July 4th – People Have Fun – Pets Have Fears

By | Behavior, Client Education, News/ Events

The 4th of July can be very stressful for many pets. Some become so terrorized by the loud noises and the fireworks they panic and run away from home.  In fact, July 5th is one of the busiest days of the year for animal shelters.  But while many escaped pets end up there, many others are injured, killed or lost for good.

Include protecting your pet as part of your holiday planning

– Keep your pets inside on the 4th and don’t leave them home alone

– Secure the house against escapes.

– Close all doors and windows

– Put the pet in a “safe room” to decrease noise from the outside.

– Use TV or music to help cover the firework noise

– Distract your pet with toys and food puzzles

– Try calming apparel such as Thundershirts, ear muffs and caps

– Consider Pheromone sprays that give the pet a feeling of well-being…   Feliway for cats and Adaptil for dogs are available at pet stores.


Plan ahead for the likelihood your pet does escape

– Before July 4, Microchip your pet and have their collar and tags on

– Make sure the chip is registered and the contact information is up to date

- Take current pictures of your pet.  They may be needed for posters, emails and faxes

– Immediately contact local animal control units, shelters, rescue groups and veterinarians

– Discuss desensitizing and counterconditioning your pet with your veterinarian


What about drugs?

– In some cases, your veterinarian can prescribe drug therapy that may help.

– Sedatives, tranquilizers, anti-anxiety and other drugs have been used.

– However, the drug therapy approach is not always predictable or successful.

– When used alone, drug therapy often fails.

– Drug therapy more effective when used in combination with other recommendations.

Brown and white cat with white maltese dog at the vet

New Faces-New Places: An Education in Socialization

By | Behavior

“We just can’t take you anywhere!”

Have you ever said this to that friend who always does the wrong thing, is out of control, doesn’t fit in and messes up every situation? What if that “friend” is your dog?

If you have a puppy it’s important to expose him to a variety of people and places early on so nothing comes as a big scary surprise. But success can be all about timing.

Get on Board with Socialization Before that “Training Train Has left the Station

The goal of socialization is to have a dog with a good stable personality . . . a “superdog” . . . one that’s part of the family, is a good neighbor, and plays well with others, both two legged and four legged.

The optimal socialization period for puppies is between 3 and 12 weeks. This is when they learn rules and behaviors, and what is expected of them as a dog.

If the pup has the wrong experiences or misses these experiences altogether they may not have the tools needed to accept both dogs and humans and learn to live in both worlds.

For example if you take a puppy from the litter too soon he won’t learn “dog” lessons such as bite inhibitions or “play with me” posturing. You may end up with aggression problems because he’s not used to interacting with other dogs.

Similarly if a dog is only around other dogs he may not have developed the ability to bond with humans.

Generally, there is a 6-12 week window which is the secondary time frame to socialize the dog to humans. If that process is delayed it may be impossible to socialize.

So by 12 weeks, a puppy should be able to meet new and different people in a variety of situations without fear or aggression.

Socializing is not that hard and can be done through repetitive play, speech and touch. That’s called habituation, which is getting a dog used to stuff.

Of course it’s hard to anticipate every situation your dog might encounter.

Our dog Foxy, calm and relaxed in most settings is not bothered at all by the noisy vacuum cleaner, even when it gets close to her. But she was terrified the first time a locomotive train with a loud horn went by. And while cows don’t faze her she is uncomfortable around horses.

Even our lizard showed intense dislike to any man wearing a hat.

But familiarity breeds content. So get out there and take your dog with you.

But this does raise another issue.

Does the optimum period for socialization conflict with the conventional wisdom of keeping other dogs away from young puppies who are susceptible to diseases? We’ll answer this question in the next installment:

In the House, On the Porch, In the Yard, At the Park –How Far Should A Pup Go?

Have a question about your pet or its behavior?
Contact us at Johnson Ranch Animal Clinic by
texting or calling 480-987-4555.

Married man and woman smiling

How Did the Dog Get to the Turkey?

By | Behavior, RIKKI "Tails"

One day, just after Thanksgiving, I arrived at the clinic in time to witness two technicians trying to get a 40-pound dachshund to throw up.

“Boy that’s the biggest, fattest dachshund I’ve ever seen,” I observed.

“Well he’s even fatter than usual after eating a turkey leg, “said one of the technicians.

Soon, the hydrogen peroxide mixture was doing its job and the dog was heaving miserably into a bucket.

“How did the dog get to the turkey?”

I asked. “I mean it’s a big dachshund but it still has those short little legs.”

“Oh, at about two in the morning the dog snatched the turkey off the coffee table,” another vet tech mentioned casually.

“Why was the dog prowling around the house in the middle of the night, and besides, who leaves a turkey out all night on a coffee table?” I wondered out loud, my housekeeping sensibilities offended.

About an hour later I noticed there was still a dachshund sitting on the exam table, but this one looked considerably smaller.

“Is that the same dog I saw before that ate the turkey?” I asked. “He looks so little now. He must have thrown up the whole bird.”

“This dog ate turkey all right,” Dr. Marc told me. “But it’s the other dog’s sister. They both stuffed themselves but the bigger dog got the lion’s share.”

During my next visit to the clinic, I noticed a tiny black and brown dog the size of a Chihuahua. The poor dog, which must have weighed all of three pounds, was standing on the exam table shivering and shaking.

“What’s wrong with this little guy?”

I asked.

chihuahua“It ate a ham” one of the technicians said.

“That dog’s not even as big as a ham,” I observed. Then, remembering the coffee table turkey I added, “How could it have snatched a ham? Where was this ham? On the floor?”

“I don’t know,” Marc sounded exasperated. “Owners didn’t even realize the ham was gone. Besides, this is nothing new. Had a beagle in here that ate a whole ham as well.”

“Why are there so many untended hams and turkeys around?”

I wondered aloud as the small dog started vomiting. The clinic was turning into a support group for bulimics.

“You know,” I mentioned to Marc, “it seems they should change that expression, ‘eats like a pig’ to ‘eats like a dog.’”

Have a question about your pet or its behavior?
Contact us at Johnson Ranch Animal Clinic by
texting or calling 480-987-4555.

Close up image of chihuaha face


By | Behavior, Client Education

A dog’s sense of smell is about 1,000 to 10,000,000 times more sensitive than a human’s (depending on the breed). While you have about 5 million scent glands, a dog, depending on the breed, has anywhere from 125 million to 300 million making your dog’s sense of smell 10,000 to 100,000 times better than yours. And the part of a dog’s brain that is used to analyze smells is, proportionally speaking, 40 times greater than a human’s.

Dogs’ noses function quite differently from ours. When we inhale, we smell and breathe through the same airways within our nose. When dogs inhale, a fold of tissue just inside their nostril helps to separate these two functions.

Dogs also have a second olfactory capability, due to the Jacobson’s organ, an organ not found in human. Also called the vomeronasal organ, it’s located in the bottom of a dog’s nasal passage and picks up a variety of pheromones, the chemicals unique to each animal species that signal mating readiness and other sex-related details.

So how good is a dog’s sense of smell? If we used the sense of sight as an analogy, it means that what you can see 1/3 of a mile away, your dog could see 3,000 miles away.

We might notice a teaspoon of sugar in our cup of coffee- A dog can detect that teaspoon of sugar in a million gallons of water. Or one rotten apple in two million barrels.

Face of a tan and white dog with a cute nose.

Cute face, cute nose! At Johnson Ranch Animal Clinic.

A drug sniffing dog detected 35 pounds of marijuana that was packed in a plastic container and submerged in a gas tank filled with gasoline.

A cancer-sniffing dog kept returning to a spot on a patient’s skin that doctors had declared cancer-free. A subsequent biopsy confirmed there was melanoma in a small fraction of the cells.

What does this super sense of smell mean for your family dog’s behavior?

It’s why male dogs that have not been neutered can pick up a scent and follow their nose to the receptive female that might be nowhere in the neighborhood.

It’s why your dog knows there’s a treat sitting on a table that is too high up for him to ever be able to see it.

It’s why the local fire hydrant and/or tree, acts as Fido’s Facebook- letting all the dogs know who’s been by.

Yellow fire hydrant.

Facebook for Dogs in San Tan Valley, waiting for someone to come along and “post” on its time line.



Have a question about your pet or its behavior?  Contact us at Johnson Ranch Animal Clinic by texting or calling  480-987-4555

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270 East Hunt Hwy, Ste. #4
San Tan Valley, AZ 85143