Potty Training Otis + Why We Didn’t Use Potty Pads

One of the best things about spring is that it’s the perfect time to bring a furry friend into your home. With the longer days and the improving weather, it’s much easier than winter to exercise and train your pet.

When Mitch and I adopted Otis, it was late October. In Sacramento [lately, at least], this just means Indian Summer. The days are still very warm, and the nights are cool but tolerable. We weren’t expecting much, if any, rain until late December or January. With Mitch never having a puppy before, and with me never experiencing a small puppy before, neither of us knew what to expect when it came to potty training. The Dobermans weren’t fully potty trained until ten months old [much of this could be due to the fact that they lived in an apartment for the first couple years of their lives – it’s a pain in the butt to potty train dogs in an apartment complex]. With this in mind, we ended up buying some potty pads for our new pup, just in case. We figured that if he had an accident in the play pen we’d purchased for him, it would at least be an easy cleanup.

Within two days, Otis made it abundantly clear that he would not be confined. The pen we’d gotten him was soft and collapsible, like a camping tent, so even for a tiny four pound puppy, it was easy to destroy. He started biting, tearing and digging in the mesh siding, screaming at the top of his lungs, and trying to jump over the top of it. The potty pads became fun toys to rip apart instead of using them for their actual purpose, so we ended up abandoning the playpen idea altogether. It clearly wasn’t going to work. [Note to readers: if you get a new puppy, don’t buy the soft, collapsible playpen like we did! invest in a pricier metal one – heavier duty and impossible for a puppy to knock over, jump over and destroy].

Without the playpen, there really was no reason to keep utilizing the potty pads. With as much traveling as we do, we didn’t want Otis to learn that it was okay to go potty inside the house – any house. We knew that between Tahoe and Capitola, and leaving the dogs overnight with family and friends when we travel solo, that sporadically placing potty pads all over the place just wouldn’t be an option. So, with this in mind, we decided to brave regular potty training.

Since I had potty trained dogs before, I knew that Otis would need to go outside at least every hour. And with his bladder being half the size of any other dogs I’d potty trained in the past, he’d likely have to go out even more. It didn’t help that in his first day with us, he’d followed Bella to her water bowl and figured out how to drink out of it. This meant he could help himself any time he wanted, and that we had to watch him like a hawk. While he did have a handful of accidents in the house, he actually did really well considering his small bladder. It’s possible that it helped having six-year-old Bella in the house, since he definitely learned from her how to tap on the door when he needs to go out.

If you’re considering adopting a small dog, or recently have, and are trying to figure out the whole potty training situation, here are a few of my quick tips and tricks from a dog mama who’s just recently wrapped up that portion of the training.

Tip #1: If you can, monitor water consumption and take the pup out to go potty accordingly. The more water they drink, the more they’ll have to go. Also, small dogs can be put on a feeding schedule just like large dogs – feed your new pup three times a day until he/she is about 6 months old, then wean off of puppy food and switch to adult dog food and two meals a day. Keep in mind that smaller dogs not only have smaller bladders, but smaller digestive tracts, too. They will likely have to poop within 20-40 minutes of feeding. Every pup is different, so you’ll just have to watch and learn your puppy’s tendencies. The bonus of getting your dog on a set feeding schedule is that this creates high food motivation, which makes training easier! Dogs who free-feed are less likely to care about treats as a reward for good behavior.

Tip #2: Get your pup onto a potty schedule. Be sure to make him/her go #1 and #2 right before bed time. You may have to wait outside with the pup for a bit before you get both, but this will help prevent middle-of-the-night accidents. When you get the puppy up in the morning, go outside immediately and give praise for a successful trip. Usually a high quality treat [aka something that gets your hands greasy and leaves a residue] will mark the behavior pretty quickly.

Tip #3: Try not to let your pup roam freely through your entire home right away. Block off sections or quarantine an area that is easy to clean up in case of an accident. Bonus if the door to go out is accessible from this area – it will make it easier for your pup to learn where to go when he/she needs to go potty.

Tip #4: If you catch your pup in the act of having an accident, quickly pick him up and take him outside to where you’d like him to go potty. Likely he’ll already be done relieving himself by the time you get him outside, but this will help to teach him that this is where you want him to go, instead of inside the house.

Tip #5: Consistency is KEY! Don’t ever give up. Puppies are frustrating and, as grown adults, what seems like the simplest task for us is literally not understandable from a dog’s perspective. They don’t speak our language, which is why repetition is vital to successful training. Smaller dogs can be extremely stubborn, too, which is why it’s even more important to stay strong when it comes to their potty training. They will eventually understand what you’re asking them.

Good luck to you if you’ve just adopted a puppy! Or even a grown dog from a shelter! It’s an exciting step to take in your life, and dogs bring so much joy and happiness to the soul. Don’t be fooled – they are a lot of work and take a lot of time and energy, but they are so worth it!

As always, please do your research before you bring a furry friend into your home. Find out if the breed and its energy will be right for your family, how busy you are and your activity levels. If you’re adopting from a shelter, learn all you can about the dog’s personality and its odd tendencies before you bring it home. The reason so many dogs end up in shelters is because people give up on their dogs. So few of us actually know that dogs become “teenagers” at roughly six to nine months old. They become rebellious, destructive and hyperactive. They seem to never tire, and completely forget all of their training. Almost ALL dogs do this! It’s important as a responsible dog owner to push through the hard months until the wild phase calms down. It WILL calm down! Exercise is important, and getting your dog OUT OF THE HOUSE. Having a large backyard to run in is like a gigantic cage for a dog. This is not exercise.

Also, be sure to socialize your dog heavily from six months to a year old. This is a prime age for them to learn social queues, and often times they can turn aggressive if not socialized enough or properly [aggression due to fear of other dogs, lack of social knowledge, or anxiety felt from the owner are all common]. If you are afraid to do this on your own, take your dog to obedience training at your local Petco or PetSmart – the trainers there are qualified to socialize your dog properly.

I am not an expert nor am I professionally trained in anything, but I’ve raised a lot of dogs, two of which have been an “aggressive” breed. I’ve done enough of my own research, both online and through trial-and-error, to know for my own personal life and that of my dogs what’s right and wrong. I’m always open to answer any questions you may have, whether it be food, training, adoptions, etc. related.

Springtime: Sunshine, Flowers, BBQs and.. Bugs?

Before reading the below, please bear in mind that I am not a licensed veterinarian, dog trainer, or doctor. I am in no way affiliated with any products or vaccinations noted below. All opinions are my own, and all facts and ideas mentioned in the following are due to my own personal research and conversations with professionals. As always, be sure to consult your own veterinarian and/or pet doctor before utilizing any new products on/with/for your pet. ALWAYS do your own research. It’s important to know your pets and to keep a close eye on how they react to certain lifestyle changes, medications, food choices, etc. Since they can’t speak to us, it’s our job to make sure we do right by them.

You know those Disney princess movies where the girl is in the garden twirling around, or getting dressed by woodland animals and birds and is just singing a happy, upbeat tune? That’s how I feel when winter starts turning into spring. When the days start getting longer, the air stays warm well after the sun goes down, and the sunrise creeps up just a little bit earlier every day. I love it! I love spring and I love the warm weather. It puts me in such a good mood!

My dogs love the heat, too. Every weekday afternoon I come home for lunch to make a salad and to let the pups out to stretch their legs. When the weather starts getting nice, I’ll leave the slider open while I prepare my lunch, and the pups will just be basking out on the lawn, soaking in the glorious spring sunshine. There is something about that molten ball of fire that just makes the soul feel GOOD.

The one downfall about spring, though, is that it means bugs. Yuck! Unfortunately with the promise of heat also comes the onslaught of bees, flies, fleas, ticks and – the worst – mosquitos! Insects that we humans can at least wear clothing and repellent to keep away. Our dogs, though.. They don’t have such a luxury.

If it were up to me, I would vaccinate my dogs one time as pups and then never again. But, unfortunately, I do not trust other dog owners, and I board my dogs, so they must be regularly vaccinated in order to protect against diseases that other untreated dogs may possibly carry. Among these preventative measures are the canine versions of bug repellent [aka flea and tick ointment and heart worm prevention]. Unfortunately, these tiny pests bother our pets just as much as they bother people! And, just as they do for humans, they carry nasty diseases that can infect your precious fur baby.

As the majorly forward thinking and research obsessed dog mom that I am, I always want to give my dogs the least dangerous medications as possible. I’ve mentioned before how thankful I am for my vet, and this is yet another reason why I just adore her. She is avidly against giving your pets any unnecessary medications – in her opinion, this includes flea and tick and heart worm preventative. As a professional veterinarian, a breeder, and a woman who shows her dogs, she believes that anything unnatural can be harmful to your pet, which is why she does not administer anything to her dogs outside of regular vaccinations [bordatella (kennel cough), rabies and distemper/parvo]. While I agree with the good doctor, I know her show dogs are not out hiking on the weekends and running around off trail in muddy swamp water and unkempt fields. Places where mosquitos, fleas and ticks love to hang out and breed. Places where my dogs also love to frolic because, as one time wild animals, those sorts of activities speak to their goofy canine souls.

I’ve never used bottom-of-the-barrel flea and tick preventatives. I’ve always used Frontline or K9-Advantix (I or II), in addition to a heart worm preventative available only by prescription from my veterinarian. Recently, during Otis’ last trip to the vet [just for a routine, puppy bordatella vaccine, thank goodness], my veterinarian was educating me on doggy bug repellent. She advised me to stop using Frontline and Advantix, as the fleas are starting to become immune to them and they are toxic to dogs. As I mentioned before, she recommended I use nothing, but I told her I couldn’t due to the activities my dogs are involved in, and that I didn’t feel comfortable exposing them to the elements without some sort of protection. She recommended we stick to Revolution, which is not only a flea and tick preventative, but a heart worm preventative as well. A three-in-one! And not horrible for your pets, either. She gave me a few months worth for each of my dogs and sent me on my way.

If your dogs are active like mine, I highly recommend consulting with your vet about getting your pups on the proper preventatives for the upcoming spring, summer and warmer fall months. The bugs and the diseases they carry are only getting worse, and preventative care is always cheaper than treatment. ALWAYS. Also, always remember to check your dogs for ticks after you take them in a field somewhere. EVERY TIME! Even if you have your pup on a preventative medicine, ticks can still find their way onto your pet [they just won’t last very long if your dog’s been treated]. Especially if your dogs have longer hair, the ticks can get nestled up in all kinds of places – before they’ve broken skin and taken their fill, they are very small and hard to find [be sure to check yourself, too! especially if you’re a male – if you’ve got long hair, ticks can and will grab onto it, just as they do to dogs.. gross, I know!].

All-in-all, as always, treat your pets like equal members of your family. You’ve taken on the responsibility to care for them, therefore you should be okay with the financial backing it takes to keep them healthy [again, preventative care is cheaper than treatment]. If your pets are healthy, annual trips to the vet are all you’ll need! And with the internet, social media, and email, it’s so easy to be in touch with your vet at a moment’s notice if you feel like something isn’t right.

How To Turn Walking Your Dog From A Chore To A Fun Activity

I as a runner, I can honestly say that I do not enjoy walking. I’m accustomed to moving twice the distance in half the time, which makes walking feel painfully slow. But since Otis is still too young to run, with Bella’s front wrists still healing, and as I work toward strengthening my back, walking is our only option right now. So, over the last few months, I’ve figured out how to look forward to my walks with the pups and find joy in the littlest things. [For some of my tips and tricks for a swift and easy dog walk, keep reading after this post!].

Walking your dogs creates an incredible bond and a huge level of trust. Any dog trainer will tell you that the best way to bring a new dog into your home is to take it for a walk. Why should that be any different with dogs you already have in your home? Dogs are pack animals by nature, so walking in a group is extremely natural and instinctual for them. And if you have more than one dog, they also bond with each other on a walk which is great for their relationship, too. Walks are the one place where my two pups are in harmony and aren’t trying to roughhouse, wrestle, or outdo each other. I don’t know about you, but I find that to be extremely peaceful!

If you live close to a school or park, walk your dog there and then let him run off leash. For me, there is something about seeing my dogs run free that just brings me so much joy! Leash walking is good for their minds, but running off leash is so good for their souls. Often times we humanize our dogs at home [admittedly, I am super guilty of this], and when we let our dogs run without a leash connection, it’s a reminder to both them and us that they are actually dogs. One of the highlights of both mine and my dogs’ weekends now is that we get to go to the school down the street from us so they can run around and be dogs. The other bonus of finding an enclosed place like a school to let your dogs run is that you can work on off-leash training and really build that bond and level of trust.

Getting outside does wonders for us humans, too. Since most of us hold jobs that keep us inside all day, we should take every opportunity to get out in nature. Having a dog leaves you with no excuse, since they need at least one daily outing to keep them sane. When I’ve had a stressful day at work [or when it’s that time of the month], I look forward to my evening walk with the pups because it allows me to decompress, and in my own way, meditate. I do a lot of my blog writing in my mind when I’m out with my pups. Something about the fresh air and the quiet evenings helps me think more clearly and get my thoughts on track.

While it’s slower and less effective than other forms of cardio, walking is, in fact, a form of cardio. You won’t burn as many calories or get your heart rate up as high, but you are exercising and you are making a difference in your health. If you live in a neighborhood with hills – great! Try to keep a consistent pace while you’re going up and down them. Don’t slow down! And if you don’t live near any hills, see if there are any neighborhoods or places nearby that have them. It’s a great way to get your heart pumping [and, if you’re pressed for time, you don’t have to go as far].

Grab a friend with a dog and go walking together. This is huge! This automatically makes you have an accountability partner so neither you nor your dogs miss out on a daily walk. I have a friend who lives close to me, and we try and get a walk in together every evening. For the pups, it’s great social interaction and learning to walk in a pack with other dogs. For the humans, it’s exercise and social hour. Need I say more?

Change up your walking route every once in a while. I love the days where I turn down a new street and get to check out different architecture and landscaping. It sounds silly, but it gets me daydreaming about the next home my fiancé and I buy and they way I’d like to design and decorate it. Plus, the dogs will love exploring a street with all kinds of new smells and sounds.

If you’re walking during the day, bring your phone with you so you can listen to music, an audiobook or a podcast. Generally I’d be against this, since the point of being out in nature is to let the noise of daily life fall away, but sometimes it’s nice to pop some headphones in your ears and zone out while you cruise with your pups.

There are going to be days where your walks aren’t fun. Maybe your dog is acting up, or it’s pouring rain, or the park down the street is busy so you can’t let your dog off his leash – whatever the case may be, the bottom line is that you got out there with your dogs. And when they’re sacked out at home, snoring little doggy snores and dreaming doggy dreams, you’ll have this odd and overwhelming sense of contentment. A proud pet parent moment. I imagine it feels something like what a parent feels for their own baby. Elation, maybe. Knowing that not only did you do something for your dogs, but you did something for you, too.

As a(n) [almost] daily dog walker, I’ve compiled a short list of some tips and tricks I’ve learned from both licensed dog trainers [who Bella and I have worked with], and my own experiences.

If you have a dog that doesn’t get along well with other dogs, it’s important to always be looking ahead and paying attention. If you see another dog coming, DO NOT STOP WALKING. Dogs are not multitaskers, which means that if you keep moving, they can’t walk forward, walk sideways, bark, growl, and watch their step all at the same time. If a dog is coming toward you, quickly check both ways and cross the street as soon as the coast is clear. The further you are from a situation, the more power you will have.

If you hope to work on off-leash training, I highly recommend bringing treats with you. Be sure your dog knows you have them before you release him. While he may be a scent dominated animal, there’s no way he will know you have them unless the wind is miraculously in your favor. Be sure you purchase high value treats – something your Fido will be willing to give up the fresh scent of a squirrel for.

Always, always, ALWAYS bring poop bags with you! I never leave the house without at least three doggy bags in my jacket, pants or fit belt. I even carry a roll in my car! Be a responsible dog owner. I can’t tell you how furious it makes me when people don’t clean up after their dogs, especially little ones. Just because your dog’s poo is the size of my finger, does not mean you get to leave it lying on the sidewalk.

In my personal opinion, there is nothing wrong with using a shock collar or a prong collar on your dog. You want to feel comfortable and confident as the owner of your dog – and if that means you can’t overpower him without the assistance of a tool, that’s nothing to be ashamed of. With Bella’s tendencies to dislike other dogs [and with her intimidating size and breed working against both of us], I always have her shock collar on when I know she will be in social situations. It’s more peace of mind for me, knowing that I have the power keep her from getting to a level where she feels like she has to take action on somebody else.

Don’t let your dog dictate the pace of the walk. You are the human, you decide how fast or slow things go. Because dogs are so scent dominant, they will follow any smell of interest that comes their way. My two are constantly trying to stop and smell the roses [literally and figuratively]. I am continually teaching them that they will get a sniff break and a potty break when I decide it’s time.

Ten Best Practices For Having A Happy, Healthy Dog

You guys know I’m that #crazydogmom bumper sticker to a “T.” My parents and my fiancé think it’s ludicrous the amount of time and money I spend on my dogs. I’m big on research, trying new products, and overall providing the best possible quality of life for my fur babies. #noshame

I’m definitely not an expert, but I consider myself to be pretty in-the-know when it comes to dogs and what I’ve found to be most successful for mine. And for that reason, I’ve compiled a little list of ten things I believe will not only make you a great pet owner and doggy parent, but will fulfill your dog’s needs as well.

No matter what breed of dog you have, exercise daily is an absolute must. It doesn’t matter how big your house and/or yard is, in your dog’s mind, it’s just a giant cage. They need to get out of the house and get a walk, run or hike in every day. And I know for some people this isn’t plausible. Some of us work crazy hours, others of us live in places where the temps drop to unreasonable levels, but do what you can to make it work. Even if it’s just for ten to twenty minutes [45-60 is ideal, BUT, life happens], your dog will thank you. And it’s healthy for us humans to get out of the house as well. Having a dog is a great excuse to see outside of the four [ish] walls we live in.

Keep your dog’s food and water bowls CLEAN. I may be borderline OCD about this, but I scrub Bella and Otis’ water bowl with hot, soapy water 2-3 times a day. Yes, a day. They both drink a lot of water, so I’m already emptying it out and filling it up regardless, and still water that sits in a basin like that develops a gross pink bacteria which is definitely not healthy for your dogs to be consuming. I see people with those automatic water dispensers in their homes and it just makes me cringe. Your dog needs FRESH, CLEAN water every single day. And if your dog eats raw, you should be doing the same thing to the food bowl after every meal. With kibble, I’m not as diligent, but I do wash the bowl about once to twice a week.

Take out an insurance policy on your pet. You’ll be able to tell from a very young age if your dog will need one early on or not. I truthfully did not know that pets could even have insurance until recently, which is why I didn’t get Bella a policy until she was five-and-a-half. Although, truth be told, she really didn’t need one before the age of five. Otis, however, I knew right away that he would need a policy. He has no fear – from day one he was jumping off couches and chairs, trying to wrestle with the big dogs, and was getting into and eating every possible thing he could find. I’ve had puppies before, but none who had zero boundaries like this guy. The cost per month for insurance is way cheaper than any vet bills you’ll have to pay in the long run. [You can read more about it here on a previous post].

Be sure your dog is eating a high quality food. If you can’t afford to feed raw [most people can’t, it’s stupidly expensive in America], then research your little heart out until you find a kibble that’s somewhat comparable. And be economical about it – only purchase the smallest bags of food while you’re testing brands out on your dog. Petco and PetSmart have gotten much better about offering higher quality foods, but I personally still stay away from them when it comes to kibble. I really love the company FROMM – they make amazing quality kibble and they have a ton of different varietals to choose from for your pet [you can find places that sell it on their site]. Otis is on some weird brand that the breeder was feeding him, but once we run out I’ll be switching him to FROMM. I can’t afford to have two dogs on raw right now.

Get your dog microchipped! I cannot stress this one enough. It doesn’t cost much, and if your dog ever gets loose it is extremely easy to track down the owner. Fortunately my dogs have not put theirs to use, but I know people whose dogs have and it was a life saver for both the dog and owner.

Take ten to fifteen minutes out of your day, every day, to work with your dog. In only one morning session of about 15 minutes, I was able to get Otis from running circles around me, whining, and jumping up and down like a pogo stick during mealtime, to sitting pretty calmly next to Bella and waiting for his turn to eat [I say “pretty” because he’s an extremely food-motivated puppy who lives for mealtime]. Some dogs are smarter and more receptive to training than others, but diligence and repetition is all it takes. Plus, it’s amazing how setting rules and boundaries will trickle into other aspects of their lives. I’m not sure if it’s because of our hierarchy in the house or because he’s just a natural, but Otis does really well on a leash already.

Make your dog’s hygiene a priority! This means oral and physical. If your dog eats raw, then the raw, meaty bones are a great, natural teeth cleaner. No brushing necessary Bella has never had her teeth brushed and her teeth are extremely clean. Dental hygiene is also important because dogs, like humans, can get plaque in their bodies if their teeth get buildup. This is detrimental to their mouths [obviously], hearts, bloodstream, other organs and their reproductive areas. If your dog doesn’t eat raw, I highly recommend adding a RMB or two a day to mealtime, especially if your dog doesn’t like having its teeth brushed or you’re not diligent enough to do so. [Raw feeding tip: purchasing just the bones is much cheaper than converting your dog’s entire diet]. Because of Bella’s allergies to chicken and turkey, she gets duck necks or rabbit bones. You may be able to find these at a butcher, or you can order them online from a raw food supplier [read more about raw feeding here]. Cleaning your dog’s coat is important, too. Be sure to find a product that’s moisturizing and easy to rinse off [ie: doesn’t linger on their coat and cause product build-up and irritation]. My veterinarian recommended a brand to me called Pure Paws. In the dog show business, it’s what a lot of owners use on their canines. I have the shampoo, conditioner, and the moisturizing spray. She also recommended that my dogs be bathed once a week, but with Bella’s sensitive coat, too much washing dries her out, regardless of how moisturizing the shampoo. Unless she gets really dirty, she’s on a once-a-month bathing schedule, with wipe downs in between with doggy-safe wipes [I use Burt’s Bee’s].

Get your dog comfortable with your hands on it from as early on as possible. If you adopt a dog who’s older in age, this will be a little more difficult because often times you don’t know their backstory. They could have been abused, in which case hands-on will be a challenge [but doable!]. All it takes is some trust building. If you get a puppy, it’s important to handle its feet, ears, legs, body and tail from the moment it becomes yours. Also, cradling the pup on its back either in your arms or your lap helps to build a level of trust and submissiveness between you and your dog. It’s important for your dog to be comfortable being handled by humans – between the vet visits and people petting your dog willy-nilly, the last thing you want is a nervous or reactive dog that shies away or bites at the show of a hand.

From the moment you adopt a dog, whether puppy or mature, find a vet you absolutely love and stick to that one. There will be occasions where you have to see another vet whether it be on a Sunday for an emergency [my life lately with my two pups], or a specialization that your generic vet doesn’t practice, but overall you want a vet that knows your dog and its health history. And if you end up having to see other vets, be sure to have all records transferred to your primary so that they have all of your dog’s info on file. I am extremely fortunate to have an amazing vet here in Sacramento that I absolutely love; I will be so sad if/when she ever retires. To read more about her and the dogs’ acupuncturist [yes, they have one], click here.

My final tip to you is to be attentive, read and do research. Pay attention to your pup and find out what makes it tick. Dogs are pretty easy to read if we take the time to break it down. If there’s a lot of itching and dandruff happening, your dog is probably allergic to either its food or something in the environment. If it’s panting a lot and can’t settle down, it probably needs exercise or some sort of stimulation. Getting to know your dog and its breed [if it’s not a mutt in which case you wouldn’t really know] will help you out so much when you’re raising your dog. The internet can have some bogus information and a lot of websites can’t be trusted, but I’ve found that joining breed-specific or diet-specific groups on Facebook have been extremely informative and helpful in raising Bella and working with her in her transition to raw feeding.

The bottom line is, if you’re going to take on the responsibility of a dog, then you also need to own the fact that you’re taking on everything that comes with it. Exercise, rules, feeding, cleaning up after, training.. All of these things are important components in raising a healthy, happy dog. I understand we all have lives and stuff gets in the way that keeps us from being the best pet parents in the world every single day [I am guilty of not walking my pups every single day]. But it’s important that we at least try. Don’t be lazy! And dogs are amazing communicators – if they’re unhappy, they’ll definitely let you know by being annoying or destructive. If they’re happy and fulfilled, you’ll know!

If you guys have any other tips on things you’ve learned about your pets that have helped you be a better pet parent, I would love to hear them! I am totally open to expanding my knowledge of my dogs and how I can be a better owner for them.

Puppy Training 101 – High-Value Treats + Staying Consistent

If you’ve ever had a puppy before, it’s easy to forget how much work it is. Especially once they’re all grown up and so easy to cohabitate with.

As you’ve probably read in recent posts, my fiancé and I brought a new fur baby into our home just a little over a month ago. My fiancé has never had a pet before [aside from a goldfish he won at the fair when he was a kid], and even though Otis is the 7th puppy I’ve had [between my parents and myself], we are basically both starting from scratch.

When Mitch and I made the decision to finally bring another pup into our home, we already knew we wanted a Puggle. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to find a reputable breeder on the west coast, so our search led us inland – the midwest, to be exact. Mitch really wanted a black Puggle, and that narrowed our decision to a breeder out of Iowa. Before we knew it, we had a deposit down on the puppy and his one-way flight was booked to SMF for that Thursday.

My fiancé and I really didn’t discuss how we wanted to train or raise Otis prior to adopting him. Within five days we went from a one-dog household to a two, without much room for conversation. Being the only one in the house who had raised a dog before, I naturally took on a bit of a leadership role with regards to setting rules and guidelines for Otis from day one [we’ve also been undergoing an overhaul with resetting rules for Bella, as well]. As it turns out, Mitch and I are very much on the same page with regards to raising Otis, however, little dude does not feel the same.


Since night one, Mitch and I have been crating Otis. He sleeps in it all night, and for short spurts throughout the day while we are at work [we have a system where he’s not in his crate longer than four hours during the day without being let out for at least an hour]. We have tried all of the crating tricks: covering a hot water bottle, playing music, putting things that smell like us in his crate, covering the crate with a dark blanket, letting him sleep with his favorite toys, feeding him in his crate – we’ve tried everything! And literally until a few days ago, the dude would scream, howl and cry from the time we put him in to anywhere from 5 to 45 minutes after. We have been dealing with this for a month, you guys. A month! Yeah, persistent little fella.

My biggest advice to you is stay consistent! Don’t give up! Your pup will catch on and follow the rules you set for him. Find out what motivates your dog, and use that to your advantage. Otis inherited most of his mother’s Beagle traits, and therefore has an extremely strong nose which makes him very food motivated. I bought a variety of high-end, raw freeze-dried treats as rewards for jobs well done. He’s also one of the smartest puppies I’ve ever had. Within a week he’d learned to sit when he wanted something – whether it’s to get on the couch [he’s not big enough to jump yet], waiting for dinner, expecting a treat after a good outside potty – he already knows sitting nicely equals delicious treat!

With a predominantly Beagle brain, Otis needs exercise as well as mental stimulation, which is something that training definitely falls under. He is extremely eager to please and will literally do just about anything for a treat. I am constantly finding new ways to teach him to behave and making a game out of them. My current task is training him to be sitting calmly before he gets let out of his crate. We are about a week into this and he has pretty much nailed it. He still has that puppy excitement when we walk up to the crate, but again, with consistency and constant rewards, he is learning very quickly.

If you’re currently training your dog or pup [old dogs can learn new tricks!], I highly advise you to check out training books, podcasts or Facebook groups. I have learned so much from reading books by and listening to trainers discuss the best practices to train and set guidelines for your pets. It’s also great to be a part of a group that can give you support when you get frustrated and feel like giving up. There are some major trolls out there in the world, but there are way more good people who will encourage you and try to help you when you’re feeling like you’re at a loss. Joining Doberman and raw-feeding groups on Facebook has taught me so much about different training methods and how many different ways there are to go about training your pet.

I’ve linked the brands I use for Bella and Otis’ treats below. I usually break them into smaller pieces – if the quality is high, then you really don’t need much treat to motivate them.

  • Stella & Chewy’s – they make great freeze-dried raw food and treats that my dogs think are super delicious. I buy the beef and duck treats and the beef and salmon meal mixers and just give the meal mixers as treats.
  • Plato – these are high-value treats that are the kind that leave your hands a little greasy after [gross, but it means dogs freakin’ love em!]. I buy the salmon and duck real strips treats.

You’ll notice that I only buy duck, beef and fish formulated treats. I tend to steer clear of any turkey or chicken based treats, regardless of whether or not they are gluten-free and grain-free. I’ve done a lot of research on hot and cold food diets, and I have my own theory that chickens and turkeys ingest a lot of grain, therefore there’s likely going to be gluten and grain in chicken and turkey products. I’ve found that chicken and turkey seem to do more harm than good when it comes to dogs, so that’s why I avoid giving byproducts of those two white meats to my fur babies. Bella’s coat has improved tremendously by cutting these two meats out, and while Otis is still too young to test this theory on, I will continue to give him the same treats I give to Bella.

Health Insurance For Fido. It’s A Thing!

In January of this year, my fiancé and I celebrated our eleven month anniversary [and a much needed date night out]. As an early one year anniversary gift, he surprised me with the fact that he was ready to bring another dog into our home.

If you know me at all, you know the big soft spot in my heart for dogs. For nearly a year I had been joking with him about just showing up at home with a puppy one day, and becoming an old, retired married couple with hundreds of dogs. For a year he pretended [or maybe it was real haha] to be afraid of having any more dogs. Bella was more than enough, he said. So I was completely shocked and so excited when he announced that he was ready for one more. And as much as we were both looking forward to finding our perfect pup, we knew it wouldn’t be right to start the puppy process before our big Europe trip in September.

Fast forward to four weeks ago. Mitch and I were lying in bed on a Saturday morning, looking at puppies online. After seeing the movie, I Love You, Man, we both had our hearts set on a Puggle. For months we had been searching for a breeder on the west coast, but, me being the crazy dog lady that I am, I refused to go with a breeder that seemed to be breeding for money instead of passion. We finally found one in Iowa who had the cutest black coated male, and we were sold. We emailed the breeder, put down a deposit, and five days later I picked our little guy up from the airport [sidenote: we both did a ton of research on flying a puppy – I did not want to pay money for a dog that would arrive traumatized for life].

Enter: Otis. Spunky, vocal, and the bravest little dude the world has ever seen. Hence why I decided that we needed doggy insurance. Actually, it was about 6 months ago that I began researching the different pet insurance companies, after I took Bella in for a bit of holistic healthcare [look for a post about this to come].

You guys know I will pay any amount of money to keep my pets healthy and happy. But having a 6 year old Doberman who eats raw is costly enough without the added vet bills, not to mention a new puppy who needs regular vaccinations and really likes to live life on the edge. Working in the health insurance industry myself, I knew it would be more beneficial for me in the long run if I purchased insurance for my pups.

I am so thankful I did.

Five days before we left for Europe, I took Bella on a hike with my friend and her German Shepherd pup. They ran around like crazy, and later that afternoon I noticed Bella limping. Knowing I would be boarding her for two weeks, I took her to the emergency vet near my home to have her examined. Between the x-ray the vet took that day, the fee to actually see a vet at an emergency clinic, and the laser treatments and blood tests after Europe because she wasn’t healed.. Well, let’s just say the numbers added up quickly. Luckily, because I signed Bella up for insurance, I will get reimbursed for all of it!

One of the other benefits of pet insurance is that you can easily customize the plan you wish to sign your pet up for. There are different deductible options, and tons of riders [add-ons] available to cater to your pet’s specific needs. And, compared to the cost of x-rays, acupuncture, blood tests, vet visits, etc., the insurance is pretty freakin’ cheap.

I definitely don’t think it’s necessary for everyone. The only reason I even looked into it in the first place was because Bella is starting to enter her “older” dog years and I want to be able to cover as much of her healthcare expenses as I possibly can. And the only reason I added Otis to it was because he’s a daredevil and if either of them is going to get seriously injured it will be him [fingers crossed that doesn’t happen, though LOL].

I only compared two different pet insurance companies when I looked, and I ended up going with Trupanion [I felt like they had a good variety for a bit cheaper cost]. There are tons of options out there, though, and some employers offer discount programs that include pet insurance [worth checking into!].

Unfortunately I won’t be much help in referring anybody to any companies, as I’m super new to pet insurance myself, and I don’t personally know any other pet owners that have it. But if you have questions on plans and what they cover, I can help you with that, and I’m happy to! Please feel free to ask.

Pet Foo[le]d

You guys already know that I am the epitome of a dog mom – raw feeding, $200 collars, sleeping in my bed and on the furniture.. The list goes on. I spend at least two hours every day reading and researching raw feeding – the benefits of it and the proper way to feed it to your dog. I’ve joined at least five Facebook groups focused solely on raw feeding, holistic pet care, and Traditional Chinese Medicine for pets [yeah, I’m a bit of a wackadoo – no shame].

It was in one of these groups that another member recently posted a link to an article about a documentary called PET FOOleD, and about 85 people commented on it. All of them recommended it to be watched. And, of course, being the avid researcher that I am, I decided to give it a go.

I am really not a huge TV watcher. I watch, like, maybe two hours a week? And that’s not every single week. Some weeks I don’t watch TV at all. A lot of shows and movies give me major anxiety, and the ones that don’t just make me feel like I’m getting dumber and wasting my time. That said, when I come across something that really interests me and I think I’ll learn something from, I will actually sit down and watch it.

Last night I finally had some time to carve out to watch the documentary. The only expectation I had was that it was about the pet food industry [specifically dogs and cats]. Right off the bat, the film opens up with an interview with a wildlife veterinarian who feeds her pets raw. From a young age, she knew she wanted to be a vet. She shadowed a condor rehabilitator who aided in the recovery of injured birds by feeding them what they’d eat in the wild: raw meat. When she was finally old enough to go to vet school, she was confused when the nutrition classes taught the students solely about kibble. How could animals live on something that wasn’t natural to them?

Let me go on a little tangent here about veterinarians. I am by no means an expert, and I don’t claim to be. But what I do know from all of the groups that I’ve joined and all of the research that I’ve done, is that most vets will just regurgitate information they’ve been taught. They don’t form their own opinion or do their own research on the products they are selling to their clients. I trust my vet’s opinion for several reasons. 1) She’s very forward thinking. She’s constantly going to seminars and conferences on new ideologies, and educating herself in order to give the best possible care to her clients. 2) She’s a breeder and she shows her dogs. Many of the things she preaches are through her own trial and error. 3) She doesn’t speak at her clients, she speaks to them. She tries to educate people on what she’s administering and why. She lets people know why certain products will be beneficial to their pets.

Okay, back to the documentary. The film takes us on a tour through the history of kibble – how it came to be in the first place, and where it’s ended up today. It is very graphic at times, and also very emotional. Several people are interviewed about their pets passing away suddenly and horrifically by ingredients in their dogs’ food. Another veterinarian is interviewed about her belief in raw feeding, and how animal obesity has become such a problem in this country because of feeding our pets kibble.

Because the film is right up my alley, I found it to be extremely interesting and intriguing. The biggest message it sends is that we shouldn’t be cheapskates when it comes to caring for our pets and giving them a proper diet. There is an understanding that not everybody can afford to feed their pets raw – in this country it is still very expensive, and, when it comes to more than one pet, it can be time consuming to meal prep. The hope is that educating people on the dangers of buying inexpensive pet food will at least drive the pet food companies to monitor the ingredients in their product more efficiently. At this point, the FDA really isn’t regulating pet food production, which is why so many products have been recalled over the last 10 years. Buying expensive kibble doesn’t necessarily guarantee a healthier pet, but it has a higher chance of containing better quality ingredients than the lower priced brands.

As always, I understand that feeding raw isn’t an option for everyone. As I mentioned, it can be expensive and it is time consuming to meal prep. But I do encourage you to do some research on raw feeding and also on processed pet food. Start to scan the bags for certain ingredients to ensure your pet isn’t taking in something toxic. After switching my own dog to raw, I will always be an advocate for it, but there are decent kibbles out there on the market – you just have to do your research. Don’t be lazy. If you’re taking on the responsibility of a pet, then you also take on the responsibility to care for them properly, and that includes feeding them as well as you possibly can.

I encourage everyone to see the documentary. It was educational and very eye-opening. It even further solidified that my decision to switch Bella to raw was the best decision for her that I ever could have made.