A Housetrained Dog Doesn’t Necessarily Have to Ask

I read a great tip from an article by dog trainer Kathy Diamond Davis the other day.

The question was how to bring an outdoor dog inside. The dog was an adult and had never been housebroken. Her perspective was this:

“I don’t train my dogs to ask when they need to go outside. I take them outside on a schedule. Their bodies easily adjust to wait until the next scheduled [potty break]. I get many questions from people who don’t consider their dogs housetrained until the dog will get their attention and persuade them to stop what they are doing and take the dog out every time the dog needs to go. In many cases, this is expecting too much from the dog.”

Kathy’s distinction between training a dog not to soil the house and training a dog to let you know when he/she needs to go out is important.

Without knowing it, I have trained my dogs the same way. We go outside first thing in the morning, after every meal, whenever I come home (no matter how briefly I’ve been gone) and last thing at night before bed. This way, the dogs have predictable breaks, and they “hold it” until the next break. Of course, if they’re not feeling well, have drunk too much water at the dog park or otherwise need an extra break, they get extra breaks. I also let them out if they’re hanging out at the door.

But I like Kathy’s suggestion that we take responsibility for getting our dogs outside for a potty break, rather than giving that responsibility to our dogs.

Check out Kathy’s book, Therapy Dogs: Training Your Dog to Reach Others, or read her blog at

– Lisa


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Product Review: Quit It!

compressedairpetsprayQuit It! is a can of compressed air that emits a loud hiss when you press the button on top. This sound is designed to interrupt your dog’s mindset when he is doing something that you’re trying to stop, such as jumping on visitors, digging in plants, or barking at the neighbors.

I had heard about the sound deterrent concept, and had tried some coins in an aluminum can, to no avail. I also tried the water gun, which worked on one dog, but not the other (who seemed to love it) I was a bit skeptical when I received the can. It seemed gimmicky and I wasn’t sure it would work.

But it just so happened that I had a dog who runs around the yard barking at the neighbors’ dogs in their yards. She would throw her hips at the fence, and since she’s a large dog, I was concerned that she might actually get the fence loose or break a board. One of my neighbors’ dog actually eggs her on, coming right up to the other side of the fence, barking and digging under the fence.

This same dog of mine also stole food off the kitchen counters. She was getting bad about it. No bagel (or stick of butter) was safe in my kitchen.

It took me a few weeks to try the product, since I wasn’t excited about it, but once I did my attitude totally changed. I sprayed it when she was stealing a piece of bread off the kitchen island and three months later, she hasn’t done it since. Wow.

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Encouraged by my success, I tried it on her when she went out into the back yard. As soon as she began to run for the fence, I sprayed the Quit It! and she turned around and ran toward me. No barking, no hurling herself against the fence, no drama. It took about three times on three different days to cure her of it.

I totally underestimated this product. My husband explained it to me. He’s a law enforcement officer and he said that when we are in a highly agitated state, our minds operate in a continuous loop of processing stimulus and reacting to it. Dogs may operate in much the same way. It is instrumental in both hunting and escaping danger. When I try to use a treat to get my dog away from the fence bordering my neighbor’s yard, she doesn’t seem to notice the treat because her mind is cycling in a loop of stimulus and reaction. But a loud noise interrupts that cycle, breaking her out of the loop momentarily and giving her a chance to think about something else for a second or two. If I did nothing at that point, she might go back to barking at the dog, but probably with much less intensity. This is the philosophy of the citronella bark collars, too. A fine mist of spray is unexpected and momentarily disorients the dog, giving the brain enough time the disengage from the overwhelming focus on the stimulus. This is also why police SWAT teams and military soldiers use flash bang grenades before entering a hostile situation. The flash of light and loud bang break the targets out of their concentrations and allow the good guys a chance to slip in and get control of the momentarily disoriented perpetrators.

There’s more information about why it works at the manufacturer’s website (below).
You may have to spray a handful of times the first time you use it. Because it surprises the dog, she may just stop what she’s doing at first, and look at you. But if you spray it again, she’ll likely get down, drop the shoe, stop barking or whatever she was doing. After that, she may respond at the first blast. Or, as with my dog, she may stop the unwanted behavior just by seeing you grab the can.

Some dogs are very tuned in to auditory training cues, and I think my test dog is. I can stop her with my voice from doing some things, and she’s sensitive to our family members’ tone of voice. She seems distressed if she hears someone who’s upset. So it may not work as quickly on other dogs, and on some, not at all. But my experience with this product was successful and fast. It worked so well on my dog that I don’t even need the can anymore. Now, when ever she freezes and stares in the direction of a neighbor’s dog whose tags are jangling and who is barking, I just say, “Shhht!” and she comes to me.

NOTE: You should not use the product close to your dog, as dogs have sensitive hearing and you could hurt their ears or damage hearing if you’re too close. Also, you may have other pets in the room or yard who could be affected when you’re using the spray for the problem dog. But that could be a good thing, too. I’ve seen this product stop a dog fight at the dog park. It made both dogs pause long enough for both owners to grab their collars and get them separated. I carry it with me when I go to the dog park, in case there’s another fight. I carry it when I’m walking my own dogs around the neighborhood, in case there’s an aggressive loose dog around.

At $24 for two 4-ounce cans, it is on the pricey side. However, when you think about solving a problem for $24, it may sound pretty darned affordable.

Here are some other reviews I’ve found, from testers who used it on both dogs and cats.

Buy it from:


The manufacturer’s website says it’s $10, but you also have to pay $6.99 shipping, and you also have to pay $6.99 for a second can (you do not have the option to order just one). So the real cost to buy it is just under $12 per can. Still, it’s affordable as a training aid that may work for you.

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Posted by on October 3, 2013 in Dog Product Reviews


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Sheltering Pets from Domestic Violence

More than 40% of domestic violence victims stay in abusive situations out of fear of what would happen if they left their pets behind. Not only that, but more than 70% of pet owners entering shelters to escape domestic violence report that the abuser has threatened, injured or killed family pets.Yet most shelters do not admit pets. Finding family or friends who will take in the victims of abuse AND their pets can be difficult.

Now, shelters are beginning to address this problem.domesticabusedog

Ahimsa House has been providing safe housing for pets belonging to those fleeing domestic abuse since 2004. They maintain a network of homes willing to offer safe, short-term housing for pets as their owners enter shelters to escape domestic abuse. Their website has a nationwide directory of safe havens for pets in domestic violence situations.

New York City’s first co-sheltering program was opened to enable domestic violence survivors and their pets to reside together. The project, called PALS—People and Animals Living Safely—is running as a six-month pilot that started June 1.

Although PALS only accepts cats and smaller animals such as hamsters, birds and fish into shelter now, the goal is to raise money to put the PALS program in three other domestic violence shelters and welcome dogs as well. 

Muriel Raggi, a domestic violence survivor who was in shelter four years ago, said she’s thankful to URI and the Alliance for recognizing how important pets are in people’s lives. “I remember lying in bed at night, with so many fears and worries swirling in my head, wishing I could have my dog Jasmine next to me to provide raw affection, comfort and support,” said Raggi. “ PALS will ensure that other survivors with pets won’t face the heartbreaking choices I did.”

Because pets are often used by abusers to maintain control over their victims, to torment them emotionally, or to get revenge, 25 states now offer court-ordered protection for pets. Such protection orders limit the contact an alleged abuser can have with the person seeking protection, ordering the abuser to stay away or allowing the victim safe access if they need to return to a home. In the case of an animal, it would allow victims to take a pet with them if they left home and prohibit the alleged abuser from harming the pet.


Posted by on September 19, 2013 in In the News


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A Dog Owner’s Guide to Hiring a Nanny

My friend Sara works full-time from home. It allows her to spend more time with her children and husband. But she still needs help. So she got a nanny to come over on weekday mornings, and it’s been working great for the past six years. She also has two terriers. Her nanny gets along well with everyone, but it’s not always like that.

We dog owners think that everyone is as enamored of our dogs as we are. It’s one thing to enjoy a dog at the park; it’s another thing to spend every weekday with the dog, especially if you’ve never had a dog. So before you hire a nanny, here are some things to think about.

  1. Not everyone likes dogs. Be up-front about the fact that you have dogs, and the kind of dogs you have. Don’t take it personally if some applicants are not interested in a position in a home with pets.
  2. Some people are allergic to dogs. Allergies can develop — or go away — with age, so if an applicant says she’s not allergic and then shows signs that she is, she may have an allergy she doesn’t know about. It’s a good idea to invite the applicant over to spend some time with your children and pets to find out if there are any allergies (as well as to see if everyone gets along).
  3. Not everyone who likes dogs knows how to care for them. If caring for your dog will be part of your nanny’s responsibilities, clarify that at the beginning. Training will be required, especially if the applicant has never owned a dog. Diligence on your part will help her to become comfortable with keeping the door closed, not leaving food on the kitchen counters, etc. She should go through the daily pet routine with you several times before being asked to do it herself.
  4. Be clear about responsibilities. If you’re advertising for a nanny, spell out which pet duties your nanny is expected to take care of, then honor the list. Review it periodically to assure that the list of pet duties hasn’t expanded over time from walking and feeding the dog to training it or cleaning up messes.

Check out this website for finding a nanny. They also have a good article for nannies whose employers have pets; it’s a good read.


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Product Review: ThunderLeash

ThunderLeash is a leash that can be used as either a regular leash or modified as a no-pull harness. Using its unique buckle, you can wrap part of the leash around your dog’s ribcage so that if he pulls, gentle pressure is applied around his body. This pressure calms and reassures the dog, and encourages him not to pull.

I tested this leash on a 10-year-old Irish Setter. We did not hand-raise this dog; we adopted him at approximately age 5 and it appears from his habits and behavior that he spent most of his life until that time living in a back yard with little or no interaction. He really pulls on the leash, so badly that I couldn’t let my children walk him; I had to do it. He’s eager to go, and ever since he’s been on a raw meat diet, he’s bulked up a bit so that he’s stronger now than when he was an itchy, flaky bag of ribs.


We went for a walk and my oldest, age 7 (and petite for her age) asked if she could walk Finnegan. I know that Finnegan doesn’t go in the road, and he’s easily distracted by sniffing places where other dogs have marked. So, knowing that if he got away from her, I could catch him again, I said, “yes.” I fastened the ThunderLeash around Finney’s ribs and gave her the leash.

The dog was still eager and strong but he did not pull the leash away from my daughter, nor did he pull her around. Most of the time, the leash had a little slack in it. The picture you see at left was taken by me, from across the street, so I was not able to control the dog for her. And you can see that she’s not walking very fast. He’s behaving like a perfect gentleman. We even went past some yards with barking dogs in them (see picture below). He’s not normally aggressive about other dogs, but he’s always interested. But with the ThunderLeash, my daughter was able to keep him on the sidewalk.


Now, my five-, six- and seven-year-olds can walk an energetic dog who outweighs them.

Our Irish Setter is 70-75 pounds, and there was plenty of room in the leash for a bigger dog, so if your dog is 100 lbs. or more, you should be able to use the leash with no problem.

The leash is blue and black, and the heavy-duty, nickel-plated hardware is well-made. The leash itself is soft, thick nylon, and the handle is doubled for padding and durability. After nearly four months of use, it shows no signs of fraying or breaking.

I really like that you can switch back and forth between a regular leash and a no-pull leash so quickly with the ThunderLeash. Harnesses can be a hassle to put on, and once you’ve got it on, that’s what you’re using for the duration of your outing or walk, unless you unfasten your leash from the harness and fasten it to the collar. But then, you’ve got a few seconds where your dog is not on a leash. With the ThunderLeash, you can switch back and forth without ever taking your dog off-leash.

If your dog begins to walk properly on a normal collar and leash configuration, you can use it as a leash. If he needs a reminder, you can switch to no-pull mode.

Sizes: Small (12-25 lbs.) and Large (25 pounds plus)

Price: $29.95

Available at:

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Posted by on August 27, 2013 in Cool New Products


A Luxury Vacation for Two – plus your dog — in L.A.

Our friends at are giving one lucky winner a luxury vacation for two – plus the dog – in Los Angeles to meet the Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan.

You and your dog will attend a meet-and-greet with Cesar Millan at his Dog Psychology Center. Then, your dog will stay for up to three nights for a fun-filled vacay with the Dog Psychology Center staff and guests while you a guest enjoy up to three nights at a luxury resort in nearby Santa Monica. The giveaway includes airfare for two and your dog, accommodations, rental car and a $400 VISA gift card for meals and incidentals.

Enter here by August 31, 2013 for your chance to win.


And hey, while you’e on the site, check out the great service that offers.

Next time you need to board your dog, try boarding with a pre-screened, selected and insured host home instead of a boarding kennel.

Your dog will have individualized attention, play time with other dogs, and the care of a responsible dog owner like you (not a 13-year-old neighbor kid).You get 24-hour customer service, boarding insurance, daily photos from the host family, and rates start at $15 per night. Hosts are motivated to take good care of your dog because they want to earn extra money with additional doggies guests (great accountability). You can email the host before taking your dog over, if you have any questions. Your dog loves it because it’s personalized, in-home, cage-free boarding. You might even meet some new friends!

I’m going to check it out and try this next time I leave town. (Maybe I can find a host family with a pool.)

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Posted by on August 23, 2013 in Cool New Products


How to Get Kids to Take Care of Pets

“What do I have to do to get Austin to feed the dog?”

“I’m so sick of having to walk the dog. Sophie begged us to get a dog. She said she’d do all the work. Now I end up doing everything. I’m tired of it.”

“We’ve tried bribes, a sticker chart, taking away privileges … nothing works. I’m at my wit’s end with Tyler. Max is HIS dog! Why can’t he understand that?”

“Hailey runs off to play with her friends and just leaves everything for me to do. I’m tempted to stop going behind her to make sure it gets done. If she doesn’t feed the dog, he doesn’t get fed. Period.”

“If the girls aren’t going to take care of the dog, we’re just going to take it back.”

I’ve heard this type of comment from frustrated moms repeatedly over the years. There’s one thing that eliminates all this stress and drama. It’s the one solution you probably don’t want to hear, but here it is.

Mom, no matter whose dog it is, it’s your dog. If you don’t want to take care of a dog, then don’t get a dog.


But think about it. Dads and kids love their dogs, but no matter whose dog it is, mom is the one who makes sure it’s fed, takes it to the vet, remembers vaccinations, remembers to refill the water even when everyone else forgets, housebreaks it, notices every limp and bump … even fixes a comforting place for the dog to stay during fireworks and trick-or-treating.

We can either resent this responsibility and create all sorts of drama for everyone, or we can embrace it and be not only better dog owners, but better wives and parents, too.

What if we looked at pet ownership as a great opportunity to train and teach our children, and walk alongside our kids as they learn? When children are raised with dogs, they learn about treating animals with compassion. They learn about the circle of life. And yes, they learn about responsibility. But putting an eight-year-old in charge of another living thing is not the way to teach these things. It’s unfair to both the child and the dog.

Here’s how to raise your kids with dogs and let them take part in their care.


If your children are under 10, give them jobs to do that you can do with them. If your son’s job is to feed the dog, be sure you do it with him so you can see how much food he’s giving the dog, and verify that the dog has been fed. There’s no opportunity for him to forget. He gets into the healthy habit of doing something faithfully every day. It’s enjoyable, and he has the security of knowing that you’ll ensure that the two of you get it done. Feeding time turns into one-on-one time with mom, which totally rocks. Your son will look forward to this special time when you and he do something together, and you’ll find that he guards that time fiercely. As you do, there will be dozens of conversations about dog health, how the digestive system process food, why we all need food, how a dog’s diet differs from our diet … and so much more. This is good talk time. And when he’s older, you’ll be glad you got him in the habit of working and talking together.


If your children are old enough to do some of the dog’s care duties by themselves, that does’t mean you abdicate responsibility for them. Check behind them. Verify that the job has been done. Every time. Every day. Not in a nagging way, but with a heart that says, “The kids help, but this is my responsibility.” Accountability will help your children to avoid the all-too-common slide into the habit of not doing something if they don’t feel like it.

When it’s time to feed the dog, a child can focus on the job, or she can focus on whether she feels like doing the job. If she focuses on her feelings, she’ll almost always talk herself out of it. Teaching children to act on their values rather than their feelings is very difficult in today’s culture. If she doesn’t learn to do the right thing in spite of how she feels, how will she ever do anything long enough to get good at it? How will she do her history homework on time? When she’s an adult, how will she get up every morning and go to work? How will she stay faithful to her husband? How will she restrain herself to a healthy diet, or get to the gym?

Show your child she must follow through on her responsibility to feed the dog. Don’t give her a way out. Help her develop the habit of rain-or-shine dependability. It’s better to verify that it’s done every day than to disengage from the process and then punish when it doesn’t get done. When you help her to remember every day, you’re on her side. You’re helping her. You’re teaching her. When you leave it up to her, and then take away privileges when the inevitable neglect occurs, you’re teaching her to resent the dog, the work, and you. Instead of seeing the dog as a beloved family member and taking pride in her role in caring for it, she’ll start resenting responsibility, which will set her up to be a child all her life.


Some parents at the end of their rope desperately cast about for big-impact ways to show their kids how important it is to care for their pets. They threaten to stop feeding the dog if the child forgets, or they threaten to give the dog away. These solutions are not fair to the dog and they’re damaging to kids.

Giving up on a pet weakens a child’s sense of security. Your kids need to know that you’ll be there for him no matter what. When you demonstrate a lack of concern for the health, comfort and security of a pet, the child will internalize it. He’ll start to wonder, “If I’m too much trouble or expense, what will happen to me?” Is it rational? No. But children aren’t rational. The younger they are, the more feelings-driven they are. And they need security more than almost anything else.

Isn’t it better to teach them how to be faithful to another living thing? Isn’t it easier on the parents, too? There’s so much less drama, fewer arguments, lower stress, less anger and less resentment if mom just takes responsibility for the family dog.

Parenting is tough. I think we get into a habit of looking for solutions that will give us less to do. This one takes more time, and we don’t like solutions that take more time. But it does make our lives easier, our relationships closer, our kids better, our self respect higher, and our dogs happier.

Let’s all stop worrying about what’s fair and do what’s best.

And you know what? At the end of the day, the dog knows. She know who loves her, who watches out for her, who knows her best, who’s always there. The hidden blessing peeks out when your dog curls up on your lap and looks up at you as if to say, “Thanks, mom.”


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Product Review: Kyjen Invincibles Dog Toy

Kyjen is a major manufacturer in the pet industry, with cool, innovative products. I’ve been impressed with their products for the past nine years. We all love to love the little guy, but this operation is one “big guy” that I have always liked. It seems they’re always trying to come up with fresh new ideas, and ways to make the old toys better. It’s sometimes frustrating for a retailer to “lose” a popular toy, but I always tell my customers to wait until it’s re-release, and that they’ll love it. That’s exactly what’s happened with the Invincibles® toys.

How tough can a plush toy get? Some dogs can’t have plush toys. Ever. I’ve had those dogs. Others need a tough one, and those are the dogs that these toys are made for.

The newest versions of Invincibles® contain reinforced, double-layered seams and Dura Tuff lining material. On the inside, the toys are stuffing-less, filled only with their patented squeakers that continue to squeak even after being punctured. Sure, no toy is tough enough to endure the most aggressive chewer. Some dogs just can’t have plush toys. But some dogs can have Invincibles®, even if they can’t have regular plush toys. And that’s good news for enthusiastic or big dogs.

Even when dogs manage to tear through the double-layered seams and Dura-Tuff™ liner, the mess is minimal thanks to their stuffing-free design. Invincibles® squeakers are specially designed to continue to squeak even after being punctured—a feature that prolongs the fun for furry friends. They are available in a variety of snake and gecko characters, and range in size from two to six squeakers.

We tested the six squeaker snake on our adolescent Shiloh Shepherd pup. She’s hard on socks, shoes, and the kids’ stuffed animals, so I wasn’t sure. My sewing basket runneth over with beloved stuffed animals in need of a few stitches, thanks to Benelli. So it was with some skepticism that I gave her the Invincibles® snake. That was two months ago. She’s still playing with it — sometimes playing tug-of-war with our 75-pound Irish Setter — and it has not a single tear, rip or puncture. I have to say, I’m impressed. She likes the floppiness of it. When it smacks her face as she shakes it, she’s positively gleeful. She carries it around the house and even sleeps with it. All in all, a major hit.

Kyjen’s line of Invincibles® retails between $10 and $20. Not cheap for a dog toy. But not expensive, either, especially when you consider how long they last. Would I rather spend $6.99 for a series of toys that my dog shreds within a day or a week or spend $20 for a toy she’ll have for years? I’ll take door # 2, Monty.

I don’t sell the Invincibles because I specialize in funny dog toys, but you can order directly from Kyjen. Or you can check out one of their retailers. My favorite is Yipeeee!, a webstore that specializes in strong dog toys.

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Posted by on July 11, 2013 in Dog Product Reviews


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