Friday, November 25, 2011

Signature Dog Blog: Signature Pet Services - Puppy Socialization & Classes: Risks vs Benefits

Madeline when she was just a wee puppy

Lately I have noticed (what I feel is very strange behaviour) new puppy owners carrying their puppies in their arms while they walk around the neighbourhood.  Very odd indeed.  Perhaps a well intentioned veterinarian told these puppy newbies that if their puppy touched the ground they would get sick and die.  I certainly hope not...but you never know these days.  This very strange and commonly occurring behaviour has prompted me to do a little research into this with the hopes that there was some kind of intelligent answer.  And, I think what may have happened is that these puppy newbies took the advice a little too far!

There is always concern that puppies will get sick and the threat of Parvovirus is very real but according to my understanding and interpretation of a recent article from Veterinary Medicine that while it is important to vaccinate your puppy it is equally important to socialize them and get them into a proper structured puppy class  (if you lack the time and discipline to follow your own socialization plan for your puppy).  There is a critical time period where puppies must be socialized and it ends, according to the experts, at around 16 weeks.  Puppy classes help with both socialization, bite inhibition, and leash manners, etc. Studies indicate that these early classes go a long way to bond the puppy to its new owner.  Often times, when puppies grow out of their cute puppy stage and into the trying adolescence stage they are either dumped at shelters, abandoned at the park or side of the road or relegated to the garage (or worse).  Yes, I have seen it over and over again.  Without proper socialization, puppies have the potential to grow into aggressive dogs on the road to euthanization.  If you don't believe me hit the websites for the ASPCA and the BCSPCA and do some of your own research.

If you are worried that your puppy may pick up Parvovirus at puppy class or while socializing - there are excellent vaccines available so talk to your veterinarian.  Although, some puppies (about 8%) do fail to generate enough protection with two vaccines and they need their final one around 14 to 16 weeks of age. 

To minimize this risk, ask your puppy class organizer what their vaccine policy is.  At a minimum there should be one vaccine or even better two.  Do the first vaccine at seven weeks and the second at nine.  Ask the organizer how they keep the floor clean - do they use a special bleach solution to clean up feces and prevent contamination.  They should never allow a sick puppy in class and should pay attention to all the puppies and send anyone home with a sick puppy.  Puppies can be carried from the car to the class (if you are worried and depending on where they are in their vaccine protocol).  And, no this is not the same as carrying your puppy on an outing - that is ridiculous and will only cause your puppy to grow into a fearful dog. 

Again, according to Veterinary Medicine, puppies benefit from early socialization from puppy classes (or do like I did with Madeline my own dog and make your own socialization plan using advice from Dr. Ian Dunbar's many puppy books).  The benefit outweighs the risk of infectious diseases so long as basic precautions are taken.  It is far more likely that a puppy will die from behaviour issues due to lack of proper socialization than from an infection picked up at puppy classes or from walking around your neighbourhood. 

So all those people carrying their puppies - put them down and take them for a real walk.  And, remember always do your own research, there are some excellent veterinarians around (and some who are not) who can help, great websites (Dr. Ian Dunbar) and solid reading materials available at your fingertips so do right by your puppy and get yourself informed.  

Don't take my opinion - form your own with expert assistance and guidance.  

Your puppy will thank you!


Friday, September 9, 2011

Signature Dog Blog: Take your Dog to Whistler for some Great Hiking!

Hiking, sniffing, chasing, playing, eating....sleeping at the Four Seasons  (Priceless)

I spent this past Labour Day weekend in Whistler with my husband, my beloved Doberman Pinscher Madeline and one of my very special dog clients.  During the day we spent hiking the many trails of the Whistler area and I have to say it was both a memorable and wonderful experience for both humans and canines.  I had long since written Whistler off as it had become both notorious for price gouging and being a little rundown, however, upon my return to Whistler I was pleasantly surprised that it had been returned to its old glory and was offering great deals on mini-getaways.  We stayed at the Four Seasons at Whistler and we had an amazing time.  I know what you are thinking Four Seasons...very expensive.  Yes, it can be but if you watch their website they often have great deals going on, which they had this past Labour Day weekend.  Most importantly about the Four Seasons at Whistler is that they are very dog friendly, they provide beds, treats, bowls and even bottled water for dog guests.  Best of all they do not charge any extra for your dog.  So we brought two dogs along and it did not cost any extra.  Fantastic!  One of the things I loved early in the morning was getting up with the dogs and taking them out for their morning potty break.  The weather was cool and no one was around except for the friendly and helpful doorman.  After the dogs had finished their business I helped myself to the wonderful complimentary coffee provided in the Four Seasons' lobby and just hung out and read the paper, sipped my coffee while both dogs just relaxed.  While I do not have any exciting pictures of my trip, as you can see, I do have a picture of two very tired and content dogs relaxing in their suite at the Four Seasons - they had hiked all day, sniffed all kinds of animal scat, chased bugs, played and ate.  Pretty lucky dogs I would say.  I have provided some links that you may find helpful, if you are planning a trip to Whistler.  I highly recommend it and your dog will love it!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Lee and Madeline

Monday, July 11, 2011

Signature Dog Blog: Retrain Yourself to Restrain your Dog!

The other day while I was out driving to an appointment, I noted a large number of drivers who had little dogs sitting in their laps while they were driving.  Some of these dogs were even partially hanging out of the driver's window.  While this looks cute to some and is great fun for the dog it is, however, really dangerous for the dog. 

Most dogs love to ride in the car looking at all the sights on the way to the park or the beach and anticipating all the fun they are going to have.  It does not matter where you and your beloved dog are going - it is up to you to ensure they arrive there safely. 

In a collision, an unrestrained dog can act like a missile exerting a force of up to 20 times its actual weight - with the potential to injure passengers as well as itself.  According to Police Traffic Service "The worst place for dogs is in the front seat of the car,". A dog will sit with his head far closer to the dashboard than any human passenger.  And, airbags which are designed with adult human passengers in mind, if you do not know this, deploy at speeds up to 200 MPH and do not fully inflate until they are at least 12 inches from the dash.  The impact from an airbag that has not fully inflated can cause serious or fatal injuries to dogs. 

So be sure to always restrain yourself and your dog from being tossed around during a collision, a sudden stop or a sharp turn.  Restraining your dog will keep him safe by preventing him from escaping and or interfering with first responders should you be in an accident.  Imagine, if you would, you have an accident and your dog is tossed out of the window and he is lucky enough to survive the collision but he is now frightened to death while he is loose on the side of the road or in the middle of an intersection. 

So remember, if you love your dog keep him safe.  And, the safest way for him to travel is strapped into a harness in the back seat or secure in a crate in the cargo area of your car.

You can find good quality used crates on Craigs List and safety harnesses and crates at your local pet supply store. 

Have a safe and happy summer and see you in the fall!

Lee, Roman and Madeline

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Signature Dog Blog: Aloha from Signature Pet Services!

I have just returned from 10 wonderfully relaxing days on the island of Maui.  And, I am rested and ready to head into one of the busiest times of the year for pet service professionals - the summertime.  Anyways, I wanted to share with you some of the sights I captured on my camera of the beautiful island of Maui, including some of its birds, a beach dog fishing, a cat, glorious beaches, and flowers.  In addition to sharing some of my pictures of Maui, I also wanted to give a special 'shout out' to the Maui Humane SocietyIn the last seven years, the Maui Humane Society has placed more than 13,000 lost or abandoned pets into loving homes.  They are a private, not-for-profit agency, and they depend on donations, of any kind large or small.  You can help them save lives of the pets on Maui.  This very special month of June is Adopt-a-cat Month at the Maui Humane Society.  This is a special program where folks with qualified homes can adopt a beautiful cat.  These cats are available to take a nap with, be your best friend or how about an alarm clock (all you cat people know that cats make great alarm clocks)!  If you are planning a trip to Maui, check out their website at: They have partnerships with some local restaurants and retailers.  Their website is fun and fresh and I think you will enjoy visiting the Maui Humane Society's website - even if you cannot get to Maui right now. 

This lizard provided us with daily entertainment on our lanai

Flowers in Kula

Dog at cool cowboy town at Makawao

Cat at Tedeschi Winery, 'Ulupalakua

Sunset at Four Seasons Hotel beach, Wailea

Visit Pa'ia for old-school surf culture

Colourful Hibiscus everywhere in Wailea

More Pa'ia surf culture

Beautiful Makena beach early in the morning

Public park and beach in Kihei

Advertising Maui style

Maui beach dog doing some fishing
Makena Beach

Sunset over Wailea beach

Local birds at our hotel in Wailea

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Signature Dog Blog: Electronic Collars - A Not So Shocking Story

              Yogi (one of my favourite clients) and Roman enjoying some sunshine!

So much has been written and talked about with respect to the electronic collar (also referred to as the remote collar, e-collar and shock collar) and its use on dogs. Not much of this has been positive – in fact I have read very little that has been positive.  And, I agree that the electronic collar can be used to provide pain and punishment to some dogs as with anything it can be abused when placed in the wrong hands.

Let me share with you my own very personal experience with the electronic collar. I have a male Doberman and his name is Roman (pictured above wearing his e-collar). I purchased him about three years ago as a return from the breeder. While he is a magnificent looking dog – he came with enough baggage for ten dogs – he was like a fast moving train about to be derailed. In addition to his lack of walking skills, he did not know sit, down, come, his name….well you get the picture. Since he arrived, he had been too much for me to handle, I tried to walk him on a choke chain (that quickly cut his neck which is about the size of a medium-sized tree trunk), next I tried a prong collar (that made his neck bleed and they just kept breaking) the martingale and harness were also tried and as you can guess these tools failed miserably. I tried treats and really every possible tool and training technique I knew of. Then I simply threw up my arms and said I won’t be walking him. Sure I tried trainer after trainer. Some trainers were helpful and some progress was made – another trainer wanted him on a gentle leader (you know how that went). This same trainer told me all Roman needed was a really good treat to get him to listen - she called it "the million dollar treat" you guessed it...more money down the drain. Over time, Roman continued to improve as my husband worked with him religiously – but the improvement was very slow and only slightly measurable.

Then a friend suggested the electronic collar and showed my husband how to use it – from there Roman got worse. This was because he did not know how to use the collar and was using it more as a punishment tool, as our friend instructed. This method only escalated Roman’s behaviour – which by this time could only be described as brutal.

Then we went away for a weekend and we took Roman and our other Doberman Madeline along. That weekend Roman ate a bird, nearly killed a cat and tried to go after a horse. We were beside ourselves. I cried alot and my husband and I blamed each other for Roman's behaviour. Even our friends said we must have made him this way. When we got home we contacted yet another trainer who was recommended to us and who worked with special cases and the electronic collar. My husband worked with this trainer and Roman for several months and there was some decent progress. Roman could now attend group classes and he was less unruly. But the progress quickly stalled as we reached a plateau and we still had not achieved any decent walking skills and I still was not able to handle or walk Roman as he still pulled and lunged like bull and his anxiety was still extremely high. I could not even take him to the vet as I could not control him at all. Then we made a decision to just take him out a couple times a week and that he would mostly just be a house dog. Desperate people we were and we were making a desperate decision. I know this is crazy but walking a screeching, barking, shaking, terrified 85 pound Doberman was becoming a chore – the neighbours feared him and the most common thing people said to me was “will he eat us?”. While I was sure he wouldn’t - BUT if he wanted to eat something – I could not stop him. No one could!

Then by chance through my own business, Signature Pet Services, I met Jill Sharp at Life Without a Leash. She had been recommended to me by local dog expert Joan Klucha to help some of my clients – so I contacted Jill so that I could meet her and watch one of her training sessions for my clients’ benefit – not my own. I had no intention of getting another trainer for Roman – we’d already had three so far. I met Jill at her training centre and watched her interact with a woman and her dog and as I watched Jill I saw she had an amazing and very quick connection with the dog and seemed to tune into him immediately. Her instructions to the woman handling the dog were simple to follow. So….I got to thinking….could Jill help Roman get back on his leash and out in the world? Could Roman one day be a well behaved dog like my other Doberman Madeline?

I booked a private session with Jill and she taught me how to use the electronic collar and to properly handle Roman. I had very little previous experience with the electronic collar and did not even know how to turn it on. So I had my lesson with Jill and she gave me some simple homework to do with Roman. The next day I took Roman out into my cul-de-sac and began putting my homework into place….low and behold I was getting good results and fast too! I was in shock (no pun intended) and could not believe it.

I continued to do the homework everyday and I had two more private sessions with Jill and also attended one group class. That was almost a year ago and I am still doing my homework regularly with Roman – but the coolest thing is that I AM WALKING ROMAN AND HE IS REALLY GOOD ON THE LEASH. He always wears the electronic collar and a flat leather collar on our walks – he is more relaxed, happy, responsive and well behaved. I am 100% in control of him at all times. Now the neighbours say things like “Wow, he walks so nicely on a leash”, “Your dog is so well behaved”, and the best one is….”Did you get a new dog?”.

In some ways Jill Sharp and her training methods have given me a new dog – a new and improved Roman. Roman sometimes wears his electronic collar around the house and while he was always really good in the house – he is now amazing. And, if you think Roman wearing the collar in the house is a bit much – the minute I touch Roman’s electronic collar he comes running to me and sits and waits for me to put it on. I know it is not just because he thinks he’s going out – he is actually comforted by it. Because he knows there is no more yelling or collar yanking corrections should he step out of line. He simply gets a command with a tap on the collar and that is it….all done he does what is asked.

At our home, the electronic collar is never ever used as a punishment tool!

A great big thank you to Jill Sharp for making Roman a better dog, a happier and more relaxed dog, and a dog I can handle and walk…but most importantly the bond between Roman and me (that was not very good before I met Jill) is incredible. And, the love I feel for Roman is now the same as the love I feel for Madeline, my other Doberman. My family is lucky and very grateful to have had Jill Sharp come into our lives.

If you are having problems with your dog and you have tried everything - give Jill Sharp a call at 604-309-0603 as Jill just may be the answer to your problem.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Signature Dog Blog: At Signature Pet Services we say a sad farewell to a most Beloved Bart

This blog is dedicated to Bart who recently passed on and will be very sadly missed by all - he is the cute little dog in the middle between Madeline and Roman.  In fact, after Bart's first stay with me (he was so good with the big dogs) he became an honourary Doberman Pinscher.  This is a title that very few small dogs ever achieve - but Bart was extra special and I will always remember him for his huge personality.  This was one small dog who did not know what 'small dog syndrome' was.  Right on Bart! 


If it should be that I grow frail and weak
And pain does keep me from my sleep,
Then will you do what must be done
For this - the last battle - can't be won.
You will be sad I understand
But don't let grief then stay your hand.
For on this day, more than the rest
Your love and friendship must stand the test.
We have had so many happy years,
You wouldn't want me to suffer so.
When the time comes, please, let me go.
Take me to where my needs they'll tend,
Only, stay with me till the end.
And hold me firm and speak to me
Until my eyes no longer see.
I know in time you will agree
It is a kindness you do to me.
Although my tail its last has waved,
From pain and suffering I have been saved.
Don't grieve that it must now be you
Who has to decide this thing to do.
We've been so close - we two- these years,
Don't let your heart hold any tears.

(author unknown)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


This blog is inspired by all the early gardeners I met last week in Ocean Park who were already beautifying their (already beautiful) gardens for spring. 

If you have a dog or you are getting a dog (or you just care about the planet) here are some dog-safe gardening ideas: 

Garden organically (this goes without saying).

Raised beds will protect your gardens from scampering paws and rooting noses.

Digging pit make an area where your dog is allowed to dig without disrupting your beautiful garden.

Leave a plant-free patrolling area of your yard as dogs by instinct will patrol fence lines and cruise boundaries.

Be very careful with the nightshade family of plants (i.e.: tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant) as they contain alkaloids that are dangerous to dogs and even fatal. 

Avoid cocoa bean mulches and composts and even check your store purchased manure for cocoa bean content as the cocoa bean contains theobromine which is toxic to dogs.

Grape vines avoid these all together as grapes are toxic to dogs.  If you really want to see grapevines make a quick trip to many of the great local wineries in our very own Fraser Valley.

Walnut or Almond trees both produce nuts with tannin and this is yet another toxin for dogs.

Don't like snails (who does) but please DO NOT poison them with snail bait as the bait contains the highly toxic metaldehyde.  You could try copper barrier tape or do as I do and live with them.  Besides they make great snacks for the birds.

Stay warm this week and plan to prepare your plants for the cold snap we are expected to have later this week!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Signature Dog Blog: Meet Lucy - A Most Beautiful Bloodhound Looking for her Forever Home!

Lucy is a 4-year old bloodhound. She has wrinkles! Lucy was pulled from her home where she received no exercise, and the humans she lived with did not have basic understanding about dog behaviour. They claimed that she never bonded with them and suffered from fear anxiety which finally led to her losing her home this month. Lucy had been moved around already in her short life, originally she was bred in the US, and now she has nowhere to go. She is currently being fostered and her temporary foster parents are looking for a suitable home for her.

Cheryl (one of her two foster parents) says that she could not be more impressed with Lucy. Read what Cheryl says about Lucy:

She's responded so beautifully to rules our boundaries and limitations, loves her walks and sleeps the rest of the time, and her anxiety is very minor. Lucy is obedient to us, submissive to our much smaller dogs and non reactive to dogs she meets in the forest and on walks. She is house trained, sleeps through the night and knows her place. Lucy has earned privileges very quickly and her crate is now open all the time, including overnight. She has bonded with all of us and really wants to play with our dogs, and she play-bows like a puppy at them. We have no doubt that Lucy's problems in her previous home were caused by human mismanagement, what else in new, and that in a home that subscribes to Cesar's way of dealing with dogs, she'll be very good and happy.

As good a fit as she is, we are unable to keep her here other than as a foster. As a rescue, we really need to hold that foster spot for the next Lucy. We want Lucy to find a great home, no kids, possibly with another dog, and with very dog savvy people. Lucy needs a home where her new owners will make her feel secure by being her alpha and will give her the exercise that every dog needs. Well placed in a dog savvy home, this is a wonderful dog. She typifies how simply changing the home and offering structure, leadership, rules and exercise can transform an unstable dog into a gentle companion.

If you can help this most beautiful bloodhound named Lucy, please contact Cheryl at C. Virtue

Good luck Lucy!