No more waiting for their next walk !
Blog & News

September 29, 2013

Is BSL Gone from MA for You and Your Dog? AND, Why to be Diligently Analytical about Your Dog’s Poop

BSL (Breed Specific Legislation) Outlawed in MA last April;  It’s not Gone Everywhere…

In April of this year, Massachusetts banned breed specific legislation.. That’s right, banned it. It was the first sensible thing heard on the subject in months. There were 2 nationally broadcast dog trials this year, Lennox, in Northern Ireland — who was killed just because he looked like a pit bull — while a real pit bull named Dre, faced a death sentence in Colorado when he hurt no one. (he was released after 45 days and allowed to go home.) These cases emphasized the BSL issues and what can actually happen.

The bill Glov. Deval Patrick signed in April, states “No city or town shall regulate dogs in a manner that is specific to breed,” according to South Coast Today. The law further states “no dog shall be deemed dangerous … based upon the breed of such dog.”

One backer of the law described the nonsense behind targeting specific breeds — such as Pit Bulls — in law.

“The breed-specific thing is a quick reaction to a complex problem,” state Sen. Mark C.W. Montigny told South Coast Today. The Democrat from New Bedford, Mass., described Pit Bulls as “beautiful, loving dogs if not mistreated by ugly, mean human beings.”

Not only pit bulls, but dobermans, rottweilers, shepherds, and other bully breeds are often judged on looks and assumption alone. The big picture fixit includes spay and neuter programs, training and socializing these breeds at a young age and helping shelter and rescue organizations in any way we can to reduce the huge number of dogs  euthanized because of this discrimination. The challenges for people living in a downtown or suburban setting and owning these breeds, include renting an apartment with your dogs, getting homeowners insurance and for landlords making sure your building and neighborhood stays safe.

 We Do Have Resources: The Mass Animal Coalition

MAC, Inc. is a statewide, not-for-profit organization formed in February of 2000 to promote collaboration among those who work in animal welfare, both professionals and volunteers.

By joining together, MAC members have created strong alliances and developed new programs and initiatives. Ever increasing numbers of Massachusetts animals have benefited from this cooperation.

MAC Members Include:

    • Animal control officers
    • Veterinarians
    • Representatives from all types of shelters
    • Canine breed rescue
    • Feline rescue
    • Pet supply retailers
    • Cruelty investigators
    • Attorneys
    • Representatives of state agencies, humane societies, veterinarians and veterinary students

On this website, you will find referrals for insurance companies who will provide homeowners insurance, recommendations and landlords who will accept the breeds, and suggestions for prepping a file about your dog including references from people saying s/he is trained, friendly and never bit anyone.Also from your vet.

Check out the rest of the website, because we can sign up and help.

For a list of organizations who are MAC members, click here.

MAC Board:  Click here to meet the board.


I Mean, We do Have to Talk About It…..  Dog Poop, only it’s Constipation this Time

I recently read about a dog walking company in NYC who offers a video of each walk sent to your phone. A common request from customers is that a photo of your dog’s poop is included in the video.

Part of the increasing attention and dedication we are giving our dogs’ health and wellness is paying attention to poops, how they look, and what it can mean.

The majority of dog owners have more experience with doggy diarrhea than constipation. When there is constipation,  sometimes the problem is no more complicated than a lack of fiber in the diet or inadequate water consumption, but there can be more serious causes as well.

The following is good advice from

“Please keep in mind that you should always consult your vet before making any changes to your dog’s diet or administering medications (and also to be certain that he isn’t exhibiting symptoms of a more serious illness or disorder.”

Your dog is constipated when he either has difficulty pooping (and feces produced are dry and hard) or isn’t pooping at all. If solid waste stays in your dog’s colon too long, all the moisture in it will be absorbed and stools will become dry, hard, and difficult to pass.

If the situation is left untreated, your dog’s large intestine can actually stretch to the point where it can no longer do its job effectively. This is a chronic condition known as megacolon, and is actually more common in cats than dogs. Our goal is to prevent pets from ever having such chronic and longstanding bowel issues.

How Do I Know if My Dog is Constipated?

Whether you take your dog out to do his business or he goes out his doggy door into the backyardhabits. The quantity of urine and feces, the color, texture, smell, and the presence of mucus or blood – are all indicators of how well your pet’s body is functioning.

Often, what leaves your dog’s body is the first sign of a problem with his health, so it’s important if you don’t accompany your dog out to potty that you regularly monitor the areas of your yard or property where he does his business.

Constipation is insufficient or complete lack of passage of stool from the body. Most dogs with the problem will look like they’re trying to go – need to go – but don’t go.

If after several minutes of hunching and straining your pooch has produced either nothing or a small, hard something, you can safely assume he’s constipated. This is especially true if the problem lasts more than a day or two.

You may notice your constipated dog appears bloated. He may be in some pain as well, especially during the act of trying unsuccessfully to poop.

If he’s able to pass stool, it may have an odd color – usually darker than normal. You may notice mucus or blood or other oddities you’ve never noticed before.

If the situation persists, your dog may have episodes of vomiting. He could lose his appetite and begin to drop weight. He may appear listless. Ideally the situation won’t get this far before action is taken.

That’s why it’s important to regularly monitor not only what goes into your dog’s body, but also what comes out of it.

Causes of Constipation

There are many potential causes of constipation. They all fall into one of three categories as follows:

Interluminal causes involve partial or complete obstruction on the inside of the colon, brought on by ingestion of matter than can’t be digested, as well as tumors.
Extraluminal causes occur outside the colon and contribute to obstructive constipation, for example, a narrowed pelvis resulting from a pelvic fracture, or tumors growing in the pelvic cavity that compress the bowel from the outside.

Intrinsic causes are neuromuscular in nature and can result from pelvic or lumbar nerve injury or diseases like hypothyroidism or hypercalcemia.
A partial list of causes includes:

  • Dehydration, not enough dietary fiber, lack of exercise
  • Swallowing a foreign object like a piece of cloth, part of a shoe, or rocks
  • Intestinal obstruction, including tumors
  • Neuromuscular disorders involving abnormalities or injury to the nerves or muscles of the colon
  • Infected anal glands or a hip or pelvic injury that causes pain during defecation
  • The effects of surgery, some medications, and iron supplements
  • Stress brought on by a change in routine or surroundings
  • One of the most frequent causes of constipation in dogs is dehydration. If you suspect your pup is constipated or you’ve noticed dry, hard stools when she’s able to go, it’s important to monitor her water intake.

Remember, very active pets need more water, and in hot weather, every dog’s requirements increase.

Make sure your pup always has easy access to clean, fresh water, and if you suspect she’s not drinking enough, measure it out into her bowl to keep better track of her actual consumption.

Depending on what you feed your pet – especially if you feed raw or cooked food prepared at home, or a canned commercial formula — she should be getting some of the moisture her body needs from her meals. If you feed dry kibble exclusively (which I don’t recommend unless you can’t afford to feed a more species-appropriate form of food), your dog will need to get most of her water from her water bowl.

If your dog ingests a non-food foreign object, which dogs are known to do, or even a big chunk of bone, it can lodge in his bowel and cause an obstruction around which stool cannot pass. If your dog is having trouble pooping and he’s been known to swallow things he shouldn’t, my advice is to contact your vet if the situation doesn’t resolve in a day or two.

If you know for a fact your pet has ingested something large that could create an obstruction, don’t delay as this can develop quickly into a very serious, even fatal, problem.

Intact male dogs, especially as they age, can develop enlarged prostates which compress the bowel, creating pencil thin stools or even an obstruction. This problem can usually be resolved by having your pet neutered.

Hernias in your dog’s rectum in the area next to the anus can cause constipation. The hernia bulges into the rectum, closing off passage of stool. Hernias usually require surgery to repair.

Some dogs have insufficient muscle tone or neuromuscular disorders that impede their body’s ability to efficiently move waste through the colon. Stool that stays too long in the bowel loses moisture and hardens, making it even more difficult for the dog to go. This can become a vicious cycle, because the more difficult or painful it is to go, the more likely the dog is to develop a habit of avoiding elimination.

When to Worry …

If your normally healthy dog develops constipation that doesn’t resolve in a day or two, it’s smart to be concerned. There are potentially life-threatening causes of constipation in canines, so it’s important to keep a close eye on a constipated pet and seek medical help if things don’t improve quickly.

If your dog’s constipation resolves in a day or two but recurs, again, it’s time to see your veterinarian. A recurrence indicates the problem may be more complicated and require either medical intervention or permanent changes to your dog’s diet or lifestyle.

Chronic constipation is known as obstipation. This is a very unfortunate situation in which a dog is unable to empty his bowels without outside help. The colon becomes enlarged as it retains a growing volume of hard stool.

A dog with obstipation will be extremely uncomfortable and try often but unsuccessfully to poop. Without intervention, he will lose his appetite, become lethargic and begin to vomit.

Depending on the severity of the situation, intervention can mean IV fluids for hydration and an enema to clear the colon — or it can mean the dog must be fully anesthetized for a manual cleanout. Often, a second round is required to remove stool that was packed into inaccessible areas of the bowel during the first procedure.

In intractable cases, surgery may be necessary. A colectomy is an operation in which part of the bowel is removed and/or bowel abnormalities are corrected. This option is typically used in cases of obstipation caused by an injury to the colon, a neuromuscular disorder, tumors or pelvic disorders that impact the colon.

My Tips for Pups That Can’t Poop

These recommendations are intended for dogs that are experiencing a minor, transient bout of constipation. If your pet’s condition is ongoing or chronic, or if you aren’t sure of the cause, your best option is to call your vet for guidance.

A balanced, species-appropriate diet. Hands down, ‘dietary indiscretion’ is the most common cause of occasional canine constipation. And while indiscretions can include eating rocks, sticks, socks and kitty litter clumps, they can also include a dry, processed kibble diet full of junk your pup wasn’t designed by nature to eat. Feeding raw or preparing cooked meals yourself based on complete and balanced recipes is the best way to keep your dog’s whole body operating well – especially his digestion.
Digestive enzymes and probiotics. Both these supplements will help with maldigestion, which is often the cause of intermittent bouts of constipation as well as diarrhea. Your holistic vet can advise you on products and dosing, depending on your dog’s individual situation.
Plenty of exercise; plenty of clean, fresh drinking water. The bodies of all animals need to move to keep things moving, including stool through the colon. Regular physical activity and adequate amounts of fresh, clean drinking water can prevent or remedy doggy constipation.
Additional dietary fiber. In the wild, the fur on a dog’s prey provides fiber in his diet. Needless to say, domesticated dogs don’t get a lot of fur in their meals! Good sources of fiber for your canine companion include:

  • Psyllium husk powder: 1/2 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight 1-2 times daily on food.
  • Ground dark green leafy veggies: 1 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight 1-2 times daily with food
  • Coconut fiber: 1 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight 1-2 times daily on food
  • Canned 100 percent pumpkin: 1 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight 1-2 times daily on food
  • Organic apple cider vinegar (ACV).Organic ACV is a bit of a natural wonder drug, in that it can alleviate a wide variety of conditions in both people and pets. It is well known to improve digestion, including relieving constipation. I prefer raw, unfiltered ACV, 1/4 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight added to your dog’s food 1-2 times daily.
  • Aloe juice (not the topical gel): 1/4 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight 1-2 times daily on food.
  • Chiropractic, acupuncture/pressure and massage. All three of these natural modalities have been proven to help with chronic constipation in pets.

A Few Things I do NOT Recommend …

Laxatives meant for humans. Please don’t give your dog any human laxative or stool softener without consulting your veterinarian. There are some human laxatives that may be safe and effective under certain circumstances, but please don’t guess at which ones or how much to give. Call your holistic vet for guidance. There are laxatives — Lactulose is one — formulated specifically for pets.
High fiber grains meant for humans. Don’t attempt to resolve your dog’s constipation with grains, cereals or other high fiber people foods without consulting your holistic veterinarian first. Remember – your dog is a carnivore. Grains aren’t a natural part of her diet and could make a bad situation worse.
Mineral oil. Please don’t give your pup mineral oil. It’s not effective, and it can be inhaled into the lungs, causing permanent damage.
Home enemas. Please don’t attempt to give your pet an enema, or even a suppository, without consulting your veterinarian. Some commercially available enemas are highly toxic to pets.

Hey! It’s Me, Ernestine! Way Down at the Bottom!

Hey, fans! I have been entertaining friends at home, so in addition to running the three Crates, let’s just say it feels like I pushed  the blue ball around the yard all day!  See my new picture in the blogroll? We do have new food, treats and collars- all top notch of course- the ‘Up Country’ collars can be personalized! This is not a sales pitch….. I just want you to have the best!  I listen to Ellen Degeneres, because she is a dog person. Every day she says, ‘Be kind to one another!’ I am doing just that!


Later,  Ernestine

September 22, 2013

What is a Bad Dog? Toxic Cleaning Ingredients to Stay Away From!


Ernestine Reporting

Yea! I got the banner spot! Lots of news from the 3 Crate Escapes including new bulletin boards going up this week featuring;

  • dog nutrition and training articles,
  • ‘Chews A Cause’, our rescue organization/ donation program, is restarting, bring us gently used dog items!
  • updates on Last Hope K9 Rescue, our ‘in the field’ partner, for finding forever homes for homeless dogs. Belmont Crate Escape is fostering dogs rescued  by Last Hope; stay tuned for photos and information!

I have chosen an article from the NY Times to share with you.  After I read it, I debated whether to blog it, because I know we are all such extreme dog lovers and caretakers, that we would never……

… the next thought was, none of us are perfect. October is Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog Month. Rescuing your dog is a wonderful deed, but like almost everything else, there are no guarantees. Also, like most things DOG, there is love.

Later, Ernestine

Bad Dog

Rachel Maizes

My dog, Chance, is old. White fur circles his eyes, coats his muzzle, sprouts between his toes. Although still alive, he looks like a ghost. He used to stand like a champion, his chest and muzzle forward, his hind legs back. Now he can hardly support himself when he sits, balancing precariously like a pile of kindling propped against itself.

He takes an anti-inflammatory medication for arthritis and pumpkin for constipation and fish oil and glucosamine for his joints and mind, though it may be too late for the latter. He walks an endless circuit between the guest room and bedroom and master bath searching for what I don’t know. When he tires, he lies next to me as I work. Sometimes he groans.

I think about what it means to have cared for Chance for most of his life. It confirms that I, too, am growing older. I turned 50 a few months ago. Overnight, wiry gray hair has sprouted at my temples. Always a theater buff, now I attend matinees. My back stiffens after weeding. In the mirror, I see a face rearranged by gravity’s heavy hand. I remember Chance as a gangly puppy with floppy ears. I keep a picture of myself as a young woman, a 20-something with spiky hair, my arm around my mother, now dead 10 years. A dog’s life is shorter than ours, but ours is, as the Talmud says, “k’heref aiyen,” like the blink of an eye.

Chance’s fur is long and mats easily. I brush it, collecting thick, webby piles. My second husband, Steve, saved the fur of a dog he once owned and a friend wove it into cloth. It’s one of the things I love about Steve, the over-the-top affection he bestows on animals. I toss Chance’s hair into the trash or scatter it outside for birds to install in their nests.

Fourteen years ago my ex-husband and I adopted Chance from a shelter. He was a 4-month-old puppy, an Australian Shepherd mix, with brindle fur. We had another dog, Tilly, a 2-year-old black Lab, who trained him. When we told Chance to sit, he glanced at Tilly and followed her lead. We crated Chance, as the shelter recommended, keeping him in an enclosure for brief periods of time to housebreak him and give him a sense of security. Once I left him in the crate for several hours. I returned to find him trembling, squeezed into a corner of the crate to avoid the puddles and piles he had made. No emergency had kept me. I had been chatting with a friend and time got away. It wasn’t the only time I failed Chance. It was easy to fail him, a mere dog, who couldn’t insist that I return, who couldn’t even embarrass me by telling the story.

When Chance turned 2 he became aggressive. He growled at other dogs and bared his teeth. He flattened puppies under his heavy paws. He chased children and cyclists, clamped down on their ankles and knocked them over. He even bit Tilly in a scuffle over my bed.

When I tired of apologizing for him, I hired a trainer. She told me his aggression was set off by fear. She said to keep him away from unfamiliar dogs and people, for their sake and his.

I fled when other dogs approached. If I was distracted and we crossed paths with another dog, I ordered Chance to sit and rewarded him with meaty treats if he stayed calm. Most days he preferred the fight. He hurled himself at the other dog, barely restrained by the leash. He barked furiously, drowning out my attempt to explain to the other dog’s owner, “Chance doesn’t like to socialize.”

I didn’t know when I adopted Chance that puppies need to interact with other dogs to learn social cues. A well-socialized dog employs a soft growl to tell another dog “you’re in my space.” A puppy who interacts with a variety of other dogs learns to roughhouse in a playful, rather than a threatening, way. Chance had Tilly for company and I mistakenly thought that was enough. I was depressed and in a bad marriage. Nothing got me off the couch. By the time I started taking better care of myself and walking the dogs every day, it was too late.

I divorced my first husband and the dogs took care of me. Chance made me feel safe in a large, empty house. Tilly shared my bed, resting her head on my ex-husband’s pillow. But I hated being the owner of a bad dog. I felt ashamed turning away someone whose dog wanted to play and telling a schoolchild she couldn’t pet Chance. I lived in constant fear of him attacking someone.

Yet in some ways, I am the perfect owner for Chance. An introvert, I identify with his desire to be left alone. I empathize with his feelings of jealousy. When Steve and I married and Tilly transferred her loyalty to him, lying at his feet instead of mine, I could hardly suppress my rage.

It’s easy to love a well-behaved dog. It’s harder to love Chance, with his bristly personality and tendency toward violence. Yet in the end, I measure the success of my relationship with Chance by its challenges, because if I can’t love him at his most imperfect what use is love?

A few years ago, an old yellow Lab got loose. The dog lunged at Chance, sinking his teeth into the soft flesh of his throat. He bit his head and tore at his face. The Lab foamed, reveling in the attack. I kept hold of Chance’s leash and screamed at the owner, but she was frozen. I didn’t see how Chance could survive multiple, vicious bites.

Finally, the owner pulled the Lab off by his hind legs. Chance whimpered. He hadn’t fought back. What saved him were the other dog’s teeth, so worn by age they were mostly ineffective. Chance’s teeth were sharp and he was young and strong. Why had he held back? Perhaps he wasn’t such a bad dog after all.

In his old age Chance has mellowed. When we walk, he attends to what is directly in front of him, a flagpole or a mailbox, barely sensing other dogs. It takes us 40 minutes to go around the block, but when I look at him he grins. It’s his favorite time of day and mine.

I try to be gentle with Chance, hoping when the time comes others will be gentle with me. When I catch myself tugging his leash, I remind myself these are his last days and to enjoy them. The night before Tilly died she tried to get my attention, resting her muzzle on my keyboard. I moved her aside. I was busy writing and I thought there would be time to play, not knowing her cancer would take a dramatic turn in the morning and we would have to euthanize her.

I often think back to that night, wishing I had cuddled and cradled my girl. I hope not to make the same mistake with Chance. Steve scratches his belly every night before we go to bed. Chance deserves at least as much from me.

He is, after all, my good dog.

Household Cleaning Products that are NOT Dog Safe

Many of us use cleaning products in our homes that are not exactly pet safe. Ingredients such as bleach, ammonia, chlorine, glycol ethers, and formaldehyde can cause problems in adults and children, but pets are particularly at risk for things such as cancer, anemia, and liver and kidney damage, according to studies that include data on pets. Here’s what you need to know.

Toxic Ingredients and Their Effects on People and Pets

Avoid purchasing or using products that include these ingredients:

  • Ammonia — Used in many degreasers for ovens, glass, and stainless steel, ammonia burns mucous membranes and contributes to asthma. If it is mixed with bleach, it creates a poisonous gas, which can be deadly to small animals.
  • Chlorine — Used in disinfectants, toilet bowl cleaners, and automatic dish detergent, chlorine is also used to bleach coffee filters or clean pools. It can cause dizziness, vomiting, and laryngeal edema. Avoid this ingredient, and be careful about letting your pet swim in the pool.
  • Glycol ethers — Found in glass cleaners, carpet cleaners, and spot removers; linked to anemia, lung damage, and kidney damage in people and pets.
  • Formaldehyde — Used in products such as soaps and even some pet shampoos; a carcinogen that can contribute to asthma.

Cleaning Products that are not Dog Safe

Here are a few to watch out for, with some alternatives:

  • Floor Cleaners — These include Pine-Sol and Mr. Clean. Even if you manage to get all of the residue off the floor, the vapor lingers and is dangerous to your pet.
  • Bathroom Cleaners — These include Clorox Bathroom Cleaner and Scrubbing Bubbles. Try a product such as Ecover Bathroom Cleaner instead. And never use a continuous toilet bowl cleaner such as Clorox Automatic Toilet Bowl Cleaner. The temptation to drink out of the toilet is a quirk in many of our pups (and cats!).
  • All-Purpose Cleaners — The most common toxic, all-purpose cleaners that scream “Danger!” are Mr. Clean Multi-Purpose Spray and Formula 409.
  • Drain Openers — You may think that since this product is poured down the drain, it can’t be harmful to your pet. But the toxic drain openers give off dangerous fumes long after you’ve emptied them. For a nontoxic, pet-safe option, try Earth Friendly Enzymes Drain Opener.
  • Glass Cleaners — It may seem that glass cleaners, as seemingly “simpler” products, are safe, but don’t be fooled. Instead of something like Windex, try a product such as Nature Clean Window and Glass Cleaner.
  • Laundry Detergent — Laundry detergent can leave residue on clothes and pet blankets, which can be harmful to your pet, especially those who chew on their bedding. Avoid detergents with toxic ingredients like Tide and Cheer and try something like Down East’s Liquid Laundry Detergent.

If you do decide to keep toxic cleaners, make absolutely sure they are put away. Put child safety locks on cabinet doors or put cleaners up as high as possible. Never use them when your pet is in the same room, air out the house after cleaning with them, and never leave any residue. Remember, even when the toxic cleaners are stored and closed, the vapors left behind can continue to harm both us and our pets. The warning signs are clear; we recommend making pet-safe cleaning products a rule around the house.



September 15, 2013

The Perils of ‘Off Leash’, Games to Challenge Your Dog, Chews A Cause Rescue Org. Program

Dogs Off Leash

Wow, it has been a frightening week for dog people in vicinity of the Crate Escapes. One of our cherished  Crate Escape too pups got away from a dog walker and ran.  Two days later, her owners found out she had died.  A dog in the Charlestown vicinity also escaped from a dog walker and luckily found her way home by herself.  A Belmont Crate dog went missing on Friday, was found by a dog recovery organization on Saturday and was returned home.

There is lots to talk about around these stories. We all INTEND to keep our dogs safe.  As pointed out by the above ‘dogs gone missing’, intentions are often not enough. Hearing about these dogs will probably keep us vigilant for a few days…. what will it take to keep it up?

Several things we can promise our dogs and ourselves; don’t talk on the phone or text while walking your dog.  Listening to music might be borderline dangerous; it certainly can be distracting.  Is it possible to take a deep breath, and walk with our dogs,  enjoying the sun, hating the rain, just being with them for the 1/2 hr.?  We are definitely doing a service by taking our dogs for walks instead of just letting them out in the back yards, but if our attention on them loses focus, then what?

And, Check Out Your Dogwalkers! Get solid recommendations and make sure they are bonded and insured.

It is safe to say that even the most dedicated, over protective dog person has been distracted while walking their dogs. Hopefully this will help us recommit.


*** The article below is somewhat long….. you can scroll down to the five games.  The wolf ancestry is interesting, however!**

 Five Easy Games to Challenge Your Dog

Mikkel Becker

What are some creative ways to use feeding time as a way to stimulate your dog’s body and brain? Though dogs vary widely in appearance, from the petite Chihuahua to the towering Mastiff, they share 99.8% genetic similarity to their common ancestor, the wolf.

The .2% difference has made a significant change in the way a dog looks, thinks and acts to differentiate itself from his ancestors. Dogs look and behave more like juvenile wolves than adults, more closely resembling a wolf pup in their physical and behavioral characteristics.

As much as dogs have differentiated themselves from wolves, they still retain characteristics and habits of their ancestors. My pug, Bruce, takes the stuffing out of any toy possible. While he seems like a far cry from a predator, he still has the wiring to de-stuff, much like a wolf would pull apart a carcass. He also instinctively chases after moving things, like squirrels, much in the way his ancestors would have spotted prey and ensued chase. Bruce instinctively joins in a group howl, even those initiated by people, because the sound triggers a natural response to vocalize back. Even though Bruce looks and acts more like a puppy, his behavior still has ties back to his wolf ancestry.

Most unwanted behaviors dogs display in the home are actually instinctual responses, as they were used by their ancestors to increase the chance of survival and reproduction. For this reason, digging, vocalizing, chewing, chasing and jumping are all normal behaviors for a dog. Part of my job as an animal trainer is to help pet parents find better ways to channel a dog’s natural behavior, because when proper outlets are lacking, problems arise.
One area where many canines’ need is not being met is in the way they are fed. Canines are meant to hunt and scavenge for their food. Yet, instead of a multi-step process, many dogs are fed a one step meal out of a food bowl.

Wolves are predators spending endless hours securing a meal; going through a predation process that takes brain power, physical energy and time. Dogs retained aspects of wolf behavior and are similarly created to hunt and work for their food. Even as dogs evolved from wolves thousands of years ago, they had to work to scavenge for food at the edge of human establishments. Scavenging in and of itself is a process, taking time and effort. Even as canines were genetically modified into the breeds we know today, these canines were often bred for working purposes, like herding or guarding livestock, thus they expended energy and worked to earn their keep.
From an evolutionary standpoint, our dogs are made to hunt, scavenge and work for their meals. Yet, take the average house dog, and you’ll find there’s little of this going on. Perhaps it’s the Labrador who devours his entire meal in 30 seconds flat, or maybe it’s the picky Shih Tzu who nibbles throughout the day in his food bowl. Regardless, eating out of the bowl evokes mindless and minimal effort consumption.

The lack of physical activity and mental work involved in an average dog’s meal creates problems. Many behavior problems occur in dogs because they are under stimulated and under worked. Our dog’s bodies and brains are meant for activity and challenge, but with too few outlets to release their energy, the dog may release their activity into something less desirable, like barking at anything and everything or too exuberant of greetings. Dogs are also bored from lack of activity, thus it’s understandable why they opt to chew on furniture or create their own job, like herding the kids. Furthermore, without stimulation and challenge, brain function can decrease, contributing to problems like early canine brain aging.

The great news is, there are easy tactics you can take to challenge your dog when they eat, and in turn, give your dog an outlet to act more like a dog. Below are the top five ways to stimulate your dog’s body and brain when they eat:

    1. Opt for food puzzles instead of a bowl. With food puzzles, dogs use their mouth and paws to manipulate the toy until food comes out, expending mental and physical energy in the process. The variety is endless; from puzzle boards to balls. You can even create your own food puzzles, like using a muffin tin and placing kibble in each space, then covering the openings with tennis balls.
    2. Use cavity toys: These toys are hollowed in the middle for stuffing with treats or kibble and a softer base to hold it together, like peanut butter or pumpkin. They resemble the natural behavior of de-stuffing prey, and take time and energy to consume. To make the puzzle even harder to crack, the concoction can be frozen.
    3. Hide your dog’s food puzzle or cavity toy for added mental stimulation. Hide the toy under a bowl, a towel or behind an object for the dog to find using their sense of smell. Just give a cue, such as “find it” and then send them out on the hunt. Start off easy with the puzzle only partially covered and increase difficulty over time.
    4. Get your dog to work for his food. Premeasure kibble or use treats to divvy out rewards in a training session. Even trick training stimulates the mind. Rather than mindless eating, using part of a dog’s meal in training sessions encourages complex thinking and builds better behavior.
    5. Send your dog on a treasure hunt. Scatter your dog’s meal out on high grass for them to search out using their sense of smell, closely resembling the scavenging process of their ancestors. Scattering kibble challenges a dog to search out food and keeps canines mentally and physically engaged for long periods of time. Evoke a long distance chase by placing kibble and treats inside of a ball thrower and launching the treats for the canine to chase down.

Ernie’s Brother, Emmitt

Hi,  I was rescued 8 years ago from a high kill shelter in Seattle. Ernie asked me if I would tell you about Crate Escapes’ program,  Chews A Cause. We are requesting that you donate gently used dog items to Crate Escape, and we will give the donations to a rescue organization in the Greater Boston Area.  We have partnered with Last Hope K9 Rescue.  They have a great operation, and find foster and forever homes in New England for many homeless dogs.  

You may also donate items from a Wish List they have on Amazon. The link is:

 http://www.­lasthopek9.­org  under ‘Donate’

Thanks, Emmitt



Top |

home | about | ernestine | services | rates | policies | photos | blog | contact | testimonials

Crate Escape logo
Crate Escape | 30 Brighton Street, Belmont MA 02478 | (617) 489-9003 | Fax: (617) 489-9002
Crate Escape Too | 368 Huron Ave, Cambridge MA 02138 | (617) 354-9003
Crate Escape | 200 Terminal Street, Charlestown MA 02129 | (617) 886-9003.