10 high maintenance dog breeds

By Betsy Lane, MA, Education and FetchFind Academy Instructor

“High maintenance” doesn’t just mean your dog’s home away from home will be the grooming salon. It can also mean a dog who herds your children, routinely outsmarts you, or just wants to be by your side… All. The. Time. Let’s take a look at 10 lovable breeds that require some extra upkeep. As with any pet, educate yourself before you fall in love, so everyone can live happily ever after.

afghanAfghan Hound 

These regal-looking, athletic dogs sport long, flowing coats worthy of any human shampoo ad. Those luscious coats require some daily touch-ups, a thorough weekly brushing, and regular trips to the grooming salon.


beagleBeagle

These compact, short-coated dogs don’t require much grooming, but they are active and vocal! Unless you’re prepared to keep your Beagle busy with projects, training, and long daily walks (or runs), be prepared for considerable noise. This breed’s “singing” is a major reason their owners give them up for adoption.


Bichon Frise 3Bichon Frise

The perennial darling of the dog world, the compact Bichon has a big personality and loves being your constant companion. Bichons have hair, not fur, which means daily brushing and a monthly bathing and scissoring, often done by a pro. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


border-collie-667487_960_720Border Collie

Like most herding breeds, Border Collies enjoy working long hours, often barking instructions to their humans for good measure. The American Kennel Club describes BCs as “remarkably smart workaholics.” Be sure you’re up to the challenge of keeping your BC constructively entertained for its lifespan of up to 17 years!


cocker-spaniel-english-2415289_960_720Cocker Spaniel

 Those silky coats and extra-long ears mean extra TLC is needed: thorough brushing a few times a week, weekly bathing and trimming of the medium-length coat, and weekly checks of the ears (plus cleaning as needed). Many Cocker Spaniels see a professional groomer every 4 to 6 weeks.


german-shepherd-dog-2357412_960_720German Shepherd Dog

The German Shepherd is big, intelligent, alert, athletic, and loyal. GSDs also shed year-round and “blow coat” twice a year, leaving even more fur everywhere they go. GSDs are happiest working alongside their humans, so be ready to spend your spare time keeping your GSD pup busy. GSDs are also surprisingly vocal, having different “voices” for every communication need!


KomondorKomondor

The Komondor is a Hungarian livestock guardian breed. It has a corded coat that requires careful attention not only to keep it looking neat, but to prevent painful mats. Komondors can be wary of strangers, so get a dog trainer’s help building positive associations with a good groomer while your Komondor is still a puppy.


poodlePoodle

An honor student and varsity athlete, the poodle makes a great pet for owners willing to put in a bit of extra effort. Daily grooming is a must, and regular trips to the grooming salon will keep these magnificent dogs looking and feeling their best. ………………………………..


Puli copyPuli

Ah, the Puli! Those mop-like dogs with the hardworking yet playful attitude! And that corded coat! Like the Komondor, the Puli’s cords take considerable work to maintain. A good relationship with a capable groomer is a must, as a trip to the groomer can take the better part of a day (those cords take forever to dry).


yorkshire-2040656_960_720Yorkshire Terrier

The tiny Yorkshire Terrier’s long, silky coat requires daily grooming to look its best. From a daily clean-up of any “eye goop” to being sure the fur at the back end stays clean and clear of urine and feces, Yorkies are not easy keepers. Daily brushing to avoid tangles and mats should be preceded by a spritz of leave-in conditioner, and baths at least once a month are a must.


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Farewell to Whisper

WhisperBy Jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind

This weekend we said goodbye to my sweet collie, Whisper. My head is swirling with so many images, memories, and thoughts, yet none of them seem to have a theme, pattern, or direction.  But I want to share them with you, my pet people.

So as a way of working through my grief, I choose to reflect on how much each dog I have ever loved has changed and shaped my life. And how I have found a way to make a career, build a community, and have an impact because of those relationships. Whisper was a deeply significant part of that journey.

Whisper was my daughter’s first memory dog (we had Poodle when she was born, but Poodle died when Sadie was only 18 months old so she barely remembers her).  She was my first purebred dog and she was the first dog that didn’t come to me via being a stray, as every single one of my six previous dogs did. She was my first dog who wouldn’t jump into a car and my first dog who always preferred her space versus needing to being attached to someone. All firsts, all with Whisper.

Whisper and saide

We rescued Whisper five years ago from a very mean breeder who debarked her and let her suffer, untreated, from a variety of autoimmune diseases and abuse from other animals. With the help and support of my long-time friend and mentor, Lynn Brezina, we made the decision to take Whisper home and nurse her back to health and build her a life she deserved.  I can say, with absolute certainty, that we did exactly that.

My husband Drew, our friends, our other pets, and our entire community saw to it that Whisper had five beautiful years on this planet. And she somehow taught all us of about second chances and what it really means to be a force for good in this world despite the all the reasons not to be. In the entire five years we lived with this dog, she never – not for a single second – lifted a lip, growled, or even gave so much as a hard stare. There have been babies, dogs, cats, rats, pet sitters, cars, offices, strangers, and kids everywhere, filling every crevice and every moment of her life with us. And through all that, and in the wake of four years of abuse and neglect before we rescued her, she gave us nothing but kindness. (And the not-so-occasional stealing of food.)

Whisper was a good dog, and we loved her.

JM Sig copy

Pet sitter stories: that night I slept on the bathroom floor with an Angel guarding the door

chow

By Jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind

The year was 1996. I owned a pet sitting and dog walking company and loved doing visits. Even though I had several dozen dog walkers and pet sitters on my staff, there were a few pets for whom only I was able to provide care.

Enter Angel, the 6 year old chow chow. She wasn’t a dog who took to strangers readily, but over the years I took care of her, she became, well, okay with me. Never thrilled., but always willing to allow me to do things like let her in the yard and give her food.

I mostly took care of her on occasions where her owners went out of town, with an overnight here and there. I never loved the assignment but it was my duty and no chow was gonna keep a good petsitter down.

Although, I did learn that a chow could keep a good petsitter in the bathroom all night.

Yes, you read that right. I locked myself in the bathroom all night as a means of protecting myself.

So let’s get the conditions straight. The family just had a baby, and to make things really juicy…they had just moved into a new home.

Let’s remember that this is before I became a dog trainer and I was still a wide-eyed and super-optimistic dog lover. That’s not to say that I wasn’t realistic; I always took precautions, but I certainly never thought I’d find myself in position in which I truly feared for my safety. Had I known then what I so clearly know now, I can’t imagine I would’ve taken on that job with such gusto.

Angel let me in the house with no problem and I went about my business. I let her in the backyard, I refreshed her water, and I gave her food. It was as I made my move to leave the house that she became ferocious – barking, growling, and lunging. It was as though she was a possessed chow. And if you know anything about chows, well…I’ll leave it at that.

I made a move for the bathroom and shut the door as quickly as possible. Unfortunately this was pre-cell phones and pre-dog training career, so I had no handy-dandy treats in my pocket and no way to call for help. Basically, I was screwed.

I slept on the bathroom floor that night, and all the while Angel prowled outside, growling and scratching at the door. I would characterize it as a slightly unpleasant experience.

Her owners came home midmorning to find my Jeep in the driveway and their petsitter hiding in the bathroom. I wouldn’t say they were upset so much as confused. I, however, was not confused at all. Angel wanted to eat me.

What is the moral of the story, you ask? There really isn’t one, unless you take this as a cautionary tale that working with animals requires more than love, it requires education and quick thinking (and, sometimes, a willingness to sleep on a bathroom floor).

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Learn how to speak dog with Behavior Fundamentals Online! It might just keep YOU from spending the night on the bathroom floor. 🙂

Fun facts about Newfoundlands

newfie

By John Miller

You’ve just got to love a Newfie.  Often thought of as “gentle giants,” these dogs are massive and powerful, yet smart, helpful, and (we think) totally fun to be around (drool and giant furballs notwithstanding).

If you’re fishing for fun facts about Newfoundlands, we’ve got you covered!

They are named after the North Atlantic island of Newfoundland (part of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador) where the breed was originally developed.

There are many theories on the Newfoundland’s origins, – some say they were left by the Vikings in 100 A.D., some say that Newfies are crosses between Tibetan Mastiffs and the extinct Black American Wolf, and the third theory is that the Newfie is a mix of many European breeds.

They share a lineage with modern retrievers. In fact, the divergence can be seen in the distinction between the Greater Newfoundlands (Newfies) and Lesser Newfoundlands or St John’s Water Dog (Labrador retrievers).

Generally around 28 inches tall and 120-150 pounds, they are one of the sturdier dog breeds. Their average lifespan is 8-10 years.

The breed was almost wiped out in the 1780s when Canadian government-imposed restrictions mandated that families pay taxes on their pets.

Newfie genes saved the St Bernard breed in the 19th century. Around 1860, the St. Bernards at the hospice in Switzerland were almost wiped out by distemper. Since the dogs look similar, the monks imported some Newfoundlands to help rebuild the breed.

They were used by fishermen as water rescue dogs. They are extremely courageous, which is one of many reasons they make good rescue dogs.

One of the hallmarks of the breed is an overall sweet nature and gentle temperament.

They have webbed feet. (That’s right, just like a hairy amphibian!)

Their swimming style is less like the traditional doggy paddle and more like a breast stroke.

They have a double coat which keeps them warm in freezing temperatures. The top coat is oily and water repellant, while the undercoat is soft and insulating.

Newfie tails are very muscular and used as a rudder while swimming.

The American Kennel Club lists acceptable Newfie coat colors as black, brown, gray, and black-and-white, while the Canadian Kennel Club says the coat can only be black or black-and-white.

caseySir Edwin Landseer liked Newfoundlands so much that he included them in his paintings. The black and white Newfoundlands were named “Landseer” in his honor.

Their big coat needs a LOT of brushing.

Their strong jaws, big heads, and sturdy frame make them able to pull carts and other heavy objects, as well as drag people, tow lines, and fishing nets through the water.

They’re very athletic (and they can really pack on the pounds if overfed), so they need exercise daily. Swimming is their ideal exercise, because it allows them to cool off and burn calories. They love swimming in cold water, even in the winter.

In 1995, a 10-month-old Newfoundland named Boo rescued a man from drowning without any training or direction to do so.

In 1828, a Newfie named Hairy Man helped save over 160 Irish immigrants from the wreck of the brig Despatch, which ran aground near Isle aux Morts.

Nana, the sweet dog nanny from Peter Pan, was a Newfoundland.

Lewis and Clark’s dog was a Newfoundland named Seaman.

A Newfoundland named Napoleon the Wonder Dog co-starred with baboons in Van Hare’s “Magic Circus” in Victorian London.

Ulysses S. Grant had a Newfoundland named Faithful.

Lord Byron left a burial plot bigger than his own for his Newfoundland, Boatswain. Here is the epitaph on Boatswain’s grave:

Boatswain monument

We’ll leave you with this fun video of 182-pound Roscoe having a good roll on the ice!

 

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john-miller-pawedin-300x276John is an Atlanta native who grew up with four dogs in his family. He is currently finishing his BA at Georgia State University. In his free time, he enjoys reading, writing, cooking, and watching movies.

 

That time I hit the rescue dog jackpot

stika

The Amazing Sitka will be turning 13 this summer and just got an A+ on his recent vet checkup, so we decided to re-share his awesomeness all over again. He’s the best dog ever. – The FetchFind Team

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By Paulette Solinski, CPDT-KA

From the time I was a small child I would get the AKC Book of Dog Breeds from the library and fantasize about what dogs I would have as an adult. When I became an adult and was able to actually get a dog on my own, I realized life was more complicated. – should I get the dog of my dreams or rescue a dog in need of a home? What I decided to do was get one of each – a dog from a breeder and a rescue dog. It has always worked out, although there have been challenges along the way. But, what I really learned is that picking a dog is always somewhat of a gamble, no matter where you get him.

On the other hand, sometimes that gamble pays out a jackpot. Enter Sitka, my rescue dog, also known as the Best Dog in the World. I know what you’re thinking – but it’s not me who says it, it’s everyone else! I found Sitka online at Petfinder.com.  I had a Newfoundland and was looking for a Newfoundland rescue or a Newfie mix, so I put that in the search. Cimarron, as he was known at the time, popped up. He was gorgeous, with a beautiful coat of red and gold with just a hint of brown but, at least to my  eyes, no trace of Newfoundland. His write up also commented on how huge he was, several times. The rescue estimated that he was about one year old. Since he was already one hundred pounds they wanted to be sure that the prospective owner knew that “huge” could become “GIGANTIC.” 

My family and I, including the Newfoundland, went to Michigan to check him out. We all fell in love and he came home with us. At the time, I had no idea what to do. I now know that I should have taken it slowly – keep the dogs separated for awhile, watch for certain signs from the new dog, feed them separately. Stuff like that. Of course I did none of these things. However,  every time I tested the newly named Sitka to see whether he knew a command, he did. Sit, down, stay, come, walking on a leash – he knew all of these and more. He was also extremely appropriate with his audience. If a child approached him (while he was leashed and under control, of course) he would lay down and stay nicely for petting. He kept getting better with age. In fact, Sitka worked for many years as part of an animal-assisted therapy team with Pet Partners. 

Sitka isn’t a pup anymore, and he’s a little cranky due to age, but he’s still amazing and still loved by everyone who meets him. So if you’re thinking about a rescue dog, do your research –  but take a chance and hope for a big payoff.

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logo-pet-partnersDo you think your pup has what it takes to be a Pet Partners therapy dog like Sitka? (Your cat, bird, horse, pig, and even llama can become part of an animal-assisted therapy team as well!) Check out their free courses here. 

A tale of two collies

PawTree Blog Image March 2017

By Jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind

Most of you have seen pictures of my two rescue collies, Whisper and Mimsy.

But you probably don’t know their backstories.

I got Whisper when she was about four years old, rescued from a breeder who wanted to get rid of her because she wasn’t a good show dog and they didn’t plan on “continuing her line”.

What I didn’t know, until about a month after I got her home, was that they really wanted to get rid of her because she had a buttload of health issues – irritable bowel syndrome, allergies, thyroid, spondylosis, hip dysplasia – you name it, Whisper had it. Needless to say, merely determining the extent of her problems was hideously expensive, never mind the cost of the medicine and treatments. It took us about two years to get all of her conditions under reasonably good control, so that she wasn’t suffering and we weren’t running her into the vet every week with a new symptom.

Mimsy joined the family about a year or so after Whisper. She was the last of a handful of adult collies belonging to breeders in Indiana; her elderly owners had moved into a no-pets facility, and their neighbors rallied to find all of the dogs homes – except for Mimsy. No one wanted her (to this day I don’t understand why, because she’s awesome), so she lived in a garage for a few months while the neighbors took turns caring for her. A FetchFind Academy graduate got wind of the situation, and the next thing you know I had a message – “Wouldn’t you like to meet this beautiful collie, Jamie? She needs a good home.”

And…suddenly Mimsy was ours.

Her subsequent vet workup revealed that she has lupus and is mostly blind in one eye. After a few months of vet visits and sorting out medications and dosages, she was in a much sounder state than when we brought her home.

But I thought that they could both be better, healthier, and happier dogs, so I started tweaking their diets. I tried supplements, raw diets, allergen elimination, and paleo kibble. I even tried making their food myself, which was a total fail because it took forever and I couldn’t be consistent with the preparation or ingredients.

And then, just when I was about to give up and settle for “good enough” – I discovered pawTree.

I first “met” pawTree when they posted opportunities on our job board. A FetchFind team member started buying pawTree food for her dogs and loved it so much that she became a petPro; then she recommended it to me. So I looked at the ingredients, did my research, and placed my first order.

I kid you not – within two weeks Whisper was a new dog. Her coat was shinier, her skin was more supple, and the best part… her bowels started working normally (as in her first solid poop, ever. EVER.) I literally reached out to the company immediately and told them I had, for the first time in three years, a solid poop in my hand. (Ok, in a bag.) And because she wasn’t in constant discomfort, she started interacting more with people, displaying appropriate interest in her surroundings, and even playing with toys. (!!)

Mimsy also saw immediate benefits from the pawTree diet – her lupus flare ups decreased in severity and frequency, her digestion (and breath!) improved, and she now has the most beautiful Lassie-quality collie coat you’ve ever seen.

In general, I don’t recommend products I use to a wider audience – but I’m making an exception for pawTree. I’ve had a lot of dogs, and I’ve bought a lot of kibble, but I think this is the best pet food product line I’ve ever used. You can get food, treats, and supplements from pawTree, as well as the pawPairings seasonings (which are an absolute godsend for picky eaters).

Of course, you should always follow your vet’s recommendations when considering your pet’s dietary needs, but with that having been said – I proudly recommend that you try pawTree.

#solidpoopsforthewin

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PawTree March 2017 CampaignMarch special – become a petPro for only $1!  When you sign up to be a petPro you can earn extra money and free products while making a difference in the lives of pets and their people!

 

 

What is the link between white dogs and deafness?

white-deaf-dog

By Mary Beth Miller

Did you know that dogs with predominantly white coats can be prone to deafness? Approximately 85 different dog breeds have been reported to carry the trait that causes congenital deafness.

Deafness is defined as a loss of hearing caused by a delivery interruption of sound to the brain. When sound waves reach the eardrum, it vibrates like a big gong, causing the middle ear bones (or “ossicles”) to vibrate as well. These vibrations reach the fluid-filled, spiral-shaped cochlea of the inner ear, creating waves.

All this commotion causes a pressure change and forces the cochlea’s hair cells to move. These hair cells are connected to the auditory (hearing) nerves, which sparks a nerve impulse down the auditory pathway that connects to the brain. (For more detailed info on the structure of the ear, click here.)

What does a white coat have to do with hearing loss? The ability to hear is made possible by a special layer of cells within the inner ear. This specialized layer of cells, and the cells that determine hair color, come from the same stem cell source. Without this stem cell, the dog’s body won’t be able to make this specialized layer of hearing cells and will likely be white in coloration.

Dogs that carry the piebald gene are often affected by deafness. Piebaldism results from the absence of melanocytes, the cells that create the pigment melanin. These melanocytes are the part a dog’s DNA that determines coloration, such as brown or black hair, or blue or brown eyes. (Blue eyes are not a true eye color, but rather result from the lack of color-producing pigment within the iris.) When a dog is born without melanocytes, a predominantly white coat (and often blue eyes) is the result. Breeds commonly affected by the piebald gene include Bull Terriers, Boxers, English Setters, and Dalmatians.

Congenital deafness is also linked to the merle gene, which causes a dog to have a merle (or dapple) coat and blue eyes.  Breeds commonly affected by the merle gene include Old English Sheepdogs, dapple Dachshunds, Welsh Corgis, and Border Collies.

The only way to effectively test a dog’s hearing is through a Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response (BAER) test, which evaluates the components of the external ear canal, middle/inner ear cavities, cranial nerve, and selected areas of the brainstem. Electrodes are attached to the skull to measure the electrical activity within the brain, a series of clicks are passed through headphones placed over or in the dog’s ears, and the responses recorded. If there is a hearing deficit, the BAER response is absent (flat line) or reduced in amplitude. BAER tests can determine whether a dog is deaf in one (unilateral deafness) or both ears (bilateral deafness). Note: tests performed on puppies younger than six weeks of age can produce false positive results.

If you suspect that your dog is deaf (regardless of coat and eye color), talk to your veterinarian about performing a BAER test and the appropriate steps and training to help your dog live a happy, normal life.

Learn more about dog genetics and coat markings here. 

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mary-beth-miller-pawedinMary Beth Miller is a registered veterinary technician from southeast Iowa. She works in a large/small animal veterinary clinic and also volunteers at the local Humane Society, Emergency Animal Care Center, as well as the Iowa Parrot Rescue. Her passion lies in helping save the lives of animals. Mary Beth has three dogs, a Siberian husky named Rocky and two rescue dogs named Sambita and Nina.

Great Scottie! Fun facts about the Scottish Terrier

scottie

By Emily Bruer

Do you have a Scottish Terrier at home? Are you considering adopting one? Or do you just love learning about dog breeds? Whatever the reason, the following facts will have you falling in love with these tenacious little terriers!

The typical Scottie weighs 18-22 lbs.

The Scottish Terrier’s height ranges from 10-12 inches at the shoulder.

Their life expectancy is about 12-14 years.

Listed as the 60th most popular dog breed by the American Kennel Club.

While many people picture Scotties with black coats, they can also be wheaten or brindle. The black coat didn’t become popular until the 20th century.

Their coat typically consists of a hard wiry outer coat and a soft dense undercoat. When groomed, they should have shorter coat on their backs and sides that blends into the longer areas on their legs, lower body, and beard.

Their personality is often described as loyal, feisty, intelligent, tenacious, and stubborn.

Bred to hunt rats, mice, rabbits, foxes and badgers. They are prone to being diggers because of their vermin-hunting heritage.

Thought to be good watch dogs due to their wariness of strangers and their propensity to bark only when necessary.

Care should be taken to socialize the Scottie as much as possible when young, as their natural wariness can lead to aggression with strange people and other dogs.

Scottish Terriers are not good swimmers due to their heavy “cobby” torsos and short legs, so they should always wear life jackets near water.

Both the Scottie and the West Highland White Terrier can trace their ancestry back to the Blackmount region of Perthshire and the Moor of Rannoch in Scotland.

Scotties were originally categorized as Skye Terriers, along with the modern Skye, Cairn, Dandie Dinmont, and West Highland White Terriers.

The first written accounts of a dog with a description similar to the Scottie are found in The History of Scotland 1436-1561.

Two hundred years later the Scottie was depicted in a portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds.

Some alternate names for the Scottish Terrier include Scottie, Aberdeen Terrier, and Diehard.

scotties-tri-color

The nickname of “The Diehard” was given to Scotties by the First Earl of Dumbarton. The Earl was so impressed by the determination of his Scotties that he named his regiment of Royal Scots “Dumbarton’s Diehards.”

Modern pedigreed Scottish Terriers can be traced back to four dogs from the 1870s: Roger Rough, Tartan, Bon Accord, and Splinter II. Splinter II is often referred to as the foundation matron of the modern day Scottish Terrier.

The first written standard of the breed appeared in Vero Shaw’s Illustrated Book of the Dog, published in 1880.

The Scottish Terrier Club of England was founded in 1881. The Scottish Terrier Club of Scotland was formed in 1888.

The Scottish and English clubs disagreed on the breed’s standard, but the issue was finally resolved in 1930 by a revised breed standard based on four dogs: Heather Necessity, Albourne Barty, Albourne Annie Laurie and Miss Wijk’s Marksman of Docken.

John Naylor is credited with being the first to introduce the Scottish Terrier to this country, with his initial importation in 1883 of a dog, Tam Glen, and a bitch, Bonnie Belle.

The first registered Scottie in the U.S. was Dake, who was whelped in September 15th, 1884. Dake was born in Kokomo, Indiana and was bred by O.P. Chandler.

By 1936, the Scottie was the third most popular breed in the U.S.

The breed is prone to Von Willebrand’s disease, which is a hereditary bleeding disorder.  Some other health concerns are Scottie cramp, patellar luxation, cerebellar abiotrophy, craniomandibular osteopathy, cataracts, and glaucoma.

Scottish Terriers have a greater chance of developing some cancers than other breeds: bladder cancer, malignant melanoma,  gastric carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, lymphosarcoma, nasal carcinoma,  mast cell sarcoma, and hemangiosarcoma.

Scottish Terriers have won the Westminster Kennel Club dog show nine times, which is second only to the Wire Fox Terrier.

When Lil’ Sadie won Westminster in 2010, she was given the duty of ringing the New York Stock Exchange opening bell. Lil’ Sadie won 112 Best In Show titles during her show career.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Washington D.C.

Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt had several Scotties over the years, including Fala, Duffy, Mr. Duffy, and Meggie.

Fala is depicted in a statue with FDR in Washington D.C. – the only presidential dog so honored.

Dwight Eisenhower had two Scotties, Caacie and Telek.

George W. Bush had two Scotties named Barney and Miss Beazley. Barney starred in nine films produced by the White House.

The Scottish Terrier is the official mascot of Carnegie Mellon University and Agnes Scott College.

The most popular game piece in Monopoly (according to Hasbro) is – you guessed it – the Scottish Terrier!

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If you’d like to adopt a Scottish terrier, check out the listings on a national adoption databases like Petfinder or Adopt-a-pet, or breed-specific rescue websites and social media groups. 

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emily-bruer-pawedinEmily Bruer has been penning the adventures of her imagination since she was old enough to hold a pencil. Working at animal shelters for the last five years, she learned an incredible amount about animal care and behavior. She is currently employed at a vet clinic where she continues her animal education. Emily’s love of animals is evident when you step into her home, which she shares with six dogs and six cats, all of whom were rescues.

Why having a dog with a strong predation instinct isn’t always a bad thing

Chester looking very proud after a successful night of mouse hunting.
Chester looking very proud after a successful night of mouse hunting.

By Bill Mayeroff

It’s not easy to love terriers. But I do it anyway.

Anyone who knows anything about terriers can tell you that my dog Chester is indeed 100 percent terrier. He’s stubborn. He’s got a ton of energy. He loves to try to run after whatever small, fuzzy critters might cross his path. He’s perfect for me, but he wouldn’t be the right dog for everyone.

One of the toughest aspects of Chester’s personality to deal with is his ridiculously strong predation instinct. He’s a terrier and terriers were originally bred to hunt and kill vermin. So when we go out for walks, he wants to go after any squirrels, rabbits, mice, rats or chipmunks we might encounter. It’s tough, but with management, it’s fine. If I see him starting to eye a rodent of some sort, I usually just turn him around and walk in the other direction or just stop him in his tracks until the rodent runs off. I’m unlikely to ever be able to train him to not go after fuzzy creatures, so this is the best I can do.

That strong predation instinct isn’t always a bad thing, either. Recently, I was hanging out on my couch with Chester when I saw a little mouse scurry across the floor behind my TV stand. I hate mice and I hate them even more when they’re in my apartment, so I was not happy about this.

But luckily, I have my own, personal, live-in mouse killer. That’s right, folks. Chester was there to save the day. I pointed out the mouse to him and he went after it. He stalked it back and forth across the living room. He flushed it out from behind the couch. When he finally got it into the open, he got it in his mouth and that was that. And the best part? He dropped it immediately after he killed it. He didn’t even try to eat it. So I was able to pick it up and quickly get it out to the trash without having to pry it out of his mouth.

It’s moments like that when I’m really glad I never attempted to train him out of going after rodents. I love the fact that if a mouse makes its way into the apartment, I can turn Chester loose and he’ll take care of the problem. He’s done it before, in fact. He got another mouse in my apartment a few months back and he’s gotten a couple rats in my parents’ backyard (among other things; his total kill count stands at 8 since September of 2011).

I’ve written before about how dog training isn’t about creating a perfectly-behaved dog. Rather, it’s about figuring out what behaviors you can and can’t live with in order to peacefully coexist with your dog. Chester’s drive and ability to kill rodents is a behavior I’m happy to live with because while most days, it could be seen as a hassle (I don’t actually see it that way; I’m just pointing out that some might), it has occasional benefits that I think outweigh the cons. 

There’s no real moral to this story, by the way. I just wanted to point out that sometimes, behaviors we tend to think are undesirable can have unexpected payoffs.

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Look at these two handsome gents.

After five years as a newspaper reporter in western Illinois and two more as a freelancer in Chicago, Bill Mayeroff‘s life has gone to the dogs in the best way possible. These days, Bill lives in Chicago with his terrier mix, Chester, and works at a small, no-kill animal shelter while he studies to be a professional dog trainer at FetchFind Academy. Bill also blogs about his two favorite things – dogs and beer – at Pints and Pups. 

A tale of two Labs in the city

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By Nancy Paolucci

Ah, the Labrador Retriever – the number one dog breed for over 25 years in a row. The quintessential family dog: loving, obedient, great with kids, the dog of all dogs! I have two (plus a cute little English Setter mix, Abby) living in the city of Chicago, not necessarily the ideal location for two active Labs.

Meet Bree, a black lab, the sweetest and most loyal girl you will meet  (once you get past her ferocious sounding bark). Bree has always been a little standoffish when she first meets you. She came to us at the age of three after being in a foster home for six months. She was in need of training and a friend knew I could help – or did she know that Bree would never leave our home? From the moment we met, my husband and I were hooked. Her gentleness with our Setter mix and her crazy lab personality all overshadowed the fact that her bark scares most people away, which is something that can be helpful in the city!

Meet Gunner, a yellow lab…goofy, loving and highly active. Again, he came to us as a foster and has yet to leave. Gunner is the happiest dog you will meet unless he comes across another dog. Then, things change. We try to harness this energy through training, exercise and agility, which seems to work.

There are a lot of assumptions when you own a lab: they are great with kids, they are athletes, etc. While many of these are true, I’ve found that it’s important not to always make these generalizations just because you think you know the breed. Bree and Gunner are great examples of that; they are both individuals and I have come to accept and love both of them for who they are.

Our biggest struggle comes on walks when presented with other dogs and living in the middle of a very busy neighborhood in Chicago – we are confronted with dogs all of the time! I do not like to walk my labs together for fear of coming across another dog and the explosion that will occur, so I get lots of exercise by walking them individually. I work very hard on helping Gunner and Bree both be comfortable around dogs and helping them maintain distance. The struggle is real but the love is there, and so is the commitment I have to helping my labs have the best city life they can have.