Category Archives: Dog Health and Safety

Choke Collar Pathology


by Daniel Antolec

Recently I persuaded a local pet supply store owner to sell me all his choke collars (at cost) and refrain from restocking them, in return for recommendations for safe body harnesses such as Perfect Fit and Balance. He was persuaded by data I presented to him about the pathology of choke collars.“I never knew they hurt dogs, and only carried them because people asked for them.”

Credit: Anne Corless and Dog Games Ltd. (UK)

Credit: Anne Corless and Dog Games Ltd. (UK)

I never knew either, years ago when I went to a trainer seeking help with my Labrador, Jake.  She told me to use a choke collar. Neither Jake or I liked the choke collar, it never helped in any way, and I quickly put it away.

Pet owners cannot be expected to know about the harmful consequences of using equipment unless they are informed.

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Agility equipment safety


When it comes to dog agility training it is important to pay attention to some details to keep our dogs safe. This article by the Agility Nerd highlights some potential issues. Always check agility equipment for safety prior to letting your dog play on it.

Contact Equipment Safety in Photos

by Steve Schwarz
I’m always concerned about our dog’s safety on course and I’m collecting photos of dog agility contact equipment and highlighting unsafe situations of which folks might be unaware. If you have photos to help us be safer please share them with me and I’ll update this article and credit you for your contribution!

Sharp Hinge Pin Retaining Clips

A rotated hinge pin can put it’s cotter pin/retaining clip in a position where a dog could snag their foot on it as they cross the obstacle.

Rotated Dog Walk Cotter Pin

Rotated Dog Walk Hinge retaining pin sticking up

Depending on the diameter of the hinge rod hole you might be able to find “O-Ring” style cotter pins/retaining clips that fit. FWIW I’ve never seen a hinge rod come out with the weight of a Dog Walk plank on it so it is likely these pins aren’t necessary.

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Dog Training’s Dirty Little Secret: Anyone Can Legally Do It

Dog training is an unregulated industry although dogs need to be licensed.

By Marc Bekoff Ph.D.

Dogs and humans beware

During the past year I’ve had a number of emails from people both lauding and severely criticizing the dog trainers to whom they went to help them teach their dog to live with them in their homes and elsewhere. Of course, different people have different needs and dogs are unique individuals, so it’s essential that a dog trainer/teacher be well versed in dog behavior and various principles of ethology/animal behavior and psychology. They also need to be able to assess the nature of dog-human interactions.

usernetsite free images

Source: usernetsite free images

In her scholarly and well researched law review article called “OCCUPATIONAL LICENSURE FOR PET DOG TRAINERS: DOGS ARE NOT THE ONLY ONES WHO SHOULD BE LICENSED,” Elizabeth Foubert notes, “In the United States anyone can work as a dog trainer, regardless of the person’s qualifications. Scientific research in animal behavior and canine ethology indicate how to humanely train dogs, but nothing in the law requires that dog trainers apply these proven methods in practice. Dog trainers may use training techniques that bring harm to dogs and deceive consumers as to its efficacy. The onus is on consumers to educate themselves to these dangers when selecting a ‘qualified dog trainer.'”

There’s a lot at stake when a person entrusts their dog’s life to a trainer. Thus, I was shocked to learn that in the United States anyone can call themself a “dog trainer.” I went online and did many different searches, and while there are many excellent certification programs, it is the case that anyone can legally hang up a shingle that says “Dog Trainer” and begin to work with dogs and their humans. I also queried a number of trainers and they also agreed that there really is a “dirty little secret” about which many, perhaps most, people are unaware, as I was. And, if course, it’s not a little secret at all, but rather a huge one, because of the incredible damage that can be done by someone who isn’t trained to be a dog trainer. Of course, certified dog trainers also can cause harm but that goes beyond what I want to write about here.

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Holiday Safety for Dogs

By Brenna Fender

No 1.The holiday season is filled with food, guests, and excitement. While these things are fun for the people in your life, they can be dangerous for your dog. But don’t worry, there are some simple things to you can do in order to keep your furry friends safe during the holidays.

Holiday food is delicious, fattening, and not appropriate for your pets. Sweet treats can contain Xylitol, a sugar substitute that is toxic to dogs. Fatty foods can lead to pancreatitis or other illnesses. Bones can cause blockages or choking. Overeating even healthy foods can cause stomach upset or other problems. So, during the holiday season, be especially aware of potential food hazards. That counter you don’t think your dog can reach might be more accessible than you think if the prize is worth it!

With all the holiday comings and goings, dogs have more opportunities to become lost. Doors may be left open and yard gates unlatched or you may be distracted by holiday activities when you are supposed to be watching the dog. Crate your pet during confusing moments to avoid potential tragedies. Microchip dogs in order to help them be more easily returned home if they do get out.

Friends and family can cause problems with both food and escape, by deliberately giving food to begging dogs or leaving food in an accessible spot, or accidentally leaving a door open. Tell guests the family rules that help keep your dog safe but be aware that they might not follow them. You may have to confine your dog more often than usual or directly supervise interactions.

Some of your guests might be children, and if your dog doesn’t normally interact with children, he may be frightened by their odd movements and erratic behaviors. But even if your dog is usually very good with children, do not trust that things will go smoothly. Holiday stress may inspire different behaviors in both your dog and the children. It’s never a good practice to leave dog unsupervised with any children, but that is especially true under these circumstances.

Tinsel, candles, and other holiday decorations may be harmful to your dog if ingested. Keep decorations up high and in safe places. Be particularly aware of your Christmas tree (if you have one) as it can be easily knocked over and onto a curious pup.

The holiday season can be filled with fun and joy. With some planning, your dog can safely enjoy the season as well!

Trick or Treat?

spin1Choosing the Right Food Rewards for Your Dog
By Brenna Fender

If you attend a dog training class, you are likely to be asked to bring treats with you so that you can reward your dog. But how do you pick out the best treats for training?


No matter what kind of treats you purchase or make, they should meet some basic criteria.

  • Training treats should be soft. Crunchy treats take too long to eat and can lead to choking during training.

  • Your dog should eat a training treat in two bites or less. Smaller treats create less down time during training, allow the dog to better connect the treat to the action it is rewarding, and are less fattening.

  • Choose treats that don’t crumble. You don’t want to distract other dogs by leaving crumbs around the training area.

Treat Shopping

There are many treats that meet our basic criteria available in your average pet store. How can you choose the best option?

  • Pay attention to where the treats are made. There have been canine illnesses and even deaths linked to treats made in some countries. You might find that it is safest to look for a “Made in the USA label.”

  • Choose healthy ingredients. Excessive sugar, fillers, and preservatives may be unhealthy for your pet.

  • Remember your dog’s dietary restrictions. If your dog eats a limited diet, remember to follow those rules in the treats you buy as well.

Make Your Own

Some people make elaborate treats, baking liver or tuna brownies for their pups. There are many treat recipes available online, plus there are tons of treat recipe books for sale. But you can also use some items from your own kitchen as treats. Cheese is a great treat option, and it is easily cut into small pieces. Meats work well too, and so do chopped baby carrots. Hot dogs are also easy-to-use treats.

Some human foods, like raisins, can be toxic to dogs, so research any questionable items if you are not sure of their safety.

Moderation is Key

Introduce new treats in small amounts to see how your dog will react to them, and always use treats in moderation. They should not be a major part of your dog’s diet. Monitor your dog’s weight and adjust the number of treats and the amount of food consumed as necessary.

Dogs really do not notice the difference between a large treat and a small one so remember that when you are handing out goodies. A pinch of cheese is as exciting as a mouthful for your pup!