Crate Training Your Puppy

You’re standing in the pet store and there they are row after row of crates, just big enough for a dog. They’re made of fiberglass or plastic or just plain open wire. For all their differences, they evoke just one thought: Jail.

Not so fast. Despite their appearance, crates can be a boon for a puppy – a home-away-from-home or a comfortable retreat for when the rest of the family gets to be too much. Also, crates are great tools for housetraining because dogs don’t like to soil their immediate environment. In addition, for car travel, inside a crate is probably the safest place for a puppy to ride, and, for pups that have to fly cargo, crates provide a touch of the familiar on the plane.

Making Pups Comfortable With the Crate

First, make sure you don’t isolate your pup when he’s in his crate. Buy two crates, and put one in your bedroom – so he can sleep beside you at night – and the other in a busier part of the house for daytime use. Line the crate with a soft blanket, put in some small treats, and then show the puppy how to get in.

Once your puppy has figured out how to go in and out of his crate, and has satisfied his curiosity about it, use a cue word – such as “kennel,” as he moves toward the crate, and hand him a treat as soon as he enters. Repeat this several times at random intervals until he goes in when he’s told to. At this point, you can shut the door for short periods, without making a big fuss about it. In fact, it’s best to ignore your pup while opening or shutting the door.

Once your puppy is willing to rest in the crate, start confining him for varying periods of time, and at different times of the day, while you’re at home. The more random and persistent you are, the less the dog will worry when you do have to leave the house. With this kind of routine, your puppy will learn to rest while crated, and that’s exactly the way you want him to feel – at home, relaxed and comfortable in his own little den.

Learning to Love the Lockup

Occasionally you may want your pup to be in his crate when he wants to be out. Don’t try to fool him, by calling him to you and then forcing him into the crate. Instead, use a command like: “Go to your crate,” and lure him in with a little food. Hand over the treat as soon as he settles down inside the crate, and praise him and keep feeding him while he’s inside. The minute he ventures out, turn off the food supply – and the charm.

Put a few pieces of kibble in the crate so the pup will develop the habit of going into the crate by himself, earning more praise and even more treats. Sooner or later, he’ll learn that he gets lots of attention, affection and goodies inside the crate – and very little in the way of treats outside the crate.

By the way, never put your pup in his crate for misbehavior “time-outs”/punishment. Using a crate in this way will render it aversive and therefore less useful as a behavioral management tool.

The Crate and House-training

To confine an untrained dog for a long time is to court disaster. If the pup is forced to soil in his crate, the crate will no longer inhibit his elimination there and will be of no help when you wish to employ it for house training.

Basically, house-training a dog is solving a spatial problem: You want to teach the dog to eliminate only in one place – outdoors. During the training period, it’s up to you to set limits. For example, if you don’t allow your pup free access to the living room and bedrooms, he can’t make a mess on the carpets there.

Because most puppies can’t control their urine and feces for extended periods, the most important part of any house-training program is setting up and sticking with a schedule that your puppy can maintain. Feed him at consistent times of the day and watch his natural schedule: Puppies usually need to eliminate shortly after waking up, after eating, and after playing. Young puppies may need to urinate every four hours.

When your pup eliminates in a designated area, praise and reward him immediately and play with him. People usually reward their pup for urinating outside only after they have brought him back indoors: This is a mistake because it rewards the pup for coming inside, not for eliminating outside. Instead, keep a few treats in your pocket and hand them out on the spot.

If your pup repeatedly messes inside his crate, take him to your vet to rule out medical problems, such as intestinal parasites and urinary-tract diseases.

If you need to be away from home for a few hours, hire a dog walker to take the puppy out, or enclose your pup in a large pen to provide him with an opportunity to eliminate away from his resting spot. Leave newspaper or training pads down in one area when you are gone – but pick them up once when you’re home.

Punishment after the fact doesn’t work. If an “accident” happens, clean it up with a good enzymatic cleaner and blame yourself: You’re the one who wasn’t supervising the pup at the time the “accident” occurred. If you catch your dog in the act of eliminating indoors, make a loud noise to distract him, and then take him outside right away.

Dogs with separation anxiety will often urinate, defecate, or bark when confined. In fact, some dogs become so anxious when confined that they destroy their crates and hurt themselves in the process. These dogs may do better when confined in a larger area, but if the problem still persists, see your vet or check with a veterinary behaviorist.

Picking a Crate

Crates come in different styles and sizes. Prices range from about $75 to $175. A comfortable crate should be about twice the size of your pup. The most common types are the pressed fiberglass models favored by airlines and the open-wire cages that are available at most pet stores. Fiberglass kennels are the most sturdy and the safest for traveling in a car or airplane.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372


A Warning to Pet Owners About the Dangers of Secondhand Smoke

Most people are aware that since the early 1960s, cigarette smoking has been known to cause lung cancer, emphysema and heart disease in humans. More recently, exposure to environmental tobacco smoke, also known as secondhand smoke, has been linked to an ever-lengthening list of diseases in children, such as sudden infant death syndrome, asthma and ear infections. As a veterinary oncologist, I can tell you that secondhand smoke contains more than 40 mutagens (substances that damage your DNA) and carcinogens (substances that cause cancer), which lead to a variety of chronic and often incurable diseases in humans. Nicotine, tar and carbon monoxide are just some of the carcinogens found in cigarette smoke. Sadly, those suffering from diseases incited by passive tobacco smoke exposure are innocent victims of a smoker’s choice to engage in a high-risk and addictive behavior. This risk isn’t limited to human family members who share a home with a smoker: It extends to our pets as well.

Not only do pets share our homes and breathe the same air as we do, but their grooming behavior and somewhat more homebody-like lifestyles may increase the intensity and duration of their exposure to smoke compared to that of the humans in the household.

Pets Breathe What We Breathe

If you have ever bought a life insurance policy, you know that many insurance companies often require a physical examination and that that examination frequently includes obtaining a urine sample. One thing insurance companies look for in that sample is cotinine, a metabolite that is an indicator of the presence of nicotine in the body. If the level of this substance is high, the insurance company knows you are a smoker or are exposed to significant secondhand smoke. As a result, you will likely be charged higher rates for your policy. Inhaled nicotine, whether by direct smoking or through secondhand smoke, metabolizes similarly in humans, cats and dogs. Just as in humans, cotinine can readily be detected in the urine of both dogs and cats exposed to secondhand smoke. As a result, we know that small dogs who spend a good deal of time in the laps of their smoking owners may have cotinine levels equivalent to that of the smokers themselves.

Nicotine can also be detected in and on hair. A group of veterinarians in England studied the nicotine content on and in the hair of dogs with various levels of tobacco smoke exposure. Nicotine levels in the dogs routinely exposed to secondhand smoke were found to be similar to those of humans routinely exposed to secondhand smoke. Not only do dogs and cats inhale our cigarette smoke, but they also receive a double dose of nicotine when they clean their fur, ingesting nicotine that is on and in the hair. Additionally, pets live lower to the ground than we do and are exposed to smoke residue that has settled out of the environment and adhered to carpets, upholstery and bedding as they sleep in various spots in the house over the course of a day.

Secondhand Smoke and Dogs

Dogs suffer from smoking-related illnesses similar to humans, like cancer and lung disease. Using sophisticated methods of measuring lung function, researchers have identified ways that secondhand smoke can constrict airways and possibly increase the production of mucous in dogs. Exposure to secondhand smoke can also have other negative effects on canine respiratory function. For example, biopsies taken from the windpipes of dogs with confirmed secondhand smoke exposure show a buildup of carbon deposits. Accumulation of carbon is exactly what is seen in smokers’ lungs and part of what leads to the development of lung cancer in smokers. The presence of carbon deposits is just another bit of proof that your smoking is affecting your dog’s health.

Exposure to tobacco smoke also contributes to an increased risk of disease in dogs. For example, the risk of developing nasal cancer increases when dogs are exposed to secondhand smoke. Allergies and scratching are two of the most common reasons veterinary dermatologists treat dogs, but did you know that a dog’s risk of developing allergic skin disease also increases with his exposure to environmental smoke? Scientists have also found that dogs with the most common form of canine heart disease, a thickening of the mitral valve, and who are also exposed to secondhand smoke suffer higher levels of damage to heart blood vessels. This damage can exacerbate the underlying condition.

Finally, the interest in the effects of environmental smoke exposure in dogs is international, and researchers have learned that some of the effects occur at the level of your dog’s DNA. Colombian and Japanese veterinarians identified a variety of changes in DNA from dogs exposed to secondhand smoke. They found that the changes in the DNA are similar to those in humans and that they are associated with smoking-induced lung disease and emphysema, as well as cancer.

Secondhand Smoke and Cats

Although we know less about the effects of secondhand smoke, or environmental tobacco exposure, in cats, what we do know is concerning.

Lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system) is the most common tumor in pet cats, and exposure to secondhand smoke appears to increase the risk of a cat developing this disease. In studies, cats with the highest levels of exposure to environmental smoke have been shown to have corresponding increases in the risk of developing lymphoma.

Oral cancer is one of the common human malignancies resulting from tobacco use. Sadly, years of exposure to environmental smoke has been linked to an increased risk of oral squamous cell carcinoma in cats belonging to smokers as well. Oral tumor biopsies from cats with greater than five years of exposure to environmental smoke demonstrated the presence of a gene mutation commonly associated with the carcinogenic effects of smoking in humans.

Protect Your Pet From the Puff

Cancer, respiratory disease and heart disease. The list of pet maladies caused by exposure to secondhand smoke sounds a bit like those antismoking commercials showing people suffering from the horrific consequences of smoking. As a veterinary oncologist concerned about the health and well-being not only of my patients but of my clients as well, please consider this evidence and think about what you can do to reduce your pet’s exposure to environmental tobacco.

For example, if you are struggling with quitting, at least take some steps now to minimize the presence of secondhand smoke in your pet’s environment. Steam clean your carpets, curtains and upholstery to remove accumulated smoke from your home. Bathe your pet to remove any residue from her fur. Once you’ve cleaned everything and everyone, smoke outdoors away from your pet to prevent the re-accumulation of smoke on your pet and in your home. Especially remember not to smoke while cuddling your pet in your lap or while driving with your pet in the car. The good news is that we know if you stop smoking, the damage from cigarettes abates with time, so let’s hope decreasing your pet’s exposure to secondhand smoke does the same. But better yet, use the compelling scientific information that I have shared with you here to quit smoking for good and protect the health of your beloved pet — and your own as well.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372

7 Signs of Submissive Dog Behavior

Lying Belly Up or Rolling Over

For dogs, rolling over and showing the belly are signs of utter submission and appeasement. But this behavior isn’t necessarily an invitation for a belly rub. Some dogs love belly rubs and will happily soak up the attention. Others may feel threatened by someone standing over them while they’re in such a vulnerable position. In the wild, our canines’ wolf ancestors would roll over and expose their bellies to show deference to more dominant wolves and to avoid confrontation. So if a dog growls or snarls when approached while she’s on her back, she’s saying, “Give me space,” not, “Come rub my belly.”

Peeing When Greeting

When a dog tucks her tail, avoids eye contact and piddles at your feet when you walk through the door, she’s showing signs of submissive urination. She may even roll onto her back and tinkle. It’s her way of showing you that she’s not a threat and surrenders to your authority. Puppies often outgrow this behavior, but if your adult dog is still piddling at your feet (or your puppy does it frequently), take her to the vet to rule out any medical conditions. Once you have a good health report from your vet, try taking her outside immediately upon coming home (either in the yard or on leash) with minimal attention.

Lying Belly Up or Rolling Over

For dogs, rolling over and showing the belly are signs of utter submission and appeasement. But this behavior isn’t necessarily an invitation for a belly rub. Some dogs love belly rubs and will happily soak up the attention. Others may feel threatened by someone standing over them while they’re in such a vulnerable position. In the wild, our canines’ wolf ancestors would roll over and expose their bellies to show deference to more dominant wolves and to avoid confrontation. So if a dog growls or snarls when approached while she’s on her back, she’s saying, “Give me space,” not, “Come rub my belly.”

Peeing When Greeting

When a dog tucks her tail, avoids eye contact and piddles at your feet when you walk through the door, she’s showing signs of submissive urination. She may even roll onto her back and tinkle. It’s her way of showing you that she’s not a threat and surrenders to your authority. Puppies often outgrow this behavior, but if your adult dog is still piddling at your feet (or your puppy does it frequently), take her to the vet to rule out any medical conditions. Once you have a good health report from your vet, try taking her outside immediately upon coming home (either in the yard or on leash) with minimal attention.

Moving Ears Backward or Flattening Ears Against the Head

When a dog is relaxed, her ears are usually upright and erect. Although it’s important to understand that the position of her ears should be noted within the context of the rest of her body language, because upright and erect ears can also indicate that she’s alert and attentive. And all dogs are different — some dogs move their ears to the side when they’re relaxed. If she’s submissive, stressed or fearful, she may move her ears back so they lie close to or flat against her head. If you have a floppy-eared dog like a Cavalier or Cocker Spaniel, it can be harder to tell if her ears are flattened. For those breeds, you should look at the base of the ears rather than the ear itself.

Grinning Submissively

When a dog greets guests at the door with a big, toothy smile, she may be displaying a submissive grin, which is her way of letting visitors know that she’s not a threat. She may also have a lower posture, lowered tail, lick her lips and look away. A submissive grin is usually a friendly gesture, so if a dog approaches you while exhibiting this behavior, it’s usually an invitation to interact. But this toothy grin should not be confused with a snarl. In general, when a dog snarls, she lifts her lips vertically and wrinkles her nose to show you her canine teeth. Plus, her posture and facial expression may stiffen. Never approach a snarling dog.

Tucked-In Tail or Wagging Tail Low and Fast

A dog holding her tail down low is usually showing signs of submission. The more anxious or submissive the dog, the more tightly she’ll probably tuck her tail close to her body. And contrary to popular belief, a wagging tail doesn’t always mean your dog is happy and excited. If she’s wagging it quickly and holding it low, it could indicate she’s anxious or trying to appease you. Even aggressive dogs sometimes wag their tails, so this behavior (and most others, for that matter) should be interpreted along with the dog’s other signals and postures.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372




Our canine friends tend to drink almost anything if they get thirsty. They do not care whether what they drink is good for them or not. But there are several fluids which might not be safe for dogs to consume. Here are 4 liquids that dogs cannot and should not drink.

1. Milk

This upsets your dog’s stomach and causes diarrhea. It is therefore a bad practice to make milk the primary fluid for your dog. However, a cup every now and then will not harm your dog.

2. Gatorade

While drinks with vitamins and supplements are very good for human beings, they can harm your dog’s health. Dogs’ system can take a given amount of specific vitamins and minerals which naturally occur in food and water.

Giving your dog gatorade means adding large amounts of sugar to its system which can negatively impact your dog’s health. The food additives and artificial coloring can cause urinary tract problems.

3. Pool Water

It is a habit for dogs to lick collected water if they are thirsty, even from swimming pools. However, pool water contains high amounts of chlorine. By intaking large amounts of chlorine water, your dog will definitely intake more than just chlorine.

Apart from chlorine, there might be algae, bacteria and other harmful substances. This makes pool water extremely dangerous for your dog and your dog’s health.

4. Ponds And Puddles

Water from ponds and puddles is toxic to your dog. This is because it contains parasites, bacteria and viruses that form and grow since the water is still.

If your dog drinks water from a pond or puddle, a pathogen infection might result because they thrive in the fungi and mold present in these waters. These can have a heavy toll on your dog’s digestive system and only a vet can help.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372

All Dogs Are at Risk in the Hot Months for Dog Heat Stroke


All Dogs Are at Risk in the Hot Months for Dog Heat Stroke – Don’t Let Yours Be a Summer Casualty

Here in Southern California, we have a dreaded phenomenon known as the Santa Anas, when the normal wind pattern reverses and instead of a nice coastal offshore breeze, we get blistering dry winds pouring in from the desert.

Most of us understand that this affects how we go about our day, and the intrepid make the necessary adjustments so they can continue their normal activities without problems. Unfortunately, there are a number of people who still fall short in the common sense department.

I took my dog Brody for a hike yesterday, starting early because I knew the day was going to hit 80 degrees before noon. When we parked I saw a huge sign out front with a heat warning and a message for people to be sure to bring enough water for themselves as well as their pets. The park ranger told me it’s not uncommon for them to see at least several dogs a year die of heat stroke on the trails, which are remote enough where there is no easy access out other than the way you came in. And it’s tragic because it’s so preventable.

Fortunately, the signs seem to be helping. On this hot day I saw plenty of dogs and people carrying lots of water. We stop at least every 30 minutes to let Brody drink, and he plops himself face first into the bowl with glee. We also picked a trail that curves around a lake, so halfway through he was able to take a dip and then enjoy the cooling evaporation process on the hike back.

Because dogs don’t have sweat glands the way humans do, they are limited to panting as their major cooling effort. (They do have some sweat glands in their paws, though they are not the principal mechanism for cooling.) This, coupled with the insulation effect of their fur, means they are prime candidates for heat exhaustion, particularly if they haven’t been building up to longer walks—which is why the weekend warriors are the ones who so frequently run into trouble.

Everyone should know the signs of heat exhaustion and impending dog heat stroke symptoms: sluggishness, very heavy panting, bright red gums, hypersalivation (which can progress to the opposite: dry tacky gums), vomiting or diarrhea, and collapse. In the later stages, death can occur rapidly if not treated in an ER.

Certain dogs are especially prone to heat stroke: overweight pets, brachycephalic (flat faced) breeds like pugs and bulldogs, and dogs with dark coats. If you have any suspicion that your dog is showing early signs of heat exhaustion, stop, spray your pet with cool water (NOT ice!), and call an ER for guidance.

Of course, the best solution is to prevent it from happening in the first place by being aware of the risks. Avoid walks during the hottest periods of the day, acclimate your pet to longer walks, and make sure you take plenty of water breaks. And for goodness sake, don’t leave your pet in the car on a hot day. But you knew that one, right?

As we head into the hot months, remember with a little planning there’s no reason you can’t enjoy the great outdoors. Have fun and stay safe                   by Dr. Jessica Vogelsang

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372

New Version of Dog Flu, Canine Influenza, Now Infecting Cats

The “new” version of dog flu (H3N2) that began as a 2015 outbreak in the Chicago area is back in the news.

The latest surveillance data available through Cornell University shows that positive test results have been identified in dogs from 29 states. But even more interesting is the recent report from the University of Wisconsin’s School of Veterinary Medicine revealing that a group of cats housed in a Northwest Indiana shelter have tested positive for the H3N2 canine influenza virus.

According to Sandra Newbury, Clinical Assistant Professor and Director of the Shelter Medicine Program at University of Wisconsin:

“Suspicions of an outbreak in the cats were initially raised when a group of them displayed unusual signs of respiratory disease,” Newbury says. “While this first confirmed report of multiple cats testing positive for canine influenza in the U.S. shows the virus can affect cats, we hope that infections and illness in felines will continue to be quite rare.”

We already knew that feline infections were possible because South Korea cats were infected with this version of the virus when it was first identified, and one cat did test positive for the disease in the United States last year, but now the University of Wisconsin reports that it “appears the virus can replicate and spread from cat to cat.”

“Sequential sampling of these individual cats have shown repeated positives and an increase in viral loads over time,” Kathy Toohey-Kurth, virology section head at the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory says. Eight cats tested positive on consecutive tests. More had similar clinical signs but “recovered quickly before testing and tested negative.”

Dogs in the shelter did have H3N2 canine influenza when the feline infections were diagnosed, but the cats were housed in a separate part of the facility and the “cat areas were cleaned prior to cleaning the dog areas.” This just goes to show how contagious this particular flu virus can be.

Symptoms in infected cats have been similar to those seen in dogs and include “runny nose, congestion, and general malaise, as well as lip smacking and excessive salivation. Symptoms have resolved quickly and so far the virus has not been fatal in cats.”

I find this development fascinating because it goes to show how things change in the flu arena. Just a couple of months ago I was telling cat owners that it didn’t look like they had anything to worry about when it came to canine H3N2 flu. There is certainly still no reason to panic, but if your cat does develop symptoms consistent with the flu, a trip to the veterinarian is called for, particularly if the cat has been in a shelter setting or around flu-infected dogs.

We simply don’t know whether this outbreak in cats will turn out to be an isolated event or a harbinger of things to come. Only time will tell.                   by Dr. Jennifer Coates

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372

Hypoallergenic Cats That Shouldn’t Make You Sneeze

Looking for a cool cat that won’t inflame your allergies? Take a look at these five amazing mostly hypoallergenic breeds.

Even if you suffer from dander allergies, fear not! You can still be a proud cat owner. Although no cat is totally hypoallergenic, these felines shouldn’t have you sneezing up a storm or wiping away tears from itchy, watery eyes.


Balinese-Javanese are known for their beautiful, flowing fur. They have a soft, silky, coat, which adheres to their slender bodies and cuts down on shedding. The lack of an undercoat also reduces the likelihood of matting. These longhaired cats’ elegant looks are capped off by a luxurious, long, plumed tail. Adding a Balinese-Javanese to your family will make you a proud cat owner for years to come, since this healthy, robust breed can live up to 20 years!

Cornish Rex

In addition to their bat ears and big oval eyes, Cornish Rexes have a soft, short, wavy coat, the most striking feature of the breed. This considerably hypoallergenic cat breed sheds very little with curls beginning at their eyebrows and extending all over their body. However, don’t be fooled by the breed’s elegant, dainty appearance. Their athletic bodies help them climb, leap, and sprint to amazing heights, fueling the kitten-like antics that last throughout their life span.

Devon Rex

With impish looks and a playful personality, the Devon Rex is known as the pixie of the cat world. Their thin, curly coat doesn’t shed much, making the Devon Rex a low-maintenance breed. Their fur is warm to the touch and feels like soft suede, so the Devon Rex makes an ideal lap cat. Outgoing and friendly, these cats are social butterflies. Devon Rexes are delightful and silly in their antics, serving as a constant source of entertainment.


Radiating a majestic appearance, the Siberian is a robust, substantial cat with a rounded, contoured body and clown-like personality. The Siberian is slow to mature, taking up to five years to fully develop. In the winter, their thick, water-repellant, multiple-layered coat protects them from the cold, but in the summer, Siberians shed down to a shorter, sparser coat.


Known as the wrinkly, hairless cat, Sphynx have warm, leather-like skin covered by a fine down that feels like peach fuzz. Weekly sponge baths rid their loose skin of excess oil and keep their minimal dander at bay, making the breed well-accepted by allergy sufferers. Because Sphynx don’t have a coat to keep them warm, they tend to cozy up on your lap or snuggle with you under the covers, hence earning them the nickname “Velcro lap cats.”

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372

12 General Dog Training Tips

 Dog Obedience Training

1. Training should be an enjoyable experience for you and your dog. If you are not in the right mood for training, don’t even start. Keep training sessions short, on the order of 5-10 minutes, to maintain your dog’s motivation.

If your dog doesn’t respond appropriately to a command after several attempts, don’t reward him. Resume training a few seconds later using a simpler command. Return to the more complex task later.

Always end training on a positive note. Ask your dog to respond to a command you know he will obey. Then reward him for a job well done and issue a finish command such as “free” or “release.” Avoid common words such as “okay.” Following a training session, both owner and dog should be left with a feeling of accomplishment.

2. Every dog should be familiar with the basic obedience commands, includingcome, heel, sit, down and stay. Teaching your dog to sit-stay and down-stay off leash is also a valuable lesson. Additional commands that are useful include: leave it, give it, stop it, and enough or cease.

Keep in mind that a dog’s motivation to respond to a command decreases as the complexity of the task increases. The odds of success, hinge not only on the degree of sophistication of the task but also your dog’s motivation to respond. From a dog’s perspective the question is, which is more rewarding, chasing the squirrel or returning to the owner? Understanding this aspect will increase your patience and chances for success.

3. Training should not involve any negative or punishment-based components. There should be no yelling, no hitting, no chain jerking, no hanging, and absolutely no electric shock. Each session should be upbeat and positive with rewards for jobs well done.

Remember that the opposite of reward is not punishment; it is no reward. If you ignore unacceptable responses, your dog will not be rewarded for his failed response. Most dogs want to please their owners or, at the very least, to obtain highly valued resources (food, attention and toys).

4. Ensure that your dog’s motivation for reward is highest during a training session. If food is the reward, train before a meal, not after. If praise, petting and other aspects of your attention are to be used as a reward, schedule the training session at a time when your dog hungers for your attention (for example, after you have returned from work).

For complex tasks, such as the off leash down-stay, your dog will be more motivated to comply if he has received moderate exercise before the training session. Asking a dog that is bursting with energy to remain in a prolonged reclining position is asking for failure during the early stages of training.

5. Make sure the reward you offer in training is the most powerful one for your dog. Food-motivated dogs work well for food, but the treats used should be favorite foods for the dog, such as small pieces of cheese or freeze-dried liver. You want your dog to be strongly motivated to obey commands to receive the treat.

Food treats, if used, should be small – no bigger than the size of your little fingernail. The texture of the treat should be such that it does not require chewing and should not crumble, otherwise you will lose your dog’s attention as he Hoovers up the crumbs. Large treats, like Milk Bones®, take too long to eat, causing the dog to lose attention.

If praise is used as a reward, deliver it in high singsong tones, which are most pleasing for the dog. Also, enthusiasm in your voice will be much appreciated. If petting is to be used as a reward, it should be in a way that the dog enjoys, such as stroking the dog’s hair on the side of his face in the same direction that it grows, or scratching him on the chest. Note: Petting on top of the head is not appreciated by most dogs.

6. Timing of the reward is important. After a correct response, reward your dog within ½ second of the command to ensure that your dog makes the connection between his behavior and the reward.

7. Use short commands such as sit, down, leave it, quiet, out, and off. Say the word once. Do not repeat the command. Dogs will remember a command for about two minutes before the notion is lost. Shorter words are better than longer words and words that end in a hard consonant (C, K, T, X) are better than those that end in a vowel because you can “spit” them out.

The only command that should have three sounds associated with it is come. In this case, you first have to attract the dog’s attention by saying his name, ROVER, then COME (the actual command word) and GOOD BOY, even before the dog comes so that he knows he is not in trouble. Make sure your tone is crisp and cheerful.

8. Put your dog on a leash and attract his attention so he looks directly at you and you at him (“Watch-me”). Then issue an action word, SIT. A poorly trained dog might slowly get into the sitting position, at which point you reward him IMMEDIATELY with praise, GOOD BOY, ROVER, (remember the high tones and heartfelt deliverance) and at the same time as you immediately produce the reward.

An untrained dog will have to be assisted into the sitting position by moving a food treat over and above his head so that he has to sit to reach it. Successful accomplishment of the task is meets with warm praise and the food treat. In some cases, placement techniques (tension on collar, downward pressure on the rump) may have to be used.

9. Once you have a dog performing the desired response greater than 85 percent of the time in a quiet undisturbed environment, you can move onto the next stage; starting to shape the behavior toward the ideal response. You might begin by rewarding a progressively faster SIT, that is, rewarding the dog for sitting in 3 seconds, later in 2 seconds, and ultimately in 1 second, or immediately.

Decide before you give the command what you are going to reward. You can also start to reward longer and more definite SITS so the dog has to do more than just touch his rear end on the ground to receive reward. Withhold the foodtreat until the dog is sitting properly and then gradually introduce a time delay before the reward is given.

10. Gradually increase the length of time the dog must remain in a SIT-STAYuntil he can remain relaxed in this position for one minute while the owner is at a distance of 5 feet. Continue to increase the time and distance the dog is asked to remain in a SIT-STAY after the dog has been successful at the previous level for 5-10 trials.

For very long SITS, the reward should be given intermittently throughout the SIT, at least during training. The owner should teach a key phrase such as EASY or STEADY to teach the dog to associate relaxation with the exercise. It also is helpful to have a release command, such as FREE or RELEASE, which tells the dog when he has been obeying for the desired period of time.

11. Vary the commands during an individual training session – keep the training sessions short and frequent. Dogs will learn much more from regular short sessions than from longer, less frequent ones. Once the dog has learned several useful commands on the continuous reward schedule, that is, the dog is rewarded for each successful performance of the behavior, the schedule should be changed to one of intermittent reward.

Initially, the dog may be rewarded two times out of three, then every other third time, and so on until rewards are only supplied occasionally. This is the way to wean a dog off food treats and is the cure for a dog that “will only work for food.” Remember, however, it is always important to praise your dog immediately if he has performed a command properly, whether or not any other reward will be forthcoming.

12. Once training has been accomplished in a quiet area, you can gradually begin to work in environments with more distractions, continuing the training in the yard, on leash, progressively lengthening the leash between you and the dog and finally dropping it, so the dog is now obeying without you at the other end of the lead. It may be helpful to continue this training in relatively busy environments, so that you can maintain control even in distracting situations. The Holy Grail of training is to have the dog reliably obeying commands off lead, even when other things are going on around him. This level of training can be achieved but only after a lot of hard work and investment of time. It’s something to strive toward.

And remember, regarding training, “Art and science aren’t enough; Patience is the basic stuff.” (Konrad Lorenz).

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372

Canine Training and Behavior

For centuries, dogs have been valued for their roles of alarm-sounder and guardian, as well as for their hunting and herding skills. But owners do view all behaviors that their dogs engage as desirable. Sometimes dogs are aggressive, or urinate or defecate in inappropriate places; and sometimes they bark when it is not called for or steal things from the countertops. Long before the days of behavioral psychology, dog owners intuitively knew that rewarding a desired behavior and punishing an unwanted one would eventually encourage a dog to conform more closely to its owner’s wishes and expectations. Those simple tenets now constitute the basic premise underlying any form of dog training.

Canine Training: Trainers and Their Methods

Some people seem to possess a natural affinity for training. Perhaps because of some innate gift of timing (of reward and punishment), perhaps through tone of voice or body language, or perhaps through some uncanny ability to know what the dog is thinking, these individuals can train a dog faster and better than most regular mortals. Trainers, whose unique abilities transcend species, are themselves a breed apart.

There are two completely different schools of thought for training dogs. One is referred to as “gentlemen’s training” and the other as “ladies training”; both are “canine training”.

In the past, for gentlemen wishing to train sporting dogs, the approach was more physical and coercive, entailing a significant amount of correction (punishment) for commands not followed. Punishment, though interspersed with praise, was nevertheless instrumental in the technique.

Ladies training, however, presumably for lap dogs and other purely companion dogs, entailed none of such brutish behavior and was based almost exclusively on what is now known as positive reinforcement (that is, reward-based training).

The Evolution of Training Techniques

During World War II, with the need to train service dogs a high priority, the U.S. Army co-opted military-style trainers (of the coercive variety) to train the dogs of war. The training used, while effective, was not for the faint-hearted and caused irreparable damage to some of the dogs. Postwar, these trainers became dispersed among the community, teaching owners to train their dogs using the only methods they knew, as they schooled another generation of same-style trainers. Though softened for the general public, coercive training, based upon dominating the dog physically by means of timely jerks or “corrections” applied to the dog’s collar, became accepted as “the norm” of dog training for the next 40 years or so.

While all this was going on “ladies training” was slowly simmering on the back burner, employed by only very few trainers. In fact, this reward-based or “positive” training was slandered by choke chain aficionados who failed to appreciate reward-based training as anything other than a starting step. Referring to positive training as food training (which it largely was), conventional trainers dismissed its effectiveness, saying that dogs so trained would only respond while the owner was offering food.

This is untrue, but the mantra became widely accepted and training dogs with food treats and other rewards was largely restricted to the training of very young puppies. Positive training methods never really did take off until “Click & Treat Training” found its way onto the scene.

Click & Treat Training

Click-and-treat training is not new. Discovered many years ago by psychologists, Breland and Breland, “clicker training” faded into obscurity for the best part of a century before being rediscovered by dolphin trainers who, for underwater acoustic reasons, often used a whistle rather than a clicker. As anyone who has been to a dolphin show will know, the tasks that dolphins perform during shows are complex, and they are executed with a high degree of accuracy. Look around the next time you go to such a show and you will not see a choke chain in sight.

That a task has been completed successfully is signaled by means of a whistle, (“secondary reinforcer”) and then the real reward, a piece of fish, can be delivered a short while later. The dolphin knows from the sound of the whistle that it has performed the task correctly and will return to the trainer to receive his reward.

Click and treat training radiated from dolphins to zoo animals and finally, through the work of a handful of pioneer trainers, to dogs. The reinvention of clicker training has revolutionized current dog training methods and is the training technique of choice for many dog trainers and dog training associations today. The beauty of clicker training is that it is fun for both the owner and the dog, and is eminently acceptable to owners.

To make positive reinforcement techniques, including clicker training, more reliably effective, neither the click nor the real reward is necessary every time the dog succeeds. Rather these rewards can eventually be supplied on an intermittent basis, which makes the dog will work even harder to earn the reward.

While the struggle for supremacy between coercive trainers and “total positive” (reward-based) trainers continues, with the latter group slowly gaining momentum, a separate controversy has emerged. That of trainingversus clinical behaviorism.

Training involves training a dog to respond to audible commands and hand signals. It is, for a dog, like going to school to learn language, in this case, English as a second language, and obedience. Behaviorism, however, is based on fundamental psychological research and the study of dogs in the wild (ethology). It involves something more than training and is akin to human psychological counseling. Behaviorists attempt to understand a dog’s unwanted behavior, recognizing atypical or aberrant behavior, and employing techniques ranging from environmental modification and programmatic shaping of behavior to address behavior problems. In addition, veterinary behaviorists address underlying medical concerns and may prescribe mood and behavior-modifying drugs.

Trainers and behaviorists rely on principles and techniques that cross each others’ domains, but there are fundamental differences, too. While trainers may make good teachers and family counselors, behaviorists are best suited to unraveling complex problems and modifying unwanted behavior.

Even if no behavior problems existed, training would still be necessary. Dogs, like children, need to learn how to behave in human society in order to be socially acceptable. To have dogs running rampant is unacceptable, and proper training is what is required to teach the dog acceptable alternative behaviors.

Acquiring the right interspecies communication skills is an important part of training and is necessary to secure the rudiments of an appropriate human-animal bond. Most of the problems in dogs are the result of poor training. The trainer’s function is to provide such instruction to assist in the healthy behavioral development of pups and juvenile dogs and to teach owners how to train their older dogs to perform new behaviors. (And yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks).

If every dog was genetically sound and his owners followed through with the instructions of a knowledgeable trainer, there would be no behavior problems to plague us, but unfortunately this utopian situation does not exist. Instead, dogs are too often bred for the wrong reasons, acquired for the wrong reasons, are raised inappropriately and are untrained.

Despite a few hundred years of selective breeding of dogs and at least a hundred years of “modern” dog training, the leading cause of death in dogs is still behavior problems that owners erroneously believe to be irresolvable. To be a little more specific, the number of dogs dying as a result of behavior problems is approximately three times the number that die from cancer, and half the dogs in the United States do not see their second birthday for the behavioral reasons.

Fortunately the American Veterinary Medical Association has seen fit to accredit a college of Veterinary Behaviorists. This new college will provide board certified veterinary experts to help train the veterinarians of the future and, through continuing education, to educate the ones of the present. This should help ease the problem considerably. Also, the Animal behavior Society of the United States now certifies Applied Animal Behaviorists, all members having a further (research) degree, and many of whom pitch in to help deal with this major league problem. Behaviorists spend most of their working time trying to resolve behavior problems in dogs using a Sherlock Holmes-like approach. It requires taking a detailed history, making a diagnosis of the problem, and establishing whether the behavior is a normal behavior or a truly abnormal behavior.

The behaviorist then employs all measures likely to help resolve the problem for the owner and the dog. Fortunately, in many cases, many of the formerly unmanageable problems are now resolvable, though different problems respond somewhat differently to the various therapeutic interventions.

The Bottom Line

Dog trainers may snipe at behaviorists as being a white-coated brigade who sit behind desks and do a lot of talking, handing out instruction pamphlets without actually touching the dog, and behaviorists may look down on trainers as less well educated, poorly grounded counterparts. The fact is that both groups need to work together to resolve the multitudinous problems facing today’s pets and their owners. Rather than a territorial approach, it would be more effective for the groups to work together towards a common goal of improving the lot of pet animals and strengthening the human-companion animal bond.

To use an analogy of the human medical system, which has in its ranks the family counselors, the psychologists, and the psychiatrists. Family counselors address domestic problems and train us to communicate and live together harmoniously. The canine therapy equivalent could be the dog trainers.

Psychologists advise us when we have seriously detrimental behaviors that are self-destructive or problematic for others. The equivalent here would be the certified applied animal behaviorists.

Finally, in human behavioral management, there are the psychiatrists, who deal with chemical imbalance situations and medically related behavior problems that may require medication. The only group qualified to intervene at this level, regarding canine behavior problems, are the veterinary behaviorists.

All puppies need to be trained otherwise there will be behavior problems for the owners, at least. All the behavior problems need to be and can usually be addressed by either a trainer, certified applied animal behaviorist, or veterinary behaviorist, depending on the level of the disturbance. Hopefully, these latter expert groups will combine their forces and refer one to another, to solve the massive problem now facing the pet dog population and the many devoted dog owners.

  Dr. Nicholas Dodman

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372

Slug and Snail Poisoning in Dogs

Overview of Slug and Snail Poisoning in Dogs

What’s worse than stepping on a slug in your bare feet? Accidentally poisoning your much-loved dog with slug bait!

If you have a problem with snails in your environment, be careful what you use to get rid of them. Your dog is prone to poisoning from household materials, especially your dog (who usually eats almost anything). One common toxin is metaldehyde, a common ingredient found in “snail bait” (molluscicides). In the United States, this type of poisoning occurs more commonly on the West Coast.

Slug and snail baits generally contain 3 percent metaldehyde and products are formulated as blue- or green-colored pellets, powder, liquid or granules. A dosage of 190 to 240 milligrams per kilogram of body weight is lethal for most dogs and cats. However, the toxic dose can range anywhere from 100 to 1000 milligrams per kilogram of body weight.

What to Watch For

Signs of poisoning in dogs begin within 1 to 4 hours of exposure and can be fatal if left untreated. Repeated seizures can cause very high body temperature, which can lead to complications similar to those observed in pets suffering from heatstroke. If there is a possibility that your dog or cat has been exposed to metaldehyde and exhibits any of the following symptoms, call your veterinarian immediately.


  • Anxiety, excitement, panting
  • Disorientation
  • Lack of coordination
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Increased heart rate
  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Extreme sensitivity to sound and touch
  • Generalized muscle tremors, which can progress to loss of consciousness, seizures and difficulty breathing


Diagnosis of Slugs and Snails Toxicity in Dogs

Metaldehyde poisoning mimics symptoms of other diseases and poisonings so your veterinarian will need to know that your dog may have ingested this type of poison. This will reduce the need for extensive diagnostic tests and specific treatment can be started earlier.

After a thorough physical examination, your veterinarian will probably recommend several diagnostic tests and treatments. These might include:

  • A complete blood count (CBC) to assess the general health of your pet and evaluate for infection or inflammation, anemia or low platelet count.
  • A biochemistry profile to evaluate internal organs (like the liver or kidneys) for other potential causes of seizures and to evaluate for complications arising from repeated seizures, muscle tremors or high body temperature.
  • Arterial blood gas analysis to evaluate changes in the acid-base status of the blood, which may be affected after repeated seizures, tremors or high body temperature.
  • Analysis of stomach contents.

    Treatment of Slugs and Snails Toxicity in Dog

Treatment of your dog will involve ridding the body of the toxin and treating the symptoms. Your dog will probably require hospitalization for 24 to 72 hours. Your veterinarian may include any of the following in the treatment:

  • Administration of medication to induce vomiting, gastric lavage (pumping of the stomach) and enemas to prevent further absorption of the toxin from the stomach and intestinal tract.
  • A cool water bath to lower body temperature.
  • Medications such as diazepam (Valium®) or fentanyl (a narcotic pain reliever) to control anxiety, seizures and excessive muscle tremors.
  • Muscle relaxants such as methocarbamol, guaifenesin or xylazine to control muscle tremors.
  • Placement of an endotracheal tube (a plastic tube in the airway) to provide artificial respiration if your pet stops breathing.
  • Placement of an intravenous (IV) catheter to provide fluids to correct dehydration and acidosis, common problems after excessive muscle activity and repeated seizures.


Home Care


  • If you suspect metaldehyde poisoning has occurred, call your veterinarian immediately.
  • Bring remnants of packages or containers to your veterinarian for identification of product ingredients.
  • Administer any medications prescribed and follow your veterinarian’s instructions for care.

Preventative Care

Prevention is always the best medicine. Keep your dogs away from areas where snail and slug bait are used or stored.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372


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