Pet First Aid

Before You Get to the Vet

If an accident occurs that sickens or injures your dog, you might need to perform on-the-spot first aid to stabilize and console your pet, prior to visiting your veterinarian. Times like these can be scary and upsetting. Try to remain calm as you address the situation at hand.

Here are a few other behavior tips, provided by the American Red Cross:

  • Always approach a sick or injured animal slowly and cautiously.
  • Watch the body expressions and sounds your pet makes to warn you. Even your own pet can be aggressive when in pain or frightened.
  • Do not make quick, jerky or loud movements. They might further scare your pet.
  • When necessary, use towels or blankets to subdue cats or small dogs.
  • Keep the phone number and address of your veterinarian in a convenient location.
  • Have the phone number and address of an after-hours veterinary clinic on hand and keep directions to that clinic in the same place. Whenever possible, call ahead to let them know you’ll be coming.

The American Red Cross Pet First Aid book can help you learn more about caring for your pet in an emergency. To purchase the Pet First Aid book, contact your local Red Cross, or purchase it online.

In the text here, we have covered a variety of problems you might experience. Once you have addressed the immediate need, transport your dog as quickly as possible to a location where professional attention is available. If your veterinarian’s office is closed, contact the nearest emergency clinic. Consider keeping your own veterinarian’s phone number in you wallet or purse.

Show your love for your dog by being prepared for an emergency!

Abdominal Pain/Retching/Restlessness/Vomiting Foamy Mucus

If your dog is exhibiting two or more of these symptoms, your pet might be suffering from gastric dilatation volvulus, which vets call GDV. Few afflictions kill an otherwise healthy dog as quickly as gastric dilation (GD) or “bloat,” and volvulus (V), or “torsion.” Bloat describes a stomach that is abnormally enlarged or distended, and filled with gas, food and/or liquids. Torsion is the abnormal positioning of the stomach caused by the stomach’s twisting or flipping. Bloat usually leads to torsion, although torsion can occur without bloat. Bloat can usually be detected when you make the dog stand up and gently feel his/her abdomen. The abdomen should feel soft and tapered inward when the dog is relaxed. If the abdomen feels hard, or sounds hollow (like a drum) when you tap it gently with your hand, then your dog is probably bloating or even torsioning. Get the dog in to the veterinarian (or at least call) right away and let him or her know that you suspect GDV.


Clean the area, then apply a pressure bandage — sterile gauze, a towel or handkerchief — and phone your veterinarian. If you are finding blood in your pet’s stool, you will want your dog to have a fecal exam to check for parasites and other problems. This may also be diet related. A trip to the vet is in order.

Blood Circulation

An accelerated heart rate with no apparent cause warrants professional attention. To assess the situation yourself, check the heart rate. To do this, either place your hand on the dog’s chest or your fingers on the femoral artery, located on the inner side of the dog’s hind leg, high on the flank. Your dog’s rate should be between 60 and 120 beats a minute, smaller dogs’ heart being the faster. A Chihuahua’s heart might beat around 95 times a minute, while a Great Dane’s will beat around 70 times. You can generally assess the overall circulatory health of your pet by looking at the gums, cheek and eyelids (mucous membranes), the whites of the eyes or the inside flaps of the ear. You hope to see healthy, pink color. If you find these areas to be pale, your pet may have circulation problems, in which case you should notify your veterinarian. If you find the tissue to be blue, you can suspect inadequate circulation, and you should call the vet immediately. Likewise, notify your doctor if find a yellow, or jaundiced, color, which can indicate compromised liver function.

Breathing Stopped

If you discover that you pet has stopped breathing, prepare to administer first aid — and have another person call your veterinarian or an after-hours emergency clinic to inform them of your situation. Before or as the call is being made, check to see if your dog’s airway is being obstructed by a foreign object.If the airway is blocked, see “Choking,” below. If the airway and mouth are clear, lay your dog down on its right side.Check for a heartbeat by listening to the chest where your pet’s “elbow” touches the ribs.Should you find that there is no heartbeat, you can start CPR, if you have been trained to administer it. In brief, here are the basics: Start chest compressions with the flat of your hand, just as you would on a human.For small dogs, use one hand; for larger dogs, use both of your hands. Compress your dog’s chest 10 times, about once per second, then administer a “rescue breath” for the animal. To breathe for your dog, extend your dog’s neck so that there is a straight airway, close its mouth, place your mouth around its muzzle and blow air into the nose until the chest expands.(Be sure to keep the neck out straight, not flexed.) You should be able to see the chest expand with each breath. Don’t overexert when you are forcing air into the lungs. After each rescue breath, assess your pet to see if breathing has restarted. If breathing has begun, stop CPR. If not, then repeat the 10-compressions/one-breath exercise. Your vet can make the call as to when you stop CPR. Sadly, CPR is rarely successful in animals. But give it your best effort, even knowing that your pet may already have died.

Broken Bone

When you suspect your dog has broken a bone, then stabilize the limb with a splint. You can make an easy splint by wrapping the limb with a gauze or a towel. Make sure your make-shift splint is long enough to go above and below the fracture. You can also roll up some newspaper and wrap with adhesive tape for a splint. Then place your dog on a board, blanket or towel (a stretcher) and promptly get your pet professional attention. Watch for bleeding or symptoms of shock: a pale color to your dog’s gums, a racing pulse, rapid breathing or loss of consciousness.


Again, this is treated much as you would on a human. Apply a cold compress or ice to the wound. Hold it in place gently until you can transport your pet to a veterinary clinic.


Check to see if your animal is choking on a foreign object. If so, be careful not to get bitten, or push the object further down the throat. Pliers or tweezers may be used to grasp the object if the animal is calm. You may also use a variation of the Heimlich Maneuver: Turn your pet upside down, with its back against your chest. Hug the animal with your one fist placed in your other hand, just below your dog’s rib cage. With both arms, give five sharp bear hugs to your pet’s abdomen (easier on smaller dogs.) Perform each thrust as if it is the one that will expel the object. After five hugs (or sooner if you feel the object has been dislodged), check your pet’s airway. If the object is visible, remove it and give your pet two CPR-style rescue breaths. To perform a rescue breath, extend your dog’s neck so that there is a straight airway, close its mouth, place your mouth around its muzzle and blow air into the nose until the chest expands.(Be sure to keep the neck out straight, not flexed.) You should be able to see the chest expand with each breath. Do not overexert when you are forcing air into the lungs. If the breaths do not go in, re-start the canine Heimlich Maneuver. If after your dog’s airway is clear, your pet is not breathing, begin performing CPR rescue breaths and contact your veterinarian immediately. Ideally you can get assistance for this. Your doctor can advise you on when to stop CPR.


There are numerous causes of diarrhea. Sometimes diarrhea can be a symptom of a serious problem. Other time it may be age-related. However, it is not normal and warrants a diagnostic workup at your vet’s office. If the diarrhea continues, it will certainly be detrimental to the dog’s health. It could be as simple as a case of worms, or other parasites, or it could be something more complicated.


If your dog’s temperature rises to above 103ºF, contact your veterinarian for counsel and medication. You can check your pet’s temperature by using a well-lubricated (K-Y Jelly or similar lubricant) rectal thermometer. See “Hyperthermia,” below.

Harmful Plants

Dangers to your dog may be as close as your backyard; your dog may have a toxic, or even fatal, reaction to many common plants. Download a PDF of Pretty Yet Deadly, a guide to harmful plants.


Heatstroke is a significant risk to dogs in summertime, particularly to a pet that has little or no shade and water, or one that is confined in a close space. Don’t let these conditions occur! A dog with moderate heatstroke (body temperature from 104º to 106ºF) can recover within an hour, if given prompt first aid and veterinary care (normal body temperature is 100°F to 102.5°F). Severe heatstroke (body temperature over 106ºF) can be deadly and immediate veterinary attention is warranted. Heatstroke can manifest itself in many ways: rapid panting; bright red tongue; red or pale gums; thick, sticky saliva; depression; weakness; dizziness; vomiting (sometimes with blood); diarrhea; shock or even coma. If you suspect heatstroke, remove the dog from the hot area immediately. Prior to taking him to your vet, lower his temperature by submerging his body in water, keeping his head elevated above the water. Alternatively, use a sponge, shower or hose to wet him down. For very small dogs, use lukewarm water; for larger breeds cold water may be used. Cooling should occur gradually. Cooling too quickly or allowing your pet’s body temperature to become too low can cause other life-threatening medical conditions. You can check your pet’s temperature by using a well-lubricated rectal thermometer. His or her rectal temperature should be checked every five minutes during your cool-down. Once the body temperature is 103ºF, the cooling measures should be stopped. Even if your dog appears to have recovered before you reach the veterinarian, your pet should still be examined. Your dog may be dehydrated or have other complications. Place him on a wet towel and keep cooling the dog (using the vehicle’s A/C or keeping the windows down) during your travel. Allow your dog access to water, or to a children’s rehydrating solution, if your pet can drink on his or her own. Do not try to force-feed the dog cold water, or your pet might inhale it and choke. See your veterinarian as quickly as possible. Note: Overweight animals are more prone to develop heatstroke, so keep your dog at his optimal weight.

Low Temperature/Hypothermia

Prolonged exposure to cold results in a drop in your dog’s body temperature. It is most likely to occur when your pet dog is wet. Hypothermia is most often seen in toy breeds and those with short hair. Hypothermia also occurs in shock, after a long anesthetic and in newborn pups. Symptoms of hypothermia are violent shivering followed by listlessness and apathy, a rectal temperature below 98°F and, finally, collapse and coma. To address the problem, wrap your dog in a blanket or coat and carry it inside your home. If your dog is wet (having fallen into ice water), give the animal a warm bath. Rub vigorously with towels to dry the skin. You can warm a chilled dog by applying warm water packs to the armpit, chest and abdomen. The temperature of the packs should be about that of a baby bottle (warm to the wrist). You can also warm your pet with a hair dryer set on medium, a heating pad or blanket. Continue your treatment until your pet’s rectal temperature reaches 100°F. As your dog warms and begins to move about, you can provide honey or sugar water (four tablespoons to a pint of water). At your earliest convenience, visit your veterinary clinic to have your pet’s health evaluated.


In general, what to know is that you should call your veterinarian or poison control center as soon as you suspect your dog has ingested any type of poison. The big question is whether you should induce vomiting. By nature dogs are curious. They tend to chew on objects they find, hunt small game and explore isolated places. This puts them in contact with dangerous baits, insects, animals and plants. Often when a pet poisoning occurs, the specific cause is never known. The treatment varies widely, according to the symptoms, which include mouth irritation, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, hallucination, seizures and coma. Check with the experts. The ASPCA maintains a Poison Control Center that can be reached at1-800-548-2423 or 1-900-680-0000.

Puncture Wounds

Any time your pet experiences a puncture wound, whether from another animal or from a household hazard, take action. Clean the wound, apply an antibacterial cream, and then promptly see your veterinarian.

Respiratory Distress

Symptoms of respiratory distress in your dog will be open-mouth breathing (more than just panting), chest breathing (rather than abdominal breathing), a pale color to your pet’s tongue and mouth, an extended head and neck (as struggling to breathe) and restlessness. If you observe these symptoms, try to calm your pet. If feasible, check your dog’s airway (See “Chocking,” above.) If you find no apparent cause of the distress, or if you cannot remove the cause you find, get your pet to a veterinary clinic immediately.


Seizures can have a variety of symptoms. Your pet may be vocalizing and drooling excessively. The dog could be twitching or “paddling” uncontrollably. You might see straight, rigid limbs. Or the dog’s head and neck might be arched back. If you suspect a seizure, place plenty of padding around your pet to prevent an injury. NEVER place your hand near your dog’s mouth. Cradling your dog in a blanket or towel, carefully transport your pet to the veterinarian as quickly as possible. Call ahead to alert the clinic to your situation.

In all cases, remember to consult your veterinarian, because even small abrasions can grow into major problems. Also remember that you dog can be suffering internal injuries that you cannot see. Again, keep the phone number of your veterinarian and your nearest after-hours emergency clinic handy. When an emergency occurs, you will be glad you have it nearby.


Kids and Dogs

Thinking about getting a new dog or puppy? With kids in the mix, it can drastically change the dynamics of a newly created hybrid pack of two-legged and four-legged critters. Not to mention pushing a Mom’s patience to the limit. At first it seems so right to want to over-love and spoil your new puppy or dog — especially with kids.

We are two very different species — dogs and humans. Dogs are naturally hard-wired to run, chase, bite, chew, bark, jump, pee and poop. But now that we humans have domesticated dogs and have them living with us, we have our human standards up to which dogs must live: NO biting, NO barking, NO jumping, NO peeing or pooping (except in approved locations), and NO chewing (except on appropriate doggie toys). Communicating effectively with dogs to make life more enjoyable requires focusing on a number of areas.

As you begin to think about the best way to integrate your new puppy or dog into your home, here are some recommendations:

Basic Concerns

Kids chase dogs and allow dogs to play keep-away. Chasing dogs reinforces dogs’ feeling of dominance. This can be dangerous, especially in the early stages of the relationship. Try to keep your child from chasing your pet.

Kids run from dogs, too. Running from dogs activates a pet’s prey drive. Dogs chase prey and, when they catch it, they usually eat it. Get the picture?

Dogs are extremely sensitive about “their” space, too. Kids (and some adults for that matter) routinely approach dogs head on. This is a bad idea early in the relationship. Instead, teach your child to turn to the side, giving the dog a calming signal, and then approach your new pet. It’s even better to let the dog approach your child (rather than the other way around).


Get kids involved in helping to give your dog more structure in the house, so that dogs know what to expect and who the boss is. Teach your kids how to put your dog on a “learn-to-earn program.” More specifically, everything your dog gets in life from the family — food, treats, praise or life rewards, such as a game of fetch, a walk, a chance to go outside to eliminate—ought to be earned by performing some obedience commands such as sit or down or both. You teach your kids to say “Please,” so teach the dog to “Sit!” on command as his way of saying “Please!” Have the kids take turns making your pet sit for his food.


Sign up for an obedience class and take appropriate-aged kids along to observe your dog in class. There’s no substitute for a well-trained dog. Kids will learn along the way as they watch Mom or Dad train.

Make sure you have your dog on voice commands for “Off!” or “Leave it!” as well as a well-disciplined “Sit!” Sit is a good control command to which you can redirect inappropriate dog behavior.

As your dog gets better at training, buy a book on dog tricks and begin to involve the kids in teaching their pet to shake, roll over or respond to “Bang, you’re dead.” This begins to teach kids proper ways to play with their dog, while at the same time making the dog work for its food and praise. It also reinforces the child’s leadership over the dog. Make sure that parents supervise all dog/kid activities.

At home, write down responsibilities related to caring for your new puppy or dog — things like shopping for dog food, feeding, walking, brushing, picking up toys, grooming and training. Assign each person in the family (yes, Mom and Dad included) jobs to do. Some like an even-day/odd-day schedule, while others prefer Monday-Wednesday or Tuesday — Thursday type of schedules. Some of the jobs are yuck jobs and some are the good jobs. Be sure and rotate job responsibilities regularly.

Behavior Management

Get the kids involved in making a list of behaviors you want to modify or change in your dog, like jumping up, counter surfing, taking and playing with inappropriate kid toys or running out the front door. Once you have your list, post it on the door of the refrigerator. Now before your begin, make sure you have your leadership role clearly defined in the dog’s mind and your dog responding well to the commands mentioned earlier

Always set up specific times to train your dog when it’s convenient for you, so that when your dog is placed in a situation causing him to offer up an inappropriate behavior, you are more likely to get a positive response. For example, teach your dog to go to its place when the doorbell rings, so that you solve the problem of running out the door or jumping on house guests. Remember always to train your dog on a leash. This enables you to reinforce all commands. And, when appropriate, use your kids for distractions; for example, have them ring the door bell and come in the house while you require your dog to remain on its dog bed.

Dogs are our constant companions giving us unquestioned love and loyalty regardless of our age or need. They love us for who we are — not what we have. We have invited them into our world with our family, and it is our responsibility to give them the proper framework in which to live. It’s also our duty to teach our kids to love and respect their puppy or dog and understand it for what it is — a dog. They will probably form a friendship that is treasured and remembered for a lifetime.

Choosing Your Family Dog

Thinking about getting a new dog or puppy? Generally it’s better to plan an adoption from a shelter or the purchase of a pure bred dog. But, you never know when you will happen upon a stray that tugs on your heart strings. I was surprised once. I said I would never have a new puppy again — not at my age. And then it happened.

Discarded and left under a car at a nearby auto dealership, a little eight-week-old Black Labrador puppy entered our lives last August. Who could turn away this little cutie? Certainly not my wife! We named him “Sammy.” Now it was time, once again, to practice what I had preached all these years. You know, the midnight and two o’clock a.m. potty walks, those razor-sharp puppy teeth, and the list goes on. All of this is, of course, very manageable with proper instructions on training and raising a puppy.

A dog is hard work, there’s no getting around it — pure breed or otherwise. Make sure you don’t get a dog for the kids, your wife or the family, without remembering the old saying, “Dogs are not just for Christmas, Dogs are for a lifetime.” A dog is a living, breathing being that needs as much love, care, attention and training as a child. You can’t just put a new puppy out in the back yard while you are at work all day. Getting a new puppy or dog requires much thought and should include the whole family, not only in picking out that new dog or puppy, but also in the responsibilities of raising this new family pet.

And deciding to get a dog congers up all kinds of questions. Should I get a puppy or an older dog? What breed will fit into my or my family’s lifestyle? Should I get a male or female? And where should I get my dog?

Let’s explore these questions.

Puppy or older dog?

Puppies are cute, highly demanding of your time with house training, not biting, chewing on proper chew items and more. It’s probably not wise to choose a puppy with children under the age of five. Adult dogs on the other hand are often housetrained and out of that “intense” chewing stage that puppies go through. Sometimes, however, they come with unknown or questionable behavioral history. But don’t rule them out. You can teach an older dog new tricks, and they will fit in with their new family as well and sometimes better than a puppy.

Which breed is best?

Breeds have been created by man for the express purpose of accomplishing certain tasks, whether it’s a sporting breed to retrieve game or a working class for specific tasks, such as herding. It’s generally better to get a dog that has been bred to work closely with man and not a breed that has been bred for their fighting and aggressive proficiency. I personally have had golden retrievers, while my wife has enjoyed the company of retired racing greyhounds. But Boston Terriers, King Charles Spaniels, Beagles, Dachshunds and Poodles, just to mention a few, are great dogs as well. Other things to consider are care and maintenance. The Greyhound has minimum coat care, while the Poodle (standard or otherwise) requires maximum coat care. Poodles, however, don’t shed, are extremely intelligent and great for people with allergies. As a matter of fact, Poodles are now regularly being bred with Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers to produce “Goldendoodles” and “Labradoodles” that are also great for those with allergies.

Should I chose a male or female?

I have owned and loved both. Whatever the gender of your dog, have him neutered, or have her spayed. They stay healthier and live longer. And whether male or female, all dogs are individuals with their own temperaments, which can range from very docile or submissive to extremely dominant.

Where do I go to get a dog?

Reputable Breeder: If you want a pure-bred dog, go to a reputable breeder. The breeder I got my Golden Retriever from required that I return the dog if it doesn’t work out (whatever the reason). Their best interest is for the dog. And to the extent that they can at that young age, good breeders will guarantee eyes, heart and hips (if a large breed). Of course, their guarantee is that if the pup does develop an eye, heart or hip problem, they will exchange it for another one. I personally have never been able to just “trade in” a dog to which I have bonded for another. But at least the willingness to do so is indicative of a good breeder. Our Black Lab developed hip dysplasia in both hips. The day we decided to take him home with us he was ours and our responsibility — in sickness and in health. So we had him fixed up and we go on down the road.

Pure-Breed Rescue Groups: These are dedicated individuals that have banded together to help foster and care for dogs of their particular breed of choice. They often times have an established web site and have set up a not-for-profit organization to raise funds for medical expenses, so that you will adopt a healthy, disease-free dog.

Animal shelters: Great dogs can be found in your local shelter. Here in Houston we have the BARC, SPCA, CAPS and the Humane Society. A example of a great shelter dog is “Radar” the weather dog on KPRC-TV. Radar was adopted from the Humane Society. The folks at the shelters are more than willing to lend a hand in helping you to determine which dog is right for you. They care for them every day and know each dog.

Word of Mouth: Sometimes people have changes in their lifestyle and professional status and can no longer care for their pet. Knowing that their pet will go to a loving home that will give them as much love and care as they did can be comforting for all concerned. Often folks will notify their veterinarian, groomer, trainer or boarding facility of their need to re-home their beloved pet. So it pays to network as much as possible.


The Buzz about Petiquette

Jim Burwell is featured on KPRC’s “What’s the Buzz?”

December 2006

Christmas comes and goes, but puppies are here for a lifetime. And Jim Burwell knows that all too well how quickly these adorable gifts can turn into a problematic pet. Even the most angelic puppy in the pet store or shelter can run wild in the comfort of his or her new home.

For more than 20 years, Jim has worked with thousands of families, helping them train their new additions and turn them into well-behaved dogs. He begins by making a list of priorities with the family, and then handles them one at a time. And Jim assures families that if they are consistent in the program and learn how to communicate with their dog and understand how he or she thinks, they will have a well-trained and well-behaved puppy.

Clients have called Jim Burwell’s results
“amazing” and “instantaneous.”

Jim has always advised dog owners to select a trainer as carefully as they would select a teacher for their children. And his latest venture is to create more, well-trained dog trainers through a dog training franchise opportunity based on his own expertise. Jim Burwell’s Petiquette teaches people the skill set they will need to become successful dog trainers, while offering them his constant support, every step of the way.

To find out more, please contact Jim Burwell at [email protected].

October 2006

Thanks to Radar the Weather Dog, everyone at KPRC Local 2 knows how important training is for dogs. And that’s why when it came to picking a trainer for Radar, they turned to Houston’s most renowned dog trainer, Jim Burwell.

During his 20-year career as a dog trainer, Jim has helped more than 20,000 dogs correct behavioral problems. And now he is leveraging that experience and expanding through the creation of Jim Burwell’s Petiquette.

Petiquette formalizes Jim’s training methods and offers in-home training that provides the necessary tools for owners and dogs to work together. In just an hour or two of training, owners learn how to fix behavior problems and see dramatic improvements.

Buzz Out loud December 06 WMV Video

Buzz Out loud December 06 Quicktime Video


Barc News

Pet Regulator Adopts Enlightened Agenda

Houston’s Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care has long been known as the enforcer of city ordinances. BARC is the local agency that enforces laws that require annual rabies vaccinations, dog licenses and the confinement of pets to yards or leashes. The organization is also the investigator of animal bites and the encourager of spaying/neutering to control the unwanted animal population. For all this, however, BARC is probably best known as the operator of “the pound.”

But things are changing. Recently, BARC has adopted a loftier vision emphasizing care over regulation. The organization is now aspiring to make Houston “a premier city for companion animals and the people who care for them, so that all residents are free from the dangers and nuisances of irresponsible pet ownership and…every pet born is assured of a good home and good care all of its natural life.”

Houston Euthanizes 15,000 a Year

One aspect of the group’s new mission is to make Houston a “no-kill” city, meaning that the city agency will no longer serve as a convenient tool for Houstonians who wish to dispose of unwanted pets.

BARC currently euthanizes animals at the rate of 15,000 a year, which equates to almost two animals every hour. The group estimates that 5,000 or more of these animals could be adopted every year, if the organization was as aggressive an advertiser as the Humane Society or Houston SPCA.

Jim Burwell, founder of Petiquette, serves as a committee member  and spokesman for the group’s new initiative.

Stepping Up Education and Advertising

“BARC is in the mist of a cycle that needs to be interrupted,” says Jim. “Our city is experiencing an explosion in its pet population — Houston now has about a million dogs and cats — and a corresponding increase in irresponsible pet ownership. You can see it in the rising numbers of service requests BARC receives. The number is up to about 32,000 a year.

“About 23,000 pets are placed in the BARC shelter,” he adds, “and only 3,100 of these get returned to their owners or adopted by new owners. We are killing all the others, and this is unacceptable.”

BARC is responding to the situation by opening a new adoption facility, implementing a variety of new procedures, such as mandatory sterilization and “micro-chipping” of animals prior to adoption, and hope to launch new marketing and educational programs. Funding is the issue.

Short on Funds, But Long on Optimism

“We are moving forward in the belief that the funding is out there,” says Burwell “We have an important message to deliver to all Houstonians: Love and respect pet animals. We just need to get the message out.”

Houstonians wishing to support the BARC no-kill and educational initiatives, either by donating time or money, are asked to contact friendsofbarc.org.


Journey To A House Trained Dog (Part 2)

By: Michelle Mantor

May 2007

In the April issue, I bared my shame to the world that Sake, my 3 lb. Yorkie mix, is not completely house trained by the age of two (a lot of readers admit they share the same fate). If you happened to miss the first article in this series, you can find a copy on Jim Burwell’s Petiquette web site, www.petiquettedog.com.

In part 1 of this series, I detailed how my dog is soiling in the house and due to my short attention span, I am really a large part of the problem. I know her “potty” routine fairly well but I seem to have an inability to capitalize on this information by letting her outside at the opportune time. At the end of the first article, I called Jim Burwell and scheduled our first training session. Here is how Sake and I have progressed:

First Training Session:
Much of the first session was spent arming me with information needed to understand why I have this “issue” in my household and how to correct it. It was like dog psychology 101! There are basic premises you must understand to be successful in shaping your dog’s behavior to meet your expectations. It all makes perfect sense but having the discipline to execute the plan is a different “animal” altogether!

If you can grasp these basic principles, you are well on your way to successful house training as well as other behavior modifications.

  • Strong leadership is key with a regimen of earned praise and petting
  • Discontinue any scolding or punishment
  • There are three house-soiling categories of dogs – the naïve un-housetrained dog, the diet-change victim and the insecure dog (be sure to have a veterinarian rule out health issues before beginning a program that is based on the assumption of a healthy dog).

Sake is most likely a combination of un-housetrained and insecure. According to Jim’s rules of training and enforcing a strong leadership position, I have been making a lot of mistakes. From a leadership perspective, I have not given my dog a strong sense of place, which in turn creates insecurity. A strong sense of place in the pack for the household dog should be below the human members of the pack.

Since dogs live in a black and white world, we must be very clear with our expectations and use leadership tactics that enforce our position as “alpha”. Among my many mistakes are allowing Sake to jump on the furniture, climb in my lap and roll over for a long tummy scratch. I inadvertently elevate her to my position by allowing her on the furniture where I, the alpha sit, without earning the right. I also pet or “groom” her on her terms. I don’t require her to earn the attention.

As the leader, we must control food, praise, grooming and playing. Many pet owners mistakenly believe they are being “mean” to their pet when they require them to sit before petting, sit before eating, sleep in a crate or out of the bedroom, always win in games of tug-o-war, etc. However, it is not unjust, it is simply the way dog packs work and our pets adjust best when we follow their pack rules and give them a clear, black and white world to live in.

So, before we can get to the actual house training techniques, I will start working on my role as a strong alpha, thus making my dog more secure and sure of her place in the pack. This will be harder for me than Sake…I may have to tie my hands behind my back to train myself not to absent mindedly pet her tummy! I think this is what Dr. Phil might call tough love!

Stay tuned for the third article in this series in the June/July double issue.


Journey To A House Trained Dog (Part 1)

By: Michelle Mantor

April 2007

Recently, house soiling from my Maltese/Yorkie mix, otherwise known as the 3lb Wonder (her real name is Sake), has risen in importance in my household. One year ago, when she was just a year old, she was given a “pass” because she was still young and her “mistakes” were accepted putting us at “mildly important” on the house soiling status scale.

At “mildly important”, I had all the intentions of getting better over time. Well…time has passed. We’ve risen from “mildly important” to “important” and finally to “very important”. Which means time is up for Sake!

I must admit that Sake’s lack of improvement can mostly be blamed on my own lack of routine. I’m not naturally a person of routine but as we know, our pets need consistency. So with much resignation to the part I must play in Sake’s “relief efforts”, I finally had to admit that I have to be more proactive.

For those of you out there that still have a dog soiling in the house (you know who you are…we all walk the hall of shame together!), you most likely have an idea about your dog’s routine. For instance, I know that first thing in the morning, Sake goes outside and urinates. Then, she runs to the laundry room to check her food bowl. While she’s eating, I am dealing with getting the kids ready for school and if I don’t let her back outside as soon as she finishes eating, I’ll find a Sake “chocolate”.

Now, I’ve put up with this because I don’t have carpet, but that’s really no excuse any longer. I know that I need to stick to a routine with her and let her outside after eating and if she doesn’t relieve herself, crate her and try again in fifteen minutes until she does.

Although I know this is the advice of the experts, (not to let your dog have free reign of the house if they’re not house trained) my schedule and my attention span put a wrinkle in this theory.

So guys, here’s how I’m gonna deal with it. This article will be the first installment of my “Life With Sake…Journey to A House Trained Dog and Beyond” series that will chronicle my journey to a having my floors back…I’ll be able to put my favorite rugs back where they belong!

First, I’m gonna do what any desperate dog owner would do that knows she can’t tackle this problem alone…(otherwise I would have!)…I’m gonna use a life line and call my long-time friend and trainer to my dogs since 1995, Jim Burwell.

Many of you may know Jim as our local “Dog Whisperer” as he was dubbed by a Houston Chronicle article in 2003 and as seen on Channel 2 “The Buzz” with Roseanne Rogers. Jim was also named Dog Trainer of the Year in 2005 by the Houston Press based on a survey of readers. He is well known as Radar’s trainer (the Channel 2 weather dog) and he has trained over 20,000 dogs in 20 years…..you get the picture here…if Jim can’t fix Sake, I’m destined for a life with no rugs!

With that decision made, I take it upon myself to look into another element that I think might help Sake do her business outside rather than inside, and that’s a pet door. I have resisted the idea because the only place she can get outside is through my sliding glass doors and I don’t want to ruin the door by putting a hole in it, nor do I want Sake to go out anytime of day or night for security reasons. Three lb. dog’s make good hawk dinners!

Now, here is one of the reasons I’ve decided to run this article in our LifeStyle section and that’s because this “problem” affects my lifestyle…my schedule, the looks and functionality of my slider, my inability to decorate with rugs and the main reason: my guilty conscience. How can I publish a pet magazine and have a house soiling issue with a two year old dog? I already feel better now that my shameful secret is out.

I don’t know where this journey will lead but I hope that at a minimum, you and I will both learn something even if Sake and I fail to accomplish our goal. The really hard part is that I know success is more dependent on me than my dog. More pressure and commitments is what we all need in life, right? So…here we go….

Day 1 – Called Jim Burwell and scheduled an “evaluation”. Meeting in two weeks after Spring Break. Found myself making excuses for my dog’s behavior with words like “she’s really smart but sometimes…” or “I think it could also be diet related”. All he said was “Uh Huh”. I think he’s heard this before.

Day 2 – Decided to check into pet doors while waiting for our first session with Jim. How did we survive without the internet?  Had no idea the variety of pet doors available! There’s even one for guinea pigs to go out the window…no more messy cages! Nice try… but there were more choices than I expected and I don’t have to put a hole in my sliding glass door after all (see inset). Now that I know the options, I’m going to investigate more on pricing, sizing etc.

Day 3 – Leaving for Spring Break vacation with Sake in tow….feeling better about having a plan. Determined to work on a routine with Sake over the next week…not having the morning rush of getting the kids to school will help me (the real problem) focus on the dog.

Read the rest of the article published in the May issue of Houston PetTalk.


The Scoop on Coop

Coop, formerly known as Three Legs, was an abandoned dog with medical problems, trust issues and an uncertain future…until Jim Burwell came along. With the help of BARC and Dr. Cooper at the Westbury Animal Hospital, Jim rescued Coop and is now working to train him and find him a home.

To learn more about Coop’s journey, you can read the article featured in The Houston Chronicle.

Updates on Coop

May, 2007:

Cooper is a true member of the family. He knows when the leashes come out in the morning and the evening that he’s going to go “walkies” with his best bud Sammy. He also knows the program at chow time. He politely sits on the side, waiting for his bowl to get filled. Then he does his little circle dance before he chows down. He finally sleeps with his eyes completely shut, since he knows he has nothing to fear. Love cured Cooper.

March 1, 2007:

It’s official! Cooper is a Burwell and all is right at the Burwell house. He and Sammy, the black lab Cooper adores can sleep like spoons tonight, knowing Cooper is home to stay.

February 20, 2007:

Elizabeth Sledge called and said Cooper needs to stay with Jim and Leila Burwell. It was apparent to them that Cooper loved the Burwells and especially Sammy Burwell, their black lab and they sure loved him.

February 18, 2007:

Elizabeth Sledge, teacher at Horne Elementary, her family and their dogs came to meet Cooper to see if he would fit in with their family as they wanted to adopt him.  Cooper was cool; he just sat there and looked bored.

February 14, 2007:

Cooper and Jim Burwell went to visit Horne Elementary school students for Valentine’s Day. He received bags and bags of valentine cards, with poems saying how much he means to the kids. As usual, Cooper was obliging and let everyone love and pet on him.

February 10, 2007:

250+ people came to visit Cooper at his community party. The vets from Westbury Animal Hospital, including Dr. Cooper, who Cooper was named after, were there along with Cooper’s chiropractor, Dr. Jackie Doval, his acupuncturist, Dr. Patricia Baley and all his adoring fans. Cooper had a blast but fell asleep in the car on the way home.  An adoring public can be so exhausting.

January 10th, 2007:

Coop spent part of today training and socializing around the office at Rover Oaks. The highlight of his day was when his new friend, Jessica Kourkounis (Chronicle photographer), came by Rover Oaks to make a video of him. Coop was pooped. He ate his supper and promptly joined his teddy bear (“Rocky”) for a long night’s sleep. Wow! Look for this cute video here on Coop’s page and on the Chronicle’s website as early as this Friday or first part of next week.

Coop is resting up to build his strength. He has one more hurdle, and that’s his heartworm treatment. He’ll revisit Dr. Cooper (who’s promised to make sure it won’t hurt) sometime between now and January 15th for his first treatment. Then he’s “taking it easy for a while.” Stay tuned for more Scoop on Coop.

January 3rd, 2007:

Coop, or Three Legs, is doing very well, although he is still adjusting from all of the transitions lately. In just a matter of weeks, he has gone from living outside, with no barriers at all, to spending two weeks in a post surgical crate, with just enough room to turn around. And now he is staying at Rover Oaks Pet Resort, a warm, safe place for him, where he sleeps every night in his own orthopedic bed and with a teddy bear that softly sings “Rock-A-Bye-Baby.”

With all of the change going on in his life, Coop is off to a slow start with his training. There is simply just too much to check out in his new environment! But he is making progress. Because of his amputation, sitting is difficult, but “down” and “place” should work well as substitutes.

When he’s not busy training, Coop can usually be found spending time in the office, especially around the girls at the front desk. He is a little, fuzzy sponge who soaks up attention and affection from everyone, and he seems to be especially drawn to women. He also enjoys eating – every time his food bowl is placed in front of him, the food is gone in a flash!

To learn more about Coop’s updates, you can read the article featured in The Houston Chronicle.

Shake the Paw of a Houston Hero

We continue to appreciate the interest, concern and generosity shown to Coop. To show our gratitude, and to give Coop’s friends, neighbors, potential adopters and well-wishers the opportunity to meet this warm, affectionate pup, we are hosting a party on Saturday, February 10 at 2:30 p.m. We would also like to thank everyone who has generously donated food and drinks for this event.

If you are interested in attending, please send an email to [email protected] so that we can include you when we email the invitations. And while everyone is welcome, we do ask that you leave your dear pups at home this time, in order to reduce stress for Coop.

Keep checking in with us to get updates on Coop’s progress!

December 28th, 2006:

Coop’s surgery to remove his broken back leg went very well. His stitches have already been removed, and the incision has healed. He is now happily resting and recovering.

Coop has also been busy with other medical procedures. He was neutered and had his teeth cleaned, with one extraction. And he will have his first heartworm treatment on January 15, with the second one scheduled for a month later.

Once our furry patient is rested and rehabilitated, he’ll get a clean bill of health.

We have also been working on training Coop. We have been socializing him by letting him interact with everyone at Rover Oaks, and we all agree that he has one of the biggest and best personalities we’ve ever come across!

We would like send our deepest thanks to everyone who has sent well wishes for Coop or been involved in his recovery. As a thank you, we are planning to host a meet and greet soon to give everyone a chance to come and meet him in person.

Stay tuned to find out when it will take place!