Raw Science

Real food, Real benefits

By Inna Shekhtman



I love Science! It is powerful and has given us amazing knowledge that allows us to call friends halfway around the world, cure illness, and travel into space!  The goal of science is to explain the awesome world around us!  I have committed a significant portion my life to the scientific study of nutrition and health.  So, when the name of science gets used to manipulate and even criticize nature, I take it personally!

One of the arguments that I frequently hear to discourage pet guardians from feeding a raw food diet is that there is a lack of scientific research to validate its benefits.   It is important to remember that just because something has not been proven with a scientific study, does not make it false or inaccurate in any way.  Science by its definition is “the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.”  So the premise that we need to “prove” that the natural foods and how mammals eat in nature is more beneficial than processed food is completely backwards. Its like saying that breathing through a ventilator or oxygen tank is better than breathing naturally, and then demanding scientific proof of the benefits of natural breathing.   

Furthermore, just because a product is “scientifically formulated” does not mean that it is better – in fact often the opposite is true! It simply means that is was created using scientific method or with information that has been derived from scientific studies. For example, pharmacy and natural health stores are filled with vitamin and mineral supplements that have been scientifically formulated. However, recent research concluded that the nutritional value delivered by these supplements is less effective than the whole foods they were derived from. Basically, when it comes to food, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and while nature has known this all along, science is just starting to catch up. 

Food and the nature of nutrition is a complex phenomena and we are just skimming the surface in our understanding of this system.  If we start with this premise, then science becomes a tool for us to better understand how we apply this natural system to create health and thriving.  This article will aim to outline some of the current science-based evidence that can be used to better understand the intricacies and merits of real food for pets. canstockphoto24420961_altered

Disease Prevention

We know intuitively that a healthy diet for us include a variety of fresh, whole, minimally processed ingredients.  Recent research has also identified processed foods as a major contributor to many illnesses including obesity, diabetes, digestion disorders and even cancer.  It seems common sense that the same principal would apply to the dogs and cats we share our lives with.  So let’s start by looking at the studies that examine the causality of these health issues and how it compares to real natural food pathways.  

Dietary moisture is very important for digestive and excretory health in dogs and cats and is abundant in fresh foods. Most meats, whole vegetables and fruits are naturally composed of over 50% moisture.  In contrast, dry processed food is very low in dietary moisture (usually under 10%).  Urinary crystal, idiopathic lower urinary tract disease and other urinary tract issues are increasing prevalent in cats and a number of scientific studies have concluded that the lack of moisture is a significant factor in this increase . In addition to urinary tract complications, because cats are not getting enough moisture in their food (even if I they drink water separately), many cats live in a state of constant low-level dehydration, which places strain on the kidneys and can lead to renal problems further down the road. 

Check this article by Dr. Karen Becker for a more in-depth discussion: http://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2012/02/17/dry-food-wrong-for-cats.aspx

Obesity is a growing global epidemic among people and pets – the main causes are all too familiar: an unhealthy diet, a sedentary lifestyle, and perhaps some unlucky genes! In recent years, research has pointed to another important variable: probiotics – the bacteria in the digestive system.  These microbes serve a critical function in our pets’ digestion and many other systems that maintain health. Recent search indicates that an excess of carbohydrates in the diet can destroy the balance of this gut flora, and is a significant contributing factor to obesity and other metabolic disorders. 

Raw Liver Photo...

A common claim among raw supporters is that feeding a raw diet to your dog or cat improves their energy and vitality and can often reduce the risk of diseases. So in 1999, Thomas Sandberg started a 30-year field study (this is a valid scientific method of conducting an experiment outside a laboratory) on the benefits of feeding species appropriate raw food to dogs. Giant breed, like Irish Wolfhounds, Great Danes, and Mastiffs often die earlier than most other breeds – with an average lifespan of 6-8 years. Dr. Sandberg hypothesized that feeding a fresh raw food diet could significantly impact and extend the lifespan and quality of life for these breeds.  Fifteen (15) years later, he confirmed his hypothesis: all 80 dogs in his study lived 30-100% longer than average for those breeds! An even more astounding outcome from his study was that of the 80 canine participants, only one got cancer – a remarkable statistic, given that the American Cancer Society estimates that an average of 50% of dogs and cats get cancer in their lifetime! Encouraged by these findings, Dr. Sandberg is now embarking on the next phase of his study that will involve over 10,000 dogs and cats!  You can find more information about this ongoing project at his website Long Living Pets Project (https://longlivingpets.com/). 


The sad truth is that the rate of cancer in pets is exploding to epidemic proportions. According to the American Cancer Association, dogs and cats currently have the highest occurrence of cancer of any living creature. For years, this diagnosis hung over pet owners like a big white elephant in the room, with no real risk management options and limited treatment solutions such as chemotherapy, which carried their own health challenges. Historically, the scientific community considered cancer to be a genetic disease. Today, that thinking is being challenged and the emerging viewpoint  is that cancer is actually a metabolic disease and nutrition plays a huge role in cancer prevention and management.   

One study conducted at the Purdue University on a group of Scottish Terriers found that feeding fresh leafy greens and yellow-orange vegetables at least 3 times per week can prevent or slow down cancer by approximately 50%. An even more profound discovery came out of the work done by Ketopets Sanctuary (http://www.ketopetsanctuary.com). In 2014, they developed a nutritional protocol for using fresh food species appropriate diet to help dogs with cancer. Their goal was to provide cancer therapy based upon a ketogenic diet protocol and the results were amazing – their approach was able to slow down or even halt the progression of cancer. There is also a compelling body of case studies showing that this approach can significantly slow down and manage the progression of cancer in people.

cute cat

cute cat


Nutritional science is still in very early stages of development.  The world of food and nutrition is vast and we have barely touched the surface. It is exciting and promising, and each day we gain slightly more understanding of what food is about and how we can correct our course to get back on the road to health.  While the veterinary community is still divided on the subject, more veterinarians are actively embracing real food or at least knowing the need for further education and understanding on the subject. 

As pet lovers and guardians, I encourage you to embrace science and common sense, listen to your instincts, and continue to advocate and push all pet care professionals for more research and exploration into natural nutrition. Your pets are counting on you to be their voice!

 “Cheap food is an illusion. There is no such thing as cheap food. The real cost of the food is paid somewhere. And if it isn’t paid at the cash register, it’s charged to the environment or to the public purse in the form of subsidies. And it’s charged to your health.” – Michael Pollancat-and-dog-eating-from-bowl





1. Hunter P. Nutrition: more than the sum of its parts: The modern craze for dietary supplements is under increasing scrutiny, while biofortified crops look promising in the quest to deliver nutrition in developing countries. EMBO Reports. 2011;12(4):307-310. doi:10.1038/embor.2011.42 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3077257/

2. “Nine ways that processed foods are harming people.”  Gunnars, Kris. Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 1 Aug. 2017. Web.16 Sep. 2017. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318630.php

3. Lekcharoensuk C1, Osborne CA, Lulich JPPusoonthornthum RKirk CAUlrich LKKoehler LACarpenter KASwanson LL. Association between dietary factors and calcium oxalate and magnesium ammonium phosphate urolithiasis in cats. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2001 Nov 1;219(9):1228-37. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11697365

 4. Peter J. Markwell2, C. Tony Buffington*, and Brigitte H. E. Smith. The Effect of Diet on Lower Urinary Tract Diseases in Cats. J. Nutr. December 1, 1998 vol. 128 no. 12 2753S-2757S http://jn.nutrition.org/content/128/12/2753S.long

 5. Qinghong Li, Christian L. Lauber, Gail Czarnecki-Maulden, Yuanlong Pan, Steven S. Hannah. Effects of the Dietary Protein and Carbohydrate .  on Gut Microbiomes in Dogs of Different Body Conditions. mBio. 2017 Jan-Feb; 8(1): e01703-16. Published online 2017 Jan 24. doi: 10.1128/mBio.01703-16

 6. Emma N. Bermingham, Paul Maclean, David G. Thomas, Nickolas J. Cave, Wayne Young. Key bacterial families (Clostridiaceae, Erysipelotrichaceae, and Bacteroidaceae) are related to digestion of protein and energy in dogs.2017, PeerJ 5:e3019 

 7. Sandberg, Thomas. A STUDY THAT CHANGED MY LIFE https://llprf.org/a-study-that-changed-my-life

 8. Raghavan M, Knapp DW, Bonney PL, Dawson MH, Glickman LT. Evaluation of the effect of dietary vegetable consumption on reducing risk of transitional cell carcinoma of the urinary bladder in Scottish Terriers. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2005 July 1; 227(1); 94-100.

 9. Ke970togenic diets as an adjuvant cancer therapy: History and potential mechanism. Bryan G.Allen1Sudershan K.Bhatia1Carryn M.AndersonJulie M.Eichenberger-GilmoreZita A.SibenallerKranti A.MapuskarJoshua D.SchoenfeldJohn M.BuattiDouglas R.SpitzMelissa A.Fath. Redox Biology, Volume 2, 2014, Pages 963-


Inequality and the Canine Cultural Divide

Food for Thought

By Carly Piatocha


There are some key debates that regular readers of a pet magazine are familiar with: Raw food or kibble? Prong collars or harnesses? To vaccinate or not? Breeders or shelters? The differing answers to these questions – waged passionately on both sides – are unimportant. Stating that is akin to blasphemy to some people, so before we go any further, please know that I am not stating that animal welfare is unimportant. In this article, instead of vilifying one side or the other, I would like to suggest some food for thought; it is pertinent to consider our luxury to be able to even ask these questions and consider their answers in the first place. Your opinion on the questions above does not really matter. What matters is that the luxury to take the time to ponder these questions (and form an opinion either way) already demonstrates how much societal privilege you have. In Canada, as well as in most of the developed Western world, we pat ourselves on the back for having highly developed animal welfare standards. Yet, despite these standards, we seem to continually face overflowing shelters, animal abuse and animals that fall through the cracks in the system. This issue is complex and cannot be fully understood or solved by tightening animal cruelty laws and sentencing on one hand, while zealously promoting holistic pet ownership trends on the other. The answer lies somewhere between expressing less judgment (and providing more assistance) and improving the welfare of those who are struggling, human and animal alike. 

To gain a better understanding of how people and pets are entwined, it is helpful to understand how pets are not just family members but often status symbols as well. In fact, one could argue that, in many ways, dogs have become a barometer of a person’s success. Where we once tried to “keep up with the Joneses” through the overt purchasing of extravagant new appliances, new cars and more, it seems that the culture of the rich and influential is shifting – and dogs are a part of that shift in priorities. Society has begun a slow and subtle mental movement to a place where what you know – and how you display your knowledge to others – demonstrates your social status much more than by what you own. Nowadays, the upper classes are placing much more emphasis on buying experiences instead of possessions with their extra cash. When they purchase those experiences – such as vacations abroad, or dinners at unique locals – they have a chance to display their values. These values are derived partly from family influences and partly from (in many cases) the chance to access a post secondary education. People demonstrate their values in many ways via disposable income, but it is currently a high priority in many upper-class homes to value environmental protection and animal welfare, from farm animals to pets. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule and some upper-class families simply do not value their pet’s well-being very highly. However, for the most part owners love their pets: on average 87.5% consider their pet to be a member of the family. How are the demands of the knowledge economy shaping the lives of pet owners? Before delving into how a person’s social status is connected to their pets, it will be helpful to investigate how we came to value the things we do.canstockphoto2809794

Canada’s economy has shifted – starting in approximately the 1980s – from being based in manufacturing to being based in services. This change has been driven mainly by the ever-increasing importance of technology and the pervasive influence of globalization. Canadians have adapted to these changes by investing more heavily in education as the “good jobs”, as these jobs now require more education. In the last thirty years, there has been a significant amount of growth in Canada regarding the number of post-secondary students enrolled in university. In 1980, there were 550,000 undergraduate students enrolled nationally – a number that jumped to 994,000 in 2010. During those thirty years the number of people getting Masters degrees has doubled, and the number of people enrolling in PhD programs has tripled, compared to the rates of people in these programs in 1980. More importantly, Canadian census data demonstrates that this investment generally tends to pay off. From analyzing this data, we observe that university graduates generally see their income rise more rapidly and consistently throughout their careers than non-graduates do. We also observe that graduates experience fewer and shorter periods of unemployment. We are accustomed to seeing these statistics painted as a ubiquitously positive thing for human society, generating increased interest in making animal welfare a priority. However, what we tend to not acknowledge is that this knowledge is also a form of societal power: cultural capital. 

Cultural capital, a term coined by the famous French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, is a form of invisible currency in society which includes your social network. This is all the knowledge you have regarding what conversation topics and subjects, body language, spoken language and behaviour are both acceptable and desirable in your own personal social circle as well as your own social class and overall society. This system helps societies maintain class distinction between members, by rejecting those that do not know or follow the “unwritten rules” of what it takes to maintain or improve your social status in your particular class. In the case of pets, the “unwritten” expectations of the most privileged classes tend to be to feed your pet raw (or at least grain free) food, to use force-free training, to use doggy daycare while you are at work, and to be cautious about over-vaccination and indiscriminate sterilization. When we see or speak to a pet owner that does not practice all (or at least most) of these behaviours, we often unconsciously assess them as “less”: less educated, less wealthy, less caring of their pet’s well-being. Cultural capital is extremely powerful in both predicting and dictating your success in life, by either increasing or decreasing your access to resources, opportunities and beneficial social networks.

Although societal trends are slow, over the last thirty years there has been a distinct shift: cultural capital used to be mostly dependant on how much money you made and what you owned; now there is more dependence on how much education you have and how many interesting experiences you have had. Education is the new measuring stick of success and high social status, partly because a lot of the “good” jobs – those that bring money and prestige – are now only accessible to the highly educated. The knowledge economy elite unintentionally demonstrate their high status through things like purchasing organic food, driving a fuel-efficient new car, going to CrossFit classes, traveling abroad to broaden their horizons, going to museums and art galleries, and watching documentaries (bonus points if they are in another language!) Children that grow up with parents who have a lot of education learn to value these same things, and this is reinforced when they get into the school system. Since educated people are running the school system, children who have learned to value activities like these thrive in this environment, and this creates an upward spiral of achievement. Children who are born to parents that did not have access to educational opportunities themselves now have – through no fault of their own – put their children at a disadvantage in a society that is rigged to benefit the educated. There are obviously exceptions to every rule, and we all know people that don’t fit these definitions. Individual exceptions aside, it is important to recognize that different classes exist in society because some people have more cultural capital – and thus privilege – than others. Whether or not you feel this is just and fair, the point is that this cultural shift is relevant to pet owners, because it is only relatively recently that pets have been added to the realm of cultural capital.   

With the aforementioned rise in the desire (and need, to a certain extent) to obtain advanced education comes specific ripple effects in society, which include the delay of marriage and children for many people. In 1980, the average age for the birth of a woman’s first child was barely twenty-five, whereas in 2011 Statistics Canada rated it as almost twenty-nine . Pets, with their child-like status (in the West) and their irresistible unconditional love, make excellent companions for a society that has delayed having children due to the current economic realities. Since pets are, on average, looked at as members of the family – rather than merely pets – it naturally follows that we want to give them the best possible care that we can. The trouble is that we often forget that it costs a lot more money than some pet owners have to be able to afford to feed fido raw food instead of kibble, to give him organic grain free treats, and to take him to good quality dog training classes regularly. As the gap between the rich and the poor widens, it is more important than ever to suspend judgment towards other pet parents that do things differently than we do. Let’s take force-free training as a case study of potential judgment. cat eating with eyes closed

Many would argue that positive-only dog training is the best method of training a dog, as it is backed by scientific research and is very humane. The problem is that by promoting this training method as the only one that is acceptable for all dog owners also unintentionally and uncomfortably puts forth a message that says something else entirely: if you are not at least middle-income and have a fair bit of free time off work to dedicate to training, than you cannot own a dog – at least not humanely. Before you get angry at that statement, let’s explore how it’s true. Again, this argument is not regarding which training is the best for the dog, nor is it a statement that force-free is bad; it is simply that what is accessible to the upper-classes is not always possible for everyone. In this case, positive-only dog training requires a lot of commitment and a learning curve to truly understand how it works, and why. Although you could learn to train your dog from a book, taking classes from a certified trainer yields a much higher likelihood of success. In addition, this method requires many treats be given for correct responses (although toys can also be used for toy-driven dogs), which must be purchased. Even if you make the treats (or toys) yourself, you must have the money for the ingredients, as well as the time to make the them. Finally, it requires that the owner devote a lot of time and energy to training the dog for a substantial period of time with markers – or in paying someone else to devote that time. Skills like walking on a loose leash can take a very long time to perfect for some dogs, if trained in a purely positive manner. This type of training might simply not be possible if someone is low-income and works two jobs to make ends meet, a senior on a fixed income, someone in pain and on disability, a student, a single mother on welfare, a person facing homelessness or someone who is the head of a working class family with children to support. 

We face a very slippery ethical slope if we claim that those that cannot afford to feed their dogs premium price healthy food and/or train them in the “best” (and most time-consuming) manner do not deserve to own a pet. Essentially, no matter which way you look at it, by saying this we are really saying that you can only access the unconditional love a pet provides if you can afford it. All people and all situations are different, but one thing that is always true is that everyone needs and deserves companionship, and that no amount of money can buy love. Since most Canadian pet owners (87.5%) feel that pets are members of the family, it is both unfair and inaccurate to paint people as unfit to have a pet at all should they not live up to our lofty standards. As has been stated in a previous article of mine (ref. to ‘Pets and Personalities’) as well as in many other places,  having a pet staves off loneliness and depression, increases social interaction and improves physical and mental health in a slew of ways. It is crucial to note that these benefits are certainly not limited to therapy and service dog companionship. If pet ownership is only socially sanctioned for the affluent, then those that are already suffering in other domains of life are to be dealt another devastating blow. These people must cope with the daily critical judgments of others as they walk their dog on a choke or prong collar, due to a lack of knowledge and access to knowledge, or more often a lack of time or money for training. They are judged when they feed their dog or cat kibble from the grocery store out of lack of money for anything else. One thing the owners of these animals are usually not short on is love and the desire to care for their friend in the best way that they possibly can. They put that collar on their dog because it is a one-time purchase that doesn’t involve as much time invested in training, so that they can take her for a walk without being unsafely pulled down the street – thus they avoid letting her languish in the backyard or the balcony, barking and alone. They stretch their last dollars to buy that supermarket kibble, or anything they can afford, so that their dog or cat will not go hungry – while they often do. Women that are victims of horrific domestic abuse often stay with their abusers for years despite wanting to leave, because most women’s shelters do not accept dogs or cats. They work those two or three minimum wage jobs because they are trying to provide for their families, which include pets. Sometimes they work those multiple low-wage jobs with the additional burden of being a person of colour who faces overt and covert racism daily, and maybe sexism as well. 

These facts are sobering and important. Instead of judging those that don’t practice positive-only training, feed holistic or raw diets, or those who are not the perfect pet owner, we should be trying to fix the underlying societal issues that force people into these situations in the first place. With shelters in Canada (and abroad) already overflowing with unwanted dogs and cats, is it really fair to argue that a dog would be better off in a shelter – or dead – than eating subpar food and receiving questionable training?

 If it bothers you to see people in these situations, what can you do? Instead of judgment, we can offer a place to stay that is affordable and actually allows pets. Offer cheap or free better-quality food, information on pet food banks or suggest where to go for free training classes and equipment that work around someone’s long work hours. Offer free walks, kitty-litter cleaning or trips to the vet or groomer if you know the owner is sick, disabled, elderly, is often alone with small children, or has to work all the time. All of these would be much more uplifting than condoning the person with the spoken or unspoken feeling that they “shouldn’t have a pet”. By going beyond the same tired debates that have ignited division in the pet industry for years, we are able to see the root of the problem. When someone has privilege, the option to learn about force-free training, the dangers of overvaccination and the benefits of a raw food diet are possible – because everyday life is not consumed with the daily struggle to stay alive and get by. 

  1. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/rob-commentary/by-ignoring-the-knowledge-economy-canada-is-taking-a-step-backward/article26688832/
  2.  http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/sis14914
  3. https://www.univcan.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/trends-vol1-enrolment-june-2011.pdf, pg. 6
  4. https://www.univcan.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/trends-vol1-enrolment-june-2011.pdf pg.10
  5. https://www.univcan.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/trends-vol1-enrolment-june-2011.pdf pg. 5
  6.  https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/parenting/mothers-day/charts-that-show-how-life-as-a-canadian-mom-has-changed-through-the-years/article24323664/
  7.  https://www.petsofthehomeless.org/about-us/faqs/
  8.  https://www.petsofthehomeless.org/about-us/faqs/
  9.  http://spca.bc.ca/news/living-fear-violence-link/




Tripe – a stinky wonderfood

By Jeff Mcfarlane

Aardvark Pets, Winnipeg Manitoba

canstockphoto2474051 (1)

Probably the stinkiest thing you will ever dream of feeding a pet, it can be one of the best as well.

Tripe.  Not the white honeycomb tripe you find at the Asian Market, or the steamed, spiced and sauced delicacy you get at Dim Sum, but Green Tripe, fresh from the animal.  Tripe that has been processed for human consumption has had all the good stuff boiled/bleached out of it.  Which is why it is white. 

Green tripe is cow stomach, cold washed to remove most of the digestive juices/food, and then frozen whole or ground and then frozen.  In this state, it retains all of its goodness (unfortunately the “Oh my goodness” aroma as well).  Things like probiotics, green tripe is loaded with Lactobacillus Acidophilus, which is great for keeping the dog’s gut populated with the good bacteria, which helps prevent the bad bacteria from growing.  There are canned versions available, but the cooking/canning process kills most of the best part of the tripe, these lovely bacteria and enzymes.

Digestive enzymes also survive the freezing process, but not the cooking/canning process.  Many dogs on processed diets are lacking in these enzymes, which occur naturally in this wonderfood.  These enzymes also do more than just aid in digestion, they can help purify and cleanse the blood.  They can help remove toxins, parasites and fungus.  Improved metabolism, hormonal function and boost the immune system are also things that are linked directly to these enzymes.  So, while cooked/canned tripe can be just as tasty/stinky, it is missing some of the best health benefits green tripe can offer.

Green tripe can usually be purchased ground or chunked from a pet store, or if you are lucky enough to have connection to a farm that processes their own meats or a small abattoir, you can get fresh tripe (they are Big and tough to cut).  The ground is easy to add into regular meals, it is considered a meat, not an organ, when portion a prey model diet.  The chunk or whole tripe can have the added benefit of being a great dental chew.  When breaking down a whole piece of fresh green tripe, a hazmat suit is usually needed, or at least clothes you don’t like, rubber gloves and a long shower after.  It is very much worth it though, taking something that would normally be thrown away and turning it into something wonderful for your pet.

Being a fresh, raw product, it can harbour bad bacteria if it isn’t handled or stored properly.  Not a problem for most healthy dogs, but it can be for us.  Like any raw meat product, standard sanitation protocols apply.  It does require some attention to ensure safety, but it isn’t the “dangerous as nuclear waste” product that some people would have you believe.  Except maybe the stink, but we all know how much our four legged pals love stink.

Can You Handle It?

By Valerie Barry, KPA-CTP

In Partnership With Dogs


As a dog trainer, one of my top priorities is to convey to clients just how important it is that their dogs be able to tolerate handling.  Handling can be defined as a dog’s ability to tolerate being touched all over in many different contexts.  I’m also going to include restraint in our discussion as a lot of handling can also involve restraint.

Obvious examples might be dogs being bathed, brushed or clipped; nails being clipped; ears being cleaned; or feet being dried off with a towel.  

Less obvious examples of handling/restraint might include:

  • Dogs being disturbed (touched/grabbed) when they’re sleeping; 
  • Dogs being touched/restrained in any way when they’re scared, anxious or stressed; 
  • Dogs being touched by strangers with or without their owners present like being tied outside a store; 
  • Dogs being restrained for a medical procedure; 
  • Dogs being handled quite roughly and suddenly like being grabbed by the collar as they are about to bolt out the door;
  • Dogs being “pet” by young children – tails and ears pulled, fingers in eyes and noses or being “ridden”; 
  • Dogs being grabbed or moved around by their collars or harnesses.

Why is Tolerance for Handling Important?FullSizeRender-1

Obviously it’s easier to work with a dog who doesn’t care much about what you need to do to their bodies – bath, dry feet, clean ears, clip claws, shave/clip them, etc.  

However, the reason it’s a priority to me is because dogs who object to being handled can very easily evolve into dogs who bite when you try to touch them. Because lack of handling tolerance is fear-based and because fear generalizes very quickly, dogs who mildly object to some touching can very quickly become dogs who strongly object to all handling.  

Additionally, every dog I’ve every worked with who has behavioural issues is also 99% (if not 100%) likely to have some intolerance for handling – the 2 are definitely linked. I’m firmly convinced that if more puppies and young dogs had the right training early on, many dogs with behavioural issues simply wouldn’t have them or they may at least be milder issues.

What Happens if Dogs Can’t Tolerate Touch?
Sooner or later, if things are left unaddressed, mild objections to handling often become stronger objections as your dog matures.  Mild objections will very often turn into a nip and then maybe into a more serious bite. 

There are lots of things that can cause a dog to feel the need to bite, but a lack of tolerance for handling is certainly on the top of that list.  When touch sensitivity or intolerance comes into play, humans are in very close proximity and usually touching the dog so biting would be a natural first choice for them.  This is especially true if the dog in question is being restrained or cornered in some way (on their bed, in a crate, tied outside a store or leashed in a crowded location).  In this situation, most dogs feel they can’t escape, so they move to Plan B(ite).

What Can We Do?IMG_5500

Your goal should be:  “My dog should be as well socialized as possible so that he does not ever feel the need to bite.”   Additionally, much care should be taken to never place any dog in a situation where he might feel he has no choice but to bite.

Dogs need to be taught that touch is something humans do and it’s ok for them to do it.  If possible, dogs can learn that touch is actually desirable. Basic husbandry skills should be positively taught so that dogs are happily able to tolerate them being done even by relative strangers like groomers, vet techs, pet sitters, dog walkers, etc.  

We need to advocate for our dogs so that they aren’t subject to invasive handling by strangers including children but we also need to prepare them for that eventuality.  We need to prepare them for the rudeness and ignorance of strangers we meet.  It never ceases to amaze me what people think is okay to do to dogs they encounter – known or unknown.  We simply cannot control every situation as much as we might like to think we can.  

You Need To Do Some Training.

It’s not enough to simply touch and cuddle your dog a lot.  I’ve met a lot of dogs who can’t tolerate having their nails trimmed and yet can still easily tolerate having their feet touched and dried off.  Nail trimming and handling a dog’s feet are simply not the same thing.

Dogs are not naturally “touchy feely” individuals.  There are certain breeds of dogs who have a tendency to love being cuddled and pet and certainly there are individual dogs who really enjoy their cuddle and lap time.  Generally, though, all dogs need to be taught that touching them is just what humans are going to do.  Also, there are some necessary procedures we need to do that include touch, sometimes quite firm handling, and that restraint may be combined with handling.

How do we teach this?  You need to systematically desensitize and counter-condition your dog to handle and eventually happily tolerate touch and restraint.  It’s not complicated training.  What’s not easy for us impatient humans though is that the training can take a long time and involve a lot of daily practice.  

The younger your dog is when you start, the easier it can be and the faster it’s likely to go.  You can, however, start at any age and still make very significant changes in your dog’s behaviour. 

The Training.DSC_1027

Desensitization and Counter-Conditioning involves setting up a training plan with a series of gradually progressing exercises focused on each individual body part.  You need to progress in carefully planned increments based on your individual dog’s reaction to the training.  It can be very helpful to do this under the guidance of a professional dog trainer who uses positive methods who has successful experience in this area.  

Strange as it may seem, it can be really difficult for the average dog owner to interpret his or her own dog’s behaviour. I’ve met many people who think their dog’s behaviour came up quite suddenly and without warning when it’s clear to me that their dog had been displaying subtle signs for a long time.  When I point out the signs, most people are surprised that they either haven’t noticed them or that they have completely misinterpreted them.  

Even though you live with your dog and see him every day, it really does help to at least start with some experienced, professional assistance.  Seeing something and observing (or noticing) something are two very different things.

You may already be aware of things that your dog objects to, like having his nails trimmed or having his collar or harness put on, or having his ears cleaned.  This gives you a place to start. 

What Does Objection Look Like?

Strong objection is usually obvious to most of us especially if it’s become nipping or biting. Running away at the sight of the nail clippers or harness, that’s a pretty obvious objection.  I don’t know how many times I’ve heard “my dog hates putting his harness on” when I’m about to head out for a walk with a client.  Pulling paws away, backing away or ducking their head is also pretty clear feedback.  

In my mind, this is all strong objection and it should be addressed right away because it can get worse.  Surprisingly few people feel the need to step in and make things better for their dog at this point even though they are clearly aware of the discomfort their dog has.

Less subtle objection is harder for the average person to spot.  This could include:

  • your dog glancing directly at your hand as you touch his paw or move your hand toward a sensitive spot; 
  • your dog leaning ever so slightly away; 
  • your dog becoming momentarily very still;
  • your dog gently nudging your hand or his harness with his nose;
  • ears pinned back, big eyes, lots of frantic tail wagging and seemingly “happy to see you” type of behaviour but out of context to what’s going on;
  • your dog suddenly acting silly, maybe running and grabbing a toy, jumping up on you, or getting the zoomies around the room – behaviours that are perhaps intended to distract you from your original intent; and
  • your puppy licking your hand as you pick up his paw.

Dogs are masters of body language and they try and tell us lots of things in subtle, non-confrontational ways but unfortunately many of us miss these early signs.FullSizeRender

It can be really helpful to spend time watching dogs who are interacting with each other and really take the time to observe how they talk to each other with their body language.  See if you can pick out the subtle signs of “Is it ok if…?”, “No, it’s not” or “Sure, no problem”, “Yes, but not like that”, etc.  It can be really fascinating!  It’s easier though if your own dog isn’t involved and you can just relax and watch it all unfold.

The Training.

It’s important to note that in any training, our dog should be an equal participant.  This means that we need to observe and use the information they give us as feedback in order to be not only instructive but also supportive. It’s not about just getting the job done, it’s very much about how our dogs feel about it and “getting the job done” in the easiest possible way for them.  Any training, regardless of the reason for it, should be enjoyable for everybody involved. 

Being supportive is particularly important.  For example, if I’m working on a handling exercise and my dog is looking happy, eating his treats and showing no obvious signs of wanting to avoid my touch, then I’ll consider it a green light to proceed.  However, if my dog begins to actively avoid my touch or stops eating the treats, it’s time to give him a break and think about a way to make the activity easier for him – progressing in even smaller increments.

It’s not about forcing your dog to accept touch, it’s about helping him learn to safely and happily tolerate it – even look forward to it if we’re really lucky or really skilled.  If your dog understands that not only are you trying to solve this problem for him but also learns that you are listening to his feedback and helping him through it, the process will go much faster.  

What a fantastic bond you can build with your dog if he is able to communicate to you and have you act on his feedback in a way that is best for him not just for you!  “Ok buddy, you look like you need a break.” vs. “Look, we have to get this done, just sit still!”

A Simple Exercise – The Collar Grab.

A lot of dogs aren’t happy about you reaching for and grabbing their collar – it can sometimes lead to a game of “catch me if you can”.  The follow exercise is a beginning step to making that situation better.  Note that this exercise can be modified for any body part or equipment.

The Set Up:

1. Have your dog in front of you and a container of very tasty treats close by.  Don’t have your dog leashed or restrained in any way – we need to know if he feels the need to leave or if he’s comfortable enough to remain with us.

2. Consider sitting on a comfortable chair in front of your dog vs. standing – usually a more neutral posture for most dogs.  If you have quite a small dog, consider sitting on the ground instead of on a chair.  Note that us being on the ground can be very exciting for some dogs, so just wait for them to get over the excitement and calm down before getting started – just keep a pleasant expression and tone while you wait.

3. The end result of our training may be an actual “Collar Grab” but we need to start at a far easier spot for our dogs. We need to begin our exercise at a point that is at or under our dog’s comfort level.  This means that we need to keep our hand at some distance from the collar initially, then gradually progress to touching and eventually holding onto the collar.  

If at any point you reach toward your dog’s collar and he backs away, then the distance you reached is over his threshold – don’t reach quite as far the next time and see what he thinks.  Initially, keep your collar “grabs” to one side of his neck or the other – not over the top of his head at this point.  Over his head collar grabs are a much harder exercise and something to progress to at some future point.

Let’s get started:

  1. Make sure you have your dog’s attention and cue your dog that you are going to start the exercise – “Ready?”
  1. Reach toward your dog’s collar, stopping at a good distance away, and hold your hand there.
  1. With your other hand, offer your dog a treat and then remove both hands while your dog eats his treat.
  1. Analyze your dog’s response – does he seem comfortable with that distance of reach or did he back away from your hand and/or not want the treat?  
  1. Based on his response either back off the distance you reached or keep the same distance and do some more repetitions.  Do 10-15 repetitions in total and then cue “All Done!” and take a break.

You can do this exercise several times a day but don’t do more than 10-15 repetitions before taking a break.

What you should start to see is your dog beginning to move toward your hand as you reach for his collar – happily anticipating his tasty treat.  Only when your dog is clearly and obviously comfortable with the level you are at, should you move on to the next step.

Gradually begin to progress with subsequent sessions:

  • make your reaches gradually closer to the collar
  • touch the collar
  • grasp the collar gently and let go quickly
  • grasp the collar gently and hold until our dog finishes his treat
  • grasp the collar less gently
  • grasp and add slight pressure to the collar
  • remember that your dog has 2 sides to his body so you will need to do all of this on the other side of his neck/collar too.

This type of exercise can be used to work on any part of your dog’s body.  As you move through different body parts and your dog gets used to what you are doing, progress should take place more quickly each time.  If at any point your dog leaves, back away or seems uncomfortable – take a long break and see how you can change what you are doing to make it easier for your dog.

Remember – the process is as important as the result.  The goal is for your dog to be comfortable with being touched and handled in a variety of different ways and different contexts.  However, it’s equally important that the process is done in a thoughtful and supportive way.  Ready to get started? Keep it positive, practice regularly and you will have success!

Laryngeal Paralysis

Occurring in Pets

Dr. Charoul Lekx, DVM


Laryngeal Paralysis is a condition in which the nerves and muscles that control the arytenoid cartilages (and so ultimately the vocal folds) become impaired in their function. During inspiration they open and during swallowing they close so impaired function leads to an increased risk of aspiration of food when eating and an inability to fully oxygenate when exercising.

It is usually an acquired disease but can be congenital, and is usually seen in large breed dogs such as Labs, Golden Retrievers, Newfies, and St Bernards. The cause is often unknown and more recently it is being associated with a more generalized degenerative neuromuscular disorder meaning that more than just the patient’s breathing is affected. Patients with Laryngeal Paralysis are often older, have voice changes (hoarse bark), decreased exercise tolerance, noisy breathing, particularly on inspiration, and a cough or gag after swallowing or drinking water. A definitive diagnosis requires direct visualization of the larynx under a light anaesthesia and although surgical correction can sometimes be achieved it is often unrewarding. 

Assistive Devices

If your pet is experiencing hind end weakness one of the first things you can do is look at purchasing a “Help em up Harness”. They can be ordered online and may be invaluable as your pet ages.

Passive Range of Motion (PROM) and Massage

This is something you can do for your pet when you are having some quiet time together or after the more challenging exercises. Move all joints/limbs through a normal range of motion while your pet is lying down on his/her side, and gently massage the muscles. If you are unsure as to how to accomplish this I am happy to demonstrate.

dog walking on the shore


Laryngeal Paralysis is a degenerative disease and the most helpful thing you can do is to try and keep your pets muscles as strong as possible. Exercises can be done at home. The exercises I would encourage you to try are:

  • Cookies to the Head and Hip, these help with flexibility.
  • Side-stepping, try the modified sideways walking i.e. don’t try lifting any limbs just gently encourage a sideways walk, this helps to strengthen the muscles in the hind end.
  • Partial Sit-Stand, these are fun and help to strengthen the gluteal muscles which are so important for the hind end.
  • Cavaletti’s, great for proprioception.
  • Weight Shifting, great for balance and helping maintain muscle mass. Don’t try the advanced exercise but you can do Single Leg Lifts.

Omega 3 fish oil

Some of the suggestions you may already using but if not then try:

  1. Omega-3’s (Fish or Coconut oil)
  2. Cartrophen injections (Polyglycosaminoglycans….good for pain and joint health)
  3. Glucosamine and MSM
  4. Coenzyme Q10
  5. Vitamin B Complex +/- Vitamin B12 injections

Gentle controlled work in the water can be very helpful but remember these pets can tire easily so don’t allow them to go far or go without supervision. The underwater treadmill is a great tool.


This is very individual to each pet but regular acupuncture may be helpful with mobility and breathing so it is always a valid option.




Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy – Regenerative Medicine


By Dr. Radica Raj, DVM

Dr Radica Spanky

What is Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy (PRP)?

Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy (PRP) is a cutting-edge treatment that is available at a fraction of the cost of stem cell therapy and has been used successfully for years in both human and equine medicine.

PRP has now been introduced in the treatment of cats and dogs all over the world and the success rate and  effectiveness of this therapy is causing a rapid growth in its popularity.

How Does PRP Therapy Work?

The science behind PRP therapy is quite complex but the underlying principle is simple. Blood is drawn from your pet. Use of the patient’s own blood (autologous blood) to obtain the platelets helps eliminate the risk of disease transmission or allergic reactions. The blood sample is then centrifuged to get PRP. This PRP is then injected into the patient.

When the platelets are injected into the affected area, they break open and release multiple growth factors which bring about tissue repair and healing.
PRP therapy can be used to alleviate pain, repair damaged tissue in some cases and prevent rapid progression of degenerative joint disease.
It works well for both cats and dogs.Dr Radica PRP 1

What Does  PRP Therapy Help Treat?

PRP therapy is primarily used to promote the healing of musculoskeletal conditions caused by either injury or illness.

It is used in these conditions: tendonitis, partial ligament tears, luxating patellas, intervertebral disk disease (back and neck pain), osteoarthritis, elbow dysplasia, hip dysplasia and in some cases, skin and dental issues.

How Effective is PRP?

There is an abundance of Clinical and research data that has shown PRP therapy can be effective in  treating new injuries as well as chronic cases.

PRP therapy has produced great results both as a stand-alone treatment and also as an augmentation to other treatments such as medication, supplements, physical therapy and exercise.

Is PRP Right for Your Pet?Dr Radica PRP 2

PRP therapy is an option that you should discuss with your veterinarian especially if your pet has musculoskeletal issues or degenerative joint disease, including spondylosis as well as intervertebral disk disease.

PRP treatment is relatively affordable and there is an extremely low risk of injury or adverse reaction.

The Soul of a Dog

5 Qualities of Being You Can Learn from Your Pooch

By Amanda Ree Ringnalda of Sama Dog



The soul of a dog is a very special expression of consciousness, as anyone who has ever known and loved a dog well understands. Animals have the capacity to teach us reverent, timeless spiritual truths simply by being who they are.

An indicator of progress along your spiritual path is when you start to see or “recognize” spirit within other beings. As your heart awakens to the Divine light shining within all souls, life becomes more rich, meaningful, and fulfilling. We naturally come to treat all other beings with more reverence, kindness and respect. This is ultimately the path of yoga (the Sanskrit word for union.)

Let’s take a closer look at five qualities of being you can learn from your marvelous dog friends.top pic 13

Living in the Moment

This is a profound spiritual teaching all animals have mastered. Sure, a stimulus of some kind can trigger a memory in their minds, which then prompts a certain reaction. But soon after, animals always return to the present moment. It’s their most natural state of being. Just as time spent around a friend who is light-hearted and upbeat can make your perspective more positive, spending time around a being who is entirely present helps bring you to that state as well.

Just look deep into your dog’s eyes and feel how that moment engulfs you. When dogs gaze back at us, with their non-judgmental awareness and total acceptance, we’re able to surrender to the experience and be entirely present in return. Dogs don’t have hang-ups about time or aging, or worry about what they’re going to do about some future event that may or may not happen. Their concept of time is completely different from ours. Think of when you step outside to get the mail and come back inside to a celebration as if you’d been gone a year! The mind of a dog is easily able to rest on just one thought for a duration of time. Imagine your pup at the park… play, play, play, oh! Sniff, sniff, sniff, ah! Ball, ball, ball… you get the idea. Imagine an existence with so few thoughts! Ahhh…


This is a state of being which is capable of changing our entire life experience. When we’re able to completely surrender to what is, an inner stillness sets in and we lose the incessant desire to control every situation and outcome.

Pay close attention to how your dog demonstrates acceptance. Pause a couple times today to observe when and how they display this quality of being. Notice how they’re typically content in whatever circumstances they find themselves in, as luxurious or meager as they may be. Dogs really are masters of the saying, “Let go and let God.”

Selfless ServiceSOS_6781

This is something that’s as natural to a dog as breathing. Living in the moment, they don’t have an agenda like people often do, and so this is likely why they’re able to act so selflessly; their “I, me, and mine” is out of the picture. It could be said that that their Dharma or purpose in life is selfless service, called Seva in Sanskrit. It seems that when they’re helping others and they’re cared for, they feel such joy and reward that it motivates them to do more and more of it. Sure there are times when it might not feel this way, like when they don’t come when called or sneak food off the table. But think of the joy when they finally master a new trick you’ve been trying to teach them, the way they light up from simply having pleased you.

And when it really matters, they are always willing to give what they have to offer: an excitement they can barely contain when you come home from a tiring day at work, a sweet cuddle when you’re feeling lonely, or simply that sweet, loving look in their eyes. It’s often said that a dog is the only creature who loves you more than it loves itself. There are in fact countless stories of dogs who instinctively and without any hesitation gave their own life for the sake of their human’s.

Blissfulnesstop pic 10

This is ever-present in dogs and bubbles over at a moment’s notice; they’re perpetually ready for the party to begin. A dog’s natural state is bliss, also known as Ananda in Sanskrit. Their light-hearted nature and unselfconscious silliness has a tendency to rub off on whomever they come into contact with.

Have you ever been just hanging out with your dog and notice that you have a huge smile on your face? Your laughter fuels their quirky character, bringing joy to everyone around. Observing the same qualities of being from another perspective, you can see that even animals who are subject to abuse or used in animal testing have an innate peace about them, at least when they’re not in acute pain (and sometimes even then too). Their natural state is that of the witness perspective, the silent presence that observes life’s ebbs and flows without judgment, which allows bliss to be ever-present.

Desire for Unity

This is innate in most sentient beings. Our canine companions usually love nothing more than simply being near us. Even a shy dog who may not want to physically touch or get too close still prefers to be in the same room with us rather than in another. No matter where we go (even to the loo), our trusty friends want to be by our side and keep an eye on us. They’ll park themselves right next to us and most of the small ones (and sometimes even big ones) find laps to be the ideal sitting spot.

Unity (which is the definition of the word Yoga) is a dog’s default point of view; they don’t see themselves as separate from other things. They don’t have the same judgements humans tend to hold about their differences. This is demonstrated in the many cases in which different species of animals grow up together. Even if the species normally would not be friendly, or if one would typically prey on the other, as fully grown animals they will often stay bonded, comfortable around each other, and unaware of their differences.

Dogs have so much to teach us about what it means to be a good human. Their open hearts shine unconditional love and light on everyone they touch, regardless of who they may be, and encourage our hearts to blossom in turn. They are our companions not only in life, but on the spiritual path we all travel together. Just look deeply into your beloved dog’s eyes and have the first-hand experience of “Namaste” — the light within me sees the same light within you.

Unity is the Path to Healing

Reflections from My Time with Dr. Tejinder Sodhi, DVM

By Amanda Ree Ringnalda


Recently, I had the unique opportunity to travel up to Washington to spend two inspirational weeks in the company of Dr. Tejinder Sodhi. As a holistic veterinarian who has practiced for over 30 years, Dr. Sodhi is a pioneer in integrative healing for animals and was the vet who brought Ayurveda into the the AHVMA (American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association) in 1991. He and several of his family members moved from India to the Seattle area in 1985, bringing with them rich knowledge about the healing sciences of the East — Ayurveda, the mind-body health system of life.

My interest in shadowing Dr. Sodhi was to get a peek into the world of holistic healing as it’s applied in the veterinary sense. Being that I’m a teacher of Ayurveda for dogs (as well as humans), and recently founded an organization called Sama Dog which aims to spread the wisdom of Ayurveda into our dog’s lives, there was no better place to learn.

His 2-story office in Bellevue, Washington is a healing hub for beings of all kinds. The upstairs space provides Ayurvedic healing for people, and the downstairs for pets. In his Bellevue clinic, as well in his second clinic in Lynnwood, WA, Dr. Sodhi offers a wide variety of holistic modalities, philosophies, treatments and procedures. He’s not only a doctor of veterinary medicine, but also a trained acupuncturist, a certified veterinary chiropractor, and a trained rehabilitation and homeopathy specialist. IMG_0634

Dr. Sodhi takes time to understand the whole picture and unique story surrounding each individual animal, learning about their background and present circumstances, and combines this with his knowledge of potential outcomes in the future. He touches and examines each furry patient extensively, and it was easy to perceive his “tuning in” to detect what was ailing each one. He was also able, in many cases, to intuitively sense how much pain the animal was in, which was oftentimes very different from what their lovable and accepting faces seemed to convey. Animals are so stoic. 

When it comes to treatment, Dr. Sodhi’s training in conventional veterinary medicine allows him to pull from more prevalent healing tools such as medication, non-invasive procedures and surgeries. As an integrative veterinarian, he also applies his knowledge and skills in acupuncture, chiropractic, nutrition and Ayurvedic herbs. As a rehabilitation center, his practice also offers recovery tools such as hydrotherapy, cold laser and massage. One of the highlights for me was to watch all the different dogs, from 6 lbs to 200 lbs, slowly submerge into the warm-water treadmill to walk their way towards healing. And they looked totally adorable while doing so!IMG_0476

In simply observing Dr. Sodhi’s multiple appointments, conversations, phone consultations and treatments, I gained a broader and clearer understanding of what is possible in holistic veterinary medicine. I was continually struck by the willingness of each pet parent to do whatever it took to help their pet heal. And, more times than I would have thought, healing was possible. I heard stories and saw (yes, even in a mere 2 weeks) recovery that was truly exceptional. One who stood out to me, probably because of my affinity for Bernese Mountain Dogs, was Yoshi. This “Berner” had been seeing Dr. Sodhi for relief from his bone, joint and muscle problems. When I first met Yoshi, he was unable to walk without assistance – his loving dog-mom had to carry him in with a sling around his big hips. 3 times per week he was receiving acupuncture with electric stimulation and doing sessions on the underwater treadmill. He was also taking herbal supplements like ashwagandha, boswelia and curcumin. The image of Yoshi walking in unassisted for his appointment 2 weeks later is one that will always stay with me. Once again, I stand in awe of the healing capabilities of the body when given the right circumstances and support.  IMG_0625

The body is a healing unit with its own innate intelligence, and every one is uniquely different. This is the essence of Ayurveda. When one understands the overall picture of a particular animal and considers all layers of their being — physical, mental, emotional, energetic — their unique needs can be specifically addressed. If we can pair this deeper understanding of healing with the human companion’s loving intention, our pets can experience vibrancy and total wellbeing. 

In addition to fulfilling my intention of learning in a big way, I came away with an admiration for how the Sodhi family is “living” Ayurveda. I came to know Dr. Sodhi, his wonderful wife Sushma, his daughter Rupali who is a third year vet student and several other members of their family during our 2-week visit. By “living Ayurveda” I mean that each of them is an embodiment of conscious living… following the Ayurvedic theory, eating balancing foods, and by observing daily practices and principles which nourish them and their family most. 

Dr. Sodhi’s approach to healing truly embodies the essence of “Yoga,” or as it’s defined in Sanskrit, “union.” He serves as a bridge of Western to Eastern healing wisdom. This union creates a unique and exceptionally effective healing opportunity for all. Union is the nature of the Sodhi family and I saw this expressed in the way they have come together with their business and service endeavors; the way the staff (and tag-alongs like me) are treated as part of the family, the way they authentically connect and care for their clients and patients, and the way their overall viewpoint of wellbeing is entirely inclusive. In the end, a deeper understanding of the true essence of Yoga — union — is what I’ve come away with most. IMG_0525

Imagine if we broadened our scope of wellness for all our pets, and “beings” as a whole. Imagine the potential impact that could have on all of us. Our world. Our families and communities. Ultimately, unity is the path to healing. 

Gratitude to all those who build bridges and strengthen connections worldwide, and the enormous impact of their ripple. 

The referenced clinics are:

Animal Wellness and Rehabilitation Clinic


Dr. Tejinder Sodhi

Bellevue, WA   (425) 455-8900

Lynwood, WA  (425) 771-6300

Ayurvedic and Naturopathic Medical Clinic (Humans)

Dr. Virender Sodhi



Saathi’s Journey

Nepal to Canada

By Kate Watkin


This past fall Kate Watkin, her mother, Marnie and some friends from Vancouver Island, visited the Kathmandu Animal Treatment Centre in Nepal. The ladies visiting Nepal are a part of the non-profit organization, Nepal Education Fund (NEF),that sponsors children in Nepal to go to school with the goal of getting them out of poverty.

All of the travelers are animal lovers so visiting the KAT Centre (Kathmandu Animal Treatment Centre) was a perfect fit. As soon as the 6 women walked through the gate, they were instantly surrounded by curious dogs, old and young, who were longing for human touch and love.

While Kate was sitting on the hard ground petting a puppy, whose front leg was merely hanging from her body, she turned to see a white, almost completely hairless, crooked legged dog staring up at her. The connection between them was instant. Her name, Saathi, which means friend (pronounced Sati) was found abandoned at 3 months old with Rickets, from malnutrition in addition to that she was effected by mange, which was the cause of her hair loss. The workers at the KAT Centre said that Saathi was to be put down within the week as they didn’t have the funds to provide her with the care she’d needed to get better. That’s when Kate decided that she would adopt her and take her home to Vancouver Island, Canada. IMG_5294

Due to her many health issues she wouldn’t be able to fly for many more months. Without hesitation, Kate committed sponsorship of Saathi to get the proper care that she needed. Saathi would be flown home in March, when she was fully recovered and founder of NEF Susan Marshall returned. 

The day that the ladies were leaving Nepal to go home, Kate and Marnie were sitting having lunch when Kate asked one of the friends she’d met on the trip if he could take her to see Saathi one last time. So she hopped on the back of his motorcycle through the crazy streets of Nepal. Off they went! As soon as they arrived at the KAT Centre and Saathi heard Kate’s voice, she came running as fast as she could and she instantly settled comfortably into Kate’s arms. 

Leaving her wasn’t easy. Kate counted down the days until they were reunited. Finally the day arrived! March 29th 2017. Kate and Marnie drove to Vancouver pick up Saathi from the airport. The experience was far from perfect. There was concern about what kind of shape she would be in, especially after all the terrible stories they had read of dogs and other animals passing away on planes before even meeting their destination due to being mistreated and redundant during their journey. It took over two hours from the time Saathi landed to the time they were able to get her to Kate. There were stacks of paperwork to be filled out, and they had to go from building to building to paying many hidden fees that were not discussed prior. By the end of all the hoops it seemed they had to jump through to finally collect Saathi, they were sent into a cold warehouse where, of course all of the industrial equipment gets tended to before a live animal. Kate and Marnie searched the warehouse from their spot behind the locked gate when they finally spotted Saathi’s crate hidden in the corner facing the wall. They called Saathi’s name but there was no movement from inside.FullSizeRender

Finally someone arrived to help them. He walked over at a snail’s pace to bring Saathi over to the garage door A quick signature and off he went. Kate and Marnie were both terrified to look into the crate from the fear or what they would find. Besides being nearly  black from dirt and not being  given food or water for the entire 40+ hour trip, the moment Saathi saw Kate everything changed! Her tail started wagging and she jumped up and put her paw against the crate. The tears in Kate and Marnie’s eyes that were originally from fear and alarm were now spilling down their faces with joy and relief. The moment Kate opened the crate and picked Saathi up into her arms was unforgettable. Saathi knew it was all going to be okay, and that she would never have to endure anything like that again. They fed her, let her out for a short walk then were off to catch the last ferry ride home. During the drive home Saathi cuddled in close to Kate’s side and slept the whole way, exhausted from her long uncertain journey. 

The first couple weeks of being home Saathi slept a constantly and had very little energy. But after being on a proper nutritional diet and antibiotics to boost her immune system she started playing like the puppy she never got to be. She even found Kate’s book “A Dogs Purpose” and decided she didn’t like that Kate was reading about another dog, and ripped it to pieces. 

Saathi now enjoys her days being the office dog at the family owned business, where she brightens everyone’s day with her loving, playful ways. Along with cuddling with her new family which includes Rue the cat who thinks Saathi is the best thing that’s ever happened to him as she grooms his ears and lets him playfully pounce on her at any given moment.IMG_5619

From the very beginning there was always that scare that Saathi wouldn’t arrive but now that she has, Kate will tell anyone that it was the best decision she’s made. Not only has Saathi’s whole life changed, so has everyone’s who has met her. Kate says it still seems surreal that Saathi is actually there, but at the same time it feels as if Saathi’s always been there. She is finally where she belongs. 

Follow Saathi’s new journey on instagram @saathi_rescue_dog

On Guard!

By Valerie Barry, KPA-CTP

In Partnership With Dogs



In today’s society, both dog owners and non dog owners have extremely high (and perhaps unrealistic) expectations of our pet dogs.  We have no tolerance for any grumpy or aggressive behaviour directed toward humans at any point in the lifetime of a dog. 

What we’re really asking is that our dogs go their entire lifetime without ever losing their temper.  Do you think any human could do the same – I certainly couldn’t and I don’t know anyone else who could either.  

One of the more challenging behaviour issues for dog owners to modify is Resource Guarding.  It’s also probably one of the most commonly misunderstood or misdiagnosed issues by dog owners.  

What is Resource Guarding?

One popular, yet dangerously inaccurate, explanation of Resource Guarding is that you have a “dominant” dog.  This is the mistaken belief that dogs are all about rank and that we need to be the “alpha” personality in any relationship we have with our dog.  Any dog that attempts to prevent us from taking anything he has must surely be acting out of his “dominant” nature and clearly views us as being on a much lower rank – right?  Nope – very, very wrong.  Entire methods and programs of training are based on the myth of the “dominant dog”, and it’s an extremely dangerous approach to take.  

Resource Guarding can be described as simply as a dog’s attempt to hold on to a valuable resource.  

“Behaviour that discourages another to take, or get too close to, an object or valued area in a dog’s possession.” (Excerpt taken from an article on Resource Guarding by Dr. Patricia McConnell, May 3, 2013.  Full article may be found at patriciamcconnell.com.)

In a dog’s world if I have it, then it’s mine – simple as that.  They are unprepared for the human tendency to want to take things from them frequently or to want to invade their personal space bubble for various reasons that are unclear to the dog.  

Many dog owners get very angry at the idea of their pet dogs refusing to give up a treasured object – “how dare he growl at me!”.  In fact, this can often be a deal breaker, and many dogs have been given up for even normal levels of resource guarding because it is so misunderstood.

All dogs have a degree of desire to hold on to resources that are valuable to them.  With some dogs, you may never see any of the behaviour associated with resource guarding during their lifetime or you may see it in only its mildest form.  

In the case of other dogs, you may see it start very early then continue and often escalate as they mature.  Resource guarding is a “normal” behaviour in that it exists in dogs.  When dogs are afraid, feel threatened or are attempting to hold on to a valued resource, they display certain behaviour.  However, extreme resource guarding behaviour, especially those displayed in the very young, can be very unsettling, potentially dangerous and most trainers and behaviourists would not consider this to be “normal” behaviour under the spectrum of resource guarding in the average dog.

Dogs commonly display resource-guarding behaviour toward:

  • Food bowls or food dispensing toys
  • Dropped food
  • Treasured toys
  • Family members
  • Sleeping locations – growling as you approach dog beds, couches, human beds or any area the dog is already occupying.
  • Dropped objects or found objects on walks
  • Stolen items like laundry or items from the garbage

What Does Resource Guarding Look Like?DSC_1782

Resource Guarding may include one or more than one behaviour displayed at the same time or added as the circumstances escalate.  

Some normal guarding behaviours can include:

  • Speeding up eating as you’re approaching a food bowl or food dispensing toy.
  • Shifting position to subtly block your approach.
  • Quick and frequent glances that may speed up as you approach.
  • Getting up and taking a toy further away from you as you approach or even just moving it a little bit further away from you as you sit beside him.
  • Moving just a little bit closer to you as a dog or stranger approaches.
  • Glancing at you out of the corner of his eye – commonly called a “whale eye” – as he attempts to keep his eyes on the prize but also track your movements (in a “whale eye” the white of the eye is visible).  
  • Somewhat frantic movements.  You may see a faster moving tail along with faster consumption, shifting back and forth as he quickly either eats or attempts to move items to a different area.  He may appear “happy” but movements are faster and more frantic than his usual friendly “happy to see you self”.
  • Low growling as you approach.

More extreme behaviours can include:

  • Growling that intensifies as you approach.  In more extreme cases, growling can become snarling with/without teeth showing.
  • Barking and lunging – often seen displayed toward an oncoming dog or person when on leash with a human.
  • Freezing – completely stilling his movements as you approach.  The freezing may be multiple, small seconds of freezing as he tracks your approach or longer moments of freezing if your approach continues.
  • Crouching or lowering his body to hover over a treasured object.
  • Hard eye – a hard open-eyed stare.  This can be directed at the person or dog approaching.  It may even appear that your dog is just staring out into space.  The hard eye while just staring at nothing in particular can be mistaken for a lack of interest in your approach and has even been mistakenly thought of as a seizure by the unaware.
  • Muzzle punches directed at the body part reaching for an item or closest to the dog.
  • Quick forward lunges with or without a snap.
  • Air snapping.  Some people assume that a dog “missed” when they witness an air snap.  Make no mistake – when a dog means to bite he bites and can do so faster than you can blink or move.  An air snap is exactly what he intends it to be – a threatening gesture without causing immediate damage.
  • Full contact bites with or without any damage – minor or significant.

Extreme resource guarders can begin guarding from great distances.  A dropped sock or Kleenex can elicit guarding behaviours from a dog who may be all the way across the room from the item.

What NOT to Do!DSC_1783_2

The absolute worst response to any resource guarding behaviour is to get into a conflict with your dog.  Not only could you get badly injured, but also the behaviour will get worse in the future.  If you were “successful” in thwarting your dog’s attempt to guard his valued resource, then you will see an escalation of his behaviour because his last attempt was not successful.  

Do not use punishment-based training techniques – period.  These methods involve forcing your dog to give in to you and/or stopping any behaviour they are displaying.  This is a dangerous path. Punishment results in your dog beginning to hide some of his earlier and subtler resource guarding behaviour.  A glance, freeze or growl may be eliminated in favor of a direct bite as he goes for more immediate success.  Positive trainers use the analogy “punishing the growl is like taking the batteries out of the smoke alarm” – there are no longer any early warning signs to heed.

Proactive Prevention of Resource Guarding Behaviour

You can begin the process of preventing resource guarding at any point with your dog.  If you have a new puppy or newly adopted dog, begin on day one.  (If you are already seeing resource guarding behaviour, please seek the help of an experienced positive trainer who uses force-free techniques before attempting any training on your own.)  

Trade vs. Take

I would get pretty darn irritated if every time somebody wanted something of mine, or wanted to sit where I’m sitting or lie where I’m lying that they simply took what they wanted or shoved me aside.

Trading for everything and taking nothing is a simple yet powerful concept and very easy to put into place.  You are essentially making your dog more comfortable about giving up things that are valuable to him.

If you want what your dog has, trade for it with something he would like just as much as what he has – ideally something that is even more valuable.  Present a raw bone – if he takes it into his mouth, then you can calmly pick up the kong.  

I encourage people to practice this a lot when it doesn’t really matter and when there is an enormous up side to the dog to make the trade.  If you practiced a lot by trading ridiculously valuable and tasty treats for toys and immediately giving the toy back – what dog isn’t going to happily go for that deal?  If your dog learns that more often than not he doesn’t lose anything permanently, in fact he gains something and gets to have back what was in his possession originally, he will start to become far happier about giving up his items.  

If you offer your dog a trade for what he has and it doesn’t work – he doesn’t happily drop what he has – then increase the value of the offer until he does.  If I offer my dogs a raw bone for their kong, they will often prefer to keep their kongs – because I’m really good at stuffing them!  I may have to offer 2 kongs to get 1 back, or I may have to offer a tasty slice of freshly cooked meat.  The point is that the dog gets to decide what constitutes a reasonable trade and what doesn’t.  Every dog puts a different value on things and it’s up to us to come up with something of matching or greater value.

When you are doing Trade vs. Take, don’t be sneaky about it – don’t offer your trade and quickly snatch away what he has while he investigates what’s up for grabs.  We need to know how he feels about the trade, otherwise future trades won’t be successful – he won’t trust your intentions.

Trading, of sorts, also works for sleeping locations.  If I want my dog to get off the couch, try calling him over and give him a very tasty treat when he complies.  If calling doesn’t work – he’s really comfy and the lure of a treat just isn’t important right now – then find a better treat or item and try again.  Yes, you are luring him off the couch in this case – but this is so much better than getting into conflict.  If you find that a lure (bribing) is needed, then the feedback to take away is that more Recall practice needs to be done.

Proactively, I always suggest that my clients try to curb any tendency to guard sleeping locations by tossing a tasty treat any time they pass by their dog sleeping or relaxing.  It’s not unusual for dogs to be a bit grumpy about being disturbed when they’re sleeping.  With enough repetitions and lots of really good treats, this simple act helps turn any potentially grumpy feelings into happy anticipation. 

The Training

In addition to helping your dog become more comfortable with giving up items or sleeping locations, training is a necessary addition to any plan for the prevention or management of resource guarding behaviour.

1. Teaching a “Drop-It” Cue

I have found no better method for teaching a solid “Drop-It” skill than the one presented by London trainer Chirag Patel and his training company Domesticated Manners.  He has done a very good video on YouTube giving you step-by-step directions to teach this cue.  (Search YouTube.com for Domesticated Manners and watch his video “Teaching Your Dog to ‘Drop’”.)  It’s brilliant in its simplicity and there are self-checks involved.  Whenever you see a lack of success, simply go back one step and do more repetitions before proceeding further.  I started this with my puppy, Jack, the first day we brought him home and after months of continuous work, there are very few things that he will not Drop on.   A well-trained “Drop It” skill helps you recover items you need to get back from your dog.  Because it’s taught using positive training, your dog is also very happy to comply – leaving absolutely no need for any bribing or conflict.

2. Teaching a “Leave It” Cue

“Leave It” is another valuable cue to have.  The one thing I don’t like about the “Leave It” is that people tend to rely on their presence to accomplish the goal vs. good training.  Having to use an angry or loud voice, intimidating body language or repeated cues means your training is not yet reliable – more practice is needed.

I use the “Leave It” cue for something that my dog does not yet have in his possession or, in the case of dogs approaching us, is still at a comfortable distance.  When my dog spots a dropped item or an approaching dog, “Leave It” results in my dog ignoring the item or dog and turning back toward me – for which he gets a lot of valuable treats and/or a quick game of tug.  If he’s off leash, he will come racing back to get his reinforcement.

The training starts with your dog being heavily reinforced for choosing eye contact and works up to choosing eye contact in exchange for an increasingly valuable array of items – ultimately off leash and at some distance away from you.  I have some video on my business Facebook page (In Partnership With Dogs) that teaches and demonstrates the process and the result of teaching “Leave It”.

3. Teaching a Solid Recall

Perhaps the most valuable cue of all is teaching your dog to “Come” when he’s called.  Aside from its obvious value in giving your dog off-leash freedom, imagine how useful it would be to be able to successfully have your dog Recall off the bed or the couch when necessary, or ignore that piece of dropped chicken on the floor in favor of racing back to you.  Many people have some version of a “Come” cue for their dogs, but few, it seems, work on it to the point where it is truly solid and likely to work most of the time.  There will always be that one exception that you just can’t easily train for that may pop up in the lifetime of your dog.  However, a lot of successful practice can easily make this cue a truly useful and reliable skill.  

What If There is an Emergency?

What if you really need to get that item away from your dog?  If your dog has something that is dangerous for him to have, then you need to do whatever you can to get it away from him.  You really need to do your best to ensure that even in an emergency the situation ultimately has a positive outcome for your dog.  Make a plan and be prepared.

If I had to drop an entire roast beef on the floor in order to save my dog from danger, I would do it in a heartbeat.  This is so much better than having to wrestle something from your dog – you may or may not be successful and you may very well do irreparable damage to your training and to your relationship with your dog.  

You need to find out what it is that your dog finds so overwhelmingly valuable that he just can’t resist it.  Find this item now, keep it on hand and use it very rarely to keep it’s value high.  

Use the highly prized item to trade for the dangerous one.  Take the added precaution of tossing the valuable item a distance from your dog, so he will be far away from what you need to get when he drops it to investigate.  In an emergency like this, you may very well need to be sneaky and quickly grab what you need while your dog is momentarily distracted.  Keep a second version of the prized item on hand in case he takes the dangerous item with him to investigate before dropping it to consume his roast.  Now, I don’t always have one or two cooked roasts on hand, but I always have leftovers of some kind, a block of cheese or meat in the freezer.  My dogs consider any sort of human protein pretty valuable even if it’s frozen and a whole ton of it dropped on the floor for them is mind blowing.

Sometimes a large handful of less valuable but quickly accessible treats tossed at a great distance away may be sufficient for your dog to drop what he has and race over to investigate.  However, if it’s not really valuable, it won’t likely work a second time.

Spend as much time training solid, useful skills as you can so emergencies just don’t happen or can be easily managed.

Some Additional NotesIMG_6086

  1. If you are seeing any signs of Resource Guarding in your dog or if you are unsure what you are seeing, please enlist the services of a professional, positive dog trainer who is experienced in this area.  Having an experienced trainer design a training plan, step you through it and be there for follow up is important and well worth the investment.  It’s not always obvious to the average dog owner when things are starting to turn around and skilled observations are necessary.  All (age-appropriate) members of the family need to be involved in the training and be coached by the trainer.  Dogs do not transfer these newly learned skills to another person easily – again, professional assistance is a must.
  1. The most critical part of any training plan is Management.  Again, an experienced professional’s advice is invaluable here.  If you have children living in your home, then management and experienced, professional advice is doubly important!
  1. You will likely find that sharing items with your dog rarely results in any resource guarding behaviour.  Many dogs are happy to chew on something that you are holding onto, join you on the couch when invited, or come over for a pat when you are already petting another dog.  This is simply a display of “when you have it, it’s yours” and is well understood by most dogs.
  1. If you have a new puppy, get to a positive reinforcement puppy class that actively practices the prevention of this behaviour.
  1. If you’re looking for a good book on the subject of Resource Guarding, check out “Mine!” by Jean Donaldson.

As always, keep it Positive, have fun with your dog and start your training now!  IMG_6087