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two yorkshire terrier dogs

yorkie dog in grass

Table of Contents

  • Introduction to Yorkshire Terriers
  • Size of Yorkshire Terriers
  • Characteristics of Yorkshire Terriers
  • History of Yorkshire Terriers
  • Yorkshire Terrier Standard Information
  • Caring for Yorkshire Terriers
  • Common Health Problems of Yorkshire Terriers
  • Diet and Nutrition for Yorkshire Terriers
  • Where to Adopt or Purchase Yorkshire Terriers
  • Related Breeds
  • Pet Insurance for Yorkshire Terriers

Introduction to Yorkshire Terriers

Known for their luxurious coats and compact size, the Yorkshire Terrier is a classic dog breed that’s feisty and fun. Yorkshire Terriers (or Yorkies for short) are one of the most popular dog breeds in America and loved for their affectionate temperament and low-allergen qualities. If you’re looking for a lapdog with a lot of personality, a Yorkshire Terrier might be perfect for your household.

Size of Yorkshire Terriers

Yorkshire Terriers are small dogs that are only up to seven pounds in weight when fully grown. Their size makes them perfect for city life and able to thrive in small spaces that are close to their human companions. Because of their small size, there is not a lot of difference between the weights of males and females, which is something that sets Yorkies apart from other types of dogs.

Here’s how big you can expect your Yorkie to get based on age.

Weight ChartBirth3 months5 months12 months
Male and Female Yorkshire Terriers2.5 ounces1-2.5 pounds1.5-4 pounds3-7 pounds

When fully grown, a Yorkshire Terrier will be about eight to nine inches tall.

Characteristics of Yorkshire Terriers

two yorkshire terrier dogs

Photo by Russ Cuthrell on Unsplash

Yorkies have a history of being the companions of royalty and a personality to match. These dogs tend to act a bit full of themselves and are stylish additions to any household. Although these dogs are tiny, they are adventurous and on the lookout for trouble. They are known to bark at intruders yet be very loving and cuddly with family members. Yorkies have a bit of a reputation for barking a lot, but this issue can be solved with proper training and rewards for good behavior.

As you get to know a Yorkshire Terrier’s personality, here’s what you can expect based on his or her breed characteristics.

Breed CharacteristicLevel (High, Medium, Low)
Affectionate with PeopleHigh
Good with KidsMedium
Good with PetsMedium
Need for ExerciseMedium
Energy LevelHigh
Intelligence LevelMedium
Able to Be TrainedMedium
Amount of BarkingHigh
Amount of SheddingLow

Something else to know about Yorkshire Terriers is that they are temperature-sensitive, so it’s best to keep them indoors when it is hot or cold outside. They are wonderfully playful but require only a small amount of space to get exercise.

It’s best to train Yorkies early to prevent them from being aggressive toward unknown dogs. Training can also help Yorkies to not bark too excessively and to have confidence in their own abilities rather than being babied too much because of their cute appearance and small size.

History of Yorkshire Terriers

The Yorkshire Terrier has a history that dates back to the mid-1800s when Victorian-era ladies loved having lapdogs to keep them company. They originated from the Northern English countries of Yorkshire and Lancashire, hence the dog’s regionally specific name. Scottish weavers who migrated to this region are credited with creating this breed, which has working-class roots despite its popularity among royalty. That’s because these dogs were small enough to seek out rodents in the textile mills and even in coal miles back in the day!

But when the Yorkie was recognized by the Kennel Club in England in 1886, the breed got a lot of publicity and popularity, which transformed them into fashionable ladies’ companions. Yorkies made their way to America in the 1870s and have been a household name here for many years ever since then.

yorkshire terrier dog

Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash

Yorkshire Terrier Standard Information

As a breed of dogs that is recognized by Kennel Clubs, there are specific standards that a Yorkie must adhere to in order to be a pure Yorkshire Terrier. These include physical characteristics that give this dog a self-important vibe and a parted coat that hangs down the sides of the body.

Here is an overview of the breed standard information for Yorkshire Terriers.


  • Small and flat on top without being too round
  • Bite neither undershot or overshot
  • Small, V-shaped ears
  • Medium-size eyes that are dark in color
  • Black nose

Neck, Topline, Body:

  • Very compact and well-proportioned body
  • Short back with level backline
  • Medium-length tail carried higher than level of back

Forequarters and Hindquarters:

  • Straight forelegs with elbows neither in or out
  • Straight hindlegs with moderately bent stifles


  • Glossy, fine, and silky texture
  • Trimmed to floor-length for neat appearance
  • Long hair on muzzle
  • Trim hair short on tips of ears and feet


  • Black and tan for puppies
  • Dark steel-blue, not silver-blue
  • Tan hair darker at roots than in middle
  • Tail hair is darker blue, especially at the end
  • Tend to become lighter as they age


  • Smooth movement that looks like gliding across the floor

Caring for Yorkshire Terriers

Most Yorkies are pretty easy to care for and are definitely household dogs that prefer being indoors in a controlled temperature rather than outside in extreme weather. Here are some general tips for taking the best care of a Yorkshire Terrier.

Best Living Environments:

  • Apartments and small living spaces are fine
  • Environments with plenty of daily human contact
  • Not left alone all day
  • Kept away from young children who might handle them too roughly

three long haired yorkiesType of Exercise:

  • Walks around the block
  • Learning tricks in the house
  • Simple agility training in a backyard

Mental Enrichment:

  • Squeaky toys for entertainment
  • Fetching toys for playtime
  • Quality lap time with loved ones

Training Strategies:

  • Can be challenging to housetrain and be prone to accidents
  • Offer treat rewards for going to the bathroom outside
  • Can puppy-pad train Yorkies for bathroom breaks during very hot or cold weather

Grooming Tips:

  • Grooming requires significant commitment and attention
  • Brush the coat daily to prevent matting
  • Bathe weekly to maintain the coat
  • Trim nails after baths

Common Health Problems of Yorkshire Terriers

Yorkshire Terriers are generally healthy dogs, but that doesn’t mean you can skimp on preventive care and daily routines. If you choose to buy a Yorkie puppy from a breeder, choose a responsible breeder who will provide health clearances from the puppy’s parents and ease your mind about your pup’s genetic makeup.

These are some of the most common health issues that arise with Yorkshire Terriers.

  • Patellar luxation (dislocated kneecaps) due to genetic misalignments of the legs or trauma
  • Degenerative eye conditions like progressive retinal atrophy
  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
  • Collapsed trachea with a chronic cough
  • Portosystemic shunt (irregular blood flow between liver and the rest of the body)
  • Dental disease

In addition to these potentially serious medical conditions, you’ll also want to have your Yorkie regularly checked out for dental issues and eye infections. Reverse sneezing is common in Yorkies as well, which can be unsettling but is usually harmless.

Because of their small size, Yorkies are somewhat fragile and do best with supervision to ensure they don’t accidentally injure themselves. Leg fractures are quite common among Yorkshire Terriers due to falling off of things or being stepped on by someone who doesn’t see them on the ground.

The life expectancy of a Yorkshire Terrier is about 13 to 16 years, which is longer than some other breeds of dogs. You can enjoy many years with your Yorkie by taking your pet to regular vet checkups and monitoring any health issues from the earliest possible time.

Diet and Nutrition for Yorkshire Terriers

yorkie puppy on hard floor

Photo by Jorge Gardner on Unsplash

Compared to other dog breeds, Yorkies have more sensitive digestive systems and might be picky eaters. These dogs are prone to teeth and gum problems, which can make eating more challenging as well.

Good ingredients to look for in Yorkie food include:

  • Turkey
  • Fish
  • Lamb
  • Chicken
  • Beef
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Brown rice
  • Fish oil

You can either buy commercially-produced dog food for your Yorkshire Terrier or make your own DIY dog food at home with a veterinarian’s approval. It is not recommended to give your Yorkie bites of food from your dinner plate because this habit can cause your dog to become overweight over time. Also, table scraps can be high in fat, which can cause serious digestive issues, such as pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) in dogs.

Yorkies typically eat between ½ and ¾ cup of dog food per day that is divided between meals. However, your dog may eat a bit less or more depending on age, size, and activity level. A moderately active Yorkie needs about 150 calories per day, while a larger or more active Yorkie could eat 200 or more calories a day and be healthy. To aid digestion, it may work best to divide meals up into about four feedings per day rather than just two larger meals.

Your vet can advise you on the proper amount of food that your Yorkie should eat per day, given your pup’s specific health needs.

Where to Adopt or Purchase Yorkshire Terriers

The American Kennel Club has an AKC Marketplace PuppyFinder to help you search for Yorkshire Terrier puppies that come from registered litters and reputable breeders. Responsible breeders should be able to provide you with health certificates from both of the puppy’s parents that show they are free of eye diseases and have normal knees.

There are also many Yorkies and Yorkie mixes that are in need of adoption. A few adoption resources to look into if you are interested in this type of dog are Rescue Me Yorkie Rescue, United Yorkie Rescue, and the Yorkshire Terrier National Rescue, Inc. Be aware that Yorkshire Terriers are often adopted very quickly at local animal shelters because of how cute they are. However, they might be turned over to shelters after the death of an elderly owner or due to issues with barking or bathroom accidents in a household if not trained well.

Related Breeds

Since Yorkies have been around for quite a while, many people are familiar with this type of dog. However, there are other breeds that have similar appearances and qualities that you might be interested in as well.

Here are some related breeds to check out if you love Yorkshire Terriers.

  • Silky Terriers
  • Biewer Terriers
  • Malteses
  • Scottish Terriers
  • Australian Terriers

Pet Insurance for Yorkshire Terriers

The small but mighty Yorkie needs your care and protection, which is why pet insurance is a great idea for Yorkshire Terriers. Healthy Paws offers dog insurance for Yorkshire Terriers to cover everything from accidents to illnesses, cancer, emergency care, genetic conditions, and alternative care. With one of our pet health plans, you can give your Yorkie the care he or she needs without having to think twice about unexpected medical bills.

We offer fast, easy, and worry-free claims and cover visits to any vet or emergency clinic in the U.S. Contact us to learn more about our Yorkie health insurance plans and give the gift of good health to your best canine friend.

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dog on couch looking out window

Key Takeaways

  • If you are going back to the workplace soon after working from home with your pet, take action now to get your pet used to you being gone.
  • If you have recently returned to the office, there are some things you can do to ease your pet’s separation anxiety such as coming and going in a calm manner and leaving toys or food puzzles for your pet to work on.
  • Make sure your pets get plenty of exercise before and after work, so they’ll be more tired and relaxed in the hours you are gone.

Finally, after one of the longest-feeling years in history, the COVID-19 pandemic has eased enough that many pet parents are now able or required to return to their workplaces.

That raises questions for people whose pets have become accustomed to them being home most of the time, especially for those who have adopted pets during the pandemic. That extra time with our pets has been a bonus, and now it’s time to pay the piper unless you are able to continue working remotely or are lucky enough to work for a pet-friendly employer who allows pets in the office.

If you haven’t yet returned to the office, but are expecting to soon, start that transition now by setting some appropriate boundaries. If you have already returned, there are some things you can do to help your pet feel more comfortable home alone. This applies primarily to dogs, as cats are generally fine left on their own.

You may have noticed a slight change in your pet’s behavior since you’ve been working from home full time. Personally, my dog seems to have become clingier, choosing to sit against my leg or on my feet rather than in her bed, and she whines more often.

Dr. Jim Ha, certified applied animal behaviorist and University of Washington professor, expressed concern for a potential crisis with dogs in households where their pet parents worked from home full-time in the past year.

As people begin to go back to in-person work, there is a potential for significant separation anxiety crisis among dogs, which can result in them destroying household items or even harming themselves. In a video on YouTube, Dr. Ha provides suggestions on easing your dog out of the work-from-home routine.

Dog looking out window
How to prevent future separation anxiety

  • Take “No attention” breaks: Cuddles and playtime are highly welcome (and encouraged!), but it’s essential to set boundaries with your pet. Designate chunks of “no attention” time throughout the day during which you ignore your pet.
  • Stick to your “leaving for work” routine: If you would typically crate your dog, continue to do so. If you leave a special treat or feed them just before leaving, follow that same routine, and then leave for a while.
  • Leave the house: You don’t have to be gone for eight hours, but Dr. Ha recommends that you are absent for a little while. Some suggestions are to go for a drive, sit in your car and read a book, or go for a bike ride.
  • Separate yourself: During a few of your working hours, consider going into a bedroom or office without your pet and closing the door. They’ll know you’re on the other side of the door, but this gives them a sense of being home alone.

We asked Dr. Ha how long it might take for pets to get used to their pet parents returning to the office. “It can take weeks or never for them to get used to you being gone again. That’s my concern: this situation, if not handled well, and in some cases even if they do, is going to cause some long-term severe behavior issues in some dogs.”

dog at the window
How to come and go to curb separation anxiety

Sarah-Anne Reed of Pack Dynamics LLC and Healthy Paws consulting dog trainer says the way pet parents behave when they leave or return home can contribute to separation anxiety. Dogs show signs of separation anxiety because they are worried that something might happen to their pet parents when they go out.

Pet parents can exacerbate this anxiety by making a fuss when they leave or come home, Reed said. Unless dogs have been trained otherwise, they think they are responsible for protecting you and the “pack,” whether you are home or away.

“If you look at them, give them affection, or say goodbye to them when you are getting ready to leave, all they hear is ‘I’m afraid! I wish I didn’t have to go out into the big scary world all alone, without you to protect me and take care of me,'” Reed said. “When you arrive home and acknowledge them immediately, what your dog hears is ‘I was so scared! You weren’t there to protect me from all the dangers, and I barely made it home alive.’”

As hard as it may be, it’s better to ignore your dog when you leave. When you arrive home, wait until they have stopped trying to get your attention for a few minutes before calling them over to say hello, Reed says. After that, you can invite them over for a calm greeting and affection on your terms.

This may sound like it would hurt your dog’s feelings, but we need to remember that dogs are not humans, Reed says. By not acknowledging them when you leave the house and waiting for a few minutes after you come home to say hello to them, it’s actually comforting to your dog.

You show them that you are capable of taking care of yourself, which means that they don’t need to worry about you while you are gone. It can take a few months to resolve separation anxiety completely. The more you practice this new way of leaving and returning, the more convinced your dog will be that they can just relax while you are away from them.

woman walking dog
Make sure your dog is getting plenty of exercise

Walk before and after work

With you gone all day, exercising your dog frequently is even more critical. A brisk walk before work will tire your dog out and allow them to be calmer during the day. A walk after work will let them burn off any energy built up from lying around all day.

Hire a dog walker or consider doggie daycare

If you are gone for a full day, hiring a dog walker to come mid-day is going to keep your dog healthier and happier. Ask friends for dog walker recommendations or use a service such as Rover or Wag. If your dog is well socialized, you might also consider dropping them at a doggie daycare a few days a week. The cost of daycare is often just a little more than hiring a dog walker, and your dog will receive all-day stimulation.

Dog with Kong
How to keep your pet busy while you’re gone

If you are a dog parent and use Facebook, consider joining a canine enrichment group for creative and often inexpensive ideas for creating games or food puzzles that will keep your pup busy for at least part of the time you are away.

Many trainers advocate not serving your dog’s food in a bowl at all, and instead leaving food puzzles for your dog to solve. Dogs are natural scavengers who love to sniff, so working for their food is natural and mentally stimulating for them.

By ditching the food bowl, I was able to extend my food-obsessed rescue dog’s feeding time from about 30 seconds to 30 minutes by leaving three or four puzzles, food dispensers, or slow feeders for him to work on.

A stuffed Kong is the most well-known food puzzle for dogs. A food puzzle can be as simple as a towel rolled up with food inside or a bunch of bottles with holes in them strung up for the dog to bat around until the food comes out. You can also hide kibble or treats around the house for them to find when you leave. Here’s a video I made on how to make a snuffle mat for your dog or cat. Here are a few other ideas.

One note: Don’t leave your dog a bone, rawhide, or bully stick to chew on when you leave, as they should be monitored with these types of treats because of choking hazards.

Cats can also benefit from cat-specific food puzzles and dispensers, and there are some other tools you can use to keep your cat entertained. Since cats love cardboard boxes, you can leave some for them to play with. Cat furniture such as a scratching post or a cat tree they can climb on can keep your cat engaged. Here are a few other ideas.

Are electronic toys or gadgets a good distraction?

Cat with toyThere are all kinds of high-tech gadgets available now that promise to keep your pets entertained while you are away. Ball throwers, robots, treat dispensers, interactive collars, and more for dogs and cats are marketed to pet parents who may feel guilty about leaving their pets at home.

These interactive toys may be fine for cats, but be careful about using them with dogs, Reed said. For example, gadgets such as the Furbo, which shoots out treats when the pet parent activates it remotely, can change your dog’s relationship to food in a negative way. The dog can hear you (through the device’s speaker), but they can’t see you, which confuses them.

Treats should be used as a reward for good behavior, and your dog should know it’s coming from you as a training tool and to strengthen your bond, Reed added.

As for food bowl dispensers that automatically dispense food at a specific time or in certain amounts, those may be fine in single pet households, Reed says, but it can cause food-aggression fights between dogs in multi-dog homes. If the gadget dispenses the food when you’re not there to monitor, the dominant dog may keep the other dogs from eating.

Automatic food dispensers also take away the opportunity to show leadership to your dog. By feeding your furry friend yourself, you are indicating you control and provide the food, and they don’t have to worry about it.

Other automated toys such as ball launchers or laser light pointers can lead to obsessive behaviors in dogs, says Reed. By controlling access to the toys, you can head off compulsive behavior. Playing with your dog or cat with toys is another way to deepen your bond, which won’t happen with a robot.

Turn on the TV or radio for background noise

Some dogs and cats may enjoy watching television, whether that’s the DogTV or programming for dogs and cats on YouTube. Just search dog or cat TV, and you’ll find a trove of options.

Even leaving the radio on reportedly soothes pets. University of Glasgow Ph.D. researcher Amy Bowman says that dogs, like people, prefer to listen to “a variety of music and not the same thing over and over again,” so change the station every day or play podcasts.

dog by the windowGive them a window to the world

Dogs and cats may enjoy peeking their little noses through the curtains to watch what’s going on in the neighborhood. Leave window treatments open and put a pillow or cushion in a chair in front of the window so your dog or cat can jump up and see what’s going on outside. Don’t do this if you have an anxious dog who perceives everything as a threat.

Pets can get in trouble when left home alone. Protect your pets – and your wallet – by enrolling in pet insurance. Healthy Paws offers one simple plan to protect dogs and cats from any unexpected accidents or illnesses. Start by getting a free quote.

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shih tzu dog in grass

Reviewed for accuracy on April 23, 2021 by Brittany Kleszynski, DVM

shih tzu dog

Photo by Dieny Portinanni on Unsplash

Table of Contents

  • Introduction to Shih Tzus
  • Size of Shih Tzus
  • Characteristics of Shih Tzus
  • History of Shih Tzus
  • Shih Tzus Standard Information
  • Caring for Shih Tzus
  • Common Health Problems of Shih Tzus
  • Diet and Nutrition for Shih Tzus
  • Where to Adopt or Purchase Shih Tzus
  • Related Breeds
  • Pet Insurance for Shih Tzus

Introduction to Shih Tzus

Well known for their long, flowing hair, Shih Tzus originated from East Asia but have become one of the most popular dog breeds in the U.S. The name “Shih Tzu” means “little lion,” which is an apt description for this beautiful little dog that is wonderfully playful and affectionate. Shih Tzus have big personalities and adaptable temperaments. They are classified in the toy group of dogs by the American Kennel Club.

shih tzu puppy

Photo by Varun Kumar e.k on Unsplash

Size of Shih Tzus

Shih Tzus are small dogs that generally weigh between 9-16 pounds when fully grown. However, a Shih Tzu’s weight will be influenced by the size of the parents, how much the dog eats, and how much exercise it gets.

You can help your Shih Tzu maintain a healthy weight by limiting treats and making sure your pet gets exercise every day. Interestingly, there is little difference between the adult weights of male and female Shih. This is something unique about Shih Tzus compared to other breeds of dogs. Many Shih Tzus reach their adult height and weight by one year of age.

Weight Chart3 months6 months12 months
Male and Female Shih Tzus3.9-7 pounds7.1-12.6 pounds8.8-15.9 pounds

The height of a standard Shih Tzu when fully grown, regardless of gender, is 8-11 inches tall when standing, from the floor to the withers. Shih Tzus reach their full height as adults between 6-8 months of age.

Characteristics of Shih Tzus

Although the Shih Tzu is named after a lion, nothing very fierce or intimidating about these adorable dogs. Shih Tzus are outgoing dogs that are commonly beloved as lapdogs, although they do well at agility competitions too. If you’re looking for an adaptable dog that is fine living in a small space with you and getting plenty of cuddles on the couch, a Shih Tzu might be your new best friend.

As you get to know a Shih Tzu’s personality, here’s what you can expect based on his or her breed characteristics.

Breed CharacteristicLevel (High, Medium, Low)
Affectionate with PeopleHigh
Good with KidsMedium
Good with PetsHigh
Need for ExerciseLow
Energy LevelLow
Intelligence LevelHigh
Able to Be TrainedMedium
Amount of BarkingHigh
Amount of SheddingLow

In addition to these characteristics, Shih Tzus are fairly low maintenance dogs for first-time pet parents. They are more okay with cold weather than hot weather, and they’re moderately sensitive dogs overall. Shih Tzus don’t drool much but grooming them definitely takes some time and patience. Although these dogs are playful, they don’t need a ton of exercise and are pretty easy to train.

History of Shih Tzus

long haired shih tzu dogAs their name suggests, Shih Tzus originate from East Asia and have been around for over 2,000 years. These dogs come from Tibet, which is just west of China, and then the Chinese began breeding them. The breed is one of the oldest in the world and likely the product of Sino-Tibetan breeds, the Pekingese, and the Lhasa Apso.

Shih Tzus served as lap dogs for royalty and were pampered because of their beauty. This breed stayed among the elite royalty in East Asia for centuries and really only became known elsewhere in the world in the 1900s. In the early 20th century during the Communist Revolution, the breed was almost entirely wiped out. The breeding program for these dogs was dismantled, but a group of just seven males and seven females were used to rebuild the breed so that people could enjoy these dogs again.

Shih Tzu dogs moved from China to England, and then to other European countries, and finally to the U.S. in the 1940s and 1950s. American soldiers brought these dogs to the U.S. after discovering them while they were serving in the military overseas. Today, Shih Tzus still have a royal, elite, and glamorous presence to them, and everyone from English queens to American pop stars have welcomed Shih Tzus into their homes.

Shih Tzus Standard Information

To be considered a Shih Tzu, a dog should have the standards of a prized palace pet with a long-flowing coat and lively personality. These dogs are solid and compact, with big, dark eyes and a charming vibe. According to the American Kennel Club, here is an overview of the official standard of the Shih Tzu.


  • Round head with wide-set eyes
  • Large and round eyes
  • Warm and friendly expression
  • Large ears set below crown of skull
  • Short and square muzzle
  • Undershot bite with broad jaw

young shih tzu dog in grassNeck, Topline, Body:

  • High head carriage
  • Level topline
  • Short-coupled body that is slightly longer than tall
  • High and heavily plumed tail

Forequarters and Hindquarters:

  • Well-angled shoulders
  • Muscular and straight hindquarters
  • Firm and well-padded feet


  • Luxurious double-coat that is long and dense
  • Slight wave permissible
  • No excessive trimming


  • All colors and markings permissible and equally considered


  • Effortless movement with good front reach and rear drive
  • Level topline
  • Naturally high head carriage
  • Tail carried in gentle curve over back

Caring for Shih Tzus

Compared to other breeds of dogs, caring for a Shih Tzu is relatively easy. These dogs require only minimal exercise but do need regular grooming and preventative medical care. Here are some general tips for taking the best care of a Shih Tzu.

Best Living Environments:

  • Apartments and small homes
  • City environments
  • In households with other dogs and kids
  • Kept out of extreme heat and cold
  • Limit interaction with strangers if not socialized early

Type of Exercise:

  • Short walks around the neighborhood
  • Fetch games inside the house or outside in a fenced yard

Mental Enrichment:

  • Play with fetch toys
  • Socialization with other dogs, children, and adults
  • Needs frequent attention from family members

Training Strategies:

  • Start at a young age
  • Obedience and training classes
  • May bark excessively without proper training

Grooming Tips:

  • Frequent brushing and grooming is necessary
  • Brush teeth daily or at least three times per week
  • Clean ears each week
  • Consider bathing as often as once per week
  • Professional grooming is recommended

Common Health Problems of Shih Tzus

Some medical conditions are more common with Shih Tzus than other types of dogs. These are some of the most common health issues that arise with Shih Tzus.

  • Skin allergies
  • Liver disorder called portosystemic shunt
  • Joint and bone issues
  • Intervertebral disc disease
  • Corneal injuries of the eye
  • Kidney disease and kidney stones
  • Cancer
  • Brachycephalic syndrome (respiratory distress syndrome due to the short nose)
  • Ear infections
  • Dental disease

Yet overall, the Shih Tzu is considered to be a healthy breed of dog that will live a long and happy life with proper care. In fact, the life expectancy of a Shih Tzu is longer than that of other dogs and typically ranges from 10 to 18 years. With regular vet checkups and daily care, you can enjoy many wonderful years at home with your Shih Tzu.

shih tzu walking on street

Photo by Nikolay Tchaouchev on Unsplash

Diet and Nutrition for Shih Tzus

Shih Tzus need between ½ cup to 1.5 cups of high-quality dog food each day to thrive. You will need to adjust your Shih Tzu’s portions based on level of activity, age, size, and metabolism. The feeding guidelines on the food label are a helpful guide. Shih Tzus can be picky eaters and can have sensitive stomachs, so you might have to try a few different foods before discovering one that works well.

Limit treats and feed the appropriate amount each day to reduce the risk of unintended weight gain because it is easy to overfeed a Shih Tzu due to their small size. When a Shih Tzu becomes obese, it is more prone to health problems.

Vets often recommend feeding an adult Shih Tzu two times per day and puppies three to four times per day. This frequency of feeding can help a Shih Tzu avoid symptoms of hypoglycemia that can occur due to their small size.

Where to Adopt or Purchase Shih Tzus

The American Shih Tzu Club is a member of the American Kennel Club and offers Shih Tzu resources for prospective pet parents. The AKC Marketplace lists Shih Tzu puppies for sale in many different locations from reputable breeders. A purebred Shih Tzu puppy can cost you thousands of dollars, so make sure to choose a breeder that you can trust. Be sure to ask to meet the puppy’s parents and see a health certificate.

There are also rescue groups and local shelters available that can introduce you to a Shih Tzu near you. For example, Shih Tzu Rescue, Inc. is a nonprofit no-kill organization that lists dogs available for adoption. Tzu Zoo Rescue is another useful resource.

Related Breeds

If you are interested in Shih Tzus but not 100% committed to this specific breed, you might be interested to learn more about similar breeds of dogs that might be right for you. Here are some related breeds to the Shih Tzu for you to check out.

  • Havanese
  • Russian Tsvetnaya Bolonka
  • Tibetan Terrier
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Tibetan Spaniel

Pet Insurance for Shih Tzus

Even generally healthy dogs benefit from having pet insurance coverage in case of an accidental fall of a high surface, accidentally ingesting something toxic, or chronic conditions that naturally become more of a risk with old age. The top-rated insurance plans from Healthy Paws cover everything from accidents to illnesses, cancer, emergency care, genetic conditions, and alternative care.

Take your Shih Tzu to any licensed vet you trust and enjoy a quick and easy claims process so you can focus your attention on your pet and not on the bills. Check Shih Tzu insurance rates on our website today to prepare for many great years together with your beloved Shih Tzu.

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white labradoodle dog in grass

Reviewed for accuracy on April 23, 2021 by Brittany Kleszynski, DVM

brown labradoodle dog outside

Photo by Bruce Williamson on Unsplash

Table of Contents

  • Introduction to Labradoodles
  • Size of Labradoodles
  • Characteristics of Labradoodles
  • History of Labradoodles
  • Labradoodle Standard Information
  • Caring for Labradoodles
  • Common Health Problems of Labradoodles
  • Diet and Nutrition for Labradoodles
  • Where to Adopt or Purchase Labradoodles
  • Related Breeds
  • Pet Insurance for Labradoodles

Introduction to Labradoodles

Just because the Labradoodle is not classified as an official breed by any major kennel club doesn’t mean that these dogs aren’t a great fit for your household. In fact, they are one of the most beloved types of dogs in the country!

Labradoodles are a type of crossbreed dog that is created by mixing a Labrador Retriever and a Poodle. These are lovable, smart, and social dogs that make wonderful pets and often have hypoallergenic qualities to accommodate sensitivities in your family.

yellow labradoodle puppy in grassSize of Labradoodles

The size of a Labradoodle depends on whether you mix a Labrador Retriever with a Standard, Medium, or Miniature Poodle. Therefore, the sizes of these dogs can vary greatly.

Here is what you can expect size-wise as your lovable Labradoodle grows from being a puppy to an adult.

Weight Chart4 months8 months12 months
Miniature Labradoodles14.4 pounds24 pounds29 pounds
Medium Labradoodles19.9 pounds31.9 pounds34 pounds
Standard Labradoodles26.8 pounds49.2 pounds59.1 pounds

In general, miniature and medium Labradoodles are typically full-grown by one year of age, while standard Labradoodles can take up to 16 months to reach their final adult size.

In terms of height, mini Labradoodles measure 13-17 inches tall at the shoulder, while medium Labradoodles stand 17-20 inches tall, and standard Labradoodles measure 20-26 inches tall when fully grown.

Characteristics of Labradoodles

Labradoodles have physical and behavioral traits from the Labrador and the Poodle, which makes them desirable family pets. As you get to know a Labradoodle’s personality, here’s what you can expect based on his or her breed characteristics.

Breed CharacteristicLevel (High, Medium, Low)
Affectionate with PeopleHigh
Good with KidsHigh
Good with PetsHigh
Need for ExerciseHigh
Energy LevelHigh
Intelligence LevelHigh
Able to Be TrainedHigh
Amount of BarkingLow
Amount of SheddingMedium

Labradoodles are known for being family-friendly dogs that are very affectionate. They are also loyal and trainable, which makes them good candidates for working or therapy dogs. They are good around kids and other dogs, but they have high energy levels, which means they need frequent exercise and attention. Labradoodles aren’t necessarily good guard dogs they but might bark if an intruder is around your home.

As a mixed breed, Labradoodles’ personalities may vary quite a bit from one to the next. Some of these pups are more like Labrador Retrievers, while others are more like Poodles. This means that your Labradoodle might have different personality traits than other Labradoodles that live with your friends or family members.

History of Labradoodles

A Labradoodle is a relatively new type of dog. While the term was first used in the mid-1950s, it was not universally recognized until the late 1980s. An Australian named Wally Conron is credited as the modern creator of the Labradoodle because he bred a Labrador Retriever and a Standard Poodle with the goal of creating a hypoallergenic guide dog. He introduced this crossbreed to the Royal Guide Dog Association of Australia and it became increasingly popular from then on.

Labradoodles are considered to be “designer dogs” and have become very popular in the U.S. in recent decades. Conron has said that he regrets creating the Labradoodle because the high demand for these dogs has led to irresponsible breeding. Misguided breeders often fail to consider genetic issues in their dogs, which causes birth defects and health issues in new generations of Labradoodles.

Labradoodle Standard Information

The Labradoodle is not yet recognized as an official breed of dog, so there is no official standard information for this crossbreed currently. However, the Australian Labradoodle Association, Labradoodle Association of America, and the International Australian Labradoodle Association are working to create widely accepted breed standards and unite breeders with responsible breeding practices.

Courtesy of the Worldwide Australian Labradoodle Association, here is an overview of standard information for the Labradoodle.


  • Moderately broad head with wide-set eyes
  • Slightly rounded skull
  • Scissor bite with upper teeth overlapping bottom
  • Large, round, and expressive eyes
  • Ears lay flat against head

Neck, Topline, Body:

  • Strong, well-proportioned neck
  • Shoulders laid back
  • Level topline that’s square and compact
  • Long tail that’s not too thin

yellow labradoodle puppiesForequarters and Hindquarters:

  • Forelegs straight from the front
  • Muscular hindquarters
  • Rounded feet with arched toes
  • Buttocks nearly flat


  • Can have a straight coat or loose curls
  • Coat can resemble hair, wool, or fleece
  • Non-shedding or low-shedding


  • Various colors from light cream to dark black


  • Powerful and well-coordinated gait
  • Good reach in front and drive from the back

Caring for Labradoodles

Labradoodles are generally easy to care for and fun to spend time with. However, these dogs need a good amount of space to run around and play in to be mentally stimulated and physically fit. They also require regular grooming.

Here are some general tips for taking the best care of a Labradoodle.

Best Living Environments:

  • Houses with large yards to run around in
  • Not ideal for apartments or small enclosed spaces
  • Great in rural and suburban settings
  • Households with other pets and kids
  • Fine for first-time dog owners
  • Should live inside a house, not outdoors full-time

Types of Exercise:

  • Needs about 30-60 minutes of exercise per day
  • Long runs with owners
  • Off-leash play in dog parks
  • Swimming in pools or lakes

Mental Enrichment:

  • Needs to be physically and mentally stimulated or can become destructive
  • Eager to please family members and motivated by food

Training Strategies:

  • Socialize from puppyhood to prevent aggression
  • Enroll in a training class by at least 10-12 weeks old
  • Crate train to prevent accidents and destruction

Grooming Tips:

  • Brush coat twice per week
  • Ear cleaning once a week
  • Clip nails twice a month
  • Bathe once monthly

labradoodle at dog parkCommon Health Problems of Labradoodles

Fortunately, Labradoodles are typically healthy dogs that are resilient and live long lives. However, there are certain medical conditions to which they are genetically predisposed, or that occur due to environmental factors. These are some of the most common health issues that arise in Labradoodles.

  • Hip dysplasia due to Labrador genetics
  • Elbow dysplasia due to rapid growth rates
  • Ear infections due to floppy ears and allergies
  • Progressive retinal atrophy due to genetics
  • Skin sensitivities due to environmental or food allergies
  • Addison’s disease due to Poodle genetics
  • Epilepsy due to genetics

Something beneficial about mixed breed dogs is the increased genetic diversity which greatly reduces the risk of these health conditions. However, it’s important to know that Labradoodles are still susceptible to the genetic conditions of both parent breeds, the Labrador Retriever and the Poodle.

The average lifespan of a Labradoodle is 10-15 years. Yearly vet checkups and preventative care are incredibly important to ensure your Labradoodle stays healthy during his or her lifetime. Your veterinarian can check for any signs of underlying joint problems (which are easier to correct at an early age) as well as discuss proper care of this crossbreed at these visits.

Diet and Nutrition for Labradoodles

To fuel the high-energy lifestyle of a Labradoodle, feed your dog a high-quality, balanced dog food. The amount of food your dog needs depends on the level of activity, age, metabolism, and size. In addition, each dog food is formulated differently, and the feeding guidelines on the label are a great reference. Puppies should be fed a diet specifically for the growth stage until they are one year old, at which point it is appropriate to switch to an adult kibble. Around seven years of age, it is recommended to transition to a senior dog food to better meet the nutritional needs of this age group.

Splitting your labradoodle’s meals into two to three smaller portions per day will help him or her feel full longer and reduce the risk of bloat. Recommended brands include Science Diet, Purina, and Royal Canin. It is not uncommon for a Labradoodle to be a picky eater. Labradoodles also have a tendency to overeat, so you’ll need to keep an eye on your dog’s diet.

Where to Adopt or Purchase Labradoodles

Unfortunately, puppy mills are becoming commonplace for Labradoodles which can introduce health issues into the lineage. Therefore, it is best to purchase a Labradoodle from a reputable breeder, especially one that practices multi-generational breeding. Labradoodles can be quite costly to purchase from a breeder, so it is important to do your research beforehand.

You can also find Labradoodles available for adoption from shelters and nonprofit organizations. If you can’t find a Labradoodle-specific rescue group in your area, consider contacting a Labrador Retriever or Poodle rescue because they often care for mixed breeds as well as pure breeds. is another good resource for finding a Labradoodle near you.

Related Breeds

If Labradoodles have sparked your interest, you might be curious to learn about other similar breeds of dogs as well. Here are some related breeds to check out.

  • Labrador Retriever
  • Standard Poodle
  • Miniature Poodle
  • Goldendoodle (Golden Retrievers + Poodles)
  • Schnoodles (Schnauzers + Poodles)
  • Shepadoodles (German Shepherds + Poodles)
  • Whoodles (Wheaten Terriers + Poodles)

Pet Insurance for Labradoodles

Since you can’t always know what will happen in the future, it’s best to be prepared for whatever comes your dog’s way. One of the best things you can do to invest in your dog’s current and future health is to get pet insurance from Healthy Paws. With no maximum annual or lifetime payouts and most claims processed within two days, it’s never been easier to protect your Labradoodle from accidents, injuries, and illnesses.

Check out our website to compare plans and find the right one for you and your pup. The plan covers everything from emergency care to genetic conditions, alternative care, and more so that you can live your very best life with your beloved Labradoodle by your side.

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puppy meeting a kitten

Cats and dogs don’t have to be sworn enemies, and by properly introducing them, a cat and a dog can live in harmony. If your cat and/or dog have previously lived with others of the opposite species, you might be inclined to rush the relationship between the two. However, every situation is unique and it’s best to take it slow and follow the steps to ensure success.

Create a safe space for the cat

The first priority is safety, especially for the cat, regardless of who is the newcomer. In a separate room, create a safe, dog-free zone equipped with all the supplies your cat needs. For a kitten, use a large crate with enough room for a litter box and dishes for food and water. Prepare this cat haven before the new pet comes home so the resident dog or cat to get used to this new arrangement.

Prepare for dog and cat introductions

Keep your pets separated by confining the cat to the spare room for the first few days so the new pet can adjust to its new home and human family members. Introduce each pet to the other’s scent by exchanging bedding and allowing both of them to thoroughly sniff it over. While the dog is outside, allow the cat to explore the dog’s space.

The first meeting

Before proceeding to the next stage, make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise (a run, a long walk, a round of fetch, etc.) so they aren’t entering the situation full of energy. Keep the kitten in its crate, or for an older cat, create a barrier with baby gates. Before the first meeting, leash the dog to curb any instincts to chase. Open the door to the spare room and allow your pets to see each other at a distance, with the barrier of the gate or crate between them.

Watch your dog’s and cat’s body language

Pay attention to the body language of each pet—ideally, both should be loose and relaxed. Praise your dog with a treat and a soothing voice if he remains calm. Dogs with a strong prey drive will be stiff and on high alert and may start barking or whining. If your dog locks into a stare or is excessively focused on the cat, distract him with a treat or take him away and close the door.

Don’t force your cat to approach the gate—just allow her to move toward the dog on her own time. If she is hissing, attempting to scratch, or trying to flee, separate the pets and try again later. Keep these meetings short at first and repeat them regularly until both pets become more comfortable with the presence of the other.

A budding friendship between your dog and cat

When both pets seem comfortable and relaxed in the presence of the other, you can allow them to meet and sniff each other through the barrier. Keep the dog leashed to be safe. After these interactions have been consistently going well, your pets can be around each other without a barrier while the dog is still leashed, then eventually, off leash. Always provide supervision when your pets are around each other without barriers, otherwise, keep them separated until they have developed a solid relationship and you can trust both pets with the other.


  • This may be your dog’s first time living with a cat, so make sure that the litter box and cat food are inaccessible to your dog.
  • As the mediator, it’s important for you to stay relaxed and patient, especially since pets can pick up on your stress or nervousness.
  • Don’t rush the process and understand that it may take days or weeks for both pets to adjust to this new dynamic.

Extra help for introducing dogs and cats

For particularly challenging situations, consider the following options to help a nervous pet.

  • Calming wraps such as a Thundershirt
  • Feliway pheromone diffuser
  • Calming nutritional supplements– use as advised by your veterinarian
  • Contact an animal behaviorist for assistance
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dog scratching fleas

Fleas are tiny parasites that pack a big, annoying punch. They can cause intense itchiness and skin irritation for dogs and be a frustratingly hard-to-eliminate pest for dog parents.

Keeping fleas off of your dog and out of your house is essential. But how do you do that?

Fortunately, many flea prevention products and methods are available for dogs. One of those methods is the flea collar.

Flea collar in the news

Flea collars work by either emitting a gas or slowly distributing an insecticide into a dog’s subcutaneous fat, located just under the skin. The gas will kill the fleas on contact, while the insecticide will kill the fleas after a blood meal.

The Seresto flea collar is a popular flea control product for dogs. Recently, though, a USA Today article reported that, from 2012 until June 2020, the United States Environmental Protection Agency “received more than 75,000 incident reports related to the collars.”

Don’t get too concerned just yet, though. Elanco (the company that sells Seresto) and a wide swath of the veterinary community have widely disputed the article’s reported findings. Also, The Canine Review, an investigative veterinary news outlet, has published an article that calls into question the quality of the reporting in the USA Today article.

Healthy Paws is not going to take sides on this issue, but we do want you to be aware of this current development in the world of canine flea prevention.

Below, we’re going to go into some detail about flea collar alternatives. Always talk with your veterinarian to determine the most appropriate flea prevention method for your dog.

Flea collar alternatives

Spot-on treatments

Spot-on flea treatments are applied to the skin between a dog’s shoulders, where a dog’s tongue can’t easily reach. They absorb slowly into the skin, get into the bloodstream, and are effective for one month. These treatments primarily target adult fleas: when the flea makes the unfortunate decision to take a blood meal from the dog, the toxic treatment enters the flea and kills it.

Some spot-on treatments go further by preventing flea larvae from developing into eggs or preventing those eggs from hatching in the environment.

Oral flea treatments

Oral flea treatments also target adult fleas and prevent flea eggs from hatching. The pill’s flea-killing ingredients get absorbed into the bloodstream. After an adult female flea takes a blood meal and lays her eggs, the eggs won’t hatch, ending the flea life cycle. She probably won’t survive the ordeal, either.

Flea shampoos

Flea shampoos are a quick fix for a heavy flea infestation, killing adult fleas. They are effective for about 24 hours.

When a dog has a heavy flea infestation, that means that there’s also a big flea problem in the home. After the bath, the dog quickly gets reinfested.

Flea powders and sprays

Flea powders and sprays last a little longer than flea shampoos, but not by much. They can target adult fleas and prevent flea larvae and eggs from developing into adult fleas.

Regardless of which flea prevention method you use, keep these tips in mind:

  • Use flea prevention year-round. Winter temperatures may not be cold enough to kill all fleas in the environment, so your dog needs year-round protection.
  • Don’t use multiple products. More is not better when it comes to flea prevention. Using more than one product could expose your dog to toxic levels of flea-killing ingredients.
  • Treat all dogs at the same time. If you have a multi-dog household, treat all dogs simultaneously to ensure that they’re equally protected.
  • Follow all product instructions. Flea prevention products are most effective when used correctly. Read the instructions carefully and contact your vet if you have any questions about using the product.
  • Tell your vet about side effects. Most dogs don’t experience any adverse side effects from flea prevention products. However, if you think that your dog has had a reaction to a product, contact your vet.
  • Use a flea comb. A flea comb will rid your dog’s skin of adult fleas and flea dirt (aka flea poop).

Environmental flea prevention

If your dog has a flea problem, there’s an even bigger flea problem in the environment. Even the best canine flea prevention product can’t be fully effective if your home has become a perpetual flea haven. Thus, effective flea prevention requires a multi-pronged approach.

Follow these tips to keep your home flea-free:

  • Vacuum regularly. Vacuum all carpeted areas, couch cushions, and hard-to-reach nooks and crannies. Place a flea collar in the vacuum bag to break the flea life cycle and go outside to throw away the bag.
  • Wash all bedding—yours and your dog’s. Use the ‘hot water’ setting on the washer to kill the fleas. Consider taking the bedding to a commercial laundromat.
  • Cut your grass. Keeping your grass short will take away one of fleas’ favorite outdoor hiding spaces. When you’re raking the leaves in the fall, dispose of the leaf piles promptly to take away another flea hiding place.
  • Call an exterminator. Sometimes, it’s just better to call in the professionals. An extermination company will make sure your home, inside and out, is protected from fleas.

Bringing it together

Flea prevention is a critical component of responsible dog ownership. Work with your vet to choose the flea prevention method that works best for your dog and use the product correctly for maximum flea protection.

Content provided by JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM. Dr. Pendergrass is owner and founder of JPen Communications, a medical communications company specializing in consumer education.

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Merlin the mini Aussie
Merlin the mini Aussie

Merlin the mini Aussie, with pet parents Mike and Amber.

Diagnosis: Autoimmune disease

Claims Covered: $50,229 | Healthy Paws paid: $40,085

Coverage options: 80 percent | $250 deductible

Two-year-old Merlin is a mini-Australian Shepherd with tons of personality who makes friends with all the other pups at the dog parks.

Before COVID-19, when pet parents Amber and Mike were working in offices, Merlin enjoyed coming to work and playing all day with the other office dogs.

“He loves to play fetch and when he likes to relax, he cuddles up on the couch waiting for his belly rubs,” Amber said. “It takes some time to gain his trust and love, but once you have it, Merlin will not hesitate to show his love with that adorable wiggle butt!”

About a year ago, Merlin was not acting himself. He had a fever, would not eat or drink, barely moved, and he was visibly uncomfortable. Amber and Mike rushed him to the animal hospital.

Merlin the mini AussieVets make a horrifying discovery

The veterinary team checked Merlin’s vitals and organ functions, and also made sure he didn’t have any broken bones.

They then shaved the area where Merlin was most sensitive and saw that his skin and fat layer had died and was starting to deteriorate and fall off. They performed some tests to see if it was a skin disease, a tick infection, an underlying issue, or if there was an accident at a previous vet visit.

Unable to determine the root cause, the team knew that they had to act quickly to save Merlin’s life. He was later diagnosed with an autoimmune skin disease, a rare condition in dogs in which the immune system attacks itself, causing serious illness, according to VCA Hospitals.

Saving Merlin the mini aussie would require removing the skin and fat layer on Merlin’s whole right side and slowly pulling the healthy skin over the wound. Several surgeries were needed, and Merlin had to stay in the hospital for an excruciating two months. He was on several pain medications and antibiotics and had to be fed through a tube initially.

“We were fortunate that the hospital staff allowed us to come in and visit Merlin often and eventually feed him breakfast and dinner. After weeks of tubes and bandages, removal and pulling of the skin, Merlin was starting to recover and was able to come home where he could heal. He had to go back to the hospital every other day to change his bandages and this was around the time COVID hit as well,” Amber wrote.

Merlin the mini Aussie

Merlin, recovering at home, after 2 months in the vet hospital.

Pet insurance saved Merlin’s life

Amber and Mike were extremely grateful to have pet insurance to help cover the substantial costs and saw first-hand what happened to some pet parents who couldn’t afford their pet’s care.

“Some of the most difficult moments were watching the families in the waiting room, who had to make some very difficult decisions because they did not have the help of insurance to cover some of the many expenses. Having Healthy Paws there to help us honestly saved Merlin’s life!”, Amber wrote.

Merlin the mini Australian Shepherd fully recovers

A year after his surgery, Merlin is 100% back to his normal ways — running, playing, and hiking again.

“He has a Frankenstein-looking scar along his right side but the hospital did an amazing job and his long hair covers most of it anyways! We are so happy to have our fur baby still with us healthy and happy!”, Amber said.

Amber signed up for a Healthy Paws plan when Merlin was still a puppy at eight months old. She had gone to the vet when his left knee was bothering him, which turned out to be a pulled muscle, and picked up a brochure for Healthy Paws.

“We figured since Merlin was a very active pup and loved hikes, running, and playing, it would be a good idea to have health insurance. It was so inexpensive and we thought, eh, we will never really need it but like to know it’s there just in case. Man, oh, man are we happy we have it now! We also really appreciate how easy it was for Healthy Paws to work directly with the hospital on bills while we were busy trying to do what was best for Merlin. The handwritten notes along the way also made us smile!”, she said.

Protect your pets from those unexpected illnesses and accidents, which the Healthy Paws plan covers. Get a quote and make sure you’re covered for those dog mishaps and unpleasant surprises.


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Rumba the shepherd

Diagnosis: Pneumonia and stomach issues

Claims: $6,960 | Reimbursed $5,177

Coverage options: 80 percent | $250 deductible

Rumba is a 72-pound German Shepherd with big brown eyes, who, like a typical shepherd, is highly communicative and barks and ‘talks’ a lot, said her pet parent Alison, who lives in Portland, Oregon.

She thrives on challenges and loves to play hide-and-seek with her favorite ball. Playing in snow and water is also high on her list of activities.

Rumba the shepherdShe loves her brother, Chico (also a shepherd), more than anything, and she’s protective of her family, who she prefers to be with all the time.  She is happiest when they are all in the same room, Alison says.

Rumba’s health issues started one Saturday night when she had a little cough. When they awoke the next morning, Rumba was completely listless and breathing rapidly. They rushed her to the emergency vet where she was diagnosed with aspirant pneumonia.

Because of COVID-19, Alison and her husband Milko sat in the parking lot for 16 hours, waiting for Rumba to be stabilized. Finally, they were able to go home while Rumba was kept for two more days in recovery.

About a month later, Rumba suffered another medical emergency. It was Christmas Eve, and Rumba was sick all night, vomiting and shaking. The family again rushed to the emergency vet, where they suspected she might have swallowed a foreign object, based on some x-rays. Yet, when the doctors performed abdominal surgery, they found nothing except inflammation.

The veterinarians decided while they had her in surgery to perform a gastropexy, a procedure where they surgically ‘tack’ the stomach to the right side of the body wall. German Shepherds are prone to bloat and this technique prevents bloat from developing in the future.

The recovery from that surgery was challenging as Rumba couldn’t play or be off leash for six weeks. She also reacted to the sutures, which required another emergency visit.

Today, almost two months later, Rumba is finally back to normal. Her pet parents never did find out the underlying cause of either emergency.

Rumba the shepherd“She is as playful and vigilant as ever! We still wonder what caused her issues because she’s with us all the time, but we’re hoping we can go a LONG time without another visit to the emergency vet,” she said. Through it all, Alison is grateful she decided to get pet insurance for Rumba, and her other dog Chico. She said pet insurance has changed a lot since she last considered it many years ago.

“When we first got Chico, a friend told me about Healthy Paws. I was hesitant because 20 years ago with my last dog, insurance was very different. They didn’t cover anything and had breed restrictions. I’m SO glad we enrolled for both of our dogs,” she said.

Choosing Healthy Paws has paid off during a time of stress due to the pandemic.

“If we did not have the support from you all, I’m not sure what we would’ve done. This time is already financially stressful enough with the pandemic and all the vet bills have been huge. The fact that we have insurance makes it so much easier… and it’s not just that we have insurance, it’s the wonderful customer service you have, return time on claims, and ease of website,” she wrote.

Protect your pets – and your wallet – by enrolling in pet insurance. Healthy Paws offers one simple plan to protect dogs and cats from any unexpected accidents or illnesses. Start by getting a free quote.

Are you a Healthy Paws pet parent with a recovery story to tell? We’d love to hear it! Send your pet’s story along with photos of your four-legged family member to [email protected]

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Dog heeling

Key Takeaways

  • Leash training, also known as ‘heel’, is an important skill for your dog, both for safety and more pleasant walks.
  • Heel training should be done in phases, starting first off-leash in your home and gradually moving to walking in your neighborhood.
  • When you start, you will be rewarding your dog with treats every few steps, gradually decreasing until they are no longer needed.

Does your dog take YOU for a walk? Has anyone ever said to you, “Who’s walking who?” Are you one of those people getting dragged down the street by your dog?

If so, some leash training is in order. It’s essential to train your dog to walk beside you without any tension on the leash – also known as the ‘heel’ request, even if you don’t always expect your dog to heel. Not only is it safer for both of you, but your walks will be a lot more pleasant without the risk of your shoulder being pulled out of its socket or tripping on a crack in the sidewalk.

If your furry friend has been doing his own thing on walks for a while, teaching him to walk nicely on a leash can seem daunting at first, especially if your dog is a puller and gets easily distracted. No matter your dog’s age, it’s crucial to set them up for success and to have realistic expectations.

Dog pulling owner

Where and how to start heel training

You may think that you should start heel training in your neighborhood, but even this will be too overwhelming for your dog at first.

The first step will be teaching your dog what ‘heel’ means. Just because we attach a leash to their collar doesn’t mean that they instinctively know that we want them to walk beside us. We need to make it easy for them to ‘get it right.’

It may seem counterintuitive, but heel training begins off-leash, in your home, and then in a fenced yard. Once your dog is walking well beside you, you can then add the leash. By not using a leash, you are less likely to pull them back to your side, and you want to make sure that they are choosing to walk beside you rather than being forced to walk with you.

Unstructured heel training

While you are in the process of training ‘heel’ in the house or yard, you can start to prepare your dog for heeling on walks by doing some unstructured heel training. When you go on walks, take these practice steps:

  • Don’t ask them to ‘heel’ as they are not ready to focus.
  • Randomly stop and ask them to ‘wait’ on a walk.
  • Add in an occasional circle or figure eight on a walk.
  • Change direction throughout the walk.
  • Don’t walk the same route every day; change it up.
  • If they pull to the right, walk left.
  • If they walk ahead of you, turn around and walk in the opposite direction for a few steps.

Choosing the right treats for your dog as motivation

Be armed with high-value treats (only those your dog really loves), that are small and soft.  If the treats aren’t yummy enough, your dog doesn’t have enough motivation to pay attention and learn.

Treats that are too hard or big could take your dog too long to chew or swallow. Avoid cookie-like treats, as the crumbs tend to fall on the ground, and your dog will be more likely to hunt the floor for crumbs rather than stay focused on you.

If your dog doesn’t seem motivated by treats, try several flavors to see which your dog enjoys most, usually the smellier, the better. Lamb lung, tripe, any hydrated meats work well, and you can cut them up with scissors or a knife so that they are small enough to dispense easily. You’ll need lots of treats for this exercise.

Dog heeling with masked owner during COVID-19

Decide which side you would like your dog to walk on

You want to train your dog to always walk on the same side of you, so decide at the start which is most comfortable for you. Once they have learned heel, you can always change the side if you need to during a walk. For example, if you are walking past a fence with a dog on the other side, you always want to be between your dog and the dog on the other side of the fence.

How to dispense the treats during leash training

You will hold the treats in the opposite hand of the side that you want your dog to walk on. If the treat hand drifts too far across your body, your dog will start leaning in front of you to look at the treat hand. So, think of this arm being like a ‘wing’ and tuck your arm at your side as you walk. Think of your other hand like a lever that comes over to get the treat, and give it to your dog when they are in the correct position, which is by your side.

When you begin heel training, you should give your dog a treat every two steps. Once they are staying by your side, you will gradually give them fewer treats, moving from every two steps to every four steps, then every six steps, and so on. However, you want to continue giving them verbal praise to encourage them and focus on the training.

Whenever you move to the next stage of training, start by giving a treat every two steps again, and slowly decrease the number of treats you give as your pup learns.

Dog heeling with owner

The stages of heel training

Stage 1: Hallway walking:

Start by walking in a hallway, as it will be easier for your dog to get it right because they are stuck between you and the wall. Don’t walk to the end of the hallway, as you need to have enough room to guide your dog back to your side if they get confused and they need enough space to move their body comfortably. If your dog is nervous in the hallway, you can create a hallway effect between a wall and the back of a couch, for example.

Stage 2: Walking in the rest of the home:

You are ready to start practicing in other areas of the home when:

  • Your dog is walking nicely beside you consistently and not leaving your side.
  • When you only need to give your dog a treat every ten steps, and they remain focused.

Stage 3: Practicing in a fenced area:

Move to practice off-leash in your fenced back yard when:

  • You can walk anywhere in your home, and with the heel request, your dog is easily staying beside you for at least 15 minutes.
  • You only need to give a treat occasionally.

If you don’t have a fenced yard, you will need to keep your dog on a leash as you practice. Practice first on a patio or deck, if you have one, then follow the same steps on the grass. The grass, with all its smells, can be more distracting.

Stage 4: Practicing outside your property:

Move to walking outside a fenced area when:

  • Your dog can easily focus with all of the distractions in your yard and still heel nicely.

Before practicing in the neighborhood, watch the world go by with your dog. Sit outside your front door with your dog on a leash, relax and read a book or enjoy a drink as you help your dog adjust to everything that they will see on the walk, from a safe distance. Practice for five minutes every day, and this will help your dog focus when you venture into your neighborhood as they aren’t seeing everything for the first time.

Of course, this is where you will add the leash to the exercise. The first goal is getting from your front door to the sidewalk, then walking with houses on either side of you. Remember that your dog will not be able to focus for long outside of your home, so keep the training sessions short in the beginning.

Don’t walk very far and focus on showing leadership to your dog, meaning the dog isn’t leading you, you are leading the dog. This approach to heel training helps your dog learn what heel means and to follow you and trust you on a walk.

As you leave your house, the first goal will be to get to the end of your driveway or down to the sidewalk. It could take 20 minutes to do this if your dog needs reminders to heel. Don’t worry about how long it takes or how far you walk. The most important thing to focus on is encouraging them with praise and not worrying how far you get. As you continue practicing, you may be surprised at how quickly you progress.

Dog heeling with owner

The basics of heel training

  • Start by calling your dog to you, then tap the leg that you want them to walk beside and ask them to ‘heel.’ For example, my dog is called Tootsie, and when I ask her to heel, I tap my right leg twice. On the first tap I say ‘heel,’ and on the second tap I say her name ‘Tootsie’.  Saunter slowly, as the slower you walk, the more your dog needs to pay attention. Continue to keep eye contact with your dog, as long as they stay walking beside you. Every couple steps, you tap your leg and say, “Heel Tootsie,” if they stay beside you, say “Good heel Tootsie” as you dispense a treat.
  • In the beginning, walk in a line, back and forth.
  • Start by giving a treat every two steps and gradually increase the number of steps between treats.
  • Once your dog is heeling nicely by your side, add in walking in circles and figure eights. Remember that the turn with your dog on the outside will be easier for them, so start heeling in circles with your dog on the outside of you as you turn. When you progress to turning towards your dog, walk in a wide enough circle so that your dog doesn’t have to pivot in one spot, as that will be too hard and awkward for them.
  • Add in ‘wait’. Wait means a temporary pause in your walking. To successfully teach ‘wait’ as you begin to take the last step before pausing, say ‘wait’ with slow delivery and a slower last step. If your dog doesn’t stop with you, ask them to heel again and repeat.

If your dog leaves your side and walks in front of you

Don’t look at them, as this will confuse them as to what you are asking. Take a step back and imagine your upper body and lower body are disconnected, like a puppet. Keep your lower body with your legs facing in the same direction that you are heading. Swivel your upper body and bend slightly so that your whole upper body is facing the side that you want your dog to be on and tap your leg and ask them to heel again. Your whole upper body should be facing where you’d like them to be, because if you only turn your head, your dog is more likely to be confused. If they join you, say “Good heel” and give them a treat.

If they don’t come to your side, take a second step back, tap your leg and ask them to heel again.

If they still don’t join you, take a third step back, tap your leg and ask them to heel. This time if they are still confused, take a treat without looking directly at them, put the treat right in front of their nose, and as they step towards it, slowly move the treat and guide them to your side. You will need to guide them in a half-circle, moving them first away from you, then bringing them to your side.

The reason for taking up to three steps back before guiding them with the treat is that they may need a couple of reminders with you tapping your leg and asking them to heel to come and join you on their own.  By practicing like this, your dog will soon learn to quickly come back to your side if they walk ahead.  Remember to hold the treat right in front of their nose to encourage them and prevent them from jumping to get the treat.

If you are walking and your dog is behind you

If your dog is not walking at your side, stop, don’t look at them, swivel, as previously described, and tap your leg and ask them to heel. As soon as they join you, say “Good heel” and give them a treat. 

Duration of heel training session

  • Start with two minutes.
  • As your dog learns and it becomes more routine, gradually increase the time.
  • Practice one to three times a day, if your schedule allows.
  • Whenever starting a new stage of training, go back to practicing for two minutes.

Desensitizing your dog to the leash

If your dog goes crazy and starts jumping up or barking when they see the leash, it’s key to teach them to be calm before you head out on a walk. Teach this by:

  • Moving the leash randomly throughout the day.
  • Periodically call your dog to you put the leash on, then remove it and put it away.

This is not teasing your dog; it’s letting them know that just because they see a leash doesn’t mean that they are going for a walk. It will help them feel less amped up when you leash them up for a walk.

Don’t expect your dog to heel during the entire walk

Whether you are doing structured or unstructured heel training, your dog doesn’t need to walk beside you for the entire walk unless you live in a busy city. You can permit them to have more freedom off and on during the walk. To release them from your side and heel, first ask them to “sit,” then say “go play,” or whatever release word you would like to use, and this means that your dog can wander, roll in the grass, sniff, chew on a stick, whatever they choose. They can have freedom on or off-leash, depending on their recall. If you don’t trust that they will come back when you call them, you can use a long leash so that they are still attached to you for safety. 

A few final tips on training your dog the heel command

  • Don’t try to rush through the steps.
  • Only move to the next stage when your dog is easily succeeding at the stage you are practicing.
  • Always use a kind, friendly tone of voice.
  • If your dog makes a mistake, stay calm and patient while they learn.
  • Every dog has a different level of ability to focus; don’t compare them if you have more than one dog in the home.
  • If you have multiple dogs, they will need to be separated as you practice heel training, or it will be impossible for the dog to focus.

Sarah-Anne Reed is a holistic dog trainer, and owner of Pack Dynamics, LLC ®. Her practice focuses on understanding and respecting dogs as a different species and honoring them as individual beings.

This article is copyrighted by Sarah-Anne Reed and Pack Dynamics® LLC, and no reproduction of this article without the express permission of Sarah-Anne Reed is permitted.

Are you someone who takes dog training seriously? Then you are a great candidate for pet insurance. Get a quote and make sure you’re covered for future injuries or illnesses.  

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overweight pug dog

You never knew something so small could take up so much room in your heart, but here you are, the proud pet parent of a small breed dog. Though they share the same ancestors, the common health conditions faced by small dog breeds are vastly different than those of large dog breeds. Learning about the common health conditions of small dog breeds will help you better understand your little pup and how to keep him as healthy as possible. 

Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome

Brachycephalic dogs are those with short noses or flat faces, like pugs and Frenchies. Some brachycephalic dogs are born with compressed airways which makes it harder for them to breathe. Symptoms include snorting or noisy breathing and in more severe cases, gagging, vomiting, or fainting after exercise. Being overweight can worsen the problem. Mild cases may be managed by limiting exercise and time spent in hot or humid weather, whereas severe cases require surgery. 

Intervertebral Disk Disease (IVDD)

This condition occurs when the cushioning disks between the spinal vertebrae protrude into the spinal cord. Depending on the severity, IVDD can cause pain, nerve damage, or even paralysis. Symptoms include stiffness, sensitivity to touch, lameness, weakness, and collapse. It occurs primarily in middle-aged dogs and treatment ranges from medical management to surgery.


Affecting young puppies, especially toy breeds, hypoglycemia is a quick drop in blood sugar. It can be caused by intestinal parasites that compromise digestion or occur as a result of their immature liver and low body fat. Being so small and young, a sudden drop in blood sugar can be very dangerous. Symptoms include weakness, disorientation, trembling, seizures and fainting. Make sure your puppy eats frequently and if you notice symptoms, start with wrapping him in a blanket or snuggling close to help keep him warm. Try to get your puppy to eat a bit of canned food or even a few drops of corn syrup or maple syrup (xylitol free). You can also rub some syrup on his lips and gums if he has fainted. 


The inflammation of the pancreas is accompanied by tummy pain, loss of appetite, and vomiting. It may also cause low energy and dehydration. Pancreatitis in dogs isn’t fully understood, but it could be caused by certain medications or eating high-fat foods like table scraps. Mild cases of pancreatitis may pass fairly quickly, but serious cases may require a hospital stay and IV fluids. 

Tracheal Collapse

Small dogs are more susceptible to tracheal collapse due to their weaker cartilage structure. The trachea is the airway from the mouth and nose into the lungs and when it collapses, a dog will experience bouts of coughing, often described as sounding like a goose honk. This condition may be present at birth and can be brought on by exercise, excitement, or stress, but often occurs due to walking on leash with a collar. Using a harness instead of a collar is the first preventive measure you can take. If your dog suffers from tracheal collapse, seek veterinary care. Treatment may involve certain medications or even surgery.

Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease

Legg-Calve-Perthes disease is the spontaneous degeneration of the head of the femur bone. It is unknown what causes this condition that leads to inflammation at the hip joint and eventually collapse of the hip. This condition is most commonly seen in small dogs between 5 and 8 months old and symptoms include pain and limping or lameness on one or both legs. Mild cases may be medically managed but serious cases will require surgery.

Patellar Luxation

Patellar luxation is when the kneecap is able to become dislocated and may be due to genetic malformation of the bones. It is more common among smaller dog breeds and is seen in females more often than males. Signs of this condition include hind leg lameness or skipping. Repeated occurrences can cause degenerative arthritis, so surgery is recommended for more severe cases. 

Dental Disease

Proper dental hygiene is important for all dogs, especially small breeds who face higher risks of dental issues due to the crowding of teeth in such a small mouth. Dental problems starting with tartar buildup can cause bad breath and ultimately lead to gum disease, pain, and broken teeth. Fortunately, you can save your dog from suffering by maintaining a regular teeth brushing routine


Because they are so small, it can be easy to go a little overboard on the food and treats which ultimately leads to weight gain. Carrying extra weight can increase your dog’s risk of developing other medical conditions as well as make many issues, like the ones mentioned above, worse. Make sure your pup gets daily exercise and consult your veterinarian about developing a weight loss plan.

Health conditions can arise unexpectedly, but pet insurance can help cover the costs of veterinary care to diagnose and treat them. If your pup isn’t already covered by a Healthy Paws pet insurance plan, get a quote today!

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Dog with GPS

Dog tracking

Stories of lost dogs showing up at home or locating their families after a long and perilous journey have been making the rounds for decades.

The movies and TV show “Lassie” that aired from the 1950s to the 1970s have recurring themes of Lassie making incredible journeys to find her way home or locating her pal Timmy, who always seemed to be falling in holes spurring the “Timmy fell in the well!” expression.

During World War I, highly trained “messenger dogs” were used as couriers to deliver sensitive information across battlegrounds or locate injured soldiers, and then return to their home base.

And then, there are more recent reports of dogs traveling incredible distances to find their pet parents, such as a four-year-old Labrador in Kansas who trekked 57 miles to her previous home in Missouri. Her family had not lived in the house for more than two years.

Recent study finds ‘special’ canine navigating skill

Dogs running in grass

Despite many anecdotes and mythologies about dogs’ unique ability to find their way home, their homing strategies are still not fully understood. A recent study sheds some light on this, concluding that some dogs have a remarkable ability to navigate using the Earth’s magnetic fields.

For the study by both Czech researchers and scientists at Virginia Tech in the U.S., they equipped 27 hunting dogs – 10 different breeds — with GPS collars and a small camera and let them freely roam in forested areas. After a while, the owners, who the dogs couldn’t see, would call them back, and the dogs had to figure out how to find them. The dogs completed a total of 622 runs at 62 different locations.

The researchers saw that the dogs used one of two tactics, or a combination, to find their way to their owners. The dogs either:

  • Followed their outbound track (tracking)
  • Used a new route (scouting)
  • A combination of both

The dogs that looked for a novel path did something extraordinary. Before they started toward home, they ran about 20 meters along the north-south geomagnetic axis, even if that was not their way back. It’s as if they are taking a compass reading before deciding which way to go. Doing so significantly increased their speed in finding home, as they could take shortcuts.

This means these dogs perform true navigation without the benefit of landmarks or smells they may have detected on the way out. While most dogs returned using the tracking strategy, 33 percent used the scouting approach, and 8 percent used both. While faster, the scouting approach is riskier if the dog should get lost.

Dog with GPS

“We propose that this run is instrumental for bringing the mental map into register with the magnetic compass and to establish the heading of the animal,” the researchers said.

The Earth’s magnetic field is a useful navigation tool as it provides a stable, always available cue, regardless of seasonal variations, the availability of visual cues, or weather conditions.

Hunting dogs, particularly the so-called scent hounds, are especially skilled at navigation as they’ve been bred for generations to detect and pursue tracks of game animals and, if not followed by the hunter, return to the place the pursuit started.

The researchers conclude by suggesting further studies on the role of magnetic cues in navigation for canines and other mammals as there are still many unanswered questions.

Of course, dogs don’t always find their way home for various reasons.  If your dog ever gets lost, here are some tips for finding them, and here is a story about a real-life pet detective who finds lost pets.


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Skeeter the dog

Diagnosis: Sensitive stomach

Claims: $832 | Reimbursed $662

Coverage options: 90 percent | $250 deductible

Skeeter the dog

Skeeter as a puppy.

Skeeter is a 14-pound mixed-breed pup with a huge personality. Pet parent Kristy rescued him from a shelter in Maine and was told his mother was a puggle, and they think his dad was a Chihuahua.

“He’s very smart and learns commands easily, though he can be stubborn. We never taught him how to play fetch, but he has always just brought back any toy we’ve thrown. He’s a momma’s boy, so he gets jealous easily if he can’t sit right next to me or on my lap,” Kristy said. “His nickname is meerkat because when he begs, he sits like one.”

In his first 18 months, Skeeter was mostly healthy with just some minor digestive issues. Then, in early December, he became very ill, was vomiting blood, and passed blood through his feces.

Kristy called her vet, and they recommended she go to the emergency clinic where they took a fecal sample and blood count and prescribed medication to help with diarrhea. The vet found no underlying issues and diagnosed Skeeter with a sensitive stomach. A few changes in diet seems to have resolved the issue.

“We switched to a prescription diet and from traditional dog treats to scrambled eggs or raw carrots, but he loves them (probably more than the dog treats), and that’s helped enormously. He still occasionally vomits when overly stressed, but it’s not often at all,” Kristy said.

Stomach issues in pets are among the most common conditions that bring pet parents to the veterinarian – whether it be from intestinal illness or ingesting something they shouldn’t. In 2019, stomach issues were the No. 1 reason Healthy Paws dog parents visited the vet.

Skeeter the dogSkeeter is doing great today and is back to his favorite activities of riding in the car, going to doggie daycare, and taking walks.

How pet insurance helped

Kristy said she signed up for pet health insurance as soon as she adopted Skeeter because she had not done so with a previous dog – an English bulldog – and regretted it after shelling out thousands for vet care over his lifespan.

“There is nothing worse than having to make hard choices about your pet’s health because of the cost. Of course, we always did what was necessary to provide our bulldog with the care he needed, but it hurt us financially,” she said.

For Skeeter’s vet visit and aftercare, Kristy submitted her claim the same day and received an email two days later that she would be reimbursed for 90 percent of the cost after she met the deductible.

“What a relief to have Healthy Paws there for us in such a scary time,” she said.

Protect your pets from those unexpected illnesses and accidents, which the Healthy Paws plan covers. Get a quote and make sure you’re covered for those dog mishaps and unpleasant surprises.

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