When Your Dog Walks Turn Into a Game of “Tug-O-War”

   We (humans) are too slow for dogs and it is normal for dogs to pull on leash. Harnesses that attach to the leash on the back actually encourage pulling (think of sled dogs). If your dog is pulling on leash as part of an aggressive response, see our blog on aggression since the underlying cause always needs to be treated for your dog to be successful. If your dog is pulling without any stimuli present (I.E. they just pull all the time) here are some different ways to teach your dog to walk nicely on leash:

1. If your dog is pulling, stop walking and stand still. Wait until your dog stops pulling, and then begin walking again. In this exercise, walking again is the reward. You may also find yourself doing this several times in a short period of time.

2. Teach your dog a command that teaches him/her to focus on you such as an eye contact or hand target command. Then, use these commands to keep your dog at your side and reward him/her with treats and attention for following the commands. You can use this method to teach your dog to “heel”.

3. Walk forward with your dog on leash. Before he/she has the chance to pull call him/her back to you and give a reward. Repeat this, extending the time before you call him/her back to you (but before pulling occurs).

   Pick one of the techniques and be consistent. Set your dog up to succeed by starting inside in a non-distracting environment, such as your home. Then, add distractions in the house before working with your dog outside. A head collar can also be a useful tool to help with leash pulling as long as your dog does not have neck problems. The leash attaches under the chin, so when your dog pulls, the leash pulls their head to the side.

Here is a great video for introducing the head collar so that your dog likes (or at least tolerates) it:

Another useful tool that gives you some control, but not as much control as a head collar, is a harness that the leash attaches in the front (Easy Walk HarnessTM or SENSE-ation ® Harness).

If you feel that you and your dog would do better with a one-on-one personal treatment plan that would be customized to you and your life style, please feel free to give us a call and schedule a Behavior Consultation appointment: (925) 937-5000

– Dr. Meredith Stepita, Dipl. ACVB

“Miracle Maggie”

On February 23rd, the world dimmed a little bit and a new star was created in the sky. Maggie, a long time patient of ours, was returned to heaven. We often find that we get attached to many of our patients because so many of them come in so often for their advanced diseases or health conditions, and Maggie was no different. Maggie burrowed her way into all of our hearts and when she passed, we all felt the loss. While we smile knowing that Maggie is healthy and happy, frolicking in the pastures near Rainbow Bridge, we frown because we no longer have her here with us or expect to see her soon.

Her furparents put together a beautiful video dedicated to the celebration that was Maggie. And even if you never met Maggie, we hope you take a moment to remember the wonderful times you’ve had with your furkids who have crossed the Rainbow Bridge and are now another star in the sky shining over us:


A special heartfelt thanks to the doctors and staff at Encina Veterinary Hospital, most especially, to Dr. Stephen Atwater. It is due to Dr. Atwater’s exceptional skills as an oncology specialist that “Miracle Maggie” became one of the most famous patients in Contra Costa County. An additional thanks to Drs. Peter Nurre and Jenifer Wang for their expertise in internal medicine and for helping greatly enhance Maggie’s quality of life in here final years.

Susan Burns Presents at National Conference!

Throughout the year, veterinary professionals gather at national conferences to learn about new and emerging medical therapies and technologies. On August 29th, 2011, at the Central Veterinary Conference in Kansas City, Missouri, our own Susan Burns presented three lectures to veterinarians and technicians about anesthesia. Her topics included using ventilation, pediatric anesthesia, and geriatric anesthesia.

Susan Burns is a registered veterinary technician who also passed her certification process to become a Veterinary Technician Specialists in anesthesia. She is one of only a handful of VTS technicians in private practice, as most of them work in the teaching hospitals of the veterinary universities.

Susan’s experience speaking at this conference was rewarding. She felt like she was able to pass on practical information to others in such a way that they could translate what they learned into new policies for their own practices.

As a hospital, we are very proud of Susan’s accomplishments and her drive to share her knowledge with others.

Angela Linvill; Hospital Administrator

Dexter the Wonder Poodle

In June of this year a special puppy named Dexter walked into our clinic with the NorCal Poodle Rescue group. The little black poodle had been rescued from a homeless encampment in Sacramento, where he was not able to receive the veterinary care that he desperately needed. Dexter was not classically good looking by any means, as he was suffering from demodex (a parasite that lives in the hair follicles of mammals) and was more or less hairless. However, his personality shined through his soulful brown eyes, and he quickly won over the hearts of everyone at EVH, Dr. Jill Christofferson in particular. Jill led the charge in collecting donations and organizing surgical treatments to give the sweet poodle the chance to live a life that was pain free.

Dr. Christofferson was able to treat Dexter’s demodex (parasitic mites of the hair follicle), and also donated her time to perform entropion surgery to correct the fact that Dexter’s eyelids folded inward causing his eyelashes to rub on his eyes. During all of his treatments, Dexter never so much as lifted a lip at our staff; his patience and tolerance truly amazed us.

For more information on Dexter’s story, please see Dr. Christofferson’s YouTube video “Dexter’s Story”

And be sure to check out the NorCal Poodle Rescue Summer/Fall 2011 Newsletter, which honored the contributions of Dr. Christofferson and Dr. Nurre in Dexter’s journey to health.

Pet Health Insurance Comparison

The Veterinary News Network (VNN) did a direct comparison of one test case using four popular insurance companies.

There are many companies with many different coverage limits, deductibles, restrictions and even add on coverage. VNN only had time to look at four companies. But they gave them the exact same case for a head-to-head comparison. You may be surprised at what they found …

As always, Encina Veterinary Hospital only recommends only the best: Trupanion Pet Insurance. Click the image below to check out their website.