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The Pets of Global Pet Expo

Oh, man, you guys. I am beat!

As most of you know, I work from home, so in a typical week, I talk on the phone a handful of times and chat with John in the evenings… nothing like the marathon four-day talk-a-thon that is Global Pet Expo. My throat is only now recovering! Also, I had to wear “work” clothes versus my usual work outfit (yoga pants + t-shirt). How bizarre to go four whole days without getting covered in pet hair!

I’m putting together a recap of some of the products and trends I spotted, but I first wanted to share the pets of Global Pet Expo.

Animal Planet had a mini-Puppy Bowl with adoptable tiny pups! I could’ve spent the entire time watching the little tykes wrestle and nap. The great news is that many of them found homes, one even purportedly went home with the Today Show’s Jill Rappaport.

Puppy Bowl

Then, I met a mastiff, and he weighed 175 pounds! His person told me that he’d reached his full height, but “still had some filling out to do.” Woah.


One of the things that was great about the Expo was that many booths hosted adoptable pets from area shelters. There were puppies, kittens, and ferrets finding forever homes all week long. How great is that?

Oh, and I even met a fur-free pet, an albino snake. Here I am bravely holding its tail…

Maggie handles a snake

But my favorite of all was this handsome Dane with a gorgeous face:

Handsome man

You know I’m a sucker for older men! I later saw him having his picture taken with supermodel Kathy Ireland who was there promoting her new line of pet products. You know you’re good looking if a swimsuit model asks to be photographed with you!

I’ll have more to share with you in the coming days, once I’ve had a chance to sort through and process everything I saw. Plus, this week I’ll have another giveaway, updates on Cooper’s Reactive Rover class, and a video of Newt’s Big Adventure!

Hope your week is off to a great start!

Everybody’s looking forward to the weekend!

Partying, partying… yeah! Fun, fun, fun fun. (I’m sorry. I seriously get this song stuck in my head every Friday. Gah. If it’s stuck in your head now, I apologize, but at least I’m not alone.)

I feel like such an old lady saying this, but… sigh… I hurt my back.

It happened around Tuesday, and I totally ignored it at first because it wasn’t that bad. Then, on Wednesday I took Coop and Molly for a walk, and a loose dog ran right past us. They went bonkers and yanked out whatever shred was holding me together.

John wants me to go to the chiropractor. My better plan is to alternate hot and cold packs, snuggle the dogs, and hope everything gets better on its own.

lap puppy

Meantime, I’m sending out tons of emails about this little lap dog, hoping to find her a family soon! Plus, I’ve been reading through the stacks of dog magazines that have piled up. To be honest, I’m sort of bummed at two of the more popular mags, both of which had winter issues riddled with typos. Do you read dog magazines? Any faves?

And, finally, here’s your top secret “heads up” to start looking for the perfect photo of your dog that illustrates a certain upcoming holiday… A Facebook photo contest will be coming up on a certain day next week. And that’s all I’m going to say about it. Oh, except for that there are awesome prizes.

Have a good weekend!

A case of the zoomies

Anyone who has ever loved a reactive dog knows that it isn’t a cut-and-dry thing. You have to experiment with your dog, learn his triggers, then work with what you can figure out.

With Lucas, for example, we realized that the first rule of dog-dog introductions – introduce new dogs on neutral ground so that no one feels territorial – does. not. apply. At all. Most places other than home feel unsafe to him, but when he meets dogs where he’s comfortable, he does much better. We also know that the leash makes him lose his mind, so off leash interactions are better if they can be safely managed.

Lucas and Molly have gotten to know each other in very controlled circumstances over the last few weeks. It was tense at first – she had NO idea how to behave appropriately with another dog, and he doesn’t react well to any rudeness. She spent a bunch of time with Emmett and Cooper, and she started to learn better behavior. 

Which brings us to last night.

Every night, we’ve been bringing them all upstairs to the big room above the garage. One side of this large room is my desk and workspace, the other side is where our TV is, and the middle has a table. Last night, we went up with Molly on leash but we’ve been letting her and the boys roam a smidge. We turned on Modern Family and settled in when all of a sudden, Lucas started play bowing Molly! Out of nowhere he decided it was GO TIME!

John pulled out his phone and got a bit of video. It’s hard to film in this room because it’s dark – the walls are orange, the floors are orange, the ceiling is brown – but you’ll get a sense of what’s going on. A few things I noticed: Molly is super unsure at first. Her fur is raised and she’s doing a high flicky wag instead of a low loose wag. She also takes some pretty rude stances, as does Lucas. As time went on, they got better, but… I would LOVE to know what you see.

Lucas and Molly from Maggie Marton on Vimeo.

(Note: We were totally prepared with cups of water for emergency dousing, Molly’s leash on in case we needed to quickly extract her, and cans of cheese placed around the room. Plus, I tried to keep the other two dogs out of it because, as you know, that tends to escalate things too quickly, especially for dogs like these two.)

What do you see? What do you think? Any similar cues or signs that you’ve noticed in your dogs? Anything that would worry you here? 


How are your 2014 dog training goals coming along?

So… it’s February.

How did that happen? Seriously, didn’t we just Rescue Remedy/Thundershirt our dogs to ring in the new year?


Anyway, my main goal – and what I wanted to accomplish for the Train Your Dog Month Challenge – was to go through the Relaxation Protocol with both Cooper and Lucas.

Coop and Lukey

Who? Us?

I’m here to update you on our progress.

In one word: fail.

While the failing was partly due to travel and chaos, it was largely due to time management issues on my part.  And, since I’m the type of person to obsess over failures until I can implement a new strategy, I have devised a new calendar for myself, part of which is giving my lunch break over to Relaxation Protocol. (This is a vast improvement because I typically eat at my desk instead of taking an actual break.) So, fingers crossed that this plan works.

How are you doing on the dog training goals you set for yourself, whether as part of your New Year’s resolutions or the train your dog challenge? 

I probably should buy an x-pen

Last week, an hour after we got back from our Indy trip, John had to drive to Mobile for an oil spill conference (riveting, right?) for the entirety of last week.

Molly was back with us, so already it was a busier week. And then Cooper had his indiscretion. So, add that to work and life stuff, my hands were a smidge full.

While Molly is in our care, I’m working on crate training her to a work schedule because it’s unlikely that her future family will have a schedule like mine, and I think being able to “market” her as crate-trained is a huge plus. The tricky bit comes after 5 pm because Molly isn’t great with cats, and Lucas isn’t (well, wasn’t but we’ll get there!) great with Molly. When John was home, it was no big deal… we’d leash up Molly and Lucas, we’d each take one, and just keep the energy level low while giving out tons of treats and going about our evening routine.

When John left, I faced the dilemma of what to do: rotate dogs (which I did one night), stick poor Molly in the crate after dinner (which I did the night Cooper was sick sick sick), or fashion an x-pen out of random pieces of furniture so I could work with everyone at once…


So, that’s what I did! Then I alternated who was on the inside with me while I puttered away on my laptop and watched a movie. We did this for a couple nights, and it worked perfectly. Well… depending on who you ask, I guess it worked perfectly…


Molly is doing really well. She’s a fast learner, and she’s gotten used to house stuff really quickly. I want to keep working with her on some basic commands, but she’s already a pro at her crate and bathroom routines. Plus, her eye has gotten SO much better and is well on its way to being fully healed.



And, in a roundabout way, it’s given me a wonderful opportunity to keep working with Lucas on keeping his head in stressful situations. I’m SO proud of him, and last night during the epic disaster Super Bowl we had all four dogs off leash together with no problems! Woot!


While things are going well, I do hope someone wants to bring this little lady home very soon because she deserves her forever family! (Know anyone who wants the happiest puppy alive? Here’s her PDF flyer: Molly!)

Oh, and yes, I’m scouting Goodwill/craigslist/ReStore/etc. for an x-pen! :)

How was your weekend? 

What should I feed my dog?

When you write about dogs, you get tons of questions about everything from grooming to training to the best jackets/collars/treats/Halloween costumes. But the number one question I get over and over again is this: What should I feed my dog?


I used to hate this question.

This is one of the many areas of pet care that is highly contentious, and some people are extremely passionate about their preferred method of feeding. Plus, I’ve always felt like this is one area where pet lovers judge each other, often unfairly or harshly. As someone who gets very uncomfortable with confrontation, I would strive to avoid this discussion altogether.

Well, not anymore!

I now have a new answer that I stand behind!

Someone: “What should I feed my dog?”

Me: “Calculate your monthly budget, and figure out exactly how much you can and are willing to spend on dog food each month. Then, buy the best food you can for that budget.”


Yep, it’s unspecific. But here’s the deal that I’ve come to embrace in many facets of pet care (and believe me, there’s more on this to come in later posts): Whether someone chooses to feed their pet raw, homecooked, organic kibble, or grocery store brand chow… the important thing is, they’re feeding their dog with love. No, it may not be what you would choose for your family. And that’s okay.

We need to step away from the “OMG, you buy brand X for your dog? I would NEVER! Here’s why it’s bad” or – even worse – “If they can’t provide the healthiest food then they shouldn’t have a dog.” Those sentiments are rampant across the internet, and at best, they make people feel bad about doing the best they can do. But at worst, those judgments and admonitions could deter someone from adopting a pet from a shelter. (“Well, I can’t afford $74.99 for a bag of dog food, so I guess I shouldn’t get a dog.”)

For the record, I feed my dogs kibble and, because of Cooper’s allergies, it is a horribly expensive bag of dog food, which is why we don’t go to the movies and our monthly date night is at Jimmy Johns. But that’s my decision for us and our budget. The food you choose to feed your dog needs to work with your family’s budget.

I don’t know what’s going on this week… Apparently, polar vortexes make me ranty. Anyway, I’d love to know your thoughts. As a super savvy bunch of pet people, I’m sure you get this question and have this debate frequently. What do you think?

It takes a village

But one single person can create a ripple effect of change…

One morning in early 2005, a woman stopped to pick up an emaciated stray. She took him to the country shelter where a volunteer cleaned him, fed him, and closed him in a kennel. Volunteers walked him and fed him every day until, many months later, another volunteer picked him up, named him Emmett, and ferried him to a no-kill shelter where a cadre of volunteers took care of him every day for the better part of a year. Then, in June 2006, a volunteer brought him out of his kennel to walk with me and John. Another volunteer drove to our home later that week for a house check, then another delivered him safely into our arms a week later. 

On Thanksgiving Day in 2006, as Em was celebrating his first holiday with us, a family in North Carolina found a skinny, mange-ridden, limping puppy foraging in their trash can. They kept him through the weekend, then delivered him to their local shelter. It took volunteers at the shelter to intake this pup, get him cleaned up, and – knowing they were overrun and with his health conditions he didn’t stand a chance – they arranged for transport to Washington, DC. It took volunteers to drive him north, then to intake him at his new shelter and take care of his daily needs as well as his myriad health issues. Another volunteer introduced him to us, three volunteers introduced him to Emmett, and another processed our application.

Every one of those people indirectly contributed to the creation of this community because, without them, without us adopting Emmett and Lucas, this journey of pit bull advocacy, dog training and working with fearful dogs, and connecting online wouldn’t have happened. Emmett wouldn’t have touched the lives of hundreds of children working as a therapy dog. Cooper definitely wouldn’t have become our foster then our new puppy, and we definitely wouldn’t be fostering Molly right now.


Miss Molly

It’s amazing how one person’s actions – whether it’s picking up a stray, walking sheltered dogs, driving transport, or sharing an adoptable pet on Facebook – that one person’s single action affects the lives of so many others for years to come… just by helping one animal.

So, tell me, have you witnessed this ripple effect in your community? Or through your own actions? 

Every day I’m hustlin’

If by hustlin’ you mean cleaning up bodily fluids…

(I’m sorry. I know that doesn’t make sense. It’s the best I can do with the day I’ve had. Thoughtful post meant for today has been moved to Thursday.)

So, sometimes UPS boxes arrive, and from the return label I assess it’s something either for the blog or my writing clients, but I don’t have time in that moment to deal with it, so I stack it on the corner of my desk. As of last night, there were three such boxes on the corner of my desk.

Before bed last night, I took Molly for a walk (she’s back with us… more on that later in the week, too) and came back, putzed around with her for a few, practiced her sits and downs, then put her in her crate. I walked upstairs and found…

Cooper had gotten into one of the boxes. He pulled out the contents. Bottles of canine supplements and joint care. He had shredded and devoured the entire contents of one entire complete health bottle. The closest after-hours vet is over an hour away, so I split-second made the (I know, not always favorable) decision to induce vomiting. But we were out of hydrogen peroxide, so I jumped in the car to go to the drug store and called John – who is, of course, out of town – who found this on the company’s website:

Q: If the pet eats too many/whole bottle will they be ok? Is there a danger of overdose?

A: Your pet will be fine. Our products are natural (containing no synthetic ingredients) and water soluble, so there is no threat of over supplementing. This prevents overdose, since your dog or cat will digest the proper amount of each ingredient that is needed for their body weight (the equivalent of 1-2 wafers) and the rest will simply pass through their system. If they did eat to much, they may experience some diarrhea (especially if they have ingested the majority of a bottle), and it is advisable to provide them with some extra water and put them outside for the day. Please note that they will not experience negative side effects either short or long term from eating the entire bottle of wafers.

So I drove home, took some deep breaths, had a big glass of wine, and we called it a night. Until 4:30 am.

Long story short, between then and this moment, he has peed, pooped, and vomited all over the house and yard (but, sadly, most in the house due to the ice storm situation). I’ve gone through an entire bottle of cleaning solution. He has eaten one piece of whole wheat bread slathered in pumpkin and is now sound asleep.

I still haven’t recovered a normal heart rate yet, and every time he twitches I jump up to determine if I can rush him outside… or if I need to go get the bucket again. Since he’s out of town and missing all the action, for his part John has promised to rent a carpet cleaner this weekend and do the rugs.


How’s your day going?? Please say better than mine!

Understanding dog aggression with #DogDecoding

As you guys have probably picked up by now, I’m obsessed with reading dog training books. And I have a brand new one to share with you today!

Decoding Your Dog

Decoding Your Dog, which came out a couple weeks ago, was compiled by experts from the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, edited by Dr. Debra Horwitz and Dr. John Ciribassi, with Steve Dale. The book’s tagline: “The Ultimate Experts Explain Common Dog Behaviors and Reveal How to Prevent or Change Unwanted Ones.” Sounds good to me!

Early in the book, the authors wrote:

Because of our physical limitations, people will never be able to ‘speak dog’ and dogs will never be able to speak our verbal language. Therefore, we need to develop a language to help us communicate effectively with our dogs. That language is called training.

Each of the book’s 14 chapters covers a specific topic (aging, for example) in depth with the goal of helping dog people develop that common language.

I was super interested in the chapter called “Aggression Unleashed: Do Dogs Mean to be Mean?” Because Lucas is so reactive, I’m sensitive about the “aggressive” label. We know what he’s really like, irrespective of his triggers, so I always bristled when people called him “aggressive.” I wanted to know what the ACVB said about this type of behavior.

The chapter starts with a discussion about why dogs can become aggressive. In a section called “Facts, Not Fiction” they outline some of the most common misunderstandings about aggression (Should I punish aggression to nip it in the bud?) and combine studies conducted by veterinary behaviorists with super practical advice. Plus, they explain all the different types of aggression and causes from the dog’s perspective – explaining why they do what they do – with the goal of instructing the reader how to work with their dog in a way that protects and strengthens the human-canine bond.

In the aggression chapter, I loved this line:

Remember, aggression is not a training problem but rather a problem of how the dog perceives what is happening to her and how she responds to that perception.

It circled back around to that idea of a common language, and it provided realistic, science-based, practical strategies for working with an aggressive dog.

Overall, I’m enjoying Decoding Your Dog, and I’ve gotten a ton of super useful information. What I particularly liked about this book was that every piece of advice was backed up with scientific evidence.

I highly recommend this book to anyone with a dog, but I think it’s particularly important for those of us who promote positive reinforcement. Throughout the text, the authors tackle all the myths associated with outdated training theories and explain – citing scientific evidence – why a positive approach is the most effective. I love having additional, research-based information at my fingertips to promote positive training!

Have you read this yet? Are there any problem behaviors you’re interested in solving with your pup? Leave them in the comments, and I can share some insights from the text!

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post through the BlogPaws Pet Blogger Network. I was given a free book and compensation; however, I only share information that I think would be valuable to you guys! 

Emmett isn’t normal

I mean it in the nicest way possible, but Emmett isn’t normal.

Emmett sleeps through fireworks

Date taken: 12/31/13, 11:40 PM. In the midst of NYE fireworks.

Sometimes, when I’m working with Lucas and Cooper, I catch myself thinking, “Ugh. I wish they would be more like Emmett.”  But that’s a totally unreasonable expectation. And totally unfair because Emmett isn’t normal. (Stick with me. I do have a point!)

Example 1: For various reasons, we’re fairly sure Molly was never inside a home. So, as her foster family, we’re striving to get her used to house things. While I was cooking dinner last night, I let her into the kitchen with Emmett. I asked Emmett to sit/stay in the center of the kitchen while I made dinner… and while Molly jumped all around including on his face, chomped his tail, sniffed his manhood, tried to climb on the counters, and yipped. And Emmett just sat there, immovable and calm.

Example 2: Two loose dogs – with collars – are running through the neighborhood but didn’t respond when I called. They wagged a bit but kept on their adventure. So, I leashed up Emmett as bait. Walked toward the dogs who came to investigate him. Dropped his leash and asked him to wait. Clipped the loose dogs. Walked home.

Example 3: We’re at the public library. Kids are clamoring around him, giving hugs and kisses. I turn to a parent to answer a question. I turn back – and a little girl is pushing down on Emmett’s head with all her might. He’s sitting perfectly still, resisting, eyes wide and staring at me, clearly saying, “Help!” But he hadn’t moved or reacted in any way. (For the record, she wanted him to lay down. Sigh.)

I could go on, but you get the idea. He’s a doggy Zen master. And that’s not normal.

Most dogs aren’t like Emmett.

And when I catch myself comparing Lucas and Cooper (or, now, Molly) to him, it’s totally unfair and entirely unreasonable. I set training goals for the boys that, I hope, help them navigate their world with confidence. But I frequently catch myself thinking the end game is to get Lucas and Cooper to be calm or confident or solid… like Emmett. And that’s not fair.

Incidentally, what got me thinking about this was a book that I was sent to review that said that comparing is a natural part of the human condition. Hmm.

So, I’m wondering: How do you determine when your dog is “trained”? Do you compare your dog to others? Or, if you have multiples, do you hold them up to a single high standard? Or – are you more enlightened than I am – and focus on individual goals?