Is it Fair or Healthy to Carry Small Dogs All the Time?

This post first appeared on

My friend Joy sent me a photo of her 7-pound mini dachshund, Rosalie, hanging out in a front dog carrier. Rosalie is usually running or playing in her yard with her doggie siblings or walking on the beach with mom. On this day she was in the carrier for her safety because the family was hanging out at the Purina Woofstock event in San Juan, PR, where they were surrounded by people and large dogs.

Trainers say there are definitely times when small dogs need to be picked up and carried for their protection. For example when around large crowds of people or dogs, at gatherings when there are lots of children who could unintentionally hurt the dog, on long hikes or walks when a little dog might not have the stamina to go the full distance and when visiting stores or malls that allow small dogs.

joyandrosalieMini Dachshund, Rosalie, safely tucked inside a carrier at the Purina Woofstock event in San Juan, PR. At home, Rosalie enjoys running and playing in the yard with her siblings.

Problems occur, according to trainers, when owners start treating their small dogs like babies and carry them everywhere.

“Dogs were given four legs for a reason, they are supposed to walk,” said Eileen Haley of Second Chance Dog Training Services, Inc. in Bergen County, NJ. “By carrying a small dog everywhere you are depriving them of the opportunity for mental and physical stimulation because they are not getting a chance to sniff and explore.”

Continue reading “Is it Fair or Healthy to Carry Small Dogs All the Time?”

A Welcoming Smile and Supportive Environment can Save Pets Lives

This post first appeared on

In the more than 20 years that I’ve been writing about pet and animal welfare issues, I’ve heard from numerous people who were disappointed with their experience at local animal shelters. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) also hears from potential adopters frustrated at being denied the opportunity to provide loving homes to animals in need. They complain about rude treatment by staff at their local shelters and frustration when calls and e-mails to shelters aren’t returned.

It’s true that shelter staff and volunteers see terrible abuse of animals and they are understandably concerned about placing these pets back into bad homes. However, leading animal welfare organizations say this concern can lead to being overprotective and going overboard when it comes to regulating, requiring and screening. This results in potential adopters turning to less humane options to find an animal companion. There’s a movement within the animal welfare community that’s finding a middle ground with the realization that “a home that’s good if not perfect will be better for pets than an animal shelter.”

The “Adopters Welcome” manual and webinar series produced by the HSUS were designed to help shelters maximize adoptions by embracing members of the community and encouraging them to adopt while helping them succeed as pet owners. In addition, the ASPCA’s “Smile! You’re Saving Lives” webinar focuses on providing a positive service to clients in the interest of building great relationships and saving more lives. A growing body of research is suggesting that “open adoptions” done with less intrusive methods of pet adopter matchmaking are just as effective as, and in some cases even more successful than, those requiring potential adopters to jump through a lot of hoops.

So, what does an open adoption policy look like?

Open adoptions provide shelters with the opportunity to educate rather than judge potential adopters. The focus is on building partnerships and lifelong relationships, following up on adoptions and being a resource for families who adopt. When the Dakin Humane Society, with shelters in Springfield and Leverett, MA, launched its Open Adoption policy more than six years ago, it created a “culture of understanding and respect” for the human customers, coworkers and volunteers who come to the shelter. At Dakin communication with potential adopters is congenial and collaborative rather than bureaucratic and rule-bound.

Dakin Humane Society adapted an Open Adoption policy more than six years ago. 

Continue reading “A Welcoming Smile and Supportive Environment can Save Pets Lives”

Shelter Dogs and Special Needs Kids: A Match Made in Heaven

This post first appeared on

Brook, a Rhodesian Ridgeback mix, was sitting in a high-kill shelter in Arizona with just two days to live when she was rescued by Janice Wolfe, founder, and CEO of Merlin’s Kids. The nonprofit organization rescues, rehabilitates, and trains shelter dogs to work as service dogs for children with autism and special needs, as well as to assist disabled veterans. After extensive training Brook returned Wolfe’s kindness by transforming the life of Julie, 21, who is developmentally delayed due to a premature birth.

Wolfe describes Brook as a “rock star,” a calm sweet dog with the perfect temperament for working as an emotional support service dog. Julie’s mom, Ellen, couldn’t agree more.

“Brook has given Julie a greater sense of confidence,” Ellen said. “They are always together and Brook definitely knows that it’s her responsibility to take care of Julie.”

Before being paired with Brook, Julie was afraid to go outside the house on her own. Now she and Brook take walks down the block or sit together in the yard. Julie has become more outgoing and enjoys speaking or singing in front of people.

“Brook has become an emotional support for all of us,” Ellen said. “I can’t believe that they almost put her to sleep. She is the love of our lives!”

Julie takes a selfie with Brook as he smothers her with kisses.

Continue reading “Shelter Dogs and Special Needs Kids: A Match Made in Heaven”

What Experts Have to Say About Invisible Fences for Dogs

This blog first appeared on

When walking around suburban neighborhoods in upstate, NY, I am struck at just how many dogs are confined by invisible fences.

There are many reasons dog owners choose to install electronic fences. For some it’s a financial decision—electronic fences tend to be a cheaper option. In other cases, homeowners associations or neighbors prohibit the installation of physical fencing. Whatever the reasons, dog owners install the fencing because they want their dogs to have the freedom to run and play in their yards.

Since positive motivation training and behavioral experts say it’s impossible to predict how any dog will react to electronic confinement, I wonder why so many families are willing to take a chance on their dog’s wellbeing. Positive Motivation Trainer Jenn Michaelis, the owner of SassyT Canine Academy in Westchester County, NY, believes that there is not enough information available about the negative impacts of electronic fencing on dogs. She discourages her clients from using electronic fencing and is happy to discuss alternatives with them. Sara Reusche, who is also a positive motivation trainer, and owner of Paws Abilities Dog Training, LLC in Rochester County, MN, also steers her clients away from invisible fencing.

Both trainers above help rehabilitate dogs who have been negatively impacted by electronic fences. In fact, Reusche said that “…sadly these cases make up a sizable chunk of her business.” And in most instances, the owners never connect their dogs’ out-of-the-ordinary behavioral problems with the recently-installed electronic fences. Some of these behavioral issues include dogs who have accidents in the house because they are terrified to go outside for fear of being shocked; dogs who are afraid to wear collars; previously friendly dogs who become aggressive toward people and other dogs; dogs who are afraid to go for walks and dogs who are afraid of any sound that resembles the warning beep on the shock collar. For example the beep from the microwave or the ping on a cell phone.

Continue reading “What Experts Have to Say About Invisible Fences for Dogs”

Thinking About Unleashing Your Dog in Public? Here’s What You Need to Know

It was 7 a.m. and I had just stepped onto the trail in Goosepond Mountain State Park with my dogs when a German shepherd came barreling towards us.  Bella was busy smelling and paid no attention as the shepherd began circling. But Jason is leash reactive and started to lung at the intruder.

I’ve worked hard to manage Jason’s issues. When we see dogs approaching, I remove him from the trail and work on sit, look-at-me and reward exercises to redirect his attention from passing dogs.

Negative interactions such as meeting unsupervised loose dogs on the trail set this training back. On this particular morning Jason was stressed as the shepherd continued to get in his face. I couldn’t safely remove him from the situation, and the owner was nowhere to be seen. When he did finally stroll into view he shouted, “Don’t worry, he gets along with everyone.”

It didn’t matter to this man that I was struggling to prevent a dog fight and to keep his dog from getting tangled in the leashes.  He just passed us by calling to his dog. There was no apology and he didn’t even try to leash the shepherd.

Bella (left), and Jason (right) love to walk with their friend Happy (middle).

The Problem with Unruly Loose Dogs in Public

I’m hearing more and more stories about people whose dogs were attacked or ambushed by loose dogs in the park.  Many, like me, are dealing with leash reactive dogs and these encounters can be a nightmare. Large loose dogs are also horrific for owners of small dogs who can be seriously injured. There are even horror stories about little dogs being killed after attacks by large off-leash dogs.

According to an article by Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, there are no numbers for how often big dogs attack little ones, but it’s a common enough scenario that veterinarians have an acronym for it, BDLD, which means Big Dog Little Dog. Veterinary experts say that these attacks frequently turn into serious medical emergencies.

Norine Twaddell, the owner of DogVentures, Dog Behavior Solutions LLC, a dog training business in New Jersey, has been called by clients for help after their dogs were attacked while out on a walk.

“These attacks can destroy a dog’s nature and it takes a lot of work to get their confidence back,” said Twaddell, who is a certified dog behavior consultant and a clinical member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.

It’s not just leashed dogs and their owners who are affected by unruly off-leash dogs. There are plenty of non-dog people who don’t appreciate being jumped on by dogs. And it’s unfair to children who can easily be knocked down or traumatized. I’m a dog person and I can tell you that it wasn’t fun seeing that big German shepherd coming at us full speed. You just don’t know what to expect!

And now in the age of COVID-19, there’s an added concern. Nobody wants to be forced to have a close-up encounter with the owner of a loose dog.

Continue reading “Thinking About Unleashing Your Dog in Public? Here’s What You Need to Know”

The Joys of Living with a Foxhound

Meeting Bella

It was on a snowy Valentine’s Day when we made the trip to Save the Rescue Team II animal shelter in New Jersey to meet an American foxhound in need of a home. Bella came strolling into the shelter with her foster mom, Samantha. We were surprised at how sad Bella looked, but her foster mom assured us that she was really a happy dog! It didn’t matter, we couldn’t wait to take this beautiful foxhound home to live with us.


The final decision, though, rested with our border collie mix Jason. When he first saw Bella he barked and lunged. She paid no attention preferring to sniff out interesting smells around the shelter.  We took them for a walk around the neighborhood and by the time we got back they were great friends. It was so much fun watching them chasing one another through the snow in the shelter’s fenced-in yard.

We brought Bella home and a whole new doggy adventure began. All we knew about her history was that she had lived with a pack of hounds in Virginia before being left at a shelter.  Even though she was only 1 year old, we could tell that she’d had a litter of puppies. We’ll never know why she was abandoned but their loss was most definitely our gain!

Sharing Our Home with a Foxhound

Bella had never lived in a house except for the three weeks she spent with her foster mom, who did a wonderful job with her early training. We had the fun of introducing her to stairs – in the beginning she descended at crazy speeds, but eventually got the hang of it. She took the doggy door in her stride, while it took a little longer to learn that she shouldn’t jump onto tables.

It’s been so interesting for me having a foxhound living in the house.  As children, we were never allowed to pet or play with the hounds in the kennel. My father, who was the master of the pack, told us that if we made pets out of the dogs it would ruin them for hunting. So, I was really interested to see what it would be like to have a hound as a pet.


We enrolled Bella in basic obedience training. She did really well for about the first 20 minutes of each class, after that she got bored and tuned us out. Luckily, she is treat motivated so I could coax her cooperation.

Mealtimes were interesting because Bella seemed to assume that she should share our food with us. When we told her “no” and sent her to her “place” she would go into a play bow and bay at us. This was such a novelty, and we were amused in the beginning, but knew better than to allow that behavior to continue. Once Bella started baying it was like she couldn’t stop – and when Jason joined in we had quite the chorus. I discovered that Bella hates the sound of the harmonica, so all I had to do was blow on it once and that put a stop to the bay fest.


At first Jason didn’t know what to do with his new sister. She followed him everywhere and instead of lying down beside him, she would lay on top of him. Hounds living in a pack tend to do this to keep one another warm, so I’m guessing this gave Bella a sense of security. Jason was a good sport and finally gave in and let her lay her head on his back.

american foxhound bella loves to curl up with border collie mix jason

Two years later Bella has settled into her own routine. She’s good for about 10 minutes of doggy play after breakfast and dinner. She loves going for walks and does plenty of sleeping in between.  When she’s in the mood for some attention, Bella pops up on the couch and stares at me before extending her paw. After a few minutes of this, she bows her head for a head butt and then settles down for a snooze.  She’s an adorable dog who has totally won our hearts.

How to Create a Pet First Aid Kit



One night I got a call from my friend asking if I had styptic powder. She had cut her dog’s nail too close to the quick and now the nail was bleeding profusely. I pulled out our pet first-aid kit to find that not only were we all out of styptic powder, but we were short on many other medical supplies as well. It was time to head to the store.

Experts at the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) recommend that anyone who shares a home with a pet should keep a pet first-aid kit on hand. You can purchase a first-aid kit designed for people and add pet-specific items to that, or you can purchase a specialized kit at a pet store or from a catalog. Alternately, you can start your own kit from scratch.

Continue reading “How to Create a Pet First Aid Kit”

How to Be a Green Pet Parent

Environmental protection matters to me, and this year I am extending my “go green” attitude to include our dogs. For starters, I need to reconsider how I am disposing of doggy poop. Currently I use plastic grocery bags to pick up after our dogs. That means using plastic shopping bags instead of cloth. And those plastic poop bags end up in the regular garbage where they can take up to 400 years to degrade.

Not picking up the poop is never a good option, either. According to environmental experts rainstorms wash the waste into sewers where it can eventually find its way into rivers and beaches. It’s also a health hazard to leave dog waste laying around your yard, and it’s disrespectful to neighbors not to pick up after your dog in the neighborhood or community parks. Not to mention, in many communities you’re breaking the law by not cleaning up after your dog.


Continue reading “How to Be a Green Pet Parent”

Does microchipping really help in finding a lost pet?

I just renewed my annual membership for our foxhound, Bella, in the HomeAgain Pet Recovery Service. I debated whether or not to spend the $19.99 membership fee. If I hadn’t renewed the membership, Bella’s microchip number and our contact information would remain in the HomeAgain Recovery Database. I could still access that database to update contact information. And if Bella ever did get lost and was taken to an animal hospital or shelter, they could scan for the microchip, read its unique code, and reach out to HomeAgain to retrieve our contact information.


So Why Pay a Membership Fee?

As a HomeAgain member, I get much more support from the company. If Bella should ever get lost, HomeAgain will send out lost pet alerts to veterinarians, shelters, and Volunteer Pet Rescuers in the area where Bella was last seen. As a Volunteer Pet Rescuer, I get these email alerts all the time. They include a photo of the missing pet, the exact location where he/she was last seen, and a lost pet flyer with the pet’s photo and contact information.

Continue reading “Does microchipping really help in finding a lost pet?”

When Your Pet Doesn’t Want You to Leave: Dealing with Separation Anxiety

We lost our Rottweiler mix, Lucy, three years ago and while she will always live in our hearts, there are plenty reminders of her still around the house. Lucy suffered from severe separation anxiety. Crating wasn’t an option as that made her even more nervous, so we did what we could to dog proof the house.

I dreaded coming home from work every day because I never knew what to expect. It could be curtains or blinds ripped from the windows, chewed floor molding,  ripped up rugs,  holes in the walls around the doors and windows, or all of the above. I will never forget the frantic look on Lucy’s face when I returned home. Her eyes were huge and she was panting like she had just come back from a strenuous hike.  I often wondered what our border collie, Jason, must have thought as he watched his “sister” going through these episodes.  So often he tried to calm her down by licking her mouth and she seemed to enjoy that.

Continue reading “When Your Pet Doesn’t Want You to Leave: Dealing with Separation Anxiety”