Crate Training Your Dog Is Beneficial

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“I love sleeping in my own bed!”

Crate Training Is A Kindness And Helpful Routine

All training starts with taking advantage of your dog’s natural inclinations to reinforce the behavior you want. The only place your dog will not most likely make a mess is their sleeping place. Crate training works with your dog’s instinct. They never have the opportunity to be bad.

Why Crate You Dog?

Crate training is fairly easy. The rule is: if you are not actively paying attention to what your dog is doing, your dog is in the crate. Period. Even if you’re in the same room. If you’re not watching your puppy, they are in the crate where they can’t get to anything bad. If you think caging your dog is cruel, it’s actually beneficial for them as it is to you. Its worse for your dog not to know the rules of the house and get into bad things or even goes potty when your are not looking.

Your dog may whine and bark the first couple of times being in a crate. Do not let them out until they are quiet. Then they will begin to understand that when they are quiet, you will let them out.

*Never use the crate as a punishment. This will only make your dog associate bad things and not want to go into the crate.

Crate Sizing

Finding the right size of crate for your dog is very easy. At full growth, your dog should be able to stand up without the top touching and they should be able to turn around. With puppies, you want to separate the empty space to just where they can stand and turn around. While they are growing, make sure to give them enough space.

Don’t Leave Them In Their Crates for Hours

“I got worried and thought you were never coming back!”

Crate training is not an excuse to ignore your dog for hours at a time. A puppy cannot go more than a couple of hours during the day without a bathroom break. If your dog learns to mess in their crate, the behavior is very difficult to correct. Its one of the biggest challenges when adopting strays or rescues from shelters. It can be done, but requires patience and dedication.

Potty Time Intervals

Dogs should be taken out at regular intervals:

  • when done eating meals
  • after naps
  • after play sessions

*Dogs should never be in a crate for more than 8 hours.

Potty Time is Business Time

When taking your dog out just for a potty break, there should be no playing until your dog has done their business. Teach them to potty in one certain area. Put the collar and leash on, take the dog to a specific spot you want them to use for their toilet area. Give your dog a command go potty. If they go potty, reward them with praise and cookies. Say something like “good go potty”. Of course you can use any words you want. Just be careful not to use the phrase under other circumstances.

Sleeping In a Crate

Your puppy should also sleep in their crate, ideally in your bedroom. Dogs are social animals. They need to know their pack or family are close by. I like making the crate like a den by putting blankets over the top and sides. This helps with light shining in and your dog can’t see every move you make.

If the dog wakes you in the night, take them out on a leash. Give them about 10 minutes to do their business. Go back inside, pop them in their crate (small treats can be given), say goodnight and go back to bed. Don’t let the dog outside by itself, even in a fenced yard. Again, this isn’t playtime. You don’t want to be yelling for your dog to come back inside while everyone is trying to sleep!

While Your Dog is Outside of Crate

As your dog learns what’s expected of them, the next phase is to keep the dog on leash, out of the cage. Tie the leash around a belt loop so that you can go about your daily routine with both hands free. Keep one eye on the dog.

When you see their gotta go signals, drop what you’re doing and go. Some people are successful in hanging a bell on the doorknob. They ring the bell whenever they take the dog out. The dog learns, over time, to ring the bell when it has to go. Others teach their dogs to speak as a signal to go out.

My dogs are always crate trained when I leave the house. At this point, they see me reaching for their treats (which sometimes are toys stuffed with a little treat) and they run for their crates. It’s their room, a safe place they can always go to.

Crate training with Frankie. He loved his private place to sleep.

Just a note of caution and safety: never leave a collar or harness on your dog in the crate. It can get caught and cause problems.

How To Stop Possessive With Food

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Train Your Dog Not to be Possessive Over Their Food

Though sometimes we would like to believe otherwise, food is a dog’s first priority, so the first step to successful training is to establish yourself as the leader. This can be achieved by showing them that they can only have their food at your discretion and command. It is a very scary situation when your dog is possessive of the food and/or toys.

Be The Leader

Start with given them their dinner and allow them to eat for a few seconds. Then take the bowl away from them. 

Use an appropriate sound each time you pick up their dish, such as “leave” or “stop”. Keep the bowl for a few seconds. Provided they haven’t shown any aggression as you removed the bowl, tell them ‘good dog’ and give the food back. Allow them to continue eating. Repeat this two or three times during each meal for a few days, then once or twice a week for a few weeks.

Why Are Dogs Possessive of Food?

Some dogs are never possessive with their food. You may find if your dog came from a large litter, the only way they could obtain their share of the food was to threaten their brothers and sisters.

Finding this action achieved their desired result to get more food. They may well try it with you. If you don’t sort this out very early on, this possessiveness will transfer to other things such:

  • as bones
  • toys
  • furniture and so on
  • perhaps even to other members of the family

To stop them from being aggressive with their food, don’t give them possession of it! By this I mean feed them by hand for a couple of weeks. Prepare their food in the bowl as usual, but don’t put the bowl on the floor for them. Simply feed them a handful at a time. The bowl of food on the floor almost instinctively makes them want to guard it. If they are not put in this position of needing to guard, they will not bite!

Don’t just leave food down for the dog to guard.

Feeding by hand also helps if your dog is dominant in other areas. It makes them completely reliant on you for the most important thing in their life, their food. This will reinforce your position of pack leader, as they are only receiving the food from you and not from the bowl. 

You can also use this period of hand feeding to your benefit by making them display some minor obedience and manners expected from you for some of the food. Get them to sit first before one handful, or to lie down for the next, and so on. Don’t make them run around for the food as this could cause digestive upsets.

Dog Starts to Understand They Don’t Have to Guard Their Food

You will find that after a couple weeks of this regime, their general attitude over possessions will change. You can then try giving them their food in a bowl again, and, provided there is no sign of aggression, continue to feed them normally.

Possessive Over Toys and Bones

For dogs that are food possessive, do not give them bones or toys, as they will attempt to guard these in the same way. Once the food possession has been sorted out, you can try introducing a toy, but make sure the dog understands that it is your toy, and they are only allowed to play with it with you, and when you decide the game is to end, you must end up with the toy.

Breeder Contract? What You Need to Know

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Sign Right Here: Everything You Need to Know About a Breeder Contract

Most of life’s major acquisitions require a legal contract, from purchasing a house to leasing a car. Add to that list bringing home a purebred dog. Most dog breeder want you to sign a breeder contract.

Breeder Contract???

Reputable breeders almost universally require anyone who provides a home to one of their dogs to sign a contract. But if you’ve never purchased a dog from a reputable breeder, the requirement to sign a legal document may come as a surprise. Given its multiple pages and official-sounding clauses, perhaps an off-putting one at that.

Of course, violating a properly executed legal documents can theoretically land you in court. So, if it’s legal advice you seek, you’ll find none of that here.

Breeders Want to Make Sure Your Ready and Responsible

But there is another important way to look a breeder contract – and it’s not as a “gotcha” waiting to happen. For many breeders, contracts are a parting-shot opportunity to share their philosophy, advice, and expectations. All about the dog they are entrusting to you. Signing a contract reminds you of the enormous responsibility you are undertaking. It codifies all the things your breeder told you during your many visits and phone calls. But that you were probably too overwhelmed or distracted to process and commit to memory.

“Are you listening to the lady telling you how to take care of me?”

While contracts are as individual as the breeders who sign them, they contain some basics you might expect. They include:

But if you’ve never seen a breeder contract before, there are other common elements that may be new to you.

Show Dog VS Pet

Here is a breeder that demonstrates what they look for.

Most breeder contracts will make a distinction between a puppy that is “pet quality” versus “show quality”. (More appropriately, “show potential,” since no breeder can predict with complete surety how a puppy will turn out).

In terms of the contract, the distinction between pet and show hinges on the responsibilities attached to each.

Pet Quality

Pet-quality puppies are those that the breeder thinks will likely not grow up to be candidates for showing or breeding. They will often be sold on a limited registration. Meaning they can participate in all AKC events except conformation (the 50-cent word for “dog shows”). Also their offspring cannot be registered.

Show Quality

With show prospects, contracts can vary significantly, depending on the breeder’s desired level of involvement. Some breeders might stipulate that they want to see the puppy at a certain age. At which time they will show it themselves if it has developed as they expected. Other breeders require owners to hire a professional handler to show their dog.

Breeding Your Pup

If the dog goes on to be bred, the contract will also likely list:

  • all the health screenings that need to be performed
  • who makes decisions on what breedings will happen,
  • who is responsible for whelping and placing puppies
  • any of a number of other details
    • including financial arrangements

If anything is unclear or makes you uncomfortable, ask before you sign the contract.

Spay and Neuter

Most breeder contracts require pet-quality dogs to be spayed or neutered. But as veterinary attitudes and research evolve, the age at which surgical sterilization is performed can vary markedly. Some breeders require that owners wait until the dog has stopped maturing and the growth plates close. A year for most breeds, 18 months for larger dogs. Which some studies have shown lowers the risk of bone cancer. This presupposes that you will keep your dog securely contained and not permit it to wander to avoid unintended breedings.

Be Sure to Go Over With Your Veterinarian

If a breeder feels strongly about delaying spay or neuter, check with your vet in advance. Make sure he or she is on board with that timetable. Ditto for other vet-related items that breeders tend to feel strongly about, such as feeding requirements and vaccination schedules. After decades of experience with dozens of litters, many have evolved successful protocols that work for their family of dogs. They include them in their contracts with the expectation you will follow them. Having both your vet and the breeder on the same page avoids conflict later.

Return-to-Breeder Clause

Good breeders don’t sell puppies with the expectation of getting them back. A forever home is supposed to be just that. But life happens to the best of us, and a whole host of issues:

  • illness
  • allergies
  • divorce
  • relocation
  • financial problems

To name but a few. These inconveniences can make it impossible for an owner to continue keeping a dog, despite the best of intentions.

Notify the Breeder

No matter what the reason for the rehoming, the breeder wants to be notified. Even if your now-adult dog is going to live with another loving family or close friend. The breeder will still want to know about any change of ownership.

Breeders Want to Make Sure Their Pup is in Good Hands

While this might seem controlling, look at it from the breeder’s perspective. In order to be responsible for every puppy they bring into the world, breeders need to make sure they are in loving, responsible hands. They will also want the new owners to know they are available to provide the same guidance and advice that they gave you. And they want to know if any problems or issues develop throughout the dog’s life. As that is important information that will help guide their breeding program.

Health Guarantees

Puppies are not widgets. If they were, not only would they not be anywhere near as cuddly, but they would be interchangeable. A “defective” one would simply mean inconvenience, not heartbreak. Reputable breeders do their utmost to ensure that their puppies are the healthiest and soundest possible. Sometimes things do not go as planned, just as with we humans.

Some breeder contracts guarantee all against genetic defects (usually up until a certain age). Others guarantee against specific ailments, such as heart problems, sometimes under certain conditions. Some breeders, for example, will guarantee against hip dysplasia. But only if the owner takes common-sense precautions. Such as not running a puppy continuously on a hard surface until a year of age. Sometimes for large breeds, even longer. These specifics are dependent on the individual breeder. As well as the generally accepted health-screening practices in the breed community as a whole. After all, health concerns in a Chihuahua will be different from those in a Great Dane.

Naming Conventions

Though reputable breeders only breed dogs that are registered with the American Kennel Club, thus verifying their lineage. Each new puppy that is born must be individually registered as well. Sometimes a breeder will require you to fill out the AKC registration papers. Other times, the breeder will take care of it themselves. Especially if they are an AKC Breeder of Merit. (A designation that shows a breeder has committed to registering all of her puppies with the American Kennel Club.)

Registered Name

No matter who fills out the paperwork, your puppy will need a registered name. Different from its “call name,” which is what you call the puppy at home. A dog’s registered name is a longer, more elaborate name. Names that typically incorporates the breeder’s kennel name at its beginning; in some cases, the kennel names of a co-breeder or the stud-dog owner are included as well.

You Can Still Name Your Pup At Home

Breeder contracts often stipulate the use of these kennel names as part of the puppy’s registered name. Beyond that, breeder contracts can vary widely: Some breeders will require the approval of the name before it is submitted. Others might mandate that the name start with a particular letter or follow a certain theme they have established with the litter. The only time this name will be used is when your dog is entered at AKC events. Including agility, obedience, and conformation. What you call your dog at home is your own business!

The Weird Stuff

While most contracts are straightforward and even boring, occasionally you might find some head-scratchers. Consider, for example, the breeder who required that puppy owners send her a photo of the dog every December. Her explanation, however, made sense. A photo lets her see if the dog is in good condition, and during the holiday season most people are inclined to take and send photos anyway.

Would that demand for a yearly photo op hold up in a court of law? Without seeing the document, or knowing the circumstances, who knows? Most breeders are more concerned about the spirit rather than the letter of the law. Others do choose to exercise their legal rights. Reading through and discussing the contract with the breeder before you pick up your puppy should answer your questions and alleviate any concerns. If there’s something in the contract that makes you truly uncomfortable, and the breeder is unyielding about changing it, you might reconsider your options.


Breeders Just Want What’s Best

No matter how much you research. Or how many books you read, in the end buying a puppy is an act of faith. You are trusting that the breeder has done her level best to produce a healthy, well-adjusted puppy. The breeder is trusting that you will take care of your new family member to the best of your ability. Hopefully, long enough to see its muzzle gray. Ideally, the breeder will be available every step of the way. They will be there for questions, concerns and, at the very end, a shoulder to cry on. If a contract seems so restrictive or punitive that it suggests your relationship with the breeder will be more combative than caring, then that should give you pause.

Though a puppy’s infectious cuteness is hard to ignore, the best advice is not to sign any document that you have no intention of honoring. Not just because you might get sued, but because it’s the right thing to do.

Barking Dogs Shouldn’t Become a Problem

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Don’t Let Your Barking Dog Drive You Crazy

You love your dog, but the barking can sometimes be – a lot! It can be really annoying to you and your neighbors if it becomes incessant barking. So what can you do to control or reduce your dog’s barking and make him the most loved dog on the block?

Traditional Methods

First off there are the traditional methods. Dog training and dog obedience schools help train the dog and also teach you how to handle your pet too, so that you can grow a lasting bond with your dog. Of course if you take your dog out and give them lots of exercise they’ll be a lot less inclined to bark. A tired dog has less energy to bark and a tired sleeping dog can’t bark at all!

Here’s a list of six techniques that can help stop your dog from barking.

While all can be successful, you shouldn’t expect miraculous results overnight. The longer your dog has been practicing the barking behavior, the longer it will take for them to change their ways.

Some of these training techniques require you to have an idea as to why your dog barks. 

Always remember to keep these tips in mind while training:

  • Don’t yell at your dog to be quiet—it just sounds like you’re barking along with them.
  • Keep your training sessions positive and upbeat.
  • Be consistent so you don’t confuse your dog. Everyone in your family must apply the training methods every time your dog barks inappropriately. You can’t let your dog get away with inappropriate barking some times and not others.

Remove the Motivation

Your dog gets some kind of reward when they bark. Otherwise, they wouldn’t do it. Figure out what they get out of barking and remove it. Don’t give your dog the opportunity to continue the barking behavior.

“My job is to protect this house. I will bark at anyone that comes close!”

Example: Barking at passersby

  • If they bark at people or animals passing by the living room window, manage the behavior by closing the curtains or putting your dog in another room.
  • If they bark at passersby when in the yard, bring them into the house. Never leave your dog outside unsupervised all day and night.

Ignore the Barking

If you believe your dog is barking to get your attention, ignore them for as long as it takes them to stop. Don’t talk to them, don’t touch them, don’t even look at them; your attention only rewards them for being noisy. When they finally quiet, even to take a breath, reward them with a treat.

To be successful with this method, you must be patient. If they bark for an hour and you finally get so frustrated that you yell at them to be quiet, the next time they’ll probably bark for an hour and a half. They learn that if they just bark long enough, you’ll give them attention.

“PAY ATTENTION TO ME RIGHT NOW!!”

Example: Barking when confined

  • When you put your dog in their crate or in a gated room, turn your back and ignore them.
  • Once they stop barking, turn around, praise them and give a treat.
  • As they catch on that being quiet gets them a treat, lengthen the amount of time they must remain quiet before being rewarded.
  • Remember to start small by rewarding them for being quiet for just a few seconds, then working up to longer periods of quiet.
  • Keep it fun by varying the amount of time. Sometimes reward them after five seconds, then 12 seconds, then three seconds, then 20 seconds and so on.

Desensitize Your Dog to the Stimulus

Gradually get your dog accustomed to whatever is causing them to bark. Start with the stimulus (the thing that makes them bark) at a distance. It must be far enough away that they don’t bark when they see it. Feed them lots of good treats. Move the stimulus a little closer (perhaps as little as a few inches or a few feet to start) and feed treats. If the stimulus moves out of sight, stop giving your dog treats. You want your dog to learn that the appearance of the stimulus leads to good things (treats)!

Example: Barking at other dogs

  • Have a friend with a dog stand out of sight or far enough away so your dog won’t bark at the other dog.
  • As your friend and their dog come into view, start feeding your dog treats.
  • Stop feeding treats as soon as your friend and their dog disappear from view.
  • Repeat the process multiple times.
  • Remember not to try to progress too quickly as it may take days or weeks before your dog can pay attention to you and the treats without barking at the other dog.

Ask your dog for an incompatible behavior

When your dog starts barking, ask them to do something that’s incompatible with barking. Teaching your dog to react to barking stimuli with something that inhibits them from barking, such as lying down on their bed.

“No I’m not the butler.”

Example: Someone at the door

  • Toss a treat on their bed and tell them to “go to your bed.”
  • When they’re reliably going to their bed to earn a treat, up the ante by opening the door while they’re on their bed. If they get up, close the door immediately.
  • Repeat until they stay in bed while the door opens.
  • Then increase the difficulty by having someone ring the doorbell while your dog is in bed. Reward them if they stay in place.

Barking Can Be Good

Sometimes barking is good. It’s your dog’s main way of communicating with you. They may have heard or smelled something and wants to let you know. Just acknowledging them may well stop the barking, they know you’ve heard and understood. If your dog continues to bark, try a “NO”, or “Quiet” command. When they stop barking, reward them so that following your commands becomes pleasurable to them.

Keep Their Mouth Full!

“This is what I’m going to do when I catch you squirrel!”

Giving your dog something to chew on is also a good deterrent to barking. How many dogs have you heard barking with their mouths full? All your dog’s attention is now on the new squeaky toy you gave them!!

Barking Collars (After Trying Traditional Methods)

If the traditional methods don’t seem to be working it may be time to try a barking control collar. Many of these work by using sound so that the desired behavior, (in this case stopping barking), can be associated with the sound. Some of the more sophisticated, and of course expensive, models also use electric shocks to deter the dog from barking.

Types of Detection in Bark Collars

There are two types of bark detection used in Bark control collars. The sound collar uses the noise of your dog’s bark to activate and the vibration collar uses the vibrations from your dog’s throat.

Neither type is perfect. The sound type can be set off with sharp loud external sounds and the vibration type from violent motion such as your dog drying himself. There are collars that combine the two methods and these help reduce the false readings.


Whichever method you use, barking can be brought under control in a reasonably short space of time, so persevere and enjoy your dog for years to come.

Celebrate 8 Important Dog Milestones

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Reasons to Celebrate With Your Dog

“Let’s get this party started!!”

 Celebrate dog milestones like your pup’s birthday.

The minute your pet walked into your life, everything changed. You nabbed an instant best friend who you get to watch grow from stranger to family member. If your dog entered your world as a puppy, you quite literally get to watch them grow and learn every single day. And all pet parents know that all dog milestones are precious, and you don’t want to miss even one!

Consider marking any of these milestones with a royal pet portrait and turn your pet into a true king or queen with a canvas portrait. 

Here are some of the biggest ones to celebrate throughout the year.

Birthday

Frankie turning 1 year old!!

Your dog’s birthday was one of the best days of your life, so you want to celebrate this dog milestone every year. For the big first birthday, get all the neighborhood animals—plus your two-legged friends and family members—together for a fiesta. Celebrate each year with a fancy new squeaky toy and a homemade pet cake. Be sure to create your own birthday traditions each year, like a trip to the pet store or dog park.

Gotcha Day

Chloe when we got her from a local rescue.

Understand your new dog may have baggage from a previous owner who was abusive or neglectful.

Gotcha Day is the special day a person or animal joins their family by adoption and considered one of the major dog milestones. It’s especially important for pet parents who don’t know the exact birthday or history of their furry friend due to them having multiple owners or unknown life history. Even if you do know your pet’s actual birthday, as anyone with a beloved furry family member can attest, his or her Gotcha Day is one of the most memorable moments during your life together! We all remember that first ride home and wet kiss!

Officially potty trained

“Well, if I knew it was that easy to get treats I would have went potty faster!”

If you got your little guy as a puppy, you know what a big deal this is! And, since positive reinforcement and rewards are recommended by the American Kennel Club (AKC) as a great way to train and bond with a pet, this is one milestone where it’s A-OK to pile on the kisses, snuggles, treats, and toys. You can—and should—celebrate all the significant developments in behavior and training as your pet gets older.

Obedience school graduation

“I’m so proud of myself for not eating poo anymore!”

Ah, you must be so proud! Your pup passed puppy school! This is a huge deal and means that your pet is ready for a long life of behaving well in your household. To celebrate your pup’s transition into adulthood, surprise them with a cute dog bandana that shows their big personality. Whether they are shy, spunky, or protective of their owners, there’s a pup scarf to help celebrate it.

Christmas

Chloe’s First Christmas
Frankie’s Christmas

We love Christmas with our pets because it’s SO cute to hang doggie and kitty stockings from the fireplace. Oh, and then there’s the fun part—filling them up and watching them dig through them on Christmas morning! You could start a memorable tradition of sending out funny photo cards featuring your favorite furry model or taking your pets to meet and take pictures with Santa at the mall or pet store. You could also dress them up for the holidays because nothing’s cuter than a dog in jingle bells and a dog in a Santa hat!

National pet days

“Remind me again what we’re celebrating?”

National Dog Day takes place annually on August 26 to celebrate all dog breeds, pure and mixed, and to help shed light on the number of dogs in need of rescue each year. National Cat Day, which takes place on October 29, also helps raise awareness for animals in need. To celebrate these dog milestones, consider donating to the pet rescue of your choice—maybe the one where you got your pup?—in your pet’s name. Some other pet-related days to celebrate annually include:

  • National Dress Up Your Pet Day (January 14)
  • Love Your Pet Day (February 20)
  • National Walk Your Dog Day (February 22)
  • World Spay Day (February 26)
  • National Pet Day (April 11)
  • Bulldogs Are Beautiful Day (April 21)
  • International Chihuahua Appreciation Day (May 14)
  • National Hug Your Cat Day (June 4)
  • National Best Friends Day (June 8)
  • Take Your Dog to Work Day (June 21)
  • Dog Day (August 26)
  • Black Dog Day (October 1)
  • Pit Bull Awareness Day (October 26)
  • Cat Day (October 29)
  • Black Cat Day (November 17)
  • National Mutt Day (December 2)

First swim

Frankie’s first swim!!
Chloe’s first swim!!

If you have a dog who won’t stay out of the water—we’re looking at all the labs, goldens, and Newfies out there—then you’ll probably vividly remember the first time they went for a dip. Although you may have had to provide some gentle guidance, they eventually doggie-paddled their way to success, and you haven’t been able to keep them out of the water since! The same goes for their first dock jump, dog show, or agility competition.

First Vet Visit 

“I better be getting some treats to be here!”
“I’m pooping in the house as soon as we get home.”

Establish a relationship with your vet to provide the best possible care.

Your pet’s first vet visit is an occasion to celebrate! If you rescued or found her, that very first visit will be quite illuminating, cluing you into her age, breed, and any possible health concerns. Celebrate the first vet visit with some special treats and a belly-scratching session or two to mark the occasion.

Celebrate dog milestones every day with your pet 

Pets are such an essential part of our lives, mainly because we know our time with them is short. Turning every holiday or milestone into an event to celebrate will help ensure that you don’t take a single second for granted and that every day is a pet-centric day. As all pet owners know, those dog years sure do go by fast, so every single one should be cherished!

Vaccines For Dogs: Why Should You Vaccinate?

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Your Complete Guide to First-Year Puppy Vaccinations

When you bring that soft, sweet-smelling little ball of puppy fuzz into your home, you know right away that they depend on you for, well, everything. It’s up to you to give them all the care they need every day. It can be a little intimidating. They need the best puppy food, plenty of attention, gentle trainingsafe toyspuppy socialization, a comfortable home, and proper veterinary care with vaccines.

And that includes puppy shots throughout their first year.

Which Vaccines Do Puppies Need?

Going to the vet repeatedly over several months for vaccinations, and then for boosters or titers throughout your dog’s life may seem like an inconvenience. But the diseases that vaccinations will shield our pets from are dangerous, potentially deadly, and, thankfully mostly preventable.

We read about so many different vaccinations for so many different illnesses, that it can be confusing to know which vaccinations puppies need. And which ones are important, but optional.

Here is an overview of the diseases that each vaccination will help your pet to avoid.

Bordetella Bronchiseptica

This highly infectious bacterium causes severe fits of coughing, whooping, vomiting, and, in rare cases, seizures and death. It is the primary cause of kennel cough. There are injectable and nasal spray vaccines available.

Don’t be surprised if your veterinarian tells you to stay in the car. They are just making sure that your pup doesn’t infect other dogs and leave traces of it behind in the clinic.

If you plan on boarding your puppy in the future, attending group training classes, or using dog daycare services, often proof of this vaccination will be a requirement. Some boarding facilities even go as far as wanting dogs to be vaccinated every 6 months other than once a year.

Canine Distemper

A severe and contagious disease caused by a virus that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal (GI), and nervous systems of dogs, raccoons, skunks, and other animals. Distemper spreads through airborne exposure (through sneezing or coughing) from an infected animal. The virus can also be transmitted by shared food and water bowls and equipment.

Symptoms

It causes discharge from the eyes and nose, fever, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, twitching, paralysis, and, often, death. This disease used to be known as “hard pad” because it causes the footpad to thicken and harden.

Treatment

There is no cure for distemper. Treatment consists of supportive care and efforts to prevent secondary infections, control symptoms of vomiting, seizures and more. If the animal survives the symptoms, it is hoped that the dog’s immune system will have a chance to fight it off.

Infected dogs can shed the virus for months.

Canine Hepatitis

Infectious canine hepatitis is a highly contagious viral infection that affects the liver, kidneys, spleen, lungs, and the eyes of the affected dog. This disease of the liver is caused by a virus that is unrelated to the human form of hepatitis.

“Blue Eye” is a sign of infection

Symptoms

Symptoms range from a slight fever and congestion of the mucous membranes to vomiting, jaundice, stomach enlargement, and pain around the liver. Many dogs can overcome the mild form of the disease, but the severe form can kill.

Treatment

There is no cure, but doctors can treat the symptoms.

Canine Parainfluenza

One of several viruses that can contribute to kennel cough.

Coronavirus

The canine coronavirus is not the same virus that causes COVID-19 in people. COVID-19 is not thought to be a health threat to dogs, and there is no evidence it makes dogs sick.

Canine coronavirus usually affects dogs’ gastrointestinal systems, though it can also cause respiratory infections.

Symptoms

Signs include most GI symptoms, including loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Treatment

Doctors can keep a dog hydrated, warm, and comfortable, and help alleviate nausea, but no drug kills coronaviruses.

Heartworm

When your puppy is around 12-to-16 weeks, talk to your vet about starting a heartworm preventive. Though there is no vaccine for this condition, it is preventable with regular medication that your veterinarian will prescribe.

The name is descriptive — these worms lodge in the right side of the heart and the pulmonary arteries (that send blood to the lungs). They can travel through the rest of the body and sometimes invade the liver and kidneys. The worms can grow to 14 inches long and, if clumped together, block and injure organs.

Signs of Heartworm Infection

A new heartworm infection often causes no symptoms. Dogs in later stages of the disease may cough, become lethargic, lose their appetite or have difficulty breathing. Infected dogs may tire after mild exercise. Unlike most of the conditions listed here, which are passed by urine, feces, and other body fluids, heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes.

Diagnosing

Therefore, diagnosis is made via a blood test and not a fecal exam.

Kennel Cough

Also known as infectious tracheobronchitis, kennel cough results from inflammation of the upper airways.

It can be caused by bacterial, viral, or other infections, such as Bordetella and canine parainfluenza. It often involves multiple infections simultaneously.

Symptoms

Usually, the disease is mild, causing bouts of harsh, dry coughing. Sometimes it’s severe enough to spur retching and gagging, along with a loss of appetite. In rare cases, it can be deadly.

It is easily spread between dogs kept close together, which is why it passes quickly through kennels.

Treatment

Antibiotics are usually not necessary, except in severe, chronic cases. Cough suppressants can make a dog more comfortable.

Leptospirosis

Unlike most diseases on this list, Leptospirosis is caused by bacteria, and some dogs may show no symptoms at all.

Leptospirosis can be found worldwide in soil and water. It is a zoonotic disease, meaning that it can be spread from animals to people.

Symptoms

When symptoms do appear, they can include fever, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, loss of appetite, severe weakness and lethargy, stiffness, jaundice, muscle pain, infertility, kidney failure (with or without liver failure).

Treatment

Antibiotics are effective, and the sooner they are given, the better.

Lyme Disease

Unlike the famous “bull’s-eye” rash that people exposed to Lyme disease often spot, no such telltale symptom occurs in dogs.

Lyme disease (or borreliosis) is an infectious, tick-borne disease caused by a type of bacteria called a spirochete.

Signs

Transmitted via ticks, an infected dog often starts limping, their lymph nodes swell, their temperature rises, and they stop eating.

The disease can affect heart, kidney, and joints, among other things, or lead to neurological disorders if left untreated.

Treatment

If diagnosed quickly, a course of antibiotics is extremely helpful, though relapses can occur months or even years later.

Parvovirus

Parvo is a highly contagious virus that affects all dogs, but unvaccinated dogs and puppies less than four months of age are at the most risk to contract it.

The virus attacks the gastrointestinal system and creates a loss of appetite, vomiting, fever, and often severe, bloody diarrhea. Extreme dehydration can come on rapidly and kill a dog within 48-to-72 hours, so prompt veterinary attention is crucial.

Treatment

There is no cure, so keeping the dog hydrated and controlling the secondary symptoms can keep him going until their immune system beats the illness.

Rabies

Rabies is a viral disease of mammals that invades the central nervous system.

Signs

Rabies cause headaches, anxiety, hallucinations, excessive drooling, fear of water, paralysis, and death. It is most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal.

Treatment

Treatment within hours of infection is essential, otherwise, death is highly likely. 

Most states require a rabies vaccination and registration. Check with your vet about rabies vaccination laws in your area.


Of course, your veterinarian should weigh in and can always provide more information and guidance if you need on necessary and optional vaccinations.

Puppy Vaccination Schedule

The first thing to know is that there is not just one puppy vaccination schedule for all dogs. Factors such as which part of the country you live in and your dog’s individual risk factors will come into play. Some dogs do not need every vaccine. This decision is between you and your veterinarian. Always discuss puppy vaccinations at your regularly scheduled appointments.

That said, here is a generally accepted guideline of the puppy vaccination schedule for the first year:

Puppy Vaccinations Cost

How much vaccinations for your puppy will cost depends on several factors. Where you live is one. Veterinarians in crowded and expensive urban areas will charge more than a rural vet in a small town. In other words, there are significant differences in price. But no matter what the range in costs, some vaccines, such as the “core vaccines,” and for rabies, are necessary.

  • The average cost will be around $75—100. These will include the core vaccines, which are administered in a series of three: at 6 weeks, 12 weeks, and 16 weeks old.
  • The core vaccines include the DHLPP (distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvo, and parainfluenza). Your pup will also need a rabies vaccination, which is usually around $15—20. (Some clinics include the cost of the rabies vaccination.)
  • Often animal shelters charge less for vaccines — approximately $20 — or are even free. If you acquired your dog from a shelter, he would most likely have been vaccinated, up until the age when you got him.

*The initial puppy vaccination costs during the first year are higher than during adulthood because of booster shots.

Vaccinations for Adult Dogs: Boosters and Titers

There is a difference of opinion about having your adult dog vaccinated every year. Some vets believe too many vaccinations in adult dogs pose health risks. But others disagree, saying that yearly vaccinations will prevent dangerous diseases such as distemper. Talk with your vet to determine what kind of vaccination protocol works for you and your dog.

Many dog owners opt for titer tests before they administer annual vaccinations. Titer tests measure a dog’s immunity levels, and this can determine which, if any, vaccinations are necessary. One key exception to this is rabies. ( A titer test is not an option when it comes to the rabies vaccine.) This vaccination is required by law across the United States. Your vet can tell you the schedule for your particular state.


And it’s all worth it.

For your effort and care your puppy will lavish you with lifelong love in return. This critical first year of their life is a fun and exciting time for both of you. As they grow physically, the wonderful bond between you will grow, too.

Frankie’s Experience With Vaccines

I got Frankie as a puppy at around 11 weeks, so he was ready for his first set of shots of DHPP (distemper, parvo, hepatitis, and parainfluenza). After we brought him home, he started to get hives (looked like bubbles all over his body!). We called the vet and they recommended giving him some Benadryl because he was having an allergic reaction. That did the trick! So every time he received this shot, the vet would inject a histamine shot first to combat the reaction. After that, he never had any problems.

He never reacted to any other shot.

Chloe’s Story of Parvo

My husband and I adopted Chloe when she was about 6 months old from a rescue. Her back story was that she was dropped off at the vet. When the rescue went through her records, the previous owners knew she had parvo and was keeping the puppies in their garage. (I think she had a brother that didn’t make it.) They just dropped her off at the vet and never picked her up again. The rescue took her in and helped her through her struggle with parvo. She made it through with flying colors! When she was ready for adoption, you couldn’t tell she had just struggled to stay alive. We found her on Petfinder.com and instantly fell in love!

What Are The Best Puppy Toys For Chewing

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The Best Puppy Toys

Puppies explore the world through their mouths, so they’ll chew anything (toys or household items!) they can sink their teeth into. By providing them with puppy toys that indulge their teething instincts, you’re more likely to spare your shoes and socks from destruction.

During a puppy’s period of rapid development, from 2-months-old to 10-months-old, it’s important to give them appropriate toys, and both dog breed and personality can play a role in what toys might become your pup’s favorites. If your puppy bursts with energy and enjoys a challenge, they’ll love a toy that they can puzzle apart, or one that dispenses treats. While some pups like to snuggle up with a soft toy, others dogs may tear it to shreds.

Read on to discover some toys and treats to offer your puppy to help soothe painful gums and distract from the discomfort of teething.

What You Need to Know About Puppy Teething Toys

You’re helping your puppy through teething, teaching good behaviors, or just enjoying playtime. Good quality, age- and size-appropriate toys are as important to dog development as training and exercise.

At around four months old, puppies start to teethe. Their baby teeth are replaced by adult teeth and molars. At this stage, chewing may seem like your puppy’s obsession. They may chew on anything and everything. As any parent of a teething baby knows, teething is painful! So your puppy will need ways to reduce the discomfort of sore gums.

Teething toys soothe your puppy, while giving you an opportunity to teach them what they can and can’t chew on. For instance, don’t give your dog toys that resemble taboo items, like a squeaky shoe toy. This will confuse them when they see a regular shoe and start chewing on it! I’ve also seen baby shoes for humans that squeak. This can make the dog want to attack your little human for their shoes!

Sizing of Puppy Toys

Size is also an important consideration, as toys made for the small mouths of an 8-to-10-week-old puppy may cause a 6-to-9 month-old to choke.

Always read the manufacturer’s guidelines to make sure the toy is appropriate for your dog’s age and size, and that it’s been tested for safety.

No matter what toy you select for your puppy, it’s important to watch them when they play, and to check the toys occasionally to make sure your puppy hasn’t bitten off any chunks. Discard your puppy’s toy if it appears to be nearing its breaking point.

Best Starter Kit for Teething Puppies

This starter set of puppy toys and treats is a great start with a cooling Chilly Bone, a Nylabone puppy chews, Buddy Biscuits, a KONG toy, treat pods. These toys will help cool aching gums and provide hours of chewing entertainment for active puppies.

With an average rating of 4.5 out of five stars, reviewers expressed thankfulness for this well-equipped assortment. 

Frankie and Chloe both love their Kongs. I usually put cookie treats or peanut butter inside and it lasts a long time. For Frankie, he loved having carrots inside!

Best Soothing Teething Toy

Nylabone Just for Puppies Key Ring Bone

The shapes and textures of this Nylabone toy will satisfy your puppy’s need to chew, while keeping them entertained. Plus, the different textures on the keys are specifically designed to clean teeth and massage gums.

While many owners recommended this teething toy, some have warned that the small keys can be chewed off, which may lead to internal damage.

When Frankie was a baby, I tried to find these and they were always sold out! Very popular chew for puppies and dogs that are not aggressive chewers.

Best Teeth Cleaning Puppy Toy

Nylabone Puppy Chew Toy Puppy Teething Dinosaur

If you want a teething toy that freshens breath and cleans teeth at the same time, this Nylabone dinosaur is the solution for you. This teething bone is designed for puppies up to 25 pounds, but it is not intended for aggressive chewers. The fun, T-Rex shaped puppy toy comes in an enticing chicken flavor.

Many users praised the durability of this toy, while some reported that dogs who don’t typically enjoy chew toys liked this one. However, others caution that this toy can be dangerous, as chunks of the toy may be torn off and digested.

Best Toy for Aggressive Chewers

NWK Freezeable Pet Teether Cooling Chew Toy

This non-toxic NWK puppy toy can be frozen to enable cooling relief over hours of chewing. The thick ring is made of 100-percent purified water, and reviewers noted that the durable ring was able to withstand even the most aggressive chewers.

Frankie had something similar to this. It’s not only great for teething puppies, but also on hot days for your pup to chew on and keep cool!

Best Small Puppy Toy

KONG Puppy Binkie

Made in the USA, this KONG puppy binkie is perfect for small breeds under 35 pounds, and may be filled with treats to better appeal to dogs. The binkie is available in small, medium, and large sizes, with color choices of blue or pink.

Though many users liked the soft, squishy texture that was appropriate for teething, others reported the toy being quickly destroyed within a day or two.

Best Made in the USA Puppy Toy

KONG Small Puppy Teething Toy

For a fun, durable toy that is designed for a puppy’s baby teeth, try KONG’s small chew toy. The KONG’s odd shape enables erratic bounces, creating a fun game of fetch. Manufactured in the USA, this puppy toy can be filled with kibble, peanut butter, or other treats for added enjoyment. Scores of reviewers rave that puppies love this classic KONG toy. 

These are hands down the best puppy chew. There are different levels of chew Kongs all the way to aggressive chewer. Chloe has the black aggressive chew and has never tore it. And she shreds EVERYTHING!

Best Non-Toxic Puppy Toy

SCENEREAL Small Dog Rope Chew Toy

Available in an assortment of four candy canes, these Scenereal rope toys are sure to provide hours of fun for your pup. The toys range in size from 2.5 to 8.5 inches, making them compatible for small dogs, but less suitable for medium or large dogs. They are all made of non-toxic cotton, and some contain a squeaker hidden inside.

While few reviews are available, buyers noted these toys are mostly tear-resistant, though one reported that the yarn unravelled after repeated use.

*Be extra cautious when the rope starts to unravel. Dogs can ingest the string and it can get caught in their stomach and cause harm. Also, if you see them trying to poop out a string, DO NOT PULL IT OUT!! It can be wound around intestines. Take them to your vet to make sure there are no strings tangled inside your pup.

Best Affordable Teething Toy

Petstages Cool Teething Stick

Freeze this Petstages puppy toy and let your dog cool their aching gums as they chew. The cooling stick crunches when frozen, and includes bright colors, streamers, and ribbons to entice eager dogs.

Customers note that the toy doesn’t stay always cold, and the outer material rips easily, although others affirm that the toy is most effective when frozen solid. 

My Fur Babies’ Favorites

These are toys that they both have played with EVERYDAY!! If it wasn’t for these cool toys, my pups would be bored and beg for something to do.

Here is a list of Frankie and Chloe’s favorite toys:

Dog Relationship With Their Humans

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Great Relationship: Understanding Dog Behavior

If you own, or are thinking about owning a dog there are some things you will need to know about Dog Behavior. You are going to have a great relationship in the future when you understand your dog.

“Mommy is the best place to lay on!”

Training

Most experts recommend some kind of formal training. Your dog is still an animal at heart! In order for you to have the best relationship possible you will need to not only understand how your furry friend views what goes on in your house. Also look into what causes some of the responses in your dog. What kind of toys and games do they like to play?

“Mom, I don’t know how to do yoga.”

Emotions

Dogs are still wild animals. Many dog owners and enthusiasts have been said to project human emotions onto their pets. Nobody argues that dogs experience the world differently to what we do. Experts know that dogs have their own range of canine responses to situations that we cannot fully understand yet. We all know when they give us guilty looks, but what are they really saying to us?

Chloe: “Mom, are you done with pictures? I’m hungry.” Frankie: “Yeah Mom. I want to do something fun.”

Aggression/Biting

Most people are concerned about aggression and biting. And rightfully so, there are far too many stories about dogs who have been pushed over the edge. Nobody wants their children or loved ones to be injured by their dogs.

It is very important to understand dog behavior and their body language. Dogs always give a warning before they go for the strike and bite.

When you are trying to understand dog Behavior it’s useful to remember that your cuddly bundle is descended from wolves and sometimes these responses are instincts.

Kid Relationship With Dogs

If you have children in the house you will need to take some care to avoid becoming one of the almost five million Americans being bitten annually. While the majority of these dogs bite people who threaten them, or their owners. Teaching your children to respect other dogs will make a big difference. Supervision is one of the most important thing to remember with kids and dogs together.

Bringing New Dog Home

If you are thinking about bringing a new dog into the house then you will also need to establish a hierarchy. You are the pack leader and the dog must never be in doubt about who is in charge. Don’t just let them have run of the house as soon as they arrive. Slowly introduce the house and what they are able and not able to do.

Socializing

Socializing your puppy well will also ensure a smooth relationship. Get your dog used to remaining composed in stressful situations. Just make sure your dog is vaccinated first!

Going to puppy training classes are a great way to introduce puppies. Once they get a little older, going to dog parks could be a good socializing place. Just remember to always supervise them!

There are also doggie daycares where they can play with other dogs while being supervised by trained staff.

Reward your puppy for good behavior. Professionals who work with dogs often use positive reinforcement to speed up the process. If your puppy grows up with the children you are far more likely to have an easier time.

Call In An Expert

If you have adopted an adult dog or your dog has picked up some problem behaviors then you might need to call in some help. Dog behaviorists have a proven track record with correcting problem behaviors in dogs. Check that they are licensed or belong to some kind of association. Also be sure to ask what kinds of methods they use to correct the behavior.

Rather correct the behavior before someone gets hurt and prevent tragedy before it occurs.


Try to encourage a loving but respectful relationship between your dog and the children. Most dogs don’t take kindly to having their tails tugged while eating!

Marrow Bone: Dangerous For Your Dog?

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Veterinarians send warning to dog owners on the dangers of marrow bone

An uncanny reason for a visit to the ER. When a playful pup manages to get one of those circular marrow bones caught around its lower jaw and canine teeth. I’ve seen a patient that found himself in this very predicament; perplexed, I thought, “How is this even possible?” While it looks like a trick that only David Copperfield should be able to pull off, it can actually happen with surprising ease.

When it comes to marrow mishaps, there is bone bad luck. While some are easily removed with lubrication and gentle manipulation alone, others need to be removed with a cast cutting saw (or other manly tool). This is depending on the thickness of the bone while the pet is sedated. 

I have also seen dogs that have suffered from fractured canine teeth as well as extensive injury to their lower jaw and tongue. Tissue injury occurs when the circulation of blood is cut off to the skin and/or tongue while it is trapped within the bone. The marrow bone literally turns into a tourniquet with the continued and inevitable swelling of the tissues. Major or minor, any of these situations can be painful, distressing, and potentially very costly, depending on the extent of trauma and demeanor of your pet. 

Helpful Hints About Having Marrow Bone Around Your Dog

Your dog absolutely loves these bones and you love to give them, so what’s a pet parent to do?  Here are a few tips to help prevent any misadventures:

  • Size really does matter.
    • Make sure the size of the marrow bone is suitable for the size of your pet. Have your butcher “custom make” your marrow bones, trimming them into longer pieces, such as 8 inches for larger dogs. Skinnier bones can more easily work themselves around the jaw, and should be avoided.
  • Try a knuckle bone instead.
    • These can offer a similar chewing experience, and because there’s no hole, there is no risk of it slipping around the jaw. However, as with any type of bone, these too, can come with risks. Be sure to take them away while they are still large. It’s as soon as the gristle and soft parts of the “knuckle knobs” are gone. This will help to prevent accidental swallowing and choking once it is whittled down to a smaller size.
  • Sensitive stomach?
    • Marrow bones may not be the chew of choice for those pets that get diarrhea or an upset stomach easily.  Marrow is very high in fat as well as causing pancreatitis, in pets that are not used to the richness of the marrow fat.
  • Lastly, never leave your dog unattended while he or she is fancying the flavor—it is amazing how fast these accidents happen! And remember, extra aggressive chewers need extra close supervision.
“Size does matter!”

As gratifying as these treats can be, one can still find a bone to pick with them because the serious complications happen just as often as the “simple ones.”

Vets are sending dog owners warnings about the dangers of feeding their dogs with marrow bone. 

From a dog’s perspective, it’s like being on cloud-nine whenever they’re given marrow bones to chew. There is no denying this, right? Unfortunately, that’s where the problem is coming from. 

The Wasson Memorial Veterinary Clinic shared a picture of a massive marrow bone stuck over the lower jaw of a dog. They captioned the photo, “Watch out for marrow bones. Here’s another unlucky dog.”

Veterinarians are actually seeing this case more often and they are not liking it. It may not look fatal but it still brings danger to dogs’ lives. 

Sadly, this isn’t the only dog to get stuck in a marrow bone. 

Firefighters from North York, Canada, responded to a similar case. A woman came to ask for immediate help when her 10-month-old dog named Ginger. She had gotten a huge marrow bone stuck on her lower jaw. 

It appeared that the woman already went to a vet. But then she was told to bring her helpless pooch to an emergency veterinary hospital. While she was on her way, she decided to drop by the fire station to seek on-the-spot assistance from kind firefighters.

The dog was not in any serious danger when they arrived because she was still alive. 

The fire crew decided to bring Ginger and her worried mom to the Willowdale Animal Hospital. They also offered assistance in removing the marrow bone from the poor dog’s jaw. 

They used a Dremel to cut the two sides of the giant bone marrow. 

A Dremel multitool is a handheld rotary tool that uses a variety of attachments and accessories. You can use a Dremel tool on wood, metal, glass, electronics, plastic, and many other materials, including bone.

Dr. Jonathan Bloom was the veterinarian who took care of Ginger’s case. He said that it’s quite normal to see dogs with marrow bone stuck on their lower jaws nowadays. 

How does it happen and how to treat it?

“What? Do I have something in my teeth?”

Here is the problem. The marrow bones get stuck on the dog’s large fang teeth (canines). When their lips swell, it locks the bone in place around their lower jaw. 

Anesthesia is commonly given to the dog. They then will try to shake the bone off until it gets loose.

If this method doesn’t work, then the bone needs to be cut off. According to Dr. Bloom, that was the first time that firefighters came to assist. A Dremel tool was used to remove the stuck marrow bone from a dog’s lower jaw.

What does it take to be a responsible dog owner? 

There are no specific criteria for becoming a responsible dog owner. Some may say this while others may say that. There is no right or wrong when it comes to taking care of dogs. As long as it comes from a genuinely caring place. 

When something bad happens to a dog, more often than not, the owner takes the blame. But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t a responsible dog owner. 

Because of these frequent cases, veterinarians would like to remind dog owners to be more careful of the types of bones they feed their dogs. 

Such types of bone can break or split their teeth which may result in serious stomach issues.

If you ever do see a dog with one of these bones stuck over their jaws, seek veterinary assistance right away. Be sure to spread the word to all of your dog-loving friends.


The marrow of the story: know the risks and let your pet enjoy them only under direct supervision.

“Is this how you get the good stuff out?”

Dog Game Night With The Family

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7 Games Your Dog Can Learn From

When it comes to dogs, it’s time to reject the idea that work is work and fun is fun. School is in session every time we interact with our dogs— even during lighthearted play, they are always learning.

Here are seven fun games that teach dogs practical lessons that will help them be upstanding members of society. (These descriptions highlight the benefits rather than provide step-by-step instructions for each game.)

1. Chase.

Consider this game if you’re convinced that your dog doesn’t like to play; once they’ve been enticed into a game of chase, you may see their fun side come alive. Another plus: when you want to reinforce your dog but have no treats or toys handy. Chase can be a go-to way to make your dog glad they listened to you. And, because it teaches your dog to move toward rather than away from you, it can help with recall training.

For it to work, your dog must always chase you, not the other way around.

“Chase” can easily turn into the not-so-wise-or-fun game of “let’s nip the human’s ankles, legs or behind”. For the right dog played the right way, it can be a fantastic way to teach. Your dog to pay attention to you because you’re fun, and lays excellent groundwork for a reliable recall. Change directions often. To avoid trouble with an aroused dog becoming mouthy, stop running before your dog gets to you.

I advise against children playing this game unless the dog has a proven record of being able to handle it without becoming overstimulated. Even then, only with adult supervision.

2. Fetch.

When we think about playing with dogs, this is the game that most often comes to mind. Fetch is a cooperative activity, and each player has a role that must be fulfilled for it to work. (Many people tell me that their dog loves to play fetch. Then go on to say that the dog chases the ball but won’t bring it back, or won’t drop it. That’s not fetch—that’s running after a ball and hoarding it.)

Read more: Learn how to teach your dog to play fetch.

Fetch has a lot to offer, including the skill of dropping an item upon request. It also provides opportunities to work on high-level obedience. After a few throws, during which the dog has retrieved an item, brought it back to you and dropped it at your feet. Take a short break and ask them to do something specific. Sit, down, high-five or any behavior they can do on cue. Then resume play. Adding this training into a game of fetch can be done sporadically so that most sessions are pure fun and games for your dog.

By switching between the excitement of running and the discipline of responding to a cue, the dog learns to transition between high arousal and being calm. Teaching dogs to have an on/off switch develops emotional control that will serve them well throughout life. (Another perk: Your dog gets exercise without much effort on your part. It’s particularly appealing when you just want to enjoy your morning coffee while your dog burns up some energy.)

3. Find Your Treats.

Dogs have a lot of fun with this deceptively simple treasure hunt. But the “treasure” must be something your dog cares enough about to search for. It gives your dog mental exercise. This game keeps them occupied for a while and is a great party trick that allows your dog to show off.

Begin by putting some treats on the floor or furniture without your dog seeing you do it. Say the cue (“find it” or “find your treat” are frequently used) and tap or point to the treats. Repeat … a lot … over many days or weeks. When your dog starts to look for the treats upon hearing the cue, drop the tap or point. Once your dog is familiar with the game, have them stay, then release them to find the treats. At first, hide the treats before you ask them to stay. After your dog’s stay is solid, you can have them do so while you hide the treats. Either within sight or even in another room.

Read more: Teach your dog nose work.

If your dog is a food-guarder, skip this game. Also, it may teach your dog to sniff around and get into stuff.

4. Hide-And-Seek.

Here’s another game that teaches your dog to go on a search, but with you as the focus of the quest. It’s a great way to practice and improve a dog’s ability to come when called. To play, they must already know what “come” means.

Begin indoors.

Call your dog when you are partially out of sight. Perhaps crouched down next to a piece of furniture or behind a plant that doesn’t entirely conceal you. When your dog finds you, reinforce them with top-quality stuff . Treats, a toy, a bone, a chew, play time or a walk. Gradually work up to more obscure hiding spots, until you can be completely hidden from sight when you call them.

Add in “stay” practice by putting your dog on a stay, hiding, then releasing them and calling their name to come. For many dogs, the anticipation of being released makes them respond even more enthusiastically when called.

Expect your dog’s recall to improve dramatically if you play this game on a regular basis. You are teaching your dog that “come” means to do it even if you are not in plain view. Because it’s a game with reinforcements, dogs find it fun and worthwhile.

Playing this game when you are out in a (safe) off-leash area teaches your dog to keep an eye on you, and helps them understand that if the two of you become separated, they should look for you. And vice-versa—it’s not one-sided.

Disappearing around an aloof dog outside may not prompt any concern at all, and disappearing from view around a clingy dog anywhere may be upsetting.

5. Family Circle.

This is a special kind of hide-and-seek in which dogs are told to find a specific person. To play, the dog needs to understand and respond to the “come” cue.

I’ll use a scenario with Chloe as an example. First, one person says, “Where’s Erin?” and then I call Chloe. If she comes to me, she gets reinforced, but if she goes to somebody else, she gets ignored. Once I have reinforced the dog, I say, “Where’s Ben?” and then my husband calls the dog to come.

Most dogs learn people’s names quickly and begin to head to the right person once they hear the name, even before the cue. At that point, you can mix it up— sometimes calling them to come (to maintain a strong recall), sometimes saying only “Where’s [name]?” Once the dog can succeed in that context, up the stakes by having people stay out of sight, perhaps in other rooms, so the dog needs to search.

Learning the names of everyone in the family is more than just a cool party trick or a practical way to locate someone. It’s also another way to give the dog exercise without a lot of work on our part.

6. Tug.

There are many reasons to play tug with dogs. One of the most obvious is that so many of them love it.

More reasons:

  • it’s interactive
  • a way to provide a dog with exercise in a relatively small space
  • help them stretch before another activity or rev them up before a competition (if that leads to a better performance).

The game requires that a dog knows (or learns) how to respond to cues to take a toy and to drop it, which are related skills. Incorporated into the game itself, they are easier to teach. The game is the reward for taking an object, and dropping it can be reinforced with a treat and then resuming the tugging.

These skills can be useful in real life as well. Use “take it” when you want your dog to carry something small for you, or “drop it” when they’ve gotten hold of, say, the title to your car!

With tug, many dogs also learn to control their mouths and the emotions that can cause their mouths (and the rest of them!) to spiral out of control. Contrary to once-popular opinion, it will not make a behaviorally stable dog “turn aggressive.”

This game can be problematic for dogs who guard objects or those who become aggressive when highly aroused. It’s best for dogs who do not struggle with impulse control or bite inhibition.

7. Red Light, Green Light.

This one, borrowed from a game enjoyed by human children, teaches dogs to listen to cues even when excited. The impulse control involved in repeatedly stopping and starting is a great life skill that often spreads to other contexts. Sometimes, a dog who is having trouble with self-control will be able to pull it together after several of the transitions between the excited running and stopping that make up the core of this game. Other dogs calm down if you play it in a very tranquil, slow manner. Different styles of the game work best for different dogs.

It can be played one-on-one in the living room or during a walk, or in teams in a class setting, with multiple dogs competing to reach a finish line. In order to play, the dog needs to be able to watch the human member of the team and respond to a “sit” or “down” cue.

When they hear “green light,” dogs walk or run next to their human. Then when they hear “red light,” they must stop and lie down or sit (depending on the skill being worked on and which cue the dog is capable of responding to).

If the game is played in class, the dog is unable to lie down or sit on cue within three to five seconds, the team pays a penalty —taking three steps backward or returning to the start line, for example.

There is more to playing with our dogs than just having a good time, though that’s certainly enough to make it worthwhile. While you and your best friend are having fun, the game serves double duty as a practical way to teach important skills.


Training With Your Dog Is FUN!!

Think of it this way: in the name of training your dog, you’re totally justified in putting aside housework to play with them. Three cheers for being practical!