Fireworks and Dogs = Bad Mix

Well, it’s that time of year again. Leaves falling,raking them up, leaves falling again, raking them up again. I could go on for another few paragraphs about the gentle ebb and flow that is our fall season but I digress. Another guarantee is the loud bangs and pops associated with a plethora of fire crackers and fireworks that will be illuminating the nights sky and providing a cacophony of irritatingly loud noises over the next few weeks. Just to clarify, I don’t mind fireworks personally as much as the opening paragraph may lead you to believe, it’s just that my favourite dog Vegas isn’t a huge fan and I really feel for him. So here are a few suggestions to help your dog cope with the loud and high pitched noises that are terribly confusing and freightening to many canines.

For scientific explanation of why dogs may feel pain when hearing fireworks please click this sentence.

It’s really important to provide your dog with a safe, quiet place that may muffle the noise. Instinctively dogs are denning animals so providing a crate may help them feel more secure.

Provide soothing music, and aromatherapy to help create a more peaceful and stress free environment like we do at Dharma Dog.

You can also try to counter condition the intense reactions by building a more positive association with the noises such a offering special treats which they dont usually consume or playing some of their favourite games.

Remember, living with a dog means learning to understand your role and often in the case of fear issues your role is to be calm and protective so your dog will trust your judgement.

Fearful dog

This dog is hiding under it’s bed because it wasnt provided an alternate den to call home

Separation Anxiety and Rescue Dogs

Meet Chalu, a recent member at Dharma Dog Daycare and Grooming.

He’s a shy little guy who doesn’t really have a good sense of comfort with his surroundings yet. We don’t know too much about his past life, but he came to his owners John and David* in the last month.

They love this little guy!

He has made such great strides in becoming more confident, and here are some of the steps that we have taken at Dharma Dog to help him become a better balanced dog.

Originally we limited his interaction with EVERYONE! I just wanted him to get a feel for our shop and listen to and smell all of the excitement and dogs.

Gradually we established trust amongst the human members of Dharma Dog and were able to very gradually expose him to one dog at a time. This was a very slow and methodical process as we were hoping to build fun and calm interactions.

Eventually Chalu was ready to join the group of dogs and was very much the wallflower. He would often choose his kennel as a secure area to hide and watch the group from a distance.

His curiosity continued to peak until he finally decided that he wanted to voluntarily meet the other dogs.

After 4 weeks of Chalu attending we can comfortably leave him amongst the group where he chooses to romp around and play! He still needs his space on occasion and most of the dogs will gladly oblige.

A small victory, but definitely one of the feel good reasons why I like my career.

Keys to success with shy dogs:

1. understand them

2. earn their trust

3. be patient

4. prevent stress

5. reward the great decisions

6. repeat!

*names changed for privacy



Proper Dog Waste Disposal

As a dog owner, I should always pick up my dog’s business when he decides to relieve himself on a walk or anywhere in public for that matter. I know this and I do this – as a matter of fact, I don’t think I could ever leave the poop. Well, alright, there have been a few times that I forget a bag and leave the poop for a moment to run home, grab a bag, and return to pick up my dog’s pile.

It always amazes me when I see dog poop that is not picked up, or if I see someone walking their dog who then walks away from the dog poop after the dog clearly just went on someone else’s lawn, on the park grounds or on the public side walk! I want to ask them, did you forget a bag? Do you think you are above picking up your dog’s poo? And then give them a few extra bags or call the city and report them. Unfortunately, I usually just give a disapproving expression and a little glare, my passive aggressive way to deal with someone else’s rude and inconsiderate (not to mention illegal) behaviour.

There was a great post by Vancouver Sun on May 19, 2012:

“First off, nobody knows precisely how many dogs populate the high-density urban landscape [of Vancouver]. However, if estimates of 145,000 dogs are correct, then applying University of B.C. scholar Stanley Coren’s approximation (published in a recent Psychology Today article) of an average production of about 340 grams of fecal matter per dog per day, simple arithmetic indicates man’s best friend must deposit about 50 tonnes of excrement on the city every 24 hours. Over a year that totals about 18,000 tonnes — more than 1.5 times the weight of BC Ferries’ biggest ship.”…Read more.

Now that’s a lot of dog poop! There are many options of what to do with your dog’s doo-doo besides leaving it on the path, school grounds, side walk, street, beach or park where other adults and children may see it, step in it, smell it, or otherwise frown upon it. It does not just disappear with the rain folks!

First of all, always have bags ready. Even better, have biodegradable doggie bags. Tie them to your leash or buy one of those leash doggie bag dispensers.

If you’re picking up your dog’s waste in the backyard, how about flushing it down the toilet? Can I do that? Yes, you can! Flushing down the toilet eliminates your dog poop into the city’s sewage system and is completely legal. However, you do not want to flush the bag as this will most certainly cause plumbing problems. Using a shovel or bucket would do the trick.

What if I live in an apartment or condo? Call a collection service! Search the web for dog waste collection and you will see there are several companies that offer this service.

Build a dog waste compost! Dog waste will decompose and relatively odour free if you build a composter in your garden or backyard. Be careful not to use this compost on a vegetable garden or to store it too close to a stream or river.

Throw it out. Even though pet waste is prohibited for garbage in the City of Vancouver, you are allowed to have it in small amounts if double bagged and placed in the garbage can for regular collection. Technically, this is not considered a good disposal choice as the landfills do better without dog waste, which actually produces methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, and is also hazardous to the staff there.

As a side note, did you know that cat feces is NOT flushable? For all our cat owners out there – even cat litter marked “flushable” does not mean you can flush the feces itself, which will clog the plumbing and city sewer.

Getting back to dogs… If all these options aren’t enough to encourage you to pick up your dog’s business, maybe the fines will! Vancouver’s animal control bylaw allows the city to levy a fine between $250 and $10,000 if a dog owner fails to pick up after their pet. That’s enough incentive for me… well that and it’s plain common courtesy.Image

How to Speak Your Dog’s Language

Your dog might not speak English, but there are many communication devices they use to let you know how they’re feeling.

Bark, bark means I’m hungry.

Bark, bark, bark means I want to go for a drive.

Whine, bark, whine means I have to go to the bathroom.

Bark, whine, whine, bark means I want to go for a walk.

Well, maybe not, but wouldn’t it be great if it were that easy!

It’s a fact that as much as we like to think we can calm our dogs down like no other, dogs will often feel more comfortable in the presence of another dog in a stressful situation. For example, during a groom.

Here are four signals you can look for that might help you understand your dog’s current frame of mind.

Let’s start with the face. When a dog is slightly stressed or hoping to calm another animal or a person down they will show many signals. One to keep an eye out for is a simple yawn. It doesn’t mean the dog is tired, it is more likely to indicate that it may be stressed out or excited. A lick of the lips is a very good indicator that the dog is potentially uncomfortable. The current situation is causing them to give this calming signal. Dogs use this to diffuse situations. A dog’s eyes are also used to do the same. Notice if they are half shut or if you can see the whites of the eyes (known as whale eye), these are all calming signals dogs use to communicate with each other.

The direction of a dog’s face and body can indicate quite a bit as well. If a dog is acting polite, they will often direct their gaze or body at an angle, to avoid direct eye contact and therefore to avoid confrontation. Many dogs have hair or fur that can raise along the spine. This is known as piloerection or raising its hackles. A dog’s hackles will be raised for a number of reasons; fear, aggression, insecurity, startled or aroused feelings, excitement, or interest. So pay particular attention to your dog when that is occurring and try to gauge why the hackles are being raised. Some dogs naturally have raised hackles like a rhodesian ridgeback.

A dog’s tail can be a huge indicator of what their state of mind is. The common misconception is that a wagging tail means a friendly dog. Wagging tail can indicate general excitement, nervousness, or happiness and other emotions. Therefore it is difficult to gauge a dog’s emotional state based on their tail movement. Try to look for things like the position of the tail. For example, if it’s straight up in the air, chances are your dog is feeling like a boss. However, if it’s tucked between their legs, chances are they are very scared or unsure. If the tail is neutral, just hanging, the dog is most likely in a calm state and does not wish to ruffle anyone’s feathers around them.

There are many other signals to look for, but the point I’m trying to make is that a dog communicates using all of these body language signals and more. While a dog may bark, whine or growl, those are not their primary communication devices. As humans are a verbal species, there tend to be many miscommunications between human to dogs. Take the time to be quiet, and simply observe what your dog is doing in order to have a better understanding of what they are trying to communicate. In no time, you will begin to see patterns in your dog’s behaviour and have a better understand of what they need.

View this YouTube video demonstrating canine communication to see how an adult dog teaches a puppy how to go down stairs:


Introducing Your Dog To Children & Babies

As an expectant father, it has occurred to me that my dog Vegas has never interacted with a baby before! Luckily, I am already familiar with how to prepare him for the arrival of my son. So, I thought it might be helpful to share my process with all of you 🙂

The first step we took in our household was to download some sound bites of various crying babies, this way we could get Vegas comfortable and familiar with the unfamiliar sound. This process can be stressful on your dog and its probably a good idea to do this at least 3 months in advance of the arrival of your newborn.

The next thing that might be great to focus on is the new layout of your house. Obviously, new furniture such as change tables, cribs, tummy time areas need to be set up. As soon as you set it all up you’ll be able to establish clear boundaries for your dog to teach them that the child’s space must be respected. Babies and children are obviously much smaller, more wiggly, and squeakier than the majority of adult humans, which can be confusing to dogs as they may appear and behave like PUPPIES!

Create a dog free zone! If you have a dedicated room for the baby, it can be quite helpful to make the room completely off – limits to the dog unless you choose to invite them in. This will help you to choose the right times to make introductions.

Once the baby is born, its really important to bring the receiving blanket home before the baby is brought home. Place the blanket with the baby’s sent into your
dogs bed, or kennel so that he can become familiar with the scent of your newborn.

When finally allowing your dog to meet your child, praise him lavishly for gently sniffing and calm interaction. It is very important for you to prevent your dog from showing behaviour which can lead to injuries to your child such as jumping, or pawing.

A final word; NEVER LEAVE YOUR BABY OR CHILD ALONE WITH YOUR DOG! Both children and dogs are unpredictable and its always better to err on the side of caution.

I hope that this advice helps you all with your new introductions 🙂

How to Keep Your dog Cool During a Vancouver Heat Wave

It’s not often that we hit 20 or 30 degree weather in Vancouver but when we do, most of us set out to the beach, the dog parks, the playground, the trails, the slurpee stores, you name it! If that means more time spent outdoors for your dog, more car rides, or more outings in general, then it’s wise to know the smarts on sunshine. All tips begin and end with water, water, water!

TIP #1 Never ever leave your dog in the hot car, the risk is harm or death. If you see a dog in a car on a hot day who you believe may be in trouble, call your local SPCA. Dogs don’t sweat! The car provides no way for a dog to release heat. It takes under 10 minutes for a car (even in the shade with cracked windows) to reach dangerous temperatures for dogs. Leave pets at home where they will be more comfortable, rather than in your car.

TIP #2 Learn how to spot an overheated dog. Keep an eye on his or her behaviour and watch for the following symptoms of heat stroke: excessive panting, salivation, anxious expression, lack of coordination, red lips and red tongue (may turn bluish), vomiting, collapse, even coma or death.

TIP #3 Prevent or treat heatstroke! Keep your pup hydrated (no ice, just cool water or ice cream), then bring him or her into the shade, pour cold water on your dog (start from the bottom up, feet, pads, stomach), and fan your dog to keep the coat from evaporating.

TIP #4 Avoid exercising your dog during the day, rather, exercise him or her in the morning or at night. It’s ok to decrease the intensity of exercise in higher temperatures. Carry a bottle of water on walks or strap it to your dog’s vest or bag so he or she feels a sense of purpose. An even better form of exercise in the heat is swimming! Let your dog paddle around in the ocean, the lake, the river or the pool.

TIP #5 Groom your dog to remove excess hair and undercoat. Be careful! Direct sun exposure can lead to burns if hair is too short or skin is exposed. Consult your grooming professional for expert advise.

TIP #6 Create a cool environment in the house or backyard even without A/C. Lay down a cool towel for your dog to lay on, offer a safe place for digging, or set up a kiddie pool. Try filling up an old milk jug with water and freeze overnight. Then leave it in the yard or house where your dog can cozy up to it for relief.

Again, the most important thing is to keep your dog hydrated, so make sure he or she can access the water bowl, which should be kept topped up with fresh cool water often. Enjoy the sunshine safely when you know your dog is happy and healthy!


Is Socialization Good for My Dog?

As a professional Canine behaviourist and owner of a Dog Daycare I am often asked questions like; how often should I socialize my dog?  Or, I’ve been told that owners want help with their dog so that they can take them to a dog-park or daycare. Well, I have an answer, and some questions for you to help make the right decision for your dog at home.

Yes socialization is important, especially at a young age. However, this doesn’t mean just throwing your dog in a park and having strange dogs meet it so they can play.

Socialization should be custom to each individual dog’s needs. Whether meeting people of various heights, looks, smells, and sounds, or various dogs.

Just like some people, dogs have differing personalities, and it can be unwise to give dogs the wrong type of socialization just because you feel like it needs it.

I’ll give you a more relatable example; some people like to stay at home on Friday night with a good book and a glass of wine, and some people truly enjoy having hundreds of people around them at a loud night club dancing the night away.  If you were to take these examples of people and role reverse their life choices, chances are the person who enjoys peaceful and quiet nights would feel uncomfortable, irritated, and possibly anxious. The same goes for the social butterfly! If you took them out of their element chances are they would feel completely bored and under-stimulated.

So how do I know if a dog is suitable for the daycare environment?

Well, it depends on a variety of factors but temperament is likely the best indicator of which dogs might be perfectly happy sleeping on their bed at home and waiting for you to return from work or taking advantage of a dog daycare scenario.

  1. Age: If your dog is slowing down physically a daycare may not be the right place for him or her.  Most daycares take on dogs of any age. But, for your consideration the average age of Dharma Dog Daycare’s attendees is usually around two and a half years old.
  2. Temperament: Which category does your dog fall under? Timid? Shy? Fearful? Dominant? These types of temperaments may benefit from a slower transition to an active daycare like environment, or perhaps they are simply more comfortable on their own with humans. There are other choices if your dog is unable to attend daycare or the dog-park safely but needs the exercise; Try hiring a private dog walker. Consult your veterinarian or canine industry professionals such as your groomer for recommendations.


Dogs that fall under the following temperaments are usually better suited to attend a daycare: submissive, or middle of the pack. Most people have a good idea of what type of personality their dog has, but if you don’t there’s no need to worry because A good facility’s director or a professional trainer or canine behaviour therapist will be able to properly assess your dog’s needs. When in doubt, trust a professional!