Do Dogs Feel Empathy for other Dogs?

If you have a pair of dogs at home who are BFFs or who at least tolerate each other, you’ve probably noticed that when one is distressed, the other responds in some manner. Some dogs will simply nose around a stressed housemate, while others will more actively engage with their friend, as if to distract him.

Recently, in the first-ever study of its kind, a team of researchers at the University of Vienna set out to discover whether dogs feel empathy for other dogs — especially dogs they know. Previous studies have shown that a form of empathy called emotional contagion exists in a wide variety of species, including dogs . Emotional contagion which is considered the most primitive or lowest level of empathy, means dogs are affected by and share the emotional states of others, including, for example, crying babies. Now that it’s been established that dogs show empathy toward humans (and most of us with canine companions already knew that!), the Vienna researchers decided to study dog-to-dog empathy.

For the study, the research team recruited 16 pairs of dogs of various breeds. Each pair had lived under the same roof for a least one year. In order to get recordings of actual distress, the owners brought one of their dogs into an unfamiliar room and left them there. When they began to whine and cry they were recorded.

There was also an additional group of dogs unfamiliar to the 16 pairs of dogs who were recorded making similar sounds of distress. Finally, the researchers recorded a computer-generated control sound with the same frequencies and timing of distressed dog sounds.

In the next phase of the experiment, which occurred over a six-week timespan, the owners brought their second dog (the one who hadn’t been recorded) into an unfamiliar room. The owner then sat in a chair facing away from the dog and put on a pair of headphones so he or she couldn’t hear any sounds in the room (I assume to avoid sending any sort of signal to the dog).

The dog was given time to get acclimated, and then one of three sets of sounds was played through speakers hidden behind a screen: the whining of the dog’s housemate, the whining of an unfamiliar dog or the control sound. As the dogs reacted to the recorded sounds, the researchers videotaped them.

At subsequent two-week intervals, the same dogs were brought back to listen to the other two recordings. The dogs’ heart rates, salivary cortisol levels and behavioral responses were measured before and after listening to the recordings. Immediately after each recording ended, the dog’s housemate was brought into the room so the two could reunite.

Dogs Not Only React to the Distress of Familiar Dogs, but Also Try to Comfort Them

Predictably, the dogs reacted much more strongly to the recordings of other dogs in distress than to the computer-generated control sounds. The body language the dogs displayed while listening to the sounds of other dogs included lip licking, yawning, whining, a lowered body posture, tail tucked between the legs and shaking.

Also not surprising was that the dogs showed even greater stress indicators when they heard the recordings of their housemates. This indicates they were correctly interpreting and reacting to the sounds other dogs make when they’re unhappy — especially when it was their friend who was distressed.

“When their housemate was brought into the room, the dogs tended to show many concern-related behaviors directed toward this dog,” writes dog behavior expert Stanley Coren, Ph.D., about the study results.

“This included staying close to them, licking their faces, tail wagging, rubbing their body alongside the other dog, showing greeting behaviors, and trying to initiate play. These behaviors were more likely to occur when the sounds they had listened to earlier came from the dog they lived with.”

Not only does the dogs’ behavior look a whole lot like empathy, but it also rises to the level of sympathetic concern, which is a step above emotional contagion. The dogs not only felt the emotions of the distressed dogs, but also tried to alleviate their friends’ sadness by offering physical comfort and distractions.

The researchers also observed that the level of cortisol, a stress hormone, in the dogs’ saliva spiked when they listened to the recordings of the dogs, and it stayed up much longer when it was their housemate making sounds of distress.

The results of this study, like many others on the mental and emotional lives of dogs, just confirm for those of us who adore them that our canine companions are intelligent, sensitive, incredibly loving creatures. But it’s always nice to have documented research to validate what we already know!

RIP Phineas


Pet/Human Allergies?

If you’re thinking about getting a dog or cat but you or someone else in the family have pet allergies, it’s important to give serious consideration to all the potential consequences of having a furry sneeze trigger under the same roof with a person with allergies.

Children sometimes outgrow their hypersensitivities, but for most allergy sufferers, the condition is more or less permanent and won’t improve with time or continued exposure to the pet. You don’t want to commit to a new pet only to discover your allergic family member can’t be in the same house with him or her.

The good news, however, is that in my experience, most people who are allergic to their furry companions find ways to manage that don’t involve giving up the animal. The benefits of sharing life with a pet seem to outweigh the bother of allergies for most animal lovers.If you’re on the fence about whether or not to get a pet, why not consider fostering a dog or cat first to see how things go?

What’s Really Causing You to Sneeze?

Many people with pet allergies don’t realize it’s not an animal’s coat that causes their sniffling and sneezing. Flakes of skin called dander are what cause most allergic responses. Even if your cat or dog is hairless, you can still be allergic.

You might also be allergic to your pet’s saliva, either on his fur or when it comes in direct contact with your skin. Pet urine can also be a problem for some allergy sufferers.

And many people are allergic to a specific protein called FEL-d1 found in cat dander and saliva. Allergies to cats are more common than allergies to dogs.

Research into the hygiene hypothesis, which is the theory that humans can be too clean for their own good and underexpose their immune systems to common microbes in the environment, has provided compelling evidence that kids exposed to pets before their immune systems are fully developed at around age 2 are less likely to develop allergies than children without pets in the home.

15 Ways to Minimize Pet Allergies at Home

1.Consider making your bedroom (or the bedroom of your allergic family member) a pet-free zone. This means your dog or cat can’t enter the room for any reason.

2.Purchase a good-quality ionic air purifier to help clean the indoor air of allergens and other pollutants.

3.To prevent a buildup of allergens inside your home, if possible, replace carpeting with hard flooring, replace drapes and curtains with non-fabric window coverings and avoid cloth-covered (upholstered) furniture.

4.Clean your home often and thoroughly, including any surfaces that trap pet hair and dander (couch covers, pillows, bedding, etc.).

5.Wash human and pet bedding frequently in hot water.

6.Bathe your dog or cat often using only safe, non-drying herbal pet shampoos.

7.If your pet rides in the car with you, consider using washable seat covers.

8.Family members should wash their hands after handling a pet. If you’ve been snuggling on the couch with your dog or cat, consider a shower and shampoo before lights out to avoid bringing pet allergens to bed with you.

If your children roll around on the floor or grass with their animals, they should also bathe or shower and shampoo before bed so they don’t transfer pet allergens onto their pajamas and bedding.

9.Allow kids to be kids. Let your children play outside and get dirty, and use regular soap, not anti-bacterial soap, for hand washing and bathing.

10.Consider taking a probiotic supplement and/or eating traditionally fermented foods. Healthy gut bacteria is important for proper immune system function, and research indicates doses of good bacteria help train the immune systems of infants to resist childhood allergies.

11.Also consider taking quercetin, which is a bioflavonoid with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

I call it “nature’s Benadryl” because it suppresses the release of histamine, which is what causes much of the inflammation, redness and irritation characteristic of an allergic response.

12.Bromelain and papain are proteolytic enzymes that increase the absorption of quercetin, and also suppress histamine production.

I recommend using quercetin, bromelain and papain together because they suppress the release of prostaglandins, which are also a factor in the inflammatory process.

13.Omega-3 fatty acids help decrease inflammation throughout the body. One of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids is krill oil.

Consider supplementing with both krill oil and coconut oil. Coconut oil contains lauric acid, which helps decrease production of yeast, and together they can help moderate or suppress the inflammatory response.

14.Feed your pet an anti-inflammatory (grain-free), balanced and species-appropriate diet. Reducing or eliminating allergenic and genetically modified foods in your pet’s diet can help reduce production of allergenic saliva.

Many people with cat allergies visiting my home have been pleasantly surprised to learn they don’t react to my cats, who are raw-fed.

15.Make sure your pet’s essential fatty acid requirements are met. By assuring your pet has optimal levels of omega-3 fatty acids in her diet, you can dramatically reduce shedding and dander.

Reducing the allergen load in your home and minimizing allergic reactions to your pets will help every member of the family, two-legged and four-legged, live more comfortably together.

6 Tips for Hosting House Guests Who Are Allergic to Pets

1.Give your house a thorough cleaning a day or two before company arrives. Launder sheets and towels in hot water. Mop hard floors. Vacuum carpets and rugs; better still, have them professionally cleaned. Pay special attention to surfaces that trap pet hair and dander like couch covers, pillows and pet beds.

2.Change your HVAC filters and if you haven’t already, consider investing in an ionic air purifier to clean the air in your home.

3.If your pet rides in the car with you and you plan to chauffeur your visitors around town or loan them your car, make sure to clean the interior of your vehicle. Vacuum the seats, seatbelts and floors. Clean the windows and wipe down any surface that collects pet hair, dander or drool.

4.Bathing your dog or cat immediately before guests arrive can help reduce allergic responses while they’re visiting.

5.Despite all your best efforts, allergens can persist in your home environment for months or longer. If you have frequent overnight guests who are allergic to pets, consider making a guest bedroom a pet-free zone. Remove carpeting and window coverings that trap animal dander and replace with hard floors and wood blinds. Don’t allow your dog or cat access to the designated pet-free area.

6.Make sure you have a supply of over-the-counter (OTC) allergy medication or natural support on hand in case your guests need it.

8 Steps to Less Stress at Bathtime

Many dogs hate bath time, which is too bad, because with proper preparation, bathing your dog doesn’t have to be stressful for either of you.


1. Brush your dog first.

Give your dog a thorough brushing right before bath time to remove dirt, debris, dead hair and mats from his coat.

Brushing before a bath will make brushing after the bath much easier. If your dog enjoys being brushed, this is also a good way to help relax and soothe him before a bath.

You can also remove your dog’s collar at this time, or leave it on to use (very gently) as a handle to steady him while you’re bathing him.

2. Choose the best spot to bathe your dog.

Since most homes aren’t equipped with a raised tub like you see at veterinary clinics and grooming shops, if you have a small dog, you can use a laundry room or shop sink, or even your kitchen sink.

For larger dogs, the bathtub usually works (though it can be hard on your back), or a walk-in shower. If it’s a nice day and warm enough that your dog won’t get chilled, you can bathe her outside using a garden hose.

Make sure to get your bath supplies ready beforehand, including towels and washcloths, a pouring container for water if necessary, shampoo and conditioner and so forth. Leaving a wet dog standing alone in a tub or sink while you dash off to get the shampoo you forgot is inviting disaster.

3. Help your dog feel safe in the tub.

First, make sure the water temperature is comfortable — not too hot or cold. Most tub floors feel slippery under a dog’s paws, so I recommend putting a towel down on the bottom of the tub so your pet feels more secure during his bath.

It can also save you from having to support a larger dog who keeps losing his footing.

If your dog seems anxious or fearful in the bath, try to enlist a helper to hold him steady and help him feel safe. Your helper can soothe your dog and maybe offer him the occasional treat for being a good boy during his bath.

The goal is to create a positive experience so your dog won’t develop an extreme dislike or fear of being bathed.

4. Keep those ears and eyes protected.

Put a cotton ball just inside each of your dog’s ears to prevent water from getting in them. Most dogs don’t enjoy having water sprayed or poured on their heads, and it’s really not the safest or best way to get the face and ears clean anyway.

Another reason I don’t recommend pouring water over your dog’s head is because she can develop secondary ear infections from moisture getting into the ear canal.

And no matter what shampoo you use — even if it says it’s safe around the eyes — I don’t recommend lathering your dog’s head.

If for some reason you must, it’s important to hold her chin up and rinse toward the back of the neck and not down over the face to avoid getting shampoo in her eyes.

5. Lather front-to-back.

Wet your dog’s entire body using either with a hose or sprayer, or by filling up a container with water and slowly pouring it over him, saturating the coat and skin. Don’t forget to wet all four legs and paws and his undercarriage!

Get your dog as wet as possible before applying shampoo, especially if he has a full or long coat, as it will make lathering and rinsing much easier.

Once he’s good and wet, grab your shampoo made specifically for dogs. You can use either a body bar that you hold in your hand as you lather, or a liquid shampoo, in which case you’ll want to pour a line of shampoo down his back and massage it into his coat and skin.

If your dog has super-thick hair you can dilute your shampoo 50/50 with water to assist in getting the shampoo down to the level of your dog’s skin. Lather his back and sides, his underside, legs and paws, armpits, the area under his neck, his backside, groin area and tail.

6. Rinse, rinse and rinse some more.

It’s really important to rinse all the soap and residue off your dog, which can take some time with a long or dense coat. Shampoo that dries on the coat or skin can be irritating, and it will also get dirty and matted in a hurry.

So even though your dog is looking a bit like a drowned rat and is more than ready to be out of the tub, take your time and make sure you’ve rinsed her thoroughly.

Once she’s rinsed, use a washcloth to clean her face and around her eyes while she’s still in the tub. Gently wipe away any gunk that may have collected in her facial folds (if she has them) and under her eyes.

Next you can sort of wring or pat water out of your dog’s coat, and then grab a towel and rub her down a bit before lifting her or having her step out of the tub. The second she’s out of the tub and free of your grasp, she’ll start her very efficient “self-drying shake,” so be prepared!

7. Drying your dog.

Short-haired dogs often just need a bit of toweling and a few shakes to get dry. Dogs with longer or dense coats, however, generally need either lots of toweling and/or blow drying.

Most dogs aren’t crazy about the blow dryer, so if yours isn’t, I suggest you towel her dry, making sure to keep her warm, especially in the colder months. It’s easy for dogs to get chilled when their skin and fur is wet.

Don’t let your dog get to the point of trembling. After each bath, attempt to use the blow dryer again — she may or may not get more comfortable with it the more she’s exposed to it.

Remember to keep the dryer setting on low heat, and if she gets nervous or anxious, you should stop. The goal is to create a positive bathing experience, since this is something you’ll be doing for your dog for the rest of her life. The calmer she is with the process, the easier it will be on both of you.

8. Finish up with ear cleaning.

Now it’s time to remove the cotton from your dog’s ears and check them for dirt and gunk. The rule is to clean your dog’s ears when they’re dirty. If they produce plenty of wax every day, they’ll need to be cleaned every day. If they don’t produce a lot of wax or collect much gunk, you can clean them less often. If you leave wax or debris in your dog’s ear canal, it’s the foundation for infection.

When you need to clean his ears, you can either put the ear cleaner directly down into the ear (as long as the directions say it’s safe), or you can apply it to cotton balls and then swab out the wax and debris. If you pour or squirt the solution directly into the ear, before your dog can shake his head you’ll want to massage it in so it thoroughly coats the inside of the ear. Use as many cotton balls as it takes to get to a clean cotton ball from each ear.

It’s nearly impossible to put a cotton ball too far into your dog’s ear, so there’s no real danger of rupturing an eardrum or hurting or irritating the ear. You can substitute gauze for cotton balls if you prefer. The outside, floppy part of your dog’s ear is called the pinna. Once you’re done swabbing the inside of the ears, use a clean cotton ball to swab and disinfect the pinna of each ear.

I hope I’ve offered some suggestions you can use to help your dog experience bath time with a minimum of stress. As far as frequency, I recommend bathing your dog whenever she’s dirty, stinky or has skin allergies or a minor skin infection.



  • Dogs don’t engage in coprophagia (poop-eating) because they like the taste or to gross out their owners
  • Many dogs sample poop in an effort to correct a digestive insufficiency or microbiome imbalance
  • Dogs fed a biologically inappropriate dry diet are more often poop eaters than dogs fed a nutritionally balanced, fresh and human-grade diet
  • Sometimes coprophagia is behavioral in nature, especially among puppy mill dogs and dogs living in kennel situations
  • If your dog is a poop eater, one of the most effective ways to curb the behavior is to simply clean up after him as soon as he eliminates, and supervise him in situations where he could encounter the feces of other pets or wildlife


Boarding Options for your Pet

dog-with-sunglasses5 Boarding Options for your pet

It may seem as though pets have a sixth sense when it comes to travel — especially when they’re not invited! Kitty may cozy up to you the second suitcases are packed, or your dog may start looking depressed during the pre-vacation hustle and bustle. Before going away, one of the biggest decisions for pet owners is what to do with their pets. Here, there are five options for where to board your pet while you’re away.


  1. Pet Sitting

Using a pet sitter is one way to fuse the personal with professional. Many cats and dogs feel comfortable in their own environments, so having an experienced pet sitter come by for feedings, walks and playtimes is a solid option. Decide whether you want a sitter to simply visit your home on a daily basis (or perhaps multiple times per day) to spend some QT with your pet, or have them stay in your home for the duration of your trip.

  1. In-Home Pet Boarding

While enlisting a pet sitter is a good option, so is in-home pet boarding. In-home boarding involves you bringing your animals to a pet sitter’s home in your area before leaving on vacation. Whether to in-home board or hire a pet sitter to come to your home depends on the needs of your pet.

In-home boarding gives dogs the opportunity to socialize with other dogs under the supervision of a responsible pet owner, as well as individualized attention and more daily interaction. In-home boarding can be more affordable than pet sitters that come to the home, too, and there is the added security of not giving up your house keys. National services such as and allow you to search for pet sitters that offer in-home boarding near you.

  1. Traditional Boarding (Dog Kennels/Catteries)

One standard option is placing pets in boarding kennels or catteries while you’re away. If this is your preferred choice, call ahead and arrange in advance and confirm that it has a Pet Care Services Association (PCSA) certification and the licensing of the caretakers.

If you have a cat, choose a boarding facility where cats do not come into contact with each other. As a pet parent, it’s important to search for boarding options that are feline-only. Cats do much better in this type of environment. Unless the cats are from the same family, they should not be put into a room with other unfamiliar cats. This is an important health and safety precaution to ensure that cats won’t fight or mate. Ask about a nice, large confinement area (aka a “kitty condo”) and that cats will have a litter box, toys and food puzzles, as well as a hiding place within the area. On the flips side, dogs are pack animals and sociable, so ensure that they will have enough activity time to play and run with other dogs. 

  1. Family Friend/Neighbor

Good friends or neighbors go gaga every time they see your pet? Next time you take a vacation, consider asking them to stop in to feed and play with your four-legged family member. Of course, confirm that this person is responsible and knowledgeable about the basics of pet care. Be equally cautious if your dog is off-the-wall, or your cat has a history of marking “new territory,” as it may put a strain on your friendship. If this friend or neighbor is a pet owner, offer to return the favor someday, and consider bringing them back a small token from your trip as a thank you!

  1. Take Them Along

It can be fun to travel with your pet in certain situations, and is becoming more feasible as the number of pet-friendly hotels grows. If an activity like camping is on the agenda, your canine may enjoy being with your family in the great outdoors. Double check that your vacation is pet-friendly, though, as many places, including parks and beaches, are known for “no dogs allowed” policies. But if your pet loves to travel, a pet-friendly vacation could be a nice change of pace. Search sites like and to find establishments that love your pet as much as you do.

Cleaning Your Dog’s Ears

imagesHolistic veterinarian Stacey Hershman, of Nyack, New York, took an interest in ear infections when she became a veterinary technician in her teens. “This is a subject that isn’t covered much in vet school,” she says. “I learned about treating ear infections from the veterinarians I worked with over the years. Because they all had different techniques, I saw dozens of different treatments, and I kept track of what worked and what didn’t.” 

Maintenance cleaning 

Dr. Hershman’s healthy ears program starts with maintenance cleaning with ordinary cotton balls and cotton swabs. “This makes a lot of people nervous,” she says, “but the canine ear canal isn’t straight like the canal in our ears. Assuming you’re reasonably gentle, you can’t puncture the ear drum or do any structural damage.” 

Moisten the ear with green tea brewed as for drinking and cooled to room temperature, or use an acidic ear cleanser that does not contain alcohol. Dr. Hershman likes green tea for its mildness and its acidifying, antibacterial properties, but she also recommends peach-scented Derma- Pet MalAcetic Otic Ear Cleanser or Halo Natural Herbal Ear Wash. 

“Don’t pour the cleanser into the dog’s ear,” she warns, “or it will just wash debris down and sit on the ear drum, irritating it.” Instead, she says, lift the dog’s ear flap while holding a moistened cotton ball between your thumb and index finger. Push the cotton down the opening behind the tragus (the horizontal ridge you see when you lift the ear flap) and scoop upward. Use a few dry cotton balls to clean out normal waxy buildup. 

Next, push a Q-tip into the vertical ear canal until it stops, then scoop upward while rubbing it against the walls of the vertical canal. Repeat several times, rubbing on different sides of the vertical canal. Depending on how much debris is present in each ear, you can moisten one or several cotton balls and use two or more Q-tips. 

“You don’t want to push so hard that you cause pain,” she says, “but for maintenance cleaning using gentle pressure, it’s impossible to harm the eardrum. I refer to the external ear canal as an L-shaped tunnel, and I tell owners to think of the vertical canal as a cone of cartilage. People are always amazed at how deep the dog’s ear canal can go. I often have them hold the end of the Q-tip while I demonstrate cleaning so they feel confident about doing it correctly without hurting their dogs.” 

If excessive discharge requires the use of five or more Q-tips, or if the discharge is thick, black, or malodorous, Dr. Hershman recommends an ear flush. 

How to keep your dog from Jumping

JonahJumping up is a common behavior problem facing many dog owners. It’s annoying to feel like you’re being attacked by an excited and overly exuberant dog the minute you step through your front door. It can also be dangerous for small children. The good news is that you can train a dog to stop jumping.

What Not to D0

A number of dog owners have heard about methods of training a dog not to jump that call for some form of punishment or aversive. One such method is a knee to the chest. Another is having a dog on leash and giving him leash corrections to get him off of you. There are several problems with these methods, including:If either method is done too hard or incorrectly, you can seriously injure your dog.

When you use a knee to the chest, it may knock your dog down, but he may also interpret this as you playing with him. His response will be to jump up again to continue playing. You’ll actually reinforce the behavior you’re trying to stop. Your dog may learn not to jump up only when he’s on leash. Since most of us don’t keep our dogs on leash 24/7, chances are your dog will have plenty of opportunities to get away with jumping.


Why Dogs Jump

There are a number of theories about why dogs jump up on people. You may have read about dominance or greeting behaviors in dogs. The truth is, however, that most dogs jump up to get your attention. Many times we reinforce this behavior by giving them what they want, even if it’s negative attention. Dogs don’t necessarily realize that you pushing them off or yelling at them to get down is meant as punishment. Instead they view it as exactly what they’re seeking – attention from you. In this case, any attention from you is perceived as a reward. It makes sense then that instead of rewarding them for jumping, we make it more rewarding for our dogs to keep all four paws on the floor.

Withhold Attention

The first part of teaching a dog not to jump involves withholding your attention. There are several ways you can do this:

As soon as your dog jumps up, turn your back on him. Cross your arms over your chest, and don’t make a sound. If the dog runs around to jump again, turn the other way so your back is again to him. Wait for him to stop jumping.

Another method is to remove yourself altogether. If your dog jumps up when you walk in the door, turn around and walk back outside. If he jumps up when you’re inside, walk out of the room. Wait a moment, and step back inside. Repeat this until your dog is calm.


Reward Good Behavior

It helps when you’re working on stopping unwanted jumping if you keep some treats close at hand. As soon as your dog is standing in front of you with all four paws on the ground, throw him a treat. Give him praise, but keep things low key. Too much excitement and attention from you may stimulate him enough to get him jump up again.

Practice Makes Perfect

It helps if you can set up the situation to practice with your dog. For instance, if he jumps up a lot when you first walk through the door, spend a few minutes a few times a day coming and going. Don’t make a big fuss over the dog, and be sure to step back outside if he jumps up. Reward him any time all four feet are on the floor.

Add a Sit Command

Once your dog is able to keep all four feet on the floor for a few seconds or more, start asking him to sit. Walk into a room or through the front door, and give the command “sit.” As soon as the dog sits, give him a treat. Practice this over several training sessions. With lots of practice, your dog will be sitting as soon as you walk through the door or enter the room.

Practice with Other People

It’s not enough that you practice with your dog. You should also involve friends and family in this training. Otherwise your dog may learn only that it’s not okay to jump up on you. Having other people help with this training will teach your dog to keep all four paws on the floor no matter who comes into the room.

Housetraining Accidents

sweet_pupFive things to do when your dog . . . has an “accident” in the house.

There’s probably not a canine companion on earth who hasn’t had at least one accident in the house; it’s inevitable no matter how careful your management. Ideally the accidents are few, but what do you do when they do happen? It may depend on the circumstances, but here are five things that are appropriate in most cases when a previously well-housetrained dog goes potty in the house.

1) If you discover your dog in flagrante, cheerfully interrupt him with an “Oops! Outside!” and hustle him out to his legal potty spot. Do not punish him. If you do, you’ll just teach him to pick a more secluded spot next time where you’re less likely to catch him in the act.

2) Thoroughly clean any soiled spots with an enzymatic product designed to clean up animal waste. Use a black light to find untreated spots. Do not use ammonia-based products to clean! Urine contains ammonia and the ammonia in the cleaning products may actually inspire your dog to urinate on the spot where the ammonia-based product was used.

3) Take your dog out more frequently so he has more opportunity to do it right; every hour on the hour (during the day), at first, for young pups or older dogs who need remedial housetraining, then gradually lengthen the time between bathroom breaks.

Go out with him; don’t just send him out to the yard on his own. When he goes potty where he is supposed to, calmly praise him as he’s going (you don’t want to interrupt him!), then mark the desired behavior with a “Yes!” or other verbal marker when he’s finished, and give him a tasty treat.

Keep a potty journal, so you know when his last accident was and to keep track of his housetraining progress. When he’s gone a week with no accidents, increase the time between bathroom breaks by 30 minutes.

4) Give him periods of house freedom when you know he’s empty, but confine him to a crate or other small area (exercise pen) when you can’t supervise, or when you have to leave him alone for an extended period (or overnight). Be sure he doesn’t tank up on water just before bed. Don’t crate him longer than he can hold it; if you have to be gone for a long time, have a friend, family member, or pet-sitter take him out for a potty break.

5) Make sure there are no medical issues that might be interfering with his ability to “hold it.” If he has several lapses in housetraining, make an appointment for a thorough health examination with your vet. Diarrhea almost guarantees accidents, and things like urinary tract infections, and kidney and bladder stones will also cause housesoiling.

By the way, I don’t consider a dog reliably housetrained until he’s at least a year old. My own Bonnie was more than two years old before she could be trusted for long periods in the house.

One last thing: That old rolled up newspaper? You can use it to smack yourself in the head every time your dog has an accident, for allowing your management program to slip. If it’s not caused by a medical problem, an indoor potty incident is always a management lapse. Urine “marking” – a different behavior from housesoiling – is another story, and one for a future column.


Dealing with Dogs and Fireworks

anxiety dogFireworks and dogs simply do not mix. Many owners underestimate their dogs when it comes to fireworks. The truth is, even the bravest dogs can become impacted.

The most important thing you can do for your dog is to keep her away from fireworks displays. If you plan to go see fireworks, do your dog a favor and leave her at home. If fireworks can be heard near your home, keep her indoors for the evening, and give her a safe place to curl up, like a crate or plush dog bed with blankets.

There are a few things you can do to help your dog get through the festivities.

Desensitize Your Dog to the Sound of Fireworks

This is referred to as desensitization, and it can be done in a few simple steps:

  • Find a video or recording of fireworks.
  • Play the video or recording at the lowest possible volume a few times during the day.
  • Pair the sound of the fireworks with things your dog likes, such as meals, cuddle time, treats.
  • Slowly begin to raise the volume of the recording or video over the course of several days, and continue to pair the sound of fireworks with good things for your dog.

If at any point your dog begins to show signs of fear, turn the volume down to a point where he feels more comfortable.

  • Repeat this several times each day until your dog can hear the sounds of the fireworks at a fairly high volume without becoming fearful.

Help Ease Your Dog’s Fears

If you don’t have time to prepare, or if desensitization hasn’t ended your dog’s fear of fireworks completely, there are things you can do to help ease his fears. These things may help with dogs who have a mild to moderate fear of fireworks.

  • Don’t change your behavior. Many people feel compelled to baby their dogs when the dog is showing signs of fear. We pet them more than usual, cuddle them, and talk to them in soft voices. Rather than easing a dog’s fears, however, this often reinforces the dog’s fearful behaviors.
  • Try not to react to the fireworks yourself. If you jump or tense up when you hear fireworks because you are anticipating your dog’s fear, you may make his fear worse. Your body language can tell a dog that there is a reason to be afraid.
  • Drown out the sound of the fireworks. Try to turn up the radio or television and keep your windows closed during the fireworks. If the weather permits, a fan or air conditioner (if your dog isn’t afraid of those sounds) can help, too.
  • Don’t push your dog past his comfort zone. Allow him to hide if he feels more comfortable in his crate or under a bed. Don’t pull him out or try to force him closer to the fireworks in an attempt to get him used to the sounds. This may result in an increase in fear, and a frightened dog may become aggressive if pushed past his comfort level.

Dealing with a Dog’s Severe Fear of Fireworks

In the case of a severe phobia, nothing may work to ease your dog’s fear. If there’s a chance your dog make exhibit this level of fear, talk to your veterinarian about medication. He may be able to prescribe an anti-anxiety medication or sedative to keep your dog calm during the fireworks.

A new canine noise aversion drug, Sileo, is actually a micro-amount of a medication approved as a sedative for minor veterinary procedures —- a flavorless gel, measured in a syringe, that is squeezed between the dog’s cheek and gum and absorbed within 30 minutes.

Orion, the Finnish company that developed it, tested it on several hundred noise-averse dogs during two years of New Year’s fireworks. Three-quarters of the owners rated the dogs’ response as good to excellent; their pets remained unperturbed. The drug lasts several hours, after which another dose can be administered.

A syringe costs about $30 and holds several weight-dependent doses. Sileo’s main side effect, in 4.5 percent of dogs, is vomiting.

Medication may be the only answer to get through the fireworks this season. As soon as the fireworks stop, however, you can begin preparing for the next one with a program of desensitization. A trainer or behaviorist may also be helpful. In severe cases, you may not ever be completely successful in eradicating the phobia, but you may be able to ease some of your dog’s fear.
Leave the Dog at Home

If your dog is extremely frightened of fireworks, the best solution may be to leave him at home in a safe, escape-proof space – like his crate or favorite room – with white noise playing to drown out the sound of any area fireworks. A frightened dog may attempt to run away and seek shelter if forced to attend a fireworks display – many shelters report a high rate of lost pet incidents around July 4th.

Adopting a Pet

FrodoAdopting a pet is one of the most significant commitments you will make in your lifetime. Accepting the responsibility of caring for another life — a creature that will be totally dependent on you — isn’t something to take lightly.

Unfortunately, too many pets are acquired on a whim, without thought or preparation. A person’s heart may be in the right place, but unless he or she is prepared to invest the time, effort and money necessary to properly care for the pet for its lifetime, things can quickly sour.

In those cases, and there are far too many of them, the animal is the inevitable loser. Shelters are full of pets that were the result of an impulse purchase or adoption.

According to a recent report by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) titled “Goodbye to a Good Friend: An Exploration of the Re-Homing of Cats and Dogs in the U.S.,” over a million households in the U.S. re-home a cat or dog every year.1

I can’t emphasize enough the need to carefully evaluate your readiness and ability to care for a pet, and encourage you to ask yourself the following important questions before making a decision to bring home a new family member.

9 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Adopt a Pet

  1. Do you have the time to devote to a pet?

Even relatively low-maintenance pets require attention from their humans, so if your life is already very busy or you’re not home much, a pet may not be the best idea.

Many animals, especially dogs, and yes, even cats require lots of daily interaction with their humans. Pocket pets and other animals that live in cages or other enclosures need supervised time outside their habitats each day.

Without social interaction and stimulation, pets tend to develop behavior and emotional problems.

  1. Do you have the energy to dedicate to a pet?

In addition to spending time with you, your pet also deserves to be exercised, played with, trained, groomed, and cuddled. If you come home at night exhausted, you should think seriously about whether you have the energy reserves you’ll need to offer a pet a good quality of life.

  1. Can you afford a pet?

Caring properly for a pet can be costly. You should think realistically about whether you can afford the cost of a high-quality diet, toys, other supplies, obedience training, wellness visits to the veterinarian, etc.

In addition, your pet could get sick or injured, and you should have a plan in mind for how you’ll pay those vet bills in the event something serious happens to your animal companion.

  1. Is everyone in the household sold on the idea of a pet?

It’s ideal if everyone in the family or household is onboard with getting a pet. Otherwise, resentments can build and relationships can suffer.

It’s a good idea to involve all members of the household in the decision-making process, openly discuss concerns, and determine who will have primary responsibility for the pet’s care.

  1. Does your prospective new pet come with emotional or behavioral “baggage” you can accept or commit to dealing with?

Behavior issues are the number one reason pets are dumped at shelters. Most of these animals didn’t have the best start in life.

For example, they weren’t socialized at the ideal age, were over-vaccinated, or endured traumatic events that created behavioral quirks you will need to be prepared to deal with.

Many pets didn’t have optimal, safe exposure, or experiences with a variety of people, animals, circumstances and events that allowed them to develop the social, emotional and mental coping skills necessary to react, respond and cope with real life issues healthfully.

This means they may arrive in your home with some bad habits that will need to be addressed.

Combine a lack of healthy socialization with the potential for negative, fear-based training or a neglectful/abusive first few months, and you have the recipe for a lifetime of dysfunctional behaviors and responses to everyday life in the animal you just adopted.

Are you committed to a lifetime of “damage control” when it comes to positively addressing negative behaviors and phobias that your newly adopted furry companion may arrive with?

And can you trust everyone in your household to participate in positive training to correct behavior issues?

  1. Will your existing pet (if you have one) accept a new pet?

You definitely need to plan ahead if you already have a pet and want to add another to the household.

Most animals can learn to get along or at least tolerate each other, but there are situations in which it’s just too dangerous or stressful to keep two poorly matched pets under the same roof.

Often it just takes some time and a few helpful tips to put an existing pet and a new one on the road to a harmonious relationship.

  1. Are you prepared to prioritize your pet over your belongings?

Pet ownership means there will be accidents and other messes in the house, furballs on your furniture and bedding, and the random destroyed slipper or other personal belonging.

If you can’t tolerate the thought of a less than perfectly clean house, you might want to reconsider the idea of pet ownership. Even the most well-behaved, well-trained animal companion makes the occasional mess or forgets his manners.

  1. What kind of relationship do you want with your pet?

It’s important to think about how you’d like your new pet to fit into your lifestyle. For example, if you do a lot of traveling and want to take your pet along, a small dog is probably a better choice than a large breed or a cat.

It’s also important to think about what you can offer a potential pet. If, for instance, you’re the outdoorsy type who enjoys hiking and camping, those activities have tremendous appeal to certain dog breeds, such as retrievers and retriever mixes.

Ideally, you do plan to include your pet in many of your leisure time pursuits, so it’s important to give the subject some careful thought.

  1. What changes do you expect in your life in the next 5, 10, or 15 years?

While we can’t predict the future, most of us have a vision for our lives that extends years down the road.

Regardless of the type of pet you’re considering, you’ll be taking on a multi-year commitment. It’s important to be reasonably sure your lifestyle will be as pet-friendly in 5, 10, or 20 years as it is today.