A Tail Waggin’ Resource for All Your Canine Communication Needs

We recently wrote about understanding dog body language, but are you wanting more? Care to brush up on your Doggish-to-English language skills? Discover reasons for raised hackles, growling, and paw raises? How about learning the differences between your dog’s variety of barks?

Well, have we got a special treat for you! Our fellow certified trainer friends and colleagues have officially launched their iSpeakDog website, and we’re beyond thrilled. (You can tell just by our body language – smiling, jumping for joy, and whoo-hooing around the office!)

The folks who are heading – and tailing – up this breakthrough event are sharing all-things-dog-communication. This FREE informational platform includes everything interactive from Q&A to how-to videos. You’ll find an abundant collection of resources to help decipher what your inquisitive canine may (or may not) be saying.

Starting on March 27, 2017, their kickoff launch has a calendar week filled with free webinars. There are also handy downloadable handouts, including this one: three questions to help you speak dog. You can even join in on the campaign and iSpeakDog-ify your own images – just remember to add the #iSpeakDog tag!

Sydney J. Harris once said, “The two words ‘information’ and ‘communication’ are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through.”

Thanks to the iSpeakDog crew and their array of resources, information is within reach and readily available for you to become an expert at canine communication.

#iSpeakDog

No Dog Left Behind: Making the Case for Canine Education

Education is important — so much so that it’s written into our law… for humans.

CanineEducation-4In the United States, there are compulsory education laws, which mandate that children attend school (public, private or home) by a certain age, and state they are not allowed to drop out (should they decide to) until a specific age. These laws were developed to help literacy rates, protect against child labor, and to better the population as a whole.

If we, as a society, promote the importance of education for people, then I propose that it’s high time we advocate for a similar system for inquisitive canines. Dogs (and other non-human animals) are becoming more a part of our everyday culture. I submit that we will only benefit if we establish similar requirements for our canine companions in order for them to not only adapt, but also to contribute in positive ways and gain wider acceptance.

According to a 2015 Harris Poll, 95% of Americans consider their pet as part of the family – I know I certainly do! So if this is the case, then why not go above and beyond the birthday present, special homemade treats and spa sessions by giving our dogs an education that not only enhances their home life, but also allows them to become an upstanding member of society?

One reason I became a certified dog trainer was because I wanted to be able to bring my own dog to as many places as possible. My rationale was that if all dogs were well-mannered, then they would be welcomed by more people and into more places, and eventually would help change our “no dogs allowed” culture to “courteous canines welcomed.”

How great would that be? (Bark once if you agree, twice if you enthusiastically concur!)

DogIndoorRestaurantI know there are some naysayers out there gasping as they read this, and I realize that some places might not be appropriate for dogs (i.e. commercial kitchens, operating rooms for humans, etc.), similar to certain places not being appropriate for young children. However, I believe with the right kind of training, many places that are currently considered off-limits for dogs could be perfectly fine, and even preferable with their presence.

But was does “well-mannered” look like? And what education would be necessary to achieve it?

In my opinion, the same guidelines used for therapy dogs would be a great starting point. Unlike service dogs, therapy dogs must hold an actual certification. This is not to say that service dogs don’t perform specific tasks – most do. However, owners aren’t required to show proof. Therapy dogs, on the other hand, go through detailed training with their handler and then have to complete a certain number of supervised visits where they are observed and given feedback. (Yes, this is a test!) Once these steps have been completed, they provide references and more to complete their application. And, therapy dog handlers are required to carry their membership card whenever he or she is “on the job.”

There are several organizations devoted to supporting canines and their humans in the therapy dog certification process including, Love on a Leash, Therapy Dog International, and the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen. Each of these programs require dogs be proficient in specific skills in order to perform duties to help make people feel happy, relaxed, and safe. These include:

  • Being able to sit, stay, lie down, and come when called around a variety of distractions, and without the use of treats to reinforce them
  • Allowing strangers to pet and handle them, including tugging on ears and tails
  • Being approached by strangers, including those behaving erratically
  • Being tolerant and accepting of loud and/or unfamiliar noises
  • Show no signs of being fearful or aggressive

Wow! Imagine a world where dogs were better behaved than us humans! It seems to me that if these skills are good enough for therapy work, they would be more than sufficient for general public interaction.

And just as children respond best to education with the support of their parents or other loving adults, dogs also thrive when we humans work with them – and in the process, we become better trained ourselves.

CanineEducation-2Many businesses have a “no dogs” policy. However, some might reconsider if the canine in question held a certificate stating he or she has gone through significant training. That might be a good first step for changing our culture. While I’d envision this as a “private school” type of education initially, imagine if there were public options to help teach all dogs how to become more upstanding members of our society. Now that would be something to howl about!

So here’s my question to you inquisitive pet lover: What do you think about mandated canine education – and if we get people and their pups to participate, should society as a whole welcome dogs into places they weren’t previously allowed? I say, no dog left behind!


Wanna join the conversation? Just head to the comment section below. Care to share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine? We invite you to post on our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter – Tweet to us and we’ll Tweet ya back!

A Pawsitive Attitude is the Only New Year’s Resolution Needed for You and Your Dog

Inquisitive-Canine-Vinnie-LouieHello inquisitive pet parents, and welcome to 2017! I can’t believe we’re starting a brand new year. Time flies when you’re having fun… especially when hanging out with inquisitive canines.

When you think New Year, what’s the first word that springs to mind? If you couldn’t help but jump to “resolutions,” you’re not alone. Because who among us – human or canine – doesn’t desire and deserve a fresh start?

The key to getting your year off in a pawsitive way is to come at your goals with a dog trainer’s perspective: changes in behavior come from acting in a consistent, rewards-based, loving manner, NOT from sporadic, negative, punishing action.

My goal is to motivate, make it fun, and set everyone up for success — humans and dogs alike. So my New Year challenge for you is to shift your attitude towards your dog, and along the way, you might find you can apply some of these strategies in other areas in your life that can use some positive (pawsitive?!) adjustments.

The starting point is to first consider what you’d like to change about your canine, because
even though most of us have our dogs on pedestals and often think they can do no wrong, there’s usually one (or two) things they do that we might find annoying. And then once you hone in on what you’d like to adjust, you have to decide what’s realistic… and what’s not.

For example, do you ever have these thoughts about your pooch: “Do you have to bark at everything?” “Is it really necessary to jump on people?” “Why do you constantly have to chase everything you see, smell, and hear?”

These dog-specific behaviors are common and considered normal for the species, so for most of us, we tend to look the other way when our pets act as expected. But when these behaviors are so pronounced that we find ourselves constantly losing our tempers with our dogs, then it’s time to make a change. Because if we don’t teach them what we want, the annoyance level is likely to escalate, making us more sensitive and shortening the fuse each time they repeat the unwanted actions.

The main downside of this cycle is when you are focused on the negative, you get tunnel vision about your dog and forget all of the wonderful things he does the rest of the time. You also may forget that sometimes you actually want, expect, and appreciate some of the specific behaviors (i.e. barking) that you think you want to eliminate completely.

Here are the steps to take when modifying canine behaviors:

1) Watch what you wish for: This may sound ominous, but it’s actually a literal piece of advice: observe the behaviors you think you want to eliminate in your pet so you can honestly access how you feel about them, and also realistically, what you want to do about them.

We need to remember that these “annoying” behaviors are often what we find cute, endearing and funny. And, it’s also these behaviors that make dogs, dogs! Recognizing these factors can help bring us back to reality.

Conversely, we may be living with behaviors that aren’t serving our pets or us, and it’s then on us to take decisive steps to improve the situation.

inquisitivecanine-levi2) Make a list of realistic resolutions: Once you’ve taken some time to consider your dog’s normal behaviors, write them down divided into two categories: those that are wanted and those that are unwanted. For example:

  • Wanted: Sit, down, stay, come when called, leave things alone when asked, go-to-your-place.
  • Unwanted: excessive barking, jumping up on people (unless cued), pulling when on leash (unless cued), counter-surfing, chewing on forbidden items, digging around inappropriate areas, marking

For all the wanted behaviors, think about where and when you want your dog to perform these behaviors, for example, when sitting at doorways or to greet someone . Now’s the time to re-up your rewards game, and remember to say “thank you” when your animal makes good choices. Barking only once when the doorbell rings, keeping four-on-the-floor when meeting others, using appropriate greeting skills with fellow canines, walking nicely on leash , and eliminating in appropriate places are all worthy of acknowledgment and positive reinforcement. Give her a treat, a loud “GOOD GIRL!” and a snuggle when she is a model canine citizen.

As for the less desirable behaviors, let’s figure out if they are truly unwanted and need to end altogether, or if you need to teach your pooch when it’s okay – and when it’s not.

inquisitivecanine-dogtoyinmouthFor instance, barking. When someone is at the door or too near you personally or on your property, it can be very helpful for your dog to call your attention to the intrusion. My dog Poncho, for example, liked to alert me to “stranger danger,” when I would be loading things into the car and was a bit distracted. In this case, I appreciated his vigilance and would say “Thank you” when he did his job. On the other hand, during the more annoying bark fests, I’d ask him to be quiet, and positively reinforce him for staying silent. If he continued, I asked him to perform a more acceptable behavior, including picking up a toy and holding it in his mouth.

Other examples for teaching alternate behaviors to help keep that positive attitude might include: four-on-the-floor instead of jumping, laying on a bed or mat in areas where there are counters loaded with enticing items, and providing appropriate chew items your dog finds motivating.

3) Cop an attitude of gratitude – when you’re pawsitive, your pooch will respond in kind: What it comes down to is catching your dog in the act of doing what you want, make sure you say thank you. Express your gratitude! This alone could be one resolution that you could easily achieve. The other benefit of it is that when you stay consistent with your positive behavior of reinforcing the positive behavior of your pooch, you are engaging in what TIME magazine calls a “prevention goal.” Prevention goals are all about duties and the things that keep you on track versus “promotion goals,” which are the big, lofty, aspirational goals that are easy to dream about but are much harder to achieve. Your refreshed, pawsitive attitude, clarity and consistency around those canine behaviors that enhance, not detract from, your household are resolutions that are much easier to keep, all year long.

From all of us here at IC HQ’s, we wish you and your inquisitive canine a happy, healthy, doggone great New Year!


Wanna join the conversation? Just head to the comment section below. Care to share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine? We invite you to post on our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter – Tweet to us and we’ll Tweet ya back!

Make Your List (Check It Twice!) To Prepare Your Pooch for Holiday Guests

imgres-1The weather outside might be frightful, but that doesn’t mean your inquisitive canine’s holiday entertaining skills — or lack thereof — need to be.

As a certified professional dog trainer, I am well aware that pet parents’ stress levels go up this time of year as they worry about how their dog is going to behave during the holiday hullabaloo. Will she jump on guests? Is he going to tackle grandma (again!)? Will the pup push over little Paulina? Help herself to the delectable prime rib roast left to rest on the counter? What about the ever-popular neighborhood exploration adventures that happen when arriving guests leave the front door open for a second too long? And then, of course, there are those visitors who just aren’t “dog people.”

What’s a pet parent to do?

In a nutshell: plan ahead, prepare and dress rehearsals!

imgresLet’s start off with planning ahead. When you’re expecting guests, you should consider who are the folks that are coming over, how they feel about dogs, and what reasonably they might be able to do when they arrive at your home to help keep your canine thinking clearly from the first “hello.”

Next, you’ll need to consider how you want your dog to act around company and what outside resources you might need to aid you in getting your desired outcome. For instance, say your dog is an enthusiastic social butterfly and wants to say hello to anyone and everyone, but doesn’t care how he gets the job done: jumping up, licking, barking and, with some especially energetic dogs, the hockey player hip check. As fun and entertaining that can be to some, many might find it annoying.

The solution? Ask your dog to greet people nicely. If you’ve done that training with your pet, then you’re already a winner in the holiday entertaining reindeer games.

Another option is to use the “Go to your place” cue, where your dog goes to a bed/mat/rug when the doorbell rings or there’s a knock at the door. Guests enter, and the reward for your dog is to say hello after you give the release cue that it is okay to do so. The second part of this behavior scenario is having your dog keep four paws on the floor. They can remain on their “place” while guests come to them, or you can give a release cue where they politely go to your visitors. Remember to reward your dog for behaving politely. A chin scratch, toss of a toy, praise, healthy treat or anything else your pooch finds motivating.

For those times when you don’t have time to teach your dog new skills or you’re concerned about the welfare of guests, think about bringing in some help to allow your dog to stay at home while you entertain and/or consider outside resources.

Is there’s a friend who’s happy to host your dog at his her home? Do you have access to a reputable doggy daycare facility that your pup would enjoy going to? Another option is hiring a certified training, petsitter, or responsible family member to come over and be in charge of your dog while you’re entertaining. We did this for our dog Poncho when we hosted an office party, and it worked out perfectly. He was included, taken care of and enjoyed himself, while my stress level was reduced so I could enjoy the festivities, too.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: failing to plan is planning to fail. So make your list and check it twice to ensure your plans to entertain holiday guests don’t go to the dogs. Keep in mind that it’s best not to train a behavior or scramble to make other arrangements for your pet the day you’ve got a party planned. Begin training your pup sooner rather than later, and if necessary, locate and lock in necessary resources ahead of time. I can speak firsthand, as can , that the holidays are some of the busiest times of the year for pet sitters, boarding facilities, and trainers.

Here’s to a pawsitively happy holiday season to you & yours from all of us at the Inquisitive Canine!

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Wanna join the conversation? Just head to the comment section below. Care to share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine? We invite you to post on our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter – if you Tweet to us, we’ll Tweet back!

Hello, Doggy: Teach Your Dog to Come When You Call

Has this ever happened to you? You call your dog by name over and over… to no avail. Then you open a can of food and voilà! Out of nowhere, you hear the pitter-patter of paws heading toward you at top speed.

inquisitivecanine-charley-comingwhencalledAs a certified trainer and also a dog mom, I feel very strongly that when it’s “recall” time, ALL dogs (yes, ALL dogs) need to be taught how to respond. It’s not just about manners – there are definitely times when getting your dog to come to you is for his safety. And it’s best to teach your pup before you need the behavior – not during. You wouldn’t teach someone a fire drill during a fire, right?

BUILDING A SOLID RECALL

Step 1: INDOORS (with few distractions) 

  • Start by backing away from your dog using your happy voice, clapping and praising as he approaches you. Stop, ask your dog to sit (optional), reach in and grab his collar with one hand, and give him a tasty treat from the other.
  • Repeat this several times, until your dog is almost chasing you around and not allowing you to start over again.
  • Now try this at the same distance in a different location, still with few distractions.
  • Repeat the first step, but from 8-10 feet away, even if your dog is doing something else. Reward with the process outlined in the first point (happy voice, clapping/praise, etc.) If your dog doesn’t come to you right away, go to him, lure him back to where you called to him from, then reward using the above steps.

Once your dog has become skilled in these steps, repeat the same exercise in different rooms of the house, especially when he isn’t expecting it, and reward in the same manner. This way, he continues to associate coming to you with wonderful things! After he has mastered this, you can move outside.

Step 2: OUTDOORS 

  • Practice the routine as described above in the same way in a fenced yard or secure outdoor area, keeping your dog on leash for safety reasons if necessary.
  • Begin just a few feet away, progressing to a farther but safe distance.
  • Practice the backing-away recall while out walking your dog on leash. Give the cue when your dog is facing forward, not looking up at you.
  • If you want, you can get a longer leash (long-line*) and practice the same exercises from a farther distance.

*For safety reasons only. Be cautious not to get your dog tangled up in the leash. Do not use this leash for pulling or dragging your dog away from something. 

RECAP: THE RULES OF RECALL

  1. Only call your dog for something pleasant.
  2. Only call your dog if you know he’s going to listen and follow though with your request.
  3. If you misjudged on rule two, save the recall by going and getting your dog yourself, and bringing him back to where you called from, then reward.
  4. Use the cue word once and only once, but be a cheerleader, using additional methods of communication to help get the message across: body language, whistling, clapping, happy talk.
  5. ALWAYS give your dog a huge payoff whenever he comes to you: praise, petting, play and/ treats! (Use higher-value treats during initial training steps, and periodically once the behavior is established.)

Is your inquisitive canine already for an advanced level of recall? Try practicing the Round-Robin exercise: Send your dog back and forth between two or more people in a room or outdoors (in a safe environment). Each person takes a turn calling the dog, performing the reach-for-collar/treat-with-other-hand game. If at any time your dog chooses not to come, the person who called him/her should go over, lure him/her to where they called from, then reward.

Once you’ve achieved total recall with your inquisitive canine, you’ll be the star of the dog park with the most obedient pup around. Now if he could just learn how to change the oil and perhaps run a vacuum cleaner every once in a while…!

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Wanna join the conversation? Just head to the comment section below. Care to share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine?  We invite you to post on our Facebook page  or follow us on Twitter – if you Tweet to us, we’ll Tweet back!

Upcycle Leftovers Into High Value Dog Treats

Last week a private training client mentioned that their dogs had some dietary restrictions, but were allowed to have salmon. Fortunately for me, I had just roasted salmon for our dinner and had some left over, along with brown rice and chopped herbs. Yay! Aside from working with dogs and their humans, I enjoy experimenting in the kitchen, especially when I have a goal of coming up with special treats for inquisitive canines.

Thanks to the food processor, an egg, and some flax seed, the mixture turned out quite lovely. Low and slow in the oven (40 minutes, 325 degrees convection), cooled and sliced up with pizza cutter made for quite a large batch of these morsels that both dogs found quite rewarding.

So, before you decide to swipe your plate into the trash, or toss all the old containers out, experiment with creating your own custom canine creations so you can continue to reward those behaviors you want. Your dog, your budget, and our landfills, will appreciate it!

Custom Salmon Treats

Add all ingredients into bowl (salmon, brown rice, herbs, ground flax meal mixed with water)

Salmon Treat Ingredients

 

 

 

 

 

Place in food processor and blend until smooth

CustomSalmonTreats

 

 

 

 

 

Add one egg, blend until smooth (helps with binding, alternatively double flax meal)

IMG_6500

 

 

 

 

 

Spread onto baking sheet lined with oiled foil (so doesn’t stick).

Bake at 325 degrees 35-45 min or until firm.

IMG_6502

 

 

 

 

 

Cool and cut into desired size pieces. Note, this batch made a lot. I am keeping extras in the fridge and will experiment with freezing too.

IMG_6503

Dog Safety at Memorial Day Barbecues

With Memorial Day on the horizon and summer festivities about to begin, Poncho and I thought we’d help set the stage for keeping inquisitive canines happy and safe when attending and/or co-hosting various events, parties, and barbecues.

Reward your pup for ignoring “forbidden items”, especially the barbecue! Say they walk by it and decides to stay away. Whether you’ve asked them to or not, they should be thanked. Acknowledge with anything they find motivating to reinforce that behavior. Use praise, petting, a game of fetch or tug, and even a yummy treat to make an impact.

Teach “down-stay” in one location: Train your dog to perform a settle down-stay on a bed, towel or mat. Reward for being on their “magic carpet” — all good things happen when they’re hanging out on their mat. If they start to wander toward the BBQ, you can ask to come to you and/or for them to “leave it!” – as soon as they come away from it, reward heavily. If they opt for pushing the limits, you can send them indoors (remove from the “fun”). After a minute or so, allow them to return to their special mat and reward for being there. They should soon learn this distinction: “Hmm, if I stay on my blankie, I get treats and I get to hang out. If I wander toward the hot thing with food on it, I end up inside … bummer.” Dogs are pretty clever, and soon learn what the better choice is.

A few additional BBQ Dos and Don’ts:

  • DO arrange your dog’s environment (enclose outdoors or use a barricade if needed) to prevent access to grill.
  • DON’T leave your dog unattended outside with the grill on at any time. Paws, muzzles, mouths and tongues can get burned easily – and badly!
  • DO keep your dog inside the house or tethered to those who aren’t manning the grill, if barricading outside isn’t possible.
  • DON’T create an unintentional “time-out” by sequestering your dog to an area without anything to do while everyone else is have fun.
  • DO spend a bit of time teaching and practicing safe grill behaviors with your dog before guests arrive.

Teaching your dog to be the #1 grill master, remember to combine the basics with an emphasis on rewarding any and all behaviors you want! Also keep in mind that dress rehearsals are key – especially since barbecues and daily-life chaos tend to keep us preoccupied.

Managing Leashed Dog While Off-Leash Dogs Want to Visit

Dear Inquisitive Canine,

How do I handle the situation when I am walking my boxer on her leash and we are confronted by an off leash dog or two? It happens a lot in my neighborhood and my former street dog (she was rescued from a neglectful life of living on the streets of East Dallas) goes crazy and barks and lunges at the dogs. I have worked with her so she no longer lunges at dogs behind fences but she continues to go crazy at the off leash roamers.

Ellen G.

Dear Ellen,

Thank you for writing in! We appreciate questions such as these, since there are many in your walking shoes experiencing the same situation. The following are a few quick tips you can use to help with enjoying your leash-walks.

Poncho and Ferris Out for Walkies

Interrupt and redirect! It sounds as if you’re already initiating this dog training maneuver when encountering dogs behind fences – now you can take it a step further. An easy and fun game you can play is “Find it! All you have to do is say “find it” when she alerts to another dog, then toss a small treat on the ground in the direction you want your dog do walk. The intention of the game is to redirect her attention elsewhere while making it fun and rewarding – more than barking and lunging at the other dogs. (Using a treat she’d do backflips over would make an even bigger impact!) With proper timing and consistency she should begin to create an association of “other dogs” = “fun”! You’ll know she’s understanding the game when she sees another dog and then looks at you almost as if asking “Are we going to play now?”

If your inquisitive canine is more of an obedience expert, you can play the same game, but in leu of playing “find it”, you can run through her gamut of “tricks”. The principle is the same in that every time another dog appears life gets better for her!

Keep it loosey-goosey! Leashes can be restrictive when dogs are trying to communicate with others – dogs and people. However, they’re important when in areas he or she can run off and get hurt or harm something else. Plus, in many areas it’s the law. To allow your dog freedom of speech in her innate language with the other pooch’s, avoid tightening up on the leash. IF (and this is a big IF) it’s safe for her, for the other dog, okay with the other owner (if they’re around), the general public, an

Allow your dog to speak! Our domestic dogs have a language all their own. Allowing your dog the opportunity to speak her mind will help her convey her message to the other dog, and vice-versa. She might be using both her vocal and body language skills. Similar to when any two people are talking, especially in a language we’re not fluent in, it’s best to avoid interrupting. d you’re comfortable with it, drop the leash. Again, this allows her more control over her behavior – which we all want, right?

Learn to “speak dog”! In addition to allowing the dogs to communicate, you’ll want to take a foreign language course in “dog-talk”. This is helpful for watching your own pooch, as well as others you encounter – especially those who are unfamiliar. A dog whose body and face is relaxed and loose, tail wiggly-waggy in movement, mouth open with tongue possibly hanging out while walking towards you using a bouncy gait is more likely to be friendly. The complete opposite – body stiff, mouth closed with tense face, stiff gate, head downward but gazing towards you/your dog – is a dog you’d want to question – it doesn’t mean he or she would want to start a fight, but this type of language might be conveying more of a reserved greeting. When in doubt you can use the little trick of taking a handful of treats and tossing them at the other dog while you head off in another direction.

Paws and reflect: Make the experience fun and rewarding, versus stressful, and be prepared for what your plan of action is for those times you see another dog while on walks. Also, remember to allow your dog to speak her mind when other dogs are around.With time, practice and consistency, you can make the experience a walk in the park – or wherever your dogs leash takes you.

Packing These Dog Behaviors Helps Make Outing a Walk in the Park

Joan and Dublin in Park

Heading to an off-leash dog location with your inquisitive canine? Remember to bring along a few useful behaviors to make your outing an ideal situation. The following are a few I would bring along to help knock any challenge outta the park!

Sporting Activities Offer Fun Options for Dog Training

Nowadays the list of inquisitive canine specific sports and activities is getting longer and longer. As both a dog trainer and dog mom I think that’s fabulous! It’s wonderful to have so many options that both dogs and humans can choose from. Seems there’s something that fits preferences, lifestyle and fitness level – for everyone. Keep in mind though that dogs usually have their preferences as to which sport they’d choose. Are they a sniffer? A fetcher? A swimmer? A catcher? Puller or pusher? The following list of a few of the more popular sports for inquisitive canines – maybe you’ll find one or two of interest to you and your own dog: