Cool Tips for Hot Dogs

Summer is almost upon us and as the days heat up care needs to be taken to keep our dogs safe from summer heat hazards.  Are you prepared?  Here’s a brief run down of some cool ideas to ward off heat related maladies this summer.

  • Hydration: Never leave home with your dog unless you have water for them. There are many great carry along bottle arrangements available for dog owners today, I think I have bought nearly every one of them too. They are all great, most have some type of cap that doubles as a drinking cup. Frozen bottles of water work well too, as you hike they thaw but are still cool when you pour them out for your dog; just remember to bring along your collapsible dish if you do this. Plan the amount of water you take on the distance and time you will be out.Chi Drinking
  • Booties: Hot Beach Sand or hot pavement can cause problems for the pads of your dog’s feet. A quick test to see if it’s too hot for them to walk on is to put your hand down and hold it there for 30 seconds or more. If you can’t stand it then they probably won’t either. Make sure the booties you buy are well fitting and that you get your dog use to them before you need to use them. Ultrapaws are one of my favorites.lab booties on sand
  • Fans: If you are going to be stationary for any time you might want to have a fan set up just for your dog, particularly if you are going to crate them. Contractors I found have great portable fans that run all day on rechargeable batteries that are great for this purpose.  I added a solar back up to my set up and its stays charged all the time.
  • Shade Screens: Every dog owner should carry a reflective shade screen for their dog. These are easy to set up over a crate, over your car, as a tent over your sitting place, basically where ever you are you can have relief from the blazing sun. The reflective nature of the screens really keep it very cool for the dog and with your fan going all will be good.shadescreen over crate
  • Cool Pads and Collars: Great new items for dog lovers are the cooling beads in dog pads and collars. These work really well as I learned first hand when I was working dogs in Central America where the tropical temperatures where really high. My dogs had these in their crates as they were being transported allowing them to arrive fresh and ready to go.


Finally, I want to suggest to you to please PLAN your summer outing with your dog(s) in advance.  For example, I will plan on hot days to get the morning training lessons done before the sun fully rises while the temperatures are still relatively cool. I then end the session near a water source so everyone can cool off. This type of planning keeps everyone working strong and enjoying it throughout the summer. The 8 week old pups I have in training now figured out this strategy after only a few days and now I don’t have to say a word and they head straight for the water at the end of the session!

IMG_0091Splish Splash.

Super Sniffer® Puppy Program – Dealing with Fear Periods

By Debby Kay ©2016 all rights reserved

“The only thing you have to fear is fear itself” –FDR

Fear is one of the most mishandled behaviors in dogs that I can think of. Not dealing with fear properly can lead a dog to develop more severe problems including paranoia and self-destructive behaviors. Yet fear is not a bad thing, in fact a healthy fear of certain things will keep a dog alive. Where I think a big problem develops is when the pup is maturing and going through natural fear periods that many people don’t know what to do or how to properly handle the situations that may arise. This will be the focus of the second in a series of articles I am presenting on my puppy raising program.

There are generally 2 recognized fear periods when dogs are growing up. The first red lab puppyappears when they are around 2 to 3 months old. During this time you need to realize your pup is learning a tremendous amount about what is going on in the world and nature has provided this fear period to help keep pups in the wild alive. So this is a good thing in a natural world but something we must manage in our contrived world. Loud noises are something that pups at this age are particularly sensitive to. There are a couple of ways I deal with that here at my kennel when raising out a puppy but first I want to say that I deliberately breed pups that have very low noise sensitivity. If you are buying a potential service dog or a gun dog for hunting, this is something you will want to inquire about.

Prior to the onset of this fear period is when I introduce noises from recordings to the puppies while they are eating. Noise making devices, even noise apps for smart phones, are commonly available with just a little hunting around. By associating the noise with the meal it creates a positive situation and the pups will soon learn that noises (such as bangs, splashes, crashes, whistles, etc.) are no big deal, if anything it means “I’m going to get something to eat”. The noises are introduced far away at first then moved closer and closer to reduce the impact until the noise can be played over the pups while they

3 airedales at the marketplace

Dogs gain confidence from other more stable dogs

are snacking away. Another thing I practice is to vacuum in the room on the other side of the whelping room area when I notice the pups are snacking on mom at around 3 weeks of age. When I do this cleaning routinely, by the time the pups are entering this first fear period, they been so conditioned to this noise that there is little that will bother them.

So in preparing the pups knowing this fear period is going to happen, what actually happens when it comes? What I have found is the pups will respond most to sudden unexpected events not always but sometimes associated with sharp sounds. So knowing this bit of information I try to avoid those things during this time. If that is not always possible I try to take the pup(s) out with an experienced adult that is rock solid. Pups during this period should be around dogs that will create a positive role model, so be careful whom your pup sees and socializes with for these weeks.

Another fear period I see in my Labradors will occur around 9 months of age (most articles I looked at say between 6-14 months in general), which is when they are experiencing one of the last spurts of growth. If you did an analysis of a dog’s hormones at this time I am sure they would be all over the place, as this is the time I see some of the silliest behaviors. Its almost as if the dog I had been working with up to this point has gone away and has left a silly insecure imposture in its place. If I had to guess this is also the age that most people mess up pups and also when most of the pups develop the behaviors that eventually lead them to a shelter.

So what’s an owner to do? Let’s try and look at some examples to help understand an approach that helps in working a dog through this period. Up until now you have had a happy confident pup who greets other dogs with a wagging tail, goes happily along on walks where ever you take him and is not afraid to try anything new. Now all of sudden one day on a walk you have taken every day for the last 6-8 months your dog suddenly balks at the heavy metal trash bins put out by the park service. Huh? You think, “What’s going on?” If you try to force your pup past this, which is a common reaction from most people, you run the risk of frightening the pup to the point of creating a permanent negative association with the object. Don’t try and rationalize that the pup has seen this object a hundred times before, instead try this and help your pup work through the situation.

I will find the point where the pup stops and does not want to be any closer to the object and sit down on the ground right there. If I have a toy or treats I will begin to play a little game with the pup until I have their attention and engagement. Slowly I move myself closer to the object. At some point if I am lucky I will be very close and will then get up and have the pup chase me past the object ending our game with a big round of praise and some treats. Then I settle down and continue my walk. This will not always work but does most of the time.

The same thing is true with pup’s first thunderstorms. One of the biggest problems I see is people will go rushing to the scared pup with a soft encouraging voice and say “Its OK puppy”, not realizing that they are actually reinforcing the pup to be scared of thunder. Instead try what we do and continue to play games of great interest to the pup during all the booming. If you’re good they will be so engaged in playing that they will ignore the thunder, as you are showing them by your example, and just go on with their normal activities.

Fear is normal and a healthy attribute in a dog, it will keep the dog alive; as a future working dog it will be a valuable asset to have. Our job in raising puppies is to be sure those fear periods teach a pup how to handle their fears and keep them in a proper perspective.

Another view of behavior problems

By Debby Kay ©2016 all rights reserved.

Every year hundreds of well-bred seemingly healthy Labradors end up being cut from training programs or turned over to lab rescue because owners can no longer deal with behavior issues. Many behavioral problems are an expression of an underlying health problem often not recognized by trainers and veterinarians as the case studies that follow illustrate.

CStonyfrogleggedase Study 1: Blackjack was a typical Labrador puppy, full of energy, bright and responsive to his owner but he could not “hold” his bladder long enough to make it outside to relieve himself. By 7 months of age, after many consultations with professional trainers and a full exam by the local veterinarian, he was still not housebroken. A very frustrated, disheartened owner gave Blackjack to Lab Rescue.

Case Study 2: Dana was a gorgeous yellow show prospect that came from a highly regarded kennel with impeccable bloodlines known for their good temperaments. She was well socialized and was never mistreated by her owners who were very experienced dog trainers. At 9 months however, Dana was growling and nipping with vicious intent at every human and animal that came near her. Fearing for their children’s safety, Dana was given to Lab Rescue with the label of “fear biter”.

These and similar situations are common and are repeated countless times across the country every year. At first glance, it would be too easy to say Blackjack and Dana were either the result of bad breeding or had poor training or socializing. The truth is that neither situation applies in either of the case histories.Annabelwithtoy

Both dogs were fortunate enough to be examined by a knowledgeable holistic veterinarian who recognized they needed a chiropractic adjustment. Blackjack actually had 6 spinal vertebrate and 2 toe bones out of alignment. After his initial adjustment, he went to his new home and has not had an accident in the house since. He continues to do remarkably well in obedience and is a very well mannered companion. Dana had a slightly different problem in that nearly every vertebrate was out of alignment but in particular, several of the nerves controlling vision were affected. Dana had her eyes cleared for PRA at a breeder’s clinic at 6 months however; it was pointed out that this type of problem would not show up normally in that type of examination. Dana took several visits to make everything right again, but her attitude improved immediately after the first adjustment. She is a wonderful and trustworthy companion today with no signs of aggression or fear biting.

Dog owners, when dealing with health and behavioral issues, frequently overlook alternative veterinarian chiropractic treatment. A veterinarian must undergo specialize training in this field in addition to their regular training and as a result there are not many in practice, however that is no reason to discount a potential problem with the spinal column as a contributing source of a health or behavioral issue. The chiropractic involves adjustment of subluxations[1] of the spinal column and as in the case of Blackjack, the toes or extremities. Their examination will include posture analysis, gait analysis as well as examination of the spine and legs including range of motion. X-rays may or may not be part of the examination depending on the nature of the initial diagnosis. What I find particular good about the chiropractic is that is a drug free approach to health care. The basis of chiropractic is that if an individual has a spinal column properly adjusted which in turn keeps the nervous system inside it operating properly; the result will be a healthy benefit to the entire system.

Labradors are active dogs and thus are subject to many potentially damaging jolts, twists, and turns that we might overlook as insignificant. However, these small seemingly harmless events can build and potentially lead to significant health and behavior issues. All of our Labradors can benefit from an annual chiropractic examination in addition to their regular physical. To find a certified, qualified practitioner near you visit the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association web site at or you can call them at 918-784-2231.

[1] A vertebral subluxation is a spinal misalignment or dysfunction of the joint that results in nerve or biochemical problems.

Blind Love

Blind Love, by Debby Kay © 2015 all rights reserved

You have heard the cliché “all good things come in small packages” many times, I am sure. I can think of no better way to describe how I feel about my little Chihuahua, Boo. He is full of happiness, joy, and a zest for life that is very uplifting, no matter how troubled I might be. He makes me smile and snuggles with such passion you can feel the love coming through the warmth of his fur.

One of Boo’s favorite games to play in the house is what we call the dragon game. He has a special dragon toy he adores. I will snatch it up and fly the dragon around his head making silly sounds as he jumps at it. When he finally catches the mighty dragon, I let go and he races off, making sweeping circles around the furniture, with a final leap up to his favorite chair. Once in the chair he “tames” the dragon by chewing on his nose.

As we were playing one evening with the lights a little dimmer than usual, he missed the chair when he tried to jump. He did not try again and stopped playing abruptly. In fact, it was several days before he would play again. I noticed also that night when I took him out for his last walk that he waited at the door until I went out first and tripped the motion sensor light on our porch. Over the next week my husband Sam and I noticed more and more things that made us think our sweet little dog was not seeing well. I scheduled an appointment with the veterinarian. After a careful examination along with a lengthy technical explanation, the vet determined that Boo was going blind. I had hoped it would be a diagnosis of something simple like cataracts, which can be operated on. No, this was a more elaborate disorder and unfortunately there is nothing to do to stop the progressive decrease in his vision. We were told he would have greater difficulty in low lights and at nighttime. There was no way to determine how much longer he would have nominal vision. The vet also told us he was a much older dog than the 2 years old the shelter said he was. Based on the changes in the eyes the vet said he was more likely to be 7 or 8 years old. Boo acted embarrassed at the vets office, almost as if he was afraid I was going to abandon him. I hugged him tightly and whispered, ” I will always love you no matter what.”

close up of dog'e eyes

Boo will most likely go completely blind in a few years.

Knowing the status of his eyesight has made me realize why all the remodeling being done in our house has him so upset. Things are constantly being shifted from one place to another as contractors finish up one part and move on to another. One of the first things I will make sure happens when the last contractor leaves, is once the furniture is placed, it will not be moved. It is very important to a dog with limited vision or no vision that objects remain in the same place as he learns the patterns of where everything is so he can function close to normal.

In the meantime, while we cope with the constant ebb and flow of contractors, I have done a little research to see what supplements I can get in his diet to help his eyes. From an article by Dr. Karen Yale, I found these five supplements to add to Boo’s new diet plan.

  1. Bilberry was used by the British Royal Air Force (RAF) pilots during WWII so they could see better on their nighttime bombing runs. Because it boosts night vision, provides quicker adjustment to darkness, and allows faster recovery from glare, it’s no surprise that it’s a popular nutrient today for anyone who needs to see better, especially at night.
  2. Lutein is a nutrient found mainly in green, leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, and broccoli. It’s a unique antioxidant that safeguards your eyes’ retinal cells from damaging high-energy blue light and free radicals. It’s like a pair of sunglasses that filter out bright light. Lutein’s been clinically proven to protect your vision by increasing the density of your macula by as much as 50 percent.
  3. Vitamin A is considered to be vital for ongoing vision health. It improves weak eyesight by influencing the formation of rhodopsin, a pigmented compound in the rods of the retina. Vitamin A helps you see better in dim light and maintain the integrity of membranes that keep the cornea moistened.
  4. Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) is often called the “universal antioxidant.” Soluble in both water and fat, ALA helps neutralize a wide array of cell-damaging free radicals in your eyes.
  5. Taurine nourishes and protects the lens and retina. Stress and vitamin deficiencies can reduce taurine levels.

I still take Boo with me as I do farm chores. He seems to relish his role of keeping birds out of the garden, and will lie soaking in the sun for hours while I weed. I have never had a dog go blind on me before, so this will be a learning experience for both of us. We are ready, though, for whatever the future holds.

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.

William Shakespeare

small dog sleeping with a toy dragon

Once conquered the Dragon makes a nice nose warmer





By Debby Kay © all rights reserved

The past few weeks has been a whirlwind of activity at our house and has produced some excellent situations for the diabetes alert dogs in training (DADsit) We don’t often think of training under stressful conditions, but life can be stressful and the DADsit need to learn their job doesn’t stop when the stress levels rise.

We are remodeling our living space with many upgrades and the addition of three bedrooms so there are contractors of every type with equipment of every description throughout our normally peaceful home. The noise, hustle, and disruption of the daily routine are all helpful in teaching the young dogs how to work through such stresses.

Whenever I am working a young dog under these conditions I always start with an exercise they enjoy and do well. My goal is to get them comfortable and into a nice training rhythm before I teach something new or more complex. In other words I set the dogs up for success so they can come away from the session feeling positive. If I don’t see them settle down and relax I don’t push the issue either. I will take them away and try again in 10 or 20 minutes.

Another type of stressful situation you might consider training for is around ambulances. We recently had an ambulance and crew at the house during filming for my new online training course. The sounds, lights, and smells associated with the scene are unlike anything else and a good training experience for a DADit.

During all the commotion at the house, I had an experience that reminded me especially to always be aware of our dog’s feelings and emotions. My rescued Chihuahua Boo was particularly affected on the main day we were packing boxes of things for safekeeping and old furniture was being hauled away. At first, he was out and about watching what was going on, but I realized at one point he had disappeared. I went looking for him and found him crying under a chair in another room. He was trembling and obviously very upset. As I held him and tried to comfort him, it occurred to me his adoption papers said his previous family was moving when they dropped him off at the shelter.

Chihuahua in a moving box

“Maybe if I get in a box they will take me too”

How do you explain to a scared little dog who was just getting settled in at his new home that all this packing and moving doesn’t mean we are going to dump him at the shelter? I’m still not sure he understands. I have tried to explain and reassure him we would never get rid of him and can only hope he somehow understands.

It is important especially with rescue dogs or very sensitive dogs to look for those clues that they are not coping well with the stress around them. In Boo’s case he was clearly crying, but other dogs might not offer as plain a clue to their feelings.

Here are a few additional subtle signs of stress to look for in your dog:

  • Constant nervous licking of themselves especially their paws or feet
  • Ears pulled back against the head
  • Frequent urination
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Panting and pacing

These are just a few things that may be a clue your dog is overstressed. So what can you do to help them?

My favorite thing is to go for a walk. The best time to do this is early in the morning when the sun is bright. Stress affects the adrenal glands, which produce higher levels of cortisol, and this is one known tip to help bring the adrenals back to a normal cycle. Since muscles tend to tense during stress I also like using massage. It’s nice if you can take you dog to a massage therapist but if not, you can just use long, purposeful strokes all over your dog’s body. It will do wonders to reduce stress. My dogs love to have their ears gently massaged as well.

At the end of the day, after his massage, Boo was snuggled under the blanket with me, sleeping soundly. The memories of his Gethsemane began fading as his breathing got slower and deeper. I am hoping somehow he understood everything I told him, especially the part about being my best little service dog in training.

Chihuahua under a blanket

Soft pillow, warm covers, Life is Good!



Caring and Sharing

By Debby Kay ©2014 All rights reserved

I cannot think of anyone better than our dogs that care and share so openly of everything. Every day my dogs are always willing to go work for me and share their joy and spirit with me. There is never hesitation; there is only a total commitment to making me happy with their presence. What a great example for all of us to follow.

This got me thinking of ways we can show our dogs we really care for them. The obvious first thing that comes to mind is caring by what we feed them. Now might be a good time to re-evaluate the food you are giving your dog. Is the protein the correct amount for your dog since you choose this formula? Have you been switching protein sources on a regular basis so your dog’s gut has the variety it needs to be healthy? When was the last time you looked at what you are supplementing with or if you are even supplementing? Perhaps your dog could use a boost with some extra supplementation. Is what you are doing the best you can afford? Are there better quality foods or supplements that you could provide that would help your dog to be healthier?

The second thing I thought of was grooming. I am probably as guilty as anyone owning Labradors for not spending enough time or effort on grooming. My dogs could use more frequent baths and I have resolved to be better at doing this. Weekly brushing is just as important though and something I do regularly. I also do a weekly 14-point wellness assessment of the condition of the dog at the same time. By methodically going over your dog every week it is surprising how many times you can pick up on little changes and catch things before they become major problems (you can read this as equaling major vet bills).

The final thing I thought of was just showing my love and appreciation to my dogs by sharing in something they enjoy; like running through the fields, swimming in the river, or playing puzzles in the evening before bedtime. They seem to beam from ear to ear when I join them in the pack games and get down and play at their level. It makes me happy to see them smile and I swear they are really smiling too.

field with many dogs running

My dogs really seem to enjoy running and sniffing in the fields of our farm

Indeed, this time of the year is one that reminds us in many ways that we should give thanks for all our many blessings. When I reflect back on my humble beginnings 45 years ago and the struggles I endured to get where I am today, I feel especially blessed. I literally started with nothing but a dream to help people and dogs communicate better through a training program focused on making it easy and fun for both to learn. I also dreamed of creating a successful breeding program of service dogs, which my Chilbrook Labradors have far exceeded my wildest aspirations. So many wonderful and supportive people have helped me over the years and I am finally in a place where I can give back and help others in a way I could not before.

From now until December 14th I am running a campaign to raise money for the JDRF, the largest non-profit supporting research for diabetes. For every sale of the set of my Super Sniffer™ Handbook- A Guide for Scent Training Medical Alert Dogs and DVD, I will donate 50% of the proceeds back to JDRF.

I have already discounted the book for the holidays from the regular price of $45 to $34.93 to help folks keep within their holiday budgets. So here is a way to give a gift twice, once to your family, friend, school, or favorite library and also to JDRF and all the lives impacted by diabetes. Just use the code JDRF at check out in the coupon code box.

Sending warm and heartfelt thanks to everyone for a joyous holiday season.