Fabulous Bones For Your Dog

There are lots of beef bones out there – but which are the best?  Which ones give you the most bang for your buck?  Which ones are good for dogs of all ages?  For dogs both large and small?  Funny you should ask…..

We recommend beef neck bones and beef rib bones for your all around dog bone needs.  Both are relatively soft (when compared to recreational bones) and pretty much completely edible.  This means that they make great bones for growing puppies.  Recreational bones like marrow bones and knuckle bones are just TOO hard for baby teeth.  Rib bones are the least meaty of the two and make a great busy toy for your puppy.  If they ingest and eat it, no problem.  If they just strip the ligaments and fat off of them, no problem.  They are soft enough so that they really can’t cause damage to growing teeth which is the most important thing!  Rib bones are also great for older dogs.  They can make up the bony part of any meal as they are completely edible.  If you purchase rib bones from the butcher or grocery store with all the rib meat still attached, they can be a meal in and of themselves.

Beef neck bones (and the necks of many other animals like hogs, lamb or deer) tend to be a bit more meaty and with the addition of a little extra meat can be the basis for a great dinner for your dog.  They are a great bone to give at any time though – just to give your pup a little something to do!  All neck bones are relatively soft, perhaps even softer than the rib bones, and as such make a great medium sized bone for puppies as well.  If you consider the fact that they are getting not only the bone but the meaty that covers it and it becomes a very nutritional snack indeed!

Both types of bones are great for hard chewers as well.  If your dog is one who obsesses over bones, chewing as hard as they possibly can in an attempt to break off bits than ribs and neck bones probably should be your bone of choice.  Recreational bones, while great fun for many dogs, have a reputation for breaking teeth when gnawed on by a determined canine.  You know your dog best – if he destroys indestructible toys with alarming regularity, chances are a marrow bone might cause him some issues!  Try necks or ribs instead, let him destroy them without worry.  Just remember that you need to take into consideration the amount of bone he eats in a given day when feeding him meals.  Simply adjust by feeding a little more meat and a little less overall since he’s already had what amounts to a partial meal (we don’t want ANY fat dogs!)

All in all, rib bones and neck bones are a optimal way to give your dog something healthy to chew on and a nutritious snack all in one.  Don’t worry about what you can give your baby puppy – either one of these bones will do the trick and give him much needed jaw exercise as well as keep him busy!  Whether used as a boredom buster or as part of a meal, you can’t go wrong when these are your bones of choice!

To Tug Or Not To Tug – That Is The Question…..

Its been long bandied about in dog circles that playing tug with your puppy or dog is a big fat NO NO.  Is this so or is this just a misunderstood game that people misuse?  Does it have its place?  Is there a “right” way to play tug?  Interestingly, some of the very problems that old school thinkers claim tug causes are instead helped by the game.  The key is to control the game and to keep it within the rules that YOU set forth for your dog.

There are a slew of arguments against the game of tug.  It makes your dog dominant and/or aggressive and to play rougher than he should.  In reality, none of these things are true unless you somehow let it happen (and even then, dominance?  Not likely).

Yes, some dogs can become very excited when they play tug with their human (or with another dog).  This high arousal can certainly mimic aggression and even be considered a form of aggression but the truth is that its simply over excitement.  Essentially the dog forgets itself in the heat of the moment, the excitement of the game.  Its our job to know the signs of this and to stop the game before it becomes inappropriate.  This is as simple as teaching your dog that its “all done” as soon as undesirable behaviors arise.  As soon as you realize that your dog is becoming overly aroused you need to stop the activity that is causing the problem.  The dog is going to calm down as the object of his desire is out of play.  Working on a teaching this behavior through the game of tug is also beneficial in any and all situations where your dog might become overly aroused.  Your “all done” command (or whatever words you decide to attach to the command) will work as a calming command whether or not you are in the middle of a game or taking a walk.  It will apply in any venue.

Occasionally a dog playing tug can get a little too enthusiastic when grabbing the tugging toy.  This can result in an unpleasant meeting between canine tooth and skin.  It is important to note that generally speaking this is not the result of aggression on the dog’s part – its simply that he wants that tug rope SO BADLY he doesn’t think before tooth placement (JUST GIVE ME MY TUGGGGGGG!!!!). Regardless, as dog owners, we know that this is not an acceptable form of play – teeth shouldn’t touch us ever.  Dealing with this issue is much like dealing with a mouth puppy – the action to correct is the same.  Simply end the game.  Your dog is obviously loving his playtime with you and his tug toy – so much so that he is getting a little too rough, forgetting his manners.  If his teeth land on your arm, leg, hand etc, end the game.  It won’t take long for him to understand that when he gets a little too “much” the game, and therefore the fun, ends.  Easy.  Dogs do what works – it will not take long for him to see the connection and behave accordingly.

So why play tug?  Well, for one thing, its fun for you AND your dog.  According to Pat Miller, a well known positive trainer, there are HUGE arguments FOR playing tug and few if any against it – so long as you follow simple rooms and keep the game structured and positive.  In her article “Tug: Play It by the Rules, she outlines many of these benefits:

  1. Great exercise that can be practiced inside and outside with young dogs, old dogs and dogs on restriction due to a surgery or injury (so long as you modify the game to meet their needs).
  2. Tool for teaching retrieving behaviors even in dogs that show no interest.  If they get excited at tug, Ms. Miller contends its not hard to direct that excitement towards a retrieving behavior that will get you on your way to a dog who loves to fetch
  3. Use it as a training tool to teach recalls – perhaps THE most important command that any of our dogs can know.  Can’t get him to come back to you?  Let him get interested in tugging and carry his favorite tug toy with you wherever you go – practice at short distances allowing him to have a grand old game of tug whenever he comes back to you!
  4. Stress reliever.  Dogs like to bite, shake and “kill” things.  Even though they are snoozing on your couch they are, after all, might hunting housewolves (yes, even your little pug has a hidden wolf inside).  Give them an outlet for their energy and prey drive.
  5. Ever notice that when you are in a new and unfamiliar place or when something is going on that makes your dog anxious your little piggy becomes disinterested in his favorite treats?  Offer up his tug toy, get his mind off of what’s happening around him.
  6. Teach self control by reinforcing the command that means the game is over and the command to release of give.
  7. There is always that friend or family member who loves to wrestle and let your dog gnaw his hands, arms, whatever.  Not fun when you don’t prefer that type of play and how is your dog to know with whom such behavior is okay?  Let’s face it, most of us do our best to train our dogs to know that teeth on skin=bad.  How confusing to have that one person allow it – and we all know that what is learned is all to easily “un-learned”.  Hand over a tug toy and encourage “that” person in your dog’s life to play with it instead!
  8. Playing tug can initiate a stronger relationship between you and your dog.  His attention is on you and he loves the game – you are the center of that game so therefore the center of his world.

Miller also has a few rules of the game – simple but important.  First off you keep control of the tug toy – it isn’t something your dog is allowed to have all of the time.  This increases their desire for it and makes it something “special”.  Control the game always.  Your dog isn’t allowed to grab the toy from you – he can take it when you offer it and doesn’t get it until he can control himself and do just that.  Make sure that your dog understands “give” or “out”.  You get to win this game most of the time – you are the one in control of the toy and therefore you need to end up with it.  If your dog is too aroused or the game passes a calm but active level, its time for a time out.  Stop the game and have a rest.  No teeth on anything but the tug – teeth touch skin, clothes etc, game over.  Finally, in the end, you decide to end the game – not your dog.  You own that tug toy, you dictate when play time starts and finishes and when the game is done, you get to put the toy away ready for another session at a time of your choosing!  Its all about rules and control – not dominance and aggression!

Remember that dogs don’t become “dominant”.  Pretty much they are or they aren’t and a truly dominant dog is actually

Many items make great tug toys -find one that your dog loves and use it as his “special” tug that only comes out at certain times

hard to come by.  They do and can play inappropriately and act out when they are highly aroused.  This does not dominance make.  The idea that playing tug with your dog, allowing your dog to “win”, letting him pull hard etc. will make your dog dominant is a myth.  The thought process that YOU must win, that YOU must be alpha, that YOU must “rule” your dog as the pack leader is simply ridiculous regardless as to what people with little practical knowledge but big tv contracts might want you to think.  Your dog knows you aren’t a dog, your dog can be trained just as easily as any other dog, your dog doesn’t need an alpha roll by you to know how to be a good dog.  Tug doesn’t make for dominance, aggression or bad behavior – in reality, it can foster GREAT behavior and bring about some wonderful lessons and cued behaviors that can be used in many non-tug situations.

**For further information please check out www.clickertraining.com for fun games and training methods using tugging games**

A Tired Dog Is A Good Dog

If appropriately “tired out”, your pup will zonk out in just about ANY position!!

I’m sure you have all heard the phrase before – a tired dog IS a good dog!  Where does such a saying come from?  From the fact that in today’s world TOO many dogs are left on their own to figure out ways to expel their energy – left to their own devices but handicapped by being in a crate all day, in the house all day or limited to what fun they can have alone (or even with a housemate) in their fenced back yard.  Unfortunately dog owners don’t realize that this isn’t enough and that they are indeed doing a disservice – not only to their dog – but to their own home-life as well.

If we are all honest with ourselves and look at this in a logical way, we all have to admit that it is RARE for a dog to have a “job” any longer.  Mostly they are kept as pets and their jobs consist of, well, hanging out with us!  Its a noble profession and I for one would never have a dog free household BUT consider what dogs were bred for – a little bit of EVERYTHING.  This thought doesn’t only apply to purebreds that were meant for a particular purpose either – it applies to ALL dogs.  When you consider that a mixed breed has two or several breeds in their genetic make-up, you have to realize that you may be dealing with a dog who has it in their blood to herd, hunt, guard AND haul heavy objects!  Dog breeds were formed for specific purposes.  Certainly some of these were meant to be lap dogs, this much is true, BUT far more of them had a purpose and a job.  No matter how far removed from it, some of this working instinct is left in these dogs (some more than others to be certain).  Does this mean you have to get your Australian Shepherd out amongst sheep or hitch your Rottweiler to a cart?  Of course not.  What it DOES mean is that as pet owners, its our job to make sure that they have some outlet for their energies or suffer the consequences of our inaction.

What are these consequences you ask?  All of those bad behaviors that we run to the dog trainer with, that make us considering sending the dog to a new home, that makes us wonder what on earth is wrong with this dog!  A bored dog forced into regular inactivity is a dog that is likely to wreak some havoc.  Left alone all day while we work, whether crated or not, the dog is, I can assure you, sleeping.  Then you get home – you’re tired after a long day and would love to snuggle

This retriever enjoys a rousing game of fetch (of course with a lake involved) with her owner. Interacting and playing with your dog will ensure that they get the exercise that they need.

on the couch with your pooch – only it isn’t to be – he’s ready to go!

Are you really surprised?  Are you surprised that he is running all over, jumping on you, flying off of the furniture, bouncing off the walls?  So you have a fenced in yard…..you let him out, let him run – isn’t that enough?  Not really. He isn’t going to exercise himself and even if there is another dog in the family and some running and playing goes on, it isn’t as much as you think.  Dogs, in reality, need more than just a run around the yard either alone or with company – they actually thrive when they have something to DO.

How do we achieve this?  Its really not so hard.  Instead of just sending your dog outdoors on his own, go out with him and toss a ball or a frisbee or a stick.  Interact with him out there, make him think about things a little bit rather than allowing him to mosey around the yard on his own.  Being outside alone isn’t always the most “fun” thing in the world for a dog – ever wonder why on earth those huge holes keep appearing in your yard?  Your pup is BORED!  Digging gives him something to actually do, a way to entertain himself.  How about taking your canine on a walk?  Doesn’t have to be a long walk – just around the block a couple of times can make all the difference.  New things to smell, see, watch, enjoy.  You might be getting the idea that mental stimulation is sort of what this is all about – and to a certain extent it is in conjunction with some good old fashioned exercise.  A walk, as opposed to letting your dog out in the back yard, is actually making your dog, well, WALK.  Add the sights, smells and sounds and its the whole package!

Play dates with other dogs and going to Doggy Daycare are both great ways to get your dog to engage in aerobic exercise and interact with other dogs and people

When your dog is left home during the day, give him something to do.  There are tons of interactive toys out there – toys you can stuff with food, puzzles that he’ll have to figure out, toys that will make him THINK!  Much more exciting tastes like nothing rawhide!  Check out doggy daycares in your area.  This is another nice alternative to leaving your dog home alone all day.  Running and playing with other dogs and interacting with daycare staff can make for one tired dog in the evenings!  Even one or two days a week can make the difference.  Alternatively, see about dog walkers willing to come by once a day to take your dog out and about while you aren’t at home.  It can make all the difference between coming home to a contented dog and coming home to a mess!

Exercise is a necessity for your dog – for his health, both mental and physical.  It also can make the difference between having a dog that you love and want to be with and having a dog that drives you CRAZY.  Too many dogs are given up because of behavior problems that, in reality, stem quite simply from the fact that they don’t get what they need – mental stimulation and exercise.  Having a dog is far more than simply feeding and petting him – its making his life interesting and having him be part of your pack – a member who you actually spend time with doing physical things.  Remember that dogs, for the most part, weren’t bred to be couch potatoes – that sort of behavior normally comes after they have gotten their zoomies out and have had at least some activity in their day.  A dog can be a healthful difference for you as well – who among us doesn’t need to get out and walk once a day?  Maybe longer walks on the weekend?  You KNOW its true! So before you give up on your pup when his behavior starts to drive you batty, take a minute to consider – what have you done for him lately?  What more COULD you be doing?  Isn’t it worth a little more work on your part in order to keep your pup happy at home?