Exploring the Mysteries of the Mind

Category: Doggie Doings

5 (+ 2 Bonus) Tips for a Fun and Fit Dog Walk—and Books for Dog Lovers!

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, as I’ve observed that my style of dog-walking is a bit different from most people’s. Too often the dog walks I see are really dog “strolls” with frequent dog “stops.”

I spend a lot of time sitting at my computer developing what we authors not so lovingly call “writer’s butt.” So I’m always looking for fun ways to get more exercise.

dog sniffing grass

Watson NOT going in a straight line!

One of my favorites is taking my dog Watson for long walks—partly because he loves it, and it gets me outside in the fresh air.

The main goal, however, is to get some aerobic exercise for both of us. Therefore, I need to keep moving at a steady pace, and I need to keep my dog moving too (although he may not always do so in a straight line).

So here are my tips for getting the most out of your dog walks!

Tip #1: Bathroom break first.

A longer dog walk isn’t about going to the bathroom; it’s about fun exercise. So let your dog out into the fenced yard or take them on a short leash to their favorite latrine area first, so they can do their business before you start your exercise walk.

Of course a male dog will still feel the need to mark most bushes and trees but those will be short stops, not prolonged ones, if his bladder is mostly empty before you begin.

Tip #2: Use a harness for maximum control.

pic of front-hook harness

Bonus Tip: If your dog tends to pull a lot, use a front-hook harness. When the dog reaches the end of the leash, their forward momentum just turns them around in a circle. This is a nice one I found on Amazon.com

A harness makes it much easier to control your dog without having to pull on their neck or throat.

(Note: for convenience, I’m following the newer convention of using “their” or “them” to refer to a single dog of either gender.)

Tip #3: Use a long leash.

I prefer a retractable one. I know, a lot of people hate them because they can break and come flying back at you causing injury.

For that reason, it’s important to make sure the leash is sturdy enough for your dog. Watson is medium height but weighs 63 pounds, most of which is pure muscle. Therefore, I like a little overkill in the leash department; I use one that is rated for a 100-pound dog. Also it’s a good idea to replace the leash every couple of years, especially if it is frayed at all.

But if you don’t like retractables, a 12 to 15-foot regular leash is fine. The goal here is to let your dog lag a bit behind to smell his “pee-mails” or trot a bit ahead, while you maintain that steady aerobic pace (fast enough that you are breathing just a little bit heavy after about 10 minutes).

Watson again. :-)

Bonus Tip: When using a retractable leash, always use the safety strap that comes with it, so that if the harness comes off the whole thing won’t come flying back into your face (and you still have control of the dog). Here’s Watson modeling our favorite harness, with the leash’s black safety strap looped through his collar ring.

Tip #4: Give a gentle tug when the dog is nearing the end of the leash’s length.

If the dog has fallen behind, accompany the gentle tug with a verbal command such as “Come on.” After a while, your dog will come most of the time when you just give the verbal command. Again, the goal is that you do not have to stop while your dog investigates that bush or interesting smell. (Of course, if the smell is particularly fascinating, you may still need to add the gentle tug.)

If your dog is trotting ahead (or flat-out running as Watson sometimes does), a gentle tug before they hit the end of the leash will lessen the risk that either you or your dog will be yanked off their feet.

Tip #5: Vary your route.

One of the things I hate about exercise is it’s boring.

To lessen that boredom, I have several routes that I can choose from, so that I’m not looking at the same scenery and my dog isn’t smelling the same smells every time. These routes are of varying lengths, for 20-minute to 45-minute walks.

A brisk walk, averaging 30 minutes a day, is a great way to help keep yourself and your dog reasonably fit.

Oh, and don’t forget to take a poop bag, just in case!

And here are some great books for dog lovers (and a couple of special bargains)!

Authors Of Books For Dog Lovers April Promo

Please visit our Books For Dog Lovers page for book descriptions, Amazon reviews, and links to purchase April’s featured books. If you would like to learn more about the authors in our group, please visit our Meet The Authors page.

Here are the books with special pricing in April:

Keeping Your Dog at a Healthy Weight
By Rachele Baker, DVM

ON SALE for 99 cents April 15-22
Trouble At The Kennel: A Cedar Bay Cozy Mystery
By Dianne Harman

And of course, To Kill A Labrador is just $0.99

A Dog’s Dictionary to Describe the World

I took my dog for a walk the other day.

(Note: those of you who helped me pick Murphy as the name for my new dog, sadly I was reminded a few days later that a dog of that name bit my brother several years ago. So I had to go back to the list. I selected Watson, which also fits this dog’s rather goofy personality.)

So anyway, I took Watson for a walk the other day. And as I was dragging him away from his fascination with a crumpled leaf in the road, I thought about how the world must seem to our dogs.

As we walked around the neighborhood, this “dictionary” of doggie views of the world came to me.

1. Those brown, crunchie things all over the ground (dried leaves) – definition: something that might taste good.

2. Those tall green thingies (bushes) – definition: my favorite place to pee.

3. Those gray clumps of stringy thingies (Spanish moss that has fallen from trees) – definition: my second favorite place to pee.

4. That delicious-smelling pile of gooey stuff that makes Mom yell “leave it!” (three-day-old roadkill) – definition: something that definitely will taste good.

5. That black round, tall thingie (trashcan) – definition: one of several things Mom mysteriously will not let me pee on (I’m pretty sure my neighbors would not appreciate their garages smelling like my dog’s pee when they bring their trashcans in.)

6. Those shiny round thingies with black tubes around them (car tires) – definition: another thing Mom won’t let me pee on (ditto explanation from above).

7. That running lady who smells so good (sweaty, jogging neighbor) – definition: my new best friend if Mom would only let me sniff her in the appropriate places.

8. That interesting spot in the yard that smells so good (skunk spray) – definition: my favorite place to roll.

9. Those funny-looking cats with bushy tails (squirrels) – definition: demons from hell that must be chased up a tree or over the fence.

Any definitions you think your dog would like to add to this dictionary? 😉

Happy Holidays from Watson and me!!

(A friend managed to snap this pic by bribing him with a treat!)

And if you haven’t already done so, grab yourself a copy of my fun Christmas novella, A Mayfair Christmas Carol.

Just $0.99

A Christmas extravaganza in Mayfair, Florida, complete with an ice skating rink. What could go wrong?

When excavation for the skating rink uncovers a decades-old skeleton, its secrets threaten more than the town’s Christmas plans. Worried about her friends in her adopted town and feeling responsible since the let’s-attract-more-tourists idea was hers initially, dog trainer Marcia Banks is determined to help her police detective boyfriend solve the mystery—whether he wants her help or not. Perhaps she can wheedle more out of the townspeople than he can.

But will she and her Black Lab, Buddy, be able to keep the ghost of Christmas past from destroying what is left of Mayfair’s founding family, or will her meddling make matters worse?


The Call of the Woof, New Marcia Banks and Buddy Book is Here!!

Available for PREORDER Now! Releases 7/20/17!

Just 99¢ through 7/21/17

book cover

The Call Of The Woof, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery, #3

Army veteran Jake Black has a new lease on life, thanks to service dog Felix and his trainer, Marcia Banks. Despite a traumatic brain injury, Jake’s able to ride his beloved motorcycle again, with Felix in the sidecar. But his freedom to hit the open road is threatened once more when he and his wife are accused of robbery.

Called in to dog-sit, Marcia can’t sit idly by. She and her mentor dog, Buddy, set out to clear the Blacks’ name, fighting misconceptions about bikers and the nature of TBI along the way. When murder is added to the mix, Marcia redoubles her efforts, despite anonymous threats and her sheriff boyfriend’s strenuous objections, both to her putting herself at risk… and to dragging him along on her wild ride.


Cover Reveal for Next Marcia Banks and Buddy Cozy!

Hi Folks!

Sorry I’ve been quiet for so long. But I’ve been busily editing and polishing the next Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mystery, The Call of the Woof (Book 3).

And today is Cover Reveal Day!! Woot!

Hope to have it up for preorder by 7/10 and release day is 7/20, so stay tuned!

My cover designer, Melinda VanLone found this image. Isn’t he adorable?

book cover

Army veteran Jake Black has a new lease on life, thanks to service dog Felix and his trainer, Marcia Banks. Despite a traumatic brain injury, Jake’s able to ride his beloved motorcycle again, with Felix in the sidecar. But his freedom to hit the open road is threatened once more when he and his wife are accused of robbery.

Called in to dog-sit, Marcia can’t sit idly by. She and her mentor dog, Buddy, set out to clear the Blacks’ name, fighting misconceptions about bikers and the nature of TBI along the way. When murder is added to the mix, Marcia redoubles her efforts, despite anonymous threats and her sheriff boyfriend’s strenuous objections, both to her putting herself at risk… and to dragging him along on her wild ride.


What Makes a Service Dog?

Here’s a clear (and somewhat passionate) description of what is and what is NOT a service dog…

Reblogging this from The (Service) Dog In the Room

by V Parrott

a service dog

copyright by dreamstime.com, right to use purchased

A while ago, I was asked a question about making a dog a service dog. The person meant well so as I was explaining the process, others started listening in and I realized something. There is a huge misconception about what a service dog is, does and how they come to be. So this is my best attempt at explaining.

If you look up Service dog on the internet, 6 of the 8 sites that come up are about registering your dog as a service dog and taking your dog everywhere. It makes it seem like all you need to have a service “dog” is a decently trained pet (apparently the term dog can mean bird, snake, cat, turkey etc), some money, and abracadabra, your animal can go anywhere. Some of these sites are free, but most cost anywhere from $25-$150 for a service animal packet. Once this process is complete, most people think they are free to take their beloved pet anywhere they want. Sadly, these people are breaking the law. And while some realize it, others do not. Once again this is illegal and is not how you “get” a service dog.

Read more…

9 Summer Treats That Can Harm Your Dog

Summer is a fun time for the whole family, including the family dog. And outdoor barbeques and trips to the ice cream parlor are often part of that fun.

But stop and think before sharing your summer treats with your canine best friend. Many common human foods and ingredients are harmful to dogs.

We All Scream for Ice Cream

dog eating ice cream

(photo from video by Fancibaer [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons. Note: dog is actually eating frozen treat made for dogs)

Of course, an all-time favorite treat is ice cream, but please don’t share that cone with your pup and don’t let him/her lick the bowl. Here are two of the three reasons why.

1. Chocolate: A lot of pet owners know chocolate is bad for dogs, but they may not know just how harmful it can be. In very small quantities, it’s probably not a big deal, but why take the chance. In moderate quantities (and dark or baking chocolate is worse), it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst, restlessness and agitation. More extreme symptoms that may lead to death are abnormal heart rhythms, tremors, and seizures.

The main culprit is the chemical, methylxanthine, which is also in other caffeinated substances. So if you spill coffee grounds or beans, be sure to keep Fido away from them until you get them cleaned up.

2. Dairy: Dogs lack the enzyme needed to digest lactose, so milk and other dairy products can cause digestive problems and diarrhea. And some dogs can be allergic to dairy. If the dog is not allergic to them, small quantities of cheese and yogurt are usually tolerated okay.

Cookies and Cakes and Pies, Oh My!

3. Sugar (and substitute sweeteners): Sugar is the third reason why ice cream isn’t a great idea for dogs. It causes for them the same problems it creates for humans–obesity, tooth damage and diabetes. But substitute sweeteners are far, far worse! They often contain Xylitol, which is extremely toxic to dogs. Even small amounts can cause low blood sugar, seizures, liver failure, even death.

flag and apple pie

As American as apple pie! But don’t let Fido have any if there are raisins or nutmeg in there. (photo by Larry D. Moore CC-BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

4. Baking powder, baking soda and yeast: These release gases when they encounter moisture and heat, which is what makes breads and cakes rise and a small clump of sticky dough morph into a tasty light cookie. But when these substances are in your dog’s moist and warm stomach, this gaseous reaction can lead to electrolyte abnormalities (low potassium, low calcium and/or high sodium), and if in large enough amounts, muscle spasms and/or congestive heart failure. In small quantities (as in a corner of a cookie, not the whole thing), baked goods that have been cooked are probably not a problem but never, ever feed your dog raw dough.

5. Nutmeg: Dogs are attracted to this fragrant and tasty spice just as humans are, but anything more than small amounts of it can be harmful to them. Milder doses (say, a teaspoon or two that falls on the floor while you’re baking and is licked up by the four-legged vacuum cleaner) can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Higher doses (if Fido gets into the spice rack and chews through the plastic container), can result in disorientation, hallucinations, increased heart rate and blood pressure, dry mouth, abdominal pain and even seizures.

6. Nuts: In addition to the choking hazard, some nuts are harmful to dogs. As few as 6 macadamia nuts, for example, can cause weakness, depression, vomiting, difficulty walking, tremors, abdominal pain, lameness, and stiffness.

7. Raisins: Raisins and grapes again may pose a choking risk. But the bigger problem is that even in small amounts, they can cause vomiting, lethargy and depression in dogs.

Hot Off the Grill

8. Onions and Garlic: That hamburger or shish kabob may seem harmless, and indeed the meat itself is. Even a grilled tomato is okay for Fido (the tomato plant is poisonous but the fruit itself is fine). But don’t give him a chunk of onion or garlic.

Shish kabob (unskewered) -- meat, yes; onions, NO! (photo by Ne1compute, CC-BY-SA -3.0 Wikimedia Commons)

Shish kabob — meat, maybe; onions, NO! (photo by Ne1compute, CC-BY-SA -3.0 Wikimedia Commons)

Indeed, the meat itself may not be okay if it has onion or garlic powder added to it, as burgers and marinade sauces often do. Onions and garlic, even in fairly small amounts, can lead to weakness, vomiting, loss of appetite, dullness, difficulty breathing. And if consumed over a period of time or in large enough quantities, anemia, red blood cell breakdown and death may occur.

Any form is harmful–cooked, uncooked, powdered, etc.–even the little bit found in baby food (sometimes given to older dogs or those with digestive problems). For this reason, dogs should not be given meats, stews or soups prepared for humans (homemade or store bought) since onion and garlic are almost always used to add flavor to these dishes.

9. Corn on the Cob: Corn isn’t the best thing in the world for dogs as it’s a bit hard to digest and high in natural sugar content (dogs on corn are equivalent to children full of sugar). But the corn is not the biggest problem here, the cob is.

Dogs don’t know they’re not supposed to eat the cob and humans looking on might not think anything of it as Fido chows down on it as if it were a bone. After all, dogs chew up all kinds of things, rawhide treats and deer antlers and even their toys.

But corn cobs are indigestible and chunks of them can block the intestines, leading to vomiting or dry heaving, straining during defecation, loss of appetite, stomach pain, whimpering, trembling, restlessness, and increased or decreased drinking.

Some of the symptoms from these foods will dissipate on their own, but it’s best not to take chances. If you notice any of these problems, especially after a cookout or other summer get-together, get your pet to a veterinarian as fast as possible (some of these things are also problematic for cats).

Also, this is hardly a definitive list of all things bad for pets that are good for humans to eat, so before giving your pet any people food, check it and its ingredients out online or consult your veterinarian.

Note: I will be posting about dog related topics periodically. If you’d like to be notified of these posts, please subscribe to the blog. (second subscription option at top on right) Thanks!!

The next Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mystery is out!! (and Book 1 is ON SALE for $0.99 thru Sat. 9/3)


book coverSweet, adorable Lacy has stolen Marcia Banks’ heart, but money is tight. Like it or not, the service dog trainer needs to complete the human phase of the training and deliver the dog to her new owner in order to get paid. But the ex-Army nurse client turns out to be a challenging trainee. On top of her existing neuroses–which go beyond the psychological damage from a sexual assault during her second tour in Afghanistan–the veteran is now being stalked.

When Marcia receives a bizarre warning to stay away from her client and Lacy is also caught in the stalker’s malicious orbit, Sheriff Will Haines steps in to investigate. Marcia finds this both endearing and annoying, especially when he expects her to stay on the sidelines. The training fee would make her solvent again, but how can she put her dogs at risk?

Maybe Marcia should be more worried about herself, since the stalker has decided to pay her off in a very different way.




And To Kill A Labrador is ON SALE for just 99 cents from 8/27 to 9/3 (It’s already reduced on some retailers.)

ToKillALabrador FINALMarcia (pronounced Mar-see-a, not Marsha) likes to think of herself as a normal person, even though she has a rather abnormal vocation. She trains service dogs for combat veterans with PTSD. And when the ex-Marine owner of her first trainee is accused of murdering his wife, she gets sucked into an even more abnormal avocation–amateur sleuth.




Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑