BarkBox Giveaway Winner

Thanks to Julie and Dumpling, the winners of the BarkBox giveaway! Cao’s own BarkBox awaits us when we return from our trip.

We are in Missoula, Montana this weekend, which has to be one of the most dog friendly cities, complete with a riverfront dog park. While breakfasting, we ran in to this pair, Chris and Schuck, riding in style. Lucky dog!



BarkBox Giveaway Drawing

Cao & Dory await the BarkBox

Cao & Dory await the BarkBox

As you can see, Dory and Cao can hardly wait for the arrival of Cao’s first BarkBox.

Luckily, your dog need not go without much longer either – I’ve got one free BarkBox to give away! The $29 gift can be used for one free BarkBox, or for a serious discount on a three month subscription. BarkBox is a monthly subscription service that provides a box of toys and snacks customized by size. All the products are carefully selected for quality. New toys are a great way to motivate your dog! To avoid toy overload (and keep your floors devoid of traps), it’s a good idea to rotate their favorites in and out weekly.

To enter the drawing, comment below with your pup’s name and a future post topic that you would most like to see! Entries will be closed this Saturday, July 20 at midnight, MST, and the winner will be announced Sunday, July 21st on the blog.

Animal Care, Willing Partnership

The Willing Partner’s Hierarchy of Needs

Anyone who signs up for six more years of school at the age of 26 must love being a student, but my junior year of undergrad, I grew weary of academia and decided to take a semester off from pursuing my German degree to ski bum. I worked as a snowboard instructor at a fairly large resort, and part of the training offered to us was a Children’s Accreditation. As a part of this course, we learned about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which Abraham Maslow conceived of as a part of his Theory of Human Motivation.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs describes the basic human needs that must be met before self-actualization, or the realization of one’s full potential, can occur.

In the past few years, while talking with people about their animals and their veterinary and behavioral concerns, I often found myself referencing Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Before we can achieve willing partnership with our animals, we need to make sure that their basic needs are met.

In order to help us achieve willing partnership, I’ve developed an adaptation of Maslow’s Hierarchy for companion animals. It’s new and still forming. Too anthropomorphic for you? Take what you will, and leave the rest. I welcome you to start thinking about where you draw the line between humans and other animals.

The Willing Partner's Hierarchy of Needs

In future posts, I will discuss each of the levels in detail, but for now, I submit this as food for thought, and welcome your feedback.

How To:

How to introduce BONES!

AKA: Paleo for your canine companion.

As promised, here’s a guide to introducing raw pipe bones to your dog’s diet as a way to contribute to your dog’s dental, mental and physical health (a phrase coined by Sid Gustafson, DVM).


Cao has noticed that I have bones, procured from my local butcher for $7!

Why bones?

Dogs that chew real bones (specifically bones, not dental chews) have less tartar. If you watch your dog chew their bone, you’ll see and hear why. Their carnassial teeth and incisors are used to shear meat and fascia from the outside of the bone. That griding successfully removes tartar from the surface of the tooth and stimulates the gums. Dental disease is a serious problem for many dogs, one that may lead to tooth extraction, abscesses, GI problems, and oral cancers, among other issues.

Puppies (and dogs!) that are orally enriched with appropriate chewing materials are less likely to look to inappropriate objects (qiviuq yarn, sunglasses, shoes) to satisfy their need to chew. The frozen bones are also very soothing for teething pups.

Chewing bones is an intensely physical activity. On days when your pet is holed up due to bad weather, healing, or just because you don’t have the time to get outside, bones offer a way to get out a portion of their physical energy.

Bones are also mentally stimulating. Getting to the marrow inside requires problem-solving and manipulation of the bone.

The list goes on and on.

Please read:

You will find people who disagree with the idea of feeding raw bones and bones in general. Do your own research. Feel free not to feed bones. I personally feel that the benefits of raw bone feeding outweigh the potential hazards for most dogs. I have seen raw bones perform the equivalent of a several-hundred-dollar dentistry on a 10 year-old dog that would have otherwise had to have been sedated. Dory, who chews deer femurs, is 11 years-old, has never had a cleaning and has almost no tartar. My dog eats bones until they are gone, and has yet to have severe GI upset. She has retched up pieces, but rarely. That said, the intestinal tracts of all dogs are not created equal.

What kind of bone?

I’m glad you asked. I recommend medium sized raw beef or bison pipe bones for most dogs. Bones should absolutely not be cooked – it changes the way they break into pieces, increasing the likelihood that they will shard. The nutrients in raw bones are also more readily absorbable by your dog’s digestive system.

The bones I recommend for beginners are cut from the center of a leg bone of a cow or bison. They have no protruding pieces that could be easily broken off, contain marrow, and have a small amount of meat that remains attached to the outside of the bone.


The ideal raw beef pipe bone, ready for chewing.



I hope that a lot of my suggestions will sound like common sense. First, a few caveats:

– Know your dog.

Does your dog’s stomach rumble if he eats a dropped piece of food in the kitchen? Just had a $3000 visit to the vet for bloody stool? It may then be a good idea to skip the bones, or to be extra cautious. A gobbler? Maybe 5 minutes is a good length for your first attempt at bone time. An overzealous chewer? Monitor for cracked teeth. Your dog (like mine) regularly brings home deer legs and voles and consumes them, with no issues? Probably safe to skip forward a few steps. If you have questions or concerns, I’d be happy to talk with you about them, but a great asset could be your veterinarian, who has a relationship with you and your pet.

– You are in charge of the bones.

When first introducing bones, many dogs are fanatical about this wonderful, new, delicious experience. This excitement can be used for good, or evil. Require good behavior (all four paws on the ground, quiet, etc.) before giving the bone. Any undesirable behavior while chewing results in the immediate loss of bone privileges, to try again another day.

Let us begin!

Dory and Cao demonstrate what deserving, humble dogs they are.

Dory and Cao demonstrate what deserving, humble dogs they are.

Day 1: Bone Time

Start with a frozen bone, as seen above. Introduce “bone time” after your dog has had some exercise, preferably when the house is calm. If there are multiple dogs, each should have their own bone, in their own room/area to reduce potential conflicts. For day one, I recommend 15 minutes of bone chewing. All bone time should be supervised. If you hear or see pieces of bone being broken off, remove the bone shards immediately, and the bone itself if sharp points remain. This is unlikely in such a short amount of time, but if it does occur, consider scaling back bone time. Once the time has elapsed, retrieve the bone, praising your dog for giving it up willingly, and use a plastic baggie to store it in the freezer ’til tomorrow! Check the bone for broken pieces and fractures before freezing, and discard if you find any.

Day 2:

Repeat, but with one addition: today you get to monitor your pet’s stool. A little loose is fine, but any blood or explosiveness means you need to slow things down a little, or consider alternative oral enrichment. If all is well, proceed!

Day 3:

Examine bone, and if it is intact, with marrow inside, try 30 minutes, again under supervision, removing the bone if it starts to break into shards.

Day 4:

Rest, and continue to monitor stool.

Day 5:

Depending on your dog, it may be time for a new bone, especially if the marrow is gone, or your dog has lost interest. Today, go for 30 minutes supervised bone time. Continue to monitor stool. It’s a good habit to get into, and so fun!

Day 6:

45 minutes, or break it up into 15 minutes AM, 30 minutes PM. Report findings in the comments.

Day 7:

As Day 6, only you don’t have to comment this time.

Day 8:

New bone, and try it for an hour – that is probably long enough for your dog to have extracted the majority of the meat, fascia and marrow. If not, use it again!

Bone half-empty.

Bone half-empty. Or half-full.

Antlers are a great alternative for dogs that are overzealous, or for guardians that aren’t too sure about having raw bone/canine saliva drippings on their carpet (weirdos). The bones pictured above are suitable for dogs from around 10-100 lbs. Larger dogs may need to be more closely monitored, or have longer bones that they are unable to swallow. Often times, the bones that are cut from closer to the head of the femur are larger.

At this point, if there has been no sign of gastric upset, you should be safe to have supervised bone time as you see fit! 1-2 fresh bones per week should keep your dog healthy and happy. Take a look at your dog’s teeth before you start feeding bones, then reexamine after 2 weeks of bone chewing. I’d be surprised if you didn’t find improvement, and would love to see photos. You can email them to


Bone chewing can become a social activity, but it’s better to try that once the novelty has worn off a little.

Pet Projects

Monthly Pet Project

February was National Pet Dental Health Month. I can totally see why. How many of you have spent a lonely Valentine’s Day with only your beloved Haustier by your side, sobbing, allowing them to lick the tears from your cheeks, only to discover that they have HORRID breath? Oh, no one? I’d love to know the reasoning behind choosing the month of February, or really even designating an arbitrary month for dental health (what is March? Mold? December? Poison awareness?)

Regardless of the fact that it is no longer February, I’ve got a monthly pet project for you for the month of June:

Look inside your pet’s mouth. Wait, what? He wont let you because you’ve never tried? Or maybe he lets you and you see stalactites? Either way, now is a good time to get your pet used to having it’s mouth examined. Oral issues often go unnoticed for too long due to our unwillingness to push past our pet’s initial displeasure at having their mouths pried open. It’s always a good idea to start when your pet is fully enriched – maybe a half an hour after a nice, long walk and meal, while they’re resting. The first time, don’t explore too much, just make sure you take a look at their incisors, canines, and carnassial teeth.

Here’s a photo of Cao’s mouth. I’ve identified two of the main problem teeth: the canine and the carnassial. As you can see, Cao has some greying on the back side of her canine – this is common, especially in older dogs. Her carnassial tooth is mostly clean (from chewing the random deer femur she scavenges). If you want to see the other end of the spectrum, search “canine (or feline) dental disease”. There should be no yellow buildup, and no inflamed pink area around the gum border.

Once you’ve taken a look, there’s a follow up to this month’s Pet Project: Take care of your pets’ teeth. However you can/will do it. Almost all veterinarians recommend brushing, but it’s hard to find people who comply enough to make a difference. Below are some ideas for alternatives. I have seen some horrifying dental disease that has been incredibly expensive to correct, but also, many gastrointestinal problems that we see are partially caused by dental disease. We’ve also seen a rash of oral cancers caused by chronic gingivitis and irritation from plaque build up.

For dogs we recommend chewing lots of raw marrow bones. You have to introduce them slowly to minimize risk of GI upset, but once your dog is acclimated, they should probably be chewing 1-2 new raw bones per week. Yes, you will spend money on bones, but sedated dentistries in our area (Montana – relatively cheap) start in the several hundreds. Make sure that you supervise your dog while chewing, and remove the bones when they begin to break into shards. Stay tuned for a forthcoming master class in bones.

You can also do facial dental massage from the outside on both your cat and dog. Just rub your pet’s cheeks firmly against their teeth, especially their molars. Most pets seem to enjoy this, it can help you pair bond with your pet, and it gets them acclimated to having their face handled intensively. Make sure you start when they are already relaxed, and you’ll have a willing recipient.

If you do end up going for professional dental care, look for a veterinarian who is willing to at least attempt to clean the teeth without sedation. You can make cleaning without sedation a more likely option by examining your pet’s mouth often and in many locations, e.g. the car, out on a walk. Just doing it at home won’t work. Also, make sure that when you take your pet in, you give your vet a fighting chance. That means a 1-2 hour walk before the appointment for most dogs, and at home acclimation to the carrier for a cat as well as a calming massage.

If your pet can have it’s teeth cleaned without sedation, have it done every time you visit the vet. If you are comfortable, you can also get a scaler and do it at home when your animal is fully relaxed. I recommend a massage beforehand.

Feel free to share pictures of your pet’s teeth in the comments below if you’re able to get one – that’s advanced level pet mouth handling!

Pet Projects

Weekend Pet Project

Montanan dogs are lucky. Of all the places I’ve lived, the Bozeman area has got to have some of the most involved, thoughtful dog-owners. Ease of access to the outdoors is one of the many reasons that this area has received such an influx in the last 15 years, and everyone seems to want a dog to share it with. Trailheads in the area are full of well-mannered canines navigating the woods off-leash. People not only walk their dogs, they GET OUT with them.

Watching Cao’s rapt enjoyment of the outdoors magnifies the beauty and keeps me walking long after I would have otherwise turned for home. The dog that is usually warming one end of the couch is steeplechasing deadfall, frenetically digging for voles, and buzzing my legs as she rushes from one new smell to the next.

It’s not always convenient to make time in your schedule for a dedicated outing, but that’s the assignment for this week: Take your dog somewhere new and let your dog dictate the length of the walk. Walk as fast or as slow as you want to, but turn off your phone (better yet, leave it at home), bring warm gear, and look around. Watch your dog. Is he panting after only a few minutes? How’s her recall? Is he checking in? When has she had enough? How can you tell?

What can this walk tell you about your dog’s level of enrichment? We all make the effort to give our dogs what they need, but how often do we (willingly) let them dictate the duration of an activity?

When you’ve completed your project, post a picture of where it took you and let us know about your observations.

Willing Partnership

Willing Partnership


The human-animal bond is a relationship worth exploring. The Domesticates blog, podcasts and video series serves to aid readers in creating a willing partnership; a relationship in which the needs of both animal and human parties are fulfilled. A willing partnership is an idea that was defined for me by one of my mentors, Dr. Sid Gustafson, a veterinary behaviorist. In his experience, as in mine, domesticated species are happy to please their guardians, as long as we do our part to enrich their lives and cultivate a trusting, respectful relationship.