Whole Dog Journal Blog

Different Strokes

August 9, 2017 - I'm slowly making friends with my neighbors over my back fence. They moved into that house about seven years ago... but we got off to a bad start. They had two dogs, which they kept in the backyard 24/7. The dogs had a wooden dog house to sleep in, with absolutely no bedding whatsoever. When the people weren't home, the dogs barked and barked and barked. Worse: One of the dogs was a really old Rottweiler who had the funkiest-looking tumors literally hanging off her body. One of the tumors was about the size of an orange - and looked like an orange that someone stuffed into a stocking. It swung from side to side when she walked and, later, dragged on the ground. We had one conversation about the dogs over the back fence shortly after they moved in, but when I asked about the tumors, the people got kind of chilly and simply said that the dog had been seen by a vet and she was fine.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 04:28PM Comments (48)

Superzoo (or Any Pet Product Trade Show) IS a Super Zoo!

August 2, 2017 - Last week, for the second year in a row, I attended the pet product industry trade show called Superzoo, held in recent years in the Mandalay Bay convention center in Las Vegas. I was there to meet with representatives of various dog food companies and look for new/cool/unique helpful products to feature in WDJ. I've been trying to bring product reviews to the pages of WDJ on a more regular basis, and seeing so many pet product companies and their wares in one place at the same time is very helpful. It's also EXHAUSTING. I traveled with a dog trainer friend, Sarah Richardson, who owns a training/boarding/daycare facility close to me, The Canine Connection, in Chico, California. Sarah, too, was looking for products to sell in her small lobby retail area, as well as products with which to outfit her facility. When we first arrived in Las Vegas, late at night, Sarah was optimistic. "Hey, we should go see a show! We should go eat out at one of these great restaurants! We should go see a concert!" But at the end of the show each day, at what would seem like the entirely reasonable hour of 5 pm, we were both BEAT. It was all we could do to eat and go back to the hotel room, and lay around discussing what we saw that day until we fell asleep.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 04:55PM Comments (15)

When a Difficult Event - Euthanasia - Is Made Far More Difficult

July 26, 2017 - Euthanizing any pet is emotionally difficult. You know what's going on, and the pet doesn't; there is a lot of guilt around that. Even when the animal has been suffering, and is likely to suffer far more if you chose not to arrange for this humane assistance, most of us feel at least a little bit of guilt about bringing our friend to the vet (or a housecall vet to our pet) for that final visit. You may be experiencing anticipatory grief and sadness. You may also be feeling doubt: Is this really the time? Did we do everything we could? I've attended the euthanasia of a number of animals, my own, and those who belonged to friends or relatives who felt they couldn't be present. I've been present for the euthanasia of dogs and cats, my family milk cow, and several horses. It was wrenching emotionally every time - and yet, every single time, the process went smoothly. Every veterinarian who has helped my animal friends pass from consciousness has induced this calmly, professionally, and with great sensitivity. Given the difficulties with the medical or behavioral problems and trauma that necessitated each euthanasia, I couldn't be more grateful to the veterinary professionals who provided this valuable service.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 03:53PM Comments (38)

Dog Treats: Store-Bought or Homemade?

July 19, 2017 - A friend just posted an article online about the launch of a brand-new pet treat manufacturing company in California - that is, a California-based subsidiary of a Chinese pet food manufacturing company, Gambol Pet Group. The company is already the largest provider of private-label pet treats for Walmart in the U.S. and Canada. This is bound to set off a predictable avalanche of negative comments about Chinese manufacturers of dog foods and treats - which I, myself, strenuously avoid, due to concerns about lax controls over the food industry in China. However, this U.S.-based subsidiary will have to follow U.S. laws and inspections, and, in our opinion, really shouldn't be regarded with any more or less suspicion than any pet food or treat manufacturer.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 04:48PM Comments (30)

How Many Dogs is the "Right" Number for You?

July 12, 2017 - My son's dog - my granddog - just stayed with me for three weeks, while my athlete son was traveling for his sport. Cole, an all-black Black and Tan Coonhound, is about four years old now. I personally selected him for my son from my local shelter when he was only about four or five months old, and he's stayed with me many, many times. He has "perfect" manners, gets along well with both my dogs (goofy adolescent Woody and serious senior Otto) and my cats (both the super-shy one and the one who swats the dogs daily). I absolutely adore this dog - and yet, I was glad when my son returned from his travels and Cole went home. As much as I love dogs in general and Cole in particular, for me, three dogs is just a bit much.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 02:15PM Comments (66)

How Did Your Dogs Handle the July 4th Fireworks?

July 6, 2017 - My husband, who is not at all what I would call a dog person, nevertheless makes some uncannily good observations about dog behavior sometimes. He's the one who, about a year ago, stated that he thinks Woody is going to be our best chance at having a non-neurotic dog. And darned if he's not right. Otto, who will be 10 in November, is, by and large, a content and confident dog, but he does have fears and concerns about certain things, including floors that he suspects might be slippery. He lights up at the sight of a tennis racket, because that means a game of fetching tennis balls, but runs from the room if you pick up a fly swatter, because fly-swatting...well, I don't know why fly-swatting is so terrifying. He could not care less about gunshots; several of our favorite places to hike are within easy earshot (pun not intended) of a shooting range, but fireworks? Well, every single year, he gets more and more reactive to the sound of fireworks.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 10:11AM Comments (61)

The Fourth of July Is Not Always Happy for our Dogs

June 28, 2017 - Warnings about pets and fireworks are so ubiquitous on social media today, that it seems like repeating the obvious to warn pet owners that they should take extra steps to secure their pets for the holiday. However, there are some fine points to consider that I’d like to add to the suggestions that are most commonly shared. The warnings all discuss taking various precautions to prevent your pet from being traumatized or escaping on the July 4th holiday. Actually, you had better ramp up those preparations NOW, since many people who buy fireworks start celebrating days in advance! With the holiday on Tuesday this year, I would expect to hear lots of snap, crackle, and pops this weekend.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 05:05PM Comments (8)

A Cautionary Tale - Please Learn From My Mistakes

June 21, 2017 - Not quite a year ago, I told you about Ruby, a Cardigan Corgi I had fostered for my local shelter three years prior; she had found a home, but was being returned to the shelter, and I had decided to foster her again, to try to assess what had gone wrong. When I first fostered Ruby, I had observed that she was a confident, tough little dog, who would freeze and give a “hard eye” look at other dogs when they crossed her in some way, but I never saw her display any overt aggression.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 04:58PM Comments (96)

Look Under the Lips

June 14, 2017 - It's sometimes shocking to me that so many of us live with dogs and never think of looking at their teeth. Like us, dogs can develop problems with their teeth that can affect their overall health. But in comparison to us, their lives are much shorter - and they develop dental problems much more quickly. In fact, if these problems are neglected, they can actually shorten your dog's life. Cavities are the biggest problem for human teeth, but the accumulation of plaque and the development of tartar (also called dental calculus) is the most serious dental problem for dogs. Tartar builds up on the teeth, forming a concrete-like crust on the teeth at the gum line. It also forms under the gums, which helps bacteria get under the gums and proliferate. The resulting infection causes the gums to appear red, swollen, and irritated. This condition, also known as gingivitis, can lead to deeper infections. Infection can also damage the ligaments and bone that anchor the teeth, making them susceptible to loss. Because of the rich blood supply to the mouth, the infection can also spread systemically, making your dog quite ill and/or affecting his heart, kidneys, and liver. This chronic condition can prematurely age your dog.
Posted at 05:05PM Comments (3)

Early Dog Memories

June 7, 2017 - I once visited with a family friend whom I hadn't seen for more than 20 years, someone who had known my family and me since I was about four years old. One of the first things he said to me was, "Do you still have dogs? You always had a dog or three with you...". At the time of this visit, I hadn't yet started editing WDJ; I was a horse magazine editor - my entire professional career had been about horses (and journalism) and my hobbies were very horse-based. So I rolled my eyes at my long-estranged friend. "I have a dog, but I mean, I have a lot more to do with horses now...". Despite my kneejerk denial, he was right. I have been hanging out with dogs for as long as I can remember. Though neither of my parents grew up with dogs, they both loved dogs and were suckers when their four children all turned out to be dog lovers, too, and wanted their very own dogs. Because my three siblings are five, six, and seven years older than me, by the time I came along, we already had a house full of dogs. And, again because my siblings are older, by the time I wanted someone to play with, they didn't really want to play with me - it makes sense; what 10, 11, and 12 year old wants to play with a five year old? - so I entertained myself by playing with the dogs!
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 03:29PM Comments (27)

Thinking about the "Sit! Sit! SIT!" Syndrome

May 24, 2017 - There is a behavior that the vast majority of humans reliably demonstrate when meeting an unfamiliar dog or puppy: they will tell the dog to "Sit! Sit! SIT!" Even in the face of any evidence whatsoever that the dog understands the word, people will repeat it again and again, and say it louder and more emphatically, seemingly certain that the dog was too distracted or just didn't hear them. It never seems to cross their minds that the dog doesn't fully understand what the word means. It is a testament to our love for and comfort with dogs, I guess, that we so often assume they understand our language. But why do we so often expect a strange dog - or as an even better example, a young, untrained puppy - to understand "Sit!" I find it so aggravating! Why do I even care? For two reasons:
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 03:51PM Comments (20)

How do we Westerners hate foxtails*? Let us count the ways...

May 17, 2017 - Here in California, it's foxtail time. This grassy weed is everywhere outdoors - in the wilderness areas where we hike, yes, of course, but also alongside suburban sidewalks and coming up in cracks in city parking lots. They are in my backyard and front yard and side yards. I spend hours each week pulling them up by the roots and carefully discarding them in the green waste bin, because there is a tiny seed at the base of every single strand on every waving frond on every plant that will grow another foxtail plant next year. If you have a very small yard, with enough years of dedicated weeding, you can eliminate them from your yard. I have a large yard and I will never see the end of them. Why are they a problem? They are so pretty! You can run the fronds through your fingers and they are so soft - as long as you stroke them from bottom to top. If you try to reverse the direction of your caress, you learn instantly why they are the most reviled weed in the west.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 04:08PM Comments (19)

I’d Like Some Veterinary Medicine, Please

May 10, 2017 - After having a medical issue of my own recently, I had an epiphany: I'd rather see a veterinarian than deal with the human medical system. The usual routine with human medicine: If something serious happens suddenly, you have to go to the emergency room; your own doctor can't see you right away for anything serious. The ER patches you up enough to be released and tells you to follow up with your own doctor. At the day of the appointment, your doctor decides you need an x-ray or ultrasound or other test - and sends you to another clinic or testing laboratory where this is done. It takes days for the results to get back to your doctor, and when he gets them, he sends you elsewhere for treatment. At least, that's what happened to me, recently.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 02:26PM Comments (30)

More Foster Stories with Good Outcomes

May 3, 2017 - Here’s another post to provide closure to some of the foster-dog stories I’ve shared with you in recent months. In mid-March, I wrote about being fairly depressed by the arrival of two foster dogs. I had pulled the first one from my local shelter as a prospect for a friend of my son, who was looking for an athletic, medium-sized dog. I had never seen the dog outside of a kennel, first at my local shelter, and then, after we evacuated the shelter during the Oroville (Calif.) Dam scare, at a friend’s house (she took in about 20 of the shelter’s dogs!). He had a darling face, seemed quiet in the kennel, and looked like a Poodle-something-mix. As soon as it was safe for me to go back home after the evacuation, I asked to foster him. It wasn’t until I got him home that I saw he wasn’t going to work for my son’s friend. That young man is a professional athlete, and was looking for a dog he could take out for runs; this dog could barely stand up! He had as little muscle tissue as I’ve ever seen on a dog, and he stood and walked way back on his “wrists.” It seemed clear he had been kept in a crate or tiny pen for most of his life. He also had a bad habit of barking LOUDLY when he wanted something or when he was frustrated. This, too, seemed like a trait he had likely developed while being stuck in a crate. He didn’t have any other tools for dealing with his frustration.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 08:34PM Comments (12)

A Change of Venue: An Update on Rosie

April 26, 2017 - Way back in November I wrote about finding a great prospect for my sister-in-law Leslie and my seven-year-old niece, Ava. In my local shelter, after looking for months, I found a darling young Shepherd-mix who impressed me as having superior self-control for being such a young dog, as well as infinite sweetness and affection for people. On the other hand, she was a younger dog than I had originally considered for them, and who seemed to have the potential for being larger than I had originally hoped. But she was just SO SWEET and fun and smart; she loved engaging with people, loved kids, loved to cuddle, and learned things fast. I discussed her with Leslie, and then brought her home for to evaluate her further. (Because I foster so much for my shelter, I get special privileges when it comes to taking dogs for a trial. Plus, I have a nearly perfect success rate at finding homes for my foster dogs.) Every day I had the dog, I liked her more. She loved playing with my young dog Woody, was able to finesse the grumpy response she got from my older dog, Otto, and met all my other friends and their dogs in a happy, friendly way. Leslie and Ava came to meet her, and really hit it off. Ava named her Rosie, and I committed to keeping and training her for a few more weeks while Leslie would work to find a dog-walker who could help them for a few months, so they could get through Rosie’s puppyhood and go on to a happy life together. It all seemed like it was going to work out perfectly.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 04:13PM Comments (25)