How Colostrum Gives Puppies a Head Start


What’s more fascinating than the power of colostrum and its role in helping puppies! When puppies are born, it’s important that they receive their healthy dosage of colostrum. This great “starter kit” produced by mother dog gives puppies an important head start in life. It’s important for breeders to ensure that the puppies in their care get their first dose of this very important gift of nature. Failure to receive colostrum at birth may lead to sickly puppies and even death.

Mother’s Liquid Goldpuppies colostrum

What is exactly colostrum and why is it so important for newborn puppies? Colostrum is a special type of yellow and thick “pre-milk fluid ” that’s produced by mother dog. When puppies are in the womb, they are protected by the placenta which provides them with essential nutrients and does a decent job in blocking harmful substances. However, once puppies are born, this protection ends abruptly and puppies are left in a vulnerable state, with an underdeveloped immune system and exposure to microorganisms in their environment. Fortunately, colostrum, which is absorbed by the pups’ intestinal tract, contains important antibodies, vitamins, electrolytes, and nutrients that are meant to protect the vulnerable puppies against disease.

“It is well known that colostrum, found in mothers’ milk, is rich in immunoglobulins, growth factors and other active compounds that stimulate the immune systems of newborn puppies and kittens, and support gastrointestinal (GI) health. ”  ~Arleigh Reynolds, board-certified veterinary nutritionist

Passive Immunity

This method of transferring immunity is known as “passive immunity” and in this case it refers to the immediate transfer of antibodies from mother dog to her newborn pups until they’re capable of synthesizing their own antibodies. Puppies will only receive antibodies against diseases that mother dog has been vaccinated against. If mother dog’s vaccination status is not current, there are risks that the pups will not receive antibodies. This is why it’s important making sure the prospective mother dog has a high antibody titer before breeding.

“A (mother dog) that had not been vaccinated against or exposed to parvovirus, would not have any antibodies against parvovirus to pass along to her puppies. The puppies then would be susceptible to developing a parvovirus infection.” Race Foster, DVM.

puppyTime is of the Essence

Ingestion of colostrum is time-sensitive as it’s produced only for a certain time and puppies aren’t always able to absorb it. According to veterinarian Race Foster, newborn puppies are able to absorb its vital nutrients only during the first 18 hours (or less) of life. After a certain time-frame, even though mother dog’s milk may still contain some level of antibodies and nutrients, puppies may no longer be able to absorb colostrum because it’s broken down and no longer able to pass through the pups’ intestinal mucosal lining. What to do if a puppy doesn’t have access to colostrum? If for some reason your puppy cannot nurse, ask your vet about giving oral doses of blood serum or plasma from a healthy dog, suggests veterinarian Ron Hines.

“Remember, newborns lose the ability to absorb antibodies at approximately 18 hours post-partum.” ~Race Foster DVM

Colostrum for Dogscolostrum for dog

Giving colostrum to adult dogs is a subject of debate. On one hand you have those claiming that since puppies cannot absorb colostrum past the first 18 hours, adult dogs are unlikely to gain any benefit from its use. On the other hand, there are those who claim that dogs are still capable of absorbing colostrum which can be beneficial. According to VCA Animal Hospital, once ingested, colostrum appears to still be able to exert a local effect  on the intestinal tract and on the skin and mouth when applied topically.

Veterinarian Steven R. Blake believes that colostrum aids the dog’s body by strengthening the intestinal tract which prevents harmful viruses, bacteria, yeast, parasites and toxins from entering through the gut wall. He recommends using only colostrum coming coming from pasture-fed dairy cows who aren’t treated with hormones, antibiotics, pesticides or raised on dead food. Anedoctal evidence suggest several benefits in giving dogs colostrum or lactoferrin; however controlled studies are lacking.

Did you know? Newborn puppies who have received adequate colostrum from their mothers don’t respond to vaccines because mom’s maternal antibodies interfere. This is why puppies are vaccinated every 3 to 4 weeks until 16 weeks of age. Eventually, at some point during this time frame one or more vaccines will “take,” explains veterinarian Dr. Ken Tudor.


  • Encyclopedia of Animal Science (Print), edited by Wilson G. Pond
  • Pet Education, Colostrum and Passive Immunity, by Race Foster, retrieved from the web on February 19th, 2016.
  • Center for Nutritional Research, Colstrum and Pets, an interview with Steven R. Blake, retrieved from the web on February 19th, 2016.
  • Pet MD, Vaccination Programs for Puppies and Kittens, by Dr. Ken Tudor,  retrieved from the web on February 19th, 2016.

How Well Can Dogs See in the Dark?


In a previous article we looked at how dogs see colors, today instead we will take a peak at how dogs see in the dark.  While humans detect colors much better than dogs, when it comes to night vision, dogs come out as winners. A dog’s ability to see in the dark may not beat the night vision of cats, but they aren’t too far behind. Interestingly, this ability to see in dim light is courtesy of several evolutionary adaptations meant to help dogs see in low-light conditions.

eyesA Matter of Conformation

While dogs can’t appreciate our same visual acuity and same color palette as us, when it comes to night vision, dogs are blessed with characteristics that make them see far better than humans. Dog eyes have a larger lens and thus a larger corneal surface, than humans, explains Dr. Randy Kidd.  Why they see better than us in dim light, isn’t surprising. Animals have larger pupils than humans and this allows more light to reach the retina, which is why they have superior night vision, claims Dr. Lynsey Wagner, a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist working for South Texas Veterinary Ophthalmology. While a dog’s night vision is superior to humans, it can’t beat though the night vision of cats. Cats are nocturnal animals par excellence and their incredible night vision comes courtesy of the vertical shape of their pupils and their larger cornea.

“Compared to the human eye, the dog has a larger lens and a correspondingly larger corneal surface, enhancing its ability to capture light and thus see in reduced lighting conditions. ” ~Randy Kidd, DVM, PhD

Light Sensitive Rods

While the human retina has more cone cells, which allow a better ability to distinguish colors, dogs’ retinas have a higher concentration of rods, special light-and-motion-sensitive cells that help distinguish light from shadow. This allows dogs to see better than humans in semi-darkness.

Additionally, these rods help the dog detect small movements, which came helpful for hunting prey animals at night, or, in the case of our domesticated companions, catching a ball tossed on a summer evening. There’s a trade off though for these advantages. The price to pay for seeing in dim light and detecting small movement appears to be less visual acuity during the day.

“The dog’s retina is like a high speed photographic film with a high ISO or ASA number; great in dim light but ‘grainy’ with less detail (visual acuity) in bright light.” ~Dr. Kerry L Ketring, board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist.

A Bright Tapestry

Eyeshine in dog
Eye shine in dog

The dog’s tapetum lucidum, a mirror-like membrane lined with a layer of highly reflective cells, further helps dogs see better when the lights go out. How? This membrane reflects back any light entering the eye which enables dogs to see better. According to Dr. Steven M. Roberts, a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist, it is thanks to the tapetum lucidum, along with the greater corneal and pupil diameter, that dogs can see “a low-light world that’s two to ten times brighter than what we see.”

Ever wondered why dogs get “Halloween eyes?” The reason why dog eyes glow at night in an eerie way is because the unabsorbed light reflects off the tapetum lucidum. This also explains why a dog’s eyes glow in pictures when taken with flash. Humans, unlike dogs, do not have a tapetum lucidum.

“Dogs, can probably see in light five times dimmer than a human can see in.” ~Paul Miller, clinical professor of comparative ophthalmology at University of Wisconsin—Madison.

dog night visionDogs Cannot See in Total Dark

Dogs see in total darkness the same way us humans do. The reason why they  see better in dim light is simply because they make better use of the light they have. The secret behind a dog’s night vision therefore relies on our companion’s ability to make better use of whatever source of light is available to them. So turns out, it’s  a myth that dogs are able to see in total pitch black darkness. Dogs have an advantage though over us humans when it comes to navigating in the dark that’s worthy of mentioning. They can rely on their”feeler”whiskers which prevents them from bumping into things and allows them to navigate around a room in dim light with a good level of ease. On top pf that, they have an uncanny ability to memorize the layouts of their homes. Perhaps this is why the myth of dogs seeing in the dark got popular!

“Dogs and cats are very good at memorizing their environment. We see lots of patients that have pretty advanced visual dysfunction without their owners being aware of it simply because the layout of their home never changed.”~ Christopher Pirie, board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist.

Did you know? That eerie green-yellowish glow that is emanated from the eyes of animals at night is known as “eye shine”


  • Tufts Now,  Spotting Eye Problems in Pets, retrieved from the Web on February 18th, 2016
  • South Texas Veterinary Ophthalmology, The Ghostly Glow, Why do Animal’s Eyes Shine? by Dr. Lynsey Wagner, retrieved from the Web on February 18th, 2016
  • What Do Animals Really See, by Kerry L Ketring, DVM DACVO, All Animal Eye Clinic Whitehall, MI 4946, retrieved from the Web on February 18th, 2016

Photo credits:

A three-month-old black Labrador puppy with apparent eye shine, by Jazzjohnn CC BY-SA 3.0

Dog Word of the Day: Whale Eyes


Today’s dog word of the day is whale eye. What do dogs have to do with a whale’s eyes?  The term “whale eyes” was labeled by author, dog trainer and expert on dog aggression Sue Sternberg. It’s used to refer to when the white portion of the dog’s eye shows (not to be confused with a dog’s third eyelid). Also known as “half moon eye” whale eye in dogs is mostly seen when the dog turns his head slightly, but his eyeball remains turned to the side, fixed on something. When this happens, the white part of the eye, the sclera, appears as a  white crescent-like shape in the corner of one eye. You don’t normally see much of the white of a dog’s eyes other than in certain particular circumstances.

human eye scleraAnatomy of Eye

Interestingly, when it comes to the white portion of the eyes, humans come well equipped compared to dogs and other animals. In humans, the sclera of the eye is very visible, not only because of its contrasting white color, but also because the iris is relatively small compared to other animals.

Ever wondered why we don’t have the whole eye of the same color? There are theories that our sclera is so visible for communicative purposes so that others can see where we are looking and we can use our eyes as a form of non-verbal communication.

Interestingly, research on dogs has revealed that during the process of domestication, dogs have relied on picking up visual cues from our eyes too! Indeed, when it comes to picking up visual information, dogs seem to rely more on human eyes than the eyes of one another. After all, dogs don’t rely much on eye contact among each other (steady, direct eye contact may mean trouble in the dog world), therefore that may possibly explain why a dog’s sclera is just a narrow rim of white connective tissue that’s much less conspicuous than in humans.

A Look a Context

Many dogs show whale eyes when photographed.
Many dogs show whale eyes when photographed.

Paying attention to what is occurring when the dog shows whale eyes is important so to keep tabs on preventing putting the dog in a similar situation in the future. What is happening when the dog shows whale eyes? Is the dog being hugged? Photographed?  Is a person or dog getting too close to his toy or bone? Is another dog invading his personal space?

Whale eyes are often seen when the dog is in a situation that makes him feel uncomfortable. The dog doesn’t want to stare directly, so he’ll avert his head the other way, but at the same time he doesn’t want to take his eyes off from what is concerning him.

You may see it when a dog is cornered, guarding a possession or in an uncomfortable situation such as when being photographed or hugged. The dog may feel stressed, anxious, fearful or defensive.

Whale eye “is thought to occur because the dog is so afraid that he is not looking at you, but he’s too afraid to take his gaze away from you entirely. The result is a dog who is looking at something with his eyes while not facing it.” ~ Karen London  Ph.D.

half moon eye dogJust A Puzzle Piece

As with other canine body language, it’s a good idea to look at the context that evokes it, but it’s also worthy paying attention to the overall accompanying body language versus singling out only one signal.

Whale eye is often accompanied by tense facial muscles, a mouth tightly closed, dilated pupils, a stiff body, and there may also be more evident signs such as some growling and a curled lip.

Whale eye may be seen just a split second before a dog is about to snap or considering to snap should things escalate.

If you notice the half-moon eye in your dog, it’s time to give the dog space and plan how to avoid putting the dog in a similar situation in the future. Consult with a behavior professional for guidance on how to reduce stress in the dog and prevent situations from escalating.

“If you see the half moon eye when the kids approach the dog or are interacting with the dog, it’s time to intervene and give them all something else to do.” ~Doggone Safe

No Rule of Thumbdog sclera showing

Paying attention to context and other accompanying body language can tell us a whole lot of what may be going on. Just because we notice the white of our dog’s eyes doesn’t necessarily mean though that our dogs are stressed, fearful or uncomfortable.

Dogs may show whale eyes for several other reasons. Whale eyes may appear just because dogs are moving their eyes to look at something, but they don’t feel like moving their head.

For instance, a dog may be lying down with his head resting on the floor and he may not feel like moving his head, but may still want to keep an eye on what his owners or other dogs are doing around him.

A dog may show whale eyes as a sign of a pinched nerve in the neck as dogs with this painful condition are reluctant to turn their head. Some dogs are also anatomically built in such a way that their eyes have the sclera that shows more without anything stressful happening. For example,  dogs with short snouts and shallow sockets may have a more visible sclera compared to other dogs.

dog tipDid you know?  How did the word “whale eye” end up relating to dogs? Patricia McConnell, in the book “For the Love of a Dog: Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend” mentions that the term “whale eye” first came from a client of dog trainer Susan Sternberg who noticed how the eyes of whales she had been observing showed their whites no matter in which direction their head was pointing.


  • The Eyes Have It –What Can Be Seen in a Dog’s Eyes, by Karen London, retrieved from the web on February 17th, 2016
  • For the Love of a Dog: Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend, by Patricia McConnell, Ph.D. Ballantine Books; 1 Reprint edition (July 22, 2009)
  • Director and Producer: Dan Child, Executive Producer: Andrew Kohen (2010-01-06). “The Secret Life of the Dog”. Horizon. BBC. BBC2.

Norwich versus Norfolk Terrier


It’s Tuesday Trivia, and today we will be focusing on two dogs breed that are often easily confused: the Norwich terrier and the Norfolk terrier. Both breeds share many things in common. With a history of hunting down vermin from the barn, they are both small feisty working terriers originating from Great Britain. When it comes to coat color, they both come in shades of red, wheaten, black and tan or grizzle. Their weight and height are also almost pretty much the same which adds to the tendency to easily confuse one another. If you’re guilty of this, don’t feel bad  though! Several years back, ever since 1936, the Norfolk and the Norwich were classified as one breed and referred to as “the Norwich terriers.” There’s an easy way to distinguish the two breeds though, so today’s trivia revolves around the main difference between the Norwich and Norfolk terrier. Tuesday’s dog trivia question therefore is:

What is the main distinguishing feature between the Norwich and Norfolk terrier?

A) The tail

B)  The eyes

C) The ears

D) The teeth

The correct answer is: drum roll please…

Answer:  if you answered A, the tail, consider that the Norwich terrier typically has a tail that’s medium docked.  According to the American Kennel Club, the tail had to be of this length so to allow a man’s hand to grasp it. In the Norfolk, a docked medium tail is also called for, so the tail is not really a distinguishing feature. If you answered B, the eyes, consider that both the Norwich and the Norfolk have eyes that are small, dark and oval in shape with black rims. If you answered D, the teeth, sorry but both these breeds should ideally boast large teeth that meet nicely in a scissor bite. So the correct answer is C, the main way to differentiate a Norwich from a Norfolk is by looking at their ears!

The Norwich Terrier

norwich terrier

As mentioned, the Norwich and the Norfolk were once exclusively one breed, “the Norwich terriers.” Within this breed there were therefore prick-eared (P.E.) or drop-eared (D.E.) specimens.

Then, in 1964, the British Kennel Club decided to separate the two. In 1979, the Norwich was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club. It got its own standard that is quite similar to that of the Norfolk, but the ears are the main distinguishing feature.

According to the standard, the Norwich terrier has ears that are erect, set well apart and with pointed tips. This gives the Norwich a more foxy expression compared to the Norfolk.


The Norfolk Terrier

norfolk terrier

The Norfolk terrier was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1979, several years after the British Kennel Club  had decided to separate the Norwich from the Norfolk. Before ear cropping became illegal, drop-eared specimens were often cropped so to have erect ears as the erect-eared specimens were winning more often in the show ring.  To prevent complains over which specimen was better, the two types were separated into two different breeds in 1964.

The Norfolk, unlike the Norwich has small v-shaped dropped ears that don’t fall lower than the corner of the eye. Those folks who love to touch dog ears, may be delighted in learning that the Norfolk’s ears are smooth and velvety to the touch. Other than having different ears, owners of Norwich and Norfolk report that there are some other subtle differences between the two breeds; however, some breeders may claim that the two breeds are exactly the same. Who is right? Most likely, it boils down to the fact that, as the breeds separated, they gained their own uniqueness and each dog developed its own personality.

Fun fact:  To remember the main difference between the Norwich and the Norfolk, many people think about the Norwich having pointed ears that stand up like a “witch’s hat.” And what about the Norfolk terrier? Perhaps we can think of them as “Nor-fold” terriers, the ones with folded ears! So there you have it, Nor-witch and Nor-fold terriers, no more confusion from now on!


  • American Kennel Club, Norfolk Terrier Breed Standard, retrieved from the web on Feb 16th, 2016
  • American Kennel Club: Norwich Terrier Breed Standard,  retrieved from the web on Feb 16th, 2016

Photo credits:

I am Your Dog’s Third Eyelid


Today we’ll be discovering some interesting stuff about the dog’s third eyelid. Yes, that’s right, dogs have actually three eyelids, but where on earth is the third one? Last time you checked, you only saw two, the top one and the bottom one, so where is the third one hiding? No need to run a treasure hunt. Tucked out of sight, at the inner corner of your dog’s eye, the third eyelid isn’t normally visible. You may have likely seen it occasionally when your dog sleeps or wakes up after catching some Zzzs, but not seeing it much is a good thing. A third eyelid showing on other occasions may be indicative of some underlying problems. So today, let’s get more acquainted with our dog’s third eyelid, shall we?

Introducing Your Dog’s Third Eyelid

Hello, it’s your dog’s third eyelid talking!  I am also known as the nictitating membrane or haw. You may not know me too well, as I tend to not show up much often. I am that membrane that you may occasionally see partially drawn across a part of your dog’s eye. In other animals such as certain reptiles, birds and sharks, you may see me fully drawn across the eye, in some cases covering it completely. In humans, I am just a vestigial remnant known as the “plica semilunaris.”  I have basically lost my original function during evolution, so I shrunk into a small fold that’s found on the inside corner of your eye. See picture for correct location of the plica semilunaris in humans.

In dogs, I am more functional, covering the eye when your dog is asleep. Like you car’s wiper blades, I help wipe any mucus or debris from across the surface of your dog’s eyes. According t o the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists, I also play an important role in maintaining normal tear production. I have a gland that’s responsible for about 40 to 50 percent of your dog’s tear production.  Last but not least, my lymphoid tissue has an immunological function producing antibodies to help fight infections.

dog third eyelidThird-Eyelid Showing

As mentioned, you don’t normally see me other than when your dog sleeps with his eyelids semi-open or you see me for a split second as I retract when your dog wakens up suddenly from a deep sleep. You see, I cover your dog’s eyes when your dog is sound asleep so to prevent his eyes from drying up too much. Your dog doesn’t blink in his sleep so I’ll take over the role of keeping those eyes nice and moist. So yes, it’s a good thing if you notice your dog’s “red eyes” when he’s sleeping. What you are seeing is basically me doing my job. You need to worry instead when I do not normally retract when your dog’s eyes are open and your dog is wide awake, as this can be a sign of something wrong.

If you see me when your dog is wide awake, under the form of a pinkish triangle covering the inner corner of one eye,  it could mean an eye problem. The dog’s eye may be painful or injured or a nerve may have been damaged, explains veterinarian Betsy Brevitz in the book ”  The Complete Healthy Dog Handbook: The Definitive Guide to Keeping Your Pet Happy, Healthy & Active.” There are no muscles attached to me, so my range of motion is completely passive. If the eyeball sinks in, I will automatically cover the eye. When you see me in both eyes, unless both eyes may have been injured, something more systemic may be going on. Third eyelids showing in both of a dog’s eyes could be a sign of dehydration, illness or pain. Consult with your vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.

dog cherry eye
Cherry eye in dog

Prolapsed Nictitans Gland 

My gland responsible for making tears (nictitans gland) is located on the side that lies against the eye, so it’s normally not visible. Sometimes though, a small ligament responsible for holding the gland in place, may stretch or break for unknown reasons, explains veterinary ophthalmologist Rhea V. Morgan. When this happens, my gland will prolapse, leading to a visible reddish mass in the corner of the eye that is commonly referred to as “cherry eye.”

You see, this mostly happens in certain dog breeds that are prone to it such as cocker spaniels, basset hounds, lhasa apso, shih-tzu, poodle, beagles, Newfoundlands, Chinese shar-pei, Saint Bernards and bulldogs. To correct this, I need surgery to get that gland replaced so that it can continue to produce tears as it was meant to and to prevent the emergence of complications such as a chronic dry eye.

As seen, I perform several duties! I hope this guide has helped you understand me better! I sometimes feel like I live in the shadow, tucked out of sight as I am. Out of sight though doesn’t mean out of mind, so hopefully today you’ll cherish the work I do to keep your dog’s eyes healthy and bright. And if I ever show up when your dog is awake and active, please have me checked out by your vet to see what’s going on.  Yours dearly,

Your dog’s third eyelid.


  • Betsy Brevitz, ”  The Complete Healthy Dog Handbook: The Definitive Guide to Keeping Your Pet Happy, Healthy & Active.” Workman Publishing Company; 1 edition (April 16, 2009)
  • Christine C. Lim, “Small Animal Ophthalmic Atlas and Guide”, Wiley-Blackwell; 1 edition (February 2, 2015)

Photo credits:

  • Prolapsed gland of the third eyelid (cherry eye) in a dog, by Joel MillsCC BY-SA 3.0
  • The plica semilunaris of conjunctiva, by Henry Vandyke CarterHenry Gray (1918) Anatomy of the Human Body, public domain

Understanding the Honeymoon Period in Dogs


Yes, dogs and dog owners can go through a honeymoon period just like couples do when at the beginning of their relationship everything seems deliriously perfect. The phenomenon is most commonly observed during the transitional period of adjustment occurring before a newly rescued dog “settles in.” The new dog owners may make remarks such as: “Oh, this dog is perfect as can be” or “he’s settling in very nicely!” but as with the honeymoon period in couples, this idyllic phase is often destined to end. As problem behaviors emerge, dog owners may feel puzzled and frustrated by their “altered relationship” with their new dog which started out so seemingly positive yet is now falling apart.

shelter honeymoonShelter/Rescue Honeymoon Period

As mentioned, the honeymoon period phenomenon is more commonly observed in rescue/shelter dogs as they adjust to a new environment. It generally lasts a month, but according to veterinary behaviorist Karen Overall, it can go as long as 3 to 5 months. This post-adoption period usually begins with the dog behaving quite well during the first weeks and months.

During this time, the dog’s behaviors are somewhat inhibited and suppressed. Then, as the dog adjusts and “makes himself more at home,” dog owners may start seeing the emergence of behavioral problems such as chewing, excess barking or growling when a toy is taken away.

Dogs may seem angelic before they get their footing, so if behavior problems start to appear after a few months, get help from your veterinarian and/or a specialist immediately!! The earlier the help, the faster the dog turns around.” Dr. Meredith Stepita, DVM, DACVB

Causes of Honeymoon Perioddog honeymoon

What causes the honeymoon period?  There may be several explanations. Dogs who have been surrendered have gone through a lot of stress and going to a new home entails lots of changes. When dogs face stress, they may act in uncharacteristic ways such as appearing more subdued and reserved around people and other animals. As they adjust to their new surroundings and their stress hormones return to normal levels, their real personality may eventually shine through, sometimes revealing the same undesirable behaviors that caused their previous owners to surrender them in the first place.

Another potential cause are dog owners who feel sorry for the dog and are overindulgent in the first days. They allow the dog to beg at the table and climb on furniture but then later on, they regret it. When they then try to implement new rules, they may not be consistent enough and may struggle as the dog doesn’t listen. Newly adopted may go through a “trial phase” where they’re seeing which behaviors they can get away with and which not. Behaviors that are reinforced (even inadvertently) by the owners will strengthen and repeat. This applies to both rescued dogs and foster dogs.

“By the end of the month, if you haven’t carefully managed your foster to be sure the behaviors you like are the ones being reinforced, you may see the increasingly noticeable presence of undesirable behaviors. What rescuers refer to as seeing “the real dog” after one month may just be those behaviors becoming established over time through reinforcement.” ~Pat Miller

Puppy Honeymoon Periodpippp

Even new puppy owners may go through a “puppy honeymoon period” taking place shortly after the puppy has been improving in the potty training department. The puppy is no longer having accidents and he’s learning not to chew on shoes, so the puppy owner pats himself on the back for doing a good job.  Not that fast though! Fast forward  a few weeks or months, and the puppy hits the adolescent stage and the puppy owner has an abrupt wake-up call. The puppy who was once obedient and eager to please has now started to pose “a deaf ear” to the owner’s requests and has also started to develop new fears and phobias. While in human couples the end of the honeymoon period may lead to breakups and divorces, in the dog world it may sadly lead to a one-way trip to the pound.

 “People often find that adolescence is the most difficult stage with which to live. According to the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy, nearly half of dogs surrendered to shelters are between the ages of five months and three years.” Sue Brown.

Surviving the End of Honeymoondog honeymoon stage

There are several effective ways to survive after the honeymoon period ends. The best option is to prevent problem behaviors from emerging in the first place. From the first day your new dog comes home, make the house rules clear and use positive training methods to inform your dog which behaviors are desired from him. Establish a predictable routine, limit stressful events, manage the environment to prevent rehearsal of undesirable behaviors, and most of all, make sure you and your family are consistent.  Many new dog owners often tend to spoil the dog too much the first days, and they may pay the price for their overindulgence later.  Of course, all these tips can apply to puppies as well! If you have recently adopted a dog or are having trouble with your adolescent puppy, don’t ignore problem behaviors hoping they’ll go away on their own; in most cases, they’ll only get worse! Enlist the help of a force-free trainer/behavior consultant for proper guidance.

Did you know? The honeymoon period may also refer to newly diagnosed diabetic dogs. Although it doesn’t happen commonly, the term is used to depict the period during which a dog’s ability to make insulin returns for a while.


  • Sue Brown, Juvenile Delinquent Dogs – The Complete Guide to Saving Your Sanity and Successfully Living with Your Adolescent Dog, Dogwise Publishing,  2012 Paperback
  • Pat Miller, How to Foster Dogs: From Homeless to Homeward Bound, Direct Book Service; 1st edition (November 21, 2013)

Seven Surprising Facts About Australian Shepherds


Australian shepherds are smart, exuberant dogs blessed with a great amount of stamina which allowed them to be the work-oriented dogs they were meant to be. With a past as a tireless sheep herder, these lithe and agile companions have lots of energy and drive which makes them excel in many doggy sports. While most people are able to recognize an Australian shepherd when they meet one, courtesy of this breed’s distinctive looks, there are several  Australian shepherd facts that are just waiting to be discovered. Here are seven surprising facts about Australian shepherds.



1) They’re not Aussies…cangaru

We’re so used to dealing with many dog breeds named after their country of origin that we must assume than an Australian shepherd must come from Australia, right? Wrong.

While the history of this breed is a bit shrouded in mystery, one thing is for sure: this breed wasn’t hopping around with the kangaroos. Instead, according to the American Kennel Club, the Australian shepherd likely originated in the Basque region of the Pyrenees Mountains somewhere between Spain and France.

The breed’s misleading name may have likely derived from the Basque shepherds who traveled to the United States via Australia in the late 1800s.

engliush2) But they Speak American..

Listen carefully when an Aussie barks, can you hear an American accent? Turns out, the Australian Shepherd, as we know it today, developed exclusively in the U.S. This breed indeed is American as cheesecake and pecan pie.

The breed developed in the 19th and 20th centuries as a versatile farm dog in the American west. A tireless sheep herder, the Aussie was seen relentlessly working in the Rocky Mountains.

Their ranchers were highly impressed by how the high altitudes didn’t seem to affect them and these hard-working dogs kept going and going. Soon, ranchers in Boulder Colorado started breeding them attracting buyers as far out as California.

3) They Come in Striking Colors…

blue merle

Aussies are known for their striking coat patterns which often come in blue merle (with mottled black patches throughout) and red merle (with reddish patches). Other coat colors include the basic black and red coat colors.

According to the American Kennel Club breed standard, white body splashes, between withers and tail, or on the sides between elbows and back of hindquarters are means for disqualification.

The merle coats are quite unique for the fact that they’re known for becoming darker with increasing age. While the merle coats are appealing, their patterns are associated with several health problems. To prevent passing hereditary disorders associated with the merle gene, breeding should be left to very experienced dog breeders.

4) And Boast Amazing Eyes…blue eyes Australian shepherd

Australian shepherds have also quite interesting eyes. Their eyes may be brown, amber or of a crystal blue hue. It’s not unusual to see some Aussies with one eye of a different color from the other (complete heterochromia) or eyes with flecks and marbling.

Blue merles typically have black pigmentation on their eye rims while red merles have liver pigmentation. Unfortunately, the same gene that’s responsible for the appealing coats and eye colors is often responsible for many eye defects, according to Eye Care for Animals.

However, a blue iris is not absolutely indicative of the presence of the Merle gene. To rule out eye problems, breeders should have their breeding stock evaluated by a veterinary ophthalmologist. The Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) tests for heritable eye diseases in dogs.

5) But, They’re Often Missing Their Tails…bobbed tail aussie

In the United States the breed standard calls for an Australian shepherd with a tail not to exceed four inches in length, whether it’s docked or naturally bobbed.

According to the Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute, one Australian Shepherd in five will have a naturally bobbed tail. Breeding two Aussies with a naturally bobbed tail though is risky business.

Like the merle gene, the naturally bobbed tail gene is dominant and several serious consequences are associated with having two copies of this gene. Affected puppies tend to die early and are reabsorbed.

The Veterinary Genetics Laboratory now offers a test for detecting the Natural Bobtail gene so to assist breeders in identifying dogs that carry this trait. Aussies that have longer tails are often docked a few days after birth so to adhere to breed standard, but because several countries have already banned docking procedures, there are more and more Aussies being shown boasting their natural, long appendages.

herding children6) They May Herd Anything That Moves…

Aussies have been selectively bred to herd livestock, and as herding dogs, they may instinctively engage in livestock herding behaviors when they’re around moving stimuli such as cars, joggers and people on skateboards.

Nipping at a person’s feet or heels is not something fun to watch, especially when the behavior is directed at children.

“Children are most likely to be on the receiving end of such nipping, especially when they are running around or playing vigorously” explains dog trainer and author Victoria Stillwell.

The good news is that problematic herding behaviors can be “nipped in the bud” by teaching good bite inhibition from an early age and providing a good regimen of exercise and mental stimulation. Herding behaviors can also be “redirected to more appropriate foci such as toys, games or stock,” suggests board-certified veterinary behaviorist Karen Overall. 

“Herding dogs (eg, Australian Shepherds, Border Collies, Corgis) may persist in herding a group of children to the point of terrifying them and may use nipping as one of their herding behaviors.”~ Molly Love, MSN, CRNP, and Karen L. Overall

7) But You Can Put Their Brains to Good Use..agility

When it comes to doing things, an Aussie is a total “braniac” breed who will excel in just about anything as long as you give him the opportunity to puts his sharp mind to work. Obedience, agility, Frisbee, herding trials, Canine Musical Freestyle, you name it!

This smart and focused breed has been selectively bred for quick decision making and concentration, so they benefit from owners who know how to provide their brain with a good workout, whether through interactive toys, training or a canine sport.

Fail to provide sufficient outlets though and those idle paws will become the devil’s workshop.

Your Aussie will find his own set of hobbies such as chewing through drywall, ripping the stuffing out of pillows and sofas, and turning your yard into something resembling Planet Mars (craters included)!



  • Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute, A Tale of Tails, What you may not know about Aussies’ tails, by C.A. Sharpm, retrieved by the web on Febuary 13th, 2016
  • American Kennel Club, Australian Shepherd Breed Standard, retrieved by the web on Febuary 13th, 2016


Photo Credits:

Five Ways Dogs May Say I Love You


Until the day your dog can talk, you’ll never likely hear him pronounce “I love you,” and in the meanwhile, don’t expect him to purchase you a Hallmark card or some balloons with those famous words printed on top. And forget about receiving a box of chocolates or a flower bouquet from your dog when Valentine’s Day is around the corner; dogs know better ways of demonstrating the affection they feel towards their favorite people. The best part is that dogs say the canine equivalent of “I love you” in dog speak on a daily basis, too bad that we’re often too busy to take notice and their message is often missed! And for those skeptics frowning upon a dog’s ability to demonstrate primary emotions such as love, sadness and fear, they should consider that whether dogs are capable of feeling emotions is no longer a subject of debate.  It has been scientifically proven that dogs share the same brain structures that produce emotions in humans.

The fact that animals have primary emotions—and intelligence—is no longer the subject of debate. Primary emotions like anger, sadness, fear, and love are not in contention. ~Nicholas Dodman




1) Gazing into Your Eyes

When your dog adoringly gazes into your eyes with his soft brown eyes, you’re not imagining things if you get a warm fuzzy feeling of being loved. A study conducted by Miho Nagasawa of Azabu University in Japan and his colleagues found that when owners and dogs shared a long mutual gaze, both species had higher levels of oxytocin in their urine compared to those of owners of dogs sharing a shorter gaze. Oxytocin, also known as the “cuddle hormone,” has been associated with nurturing and social bonding and Nagasawa and her colleagues concluded that their research provided “a manifestation of attachment behavior.”

“When owners interact with their dogs, both sides have surges in oxytocin. That puts a check in the ‘dogs can love’ box.”~ Karen L. Bales

2) Greeting You at the Doorgreeting

Does your dog get all happy and excited the moment he hears you opening the door? Neuroscientist and author of the book: “How Dogs Love Us,Gregory Berns may have an explanation.

Based on his brain imaging research, Berns found that dogs could clearly discern the scent of familiar humans and their smell sparked activation of their reward response center in the brain, an area called the caudate nucleus.

Berns claimed that the reward responses in dogs were analogous to the brain responses seen in humans, such as when “seeing a person that’s a friend or someone you like.”

Of course, there are likely other mechanisms at play when it comes to those greeting rituals such as relief from boredom and loneliness and even an element of curiosity, but these are in addition to being glad to see us.

“What we’re finding with the imaging work is that dogs love their humans—and not just for food. They love the company of humans simply for its own sake”~ Gregory Berns

3) Listening to Your Voice

Dogs aren’t just tuned into their sense of olfaction, does your dog wag his tail when you talk to him in a happy tone of voice? You may not imagining things when you assume Rover must “love” hearing your voice.

In Budapest, Attila Andics, a neuroscientist along with his team of researchers, used  MRI technology but this time to study the brain activity of dogs upon hearing human voices.

In this study, it was found that dogs, just like humans, have dedicated voice areas in their brains and therefore happy human voices were capable of lightening up the dogs’ temporal pole, the part of the brain responsible for processing acoustic information.

This shows that dogs are physically wired to pick up on our subtle mood changes and they are very good at tuning into our feelings. It’s evidence explaining why the bond between humans and dogs is so close, suggests Andics.

“We know very well that dogs are very good at tuning into the feelings of their owners, and we know a good dog owner can detect emotional changes in his dog – but we now begin to understand why this can be.”~ Attila Andics

4) Seeking Comfort from Youcomf

Does your dog rush to you for comfort after being exposed to some frightening event or stimulus? Scientists at the University of Veterinary medicine in Vienna found striking similarities between the bond between dogs and their owners and the bond between between human parents and their children.

The study conducted by Lisa Horn from the Vetmeduni’s Messerli Research Institute, provided evidence for the similarity between the “secure base effect” found in dog and owner relationships and child and caregiver relationships.

The owner’s presence played an important role in enticing the dog to behave in a confident manner. Andics also confirms that dogs act similar to babies when they’re frightened and seek comfort from humans with whom they have formed a bond, a totally different reaction compared to cats and horses, animals who would rather flee than seek support!

“One of the things that really surprised us is, that adult dogs behave towards their caregivers like human children do. It will be really interesting to try to find out how this behavior evolved in the dogs with direct comparisons.” ~Lisa Horn

do dogs love us5) Showing Unconditional Love

There no scientific study or research to back this up, but it’s crystal clear, dogs love us for what we are. We can be rich or poor, happy or sad, young or old, no matter our income, social status or whatever life throws at us, we can always count on our dogs.

Dogs don’t hold any grudges toward us regardless of how many mistakes we may have done.  It’s no wonder why dogs are considered man’s best friend, whenever it comes to love, dogs can always outperform us and they’re naturally equipped with an endless capacity for unconditional love that they’ll willingly dole out for a lifetime.

Regardless of what happens, dogs will always think we’re wonderful and they’ll love us with all their heart.  And the best part of all is that they can  say “I love you” without using any words at all!

“The world would be a nicer place if everyone had the ability to love as unconditionally as a dog.”―M.K. Clinton


  • Oxytocin-gaze positive loop and the coevolution of human-dog bonds, by Miho Nagasawa et al. Science Vol 348, Issue 6232, 17 April 2015
  • Scientific American, “Is the Gaze from Those Big Puppy Eyes the Look of Your Doggie’s Love?, retrieved from the web on February 12th, 2016
  • Veterinary Practice News, “Animals Have Emotions, But What About ‘Theory Of Mind’?” by Nicholas Dodman, BVMS, DACVB,  retrieved from the web on February 12th, 2016
  • The Why Files, The Science Behind the News, University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, retrieved from the web on February 12th, 2016
  • io9, We Come From the Future, Why Are Dogs So Insanely Happy to See Us When We Get Home? by George Dvorsky, retrieved from the web on February 12th, 2016
  • Scent of the familiar: An fMRI study of canine brain responses to familiar and unfamiliar human and dog odors, Gregory S. Berns, Behavioural Processes Volume 110, January 2015, Pages 37–46
  • BBC News, Dogs’ brain scans reveal vocal responses 
  • Horn L, Huber L, Range F (2013) The Importance of the Secure Base Effect for Domestic Dogs – Evidence from a Manipulative Problem-Solving Task. PLoS ONE 8(5): e65296. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0065296

How Puppies Learn the ABCs of Bite Inhibition


Sure, it’s helpful to train a puppy not to jump, chew and beg at the table from an early age, but teaching bite inhibition is paramount because it can prevent future problems and even make a difference between life and death. When puppies come to our homes, generally around 8 to 12 weeks, they should have already learned the ABCs of bite inhibition through repeated feedback attained via their interactions with their mother and litter mates.  Today, we will discover how puppies learn bite inhibition.

What is Bite Inhibition?golden

Dogs are equipped with strong jaws and sharp teeth reminiscent of the old days when they killed their prey, teared up meat and cracked bones. Thankfully, dogs can be taught how to inhibit their bites so their teeth won’t cause harm. Bite inhibition entails learning to develop a soft mouth. As puppies mature, through their social interactions with their mothers and siblings, they learn to moderate the strength of their bite.

Learning bite inhibition is very important because animals do not have an innate predisposition to gauge the strength of their jaws. Fortunately, the ABCs of bite inhibition are learned naturally while the puppy is around his mother and siblings. Through consequences, the puppy soon learns that “when I bite hard, all fun things end.”

The Milk Bar is Closed

As the puppies grow, they reach a certain point around 3 and a half weeks of age when they no longer need to depend much on mother dog’s milk. Nature has marvelously intertwined the process of weaning with bite inhibition. As the puppy’s razor sharp milk teeth come out, nursing starts getting painful for mother dog. At some point, as soon as she feels her skin being nipped, she will get up and move away from the pups.

This is the best time for the breeder to start presenting other food sources. Puppy mush, a semi-liquid gruel will attract the hungry puppies who will start depending less and less on milk and more and more on other food sources. The weaning process has begun, puppies will soon start eating solid foods and mother dog will start decreasing milk production.

Play Sessions Endmother dog

Play is an important life lesson of its own. By playing, puppies learn socially acceptable behaviors and how to apply restraint despite excitement. When puppies are still in the litter, they learn the ABCs of bite inhibition by playing with their litter mates and mother. Should a puppy bite too rough, the other puppy will emit a sharp yelp and withdraw from the game, giving the rowdy pup a little time-out.

This life lesson is further emphasized by mother dog, who may play a bit with the pup, but won’t take rough puppy mouthing. She will get up and leave the moment the pup gets too rough. Day after the day, the puppy soon learns that if he wants to continue to play, he must learn how to gauge the pressure of his mouth more and more.

A Matter of Negative Punishment 

Through the repeated interactions with mother dog and siblings, at some point, puppies will learn that biting roughly has an unpleasant outcome: everything good ends. The puppy bites mother dog too hard during nursing? Mother dog gets up and leaves. The puppy nips his playmate too hard? The playmate squeals in pain and leaves. What do these events have  in common? They’re based on negative punishment, also known as subtracted punishment. What does this mean?

According to the Association of Animal Behavior Professionals negative punishment is “A behavior change process in which the subtraction of a stimulus during or immediately following a response class member, results in a decrease in the rate or frequency of the response class on subsequent occasions.” In more simple words, here’s what happens: the puppy’s rough biting behavior decreases in its rate or frequency because every time he bites, something is removed (subtracted). By losing access to milk and his playmate, the puppy soon learns that rough biting isn’t worth it.

Further Educationpuppy play

Puppy classes are a place where the puppy can further learn to inhibit his bite. Dog owners should not skip this opportunity as bite inhibition is something that needs to be taught early. Once a puppy loses all his milk teeth, it may be too late to teach this skill. The jaw will be strong enough to cause damage and the other dogs may react violently to the hard bites. If the puppy hasn’t learned a firmly anchored, reflexive level of bite inhibition by the time of puberty, it may be too dangerous for him to play along with other dogs, explains Alexandra Semyonova  in the book “The 100 Silliest Things People Say about Dogs.”

Good bite inhibition is the most important quality of any companion dog.  Moreover, a dog must develop bite inhibition during puppy hood, before it is four and half months old. ~Ian Dunbar

Hand-targeting exercises teach your puppy to use his mouth politely.

The Owner’s Role

After learning the ABCs of bite inhibition from his mother and siblings, the new puppy owner must take over the task and inform the puppy that people’s skin is even more sensitive! Therefore, the puppy must learn that bite inhibition requires further refinement. To teach it, owners should absolutely refrain from engaging in any aversion-based methods such as holding the puppy’s mouth shut, tapping its nose or giving the puppy a shake, as these methods can trigger defensive biting and affect trust.  Often, puppy owners are advised to yelp and stop playing just as the pup’s litter mates did. While this may work with some puppies, it may not work with all. Some puppies may get more aroused and will bite even more if their owners scream and withdraw their hands quickly upon getting nipped too hard. Why is that?

Nicholas Dodman has a great explanation. In the puppy’s eyes you become the equivalent of a large squeaky toy, an entertainment piece that activates upon being nipped. Soon, the puppy learns to nip you just for the pleasure of watching your response! And no wonder the nipping repeats! In this case, rather than decreasing the behavior through negative punishment, it’s actually being reinforced through positive reinforcement! A better option may be to just stop playing, no drama, simply turning the back to the puppy and even leaving the room if the nipping persists. Repetition after repetition (bite inhibition isn’t something learned overnight), this should give the puppy a strong message. “I won’t interact with you when you’re mouthing that hard!” At the same time, puppies need lots of positive feedback when they’re biting gently and interacting with hands in an appropriate manner.

Other Important Lessons

When a dog is presented with an unpleasant stimulus or situation, his first instinct should be not to bite. Ideally, the dog should resort to other forms of ritualized aggression before resorting to biting. It’s paramount to never suppress ritualized aggression in dogs such as growling or snarling as this practice may lead to a dog who bites without warning. Rather than punishing a dog for growling or snarling, it’s best to consult with a force-free dog behavior professional. Growling, snarling and snapping are outward ritualistic manifestations of an internal turmoil that need to be addressed by going to the root of the problem.

Ritualization is a series of conventions that evolve in an animal species to allow the resolution of conflict with reduced risk to all participants. ~Jean Donaldson

The Bottom Linepuppy child

Good bite inhibition doesn’t mean that your dog won’t never nip or bite (even the most saintly dog can bite!), but should he manage to, his bite should cause little or no damage, explains Ian Dunbar in his book “Before and After Getting Your Puppy.” Bite inhibition is therefore a sort of umbrella policy, an extra liability insurance on top of a dog’s inclination to use ritualized aggression. Bite inhibition and socialization go hand in hand for their vital role in shaping the puppy’s future and preventing behavior problems. The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior reminds us that “behavioral issues, not infectious diseases, are the number one cause of death for dogs under three years of age.” By socializing a puppy and teaching good bite inhibition, it’s possible to reduce the risk of serious behavioral problems later in life.

It’s therefore paramount to teach a puppy bite inhibition. The “priming” period occurring when the puppy is with his mother and siblings allows an advantage for new puppy owners who can continue teaching the puppy to further refine the force of the puppy’s bite. The initial goal is to teach the puppy to inhibit the force of his bite, while afterward the focus should be on reducing its frequency. The more people involved in training bite inhibition, the better the pup will generalize. Puppy classes and consultations with reputable trainers can help provide guidance. Luckily, teaching proper bite inhibition should not be an arduous task as puppies come into this world with weak jaws and a developing brain which paves the path to learning a stellar level of bite inhibition without inflicting damage.

Bite inhibition is what makes the difference between a moment of stunned silence and a trip to the nearest emergency room for the victim (and perhaps the euthanasia room for the dog).~ Pat Miller


  • Jean Donladson, The Culture Clash, James & Kenneth Publishers; 2nd edition (January 19, 1996)
  • Ian Dunbar, Before and After Getting Your Puppy,  New World Library (October 6, 2008)
  • Alexandra Semyonova, The 100 Silliest Things People Say about Dogs, The Hastings Press (April 3, 2014)
  • The Whole Dog Journal, Teaching Bite Inhibition, by Pat Miller retrieved from the web on February 11th, 2016
  • The Pet Professional Guild, Your Puppy Nipping Guide, retrieved from the web on February 11th, 2016

Dog Word of the Day: Lapdog


Today’s dog word of the day is lapdog. You have likely heard this term many times already as other dog owners may have jokingly referred to their large dogs as “lapdogs” to depict their tendency to want to climb into their laps regardless of their size. Today’s term though does not refer to those large dogs who think to be lapdogs, but the lapdogs par excellence, those little dogs which generally had a history of having no particular working purpose (other than providing companionship) and that were quite popular in many societies around the world.

History of Lapdogs

Lapdogs aren’t a specific breed of dog, but are simply small dogs that would easily fit on a person’s lap. These dogs were often associated with the wealthy and the aristocrats with ample of leisure time. Many lapdogs weren’t purposely bred to carry out any specific tasks as working and hunting dogs did. The lapdog’s main job was simply providing companionship and warming up the laps and feet of aristocratic ladies in royal households. In some cases, lapdogs were perceived as “fashion accessories” for fashionable women and sometimes even status symbols. There are many portraits by old masters featuring the aristocrats with their small dogs. Many lapdogs featured puppy-like, neotenic traits such as folded ears, large eyes and high foreheads. Still as of today, these traits make us want to pamper them and that’s why many people are so tempted to treat lapdogs as surrogate babies!

The great majority of lapdogs boast members of the toy group, petite dogs known to have a friendly disposition. People often think of lapdogs as lazy dogs who would rather prefer lounging on a comfy pillow all day rather than romping outside in the yard or going on a walk. Despite their fluffy, cute looks and reputation as lap warmers, lapdogs have still a need for walks, play time, mental stimulation, socialization and training. It’s important to keep this in mind to prevent behavior problems! Also, due to their small size and fragility, lapdogs may not be the most suitable candidates for families with children. Following are some example of lapdogs known for charming the aristocrats with their appealing looks and delighting their days with their charming antics.

Seven Lapdogs Loved by the Aristocrats

Queen Sophie Dorothea of Prussia with a Papillon 1737
Queen Sophie Dorothea of Prussia with a Papillon 1737, by Antoine Pesne.

1) Papillon

According to the UK’s Papillon Club, there is belief that this breed descended from the European Toy Spaniels. This breed’s name derives from the French word for butterfly courtesy of this breed’s characteristic butterfly-like hair on the ears. Not all papillon though come with these characteristic ears! The ones who have ears that drop are known as phalene, the French word for moth. Both varieties are accepted by the AKC breed standard and they are judged in the same classes.

These pooches were portrayed in many paintings of royal families around Europe as early as the 13th century. There’s belief that the papillon must have been pure for at least 700 years, at least since Renaissance times, according to the United Kennel Club.  The papillon is therefore considered one of the oldest toys breeds.

2) Pekingese

Two women playing with a lap dog, China, 8th century
Two women playing with a lap dog, China, 8th century

More than lap dogs, these dogs were better known as “sleeve Pekingese” for the ancient practice of concealing these small dogs in the large sleeves of the robes worn by members of the Chinese Imperial Household. The smallest and most ferocious ones were meant to scare off anyone who dared to threaten the courtiers. Talk about “having something up your sleeve!”

Back in time, Chinese mythology considered the Pekingese a cross between a lion and a tiny monkey known as the marmoset. According to the Pekingese Club of America, the breed became a passion of the Chinese Emperors and courtiers to the extent that anyone who was caught smuggling one for sale suffered a terrible fate by torture. Only members of the Chinese Imperial Palace were allowed to own one. Interestingly, DNA analysis has established the Pekingese as also one of the oldest dog breeds.

3) Pug

A portrait of Princess Ekaterina Dmitrievna Golitsyna
A portrait of Princess Ekaterina Dmitrievna Golitsyna

Pugs originated in China around 400 AD and were cherished by the Shang Dynasty. Like the Pekingese, these pooches were prized possessions of the emperors of China, so much that they were often guarded by soldiers. They were often found in Buddhist monasteries in Tibet. According to the Pug Club of America, it is thanks to Dutch traders that these dogs were brought from the east all the way to Holland and England. Soon, they become a favorite by many monarchs of Europe.

In nineteenth century England, Queen Victoria owned many pugs and her passion was passed down  to several other members of the Royal family including her son and grandson. According to the American Kennel Club, Joesphine, wife of Napoleone owned a pug names Fortune. When Napoleon was imprisoned in Les Carmes, she used her pug to carry messages in his collar to him. Pugs are known for charming their owners with their clownish personalities.

Portrait of Elizabeth I
Portrait of Elizabeth I with bichon at her feet.

4) Bichon Frise

The bichon frise along with the Havanese, Bolognese and Maltese, has been a favorite among the royals and aristocrats for a very long time. The breed became particularly favored in France, Italy and Spain where they were carried around, perfumed and pampered, sometime around the 13th century. According to the American Kennel Club, Henry III of France was particularly fond of this breed and he carried his beloved bichon with him everywhere he went in a little basket. Several portraits attest the great love many royals felt for this small dog. A Renaissance painting by Titian shows Federico Gonzaga, duke of Mantua, with a bichon at his side while Sir Joshua Reynold’s portrait shows a bichon warming up the lap of Miss Beatrix Lister. Bichon are featured in several other important paintings, from famous classic artists, like Sustermans and Goya to the impressionists Renoir and Monet. When bichons weren’t warming up the laps of the aristocrats, they were impressing audiences with their circus tricks and antics.

Five children of King Charles I of England featuring a spaniel of the era at the bottom right
Five children of King Charles I of England featuring a spaniel of the era at the bottom right

5) Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

This European toy dog was likely the result of mixing small spaniels with Oriental toy breeds such as the Japanese chin.  Also known as comforter spaniels, these precious lapdogs worked well not only as great lap and foot warmers but sometimes also as great surrogate hot water bottles too! We often think of lapdogs as favorite among aristocratic ladies, but men loved them too. As the name implies, this breed gains its name from King Charles I, who was so enamored with this breed that he was sometimes accused of giving more importance to his dogs than to matters of state! After his death, the Duke of Marlborough took over as an advocate of the breed. He was particularly fond of the red and white coat which he called “blenheim” in honor of his estate. This breed continued to appeal to the homes of the wealthy for many generations. A smaller version with a rounder head and flatter nose was produced to cater to those looking for an eye-catching lapdog. These smaller specimens were called by American breeders “English Toy Spaniels“.

6) Pomeranian

Portrait of Mr and Mrs William Hallett with larger Pomeranian
Portrait of Mr and Mrs William Hallett with larger Pomeranian

This breed’s ancestors were the large, Spitz-type working dogs deriving from Arctic regions. It is thanks to two members of the British Royal Family that the breed became popular. In 1767, Queen Charlotte brought along with her two Pomeranians from England. The poms were immortalized in some painting by Sir Thomas Gainsborough. As seen in the painting, back then these dogs were much larger than what they are today, weighing as much as 30 to 50 pounds.

Queen Charlotte’s granddaughter, Queen Victoria also became enamored with the breed. She owned a smaller Pomeranian than average and when she exhibited him, more and more breeders were interested in producing smaller specimens. During Queen Victoria’s lifetime, the size of the Pomeranian was reduced by an astounding 50 percent, turning into a popular lapdog. Royal owners include  Joséphine de Beauharnais, wife of Napoleon I of France, and King George IV of England.

7) Japanese Chin

Portrait of Alexandra of Denmark with her Japanese Chin called Punch.
Portrait of Alexandra of Denmark with her Japanese Chin called Punch.

The history of the Japanese chin is a bit shrouded in mystery, but one thing is for sure, these dogs captured the hearts of Japanese royalty and, like the Pekingese, their ownership was restricted to the nobles. They say that this breed’s name is a misnomer, as it likely originated in China and arrived in Japan as gifts from the Emperor of China to the royal court.

According to the Japanese Chin Club of the UK, these dogs were bred to be small so they could fit in the sleeves of the kimonos of royal ladies. The breed became popular in the West when in 1853 Commodore Matthew imported some specimens into Britain and the United States where they became particularly popular with the noble and wealthy.

Did you know?  In the middle ages, lapdogs had the less noble task of attracting fleas off of people, but along the way, people started noticing how having these dogs around made them feel better, explain D. Caroline Coile, and Catherine Leary in the bookHow Smart is Your Dog?: 30 Fun Science Activities with Your Pet.


Photo Credits:

  • Queen Sophie Dorothea of Prussia with a Papillon 1737, by Antoine Pesne, public domain, PD-1923
  • Two women playing with a lap dog, China, 8th century, Beauties Wearing Flowers by painter Zhou Fang, public domain
  • A portrait of Princess Ekaterina Dmitrievna Golitsyna, by Louis-Michel van Loo (1759) Moscow, public domain
  • Portrait of Alexandra of Denmark with her Japanese Chin called Punch, public domain
  • Five children of King Charles I of England (1637) by Anthony van Dyck, featuring a spaniel of the era at the bottom right, public domain.
  • Portrait of Mr and Mrs William Hallett by Thomas Gainsborough, 1785. The painting features a larger type of Pomeranian than is now common. public domain


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