Category Archives: safety

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.



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.

Halloween is Right Around the Corner!

This is the exciting time of the season for not just kids and adults, but pets too! Just imagine- the fun costumes, all of the various trick or treaters, the fun places to explore…

Pumpkin Patch

Did I Say Pets?

Of course I did! Halloween can be a time for our fur- kids too! Not only will your pet love the activity, but Halloween presents a wonderful opportunity to get out there and get some well-deserved exercise.

Halloween Dogs

Of course, there is always the potential for something unexpected to happen. Are you prepared if your pup eats something a pup shouldn’t eat? Believe it or not, chocolate and candies, especially candies with xylitol (a sweetener found in many sugar free sweets), can be toxic to dogs.

Your pup may ingest harmful food.
● If you aren’t sure, the first thing you should always do is Call Your Veterinarian! Explain the situation; they will tell you what your next steps should be.

Signs to Watch out for:

Be sure that these do not contain poisonous ingredients

Be sure that these do not contain poisonous ingredients

● Vomiting
● Diarrhea
● Lethargy
● Agitation
● Increased Thirst
● Elevated Heart Rate
● Seizures

What About Candy Wrappers?
Wrappers can cause bowel obstructions that might require surgery.


Signs to Watch out for:

● Vomiting
● Decreased appetite

● Lack of defecation
● Straining to defecate

Do you like to bake your own creative sweets for the pup to enjoy? There is yet another fantastic activity to keep you and your furry pal busy this Halloween! But do be aware of hidden ingredients in that jar of peanut butter. Poison may be lurking!


Do you know exactly what your pup should eat? Believe it or not, Homemade Dog Treats May Be Dangerous… or Deadly !

Hey- I’ve got you covered! Just in case the unexpected does happen:
Pet Poison Hotline: 1-800-213-6680
ASPCA Animal Poison Control: 888-426-4435

How often do we get to go out and have fun at night? Halloween is one of those few times. Though it may be a blast, this also offers possible dangers. Don’t worry; I’ve put together a few great Tips for Staying Safe Walking your Dog at Night to keep you and your loved ones out of harm’s way!

In the end, be prepared for a wonderful Halloween for everyone!

Resources and Tips for Traveling With Your Dog

Tips for Traveling with Your Dog

Tips for Traveling with Your Dog

Not too long ago, I posted a blog entitled, Dogs in Hotels- Tips for Being a Welcomed Guest. That post covered tips on keeping your dog safe and how to be a guest that a dog friendly lodging establishment would look forward to seeing again!

In this post I’d like to provide you with a few resources you can use to find dog-friendly lodging and offer some tips on traveling with your pet. Continue reading

Homemade Dog Treats May Be Dangerous… or Deadly

T’is the season for DIY gifts –and a popular one among dog owners is homemade dog cookies. Whether you’re making them yourself or you’re the recipient of a batch of homemade goodies, you must be careful to screen the ingredients for toxins.

Skippy Natural Peanut Butter is one of the "back to basics" styles of peanut butter and contains only Roasted peanuts, Sugar, Palm oil, and Salt

Skippy Natural Peanut Butter is one of the “back to basics” styles of peanut butter and contains only Roasted peanuts, Sugar, Palm oil, and Salt

Perils of Peanut Butter

One would think that peanut butter is nothing more than pureed peanuts, and in a small percentage of peanut butter products, that is the case. More often, however, peanut butter has been adulterated with a myriad of substances, some of which cause disease, or, in the case of dogs, immediate death.

“Surely you jest: Death? Really!?” you say?


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Lost Dog: What Do You Do When Your Dog Goes Missing?

A couple of weeks ago this crop of Lost Dog signs popped up on every street corner in this rural area around Granite Falls, Washington:

What to do when your dog goes missing

What to do when your dog goes missing

Losing a dog is heartbreaking

This sign is posted on every intersection within at least 20 miles of this dog’s disappearance.

Is this dog microchipped

The photo is helpful. Not all the signs have a picture of the Huge White Dog with Tan Ears










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Tips for Staying Safe Walking your Dog at Night

As I write this post, there is another fall storm blowing up here in Northwest Washington. The wind is projected to gust over 60 miles per hour and the rain will come in buckets.

I’m out in this storm, and as I drive along city streets– an activity I’m no longer accustomed to, having recently moved from a rural region with just three stoplights in the whole county– I found it nearly impossible to see pedestrians walking across roads on this blustery night.

We're nearly invisible

Without reflective clothing or at least bright clothes, Wil and I present a “Where’s Waldo” challenge for drivers. (Can YOU see us?)

Can you find us in the photo above?

Can you find us in the photo above?

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