On these hot summer days, a nice treat for your dog is to give them a homemade pup-sicle.  I learned about these at the Kootenay Scent Hounds nosework trial I attended in May.  I have since made them twice for my dogs and both times they were well enjoyed.  Loki (as always) finished hers much faster than I had hoped and Marley took about 3 times longer!

Pup-sicles are easy to make.  Here are the instructions if you would like to give them a try.


You need a margarine tub sized plastic container.  I used the 500 ml clear plastic deli containers.

Step 1:

Put some kibble, raw food, cooked food, hot dogs, fruit, peanut butter, cheese; whatever yummy stuff you have on hand into the containerP1050781 (800x600)

Step 2:

Cover the food with some water or better yet bone broth.P1050783 (800x600)

Step 3:

Put the containers in the freezer. P1050784 (800x600)

Step 4:

Once frozen, remove it from the freezer and add another layer of food and liquid. Put the container back into the freezer.  Repeat until the container is full.  I initially started with just two layers to try it out.P1050787 (800x600)

Step 5:

Take the pup-sicles out of the freezer,  wait a few minutes until they easily come out of the container and put the frozen treat into your dog’s food bowl and take the bowls outside.

Here are two short videos showing both of my dogs enjoying their frozen treat.

As always, supervise your dogs while they are eating their frozen treat.  Especially important if your dog tries to bring the unfinished treat inside to enjoy on your carpet or bed!

I have had great expectations for over five years now to start brushing Marley’s teeth and to be able to trim his toenails on a regular basis but my progress to-date has been minimal. Marley doesn’t like his mouth being touched and doesn’t like his paws being touched and still does not like having his toenails trimmed.  I have paired the experiences with more liver and canned tripe than I can count but he is still more likely to pull away than to allow me to continue.  After my sessions with Marley, I tend to feel a little deflated by the experience and my enthusiasm for working on the behaviours diminishes; a recipe for a great downward spiral of less practice and as a result even less success.

And then, two years ago, I made a huge mistake with Marley.

Marley needed to have his teeth cleaned.  It had been over 3 years since his last cleaning and I could tell there was a lot of tarter built up on his teeth.  I really didn’t want to have him put under anesthetic because he was approaching nine years of age and I remembered reading somewhere that being put under anesthetic could be dangerous.  While trying to decide what to do, I came across a brochure from someone who did anesthetic free dentistry.  To make a long story short, while his teeth got cleaned it came with a price.  One month later, I went to the vet with Marley for something else and Marley was terrified.  As a puppy, going to the vet was a non-issue.  As an adult, there was some increase in his stress but nothing a few really good treats couldn’t solve.  This time, he was terrified.  I felt sick and utterly heartbroken because I knew right away that the cause was the handling he experienced with the anesthetic free dentistry (I was asked to stay out of the room during the procedure to minimize his stress….that should have been my first clue!)

Even though I realized that Marley is now petrified of going to the vet, I am still having a hard time working through my lack of motivation to train some good husbandry skills and on reducing his stress when entering the vet’s office.  I have thought about why and recognized that I need three things:

1)      Some way to get reinforcement from Marley that what I was doing was working

2)      Some way to be accountable to someone so that I would keep training even if progress is slow

3)      Plans that I can work through so that I do not have to try to figure out what to train, in what order and how to train it.

Over the last two months, I have discovered two resources that I am excited about and that I think will help with the second and third items on my list:

1)      I learned about the Academy for Dog Trainers Husbandry Project and put my name forward to help test the next iteration of their plans.    “The Husbandry Project’s goals are to create, test, refine, and publish training plans to help all dogs feel comfortable and happy at the vet’s office, and with the common veterinary procedures carried out on conscious dogs. These training plans will be accompanied by all the information a dog owner needs to carry out the training: step-by-step instructional videos, troubleshooting information, work plans, and so on.”

2)      I was introduced to the Fear Free certification project.  Fear Free Pets – taking the pet out of petrified.  I have enrolled in the program and am looking forward to earning my certification and learning how to incorporate giving the animal choice into the handling experience.

As for the first item on my list (reinforcement from Marley), I hope that by following the pre-defined husbandry plans and working through the ‘Fear Free’ program that I will  start to see positive changes in Marley’s response to handling and a reduction in his stress when going to the vet.  As a dog owner and trainer, what better positive reinforcement could I receive from my dog than that?

Thanks for reading.

P.S.  I came across an excellent blog post written by Dr. Peter Dobias.   Check out his Complete guide to natural dental care for dogs .  I only wish he would have written it a few years earlier!!

2018-train-for-rewards-buttP.S.S. Thank you Zazie for hosting the #2018 Train4Rewards Blog Party.   Click the image for a chance to read lots of great ‘train for rewards’ blogs!

With Loki’s knee not progressing as well as I would have liked, Marley starting the spring with swollen front paws, and a soft tissue injury, I have been doing lots of research on canine conditioning, joints, supplements, liver detox and anything else that might be related to and helpful for the conditions that both my dogs are experiencing.

Marley turned 10 this year and initially I thought that perhaps arthritis was setting into his hind end (after X-rays, I am happy to say he is arthritis free…what a relief!).  I was also reading about the potential for arthritis that a dog with a torn ACL could experience.

I was sharing my tales of dog woe with my sister and she suggested that I check out bone broth.   Dog’s Naturally Magazine  is my go to resource for natural methods of healing and when I searched Bone Broth, they didn’t disappoint.  There were two good articles, ‘Bone Broth For Dogs? Here’s Why It’s A Great Idea!’   and ‘How to Make Bone Broth for Your Dog’   The benefits of bone broth are many but the two areas that caught my attention were the benefits for joints, and the liver detox properties (to help reduce the swelling in Marley’s paws).  The article stated:

“Bone broth is loaded with glycosaminoglycans and you might even be familiar with one of them: glucosamine. Not only does bone broth contain super amazing amounts of glucosamine, it’s also packed with other joint protecting compounds like chondroitin and hyaluronic acid.

Moreover, the glycosaminoglycans from bone broth are resistant to digestion and are absorbed in their intact form. According to Dr Shanahan, they act like hormones, stimulating cells called fibroblasts, which lay down collagen in the joints, tendons, ligaments, and even the arteries.”

Given the benefits and the ease of making bone broth, I went out and bought a crock pot and made my first batch.  The dogs loved it but I was missing one ingredient:  chicken feet!  Various internet articles indicated that chicken feet add a variety of health benefits to broth so I checked with our local supermarket to see if they could bring in a case of chicken feet for me.  Alas, chicken feet were not available for purchase.  Then I had a great idea!  My neighbour (as in directly across the road) raises chickens and butchers them for meat every fall.  I walked over and had a neighbourly chat and though he thought my request was a bit strange he was more than happy to give me the feet when he was done.  I now have 24 chicken feet washed and in the freezer ready to use each time I make broth for the dogs.

Here’s to healthy joints and happy dogs!

Thanks for reading.

One of Susan Garrett’s training mantras is ‘build the value’.  If you want your dog to value something such as enjoying going into their crate, you need to build value for that activity.  The question is how?  It is hard for people new to reward based training to realize the power in that enticing treat, that favourite toy or the permission to sniff that amazing fire hydrant.

Building value starts with the rewards we use.  Dry, tasteless food can build value for those highly food motivated dogs but for pickier eaters, stinky treats such as fresh chicken, garlic infused sausages, a frozen Kong stuffed with cheese and beef may be required!   How do you know what will work for your dog? The only way to know is to pay attention to your dog; observe what works and what doesn’t work in different situations.  The higher the value of the treat or toy to your dog, the greater the value that will transfer over to the behaviour you are rewarding.  If you can make the process of delivering that reward fun for your dog through play, jackpots, and games, you can increase that value even more.

What does this have to do with nosework?  I realized the true power of the above when I started training one of my dogs in canine nosework.  Let’s face it, why would a dog be remotely interested in tracking down a q-tip, stuffed in a straw, scented with some odour that no self respecting dog would bother with in the wild?  The initial method I learned for training nosework had many flaws one of which was to give my dog just one treat each time she found odour.  It didn’t take long before Loki started to find the whole process unrewarding.  Rather than bounding with joy into the search area she started avoiding the area.  I was frustrated because I thought this game was supposed to be fun??!!  What was I doing wrong??

Well, with a switch to the NACSW method of training, I started to use food and boxes to build value for searching.  In time, I added odour into the mix and rewarded each find with lots of treats; occasionally up to 15 seconds of feeding treats at source.  It didn’t take long for me to see the value for odour grow and Loki went from a dog who avoided the game to one who enjoys playing the search game with me.

Watch this video to see the difference it made for Loki and for I!

This experience has helped me to see the importance of building value for what we want our dogs to do.  High value rewards combined with fun delivery can make the difference between a dog who goes through the motions versus a dog who is actively engaged in the process.

For further reading on the role of rewards in your training, check out Eileen Anderson’s post ‘There is Hope: One Trainer’s Journey from Liverwurst to Kibble’ and Lori Chamberland’s article When Good Training Goes Badly: Troubleshooting Your Training’

Thanks for reading and happy training.


Train for Rewards Blog Party

I am so proud of Loki today.  We were walking along the lower Galena Trail this morning and just before getting back to the car, Marley found a nice deer bone.  I was about 10 feet away when I realized that Marley was lying on the ground chewing on the bone and Loki was standing politely behind him.  I called Loki, she came and we had a huge treat party.  We played ‘catch’ and ‘get yer treats’ for almost five minutes while Marley enjoyed his chew.  This made my day!!

Five years ago as we were leaving the shelter with our newly adopted dog, the shelter owner casually called out the Loki was a resource guarder.  Being an inexperienced dog owner I didn’t understand the importance of that statement.  Part way home, Mike and I stopped and picked up a treat for both dogs.  They were sitting side by side in the vehicle when we presented the treats.  Well Loki turned on Marley with a ferocious snarl.  After getting her home, it took one or two incidents of her pinning Marley to the ground for me to realize that I had a problem.  With help from Jeanne Shaw of Love2Play and doing some research on the internet, I was able to start a simple management program while I started the process of teaching Loki that when good things happen to Marley, good things happen to Loki.

I found a wide variety of excellent articles on the internet with the following three being the most helpful for me:

How to Prevent Resource Guarding in a Multiple-dog Household

How to React When Your Dog Begins Resource Guarding Against Other Dogs

Resource Guarding, Dog to Dog

Over time Loki learned impulse control and how to relax around Marley when food and toys were available.  As time went on, I could offer treats with both dogs sitting side by side, I could play with Marley and a toy while Loki waited her turn, and I could take a food bowl away from Loki without her curling her lip at me.

Today though, Loki gave me the greatest gift possible; a totally relaxed dog, politely waiting while Marley enjoyed an extremely high value outdoor treasure.

May is International Dog Bite Prevention Month.  Did you know that the majority of dog bites come from a friend’s dog or the family dog and that dogs never bite ‘out of the blue’?  Don’t be lulled into thinking that it won’t happen to your family.  Any dog can bite and anyone (even you or I) can be bitten.  To understand why, check out, ‘Do Dogs Bite Out of the Blue?’  http://www.dogsandbabieslearning.com/2010/03/27/do-dogs-bite-out-of-the-blue/

Your dog will tell you when they are feeling worried, frightened, or stressed; we just don’t know how to recognize and read the message.  Dogs communicate with their body language.  It is a rich and nuanced language that we will never be able to fully grasp being the verbal communicators that we are but there are some aspects that are easy for us to observe.  Below are a few resources that are well worth checking out (even if you don’t have kids!).

If you have children or grandchildren and a dog, the following video gives an excellent portrayal of what we consider happy childhood experiences with our dog but did you ever wonder what your dog might have been feeling?  Watch ‘Stop the 77’ to gain a new perspective.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABDrhNBwdpk

The ‘Stop the 77’ website provides a wealth of information to help you keep both your children and your dog safe. http://stopthe77.com/  Scroll down and print out the poster ‘Stay Safe around the Dogs you Know’ and watch the fun videos they posted.

On facebook, like ‘Proud of My Dog – dog training’.  Throughout the month of May, I will be posting other resources on how to have fun and stay safe around dogs.

Thanks for reading.

I’m Proud of My Dog

…..well maybe not right now because he won’t come when called, and yesterday he jumped up on my best friend with his muddy paws (I was so embarrassed), and ….

What would it be like to have the ideal dog; the dog of your dreams, to go anywhere with your dog, to be amazed at what your dog can do and to have people rave about how well behaved your dog is.

This may not seem like a reality yet but we offer a variety of group classes and in-home training programs designed to give you the absolute best training experience for your dog.

Serving the North Slocan Valley, Nakusp, Kaslo and the Village of Slocan. Located in the West Kootenays, BC.

 Contact us to learn more