Selecting A Pet Care Provider – Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – Green Acres Kennel Shop’s “Pet Friendly” Philosophy – Part 1

<Updated 2MAR17>

This article first appeared in the April 2015 edition of the Downeast Dog News.

<You can listen to a companion podcast to this article, first broadcast on The Woof Meow Show on the Voice of Maine on April 11, 2015, by clicking here>

Leaving your dog at a boarding kennel, doggie daycare, grooming salon, training facility, veterinary clinic or even leaving them at home with a pet sitter is not a decision you should make lightly. The question you need to ask yourself is: what happens once you are gone? How will your pet be treated? Will your pet be comfortable and relaxed during their stay with their caregivers? While there are many wonderful facilities that could easily and honestly answer that your furry companion is in great hands; this is not true for all. However, it is with great relief that I can say with some confidence that we are beginning to see a trend toward kinder and gentler professional pet care. Today, the terms “pet friendly,” “force-free,” and “fear-free” are becoming much more commonplace in our industry.

In 2012, the Pet Professional Guild was founded in an effort to “provide educational resources to pet trainers and professional pet care providers and advocates for mutually agreed guiding principles for the pet care industry.  PPG partners, members and affiliates focus on each pet’s physical, mental, Im A PPG Dogenvironmental and nutritional well-being adhering to a holistic approach to the care and training of family pets.” In a nut shell, the ultimate goal of the PPG is to be “The Association for a Force-Free Pet Industry.” At the same time, thanks to the efforts of the late Dr. Sophia Yin and Dr. Marty Becker, veterinarians are learning how they too can make your pet’s visit to their office a fear-free experience.

Nevertheless, the reality is that the terms “pet friendly,” “force-free” and “fear-free” have no legally binding definition. These standards are voluntary and not mandated by any regulatory agency so it is still a case of “buyer beware.” Even though many facilities are licensed by the state, nothing in the law requires staff training or that a facility focus on minimizing stress and anxiety for the animals in their care. Nor do these laws restrict facilities from using aversives such as squirt bottles, citronella collars or other confrontational techniques. It is in your pet’s best interest that you have a discussion with any prospective pet care provider before leaving your pets in their care. The following are some questions that you should ask:

  • Is your staff trained in canine behavior, body language and stress signals?
  • How will you handle the situation if my pet is scared or fearful?
  • What do you do if my dog barks while they stay with you?
  • How does your staff respond if a pet growls?
  • How is the staff trained to respond if my dog jumps on them?
  • Will my pet interact with other pets that are not part of their family? If so, how will these interactions be supervised?
  • Are punishers, such as squirt bottles, ever used?
  • Will my pet ever wear a shock, citronella, choke or prong collar while with you?
  • Would your staff ever attempt to dominate or alpha-roll my dog?
  • During peak times, do you overbook? Is there a chance my pet will be boarded in a crate instead of an indoor/outdoor run?
  • At what point do you stop a nail trim or a grooming if the dog is showing signs of stress and discomfort? How and when do you decide if an animal will be muzzled?
  • Are you and your staff members of The Pet Professional Guild and do you follow their “Force-Free” philosophies?

The following is a recent example of how we worked with a dog boarding at Green Acres for the first time:

A new dog arrived for its first boarding stay. It was placed in its indoor/outdoor kennel. Immediately the dog began to back away and growl at staff when they attempted to approach it to take it outside. The pet care technician on duty contacted the manager who then came to assess the situation. Very slowly, and allowing the dog to do all the approaching, the manager was able to hook the dog to its own leash and the dog was taken for a walk to get an opportunity to assess the environment. The dog was walked on leash several times the first couple of days, by multiple staff members, until it reached a point where it was very relaxed and comfortable in the kennel. In addition, a DAP/Adaptil (dog appeasing pheromone) diffuser was plugged in near this dog’s kennel.

On this dog’s final day, it was scheduled to have a grooming. The dog was very good for the bath, but when it was time for the nail trim, it immediately tensed and became agitated. The decision was made to not to do the nails. The dog in question had progressed so far, from being absolutely terrified on day one to having a good stay, and we did not want to undo that progress. It was imperative for this dog’s future kenneling experiences that this first visit end on a good note, and forcing a nail trim would not have been beneficial to the mental health of the pet.

ProudMembers BadgeWhile we understand, and even expect, that a trip to the boarding kennel, groomer or veterinarian will have some associated stress for your animal, the onus is on those of us in the industry to make these visits as relaxing and fear free as possible. These changes need to happen system wide and here at Green Acres we call upon all other facilities to join the movement and become pet friendly facilities and we also call upon you, the consumer, to see that it happens.

For more information on Green Acres philosophies on “Pet Friendly” pet care, visit our website and look for our position statements on Pet Friendly Pet Care and Position on the Use of Dominance and Punishment for the Training and Behavior Modification of Dogs.

Next month, we will go into a discussion about the Force-Free philosophy of The Pet Professional Guild and their efforts to educate pet guardians and the pet care services industry about force-free pet care. In addition, we will explore what veterinary clinics are doing to make your pet’s visit to the vet fear-free.

Links to the other two parts of this series can be found below.

Selecting A Pet Care Provider – Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – The PPG – Part 2 – <Click Here>

Selecting A Pet Care Provider – Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – A Veterinary Perspective – Part 3- <Click Here>

Green Acres’ First Statement on Being A Pet Friendly-Facility – <Click Here>

Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at Don also writes about pets at his blog:

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Cat Behavior – Make Your Life Easier – Get Your Cat to Love Their Carrier

< Updated 20JAN19 >

< The following is a short link to this article – >

Using a carrier is the safest way to transport an animal from your home to another location. I would particularly discourage anyone from transporting a cat that is not secured in a carrier. No matter how well behaved your cat is, if you are in an accident your cat will be terrified and will do everything they can to get away.

Batmanin A Pie Box
Batmanin A Pie Box

Unfortunately, most cats only see their carrier moments before they are forced into them to be taken on a car ride, usually to the veterinarian, groomer or boarding kennel. Often the end result is a cat that runs and hides the minute they are aware of the presence of the carrier. Finding and extracting a cat from a hiding place without getting scratched or bitten can be a prolonged and stressful process; one that is terrifying for your cat and frustrating for you. Wouldn’t your cat be happier and your life significantly easier if your cat enjoyed their carrier and perhaps even walked right in?  Getting there is not as complicated as you might think.

So how do you get your cat to like their carrier?

  1. Make sure you have a carrier that is safe– If you do not already have a carrier; an airline style carrier is the preferred choice. They are usually made of plastic and have a wire door at the front and sometimes a second wire door on the top. Don’t scrimp when you make this purchase. You want a carrier with doors that can be secured and stay secured. Card board boxes labeled as cat carriers can work, but they are not nearly as safe and we have known many cats to escape from these. Soft-sided carriers are easier to store and are lighter, but in the case of an accident offer your cat little protection
  2. Make sure that your cat finds the carrier to be comfortable – By itself, a plastic carrier is not going to be the most comfortable place; however, you can make it quite posh by inserting a blanket or a pillow that your cat already enjoys.
  3. Leave the carrier out so that your cat can explore it – If your cat is like most cats, they love boxes, bags and other things that they can explore and hide in. Take the door off your carrier and place the carrier in an area that your cat frequents. Do not try to coax the cat into the carrier, let them explore it if and when they are ready. To make the carrier even more rewarding, put a small dish with a tablespoon of your cat’s favorite canned food or some favorite treats at the back of the carrier. Now getting in the crate will be very rewarding. If your cat has favorite toys that they will chase and catch, toss a toy in the carrier and let them go get it and play with it. If your cat is hesitant about the carrier talk to your veterinarian or favorite pet care provider about Feliway®, a feline pheromone which has a calming effect on cats.
  4. Keep the carrier out and keep rewarding your cat for using it – Leave the carrier out as an alternative resting place for your cat and continue to reward them for its use by occasionally; feeding them in the carrier, tossing treats in the carrier, and tossing toys in the carrier,
  5. Put the door back on the carrier and practice carrying your cat – Put the door back on the carrier and continue to reward your cat for going in and exploring. After they are used to the door being back on, toss a treat into the carrier and after the cat goes in gently and quietly close the door, wait a few seconds, open the door and wait for your cat to come out. Repeat this a couple of times per day until your cat is used to hopping in and out of the carrier. When this becomes routine, close the door, pick the carrier up, hold it for a brief period and set it back down. Practice this for several days and then start carrying the cat around in the carrier. Eventually get to the point where you can get the cat in the carrier, carry them out to the car, and then immediately bring them back inside and let them out.
  6. Use the carrier to transport your cat to the vet or kennel – Many cats do not travel well and may get car sick. Make sure your cat’s favorite blanket or towels is in the carrier and if you have some Feliway, spray it on the blanket a good thirty minutes before getting the cat in the carrier. Secure the carrier in your car so it is not thrown in case you need to stop fast, and cover the carrier with another blanket to limit visual stimulus. When you bring your cat back home leave the carrier out and continue to reward them for its use.

    Tyler in a box
    Tyler in a box

With this little extra time and attention your cat can soon be an expert traveler. The time spent today helping your feline friend adjust to liking its carrier will pay off immensely in the future when it comes to getting your cat where it needs to go.




This great infographic from our friends at MightyDogGraphics can serve as a reminder as to how to get your cat prepared to travel. You can download the graphic as a PDF file by clicking on it.


©2019, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

PODCAST – Pet Behavior Counseling and Don and Kate – with special guest host Dr. Mark Hanks

10JAN15-Dog Behavior, Don and Kate w-guest host Dr Mark Hanks 400x400Dr. Mark Hanks from Kindred Spirits Veterinary Clinic has been a frequent guest on The Woof Meow Show, giving Kate and I several opportunities to “pick his brain” about a wide variety of topics. For quite some time he’s been asking to “host” the show and to turn the tables so to speak; interviewing Kate and I and asking us questions about animal behavior and training.  In the first of four shows in this series, Dr. Hanks interviews Don and Kate about their experiences as professional animal behavior counselors and dog trainers. Some of the questions Mark asks are: 1) How did you get into helping people with animal behavior problems? and 2) What does the current science say about dominance and alpha dogs?

You can listen to this episode of The Woof Meow Show at:

You can download this episode of The Woof Meow Show at the Apple iTunes store, or you can download it at:

You can listen others episodes in this series at the links below.

Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate, part 1– 12JUL15 –

Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate, part 2– 19JUL15 –

Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate, part 3– 26JUL15 –

For more information on the Woof Meow Show go to:

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Animal Welfare – Assessing Pets’ Welfare Using Brambell’s Five Freedoms

< Updated 3JAN18 >

(This article was first published in the Fall 2014 issue of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers Chronicle of the Dog  – [Click for a PDF of this article])

As trainers and behavior consultants, it is essential for us to consider whether or not a pet’s basic needs are being met if we are to offer our clients the best possible training and behavioral advice. This becomes even more important when facilitating the treatment of “problem behaviors,” as these often manifest when a pet’s welfare is compromised or when basic needs are not being met consistently. Brambell’s Five Freedoms are a very useful set of guidelines for assessing a pet’s welfare and developing a corresponding training, behavior modification, and management plan.

Brambell’s Five Freedoms originated in the United Kingdom as a result of Parliament creating a committee to assess the welfare of livestock raised in factory farms. In December of 1965, the Report of the Technical Committee to Enquire into the Welfare of Animals Kept Under Intensive Livestock Husbandry Systems, the Brambell Report, December 1965 (HMSO London, ISBN 0 10 850286 4) was published. The report identified what are known as the five freedoms that a farm animal should have: “to stand up, lie down, turn around, and groom themselves and stretch their limbs.” The British government then established the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, which later became the Farm Animal Welfare Council, to further define these freedoms to what we know today as: Freedom from Hunger and Thirst, Freedom from Discomfort, Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease, Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour, and Freedom from Fear and Distress.1,2

While originally intended for farm animals, the freedoms can be applied to any animal that is kept by humans. During my training in the Bach Practitioner program in the U.K., we discussed how Brambell’s Five Freedoms applied to dogs, cats, cattle, horses, rabbits, hogs, ducks, and a variety of other species. It is imperative that we have adequate knowledge of a species’ husbandry requirements and natural behaviors in order to appropriately assess whether their freedoms are being restricted. Even when we do have adequate knowledge, we may find that the freedoms sometimes conflict with what are considered best practices. Likewise, they may be inconsistent with what may be necessary to protect a pet or others. Not everything is black and white, and considering the freedoms over the years has brought me many answers, but also many questions for which I have no definitive answer. I invite you to consider some of the questions that have occurred to me and contemplate how you would address them within Brambell’s Five Freedoms.

  1. Ensure the animal is free from hunger, thirst, and malnutrition.

This sounds relatively simple, right? Provide animals with food and water and the need is met, but…

  • Does the type of food matter? Cats are true carnivores and most dogs, if left to their own devices, would eat a diet with very few carbohydrates. However, the average dog and cat are fed a diet that is probably at a minimum composed of 40% carbohydrates. Both dogs and cats would usually be eating fresh food, yet most pet food is highly processed. Feeding a pet as naturally as possible is not inexpensive. Is it better to have one pet and to feed him really well, or is it better to have multiple pets for social interaction? What about pets on prescription diets? They may need it for disease purposes, but is it optimal nutrition? Which takes precedence?
  • Many pets in the U.S. are obese, clearly due to overfeeding, improper diet, and lack of exercise. How does an animal’s obesity affect its welfare?
  • Does the source of water matter? Cats often depend on getting the majority of their hydration from eating live prey, yet few cats have that opportunity in today’s world. Would they drink more and have fewer urinary issues if they had ready access to fresh meat and running water? If you don’t drink from your tap, should the animals?
  1. Ensure the animal is free from discomfort.

Originally this freedom focused on shelter, and seemed relatively straightforward: make sure animals always have adequate shelter from temperature and weather extremes. However, there is much more to comfort than hot versus cold and dry versus damp.

  • Animals need down time. Does the pet have a quiet, comfortable resting place where he can be undisturbed and where he will feel safe? Is the pet’s environment free from things that may cause harm and discomfort?
  • Many people have multiple pets. Does each pet have adequate space, or are there too many animals for the amount of space available? Do the pets get along and enjoy each other, or is there constant conflict? Are there sufficient resources for all of the animals?
  • Breed also affects what an animal needs to be comfortable. Pets with long coats often cannot groom themselves adequately, and their hair can become tangled and matted, causing them discomfort. This becomes an even bigger problem if the pet is obese and as he ages. Are your clients making sure that their pets are adequately and properly groomed?
  1. Ensure your pet is free from pain, injury, and disease.

Regular and as-needed veterinary care goes a long way toward meeting this freedom, but breeding also plays a huge role, as well as how we respond when a dog is injured or ill. Mental disease needs to be considered along with physical disease.

  • Working dogs and dogs who compete in dog sports can experience injuries that cause pain. Is just using painkillers enough, or do we need to consider removing the dog from the activity causing the pain? Physical therapy for pets is still a relatively new treatment modality. Should it be a routine part of care for a working or competitive dog?
  • Breeding has resulted in some pets who essentially have physical impairments that can affect their ability to breathe, to move, and even to give birth naturally. How much should these animals be put through in an effort to correct their conditions? How do we help our clients separate their emotions from those of their pet? How do we handle it when it is one of our own pets?
  • Many purebred pets are susceptible to one or more genetic disorders, as well as physical conformations that often cause impairments. Are breeders doing everything that should be done to eliminate these disorders and create healthier pets? When clients are considering what type of pet to get, should we steer them away from certain breeds that have physical impairments or are prone to genetic disorders? How do we educate without being judgmental?
  • Animals can experience mental disease and disorders (anxieties, phobias, dementia, etc.) just like humans. How do we reconcile that the treatments of these disorders are often not considered as important as physical disorders? Is it appropriate to breed a dog for behavioral traits that might be an asset for a dog who works or competes, but might negatively affect that dog’s ability to thrive as a companion dog? How do we best counsel clients who wish to keep their dog involved in activities that have great potential to exacerbate behavioral issues?
  1. Ensure your pet is free to express normal behaviors.

The ability to express normal behaviors is often problematic, because many normal behaviors are the behaviors that people dislike the most (e.g., cats hunting and killing birds and dogs sniffing people’s crotches, to name two).

  • Do your clients’ pets have an adequate and safe space in which to run and express normal behaviors, both indoors and outdoors? Are they provided with an opportunity to do so on a regular basis? Cats are all too often neglected here. Are they getting ample chase games?
  • Is the environment in which the animals live suitably enriched so that it stimulates their minds? Do they search for their food or is it just dropped in a bowl?
  • Do the pets have sufficient interaction with family members to establish a bond and to provide emotional enrichment?
  • Are there opportunities to interact with suitable members of their own species, if they choose to do so, in a manner that is rewarding for all parties?
  • Humans use dogs for a variety of jobs. Is it ethical to put dogs in working situations where they are not allowed to express many normal behaviors for most of their lives?
  • There are a number of breeds that humans choose to physically alter by docking their tails or cropping their ears. Tails and ears are both tools that dogs use to communicate with one another. Do physical alterations impair a dog’s ability to express normal behaviors and to communicate?
  1. Ensure your pet is free from fear and distress.

I truly believe that no psychologically healthy human would ever intentionally cause their pet fear or distress. However, a lack of knowledge — or incorrect knowledge — about animal behavior often is a cause of fear and distress in our canine and feline companions.

  • Early socialization and habituation is key to freedom from fear and distress, as is ongoing socialization and enrichment throughout a dog’s life. What can we do to make clients, breeders, shelters, rescues, and veterinarians realize the importance of socialization and habituation? What can we do to help our clients to be successful in socializing their puppies gracefully and gradually without overwhelming them?
  • Cats have an even earlier socialization period than a dog (two to five weeks). How do we make sure that breeders and shelters are aware of this and taking steps to accomplish this? Should we be discouraging clients from adopting kittens that have not been properly socialized at this age? What about the feral population? Is it just kinder to leave them be?
  • Additionally, many animals have a more fearful baseline, either due to genetics, prior history, or a combination of both, and with the best of intentions, well-meaning pet owners throw the animals into situations that involve flooding to re-socialize them. How do we decide when enough is enough? At what point does management become preferable to continued trials of desensitization and counter-conditioning?
  • Dog bites, especially of children, are a significant problem, and are often caused by a dog who is afraid or is otherwise under stress. In some cases the child is the direct cause of that fear. How do we convince the dog-owning public and the non-dog-owning public of the importance of learning basic canine body language so that many of these bites can be prevented?
  • A lack of adequate physical and mental stimulation can cause a pet to be distressed. How do we help clients understand and find the time to ensure that their pets get appropriate amounts of stimulation and exercise?
  • On the flip side, too much stimulation and exercise can also be detrimental, causing a state of chronic stress. Many dogs will not do well in a daycare setting, playing all day or going for a five-mile run every morning. How do we educate our clients and others in the industry that too much activity can be as detrimental as not enough activity? How do we help clients to find the balance for their pet between too much and not enough?
  • While both the domestic dog and domestic cat are considered to be social animals, some are more social than others. Feral dogs and cats choose which bonds to form; in most households, humans choose which pets live together. How do we get clients to understand that pets who do “okay” together may not be thriving, and may be living under stress? Is that fair to either pet? Should one be rehomed, or would that be worse? If so, how do we counsel clients about which one should stay?
  • Communication and understanding are the cornerstones of good relations. How do we get the dog-owning public to understand that learning dog body language and training their dogs with reward-based training is key to ensuring that their dogs do not live in fear and distress?
  • Stress comes in two varieties: distress (scary things, trauma) and eustress (excitement). Whether distress or eustress, what happens to the body physiologically is very similar, and being in a state of frequent eustress or distress can have negative impacts on health. How do we get people to understand that, while occasional, moderate distress and eustress is in fact essential to life (and unavoidable), high or frequent doses can be extremely detrimental? How do we help them balance and manage their pets’ lives to avoid long-term, high levels of stress? If going to the vet is causing extreme stress, yet is necessary for freedom from disease and pain, how do we respond? Which carries more weight?
  • As trainers we may choose to put our own dogs into situations where they serve as a decoy dog while we evaluate a client’s dog-aggressive dog. Even though we take great effort to prevent physical and emotional harm to our dogs, the latter is not always easy to measure at the time. Is it ethical to place our dogs in this situation?
  • Working with dogs, and observing others working with dogs, is an essential part of how we learn to become better trainers. Is it fair to bring out a dog who is experiencing fear and distress and to use him in a demonstration in front of a group? Can we come up with a better way for us to learn, without causing dogs even more distress?

There are not necessarily any straightforward answers to satisfying Brambell’s Five Freedoms for all animals in all situations. As with any treatment or training plan, all factors need to be considered and weighed. I encourage you to spend some time thinking about the freedoms and how they apply to the animals in your life, the global ethical questions they bring, and also learning how you can use them to help your clients and their pets.



1 Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs-Farm Animal Welfare Committee-Five Freedoms:

2 “Press Statement”. Farm Animal Welfare Council. 1979-12-05:


©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Adopting/Getting A Pet – Before You Adopt A Dog…

< A version of this article was published in the October 2014 issue of Down East Dog News>

Whether it is your first dog or you have had dogs your whole life, whether you have no other pets or lots of other pets, whether you live alone or live with a large family, adding a dog to your life is a big decision and requires careful thought and planning. As a pet care professional with over 19 years of experience, I have heard countless stories of what can happen when you bring a dog home on impulse. Yes, it might turnout just fine, but there have also been many times where being impulsive leads to heartache. I suspect that there is a “right dog” for most every situation, but not all dogs will be right for your situation. So before you start thinking about which breed you want, whether you’ll get a rescue or purebred, a puppy or an adult, I suggest you ask yourself the following questions.

What is the primary reason you want a dog? – Companionship is probably the most typical reason people get a dog. Other reasons might be so that you can compete in dog sports or to do therapy dog visits at nursing homes and hospitals. Perhaps you want a dog as a hunting companion or to help you on the farm. Some people will even think they want a dog to teach their children responsibility or for protection. If it’s either of these last two, I’ll try to talk you out of getting a dog for those reasons. Alternatively, you might be looking for a dog to be a service/assistance dog for yourself or a family member. In this situation your best option is to let a qualified and reputable service dog agency select and train the dog for you. Most dogs, even the ones specifically bred to be service dogs, do not have what it takes to develop into a reliable service dog. My point is that there are several reasons you might want a dog and how you answer this question will determine what breeds you should consider and those that would be out of the question, whether you want a puppy or an adult dog, and whether or not you should consider a purebred or a mutt.

Where will you be 15 years from now? – Depending on the breed and individual dog, your new canine friend will hopefully be with you for 12-15 years, perhaps longer. Your life, where you live, who lives with you, the amount of free time you have, your financial resources, your health and physical abilities, and your dog’s health can and will very likely change a great deal in 15 years. When adding a dog to a family I believe you need to plan for it being a lifetime commitment. That means you need to think ahead and be sure that the reason you want a dog today will still be the reason you want a dog several years from now. When we recently added our new dog my wife and I knew we needed a smaller dog. We both have back issues, and carrying our 16 year old Golden up and down the stairs was difficult at best and we knew we would not be able to do that 15 years from now.

What are your deal breakers? –  Even though we make a lifetime commitment to a dog sometimes things happen and it is in the best interest of you and your dog to part ways. This can be heartbreaking for all involved. One of the best ways to prevent that heartache is to spend some time before you welcome a dog into your home deciding what would be a reason you would not want or be able to keep a dog.  Some reasons that people have given for ending the relationship; the dog bites someone, you need to move into town and the dog cannot adapt, the dog kills another animal, someone in the family develops allergies, the dog urinates and defecates inside and cannot be trained, the dog has separation anxiety and you work 14 hours a day, the dog barks excessively and the neighbors are complaining, you move in with a new life partner and your dog hates their dog, etc.. The point is that unexpected things happen, sometimes beyond our control. If you can identify these deal breakers before you choose a dog, you may be able to select a pet that decreases the probability of these unfortunate situations developing.

What happens next? – After you have answered these questions for yourself, I recommend you share them with at least a few pet care professionals; a veterinarian, a dog trainer or behavior consultant, a daycare/kennel operator or a dog groomer. You want someone who can give you an objective opinion based on extensive experience with many breeds as well as individual dogs. Breeders, rescues, and shelters can provide useful input; however, remember that they are hoping you will choose one of the dogs that they have available. This is not to say that we do not all have our share of biases; for this reason talking to several people will give you a broader perspective.   At Green Acres Kennel Shop, we will gladly sit down and have this discussion with you at no charge, because we know it’s going to result in a good match.

Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at Don also writes about pets at his blog:

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Nutrition – Which Brand of Pet Food is the Best? – Part 2

<A version of this article was published in the July 2014 issue of Down East Dog News>

Last month Don discussed how to evaluate the companies making the pet food. This month he discusses how to evaluate individual brands and formulas within a company.

After selecting companies you are comfortable with, the next thing a pet parent should do is to look at the individual foods produced by a company. In this day and age most pet food company’s manufacture and market multiple lines or brands of food. For example, the Natura Pet Food Company, which is currently owned by Proctor & Gamble, manufactures 5 brands of pet food: California Natural, Evo, Healthwise, Innova, and Karma. They do this to meet specific needs (hypoallergenic and grain-free formulas), marketing niches (organic) or various price points (good, better or best).

Pet food companies recognize that budget does matter to pet parents, and they try to offer a food brand in multiple price categories. Unfortunately, because people focus on the price per bag and price per pound, instead of the cost per feeding, these categorizations aren’t always logical. It really can save you money if you learn how to calculate the true feeding cost of a pet food (click here to read: Determining True Pet Food Costs). You will often discover that the actual difference in the feeding cost between the categories is often negligible and the food that costs more per bag actually is a better value.

When choosing pet foods to offer in our store or for personal use, we also look for a brand that offers multiple, adult formulas, with different protein sources that support our philosophy of dietary rotation (click to read Why Rotating Diets Makes Sense). A great example of this would be PureVita’s formulas in which they offer chicken, duck, bison, salmon, or turkey formulas. When we first started talking about dietary rotation many years ago, we quickly became the pariah of many food companies and some local veterinarians. Interestingly, now some food companies also actively promote rotation and many veterinarians recognize that it is not harmful and makes sense.

Other factors to consider are the availability of a pet food brand. The small family owned companies we discussed in my last column typically and intentionally choose to market their products through independent, locally-owned retailers who are knowledgeable and passionate about sharing their knowledge of pet nutrition. They also typically offer a money-back guarantee – if you are not satisfied with the food return it to the retailer for a full refund. They also often offer frequent buyer programs that help that retailer build customer loyalty. Remember when you buy from a locally-owned store you are getting expertise and service and you are also helping your community.

In my next column I’ll discuss looking at the labeling on pet food, specifically the ingredients used.

Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at Don also writes about pets at his blog:

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Nutrition – Which Brand of Pet Food is the Best? – Part 1

<A version of this article was published in the June 2014 issue of Down East Dog News>

In this first of a three part series, Don discusses the importance of looking at the companies behind the foods.

Not a day goes by here at Green Acres without at least somebody asking us, “Which brand of pet food is the best?” And when pet food companies are in the news, either due to recalls, buyouts or lawsuits, we are asked this question with even more frequency. Unfortunately, there is no single commercial pet food that will be the best food for all pets, despite of what some food companies try to tell us. Individual animals have different needs and these may shift over time. Additionally, pet food formulas and the people and companies behind pet food brands can and do change; today’s great food might become tomorrow’s worst. This is why we choose to offer multiple brands of food in our store and why we are constantly monitoring the foods and the companies behind them. It’s also why taking a close look at the company is the first step in selecting a food.

Our first preference for a pet food company is one that is a family owned and primarily focuses on making pet food as opposed to pet food being a sideline business. These companies typically own and operate the plant where the food is manufactured,  know the farmers that produce the raw ingredients for their food, have tighter quality control measures in place, and also usually only produce their own food. These brands very rarely advertise on TV, preferring to spend their money on the ingredients that go into the bag. They know that when you have a superior product, nothing beats “word of mouth” advertising.

On the flip side pet food companies that we avoid are “marketing only” companies. These companies typically don’t have a plant or manufacturing facility, nor do they have a permanent research and development staff. Instead they contract a nutritionist to develop a formula and then contract out the sourcing of the ingredients and manufacturing of the food to the lowest bidder. Often the plants that manufacture these foods vary from contract to contract, and they are also often the plants making the lowest quality foods in the market; the generic brands and house brands for supermarkets and discount stores. These marketing companies focus on what they are best at, manipulating the masses to believe that their food is the single best food available. They typically do this by creating a website and TV advertisements that tug at your heart. Like a dirty political campaign, they focus their efforts on pointing out why other brands are bad instead of why their food is good.

In the middle are the other types of companies in the pet food business. Often held by conglomerates such as Colgate-Palmolive or Procter & Gamble, these companies will sometimes still produce high quality pet foods and fund R&D in their facilities. That being said, these pet food lines continue to always require close scrutiny because of less than positive histories in the pet food industry. Two huge candy conglomerates, Nestlé and Mars, own a number of pet food brands and by some accounts may hold as much as 78% of the market share for pet food in this country. Other pet food companies are owned by venture capital funds that typically have a goal of developing a brand until they can sell it, hopefully for an enormous profit. Now the fact that they may be investing in the food usually means good things, but that may be temporary.  The reality is that knowing who owns a pet food company and their motivations for being in the business is huge in selecting a quality, healthy pet food.

In my next column I’ll discuss looking at the various brands and individual food formulas offered by a pet food company.

Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at Don also writes about pets at his blog:


©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Accepting the Pet You Have

< This article was originally published in Green Acres Kennel Shop Paw Prints, January 2005>

<Updated: 26NOV13>

Accept the dog you have, not the one you wish you had.” This quote, from a presentation entitled: Relationship: The heart of positive reinforcement training, by Leslie Nelson of Tails-U-Win! Canine Center in Manchester, CT, was for me, the highlight of the 2005 Association of Pet Dog Trainers educational conference. In twelve words, Leslie summed up the essential ingredient to having a happy relationship with your dog.

Sadly, I know many people often wish their dog was different. I’ve even been there myself. Countless times I have heard people say things like: “I wish he was more like my old dog,” “She’s so much noisier than the dog I had as kid,” “The breeder said he’s not supposed to be like this,” “The shelter said he wouldn’t run-off,” or “She’s certainly no Lassie.” These are clearly people who are unhappy about their pet. I suspect their pets are not very happy either.

What I call the dreaded “Lassie Myth” is a major reason for many peoples unhappiness. When people compare their personal dog to some “ideal” dog in their mind, they are inevitably disappointed. It is important to remember that the Lassie books, movies and TV shows were all works of fiction. Rin Tin Tin, Eddie, and Wishbone are also fictional characters, not representative of real dogs. Sadly, the mass media frequently sets us up for disappointment by showing us dogs that act more like furry versions of perfect people. When was the last time you saw a perfect person?

Our own egos can also create unhappiness in our relationship. I know I have been guilty of wishing for something my dog was not. Gus, our late Cairn Terrier, was the first dog I trained. As a new trainer I wanted him to be a perfect obedience dog so that I could use him for demonstrations and to “show off” my skills. However, he was a Cairn Terrier, a breed not exactly known for winning obedience competitions.

In my early days as a trainer I naively thought “blind obedience” represented the pinnacle of success and happiness for both trainer and dog. Gus and I drilled and trained and trained and drilled. Together we accomplished a great deal as he was a certified therapy dog, but that was not enough for me. I wanted more. We continued to train until one day fellow trainer Kate Dutra made me realize how miserable Gus and I had become. Neither of us were enjoying training because it brought no pleasure, no fun. It was only then that I started to see how my unrealistic expectations for Gus had seriously damaged our relationship. Fortunately, Gus and I were able to repair our bond, but I will always regret the opportunities for fun that we lost, all because I would not accept him as he was.

All too often, I think that many of us that are pet professionals (trainers, veterinarians, breeders, shelter workers, authors,) also perpetuate this lack of acceptance by giving people unrealistic expectations for their dogs. When you want to sell a puppy or adopt a dog into a new home, it is often easier to make them look better than they really are by glossing over any problems or embellishing positives. Statements like: “This breed is always good with kids,” “Yes, he’s completely housetrained,” “Your dog will learn everything they need to know in seven weeks,” might make it easier to place a pet or to sell a service, but at what price to the dog? By professionals creating unrealistic expectations difficulty in the relationship is essentially guaranteed.

As a pet care professional, I believe my first responsibility to a client is to make sure that they have the knowledge required to understand their pet as it is; a very different species with its own needs and desires. I may not tell them what they want to hear, but I want to make sure they do not have any unrealistic expectations. Secondly, people need to understand that each pet is an individual with its own unique personality. Lastly I want everybody to understand the importance of patience and kindness.  With knowledge, patience, and kindness comes acceptance and a furry companion you will cherish forever. You see the key to accepting our pets is no different than accepting one another.


UPDATE: I still discuss the importance of acceptance with my clients. Yesterday, friend and client Alan Garber shared this video with me on FaceBook. It’s a wonderful story about a person training a puppy to be a service dog and then one day realizing that no matter how badly they want this puppy to be a service dog, it’s just not going to happen. The trainer then discovers new wonderful traits in their dog, just by letting them be the dog they are meant to be.

Dogs are wonderful and amazing creatures but each is a unique individual. Not all dogs can be service dogs, therapy dogs, agility dogs, hunting dogs, great with all other dogs, perfect with kids, or whatever we want them to be. However, each dog will have their own special skills and abilities where they will thrive if we only let them.

To quote the Rolling Stones, “You can’t always get what you want.” But I truly believe “Even if your dog isn’t what you want, they’re still wonderful!” This video illustrates that perfectly! – Thank you for sharing Alan!

Updated: 26NOV13


©26NOV13, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Vaccinations–Interviews with Dr. Ron Schultz

Vaccines are incredibly important in preventing infectious diseases in both animals and people. However, they can also cause life threatening adverse reactions. This interview discussed the importance of vaccines and how to use them in the safest manner possible.

In Memory of Tikken 300x300I first learned of Dr. Ron Schultz sometime between the spring of 2000 and the spring of 2002. Paula and I had started reading everything we could about vaccinations, especially adverse reactions due to over vaccination, because our Golden Retriever Tikken had started exhibiting some severe behavioral changes in the spring of 2000. Her aggression towards other dogs and subsequent obsessive-compulsive shadow and light chasing began shortly after her third Rabies vaccination. Her first Rabies vaccination was in 1997 when she was a puppy. Her second occurred when she was one year old in 1998 and the third occurred in 2000. At the time Maine law required revaccination for Rabies every two years, even though the Rabies vaccine was labeled as offering immunity for three years.

We were not initially aware that Tikken’s behavioral changes were a result of a vaccine reaction.  We consulted with our local veterinarian who provided treatment and then the veterinary behavior clinic at Tufts University when we saw no improvement. When there was still no improvement we consulted with an applied animal behaviorist in Wisconsin who suggested we explore a homeopathic treatment for Tikken’s disease. In the spring of 2001 Tikken was examined by Dr. Judy Herman of the Animal Wellness Center in Augusta, ME and diagnosed as having had a reaction to the Rabies vaccine. She was subsequently treated and cured for a Rabies miasm by Dr. Herman.

As a result of Tikken’s illness, Paula and I started educating ourselves about vaccines and I came upon the following quote, by Dr. Schultz, from a veterinary text book.

A practice that was started many years ago and that lacks scientific validity or verification is annual revaccination. Almost without exception there is no immunologic requirement for annual revaccination. Immunity to viruses persists for years in the life of the animal. – Veterinary immunologist Ronald Schultz and Tom Phillips make the following statement in Current Veterinary Therapy, volume XI, pp202-206, 1992.

It was apparent that experts in the field felt that the annual vaccination of our pets was not necessary. Knowing the types of reactions that vaccinations could cause, we continued to learn everything we could about vaccines. We also started to share that information with our clients at Green Acres Kennel Shop when I wrote the article Rethinking Annual Vaccinations for our April 2002 newsletter, Paw Prints.

On February 7th, 2013 Tikken crossed the rainbow bridge at 16 years of age. While she had mostly recovered from the behavioral issues resulting from her adverse reaction to the Rabies vaccine, she was never the same confident, anxiety free dog that she was pre-reaction. Her veterinarians have advised us that the two immune mediated diseases (hypothyroid disease and golden retriever uveitis syndrome) she later developed were also probably related to the Rabies vacation and her genetics. The vaccine triggered an abnormal immune response which affected these other organ systems.

Upon Tikken’s passing Paula and I were looking for an appropriate way to remember her and decided to commit to educating others by sharing Tikken’s story and to do a fundraiser for The Rabies Challenge Fund ( and This interview and the four resulting Woof Meow Shows with Dr. Schultz are part of that educational effort.

The following are notes, not a transcript, from an interview with Dr. Ron Schultz, Professor and Chair of the Department of Pathobiological Sciences at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Schultz is considered to be one of the foremost experts on immunology and vaccinations for pets. The interview occurred on Friday, May 3rd 2013 and was broadcast as four separate editions of The Woof Meow Show on the Voice of Maine WVOM, 103.9FM & WVQM 101.3FM on four subsequent weekends.

  • June 22nd and 23rd – Vaccinations- Why they are important, Core Vaccines & Vaccination Schedules <click to listen>
  • June 29th and 30th  –  Vaccinations, Titer Testing, Non-Core Vaccines and Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex <click to listen>
  • July 6th and 7th –  Vaccinations- Non-Core Vaccines for Cats and Adverse Reactions to Vaccines <click to listen>
  • July 13th and 14th  – Vaccinations – The Rabies Challenge Fund. <click to listen>

The last show has actually aired twice. These four shows have been our most popular podcasts to-date with over 2800 downloads as of October 14th, 2013. All four shows are also available for download at the Apple iTunes store and at

Thanks to the generosity of 53 clients, friends and colleagues we were able to raise a total of $1240 with our fundraiser for The Rabies Challenge Fund from September 1st through October 5th. As promised we matched that generosity dollar for dollar and have sent a check to the Rabies Challenge Fund for $2,535 as a memoriam for our Golden Retriever, Tikken.

Thank you to all of you that contributed; Ann Murray, Anonymous, Barbara Cyr, Becky Brimley, Belinda Doliber, Brent & Michele Slater, Carol Higgins Taylor and Juanita Taylor, Carolyn Clark, Chris & Jane Flieller, Cindy Black, Coastside Bioresources, Colleen Pelar, Cynthia Bentley, Cynthia Farrell, Dee Hoult (Applause Your Paws), Doreen & Ken Dybevik, Gary  & Deb Mickalowski, Ginger & David Ward-Green, Heidi Riggs, Helen Musselwhite, Jan & David Pilotte, Jen Shryock (Family Paws), Jill Marple, John Hamer & Anne Marie Storey, Dr. Judith Herman, Julie Perkins, Juliette Humiston, Kathy Klein, Ken & Peggy Grant, Laura Van Dyne, Linda Mosely, Links Online Marketing, LLC (Kristy & Ken Kimball), Maina Fernald, Margaret Hall, Maria Staples, Marjorie Speck, Michael Puls, Michelle Sirois, Nanette Belenger, Patrick Lyons, Ralph Carr, Rhonda & Rick Hutchins, Richard & Cristanna Cook, Rick and Jill Marston, Sandra Payne, Sarah Baldwin, Sherry Pfister, Susan Scammon, Susan Witt, Teoti Anderson and Vanessa Field.

The Shows

Vaccinations (22JUN13-23JUN13)
Why they are important, Core Vaccines & Vaccination Schedules

Core Vaccines

Vaccines are important because they can prevent some very serious vaccine preventable diseases that can make animals very sick and can even kill. Since the veterinary profession started to reexamine vaccines in the 2000’s, they have come up with the term “core vaccines” to identify the vaccinations that all animals should have. These vaccines are so effective that they will prevent the disease in all appropriately vaccinated animals.

According to Dr. Schultz, dogs should receive the following core vaccines Canine Distemper Virus (CDV), Canine Parvovirus (CPV-2), Canine Adenovirus-1 (Infectious Canine Hepatitis [ICH])/Canine Adenovirus-2 and Rabies Virus (RV). The latter is not only important for the dog, but because it is usually fatal and can be transmitted to humans, it is considered a public health issue.

Dr. Schultz recommends that cats receive the following core vaccines; Feline Parvovirus (Panleukopenia) Virus (formerly known as feline distemper distemper)FPV, Feline Calicivirus (respiratory) (FCV), Feline Herpes Type 1 Virus (FHV-1), and Rabies Virus (RV).

Vaccine Schedules

Since the late 1990’s there has been a big change in the recommendations for how often our pets should be vaccinated. For years vaccinations were given annually as part of a pet’s annual wellness exam. This changed with the eventual recognition that pets were being over vaccinated, which in turn in some cases was causing pets to become very ill or to even die.

Dr. Schultz indicates that dogs should not receive any vaccinations before they are six weeks of age. This is because a puppy/kitten gets some immunity through antibodies in their mother’s milk. Those antibodies help protect the puppy/kitten from disease but also will interfere with vaccinations. This is why puppies and kittens receive multiple vaccinations. Although the antibodies in the milk interfere with vaccinations, under no circumstances should you prevent the puppy/kitten from getting these antibodies.

Recommended vaccination schedule: Start at 8-10 weeks, give a second dose 3 to 4 weeks later and then a final dose an additional 3 to 4 weeks later, making sure it is at 14 to 16 weeks of age. By then the mother’s antibodies will not interfere with the vaccinations.

After these initial puppy/kitten vaccinations, Dr. Schultz recommends doing a titer test or revaccination when the puppy/kitten is a year of age and then revaccinating or re-titering no more frequently than every 3 years.

Some breeds (Rottweiler’s and Doberman’s) do not develop an immune response as easily, especially to the canine parvo vaccine. However, studies have demonstrated that if that last dose is at 14-16 weeks of age at least 98% of puppies will get immunized, regardless of breed.

What Determines How Long A Vaccine is Effective?

It’s the specific vaccine and the disease it was designed to prevent that determines how long it will confer immunity. All of the core vaccines, except Rabies, are modified live vaccines. This means that they actually must infect the animal in order to have an immunization effect and therefore must contain an attenuated version of the actual virus. The immunity that is conferred by this type of vaccine, just like the core vaccines for children (measles, mumps rubella), provide long term immunity because they are live, replicating viruses, much like the immunity one would get if one were actually infected with and recovered from those diseases. Immunity conferred by these vaccines is typically many years to a lifetime. If you get measles or are vaccinated for measles as a child you will not get it again anytime in your life, even if you are exposed. That is the same with distemper, parvo, and the other core animal vaccines. That’s why back in the 1970’s Dr. Schultz and others started questioning the need for annual revaccinations of our pets. In other words, for the core vaccines that include a modified live virus, once a pet has had their puppy series and their revaccination at one year of age, they should be immune for life and should NOT require further vaccination. This is why instead of revaccinating annually Dr. Schultz recommends that we only consider revaccination every three or more years. His personal preference is to do titer testing every three years. A disadvantage of titers is they can be more expensive than revaccinating, but it is much safer to do a titer because while the adverse reactions to vaccines are fairly small they still can occur. Plus it’s just not good medical practice to give a vaccine that’s not needed.

Rabies Vaccinations

Titers can be done for Rabies but due to legal and public health requirements, revaccination for Rabies is still required every three years. Those legal requirements don’t necessarily follow science or good vaccination practice, but they are the law of the land.

All states in the US now have a three year Rabies vaccination law. The initial Rabies vaccination should not occur before 12 weeks of age. The second vaccination should occur a year later and any subsequent revaccination for Rabies should not occur more often than every three years. If you travel internationally with your dog, other laws may apply. I had a friend who moved out of the USA and had to have her dog vaccinated for Rabies three times in a few months in order to be admitted to the country where she moved. The dog later developed hyperthyroid disease which is a possible vaccine reaction.


Vaccinations (29JUN13-30JUN13)
Titer Testing, Non-Core Vaccines and Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex

Titer Testing

Antibody titer testing is a good alternative to revaccinating every three years and should be considered when you bring your pet in for an annual wellness exam. An annual wellness exam is a very important part of any pet’s ongoing veterinary care. Additionally, some of the non-core vaccines must be given on an annual basis because they are only effective for a year.

Dr. Schultz recommends titers for Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) and Canine Parvovirus (CPV-2). Titers are generally not needed for Canine Adenovirus-1 (Infectious Canine Hepatitis [ICH])/Canine Adenovirus-2) if you get positive results for distemper and parvo. Titers don’t need to be done more often than every three years.

Unfortunately there is confusion in the veterinary community as to how to use and interpret a titer test. A common misunderstanding about titering is that it is only a snapshot that indicates an animal’s immunity at a specific moment in time and that it does not indicate if your pet will still be immune in three months. Dr. Schultz indicates that is not the case at all. With regard to Distemper, Parvo and Adeno, a positive titer indicates immunity for life unless the animal contracts a severe disease that suppresses their immune system.

Non-Core Vaccines for Dogs

Non-core vaccines are not necessary for many animals and are only recommended when an animal as at risk of contracting the disease due to lifestyle and or where they live.

Dr. Schultz believes the most important non-core vaccine for the dog is the one for kennel cough or more correctly called Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex (CIRDC). This is a complex disease that involves a number of bacteria and viruses which can cause this disease. Bordetella bronchiseptica is the most prevalent of the bacteria that contribute to this disease. A variety of viruses can also contribute to this disease (Canine Parainfluenza, Canine Influenza virus, and several others). A variety of vaccines exist to reduce the severity of kennel cough.

“You cannot prevent kennel cough like you can prevent Distemper. You can prevent Parvo. You can prevent Adeno, ( infectious canine hepatitis). What we do is when we give the kennel cough vaccine we’re hoping to reduce the severity of the disease and we can’t as I say prevent it, as it is so complex.” – Dr. Ron Schultz

Other non-core vaccines for the dog that are important are Leptospirosis (caused by four different serovars/strains). The other disease that is regional for which there is a vaccine is Lyme disease.

These non-core vaccines, unlike the core vaccines, only provide short-term immunity and must be given annually.

Why don’t these vaccines confer long term immunity? It has to do with the immunity of the animal. There are some diseases, with humans too, where once we get the disease we develop a lifelong immunity. An example with this with humans would be measles. But with humans and animals there are also many diseases which we can get over and over again like Lyme disease and the common cold.

Some of the human vaccines that only give short term immunity would be tetanus. Part of the reason dogs require more frequent vaccinations than humans is that they don’t live as long.

Kennel Cough/CIRDC

Most boarding facilities, daycares and training classes require the canine cough vaccine, even though it’s not a core vaccine. Over the past 15 years the vaccines that are used for this complex group of diseases have changed, as well as the protocols for their administration. What in your opinion really works best?

First we need to remember that canine cough/CIRDC is not vaccine preventable. The vaccines only reduce the severity of the disease. Part of that is because we don’t even have vaccines for some of the organisms that cause CIRDC. However, even where we do have vaccines, they are often only 60% to 70% effective. That’s why a dog can be vaccinated and still get CIRDC.

For Bordetella, the most important bacterial component of canine cough, we now have an injectable vaccine which is made from a dead organism, an intranasal vaccine which is a modified live vaccine, and an oral vaccine which is made from a modified live organism. The two live vaccines are more effective than the dead vaccine. Dr. Schultz recommends revaccination on an annual basis and prefers the intranasal vaccine. It not only includes Bordetella but also canine Parainfluenza. Since the normal path of infection for these diseases is via the respiratory system, Dr. Schultz feels the intranasal approach is the best way to administer this vaccine.

Both Bordetella and canine Parainfluenza can also be administered by injection, but Dr. Schultz indicates that neither work as well as the vaccine administered intra-nasally. Some dogs will develop a cough after being given the intranasal vaccine but it is not an infection but is actually an allergic reaction to the Bordetella component of the vaccine. These dogs have not developed canine cough but because they have a hyper sensitivity to the vaccine they are coughing.


Vaccinations (6JUL13-7JUL13)

Non-Core Vaccines for Cats and Adverse Reactions to Vaccines


In cats there are very few non-core vaccines that are recommended. While Feline Leukemia has previously been recommended annually this has changed to every 2 to 3 years since the publication of the new guidelines. It is now only considered a core vaccine for all kittens because if we get a major part of the population of kittens vaccinated we could reduce or even eliminate Feline Leukemia virus as a cause of disease in the cat. It would require two doses given between 8 and 10 weeks of age and between 12 to 14 weeks of age. Dr. Schultz would recommend a third vaccine again at one year and then no further vaccines for FeLV. They have actually eradicated Feline Leukemia in Switzerland using this type of vaccine program with kittens.

The Feline Immune Deficiency Virus vaccine is not recommended by Dr. Schultz. There is also a Feline Infectious Peritonitis vaccine that is available and most feline practitioners do not recommend this vaccine.

Non-Adjuvanted One Year Rabies Vaccine for Cats

A non-adjuvanted Rabies vaccine that requires annual revaccinations is also available for cats. In addition to the ingredients used to stimulate the immune response many vaccines contain an adjuvant, which is an additional ingredient designed to further stimulate the immune system. Unfortunately, this adjuvant is often the vaccine component which causes an adverse reaction, hence the development of this non-adjuvanted vaccine. This will probably become a three year vaccine in the near future.

Adverse Reactions Caused By Vaccines

Injection site sarcomas, the development of a malignant tumor at a vaccine injection site was one of the reasons vaccines started to be looked at more critically. This was discovered in the mid 1980’s when these lethal tumors started showing up in cats.

Vaccines do have the potential to cause harm, but for years the prevailing attitude was if a vaccine doesn’t help, it least it won’t hurt. Obviously this was not the case and people started to reexamine if their pets should be vaccinated so frequently, much less at all.

In general vaccines are very safe. Less serious adverse reactions can include causing a change in pigmentation at the injection site. The injection site sarcoma was very much a species issue related specifically to the cat. Injection site tumors in the dog are very rare. All of these adverse reactions are determined by the genetics of the animal, not only the vaccine. When breeders observe these vaccination reactions in litters, they need to make sure that those animals producing these litters are not bred again. Doing so only perpetuates the genetics and increases the odds of an adverse reaction.

Autoimmune diseases are genetically controlled but can be triggered by vaccinations. Immune mediated hypersensitivities like anaphylaxis have both a genetic and a vaccine component. Adverse reactions do not always occur the first time a vaccine is administered but can occur after subsequent vaccinations when the animal becomes hypersensitive.

Certain vaccines are more likely to trigger this type of hypersensitivity.  The Leptospirosis vaccine and the injectable Bordetella vaccine have caused hypersensitivity reactions. It’s often not the antigens in the vaccine, the substances that are meant to help the animal, that cause the reactions. Reactions are often caused by other ingredients in the vaccine like Bovine Serum Albumen, adjuvants, etc. By vaccinating only with the vaccines that are absolutely necessary and as infrequently as possible, we can minimize the risk of adverse reactions.

There are many adverse reactions that can occur from a vaccination. Dr. Schultz has a list over a page long of potential vaccine reactions. Even behavioral changes can be the result of an adverse reaction because the immune system is closely integrated with both the nervous and endocrine system. This is why behavior can be affected by a vaccine.

The only reactions that are considered to be caused by a vaccine are those that happen immediately, within 15 minutes to an hour after vaccination. There are other reactions that can happen days, weeks and even months later.


Vaccinations (13JUL13-14JUL13)

The Rabies Challenge Fund

Tikken’s Story

Don and Tikken-1with text 600x903Our Golden Retriever Tikken had started exhibiting some severe behavioral changes in the spring of 2000. Her aggression towards other dogs and subsequent obsessive-compulsive shadow and light chasing began shortly after her third Rabies vaccination. Her first Rabies vaccination was in 1997 when she was a puppy. Her second occurred when she was one year old in 1998 and the third occurred in 2000. At the time Maine law required revaccination for Rabies every two years, even though the Rabies vaccine was labeled as offering immunity for three years.

We were not initially aware that Tikken’s behavioral changes were a result of a vaccine reaction.  We consulted with our local veterinarian who provided treatment and then the veterinary behavior clinic at Tufts University when we saw no improvement. When there was still no improvement we consulted with an applied animal behaviorist in Wisconsin who suggested we explore a homeopathic treatment for Tikken’s disease. In the spring of 2001 Tikken was examined by Dr. Judy Herman of the Animal Wellness Center in Augusta, ME and diagnosed as having had a reaction to the Rabies vaccine. She was subsequently treated and cured for a Rabies miasm by Dr. Herman.

For more about Tikken, the Rabies vaccination and here treatment: <click here>.

The Rabies Challenge Fund

This is a project conceived by Kris Christine whose Labrador Retriever, Meadow, had an adverse reaction to a Rabies vaccine. Meadow developed a mast cell sarcoma at the injection site of the Rabies vaccination. Kris actually recruited Dr. Ron Schultz and another veterinarian, Dr. Jean Dodds, also very involved in vaccine work, to start a study to answer the question how long is the duration of immunity from today’s Rabies vaccine used with dogs? Current vaccines are labeled by the USDA as one year or three year vaccines. In some of these cases the vaccines are actually identical.

Because Rabies is a disease that can affect humans in addition to animals it is regulated more strictly than other vaccines. The duration of immunity is actually determined by challenging previously immunized animals with exposure to the disease to see if they survive. No additional challenge tests have been done beyond three years. A goal of the Rabies Challenge Fund is to complete this study at the 5 year and 7 year points.

The Rabies vaccine given today is a killed or non-infectious vaccine. Typically the duration of immunity for vaccines of this type is much shorter than the duration of immunity for modified live vaccines. For example a distemper killed vaccine provides immunity for about a year while a distemper vaccine made with modified live virus has a duration of immunity equal to the lifetime of the animal.

Up until the mid-1980’s, the Rabies vaccine was made with a modified live virus and that vaccine likely would result in lifetime immunity. However, because a few cats that received that vaccine actually developed a Rabies infection after vaccination the USDA no longer allows this vaccine to be used in the US. It is unclear why these cats developed Rabies from the vaccine. It is quite possible that their immune systems were already compromised due to an infection of Feline Leukemia virus.

The goal of the study being conducted by the Rabies Challenge Fund is to determine if the current killed vaccine will offer immunity up to five and seven years.

A new advance in Rabies vaccines is the development of vaccines made with recombinant technology. A feline version of this Rabies vaccine already exists. It behaves like a live vaccine but it cannot actually infect an animal with Rabies. This technology has also been used with the Distemper vaccine for the dog. That vaccine gives as long a duration of immunity as a modified live virus vaccine, up to nine years, which is considered a lifetime. Since there is no live virus in the vaccine it is also safer. It is also safer because recombinant vaccines, unlike killed virus vaccines, do not require the addition of adjuvants to help increase the immune response. It is believed that the hypersensitivity reactions to vaccines may be in part caused by these adjuvants.

The Rabies Challenge Fund is funded entirely by animal owners, not vaccine companies or any other company. The University of Wisconsin has been very generous in reducing the costs of the study since it is being funded by animal owners. Donations have come from individuals, dog clubs and others. The study is not over and fundraising is ongoing. If you are interested in helping fund this project you can find more information at (

The Rabies Challenge Fund is not only doing research but has also done some very effective lobbying to change the laws in all 50 states so that dogs only need to be revaccinated for Rabies every three years. Prior to that effort, there were many states that required the Rabies vaccine annually.


©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Cat Behavior – Inappropriate Elimination (Urination & Defecation)

< Updated 8MAR19 >

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Inappropriate elimination (Urination and/or Defecation) is when a previously litter box trained cat begins urinating or defecating in areas other than their litter box. This problem can be caused both medical and behavioral causes.

A blockage of the urinary tract can constitute a medical emergency, especially with a male cat, and can result in death. If your cat is experiencing urinary issues, contact your veterinarian immediately.

If you have multiple cats, resolving an inappropriate elimination problem can be especially difficult because you must first determine which of the cats is eliminating inappropriately. Talk to your veterinarian and they can provide you with a non-toxic, fluorescent dye that you can feed one of the cats. The urine of the cat fed the dye will fluoresce when exposed to a black light, thus allowing you to determine where that cat is urinating.

When you know which cat is the problem, have them examined by your veterinarian so they can rule out any medical reasons for the cats change in elimination habits. Medical conditions that can cause inappropriate elimination include diabetes mellitus, hyperthyroidism, kidney or liver disease, colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD).

Anything that causes pain when urinating or defecating may also be a contributing factor. If your cat has arthritis and you have a box with high sides, your cat may find it painful to get in and out of the litter box and thus may choose to eliminate elsewhere. As a cat gets older, they may experience some cognitive dysfunction that can also cause changes in elimination habits.

Behavioral causes of inappropriate elimination are usually stress related. Any change can be a stressor. Evaluate any changes you have made in the desired elimination area.

The Number of litter boxes – Suddenly having fewer litter boxes can be a stressor. We recommend one for each cat, in separate locations, plus one extra. For two cats we would recommend three litter boxes in three different areas throughout your home. Three litter boxes lined up side by side, especially if one cat starts guarding the litter boxes from the other cat, may not work and adding a litter box in a separate location may be all you need to do to solve your problem.

Location of the litter box – If the problem started after you moved the litter box, try putting the litter box back in its old location with a new one in the new location. If the cat resumes using the box in the old location, place some of the soiled litter from the old box in the new box, and your cat may figure out what you want.

Equipment and objects next to the litter box – Most of us like to put the litter box in a secluded location out of major household traffic patterns. This is a good choice for the cat as well unless the box is next to some piece of equipment that has the potential to make noise or move when they are using the litter box. A clothes dryer may normally be okay but when unbalanced it can make louder and different noises. A malfunctioning furnace in need of a cleaning can also be startling when it kicks in. If the cat is scared once, they may abandon the use of the litter box in this location.

The size of litter box – The size of the litter box, especially the height of the sides, can be a big deal to a cat especially if it is suddenly more difficult to get in or out. If you have a large cat, you need a large litter box that will contain your cat comfortably. Often litter boxes are too small.

The type of litter box – Some cats prefer the traditional open litter box while some prefer the privacy offer by a covered litter box. While the automatic cleaning litter boxes are a great convenience for us, the noises and motions they make when operating can be scary to some cats and can cause them to stop using the box.

The depth of litter in the litter box – Sometimes we humans like to load up the box with litter thinking we’ll need to change it less often. Many cats will stop using the box if there is too much litter or too little litter.

How often you clean the litter box – Many cats will not use a dirty litter box, and their definition of dirty may be different from ours. We recommend scooping at least once a day and changing all litter and washing the box weekly. Very few cats object to a litter box that is too clean.

Chemicals used to clean the litter box – Cats are very sensitive to odors, so when washing your litter box do not use a strong smelling cleaner and make sure that you rinse it thoroughly.

The litter used (Brand, Material, and Scent) – Cat litter comes in a wide variety of substrates (non-clumping, clumping, sand, wood chips, corn cobs, newspaper, scented, unscented, etc.). Not all cats are going to like all types of litter no matter how much we like them. If you had something that worked before, switch back. Many cats are especially sensitive to some of the scented litters.

Other changes in the cat’s environment, not related to the litter box, may cause elimination and defecation issues. Changes you should review are listed below.

Changes in diet – Most cats need and demand changes in their diets; however, a change in diet can also cause changes in elimination habits especially if the new food is causing some digestive upset. If you have recently changed foods, try changing back and see if that helps.

Changes in medications – If your cat has recently been put on medications or has had a change in the dosage of an existing medication, ask your veterinarian if this could have any effect on elimination habits.

Household changes – The domestic cat is a social species and usually bonds closely with those in its immediate household. The loss of a family member or another pet can trigger depression and grief that can sometimes be enough of a stressor to cause a change in eating, elimination and sleeping habits. Likewise the addition of a new family member, human or animal can also be a stressor. If the elimination problem has started after the addition of a new cat or dog, you will want to work with an animal behavior consultant to assist you in assessing and changing the relationship between the two pets. It is not unheard of for one cat to guard access to the litter box by the other cat. This does not necessarily mean they will fight. It might be as simple as one cat lying at the top of the basement stairs which will prevent the other cat from going downstairs.

A pet behavior consultant can often help restore harmony to your pet family; however, be advised that this does not always work out. Occasionally one needs to make a choice of living with a problem or re-homing one of the pets.

Cats are also very sensitive to everything in their environment and sometimes moving furniture around, changing access to certain rooms or adding or removing furnishings can be a stressor.

Changes outside of the home – If our cat is an “indoor only” cat we tend to believe that they are only concerned about their immediate environment – what’s inside the house. That is not the case. Cats can be very territorial and a new cat or dog in the neighborhood, especially one frequently hanging around your home, can be a stressor. Cats mark their territory with both urine and feces. Territorial concerns may cause inappropriate elimination.

When marking territory with feces, it is usually left uncovered, so it is obvious to other cats in the area. Urinating as a territorial response occurs in two forms; 1) spraying and 2) marking. Spraying typically involves backing up to a vertical surface and spraying urine. Spraying is a very overt act by a confident cat that wants to be seen. Marking involves small drops of urine on a horizontal surface and is usually the result of a non-confident cat that does not want to be observed. Vertical scratching is also a very overt behavior used to mark territory and when combined with spraying and feces marking suggests a territorial component to the cats’ inappropriate elimination.

Other changes in your neighborhood may also be stressors for a cat. New neighbors, noisy, rambunctious children, a raccoon family visiting the yard, or a construction project can all be possible triggers for inappropriate elimination.

Possible Solutions

Use an enzymatic cleaner like Nature’s Miracle or Urine Off! to thoroughly clean and deodorize any places your cat has eliminated inappropriately. You may need to use a black (ultra violet) light to find all of these spots.

Avoid any use of punishment. Shouting at your cat, squirting them with a spray bottle, or throwing things at them, is very likely to make your cat feel more stressed and is very unlikely to resolve the problem.

Review the list of changes that may have triggered your cats change in elimination habits. If you can undo any of those changes, do so.

Locate your cat’s food and water bowls to the area where they are eliminating inappropriately and keep them in this location. Typically a cat will not eliminate near their food and water; however, this may just cause your cat to eliminate elsewhere.

If possible, locate a litter box in the area where they are eliminating. If they use the box, try moving it gradually, a few inches every few days and see if you can retrain them.

Start using Feliway® with your cat. Feliway® is a synthetic copy of the feline facial pheromone, used by cats to mark their territory as safe and secure. A pheromone is a chemical signal, conveyed by smell, which triggers a natural response in another member of the same species. A cat’s facial pheromone signals safety and security, so when detected by your cat it will help comfort and reassure them, reducing their stress. Feliway is available in a spray and an electric diffuser.

Consult with a Bach Flower Remedy Registered Practitioner animal specialist and ask them to prepare an appropriate formulation of Bach Flower Remedies for your cat’s emotional state.

Drug therapy, prescribed by a veterinarian with experience with behavioral medications, can help with many behavioral issues. Discuss your pet’s behavioral issues with your pet’s veterinarian and ask about medications that may be helpful. If your veterinarian is not comfortable and experienced using these drugs, you can work together with them and a veterinary behaviorist. Your veterinarian should be able to help you set up a relationship with a veterinary behaviorist. Here in Maine, the nearest veterinary behaviorists will be found at the Tufts Animal Behavior Clinic and the behavior clinic at MSPCA Angell, both of which are located in Massachusetts.

The following illustrations from the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC) provide excellent advice on your cats litterbox requirements.

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