Occasionally, we get questions by email or through our website’s comments system from people who need help with a training issue, who would like our opinion on a specific food or behavior, or who just have dog questions in general. We try to answer them all, so if you have any questions, please feel free to send them to us.
In this installment of Your Questions:
The Goodlife Recipe
Should you see a dog’s ribs?
Marrow bones: good or bad?
What does K-9 mean?
How to trim a dog’s nails
How to stop shedding
Labs: a good protection dog?
Maltipoos: are there dominant traits?
Q: What is your opinion about The Goodlife Recipe
We’ve received a number of questions about The Goodlife Recipe from people who are researching the company and people who want to know whether this brand has been linked to health or allergy issues in animals. This makes me very happy because it means that people are doing research before buying a dog food. The Goodlife Recipe is not a new company but a new brand name for pet foods produced by the Mars Petcare Company, which is a subsidiary of Masterfoods. Masterfoods also owns the pet food brands Pedigree, Sheba, Wiskas, and Ceasar, which you may have seen on your grocery store shelves.
My personal opinion about The Goodlife Recipe is that it’s no better or worse than the rest of the grocery-store pet foods you might find along the pet aisle of your local Price Chopper, Costco, Walmart, or anywhere else you regularly shop for groceries. I’m not a fan of most of these foods because they tend to contain large amounts of inexpensive fillers (such as corn).
Our philosophy at DFDK9 is to feed the best quality food that you can afford and that works for your dog. There are many brands of foods to choose from and it’s best to find something that works for your individual dog: something that meets their nutritional requirements, helps maintain a healthy weight, gives solid stools, and gives healthy, shiny coat. Often, this also means finding a balance between a quality food and an affordable price. (For those wondering, we feed Taste of the Wild.) You can get started making informed feeding decisions by learning about dog foods and their ingredients over on the Dog Food Project’s website.
Q: Is it normal to see a healthy Chihuahua’s ribs?
A: This is one of those questions where you might think giving the answer is as easy as saying yes or no, but it’s actually a little bit more complicated than that. Although you never want to see all of the ribs in a healthy, well-cared-for, in-shape dog, being able to see the last two or even three ribs on a dog doesn’t equal abuse or neglect – it may even point to a healthy, in-shape, working dog.
In your average pet dog, regardless of whether that’s a Chihuahua or a Labrador, you should be able to very easily feel all of the ribs. The correct way of feeling the ribs is to place your hand on the dog’s spine while he is standing, with your fingers pointing downward over the ribcage. In this position, you should be able to easily feel the ribs underneath your fingertips without having to push down hard through a layer of fat. When the dog is standing straight and at rest (meaning, not heavily panting), you should not see the ribs.
Some breeds of dogs, particularly sighthounds, tend to appear very thin when they are at a healthy, working weight. It’s also not uncommon – and actually healthier for the dog – to see working breeds such as German Shepherds and Malinois used by police or in dog sports to be on the thinner end of the spectrum, with the last few ribs visible.
Two healthy, fit dogs in their ideal weight – even though you can see their ribs.
Photo credit: left, US Marine Corps; right: Wikipedia.
Q: Are marrow bones good or bad for dogs?
A: Marrow bones are good if they are given raw and under supervision.
Bones of any kind can be healthy and beneficial for your dog: they do a fantastic job cleaning teeth, preventing plaque build-up, providing calcium and phosphorous, and giving your dog hours of chewing fun. They can, to some extent, help firm up your dog’s stools also. (Just as a word of warning, however: raw bones are very messy and should be fed on an easily-cleaned surface or outdoors.)
Bones should always be given to dogs raw. This means that they’re not cooked, baked, smoked, or otherwise processed. (Ditch those nasty, chemical-laden “bones” they sell at the pet store and buy actual marrow bones at your grocery store instead.) Chicken legs and turkey necks, which we’ve all been told for years will kill our dogs, are among the most commonly fed raw bones. As a matter of fact, chicken thigh quarters make up the bulk of most raw feeders’ diet plans and turkey necks do a fantastic job cleaning dogs’ teeth.
Holistic veterinarian Dr. Ihor Basko has a great article about feeding bones, which I highly recommend.
Q: What is the meaning of K-9?
A: The term K-9 was first used by the US armed forces, where abbreviations are commonly used in everyday language and on paperwork. The term itself is a homophone – a word that’s pronounced the same as another word but may have a different spelling or meaning. In this case, K-9 is a homophone for canine, which comes from the Latin word canis, meaning dog.
Q: How do I trim my Husky’s nails?
A: Many dog owners, especially those who are new to owning a dog, are wary of trimming their own dog’s nails because they’re afraid that they will cut the quick and hurt their pet. A good way to learn how to do it at home is to ask your veterinarian or your groomer to teach you how, which is something that a good vet or groomer should absolutely be willing to do for their customers. If you would rather learn in the privacy of your own home, the College of Veterinary Medicine at Washigton State University has a great step-by-step guide with detailed photographs and explanations to help you get started.
A Dremel tool is a great alternative to traditional nail clippers and allow for a smoother, shorter finish – however, it takes some time, patience, and training for a dog to accept the Dremel tool because many dogs are uncomfortable with the sound, vibration, and smell the tool produces. The DoberDawn website has a great step-by-step guide on using the Dremel to do your dog’s nails.
Q: How do I stop by dog from shedding?
A: Let me get the obvious out of the way first: there’s absolutely no way to stop shedding completely. Full stop. All living creatures that have fur (or hair) and skin will shed hair and dead skin cells all year long, although some shed more heavily than others and some “blow” their thick undercoats in spring, leading to an increase in shedding.
Although you cannot stop shedding completely, there are some things you can do to cut down on it. Among those, the most important thing you can do is to provide your dog with a healthy diet, necessary dietary supplements, and frequent grooming. Diet plays an extremely large role in having healthy, low-shedding fur in dogs just as it plays a role in having healthy hair and nails in humans and other animals – horses hoof health, for example, is largely dependent on a correct diet. Dogs on high-quality foods that don’t contain unnecessary fillers usually have healthier coats and shed less. Additionally, supplements such as fish oil, coconut oil, and vitamin C are beneficial additions to your dog’s diet and make a difference in the appearance (and amount of shedding) of the coat.
Lastly, frequent grooming also helps cut down on the shedding. Grooming loosens dead hair and gets it out of the dog’s coat, and it also prevents tangles and matting. Even better, it nourishes the bond you have with your dog: dogs within a family group also come to each other for grooming, which not only helps their coats but also helps establish family structure and bonds. The best way to groom your dog depends entirely on your dog’s coat: a double-coated breed may require an undercoat rake, a short-coated breed a bristle brush, and a long-coated breed a wide-toothed comb. Use a tool that is made for your dog’s coat type, that you’re comfortable with, and that works for you.
Different grooming tools for different coat types.
Photo credit: PetCo website.
Q: Where can I buy an all-weather leash?
A: My go-to leash is a simple Schweikert braided leather lead, which is technically an all-weather leash: after all, humans have been using leather for dog leashes and horse harnesses for centuries. The problem with leather is that it requires maintenance and conditioning, especially when it gets wet and muddy, whereas many modern-day materials, such as Biothane, have a similar feel to leather and retain the same grippability when wet, without the maintenance.
Two of those all-weather, low-maintenance leashes are Ray Allen’s RAM-Tech Leather Alternative and Elite K-9’s ASAT (All Season, All Terrain) leads. And then there are tons and tons and tons of companies and individuals producing and selling Biothane leashes, long lines, and collars in every color you might possibly imagine that are not trademarked by a company.
Q: Is a Labrador Retriever a good defensive dog?
A: A properly bred Labrador Retriever is a happy-go-lucky dog who’ll love all sorts of people. They are not naturally way of strangers or protective of their owners. According to the breed standard, a true Labrador temperament is as much a hallmark of the breed as its “otter” tail. The ideal disposition is one of a kindly, outgoing, tractable nature; eager to please and non-aggressive toward man or animal. As such, a Labrador might bark if strangers come to your home, but I wouldn’t look toward a Lab if you’re hoping to use the dog for protection or the bite sports. Labradors working as patrol dogs or in the sport of Schutzhund are extremely few and far between because that’s just not what the breed is meant to do.
Q: What are the dominant traits of a Maltipoo?
A: Most established dog breeds have one or more traits that should be expected in a properly-bred dog of that breed, usually related to the breed’s original purpose or function. For example, German Shepherds usually have a strong instinct t herd, which often shows in herding people and nipping at them. This is due to the fact that the breed originated as a herding dog, and dogs with strong herding instincts were naturally bred more to keep this instinct and ability in the breed than dogs that had a low drive for herding.
The Maltipoo, on the other hand, is not a breed of dog but rather a mix of two breeds, the Maltese and the Poodle, and therefore you cannot predict which traits the mixed offspring will inherit. A Maltipoo puppy can inherit any of the good and bad traits of his parents. Although a breeder may tell you that the Maltipoo will be highly intelligent (from the Poodle side), energetic (both Poodle and Maltese traits), and a good-natured lap dog (from the Maltese side), it’s not always going to be these sought-after traits that will combine in a puppy. Maltese can be prone to aggression, excessive barking and very high energy levels. Poodles can have strong prey drive, and can be territorial. All these traits might be passed on to the Maltipoo offspring, too.
Any time two breeds are crossed, there’s never a standard outcome. Although the genetics of the parents play a strong role – dogs who display aggression, for example, can pass this trait on to their offspring – genetic variability and recombination are responsible for the millions of ways the genes from one father and one mother may combine in the offspring: it’s often the luck of the draw. Although the variability and recombination factors also play a role in purebred breeding, there’s a much clearer idea of dominant traits in the breed itself, which was cultivated over decades of breeding, as well as of the individual parents and their lines – IF the breeding is undertaken by a knowledgeable person who has seen, worked, and studied these lines before putting two dogs together for the purpose of creating puppies.