Monthly Archives: March 2021

Post-Fostering Paranoia

It’s a funny thing: No matter how badly I want to place a foster dog or foster puppy, no matter how much time and money and trouble they have caused me, the minute they leave to join a new household, the worrying starts.

For the past month, I’ve been fostering a goofy little mixed breed dog with giant ears. I called her Kiki, after the only repeated syllables I could call out loud that she would respond to (no response whatsoever to “Puppy! Baby! Beebee! Bobo! Mama! Taytay! Lala! etc. ). She has been a tiny pain in the butt: Adorable and friendly, housetrained and easy to train, but also a counter-surfer, prone to picking up eyeglasses and gardening gloves and carrying them off to far corners of the property, and of course, our biggest complaint, actually driving my “fun uncle” dog Woody crazy with her desire to play all day long. He’s up for playing some, but her style of play is very bitey/nippy, and his sensitive ears and jowls and lips and, most of all, his good humor, were showing some wear. I was taking a couple hours every day to take Kiki someplace for a super long run alongside my mountain bike, or an off-leash hike, and still, she was pestering the heck out of Woody. For his sake especially, and because it was taking so much of my time to run her every day, I really wanted to get Kiki placed ASAP!

Doesn’t Woody look a little tired?

Through the generous sharing of my “please help me find an adopter for this dog!” posts on Facebook, finally a perfect home appeared last Sunday: A woman who lives on five fully fenced acres in a rural area, is retired, and likes to both jog and ride mountain bikes. Any skepticism I had about a woman older than me riding mountain bikes was shot down when she drove through my gate in a big brand-new pickup truck with a bike rack mounted in the back. Yay! Her sister also lives on the property and has two dogs, so she brought the dogs along and we introduced the dogs, and it totally seemed like they were all going to be able to get along.

After the adopter filled out the adoption agreement from the shelter, I put Kiki in her truck and kissed her nose, fondled those magnificent ears one last time and, of course, burst into tears, waving the truck through the gate too choked up to shout a goodbye.

Kiki and the adopter’s sister’s Border Collie sleeping in the back seat on the way home

The adopter sent me a picture from the road: Kiki sleeping on the back seat of the truck with her sister’s same-age Border Collie. It was all going to be fine!

But then, I sent her a text about a tiny thing I forgot to tell her later that evening, and didn’t get a response. Not the end of the world, but a tiny worry started to grow.

The next morning – still no word. I have to say, I sort of expected another photo – Kiki running around her property, sleeping on her couch or bed, playing with the Border Collie… something! Over coffee, I fretted some more. What is the fencing on the adopter’s property like? Would she call me if Kiki got out and wouldn’t come back to her, or would she be too embarrassed to do so?

I sent the adopter a text: “If I promise not to be a pest, will you send me another pic today?”

No immediate response. Shoot! Come on!

I took her mountain-bike riding several times. She would trot and lope along for five miles, never leaving my back wheel. A terrific biking partner.

I’m only slightly ashamed to admit the next thing I did was pull up a Google Street View of the woman’s address and look at the fencing. It looked good – but oh! Gates! I wonder if Kiki hopped out of the truck when the adopter got out of the truck to open the gates! Shoot! She did that to me more than once (and once locked me out of my car, stepping on the armrest control panel, too). But that was right at my house, and she didn’t try to run away, she just ran into the yard. What would she do at a stranger’s gate, with a stranger calling her?

SHOOT – I should have warned her about how Kiki often tries to jump out of the car when I get out to open my driveway gates. I should have made sure she had a leash on her!

When another 30 minutes ticked by with no text, I escalated. “Alright, I have to admit I am fretting because I forgot to tell you that she would sometimes try to get out of the car behind me when I got out to open my gate. And I imagined her jumping out when you opened your gate. If she is lost, PLEASE don’t be embarrassed but let me know RIGHT AWAY so I can come help look for her! No judgment! I should have told you!”

That bowl, full of kibble and ready to be fed to Woody, was on the table above her. She jumped up and knocked it down with a huge CLANG! She showed absolutely no fear but dug into the chow. Kiki 1, Nancy 0 points for good management.

I know, I was sounding like a crazy person, right? By the time another hour ticked by, though, I was absolutely certain that’s exactly what happened. I was trying to figure out how I was going to get all my work done this week if I had to take all day Monday off, looking for Kiki in a strange town. . . . and then the text with a selfie of Kiki and her adopter arrived. “We’re good!” it said.

Instantly, my worry evaporated. “Okay!” I thought to myself. “She’s just a minimal texter! I won’t worry!”

But you know, I probably will.

I was discussing all this with a friend – someone who has gone on most of those Kiki-tiring hikes and bike rides with me – and she said, “Couldn’t you write up a contract that says the adopter has to send you a photo a day for a few weeks?” Ha! I could – but maybe I will just send them this blog post, instead.

But look: Many, many dogs escape from their new homes in the first week – especially ones like Kiki, who were once picked up as strays and spent time in a shelter. Kiki was also previously adopted twice and returned, and then spent a month with me! If she got loose, where might she try to go? It’s anyone’s guess! Adopters really have to make sure they keep ID on their new dogs at all times, and pay special attention to gates, doors, and even open car windows. Keep them leashed any time you leave the property until you have a great bond and a good recall – and check in with those former foster people!

** Postscript: As I was writing this, Kiki’s adopter sent me about five videos of Kiki playing with the Border Collie, and showing me around her acreage and home. It all looks terrific. I’ll sleep well tonight!

The post Post-Fostering Paranoia appeared first on Whole Dog Journal.

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Top Ten Tips to Keep Your Pet Safe & Calm this Fourth of July



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Forget About Stress & Anxiety

POSITIONING THEMSELVES FOR REINFORCEMENT First off, sorry. The title was designed to get your attention. We cannot forget about stress and anxiety but rather than focus on those conditions we assume a dog is experiencing, let’s get down to the business of behavior. It has been important that people have been encouraged to […]

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Types of Dog Smiles

There’s more to a dog’s smile than meets the eye.
dog smiling with teeth

One of my favorite private consultations of all time involved a family who came to me, scared and sad, because they were worried about the way their beloved Golden Retriever was acting toward their two-month-old baby. Though the dog had been a total angel for more than four years, they were afraid they would have to rehome, or perhaps even euthanize, him: “He’s gotten aggressive and is showing his teeth to our daughter.”

I braced myself for an emotional session. In the work I do, it’s critically important for me be honest with my clients, particularly when a child’s safety is involved. Sometimes management and training are enough, but with a newborn—or really, children of any age—in the house, there can be no mistakes or management failures. A gate that isn’t latched or a door that isn’t shut can easily happen to anyone (especially to sleep-deprived new parents), but such lapses can have serious consequences.


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Episode 811 – The New Normal: Distance Learning & Telecommuting

Victoria and Aly talk about how to be more effective when learning and working from home. Social distancing is the thing these days, but how do we keep from going nuts and what are the best practices to stay productive and efficient when working or learning from home. Dealing with the social aspect of isolation. Aly shares some top tips for how to be productive while staying home, including staying engaged and avoiding passivity. The use of rituals of physical, technical and mental preparation in staying efficient at home.

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Top Ten Tips to Keep Your Pet Safe & Calm this Fourth of July



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Three Secrets to Safe & Effective Exercise for Your Dog

It’s no secret that exercising your dog can lead to a happier and healthier pup – not to mention a quieter house and a happier you. The complication is that exercising your dog takes time and sometimes we struggle to find time to exercise ourselves. However, without safe and effective exercise, your dog can gain weight, risk costly injury, and tear apart the house in response to pent up energy. Consider how you exercise your dog now: perhaps you play tug with your Chihuahua in the living room, jog or play fetch with your active retriever, or ask your senior mixed breed to sit in the kitchen — all of these activities can exercise your dog both physically and mentally. Let’s further explore how you can make the most of your time with your dog while safely and effectively gaining the benefits of exercise.

Here are three secrets to safely and effectively exercising your dog through activities and games that you probably already play.

1. Discuss with your veterinarian

Before beginning any exercise (even training class!), it’s important to get a full health check with your local veterinarian. Let your vet know which activities you are thinking about pursuing, and ask which activities would be most appropriate for your dog’s age, musculoskeletal structure, and preferences. Remember, just like with children, jumping from high places or playing on hard surfaces can be detrimental to joints. Be sure to ask how long the activities should last, how intense they should be, and about any necessary equipment or weather precautions. Just because your dog wants to fetch constantly, doesn’t necessarily mean that this high impact, sustained exercise is healthy. Describe the activity and environment to your vet in detail, and be sure to get clearance before enjoying with your pup.

2. Explore variation

After speaking with your veterinarian about appropriate activities for your dog, plan to vary the types of activities each day. If your veterinarian approved some shorter distance jogs for your pup, perhaps the next day you could spread his food in the backyard as a scavenger hunt. Varying high intensity with low intensity workouts is just as stimulating for your pup, and the variation will keep him engaged. You can also vary exercises within the activity itself. For example, if you frequently throw a ball or disc for your dog until she lies down and pants, consider asking for tricks between different types of throws. By varying distances and body movements you can help your dog regulate her arousal and stay safe.

3. Remember warms up & cool down

Before beginning any activity, it’s important to set up your dog for success. Dogs have the same basic musculoskeletal components as people, and therefore they can sustain similar injuries from rigorous use or clumsy accidents. However, dogs are more athletic compared to humans (even your couch potato probably has a higher VO2max than you!), and they can exert a lot of energy at playtime. It’s important to warm up and cool down your dog’s muscles before use. Consider the type of exercise and what body parts are involved, and plan for a warm up. For example, if you’re about to open the back door for your dog to dash out with his powerful hind legs, take a couple walking laps around the living room first. Ask for a few repetitions of sit and put a treat in front of his nose to lure him in a few circles before opening the door. Much like a short jog, squats, and plyometrics before a sprint, these exercises can help protect your dog’s soft tissue before dashing off. The easiest part is that the same exercises can be performed in reverse for a quick cool down.

Using these three secrets, you can safely and effectively exercise your dog in the same amount of time and help you and your pup enjoy the benefits. Through warms ups/cool downs and varying your dog’s activities you can tire your pup out in no time at all. Talking to your veterinarian about the type, duration, and intensity of activity can also tailor the exercise to your dog and avoid costly injury. 

Many caretakers believe that their dog needs to sprint in order to get tired, when in reality sniffing, training, or a combination can be just as taxing. Check out the table below for more ideas! Challenge yourself this week to change one thing about your dog’s exercise routine, and see if you enjoy a calmer, healthier dog!




Warm up/cool down

Hide a treat/toy in the house

High/low places, obstacles, multiple rooms

Walk laps, sits, crawls

Sniffy walk

Hide treats, change route

Walk laps, sits


Side to side, stop/go, 2 tugs

Jog laps, play bow, weight shift


Short/long distances, walking breaks, sit/down/spin/beg/back

Jog laps, downs, circles


Walk/run, canicross, sniff breaks

Sniff, walk laps, sits



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Meet Filbert

smiling dog

Filbert serves as a therapy dog for my foster dogs. He soothes and calms them and helps them recover. He has innate ability to ease troubled souls.


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Meet Ginny

smiling dog

Ginny is sleep hound. If her person lies down on the couch to nap, she’ll hop into the leg bowl and snooze with them.


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Why Do Dogs Sneeze?

And what can I (or should I) do when my dog keeps sneezing?
dog sneezing

Dogs’ sense of smell is their superpower; using their noses, they decipher the world. So, no surprise that, like us, they occasionally sneeze, and often for the same reasons. Random sneezes aren’t necessarily something to be concerned about. Common irritants include pollen; household products (another reason to always use pet-safe versions), perfume and second-hand smoke; or water inhaled while swimming or during a bath. Dogs will also sometimes sneeze when they’re excited, or during play. However, some sneezes should definitely be paid attention to and their causes treated or ruled out. Read on for more details.

Common Causes for Dog Sneezing

Note: If your sneezing dog has nasal swelling, a persistent runny nose or nose bleeds, or is pawing at her nose, there’s likely to be an underlying reason. Have your vet check her out without delay.

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