The Ultimate Guide to What Dogs Can’t Eat

Dog Diet & Nutrition

pre rinse cycle

what dogs can’t eat

There are human foods that are completely safe for dogs and also foods that are dangerous and even potentially fatal. Many pet owners learn about toxic foods only after their dog has ingested something and started having abnormal symptoms.

Since dogs are naturally curious and have an amazing sense of smell, this combination often leads to them getting into purses, getting food off of counters, getting into trash cans, stealing food from grills, and sneaking food from plates. Other times, well-intentioned pet owners offer tables scraps or human foods without understanding that they are toxic.

Below, we will review what can’t dogs eat as well as list what is safe. It is important to have healthy alternatives once you know what is not safe.


Safe Food for Dogs

There are many human foods that are “safe” for dogs. However, dogs do not need human food. What dogs need is a good quality food formulated for the size, age, body condition, activity, or for any underlying medical problems they may have. Learn more about Nutrition for Dogs.

lab eat garden

Safe Treats for Dogs

The ideal dog treat is one made of good quality ingredients that is moderate to low in calories, consistent in ingredients (thus unlikely to cause stomach upset from bag to bag), very appealing to your dog, and safe. Higher-quality treats tend to be more consistently produced, so it is best to avoid discount and supermarket brands if possible.

There are also many human foods that you can feed your dog safely. By safely, I mean the foods listed below are not toxic to dogs. However, large quantities of any food or food given to dogs with sensitive gastrointestinal tracts can lead to problems such as vomiting, diarrhea, and/or pancreatitis. Treats should make up less than 5% of your dog’s caloric intake.


Safe Foods and Treats for Dogs

Human foods that are safe for dogs include those in the list below. These foods are considered to be fresh, seedless, shelled, sliced, peeled, and in some cases, washed, and/or cooked depending on the particular product. Butter and seasonings can create their own dangers.


Apples – small amounts without the seeds


Avocado –small amounts without the seeds




Broccoli – cooked or raw clean/washed

Brussels sprouts


Carrots – cooked or raw clean/washed


Celery – cooked or raw clean/washed


Chicken – cooked


Cooked fish such as salmon

Cooked green beans. In fact, some pet owners give green beans to aid in weight loss. Learn more about the Green Bean Diet for Dogs

Cooked ground beef or steak

Cottage cheese




Freshly cooked lunch meat

Iceberg Lettuce









Pork – cooked

Potato – raw or cooked plain or sweet

Pumpkin – cooked

Rice or rice cake





Turkey – cooked



Tips for Giving Human Food as Treats to Your Dog

Treats are never a replacement for a good quality core dog food.

Consider low-calorie treats for dogs with weight control problems.

Give only fresh food. Moldy or rotten food can cause gastrointestinal upset.

What Dogs Can’t Eat: Foods Not Safe for Dogs

Any food in large pieces or chunks can cause difficulty chewing or swallowing and can be a choking hazard.

Specific foods that veterinarians commonly recommend NOT to give to dogs include the following:

Apples, Apricots, Cherries, Peaches, and Plums. Ingestion of large amounts of stems, seeds, and leaves of these fruits can be toxic. They contain a cyanide type compound and signs of toxicity include anxiety, dilated pupils, labored breathing, fast breathing, and shock. Small pieces of cleaned apple without the seeds can be safe.

Avocados. The leaves, fruit, bark, and seeds of avocados have all been reported to be toxic in some animals. The toxic component in the avocado is “persin,” which is a fatty acid derivative. Symptoms of toxicity include difficulty breathing, abdominal enlargement, abnormal fluid accumulations in the chest, abdomen, and sac around the heart, which can occur in some animals such as cattle and horses. The amount that needs to be ingested to cause signs is unknown. The biggest danger of avocado in dogs is the ingestion of the pit that can cause life-threatening gastrointestinal obstruction. Learn about the safety of avocados here.

Baked Goods. The products which are made with xylitol are highly toxic to dogs. Xylitol is a sweeter used in place of sugar primarily because it is lower in calories. Xylitol is also an ingredient in many different types of gums. It is in many products designed for people with Diabetes due to its low glycemic index. Xylitol can cause low blood sugar and liver failure in dogs. Learn more with this article on Xylitol Toxicity in Dogs.

Baking Powder and Baking Soda. Baking soda and baking powder are both leavening agents. A leavening agent is a common ingredient in baked goods that produces a gas causing batter and dough to rise. Baking soda is simply sodium bicarbonate. Baking powder consists of baking soda and an acid, usually cream of tartar, calcium acid phosphate, sodium aluminum sulfate or a mixture of the three. Ingestion of large amounts of baking soda or baking powder can lead to electrolyte abnormalities (low potassium, low calcium and/or high sodium), congestive heart failure, or muscle spasms.

Bones. There are many bones that aren’t safe for dogs. This can be due to the danger of them getting stuck or caught in the mouth, sharp splinters injuring the intestines, risk of constipation when passing relatively indigestible bone fragments, as well as possible bacterial contamination on the bone that can lead to illness. Learn more about The Danger of Bones.

Bread Dough. The dough contains yeast which rises in moist, warm environments, such as in the stomach. After ingestion, the rising dough can expand the stomach and decrease blood flow. Fermentation of the yeast can be reduced to alcohol causing signs of intoxication.

Chewing Gum. Gums that are made with xylitol can be toxic. Learn more with this article on Xylitol Toxicity in Dogs.

Chocolate. Chocolate, in addition to having a high-fat content, contains caffeine and theobromine. These two compounds are nervous system stimulants and can be toxic to your dog in high amounts. Learn more about the specific amount of each toxin that is based on body weight in this article: Chocolate Toxicity in Dogs.

Coffee (grounds and beans). Dogs that eat coffee grounds or beans can get “caffeine” toxicity. The symptoms are very similar to those of chocolate toxicity and can be just as or even more serious.

Dairy Products. Human dairy products are not highly dangerous but can pose problems for two reasons. One is their high-fat content and like other foods with high-fat content, there is a risk of pancreatitis. The second reason is that dogs poorly digest dairy products since they lack the enzyme required to digest lactose. This affects some dogs more than others and can cause issues from gas to diarrhea. Small amounts of plain yogurt or cheese are tolerated by most dogs but it is probably safest to avoid dairy products altogether.

Diet Foods. Foods made for weight loss or diabetes may have the ingredient xylitol.

Fatty Foods. Rich and fatty foods are favorites of dogs. They often get them as treats, leftovers, or from getting into the trash. These fatty foods can cause pancreatitis. Pancreatitis can affect any dog but miniature or toy poodles, cocker spaniels, and miniature schnauzers are particularly prone. Signs of pancreatitis generally include an acute onset of vomiting, sometimes diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Abdominal pain is often evidenced by the hunched posture or “splinting” of the abdomen when picked up. The dog may become very sick quickly and often needs intensive fluid and antibiotic therapy.

Grapes and Raisins. Ingestion of grapes and/or raisins can cause kidney failure in some dogs. Some pet owners feed grapes thinking they are a healthy treat or give a piece of a cookie with raisins. Aggressive, and sometimes prolonged, treatment may be necessary to give the affected dog a chance at survival. Despite testing, the reason for the kidney failure and the amount necessary for toxicity remains unknown. Learn more about Grape and Raisin Toxicity.

Onions and Garlic. Dogs and cats lack the enzyme necessary to properly digest onions which can result in gas, vomiting, diarrhea or severe gastrointestinal distress. If large amounts of onion or garlic are ingested or onions are a daily part of your dog’s diet, the red blood cells may become fragile and break apart. This is due to the toxic ingredient in onions and garlic, thiosulphate. Learn more at Why You Shouldn’t Feed Your Dog Garlic.

Peanut Butter. Some peanut butter manufacturers add xylitol to peanut butter, which is toxic to dogs. Learn more about Peanut Butter Toxicity in Dogs.

Rawhides. Like bones, rawhides can also get stuck in the esophagus or stomach of dogs, causing problems. There is also a risk of bacterial contamination. Although this is not human food, it is worth a mention with the goal to prevent your dog from getting sick. Learn more about The Good and Bad of Rawhides.

Table Scraps. Scraps, especially those that are fatty can cause gastrointestinal upset or pancreatitis in dogs. Some dogs tolerate table scraps well but others can become very ill.

Best Treats for Dogs

When shopping for treats, look for the seal of approval from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), which publishes feed regulations and ingredient definitions.

The Dog Nanny website


How to Furnish a Home for Dogs

Fuss-free decorating helps keep you and your furry friends comfortable, happy, and healthy.

My husband and I like to think we keep a pretty clean house, but sometimes we’re amazed at how much hair and dirt surround us. We’re not fastidious about housecleaning, but we do try to keep things relatively hair- and dirt-free and neat – “try” being the operative word. As we’re making the bed, sweeping the kitchen floor, or vacuuming the carpet, there’s proof positive of the fact that we live with Dogue de Bordeauxs and a Siamese Cat.

based on my wardrobe fav colour dog hair

All that hair and dirt around our country home serve to remind us that:-

1) we adore our dogs and cats and wouldn’t want to live without them; and

2) we’re happy that we decided to make life easier by choosing fabrics, flooring, and furniture that works well with our pets. Not having to worry about our dogs or cats “ruining” something in our home provides great peace of mind!

Here’s a glimpse into how and why we’ve made decorating decisions that work well for us and our animals.


Care-Free Decorating

I can’t remember exactly when Marco and I first began talking about “decorating around our animals” – it was probably about 14 or 15 years ago. I believe it started when we were attempting to find a solution to keep our cat from using the front of the upholstered sofa’s arms as a scratching post. We had numerous cat scratching posts and other items we defined as “legal scratching items,” but the arms of the sofa were much preferred by our furry feline. Our solution was to buy a Mission-style futon with a wooden frame so that the arms wouldn’t be optimum scratching areas.


It worked beautifully. The cat moved to using items around our home that we considered “legal.” Lest they consider the futon cover as an alternative scratching surface, we chose a faux-leather cover that wouldn’t show damage even if scratched, and it certainly wouldn’t pull or run as many materials will do. Happy humans, happy cat.

Fast forward to today, and I’d say our house looks comfortably lived in, and the hair from natural shedding and the dirt that inevitably follows the dogs and cats inside is easily washed off or vacuumed up in no time. We’ve selected only flooring, fabrics, and furniture that are comfortable for us and our animals, resistant to scratches, easy to clean, and that don’t show the inevitable pet hair.

Remember that no matter your chosen style of décor, if you’re striving for “fuss-free” decorating, no matter the item (flooring, furniture, fabrics, etc.), it’s nice to keep the following in mind: scratch resistance, damage resistance, comfort for your pet, and comfort for you. Here’s what we’ve found works well for us, and some ideas for what might work for you in your home.

dog on couch

Best Flooring for Dogs

We’re unfortunately limited with flooring choices and have Hardwood or Laminate in all rooms of our house

It’s also very easy to spot-clean when it comes to any potty accidents or the occasional vomit that’s inevitable when one lives with animals.

The kitchen has 100-year-old, reclaimed, heart-pine flooring, which is easy to clean – sweep and mop, that’s all. However, pine is a soft wood, which means it dents and scratches easily. To me, though, the dents and scratches add character to the floors, and because they contain so many imperfections, I don’t fret about any inevitable new ones.

Flooring is the most heavily used surface in our homes, particularly when we have dogs. Popular considerations for flooring in your pet-friendly home are usually wood, bamboo, carpeting, tile, vinyl, or linoleum. There are advantages and disadvantages to each, and what works for me may not work for you.

It’s not uncommon for a dog to have an aversion to a specific type of surface (our own dog Teal’C doesn’t do well on tile), so if you know your dog won’t be comfortable on a certain surface, consider another option. For example, if your dog or cat is prone to allergies to dust or pollen, you might want to avoid carpet. And if he’s habitually anxious on slick floors, hardwood might not be the way to go. You want to keep your pet’s comfort and health in mind just as much as you do your own comfort.


If you opt for wood, solid hardwood floors have an advantage over softer woods, such as the pine we have in our own home. Choices include solid wood, hardwood veneer, and laminate flooring. Solid wood is just that; each exposed part of the flooring is made of genuine hardwood and nothing else. Hardwood veneer is a type of construction that’s made up of slides of hardwood bonded to composite board or plywood (sometimes called “all wood”). Laminate refers to a surface of plastic, foil, or paper, often printed with photographs of wood-grain patterns bonded to something like particleboard or fiberboard.

Bamboo flooring seems to have exploded in popularity. Technically it’s a grass, but I’ve learned that bamboo is as tough as most hardwood when dried. It comes in a variety of plank styles and colors, too.

Tile is also a popular choice. It’s easy to clean because dirt, stains, and liquids all rest on the surface. However, it’s a hard product that can be cold in the winter and not comfortable for a dog to lie on.

Almost every brand-name carpet manufacturer has a stain-free and pet-friendly version. Stainmaster® is probably the most widely known brand. However, when I talked with the carpet expert in our local big-box-remodeling store, she told me that many carpets today have the same qualities as the ones that are advertised as pet-friendly, only at a lesser price. There are health and environmental effects to be considered with carpeting, though it seems easier to today to find better choices than ever before. Four-legged traffic takes a toll on carpet (we can attest to that), so do your research to determine what works best in your own home: stain-resistant, wear-resistant, or stain- and wear-resistant carpet.

Vinyl flooring is one of the least expensive options available, but pet owners should be aware that it also has the most potentially for contributing to poor indoor air quality in your home. The word “vinyl”is short for polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Vinyl itself is a relatively stable product, but most vinyl flooring also is permeated with phthalates, the common name for phthalate esters, which make vinyl soft and cooperative. They do this very well in part because their molecules do not bond to PVC, but rather move freely through it and into the surrounding environment.

The phthalates used to plasticize PVC are what give it that familiar “vinyl” smell. If you can smell vinyl, then you and your pets are inhaling phthalates that are out-gassing. The stronger a vinyl product smells, the greater the amount of phthalates it contains. If you or your pets are particularly sensitive to chemicals, or live in an apartment with limited access to fresh air from the outdoors (as in many high-rise buildings), vinyl flooring is a risky choice.

In contrast, old-fashioned linoleum, made with natural, renewable materials such as linseed oil, tree resins, recycled wood flour, cork dust, and mineral pigments, and mounted on jute or canvas backing, is considered a “green” product. Who knew? Not me. Linoleum has been around since the mid-1800s and is naturally anti-bacterial, biodegradable, and can last up to 40 years with proper care and maintenance. Because the color in linoleum runs all the way through the material (unlike vinyl flooring), if it gets stained or scratched, you can buff out any damage and refinish the floor.


Dog-Friendly Fabrics

In our home, the fabric on our sofa is faux leather and our soft chair is real leather. The colors are dark brown and deep red; we chose them because they don’t show much dirt. Though not totally scratch-resistant, if either is scratched inadvertently, it only adds to the distressed-leather look. Oh, how I adore white upholstery or white leather. But it just doesn’t work in a home where our animals are invited up on sofas and chairs. We keep the pale colours on the walls and the colors on the furniture. Because our dogs and cats sleep on the bed with us, we like choosing bedspreads and quilts that are patterned and in colors that blend with the colors of our dogs’ hair. The more heavily patterned the fabric, the less I’ll see the inevitable paw prints and pet hair until it’s time to be washed.

There’s so much to consider with the wide variety of fabrics available today. No matter what you choose, take into consideration that even if your pets don’t join you on the bed, chair, or sofa (though I sure hope they do!), their hair seems to just pop right off them and head straight for upholstered furniture.

Keep the unique characteristics of your pet’s hair in mind, too. Certain types of stiff dog hair poke into certain types of fabrics, almost instantaneously becoming part of the weave, and are extremely difficult to vacuum our pull out with a tape roller. Soft, downy hair from other breeds (and cats) sticks like lint to other fabrics. Pay attention to what fabrics you have in your home, wardrobe, and even car that your pets’ hair doesn’t stick to, and look for more of the same.

In our experience, real leather, in a pre-distressed finish, is the most durable fabric for couches and chairs, and it’s easy to brush or vacuum hair away, and wet-wipe off any liquid that a pet might dribble or spill (I don’t want to get more specific than that; we’re all pet owners here, right?).

Consider outdoor fabrics for indoor applications, too! They may not be as soft as your average sofa covering, but they will hold up better over time.

And speaking of covering the sofa, keep in mind that washable and replaceable slipcovers for upholstered furniture, though costly, are less expensive than buying new furniture. It might not be worth the investment if you have one small dog and live in a condo. But if your home has a dog door and your backyard has a pond or vegetable garden and you live with a swim-happy Labrador or mud-loving Australian Shepherd, it might be worth your while.


Dog-Resistant Furniture

Antiques and flea market finds happen to be our chosen style. No, most antiques aren’t scratch resistant, but when you buy a piece of furniture from an antique store or flea market, there’s no need to worry about the first scratch because every item comes with scratches or some other marks from its previous life. I really like that! Any new scratches just add to the story of our life with our animals. If you prefer new furniture, you could opt for the distressed look (think shabby chic) or choose furniture made from metal or a hardwood, such as oak.


Dog-Specific Décor

I don’t quite understand it myself, but I’m aware that many people seem to try to hide the fact that a dog lives in their home, worried that the presence of gates or crates or a big dog bed might detract from tasteful decorating. The good news is that today, there are an endless number of very attractive dog-management products on the market, and product lines that are available in a wide variety of finishes in order to blend with any home’s décor.

For our part, Marco and I put more effort into finding products that offer better-than-average stability, durability, and ease of opening and closing. When shopping for these products, it’s worth it to look farther afield than just your local pet supply store or big-box chain store. They may carry just one brand or type of each sort of product.

For crates, gates, and beds that wouldn’t look out of place in a palace, check out Frontgate’s pet products. I wouldn’t be surprised if Queen Elizabeth shopped for Corgi-management products here; they’re a little pricey. But, no worries, you can DIY it!

Have you ever thought about a do-it-yourself pet gate? I’ve discovered so many interesting pet gates that truly do seem easy to make yourself. I’m fascinated by several styles that can be made from pallets and look lovely when stained or painted. The Sparta Dog Blog also has a variety of ideas that might strike your fancy and work well for you and your pets.


Dog Beds

While our dogs sleep on our bed with us at night, we nevertheless have dog beds that are specifically for them, and periodically, they’ll actually choose to use them! The most important thing to keep in mind is the comfort of the bed for your dog. Does your dog get hot or cold easily? Does she prefer smooth fabric or fleece? There are orthopedic beds, allergy-free beds, environmentally friendly beds, cooling beds, warming beds, and even cave-like beds for dogs who like to burrow. Like us, each dog has his or her own preference, so do give some thought to the type of bed your dog may like before you choose.

They come in a variety of patterns and colors, so it’s easy to find something that complements the colors in your home.


A Peaceful Home

While it’s true that our pets don’t care about how we decorate and how our house looks, they certainly do notice when something is comfortable or uncomfortable. Let’s make things comfortable!

Our dogs also notice if we display anger when they happen to make a mess on an important piece of furniture. If you tend to get frustrated frequently because something in your home gets scratched, marred, or dirtied by your dog, perhaps it’s time to rethink your decorating choices and move to fuss-free decorating. Your dog will

Bloat: The Mother of All Canine Emergencies

Bloat: The Mother of All Canine Emergencies

Familiarize yourself with the symptoms of bloat, so you can act quickly enough to save your dog’s life.

No word strikes fear into the hearts of dog owners like bloat. It is a fairly common occurrence and requires immediate intervention and surgical treatment. But what exactly is it? And what should you do if you suspect that your dog is suffering a bloat?


Bloat is the nontechnical term for gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV), a condition in which the stomach rotates around itself to become twisted. The stomach can twist halfway (a 180-degree torsion), all the way leading to a 360-degree torsion, or anywhere in between. Once twisted, the stomach becomes stuck, and fluid and gas cannot exit. A dog cannot vomit, as the entrance to the stomach (the cardia) is obstructed, and nothing can leave the stomach via the intestines, because the exit (pylorus) is also blocked.


Due to this twisting, the stomach rapidly fills with fluid and gas, leading to abdominal distention. As the stomach quickly expands, blood vessels supplying it rupture and lead to hemorrhage. The massive stomach pushes on the diaphragm, making it hard for the dog to breathe. It also causes pressure on the caudal vena cava, which brings deoxygenated blood from the body back to the heart. Without blood circulating, shock occurs rapidly.


Bloat Symptoms in Dogs

The symptoms of bloat are classic and include restlessness, discomfort, pacing, abdominal distention, gagging, salivating, and non-productive retching.


The earliest signs may be as subtle as increased drooling and pacing/restlessness. Frequently, this occurs soon after a meal, especially if the meal is followed by exercise. Certain breeds are more likely to develop bloats such as Great Danes, Standard Poodles, and Dobermans, but any breed can bloat. Sex does not seem to be related.


Bloat is an immediate emergency. The longer the stomach stays twisted, the more damage is done. If twisted long enough, the stomach tissue will die and rupture, leading to spillage of stomach contents into the abdomen.


If you suspect your dog is bloated, an emergency trip to the veterinarian is a necessity. Do not wait overnight to see your veterinarian in the morning. The sooner that GDV is addressed, the better the chances for recovery.


At the Veterinary Clinic

When you arrive, the technical staff should take your dog directly to the treatment area for examination. Bloat can often be determined based simply on signalment (age and breed) and physical examination. The belly will be tight and tympanic (meaning like a drum).


To confirm the diagnosis, your veterinarian may take a right lateral abdominal x-ray. This will reveal a classic “double bubble” – a folded, compartmentalized stomach. They are often called “Smurf hats” or “Popeye arms” because of their characteristic appearance.


Time is of the essence, so your veterinarian will treat your dog immediately. A quick physical exam generally will reveal the following abnormalities: an elevated heart rate, panting or fast breathing, a tight, drum-like abdomen, and abdominal pain.


An IV catheter will be placed to administer fluids and correct shock. Pain medications are needed as soon as possible and may include an opioid such as hydromorphone, morphine, or fentanyl.


As your veterinarian and the technical staff work to stabilize your dog, they will also conduct diagnostic testing. This will include bloodwork to evaluate for internal organ damage, as well as checking blood pressure. In a specialty setting, it’s likely that the veterinarian will also check coagulation factors (your dog’s ability to clot) and blood lactate levels.


Lactate has been extensively studied in GDV. It is produced as a backup source of energy in the body. Lactate is always being produced, but in shock, when oxygen levels are decreased, lactate production is much higher. It can be measured with a hand-held device much like a blood glucose monitor. Many studies have been done to evaluate how helpful this is in determining outcome in GDV patients. Currently, it is thought that a high lactate level that decreases with IV fluids and surgery is a good indication for recovery.


GDV often occurs in older dogs, so your veterinarian also may recommend three-view chest x-rays to evaluate for the presence of any abnormalities. One study showed that 14 percent of dogs with GDV have concurrent aspiration pneumonia, likely from gagging and inhaling drool and watery stomach fluid that can escape the twisted stomach. Many GDV patients are older, and three-view x-rays can also evaluate for metastatic cancer that would make the surgery prognosis poorer. This recommendation is dependent on the vet who treats your dog. Any delay in surgery can be detrimental to your dog, so in cases of elderly dogs (greater than eight years of age) in particular, this recommendation must be weighed carefully.


Stomach Decompression for Dogs

Before surgery, your veterinarian will likely try to decompress the stomach – that is, relieve the gas buildup in the stomach. This can be done in one of two ways. The first is to pass a tube down the esophagus into the stomach – an older but still accepted method. It can often be done in an awake patient. This rapid decompression can help buy time for the twisted stomach. In some rare cases, passing a tube can untwist the stomach, but the procedure also poses the risk of puncturing through the twisted stomach entrance (cardia).


Another method of decompression is called trocarization. In this technique, large gauge needles are inserted through the skin into the stomach to relieve the air. This is currently the more commonly used approach because it is quick, doesn’t require multiple staff members, and can be very effective. It poses a much lower risk to the dog, but is not without risk altogether: it’s possible to lacerate the spleen during this procedure.


There is a great video online of a veterinarian performing trocarization on a Bernese Mountain Dog with GDV.


Surgery for Bloat

The goal in a GDV is to stabilize the patient as quickly as possible before surgery. A GDV can be successfully treated only with surgical intervention. This often puts the veterinarian and owner in a very difficult spot. Decisions must be made quickly and with decisiveness to allow for the best outcome. GDV surgery can be very costly, and most dogs will remain in the hospital for two to three days post-operatively. The prognosis is dependent on each dog and how long the torsion has been present. In general, survival rates for the surgery are high.


Your veterinarian will take your dog to surgery as soon as possible. This should not be done until the patient is as stable as can be expected. To some extent, full treatment of shock is impossible until the stomach is de-rotated in surgery. The patient’s condition should be optimized. This means stabilizing blood pressure, bringing heart rate down to normal or near normal, controlling pain, and decompressing the abdomen either via stomach tube or trocarization.


In surgery, your veterinarian will open the abdomen, identify the twisted stomach, and then de-rotate it. Once de-rotated, the stomach is checked for damage. In some cases, part of the stomach tissue has died and must be removed. The spleen will be checked next. It lies alongside the stomach and shares some blood vessels. When the stomach twists, the spleen does as well. Damage to those blood vessels can lead to a damaged spleen. In some cases, the spleen must also be removed.


Once the stomach and spleen are addressed, the stomach is sutured to the right body wall. This is called a gastropexy. This will prevent the stomach from rotating again in 90 percent of cases. However, in about 10 percent of cases, a dog can still develop a bloat. It is imperative to always monitor your dog for the symptoms of bloat, even when they have undergone gastropexy.


There are several different techniques for gastropexy. The most common is the incisional. This is when an incision is made into the outer layer of the stomach (serosa) and a matching one made on the wall of the body. The two are then sutured together, holding the stomach in place.


Surgery generally lasts about an hour to an hour and a half.


Post-Operative Care

Most dogs will remain hospitalized for one to three days after surgery. Post-operative care will include IV fluids to maintain hydration, pain relief, and close monitoring. Complications can include arrhythmias, hemorrhage, and infection. In some cases, a syndrome called systemic inflammatory reaction syndrome (SIRS) can occur. Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), a massive and fatal collapse of the ability of the body to clot blood, can also occur.


Patients should be monitored around the clock after surgery, preferably at an emergency and/or referral hospital. Not all veterinary hospitals have staff on duty all night, so be sure to ask your veterinarian if this is something that will be available, or whether a transfer to a clinic with a night staff is possible.


Excellent attention to recovery is important. This will include monitoring of heart rate and rhythm (by ECG), temperature, and comfort level. Most patients are fasted for about eight to 12 hours after surgery. They are then offered a bland, easily digestible diet.


Arrhythmia and Bloat in Dogs

It is very common for a dog that has GDV to suffer from arrhythmias during or after surgery.


The most common are ventricular tachycardia and slow idioventricular rhythm. The ventricles are the lower chambers of the heart. When a dog goes into shock, the heart muscle becomes irritable and can develop irregular beats, particularly in the ventricles. Tachycardia occurs when the heart rate is faster than 150-160 beats per minute. When the heart rate is normal but the rhythm is abnormal, this is a slow idioventricular rhythm.


In most cases, these resolve within a week without specific treatment. If the arrhythmia persists, it is important to have the heart evaluated by a cardiologist. Since Great Danes in particular are prone to both GDV and cardiomyopathies, concurrent heart disease could be present.


Bloat Prevention

Much research has been devoted to this topic. The causes for GDV are poorly understood. At various times, an array of different recommendations have been made to prevent bloat, including the use of raised food dishes, the avoidance of raised food dishes, avoiding exercise after meals, and feeding smaller, more frequent meals rather than one large meal. More recent research has identified a possible link between motility disorders and GDV. At this time, unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules for preventing bloat.


Prophylactic gastropexy is strongly recommended for the highest risk breed, the Great Dane, as some estimates show one in three will experience GDV. This can be done at the time of spay for females. It can also be done laparoscopically for males at practices that offer this modality.


Standard Poodles, Rottweilers, Irish Setters, and Weimaraners are also considered at-risk breeds for which prophylactic gastropexy should be considered. In other breeds, the benefits versus risks of preventative gastropexy are less clear. But one thing is certain:


No matter what type of dog you own, if you observe the classic symptoms of bloat – restlessness, discomfort, pacing, abdominal distention, gagging, salivating, and non-productive retching – you need to get your dog to a veterinary emergency room ASAP.


Mesenteric Volvulus: A Diagnostic Puzzle

While less common than GDV, mesenteric volvulus is a similar condition that requires immediate veterinary care and can be deadly in a matter of hours. For owners of German Shepherd Dogs and Pit Bulls (the most predisposed breeds) it is especially imperative to know about this condition.


With a mesenteric volvulus, the small intestines twist at their origin (called the root of the mesentery). This leads to obstruction of blood flow and death of the upper GI tract. The cause of MV is unknown. There seems to be an association with exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) in which the pancreas does not produce digestive enzymes. However, this has been shown in only one study. Other causes have not been identified.


The symptoms are frequently very sudden in onset and include vomiting, extremely bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain and distention, and collapse in a dog that was previously normal. The gums will be pale, and the heart rate and breathing rapid. The abdomen may be distended and extremely painful. An emergency trip to the veterinarian is warranted. Do not wait!


Unfortunately, these symptoms present a diagnostic dilemma for the veterinarian. Acute collapse can represent several conditions including Addisonian crisis, anaphylaxis, and acute hemorrhagic diarrhea syndrome. If mesenteric volvulus is not identified within one to two hours, death often results. Therefore, if your dog exhibits these symptoms, your veterinarian should conduct treatment and diagnostics immediately.


Treatment for Mesenteric Volvulus

Initial treatment and testing should happen simultaneously when possible. An IV catheter will be placed to administer fluids and correct shock (manifested by low blood pressure, high heart rate, and rapid breathing). Oxygen may also be given by face mask or nasal prongs. MV is an extremely painful condition, so pain medications should be given.


Your veterinarian should also be conducting diagnostics at the same time. X-rays and/or ultrasound of the abdomen are critical in diagnosing MV. Bloodwork should also be done concurrently to evaluate internal organ function, as well as determine the severity of shock and to rule out other diseases. Most MVs are readily apparent on x-ray, but this is not always the case. Ultrasound also can be helpful.


Surgery for Mesenteric Volvulus

The treatment for mesenteric volvulus is immediate surgery. Even with prompt surgery, the prognosis is extremely guarded for survival. While the stomach can be twisted for hours in a GDV and the patient recover, the intestines do not tolerate the lack of blood flow for long. As a result, the veterinarian must intervene quickly and decisively.


This can lead to a hard decision for both owners and veterinarians. The diagnosis often cannot be definitively made on x-rays and ultrasound. It can be heavily suspected based on clinical signs, breed, and testing, but until the doctor performs surgery, it is not always a certainty. As a result, owners are often forced to make a major decision with an ambiguous diagnosis and recovery. Like any major emergency surgery, it is expensive. MV surgery and post-operative care can cost several thousand dollars. This is an excellent example of why it is important that you have a close and trusting relationship with your veterinarian, as well as an emergency fund and/or pet insurance, which can help offset the cost and stress in the case of MV.


If mesenteric volvulus is suspected, your dog will undergo rapid emergency surgery to de-rotate the intestines. If too much damage has occurred and the intestines cannot be saved, a resection and anastamosis (removal of intestines and sewing ends together) can sometimes be done. However, in some cases, the damage is too extensive, and euthanasia is necessary.


Post-operatively, the patient will likely be hospitalized for several days and undergo careful monitoring. After surgery, complications such as sepsis, systemic inflammatory response syndrome, disseminated intravascular coagulation, and organ failure can occur. Thus, it is imperative that patients are observed closely after surgery. Complications can occur for several days to a week afterward.


Mesenteric volvulus carries a very guarded prognosis for recovery. It is critical that owners of German Shepherds and American Pit Bull Terriers be aware of the symptoms and act rapidly if they are noted.

Kids and Dog

The formula for keeping children and canines safe is simple: Parents need to be attentive, meticulous about management, and quick to separate them at the first sign of the dog’s discomfort.

teach kids to respect dogs
These days, it seems that every time someone posts a picture on social media of a child with a dog it is immediately followed by a spate of posts expressing horror at the anticipated savage attack likely to follow.
Granted, some of those photos do, indeed, show dogs displaying body language signals that suggest a significant amount of discomfort at the proximity of the child, and real potential for injury. But many of them also, in my opinion, depict normal, healthy interactions between dogs and young humans.
Dogs and kids have been happy buddies for centuries. While dog bites to children are nothing new (I was bitten by a stray puppy at age five, in 1956) we seem to be much more reactive to them as a culture than we used to be. When did we become a society so phobic about any dog/kid interaction? And, perhaps more important, how do we help people recognize and create safe, healthy relationships between dogs and children?
A commonly quoted statistic states that some 4.7 million dog bites occur in the U.S. annually, with 42% of the victims age 14 or under.
As staggering as though those numbers may be, and as sensational as the “Dog Mauls Toddler” headlines are, they are also somewhat misleading. A very large percentage of those millions of bites are relatively minor, so the situation isn’t nearly as dire as it first appears.
Still, even one preventable child-mauling incident is one too many, and many of them are, in fact, quite preventable.
Supervisor Needed
Supervision of interactions between dogs and children is, indeed, critically important, at least until it is crystal clear that the child and dog are safe together. The “You must supervise kids and dogs!” mantra has been repeated so many times I would be surprised if there’s even one parent in the Western world who hasn’t heard it.
But here’s the rub: A significant number of kids suffer from dog bites even when the parent or other caretaker is directly supervising the interaction. If “supervision” is the holy grail of dog-kid interactions, how does this happen?
It seems that, over the years, as we trainers and behaviorists have repeated “Supervise, supervise, supervise!” until we’re blue in the face, we have somehow neglected to do a thorough job of helping parents and caretakers understand exactly what they are looking for when they are supervising.
It’s not just about being present, it’s also about watching closely, preventing the child from interacting inappropriately with the dog, and watching the dog for body language signals that communicate some level of discomfort with the child’s presence and/or interactions.
Upper Level Management
Management – controlling your dog’s environment and access to unsafe or undesirable things or practices – is a vital part of any successful behavior and training program. With kids and dogs, it’s even more critical. When you aren’t able to actively supervise (no TV! no texting!), you must manage. The price for management failure is simply too high.
Even if your dog adores children (and especially if she doesn’t!), management and supervision are vitally important elements of successful dog/baby/child-keeping. There are a staggering number of serious child-bite cases (and fatalities) where the adult left the room “just for a minute.”
That’s why dog training and behavior professionals are well-known for repeating the warning, “Never leave dogs and small children together unattended.” This means, not for a moment. Not while you take a quick bathroom break, or run to the kitchen to grab a snack. Even if the baby is sleeping! Take the dog with you if you leave the room where the baby is sleeping or the child is watching a video. Put the dog in her crate. Shut her in another room.
Of course, you want to do everything you can to help your dog love children. Even if you don’t have small humans of your own, your dog is likely to encounter them at some point in her life, and things will go better for all involved if she already thinks kids are wonderful.
Ideally, every dog should be well socialized with babies and children from puppyhood. Many young adults adopt a pup at a time when children are, if anything, a distant prospect, without thinking about the fact that kids could easily arrive within the 10 to 15 years of their dog’s lifespan. Even if there will never be children in the dog’s immediate family, chances are she will encounter small humans at some point in her life. By convincing her very early on that children are wonderful, you greatly reduce the risk that she will ever feel compelled to bite one.
If an adult-dog adoption is in the works and there will be (or are) children in your world, remember this critically important caveat: Dogs who are going to be around babies and/or children must adore kids, not just tolerate them. A dog who adores children will forgive many of the inappropriate things young humans will inevitably do to dogs, despite your best efforts at supervision and management. A dog who merely tolerates them will not.
Teach Your Children
Safe child-dog interactions start with teaching children – even very young children – how to respect and interact appropriately with dogs. If a child is too young to grasp the information, then the supervising adult must physically prevent the child from being inappropriate.
Babies and toddlers often flail their hands at new or exciting stimuli – like dogs. Not surprisingly, many dogs are likely to find this quite aversive! When young children are introduced to dogs, the adult needs to hold the child’s hand(s) and guide them in appropriately using their hands to touch the dog appropriately (gently and slowly) and without any flailing.
It’s equally important to teach children that dogs are not toys to be treated roughly. Even if your family dog tolerates – or even loves – being hugged, allowing your young child to hug your dog can prompt her to hug the next dog she meets – with possibly disastrous results. Until your child is old enough to understand that some things that are okay with your dog are not okay with other dogs, you are far safer not allowing her to do those things with your dog, either.
Ideally, engage your child to assist with your dog’s training at the earliest possible age using positive reinforcement-based methods that teach your child the importance of cooperation and respect, so your child learns how to interact appropriately with other sentient creatures. At the same time, you will be strengthening the positive association between your dog and your child.
Watch that Body Talk
Any time your dog shows any sign of being uncomfortable with your child’s presence, you must separate the dog and child to protect them both. Of course, in order to do this you must understand dog body language well enough to recognize when a dog is expressing discomfort.
People often say, “If my dog could only talk…” They actually do communicate! But their mode of communication is body language – and too few humans take the time to learn that language, or “listen” to what the dog is telling us.
In the sidebar below, we share some different ways your dog may be telling you she’s uncomfortable. This is an extensive list, albeit not necessarily a complete one. Study it, and then watch your dog for any of these behaviors, both with children present and absent. Any time you observe stress signals from your dog in the presence of children (or elsewhere!) it’s wise to take immediate steps to reduce her stress.
If, while you’re managing, supervising, and training your dog around kids, you’re having trouble determining what your dog is trying to tell you with his body language communications, ask a force-free dog training professional to help you. It could save your dog’s life. And your child’s.
It’s Not Cute, It’s Abuse
There is a truly horrendous video on YouTube of parents encouraging their very young child to abuse their Rottweiler. The child runs over to the dog, who is lying on the floor, climbs on his back, hugs him violently – and when the dog gets up to try to move away from the abuse, the adults call him back and make him lie down for more child torture. Meanwhile the child has lost interest and walked away and the parents insist that he come back and interact with the dog more.
This time the dog is lying on his side, and for the remainder of the two-minute clip the child climbs on and violently bounces up and down on the dog’s ribcage; grabs his jowls, cheek, and nose; and puts his face directly in the dog’s face, all the while with encouragement and laughter from the parents. Through it all, the dog is giving off constant signs of stress and distress – whale eye, panting, tongue flicks, gasping for air, and more. (If you really want to see it, we made a shortcut to a copy of the original video that someone captioned with notes about the dog’s warning signs:
This should be prosecutable child endangerment as well as animal abuse. Someday, if the incredibly tolerant Rottweiler has finally had enough and bites the child, the parents will be aghast. “We don’t know what happened – he was always so good with little Bobby!” And if the defensive bite is serious enough, the dog is likely to lose his life as a result . Meanwhile, if the child tries this incredibly inappropriate behavior with a less tolerant dog (which would include most dogs on the planet), he’s likely to be very badly bitten, and again, the unfortunate dog might easily pay with his life. What were these parents thinking?

• Anorexia Stress causes the appetite to shut down. A dog who won’t eat moderate- to high-value treats may just be distracted or simply not hungry, but refusal to eat is a common indicator of stress. If your dog ordinarily likes treats, but won’t take them in the presence of children, she is telling you something very important: Kids stress her out!
• Appeasement/Deference Signals Appeasement and deference aren’t always an indicator of stress. They are important everyday communication tools for keeping peace in social groups and are often presented in calm, stress-free interactions. They are offered in a social interaction to promote the tranquility of the group and the safety of the group’s members. When offered in conjunction with other behaviors, they can be an indicator of stress as well. Appeasement and deference signals include:
o Lip Licking: Appeasing/deferent dog licks at the mouth of the more assertive/threatening/intimidating member of the social group.
o Turning Head Away, Averting Eyes: Appeasing/deferent dog avoids eye contact, exposes neck.
o Slow movement: Appeasing/deferent dog appears to be moving in slow-motion.
o Sitting/Lying Down/Exposing Underside: Appeasing/deferent dog lowers body posture, exposing vulnerable parts.
• Avoidance Dog turns away, shuts down, evades touch, and won’t take treats.
• Barking In context, can be a “distance-increasing” stress signal – an attempt to make the stressor go away.
• Brow Ridges Furrows or muscle ridges in the dog’s forehead and around the eyes.
• Difficulty Learning Dogs (and other organisms) are unable to learn well or easily when under significant stress.
• Digestive Disturbances Vomiting and diarrhea can be a sign of illness – or of stress; the digestive system reacts strongly to stress. Carsickness is often a stress reaction.
• Displacement Behaviors These are behaviors performed in an effort to resolve an internal stress conflict for the dog. They may be performed in the actual presence of the stressor. They also may be observed in a dog who is stressed and in isolation – for example a dog left alone in an exam room in a veterinary hospital.
o Blinking: Eyes blink at a faster-than normal rate
o Nose-Licking: Dog’s tongue flicks out once or multiple times
o Chattering Teeth
o Scratching (as if the dog suddenly is very itchy)
o Shaking off (as if wet, but dog is dry)
o Yawning
• Drooling May be an indication of stress – or response to the presence of food, an indication of a mouth injury, or digestive distress.
• Excessive Grooming Dog may lick or chew paws, legs, flank, tail, and genital areas, even to the point of self-mutilation.
• Hyperactivity Frantic behavior, pacing, sometimes misinterpreted as ignoring, “fooling around,” or “blowing off” owner.
• Immune System Disorders Long-term stress weakens the immune system. Reduce dog’s overall stress to improve immune-related problems.
• Lack of Attention/Focus The brain has difficulty processing information when stressed.
• Leaning/Clinging The stressed dog seeks contact with human as reassurance.
• Lowered Body Posture “Slinking,” acting “guilty” or “sneaky” (all misinterpretations of dog body language) can be indicators of stress.
• Mouthing Willingness to use mouth on human skin – can be puppy exploration or adult poor manners, but can also be an expression of stress, ranging from gentle nibbling (flea biting) to hard taking of treats to painfully hard mouthing, snapping, or biting.
• Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders These include compulsive imaginary fly-snapping behavior, light and shadow chasing, tail chasing, pica (eating non-food objects), flank-sucking, self-mutilation and more. While OCDs probably have a strong genetic component, the behavior itself is usually triggered by stress.
• Panting Rapid shallow or heavy breathing – normal if the dog is warm or has been exercising, otherwise can be stress-related. Stress may be external (environment) or internal (pain, other medical issues).
• Stretching To relax stress-related tension in muscles. May also occur as a non-stress behavior after sleeping or staying in one place for extended period.
• Stiff Movement Tension can cause a noticeable stiffness in leg, body, and tail movements.
• Sweaty Paws Damp footprints can be seen on floors, exam tables, rubber mats.
• Trembling May be due to stress – or cold.
• Whining High-pitched vocalization, irritating to most humans; an indication of stress. While some may interpret it as excitement, a dog who’s excited to the point of whining is also stressed.
• Yawning Your dog may yawn because he’s tired – or as an appeasement signal or displacement behavior.
• Whale Eye Dog rolls eyes, flashing the whites of his eyes.


Plan ahead to socialize your puppy early!

Recently, I witnessed an older couple struggling to carry a crate into a puppy class. Once inside, they opened the crate and a large and beautiful Poodle puppy emerged – a pup who was not particularly young, nor disabled in any way. When asked about the puppy and why they carried her inside the training center inside a crate, the couple said she was 14 weeks old, and had received three “puppy” vaccinations so far, but that their veterinarian had told them that the puppy shouldn’t be taken anywhere until she had received her last puppy vaccination at 16 weeks. They looked a little guilty, as if they expected to be admonished for bringing her to a puppy kindergarten class before the last “shot.
It’s 2019!
Why are veterinarians still telling this nonsense to dog owners?!!
The owners were reassured they had absolutely done the right thing to bring the puppy to class, and encouraged to allow her to walk into and out of the training center on her own four legs, and given assistance to show the very able puppy how to get back into her owners’ car after class without them having to struggle to lift her in a crate into the back seat. And I vowed to write this post, which I seem to recall writing every few years for the past 22 years!
Don’t Keep That Puppy in a Bubble
Folks, please tell your friends and relatives: The risk of dogs developing serious behavior problems (and subsequent relinquishment and/or euthanasia) due to inadequate early socialization and minimal exposure to the outside world is far, far higher than the risk of contracting a fatal disease before the pup has become fully immunized. While parvovirus and distemper certainly still exist in the world, and are still quite problematic in pockets of certain communities, there are many steps one can take to prevent a puppy from becoming exposed to disease while taking the very important steps to carefully and positively expose the pup to novel places, people, and other animals.
Puppies should absolutely be taken out into the world before the age of 12 weeks, and ideally, would be attending a well-run puppy play/puppy kindergarten training class as early as 8 weeks old! They certainly should not spend this incredibly critical period of development wrapped in cotton wool in their new owners’ homes!
Don’t believe me? That’s fine. Take it from the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB): “Because the first three months are the period when sociability outweighs fear, this is the primary window of opportunity for puppies to adapt to new people, animals, and experiences. Incomplete or improper socialization during this important time can increase the risk of behavioral problems later in life including fear, avoidance, and/or aggression. Behavioral problems are the greatest threat to the owner-dog bond. In fact, behavioral problems are the number one cause of relinquishment to shelters. Behavioral issues, not infectious diseases, are the number one cause of death for dogs under three years of age.”
AVSAB’s position statement on puppy socialization also says, “The primary and most important time for puppy socialization is the first three months of life. During this time puppies should be exposed to as many new people, animals, stimuli, and environments as can be achieved safely and without causing over-stimulation manifested as excessive fear, withdrawal or avoidance behavior. For this reason, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior believes that it should be the standard of care for puppies to receive such socialization before they are fully vaccinated [our emphasis].”
What Do Veterinarians Say?
Strong words from the veterinary behaviorists… Do “regular” veterinarians agree? Here is a quote from a literature review from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA): “By 8-9 weeks of age most dogs are sufficiently neurologically developed that they are ready to start exploring unfamiliar social and physical environments. Data show that if they are prohibited from doing so until after 14 weeks of age they lose such flexibility and may be forever fearful in these situations. Such dogs may function well within extremely restricted social situations but will be fearful and reactive among unfamiliar people, pets or in environments outside of the house.”
The AVMA paper goes on to explain how one should ideally socialize and expose puppies safely, as well as how to provide remedial socialization to puppies or dogs who were not given these opportunities. No, all is not lost when owners fail to properly plan ahead and sign up for a class well before they procure their puppy. But as any trainer or good breeder can tell you, there is usually an astounding difference in the amount of confidence displayed in a puppy who has had well-managed, positive exposures to many different persons, places, and things – and especially opportunities to meet and play with other puppies and dogs of appropriate size and play styles – and one who has only begun to interact with the world in a meaningful way after the age of 16 weeks (or older!).
It takes forethought and planning, however, and many families don’t even think about training and socializing until the puppy is four months old or so. Then they look for a trainer and try to book the next class and find out that the next available spot is for a class some six or eight weeks hence. It’s not “too late” to socialize or train them at that stage, but it’s somewhat akin to signing up a third- or fourth-grade kid for kindergarten. It’s great that their education will finally get underway, but what they could have been already had they started their education on time!

So, how should it be done?
1. Plan ahead: Find a good positive trainer early, before you ever get a puppy. Find out about his or her schedule and get signed up for a class that will start when your puppy-to-be will be 8 or 9 or 10 weeks old.

2. Plan ahead: Find a veterinarian who will administer your puppy’s vaccinations on a schedule that will facilitate the pup’s timely admission to puppy kindergarten – and who can speak to the importance of your puppy’s behavioral health and support your efforts to build a behaviorally confident puppy through a well-run puppy class. (If you can, interview vets before you procure your puppy. Younger, more recently educated veterinarians tend to be more aware of the AVMA’s and ASVAB’s recommendations.)

3. Do as much thoughtful, structured socializing as possible with the puppy at your home, and/or in the homes of friends or family members who have no dogs or healthy, vaccinated, reliably dog-friendly dogs who can be trusted to not scare or harm the puppy. Here are some past articles in WDJ on this topic:
4. Educate yourself about puppy diseases and how to keep your puppy safe without sequestering him or her. Here are some past articles that have been published in WDJ on this topic.

Dog Depression: How to Spot it and Treat it


Depression is common in humans and dog depression may be just as common. How common is depression? According to Healthline, it is estimated that 16.2 million adults in the United States suffer from depression. The CDC documents that approximately 9% of Americans report they are depressed at least occasionally, and 3.4% suffer from “major depression.” Approximately 6.7 percent of American adults have at least one major depressive episode in a given year. The definition of major depression in humans is “a mental health condition marked by an overwhelming feeling of sadness, isolation and despair that affects how a person thinks, feels and functions.

Dog depression may be just as common but is harder to recognize.


How to Spot Signs of Dog Depression

Just as with people, every dog responds differently to stress. For example, a person that loses their job may become depressed while another person may see opportunity and be relieved or rejuvenated. One dog being rehomed may be withdrawn, less interactive, guarded, scared, nervous, aggressive, stop eating, or have a decreased appetite while another dog may be euphoric. Learn more about how to recognize depression in your dog.

What Causes Dog Depression

What causes depression in one dog can be entirely different than in another dog. Just as it is difficult to predict or generalize how people will respond to stress or what will make a person depressed, it is difficult to determine or predict what will make a dog depressed.

The most common things associated with dog depression are the following:

  • Illness. Dogs that are sick and don’t feel good may be depressed.
  • Loss of mobility. Just as illness can cause depression, loss of mobility can also cause depression in some dogs. For a previously active dog to not be able to run, play, walk, and exercise can really take an emotional toll on some dogs. This can be caused from a back injury, trauma such as a fracture, or from degenerative disease (arthritis) in older dogs.
  • Loss of routine. Some dogs can become very depressed from a change in their routine. This can occur from when the kids go back to school, an owner loses a job or takes on a new job, or a change in work hours that leads to disruption in the dog’s day-to-day rituals.
  • Loss of an owner or caregiver. A very common cause of depression in dogs is the loss of someone close to them. The loss can be death or from someone moving out or leaving the home. The death of an owner, a child leaving for college, or someone moving from a divorce can all create a profound sense of loss and void in a dog’s life.
  • Loss of a housemate. Just as the loss of a caregiver can impact dogs, so can the loss of another pet in the home. Most commonly the pet is another dog but could also be a cat or other species. When you think about it, if a dog’s routine is to see the other pet, eat with it, walk, play and they suddenly aren’t there, they can become depressed. It is important to note that a change in your dog’s behavior can be from their depression or can be them responding to your sadness. If you are mourning the loss of a dog and depressed yourselves, this can affect them.
  • Moving. Moving can be stressful for us but also for our dogs. They suddenly lose their territory and safety net. Usually, the move is a huge disruption in the routine and environment. Movers, moving boxes, packing, unpacking, etc. can all impact the daily walks and time spent with you. This can cause depression in some dogs.
  • Rehoming. A new home and family can be exciting to some dogs but depressing to others. They may miss something from their prior life or feel displaced. On top of that they are trying to understand the new owners, new rules in the house, new routine, getting new food, new bowls, and well…new everything, which can be stressful. Stress can cause depression.
  • New Pet or Person. Just as pet loss or human loss can cause depression, some dogs will become depressed when a new pet or person enters their life. This can impact their routine and day-to-day lifestyle. The new pet may take attention away from them.

What You Can Do for Dog Depression

Treatments for dog depression can be categorized into pharmacological (drug) treatments and nonpharmacological treatments.

The best recommendation to treat dog depression is to do the following:

  1. Figure out why. The best thing to do is to consider why your dog may be depressed. As you consider the possible cause, also consider what your dog’s life must be like on a day-to-day basis. Is there lots of stimulation? Playtime? Exercise? Attention? Or is it boring? Is he ignored? Even tied to a dog house or in a crate for hours?
  2. Optimize your dog’s life. Make sure your dog has a great routine consisting of plenty of exercise, daily walks, frequent opportunities to go to the bathroom, predictable meal schedules, belly rubs, and plenty of assurance that they are the best dog in the whole world. Here are some tips on how to help your dog.
  3. See your vet. Make sure your dog is healthy and that you are not mistaking symptoms of depression for symptoms of illness. They can seem similar and it can be hard to tell. Your vet may want to do a physical examination and run some routine blood work.
  4. Natural remedies. Some natural remedies that can help some dogs with depression include Bach flower, Ignatia, Spirit Essences Grouch
  5. Remedy, Green Hope Farm Grief, and Loss Remedy. Check with your veterinarian and see if they have a product that has worked well for them.
  6. Drugs. As a very last resort, you could work with your veterinarian to try pharmacological treatment for your dog’s depression. Most dogs respond to playtime, exercise, and quality time with you. To learn more about possible drug therapies.
  7. Give it time. It can take time for the treatments to work. Relax and enjoy being with your dog. Give it some time. Most times they will come around and return to their normal dog selves.


Reel It In – Why I don’t like Retractable Leashes

There’s an old joke about if there’s one thing that two dog trainers can agree on, it’s that the third one is doing it wrong. But if you know me at all, you know I hate online squabbles; I don’t participate in digital fights about training methods or tools.

That said, I think I’ve found something that very nearly ALL dog trainers agree on, and that I will defend anywhere, anytime, and it’s this: Retractable leashes have no place in dog training.

It almost reaches the level of a joke: If you go to a dog park or almost any gathering of dog people and their dogs, the worst-behaved dogs will be the ones on retractable leashes. It’s sort of a chicken or the egg thing: What came first, the poorly behaved dog or the leash that teaches him nothing?

I get how convenient it is to be able to walk along with your dog on leash and have your dog stop for a moment to smell something or take a quick pee, and you only have to slow your pace for a moment, rather than stop dead. When he’s through or he hits the end of the retractable line, he can trot to catch up, and you don’t have to scoop up all that line the way you would with a long leash, you can just allow the spring-loaded retractable thingie to wind it up.

However, what do you do when your dog is at or near the end of the line and:

  • You are suddenly confronted by a loose dog, looking a little aggressive, coming your way, fast.
  • Someone walks quickly out of a storefront, in between you and your dog.
  • Your dog suddenly sees a squirrel on the ground across the street and bolts into the street in an effort to reach the squirrel.

The biggest problem is with these and countless other situations, when your dog is more than a couple of feet from you, there is nothing you can do very quickly to get him back to your side. The products can retract only when there is not tension on the line. As you know if you’ve ever used one, you really cannot grab the part of the cord that retracts into the handle and pull even a smallish strong dog back toward you. About the only way you could pull a dog to safety would be to mash the lock button down, while quickly turning in the opposite direction and trying to call or drag your dog in the other direction – depending on whether you’ve trained him to do emergency U-turns or whether he’s engaged already with the other dog or still on the hunt for the squirrel.

And to retract the slack when there is a chaotic situation brewing, like when that loose dog – or even one on leash! – is squaring off with your dog, and they are spinning around? Lock to prevent the dog from getting farther away, release to retract, lock, release, lock, release . . . it’s darned hard to do in calm circumstances.

When I want a dog to explore his environment without taking him off leash, I use a long line – a 20 or even 30-foot leash. I only use a tool like this in an environment where there are NO other people or dogs who might get tangled up with us, and the line is as smooth and easy to handle as my leash; I can easily grab anywhere on the line and manually reel in the dog if I have to.

And what about the many cases in which someone accidentally dropped the handle, which started dragging on the ground and clattering loudly behind the dog, and spooked him into running in a blind panic into traffic? A dog who takes off dragging a regular leash stands a good chance of being caught by someone who manages to step on or grab the leash. But the retractable leash is likely to retract after being dragged a way, so that it’s short and very difficult to grab.

We don’t even have to discuss emergency situations to get most trainers to chime in about how useless these tools are. They more or less train dogs to pull against pressure, by rewarding/reinforcing the dog when he pulls against the product’s spring (there is always some tension, even when the operator isn’t pressing the lock button) in order to reach something he wants to investigate. Getting to sniff something he was curious about is a reward – and behaviors that are rewarded get repeated. Simple as that.

Yes, a person can lock the handle and prevent the dog from pulling the line out of the device, preventing him from getting this reward. But then, you may as well just have a fixed-length leash.

As a final point against them, all I can say is, when this blog gets posted to the The Dog nanny Canine Training Academy Facebook page, go ahead and post your photos of the deep, slashing cuts that you or someone you know has received when a retractable cord got wound around their leg when a dog was going nuts. That should give a little credence to the warnings against these products.

Can anyone honestly make a case for the responsible use of retractable leashes?

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What to do – Dog Fights



When they occur, there is usually a considerable size difference between the two dogs—the attacker is large and the victim small—and the attack is usually eerily silent, rapid, and often predatory.

Often both the attacker and the victim are un-socialized. Sometimes the attacker picks up and carries and shakes the victim. This is a dire emergency: scream blue murder! Create as much noise as possible to convince other people to shout and help chase down the dog and get him to release the victim. I once chased down a neighbour’s Golden Retriever to rescue a Yorkshire Terrier. Sadly, the Yorkie died a few days later.

Dog fights, on the other hand are extremely common but rarely dangerous.

Dog fights occur between all dogs but most usually between male dogs less than two years of age.

Most people assume one dog is a dominant bully and the other an innocent victim but more usually both dogs are under-socialized and lack confidence and social savvy.

Frequently, the two dogs will eyeball each other and the tension will progressively escalate as each dog is incited by the others reactivity. The resulting dogfight is often noisy and protracted; however, a few of these altercations necessitate a trip to the veterinary clinic.

The dogs are reactive but not dangerous because, during puppyhood, they both developed bite inhibition and learned to settle differences via Marquis of Dogsberry Fighting Rules: only biting the other dog from the neck forwards (scuff and soft part of neck, muzzle, head, and ears) and never puncturing the skin. Learning bite inhibition and socially acceptable stereotypical fighting patterns are the most important reasons for dogs to attend off-leash puppy and adolescent classes.

The best, safest, and most effective way to break up a dog fight is by pushing a “pig board” (a 36” x 30” piece of plywood with a handle in the top) between the two dogs. Maybe this should be standard equipment for all dog parks, boarding, and day care facilities. Certainly do not try to separate the dogs with your hands or feet. Even though dogs may have good bite inhibition towards each other, they may or may not have developed sufficient bite inhibition toward people depending on the degree of puppyhood play with humans.

Standard dog park procedure is for as many people as possible to quickly approach and circle the dogs (to prevent other dogs joining in the fray) while shouting, “Sit! Sit! Sit!” and then praising the dogs as soon as they stop fighting.

Breaking up dogfights is never without potential danger to people so the best strategy is to never let your dog get into a fight.

Prevent the desire to fight by thoroughly socializing your dog during puppyhood, adolescence, and adulthood.

Routinely condition your dog to enjoy the proximity of other dogs.

Never let your dog eyeball, lunge towards, or vocalize at other dogs.

Simply ask your dog to sit and shush and look at you. Three basic obedience commands—Sit, Shush, and Watch Me—will go a long way to prevent your dog from getting into trouble.

If your dog sits and shushes, he cannot bark and lunge, and if he looks at you he cannot eyeball and amp up the other dog.

But more importantly, if your dog sits and looks at you, he presents the aura of a calm and confident dog, one that has a much more important mission (paying attention to you) than being concerned with the growly silliness of other dogs. Basically, you are training your dog to emulate the behavior of a true Top Dog.

Remember, calm and confident dogs are seldom picked on, but under-socialized insecure dogs are attack/bait.


What to do when family dogs don’t get on

The challenge of defusing intra-pack aggression.

Knowledgeable dog people are quite aware that not all dogs get along with each other, despite the fact that canis lupus familiaris (domestic dog) is a social species. Hey, we humans are a social species, and we certainly don’t all get along! Dog-dog aggression is unhappily common in our world. As a professional behavior consultant who works with aggression cases, I probably see more than my fair share of it. By far the most difficult and most distressing presentations of dog-dog aggression are intra-pack aggression cases: dogs in the same family who aren’t getting along with each other.

SAM_1476Cersei & Cadbury

This is the picture that most of us have in our heads when we choose to adopt multiple dogs: a big, happy pack of dogs who get along. When, instead, we get one who doesn’t like another, it can disrupt the entire family and cause heartbreak.

I’ve had a spate of these clients in recent weeks. Even our own Cersei & Cadbury (Dogue De Bordeaux) who don’t always get along seamlessly, seem to have experienced an increase in relationship tensions this winter. I can’t give you a tidy explanation as to why, but I’m beginning to put more stock in the explanation jokingly offered by my colleague, when she called it “snow aggression.”

Stress happens
We do know that aggression is caused by stress. With the very rare exception of idiopathic aggression – at one time called “rage syndrome,” “Cocker rage,” or “Springer rage” and grossly over diagnosed in the 1960s and ’70s – aggression is the result of a stress load that pushes a dog over his bite threshold.

You can compare it to incidents of “road rage” in humans. When you read about the man who pulls out his .38 revolver because someone cut him off on the freeway and blows away the unfortunate offending driver, you can bet there was more going on for him than just a simple traffic violation. This is the guy who was likely laid off his job, lost his retirement investments, had his wife tell him this morning that she was leaving him, and just got notice in the mail that the bank is foreclosing on his home. Getting cut off on the freeway is simply the last straw – the final stressor that pushes him over his “bite threshold.”

So it is for dogs. When tensions increase betweenCersei & cadbury, I need to look for possible added stressors in their environment that are pushing them closer to, and yes, sometimes over, their bite threshold. From that perspective, “snow aggression” is a real possibility: the resulting decrease in exercise opportunities as well as higher stress levels of human family members who aren’t fond of snow (guilty!) can be stressors for the canine family members.

To resolve aggression issues between your own dogs, you’ll want to identify not only the immediate trigger for the aggression – fighting over a meaty bone, for example – but also everything in your dog’s life that may be stressful to him. The more stressors you can remove from his world, the less likely it is that he will use his teeth – the canine equivalent of pulling out a .38 revolver.

It’s often relatively easy to identify the immediate trigger for your dogs’ mutual aggression. It’s usually whatever happened just before the appearance of the hard stare, posturing, growls, and sometimes the actual fight.

Tension over resources is a common trigger. Dog #1 is lying on his bed, happily chewing his deer antler, when Dog #2 approaches. Dog #1 tenses, signaling to #2 Dog, “This is mine and I’m not sharing.”

In the best of worlds, #2 defers by looking away, saying in canine speak, “Oh, no worries, I was just passing through.” When things go wrong, however, a fight breaks out. Dog #2’s approach was the trigger for #1, even if #2 had no interest in the chew item. Perhaps Dog #2 failed to notice or failed to heed #1’s warning. Remember that resources include more than just food; a guardable resource can also be a high-value human, a coveted spot on the sofa, or access to a doorway. The stressor in these cases is obvious: the dog is anxious over the possibility of losing or having to share his treasured possession.

Other triggers may be less obvious. If a dog is in pain, but not showing it, the mere proximity of a pack mate who has inadvertently bumped her in the past could be a trigger. Dogs can be notoriously stoic about pain, especially slowly developing arthritis, or unilateral pain (where you may not see a limp). The undiagnosed arthritic dog may become defensively aggressive in anticipation of being hurt by a livelier canine pal, trying to forestall painful contact in what looks to the owner like “unprovoked” aggression.

“Status-related aggression” can result when neither of two dogs in the same family is willing to defer to the other. Note that this type of aggression is more about deference (or lack thereof) than it is about dominance. A truly high-ranking member of the social group, like our Tarkas (Douge De Bordeaux), doesn’t engage in scuffles – he doesn’t have to!

When you have identified your dogs’ triggers, you can manage their environment to reduce trigger incidents and minimize outright conflict. This is critically important to a successful modification program. The more often the dogs fight, the more tension there is between them; the more practiced they become at the undesirable behaviors, the better they get at fighting and the harder it will be to make it go away. And this is to say nothing of the increased likelihood that sooner or later someone – dog or human – will be badly injured.

Stressors, in contrast, can happen anytime and be anywhere. Remember that it’s the sum total of a dog’s stressors that push him over his bite threshold, so the more of these you can identify and get rid of, the more you’ll ease tensions between your canine family members.

When I sit down with a client for an aggression consult we create a list of all the stressors we can think of for the dog or dogs in question. Then we discuss possible strategies, assigning one or more strategies to each of the listed stressors. These strategies are:

– Change the dog’s opinion of the stressor through the use of counter-conditioning and desensitization.

– Teach the dog a new behavioral response using operant conditioning.

– Manage the dog’s environment to minimize exposure to the stressor.

– Get rid of the stressor.

– Live with it (most appropriate for low-level stressors). Next, I help the client make a management plan that will go into place immediately, to help defuse the tension until she is able to start work on behavior modification. Then we create action plans for two or three of the stressors on the list, starting with the one the client is most concerned about – in this case, the dog-dog aggression.

First option: Aggression modification
My first choice with most clients is the first strategy listed above: changing the dogs’ opinion of each other through counter-conditioning and desensitization (CC&D).

CC&D for intra-pack aggression involves changing your dogs’ association with each other from negative to positive. The easiest way to give most dogs a positive association is with very high-value, really yummy treats. I like to use chicken – canned, baked, or boiled, since most dogs love chicken and it’s a low-fat, low-calorie food.

Here’s how the CC&D process works:

  1. Determine the distance at which your dogs can be in each other’s presence and be alert or wary but not extremely fearful or aroused. This is called the threshold distance. If one dog has a greater threshold hold distance than the other (often the case), work at the greater distance.
  2. With you holding Dog A on leash, have your helper appear with Dog B at threshold distance “X.” The instant your dog sees the other, start feeding bits of chicken, non-stop. Your helper will feed chicken to her dog, too, the instant he notices your dog.
  3. After several seconds, have the helper step out of sight with Dog B, and you both stop feeding chicken.
  4. Keep repeating steps 1-3 until the sight of the other dog at distance “X” consistently causes both dogs to look at their handlers with a happy smile and a “Yay! Where’s my chicken?” expression. This is the physical presentation of the dogs’ conditioned emotional response (CER); each dog’s association with the other at threshold distance “X” is now positive, so they can deliberately look at you to get their chicken, rather than staying intensely focused on each other.
  5. Now you need to increase the intensity of the stimulus by increasing the length of time Dog B stays in sight. Continue to feed chicken when they are in view of each, occasionally pausing to let them look at each other again, and immediately feeding chicken when they do.
  6. When length of time seems to make no difference to either dog – you’re getting a consistent “Yay, where’s my chicken?” response regardless of how long Dog B stays in view, increase the intensity again, this time by increasing Dog B’s movement. Have the handler walk back and forth with her dog, still at distance “X,” slowly at first, then with more energy, even adding in some other behaviors such as sit, down, and roll over.
  7. Now you’re ready to starting decreasing distance by moving Dog A a little closer to the location where the Dog B will appear. When you obtain consistent CERs from both dogs at each new distance you can decrease the distance a little more, until both dogs are happy to be very near each other.
  8. Then return to your original threshold distance and increase intensity stimulus by having Dog B move around more and more, as you gradually decrease distance and obtain CERs from both dogs along the way, until they are delighted to be near each other.
  9. Now go back to your starting distance and increase intensity again, by having both dogs move more naturally as the distance decreases, offering CERs at each new distance before you come any closer, until they can be within six feet of each other, moving around, still relaxed and happy about chicken.
  10. Finally, find ways for your dogs to engage separately in mutually enjoyable activities together. If they both enjoy car rides, take them for a drive, but be sure they are seat-belted or crated far enough apart to avoid any tension. If they love hiking, take them on “parallel” walks, one with you, one with your training partner, with humans between them at first, and eventually with dogs between humans when you’re sure their emotions are appropriate. Parallel swims, for dogs who love the water, can work well too.

When you feel the dogs are ready to finally interact with each other again, be careful not to undo all your hard work. You might first let them greet through a barrier, such as a baby gate or exercise pen.

Chronic stress and unrelenting tension  reduce the quality of life for your whole family; sometimes rehoming is kinder.

It’s useful to desensitize both dogs to a muzzle over the period you’re desensitizing them to each other (in separate sessions), so the first time you’re ready for them to actually interact together you can muzzle them and be confident they can’t hurt each other. (For instructions on how to desensitize your dog to wearing a muzzle, go to and click on “Jean Donaldson, Conditioning an Emotional Response.”)

The more intense the relationship between the two dogs, the more challenging it is to modify their behavior. The more negative interactions they’ve had, the more injuries, the longer the tension has been going on, and the stronger their emotions, the longer it will take to reprogram their responses to each other. If they were good friends at one time, it’s likely to be easier than if they’ve always been aggressive with each other.

Remember to seek the help of a qualified positive behavior professional if you don’t feel competent and confident about working with your dogs on your own.

Second option: Operant strategies
The second option is to teach your dogs a new operant behavior in response to each other, using the “Constructional Aggression Treatment” (CAT) procedure developed by Dr. Jesus Rosales-Ruiz and Kellie Snider at the University of North Texas. In daily life, dogs learn to offer aggressive “distance increasing” signals in order to make other dogs go away. Every time this works, the “go away” behavior is reinforced. The CAT procedure teaches the dog that calm behavior can make the other dog go away, and as a result, the aggressive dog can ultimately become friendly and happy about the other dog’s presence.

A variation on the operant approach is the “Behavioral Adjustment Training” procedure (BAT) created by trainer Grisha Stewart, MA, CPDT-KA, CPT, at Ahimsa Dog Training in Seattle, Washington. BAT is similar to CAT, but uses a variety of environmental reinforcers rather than the location and movement of the other dog exclusively.

As in CAT, the BAT procedure reinforces behaviors other than aggression in the presence of the other dog. In this case, however, your repertoire of reinforcers is larger, including the use of food reinforcers and having the “subject” dog (the aggressive one) move away instead of the other dog. (For more information about BAT, see

If one or both of the dogs are ready to do battle on sight, they must be strictly managed and kept separate from each other except when you’re doing your controlled modification procedure with them. If the aggression is more predictable and situational, the dogs can be together as long as you can manage and prevent the trigger(s) from causing conflict.

Third option: Management
What does it mean to “manage your dogs’ environment to minimize exposure to his stressors”? Simply put, it means making changes to your dog’s environment in order to keep your dogs away from the stimuli that stress them.

If the dogs are stressed by each other, of course, the first task is to keep them separated, through the assiduous use of doors, fences, baby gates, crates, and tethers. Smart positioning can help; locate the dogs’ crates or tethering area out of the other dogs’ sightline. Take them outdoors to potty separately, and separate them well before feeding time, to reduce tensions that arise when everyone is jostling to be fed first.

Next, try to minimize your dogs’ exposure to other stressful stimuli. For example: Say one of your dogs goes over threshold when she sees the mailman approaching your house through the living room window, and her barking display of aggression seems to agitate your other dog. Installing shutters on the window might work (to block your dogs’ view), but closing the door to the front room (to keep the dogs as far away from the sight and sound of the mailman) would be even better. Or you could move your mailbox to toward the sidewalk, instead of next to the front door – the farther from the house, the better. Be creative!

More management tools: Stress-reducing strategies
There are a host of other things you can do to lower general stress in your dogs’ environment.

Exercise can be immensely helpful in minimizing overall tension. Physical activity uses up excess energy that might otherwise feed your dogs’ aggressive behaviors, (a tired dog is a well-behaved dog). Exercise also causes your dog’s body to release various chemicals, including endorphins and norepinephrine, helping to generate a feeling of well-being; an exercised dog is a happy dog! Happy dogs are simply less likely to fight.

Even the food you feed your dog can have an impact on his behavior. Poor quality protein can interfere with a dog’s ability to make use of the serotonin that occurs naturally in his system. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood and sleep, and also affects memory and learning. Foods containing high-quality protein can contribute to your dogs’ behavioral health and physical health.

Basic training enables you and your dog to communicate more easily with each other (which is less stressful for both of you), and helps your dog understand how his world works, which reduces his stress. A good training program emphasizes structure and consistency, both of which make a dog’s world more predictable. Predictability equals less stress; unpredictably is stressful.

If you’ve ever had a massage, you know how calming touch can be. Dogs aren’t that different from us; you can calm and soothe your dog with physical touch, both through canine massage and TTouch. Combine your calming touch sessions with aromatherapy, by using a therapeutic-quality lavender essential oil in an electric nebulizing diffuser in the room while you massage your dog. Then you can build your dog’s “ahhh” association with the lavender scent to help him be calm in more stressful environments, by putting a few drops of essential oil on a bandana that you tie around his neck or on the bedding in his crate.

Other environmental stress reducers include: ¡ö Comfort Zone™ (also known as Dog Appeasing Pheromone, or DAP). This is a synthetic substance that is supposed to mimic the pheromones emitted by a mother dog when she’s nursing puppies. Available through pet supply stores and catalogs.

– Through a Dog’s Ear. This set of audio CDs consists of bio-acoustically engineered soothing classical piano music, which has been shown to reduce dogs’ heart rates. Available from or (800) 788-0949.

– Anxiety Wrap.™ /Thunder Vest. These products helps dogs (and cats) overcome their fears and anxieties using the gentle technique of “maintained pressure” – similar to the effect of swaddling for a human infant.

Options four and five
Sometimes you’re lucky: it’s easy to either get rid of your dogs’ stressors or just live with them. Stressors you could get rid of easily include choke, prong, or shock collars (even those used for electronic containment systems); physical or harsh verbal corrections (punishment), and treatable medical conditions. Without these present in their environment, the dogs’ stress level will decrease.

We all have some stress in our lives, and it’s pretty near impossible to get rid of all of it. Just because you’ve identified a stressor for your dog doesn’t mean you have to make it go away. You probably don’t have enough time in your schedule to address every single thing on your list. As you look at your dogs’ list of stressors, the ones they can probably live with are those that don’t happen frequently, that cause only a mild stress response, and don’t appear to escalate over time. You can also refrain from eliminating your dog’s “fun” stressors, such as squirrel-chasing sessions. If you make your way through the rest of your list and still have time on your hands, you can always address the “live with it” items later.

If all else fails
Intra-pack aggression can feel overwhelming. In fact, it can be dangerous, if fights erupt regularly and you try to intervene. Many an owner has been bitten trying to break up fights between her own dogs. The stress that the constant tension generates can damage the quality of your own life, as well as your dogs’ lives.

When a situation feels beyond your ability to cope, your first best option is to find a qualified positive behavior consultant in your area who can help you implement appropriate management and modification procedures, to keep everyone safe and to start making change happen in your dogs’ mutual relationships.

A consultation with a veterinarian who is well-educated in behavior, or even a veterinary behaviorist, should also be on your list, not only for that all-important medical workup, but also for the consideration of psychotropic behavior modification drugs, if and when appropriate, to help your dog’s brain be more receptive to your modification efforts.

If you feel you’re done your best and peace isn’t in the cards for your pack, it’s okay to admit that some dogs will never get along, and you have had the misfortune to adopt two who don’t. If that’s the case, your options are:

– A lifetime (not just a temporary measure) of scrupulous management

– Rehoming one of the dogs

– Euthanasia

Some trainers say, “Management always fails.” In truth, management does have a high risk of failure, perhaps with potentially dire consequences. The risk is even higher if there are children in the home – not only because they’re more likely to forget to close doors and latch gates, but also because they are at greater risk of injury themselves if they are in the vicinity when a fight happens. Still, I know of several dog owners who have successfully implemented lifetime management protocols for dogs who didn’t get along, and felt that their own quality of life, as well as that of their dogs, was above reproach.

Rehoming can be a reasonable option, especially if the dog being considered for placement has no other significant inappropriate behaviors, and if he can be rehomed to an “only dog” home, or one with dogs he’s known to get along well with. Of course, it can be challenging to find an experienced, appropriate home for a dog with a known aggression behavior problem, but it may be possible, particularly if he’s otherwise wonderful.

No one wants to think of euthanizing an otherwise healthy member of their canine family. Still, if you’ve done all you can reasonably do given the limits of your abilities and resources, and you’ve not been able to create a safe environment for your family and one of the dogs can’t be rehomed, then euthanasia is not an inappropriate decision. It will be terribly painful for you, and you may always feel guilt and regret about not finding the solution to the problem, although perhaps not as much guilt and regret as you would if one of your dogs badly injured or killed the other, or worse, a person.