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

This Ingredient is Considered the Safe Chocolate For Dogs


Looking for a chocolate substitute that is appropriate for dogs? Most of us are aware that chocolate is not safe for our dogs, but when Valentine’s Day or other festivity involving chocolate like Easter or Halloween is around the corner, countless veterinarian offices get loads of phone calls about dogs who have eaten chocolate. Sometimes, no matter how hard dog owners try, dogs somehow manage to get into that box of chocolates left unattended on the counter or steal that chocolate bar left in a purse. In some other unfortunate incidents, dog owners simply aren’t aware of the dangers chocolate may pose to their dogs. They may assume it’s fine if their dog gobbles up some chocolate, only to find out later their dog is sick. Many dog owners admit to regret the fact that they cannot share chocolate with their dogs, but recently many doggy bakeries have been using a chocolate substitute so dog owners can share their love with their pooches. So today’s trivia question is:

What ingredient is often used as a chocolate substitute for dogs?

A  Peanut butter

B Liver pate’

C Applesauce

D Carob

The answer is:


If you answered A, peanut butter, your dog may sure like peanut butter, but it’s really not vaguely much similar to chocolate is it? To look like chocolate, it would need a makeover of some type to turn brown and chocolaty. While many people use peanut butter  as an ingredient when they bake their dog treats, consider that not all peanut butter is safe for dogs. In our article “is peanut butter bad for dogs?” we provide some details about some types of peanut butter to avoid. If you answered B, liver pate’, sure its color is getting closer to chocolate-like, but it’s still not there. While your dog will likely lick his chops and wolf it down given the opportunity, let’s face it, the flavor of liver pate’ is a far cry from chocolate. Even if you could afford giving your dog liver pate’ consider that it may have some added ingredients that might not really be healthy for dogs. If you answered C, applesauce, consider that many dog owners use applesauce to make dog treats, but comparing it to chocolate is sort of like comparing apples and oranges.

So the correct answer is D, carob!

Carob chip cookies

Safe Chocolate Substitute for Dogs

Carob has been used as a chocolate substitute for humans for some time already, so it’s not surprising if it’s now being also used in dog treats. The carob tree, Ceratonia siliqua, produces special pods which are naturally sweet and somewhat resemble the taste of chocolate but without the harmful theobromine. The ASPCA Poison Control website lists carob as non-toxic to dogs, non-toxic to cats and non-toxic to horses. As a plus, carob is packed with bonus nutrients like vitamins and minerals.

While your refined palate may notice a difference between the flavor of carob and chocolate, most dogs will love carob treats which is why more and more dog bakeries are adding carob powder and carob chips in their cookies. If you ever felt sorry that your dog couldn’t enjoy a warm, freshly baked chocolate chip cookie with you, you may be happy to bake your dog a batch of  yummy “carob chip cookies” instead! Christina Gerling, technician at Eagle Animal Hospital  in Chester Spring PA, suggests incorporating carob chips into homemade dog biscuits or melting the chips so the carob can be drizzled on the top of your pet’s favorite safe treats or even over banana slices. And if you are not too eager to bake, you can likely find some great dog cookies dipped in carob or some tasty carob sandwich cookies such as those made by Three Dog Bakery. Is your pup’s birthday coming up? You can even buy a “pup-tastic” carob-based birthday cake at your local dog bakery.


ASPCA Poison Control: Carob

Photo credits:

Chocolate chip cookies with carob powder instead of cocoa powder, by Keith McDuffeeCC BY 2.0

I am Your Dog’s Heart


With Valentine’s Day around the corner, we dedicated this Daily Dog Discovery to the dog’s heart. We often take this organ for granted, but this amazing powerhouse does a remarkable amount of work to keep your dog and his body in good working order. We are talking about one of most miraculous “machines” that’s capable of working non-stop, ticking relentlessly for many years of the dog’s life. While a dog’s heart is built in a similar fashion to the human heart, heart disease affects dogs differently than in people. Let’s take a look at what your dog’s heart has to say.

dog heart diseaseLet Me Introduce Myself!

Hello, it’s your dog’s heart talking! Just like the human heart, I am not very impressive looking. People like to imagine me as a Valentine’s day heart, but I am instead just an egg-shaped muscle of an unappealing red/brownish color that’s housed within the thorax.

More than criticizing my looks though, people should look at me for what I accomplish on a daily basis with no down times. What can I say? I am a workaholic “at heart.”  You think I am exaggerating? Here are some impressive dog heart facts about what I do every single day.

  • On an average day, I pump about 4,000 liters of your dog’s blood.
  • At rest, I beat between 70 to 120 times a minute. That’s more frequent than the human heart which beats an average of 70 to 80 times a minute.
  • I beat roughly 144,000 times per day.
  • I work all day and all night and only rest in those brief split second between beats.

I Transport Bloodheart anatomy

As you may know, I am responsible for moving blood through your dog’s blood vessels. To do so, I am equipped with four chambers, two upper ones known as the left and right atria and two lower ones, known as the right and left ventricles. Here’s a quick review of what I do. When my right atrium receives blood that’s low in oxygen but high in carbon dioxide (a waste product)  from the body, it’s pumped into the right ventricle and then into the pulmonary artery so that the lungs can replenish the blood with oxygen. This oxygen-rich blood then travels through the pulmonary vein and goes back to the heart by entering the left atrium. Here the blood is then pumped into the left ventricle which forcibly pumps the blood through the entire body through the aorta. This cycle keeps repeating over and over for the rest of your dog’s life.

stethWhen Things Go Wrong

You may be familiar with clogged arteries which are a common cause of heart attacks in humans, but when it comes to dogs, arteriosclerosis and heart attacks are actually quite rare. That doesn’t mean that dogs are free from heart disease though. A common form of heart disease seen in dogs is heart failure. This happens when my valves or muscles give out and no longer work as they should. When this happens, one side of me may be overloaded with work and I cannot keep up, so I might have to give up and eventually fail. I don’t fail out of the blue though, it’s usually a process taking months or years. I may give signs of trouble by making affected dogs cough when they’re exercised or excited or right after sleeping.  Affected dogs may appear to get tired more easily and may even faint. These symptoms are proof that I am no longer providing adequate circulation (oxygen for the tissues) to meet the needs of the dog’s body.

Luckily, most vets will notice problems especially if I let out a “murmur” that they’ll hear with the stethoscope. Next, x-rays will show if I am getting too worked out. If I appear enlarged, that’s a sign that I am doing too much. Medications can help me pump more efficiently and help dogs remove excess fluid from the lungs. The vet may recommend a diet low in sodium so to decrease the buildup of fluids. Hopefully, your dog won’t ever go through all of this, but it’s good to keep this in mind so to recognize early signs of trouble especially as your dog ages. Two conditions in particular are known for making me fail, degenerative valvular disease (DVD) when my valves fail to seal properly (a condition common in small dog breeds) and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), when my heart muscles weaken, (a condition common in large and giant breeds).

About 10 percent of all dogs seen in primary care veterinary practices have some form of heart disease. This percentage continues to grow as dogs get older. Up to 75 percent of senior dogs experience some form of heart disease. ~Drake Center for Veterinary Care

puppy murmursA Word About Murmurs

I  am known to make a typical “lub-dub, lub-dub” sound that your vet is familiar with. The “lub” sound means that the valves controlling the flow of blood from the upper chambers to the lower chambers close, while the “dub” sound means that the valves controlling blood going out of the heart close.  However, at times, when your vet listens to me with a stethoscope, he may hear an extra noise that sort of sounds like water flowing through a hose. What’s that? It’s a murmur. Not always this is a bad thing. It just means that the blood makes a whooshing noise as it flows through me.  Heart murmurs are quite common in puppies. According to VCA Animal Hospital, they’re often found in young, large breed puppies as early as 6 to 8 weeks of age, but they usually go away by time these pups reach 4-5 months of age. These murmurs are usually benign. Only in some cases they’re a sign of a structural problem.


  • Healthy Hearts for Dogs, Heart Facts, retrieved from the web on February 8th, 2016
  • Merck Veterinary Manual: Resting Heart Rates, retrieved from the web on February 8th, 2016
  • Pet Education: Heart Failure (Mitral Valve Insufficiency) in the Dog, by Race Foster, retrieved from the web on February 8th, 2016
  • Heartworm Society: Prevention, Diagnosis, and Management of Heartworm  Infection in Dogs, retrieved from the web on February 8th, 2016
  • Veterinary Team DVM360: How periodontal disease can affect pets’ organs, by Mary L. Berg, BS, RVT, RLATG, VTS (dentistry), retrieved from the web on February 8th, 2016
  • Your Dog’s Heart: Heart Health Tips, retrieved from the web on February 8th, 2016

Photo credits:

Diagram of the human heart, Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

Reasons Why Your Dog May Be Hiding His Chronic Pain


Chronic pain, as the term implies, is pain that persists for a long time. What differentiates chronic pain from acute pain is usually the interval of time occurring since its onset. In dogs with acute pain, the onset is sudden, and generally doesn’t last too long as long as the underlying cause is addressed and healing is allowed to take place. In dogs with chronic pain though, the pain generally has been going on for quite some time and it tends to last beyond the time frame one would expect for healing to occur. When it comes to pain, dogs are often perceived as quite stoic beings, but they may be suffering from chronic pain in silence. It’s up to us owners recognizing the most subtle signs of pain and intervening in a timely matter. Dr. Michael Petty offers many tips on managing pain in dogs in his recent book.

chronic pain dogVague Symptoms of Chronic Pain

Acute pain in dogs is often readily recognized by dog owners. Affected dogs will often acutely yelp or whimper, they’ll hold up a leg, keep their body hunched or they may they hide in a corner, tucked away from other pets and household members. These abrupt changes in body postures, vocalizations and behavior changes are often enough for dog owners to take notice and take their dog to vet. Chronic pain, on the other hand, presents itself more vaguely as the dog often learns to adjusts to it.

The affected dog is less likely to vocalize, the dog becomes gradually withdrawn, perhaps showing less interest in walks and other forms of social interactions. These subtle, gradual changes make recognizing signs of chronic pain in dogs more challenging for both caregivers and vets, explains veterinarian and pain management specialist Dr. Michael Petty, in the book “Dr. Petty’s Pain Relief for Dogs: The Complete Medical and Integrative Guide to Treating Pain.”

A Survival Mechanismstray dog

Why are the signs of chronic pain so vague in dogs? There are several theories. Despite the fact that dogs are fed in shiny bowls, sleep on plush pillows and wear collars studded with rhinestones, they still retain instincts that date back to the times when they lived in the wild. In our previous article, “Can dogs sniff out cancer? we discussed how dogs may be naturally drawn to smells that indicate disease, as in their evolutionary past as hunters or scavengers, they may have associated it with an easy meal.

Despite the fact that a dog’s ancestors depended on hunting prey animals, they certainly didn’t want to become a meal themselves to other animals much bigger than them. So when they felt pain or were debilitated by disease, they tried their best to keep carrying on and even hide it the best they could as they became aware of their vulnerability. Our domesticated dogs still carry these self-preservation instincts so they don’t end up being an easy target, and these instincts become stronger in the presence of strangers, and ironically, that often includes the family vet, the very person who’s trying to help them out, remarks Dr. Petty.

A Matter of Adrenalinedog pain goes away at the vet

When working for the vet, we often encountered dogs who acted as if they weren’t in any pain at all. The owners were often puzzled. They would say:” That’s odd, at home he acts totally different, maybe he’s starting to get better already.” Even for euthanasia appointments, cat and dog owners sometimes got second thoughts as their pets suddenly appeared more lively than they were in their past days. We were trained by our vets to give these owners a possible answer for their dogs’ and cats’ sudden remarkable “recoveries,” we would therefore tell them it was likely a matter of “the adrenaline rush associated with going to the vet.”

“Your pet may still be in a good amount of pain but the adrenaline rush of going ‘for a ride in the car’ or the fear of ‘seeing the doctor’ tend to overwhelm the pain sensation. Once he gets home Toby is likely going to revert to being a ‘tripod’ again.”Patapsco Valley Veterinary Hospital

No Pain Scaledog limping no pain

Things are quite easy in the pain department when it comes to humans. “Ouch, ahhhhh.. that hurts!” We can easily communicate not only where it hurts, but even how much. Doctors often rely on pain scales to grasp the idea of our levels of pain. Veterinarians may try to evaluate pain via pain scales by asking owners questions, but determining how well an individual dog is coping with it may be a challenge. One phrase we used to hear a lot at the vet when we were recording the dog’s symptoms on the chart was: “My dog is just limping, but I am sure it doesn’t hurt him because I never heard him crying.” This is a common anthropomorphic view that has caused many delayed vet appointment and unnecessary suffering to the dog. Dogs don’t limp on a whim or just because it’s fun to do so. If a dog is limping it means it hurts to move the leg a certain way or bear weight on it. It warrants a vet examination because dog unlike humans, don’t manifest pain vocally like we do.

No dog likes to be left behind...
No dog likes to be left behind…

Special Social Needs

Something else to consider are dogs’ strong social needs which makes them particularly eager to be with us. Ever wondered why achy dogs are still eager to follow us on a walk or car ride? This stems from a dog’s strong social attachment with us that again may come from their evolutionary past. In the old days, our dog’s ancestors lived in packs and depended on each other. If one member became sick or injured, it negatively affected the rest of the pack, possibly by slowing things down or attracting predators. Sadly, it wasn’t unusual for these sick and injured members to be left behind.

Still as of today, while dogs may not view their family as pack, we can’t deny that our dogs have a strong desire to follow us and be with us. They depend on us for food, shelter, protection and guidance and one of their biggest fear is rejection and isolation. Even old and sick dogs are very social creatures who want to be with their families, explains Dr. Petty. Their social needs may therefore override any pain they feel. A willingness to go on walks or car rides, shouldn’t therefore be interpreted as a possible indicator that a dog isn’t suffering from pain.

“Wild dogs depended on the abilities of the whole canine family to help with hunting and pack defense – a disabled member was a liability to all.” ~Pat Miller

Course of Action

It’s important for dog owners to recognize subtle signs of pain in their dogs so that they can provide their dogs with appropriate veterinary care. There are sadly still several misconceptions out there suggesting that dogs or certain types of dogs do not feel pain in the same way we do. “All dogs, regardless of breed label, experience pain. How each dog responds to that pain will vary, but the response cannot be predicted by physical appearance or breed'” warns the Animal Farm Foundation website.

As humans, we are used to seeing pain from “our perspective” relying on our anthropomorphic models of pain such as vocalizations. Dr. Petty lists some signs of pain in dogs on the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management website. The list can be found here: 15 signs of pain  If you notice any of these signs or other evident or more subtle signs of pain in dog, see your vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.


  • Dr. Michael Petty, “Dr. Petty’s Pain Relief for Dogs: The Complete Medical and Integrative Guide to Treating Pain.” Countryman Press; 1 edition (February 1, 2016)
  • Animal Farm Foundation Inc., For the Dogs It’s All Pain, No Gain, retrieved from the Web on February 7th, 2016.
  • International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management,  Dr. Petty’s Pain Relief for Dogs. A Complete Medical and Integrative Approach, retrieved from the Web on February 7th, 2016.
  • Psychology Today, Do Dogs Feel Pain the Same Way that Humans Do? by Stanley Coren, retrieved from the Web on February 7th, 2016.
  • Dog Cancer Blog, How to Know If Your Dog Is In Pain, by Dog Cancer Vet Team, retrieved from the Web on February 7th, 2016.

Can Mother Dog’s Stress Affect Her Puppies?


Can a stressed pregnant dog pass down her stress to her unborn puppies? We may assume not, considering that likely puppies aren’t fully conscious yet, and thus, have little or no memory. And on top of that, isn’t the womb a place where babies and puppies are protected by any internal and external pressures? Wouldn’t the puppies be somehow shielded from the stress mother dog experiences? We often imagine the womb as a safe, protected environment that’s well-insulated and designed to shield from harm, but turns out a pregnant dog’s stress reactions may have an impact on her unborn puppies and there’s likely a survival reason as to why.

stress in pregnant dogMother Dog Stress

Mother dogs won’t likely suffer from financial or relationship troubles, but they are vulnerable to other types of stress triggers. Let’s imagine for a second the level of stress a pregnant dog raised in a puppy mill may be exposed to. Housed in a cage with little space, exposed to loud noises, surrounded by a large number of dogs and provided with zero enrichment or positive human social interaction, these puppy mill breeding dogs are exposed to sources of psychological distress that can induce stress-induced psychopathology, explains board-certified veterinarian Franklin D. McMillan. 

When  mother dog is stressed, stress hormones are released into the bloodstream. Normally, puppies are shielded from the effect of stress hormones courtesy of a special enzyme that inactivates them at the level of the placenta. However, when the levels of mother dog’s cortisol, a hormone released in response to stress, are consistently high, some manages to seep through the placenta with the end result of reaching the developing fetuses. What does this mean to the puppies? It means that the puppies “learn” that the world is a scary place to be and their bodies develop an appropriately tuned stress system and metabolism, explains veterinarian  Jessica Hekman.

Effects on Puppies 


As mother dog’s body deals with stress hormones, extra energy is pulled away from digestion and storage. This may affect the proper growth of the puppies, leading to the birth of puppies that are smaller in size. On top of that, prenatal stress in mother dogs may lead to long-lasting alterations in the brain structures of the developing puppies leading to behavioral deficits that are similar to those observed in schizophrenic humans, explains McMillan. Once born, the puppies are predisposed to anxiety and are particularly vulnerable to effects of stress as they have an impaired ability to cope and adapt to the challenges, threats, and adversity they may encounter throughout their lives.

Scientific research suggests puppies born to dams who have experienced acute or chronic stress during their pregnancy are more likely to show retarded motor & learning development and abnormal exploratory, play, social, sexual and maternal behavior. ~Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors

stray dogA Survival Purpose

Let’s imagine how stressful life may be for a pregnant stray dog. She may be wandering in search of food and endure daily stresses such as being attacked by other dogs, risking getting ran over and being constantly scared off by people. A highly reactive stress response in this case is important and can make the difference between life and death, explains Hekman. The release of stress hormones through the placenta in this case may offer an important survival tactic so that the puppies are better primed to face a harsh environment full of threats. While this can be an advantage if the pups lived on the streets, it would not be appropriate for puppies living as pets in the comfort of a home. In such a case, a hyper reactive stress system would turn out being unnecessary and maladaptive. This is why it’s so important that pregnant dogs are kept in a low-stress environment.

In our previous article on when puppies develop their sense of smell, we saw how chemosensory prenatal learning shaped the dietary preferences of puppies when weaning time was around the corner. With smells passing through the amniotic fluid, and then flavors passing in the milk, we learned how puppies rely on their mother’s knowledge to learn about which foods are safe to eat. Today instead, we can see how prenatal stress affects the future behavior of the puppies. Discovering how mother dogs pass down these vital pieces of information to their puppies, so they can receive “a taste” of what life will be like even before they are born, is quite remarkable and fascinating.

newbornJust a Puzzle Piece

Prenatal stress is only one of the many possible factors that may be behind the presentation of puppies with a skittish behavior. There are several other things to factor in when it comes to the abnormal behavior development of puppies, some factors being present even prior to life in utero. One big factor is genes. Puppies may inherit behavior traits from their parents, therefore along with health testing, responsible breeders will screen their prospective dams and studs for sound temperament. The environment where puppies are raised also plays a big role in how the puppy develops. Knowledgeable breeders are aware of the deleterious effects of removing the puppies from the litter too early, inadequately socializing them and failing to provide adequate levels of enrichment and exposure to stimuli likely to be encountered in their future homes.

As seen, the intra-uterine environment plays a role in the development of skittish behaviors in puppies, but there are also many other factors. Many say that behavior is the result of nature (genetics) or nurture (the environment), but as researcher/science writer Robert Sapolsky states definitively goes a long way: “No heredity. No environment. Only the interaction between the two.”


  • The Harmful Effects of Puppy Mills on Breeding Dogs and Their Puppies, by Franklin D. McMillan, DVM, DACVIM Best Friends Animal Society 5001 Angel Canyon Road Kanab, UT 84741
  • Association of Pet Behaviour Cousellors, Rearing Puppies, by Elaine Henley
  • Whole Dog Journal, How a Mother’s Stress Can Influence Unborn Puppies, by Jessica Hekman, DVM, MS
  • Henry, C., Kabbaj, M., Simon, H., Le Moal, M., Maccari, S., 1994. Prenatal stress increases the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis response in young and adult rats. J. Neuroendocrinol. 6, 341–345.
  • Dickerson, P.A., Lally, B.E., Gunnel, E., Birkle, D.L., Salm, A.K., 2005. Early emergence of increased fearful behaviour in prenatally stressed rats. Physiol. Behav. 86, 586–593
  • Robert Salposky, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, W. H. Freeman; 2nd edition (April 15, 1998)


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