What to Look For in a Good Dog Kennel

What to Look For in a Good Dog Kennel

It feels like for every story of a good boarding facility, we hear two nightmare tales. It’s a lot of work to run a successful dog kennel. One where the dogs are happy and relaxed, the area is clean, the staff are knowledgeable and that makes money. And that’s why it can be stressful and scary to drop your dog off at a new facility. We are going to help you pick out a good one with some professional tips on what to look for when interviewing a new dog kennel (YES THERE SHOULD BE AN “INTERVIEW!” Don’t just drop your dog off at some place you found on Google). Instead, set-up an appointment to tour the facility and don’t forget this checklist.

Signs of Good Kennel

Cleanliness. When you enter the dog kennel, it shouldn’t smell of feces or urine. They should be using appropriate cleaners that are safe for animals and that kill bacteria. The place should be tidy and organized. Dog food should be stored properly and water bowls should be filled and clean. This is the first thing that should tip you off if a place is good or not.

Knowledge. How knowledgeable is the staff? Don’t be afraid to quiz members of the staff, including the owner or manager. Do they know what to do if a dog starts choking? Bloats? Overheats or starts a fight? How do they address dogs that bark the whole time? (Some places have been known to use electronic-collars without asking the owner’s permission). If you have a dog with special needs – whether she is on medication, older or has an injury, be sure they know how to take care of her properly.

Some breeds have special requirements – do they know enough about dogs to know this? (An example would short-nosed breeds being more susceptible to heat stroke.) A bulldog recently drowned at a dog boarding facility in the United States even though the owners had left explicit instructions to not let him near the pool because they don’t swim well. Two things went wrong – the owners trusted that the workers knew better and they chose a facility that was probably not the best choice for their breed of dog.

Dogs are Separated into Play Rooms. One giant room with every dog in it can really cause trouble. Different facilities do things differently, but size is a good way for them to be broken up – so big dogs and little dogs are separated. Some also have a puppy area and an old dog area. The latter two areas can really help keep the peace in the play rooms – puppies often play too rough for adult dogs. Senior dogs tend to be crabbier and will often snap if another dog bumps into them, etc. Putting them with other, slower moving dogs can help them all relax.

For Dogs that Don’t Play Nice. Remember, it’s about what works for your individual dog! If you have a dog that can’t be with other dogs, ask them what their schedule will be like – do they get to go out and run around or are they in a kennel the entire time? Some places have separate areas where single dogs take turns getting to run around and play.

Insurance. Do be sure they are licensed and insured. This is just common sense.

Vaccine Requirements. These places have a lot of dogs from a lot of different areas. Most of them are stressed. Requiring vaccines, especially for kennel cough (Bordetella) is just smart. It helps make sure the dogs in their care do not all come down with something. So ask the place about the types of vaccines they require.

Cameras. Do you they have security cameras? I’d be very suspicious of a place that doesn’t want a record of what they are doing with or to other people’s dogs. Ask them if there are ways for you to watch your dog via video while you are away – a lot of places do nowadays.

Before Committing…

After that initial interview, drop in once or twice unannounced to see if the facility was just “putting on a show” for the tour, or if they really are that clean and organized.

Find online reviews and see what past and present customers say.

If they do daycare, drop your dog off for just a day prior to a stay and see how he likes it. Does he seem relaxed and happy? An even bigger tell will be how he acts when you return – is he excited to be back or does he act like you are leaving him at the vet’s to be neutered? Remember, dogs are often better judges than we are. And don’t forget to trust your own gut too. If something feels off, don’t entrust your dog with them, it’s not worth the risk. Instead, keeping searching until you find the perfect carer for you and your dog.

How to Teach Your Dog to Leave It

How to Teach Your Dog to Leave It

Teaching a dog to Leave It – as in leave an object, piece of food, person, even another animal – is one of the most important cues. Not only can it save your stuff – say the iPhone he is about grab – but it can save your dog’s life if he is going after something poisonous or dangerous. For your dog, however, Leave It, sucks! And it does take some patience to teach. You are basically teaching your dog self-control and for some breeds, and almost all puppies, this can be particularly difficult. Here are some tips to make it easier.

Leave It Defined

Before you teach it, let’s define what exactly a Leave It looks like. Leave It is the cue you will give your dog before the item actually is in their mouth. You can also use Leave It for dogs that chase things – the earlier you catch them the more likely they will respond. For example, say Leave It while they are staring at the cat about to chase, rather than waiting until they are already chasing it to try and get them to leave it. At that point it is much harder for your dog to physically respond because their instinctual prey drive has kicked in.

As with any behavior, first you want to decide what the behavior looks like. For example, some people just want their dog to stop going towards whatever they asked them to leave, and that’s it. The dog can do whatever they want after that. Others, want a more structured Leave It that might entail:

  •  Interruption of moving towards an object or staring at something AND then returning to owner.
  •  Interruption of moving towards an object or staring at something, AND giving eye contact back to the owner.

Regardless of whether you want your dog to just leave it alone, leave it alone and come to you, or leave it alone and give you eye contact, the important part is this: the dog never gets the item once you have asked him to leave it. This is a common mistake people often make. They will ask their dog to leave something and then let them have it as the “reward.” All you have taught your dog is that Leave It means to leave something for a second or two and then grab it. Be careful with that.

Teaching Leave It

It’s easiest to start with something you can control, but that your dog wants. A piece of food works well for this.

1. Hold the piece of food in your closed hand so your dog can smell it but can’t get it. Let him try as much as he wants. Most dogs will lick and pay at your hand. As soon as he stops and leaves your hand alone, mark it with a marker word such as “yes” or “good” and reward! This lets your dog know that what you want is for him to leave your hand alone. Your timing has to be pretty good. You want to say the marker right as he is leaving your hand. Then you can reward him with your usual praise of “good boy” and an ear scratch, etc. Otherwise, if you just present another reward (verbal praise, food, whatever), your dog will just be getting distracted from the object but not learning to turn away on their own.

2. Continue this until your dog stops going to your hand at all. Mark and reward.

3. Then, add your next step, if you have one. Such as returning to you, giving eye contact, etc. To do this, you are then going to delay your marker word and see if your dog offers the next step. So let’s say you want eye contact (a common one since it gets the dog focused back on you and not whatever it was that he wanted). When he moves his head away this time, do not say your marker. Most dogs will look at you after a second or two like “hey I did what you wanted, where’s my reward?” As soon as he looks at you, say your marker word and reward.

(Note: If he doesn’t look at you, you can “help” by blowing softly on his ear, making a weird noise, etc. But don’t use these helps too many times, or they become a crutch!)

4. Once your behavior looks exactly like you want it to, then add the cue “Leave It” by saying it as your dog is leaving your hand.

5. Once the cue is added, start over by opening your hand so know the food is exposed. If your dog dives for it, simply close your hand and wait for him to stop going toward your hand, then open it again (do not reward at this point!). Wait until your dog has leaves the open hand and then reward. If he fails three times, he is not ready for an open hand. Go back to the closed and practice some more. Remember, distance makes things easier so you can also have your hand open but further away from your dog to make it easier at first.

Gradually increase the difficulty so your dog is always successful.

Leave It, is a great cue for any dog to learn since it helps them gain self-control. If your dog stops responding to it, it means you are asking him to leave something that is too strong of a draw for him at his level of self-control. You can make it easier by adding distance between him and the object. If this does not work, you may need to find something that is a bit harder than what he has been working on, but not as hard as that prized object, to keep building up his self-control. If you try to jump ahead too quickly, it can cause stress and your dog may start to exhibit stress signs such as whining, lip licking, and even freezing before they blow through your cue and go after whatever it is you asked them to leave. This happens most often when you are asking a dog prone to chasing to leave a moving object or a reactive dog to stop staring at a dog/human. In these cases you may find it useful to work with a professional trainer to help your dog relax so he can respond to your cues.


Make Your Own Holiday Candy Cane Dog Treats

Make Your Own Holiday Candy Cane Dog Treats

With the holidays approaching, this fun recipe can be a way for you to treat your own dog, or give as hostess gifts for the dog lover in your life that’s throwing a party – simply wrap in a pretty basket, dog bowl, stocking, or jar. Sure beats getting another fruitcake!

The great thing about making your own treats is you can swap out ingredients depending on your dog’s allergies or dietary needs. So know that almost all of these ingredients are changeable with other things if necessary.

These tasty treats are not just cute, but the mint and parsley help freshen your dog’s breath


1 cup flour – Type of flour is up to you. Gluten-free flours (such as rice) work just as well as regular flour.

½ tsp salt

1 tablespoon parsley

1 ½ tablespoons flaxseed oil

¼ teaspoon peppermint oil

½ cup chicken or beef stock (you can buy it or make your own stock from scratch!


1. Mix flour, salt, and parsley together in mixer.

2. Add flaxseed and peppermint oil, mix.

3. Add chicken stock; mix until all dry ingredients are moistened.

4. Roll dough out on floured surface to a 1/8” thick sheet.

5. Cut into ¼ – ½” inch strips.

6. Fold strips in half and twist together, curving one end over to make a candy cane shape.

7. Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper

8. Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes

Makes approximately 10 candy canes. Allow to cool thoroughly before giving to your dog. Can be stored in a container in the refrigerator. Since they don’t have any preservatives, it’s best to let your dog enjoy them within a week.


How to Stop Your Dog from Chewing Everything!

How to Stop Your Dog from Chewing Everything!


When it comes to chewing, there are two scenarios:

1. The puppy or adult dog (usually a rescue) who hasn’t been taught that for some strange reason we humans don’t want them enjoying all the tasty things around our house

2. The adult dog that’s always been good but has suddenly started to destroy things.

We will address both here. First though, you have to understand that not chewing on things is a human rule. Your dog chews on things for many reasons, all of which make sense to him. He doesn’t understand the value of an iPhone or why the couch is ruined if the stuffing is pulled from it. Here are some of the main reasons dogs chew:

· It cleans their teeth

· It relieves the pain of teething in puppies and helps loosen baby teeth

· It exercises their jaw

· It’s a boredom buster

· It’s an outlet for the “hunting instinct” (these are the dogs that shake, tear, and shred things)

All of these things are necessary for your dog to do. So, what you need to do is teach your dog that he can do all these things, but only with things you give him.

The Puppy/Dog Who Doesn’t Know any Better

If you are bringing home a puppy or a rescue dog that has had no formal training, you need to assume he chews. This means PROOFING YOUR HOME so nothing that he may chew is accessible to him. Before he knows the rules, it is your fault if you leave your Italian leather shoes in the middle of the room and then leave your dog unsupervised. You can’t punish him – he doesn’t know the rules. How unfair would you feel if you went to a foreign country and got arrested for talking on the phone on the sidewalk? You didn’t know it was illegal, no one told you the laws. It’s the same with your dog. While you are training him, you need to keep temptation out of reach. It’s also a safety thing. Many times, the items they are chewing on are not safe and you can end up with a large vet bill and even lose your new best friend.

Next, Teach the Rules

Then, it’s time to start teaching the rules. It’s actually a fairly easy process. Make sure your puppy and dog has plenty of dog toys and chews around so has something that’s okay to chew. Whenever you see him make the right choice by chewing on something of his, praise him.

If you catch him chewing something that’s not his – TRADE IT

Present him with something that is appropriate to chew. As he let’s go of whatever he is chewing you can say “Drop it,” thus teaching a behavior at the same time.

If you don’t catch them. Do nothing. You cannot punish a dog later. There are many studies that prove that this is not an effective way to train a dog because they do not have a memory like ours. Even if you catch them at the chewing, physical punishment will just make them hide next time they are chewing something, and then you wouldn’t be able to do a trade.

Think of it in terms of dog language.

In the dog world, when another dog wants something another dog has, they come at them. Teeth bared, growling, a dog that guards may even bite – thus winning the item. If you come at your dog and physically punish him, all he thinks is “wow, he really wanted that for himself, next time I’ll hide so he can’t take it from me.” Not chewing on things is a human behavior that has to be taught. It’s not a concept your dog naturally understands.

This is where crate training is handy, because you can crate your dog when you are not around to watch him so he can’t make a wrong choice while you are gone.

The Dog That Suddenly Starts Chewing

This is a different scenario altogether. If your dog has always been good, learned the rules as a puppy and has since never chewed, but all of a sudden he is, you need to assess some things.

Did something in the environment change that is causing your normally well-behaved dog to misbehave? Stress can manifest in destructive behavior (think of dogs with separation anxiety). Did you move? Is their construction going on that’s making loud noises and scaring your dog? Did someone move in/out of the house?

Medical issues could also be causing it – for example a tooth or gum could be bothering him. Sometimes something completely unrelated could be causing the behavior, so a vet check is a good idea to rule out a medical cause.

If your dog is not getting the exercise he used to because of a change in your life, this could be a cause as well. Your “good dog” might have been good when he was getting a 5-mile run every day, but if all of a sudden he is getting nothing, that energy is going to go somewhere…

With these dogs, you have to figure out the cause before you can stop the behavior. No amount of training will fix the problem if it’s related to stress, a medical issue, or pent up energy (unless you’re training him so much you are tiring your dog out!).

Just remember that your dog is a dog and mistakes will happen, especially when they are training. The best advice is to never leave something that is priceless in your mind or dangerous to your dog where they can get it – just in case. Consistency is key too, so make sure everyone in your household knows the rules so they can help your dog be successful.

How To Keep Your Dog Food Fresh

How To Keep Your Dog Food Fresh

Keeping your dog’s food fresh and uncontaminated is an important part of keeping your dog healthy. While dry food does last a long time, it can still mold, grow bacteria and get infested with bugs. It can also go stale and even start to lose nutrients if it’s stored incorrectly or too old.

Here are some tips to make sure your dog’s food stays fresh and safe for him to eat.

It’s All About Storage

How you store your food is going to be the number one factor on whether it goes bad.

Dry Food should be kept in re-sealable, air- and water-tight containers. Place them somewhere so that they are not in direct sunlight or in a location that gets really warm. Water and warmth cause dry food to get moldy and rancid, which could get your dog sick. So, don’t keep your dog’s food in places like the kitchen laundry or bathroom where steam and water is always being used. For this reason, keeping the container in a cool dry room inside your house is best. This will also help keep pests from getting into the food, including rodents and bugs.

Canned Food should be kept at room temperature out of direct sunlight or heat. Once opened, seal the leftovers and refrigerate. Opened cans should be used within three days.

Dehydrated food should also be kept in re-sealable containers and it’s best kept refrigerated. Follow the directions on the package about how quickly to consume once opened.

For canned and dehydrated food, freezing can lengthen freshness if your dog doesn’t go through it that quickly.

Keep Track of Dates

The only drawback to using a storage container is that you no longer have the package with vital information including expiration date. Keep this information by cutting off the label and taping to the container or taking a picture of it on your handy smartphone.

The Expiry date is vital in case of recalls so you will know whether the product you are feeding is affected.

As we mentioned in our article on vitamin deficiencies, studies have shown that Thiamine depletes by as much as 57 percent in dry kibble after 18 months. So, keeping track of expiration dates even on dry food is important. If you suspect the food is old, call the manufacturer. If you provide the Expiration date and product numbers, they should be able to tell you approximately when it was made. If it’s older than 18 months, your dog may not be getting his full vitamin requirements.

Use your judgement. If it’s the same food you always buy and it suddenly smells different, is a different color (slight variations are common, but if it’s a drastic change it could be a sign that the food is bad), or you see evidence of pest infestation, don’t feed it to your dog. The price of the food is not worth a vet bill or, much worse, the potential loss of your pet.

If the food seems off, contact the place you bought it and/or the manufacturer. Chances are, they will exchange it for you. Following these tips will help keep your dog fed safely.