Some people want a companion to jog with. Others want a companion to watch television with. Some want a dog to do some sport with – dock diving, agility, lure coursing, dog sledding, ring sport…

Do you want a sports dog? A hunting dog? A companion dog? A defense dog? Choose carefully!

Whatever your reason is for wanting a dog, it is best that you identify that reason. And then do some research. Find out if that breed is suitable to your needs.

And even if you are not searching for a purebred, it is still a good idea to do your needs assessment and best-fit breed exercise.

In the case of mixed breeds, keep in mind that the dog may look a lot like one breed, but have the temperament of another. You cannot judge these “books” by their covers.

For example, let’s say that you find a basset hound – Labrador mix. He might look a whole lot like a lab, but if he has the basset temperament, he surely will not act like one! You’ll likely have a kind-hearted, hard-to-train, independent minded, loves to follow his nose dog.

Mixed breeds may not exhibit the temperament or disposition of the breed they most resemble.

Maybe he looks like the basset hound, but has the Lab temperament? Then he will most likely love kids and people, be naturally pretty good with other animals, be a wonderful, fun companion. He’ll be protective without being a menace. And he’ll always be up for playing outfield when the kids are playing baseball.

If you understand the breed characteristics of both, you may be able to project an educated guess about the kind of dog he is. And in doing so– if you are familiar with breed temperament characteristics– you may be able to determine whether or not you two will be a good match.

Of course, besides temperament and disposition, there are other things that you need to consider:

What size of dog will work best for your lifestyle?

  • Tiny?
  • Medium?
  • Large?
  • Huge?
  • How large is your house? Yard? Car?
  • Do you need to transport this dog?
  • Can you afford to feed a large dog?
  • Is this breed prone to disease, hip problems, or other medical issues?
  • Will his job (such as being a livestock guardian, for example) require a large bodied dog?

Golden Retriever with Chihuahua-Jack Russel Terrorist friend

What are the challenges of your dog’s hair or coat?

  • What is your tolerance for shedding?
  • Are you allergic to dog hair?
  • Do you like the feel of a short-haired dog?
  • Do you have the patience and/or financial means to manage the coat of a long-haired dog?

A coat like this can be a challenge in some climates (i.e. wet and muddy), vegetative habitats (eg. cheat grass, hounds tongue)

Fleas and ticks … and dogs

Environmental concerns: Is “Where you live” conducive to the dog you want?

  • Is the dog large enough to hold his own with coyotes or other wildlife or savvy enough not to pick a war he cannot win?
  • Are there weeds, such as cheat grass, that will cause harm to the dog unless monitored with some degree of obsession on your part? With the dog’s coat be resilient against such plants? (Labradors are; Bouviers are not.)
  • (My vet found a cheat grass blade WAY down in Alice’s ear canal! He also found a tick way down in her ear canal!)
  • Is the breed of dog you are considering illegal in your city or county?
  • Is your climate suitable for this dog?

Will the dog pose a threat to other people or animals that share your world?

  • Will this dog get along with other animals you have or plan to have?
  • Is this dog safe with children?
  • Will this dog be a safety hazard to old people who have mobility issues?

Dog aggression can be a factor of temperament, inadequate socialization and/or training, as well as thyroid disease! CLICK HERE  to learn more.

If you find that the dog you chose is not working out for you, it is okay to re-home him. I have done this twice in the 50 years I have owned dogs. The first was Buck – the Shepherd – Lab I mentioned in my previous post. Buck was one of the finest dogs I have ever met. But we were not “soul mates.”

Buck loved his rabbits. In fact, each time a litter was born, there was no way to pry him away from his job as guardian angel to the kits.

The second was a little Chihuahua – Jack Russell Terrorist mix. A visitor to the ranch fell madly in love with Miss Molly-Cule and asked if he could have her. She went on to be his service dog and the two are 100% inseparable. She adores him and he has gone to extreme lengths to protect, defend and care for her.

Molly-Cule — Queen of the Jungle!

In both these cases, these dogs were better suited to their new owners than to me. In the end, I was just a sort of conduit to spur them on to the people they were meant to be with.

There are a number of “breed selector” tools online. Dog Identifier has a “round up” of eight of them:

Dog Breed Selector Tools: Find Your Perfect Dog

In my email newsletter I told readers about the ones I took that provided the most authentic results. If you would like to subscribe to our newsletter, simply drop a line to and ask to Subscribe to the Newsletter.

How to Identify Red Flags from Craigslist & Other Dog Classified Ads

If you want a dog, where do you begin to look? Breeders? Rescues or shelters? The backyard breeder next door? Craigslist pet community listings? You can find a real gem of a dog from any of these sources. But each of these requires savvy on your part so that you do not end up with a dog that is more than you can handle or is not a good fit for your lifestyle or goals.

This post will consider “red flag” descriptors that commonly appear on Craigslist as well as other classified ad or private party sources.

Flag Number One: Dog Aggression


Sometimes dogs are aggressive because they were not taught parameters when they were young. When you see an ad that tells you that:

  • “She does tend to get nippy if she gets too excited after being in the kennel for multiple hours, so it is best to let her run around and play before letting her out to cuddle or enjoy family time.”
  • “ He should receive private training as opposed to group training because he can get easily distracted by other dogs.”

Aggression can be an issue when there is an existing pack that has not been taught to play nice with others:

  • “New puppy not working out with older bigger dogs in the home. My bigger dogs are to rough and aggressive with the puppy.”
  • “He does not like adult males, but after few days will be better if the other male doesn’t any aggression toward him.”

Red Flag Number 2: Fear-based dog behavior

Sometimes aggression does not come from drive but from fear. This might be the result of poor or inappropriate socialization, improper training:

  • “She should not be constantly around children. She is very timid and scared and that makes her vicious.”
  • “He’s not good around strangers and prefers adults.”

Excessive aggression or timidity can be the result of the ways a young puppy was handled. Or it could be the result of separating a puppy from its mother and litter mates too early.


Premature Puppy Placement

I cringed when I read these three ads:

  • “Small breed puppies. Just born yesterday. Will be ready for rehoming in 6 weeks.”
  •  “He is a 6 week old Lhasa Apso puppy. He loves to play and cuddle. I work full time and don’t have time for him.” [Obviously this one was re-homed before he even reached six weeks!]
  • “I got her when she was four and a half weeks old. She does have some separation anxiety and likes to chew on stuff. She needs to have a couple of bones and some toys to keep her busy.”

I am sure that all three of the puppies in the last three listings will have issues such as separation anxiety, destructive obsessions with chewing things, as well as problems getting along with other dogs, inappropriate behaviors such as humping people.

Too many people do not realize the enormous impact proper socialization plays on the development of the mind of a dog.


There is no Substitute for Proper Socialization

NO puppy is ready to leave its dog family until he has reached at least 7 weeks old. Ideally, a puppy is 8 weeks of age before he sets out to make a new life with his human partners.

When the underlying cause of aggression is early separation, you will have a devil of a time remediating dogs like these:

  • “It will take good 30 minutes for him to get used to you and maybe get close enough to sniff you.”
  • “She is protective of her food and when challenged by another dog she will stand up for herself.”
  • “He needs a family without kids under 16, as he is very nervous around a lot of activity.”
  • “She needs a home without kids, and without many visitors.”
  • “Allie is an alpha dog, so she is very dominant towards other dogs.”
  • “I’m having a hard time with potty training and everything he’s chewing.”
  • “Charlie is not trained to walk on leash and is very fearful of it, so he needs a home with a securely fenced-in yard.”

Shelter Dog Behavior Assessment

Shelters and Rescues rarely know the background of the dogs that arrive at their doors. Each staff will vary in their savvy of dog behavior and temperament assessment. They may or may not have a clue as to a dog’s training level or where to direct the adoptees to appropriate resources.

An experienced dog trainer who has a wide range of dog breeds he or she has worked with can usually predict the type of behaviors one might expect from a dog of any given breed. For example, most Jack Russel Terriers are fearless, energetic bossy little fireballs. If you want a nice, sweet lap dog, this is not it. If you want a dog that loves to cuddle, you’d be better off with a scruffy little Brussels Griffon.

Knowing the breed can help match a person with a dog that has the characteristics, disposition and temperament best suited to that person. Staff at shelters and rescue may not have sufficient breadth of knowledge to direct a person to an appropriate selection. Also, often people are drawn to a dog that is not particularly well suited to them because they feel a calling to that animal.


I adopted a 6 month old lab-shepherd cross back in 1978. He was a fantastic dog, and we lived together for six years before a friend of mine adopted him from me. She sobbed, when two years after his death, she told me how much she loved that dog and how much she still missed him.

Sometimes you are not the best match for a dog while another person is the dead-ringer perfect partner. It’s okay to let go of a dog you just met or one you’ve known for years if his situation will improve.

When I was taking Wil to dog class several years ago, there was a young couple there who had adopted a wildly reactive purebred Australian Cattle dog from a local shelter. The person they worked with at the shelter knew so little about dogs, he thought this was a mixed breed. The dog was sweet in the kennel, but when they got him home, they found he was so reactive, they had to keep the blinds closed. They had to walk him on a leash in their fenced back yard. And when they left home, they had to leave him in the bathroom so that he would not tear up the blinds. They were a wonderful young couple who followed the instructor’s protocols and training program to the letter. When Wil and I last saw them—a year after they had started working with that trainer—the dog was finally responsive to them and ignored most of his former triggers.

Do you want to put that much elbow grease into a dog?

It’s okay to say “No.”

And it’s okay to say “Yes.”

If you read any of my books, you will learn that Wil made that little cattle dog look like Lassie. Wil was insanely angry, aggressive and bone-chillingly dangerous. He was not a shelter dog. He was a breeder’s dog. And he was mishandled and misunderstood for the first three years of his life.


I will tell you that most dogs can be remediated in the right hands. Even a novice dog owner – like the couple with the Cattle Dog—can learn how to reshape the mind of a messed up dog, most of the time… if they are 110% committed… and give 150% of their energy to correctly implementing the strategies outlined by a talented and competent instructor.

What I hope you will do is consider your choice carefully. In our next post, I will provide you with more food for thought that will prepare you to make a choice that will serve you and the new dog in your life well for your lifetime together.



Noncoercive Clicker Training for Beginners

I taught Wil to make eye contact using clicker training.

I taught Wil to make eye contact using noncoercive clicker training

Clicker Training is a great way to teach your dog new skills and behaviors using totally non-coercive strategies.

In my book The 3 Essential Commands, I explain how I used clicker training to re-shape the gnarly attitude Wil had when I got him at age 3. Today he is a dog who enjoys learning and takes pride in his partnership with me.

You can use clickers to train your dog too. The benefits are many:

  • You will improve your focus on what your dog is doing that you want him to do.
  • If you make mistakes (your timing or failure to see the “tries” your dog makes, for  example) there is no harm done. You won’t have issued a reprimand or correction; you will have failed to treat your dog for guessing what you wanted him to do.
  • Clicker training builds an enthusiast attitude toward learning.
  • A trained dog is more confident. And he’s a lot more pleasant to have around!

Clicker Training Primer

Here is a succinct video demonstrating how to use a clicker to teach your dog a simple concept: “Watch me.” Continue reading

How to do Doga — with Gift Ideas for Doggy Yoga Lovers

Who would have thought yoga could be such a contact sport?

Doga is catching on all over the dog world

Dogs love yoga! It is an activity where they can participate with their human partners in a relaxing activity

Meet “Doga” a yoga practice that is becoming quite popular. Simply, Doga is yoga done in partnership with your dog. This can be you assisting the dog in stretches he does, or teaching him to do poses with you.

It might seem odd that dogs would want to participate in one’s yoga practice,  but then again, dogs have evolved to be our partners, and part of partnership is sharing experiences.

Continue reading

I am Thankful for…

I have been focusing on recreating a new life and way of being, and part of the Reset is to slow down, see the moment, pay attention to the beauty and greatness each moment brings.

A couple of weeks ago, after autumn had made her presence with rainy, windy days and cool damp nights, there was a brief return to the dog days of summer. On that day, I took Alice and Wil to a private beach on Camano Island near where we were living in our RV. This day was special for so many reasons:

Hitting the "reset button"

Our awesome real estate agent gifted Alice, Wil and me a glorious day on the private beach on Camano Island.

For so many years I found myself so “up-to-my-ears” in duties, responsibilities, and commitments that I lost the precious time I had with my horses and dogs. I changed my life—sold my ranch, downsized my belongings, parked my horses at a training barn in Tonasket while the dogs and I set off to find a new home where life could calm down and we could find Time again.

And so the day on the beach gave us the opportunity to hit the Reset Button. Continue reading

Crate Training 101

Every dog should be taught—ideally at an early age—how to spend time in a crate. The reasons are plentiful:

When properly conditioned to a crate, a dog will find it a comfortable cave. This cave can serve as a place of safety during thunderstorms, holidays (lots of guests are in your home, you’re at an unfamiliar place, fireworks are exploding, trick or trickers are knocking continuously on your door, etc.)

If you are staying in a hotel, motel or are a guest in someone’s home, a crate may be appreciated by your host.

Dogs who suffer from separation anxiety can be unbelievably destructive. In a crate, the only thing the dog can destroy is his bedding. And if you fear he may shred and eat it, remove the bedding when he is unsupervised.

There is a possibility that you may need to travel by air with your dog at some point. That is a very stressful situation for dogs, and having a friendly relationship with the crate prior to the trip helps make the experience just a little less “over the edge.”

How to Condition Your Dog to LOVE His Crate

Continue reading

Training aids: 6′ Leash and a Choke Collar

Training your dog to walk politely on a leash may require a new tools– a 6′ leash and a choke collar. Such is the case with Wil and me. We are ratcheting up our obedience expectations. And with that we needed two tools that we ordinarily would not use: A choke collar and a leather leash.

The Fierce Jungle Animal!

The Fierce Jungle Animal!

Wil is the third of three dogs I ever got over the age of 8 weeks of age. One was Buck, about whom I’ve written in another post. Another was a little 8 pound Jack Russel Terrorist- Chihuahua mix. In all the years I had either of them, their early leash-training (i.e. “lack there-of”)  left “ghosts” of behavior. In other words, when it suited them, they resorted to pulling my arm out of its socket. (Yes, even the Fierce Jungle Animal!)

Such is the case with Wil.

Continue reading

Clickety Dog – the app that clicks for dog lovers (Guest Post)

I’d like to thank Vicky Carne, Publisher of Clickety Clips & Clickety Dog for contributing this article — just for K9 Wellbeing Readers!

Improve your timing- Use Clickety Dog App

Clickety Dog- An App to build great timing. Whether you’re a dog owner, thinking of getting a dog or just someone who loves dogs, the game app Clickety Dog (available for most cell phones and tablets) provides hours of entertainment as well as practice in clicker* training.

In the game, you must patiently clicker train your young dog in new skills before you take it through to obedience competitions and round agility courses. But, just like training a real dog your screen dog may ignore you or simply not understand what you want – timing and patience are key. And, just like real life, so is watching out for distractions like squirrels or picnics! Your aim is to win all the rosettes and trophies, and you can’t do that if your dog’s run off.

For those new to clicker training, it’s also a helpful introduction to both the concept and the skills needed before you go off and try it with a real dog.

Continue reading

Wil Puts Dog-Aggression aside as we’re Herding a Heifer

I am selling my ranch, and as I’m not sure where I’ll land or when I’ll be settled, I must sell my cattle. This is a difficult thing to do, for over the past 4 years I have come to regard cows as honorable, spiritual beings. I will miss them.

And so will Wil. They have been instrumental as (Alice and I) have worked to rehabilitate this now 6 year old Bouvier to assume responsibilities of a working ranch dog. One of these skills is herding cattle!

Mab- Still on the Ranch with Moo Friends

Mab- Still on the Ranch with Moo Friends

Late yesterday morning we set up a loading zone and ushered Mab, a one year-old heifer, into the trailer. She went in quietly. I took her to East Wenatchee to her new home. Her new owners had prepared a 4-strand barbed wire fence that was about 150×150 feet. When I opened the door to the trailer, she hopped out, looked around, and started bawling. “Moooooo???” she called. “Moooooooooo!” – Where are my friends? Where is my family? Where am I? HELP!

Continue reading