Monday, March 8, 2010

Mika's Wheat-Free/Corn-Free Biscuits

Some Cotons are known to suffer from food allergies such as wheat and corn. So, my mom developed this dog biscuit recipe for me, so I could avoid eating either in a treat. Try them. They are so good that when I am given one, I try to find a special place in the house to hide it! She adds a bit of my dry dog food to the recipe to get me to eat a bit more food, as I'm a picky eater.

Mika's Biscuits

1/2 lb. ground chicken or turkey, baked until crisp.
14-oz. container chicken broth
1/4-1/2 cup of your dog's dry dog food, ground
1 22-oz. pkg. oat or rice flour
Dash garlic

Mix above ingredients together until you can form a ball. Add a bit of water if more liquid is needed. Take a heaping tablespoon of batter and form into a rectangle and place on cookie sheet. Bake biscuits at 325 degrees for about 1 hour to 1 hour 1/2, until crisp. Turn a couple of times during baking. Store in airtight container after biscuits have completely cooled.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Can Dogs Sense An Earthquake?

This morning at about 4:00 a.m., I woke up because I felt something strange, unusual, out of the ordinary for my household. I felt a shaking that wasn't normal. I sleep in bed with my human parents and when they get in and out of bed there is a bit of movement, but this was something more.

My Alarm System
I started barking to alert everyone. My dad woke up, as a result of my barking, but not because he felt the strange shaking when I did. My mom slept through the whole thing!

What I felt was a 3.8-magnitude earthquake. The epicenter of the quake was in Kane County, not far from here. The shaking was also felt in Indiana, Michigan, Iowa and Wisconsin.

Now, was I, a canine of the world, able to sense the shaking of this quake before my human parents? Is there something about us dogs that make us more sensitive to the vibrations of an earthquake?

Strange Behavior Reported Long Ago
Reporting of unusual animal behavior before earthquakes dates back all the way to Greece in 373 BC. There were reports that snakes, weasels, rats, even centipedes, left their homes days before a destructive earthquake hit.

Why Dogs Can Sense A Quake
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the cause of unusual animal behavior seconds before we humans feel the shaking of a quake can be easily explained. In a quake, few humans notice the smaller P wave that travels the fastest from the earthquake epicenter and arrives before the larger S wave. But many animals with more keen senses are able to feel the P wave seconds before the S wave arrives. Whether or not animals can sense a coming quake days or weeks beforehand though is another story all together.

There was a popular notion that there might be a correlation between lost pet ads in the San Jose Mercury News and the dates of earthquakes in that area. But, a careful statistical analysis, which was published in California Geology in 1988, showed that there is no correlation.

More Studies Need to Be Done
So, can animals predict earthquakes? According to many people who have seen the strange behavior in their animals before a quake hits, they indeed can. If you asked my dad this morning, he would say that it is true. More studies need to be done to conclusively say whether it is fact. Most studies on this behavior are being done in Japan and China.

For more information on earthquakes, go to the U.S. Geological Survey at

Monday, January 11, 2010

Easy Sweet Potato Dog Treats

Today my mom made me some of my favorite sweet potato dog treats. You know how chocolate is heaven to you humans? Well, these are my heaven. (By the way, NEVER feed chocolate to your pet. It will make them very sick.) These are easy to make, delicious, packed with vitamins, and I've talked my mom into sharing the recipe with you. These treats sell in the stores for $4-$5 for a small bag, so why not make your own.

Mika's Sweet Potato Dog Treats

Cut 2 small to medium-size sweet potatoes into 1/8 inch (or thinner) slices. Spread out on a microwaveable plate. Cook in microwave until at a near-dry stage, in segments of 2-3 minutes at a time (about 5-7 times overall). During this cooking time, stir every 2 minutes, making sure to again spread the slices out on the plate for even cooking. When almost dry, decrease the amount of cooking time to 1-minute segments and microwave until dry and crisp (about 2-3 times). The slices will dry out a bit more when cooling, so don't overcook (or they may burn). Cool on plate.

These can also be made in the oven. Bake at 250-degrees for 30 minutes. Check for dryness, stir and then continue to bake at 15-30 minute intervals until dry. These store well in a canister or jar. Enjoy!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Resource Guarders Unite!

I Got Myself in Trouble--Again!

This morning I worked my way into Eric's room (my human brother), and found his recycle basket, filled to the brim with lots of used paper. What a find! What a treasure!

I immediately seized on the empty box of Dots sitting temptingly on top of the pile and ran out of the room with doggie glee. You see, I'm what's known in the animal behavior community as a "resource guarder" --a dog who will guard at all costs what they most treasure. It's a fairly common behavior problem in dogs. I have a fetish for paper, plastic, anything I can pick up on a walk around the block. I usually return from a walk with something in my mouth. This morning my treasure just happened to be paper from Eric's room and I went at it with enthusiastic vigor, ripping the box to smithereens. You can see the result of my work in the photo above (at left). What fun!

When I was a wee pup I got a hold of a wad of tissue and would not let it go. My human dad, thinking I would certainly perish if I ingested this tissue, made a concerted effort to get it away from me. I gave him fair warning, as many resource guarders do, that I didn't want to let it go. I growled and growled, quite deliberately. He didn't get it. Dad kept up his attempts to release the tissue from my firm grasp and I had no choice; I had to bite him. It wasn't your average run-of-the-mill innocent puppy snap; it was a full-blown bite. My mom shrieked in horror. My dad yelled at me as he had never done before or since.

That did it. My mom and dad hadn't figured me out by then and this episode only added to their frustration with me. Puppyhood had been a challenge thus far and this reinforced for my mom that I was one unacceptable and aggressive dog. But, after she calmed down and got over her initial fear, my mom did what she always does when she's confused, when she doesn't understand--she did some research. She looked on the internet for when dogs bite in such situations and found out the name for such behavior--resource guarding. Then she bought a good little book called Mine: A Practical Guide to Resource Guarding in Dogs by respected dog trainer Jean Donaldson. It's filled with lots of good information about dogs like me and how to best treat our behavior, which can be a challenge for humans. The book is available from

As described in Donaldson's book, there are different types of resource guarders: food guarders, object guarders, location guarders, owner guarders and dogs who guard miscellaneous things. I happen to guard objects. My parents are glad I don't guard my food. That would be a tough one to deal with, they think--especially if there were young kids around. I don't guard my food, maybe because I'm not that crazy about it! Give me biscuits, smelly jerky treats or dried sweet potatoes.

Teach Commands

In my obedience class, the trainer gave my parents some wise advice. The trainer said, "With a resource guarder you need to exchange the item they are guarding for something they consider better." That did the trick. Now when I hold onto something that might be a danger to me or something I might damage, my parents offer me a piece of dehydrated chicken (like the chicken tender treats you find in the store--only my mom makes them in the oven) and then they tell me to "drop it." I usually comply.

It helps with a resource guarder like me to teach us the commands "drop it" and "leave it." Some dogs are good enough to drop what they have for any treat with the "drop it" command. Really good dogs will eventually do it for no treat at all! Some resource guarders can be pickier than that though, like I am. With the "leave it" command, sometimes we'll leave an item alone before we even pick it up. So, look up those obedience commands online and teach them to your resource guarder.

Once my parents got information about resource guarding, they began to understand me better and how to deal with my problem. Things resource guarding-wise have gone better since that first biting incident. I haven't bitten my parents for trying to take something away (or anyone else). We do our exchanges and that works well. My parents also found that with some items I pick up, I will eventually drop them on my own. But, I may have made a mess of things in the meantime if I've ripped the item apart, like I did this morning with the empty Dot box. So I make a little mess now and then. Don't we all?

After all this talk about me growling and biting, Mom wanted me to say that I am really a very sweet dog. I love to be around people, especially kids. I get a kick out of chasing them and I've never been aggressive with them. My mom has been sure to tell the neighbor kids not to try to take something from my mouth--that it is something for my parents to do. I like most dogs too, except for the big ones who rush me. Big dogs, approach with a little hesitation please, and I'll do a lot better. I'm really a chicken at heart!

So, resource guarders unite. Dog owners, educate yourselves. Read some good material on the resource guarding behavior and things will get a lot better. As with people, we dogs just need a little understanding.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Don't call me anything but a Coton de Tuléar

Hi, I'm a dog named Mika (pronounded "Meeka") and I'm a Coton de Tuléar (Coton for short). Coton means cotton in French, thus the name. If you had the privilege of petting me, you'd see and feel where the name came from. I'm soft and fluffy and just downright irresistible. When some people first see me, they sometimes think I'm a Maltese. I am completely insulted by that. OK, that may be a bit strong, but I am NOT a Maltese or a Poodle or a Westie. So, if you meet me on the street, please refer to me by my proper breed name. I am most certainly a Coton.

My ancestors came from the island of Madagasgar (off the continent of Africa). A main port city there is Tuléar, also a part of my breed name. So, I've come a long way from there to the United States. How did we get to Madagasgar in the first place? Some think way back in the 16th and 17th centuries pirates brought us to Madagascar on their ships, either for companionship or to control the rats and such on board. I control the squirrel population in our yard by chasing them up trees, so the latter might be true!

I'm considered a rare breed and you won't find one of my relatives at the AKC dog show on TV. My mom says I am as rare as they come, personality-wise. Some of my personality traits fall into the typical profile of the Coton; I'm happy, playful and affectionate. But, all dogs are different, so you can't pigeonhole us dogs anymore than I could you humans. We are all unique, in our own peculiar ways.

Sometimes my parents call me a "stinker." I don't know if it is because I grab their slippers when they're not looking, just to get their attention. Today I got a hold of my mom's cold weather hat, that she likes to wear when we take a long walk, and took off with it. I love that hat. It has fake fur on it and resembles the squirrels I chase in the yard. In fact, my mom looks like she's got a squirrel on her head when she has it on. I don't think she knows how goofy she looks in it. Maybe that's why people point deliberately our way as we pass. Or, it could be because they think I'm one fine sight to behold!

Well, I'm off to get into some more trouble, so have to sign off for today. I'll write more later, on how my parents trained me (ha!) and the peculiarities I have that my mom refers to. She loves me though. How do I know? She feeds me, takes me for those walks, kisses my grungy face and just puts up with me in general. I guess that makes me one lucky Coton de Tuléar.