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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.

Do You Walk Your Dog or Does He Walk You?

Although February brings National Walk Your Dog Day, the weather in Columbus has been so cold it feels more like Keep Your Dog Inside Month.

This past weekend I saw lots of folks out enjoying a walk with their dog.  The snow has melted, the salt has rinsed away and it was finally above 45 degrees!  Actually, I think I saw more dogs enjoying the walks than humans enjoying walks.  It seems lot of dogs had pent up energy and had forgotten to walk nicely.

There are a number of things we should consider as we get back to our regular dog walking routine:

Do you have a 2018 dog tag on your dog’s collar?

Have you checked your walking equipment?  Make sure the collar fits and the leash is not worn thin.  If you use a retractable leash, check the entire length to make sure it’s not frayed.

Is it time for new walking equipment?  Should you consider a harness, Gentle Leader or Halti?

Are there “mean” dogs on your walking route? You might want to get a can of PetSafe SprayShield.  It’s a citronella spray that distracts an attacking dog.

Here are some other tips for walking your dog correctly from #GregKnowsDogs:

  • Never let your dog walk in front of you so you will be viewed as the pack leader.
  • Using a 6’ leash allows you better control of your dog.
  • Let your dog explore and sniff around.
  • Always pick up your dog poop.
  • Make sure to bring plenty of water for your dog.
  • Watch out for ice in the winter (and salt) and hot pavements in the summer.
  • Wear reflective gear if you are walking your dog at night.

I recommend walks to heel, not just a walk with minimal pulling.  Call me at 614-859-0612 if you need help getting your pooch to walk nicely by your side.  I also recommend you start with short, focused walks as you get back into your routine.  Happy trails and tails!

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.

Doggies Can Get Back-to-School Blues

August in Columbus can mean balmy weather, an end to swimming outdoors, and most importantly, the kids going back to school. Whether your kids love or dislike the thought, there is one thing for certain: it will be quite an adjustment for your dog.

It’s not unusual for dogs or even cats to get depressed when the kids go back to school. There has been noise and confusion all summer and generally more time to spend with the dog. Some dogs even trot to the neighborhood corner, faithfully awaiting the arrival of the school bus. Or stare out the window while the kids are in school, eagerly awaiting their arrival. In dog trainer terms we often call this separation anxiety – which can lead to excessive salivating, barking, whining, chewing, digging and other destructive behaviors. Separation anxiety occurs when dogs become upset because of separation from the people they’re attached to.

So how can you make this transition easier for your dog?

  • Exercise. A bored dog is a mischievous dog. You’re going to have to ramp up the time you spend exercising with your dog, because exercise releases endorphins which are feel-good chemicals in your dog’s brain. Take longer walks or walk more times/day. If the dog is going to be home alone all day, consider getting a dog walker.
  • Smell. It will calm the dog if you leave behind a t-shirt or an article of clothing from the child who is going to be gone. The scent will relax him.
  • Get Used to a new Routine. Dogs thrive on routine. A week before school starts, slowly back off the amount of time the kids spend with the dog so he learns he is no longer the center of attention. If you normally take your dog with you to run errands, leave him at home. As you are leaving for the day, don’t confuse him by saying sweetly: “We’ll be home soon.” If he is anxious about you leaving, your high-pitched tone will reinforce that it’s okay for him to feel anxious. Don’t make a big deal about leaving; instead, just leave without saying anything.
  • New Toys. Dogs love new toys but they can get quickly bored with them. After a few days of playing with a new toy, put it away for awhile and then rotate them. Dogs particularly love toys that contain food where they have to work to get the treats out. This keeps their mind and body occupied. Dogs need something to do while everyone is gone.
  • Games. After school, have the kids play a rousing game of Hide and Seek, tug-of-war or fetch. Games give your dog a chance to play and have fun.
  • Secure Indoors:When the kids leave for school, keep your dog securely inside your home so he isn’t tempted to follow your child down the street. A crate may make him feel comfortable and secure.

The main thing is you must establish a new routine. Although the dog will be excited when the kids get home, give everyone a few minutes to relax before play time begins so the dog doesn’t get too hyper.

Also consider this: it may be a good time for your dog to go back to school too with some private dog training classes!


What To Look For In a Good Dog Trainer

Almost everyone can own a dog but not everyone can train a dog. There are many dog trainers to choose from throughout Central Ohio, and like any profession, there are some good trainers and some not so good trainers.

Choosing a good dog trainer and a good vet are probably the most important decisions you will have to make regarding your dog. Unfortunately, it can also be one of the hardest.

So, I almost lose my mind when I get an e-mail asking me to send a quote with a request to not call the prospective client.  I just shake my head.  Is that individual really going to hire a trainer based on an e-mailed quote????

Here are some things to consider, and DISCUSS.

First, your expectations of a dog trainer need to be realistic. Do you have a puppy? Chances are you are not going to be able to overcome some of the behaviors until the dog has grown up a little.  For example, I tell clients a pup doesn’t reliably come when called until six months of age.  Expecting it to be reliable before six months is like asking a second-grader to do algebra.  Some can but generally it’s unrealistic.

Second, remember that no dog trainer can “fix” dogs. Dog trainers train owners to identify the problems they are having with their dog so the root of the problem can be discovered. For instance, does your dog bark because he is bored, afraid, or aggressive? The solutions will make a difference once the behavior is clearly identified. A dog trainer gives you the skills to change your relationship with your dog … you will be trained and changed as much as your dog.

The third thing to think about is your budget, which is clearly a personal choice.  I have clients say “Is that all?  I expected more”.  And I have clients say “I can’t possibly afford that”.  It‘s important to have your budget in mind before you call the trainer.

Ask The Dog Trainer:

  • What method of training do you use? Is it based on positive reinforcement (praise), negative reinforcement (shock and prong collars) or treat training?
  • How long do the training sessions last?
  • How many years of experience do you have and what courses have you taken to be a dog trainer?
  • How many visits are included?
  • Where does the training take place?
  • What members of the household should be involved in the training?
  • Do I need to buy equipment from the trainer?
  • Is there a different price to train multiple dogs? Do all the dogs in the household have to be trained?

Ask Yourself:

  • What is your dog’s major issue that you want to address? Ask yourself: is it basic obedience like “sit”, “come” and “stay” or is it more advanced training like stopping your dog’s aggression.
  • How much time each day do you have to reinforce the dog training methods you have been shown?

Hiring a trainer is a big decision.  Base it on your “fit” with the trainer, not the price.


Saving Yourself From Dog Bites

So often while I am walking with Maksim, I notice small children approaching my dog. Although I know Maksim would never bite them, they don’t know that. Children should always be wary of approaching a dog they don’t know.


According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, more than 4.5 million people in the U.S. are bitten by dogs each year with one in five requiring medical attention.

Children are the most likely victims, often bitten by a dog in their own home or a friend’s home. Children (particularly boys ages 5 – 9) are three times more likely than adults to be seriously bitten (mainly in the face or neck), because kids are around the same height as a dog and because they can crawl into small, low places where dogs can reach. Unfortunately, 50% of children will be bitten by a dog before their 12th birthday.

In addition to being physically and emotionally scarring, dog bites can be costly as well. State Farm Insurance, paid nearly $1 billion in accident-related claims involving a dog over the last decade.

Are these bad dogs? Mean dogs? The main thing you need to realize is that dogs generally don’t bite because they are vicious – instead, they do so out of fear, protectiveness or see it as a last resort.

Here are some tips to keep you safe when approaching a dog you don’t know:

  • Don’t face a dog head on and don’t look into his/her eyes. Instead, turn to the side as this will seem less confrontational. A hard stare means a threat in dog language. Children should never put their faces near a dog’s face. Adults who insist on direct eye contact with strange dogs also tend to get bitten.
  • Leaning over a dog can make the dog afraid. When people bend over to pet or cuddle a dog, the dog may become defensive and intimidated.
  • Don’t initially pet the dog on the head. Instead, make a fist, hold it under the dog’s nose to allow her to sniff, then pet the dog on the chest, moving gradually to the sides of the face and other body parts, if the dog is receptive.
  • Never swoop up a small dog. To lift a small dog, crouch down, pet the dog for a moment, then gently slip your hands under her belly and chest, and lift.
  • Never approach a dog who is sleeping, eating or playing with her puppies.
  • Never turn your back on a dog you don’t know or try to run away – he will just chase you.
  • Remind your children that the dog is not a horse or a playground and should not be ridden, prodded or annoyed.
  • Never let your child approach a dog behind a fence or in a car. Dogs can be very protective of their home or space.


Just like we teach our children about “stranger danger” you should teach your kids the following if an unknown dog approached them:

  • Don’t scream.
  • Avoid eye contact with the dog.
  • Stand still with your hands by your side. Generally, this will lead the dog to turn away when he realizes you are not a threat.
  • Back away slowly, never taking your eyes off the dog.
  • If the dog keeps approaching, offer him anything you’re holding — a purse or jacket, for example — or anything that may distract him.
  • If you tumble to the ground, curl into a ball, put your hands over your ears and stay still — resist the urge to yell, scream or move around.

We as pet owners have a responsibility to do everything possible to make sure our dog doesn’t bite others. If your dog is aggressive, call me and we will work on a plan to overcome this dangerous behavior. Additionally:

  • Spay/neuter your dog which may reduce aggressiveness.
  • Always supervise your dog – don’t take chances. Remember that any dog can bite if provoked.
  • Train your dog in obedience and never shake, choke, hold the dog down or roll the dog over to teach it a lesson. Negative actions or violence can teach your dog to be aggressive. Dogs treated this way are likely to turn their aggression on weaker family members.

Dog bites can be painful for both the recipient and the owner – the owner may be forced to put the dog down if he bites someone. If you have ANY problems with your dog showing aggression towards you, another dog or food, call Greg Knows Dogs immediately!


Is Your Dog a Bad Dog?

I am often asked if there is such a thing as a bad dog. Like getting a “lemon for a car”. Except for rare occasions where genetically a dog has been overbred or comes from an aggressive line, there is no such thing as a bad dog.

Virtually any behavior can be overcome. Does your dog charge the door? Not walk correctly on leash? Growl at other dogs? These behaviors don’t result from the dog being bad; rather, the owners being inconsistent in their communication with a dog.

Here are some of the primary reasons dogs misbehave:

  • They can’t understand what you are saying. Your dog can’t speak English and you can’t speak dog, so many miscommunications occur. For instance, dog owners tend to overuse the word “no”, and your dog may hear it so many times he begins to think it is his name. Or you might be sending mixed signals telling him not to beg at the table while your children are secretly sneaking him the Brussel sprouts they don’t like.
  • They get bored. Not just puppies get bored, but adult dogs as well. A bored dog is a mischievous dog, one that likes to chew, dig and eat your shoes. A tired dog is a good dog! It’s important that you take your dog for a walk everyday or get some form of exercise to wear out that excess energy. Dogs need both mental and physical exercise.
  • They are being corrected at the wrong time. The other day I had a client who kept correcting her dog hours after a bad act had occurred. She came home from work and found her dog had gotten into the garbage. She stuck his nose in the mess and yelled “No, no, no”. Unfortunately, dogs do not have the reasoning skills a human has so he did not put his bad act together with her correction. If you want to correct a dog, you must do so immediately after he misbehaves.
  • They do not have a routine. Dogs are creatures of habit and thrive on routine. They like to get up around the same time every morning, go out to potty, eat in the same place, etc. Although dogs are flexible it is important for them to know what to expect. Drastic changes in environment or routine can really throw them off, causing anxiety that is commonly expressed as problem behavior.
  • They don’t know who is boss. Initially your dog thinks of you as just another dog. You have to establish yourself as the “pack leader”. In the wild, pack leaders do not give affection to lower members of the pack unless it is earned by displaying favorable behaviors. What they do give are rules the pack must follow, limits to what they are allowed to do, and boundaries that the pack must not cross. This will make your dog feel safe and secure.

If your dog has a behavior problem the first person you need to look to is yourself.  How do you respond? There is an excellent chance you have been reinforcing the behavior with attention, and may have actually trained your dog to perform that behavior without meaning to.

That’s the beauty of Greg Knows Dogs. I train YOU even more than your dog! I teach you how to communicate with your dog in a language he understands to overcome any misbehaviors that make him less than a stellar family dog!


Should Your Dog Sleep With You?

Did you know that dogs sleep more than humans? In fact, the average dog sleeps between 12 – 14 hours a day on and off and a pup can sleep up to 18 hours. Sometimes your dog will snooze during the day in his dog bed. Then before you know it, he is sneaking his way onto the edge of your bed or even burrowing under the blankets.

This begs the question I am often asked by my clients: should I let my dog sleep with me?

Many expect my response to be no. But the answer really depends on what behaviors we’re working on.

There are also many good reasons for your dog to not sleep with you.  A dog who toilets in the middle of the night might be better off sleeping in a crate.  A dog who is injured or elderly probably shouldn’t be jumping on and off the bed.  I also recommend your dog not sleep with you if he/she has shown aggression towards you.

Additionally, you may decide to oust your dog from the bed for:

  • Snoring (the dog that is)
  • Gas (again the dog)
  • Bed hog — Dogs really like to get comfortable when they sleep. They might burrow deep under the covers, sleep between your legs, sleep on your pillow, or even on your head.  Needless to say, this is not conducive to you getting a good night’s sleep
  • Disturbing your sleep by wanting to play.
  • Scratching and licking (still referring to the dog)
  • Not enough room. A small dog is one thing but an 80-pound dog can take up a lot of room unless you have a bed like this!
  • Allergies (finally the human). Many clients have told me their allergies clear up once the dog stops sleeping in bed with them. No matter how many times you wash your sheets and blankets, fur and dander still flies!

If you need to teach your dog to sleep elsewhere be prepared for a few sleepless nights.  You may need to get up several times in the night to redirect them to their bed, crate or other piece of furniture.

Some friends were really frustrated by their dog continually jumping up on the bed in the middle of the night, so they leashed their dog to the wall.  They are now quite experienced in drywall repair.

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

If none of the above applies to you and your dog then where the dog sleeps is a personal decision. In fact, a recent survey by the American Pet Products Manufacturers found that 42 percent of all dog owners allow their pooches to sleep in the bed with them at night. n. found that 42 percent of all dog owners allow their pooches to sleep in the bed with them at night.

As long as you are all comfortable and safe, I have no problem that your bed is occupied with your dog.

Why The Whole Family Needs to Participate in Dog Training

The other day I received a call wanting to book a dog training lesson and the woman mentioned that her husband and kids would be out of town so it was the perfect time to focus on her dog and overcoming his incessant barking issue. I asked her if the whole family would normally be around the dog. The answer was yes. I told her it would be best we delay the dog training until we could do family dog training when everyone was home..


I have another client who told me that her husband had been the “Top Dog” with his 5-year-old Labrador named CUDA. He was the one who did most of the training and the one who fed and played with the dog. CUDA and he went everywhere together. Unfortunately, her husband had unexpected hip surgery and was going to be in a rehab center for a month. CUDA was distraught and unwilling to listen to any of her commands.


Dogs thrive on routine. They are creatures of habit. They like to know they are going to eat at a certain time, take a daily walk, and go to sleep in the same place. Dogs do not benefit from chaos. They like to know “what is going to happen next”.

That is why it is so important that all family members are on the same page with dog training. If not, dogs get confused and confused dogs often misbehave and display high levels of anxiety. On the other hand, well-balanced dogs that are secure in their environment, routine and day-to-day lives find it much easier to weather any changes or upsets that do come along from time to time, whether planned for or unexpected.

Daily Routine
I encourage all my clients to establish a daily routine that includes feeding times, walking times, play times and quiet times all regularly scheduled into the dog’s day at times that he can rely upon. Switch off with feeding and walking. Use the same body language and vocal tones to get your dog’s attention.

Dogs are a lot like babies who thrive on a set schedule.

Think how ludicrous it would sound if one parent said to the other: “I am not going to participate in child rearing or training the child. You do it all by yourself.” It’s the same with dogs. Everybody who interacts with the dog on a daily basis needs to participate in a dog training program so the dog knows exactly what is expected of him. No matter who is issuing the command to “sit or come”, a well-trained dog will follow with the correct behavior.

Training a dog also takes patience and time. Much like any sport, dog training involves not only a detailed understanding by all family members but most importantly practice, practice, practice. It’s best if all the responsibility doesn’t fall on one person’s shoulders.

Here’s the bottom line. If you want a well-behaved dog that is a great family companion, EVERYONE in the family needs to participate in the FUN and devotion of dog training. It is important for all family members to know what to do and not to do to encourage and change behavior that you all want to achieve. If family members do not practice with the dog, everyone will suffer. Your dog will have an infinitely harder time learning and your job just got a lot more difficult and frustrating unless participation is 100%!

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!