Chaser, a female Border Collie, has been taught the names of 1022 toys. That’s a lot of names.

Chase the border collie

Over the course of three years, psychologists Alliston Reid and John Pilley of Wofford College in South Carolina, introduced a toy with a name and got Chaser to fetch it when asked.

The testers chose groups of twenty Chaser-known toys. These toys were put into a room. In a separate adjacent room (so the handler could not inadvertently cue the dog) Chaser was asked to fetch, by name, one of the toys. Chaser would leave, enter the other room with the toys, choose the appropriately named toy, and bring it back to the handler in the other room.

Lots of toys to choose from

According to Reid, Chaser completed 838 of these tests over 3 years and never got less than 18 out of 20 right.

Chaser was also taught to categorize the named objects, complete tasks such as touching the toy with her nose or paw, and she could infer the name of a new object from a set of familiar objects.

Here is a link that shows Chaser in action.

Dog with the biggest vocabulary

I would bet that many of you have trained your dog to fetch up named objects. If you tell your dog “Get your ball!” does he? Still others train their dog to fetch a beer out of the fridge, fetch the remote control, car keys, slippers, newspapers, and glasses.

How many names of items does your dog know? Can your dog learn more? Can your dog break Chase’s record? How did you train your dog? Do you have videos?

Semper Fido,


But, I have no choice. Michael Vick wants a dog – a pet dog – to run around his house. A pup he can play with, love, care for.

Would you let this guy near your dog?

For crying out loud! Do people really believe this guy?

The Eagles quarterback said in a video interview this week that he genuinely cares for animals and one day hopes to have a dog as a household pet. Vick says it would a “big step” in his rehabilitation process.

Vick served 18 months in prison after being convicted in 2007. The federal judge overseeing the case also prohibited him from ever owning another dog.

If you believe that 18 months in prison entitles Vick to have a dog, I would like you to read these court documents that were just released to WSBTV.

WARNING…the contents of this document are graphic in nature.

Heard enough?

Here’s a piece I wrote last year.

Semper Fido,

Yesterday a friend called my up because she was concerned that Lucy her Bichon was not acting right.

What is your dog's temperature?

I too have visited the vet’s office with my dogs with no other health symptoms than ADR or Ain’t Doin’ Right malady. I know my dogs and so does Lucy’s owner. Something wasn’t right.

“What’s going on?” I asked Barbara, Lucy’s owner.

“She’s just lying around and didn’t eat her breakfast this morning,” Barbara explained.

“Does she have a fever?” I inquired.

“I don’t know. Her nose is wet,” Barbara said.

“Take her temperature,” I advised, “and get back to me.”

“How do I do that?” Barbara wanted to know.

“With a thermometer,” I responded.

“What kind? How do I do that? I have a people one that you put under your tongue,” a frustrated Barbara asked.

Barbara is not alone. Most pet parents have never taken their dog’s temperature, would not have a clue as to properly do so, and do not own a safe rectal thermometer. Yes, I said rectal. For the squeamish there are digital dog ear thermometers available.

A digital dog ear thermometer

I happen to have a glass non-mercury traditional looking thermometer for my dogs. But for the novice I really recommend a rectal or ear digital device.
Everyone who has pets should have a thermometer. And, you should go out and purchase one and learn to use it before there is a need. It’s good to know what your dog’s ‘normal’ temperature is. A dog’s normal body temperature ranges between 100.5 Fahrenheit (38.1°C) and 102.5 Fahrenheit (39.2°C). Learn what your dog’s temperature is when your dog is healthy. Take the dog’s resting temperature a few times during the day so you can get some samples. Don’t take a dog’s temperature after exercise, when it is 95 degrees outside or after the UPS man has been knocking on the door. When you have established what your dog’s ‘normal’ temperature is write it done in your dog’s health records. Don’t have a little notebook to record vitals? Get one because my next few blogs will explain the collection of other vitals like the pulse rate and capillary refill time.

Let’s go over how to take a dog’s temperature…rectally that is. I believe the ear thermometer is fairly easy for dogs who are not ear sensitive. One of my dogs had severe ear infections when she was younger and now really does not like her ears fussed with though her ear condition has been resolved. So we do the rectal route.
Whatever type of thermometer you go with the first thing you should do is label it – with big letters somewhere K9 Thermometer. The reason for this advice should be obvious, especially if there are other people in your household.

Read the instructions on your thermometer. Save the instructions. Sometimes you may not find a reason to use it for a long time.

Always have on hand rubbing alcohol and cotton balls to keep the thermometer clean. And, if you are using a rectal thermometer, you will need petroleum jelly…known to most by the brand named product Vaseline.

There are a few techniques when it comes to taking a dog’s temperature rectally. If you have never done this before or your dog is snappy or skittish about being handled, you may want to have your vet show you how. It helps to have assistance if your dog is not used to the procedure. Choose an assistant who already knows your dog or an experienced dog handler. The assistant handles the front end of the dog and may be armed with some yummy treats to keep the dog’s attention on the taste buds instead of the back end. With the dog standing or lying down, lift the tail and insert the thermometer. Do this in a well lit area. I often use a headlamp so I have use of both my hands and a well lit back end.

Here is your procedure:
• Clean the thermometer with alcohol. Wipe off excess with a cotton ball.
• Apply a small amount of petroleum jelly (Vaseline) to the head or bulb of a rectal thermometer. Just enough to lubricate the tip.
• Slowly slide the thermometer into the dog’s rectum about 1 inch deep.
• Wait 2 minutes for a gradient thermometer or until the digital thermometer beeps.

Remove slowly and read the thermometer. Shake down the thermometer (or shut off a digital) and clean it with alcohol after every use.

If the temperature is 103º (39.4º C) or over, call your veterinarian as your dog could be beginning to have a serious problem.

A dog’s temperature below 99º Fahrenheit (37.2°C) and temperatures above 104º Fahrenheit (40°C) are considered extremely serious and your dog should be brought to a veterinarian immediately.

Barbara’s Bichon? Turns out she discovered that the kids gave Lucy an over abundance of forbidden treats the night before. As always I told her to call her vet for advice. Lucy was back to herself today after a fast.

Semper Fido,

I don’t dress up my dogs. I cringe when I see Yorkies in tutus, Bostons look downright silly in skorts, and Salukis do not need scarves. Many of my friends dress their dogs in frills and I suppose that if the dog is not upset no harm done. But you’re not going to get me to like it.

Tutu for dogs?

I do love dog gear though and have a closet full of it – all different kinds of collars, leads and harnesses – in different materials, patterns, colors and styles. It may not make much of a difference to my dogs but they sure do like my attention when I fit them up with a new spiffy collar or harness. I just don’t like those dresses that mimic childrens clothes. Ok, I have German shepherd dogs and they would look silly in a skirt. I doubt though that little dogs relish being costumed as human infants or toddlers. Little dogs have big dog attitudes and I think they deserve dignity. They too are descended from wolves.

But I am a pragmatist. In certain situations Doggles can actually protect a dog’s eyes.

Military Working Dog with Doggles

Recently I wrote about dog boots. They protect dog feet from salt, chemicals, burning hot sidewalks and can provide traction. (Remember the 9-11 K9s? Some of them wore boots to protect their paws from injuries.) My dogs wear life jackets while on the water. And some dogs need to be kept warm and dry.

Many breeds of dogs are very thin coated or naturally lean and need coats in cold or wet climates. I think of greyhounds and their smaller versions – whippets and Italian greyhounds; Weimaraners; Vizslas; Chinese Cresteds and other hairless breeds; many shorthaired toy breeds and my Annie. Most dog folks would not think that a German shepherd dog would need a warm coat but my particular shepherd does. She is a long-haired, coated version of a German shepherd dog and lacks a wooly undercoat that serves to insulate the dog’s skin. Annie is also afflicted with Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency. Though stabilized, she is thin and lacks that layer of fat that insulates many dog breeds.

Annie is vulnerable to extreme cold. She also needs protection on those snowy, sleety, windy days that hover around freezing. Without an undercoat, her skin quickly gets wet and cold – and she could be in danger of hypothermia. On certain days, Annie needs a coat – one that provides some warmth and most importantly, one that blocks the wind and keeps her dry.

Annie all warm, dry and reflective

Fit is important too. Being a shepherd, Annie is longer than tall. Many dog jackets fail to cover her loin area. I like the jacket to reach just past the beginning of her tail.

Annie's coat is fleece lined and the collar turns down

Today is illustrative of the type of day when Annie needs to get dressed up. Before we set off on our long walk, Annie was fitted up with her boots, her elegant rain/sleet/snow coat and her reflective, Premier front attachment harness and lead.

The Canine Kingdom has a variety of well made and impressive looking clothing for all types of dogs and their particular needs.

Annie has dog aggression issues. While she is manageable for me, she can never be considered “safe and reliable” around strange dogs. I like the Premier front attached harness. It allows me to re-direct Annie’s attention when something – like a dog – enters her ‘comfort zone.’ I put the harness on right over her coat…it is reflective; a nice feature on cold dark days or nights, and it keeps the coat nicely in place.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Semper Fido,

We live in the High Peaks area of the Adirondack Park of New York. There’s one thing you can always count on – snow!

Our back yard

It snowed some yesterday, about 5 inches, just a preview of things to come. The dogs, Tsunami and Annie were ecstatic. They love to play in the snow like otter dogs, leaping, sliding, rolling and nipping at snow balls.

Soon though, depending upon the temperatures and the type of snow, Annie develops hugs ice balls on the bottom of her paws and between her toes. She’s then forced to lie down and try to lick and bite the ice balls from her feet. It’s a painful situation. I have seen dogs with bloody feet due to ice ball paws.

Annie is building up ice in her feet

Both dogs are German shepherds, but Annie is a long haired or coated version of the breed. It is considered a show fault though not uncommon in the breed and shows up periodically in many lines. I don’t much care about confirmation shows but I can see why a coated shepherd is undesirable. Though beautiful, the long coat is subject to tangles and burrs. In many cases, like Annie, the coated dogs lack a dense undercoat which protects them from the elements. The German shepherd dog was bred primarily in the early days as a sheep herding dog – a dog that had to endure the elements everyday of the year regardless of the weather. Tsunami has a traditional coat. One good shake and she is rid of rain, sleet or snow – a wash and wear dog who can hike all day in any weather.

Coated shepherds are not the only dogs to suffer from paw ice balls.

Popsicle toes

Just about any dog with whispy fur between the toes or under the feet has the same problem.

Fuzzy footed Annie

There are some things to do that will help:
1) clip the fur between the toes and between the pads of the feet
2) spray the foot with vegetable oil spray
3) put boots on the dog

I used to clip Annie’s fuzzy feet. She hated the process. And we kinda like the look of her fluff feet.

I have tried the vegetable oil. It doesn’t last that long and needs to be re-applied, especially if you have a dog with a palate for vegetable spray. Annie would just lick it all off.

So, we boot up. We got a real nice, sturdy, comfortable set of boots from the Canine Kingdom

Annie shows off her boots

They’re well made, are designed to fit properly and have a nice treaded sole. Most importantly, Annie is not offended by them. She readily hops on the couch to allow me to slip them on and strap them up. That may not sound like a lot – but you don’t know my Annie. If she doesn’t like something…case closed. There are no negotiations or re-visiting the subject.

There are some other good reasons for a good set of dog boots. Every year I read of dog electrocutions in cities. I don’t know the science behind it but the combination of water and salt and deteriorated infrastructures have led people and pets to get electrical shocks when they step on metal sidewalk grids. The thick lugged soles of these boots can help in those situations.

Most municipalities use salt on roads and sidewalks. This stuff is dangerous if a dog ingests it. What dog does not lick its wet paws when they come back in the house? Better they wear boots which protect the feet from toxins.
These boots are comfortable. They could easily be used indoors to provide traction if you have non-carpeted flooring. Lots of uses…a good product…and a nice gift for the pooch.

Best dressed do in town

Like her hand beaded collar and lead? Check out the Kenyan Collection at the Canine Kingdom.
Semper Fido,

They’re everywhere! Dozens of retail stores in Manhattan have shut down. The most posh hotels have closed their doors. Island resort hosts are scratching their heads and more.

Bed Bugs Crawling on a Mattress

The bed bugs have invaded. Once the plague of slum neighborhoods the bed bugs have moved uptown – wealth and riches mean nothing to these biting pests.

For the past few months the bed bugs have made headlines. We know what they look like, what they can do, how resilient they are and what they like to eat …blood!

Man’s best friend – the dog – is ready and willing to help us detect their presence and let us know when it is safe to curl up in bed for a night’s snooze.

The nose knows. Dogs have proven to be effective in detecting so many distinctive scents when properly trained. Who can forget the images of those brave search and rescue dogs sniffing through the remains of the World Trade Center, wading through the flooded houses in New Orleans, searching through the rubble of homes in Haiti? The SAR dogs always come to mind when we think of detection dogs who are trained to find live people and human remains.

Tsunami my SAR K9

But dogs have been trained to detect many other signature scents. Many people who have flown into California are familiar with the Beagle Brigade. Long eared Snoopy dogs sniff out illegal food. Each time they find a piece of fruit or a summer sausage they are rewarded with a morsel of dog food for a job well done.

Cops use trailing dogs to pick up the scent of bad guys. Law enforcement dogs fearlessly enter buildings and sniff out the perpetrator. Law enforcement agencies and our military use dogs to detect narcotics and explosives.

Military Working Dog searching for explosives in Iraq

It has been noted that some dogs have a propensity for detecting illnesses – diabetes, cancer, epilepsy, anxiety. It is not totally clear how they are doing it but laboratory studies prove that they are.

Environmental specialists have enlisted dogs to help them detect the presence of rare and threatened species of wild animals and plants. For centuries dogs have been used to find truffles, the elusive and expensive culinary delight.

Recognizing their abilities, exterminators have utilized dogs to detect termite infestations. And now bed bugs.

I spoke with my friend Andy Hanellin the other day. Andy is a dog trainer from North Carolina who produces many types of detection dogs – law enforcement K9s for narcotics, man trailing, and explosives, SAR dogs, service dogs and now, due to the demand, bed bug detection dogs.

A Bed Bug Detection dog at work

It takes about four months to train a dog to passively (a sit and stare at the source) indicate the presence of live bed bugs. Pretty tricky stuff. The dog must ignore the presence of dead bed bugs, any of their sheddings or feces. Andy’s advice – “Detection dogs of any type are only as good as their trainer and handler…carefully choose a reputable company.”

Dogs rock!

Semper Fido,

My dog’s name is Tsunami and my husband’s dog is Annie.

Tsunami & Annie

I am always intrigued about how dogs get their names. Let me tell you about our girls.

A little black German shepherd ball of fluff joined our household in the spring of 2000. We had recently lost our 16-year old Jilly girl and our home was so sad…we needed another dog in our lives.

My husband Hal and I really wanted to work with a search and rescue dog and decided to begin looking for an appropriate pup to train. We found a breeder of working line shepherds. She had two litters available. We sat on the ground and held and played with a blur of cuddly puppies. So hard to choose. Which one would grow up to have what it takes to become a SAR dog? Even the most experienced dog trainers can pick a puppy that grows up only to wash out from a working program.

Who to Choose?

We had a few favorites. June, the breeder invited us into her home to discuss purchase details. We sat down at the dining room table to look over pedigrees. Under the table was a pup – older than the others we looked at – about 3 months old. I sat on the floor and called the pup over. She obliged and curled up in my lap.

“What’s the deal with this pup June?” I asked.

“Oh, she’s not for sale. She’s the last pup from another litter,” she explained.

“Why isn’t she for sale?” I inquired.

“I don’t know,” June replied. “There’s just something about her. Something special.”

After a lot of haggling we came home with that very special pup.

We named her Tsunami because she came into our hearts like a big wave. She went on to dramatically change our lives. She continues to inspire me every day.

Tsunami this Summer

On September 11, 2001 terrorists attacked our country. Hal and Tsunami responded to the World Trade Center to search for the lost. Our world had changed.

On July 4, 2002 we received a call from Tsunami’s breeder. A puppy she had sold was no longer welcomed by its owners. The dog had to go. Allergies were cited – sure – on the Fourth of July! June did not have room in her kennels as it was a busy holiday. The dog was going immediately to a gas station to work as a guard dog. Could we take her in?

We’d taken in dogs before and found lovely homes for them. Sure, we said. Bring her over.

She was named Cheyenne. She was skinny, shy, and smelled like a thousand ash trays. Allergies indeed. She tolerated Tsunami, who was very gracious to our guest, barely looked at me and immediately latched onto Hal.

We thought Cheyenne did not suit her but were reluctant to stray too far from that name…it was the only thing that was still familiar to her. Hal renamed her Orphan Annie – or Annie for short.

Annie is still with us. Wise dog that Annie. She cleaved to Hal, stole his heart. He renamed her again – Arfin’ Annie.

Hal with Arfin' Annie

So, what’s in a name? I’d love to hear your stories.

Semper Fido,