Ask The Trainer: Do Dogs Need A Pack Leader?

dog and trainerOnce Again, Here’s Our Ask The Trainer Feature!

I often get asked the question: do dogs need a pack leader? My answer is yes, dogs need a good pack leader. Dogs by nature need some one to lead them. Even the small breeds need a leader. Problem dog behavior such as social issues, fear biters, separation anxiety and other dog behavior issues develop because the dog does not have a good leader.

dog tricksHow To Be The Alpha Dog/Be A Good Pack Leader

So, what is a good pack leader? A good pack leader has calm, assertive energy.  A good pack leader does not yell or scream.  A good pack leader is consistent in what they are asking of their pack. They do not ask the pack, “Would you like to do this?”  Instead, they lead the way . A good pack leader has great focus on what they are asking of the pack…and is also very clear in communication.

How To Solve Dog Behavior Issues

Some of the ways you can become your dogs pack leader are: Always have your dog walk beside you and be your partner. Reward calm behavior. Never reward a dog when they are feeling nervous or scared.  This only makes the dog think they are doing the right behavior. Pack leaders always go out the gate or door first.  As the pack leader, you should be able to take food and toys away from your dog. Always feed your dog when they are calm.

dog and soldierYour canine friend will be a happy well balanced dog, if you will be a good, calm, assertive pack leader.  And here’s a great video to demonstrate how to be the alpha dog with subtlety!

Tina CaldwellTina Caldwell, our Training Editor and author of “ask the trainer”, has been training dogs and their families for about twenty years. She likes to work with all kinds of dogs and people, and has shown and competed in many different events over the years.   Some of her specialties are conformation, obedience and agility trials.  Her favorite breed of dog is the Cane Corso. You can contact Tina through Petsmart Eastgate in Cincinnati, or at

How To Train An Abused Dog

Often you will come across a dog that has been abused at one point in his life. These dogs are difficult to deal with, as the normal things we do cause them anxiety and fear. You can, however, increase your chances of teaching an abused dog to trust with a few simple changes in approach and a lot of patience.

Dog under tableHow To Approach A Once-Abused Dog

When interacting with this dog, bend down to appear less threatening. When talking to him, keep your voice low and cheerful. A loud or frustrated tone will cause him to fear. Call him to you; don’t approach him. If he makes an effort to obey, praise him. Don’t wait for him to obey completely. Remember, he may be used to getting hit when he approaches someone.

When you do get to pet this dog, avoid his head. Keep your hand palm up as it approaches him and gently rub under his chin or on his chest. Rubbing either spot tends to calm a dog. If he moves to step backward, let him retreat. In time, he will stay longer.

Nervous puppyWhen A Dog Is Nervous

When a dog is nervous or you have a skittish dog, he will often wet the floor involuntarily. If this should happen, it is important not to allow your frustration to show. It is not a deliberate attempt at disobeying and will likely disappear as he gains trust in you.

How To Train An Abused Dog

When training or retraining an abused dog, keep any sessions short, with just a few minutes of actual touch each time. You can gradually increase the time as his trust grows. Often, just sitting quietly and waiting for him to approach you will make him feel comfortable. If your initial attempts fail, try this.

found dog in Honduras named LuckyThese Dogs Make A Great Pets!

A once-abused dog can be as trusting and loving as any other.  Working with abused dogs takes patience on the part of those in their lives. A crouching position, low voice and appropriate touch will win them over eventually.  The effects of animal cruelty can manifest in many nervous dog symptoms.  But love and time really do conquer all.

Where to Adopt

Here are a couple of links we recommend for awesome shelter and rescue organizations in Cincinnati.  If you need a referral in another location, feel free to contact us!

Lil Paw Prints Animal Rescue Haven

Rescue Me.Org

What Is The ASPCA Gift Shop?

aspca logoFrom the ASPCA History website:

New York City, April 1866: The driver of a cart laden with coal is whipping his horse. Passersby on the New York City street stop to gawk not so much at the weak, emaciated equine, but at the tall man, elegant in top hat and spats, who is explaining to the driver that it is now against the law to beat one’s animal. Thus, America first encounters “The Great Meddler.”

muddy dogNowadays of course, a good number of us have become great meddlers for the humane treatment of animals.  But it all started with Henry Bergh, the ASPCA’s founder.  Influenced by his travels in Europe and input from England’s Royal Society for The Prevention Of Cruelty to Animals, Bergh regularly spoke out on subjects of the day such as cockfighting and inhumane slaughterhouses.  Thanks to this great man, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was chartered in 1866. Anti-cruelty laws followed, and the ASPCA was granted the right to enforce humane treatment of animals.

horses in stallsOther improvements came too, such as: ambulances for injured horses, the creation of a sling for horse rescue, substitutes for live pigeons at shooting events, and supplying the horses in Manhattan of the day with public fountains visited by cats, dogs…and humans, too.  Buffalo, Boston and San Francisco were next to make similar changes.  Today, enacting laws to protect animals is one of the ASPCA’s primary functions. It is also instrumental in Animal Health Services and Community Outreach.

angora rabbitHow You Can Help with The Humane Treatment Of Animals

But what if you’re not politically minded, yet you still want to help?  We’re glad you asked!  Because when you find gifts for people or pets through the ASPCA Gift Shop, your purchase also helps support the ASPCA’s important work.

Bengal CatThe ASPCA Store

How do I get there and what will I find, you ask?  Just follow this link through the Your Pet Gift Space!  Once there, you’ll be able to shop for everything from tote bags to water bottles to scarves and hats–you name it!

budgieAnd by the way, the main ASPCA website is an amazing source of information, free products and inspiration about animals–check it out here.

Product Review: My Dog Loves Squirrels!

pet toysWhen our greyhound, Seba, retired from racing and came home to live with us, we quickly discovered that although she’d been taught to walk on a leash at her foster home, she would go crazy at the sight of a squirrel.  In the process, this seventy pound plus dog would buck around and pull so hard on the leash she could easily have hurt herself.   This was a real problem–because our home in Ohio is surrounded by trees, and squirrel colonies abound.  They can often be seen in groups, playing by the sidewalk, under trees and skipping over parked cars.  They aren’t afraid of much, and will wait until a dog or cat is almost upon them before turning tail to leap or bound away.

Lucky for us, we were able to distract Seba in two ways from dangerous twisting and pulling on the leash.  First, we carried bacon flavored treats with us at all times.  Each time she saw a squirrel, we were quickly alerted by Seba’s ears coming up straight and the way that greys have of lifting onto their toes to prepare for the chase.  We would then quickly pull out a treat and offer it to her instead, praising her for seeing the squirrel, but not chasing it.  Seba quickly learned that the real treat was with us, and not dashing up a tree trunk.  😉

But the second way we solved our sighthound’s love of squirrels, was when I began to look for dog toys on sale, and discovered Kyjen, and their interactive toys dogs love.

kyjen logoMy Dog Loves Kyjen

Kyjen Co. began in 1988 as a wholesale distributor of pet supplies in Southern California.  Now based in Colorado, their website reads:

It is our mission to make unique products that will keep dogs active and engaged. We have a passion for dogs, and feel that they deserve fun, functional products—products that last longer, challenge their minds, and stimulate their instincts. With their companionship, playfulness, and affection, our dogs keep us feeling healthy and happy. Our goal, in turn, is to design products that will enrich our dogs’ lives as much as they enrich our own.

dog toys on sale hide a squirrelToys Dogs Love: Interactive and Puzzle Toys

Hide A Squirrel (pictured above) can withstand normal chewing, comes in various sizes to fit the size of your dog and comes with several squirrels.  They even sell replacements!  (Which became necessary for us when Seba’s sister, Castle–you remember her, right, El Destructo?–chewed some of the squirrel’s heads off.)   The wee little squirrels squeak–and when Seba even sees this toy lying around as she walks by it, her prey drive engages and her lips come back over her teeth–then she pounces!  🙂  Usually, we pick up the mauled squirrels and put them back in their little log as we clean up around the house.  So it isn’t uncommon to see Seba grab the squirrel filled log, shake it and send them all flying out.  Seriously, my dog loves this toy!

easter egg dogOther Puzzle Toys Dogs Love By Kyjen

Kyjen’s Egg Babies line also seems to be particularly exciting to pets.  It features everything from fish to ducks to bald eagles with eggs inside that your dog can pull out.  Talk about how to give your dog a great Easter egg hunt, right?  🙂

playing dogInteractive Toys In General

The smartest thing you can do to keep your genius dog out of trouble is get him a puzzle toy of some kind.  When dogs love their toys they do not exhibit behaviors like chewing shoes, furniture or peeing in the house.  They’re just too happy and engaged.

Watch this!

Here’s a fun video we found, showing another dog enjoying Hide A Squirrel, the toy my dog loves…


Looking for Kyjen dog toys on sale? Go here.

seba 300

I am Seba, and I approve this message.

Flea And Tick Season Is No Joke

Scratchy DogOkay, so it’s April Fool’s Day–but that’s no reason you have to feel like an idiot about flea and tick season.  Yep, there’s a lot to know about the situation and a lot of products to choose from.  When exactly is flea and tick season?  And how does one decide between Advantage or Frontline? Or between Frontline or Advantix?

Why Are Fleas and Ticks Important To Prevent?

These insects live on the blood of our pets.  And did you know fleas can jump thousands of times (an average is the length of three football fields) and up to two feet in each jump in search of a host?  :: shudder ::  Fleas live sixteen days to twenty-one months, depending on the environment, feeding on your dog or cat about once every two days.

FleaFleas can cause anemia in adult dogs.  And in puppies a flea infestation can be life threatening.  Pets who are allergic to the saliva of fleas can have problems after a single bite of one insect.

TickTicks are often picked up in urban parks and deep woods, and can transmit serious diseases in pets.  Diseases like ehrlichiosis, Lyme disease, anaplasmosis and others.

When Is Flea and Tick Season Where I Live?

Well, it all depends on temperature and humidity.  For instance, if you live in California or Nevada, flea and tick season begins in February and runs through October.  If you’re in Florida, Pennsylvania or Ohio, the season starts closer to March.

Which Is Better: Natural or Traditional Flea and Tick Products?

Honestly, Dave and I are fanatical about doing everything natural we can for our pets, just as we choose organic solutions for ourselves.  BUT, our experience has been negative with the use of organic flea and tick repellants.  When we picked out our Brittany puppy, Castle, the breeder explained she had been using brewer’s yeast to prevent fleas.  When we spoke to our vet, she was adamant that this does not work.  But, we took that with a grain of salt since, after all, our vet’s office sells flea and tick preventatives.  Dave chose a natural product for her, which contained rosemary, lemon, lavender and peppermint.  That sweet little dog smelled like we were cooking all the time!

And yet–not very long into our first season with her, Castle presented with fleas–and it turned out she had an allergy to them!  By the time we discovered her treatment wasn’t working, it was an expensive trip to the vet to get her comfortable, plus we had to treat all our cats and dogs, just to make sure none of her visitors were jumping off for a ride on anyone else!  Not good.

Having said that, if you’re reading this and you’ve had an awesome experience with a natural flea and tick preventive, we’d LOVE to have you write a review on it.  😉

Vectra For DogsTraditional Flea and Tick Season Products In General

First of all, there are all kinds of ingredients in different products on the market–most are topical, but some are oral.  Any topical product you choose needs to be waterproof.  You want to make certain you do not use products designed for dogs on cats, and vice versa.

It’s super important that you get specifics from your vet on which product is safe to use on your puppy, or your lactating or pregnant pet.  And be cautious if your pet has a history of seizures.  Some products require your pet to test negative for heartworm before use.  And some should only be given with food.

Advantage logoHow Do I Decide Between Advantage or Frontline? between frontline or advantix?

Advantage’s benefits are: this topical product is available for dogs or cats and can be used on puppies and kittens.  It is waterproof, is given monthly and kills 98% of pre-existing fleas in twelve hours; then new fleas in two hours.  Contains a flea sterilizer.

frontline (400 x 265)Frontline’s benefits are: this topical product is available for dogs or cats and can be used on puppies and kittens.  It is waterproof, is given monthly.  BUT only its PLUS line contains flea sterilization, and it takes longer to work (twenty four hours to translocate, then four to eighteen hours to kill fleas).

Flea And Tick Season, K9_AdvantixAdvantix’s benefits are: this superior topical product is available for dogs or cats and can be used on puppies and kittens.  It is waterproof, is given monthly and contains a flea sterilizer. 98% of fleas are dead in twelve hours.  It also kills ticks; repels flies and mosquitos.

Flea And Tick Season, Vectra For CatsWe like: Vectra 3D because: this topical product is available for dogs (even as small as 2.5 lbs) or cats and can be used on puppies and kittens.  It is waterproof, is given monthly and kills 96% of fleas in six hours. In addition, it kills ticks and repels flies and mosquitos!

But it is not recommended for pregnant or lactating pets.

Using a different product altogether and want to see how it compares?  Go here.

      So yeah–dealing with fleas and ticks is no joke.  Your pet should not be hosting a flea circus!  Be smart, talk to your vet.  And if you’d like to see how prices compare online, check out Your Pet Rx Space.

  Joy Jones, our Editor In Chief, is a syndicated columnist living with her husband Dave in Anderson, Ohio.  When not working on Your Pet Space, she writes a metaphysical column called The Midwestern Buddhist as well as urban fantasy and humor.  You can e-mail her at as well as follow her on Facebook or Twitter.