Archive for December, 2012

Toby’s Christmas Safety Tips

Friday, December 14th, 2012

This is an old article that was published in the 2009 Christmas edition of the Boxer Rescue Ontario Newsletter, but the issues remain the same this year! Toby has become older and wiser since then, but we’re still mindful of the things that can be not so merry for dogs at this time of year. One question that is not answered here but that I’m asked often is how to introduce your family’s dogs to your own dog. This is most successfully done by meeting outside your home, usually about a block away, and walking the dogs together on leash. Once they seem comfortable, let them meet and get to know one another. It’s a also a good idea to pick up the things in your house that your dog may be a little possessive over, like toys or food bowls. If you’re unsure, it doesn’t hurt to keep the dogs attached by leash to their human, and a Smoochy Poochy umbilical leash is the easiest way to do it! Holidays are best when everyone gets along – including the dogs! Keeping them safe, and friendly, just makes everything that much more enjoyable!

Hi! Merry Christmas wiggles! My name is Toby and I’m a four year old Boxer. My Mom rescued me last August, and we have a great time together. So far, aside from walking, eating, playing with my toys and getting treats, my most favourite thing to do with Mom is this thing she calls Christmas. Last year, she told me all about this man named Santa! I never got to see him, but he must be a pretty cool guy because he brought me MORE treats, MORE toys AND he brought stuff for my Mom too! What a nice guy – he’s never even met me and he knows exactly what I like! I can’t wait until he comes again this year! This Christmas thing was just a pain before with all the new rules and tempting things, but now that Santa comes for ME, it all pays off!
The best part about Santa is that he wraps up my new presents in this special paper – and Mom lets me tear it apart and make a huge mess! She says I can have fun with it, but only if I only do it on this special day called Christmas. Mom says Santa gets this special paper without any of the toxins or dyes that might make my tummy upset, and that he gets it at this place called the SPCA, or some of the doggy grocery stores we go to. I can have regular wrapping paper too, but Mom has to be really careful that I don’t eat it. The stuff Santa brings for Mom has this pretty string on it called ribbon, but Mom keeps her wrapping and ribbons in a bag on the table because she keeps saying it’s not a toy and that I might choke on it. Maybe one day I can have ribbons for Christmas! They look so shiny and fun to play with! But Mom still says no and hides it out of my reach. Maybe one year Santa will bring me thumbs to grab stuff off the table with….
Before Christmas, Mom gets presents from a special early Santa for all the other humans, and she hides those too in case I wreck them. She’s always telling me about this stuff that looks like snow cookies called ‘styrofoam’, and that it could make me choke or be sick. Sometimes when the humans come over, they eat and drinks lots of cookies and smelly water, and they can get kinda loud and annoying. Some of the humans feed me their cookies, but they make my tummy sick, so Mom always says “no cookies for the dog!” and makes sure that no one comes into my room. I just stay in my room and watch from there sometimes because it’s a lot quieter, no one steps on my toes and it’s not so tempting to eat those fancy treats that are everywhere. That can be hard to pass up when you’re on a special diet like me!
Some of the humans bring my dog friends over to play with me. My friend Tyson showed me these weird things that look like little snakes, and at the other end of them are these pretty little lights in lots of different colours. Tyson likes to chew on them, but Mom says they’re called ‘electrical cables’, and she tries pretty hard to hide them behind the couch and stuff so that me and Tyson don’t play with them. She says we will get ‘electrocuted’, and whenever she puts out the cables before Christmas, she doesn’t leave me alone in the same room with them and I have to stay in my room when she goes out. Tyson also showed me how to jump up on the kitchen counter and grab the good human treats. His Mom gates off the kitchen when she’s playing with the other humans so that he can’t do that, and when my Mom caught us she moved most of the treats into the fridge, put some of them into containers we couldn’t get open, and moved the rest to the very back of the counter so we couldn’t get at them. Tyson was mad, but I didn’t care. At Christmas they eat lots of this brown stuff that smells really good, but every time I eat it Mom takes me to see Dr. Smith and he says I have chocolate poisoning and then he makes me throw it back out. It’s kinda yucky that way and Mom tells me after that I spent all my allowance at Dr. Smith. Believe me, it’s not the best way to spend your allowance!
Christmas time is sort of mean though too. I have to pass this special test where Mom brings the bathroom into the living room! For weeks there’s this big tree just staring at me begging me to go pee on it, and Mom says I can’t! It must be a special kind of tree, because it’s got all these shiny balls on it, just like the ones I play with outside! But every time I come within a foot of the tree, Mom says ‘leave it’ and I have to listen so that she’ll say I‘m a good boy. If I don’t leave it alone, she’ll come and make me lie down somewhere else, and sometimes I’d really rather just wander around. Besides, Mom practices these words like ‘leave it’ with me all year, so I pretty much understand and it’s just easier to do what Mom says. Might even get a cookie for it!
Even though I can’t go near the tree and play with the toys on it, and I can’t pee on it, and I can’t eat all the good food, and all these humans come and bug me, Mom makes it better when she lets me go into my own room and get some peace and quiet, and Santa makes it WAY better ‘cause be brings me so much cool stuff! I think I’m starting to figure this out! Mom says she talked to Santa and I’m getting some really great new toys this year! Just 30 more big sleeps and 120 meals and 60 walks and 422 naps till he gets here again! Wiggle bum! Wiggle bum! Merry Christmas everyone!


Nutrition Advice – is it making our dogs sick?

Monday, December 10th, 2012

I write each of my blogs with the hope that it will entertain and educate the reader, and ultimately improve the lives of dogs whose owners are so dedicated as to endeavor upon a journey of learning about their dog’s behaviour and nutritional requirements. I try not use this blog space as a spouting ground for the things in the dog world that annoy, frustrate or disappoint me. But, every once in a while, something impacts me enough that I not only need to write about it to alleviate some of my own frustration, I also need to write about it so that others in the dog community can help to bring an end to the forces that work against our dogs. It’s easy for me to say that the path of punitive and invasive training is what pains me most, and I created a Foundation wherein people can learn and begin to move toward change in that arena. Today’s topic comes a close second, and it is the misleading and quite frankly dangerous world of nutrition advice.

I recently visited a dog, a lovely 8 year old Airedale Terrier, who has been assuaged by allergies for nearly two years now. His person, an experienced and loving dog owner, has done her very best over the past two years to follow her vet’s advice, seek out information, and work to make life a little easier for her poor boy. His allergies are, and have been, so severe that his entire body is covered in a white, oily, pungent bacteria, he is incredibly itchy, and of course very uncomfortable. He’s also lost approximately 4kg, and is considerably underweight despite all her attempts to provide the best nutritional care for him, based on the information provided to her. Finally, after a recent visit to her vet where he essentially threw his hands in the air in surrender, she decided to contact me for some advice.

Before I go on, I’d like to clarify that I have a profound respect for veterinarians. They are practitioners, pharmacists, surgeons, practicing on multiple species further complicated by patients who cannot speak. Quite frankly, I think they far outperform our own medical doctors, and I am forever in the debt of a few vets who have brought my ‘kids’ back from the brink. But, in my opinion, there is a flaw in the educational system for vets, and while nutrition should be a major part of their schooling given that it is the foundation of good health, the information provided to them throughout university is lacking, and that which is provided is done so via kibble manufacturers who present biased information. Certainly, there are vets who embark on their own educational improvements in nutrition, and can offer excellent advice in this realm for both healthy and sick dogs – but sadly, for many this is not the case. Having worked in a clinic myself, I know how busy a vet’s life can become, and how easy it is to be provided information by a pet food company about a kibble designed to compliment a specific health issue and simply include that food as part of the protocol. Their focus is on no less important things, but in my opinion, not on the reality of what these diets can do (or not do) to a dog’s physical well being.

The Airedale was prescribed a veterinary vegetarian blend and was being fed this food for approximately 18 months. The intention being that if the dog was reacting to an animal protein, the food which contained no animal protein would eliminate the allergy. The food’s first three ingredients, in order, are oat flour, rice and potato protein. The food appears to contain small amounts (listed well down the ingredient list) of carrot pomace and tomato pomace – the only sign of vegetable, despite the name of the kibble. When that didn’t work, the vet then prescribed another veterinary diet in the Hypoallergenic line. The first ingredients (and only actual food-like ingredients) are starch, soy protein isolate, and vegetable oil.

How any company claiming to be promoting the better health of dogs can produce a food with these ingredients and expect a dog to glean any nutrition from it is something I cannot even fathom. This dog was expected to live on this kibble, and in the case of allergies ONLY this kibble in case of contaminating the diet with other foods, for a considerable portion of it’s life. Starch and soy are nowhere close to meeting the nutritional requirements of a carnivorous animal, not to mention the fact that these three simple ingredients are not even considered to be human grade (meaning that pet food companies use ingredients that are not fit for human consumption, often discarded waste of human food processing).

It is also astonishing to me that these companies, and those who promote them, have not seen the research supporting the idea that the most likely cause of a food intolerance or allergy in a dog is grain! Many, many dogs who suffer the symptoms of allergies improve dramatically when switched to a grain free food. This is not to say that all allergies can be attributed to grain – certainly not – but if it was very likely that your dog’s allergies may be resolved by simply removing grain from the diet, wouldn’t that be the simplest first approach? Yet most veterinary line “hypoallergenic” diets on the market are almost entirely comprised of grain!

The subject of quality and responsibility in the pet food marketplace is a subject that I expound upon for several hours in my nutrition seminars, so I’ll limit myself here. Perhaps this short blog will lead you to investigate further, to read another wonderful blog by veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker (link below), or to read Ann Martin’s powerful book about how pet food is made called Food Pets Die For.

We can do better by the animals who give us their love and trust. Much, much better. Please, do some research (that hasn’t been done by a pet food company or a group that sells food), ask questions, and READ THE LABEL.

Dr. Becker’s blog about veterinary diets:


The first food mentioned in this blog:


The second food mentioned in this blog:



Dear Santa Paws (Holiday Shopping List)

Saturday, December 1st, 2012

Dear Santa Paws,
(from Toby the flashy fawn Boxer that lives with his person Erica)
This year I think I was an exceptionally good boy. I even trained my Mum to type for me and say big words like exceptionally. Also I promise if you come this year I won’t eat all your cookies before you get here. I can’t make any promises about Rudolph’s treats though so maybe you better bring some extra.

This is what I’d like for Christmas this year and I’m going to share. My Mum tries to help other dogs all year and I think I should too because I have it pretty good here. So not all of it is for me I promise. My Mum also wants you to make a special visit to the foster homes for the rescues to bring extra toys and treats, and she said checks for money would be good too but I don’t know why Santa would check for money there.

So anyway, here’s all the good stuff for the list (really I just want some cheezies, so Mum wrote the rest):

GoDog plush toys – available at this time of year in gorgeous Christmas styles, or all through the year in cute animal versions like cows, sheep and dragons. This toy is made of a special fabric and stitching that is not harmful to your dog, and it is very difficult to chew through. I’ve tested these toys in multi-dog homes, with large and small dogs, and cannot believe their endurance. They come with lots of squeakers, different sizes, and varying shapes to please any dog!

Kong Wobbler – no dog’s home is complete without a classic Kong. But the Kong Wobbler is a twist on tradition that provides a different sort of challenge and can entertain your dog for hours. It looks like a classic Kong with a harder shell, and a small hole in the side to release your choice of treats. The top screws off for filling, and the base is sealed with sand inside to make it bottom heavy, so your dog needs to push it around with his paws or nose to get it to land in just the right spot to get a treat out. While it’s a great self-entertaining toy, it’s also a wonderful way to teach your dog not to use his teeth, and you should monitor your dog at first to be sure that he doesn’t attempt to crack it open (though that won’t happen easily – this is one tough toy!).

Seat Belts – keeping your dog safe in the car is something we should all be doing all year round. Unfortunately, seat belts for dogs are not yet required to be tested under the Canadian Safety Association, but some have been privately crash tested. They come in varying styles to suit your dog and your vehicle set up, and vary widely in price so shop around. They not only protect your dog from flying forward in an accident, they also help prevent accidents by stopping your dog from obstructing your view or creating a distraction by moving around all over your vehicle.

Smoochy Poochy Products – likely the best collars and leashes I’ve ever come across! New this year is their 8 foot umbilical leash, allowing for extra girth around our own waists when wearing bulky winter clothing. They also come with handy little bag dispensers, a grab handle near the collar clip, and are made of durable nylon. I’ve never been so pleased with a leash in all my life, and will never use anything but! And they are a Canadian Company!

2HoundsDesign Collars – probably some of the most beautiful collars you’ll ever see. They are particularly nice on large breed dogs, and come in 1.5” width providing extra comfort around your dog’s neck if he happens to pull on the leash. Some of my friends (but not me, oh no not me!) have developed a bit of an addiction to these gorgeous pieces and have quite the collection for all seasons and holidays!

Chilly Dogs Coats – as many of you know, I have a Boxer and do extensive work with Boxer Rescue, and these are the only coats I’ve found that keep their barely covered bodies warm in Canadian winters! The Great White North coat is wonderful for days in the snow, and the Chilly Sweater is perfect for at the cottage or milder walks through town. You’ll also find neck warmers, rain coats, and other great products for any breed of dog! They come in an array of colours and fits, and the owner requests measurements of your dog that ensure a perfect fit (even for broad shoulder dogs, which are impossible to fit!). Also, a Canadian Company!

Z-Bones – a great way to clean your dog’s teeth without all the harmful ingredients included in most dental chew bones. Made by Zukes (who also makes Mini Naturals, a great training treat), they come in different sizes and flavours to please any breed, and do a great job freshening your dog’s breath for all the holiday visitors!

Many of these products are available in pet stores, particularly Global Pet Foods in Oakville (mention my name when you shop there and I’ll make a donation to rescue!), or online. Please remember at this time that there are many pets in rescues and shelters that won’t make it to their forever home for the holidays. Food, toys, treats, blankets, crates, and coats are always welcome donations, and of course even a monetary donation of $5 can make a difference. Boxer Rescue Ontario is currently doing a penny drive and a volunteer will even come to your home to pick up your soon to be obsolete pennies, and they also collect Canadian Tire money to help pay for gas to transport dogs and to provide needed supplies such as food bowls, toys and crates for dogs in foster care. If you’d like to make a donation to any rescue and aren’t sure what to donate or where, please contact me and I’d be happy to help you decide!

I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, or just a wonderful holiday season with friends and family – and most importantly, your fur family! My most favourite gift of all is the one I receive all year long – the joy of owning Toby. At Christmas, I’ll be sure to show him just how much I love and appreciate him!


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