Puppy Kindergarten: Wag or Woof?

Training a puppy is a challenging and time-consuming undertaking; but thankfully, there are a multitude of resources and methods to help accomplish this often daunting task. Through initial research or word-of-mouth, you’ve likely heard the term “puppy kindergarten” (or “preschool”), which is used largely to describe a series of obedience classes that the puppy parent completes with their puppy. These classes are predominantly designed to teach basic commands, and socialize your puppy with other dogs.

Before investing both your dollars and your time in a group class however, it’s important to set expectations and make sure it’s the right training environment for you and your pooch. Preparation is key to getting the most out of puppy kindergarten, so here are a list of pros and cons to help you decide whether you’re ready to enroll and if/once you do, ensure success!


Socialization – There is one basic facet of development that you as the puppy parent cannot teach: healthy play with other dogs. Learning how to interact with other canines is crucial for your puppy– how else will you be able to confidently and safely walk your puppy outside, take him/her to a dog park or even board him/her in a group setting?

Distractions – At the moments when it’s most important for your puppy to listen to you, he/she will most certainly be distracted. Whether running away from you at the dog park, begging for a fellow diner’s food while accompanying you at an outdoor restaurant or jumping on a stranger, you will undoubtedly experience situations outside of your own home where you don’t have your puppy’s full, undivided attention. A class environment will teach him/her to listen to you amidst interruptions, if not chaos.


Learning Retention – Contrary to popular belief, your puppy will not retain the information taught in class and implement it without further reinforcement and personal one-on-one training. In simple terms, do not expect your puppy to actually learn anything during class time. Puppy classes are designed to teach the parents the basics, and then the work is on you to practice, practice, and then practice some more at home.

Generic and Unspecialized – Puppy classes typically focus on basic obedience training. Think commands such as sit, come, and stay. Essential exercises such as potty-training or crate-training, nipping or chewing may not be covered. Plus, dogs with specialized issues such as separation anxiety or intense aggression are better suited for private one-on-one training which will focus on techniques tailored to solving those problems. Before enrolling, make sure you have an understanding of the topics that will be addressed during your sessions and what you’ll be responsible for handling on your own.

Costly – While high-quality obedience training can be invaluable (when implemented correctly), all too often, puppy parents become easily frustrated upon not seeing fast results. In many cases, they give up and do not follow through with the teachings they learn in class making the classes “worthless” and/or a superfluous luxury.

Bottom line: puppy kindergarten may reward your pooch with a diploma upon graduation, but only expect your puppy to get straight A’s if you’re willing to put in the time and effort to continuing and reinforcing these teachings at home.

Tackling Obesity: Common Dog Food-Related Myths

Just as obesity is an unhealthy, dangerous problem for humans, the same can be said for your canine companion. A whopping 34% of dogs are overweight, so as cute as an overly plump dog may be, obesity is a serious issue not to be taken lightly. The truth is that keeping your dog lean and healthy can extend his lifespan up to two years. And, weight management is crucial to avoid obesity-related health issues, especially if your dog is genetically prone to obesity (some breeds such as Cocker Spaniel, Labrador and Golden Retrievers, Basset Hounds, Shetland Sheepdogs, and Dachshunds should be watched more closely). With this information in mind, it is your responsibility as a pup parent to make sure your dog maintains healthy nutrition and a normal weight within the average range for his breed.

Oftentimes, common misconceptions prevent pup parents from taking good care of their pup’s physical health. Let’s debunk some of these myths to set you and your pooch up for successful weight management:

Puppies Are Always Hungry: Pup parents often see their dogs gobble up food in seconds, take treats without pause and beg for table food. These behaviors lead to the myth that dogs never tire of eating and are always ready for food. While dogs may always take food when handed to them (haven’t you ever had one too many helpings at Thanksgiving dinner?), this doesn’t mean they need food. Unfortunately, well-meaning owners often leave food in their dog’s bowl all day hoping to satisfy their “hungry” pooches. However, this is an extremely unhealthy practice. Dogs should be on a strict feeding schedule – depending on your veterinarian’s instruction, typically no more than 2x/day. Pooches don’t need as many calories as humans do. That said, water bowls should be filled throughout the day so that your dog stays well-hydrated.

Spaying and Neutering Cause Obesity: This is simply untrue. Spaying or neutering procedures may slow down a dog’s natural metabolism, but also means that your dog requires less calories to maintain a healthy weight. As your dog goes through body changes such as getting fixed, or getting older, you need to be aware of weight gain and act immediately to reduce caloric intake or increase activity level to offset the change.

Some Dogs are Picky, so Feed Them Whatever They’ll Eat: This may be true with toddlers (to an extent), but dogs should not be given the opportunity to choose what they eat. If you’ve experimented with giving them table scraps, you’ll notice they’ll almost always prefer human food. After all, a flavorful steak sounds much more delicious than a bowl of kibble, right? But this practice forms bad habit and will cause your dog to become “picky” and eat fatty, calorie-filled human food rather than the food designed to keep him fit and strong.

The Best Way to Reward a Puppy is with Treats: When your puppy does a good job, you give him a bite sized treat, right? While this is fine practice in moderation, an over-consumption of treats, which are often filled with empty calories, can lead to pet obesity. As a general guideline, treats should not comprise more than 10% of your dog’s overall diet. Also, if you notice your dog over-snacks on treats and sometimes doesn’t finish his entire bowl of food, it may be a sign he’s consuming too many treats.

Frequent, Small Meals are Better than a Few Solid Meals: Not necessarily. Again, consult with your veterinarian, but while this is a commonly adopted diet plan for humans, this can cause overeating in dogs and bad habits. Just because dogs eat the food that’s put underneath their noses, doesn’t mean their bodies require the calories.

Begging Dogs are Hungry: Dog behavior can be misleading and begging for food is an art that many dogs become quite talented at perfecting. If your canine is pleading, they’ve likely become accustomed to the fact that begging is rewarded with food. Any dog trainer will tell you it’s important not to indulge, but rather to ignore the bad behavior. Giving in will only teach your dog to continue begging. While we all love our animals dearly, in any kind of training, consistency of discipline is key. It only takes one time for your dog to learn this kind of behavior is tolerated. Rest assured, if your dog is a healthy weight and eating the correct amount of food at meals, he is not hungry.

While these myth-busters are helpful for common weight issues, there are some circumstances where your pup’s obesity may be the result of a medical issue such as hypothyroidism. If the weight management solutions you’re trying at home are not showing results, it’s best to take your pup into the vet for an evaluation to rule out other diagnoses.

Dog-Approved Table Scraps

While your dog should be consuming the majority of his calories from food made specifically for dogs, sometimes there is no resisting the urge to offer your pup human food as a reward, especially during training. If you’re going to give your adult dog or puppy food intended for humans, be cautious. Not all foods that are good for you are safe for your pup, and some can even be poisonous.

Some common foods to keep away from your dog include:

  • Chocolate
  • Onions
  • Grapes and raisins
  • Yeast dough
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Avocados
  • Alcohol
  • Coffee

Make sure these foods are all FAR out of your pup’s reach, and contact your vet immediately if he or she eats any of them.

Looking for a list of dog-safe human foods? Look no further. Add these pup-friendly snacks to your grocery list and enjoy watching your dog chow down stress-free (in moderation of course)! Note: Some dogs may have allergies, so always introduce new foods slowly and observe for any adverse reactions.

  • Peanut butter – Peanut butter is a good source of natural protein and contains heart-friendly fats and B & E vitamins. Spread some peanut butter on your dog’s favorite chew toy or in a Kong toy. Be sure to avoid any peanut butters with artificial sweeteners, which are harmful for dogs.
  • Cooked chicken – When it comes to chicken, the same rule for people applies to dogs — chicken meat needs to be cooked thoroughly to avoid salmonella risks. You can add a couple chunks of lean chicken into regular dog food to give it a protein boost and add flavor. Plain chicken is best, because some spices can cause digestive issues with dogs.
  • Cheese – Most dogs are very happy to eat cheese, but a small percentage of dogs are lactose intolerant, so proceed with caution. Cheese is also very high in fat, so these treats should be given sparingly.
  •  Baby carrots – Giving your dog a couple of baby carrots on occasion will help keep his teeth clean and strong.
  • Yogurt – In addition to being a good source of calcium, yogurt contains active bacteria (probiotics) which can help improve your dog’s digestive system. Any yogurt you give to your pup should be unsweetened and unflavored, due to the risks posed by artificial sweeteners.
  • Salmon – Salmon contains hefty amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids, which can improve heart and immune health and also make a dog’s coat and skin shiny and healthy. Salmon can be added to your dog’s diet as meat or can be added as oil to your dog’s regular food. And good news for those who don’t like salmon skin – it’s safe to feed the skin to your pooch. Just make sure they don’t get any bones, which could be sharp and present a choking hazard.
  •  Pumpkin – Just like carrots, pumpkin contains beta carotene and fiber, which is a good source of vitamin A and helps keep your dog’s digestive tract regular.
  • Eggs – Mix an entire cooked egg into your dog’s regular food to give it a protein boost.
  • Green beans – These make great snacks for your dogs because they are high in flavor and low in calories.
  •  Apples – Just like carrots, apple slices can keep your dog’s teeth clean and shiny, and they can also help freshen up his breath. Apples also contain large amounts of fiber and vitamins. Just make sure you take out the apple core because the seeds are not good for your pup.
  • Oatmeal – This grain is a great source of natural dietary fiber, which can really be beneficial, especially as your dog ages. If your dog has wheat allergies, (gluten free) oatmeal can be used as a substitute grain. Make sure you thoroughly cook the oatmeal before you serving it to your dog, and don’t add any sweeteners.
  • Sweet potatoes – This veggie is another great source of fiber and contains vitamin B6, vitamin C, beta carotene, and manganese. Your pup will enjoy sweet potato sliced and dehydrated as a chewy treat, or cooked and sprinkled on their regular food.

7 Diva Dogs Ready For a Night on The Town

Everyone has met a dog diva. In fact, you may even own one. We’re here to celebrate the pups you hate to love with a roundup of seven divas who won’t apologize for their high-maintenance ways.

No, she’s not headed to the Kentucky Derby, this pup just has a taste for the finer things in life.diva-dog-1

This pup thinks she’s Queen and wants you to bow down.diva-dog-2

This pup is much too fabulous to take her sunnies off inside.diva-dog-3

“You mean to tell me you don’t have a personal chauffeur?”diva-dog-4

The nameplate says it all.diva-dog-5

This diva is not pleased you gave her BOOKS as a present.diva-dog-6

Ladies and gentleman, we introduce you to DIVO.diva-dog-7

10 Dogstagrams to Follow

Westminster Kennel Club
The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is the longest running continuously held dog sporting event, hosting its first show in 1877. The club even predates the American Kennel Club by 7 years! WKC has a wonderful Instagram account giving followers a backstage view of the show during competition season.

Puppy love 💜#WKCDogShow

A photo posted by Westminster Kennel Club

(@westminsterkennelclub) on

Frenchie Butt
This account follows the pawsitively adorable adventures of Seattleite French Bulldog, Milo. A self-proclaimed “bedbound butterball,” Milo can typically be seen sleeping, smiling, and being an overall derpy Frenchie.

rotate to see awk face 🙃

A photo posted by hi my name is milo 🐱🐷🐸🐰🍞🍗 (@frenchiebutt) on


Two Corgi brothers, Corgnelius and Stumphrey, waddle their way through sunny Los Angeles. If you enjoy short legs and charming faces, this account is for you.

#fbf Corgi sniffing this bunny who coincidentally smells a lot like Stumphrey.

A photo posted by Corgnelius & Stumphrey (@corgnelius) on

The Dogist
The brainchild of photographer Elias Weiss Friedman, this stunning account uniquely captures the beauty of New York’s furriest residents. The images have been made into a book (also known as the perfect gift for the dog-lover in your life).

Taco The City Dog
Part Portie, part panda and a true city dog, Taco can be found exploring the Big Apple. He recently became big brother to a tiny human, lovingly dubbed “Chalupa.”

Off to jump in some puddles ☔️🐼💦#rainydaypanda #tongueouttuesday #littleredtacohood

A photo posted by Taco (@tacothecitydog) on

Brady The Golden Pup
As mischievous as he is adorable, Brady is guaranteed to be ray of sunshine in your Instagram feed. Brady first got his stardom after being featured on Huffington Post as the confused pup trying to catch painted-on fish in his baby pool.

Still goin after dis lemon business 🍋🍋🍋 #lillegs #fluffbutt #dogsofinstagram #puppiesofinstagram #goldenretriever

A video posted by Brady The Golden (@bradythegoldenpup) on

Menswear Dog
The most dapper dog you’ll ever meet, Bodhi, a six year-old Shiba Inu named after Patrick Swayze’s character in Point Break, has captured the hearts of the fashion industry and the general public alike.

American Kennel Club
The incredibly informative, educational account of the American Kennel Club is a must-follow for any dog enthusiast. AKC posts a “breed of the day,” along with relevant facts about said breed.

Your cure for the Monday-after-the-holiday-season blues. #AKCBreedoftheDay #AKCAustralianCattleDog

A photo posted by American Kennel Club (@americankennelclub) on

My Regal Beagle
Also known as Sid Pizza Dog, a five-year-old lemon and white Beagle and self-proclaimed Dog Mayor of Austin, TX. Sid must be the happiest dog, as he’s regularly seen with delicious treats like pizza, hotdogs, cookies and donuts.

is throwback monday a thing? plz watch my videos ➡️ #sidvid ___________________________ Snapchat➡️MyRegalBeagle

A photo posted by Sid Pizza Dog (@myregalbeagle) on

Samson The Dood
Samson is the coolest Goldendoodle (f1b to be exact) you’ll ever follow and probably the closest you’ll ever come to a living, breathing teddy bear. Fittingly, Samson resides in Brooklyn, NY and lives a more lavish life than any of us ever will.

When you’re trying to get to bed early & she stays connected #nophonezone 🚫📱#samsonandbea 🐶💤🐻

A photo posted by Samson The Goldendoodle (f1b) (@samsonthedood) on

13 Dog Breeds Perfect for Hiking

If you own a dog, you already know how helpful dogs can be in keeping you fit and active. Hiking is one such popular physical activity to do with your dog, but there are some factors to consider before going on that next trek with your pup. For example, most dogs don’t have the endurance to hike for more than about 3-5 hours, and not all dogs can tolerate all climates. In addition, dogs under the age of one may not be sturdy enough for strenuous exercise. Likewise, dogs in their old age may have a harder time keeping up. The following is a breed-specific list of dogs best suited for hiking.

1. Bernese Mountain Dogbernese-hiking-thumbnail

Big, strong and well-behaved, the Bernese Mountain Dog makes a
great candidate for a hiking buddy—after all, the word “mountain” is in her name! Bernese can carry about 10 times their body weight, meaning she’ll have no problem carrying some supplies on her back if necessary. Because of her thick, furry coat, she loves to hike in colder weather. On the flip side, be cautious taking her out to hike in the warmer seasons. Overall, this easygoing and athletic dog will love hiking alongside you, and acting courteous to strangers along the way.

2. Vizslavizsla-hiking-thumbnail
Since this active dog already requires a lot of exercise, the Vizsla is a great companion to take with you out on the trails. The Hungarian-bred hunter is intelligent and has the stamina to go on long, steep hikes. She’ll come along with you on a hot or temperate day, but make sure to bundle her up when the weather gets breezy.

3. Siberian Huskyhusky-hiking-thumbnail

The friendly and energetic Husky may be a handful to train, but you’ll have a ball with her as your hiking partner. Bred as sled dogs, Huskies are strong, intelligent dogs who can withstand freezing temperatures while carrying heavy cargo. Her furry double-coat won’t serve her well in extreme heat, but she’s fine to spend time outdoors with you in most climates.

4. Australian Shepherdaustralian-hiking

The Aussie is a hard worker at heart and will love to join you for a day of hiking and adventure. She has the strength to hike on even bumpy and uneven terrain, and has plenty of energy to keep going without getting tired. Despite her long coat, she can withstand most temperatures as long as they are not extreme.

5. Labrador Retrieverlabrador-hiking

America’s favorite dog breed is also a hiking favorite for a number of reasons. For one, her easy trainability gives her the right temperament to join you on the trail without acting out. The Lab is also strong, and won’t mind carrying up to 10 pounds of gear. She has the mind of an explorer and will be comfortable in most climates.

6. Portuguese Water Dogportuguese-hiking-thumbnail
Here’s a good dog for those hikes ending in a waterfall or stream. The dog of choice of the Obama family is a perfect pal on land or water. Her waterproof coat and webbed feet make her a great swimmer, so she’ll join you for a refreshing dip in the water after a long, tiring trek.

7. German Shorthaired Pointergerman-shorthaired-hiking-thumbnail
Similar to Labs, the German Shorthaired Pointer is a loving companion with enduring stamina. Just watch out—because of her natural high prey drive, this dog might try to bolt from your grip at the sight of a bird, squirrel, rabbit or other small creature. This dog also tends to be very protective of her owner, making her a vigilant watch dog on the trail.

8. Alaskan Malamutealaskan-malamute-hiking-thumnail
This Siberian Husky lookalike is larger and considered even stronger than her other sled-pulling relative. She’ll brave the toughest, snowiest terrains and coldest temperatures. She’s sturdy, independent and a true athlete. This dog is made for the wild and will have you panting by the end of your hike.

9. Rhodesian Ridgebackrhodesian-hiking-thumbnail
Bred to be a lion hunter, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is nothing short of mighty. Her apt ability to protect her loved ones from danger makes her a prime companion for exploring the great outdoors. Her paws are tough enough to plow through any terrain, and her sleek, short coat shields her from the heat. This dog needs plenty of exercise and would surely love to accompany you on a nice, long hike.

10. Jack Russell Terrierjack-russel-hiking-thumbnail
Who says all hiking dogs have to be big and beastly? This little pup packs a lot of energy into a small body, and won’t get tired after a long trek through the woods or up a cliff. The playful Jack Russell will run for ages and makes a good watchdog, barking at anyone that comes his way. You won’t have to worry about this little one keeping up!

11. Weimaranerweimaraner-hiking-thumbnail
This dog will have no problem covering long distances with you; in fact, she’ll get a little antsy if she doesn’t get enough exercise! A good watchdog, the majestic gray Weimaraner is intelligent and loves to run and play. Satisfy her demanding exercise needs by taking her on a long hike!

12. Border Collieborder-collie-hiking-thumbnail
The Border Collie is everything you want in a hiking pal: highly intelligent, energetic and eager to please. She loves a challenge and lives to perform tasks, whether fetching your knapsack or following directions to a destination. She loves being outdoors with plenty of space to stretch her long legs.

13. Doberman Pinscherdoberman-hiking-thumbnail
This fierce-looking dog is a loyal and obedient hiking companion with plenty of strength for those tough climbs. She’s easier to train than the Rhodesian Ridgeback, and her attentive nature as a fearless guard dog can provide you with protection when walking alone. Take her on hikes with you to give her a healthy way of expending her abundant energy.

The First Two Weeks: Warning Signs Your Dog Could Be Hypoglycemic

If your new puppy weighs four pounds or less, one important health condition to be aware of is Hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia, also called low blood sugar, can be triggered by stress, overexcitement, or missing a meal. While treatable, it is important to know what to look for and to act quickly if you see any of the signs of Hypoglycemia in your pup.

Occurring mostly in toy breeds between six and 16 weeks of age, the syndrome is triggered by stressors like travel, introductions to new or large numbers of people, too much play or attention, a change in environment, or simply the overall adjustment into a new home.

Symptoms include (but are not limited to) a decrease in energy, loss of appetite, listlessness, overly cold or hot body temperature, vomiting and diarrhea. Your puppy may show one or more of these symptoms if his blood sugar is dropping. Remember, your puppy’s blood sugar level is his main energy source, and if it gets too low, medical intervention may be necessary.

Luckily, there are easy ways to prevent hypoglycemic attacks and reoccurring attacks. For the first two weeks, it’s your crucial responsibility to make sure your puppy is eating regular, frequent meals throughout the day. Have dry food available at all times and feed him canned food at least two times a day.

A sugar supplement can also help prevent or decrease the severity of an already-occurring hypoglycemic attack. Nutri-Cal is a high-calorie flavored gel ideal for boosting your puppy’s blood sugar, especially if he is a finicky eater. For dogs eating properly, give 1.5 teaspoons of Nutri-Cal per 10 pounds of the dog’s body weight daily. For dogs not eating well, give one tablespoon of Nutri-Cal per 10 pounds of dog’s body weight daily. Most puppies will lick the supplement off your finger, but you may also put a drop directly on the puppy’s tongue or roof of mouth. You should never force your puppy to swallow pills or supplements, nor should you push the supplement too far back in the mouth.

Nutri-Cal can be purchased from your local pet store or online and should be part of your preparation tool kit prior to bringing puppy home. In the event you’re unable to get some in time, a fine temporary alternative is honey or Karo syrup in the interim. Adding Pedialyte to your dog’s water (one teaspoon of Pedialyte per pint of water) is also a good idea to prevent dehydration, which can worsen the symptoms of Hypoglycemia.

Should your puppy show the symptoms listed above or less common symptoms like weakness, foaming around the mouth, dry tacky gums, staggering gait, fatigue, tremors or muscular weakness, start the following at-home treatment right away: If puppy is awake and able to swallow, administer the Nutri-Cal. Once your puppy seems more alert, provide a small amount of water. Continue to administer Nutri-Cal and water every 30 minutes until your puppy becomes more alert and starts to move about. If there is no response within 30 minutes, bring your pup to an emergency vet clinic.

Lastly, to maintain a calm household and keep stress levels low, take appropriate precautions such as limiting your puppy’s playtime to controlled intervals, having a minimal amount of people in the home, not leaving the puppy alone and keeping your puppy crated or gated within a small space until they get used to their larger surroundings and/or are house-trained.

Introducing Your Dog to a New Baby

Bringing home a new member of the family is a special occasion filled with joy and new beginnings. But with the start of something new, it’s difficult to know just how some will react (particularly, your first furry baby). Of course, a newborn baby requires a great deal of attention, which inevitably means time taken away from the family dog. That said, there are ways to ensure the transition goes as smoothly as possible for all involved.

Preparation Pre-Due Date
Make your dog more comfortable with a new addition to the family by teaching your dog the proper obedience a few months ahead of time, before the stork arrives. Start introducing your dog to new sights, sounds, smells and experiences. Especially if your dog has never been around children, you should socialize him to behave comfortably around young ones who might have less awareness of personal space than their older human counterparts. Take your dog places like a dog park or to a family member’s house with children and allow him to observe kids from a distance before slowly making safe contact with them. Also allow him to sniff out the baby’s stroller, crib and related products which will soon become a daily part of the family’s new life. A month or two before the baby arrives, start implementing any changes in schedule that are anticipated for when the baby comes. If you know you won’t have as much time to play with your pup, make playtime short but meaningful, and eventually your dog will get into a new groove. By the time Baby comes home, your dog will already feel some sense of familiarity.

Coming Home
While Mama recovers in the hospital, have a loved one bring home one of the baby’s blankets for the dog to smell. It’s better that he gets used to the baby’s scent now than for him to have sensory overload when the baby arrives. When arriving home from the hospital, let someone else hold the baby as Mom receives a warm welcome and excited kisses from the pup who missed her. Your dog can sense any emotions you have, so whether you’re feeling stressed or excited, make sure you put on a calm face when it comes time to finally having your dog and baby meet face-to-snout. Keep your dog leashed, use cues such as “back up” (a command ideally taught before the baby’s due date), and reward your dog with treats and praise for his good behavior so that he only associates the baby with good feelings.

Daily Life as a New Family
thumbnail-introducing-new-babyThough it might seem like a good idea to switch your time between baby and puppy, it’s actually much more beneficial to shower your dog with attention, praise and treats while the baby is around. That way, your dog will learn to love the baby as much as you do—albeit for different reasons. While balancing your attention between two needy “children” requires a great deal of multitasking and patience, even small gestures like happily talking to your dog while the baby is in your lap can make a big difference in keeping your dog happy and content with having the baby around. As your child grows to be more hands-on, your dog may receive some unwanted pulling and tugging. To prepare your dog, give him small, friendly tugs or pinches, then reward him with a treat. He will gradually learn to tolerate unwarranted touching from your baby. One very important tip to keep in mind throughout your dog’s acclimation process is that you should not punish your dog for aggressive behavior such as growling or barking in front of the baby. The outcome will be a dislike of situations in which the baby is involved, and he may even strike without any warning signs next time. Instead, you should implement continuous training to reward situations which involve your dog and baby together. Seek professional guidance if your dog’s behavior appears to pose a threat to your child’s safety.

Welcoming a new child into the family is a big change on many levels, but it doesn’t have to be a scary one with your pooch involved. Through small preparations and repeated positive reinforcement, your dog will learn to cherish the new addition to your family.

Spotlight on Police Dogs

You’ve seen them on TV, in the movies and even in your own neighborhood. They’re cute and cuddly, but have a bite as big as their bark. They’re police dogs, and they’re here to fight crime and save the day!

thumbnail-copsPolice use canines, called appropriately “K9s” in English-speaking countries, to provide police departments certain skills humans lack. For example, an average dog’s sense of smell is almost 50 times more sensitive than a human’s. Also, the brute appearance of police dogs is intimidating enough to prevent confrontation from a criminal (HowStuffWorks). Not to mention, police dogs are also much faster and stronger than most humans, and can provide the force necessary to take down an escaping suspect. Together, a police dog and his carefully-chosen handler make up what’s called a “K9 unit.”

The two most common breeds utilized by police are the German Shepherd and the Belgian Malinois. Most of us recognize the German for its impressive size and no-nonsense demeanor, but the Malinois might sound less familiar. The Malinois is a slimmer version of the German Shepherd and hails from the Netherlands. Much like the German, it is prized for its speed, agility and intelligence. Labrador Retrievers tend to be used for responsibilities that require a high level of attention and focus, such as sniffing out explosives that can detonate from sudden movement, while German Shepherds handle more aggressive tasks. Most police dogs are males left intact (unneutered) to preserve their natural aggressive instinct.

The first police dogs were actually Bloodhounds, not German Shepherds. With their keen sense of smell, Bloodhounds were used by police in Europe as early as the 18th Century to track criminals on the loose and missing persons. After WWI, countries like Germany and Belgium started using dogs for specific purposes, such as guard dog duty. Police dogs didn’t join American law enforcement until the 70’s, but over the past few years, the US has made notable advancements in their K9 training.

Before being trained for specific duties, all police dogs must be experts at basic obedience training. This means that the dog obeys his handler’s commands without hesitation, which is crucial in a high-risk, emergency situation. Training a police dog to do specific tasks is an intensive process, but includes continual rewarding of the dog. For example, the dogs are trained to sniff out drugs by teaching them to associate drugs with a fun game of tug-of-war. After the K9 unit plays a game of tug-of-war with a scent-free towel, they will then play using a towel encasing a drug such as marijuana so that the dog recognizes the smell of marijuana as the smell of his favorite pastime. It’s a highly effective process with results that translate into real life situations.

In our nation’s current climate of tense police-to-citizen relations, using K9 forces can help reduce police departments’ liability. K9s often prevent the injuries and struggle that arise from a suspect resisting an officer’s commands, which in turn prevents lawsuits against the department. If a K9 unit ever does encounter a lawsuit, the court will often judge in favor of the police because a dog’s training provides strong evidence that he acted appropriately in any situation.

At the end of a long and tiring work day, a police dog will go home to his owner, who is often also the handler, to enjoy the company of his family. It just goes to show how versatile dogs are to fulfill different roles in our lives; hardworking crime fighters by day, loyal family companions by night.

When Your Dog Has Cancer

Hearing your loved one has cancer can be devastating, whether it’s a family member or your furry friend. Yet in both pets and humans, cancer is a reality that cannot be ignored. In honor of Pet Cancer Awareness Month, we’ve put together a guide for understanding, detecting and treating cancer in dogs.

Types of Canine Cancer
According to WebMD, cancer is the leading cause of death in dogs over the age of 10, but experts say that half of all cancers are curable if caught early. Dogs can develop a variety of cancers including mast cell tumors, a form of skin cancer; malignant lymphoma, tumors in the lymph nodes; breast cancer, which occurs as mammary gland tumors; and soft tissue sarcomas. Other common types of cancer in dogs are Hemangiosarcoma or cancer of the blood vessels; Malignant Histiocytosis, which is cancer of the white blood cells; Melanoma; Osteosarcoma or bone cancer; and prostate cancer.

You may be relieved to know that while it may seem that cancer is an extremely common diagnosis in dogs, the main reason we are hearing about it so much these days is that dog owners are taking better care of their pooches to the point that dogs are living long enough to develop the disease. Cancer in any species is multifactorial, meaning that there is not a single cause one can pinpoint for why it develops, but the reasons are thought to be both hereditary and environmental. For the hereditary case, there are some breeds of dog more prone to cancer than others. You should be especially on the lookout for cancer if your dog is one of the following:

Among the possible environmental causes of canine cancer are intact sex organs, exposure to tobacco smoke and toxic environments.

Signs and Symptoms
Just like in humans, one of the most typical signs of cancer in dogs is an abnormal lump or bump. Other classic signs are a wound that doesn’t heal, any kind of swelling, enlarged lymph nodes or abnormal bleeding. These are signs that should be addressed immediately by taking your dog to a veterinarian. Especially if your dog is over the age of 10, there are other, subtler signs that should not be ignored, which include unusual odors, unusual weight loss, loss of appetite, respiratory problems, lack of energy or bone stiffness.

Treatment and Prevention
With early detection, cancer in dogs is very preventable. You can also lower your dog’s risk of breast or prostate cancer by spaying or neutering. In addition, healthy diet and exercise are always recommended to give your dog a long, happy life. However, if the cancer spreads quickly before it is detected, there are methods of treatment which still give your dog a chance at survival. Surgery, radiation and chemotherapy are among the common options. However, these can be costly and may require a specialized payment plan with your vet.

If your dog develops cancer, as distressing as the news it, it shouldn’t be a cause of complete hopelessness. A dog with just a small lump that needs to be removed has a very good long-term prognosis, and even cases of malignant cancer have at least a 60 percent success range, according to WebMD. Recovery should take months rather than years. While nobody wants to imagine their dog having cancer, awareness and early intervention of the disease can ultimately give your furry friend a long, healthy and happy life.