Category Archives: Health & Safety

Getting a Handle on Housetraining Issues

For many dog owners, housetraining is the #1 thing we want our dogs to learn. In my experience it is also one of the most frustrating and emotionally charged training issues that dog owners struggle with, and I can relate.

Yes I’m a dog trainer and, yes, I’ve had house training issues…

When Epic came home with us, for the first few weeks, I was amazed at how well she did. She peed or pooped outside every time I took her out.  “Housetraining ain’t so hard”, I thought.

Then the “incidents” started happening.

  • Epic would pee in her crate at home or poop on the floor right after we brought her in. From outside. Where she peed or pooped 2 minutes earlier.
  • We would go the whole week without an incident and then have 2 or three on the same day.

Things finally came to a head for me while Sean was away, I was sick , and we had multiple incidents in a weekend, including one on the carpet. It might have been the sleep deprivation, it might have been the cold meds but I remember calmly letting my puppy into the yard coming inside and then breaking out in tears as I reached for the paper towel. Again.

puppy pee drama

Once I calmed down and let my puppy inside, I sat down with her in snuggled in my lap and thought about what I would tell someone in my place.

What everyone needs to know about housetraining

  1. Use an enzymatic cleaner to clean up pet messes. Dogs have a natural tendency to return urinate and defecate in the same place. You want to make sure that if there is an incident in your house that you remove all traces of it. Unfortunately, all the scented human products in the world will not hide the odour of a previous doggy indiscretion from your dog’s high powered nose. You need to use a pet specific enzymatic cleaner that breaks down organic stains and odours. I use the Odor Out products by EnviroFresh and Nature’s Miracle, both are available at pet supply stores or in the pet aisle of your local department store. Do not use other cleaners before using these products and make sure to follow the directions on the bottle.
  2. Rule out medical causes.  If your dog is suddenly peeing more frequently than she used to, if she appears to be straining a lot, or if she has frequent diarrhoea indoors, a trip to the vet may be warranted. A number of illnesses, infections and parasites may be compromising her ability to go when, and where, she should. If you have ever had a bad case of gastritis, or a urinary tract infection you know how urgent nature’s call can be when you are not feeling well. When you contact your vet, tell them about your house training issues and tell them you want to rule out any health related causes. The fact that you took your dog in for her annual exam last week does not mean she is healthy: Specific tests need to be run in order to diagnose certain illnesses and parasites.
  3. House Training 101. Assuming your dog is free and clear of infection and parasites. It’s time to implement some house training protocols. Whether your dog has never been housetrained or your dog is having a relapse, the approach is the same. Whether you want to teach your dog to go under the maple tree in your yard or in an indoor dog pats, the protocol is the same. I won’t  reiterate the great resources already out there on the internet, but if you need a housetraining refresher, investigate the following FREE resources:
  4. Seek Professional Help. If you you have given housetraining 101 (or the refresher course) an honest try and are not seeing improvement, now is the time to contact a canine professional. There is a possibility that the issues you are experiencing have a deeper behavioral cause. The two professional organisations that I recommend are the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC). Each organisation has a search function on their home page to help you find a professional near you.

No more crying over poop in our house!

In our case, the solution to our problem was relatively simple, but it required a level of commitment on my part to resolve.

I realised that Epic’s housetraining lapses were my fault: During the week, at work, it was is easy to keep Epic a regular potty schedule but once we got home, my internal clock is not set to “puppy time”. Once I actually started setting a timer on my phone to go off every 30 minutes (no joke!), and rewarding Epic with a cookie every time she went outdoors, incidents decreased to nothing.

What was a real pain the the rear for a week or two has paid off in spades. Epic still goes outside frequently (every hour or so) but in my books, getting off the couch for a minute or two is much less frustrating than having to clean the floors!



Filed under Health & Safety, Problem Solving, Training

Trial Season Insanity: Can I avoid it?


I have posted very little in the past few months.

My training with Bear has been neglected due to work related and personal things. we’ve been doing a bit of trick stuff here and there at work, but nothing even remotely structured. Now that spring is here and our first trial of the season in a few months, I have trying to plan carefully.

You see, I have this problem of entering a kajillion trials and tests in the spring and early summer and then hating myself by the end of September.

The scenario goes like this: I have a fabulous weekend out at a trial and then one week later things at home and fall behind: Laundry piles threaten to take over the bedroom, dish piles threaten to take over the kitchen, I eat out more than I should (which begs the question – how did those dish piles get there). In addition to the housework avalanche, getting up at 5:30am becomes more difficult than it already is and I spend many drives home from work in tears – because I am tired and over stretched – and I have only myself to blame!

Not. This. Year.

This means that I need to make sure I don’t do something stupid like book 8 weekends of events in a row. I also need to plan better for my precious weekday evenings. My goal is to plan to be home at least two weekends a month – every other weekend if I can – and so far, I have been plugging events into my google calendar keeping this in mind.

With Sean out of commission for 4 out of the past 6 months, most of the cooking/cleaning and laundry has fallen to me and I have learned that preparation goes a long way towards reducing my weekday stress. I spend a few hours on the weekend cooking lunches for the rest of the week and wash, dry and fold laundry all in one go pass the vacuum around the house and things don;t seem to get too far out of control. Miraculously, in the past few months this has become habit and I have free time on weekday evenings that I have not has since I opened Prairie Dog Daycare.

Am I the only one that drives myself insane doing something I love? Is there anyone in the world who can do it all…or do these people just exist in my head?

Hopefully all this planning will reduce the fall insanity a teeny tiny bit. if not, you knowhow they say, “admitting you have a problem is the first step”? I figure I can always try for the second step next year if things go horribly wrong in a few months…right? RIGHT!?!?!

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Filed under Goal Setting, Health & Safety, Musings, Problem Solving

Looking ahead at dog related goals for 2013

Now that things are slowing down (relatively) for the winter I’m taking some time to consider what I would like to work on this year. I had  look at my 2011/2012 goals and, while we worked  little bit on all of them, the only ones we achieved was fixing the back up 3 steps for rally and getting started with Nose Work. Two is better than none right?


What  have discovered is that it’s really hard to stay motivated to do something when that something has no real application in our competition lives or our daily lives. I have given up on the long stand/down – we aren’t likely to ever compete in any event that requires either exercise. Same goes for retrieving.

We are at a point in our competition/trialing/testing career that there are more things we could do than I have time or money for. Planning ahead will allow me to invest my training time and money on things that:

  • Will keep Bear fit and healthy.
  • We enjoy.
  • Will make life easier for us (by us I men me!)
  • Will help us to be successful in the competition ring.

To this end, here is a list of things I’d like to try accomplish in 2013.


  • Improve weave pole entrance at high speed.
  • Improve Bear’s ability to focus when highly aroused.

Health & Fitness

  • Improve Bear’s overall fitness and muscle tone with FitPAWS equipment, his backpack and his cart..
  • Improve Bear’s flexibility by performing daily stretches.
  • Keep up the with Bear’s daily supplements.


  • Teach Bear to identify and indicate human scent indoors.
  • Improve stamina and focus on longer tracks (<100 yards).


  • Reduce (or eliminate) barking at work.

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Filed under Agility, Goal Setting, Health & Safety, Herding, Problem Solving, Rally-O, Scent Work, Tracking, Training

Iliopsoas: Part 2

Here is the follow-up post to my post about Bear’s iliopspas injury way back in April.

Day 6 – Thursday

Today Bear seemed much improved. He is getting into the car by himself slowly, and he is walking upstairs on his own without having to put two hind feet on each step. He is also moving around a lot more when he has some time to stretch his legs at work. and, he is back to lifting a leg to pee in the yard and it seems like he’s using both legs equally for this purpose. These are all things he wasn’t doing at the beginning of the week. I have been continuing range of motion stretches after he’s been up and moving around a bit and he is significantly more stiff on the left side but his muscles seem more twitchy on the right. I’m certain this is a result of favoring one leg and over using the other do I have also been trying some light massage before the icing.

Day 10 – Monday

After a weekend of walking, tracking, stretching and alternating hot and cold packs, Bear appears to be feeling better. In fact, I know this because as I was reading in bed, I heard a growl downstairs the kind of growl that mean’s “it’s ON!” and that is usually followed by wild, puppy-like shenanigans. Sure enough the growl was followed by thump, thump, thump, up the stairs and thump thump thump down the hall then thump THUMP onto the bed!

And then back downstairs again to Sean who came upstairs and asked, “did you get the dog wound up?” in an accusatory voice (I gave strict instructions upon Sean’s return home that there was to be none of the typical play between of them.)

My answer was “No, but I think he’s feeling better”.

Day 11 – Tuesday

Warning! The following is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care or work with a qualified Canine Rehab Therapist. If your dog is injured – SEE A PROFESSIONAL!

We started our rehab work today. Basically the injury is more or less healed and I am not seeing or hearing any indication of pain. Now the job is to keep Bear strong and flexible. Aside from stretching, our exercises will include:

  • Beg
  • Beg & Jump Up
  • Paws up (say your prayers)
  • Walking with a theraband around his one back leg for resistance.
  • Side steps (both ways)
  • Front paws on balance disc/exercise ball
  • Back Paws on balance disc/exercise ball

This is gonna be fun!

Day 12-17

This week was fairly boring, mostly kept up with our walking stretching and exercises as listed above. Bear seems way more comfortable but his stretching is limited and he is much worse on the left rear leg than the right.

We are staying away from rally and agility for now as I have a feeling that too much running and jumping  on a leg with such restricted movement might cause some other injury.

Day 18

Today we (and by we I mean Bear) had a massage with Carolyn of Backstretch Equine & Canine Massage. Bear was the calmest he has ever been for Carolyn which says to me that the massage felt quite nice to him.  Carolyn said he was actually in very good condition with the exception of the obvious stiffness and a few tender points along the front of his rear leg (In a human I think this would be in the quadriceps and calf area – not sure). Post massage, Bear seemed to be sore but if you have ever had a massage post-injury, you know that sometimes the day of the massage your muscles may be sore but there’s a lot of relief the day after.

By Monday Bear was moving very nicely and was much more flexible during stretches – clearly massage is helping and we told Carolyn we’d like to see her again soon.

Day 19-24

I have been gradually increasing activity – some fetch after tracking or after we do some walking/heeling. and Bear seems very comfortable. not 100% but his flexibility is getting better.

Day 25

Today we returned to Agility class which happens to be a fun run. The advice from the rehab therapist was to go slow but to increase the type of exercises we do gradually, pay close attention to Bear’s body and see what happens. My plan was to do a good warm up, some stretching and then try a course to see how things went. The courses set were jumpers courses which was perfect. Jumpers courses do not include contact obstacles or weave poles. If Bear is ok after this course then we will try something more complex next week. If he seems sore, we’ll dial it back.

We did our warm up stretches and two runs (at a very short jump height of 10”) followed by some more stretches. Bear seemed to handle it well. I have a recording of our second run and Bear’s gait seems off but to be honest, I rarely get to see him running from a spectators viewpoint so I have nothing to compare it to.  Later in the evening we did some more stretches and all seemed well.

Day 26

Today we did some heeling and some stretching which all went well. Bear also has been wrestling for short periods with his friend Bella who is here for a weekend sleepover.

From here on in…

I think we will be ok if I stick with the rehab exercises and with the stretching. I find that our stretching routine is something that Bear just lays down and enjoys now – before he would be cooperative but I would have said he was only tolerating it. I also need to remember good warm up and cool down routines to keep him limber.

To be honest, I don’t see anyone around us do stretching, warm up and cool downs with your dogs – no wonder it was never part of my agility routine. I see people do “warm ups” but they seem to be more “focus” warm ups than body warm ups. I also see dogs in very expensive dog gear including coats to keep them warm and therapeutic coats – I don’t discount the value in keeping dogs warm between runs with regular or therapeutic coats but I doubt they actually replace a proper warm up and stretching.


Filed under Agility, Health & Safety

Iliopsoas! Say that ten times fast!

Do you know what the heck an iliopsoas is? I didn’t until this week.

This past Saturday at Rally class, Bear didn’t seem quite right. His pivots weren’t as enthusiastic as usual and while he was excited to work he was slow and lagging behind a bit. This was uncharacteristic behavior for him. Wondering if he just needed a break, we stopped and did some of the tricks he likes to do like spin, turn , hide your eyes and sit pretty and even those did not perk him up. If I was a more traditional trainer I might have assumed he was “blowing me off” but knowing Bear, I knew something was wrong. We tried a jump (he loooooooves jumping) and on his way out he was not moving quickly and his gait was off. I decided to limit our participation for the rest of class to heeling and sits, which didn’t seem to cause any trouble.


He could barely climb into the car after class to get home and then he was equally slow climbing the 5 steps to the house. Once inside, he tried to get up onto his favorite couch spot but got half way, whimpered and then went to his kennel and lay down.


Once I was able to coax him out of the kennel, I poked and prodded to see if I could feel and swelling, any heat, bleeding or any foreign objects.


Taking a wild guess, I applied some ice packs to his inner thighs, he lay there quietly and I took this as a sign that maybe the cold was providing some comfort. That night the stairs were a no go and, since I did not want to sleep on the couch, I carried Bear up – not as easy as I imagined.

Day 2 – Sunday

Sunday morning Bear managed to walk downstairs but he spent most of the morning on the floor or in his kennel which is highly unusual. When we are at home he is usually following me around, taking my spot on the sofa if I get up, waiting for me outside the bathroom door, trying to sneak into the kitchen if I’m in there making lunch, supervising when I load the dishwasher, etc.

Since he appeared to be in more pain than he day before, I gave him a buffered aspirin, one of the safer human anti-inflammatories for dogs. The only anti-inflammatory Bear has received in his life was given immediately after his neuter surgery so I went with a low dose for a dog his size and continued to ice the area that seemed sore.

I went online and consulted with Dr. Google, DVM. She said he likely had hip dysplasia, or tore his ACL or had a neurogical condition.


Day 3 – Monday

Since I had myself convinced of the worst, I had to get in to see the vet, Dr. Radcliffe, so she could either to put my mind at rest or to confirm Dr. Google’s diagnosis. I called, and luckily she was in and had appointments available. She watched him moving then she poked, prodded and stretched Bear’s legs in every conceivable direction (at least to me) and he seemed ok. Then, she finally extended this leg ALL the way back and rotated it inwards. This elicited a squeal on both sides and she said she suspected it was a muscle injury. She consulted with her notes and decided it was likely iliopsoas injury.  She did an infrared treatment and suggested rest, light exercise (walking), massage, stretches to maintain range of motion, icing and, perhaps later on, some more infrared treatments or even acupuncture. She also sent me a one page info sheet from a veterinary surgeon about this kind of injury.

According to my research, the iliopsoas is a hip flexor and is used during jumping, tight turns etc. to keep the dog stable.

Sigh. (Of relief)


My crude ‘artists rendering’ of where this pesky little muscle is – actually there are 2 of them – one on each side.

I am a little disappointed – we were just getting back into agility and had a seminar this weekend, we also were making plans to begin herding but alas, it looks like our plans will be postponed. Fortunately, having played nearly 15 years of rugby and run 2 half marathons, I understand the consequences of pushing through pain and with a 7 year old dog (or any dog) it’s just not worth it.

Day 4 – Tuesday

I contacted Bear’s Canine Massage Therapist (don’t laugh!) about the injury. She is planning on visiting soon (she lives about 2.5 hours away from us) but I wanted to let her know sooner would be better than later. She basically said that massage is good for keeping everything else in that area but that this was was a difficult muscle to reach. In my crude drawing it’s there and obvious but it is covered with lots of muscle. She suggested an appointment with someone who specializes in canine rehab might help best with the specific injury.

So after trading a few more phone calls with the vet clinic (I know their number by heart now – how bad is that) I learned that someone in Brandon, who I know, has completed her canine rehab course. I’m not telling you who yet because I’m sure once word is out, she will be flooded with calls and right now, she’s not officially taking clients.

Day 5 – Wednesday

When the Canine Rehab Therapist came to see Bear and we did more walking, trotting and she did some manipulation etc, she said she was certain he would recover quite well if I can stick with the program. According to her the program will consist of icing then ice followed by heat, stretches, and eventually rehab exercises. She said the thing Bear has going for him is that he allows touch and heat/ice packs and he is very responsive to training so teaching the rehab exercises will be easy. The program also entails keeping him from jumping until he is healed – jumping off things, onto things or doing other crazy jumping dog things – this is going to be the hard part. She’s going to put the plan on paper and until we get the plan we’re going to use our ice packs, our hot pads and maybe our tracking harness since walking (with his nose) is about the only activity he can do right now. Fortunately water is a tracker’s best friend and there is lots of rain in the forecast for this weekend!

I’ll follow up with an update at the end of the week – Our rehab plan should be interesting!


Filed under Health & Safety

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Prairie Dog Daycare


At Prairie Dog Daycare we have a number of policies in place to help ensure your dog’s safety but did you know we’re Pet First Aid Qualified? This includes myself and any helpers I might leave your dog(s) with should I need to step out for an hour or two.

Pet First Aid is essential for anyone working with multiple dogs in an off leash setting where knowing how to assess injuries and when to seek veterinary care can mean the difference between life and death for your pet. In my opinion, ‘hoping’ nothing happens and telling my clients that “dogs never get hurt here” is just plain wrong! The potential injuries in a dog daycare range from torn nails to bites and everything in between and I feel that I owe it to my clients (both ethically and legally) to be prepared for every possibility.

A couple of months…

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I just wrote the following post over at the Prairie Dog Blog about a recent webinar I attended on Preventing Poisoned Pets.

Prairie Dog Daycare

image I recently attended a webinar called Preventing Poisoned Pets delivered by Tina Wismer of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Centre.

Given my pet first aid training, I thought I knew what I needed to know about pets and poisoning. However,  this seminar was offered for free and counts towards the 36 hours of continuing education credits I need to recertify as a Certified Pet Dog Trainer in 2015, so I decided to take it – and I’m really glad I did.

I learned a lot of new things that I bet you didn’t know either so I’ll list the ones that really surprised me.

  • Did you know that  one 200mg Aleve (Naproxen) tablet can cause kidney failure in a 40lb dog?
  • Did you know that aside from causing liver failure, acetaminophen (Tylenol) can cause face and paw swelling in dogs which might be mistaken for an allergic reaction?
  • Did you…

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Filed under Health & Safety