Bringing The Art of Kissing Dogs to a Whole New Level


Dogs often give us an irresistible urge to pet and pamper them and this often entails kissing them, but do dogs really like being kissed? This is a very important question, because kissing dogs along with blowing in their faces, hugging them, looming over them and patting them on their head are all part of the list of those behaviors dogs might not like. Of course, not all dogs are created equal so there are certainly some dogs who may likely enjoy the interaction (at least that’s what some owners say), or at least tolerate it at the most. So today we take a look at the art of kissing dogs, the dos and dont’s that can make a difference between cuddling or going to the ER.

dog-kissingThey Call it Puppy Love 

Why are people so attracted to kissing dogs? Well, for starters puppies and dogs are blessed with neotenous traits  which contributes to making them irresistible.

Neoteny comes from the Greek word “neos” meaning young and the word “teínein” meaning “to extend.” Put these two words together and you have “the extension of juvenile traits.”

Also known as juvenilization, in evolutionary biology neoteny refers to the process behind the retention of baby-like, “neotenous” features that are often seen in dogs and include large eyes, bulging craniums, higher foreheads and small noses and mouths.

Some like to call it “the cuteness factor” as they relate to those traits that make us ooohh and ahhh and evoke all those warm and fuzzy feelings of dealing with cuteness and care taking.

These traits are more pronounced in puppies and certain dog breeds such as the cavalier King Charles spaniel, Pekingese, pug and French bulldog. So yes, if seeing dogs makes you feel like hugging them and kissing them, it’s likely because they have these physical traits that makes them so hard to resist!

A Touch of Oxytocin  

On top of the cutesy factor that makes us want to hug and kiss dogs, is another factor that plays a big role in how we perceive our dogs: this time though, it’s at a chemical level.

We’re talking about the power of oxytocin. If you perceive your dog as your fur baby, consider that there may be a scientific explanation for that feeling. According to a study conducted by Nagasawa et al, when dogs gaze at our eyes, it increases our levels of oxytocin, the same hormone that makes us bond to human infants.

This finding may ultimately lead us to discovering how dogs became our companions thousands of years ago.“It’s an incredible finding that suggests that dogs have hijacked the human bonding system,” says Brian Hare, an expert on canine cognition at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, in an article for Science.

Takefumi Kikusui, an animal behaviorist at Azabu University in Sagamihara, Japan, also studied the role of oxytoxin, and found that the oxytocin effect was actually mutual when it comes to people and dogs, mimicking the mutual gazing of mothers and human infants. Kikusui found that male and female dogs experienced a 130 percent rise in oxytocin levels, while male and female owners experienced a 300 percent increase. Interestingly, no oxytocin increase was seen in wolves and their owners who also participated in the research and spent little time gazing at each other.

This suggests why we feel so close to our dogs and, at the same time, provides us an insight into the process of domestication if we consider that only canine specimens capable of bonding and forming social attachments were those who ultimately received care and protection from humans.

Watch for whale eyes
Watch for whale eyes

Not too Fast

While it’s quite romantic to imagine dogs as our fur babies, dogs don’t necessarily see us as their mothers and, most of all, they may not be willing to accept certain behaviors from us.

This is not because they don’t like us, it’s just that hugging and kissing are human behaviors that dogs may not understand, even if done with well-meaning intent. When a dog is kissed, it means bringing our faces very close to theirs, something that not all dogs are comfortable with.

On top of that, hugging and kissing dogs also entail wrapping our arms around them and taking a dog’s  “flight’  option (the ability to leave) away. When we hug and kiss them, we may therefore put ourselves at risk for a defensive bite.

Before biting, dogs may try to “tell us” though that they do not appreciate the interaction through subtle or less subtle signs. Watch for ears pulled back, yawning, a raised paw, whale eyes,  lip licking, turning the head and looking away before, during and right after the interaction. When ignored, these subtle signs tend to intensify and may escalate to growls, barks, air snaps and muzzle punches, and eventually even biting.

It’s important therefore to heed these warning signs and “thank the dog, for not biting” by moving away and making a mental note that, no, Rover doesn’t enjoy being hugged and kissed as much as we do.

Even better, don’t test your dog’s tolerance for hugging and kissing in the first place, but rather interact with your dog in more dog-friendly ways that your dog understands better. Following are some tips for cuddling with your dog.

Choose The Right Timewhay are labradors hungry

Even if your dog seems to tolerate kisses, it’s important to keep safety and timing in mind. There is a place and time for cuddles, and it’s important to time your cuddling time and make sure it matches with your dogs’.

Most dogs don’t like to be cuddled when it’s dinner time. Most likely, if dogs could talk they would say ” Stop with the cuddles, and hurry up instead and get my chow ready!”

Same with when they are aroused by something and are a bit on edge, like when hearing an unfamiliar noise or seeing something out of the window.

Kisses and hugs may also be the last thing a dog wants when he is sleeping or about to fall asleep, or when is hyper and has loads of pent-up energy and would rather go on a walk or a romp in the yard. You can almost hear these dogs say “No sirree! I was home all day doing nothing, no kisses please, let’s please go out and do something else instead!

“Put yourself in their shoes — no matter how much you love your spouse, partner or child, would you want his face to be one inch away from yours whenever you are interacting with him?”~Dr. Wailani Sung, veterinary behaviorist.

A dog kissing booth

Never Kiss Unknown Dogs

Another important tip is to never hug or kiss a dog you do not know.

A concerning trend are doggy kissing booths, where dogs in search of a home or for fundraising purposes are placed behind a booth where people are offered “kisses” from the dogs.

These set-ups can be a recipe for disaster, and a dog may end up being euthanized rather than going to a good home, because such kissing booths may stress them and set them up for failure.

“As a dog lover and Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, I find the idea of a doggy kissing booth very disturbing. Putting dogs in a position to be hugged and kissed by complete strangers, in a carnival like atmosphere, is going to be extremely stressful to most dogs, further increasing the probability of a bite. “~Don Hanson

Let Him Give ‘Emdog-kissing-owner

A better option than kissing dogs, (even though not ideal for many reasons like health/hygiene) is letting dogs do the “kissing”on their free will. Many dogs like to greet their owners by “kissing” them upon coming home. This may be a good time to praise the dog and let him know we are also happy to be reunited.

Yet, it’s important to recognize that these “kisses” are a fry cry compared to our human kisses. These licks to the chin and mouth area may be reminiscent of when dogs were pups and learned to greet their mother this way.

Allowing them to jump and lick our faces though can mean teaching them bad manners. A better option may be sitting on the couch and allowing a couple of  polite doggy kisses, but again, this should come freely from the dog. Putting our face directly in a dog’s face in hopes of getting “kissed” can again be asking for trouble especially with a dog we do not know well or if our dog feels uncomfortable with this type of interaction or we do it at an inappropriate time.

 “Face licking of this variety is a care-soliciting (etepimeletic) behavior, not to my mind what kissing in humans is all about.”~Nicholas Dodman

warning cautionA Word of Caution: not all doggy “kisses” are created equal. In some cases, certain types of face licking are not the affectionate kisses we interpret but are actually meant to  increase the distance.  Jennifer Shryock, a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC) calls this type of kiss, a “Kiss to Dismiss,” and describes it as a way for dogs to get someone who’s making them uncomfortable to go away.

Caution with Kidspuppy child

Kids often feel tempted to hug and kiss dogs and this is a factor as to why children are also the most common victims of dog bites.

Because children may not recognize early warning signs that a dog is about to bite, they are particularly vulnerable. Often, there are disturbing videos being aired on You Tube, of children riding dogs like horses, jumping on them or hugging them tightly and kissing them which is quite problematic because the airing of such videos promotes and encourage inappropriate behavior by humans towards dogs.

The scary part is that parents are often the ones posting such videos.

But how much do parents know about safe dog-and-child interactions? A questionnaire designed to measure general knowledge associated with dog aggression toward children, has shown that parents are often not aware of the dangers of some child and dog interactions.

According to this questionnaire:”Eighty-two percent of respondents agreed with the statement, “I think it is safe for young children to kiss and hug their own dogs.”  These thoughts are likely based on an incorrect assumption that a dog will not bite if the one hugging the dog is a family member and parents therefore assume that certain interactions are inherently safe.  These assumptions though are quite problematic as they lead to parents lowering their guard.

Below is a great demo of how children can kiss a dog more safely. This is the true art of dog kissing brought to a whole new level!

The Best Way to Kiss Dogs

dog-kissesThe Bottom Line

So should you kiss and hug your dogs or should these behaviors be on the list of things you should stop doing? Nobody can tell you to stop doing something that your dog seems to enjoy, but it’s in your best interest to practice caution and to carefully evaluate if your dog is really enjoying the interaction or not.

Susan Hetts and Daniel Estep, two Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists explain that a dog who is enjoying an interaction shouldn’t move away or try to avoid it. If the kissing or other form of cuddling stops, if the dog is truly enjoying it, the dog would want the owner to continue, by moving closer move, pawing or leaning against.

But as mentioned, it’s best not to test a dog’s behavior in response to things they might not like. A better option is to engage in behaviors your dog seems to enjoy more and that are easier for him to understand. And with children, the risks are so not worth it, so best to follow the words of wisdom from the smart kiddo in the video above.

“When we do use human gestures of affection that dogs don’t share, such as kissing and hugging, we must be sensitive to the dog’s reactions. Carefully monitor his body language for signs of anxiety, stress or defensiveness. Some dogs will be happier (and humans safer) if we find other ways to express our love. Play a game of fetch, take your dog for a walk or give her a gentle brushing. These are things most dogs enjoy – and giving them the things they want is the best way to express our affection!” ~Susan Hetts, Daniel Estep, Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists. 

Disclaimer: this article is not meant to be used as a substitute for professional behavioral advice. If your dog appears aggressive to you or your children at any time, please consult with a behavior professional.



  • Chun YT, Berkelhamer JE, Herold TE. Dog bites in children less than 4 years old. Pediatrics 1982;69:119–120.
  • Effects of gender and parental status on knowledge and attitudes of dog owners regarding dog aggression toward children Ilana R. Reisner, DVM, PhD, DACVB, and Frances S. Shofer, PhD, JAVMA, Vol 233, No. 9, November 1, 2008
  • Dogs Behaving Badly: An A-Z Guide to Understanding and Curing Behavorial Problems in Dogs. by Nicholas H. Dodman Random House Publishing Group, 2000

Photo Credits:

  • Flickr, Creative Commons, dee & tula monstah, kissing booth, CCYBY2.0
  • Flickr, Creative Commons, Beverly Not Funny, How Embarassing! Kiss My White Puppy Butt, I’m a Big Macho Dog Mom – I’m one year old on February 14th!, CCYBY2.0
  • Flickr, Creative Commons Dave Worley, Obligatory Puppy Kisses Pic,  CCYBY2.0

Dog Word of the Day: Booster Shot


If you own a puppy or dog, you may stumble on the word “booster shot” upon visiting the veterinarian but what exactly are booster shots in dogs? As the name implies, booster shots are vaccinations that are meant to boost your dog’s immune system so that he is better protected against disease. Puppies are often given a series of shots starting at the age of 6 to 8 weeks which are given about every three to four weeks until the puppy is about 16 to 20 weeks old. Adult dogs get booster shots too throughout their lives oftem on a yearly basis, but frequency of shots often remains a subject of heated debates.

dog-booster-shotThe Role of Memory Cells

A booster shot is basically an extra dose of a vaccine that is given after an earlier dose (prime dose). Basically, it’s a  re-exposure meant to increase immunity so that the dog’s memory cells are reminded about the antigen. To define it extra simply, a booster shot can be described as a ‘reminder’ to your puppy’s or dog’s immune system.

To better understand this, one must learn how the immune system works. Interestingly, the immune system has special memory cells, in the sense that when the body fights virus or bacteria, these memory cells remember their invaders so that they can fight them readily a second or third time.

The best part, is that when these memory cells readily recognize a bacteria or virus, their time to defeat them greatly shortens as they produce many more antibodies than before. While immunity to a specific virus can be built when a dog becomes infected, the same immunity can be accomplished through vaccination.

A vaccine is basically a very weak or dead version of specific viruses or bacteria that sends your dog’s memory cells on high alert so that they can successfully fight these invaders in future encounters, but with the great advantage of not making the puppy or dog sick. This offers a win-win situation which comes very handy especially when it comes to defeating very dangerous illnesses in dogs such as parvo or distemper.

A Word About Puppiespuppies nursing

Shortly after puppies are born, mother dog produces a special type of milk known as colostrum. This special type of milk is produced by mom only for a brief period of time, usually the first 12 to 24 hours after the pup’s birth.

It’s estimated that puppies receive about 98 percent of their immunity from this milk, explains veterinarian Dr. Race Foster. These maternal antibodies passed to the puppy basically only cover diseases that mother dog had been recently vaccinated against.

The reason why puppies are first vaccinated at around 6 to 8 weeks of age is because prior to that, maternal antibodies will still be in the puppies’ bloodstream, and thus, would block the shot’s effectiveness.

After a few weeks though, the levels of maternal antibodies will drop to a low enough level so that the vaccine will work; however, the level of absorption may not be high enough to provide complete protection.

Did you know? Vaccines do not start working in protecting puppies and dogs immediately after they are administered. When a vaccine is given, the antigens must first be recognized and then must be remembered by the immune system. According to Race Foster, it may take up to 14 days for full protection to be achieved.

vetA Look at Vaccination Schedules

To up the chances for absorption, puppies must be vaccinated following a precise schedule. According to a study, at 6 weeks of age, about 25 percent of puppies can be immunized, at 9 weeks, 40 percent, at 16 weeks 60 percent and by 18 weeks, 95 percent.

These results suggest that at least three booster shots given about 3 to 4 weeks apart will need to be given to provide protection and build up defenses until the puppy is about 16 weeks of age.

Afterward, these booster shots may need to be given on an annual basis. Yearly booster shots often consist of parvovirus, distemper, adenovirus, parainfluenza, leptospirosis, coronavirus, hepatitis, lyme (borelia) and bordetella (kennel cough) which is often recommended every 6 months. A rabies booster shot is often recommended (depending on locations and other factors) either annually or every 3 years.

“For patients that have low-risk lifestyles or whose owners want less frequent vaccination, your veterinarian may recommend giving certain “core” or essential viral vaccines to your dog on a three year schedule.”~Ernest Ward, DVM, VCA Animal Hospitals

Titer Testing in Dogsdog-vaccine-booster-shot

A main problem with booster shots is that they are often given too often, when they are not really needed.

For instance, according to the Rabies Challenge Fund, contrary to common knowledge, studies have revealed that when the duration of protective immunity was measured by serum antibody titers, protection against rabies appeared to persist for even seven years post-vaccination!

Titer testing is an effective way to determine the level of antibodies against a specific disease in a dog’s body. Titer testing reveals the level of anamnestic response, that is, how good the memory of memory cells is and how quickly they respond after a certain amount of time has elapsed from when the primary vaccine was administered. If the anamnestic response is high, the veterinarian may determine there is most likely no need for a booster shot.

While this sounds great, there are a few disadvantages associated with titer tests. One major one is that according to VCA animal hospitals, a high serum antibody, doesn’t guarantee protection against a specially virulent strain of the disease. Another unfortunate disadvantage is that if a specific antibody titer is found to be low, a booster shot that covers a single disease may not be available, and if it is, it often costs more than a multivalent vaccine that covers several diseases. Finally, titer testing in dogs costs more than the actually booster shot, so people often opt to just give the booster shot instead rather than going through the titer testing hassle.

“In kids, we eventually stop vaccinations after puberty; in adults, vaccinations are usually given in a series. But with our pets, we continue booster shots until they are well into their senior years.” ~Dr. Karen Becker

How much do booster shots generally cost? Generally, the cost for core vaccines like rabies, distemper and parvo are around $20 to $30, not including the veterinary office visit fee which may range between 35 to 75 dollars. Non-core vaccinations such as bordetella, lepto and lyme may cost a bit less, around 10 to 15 dollars.

Disclaimer: this article is not meant to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. Consult with your veterinarian to determine which vaccines are appropriate for your puppy or dog.



  • Klingborg, DJ; Hustead, DR; Curry-Galvin, EA; Gumley, NR; Henry, SC; Bain, FT; et al. AVMA Council on Biologic and Therapeutic Agents’ report on cat and dog vaccines. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. November 15, 2002 (Volume 221, No. 10); 1401-1407.
  • Rabies Challenge Fund, Why Challenge Current Rabies Vaccine Policy?, retrieved from the web on Sept 28th, 2016
  • VCA Animal Hospitals, Vaccination – Are Booster Vaccines Necessary for Dogs, retrieved from the web on Sept 28th, 2016


Why Do German Shepherds Have a Sloping Back?


The German shepherd is a dog breed that has undergone several transformations in the past years. Many people may remember that the German shepherds of decades ago looked quite different than the ones we see today, especially those shown in the show ring. One trait of this breed that has become quite popular is a sloping back, a trait that seems to have been exaggerated, up to a point that many people wonder whether it’s a good thing for the breed or not. In today’s trivia we will discover why this breed has a sloped back.

So why do German shepherds have a sloped back?

A  It’s meant to help this dog work in the field with sheep

B It was introduced by influential ‘breed authorities’

C  It allows an effortless trot

D It’s meant to reduce the incidence of hip dysplasia

The correct answer is: drum roll please….




The correct answer is B, the sloped back feature was introduced from influential breed authorities.

german-shepherd-old-pictureA Look “Back”

German dog breeder, Max von Stephanitz is credited as being “the father” of the German shepherd breed. Von Stephanitz was fond of dogs with a wolfish appearance and sharp senses and worked hard in creating a working dog that could have been potentially used for herding and protecting sheep throughout Germany.

In his book “The German Shepherd Dog In Word And Picture” Von Stephanitz describes the German shepherd as having a back that is “straight and powerful.” And then, he further adds “curvature of the spine diminishes the power of endurance and speed, and is therefore, an especially serious handicap for efficiency…”

“The gait of a good shepherd dog is so easy and gliding that, during an even trot, not a drop of what would be spilled from a full glass placed on his back.”~V. Stephanitz

german-shepherd-sloped-backThe German Shepherd Today

While back in time, German shepherds were mostly used for work, nowadays, a great part are used as companions and protectors of the home and farm.

Sure, there are several others still used for work, and the working line specimens must (hopefully, so!) have a body built for endurance and an effortless gait and one would imagine a level, non-roached back should be part of the package.

On the other hand, showing lines of German shepherds mostly used for the show ring and breeding, are often the ones that stray away from the necessary characteristics needed for being a successful working dog.

The breed’s conformation therefore shifted from a rectangular shape to sloped with an exaggerated hind leg angulation, features that would perhaps make Von Stephanitz roll over in the grave. But how did it all start?

Did you know? German shepherd dogs with sloping backs are now often nicknamed ” the hatchback, “downhill dog” and “dog in front, frog in back.”

A Bad Apple Spoils the Batch

According to Louis Donald, a working dog judge, the curved spine seen in German shepherds dogs is fruit of a ”very small number of very influential people” that go by the name of “breed authorities” who promoted this feature at dog shows. Why did they promote this feature? There is really no reason other than it came “with the package” and since these features gained them several wins at dog shows, they soon became the norm since breeders started breeding based on the looks of dogs who won the most, causing the breed to evolve accordingly.

“Once a characteristic is entrenched, once it becomes the norm meaning only dogs possessing those traits win at dog shows even if it is a bad trait, self interest being placed above the breeds best interests makes it ”very difficult” to eradicate and if it is eradicated it can take a long time to do so. Unfortunately there are far too many people with an attitude that is not one of ‘”what can I do for the breed’ but one of ‘what can the breed do for me’.”~Louis Donald

german-shepherdsWhat the Standard Says

Oddly enough, many German shepherds with sloped backs are competing and winning in the show ring, yet the breed standard doesn’t state a requirement for such a back. According to the American Kennel Club German shepherd breed standard: “The back is straight, very strongly developed without sag or roach, and relatively short.”

Just recently, three-year-old Cruaghaire Catoria, a German shepherd bred by Susan Cuthbert, won Crufts Best of Breed 2016  and there were several complaints  about the dog’s heavily sloping back  and associated struggle to walk. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, RSPCA claimed to be “shocked and appalled” and asked the Kennel Club to “take urgent action” to better protect animals’ welfare, says an article for The Telegraph.  The video can be watched in the Telagraph’s article.

The Negative Impact

A sloped back can affect a great deal when it comes to orthopedics and therefore  it can have an overall effect on a dog’s health. With the back curved, the dog’s hip and knee come closer to the ground causing the dog’s hindquarters to become more angulated (the bent legs in German shepherds, people describe). These dogs often shuffle when they walk and after years of wear and tear they may become prone to serious complications that can negatively affect their quality of life. Below are some quotes coming from veterinarians about the impact of a German shepherd’s sloped back.

“Because her hind legs are sloped rather than straight up and down, your German shepherd is prone to lower back pain.”~Winterpark Veterinary Hospital

” I thought we had moved on from backs like playground slides.  This conformation will only lead to hip displasia, spinal problems and an early death due to the inability to walk.  I actually now rarely see GSDs this extreme in the ‘real world’ and was super surprised, and really sad, to see that they are alive and well in the show ring.”~Cat the Vet


  • American Kennel Club, German Shepherd Breed Standard, retrieved from the web on Sept. 27th, 2016
  • The German Shepherd Dog In Word And Picture, By V. Stephanitz, Hoflin Pub Ltd (January 1994)
  • The Telegraph, Crufts plunged into cruelty row over ‘deformed’ German Shepherd, retrieved from the web on Sept. 27th, 2016

Photo Credits:

  • Wikipedia Creative Commons, The show-line dogs usually have an extremely sloping topline, revista de monogràfiques del pastor alemany, Copyrighted free use


I am Your Dog’s Vomiting Center


Many dog owners may find it surprising that dogs have a vomiting center in their brain, perhaps even more surprisingly, humans have one too! When dogs vomit, it’s often assumed that it’s some sort of coordinated effort between the stomach contractions and expulsion of the contents out of the mouth, but it all actually starts in the dog’s vomiting center located in the brain. So today we discover more about this center, how it works, what it does and what role it plays in a dog’s life. All interesting stuff!

dog-vomiting-centerIntroducing Your Dog’s Vomiting Center 

Hello, I am your dog’s vomiting center! I am also known as the emetic center, just so you know. I am basically located by the medulla oblungata, a cone-shaped mass that’s responsible for  several involuntary functions such as sneezing and vomiting. Special receptors, cells whose main job is transmit a signal to a sensory nerve, communicate with me courtesy of several sympathetic nerves. Trigger these receptors and their signals will reach me quickly and soon your dog will soon start salivating, get a bout of nausea, and possibly, vomit.

While many nerves are located throughout your dog’s digestive tract, some may be located elsewhere.  For example, if your dog is prone to getting car sick, the vestibular system in his inner ear (your dog’s balance system) has special motion receptors that will alert me and trigger Rover to drool, and possibly, loose his meal all over your car seats. Since many nerves that lead to me are located mostly in the upper portions of your dog’s digestive tract, when your dog eats something that doesn’t agree with him, the nervous system around your dog’s gut will transmit signals to me via the vagus nerve, so that food can be brought back up. The nerves that travel to me are also sensitive to stretching. This means that if your dog devours a whole lot of food at once, I may be triggering the vomiting reflex.

Did you know? Dogs have quite a powerful vomiting center compared to other animals, possibly because of their history as scavenging animals. According to board-certified veterinarian David Twedt, from an evolutionary standpoint, vomiting is a defense mechanism for getting rid of rancid food or toxic substances that stimulate the  dog’s chemoreceptor trigger zone.

sick dog
A nauseous dog

I Save Lives

Vomiting may seem like a bothersome condition, but if you think about it, in many cases, it can be a life saving event for both you and your dog. When special chemoreceptors detect chemical abnormalities and poisons throughout your dog’s body, I am activated so that these substances quickly leave your dog’s system preventing him from absorbing toxins that could potentially kill him.

“Adjacent to the emetic center is a special clusters of receptors that constantly monitor the blood and the cerebrospinal fluid for chemicals that can stimulate vomiting. This specialized clusters of receptors is called the chemoreceptor trigger zone, CRTZ or CTZ. ~Robert L. Bill

Did you know? The most effective drugs against nausea and vomiting are those that act at both the vomiting center and the chemoreceptor trigger zone, says board-certified veterinarian  Todd R. Tams.

I Signal Trouble

I often act like a warning light that pops up on your dog’s health dashboard. Because I receive several inputs from inflamed or injured vital organs such as the dog’s kidneys or liver, I may trigger vomiting. This vomiting is the body’s way to get rid of  build-up of wastes from the dog’s blood coming from malfunctioning organs. This vomiting is often what triggers dog owners to bring their companion to the vet and provides an important puzzle piece that instigates investigation, especially in elderly dogs.

As seen, I am quite important! Think about it, life without me would spell disaster! Your dog would not be able to get rid of toxic substances from the body, and therefore, without me a dog would die very quickly. Horse lovers know very well how unfortunate it is that horses aren’t equipped with the ability to vomit as dogs, so next time you see your dog vomit, think about me helping your dog feel better, but don’t take me for granted. While I may do a good job in removing things that don’t agree with your dog’s body, I can only do so much. It’s ultimately your job is to ensure your dog is kept safe and doesn’t eat harmful things in the first place. It never hurts to be extra cautious! I hope this article has helped you understand me better!

Best regards,

Your Dog’s Vomiting Center Dog Pawprint

Disclaimer: this article is not to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If your dog is vomiting, please see your vet for diagnosis and treatment.

Photo Credits:

Flickr Creative Commons, Dale, PJ’s a sick girl, She’s suffering from Irritable bowel syndrome. We have an appointment with a new vet, hoping he can do something to help her out. CCBY2.0


Why Does My Adult Dog Hate Puppies so Much?


Your dog may act all lovey-dovey with your neighbors and he doesn’t seem to mind the company of other dogs, but have him meet a puppy and he’ll either growl, walk away or seek help from you in hopes you send that little monster away, but why does your dog hate puppies so much? It’s almost as if he’s dealing with some sort of creature from another planet. Rest assured, you are not alone. There are many adult dogs who seem to hate puppies and have a harder time tolerating them compared to other dogs. The reasons behind this may be several and may vary between one dog and another.

dogs-hate-puppiesA Lack of Continued Education

When dogs are puppies, they are often socialized to other people and other dogs and hopefully get to meet other puppies safely in a well-conducted puppy class.

There is a great emphasis put on socializing puppies during the brief window of opportunity which is estimated to close around the age of 12 to 16 weeks. More and more puppy owners are becoming aware of the importance of socializing puppies, and this is great, but not much emphasis is put on the fact that there is such a thing as “undoing” socialization.

The puppy is basically socialized during the critical period, but then everything abruptly stops. The puppy grows and then has no clue on how to act when he’s exposed to puppies or other dogs.

Dogs, just like dog trainers and other professionals, benefit from continued education, so they can continue to expand their knowledge and stay up-do-take with the all the subtleties of the world that surrounds them. For more on this, read about the neuroplasticity of a dog’s brain.

This doesn’t mean that your adult dog should be forced to meet puppies if he doesn’t like them, but he should at least learn through remedial “socialization” (under the guidance of a trainer) to not react aggressively or fear them which can lead to cumulative stress, especially if he encounters them often such as on walks or at daycare.

puppy motherA Word About Puppy Licenses

We often assume that adult dogs grant puppies a “license to misbehave” meaning that they will be pretty much tolerant and forgiving of those bouts of puppy misbehavior. Veterinarian and animal behaviorist, Ian Dunbar, explains that granting a puppy license is often a matter of detecting hormones in urine, which is not surprising considering that dogs live in a world of smells.

While adult dogs may recognize that a puppy is a puppy by its shape, size, behavior and sounds emitted (like whining and squealing), it’s most of all the pup’s smell that advertises the youngster’s age.

When the pups rolls over his back and pees, he’s simply advertising his age to the adult dog, letting him know that he’s just a pup and it wasn’t his intent to act a bit boisterous. Many times, the adult dog will keep this factor in mind and acts lenient.

However, things can change quite a bit once the puppy grows older and the license is abruptly revoked. Why is that? In most adult mammals a high level of testosterone is the norm, but when it comes to dogs, things are quite different. Testosterone levels start rising when the pup is just about four to five months old, with a peak level (like 5 to 7 times higher than adult dogs) reached when the pup turns about 10 months. These levels then drop to average adult levels by 18 months of age, further explains Ian Dunbar.

This may be one reason why an adult dog may seem to have a hard time tolerating the behavior of a 10-month old youngster.

 “By ten months of age, adolescent male urine smells sooper-dooper, ultra-mega-hyper-male, informing all adult dogs: “Why look here. This young urinater must be a developing male adolescent — a potential thorn in the side of social harmony. Let’s educate the young fellow right now, while we still can. And sure enough, most adult dogs (especially males) start to harass developing male pups to put them in their place before they become a significant challenge on the social scene.” ~Ian Dunbar

A Glimpse into  Policing the Puppydog-puppy-license

In many cases, behind what looks like an adult dog that hates puppies, is simply a dog who is trying to set some boundaries for a “socially illiterate” puppy.

Puppies don’t come into this world knowing perfect social etiquette. They are quite impulsive, come on too strong and don’t know how to greet other dogs properly.

Adult dogs may therefore decide to take the task of “teaching the pups” some rules. Since dogs cannot hold a conversation as we may do when we are telling a child to say “please and thank you” they do this best by growling and teaching the puppy to “behave.”

If you watch the adult dog and puppy interactions, indeed, you may notice how the adult dog reacts mostly when the puppy paws at his face or engages in some other obnoxious behaviors.

However, sometimes things can get out of hand, and some adult dogs may be excessively harsh in “policing the puppy.”

” Some dogs do a great job of “policing” puppies and others do not. Some dogs will take anything the puppy dishes out to the point that the older dog gets persecuted. Some adult dogs will reprimand puppies excessively ­­ to  the point of persecuting the puppy.” ~Dr. Lore Haug, veterinary behaviorist.

puppy playHoly Moses, Too Much Energy!

Puppies are often bundles of perpetual energy, bouncing around, then maybe plopping themselves on the floor for a couple of minutes to re-charge, and then they’re quickly back to their antics.

Just like people, for an adult dog, it may be difficult at times to cope with this excess energy, especially if he’ is older or has some medical problem. He may play with the pup for a little while and then he may walk away or directly roar in his face to tell the pup he has had enough.

Some puppies get the message, they may squeal or roll over their backs sometimes peeing submissively, and some others may not, so they go back to pestering the adult dog who reaches his breaking point, and finally decides to hold the puppy down with his big paws telling him in doggy language “What part of my message didn’t you get? Chill out and leave me alone!”

“Generally,  well-adjusted dogs will tolerate a puppy’s attempts to play with great patience and will join in the play when the puppy is playing “by the rules.”Sometimes, however, a puppy will bite too hard or persist too long without a break and the adult dog will growl, bark or even lay his mouth on the puppy to warn him. Don’t be alarmed; this is a natural part of learning how to safely interact. If your older dog cannot tolerate any level of play, immediately separate the dogs and call a qualified trainer. “ ~Paul Owens

idea tipTip: if your puppy is too boisterous and harassing your older dog, it’s time to step in and take some precautions to prevent trouble. Simply exercise the pup, play with him until his energy is drained at an acceptable level, before introducing him to your adult dog. Even better, take both dogs for a nice walk. Chances are, you have taken the edge off and your pup so he’ll likely be less rowdy  afterward and possibly much calmer.

The Bottom Line

Often people assume that adult dogs will automatically grant a puppy license and accept everything the puppy does, but this is often not true. A puppy license doesn’t mean permissiveness. Yes, an adult dog may tolerate some “social mishaps” from the puppy, but it doesn’t means the pup can take over and create chaos. An older dog may want to relax and conduct a laid-back life the he deserves without being constantly pestered by a boisterous pup all day. At the same time, an adult dog shouldn’t be disciplining the puppy in a way as to create emotional problems to the puppy and fear.

For puppy owners this means that they should always practice caution when introducing a puppy to an adult dog and all interactions should always be supervised. At times, the intervention of a behavior specialist may be required so to provide an expert evaluation and determine whether the adult dog is engaging in healthy discipline or if there is more into it.

“Growls are a form of communication. Because puppies have immature communication skills, they frequently miss the more subtle signals your older dog shows, and the dog may need to resort to growling.Resist the urge to correct your dog for growling. Growling may be what the puppy needs in order to recognize that the dog doesn’t want to interact.”~Laurie Luck

warning cautionWarning: Never allow an adult dog to pick up the pup and shake it by the scruff. This is dangerous behavior that can lead to potential injury and even death.

Disclaimer: this article is not to be used as a substitute for a professional behavioral advice. If your adult dog shows worrisome behaviors towards puppies, intervene immediately, keep both parties separated and consult with a certified applied animal behaviorist to play it safe.


10 Reasons Why Dogs Snore While Sleeping


Life can be as miserable with a snoring dog as it may be living with a snoring partner, especially when Rover is given the privilege to share the bedroom or even the same bed. However, it appears that when the snoring partner is a four-legged companion, dog owners are more forgiving and willing to turn a blind eye, or shall we say, a deaf ear! Many dog owners actually confess to finding their dog’s snoring quite adorable, however, putting the cutesy factor aside, snoring in dogs can sometimes be a sign of problems that need to be addressed. So let’s better understand why dogs snore and how to recognize potential signs of trouble.

dog-snoringFirst an Insight into Dog Snoring..

Why do dogs snore? In order to understand dog snoring, we will first have to take a little lesson in dog anatomy. When dogs sleep, they are constantly moving air in and out through their nose, the soft palate and trachea.

Generally speaking, snoring happens when there is some sort of blockage anywhere along the dog’s upper respiratory tract. As the air moves unevenly past the blockage, it creates that vibrating noise that we commonly refer to as snoring.

In most cases, the noise occurs when the dog breaths in air and it can occur  during any sleep stage. There are several reasons why dogs snore, following are 10 reasons why dogs snore.

“Snoring is rarely a sign of serious problems unless dogs are also having trouble breathing when awake. But it may suggest that your dog’s health- or eating habits -could use some improvements” ~Dr. Matthew Hoffman

1) A Matter of Conformationdog brachycephalic breed

Some dogs are more predisposed to snoring because of their facial features. Brachycephalic dogs  (those canines with pushed-in faces) such as bulldogs, pugs, Pekingese and boxers, are often the poster child for snoring.

While these facial structures are much cherished in the doggy world, courtesy of neotony, they are also to blame for the noises they produce.

The main problem is that these dogs have shortened muzzles which cause them to be prone to breathing problems, remarks veterinarian Matthew Hoffman in the book “Symptoms and Solutions: The Ultimate Home Health Guide–what to Watch For.”

Facial features to blame are these dogs’ elongated soft palates which get sucked into the dog’s airways, their narrow, slit-like nostrils and their small trachea.

Some of these conformation abnormalities can be corrected surgically if they interfere with a dog’s overall ability to breath.

Did you know? A study conducted in a sleep laboratory involving Bulldogs found that the majority of them were suffering from from some degree of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea causes them to wake up hundreds of times in the course of one night, explains veterinarian Dr. Asaf Dagan.

2) A Matter of Soft Palate

While brachycephalic dogs are more prone to snoring compared to other dogs due to their elongated soft palates, not all dogs who have problems with their soft palates are brachycephalic.  A dog’s soft palate is basically the fleshy area found behind the dog’s ‘hard palate which consists of those ridges on the roof of the dog’s mouth. This area may sometimes enlarge and cause some vibration when a dog is asleep, explains veterinarian Andrea Roberts. 

Foxtail extracted from dog's nose
Foxtail extracted from dog’s nose

3) A Matter of Foreign Bodies
While dogs airways are sometimes blocked due to conformation issues, sometimes the culprits may be foreign bodies, basically stuff that shouldn’t be there and that are inhaled or swallowed from the environment.

If your dog never snored or snored very little in his life, and now he is snoring like a chainsaw, suspect a foreign body, especially if he shows signs of trouble breathing, repeated sneezing, coughing and gagging, even while awake.

What foreign bodies are to blame? One insidious foreign body that can make its way into the dog’s respiratory tract is the foxtail, a spikelet with barbs produced by several herbaceous plants (see picture). Because foxtail tend to travel in one direction only, removal must be done by a veterinarian. Other possible foreign bodies include grass awns and pieces of stick if dogs like to chew on them.

“(Foxtails) They are sharp enough to enter tissue and have barbs that cause them to migrate in one direction if they enter the body.”~Dr. Zwingenberge, veterinary radiologist at the University of California-Davis.

 4) A Matter of Growths

Sometimes, the culprit of the snoring may be something growing inside the dog’s airway rather than a foreign body that was swallowed or inhaled. Presence of polyps in the nasopharyngeal area, benign tumors, cancers or cysts are growths that may grow and may play a role in obstructing a dog’s airways.

5) A Matter of Congestion dog sneezing foxtail

Any medical condition that causes inflammation, swelling or the production of mucus, can cause snoring in dogs. For example, an upper respiratory infection or an allergy may be a culprit.

While most dog allergies result in skin problems, about 15 percent may have the same symptoms humans experience, such as sneezing, nasal discharge and teary eyes.

Allergies can be due to anything in the environment but common culprits are dust, pollen, molds, dander and smoke. When the nasal passages get plugged up with mucus or swell, dogs may start breathing through their mouths which may yield noisy snoring, further explains Dr. Ackerman. Sometimes, a nasal fungal infection may be the cause of snoring.

old dog6) A Matter of Aging

Old age can cause a multitude of problems and this may include a predisposition to snoring. What happens in this case is that. tissues of the dog’s vocal cords and larynx tend to relax as the years go by and lose muscle tone, which may result in these tissues vibrating when air flows though them.

7) A Matter of Dental Problems

Sometimes, even a bad tooth may be an underlying cause of snoring in dogs. According to veterinarian Dr. Kara, an infected tooth root may cause inflammation of the nose and louder snoring. When we look at teeth, we only see the tip of the iceberg. Under that tooth we see, there are long roots which extend and reach areas of the dog’s face and nose. When a tooth is allowed to go bad, those roots therefore reach these areas causing further complications such as increased sneezing and snoring.

8) A Matter of Extra Pounds dog blanket sleep sick

Just as overweight people are known for “sawing logs,” when Rover packs on some extra pounds the snoring can be equally noisy. Why do chubby dogs seem to snore more though? In this case, it seems to be a matter of where their fat is stored.

That extra layer of fat found by the dog’s chest may, in certain sleeping positions, press against the dog’s airways causing the noise, explains veterinarian Lowell Ackerman.

Fortunately, a weight loss program can eventually lessen the snoring along with providing several other healthy perks associated with shedding a few pounds.

how dogs sleep9) A Matter of Sleeping Position

Yes, dog sleeping positions matter! Just like people tend to snore more when they are sleeping on their backs, dogs may also snore more when they are sleeping on their stomachs or backs–move over Rover!

In this case, the problem stems from the pressure on the respiratory tract, which may lead to noisy breathing. A dog sleeping on his side is less likely to snore and gets to catch a more restorative sleep.

10) A Matter of Problems with Larynx 

One of the most serious medical problems associated with trouble breathing and snoring is a condition known as laryngeal paralysis. In this condition, the dog’s larynx does not open properly which leads to breathing issues and snoring, that sadly progressively get worse over time. While there is a surgery to fix this, it’s quite expensive and comes with some risks, explains veterinarian Dr. Marie. 

Tips to Reduce of Stop Snoring in Dogs:dog sleeping

  • Feed your dog less. Slimmer dogs tend to snore less as the amount of fat in their chests starts melting away.
  • Provide more exercise. Along with feeding less, increasing exercise may further help shed those extra pounds.
  • Treat or at least manage the dog’s allergies if these are found to be a culprit.
  • Check your dog’s nose and mouth for any for any foreign bodies.
  • A humidifier may help if your dog’s snoring is triggered by dry air. A dry nose can be an indicator that your air is too dry.
  • In the summer keep  your room cool so to encourage your dog to sleep on his side instead of on his back. In the winter provide a cozy round dog bed so to encourage him to sleep curled up.
  • See your vet to determine whether there is a medical condition triggering the snoring. Recording your dog’s snoring on camera can help your vet’s diagnostics.

The Bottom Line

As seen, there are several causes for dog snoring. Generally, snoring isn’t a major problem unless the dog shows interrupted sleep due to it or shows signs of trouble breathing also during the day. If your dog is snoring and you are concerned about it, please play it safe and see your vet.

If your dog has never snored but all of a sudden is snoring, that should be investigated…. But if your dog has always snored, and he’s otherwise happy and playful and active, and the snoring is only at night, then don’t worry about it.” Dr. Weber



Symptoms and Solutions: The Ultimate Home Health Guide– What to Watch For, What to Do (Dog Care Companions) by Matthew Hoffman, Rodale Books (January 15, 2000)


How Do I Stop My Dog From Pawing Me All The Time?


Has your dog’s pawing behavior gotten “out of hand” and you’re now stuck with a dog who is pawing at you all the time? Well, chances are, you may be part of the problem, because let’s face it, pawing in dogs is quite an endearing behavior and it’s difficult to resist a smart dog who in our eyes seems to be trying his best to adhere to our social etiquette. Putting the cutesy factor aside, in order to stop a dog from pawing at you all the time, you must first carefully analyze what it really going on through Rover’s mind when he insistently extends his paws at you.

dog-pawing-reasonsNot What it Looks Like

Sure, dogs are quite adept into learning new tricks, there’s no bones about that, but that pawing behavior in reality is a far cry from the typical hand shake people exchange with one another.

It is common practice for humans to want to anthropomorphize and interpret dog behaviors as almost human-like.

Yet, last time we checked, dogs preferred greeting one another tail-first, or at the most, they would rather engage in an amicable nose touch rather than pawing at each other.

Pawing behavior directed at another dog’s face or shoulders is actually considered rude behavior when it comes to canine “etiquette” and may result in a growl or scuffle if carried out towards the wrong type of dog.

And when it comes to meeting and greeting people, well, let’s say that dogs would rather prefer to sniff in some other “odorous” places instead!

A  Hardwired Behavior 

dog pawing eyesEven though dogs don’y typically extend their paws to give a hand shake as people do, we must admit that some dogs are particularly, (for lack of a better term) “pawsy.”

These are dogs who are likely to resort to using their paws to get their toys out from under a bed, open doors and cabinets (yup, keep those cabinets locked), clean their faces kitty style or toss a ball in the air. All dogs eventually end up finding some use of their paws at some point of their lives though, especially when using their mouth is ineffective and  they are very determined to succeed in a particular task.

Once they discover how effective using their paws may be, they will therefore feel more and more compelled to increase their level of “manual dexterity” when the need arises.

dog pawExploiting a Natural Talent

Since pawing behaviors are quite natural, training a dog to give paw is fairly easy, especially when it comes to teaching those naturally born  “pawsy” dogs out there. Even those dogs were aren’t much used to using their paws eventually get it, if you are persistent and entice them with a good incentive (eg. treats).

The science of dog training says that “behaviors that are reinforced, will tend to become stronger and repeat, behaviors that are not reinforced will weaken and extinguish.”

What does this mean to dog owners? It means that since dogs are rewarded for pawing behaviors, dogs will be engaging in pawing behaviors more and more. This is a desirable outcome when it comes to training, as we want desirable behaviors to persist rather than extinguish. However, good trainers know that dogs should perform desired behaviors only and exclusively when the trainer asks for them. Failure to adhere to this very important rule can make a difference between a dog who paws when asked to and a dog pawing at his owners anytime he feels like it, which, as much as we love our dogs, can get quite annoying at times.

A Word About Rewardsdog-pawing-at-you

“But I don’t reward my dog when he paws at me without me asking him to perform the behavior, so why is keeping pawing at me? Also, didn’t you just say that behaviors that are not reinforced will weaken and extinguish? Why is he keeping on doing that?”

This is a very good question.

Sure, you are not giving your dog treats when he is pawing at you, but there may be underlying “rewards” that are reinforcing the behavior and you may not be aware of.

For instance, attention. Many dogs love attention, they will do what it takes to get it, and to a dog who has been bored and lonely all day, any type of attention, even the smallest teeny ounce of it, or heck, even attention of the negative type, will do!

Dogs owned by people who work long hours each day, are often the poster child for this type of attention-seeking behavior. These socially deprived dogs have likely been waiting all day for their daily dose of attention and mental stimulation. Bored, and with little left to do, for these latchkey pooches,  the owner’s return is likely the biggest perk of the day.

If the owners comes home and walk Rover or plays with him  in a way to fulfill his social or mental stimulation needs, great! Most likely the dog will then settle and gnaw on a bone when the owners decides to watch TV, but what happens when the owner comes home from work, ignores the dog and then plops himself on the couch to watch TV? You got it, Rover will try to do anything to get a bit of attention. So he may try pawing, and since the owners look at him or talk to him or push him away, bingo! Rover got his slice of attention, so he’ll keep doing it more and more!

Beware of Inadvertent ReinforcementCapture

OK, maybe you are not giving your dog negative attention, or maybe your dog is not lonely and bored, then perhaps at some time or another, you may have inadvertently reinforced the pawing behaviors. For example, say you were on the phone and were really focusing on a conversation. Here comes Rover and since your are sitting on the couch which is where you often pet him, he paws at you and you inadvertently end up petting him. If your dog loves being pet and this scenario repeats every now and then, he will likely think that pawing is a good way to get to activate your hands to start petting him. Next, you are stuck with a dog pawing at you, and you cannot figure out why!

“My dog though paws mostly at people, like guests in my house, what should I do?” In this case, be aware of the habit of social pawing. Social pawing is the tendency of some dogs to paw at people in hopes of getting attention. Your dog may just walk up to a guest and paw at him. What does your guest do next? “Awwww, you are soo cute! ” followed by many friendly pats and caresses.  This may not seem really like a major problem, but soon, your dog learns that this is the best way to interact with people and a guest one day may get upset when Rover leaves muddy paw prints all over her white pair of pants, or worse, her child gets scratched.

Beware of Variable Reinforcement

Awww.. so cute!
Awww.. so cute!

Here’s another important knowledge nugget that you should know and  we go back to the science of dog training ” behaviors that are reinforced on a variable schedule are prone to becoming quite addicting.”

To understand this, let’s pretend to be in Vegas. You spend a month in Vegas having the fun of your life playing the slot machines. The first day you don’t win, but then the second day you win a nice amount. You then spend the rest of your month playing every single day in hopes of winning again, and then, just before leaving, you eventually win again. Now you are stuck with a gaming addiction and at least twice a year you must make a trip back to Vegas, what happened? What happened is that those random wins have rewarded your persistence and now you are stuck with an addiction.

Back to dogs, if you reward those unasked-for pawing behaviors every now and then, you risk being stuck with a dog who has been rewarded for persistence and will therefore be pawing at you more and more in hopes of winning the slots ( that is, getting his slice of attention.) This means that you’ll be stuck with a stubborn pawing behavior that can be quite tough to extinguish if you don’t know how to tackle it, but fortunately, there are some easy ways you can work on it if you are willing to hold your ground.

“As the animal trainer Karen Pryor notes in Don’t Shoot The Dog!, a dolphin rewarded with a fishy treat every six jumps will soon become lackadaisical about the five in-between ones; reward it at random, however, and it’ll jump vigorously, never knowing which jump will bring fish. This is why slot machines are so addictive, and why we click compulsively on email and Twitter – not because we know we’ll be rewarded with interesting messages, but because we might be.” ~Oliver Burkeman

Tackling the Probleminfographic

“My dog is pawing at me. My dog keeps pawing at my face. My dog paws at my guests. How do I stop this annoying dog pawing behavior? ” Well,  for a good reason some dog trainers have given up training dogs to “shake” or “give paw” in classes.

Things can get out of hand at times (pun intended,) but now that you understand the dynamics behind pawing behaviors in dogs, you are better equipped to stop this behavior. How? You put your dog’s pawing behavior under stimulus control.

In more simple words, you make the cued pawing behavior extra fluent and simply train your dog to give paw only and exclusively when asked to.

When your dog complies when you ask “paw,” you  immediately reward him. Any pawing behaviors that are offered off cue (without being asked) are either totally ignored ( no look, no touch, no talk, and beware of  the extinction burst phenomenon initially) or negatively punished by you saying something like “that’s enough” as you get up and leave. This is often all that it takes to make it clear in Rover’s mind that: “I should give paw only when I am asked to, every time I paw at my owner and it was not requested, my owner totally ignores me or even gets up and leaves.”

idea tipA Few More Tips

-If you own a bored dog who is pawing at you to gain a physical connection in hopes of doing something, make sure you go to the root of the problem and meet your dog’s needs for, exercise, mental stimulation and social interaction.

-Want to take a little break in the evening and watch your favorite show? When your dog paws at you, ignore him, and then when your dog gives up and leaves, call him to you, ask him to sit or lie down and reward him by giving him an interactive toy that will keep him occupied for some time such as a stiffed Kong.

  • Is your dog pawing at you, but you never taught him to “shake?”Training your dog to give paw on cue, can actually help you attain better control of the behaviors. Here’s a quick and easy way that is often used to train a dog to give paw. All you will need is a clicker (alternatively, use a verbal mark such as “yes!”) and some tasty treats.Present your open hand with a treat sitting on the palm. Let your dog eat it from your hand and then repeat one more time. Next, close your hand. Your dog may nudge at your hand for a few times and then when frustration kicks in, he may eventually try pawing at it. When he does, make sure you mark that behavior with a clicker or a “yes!” and open your hand letting him access to the treat. Repeat several times, and then at some point, when the behavior occurs more frequently, make sure to pronounce the verbal cue “paw” right before he paws at your hand and click and reward as soon as does. Soon, you’ll have a dog who will give paw upon hearing the verbal cue.

dog pawsPutting Pawing Behaviors to Work

Have a dog who loves to give paw and use his paws? Why not open up a world of “pawsibilities” to expand your dog’s repertoire of cool tricks? Teach your dog to high five, salute, wave, say his prayers or cover his eyes. If your dog is bored or you are looking for some fun rainy-day activities, then why not teach him to use his paws to turn buttons on and off, switch on lights, file his nails by pawing at a sandpaper board or even play a battery-operated piano?  There are many fun activities you can train your dog so he can put his natural “pawsy” tendencies to good use. A win-win, situation for all!

Did you know? Just like us, dogs have paw preferences. Some dogs are mostly left-handed while others are mostly right-handed.


Is My Puppy’s Rapid Breathing Normal or Should I Worry?


New puppy owners may often be concerned about their puppy breathing fast and may wonder whether it is normal of not. The answer is that it depends. While in many cases rapid breathing in puppies may have a reasonable explanation, puppy owners should also consider that there are also diseases and medical conditions that can cause fast breathing in puppies. A trip to the vet is always the best course action when in doubt, just to make sure everything is OK in the puppy’s health department.

The medical term used to depict rapid breathing is tachypnea. In particular, the term is used to describe any abnormal rapid breathing. Rapid breathing in puppies and dogs may be caused by physiological or pathological causes. Physiological causes often include triggers such as exercise, excitement or stress. Pathological causes, on the other hand include medical diseases. The distinction between physiological and pathological causes is often based on the context in which the rapid breathing in puppies occurs (when, in what precise circumstance?), but not always the distinction is clear cut enough though, which is why when in doubt it is best to consult with a veterinarian.

puppy-breathing-fastIs My Puppy Breathing Too Fast?

Generally speaking, consider that the normal breathing rate in dogs is between 18 and 34 breaths per minute, with puppies generally being at the higher end, explains veterinarian Dr. Lisa.

How does one count a puppy’s breathing rate though? It’s best to do it when the puppy is calm, awake and not panting (that means he has his mouth close without the tongue sticking out as described a few paragraphs below), this way, you have a baseline number you can compare with when you notice any rapid breathing that concerns you.

When puppies breathe, you will see that their chest rises with inspiration and falls with expiration. Therefore, consider that one cycle of inspiration and expiration equals one breath.

If you find it tedious counting your puppy’s breaths for an entire minute, no worries! There’s an easy-peasy way to speed up the process and take a short cut. This tip comes from the Tufts University, Cummings Veterinary Medical Center. Simply, count the number of breaths your puppy takes in 30 seconds (use a stopwatch for this or have a helper count for you) and then multiply that number by two.

Is 30 seconds too much? OK, you can further take a short cut and cut the time even more if you’re good in math. Simply, count those chest motions for 15 seconds and then multiply them by 4.

Along with learning how to take your dog’s pulse, getting a temperature, checking your puppy’s gums and capillary refill times, learning how to take your pup’s respiratory rate is important so you can recognize signs of trouble and report them to your vet immediately.

idea tipDid you know? When it comes to a pup’s respiratory rate, the brain is the primary controller. It receives input from special sensors that are responsible for detecting the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood.

My Puppy is Breathing Fast After Exercisepuppy-exercise-breathing

If your puppy is breathing fast after a walk, after playing in the yard or because it is hot, the rapid breathing may be perfectly normal. Dogs do not sweat like humans do (they only have a few sweat glands on their feet) and therefore they must rely on other means to cool their bodies down.

With the mouth open and long tongue sticking out, puppies are not only cute, they’re taking advantage of the wonders of evaporation, as the moist surfaces of their mouth and tongue lower their core temperature down.

Don’t get too worried about your pup’s breathing rate when panting. When a puppy or dog is panting, the respiratory rate increases dramatically, which can be alarming for new puppy owners.

According to Dukes’ Physiology of Domestic Animals, when dogs pant, their breathing increases to about 200 to 400 breaths per minute. That’s a whole lot considering that normal breathing rate in dogs is 15 to 35 breaths per minute! 

warning cautionWarning: puppies tend to overheat fast and get tired from lots of exercise compared to adult dogs. Keep an eye on them for signs of being tired or hot, especially in those brachycephalic puppies!

puppy-in-carMy Puppy is Breathing Fast in the Car/Crate

Is your puppy breathing fast in a specific circumstance? For example, is your puppy breathing fast when crated or when in the car (and it’s not hot)? Chances are, your puppy may be stressed.

Puppies can get quite worked up emotionally when they are exposed to situations they are not comfortable with. In this case, the rapid breathing is based on those specific contexts, meaning that it happens specifically in those precise circumstances. Then, once your puppy is let out of the crate or he has reached his destination after a car ride, unless there are no other stressful events going on, he should go back to breathing normally as the process of homeostasis kicks in.

idea tipHere’s a tip: If the car or crate seems to be making your puppy nervous, try taking small baby steps to help your puppy adjust to riding in the car or being crated. Start slow and make sure to add rewards such as toys and tasty treats along with these activities to make them fun. If your puppy is breathing fast or panting in the car, consider that it could also be he is prone to getting car sick. Consult with your vet.

” Excitement, anxiety, fear, pain or even happy anticipation can all increase your pets respiratory rate  via the limbic system of its brain.”~Dr. Ron Hines

My Puppy is Breathing Fast When Sleepingpuppy-fast-breathing-during-sleep

“Help, my puppy is breathing really fast while sleeping!” This was a call we often used to get at the veterinary clinic. Behind this call there was always a very concerned owner wondering if he should be bringing the puppy in.

We were specifically trained on how to reassure these concerned puppy owners after asking a bit of basic “triage” questions such as: Is there also twitching/whining/moving during his sleep? Is the puppy normally active and playful when awake?  Does the rapid, erratic breathing stop once he’s awake?

When the owners answered “yes!”  to all the above, we simply told them that most likely their puppies were healthy, happy campers who were simply “acting out” their dreams.

Yes, because puppies, just like humans, dream and their REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage can be quite dramatic to watch at times. If you feel tempted to wake up your puppy because you think he’s having a bad dream (such as being chased by your next-door neighbor’s kitty), please don’t. Sleep is very important to puppies as that’s when they basically get to do a lot of growing and developing, so yes, as the saying goes, let sleeping puppies lie!

“I personally would not be too concerned about this sort of respiratory rate while a puppy is sleeping, in young animals it can be variable and it can also be variable during sleep periods due to episodes of rapid eye movement sleep { REM } and other factors.  I would be much more concerned about how the puppy is when awake, if the puppy is then acting normally you would have few problems.”~ Dr. Scott Nimmo

puppyIs My Puppy Breathing Fast from Disease?

Dyspnea, is the medical term used to depict fast, labored breathing. Basically, the term is coined to describe respiratory distress caused by some pathological disorder that often warrants immediate veterinary attention. Generally, there is no obvious explanation for this type of breathing to occur, in other words, the puppy didn’t exercise, his environment is not hot and there seems to be no reason for the puppy to be stressed or excited.

Puppies who are breathing fast because of some underlying disease may tend to show signs of trouble breathing by assuming abnormal positions such as keeping the head and neck extended or the elbows held wide apart, away from the body.

What diseases or conditions can cause a puppy to breath fast? There are several respiratory and non-respiratory disorders known for causing this and certain medical conditions. Anemia, heart problems, circulatory problems, presence of heartworm, infections, fever, dehydration, pain, shock may cause changes in a puppy’s normal respiratory rate.

Often these disorders and conditions are accompanied by other symptoms on top of the increase in respiratory rate such as coughing fits, pale gums, lethargy, loss of appetite, increased temperature, congestion, and exercise intolerance, but sometimes puppies may hide their symptoms or they may not be readily recognized by puppy owners. It’s always best to err on the side of caution and see a vet, especially when it comes to something serious as abnormal breathing.

“When a dog’s respiratory rate is persistently high and can’t be attributed to any of the above environmental factors, it can signal a health problem such as anemia, congestive heart failure or various respiratory disorders.” Dr. Marty Becker

Did you know? Rapid breathing may also be seen as a side effect of a medication or a reactions to vaccinations. If your puppy is breathing fast after vaccines or taking a medication, consult with your vet to be safe.

Disclaimer: this article is not meant to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. Puppies may breath rapidly for a variety of causes. Some of them are pretty obvious and there is likely nothing to really worry about, while others warrant a veterinary visit. If your puppy is breathing abnormally fast while awake and there doesn’t seem to be an explanation, it’s best to err on the side of caution and contact your vet immediately.


Dog Word of the Day: Hematochezia


In simple words, hematochezia is the medical term for blood in a dog’s stool. Dog owners who routinely observe their dogs’ daily outputs are at an advantage as they get to recognize signs of trouble such as diarrhea, the presence of parasites or fresh blood in the dog’s stool. The presence of hematochezia is often concerning for dog owners as they possibly associate the presence of blood in the dog’s stool with serious health conditions such as cancer. However, in dogs hematochezia is not always necessarily as troublesome, but it’s sure worthy of veterinary investigation so to identify the underlying cause and have it addressed.

blood-in-dog-stoolWhat Does Hematochezia Look Like?

Hematochezia in dogs appears as blood in the dog’s stool. Unlike melena, the blood is red, which means it’s fresh, frank blood that has not been digested. The blood may appear as streaks over the stool or mixed within it or there may be a few droplets of blood at the end of the bowel movement. Dogs owners often describe it as “my dog has bright blood in her poop” or “my dog passed blood clots in her stool.” The stool may be firm but it is often soft in consistency and may also appear as liquid diarrhea.

Where is the Blood Coming From?

While melena appears as dark, tarry stools, suggesting bleeding from the upper digestive tract, in hematochezia the presence of fresh, red blood is suggestive instead of bleeding in the lower intestinal tract. This means the blood may be coming from the dog’s descending colon or rectum. As mentioned, the presence of fresh, red blood in the dog’s stool can be frightening to witness, but in dogs it’s generally less frequently associated with life threatening diseases as those seen with melena, explains veterinarian W. Grant Guilford in the book “Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine. ” However, there are several conditions associated with blood in dog’s stools that can be worrisome.

What Does it Mean?vet

What causes hematochezia in dogs? Colitis, the inflammation of the dog’s colon is often a common culprit. Affected dogs typically have blood and mucus in the stool. Typically, the dog’s stools start off on the soft side and then become progressively gelatinous, shiny and with mucus, explains veterinarian Dr. Fiona. The mucus is produced by the colon when inflamed, while the blood is caused by erosions that trigger bleeding. Colitis is often seen with dietary indiscretions, abrupt food changes, presence of parasites or protozoans and even stress. In puppies, vomiting, diarrhea and bloody stools can be indicative of parvo virus which needs immediate veterinary attention. Other possibilities that require immediate veterinary attention include hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, blood clotting disorders and ingestion of rat poison.

Did you know? Dog owners often assume their dogs have hemorrhoids when they notice fresh blood on a dog’s stool. Dogs though don’t get hemorrhoids like humans do, but are more likely to get an impacted/infected anal glands, explains veterinarian Dr. Peter. These can sometimes be oozing bright red blood. Other possibilities are polyps in the dog’s colon or rectum, trauma to the anal area and sometimes cancer of the lower bowel.

What Should Dog Owners Do?dog pain goes away at the vet

Blood in a dog’s stool can be a minor, temporary problem or it could be a serious one that needs immediate veterinary attention such as parvo virus, a blood clotting disorder or ingestion of rat poison. It’s always best to play the “better safe than sorry” practice.

Blood in a dog’s stool is not normal and should be investigated by a veterinarian so that the underlying cause can be addressed. Bringing a stool sample along for the vet visit is a good starting point so that the vet can confirm or rule out presence of parasites or protozoans.

Disclaimer: this article is not meant to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If your dog has bloody stools, please see your vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.

DVM Greg Martinez Discusses Mucus and Red Blood in Stool



Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine, Saunders; 7 edition (January 7, 2010)

Photo Credits:

  • A vet examines a dog in New York, Archivist1174Own work, Photo of New York State Assemblyman Dr. Stephen M. “Steve” Katz at the Bronx Veterinary Center.CC BY-SA 3.0

Why is There Ash in My Dog’s Food?


If you ever read a dog’s food label, you may have noticed that among the list of ingredients there is ash. What is ash doing in your dog’s food? Is it really ash as the ash you would find after having a barbecue? And most of all, is it healthy for dogs to have ash in their food? With the many unscrupulous things pet food manufacturers have been known for doing in the past decades to make easy money, it’s tempting to point the finger and blame ash content as one of those things that shouldn’t be there. So today’s trivia question is:

Why is there ash in dog food?

A It’s added as a filler to make kibble less expensive to make

B It’s residue from cooking bones that should be removed but it’s not

C It’s a pet food label’s way of describing mineral content

D It accidentally gets there and cannot be removed

The correct answer is: drum roll please….




The Correct Answer is, C, ash in dog food is on the label to describe the mineral content of a dog’s food.

ash-in-dog-foodAbout Ash in Dog Food 

When it comes to ash in dog food, it’s not really what it sounds. So, no, it’s not the type of ash we are used to seeing as when burning charcoal for a barbecue or burning wood in a fireplace. Ash in this case, refers to the amount of minerals that are found in the food. Ash is therefore not an ingredient that’s purposely added to a dog’s food, it’s just there because it’s part of the food.

Basically, ash is the mineral content that would be left behind if the dog food was incinerated at high temperatures (like at 550 degrees) causing proteins, fats and carbs to be burned, leaving behind all the minerals.

Yes, technically speaking it’s the “cremains” left behind if you were to “cremate” a canned dog food or a pile of kibble. Of course, the food you feed your dog is not incinerated, unless for laboratory testing purposes, otherwise what a waste that would be! Ash content is therefore just a statistical measurement of the combustible part of the food.

 “Ash is the inorganic residue remaining after the water and organic matter have been removed by heating in the presence of oxidizing agents, which provides a measure of the total amount of minerals within a food.”~University of Massachusetts Amherst

Is Ash in Dog Food Bad?food

Since ash consists of minerals, it’s a good thing to have in dog food. Indeed, ash is also often found in many human foods if you have time to read labels. Ash contains calcium, phosphorous, iron, zinc, and other trace minerals that dogs need in their diets. For instance, zinc is much needed for the skin, calcium and phosphorous are needed for healthy bones, while potassium is essential for the heart and kidneys. Generally though dogs do not need a whole lot of minerals though. So yes, ash in dog food is actually a good thing and also quite inevitable, but as with everything, moderation is key. If you are looking for precise numbers of recommendations, consult with a veterinary nutritionist.

idea tipDid you know? Many dog food manufacturers do not disclose their ash statistics. Indeed, according to Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) ash guarantee is not required on pet food labeling.

puppy food

Expressed in Percentages

There are a myriad of dog food types on the market nowadays and each brand of dog food varies when it comes to moisture and ash content. The amount of ash in dog food is expressed in percentages. The percentage basically reflects the amount of ash remaining at the end of the incinerating process compared to how much food there was to start with at the beginning of the process. Usually, these percentages range between 5 and 8 percent in kibble and between 1 and 2 percent in canned food. The total ash content found in a bag of food however isn’t really helpful when it comes to indicate the specific minerals in it. More information though may be obtained from contacting the dog food manufacturer.

“I was taught ash of 7% or lower is the goal in constructing a quality food… Ash denotes the amount of bone that’s ground into the meal. A low ash content signifies a higher grade meal due to more protein included and less bone…Cost of using higher quality proteins, thus lower ash, then comes into play and you can tell that by what a food costs.”~Dr. Tim Hunt, DVM

Today, computers can easily measure ash content.

An Insight into The Procedure

As one may imagine, the process of measuring  moisture and ash content is quite elaborate for pet food manufacturing companies. It entails carefully monitoring the food’s mineral contents and moisture routinely so to maintain a high level of consistency. The traditional method requires ovens or furnaces which can be time consuming, but now there are new computers on the market which are meant to measure moisture, solids and ash contents with accuracy at 1/10 of the time for moisture testing and 1/7 of the time for ash testing. These computers can effectively provide an in-depth analysis from a single sample.



  • Dogs: The Ultimate Care Guide: Good Health, Loving Care, Maximum Longevity, by Matthew Hoffman, Rodale Books (May 15, 1998)
  • Brown S., Taylor B., “See Spot Live Longer”, 2007 Creekobear Press, Eugene, OR USA, p 55



Enjoy this blog? Follow us on Facebook!