With Real Chicken – the truth behind marketing dog food

It is virtually impossible for consumers to know the health value of packaged pet foods by viewing or feeding them.  Judging merit by product advertising or marketing brochures can also be deceiving.  So it is important for dog owners to understand the ingredients to help make an informed decision on the quality of food they are feeding their dog.

Recently Beneful came out with a new recipe for their dog food.  It’s advertising promotes “with real chicken the first ingredient accented with apples, carrots & green beans”.  Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? But marketing can fool you.

Chicken, whole grain corn, barley, rice, chicken by-product meal, whole grain wheat, corn gluten meal, beef tallow preserved with mixed-tocopherols, soybean meal, oat meal, poultry by-product meal, glycerin, egg and chicken flavor, mono and dicalcium phosphate, calcium carbonate, salt, potassium chloride, poultry and pork digest, avocado, dried carrots, dried tomatoes, MINERALS [zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, manganese sulfate, copper sulfate, calcium iodate, sodium selenite], VITAMINS [Vitamin E supplement, niacin, Vitamin A supplement, calcium pantothenate, pyridoxine hydrochloride (Vitamin B-6), Vitamin B-12 supplement, thiamine mononitrate (Vitamin B-1), Vitamin D-3 supplement, riboflavin supplement (Vitamin B-2), menadione sodium bisulfite (Vitamin K), folic acid, biotin], choline chloride, L-Lysine monohydrochloride, Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 2, garlic oil, Yellow 6.

Let’s look at the first 5 ingredients.

  1.  Chicken: the clean combination of flesh and skin with or without accompanying bone, derived from the parts or whole carcasses of chicken or a combination thereof, exclusive of feathers, heads, feet and entrails.  (Translation: Chicken meat, skin and bone)
  2. whole grain corn:   There is a saying which states, “corn is for hogs, not for dogs.”  Definitely true in this situation
  3. barley: Dogs don’t need corn. And they don’t need wheat, barley, rice or potatoes, either.  Yet surprisingly, carbs represent the dominant nutrient found in most dry dog foods.
  4. rice: same as 2 & 3
  5. Chicken by-product meal: the ground, rendered, clean parts of the carcass of slaughtered chicken, such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs and intestines, exclusive of feathers, except in such amounts as might occur unavoidable in good processing practice.  (Translation: ground up necks, unborn eggs, feet and organs)

Although dogs enjoy eating Beneful, it is not a quality dog food.  Acme Canine gives it 2 paws for creating a better recipe than what was in Beneful before but still has a long way to go before it would be a dog food we would recommend for your dog.

Rewarding without Food

Reward is an integral part of training, and there are many ways in which a dog can be rewarded.  While food or treats may seem like the easiest way to reward your dog for good behavior, it may not always be the best or most effective way.  Food can have limitations as a reward.  Does the dog like the food?  Does he like it enough to do what you are asking?  Will he do the same task without food?  What about dogs that are not food motivated?

Rewarding your dog without the use of food can often be a much easier, convenient, and effective way to instill, capture, and encourage desired behavior.  It is important to understand how dogs learn, and what motivates them before deciding how to reward. A properly timed reward can boost your dog’s confidence, and increase his trust in you.

How Dogs Learn

Similar to humans, dogs learn in a variety of ways.  Dogs, however, do not speak in words; they do not understand any of the human languages.  So, we must find other ways to communicate with them.  How exactly do dogs learn?

  • Trial and Error – A dog learns from being successful and from failing. Dogs are always learning; they are always paying attention.  If they try jumping up and it gets them the attention they want (petting, rubbing, etc) then they learn that jumping works.  If, however, the result of the jump is a knee bump in the chest, or a pop on the leash they learn that jumping is not the best way to get your attention.
  • Mapping – Showing a dog what is required in small steps. Linking these small steps together gives the dog a mental map or sequence of what is required for any given command or task.  This behavior pattern comes from the practice and repetition of a particular routine on a regular basis.
  • Behavior Modeling – Dogs can also learn from other dogs. Dogs can learn a lot by watching other dogs and by being encouraged to join in.  Certain obedience commands, tricks, and even things like how to swim can be learned simply by watching others.  This can be a double edged sword, however, as dogs can also learn bad habits by watching others.
  • Reflection – Many trainers end their training sessions on a high note, and then allow the dog some time to rest and process the information. This gives the dog a good association with training, and makes it more desirable for the dog to want to repeat the last task.  Giving a dog time to process and reflect on what just happened can work with both obedience commands, and with bad habits.  Reprimanding a dog for a bad habit (if caught in the act) works the same way as giving praise for good behavior.

Encouragement, Motivation and Willingness to Learn

In order for your dog to learn, he has to want to learn.  In most cases, all dogs can be motivated and encouraged to learn; however, it is up to the trainer to discover what will motivate each particular dog.  Several things have to be taken into consideration when deciding on what type of reward to use:

  • Personality – Is the dog outgoing, shy, fearful, or aggressive? Each type of personality will need different types and amounts of reward.  The manner, frequency, and intensity of reward will vary based on the personality as well.
  • Temperament – How much energy does the dog have? Does the dog have any natural drives or abilities?  The reward will need to appeal to the dog.  Chasing a ball may not be much of a reward to a Mastiff with lower energy; just as a couple of pats on the head may not motivate a high energy Labrador retriever.
  • Breed – Knowing the breed history and what it was originally bred for can help determine the type of reward needed.
  • The particular task being taught – Are you trying to develop hunting or herding skills? Are you teaching basic obedience, or retrieval?  The reward should fit the task.  Allowing your dog to shake or “kill” and object may not be best suited to obedience, but may make sense for a hunting dog.

Types of Reward

As discussed above, there are many types of rewards that can be given to a dog for a job well done.  Again, it is important to reward appropriately for the task you are teaching, and to use something that really motivates your dog.  While food is a requirement for all creatures, it may not be the best reward you can give your dog.  If your dog is working for food, you may find that his motivation is gone just as soon as the treat is.  Food can be a good way to introduce and encourage desired behaviors, but as your dog leaves the puppy stage it is important to use a form of reward that can help develop a bond between dog and owner. Rewards can take the form of:

  • Praise – Both verbal and physical – great for teaching obedience commands and general good behavior
  • Play – Chasing a ball or retrieving an object – great for retrieval hunting, or dogs with high retrieval drive
  • Hunting – Finding hidden objects – can be very rewarding for dogs that love to use their nose (hunting, tracking)
  • “Killing” or Shaking – Can be used for hunting dogs, or where a high prey drive is being established
  • Food – Can be useful for puppies or even trick training, but should not be relied upon for serious obedience or advanced training

Rewarding with Praise

A dog that is working for your praise is a dog that wants to please you.  Rewarding with praise will help increase the bond you already have with your dog.  Your dog wants your praise; he wants you to touch and pet him.  By using praise as a reward for a desired behavior you are more likely to increase the frequency and reliability of the particular behavior.

Verbal Praise

Using verbal praise is all about using enough emotion to convey to your dog that you are pleased with him.  Simply saying, “Good dog”, in a monotone voice won’t cut it.  Verbal praise should be upbeat and as full of emotion as you can muster.  A good rule of thumb for verbal praise:  Your dog’s tail should be wagging after being praised.  If it is not, then you may need to put a little more emotion and excitement into your praise.  Some guidelines to follow when using verbal praise include:

  • Use this when your dog is in a command – physical praise may cause your dog to break the command
  • Use a lot of emotion – you need to sound happy and convince your dog that you are pleased
  • Smile when praising – dogs are great are reading your facial features and can distinguish between smiles and scowls
  • Avoid too much direct eye contact – your dog is great at reading your face and too much eye contact can cause the dog to pop out of a sit or down and come to you
  • Avoid using your dog’s name – again, this is something that may cause your dog to come to you – instead say things like, “good [insert command here]”, or, “good job”, “good boy/girl”

Physical Praise

Using physical praise is a great way to improve your bond with your dog.  It can also be a highly desired reward to your dog.  Physical praise will take the form of petting, touching, and rubbing.  Sometimes it will be slow and soothing, other times it may be fast and invigorating.   Knowing when to use each type of touching is very important, and will also be based on the personality of the dog.  Some guidelines to using physical praise include:

  • Save this for after releasing your dog from a command – petting while in a command may cause him to break the command
  • Use this along with verbal praise
  • Avoid mindless petting – petting your dog simply because it exists can devalue the praising during training – make your dog work for this reward
  • Use slower, soothing praise with dogs that are timid, frightened, or over excited; faster, more enthusiastic praise can be used as the dog begins to open up, or with happy-go-lucky dogs
  • Be aware of any areas in which the dog is sensitive to touch – touching these areas may scare the dog, or cause it to even snap at you – if this happens you may need to work on desensitizing your dog to touching in these areas

Types of Physical Touch

When using physical praise there are several different forms that can be used; and every dog has certain types of touching they prefer.  Find what works best for your dog and the situation.

  • The Stroke – A common movement where the flat of the hand glides down with slight pressure over the dogs body
  • The Circular Rub – Using the flat of the hand on the front of the chest
  • The Pat – A drumming of the dog with the flat of the hand to various degrees of intensity on the dog’s body. Usually the best place to pat a dog is on its withers of side, and occasionally under the chest.  Never on top of the head.
  • The Scratch – Using the tips of your fingers under the chin, behind the ears, on the rear towards the tail, sometimes on the top of the head. A two handed “massage” up and down the length of the body can help release tension.
  • The Grip – A kneading motion where the hand takes gentle grip of hair, loose skin, and sometimes even muscle tissue. The shoulders, the chest, and even the base of the back respond to this movement.



4 Tips for Protecting Your Pup From Seasonal Natural Disasters

by Paige Johnson, blogger

If you live in a region with notoriously extreme summer and winter weather conditions, you’ve probably established how you, your spouse, and your children will stay safe. But what about Fido? It’s easy to overlook special considerations you’ll need to take to protect your dog, but planning ahead is crucial not only for his safety, but also to ensure your own; after all, if you’re scrambling last minute to dig out his carrier so you can evacuate, you’re losing precious moments of time. Here are a few tips for keeping your dog safe in the event of inclement weather.

Create a pet disaster safety kit

Yes, your dog needs his own disaster kit! Keep it stocked with several days’ worth of food and clean water — if you’re stuck inside during an intense blizzard or hurricane, you don’t want to worry about running out of your main supply, nor do you want to have to rush to ration some out while you’re attempting to evacuate. You’ll also want to include:

  • Extra leashes and collars/harnesses
  • Disposable bags for potty clean-up
  • Familiar toys, blankets, and/or bedding to give him a source of comfort amid the chaos
  • Copies of recent medical records (you may need these to stay in a pet-friendly hotel or shelter)
  • For smaller dogs, a crate with some sort of ID tag including his name, photo, and your contact information
  • Photos to prove ownership in the event he gets lost

Keep in mind that any records or photos you normally access through your phone or tablet may not be accessible during an emergency that’s knocked out power, so having hard copies is essential.

Establish where he’ll go in the event of an evacuation

Check with local shelters to find out if they’re pet-friendly and what requirements they may have. If you can’t find any options nearby, talk to friends and neighbors about potentially taking your dog into their care should the need arise. You may even want to reach out to a local dog sitter to discuss looking after your pooch in the event of a weather emergency — finding one now can make the process easier when disaster strikes, plus you’ll have an idea of what the costs will be ahead of time and can budget accordingly.

Create a safe space within your safe space

If your region is prone to hurricanes, blizzards, or tornadoes, you should have a specific room or space in your home designated as your “safe shelter” to stay in when disaster strikes. Figure out how Fido will stay safe in that space: Will you anchor his crate with heavy furniture or books to keep it in place? Is there a spot to tether his leash so he can’t attempt to flee after a big clap of thunder? Does he have some sort of potty pad or extra newspaper to relieve himself in case a blizzard’s freezing temperatures keep you inside for days at a time?

Look for hiding spots

Dogs have a funny way of knowing when bad weather is on the horizon, and some will hide before it even strikes. If you know exactly where to look, you can cut your search time considerably as you make preparations to either evacuate or head to your safe shelter. Make sure your entire family knows his hiding places, as well. And don’t forget to secure hiding spots in the safe shelter, itself — if there’s a tiny little nook where he could barricade himself during a hurricane, it’s better to know now so you can block it off when the storm arrives.

Planning ahead is your best tool when it comes to disaster safety, so don’t forget to plan for your canine companion in addition to your home and family!

Say Your Prayers Dog Trick

by Laura Pakis, Certified dog trainer and professional blogger

As we approach the holiday season there is so much to be thankful for.  Why not teach your dog a trick that shows they are grateful.  Most dogs can learn this trick in about 15 minutes.

1. Start by asking your dog to sit facing a low bed or chair, depending on the size of your dog. Make sure it’s a comfortable reach.

2. Hold a small, soft treat at the edge of the bed. Say “Up!” Pat the edge of the bed, demonstrating where you want your dog to raise their feet.

3. Your dog will probably try to jump up onto the bed. Don’t allow this, rather guide them back down. Repeat until they understand that you want only the feet up. When they accomplish this successfully, praise and reward with a treat.

4. Once your dog understands steps 1-3 then introduce “Say your prayers.” To get your dog to bow their head, lower the treat to between their front paws.

5.  Praise them and reward them with a treat.

6.  Start the trick by saying “Say Your Prayers”.  Then follow through the steps encouraging your dog by repeating “Say Your Prayers” with each step.

7.  When they complete the trick, praise them and reward them with a treat.

Don’t Let Your Dog Flunk Obedience: Part 3 of 3

The Benefits of Private Lessons for Dogs

By Laura Pakis, certified professional trainer and blogger

If someone is looking for dog training that will be safe, relationship-based and 100% focused on them, then private one-on-one dog training is the best bet. Some argue that private training yields the best results, because the trainer is going to gear every session towards their client’s goals using training methods appropriate for their dog’s personality and temperament. Private lessons provide much more detail to training. This is a disadvantage of group classes where the trainer’s focus is divided among several individuals and a variety of dog personalities.

Combining Private Lessons & Group Classes for Your Dog

Some dog owners opt to use both environments to their advantage. Start off training your dog using private lessons. Then once your dog has a solid foundation of obedience, continue training using group classes to improve command reliability or develop a specialty, such as Therapy Dog or Agility.

 Private Dog Lessons vs. Group Lessons

It is difficult to say that one environment is better than the other. Both types of training environments have their advantages and disadvantages. One thing they have in common is they help dog owners stay focused on their goals for a well-mannered dog. The benefits of either type of training are accountability and scheduling. For many people, making an appointment with a trainer helps them stay true to their commitment to training their dog.

The Truest Lesson Taught in Any Professional Dog Training Course

No matter which training environment you chose it is important to remember that training never ends. Just like any good relationship, you have to keep working at it. A six- or eight-week course is not a lifetime guarantee of good behavior nor is a series of private lessons. Training is an investment in gaining the tools to maintain your dog’s good behavior.

Obedience is a way of life and one every dog owner should participate in.

Acme Canine October Dog of the Month

The October Acme Canine Dog of the Month goes to a dapper 3 year old terrier mix named Max.
We first met Max and the the Hagans back in 2015.  At that time Max had a good deal of anxiety and was a bit mouthy with his owners.  We set up a training plan and our certified trainer came to their home to work individually with the Hagans and Max on his behavioral issues while improving his commands.
This extraordinary dog showed great improvement.
To help Max maintain his new found skills, the Hagans added refresher training during his boardings at Acme.  They also started bringing Max to daycare.
Max was integrated into the dacare play group at a careful pace which was comfortable to his abilities and temperament.  Each daycare day he was supervised  and allowed interaction in a safe, highly controlled indoor and outdoor play environment.
Max is now a regular at daycare and he is helping other dogs adjust and make new friends just as he learned several months ago.
We’re so proud of both the Hagans for their dedication to working on Max’s manners and for Max for working so hard all while being a joy to be with.

Kudos to the Hagans!

How to Make Halloween a Real Treat for Your Dog

Fall is officially here! The air is a little crisper, gourds are now decorations and football is topping the sports highlights.  Being October, this also means Halloween!

Halloween is one of our favorite special occasions. Being certified professional dog trainers, we enjoy it because we get an entire evening to show off our dogs’ door greeting skills, along with their wide array of costumes. It’s also an ideal socialization setup — they get to meet lots of new people, who happen to look really odd. Spike loves this holiday too because these folks come to the door and give him treats! (He wishes every day was Halloween.)

Turn Your Dog into the Perfect Greeter

If you’ve got a throng of ghosts and goblins coming to your door asking for treats, we suggest you plan on using these visitors to your advantage and schedule an evening of training sessions to help strengthen your dog’s greeting skills. To ensure success for everyone, we highly encourage you to rehearse during the days leading up to the big night.

We’ve divided the entire door-answering scenario into specific behaviors, each of which can be taught and practiced independently.

Sit or Down-Stay on a Mat: No doubt your dog already knows how to “sit.” All you need to do is practice a “sit” (or “down” or “4 paws on the floor”) on a designated mat or small rug. Once your dog knows that this is his or her magic carpet, and you’ve rehearsed together in easy locations, you can then place it near the front door and practice there.

Make Your Way to the Door: Now practice with opening and closing the door, asking your dog to “stay” until you give a release cue, such as “Go say hi!” This allows your dog to leave the magic carpet to greet the person at the door. If you don’t give the cue, then your dog will need to stay on the mat. Initially, use extra treats to help encourage your dog to stay on the mat; this will help in the long run.

Ding-Dong: Now it’s time to add in the doorbell or knock. This will no doubt make it a little harder, so you’ll really want to make sure you give an extra special treat for staying put.

Plan Ahead: Before the big night, we suggest you run through a few dress rehearsals to help set the stage for success!

Set the Stage: On the big night, place a small container of your dog’s treats outside the front door. When the little goblins come to the door, have your dog go to the mat, and when the door opens, the kids can give your dog a treat for staying. Then you give the kids their treats (please make sure those treats are for humans). So, your dog gets treats for learning, and the kids get treats for helping you train your dog — it’s a win-win!

Now that you’ve got all the behaviors planned out, it’s time to discuss the wardrobe portion of the evening. We’ve added a few simple tips to teach your dog to not just tolerate an outfit, but to love playing dress-up!

Prepping Your Pup for the Catwalk

Let’s face it, if dogs were out in the wild, one of the last things they’d want to do is put on an outfit, especially a Halloween costume.  But with a little technique called classical conditioning, you can teach your canine companion to love almost any outfit. So grab that outfit and some tasty treats, and learn how we teach our dogs to love their costumes:

Gather Your Supplies: There are so many dog clothes out there, including specific costumes. Make sure you have one that is pet friendly and fits your dog well. You’ll also want to have a container of yummy treats with you. We’re not talking the dry little biscuits; this is the time to pull out the big guns: small pieces of chicken, steak or freeze-dried liver. (Note: Use foods that are healthy and are part of your dog’s regular diet. When in doubt, check with your veterinarian. Also, regard these treats as part of your dog’s regular meal, not an add-on.)

Create the Connection: Teach your dog that the costume is associated with getting chicken (or the like). You’ll want to break this down into small steps:

Start with the costume hidden behind your back so your dog can’t see it. Then, show your dog the new costume, followed by giving your dog a small treat. Repeat this  until your dog’s body language shows that he or she is excited when the costume appears — tail wagging; an open, relaxed mouth; and tongue hanging out (with possible drooling) are a few of the popular body language indicators.

The next step is to start to fit the costume on your dog. We suggest you continue the same process; meaning, first comes the costume being placed on your dog, followed by a little treat. If your dog seems to be enjoying it, then you can push a little faster by dressing your dog, all the while rewarding with small treats. Then remove the costume and put all the treats away. If your dog is a little more hesitant, slow it down by putting only one section of the costume on at a time.

Once your dog gets the idea, you’ll be able to do this with other costumes.

Halloween is the perfect time to teach your dogs to be the perfect door greeter AND a fashionista, and it’s also the ideal time to show off their skills. Practice for just a few minutes on the days leading up and you’ll get great results, plus all the ghosts and goblins will be impressed!


ZoomGroom for brushing and bathing dogs

The KONG ZoomGroom is a rubber hand held grooming and shampooing brush.

The staff at Acme Canine has been using ZoomGroom for years.  When brushing short hair dogs, it helps with dry skin by distributing the dog’s natural skin oils. It also helps with shedding by picking up loose hairs out of the dog’s coat.  We found it is also great for bathing all types of dogs since it helps the shampoo get into the undercoat.  And most dogs love being bathed with it since it massages as you wash.

This 2-in-1 tool massages your dog while you brush and removes loose hair like a magnet.  Brushing is done gently in a circular motion and the rubber fingers do the work.

ZoomGrooms are less expensive than most other grooming tools and last a good while.  It comes in two sizes Small/Puppy and Regular;  Small/Puppy size ideal for puppies and small breeds, Regular size ideal for medium to large sized breeds.  Both sizes come in Boysenberry or Raspberry.We have been using ours for about 2 years and the rubber is still soft and supple.

As a brush, it is NOT for long haired dogs such as maltese, great pyrenees, poodles, etc. since the hair tends to “stick” to the rubber fingers.  Acme Canine recommends it as a brush for only short haired dogs and puppies.

Over time the rubber brush fingers will wear down and become very dull. Because of this, the tool will need to be replaced every few years depending on use.

Also be sure to keep it out of reach of your dog when you aren’t using it! We have found several dogs that wanted to chew on it like a toy because it is rubber.

We give ZooomGroom 4 paws up for design, durability and its ability to remove hair and help with shedding of short haired dogs.

Don’t Let Your Dog Flunk Obedience: Part 2 of 3

The Benefits of Group Obedience Classes for Dogs

By Laura Pakis, certified professional trainer and blogger

When considering obedience training for their dog, most dog owners think of group classes. The benefit of a group obedience class is economically its more affordable. Many opt toward the group environment because of this, but once they enter the group, they find that the other benefits are the camaraderie, the friendships they gain or the commiserating of their dog’s problems to one another.

Pairing the Right Learning Environment with the Right Pup

Classes can also offer a competitive edge that pushes members to improve and “keep up” and a great energy is created with a group of people working hard and feeding off that energy. Human nature is such that we enjoy doing things in a group; however group classes are not designed to be effective with all dog owners or puppies. They work best with a confident well-socialized dog or puppy.

How to Set Up Effective Group Dog Training Courses

Group classes can be set up to be more successful by reducing the number of participants to around 6 or less or arranging it so the dogs are of similar personality and temperament. Offering aggressive dog classes or dog classes for dogs who are fearful or submissive can be beneficial since many of these dog owners already have the stigma that they have a “problem” dog. Working with other owners of similar dogs in small groups can also provide the catalyst to build confidence in the owners.

So what alternatives does a dog owner have if group class isn’t the right setting for their dog or puppy? Check out part 3 in this series to learn more!


Benefits of Private Obedience Lessons for Dogs | Acme Canine

The best learning environment ensures that your pup learns for the long-term! Pt. 3 in our series focuses on the benefits of private dog obedience classes.

Don’t Let Your Dog Flunk Obedience Training: Part 1 of 3

Determining What Environment is Best to Train Your Dog

By Laura Pakis, certified professional trainer and blogger

How often have you heard dog owners say, “my dog flunked obedience class.” With so many different methods, settings and styles of dog training, obedience problems can inevitably result — depending on what you choose, the temperament and personality of your dog. Similar to humans, dogs learn in a variety of ways. And just like humans, some dogs take longer to grasp a concept than others.

One Theory for an Average Dog Learning a Task is as Follows:

  • 24 hours: If not repeated; the memory is absent
  • 1 to 5 Days: repeated daily; the task is in short term memory
  • 1 to 30 Days: repeated daily; the task in long term memory

Improvement in a dog’s performance continues when training is effective. Of course environmental factors (trainer effectiveness, task complexity, lesson style, etc.) influence the time frame, as do the dog’s genetic factors.

Typical Obedience Training Timetable

Another statement of expected learning curve is more profound. An average student with an average dog needs about 3 months for a task to be 85% reliable. A good student with a good dog decreases the number of weeks to 10 weeks for 85% reliability. And a poor student with an average dog increases the amount of time for 85% reliability to about 4 months (most likely due to inconsistencies and poor timing).

So what type of setting is best to train a dog? This will be discussed in part 2 of this series!

Benefits of Group Obedience Classes for Dogs | Acme Canine

Choose the best learning environment & style to ensure your pup learns for the long-term! View pt. 2 in our “Don’t Let Your Dog Flunk Obedience” series.