Collars & Things


As a dog walker, I find that many of my customers have their dogs in collars which are too loose. Please! Follow the two-finger rule. You should be able to fit two fingers between your dog’s neck and the collar. No more.

People don’t want their dog to be uncomfortable, and I certainly understand this, but a dog who suddenly slips backward out of the collar, and bolts away in confused excitement, only to be hit by a car- well, it’s just not worth the risk. I use a martingale on most of the dogs I walk, for the dog’s comfort and for my piece of mind.

If you like a loose collar, buy a martingale type. This can be loose on the dog’s neck, but operates like a choke collar if suddenly pulled. The nylon web will not stay tight, as a chain choke collar often will. I love martingale collars on any dog who might be a flight risk!

Halti type collars (similar to horse halters) are nice for large dogs who are difficult to control. Training is a much better idea, however!  I recommend professional trainers- they will make an amazing difference for your dog.  A halti  (or one of those special harnesses) will keep your dog from pulling while it is wearing the halti (or harness). Generally, it won’t teach the dog not to pull when the dog is not wearing the equipment.  (Hint: if the dog gets excited, be sure to hold the leash up high in the air, or the dog will probably get the halti off. Then you only have them by the safety strap, which is surely not great considering the situation you are most likely in!)

To teach a dog not to pull, here is what to do:

As soon as the dog pulls the leash tight, stop and (gently) turn the dog around to face you. Say a command such as “Don’t pull.” I use a downward  gesture with my left hand also. Dogs respond well to gestures. Wait for a minute, and then calmly proceed.  Never walk a dog in training when you have to be somewhere by a certain time!

If you have a medium – to -large dog who wants to pull, I recommend the following:

After three times of having to stop the dog, I put the leash under a front leg. This works very much like the halti or a no-pull harness would. The dog feels the leash against the chest, and doesn’t want to pull. More effective with some dogs than others, it is certainly worth a try. An advantage this has is that you can train the dog with the normal leash until the third strike, so to speak.  Using this method keeps you from having to stop every few minutes all the way home.  It works on small dogs also but may be more difficult to keep the leash under the leg.

I like harnesses on small dogs.  They give me a sense of security.



Why UW’s Dubs is a Malamute

The University of Washington Husky

The live mascot named Dubs has been a symbol of UW since February of 2009. Born at a kennel just to the north of us in Burlington, Dubs is actually an Alaskan malamute. The live Husky mascot at the University of Washington has traditionally been a malamute since the Husky mascot appeared thirteen doggie generations ago.

The University’s stance is that malamutes are a large type of husky and they chose to use the breed because it is the largest and strongest of the huskies. My guess is that also malamute was chosen over husky because malamutes tend to have a calmer disposition and are easier to control in large crowds. Huskies are generally more social but malamutes usually are calmer dogs.

Technically, the malamute and the husky, while both sled dogs of the north, are different breeds. Huskies are bred for speed and malamutes are bred for strength and endurance. According to Jennifer McBride, however, who cares for Dubs, the generic term “husky,” as opposed to “Siberian husky,” can be used for any northern breed of dog that pulls a sled. Between that and the fact that any supporter of the University of Washington is a “Husky,” Dubs can truly be considered a Husky.

Further Reading

History of the Husky Mascot

Difference Between Huskies and Malamutes

Dramatic Photos of the Difference

Reindeer Herding Dogs of Lappland

I was fortunate to spend some time living in the far north of Sweden, in the land of the Sami people.

In that part of the world the reindeer run free in the forests and mountains and the reindeer dogs are used to herd them.

The Swedish Lapphund is a spitz breed, on the small side of medium size. As companions to the Sami people, the dogs have been indigenous to the area for thousands of years.

These dogs have a thick double coat with dark coloring which makes them stand out against the snow and their high voices can be heard for a long distance. The Sami people also have a high tinge to their voices and traditionally wear brightly accented dark colors for the same reason.

x30KhikeWeAreInsideTheKotaThe herders have a way of communicating with their dogs by shouting a single tone and oscillating their hand in front of their mouth. This creates a sound which the dog can recognize as unique to their master. There are also special commands used, a “dog language” as part of the Sami language.

These dogs are a part of the family but they are not pets. They are intelligent animals who make a lot of their own decisions as they work the reindeer.



The Sami families who have reindeer lead lives that are tuned in to the rhythms of nature in a remote and spirited part of the world. They work hard and long in a rugged outdoors. They have an ancient traditions which give them an understanding of, and deep love for, the harsh environment in which they live.


There are three dog breeds that are historically considered Sami reindeer herding dogs. In addition to the Swedish Lapphund there are also the Laponian Herder and the Finnish Lapphund. These three originated from the original Laponian dog.



The above photo of Benno waiting on a snow scooter was taken at noon on one of the winter days when the sun never cleared the horizon and there were only a couple of hours of light. The environment in the north is cold and demanding but the dogs are happy because they are made for living in such a place. They enjoy having a job to do. These dogs need to be able to run, and although they bark a lot as part of their job when working with the reindeer they are quiet and well-mannered in the home.



This is how I crossed Norway and Sweden into Finland, on a reindeer drive. Yes, it was extremely bumpy! Part of my job was to hang on to the little yellow dog so he didn’t fall from the sledge.


I helped to herd the reindeer by using skis and also by driving a snow scooter. But when I tried to ride behind someone else on a scooter I twice caused scooters to flip! Nobody wanted me to ride with them. : )







“Hey, you! Off the bed!”

Love Always to my dear friend Manne and family, and all my friends in Sápmi who gave me so much and made my experiences there possible.



Is Your Lawn Poisoning Your Dog?

Yes, it is quite possible the chemicals in your lawn are harming your dog. There have been tests done that have linked certain lawn chemicals to cancer in dogs. This is a subject that requires more scientific research because much is unknown. In the meantime, it is wise to read labels and check that the chemicals you use are labeled “pet safe”.

If your dog has regular access to a lawn there is a good chance that he or she lays on it, rolls on it and chews the grass. Residue which clings to the fur will likely be licked off. The dog is more exposed to the lawn treatments than you are. Whatever is clinging to your pet will be tracked into your home and especially to the area where the animal sleeps. As there is no sunshine or rain inside your home to help break pesticide down it can remain in your carpet for years. Of course if your dog is an outdoor dog there may be considerable exposure to chemicals.

If you choose to use pesticides, be selective about which type you use and follow the directions carefully. The label will probably recommend you keep your pets off your lawn for a couple of days. It might not be a bad idea to bathe your pet often for a while. There may be a higher risk of illness for your dog if you use pesticide products on your lawn.

If you use fertilizers be careful about adding bone meal, say, and feeding your roses because dogs love bone meal and will likely dig down to get at it, consuming the fertilizer also. Be very careful your dog doesn’t have access to an open bag of any fertilizer.

It is possible to have a beautiful yard without the use of products which could harm your pets. Depending on where you live and what sort of soil you have, it could be partly a question of settling for less green in your lawn or perhaps planting a ground cover of another sort in some areas of your property.

Vinegar (use a garden sprayer) works well as a weed killer in gravel areas but it will kill grass also. Spray it when there won’t be rain for at least four days. It works well but must be reapplied, especially in rainy areas.

It’s a good idea to do some research and learn about the potential dangers of the various chemicals you might wish to use. Some organic products can cause irritation to the digestive tract if ingested. There is a certain amount of controversy about the safety of some of the products which are commonly used. It is difficult to determine what might be causing unseen internal damage and there are people who swear that lawn chemicals gave their dogs cancer.

Also consider that your public park, RV park, or athletic field may be treated with pesticides known to be toxic to your dog.

Further Reading:

Article About Studies Linking Lawn Chemicals to Canine Cancer

Choosing Lawn Chemicals

About Herbicides

About Fertilizers

Some Specific Herbicide and Fertilizer Chemicals

Dangers to Pets

Quick Information About Natural Lawn Care

Your Protective Dog and Those Who Require Access to Your Home

I’m planning a new dog fence, and this has brought a subject to mind:

Keeping Uniformed Visitors Safe From Your Dog

It’s not safe to assume that your dog would never bite anyone.  It may be unlikely, but just about any dog will react aggressively if somehow it does feel threatened. Also, you may not know what your dog is like when you are not there.

Years ago I had one of the most social, lovable dogs in the world, a dog who I thought was a terrible watchdog. Once when I was home alone he looked out the window and growled softly but he didn’t bark. For an hour. What ever he was looking at, at the time I truly wanted him to bark! But he was everybody’s friend, not a protector type of guy.  Or so I thought.  Then one day a friend told me that he had come by to drop off a forgotten jacket as a favor. He told me that, finding I wasn’t home, he opened up the front door of my little cabin to reach inside and toss the jacket onto a chair, but “Alako nearly took my arm off!” I was shocked to hear this. My friend wasn’t actually hurt, just scared by my dog, but I could hardly imagine Alako being so protective! The experience taught me how little I knew.

It’s just a natural thing for a dog to protect his or her territory.  The safest thing is to assume that your dog would bite an intruder and go from there.

Emergency personnel are among the rare people in uniform who may come to your home and not be “successfully scared away” on a regular basis by your dog.  When the mail carrier or meter reader comes and quickly leaves again,  your dog may feel responsible for the departure. But when a medic comes in to examine you, this is a very different and potentially stressful situation for your pet. It’s confusing. Are these people harming you? Your dog doesn’t know.

The safest bet is to close your dog in another room or otherwise secure them, if possible,  before emergency services arrive at your home.

When planning for a first dog or new dog enclosure, don’t forget to keep your postal carrier and PUD meter reader in mind. The meter reader will need you to keep your dog confined and away from the meter during a pre-arranged several day window. If you can keep your dog fence enclosure away from your mailbox and your PUD meter, you are ahead of the game.


Further Reading:

Helping Dogs Cope With Visitors in General

Emergency Pet Checklist (Keep in mind that many emergency personnel say window stickers are ignored because they are often out of date and their presence doesn’t change procedure at all.)

Photo: Sahali


Flea Free is the Way to Be

My little friend and Buster wouldn’t want fleas.

As you may know, fleas are not only parasitic pests, they are carriers of disease and tapeworms which can infect dogs and cats and sometimes human children.

Last year I brought home fleas, apparently, on my clothing from a client’s home where I spent several days. They had a bad infestation in their home because the treatments that they had tried hadn’t been effective. Such a flea infestation is a nightmare. Now I realize that I should not have entered the home until they resolved the problem.

Until this point the flea treatments I had been using on my dogs and cats had always been effective. Usually I would only have to give each animal two treatments, once a year. Not this time. I used the treatments and found fleas again before the treatments were even finished.

Two different vets told me at the time that the popular treatments hadn’t been working well for a couple of years. This was in 2015 and these things change over time, but if you perform an internet search you can see that many are saying the fleas have become resistant. Ask your vet which treatment is currently effective.

Here is what worked very well for me – and this was during an intense flea season caused by two mild winters in a row. After finding those first few fleas this treatment got rid of them and they have not been back.  (UPDATE 7/18) There are increasing groups of people who now say oral treatments have harmed or killed their pets. Example, click to read: Dark side of flea medications My best friend swears Nexgard caused the cancer from which her beloved six year old dog recently died. There are Facebook groups and petitions created by people who claim hundreds of animals have died from these drugs. I can make no claims one way or the other.

  • I treated my animals with the topical treatments my vet recommended. (Very important to apply those to the skin as per directions and not just the fur.)
  • AT THE SAME TIME I treated my carpets with flea spray from my vet.
  • I washed everything in my home that was washable in the washing machine, including sofa cushion covers. I used hot water on all fabrics that could handle it and added bleach to all loads where that was appropriate. I dried things in the dryer on the hottest setting that wouldn’t damage. Heat kills fleas.
  • I vacuumed the carpets and upholstered furniture every day for a few days and every other day for as long as I could keep that up. I always dispose of the dirt in the outdoor trash immediately after vacuuming.
  • It has became part of my normal routine to sprinkle baking soda on my carpets after I vacuum each week. Baking soda and salt kill the fleas but not the eggs. Therefore you must keep it up throughout the flea growth cycle. You can mix them but I prefer to use just baking soda on my carpet. The first time I used it heavily and vacuumed it after two days. Now I sprinkle lightly and I leave it there til the next vacuuming. If any shows you can brush it in easily with a broom, as you want it to work down in between the fibers anyway. The dust seems to stay low as you apply, but don’t inhale it. I assume the baking soda helps with odors also.

It’s important to check for fleas regularly.

Flea combs are inexpensive and make it easy to find fleas or flea eggs that might be on your pet. You’ll want good lighting and a cup of water with suds of soap. If you catch a flea, place it in the cup to kill it.