Fun Poses and Badminton?!

Today’s post makes me think back to the numerous fun poses I loved seeing Caesar in! I’m sure if you’ve got your own Miniature Schnauzer (or other favourite pet) you know exactly what I’m talking about.  It was such a pleasure to watch Caesar just… being himself! Caesar liked lots of cuddles but on his terms… although the position below looks perfect for “tummy rubs” it was not until he was pretty tired that he would allow this unless he was sitting up to receive it.  Mostly he loved scratches around his neck and petting of his back. I was happy to suit his preferences!


One of my favourite memories is an afternoon of badminton where I taught Caesar to retrieve the “birdie” (couldn’t actually call it that since I didn’t want Caesar to go after our budgies with the same idea)!

And then there were the “poses” during training times. I was so impressed that Caesar could hold the positions I helped him perfect – and yes, always for a treat, but boy, did I love watching him do these.

“normally I hate lying on my back, but this is comfy…”

And then there were the stretching and massaging times… such a pleasure for both of us.

Are you paying attention to the beautiful “little” moments that fill your time/awareness around your fur-baby?  Life flies by so fast for all of us and we truly never know when our last days with our babies are. I so hope you enjoy each moment with yours.  I am re-living my joys through these pictures and hope you are taking many of you with your babies too.  Enjoy the moments dear friends.

Wishing you beautiful moments and lifelong memories to cherish too.



Outdoor Adventures

I bet many of you love your walks with your mini schnauzers. I absolutely loved going anywhere with Caesar, yet I believe that exploring new walking trails or sights brought us so many especially-special joys.  I remember that I was so in love with just watching what Caesar would get excited to see/smell/hear/chase… anything. I was mesmerized by his careful attention to everything.  Of course, we always took some snacks for him to munch on and often if there were human snacks, he’d get a couple of those too.


I remember that on icy walks through trails Caesar was my balancer and his little weight on the end of the leash kept me steady on the ice!  He looked out for me as much as I looked out for his safety.  And every sight that I thought looked beautiful looked even better with him in it.IMG_2993

Between shared fresh air, exercise and sights/smells… we were together and you know that’s what means the most with our bonds with our fur-babies.

Of course, he was always kind enough to pose or do tricks with me too as he knew how happy that made me! Below is his famous “foot on foot” trick. What a sweetheart!


And nothing ever felt better than having him in my arms – inside the house or out… IMG_3038

I bet many of you are enjoying your own special walks or outings with your babies too – do share with me here as I’d love to see!

Keep spending as much time as you can with your precious ones. I’m so grateful I have a million photos of my baby to enjoy and share here too… feel free to share yours.

Sending luv and schnuggles to you all from both of us,

Hanifa and Caesar

Baby Caesar

Oh how I loved getting to know Caesar during his puppy phase!  Anyone who has a dog (or has had one) knows this phase is way too short!! Yet I also remember him checking out every detail he could, and the boundless energy that was not-easy to keep up with! Never thought I’d need a baby gate, but we did! And we sometimes even caught him chewing up on baseboards (bitter apple helped that habit change pretty quick!). The razor-sharp puppy-teeth and the sweet feeling of him falling asleep on my legs every evening… loved those evenings.

Caesar was my first puppy, and I was so delighted to watch everything I could in this time – he was so curious and such a happy baby! We started with puppy-training classes at PetSmart with a trainer that we had heard about through a friend and it turned out that this trainer trained many of the trainers in the Ontario stores!  He was a fantastic trainer and Caesar learned everything that was taught – with regular practice at home between training classes of course!! And then – I took over training!! I could see how incredibly eager to learn Caesar was, and I was eager to teach him as much as I could too… what a wonderful experience that was for both of us!Caesar in his "paw-shaped" bed in training time.

I also started making regular posts in Schnauzers Are Us on Facebook of everything Caesar was learning (with many videos too) – he learned over 60 “tricks” or commands – and we all know that our babies have figured out way more words than these but I continue to be incredibly amazed and honoured to have helped teach my smart baby so many things that I believe made us equally happy (oh yes, treats were involved!).

If you have a mini-schnauzer that you are interested in training, I believe the biggest “skill” you can have in doing this, is your own patience. No more than 5-10 minutes maximum for teaching a new trick and then repeat it several times through the day and then the week… if your pup is not able to do something, your own frustration will not help. Sometimes what seems impossible for your baby to learn one month will seem so easy in another. And remember that just like people, each pup is different.  So even if you have 2 mini schnauzers from the same litter – do NOT expect them to learn the same. And have FUN with the training. I know for certain that seeing me get so happy with both teaching him, and especially happy on seeing Caesar learn a trick, gave him the same joy that it gave me. He knew he was bringing me joy… and boy, he did!  And he’d always have such a “proud of himself” look when he figured something out… I loved that too.  If you are not having fun with the experience of training, just find joy in being together. None of us knows how long we will have our babies, so I encourage you to enjoy as many moments as possible!!

Puppy Mini Schnauzer with toy blue bone

Innocent puppy face!

Enjoy the innocence of your new babies and cherish the memories with older or passed babies. These moments are truly precious!

Wishing you all a love-filled week ahead.



Different Styles of Training

Finally! I thought I’d take some time to share with you what I know about different dog-training styles.

Hello Friends!

As you know I haven’t written here for a while – largely because Caesar is not with me but with his Dad full time. Yet, I can’t forget this amazing baby or breed so after some encouragement from his fans, I thought I’d start by completing this post that I had started some time ago!

Please note that I am no longer married and not a currently practicing or licensed Naturopathic Doctor, but I will take time to make modifications in my posts over the days and months ahead.

So let’s talk about TRAINING!!

If you haven’t seen it by now, you will soon discover how incredibly train-able miniature schnauzers are if you are willing to put the time and energy into doing so 🙂

If you have a puppy of course this is the easiest time to start, but I do believe this breed would learn even as older dogs if the training is consistent.

Now you must know the famous Cesar Milan – and his style may be useful for some breeds especially – maybe larger or more aggressive personalities. But by and large, I feel miniature schnauzers are as sweet and gentle… though their barking may convince others (or you) that they have a different side to them sometimes (they are incredibly protective of their owners). But a gentle breed I am convinced.

So training these babies in my opinion, requires a consistent and loving style (as would likely work for many dog breeds by the way). Most people get frustrated if a dog does not learn fast enough, or if he/she “got it” – whatever training just the day before but today looks at you with a blank stare as if you’re asking something he/she has never heard before! lol! So start as if it’s new. Keep your training light-hearted and enjoyable for both of you – because that is what it really should be. Your energy is what your baby is basing their own energy on – and we know how eager our babies want to please us.

And work with just one command at a time… for many days with rewards to make it worthwhile for your baby. Caesar was extremely food motivated (as are many dogs as you know!) – I always made sure I used very tiny treats (even halves or quarters of mini-treats and this worked well – we know they are not really chewing most of the time!), and change it up to a nice pet/cuddle sometimes or play-time or running/walk as a reward too… your dog wants to bond with you. That is the true reward for both of you – and especially for your dog.  After about a week of working with one command (sit/stay/come being the most basic) – start training another command. 5-minute sessions are good or your baby may lose enthusiasm for something that is requiring to much effort. And you can do a few in a day or only once a day.  Some dogs are more toy-motivated (like catching/tugging with you!) so see what keeps your dog most excited about the learning sessions and work with that style suited to your baby.

Finally always remember WHY you’re doing any training – first – it’s very good for your dog to have the awareness of basic commands to be able to get his/her attention and almost automatic action in times of emergencies (like coming back to you after happily chasing a squirrel and wanting to cross a road to do this) – “come” as a command can truly help your baby keep safe. “Sit” can keep your dog from constantly pawing at you – although they may learn to paw you while sitting soon enough!  Useful to use “sit” when more dog-nervous people are around or children too to make both sides more comfortable.  I would recommend using both verbal and hand commands with our schnauzers especially.  Deafness/blindness is not uncommon as our babies age and having a knowledge of both verbal and hand signals (use together when training) will allow your baby to know what to do even if one sense becomes diminished over time.

I remember I had taught Caesar how to “jump up” on command after getting through all the basics and this came in very handy when 2 aggressive large dogs had somehow escaped a neighbour’s yard and were coming barrelling towards us – in an instant I panicked for Caesar’s safety (and my own too I have to admit) and I yelled “jump up” – and he responded immediately!!  I couldn’t have felt more relieved to have him safely in my arms! You just never know when some good training will come in handy. And I absolutely loved having training time for bonding time with Caesar – it really can be a joy for both sides! Try to keep in mind your dog is doing everything for YOU – always appreciate this love.

That’s a start everyone – as you may be able to imagine… it’s not so easy to write about my favourite fur-baby – but the memories are wonderful to remember too.

Wishing you a wonderful evening and I hope you get a little start on some training ideas if you’re thinking of doing some with your fur-babies!

More to come soon 🙂



Tumors and Cancer

So many people know about tumors and cancer from personal experience with friends, family, themselves and/or their pets.  Since we work with cancer regularly in our patient population as well, I thought this post would be good to share for people to understand the process (whether in humans or pets).

What is a tumor?

A tumor is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells.  A tumor begins when normal cells in a body mutate into abnormal cells which, instead of following the normal cell process of reproducing, maturing and dying, just keep reproducing without ever maturing or dying.  So they keep growing, forming a mass known as a tumor.

If the tumor remains localized in the tissue in which it started, the abnormal cells are considered benign, which means “harmless”.  They’re abnormal, but they don’t spread anywhere.  So if a benign tumor is surgically removed, the problem is usually solved.  Benign tumors are common, however, to form anew in the same part of the body or in different parts.

If the abnormal cells are NOT benign that means they have either spread to surrounding tissue or they have traveled through the bloodstream or the lymphatic system to other parts of the body to establish colonies of new tumors – they are considered malignant.

Malignant cells are what we call cancer.  Their process of invasion and spread is called metastasis.

What Causes Tumors and Cancer?

Tumors and cancers used to be diseases of old dogs, and they still account for almost half of all canine deaths over age 10.  But today an alarming number of young dogs are developing cancer.  Why?

First, because the tendency for cells to mutate can be inherited – and the unwise breeding practices that are so popular today (breeding related dogs together) have caused these kinds of faulty genes to become widespread in the purebred population.

Second, because canine immune systems are much weaker today than they used to be, and a weak immune system is unable to prevent mutated cells from spreading.  Again, weak immune systems are perpetuated by unwise breeding practices, along with poor nutrition, excessive vaccinations, over-use of drugs and medications, and the increasing presence of toxic chemicals in our dogs’ environments.

What are the symptoms of a tumor?

A tumor can start in virtually any cell in your dog’s body – skin cells, lymph gland cells, bone marrow cells, bladder cells, blood vessel cells, mammary gland cells, etc.  Some tumors develop so deep inside the body that they cause vague symptoms that are hard to detect and recognize.  Some tumors present themselves as a growth, either attached to your dog’s skin like a wart or raised lesion (spot/bump), or under the skin as a lump or mass.

Remember – don’t panic if you see or feel a growth on your dog as this is not always a tumor! Sebaceous cysts, fatty lipomas, and warts are all very common growths on dogs.  These are not tumors (as they are not formed by normal cells mutating into abnormal cells).  But if you do notice any mass that is getting larger, it’s good to have the area checked by your Vet.

What are the most common tumors and cancers in dogs?

Adenoma and adenocarcinoma:

An adenoma is a benign tumor formed by glandular tissue cells almost anywhere – such as in the sebaceous glands, mammary glands, anal glands, thyroid gland, lungs, kidneys, liver, intestines, prostate, nasal cavity, etc.

One common form of adenoma is a sebaceous gland tumor, which appears as a warty growth around a hair follicle.

Another form of adenoma is a perianal tumor which appears as a lump in the anal region, usually in older male dogs who have not been neutered.  Testosterone stimulates anal tissue into developing adenomas – if you neuter your dog when young, he is unlikely to develop an adenoma later in life.

Another common form of adenoma is a mammary gland tumor, which forms a lump in the breast, usually in older females who have not been spayed or who were spayed later in life.  Estrogen stimulates breast tissue into developing adenomas – if you spay your dog before or just after her first heat cycle, she is unlikely to develop an adenoma later.

Unfortunately, there is also a malignant form of adenoma called adenocarcinoma – and it is one of the most aggressive cancers in dogs.  A mammary gland tumor as about a 50-50 chance of being a benign adenoma or a malignant adenocarcinoma.

Other common tumors and cancers in dogs:tumor in schnauzer

Basal Cell tumor and basal cell carcinoma (small skin cells involved), Epulide (most common benign oral tumor), Fibroma and fibrosarcoma (in fibrous tissue of a bone), Hair Follicle tumors, Hemangioma and heangiosarcoma (blood vessels effected), Histiocytoma and histiocytic sarcome (white blood cell related), Lymphoma or lymphosarcoma (in lymphatic system – one of the most common cancers in dogs), Mast Cell tumor and mastocytoma (accounts for about 20% of skin tumors), Melanoma (in pigment-producing skin cells), Osteosarcoma (most common bone cancer in dogs), Sertoli cell tumor (testicular tumor – highest risk is in those with an undescended testicle), Squamous cell carcinoma (on skin, on toes most common in large black dogs including Giant Schnauzers), Transitional cell carcinoma (bladder cancer – very aggressively malignant).


Simplest test is a fine-needle biopsy, where a needle is inserted into the growth and a bit of its contents are aspirated into a syringe and then examined on a slide under a microscope.  For some tumors and potential cancers, blood tests, ultrasounds and x-rays may be needed.


Many benign tumors can be left alone.  Chinese medical herbs may help shrink some of these.  If a benign tumor is making your dog uncomfortable or if it is interfering with some important body function, it can be surgically removed.

For malignant tumors, Western medicine recommends the same options as they do for humans: surgery (including amputation if necessary), chemotherapy and radiation.

Surgery may indeed be the best option for malignant skin tumors, which can usually be removed cleanly and completely when caught early.  And amputation may be the only way to control the pain of some cancers such as osteosarcoma… at least for the short run.  But it is my opinion that chemotherapy and radiation often damage your dog’s immune system and his/her quality of life. Some cancers do respond to aggressive chemotherapy or radiation by shrinking (or going into remission) – for a few months or a year.  Unfortunately, many return, requiring higher doses or stronger drugs to forced them back into remission and after a few cycles, the cancer often becomes resistant.

Naturopathic options do exist for keeping your dog’s immune system at its full strength.  I recommend (and use with Caesar various antioxidants, Omega 3 fatty acids (fish oils) and various herbs (my favorites being turmeric and astragalus).  Homeopathic remedies can also be very useful for treatment.  Do consult a Holistic Vet or Health Care Practitioner that you trust, for specific suggestions for your own dogs.

Even with “hopeless” cancers, naturopathic medicine can help your fur-baby feel much more comfortable than working without as you can decrease the side-effects of Western medical treatments and/or work without medical treatments to allow your pet as much comfort and healing as possible as you work through the cancer journey together.

Wishing you and your fur-babies the best of health today and always!


Dr. Menen

Stretches and Massage for your Fur-Baby

Simple tips for improving Circulation and Mobility:

Dogs need exercise and exercise creates strain on muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments.  For this post I wanted to focus on some simple ideas that anyone can use to help keep their dogs healthy.  Although larger dogs have more risk of injury to the musculoskeletal system (muscles and joints), smaller dogs, high energy dogs, those involved in canine (or other) sports regularly, and dogs that are getting older can really benefit from massage and stretches.  Of course Mini Schnauzers would benefit from this!!

Let’s start with Massage:

In just ten minutes a day, you can give your dog a “maintenance” massage. Use a flat palm to slowly touch all the parts of your dog’s body. Really focus on what you are feeling and pay attention to all the layers, from hair through skin, fat, muscle, and down to bone. However, there is more to these massages than just quality time together. After a few days, you will have a clear picture of what is normal for your dog’s body. In future sessions, you will be quick to notice any differences in surface temperature, sensitivity to touch, localized swelling or muscle tension, poor coat quality or tight skin. Left undetected, these things can lead to problems requiring medical care, medications, or even surgery. Knowing what feels normal for your dog can also help you provide better information for your veterinarian, trainer, or massage practitioner. This is one way that regular massage can add to the length and quality of your pet’s life. I found the following techniques described by Lola Michelin, founder of the Northwest School of Animal Massage to be very useful and in line with what I use with our own Caesar.  Hope they are useful to you too!

Calming the Nervous Dog

“this feels… relaxing…”

Massage therapists (and some Naturopathic Doctors!) use a stroke similar to petting to relax the nervous system. This can be used during an anxious response to thunder, lightning, Vet-visits, or any other upset for your dog.  Lightly rest the flat palm of your hand on top of your dog’s head or neck. Make long, sweeping passes along the length of the spine and down the tail. Repeat this several times slowly. You can gradually increase your pressure if your dog likes it. Do not press straight down on the lower part of the back. To finish, allow one hand to rest at the base of your pet’s head and the other hand to rest over the area of the pelvis (the high point over your dog’s hips). These two areas correspond to the part of the spinal cord that controls the rest and relaxation responses of the body (for example, sleep, digestion, and tissue repair). This technique is useful any time your dog is nervous or fearful, such as during nail trimming or vaccinations, or when he is hyperactive or restless.

Warm-Up Massage for Active Dogs

“I think we’re going to have some fun!”

Active dogs that compete, run, hike with their owners, or just play hard also deserve a good warm-up, and this may even prevent injury – I will often use massage before a major-hike-day with Caesar right after his morning stretches. Start with several minutes of petting strokes over your dog’s entire body. Briskly rub the large muscles (neck, shoulders, buttocks, and thighs) with the heel of your hand. Gently lift and squeeze the muscles. The technique is a lot like kneading bread dough. Wrap your fingers around each lower leg and squeeze gently. Relax your grip and move up the leg gradually, squeezing as you go. Finish with more petting over the entire body to stimulate the nerves.

 Relieving Joint Stiffness and Soreness

“Ahhh… that’s soothing…”

Recent exertion, aging, or inactivity can lead to soreness and stiffness in joints and muscles. To help, start by petting the area around the joint to warm the tissue. Then place your hand(s) over the area and apply gentle compressions over the area. You can use your breathing or count slowly to establish a rhythm as you press and release the muscles. The pumping motion moves fluids through the muscles and takes tension off the tendons surrounding the joint. Never use sudden or direct force over a bone. Finish with more petting over the area to soothe the nerves. Keep in mind that regular massage throughout the life of your pet may help prevent the stiffness and pain that contributes to arthritis. Readers should note that massage is not a substitute for veterinary care. Severe conditions require diagnosis and treatment by your veterinarian.

Now, Let’s Look at Stretches

Simple, Gentle Stretches You Can Complete in Minutes a Day

There are three areas of your dog’s body for which stretching is especially beneficial – the hips, the shoulders and the back.

The following stretches, done slowly and gently, are well tolerated by most dogs. However, if you don’t feel confident in your ability to do the stretches, consider asking your Vet or a small animal Chiropractor, Naturopathic Doctor, or Massage Therapist to demonstrate the stretches for you so you can do them at home.

Instructions for most of these stretches have your dog standing, but you can also do them with your dog lying on his/her side, or in the case of the chest stretch, on his/her back (which is the position that Caesar finds most comfortable for his stretches most of the time).  Some dogs are very uncomfortable in this position, so if yours is, don’t force the issue.

Needless to say, if your pet shows any sign of pain during stretching, discontinue the movement and have him/her seen by your Vet as soon as possible.

“this is good for my hips”

Stretching the hip flexors. The hip flexors are muscles that enable your dog to move his legs and hips while walking, trotting or running. To stretch the hip flexors, ask or get your dog to stand or lie down, and gently hold a back leg above the knee. Gently and slowly move the leg back straight out behind your dog’s body. When you reach a point of resistance, where further extension will require applying pressure, hold the leg in position for 10 to 30 seconds. Repeat this stretch 2 or 3 times with each back leg.

Benefits your dog will receive from this stretch include increased movement and flexibility in the hips and spine, improved conditioning of the lower back, hip and leg muscles, and a reduction in arthritis-related discomfort and pain.

Stretching the shoulder flexors. Shoulder flexors are muscles that allow fluid movement and proper use of your dog’s front legs. To stretch the shoulder flexors, with your dog standing or lying down, grasp a front leg above the elbow, place your other hand under the elbow to stabilize it, and gently move the leg forward. At the point of resistance, hold the position for 10 to 30 seconds and repeat 2 or 3 times for each front leg.

“this is good for my shoulders”

Not only does this stretch improve the integrity of shoulder structure, it also benefits the wrists and elbows, and increases your dog’s breathing capacity by loosening his/her chest muscles that are around the lungs.

Stretching the chest area. The muscles of your dog’s chest endure a great deal of strain. This is an abduction stretch, meaning a stretch away from center. With your dog on his back, grasp both front legs near the elbows (some say wrists but near the elbows is a sturdier location and will likely be more comfortable for your dog) and gently open them out to the side. Hold for several seconds, release and repeat.

Since your dog may expect a chest or tummy rub (he/she is on their back, after all), you can relax them further by giving him/her a gentle chest massage using light pressure and circular strokes.

“normally I hate lying on my back, but this is comfy…”

Stretching the back. This stretch requires the use of training treats. With your dog standing, and you on one side of him/her, move the treat slowly in the direction of his/her tail, encouraging your dog to follow it with his/her eyes – turning only his/her head. This will require him/her to bend their body into a C shape. Hold your dog (or ask him/her to stay) in this position for 10 to 30 seconds, then step to the other side and repeat the exercise. Do 2 or 3 stretches on each side.

“there’s a treat…”

“and another treat!”

After you’ve stretched your dog’s back, he/she will really enjoy a sacrum and back rub. The sacrum is the area in front of the base of the tail, between the hip bones. Using light pressure and circular movements massage the hard flat surface of the sacrum. Move your hands slowly up your dog’s spine and back using gentle massage strokes.

Regular sacrum and back rubs decrease anxiety, increase the flow of spinal fluid, enhance mobility in the hips and spine, and help bring your dog’s body into good balance.

I hope you and your dog(s) will find these tips helpful!  Do you think these ideas will take too much time in your day?  Then remember these words (for both you and your dog!):

“For fast-acting relief, try slowing down” ~ Lily Tomlin – hahaha!! funny but true too!


Dr. Menen

Caesar’s Dental Visit

Recently, we took Caesar to his Vet for his first full dental cleaning.  Many people wanted to know more about our experience, so here’s what happened.

We have been brushing Caesar’s teeth since he was a puppy – about once a week if possible, although some weeks have been missed.  We noticed a bit of plaque starting to build on his teeth last year and this year a bit more tartar accumulation.  This of course, was pointed out to us by our Vet who sees Caesar yearly for a full check-up including  blood work.  So this year, we figured we should take the Vet up on her late winter/spring discount on dental care.

We had learned from her last year that dogs need to be anesthetized during this process as most will not sit still for the cleaning – let alone the “very still” for the x-rays taken to determine the health of the teeth.  I re-checked with her to make sure that Caesar had had no ill-effects of anesthesia in the only other time he’s had it: his big-boy surgery!

No Breakfast and a Walk?

She reviewed her notes and determined that no challenges were encountered during or after his recovery from the anesthetic.  So we booked Caesar in.  He was to avoid all food after midnight so we gave him a late, extra meal at about 11:30pm, then surprised him with a no-breakfast morning for all of us and a walk to the Vet’s office.  Yes, he knew something was up.

We left Caesar with his Vet with false confidence for our boy and acted nonchalantly not to notice his resistance to being pulled away from us – then rushed home.  I cried as I waited the grueling hours until we finally heard he was being taken in for the procedure (which would take 2-3 hours from start to coming out of anesthetic time) – thinking about him being scared and missing us… Then we rushed to the clinic again during this time to try to get a couple of pics of his first cleaning but couldn’t actually go see our baby (our Vet had warned us before that it’s not useful to have owners/parents watch the cleaning as it only stresses out the Vet themselves – but I thought she could just stop for one minute while I got pics…?)  Luckily, one of the staff agreed to take some pics for me and that was sufficient for us to wait out the rest of the time at home.

Here are the pictures the staff took for us… poor little guy… but clearly getting some careful attention.

Well let me tell you that my husband and I truly rejoiced when the office called again a few hours later to let us know that Caesar was out of the anesthetic state, and recovering nicely.  They were even so kind as to send this picture and message: “Hi Mom and Dad, I just wanted to let you know that I’m doing great after my dental procedure! I went out for a walk and I ate all of my food, it was delicious. I’m resting quietly in my comfy cage and I can’t wait to see you later! Love, Caesar xo”

Seven hours after we dropped him off, we were picking him up!! What a day!  But before we actually got to see our baby, our Vet (Dr. Sarah) went through everything she learned – she had taken x-rays before the procedure (as she had told us she would do to determine if any teeth needed extra attention or extraction) as well as before and after pictures of the teeth to show us Caesar’s work 🙂  What was amazing is that she had talked us through everything we could expect from this procedure and followed through with all that she had prepared us for!  We had signed papers for this procedure on the day of this visit which also describes that if anything is found on x-rays every effort is made to contact us to let us know before doing anything.  We could either check a box which required our consent to do anything – which would mean if she couldn’t reach us she would do nothing and we would need another anesthetic time (likely) to do any work that might be needed. OR we could check a box that allows the Vet to do whatever she finds needs work to avoid another anesthetic procedure.  We checked the first box as we had taken the day off for Caesar’s visit and knew that there would be no way that the Vet’s office would not be able to reach us!  Luckily, we also discovered that we brought Caesar in at what looks like perfect timing – yes, plaque and tartar needed to be removed, but there were no problems with the gum-line, no abscesses and no need for extractions!!!

I thought I’d share a few pics we got from our Vet’s office:



And yes, we got pictures and x-rays of every section of Caesar’s mouth!

healthy teeth

healthy teeth

So happy to see this!!

So that was our experience.  I am so impressed with the way that our Vet’s office handled everything for us on this nerve-wracking day for all of us.  Thank-you to North Oakville Animal Hospital for your fantastic care and service!

Below, I have shared some useful information that I found on the web through animal planet’s website – I don’t think I could have written the ideas any better!  I hope you find the tips useful because I sure believe they are!

Your Dog’s Dental Health

You put a lot of thought into keeping your dog healthy: quality food, routine checkups, plenty of fitness. But what about his teeth?

Oral hygiene is an often-overlooked but important factor in your dog’s overall health. If he has a toothache or sore gums, he’s dealing with pain and stress that you may not even know about. Left untreated, bacteria introduced by the problem can enter the bloodstream and affect his heart, kidneys or liver. Veterinarians report that an estimated 85 percent of dogs over age 4 are suffering from some form of periodontal disease, a painful oral condition that can lead to tooth loss and infection. The good news? All of these problems are preventable with regular dental cleanings and professional checkups.

Like regular grooming or the daily jaunt outside, dental care should be something your dog comes to expect each day. But it won’t happen overnight; most dogs take some time getting used to someone poking around in their mouth. Most owners need to warm up to the idea, too! Ideally, introduce dental care when your pooch is still a puppy. But don’t stress if you just realized that your adult dog’s teeth need some attention. Just take a slow, patient approach, and remember that lots of love and treats go a long way in winning him over.

Most experts agree that daily brushing is ideal, but if that’s unrealistic, aim for three to four times per week. And don’t be an overachiever: If your pup’s patience only lasts for you to brush half his teeth today and the other half tomorrow, that’s fine. Just remember which half you did each day!

Unfortunately, dogs can’t care for their teeth themselves, but they can help by gnawing on the right product. A good long chew can help scrape away plaque and dirt, and most dogs are happy to comply. Natural choices include rawhide (yes, there’s a lot of controversy about these being ingested and causing blockage – so we avoid them with Caesar) or a knucklebone. Knucklebones are apparently a softer bone that’s gentler on the teeth. Experts advise not to give harder items, such as hooves or bones from steak, rib or ham shank as these can fracture teeth – but I have heard from several people that their dogs have done well with these – always remember that each dog is unique and individual and you have to work with what you feel is best for your own while being aware also of potential dangers.

Some dogs won’t bite on these natural choices, but many do enjoy chewing artificial bones or chew toys. Try a variety to see what your dog likes. Always choose rubber or nylon toys with a rough or bumpy surface, large enough so that it won’t present a choking hazard. A chew toy should be somewhat flexible, not rock hard.

Dogs love to eat, and crunchy food and chew treats can help with your overall efforts. Look for the “VOHC-approved” stamp on any dental-cleansing product, which means they meet the tooth cleaning protocols established by the Veterinary Oral Health Council. While these items won’t replace the need to brush, they can help reduce unwanted buildup.

You probably don’t want to share your toothbrush, so once you’re ready to begin brushing, get her some supplies of her own:
–Doggie toothbrush: A human toothbrush works well; choose a soft one in a size to match her mouth. Canine toothbrushes are more angled and also come in a fingertip style, which slips over the end of your finger. Choose the kind you both like.
–Canine toothpaste: It’s unlikely your dog will learn to spit, so she needs a toothpaste that’s safe to swallow. That rules out human formulas, which contain abrasives and detergent that she shouldn’t ingest. Plus, she’ll prefer the poultry or seafood options of canine toothpaste.  Try to find one that has an ezymatic formula for better cleaning.
–Wipes or pads: When there’s no time for full brushing, wiping her teeth and her gum line will whisk away some bacteria and food. You can use a canine dental pad, available at most pet stores, or a simple gauze pad wrapped around your finger.

So you’ve gathered your supplies and you’re committed to forming good dental habits. Your next goal is convincing your dog.

Ready to start brushing? Don’t expect your dog to sit and open wide. He may think tooth brushing is right up there with having a bath. Depending on your dog’s age and background, it can take several days to several weeks to gain his cooperation. Don’t rush it.

First, spend some time handling his mouth. Turn your finger into a treat by dabbing something tasty on it — like peanut butter, meat baby food or nonfat yogurt. Let him lick at your finger, while you gently rub his teeth and gums. Reapply the tasty treat as needed, trying to move his lips aside to expose more of the teeth.

He’ll also need to be used to having you handle his muzzle. Gently place one hand under his lower jaw and the other on top, and rest your hands like that for a few seconds. Gradually work your way toward manipulating his mouth by parting his lips, then gently easing his jaw open.

Once he’s given everything the OK, choose a time of day that’s quiet and unhurried, then bring out the brushing gear.

To get started:
Let your dog sniff and lick the toothpaste and toothbrush.
Move your dog’s lips aside, then rub the visible teeth with either your finger or the toothbrush. A touch of toothpaste may spark his interest.
Gradually increase the number of teeth you brush, reapplying the toothpaste as needed. Remember to brush along the gum line. A circular motion works best.
Once that’s going well for a few days, try gently opening his jaw to brush the back teeth. Don’t worry if it’s too difficult to brush the inside of his teeth; with most breeds, periodontal disease is more common on the outside of teeth.

Conclude with a special reward — play, treat or affection — even if the process didn’t go well. You want your dog to form a positive association with brushing, so a happy ending this time may make him more agreeable next time.

You’ll need to take your pet to see the veterinary dentist at some point, so read on for ways to make that a smooth experience.

Whether it’s for a professional cleaning or because your dog was up all night with a toothache, make his trip to the dentist as comfortable as possible.

Start by researching which veterinary dentists are in your area. Unless it’s an emergency, ask your vet or other pet parents for their recommendations. If it’s convenient, make a dry run to let your dog say “hello” to the staff, sniff out the waiting room and sample a treat. This lets you both check out the place and helps your dog feel more agreeable about future visits.

When you set up your appointment, find out anything you’d like to know: if you’ll be able to stay with your pet, if they accept your veterinary insurance (if you have it) or any other questions on your mind. Be sure to ask if you need to follow any instructions before his visit. If he’s having a dental procedures — even a cleaning — he may be given an anesthetic, so proper preparation is important.

You may have dental anxiety, but your dog doesn’t have to know it. Your faithful companion has become a master at reading your emotions, so if you act nervous come appointment day, he’ll worry, too. Hop in the car and head to the office as you would any other fun outing. And tuck a reward in your pocket. If his teeth hurt, bring something soft like baby food or peanut butter.

During the appointment, don’t hesitate to ask questions and gather as much information as you need. If you’re uncertain about something, go home and do some research, or consider a second opinion.

Good dental care, both at home and from a professional, is a big part of keeping your dog healthy. With some patience and dedication, it can easily become a part of your lifestyle.

Good Dental Health makes Everyone Happy!

I do hope this information has been useful to you!


Dr. Menen

Sounds Fishy

my fish oil and my coconut oil!!

my fish oil and my coconut oil!!

Is Your Dog Getting the Benefit of His/Her Omega-3 Supplement?

So many people have learned about the benefits of Omega-3 supplements and are now adding this to their dog’s diet. This is great! As many of you know, these oils provide benefits for skin, hair, mental health, prevention of heart disease, and numerous other areas in both human, and pet health.
BUT is there a difference in fish oil supplements? Yes there is. And I’m not referring to cost alone. How can you know whether you are using a supplement which is beneficial to your dog? I thought in this article I would help you understand some details about omega-3 oils.

Understanding Omega-3:

Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fatty layers of cold-water fish and shellfish, plant and nut oils, English walnuts, flaxseed, algae oils, and fortified foods. You can also get omega-3s as supplements. Food and supplement sources of these fatty acids differ in the forms and amounts they contain.

There are the two main types of omega-3 fatty acids:

• Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). These are plentiful in fish and shellfish. Algae often provides only DHA. EPA is a powerful anti-inflammatory, helps decrease triglycerides, and helps the body break down fats in the liver; DHA is wonderful for brain health, cognitive function, helps prevent atherosclerosis (fatty accumulation in arteries) and also anti-inflammatory – both work well together with slightly different functions – their combined effects have positive benefits for the whole body

• Short-chain omega-3 fatty acids are ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). These are found in plants, such as flax, hemp, pumpkin seed and walnuts. Although beneficial, ALA omega-3 fatty acids have less potent health benefits than EPA and DHA. You’d have to eat a lot to gain the same benefits as you do from fish. ALA can be converted into EPA and DHA in the body, but it is estimated that only about 5% of ALA is converted to EPA and about 0.5% (one-half of one percent) is converted to DHA.

Choosing the Best Omega-3 Supplement:

With so many omega-3 and fish oil supplements and fortified foods, making the right choice can be tricky. These guidelines can help.

Avoid products that don’t list the source of their omega-3s. Does the package list the source of omega-3 fatty acids? If not, chances are it’s ALA (sometimes from plain old canola or soybean oil).

Don’t fall for fortified foods. Many dog foods and treats claim to be high in omega-3 fatty acids, but often, the real amount of omega-3 is miniscule.

Make sure you read the label carefully: You need to see how many capsules/teaspoons of your Omega-3 supplement give the total amount listed (in fine print you might see: 500mg per serving size and one serving size might be 3 capsules or 2 tablespoons!) – so read carefully!

Try to choose supplements that are mercury-free, pharmaceutical (human) grade and molecularly distilled. Make sure the supplement contains both DHA and EPA. They may be hard to find, but supplements with higher concentrations of EPA are better. I have found these to be the best choices for the health of humans or their pets.

MOST IMPORTANT: Look for the total amount of EPA and DHA on the label. The bottle may say 1,000 milligrams of fish oil, but it’s the amount of omega-3 that matters. Read the small print. It may show only 300 mg of EPA and DHA (sometimes listed as “omega-3 fatty acids”), which means the average schnauzer would need about 2 capsules for good benefit. But this might be too much overall fatty acids going into your schnauzer as we know they do have challenges with breaking down fats!! The rest of the capsule may have other sources of omega-3 but if it’s a higher ALA content, the liver will be working hard to convert to EPA and DHA further taxing digestion, or… could be another filler altogether. Either way, the benefits of the EPA and DHA may be drastically reduced for your dog with such supplements. Remember that although the products that have higher EPA and DHA may be more expensive, you will be using a fraction of the amount you would have needed from other companies for therapeutic dosing in your dog. Your supplements will last longer, your dog will be healthier, and you will know that you are helping, rather than taxing his/her digestive system.

• Remember that liquids are always better digested: They are easier to break down than capsules but if you’re using capsules, you can squeeze out the oil onto your dog’s food for easier digestion.
Any fish oil supplements can cause stomach upset and cause belching, especially when your dog first starts having them. To reduce these side effects, make sure they are given with food. You may also want to start with a low dose and gradually increase it, or divide the dose among your fur-baby’s meals through the day. If digestion is already a concern (noticed through labwork or changes in bowel movements, be sure to add this supplement slowly). Eating fish regularly will often be handled well by most dogs even with some digestive health concerns, so some dogs will do better to start with this regular addition rather than supplements. Also remember that if your dog is on any blood-thinning medications, you should consult your Vet for recommendations on dosing as fish oils can also thin blood which can increase bleeding risks.

What About Coconut Oil?

Coconut Oil is predominantly composed of saturated fatty acids (about 94%), with a good percentage (above 62%) of Medium Chain Fatty Acids among them.

These saturated fats are the best things that coconut oil has to offer. These saturated fats in coconut oil are actually medium-chain fatty acids like capric acid, caprylic acid, caproic acid, and lauric acid, which can do wonders for your dog(s). They increase the rate of metabolism in the body, thereby aiding in weight loss, they increase the level of good cholesterol (high density lipoproteins) and lower the level of bad cholesterol (low density lipoproteins). They are also great sources of energy. Also contained in coconut oil is a good amount of Vitamin E which can keep your dog’s hair & skin healthy, along with several other benefits in the body. I love to cook Caesar’s treats in coconut oil, but I also believe that the fish oils (omega-3’s) have the most long-lasting research behind them for health benefits, so those are my chosen “therapeutic” oils for Caesar (of course he is getting the benefit of both).

What About Cod Liver Oil?

If you haven’t heard, you probably will come across this soon. Cod Liver Oil has recently received a lot of renewed-excitement in health journals, and even local magazines. For Schnauzer fur-babies, I do not believe this is the wisest addition even though it is a “fish oil.”

The reason for this is that cod liver oil is relatively high in Vitamin A content. Too much Vitamin A (especially delivered through supplementation rather than natural food choices) can be very hard on the liver – and any dogs who have liver challenges already or simply high cholesterol, elevated liver enzymes noted from blood work or a hereditary difficulty in digesting fats (like schnauzers) should avoid things that will add any strain on the liver. Interesting to know is that supplement companies can add or decrease the vitamin content in cod liver oil supplements and may not even need to label this… I do feel safer avoiding these for Caesar.

And there you have it. A little bit of information about good oils for our fur-babies.

I hope this information is useful to you and I wish you and your fur babies good health and happiness always!

Dr. Menen

Diabetes in Dogs

Feeling Healthy Feels Great!

Many dog breeds are prone/predisposed to certain health conditions.  Diabetes is one that many breeds can acquire (including miniature schnauzers) so I thought I’d write a bit about this condition for anyone working with a currently diabetic dog or trying to prevent diabetes in their dog.

Here’s what we know:

Diabetes Mellitus is a group of conditions in which there is a deficiency of the hormone insulin or an insensitivity to it. Insulin is produced in the islet cells of the pancreas and is normally responsible for controlling blood concentrations of the body’s main fuel, glucose. In normal animals, insulin does this by preventing glucose production by the liver and ensuring that excess glucose derived from food which is not needed for energy is put into body stores.

In a diabetic animal there is insufficient insulin to switch off glucose production by the liver or to efficiently store excess glucose derived from energy giving foods. This means that the blood concentration of glucose rises and eventually exceeds a level beyond which the kidneys let glucose leak into the urine. This loss of glucose in urine takes water with it by a process called osmosis and causes larger volumes of urine to be produced than normal. The excessive loss of water in urine is compensated for by thirstiness and increased water consumption. The principal clinical signs of an animal with diabetes mellitus are therefore polyuria (excessive urination) and polydipsia (excessive water consumption). In addition, diabetic animals tend to lose weight because they breakdown stores of fat and protein (muscle) to make glucose and ketones (an alternative fuel) in the liver. Other clinical signs diabetics may include: cataracts, polyphagia (increased appetite), exercise intolerance and recurrent infections.

Diabetes mellitus in dogs usually occurs between 5 and 12 years of age.  It is quite uncommon to see it in dogs/pets under 3 years old.  Considerably more female pets develop the disease than males and certain breeds such as schnauzers seem predisposed to the condition.

In general, diabetes creates a process where your dog can’t process carbohydrates properly or maintain stable blood sugar levels.  Your dog’s food contains carbohydrates and sugars.  When he eats food, his pancreas is supposed to produce the hormone insulin which turns the carbohydrates and sugar into energy.  But if his/her pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, the sugar builds up in his blood to dangerously high levels.


In some forms of diabetes, your dog’s immune system (through autoimmune disease) is attacking itself, destroying the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas so that not enough insulin can be produced.  In other forms of diabetes, insulin is produced but your dog’s body tissues don’t process it properly.  Another type of diabetes is usually secondary to other illnesses such as “Cushing’s disease” or to the chronic use of drugs such as steroids.

Diabetes typically occurs in overweight dogs of 6-9 years of age; however, more and more often it is occurring in younger dogs as well (and purebred dogs are often the victims of defective immune systems because of their breeding…).

From all that I have read, I also notice that diabetes in dogs is also exacerbated by feeding artificial, grain-heavy diets.

The classic signs of diabetes are:

  • polyuria (PU) – excessive urination
  • polydipsia (PD) – excessive thirst
  • Polyphagia – excessive appetite or eating
  • weight loss
  • lethargy

As the disease progresses, the signs include anorexia (loss of appetite), depression, and vomiting.
Dogs are often diagnosed with diabetes because the owner notices the dog has suddenly gone blind. This is due to the rapid cataract development that often occurs in diabetic dogs.

How is Diabetes Diagnosed and Treated?

Diagnosis is based on physical signs, clinical exam and lab tests. Blood and urine tests will reveal persistently high levels of glucose.  As with diabetes in humans, there is no cure and the goal is to stabilize your dog’s blood sugar levels.  With mild diabetes, a careful diet and regular exercise to reduce any obesity may be enough to control it

schnauzer loves bacon

This is not Caesar, but feeding our dogs just what they love or request regularly, can contribute to diabetes. Please use “tough-love” to keep your dog healthy.

I would not want to feed Caesar an artificial prescription diet.  I would feed (as I currently do), homemade foods – best for diabetes are small, high-carbohydrate, medium-fibre meals – and I would increase the meals to 4 times a day rather than 3 — they would just have to be smaller meals.

More serious cases of diabetes also require insulin injections.  The dosage can be tricky to regulate at first, but the needle is very small so the injection is nearly painless.  You would need to learn how to draw a tiny sample of your dog’s blood on a regular basis and measure his glucose levels on a glucometer.  With this daily treatment, the prognosis is good, and most diabetic dogs can live a normal lifespan.

For prevention of this disease, daily exercise, good nutrition and weight loss if your dog is overweight is best.


Dr. Menen

Remember: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” – Benjamin Franklin

The recipes I make for Caesar are good for keeping him healthy (in my opinion) but if I noticed his blood sugar rising, I might avoid the carrots and/or apple.

Here is a simple recipe that I came across in many sites that has been used successfully for many different breeds of diabetic dogs:

Quick Rice Dinner

1/4 cup brown rice
1/2 cup beef or chicken broth
1/2 cup cooked beef or chicken

Cook rice and add rest of the ingredients. Mix together and serve (I serve Caesar 1/2 cup of food 3 times a day).         (For this recipe I would add 1/2 cup of green beans or broccoli to this for some veggie content – and probably double or triple the amounts so I can freeze extra)!


Please note: The information on this site is general, and should not be used as a substitute for advice from your veterinarian. Questions concerning your pet’s health should be directed to your pet’s health care provider. 


Separation Anxiety

One of the greatest joys of dog ownership is the tight bond we experience and encourage with our dogs. However, if your dog becomes too reliant or dependent on you, dog separation anxiety can occur when you and your dog are apart.

Happy Caesar

One of the most common complaints of pet parents is that their dogs are disruptive or destructive when left alone. Their dogs might urinate, defecate, bark, howl, chew, dig or try to escape.

Although these problems often indicate that a dog needs to be taught polite house manners, they can also be symptoms of distress. When a dog’s problems are accompanied by other distress behaviors, such as drooling and showing anxiety when his/her pet parents prepare to leave the house, they aren’t evidence that the dog isn’t house trained or doesn’t know which toys are his to chew. Instead, they may be indications that the dog has separation anxiety.

Separation anxiety is triggered when dogs become upset because of separation from their guardians, the people they’re attached to. Escape attempts by dogs with separation anxiety are often extreme and can result in self-injury and household destruction, especially around exit points like windows and doors.

Some dogs suffering from separMommy?ation anxiety become agitated when their guardians prepare to leave. Others seem anxious or depressed prior to their guardian’s departure or when their guardians aren’t present. Some try to prevent their guardians from leaving. Usually, right after a guardian leaves a dog with separation anxiety, the dog will begin barking and displaying other distress behaviors within a short time after being left alone-often within minutes. When the guardian returns home, the dog acts as though it’s been years since he/she has seen their mom or dad!

When treating a dog with separation anxiety, the goal is to resolve the dog’s underlying anxiety by teaching him/her to enjoy, or at least tolerate, being left alone. This is accomplished by setting things up so that the dog experiences the situation that provokes their anxiety, namely being alone, without experiencing fear or anxiety.

Separation anxiety in dogs is an enormous problem for around 10% of all puppies and older dogs. Somewhat ironically, problems related to separation anxiety are the major cause for dogs ending up in animal shelters. I wish I could say canine separation anxiety is an easy fixed, but in many cases it is a very difficult problem to overcome. However, some simple training ideas can help.

Let’s First Identify the Common Behavioral Signs of Separation Anxiety:

Urinating and Defecating: Some dogs urinate or defecate when left alone or separated from their guardians. If a dog urinates or defecates in the presence of his/her guardian, the house soiling probably isn’t caused by separation anxiety.

Barking and Howling: A dog who has separation anxiety might bark or howl when left alone or when separated from their guardian. This kind of barking or howling is persistent and doesn’t seem to be triggered by anything except being left alone. Tough one to identify for new schnauzer-parents since barking is so much a part of our dogs – but over time, we all learn what the different barks of our own dogs are all about.

Chewing, Digging and Destruction: Some dogs with separation anxiety chew on objects, door frames or window sills, dig at doors and doorways, or destroy household objects when left alone or separated from their guardians (remember that destructive chewing can also occur in basic puppy-teething times, so the key difference is that this is happening when left alone only). These behaviors can result in self-injury, such as broken teeth, cut and scraped paws, and damaged nails. If a dog’s chewing, digging and destruction are caused by separation anxiety, they don’t usually occur in their guardian’s presence.

Other possible signs:

Licking, Chewing, Panic Attacks (panting, drooling, fearful face), Digging, Self Mutilation, Escaping, Diarrhea, Loss Of Appetite, Excessive Salivation, Vomiting, Jumping Through Windows, Crying

Why Separation Anxiety Might Occur:

Change of Guardian or Family: Being abandoned, surrendered to a shelter or given to a new guardian or family may be associated with separation anxiety.

Change in Schedule: An abrupt change in schedule in terms of when or how long a dog is left alone can trigger the development of separation anxiety. For example, if a dog’s guardian works from home and spends all day with his/her dog but then gets a new job that requires them to leave their dog alone for six or more hours at a time, the dog might develop separation anxiety because of that change.

Change in Residence: Moving to a new residence can trigger the development of separation anxiety.

Change in Household Membership: The sudden absence of a resident family member, either due to death or moving away, can trigger the development of separation anxiety.


I always believe that preventing an unwanted sign/symptom is better than treating an actual problem. 

Here are some basic habits to make sure you are doing to help your dog before any signs of separation anxiety (and especially if you have a new puppy/dog in your home):

1. Ensure that your dog feels safe and comfortable when you are away from them. Provide plenty of fresh water and clean, warm bedding for your dog. 

2. Be sure to give your dog plenty of exercise when you are around. On leash walks, a run at the park, and some obedience training will all ensure your dog is happy and stimulated. Importantly it can also mean your dog will rest while you are out, instead of tearing up anything in your home. 

3. Provide some appealing dog toys to help occupy their time. Kongs stuffed with frozen treats are a favorite for many dogs — Caesar has an array of kongs and toys that we leave around our main floor for him to find and explore – I will post pics of my regular practice with him soon. But here is one picture of his kongs that I prepare daily before we leave for the day.some kongs

4. Leave your dog a blanket or piece of clothing that has your scent on it – an old sock works well, just tied in a tight knot is often good. This may comfort a distressed dog – make sure it is something you don’t mind being torn up though (just in case).

5. If you’re going to be away for many hours, try hiding some of his/her normal meal in a kong – remembering that this counts as part of his/her total food intake for the day.

6. If you often have the radio on when at home, leave it on while you are away. This can be soothing and comforting in mild cases of separation anxiety in dogs.

7. Leave your dog in a safe and secure crate or room. This has a two fold effect, it provides a comfortable “den like” area where your dog will feel comfortable, and it means your dog won’t be able to act out many of the problem behaviors listed above. Be sure that your dog is completely happy in this area before you go and leave him/her for any length of time. I’ve never crated Caesar for separation anxiety treatment purposes, but many dog trainers and owners recommend this training technique. Crating your dog is not recommended for extended periods day in and day out. As a puppy, we did leave Caesar’s open crate with comfy bedding and toys in his blocked-off section for him and he enjoyed the coziness of his crate (which we called his “den”)!

8. Give your dog some obedience training. Teach and practice some basic obedience training commands like sit, down and stay. When you establish yourself as the trusted leader, your dog will respect your right to come and go as you please.

These last two tips are the toughest ones, but I believe they are the 2 most important tips that used since early training days with Caesar:

9. Don’t let your dog become too “clingy” and dependent on you every second you are together. Little by little teach your dog to be on his/her own when you are home. Put him/her in a crate, outside, or just in the next room. Prove to your dog that it’s not a bad thing to be separated from you, give your dog their favorite treat in another room and leave them there for a while. When he/she is quiet and calm go and give them  some praise, make it clear you are happy with them. You can also practice your down-stay obedience training command for this purpose.

10. Pay little or no attention to your dog when preparing to leave the house. Calmly and casually slip out the door with no fuss. Same thing when you arrive home, just go about your business for a few minutes, with no major reaction (other than calm verbal greeting if you must). When your dog is calm, you can initiate some contact with them. You don’t want your dog to believe that their behavior (barking, whining etc.) has contributed to bringing you back home. Don’t inadvertently reward your dog’s behavior by giving a big over the top greeting every time you arrive home and don’t give those apologetic “poor baby” comments or sorry looks to your dog as you’re leaving.  Dogs can sense our energy and will start feeling just as sad as they perceive you are feeling with the separation.

I have to admit #10 was (is) the hardest for me to do… but I always force myself to create a light, casual atmosphere before we leave and when we return home.  I had read so much about separation anxiety in dogs before we even got Caesar that I was determined to try to prevent this in our baby.  Many times I’ve cried on the drive in or back from work with my own worry of how Caesar is doing, but each time, I am pleased to see he is just fine.

Here’s the catch: Caesar is now excited when we leave… (what?!) – yes, he gives us his excited bark — the “you should go now” bark because he’s so excited to see what I’ve left him and what he’ll find during our absence (food/treats of course!).  And when we come home, he’s usually stretched out on the couch, casually getting up, and yawning as he reaches us… then the “I need to got potty” barks start 🙂  Why is this a catch?  Because we all love that excited greeting when our dogs meet us at the door – with their happy faces and wagging tails.  And this is not what we normally get with Caesar.  But we do get a happy baby that is comfortable when we’re away from him and even happier when we’re back — and who we believe will not be very likely to struggle with our absence for the day.  We know how happy he is when we’re together but preventing the excess enthusiasm upon our return comforts us in knowing he is not heart-broken without us for the day (although I must admit that I still miss him like crazy every minute I’m not with him!). We need to remember that a calm greeting at the door is just as loving as an excited greeting – but probably much healthier in the long term.

I believe that the happiness of seeing our dogs super-excited to see us pales if/when we understand there is super-sadness in our absence.  And separation anxiety might develop years after having your dog — it may not be present from the first year you have your dog, but may gradually develop over time (often years).  As I said earlier, I always think that prevention of such a possible state is always preferable to un-training a worrisome behavior.

What to do if your dog is already showing signs of separation anxiety:

I came across a 4-step plan that has helped several dogs overcome separation anxiety that I believe would be quite useful to most.  Of course, patience and love will help you get the best results. 

Step 1: Slowly teach your dog that he/she doesn’t always need to be close to you. First you need to ignore attention seeking behavior (jumping up, barking etc.) and then do work with some solid practice of down-stays. Little by little you can extend the time and distance you spent apart, until your dog is happy to be on his own (not right beside you) for up to 30 minutes. Beyond this, you do need to still spent lots of fun time together.

Step 2: The next step is to get your dog used to being in one room as you go to another. Again, do start off with very small periods apart (just step outside the same room) and gradually lengthen the time and distance over a couple of weeks.  If you try this, make sure that you don’t just leave your dog inside a room to get all worked up and stressed. The trick is to start out leaving your dog for a few seconds (use stay command), then going out and reuniting before he/she shows any signs of separation anxiety. Give your dog a treat or dog toy to keep his/her mind off missing you from the room. And only initiate contact with your dog when he/she is calm and quiet.

Step 3: The next step is to eliminate the distress caused by you getting ready to leave the house. You can write a list of all the triggers that starts your dog’s anxiety. Then you need to set about desensitizing them to these triggers. You can put your shoes on, and not go anywhere. Put your coat on, then sit down to read the paper. Pick up your car keys and just carry them around with you, jingling them as you go about your business. After a while (anywhere from 1-5 weeks likely) – your dog will not pay attention to these behaviors that used to be triggers.

Step 4: When your dog is completely calm in situations that would have unsettled them in the past, leave the house. At first you can just step outside, shut the door and came back inside within 20 seconds – before your dog can make a sound. Again this needs to be a slow process, similar to step 2. Then extend the time outside the front door and then graduate to starting the car, then driving around the block before coming back inside.

You can provide a tasty treat to your dog on your way out the door, something that he/she can work on for a while. This is Caesar’s favorite part of our departure – we get him to “go to bed” on his dog bed near the kitchen, and hand him a kong before heading out the door. Remember that when you return home, don’t make a huge fuss. Come inside, get changed, pour yourself a nice hot coffee, then greet your calm dog.  When you feel confident that your dog is comfortable in your absence, you can greet your dog earlier! 🙂

Relaxed and Content Caesar

This 4-step program can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months.  If unsuccessful with your dog, it may be time to work with calming natural remedies (like Rescue Remedy – a Bach Flower treatment that helps to calm anxiety for humans and animals in many situations), herbal remedies, or vet-prescribed medications.  Remember that none of these choices is really treating the root of the problem, but can often give good relief from distress symptoms.

I hope this information has been helpful.

Remember: “Love is when the other person’s (or dog’s, in this case) happiness is more important than your own.” – H. Jackson Brown Jr



Dr. Menen