Friday, December 7, 2012

Adam's Christmas Toy Picks (For your dog of course)

          So, I typed this up a little while ago thinking that I wanted to wait until at least Thanksgiving to post it, and yikes I forgot until now! I hope you haven’t done all your Christmas shopping yet because I’m sure your dog would love one of these items.

          A lot of my clients ask me what type of toys I let my dogs play with, and I love telling them about my favorites. There are a lot of junk toys out there that are not only boring for your dog, but some are just plain dangerous. Since I’ve had so much curiosity about the topic I figured I’d better write about it. I’ve decided to make my "Top Five" list just in time for Christmas. You’ll notice that I really prefer toys that can get a dog working. I don’t like a toy that the dog just picks up and carries around every now and then. I like the toys that will make my dogs use their brains and figure out how to get a nice reward for doing so. I hope you appreciate this article because I’m sure your dogs will (if you pick them out a nice item from the list of course)!

                                                      Number Five: The Chuckit!®

          If your dogs love playing fetch as much as mine then this is an absolute necessity! This thing will out throw even the greatest major league pitcher with very little effort on your part. All you have to do is lock a standard tennis ball (or one of the included balls) into the cup, raise your arm, flick your wrist, and this ball is launched. My dogs love the extra thrill of getting to run further than what I am capable of throwing a ball, and I love not having a sore arm!

Number Four: The Dog Pyramid™

          This treat dispensing toy is a must have for very intelligent dogs who just get bored while your watching TV or something. It’s unique from other treat dispensers because of the weight in the bottom. Each time your dog tips it over a treat falls out, but then the toy immediately stands back up. The result is that it becomes very challenging for your dog to get the treats out. This can be a great benefit if you have a dog that has a tendency of figuring out other treat dispensers really fast. The beauty of this product is its difficulty, but this is also its biggest flaw. I’ve met a few dogs that just didn’t feel like the work was worth the reward. These dogs got bored with the toy and would only play with it sporadically. However, the other dogs I’ve had play with this toy have thought that it was the best thing since sliced bacon. So if you’ve got a four-legged genius at home that seems to be bored a lot, I would definitely pick this up for him/her.

Number Three: The Everlasting Fun Ball (This is hands down Zane’s favorite toy of all time.)
          The first time I ever got my hands on an Everlasting Fun Ball I thought it wouldn’t last a day in my house. My dogs are mega chewers when it comes to their toys. This ball feels like soft squishy rubber compared to some of the other toys out there that claim durability, but somehow this one holds up great! This ball can also be filled with treats so it’s not just for fetch or chewing, but rather it can also be a great brain activity as your dog tries to figure out how to get the goodies.
          As a word of caution, I have seen a few dogs that I would put in the category of “nibblers” who have been able to chew this toy up. My dogs are more full mouth chewers as opposed to the mouse like chewing of some breeds, so this toy works great for us. If your dog is a “nibbler” and uses more of his front teeth on toys then you might want to consider one of the other options.

                                         Number Two: The Buster Cube

          If you want to make sure your dog never has a dull moment again, then the Buster Cube is definitely the right product for you. It has internal chambers that are basically shaped like a little maze. You fill it up with food and your dog has a blast knocking it around and trying to figure out how to get all the food out. It’s pretty easy to break down and clean as well which is one of the reasons I love it. Some treat dispensing toys end up with really gross internal parts due to the difficulty of getting them cleaned out. With this toy you just put your thumb in the chamber, twist it out, and you’re ready to put the whole thing in the dishwasher.

Number One: The Kong®

          I LOVE THE KONG PRODUCT LINE! They are a great value because of their durability, versatility, and price.
          Kongs make great chew toys for all stages of a dogs life, they are fun to play fetch with because of their erratic behavior, they can be filled with treats, and the list goes on. I have several Kongs that have lasted five years in my shop. That’s saying a lot considering the powerful jaws that have been wrapped around them!
          I’m actually in the process right now of devoting an entire article about all the ways that I like to use the original Kongs (the snowman shape). Look for it coming up soon. 

          I hope this list has helped any of you who might have been stressing about what to get your dog for Christmas. I know they can be tough to shop for since they always fail to give us a list. 

As always, feel free to get in touch with us if you're having any trouble selecting the right toy for your pet.

Merry Christmas,


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Preparing for that new bundle of joy

Bringing home a new dog can be one of the most exciting days of your life. Your mind is filled with visions of future walks, trips to the park, and the awesome prospect of a new snuggle buddy (as Andrea refers to our dogs). Despite all of the fun that is bound to take place it can also be a very stressful time for you and even more so for your dog. For those of you who didn’t already know, we recently added a new dog to our home and I wanted to share with you a couple of tips that helped make the transition a little easier on us. It’s amazing how the simple little things we do can make a huge difference.
My inspiration for writing this comes from a young couple that I recently had the opportunity to work with. They called me because their dog Flash (a lab mix) had developed some major behavioral issues when they moved into their new home. This scenario is pretty similar to when we bring home a new dog. Even though the people were the same, everything else was foreign to Flash. The couple thought that since Flash had been accustomed to sleeping in the laundry room his whole life that there wouldn’t be any problem with him sleeping in the laundry room in their new home. They heard Flash doing a little whining when they went to bed, but figured he would get over it.

Sadly in the morning they woke up and Flash had caused over two thousand dollars in damage to their brand new home. The damage wasn’t the worst part though. As soon as the door opened Flash was out of the room like a… well as you can guess by his name he’s pretty fast. They took Flash outside to let him use the restroom in hopes that he would calm down. Flash went to the bathroom, but as he was being led back to the house he began crying, pulling away from the leash, and absolutely refused to go back in. They eventually coaxed him into the garage, but were unable to get him further than that. Flash’s entire disposition had changed. He stayed curled in a ball in the corner of the garage for three days, that’s when they called me. We employed some of the tricks that I’m going to share in this article and they were happy to see the effects quickly reversed. I’m positive that had these steps been applied before Flash was brought into the new house he would’ve never gone through the extreme behavioral swing that he did.

This is just a basic outline of SOME of the things you can do to make the transition easier. Some dogs will need more help (like Flash), and of course some dogs might be pretty comfortable in just about any situation. Even if a dog seems super relaxed and laid back in his old home, I try to at least take these steps as a precaution so that I can be sure to be running and playing with my new dog as soon as possible.

Step One: Diet
You’ll want to get in contact with the breeder or previous owner and figure out what kind of food they are currently feeding the dog, how much they are feeding, and at what times of the day, and then get everything you need to replicate this at your house. The move is going to be stressful enough as it is, and that stress can cause a churning stomach. If you throw in an entirely different diet you could end up with a dog that doesn’t want to eat or cleaning up some major messes due to an upset stomach.
If you have any trouble finding the food brand that your dog was fed previously make sure you ask the owner for a zip lock bag full to get you through the first couple days. You can easily get your dog used to the brand you want by gradually mixing in the new food after the second day and progressively adding more each feeding.
You can take the diet precautions a step further and bring a couple empty milk jugs with you to fill with water at the previous owner’s home. Then when you get home you can get the dog gradually accustomed to your water in the same way that I mentioned with the food. This isn’t always necessary, but I do like to take this step with young puppies who have probably never drank any other water than what was at the home. With adult or juvenile dogs I usually ask if the dog has much of a history of diarrhea and if the answer is yes, I’ll go ahead and bring the jugs to fill up (I’ll do anything to avoid diarrhea with my dogs).
Mazey with one of her "Pacifiers" 
Step Two: Toy Time
One thing I’ve noticed about some of the best breeders I’ve met is that they are always willing to go the extra mile to make sure the transition is smooth. Some go as far as to send home a favorite toy with each puppy, and I think this is a huge help. Zane (my dog) is getting up there in years a little bit. He’s spent the night in countless hotel rooms with me, he’s been out camping, we frequently go back to visit my parents, etc. and despite all of these travels even he has a hard time settling into a new place until I bring out one of his favorite toys. Think of it as a pacifier for your puppy. A good used toy is something they enjoy, they’re familiar with, and it can really give them that extra comfort of knowing that not everything in their world has just been ripped away.
If the previous owner doesn’t have any toys that they are willing to send along then buy a couple and drop them off a couple days before you go to pick up the dog. If you are buying from a breeder who isn’t willing to help you out with this then you may also want to question the quality of breeder that they are. If they aren’t willing to take this extra step it could be a red flag.

Step Three: Familiarity
You can give yourself a huge head start in the bonding process by introducing yourself to the dog before you’ve even set foot on the old owner’s property. There are a few things you can do so that when you show up you aren’t a complete stranger to the dog. Dogs use their noses constantly. Have you ever noticed that when two dogs meet each other they can spend a solid chunk of time standing completely still just sniffing each other? There is a lot going on here that we don’t see or fully understand. What we do know is that dogs have an amazing ability to recognize familiar scents and associate them with certain feelings. Zane is a great example of this. If you blind fold him and take him to the veterinarian’s office he won’t need to see a thing, but he’ll still start wagging his tail and acting like a puppy as soon as our tires hit the pavement of that parking lot. He knows that this is the place where he sits in a room and a few people come in and pet him, everybody talks really nice to him, and yeah maybe they poke and prod a bit, but the treats far outweigh any momentary discomfort.
So how can you take advantage of that amazing smelling ability in your future dog? My favorite thing to do is take an old sweatshirt and sleep in it for a few nights. Then I put it in a box and have it rush delivered to the previous owners house (or drop it off if they live close). I ask them to wrap my puppy up in the sweatshirt for some cuddle time, give the dog a treat every time it’s exposed to the sweatshirt, praise it and give it lots of attention whenever it’s sleeping on the sweatshirt, or just anything they can think of to get the puppy to think that the sweatshirt is associated with happy, warm, fuzzy feelings! Then when I show up and I start loving on them they realize that there is something familiar about me and I feel like the bond gets stronger faster.

These are some really basic steps that can have a huge impact on those first few days and even weeks when you bring home your new dog. Everybody wants to form a great bond with their dog. You don’t want to have to spend a bunch of time trying to get your dog to like you when you could be out in the yard playing and having fun.

This list isn’t comprehensive and every dog is different. Please feel free to give me a call, send me an email, or use the contact page on our website: if you feel like you need a little bit of help with that exciting prospect of bringing home a new dog.

Have fun!


Friday, January 16, 2009

A few more wintertime tips

Hello everybody. Sorry I haven't done a good job getting into the habit of blogging yet, I'll try and do better. I wanted to take a moment and jot down a few more tips for keeping your dog happy in the wintertime. Last time I wrote about wintertime I talked a little more about keeping your dog well exercised and happy through the cold months. I just wanted to remind everyone that it is also very important to keep some health issues in mind. When speaking to a local veterinarian I was given a few pointers that I'd like to share.
First off when playing outside with your dog in below freezing temperatures you want to keep an eye on their paws. Our dogs will usually tell us when their paws are bothering them so if they look like they are starting to dance around funny, lift their paws a lot, or even look almost like they are limping then it is a sure sign to get inside ASAP. Some dogs will not give us any signal though so you may have to pay close attention on your own. Many pet stores offer booties for your dogs paws and I definitely recommend them if your dog seems to be especially sensitive. The other paw consideration to keep in mind is very important for those of you who walk your dogs on streets or sidewalks. The salts and chemicals used to de-ice our walkways can be very damaging to our dogs paw pads if not cleaned properly. Be sure to keep an old towel handy after every walk so that you can wipe your dogs feet thoroughly.
If the ground isn't an issue and your sure your dogs feet are fine than feel free to get in as much playtime as possible. The veterinarian told me that your dogs body temperature is usually fine as long as the ears still feel warm. If the ears start feeling a bit chilly than its time to head inside.
Another helpful tip that I'm sure your dog will appreciate is to shovel a little pathway for them along their favorite potty spot in the yard. I've noticed several dogs lately which do not like to venture off into the deep snow so they have started using sidewalks and driveways to relieve themselves. This can obviously be a pretty disgusting burden on you later on.
Well good luck in keeping your dog happy, healthy, and well balanced this winter. As always if you have any questions or needs than feel free to get in touch with us.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Benefits Of No Free Lunch!

Many of you have heard of the "No Free Lunch" program. It's something we've encouraged a lot of our clients and friends to implement in their lives. For those of you haven't heard of it I'm going to give you the basic layout of what the program entails as well as what some of the benefits are.
This program, also referred to as, “Nothing in Life is Free”, was designed by Dr. Victoria Voith. It's very helpful in curing many unwanted behaviors in both puppies and adult dogs alike. It's never too late or too early to introduce it to your dog so don't be afraid to start implementing it today. From the name you can gather that this philosophy is based on the dog having to work for rewards. The rewards that the dog works for are different than you might expect though. Using this program a dog is required to perform a behavior when asked for nearly anything in life including but not limited to; going outside, coming inside, affection, food, treats, toys, praise, being picked up, being allowed into a room, and even eye contact. Believe it or not this is very similar to the way things work in a pack. A dog is rarely given much freedom to eat or socialize with pack leaders until the pack leader initiates contact.
It's best to start with basic things. For a dog which is new to the program a short sit before being allowed outside or to eat a meal is all that's really required. It's important to start ignoring contact with your dog until you have initiated it as well. Things such as your dog nuzzling your hand to receive petting must be channeled in a different direction so that the dog feels he has to earn it as opposed to feeling like he can turn affection on and off like a light switch. If your dog solicits attention from you by barking, pawing, whining, nipping, mouthing, or any other nuisance behavior than simply count to five in your head and then ask your dog to perform a simple task for you. As your dog progresses with the program you can start to increase the challenge. Require your dog to do harder commands such as a long down stay, or perhaps add some higher distractions. Another important step is to implement timed feedings 2-3 times per day. This means that when you set your dogs food down you only leave it down for ten minutes and then come back by and pick it up.
A lot of people view this philosophy as being mean or just plain rude to your dog. The opposite is true. We could not be speaking a more clear language to our dogs than what this program outlines. It triggers some of the most primal and deeply rooted instincts that our dogs carry. Not only will the program eliminate a lot of nuisance behaviors but it will also establish you as the pack leader in your home. This is huge from a training perspective. Without the dog feeling you are a leader than training becomes nearly impossible. Even humans have a hard time listening and obeying someone they don't respect. Imagine how hard it is for an animal with even stronger pack instincts than us!
The benefits from a trainers perspective are not the only benefits you can receive from this program. I've recently heard from three veterinarians who all agree that there can be health benefits to this program as well. A dog who is well balanced is less likely to be destructive around the home which means less chances for dangerous situations. However I was very suprised when all three really supported the 2-3 timed feedings per day as well. They said this can eliminate problems with bloating, gas, vomitting, stool eating, and other unhealthy reactions. With 2-3 feedings daily the food is allowed to digest properly as opposed to one big bowl being plopped down all day everyday.
The "No Free Lunch" program is an extremely healthy, safe, and effective way for you to get one step closer in having a balanced dog. Implement it into your life today and you will see some great results. Just like any training method consistency is the name of the game though so make sure your following through every step of the way.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Winter Time Challenges

Well the real cold weather has made it's mark on Northern Indiana the last couple weeks. It's also been the reason for numerous calls flooding our phones. With the onset of cold weather many of us have decreased our level of outdoor time with our four legged family members. This can lead very quickly to a lot of unburned energy that needs to be channeled. Try as much as possible to continue outdoor exercise, if you have to put on a couple layers than do it. It's worth it! Extra energy in our dogs can cause them to become very destructive, anxious, and just plain overbearing. Your other option is to increase their mental exercise. Teach your dog a new game around the house, do some obedience work in the living room, or give them something challenging to do.
Monitoring your dogs weight through the winter is also very important. If the physical exercise goes down too much and your dogs body is conditioned to burning a lot of calories you may want to speak with your vet about lowering his/her food intake.
Well that's all for now, if you want any pointers about teaching your dog some new mentally challenging games around the house feel free to contact us.

Our First Top Dog Talk!

Hello. This is the first effort that we've made here at Top Dog to start a blog and we are very excited. We'll be posting tips on dog ownership and training, fun stuff that's going on, and whatever else that get's us going. Feel free to let us know if you have something specific you want to hear about.