Monday, May 16, 2016

City Dogs Vs. Country Canines: Who Is At A Greater Risk?

As the old saying goes, home is where we hang our hat, but it’s also where we place our pets. Whether we’re in a rural setting or living in a teeming city setting, there’s important differences these opposing residents should aware of to ensure their animals are healthy, safe and happy.

For example, country folk may believe city dogs are at a greater risk from cars, trucks, traffic and other moving obstacles. But in reality, country canines, which are commonly off leash, are just as likely to be struck by vehicles as city dwelling dogs. Also, when it comes to traumatic injuries, more dogs are seen in rural veterinarian emergency rooms as a result of attacks by other animals.


Pet owners living in city settings can be more aware of their dog’s daily activities and are therefore likely to spot problems faster, like vomiting or other imminent threats that may require immediate medical attention. Dogs that spend a majority of the time outdoors could have gastric issues, urine or stool difficulties that may go unnoticed. As a matter of fact, city critters are 44% more likely to visit a vet for stomach trouble compared to their rural counterparts.

Depending upon their location, urbanites could live a considerable distance from their nearest veterinarian’s office or animal clinic. An emergency situation could go south quickly and given the additional distance involved in getting a dog to medical attention, this time could make a big difference. At the same time, many country vets will come out to rural homes and are on call when other city veterinarians are unavailable for care.


Pampered pooches in the city are more prone to allergens that are primarily found indoors, compared to their outdoor counterparts. In many cases, canines who live the majority of time outside will build up a better immune system and are less susceptible to allergies in general.

On the other hand, indoor critters have a much lower exposure to parasites like fleas, ticks that carry lyme disease and mosquitoes that spread the deadly heartworm virus. While there are preventative treatments available for all these canine threats, they aren’t 100% effective and it’s obvious that outdoor animals are exposed to these parasites at a much higher level.


These doggie dangers can be found in both environments, but on farms and other rural settings, dangerous liquids can puddle up under equipment and go unnoticed. Lapping up a small amount of something like antifreeze for example, can be deadly to a dog who is easily enticed and attracted by its sweet aroma and flavor.

On the contrary, indoor poisonous harm can come from a dropped prescription drug, an over-the-counter pain reliever or other discarded pill can be quickly gobbled up by a doting dog and these can be equally as dangerous. Other things that may not seem to be a big threat to pets, household detergents, certain indoor plants, chocolate and a number of other seemingly innocent items can be deadly in some circumstances.


Not to end on a sour note for city dwellers, but one of the biggest threats facing today’s pet population is obesity, and not just for dogs, cats are in danger too. This condition is obviously far more prevalent in less active animals that are homebound. If you do have an indoor dog, be sure it gets plenty of exercise, is taken on regular walks, trips to the dog park, whatever it takes to get them more active.

As always, you should see your dog’s veterinarian regularly, regardless of your living situation.

Check out this infographic for more information on recognizing possible dangerous diseases in your dog.

Written by Amber Kingsley, a freelance journalist and writer. She also created the accompanied infographic titled "Most Dangerous Diseases for Dogs." 

Friday, January 16, 2015

How did you train Bliss to do that?

Every day, someone asks me how I got Bliss to "do that," whether it's basic obedience, amazing tricks or even sporting a pair of sunglasses! It's really very simple. Whether we know it or not, we train our dogs every time they are with us. From now on, make everything you do with your dog an opportunity to consciously train your dog to perform behaviors you want: while feeding, walking and even watching television. With dogs their behavior is either getting better or worse so it’s important to notice bad behavior right away and replace it with a behavior you want.

Rewarding Your Dog
What motivates your dog most? Usually it is food, but toys and praise are two more motivators to put in your training toolbox. Many people are reluctant to train with treats, but why leave out the most powerful motivator, when once a behavior is solid, you can wean your dog off them?

Event Marking
When your dog gives you the behavior you want, you will want to “mark” his success. Event marking is an audible cue. It can be a verbal “Yes!” or some prefer clicker training.

"Clicker training" is an animal training method based on behavioral psychology that relies on marking desirable behavior and rewarding it.

Desirable behavior is usually marked by using a "clicker," a mechanical device that makes a short, distinct "click" sound which tells the animal exactly when they're doing the right thing. This clear form of communication, combined with positive reinforcement, is an effective, safe, and humane way to teach any animal any behavior that it is physically and mentally capable of doing. The essential difference between clicker training and other reward-based training is that the animal is told exactly which behavior earned it a reward. This information is communicated with a distinct and unique sound, a click, which occurs at the same time as the desired behavior. The reward follows.

Without hearing a click during an action, an animal may not connect the reward with that action. Or, the animal may associate the reward with another, unwanted action. With the click, a trainer can precisely “mark” behavior so that the animal knows exactly what it was doing. That’s why clicker trainers call the click an “event marker.” The click also bridges or connects the behavior and its reward, and so is also called a “bridging signal.”

Fast Food vs. Fine Dining
There are two methods of rewarding with treats: Fast Food and Fine Dining. Each method is used for different reasons. Sometimes, when teaching a new behavior, you need to instantly reward the dog’s success; that’s Fast Food. Fast Food is like a Pez machine; you pop treats in a dog’s mouth as an instant reward for performing a behavior.

Other times, you need to encourage your dog-in-training to stay in one position; that’s Fine Dining. Fine Dining is slower. One small treat held between the forefinger and thumb can be presented to the dog to lick or nibble as long as she holds a requested position.

If you are worried about overfeeding your dog, break the treats into tiny bits (about the size of a tic-tac), even for large dogs. They’ll think they’re getting tons of treats. If you are training often, consider reducing the size of their regular meals according to how many treats you use. 

Intermittent Reward
To avoid a “Show me the money,” dog that will comply only if he sees a treat coming, practice Intermittent Reward. Once your dog learns a behavior, delay the reward by a second or two, then longer. Also, change up the type of the treat(chicken, cheese, roast beef, etc.), as well as the amount to include the occasional “Jackpot” of a favorite food and lots of it. The benefit of this technique is that the dog never knows when or how much he will be rewarded, but knows he will be rewarded and sometimes hit the “Jackpot.” Eventually, your dog will do the behavior without expecting a reward, but always hoping.

Before you Start
·      Always set your dog up for success.
·      Smile when training your dog.
·      Train a little and often. Several short sessions of dog training are better than one long session.
·      Work incrementally in small steps.
·      Capturing behavior. The easiest way to train a behavior is to observe a behavior you want (such as “Down”) and reward it. For example, if your dog is lying down, surprise her by rewarding her (as long as she is in the position) and introducing the verbal cue by repeating: “Good down.”
·      Socialize your dog to be able to perform in different situations. Be sure each behavior is solid before moving to the next phase.
o   Begin training in a Familiar Place with No Distractions (in the house) until a behavior is solid.
o   Graduate to a Familiar Place with Distractions (the front or back yard).
o   An Unfamiliar Place with No Distractions (e.g., a park before people and/or dogs arrive or after they leave).
o    In an Unfamiliar Place with Distractions (outdoor coffee shops, department stores that allow pets, pet stores, parking lots, etc.).
·      Reward all good behavior. Ignore incorrect responses with a chirpy “Uh-oh” and start over. Keep “working” the behavior you want.
·      Stop if you get frustrated and resume when you calm down.
·      Learn how to “speak dog.” Dogs read our body language and learn everything they need to know just by watching us. Learn your dog’s body language to know how he’s feeling and to anticipate wanted, as well as unwanted behaviors.
·      Be clear and consistent in your instructions. Don’t repeat a verbal command over and over. Say it once and let the dog figure it out. If he needs it, help him out.
·      Take your dog on walks to exercise his body and mind (and yours).

·      Have fun and above all, try to be the person your dog thinks you are!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Bliss loves her Sportz-Vibe!

Being the guardian of two busy Australian Shepherd dogs, I am always looking for natural products to improve the well-being of Bliss and Parker. At ten years old, I really have to be carefully with my Bliss. She wants to keep up with two-year-old Parker but her body is just not as agile as it used to be and I worry that she could get hurt.

I know about all the health benefits of massage for canines (and for humans too). In the past, when I had the cash, I spent lots of money to have my dogs professionally massaged. After all, she was a professional athlete, excelling in dog agility, dock diving, canine freestyle and sheep herding. In recent years, she has slowed down but still loves to live an active life. So when I learned about Sports-Vibe, a lightweight portable massage blanket, I just had to have one for Bliss.

I've tried other doggie massage products but what I like about this one is how easy it is to use. All I have to do is plug in the rechargeable battery, put the vest on Bliss, turn on the switch and voila: the perfect doggie massage! Bliss can lie down or walk around while getting massaged and she seems to really enjoy it.

It took me a few times to get Bliss comfortable with the massage blanket but now that she has felt the healing vibe, she actually helps me put it on her! I am happy too knowing that the Sportz-Vibe massage blanket increases the circulation to her back and hips. The increase in blood flow makes tendons and ligaments more elastic and helps bring oxygen and nutrients to the areas. Massage also helps reduce what I believe is the root of all problems for canines and humans alike: the dreaded inflammation. It does this by stimulating the lymphatic system and remove toxins.

I am letting all my friends know that the benefits of the Sportz-Vibe for their high-performance dogs. Imagine using this as a warm up blanket before you enter the agility ring. Or, for anyone who's precious canine has undergone surgery, this is the perfect recovery blanket to help ease soreness and stiffness. It can also naturally relax the sore muscles of older dogs like Bliss. The bottom line is that dogs of any age can suffer from back or hip problems. Why wouldn't  you want to help ease their pain with this natural product?

Perfect Christmas gift for any dog lover! Just go to to order one today! Also available for horses.

Just visit you want to

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Finally, An Alternative To The E-Collar!!!!

I don't know about you but whenever either of my dogs need to be protected from scratching and licking a wound,  or are recovering from surgery, the drama is overwhelming. I had my boy Parker fixed last year and literally tried every collar on the market. Being a smart Australian Shepherd, Parker figured out how to get out of each one. Had I known about the Cover Me by Tui, my life would have been much more pleasant for those ten days of recovery. 

Cover Me by Tui is the most comfortable and effective alternative to the E-Collar. The post-surgical pet garment comes in a range of colors, options and sizes to fit any dog’s needs. A perfect alternative to the “Lamp Shade” style Elizabethan Collars that cause your pet to be uncomfortable, the garment also acts in a calming way to keep your pet from licking or chewing. 

"Working in a veterinary clinic for years, i was continually asked by clients what could be used in place of an e-collar, and i would recommend they go to a local retail store to get  onesie for infants," explains Stephanie Syberg, creator of the Cover Me by Tui. "Unfortunately, if their pet was larger than a Chihuahua I didn't have an answer, so I started developing the concept."

This brilliant new product prevents licking and chewing at surgical sutures and hot spots; is adjustable and comes in seven sizes with your choice of short or long sleeves; is made of soft, breathable, machine washable cotton; includes a built-in "Potty Cover" for quick and convenient trips outside; and comes in two styles: the Step Into and the Pullover.
The cost runs anywhere from $10.98 to $39.95, depending on size and style. For more information and to order online, please visit their website.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Bliss Says You've Got To Visit Dog Friendly Morro Bay, California

My BFFs, Kim Ostrovsky and Bliss in Morro Bay.
Dog lovers traveling to the beautiful city of Morro Bay along the coast of Central California can bring their canine along for the trip. Not only are there several dog friendly places to stay, there are also 11 dog-friendly restaurants in this quaint seaside village, not to mention the many pet-friendly places and activities to discover.

The restaurants on the waterfront offer great bayside views and delicious meals for owners and their pups. Bliss came with me recently on a girlfriend's getaway to this picture-perfect destination. 
Here are a couple of our favorite places to eat:

Waiting to eat at Bayside Cafe!
Dorn’s Breakers Cafe serves only the freshest seafood primarily from local waters with amazing views of the famous Morro Rock. A local favorite, Dorn's has quite a history that dates back to 1942. The night we ate there, it was too windy to sit outside on the dog-friendly patio so Bliss waited in the car and took a much needed nap after a busy day exploring while we dined and had a great time. The next morning, we went back to try out the dog friendly patio (and the delicious breakfast). Dorn's is also open for lunch and although we considered eating all three meals there, we decided to try another spot. What impressed us most was the wonderful, fresh cuisine and friendly service for both two legged and four legged guests.

Then there's the Bayside CafĂ© located in the back bay on the Marina. Bliss joined us on the patio for a delicious meal on a lovely sunny afternoon. The cafe was originally opened in 1986 by Cal Poly graduate Dawn Borst as a "walk up" serving her own personal recipes. It became so popular so quickly that Dawn had to expand. Try the California Chowder, burritos, fish tacos and albacore skewers. You may have to wait for your table but the view makes it go by quickly. Don't forget to order the Mud Pie for desert but don't give any to your dog!

While you're in Morro Bay, Bliss recommends you take your dog to one of the off leash dog beaches along the Central Coast of California. The one she enjoyed is just north of Morro Bay on the way to Cayucos. This two mile stretch of sandy shoreline is a great place for a playful afternoon or a full beach day with your BFFs.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Bliss in Redding, California!

In the majestic mountain and lake filled region in the north eastern corner of California lies Redding and Shasta Cascade, one of America’s most spectacular, pristine and DOG FRIENDLY regional destinations. Boasting 300+ days of beautiful weather a year, this area is rich in culture and heritage offering boundless outdoor recreation with magnificent landscapes and breathtaking vistas. From towering volcanoes, alpine ranges and glaciers to endless waterfalls, lush forests, pristine lakes and roaring rivers, this travel destination is one of a kind.
Known as the trail capital of California with over 200 miles of hiking, (many dog friendly), Redding is an outdoor adventurers dream. Not only are they known for endless trails, but with an abundance of nearby lakes, rivers and streams, everything from kayaking and paddle boarding to boating and fishing is available here. On top of the trials and the rivers, California’s Shasta Cascade contains seven national forests, eight national and state parks, and several mountain ranges including the Trinity Alps, the northern Sierra Nevada and the California Cascade range. Not to mention two massive glaciated volcanoes: the dormant 14,162 foot Mt. Shasta and the still-active 10,457 foot Lassen Peak.
Among the first cities covered by, this breath-taking region is brimming with dog-friendly hotels, resorts, restaurants, shops, tours, historic sites, dog parks, cabins and vacation rentals. There are plenty of areas for dogs and their owners to explore where rivers, mountains, wildlife and spectacular scenery collide. There are also dog-friendly events including the annual Ducky Derby, Art in the Park and the Bark, Wine and Brew celebration.
On a recent visit, Bliss had a blast! She went paddle boarding, kayaking, hiking and Whiskeytown National Recreation area where beautiful sapphire-blue waters are surrounded by mountain peaks. At the end of the day, Bliss fell right to sleep at TownPlace Suites, a dog friendly hotel that is convenient to Turtle Bay Exploration Park and Redding Civic Auditorium, within close proximity of Sundial Bridge, Whiskey Town and Lake Redding. We stopped for lunch at Buddha Bowl, a dog friendly low-key restaurant that is a locals favorite, featuring gluten-free (highly addictive) concoction of brown rice, red beans, chicken or tofu, avocado, shredded cabbage, jalapenos, cilantro and two sauces (a sesame and soy-based dressing and a spicy garlic chili aouli). YUM!
Check out this slide show of Bliss in Redding!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Sleeping Doggie Beauty!

Being the guardian of a busy Australian Shepherd who loves to be the center of attention keeps me on my toes. Considering I like to take Bliss everywhere with me, and she's a therapy dog who visits children in the hospital, I had to come up with a way for her to show off her talents in any situation. Being a writer, I started to string tricks together into little vignettes in the form of Fairy Tails. The first was “Sleeping Doggie Beauty,” starring Bliss, of course. Now you and your dog can entertain and amaze humans wherever you go!

“Sleeping Doggie Beauty”

Props: Tiara, Feather Boa
Behaviors: Shake, Sit up, Speak, Weave through legs, Hide (behind your back), Roll over, Play dead (Go to sleep), Jump in the air.
Level: Intermediate

Sleeping Doggie Beauty
Once upon a time, there was a Princess named ___________
Have dog give you its paw
She liked to sit pretty on her throne
Dog sits up on hind quarters
She liked to speak to her constituents
Cue dog to speak
And she liked to walk through the forest
Dog weaves through legs
One day, she was walking through the forest and she saw a scary witch so she hid
Dog hides behind your back
But the witch saw her and placed a spell on her
Dog rolls over
So she fell asleep
Dog lies on side with head down
Until her handsome prince came and woke her up to dance all night!
Dog jumps in the air for cookie

Step-by-step instructions:

The Sit
·      Hold treat above nose
·      Guide dog by raising treat slightly above its nose
·      When he sits, give verbal command, “Sit”
·      Keep food close to the nose the entire time
·      Praise and reward in position
·      Say the command only once
Hand Signal: Hold hand palm up facing toward you at waist level.

Give Paw (Shake, High Five and Wave)
·      Kneel in front of your dog and pick up its paw
·      Place dog’s pad on your open palm about dog’s shoulder height
·      Reward (Fine Dining) as long as dog’s paw is in your palm
·      If dog removes paw, remove treat
·      If you run out of treats, release paw
·      Cue verbal command, “Shake,” as long as dog holds position
Tip: Reward only while in position
Hand Signal: Hold hand palm forward at waist level.

Sit up (Beg, Pretty Please, etc.)
·      Start with dog sitting in front of you
·      Lure into sit by holding treat over dog’s nose, slightly out of reach
·      Let dog stretch up for treat while sitting
·      Help it raise front feet by gently lifting them
·      Say command, “Sit Pretty”
·      Reward dog in position.
Tip: This position requires the dog to have a strong core to support its spine. While training, position dog against a support such as a couch or wall to build up core muscles.
Hand Signal: Hand above dog’s head, palm facing toward floor.

Speak (Start training by capturing dog’s natural behavior)
·      Have someone knock on the door
·      When dog barks, cue verbal command, “Speak”
·      Reward
Hand gesture: Finger on side of your face

Weave through legs
·      Start with dog in heel position (on your left side)
·      Place your feet a little more than shoulder width apart
·      With treats in both hands, lure dog with left hand to turn into you
·      With right hand, lure dog through your legs to your right side
·      Repeat from right to left, luring dog from left hand
·      Reward dog each time
Hand gesture: Hands at both sides of your legs.

Dog hides behind back
·      Lure dog to hide behind you
·      Reward while in position behind your back
·      Cue verbal command, “Hide”
Hand gesture: Hand behind your back.

Roll over (From down position)
·      Lure dog’s head to middle of his body until he transfers weight to one hip.
·      Lure into rolling onto his back and onto other side.
Tip: Luring is helpful while dog has its paws in the air.
Hand gesture: Hand in circular motion in front of dog.

Sleep/Play Dead (This is one of the more difficult to train)
·      Put dog in down position
·      With treat in hand, get dog to transfer weight to one hip until lying on its side
·      Lure head to floor
·      Keep treat close to dog’s nose to keep its head down
·      Fine Dine, then quickly slide treat away and instantly back along floor
·      Reward, while repeating verbal cue, “Sleep”
·      Repeat and lengthen time away from dog’s nose
Hand gesture: Circle wrist, then open palm

·      Lure dog on hind legs with a treat
·      Use command “Dance” when dog is up on hind legs
·      Add seconds to time and lure in a circle
·      Use treats or toys
Hand gesture: Hand above head.

The Down
From Sitting Position
  1. Stand in front of your dog.
  2. With your dog sitting, place a treat in your fingers and lure his head down between his front paws. Pull lure (toy or treat) forward until his elbows are on the ground and he has settled into the down position. Applying gentle pressure or stroking over his shoulders will encourage him to lower his body and keep his hind end on the floor.
Hand Signal: Point finger towards floor.

From Standing Position
  1. Stand in front of your dog.
  2. With your dog standing, lure him by lowering food or a toy straight down between his front paws until he lowers his elbows to the ground and folds back on his haunches. (This is faster than Down from a Sit.)
Hand Signal: Point finger towards floor.

The Stay
Note: The most important part of the Stay is the Release. “OK!” “Finish!” “Release!” are some verbal release commands to choose from.
  1. Work your dog on a 6-foot leash
  2. Ask for a sit
  3. Facing your dog, say the command, “Stay,” once.
  4. Combine verbal command with hand signal: Open palm facing dog.
  5. Step back one step, count two seconds (silently), return to your original position and reward. If your dog does not break, try stepping back two steps, then three, etc., until you can go to the end of your leash without him breaking the sit.
  6. Remember to quickly return and reward after each sequence of steps.
  7. Your job is to smile and repeat in a calm, low, encouraging voice, “Good Stay.”
  8. If he breaks, move in quickly, put him back in the position and request the “Stay” again. Smile.
  9. As he becomes confident in the behavior, add more time and distance.
Tip: It is essential not to rush the process. Do not add distance or time until you know your dog will not break.
Hand gesture: Open palm facing dog. If dog is in heel position, fingers are facing toward floor; if facing your dog, fingers face up as in the “Stop” signal.

The End