Combat Doggie Boredom

Sometimes the things that make a dog particularly desirable for us—intelligence, attentiveness, playfulness, youth—are the very things that can work against the dog owner when a dog is left to its own devices. None of us really want to leave our dogs alone, but sometimes it’s unavoidable.

As hidden doggie cams have shown, dogs get bored when left along with nothing to keep them occupied, and they will often get into “trouble” precisely because they are trying to find things to keep their little doggie brains occupied. A plush toy will only go so far to keep your dog busy, and then he or she will seek out other occupations such as chewing, swallowing small objects, barking incessantly, digging, howling, pacing, etc.

Many breeds have been created to look like stuff animals, and sometimes people forget that dogs are living, breathing beings that need stimulation just like we do. Clearly they don’t require the level of activity that humans require, but enduring hours of nothingness into perpetuity could make even the most steadfast companion go a little nuts.

Unfortunately we all can’t stay at home to play with our pets on a daily basis, but there are many ways you can make small inroads into keeping your best friend in a healthy state of mind, and not all of them cost money.

One of my personal favorites is to save all my extra paper goods (that would have ultimately gone into the trash or recycle bin, and re-use them one last time as a doggie puzzle or treat container. I save cardboard boxes, paper towel tubes, toilet paper tubes and paper bags, and any paper based packing materials.

When my dogs look bored, I get out one of my saved “containers” and put a few treats inside, and then close it up again and place it by the dog and encourage him to “find the treat” inside. It doesn’t take much prompting for him to fall to the task with gusto.

My female dog finds boxes a bit too much effort, but she LOVES paper bags and cardboard tubes, so I save those for her. It’s super easy to just pinch closed the ends of the tubes. Granted it takes her less time, but it’s still fun for her.

Another way I make my “leaving the house” time more acceptable for my dogs is to set up a “treasure hunt” with tiny bits of treats that I “hide” all over the house. Most of them are in plain sight but they still have to sniff them out and it takes them much longer to finish this game, and even after they have found most all of the treats they will continue to search for awhile.

I love staying and watching them playing this game, as well, because it’s so rewarding to see them keenly attuned to discovery…ears pricked forward, neck stretched out, eagerly scenting the air…isn’t this the type of activity they are really built for, after all?

Of course, these methods aren’t a substitute for walks (which stimulate their brain when they sniff along the route) and exercise (which keeps their brain chemistry optimal), but they help.

For those of you willing to shell out some cash to keep your dog busy, doggie puzzle toys are becoming more popular, and will keep your pooch occupied for a longer period. If you have friends with dogs you could set up an exchange to trade puzzle toys when your dogs get them figured out. Typically these puzzles will have varying degrees of difficulty, and some will let you work up to the hardest level so your dog doesn’t get so discouraged that he gives up before finding the treats.

Another way to keep your dog’s mind busy is to purchase a few DVDs (or shoot your own video at the dog park) and play it in your TV or computer monitor. You could also find a doggie webcam and leave your computer one while you are gone.

If you have any tried and true methods to keep your own pooch occupied, please share in the comments!

Photo Credit: Vaughn Hannon (top) and Silly Eagle Books

Mexico’s “Itchy-Scratchy Clinics”

Reprinted from “Best Friends” and written by Sharon St. Joan

This past Sunday, on May 6, in Tijuana, Mexico, forty-five dogs were spayed or neutered and fourteen more dogs were treated for fleas, ticks, or mange.

The Humane Society of Tijuana, who announce on their website that they are “a Mexican humane organization, organized by Mexicans to help solve the problems in Mexico”, are making a big difference in the lives of animals in Tijuana. Street clinics and spay/neuter clinics are being set up for street animals and the animals of families who cannot afford vet care or to get their dogs spayed/neutered.

Just south of San Diego, what used to be a small border town exploded from a population of 245 in 1900 to nearly two million today. Just as people suffer from trafficking along the border and the high crime rate, animals in Tijuana also suffer greatly.

The Humane Society of Tijuana is responding to the needs of these animals.

Two more projects are planned for the near future: On May 25, a street clinic will be held for de-worming and for treating animals for fleas, ticks, and mange. The street clinic is called Clinica de Desparicitacion, and its nickname is the “Itchy-Scratchy Clinic”! The clinic will be held starting at 9 AM at the DIF Center in Salvatierra, a suburb of Tijuana. This will be run entirely by the Humane Society of Tijuana.

The second project, to be held on June 3, will be a spay/neuter clinic, starting at 9 AM, also to take place at the DIF Center in Salvatierra. This is to be sponsored jointly by United Hope for Animals and the Humane Society of Tijuana.

United Hope for Animals, in Pasadena, California, helps the animals in the low-income areas of Tijuana and Southern California. By forming a positive relationship with the management of the Tijuana dog pound (perrera), they have been able to bring about significant changes there.

In past years, the animals there were “euthanized” by electrocution. Now United Hope for Animals is able to send volunteers into the Tijuana dog pound to euthanize the dogs in a humane way. Becoming no-kill is still a long way away, and, until that becomes possible, this approach provides a much kinder ending for the animals.

Tijuana is a city in which the animals are very much in need of help, and the Humane Society of Tijuana is taking on a huge task.

How you can help

If you live nearby and you’d like to volunteer, or if you’d like to make a donation, these are the websites:

United Hope for Animals:

The Humane Society of Tijuana:

Photo: Humane Society of Tijuana / Leticia Coto, President



Why Spay/Neuter your pet?

Unbelievably, just one unaltered female dog, her mate, and their litters can produce over 67,000 puppies in a scant six years!  While in the U.S., more than four million unwanted dogs and cats are euthanized annually, taxpayers rest assured that, in spite of this grim statistic, most of these animals die humanely and without undue suffering in the pounds and shelters across the country.

Last year, over 15 million cats and dogs were killed in animal shelters and pounds in the United States, and this figure does not include the many pets who were thrown out of cars, left by the side of the road, or dropped in woods and fields. Yet we can’t kill the myths that are perpetuating their destruction.

Then why don’t more people spay or neuter their pets? There are a number of myths that people believe which hinder their decisionmaking.

Which of these myths do you still believe?

MYTH: It’s better to allow your female to have one litter before she is spayed.
FACT: Not true! There is no information to substantiate this claim. In fact, the best time to spay your female dog or cat is before her first heat.

Here are the details:

  • Spaying your female at a young age prevents uterine infections, such as pyometra, which can be fatal. Infections of the uterus are a major cause of illness in unspayed pets.
  • Spaying reduces the incidence of mammary (breast) cancer. This is a very common cancer in unspayed females, and the most common cancer to spread to the lungs.
  • Spaying can be done while your pet is pregnant. While this means aborting the offspring, it is more humane than taking them to the pound later. Also, for every litter you bring into the world, a litter at the pound dies.
  • Spaying eliminates unwanted males from harassing your pet.
MYTH: Preventing pets form having litters is unnatural.
FACT: We have already interfered with nature by domesticating dogs and cats. We domesticated the dog 15,000 years ago and the cat 8,000 years ago.

In doing so, we helped create this problem. Now it’s our responsibility to solve it. It’s also unnatural to be killing so many of them in our pounds and shelters each year.

MYTH: I want my children to see the miracle of birth.
FACT: Frequently animals go off by themselves to give birth, usually in the middle of the night.

Teach your children instead about humaneness and kindness to all living creatures by educating them about the importance of spaying and neutering.

MYTH: I’ll find good homes for all the puppies and kittens.
FACT: You may find homes for all of your pet’s litter. But each home you find means one less home for the dogs and cats in shelters who need good homes.

Also, in less than one year’s time, each of your pet’s offspring may have his or her own litter, adding even more animals to the population. The problem of pet overpopulation is created and perpetuated one litter at a time.

MYTH: Pets become fat and lazy after being spayed or neutered.
FACT: Fat animals are usually over fed and under exercised.

It’s true there can be a tendency for a pet to put on some weight after the operation. But what is not true is that the operation causes the condition. If your pet shows signs of putting on a little weight, reduce the calories and increase the walks or play sessions. That will keep the waistline trim.

MYTH: A pet’s behavior changes dramatically after surgery.
FACT: The only changes in behavior you’ll see are positive ones! Here are the facts:
  • Male cats tend to reduce their territorial spraying depending upon the age at which they are neutered. If neutered young enough, before they develop the habit of spraying, they may never develop the behavior.
  • Neutered male cats and dogs fight less resulting in fewer battle scars, contagious diseases, and abscesses. They also wander less since they aren’t interested in pursuing the female in heat. Therefore, their chances of being hit by a car or getting lost are greatly reduced.
  • In fact, spayed and neutered animals live longer, happier, healthier lives.
MYTH: We don’t need to neuter males, because they aren’t the ones having the litters.
FACT: This is most prevalent myth yet the most ridiculous. Immaculate conception doesn’t explain canine and feline pregnancies.

It takes two to tango. Help to become a part of the solution to bring an end to the pet over population problem spay/neuter your pets.

MYTH: Neutering male cats causes urethral obstructions.
FACT: Exhaustive studies have indicated that obstructions are not affected by whether or not a cat is neutered.

In fact, neutering diminishes the likelihood of prostate and testicular cancers and perineal hernias later in life. To prevent urethral obstructions, make sure your pet is eating the best diet possible.

MYTH: I can find “good” homes for all the puppies or kittens that female birth to.
FACT: Finding truly good, lasting homes for kittens and puppies is very difficult.

Many pets are taken to the pound or otherwise discarded once they start to grow. And, who is to ensure that your pet’s offspring won’t mature, breed, and contribute to the existing problem?

There is no way you can guarantee these animals will be spayed or neutered. Also, for every animal you bring into the world, one at the pound will die. Do yourself a favor and avoid the agonizing job of trying to find homes for your pet’s litter. If you know of some good homes, send your friends to the pound. There are many animals waiting there. And their time is running out.

MYTH: My dog won’t be a good watchdog if I neuter him.
FACT: If he was a good watchdog before the surgery, he will be a good watchdog after the surgery.
MYTH: The operation costs too much money.
FACT: There is A LOT of financial help available. Call us (909-801-0012) or your local humane agency about the cost- effective ways you can get your pets spayed and neutered. You’ll be surprised how inexpensive it can be!

If your pet isn’t spayed or neutered, make an appointment today for surgery. The more altered animals there are, the fewer homeless ones there will be.

If you would like to find low-cost spay/neuter services, we hope you will find the following information helpful.

  • SPAY/USA, a program of The Pet Savers Foundation, is a nationwide network and referral service for affordable spay/neuter services.Call 1-800-248-SPAY (7729) or go to for more information. Hours are Monday-Friday from 9 am- 4:30 pm (Eastern time).
  • For families in the Los Angeles area with income of under $40,000/yr, the San Simeon Foundation offers FREE spay/neuter services for free out of their mobile van. For more information, please call (888) 364-7729 or visit the San Simeon Foundation website.
  • Actors and Others for Animals provides FREE spay/neuter for pit bulls and pitbull mixes, as well as Rottweiler and Rottweiler mixes. Participants must meet certain qualifications. For more information, please call (818) 755-6045 or (818) 755-6323.
  • The L.A. Spaymobile state-of-the-art mobile clinic provides free spay and neuter surgery for dogs and cats living with income-qualified families in the City of Los Angeles. If you receive a Department of Water and Power bill, then you live within the city limits. For information on qualifications, as well as a schedule of clinic locations, visit L.A. Animal Services website at or call (800) 772-9452 to make an appointment.
  • Try a zipcode search on the ASPCA website to find providers in your area.


Call me a sentimental old fool but I was sitting watching an old (1998) music video from Faith Hill ‘Let me let go’ on TV and was thinking about past loves lost when Sarah jumped into my lap and I felt the total comfort of pure uncomplicated love for this little beautiful animal. I don’t know how you could have let her go after being with her for some two months. She is a treasure, so close to my heart; I am inspired by her gracing my life and my space. Thank you for bringing her to me.

John Mapleback

(Pictured Right: John’s other dog Buddy who is 15 years old.)

John writes:
“Sarah and Buddy (“puppy”) play constantly. They wear each other out. They are both eating lots of food and sleeping well. Sarah is so vocal she is quite funny; she makes all kinds of little squeaks and noises, both awake and asleep. She is a total delight and we all love her arrival in our home”.

Sarah, her brother and sister were abandon behind a dumpster in Tecate Mexio when they were only 4 weeks old. Gabriele, Sarah’s sister is happy and also living in a loving home; sadly the boy was not strong enough to survive.