What Your Dog Wants For the Holidays

I can’t help you decide what to get your wife, your mother, your son, or your best friend, but I can help you with what to get for your dog. I know how much you were all worried about what to get Fido, so I figured I would step up and help with a couple of ideas. My goal as a veterinarian is to allow you to have a long, happy, and healthy relationship with your pet, and these ideas will help you achieve that goal.


  1. Flea and tick prevention!! Let’s be honest, fleas make your pet feel miserable, and nobody likes the idea of fleas in your carpet and bed. We have safe and effective products that can help keep your dog feeling good all year long. I personally like Bravecto and Nexgard for my own dogs currently. There are other safe and effective products as well, but I like the ease of these two oral chews (and most dogs seem to actually enjoy these chews). Bravecto keeps dogs free of fleas and ticks for 3 months per dose, and Nexgard keeps them free of fleas and ticks for one month per dose. They have also been found to treat Sarcoptes and Demodex mites, so you can feel comfortable knowing that you are protecting your dog from numerous parasites. A good portion of my day as a veterinarian is treating flea related skin disease, so this would be a great gift for your furry canine companion this year!!
  1. Heartworm and intestinal parasite prevention!! There is nothing quite like the panicked phone call from an owner who just noticed worms in the dog’s stool. I agree that heartworm disease is not common in Livermore, CA, but there are cases in Northern California every year. Intestinal parasites are incredibly common, and something that we treat on almost a daily basis. Heartworm disease is simple to prevent, and complicated to treat. We have safe and effective products to keep your dogs safe from heartworm disease, and free from hookworm and roundworm infestations. Heartgard Plus comes in a tasty monthly chewable treat, and your dog will thank you for keeping him/her safe from nasty parasites.


  1. Get those teeth cleaned!! Let’s be honest, bad breath ruins cuddle time with your dog. Your dog wants to be able to cuddle with you more for the holidays, and its not going to happen if you need to leave the room every time Fido opens his mouth. Dental disease is honestly painful and uncomfortable, and will not get better until it is treated. This year give Fido the gift of cuddle time. Let’s get that mouth smelling fresh and clean again!


  1. Everyone’s favorite healthy stocking stuffers!! I get it, it’s hard to jump for joy when you open that bottle of multivitamins, but your dog is less judgmental than your teenage son. Fully digestible CET and Oravet dental chews can be used as a frequent treat to help keep Fido’s teeth clean. He won’t know these are special dental treats, and he will just think you are being an awesome dog parent. A new toothbrush is also a great idea. Daily/weekly brushing is the key to keeping your dog’s teeth clean. I know it’s a hassle, but it is cheap and effective, so give it a try!


  1. Toys and Puzzles!! We love Kong toys as we have big dogs that destroy everything you give them in about 20 seconds. The Kong toys are fairly durable, and can be great for keeping dogs mentally stimulated when you hide treats and snacks inside. Puzzle feeders are a great way to keep your dog mentally stimulated, while also preventing her from setting a new world record in dog food consumption time. There are plenty of other toy options as well, but the Kongs and puzzle feeding toys are some of our favorites.

puzzle feeder 2 

  1. Get your dog a gym membership!! Ok, maybe don’t go crazy and bring your dog to the gym, but let Fido know that this year you are dedicating more time to being active. Get outside and go for a weekly hike, dedicate 20 minutes each day to being active with your dog, or just get outside and spend some time together. I know everyone is busy, but it is good for dogs and humans alike to get outside and be active. As it is getting dark early these days it is a good idea to get reflective collars, leashes, or dog vests to make sure that you and Fido are being safe together while enjoying the outdoors. The best gifts don’t always cost money, so no matter your holiday budget this gift is well within reach.


So, I hope this has eased your holiday anxiety a bit, and you now have a plan for your favorite pooch (sorry I was of no help with what to get your mother-in-law). Stay tuned for what to get your cat, but to be honest cats are a bit more judgmental, and I am going to make the other doctor figure out what you can buy for them 🙂 Happy holidays to you all, and please let Ohana Animal Hospital know if you need help with any of the above gifts for your canine friend.



Ohana Animal Hospital Presents Our Favorite Dogs of Beer and Wine

For this blog we wanted to write about something fun. I figured I should write about two things I really love. After much brainstorming I decided you probably would not be excited to hear about my family, or my daughter’s swim class, so I decided on dogs and beer (Although I will admit, a 2 year old’s swim class is about the most fun any father can have). I have had dogs ever since I can remember, and being a veterinarian, I figured this was a relevant topic. I started brewing beer about 5 years ago with a good friend, at a time when my favorite beer was still Newcastle brown ale. As my wife and I got into the craft beer scene, we noticed how many of the breweries allowed pets, or even had pets of their own at the tasting rooms. That is how this blog came to mind, and it was not surprisingly a really fun topic to research. I met some great people, tasted some great beer and wine, and met some really cool dogs. I hope you have as much fun meeting these dogs as I did, and I really hope that the next time you stop in at one of these places you will make sure to say hello to their soon-to-be famous pups!

Mike Hess Brewing—Bear

 Bear Hess

Bear, actually Bear The Magnificent, is a 2-year-old, male, Black Labrador Retriever. I have personally known Bear since he was a puppy, and he was the first brew dog I met when we lived and practiced in San Diego, CA. Bear has many important jobs within the Hess family. Bear helps drop the kids off at school in the morning before stopping at the park to play fetch to allow him to burn off some energy before his day at Mike Hess Brewing (if he does not get his daily exercise he can be a real handful). He usually keeps an eye on the production from the operations office, where he has his own dog bed (a Tommy Bahama beach chair). He occasionally likes to sneak out towards the cold box and production area to see if any of the brewers are eating anything, because if there is anything as important as brewing beer, it is snack time.

Bear loves the production of good beer, but stays away from the finished product (he has heard that hops are actually toxic to dogs—another blog to follow eventually). He loves the first runnings of wort though, which is the sweet liquid before it is actually beer. The first runnings are actually the strongest of the wort, they have the highest maltose content, and do not yet have any hops added (a little piece for all the beer brewers reading this). Bear can generally be visited at the main brewery (North Park) every day during working hours, until about 2:30pm. If you do not see him walking around the brewery with Lynda (the COO and Bear’s mom) greeting everyone, you can ask one of the beertenders to meet Bear (he loves to meet new people).

Mike Hess Brewing locations are all dog friendly, and they regularly host fundraisers and adoption events at the brewery and tasting rooms. Just this past month they hosted Greyhound Adoption Center, Labs and More Rescue, and Next Step Service Dogs (which trains dogs for former military members suffering from PTSD). I have known the Hess family for years, and I know how important their dogs are to them, and that shows in how dog friendly they have made their business.

Mike Hess Brewing has some exciting new beers in the works for this summer. They will be releasing three new canned beers this summer that I cannot wait to try. Watch for their grapefruit IPA, an American Craft Lager called Steel Beach, and a Little IPA named 4:59 (as in, it’s almost 5 o’clock). They are rolling out brand new packaging for their line this summer, and will now have 12 ounce cans. On July 29th they will be holding their 7th Anniversary Party/Beer Festival featuring 20+ great breweries, live music, and games. If you are in the San Diego area you need to stop by this brewery, and if you are in Northern California you need to try their beer the next time you see it at a restaurant, tasting room, or store. I will admit that their Grapefruit Solis is one of my favorite beers of all times, and is a must try for any IPA lover. Next time you stop in make sure to say hello from me, and give Bear a good pet for me. I love that guy!


Meet Bruin—The Steven Kent Winery

Bruin 1

Bruin, better known as Bu, is a 9-year-old, male, yellow English Labrador Retriever. He is a Livermore native, and can often be seen walking the vineyard (The Steven Kent Winery) with his companions, or politely nudging visitors on the patio to play fetch. Bruin is an Instagram star, and although I hate to admit it, he has about 2,300 more followers than I (He is significantly more photogenic). Bruin is obsessed with his blue ball, and loves swimming and playing in the snow (although he is not quite sure how he feels about the sweaters his mom has been making him wear up in Tahoe). Bruin makes everyone smile, and most of us could only hope to live a life similar to this lucky canine.


Bruin would love for everyone to come and visit him at The Steven Kent Winery sometime soon. The winery has two dog friendly patios that are perfect for enjoying a bottle of the 2014 Cabernet Franc, or his companion’s favorite wine Lineage, which is known for its layers, structure, and complexity. The tasting room is open 7 days a week from 12:00-4:30pm, except on major holidays, and there is a special Reserve Room that can be reserved if desired. During the summer the winery has parties on the patio with live music and a food vendor, which make it a perfect place to hang out with your pooches, but make sure you check the website first as it is not every weekend.


Bruin would like everyone to know about the Pooches on the Patio event they will be having this year on Sunday, August 13th. There will be vendors selling pet merchandise, pet charities (the winery personally supports numerous local charities, including the Oakland Zoo), a great pet photographer, and of course food, music, and delicious wine! I have known Bruin for a couple of months now, and I can tell you that he is an incredible dog. If you have not yet met this guy, make sure you stop by the winery and give him a pet, and play a quick game of fetch. Bruin has also made sure that all the pets feel welcome by ensuring the winery always has water bowls on the property for the visiting pets.


Meet Citra—Altamont Beer Works



Citra is an extremely photogenic 3-year-old, female, poodle/shih-tzu/schnauzer/yorkie mix that was adopted from the East County Animal Shelter in Dublin, CA. Citra’s name is reference to a hop variety, which is fitting being she is the brewery owner’s personal brew dog. Citra’s morning starts off with a drive to the brewery, where she gets to hang her head out of the car the whole way. Once arriving to the brewery she makes sure to check on her brew dog companions, Jake and Lola. She greets all of the staff members one by one, eats any extra malted grain off the brewery floor, and heads outside to make sure that all the other dogs still know this is her brewery. She then usually takes a nap on her chair in the office to ensure she is ready for her long day as canine hostess. I can tell you that she takes this job very seriously, as I have seen her climb over her gate to welcome guests to the brewery.

Citra is not a true beer lover, but does enjoy lapping up a bit of Nutty Operator (delicious peanut butter stout) if it happens to drip on the floor, but she knows any true beer lover will love the beer they produce. Citra would love to have everyone come and visit her at Altamont Beer Works Monday through Friday. I can personally tell you that the brewery has created an incredibly welcoming environment for canines and beer lovers alike, and I would recommend everyone stop in if you have not visited this Livermore brewery. In true dog lover form, they also partner with local animal shelters for fundraising events, and even sell cool dog schwag at the brewery.

Altamont Beer Works is the first brewery in Livermore since prohibition. They have a beer garden that is seasonally open on Friday-Sunday. They have great food vendors outside on Friday-Sunday (The South Smokin” BBQ is a must try), and some amazing beers. The beertenders know their beers, and the environment is fun and relaxed. I personally am a huge fan of the Shot Away IPA, and Green Collar Pale Ale. It is rare for me to rave about pale ale, as I am an IPA guy personally, but the Green Collar is truly exceptional. You can also see Altamont Beer Works at the Livermore Craft Beer Fest, and the Livermore Wine Country Downtown Street Fest this year (this weekend), as they are the major sponsor.

Meet Lola and Jake—Altamont Beer Works


Lola is a 4-6-year-old, female, pit bull that was rescued from Modesto by one of the brewers at Altamont Beer Works. Lola is a great representative of this so often misunderstood breed (we have two in our family!). She is kind and gentle, and in true pitty form, appears to love cuddling up on her bed and relaxing with her friends Jake and Citra while at the brewery. Lola’s companion says she loves meeting new people, running, and cuddling. Her typical brew day involves greeting all of the employees to ensure that morale stays high in the workplace, and then supervising the group from the comfort of her bed. She is a sweet dog, and we think she has found the perfect home.

Jake is a 6-year-old, male, lab/pit bull mix that was adopted from a friend of one of the brewers. Jake is very important at the brewery as he takes the role of ensuring kegs are filled correctly, and occasionally enjoys a little quality control. Jake even makes sure the employees stay fed and happy, as the other day he walked next door and came back with a napkin and a slice of pizza to share. His tastes are not completely refined yet, but he appears to have a preference for the dank flavors and tropical notes of Maui Waui and Hella Hoppy when they occasionally happen to get on the floor (I like this dog’s taste!).

Lola and Jake would both love to make some new friends, and have you all stop by and say hello. Lola can be visited at the brewery on Fridays, and Jake can be visited Wednesdays and Fridays. They are both also happy to have any well behaved, and leashed canine friends stop in and visit as well. The weather is starting to warm up, and there are some fresh, hop-forward beers being released soon (Mr. Nice Guy and Ganja Juice), so make some time to go check these guys out. Bring your dogs, bring your appetite, get ready for some incredible beer, and tell them Ohana Animal Hospital sent you!


Meet Sadie and Gunner—Eight Bridges Brewing

Brew Dogs

Sadie is an 11-year-old, female, miniature dachshund, and Gunner is a 1-year-old, male, chocolate lab. Sadie has been with the brewery since its inception, and Gunner is a new addition to the brew team. Sadie and Gunner are both the official greeters at Eight Bridges, and they make sure to greet everyone who passes through the doors when they are around. Gunner is usually at the brewery every day with his brewmaster companion Justin, and loves to play tug-of-war if you see him. Sadie has started to take a bit more time for herself as she has aged, and comes in when she feels she needs to check on operations (typical canine business owner). She still does make appearances though, and still occasionally tries to snag a bite of an unsuspecting toddler’s sandwich or pizza when the opportunity arises.

Eight Bridges has been working with the Tri-Valley Humane Society for the last couple of years hosting fundraisers, donating items for auctions, and even holding a “Name a Beer after your Dog” fundraiser. On Saturday, June 17 they are holding a fundraiser at the brewery to support the Tri-Valley Humane Society, and will be renaming one of their beers Ruby, who was the winner of the “Name a Beer after your Dog” fundraiser this year (Such a great idea, and next year there is no way I am not bidding).

Sadie and Gunner would love for you to come and say hello at Eight Bridges Brewing, try some amazing beer, and support this dog friendly establishment. All friendly dogs are welcome to visit the tasting room with their companions, and can usually even get a special snack from the secret stash of dog treats. Gunner recommends you taste the O’Beardsley Stout as it is full of chocolate aromas and flavor. Sadie, in true German style, thinks the Golden Nektar Pilsner should make it into your tasting flight (also Debbie’s favorite beer, and if you want a good story ask her about this beer sometime). The last time I was there I really enjoyed the Hoppy Salvation, which is a great example of a west coast IPA, being very hop forward with some great floral and citrus aromas wafting from the glass.

The brewery holds Brewzza Palooza the 3rd Saturday of every month. They have a food truck out front, and live music in the late afternoon. There is not always a food truck, but they have menus for all the local delivery places, so it is very easy to find some good food to go with your beer. The tasting room is open Wednesday through Sunday, and you can check their website for hours. We love this place, and we are sure you will as well. Just make sure you keep food close because Sadie is watching, and if she sees the opportunity, she may just help you eat your lunch.



This has been my favorite blog so far, and I look forward to doing a second series as I meet more local animals. I want to personally thank all of the above breweries and wineries, as they made this a really fun experience. All of these establishments are doing things the right way, and I highly recommend you all check them out. Thanks again for reading, and if you see Dr. Jennifer Hacker or myself (Dr. Zach Steffes) when you are out tasting make sure you say hello.

Does Itchy Skin Have Your Pet Feeling Down?

Livermore is finally warming up, and the trees and plants are blooming once again. That’s great for those of us who have been waiting for spring, but it has also been bringing with it fleas, ticks, and environmental allergies. I don’t know about other veterinary hospitals, but here at Ohana Animal Hospital we have been seeing red and gooey eyes, and itchy dogs, cats, and rabbits all day long! Poor Dr. Steffes has been sniffly and sneezy as well, so he is extra understanding of how your pet feels now as well! Let’s take a little while to discuss what we can do to keep our pets comfortable in the safest, and most effective ways possible.

First of all, let’s take a look at what we are using to prevent pesky fleas from causing your dog, cat, or rabbit unwanted discomfort. Unfortunately, there is not just one product that works the best for every animal, and not all products do the same thing. My favorite products for dogs are currently Nexgard and Bravecto, and there are a couple of reasons why. I have found that dogs LIKE THE TASTE of the chew treats, and we all know how difficult it can be to give a dog medication. When the dog likes the chew tablet it much less stressful for you at home. They Work, and they seem to keep dogs from being itchy, which is our whole reason for using them in the first place. I have also found them to be Very Safe, and I know that is often one of the biggest concerns owners have when using flea and tick products. These products are even being shown to be effective for other parasitic diseases such as demodex and sarcoptes mites!!

For cats and rabbits my favorite product is Revolution. Revolution is a topical, spot-on product, which is very easy to apply to the neck and back of cats and rabbits. I don’t know if you have ever tried to give a rabbit a pill, but let’s just say there are simpler tasks. I lean towards Revolution currently because it has been shown to be safe, effective, and easy to use. I actually use Revolution in rabbits and other exotic animals to treat many other skin diseases as well, so there are lots of benefits to using this product. Hedgehogs are really difficult to medicate, but a topical product makes treatment simple. Revolution even helps prevent heartworm disease, which can be a problem for cats and ferrets.


Have you noticed your dog’s eyes being red, scratchy, and building up yellow debris lately?? You are not alone! This week has been full of environmental irritation causing redness of the eyes, irritation, and gooey buildup near the eyes. Of course environmental allergies are not the only cause for a red eye, and it is important to discuss this with your veterinarian. Your vet will likely want to test the tear production in the eyes to rule out a disease called keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), test for a corneal ulcer with a fluorescein stain (green dye that helps find tears in the cornea), and may even recommend testing the pressure in the eye to rule out glaucoma and inflammation in the eye. Environmental allergies will result in normal test results, and can generally be very easily treated with some special drops. Don’t let your dog’s eyes be irritated and scratchy, give your vet a call so they can fix the problem!

KC is a much happier dog when her allergies are under control!!!

Worried about the cost of the newest and most effective flea and tick products? We want your animals comfortable just like you do, and we have some ways we make it very affordable for you to get your hands on these products. Stop by Ohana Animal Hospital, or give us a call, and we can tell you about our individual monthly dose plans! We all want the best for our pets these days, and we are here to help. If you have another flea or tick preventative that you love we are not going to try to change your mind, but if you need a little help this year let’s talk.

Part III: Breed-Specific Activities for Your Canine Friend(s)

While a majority of dogs spend their days doing very little physical activity, many dogs were originally bred for working. Knowing what your dog was meant to do can really help you understand its behavior.


If you are looking for a new dog, knowing about the breed(s) can help you pick one that fits your family.  If you currently have a dog (or multiple dogs), understanding breed-specific traits can help you to provide an even more fulfilling life for your canine(s).

Working Groups

Herding Dogs

Herding dogs include German Shepherds, Shetland Sheepdogs, and Border Collies (just to name a few). These dogs are full of energy, very smart, and highly trainable. These dogs were bred over hundreds of years for their ability to control and move herds of livestock — which is why many people also refer to them as shepherd dogs.

dog and cows

Although they are still a favorite for farms, the majority of herding dogs today never get a chance to see a farm animal. Still, many owners notice their pet’s instinct to “herd” their families, which often results in owners becoming worried about their dog’s tendency to urgently nudge or even nip at people.

It’s important to recognize that these behaviors are not aggressive.  Instead, they are traces of the genetic lineage of herding dogs.  These dogs not only require serious physical activity on a daily basis, but they need mental activity as well. Thinking is one of the things herding dogs are great at, and they’re not truly happy without daily mental exercise.

Bird Dogs

This group is comprised of several types of dogs — pointers (German shorthair), retrievers (Golden or Labrador), setters (English, Irish), flushers (Cocker Spaniel, Springer Spaniel), and water dogs (Poodle, Portuguese Water dog).  These dogs were developed over time to help hunters of fowl find and retrieve their game.  Bird dogs are known for being smart & loyal, energetic, and loving the water.


Guard Dogs

Guardian breeds such as Giant Schnauzers, German Shepherds, Tibetan Mastiffs, and Doberman Pinschers, and Rottweilers are oftentimes seen as aggressive and untrustworthy because they can be quite ferocious when it comes to protecting their home. However, it’s important to not forget that we bred them to be that way.


The most important thing for these dogs is socialization when they’re still puppies. Young dogs that are exposed to as many strangers as possible tend to be less aggressive with age. If they aren’t exposed to these things when they’re puppies, it can lead to issues with aggression—which may be devastating for you and your dog. These dogs are incredibly intelligent and easy to train, so providing them with appropriate outlets to get out their extra energy will go a long way.

Sight Dogs


These dogs were bred for helping hunters track prey by sight.  The Greyhound, Saluki, and the Irish Wolfhound are sight dogs, which makes them very visual and extremely fast. They will chase anything with quick movement (including kids) and tend to be highly energetic.

Although this group includes some of the fastest dog breeds, they are known for being “couch potatoes” at home.  If there is nothing for them to chase, they are usually quite content to lay by their human pack leader.  Therefore, don’t misinterpret their laziness as them not wanting to be physically active—it’s the owner’s responsibility to engage them in activities they will enjoy.


Like sight dogs, tracking dogs were bred to help hunt prey, but instead of using their eyes, they use their noses. Breeds such as the Beagle, Bloodhound, and Coonhound belong to this group. Their amazing sense of smell is so instinctive that even dogs with no formal training will “track” a scent they pick up. As some of you may have experienced firsthand, if your dog picks up a scent, he/she will probably tune out everything else as his scent drive takes over.  Due to this, it’s not a good idea to let a Hound off of their leash without proper training.  If a scent dog finds a scent, will be long gone, having tuned your voice out completely. With training, however, these amazing dogs are great for search & rescue and scent work.



Terriers were bred to be expert hunters of game. This group, which includes the American Staffordshire terrier, Jack Russell and, West Highland Terrier, is well known for being stubborn, overbearing, and energetic.


These dogs need a firm hand when it comes to training or your house will end up being destroyed. Since they were bred to kill, these dogs LOVE to rip, shred, chew, and shake anything they get their teeth into. Therefore, nip training and socialization are extremely important.

Activities for Working Dogs

  • Taking Turns (Learning Patience/Mental Stimulation)
  • Staying Focused (Learning Impulse Control/Mental Stimulation)
  • Being Attentive (Learning to be Responsive to You/Mental Stimulation)
  • Retrieve (Learning to Bring You Items/Physical Exercise)
  • Hide n’ Seek (Learning to Be Attentive/Teaches Responsibility/Mental Stimulation)
  • “Find It” (Teaches Names of Objects/Mental Stimulation)
  • Puzzles (Learning to Stay on Task/Concentration/Mental Stimulation)
  • Treiball (Satisfies Herding Instinct/Physical Exercise/Mental Stimulation)
  • Playing Fetch (Learning to Be Attentive/Physical Exercise)
  • Dock Diving (Physical Exercise)
  • Disc-Catching (Learning to Be Attentive/Physical Exercise)
  • Nose Work (Learning to Stay on Task/Mental Stimulation)
  • Digging Activities (Physical Exercise/Mental Stimulation)
  • Going for a walk/jog/hike (Physical Exercise)
  • Search and Rescue (Learning to Stay on Task/Physical Exercise/Mental Stimulation)

Non-Sporting Dogs

This is a diverse group of dogs in size and appearance. In contrast to other groups, these dogs lost their ability to perform the tasks they were bred for.  Nowadays, most non-sporting breeds are great companions and choice of many families. These dogs learn quickly and love any exercise as long as it suits their body type.  Non-sporting dogs include the Bulldog, Poodle, Dalmatian, Chow Chow, Boston Terrier, and Bichon Frise (again, just to name a few).


The personalities and temperament of these dogs are unique. In fact, experts can’t make any generalizations about the behavioral traits for the breeds in this group. The tendencies of each breed are unique and can only be traced to their individual backgrounds. Some make excellent watch dogs, while others are lap dogs. Some are good for living in apartments, while others should only live in homes with large outdoor areas to be physically active.

Since it’s so difficult to make generalizations about the breeds in this group, owners should be sure to research breeds to help understand their unique characteristics, discover appropriate activities to do with them, and to determine whether or not that breed is appropriate for what they’re looking for.

Toy Group

The toy group is the smallest group of dogs and was bred to fit on laps. These dogs have diverse traits but they share the same characteristics of being small dogs. In the past, they were used to provide physical comfort and entertainment for their owners. Nowadays, they perform very similar tasks. These dogs are also known for their therapeutic value as therapy dogs. They are widely known for not leaving their sick owner’s bed side.

Some examples of dogs included in this group are Pomeranians, Pugs, Chihuahuas, and Poodles.


Activities for Puppies

Playing with a puppy might seem fairly obvious, but if you’re not careful, you can play too rough or too long with your puppy, which can lead to aggression or grumpiness. Without preparing to play, you may create behavioral problems such as nipping or biting. The good news is that with simple preparation, there are a variety of games that will help your puppy to socialize and strengthen your bond.


  • Choose a good time to play.

Pick a time when the puppy is full of energy and they haven’t just eaten.  If kids are going to play, make sure they are supervised.  An important thing to keep in mind is that puppies don’t understand the difference between playing and teasing.  So don’t be surprised if they “nip” out of confusion if kids (or adults) are teasing them.

  • Learn what your puppy likes.

Pay attention to what the puppy runs to or chews on. Test out some toys and see if the puppy responds or not.  Try out different textures and shapes/sizes.  A puppy won’t want to play with something they don’t like, so it’s the owner’s responsibility to provide them with preferred toys and activities.

  • Train during playtime.

Use this time to work on smaller tasks such as “sit” or responding to their name.  You’d be surprised at how fast a puppy can learn if you find the right motivator!

  • Know when to be done with playtime.

Since puppies are often energetic, it’s hard to remember that they can become overtired. A puppy has growing bones and slack ligaments supporting their bones. If the puppy becomes overtired, he/she might move awkwardly and damage those growing joints. Make sure not to overtire the puppy, so stop while he/she still has some energy left!


When you do stop, end on a good note that leaves your puppy wanting more, instead of playing until they’re completely exhausted. If the puppy is worn out, he/she will become grumpy from tiredness—which could lead to the puppy associating play with negative experiences rather than positive experiences.

Activities for Older Dogs

Exercise is still extremely important with older dogs, so be sure keep them active for physical (and mental) well-being. Depending on your dog, consider slowing your daily jog together down to a brisk walk, or take a couple of short walks instead of one long one — use common sense to determine whether or not what you’re doing is at an appropriate level of intensity.  Just as people get sore as they age, dogs do, too!  So be mindful of the limitations your canine(s) may have.


Swimming is a wonderful activity for dogs of all ages, but it’s particularly good for older dogs because it’s low-impact and easy on their weakening joints and muscles. Swimming also helps to build strength, is good for their overall conditioning, and is relaxing and comforting for most dogs.


Tailoring activities as a dog ages is something that many people have a hard time with. Just remember that this is a natural part of life, and honoring that aspect of life is honoring your dog.


Well, that’s it for today!  We hope you’ve learned something about behavioral enrichment for your dog(s), and maybe you’ll even decide to try out some of the activities this weekend!

Until next time,

Ayriel and the Ohana Animal Hospital Staff

Part I: Behavioral Enrichment for Your Canine(s)

How Do I Know if my Dog is Bored?

Dogs, cats, birds, hamsters, reptiles, rabbits, gerbils, and animals of all sorts, spend most of their days lying around with nothing to do. While they’re busy lying around, their wild relatives experience days filled with activities such as hunting, scavenging, foraging, and gathering food for survival. They experience the thrill of tracking a prey, the excitement of finding a new location to store food, and the satisfaction of a nice nap to recover once they’re all done.

Unfortunately, animals in captivity (meaning pets, too) can’t tell us when they’re bored.  Instead, we have to look at objective data (i.e., observable) to measure boredom, and this data often presents itself in the form(s) of abnormal behaviors—whether it’s some kind of stereotypy (e.g., pacing, excessive licking, rocking, etc.) or behaviors that are generally viewed as being unwanted or “bad” (e.g., tearing up shoes in the home, digging in the yard, excessive barking, etc.).

Before I continue, let me briefly explain that stereotypy describes a behavior in a human or animal that is repetitive and serves no particular purpose (or function).  For example, you may observe a wild cat pacing back and forth in a zoo exhibit or notice a chimpanzee rocking back and forth.  With dogs, you may observe excessive licking or chewing, spinning, tail chasing, hair pulling, nail biting, or biting the air. With humans, you may see hand flapping, hair pulling, or biting nails. Unfortunately, there is no specific variable that causes stereotypical behavior(s) to develop, but there are several potential causes (e.g., increased stress, lack of mental stimulation, etc.) that we can predict are responsible.

That being said, you can never know for sure if your dog is bored, but by observing behaviors your dog engages in, you can begin to determine whether or not boredom is a likely explanation for why your dog engages in abnormal behaviors (including aggression).

What Can I Do if I Think My Dog is Bored?

The answer lies in an area of research known as behavioral enrichment.  Behavioral enrichment is a principle of animal husbandry that enhances the quality of captive animal care by identifying and providing the environmental stimuli necessary for optimal psychological and physiological well-being.

The fact that animals have to interact with humans at all causes the animal to assume behaviors that may be deviant in comparison to their wild relatives. For example, we put dogs on strict feeding schedules, altering such things as hunting time, choice of food to eat, and their natural eating patterns.  We decide when it’s time to be calm and when it’s okay to be playful (which can be VERY confusing for your dog). We clean up after them and pick up their droppings.  Although this seems completely normal to us, it is not completely normal for our canines (and other pets).

It’s important to recognize that their housing situation and social environment will always be inappropriate for their species (i.e., unnatural), and that this can ultimately cause unwanted behaviors such as aggression, boredom, and physical or psychological illness, to develop. It is the pet owner’s responsibility to attempt to decrease these problems by providing an enriching environment.

There are three different areas of enrichment I will be covering over the course of this week, and they include physical exercise (Part I), mental exercise (Part II), and breed-specific activities (Part III).  So, let’s start out with the easiest one: physical exercise.

Physical Exercise 

Dogs are active by nature. Their ancestors, wolves, covered many miles every day in search of food for survival.  Many domestic dogs were selectively bred to be even more active, with a focus on hunting, herding, or patrolling. Preventing them from their genetically programmed activity level can build frustration, which may exhibit itself in the form of hyperactivity, chewing on items not meant for chewing, chasing cats in the home, barking, digging, tail chasing, and home destruction.

Exercise also helps to prevent obesity. As with humans, obesity is becoming a major health problem in dogs. Obesity prevents dogs from enjoying many physical activities and can make it more difficult for dogs to deal with heat. Obesity is also associated with certain medical problems, including arthritis, increased risk of torn ligaments, back problems, cardiac problems, difficulty breathing, increased risks during surgery, and various skin problems.

So…what are you waiting for?! Let’s check out some ideas on how to get your dog more physically active so you both can lead happier and healthier lives!

  • Go for a walk/jog/skip/sprint (whatever your dog prefers!)

Bringing your pup along for your morning walk/jog helps to increase stamina and strengthen muscles. However, if you choose to do this, remember it’s your dog’s outing, too!

You should be willing to stop when the dog wants to smell the surroundings or greet another dog.

Remember to ALWAYS stop if your canine friend needs to go to the bathroom, and don’t forget to bring poop bags!  Not only is it important for cleanliness of neighborhoods, parks, and trails, but it also helps with disease control, fly control, and preventing other dogs from consuming what your dog left behind. Plus, cleaning up after your pet is just part of being a responsible pet owner, right?  Right!

  • Get involved in Flyball 

In this sport, dogs are part of teams and the rules are similar to a human relay race. Dogs race down a course with four hurdles. At the end of the first leg sits a box with tennis balls. The dog must stomp on this box to release a ball and then return to the starting line carrying the ball while jumping the hurdles. Once he or she crosses the starting line, the next dog takes off. The goal is to be the fastest team without any penalties. Penalties may include dropping the ball or a dog taking off down the course before his or her teammate crosses the starting line.

  • Check out Tracking

Not all dogs are tracking breeds, but just about any dog can participate in the sport of tracking, which is a competitive event for dogs and handlers. Hours before the competition, a scent trail is laid out. Once the trail is set, dogs (and their owners) begin the work of finding an object at the end of the trail.  Not only is this activity fulfilling for the dog, but it’s also fun for owners to see their innate scenting skills at work!

  • Find an agility group or class

If your dog has a lot of energy or extra weight to lose, find an agility group or class. This high-energy sport is not only great exercise, but it also helps to develop confidence and other important skills. This activity was designed to demonstrate a dog’s willingness to work with his/her handler in a variety of situations.  Dogs and handlers must negotiate an obstacle course while racing against the clock.

It’s important to mention that you don’t have to compete to enjoy agility! So don’t let the fear of competition stop you from getting involved. Just taking an agility class offers many other benefits for you and your dog.

  • Play a game of fetch

Fetch is easy to fit into your crazy schedule, and it’s a great way to use up extra energy as well as bond with your dog. You could go to a nearby park or just play in your backyard!  Something else that’s neat about fetch is that it can be an indoor sport, played from the comfort of your favorite couch or chair.  If your dog doesn’t know how to play fetch, you can train them!  Remember, you don’t have to commit to playing fetch for 30 minutes a day, every single day.  Start out with an amount of time you know will be consistent with (it can even be 5 minutes to start), and slowly build this over time.

What I’m trying to say is that there are no excuses for why you can’t play fetch with your canine friend(s).

  • Play with other dogs!

Have you ever been to a dog park and just observed how the dogs play with each other?  If you haven’t, it’s amazing to watch how they create their own games and expend their extra energy.

Too many owners are scared of having their dog socialize with other dogs.  Unfortunately, when owners are nervous or fearful, they engage in behaviors that the dog often picks up on (such as nervous tics, increased physiological responses, changes in vocal patterns, etc.). Then, the dog often engages in abnormal behaviors (such as barking or increased aggression), which leads the owner to conclude that their dog doesn’t like other dogs.  Because of this, the dog may be forced to become even more isolated, which can lead to even more abnormal behaviors developing over time.  Anyway, you get the idea.  It can develop into a vicious cycle.  Dogs are social animals and they should be given the opportunity to learn from and interact with other dogs.

  • Don’t forget about toys!

These are just a few toys that my friend, Anja, loves to play with.  There are several types of balls, stuffed animals with squeakers inside, and tug toys (her personal favorite).

One thing I always emphasize with pet owners, is that you need to find the right toy for your canine.  Just because one dog enjoys tennis balls does not mean that your dog will.

My advice is to go out and purchase a nice variety of toys and play around to find out which one(s) your dog prefers.  You could take them out one at a time or you could lay them out and let them seek out which toy they want. Do they enjoy tug toys?  Frisbees?  Stuffed animals?  Toys with squeakers?  Toys without squeakers?  Long toys?  Short toys?  None of the above?  If so, donating slightly used toys to your local humane society is always a fantastic idea (I often do this with toys my animals don’t use)! As a pet owner, it’s important that you take some time to really figure out what toy(s) your pet prefers.

Lastly, an important point to mention is that preferences change over time—sometimes even within the same day or hour!  That’s why I recommend you experiment with which toys your dog prefers on a daily basis.  It’s not fair to assume that they will love the same ball for 2 years (or 2 days/weeks if your dog gets bored easily).  Wouldn’t you get bored playing with the same toy over and over again?

Although there are LOTS of other options for physical exercise, you would get way too bored listening to me go on and on about it.  You should plan to take some time out of your day to research different physical activities you and your dog(s) will enjoy.  Not only will they be happier and healthier, but you will be happier and healthier, too!

Stay tuned for Part II coming this week!  I’ll be discussing the importance of providing mental stimulation, as well as different ideas for you to try out with your dog(s). 

Until next time,

Ayriel and the team at Ohana Animal Hospital