Last night I spent a good 20 minutes going through Beowolf’s feet and fur plucking out FOXTAILS! The previous years have never been this bad with foxtails and Beowolf has always been lucky about not collecting foxtails but I find myself picking them up around the house as he drops them.
Given my experience at the clinic, I know just how nasty a foxtail can get. Abscesses and infections lead to expensive vet visits and weeks of antibiotics. Well, the good thing about foxtails is they are predictable and work in the same way, their anatomy is designed to “dig” with reverse burs that hold it in place which is why they don’t fall out on their own sometimes.
They can burrow into the skin and work their tract anywhere in the body, leaving room for infections to fester and grow. Sometimes they can work their way out, but it’s not often we see that. Usually once a foxtail burrows and hides it takes a trained hand to remove it, so address it early on before it becomes a problem.
Luckily they are easy to remove!
**If a foxtail has gotten in your dog’s Eye(s), Nose and/or Ear(s) do NOT try to remove them yourself unless you are a trained professional. Please to prevent further injuries, take your pet to the vet**
Signs your pet may have a Foxtail in it’s:
You saw it go in
Tilting head to the side
Shaking head a lot
Possible pain while touching the ear
Vocalization (whining, crying, yelping, biting)
Scratching ears a lot
Inflammation/ redness in ear(s)
Sneezing a lot
Bleeding from nose
Pawing/ scratching/ rubbing nose
Removal of Foxtails from these areas requires a certain tool, a method of restraint safe for everyone or sedation, and training in the removal of foxtails by a professional. I have seen people injure their pet trying to do this at home and needed further medical assistance than they would have. Please don’t be that person. Maybe someday I will do a tutorial on how to perform those tasks at home, if I get 100 likes on this post I will do a video.
Mild soap and water (Dawn is always a safe bet, not too concentrated)
Neosporin (with Lidocaine or Pain reliever)
Hopefully, your dog will be tired during a foxtail check since he likely just came from running around outside.
First what you want to do is a thorough once over, do this in the light to make sure you catch every one of them, as just one can cause damage. Light dogs should be extra thorough, foxtails range in hues of gold and can blend in with fur quite easily! Now you can use your fingers for these but for stubborn ones you can use tweezers or hemostats. Be careful to avoid plucking any hair, if this is painful or uncomfortable for your dog this can keep them from trusting you with their paws in the first place. If you think you will need to take a chunk of hair with a foxtail, just shave between the paw pads. It’s much less uncomfortable than plucking healthy fur from between their toes!
Hot places for foxtails to live:
Between the toes, including underneath the paw pad
In the groin area or belly (longhair or double coated dogs)
Neck/ collar area
Once you’re sure you checked everywhere then it’s time to clean up. If there were spots where foxtails pierced the skin then gently clean the area with soap and water and apply a little bit of Neosporin. This should prevent any mild infection and if necessary, you can put a cone on your dog to prevent licking which can cause problems in itself.
Ways to keep foxtails from clinging:
Shave paws, even if it’s just the paw pads underneath (longhaired dogs have long fur here)
Take your pet to the groomer for a Summer cut
Brush your dog (I would never shave Beowolf, so I brush him and keep up with baths to prevent the fur from turning into Velcro)
Do a good once over after your dog comes in from outside
I hope this was helpful and will update it as more tips and tricks come!
I found this small inexpensive instrument kit that has everything you would need for at home minor treatments.
Keeping up with the theme of this past weekend’s San Diego trip I get a lot of people on my social media asking me what USMRA is, no it’s not a branch of the Marine Corp, though I know the acronym is similar and confusing. USMRA stands for the United States Mondio Ring Association, the sport along with many others originated in European countries and is very popular still out there. The USMRA is a member of the American Working Dog Federation (AWDF).
Other ring sports include:
The mission of the USMRA and AWDF is to promote, conduct and administer Mondioring trials held to the FCI standards.
To promote proper and humane training and handling of all dogs that participate in the sport.
To promote sportsmanlike conduct at all Mondioring activities.
To promote education about Mondioring by establishing nationwide trials open to the public as well as participants.
So what is Mondioring exactly?
I have been involved in the sport going on 4 years now, I live on the ranch that holds trials each year and twice a week we have club training, but unfortunately, I do not have a dog of my own to work. With 2 of my own dogs that deserve my attention, I can’t afford a 3rd high octane working dog. It’s not fair to me, my dogs, or a working dog I would get. Everyone knows I’m chomping at the bit to get a dog of my own, and they all ask me when that will happen. Though I don’t participate as a handler I do participate in many other ways and watch from the outside looking in, so that’s why I feel like I’m qualified to explain this to people who aren’t circling the sport or been around it their whole lives. SO let’s dive in!
Here is my elevator pitch on the sport. Mondio is a competitive sport that demonstrates obedience and personal protection at different levels through a series of exercises. Different from the other ring sports, Mondio practices with many distractions like what may occur in the real world outside of the arena. Strangers approaching loudly, shaking hands, toys, and food on the field to deter a dog. It’s all about control and training.
Therefore I love the sport, as someone who suffers from anxiety these days (who wouldn’t with all the mass shootings and human trafficking) I find I look over my shoulder everywhere I go and always have Beowolf by my side. Beowolf is not trained in personal protection at all, but he has an incredible judge of character and will literally push me off the sidewalk is someone sketchy is passing. However, the training for Mondioring is designed around that. In obedience classes, I find I started using the same commands and training techniques I see in the arena and it really helps with keeping him close.
Really this is a hobby for many people in the sport worldwide, for some, it’s their full-time job and they’ve made a career out of it but for many, they come home from working 9-5 and pull out Fido for training.
Who can participate?
Well right now there are still new regulations being formatted to evolve with the sport, however, USMRA participates in International events such as “Worlds” which is a worldwide trial for the top 6 in each country for each level. As it stands here are the criteria for dogs participating:
All new registrants must be purebred and registered through an organization. *This rule is in dispute amongst everyone so it may change*. This includes all breeds! The most popular are Belgian Malinois, German shepherds, and Dutch shepherds “Dutchies”. But can include large and small breeds from American Staffordshire terriers and Pugs to Cane Corso, Rottweilers and St. Bernard’s. If it’s purebred and has teeth, it can work! Currently, mixed breeds can participate but cannot place.
All dogs are to be intact (Not spayed or neutered). *This rule is also in dispute* Females can get away with this as you can’t obviously see the uterus from the outside and nobody does a physical to check, but males are harder to fool the judges. If you want to participate but your dog is neutered, there are things called Neuticles which are testicle implants, this is cosmetic surgery so be aware and do your research.
Behavior- Dogs don’t need to be outgoing and super friendly though that makes life easier for everyone, for those of you who have aggressive or sketchy dogs, this also may be the sport you can participate in. The sport teaches you how to control a dog who is “on a bite” and teaches your dog an “off switch” it will also teach your dog an “on switch” too so they are less likely to take matters into their own paws. Since the dogs don’t intermingle and many handlers are familiar with an intense personality, nobody is judging you! I know of several dogs are only like their handler and nobody else, when on the field the dogs learned this is time to work and after that, they are put away. Contact your local club coach for a consultation if you are interested in pursuing the sport with your dog.
Healthy- Vaccinated and in good physical health. The sport is a sport for dogs, not slavery, so the health and well being of dogs are the first and foremost top priority. Limping dogs, dogs with cuts or torn nails, health issues are not permitted and will be asked to leave the field. Many handlers will pull their dogs the morning of competition if they are subpar on their health, for many handlers in the US these are pets first and a working dog 2nd. So health is always a priority.
*As regulations change I will be updating this post. The coach for the Santa Clarita Mondio Club is close to those on the board committee so all changes, I will be among the first to know. *
There are 4 levels of Mondioring that are all based on the level of training for the dog. It’s not based on age like shows or other sports but where the dog is in training, the higher the level the harder it gets, and more exercises are involved. Again this sport is designed to build a bond and boost confidence in a dog, not deter it, so putting a dog in a level it’s not ready for is STUPID.
This is the beginner level, for young dogs or dogs just starting in the sport.
Healing without a leash
Absence of handler– Dog is in the “Down” position while the handler leaves for 60 seconds. The dog must stay put until handler returns and releases the dog from the down position. There may be a ball or toy thrown to distract the dog, but this is at a distance so it’s not too hard.
Retrieve– Basically a single game of fetch with a “personal item” likely something you’ve been training with. Dog retrieves the item, then comes back to sit in front of the handler. The dog has 15 seconds to complete the task. (Below is Oj Knighten and Dude. Oj is a handler and professional dog trainer in Los Angeles County, see his Instagram)
Hurdle– The height is based on the standard for the level, which is 0.8 meters.
Face attack with Baton– The “Decoy” stands at a distance and wave the baton lightly, these sticks make a clattering noise and their bark is worse than the bite. The handler sends the dog to bite the decoy and after 10 seconds the handler gives the command to stop. At which point the dog must stop and either guard or lay down, then the handler can call the dog back or walk over and Heel him away.
Defense of the Handler– This one is fun, it’s very interactive with the handler and the decoy. The Decoy’s job is to be very annoying and will try and get your dog to bite, however, the dog is not allowed to bite until the decoy hits the handler with both hands. He must use both hands and it must be clear and audible for the dog to understand, at which point when he bites after 5 seconds the handler will call off the dog at which point the exercise ends the same way it did with the face attack.
Level 1, 2, and 3 consists of all exercises in Brevet, with additional exercises.
Must pass each Level twice to be certified and advance to the next level *Same goes for levels 2 and 3*
Send Away or Send Out- This is like the fake game of fetch. The dog is sent to retrieve an item and once he passes through a certain threshold the handler is to call him back. He is to return to a heel position.
Positions– Handler is to command the dog to change positions from a distance. Sit, Down, Stand. In any combination. The judge or field assistant will tell you the combination during the exercise.
Food Refusal– As the name says, handler leaves the dog in a Down position while someone tosses food in front of him. The dog should ignore the food, licking or eating results in failure of that exercise.
Little Wood– Only level 2 & 3. The handler is given a small piece of wood to rub his scent on it, then across the field will place it in the middle of 3 other identical pieces of wood. The dog is to sniff out the scent and retrieve the correct wood.
Jumping Exercises: You can select the height your dog jumps, but you get more points the higher the jump.
Hurdle– Level 1- 1.0; Level 2- 1.1; Level 3- 1.2 (Below is Francois Massart a french handler/ decoy/ professional dog trainer in Temecula, CA. See his Instagram)
Face attack with Baton and obstacle– Only Level 2 & 3 are with an obstacle (something for the dog to jump over like a tunnel or row of water barrels)
Face Attack with Accessories– Only Level 2 & 3. An accessory is a bundle of objects the dog should run through to get a bite. (Below is Allison a handler and Decoy check out her Instagram)
Flee Attack– The decoy is running away, and the handler sends the dog after the bite.
Stopped Flee Attack or Call Off– Only Level 3. Same as Flee attack except handler is to call dog back before it contacts the decoy, the dog should return to a heel position.
Search and Escort– Only Level 2 & 3. Basically, a game of hide-and-seek with the decoy, the dog should sniff him out and bark until the handler comes and gives dog next command. Then the dog should stay with decoy’s every move and prevent him from escaping via a bite, a lot of dogs are trained to walk between the legs of a decoy making it harder for an escape.
Object Guard– Only Level 3. The object can be anything and the dog is to stand and guard it against the decoy who is trying to steal it while the handler is out of site. The dog should initiate a bite within a certain distance from the object, then let go to return to guarding the object.
So how do we know who wins?
The best part is it’s a paired team sport, nobody competes against one another, everyone upholds the most sportsmanlike conduct. We all cheer and clap for each other and help everyone out, tips, videotaping and taking pictures among other things. Each exercise is scored on a point system, everything is worth a certain amount of points and the judges remove points as needed. In any event either everyone can pass, or nobody can, it all boils down to each individual team. It’s just you and your dog on the field, all your training and hard work come down to what happens on the field.
What’s the reward?
Eternal GLORY! Just kidding but seriously everyone competes for a title for their dog and bragging rights. There is no prize money, though, every trial has raffles and you can win some dope stuff! Like I said earlier in the post, this is a hobby for pet owners as well as professional trainers, but everyone has the same amount of fun! Not to mention opportunities to travel for trials and meet new friends.
Do the dogs like it?
Do they ever! This is a sport designed for dogs, many thrive in this sport especially mouthy energetic dogs like the herding and working breeds. Most were bred to do exactly this and many owners admit that on their days off the dogs still want to work. You can hear excited cries as the dogs are on the field, they can’t control themselves and are eager to get out and work. They were born to work and do something, sure maybe the obedience part isn’t as fun but their reward in a “tug” or ball is well worth it, not to mention many decoys refer to themselves as a human tug.
What if I don’t want to compete?
There are many pet owners who don’t compete with their dogs but come to training just the same. We are a community of dog lovers who all mostly have the same breeds and can relate. We talk, we laugh, we eat and work dogs! There is no rule that says you have to compete if you train, in fact, if Valentine was able or Beowolf was younger I would participate in training but wouldn’t do the competitions. Like I said it’s a hobby and a fun one at that, creates a bond with you and your dog, teaches you about handling a powerful dog and builds both of your self-confidence! Contact a local club for any questions. *If you don’t plan on competing then a mixed dog can participate*
What if I don’t have a dog?
That’s not a problem as neither do I. You can volunteer at trials, help with your local clubs offering services and such (snacks and in my case I am the Vet tech on duty). If you’re interested in being a decoy the best part is this is an equal opportunity sport, both men and WOMEN can be decoys! Even I have taken a bite from one of our dogs in the club and let me tell you, it’s a major rush! I would do it more, but we have plenty of decoys to help and the coach doesn’t want me to get hurt since I need to be on my feet all day and I’m out of shape to handle the stamina and weight of the suit.
Where can I check out an event?
Trials are held throughout the year by various clubs, this is nationwide as well as worldwide! National events are held in the spring and the International World’s championship are usually the first week of October. Trials are really fun as each one has a theme so the club decorates and makes it as interesting and unique as possible! Click on this link to see when and where there is a trial nearest to you!
Check out this video of Jessica and Khaleesi from the USMRA Nationals April 13th. She is a level 3 competitor from our Santa Clarita club. Jessica is a teacher and Khaleesi is a family dog!
So I won you over and you want to know how to get started?
Spring has arrived and that means outdoor dogventures are on the rise! If you’re anything like me, spring symbolizes the time to leave the house from hibernation all winter, and into the lure of fresh flowers in the air its enough to pull you out of the sweats and strap on the hiking shoes. With the large number of wanderlusters going out that increases the number of potential dogs tagging along. If you own a dog you know that unless they are on a proper leash (Not a retractable) then they like to stray from the beaten path, this is okay if we were the only ones out in nature, but that’s never the case. Snakes are among the wildlife that you will encounter. There are many different species of snake out there.
For those of you who don’t know, here’s a quick education about snakes:
There are 2 main types of snakes:
Constrictor- These are the pythons and kingsnakes among others. Basically, these snakes catch their prey with their mouth and curl their body around them and constrict, this is how they kill their prey, suffocation. These are what are considered not as dangerous (though snakes of various sizes can be a danger to a small child or dog). These snakes are NOT poisonous, though they do have teeth and can still bite.
Handler showing children a Milksnake at a Charity event
Venomous- These are your rattlesnakes, vipers, and basically anything that kills their prey while remaining at a safe distance. These guys will strike and envenomate their prey and while they die the snake will wait nearby until they can consume them.
You can tell the difference from a distance just by looking at the snake’s head. Constrictors have a narrow head slightly wider than the body, whereas venomous snakes have a wide head at the cheeks because of the pockets of venom that are stored and it’s more triangular.
Most of the time you will HEAR the rattlesnake before you see it, their tail rattle will vibrate and sound like a buzz. All snakes have a striking distance of half their body length; math time, if a snake is 4 feet long and their striking range is half their body length then what is their striking distance? That’s right, 2 feet!
So now that you have a brief overview of the types of snakes you may encounter let’s move on to the dog facts.
We all know dogs use their nose to sniff and they are curious af! Working in a vet clinic I would see many cases of rattlesnake bites and I have personal experience with rattlesnake encounters. Typically dogs would get bit on the face, this is bad news bears! If a dog gets bit in the face the swelling can obstruct their airway through their nose and for the obvious reasons you need to see a vet!
Now some dogs have gotten away with getting bit by a snake and nothing happened, a lot of clients have told me this that their dog was bitten on multiple occasions and never sought medical attention and the dog was fine. This is your own risk! Most of these clients are ranchers and their dogs are ranch dogs, so not to say the owner didn’t love their dog, relationships are different for everyone. Dogs stem from wolves and their immune system is meant for survival so yes perhaps some dogs have a stronger tolerance of snake bites, not to mention every snake is different so please don’t base the decision for medical treatment on that.
**If your dog has been bitten by any snake please go to your nearest emergency veterinary clinic. Note: If you see the snake that bit your dog, please try and identify the snake correctly, I know you may be shaken, but knowing what type of venom you’re dealing with will absolutely help your dog’s medical staff**
How to protect your dog:
There are many ways to protect your dog this spring and summer from all types of snakes, in particular (if you are a California resident) Rattlesnakes!
Vaccines: Yes there is a vaccine for Rattlesnake. There is a company in Woodland, Ca that has formulated a vaccine the aids in the protection of dogs from rattlesnake bites. A common misconception of this vaccine is that it is a “preventative”, it is not. A preventative vaccine is like Rabies, Distemper, Parvo, and Bordetella among some others. These vaccines protect the function of cells from diseases and viruses. However, snake venom is venom, like a poison, which kills the cells in the tissue altogether. Like all vaccines though, it creates memory cells to help the immune system fight off what it can. This vaccine buys your dog valuable time to seek medical treatment when the time is of the essence in a snake bite situation.
I always told clients that it’s better to have the vaccine on board than wish you had it and you didn’t. Since there is no set time frame when the venom passes through the body it’s better not to waste or risk it, especially in the case when you are in the middle of nowhere and must hurry back to the car and race to a hospital.
Call your local clinic to see if they carry the vaccine. If they do please consider getting it for your dog. It’s a 2-vaccine series spread out 4 weeks apart, in some cases there may be a 3rd vaccine for extra large dogs, but if you stay consistent with it then you will only need 1 vaccine per year after that. My dogs are vaccinated and it’s a real peace of mind knowing they are current with the most protection I can give, especially since Beowolf roams freely about the ranch while I work. The best time to get started with the series in February and March as the peak of the snake season is April, however, you can start or booster anytime during the spring and summer, again better to have it and not need it.
*Standard reactions are a lump at the injection site that can appear anywhere between 2 days and 2 weeks from getting the vaccine, more severe cases are abscesses that appear though these are very rare but considered normal. If you see this you can apply a warm compress for 5 minutes a couple times a day and please call to notify your vet of this as they are to be reporting reactions*
Rattlesnake avoidance classes: Yes there are rattlesnake classes that you and your dog can attend together. This is held by various people with usually the assistance of a professional snake handler. Typically the rattlesnake used is alive with its mouth taped for the protection of the dogs in the class. E-collars or electric collars are used as an aid for a deterrent in the training, what the class does is it shows the dog the snake in a natural environment. The rattle begins to vibrate and as the dog pays attention to the snake the trainer hits the button on the E-collar. My dogs have yet to participate in classes, but we hope to get started soon. I know a lot of clients who love the classes and feel it has helped them and their dog in avoiding rattlesnakes.
Antivenom: This is a treatment method that is also time sensitive and must be given IV slowly. This is only administered by a veterinarian and should only be used in the event of an actual bite. Sometimes if medical treatment is immediately after a bite and clinical signs are not sever then you can get away with IV fluids and IV antibiotics and pain killers along with monitoring and not need the antivenom, but most cases do.
You: You should have known that everything with your pet boils down to you! If you know you are going out on a hike with your dog take extra precautions, this isn’t just for your dog’s safety but yours as well. People get bit all the time by stepping on a snake accidentally. So here are just a few ways that you can accomplish this.
Research- Investigate the area where you’re going and see if there are any natural inhabitants to watch out for (rattlesnakes are NOT the only ones out there to watch for).
Tools- Leashes are best with keeping your best bud close to you on the beaten path and out of tall weeds and rummaging through wood piles.
Your eyes- Nature is beautiful no doubt but try to draw your eyes to the ground ahead of you and scan the ground for anyone on the path ahead of you. Scanning for snakes can help you and your dog from accidentally stepping on a snake.
Your ears- For the obvious reasons you want to listen out for rattlesnakes, a lot of times you can hear the rattle before you see the snake.
*I do all these things when I go hiking, also when I am just walking around the ranch. I have a lot of paths that I take to get to the horses to feed them and there are plenty of places to stumble upon a snake. I am constantly scanning not only where I step but the area where Beowolf is walking around too. I am a little more lenient on Beowolf being on the property lose because his instincts are strong and he has a good sense of danger, at least keeping his distance long enough for me to get to him*
The DL on rattlesnakes:
Rattlesnakes and all snakes for that matter are not out to get you, I 100% respect the fear people have of snakes though I cannot personally relate because I love snakes. A snake will not jump out at you, they will not hunt you down or chase you unless you are really pissing it off like I’ve seen on YouTube videos with men taunting cobras. A rattlesnake out in nature will not do that, in fact, I watched a documentary of a snake hunter looking for rattlesnakes and when they found 2, the snake did nothing but curl in a ball and rattle. It wasn’t until they grabbed the snake with the catcher that it even bit the catch pole, snakes feel pain and have fears as well. They would rather stay far away from you for their own safety, it’s not until someone steps on them and messes with them that they even do anything. This is how dogs get bit, sticking their nose in their face and barking pawing or taunting them.
As a cold-blooded animal snakes like to sunbathe, and you will find them in the early mornings when it’s starting to get warm sunbathing on a rock or dirt road. Basically, they spent all night chilling out and now they want to warm up. They typically live under a large pile of wood or stick piles.
Rattlesnakes have natural predators, the most common is Gopher snakes and the California Kingsnake. Kingsnakes are cannibals and will eat other snakes, hence their name. Both Kingsnakes and Gopher snakes are relatively friendly and harmless to people, they do have teeth and can bite, yes, but the risk is much lower. I found a California Kingsnake last year, it slithered into the arena where we were working dogs and I was able to walk right over and pick it up. It tried scurrying away from fear, but I gently picked it up and relocated it somewhere safe (not around working dogs that would kill it). I have not found any gopher snakes around, but these are the GOOD GUYS! I would gladly take them as a gift and release them around the ranch, a natural deterrent, and predator to rattlesnakes is more humane to me. The circle of life. I can’t stand that people kill rattlesnakes, I understand why they do it, but rattlers have been around since before I was born, and nobody will ever completely kill them off.
California Kingsnake- Harmless to people, a natural predator of Rattlesnakes! Pictured above is a juvenile.
Donate them to SCIENCE!
Chances are if you are in an area where Rattlesnakes reside, there is a snake wrangler who will come and catch a snake if you find one and safely capture it. The snake wrangler in my area Bruce Freeman will take the snakes he captures and sends them to where they can be humanely milked for their venom. This venom is a vital ingredient to both the Rattlesnake vaccine and antivenom! Yes in order to successfully create and distribute vaccines and antivenom they need snake venom from live snakes. Rather than waste a life, call someone who will come and give snakes a purpose!
A friend recently found a juvenile rattlesnake that a kid killed for him. He brought it to me so that I could skin it after he used it to train his dogs for avoidance. He’s new to the area and terrified of snakes so I couldn’t blame him for it but still, he didn’t quite know what he was doing. Firstly they put the dead snake in a Clorox bottle and froze it. Crickets. First, the bleach will affect the scent of the snake, which he wanted to let his dogs smell the carcass and shock them to avoid the smell. This isn’t going to work, I told him that if you rely on your dog sniffing a snake and running away then you already lost. By the time a dog got close enough to sniff the snake, his face is already bitten and that’s the worst place you want your dog to get bit. Then the scent will be wrong anyway because it’s been sitting in a bleach bottle.
Next, the most effective method of avoidance classes is the live rattle, the sound of the rattle will carry and will warn a dog before he’s within striking distance. Snakes like to warn you to KEEP away, not just get away, so if the dog hears the rattle chances are they are in a safe distance to warrant a warning, not a bite.
I then explained to him about Bruce Freemanwhich he didn’t know he could call a guy to get the snake for him. I also told him about the work Bruce does and the importance of the live rattlesnakes to the vaccines and antivenom we use to protect our dogs. He had just got his dogs vaccinated and so it was perfect to point out that if not for live rattlesnake venom his dogs wouldn’t be able to get a quality vaccine. I hope next time he calls Bruce instead of letting some idiot kid lie to him that he can train his dogs for rattlesnake avoidance with a dead rattler.
Slytherin hanging out with us and playing with our Valentine’s Day Backdrop at the clinic.
I really hope this post helps you in both understanding the nature of snakes and tips to keep your dogs and yourself safe this summer!
This is probably going to be my most popular post EVER!
How to give your dog a NAIL TRIM, oh the dreaded nail trims. Over the past years, I have done so many nail trims on every dog and cat you can think of. I like to think of myself as kind of a pro, I have created a method to nail trims that keep em short and clean WITHOUT hitting the quick. First, there are a few things to go over about nail trims, so let’s started.
Why are nail trims important for my pet?
Keeping nails short prevent the desire to claw for cats.
Prevents broken toes from nails getting stuck or caught on things.
Improves mobility as the anatomical structure is not compromised.
Less damaging on us and our things (wood floors, couches, car interiors).
My dog doesn’t like his feet touched so I can’t do them, right?
Wrong. It’s possible to teach an old dog new tricks. It’s all about desensitization. You can also start by seeing your vet to get prescribed some relaxers for the extremely nervous dogs, just to get started with desensitization. I would recommend getting a demo on doing a nail trim from the vet as well, find a Fear-Free certified doctor or practice nearest to you. You can search here https://fearfreepets.com/
when people see me do nail trims on Beowolf they can’t believe me when I say he used to be horrible! He’s only been to a groomer twice in his life and I think someone cut him at one of those visits because I never did his nails and all other baths were up to me. I don’t know why he hated getting his nails done but it used to take me laying completely on top of him and fighting to just hold his nail. Eventually, he would tire out and I could tip a few nails before he broke free, he would leave me covered in sweat and fur with my hair everywhere. You would have thought I just got off a bronc, it certainly felt like I did.
Luckily Beowolf never became aggressive and laying on him was not the method I would have used to get his nails done, but it was just me, so I had to get creative (mind you this was before I went to school to be a vet tech, so I was just like you at home, learning to do my dogs nails alone).
At the time I worked at Home Depot, I thought about how I do my nails, I don’t always use clippers I use a sand file. To the hardware department, I go! I bought a medium grit sand block and sandpaper. Beowolf didn’t like the sandpaper, but I had better control with the block anyways.
Here are the supplies you may use:
Sander– Block, paper, nail file (should depend on the size of your dog). You can use either manual tools or machines like a Dremel (more on that below).
Clippers– I like medium sized dog nail clippers from Millers Forge, they work great for shearing off layers and aren’t too bulky. The ones with orange handles are the best. Also, you can use a pair of human nail clippers for cats, though I don’t just because I hate the sound it makes. **If your dog has BLACK or dark brown nails, don’t even bother with clippers unless the nails are ridiculously long. If you can’t see where the quick stops then don’t clip, even as a tech I don’t use clippers on dogs with black nails. Unless you have a Great Dane or a dachshund then don’t do it, these 2 breeds tend to have short quicks and long growing nails. Regardless you should only clip so far before transitioning to sanders.
Quick clot– This is a powder that will stop the nail from bleeding. You can find it anywhere, at the clinic we sold it in the lobby for a few dollars. This is only useful if you “knick” your pet’s quick. If you full on cut the quick halfway down just go to the vet, they’ll wrap it and prescribe pain meds.
High value treats– We’re talking hot dog, peanut butter, rotisserie chicken! Whatever your dog never or rarely gets as a treat will be perfect. You want them to eventually be excited for nail trims because this is when he gets his favorite treat. High value treats we use in training is Happy Howie’s which can be cut from a roll, they don’t crumble and dogs love them! We usually buy them in 6 pack rolls, but you can buy individual, 2 pack and they come in other flavors!
Leashes– Yes I would keep a leash on them because they can’t run away or you can give them breaks while keeping them from going off and hiding.
Use your words– Give everything a name and what I mean by that is, create the task for the dog. Tell them “Nail trim” after you have them leashed of course. Then as you’re getting them used to their nails being handled give them a command like “wait”, “hold”, “stay” whatever you want to say as you touch their nails, so they stay put. Then when all is said and done tell them “Release” or something that tells them they have completed the nail trim and may go free.
Now that you have what you need and know what you want to do, here is how I go about it:
For the sake of keeping everything consistent, I will tell you exactly how I do it with my dogs. Exercise your dog, take them on a run or throw the ball, whatever gets them tired. While Beowolf runs around I dice up a couple of hot dogs and stick them in a pouch. I get the sanding block and find a nice place to sit with him, this is usually in the house where there’s less distraction, I tell him we’re doing a nail trim and I make him lay down. By now he should be more than ready to take a nap.
I wrap the leash around my leg, so he can’t go far and then I tell him “Stay” as I take his nail between my fingers and squeeze a little, then I reward him by giving him a piece of hot dog. I do this part just for routine, he gets used to getting a hot dog after I do what I need to with his nail. Now comes the nail trim. Depending on the level of comfort your dog has with this part will decide how quickly you move along in this stage. The idea is to only go as far as your dog will allow and you want to stop before they have to be the one to tell you to stop. This can be mouthing your hand, pulling their paw away roughly, getting up or trying to run away. You don’t want them to think to do that is what made you stop, you want to show that if they stay calm you will stop on your own, and they won’t get hurt in the process (dogs have PTSD of bad nail trims).
When it comes to the filing you want to just do a couple swipes back and forth against the nail then give them a treat, and on to the next nail where you will do the same. If you can only do a couple toes at a time then that’s fine, it’s your dog’s pace, and this will set the standard giving you goals to reach. 2 toes today, 3 tomorrow! You’re barely going to take anything off at first, but if you do this every day you will eventually get to a point where the nails are short and won’t need much sanding in the future. Hopefully, by this point, your dog has already started trusting you with nail trims and you can do more than a few swipes.
**Reminder- Rapid or hard pressing the sander against the nail can cause heat from the friction, this can be painful for your dog so be gentle, they can resent the sander as well.**
When it comes to clipping you want to think of it as always wanting a rounded edge. I clip at an angle on both the left and right side of the nail to create a sharp point, then clipping the center point to create a round tip. Do this in 3’s all the way down until you begin to the quick, always taking off just the top layer. Remember you can always take off more, but you can’t put any back on once it’s off and you don’t want to knick them. Then once you see some pink quick use a gentle sander to round off the edges and soften up the flakey shards of the nail. On some dogs, their nail forms a taper and usually starts midway through the nail, this is actually a pretty safe place to clip once you understand the anatomy of YOUR dog’s nails.
White or clear nails are your best friend, usually lighter dogs have these. These types of nails are great because you can visually see the quick through the nail. At this point you can clip until you’re about a 2 mm from the tip of the quick, this is usually a safe spot to stop clipping and start filing.
Black or dark brown nails are the worst and it’s mostly just because you’re cutting blind at this point. There is a trick however into knowing how far to go, if you look underneath the nail you can visually see the soft quick and about where it stops. I would make my invisible line about 1-2 mm past that part to account for the top part of the quick that may be reaching further into the nail. In the picture below you can see the very tip of the quick sticking out from the nail, this is what I call the groove of the nail, that’s where I gauge where I want to end up.
**This is probably the most important tip I can give you, so long as your dog is sitting calmly and allowing you to do the nails tell them “GOOD”, let them know that what they are doing is exactly what you want. Keep the treats and “Good boys” coming as much as you can as long as you can move through the nails. Think of “good” as sort of a back up for your “stay” command, if the dog knows he’s doing good then they will comply longer, I let my self over-do the “good” reward mostly so I don’t forget to say it in the first place. I keep saying it every few seconds just to reassure Beowolf to keep doing what he’s doing. Try to read their body language, if they start looking like they’re gonna bolt then stop and give them a break. There’s no rule that says you always have to do all 4 paws at a time, the idea is to leave them on a positive note, then find a stopping point and start again tomorrow from there.**
I have done exactly this for clients at work, doing demos or trims in the room and explaining this, rarely am I unable to successfully do a trim. I even had a special deal for several of those clients to come in consistently every week when I tipped all the nails with a sander while the owner fed their dog yummy treats. I gave them a discount depending on how much I was able to do, sometimes not even charging for my time. The theory behind this was the dog will get used to coming to the clinic so anxiety will relax a little so long as the nail trims weren’t bad. I tip a tiny bit off and while they get goodies and head pets, then send them on their way. Coming weekly eventually I didn’t need to do the nails at all because they were finally short enough, so we settled for a happy visit where the dog just got treats and attention letting her leave on a positive note. Other clients only wanted to try to take advantage of discounted nail trims and I wouldn’t see them for months and suddenly they walk in with their terrified dog who is peeing itself in fear and asking me to get all 4 paws as short as possible. First of all, to anyone out there who does that, this is hurting your dog nobody else. It’s not fair to any dog to suffer nail trims as they scream and urinate or defecate themselves in fear, especially being restrained in the process. I have told many clients that based on the stress of their dog I will refuse nail trims, I will not morally be part of the further destruction of your dog’s mental health. They didn’t always like that, but I am an RVT for a reason, for the health and well-being of pets, stressful nail trims are not that, keeping the nails short is good but at what expense?
I am an empathetic person, I try to think like a dog, feel like a dog or put myself in their “paws”. I never blame dogs for fighting us in the clinic, it’s not their fault they behave that way. How would you feel if your mom took you somewhere as a kid, you walk in and the smell is off, which makes you nervous. Someone comes out speaking a language you don’t understand and your mom hands you off to that person, they take you to the back where you see more kids screaming in cages and this worries you. Then they put you on a table and hold you down while bringing clippers or grinders toward you, making loud sounds, squeezing your fingertips which can be uncomfortable, and then suddenly they snip off half your fingernail. You try to scream and break free, but they only hold on tighter and continue on with cutting off your fingers. All the while you don’t understand what they’re doing and not to mention they are hurting you! Now imagine 5 times a year your mom takes you back there to have the same thing done. Eventually you will refuse to enter the building, eventually you will fight them as they take you from your mom into the “back”, eventually, you get to a point where you fight with all your might and start biting to try to scare them away. Clients hand off their dogs so willingly thinking a nail trim is no big deal, but it is to your dog. Getting them comfortable with this using positive reinforcement is what’s going to make the difference. Trust me, working in the field for 6 years, I have seen it all and the past 3 I have been implementing my own methods of nail trims and desensitization.
I have a PediPaw will that work?
Probably not on anything with thick nails or large breed dogs. It’s simply not a strong enough machine to handle the job, I have tried this on several types of dogs and it really only works well on tolerant chihuahuas.
My groomer has an Oster or professional nail grinder from the store, do those work?
I would say yes, we recently got an Oster after our Dremel died and it works well. Still, not powerful enough for us though but depending on the dog it will get the job done. It would honestly just be cheaper to buy a Dremel.
Yessssssss. I love the Dremel, been using it for years! It’s just a standard small Dremel from the hardware store and the set usually comes with extra sanders and different shaped heads which are cool. We have one in the clinic and it’s our go-to, so much so that it finally died after I don’t know how many years of use. I am going to buy one for myself and the dogs at the ranch, so I can just bang out nail trims at home.
**Things to keep in mind if you are pursuing a machine grinder**
These grinders are still sandpaper so experiment with speeds. For the Dremel it has speeds from 1-10, do NOT use 10! Please, God if this is your only take away, the Dremel is a tool, like from Home Depot to sand wood and use it when building houses and stuff. It wasn’t designed to be used on sensitive dog nails, so yes the speeds go up to 10 but don’t do it. I had someone ask me to do their dog’s nails because their dog would become aggressive while dremeling, when I commented on what speed to keep the dremel at she laughed. “6!?” she said, “I use 10 and my dog’s don’t care, it doesn’t hurt them, barely makes a difference.” … you just told me your dog loses it’s mind when getting it done, so clearly they care and it does bother them, but I’m the professional so what do I know, I only do 50 nail trims a week.
My general rule is keeping it between 3 and 6. Anything higher than 6 and you’re gonna burn the nail and it’s only gonna hurt you in the process, every once in a while I’ll crank it to 7 for really thick nails on really tolerant dogs but no other exceptions.
The higher in speed you go the louder it gets, remember this if you’re trying to get your dog used to the process. Try to see what they’re seeing and hear what they hear.
Don’t keep the grinder on the nail for too long, at a 6 you should be able to tackle the nail in like 10 seconds? Depending on how much you need to take off. But sitting there forever isn’t good for the nail, a little heat is okay because of the quick kind of recesses back but not a lot so don’t overdo it. Move on to the next and then go back and take more off where you missed.
Stop often to reassess the nail or blow off the dust so you can see how much farther you need to go and then go.
Grinders cause nail dust, so keep that in mind. If you barely scraped the quick you can use the nail dust to clot it but any actual bleeds will need Quick Stop or medical attention.
If you are just trying to get your dog used to nail trims with a grinder, I would use the above-mentioned tips under “sanders”. Keep the speed at a 3 or 4, probably a 3 at first, and just leave it on each nail for 2 seconds. Increasing the length over time and then the speeds. Remember to read your dog and leave them on a happy note!
Side note- the Dremel tends to bounce on the nail if it’s going at a weird angle, this will likely be uncomfortable for your dog, so if bouncing occurs try a slightly different angle. Dogs will also jerk their paw to create a bounce, for me, I hold the Dremel a certain way, so I can rest the hand holding the nail against it keeping both the paw and Dremel moving in the same direction together. This will take practice but you will get it.
My dog’s nails are close to his pad, what do I do?
Okay, if you have a Pug chances are the nails are curling inward right? Handling nails that are dug in or curling into the pad require finesse, but it’s doable to trim those too, just gotta think outside the box. First and foremost if the sander touches the paw pad, it’s not the end of the world, it doesn’t really hurt more so tickles (if you’re using the proper speed). I have actually used the Dremel to take back hyperkeratosis on pads of pugs and bulldogs, even on their nose, but they really don’t like this (remember put yourself in their position). Tackling nails close to the pad, think of it as an art project and keep in mind the Dremel is still a tool so use it as such. I’m going to do my best to explain this in written form, but I will post a video demonstrating this too at a later date.
For the dug in nails– This is the nail that is completely pressed against the pad. On your white nails find the quick on the top aspect of the nail, then using the top edge of the Dremel sand down toward the pad. Visualize a line where you want the cut to be and cut with the tip edge taking. You will do this with black nails too but really try to figure out where the quick is or start off with small amounts. Personally, I would just cut the tip off and that will give me room to work normally.
For the curling nail– So this is the nail where the tip is about to start going to the pad. The Dremel has a flat top, the head I like to use, so position the flat aspect parallel to the pad. The side of the Dremel head should be against the nail, there will be bouncing here because of the position but a little finesse will resolve that. What I do is a half “C” shape moving from the left tip of the nail to the right tip keeping the flat top parallel to the pad. If you are really worried about the pad you can pull it back a little to give yourself more space to work or you can take them to a professional who is comfortable with the proximity.
Do this all the while someone is giving treats and everyone is telling Fido what a good boy he is, and always don’t over do it if the tolerance is nearly up then stop on a good note and resume tomorrow. Your dog will really appreciate this.
I hope these tips help you and your dog become more comfortable with nail trims. Please feel free to comment below and tell me if there are any other pet tips you’re interested in me writing or if there are questions you have about nail trims, trust me I have dealt with it all.
P.S I fully intend on uploading more pictures and drawing up some guides but cannot find the ones I had in mind, I organized my files from MYSELF!
Next, I will show how to do an ear cleaning at home, just not sure if I want to video tape it or write it out.
Hey there thanks for tuning in to my page! Since I’m still a baby blogger I would love to hear from those of you who read my posts, feedback is crucial to building a relationship and I want to get to know all of you! I promise I respond to everyone, ask me questions or if you want to hear about anything specific. Also sorry about the long posts, I like to write, what can I say? Leave a comment at the end of this post and tell me what you think! Thank you, happy reading!
For those of you wondering, I wanna tell you the story about a little white dog named Valentine. Everyone knows Beowolf but who is that cute ball of energy in the background? The one flying through the air like a white ghost! Well, that little girl there has a story of her own at 3 years old, so gather round for I have a tail to tell, it starts as a horror story but ends with a happily ever after!
It was any normal day at the clinic in January 2016, our schedule was light and the staff was going about the motions of the day. Our receptionist came to the back and told us there was a new client who was on his way with a dog fight victim. We prepared for the incoming emergency and waited. A woman walks in with a short man behind her carrying a box, the woman was a client of ours and the man was her neighbor, another technician took them into a room and got the history at which point one of my appointments arrived and then back to work for me.
When I came out of the room with my finished appointment and led them to the front desk I saw the two people with the emergency dog fight. I overheard them discussing payment for the day and that the neighbor would cover it, the man seemed uncomfortable, and so I hurried to the back to find out what was going on.
When I entered treatment the girls were already placing a catheter on a little bulldog puppy, her name was Harley, and she was 10 weeks old. She was covered in blood and her ear was mangled, she sat on the table like a good girl and let them place her catheter and take her blood for blood work. She shivered in fear.
Turns out the man had adopted 2 other dogs that fence fight with the woman’s dogs, when this little one got too close and her 2 housemates turned on her. We didn’t get very many details as the woman was worked up.
Surgery went without issues, we had to amputate her left ear and put a couple drains around it along with placing a drain in the crook of her left elbow. We then called to tell the owner how everything went and schedule a pickup time when he alerted us that he wanted to surrender her. He claimed she was “no good” and didn’t want her anymore. Prick. He was also returning the 2 other dogs back to the shelter, good he had no business owning dogs. Suddenly everyone is talking about who is going to take the puppy, by order of elimination I was the only choice. So I took Beowolf aside and explained that mommy was going to take in a puppy who was in need of our help, and I was going to need him to be on board. I put her in my car at the end of the day and he looked at me like wtf! He sulked on the ride home, coming up to the front seat to sniff her and give her the once over. By the time we got to the apartment he warmed up to the idea, so he helped me clean her up and get her settled into her foster home.
Most of our staff was a full house and all the single dog homes were single because their dogs were aggressive. Beowolf I knew would welcome a new puppy, and we recently moved to a bigger apartment, so we had more space. I couldn’t stand to look at her, she broke my heart, not to mention she was ALL WHITE and female. Don’t even get me started, I never wanted a white dog, it was mostly the health issues that correspond and I was not much of a fan for myself.
Also, she was a female, I prefer male animals, I don’t know they just work better for me. My next dog was going to be a solid BLACK male pit bull, but who was I kidding, we don’t pick our dogs they pick us. I knew the second I took her in she would be a foster failure and I wanted Beowolf to be a single dog for a while before we got another dog. It bothered me that he always had to share me with work and other dogs, I wanted it to be me and him for a while. As fate would have it, she came home with me and everyone from work pressured me to keep her. I tried not to get attached and looked for homes for her, but as luck would have it she wouldn’t go to anyone.
She had PTSD from what happened to her, the first night she tried growling at Beowolf (understandably) and she was terrified of men. The next day the woman came in to say good-bye and thank me for taking her in, at which time I asked all the right questions, after all, I was taking in a dog with baggage and this lady was the closest I would ever get to know about her past. Bless this woman for she knew a lot about her.
The man was mean, he kept all the dogs outside. All day, all night, rain or shine with no shelter but a small patio where the 2 bigger dogs pushed the puppy off of (mind you, she is WHITE, skin problems are increased for her). The woman had to force the man to take dog houses she no longer needed which after coaxing he finally allowed her to put them in his back yard. When he did let them in the house the neighbor would hear the dogs yelp and the man yelling at them, then suddenly you would see all 3 dogs run into the backyard.
The woman also saw what happened when the dogs attacked her, she was going out to stop her own dogs when the 2 on the other side of the fence jumped on the puppy. One dragged her across the yard by her ear, which explains why mangled. The other dog bit and chomped, at one point he was pulling on her arm, and they were both thrashing and playing tug with her. The woman screamed helplessly on the other side of the fence, for the man to come out as the puppy shrieked and squealed. When the man did emerge from the house the dogs finally let her go, and she ran off to hide, limping and covered in red blood. She told him to take the puppy to the emergency hospital, and he refused to suggest she will be okay and will “walk it off”. No motherf****** she needed surgery!
To this day I am not sure how she convinced him to bring in the dog, but he stuffed her in a box and came to my clinic. When he signed over ownership to me I gave him the dirtiest looks I could give him, acid built at the back of my throat as I held my tongue from giving him a piece of my mind.
She was “puppy” for about 3 weeks before a name came to me, I need to get to know a dog before naming them and hers hit me suddenly, Valentine. Until that point, I was still hoping someone would take her on as a full-time foster or adopt her. I wouldn’t let work send her to the shelter though the thought crossed my mind, she needed medical attention and her chances of adoption were slim at the location she would go to. I’m glad I didn’t send her there, for the first year of her life she was super defensive and aggressive. I hoped naming her Valentine would let her live to be sweet, more like bloody Valentine! She would lunge after men, women and children, especially dogs!
Beowolf was the ONLY dog she liked, and I was the ONLY human she liked. I tried adopting her to my cousin who was looking for a puppy, but Valentine wanted nothing to do with her. I was heartbroken to see her so fearful and nervous about everyone, EVERYONE! I certainly wasn’t prepared for this, I was used to an enthusiastic dog who loved everyone he met. Lucky for me I had a trick up my sleeve, in the form of dog trainer, he specialized in rehabilitation and aggression. I employed him, however, she wasn’t going to make it easy on us, she is deathly terrified of him, and he never did anything to her. She wouldn’t take treats, she would stop shivering or trying to run away. the moment she hears his voice she shuts down, so how can he rehabilitate her?
It was up to me and only me to help her, under the guidance of my trainer we have worked her over many obstacles, always at her own pace. One thing I knew for sure was that this was going to take the patience of a monk. Fortunately my job allowed me to bring my dogs to work, so she was kenneled with Beowolf in the back, so we can keep an eye on her and I figured if she learned how to live in a kennel it would be good for her, since I never taught Beowolf and it was harder to break him into it later in life. Well, she learned that and then some, she learned she was trapped and thus became defensive of the kennel. Anyone who she saw, she would bark and lunge and snarl at them.
Oh no, I won’t have ANY of that!
A couple of months later I moved to the ranch where I now live, it’s a great place, my trailer is plenty of space for us and a private backyard with 2 kennels! I moved in and fixed everything up, first the backyard and kennels where I began housing them while I was away. I spent the next year of her life socializing her through obedience classes that are held here at the ranch where we both learn how to work together, and she gets over her fear and worry of other dogs.
This helped her so much and her issues with dogs resolved faster than I thought they would, most of it was that I housed her in the kennels here too, getting her used to the environment and being surrounded by dogs that can’t hurt her. She actually now does amazing in the kennels, I can board her if and whenever I need and not worry about her. She is still a little defensive of the kennels if she sees a new dog or someone she doesn’t recognize. When she is outside of her kennel or on a leash she doesn’t show aggression or any worry at all, though I don’t let her greet anyone for sake of her training and another dog’s safety, she’s getting there, but she ain’t home yet.
I have also taken her on outings, hiking and isolated areas where we get plenty of opportunities to practice her obedience as well when we meet others on the trails. My trainer taught me that it’s okay to be her advocate, it’s okay not to let everyone come up and pet my dogs and for that, I am so grateful. It does seem too mean but I need to speak up for my dogs, when Beowolf has enough of crowds he shows me in his body language but that’s because he’s learned I read the signs.
Valentine needed to understand I will do this with her, so for a long time I wouldn’t let people pet her, which was hard because she’s so cute, but many people understood she is in training and frankly they don’t wanna get bit either. Besides, Beowolf was welcoming the attention and people are usually satisfied with petting a WOLF. Over time, she was finally able to welcome people’s attention, slowly. In class, we also go over greeting people with dogs and keeping everyone under control, the classes taught her to trust me, and they taught me how to handle a dog with her worry. It took time but she came around!
Fast forward to now.
The past 8 months have been the most improvement she’s had! Over the cold months, I was taking her with me to work daily as opposed to once in a while. Everyone there loves her as much as Beowolf, they love to greet her and give her treats and then some! When it comes to Valentine’s socialization she can have anything you want to offer her, within reason.
One of the girls at work gave everyone a Milkbone biscuit every day, Valentine would bark in excitement when she saw her come out with biscuits in her hands. Another girl kept goldfish and crackers and cheeses amongst other snacks at her desk so every morning when we walk in, she got treats while I clocked in. Valentine came to know the girl as “French Fry” and acted like I didn’t exist when French fry was there.
I have also been doing much more with Valentine, taking her to Home Depot or Lowes, Petsmart trips and going places where there are people!
She is white with faint spots on the skin.
She has 2 perfectly symmetrical eye patches.
She has one ear, we amputated the left one when she was a puppy after her trauma.
Her middle name is Regina George. If you knew her, you would understand.
The most affectionate with anyone here at the house, or if someone is sitting with her and petting her she climbs in their lap for more love!
Like any bully dog, she is 55 pounds of dead weight when she sleeps!
Yes, I did a DNA test and this is what I found. American Staffordshire Terrier, American Bulldog, Bullmastiff, Labrador, Neopolitan Mastiff, Rottweiler! and drumroll please… Pekingese! What! Yep! **Side note: If you’re curious about the mix of your dog I highly recommend doing a DNA test. I prefer Royal Canin or something via the vet because I believe in the best! Regardless, knowing the mix of your dog can be helpful in determining behavior. Here at the ranch we specialize and house all of these breeds and working in a clinic I see many variations so trust me when I say, it all makes sense now! Most of my questions about her were answered when I saw the results.**
She is beautiful to watch run at full speed, and she’s fast! She’s athletic and lots of energy, but she can turn it off and Netflix and Chill at the drop of a hat.
Still worried, but will approach someone slowly she usually warms up to them. Valentine is still terrified of the trainer but is getting over it more and more every day I bring her around him and will even now take treats from him!
She is the most obedient dog ever! The guy who gave her up called her “no good”, I can honestly say he wouldn’t know a good dog if it peed on his leg! She is incredibly smart and pretty easy to train, honestly she mostly just doesn’t wanna be in trouble, so she listens to a fault. Not to mention we work on it in classes and when we go on adventures I use what we learn in class to navigate the world it works! Sometimes her recall needs coaxing, but she gets it.
I wasn’t planning on getting an all WHITE female dog I’m glad it’s her. We still have some work to go but I wouldn’t change the experience for the world, she is a loving member of the family and helping her get over obstacles makes me feel good too. She is a special girl, my little one-eared weirdo. My goal by the end of 2019 is to have her loving Oj because once she lets him in she will fall in love with him like every other dog in the world! He’s eager to win her over as well, he knows as well as anyone how rewarding winning the affection of a worried dog can be. The process has been slow but more and more she is trusting me, over time she gains confidence in herself, with training we both learned how to communicate with each other.
Thanks for reading!
I hope this post inspires some of you who are in the market to give a rescue dog a chance, you never know what diamond in the rough awaits!
For those of you who have a rescue or just complicated dogs, don’t give up on them. Find someone knowledgable to help you but always work at your dog’s pace. Show them respect and you will earn their trust.
For the past 9 years, I have lived side by side with Beowolf, my Timberwolf Malamute cross, and not a day goes by that I am not thankful for him. He has gotten me out of some questionable situations, he helped me with my battle with depression, and he is always there for me to this day. Being that he goes with me everywhere, since day 1 practically, I get asked all the time… how did I get him? What’s it like owning him? How is his temperament? Well to answer all of that I need to take you to the beginning because over the past 9 years life hasn’t been easy with a hybrid.
Before getting into the juicy details I would like to introduce you to my new book, Adventures of Puppy Raising. This is a compilation of everything I learned during the puppy years, as well as answering questions from other puppy owners and advice from working in the veterinary field. It has everything a puppy owner should need and then some!
Beowolf was given to me as a gift, he was purchased from a breeder in San Diego and was delivered to me as a surprise in Sacramento. Granted I knew about the puppy for a while before he was delivered so I had time to prepare and research, I was no dummy, I grew up with dogs and admired wolves, obsessed with them was more like it; but I knew that living with a mixed one would be different and boy was it.
First, he was a 3-month-old 30-pound puppy, so not only was he big but he was a baby as well. Knock off what we already know was difficult, teething, potty training, regular training, and socialization. The last 2 I had to wing it and tweak it for his nature. Wolves are social pack animals that spend a ton if not all of their time with each other, so needless to say Beowolf wanted to be around me all the time and would do anything to make that happen. Enter in the destructive phase, he destroyed carpets clawing at the door, and even pulled one completely from the floor and rolled it to the opposite corner of the room. He dug holes in the yard to break out of his kennel and bent most of the links pulling at the gate. He howled every freaking moment he was alone and even while he was with my roommates, he still wanted me. Which leads me to Bring my dog to work phase.
I worked at a movie theater… in a shopping center… there was no doggy daycare nearby and nobody could watch him anyways because he would cry for me, so I improvised. I figured, my Jeep with the back seats down was still a much bigger space than the biggest most expensive crate I could find, so he was better off staying in there. So I changed my hours to closing! and met up with the evening security guard to explain, luckily he was a friend of everyone who worked in the center. I introduced him to Beowolf who he instantly fell in love with, I showed him the bowl of dog food and ice water and had my windows open enough. Also, I parked behind the building where the shade and privacy were better so nobody would bother with him, yep Beowolf had his own condo and security. This went on for 3 months without a hitch until we moved in with friends from work. Big mistake, the other dogs in the house were very aggressive and attacked Beowolf, he was 8 months old needless to say we didn’t stay there long, a week to be specific.
Which leads to the following 6 years of moving and roommates and other housepets. I have no idea how we made it out of that alive, to be honest early on I recall kneeling in front of 6-month-old Beowolf cursing him and crying that he was sent from the devil. I was a little dramatic, but he ate my cellphone! Twice! On purpose! People mock me but he does do things on purpose, once people get to know him they find that to be true. We tackled a lot, food aggression, socialization, dog friendliness, no matter the challenge we came out together on the other side.
Everyone who meets him wants to get one of their own, I’m not ashamed to say that I often play dumb where I got him. The truth is, though he is a remarkable animal, it takes someone willing to work with a hybrid to get the results I did and frankly I still think of myself blessed that he was my first. He taught me a lot about patience, I did tons of research and countless hours of youtube videos on handling wolves and their instincts. This isn’t your typical labrador or energetic pitbull. He’s what’s considered a high content wolfdog, this means that I have no real idea how close his instincts are to surface, what can trigger him to do something and who will be like? He has energy because he was built to run 30 miles a day, he still to this day has separation anxiety because he wasn’t meant to be away from his family (me), just the other day he broke out of my window because I was simply 50 yards away talking with a group of people that were here for training! 50 yards, 50 yards!? Come on Beowolf, dammit.
People who meet him now swear there is something human in him, his ability to comprehend us when we talk to him, you can see him thinking and problem-solving in his eyes. He’s considerate and goofy as hell. But it’s his manner that intrigues people so much, he is wonderful around children, does amazing under pressure, calm in loud settings and even knows how to listen and behave himself when in public places (yes he goes everywhere with me.) He is a certified ESA and Seizure alert dog for me.
All in all a few things are true:
A hybrid in the right hands will make for an amazing animal, in the wrong hands they can be dangerous and left to make a bad name for the mix and the wolf species.
Their intellectual capacity is incredible, there is nothing that they can’t do and no challenge they can’t overcome, whether that’s in your favor or not is… 50/50.
They get big, big teeth, big claws, thick coats, and bigger shit. Beowolf is neutered and still marks and mounts females here and there, he is very dominant and will not back down to any dog so like I said those instincts are strong.
You’re gonna wanna watch them, study their body language like breathing, know what every twitch of his ears means. Each glance to me as a dog bothers him, is a request to get him out of that situation, intervene before your hybrid feels the need to do it himself. Understanding what you’re getting into is only half the battle, but you’ll thank me for that later. Why risk a lawsuit when you can take measures to protect your new best friend, California don’t play with dog bites loosely and most laws are tight on hybrids.
If you can, try and get one, they can be needy af and want all of your attention this can lead to other problems both for you and for them. Not to mention, when your pack is together 24/7 while you go to work every day, you may feed them but don’t think yourself that secure anymore, eventually, you will become the outsider. Not to mention, I have another dog and a cat, and though I love my other dog dearly, she was unexpected and I was really hoping that for once in his life Beowolf could be an only dog. Nonetheless, I try not to feel guilty about spending alone time with each of them, but I know, if Beowolf could have it his way, he would be the only dog in the house.
Separation anxiety is very likely and is not something to be played with. Chances are that most of the dogs you know personally have it, but only show a low grade; whining, pacing, panting. With hybrids it is different, you already read about the house destruction, but there’s more. He’s broken out of windows, climbed out of 2nd and 3 story windows and has been found on the roof several times. He has run away trying to find me, luckily I keep all of his tags updated and kind people called me to alert me that my Big dog is at their house. Honestly, it’s to the point where I worry less, not that someone wouldn’t steal him, they definitely would, but he has what I call a 3-day self-destruction period. He has only ever made it 2 days away from me staying with people he knew before he became uncontrollable to handle. It would surprise me that if he were stolen I would get a call or he would have broken out by day 3 for me to come and get my dog.
I hope my story with Beowolf has helped you if you were thinking of getting one, we had our ups and downs but I wouldn’t change the experience ever! The truth is, Beowolf is my heart and soul and there will never be another dog like him for me. Even though hybrids are a lot to handle a lot of the time, I probably won’t ever live without one for the rest of my life. Beowolf is my best friend, my therapist, and my ride or die, I can’t say that about any human ever in my life.
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