At The Happy Healthy Puppy, you'll find answers to all your dog-training and dog-health questions.

Training For Bullmastiffs

The big brute of the mastiff family, the bullmastiff, is a large strong breed with a formidable appearance that belies its usually calm nature. This breed wants to please, but training lessons can bring out its bullheaded behavior. Patience, consistency and gentle firmness are vital for success.

Bullmastiffs are intelligent but they have a stubborn streak that can come out during housebreaking. The dog must be convinced that soiling indoors is not to its benefit, and the best way to accomplish this is through crate training. The bullmastiff’s crate should be large enough for him to stand up and stretch and furnished with soft bedding and a couple of cuddly toys.

Put the dog in his crate after he eliminates outdoors and leave him in no longer than one hour per month of age. For example, a three-month-old bullmastiff should not remain crated longer than three hours without a break. As soon as he awakens or immediately after eating, take him outdoors to his potty spot. Successful housebreaking can take more than a month and the dog might have accidents even years later if made to wait for a potty break.

Obedience and Leash Training
Eight weeks is old enough to start working on obedience skills with the bullmastiff. This breed goes from precocious puppy to massive mutt in less than a year and if you don’t establish good obedience before then, it can be difficult to do so. Puppy kindergartens are exceptionally good because they offer the young bullmastiff a chance to interact in an upbeat atmosphere with other dogs and their owners. At the very least, the bullmastiff should learn the Sit, Stay, Down, Heel and Come commands and walk on a leash. A minimum of 15 minutes of reinforcement practice per day will help the bullmastiff master the commands.

Taming the Inner Tyrant
Good manners are imperative for all dogs, but especially for the “bull” breeds that are subject to negative public opinion. Under no circumstances should the bullmastiff be encouraged to be aggressive due to his strength and propensity to harm other animals and people. It’s unlikely that a bullmastiff will injure a family member, but do not encourage roughhousing and monitor interaction between small children and a bullmastiff. Every family member, including children, should fill the dog’sfood bowl while he sits patiently. Feeding the dog is an act that indicates the person doing the feeding is higher on the food chain and therefore must be treated with respect.

Bullmastiffs and Their Buddies
The young bullmastiff is a happy-go-lucky little guy but as he reaches maturity, he can become aggressive toward dogs and other animals. This is especially true when the dogs are of the same sex. Spaying or neutering before the bullmastiff reaches adulthood can help. Frequent socialization in form of playing at dog parks or participation in advanced training classes is a good idea. Enroll your bullmastiff in agility classes, search-and-rescue training, conformation shows and other canine activities that allow him to interact with other dogs in a controlled setting.

No More Puppies?

Puppy mills are despicable places where dozens upon dozens of puppies crowd into rusty wire cages, some stacked three high until they're old enough to sell to pet stores or ship cross-country to new owners.

In these puppy mills, mother dogs are bred perpetually, living out their lives in cages that don't allow them sufficient room to get away from nursing puppies for a much-needed respite.

Something has to be done. But, banning puppy sales? That affects not only puppy-millers but also every child who wants a dog for a companion. Yet, that's exactly what some cities in California are proposing and other cities are bound to follow suit.

We all agree that puppy mills should be run out of business. And, most of us agree that tarring and feathering puppy mill owners isn't out of the question. But, fancy breeders like myself, that is to say, breeders who breed fewer than one or two litters per year (I breed one every two or three years) have been trying to years to get puppy buyers to steer clear of pet stores.

Pet stores usually purchase puppies from puppy mills. That's just a sad fact. When you buy a puppy from a pet store - you're probably promoting a puppy mill. The new California law banning the sale of these puppies seeks to stop this barbaric practice. So in that sense - it's all good.

The problem is that fancy breeders do not breed enough dogs (and I breed show-line quality) for every family to have a puppy - or two. Some of these communities have already enacted laws that force dog owners to spay or neuter their pets before the age of six months. The price of a puppy could skyrocket.

The new law will allow for pet stores to sell dogs from shelters and rescues. That's good -- we've been pushing for that as well, but most won't. Space limitations are just one of the problems. An adult dog requires a large kennel and must be walked every few hours. A pet store, often located in a small strip mall, doesn't have either the room to house the dogs or a place to walk them.

Some dog lovers feel like California is throwing the baby (or puppy) out with the bathwater. The law will reduce milled puppies, that's for sure, so that's a good thing. But let's remember that some of the best memories a child will ever have come from bonding with pets. Children learn responsibility, they learn to love and care for a dog and they take those lessons with them to adulthood.

In my mind, there are few things as pure and innocent as the bond between a boy and his dog. Let's regulate and stop the puppy milling, but let's not forget that dogs are a gift. Don't over-regulate so much that we take this gift away from future generations. A world without dogs isn't much of a world.

Update: Diamond Dog Food Recall

With the dog food scare a few years ago - the last thing pet owners want to hear is that they've been feeding Fido tainted food.

The latest dog food recall involves the Diamond brand of puppy foods. We occasionally feed Diamond products so this hits home with us. Salmonella was found in Diamond Puppy Formula dry food, in all sizes ranging from the 6 ounce samples to the large 40 pound bags.

Although the suspect dog food was originally  sold in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia, the Diamond Corporation warns that the bags may have crossed state lines through pet food distribution channels.

Check to see if the date on your bag of food is between 12-11-2011 and 4-7-2012. If so - do not feed any more to your dog and contact Diamond Pet Foods at 1-866-918-8756 for a refund.

We'll go back to Diamond when the salmonella scare passes, but for now, we're switching to a safe natural dog food - Natural Balance. We've fed Natural Balance in the past, but it's pricey when you have eight Saint Bernard tummies to keep full. This is a temporary step. Diamond is a good company and this recall is totally voluntary.

What are the Best Dog Breeds for Allergy Sufferers?

You love the idea of having your own furry friend to keep you company through life. The idea of sneezing, watery eyes and sore nasal passages, however, can result in Rover being banned to the back yard and you nursing a cup of hot tea and a couple of antihistamines.

Dog allergies are less common that cat allergies but that isn't a reassuring statistic when you can't pet a dog without a full-blown allergic reaction.

We can't promise that you'll find a dog that won't set off an allergic reaction, but some dog breeds are less likely to trigger an allergic reaction than others are. The idea is to choose a dog that sheds very little, because shedding spreads dander, the culprit in most allergic attacks.

Add a Little 'Oodle

Standard poodles are the most hypoallergenic dogs around, but not everyone fancies the poodle breed. To reduce dander and shedding, dog breeders are selectively blending the standard poodle with other breeds to reduce the allergy risk of the new blended breed.

One of the most popular 'oodle blends is the Labradoodle,  a happy mutt created by crossing a Standard Poodle with a Labrador Retriever. 

The Maltese

At first glance, you might wonder why this dog is on the least allergenic list, since it has long silky fur. The difference is that the Maltese does not develop an undercoat, so it sheds very little and its permanent coat does not produce much dander. This little dog requires a good amount of care, however, and must be groomed daily.

The Airedale Terrier

This medium/large breed dog has a wiry coat that does not shed. The fur is thick and repels water and dust and the Airedale does not have an undercoat. For pet owners longing for a larger dog, the Airedale fits the bill. This breed is good around children and its high energy drive keeps it even the most rambunctious kid busy for hours at a time.

Irish Water Spaniel

This eccentric dog is all about fun and family, and while it doesn't shed much, its curly locket-like coat requires monthly trimming to reduce mats and snarls. The Irish Water Spaniel makes a good child's companion and will ask as guardian over its young charges.

With frequent grooming and a healthy diet, even dogs that shed moderately can be groomed to reduce shedding, which will make an allergy sufferer more comfortable.

Visit with your doctor before choosing a dog if you're prone to allergies or asthma attacks.

Keeping Your German Shepherd Happy and Healthy

Early Socialization for the German Shepherd

The German Shepherd Dog quickly bonds with its owner, but without exposure to other people and animals from a young age, the GSD can develop a natural shyness or fearfulness around strangers. Liz Palika, author of “The Howell Book of Dogs,” strongly recommends that GSD owners introduce their puppies to people of “all ages, sizes, and ethnic backgrounds” from a very young age to reduce the risk that the dog will identify any one type of person as a threat later on. Participation in a puppy kindergarten, for puppies between the ages of two and six months is advisable, in addition to weekly visits to a local dog park and daily jaunts in the neighborhood, where the dog can encounter a variety of people and other pets.

Feeding the German Shepherd

The German Shepherd’s diet should closely mimic the diet it would naturally eat in the wild. An adult GSD can consume as much as 100 lbs. of commercial dog food per month, so select a food high in protein. We feed Royal Canin Dog food, specifically made for German Shepherds. Offer puppies food three to four times per day, but reduce feeding times to one or two per day for adult dogs. Take up the food bowl after your dog is done eating. Regular visits to the veterinarian and weight checks during the puppy’s first year of life help determine if the dog is growing at a healthy rate.

Exercise Needs for the German Shepherd

Originally bred for the daunting task of herding livestock, the German Shepherd needs plenty of vigorous activity to keep its muscles strong and to channel its high-energy stores. This active dog needs room to run and play. A daily walk is probably not enough exercise for a young adult German Shepherd, making this breed unsuitable for city dwellers that don’t have access to a dog park or a large yard where the GSD can run. Local kennel clubs often offer agility dog training that benefits high-energy dogs like the German Shepherd.

Grooming the German Shepherd

Regular grooming is essential for keeping the German Shepherd’s coat from matting. Author Liz Palika suggests brushing the GSD daily during its twice yearly, spring and fall, shedding seasons, during which the dog’s undercoat can come out in handfuls. Unfortunately, this breed sheds lightly all year long, so weekly brushing is indicated during the rest of the year. Bathing is indicated when the dog is dirty and at the end of each shedding season. Too frequent bathing can leave the dog’s skin dry and lead to itching and dandruff. The GSD’s ears, which stand upright, can collect dust, dirt and airborne pollens, leading to irritation and ear infections. A thorough wiping of the inner ear flap and visible ear canal twice a week is necessary. Offer dental bones to help keep teeth clean and trim the dog’s nails once per month.

Health Issues

Like most breeds, the German Shepherd is prone to developing certain health problems including bone and joint problems, cancer and pancreas problems. The types of cancer that affect this breed typically target the bones, the lymphatic system, the skin or the capillaries. The GSD is also predisposed to heart disease, and disorders of the pancreas, diabetes, joint disorders, including dysplasia and vision problems. The best way to reduce your dog’s risk of developing these conditions is through a healthy diet and regular preventative health exams by your veterinarian. When shopping for a GSD, avoid dogs from puppy mills and from breeders who can’t provide health records for the dog’s parents, include records of joint testing.

Training for a German Shepherd

Learning to obey is second nature to the German Shepherd, whose intellect and desire to please make it one of the most trainable breeds. Author Palika recommends basic obedience training for youngGSD puppy and additional training as the dog matures. This breed is exceptionally good at retaining specialized lessons and can be taught to sniff out contraband or follow the scent of a lost person, as easily as it can learn to fetch or catch a Frisbee. Regularly teaching your GSD new tricks and commands will keep it happy and mentally alert.