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Do We Love Our Dogs More than People

Americans have fallen in love with their dogs. We have dog walkers, dog groomers, dog parks and dog-friendly hotels. We buy organic dog food, put our pets on puppy Prozac and dress them up in costumes for Halloween. In the last 15 years, the amount of money spent on pets in the U.S. jumped from $17 billion to $43 billion. The role of dogs has changed, and journalist Michael Schaffer decided to find out why. Schaffer talks to TIME about his new book, One Nation Under Dog, and what he has discovered about our sudden need to treat our pets like children. (See pictures of a real-life hotel for dogs.)
How did you get interested in the topic?
Well, I got a dog. When my wife and I adopted him we vowed never to dress him in outfits or treat him like our child. But our dog turned out to have separation anxiety. He had come from a shelter and was very nervous and when we left the house. He'd bark all the time and our neighbors hated it. So we went to the vet and he said, "Oh yeah, he has separation anxiety. There's a pill for that." My family thought this was the most incredible thing. Some of them have dogs and they looked at us as if we were these ridiculous, overindulgent spendthrifts. To me this said something. Sometime between when they had pets and now the definition of "normal" had changed pretty rapidly. When normal changes that fast it means something interesting is going on.
What do you think that our attachments to our pets say about our society?I was continually amazed by how you can find so many controversies, obsessions and trends of our society that played out in the world of pets. For example, pet food has changed in a lot of the same ways that human food has changed — towards healthy, organic stuff — and pet-training has become as common as sending your kid to driver's ed. There are these huge philosophical battles over whether dog-training should be done in an authoritarian way or a soft rewarding-good-behavior sort of way that mirrors the culture wars in politics. (See pictures of Presidential First Dogs.)
You write in your book that a larger number of single people and childless couples have pets than ever before. Why is that?
In the last 30 to 40 years, two-career couples have become the norm. People are marrying later and divorcing more frequently. They work longer hours than they ever had before and they have longer commutes. The number of pets started to boom right around the same time that these trends began to take off. This suggests that people are leaning on pets to fill the gap in social support mechanisms that earlier might have come from their families or tight-knit neighborhoods. This is why single people or childless couples might want to get a pet. There's just a lot more of those folks right now and they have the wherewithal financially to do so. In turn they've sort of spurred a whole industry of dog walkers and pet sitters because if you don't have a homemaker who is home with the dog all day, you need help caring for your dog. (See more at
Have our lifestyles changed our dogs' lifestyles?The fact that our time away from home over the last generation has increased so much definitely changes things. There has been this incredible creativity in designing chew toys for dogs. They have these elaborate toys with hidden treats inside of them, and the dog has to figure out how to reach them. It's like a Baby Einstein toy but for a dog. The goal is not just to get the dog to chew on something, but to occupy its physical and mental energy during your very long absence.
What was the most surprising aspect of the pet industry that you discovered? I went to a pet-loss bereavement group. It was conducted by a full-time employed veterinary social worker who worked in a veterinary hospital. First of all, I was amazed that profession even existed, and then I found out that she went to a conference with fellow veterinary social workers, so there must be a lot of them out there. I sat in on a meeting and I have to admit that I had my moments of thinking, "Oh boy, these people really need to get a life." But for the most part, the meetings were very moving. These people were devastated. As a magazine and newspaper reporter I covered wars and murders, and yet still I was pretty affected by the grief that the people in that room felt, the attachments they had to their animals and the sense of loss that they endured.
You talked a bit about commercial dog-breeding and puppy mills. If you walk into a pet store, what is the chance that you're going to encounter dogs from a puppy mill?
Very high. Reputable breeders wont sell to pet stores. The thing to remember is that puppy mills aren't illegal. The term refers to mass breeding facilities and that is perfectly legal. Mass breeders typically sell to pet stores.
Have people stopped pampering their pets now that we're in a recession?There are two things going on right now. First, when it comes to decisions about money and pets, the number of people who don't have a choice increases. People's houses get foreclosed and they have to rent somewhere and the landlord doesn't take pets — well, they don't have a choice anymore. Similarly, at vet hospitals when the vet says, "Listen we can do this procedure that might save your animal but it will cost $8,000." More people are saying, "Well I don't have $8,000." But for people who do still have a choice, you're seeing a willingness to scrimp and save for themselves before they demote their animals. Over the last generation a lot of people have promoted their pets to the status of honorary child —they call them "Fur babies."
Is it just me or is everyone giving their dog a human name?There's a list of the most common names among policy-holders for pet insurance and the most popular dog names are Jake and Chloe and Bella — they're very similar to the names in my daughter's preschool. They're not the kind of names you'd find in dog cartoons. There are no Spots or Fidos. I think that speaks to what's going on and how we view pets as a part of the family. If you look at older descriptions of dogs on headstones at pet cemeteries, they say things like, "Here lies Fido, a loyal servant." By the mid-20th century it's, "Here lies Fido, my best friend." And nowadays you can go to online tributes to deceased pets and people write things like "Here is Jake, my baby."
Does this over-pampering apply to other pets as well?Most of the creativity has mostly been towards dogs because they have more variables. Going out in public is a big thing; people with cats don't really do that. So that's why there is a lot more action in the dog-accessories market, but I think it applies across the spectrum. I don't know that any of this speaks badly of us. What we now consider normal — all-natural pet food, expensive veterinary procedures — was just a little while ago considered as excessive and silly as dressing your dog up in a little tuxedo. The first professional journal for feline medicine was only established in the late 1960s. Before that if you went to vet school they didn't teach you about cats, really. Now 40 years later we're doing feline kidney transplants. So the measure of what is ridiculous is a very moving target. And it tends to be moving in one direction, which is up.

Can Dogs Love

IF YOU WANT TO CAUSE A COMMOTION IN ANY PSYCHOLOGY department or any other place where animal and human behaviour is studied, all that you have to do is to claim that your dog loves you. Skeptics, critics, and even some ardent supporters will pour out into the halls to argue the pros and cons of that statement.
Among the skeptics you will find the veterinarian Fred Metzger, of Pennsylvania State University, who claims that dogs probably don't feel love in the typical way humans do. Dogs make investments in human beings because it works for them. They have something to gain from putting so-called emotions out there. Metzger believes that dogs "love" us only as long as we continue to reward their behaviours with treats and attention.
For most dog owners, however, there is little doubt that dogs can truly love people. Take the story of Rocky and Rita from the Finger Lakes region of New York State, near Rochester.

Rocky was a solid 65-pound Boxer, classically colored with a chestnut brown coat and a white blaze on his chest. At the time of this story, Rocky was three years old and Rita was his eleven-year-old companion. Rocky had been given to Rita when he was ten weeks old, and she immediately bonded with him, petting him, handfeeding him, teaching him basic commands, and letting him sleep on her bed. Whenever she was not in school, the two were always together and within touching distance. The family would often fondly refer to the pair as "R and R."
Rita was a relatively timid and shy girl, and as the dog grew in stature he brought her a sense of security. When Rocky was next to her she felt confident enough to meet new people and to go to unfamiliar places. Rocky took on the roles, not only of friend and confidant, but also of defender.
When encountering strangers, he would often deliberately stand in front of Rita, as a sort of protective barrier. He seemed to be without fear, such as once when Rita was about to enter a store and two large men dressed in biker outfits burst out of the door, yelling at the shopkeeper and nearly knocking Rita over. Rocky rushed forward, putting himself between the frightened girl and the two threatening men. He braced himself and gave a low rumbling growl that carried such menace that the men backed off and gave the child and her guardian a wide berth.
There was, however, one flaw in Rocky's armour. It was a fear of water that was so extreme that it was almost pathological. Boxers are not strong swimmers in any event, and are often shy of the water. However, Rocky's fears stemmed from his puppyhood, when, at the age of seven weeks, he was sold to a family with an adolescent child. The boy had emotional problems and acted as if the attention bestowed on the new puppy somehow meant that he was less important. In a jealous rage, he put the puppy in a pillow case, knotted the top and threw it into a lake. Fortunately, the boy's father saw the incident and managed to retrieve the terrified puppy before it drowned. He scolded the boy and returned to the house. The next day the horrified parent saw his son standing waist-deep in the lake trying to drown the struggling puppy by holding him under water. This time Rocky was rescued and returned to the breeder for his own safety.
These early traumas made water the only thing that Rocky truly feared. When he came close to a body of water, he would try to pull back and seemed emotionally distressed. When Rita would go swimming in the lake, he would pace along the shore trembling and whimpering. He would watch her intently and would not relax until she returned to dry land.
One late afternoon, Rita's mother took R and R to an upscale shopping area. It was located along the edge of a lake and featured a short wooden boardwalk which was built along the shore over a sharp embankment that was 20 or 30 feet above the surface of the water. Rita was clomping along the boardwalk, enjoying the way the sounds of her footsteps were amplified by the wooden structure. It was then that a boy on a bicycle skidded on the damp wooden surface, hitting Rita at an angle which propelled her through an open section of the guard rail. She let out a shriek of pain and fear as she hurled outward and down, hitting the water face down, and then floating there unmoving.
Rita's mother was at the entrance of a store a hundred feet or so away. She rushed to the railing shouting for help. Rocky was already there, looking at the water, trembling in fear, and making sounds that seemed to be a combination of barks,whimpers, and yelps all rolled into one.
We can never know what went through that dog's mind as he stood looking at the water-the one thing that truly terrified him and that had nearly taken his life twice. Now here was a frightening body of water that seemed about to harm his little mistress. Whatever he was thinking, his love for Rita seemed to overpower his fear and he leapt out through the same open space in the rail and plunged into the water.
One can thank the genetic programming that allowed the dog to swim without any prior practice, and he immediately went to Rita and grabbed her by a shoulder strap on her dress. This caused her to roll over so that her face was out of the water and she gagged and coughed. Despite her dazed state she reached out and managed to cinch her hand in Rocky's collar, while the dog struggled to swim toward the shore. Fortunately the water was calm, they were not far from shore, and Rocky quickly reached a depth where his feet were on solid ground. He dragged Rita until her head was completely out of the water, and then stood beside her, licking her face, while he continued to tremble and whine. It would be several minutes before human rescuers would make it down the steep rocky embankment, and had it not been for Rocky, they surely would have arrived too late.
Rita and her family believe that it was only the big dog's love of the little girl that caused him to take what he must have considered a life-threatening action. This certainly casts doubt on Dr. Metzger's theory that dogs don't love us but act only out of self-interest. Why should Rocky behave in a way that he certainly felt would risk his life? Surely, if he was evaluating the costs and benefits of his actions then he would have known that, even in Rita's absence, the rest of the family would be around to feed him and take care of needs.
Marc Bekoff, a behavioural biologist at the University of Colorado, has a different interpretation. He notes that dogs are social animals. All social animals need emotions, in part as a means of communication-for instance you need to know to back off if another animal is growling. More importantly, however, emotions keep the social group together and motivate individuals to protect and support each other. Bekoff concludes that strong emotion is one of the foundations of social behaviour and is the basis of the connection between individuals in any social group, whether it is a pack, a family or just a couple in love.
Recent research has even identified some of the chemicals associated with feelings of love in humans. These include hormones such as oxytocin, which seems to help people form emotional bonds with each other. One of the triggers that causes oxytocin to be released is gentle physical touching, such as stroking. Dogs also produce oxytocin, and one of our common ways of interacting with dogs is to gently pet them, an action that probably releases this hormone associated with bonding. If dogs as social animals have an evolutionary need for close emotional ties, and they have the chemical mechanisms associated with loving, it makes sense to assume that they are capable of love, as we are.
Rocky's fear of the water was absolute, and never did abate. He continued to avoid it for the rest of his life and no one ever saw him so much as place a foot in the lake again. No one, at least not Rita or her family, ever doubted his love for her. He lived long enough to see an event occur which would not have happened had he not cared for her as much as he did. When Rita graduated from high school, she posed for a photo in her cap and gown. Beside her sat a now much older Boxer. The smiling girl had an arm around the dog, and her hand was cinched in his collar, as it was the day that Rocky unambiguously showed her just how much he loved her. ■

Do Dogs Love People More Than They Love Other Dogs?

Our domestic dogs are not wolves, and some interesting evidence about the difference between dogs and wolves comes from the way that they form attachments with other living beings. It may well be the case that we have selectively bred dogs to love humans more than they love animals of their own species. I use the word "love" even though psychologists and behavioral biologists tend to shy away from the word, and prefer terms like "attachment" or "bonding". Many scientists have the feeling that the word "love" is reserved for poets and songwriters, rather than hard-nosed researchers. Furthermore, a number of researchers who accept love as a valid feeling to reference to humans, still have doubts as to whether dogs can actually experience that same emotion.

As is often the case, we are often led to wrong conclusions about the nature of dog behavior based upon observations of captive wolves. Over the past half century it has become common place to assume that since dogs were likely domesticated from wolves that we get a clearer and undistorted look at the natural behavioral predispositions of dogs by looking at what wolves do. Thus it is well known that wolves that are isolated from other members of their pack become anxious. If they are in unfamiliar settings they seem to draw comfort from having members of their pack around them. Furthermore, wolves seldom form close attachments to their human captors. From this people have assumed that dogs naturally bond with other canines, and their attachment to people is secondary.

I recently rediscovered a research report that had been published in the Journal of Comparative Psychology by a research team headed by Michael Hennessey of Wright State University, along with some scientists from Ohio State University (David Tuber, Suzanne Sanders and Julia Miller). This study shows just how domesticated our pet dogs have become and how their orientation seems to have shifted more towards humans than to other dogs.

The animals involved in this research were eight mixed breed dogs who were 7 to 9 years of age. They had been living as littermate pairs in kennels since they were eight weeks old. All these dogs had been fully socialized when they were young and were quite comfortable around people. They were being looked after by one caretaker who, at least as far as the dogs were concerned, was their owner. The important factor for us is that when the experiment began these kennel mates had not been separated from each other (even for a few minutes) over the previous two years, and had seldom been apart during their entire lifetimes.

To test their attachment to each other, one member of each pair was removed from the kennel for four hours and the remaining animal was observed. If you take a puppy away from its litter mates it will usually whimper and act distressed until it is reunited with its litter mates, however these adult dogs, when left alone in their kennel, did not show any evidence of anxiety. They rarely barked or paced, and the level of thestress hormone, cortisol, in their blood didn't change as a result of their separation from their kennel mate. This was true as long as the remaining dog was left in its familiar pen.

The situation was quite different when the dogs were placed alone in an unfamiliar kennel. Now they clearly showed signs of unease and apprehension. They became agitated and their stress hormone level went up by more than 50 percent. The most important finding is that this increase in anxiety happened whether the dog was alone or if it had been moved to the unfamiliar place in the company of its kennel mate. In this unfamiliar place the dogs did not interact very much, and did not seem to draw comfort from the presence of their usual partner as shown by the level of stress hormone in their blood.

The situation was quite different, however, when their human caretaker sat quietly with each dog in this new and strange situation. Under these circumstances the dog would stay close to the human and would try to get him to interact and make contact. In response to this comfort-seeking behavior, the caretaker would briefly stroke the dog. This interaction with a human seemed to be enough to reduce the dogs level of anxiety almost completely. This was verified by the fact that the stress hormone level remained very close to normal in the presence of the person.

The conclusion that one can draw from this is that these dogs were behaving as if they had a stronger bond with their human caretaker then with their brother or sister, despite the fact that they been in the company of that dog for all of their lives. This was true even though these dogs have not led the same kind of living experience as a pet dog has, and therefore have not had continued intimate contact that pet dogs have with their human owners.

If we are to draw any comparison between dogs and wolves based on this research, it would be to note that dogs, like wolves, do have territories, at least in the sense that they feel most comfortable when they are in familiar places. We know that in the wild, wolves can move to new places without any rise in their stress levels, as long as they are in the company of members of their pack. The same is true of dogs, however it appears that the most significant pack member is likely to be a human (usually the dog's owner) and not another individual of its own species. For most dogs their owner has been a constant feature in their lives since they were puppies. It appears that we not only bred dogs to accept dogs and humans as relevant social partners, but to view humans as being more significant socially than other canines.

This has important implications for when dogs are being re-homed. Shelters often feel that dogs who have lived together in pairs must only be adopted out to a new home which is willing to take both dogs. If we extrapolate from the present research this seems like an unnecessary practice, as long as the home to which each dog is going has an individual human that the dog can bond with. Fortunately research has shown that dogs can quickly bond with a new human being based upon only a few minutes of friendly attention over a couple of days.

Dogs are not wolves. We now have data that suggests that we have selectively bred the domestic dog so that it is strongly biased to love humans (or at least one human) more strongly than it loves other dogs.


Tips for a Female Dog in Heat

 Personality-wise there is really nothing different from a female dog and a male dog. You've got your dominant and aggressive female dogs just like you do males, and vice versa you've got your submissive and calm female dogs just like males. So when deciding if you want a male or female dog, your main concerns in terms of differences will typically be the dog's size, as females are generally smaller than males (not always but generally), and whether or not you want to get the female spayed.

Although, I personally think that unless you have the intent of breeding, you should get your dog spayed or neutered because it is overall healthier for the dog and you prevent unwanted pregnancies, but it is always up to you, the pet owner, as to what you want to do.

If you have decided upon a female dog, you'll probably want to brush up on some information about dogs coming into heat and what all a spay involves.


Commonly Asked Questions About a Female Dog's Heat Cycle

  • When will my female dog have her first heat cycle?Generally, a female dog will come into her first heat sometime between the age of 6 months and 24 months.A lot of the time when your female dog comes into her first heat will depend on the dog's breed. Typically, small dog breeds come into first heat sooner than larger dog breeds.
  • How long will my dog's heat last?Typically, heat will last an average of 18 to 24 days.
  • How often with my dog go into heat? Dogs typically go into heat once every 5-8 months, so about twice a year. Although, this will vary per dog. Smaller dogs can go into heat sooner than larger dogs.
  • What are the first signs of my dog going into heat?The first sign of your dog starting her heat cycle is a swollen vulva and bloody discharge from the vulva.And, for the first week or so, the female dog will attract the attention of male dogs but she usually won't allow them to mount her. After the first week or so, she will actively court male dogs and will allow them to mount her. At this stage, he vulva may become slightly smaller and she may not have as much discharge or have a clear discharge instead of bloody, but she'll still be in heat and can still become pregnant.
  • I thought my dog was over her heat, but she is having bloody discharge again and it's only been a few weeks? Typically, when your dog has her first heat, it will be a "split heat" in which she will develop a swollen vulva and have bloody discharge but she won't actually ovulate (release eggs) or let male dogs mount her. But about 2 to 6 weeks later you'll probably notice that she's in heat again; this is your dog's first real full heat cycle.
  • Will my elderly dog go into heat? Older female dogs do not go through menopause, but after 7 years, your dog's heat cycle will get further and further a part.
Dealing With a Female Dog in Heat

 First off, if your female dog is an indoor dog, you'll probably want to purchase a dog diaper, whether that be the dog diapers with the disposable liners or the washable dog diapers. Otherwise, you'll have blood spots all over your carpet, tiles, or wood floors. You can find the diap diapers in sizes from extra small to large, and sometimes extra large.

Next, you want to make sure that you keep your female away from male dogs, which means that if your female dog is an outdoor dog, you want to make sure that she is properly pinned and no dog can get in or out of your yard. I would actually recommend bringing the dog in the house or in an enclosed outdoor patio until her heat cycle is complete.

For indoor dogs, you want to make sure that all doors and windows are shut all the time and you keep any unneutered male dogs that you may have away from the female.

You can consider applying a little dab of menthol rub under the female's tail to disguise the heat just a little and to stop potential suitors. You can also use the menthol rub on your male dogs by putting a dab on the male's nose to make the female's scent.

Sometimes you can mask the smell by giving your female chlorophyll tablets. Just remember to ask your vet for the exact dosage before you give your dog any medicines.

Try to keep her as calm as you can, which means avoid overly strenuous play, but make sure that you still dote attention on her in a more calming manner such as brushes and massages.

And, of course consider spaying your female dog. Check out my hub Spaying Your Female Dog so that you know and understand when you should spay your dog, why you should spay your dog, the process of spaying your dog, and the risks of spaying your dog. Remember that by spaying your dog will reduce the risk of breast cancer in the future. You want to aim at before her first heat, but since you're reading this, I'm assuming your dog is already experiencing her heat cycle, so you want to shoot for after her first heat and before her second, otherwise the risks of breast cancer are the same as a dog who was never spayed at all.

If the dog is older than 2, you can still reduce severe health risks, as long as he dog is less than 5 years old. After 5, an unspayed dog has greatly increased odds of developing a uterine infection, which can be fatal if not caught early. The treatment is surgery to remove the uterus

the Heat Cycle of Female Dogs

Understanding a female's heat cycle can help you prepare for a breeding or prevent an unwanted litter. Find out how the cycle works and how to spot when a female is coming into season.

The Heat Cycle


When a female comes into "heat" or "season," her body is preparing for breeding and the possibility of producing a litter. According to the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine, the cycle is broken into stages.
  • Proestrus - This stage typically lasts about nine days, and it's marked by an increase in a female's estrogen level. She won't be receptive to a male's advances just yet, but she will show many of the signs of heat listed below.
  • Estrus - During this stage which also lasts about nine days, estrogen levels drop while progesterone levels rise. The female will begin ovulating during this stage, which means a series of eggs will be released from her ovaries and become available for fertilization. She will now begin to be receptive to a male's attempts to breed her.
  • Diestrus - This stage lasts about two months. Progesterone levels are still elevated, but the female will no longer be receptive to a male's attempts to breed with her.
  • Anestrus - This is the resting stage that lasts until the female comes into heat again.
Age When Heat Commences
While it is not a hard rule, most females come into their first heat cycle around six months of age, although some females wait as long 12 to 18 months old. Very large breed females may begin cycling as late as 24 months old.

Frequency of Cycles
While many females will hold to a fairly steady schedule of coming into season about every six months, it can vary. Some girls will only come into heat once year, while others may even come into season every four months. However, these "extra" seasons are not always fertile. Once a female has her first season, you can track subsequent cycles to determine what her natural pattern will be.

Signs a Female Is in Heat
Common signs that you can expect to see when a female is in season include:
Mood change - Some females show a change in mood shortly before their season commences, and they may even act a bit touchy. Think of it as the doggie equivalent of PMS.
Swollen nipples - Sometimes, but not always, the nipples and breasts will swell slightly. This can also be a sign of a phantom pregnancy, when a female may begin to show signs of being pregnant even if she's not. So, watch if this happens, but it usually resolves itself in a few weeks after the cycle ends.
Sudden interest from males - Males are great early warning detectors and can smell the change in a female's hormones before she fully comes into heat.
Swollen vulva - The vulva can show some swelling, but it is quite variable, some girls hardly swell at all, while others swell up like a golf ball.
Tail flagging - When a female is ready to be bred, she'll usually stand quite still while the male investigates her vulva. She'll hold her own tail up and wag it side to side to make sure he catches the scent.
Blood discharge - This is usually the surest indicator the heat cycle has begun, with a pinkish red-colored discharge the first week that usually turns to a tannish color during the fertile period, and then changes back to a reddish color before gradually stopping altogether. Some females keep themselves extremely clean, and it may be difficult to tell if they are in season at all.

Caring for Your Female While She's in Heat
Caring for your female while she's in heat is relatively simple.
Keep a close eye on her. This is mainly to protect her from an unwanted breeding because males can detect the scent of a female in heat from some distance away, and they'll travel from blocks away to find her.
Be extra patient and gentle with her. She may feel a little under the weather during the proestrus stage.
Avoid bathing her until she completely stops discharging. That way you can figure her cervix is closed again, and she'll be less likely to develop a vaginal/uterine infection from the bath water.
If you've determined your female's regular heat cycle pattern and you intend to breed her, have her checked for brucellosis prior to her next heat cycle, and request that the stud dog owner has the male checked as well. Brucellosis is a bacterial infection that is sexually transmitted between males and females, and it can cause infertility in both sexes.
Always Good to Know

You may never breed your female, but it's still a good idea to have a basic understanding of heat cycles so you know what she's going through. If you want to eliminate all possibility that she'll ever have a litter, you can ask your veterinarian to spay her for you. That way you'll never have to deal with her heat cycle again.

Choosing a Male or a Female Dog

Choosing a Male or a Female Dog: What is the Difference? 
You may have felt that choosing a breed was the biggest decision you had to make before getting a dog. But now that you have made that choice, you are now faced with a more basic decision: do you want a male dog, or a female?

There is an old saying that has circulated for a long time among dog aficionados: “If you want a good dog, get a male. If you want a great dog, get a female and cross your fingers.” One thing that must be taken into account when evaluating a saying like this or the differences that may or may not exist between male and female dogs, is the role played by cultural stereotypes. If men or women have certain concepts about each other, they may have a tendency to project them onto animals in a way that is not entirely appropriate. Of course, those stereotypes may not be appropriate when applied to the opposite sex in humans, either. But anyway, this tendency does have to be taken into account whenever you are evaluating statements that supposedly delineate the differences between male and female dogs.

One further caveat needs to be given, and that is that when we speak of the differences that may really exist between male and female dogs, it must be understood that these are generalities. While a male or female dog may be more likely to possess a certain characteristic or behavioral trait, this does not mean these generalities apply in every case. There is one thing that all dog breeders and trainers agree on, and that is that the personality differences between individual dogs are definitely greater than that which may exist between the sexes.

With all of that out of the way, let’s look at some differences that appear to exist, generally speaking, between male and female dogs.


Male dogs tend to be more demanding of attention, affectionate, frisk, and focused on human beings than female dogs, who generally are more independent and inconsistent in their focus on their human companions. Females can be every bit as loving but after awhile they may prefer to go off on their own, whereas males are likely to accept as much pampering and attention as their human companions are willing to give them.

For people who like cats, female dogs might make the better choice, since their personality traits can almost be described as cat-like, especially in comparison to male dogs. One thing that most dog trainers and other experienced parties agree on is that if you already have one dog, your next one should ideally be of the opposite sex, since dogs of the same sex are more likely to fight. This is especially true of females, however, because of the strength of their territorial instincts, so while it may be possible to bring two male dogs together it is much more difficult to have two females sharing the same space. Even though this female-female hostility has its roots in the reproductive instincts, even if you choose to have your female dogs spayed it will still be difficult for more than one to co-exist in the same household.


It is widely believed that female dogs are easier to train because they are less easily distracted. Male dogs have a tendency to remain like goofy, playful kids their whole lives, and it can be hard to get them to focus on one thing for long.

It must be noted, however, that in the competitive world of dog shows and related events, when it comes time to hand out prizes and titles it is male dogs that have traditionally dominated. It is possible that male dogs may be more eager to please human beings and perhaps at the highest levels this helps them overcome the tendency to be more easily distracted. It is also possible that training female dogs for competition is too challenging for many because they are untrainable during the times when they are in heat. Also, male champions are more profitable for serious competitors because they can be bred out continuously, whereas female dogs can usually only have puppies once a year. Perhaps things would be quite different if spaying and neutering were the norm for competitive dogs, but of course this is not the case.

Good with Children?

Almost any dog can be a loving companion for a child. Nevertheless, some believe female dogs make a better choice for children because they may be more naturally nurturing and protective of young ones, even if they are from another species. Male dogs, on the other hand, may see children only as playmates and they may tend to get a little bit too frisky at times as a result.

Costs for Alteration

Here is one area where there is no generalization – it costs more to have a female spayed than it does to have a male neutered. If you are living on a budget, as most people are, this may not be an unimportant consideration.

However, where you have your dog spayed or neutered can make a difference in the cost. If you have it done at the local Humane Society, for example, in conjunction with an adoption, it could be possible to have a female spayed for less than it would cost to have a male neutered at a private clinic. Because spaying is a much more complicated procedure than neutering, there is more chance that something will go wrong, and even if it doesn’t the recovery time after the operation is longer.

The Final Decision

Unless you really want puppies born in your own home, there really is not that much difference between a male and a female dog. If you want a championship caliber dog that you can take to shows, history suggests a male dog might be the better choice, while the female might be better if you don’t want a dog that is slobbering over you every single second. And of course, if you already have a dog you should probably look for a second dog of the opposite sex. But truthfully, the choice should be based on the sense of connection you feel with an individual dog more than anything else.

Stud Dog Management

Almost every dog breeding program in the world keeps at least one male dog in residence for breeding purposes. Some will be popular stud dogs, some not. If a dog is offered at public stud the owner must be prepared to deal with stud dog management, keeping in-season bitches and the intricacies of successful matings. The days of putting a dog with a bitch and letting them do their own thing are long past. The practice isn’t safe, usually isn’t effective and is certainly not the correct way to handle a breeding. 

Teaching a Puppy to be a Stud Dog 

Although this may sound frivolous, you really do need to “teach” a male how to be a stud dog. Start when they are about 12-16 weeks by letting the baby run with older intact bitches. The bitches will almost always put the baby in his place. The baby needs to learn to take social signals from the bitch. When it comes time for breeding, the bitch will usually signal her readiness. If she is not ready, she may become aggressive and possibly hurt the male if he continues to try to force himself on her. By running them together when the male is young, he will be taught by the bitches what is acceptable behavior, and what is not. Second of all, NEVER correct a young male for mounting a bitch. Either separate the two, or allow the bitch to correct the boy herself. Given the opportunity a bitch will almost always take care of herself. If she has been corrected for being aggressive (such as when she is on lead), encourage her to take action, but do not yell at the boy. 

First Time Breedings 

The age of first breeding for males varies from owner to owner. Males are usually physically capable of producing puppies by 8-9 months. Many owners like to wait until the male is older, more mature, and has had all his health screenings. A younger male can sometimes present a challenge to breed because their ridiculous enthusiasm combined with a lack of concentration can make a natural breeding almost impossible. The bitches also tend to lose patience with an over-eager male who doesn’t know what he is doing. In these cases, an artificial breeding might be needed to get the job done and keep the young male safe. If you intend to have your male perform natural breedings, you will have to spend time with him in the beginning helping him perform. If natural breedings aren’t important, or you wish to do only artificial breedings for health or safety reasons, you also need to work with the male to teach him how to be collected. First time breedings are best with experienced bitches. Try to avoid maiden bitches (although sometimes this just isn’t possible), aggressive bitches or bitches who have had past reproductive problems. If you are going to attempt a natural breeding, make sure the bitch has stood for a natural breeding before, or is at least even-tempered enough to allow misbehavior from an inexperienced stud dog. If this will be an artificial breeding, make sure the bitch is properly restrained and is no danger to the stud dog.

 Care of the Bitch 

One of the most challenging parts of keeping a stud dog is having to take responsibility for someone else’s bitch – keeping them safe, healthy, happy, and ultimately sending them home pregnant. Most of these bitches will be kept in conditions different from yours, which can cause stress and make a successful breeding more difficult. The key is to make the bitch feel at home, providing her with a happy and relaxed atmosphere and keeping stress to a minimum. Try to move her to your house as early in her season as possible. 

Questions for the bitch owner
  • How is the bitch kept at your house? Crated, housedog, kenneled, or a combination.
  • How many times a day does she eat and what does she eat?
  • How many times a day is she exercised? Is she walked on leash?
  • Is she used to children? Other dogs? Other household animals? Common household noises?
  • How often does she come in season?
  • How many times has she been bred?
  • How many litters has she produced?
  • Was she bred naturally or artificially?
  • Has she ever been ovulation timed? Is so, please provide details.
 After the bitch owner has answered all your questions, you have to determine the best way to make the bitch at home in your situation. If she is a housedog, you might have to change your living arrangements to bring her into the house, at least for a portion of the day. If she is crated, provide a crate for her that is safe and comfortable. If she is kenneled and you don’t have a kennel, ask the bitch owner what they think is a reasonable alternative for her at your house. Most importantly, make sure the bitch is securely segregated from ALL intact males until you are ready to do the breeding.
When to Breed
Some experienced stud dogs will tell you when a bitch is ready. He will only mount her when he believes she is ready and he will pay close attention to her signals. The majority of the time you aren’t going to be anywhere near that lucky! If the stud dog or bitch are inexperienced, YOU are going to have to determine when is the proper time for breeding.
Introduce the dog and bitch a few times before the breeding is to take place. Allow the two to interact – flirt, chase and mock-breed (if the bitch allows it). Watch the bitch’s behavior, and if you need to, make notes about how she is acting with the dog. In the beginning she will play-bow and allow him to sniff her behind. She may progress to allowing him to mount her, and eventually (hopefully) she will stand and flag. Also watch your dog’s behavior. In the beginning he will chase and court her by standing on tip-toes and placing his head over her shoulders. (The males are wicked-cute when they are courting a bitch!) Soon he will want to mount her -- first in play, and then more seriously as she stands and allows him. Watch for signs of aggression from either of them. Sometimes the bitch will get cranking right before she becomes fully ready. Occasionally the dog will try to bully a bitch into submission before she is ready to stand. Separate the two and try again later.
If you want to be more precise, you may use diagnostic testing to determine the bitch’s readiness to breed. Progesterone testing, LH surge testing and/or vaginal smears may be helpful. If you use these tests, put the dogs together when it is determined to be the best time for the bitch. If a natural breeding isn’t possible, make sure you know the window of time for optimal breeding and get an artificial breeding done.
Semen can live in the bitch between 3-5 days, or longer. Breedings are usually performed every other day until the bitch is no longer receptive, or it is determined by testing that she is no longer fertile. It takes between 48-72 hours for a dog’s body to produce more viable semen, so performing breedings more often than this is usually only for practice and does not help ensure conception.
Natural Breedings

A natural breeding performed at a time when both the bitch and dog are ready is your best chance of a successful conception. However, at least with most Cardigans, this doesn’t happen often.
When a bitch is standing and flagging, or when it is determined by testing that she is ready, introduce the dog and bitch in a controlled manner (small room, or on lead). Allow the two to flirt and play for a few minutes to get them comfortable with each other. Have one person restrain the bitch in a way that she is comfortable with. I often lay the bitch across my lap, and this seems to be a comfortable position and good height for both the dog and bitch. Encourage the dog to mount and breed the bitch. Pat her on the rear quarters and tell the dog he is a “good boy” when he mounts her.
If he doesn’t seem to be achieving penetration, try to adjust the bitch by lowering her rump, or raising her off the ground with telephone books or a stack of towels. If this doesn’t work, try to adjust her vulva from underneath and see if you can help the stud dog make contact. Again, if this doesn’t work, try manipulating the male to help him penetrate. This operation will take two people! Don’t try to do it yourself. The dog’s penis has a bone in it, and when you help the two dogs connect, it can often surprise and startle the bitch. It can harm the male to have a bitch flinch or jump at this time.
After the dog has penetrated the bitch, he will start long thrusts meant to help him achieve a tie. You might want to help him stay mounted on the bitch (believe it or not, they sometimes fall off) by holding his rump up against the bitch. Try not to distract him while you are helping him. After the tie has been achieved, the dog will stop thrusting and will either remain on top of the bitch or will turn around backwards so the two are butt-to-butt. Try to make the couple as comfortable as possible. Help the dog turn around, or lay them down in their current position. Ties can last upwards to an hour with twenty minutes being average. 

 Artificial Insemination Breedings
Artificial breedings are relatively easy and can be done at home. Most stud dogs are easy to collect, and after learning proper insemination techniques, it is comfortable for the bitch.
If a natural breeding cannot be achieved or isn’t desired, try to determine the best time to breed the bitch by the behavior indicators mentioned above or by ovulation timing. Get all your equipment together before putting the dogs together. I use a latex sheath with a test tube attached for the collection part of the breeding. Other acceptable equipment is a plastic baggie, Dixie cup or 60cc syringe cover.
Put the dog and bitch together and encourage the dog to mount the bitch and attempt to breed her. Have someone restrain the bitch. When the dog is ready a bulb will form at the base of his penis close to his body. Reach underneath and push his prepuce (sheath) back to expose his penis and hold him behind the bulb. Allow him to thrust like he would for a natural breeding. Place the semen receptacle at the bottom of his penis, or place the latex sheath over his entire penis. The ejaculation produces three fractions of fluid – the clear pre-seminal fluid, the semen, and the prostate, or post-seminal fluid. Production of semen occurs during the long thrusts towards the beginning of the collection. If using a clear receptacle you can see that the semen fraction of the ejaculation is milky-colored. It is only necessary to collect the first two fluid fractions, although it doesn’t hurt to allow the third fraction to be collected and inseminated. When the collection is complete, make sure the dog’s penis is totally retracted and that the prepuce isn’t rolled or pinched before putting the dog away.
The insemination of the bitch is best performed with a rigid plastic pipette or a flexible plastic tube. I prefer the pipette because it doesn’t bend back on itself when placed in the bitch. Use a syringe attached to the pipette or tube and draw the semen GENTLY into the syringe. Make sure you do not draw any air through the semen as this may damage the collection. After the collection is in the syringe, turn the syringe upright and draw another 5 cc’s of air into the syringe. The air helps move the semen further into the bitch when performing the insemination. You may want to lubricate the pipette or tube with a small amount of KY jelly or other non-spermicidal product.
The bitch’s vulva is lower than her vagina. For this reason you will want to straighten the path of the pipette or tube by placing a finger into the bitch’s vagina and pulling the vulva up and into line with the vagina. Run the pipette or tube along one side of your finger and as far into the bitch as you can go. Do not force the pipette or tube to go any further than it will as you can puncture the vagina. Raise the bitch’s rear end so it is above the level of her head and slowly push the ejaculate then air into her vagina. Slowly pull the pipette or tube out and lower the bitch back into a standing position. Place a lubricated finger into her vulva and gently stroke the top or side wall of the vagina until you feel her abdomen contract. This is called feathering and it helps move the semen up and towards her cervix and simulates a natural breeding. 90 percent of forward movement of the semen is caused by the bitch. Continue feathering for about 5-7 minutes. After an artificial breeding I like to place the bitch in a quiet place and not let her outside to urinate or exercise for at least two hours.
Important Note: Most veterinarians suggest elevating the bitch during the feathering stage of the insemination. For Cardigans I do not like to place the bitch in a position that will cause her spine to be vertical for any length of time. This is for her back health, and I have personally not seen any difference in the conception rate using the standing position.
Collection for Fresh-Chilled or Frozen Semen

The collection method for fresh-chilled or frozen semen is identical to a live artificial (with both dog and bitch present) with just a couple of exceptions. First of all, a bitch may not be present and the stud may not want to perform without her. Teaching a dog to perform without a bitch is difficult and some just won’t ever do it. Being able to secure a teaser bitch, or the use of an artificial pheromone is often helpful. As a last resort, the stud dog can be injected with a safe, short-acting hormone to achieve a collection.
Secondly, only the first and second fractions of the collection are used. And lastly, the dog may be asked to perform more than one collection in order to have enough semen to ship or store.
Important Note: At this time, AKC rules required all fresh-chilled or frozen collections and inseminations to be performed or witnessed by a veterinarian.
Semen Evaluations

When collecting for fresh-chilled or frozen semen a semen evaluation should always be performed. It may also be helpful to do routine evaluations on dogs who are bred exclusively using artificial insemination, or if conception rates are low. Semen is normally evaluated for one or all of the following: total number, volume, motility, speed, direction, PH, and percentage of primary and secondary semen defects. Some vets will leave the semen on a warmed slide to see how long it lives, but this is not always needed. The dog should be rated as excellent, good, fair or poor, or actual numbers should be provided. If the semen is not of good quality it may not be useful to store for frozen semen, but the use of PH buffers and semen enhancers might help boost the quality of the semen for use in fresh-chilled breedings. Check with your veterinarian to see what services they can provide in these areas.
New Strides In Using Old Stud Dogs

My old stud dog began having trouble with his prostrate when he was 7 years old. This caused him to have bladder infections. In the beginning, we believed it was just chronic urinary infections, possibly from his food. But when a vet found his prostate gland enlarged and dipping down into his abdomen, we began a different treatment meant to preserve his fertility. (This was after arguing with one vet for twenty minutes about my conviction that unless his life was in danger, he was not going to be neutered.) These treatments included rounds of antibiotics combined with herbal supplements. They were successful and helped give him a couple extra years of reproductive health.
When he turned 9, the first few bitches he bred that year got pregnant and carried normal sized litters. Towards the end of the year bitches began to miss. I took him in for a semen evaluation to a local reproductive expert. His semen quality was good, but the quantity was low. The sperm was also “lazy” – moving slowly or not at all. Semen enhancing solution was added to the sperm and this seemed to help. Because of the combination of low volume and low motility, it was suggested that any bitches bred to him be either surgically inseminated or transcervically inseminated. Both methods placed the semen into the bitch’s uterus giving them the best chance of getting pregnant.
In 1999 10 bitches were bred to my stud dog, who was 10 at the time. Three were mine, 7 were outside bitches. 8 were live transcervical breedings where both dog and bitch were present; and the other 2 were fresh chilled shipments and the bitches were surgically inseminated. Each bitch was also ovulation timed. 9 bitches were timed with progesterone assay tests and 1 bitch was LH surge tested. The LH surge bitch is the only one all year that missed. The litters ranged in size from 1 to 10, 7 being the average. During this year I learned a lot about ovulation timing, evaluating semen quality, semen enhancers and what the inside of a bitch’s vaginal looks like!
Transcervical inseminations are fascinating. The procedure was new (it is becoming more accepted and common now) and only taught in a few places. My vet spent a week in Sweden learning how to do it. After the dog is collected the semen is evaluated for quantity and quality. The collection is then spun in a centrifuge and the semen is concentrated to between 1-2 ccs. The uterus of a bitch before pregnancy is very small and only about 1-2 cc’s of semen can be inserted. After the semen is evaluated, it can be treated with semen enhancers or PH buffers.

An endoscope is placed in the bitch’s vaginal so the vet can visually locate the opening of the cervix. Since the cervix in a dog is horseshoe-shaped with the opening towards the top of the vagina, locating it and threading an insemination tube through it is very complicated. The flexible tube is inserted into the endoscope and is threaded into the cervix. At this point, if the tube doesn’t go into the cervix easily, ultrasound is used to visualize the shape and direction of curve of the cervix. As strange as it sounds, not one bitch was even sedated for these procedures. Some got to stand naturally on the table, but some had to be elevated, turned, and/or twisted to get that tube into their uterus. Not one objected to be poked, prodded and eventually inseminated. I was very impressed. And the conception rate was also impressive. I’m hoping more vets become familiar with this new method of insemination, as it seems to solve a variety of conception problems.

Everyone has their favorite aspects of breeding and showing dogs. I find stud dog management to be my least favorite. The responsibility of keeping outside bitches, timing breedings, and then performing them can sometimes be inconvenient, and often overwhelming.
I live in a busy house where everyone has to be settled down for bed before the stud dog and bitch are comfortable enough to breed. The numbers of times I’ve done breedings in the witching hours of midnight to 1AM are incalculable. I’ve done breedings on Christmas day, Easter, on my kids’ birthdays after having parties. I’ve done breedings in hotel rooms at specialties, in handler’s trucks and friend’s houses. I’ve bred my dogs, friends’ dogs, enemies’ dogs – the stories are endless. I’ve spent so much time at my vets getting tests and breedings done I felt like I should just set up a cot and move in. Having a popular stud dog is a big pain in the a** and a tremendous time drain.All that being said, the reward isn’t monetary, but in taking pride in my dog’s progeny. Watching the breed move forward because of some of my puny efforts is well worth the time and energy I’ve expended. And because there are others out there who feel the same way I do, the breed will continue to grow and improve. That makes it all worth it.

Valentine's Day Treats for Dogs

"He loves me, he loves me not..." Fortunately, that's something you never have to worry about with your dog. He'll love you through thick and thin, no matter how you look or how much money you have. It doesn't get any better than that for Valentine's Day!

Your dog gives you unconditional love, and you love him with all your heart, too. But you can do one thing your dog can't: You can make him some delectable Valentine's goodies as an extra special treat. (If your dog had opposable thumbs and could read, he would do the same for you.)

Here are three of our favorite Valentine's treat recipes from the Interwebs. They're so good you might be tempted to have a bite yourself. (Well, maybe not the liver treats...)
Carob-Dipped Valentine's Day Dog Treats

  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 cup beef or chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1/4 cup cooking oil
  • 2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups carob chips
Cooking Instructions
Preheat oven to 300 F.

  • In a large bowl, combine egg, applesauce, broth, honey, molasses and oil. Gradually stir in flour.
  • Dough should be stiff, add flour or water to adjust.
  • On a well-floured surface, roll out dough into 1/4 inch thickness.
  • Use a heart shaped cookie cutter to make shapes from the dough
  • Place on lightly greased cookie sheets and bake for 30 minutes, or until the cookies are golden brown.
  • Melt carob chips in microwave or double boiler.
  • Dip half of the heart into the melted carob.
  • Place cookies on waxed paper and let stand until carob is set.
  • Red Velvet Pupcakes

Red velvet is all the rage in the world of cupcakes these days. So why not try these crimson-hued beauties on your best friend? Beet juice gives them their color, an whole-wheat flour gives them fiber. The cottage cheese icing helps make these trendy treats a balanced meal.

  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup applesauce
  • 1/3 cup beet puree or fresh beet juice
  • 1 and 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup low-fat cottage cheese

Cooking Instructions
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a six-cup muffin tin with muffin cups.
  • In a large bowl whisk together oil, applesauce and beet puree.
  • In a separate bowl, combine flour and baking powder. Slowly stir flour mixture into the wet ingredients.
  • Spoon batter into muffin cups to three-quarters full and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean. Remove cupcakes from the pan and cool on a rack.
  • In the bowl of a food processor, puree cottage cheese until smooth, about 30 seconds. Keep frosting refrigerated until cupcakes are completely cool. Frost and serve.
Valentine Liver Nibbles Recipe

Nothing says "Be my Valentine" better than a blender full of raw beef liver. You have to love your dog a lot to pop that special ingredient into your blender and then make yourself a smoothie in it the next day. These treats are very nutritious and judging from our dogs' reactions, very delicious.

  • 1 lb fresh raw organic beef liver or chicken liver
  • 3 free range eggs
  • 1/4 cup canola or other vegetable oil
  • 2 cups instant oats
  • 1 Tbsp applesauce (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
  • 3 Tbsp powdered kelp
  • Filtered water sufficient to make a batter

Process the liver in a blender or food processor until completely pureed. Beat the eggs in a bowl and pour in the oil. Add the liver. Mix in the dry ingredients slowly, stirring continuously so they are thoroughly combined. Add water gradually, until you have a "batter" consistency. Pour this batter into a loaf tin. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes. Cool in the tin until able to be handled, then gently turn the loaf out onto a rack and refrigerate to cool completely. Cut with heart-shaped cookie cutter. Store in a sealed container.

Fat dogs One Treat Too Many

When we think of dogs we tend to think of agile creatures that love to exercise and play, have speed and power, and are sleek or cuddly. However, just like humans and other animals, dogs are creatures that can be prone to weight problems, some breeds far more than others.

Most dogs love their food and treats, and although most love to exercise and play there are also those that are quite happy to toast their paws in front of the fire and play the “couch potato” whenever given the chance. and, of course, the combination of lack of exercise and over-feeding can lead to a very fat little dog.

Avoiding obesity in your dog
Some dogs can be far more susceptible than others to weight gain, and for dogs this can result in a range of associated health problems. Weight gain can not only make your dog miserable, but reduce his quality of life, and even reduce his lifespan.

This is why it is important for responsible owners to monitor and maintain a healthy weight for their dogs, and in the event of weight gain to take action in order to try and get their weight back on track.

We all love to give our dogs treats to show them how much we care, but often this is doing more damage than good. Just like with children, the odd treat is fine, but regular treats coupled with large portions of food can quickly lead to excess weight.

Another factor that can affect your dog’s weight is of course the level of exercise that he receives. Believe it or not, there are some dogs that actually have to be persuaded to go for their walks. in some cases, other health problems such as undiagnosed thyroid problems can affect your dog’s weight and cause your dog to get fat.

If you have a dog that is happy never to step out of the house, you shouldn’t just shrug and thank your lucky stars that you don’t have the extra duty of having to take him out each day. instead, you need to make a concerted effort to ensure that he does get regular exercise, no matter how gentle. if your dog is very overweight you should get advice from your vet to find out why he has gained weight, and how you can get the situation under control.

A number of health problems can affect fat dogs, which is why it is important to keep your dog’s weight under control. some of the weight related health problems that can affect your pet include heart, lung, liver, kidney, and joint problems, amongst others. some of the breeds that are prone to weight gain because of genetics include Dachshunds, Basset Hounds, Labrador Retrievers, and Beagles

Too Many Treats Will Definitely Make Your Dog Fat

As a positive trainer, and more specifically a clicker trainer, clients and students will say to me that they don’t want to train their dogs with treats. After some discussion including the benefits of training their dog with treats, it’s also revealed many times that they don’t want their dog to become fat.

I can’t admit enough how valid of a concern this is when training your dog with treats. Any dog trainer that would contradict the concern is perhaps misinformed, or holds the secret to effortless weight loss. In that case, I’d love to talk to them! Overall though, I don’t believe there is a trainer out there who would dispute the fact that 1) more food equals more calories and 2) additional calories - without additional exercise - equals more weight.

There you have it… The student is right. Guess they’d better not train their dog then. (Can you sense a wee bit of sarcasm?) Just because an imbalance of food-to-calories burned is in effect doesn’t relieve a dog owner of the responsibility of training their dog. Likewise, it shouldn’t offer justification to training their dog irresponsibly via unfruitful methods either.

And by the way, what about all of those skinny dogs that are not-so-well trained? By the “zero treats” method of training, it would stand to reason that all skinny dogs are well-behaved, which of course isn’t true. I also know a lot of heavy dogs that could use help with their basic manners still where clearly they have had plenty of treats in their life. On the extreme end of the spectrum, I often observe that obese dogs are deceivingly “well-behaved” according to their owners by the mere fact that they just can’t physically move much... a very saddening situation.

The point at hand is that I don’t believe the issue is a “Treat vs. No Treat” debate. Afterall, what is a treat but a small piece of food? And what is kibble but also a small piece of food? Like trainer Kathy Sdao alludes in her book Plenty In Life Is Free, why is that we are reluctant to give our dogs treats as rewards for good behavior throughout the day, yet happy to deliver a bowl full of food twice a day for doing absolutely nothing? Sounds rather backwards, right?

The key to unlocking this debate, like so many things in life, is achieved with balance. I’m not a trainer that will too often recommend hand-feeding a standard variety over-exuberant dog its kibble throughout the day, every day. Certainly, though, that would likely yield a better-behaved dog.

But who has the time for that?! Besides, I also feel that there is practical merit to the scheduled feeding ritual. You know exactly when your dog eats the majority of its food. Because of this, you can immediately gauge your dog’s appetite, and likewise, when their appetite is out of sorts (potentially indicating sickness or some other physical issue). You can also gauge your dog’s elimination habits more easily, helping to understand when your dog needs to be let outside. Trust me, your dog-sitters will thank you for it.

The key to striking the balance is to ensure that the caloric intake is balanced between training and meals. This Body Condition Chart from will help to identify your dog’s body condition, and if he or she is too thin, too heavy or just right. If the dog is too heavy, back off on the amount of food that goes in the food bowl, or reduce the caloric intake of the treats, the food, or both.

It’s important to note that the type of treat being fed is also important. I like to use very small bits of plain, boiled chicken for training new behaviors or for training in new or highly-distractible environments, as well as some commercial treats like listed here. However, there are times when training doesn’t necessitate something as high-value, and pieces of kibble might be just fine for your dog. Either way, you want to ensure that whatever you are using as treats isn’t stuffed with a lot of fillers and empty calories.

Another thing to note is that if your dog is allergic to certain proteins or to certain grains, like corn or wheat, it’s important to ensure that your dog’s allergy triggers aren’t present in those treats. As a general rule, scrutinize dog treat labels for nutritional, caloric content and ingredient information just as you would your dog’s kibble bag or can of wet food - or even your own food.

So what if your dog is a little heavy and you’ve already adjusted your dog’s food intake but aren’t seeing any weight loss? A few scenarios immediately come to mind as to why your dog might not be able to lose weight:

  • Dog is sometimes unsupervised and is sneaking food from counters, garbage cans and the back yard. Management here is key. Remove all access to food in unsupervised areas or be diligent about supervising your dog at all times.
  • Dog is supervised but is being given extra food from family members, dog-loving biscuit-wielding neighbors and visitors to your home. Politely ask the offending parties to not feed your dog because he is on “a special diet.”
  • Dog is still being fed too much at their scheduled feedings. Reduce the caloric intake.
  • Dog receives little to no physical exercise. It’s time to get out for a walk!
  • All or some combination of the above.
  • None of the above. It’s time to consult your vet. Your dog might have a physical issue. In general, it’s a good idea to consult with your veterinarian anyway to identify how much food is too much, and also to determine an appropriate exercise regimen for your dog.
Like humans and all living creatures, dogs need food to live. And just like humans, it’s the imbalance of food intake to calories burned that often leads down the delicious road to weight gain. Fear of weight gain or diet mismanagement are not valid reasons to train your dog without an appropriate and desirable reward system. (Note: A desirable reward system does not always have to include treats, which would be another blog post for another time.)

Instead, striking the balance between bowl feedings, training treats, an appropriate exercise regimen and proper veterinary care is most often the key to a happy, healthy, well-trained pup.

First drug for fat dogs

Pfizer has been granted a licence by the US Food and Drug Administration to market the world's first medical treatment for canine obesity. The product, called Slentrol, was originally tested as a potential treatment for overweight people. But it was found to cause undesirable side-effects including abdominal distension, colic, diarrhoea, flatulence and headaches.

Slentrol is a selective microsomal triglyceride transfer protein inhibitor, blocking the assembly and release of lipids from the gut wall into the bloodstream. It also appears to have effects on the nervous system in suppressing appetite but the company admits that the precise mechanism for this is unclear.

As carnivores, dogs can tolerate much higher levels of fat in the diet than humans and avoid some of the side-effects caused by preventing lipid absorption. Yet treatment can still cause problems in dogs such as vomiting, and the FDA licence authorises its use only under veterinary prescription. 

Obesity is a growing problem across the developed world in dogs as in their owners. Alex German from Liverpool Veterinary School, UK, estimates that about 40 per cent of dogs in the US and Europe are overweight, with about 10 per cent clinically obese. Slentrol, given as a liquid which can be taken orally or added to food, is likely to cost the owner between $1 (50p) and $2 a day, according to the company. In clinical trials, dogs on Slentrol lost about three per cent of their weight a month, without changing their diets.

German, who runs a special clinic for the owners of obese pets, acknowledges drug treatment may help in the short term but he is sceptical about its long term value. 'Canine obesity isn't a complicated issue - it's a simple imbalance between calorie intake and the amount of exercise that the dog takes. The bottom line is that successfully maintaining the dog at a healthy weight needs a change in the owner's behaviour,' he said.


Dog Food Allergies

Dogs are more like humans than we realize and, believe it or not, there is a such thing as dog food allergies. Just like in people, dogs who are allergic to certain types of ingredients commonly found in dog food can exhibit any number of symptoms from skin problems to digestive problems to hair loss.

Actually, dog food allergies are one of the most common type of allergy for dogs. While most people tend to associate a food allergy with digestive problems, this is not true in most cases. Commonly, a food allergy manifests itself through the skin with skin and hair problems in dogs. So, if you notice your dog having any type of problem, you might want to consult your Vet to rule out as dog food allergy before you start him on a battery of expensive tests and medicines.

If you find that your pet has an allergy to a certain food, then it is very important for health reasons that you figure out exactly what it is. Once you discover the allergy, it is your job to make sure you pet does not eat that certain type of food anymore. Luckily, this can be easily done, as there are special foods now that are made specifically for dogs with food allergies.

Generally, there is no cure for allergies. The only choice one has would be to avoid that certain type of food all together. Typically, dog food allergies are caused by dairy, beef, wheat, corn, soy and chicken which, coincidentally, are the most common ingredients in commercial dog foods. If your dog has a food allergy, you need to eliminate these ingredients one by one in order to determine which one is causing the allergy, then you must seek a food that does not have that ingredient(s).

So, how do you know if your dog has a food allergy?

Some common signs that your pet may have allergies are sneezing, scratching and itchy skin, hair loss, ear infections, hot spots and skin infections. If you believe your pet is dealing with dog food allergies, then it is your responsibility to take action to relieve them of the problem. The first step is a visit to the vet who can properly diagnose the problem and outline a course of action.

5 Ways to Establish a Healthy Relationship With Your Dog

Giving your dog the right amount of attention can sometimes be extremely time consuming. With work, school and other leisure activities we sometimes tend to ignore our dogs when we get home. A dog is a man (and woman's) best friend! They need some TLC (Tender Love and Care) as well. PetTastics has set out to provide our readers and clients with the ultimate guide to making your dog feel right at home!

1. Quality Time: Your dog loves to spend time with you, especially if he is the only animal in the house. The best way to spend quality time with your dog is to take it for a walk. It provides you with exercise as well as your dog. Animals have feelings too and can sometimes get lonely. Let your dog know that you still love them by going outside and throwing a ball around for a few minutes. Every minute counts!

2. Structured Routines: Your dog has a tight schedule just like you do. They sleep, eat and play at scheduled times. Keep them on a routine so they can get use to it. It helps keep your busy schedule under control as well.

3. Socializing With Other People and Dogs: Making sure your dog is well-behaved in public is one of the most important aspects of dog ownership! It is extremely important to train your dog so that they can enjoy their time out around other dogs as well as people. As dog owners we understand that many dogs are extremely protective over their owners and that can sometimes result in attacks. Let your dog know that it's perfectly ok to interact with other dogs and that they do not propose a threat.

4. Establish a Sense of Trust: No one wants to feel like a stranger in their own home. Give your dog respect and allow him to develop his own sense of territory, after all, it is their home as well. Pat your dog on the head when you come in from work or give it a kiss before you leave to ensure them that you will be returning. Providing them with that blanket of security makes them feel confident in their ownership.

5. Develop Communication: Often times we scream at our dogs when they mess up. Although we need to punish them and teach them a lesson when they mess up, we also should embrace them and applaud them when they do good. Carry treats around with you and reward them when they have done a good deed. Also,be aware of the tone of voice you use with your pet. Always using an aggressive tone of voice or using violent hand gestures may put your dog into defense mood and they may retaliate against you. Dogs have characteristics that are similar to those of people. They respond to tone of voice as well as facial expressions.

Please be reminded that PetTastics advice is for informational purposes only

Why Do Dogs Like to Kiss Us

Are Doggie Kisses a Sublimation of Their Urge to Bite?

They're sublimating their urge to bite.

In the Mike Nichols film, Wolf, Will Randall, a meek, downtrodden book editor (played by Jack Nicholson), is bitten by a wolf one winter night and finds himself becoming more and more in tune with his primal nature. He can smell things like tequila on a co-worker's breath from clear across the building. He can hear people talking from several floors away. He can read and edit whole manuscripts without his reading glasses.

Worried that the changes he's experiencing may have also caused a nocturnal blackout, Randall goes to see Dr. Alezais, an expert in animal lore. Toward the end of the interview the aging Dr. Alezais reveals that he's been told that he's dying. However, he thinks that if Will Randall were to bite him, he might become strong like the wolf and live forever.

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"I can't ask you to transform me with your passions," Alezais says.
"I can only ask you to honor me with your bite."

My dog Freddie was punished for biting when he was a puppy. This created some behavioral problems later on (severe panic attacks) that took me a while to unravel. However, once I did, I observed a funny, and very sweet side-effect to the new emotional freedom he felt once his fears were gone. Before that, whenever we came home from our walks, he would wait at the top of the first landing, and as I came up and got close to him, he would lick my nose in a kind of ... what, a "submissive greeting?" Perhaps, though he really wasn't the submissive type.

But oddly enough, once I'd helped him resolve his fears, whenever we came home and I got near the top of the landing, instead of licking me he'd slowly incline his head toward mine and use his front teeth to lightly pinch the tip of my nose. The experience was thrilling; it often gave me goose bumps. He used his teeth so gently and so precisely, it felt to me as if he was re-establishing an emotional connection between us that had previously been lost.

Wolves make a living with their teeth. Predators aren't really designed to be social animals because their urge to bite has to be kept under lock and key around other members of their group, otherwise there'd be bloodshed. And yet wolves are very social; they live together in almost complete harmony and are extremely cooperative when hunting. They even have the ability to share food, eating side-by-side, once their prey has been killed. This is pretty remarkable given the Darwinian view of nature as a cut-throat enterprise, even among members of the same animal group.

To me, all canine behavior is essentially a process of tension and release. When emotional energy builds up in an dog's system, it creates tension which then needs to find a release point through behavior. For wolves the most complete and most satisfying release of tension comes either through biting prey (during the hunt) or copulating (during mating season). In other words nearly everything a wolf does is a sublimation of his urge to bite (his prey drive), or his urge to mate (his sex drive).

One way of sublimating the urge to bite is "submissive" licking, commonly thought to be how a wolf appeases a more "dominant" pack member. But a) dominant and submissive behaviors are so rare in wild wolf packs as to be virtually non-existent, and b) if a wolf's emotional energy is geared to always be expressed primarily through biting, and c) if he also wants to maintain pack harmony at all costs, he may very well lick his pack mate's lips or chin, instead of biting them.

Submission? Probably not.

Sublimation? Probably so.

If much of a wolf's social behavior is based on sublimating the urge to bite, the domestication process for dogs is based almost entirely on doing that. The proto-human, proto-dog dynamic was based on one simple rule: dogs that bite don't live to mate. That was the primary behavioral aspect of the natural selection process. So dogs took what was already a natural aspect of the wolf's pack dynamic, and expanded on it exponentially in their relationships with human beings.

Meanwhile, it's been suggested (I think by Desmond Morris) that when dogs kiss us (which is anthropomorphic, since a kiss involves puckering the lips, and a dog's lips don't pucker), they do so because that's how wolf pups get their parents to regurgitate a meal when they come back to the den.

This doesn't make sense to me. It's like taking a decal from one behavior and sticking it onto another. Dogs are very practical and context-oriented. It would be very unusual for a dog to take a behavior specifically related to her parents, and somehow apply it to human beings. For one thing dogs move through space on the horizontal axis. Humans are vertical. There's no way a dog could mistake a human being for another dog. Also, dogs don't just lick our lips, they lick our noses, our ears, our hands and feet. Plus, the more stressed a dog is, the more he tends to lick. Plus dogs lick us a lot more when they're going through puppyhood than they do when they're adults. Why? Probably because puppies feel a lot more oral tension than adult dogs.

There's one more thing to consider. When we smile it's considered a signal of good will. But to a chimpanzee a smile communicates fear. Similarly, when a puppy sees your big human head coming toward him, a part of him reacts with fear, and that part wants to bite you. But dogs make their living with their hearts, not their teeth. They have strong feelings of love and affection for their owners. Plus, they retain the genetic knack of maintaining group harmony at all costs. So when your dog sees you come leaning in for a kiss, he sublimates his urge to bite, and licks you instead. Then, over time, as he accrues more and more feelings of trust on top of the love he already feels, he finds that licking you actually feels good, not just because it releases his nervous tension, but also because of how it makes you feel. (Our feelings are very important to our dogs; they're like the sails and rudders they use to navigate their way through their relationships with us.)

That's the simple, dog-centric genesis of why dogs lick us: it's a way of sublimating their urge to bite. That's why Freddie licked me when I reached the top of the stairs, back before his fears of being punished for biting went away. It's also why he replaced the less satisfying release he got from licking me, and started giving me those tender little love bites on the tip of my nose. He finally felt free enough to share a tiny bit of his deepest and most primal nature with me.

He honored me with his bite.

Is it Safe to Kiss Your Pet

We’ve all done it, or at least know someone who has. Animal lovers who kiss their pets — mouth to mouth. “Kisses” from mans’ best friend or a feline companion may seem loving and irresistible, but is it safe?

There are many myths surrounding pet smooches. Some believe a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human mouth, others think their dog or cat’s mouth is a disinfectant and has no germs at all — which, considering how pets clean themselves, can probably be considered untrue right off the back.

We asked Dr. Paul Maza, co-director of the health center at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University, how close is too close when it comes to your pet?

“Many of the different types of bacteria in dogs and cats are the same type of bacteria as in humans. At any given point in time they are probably not any dirtier than ours,” Maza said.
In fact, Maza said if owners practice oral hygiene on their pets, like with brushing their teeth, a pet’s mouth can actually be even cleaner than a human mouth.

“Because most of the bacteria and viruses in a dog’s mouth are the same as in a person’s mouth, it is safe to kiss a dog, just like a person. You can probably catch more from kissing a human than a dog or cat,” he said.

According to the Humane Society, there are approximately 77.5 million owned dogs in the United States and 93.6 million owned cats.

Although very unlikely, there are rare instances in which zoonotic diseases, or diseases that are transmitted between animals and humans, can occur.

Maza said disease transmission is very rare in cats and even more rare in dogs.

“Cats may have bartonella, or cat scratch fever, that can cause disease in people. Taxolpasmosis, or certain parasites that have eggs in fecal matter — the transmission of parasites can cause disease in people. But again, it doesn’t happen very often, it is unlikely,” he said.

But we had to ask — what about fecal matter in a pet’s mouth? That is their way of taking a shower, after all.

Maza said that although the grooming technique of pets can cause fecal bacteria in the mouth, it is often swallowed and out of the mouth quickly.

“Fecal matter could be considered comparable to any other normal bacteria,” he said.

For many people, kissing a dog or cat may be less of a safety issue and more of a mysophobia issue, or fear of germs.

“A dog licking a baby on the head or hand is probably safe, but some like to avoid germs at all costs. Others say there are germs everywhere and it is too hard to avoid them all the time,” he said.

Those who should think about avoiding a kiss from Fido include anyone with a compromised immune system like those with HIV or other diseases, as well as the elderly.

There are debates that a kiss from a dog or cat may be beneficial for the immune system of young children.

“Babies that are ill shouldn’t be around too many germs, but others say it is good for children—it stimulates the immune system and establishes early immunity,” Maza said.

As far as preventing any possible illness from kissing a pet, Maza recommends “common sense hygiene.”

“Many people will use gloves to clean litter boxes and pick up dog poop, and you can even wash hands after petting. If you want to prevent bacteria of the mouth, you can brush pets mouths and use rinses just like people do,” he said. “Don’t allow pets on kitchen counters and if it can’t be avoided then wipe them of before preparing food.”

Overall, Maza said the mental health benefits of kissing your pet far outweigh the risks of getting sick.

“I kiss my dog all the time, “ he said

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