Get Down!

By Valerie Barry, KPA-CTP

In Partnership With Dogs

What happy, polite greetings!

Ups and Downs!

I sometimes wonder why our dogs don’t just pack up their little bags and head off into the sunset leaving all of us humans behind.  We are so confusing to live with!

One of the things that most people really hate is a dog jumping up on them. For dogs, I think this must be one of their most confusing interactions with us.  

What exactly do we want??  The only consistent thing I see about how people handle this behaviour is that they are consistently unclear!

If you and your dog stop to chat with someone and then your dog jumps up on that person, how do you handle it?  Are you a . . .

1. Reactive Screamer: Yell at your dog to “Get Off!”

2. Military Commander: Sternly cue your dog to get “Down!”

3. Apologetic Yanker: Yank your dog back by the leash/collar/harness apologizing profusely (“Oh my gosh, he never does that!” Hmmm – really?)

4. Late Trainer: Frantically cue your dog to “Sit, Sit, Sit, Sit, NO! Sit, Sit, Sit, SIT!”

5. Friendly By-Stander: Cheerily carol out the ever popular “It’s OK – he’s friendly!”

6. Blame Passer: Complain with annoyance “Oh you have treats in your pocket!” (My fault your dog jumped on me – SO sorry.)

Chances are you do at least one of those things – because I’ve been jumped on by a lot of dogs and I’ve seen and heard it all!Beautiful greeting. Good thing because she has just rolled in goose poo!

Why do dogs jump up in the first place?  That’s always the first question I’m asked.  The answer: who knows?  We will never know why that particular dog chose that particular person and that particular time to jump up.  Luckily we can make some educated guesses and come up with a training plan to solve the problem.

1. Fearful or anxious dogs.

I do think that there are some dogs who jump up on people as a way to deflect or ward off unwanted attention.  I’ve met some dogs who give every appearance of being uncomfortable around people, clearly dislike being touched and handled by strangers and yet will jump up on them at any opportunity.  Actually, I think it’s a particularly clever tactic, as it does tend to get people to back (or stumble) away from you.  It’s a much more peaceful gesture than barking and lunging and yet accomplishes the same thing for the dog – distance. 

2. Youthful Reinforcement.

Most dogs get a lot of reinforcement during early puppyhood for jumping up on people, and I think this is where it starts for a lot of them.  Everybody loves a puppy!  There aren’t many people who mind soft little puppy paws landing on their shins as they ruffle baby-soft fur and exchange adoring gazes.  You can tell everyone you meet to “please ignore my puppy until he sits” and not a single person will comply – trust me, I know! The reinforcement puppy gets from happy, high-pitched voices exclaiming over his cuteness isn’t matched by many things at that age – unless of course he’s a fearful puppy (see paragraph above).

3. It just feels good.

I think that friendly dogs just like to jump up on us – to engage us, get some attention from us, get closer to us – who knows why, but they just like to do it.  And because they like to do it, they’re going to continue to do it unless someone gives them a better alternative.

Dogs don’t speak English – really, they don’t.IMG_2367

Once puppyhood has passed or at least once puppy more closely resembles a full-grown adult dog, there is no longer any appreciation for exuberant, jumping-up types of greetings.  At this point, many owners immediately revert to their native tongue and expect dogs to clearly understand that “Get Down” means to take their paws off that person’s pant legs and put them back on the ground.  Many people seem to think dogs should just “get” this without any training.

Have you actually tried to do some training with your dog? 

If you have, this is where things start to get even more confusing . . .

What word have you taught and are you using it consistently?

Many of us teach our dogs to lie down using the cue “Down”.  And, yet, the most common thing that pops out of many human mouths when a dog jump up is “Down”!  Unless you’ve spent a lot of time “proofing” your Down cue, I doubt they’re going to sink into a down right at this moment – and I’m guessing that’s not what you were meaning anyway – right?    

I had a friend who insisted that she used “Lie Down” for her Down cue and when she said “Down!” she meant for her dog to get down from the human they were jumping on.  Again – unless you’ve worked very hard on training this AND are really consistent with the use of both things, that’s a tough one for any dog.  Frankly, most dog owners aren’t that dedicated to everyday training to accomplish this level of precision – that requires hundreds of hours of practice.

What do you actually mean and what are you actually asking?

Let’s say that instead of polluting your Down cue, you choose to use “Off” instead.  Makes sense, right?  “Get Off” is a common turn of phrase so our dogs should understand that easily.  Well, see above…“Dogs don’t speak English”…!  

Even more confusing than what cue is most appropriate to train and use, is what you actually want your dog to do in the first place.  Do you want your dog to get down after he jumps up OR do you want your dog to stop jumping up on humans in the first place?  I would imagine that everyone really wants no jumping in the first place – but they really haven’t thought through that question.  If you don’t want the jumping at all, why not train your dog to something other than jump up instead of spending all that time trying to “train” “Get Off”?!  See – it’s confusing even for us to understand – imagine how our dogs feel!

Are you creating a behaviour chain?

Even if you’re very successful with your training – your dog understands “Off” and is happily getting down off the humans he jumps on when you give your cue – what are you really training?  

Would it surprise you to know that you’ve actually just very successfully taught your dog TO jump on humans!  

What you’ve unknowingly done is create a Behaviour Chain.  In order for your dog to get the “Good Boy” and/or Treat that follows the “Off” cue, your dog must first jump on the human.  If he wants the “Good Boy” / Treat / or simply the happier vibes he gets from all surrounding humans, this is the chain that you are building:  Jump Up, Get Off, Get Reinforced.  For some particularly “friendly” dogs this chain evolves to: Launch at High Speed, Jump Up (On), “Get Off!”, Get Reinforced.  The “Get Off” is what your dog thinks is causing the reinforcement and in order to get that, he must first do the initial step(s).FullSizeRender

Training, training, training!

Here are 2 phrases that set most trainer’s teeth on edge – kind of like biting into tinfoil with a metal filling:

  1. My dog “knows” what to do, he’s just (pick one): (a) ignoring me, (b) being stubborn, (c) mad at me, (d) being spiteful, etc.
  2. Dogs want to “please us”.  I guess what follows is that they will, therefore, eventually figure out what to do in their desire to make us happy.

Because we cannot interview our dogs with any degree of confidence, there is no evidence to show that dogs “just want to please”.  And, there is a lot of evidence to support that if a dog “knows what to do” (i.e. the training has been consistent, thorough and there is a history of appropriate reinforcement for the dog), he will just do it when he’s asked to. 

Not jumping up on people is actually one of the easiest things to teach your dog – in terms of skills and equipment involved.  There’s really not much to it – BUT – you have to put in the time to practice.  If your dog has already developed a habit of jumping up, you will have to work a little bit harder.

If you don’t want your dog to jump up on people at all, then that’s what you have to reinforce.  The training challenge here relies on 2 things that are not easy:

  1. Controlling people’s access to your dog; and
  2. Controlling your dog’s access to people.IMG_2240


Like any training, when you are trying to change behaviour, management is critical. You simply cannot allow people to get into your dog’s jumping range (or vice versa) without some plan to control the outcome (no jumping).  

Every un-managed incident of jumping up ultimately reinforces the behaviour of jumping up.  Science has taught us that once behaviour has been acquired, it is strengthened by a schedule of random reinforcement – think slot machines and how people continue to play despite rarely winning.

Management can be the hardest part of the training – it’s really hard to control people!  

  • Stop at a good distance from people – be well aware of the range of your dog’s leash. 
  • Ask people not to approach you too closely.  
  • Be prepared to just walk away if someone is not willing to comply with your request – your dog’s training depends on it.

It should go without saying that your dog must be on leash when outside with you and maybe even on leash (or confined) when guests come over to your house.  If there’s any chance that your dog is going to jump on someone, they simply cannot be free to do so if you ever hope to successfully “un-train” this behaviour.  This is really hard for people to do too!  

What about off leash activities?  Again, you need to be in a position to control the outcome if you want Jumping Up to disappear.  If your dog is off leash in an area where people are, he simply cannot be free until his training is really good and you are in control of his behaviour.  Recall training is important here – if he has a fantastic Recall, then Jumping Up can be potentially controlled on leash if he will come when called and you’re carefully watching the trail.  

The Training: 4-On-The-Floor.

As I said, the training is simple!

With your dog on leash and tons of fantastic treats on hand:

  • Click or Mark and treat your dog as people are approaching for keeping all 4 of his feet on the ground.
  • The Clicking and treating should be rapid fire.  Do this as fast as your dog can chew and you can Click.  We need to plug a ton of information in his brain as quickly as possible – “keeping your feet on the ground pays off in BIG ways!”
  • Tossing your treats on the ground closer to you than the oncoming human can help by keeping eye contact between dog and visitor to a minimum and keeping your dog closer to you as he collects his treat.
  • Stop well beyond the range of his leash and continue to Click “4-on-the-floor”.
  • Discourage people from coming closer, turn and leave or move off to the side of the trail if close contact appears likely.
  • Hundreds of repetitions of your dog practicing Not Jumping Up is required before your dog will naturally look to you for reinforcement rather look to the oncoming human as an opportunity to Jump Up.
  • It seems like everyone is an expert! Don’t get into a discussion with anyone you meet about better ways to do things – you have your training plan, stick to it! IMG_5500

Training an Alternate Behaviour.

The exercise above trains an alternate behaviour of Keeping Feet on the Ground vs. Jumping Up.

Some people prefer to have their dogs Sit when they meet people.  This is fine too – but I would still do the exercise noted above for a long time before I started asking for a Sit and then Clicking and treating the Sit.  Working on the exercise above will help get that initial excitement under some level of control so that a Sit is more likely to be successful.

Once your dog is used to the pattern of seeing a human and looking to you for reinforcement, it will be far easier to start adding in the Sit cue.  

In the meantime, make sure you practice your Sit cue all by itself in many, many different contexts so your dog gets really good at it.  When you start adding it in, it should then be very easy for your dog to Sit.

It’s OK to Walk Away.

By the way, if you have a fearful dog who jumps up, consider being content with him keeping 4 paws on the ground vs. asking for a Sit.  If your dog is worried about people, it may be hard for him to be “trapped” in a Sit cue – feeling unable to get up and leave if he needs to.  It’s not fair to expect a fearful dog to just Sit and potentially be handled by someone he finds scary.  Teaching that particular dog that he can just walk away is important.  In this case, follow the Click and treat for keeping his feet on the ground by a Recall back to you so he can learn the “walk away” behaviour.  If he is fearful, the relief he feels by walking away will be highly reinforcing.

The Family Dynamics

This could be an entire training article all by itself.  Our families aren’t always helpful when it comes to training (or un-training) our dogs!  If you have a dog who is super excited about people coming home (or even just coming out of the bathroom!) and you don’t live alone, then I’m guessing your dog is practicing all his people jumping, at home, on a regular basis.

If you let all this jumping continue at home, no matter how much training you do outside your home will ultimately be compromised as your dog struggles to understand the difference between greeting strangers and greeting family.  

The good news is that your family is pretty much a group of “captive” training partners – they can help you!  Practice the “4-on-the-floor” exercise with your dog on leash and your family coming and going from the house.  If you can spend 10 minutes each day training by having someone come in and out of the door repetitively – you can accomplish a lot in a short time.  Ask family members to send you a text or a quick call when they are about to arrive at home so you can get organized and begin training as soon as they walk through the door.

Ensure that your dog is confined if you’re not able to train during home arrival times so you’re not, once again, compromising your training.

If you have anyone in the family who just will not or cannot help you with the training, you can still make progress as long as you can manage interactions as much as possible to avoid jumping up.

If you happen to have someone in the family who just loves having the dog jump all over them, there’s a solution for that too!  Ask that family member to, at the very least, throw out a cue – like “Jump Up Fido!” – before your dog launches himself at that one person.  If they can’t manage to throw out a cue just before the “attack”, then ask that they ignore Fido until he jumps down, then cue the Jump Up.  It’s not perfect but it’s likely to be more helpful than just letting it continue on your dog’s agenda.FullSizeRender3

Side Note:  On the topic of dogs understanding or not understanding English:  while dogs do give every appearance of understanding a lot of what we say, they do not understand our spoken (or written) language.  What they do is master our tone and body language and make really good guesses at our intent a lot of the time.  This is a pretty impressive skill, actually, and comes with being our companions for thousands of years.  Plus, with good positive training, you can teach your dog to associate words like Sit for example with the act you mean it to be – put your butt on the ground.  The word could be “Sit” or it could be “blabbityboo” – the key is making that association with consistent, positive training.  

So – are you really to get started with a different plan?!  Remember to keep it positive!


Hemp Products for Animals


Scientific Report




Lori R. Kogan, PhD; Peter W. Hellyer, DVM, MS, DACVA, & Narda G. Robinson, DO, DVM, MS, FAAMA
From the Department of Clinical Sciences, the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80526.

Address correspondence to Dr. Kogan at

CBD — cannabidiol
CBDA — cannabidiolic acid
THC — delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol THCA — tetrahydrocannabinolic acid


This study was designed to determine which hemp products pet owners are purchasing, reasons for their purchases, and the perceived value of these products on pets’ health. An anonymous online survey was given to pet owners who buy products from an online hemp company. Total responses were 632, of which 58.8% indicated they currently use a hemp product for their dog. Most dog owners (77.6%) indicated they use the product for an illness or condition diagnosed by a veterinarian, with the most common conditions including seizures, cancer, anxiety and arthritis. Fewer participants indicated they currently use hemp products for their cat (11.93%), with 81.8% indicating they use the product for a veterinarian-diagnosed illness or condition, most commonly cancer, anxiety and arthritis. The results of this study provide support for the growing number of anecdotal stories and offer guidance to researchers seeking to perform clinical studies on hemp in terms of its putative effectiveness and possible adverse outcomes. The information from this survey can serve as the basis for controlled clinical trials in areas including pain management, behavioral interventions for sleep disorders and anxiety for dogs, and pain management, inflammation reduction, and improvement in sleep patterns for cats.


The term “cannabis” refers to plants belonging to the genus Cannabis as well as those products designed for therapeutic applications (1). Cannabinoids can be administered in a variety of methods including orally, sublingually, or topically and either extracted naturally from the plant or manufactured synthetically (2).

Both hemp and marijuana originate from the Cannabis sativa plant. As such, both contain an array of plant-based chemicals called “cannabinoids,” including the 2 main cannabinoids, tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA). THCA, when dried or heated, converts to the psychoactive cannabinoid, delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Similarly, decarboxylation of CBDA yields cannabidiol (CBD). The main differences between hemp and marijuana are the ratio of THC to CBD, the amount of fiber in the stalks, and the production of seeds for oil (3). By definition, “industrial hemp,” the hemp of commerce which can be used for medicinal purposes, food, or fiber content, contains high levels of CBD and less than 0.3% THC on a dry matter basis. By comparison, tests of some modern strains of marijuana reveal levels of THC greater than 20% and much

40 AHVMA Journal • Volume 42 Spring 2016

lower levels of CBD (4). While many people differentiate THC as “psychoactive” and CBD as “non-psychoactive,” CBD does affect the nervous system; however, it does not cause the typical “high” associated with THC (5).

Some countries have legalized medicinal-grade cannabis. In the United States, 23 states and Washington, DC have introduced laws to permit the medical use of cannabis (6). A recent meta-analysis that included 79 randomized human clinical trials (6462 participants) found moderate- quality evidence to support the use of cannabinoids for the treatment of chronic pain and spasticity; and low-quality evidence suggesting that cannabinoids are associated with improvementsinnauseaandvomitingduetochemotherapy, weight gain in HIV, sleep disorders, and Tourette syndrome (1). When assessing adverse effects, cannabinoids were associated with an increased risk of short-term adverse effects including asthenia, balance problems, confusion, dizziness, disorientation, diarrhea, euphoria, drowsiness, dry mouth, fatigue, hallucination, nausea, somnolence, and vomiting (1, 7). Additionally, The National Institutes of Health, as of 2015, has updated its website ( publications/drugfacts/marijuana-medicine) to include information about the positive effects of cannabis on cancer, reporting, among other benefits, that it has been found to kill cancer cells without harming healthy cells (7).

In the United States, cannabis is a controlled substance and has been classified as a Schedule I agent (a drug with increased potential for abuse and no known medical use) by federal law. This makes the use, sale, and possession of cannabis (marijuana) illegal. Its status as a Schedule 1 drug has imposed strict limitations on clinical research, severely hampering the ability of clinicians to inform patients and clients about its benefits and risks from an evidence- informed perspective. This has resulted in patients having to adopt a trial-and-error method to determine which, if any, cannabinoids can help alleviate their symptoms or benefit their conditions. It is for these reasons that numerous physician and health care organizations, including the American Medical Association, American Public Health Association, and National Association for Public Health Policy, are urging the federal government to reschedule marijuana, thereby easing research restrictions, to permit more cannabinoid-based research (8, 9).

In addition to a lack of research, the field also suffers from a lack of oversight and control. For both medical and

recreational use, a “buyer beware market” currently exists for cannabis products. As the use of cannabis has expanded, a variety of edible products for oral consumption has been developed with current estimates noting that 16%–26% of patients using medical cannabis consume edible products (10, 11). Even though oral consumption eliminates the harmful by-products of smoking, lack of adequate control over dose titration can result in overdosing or underdosing, highlighting the importance of accurate product labeling (12).

Independent analyses have found that medicinal marijuana food products designated for human consumption, such as candies, brownies and teas, often are not labeled correctly. One study, for example, evaluated the contents of 75 products from 47 different brands purchased at marijuana dispensaries in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle, for their content of THC and cannabinoids. Their analysis uncovered widespread discrepancy between the actual amount of THC and cannabinoids from what was printed on the products’ labels. Among the products analyzed, only 17% were accurately labeled; 23% of the products contained more of these compounds than listed; and 60% contained less than stated (12).

A growing number of states has gone beyond legalizing medical cannabis and made recreational cannabis legal as well. Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia all have legalized medical cannabis; and another 11 states, all of which have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, are expected to approve similar ballot initiatives between now and mid-November of 2016 (13). Perhaps tellingly, the market for legal cannabis has been identified as one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States, with a market growth of 74% in 2014, to $2.7 billion, up from $1.5 billion, in 2013 (14).

Given the expanding interest in both medical and recreational cannabis, it is perhaps unsurprising that this interest has expanded to include consideration of its potential benefits for companion animals (15). Biscuits, edibles, and capsules containing non-psychoactive cannabinoid compounds (e.g., CBD) have become available and are being marketed to pet owners with several companies in California, Oregon, and Washington rising to fill this need (16–19). Anecdotal reports from pet owners indicate that some find cannabis products helpful for pain, arthritis, seizures, anxiety, and inappetence in both dogs and cats.

AHVMA Journal • Volume 42 Spring 2016 41

Another study summarized by the AVMA reported that pet owners are using cannabis to treat behavior-based disorders such as separation anxiety and noise phobia, in addition to problems affecting the body and mind such as irritable bowel syndrome, and management of pain, nausea, and seizures (20). Many caregivers report positive outcomes. Consequently, interest in cannabis as a therapeutic agent for animals is spreading, and veterinarians are fielding more requests from their clients about whether cannabis might help their pets (8, 21).

However, just as in human medicine, there is little research- based information available to provide analysis and guidance about the use of medical cannabis for animals. Restrictions on cannabis research for veterinary patients have, until recently, imposed nearly insurmountable barriers on clinical investigations of the medical applications of hemp and medical marijuana. Lacking rigorous scientific evidence, veterinarians cannot determine safe dosages and THC/CBD ratios of medical marijuana for dogs, cats, and other animals. As is true for physicians, veterinarians are left relying on anecdotal reports, trial and error reports from clients, and companies’ claims (22).

The few studies that have been published on cannabis in non- humans have mainly focused on toxicity (23, 24). Marijuana exposure in pets, as reported to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal’s Poison Control Hotline, is becoming more frequent. Since 2009, calls reporting marijuana exposure have risen by 50%. It is unknown if this increase is truly due to an increase in the number of animals that are exposed to marijuana or because of the recent legalization of medical marijuana in many states, making people more likely to admit that their animal has ingested a marijuana product. Most reported cases of cannabis poisoning in pets are from the ingestion of marijuana edibles (e.g., brownies, cookies, etc.) that contain THC (25).

In response to the burgeoning interest of medical cannabis for animals, the American Veterinary Medical Association, while not yet articulating an official position on the issue, has instead urged veterinarians to make treatment decisions using sound clinical judgment and current medical information in compliance with federal, state, and local laws and regulations (20). The American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association is currently the only veterinary organization that officially encourages researching the safety, dosing,

and uses of cannabis in animals (26). In response to the present lack of scientific research and regulation oversight, most veterinarians suggest that pet owners use caution when giving any cannabis product.

In addition to the paucity of reliable information on the safety, dosage, and effectiveness of cannabis, there is the ambiguity as to its legal status. While there are no Federal Drug Administration approved marijuana products for use in animals, the legality surrounding the recommendation by veterinarians of hemp products for medicinal use in animals can be confusing. While some people cite The United States Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit in Hemp Industries Assn., v. Drug Enforcement Admin., 357 F.3d 1012 (9th Cir. 2004), that recognized that “non-psychoactive hemp [that] is derived from the ‘mature stalks’ or is ‘oil and cake made from the seeds’ of the Cannabis plant, …fits within the plainly stated exception to the CSA definition of marijuana” as rationale that hemp is legal, others point to state statutes that govern industrial hemp to argue that the legal status depends on individual state’s laws (27). Therefore, it is suggested that veterinarians and pet owners should check with their individual state to determine if they are able to prescribe or purchase hemp for their patients and pets (22). That said, however, with respect to hemp products, the Farm Bill of 2013, signed into law in 2014, does make allowances for academic research on industrial hemp if state statutes also allow for such research to occur. Colorado is 1 state that has passed statutes allowing for hemp research under particular conditions and restrictions.

This study was designed to survey consumers who have experience with hemp use for their pets. The findings should 1) assist academic researchers in determining which conditions have raised the most interest for therapeutic hemp among consumers and 2) identify promising directions for clinical research. The study explores which products (e.g., capsules, liquid, chews, etc.) pet owners are purchasing, reasons for their purchases, and their perceived value of these products on their pets’ health.

Materials and Methods

An online anonymous survey (a) was made available from January 25, 2015, to February 25, 2015, via a link on a commercial website for a company that specializes in hemp products for animals. The survey was originally piloted by faculty at Colorado State University for assessment of

42 AHVMA Journal • Volume 42 Spring 2016

ambiguity, and/or potentially missing or inappropriate response options. Descriptive statistics and frequency distribution (reported in percentages) were performed using commercially available software (b). Because not all questions were answered by all participants, the totals for eachquestionvary.Reportedpercentagesforeachindividual question are based on total responses for that question. It should be noted that the data were collected from visitors to 1 animal hemp product company and therefore, due to potential biases, care should be taken before generalizing the results to other hemp products.


A total of 632 people responded. Out of those who reported gender (n=495), 83.2% indicated they were female, and the majority of participants were between 51-60 years of age. Only 74 (14.8%) were 35 years of age or younger. When asked about education (n=495), most reported having some college (176, 35.56%) or a 4-year degree (25.66%). When asked to report what state they live in, the largest percentages were California (109, 21.8%), and Washington (59, 11.8%). The survey questions asked pet owners if they had used specific hemp products for either their dog(s) or cat(s). If they responded that they had used hemp products, they were asked several questions about their product choices and their perception of the effects that the product had on their pet. Questions pertained to the amount of time they had been giving the product, reasons for discontinuation of the product (if applicable), reasons they chose the product, and their perception of the product’s impact on specific health issues. Additional questions asked how they had heard about the product, how their veterinarian responded (if told) to the fact that they were using hemp for their animal, and consumers’ views about the product’s safety as well as its comparison to other forms of treatment.

Usage for Dogs

Out of 631 respondents answering this question, 371 (58.8%) indicated they currently use a hemp product for their dog; 86 (13.6%) indicated they did use, but no longer use, a product; 104 (16.5%) have a dog but have not tried a product; and 70 (11.1%) indicated they do not have a dog (Table 1). For those who answered why they had discontinued usage (n=88), 18 (20.45%) reported it was because the product was too expensive; 15 (17.05%) reported it was not effective; and 4 (4.55%) said it was due

to negative side effects. The remaining 59 (67.1%) replied “other.” The “other” responses were predominately related to the death of the animal or the fact that the medical issue had been resolved. Most people (77.6% of 313 responses) indicated they use the product for an illness or condition diagnosed by a veterinarian with the most common conditions including seizures, cancer, anxiety and arthritis.

Table 1: Usage of product for dogs (n=631)
Out of 631 survey respondents answering this question, the percent and number of respondents choosing a specific answer are indicated.

Yes, currently using

58.8% 371

Yes, but not using any longer

13.6% 86

No, I have a dog, but have not tried any dog canna-pet products

16.5% 104

I don’t have a dog

11.1% 70

Usage for Cats

The number of people (from 570 respondents) who indicated they currently use a hemp product for their cat was 68 (11.93%); 36 (6.32%) reported they used it in the past; 154 (27.02%) reported having a cat but have not tried any cat hemp products; and 312 (54.74%) indicated they do not have a cat (Table 2). For those who answered why they had discontinued usage (n=36), 4 (11.11%) reported it was because the product was too expensive; 7 (19.44%) reported it was not effective; and none reported negative side effects. The remaining 25 (69.4%) replied “other.” Most of the “other” responses were due to the death of the cat or an inability to administer the medication. When asked if they were using the product for an illness or condition diagnosed by a veterinarian, most people (81.8% of 55 responses) indicated that they were, with the most common conditions reported being cancer, anxiety, and arthritis.

Table 2: Usage of product for cats (n=570)
Out of 570 survey respondents answering this question, the percent and number of respondents choosing a specific answer are indicated.

Yes, currently using

11.93% 68

Yes, but not using any longer

6.32% 36

No, I have a cat, but have not tried any cat canna-pet products

27.02% 154

I don’t have a cat

54.74% 312

AHVMA Journal • Volume 42 Spring 2016 43

Perceived Impact of Product

Participants were asked to indicate how helpful the products they had been giving their dog were in relieving a multitude of signs and ailments (Table 3). Dog owners reported that the hemp products were moderately or very helpful in numerous areas. The areas felt to be positively impacted by the products were relief from pain (reported by 64.3% as helping moderately or a great deal); helping

with sleep (reported by 50.5% as helping moderately or a great deal); and relieving anxiety (reported by 49.3% as helping moderately or a great deal). When queried about side effects, those reported most frequently included sedation (with a moderate or significant effect reported by 22.0%) and over-active appetite (reported as having moderate or significant effect by 15.9%) (Table 4).

Table 3: Perceived Impact of Product on Symptom Reduction in Dog(s).

The percentage and number of respondents who answered this question by indicating the type of response observed in their dog after using a hemp product.

Perceived Product Impact by Survey Respondents

Did not help at all

Helped very little

Helped moderate amount

Helped a great deal

NA or don’t know

n= number of respondents selecting impact statement

Provided pain relief

1.35% 4

2.02% 6

25.93% 77

38.38% 114

33.00% 98


Aided with sleep

2.47% 7

3.89% 11

18.73% 53

31.80% 90

43.11% 122


Helped relieve anxiety

3.55% 10

6.38% 18

21.28% 60

28.01% 79

40.78% 115


Provided nervous system support

1.41% 4

1.77% 5

14.84% 42

26.15% 74

55.83% 158


Reduced inflammation

1.85% 5

1.85% 5

17.34% 47

24.72% 67

54.24% 147


Reduced seizures or convulsions

1.44% 4

1.08% 3

10.11% 28

19.13% 53

68.59% 190


Reduced vomiting and nausea

2.59% 7

1.48% 4

4.81% 13

14.07% 38

77.78% 210


Helped suppress muscle spasms

2.27% 6

2.27% 6

4.92% 13

11.74% 31

79.17% 209


Helped with digestive tract problems

2.65% 7

4.55% 12

5.68% 15

11.74% 31

75.38% 199


Helped with thunderstorm or fireworks phobia

3.00% 8

4.12% 11

5.99% 16

7.12% 19

80.52% 215


Inhibited cell growth in tumors/cancer cells

2.60% 7

1.12% 3

4.46% 12

5.58% 15

86.62% 233


Helped with skin conditions

3.77% 10

4.15% 11

7.17% 19

5.66% 15

79.25% 210


Killed or slowed bacteria growth

2.97% 8

1.49% 4

1.49% 4

1.86% 5

92.57% 249


Helped with fungal infection

2.63% 7

1.50% 4

0.38% 1

1.50% 4

94.36% 251


Reduced risk of artery blockage

1.53% 4

0.76% 2

1.53% 4

96.56% 253


Reduced blood sugar levels

1.50% 4

98.50% 263


Promoted bone growth

1.15% 3

98.85% 257


Table 4: Perceived Side-effects of Product on Dog(s).

The percentage and number of respondents who answered this question by indicating the type of side-effect observed in their dog after using a hemp product.

Perceived Product Side-effect by Survey Respondents

No effect

Minimal Effect

Moderate Effect

Significant effect

NA or don’t know

n= number of respondents selecting impact statement

Over-active appetite

42.03% 124

15.59% 46

10.85% 32

5.08% 15

27.46% 81


Lack of energy

46.42% 136

16.72% 49

6.83% 20

4.10% 12

26.62% 78


Panic reactions

50.17% 147

3.41% 10

7.17% 21

4.10% 12

35.15% 103


Panic reactions

39.12% 115

13.61% 40

5.10% 15

2.72% 8

39.80% 117


Dry mouth, excessive drinking

34.67% 104

24.67% 74

19.67% 59

2.33% 7

20.00% 60



1.44% 4

1.08% 3

10.11% 28

19.13% 53

68.59% 190



51.03% 149

2.74% 8

3.08% 9

1.71% 5

41.78% 122



53.24% 156

3.07% 9

2.05% 6

1.71% 5

40.27% 118


Increase seizures

55.52% 161

1.72% 5

1.03% 3

0.69% 2

41.38% 120


Impaired mental functioning

51.03% 149

3.77% 11

2.05% 6

0.68% 2

42.81% 125


Dry or red eyes

51.37% 150

3.08% 9

1.37% 4

0.34% 1

44.18% 129



48.79% 141

3.46% 10

1.04% 3

0.35% 1

46.71% 135


Rapid heartbeat

43.64% 127

2.75% 8

1.03% 3

52.92% 154


High blood pressure

38.97% 113

1.03% 3

60.00% 174


44 AHVMA Journal • Volume 42 Spring 2016

For cats, the areas felt to be positively impacted by the products were relief from pain (reported by 66.0% as helping moderately or a great deal); reduction of inflammation (reported by 56.3% as helping moderately or a great deal); and help with sleep (reported by 44.0% as helping moderately or a great deal) (Table 5). When asked to report on side-effects, the ones reported most frequently were sedation (with a moderate or significant effect

reported by 19.2%) and over-active appetite (reported as having moderate or significant effect by 16.0%) (Table 6).

How Purchasers Learned of Products

When asked how they learned about hemp products (n=557), most reported hearing about them from the Internet (284, 50.99%), followed by a friend (90, 16.16%) or their veterinarian (80, 14.36%). When respondents were

Table 5: Perceived Impact of Product on Symptom Reduction in Cat(s)

The percentage and number of respondents who answered this question by indicating the type of response observed in their cat after using a hemp product.

Perceived Product Impact by Survey Respondents

Did not help at all

Helped very little

Helped moderate amount

Helped a great deal

NA or don’t know

n= number of respondents selecting impact statement

Provided pain relief

32.08% 17

33.96% 18

35.85% 19


Provided nervous system support

10.00% 5

16.00% 8

74.00% 37


Killed or slowed bacteria growth

2.00% 1

4.00% 2

2.00% 1

92.00% 46


Reduced blood sugar levels

6.00% 3

94.00% 47


Reduced vomiting and nausea

5.77% 3

13.46% 7

21.15% 11

59.62% 31


Helped with fungal infection

2.08% 1

2.08% 1

95.83% 46


Reduced seizures or convulsions

2.00% 1

2.00% 1

4.00% 2

92.00% 46


Reduced inflammation

6.25% 3

27.08% 13

29.17% 14

39.58% 19


Aided with sleep

2.00% 1

18.00% 9

26.00% 13

54.00% 27


Reduced risk of artery blockage

4.26% 2

4.26% 2

91.49% 43


Inhibited cell growth in tumors/ cancer cells

2.13% 1

4.26% 2

4.26% 2

89.36% 42


Helped with skin conditions

6.25% 3

10.42% 5

8.33% 4

75.00% 36


Helped with thunderstorm or fireworks phobia

2.04% 1

97.96% 48


Helped suppress muscle spasms

4.08% 2

2.04% 1

93.88% 46


Helped relieve anxiety

2.04% 1

6.12% 3

18.37% 9

18.37% 9

55.10% 27


Helped with digestive tract problems

6.12% 3

12.24% 6

14.29% 7

67.35% 33


Promoted bone growth

2.08% 1

97.92% 47


Table 6: Perceived Side-effects of Product on Cat(s)

The percentage and number of respondents who answered this question by indicating the type of side-effect observed in their cat after using a hemp product.

Perceived Product Side-effect
by Survey Respondents

No effect

Minimal Effect

Moderate Effect

Significant effect

NA or don’t know

n= number of respondents selecting impact statement


17.31% 9

32.69% 17

15.38% 8

3.85% 2

30.77% 16


Lack of energy

36.73% 18

14.29% 7

10.20% 5

2.04% 1

38.78% 19


Over-active appetite

32.00% 16

14.00% 7

16.00% 8

38.00% 19


Increase seizures

32.65% 16

67.35% 33


Rapid heartbeat

26.00% 13

2.00% 1

2.00% 1

70.00% 35


High blood pressure

20.41% 10

2.04% 1

77.55% 38


Dry mouth, excessive drinking

28.57% 14

14.29% 7

4.08% 2

2.04% 1

51.02% 25



36.00% 18

6.00% 3

2.00% 1

6.00% 3

50.00% 25



40.00% 20

8.00% 4

4.00% 2

6.00% 3

42.00% 21


Dry or red eyes

40.82% 20

2.04% 1

57.14% 28


Impaired mental functioning

40.82% 20

4.08% 2

2.04% 1

53.06% 26



38.78% 19

2.04% 1

61.22% 30


Panic reactions

37.50% 18

6.25% 3

4.17% 2

2.08% 1

52.08% 25


AHVMA Journal • Volume 42 Spring 2016 45

asked if they had spoken to their veterinarian about the products (n=558), 274 (49.1%) reported that they had, with most indicating their veterinarian had responded positively (169, 61.7%); only 21 (7.7%) reported their veterinarian had responded negatively; and 84 (30.7%) said their veterinarian did not express an opinion. The number who did not tell their veterinarian was 192 (34.4%), and 47 (8.4%) indicated they had not visited a veterinarian since they began using a hemp product (Table 7).

Table 8: Product Comparison to Other Medications or Therapies (n=461)

Out of 461 survey respondents answering this question, the percent and number of respondents choosing a specific answer are indicated.

This product works better than ANY treatments/medications

19.31% 89

This product works better than MOST other treatments/medications

24.73% 114

This product works better than SOME treatments/medications

18.44% 85

This products works as well as SOME other treatments/medications

20.82% 96

This products works as well as MOST other treatments/medications

9.33% 43

This product does not work as well as MANY other treatments/medications

2.82% 13

This product does not work as well as ANY treatments/medications

2.60% 12

This product does not work as well as MOST other treatments/medications

1.95% 9

Table 7: Veterinarians’ Reactions to Discussion of Product (n=558)

Out of 558 survey respondents answering this question, the percent and number of respondents choosing a specific answer are indicated.

Yes and s/he responded positively about using this product

30.29% 169

Yes and s/he responded negatively about using this product

3.76% 21

Yes and s/he did not express an opinion on using this product for my pet

15.05% 84

No I have not spoken to my veterinarian about using this product

34.41% 192

I have not visited a veterinarian since using this product

8.42% 47


8.06% 45

Product safety

Of the participants who indicated their view about product safety (n=492), 88.8% rated the products as very safe. When asked to compare the products with human hemp-based products (n=500), most (315, 63.00%) indicated they did not know which was safer. The remaining responses, with the exclusion of 2 responses, reported feeling the products were as safe as or safer than human hemp based products. Most respondents felt it was very important to have an independent laboratory analysis conducted to determine the actual content of CBD in each item (394, 78.5%), (n=502). Only 19 (3.8%) of the total 502 respondents reported this was not important.

Product compared to other treatments

When asked to compare the hemp product they used most recently with other forms of animal medication or therapy (n=461), only 34 (7.37%) reported feeling the hemp product did not work as well as other forms of treatment. The number who felt the product worked better than any, most, or some other treatments was 288 (62.48%), and 139 (12.15%) reported the product worked as well as most or some other treatments (Table 8).

Reasons for using product

Lastly, respondents were asked how important several reasons were in their decision to use any hemp products. The most commonly endorsed reasons included liking the idea that the products came from natural sources (rated as moderately or extremely important by 85.1%); thought this product would work as an adjunct to other therapies (rated as moderately or extremely important by 81.1%); the cost of the product (rated as moderately or extremely important by 70.4%); and preferring hemp products to conventional medicine (deemed as moderately or extremely important by 68.8%) (Table 9).

Table 9: Reasons for Using Product

The percentage and number of respondents who answered this question by indicating the reason they have used hemp product(s) in their pet.

Reasons for Using a Hemp Product in Respondent’s Pet

Not important/ not a factor

Minimally important

Moderately important

Extremely important

n = number
of respondents selecting this reason

I prefer hemp products to conventional medicine

17.31% 85

14.46% 71

30.35% 149

38.49% 189


I don’t like to support major pharmaceutical companies

33.54% 165

16.46% 81

17.48% 86

32.93% 162


I like the idea that this product comes from “natural” sources

7.27% 36

8.08% 40

24.65% 122

60.40% 299


The cost of this product is right for me

13.87% 67

16.98% 82

35.61% 172

34.78% 168


I thought this product would work as an adjunct to other therapies

11.07% 54

7.99% 39

31.15% 152

50.00% 244


46 AHVMA Journal • Volume 42 Spring 2016


This is the first study of its kind to systematically investigate the reasons why an increasing number of owners use hemp for their small animals. This study analyzed the feedback of customers from 1 company that specifically produces hemp-based products for animals (28).

The results from this study provide information about why pet owners purchase hemp products and their impressions of the results they have seen. The majority of survey respondents indicated they currently use a hemp product for their dogs, with far fewer reporting they purchased the products for their cats. Dog owners reported that the hemp products were moderately or very helpful in numerous areas. The reported positive impact was highest for relief from pain (64.3%), followed by helping with sleep (reported by 50.5%), and relief from anxiety (49.3%). The most frequently reported side effects were sedation (22.0%) and over-active appetite (15.9%). For cats, the areas felt to be most positively impacted by the products were relief from pain (66.0%), reduction of inflammation (56.3%), and help with sleep (44.0%). The most common side effects for cats were sedation (19.2%) and over-active appetite (16.0%). Side effects were rarely mentioned as a reason for discontinuing a product. For dogs, the most common reason to discontinue a product was expense, followed by ineffectiveness. For cats, the most common reason was ineffectiveness, followed by expense.

When asked to compare hemp products to other forms of medication or therapy, most owners felt the hemp products work better than other treatments with only 7% reporting feeling they do not work as well. The most common reasons for choosing to use hemp products included a positive feeling about the fact that the products come from natural sources, and that the products could be used as an adjunct to other therapies. Furthermore, nearly 90% indicated that they thought hemp products were “very safe,” though they would prefer verification on the contents, especially that of CBD, the active major constituent.

The fact that owners turned to hemp for the treatment of medical conditions may suggest that, similar to human medicine, many are not satisfied with more conventional modes of care. In our survey we found that most respondents were well-educated and that the treatment worked better or at least as well as other approaches. Although the potential

of a placebo effect cannot be ignored, these results do suggest a large number of pet owners felt hemp products helped their pets for numerous ailments with minimal side effects. These results lend additional support to the anecdotal stories currently circulating about the use of hemp products for animals (29).

It is important to avoid interpreting these results as an endorsement for the efficacy of any THC or CPD product in veterinary medicine. Limitations of this study are the potential bias of gathering owners’ opinions based on their own observations, the lack of placebo or control group, the lack of assessment of an owner’s ability to accurately and objectively report changes in their pet’s medical condition, and the anecdotal nature of the survey responses. Nevertheless, the survey does point out that some pet owners are viewing marijuana based products for their pets favorably, emphasizing the need for veterinarians to be informed about these opinions and need for objective, placebo controlled clinical trials.

In addition to providing some support for the growing number of anecdotal stories, these results give guidance to researchers seeking to perform clinical studies on hemp in terms of its putative effectiveness and possible adverse outcomes. We have identified the positive outcomes most commonly observed by consumers. The next step to determine the viability of hemp use therapeutically would be carefully controlled clinical trials. Potential areas of research would include pain management and behavioral interventions for sleep and anxiety for dogs, and pain management, inflammation reduction, and improvement in sleep patterns for cats.

Finally, in terms of safety, independent laboratory analysis of product contents and purity was deemed highly desirable. It is suggested that the field would benefit from studies analyzing the actual content of available products, including amounts of active ingredients; impact of non- active ingredients/additives; stability in the products administered; batch-to-batch variability; and potential contamination with pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides.

In conclusion, the use of cannabis products for animals warrants the attention of veterinarians and researchers. Indeed, it is suggested that both the promises and perils of medical marijuana for animals point to the need for science-based education, regulation, and research;

AHVMA Journal • Volume 42 Spring 2016 47

and veterinarians should be key players in the efforts surrounding the creation of well-designed, controlled


a. Survey Monkey,
b. IBM SPSS Statistical software, version 21


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Copyright © 2016. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the AHVMA, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

48 AHVMA Journal • Volume 42 Spring 2016

Used with permission of the Journal of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (JAHVMA). Article first appeared in Volume 42, Spring Issue, 2016.

Expecting Success

Living with Children and Dogs

By Valerie Barry, KPA-CTP

In Partnership With Dogs

Valerie - Main

Do you have a dog and:

  • you’re expecting a baby?
  • thinking of starting a family?
  • welcoming a grandchild into the family?
  • about to become an aunt or uncle?
  • moved into a new location with young children living next door? 

If any of the above applies to you, what are you doing to help prepare your dog for this new change in his life?

This past year I found myself called upon to work with a number of new families – either ones expecting a baby or those with a new baby already in residence.  In each case, there were either a few issues going on that no one expected or some behaviours that raised a few red flags.

I’m not quite sure why, but it doesn’t always seem to occur to all expectant parents to think about preparing their dog for the arrival of a new child into their lives.  Maybe it’s because their dog is already good with kids, or maybe its because their dog is already friendly and a baby is just another human after all.   It may be that their dog is still only a baby himself, so he should easily learn to fit a human baby into his life and they can grow up together – right?

Well, it’s rarely that simple, unfortunately.  People really need to take the time to prepare their dog for any change in their lives and a new little one is a really big change!baby article 2

All the space in your house from the knees down (or your waist down if you have a big dog) has been pretty much solely occupied by your dog (unless you’re in the habit of sitting or crawling around on the floor a lot).  Suddenly, there appears a small person in your house who is also occupying that same space at times.  This new little being is making strange and sudden noises, crawling around, moving unsteadily, grabbing at things randomly, soon toddling around and eventually running around with even more noise – all in the same space as your dog.  Imagine how your dog might feel and what he might be thinking!  

I don’t know if it seems like competition for that space, or if that space suddenly seems too constricting to your dog.  Perhaps your dog feels like he has no way to escape.  He might even feel that he’s gained a fabulous new playmate right around his size. Whatever your dog might think about this sudden change to his environment – happy, confused, worried, scared, nervous – we really don’t have any way of knowing exactly what that might be.  All we have to go on is his behaviour and what he tries to communicate to us and hopefully respond appropriately and fairly. 

This is what I frequently observe:

1. Dog’s who are not entirely comfortable with strangers on the street or in the house.

This can easily translate into a dog who becomes “protective” in his behaviour toward strangers who visit the new baby, hold the new baby, or stop to see the new baby in the stroller as you take a walk down the street.

2. Dogs who have resource guarding issues – aren’t happy with people around their food, toys or treasured objects like raw bones or beef chews.

This can easily become a dog who growls and snaps at a small person crawling by his “stuff”.  It can also cause a dog to start finding new things to guard like a favorite sleeping spot or a precious adult human who is his cuddle companion.

3. Dogs who are a bit uncomfortable with children or who simply haven’t been around them much.

This can easily become a dog who is growling and even snapping at your new addition for reasons that aren’t always obvious.  It’s one thing to see a child on the street or occasionally be startled by them racing around a corner on the street, it’s something else to be constantly surrounded by the sight, smell and sound of them 24/7.

4. Dogs who aren’t comfortable being handled and touched in certain spots or at certain times.

I meet many dogs who aren’t comfortable getting their nails trimmed, being toweled off, having their collars or harnesses put on, being touched on the head, having their tails and ears handled, etc.  I also meet quite a few dogs who don’t like to be disturbed when they’re sleeping, playing with their toys or eating (which can be a part of resource guarding behaviour).  This isn’t going to play out well with a young child running around and grabbing unsteadily at anything within reach.

5. Dogs who are generally considered pretty good with kids and seem happy to see them and be petted by them.

baby article 1This seems like a big win, right?  But, even if your dog seems to like and even seek out the presence of children, if you have a child around constantly things can certainly change.  Your dog can feel that he has no advocate in the house and no real way to avoid being touched and petted when he doesn’t want to be.  When he meets kids outside, eventually everybody moves on so the touching may never become too much.  In your house, though, everything is different.

He is also the centre of attention when kids are rushing over to meet him, but in his house the new arrival captures all the attention and he may be starting to feel excluded in some family activities.  Even worse, he may be getting into trouble for things that were okay before – getting up on the couch, grabbing toys on the floor that no longer just contain dog toys, grabbing at food held down at his height by little hands, etc.

6. Puppies or very young dogs who, for many months have been the centre of attention, had free run of the house, family laps, free cuddle time, regular walks and play time.

All that often changes when baby comes home and time is limited.  Space is suddenly limited, as each youngster has to be kept separate at times.  Walks become shared with a baby in a stroller who gets all the attention from passers by.  Playtime becomes joint playtime with baby and rules are suddenly put into place that didn’t previously exist.  Free run in the trails is limited because baby can’t easily come along. Parents clamp down on what were considered minor mistakes in the past – no nipping at my feet, biting my hand accidently when grabbing your toy, wrestling on the floor, barking during nap time, article 6

What can you do?

Be Proactive.

Prepare your dog for the arrival of a new child as far in advance as possible.

  • Introduce your dog to the new smells of baby lotions, laundry soap, shampoo, diaper cream, etc. so these smells become familiar before the new baby arrives.
  • Decide whether your dog will have access to the nursery or not.  If they are allowed in, teach them an appropriate behaviour like remaining on a bed in the room when you are in there with baby.
  • Teach a solid “Wait” or “Go To Your Bed” skill and have a safe place for your dog to be in every room in the house so he can be included but in safer way than having free range depending on the ambulatory skills of your child.  
  • Take many walks with an empty stroller so they get used to how and where to walk and you can see how much training you need to do on their leash skills well before baby arrives on the scene.
  • Desensitize your dog to the sights and sounds of children’s toys – especially noisy ones.
  • Ensure you have good “Leave It” or “Drop It” cues to use and teach them which toys are theirs and which are off limits.
  • Get your dog used to a confinement area so you can put him somewhere comfortable that he’s happy to be in when you can’t monitor both dog and baby.
  • Ensure that you have a plan for your dog’s exercise needs and begin any new routine well in advance of baby.

Create some New article 7

  • Take your dog out to areas where children are congregating, walking to/from school, playing organized sports and begin getting your dog used to these sights and sounds. 
  • Work at a distance that your dog is comfortable with and spend a few minutes at a time feeding treats or playing tug and fetch games while in the presence of children.  Ensure you practice this at different times of the day.
  • Make sure you cover as many different age groups that you can.
  • We want your dog to begin to associate great treats and having fun with the sights and sounds of children being noisy, moving at various speeds and doing different activities.  
  • Take note of any signs of discomfort that you observe and spend more time working in these circumstances with some spectacular treats.

Be Your Dog’s Advocate.

It should go without saying – NEVER, EVER, EVER leave a child and a dog alone for even the briefest of moments!

  • Regardless how comfortable your dog may or may not be with children, do not allow children to simply run up and get in your dog’s space or touch him.  
  • Consider teaching your dog to touch his nose to a fist held out to him vs. having him endure petting on the head.  With this new skill, your dog can interact in a fun way with a child who is instructed to hold out a closed fist toward your dog for a nose greeting. 
  • If your dog chooses not to interact with a child, respect this choice and back up your dog’s decision by asking the child to keep their distance.  It’s a good teaching opportunity to explain to a child how dogs get to decide if they want to interact or not and why it’s a good and safe choice to respect that dog’s decision.
  • Keep your dog and child separated at home unless you are able to safely monitor their activities or have help at hand to keep an eye on one or the other. 
  • Ensure your dog has a safe place to go to when he needs to get away.  It’s critical that your dog can count on child being able to or being allowed to access.  
  • Have a confinement area (which can be the same as his safe place) that you can put your dog into when you can’t monitor things.  Keep the association of this confinement or safe place location positive.  Fill it with toys or treats and add in treat dispensing toys so it doesn’t feel like isolation and exclusion but rather a fun break with some special things your dog doesn’t get at other times.
  • Don’t ever expect your babysitter to also monitor your dog.  Ensure your dog can be safely crated or confined when others are minding your children in your place.
  • Remember too that your child is also growing, maturing and changing so your dog’s environment will continue to change as your child’s ability to move about the house increases and changes.  It’s easy to avoid that small person who can’t follow you, but when they can not only follow you but grab at you and your toys, how will your dog handle that?baby article 4

Remember Your Dog Has Needs Too.

  • Try and keep to your dog’s routine as much as you can even if you have to get the help of a friend to walk your dog at times.
  • If your dog’s routine has to change, take the time to get them used to a new routine well in advance of the arrival of a new child.
  • Ensure that your dog gets your undivided attention at times so they feel like they still have their alone time with you without the constant accompaniment of the new arrival. Consider taking a fun class with just you and your dog as a way for both of you to take a break with each other – maybe tricks, scenting or some fun outdoor group obedience classes are in order.
  • Make sure that breaks – dog from child – happens as it needs to.  Everybody needs a break from each other regardless of how they might love each other, or not.  Err on the side of caution and give your dog more breaks than less – many small ones throughout the day would be ideal.
  • Consider upping your dog’s mental stimulation so they have something to focus on that is helpful to their overall demeanor and any anxiety or concern they may feel.  Invest in some new treat dispensing toys to keep him interested and mentally challenged.


Every single dog trainer you will ever meet cringes when we see those “cute” dog and child pictures that circulate on the internet and Facebook.  Dogs can be incredibly tolerant which is often mistaken as “bombproof” and “great with kids”.  Don’t make those mistakes – keep your children and your dog safe by making good choices and preparing and managing things well.

If you take the time to help prepare your dog for your new family member, then your dog can be a fun and beloved member of your family who fits in easily and can take part in most family activities.  

We are counting on each generation to continue to have empathy and caring for our animals who do not have a voice to help themselves.  We need to have children and pets able to live safely with each other.  It’s important to be raised to think responsibly about our pets, be taught to take an active part in their care, and be encouraged to consider their mental and physical welfare.  If you have an opportunity to interact appropriately with pets as you grow up, you are may be a little bit more inclined to be interested in and maybe even active in all animal welfare as an adult.

If you have a dog who you think isn’t entirely comfortable with your children (or other children), please consider hiring a professional dog trainer who uses positive methods and has experience with behaviour modification.  Remember to keep it positive – for everyone!

Some Good Resources

  • Living With Kids and Dogs…Without Losing Your Mind, a book by Colleen Pelar 
  • Colleen Pelar’s website: 
  • Family Paws Parent Education website:

What Our Dog Really “Nose”

By Amanda Ringnalda and Kelly Taylor of Sama Dog



We all know our dogs have an amazing sense of scent. Just try and quietly eat some cheese; bet you he’ll be there faster than you can say “timberdoodle” (yes that is an actual name of a cheese!)

Dogs have this remarkable organ called the vomeronasal organ (VNO). The VNO detects odors and pheromones; this is why your furry friend loves to sniff on walks. With every lamp post he sniffs, he is catching up on the recent gossip via pee-mail. He can tell what Boomer has recently eaten, if Gracie is stressed and even if Rusty has had the dreaded snip snip! It seems that a 70% sniff and 30% walk outing is equivalent to us humans spending an entire day on Facebook! 

What is really fascinating about our furry friends is what they actually know! How many times have you heard the phrase, “I swear my dog is like a little person, he knows what I’m thinking!” or “You know, I’m sure Noodle knew we were going to the vet” or “Tinkerbell can always sense when it’s bath time!” And how about when we’re sad, angry or grieving? Isn’t it amazing how they just know? They sense our energy and our intentions. Wonder if they can actually see auras… wouldn’t that be the coolest thing?! We know they can sense diseases like Cancer, sniff out drugs and even find missing people. It’s remarkable! This deserves more credit than we give them. Most of us couldn’t even sniff out a moldy piece of timberdoodle under the couch cushion! 

But do we really give a dog credit for what he “nose”?

Think about it – we choose our dog’s food, their beds, their playmates, where they sleep, their treats, everything, yet do we really know what is best for them? Yes we love them, and yes we do our very best for them (we know dogs who eat better than their owners!), but what would happen if we gave them the “pawsibility” to choose for themselves?

At times when your dog is sick, how often have you thought, “I wish they could tell me what they need”?  What if you could give them the opportunity to do so via self-selection? Wild dogs and wolves naturally seek out certain berries and herbs to help them purge and rid the body of things it no longer needs or that are causing discomfort or illness. Our domestic dogs are no different.IMG_8922

There is a growing community of Caninepharmacognosy (Canine: dog, Pharma: medical, Cognosy: knowing) practitioners. When it comes to caninepharmacognosy, our dogs truly have the opportunity to self-select what they need to help them feel better. For instance, dogs may instinctively choose ginger oil when they have had an upset stomach. In the Ayurveda world, ginger is one of the top natural medicinal remedies, especially for digestion, so to observe as they knowingly self-select is fascinating. Dogs are naturally drawn to healing remedies – grasses such as wheatgrass, macerates such as arnica, essential oils such as lavender and water essences such as valerian water. They choose to inhale these remedies or ask for them to be applied topically on the area of discomfort or on the femoral artery where there is no hair, allowing the oil to get into the blood stream quicker.IMG_1458

Now we aren’t saying to start experimenting with essential oils without proper guidance – this is what a licensed practitioner offers and you should learn more from a seasoned practitioner. One great resource we recommend is Caroline Ingraham’s book How to Heal Your Dog. But you can definitely start on the path to having your dog self-select on some of the things he needs. Take coconut oil, for example – within the past few years the world has gone crazy over this stuff. There are hundreds of ways to use this natural healing remedy, but also be wary of too much of a good thing. Some dogs may not digest this well or may not actually need it, so why not try it via self-selection? Put a small amount on a plate or in their feeding bowl without mixing it in their food. Do they eat it? If yes, try it again in a few days. If not, try it again later. If they don’t need it, they won’t eat it.

The same thing goes for certain foods. Sometimes we assume our dogs are picky eaters, but this is not always the case. Dogs eat with their noses so if they continually refuse a certain food, they might not need the ingredients. Check what’s in there, learn to be a label reader and try out a new protein/food. 

Go on, try giving your buddy the choice to exercise what he “nose.” It’ll be fun for both of you and he will love you for it.bodhi 2



The Top 4 Secrets to Better Teeth for Your Pet

By Dr. Moira Drosdovech, DVM


Before and after dental_n

This article might well have been titled The Top 4 Secrets to Spending Less at the Vet! It stands to reason that if you can maintain the health of your pets’ teeth without having them professionally cleaned, you simply spend less! 

What exactly are we talking about here that we want to prevent? The condition is known as Periodontal Disease and it is rampant in our pet population.

What does periodontal disease look like? Loose teeth and gum inflammation combined with halitosis and bacterial infection. There are varying grades of this disease with progressive worsening of the condition as we advance from Grade 1 to 4. Many toy dog breeds acquire this condition and end up toothless long before they have reached a ripe old age. Tartar on tooth_n

As common at that is for smaller breeds, that does not make it normal by any stretch. However, what is normal for dogs and cats alike is to keep all of their teeth to old age and for there to be minimal gum disease and loose teeth. I have a small Shih tzu cross that is over 13 now and still has every single tooth she started with and has never had to have a professional dental because she keeps her own teeth clean (secret below)!

So what are the secrets to good dental health in pets??

Secret 1: Through smart choices from the very day you bring home your dog or cat! If we choose the right foods and things to chew on when our animals are young and easily conditioned to eat what we offer, then half the battle is won. If you wait until the rot of periodontal disease have set in, it is nearly too late.

For my clients, that tends to be the raw food diet with raw bones to gnaw on usually starting at as young as 6 weeks old, but certainly by 12 weeks. Dry foods do not clean teeth as is commonly believed. An analogy I often use is that, if indeed that was the case, dentists would be out of business as we could just eat crispy cookies before we go to bed and dispense with the tooth brush!

Secret 2: Regular chewing of items like bones and safe, non-toxic chew sticks that keep your pets’ gums healthy and teeth tartar-free. Regular means a few times weekly!

While not for everyone or every pet, eating and chewing on raw bones is an excellent way to maintain dental health and can even benefit those pets that already have significant tartar buildup or even have some periodontal disease, but not if there are loose teeth.

Raw bones can be knuckle and marrow bones, but they can also be poultry parts, like necks and wings, even legs. When eating a raw bone such as these, the bones do not splinter into shards as they do when they are cooked and are therefore safe. I highly advise against all cooked bones and each bone must be evaluated for the safety for your particular dog or cat. It is best to obtain professional advice before beginning to feed raw bones. 

You may choose to feed chews like Greenies, or Bully Sticks and the like, but the ingredients of some of those items are questionable and might be toxic in some cases. I have watched the manufacturing process of rawhides and it will turn your stomach when you discover that they use a wide assortment of toxic chemicals to make them, including bleach. As they are a by-product of the leather industry, there is no need for approval by the FDA and no need to disclose what goes in them!!!

See the end of the article for Guidelines for feeding raw bones.

Secret 3: Regular checkups so that your veterinarian can examine the mouth and teeth to not only check for inflammation and other signs of periodontal disease, but also to check for abnormal growths and other issues. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen oral cancer that may have been more treatable had the pet been in regularly for check ups. 

Secret 4: Use only a veterinary professional to examine your pets’ mouth, as they are the only ones qualified to examine and make a diagnosis followed by a professional cleaning, yes, with anesthetic. Over the years, there have been countless times when we have examined and then recommended professional dental work on a pet that had been having their teeth “cleaned” every 6 – 12 months by a canine dental hygienist. Many of these pets, mostly dogs, have needed multiple teeth extracted and were afflicted with what I refer to as “foul mouth aids” with breath so bad, the entire room is putrid. Some are so bad it makes you want to cry at the amount of suffering they endured for far longer than necessary. 

I’ll admit that there are times when the tartar buildup on your pet’s teeth is strictly “cosmetic” and a canine hygienist can be used, but that is where the practicality of this stops. To know if it is simply cosmetic tartar, only a veterinarian can tell you that. It is erroneous to compare animal dentistry to human dentistry as animals cannot inform the hygienist or the dentist about what their teeth feel like.

If there is any kind of occult (underlying) periodontal disease, your pet will experience discomfort during a non-anesthetic cleaning and the procedure will likely hasten the disease progression as now even more bacteria can get in between the tooth and gums and, of course, the hygienist cannot prescribe antibiotics. Your pet will continue to suffer, unbeknownst by you. I feel strongly that having this procedure done because it is “anesthetic-free” is one of the worst choices you can make for your pet’s health care, bar none. 

Remember! Dentistry is not expensive! Neglect is!

Guidelines for Feeding Raw Bones to your Dogs Noah's Arc raw bones

Before you give a dog a bone, there are some rules to be aware of:

  1. Some dogs are “aggressive chewers” and can chip or fracture their teeth on raw bones. Don’t blindly offer raw bones to your dogs as you may wind up with a bill for expensive dental work. Monitor their chewing and progress and intervene as needed.

Consumable bones are the bones of birds (typically chicken wings and chicken, duck and turkey necks). They are softer and more pliable and  (whole or coarsely ground) are a good alternative to the recreational raw bones for aggressive chewers.

  1. Bone marrow contains fat and therefore, the calories must be taken into account and should be avoided if your pet has pancreatitis.
  2. Marrow can sometimes cause diarrhea if consumed by dogs with sensitive stomachs or in large quantities. I always advise clients to scoop out at least some of the marrow for the first few bones until they become accustomed to it.
  3. Bones can be messy. I usually suggest tying the dog to the kitchen table leg and having them chew their bone on one of those inexpensive area mats. 
  4. When it comes to the right size bone for your dog, match the bone size to your dog’s head. There’s really no such thing as a “too big” bone, but there are definitely bones that are too small for some dogs.
  5. If your pet breaks off large pieces of raw bone, I recommend removing them before she has the opportunity to swallow them. Choose bones that don’t have extra pieces that can be chewed off.
  6. Never cook raw bones; cooked bones splinter and are dangerous.
  7. Always supervise dogs when you’ve given them raw bones.
  8. Feed bones to multiple dogs in separate rooms or tied up. No need to test how much they enjoy sharing their bones!

Noise and Healing Sounds

Apricot poodle puppy listening to music on headphones, isolated on white background

By Dr. Susan O. Wagner, DVM, MS, ACVIM, 

Bioacoustics is the study of sound in animals. It looks at the ways in which animals communicate as well as the positive and negative effects of environmental sounds. Music is the most common therapeutic use of sound, but other modalities such as chanting, tuning forks, and nature sounds have been employed by sound practitioners. Research in various species shows that noise can have a detrimental effect on physiology and behavior. Music studies reveal trends, but it is not clear as to what types of music work best for calming or enrichment and if any species differences exist. Further research with larger numbers of subjects may elucidate these points. We may also find that response to acoustic therapy is individualized, and an understanding of physical, emotional, environmental, and bioenergetic factors are needed to design an appropriate therapy plan.


Sound is an important part of every animal’s surroundings. This is especially true for those suffering from anxiety disorders. Most owners do not realize the significance of sound in their homes, and many veterinarians are not cognizant of the sonic environment exposure of their hospitalized patients.

Sound is a type of electromagnetic radiation. Its frequency, or pitch, is measured in hertz (Hz). One Hz is defined as one complete wave cycle per second. Humans hear frequencies of 20–20,000 Hz, and dogs hear between 40–45,000 Hz. Cats can hear frequencies up to 64,000 Hz (1, 2). Both dogs and cats can hear sounds that are much further away than humans can perceive (3).

The intensity or loudness of a sound is measured in decibels (dB). Hearing damage occurs instantly at 100 dB and can also be caused by prolonged exposure to levels above 85 dB. The dB of some common sounds are listed in Table 1 (3).

Decibels for Common Sounds


30 dB


70 dB


40 dB

Lawn mower

90 dB


60 dB

Rock concert

130 dB


80 dB

Garbage disposal

80 dB

Table 1.


Bioacoustics is the study of sound in animals. It looks at the ways in which animals communicate as well as the positive and negative effects of environmental sounds. Psychoacoustics is the discipline that studies the perception of sound in humans (4). This includes how people listen, their psychological responses, and the physiological impact of music and sound on the human nervous system. Research suggests that psychoacoustic concepts also apply to animals (5). The purpose of this article is to review the effects of sound and music on various animal species.


The French otolaryngologist, Dr. Alfred Tomatis, is considered the father of psychoacoustics, as he was one of the first people to understand the effects of sound on the nervous system. Tomatis realized that sound is a nutrient for the body, thereby being useful to calm, stimulate, and balance the nervous system. Although beyond the scope of this article, Tomatis’ principles are still being used in human acoustic therapy today (5).

A key neurologic concept important in sound awareness is the orienting response, which occurs when the nervous system becomes aware of a stimulus (6). Whether the individual is cognizant or not, the brain actively engages with any stimulus. In the case of hearing, the process quickly goes from passive hearing to active listening. If the stimulus is low level, the nervous system reverts back to its original state. More intense stimuli create startle and fight or flight responses. For example, animals experience sudden arousal when an unusual or loud sound is heard.

The orienting, startle, and fight or flight responses are all survival mechanisms which are especially meaningful in prey animals. The ear pinna on dogs, cats, and horses allow the reception of sound to occur on a much more sensitive level than in humans. While an orienting response may get an animal’s attention but not elicit overt fear, negative consequences can still occur. Ongoing instinctive reaction to sudden noise can interrupt the animal’s relaxed state. This can be especially significant in the veterinary setting when ill patients are not able to rest.Dog with radio


Hearing loss and noise induced stress have been well documented in many species, including laboratory animals. While variability in hearing damage is seen among strains of

mice, most are negatively affected by a loud environment (5, 7). Background laboratory noise routinely reaches 80 dB, with human activity transiently increasing intensity by up to 40 dB (8). Moreover, early exposure to noise accelerates age induced hearing loss (9).

Other noise related toxicities have been noted in both mice and rats. Stress hormones and blood pressure increase with intense sounds, and chronic noise exposure can produce increases in blood pressure that last for weeks after the environment is normalized (10). Birth defects have been documented in mice and rats when the mother was exposed to noise pollution during pregnancy. Behavioral changes were also seen in the offspring (11, 12).

Dogs also exhibit negative effects from noise. In one study, sound blasts increased heart rate and salivary cortisol levels and elicited postural signs of anxiety (13). Consistent ambient levels of 85 dB are reported to create anxiety in canines (14). Brain Auditory Evoked Response (BAER) was used to measure hearing loss in kenneled dogs housed at a facility in which background noise often reached 100 dB. All 14 dogs studied had hearing loss within 6 months (15).

Wildlife are not immune to noise pollution. Global efforts have increased to protect cetaceans from modern sound technology. Sonar often reaches over 200 dB and can disrupt normal communication among whale populations and create behavioral changes (16). Sea lions, dolphins, and other marine life are also affected by human induced sound (17–21).


While noise toxicity can have far-reaching detrimental effects, sound can also be used for healing. Much of the discipline of positive sound therapy is based on the psychoacoustic principles of resonance and entrainment. Resonance describes the effect of 1 frequency on another. The vibration of sound causes a change in the frequency of a cell, muscle, or organ. Entrainment is the process by which periodic rhythms cause major body pulse systems (heart rate, brain waves, and breath) to naturally speed up or slow down (22). Through these acoustic processes, sound causes a physiologic effect on the body.

Pattern identification is another component of psychoacoustics and is related to the complexity of sound. When a new pattern is introduced, the nervous system engages the orienting response. The focus of the brain turns to this sensory input with active listening. Once the pattern has been processed, the brain returns to a passive hearing state. While pattern identification appears to be relevant in animals, it is not known whether more complex psychoacoustic properties such as intervals and harmonies influence them (23).

Music is the most common therapeutic use of sound, but other modalities such as chanting, tuning forks, and nature sounds have been employed by sound practitioners. Music therapy has been well studied in humans. It has been shown to be useful for many conditions, including neurologic rehabilitation, dementia, and pain (5, 24, 25). Music also improves quality of life and assists with concentration and relaxation (26).

Sound therapy has been studied in a variety of animal species. Cows were more likely to come into the milking parlor if they were signaled by music (27). An increase in growth rate was seen in chickens exposed to music, and stress was reduced in layer chicks when sound was used for enrichment (28, 29). A pilot study in horses suggested that eating decreased when jazz was played, but increased with country music (30).

Music therapy and sound enrichment are low cost, easy modalities to enrich the lives of captive animals. Whether it be a short term stay in a veterinary clinic or shelter, or long term captivity in a sanctuary or zoo, sound can play a key role in enhancing the welfare of these animals. Wells found that the quality of life for Asian elephants and gorillas was improved through auditory enhancement. Gorillas showed a tendency toward relaxation and a reduction in stress behaviors with rainforest sounds and classical music (31). Elephants had a significant decrease in stereotypic behaviors with classical music (32).

Dogs also respond well to environmental enhancement with sound. Classical music decreased stress behaviors in kenneled dogs better than heavy metal, pop, and conversation (33). Heart rate variability, a measure of stress, also improved with classical music in kenneled dogs. This change was still measurable after 9 days of music therapy, meaning the dogs did not habituate to the music (34). And yoga music was effective in reducing stress behaviors in the veterinary setting (35).

Four types of psychoacoustically arranged classical music were tested by Leeds, Spector, and Wagner. Results suggested that all classical music does not have the same effect on behavior in dogs. Varying the instrumentation and tempo produced differences in results, with slower tempos and simpler sounds having the greatest calming effect (5). In the second phase of the research, music with the most calming effect was tested against normal classical music. Twice as many anxiety behaviors were reduced with the psychoacoustically arranged work (5).

Work has also been done with cats. In a study of young, middle-aged, and older felines, results showed that they preferred music with frequencies and tempos similar to what is heard in feline communication. The young and older cats responded more than the middle-aged subjects (5). Psychoacoustic principles that stimulate the nervous system have been used for enrichment in cats, but data is not yet available on its efficacy (36).

Environmental sound is important even when the individual is not cognizant of the surroundings. A study of 12 cats showed that respiratory rate and pupil diameters changed depending on whether classical music, pop, or rock was played during spay procedures. Classical music had the most positive effects, pop was intermediate, and heavy metal caused increased respiratory rate and pupil diameters, indicating a stress response (37, 38).

While research in sound therapy is promising, variability among studies does exist. In a more recent study of Lowland gorillas, only natural sounds reduced stereotypic behavior; classical or rock music did not (39). Similarly, a study in kenneled dogs did not show a difference between psychoacoustically arranged classical music when compared to other types of music. Normal classical music did best at reducing stress, and heavy metal increased stress induced behaviors (40).


Music is just one aspect of the vast array of sounds affecting the complicated auditory and nervous systems in animals and humans. When we consider species and individual differences in communication, sensory processing, and adaptation, it is not surprising that music research is revealing trends but no definitive answers.

While it is clear that noise has a detrimental effect on many species, the effects of music are not as apparent. We may be witnessing challenges similar to studying any complementary modality. For example, subjects in an acupuncture study may all have the same clinical disorder but require very different points due to their underlying nature and imbalances. They all receive acupuncture, but a set of points that helps one individual may not be appropriate for the other. In our conventional mindset of controlling every variable (i.e., all subjects receive the same acupuncture points), we may make incorrect conclusions from the data.

Conversely, further research with larger numbers of subjects may show us that species variation does exist, and we may find that one species prefers nature sounds while another requires classical music. But if we apply holistic concepts to acoustic therapy, we are more likely to find that an understanding of physical, emotional, environmental, and bioenergetic factors are needed to design an appropriate therapy plan. Truly effective sound therapy may need to be prescribed on a case by case basis.


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8. Lauer AM, Bradford JM, Ziwei JH, et al. Sound levels in modern rodent housing rooms are an uncontrolled environmental variable with fluctuation mainly due to human activi-ties. Lab Anim (NY). 2009;38(5):154-160.

9. Kujawa SJ, Liberman MC. Acceleration of age-related hearing loss by early noise expo-sure: Evidence of misspent youth. J Neurosci. 2006;26(7):2115-2123.

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20.Buckstaff KC. Effects of watercraft noise on the acoustic behaviour of bottlenose dol-phins,Tursiops truncatus, in Sarasota Bay, Florida. Mar Mamm Sci. 2004;20(4):709-725.

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  4. Orentin M, Quintame V, Yelnik A, et al. Experimental feasibility pilot study: Music ther-apy and rehabilitation care follow a stroke. Ann Phys Rehabil Med. 2016;59S:e48.
  5. Espi-Lopez GV, Ingles M, Ruesces-Nicolau MA, Moreno-Segura N. Effect of low im-pact aerobic exercise is combined with music therapy on patients with fibromyalgia: A pilot study. Complement Ther Med. 2016;Oct 28:1-7.
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Reprinted with permission,

The Language of Love

By Andreea Gabriel



About four years ago, my husband surprised me with the most wonderful gift I had ever received. When I opened the door, he handed me an adorable snow-white Maltese puppy that seemed and continues to seem to me the sweetest and cutest creature I have ever seen. My husband and I welcomed him into our lives with great joy and named him Rey, which means king in Spanish. Rey is truly the king of our house and of our hearts. He sleeps on the bed with us, eats at the table with us, watches TV with us, and does a lot of human activities.

Rey speaks the language of love. From the first moment when our eyes crossed, Rey and I started to communicate in a way that I am sill trying to understand. What makes Rey a special communicator? He does not bark much.

He communicates with his face and body like no other dog that I have seen. He has an extremely expressive face and a super-flexible body. He often raises both his brows as high as possible when he is puzzled and he stares at me, while shaking his head. Other times, when he wants to entertain us, he first raises his left brow and lowers the right other. Then he switches the pace and raises the right one and lowers the left one. He keeps doing this for a few minutes, while my husband and I keep laughing and applauding him. Other times, he just winks at us and then he goes hide under the table. He likes playing hide-and-seek.

Every morning, the very moment we get out of bed and put our feet on the floor, Rey does a special good morning ritual. He greets us in front of the bed, by stretching his rear legs backwards and his front legs forward until he lies completely flat, face down on the floor. He continues his ritual by raising his left paw and then his right one, alternating this movement a few times. He knows how to do many other funny and unique body postures, which are hard to describe and which resembles yogic asanas. He does yoga in his own way and sits so quite when I meditate. His energy is so blissful and serene.rey-2photo-by-barna-tanko-3

Rey is very expressive not only kinesthetically, but also acoustically. He literally sings, but he needs a special musical tone. Before we moved into a condo, we used to live in a house, which had a musical doorbell. The house had a very large front window, which covered almost the entire wall, right next to the entrance door. The window was positioned so low on the wall that even our tiny Maltese could look through it and wave at us. Every time someone rang the doorbell, Rey would run to the window and start singing, imitating the musical sound of the doorbell. His singing continued for a few minutes after the doorbell stopped. We had neighbors who told us that they liked ringing our doorbell when we were not at home just to hear Rey sing and see him through the large front window. Even if I had the key with me, I thoroughly enjoyed ringing the doorbell just to witness one more time this priceless show.

Rey can do various other tricks and he responds well to some commands such as: “up, come, sit, turn around, up and turn around”, but I am sure that other dogs can do more tricks than him. He has never been formally trained. What makes Rey a special communicator is a gift that goes beyond the ability to respond to some obedience commands. In fact, Rey is not really obedient, because sometimes he likes to lead the way, but he is truly empathetic and energetically in tune with us. Every time my husband or I accidentally bump into something in the house and say “Ouch” or express pain or suffering in some way, Rey automatically runs to us and covers our face in kisses. He gives us hugs and holds us tight with his tiny paws. If we are sad or in pain, Rey does not leave our side and continues to kiss, lick, and hug us until we feel better. He has an amazing ability to comfort, amuse, and amaze us.

Like me, Rey likes to express himself through the clothes that he wears. He has quite a wardrobe, consisting of cute little silk scarves for summer, raincoats, sweaters for fall, and coats for winter. In fact, not only that he doesn’t mind wearing clothes, but he actually seems to enjoy it, the same way he is perfectly fine with being shampooed and blow-dried in order to maintain his snow-white appearance. He walks with his head and tail high and we walk at the same pace. The color of his scarf or coat generally matches the color theme of my outfit. So many people stop us to tell me how much they like the way my dog’s clothes match mine. The most amazing part is that he has scarves in all possible colors and that many times he knows which one to pick from the pile to in order match the outfit that I am wearing that day. In fact, Rey has quite an obsession with clothes and when I wear casual socks indoors, he particularly enjoys pulling them off my feet with his teeth. Then he goes hide the socks somewhere, but after he plays with them for a while, he eventually brings them back to me. Rey has never ruined anything. He is way too sweet and smart to do that.

Whenever we bring him a gift, he senses it even before we take it out of the bag. It is very impressive how, out of all the new items in the shopping bags that we put on the floor, he goes and picks exactly the item that we bought for him, be it a toy, a piece of clothing, or a bag of treats.

I have suddenly had the realization that Rey must have developed a personality that mirrors mine. He is very empathetic, adaptable, flexible, intuitive, a linguist/communicator in his own way, stylish, considerate, likes yoga, loves nature, adores trolling though the Kitsilano neighborhood, senses special people, and has an interesting sense of humour.

I believe that we are just beginning to scratch the surface in terms of human-canine communication. There is so much to be explored and understood. All dog owners must think that their dogs are special in some way and all dogs should be special to someone. What makes your dog special? How does your dog communicate with you?

Photos of Rey, courtesy of Barna Tanko

Bio Note:

Andreea Gabriel is a writer, educator, metaphysician, and researcher. She is passionate about languages, energy, consciousness, and ancient mysteries. She feels blessed to have Rey as her wonderful canine companion.

Are You Up For the Challenge?


By Valerie Barry, KPA-CTP

In Partnership With Dogs



I cannot over-emphasize the power and the value of mentally challenging activities for dogs.  Every single dog I meet, either during one of my group classes or in a private training session, would benefit from more mental stimulation.  Physical exercise is important, but only the addition of mentally stimulating activities can result in a truly content pup.

Mental challenges should be:

  • incorporated into any behaviour modification program;
  • incorporated into any puppy rearing program by both breeders and puppy owners;
  • provided as part of introducing a newly adopted dog to your home;
  • increased as your dog ages and becomes less mobile;
  • creatively added as part of any injury or illness rehabilitation;
  • should ideally be added into any shelter or rescue facility’s daily activities; and
  • part of every dog’s daily activities.

All of my clients get to hear my spiel on adding mentally challenging activities into their dog’s day!  Some recent client examples have included:

  1. An elderly dog who had started exhibiting anxiety and restlessness.  In the absence of any medical reason, we can’t know why this is, but I’ve seen the same thing happen to my aging dogs over the years.  It may be as a result of the stress of adjusting to hearing loss, eyesight fading or mobility issues – that certainly occurs with humans, why not dogs.  
  2. A reactive dog who, during his behaviour rehabilitation, needs to participate in activities that keep his dog reactivity to a minimum.  If you live in a busy area, this rules out long walks through town and visits to the dog park so you need alternative ideas.
  3. A young puppy with more energy than her family had planned for who shouldn’t be running and playing hard yet due to her developmental stage.
  4. A newly adopted dog with way more energy and drive than the dog she was adopted to be a companion for.
  5. A group obedience class of young dogs all with different levels of confidence and impulse control.

The lives of all of these dogs would be enhanced with the addition of more mentally stimulating activities, and their families will see a positive difference in their dogs.jack-treat-hunting-fernie

The primary value of mental stimulation is building confidence.  If you are provided with a challenge that is intriguing and solvable for you (and that’s different for every individual), there is a reinforcing feeling of accomplishment when you’re done.  

There is nothing better for confidence than accomplishing something on your own, maybe getting something good for it as well and even praise on top of it all – think job challenge, bonus pay and some kudos from the boss and co-workers.  There is nothing better than that feeling of accomplishment.  If you get enough of that on a regular basis, you’re starting to feel pretty good about yourself and you start to feel like you can tackle even greater challenges.  If you’re a dog you begin to start feeling the confidence to try a different behaviour in situations that may have previously been too overwhelming or scary to do more than react to in some way.  Dogs will start to use their thinking brains more and their reacting brains less.

A lot of people are simply focused on getting the dog out for his daily walk or walks. No question – physical exercise is important for dogs. However, what if your dog can’t do much physical exercise for some reason (health, age or behaviour)?  Or what if you can’t physically exercise your dog very much and can’t afford to have someone else do it for you, or what if it’s not appropriate for your dog to be walked by others?

Physical exercise can be mentally stimulating too – exploring and sniffing around new streets or trails is part mental and part physical and your dog can explore at his leisure.  Even routine walks are different every day to some extent – what animals have passed by since we were last here?  However, there are some really good ways to up that mental challenge and reap the benefits of a uniquely tired and satisfied dog.


Adding Mental Challenges to Your Dog’s Life

The easiest way to add mental challenges to your dog’s day is to make use of the vast array of treat dispensing toys currently on the market.  This has become a pretty big retail category for pets – not just dogs, but all small companion animals are benefitting. Even larger animals like horses, cow, pigs, etc. have options available for mental stimulation.  My own horses eat out of hay nets designed to challenge them and make meals last longer. 

I put treat-dispensing toys into 3 categories:  

  1. slow feeder bowls or puzzle toys – stationary items; 
  2. toys that move – roll, wobble or need to be pulled or shaken; and 
  3. toys that you need to chew or change the shape of in order to get the food out.

Slow feeder bowls or puzzle toys are designed to hold your dog’s full meal.  The idea is that the bowls or toys slow your dog’s food consumption down which is great for dogs who gulp their food too quickly.  They also require your dog to put a bit of thought into how to get their food out which they can see and smell but can’t just gulp up easily without changing their usual behaviour in some way.  I highly recommend that all people make use of these types of things, at the very least, as a way to feed their dogs on a daily basis.  It’s easy, you can use them with dry, wet or raw food and it takes very little time on your part.  

I think of it as the beginning stage of getting your dog “into” mentally challenging activities.  For dogs who aren’t particularly food motivated and may even just pick at their meals, it increases interest.  For other dogs who are happy to quickly gulp down their meals, it starts to build a work ethic – now we’re asking you to work, just a bit, to get your food.  The challenge of most of these bowls and toys isn’t so hard as to be defeating.  Once dogs figure them out, they aren’t hard but still take time and still require more effort than a regular dog bowl.

Once your dog is happily consuming meals this way, an easy next step is to use toys for entertainment.  I like to use filled chew toys like Kongs or rolling toys like balls with kibble or other dry treats in them in this next step.  

Benefits of using Entertainment toys:

  • useful for teaching puppies or newly adopted dogs to be content when left alone. 
  • gives your dog something to do when you’re not home or are too busy to play.
  • beneficial as a way to re-direct the adrenaline of physical exercise which tends to amp dogs up for a short time after a walk or run.
  • comes in enough variety that you can find something to accommodate almost any injury or illness rehab.
  • can be very easy or really difficult and you can help your dog work up in difficulty by how you fill them.

(Important note:  be sure to initially monitor any dog with toys you intend to ultimately leave them alone with to make sure they play with them safely.)

Making use of the toys available on the market is an easy thing to add into your dog’s day.  Christmas is coming – here are a few of my favorite entertainment toys (well tested!) to tuck into your dog’s stocking this year:dante-green

  • Green – a slow feeder by Northmate
  • Fun Feeders by Outward Hound
  • Snoop treat dispensing ball by Planet Dog
  • Kong Genius Leo by Kong
  • The Wobbler by Kong
  • Tricky Treat Ball – a classic by Omega

If you’re creative, you can also find some great DIY ideas on the internet.  Here are a couple of ideas that caught my attention:

Train the Brain

Being a practitioner and passionate advocate of the science of positive reinforcement training – of course I need to include a plug for training as way to mentally challenge your dog!  Shaping, in particular, is something that can be easy, fun and really challenging for your dog – it’s also great for increasing your own observation and training skills.  Shaping simply means breaking down a behavior into tiny increments, and reinforcing the dog at each incremental step until you’ve achieved the full behavior. 

Shaping allows you to create behavior from scratch without physical control or corrections, but rather by drawing on your animal’s natural ability to learn.  The benefit of shaping is helping your dog learn how to offer behaviors, try new things, and think creatively in order to solve problems. Try this fun and easy free-shaping game – 101 Things To Do With a Box, from Karen Pryor’s website,

The Nose Knows


Perhaps the best way to mentally challenge your dog is to make use of their very talented nose.

An quick and easy way to encourage your dog to use his nose is to scatter treats in the grass and teach your dog to use their nose to look for them by giving them a cue, “Find It” and pointing out each treat until they begin to respond to their cue by searching and sniffing around on their own.  The longer the grass or wilder the terrain, the longer the search takes.  You can use the same kind of training to teach your dog to find a treasured toy or even a family member hiding somewhere in the house.

Nose Work

A more formal way to challenge your dog’s nose is to participate in a dog sport called Nose Work.  The training of professional scent detection canines inspired this fun canine sport.  It’s open to all dogs including dog-reactive or fearful dogs, as there is only one dog in the search area at a time. It’s appropriate for any dog – young or old, injured or even disabled dogs. No previous experience or training is necessary to get started – for the dog or the handler.  It’s a really fun way to spend time with your dog and tire them out mentally and even physically.  Best of all, you can practice it at home with minimal equipment needed.

Nose Work is an activity that uses real-world environments and can be done almost anywhere. Every search has the potential to be a dramatically different just by changing hide placement, or searching under different weather conditions. Participating in Nose Work gives your dog the freedom to express and refine his natural talents, and he’s giving you a glimpse into how he “sees” the world.

In Nose Work, dogs learn how to search for a specific odor or odors and find the source. Dogs start by searching for their favorite food or toy reward (soon paired with various odors) hidden in a variety of environments, increasing the challenges and adding new search skills as the dog progresses.  Odors dogs are taught to search for include birch, anise, and clove.  As you progress in your training, dogs are introduced to four different search elements: container, interior, exterior, and vehicles. Dogs build their hunt drive and learn foundational search skills in all four elements. 

Throughout the training, the emphasis will always be on creating learning experiences for the dog and supporting his independent problem solving, not commanding him to perform a series of tasks in a predetermined manner. Nose Work is all about the dogs and all about celebrating their amazing abilities.  All the training is positive supportive for both dog and handler.  No corrections or aversives are used in any part of the training.

If you’re interested in trying Nose Work, check out this site for classes in your area:

 So – I challenge you to up the challenge for your dog! Make a New Year’s resolution to give your dog some more mentally stimulating activities to occupy his brain this coming year.  As always, keep it positive!



I Worry About My Cat!

By Margaret Gates




The primary things that cats worry about are food and safety.  Basically, for a cat, that means eat and don’t get eaten by someone else. These concerns explain why cats can be so skittish and why they startle so easily. They know they are prey and quick reactions are life and death. It also explains why food can be such a bonding tool with your cat. Being the one who feeds the cat really does give you a leg-up on being at the top of your cat’s favorite person list. But, what do you worry about when it comes to your cat? Safety is certainly a top concern. Most people cat-proof their house to some degree: making sure the cat can’t get trapped in a closet, walk on a hot burner, topple furniture onto themselves, eat poisonous plants or escape outside. Even for those who do let their cats out, an easy way back into the safety of the house is usually provided via a cat door. We all worry about our cat’s safety.
Over the years, that worry about safety has, unfortunately, come to include food. It’s pretty easy to look around the house, find the potential hazards and do something about them. But, if you feed commercial canned or dry foods, you are suddenly in the dark. You really have no control over the situation. Not a great feeling. We all remember the melamine disaster and wonder if it could happen again. Lax standards, bad ingredients, poor labeling and contamination issues plague the pet food industry. The FDA ignores its own rules on pet food ingredients. There are good products out there, but people don’t know who to trust.
We at Feline Nutrition spend a lot of time laying out all of the reasons you should feed your cat a raw meat diet. It’s the diet your cat evolved to eat. It’s much healthier. It results in a better coat and healthier teeth and gums. It has a high moisture content. Your cat will shed less. Your cat’s poop won’t smell. But, we haven’t emphasized a benefit that may be critical: You can stop worrying now.
Raw meat diets are inherently different from canned or dry foods. Because these diets are raw, they are not highly processed. Grinding and freezing is about it. You simply can’t incorporate the waste ingredients that go into processed foods into a raw meat product. There are no rendered ingredients in raw foods and, believe me, what goes into rendered products is about as bad as you can imagine. There are no meat meals made from the leavings of the meat industry. Proteins from plant sources are not used to try to up the total protein to an acceptable level. You still need to source your meats with care and follow safe handling practices, as you would with raw meat purchased for your own use. But, you get to feel good about using common sense rather than feeling uneasy about being forced to participate in an ingredient guessing game.
I switched my cats to a raw meat diet many years ago. I did it for their health and I felt good about that. But, I soon realized that the relief I felt about changing their diet went beyond just my worry about their wellbeing. That nagging doubt about what was actually in that can or bag of cat food was something that I just didn’t have to worry about anymore. I had made an entire aisle at the grocery store irrelevant. I didn’t have to figure out which can was best. People who don’t want to think about cat food and what goes into it assume that raw meat diets are just going to complicate their lives. The opposite is true. Feeding a raw meat diet to your cat makes your life simpler. Who doesn’t need one less thing to worry about in their lives?
Margaret Gates is the founder of the Feline Nutrition Foundation.  If you would like to learn more about feline diet and health please visit  They have a wealth of information on how to feed your cat a healthy, bio-appropriate diet.  They especially welcome raw diet beginners!

Signs of Health

By Inna Shekhtman


Our pets are part of our family! They are in our homes, often in our beds, and definitely in our hearts. And as family, we want to do everything we can to keep everyone healthy.  But how do you know if our pets are truly healthy? Because they can’t speak, they are unable to tell us if they are feeling great or lousy. In fact, as a result of their wild heritage, their instinct is to hide illness as a very matter of survival.

Too often, I have heard pet owners say “My dog/cat is doing fine”. Perhaps from first glance this is true, but this fact alone is not an indicator of health. Many years ago I had a dog named Terra: a sweet, gentle nine-year-old golden retriever. She went to the vet every year and got her regular check-ups and I thought she was doing just fine.  Until suddenly she wasn’t.  She passed away less than a month later.  

Health is more than the absence of disease. Health is a state of optimal being. To ensure that our pets are in a state of optimal health, we have to be proactive in providing them with a balanced diet, regular exercise, and regular check-ins for signs of health.   While your dog or cat may not be able to tell you with words how they are doing, their body provides a lot of information for those that know where to look.  These signs can be subtle, but since we observe our animal companions on a daily basis, we are much more in tune with these subtleties than a veterinarian that sees your companion once or twice a year. Listed below are the areas you should examine regularly as part of your pet’s “health checklist”.



Healthy dogs and cats should not smell any more than a healthy person. The only exception for dogs is often if they go swimming and get the “wet dog smell”. Identifying irregular odours can help us track down a myriad of health issues before they become a serious illness.  Sounds easy, right?  It’s a little more complicated. Because we spent a lot of our time with our pets, and because our noses often acclimatize to smells that we are continuously exposed to, we may actually not realize our pet has an odour. Imagine walking into a house of someone who has scented candles. Chances are the smell will hit you like a ton of bricks, but the owner is probably not even aware there is a smell at all. So you may need to ask others to help you identify if your pet has a strong odour when they come into contact with your dog or cat. 

Smells can come from the following areas:

  1. Skin / Coat: Your pet does produce some natural oils, but their coat should not have a lingering smell. It should smell and feel fresh between baths, and bathing should be done as sparingly as possible (some suggest as little as once a year).  A musky or foul odour, or even an irregular “doggy odour”, can indicate an internal or external issue. Allergies, seborrhoea, gastrointestinal issues, and bacterial or yeast infections can cause a strong musky or foul odour as they often result in toxins coming out through the skin and coat. The odours associated with skin and coat often occur in tandem with other symptoms, such as an abnormally greasy texture, itching, flaking, or skin lesions.  However, many owners first notice the smell and often report that “I give my dog a bath and the smell is back the next day”.
  2. Ears: Smell from the ears can be a sign of yeast infections and can lead to serious complications such as deafness if left untreated.
  3. Mouth: Bad breath is often associated with a dental issue. Bad breath can also be an indicator of a more serious systemic issue such as gastrointestinal disease, kidney disease or diabetes. Make sure to inspect your pet’s teeth on a regular basis. See more about dental health below, under the “Mouth” section.
  1. Gas: Every pet farts, but if your pet produces immense amounts of stinky gas on a regular basis, something is amiss. Abnormal flatulence can be a sign of a straightforward issue, such as a dietary sensitivity, or of a more serious condition, such as a gastrointestinal disease.
  2. Anal Sacs (read end): Healthy anal sacs by nature produce an incredibly foul smelling liquid. Normally, this liquid is only released when a dog defecates or is terrified enough to use it as a defense mechanism. If you routinely smell an odour coming from the anal sacs during the course of day-to-day life, something is wrong. Impacted glands may release at inappropriate times (like when your dog scoots across the carpet), and the microorganisms in an infected anal sac can produce quite a pungent odour.

Skin & Coat


Your pet’s coat often communicates lot about their internal health. Many believe that your pet’s skin and coat really constitute an organ that performs many tasks vital to your pet’s survival. This includes maintaining body temperature and offering protection against external infections. A healthy skin and coat should be shiny, soft and odour-free. Many skin and coat issues are a actually manifestations of internal health imbalances. Common visual indicators are hotspots, sores, dull and excessively dry or excessively oily fur, or dry and flaky skin.



Maintaining a healthy weight is important for your pet’s long-term health and can significantly extend their life. If your pet is carrying excessive weight for a prolonged period, this can lead to joint issues and other serious conditions. Keeping an ideal weight is a result of a balance between a healthy diet and regular exercise. Often the term “ideal weight” is used to refer to the optimal weight for a specific dog or cat, based on their breed, age, and overall build. 


Just like people, the most common reason pets gain weight is because they are eating over-processed, grain-filled diets that are very high in sugars. This translates into consuming excessive or inefficient calories, which in turn gets stored as fat. Switching to a diet made from natural whole foods, as well as controlling their feeding portions, will help your pet better regulate their weight. 




Healthy gums are firm and pink, black or spotted, just like the dog’s skin. Healthy teeth should be white and smooth. In nature, dogs chew bones, which clean their teeth and strengthen their jaw muscles. In addition, their mouths are naturally acidic, which deters any bacteria overgrowth. Please note that feeding a commercial dry diet changes the pH levels in their mouth and digestive tract, making your pet more susceptible to unfriendly bacteria overgrowth. 




The skin inside your pet’s ear should be light pink and clean. There should be some brownish wax, but a large amount of wax or crust is abnormal. Redness or swelling inside the ears indicates an infection or inflammation that may be localized or may indicate a larger internal health issue. 



Let’s face it! As pet owners, we spend a lot of time talking about poop! It gives us an insight into our pet’s inner workings – especially their digestive system. A healthy stool should be fairly firm and low in odour. A healthy stool should not be excessive in size – remember that the digestive system should be breaking down and absorbing nutrients out of the food and excreting the waste. If the waste is the same size as what went in, then how much of that food is really benefiting your pet’s body? Many pet guardians find that the size and smell of their pet’s stool decreases when they switch to a raw diet because more of the food is utilized and less is wasted.


Most of the issues mentioned above, if caught early on, can be managed or even completely eliminated with a good quality fresh (or frozen) whole food diet without additional medical intervention. However, if you wait for signs of disease, the illness has already started to brew inside and the path to recovery is more involved. I’m sure you have all heard the idiom “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. I believe in preventative nutrition, which means feeding a biologically appropriate diet right from the start rather than reacting to conditions when they arise.

Just remember: every time your pet eats or drinks, you are preventing disease, fighting it or feeding it!