dog food

Is that a Lab? A few thoughts on dog weight.

“What kind of dog is he?”

You’d be amazed how many times I’ve had this question asked about my yellow Labrador Retriever.  According to the American Kennel Club, the Labrador Retriever has ranked as the most popular breed every year since 1991.  If they’re so popular, why on earth do some people find Tucker so hard to identify?

Answer: Because he isn’t overweight.

The most common follow up comment when I identify his breed is, “Oh, I’ve never seen one that wasn’t fat!”  Or, sometimes they say, “I’ve never seen one so skinny!”


Tucker, 6/20/2020

In my role as a trainer, I actually see far fewer fat dogs than I did when I worked at a veterinary clinic several years ago.  And, while I do think there is a greater understanding now of canine health than there was ten years ago, I think the largest reason I don’t see fat dogs is because fat dogs are less active – and therefore not displaying the same kinds of behavior problems that we see in healthy, energetic dogs.

Regardless, I think it’s important to take a brief moment to talk about weight and the way it impacts your dog’s quality of life.

Just as in humans, overweight animals can suffer from many of the same ailments: decreased life expectancy, bone/muscle problems, high blood pressure, and Type 2 diabetes to name a few.

While all of the medical issues I mentioned are of concern, I’ve always been a stickler about my dogs’ weight because I know how great the impact of excessive pounds can be on their joints.  Since Tucker, my Labrador, has had his fair share of medical issues, I always joke that since his joints have always proven themselves to be in good shape, I am going to do whatever I can to keep them that way!

So how can you tell if your dog is overweight?  There are some very helpful charts on the internet to help you visualize this, but in most cases, when looking at your dog from above, you want to see a slight waist between his rib cage and hips.  While you don’t want to be able to easily see his ribs, you want to be able to feel them when you very gently press your dog’s side.  (Note: some very athletic dogs/breeds may have more defined ribs without being unhealthy/underweight.)

At their annual check ups on May 20, 2020, Tucker and Ellie were both identified as being at a “perfect weight” by our veterinarian, so we’ll let them serve as your visual for the moment.


If you’re now suspicious your dog may be overweight, ask your vet!  For dogs who are severely overweight, your vet will need to guide you on the best and safest way to slowly work your dog down to its ideal weight.  Remember, it’s hard to be on your best behavior when you don’t feel well, so don’t discount your dog’s health as a part of your training plans.

Let’s do our best to keep our pups happy AND healthy!


Tucker, 9 years old – Ellie, 3 years old



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Common Puppyhood Injuries

Puppies, like children, often get sick or have accidents.  And while some of these sicknesses and accidents are unavoidable, there are some things we can do as owners to attempt to reduce visits to the vet.

The AKC recently published an article about the top puppy injuries they see come through their insurance program (yes, doggie health insurance is now a thing).  You can read the full article by Clicking Here.

Two of the five most common items they discuss are ear infections and ingestion of a foreign body.

In Puppy Preschool, we discuss the importance of first aid and proper grooming, which includes regularly checking your puppy’s ears and knowing how to properly clean them when they become dirty.  Some breeds are more susceptible to ear infections than others, such as breeds with floppy ears and/or a lot of hair in the ear canal.  Ear infections can be quite painful, and at times costly, so it’s important to utilize preventative strategies when possible.  Even so, ear infections can still occur, so owners would do well to familiarize themselves with the early symptoms so they can receive medical treatment before the infection worsens.

Anyone who has ever owned a puppy also knows that they explore the world with their mouths.  That means that anything within a puppy’s reach is often fair game for mouthing and/or ingesting when unsupervised.  Puppies can often make quick work of certain household objects, so best practice is to crate your puppy when it is unsupervised.  If you are crate training properly and helping your puppy understand that the crate is his safe space, crating him should not cause undo stress.  Even if your puppy doesn’t love the idea of going in his crate while you go to work or run an errand, his safety (and the safety of your belongings) should still be prioritized over his feelings.  As the mature adult, it’s your job to make decisions for him – he’s just a baby!

Even diligent owners who move objects to higher ground and utilize a crate can still find themselves with a puppy who has ingested a foreign object.  While some objects may pass through your puppy’s digestive tract without causing harm, other objects can either leech toxins or become stuck along the way.  When in doubt, call your veterinarian.  He or she may want to take x-rays to identify and locate the object in order to create an appropriate treatment plan.


Don’t forget that “all natural” objects can become a problem, too!  Puppies who swallow large chunks of wood, rocks, or even large nuts could end up with a digestive issue.  Supervision is always key!  




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All About Food!

Happy Thanksgiving!

While we hope that people spend today reflecting on thankfulness and blessings, let’s be honest – most people are thinking about FOOD!

What about your dog?  Have you given much thought to what he/she will eat today?  Or any other day for that matter?

I’ve had the pleasure of working with several different veterinarians in my teens and early twenties.  Clients would often ask them what they should be feeding their dogs, and their response was usually something to the effect of, “whatever works well for your dog that’s a decent quality.”

There’s a lot of ambiguity there – and I can understand why.  The number of feeding options available for your dog is immense – and knowing what to choose and why can be difficult.  It is also worth noting, as the veterinarians did, that each dog is an individual, so what works really well for one might not work at all for another.

My parents’ dog, Kalli, does really well on the PetSmart brand – Authority.  As a puppy, my parents really struggled to find a good food for her that didn’t upset her stomach.  I believe they were quite surprised when that brand ended up working the best!  My dog, Tucker, on the other hand, is a different story.  He has IBS and acid reflux issues, and he did not do well on ProPlan, which is what Leader Dog was feeding when he was in their care.  I switched him to Wellness Core Original, which is grain and gluten free, and we have spent far less time in the vet’s office with explosive diarrhea!

I was recently made aware of a new dog food guide prepared by  Using a variety of different criteria, they have come up with a guide to the best dog foods available.  Even if their top picks are out of your price range, the questions they raise and research they present may prove quite useful in evaluating the foods that are possibilities for you.  Hopefully, this page will make you take a closer look at the ingredients in your dog’s food!  It appears they have genuinely taken an unbiased look at over 3,000 formulas using their research driven methodology.

Link: Dog Food Guide

Side note:  Tucker and Ellie eat Wellness: Core Original and Wellness Complete Health Grain Free Puppy.  In the original post from, Wellness was excluded from their list because of associations with recalls when under different management.  In this new, updated guide, I cannot find their specific formulas, but I think they would both have been eliminated in the “garlic” round.  All I can tell you is that for Tucker, this food has been a big improvement on his quality of life and he’s had enough blood tests done in his few years that I am not currently concerned about any potential side effects from the garlic.

So enjoy your Turkey Day feasts, but don’t forget to evaluate your dog’s menu, too!


This will forever be one of my favorite “Thanksgiving” pictures of me and Tucker.  Leftovers, cuddles, and proof of what good training and boundaries can allow!






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