I am Your Dog’s Lungs


It’s Monday Marvels and today’s place of honor is reserved to the dog’s lungs. We often take a dog’s lungs for granted except when they trigger coughing or wheezing, making us worry about our dog’s health. The dog’s lungs are vital organs, and as such, they require great care to ensure they function and continue to function properly. There are many disorders out there that can affect the lungs, so it’s best to take good care of them and immediately report to the vet any changes. But let’s allow the dog’s lungs to do the talking, so we can get better acquainted with them.

lungsIntroducing the Dog’s Lungs

Hello, it’s your dog’s lungs talking! There are two of us, the right lung and the left one, and just like in humans, they’re divided into several lobes. If you look closely at my air passages, you’ll notice that  they appear like an upside-down tree. My larger branches are the bronchi, and then there are the finer branches which are my bronchioles. Then, if you were too look at things microscopically, you would notice that my bronchioles end into these teeny tiny structures known as the alveoli which are like grape-like bunches of air. Each alveolus is covered with capillaries that receive blood from the heart.

I am an Oxygen Supplierdog nose

My biggest job is to allow your dog to breathe well. When your dog inhales, fresh air enters his nose or his mouth, then it reaches the pharynx, the larynx and the trachea, also known as the windpipe. As the name implies, the windpipe is a tube that carries the air from the nose all the way down to me through the bronchi and bronchioles. At the level of the alveoli, the fresh oxygen-rich air is absorbed, while the used air is discarded by passing through (this time in reverse order) from the bronchi all the way back to the nose where it is exhaled. Right beneath me is the diaphragm, a dome-shaped muscle that helps your dog inhale and exhale effectively.

I am an Exchange System

I do much more than supplying oxygen, I also work as an important exchange system replacing carbon dioxide with oxygen. When the heart sends me the dark blood composed of carbon dioxide, I replace it with bright red, oxygen-rich blood that is then sent to all parts of your dog’s body giving vital energy to his cells. Cells though produce carbon dioxide, a waste gas, that needs to be removed, which happens when your dog exhales. Every day, your dog inhales and exhales hundreds of times. According to Dr. Debra Primovic, the average breathing rate in dogs is estimated to be 10 to 30 breaths per minute.

“Count the number of breaths your pet takes in one minute. Avoid counting when your dog is panting. A good time to count the normal breathing rate is when your dog is asleep.” ~Dr. Debra Primovic

panting dog I am a Cooling System

You might already know that your dog doesn’t sweat as effectively as you do. Humans sweat a lot through their skin. While dogs sweat a bit from their paws, their main cooling system is provided by panting. When your dog pants, he is breathing faster, and therefore is removing the warm air from his body (ever felt how warm that air is when he pants in your face?). As the warm air is removed, it’s replaced with the cooler air from the outside.  If the air outside though is very hot and humid, I might be unable to help your dog cool down, so be careful not to overheat your dog! And what about when your dog romps in the yard or chases a squirrel? When your dog exerts himself, the brain tells me to work faster. Let him lie down though to snooze, and the brain will tell me to slow down.

When Things go Wrongcilia of lung

Everyday I risk being exposed to triggers that could lead to problems. Bacteria, viruses, fungi, dust, chemical particles, you name it. Luckily, most are trapped by the mucous lining of the nasal passages before they reach me. Cilia, special mucous-covered hairs that resemble a field of grass as seen in the picture, also help trap foreign particles and germs before the particles make it to me. Not to mention, the immune system also attempts to destroy certain microorganisms. However, sometimes these harmful entities still manage to make it my way. When this happens, I get irritated, even inflamed. Coughing or sneezing may sometimes help expel these entities, but sometimes this isn’t enough. Some small particles may still make it through and wreck havoc.

Fungal Infections

You see, dogs like to use their powerful sniffers, and sometimes, the may inhale spore-like particles of harmful fungi that inhabit the soil. Because these particles are tiny, they are able to reach me and cause great havoc. Histplasmosis, blastomycosis and coccidioidomycosis are some fungal infections dogs may get if they live in areas where these harmful fungal spores thrive.

puppies prone to respiratory diseaseBacterial/Viral Infections

Normally, the dog’s immune system should keep harmful bacteria and viruses out of my way, but if the immune system is for some reason weak, as often seen in puppies, and sometimes in older dogs, bacteria may reach the respiratory system. The distemper or parainfluenza virus may weaken the immune system enough to cause serious problems. Affected dogs may develop a sudden onset of a runny nose, sneezing, fever, lethargy and general malaise.

Other Problems

There are many things that can go wrong with me. You see, my alveoli are meant to fill up with air, but if they end up filling up with fluid, this leads to problems as it prevents oxygen from being absorbed into your dog’s bloodstream. How does fluid end up in the wrong place? It can happen with aspiration pneumonia, heart disease, drowning just to name a few. Because I am a vital organ, Mother Nature made sure to protect me by shielding me with a strong  ribcage, but if a dog gets hit by a car, I may still get damaged. If a rib fractures and punctures me, air can escape from the area around me causing me to collapse, a condition known as pneumothorax.

Signs of Troubledog lung

If your dog for a reason or another is unable to breathe well, his body may not receive enough oxygen. Carbon dioxide may accumulate causing signs of trouble. If your dog’s gums appear pale, gray or blue, that’s a sign they lack oxygen. See your emergency vet immediately if you notice abnormal gum color in your dog. Trouble breathing and coughing in dogs is often associated with respiratory disease, but it can also be a symptom of something else such as congestive heart failure.

As seen, I play a very important role in your dog’s health! From the day your dog was born, I will be working hard day and night.  Make sure you protect me as much as you can. Keep your dog away from excessive dust, and don’t forget about smoke. Dogs suffer from the effects of second-hand smoking just as humans do! Don’t forget to keep your dog’s teeth in good shape. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, dental disease ups the chances for bacteria to reach me and cause a serious secondary infection. And of course, see your vet promptly at the first signs of trouble!

I hope this helped you get more acquainted with me! Living out in the boonies makes people often forget about me, but I am always here, diligently doing my work from your dog’s first breath, to his very last.


Your Dog’s Lungs

Did you know? The dog’s respiratory system is divided in the upper respiratory tract comprising the nose, nasal sinuses, throat and trachea, and lower respiratory tract comprising the bronchi and bronchioles and the alveoli.


  • Pet Education, Respiratory System: Anatomy & Function in Dogs, by Race Foster DVM, retrieved on February 29th, 2016
  • Merck Veterinary Manual, Introduction to Lung and Airway Disorders of Dogs, retrieved on February 29th, 2016

Photo credit:

  • Ciliated and non-ciliated cells on lungs, public domain.
  • Lungs diagram with internal details, by Patrick J. Lynch, medical illustratorPatrick J. Lynch, medical illustrator, CC BY 2.5

Introducing the Dog’s Supracaudal Gland


Did you know? Dogs have a special gland on their tail known as the supracaudal gland. No, we’re not talking about  those glands around the dog’s bum slightly under the dog’s tail, but actually a totally different gland that’s found instead dorsally, on the upper surface of the dog’s tail. Also, known as the tail gland or violet gland, this gland isn’t unique to dogs but can also be found in several other animals such as foxes, wolves, some European badgers and even the domestic cat.

Function of the Glandfox

The supracaudal gland in dogs is a secretion gland, meaning that it secretes certain substances. The area is rich with apocrine and sebaceous glands. In dogs, the tail gland is not as developed as in foxes, who use it for communication purposes and which secretes a strong odor for the purpose of scent marking.

According to Richard Estes, author of the book “The Behavior Guide to African Mammals: Including Hoofed Mammals, Carnivores,” the violet gland in foxes is more developed in females and secretes more actively during the denning season.

As the female goes in and out of the den to attend to her pups, she presumably leaves her scent from her tail when it’s brushed against the entrance of the den. In dogs, the exact function of this gland remains unknown but it appears that it may help identify them to other canines, explains veterinarian Mary Fuller.

Location of the Gland

In dogs, the tail gland is an oval area located just above the dog’s 9th caudal vertebrae. That’s about 5 to 40 mm from the base of the tail. In some dogs, the gland is vestigial, meaning that it has lost its function or it’s entirely absent. According to Fox, 1971; Clutton-Brock, 1995, tail glands may be absent in dogs, or if they are present, they’re reduced. The presence of tail gland in dogs is connected with coarse, stiff hairs, and, despite being often called “stud tail,” it can be found in both male and female dogs.

stud tail in dog
Stud tail in dog

Problems with Tail Glands

At times, the dog’s supracaudal tail gland may get infected. Stud tail, also known as tail gland hyperplasia or supracaudal gland infection, is caused by the inflammation or infection of this gland and it’s often found in intact male dogs as there’s belief it’s testosterone induced.

The gland in this case may swell, and there may be hair loss causing a bald, greasy spot at the top area of the tail. In severe cases, affected dogs may require a course of antibiotics, but for mild cases, a topical, medicated shampoo may help out.

In some dogs, tumors may also develop in this site. If your dog appears to have symptoms of stud tail, please see your vet for proper diagnosis and treatment. However, when the quantity of terpenes produced are quite large, the odor may be rather unpleasant.



  • The Tail Gland of CanidsS. A. Shabadash, T. I. Zelikina, Biology Bulletin of the Russian Academy of Sciences , Volume 31, Issue 4, pp 367-376
  • Dog Behaviour, Evolution, and Cognition, by Adam Miklosi, OUP Oxford; 1 edition (April 12, 2008)
  • The Behavior Guide to African Mammals: Including Hoofed Mammals, Carnivores, Primates  by Richard D. Estes (Author),University of California Press; 20th Anniversary ed. edition (March 28, 2012)
  • Wikipedia, Violet Gland, retrieved on Febuary 28th, 2016

Photo credits:

Caudal glands in a dog Rhodesian Ridgeback, by Uwe GilleCC BY-SA 3.0

Four Reasons Why Your Dog Hates Your Perfume


dog hates perfumePerfumes have been worn by people since early civilization, and still as of today, the world of fragrances is so popular that it is a multi-billion industry. All you have to do is visit Sephora’s fragrance aisle and you’re shortly overwhelmed with attractive-looking bottles and fragrances ready to seduce your olfactory senses. The scent of lavender, vanilla and sandalwood remind you of distant exotic places.

Whether it’s the scented candles, new body soap or air freshener, we can’t deny that as humans we are delighted by pleasant smells that stimulate the olfactory receptors in our nose. What smells are we mostly attracted to? It looks like for the most part we’re interested in flowery scents or scents that remind us of fruits or our favorite foods, but what about our dogs? Dogs seem to think things quite differently. Here are four reasons why dogs hate perfume, straight from your dog’s mouth!

It’s Just Too Much!dog hates smell

 As you might know, Mother Nature has blessed me with a powerful sniffer that’s believed to be have up to 300 million olfactory receptors! That’s quite a lot compared to the mere six million you have! So don’t be surprised if next time you call me, I am too busy reading my Daily Pee Mail messages from the lamp post to respond right away. Each and every day, I am strongly affected by the world of wafting aromas that surround me in this man-made world. That spritz of Chanel No. 5 you put on when you are about to head out? It’s very overpowering to me! Don’t believe me? Just hear what veterinarian Ernie Ward in the below quote has to say about carpet fresheners,  potpourri, hair sprays, air fresheners and perfumes.
 I know that’s easier said than done, but a tiny trace to us is like an elephant-sized funk to some animals. I’m so sensitive about this that I even train my staff not to wear perfumes or scented deodorants to avoid upsetting my pet patients. Seriously. ~ Dr. Ernie Ward
why dogs hate perfumeI Don’t Like It!
The last time, I checked, I had anal glands and a tail, yup, that’s a pretty strong confirmation that I am a dog and not a human. You see, as a human, you have a totally different history than me. Your ancestors most likely got most of their nutrition from gathered fruits and nuts which explains why you’re attracted to those fruity and flowery smells that are over-represented fragrances found in your store’s air freshener aisle. When it comes to me, I am a scavenger at heart. Even if you were to ask Princess Fifi, your neighbor’s French poodle who wears a pink tutu and a collar studded with rhinestones, she would also agree that your strong perfume is revolting. Her favorite fragrance  is likely “eau de toilet,” a mix of cow poop, putrid carcasses and a touch of essential oils from cowhide.
Omnivores like our early humanoid primate ancestors were always seeking out plump, juicy fruits, and that legacy drives our attraction to fruity and flowery smells. Dogs are hunters and scavengers, attracted to, rather than repelled by, the scent of ripe carcasses. ~ Patricia McConnell.
dog hates scented bathIt Makes Me Sick!
On a more serious perspective, perfume can do more to me than make me cringe, it can actually make me sick, yes, even seriously sick. According to Pet Education, that isopropyl alcohol found in that perfume, cologne or after shave you use, has toxic effects on me. If I happen to ingest some or even breath in the vapors, I could develop serious nervous system disorders along with nausea vomiting and abdominal pain. In severe cases, I could even slip in a coma.
On a lighter note, if you see me itching and scratching, don’t think fleas right away. Sure, that’s a possibility, but keep in a corner of your mind the possibility that I might be allergic to all those perfumed doggy shampoos, sprays, and lotions you are so fond of. Veterinarian Dr. Crista DeJoia, explains that skin allergies in dogs may manifest with redness of the skin, itching and biting. So keep an eye on my symptoms, and if you notice anything not right, keep me safe from these products and consult with your vet.
“Perfumes and scented products must be used judiciously with our pets. Heavily scented shampoos or sprays applied directly to a pet can cause skin reactions, nausea and lethargy, or even airway irritation.”~ Dr. Crista DeJoia
 dog rolling after bathYou Make me Wear it Too!

So know you know it, I thought it was time to spill the beans! My fervent hate for perfume is why I rush to the yard after a bath and start rolling on the grass… to get that awful scent off of me! Next time you smear some strongly scented shampoo or cologne on me, would you please ask my opinion first? If you see me rolling in the grass feverishly as you watch in horror, I am likely trying to remove the perfume and gain back some of my canine identity. How would you feel if I smeared you with cow poop, wouldn’t you cry and go race to take a shower? Well there you have it, we’re different species, so to each our own!


The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs, by Patricia McConnell Ph.D Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (April 29 2003)

Six Surprising Ways Dogs Use Their Tails


ways dogs uses their tailsDog tails: we often take them for granted, sometimes we even chop them off as if they were useless appendages at the end of the vertebral column, when instead they have many functions that go far beyond the classical tail wag.

Dog tails are indeed full of life! Their muscles allow a wide range of motion so to allow the dog to lift the tail upwards, move it side-to-side, or lower it between the hind legs. Tails are composed of skin, nerves, tendons, muscles and bones consisting of several vertebrae. Think dog tails are just for wagging? Think again! Following are six surprising ways dogs use their tails that your dog wants you to know. Yup! Straight from your dog’s mouth!


dog agility role of tailMy Balancing Act

It’s true, you likely won’t ever see me at a circus walking on a tightrope, but rest assured that my tail plays a big role in maintaining my balance. Just like the tightrope walkers use that horizontal pole, my tail helps me out when I am accelerating, braking, walking along narrow structures (think agility A-frames, catwalks and teeter-totters) and turning at fast speeds.

If you were to watch me in slow motion as I jump up to catch a Frisbee or jump over an obstacle, you may notice how may tail lowers as I take off, then flicks up in mid-flight, and ends up lowering again as I touch the ground. All these well orchestrated tail movements are meant to adjust my center of gravity so I can balance myself and avoid drastic falls. Sure, my friends with bobtails may still be able to jump, but they’ll need to make some adjustments in their jumping styles to make up for the balancing effects our tails provide.


Meet my Rudderdog tail swimming

Boats aren’t the only things that comes with rudders, us dogs have tails that act like rudders too! Many of my doggy friends, who were selectively bred to swim a lot, have webbed feet and these thick, strong tails that are also very flexible, allowing them to effectively thread through the water at a nice pace. You see, when we swim, we keep our tails straight out just below the surface of the water, but the moment we decide to turn, our tails swing to our sides so that we can turn effectively. Pretty amazing, huh? We sure are proud of our rudders! Just make sure though that after we swim, you keep us safe from cold drafts. Limber tail is a painful condition that results in a flaccid, limp tail that’s sometimes seen in dogs after swimming.


wagging tailTales of Tails

You may use hand gestures to add some emphasis to your speech, us dogs instead rely on our tails. Keep an eye on my tail’s position and movement, and you may get a glimpse on how I may be feeling. Many of my emotions are indeed expressed through my tail. Is my tail  moving side-to-side in fast sweeping motions? Most likely, I am happy, but don’t just take my word for it. When looking at a dog, look at the rest of his body. Does the dog look overall relaxed and friendly? Not all tail wags are friendly!

Relying on a wagging tail as a sign of friendliness is a big mistake that causes many people to get bitten! If  you’re unsure and no owner is around to ask if it’s fine to pet me, you might not want to approach. Oh, and that day you take me to the vet, don’t worry if my tail goes missing in action. I may tuck my tail tight because I might feel frightened, and while I’m at, I may also try to keep my private area protected from that invasive thermometer!

Did you know? A recent study suggested that dogs tend to wag their tails  to the right when looking at something they wish to approach and wag their tails to the left when confronted with something they wish to back away from!

A Whiff of Scentdog sniffing under tails

You see us dogs wag our tails often, but have you ever wondered why dogs wag their tails in the first place? Well, you know those two anal glands we have under our tails? They’re not there just because. My sweeping tail wags help these anal glands give off scent so that I can use it for communicative purposes. Most likely, you don’t smell anything when I do this (if you get a whiff of fishy smell though have me see the vet to get those glands checked), but rest assured, my doggy friends at the dog park know all about it. Dogs who are reserved and wish to fly under the radar instead, will often keep their tails tucked as a way to cover up their scent.

“Most people think when a dog wags its tail it means its friendly and happy – but, in fact, experts will tell you it’s about scent communication. Dogs wag their tails to spread their scent around.” ~Sarah Whitehead

Keeping Things Putdog tail defecation nerve

If you think all this isn’t enough to prove how important my tail is to my physical and emotional well-being, take a peak at dogs who have suffered damage to the nerves in their tails. These dogs may have trouble with fecal and urinary incontinence. In other words, they poop or pee on themselves. You see, my tail is an extension of my spine, and those tail muscles and nerves play a role in the correct functioning of my hind body as a whole. When my nerves that control urination and defecation are injured, my tail gets flaccid and I risk losing bladder and bowel control.

When it comes to urinary incontinence, our tails also play a big role.  According to a study by Holt and Thrusfield urinary incontinence mostly seems to affect my old English sheep-dog, Rottweiler, Dobermann, Weimaraner and Irish setter friends the most. Why is that? It looks like docked breeds are more likely to develop urinary incontinence than undocked dogs of the same breed.

“The movement of the tail during the act of defecation has a direct
influence in evacuating the rectum and anal canal of the last part of the faecal bolus.  If the tail is removed from an immature puppy the muscles of the tail and pelvis may fail to develop to their full  potential.~Anti-docking Alliance.

husky sleeping curled upKeeping Warm

OK, not all of us may rely on our tails to stay warm, but some of my good arctic friends have found a way to put their tails to good use when they want to take a nap. Those nice bushy, plumed tails you see in Siberian huskies and Alaskan Malamutes are covered with long dense fur. When sled dogs sleep, they sleep curled up in a ball and use their tails to cover their noses, trapping the heat against their bodies, explains Dr.  Susan Whiton, a veterinarian and owner of  Dream a Dream Iditarod Sled Dog Kennel.


As seen, there’s more to wagging a tail, and us dogs sure have many uses for it! If we didn’t, wouldn’t you think Mother Nature would have turned our tails into a vestigial structure and our tails wouldn’t have made it so far? Instead, our lovely tails are still here, lively, strong and proudly carried over our backs! Yes, tails are here to stay!

A dog wags its tail with its heart. ~Martin Buxbaum


  • Seeing Left- or Right-Asymmetric Tail Wagging Produces Different Emotional Responses in Dogs, Current Biology, Vol. 23, Issue 22, November 2013
  • Peak Performance EBook: Coaching the Canine Athlete, by Canine Sports Productions, September 15, 2011
  • Pet Place, Structure and Function of the Tail in Dogs, retrieved from the web on February 26th, 2016.
  • VCA Animal Hospitals, Tail Injuries in Dogs, retrieved from the web on February 26th, 2016.

Photo credits:

Four Ways Dogs May Detect Human Pregnancy


We know of dogs who can detect cancer, predict seizures and recognize low blood sugar, so it shouldn’t surprise us if dogs were even able to detect pregnancy! While there are currently no studies or hard evidence to prove us that dogs are capable of telling when a woman becomes pregnant, there is surely a lot of anecdotal evidence coming from women who claim to have noticed relevant changes in their dog’s behavior after becoming pregnant. The next question therefore is: How can dogs sense pregnancy in humans? Until new studies come out, for now we can only make assumptions based on what we know. In this article, we’ll be looking at human pregnancy from a canine’s standpoint.

CaptureMood Changes

During pregnancy, it’s not unusual for women to go through an emotional roller coaster ride. According to the American Pregnancy Association, most mood swings are experienced during the first trimester of pregnancy, and then again in the third trimester as the body gets closer to giving birth. The mood changes are a mix of stress, fatigue and major metabolic and hormonal changes which affect the level of neurotransmitters, important chemicals responsible for regulating mood. It’s not old news that dogs are deeply in tune with their owners and studies have shown that dogs are able to recognize emotions in humans by combining information from different senses.

“People and dogs have forged an incredibly close connection over thousands of years together. Along the way, dogs have been bred for certain traits, and “one of the traits would be the ability to read us.” ~Marc Bekoff

A Whiff of Hormonesdog nose detects cancer

While dogs may still be far from replacing an early pregnancy test, dogs may be capable of smelling hormones associated with pregnancy. Pregnant women experience dramatic increases in their estrogen and progesterone levels, the main hormones associated with pregnancy. Just to get an idea, consider that according to Healthline, during one pregnancy a woman will produce more levels of estrogen than she has ever produced in her entire life! A rapid increase in estrogen levels occurs in the first trimester and peak levels are reached during the third trimester.  Progesterone levels are also very high during pregnancy. Blessed with powerful sniffers, it’s very likely that dogs can detect these massive changes in a pregnant woman’s body chemistry.

“Given what we know they are able to perceive with their nose, it’s a bit hard to imagine that they can’t detect at least some of the many hormonal changes that accompany pregnancy in a person living in their house.”~Karen B. London, PhD

Routine Changesnursery

If dogs haven’t  figured out about pregnancy yet, they’ll likely get the big wake-up call once they notice big changes in their routines. Pregnant women may start going to bed earlier, eat more frequent meals, use the rest room more often and they may start moving things around to create a whelping box..ahem..meant to say, the nursery. On top of that, they may no longer walk their dog as often as before and other family members may starting taking over certain chores. Dogs, being the routine oriented beings they are, will most likely notice all these abrupt changes–and likely won’t like them.

“Just like people, certain pets are very resilient when it comes to adjusting to changes in life; others less so.” ~Dr. Wailani Sung, board-certified veterinary behaviorist.

Changes in Posturedo dogs sense pregnancy

As pregnancy advances, most women will end up changing their posture at some point. This is inevitable. Starting from the second trimester, the body makes adjustments to accommodate the growing baby. The back will curve more and the shoulders will also move back to make up for shift of the center of gravity and growing belly, explains Myra Wick, obstetrician, gynecologist and editor in chief of Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy. As pregnancy advances, these changes in posture will cause movements to also get more awkward. Dogs, who are masters in noticing the smallest subtleties of our bodies, most likely take notice of these changes!

Adjusting to Pregnancycan dog sense human pregnancy

Dogs tend to pick up on things we wouldn’t expect them to and this makes them even more amazing. While we don’t know if  they can predict that in a few months there will be a new human in the home, for sure in some way or another they understand that something’s brewing. Their reactions to these many changes may vary. Dog behavior during human pregnancy may result in the following behaviors:

  • Dogs  feeling confused or stressed
  • Dogs becoming protective or more aggressive
  • Dog becoming more clingy or  affectionate.
  • Dogs engaging in new behaviors such as chewing or marking.

Luckily, most dogs eventually adjust to the many changes that come with the onset of pregnancy in their owner, and right when they thought they got a hang of things, a screaming baby comes in the house. Luckily, there are many things dog owners can do to help them adjust and get used to a new baby. Paying more attention to the dog, providing a good training and exercise regimen and making gradual changes to their routine instead of abrupt ones can help them better adjust and feel reassured. For dogs having a hard time, enlisting the help of a trainer/behavior consultant prior to the baby’s arrival can help. There are also special programs offered by different organizations that provide counseling. A popular one is the Dogs and Storks program.

Dog Word of the Day: Watchdog


The term watchdog is often used interchangeably with the word guard dog, but there are clear distinctions between the two. Unlike the guard dog (which should only be trained by professionals as it requires an extremely high level of refined training), the watch dog is not meant to physically restrain or attack intruders. Generally, the term watchdog is used to depict a dog who simply keeps an eye on his surroundings and who will sound the alarm if something is amiss. Ideally, a good watch dog should be able to discriminate between normal and abnormal activity. Not all dogs have what it takes to make a good watch dog.

A Look Backdog

For centuries, mankind has relied on a dog’s barking behavior. Back in time, when humans lived in ancient campsites, dogs were used as an effective warning system, alerting humans of invading tribes and dangerous predators. Unlike wolves, coyotes, foxes and jackals which rarely barked, humans likely appreciated the fact that the early dogs were capable of emitting loud and persistent vocalizations. Most likely, humans,back then, must have selectively bred dogs for their watchdog capabilities. The dogs with the louder barks were allowed to reproduce while the ones that rarely barked were disposed of.

This may explain the divergence in barking behaviors between dogs and wild canines, suggests Stanley Coren in the book “How To Speak Dog: Mastering the Art of Dog-Human Communication.” Interestingly, selectively breeding dogs for barking wasn’t likely an arduous task. When it comes to passing down the barking trait, barking appears to be a dominant gene. When the for-the-most-part silent basenji was bred with the noisier cocker spaniel in an experiment by Scott & Fuller, the result was a litter of dogs with a vivid predisposition to bark.

the boy who cried wolfDogs Who Cry Wolf

Did you ever hear about Aesop’s fable,”The Boy Who Cried Wolf?” In this fable, a shepherd boy repeatedly tricks villagers into thinking that a wolf is attacking his flock of sheep. “A wolf, a wolf!” the boy would scream as all the alarmed villagers gathered. After several repetitions, the villagers learned to no longer pay attention to the boy’s false alarms. The day though when a wolf really appeared, none of the villagers believed the boy’s cries so all the sheep ended up eaten by the wolf. Moral of the story? Dogs who are hyper alert and constantly bark at every single leaf falling from a tree don’t make good watchdogs. Bark after bark, just like the villagers of Aesop’s fable, the owners learn to ignore the constant senseless barking, even on that infamous day when a burglar is entering the home. Often, being hyper alert is based on fear and is seen in dogs who haven’t been socialized enough.

A Movie and Pop-Cornpopcorn

On the other side of the spectrum are dogs who are overly placid and sluggish, making them poor watch dogs. Should a burglar make it into their property, they might greet him like a long-lost friend and maybe even invite him over for a movie and some popcorn. Some dog breeds have a reputation for making poor watchdogs with a too friendly “feel free to come over” attitude. They may not bark at the intruder fiddling with the lock, but they may go bonkers when they see the neighbor’s cat. Some dog breeds were selectively bred for certain tasks and keeping an eye on their surrounding may be on their low end of their “to-do list”. Stanley Coren in his book the Intelligence of Dogs lists a dozen dogs breeds with a reputation for making poor watchdogs.

top twelve worst watchdogThe Top 12 Worst Watchdogs

  1. Bloodhound
  2. Newfoundland
  3. Saint Bernard
  4. Basset hound
  5. English Bulldog
  6. Old English Sheepdog
  7. Clumber Spaniel
  8. Irish Wolfhound
  9. Scottish Deerhound
  10. Pug
  11. Siberian Husky
  12. Alaskan Malamute.

The Ideal Watchdog

The ideal watchdog is alert and will sound the alarm when something really deserves the owner’s attention. A good watchdog will keep an eye on people walking by, but will only bark if something unusual happens. It’s as if these dogs were saying  ‘Hey, owner something’s up!” Barking for the most part when something is out of the ordinary is a fundamental quality of a good watchdog. Hypervigilance or sluggishness are not good traits in a good watchdog. Stanley Coren in his book the Intelligence of Dogs lists 15 breeds with the best watchdog capabilities. The list is in descending order with the best watchdog breeds at the very top.

yorkshire watchdog
Size doesn’t matter in a good watchdog.

The 15 Best Watchdogs

  1. Rottweiler
  2. German Shepard
  3. Scottish Terrier
  4. West Highland White Terrier
  5. Miniature Schnauzer
  6. Yorkshire Terrier
  7. Cairn Terrier
  8. Chihuahua
  9. Airedale
  10. Poodle (Standard or Miniature)
  11. Boston Terrier
  12. Shih Tzu
  13. Dachshund
  14. Silky Terrier
  15. Fox Terrier.

A Grain of Salt

While lists of best and worst watchdog breeds may be helpful, they must be taken with a grain of salt. Dog behavior is the result of many variables and a dog’s ability to make a good or poor watchdog varies based on genetics, level of socialization, life experiences and training. Dogs are individuals, and as such, their watchdog capabilities vary even within a certain breed.

While many watchdogs are naturally inclined to sound the alarm, some dogs may benefit from some guidance to learn how to discriminate what’s worthy of barking from what is not. The best way to reinforce good watchdog barking is to acknowledge the stimulus and thank the dog for a well-done job!


  • Scott JP, Fuller JL (1965) Genetics and the Social Behavior of the Dog University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 273-276.
  • Stanley Coren, How To Speak Dog: Mastering the Art of Dog-Human Communication, Atria Books; New edition edition (September 21, 2010)
  •  Dr. Justine Lee, It’s a Dog’s Life…but It’s Your Carpet: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know, Three Rivers Press; 1 edition (April 1, 2008)
  • Stanley Coren, The Intelligence of Dogs,  Atria Books; Reissue edition (January 5, 2006)


Photo Credits:

Francis Barlow’s illustration of the fable, “The Boy who Cried Wolf”, called by him DE PASTORIS PUERO ET AGRICOLIS, 1687, public domain,

What are Snowshoe Feet in Dogs?


It’s Tuesday Trivia and today we are discovering interesting facts about snowshoe feet in dogs. What exactly are snowshoe feet in dogs? Our references state that only certain breeds have this type of specialized feet and that they’re purposely crafted in such a way as to make walking on snow much easier. Interestingly, when it comes to thriving in a certain habitat, Mother Nature makes sure that animals are blessed with certain adaptations to help them live well within their home environment. The way feet are structured can help make a great difference on how dogs walk on rough, winter terrains. So today’s trivia question is:

What are snowshoe feet?

A:  Neat and round feet with high-arched toes closely held together

B:  Feet with two centered toes that are longer than the outside and inside toes.

C:  Compact oval feet with well-arched toes and fur between them.

D:   Deeply webbed feet with toes connected by a skin membrane.

The correct answer is, drum roll please..



If you answered A, feet that are neat and round with high-arched toes closely held together, consider that this is the actual definition of another type of foot: cat feet to be exact. If you answered B, feet with two centered toes that are longer than the outside and inside toes, this is the actual definition of another type of foot: hare feet to be exact. If you answered D, webbed feet with toes connected by a skin membrane, that’s actually a characteristic found in dogs who were selectively bred to work in the water. So the correct answer is C, compact oval feet with well-arched toes and fur between them. Let’s take a closer look at snowshoe feet in dogs, shall we?

snowshoes for people like snowshoes in dogsMost of us know that snowshoes are specialized shoes crafted for human use. This footwear is built in such a way as to allow people to walk over snow without sinking into it, a quality known as “flotation.” To prevent sinking in the snow, the snowshoe distributes the person’s weight over a larger area. The snowshoes are also built in such as way as to not accumulate snow as people walk. Before the development of snowshoes, Mother Nature had gifted animals with special feet that made walking on the snow easy. The snowshoe hare, as the name implies, evolved with over sized feet so he could move more efficiently over the snow.


alaskan maalmuteDog Breeds with Snowshoe Feet

Among dogs, a couple of dog breeds have snowshoe feet meant to help them navigate more efficiently through the snow fields. Just like snowshoes, their paws are large so to distribute their weight across a greater surface area, a quality that prevents them from sinking into the snow.

The breed standard for the Alaskan malamute calls for large, snowshoe feet with fur growing between the toes. The AKC Finnish lapphund standard, a northern type of dog, describes this breed’s feet as being “well arched, oval rather than round, with toes slightly spread, to act as a snowshoe.”

“The feet are of the snowshoe type, tight and deep, with well-cushioned pads, giving a firm, compact appearance. The feet are large, toes tight fitting and well arched. There is a protective growth of hair between the toes. The pads are thick and tough; toenails short and strong.” American Kennel Club Alaskan Malamute breed standard.

Interestingly, the fur between the toes also offers an advantage when walking over snow. According to the book “Meet the Breeds: A Guide to More Than 200 AKC Breeds” edited by The American Kennel Club, the fur is there for protective purposes. That fur protects these dog’s feet while  pulling sleds over ice and snow. However, that same fur that helps these dogs in arctic habitats may cause problems in domestic settings. Many owners report that hair between the toes makes some dogs prone to slipping when walking on tiles or hardwood floors.


  • American Kennel Club, Finish Lapphund standard, retrieved from the web on February 23rd, 2016.
  • American Kennel Club, Glossary, retrieved from the web on February 23rd, 2016.
  • Meet the Breeds: A Guide to More Than 200 AKC Breeds” edited by The American Kennel Club,  i5 Press; 5 edition (February 16, 2016)

Photo Credits:

I am Your Dog’s Kidneys


It’s Monday Marvels and today we’ll be discovering more about our dog’s marvelous kidneys. We often take our dog’s kidneys for granted and it’s unfortunate that we usually only acknowledge them when they start giving problems. Regular check-ups can help keep tabs on the health status of this important organ. There are also many things that can be done to keep a dog’s kidneys in good shape. Let’s see what our dog’s kidneys have to talk about.

kidneyIntroducing the Dog’s Kidneys

Hello, it your dog’s kidney talking! Like several others organs you have met in our past series, I am not very appealing when it comes to looks. I am a paired organ (yes, there’s two of us!) that is reddish brown in color and shaped like a kidney bean, but hey, looks are not everything! I am part of your dog’s urinary system and serve many important functions when it comes to your dog’s health. Indeed, I am so important, Mother Nature has gifted your dog (and you!) with two kidneys, one on the right side, and one on the left side, just to cover the eventuality that one might no longer work as it should.

I am a Filtration Systemwater filter

I am mainly known for my state-of-the-art filtration system. Sorting non-recyclable waste from recyclable waste is something I do on a daily bases, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You see, blood passes through me continuously and my job is to clean and filter it, removing waste products that otherwise would be deadly. In some sort of way, I work in a similar fashion as a water filter. Filtration of blood occurs thanks to my hundreds of thousands of nephrons, special filtration elements that work diligently in filtering all the bad stuff out. My nephrons are quite tough cookies, just consider that should 75 percent of them no longer work, I will still be able to function. Yes, your dog can well live with only one kidney!

Minerals, vitamins and all the goodies your dog gets from food, I make sure they are absorbed, but if there’s anything in excess, or notice things that shouldn’t be there, I send them down to my neighbor, the bladder, a storage unit that will hold urine. Urea is a big waste product I have to deal with quite frequently. It’s produced from the digestion of protein. If I fail to remove urea properly, uremic poisoning can take place.

drinking dogI am  a Monitoring System

I am a monitoring system that keeps an eye on your dog’s electrolytes such as sodium and potassium, sugars, and proteins and make sure they are in the right amounts. I also make sure that your dog’s blood isn’t too acid or alkaline. Oh, and if your dog isn’t drinking too much, I take a conservative approach. Your dog’s brain sends a hormone my way that informs me about the outage of water, so I’ ll hold on to fluids by concentrating your dog’s urine at least until he starts to drinks more. “Homeostasis” is what vets call the work I do to ensure that the fluids in your dog’s body are balanced correctly. Luckily, I can discard anything in excess by dumping it in the urine so your dog is out of harm’s way.

I am a Production System

I produce a substance that helps with the creation of new red blood cells and I also manufacture certain types of hormones. And of course, as you already know, I produce urine which is delivered to the bladder through two ureter tubes, one attached to the left kidney and one attached to the right one. At night, I fortunately slow down my urine productivity, otherwise you would have to take Rover on frequent trips to potty preventing you from getting enough sleep. Again during this time, I will retain all the water I can to keep your dog still hydrated during this time. This is why your dog’s morning urine is normally more concentrated.

dog kidney diseaseWhen Things Go Wrong

When I get sick, vets talk about “renal disease” which is just another name for kidney disease. There are several things that can go wrong with me. Usually, I start giving signs trouble as dogs begin to age, causing the onset of chronic kidney disease, but sometimes dogs can get into things they shouldn’t, and when that happens, I suddenly cause severe symptoms that are associated with acute kidney disease. Here are a few details about these disorders.

Chronic Kidney Disease

As mentioned, when dogs age they are more prone to having problems with me. You see, as I age along with the dog, I may start failing and lose my ability to concentrate urine, which leads to dogs producing large quantities of diluted urine. When this happens, dogs lose a lot of fluids and become dehydrated which causes them to drink more. Dehydration may also cause dogs to develop loss of appetite. Because I can’t longer excrete waste products as before, these may accumulate in the blood and this can make dogs quite ill. Affected dogs may develop vomiting, diarrhea, weakness and anemia. Other than aging, any type of damage occurring to me may also put a dent in my ability to work well. Remember how I said that I can still work decently even if several of my nephrons have been damaged? Well, while this is remarkable, there’s a big down side, I show signs of kidney disease when 2/3 of my nephrons in both kidneys have been lost. Unfortunately, at this point things get critical. All that can be done is slow down the progression of the disease.

old dogAcute Kidney Disease

While chronic kidney disease in dogs causes me to deteriorate gradually, acute chronic failure develops abruptly and I cause severe symptoms that will hopefully alert dog owners so they can get help in time. Things can get critical when a dog laps up antifreeze in the winter as dogs are attracted by its sweet taste. Infections, chemical poisons and trauma are other potential culprits that have damaging effects on me. Vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, loss of appetite, dehydration, neurological signs and urinating in small amounts or not urinating at all are symptoms of problems.

Monitoring my Health

Luckily, there are several diagnostic tests that may reveal signs of trouble. A urinarlysis for example can tell a whole lot about me.  Are there abnormal amounts of protein in your dog ‘s urine? There should not be, this may be a sign that I am not doing a good job in removing stuff. Most likely my filters are letting some escape from the blood. Are there casts in your dog’s urine? The presence of casts in dog urine sediment is know as “cylindruria” and may also indicate a kidney issue. Blood tests may be helpful too. Abnormal levels of BUN in your dog’s blood, which stands for blood urea nitrogen, can be indicative of problems. Again, the presence of abnormal levels of nitrogen-containing urea compounds in the blood is a sign that I am not working well, as I would normally excrete these. Creatinine in the blood is also a sign of trouble. I am the only organ that excretes this substance, so if it’s in high levels in the dog’s blood, it’s again a sign of me not doing my job.

Keeping me In Good Shape

Raisins are bad for dogs!

You can keep me in good shape by ensuring your dog has always access to fresh, clean water. I love water! Feeding your dog a high-quality diet can help keep me in top shape. Medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can make me work harder, so if your vet has your dog on certain medications, make sure to follow his advice of getting me checked out every now and then. And of course avoid exposure to toxins and anything harmful! Antifreeze, grapes and raisins are just a few things out of a long list of toxins that can cause renal failure, cautions veterinarian Dr. Lorie Houston.

As seen, I play a very important role in your dog’s health! People should re-think featuring hearts on Valentine’s Day cards as the heart isn’t the only vital organ. I hope they may feature me too one day! In the meanwhile, keep me in your thoughts and safe from harm as much as you can, your dog and I will thank you!

Respectfully yours,

Your Dog’s Kidneys.


  • College of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University, Chronic Kidney Disease and Failure, retrieved from the web on Febuary 22nd, 2016
  • Vet Stream, Acute Kidney Injury, retrieved from the web on Febuary 22nd, 2016
  •  Pet Education, Kidney Disease, Causes, Signs, Diagnosis and Treatment retrieved from the web on Febuary 22nd, 2016
  • Pet Education, Urinary System in Mammals: Anatomy and Function, retrieved from the web on Febuary 22nd, 2016

Photo credits:

  • Kidney Cross Section, artwork by Holly FischerCC BY 3.0
  • A BRITA kettle, boiling water that has passed from the top reservoir through a filter element (white) into the main jug at the bottom. Public domain

Puppy Sibling Rivalry, It’s More Than Just Conflict


Sibling rivalry isn’t limited to children, puppies can develop a form of sibling rivalry too. It often happens when dog owners adopt two littermate puppies or non-related puppies that are around the same age. To prevent sibling rivalry and its associated challenges, many reputable breeders will refuse to sell two sibling puppies at once. Backyard breeders and pet stores? They may care less, their main concern being that your check won’t bounce back so they can cash in double the profits.

siblingSibling Rivalry in Children

According to Kyla L Boyse, with the Department of Pediatrics & Communicable Diseases at University of Michigan Health System, in children sibling rivalry occurs as the siblings are competing on figuring out who they are as individuals and work on developing their own talents, interests and activities to show how they are different from each other. Competition over parent attention may also create conflict especially when the children feel like they’re getting unequal amounts of attention.  

To address sibling rivalry in children, Kyla L. Boyse suggests ensuring that each child has enough time and space of their own and encouraging cooperation rather than competition. Paying attention to when the conflict occurs is also helpful as sometimes there’s a pattern. Siblings are often more likely to pick up fights when they  are hungry, bored or tired.

Sibling Rivalry in Animalswolves

Among animals, it’s interesting to note that sibling rivalry isn’t unusual. It may be more pronounced though in certain species compared to others. In it most extreme form, it may lead to “siblicide,” where one sibling kills the other. This is sometimes observed in birds when resources are scarce. By killing the sibling, the surviving bird has eliminated competition thus upping the chances for survival. This survival mechanism could also offer an advantage for the parent which no longer has to waste time and energy on feeding offspring that would likely not survive anyway.

Siblicide is also seen in the spotted hyena. According to Frank J. Sulloway, an American psychologist, unlike other carnivores, hyena pups are born with a set of fully erupted teeth, which can result in the death of 25 percent of offspring by their siblings. On a lighter note, not all animal species are prone to such extreme forms of rivalry. In wolves, older siblings actually help out in rearing the youngsters.

Sibling Rivalry in Puppiespuppies

Among puppies, sibling rivalry is a fairly common occurrence in littermates. The most severe forms are usually seen among female littermates. It’s important to point out out that not all siblings develop sibling rivalry. There are several reports of dog owners raising two sibling puppies at once without any particular problems. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean everything is 100 percent fine. In some cases, the signs may be there but they may be subtle enough to be barely noticed. We often think of sibling rivalry as conflict over access to toys, attention, food, but there’s often more going on. Sibling puppies are prone to developing littermate syndrome which leads to further problems down the road. What are the signs of littermate syndrome in puppies?

siblingHalf Pup Syndrome

Generally, when two littermates are adopted, one puppy appears to be more confident while the other one is shy. However, this “confidence” may only be apparent when the puppy is in company of his sibling. Separate “Mr. Confidence” from his sibling and he may become insecure and shy. It’s not uncommon for littermate puppies to become so overly attached to each other that they become anxious when separated, even if they’re just parted for brief periods of time. This over-attachment may cause the puppies to fail to reach their full developmental potential leading them to become “half-pups.”

“Another common situation that is rather problematical is when two littermates are raised together. This sort of arrangement is rarely recommended, since very often one of the puppies seems to flourish while the sibling is overshadowed and fails to achieve its potential.” ~Steven R. Lindsay

Training & Socialization Challengessibling pups

Puppies may not be able to focus on the owner when in company of each other. They are often distracted from each others’ presence. This strong bond among siblings may interfere with their ability to learn basic obedience skills as the owner is often left out of the equation. To further aggravate things, because the puppies have each other, owners may fail to provide adequate socialization which can lead to fearful behaviors towards strangers, other dogs and novel stimuli. To overcome these challenges, puppy owners should plan separate walks, separate training and socialization sessions and separate play sessions for significant portions of the day. As in dealing with sibling rivalry in children, providing individual attention is crucial. Sibling puppies should also sleep in different areas and not share the crate. Basically it boils down to having the pups spend the majority of their time with their owners rather than with each other.

“Functionally what I’ve seen is that the pups are simply harder to train. It’s just hard to get their attention. They are so busy playing with each other (or squabbling, more on that later), that you become the odd man out. I imagine that we humans become more like party poopers that interfere in their fun with their playmates” ~Patricia McConnell

Potty Training Issues

Many people who get two litter mates may assume that getting two litter mates makes potty training easier. After all, all you need to do is take them out at the same time, right? Wrong. Last time we checked, littermates didn’t come with coordinated bladders and bowels. So don’t assume potty training will be a breeze, chances are high that you may take both puppies out, one may urinate, the other may defecate. Then once inside, the puppy that urinated defecates in the middle of the rug. As you clean up the mess, the puppy that defecated, urinates on the floor. You clean up that mess. Then, an hour later as you get a glass of water, you stumble on another mess, who did that? With two pups, you’ll have to increase supervision and keep an eagle eye on both pups which can become challenging at times.

 Subtle Signs of Problemspups

As mentioned, separating sibling pups to prevent excessive bonding is crucial. As an owner of  two (now fully grown) littermate puppies, I can attest how important this is. Fortunately, I was a very determined “stay at home” puppy raiser that was doing my very best to make things work out. While fortunately my pups didn’t show drastic effects of over bonding, I must confess that they were there, only the effects became visible when I had to separate the siblings for several months as I took one dog with me to continue my education out of state. During this trip, I noticed a gradual yet steady change in my dog. I must precise that my dog wasn’t a bad dog before by any means, but after leaving her brother behind, I noticed that she started getting more tuned in towards me and she even started relying on me more for play or simple companionship. I guess I got a taste of how it must have felt had she had been the only dog.

This to me is proof that just because sibling dogs are getting along well and they seem to be maturing just fine, doesn’t necessarily mean that they haven’t been affected by their bond. It may be that the effects of being littermates are just subtle or we have assumed them to be the “norm”   until that day we separate them and start noticing what they missed out. These ‘bonded pairs’ may simply not be as good as they might have been had they been on their own. But don’t just take my word for that, there are plenty of behavior professionals claiming how counterproductive it may be to let two pups bond excessively with each other. This is why dog behaviorists, trainers, breeders and shelters discourage getting two puppies at once.

Raising Guide Dog Siblings

There aren’t really any studies on sibling rivalry or littermate syndrome in puppies but there seems to be plenty of anecdotal evidence suggesting the negative effects. Potential guide dog puppies are typically raised by families who volunteer to socialize and train the puppies before they’re sent off to formal intensive training. Not all puppies make it though to graduate into a guide dog.  Clarence Pfaffenberger in the book “New Knowledge of Dog Behavior” discusses how raising two littermate siblings together may have an impact on their potential as guide dogs with one dog succeeding while the other becomes unsuitable for the task.

“In the case of two litter mates raised together, one becomes a successful candidate for Guide Dog work and one fails, even if their aptitude tests were equal. “- Clarence Pfaffenberger

The Bottom Line

Two pups are triple the trouble
Two pups are triple the trouble

As seen, raising two siblings can become problematic. The problems may be evident from the get-go or farther down the road when the pups become adolescents and no longer get along. Or as in my case, you may notice the subtle effects only once you separate the pups. This doesn’t mean though the task is impossible, I am the last person on earth to make recommendations having raised littermates myself, but I really think people should give it careful consideration before impulsively going the two-puppy route. Would I do it again? I’m not sure I would have the energy to repeat the experience!

Raising two puppies at once is sure not for everyone because it entails socializing the puppy, training the puppy, walking the puppy multiplied by two, making it double the workload or  even triple the workload as Kelly Dunbar states. People have a hard time enough with one puppy, that two may feel like an unsurmountable task. Unless the puppy owners have ample of time and experience and are are willing to work with a dog trainer, things can become difficult. If the goal is having two dogs, an easier option might be getting a second pup later on after the first one has received sufficient socialization and training and has developed a stable personality.

“Actually I always tell people they are tripling their workload because you have to do work with the dogs individually and together.” Kelly Dunbar



  • Sibling Rivalry, by Kyla Boyse, University of Michigan Health System, June 2009, retrieved from the web on February 21st, 2016
  • Birth Order, Sibling Competition, and Human Behavior by Frank J Sulloway,  retrieved from the web on February 21st, 2016
  • Mothers and Others Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, Natural History Magazine, May 2001, retrieved from the web on February 21st, 2016
  • Handbook of Applied Dog Behavior and Training, Adaptation and Learning, by Steven R. Lindsay, Iowa State University Press; Volume One edition (January 31, 2000)
  • Dog Star Daily, Litermate syndrome, retrieved from the web on February 21st, 2016
  • New Knowledge of Dog Behavior, by Clarence Pfaffenberger, Dogwise Publishing (January 1, 2001)

Six Stunning Siberian Husky Coat Colors


The Siberian husky is a stunning breed per se and part of this breed’s beauty relies on its coat which can come in a variety of colors. According to the American Kennel Club standard for this breed, all coat colors are allowed ranging from black to pure white. Along with stunning coat colors, huskies also boast a variety of markings on their head and that may include some striking patterns that aren’t commonly found in other breeds. Today we’ll be discovering six stunning coat colors Siberian huskies may sport according to the American Kennel Club standard. Are you ready for some eye candy?


white husky1) The Wonderful White Husky

Name the word Siberian husky and most people are likely to imagine a wolfish-looking dog with glacial eyes and a grayish coat. Yet, sometimes you may stumble on some specimens who come with a solid white coat. Surprised?

It’s sure a surprising coat color especially if we imagine these pure white dogs romping in the snow and how they may camouflage against the snowfields!

While technically white is not a color per se, consider yourself lucky if you see a white husky; white is a recessive gene making it one of the rarest coat colors in this breed.

Some white huskies have areas that may appear to be a pale cream color especially when seen in bright light.


2) Beautiful Black and White Husky

black and white husky

When it comes to contrast, the black and white husky has plenty of it. This is a highly requested coat color because of its striking appearance especially when accompanied by a pair of glacial blue eyes,  as this stunning specimen portrayed in the picture.

The black and white coat is fairly common in this breed, and this is not surprising considering how pretty it is!

According to the Siberian Husky Club of America, the shades of black in the husky may range in color from jet black, to black, to diluted black.

Black and white huskies commonly have intriguing facial masks and white legs.

agouti siberian husky

3) The Amazing Agouti  and White Husky

You may have never heard about this coat color as it’s quite unique, but once you look at the picture of an agouti husky you get the idea.

The agouti coat is made of hairs that display alternating bands of colors. Generally, the hair is black by the root and at the tip while the center of the hair displays a yellow or beige band of color.

This color gives the husky a wild look because this coat color is associated with wolves, elkhounds and wild mice, squirrels and rabbits.

For this reason the agouti coat color is often referred to as  the”wild coloring.”

And this fellow on the picture has quite a fascinating, wild side, doesn’t he?


4) Gorgeous Gray and White Husky

husky grey and white

This coat color is quite popular and gives a pleasant wolfish appearance. It’s quite a popular coat color and demanded by those looking for dogs that look like wolves.

When it comes to the gray coat, the husky may come in three different shades: silver, gray and wolf gray.

In silver gray, the hair is banded with various hues of white and there is minimal black tipping at the end.

In gray, the hair is banded with cream hues by the root and there is black tipping at the end.

In wolf gray, the hair is banded with buff hues by the root and black tipping at the end.



red and white husky

5) Ravishing Red and White Husky

We often think of huskies as being grey, but some of them sport coats of appealing warm red hues.

The red and white coat color typically boasts various shades of light red, medium red and dark red.

This coat colors is always accompanied by flesh-colored points meaning that the lips, nose and eye rims present a fleshy, liver color.

The eyes in the red and white husky are commonly amber.

One distinguishing factor is that huskies with red and white coats never have black hairs.

Who is a fan of red heads huskies?


6) Stunning Sable and White Huskyhusky

The sable coat presents a reddish/brown hue. The hairs  may be banded with darker sections by the tips which results in several pleasant looking hues around the neck, shoulders and withers.

Unlike the red and white husky, the sable and white husky will always have black points.

To distinguish them from the red and white huskies, sables are sometimes referred to as the “black-nosed reds.”

Sometimes, during the cold, winter months their nose may temporarily appear faded in color and this is called ‘winter nose.’

Which Coat is Your Favorite? Let us know in the comments section!


As seen, huskies come in several stunning colors, however coat color or eye color should never be the basis for selecting a husky puppy. Unfortunately, a large percentage of Siberian huskies end up at shelters because many people select them based on their striking appearance alone without any regard for their need to be continually socialized and trained throughout their lives. Before adopting an husky, it’s important to think things thoroughly and consider the many pros and cons of huskies.

Banded agouti hair
Banded agouti hair

Did you know? Coats may be monochrome or banded. Monochrome coats have individual hairs that are the same color from root to tip. Black, white and copper coats may be monochromatic. Banded coats have individual hairs that are often banded with white or yellow. Gray, sable and agouti coats are banded.


  • American Kennel Club, Siberian Husky Breed Standard, retrieved from the Web on February 20th, 2016
  • Siberian Husky Club of America, Coat Color Identification Guideline, retrieved from the Web on February 20th, 2016
  • Siberian Huskies For Dummies, by Diane Morgan, For Dummies; 1 edition (March 16, 2011)

Photo credits:

A Siberian Husky with brown almond shaped eyes, by 878photoCC BY-SA 3.0

An “agouti” Siberian Husky, by Flickr user re-alityCC BY 2.0

A sable Siberian husky by Sue & Martin Curtis, Flickr, CC BY 2.5

A cat hair showing agouti coloration, by KerstiCC BY 2.5


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