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Overcoming Separation Anxiety

Most of us are glad the pandemic is easing and places are opening up. In fact, many people are going back to the office after more than a year at home. Although this may be exciting for you, your dog may not be so happy!

He/she may begin to suffer from separation anxiety, a nervousness that occurs in dogs when left alone. After having your undivided attention, they are confused by the change in their routine. Remember that dogs are creatures of habit. Suddenly they are wondering: “where did you go?”

I have seen dogs suffering from separation anxiety eat through drywall and tear through doors. In many cases there will be destruction or excessive barking and sudden toileting in inappropriate places. A dog with separation anxiety might try to escape from an area where he’s confined or left alone or separated from his owner.

Fortunately, I have a lot of experience in helping dogs overcome separation anxiety and learn that being away from you is okay. Together we will practice “alone time” for your dog, starting in short increments and increasing the time each day until your dog is comfortable with you being gone.

A few tips in the meantime:

  • Don’t make a big deal of your coming and going. Practice leaving and coming back in without a lot of fuss. If your dog jumps all over you when you get home, we will need to address this behavior.
  • Don’t allow your dog to be attached to you at the hip and follow you throughout the house.
  • Scatter some treats around the house to satisfy the hunting or foraging instinct in your dog.
  • Leave interactive toys that will keep your dog busy and rotate them weekly to keep your dog’s attention.
  • Crate training may be the perfect option for your dog to feel secure and have a place to call his own. You may want to leave an article of your clothes that smells like you in your dog’s crate.
  • Make sure your pup is well exercised. A tired, happy pup will be less stressed when you leave.
  • Dogs pick up on your emotions. The more you stay relaxed and act like everything is normal, the more likely your dog will be to follow your lead.

Although dogs were the big winners during COVID, now it’s time to return to our normal schedules.

Three Suggestions for Those Who Grieve a Pet

We euthanized our fantastic and beloved dog, Maksim, in mid June.  He was a fantastic guy to be around and a great help in my business.  I still struggle with his loss and have asked my dear friend, and respected animal chaplain, Russell Elleven, for some guidance on how to deal with my grief. 

Rev. Russell Elleven, DMin is a Unitarian Universalist minister and trained animal chaplain. He offers free monthly support sessions via Zoom.

Here’s what Russell has to say…

Three Suggestions for Those Who Grieve a Pet

When our beloved pet dies, we are often thrown into the abyss of grief. Animal lovers know, for the most part, that the joy of bringing an animal home will one day result in the death of our companion. And when that day comes it hurts. It hurts a lot. It hurts so much that we often don’t know what to do in order to make the hurt go away. Who will understand our grief? Who can we talk to about the pain?

As an animal chaplain I listen to folks who are grieving the loss of their animal companion. Each person and each relationship is different. And at the same time, there are some striking similarities with grieving pet parents. At first there is a numbness. Even if the death was imminent the initial reaction is often one of disbelief. This quickly turns into pain and often the inability to do much else than think of our beloved companion.

There is no timeline for this grief. Don’t allow anyone to tell you differently. There are no steps or stages to your grief because everyone experiences loss in different ways. Your loss, and your grief, is unique.

And yet, there are some things many people find helpful while in the throes of grief. I offer you three things that have been helpful to many of the people I talk to when their pet has died.  It may be that only one of these suggestions is helpful at any particular time. I encourage you to try at least one of these strategies as you grieve.

1. Read a book: There are many wonderful books on the topic of pet loss. For some folks reading, a solitary venture, is what helps most. Being able to think about your beloved companion while reading a book about pet loss can be very soothing for many people. One of my favorite books to recommend was written by a colleague of mine, The Rev. Gary Kowalski, and is titled Goodbye Friend: Healing Wisdom for Anyone Who has Lost a Pet. If you are a reader of books you will likely appreciate Gary’s voice and his ability to comfort you through his words.

2. Find Support: You may not be much of a reader and that’s okay. You can find support in other ways. One of the ways to find support I appreciate greatly is support groups. There really is nothing better than being in a room (either virtually or in person) with others who “get it.” Not everyone will understand or appreciate your pet loss grief. But inside a pet loss support group you will find others who really do understand and will not judge you for the grief you feel after losing a beloved companion. Should you have any difficulty finding a group, do not hesitate to reach out to me and I’ll help you find one. I do not believe it can be overstated how helpful a support group will be for most people on this journey. Taking the first step to join a group can be intimidating for some. However, it is almost always the case that individuals are glad they took that slight risk for all the support received. If my group would be helpful, we meet on the first Wednesday of the month at 8:00 pm (eastern). Just contact me ( for the zoom link & password.

3. Forgive Yourself: I acknowledge this is easier said than done. For many of the people I talk to there is a persistent feeling of guilt, particularly when it comes to euthanasia. Did I request euthanasia too early? Did I wait too long? Was my companion in pain? Was my companion afraid? All of these internal messages can get in the way of our healing. Inevitably, the people I listen to are incredibly kind and loving pet keepers. And inevitably, these people did the very best they could for their companion. It doesn’t feel good to hold ourselves accountable in this way and our companion, we know, would have offered us immediate forgiveness. Even after death our beloved companions continue to teach us.  

Your pet would have wanted you to feel better. I do too. Try reading something supportive. Try reaching out to a support group. Try forgiving yourself knowing you did the best you could. None of these things will bring immediate relief. But by doing something, you will find the grief becoming lessened while still honoring the pet who blessed you with so much love and affection.

Rev. Russell Elleven, DMin is a Unitarian Universalist minister and trained animal chaplain. He offers free monthly support sessions via Zoom. Connect with him at

Spring Can Be Hazardous to Your Dog

Here in Columbus, we look forward to Old Man Winter packing up his bags and the promises of warmer weather that Spring brings. As you are thinking about your Spring cleaning, don’t forget about your back yard. With the snow melted, it’s time to pick up all the poop in the yard. No matter what you try and tell yourself, it is not a good fertilizer!

It’s also National Pet Poison Prevention Month and your yard and garage can contain many hidden dangers for your dog. Here’s a few backyard items that may be toxic to your dog:

  • Pesticides and Fertilizers. We love pesticides to get rid of bugs and fertilizers that get rid of weeds. However, many fertilizers that contain bone meal, feather meal, iron and blood meal can cause vomiting, diarrhea and pancreatitis in dogs. When storing fertilizer in your yard, keep it out of reach of your dogs. If you are having a professional come spray your yard, keep your dog inside for at least 24 hours until the fertilizer dries. As far as pesticides, some may contain an organophosphate which can be life threatening when consumed in large quantities.
  • Did you know that sago palm trees or sago seeds can be fatal to a dog? Or that Lily of the Valley, oleanders, yews, and begonias can be dangerous. For a more extensive list of poisonous plants, click here.
  • Compost piles. Although composting is a good thing, it is important that your compost pile not contain dairy or meat products. These piles of decomposing and decaying organic matter and molding food products have the potential to contain tremorgenic mycotoxins, which are toxic to both pets and wildlife.Symptoms of poisoning are agitation, hyperthermia, hyper-responsiveness, panting, drooling, and vomiting.
  • Rat poison or snail bait. No one likes rats in their garage, but the poison used to kill them is highly deadly for dogs because it contains long-acting anticoagulants (LAACs), Cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3), Bromethalin, or phosphides. What’s worse is that your dog will be attracted to the smell. You also do not want your dog to eat the rats that have been poisoned, or they could get secondary poisoning. Make sure to keep all rat poisons high on a shelf or where your dog can’t reach them.
  • Mulch. Brown cacao bean mulch is made from chocolate which is toxic to dogs.
  • Outdoor predators. In some areas of the country, possums and raccoons have been known to attack and can carry rabies or flea-borne diseases.
  • Garbage. As the weather warms up, your garbage can be a major attraction for bugs, critters and mice. Tightly seal trash cans and place a cinder block on them to keep sealed.

It is best to do a walk around of your yard to make sure your fence has no holes (or anyplace to dig under) and all your cable and electrical lines are still securely buried. We want our backyard to be a sanctuary for our dogs, but we also need to make sure it is safe and free of pet poisons.

When The Problem Is The Dog Owner, Not The Dog!

My friend’s mother-in-law has been visiting recently. Now Rose is 64-years-old and has had dogs all her life. She has had numerous breeds and has trained puppies before, but not in a long time. Her age is not the barrier, because I have seen many people try and train their dog. Try being the key word here. Unfortunately, many dog owners don’t get the results they want?


There are a lot of reasons dog owners have a hard time training their own dog. Here are the top ones:

  • Repetition. Dogs thrive on routine and repetition. They like to eat and sleep at the same time every day. They like to know when you wake up in the morning they will be let outside or go for a walk. They are creatures of habit. Getting them to even listen to “sit, stay and come” takes practice over and over. You don’t get to pick and choose the easy parts and avoid the challenging and critical work. Keep the sessions short because dogs tend to have short attention spans.
  • Inconsistency. Many of us don’t realize we are being inconsistent in our messages to our dogs. We don’t want them to beg for food from our plates, but then we slip them the remnants when we are done eating. We don’t want them to chew our slippers, but we give them no new toys to play with. Your dog gets confused.
  • Communication. Remember that your dog doesn’t speak your language so you have to learn to communicate with your dog on his/her terms. He will look to your voice tones and body language to know what to do versus just your commands. Many times he wants to please you – he just doesn’t know how.
  • Bored. Dogs get bored and a bored dog is a mischievous dog. Are you away at work all day? If so, that is a lot of time for your dog to get into trouble. Every dog needs mental and physical stimulation. Consider some interactive dog toys that dispense treats that require your dog to figure out the toy. Rotate his or her toys so they don’t get bored.
  • Lack of exercise. Even lap dogs need exercise. Depending on the breed of the dog, some dogs require more exercise than others. A Shih tzu will not need as much exercise as a German Shepherd.
  • Socialization. This can be playing with other dogs – or just getting out of your house. If we don’t take our dogs for walks or car rides, how can we expect them to behave when out in the “real world”?  Or maybe your dog would benefit from a supervised doggie day care.

We think the key to dog training is with the dog, when in fact it is the dog owner.  Many behavior problems exhibited by dogs are stress-related and directly traceable back to the relationship between the owner and the dog. It’s always something the owner “is” or “is not” doing.  That’s why I work with the whole family to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Remember that your dog will try and take charge if you don’t. Do you let him walk in front of you versus by your side? When you are walking out the door together, do you let him go first? If so, he has established himself as the “Top Dog.”

Dog training doesn’t need to be hard. However, start 2018 out right and get professional training for your dog, so you have a well-behaved dog in the future.

2016 Holiday Gift Ideas For Your Favorite Dog

I’m not a great shopper. In fact I am one of those guys who asks for gift ideas in October so that I can shop without crowds.  And I’m not scurrying around on Christmas Eve trying to cram all my shopping into one evening.

However, when it comes to my dog, I shop long and hard to give him the gift of wellness all year. Here is what you can do to keep your dog as healthy as possible:

How often do you brush your dog’s teeth? Does he/she have stinky breath? Think about what your dog puts into his mouth every day. Yuck!  Greenies make some great stocking stuffers and will keep your dog’s breath fresh and teeth clean! It’s like mouthwash for dogs.

Did you know the average dog sleeps between 12 – 14 hours a day? It’s important he have a comfy bed, a nice place to de-stress and relax.  Although many pets sleep on their parents’ bed, dog beds come in all shapes and sizes and levels of firmness.  My wife makes Maksim’s out of our old, beat down pillows and adds some “egg crate” foam, then covers them with fabric.

Cameras and Trackers
It seems that everywhere you turn, technology has become an integral part of our lives and our dog’s life. If you’re away at work all day, you can get a pet camera to see, talk and interact with your dog. Does your dog tend to roam? In addition to an identification tag and microchip, think about a pet tracker that uses cellular, GPS and/or radio frequency technology to quickly find any dog that has strayed from home.

Heating or Cooling Pads
Depending on where you live, your dog may appreciate a heating or cooling pad. Here in Columbus where the temperatures dip to below zero, it’s important your dog is not left out in the cold.

Similar to boys and their toys, a dog can never have enough bones, Frisbees, or tennis balls. Dogs can easily get bored and a bored dog is a mischievous dog!

It costs you nothing. The best present you can get your dog can’t be bought in a store. It is your time and attention. Especially with all the holiday food, you and your pet can benefit from some extra walks.

Maksim and I wish all of you a Happy and Safe Holiday season!

8 Great Tips for Responsible Dog Ownership

claudiadogTaking care of a dog is so much more than providing love, food and shelter.  Dogs can be time-consuming, challenging and sometimes, expensive. In fact, a University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine study projects the lifetime cost of raising a dog is $23,410.

Anyone can own a dog, but not everyone knows how to take good care of a dog.  Just like you may want to be a good mother or father, Greg Knows Dogs wants you to be the best dog owner you can possibly be.

September is AKC Responsible Dog Ownership month, and as the American Kennel Club states: “owning a dog is not just a privilege – it’s a responsibility.”  As a dog trainer who interacts with dogs daily, I know the joys of owning a dog.  Unconditional love… unlimited devotion… happiness embodied…I could go on and on.

However, there is some work that accompanies those benefits.  Here are some reminders to help you live up to the commitment of being a responsible dog owner:

  • Every dog needs training so he not only knows the basic commands of “sit” and “come”, but how to be obedient. If you don’t train your dog properly, you are looking at a lifetime of frustration, which is neither good for you nor your dog. Too many dogs are given up for adoption for behavioral problems that could be easily solved with some proper training.
  • Your dog should go to the vet at least once a year, and more often when he is a puppy to get his vaccinations. Regular check-ups are needed to keep your dog healthy.
  • Neuter or spay your dog as soon as he/she is old enough. This may prevent behavioral problems in the future and avoid the overpopulation of dogs we currently face.
  • Pet I.D. Your dog should have either a microchip and/or a collar with your contact information in case he runs away or gets lost. If you are going for a walk, keep him leashed while in public at all times.
  • Fresh water. Make sure your dog has fresh water at all times. Clean his food and water bowl daily to wash away any bacteria.
  • Brush your dog regularly to keep his fur from being tangled or matted. Also, remember to brush his teeth and give him a bath regularly.
  • A bored dog will result in a mischievous dog. Take him for daily walks to prevent boredom.
  • Pick up. When going on a walk, always carry bags to scoop your dog’s poop. Consider using biodegradable bags.

Owning a dog is not an impulsive decision — it is a lifelong commitment.  After all, depending on the breed and its health, your dog will be loyally by your side for the next 10 – 15 years.  Greg Knows Dogs can help you have an obedient dog that fits your family’s lifestyle.

8 Lifesaving Tips to Prevent Dog Bites

Have you ever been bitten by a dog? Hopefully you could identify the dog so you did not have to go through the pain of rabies shots.

If you haven’t been bitten by a dog, you’re actually in the minority. There are more than 52,000,000 dogs in the United States alone.  Approximately one-third of all homes have a dog as a pet. So it’s not surprising that according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, more than 4.5 million people a year are bitten by dogs, with one in five people requiring medical attention.

Dog bites with children are a big problem, causing more health problems than measles, mumps and whooping cough combined! Believe it or not, they are more common than injuries from bike accidents, playground injuries, mopeds, skateboards or ATVs. In fact, 50% of children will be bitten by a dog before their 12th birthday.  Why? Because small children are often the same height as a dog and tend to push and pull on the dog thinking they are being playful.

Dog Bite Prevention Tips
Here’s some tips that will help you and/or your child to stay safe:

  • Ask owners if you can pet their dog.
  • Avoid dogs you don’t know.
  • Never leave a child or baby alone with a dog.
  • Never reach over a fence to pet a dog as the dog may bite to protect his territory.
  • Allow the dog to initiate touching and play.  Don’t bother him when he’s in his crate, eating or sleeping.
  • Don’t approach a dog if he is busy feeding or playing with her puppies. She might become defensive.
  • Don’t tease dogs.
  • If you’re threatened by a dog be calm and still.  Running, screaming and hitting can escalate the situation. Avoid eye contact.

The most likely place for a dog attack to occur is in the home of the victim. The second most likely place is at the home of a friend of the victim. Seventy-seven percent of biting dogs are owned by the victim’s family, a relative or a friend of the family.

Does Your Dog Bite?
As a Columbus dog trainer, I have visited the homes of many clients whose dogs have a biting problem. This is the type of destructive behavior my 11 years of training can help you overcome. I have seen many pet owners think that their dog will not bite or harm a child, only to discover they were wrong.  This is particularly true for owners who engage in rough play with their dog. Inadvertently, they may be setting him up to play roughly with others who might not recognize the behavior as play. Remember that even the sweetest dog can bite of provoked.

Call me to take the bite out of your dog!  614-859-0612