Things about dogs you were (maybe) afraid to ask

The following are questions I’ve secretly asked myself about my own dogs.  I found the answers through internet research.  Here I provide a short answer, and I have provided links where I found the best information should you want further knowledge.


Do dogs have boogers?

My dog has a very long snout so I figured that was the reason I never saw boogers coming out of his nose.  In fact, it is rare to see dogs with anything hanging out of their nose unless they are sick.  Mucus in a dog can be caused by an infection, allergies and injuries.  If your dog has mucus running out of his nose you should bring him to the vet.  This is not the same as little bit of watery discharge, which is normal.


Do dogs dream and have nightmares?

Dogs go through similar sleep stages as humans.  Within 20 minutes of falling asleep a dog will often start to twitch, quiver, paw-swim, and even growl.  What do they dream about?  They often relive the activities they experience during the day.  That is, a dog will dream about chasing a ball, or barking at the mailman, or taking a walk with his pal.  I assume that a working sheep dog will occasionally dream about a flock of sheep.  (I don’t know if he will count them.)



How often should I trim my dog’s claws?

I was in hospital and afterwards convalescing over several weeks.  When I finally felt well enough to get down to the living-room, I noticed that when my dogs walked across the laminate floor their claws made a clicking noise, a sound that can drive me to distraction.  As soon as I was feeling up to it, I got out the clippers and trimmed their claws.  It’s winter and my dogs don’t get a chance to “file” their claws down on pavement or gravel or rocky surfaces so their claws were quite long.

Some vets recommend you clip a dog’s claws weekly to get him accustomed to the procedure.  I find that if I have the luxury of doing it weekly, I rarely need to use the clipper, I just use a file made special for dog claws.

So when should you clip your dog’s claws?  When he needs it.  Check weekly and try to clip them at least monthly.  Pay special attention to the dew claw which can curl back into the dog’s paw.



Can a dog outsmart me?

I always thought I’d love to have a border collie.  It seems that they are more than well represented at obedience trials and show trials.  However, I have spoken to a number of border collie owners and  some have actually told me that they would never own another one.  When I asked why, they said, “Because he outsmarts me.”  And I thought, “Oh come on.”

But research proves it.  If you don’t stimulate your smart dog’s brain, he will outsmart you. And that means that he will likely do so in destructive ways like collaborating with the cat to get food off the cupboard—this happened to me with a Labrador Retriever.  Just check these dog shaming pictures.  I think you will see that smart dogs are well represented.


This is my dog’s shaming picture.

resized control my licker
Shaming Photo



And the following site will give you a list of the most intelligent dogs.



Should I get a breed dog or a mutt?

I have had both and can tell you that either can be a great pet.  People who get a breed dog may want to enter it in breed competitions.  But there are other reasons to get a dog with a pedigree.

You should get a breed dog if you want a certain height or strength or personality.  For instance, if you are looking for a dog that loves winter and might haul your child in a sleigh, you will probably be looking at a Husky or even a St. Barnard.

But keep in mind that there are never any guarantees.  I like Shelties because they are not high enough to reach the table (and steal food)  or strong enough to overwhelm me on a walk, but they are a hardy enough to go hiking– which happens to be my favourite pastime.  However, I had one Sheltie that was such a slow walker I had to wait up for him all the time on open trails.  This same dog would run through the woods when I took him hiking on trails through forests.  So, much to my disappointment, I ended up leaving him at home when I went for a hike.  To be fair, I also had a mutt who would take off when he was hiking and then “sneak” back.  He looked exactly like a coyote so this was quite an annoying habit.  Seeing a coyote-like animal coming at you at a slow, determined pace through the trees can make the hair on the back of your neck stand straight up.

Coyote hunting in snow

All the other dogs I’ve had were perfect companions, stayed by my side, and never wandered off.

Here is a breed finder that may help you decide if you want a certain pedigree.

Golden Retriever

I have always found this dog to be super attractive.  Unfortunately, its size has kept me from actually getting one as I feel it is prudent to get only as much dog as you can handle.

This breed was bred for hunting waterfowl.  It takes 8 to 12 months to train the dog for this work.  In addition, this breed is excellent in obedience, agility, tracking (rescue operations) and as a therapy dog.

As its name implies, this dog is a golden color with shades ranging from light to quite dark.

Height is 20 to 24 inches.  Weight goes from 55 to 80 pounds.

Some retrievers are super affectionate while others are independent.  It is best to respect the dog’s character and not try to mold it to something it is not.  So, even if your friend’s retriever has exactly the qualities you want, your retriever may come out quite a bit different.  Generally though, they make good pets as well as working companions.  Like any working dog, they will need exercise.

Life expectancy is 10 to 12 years.  This breed is prone to hip problems, heart problems as well as eye problems, but then every dog has its day, folks.  The breed I have is supposedly prone to hip problems also and yet none of my 5 shelties  has had hip problems.

Easy to groom.  Sheds no more than most dogs even with that beautiful coat.

The Golden Retriever
The Golden Retriever

Karelian Bear Dog

Here in Northern Ontario, Canada people love blueberries and we have them in abundance. Sinatra and Mr. Bean even enjoy them. I had one dog who would sit right in the patch and munch away.

Unfortunately, this year a late frost killed off the blueberry flowers so that in August, when both people and bears go blueberry picking, the crop was very small. The bears were extremely hungry as blueberries are one of their main food choices.  As a result, the bears came into the city in large enough numbers that someone saw one nearly every day.  Sadly,  our Natural Resource Department has been short staffed for close to 10 years and they have reneged their responsibility for the bears. It fell to the local police to kill a number of bears just to keep people safe. This is a choice they made only when the bears seriously endangered people by displaying aggressive behavior like ripping up doors to get into a house.
What does this have to do with dogs? During the time this was all going on with bears digging into garbage right in people’s yard — tearing apart steel garbage containers to get at the bags —someone called the radio station and suggested we bring in some Karelian Bear Dogs to deal with the problem.
A dog willing to chase a bear?  Never heard of it.  After some research here is the lowdown on this formidable dog.


Bear on deck – not my deck thank goodness
K.B. Dog chases bear
K.B. Dog chases bear




Ursus americanus Canis lupus familiaris
Height 2-1/2 to 3 feet 21-24 inches
Weight 90 to 600 lbs 44.1 to 50.7 lbs
Colouring Black with some brown Black and white
Personality Solitary animals, though you will see a mother with her cub(s) as we did. The mother abandons cubs when they are 2 years old. Very social with humans but not other dogs, prone to separation anxiety.
Population Widespread distribution and large population due to admirable ability to adapt.

Smart enough to hibernate in winter.

Originated in Finland where it is highly regarded for its quick reflexes and fearlessness.


Looks for home with fireplace to past the winter. (kidding)







Frank does not make his jump

I believe my way of training is the best for my  dogs or I wouldn’t use it.   I think my method works best with dogs that are “people pleasers”, dogs like the Border Collie, the Shetland Sheepdog, the Labrador Retriever, the Golden Retriever.

See a list of dogs here


Some dogs were bred for a purpose (like getting rid of rats on boats) and they are not interested in doing tricks.  On the other hand,  personality plays a big part.  For instance my dog Sinatra (jumping in picture) is much more of a “people pleaser” than my other dog, Mr. Beans.   Mr. Beans seems to think that being cute should be enough.   He only recently began to show a keen interest in training.  I’ve no idea what finally clicked for him—most likely the type of treats which are now very small (for his small mouth) and soft (he has bad teeth).  (This kind of goes against the old adage that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks…because it is only now that Beans is in middle age that he wants to learn more than ever.)



What follows is a list of training sites.  It is not extensive.  I took my own training locally, and they hold training only periodically so I did not include their site.  The training was given by the local kennel club and if there is one in your area you could definitely start with them.   If you have a PetSmart, they also have training.  I list Cesar Millan first, only because he is the best known right now.  However, I am not promoting one method over the others (except mine of course!).


The following are not in any order and I have not tried them.


Dog Training Basics



It’s Pawsible


Peggy Swagger


If you know a site, please submit it


Training your Dog – The Basics

I thought I’d share a document that I recently wrote up for distribution.  Hope some of you find it helpful.

Dog Training – Basics

If you want to download that’s great.  If you want to share it, please refer people to my website so they can get their own copy and see what else I might have to offer by then.  Much appreciated.