Citizen Canine: Ten Essential Skills Every Well-Mannered Dog Should Know

This book is a how-to guide for teaching the ten skills necessary for dogs to pass the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test. The author is the Director of the CGC and S.T.A.R. Puppy Programs for the AKC and therefore has a wealth of knowledge to share with dog owners who are interested in having a well-behaved pet.

I found this to be an easy-to-read, very informative book for dog owners. It not only explains what the skills are, but WHY they are important, and step-by-step instructions on how to achieve them. It includes color-coded insets with special tips. Although the book emphasizes the skills, it also provides more depth about preparation, next steps and different canine personalities. The book is well-organized with separate chapters for each of the ten skills, plus additional chapters on being a responsible dog owner, locating a training facility, special applications of the CGC (such as Boy Scouts badges, 4-H Clubs, and Therapy work), and other activities you may want to try with your dog. I particularly liked the chapter on Supervised Separation, as that can be a tough challenge for some dogs.

I enjoyed reading the book and believe it achieves the author’s goal of teaching dog owners how to have a well-mannered dog. As a breeder and trainer of labrador retrievers and pet parent of 6 dogs myself, I recommend Citizen Canine for all dog owners, from first-time to experienced owners.
Janet Makarick-Roberts


Many pet owners remember 2007 as the terrible year they lost their pets due to contaminated pet food.  The company responsible for importing the tainted products from China (ChemNutra) just received a slap on the wrist for killing over 4,000 pets – 3 years probation and a $35,000 fine.    I am outraged and frustrated that our legal system let these people “get away with murder.”   My pets are my family and my heart goes out to the thousands of pets that suffered due to the contamination.    However, this was not the first time and will not be the last time a pet food has been recalled.  Let us all be extremely diligent in choosing the products we give our pets, whether it be food, treats, flea & tick meds or vaccines.  If we love our pets, we must continue to educate ourselves about what is best for them and not be swayed by flashy ads or smooth talk.   Click here for full article from the Kansas City Star.

Raising a litter of puppies isn’t just feeding and cleaning up after them!  It also involves lots of hands-on loving, socialization and enrichment activities (exposing the puppies to a variety of toys, places, surfaces).  We’ve been doing that with our litter of lab puppies since they were 3 days old! 

At about 5 weeks old we introduce them to crate training.  They already have a large crate without a door in their pen that they can go in and out whenever they want.  Some sleep in it, others play with their toys.   In addition, we have another small crate in the living room for individual training.  We put a couple pieces of their food and a toy in the crate, show it to them, let them walk into the crate on their own and explore.  We hold the door closed for just a minute, then let them out.  We repeat this again and again, keeping the door closed for longer periods each time.   The puppy might whine and protest at first, but they quickly get used to it.  They have never been separated from their littermates before, so this is an excellent way to show them how to relax in their own safe, cozy den by themselves.   Click here for  an article by Michele Forto of Denver Dog Works that explains some of the many good reasons to crate train your puppy. 

Please leave a comment about your experiences or questions about crate training!

Here’s more about breeding and raising Whispering Pines Farm puppies –

10.  At 4 weeks old, the puppies are really active!  They play and wrestle with each other, biting on ears and tails.  We started weaning them from Sunny now, giving them a liquidy mash of  dry food soaked in water, then blended with a little of the canine milk replacer.  We use the same dry food that all our dogs eat – Life’s Abundance by HealthyPetNet.  It is formulated by a holistic vet, and good for ALL life stages, including puppies.  No hesitation here, they all lapped it right up!  Over the next week we will gradually decrease the liquid until they are eating slightly soaked food, then all dry.  The more food that goes in, the more there is to clean up!  So we use lots of newspaper and change their bedding twice a day.  Watch a Video:  

11.  At 5 weeks old, we start allowing visitors.  They love visiting time!  They get to play in the living room, smell new smells and bite new fingers and toes!  They weigh between 5-6 lbs now, and are growing fast!  We use only pe t& planet-safe cleaning products around the puppies – Floor Cleaner  from HealthyPetNet  (they also have an awesome biodeodorizer for pet accidents) and disinfectant with tea tree oil from Melaleuca.  We expose them to all the normal sights and sounds of a household, including banging pots & pans, the vacuum cleaner, and something new everyday.   That might be getting their toenails clipped, playing with duck wings, meeting the other dogs and cat, and going for a ride in the car.  The more they experience now, the easier the transition will be for them in their new homes.   And that’s the best gift of all – knowing these puppies will bring joy and companionship to 9 loving families!  More Video

There’s so much more, but I think that’s enough for now.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

Have a Happy, Healthy and Abundant New Year!


That’s what I’ve been doing since our lab puppies were born on 11/22/09!   And with Thanksgiving, Christmas, and all the extra activities, I haven’t had time to post here.  I’m on vacation from my J-O-B for 2 weeks, so I thought I would tell you a little bit about how we breed & raise our pups.  

1.  Selecting a Stud

First of all, choosing a stud dog is of utmost importance – it will be 1/2 the new puppies gene pool!   We breed because we love labs and want to enhance the breed.  We choose to use Deep Farm studs because they operate one of the finest breeding, training and canine health care facilities in North America. Owners Phyllis Giroux, DVM CAC and Jack Jagoda, co-founder and past president of the North American Hunting Retriever Association (NAHRA), have the absolute best all-round labs available.  Our Whispering Pines Midnight Sun SH “Sunny” was bred to Deep Run Retriever’s AM/CAN/UKC CH Poplar Forest Play It Again Sam, MH “Sam” who is a conformation Champion as well as a Master Hunter.   Since Phyllis specializes in canine reproduction, we feel confident leaving our girls with her during the breeding process.  Gestation time is 63 days.

2.   We started curtailing Sunny’s activity level a couple weeks before her due date.  She is definitely looking pregnant!    An excellent resource is The Whelping and Rearing of Puppies by Muriel P. Lee.   Nursing moms need up to 300% more nutrients than normal, so we start feeding her more in advance.

3.   Sunny took a trip to the vets the week before the puppies were due and had xrays taken so we knew approximately how many puppies to expect (sometimes they hide behind each other, so it’s not always accurate).  The vet saw 8 to 9 puppies!

4.  We start taking her temperature a few days before her due date.  When her temp drops to 99 or 98 degrees and stays down, the whelping will be soon.  My husband and I took turns sleeping on the couch and keeping an eye on her.

5.  Sunny started nesting on 11/21, and was busy all morning on the 22nd, circling her whelping box and ripping up newspapers.  Finally, she had her first puppy at 5 pm.  It was large, about 1 lb, (a yellow male). This was Sunny’s first litter, and she had quite a tough time with him , so Bill and I and our nephew Jesse helped with the birth.  Sunny was very surprised when she saw the pup for the first time and I wish I had a camera ready to take a picture of the expression on her face!  A couple of sniffs was all it took for her to realize this was her pup, and she started nursing him right away.  We named the puppy Jesse after our nephew.   Sunny had 6 puppies from 5 pm to about 10 pm, then seemed to say, that’s it, I’m done!  But we knew there were at least 2 more pups waiting to be born.   So a few phone calls with the vet and more waiting, we took a trip to the vet’s at midnight.  He administered a shot of Oxytocin to stimulate her contractions, and the last 3 puppies were born within a 1/2 hour.  Whew!   Back home by 1 a.m., put mom and all the puppies back in the whelping box, and were glad to see them all nursing contently! 

6.  We weigh the puppies twice a day in the beginning to be sure they are all gaining weight.  All the puppies were between 14-16 oz at birth, all good weights, so we did not need to give any of them milk supplements.  We have in the past, and we use an excellent milk replacer made from actual canine milk (most milk replacer is from cow’s milk), from Nature’s Farmacy.  The first 2 weeks of life are critical, because the puppies are so fragile.  They can easily be injured or chilled.  They cannot regulate their own body heat, so we make sure the room temperature is about 80 degrees.  Again, we took turns on the couch so we were close enough to hear if a puppy was in distress.  Sunny took care of the feeding & cleaning up! 

7.  Between Days 3-16, we perform exercises called “Early Neurological Stimulation”.  These exercises were developed by the U.S. military canine program, and have been shown to improve the adult dog’s adaptability, performance, health and intelligence.  It only takes about 1 minute per puppy and they get used to be handled and held in different positions.  Many studies have shown that there are 3 important stages in a puppy’s development: neurological stimulation, socialization, and enrichment.  We make it a point to do everything possible so the puppies get all 3 of these important stages.

8.  At Day 14, all the puppies’ eyes and ears were open.  They begin exploring their world (limited by the 4’x4′ whelping box), but mostly still just eat and sleep.

9.  At 3 weeks old, the puppies are getting too big for the whelping box – they are climbing out & escaping!  We removed the box and set up 2 exercise pens in the middle of the kitchen to give them plenty of room to explore and play.  And a crate at one end to sleep in.  They’re teeth are starting to come in – ouch!  Watch a video of the pups here:

To Be Continued

Since my husband is travelling with one of our labs this weekend, it made me think about how many other pet parents take their pets along with them when they travel.  Here are some tips and resources for travelling with your pet.   Did you know there is even a new pets-only airline?  Scroll down to the bottom for the link. 

In the United States alone, over 60 million households have one or more pets. Pet owners in 15 million of those households travel with their pet, and the majority stay in pet-friendly lodging. Fortunately, pet friendly hotels, condos and vacation home rentals do exist. If you will be traveling with your pet, here are some pet friendly tips to remember for safe and trouble-free travel.
1 – When you make your reservation, double-check that pets are allowed. An important advantage of reserving online is that you can see – in writing – whether or not pets are permitted and any restrictions. Online, you can print out your reservation receipt that includes the “pets allowed” information. Verbal reservations leave more room for misunderstanding and miscommunication. If reserving by telephone, ask the reservation person to mail you a confirmation receipt that includes the pets allowed information.
2 – Is your pet an experienced traveler? If not, you should begin getting your pet more accustomed to traveling. Begin by making your car a fun place for your pet. Get in the car with them, play with them, and give them a treat have them enjoy being there with you. Then take a short drive with them. Gradually increase the length of time and distance that you drive with them. Before making a long trip with your pet, the idea is to have them comfortable with being in the car for extended periods of time.

3 – Remember that securing your pet while traveling in the car is crucial for their safety and yours. Consider purchasing a dog safety harness for your pet to use while traveling in the car. If you have a station wagon or SUV, you can purchase a vehicle barrier that keeps your pet confined to the rear area. They are usually sold at pet stores or are available online.
…More Tips

Remember to bring an adequate supply of your pet’s food & favoriate treats – they may not be available at your destination and a sudden change could bring on an upset stomach.  We always pack Life’s Abundance dog food & treats.

Pet Airways, a pet-only airline dedicated to pet-friendly travel.  With Pet Airways, your pet will be safe and comfortable flying in the main cabin — not in cargo!

Search for pet-friendly hotels at OfficialPetHotels.com

Looking for a dog park at your destination?  Try www.dogpark.com


Traveling with pets and staying in pet friendly lodging can be lots of fun – after all, your pet is part of your family too. Just using common sense and planning ahead makes for an enjoyable and surprise-free vacation.

Leave a comment & tell me about your experiences travelling with your pets, or share other pet-friendly travel resources!

If companies are concerned about providing the best nutrition possible, why do they make differently priced products? Is it possible that they are packaging the same food in every bag but just charging more to those who will pay it? Are they simply making foods to satisfy people’s budgets and sacrificing quality in the process? Consider the mixed messages that are being sent by companies who make differently priced products and of varying quality.


Both foods are marketed and sold as 100% nutritionally complete and balanced for the life of your pet, yet one is more expensive than the other.  What is the difference?  ProPlan is one of Purina’s more recent foods and is marketed as higher in quality.  Why hasn’t the cheaper, older formula been discontinued due to the latest scientific advancements contained in the more expensive formula?

By the way, both have similar ingredients…Corn, Wheat, Poultry By-Products, Animal Fat, Animal Digest.

VS.  Here we find two formula’s from Science Diet.  The first is their flagship maintenance food found in most veterinary offices and pet food stores.  The second is one of their later advancements called ‘Nature’s Best’. 

If you were to guess what the major difference is between the two, you would be correct in saying that one appears to be a natural formula while the other is not natural.  That being the case, which food do you feel is better in quality – Natural or Not Natural?  The answer is obvious. 

Why then do we still find the original Science Diet formula on sale everywhere when they have clearly made an advancement in technology by creating a more natural food?

By the way, both have similar ingredients…Corn, Wheat, Soy Bean, Animal Fat, Animal Digest.

In summary:  If both pet foods are of equal quality there is no need to spend money on the higher priced foods.  If both pet foods are not of the same quality, why would you ever buy from a company who knowingly makes inferior products?

-By Judy Bishop

There are a few premium pet foods available.  We use and recommend Life’s Abundance for all our dogs & cats.  We have seen first hand the difference it made in our dogs – they are healthy, beautiful coats, high energy, and our nursing mothers stay in great condition all the way through weaning.   While we understand that most people want to watch their budgets and not spend more than is necessary, we also understand that you get what you pay for.  Most people never consider that buying cheaper foods can lead to more expenses down the road with regard to vet costs, nutritionally related ailments and shortened life spans.  They may also not realize that you could easily feed twice as much of a cheaper food in an attempt to equal the nutrition found in a food like Life’s Abundance.

We believe that people who truly love their pets will feed them the very best, not what’s the cheapest.

Life’s Abundance Pet Foods – Helping pets live longer, healthier, happier lives!

-Janet Roberts