Monthly Archives

July 2010

dog diets, Dog Health, General

Is drinking ice water or eating ice bad for dogs?

The following story is making the rounds again. The first time I saw it on Facebook causing panic I thought it was silly; the second and third and fourth times showed that it really does need a response. Here's the text that is being spread:


Hello Everyone,

I am writing this in hopes that some may learn from what I just went through. We were having a good weekend till Saturday. On Saturday I showed my Baran and left the ring. He was looking good and at the top of his game. He had a chance at no less then one of the two AOM’s.

It did not work out that way. After showing we went back to our site/setup and got the dogs in their crates to cool off. After being back about 30 min. I noticed Baran was low on water. I took a hand full of ice from my cooler and put it in his bucket with more water. We then started to get all the dogs Ex’ed and food ready for them.

I had Baran in his 48′ crate in the van because this is the place he loves to be. He loves to be able to see everyone and verything. After checking him and thinking he was cooled off enough, we fed him. We walked around and one of my friends stated that Baran seamed like he was choking. I went over and checked on him. He was dry heaving and drooling. I got him out of the crate to check him over and noticed he had not eaten. He was in some distress. I checked him over from head to toe and did not notice anything. I walked him around for about a minute when I noticed that he was starting to bloat. I did everything I was taught to do in this case. I was not able to get him to burp, and we gave him Phasezime.

We rushed Baran to a vet clinic. We called ahead and let them know we were on our way. They were set up and waiting for us. They got Baran stabilized very quickly. After Baran was stable and out of distress we transported him to AVREC where he went into surgery to make sure no damage was done to any of his vital organs. I am very happy to say Baran is doing great, there was no damage to any vital organs, and he still loves his food. In surgery the vet found that Baran’s stomach was in its normal anatomic position. We went over what had happened. When I told the vet about the ice water, he asked why I gave him ice water. I said that I have always done this. I told him my history behind this practice and his reply was, “I have been very lucky.” The ice water I gave Baran caused violent muscle spasms in his stomach which caused the bloating. Even though I figured his temperature was down enough to feed, and gave him this ice water, I was wrong. His internal temperature was still high. The vet stated that giving a dog ice to chew or ice water is a big NO, NO! There is no reason for a dog to have ice/ice water. Normal water at room temperature, or cooling with cold towels on the inner thigh, is the best way to help cool a dog. The vet explained it to me like this: If you, as a person, fall into a frozen lake what happens to your muscles? They cramp. This is the same as a dog’s stomach.

I felt the need to share this with everyone, in the hopes that some may learn from what I went through, I do not wish this on anyone. Baran is home now doing fine. So please, if you do use ice and ice water, beware of what could happen.

This story has been circulating for a couple of years and it is FALSE. There is absolutely no reason that dogs cannot drink ice water or eat ice, including after heavy exertion. 

Ice water is actually very good for lowering body temperature and does NOT cause cramping. Or colic. It's good for horses, it's good for people, it's good for dogs. If the dog in the story ever existed in the first place (notice how all identifying information besides the dog's name has been stripped from the story, so this is reported as being anything from a Corgi to a Dane) it's the story of a dog who bloated at a show. As many, many dogs do. 

If people who have been exercising heavily fall into a frozen lake, they haul themselves out and actually experience less injury afterward than if they had rested. 

If horses who have been exercising heavily are soaked in ice water and given refrigerated water to drink, they recover faster. 

Dogs who are having heatstroke recover fast when ice water is dumped in their stomachs.

This persistent old wives' tale can, thankfully, join "Don't swim after eating" and "Gum stays in your stomach for seven years" – it's false, and your dog can enjoy as much ice and ice water as he would like. 


Amazon store up!

Up in the pages list! Fortunately Amazon makes it easy to get these things going. I have a bare-bones list there now and will be adding items quickly. I'll also be going into my old posts and linking to relevant products.

If you click on a link and would like to buy it but do not want the 4% hitting my account, all you have to do is go away from Amazon and then back in. I don't want anybody feeling like they "should" buy through my affiliate links. 

Thanks so much for your love and support and all the other good stuff you do! I finished up a massive project yesterday and Doug bought us a new washing machine and Meri and Tabitha got back safely from Maine where they were visiting their grandparents – and those are three Very Good Things that will help me relax a little bit and post happy things instead of worried ones. 


Dear Interwebs: Would you hate me?

Dear all and sundry:

I am poor. This is my own fault and my own lifestyle choice, but I am railing against it extra hard right now because I have the time and energy and the timing is right to go grab a dog or two from Hartford, but we just don't have the money. I need to have five hundred bucks in the bank before I do a rescue, because I can count on illness, spay/neuter, training, etc. 

This is significantly chafing to my not-so-wee sit-upon. 

Would you all hate me if I did a little Amazon affiliate dealio where you could buy your normal Amazonian stuff from a link through this blog? I would get some pennies and be able to do rescue (priority one) and more give-aways and fun stuff on the blog. If for some crazy reason it goes absolutely bananas and I make enough to help with the mortgage I will be astounded, but honestly my goal is to go pull at least one dog every couple of months, and maybe after that buy somebody a Kong once in a while. 

What think you? Would you still love me in the morning?

Dog Health, General, Responsible Ownership

When do you know it’s time to put a dog down?

Leanna asked me to address this on the blog and, wow, that's about the hardest question I can even try to answer. All I can do is suggest the kind of things I think about, but by so doing I'm not saying that it's easy or clear or in any way black and white for me. This is a question that's immensely hard for everyone. 

Here's what I generally think about, when I'm trying to make this decision:

Dogs don't fear death. They don't anticipate death, they don't know how long their lives have been, they don't feel robbed of years or impact. All of those emotions are ours alone. Dogs only know where they are right then; how they feel right then. As far as we know they have no idea of "I will get better" or "I am getting worse"; they only truly know how they are right now. 

So, for me, when the dog has hit the point where the majority of his or her time is either painful or confusing, even if they are still eating or still able to walk and so on, I don't believe that keeping them going is very kind to them, recognizing who they are and how they depend on the moment they live in. I need to be sure that a dog can be made comfortable and that its world makes sense to it; as long as that's still the case I keep going. 

One very useful rule, one that you put into place BEFORE the end – when you're thinking this may be getting close – is to list three things that show you that your dog is joyful. Maybe for your dog it's eagerly eating, chasing the cat, picking up the ball. The response time may be slow, but if the dog is still feeling enough engagement to do those things, she's probably still happy and comfortable. When two of those things have disappeared – she may still be eating but she shows no interest in the cat or her ball, or she'll still chase a ball but has stopped eating – it's time to let her go to heaven. The reason I say that you decide this early on is that it becomes incredibly hard to decide it later. You'll see any sign of the way she used to be and think that she is still "fighting" or words to that effect. You need to decide before it gets to that point.

Last – of all the times I have dealt with this, of all the people I've talked to, all the dogs I've wept over, nobody has ever said "We did it too soon." NEVER. But many, many say "We waited too long." Once the dog inside the dog is gone, it's time. 

I don't have any quotes about the Rainbow Bridge or the Happy Hunting Grounds or anything like that. This is one of the few times I'll bring my theology training into play, and it's to say that the Bible tells us two things about animals: One, that their story is not our story; they have a different relationship with God than we do. So it should not surprise us that whether they end up in paradise isn't addressed; God figures we have enough to work on letting him get US there.

Second, he loves them very, very much. God is a fan, and I really do mean that. He pays very close attention to how we treat them, and he keeps track of every single one.

So while I cannot tell you whether THIS dog will end up in OUR paradise, though I rather suspect that he will, I can tell you without a shred of doubt that he is not going without a Very Important Person keeping a loving eye on him.

Dog Behavior and Training, General, training

Learning to shut up and behave


It’s wrong to call the behavior “unacceptable” so long as it’s not wrong from a dog’s point of view.

Turid Rugaas, one of my personal dog heroes, said that. I've been going back and reading all her articles recently, and then letting them sit on my tongue and sink in, past the sweet buds and into the salty and bitter. Trying to use them as more of a checklist for myself than as advice for others. 

Isn't this line a bit of a kick in the shorts? How many times have you used the word "unacceptable" when it comes to your dog? How many times have you decided that two feet away is acceptable but three feet away was UN? 

The other way Turid put the same concept was to ask if another dog would care about the behavior. Would another dog be offended? If not, why are we thinking the sky is falling?

This, my friends, is very hard to do. 

Think about all the reasons you discipline a dog – sniffing the counters, pulling on the leash, nose in the crotch, feet on the furniture. We use that same word – unacceptable – about all of them. But all of them are completely normal and would never be a cause for concern in a dog family. What THEY label as wrong are coming at them straight on. Hugging. Taking something out of their mouths. Touching their beds or bones. 

All these things we ask them to accept, and in fact get very angry when they don't, but we rarely ask anything of ourselves. We don't even ask ourselves to admit that they may be very troubled by how we ask them to live and behave and grow up.

Turid is the best I know at insisting – gently, quietly – that people look at things from the dog's point of view. WHY is this behavior bothering us so much? WHY must it end? What are the consequences if it doesn't end? Will the world stop spinning? How can we take upon ourselves, as owners, the responsibility for "behaving" when the action from the dog's point of view is normal and right?

Tonight, after reading that, in my continual quest to Become A Fan Of Bramble, I took him outside with me off-leash.

We've been doing this for months now, because I NEED my dogs to have a reliable off-leash recall. So much of what we do with them is outside; we'll routinely drive an hour or more to get to an off-leash walking or hiking area or a beach. A dog who is stuck on a four-foot leash really misses out on a lot of fun and ends up being left behind most of the time because I can't carry a baby, shepherd Tabitha, and hold a leash at the same time. So, for weeks and weeks, I've been trying to get him more reliable off-leash. And yes, we've done all the "right" things, starting with a long line or a recall inside a fence and so on. He's perfect as long as he knows he has a line on or can't get away. The moment he knows he has freedom, GONE.

All lessons take place at 3 AM or so, because there are no cars on the road (or, for that matter, within about a mile) so I don't have wheeled homicide to think about.

Anyway, with Bramble, here's how this always goes:

1) I take him out, feeding him bits of treats or kibble and verbally rewarding him for responding to my "close! close!" command. (I know; weird – it's a command I made up for "stick close to me but not in wrapped heel position.")

2) Fourteen seconds later, he bolts down the lawn.

3) I begin to call him.

4) He runs full-tilt across the road.

5) I get more and more wheedly, higher-pitched, worried.

6) I shake his food bowl or treat bag. Whistle. Call him more. Say bad words in my head.

7) I walk across the road and follow him into the woods, calling and whistling. More bad words in my head, trying to keep my voice light and calm as I call him. 

8) I eventually find him, usually several hundred feet into the woods. When he sees me approach, he flattens submissively to the ground and shows his belly. his eyes flat and scared. I pick him up or put a leash on him, and then we walk back, me continually rewarding him for a nice "close" the whole way home. We get inside and I collapse on the chair and think about what horrible things would happen to him if he just kept on running. 

Last night, as I wrote about yesterday, he came back on his own for the first time. No tracking him down. I did, however, call him constantly, go across the road and shake the treat bag, whistle, walk along the edge of the woods, etc. 

Tonight, I said "Nothing is unacceptable. Nothing is unacceptable. Breathe. Nothing is unacceptable." And I opened the door.

He, as usual, walked out with me and looked for his treats, which I gave to him as we walked. As usual, he booted it across the lawn as soon as we were a few steps away from the house. 

And I sat down in the grass under our garage light. 

And hyperventilated.

But I shut up. 

I heard him run across the road and throw himself into the woods. I didn't move. I looked at baby grass. I poked an ant. 

I picked up the treat bag. Put it down. Picked it up again. Put it down harder to "accidentally" make a shaking noise.

Put the treat bag out of reach to avoid temptation.

Thought about whether the pumpkins were growing. That took about three-quarters of a second and then I was back to straining to hear any noise from the woods. 

I heard a stick break. It sounds like it's in the next zip code. He's GONE! He's TOTALLY GONE. I stood up.

I sat down.

I put my forehead on my knees. 

Bramble jumped on my neck.

I looked up, tried to say something, said "Can you down?" and he flung himself on his back, wiggling his paws at me. Downs and sits and downs again, offers me a high-five, rolls over. Many treats. 

And then all on his own he ran to the door and jumped against it to be let in. 

Tonight was the first time, the FIRST, in all these months that I have felt that little spiderweb of joining with him. The first I have not gotten that fear/sorrow/regressing/shutting in message from him. The first I felt him make a decision to approach and open up and connect, and knew that he was getting a kick out of my pleasure. It was such a tiny little step but so very worth it. 

And it's because I let him run across the road. Of that I am sure. It's the one thing he always wants to do, the one thing I always try to shut down, the point at which I start to yell, the trigger for all the times it's been an arm-wrestling match between him and me. 

I shut up and let him do it, and the difference was enormous.

Now please – I don't want anybody thinking that you should just let your dogs run across roads all the time. I'm certainly not going to start letting him run across – or even approach – the road during the day; I'm not going to start teaching baby puppies to go in the road. What I mean is that when I let go of that UNACCEPTABLE, I made a connection that will, if I am careful and savvy and open to him talking to me, allow me to eventually call him off the road, or away from things that are dangerous, because he feels like I'm on his side and not against him. The fact that it was the road really means nothing; it could have been any issue.

If I am trying to see things from my dog's point of view, ending the use of that word "unacceptable," I will do less punishing and begin to expect more of myself. A dog who jumps up on the counters reminds me that my first job is to put the food up high, and THEN we train no noses on counters. My first job is giving the dog confidence that I am good at screening guests, THEN we work on no crotch-sniffing. My first job is providing enough exercise, THEN we work on not chewing the couch. I behave; now we have a conversation about what living in my pack means. I'm predictable; now we talk about you trusting me enough not to fear-bark all the time. I'm stable; now we figure out how to travel together. 

If I have not behaved first, if I am still seeing That Dog as an obstacle that must be overcome, then all I will do is punish and punish and punish while the gulf between us widens.

I have the frontal cortex; I need to use it to imagine what it is like to be a dog before I can expect the dog to behave like a (polite) human. 

And Bramble? Got a bowl of ice cream inside. And we'll try it again tomorrow.




If this was helpful to you and you'd like to help us rescue and foster dogs, here are Amazon links to the books and tools mentioned in the article – and thank you so much!

– Joanna


Please spare a thought for Dylan.

This is a hard one for me to write, and I've been avoiding it for a few days because of the vast level of total suck involved. 

Six years ago Lucy had a wonderful litter of six puppies. Among them was a puppy that from the moment he was born was incredibly beautiful. He was, and remains, the loveliest Dane ever to come from my short and abbreviated little breeding program. 

Sue drove approximately seven million miles to come get him, and he has had the best home in the world with her. Tragically, that entire litter was, as some breeders say, "snakebit." I put together two dogs with tremendously healthy pedigrees and got more tragedy than I could deal with. He is one of only a few remaining, and all his life he has had trouble with bloating. Sue has been absolutely heroic about giving him an amazing life and pulling him through each and every time. 

Dylan has finally come up against something that neither she nor I can fix. He was recently diagnosed with bone cancer. In Danes that usually means there's not a lot of time left. 

If you have a moment today, give a thought for Dylan and for Sue, and I know she'd appreciate any experience or wisdom on keeping him comfortable and happy. She's experienced with natural feeding and supplements, as am I, but this is where our experience ends. If you know more, please let me know. 

clue, Dog Behavior and Training, Friday, General, Juno, Responsible Ownership

Are you a fan of your dog?


When Lucy – my beloved Dane and the dog I still think of when my eyes open in the morning – died, I got a lovely e-mail from her breeder, mostly full of all the things we say when a dog dies. But one line that Sterling sent then has stuck with me in all the years since.

She said, "I was a great fan of hers."  

Ever since, I have thought that was just about a perfect way to describe the relationship we should have with our dogs. Not that we just love them, but that we LIKE them. That we think of each other as being on the same team. That we respect and admire their doggishness, maybe even envy it a little, while constantly pulling for their success. 

Just recently I got another e-mail. This time it was someone who e-mailed me a behavior question about their dog, and asked me if I'd address it on the blog. 

I immediately said to myself, "Not a chance," and then sat back to think about why my reaction had instantly been so negative. 

Remember that I'm not a trainer, not even a bad one. So questions involving how you backchain a weave entrance or how to get a perfect heel are NOT for me. I am neither qualified enough nor foolish enough to answer them. 

However, in this case it was not a training but a behavior problem – let's say it was the dog being destructive – and something I've dealt with over and over again in my own dogs. I actually was, in this very limited scenario, qualified to answer it. But the idea of it turned that little wheel in my stomach where "no" lives. 

Why? Because the real reason, the root of the problem, was not that the person wanted to solve a dog's destructive behavior. It was that a person wanted someone who they thought was experienced in dogs to tell them that their dog was as bad as they thought he was.

I am sure every (real) trainer who reads this knows those questions. They use a lot of pronouns and the word "that." 

I can't handle that dog for one more second.

That dog is getting on my last nerve!

When I got home, that dog had peed all over my purse.

If I knew he was going to be like that as a puppy, I'd never have gotten him.

By the time an owner is using statements like the above, they're not asking for ways to change the dog's behavior. They're asking for permission to get rid of the dog. If you said to them "Wow, you're right. I've never seen anything this bad; let me take him right now and find him a new home," their reaction would be about five seconds of objection and then the light of relief would show in their eyes. They'd start to think about arriving home and not smelling pee. They think about going on vacation without having to board a dog that has to go in the "special kennel." They imagine going to buy a couch that will last longer than six months.

When, on the other hand, you say to them "This is a very common issue, and very easy to fix! All you have to do is…" their faces get hard and their eyes turn off. They'll try to tell you that the way THIS dog does it is not easy to fix, and that their neighbor says they've never seen behavior THAT bad, and how they already tried doing that and it didn't work.

Even people who haven't gotten to the really terrible stage of looking for a reason to get rid of a dog or put it down are pretty inexorably heading that way. Why?

Because they see the relationship between themselves and their dogs as being adversarial. It's them against the dog. It's me against the chaos. It's my job to make this bad dog good. 

They are not fans of their dog. 

Because they see their entire relationship as one of adversity, when the dog REALLY disobeys – eats the couch or kills the neighbor's cat – it is not just a bad behavior but a personal affront. They start to use language like "The dog doesn't like me anymore" or "I guess he doesn't like his life here enough to behave properly." 

I have seen this in myself with my own dogs. If Clue disobeys, it makes sense to me. I trust her enough, and like her enough, and feel that we are connected enough, to be willing to take her word for it that something is wrong and she feels she can't do that right now. It doesn't mean I don't make her come in or make her get off the couch or make her do whatever, but it goes "I'm sorry, hun, i believe you; but I really do need you to do that now." When Bramble refuses to come in, my instant reaction is "Oh, one MORE TIME. He KNOWS this command; what is wrong with him?!"

I've been working very hard lately to be Bramble's fan, to spend enough time with him and to see things from his standpoint so that I like who he is, not who I think he should be. My actions don't change – I still march out there barefoot and walk down whichever dog isn't responding to a recall – but my attitude needs to change. I need to root for him, to be proud of the small changes that are a big deal to him. He was pretty much completely screwed up by being kenneled for ten months, so the improvements are not exactly by leaps and bounds. For example, I realized today that he hadn't bitten anybody in a couple of months. He is still occasionally losing control and threat-barking, but he's pulling back and not connecting. And when I tested him off-leash this week, he only ran away for five minutes, and when he came back he high-fived me because he knew he'd done something good. By most definitions both statements are complete failures (he DOES panic and bark; he DOES run away), but  honestly improvement to that point is a pretty dang big deal for him. Maybe a year from now I'll say that he's no longer threat-barking. Maybe a year after that we'll be able to let him off-leash when we're hiking. 

No matter which dog you're dealing with, and no matter which problem or training challenge or goal you're trying to tackle, you're missing so much if you go into it convinced that it's you against the dog. And how much joy there is in acting like it's the two of you against the world, both of you braced together for whatever comes. To genuinely enjoy your dog, to not just love but like them, means that any challenge is just a bump in the road. It's not going to change your relationship and it's not going to change how much you groove on each other. 

My final little story: Yesterday we took Juno out solo for the first time in a long time; we're always trying to exercise as many dogs as we can so she usually comes along with Ginny and Friday. Once Juno finished her solo socialization we slotted her in to the regular rotation and haven't had her out alone. But yesterday Ginny was having tummy troubles and we were going to the rock beach (the hardest place in the world to clean up the result of tummy troubles) and Friday is going into heat, so it was just Juno by herself. 

A couple of hours into it, with this puppy who is such a thinker, so herdy, so funny, I turned to Honour (who is her real owner) and I said, "Wow, I really like your dog." Which, of course, is the death knell for any possibility of placing her if she doesn't turn out, because I really LIKE that puppy. I can enumerate every conformation flaw and the things I think are good, and maybe she'll finish and maybe she won't, but yesterday I bought a jersey with her name on the back of it. 

So, my question is – are you a fan? Whose name is on your jersey?

dog diets, Dog Health, General

Oh my gosh the obesity

Pem people, this has got to stop. If I see one more photo of Precious Pooky Peedler who can barely drag himself around because the amount of fat wrapped around his PROSTATE is more than any dog should have to carry over his whole body, I am going to scream. What is the deal? Why the epidemic of incredible fatness in this breed when owned by pet owners?