Christmas holiday safety tips

dog-xmas-5By Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA

I am officially in the Christmas mood. The day after Thanksgiving, I turned on the Christmas music, my family and I picked out our Christmas tree, and I am just about done with my Christmas shopping. I am definitely feeling the spirit.

Since my husband and I had kids, we have decided that Christmas will be at our house. Since we no longer travel for the big day, we have an open door policy. We love visitors and welcome friends and family to stop by and celebrate with us. I encourage both two and four-legged visitors, but with kids in the house, I have some rules in place. Because I want the day to be fun and relaxing, I ensure that safety is top priority.

No matter who you celebrate with or how you celebrate, it’s always wise to ensure your dog is set up to enjoy the festivities. Whether you are hosting or visiting, below are some tips to help your dog survive this festive holiday.

Keep presents away: My dog, Bailey, could have cared less about wrapped presents. But as soon as the paper was off, the paper was hers. But some dogs believe that anything on the floor is theirs. If your dog is more like the latter, keep presents up or behind a gate to avoid any disasters.

Pay attention to your décor: I love to decorate the house for Christmas, but I try to be aware of what I decorate with. Tinsel can be very enticing to dogs, but they are a safety concern (if swallowed, they can get tangled in the intestines). Poinsettias are beautiful, but they are poisonous to dogs. And I love lights on the Christmas tree and all around my house. If you do too, just make sure that your dog can’t get to the cords and chew on them. Basically, just use common sense when decorating.

Watch your dog around kids: Christmas is a big holiday for kids. All the presents under the tree, a visit from Santa, cookies, and such can bring a lot of excitement. Because they all might be a little more excited than usual, it is best to keep kids and dogs separated as much as possible. No matter how much your dog enjoys kids, not every kid will feel comfortable around your dog, and your dog might not appreciate the extra chaos that the holidays bring. No matter what, it is better to be safe than sorry, so just keep dogs and kids separated.

Keep a leash on your dog: When your dog is out and about in the house, it is wise to keep a light leash on them. Leashes are a great tool to help keep your dogs away from the Christmas cookies and appetizers, prevent them from jumping up on people, and it doesn’t allow them to escape when the door is left open after Aunt May is welcomed indoors.

Gates, crates, and more gates: Every dog needs some down time, so it is best to have your crate set up in a quiet room. I like to put on some relaxing music or white noise to drown out the noise of party goers and give them a bone or Kong filled with their favorite treat. If you don’t have a crate, set up a small room such as a bathroom or laundry room (make sure there is nothing that they can get into), put down their bed or towel, give them a treat and put up a gate. Make sure that they will be left alone and can have time to relax. If your dog is super stressed and needs to be around people, set up some gates so they are near the commotion, but can’t get out to get into trouble. This also ensures that kids can’t get to them.

Remember, Christmas should be a day of relaxing, sharing memories with friends and family, and letting kids revel in the magic. Pets are such an important part of our lives, so safety is key while we make special holiday memories to make.

No matter how you celebrate the season – Happy Holidays, and stay safe out there!


Be sure to watch the FetchFind webcast – Safe Holidays are Happy Holidays – Jamie Migdal, Aracely Cordes, DVM, and I talk about how you can keep your pets and family safe during this busy and sometimes overwhelming time of year.


Erin Schneider 250x300Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA and owner of Touch Dog Training, is a certified professional dog trainer who employs positive reinforcement behavior modification techniques intended to deliver results while building stronger bonds between dogs and their owners. Erin practiced her craft in Chicago for many years as a Senior Trainer for AnimalSense Canine Training & Behavior. There she taught dog training classes and also conducted private, in-home lessons with pets and their owners. In March 2015, Erin relocated to Colorado and is excited to share her knowledge and expertise with dog owners in the Denver/Boulder metro area.


Winter activities, part 2: Barn Hunt


By Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA

In part one of my Winter Activities series, I talked about agility and the great exercise it is for your dog. In part two, I am going to talk about the sport of Barn Hunt.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was not a big fan of being out in the cold for long periods of time, trying to give my dog some exercise. So I was always trying to come up with new ways to exercise my dog without freezing to death. Barn hunt is another great way to stay indoors and out of the cold.

Barn hunt, to put it simply, is a maze made out of straw bales. Within that maze are plastic tubes containing live rats and mice and the goal is for the dog to tunnel through the maze to find the live rats all in a specific amount of time.

I know what you are thinking. “Poor rats! I can’t believe they allow dogs to run after rats.” Let me specify, no rats or mice are hurt during this course. They are safely protected within the plastic containers. Barn hunt allows dogs, specifically terriers, to practice what they were bred to do, which is to find rats.

“Terrier” means “earth” in Latin. Terriers were bred to hunt vermin and even though many don’t have a need to hunt vermin these days, they still have that instinct, so a sport such as barn hunt is great for them. But terriers aren’t the only dogs that can participate. Any dog over six months in age and able to crawl through an 18-inch bale-height tall tunnel made of straw, can participate.

The reason I love barn hunt is because it gives dogs plenty of exercise. They have to run through a maze. They are using their nose, which is great for burning energy, and they are doing something that they were bred for.

There are plenty of associations around the country to join, so you can participate in classes with your dog. If you decide to compete, there are competitions all around the country as well as “fun trials.” If you are interested in competing take a look at the Barn Hunt Rule Book and website.

No matter what you decide to do, barn hunt is a great way to bond with your dog and get some exercise.

Have you tried barn hunt? What was your experience?


Erin Schneider 250x300Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA and owner of Touch Dog Training, is a certified professional dog trainer who employs positive reinforcement behavior modification techniques intended to deliver results while building stronger bonds between dogs and their owners. Erin practiced her craft in Chicago for many years as a Senior Trainer for AnimalSense Canine Training & Behavior. There she taught dog training classes and also conducted private, in-home lessons with pets and their owners. In March 2015, Erin relocated to Colorado and is excited to share her knowledge and expertise with dog owners in the Denver/Boulder metro area.

How to find a good dog trainer


By Jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind

Whether you want to teach your new puppy basic commands or help a rescue dog become more comfortable in his new home, it pays to do your research before hiring a trainer. With so many options out there –  big box stores,  boot camps, boutique trainers – trying to make that decision can make your head spin!  Here are some tips to help make the process easier:

Evaluate. What kind of dog do you have? A 10 week old Lab puppy will have different needs than a 10 year old rescue Chihuahua.

Start googling. Find trainers or training companies near you and see what they have to offer. Keep in mind that in-home trainers, whether they are independent or affiliated with a company, have specific service areas and if you’re too far away you probably won’t be able to book sessions.

If you’re feeling confused by the different types of training philosophies, such as positive, balanced, clicker, etc., click here for more information.

Check the qualifications. Most reputable dog trainers will have formal education and official certification. If you see CPDT-KA after their name, you know they’ve put in the hours to become a respected professional.

Get reviews. Once you’ve narrowed down your list of candidates, start checking the online reviews and social media outlets; you should also ask your friends for their recommendations or for references from the trainer.

Trust your gut. If you’ve done all of your homework and you just don’t like the trainer after you’ve met them, move on. If your dog shows unusual signs of stress or fear, take his word for it and find a new trainer.

Enjoy the process! Learning with your pooch is a lot of fun, and it’s a great way to strengthen the bond between you and your best pal.

Winter activities, part 1: Agility


By Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA

Winter is going to be here for real before we know it. I don’t know about you, but I did not enjoy walking my dog, Bailey, in the freezing cold. Of course I did it, but I liked to keep it short.

She, on the other hand, could stay out in the cold all day. She loved the cold weather. Since I am not covered in fur, I had to find ways to exercise my dog without freezing to death. That is when I came across indoor sports.

In this multi-part series, I am going to discuss the magical world of indoor dog sports, which are especially great during the cold months.

I’ll begin by talking about agility. Agility is one of my favorite sports. It has really picked up enthusiasm over the years, so it is pretty easy to find a facility that offers classes in your area.

For those of you that aren’t familiar with agility, Wikipedia defines it as “a dog sport in which a handler directs a dog through an obstacle course in a race for both time and accuracy.” Some of the obstacles consist of the following: A-frame, weave poles, tire jump, jumps, tunnel, dog walk, seesaw, pause table, etc.

Agility is a great way to tire your dog out. It requires a lot of running and mental stimulation. You, the handler, also do some running, so it is best if you are physically able. You can either take agility classes for fun or if you get serious about it, for competition. I only participated with Bailey for fun. She wasn’t the best at it (she got distracted very easily), but she loved the treats and extra attention at the end of each course.

For those of you that decide to compete, you will have to work at it. There are rules to follow and time to keep perfecting. But competitions are a lot of fun. There is a great atmosphere and a lot of camaraderie. If you are interested in competing, take a look at the Agility Rule Book and website from the AKC.

No matter what you decide to do, agility is a great way to bond with your dog and get some exercise for both you and your four-legged companion. And it will keep you out of the cold for an evening, which is reason enough for me.

Have you tried agility? What was your experience?


Erin with baileyErin Schneider, CPDT-KA and owner of Touch Dog Training, is a certified professional dog trainer who employs positive reinforcement behavior modification techniques intended to deliver results while building stronger bonds between dogs and their owners. Erin practiced her craft in Chicago for many years as a Senior Trainer for AnimalSense Canine Training & Behavior. There she taught dog training classes and also conducted private, in-home lessons with pets and their owners. In March 2015, Erin relocated to Colorado and is excited to share her knowledge and expertise with dog owners in the Denver/Boulder metro area.




Can you ear me now? How to keep your dog’s ears clean and healthy.


by Betsy Lane, MA

Whether your dog’s ears stand up or flop down, checking that they’re healthy should be a part of your weekly routine. Since many of us handle our dogs’ ears on a regular basis, doing a quick health assessment is easily incorporated into the pleasant routine. All that’s involved is a simple, three-point inspection. Each step uses a different one of our senses:

Touch: Does your dog pull away from gentle handling of her ears, indicating they might be sore? Do the ears feel hot? Either is cause for further investigation.

Smell: Sniff your dog’s ears regularly to learn what is normal. If her ears suddenly don’t pass the sniff test (stinky, yeasty, or just “off”), it might indicate an infection.

Sight: If you see your dog pawing at, scratching, or rubbing her ears on the furniture or floor, take a peek inside. Healthy ears look clean and pink, with just a bit of light-yellow wax present. (Just like in humans, this natural wax helps trap debris and move it out of the ear.) Excess wax, dark wax, and/or visible dirt all indicate your dog’s ears need cleaning.

Two quick cautions: Always handle ears gently; they’re sensitive! And never, ever stick anything (a cotton swab, your finger, etc.) into your dog’s ear further than about a half an inch. The last thing you want to do is injure her ears!

If everything seems fine based on your three-point inspection, leave your dog’s ears alone.

If there’s a bit of a problem—a slight odor, a little dirt, or more waxiness than usual—a preventative cleaning is in order. Dr. Marty Becker, DVM, explains the process: “To clean the ears, tilt your dog’s head downward with one hand and squirt a gentle cleanser recommended by your veterinarian into the ear, filling the canal. Holding the ear closed, give it a nice massage, really squishing the cleanser around in there. That softens any gunk inside.” Then just let your dog shake her head (this can be messy!), and gently wipe away any remaining cleanser with a soft cloth. Always use a cleanser made specifically for this purpose; other options such as alcohol and witch hazel are drying and can sting an already-irritated ear.

If there’s a larger problem, or you just aren’t the DIY type, take your pup to any PetSmart Grooming Salon (no appointment necessary!) or your vet. Professional groomers can clean your dog’s ears quickly, safely, and effectively, and also ensure the fur around the ears is thinned and trimmed properly for optimum ear health.

Here’s to your dog’s healthy ears!

Learn more at


Making grooming a “TTouch®” easier


By Betsy Lane, MA, Guild Certified Tellington TTouch® Practitioner for Companion Animals

Even if you’ve never heard of Tellington Touch, learning this one simple technique will help your dog become more tolerant of handling—at home, at the vet’s office, and at the grooming salon.

The Tellington Touch (“TTouch®”) method, created by famed horsewoman Linda Tellington-Jones, offers anyone who works with animals a unique and effective way to encourage the behaviors we want while enhancing our interspecies communication and deepening our bond. TTouch is a well-established training method that includes groundwork exercises, body wraps, and dozens of pleasant, novel touches.

For now, let’s focus on one simple TTouch technique that helps increase any dog’s comfort being handled in the common “problem areas”: paws, mouth, and ears. These body parts get handled the least during daily activities, resulting in wariness (at best) when they must be handled by someone—especially someone other than the owner, in a setting other than the comfort and safety of home.

As a TTouch Practitioner since 2008 (and in training for two years before that), I have found the “raccoon” invaluable in helping dogs get comfortable being handled. (Many TTouches are named after animals; this one is called the “raccoon” touch because it resembles the small, precise hand movements raccoons make.) The technique is easy to learn, and can be used on all of these challenging body areas.

The raccoon touch is a circular touch. The circles are tiny and light—like you’re gently touching your closed eyelid. When doing raccoon touches on the mouth, it is often most comfortable to rest the dog’s muzzle on one hand while you make slow, small circles with the tip of your index finger on the other (see above). Start at the hinge of the jaw, outside the mouth, and work forward towards the nose. If your dog is wiggly and the circles feel too fussy at first, begin with simple, gentle stroking along the sides of the mouth (from the nose back), adding a small circle at the end of each stroke. When working inside the mouth, making circles on the gums, use one fingertip and keep a cup of water nearby to moisten your fingertip.

Screen Shot 2017-11-10 at 12.31.32 PM

To work on the ears, rest the thumb of your dominant hand behind the dog’s ear, near the base. Keeping your thumb in this spot, use the tips of one to three of your fingers (whatever fits and feels best to you) to make a light circle about ½” in diameter right where your fingertips would naturally touch down. Slide your thumb softly about ½” to an adjacent spot and repeat, working along the base of the ear(s).

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Handling a dog’s nails and paws is frequently difficult and requires patient practice. To work the raccoon touch on a dog’s feet, begin where it is reasonably easy for the dog to be touched, which may be up the leg a few inches. Slowly and casually work your way down onto the paws (fur side and pad side) and each nail, making tiny circular touches with the tip of your index finger.

Practice raccoon touches a few times each day, in sessions lasting just two or three minutes each. As you practice, keep your mood positive, breathe calmly, and speak reassuringly to your dog. If you’re frustrated or hurried, take care of yourself first and then work with your dog.

Let your dog’s vet and groomer know you’re working on increasing your dog’s comfort being handled, so they can support your training by giving your dog a break if she gets stressed. Any good professional groomer, like the ones at PetSmart Grooming Salons, should understand this project and enthusiastically support it.

Learn more at

Sassy’s new clothes


I met a woman at Target a couple weeks ago – I had Sassy with me. She asked me about Sassy’s story and we ended up talking for a while. She went on to share with me how she lost her two Chihuahuas in an awful accident…

She was walking down the alley in her neighborhood and, out of nowhere, someone let an unleashed German Shepherd out of a gate. That dog attacked and killed both of the Chihuahuas instantly. In the middle of trying to save her dogs’ lives, she broke her foot and sustained several bite wounds. She expressed so much pain around this loss, obviously so. We talked for a long time, cried, and hugged. We exchanged info, as she wanted to learn more about FetchFind and follow Sassy’s story.

That night, I received a text from her. She offered Sassy all of her dog’s clothes and accessories. She’d been holding onto them for a year and couldn’t bring herself to part with the items. She said as soon as she laid eyes on Sassy, she knew why she’d kept them and wanted to pass everything along to us.

I’d like to wrap this up neatly by saying there is a moral to the story, except that there isn’t. What happened to those poor Chihuahuas and their owner was horrible, and completely preventable. But as we start the week, I’d just like to say this – be kind to each other. The person next to you in the store might be suffering from crippling pain. You never know how a small act of kindness, or fifteen minutes out of your day to just listen, can help someone else begin to heal. And I’ve always thought that being given the opportunity to help someone else is a mitzvah granted to me, not the other way around.

Thank you, lady in Target. Thank you for letting me share your pain and your love for your dogs. And welcome to the FetchFind family.


Jamie Sig Trans - First Only


Carrot cake – for dogs!

rayme cake

By Andrea Miller

I have two big loves in life: food and dogs. They aren’t combined too often, but I used to make dog-friendly birthday cakes for my beagle, Rayme. We later switched to individual “pup-cakes” after I realized multiple dogs eating one birthday cake was just asking for trouble. When she passed away in 2010, I put my doggie cookbooks away on the shelf. But when I rescued Bosworth, a terrier mix, I pulled the cookbooks back out and they are constantly in use these days! 

Dogs are born meat lovers. But just like humans, dogs benefit from eating from the main food groups, so make sure your homemade meals include a good portion of non-meat foods, especially grains, vegetables, and starches. Some excellent non-meat foods that are highly nutritious and tasty to canines are yogurt, eggs, apples, rice, green beans, peas, and spinach. In my experience, dogs also love orange vegetables: pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and carrots. In fact, Boz will actually run through his repertoire of tricks just for a piece of carrot. It’s no wonder this carrot cake was a hit with the dogs at one of Rayme’s birthday parties. Try it for your next canine celebration!

Carrot Cake with Turkey Sausage Crumbles & Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups unbleached flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 1/2 cups carrots, shredded
  • 1/2 cup turkey sausage, cooked
  • 1 recipe Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 8-inch cake pans.

In a mixing bowl, mix the eggs and oil together. In another bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, and cinnamon. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and beat until mixed. Fold in the carrots and sausage.

Divide the batter between the cake pans. Bake for 30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Allow the cake layers to cool completely before frosting. Frost with the cream cheese frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla

Cream the softened cream cheese in a mixer until smooth. Add the milk and vanilla. Beat the mixture until it is smooth and creamy. Using an offset spatula, frost the cake layers with a thin layer of cream cheese frosting. Be sure to put less on that you would if you made the cake for yourself.


Similar in taste to sweetened cocoa, carob does not contain caffeine or other elements that can affect the nervous system. Chocolate is toxic to dogs, and carob is a very popular substitution when creating bakery-style dog treats. When purchasing carob chips, be sure to use only unsweetened varieties.

Melt carob chips in a stainless steel bowl over a pan of water. Transfer to a Ziploc bag. Cut off the tip and pipe the melted carob on the cake.

Want more dog-friendly recipes? Check out Real Food for Dogs by Arden Moore and The Everything Cooking for Dogs Book by Lisa Fortunato.

This recipe was originally posted on The Chopping Block blog. Check out the recipe for their Elvis Pupcakes here. 


Andrea MillerAndrea has been with The Chopping Block for over 15 years in every role from Chef Assistant to General Manager to Private Event Coordinator and now Marketing Manager. Her journalism background and culinary school education from Le Cordon Bleu in Chicago give her the know-how to spread the word about The Chopping Block’s mission to get people to cook. She’ll never shy away from a music festival, hot yoga class, beach read, dinner out with friends or a good glass of Pinot Noir, especially when cuddling on the couch with her terrier, Bosworth.

Is your dog a good fit for doggy daycare?


By Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA

The dog daycare industry is big. and it can be overwhelming when trying to find the right place for your dog. There is a lot to look for when choosing a daycare. If you need help, check out Jamie Migdal’s blog on how to choose the best doggy daycare. In this post, I am going to concentrate on whether or not your dog is a good candidate for daycare.

Dog daycare can be great for humans. We feel better knowing that our dog is getting exercise and attention while we work long days. It’s also nice coming home to a tired dog so we can enjoy our evenings in peace. But what is great for us isn’t always great for our dogs.

So here are some ways to tell if your dog is a good candidate for daycare.

Your dog loves other dogs: I know you are probably saying, “Duh Erin! All dogs love other dogs.” But that isn’t true. A lot of dogs don’t very much like the company of other dogs, at least not to the extent that they want to be around them all day. Most dogs are perfectly content being around only their humans. Some dogs only enjoy familiar dogs. Just like humans have different personalities, so do our dogs. If your dog is an introvert, don’t fret. Also, if your dog has any reactivity towards other dogs, they aren’t a good fit for daycare.

You can’t give your dog adequate exercise: There is no judgment here. Sometimes you just can’t give your dog the exercise they need, whether that’s because you work long hours, you can’t physically give them exercise they need or your dog just needs a lot. Sometimes your best option is to send your dog to daycare a few days a week.

Your dog suffers from separation anxiety: Daycare isn’t the best option to help your dog get over separation anxiety, but sometimes you don’t have the time to fix the problem. For example, I know many people who live in apartments and have been issued a notice that they either need to quiet their barking dog or find a new place to live. Sometimes time isn’t on your side and you need something to help while you get the training your dog needs. If your dog does suffer from separation anxiety, make sure you are seeking the help of a positive reinforcement dog trainer.

If your dog doesn’t like daycare or isn’t a good candidate for it, don’t worry! There are plenty of options to tire your dog out.

Dog walker: Dog walkers are a great alternative to daycare. They come to your house, take your dog out for a nice walk and give them some personal attention. Your dog never has to leave the comfort of their neighborhood. Dog walkers are usually happy to work around whatever schedule you desire and will walk multiple dogs if you have more than one.

Individual play groups: Some daycares offer up an individual or family daycare option. This means that they give your dog individual playtime without other dogs around. Or if you have multiple dogs, they will let them play together without other dogs around. This option, if offered, is usually going to cost more, but might be worth it if your dog needs some special attention or doesn’t play well with others.

Sports: If you have an evening or two free each week, a great way to tire your dog out is to get involved in dog sports. Agility and K9 Nose Work are great options. They not only tire your dog out, but they allow you time to bond with your dog.

Remember, doggy daycare isn’t for everybody – and that is OK. There is nothing wrong with your dog if they prefer the comfort of their own home compared to a busy environment. If you do take your dog to daycare, try to limit it to 2-3 days a week so they have plenty of downtime.

Does doggy daycare work for you? If not, what else have you tried?


Erin Schneider 250x300Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA and owner of Touch Dog Training, is a certified professional dog trainer who employs positive reinforcement behavior modification techniques intended to deliver results while building stronger bonds between dogs and their owners. Erin practiced her craft in Chicago for many years as a Senior Trainer for AnimalSense Canine Training & Behavior. There she taught dog training classes and also conducted private, in-home lessons with pets and their owners. In March 2015, Erin relocated to Colorado and is excited to share her knowledge and expertise with dog owners in the Denver/Boulder metro area.