The Dog Owner Files: Moving Blues

This is the first in a series “The Dog Owner Files,” where CLE dog owners tell their stories. This post is contributed by Destiny Simcic, owner of a 14-year-old shih tzu/pekingese mix named Sampson.

Recently I found myself in a situation where I needed to temporarily relocate. Unfortunately, my 14-year-old, deaf, cranky and anti-social dog was forced to go with me, and I’m pretty sure it’s been far more stressful for him than it’s been for me. My wonderful* friend (and owner of this site) Ann, graciously allowed Sampson and I to move into her tiny second bedroom and share the living space she occupies with her over-sized** Pomeranian, Hunter. Hunter’s personality is what I would describe as the exact opposite of Sampson’s personality. When Sampson is silent, Hunter is barking. When Sampson is lying peacefully on the floor, Hunter is jumping around trying to get his attention. Sampson is a beggar, and Hunter doesn’t even seem to notice when a piece of delicious pulled pork drops to the floor. Both dogs are great; they are just different, and this transition has been noticeably tough on both. Neither dog is sleeping very well, and when nobody is home they are confined to separate halves of the house.

The two dogs having a rare moment of quiet time together (Hunter, left; Sampson, right)


It’s now a month later, and luckily the mood of the house is seemingly becoming less stressful – I think Sampson is getting used to Hunter’s presence and Hunter is slowly learning that Sampson is never going to give him the time of day. Just in time for us to relocate once more, to our new home…

The point to all of this is that I don’t think anyone really realizes how something that is disruptive to you as a human can also have an equally disruptive effect on your canine – or feline – companion. I’ve done what I can to make my little man comfortable and stick to his routine, but the bottom line is that I yanked him away from what was familiar and it’s taking him a decent amount of time to get settled and act like himself. It been hard to be patient and took a while to realize that my life isn’t the only one that’s been turned upside down.

Next time you go through a life-changing event while in the company of a furry loved one, you may want to read up on ways to prepare him or her for the change. Here’s a good article I’ve found to prepare me for my next move!

Editor’s notes:
* No edits were made, those were her original choice of words

**By “over-sized,” Destiny does not mean “fat.” Hunter wanted me to point that out. She just meant he is a bigger than normal Pomeranian.

Back to School…for your dog!

Now that kids are back to school, it’s got me thinking about training classes for my dog. I’ve tried a few different classes with my dog in the past and I always enjoy the opportunity to allow my dog to use his brain and work on his behavior.

My dog and have done several training classes through North Coast Dogs. I like their mix of fun activities and practical techniques to train your dog. They offer classes to cover all ages of dogs, from puppy training to dealing with problem behaviors in adult dogs. Upcoming classes include:

  • Chill Out: Information to help the Reactive Dog – starting Sept. 1, this 6-week class will focus on the ways to deal with dog aggression. Class starts Sept. 1.
  • Family Dog, for dogs four months or older, the class focuses on building a strong human-canine bond and solving basic problem behaviors. Classes start Aug. 29.

Cleveland has no shortage of dog training classes, from the puppy level on up to the adult dog. Here are some other options around town:

The Dog Class, whose mottos is “Training Dogs, One Human at a Time,” holds classes in North Ridgeville and Rocky River. Trainer Marie-Josée Gatian was voted #2 best dog trainer in the Cleveland area on the “Fox 8 Hot List” for 2013. Upcoming classes include:

  • Puppy Training and Beginner Obedience Class starts on Aug. 26 and goes for six weeks
  • Intermediate Training for dog 6 months or older, also starting on Aug. 26.
    dog training cleveland
    Your dog will definitely need a backpack for all his homework – 


Fortunate Fido in Columbia Station, also a winner on the Fox 8 list, offers several different training courses to help adult dogs with problem issues. Upcoming classes include:
  • Competition Obedience, focusing on better handling and heeling skills. Class starts on Sept. 6.
  • Relax Fido 1, which focuses on training techniques for dealing with a reactive dog in real life situations. Classes start on Sept. 22.

All Star Animal Training in Parma Heights offers group training classes on a continuous schedule, so you can drop by when you are free. The classes are held Saturdays mornings at 10 a.m.


If you’ve already mastered behavior training and want to get your dog into agility, Canine University of Ohio in Bedford Heights, offers beginning training classes for agility.

If you’re looking for a  more advanced agility class, you’ll want to check out Cleveland All Breed Training Club. This training club offer courses geared toward preparing your dog for competitive agility. Your dog needs to know some basic agility techniques and will be tested before he or she can enter their advanced beginner course.

Who’s your favorite trainer in Cleveland? I’d love to hear your training success stories, send them to!

Dog Sitting Dilemma – Dealing with a Dog That Doesn’t Like Other Dogs

This past weekend I had the pleasure of dog sitting my sister’s dog Riley. Riley is a 6-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and one of the sweetest dogs you’ll ever meet. She loves to lie around and generally do nothing, but she also likes a lot of petting and attention.

This is Riley. She wants to sit with you.
One of Riley’s quirks is that she doesn’t think she is a dog. She’s not really interested in toys or playing, or anything a lot of dogs like to do. I don’t think she was introduced to dogs when she was younger, so she has never really been socialized in the dog world. She is also older, so she is used to a more sedentary lifestyle. My dog Hunter, as you may have gathered from past posts, is the exact opposite. He loves dogs, activity and people. The only thing the dogs have in common is that they like attention, and they like to follow me around everywhere. So Hunter does his best to get Riley to play, while Riley does her best to ignore him.
Riley trying to ignore Hunter


I decided to spend the first couple of days staying at my sister’s house with the two dogs. At least that way Riley wouldn’t have the double stress of being in an unfamiliar setting and having to deal with being around a dog she doesn’t like. Luckily Riley has a very laid back temperament, so things have gone fairly well between the two dogs. They’ve pretty much been ignoring each other with just a few minor scuffles when Hunter remembers Riley is there and tries to get her to play.

Not all dogs are so easy going though. Dealing with socializing a dog can be a challenging endeavor. The Animal Humane Society provides tips on their site for introducing a new dog to a resident dog*. Good advice to follow the next time you have a new dog in your family, or will have a dog staying with you:

1. Have the dogs meet on-leash on neutral territory first:  this can be a neighbor’s yard, a training center, tennis court, etc.  Have both dogs on-leash.  Allow them to look at and sniff one another through a barrier, such as a fence, for up to 30 minutes.  By then, the novelty of seeing a new dog has worn off, paving the way for a more positive introduction.  Another option is to take the dogs for a walk together, keeping ten feet between them so that they cannot greet one another or stare.  The idea is simply to acclimate them to each other’s presence without causing tension.

2. Next, have the dogs meet off-leash on neutral territory.  Avoid problem areas like gates, doorways or closely confined space:  the more room they have to move, the less tension there will be.  Wait 2 minutes while they sniff each other, then call them away and move around.  If they start to play and it seems to be going well, let them play for a few minutes and then end the session.  We want each initial interaction to end on a good note!

3. Finally, have the dogs meet at home:  first in the yard, then inside the house.  Before the in-house introduction, take the resident dog out to the yard, then bring new dog inside (bringing the new dog inside to meet resident dog can create a negative reaction).  Keep each interaction short and pleasant: if signs of tension arise, separate the dogs immediately and try again later.  Remember that the introduction will set the tone for their relationship, so it’s important to set everyone up for success!

4. Keep the dogs separate while you are away, either in separate rooms or crates.  This is both to prevent injurious fights and the development of inappropriate behavior in your new dog (such as chewing and housesoiling).

5. While the dogs can settle minor disputes with each other (such as growling the other off of a toy or their own food bowl), they aren’t allowed to limit each other’s access to you, your family and common areas of the home.  In many multi-dog households, contrary to popular belief, there is neither a “dominant” nor a “submissive” dog, but individuals whose roles change depending on the context involved (ex: a dog that claims access to a favorite toy may let another dog claim the couch).  Instead of “supporting the dominance” of any one dog, establish yourself as a benevolent leader, rewarding polite behavior and managing the environment to prevent conflicts from developing.

Hey! You’re a dog – let’s play!

What about you? Do you have a dog that doesn’t like other dogs and have you tried to socialize him or her? Hit me up on twitter ( or email with what has worked (or not worked) for you!


The 4th of July is Probably Not Your Dog’s Favorite Holiday

Sorry to break it to you, but it’s true. A holiday focused on loud noises, crowds and sitting outside in the heat is probably not your dog’s favorite day. Chances are your dog does something like this once the fireworks start:

(check out these photos from The Huffington Post for more dogs not happy about fireworks:

The 4th of July can be a very scary time for a dog. To help make the day a little less stressful for your dog, here are some of Cesar Milan’s* (I’ve been watching a lot of The Dog Whisperer lately, sorry) top tips for dealing with dogs and fireworks:

1) Take your dog on a long walk before the fireworks start. Plan at least a 2 mile walk or whatever would be a significant jump up from what you normally do. If you can wear him out before the fireworks start, chances are high that he will be too tired to focus on the fireworks.

2) Distract your dog during the fireworks. Work on obedience training or give him a toy to keep him busy. Basically get him focused on something other than the fireworks.

3) Use your dog’s nose. Scents like lavender and pine help a dog to feel relaxed.

4) Maintain a calm and assertive energy. Although no one does this as well as Cesar, this is always good advice. Don’t get stressed out or angry with the dog for being upset. The negative emotions will just encourage the dog’s anxiety.

5) Use canine-safe earplugs. Dogs have good reason to not love fireworks, they are extremely loud and disturbing to their very sensitive ears. If you can mitigate the noise, you should be able to minimize your dog’s anxiety.

I hope everyone has a wonderful and safe 4th of July! If you take any fun 4th of July-themed dog pictures, make sure to send them to

*See all of Cesar’s tips here:

Is Your Dog a Canine Good Citizen?

I always told myself that when I got a dog as an adult I would take him or her to training classes. The beagle that I had growing up was not a well-trained dog and she became a bit of a terror, eating everything in sight (she had a stomach of steel), bolting every time the door opened and howling for hours at a time.

When I got my dog and read more about training, I realized even more how important it is to the dog’s well-being. A dog needs a strong alpha leader to feel safe. Most of the time a dog’s bad behavior can be attributed to him or her feeling anxious or insecure in his surroundings, along with being bored. Dogs need mental stimulation as well as physical activity, another reason training classes can be so helpful.

I’ve tried a number of classes with my dog, all through North Coast Dogs ( Most recently we did the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) course. The five week course focuses on teaching your dog the skills to accept distractions gracefully, as well as fading the use of treats and toys as rewards. At the end of the course, dogs take the CGC test, a test designed by the American Kennel Club to promote responsible dog ownership and well-mannered dogs. The test is composed of these 10 skills:

  • Accepting a friendly stranger.
  • Sitting politely for petting.
  • Allowing basic grooming procedures.
  • Walking on a loose leash
  • Walking through a crowd
  • Sitting and lying down on command and staying in place.
  • Coming when called
  • Reacting appropriately to another dog
  • Reacting appropriately to distractions
  • Calmly enduring supervised separation from the owner

I would like to say that although my dog does some of these things really well, he doesn’t do all of them well yet (he loves me a little too much for the separation part). And since the dog has to pass all 10 test items, he did not get the CGC certification. Even though he didn’t pass, the class was not a complete failure. The test training definitely taught my dog a lot, including control of his reactions to dogs and others, staying for extended periods of time (usually best when I am still in sight), and sitting politely for petting. And now I have a good idea of things we need to focus on in more depth. I would definitely recommend this course to anyone who wants to have a well mannered dog that you can take out to restaurants and shopping centers.

We still have a long ways to go but I know that my dog benefits from the mental stimulation and confidence that the classes provide. He may not have the certification, but he’s definitely a Canine Good Citizen in my book.

What training classes or activities have worked for your dog? Would he pass the CGC?