February is National Pet Dental Health Month

What? You don’t think about your dog’s oral care EVERY month? Dental health care should be a daily ritual of some sort. I know, I know, it can be yet another task to take care of in an already busy day, and maybe you have multiple dogs (like me) where it’s a task x 6. However, dental care is super important on so many levels. If your dog suffers from bad breath, did you know that the odor might pose a serious health risk, one that includes damaging your dog’s organs as well as gums and teeth?

On my 3 Schips and A Girl Facebook page (posting date 2/3/17) I’ve posted a photograph of my favorite dental products. Dry-roasted beef kneecaps have proven to be the best way to keep plaque off my dogs’ teeth. And my dogs clearly enjoy chewing these bones far more than having their teeth brushed. I still brush periodically, though. For small dogs, use small (child-sized) toothbrushes so you can more easily brush teeth, especially in the back of the mouth. Be gentle. The Petz Life Oral Gel came recommended to me by holistic vet Dr. Donna Kelleher here in Bellingham. It comes in two flavors, salmon and peppermint. Keep in mind that some dogs don’t like peppermint.  A benefit from brushing your dog’s teeth is knowing what’s going on in your dog’s mouth beyond plaque buildup: I discovered that one of my Schips had a slab fracture from chewing on an antler (which I subsequently learned are too hard and break teeth all the time). Had I not been brushing, I’m sure my Schip would have suffered more pain and infection because I wouldn’t have been aware of the problem.

Adding a smidge of kelp product to your dog’s food can help keep plaque at bay. Before my vet (Northshore Veterinary Hospital) started carrying a kelp product (which is featured in the photograph on my FB page mentioned above), I used Plaque-Off by ProDen (made in Sweden).

Nylabones and Benebones can offer some plaque-removal benefits, and I offer these to my daycare dogs. I don’t use the kneecaps in daycare since they are too high value and could trigger resource-guarding, but I have a slew of these artificial chews and many dogs find them fun to gnaw on.

There are other options in the marketplace to help with your dog’s oral health but these are my favorite. I make sure each of my dogs visits my vet once or twice a year to have their teeth checked; I can’t always spot an issue that indicates a tooth should really be pulled, especially with older dogs. One of my Schips really hates brushing, and she is older with few teeth, so I find that using a piece of gauze to wipe teeth free of food and gunk is easiest (thanks to my vet Colleen Coyne at Northshore Vet for this advice).

You can find the above products at your favorite pet food supply store or through Amazon or your vet. Happy teeth cleaning!

Why Use a Holistic Vet?

I’ve been using a holistic vet for years now, and I can’t imagine not using one. My holistic vet is Donna Kelleher, DVM, here in Bellingham. A vet is not a vet is not a vet, and when it comes to holistic vets, the case is no doubt the same; every individual has to decide whether a health-care provider for your dog is the right fit.

The term holistic vet gives some folks pause, I think. What IS a holistic vet? When someone suggested I consider Dr. Donna for one of my Schips who was suffering from blisters along her lips, I remember wondering what she could do that my “regular” vet couldn’t. When Dr. Donna determined — in one visit — that my Schip was allergic to fish, chicken, and dairy, and my Schip’s blisters disappeared in about a week once I removed these foods from her diet, I was sold. I had spent over $700 in blood tests, biopsies, and other things that my regular vet suggested in trying to determine what could be causing the blisters. My regular vet had finally concluded the blisters were probably food sensitivity/allergy related, and suggested the “elimination” approach, which is potentially lengthy and tedious. Dr. Donna utilizes NAET in diagnosing allergies, and while NAET may seem like voodoo science (!) to some unsuspecting folks, I can assure you it works. NAET is the acronym for Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Techniques; visit https://www.naet.com/.  NAET works for both diagnosing allergies and clearing them.

These days I differentiate my vets as either “Western Medicine” or holistic. To state the obvious, western medicine is GREAT for so many things. That said, western medicine has its limitations. A western medicine vet doesn’t have tools in her toolbox for all things. Nor does a holistic vet have all the tools for all things in her kit. Combining both types of vets, though, give a person (animal)  the best of both worlds. There is a lot to be said for modalities such as NAET, herbs, acupuncture, chiropractic care, and last but not least, preventive care. Was my western medicine vet a bad vet because she couldn’t diagnose my Schip’s allergies? No. It’s just that the tools and approach didn’t yield the results whereas NAET did. So when I suspect that a dog (be it mine or belonging to one of my clients) has allergies, which usually manifest themselves in blisters, itchy paws, hot spots, and so forth, my first step is to go to Dr. Donna and get an immediate diagnosis. Western medicine would simply treat the symptoms with medication. This is not the approach I want to incorporate; I want to get to the source, not suppress the symptoms.

Vet schools don’t teach all things. What I have learned is that there seems to be a lack of attention to diet and nutrition in vet schools. There seems to be an over-reliance on “veterinary prescription” foods (by Royal Canin and Hill’s), not to mention pharmaceuticals, to address certain issues. And certainly the pet food industry contributes to disease in our pets in the form of some very low quality foods (but that’s another topic). Dr. Donna has given me tailored diets (be they home-made or raw) to deal with allergies, pancreatitis, heart disease, and more. In all cases my dogs have benefited from her nutritional advice, and I’ve witnessed friends’ and clients’ dogs benefiting from her holistic approaches as well (including with cancer). Take a look at Dr. Donna’s website at www.wholepetvet.com to learn how a holistic approach to diet, vitamins, supplements, and more can put your pet in the healthiest position possible.

As I mentioned above, using both a holistic and western medicine vet for care can be a wise path. Sometimes, however,  it can be challenging to navigate opposing theories and approaches to a medical problem. I had to traverse a slippery slope with my Schipperke Tripp, a blue Schip with congestive heart failure, seizures, and pulmonary hypertension: There were various pharmaceutical drugs he needed to be on, but there were also some herbal alternatives (e.g., for Lasix) that were appealing to utilize. Tripp had a village of health-care providers and ultimately I had to make my own decisions about which types of approaches to utilize. Yes, it was scary. But in hindsight, Tripp had the best care; nothing horrible happened with my decisions. I listened to his health-care team and made sure they were all aware of each other’s opinions. It was a valuable experience. I would make the same decisions all over again if I had to.

Pharmaceutical drugs have their place. But there are some amazing herbal replacements that are less expensive and that pose no long-term risks for organs. I have several of my older Schips on Dr. Donna’s herbal concoctions (which can be either Chinese or Western herbs) for joint swelling and arthritis. The herbs work super well. I also have one of my Schips on some herbs to dissolve her kidney stones; the herbs are working.

My Schips also visit Dr. Donna for acupuncture and chiropractic care. Not all holistic vets might offer chiro care but I’m thrilled Dr. Donna does. (One-stop shopping is awesome!). I believe that regular chiro care is valuable for a wide range of dogs, be they older or involved in sports such as agility. I look at chiro care as preventive care.  I don’t want my agility dogs in particular suffering in old age from some problem that could have been addressed years earlier.

I realize that not all communities have access to holistic vets. We are super lucky to have Dr. Donna in Bellingham. Personally, I’m grateful to all the vets who have helped my pets over the years but I am particularly grateful to have options and choices in how I seek out care for them.

Train the Dog in Front of You

Early in 2016 my Schip pup Ace and I were able to start a Pre-Sport Puppy Foundation class at Synergy Dog Sports in Mt. Vernon. What a journey I found myself on! Instructor Diana Hoyem introduced our puppies to all things Fenzi: that is, the Denise Fenzi methods of training a dog utilizing her books from the Dog Sports Skills Series. These books discuss developing engagement and relationship, motivation, play, and focus. Wow. So sensible. I ask myself, How is it this kind of training is so new? Yet is is and it has transformed how I think about dogs on many levels.

Train the dog in front of you is what I now think about each and every time I work with my agility Schips Ace and Blitzen. Are they engaged with me? Are they ready to play/work? Or are they distracted? I now have the tools to respect how they feel and how to guide their attention back to me. I also have the knowledge that sometimes you have to walk away from a training session because it’s just not the right time for them to focus. What a novel concept, right? I see so many folks, whether in agility or some other sport or even just on a walk – trying to cajole their dog into focusing on them, or perhaps they are shouting at their dog, or even yanking them. I have even seen someone smack their dog. I have certainly been guilty of cajoling my previous Schips Bizzy and Juno when they were off in what I deemed “la la land” when I wanted them to focus at an agility trial or during class. Of course, with each and every dog (as those of us in multi-dog households know) we naturally (hopefully!) build on what we’ve learned with previous dogs, but the Fenzi method is exciting to me and has made me re-evaluate what success is when I work with my dogs. Success is now not just a qualifying score, or making the list for a National Agility Competition; it’s all about seeing the desire of “let’s do it!” in my Schips’ eyes.

Dog parents: Whether you compete or not, acquainting yourself with the books by Denise Fenzi can really guide you in the dog training process. Check out the websites www.fenzisportsacademy.com and www.k9infocus.com. Start off your 2017 with some new, fun goals with your four-legged partner.

Cheers, and have fun playing with your furry partner.

Lodge schedules

Back in January I announced Lodge closure dates so I can attend agility trials. Please note that these dates have changed and I will not necessarily be closed on any of the previously announced closure dates. Please call or email me to find out current schedules. Thanks!

Happy 2013! News from the Lodge.


2012 was excellent for The Canine Lodge and I’m excited about 2013! Thank you to everyone who voted for 3 Schips and A Girl in the Best of the Northwest contest; I was pleased that we received honorable mention given that we have been operating less than two years. And we’re small! We continue to average 10-13 dogs a day, and we plan on staying small. We like to give our campers (as we call the dogs who come for daycare or board) lots of attention. We don’t simply manage dogs, we interact with them and while the Lodge is all about having fun, we do want campers to have manners and we like to teach them new things. If you watch the posts on our Facebook page, you’ll see what we mean.

We continue to offer daycare by the hour and occasionally on weekends. Give us a call and check to see what we’re offering. If you have Canadian friends who cross the border to come shop or fly out of Bellingham, tell them about the Lodge! We are so conveniently located to the airport and Costco and Fred Meyer. Small dogs would have much more fun playing at the Lodge than sitting at home waiting for their humans to return.

Here at the Lodge we don’t charge extra for weekend pickups or dropoffs; we don’t charge extra for giving medicine to boarders; and we don’t have strict hours in general. We will continue to offer as much flexibility as we can during 2013.

Thanks to all who have visited the Lodge since we opened!




2012 Fall News – Good Reads!

Sorry folks, updating Facebook a few times a week makes me forget about keeping up with a blog. So it’s October 29th and I’ve got a new pup on the way and I’ve been reviewing a lot of my favorite books – and reading some new ones too. Looking for a gift for that dog lover in your life? Here are some of my favorites.

1. ANYTHING by Patricia McConnell. Books or videos. She is dynamite. I have a number of books and pamphlets and she is an amazing writer, dog trainer and behaviorist.

2. Check out Victoria Schade’s book BONDING WITH YOUR DOG. This is an excellent read and has a lot of wonderful training advice. Very accessible.

3. Pat Miller’s PLAY WITH YOUR DOG covers some of the same stuff as Victoria’s book above in terms of dog games but this is a shorter book really focused on games.

4. My friend and certified dog trainer Celeste Patten turned me onto Kathy Sdao’s book PLENTY IN LIFE IS FREE: Reflections on Dogs, Training, and Finding Grace. This is an interesting book . . . I admit I got a little turned off by the rather lengthy discussion of religion, but there is indeed a purpose behind her prose as she challenges the training philosophy Nothing in Life is Free (NILIF) . . . As I immerse myself in agility training videos and books of late, I find myself thinking of this book by Sdao a lot.


With the geese flying south these last few days, I’m happiest taking my dogs for a walk. I love teaching my dogs new things, but what I love most is going out in a field or on a trail and just spacing out and taking in the world. Hanging out on the couch with Schippies piled around me also ranks high on my list. 3 Schips and A Girl is very busy these days and it’s wonderful to have so many other furry friends in my life. The entertainment value is HUGE! LOL. What I love most about my work is seeing all these dogs so very loved by their humans. It’s heart warming.

Til next time.


Safe Summer Fun

As mentioned in the June issue of BARK magazine, be careful about letting your dog drink from a garden hose, either directly or indirectly (e.g., I use a hose to fill wading pools for the dogs to splash in, and of course they also drink from the pools). Most hoses are made from PVC, which contain Phthalates (a chemical used to soften plastics), and these may be linked to birth defects and cancer (among other things) . . . and then there is the issue of lead in the hose brass fittings. Here at the Lodge I use a hose that I bought from Home Depot that is drinking-water safe, lined with a bacteria and mold inhibitor, and is lead free. Needless to say, this hose is safe for me to drink from as well!

May 2012

I’ve been so busy on the 3 Schips and A Girl Facebook page this year that I have completely neglected this blog. Poor blog! Lots of exciting things have been happening to date, and here are just a few.

In March I attended a two-day seminar conducted by animal behaviorist and dog trainer Sophia Yin. Lots of good stuff to absorb, remind myself of, and put into practice here at the Lodge.

The Canine Lodge celebrated its one-year anniversary May 5! Thanks to all who attended the Cinco De Mayo party! The raffle to raise money for Whatcom Humane Society was successful, and the food and drink were perfect for a sunny afternoon. It’s been an awesome first year and I’m ever so grateful to all my doggie campers and their people.

Starting June 14 I’m opening up on Thursdays. Many of you have been waiting for this. Book your daycare now as I’m usually full the other days of the week and have had to put some clients on a waiting list. Daycare by the hour is still available.

Zachary Furness is starting in June as a part-time doggie daycare attendant. I’m very excited about having him join the Lodge and he’s very good with dogs. Zach’s bio will appear in a separate blog.

Come August, the Lodge outdoor play yard should be completely enclosed by a very cool rock wall that works in conjunction with heavy gauge wire fencing. If you want a visual, you can check out my personal yard where the same rock wall is in the works. Sturdy, dog friendly, and, as I’ve just mentioned, very cool!

Til next time. . . .


Happy 2012!

I’m excited about 2012 and I hope you are too!

I would like to thank all my clients for bringing their fabulous poochies to the Lodge in 2011. It was a fun year and I know 2012 will be the same.

I mentioned this on the Lodge Facebook page, but it bears repeating:

Dogs give us the gift of knowledge that we didn’t have before, and we can share that gift with others. In this way, our dogs live forever, giving in ever-widening circles.

I find the above especially inspiring when dealing with my blue Schip Tripp who has a multitude of health problems that include congestive heart failure (CHF), pulmonary hypertension, and seizures. I have joined a CHF on-line group that has helped me understand (and feel less alone about) Tripp’s health issues. There’s another great group – the Guardian Angels Epilepsy site — www.canine-epilepsy-guardian-angels.com/site_map.htm — that is also very helpful. If you have a dog with any of these problems, check out these groups. They are great resources.

Rescuing dogs can bring a wealth of surprises, both good and not-so-good (but personally, I think that rescuing is fantastic and worthwhile no matter what the surprises). Tripp is a rescue from a horrible puppy mill and I knew of his health problems before adopting him. Some folks aren’t so lucky. But even purebreds can have health issues, which is why it’s SO IMPORTANT to do your research before buying a purebred dog. Tripp was used as a stud dog, and his health issues are genetic, so who knows how many Schipperkes are in the U.S. with Tripp’s same health issues. It upsets me to even think about it . . . for me, being involved in the “dog world” via the Lodge, agility, and volunteering with the Whatcom Humane Society is all part of that ever-widening circle of education. It’s important to share knowledge and contribute day-by-day to the welfare of dogs (and other animals as well). We are lucky to have so many caring people and groups in our area: WHS, Old Dog Haven, WeSnip, AHS, Seattle Purebred Dog Rescue, and others. If you’re looking to widen the circle of care, please join me in contributing to these groups via time or money. Thank you so much, and have a fantastic year.



Yellow Jackets

These past few weeks I’ve been visited by a lot of yellow jackets, which made for a few bee stings both with friends and poochies here at the Lodge. One of my clients gave me a great tip that I thought I would share. When yellow jackets sting, the stinger is attached to a little tiny sack, and you want to remove that sack to pull out the stinger so the stinger doesn’t break off in the skin. One of my dogs stepped on a yellow jacket (and of course started howling); the stinger was in his paw pad and I could see the little sack, which I removed with tweezers and out came the stinger too. No more pain, no swelling. Living Earth Herbs here in Bellingham has a wonderful herbal salve (for humans and poochies) that is great for skin irritations, including bee stings. It’s a great product to keep on hand and if a dog licks it off, there are no harmful chemicals in it.

Happy Fall!