What is Holistic Veterinary Medicine?

By Nancy Scanlan, DVM, MS, CVA

cat eating with eyes closed

Holistic (or Integrative) Veterinary Medicine is the examination and diagnosis of an animal, considering all aspects of the animal’s life and employing all of the practitioner’s senses, as well as a combination of conventional and complementary (also known as holistic or alternative or CAVM) examinations and modalities of treatment. The word “holistic” can also be viewed as “wholistic,” involving both mind and body, and a deeper ways of looking at some conditions that are not included in a conventional veterinary examination. 

When a holistic veterinarian sees a pet, besides giving it a comprehensive physical examination, performing laboratory tests where indicated, and asking about past medical and dietary history, he/she wants to find out all about a pet’s behaviors, the relationship of pet with owner, and its environment including current diet, emotional stresses, genetics, nutrition, family relationships, hygiene and stress factors. The disease pattern is important. A disease with a lot of variations, such as Cushings disease, considered as one disease in conventional medicine, will be treated in a variety of ways depending on which pattern within that disease that an animal is demonstrating.

By a series of analytic observations and appropriate testing the goal becomes finding the true root source of the pathology, which can be different or deeper than a conventional medical diagnosis. A simple appearing symptom may have several layers of causation. Only when the true cause of the ailment has been found is there the possibility for a lasting recovery. cat_health

The holistic veterinary practitioner will then develop a treatment protocol using a wide range of therapies for healing the patient. The most effective, least invasive, and least harmful path to healing is selected. In many acute situations, treatment may involve surgery and drug therapy from conventional western technology, along with alternative techniques to provide a complementary, integrative whole. Herbs, acupuncture, nutraceuticals, or other treatment modalities may be included. In less acute situations holistic treatments may be used either along with, or instead of, conventional medicine. 

This form of treatment has great value for chronic disease, severe trauma and certain infections. In such cases it often out-performs conventional methods. It is also at this time that other treatment plans such as those listed below are brought into use. Once the symptoms have been treated, the task is not complete until the underlying disease patterns have been addressed. The patient, as well as the client, will be guided to a new level of health.

Modalities Used in Holistic Veterinary Medicineslide2

Modern Drugs, Surgery and Diagnostics:
A holistic veterinarian selects the ones which best conform to holistic traditions. They stay current on the latest advancements.
Acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine:
Acupuncture has been used in China for at least 3500 years. It is the main treatment for a quarter of the world’s population. Thousands of years of acupuncture treatment prove its efficacy, as well as thousands of current research articles. The primary aim of veterinary acupuncture is to relieve pain and to improve the function of organ systems by stimulating acupuncture points on the surface of the body. Acupuncture treatments elicit responses which decrease pain and regulate physiological processes. Acupuncture practice spans from ancient Chinese knowledge to state-of-the-art electroactupuncture. 

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) believes that Qi (pronounced “Chi”), is a vital force that flows throughout the body, traveling along channels of energy flow called meridians. Acupuncture points along the meridians are treated whenever a disease condition exists that blocks the normal flow of energy along these meridians. TCM also believes that disease often is because the body’s natural processes are out of balance (excess or deficient). The aim of TCM is to bring a body back into balance using acupuncture and/or herbal formulas.

The majority of acupuncture points have lower electrical resistance and can be found by instruments called “pointfinders” which can measure the flow of electric current in the skin. 
Behavior Modification:
This incorporates ethology, biology, nutrition, pharmacology, lifestyle evaluation and aspects of modern psychotherapy. Every discipline listed here affects behavior (particularly homeopathy, Bach Flowers, acupuncture, laser therapy, and herbal medicine), disease and health. Humane considerations are often at stake.
Detox, or detoxification:
All bodies have waste products that build up at times when the liver can’t process them. Initially they are stored in the fat, but may spill over into other parts of the body. Drugs or toxic substances may also be stored there. Too many of these can cause chronic inflammation or disease. Detox is a process which helps the body eliminate them safely.
Herbal Medicine:Cannabis_Oil
Herbal medicine is a system of treatment using whole plants and plant extracts in the treatment of disease and maintenance of health. Whole plants provide a broad spectrum of desirable effects, from specialized nutrition (herbs contain vitamins and minerals that drugs do not) to synergy of the various components, and may allow lower doses of drugs to be used. They can also reduce side effects of drugs. Herbal medicine also recognizes that certain traditional methods have validity today. For instance, almost nothing but nutrients in conventional medicine allow the practitioner to safely strengthen chronically ill patients, while herbalists utilize tonic herbs as well as nutrition for this purpose. Herbal medicine has always recognized the whole body approach and that the mind and body interact in health and disease—this knowledge is reflected in the use of herbal adaptogens and alteratives. 

Various cultural systems of medicine (such as Chinese, and western European) may be used in diagnosis and prescription, in addition to current scientific knowledge. Herbs are unique in “complementary and alternative medicine” because we have a tradition informing us about their use, often dating back thousands of years. Herbalists use ancient knowledge and modern science to develop treatment plans for their patients. Herbal medicine requires that the herbalist be aware of the world around us, because the tools of the trade and the environment in which they grow may be endangered by indiscriminate use. Good herbalists are conservationists and are often active in sustainable agriculture and medical initiatives worldwide. 

Becoming involved with plants as medicine transforms veterinarians. They become aware of broader clinical effects when herbs are used, even as they become aware of the broader global effects related to their new interests. Herbal medicine is healthy for doctors as well as for pets.

Homeopathy dates back to the Father of Medicine, Hippocrates. Samuel Christian Hahnemann, a German medical doctor in the mid-1800’s, developed the system we are using today. Homeopathy works on the principle of “Similia Similibus Curentur”, or “like cures like.” When a large dose of a toxic substance is swallowed, it can produce symptoms of illness, but when a homeopathic, diluted, minute dose of the substance is given, it can reverse those same symptoms. In a similar way the drug digitalis in large doses will cause heart problems, whereas in small doses it can help heart disease. 

Homeopathic remedies are made from plants, minerals, drugs, or animal substances. Classical homeopathy seeks to treat the deepest constitutional causes of the illness. Acute prescribing addresses current symptoms.

Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT):
Low-level laser light influences a number of processes in the body. It is especially good at stimulating healing, decreasing inflammation, and relieving pain. LLLT is increasingly used by a wide variety of veterinarians.

Mega-nutrients, Nutraceutical Therapy:canstockphoto35687857
Sometimes known as Orthomolecular Medicine, this uses supplemental minerals, vitamins and nutrients that correct deficiencies, prevent pathology and reverse tissue damage. Supplements are prescribed that support the organs and body tissues, aid body detoxification and assist in the healing process. Some vitamins in high doses have specific effects on specific diseases.

Nutritional Therapy:
Conventional medicine recognizes that specific diets can help in the treatment of specific diseases. Holistic diets do not have artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives and emphasize the use of whole ingredients. Proper nutrition is the best preventative medicine. Each pet patient is different and may need a different diet or additional supplements for optimum health.

Trigger Point Therapy
A trigger point can weaken a muscle by as much as 30%, and can cause both local and referred pain. Trigger point therapy will help release the trigger and provide instant relief. Owners can learn to perform this themselves.

Veterinary Chiropractic:
Chiropractic can be used to treat conditions involving the spine or muscle groups along the neck and spine. It is especially good for senior pets with difficulty in standing or walking. In chiropractic, the problem area of the back or neck is identified and through hands-on specific adjustments the problem is alleviated.

Virtually every form of medicine and therapy used in holistic medicine for humans exists for veterinary medicine. Many have programs for veterinarians which provide training and certification, or continuing education which enables veterinarians to keep up with the latest discoveries and techniques. The new and the old combine to make the future of veterinary medicine a healthier, more humane endeavor.

The Dogs of Canada

By Valerie Barry, KPA-CTP

In Partnership With Dogs


St John's Water Dog

In celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday, I thought it would be fun to do some research and see what dogs are native to Canada.  Surprisingly, there are very few dogs that come from our provinces and territories.  It’s the rare and the extinct ones I find the most interesting.  I had only heard of one or maybe two before, so it was interesting research to do!

Extinct Dogs

Most dog breeds originate because of a need in society at that time like finding food or keeping safe and helping make those aspects of life easier.  Dogs themselves became domesticated out of our need for help – security, food gathering, hunting and even companionship. The following are some Canadian breeds who originated for very specific purposes and became extinct largely because of the introduction of other breeds, or the accidental introduction of new diseases, causing the early breeds to disappear entirely.

Hare Indian Dog 

The Hare Indian Dog originated in northern Canada bred by the Hare Indians.  It was thought to be a cross between a dog and a coyote (“Coydog”).  It’s size was somewhere between a fox and a coyote, with a long pointed muzzle, narrow head, erect ears and bushy coat and tail.  The coat was largely white with grey and brown colors in irregular patches. The Hare dog was bred to be small and fast and used for coursing – using speed and sight to chase and catch game.  As aboriginal hunting methods changed or declined, the Hare dog was no longer useful.  Inter breeding with other breeds of dogs eventually caused the original Hare Indian Dog to become extinct in the 19th century. 

Salish Wooly Dog

This was a small white, longhaired, Spitz-type dog developed by the native peoples of what is now Washington and British Columbia – the Coast Salish Indians.  It has been suggested that this is the only known prehistoric breed of dog that was developed solely by selective breeding.  The animal was bred for it’s very thick, white coat and was sheared once a year like a sheep to be woven into blankets (the Salish Blankets).  The dogs were kept confined from other dogs to retain the purity of the color and consistency of their coats.  

There were many claims that no dog hair was used in the weaving of the blankets found to be made by the Coast Salish Indians.  However, recent DNA evidence confirms the existence of dog hair in the very early blankets – those woven in the first half of the 19th century. The decline of the Salish dog began with the influx of Europeans in the 1800s who brought their sheep and alternate wool types (Hudson Bay blankets were introduced around that time). By 1858 the Salish Wool Dog was considered extinct as a distinct breed and the last identifiable Salish-type dog died in 1940.  The only known physical evidence of the Salish Wooly Dog is a single pelt, rediscovered in 2004, in a drawer at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.


St. John’s Water DogNewfie statue

This breed, also known as the lesser Newfoundland or St. John’s Dog, was a known as a Landrace. A Landrace is a dog bred for purpose not because of it’s pedigree or appearance.  The formal definition of Landrace: “a dog or any livestock animal that has been bred without a formal registry, although their breeders may have kept written or informal pedigrees of their animals”.  Landrace dogs do not have breed standards so there is a lot of variety in their appearance.

The St. John’s Water Dog was the ancestor of the modern retrievers (Flat Coat, Golden, Labrador and Chesapeake Bay) as well as the ancestor to the larger Newfoundland Dog.  The St. John’s dogs were medium sized with strong, stocky bodies, thick short coats and strong, rudder-like tails.  Coloring was black with white patches on the chest and feet – “tuxedo” markings.  Writings as early as the 17th century describe these dogs accompanying Newfoundland fisherman on their boats retrieving lines and hauling nets back to the boats.  

The breed was made extinct by a combination of 2 factors:  In an attempt to encourage sheep raising, heavy taxes and restrictions were placed on dog ownership during the 19th century; and their main overseas destination, the UK, imposed long-term quarantines on all imported animals, especially dogs (1885) in an effort to eradicate rabies.  However, in both Newfoundland and the Maritimes provinces there are still many large, mixed breed dogs with many of the same characteristics of the St. John’s Dog.  The last 2 known St. John’s Dogs were photographed in 1980 at an old age having survived by living in a very remote area.

Interesting Canadian facts from my Googling:  Author Farley Mowat had a St. John’s dog named Albert.  In 1970, both Mowat and Albert appeared in an episode of the CBC series Telescope (CBC documentary series profiling notable Canadians). The episode included Mowat telling a bedtime story to his dog.  In the 1970’s Mowat made an attempt to save the breed by crossing Albert, with a Labrador Retriever. Four puppies resulted, and all had the distinctive white markings of their sire. Two puppies died and the other two were given away. One was given to Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and the other to Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin.  I found no further information on what became of the puppies.


Tahltan Bear Dog

This dog was bred and raised by the Tahltan people to hunt bear and big cats.  It was described as mighty power in a small package with fox-like yips and yodels as its distinctive vocalization.  The Tahltan dogs were small – standing 14 to 17 inches at the shoulder with large, erect ears and a pointed, refined muzzle.  They had a glossy, average length dark coat with a thick undercoat and some white patches of color on their feet or chest. They had a very distinctive tail – short, bushy and carried erect.  It has been described as a shaving brush or whisk broom. The dogs were prized for their ferocity in chasing, treeing and harassing bears so hunters could more safely close in for the kill.  Despite their behaviour with bears, the dogs were thought to be highly social with people and lived in the dwellings with their families.

The Tahltan dog descended from pariah type dogs – free ranging dogs in that area that had come from prehistoric migration.  The dogs were centralized in the remote mountainous areas of northwestern British Columbia and the Southern Yukon.  The dogs flourished in the bitter cold and any attempt to move them out of their native environment caused the dogs to succumb to distemper, heat prostration and problems due to dietary change.  As explorers began venturing into their territories the breed became diluted.  There are no known living descendants past 1970 and the breed is believed to be extinct with no known genetic relationship with any current breed.


A Note About the Rare and the Unique

Something I noticed when I began doing some research on the various breeds native to Canada was that there were dogs advertised “for sale” for many, if not all, of the breeds thought to be extinct.  My research was by no means exhaustive and largely consisted of the internet and the various sources found within the articles and excerpts I read.  I can’t say for sure that all of the above breeds are extinct beyond the explanations offered in what I read – but I would say that it’s highly unlikely that any remain today.  

Over the course of my career I have discovered that people are attracted to the rare and the unique.  This isn’t always a good thing when it comes to living animals that we share our lives with.  If a breed of dog is not common then not as much is known about it’s health and temperament over a long period of time.  This can make for a difficult to train dog or one who is difficult to live with depending on your circumstances.  It can also make for health or dietary challenges.  If you are one of those who are attracted to a dog that no one else has, please ensure that you do a lot of research and lot of talking to knowledgeable breeders, owners and handlers of these dogs before making any decision for yourself.  Then, make sure you pick a credible source to get your dog from.  Reputable breeders and rescue groups do NOT sell dogs over the internet.  NEVER buy or sell any living animal (rare or common) this way – you are contributing to the growing increase in the “modern” puppy mills and the horrible treatment of domesticated animals we hear about all too often.

Uncommon Dogs

Here are a few dogs that aren’t extinct but they aren’t very well known.  I know that one or two of these breeds were new to me!

Canadian Eskimo Dog / Canadian Inuit Dog

The Canadian Kennel Club name for this dog is Canadian Eskimo Dog but the Government of Nunavut calls it the Canadian Inuit Dog and has made it the territory’s official animal.

The Inuit people living in the Artic regions of Canada, Alaska and Greenland first bred the Canadian Inuit dog.  It is considered to be a very ancient breed – often thought to one of North America’s oldest and rarest purebred indigenous domestic dog.  The breed is strong and resistant to the very harshest weather conditions.  It was used for sledding and hunting oxen, bear and other large animals and even used to keep polar bears away from native settlements.  It was critical to the early Inuit way of life and survival.  Around 1970 with the rise of snowmobiles and more modern ways, the numbers of the Inuit dog began to decline.  Today it is still somewhat at risk of extinction but is enjoying a rise in popularity in the UK and other northern countries thanks to many Canadian and English breeders dedicated to saving the breed. 

These dogs are powerfully built, athletic and imposing in appearance.  They are built for hard work, not speed.  The coat is thick and dense with a soft undercoat and a thick, impressive mane around the neck – larger in males than females.  Their coats can be any color or color pattern including solid white, black or silver.  Males can range up to 80 lbs and stand up to 28 inches at the shoulder.  It is a tough, intelligent dog.  The Eskimo dogs are often thought to have a stronger prey drive than many other dogs due to their use as sled dogs who often have to forage for their own food.


Labrador Husky

Less common than the Canadian Eskimo Dog is the Labrador Husky.  This breed is another spitz-type dog and was bred to be a very strong and very fast sled dog used primarily for transportation.  It originated in the Labrador portion of Newfoundland and Labrador.  The breed probably arrived with the Inuit people who arrived in the area around 1300 AD.  Although once closely related to other husky-type breeds, they become isolated to that area and continued to develop on their own.

The Labrador Husky is still a rare breed and not many purebred dogs are known outside of its area.  It’s a large dog weighing up to 100 lbs and standing up to 28 inches at the shoulder.   It has a muscular and distinctly stout body with a wide and heavy boned chest. The dogs have a thick double coat and can be solid white, black or grey (rare) or mixes of white and red, black, or grey.  They are said to be a friendly and intelligent breed.

As with most sled dogs, they require a lot of exercise and plenty of mental stimulation.  They shed constantly with a major shed twice a year – grooming is a daily requirement.


Seppala Siberian Sleddog

The Seppala is a rare working dog breed.  They share the same ancestors as the Siberian Husky but are a separate breed.  The Seppala is considered to be the working breed version and the Siberian is considered to be the show breed.  As their name suggests, they were bred for pulling a sled in cold countries.  Their coats are dense, smooth and medium length with an undercoat nearly as long as the guard hairs.  Coat color and marking is considered of little importance and the Seppala generally tends to be less flashy in appearance than other husky types.  Their ears are taller than the Siberian Husky and their bodies are longer and lighter than the Siberians.

Bred by legendary dog driver Leonhard Seppala from dogs imported into Alaska from eastern Siberia, the Seppala Siberians became famous in Alaska for their domination of the All-Alaska Sweepstakes distance race in the period from 1914 to 1917.  The Seppala was prized for it’s strong work ethic and affectionate, cooperative nature.  In 1939 the last Siberia imports, along with several of Seppala’s dogs, became the breed foundation for the Siberian Husky in Canada.

The pure, original bloodlines of the Seppala are rare and facing extinction.  They are still found in small numbers in some Canadian provinces. 


Common Canadian Dogs

Labrador Retriever

The Lab – quite possibly the most recognized dog and one of the most popular dogs of all time in North America and in the UK. 

The first Labs (descendants of the St. John’s Water Dog) were black and the occasional yellow or chocolate colored pups were culled.  Gradually a deep golden color, fox red and chocolate became acceptable colors.  Over time the deep golden yellow evolved into lighter yellow and even cream while the darker gold and fox red color largely disappeared.  Interest in these darker colors began to grow again and were re-established by English breeders in the 1980’s.  

Originally used as a hunting/retrieving dog, today’s Labs are used for a variety of purposes, in particular, service dogs.  

ECT Landseer

If you’ve never heard of the Landseer part of that might be due to some confusion about the breed.  A Landseer is sometimes also called a Landseer Newfoundland.  Some consider the Landseer to be just a black and white Newfoundland dog called Landseer to make the distinction between the 2 acceptable (CKC) colors of Newfies.  For others, though, the Landseer is a separate breed and is distinctly different than a Newfoundland dog.  In 1960, the FCI declared it to be a distinctively separate breed.  (The FCI – Fédération Cynologique Internationale – is an international federation of kennel clubs.)

The “new” breed is referred to as the ECT Landseer (ECT = European Continental Type).  The breed name “Landseer” came from the British painter Sir Edwin Henry Landseer.  In 1838 he created the painting A Distinguished Member of the Humane Society, which shows a dog of this breed.

According to many, the Landseer ECT is in many ways different from the Newfoundland in appearance. In general the Landseer ECTs are taller, do not have a deep chest, have shorter hair, no under wool and their long legs make them fast, untiring runners.  They are much faster and more agile than the Newfoundland dog.


Newfoundland Dog

The Newfie is a large working dog and was originally bred as a working dog by Newfoundland fisherman.  It is renowned for it’s strong swimming ability and excels at water rescue / lifesaving.  

The breed originated in Newfoundland and is a descendant of the St. John’s Water Dog (the Lesser Newfoundland).  The Newfies have many mastiff characteristics, which were likely a result of breeding the Lesser Newfoundland with the Portugese Mastiffs brought to Newfoundland in the 16th century.

They are considered a giant breed with weights up to 200 lb in males and heights up to 30 inches at the shoulder.  Their coat is thick, oily and water repellent – ideal for icy water temperatures.  Their double coat requires a great deal of grooming which is something to take into consideration if you’re thinking of take a Newfie into your home.  Acceptable colors in Canada are all black or black and white (the Landseer Newfoundland).  Newfies can also be all brown or all grey but these are not acceptable colors for the Canadian Kennel Club.

Newfoundland dogs were used to bolster the St. Bernard breed in the 18th century when that population was threatened by distemper.  Newfies were also used as the foundation stock for the Leonberger breed in Germany, another breed who excels at water rescue.

Today they are still used for water rescue and also considered a good family dog provided that good, positive early socialization and training takes place.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

The Toller is the smallest of the retrievers.  The breed was developed in the community of Little River Harbour in Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia around the beginning of the 19th century.  It was originally known as the Little River Duck Dog or the Yarmouth Toller.  Their origins are thought to be a combination of spaniels, setter and pointer-type dogs, retrievers and rabbit hounds with some farm collie thrown in.  Many have become herding as well as hunting / retrieving dogs hence the farm collie inclusion.

Tollers are named for their ability to lure and entice waterfowl within gunshot range (tolling).  They were sent out into the water to retrieve sticks or balls.  Their flashy white and red coloring and playful antics sparked the curiosity of waterfowl who would swim over to investigate.

Duck Tollers were officially admitted to the CKC in 1945 and gained worldwide recognition in 1980 by winning Best In Show at all breed championship events.  In 1995, the Toller was declared the official dog of Nova Scotia.

Tollers are intelligent, high-energy dogs who require a great deal of physical and mental activity.  

There you have it – all the Dogs of Canada – or at least all that I could find any information on.  Happy Birthday Canada!  Let’s focus keeping it positive for all our dogs – all over the country!

           **Above the Statue in St. John’s Newfoundland, in tribute of their famous friends.

Labrador dog

Text of Newfie


Canada’s Outdated Animal Cruelty Laws Fail Animals

By Camille Labchuk


Kitty Kitty

In 1997, two men in Edmonton tied a border collie and a husky to a tree and smashed their heads in with aluminum baseball bats. The sickening killings sparked nation-wide outrage, but the judge in the case acquitted the men, stating, “It certainly is not acceptable to me and many other people in this country to kill a dog like [that]… but there is no law.” That’s right—this brutal and vicious beating wasn’t a crime under our animal cruelty laws because the dogs seemed to have died quickly. 

There are many more stories like this one, but the point is that our animal cruelty laws are severely outdated and full of legal loopholes. Canada is widely considered to have the most ineffective animal cruelty legislation in the western world, and the result is that countless animal abusers escape criminal prosecution every year for shocking acts of cruelty like puppy mills, neglect, hoarding, animal fighting and even bestiality. Yes, it’s true: Our laws are so bad that last June, the Supreme Court was forced to rule that humans are legally entitled to perform a variety of sex acts on animals, so long as they stop short of penetration.

You might think that the shock of a court legalizing bestiality would motivate politicians to take action, but perhaps the saddest part of this story is that MPs–including the Liberal government–recently killed an important bill that would have closed some of our embarrassing loopholes and helped bring Canadian laws into the 21st century. Despite overwhelming support for this legislation in opinion polls, Members of Parliament voted 198 to 84 against protecting animals in a vote last October. For millions of vulnerable animals, no end to this nightmare is in sight.

So, how did we get here? Canada’s animal cruelty laws were first enacted in 1892, and they were significantly updated only once—in the 1950s. The problems with these laws have been apparent for decades, especially to the federal Liberal party which once led the charge to fix them.  Starting in 1999, well-respected former Justice Ministers like Anne McLellan and Irwin Cotler drafted and introduced government legislation that would have closed the loopholes in our laws, and moved animal crimes out of the property offences section of the Criminal Code. This is important recognition of the fact that aren’t mere inanimate objects like tables and chairs, but living beings who can suffer and feel pain.

Some of the bills introduced in the late 90s and early 2000s got very close to becoming law. They were the subject of extensive study by Parliamentary committees, with animal protection advocates, veterinarians, and humane societies making the case for giving more legal protections to animals.

The bills passed repeated votes in the House of Commons and the Senate, ut bad luck and worse timing meant that the legislation died after prorogations or elections. Animal cruelty laws were reintroduced many times as private members’ bills by MPs like Mark Holland, Hedy Fry, and several members of the NDP. But with zero interest in animal cruelty updates during the recently-ended Conservative decade, animals were put on the back burner.

When Justin Trudeau’s Liberals swept back to power last year, they promised to once again ensure that Canadians’ compassionate values were reflected in public policy. Animal advocates had reason for the first time in years to be optimistic—there was no reason to think the new government wouldn’t still agree that animals deserve laws to protect them. 

The first animal cruelty bill came quickly from Toronto-area Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith. His private members’ Bill C-246 was virtually identical to the previous versions introduced in the late 90s and early 2000s. On top of fixing our laws in the same way recommended by former Liberal governments, Erskine-Smith added in provisions to protect animals from sexual abuse to respond to the unfortunate Supreme Court decision. Bill C-246 proposed as well to ban imports of cat and dog fur, which is surprisingly still legal in Canada despite bans in the US and EU. It also targeted the horrific practice of shark finning, in which live sharks have their fins sliced off and are left to die. Bill C-246 wasn’t a legal revolution for animals, but it would have taken a solid first step toward helping our laws align better with those of other western democracies. 

Bill C-246 had support from the humane societies and SPCAs from coast to coast that enforce animal cruelty laws. These are the inspectors who see first-hand the heartbreak caused by our loophole-ridded laws. Not surprisingly, law enforcement agents often feels deep frustration when an animal abuser escapes conviction, or when a prosecutor gives up, refusing even to lay criminal charges against abusers out of fear the charges won’t stick. 

Bill C-246 also had broad support from Canadians. Public opinion polls consistently show that over 90 percent of people want to see stronger animal cruelty laws, and MPs were deluged with emails and phone calls urging them to support Bill C-246.

But overwhelming support for protecting animals fell on deaf ears when it came to the government. Instead of listening to compassionate Canadians who care about animals, the government instead listened to lobbyists from the hunting, fishing, and farming industries. These special interests did everything they could, spending enormous amounts of money to block even the most basic protections for animals.

These lobby groups were responsible for inventing preposterous claims about Bill C-246, spreading alarmist propaganda that it would have criminalized people who hunt, fish, farm, and conduct medical research. 

It’s not worth examining the details of these false claims, other than to say they’re not true, and betray a disturbing indifference toward protecting animals from sadistic cruelty. Keep in mind that Bill C-246 was largely drafted by the Justice Department, with the clear goal of targeting animal abusers—not animal users. Not a single legal expert in the country came forward to say that these basic protections for animals would have somehow affected industries.

In the end, the animals lost out and political concerns won. The government chose to sell out abused animals, and listen instead to these narrow special interest groups for fear of losing votes in rural ridings where hunting, angling, and farming groups may complain. 

But it’s a mistake for the government to assume it won’t pay a political price for blocking basic animal cruelty legislation. Canadians want to do the right thing for animals, and support for ending animal cruelty runs deep. Pet owners and other compassionate animal advocates even got active in the last election to endorse animal-friendly candidates, and working as volunteers to help good MPs win. In the next election, MPs and candidates who voted against protections for animals may be surprised and dismayed to see active efforts to expose and unseat them.

The effort to fix our laws is only just beginning, and if we want to win, every Canadian who cherishes the friendship of a companion animal needs to step up and help. It’s critical that each of us tells our elected officials that we care about animals, want them be protected against cruelty, and will only vote for parties that vow to pass strong animal protection legislation. 

While Canada’s identity as a country revolves around the idea that we are a polite, compassionate society, our animal cruelty laws are out of step with this perception. After two decades of trying, it is long past time we fix our animal cruelty laws for once and for all.  It’s up to us to make sure that happens.


10 Tips to Find the Right Groomer

By Jackie Matheson

Fetch Grooming, Winnipeg, Manitoba




Grooming is an essential part to your dog’s overall health and well-being.  Choosing the right groomer for your fur baby is an important decision and one that takes some time.  Your research into a good groomer should include more than browsing through the yellow pages and selecting the first salon with an available appointment.  Your dog’s grooming experience will leave a lasting impression on him and it should be a happy one.  Here are ten things to look for when choosing a groomer that is right for you and your fur baby.

  1. Ask questions when doing your initial research.  Call the various salons and get a sense of what they have to offer.  Don’t be afraid to ask how long they have been in business.  What does the salon specialize in, pet grooming or show grooming?  Ask for referrals and rely on word of mouth from trusted family and friends.  
  2. Stop in to take a tour of the salon.  Transparency is important.  There should be no closed doors or restricted areas.  If you are not permitted to view the grooming area, this may be a red flag.  It is important to be able to have a clear understanding of the grooming process and where your dog will be kept.
  3. Ensure that the groomer is properly educated.  A good groomer is knowledgeable and should be able to answer your questions regarding skin coat condition, shedding concerns, nail health, etc.
  4. What is the groomers handling procedures?  The groomer should be able to relieve any anxiety that the owner may have if their dog requires extra care for special circumstances such as skittish behavior, elderly restrictions, aggressive behavior or injuries.
  5. Are you allowed to watch during grooming?  Yes, should be the answer.  If you are not allowed to watch, this may be a red flag.  Like children, dogs have a natural tendency to want to go to their “moms and dads” making grooming more difficult.  However, if a dog or their owner has had a bad grooming experience in the past their anxiety will be high and may feel more comfortable staying for the grooming.  This should always be permitted.
  6. Does the salon use kennel dryers or do they hand dry?  When a dog is being kennel dried, it is essential that the dog is in an adequate size kennel and being closely monitored for signs of stress or overheating.  Many dogs are afraid of dryers and do not do well with kennel drying.  Hand drying does help reduce a dog’s stress level and allow the dog to be closely monitored for overheating.
  7. Is the salon clean, organized, warm and welcoming?  Are the dogs kept in adequate sized kennels?  Is the grooming staff professional, caring and knowledgeable?  These are important factors to consider when choosing the right salon.
  8. What types of products is the salon using?  Are they high quality products that are safe and natural without harmful chemicals?  The salon you choose should be able to provide a list of ingredients and information regarding their products without hesitation.
  9. Review the salons pricing structure and make sure you have a clear understanding of what is included for each service.  Some salons offer an all-inclusive package while others offer a basic package with al la carte services.  This can become quite costly if there is any miscommunication between the salon and the customer with regards to service and price expectations.
  10. Listen to your initial gut feelings.  Your dog may be nervous to enter any new facility however you know your dog best.  If you are comfortable and have a good feeling, your dog will sense that.  If you feel uneasy, chances are that your dog will too.grooming dog

Pet Food Safety:

The Final Ingredient in Your Pets Health

By Inna Shekhtman


frozen meat photo


Your pet is part of your family and you want to see them live a longer and healthier life! You buy or make great food that that will help your pet thrive, you ensure they get regular exercise and socialization, and you have a great veterinarian that supports your goals and decisions. Now you have to navigate the world of food safety: How can you ensure that the food that you buy is safe for your animal companion and the rest of your family?  How is safety implemented and regulated in the pet food processing industry? What should I do once I bring food home?  Is real (raw) food for dogs and cats less safe that highly processed food? 

The subject of food safety has received a lot of attention in the media, the industry and the pet community in recent years.  It is encouraging to see new educational initiatives to create more consumer awareness and transparency around the subject of safety in pet food!  However, food safety has also become a marketing tool with buzzwords like “clean”, “human-grade”, “certified” and “premium” that appeal to emotions rather than speak to functionality or effectiveness.  Furthermore, since the emergence of commercial raw pet food, the subject of food safety has also been used to polarize the industry by suggesting that feeding fresh food to pets poses a higher risk than processed food.  

Food safety is not an option; it’s not a political tool or a marketing tool. It’s a necessity and my hope is that as the real food revolution grows, food safety will become a culture in the industry and in our homes!

How do I know if the food that I am buying is safe?

In short, you don’t.  

In Canada, the human food supply is one of the safest in the world. However, when it comes to pet food, the regulatory system of pet food in Canada is mostly based on trust. When a pet food is made in Canada, and sold in Canada, the government simply trusts the pet food manufacturer. There are NO legislated manufacturing practices or standards to follow. There is NO inspection or verification. 

In the US, in theory, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates pet food. In practice, limited resources and the need to prioritize human safety have led the FDA to effectively cede federal oversight to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). A private organization with no regulatory authority, the AAFCO can’t enforce its voluntary guidelines, which emphasize nutritional requirements over sourcing. So while the association establishes such standards as minimum protein levels, it’s not strict regarding where that protein comes from. 

So how do you decide which manufacturers you can trust and which foods are safe? No food safety system or food handling practices can guarantee zero risk. However, companies that are aware of food safety risk and actively work to build a safety culture and processes will go much further in reducing these risks for consumers.  Here are some questions you can ask a manufacturer:

  1. Are all the ingredients used in the products human-grade? Do they come from facilities that are certified and inspected by the CFIA, FDA or other regulatory agency?  Personally, I believe that all ingredients in a pet food should be good enough to be consumable by humans. The world of “pet ingredients” has way too many grey areas to provide any assurance with regards to safety or quality.
  2. Where do the ingredients come from? Are they from Canada, US or overseas? And if ingredients are overseas, how well regulated is the food ingredients in the source country? Try to avoid products that include ingredients from countries with poor food safety records. 
  3. What kind of food safety systems and protocols does the company have in place?   Make sure the company is committed to a culture of food safety and has a clear system in place to manage the risks. 
  4. Are they certified or inspected by any independent body to verify that these systems and protocols are being followed?

Is processed pet food (canned or kibble) safer than raw pet food?canstockphoto9736463_small

One of the concerns raised about the trend of feeding raw unprocessed food to pets is that the bacteria in raw meat can hurt your dog or other members in the household, especially those with weakened immune systems.  Yes, raw meat can contain bacteria and it might hurt your pet if they already have a compromised immune system or other health problem.  Yes, your pet may shed bacteria in their poop and if you grab their poop, you can get sick.  

Should we as consumers be aware of this risk? Absolutely! 

Are these risks unique to raw pet food? No, they are not!  ALL pet food can contain bacteria that can be harmful to pets and humans and all pets can shed bacteria in their feces, regardless of what they are eating! While FDA and other regulatory bodies continue to claim that raw presents a risk of contamination, it understates the risks of the same contaminations in hundreds of thousands of pounds of kibble and treats that occur annually.   For example, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), in 2008 a contaminated dry pet food caused 79 cases of Salmonella in humans across 21 states.  

In my opinion, real food movement for pets (raw pet food) has actually done a service to the pet industry by making the pet food safety conversation front and center for consumers! The bottom line is, whatever you feed your pet: use common sense and good food handling practise (more on this to come in the next section). And please don’t lick your pet’s poop, grab it with your hands, or lick your hands after handling it.

On the other hand, we know that fresh minimally processed foods help us thrive and are better for us than food that is heavily processed.   Fresh food is certainly not risk free and all food, including vegetables, can get contaminated with bacteria such as salmonella, E.coli, etc. but these risks can be managed and reduced with good food safety systems in industry and in the home.   Our choice of foods should be based on what’s best of the body and not based on fear – and the same goes for our pets. 

In addition, most healthy pets are naturally less affected by bacteria than the human family members – after all they do groom their own rear ends and eat and roll in all kinds of unsightly things (including feces of other animals) without any ill effects.   So focusing on keeping your pet’s digestive system healthy with quality fresh food and probiotics is the best way to support this natural mechanism.

Raw Liver Photo...

Raw Liver Photo…

Basics of Pet food safety at home

Stick to the basic rules of sanitation and food handling for your pet’s food:

  1. Do not buy or keep food past its expiry date.
  2. Inspect the food before severing it to your pet – if it looks or smells different or off, do not use it. 
  3. Wash your hands, your pet’s bowl, and any other surface that came in contact with the food with soap and hot water for 20 seconds after each meal to disinfect. Yes, even if you are feeding kibble you should follow the same food safety procedures as with raw meat to avoid risk of illness! 
  4. Do not leave food sitting in your pets bowl for prolonged periods of time. Discard any uneaten food after 15-20 minutes.  
  5. And of course, wash your hands and other contact surfaces after handling what comes out the other end.

In general, use the same common sense and food handling practices as you would for your own food. If you need a refresher, check out the FDA consumer tips page: https://www.fda.gov/food/resourcesforyou/consumers/ucm255180.htm 

Raw (meat) pet food safety basics

The risks associated with raw proteins are contamination and spoilage and these do not end at the store! Handling these products with the caution and attention they deserve is our personal responsibility once we bring them home, to assure the safety of our entire family, especially your pets because they thrive on meat diets. 

What causes food spoilage?

There are several naturally occurring catalysts that can cause meat to spoil. 

Bacteria: Meat has naturally occurring microorganisms on its surface including molds and bacteria. The bacteria break down the fats and proteins in the meats, causing it to spoil.  This breakdown begins immediately after slaughter – and while it can be slowed down by lowering the temperature of the meat, it cannot be reversed or halted. In contrast, exposure to light or heat will speed up that process. 

Mold: Another cause for meat spoilage is mold. Mold likes moist, warm places with lots of food sources — meat makes a great home for a mold colony. Mold can spoil meat by spreading over the surface in fuzzy or colorful patches that change the taste and texture of the meat.

Oxidative Rancidity: Improper packing techniques can cause a chemical reaction in the meat called oxidation. The fats in the meat react with oxygen molecules and cause the meat to go rancid, producing discoloration and a rotten, sour smell and taste.

Here are the key components of any good household food safety strategy: fish

  1. Separation

Keeping raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs from other foods in your grocery shopping cart, grocery bags, and refrigerator to avoid cross-contamination.

2.  Handling

Wash your hands, preparation surfaces and utensils that come in contact with raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs with soap and hot water to sanitize. 

3. Storage 

For frozen products, store in the freezer until ready to use. Generally, food will not spoil in the freezer, but it will degrade in quality. For fresh or thawed products, store in the refrigerator for a limited period of time, to avoid spoilage.  The “Danger Zone” for bacteria growth is between 40 and 140 °F — temperatures where bacteria multiply rapidly. 

Vacuum sealing slows down the growth of aerobic, spoilage bacteria and fungi by reducing the food’s contact with atmospheric oxygen. Therefore, food quality, good texture and appearance last longer when the food is vacuum sealed. 

How long can you store meat, poultry, and seafood in the refrigerator?

 4. Thawing

If you are purchasing frozen raw food for your animal companion, you are likely going through the daily ritual of thawing the food before serving.  As soon as raw meat begins to thaw and becomes warmer than 40 °F, bacteria that may have been present before freezing begin to multiply at exponential rates. For this reason you should never use hot water to thaw raw food (not to mention it will get cooked) or leave raw food on the counter at room temperature for more than two hours. Even though the center of the package may still be frozen as it thaws on the counter, the outer layer of the food could be in the “Danger Zone,” between 40 and 140 °F — temperatures where bacteria multiply rapidly.

There are two methods of safety defrosting your pets raw meal: in the refrigerator and in cold water. 

Refrigerator Thawing

Planning ahead is the key to this method because of the lengthy time involved.  Allow for a full day to thaw the meal if it’s a flat-pack – more if the food is in a block.  A large frozen item like a turkey requires at least a day (24 hours) for every 5 pounds of weight. Even small amounts of frozen food — such as a pound of ground meat or boneless chicken breasts — require a full day to thaw. When thawing foods in the refrigerator, there are variables to take into account.

  • Some areas of the appliance may keep food colder than other areas.
  • Food will take longer to thaw in a refrigerator set at 35 °F than one set at 40 °F

Cold Water Thawing

This method is faster than refrigerator thawing but requires more attention. The food must be in a leak-proof package or plastic bag. If the bag leaks, bacteria from the air or surrounding environment could be introduced into the food. The bag should be submerged in cold tap water, changing the water every 30 minutes so it continues to thaw. Small flatter meal package of 1-2 lbs — may thaw in an hour or less.

5. Freezing and re-freezing

Home freezers are designed to keep food frozen, not to freeze food from room temperature. This means that even small portions of fresh food can take days to fully freeze, compromising the quality of the food.  Avoid freezing or re-freezing things in your home freezer. If you must do so, allow as much space around the package as possible for air circulation.  

Before we end, some food for thought … Most foodborne illness is caused by bacteria. For many years, we have been led to believe that our food and environment needs to be sterile to avoid illness.  And for many years we bought this message and waged the war on bacteria with chemical disinfectants and other modes.  More recently, we have begun to appreciate the balance of nature when it comes to bacteria and the importance of nurturing a balance of bacteria in our body end environment rather than focusing on elimination.  There are thousands of bacteria strains in the air, on surfaces and even in our own body. Not all of these bacteria are bad – in fact the majority of them play an essential role in building the immune system and keeping us healthy and safe.   

Food safety is not black and white. There is much that we are still learning about food safety in industry and in the home.  If food safety is to become a culture, it first needs to be a conversation – one that re-examines all our preconceived notions and looks at what makes the most sense for our pets and for our entire family to thrive!


  1. http://wwwualberta.ca/news-and-events/newsarticles/2017/january/dry-pet-food-can-cause-salmonella-infection-in-people
  2. http://truthaboutpetfood.com/lets-get-the-facts-straight-fda
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrthtml/mm54744a2.htm
  4. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/safe-food-handling/the-big-thaw-safe-defrosting-methods-for-consumers/CT_Index
  5. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2118871/How-keeping-children-clean-wreck-immune-systems.html


By Valerie Barry, KPA-CTP

In Partnership With Dogs




Through all the dogs we’ve had and all the training and learning I’ve done over the years, there are certain cues that stick out as particularly good (and fun) things to teach your dog.  I’ve never been much of a formal obedience-minded person.  I do teach obedience classes and I teach some “traditional” obedience cues to my dogs, but I prefer to be a little more creative.  Also, there are just certain things that make living together a little bit easier!

Over the past 4 years or so, I’ve started teaching my dogs a new cue and I’ve also started including it in my class curriculum.  I have to say – it’s a winner!  People love this cue! Even the dogs seem to love it!

Stop!  That’s my new favorite.  What’s it for?  Well – just imagine some of the things your dog does that you might use that word for.  Stop – digging up the plants; barking at the squirrels; teasing the cat – and so on.

Several years ago I came across a video from a trainer who worked with rescue bully breeds and he was demonstrating his use of the Stop cue.  He taught all his foster dogs and clients a Stop cue.  His reason for doing so was to put some level of control into the play between the bully breeds he was working with.  

The dogs he had in his video were strong dogs and they had a pretty fast and furious play style.  The Stop cue was designed to get the dogs to stop playing altogether or to stop and take a brief break so that play would remain fairly consistent and not escalate into something other than play.  

If you’re just one person monitoring play between 2 or more strong dogs, it can be difficult to physically stop the dogs if their play starts to get a little too crazy.  Pulling dogs apart during play isn’t really ideal either as tension on collars or harnesses can often increase the energy of the play making the dogs harder to separate and less thrilled about being stopped.  Teaching a really solid Stop cue is a great, proactive way to solve this issue.FullSizeRender

It was a great video – unfortunately I no longer recall who the trainer was at the time so I can’t give him credit!  It lodged in the back of my mind as a really good cue to teach but I didn’t take it any further at the time.  

Fast forward a couple of years and we adopt Quincy – a 6-month-old female Doberman.  At the time, a friend of mine had a dog the same age (Frankie) and we started to introduce the girls to each other and to have the occasional play date.  For a time, I was looking after Frankie often and the 2 girls quickly became fast friends.  At that point they were both about the same size – they weren’t that big then – but boy did they play like crazy things!  They were nuts when they got going – even in a small space like my living room.  If I ever let them out into the yard together (which was a rare occasion!), I needed at least one other person to help monitor things – they both ran like the wind and were very hard to catch once they got caught up in the frenzy of their play.  It was a full time job looking after them both – and exhausting!

I really didn’t want them to learn to play like idiots without taking appropriate breaks, so I had to do something about it.  I remembered the Stop and decided to put it to the test.

I spent several days working on training Stop with the 2 dogs whenever we got together.  Within a remarkably short time both girls were pretty good at it and it suddenly got a whole lot easier to have them together.  Before too long I didn’t have to monitor them nearly as closely and I could get them to take breaks whenever I could hear or see things getting a bit too fast with very little effort on my part.  Fantastic result!  

Fast forward another 2 years and we adopt Doberman puppy, Jack.  IMG_9031

At this point, Quincy has become a full-grown almost adult Doberman.  She’s not big for a Doberman but she’s still a good-sized dog and pretty strong – and Jack is looking like he’s going to be a lot bigger still.  The Stop will be a perfect cue to be able to control their interactions, as they both get bigger and more mature.

What does “Stop” mean?

My criterion for Stop is:  Stop whatever you’re doing and come back to me.  

Before I even started teaching the cue, I put quite a bit of thought into what I wanted to have happen.  That’s an extremely important point! Before you begin to teach your dog anything, you need to know exactly what you want as a result.  If you’re not clear what you want, your dog won’t be either and confusion can be frustrating for everyone and your training will not be successful.

I decided that if I my dogs just Stopped with nothing else following, then there was a good chance they would go back to what they were doing sooner than I might want.  Also, I really liked the idea of them being close enough to put on a leash if I needed to.  Now, of course I could cue “Stop” and then cue something else like a recall, but if I can accomplish all that in just one cue, why not?

Your criterion doesn’t have to be the same as mine, but make sure you have a clear idea of your end result.  Also, make sure you can easily train it.  If you wanted your dog to Stop and stay where he is, that would be tricky.  That involves training at a distance, which is done systematically and generally takes quite a bit of time.  It’s not easy to train your dog to perform things far away from you.  Traditionally we often begin training our dogs quite close to us – teaching Sits, Downs, Roll Over, Play Dead, Hand Targets, etc.  They become used to being close to us when performing cues or coming to us to get their reinforcement and this makes distance training quite challenging.Screenshot 2017-04-27 14.08.41

Let the training begin!

I began Stop training with Jack the day we adopted him – at 10 weeks of age.  The results with him have been even better than I expected!  Certainly starting before his imprinting period was over made a big difference, but also because I had already trained the cue a few times before so I was very clear on how to get it and what to look for.  Plus, Jack has some pretty strong drive, so he does everything with great gusto!

Beginning Steps:

To begin with, ensure that you are working in an area with nothing much going on – maybe your living room or kitchen.

  1. With your dog on a leash short enough that you can reach his nose, cue the word “Stop”.
  2. Immediately put a really good treat right in front of his nose for him to eat.  Continue to feed more treats while you take a few steps backward leading him with you as he takes and eats his treats – at least 15 treat in all! Lavish him with some verbal praise while he follows you eating his treats.
  3. Use a cue to end the exercise – “All Done!” 
  4. Repeat the first 3 steps at least 5 times.

Next Steps:

  1. With your dog on a short leash, cue the word “Stop” – this time pause instead of immediately putting a treat in front of your dog’s nose.
  2. As soon as your dog begins to turn toward you looking for that stream of treats, click or verbally mark his response – “Good!”
  3. Immediately begin the continuous feeding of treats while you once again take a few steps backward and lavishly praise his brilliance.  Again, feed at least 15 treats in all before stopping.
  4. “All Done!”  
  5. Repeat at least 10 times, and then take a break.FullSizeRender4


If you aren’t getting a response, there are several reasons why this may be:

  1. Your treats aren’t tasty enough.  

You need to use mind-blowing, over-the-top treats for this to ultimately be a solidly trained cue.  Remember that you are possibly asking your dog to come away from something really fantastic to come back to you even if it’s just for a brief moment.  Make it worth their while!

  1. You aren’t being generous enough.  

When I mention in the steps to give your dog 15 treats, I mean at least 15 and I’m not kidding!  I will give at least that and even more – 25 or 35 pieces of rare roast beef.  It has to be ridiculously rewarding in order to compete with taking a play break from your dog’s best friend.  

The biggest mistake I see people make in their training is not being generous enough – nothing more complicated than that – simply not begin generous enough.  And your dog is the one that gets to decide what’s generous enough!

  1. Your set up is too exciting.  

If you’ve done lots of practice in your living room, don’t move from there to having your dog playing with their best friend!  And when you do move to that step, have both dogs on leash and merely looking at each other from at least 10 feet away.  If you make the set up too challenging to break away from, too quickly your training will take a long time.  

  1. Your dog isn’t on leash or confined in some way.  

You really need to be able to control the outcome to some extent in the initial steps.  I don’t want you to use the leash to get them to come back to you – the treat and the less than exciting set up should do the trick.  However, I do want you to use the leash to prevent your dog from simply wandering off and choosing to do something else instead.IMG_2226

The Double Reinforcement!

Perhaps the best tip of all is to make your set up include the possibility of a double-reinforcement.

This means that whatever you Stop your dog from doing, ideally, is something he really wants to return to doing.  This becomes your second reinforcement after the buffet of delicious treats is over.

After some initial training with low distractions, I started to use play as the second reinforcement. Every time I cued Stop, both my dogs got tons of treats and then I would say “All Done!” – back they would jump into play.  Such fun and well worth the break for each of them! 

You could do the same training with a friend and their dog in order to get that reinforcement of play.  If you don’t have a second dog available or if your dog isn’t good with other dogs, then just be creative.  The second reinforcement can be anything that your dog finds reinforcing:  going off leash, chasing a ball, chasing you, getting dinner, playing tug, etc.

(Note:  If your dog does not find play with another dog or play with a particular dog fun, then returning to play is NOT reinforcing. However, the relief of being able to take a break from any play or interaction that they are not enjoying will actually act as the second reinforcement.)IMG_2231

Continuing to Proof your Training.

Once your training is progressing and your dog is clearly beginning to understand his Stop cue, you can begin to “proof” your training.  Proofing is simply practicing and training in every circumstance you can think of in a systematic way and choosing a careful pace.

I didn’t go from play in my living room to free play in my backyard as the next step.  Instead, we did a ton of training in my living room with longer and longer time periods of play between breaks first.  Then I would introduce new toys, or something to get the excitement of the play amped up before introducing Stop breaks.  I wanted to start working with bigger bursts of excitement before asking for a Stop.

I also started using it in other contexts – someone at the door, dogs barking; off leash walking away from me; staring at something out the window; barking at a squirrel; heading toward a dropped food item on the floor (tough one!), etc.

Be careful to make things easy to first when you change contexts.  When I started to introduce free play in the yard, I began when they were both already tired from a long hike.  Then I made sure they only interacted for mere seconds before cueing Stop – not waiting for the adrenaline to build very much at all.  The reinforcements were over the top – the best food option I could come up with.

This became a very useful cue for me and I have put a lot of time and effort into the training.  After about a year and a half of working with both my dogs, I can now cue them to Stop playing together anywhere (so far!) – out of sight, a long way away, with any level of play, with different dogs who don’t even know the cue themselves.  It’s pretty impressive if I do say so myself.  I love it!

Also, I have to say, it’s a lot of fun to do in front of people because boy does it look great when you can stop your dog in mid-flight or mid-play with their dog and have them immediately heading right back to you!

Other Uses for Stop.

 I have found tons of uses for Stop:

  • off leash as an alternative to my Recall
  • chasing wildlife
  • barking
  • jumping up (not an ideal solution, but okay in an emergency)
  • a lunge or pull on leash (not a good solution for constant pulling, but good in an emergency)
  • spotting or thinking about chasing a jogger or biker
  • stopping a potential interaction with another dog
  • stopping a stare or a stalking position directed at other dogs
  • a great cue for people who walk more than one dog – owners or even dog walkers

What uses can you think of for Stop?

Enjoy your training with your dog! Remember, keep it positive – and BE GENEROUS with your reinforcement!

For video examples of the Stop in use, check out my Facebook page at “In Partnership With Dogs”.IMG_2230

Adventures of a Spiritual Dogster

It’s Hard for Them Too: Help Your Dog to Understand Death

By Amanda Ringnalda


marge sasha amanda

Sasha came out to greet me as I approached — an 11-year-old female old Border Collie mix. I was immediately drawn into her large and especially round, coppery-colored eyes and pretty face. Her tail was swingin’ with delight at meeting a person who immediately recognized the soul within her. And she knew it. 

A couple feet behind Sasha stood the delicate figure and huge smile of Marjorie — the most vibrant and joyful 93-year-young woman I’ve ever met. I was visiting this dynamic duo for the first time, having been contacted by a caring family member to come in and provide support through this difficult part of their journey together as bonded souls: one human, one canine. This powerful pair was facing the reality which all of us will one day face… the end of life in this body.  

In December 2016, Marjorie (the human companion) was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Considering her age, treatment wasn’t suggested. So she’s spending her time at home now, with support from hospice. She’s feeling amazing some days, not so great other days. Marjorie’s perspective on the whole thing remains the motto she has held her whole life: she’s “taking it as it comes – there’s no need to get all upset.”

Sasha kept one eye on Marjorie every moment I was there. She was like her short and furry nurse. Marjorie is a tiny yet strong woman, and didn’t seem to need or want much nursing with the energy I saw! Yet, there was a secure tie between the two at all times. Marjorie explained that following her adoption 10 years earlier, she and Sasha have been together almost non-stop ever since. 

Needless to say, both beings were deeply affected by Marjorie’s illness. To help support the pair in their energetic healing and balancing, I had formulated a custom flower essence blend for each of them. After I brought out a tiny bit of lavender essential oil to invoke a more calm and grounded environment, I also put 7 drops of Sasha’s flower essence liquid on a little dog biscuit, let it absorb, and fed it to her. She kindly accepted. Actually, she was drawn toward the bottle of essence before I even got it open! Initially, her actions were more likely from curiosity – what will this interesting new human pull out of her purse next?! Yet after she caught the initial whiff, and processed the information she had received, she came right in for more, holding her nose directly against the bottle. I’d say that’s a good fit! 

After another 20 minutes or so of conversation about their relationship – building the energetic bond even stronger – I applied Sasha’s essence to her external body by putting a few drops between her shoulder blades, which is an especially receptive energy center for animals. Being that it’s close to their heart region, it’s of particular importance when balancing emotions. Now, everyone was at ease and ready for some settling in. 

Together we prepared for our meditation… some time for us to move beyond the thoughts, words, and doings and allow our awareness to relax into the stillness and peace which lies within us. Within all of us, no matter what kind of animal. When we spend more dedicated time in this peace space, we’re reminded that we are more than our bodies – our true essence is timeless, ageless, and beyond the reach of death… a deeper existence in which we are all one.

The intention of our meditation was to provide a tool to help Marjorie and Sasha stay established in this oneness. The quiet practice of meditation provided an opportunity for communication without words to flow to and from each of them. This communication can provide comfort, ease, and relief from the fears around the change we are all destined to face. 

We sat for a few minutes in the silence and stillness. Then I opened the idea of sharing, through the voice of the heart, and from a space of feeling as opposed to thinking. I guided them to send any messages they’d like to each other. Then we let the potential of silence remain. Tears filled my closed eyes as I felt love embrace us.

The ease and grace in which Marjorie is handling this huge life change is remarkable. Following our meditation, she was comfortably open to me sharing these suggestions for helping Sasha the dog, or most any animal, understand the process of death and dying, as well as grieving:

Tips for helping a dog process the loss of a loved one:

  • Talk to them. Speak from your heart. Explain what is happening. They don’t need to know the words to understand your message. Keep in mind, they already know from their highly-attuned senses that change is in the air.
  • Be sure to tell them the plan when the time comes – where they will go and who they will live with. Do your best to share this with an energy of safety and being very well cared for. 
  • Allow the pet to either be present during the time of passing, or, as strange as it may sound, allow them to smell the body afterward. Dogs live their life through their profound sense of smell. They receive the information they need through smell. 
  • Keep an item of clothing or something that holds the scent of the departed one. Place it in or near their pet’s bed – someplace where they can lay on it. 
  • Use supportive tools like flower essences, energy work, animal communication, and meditation before and after transition to fortify the eternal bond.
  • Recognize that beings who love one another are forever together and able to stay connected on the spiritual plane. That’s why it’s ideal if the dog can be taken to do things or visit places where they used to go with their beloved human companion. 

To me, it’s times like this where the holistic approach is so amazingly rich, fulfilling, and essential to living a truly integrated life. Body, mind, and spirit are who and what every one of us is. The sooner we come to embrace the energetic and soulful side, not only of humans but animals as well, the sooner we get to enjoy the most enriching relationships and the most gratifying life we can imagine.

This article is dedicated to the inspirational Marjorie and her forever friend Sasha. 


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 lori.kogan@colostate.edu

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 (http://www.drugabuse.gov/ 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


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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, etc.baby 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 Associations.baby 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: www.livingwithkidsanddogs.com 
  • Family Paws Parent Education website: www.familypaws.com