Why do dogs eat grass?

Dog laying on grassWhy do some dogs not only like to lie on the grass, but also eat it?

Everyone seems to have a theory about why dogs sometimes eat grass, but nobody really knows for certain. Some people think dogs eat grass to get more fiber in their diet.  But since modern commercial diets contain enough fiber, that theory has been dismissed by many.

Another theory is that dogs eat grass to induce vomiting when they’ve eaten something bad. This is because people observe their dogs vomiting after eating grass. However not all dogs vomit after eating grass.

Andrea N. Johnston, DVM, DACVIM, a clinical instructor in internal medicine at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine says that even specialists like her don’t really know. Maybe dogs just like it.

In general, it’s considered that eating a little grass isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it really doesn’t provide much roughage or nutrients.

One caution on grass consumption:  fertilizers and chemicals that may be on the lawn. Another concern is parasites that could be in the dirt and grass.

If you want your dog to have more greens, Dr. Johnston recommends simply feeding them some fresh or cooked vegetables.

Just remember that every dog is different and if your dog is frequently eating grass and vomiting, it wouldn’t hurt to ask your vet about it to make sure he or she doesn’t have some underlying medical condition.

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Meeting new dogs: What’s the best approach?

January 27, 2013 · Posted in Assistance Dogs, Public Interaction, Service Dogs · Comment 
Service dog Whistle and his friend, BuenoService dog Whistle and his new friend, Bueno, after their first meeting


As an experienced assistance dog handler, you may consider yourself to be a total “dog person,” but that doesn’t mean you should assume it’s OK to approach every unknown dog.  For me and Whistle, getting up close and personal isn’t always the best approach.

When I am out alone with Whistle and an unknown dog approaches us, it always makes me somewhat leery until I can discern whether the unknown dog is friendly or unfriendly.

Experts at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine give guidelines on various situations and say that in many cases, it’s best to not approach unknown dogs at all.

  • Is the dog tethered with no person with them?
    An unattended dog on a leash or tether might be more aggressive than usual.  Even a wagging tail is not a surefire sign of a happy dog.  It can also mean the dog is excited or aggressive. If the dog is in “his territory,” such as their yard, it could be an even worse situation, with the dog feeling trapped and that he needs to defend his territory.
  • Is the dog leashed with their owner?
    Always ask permission before approaching any dog, no matter how friendly they might appear. Once you have permission, invite the dog to approach you rather than vice versa.  Don’t pet the dog on top of his head but offer a closed hand for him to sniff. Use a soft voice.
  • Is the dog unleashed with their owner?
    Whether you’re in a dog park or out on the street where the owner just isn’t following the leash law, it is not safe to initiate an interaction with the dog. In this scenario a dog might feel like it needs to protect the owner.
  • Is the dog unleashed with no owner nearby?
    Avoid contact with dogs in this situation. You really can’t always read the dog’s body language. If the dog approaches you and appears aggressive, you should stand still and avoid eye contact.

When I got my first assistance dog, I was trained to use my wheelchair as a buffer between an unknown dog and my service dog. And, in an extreme case, I was taught how to use my wheelchair to protect myself and my dog. Fortunately, I have only had to use this tactic once or twice during my life with a service dog partner. But, I can tell you that the aggressive dog did not like having a 200 pound wheelchair roll over his paw and it was a great diversion to give me and my dog some time to get out of that situation.

In one extreme case, my husband, Franz, had to intervene when a unknown dog came running out of a florist shop to attack Ramona when she and I were entering an outside elevator in Washington, D.C. Franz had to get aggressive with the dog in order to get him to stop the attack. It was a scary experience and it definitely had a negative impact on Ramona’s psyche. After that incident, she became more sensitive to unknown dogs.

Have you had any issues with unknown dogs? And, if so, what tactic worked for you and your assistance dog?

Assistance Dogs at Craig Hospital

October 24, 2012 · Posted in Assistance Dogs, Guide Dogs, Puppyraisers, Service Dogs · Comment 
Retired guide dog HeatherRetired guide dog Heather

Recently my husband Franz, Whistle, and I traveled to Craig Hospital in Denver, Colorado, for my annual physical and re-evaluation of my disability-related medical needs. I’ve been coming to Craig for over 10 years. They are consistently  recognized as one of the top rehabilitation facilities in the country.

During my stays throughout the years, I have noticed one or two other assistance dogs beside Whistle. But during this visit, I have noticed a significant increase in the number of outpatients who are accompanied by an assistance dog.

In addition to service dogs, I also was excited to take a peek at the recreational calendar for the week to see what fun things were happening. Every day there was one or more different therapy dogs who were visiting both inpatients and outpatients. I met a lovely volunteer named Connie. She was accompanied by Heather, a former guide dog who had developed some health issues and had to be retired. Heather made a perfect therapy dog.
We also got to stop by and meet four-month-old, yellow lab Otis. Otis is a Canine Companions for Independence puppy in training. He was nestled under the desk of his puppyraiser and Craig employee, Jeni Exley.

There is also Emil, a yellow lab that works with his partner, Becki, in Follow-up Services.  The first thing Whistle and I noticed was Emil’s luxurious bed that was in the patient waiting area.

Everywhere we’ve turned this week I’ve heard wheelchairs bustling through the hallways and the beautiful sound of collars jingling as service dogs and their human partners are busily traveling the Craig Hospital corridors. Thank goodness for innovative medical facilities like Craig that truly understand and support the role assistance dogs play in the independence of the patients they serve.

How’s your assistance dog’s off-lead recall?

October 3, 2011 · Posted in Assistance Dogs, Training · 6 Comments 
Whistle off-leash

How’s your assistance dog’s off-lead recall? Whistle is an amazing assistance dog and he spends a lot of his time working with me. However, I try to give him several times throughout the day and evening when he can spend some free time in the backyard relaxing and just being a dog.

When he and I were first working together, I really had a hard time getting him to come back to me whenever he was off-lead. He was thoroughly enjoying the sunshine and outdoor smells and was in no hurry to come back inside.

I tried to entice him by making it worth his while to return. I began offering him a tasty treat whenever he would come when I called. That strategy has been pretty successful. However, lately, it seems that when he goes out for his free time in the backyard, he is less anxious to come back inside when I call him.

I was curious if anyone else has this issue with their assistance dog. If so, how have dealt you with it?

ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition Searching for Deserving Families with an Assistance Dog

August 16, 2011 · Posted in Assistance Dogs · Comment 
Extreme Makeover Home Edition

Do you need a home makeover or do you know someone partnered with an assistance dog that does? I just got a call from the Casting Director with ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. She told me they were avidly looking for deserving families for this season’s show and they are particularly interested in working with a family with an assistance dog!

Here’s the info you need to know and what you need to do to apply:

What does it take to be picked for an Extreme Makeover?

The producers are in search of deserving families and deserving people – people who have amazing strength of character and who put their own needs aside to help others. Whether it’s a mom, a soldier, a teacher, or a fireman, they think deserving families are families who inspire those around them. In addition, the producers are looking for families whose houses need major alterations or repair—homes that present serious problems for the family and affect the family’s quality of life.

To be eligible:

A family must own their own single family home and be able to show producers how a makeover will make a huge difference in their lives.

Interested families or those who wish to nominate another family should:

E-mail a short description of their family story to CNPMediacasting@gmail.com

Nominations/submissions must include:

  1. The names and ages of each member of the household
  2. A description of the major challenges within the home.
  3. Explanation of why this family is deserving, or a positive role model in their community.
  4. Photos of the family and a photo of the home
  5. Don’t forget to include a contact phone number.

The deadline: for nominations is August 25, 2011. BUT Don’t Delay! Please send story submissions as soon as possible! For more information on how to apply please visit their website.

Whistle and I can’t wait to see if you and your assistance dog are chosen for this amazing, once-in-a-lifetime adventure! You never know, Ty Pennington and his crew might just be getting ready to drive that famous bus into your neighborhood!!

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