How to Decipher Breed Standards

The official American Kennel Club breed standard probably contains many unfamiliar terms. Here’s a dictionary of the most common ones illustrated with a graphic of a generic dog.

Angulation – Angles formed by joints of the skeleton

cobby – Stout, short-bodied, and stocky

Cowhocks – When the hocks (midleg joints) on the rear legs turn inward and the feet turn outward giving the dog a knocked-kneed appearance

Croup – Region of the top of the dog between the hip bones extending to the start of the tail

Dewclaws – Additional toes on the inside of the leg above the foot

Hock – Joint in the hind leg (an ankle in humans)

Leather ear – Caused by fungus. Dogs have black shading and no hair on the ear or bridge of the nose.

Loin – Parts of the body located on both sides of the backbone between the ribs and the hips

Muzzle – Part of the face in front of the eyes including mouth, nose and jaws

Pasterns – Part of the foreleg between the foot and fetlock or pastern joint (the knee)

Stifle – Joint next above the hock (like a human ankle) and near the flank in the hind leg

Stop – Point at which the nasal structure meets the cranium between the eyes

Topline – Outline of the dog between the withers and the tail; i.e., the back

Tuckup – Shallow body depth at the loin; i.e., small-waisted.

Undershot bite – An underbite, opposite of overshot bite

Withers – Point at the top of the dog’s shoulders where the neck and back meet, from which a dog’s height is calculated

Wry mouth – Cross bite where the upper and lower jaws do not live up

How to Recognize and Remove a Tick

You’ll notice a tick on your dog because it’s a tiny black, brown, reddish or tan insect about the size of the head of a pin. Once it’s on your dog, it may swell up to the size of a grape.

It’s nice if two people can do this. One to hold the dog steady and one to remove the tick.

Studies show that using petroleum jelly, mineral oil, soap water, alcohol and hot match heads do not work to loosen ticks from skin. A hot match can even harm your dog.

Here’s a short video on the right way to do it (and how to recognize a tick).

Watch your dog for a couple days to ensure he didn’t get an infection from the tick. If he suffers swollen joints that make him lame, has a fever or isn’t eating, see a vet right away.

If you never want to go through this again, use a monthly preventive that also protects your dog from fleas. I use Nexgard. 

WARNING: Any one medication can cause an allergic reaction in any one dog. The first time you use any tick preventive be certain a responsible person is home with the dog for the next few hours.

Contact your vet if the dog shows any type of allergic reaction such as over excitement, scratching wildly or develops hives or swelling especially on his face or neck.

How to Tell If Your Dog’s in Pain

Our little dogs are good at hiding signs of pain. That may be an instinct developed when they lived in the wild and needed to hide any weakness from predators.

Since they won’t tell us they’re in pain, how does an owner know when his dog needs medical care?

If your dog is having trouble eating and/or hides from and avoids contact with his family, those are ominous signs that your dog needs medical care.

Other signs of pain include

  • Unusually quiet, lethargic or unresponsive
  • Reluctant to rise or walk
  • Biting at or pulling at a body part such as an ear
  • Unable to sleep
  • Acting out of character such as snapping at people or animals he used to like
  • Constantly licking one part of his body
  • Whining, whimpering or howling

The most reliable way to verify that your dog is in pain is through medical tests such as blood pressure which may be difficult to perform at home. Easier medical checks for owners are to measure your dog’s heart rate or pulse.

An increase in your dog’s heart rate/pulse or respiration from his normal baseline may be an indicator of pain.

The short video below shows you how to check your dog’s heart rate.

If you’re concerned about your dog or he has any of the signs above, get him to a vet!

How to Express Your Dog’s Anal Glands

Ugh. No one wants to do this but if your dog is dragging his bottom across the floor or having trouble eliminating, it may be necessary.

I prefer to let my groomer do it but you can save money and time by learning how to do it yourself.

Here’s a good video from a veterinarian on the proper technique.

How to Clean a Small Dog’s Ears

Ear wax buildup and excess hair in the ear canal can be problems for your dog. Not so much for hearing loss as for potential ear infestations and infections. The latter is among the top five reasons why people take dogs to vets.

You can help your dog by cleaning his ears once a week or as directed by your vet.

  • Use sterile cotton balls, tissue or gauze. For routine cleaning, you don’t need to use a cleaner but could use mineral, olive or baby oil to wipe his ears or a commercial cleanser such as Aurocin CM Ear Cleanser w/ Aloe. If you want to prevent wax buildup or your dog has floppy ears and the ear infections to prove it, try an anti-fungal cleaner such as DECHRA MalAcetic Otic Cleanser. 
  • If using commercial cleanser, put five to ten drops of the cleanser in his ears and massage the ear lobe area.
  • Use a new cotton ball/tissue/gauze on each ear. If one ear is infected, using the same tissue may spread the infection to the healthy ear.
  • Never put a Q-Tip, your finger or anything else down your dog’s ear canal.
  • Wipe the underside of his ear and the opening of the ear canal.
  • See if there is hair growing down the ear canal. This is a particular problem for Poodles, Shih Tzu, Yorkies, Maltese and Affenpinschers.
  • You can GENTLY pull out the hair (see or cut it with small nail scissors and then wipe it away.
  • Wipe away any excess solution from the underside of the ear and the front part of his ear canal with the cotton balls. 
  • Give him a cuddle and treat.


If you see anything in his ears that looks like red dirt or coffee grounds or if his ears smell like a sewer, see a vet right away. It’s probably ear mites or other
infections. .

Always wipe out his ears after swimming or bathing. Water remaining in the ears can lead to inflammation or infection. It’s a good idea to shake ear powder such as R-7 Ear Powder in his ear and ear canal to dry up excess water.

Here’s a good video on how to clean his ears.

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How to Bathe Your Dog

Here’s a quick well-done video that shows how easy this can be.

If your dog hates the water (and many do), here’s a good video on how to deal with that.

Good luck.

How to Take a Small Dog’s Temperature

If your dog seems to be off his game but there’s no apparent cause, it’s a good idea (and a reassuring one) to take his temperature and see if there is a physical problem.

Normal range for small dogs is 100 to 102 F or 38 to 39 C. Anything outside that range requires veterinary care and a temperature of 103 or higher is a medical emergency.

It’s a good idea to take your dog’s temperature when you know he’s well or at a routine vet visit so you see what’s typical for your dog.

If you use a non-rectal thermometer, always take his temperature in the same area of his body. For example, always use his ear, his gums or his groin rather than using a different body area each time.

Make sure your dog is in a comfortable position away from any cold or heat source that might distort his body temperature.

Nothing, however, beats a rectal thermometer for accuracy. Use a little Vaseline to help with the insertion.

Here’s a short clear video on how to use a digital rectal thermometer to take your dog’s temperature.

Tools for Cutting Dog’s Nails

Be sure to watch the video at to learn how to cut your dog’s nails. Below are the types of nail clippers used on dogs.

Guillotine Type Clippers – Resco Deluxe Original Dog Nail Trimmer with Handle Grips

I think the guillotine type are easier to use than the scissors, but it’s a matter of personal preference.

The guillotine clippers have a stationary ring through which the nail is placed. You squeeze the handles and the cutting blade moves up to slice off a bit of nail.

TIP: The cutting blade should be facing you, NOT the dog. The screws on the handle of the clipper should be facing the dog.

You want to cut the nail at a 45-degree angle so you cut top to bottom or bottom to top. Do not hold the clipper parallel to the nail as the cutting action may splinter or crush the nail.

Scissor Type Clippers – Millers Forge Nail Clipper

The scissors type clipper is placed at a right angle to the toe nail.

Close your hand around the clipper to squeeze the handle which will move the cutting blade. Cut straight through the nail on a horizontal line.

Tip: Dip your blades in Kwik-Stop Styptic Powder before you start cutting. That will help if you accidentally nip him.

Dremel Nail Grinders

The granddaddy of the brands and the one I use is Dremel 7300-PT 4.8-Volt. I find this much easier to use than either type of manual clipper. My dog has black nails so avoiding the quick is difficult. With the Dremel, I grind slowly and in tiny increments. I haven’t clipped him too closely since I started using it.

I like the Dremel better than other brands because of it’s sturdy and because it’s a cordless battery operated model that is quieter than the electric plug in ones. (Mom and Dad use it on their toe nails!)

The downside is that you will need to recharge it and replace the batteries on occasion. If you prefer the electric plug in type, a good model is the Oster Pet Nail Grinder.

Nail File for Dogs

Regardless of type of clipper you use, you may find that your dog’s nail(s) have jagged edges or you just need to file one that caught on something.

First, try your own emery board. That should work for a puppy. If the nails on your dog are too strong for a human board, try a metal nail file made for dogs such as JW Pet Company Nail File for Dogs.

Not recommended

I do not recommend the PediPaws Pet Nail Trimmer The commercials hooked me, but I found it to be under powered and threw mine away.

With any grinder, there will dust from the nails, and you will need to familiarize your dog with the sound of these before your start.

I also don’t recommend QuickFinder Deluxe Dog Nail Clipper in either the scissors or guillotine style. The product is supposed to ‘read’ your dog’s nails and let you know where the quick is. It didn’t read accurately in my dog’s black nails. The guillotine version of it is the QuickFinder Small Dog Nail Clipper for dogs up to 40 lbs.

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How to Cut Your Dog’s Nails

Five things to keep in mind:

1. It must be done

Your dog’s nails can grow into his pad which can deform a puppy’s growth and make walking painful for an adult dog. Even if your dog walks on concrete sidewalks each day, it won’t be enough to completely keep his nails trimmed. Learn to do it yourself or pay $10 or so to have a groomer or vet tech
do it.

2. How often depends on your dog

The easy way to tell if your dog needs his nails trimmed is to have him standing and then look at him in a side view. Do his nails at most merely touch the floor? You don’t want a click, click, click sound as he walks on a hard floor.

I prefer to keep my dog’s nails right above the floor. Most dogs need trimming every two to four weeks depending on how short you want the nails.

3. There is no easy or quick way to trim his nails (except to pay someone else to do it)

If your dog has white nails, put them under a direct light or flash light and see if you can see the pinkish shadow under the nail which is where the quick starts.

If your dog has black nails, use a direct light but look underneath his nail, not on top. In all cases, have Kwik-Stop Styptic Powder on hand in case of bleeding.

If you clip your dog’s quick once, he will forgive you. Do it a second time and he’ll learn to fear the clippers. Try to clip him a third time and you may have a fight to the death.

4. Don’t forget the dew claws (if he still has them)

Many dog breeds have these nails or digits on the inside of the front legs and occasionally on the hind legs. They don’t touch the ground so they’ll never be ground down naturally. You must trim these or they will grow inward toward your little dog’s legs.

5. Watch the video below before you start

See the different types of tools used at Tools to Cut Dog’s Nails.

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