You can take easy steps at home to help keep your dog’s teeth shiny, healthy, and clean:

  • Feed a diet of dry food. Dry dog food (kibble) is abrasive, helping to keep the teeth clean. In general, feeding a dental treat can help to break down plaque and tartar.
  • Provide the right toys. Never let a dog play with an object that’s harder than his teeth. Knuckle bones are too hard for many dogs (nylon bones are a better alternative). Dogs will also occasionally try to eat rocks or other obviously dangerous objects that can break teeth.
  • Brush! Three times a week, brush your dog’s teeth and gums, using a soft toothbrush. Starting this habit early can make it a pleasant (and fun) experience for you and your dog. Be sure to use special toothpaste made for dogs; never use human toothpaste.
  • If a toothbrush seems too challenging for you and your dog, try a finger toothbrush. This a small brush that fits, like a glove, snugly over the index finger. It can be easier to maneuver inside your dog’s mouth than a conventional toothbrush.

Grooming Your Dog

July 25, 2011

Grooming has many benefits other than having an odor-free companion whose coat is a joy to touch. (Although that’s great too.)

Brushing your dog’s teeth prevents all kinds of unpleasant health problems that have nothing to do with dog breath. Keeping nails trimmed allows your dog to move around comfortably. Cutting any hair that falls into the eye can prevent eye irritatation; keeping ear hair trimmed can help prevent ear infections.

There’s also the cleanliness factor. Bathing keeps dirt from being tracked all over your home. Grooming alleviates fleas, which can cause health problems for both you and your dog. Trimmed nails won’t mark your flooring.

But just as important is the bonding that takes place when you spend time running your hands over your dog’s body while you groom. Your dog will love the concentrated attention from you.

Basic tools

Any pet supply store will stock the basic grooming supplies you’ll need:

  • Brush
  • Nail clipper
  • Shampoo
  • Flea control
  • Dog toothpaste and toothbrush

Depending on your dog’s coat, you’ll need a specific type of brush or a flea comb, most of which are available at good pet supply stores. Certain flea prevention products and toothpastes are only available at your veterinarian’s office. If you’re not sure which tools are best for your dog, a talk with your vet will help you get started.

Happily, separation anxiety is preventable if you’re starting with a puppy. The key is teaching him that leaving him alone actually means good things–the goal is for him to associate your departure with something positive. Some effective techniques:

  • Leave Kongs stuffed with peanut butter or cottage cheese ready for him to dig into as soon as you leave.
  • Hide small treats around the house or in his crate. Make sure his favorite toys are tucked safely in places he knows to search. This gives him something to do while you’re gone and helps eliminate boredom.
  • Tire him out. See that he receives plenty of physical and mental exercise and that he gets lots of time with you. When you do leave, he’ll be more content to sleep or just take it easy.

A crate can also be an effective preventive tool. Dogs who’ve been properly introduced to their crate tend to feel safe and secure in this private den. In some cases, dogs prefer the sanctuary of a crate to being left alone in a big open house. Since every dog is different, it’s important to pay attention to exactly which options are comforting to your dog–and which aren’t–before leaving him home alone.

Unfortunately, sometimes separation anxiety just isn’t preventable, especially with an older dog. Experience or genetics may have already triggered the onset. But, thanks to desensitization, crating techniques, and an understanding of the disorder, it’s treatable. In fact, a diagnosis of separation anxiety in no way precludes a healthy and happy existence for your dog. With some extra effort, your relationship can be extremely satisfying for you both.

Bottom line: Separation anxiety has little to do with training or discipline; the behaviors are a result of the severe panic your dog feels when you’re not there. Left untreated, it causes damage to your house and belongings–and serious psychological suffering for your dog. For situations that warrant desensitization treatment, it is strongly recommended that you consult a professional.

In some cases, a veterinarian may prescribe drugs to treat serious separation anxiety. Reconcile, for example, is one such drug that’s new on the market; it’s based on Prozac.

Desensitization is the method most often used to treat separation anxiety, however. It entails gradually acclimating your dog to your departure. It is strongly recommended that you seek help from a reputable behaviorist if you think desensitizationis your best treatment option. It usually takes eight weeks or less to bring symptoms under control; in rare cases, much longer.

For now, here’s a very simplified example of how you would approach the problem: The first step is to get your dog used to hearing the sound of your keys jingling. When he can do that without exhibiting any signs of distress, add picking up your briefcase. Then add walking to the door. Then opening the door. You’ll continue adding actions, in baby steps, until you can leave the house for a period of an hour or more without consequence.

If this seems like a slow and tedious process, it is. In the meantime, keep your greetings and goodbyes as low-key as possible. This signals to your dog that coming and going are casual, common occurrences–no need for drama or spectacular displays of emotion.

The term gets tossed around casually, but separation anxiety is a very serious matter. True separation anxiety is your dog’s panicked response to being left alone. The results–including the destruction of your belongings and the deterioration of your dog’s mental and physical health–can be devastating.

Separation anxiety is very different from misbehavior. It’s a misconception that when your dog digs up your prized orchids or urinates on your favorite rug, he’s seeking revenge for having been left home alone. The best-case explanation for such behavior is that he’s bored, and the worst is that he’s in a state of serious panic. But the good news is that, with effort, separation anxiety is treatable.


Separation anxiety can result from suffering a traumatic experience, such as a major earthquake or becoming lost in unfamiliar surroundings. Sometimes the death of a person or another pet in the household can trigger the onset. In many cases, no single event causes it–some breeds are simply genetically predisposed.

What the problem looks like

Separation anxiety almost always includes one or more of the following behaviors when you’re not at home:

  • Destructive behaviors, such as chewing pillows or furniture, mutilating plants, or relentless scratching at doors and windows
  • Constant barking, whining, or howling
  • Urinating or defecating indoors
  • Intense, persistent pacing
  • Attempting to “escape” a room or crate to the point of self-injury
  • Physiological responses, such as dilated pupils or excessive panting

Disorder versus misbehavior

Not all unwanted behaviors qualify as separation anxiety; in fact, most do not. If you come home to find your dog chewing on your old house slippers, in all probability he simply finds the activity enjoyable and uses your absence as a chance to gnaw away, uninterrupted. Or he may just be bored.

Several factors indicate that the problem is serious:

  • The behavior occurs every time you leave.
  • The behavior occurs only in your absence.
  • Anxious behaviors begin even before you go. For example, your dog knows that when you put on your jacket, you’re about to leave the house. The minute you reach for your jacket, he begins pacing and howling.

Last week Dad was telling me about a visit he made to an awesome sanctuary in Southern California — Lions, Tigers and Bears — a Big Cat and Exotic Animal Rescue with Bri and Lexi, two of my human sisters.  Bri celebrates the same birthday, July 4th, as Liberty, one of the rescued bears at this sanctuary.  Bobbi Brink, Founder, has such a passion for all animals and their humane treatment, and she and her amazing team have done an outstanding job of creating a caring and safe forever home for the animals who reside there.

In creation is a new habitat that will house, in addition to Liberty, some new bears to live their lives in this wonderful facility.  You can find out more about Lions, Tigers and Bears by visiting their website at

Lions, Tigers and Bears Sanctuary

Lions, Tigers and Bears Sanctuary

Bri and Liberty

Those without dogs often jokingly equate dog owners’ concern for their pets to that of a new parent. “Well, of course,” any dog lover will tell you. The love can be overpowering, the worry and anxiety is every bit as real, as is the frustration that your little one can’t tell you when something’s wrong.

When it comes to keeping your dog healthy, the most important first step is the right attitude. A healthy pet requires more than a yearly visit to the vet for shots and a checkup. Heath, as with humans, depends on some basic building blocks.

Feed him well

Why bother feeding your dog high quality food? While dog nutrition is still a young science, a growing number of people believe good nutrition can lead to better health and a longer life for your dog. It’s more expensive but you don’t have to fill your dog’s bowl with as much of it because of its higher density. Here’s something else to think about: Cheap food produces more backyard waste thanks to all those fillers!

Exercise him daily

Even “couch potato” breeds require regular activity to stay fit, and a daily walk is a minimum requirement for any dog. Active breeds, such as Weimaraners, need multiple chances to exercise each day. Not giving your dog enough exercise almost guarantees a pet who’s destructive and unhappy.

Keep life interesting

Dogs need to be mentally challenged to feel life is good, just as people do. So toss him a ball or frisbee, teach him to new tricks and regularly run him through old ones, introduce him to other dogs and people, and take him to new places. If your dog is game, and you are too, you might want to try agility training.

A fit mind requires exercise, just like a fit body. Your dog will no doubt remind you of this the first time he shows up carrying his leash.

Practice health maintenance

Treat your dog as you would any other member of your family. Find a good vet and make sure he’s up to date on his shots. Give him monthly heartworm and fleamedications. Learn how to brush your dog’s teeth. Brush and bathe him often.

Prepare to spend $$

When you first stare into your new furry friend’s eyes, it’s hard to imagine anything but sunny romps through the park. So the reality of caring for a pet may come as a shock to many dog owners, and never more so than in the first year when costs can range from $800 to well into the thousands.

The expenses are one reason as many as half of all dogs adopted as puppies are surrendered in the first year of their life. So be sure to ask yourself before you get a dog whether you’re ready to spend what it takes.

People love their pets.  They dress them up, organize their birthday parties and often bring their cats or dogs along on errands and road trips.  But a well-meaning pet parent could be putting their companion at risk.

While many pet owners know not to keep their dog or cat locked in a car with the windows shut even for a short duration of time, there are other “dont’s” when pets are taken on the road.

1.  Riding in the driver’s seat: Many pet parents place their pooches on their laps when going for a car ride.  Not only is this dangerous, but it could also be illegal, too.  A pet in a driver’s lap could inadvertently hit the gear shift, distract the driver, end up under the accelerator or brake, or attempt to lunge out of an open window.  Any of these scenarios makes driving hazardous.

2.  Driving without a seat belt:  Just as people should buckle up, so should pets.  The safest manner of travel is to have the pet in a carrier that is secured in the car.  For larger dogs, a harness that keeps the dog seated in the backseat is ideal.  Some drivers also prefer a pet barrier that is installed in the rear area of an SUV.  In the event of an accident, a secured pet won’t become a dangerous missile in the car.

3.  Riding in the truck bed:  Pickup truck drivers may think it’s fine to have their pooch ride in the open air of the truck bed.  However, a dog may chase after an animal on the side of the road, attempting to leap out while the vehicle is in motion.  A leashed dog may end up becoming hanged or dragged behind the truck.  Always keep pets inside the vehicle when traveling.

4.  Riding with face out the window:  All it takes is one small stone or some other debris to end up in a pet’s face to blind him or her.  Plus, rushing wind can damage a pet’s sensitive ear drums.  Although many dogs can’t resist the temptation of putting their heads out of a car window, it is safer to keep them inside.

5. Making dogs jump in and out of the car:  As pets get older, they, too can succumb to some of the side effects of old age.  Larger dogs may experience arthritis or hip discomfort.  It can be uncomfortable to jump in and out of a vehicle, particularly a truck or SUV.  Dog ramps are a safer option, and one that keeps a pet’s comfort in mind.

6.  Failure to use ID:  A microchip and a collar with personal information is essential for the pet that travels with his or her human companion.  In the event the pet becomes lost, these methods of identification will help the pet be reunited with its owner much more quickly.

Talk about breaking barriers!

According to, Naki‘o is the world’s first dog to have — and use — four prosthetic legs and paws. The pup sustained injuries when he was left behind with his brothers and sisters in an abandoned and foreclosed home. When his legs got stuck in an icy puddle, he lost his paws and ended up with four virtually-unusable stumps. Luckily, he was rescued:

Veterinary technician Christie Tomlinson was on the look out for a playmate for her Jack Russell terrier mix Poki when she came across Naki’o. Fearful of the pain that walking and playing with other dogs would cause, Naki’o resigned himself to crawling along on his belly at home and at the veterinary clinic’s doggy daycare.

Christie organized a fundraiser to pay for Naki’o to have his two back legs fitted with prosthetics. He took to these so enthusiastically, that Orthopets decided to complete the process free of charge. It was the first time they’d fitted an animal with a complete set of new legs.

Shelters house animals available for adoption as well as strays. Usually they’re at least partially funded by the city, but some are completely dependent on private donations.

The quality of shelters varies dramatically, depending on where it’s located. Some shelters provide basic medical care, training, and spay/neutering. Others are more like holding pens than shelters and don’t bother with the kind of care experts believe is essential to a dog’s well-being, like a daily walk.

  • The population of available dogs usually changes quickly and regularly.
  • At the best shelters, the staff takes notes, and sometimes posts them, on how the dog is doing. Some shelters do extensive tests to gauge a dog’s personality and what sort of home would be the best fit. Many more shelters do not, and you’re on your own. (See choosing a shelter dog or puppy.)
  • Some shelters allow people to put a hold on dogs they want to adopt. Before you lose your heart to a dog, make sure someone else doesn’t already have a claim on him.
  • Some shelters euthanize animals when overcrowded. No-kill shelters will only accept dogs believed to be adoptable, i.e., those who don’t have aggression or health problems, and tend to be younger.
  • If you’re interested in a dog, make sure you ask how much longer he has at the shelter. That is, do you have a long time to make your decision, or is euthanasia scheduled in two days?