What Reactive Dog Owners Want You to Know

Barring heavy rain or freak Georgia snow storms, my dog Topher and I take walks nearly every day. At local parks, around our neighborhood, and the occasional hiking trail, we mark up the miles and enjoy the great outdoors. Usually these walks are uneventful. We watch birds, admire the foliage, and get our exercise. Continue reading “What Reactive Dog Owners Want You to Know”

Home, Pets

Spring Cleaning Tips for Dog Owners

It’s officially the first week of spring! In spite of the late cold snap, I’ve been enjoying throwing open the windows and getting more fresh air and sunlight into our house.

However, with more sunlight and fresh air comes the realization: everything we own is currently buried under a nice layer of dust and animal hair. The hairballs in the corner might be gearing up to claim the guest bedroom once and for all. Combine this with the unreal levels of pollen beginning their usual spring build up and it’s a miracle my allergies haven’t permanently swollen my eyes shut.

Time for a little spring cleaning? Sounds about right. Continue reading “Spring Cleaning Tips for Dog Owners”


Why to Stick with Positive Reinforcement Training

Before starting to work with a training company, I didn’t have any particular philosophy on training styles or a preference towards techniques for figuring out how to get Topher to behave. However, one thing I knew: we would not be using any kind of force collar like choke, prong, or shock collars. Later, we updated that “not under any circumstances” list to include things like dominance rolling and hitting. Instead, we’re sticking to positive reinforcement dog training.

Though you might not expect it given his size (and his bark), Topher is a dog who shuts down at the drop of a hat. Our big oaf is eager to please, but he’s also easily scared and came to us brimming with anxieties. To work with Topher is to constantly take baby steps, making progress by overcoming these fears a bit at a time. However, even without our large dog’s equally large anxieties, the decision to stick with positive reinforcement dog training is a no brainer. Continue reading “Why to Stick with Positive Reinforcement Training”


Building A Writing Habit

At the beginning of November I embarked once more to finish National Novel Writing Month. If you don’t know what that is, find more info about the month-long novel-writing challenge here.

This year, I’m doing NaNoWriMo more as an exercise in habit formation. I’m pursuing a 30-day attempt to meet a writing quota; that writing can be either fiction or nonfiction. By some, this qualifies me as a “rebel” but I’m not terribly concerned with whatever box I happen to fit in. Continue reading “Building A Writing Habit”

DIY, Pets

DIY: Make A Reversible Dog Bandana

For the last few years, I’ve been happily subverting Bryan’s “no dog costumes” rule for Halloween, something I’d planned to continue this year. But as the holiday has gotten closer, I’ve been a little stumped for costumes and a bit shorter on time than usual, with Bryan now in school for his master’s degree, and lots more family outings in the mix than in other years.

Also, we can’t dress Topher up and take him anywhere—he would be too uncomfortable, which would only increase his potential to react poorly. This is why we just share the costume photos with the internet, so Topher can stay happy and relaxed at home.

So instead of a costume this year, I’m going to show you how to create a reversible dog bandana, something you can make for any holiday to let your pup in on the festivities. Continue reading “DIY: Make A Reversible Dog Bandana”


Doggy Fries: Sweet Potato Jerky with Coconut Oil & Turmeric

Oh how we love the humble sweet potato. It’s so versatile! When it comes to dog treat recipes, it’s no wonder that we’ve made at least six different dog treat recipes featuring sweet potatoes. And we could probably come up with a dozen more!

This sweet potato jerky recipe was dreamed up as an alternative to plain, boring sweet potato jerky. We’ve been baking lots of sweet potato fries for ourselves over the summer, so why not make some fries for Topher too! The recipe is super simple, and perfect if you’re just starting to contemplate making your own dog treats. Continue reading “Doggy Fries: Sweet Potato Jerky with Coconut Oil & Turmeric”


Disaster Preparedness For Pets

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, thousands of animals were left in New Orleans by owners evacuating or fleeing from floodwaters. It’s estimated that around 250,000 pets ended up stranded because of the storm’s destruction. Only about 15,000 of these pets were ultimately rescued, and only 15-20% of those animals were reunited with their original owners.

As the ten year anniversary of that disaster passes this weekend, it reminded me of how important disaster preparedness for pets is, in addition to being prepared ourselves. Just like people, our pets have basic daily needs that must be met, and they rely on their owners for many or all of those needs. When a disaster strikes, having a plan for your pet’s survival can make a huge difference. Continue reading “Disaster Preparedness For Pets”


Teaching Your Adult Dog To Be Gentle

Topher is a very energetic dog. He can also play a bit rough sometimes—let’s just say being delicate is not really in his repertoire, much to our cats’ dismay. We continue to work on his rough housing, but one aspect where I think we’ve done very well his in training Topher to have what’s called “bite inhibition” or a gentle mouth.

When dogs don’t learn bite inhibition as puppies, they can end up hurting people (or other dogs) even if they are only trying to play. It’s important to teach a puppy to play gently, and they tend to catch on to it quickly—but how to you start teaching your adult dog to be gentle?

Continue reading “Teaching Your Adult Dog To Be Gentle”


Rehabilitating A Reactive Dog: Topher’s Story

My dog Topher is reactive. When I talk with people about our lovable, goofy, soon-to-be-3-year-old American Bulldog, I try to lead with that. Topher is a work in progress, and one I’m dedicated to sharing, because of the circumstances that created much of Topher’s reactivity.

The morning of New Year’s Eve, 2013, started like most others. When my dog Topher and I set out for our walk, it was the middle of the morning, but very few people were out. We took a well-traveled route, down towards a park at the end of our neighborhood. Unfortunately, that was where the similarities to our other walks ended, and suddenly my dog and I were starting the new year on a very different path than we anticipated. Continue reading “Rehabilitating A Reactive Dog: Topher’s Story”


Buckwheat, Basil, and Blueberry Dog Treat Recipe

It’s that time of year again, the time where my backyard garden is beginning to wind down and the farmer’s markets are exploding with in season fruits and veggies. This week, I found myself with a ridiculous amount of basil, and enough blueberries to make something fun for Topher. After all, next Monday is the anniversary of his adoption day! Treat yo’ dog.

I’ve already made some frozen blueberry basil dog treats, so I figured this time I’d bake some. I was really hoping they’d be purple, and I was not disappointed!

Continue reading “Buckwheat, Basil, and Blueberry Dog Treat Recipe”