10 Dog Tail Positions & What They Mean

10 Dog Tail Positions & What They Mean

For hundreds of years, humans have worked on domesticating different breeds of dogs so that their main role can be as beloved family pets. We have learned the ins and outs of being a dog parent, and with that comes analyzing their behaviors in order to understand what is going on in their adorable little heads.

Luckily, dogs have adapted to know how to communicate with humans to get their needs met. Yet we aren’t always 100% positive about what is going on in our dog’s mind. Body language helps us to determine what our pet is thinking in different situations.

One of the best indicators of body language and communication is how your dog’s tail is positioned. Your dog’s tail reacts to what your dog is thinking and experiencing, so it can explain how your dog might feel in different scenarios.

If you’re wondering, “Why do dogs wag their tails?” and want to make your pooch happy and comfortable, understanding their tail positioning is one of the first steps.

Body Language in Dogs

When your dog is uncomfortable or feeling some negative feelings, their facial expressions and tail movements sure look a lot different from when they are feeling positive feelings like excitement.

When doing some basic dog training, you can tell a lot about your dog’s emotional state based on their mouths, ears, shoulders, and, yes: the position of a dog’s tail and the direction of the wagging. As humans, we are not always predisposed to understand what our dog’s body language is trying to tell us and why dogs do what they do, but through years of domestication and studying our dogs, we have picked up on a few things to pay attention to.

However, luckily for us, dogs often tend to pick up on each other’s body language so that we don’t have to do so much guessing. While our dogs do rely on us to keep them safe and protected, they are able to sense things that we aren’t, making them much better judges of situations than us.

No matter what, it’s a good idea to learn about different tail positions to better understand your dog’s thoughts or intentions in any given scenario. This way, you can better communicate with and adjust to make your dog happier overall.

Tail Positions and What They Mean

Tail positions reveal much about our dog’s thoughts and intentions.

It’s best to keep in mind that some breeds have different tails and, therefore, different communication techniques. Pugs have short, curled tails that might not wag in the same way that a Golden Retriever would. On the other hand, breeds like Huskies, Basenjis, and Pomeranians have long tails, so their tails naturally have a higher line and tend to curve over the back.

1. High Positioning, Tail Wagging

A fast and loosely wagging tail means quickly moving from the left side to the right side of your dog’s body, showing that your dog is happy. You might be approaching a friend on the street or coming up to a location your dog loves. As soon as your dog notices, that tail will start thumping.

Additionally, this position is usually accompanied by other excited whole-body actions like jumping up and down, spinning around, tapping their paws, or pulling you to get to the target faster. (The speed of the wag is helpful to consider)

While this is a preferred reaction, all that wiggling and wagging can be a lot! You might want to try calming down your dog so that they don’t know someone over or overwhelm another pup.

2. High Positioning, Tilted Upwards

A high, stiff tail that is not fully straight up but instead standing at an angle can be a position that shows dominance. Your dog is likely feeling confident and coming up on potential new friends. Your dog wants to assert their dominance before saying hello, but this doesn’t mean that they’re aggressive. This can often happen at a dog park or when meeting new dog friends.

You should keep an eye on your dog if this is the case because if they get a wrong vibe from another dog, the tail position might change to reflect their new feelings towards the situation.

3. High Positioning, Curled

Some dogs might already have a curly tail, which might skew this positioning just a bit. If your dog’s tail is naturally straight, a curled tail that has a high position likely means that your dog is happy, confident, and comfortable.

4. High Position, Relaxed Wag 

If your dog is producing a slow wag, it’s showing that they are happy and relaxed but not overly excited. They might react this way when being awoken from a nice nap, when their human returns from a night out, or if you walk over to give them some pets when they aren’t expecting it.

5. Stiff Tail

A stiff tail, whether high-positioned, low, or horizontal, is usually a sign that a dog is behaving very cautiously. You might notice that when a potential threat is approaching, your dog will zero in on it. You might notice that a wagging tail will come to a standstill, and your dog will be on alert.

This might happen when your dog is meeting someone new and is not sure how to respond, or they see a particularly suspicious new object like Halloween decorations. This movement may either shift into a nice relaxed wag or shift into danger mode.


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6. Down and Out

This position is the most casual and neutral position that you will see with your dog. When a dog’s tail is down and relaxed, sticking out slightly, it could be because they are feeling very neutral. This position is common around the house and in other settings where your dog is feeling confident and comfortable.

It also can mean that they are almost ready for a nap, as it is a position that exerts no energy. It’s what you might describe as a baseline for your dog’s tail behavior.

7. Downward, Not Quite Tucked, Still

When your dog’s tail is not quite tucked, not quite raised, but very still, your dog is showing signs that they are uncomfortable. Usually, a dog that has a tail in this position is confused about what is going on and feels slightly anxious. They could be around new dogs or people, in a new environment, or at the veterinarian’s office.

8. Low Against the Hind Legs

In this position, your dog’s tail is not yet tucked, but it’s sitting low against their hind legs. This is a very submissive position and it usually happens when they want to show other dogs or humans that they aren’t a threat.

This might happen if your dog is naturally submissive and encounters a new friend. They don’t want to come off as overbearing and want to show right away that they aren’t going to be an issue. This is generally considered appeasement behavior.

9. Tucked Between the Legs

This is the most obvious indicator that your dog is scared. When your dog’s tail is tucked in between their legs, they might be experiencing fear and anxiety. You should immediately comfort your dog and not force them to do anything that they don’t want to do.

This can happen in crowded locations, around dogs that your dog sees as a threat, in new environments, or when there are loud and intrusive noises.

10. Raised and Alert

When a dog has a raised and alert tail, this is a sign that they are preparing to go on the attack. If they are feeling threatened, their tail will shoot up and become very stiff and alert. It also might be accompanied by growling, snarling, barking, baring teeth, or raised hackles.

You should definitely remove your dog from this situation immediately so that nothing progresses into a dangerous scenario.

Get Answers to the Clues

All dogs are different, but tail behavior is something that tends to be universal. Some dogs might never feel threatened or fearful and so seeing their tails tucked or alert is uncommon. We all love seeing a happy dog with a wagging tail, but that’s not the reality all the time.

Knowing your dog and what they need from you can keep your dog feeling safe and comfortable. When questions about your dog’s behavior pops up, you can find answers with AskVet.

At any point, you can reach out to a Certified Pet Lifestyle Coach™ and ask them questions about your dog’s behavior. They can help to come up with a plan that will help improve your dog’s life by making them more confident and comfortable.

We all love our dogs so much and want to do what’s best for them — Schedule an appointment, and we are here to help you do exactly that!


Tail Docking of Canine Puppies: Reassessment of the Tail’s Role in Communication, the Acute Pain Caused by Docking and Interpretation of Behavioral Responses | NCBI

Stress-Related Behaviors in Companion Dogs Exposed to Common Household Noises, and Owners’ Interpretations of Their Dogs’ Behaviors | Frontiers in Veterinary Science

Prevalence, Comorbidity, And Behavioral Variation In Canine Anxiety | ScienceDirect

Teaching Your Dog To Speak 101: Easy Steps

Teaching Your Dog To Speak 101: Easy Steps

If you are a dog parent, you know that it can be useful to teach your dog basic commands. Some commands can help them learn obedience, such as “sit” and “stay.” Others can be fun tricks, such as “roll over” and “shake.” One trick that can serve both of these purposes is “speak.” This means teaching your dog to bark on command.

“Speak” is both a party trick and a useful command. You can teach your dog to bark when they need to go outside, but it can also be taught in conjunction with the command of “quiet.”

Some dog breeds love to bark more than others, but it’s not always a welcomed behavior. By teaching your dog when the appropriate time to bark is, you can improve your mutual trust and communication with your pet.

Read on as we review the basics of how to train a dog to bark on command:

Dog Training: Why Teach the Speak Command

“Speak” usually isn’t the first command you teach your dog; you may want to master “lie down” and “stay” before “speak,” but it’s still just as valuable.

When dogs realize their humans can understand their vocalizations, they might be more inclined to find ways to communicate with you through their voice. With a single, polite “woof,” your dog might be saying they need to go potty, want dinner, or that they want to go play.

So while teaching your dog this relatively easy trick is impressive to show off at the dog park, it also can serve a bigger purpose — improved communication. When it comes to the training process, the more you communicate with your dog, the stronger your bond will be.

1. Teach “Quiet” First

Before you can teach your dog to speak, you will need to teach them to quiet down. Most dogs have no issue with barking — they know how to do it, and they sure love to at times! Getting your pup to quiet down when they won’t stop barking is the real trick. By teaching them “quiet,” you are giving them the space to learn “speak.”

To teach the quiet command, first, we must mark the behavior. Like with all training sessions, use positive reinforcement. Reward the silent moment in between the barking. If you are clicker training, mark the quiet moment with a clicker or saying “yes” followed by a high-value treat. Once your pup is doing well with this, you can then work on the verbal command.

When your dog is silent in between barking sessions, repeat the word “quiet” followed by a treat. This will teach them that the word “quiet” is associated with the silence in between the barks and is the ideal and encouraged behavior.

2. Attach the Quiet Command to the Behavior

Next, slowly move the verbal cue back in time so that you begin saying it closer and closer to the moment that they are quiet rather than after they have stopped the vocalization. Soon, you are saying the cue and your dog is following up by being silent.

Just like with potty training, repetition is key. As long as you continue to reward the behavior and work on this cue, your dog will have it down in no time.

3. Prompt Your Dog To Bark

Some dogs don’t need to be prompted to bark; others may need a bit of encouragement. For this command, you must first motivate your dog to bark. You know your dog best — whether they tend to bark over a treat, a toy, or when they run around with the zoomies, help get them excited enough to vocalize

4. Mark the Bark and Reward

Once they let out a “woof,” mark the bark with the command “speak” and heap praise upon their perfect, fluffy heads. Generally, the goal is to elicit and praise a single bark, not excessive barking. When your pup gives one bark, stop the prompting at this point and reward.

Tip 1: Have a Reward Available

When moving on to the “speak” command, it’s essential to have tasty treats available when your dog behaves the way you want. Dogs don’t always understand praise as a reward, especially when you give them love and pets randomly for being a good dog.

Dog treats are an easy reward for canines to understand because it’s not usually something they get unless they are doing something right. Pick a treat your dog really enjoys, such as soft training treats, for an extra high-value reward. Some dogs even get really excited by a favorite toy. If you have one toy you use during training, your dog is more likely to comply with what you want.

Rewarding our dogs helps them understand which behaviors are encouraged and which are not. Your dog wants to learn how to impress you, so training can be really enjoyable for them! When there’s a treat or toy involved as a reward, this becomes even more like a fun game they get to play with their favorite person.

Tip 2: Involve Hand Signals

Another way to teach the speak command is to use hand signals. Dogs don’t typically know what we are saying most of the time (even if they understand the tone), but they can usually understand our body language, including hand signals.

You can make your own visual command up if you’d like, but a common “speak” signal amongst dog trainers is: start with an open hand, palm facing the dog, and then close your four fingers around your thumb.

Keep using the hand signals, rewards, and verbal cues at the same time so that you can reinforce that all of them mean the same thing. Soon you will be able to communicate with your dog in multiple ways, which can only benefit you and your pup and continue to build your relationship.

AskVet’s Tricks of the Trade

When going through the training process, either with a new puppy or senior dog, having tips and tricks available to you as a resource can make the process a lot easier.

With AskVet, you can get help with building behavioral plans and ask any question you might have about the training process to our Certified Pet Lifestyle Coaches™ (CPLC). Our team of animal experts will work with you to create a plan for your pup and learn more about their overall lifestyle and behavior.

Training isn’t always easy, but you can get help through AskVet! When you join AskVet and schedule your first appointment, you can start asking any question you may have about your animal family members — dogs, cats, horses, lizards, fish — basically everyone.

Our team of CPLCs™ and veterinarians are available 24/7 and are here to help make the pet parent process easier. You don’t have to do all of the heavy lifting on your own when teaching your pup about when — and when not to — bark. Your pet will thank you (and so might your neighbors)!


Speak! Tips On How To Train Your Dog To Bark On Command | American Kennel Club

How to Teach Your Dog to Speak and Be Quiet | Best Friends Animal Society

Does Training Method Matter? Evidence For The Negative Impact Of Aversive-Based Methods On Companion Dog Welfare | PLOS ONE

When dogs bark, humans understand | APA

Why Do Cats Like Boxes So Much?

Why Do Cats Like Boxes So Much?

Cats are notorious for finding the perfect boxes to sit in — aka, if I fits, I sits! You may be wondering why a cat is always looking for a way into any box. Interestingly, there are a couple of reasons for it.

Whether your furry friend is looking for warmth, is curious about the new box you have brought home, or has an absolute favorite box that only they are allowed to touch, consider having some lying around your house.

Boxes Make a Cat Feel Safe

When a domestic cat sits in an empty box, it might be helping them feel safe in its surroundings. Boxes are four walls that create enclosed spaces for cats.

For someone who is claustrophobic this might sound like a nightmare, but for a cat, they know this hiding box protects them from all angles. If a predator was to approach them, they would likely not be seen (especially if they are a healthy weight and fit in their favorite boxes). That means your feline friend could pounce and ambush predators or prey at any point.

A study on animal shelter cats showed when a cat was given a box to sit or sleep in, they showed fewer signs of stress during their stay. The boxes were great insulators and can give the effect of protecting the cat from the outside world. This can ultimately lower their stress levels and give them a sense of security in stressful situations.

Once your cat has made a home in a box, it will also smell like them. A lived-in box gives them a solid home base if they need to relax.

Boxes can offer hiding places for both domestic house cats and street cats. This kind of hiding spot can help if your cat is looking for a place to rest or if an outside cat needs shelter from the weather and cold.

Additionally, sitting in a box might remind your cat of what it was like to be in their mother’s womb, snuggled up next to all of their kitten siblings. If you have a new cat coming into your home, they might look for a box to sit in to adjust to a new environment.

Why Do Cats Love Boxes? It’s Pure Curiosity

Cats are famously curious, constantly seeking enrichment. When you get a new box, whether you ordered something offline or are about to ship something off, your cat will likely be involved with whatever is going on.

Your cat might be looking for the box’s purpose, wanting to check out how it smells or wondering where you will be putting the box, especially if they are avid box sitters.

For some cats, the box is something to make into a play toy, and this is completely valid! Your cat might like to sit in them, scratch them, bite them, or even bat them around. It’s a low-cost toy that might keep your cat entertained for hours. Of course, you will want to pay attention to how many boxes you end up keeping so that you don’t end up under a mountain of cardboard.

If your cat does like boxes, consider looking into cat trees and hideouts that you can create for feline enrichment and entertainment.

Warmth and Security in a Small Space

Cats, whether living in a home, in the outdoors, or in a shelter, deserve to feel warm and secure in their own safe zone. A cardboard box is an insulated object that is easy for cats to nest into that can help regulate their body temperature.

According to the American Veterinary Society of Applied Behavior, cats prefer environments around 86 to 101 degrees Fahrenheit. No matter how much we care about cat care, this temperature might prove tricky to maintain. A box can help our cats stay max comfy.

There are also plenty of broken down or beat-up boxes out on the streets that unhoused cats can make into their safe space. You may have even heard of people asking for donations of boxes and blankets to put out for cats that might get cold at night.

If a cat doesn’t have a home or is moving into a new place for the first time, they might become overwhelmed, especially if they are unsure where they’ll sleep. Most cats like to be warm and cozy, and boxes can provide them with this. It makes sense, as their own body heat is trapped and redistributed back to them.

How To Make Cardboard Boxes Safer for Cats

Before you let your cat sit or play with a new cardboard box, make sure there are no staples, nails, or tape that could be left over in the box. The last thing we want is for cats to get hurt when trying to get comfortable! If there are any rough edges or pieces that could cause a cut, you might want to get rid of the box altogether or remove any dangerous parts.

Ensure your cat can’t fall out of the box and hurt themselves. Placing it on the ground is the safest option because if you have it on a table, counter, or even the couch, they could accidentally knock the box over and fall. You can put blankets, towels, and toys into the box to make it more inviting and comfortable — your cat will surely be grateful!


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Out of the Box Solutions With AskVet

When it comes to having cats, they can get into a lot of trouble (and fun, of course). Questions are bound to arise, and having AskVet at the tip of your fingers can ease you into animal parenthood. It’s harder to communicate with our animals than we want it to be, but AskVet bridges that gap and helps to come up with answers to any question you may have.

Join AskVet today and meet with a Certified Pet Lifestyle Coach™ (CPLC) who can help come up with diet plans, introduce behavioral support, and answer general questions you may have about your pet’s health or cat behaviors. It shouldn’t be difficult to get your pet help, and with 24/7 access to our CPLCs™ and veterinarians, you don’t have to wait long at all!

Reach out if you have any questions about how AskVet can help you.


Assessment Of Clicker Training For Shelter Cats | NCBI

The ‘feline Five’: An Exploration Of Personality In Pet Cats (Felis Catus) | PLOS ONE

Innovative Cardboard Based Panels with Recycled Materials from the Packaging Industry: Thermal and Acoustic Performance Analysis | ScienceDirect

The “If I fits, I sits” instinct: Cats will sit in a box even it’s an illusion (cat pics inside) | BBC Science Focus

Will a hiding box provide stress reduction for shelter cats? | ScienceDirect

Can We Keep Our Cats Warm Enough? | AVSAB

Why Do Dogs Kick the Grass After They Poop?

Why Do Dogs Kick the Grass After They Poop?

When your dog is done doing their business, they might kick at the grass underneath them in a backward motion, almost as if to wipe their paws and cover up the damage. While it looks like they are trying to be helpful by “cleaning up,” there is more to the act than it seems.

It can be embarrassing enough when out with your dog, and they decide to poop on someone’s front yard or right next to the sidewalk as the homeowner looks directly at you. But it can be even worse when they kick the grass and tear it up in clumps.

In this scenario, you might not even know how to proceed. Do you try to put the clump of grass back into the earth? Will that even work? How about a sheepish wave and apologetic grin to the homeowner?

If you’re wondering why your dog does this behavior and if there is a need to stop it, keep reading to learn more.

Is Kicking Up Grass Normal for Dogs?

The behavior of kicking up grass after using the bathroom is quite normal for dogs of all shapes and sizes. This behavior is known as ground-scratching; it’s a signal that helps other dogs in the area know that your dog is around. Ground-scratching is a way for your dog to communicate with the other dogs in the neighborhood by combining both visual and chemical components.

Most behaviors you see from your dog do have a reason, and this one is no different. While it’s considered normal for a dog to kick their hind legs back and scrap them on the ground after using the bathroom, it might not be so widely accepted by humans.

Many people become embarrassed by the damage it can cause and will try to stop their dogs from doing it: This can be difficult because it is a natural behavior that your dog has ingrained in them.

Reasons Why Dogs Scratch Up the Ground

Dogs don’t just do things to do things, usually. We might not fully understand, but most actions your dog does have a purpose behind them.

Scientists have studied this phenomenon and come up with a few different reasons for what could be happening when your dog kicks the ground:

Scent Dispersal

For one, when a dog kicks at the ground after they have gone to the bathroom, they are spreading their scent. Not only will this action kick the urine or feces particles further from the spot where they lay, but by scratching, your dog leaves their scent directly from their paws.

Scent can be released from your dog’s paws, so this is a way to leave a mark for longer than the urine scent might last. (PS: dog paws are pretty awesome — dogs sweat through their paw pads!)

Marking Territory

Your dog might be trying to mark their territory when they kick the ground. This often depends on how close to home your dog actually is because you might notice this behavior is strictly happening on and around your own property.

When they do this, it signals to other dogs that they frequent this location. It’s not likely aggressive, either. It might be because your dog wants to let other dogs know that they exist and are not a threat — an “I come in peace” type of thing.

Visual Display

One study found that ground-scratching was noted more frequently when other dogs were present. This means that it might be more likely to happen at dog parks or when surrounded by other dogs. It’s a way for some dogs to show dominance and can deter other dogs from approaching if they see it happening.

It might also attract more canines to come over and smell the ground and maybe even mark it as well, but usually, this is done after the first dog has finished.

Social Display

When dogs are in a space that they’ve never met before, ground-scratching is a way to assert some sort of dominance in the scenario. This is more likely to happen when a dog is unfamiliar with another dog and might want them to stay away from them.

Ground-scratching seems to have some sort of hierarchy to it, with more dominant and self-assured dogs doing the behavior the most to uphold their high status.

Will It Become a Problem?

This is a very natural behavior that you don’t necessarily need to stop, only if it becomes dangerous to the pet or damages a neighbor’s lawn. If your dog exhibits this behavior frequently, you’ll want to keep an eye out for damage to their paw pads.

The scraping, especially if not always done on grass but concrete, can cause cuts or burns on your dogs’ paws that could be extremely painful.

How To Discourage Ground-Scratching 

If your dog kicks chunks of grass up every time they go to the bathroom, you might need to stay vigilant so that they don’t damage you or your neighbor’s lawns.

To stop a pup from doing some personal landscaping after using the potty, you can try to distract your dog with a high-value toy or treat. You could also try to replace the kicking with a trained behavior — a spin, high-five, or similar trick.

Have Questions? Get Answers!

When behaviors that you are unfamiliar with begin to arise, you are going to have questions you want to be answered. With AskVet, you have access to Certified Pet Lifestyle Coaches™ and veterinary professionals who are available to answer any question you may have about your dog’s health, behavior, or overall well-being.

Join AskVet and gain access to 24/7 veterinary support. In order for your dog to live a happy and healthy life, you are going to need to pay attention to their behaviors to recognize changes in them.

With AskVet, ease your anxiety with 24/7 access to veterinary experts for any questions you have, a specially-crafted 360° care plan for every type of pet, a community of pet parents, and a FREE One Pet ID.



Ground Scratching by Dogs: Scent, Sight, and Ecstasy | Psychology Today

Scent‐Marking Behavior in a Pack of Free‐Ranging Domestic Dogs – Cafazzo – 2012 – Ethology | Wiley Online Library

Ground Scratching by Male Domestic Dogs: A Composite Signal | Journal of Mammalogy | Oxford Academic

Do Dogs Sweat? | Live Science

Why Does My Cat Lick Me? The 411

Why Does My Cat Lick Me? The 411

When we think of how a cat shows us love, it’s not always in the form of licking like how dogs do. A cat’s tongue is much rougher than a dog’s and can even be painful sometimes.

This is because of the papillae — tiny and firm backward-facing spines that sit on your cat’s tongue and can feel like sandpaper. Due to this feeling, it’s not always very welcoming to have your cat lick you, but the behavior itself isn’t always meant to be negative.

If you want to learn more about why your furry friend might be licking you, keep reading.

Is My Cat Licking Me Normal?

Licking is very normal behavior for cats, and there are plenty of possible reasons for this feline behavior. It’s the easiest way for them to clean themselves, and they spend a lot of their time doing it.

When it comes to licking you, their human parents, it is also seen as relatively standard behavior. However, there isn’t much science around to back up the exact reasons why it happens.

When your cat licks you, it can be uncomfortable, but your cat likely doesn’t realize that it can hurt because it is such a normal grooming behavior to them.

Why Does This Happen?

There are a few theories as to why your cat might lick you that range from affection to signs of stress. We must pay attention to our cat’s behaviors as being abnormal in order to keep an eye out for their overall well-being.

If you recognize a change in your cat’s behavior on top of excessive licking, there might be an issue that needs to be addressed. Reaching out to your cat’s veterinarian is the easiest way to solve any issues.

Otherwise, there are several reasons that could be causing your cat to lick you. Here are some:

Seeking Attention

One of the most common reasons that your feline friend is licking you might be because they want your attention. Because this behavior isn’t always pleasurable for you, you are likely to pay quick attention to your cat when they do it. This might have taught them that licking can bring them attention almost immediately, which is great news for them!

They might want pets, food, to play with a cat toy, or simply for your eyes to be on them, and by licking you, they can capture your attention easily.

Showing Affection

From a young age, cats are licked by their mothers as a way to clean them and as a sign of affection. This means that if your cat is now licking you, it could be an extension of that love and affection. They are doing to their cat parents what was once done to them by their furry family members.

Licking might be paired with purring and kneading, two other ways cats might try to show you affection. Purrs, kneading, and cuddling are usually good indicators of the reasoning behind your cat’s licking fascination because it shows that they are expressing their love to you with their body language.

Marking Behavior

If your cat enjoys licking you, they might be doing it as a way to mark you as their territory. This lets other animals and cats around you know that you have a cat at home who loves you the most. However, it can become a problem if you have other animals in the house and your cat becomes possessive of you.

By licking you, it helps them to identify you. As kittens, their mother would lick them all to create a certain smell that would help identify them as a unit. This same method can be passed on when you have a cat who wants to identify you as a part of their family.

Creating a Bond

Licking is thought by animal behaviorists to help form a social bond between you and your cat. It lets you know that you are part of their trusted circle.

A mother cat will lick her baby to help form a bond between them, so when your cat begins doing this to you, they are establishing that bond with you.

Expressing Stress or Anxiety

Another reason behind licking behaviors from cats could be stress and anxiety. It’s not always that licking is a cute and sweet behavior; instead, it could result from feeling highly stressed out. This can sometimes be a displacement behavior that helps to soothe your cat and alleviate stress.

A way for you to determine if it’s stress is to recognize if there are any triggers around when it occurs. Loud noises, bright lights, new people, and strange objects might cause stress for your cat, which could lead to excessive licking.

You don’t want this to progress into a compulsive behavior so seeking treatment is encouraged.

Should You Stop the Behavior?

If the behavior is induced by stress or a medical issue, pet parents will need to think of solutions to soothe the root issue. You don’t want it to lead to anxiety-related behavior because it can cause stress, both mentally and physically, to your cat.

A frequent reason for wanting to stop the behavior is if you find it painful or irritating. For some with cat allergies, this can be especially bothersome (cat allergies are partly due to cat saliva, not their fur). In this case, you might want to find ways to curb the behavior in order to stay comfortable.

Here’s where to get help:

Find Answers and Support

When behaviors that you aren’t used to arise, you are going to want to ask some questions. AskVet’s veterinary professionals are ready to answer them!

If your cat is excessively licking, you might be worried and want to settle your own anxiety, so working 1:1 with Certified Pet Lifestyle Coaches™ from AskVet on how to proceed might just be the solution.

Making sure your pet is happy and healthy and comfortable is essential. We all want our pets to live their best life. We also want our pets to be in good hands and AskVet can help with that. When you become a member of Askvet, you have access to 24/7 professional support, a complimentary One Pet ID, and a large community of fellow pet parents!



Cats Use Hollow Papillae To Wick Saliva Into Fur | PNAS

The Mechanics of Social Interactions Between Cats and Their Owners | NCBI

Pain and Problem Behavior in Cats and Dogs | NCBI

Understanding Cat Body Language | RSPCA

Cat allergies: Causes, symptoms, and treatments | Medical News Today

Exactly Why Huskies Are So Vocal: Pups Explained

Exactly Why Huskies Are So Vocal: Pups Explained

If you live with a husky, you know what we are about to say… They LOVE to talk! It’s one of the things that you simply have to love about your husky because it goes without saying that your husky will have lots to say to you. They love to share their thoughts and feelings, and without doing so, they might as well drive themselves crazy.

You may be wondering why exactly this phenomenon occurs, as most husky parents will have very similar stories about their dog’s vocality. Both puppies and adults alike are known to be vocal, so it’s not something that changes over time.

Huskies communicate through a variety of sounds, which they might associate with certain needs. Sometimes your husky might be trying to tell you they love you, and other times they may be asking to be let out. Sometimes they simply demand attention, and talking or howling is the best way to get yours!

To learn more about why huskies are so vocal and why they rely on their vocality so deeply, keep reading.

The Different Sounds Huskies Make

Huskies don’t just make one sound — they are a whole orchestra. They have a variety of sounds that they might use to help get their point across better.

As their dog parent, you might be able to decipher their unique sounds to better understand what they are trying to get at. If you talk or howl back at your husky, you’re bound to get a response and will likely only fuel their talkativeness.

Each kind of sound does correlate to a specific meaning, and it is important to learn what they are so you can best communicate with your pup. A husky might howl, talk, groan, or bark to get your attention or during play, but each time it’s for a particular reason. Huskies don’t often make sounds to simply bark because they want to.


A husky howl is quite common and can begin happening as soon as puppyhood. You might start by prompting your husky to howl by teaching it to them with your own voice. Howling is a very natural sound for huskies and sounds long and drawn out.

However, this is usually a result of loneliness, and this crying can happen at night if your puppy is left home alone.

On nights out, you might receive texts from your neighbors asking if your husky is okay because they are making so much noise. Their howl can be long and somber sounding because they are trying to call out to their pack (AKA you) to call them home.

When left alone, howling is very likely to happen, but there are ways for you to teach your husky to stay quiet. If you crate-train your pup, you should start by leaving for short periods so that your husky learns that no matter what, you always come back for them. This might help to limit the amount of howling they do at night.

Howling is often related to separation anxiety, which many huskies do develop. They don’t like being alone; they are social animals, so loneliness does not look good on them. They may grow more anxious the longer you are away from them, and their howls are a sign of their longing for you to return.


Huskies are perhaps most famous for their talking capabilities. Of course, we don’t mean that they use actual words, but they use their voice to try to let you know they are paying attention to you.

Most husky parents have had a moment where they just fully conversate with their dog as if they can understand, with the dog chatting right back. This usually looks like short and quick barks at various frequencies, making it feel even more like a conversation between two friends.

When a husky is talking to you, it doesn’t always mean that they require something. Often, talking is just a way for your husky to let you know they love you and are trying to show affection. For those who think it’s annoying, find a way to reframe how you view all the noise because it’s probably not going to stop.


Huskies also are known to groan when they are super happy or looking for some attention. You might be giving some good belly rubs to your husky and stop for a brief second, only to be pawed and groaned at. Groaning isn’t something that you should be worried about, and it rarely means that your husky is feeling discomfort or pain.

It’s more likely that your husky is overjoyed and not sure how to contain their excitement.

Excitement Barking

In addition to excited groaning, your husky might participate in excited barking. This happens when your husky becomes overwhelmingly excited and happy and can’t contain that energy. They might bark at you excitedly when you are preparing to take them out on a walk, when they realize they are about to enter a dog park, or when their grandparents come for a visit.

This kind of vocality is related to happiness, but it can be very loud and all-encompassing. It might be best to teach your husky that barking is to be kept to a minimum while inside. They can use their “outdoor voice” in the yard or dog park, where they can vocalize as loud as they want, for as long as they want.

Why Do Huskies Vocalize?

Huskies vocalize for a variety of reasons. You might begin to learn what each sound and frequency mean specifically for your husky as you learn about their behaviors.

All huskies are one of a kind, but it’s deeply ingrained in them to use their voice. This can be a great tool to have as it is a way for you to understand your husky’s needs and ensure they are comfortable and happy.

It’s something that all huskies do, so it’s best to learn about why they do it to prepare yourself for it.


The most common reason a husky is barking in your face and trying to have a conversation is that they are trying to tell you they need something. They might want to play, go on a walk, want food, need more water, look for a toy that got stuck underneath the couch, think they heard something on the roof… and the list goes on.

Sometimes you might be able to tell right away what it is your husky needs from you, but it’s not always obvious. As you become more confident with your husky translation skills, you might be able to put together the pieces of what your pup needs.

Pay attention to timing, location, and the kinds of barking or howling. Likely, this will point you toward a solution.


Huskies also bark as a reaction. When they see something that surprises them, they might let out a few barks. If they think they hear someone at the front door, they might begin to howl. Huskies might hear sirens or babies crying and respond to them. This is because the sounds might signal distress for huskies, and their first reaction is to make noise back.

These sounds might be reminiscent of a lost member of the group trying to find their way back home, so your husky lets out a howl to help triangulate their location. This is very common, especially because dogs can hear noises that the average human cannot.


Huskies are known as pack dogs, specifically within the sled dog community, and have been around so long they are considered an ancient breed. They are used to being around their pack and having to communicate from far distances.

Howling, talking, and barking are all ways for your husky to communicate with their group. When they are removed from that, you become their family!

It’s in their nature to be vocal because it helps them survive. Some traits have been passed down genetically through generations of animals, and for huskies, vocality is one of them. This is the way that most huskies stayed alive and safe before becoming domesticated, and it’s one of the traits that have stuck around.

Make Some Noise: AskVet

Having a husky means you really need to be on top of your game. They are energetic, active dogs who need a lot of care and attention to thrive. They deserve proper care and love and a parent who wants to provide them with all that they need.

Questions will come up when you have a husky, especially as you try to learn more about your own husky’s behaviors and needs. With AskVet, you can get answers immediately from Certified Pet Lifestyle Coaches™, who will work with you to better understand your husky. You don’t have to worry about raising your husky on your own: Sign up, and we can help ASAP!

Not everyone is lucky enough to have a dog that tries to communicate every single second of their day to their human. You will never have to worry about whether your dog is okay because your husky will definitely let you know!


Communication in Dogs | NCBI

Frequency Hearing Ranges in Dogs and Other Species | Louisiana State University

Modern Siberian Dog Ancestry Was Shaped By Several Thousand Years Of Eurasian-Wide Trade And Human Dispersal | PNAS

How to crate train your dog or puppy | The Humane Society of the United States

How far away can dogs smell and hear? | University of Adelaide

Is Your Puppy Crying At Night? 4 Common Causes & What To Do

Is Your Puppy Crying At Night? 4 Common Causes & What To Do

No matter how many times you’ve cared for an adult dog, no one can prepare you for what the first few nights with your puppy are like. While puppies bring happiness and fun to your life, the nighttime can be difficult. Not all puppies will cry at night, but a good majority of them will.

Of course, this isn’t going to last the entirety of your time with your new pup, but don’t be surprised when the first few nights are spent listening to your pup whine from the crate. Puppies crying during the night is to be expected (for a while). It can be a stressful transition for a new pup, so we must show them lots of grace and patience.

Keep reading to learn more about the common reasons why your puppy might be crying and ways you can help them.

Why Do Puppies Cry at Night?

When you bring your pup home, most experts recommend beginning crate training overnight. This is so you can help build up your pup’s confidence and create a safe space within their crate. The goal is to get your puppy to enjoy crate time, but that can be quite the challenge.

We love our dogs — so much. Sometimes, hearing your pup cry through the night can feel more distressing for you than for the puppy. In many ways, your pup crying is their way of trying to communicate with you. It’s difficult to know what your puppy needs, but there are a few common causes for your puppy to cry at night.

1. They Need To Use the Bathroom

Puppies have small bladders and often need to use the bathroom every few hours. This means that we will need to wake up in the middle of the night to take our pups outside — sometimes, their cries signify to you that they need to use the bathroom.

In general, dogs try to avoid peeing in their crate. As such, puppies tend to cry out so that we can help escort them outside for a midnight bathroom break. If they know they have to go but don’t want to use their crate, they will try to vocalize their need to you, no matter what time it is.

2. They Are Hungry or Thirsty

Another reason that your puppy is crying is that they are hungry or need water. Puppies might have a unique feeding schedule that isn’t as cut-and-dry as their adult canine peers’ twice-a-day dining arrangements.

Meal schedules tend to depend on the breed size in question. For example, until three months old, young toy breeds will need more meals (around four to six) than large breed puppies (who eat three to four meals).

Younger puppies might nibble on their food continuously throughout the day whenever their energy fluctuates, which means a late-night snack is quite possible. Even the slightest drink of water before bed could result in the need to pee only a few hours later.

3. They Might Be Scared or Nervous

Especially during the first few nights of having your puppy at home with you, they might cry due to nerves. It’s the first time they have been away from their mom and littermates, which can result in some loneliness. Plus, if they know you are nearby, they might think that crying will bring your attention to them (which we all know to be true).

Up until now, your puppy has always had a littermate nearby to play with or snuggle up with. And you could let your puppy sleep in your bed with you if you so choose to, but crate training really does help to build up their confidence! If you ever want to have a night to yourself in bed, crate training will come in clutch.

4. They May Not Be Feeling Well

Another reason for a crying pup could be that they are not feeling well. Puppies can get sick or have upset stomachs, especially if they are nervous or changing foods and routines. It might not be more serious than an upset stomach, but if your puppy is in pain or discomfort, it might be something worth bringing up with their vet.

Puppies are prone to getting sick, especially before they are able to complete all of their vaccinations. They are susceptible to intestinal worms, viruses, vomiting and diarrhea, and growing pains, all of which might keep your pup up at night in pain. In this case, it’s best to contact their veterinarian as soon as their office is open.

If you are worried in the middle of the night and seeking answers, you can also sign-up with AskVet and consult with one of our Certified Pet Lifestyle Coaches (CPLC)™.

Is Ignoring My Pup Recommended?

You might have heard that ignoring your puppy’s cries is the best way to help them get over whatever issue they are having. But that’s not always the case. What if your pup needs to use the bathroom? Or could they use a little bit of water? You want to build up their confidence, not teach them that you aren’t there to be helpful.

Of course, once you make sure all of their needs are met, closing your eyes and attempting to sleep might be the best course of action. It is true that they will tire themselves out, but ensuring they aren’t in distress before moving on can strengthen your bond and communication with each other.

How Can You Help a Crying Puppy

Finding ways to help comfort your dog in the crate and through the night will reduce the crying. Many methods could be used to crate train, and help soothe your puppy through the night, but not all will work for your dog. Every dog is unique, and you have to learn what brings them comfort so that you can help build their confidence.

You might realize your dog thrives when laying on blankets and pillows, so you add in some extra comfy cushioning to help make a little nest. Whatever your pup needs, you will likely be on top of it. You’re a pet parent now, and that means anything goes for your baby!

Take Them Outside for a Potty Break

The first thing to try if your puppy is crying in the middle of the night is to take them outside for a bathroom break. It’s very likely that your pup needs to use the bathroom. They can only hold so much in their bladders, so a few trips every night is to be expected.

Offer Them a Comfort Toy

Some puppies really bond with a soft plush toy. Whether it’s because it simulates having one of their littermates with them or if it’s comfortable, having a comfort toy can soothe your pup at bedtime.

Over time, this toy will pick up your dog’s smell which can bring an additional level of comfort to your dog. You can try bringing this toy around when your pup settles for naps throughout the day and have the toy snuggle up against them.

Put a Piece of Your Clothing in the Crate

Your puppy will bond with you almost immediately. As soon as they recognize that you are the one providing food, water, love, play, and snuggles, you will become a source of comfort. If they can’t have you every night to be with, the next best thing is a piece of clothing that has your scent on it: Extra points if it’s fluffy and soft!

Your scent in their crate can bring a sense of peace to your pup and encourage them to fall asleep. Sometimes their cries signify that they want your attention, but in the middle of the night, that’s not always what you are willing to give. But a piece of clothing from your closet or something you’ve recently worn will do the trick!

Answers for the Whole Family

If you are looking for answers or suggestions on how to help this issue, consider signing up with AskVet so you can ask any question you might have.

AskVet’s Certified Pet Lifestyle Coaches™ are here to help guide you through puppyhood, coming up with behavior goals and helping to monitor any health changes in your pup. Being a new puppy parent is hard work, and not everyone gets that. Once you have a puppy, your whole life becomes dedicated to giving them whatever it is they need, and hearing them cry can hurt your heart.

When you sign up for AskVet, you can chat with a veterinarian or CPLC™ 24/7 — no wait time needed. Whether you have a question about your puppy’s first tooth falling out or your goldfish looking a tad tired, AskVet has the experts with the answers.


Housetraining Puppies & Dogs | American Humane

Canine Separation Anxiety: Strategies For Treatment And Management | NCBI

Crate Training Your Dog | Brown University

How to crate train your dog or puppy | The Humane Society

What to Do if Your Puppy Keeps Going Potty in the Crate | AKC

Feeding Your Dog: How Often Should Dogs Eat And How Much? | AKC

How To Help Your Grieving Dog in Mourning

How To Help Your Grieving Dog in Mourning

For many of us, losing a part of our family is one of the most difficult times to experience. Yet, we don’t always consider how these losses can affect our furry canine friends. Whether we lose a grandmother, sister, uncle, dog, cat, or bird, there is a sense of mourning that is bound to settle on the house — and humans aren’t the only ones who feel it. The loss of a pet is as heartbreaking as the loss of a human in many cases.

Our dogs are highly sensitive and intuitive creatures, who can tell when something is off with their normal routine. Especially when they are able to recognize the absence of a family member. Your dog’s best friend could have been your cat, and when they pass, your dog might not quite understand where their buddy went and why they aren’t able to find them in the house.

So how are you supposed to help your dog when they are struggling with the changes but unsure exactly why? It can be tricky to communicate these changes to a pet, but there are ways that you can comfort your pup so that they can grieve for their friend and learn ways to cope.

Continue reading for more information on the mourning process for dogs and ways you can help comfort them.

Do Dogs Mourn the Loss of an Animal or Person?

While we cannot verbally communicate our emotions with our pets, pet parents often have a good sense of what their dogs are expressing. Based on behavior and mood, we can pick up on how our dog might feel, even if we can’t be 100% certain.

It’s well recognized that dogs do feel happiness, fear, sadness, excitement, and possessiveness, so they can likely experience the feeling of grieving. It ties in with sadness, but there is a bit more to it. Your dog has experienced a loss. Without that presence in their life, the confusion mixes with their sadness and creates even greater pain.

What Are Signs of a Grieving Dog?

When your furry friend has lost a loved one important to them, you might recognize changes in their behavior resembling mourning. If your dog has a sudden mood change and is moping around more frequently and not showing interest in activities they love, they could be depressed.

If they are showing signs of loss of appetite or avoiding play time (which is unusual behavior for them), they could be under the stress of the change in their daily routine. Similarly, they might sleep more and have lower activity levels. Perhaps it seems like they are sulking or moving more slowly than you’re accustomed to.

If these signs are persistent and either a person or pet a part of your family has recently passed, your dog could be reacting directly to that loss.

Why Might a Grieving Pet Be Mourning?

It can be challenging to explain to your dog what has happened to someone they love. For instance, explaining death to a dog is impossible. One day someone is here, and the next, they aren’t. Sometimes the loss isn’t related to death, but other life changes.

For example, dogs who have family members go off to college, experience divorce or breakups between their human parents, or have a neighbor that moves might struggle to know where their person has gone. They will often show signs of grief as you go through your own grief process.

So your dog might not have experienced a death in their close circle, but rather just the act of no longer being with someone they love. This experience is still hard, despite you (as the owner) knowing these people can come to visit.

If the individual visits often (like a college student), your dog may become used to this and be lifted from the grieving process. Then, it’s back to cuddles and playing fetch. Sometimes, this is possible, and your pup keeps feeling blue.

The absence of a person or pet that your dog has grown accustomed to is devastating to an animal, and we need to lend them a supportive paw. Then, you can work on ways to help your dog grieve the loss of something they love.

How Can You Help a Mourning Dog?

Your dog is undergoing something that even they can’t quite explain. All they know is that things have changed, and someone they love is not around all the time. If it’s a person they grew attached to, your dog might be struggling with a sense of purpose. If their routine is disrupted because of the loss of this individual, your dog might benefit from new routines to help distract them.

If your dog has lost one of their siblings or other animal companions, keeping items that the animal liked available to your dog can provide comfort. Dogs grieve the loss of animal companions, which comes as no surprise.

Imagine losing your best friend, the one you share treats with, go on walks with, cuddle with, and play with all day when everyone else is at work. It can be hard to accept that things are now different! It can be difficult for your dog to learn to cope, but you can help make things easier.

Spend Some Quality Time With Them

When your dog is in mourning, they will need more of your time. They will likely be extra lonely and will not want to leave your sign. If they have grown to become more anxious, fearing that you too will leave, they might form some separation anxiety.

If you engage more with your dog in doing activities they love, it might help to distract them from the loss. Going on walks and taking car rides or getting puppy-safe ice cream are good ways for you to spend time with your pet in a positive way. You might even want to make sure that someone is home at any given point in the day so that your dog isn’t alone for the first few weeks might soothe your pup’s stress.

Offer Lots of Extra Attention

Tying into quality time is giving your dog more affection than normal. Petting can be very soothing for both you and your pet, and it can help when your dog is grieving. If your dog likes being petted and kissed, now is a time to bump up your efforts. Carve out more time cuddling with your pet, petting them whenever you walk by or checking in on them every half hour.

Your dog will appreciate the additional love that they desperately need. Interacting with your pet frequently allows your dogs to get a little burst of serotonin. If your dog begins to feel lonely, these additional bouts of affection can boost their morale.

Consider Veterinary Assistance

If your dog has undergone several weeks of grieving, it might be best to consult with a veterinarian about prescribing them medications. Some medications can be prescribed to dogs to help reduce their anxiety and depression. You might not want to do this for a prolonged period, but it can help your dog as they struggle to mourn.

Your vet might want to do a physical exam before prescribing your dog any medication to rule out any other issues.

Introduce Your Dog to New Friends

If your dog is grieving and lonely, it might be nice to introduce them to new or old friends. Having dog playmates that your dog gets along with and feels respected by can bring out a puppy-like charm in your dog.

Not all dogs love to socialize in large groups, but setting up puppy playdates with neighborhood or other family dogs can give your pup a well-deserved energy boost. You can even invite some of your dog’s favorite people over to play with. Any kind of happy distraction is worth it to watch your dog pull themselves out of a funk!

What To Do When Introducing a New Dog to Your Family

While we don’t expect you to do this immediately, it might be worth adding another dog to your family when you are ready. Your pup might be missing their best friend, and not that they could be replaced, but having a new dog around can help your dog heal. If you add a new pet to the equation right away, it could add stress to your already grieving dog.

Once your pet has had time to adjust to the loss of a companion, adding another pet to the family can bring them joy. It helps them focus their energy on new tasks and interactions. No, it doesn’t replace the loss you all feel, but there is a sense of happiness from watching everyone fall in love with a new family member.

Support From People for Your Pets

Grieving dogs can experience many similar symptoms to having other diseases or issues. But, if your dog has just experienced a loss, these symptoms are likely in direct relation to that loss. To be sure, you can reach out to AskVet and let us know what your concerns are.

When you sign-up today, you get 24/7 access to our team of Certified Pet Lifestyle Coaches™ who can guide you through what your pet is experiencing. We can offer support and a plan to help your pet overcome their grief and become their happy, normal self. If you don’t address their grief, things can progress, and your dog can begin to have behavioral changes.

Sign up to access individualized care, FREE One Pet ID tag, a supportive community, and more. And don’t forget to give your pet an extra squeeze tonight from all of us here at AskVet!



Study Suggests Pets Grieve | American Veterinary Medical Association

Domestic Dogs (Canis Familiaris) Grieve Over The Loss Of A Conspecific | Scientific Reports

Use Of Trazodone As An Adjunctive Agent In The Treatment Of Canine Anxiety Disorders: 56 Cases (1995–2007) | American Veterinary Medical Association

5 Reasons Hamsters Bite & How To Prevent It

Hamsters Bite

While small and unassuming, a hamster can still protect itself if they feel the need to. This usually occurs as a small little nip when they are scared or uncomfortable, and it might not even hurt. Still, no one wants to be bitten by their hamster, and avoiding it altogether is the goal.

Don’t assume that your hamster hates you because they bite you — this isn’t always the case. Your hamster might bite you for various reasons, but there are ways to prevent it and gain your hamster’s trust.

In most cases, hamsters are known as very affectionate and cuddly little pets who like to run in circles on their wheels and snack on apples or sunflower seeds. You might need to put in the work to get your hamster to trust you, but once they do, you’ll have a great furry companion by your side (potentially keeping you up all night).

To learn more about why hamsters bite and how to prevent it, keep reading:

Why Do Hamsters Bite?

Hamsters aren’t known to be aggressive. They don’t randomly bite people to assert dominance, so if your hamster has bitten you, there is likely an underlying cause. Most of the reasons that a hamster would bite can be resolved with time and understanding.

You might not get results overnight, but if you take the time to learn what your hamster likes and dislikes, you can better protect yourself from being bitten and keep your hamster’s anxiety at ease.

They Are Afraid

If your hamster is new to you, they might be a bit fearful at first. Being in a strange new place can be overwhelming, even for these little guys, so fear is not abnormal.

If you dive right into trying to handle your hamster without letting them warm up to you, they might bite you. Hamsters need to get used to their space and familiarize themselves with your scent before they can become comfortable.

To prevent a bite, you need to recognize when your hamster is displaying signs of fear or irritation. This might look like them staring at you and diverting their gaze, searching for an escape route, or hiding in their cage from you. If your hamster is acting fearful or irritated, the best thing you can do is avoid handling them, so you don’t get bit.

Additionally, if your hamster is not comfortable with being held, the act alone might make them panic, and they might react by biting you. Unlike dogs, hamsters can’t bark like dogs as a warning — their fearful clues are more subtle.

They Are Hungry

Maybe your hamster isn’t scared of you but instead is beginning to get hungry, therefore slightly irritated. In people we call that “hangry,” we aren’t alone in that — hamsters feel it too.

This kind of bite might be more like a nibble and is a way of them letting you know it’s time to be fed. If your fingers smell like food, they will be even more likely to try to snack on them.

Due to this, it’s recommended that you wash your hands thoroughly before trying to handle your hamster. This way, they won’t mistake your fingers for carrots. While this might not be aggression, this kind of behavior is not ideal and should be stopped. By keeping to a strict feeding schedule, your hamster should not experience the need to bite.

They Want Some Alone Time

Sometimes your hamster will bite you because they don’t want any attention. If you’re handling them when they don’t want to be handled, they might become irritated and let you know to put them in their cage by biting you. Obviously, this isn’t ideal, but the best thing you can do is give your hamster space.

As you begin to form a closer bond with your hamster, you might begin to pick up on signs of this discomfort. You can avoid unwanted biting altogether by preemptively stopping it. Some hamsters simply aren’t going to want to be affectionate with you. Introverts are introverts, no matter the species.

Not all hamsters are overly friendly, and some like to live more solitary than others. You’ll learn these quirks about your hamster the more time you spend with them.

You Need To Adjust Your Handling Techniques

A bite from your hamster might signal that you need to be more gentle with them, especially if you are handling them. For your hamster, biting serves as a defense mechanism, and it helps them let you know they are feeling irritated by your behavior.

They might associate your handling of them with aggression, and their reaction will be to protect. You should never just grab your hamster without warning. Other people that might want to handle your hamster should take their time and go through all the same steps that you had to gain their trust. This will let your hamster feel more comfortable and less stressed when meeting new people.

They Smell Something Unfamiliar

We tell you to wash your hands before handling your hamster because unfamiliar smells might trigger them to bite. Whether they get spooked or assume your fingers are food, washing your hands can usually help prevent this. If you are a new person trying to interact with a hamster, they might bite simply because you smell different than their humans do.

Hamsters have exceptional senses of smell, so they know when a stranger is approaching them. If this stranger spooks your hamster, they might bite them in the name of self-defense. Until your hamster is comfortable with someone, they shouldn’t be handling them at all. The risk of a bite is much higher when the person is unfamiliar with your hamster.

How To Prevent Hamsters from Biting

Hamsters don’t bite because they are being aggressive towards you. They bite because they are scared or anxious. This means that you can work to prevent hamster bites in the future as long as you put in the effort to create a safe space for your hamster.

Some of the following tips can help you to get used to your hamster and learn their behaviors and needs. This will also allow time for your hamster to warm up to you and begin the process of trusting you.

Build Trust

Don’t rush your hamster into doing things they aren’t ready for. You shouldn’t handle them the first day that you get them more than you need to. Be patient with them, and they will come around to you. Hamsters are loving creatures but will need time to learn more about you and understand you’re a friend.

You can do this by sitting by their enclosure and talking to them, giving them an item of yours (like a sock) so they can get used to your smell, and let them settle into their new space.

If you have to pick them up (like in the case of an emergency) before your bond is strong, it is possible. Scoop them into a soft towel so that they don’t try to bite your hands.

Offer Treats

As pet parents, we’re not above bribes.

You can try to get your hamster to warm up to you by offering them some of their favorite snacks. With a new hamster, you will have to learn what they like to snack on before you shower them with treats (not literally, though, because treats should only be given in moderation). Your hamster’s nutrition is important and can help keep them healthy and confident.

Over time, by handing your hamster treats out of your hand, they should begin to open up and trust you more. Eventually, they might start to approach you on their own (yes, looking for a treat — but don’t complain!) and sniff your hand for longer each time without actually nibbling on it.

Pet Your Hamster With Care

Once your hamster is used to your smell, you can begin to pet them very gently. This might start with one or two fingers gently scratching their back and head rather than covering them with your whole hand.

If your hamster seems to tolerate the petting, then you can move on to the next step of picking them up. If they aren’t comfortable with you petting them yet, don’t move on to this next step, or you could weaken their trust.

Cares and Concerns

All hamsters are different and unique. They will like specific actions and dislike others. They might love getting their head or chin scratched but dislike being picked up. Maybe they want to crawl all over you and play with toys, but they become anxious the second you pet them. You can’t help what your hamster feels, but you can do your best to accommodate them.

Questions can arise, and sometimes you need specific answers based on your unique pet. With AskVet, you can ask your questions and get personalized responses quickly. If you are wondering about a behavior change in your hamster, you can chat with a Certified Pet Lifestyle Coach™ from AskVet to get answers and come up with behavioral plans.

If your hamster loves being pet and picked up but begins acting anxiously out of nowhere, there might be a cause for concern. Join Askvet and personalize your pet’s lifestyle plan today.



Hamster Care | School of Veterinary Medicine

Chemical Communication In Rodents: From Pheromones To Individual Recognition | Journal Of Mammalogy | Oxford Academic

Nutrient Requirements Of The Hamster | NCBI

How To Discipline a Puppy: 4 Methods To Help Train Your Pup

How To Discipline a Puppy: 4 Methods To Help Train Your Pup

When a new puppy enters your home, there is a lot to think about and prepare for. You have to get toys, food, treats, a leash and harness, a collar, tags, a comfy bed, and a crate. The list never seems to end. The parts leading up to bringing your new four-legged best home are exciting and carefree.

That’s not to say that when you get your puppy, the excitement goes away, but really the anticipation of what comes next sets in. How will your puppy behave? Will they have funny quirks? Will they require special needs and assistance? You never know how your puppy will behave until you have them in your home.

What comes next is the hard stuff: training your puppy to become a well-behaved dog. Everyone’s definition of well-behaved is different, and there might be some training that you do differently than others.

This all depends on what your goals are for your dog, as well as their breed. It’s important to thoroughly research the breed (or breeds) your soon-to-be pup is; for example, Border Collies will likely need a significantly different lifestyle than a pug.

When it comes to training and disciplining your puppy, there can be conflicting messages out there, and every dog is unique.

Read on to learn more about the variety of methods you could use to help train your pup.

Is Punishment OK When Training a Puppy?

The short answer is: no. Punishment is never OK to use with your puppy, simply because they don’t understand what it means to be punished. Instead of teaching good behaviors, it can instead traumatize them.

When you first get your puppy, you’ll want to show them that you can be trusted and that you are a safe space for them. They should know that you are a consistent and predictable part of their life. They should never fear you — that does not set up a strong foundation for trust.

Your puppy doesn’t necessarily know why you’re angry at them. Therefore, puppies will associate scary behavior with you as a person, not resulting from something they did, like chewing the sofa. We want the opposite of that. We want to be seen as safe people that they can always come to.

A dog is less likely to respond positively to their pet parent’s requests if they tend to be unpredictable people. Dogs thrive on routine, including what is expected of them. It’s sort of like how human kids struggle if one parent allows candy before dinner while the other doesn’t.

Patience, kindness, love, and consistency are all you need to begin seeing the changes in their behavior that you are seeking. Your puppy wants to please you! You just have to learn the best way to communicate your needs with them and learn their needs as well. Soon enough, you’ll be the picture of the perfect duo at the dog park!

Basic Puppy Training Methods

There are four basic puppy training methods that can help you to get desirable behaviors from your pup. Your puppy is going to make a mess or a mistake every once in a while, and you need to be prepared for that. Even brilliant German Shepherds and Poodles can’t be potty trained overnight. The most well-meaning Golden Retriever might destroy unattended shoes for months before you see improvement (or learn to place your belongings out of reach).

As mentioned above, patience, kindness, love, and consistency are key. We all must remember that puppies are young and navigating puppyhood without a litter of pups beside them. They aren’t getting corrections from their mother anymore, which means we have to learn how to do so. By behaving calmly but sternly, we can set a tone that informs our dogs we would rather they didn’t bite through our new sunglasses.

Positive Reinforcement

One of the easiest ways to train your pup is to associate good behaviors with positive reinforcement. If your puppy barks or whines at the door to go outside for the bathroom, you reward them with a treat and a command similar to, “Yes!”

When coming up with commands, it’s always best to keep them simple and different from the rest so your dog can easily identify them. You should begin by pairing the command with a treat so that your pet develops a positive associate with the action and the word.

In many cases, clicker training can help during positive reinforcement training. Like with the command “Yes!” the clicker sound becomes associated with a reward. Your dog might end up “sitting” over and over, looking for a treat.

If your dog barks a lot and it’s beginning to become an issue for your neighbors, you might try a “Quiet!” command associated with a click and reward with a treat whenever they listen and quiet down. Positive reinforcement is used in training frequently and can help teach your dog desired behavior. It’s used in leash training, potty training, crate training, and when trying to calm an excited pup down.


Conditioning is paired with positive reinforcement, but the goal is to teach a dog a desired behavior. This can be very helpful in learning how to train a puppy without punishment because it focuses on positive associations.

Potty training can be a process. You aren’t always sure when your pup is going to go, and not every pup lets you know when they need to go. Puppies have accidents, which means you are the one who has to clean them up every day. To minimize these accidents, potty training is essential.

One way to use conditioning during potty training is to get a set of bells that you can hang on whatever door brings you outside. Whenever you bring your puppy outside to use the bathroom, gently guide their nose to the bells and have them ring. Then take your pup outside and let them relieve themselves. Soon, they will begin pairing the bells with their need to use the bathroom.

Now, dogs can make mistakes and mess up from time to time; stay calm and guide them back to the door to ring the bells before going outside. If your dog does have an accident, it’s important to still bring them outdoors. That way, puppies (or adult dogs) can understand that there is a difference between the two locations.

One of the most critical aspects of successfully training a dog is remaining consistent. Conditioning can work and does work, but if you aren’t upholding the reaction to certain behaviors, your dog will get mixed signals and not understand what you want from them.


While puppies don’t have the longest memories, timeouts after bad behavior can work to correct behavior. If your pup is exhibiting undesirable behavior, like jumping, nipping clothing, overstimulating another dog, or mouthing your hands and arms, taking them away from the stimulus can help calm them down.

If every time this behavior occurs, you remove yourself or the dog from the scenario, your dog can begin to associate the bad behavior with a total halt in interaction. This signals to your dog that something they have done is not wanted.

These timeouts do not need to last very long, especially because your dog will forget what it is you’re correcting them for if it goes on for too long.

An example of this behavior would be turning your back to a dog who is constantly jumping up on you to lick you. Eventually, your pooch will realize that they aren’t getting the attention that they want by jumping. Pair this with positive reinforcement when they sit and wait for you to pet them; they will understand what you want a whole lot faster.

Replace Forbidden Objects With Toys

When your puppy participates in undesirable behaviors, you can replace what they are doing with acceptable behavior to deter them. For instance, if your dog is chewing on your shoes, don’t get angry and yell at them. Instead, tell them “No” and replace the shoe with something they are meant to chew on, like a toy.

If your dog nips at your hands, grab a toy to act as a replacement. If your dog won’t stop jumping on you and trying to play, providing an acceptable alternative is the best way to distract them and divert their energy elsewhere.

How Not To Discipline Puppies

While there are many methods that you could use to help discipline your puppy without punishment, there are clear actions you should avoid. The golden rule applies to dogs, just like people.

Yelling or Intimidating

We don’t want to try to scare your dog by raising voices, screaming, staring down, or intimidating. A tone of voice is telling enough.

They don’t associate intimidation with their individual behavior but rather with that of their pet parents. Yelling and raising your voice will not produce the results you think they will, and rather a calm and firm tone will do the trick. If you want your dog to understand and listen to you better, keeping your tonal flares to a minimum can help with the training process.

Physical Punishment

We feel as if this should be a given, but it needs to be addressed. You should never move to physical punishment in order to discipline a dog. When you physically punish your dog, you are telling them that aggression is acceptable as a means to communicate. Punishment provokes fear and aggression in your dog, as two wrongs do not make a right.

Shock Collars and Electronic Fence Collars

Shock collars have been in the dog training community for a long time. However, these are never recommended for general use. Some dogs might not understand why they are being shocked or hurt.

Since the dog doesn’t necessarily pair cause and effect, these collars might not even help solve long-term behavioral issues. Instead, these collars can instill fear or anxiety into the dog. They can never be too sure when they might be hurt, so they are always tense and on edge.

E-collars or electronic fencing collars are used to establish boundaries when a physical fence isn’t present. Often these collars will emit a tone to a pet, letting them know the boundary is approaching, and then issue a shock when the perimeter is crossed. However, since the collar will also shock the dog upon re-entry, some pups will opt not to come back inside, potentially leading to a lost dog situation.

Training the Trainer (You!)

With puppyhood comes a variety of new questions — almost daily. If you don’t know many others who have raised puppies before, seeking professional help might be useful. When you sign up for AskVet, you have the ability to ask as many questions as possible.

We get that raising a puppy can be scary, so we want to be there for you through it all. Whenever something pops into your head, you can go into the AskVet application and chat with a Certified Pet Lifestyle Coach™ at any point in the day. Your CPLC™ will create a 360° Lifestyle Plan to help keep your dog (or cat, lizard, horse, or fish) on the best path possible.

If you have questions about your puppy’s health, behavior, or training method recommendations, AskVet is there to help you for just $9.99/month.



The Effects Of Using Aversive Training Methods In Dogs—A Review | ScienceDirect

Positive Reinforcement Dog Training: The Science Behind Operant Conditioning | American Kennel Club

Behavior Guide for Your New Puppy | OSU Veterinary Medical Center

Mark & Reward: Using Clicker Training to Communicate With Your Dog | American Kennel Club

Dog Collars | The Humane Society of the United States

Distinct Cat Meow Meanings: From Squeaking to Snarling

Distinct Cat Meow Meanings: From Squeaking to Snarling

Our pets have many ways of communicating with us to get what they want. If you have a cat, you’ve probably heard them meow at you to let you know it’s dinnertime or purr as you’re petting them. But have you ever been stumped by a trickier-to-decipher sound? Do you wish your cat came with a translation dictionary?

Join us as we discuss the meanings behind cat sounds and body language and figure out what your cat is trying to tell you.

Decoding Your Cat’s Body Language

Cats aren’t able to use facial expressions in the same way that dogs do, so instead, they rely on vocalizations and body language to communicate their needs. Anything from your cat’s posture to their vocalizations can tell you what mood they’re in and might even be a signal that they aren’t feeling well. Perhaps your cat is trying to tell another cat to back off. But how do you know which is which?

Let’s explore a few typical cat behavior and body language :

Rubbing and Kneading Objects

Kittens knead when nursing. As they get older, kneading becomes something they do when they’re happy, and they will usually do it against a soft surface such as a pillow or blanket. This is affectionately referred to as “making biscuits” in the cat parent community.

What about rubbing? Cats tend to rub against objects to mark their territory and spread their scent. They may do this with most objects in your home, including rubbing against you and your clothes — they want all the other cats in the neighborhood to know that you are spoken for!

Arched Back

When your cat arches their back, it can mean several things. If their fur is flat and their back is arched when you are petting them, this means that they want to be pet — they’ll probably start purring in this position.

On the other hand, if their fur is raised while their back is arched, they could be trying to make themselves appear larger and more threatening because they are scared or angry.

Tucked Tail

If their tail is tucked between their legs, it’s usually a sign that they are anxious.

Swishing Tail

While a dog wagging their tail is happy, a cat swishing their tail is typically angry, especially if their tail is moving quickly. It can also represent general excitement, like before pouncing on their favorite toy.

Airplane Ears

When your cat’s ears are flat, facing sideways and backward, this is often referred to as “airplane ears” because it resembles the wings of an airplane. It occurs when they are feeling irritated or angry.

Common Cat Sounds and Their Different Meanings

Your cat may use a variety of cat noises along with body language to communicate with you. Some of these coincide with the cues mentioned above.

Here are a few sounds that you might hear often:


This is a noise that female cats use to let male cats know that they are prepared to mate. It is a moaning sound associated with being in heat.

Hissing, Howling, and Growling

These three sounds can all indicate that your cat is in pain or feels threatened. They might make these noises in the presence of new cats, other animals, or people. A hissing or growling cat feels unsafe or distressed.

Howling could also mean that they feel threatened or are trying to alert you to an illness or injury. If you notice that they begin to howl frequently, you should have them examined by your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Repeated or Short Meows

Also called chirrups or mews, this meow sound can mean that your cat is greeting you. They are excited to see you, and they want your attention right away.


This type of meow is used when cats experience pain from something short-term, such as having their paw or tail stepped on. A yowl can let you know that they are hurt, but it typically isn’t used to express pain from a long-term injury.


When cats see something they are excited about but don’t have access to, they chirp because they are frustrated and excited. Domestic cats might chirp when they see small animals that they consider prey from their perch near your windows, such as a bird or mouse.


Mother cats trill to get the attention of their kittens. Later on, your cat may mimic this to get your attention.

Adult Cats and Kittens: What’s the Difference?

Adult cats communicate differently than kittens because adult cats are more mature and employ a broader range of sounds. Now that you know what sounds an adult cat might use, are you curious about how these differ for kittens?

Let’s learn more:

Mother Cat’s Bond

Kittens learn the sounds their mothers make when they are born. Early on in life, they can recognize their mother’s sounds and tell them apart from those of other mother cats.

This is a crucial aspect of bonding between the mother and her kittens. Until they are old enough to be separated from her, the kittens rely on their mother’s sounds to communicate.

Since kittens learn their mother’s sounds almost instantaneously, she can tell them when she is near, discipline them, and signal that she is ready to feed them. Additionally, they can ask her for attention or comfort by crying.

The mother’s sounds are distinct to them; kittens will easily be able to discern them from those of other cats. So how does this instinct remain with them throughout adulthood?

Adult Cat Communication vs. Kitten Communication

Although adult cats have an expanded vocabulary compared to kittens, there are some sounds that they might continue to use once they reach adulthood.

Some speculate that they might do this simply because it feels comforting. Or, it might be a cause and effect — your cat discovered that certain sounds are effective in getting your attention in the same way they used them to beckon their cat mom.

Here are a few ways adult cats and kittens might use similar sounds to express their needs:


Meowing is one of several sounds that kittens mimic from their mother. Since adult cats don’t need to communicate directly with other cats by using this sound, they mainly use excessive meowing on their pet parents or other people to get attention. Through years of living with people, cats learned how to communicate with us, which is pretty darn impressive.


Adult cats respond to pain by yowling, and kittens could do this as well. You might hear a small kitten yowl if their siblings get too rough during playtime or when they experience any other type of short-term pain.


Just like adult cats, hissing might be a sign that a kitten feels scared or uncomfortable. It’s a real “stay back” sound.

There’s an interesting point to make here about feral cats vs. stray cats. Stray cats are those who are used to people and may have lived indoors but are now lost from their original families.

Feral cats have never lived with people, and it can be challenging to acclimate them to humans and domestic life. Feral kittens will hiss and be fearful of people, just like their mother cat.

However, note that kittens born to lost house cats or feral cats can become healthy, happy house cats as long as they experience human contact under the four-month mark.


Growling is similar to hissing. Kittens may growl to show they feel threatened, but this sound can also be used during playtime. Sometimes kittens might growl to exert dominance over siblings in a playful manner, such as when they are fighting over their favorite toys.

Kittens start socializing with their feline brothers and sisters around four to seven weeks old. Play is an important part of their development and how they learn to interact with other cats, including positive play fighting.


Adult cats chirp when they are excited about prey that is out of their reach, but kittens can use this to express excitement too. As with most sounds kittens make, they could use it to get their mother’s attention.

What If My Cat Is Extremely Vocal?

Some cats tend to be (adorable) chatterboxes. If your cat has the gift of gab, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

Is Your Cat Hungry?

If your cat is extremely vocal, it is best to figure out the root cause, as there are many possibilities for this cat behavior. If your cat purrs or flat-out meows to beg for cat food or get attention from you, you can gently discourage this behavior.

For example, you could refrain from giving them food when they beg; this will help them understand that being quiet = getting food.

However, if your cat is on a diet and begs for more in their food bowl because they aren’t full, you might want to discuss this with your vet and consider making adjustments.

Are They In Pain?

If pain is the reason for this behavior, you should take them to the vet. When your cat is meowing to tell you they are hurt, they may stop when they are feeling better after their injury or illness is properly examined and treated.

Are They Expressing Emotions?

Cats express emotions through vocalizations, and if you spend an extended amount of time away from home without them, they might be lonely. One thing that might help is to hire a pet sitter who can play with them so they won’t feel isolated.

Playing with your cat when you return is a task we all love, so that’s an easy choice to make. You can also make sure that your cat has toys or enrichment activities while you’re out and about.

Other Reasons for Vocalization

Aside from using their wide range of vocalizations to express their everyday needs, there are other common reasons your cat might vocalize that require medical attention.

Reproductive Behaviors

If your cat hasn’t been spayed or neutered, you might notice that they exhibit certain behaviors, including being more vocal than normal. Female cats may show more affection towards you and become vocal while in heat.

Consequently, male cats typically become more vocal when they can sense a female in heat nearby.

Medical Needs for Elderly Cats

Elderly cats who begin to meow more than usual could be trying to tell you that they are in pain. It is important to stay up to date on your cat’s vet visits, even when they’re young. This can help them grow up healthy and keep an eye out for potential health issues.

If you have an elderly cat, you should have them regularly examined to keep an eye out for age-related conditions like arthritis, diabetes, or cancer. Your vet can help you provide them with appropriate care.

Noisy Cats: What To Do and What They Need

When your cat is vocal, they’re simply giving you a heads-up that they want or need something.

You will likely be able to figure out what they need as long as you pay attention. After all, no one knows your cat better than you do!

Of course, sometimes your cat screaming for attention at 3 AM when you have work at 7 is not an ideal situation for you (or for your neighbors).

In that case, there are a few steps you can take:

  • Clean their litter box before going to bed (cats hate a dirty litter box)
  • Place nightlights around your home (helpful for older cats)
  • Ignore them to the best of your ability (acknowledging them is a kind of positive reinforcement for them)

If your cat is hissing or growling at a new cat or other pet, reach out for professional help to help your whole family (fur-babies included) get along famously.

Because Your Cat Can’t Talk For Themself

We love our cats, but sometimes it can be hard to figure out what they want or need. Whether you’re looking for advice for your feline friend, fish, puppy, lizard, or more, AskVet is here to help.

Sign up on the AskVet app to get advice and a personalized pet care plan for any animal member of your household. For only $9.99 a month, you can get all the support you need from experts veterinary professionals and pet trainers, the AskVet Clubhouse, and a free One Pet ID.



The Cat’s Meow | The Humane Society of the United States

Meowing and Yowling | ASPCA

How Do Cats Communicate With Each Other? | Library of Congress

Stray Cats, Feral Cats and Kittens | East Bay SPCA

The Settle Mat: What’s That?

Dog laying on settle mat

Welcome to the AskVet Webinar Series where our doctors and veterinary professionals present relevant information and discuss important pet topics. Join our live streams to learn how you, your dogs, and your cats can live your best lives! 

In this discussion with Dr. Marks, we talk about the use of a settle mat as a training tool. A settle mat creates a safe space for your dog to relax, as well as reduces anxiety and fear. Watch below to learn more about this training technique.

A settle mat is a specified mat that your dog can go to and relax. It is not a dog bed, but a mat where they are trained to go for peace and serenity. It allows you as the pet parent to have more control of your dog’s behavior during the day.


Settle mats are a training tool for dogs that are too excitable, or have separation anxiety. 

Pets that are reactive towards people or other pets or dogs that have OCD behaviors (patterned actions with no results, like tail spinning) can benefit from use of a settle mat as well. 


What You Need to Start: 

  • Mat (any type such as yoga, bath, front door mat)- This is your training tool. 
  • Clicker- Clicker training creates sounds that trigger your dog to understand good behavior.
  • Treats- Have a variety of types that your dog loves.

Steps to Settle Mat Training

  1. Place the mat down and wait quietly. This takes time and patience. Refer to clickertraining.com for assistance. 
  2. Praise/click and give a treat when your dog steps on the mat. This requires perfect timing. As soon as your dog steps on the mat, praise and click. Repeat 10 times to establish a good habit. Start placing treats directly on the mat. When your pet steps on the mat to get the treat, click and praise at the same time.
  3. Toss treats away from the mat and move the mat to a new location. You need your dog off the mat to continue training. For this next step, your pet must have all 4 paws on the mat this time for treats. Use commands and praise that are succinct, three word phrases, such as “Good job Samantha” or “Good boy Max!” Praise phrases need to be consistent and short so as not to cause confusion for your dog. 
  4. Repetition is key. Continue to move the mat to new locations. Do not leave the mat out all the time. It is a tool to reduce excitement, not a place for a nap. Next your dog needs to sit or lay down on the mat for treats. You may need to give more enticing treats for encouragement. Again, repeat this 10 times to establish a good habit. 
  5. Build up treat intervals. We do not want to condition our dogs for treats only. Using treat intervals solves this issue. Feed 10 treats, but pause briefly in between treats. Wait a moment, then give another treat and repeat. Build up intervals to a 15 second pause and work them up to extended periods of time on the settle mat. 
  6. Add a Cue. Cue them to go to the settle mat. For example say, “Samantha settle” or  “Go to bed,” or simply say “Mat.” Right before, or as you put the mat down, add the cue.  The goal for your dog is to reach 2 minutes and 30 seconds on the mat.
  7. Add distance. Most of the time during training, we are in close proximity to the mat. Take 1 step back then praise and give a treat if your dog remains on the mat. Continue. If your dog is going to be on the mat for a long period of time, choose a toy to be chewed on and that occupies your pup for a while (like a frozen kong, or rope toy). 

Tips for Success

  • Always end a session. Give your dog a cue that the session is over. Roll up mat and put away. Do not allow use of the mat until training session. 
  • Never use a mat as a place of punishment. It needs to always be a positive safe space.
  • Do not interrupt if your dog is settled on the mat. Let them be. 
  • Keep sessions short. A session lasting 30 seconds to 2 minutes of training per day is enough. Training sessions should be short and focused.
  • Use pheromones. Pheromones are natural chemical compounds that dogs emit normally. Adaptil is a helpful product for settle mat training. Spray on the mat, 8 pumps per session. This creates a warm and relaxing feeling for your dog. 


At AskVet, we know that every pet has its own personality and unique set of needs, which will continually evolve over time. We’re here to help you evolve with them. We use 360° Wellness Plans to help guide you through every stage of your pet’s life—and we’re with you every step of the way.


Join AskVet Today


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Top 5 Smartest Dog Breeds

portrait of a black and white border collie dog in front of a blue background

Many dog owners believe their precious pups have Einstein IQs. From dogs’ emotional attunement to their knack for learning new tricks, these loving animals certainly possess impressive intelligence. However, some canines shine above the rest when it comes to canine intelligence. 

If you want to learn about dog intelligence, you’re in the right place. Below, we’ll discuss which dog breeds boast the greatest intelligence. We’ll also review a few helpful dog training tips that can turn any breed of dog into an astute, straight-A student. 

What Makes a Dog Smart?

Just like human intelligence, dog intelligence can describe many different things. It may refer to a dog’s instinctive skillset, its ability to work in various settings, or its adaptability in new environments. However, the crux of canine intelligence is being able to understand commands and obey them quickly. 

Dog intelligence researcher, Stanley Coren, studied various breeds of dogs to determine which ones were best at:1

  • Learning a new command in less than five tries
  • Obeying the new command at least 95% of the time

Thanks to these characteristics, brighter breeds of dogs are often easier to train. However, all types of dogs can excel in their obedience with the right training. 

Give your pet the personlaized care. Get the app!

What is the Most Intelligent Dog Breed? The 5 Smartest Breeds

So, which dog breeds are the smartest of the bunch? 

Here’s a list of the five most intelligent dog breeds:

#1 Border Collies

Border collies are the true valedictorians of the canine class. According to Coren, border collies were the best at learning new commands quickly and following them consistently. 

For many centuries, these intelligent pups sharpened their sheep-herding skills in Scotland and Wales. Today, these dogs are still outstandingly observant and agile. In turn, they make for fantastic search and rescue dogs.

This sheep-herding dog possesses extraordinary intelligence and exceptional work ethic. When you say “sit,” they’ll never fail to make you proud. 

#2 Poodle

At first glance, poodles may seem like they possess more beauty than brains. However, these pooches bring both qualities to the table in droves. 

Poodles can hunt, swim, and retrieve, all while showing off their smarts and obedience. Some breeds of poodles can even hunt for truffles.

Poodle mixes, like Goldendoodles and cockapoos, also have superior smarts compared to many other breeds. As an added bonus, these curly-coated pups are hypoallergenic, meaning these types of dogs don’t shed

#3 German Shepherd

In many societies, securing a high-powered job indicates intelligence. This sentiment reigns true for dogs, too. When it comes to the working dog, German shepherds lead the pack. These clever canines often hold positions as a:

  • Police dog
  • Military dog
  • Guard dog
  • Seeing-eye dog
  • Therapy dog
  • Medical assistance dog

German shepherds are chosen for these roles because they display high intelligence. They’re obedient and eager to please. They can also pick up new skills at impressive speeds and perform them consistently. 

In addition to being bright, German shepherds are athletic, protective, and deeply loyal. A well-trained German shepherd is a wonderful companion.

#4 Golden Retriever

Golden retrievers have a natural knack for hunting and retrieving. They’re also one of the friendliest dog breeds and happen to be incredibly cute. Due to their advanced intelligence, golden retrievers are often used as a guide dog during search and rescue scenarios. Many goldens also act as a service dog or therapy dog. 

With their adorable demeanors and superior smarts, golden retrievers are also a wonderful choice for a family pet. 

#5 Doberman Pinscher

The last quick-witted pup on this list is the Doberman Pinscher. These sweet dogs exhibit stamina, speed, and smarts all in one. It’s no wonder that they have a long history of serving as war dogs, guard dogs, and police dogs. 

Doberman Pinscher’ physical strength, coupled with their high intelligence, make them a wonderful protection dog. With proper training, these shrewd pooches should have no problem picking up new commands and tricks quickly.

Dog Training Tips

Whether your furry friend is a super smart dog or adorably clueless, you can use similar training techniques to bring him or her up to speed on your house rules. 

Here are a few basic dog behavior training tips for beginners:2

  • Enroll your dog in obedience training right away
  • Use positive reinforcement, rather than aggressive training techniques
  • Offer dog food, toys, and loving pets as rewards
  • Give them treats immediately after the desired behavior
  • Don’t give out extra treats during training sessions, as this may confuse them
  • Train in short sessions of five to fifteen minutes
  • Only say command words once
  • Train before meals so your dog is eager for a tasty treat
  • Limit distractions during training
  • Give generous “good boy” compliments when your pup has nailed a command

Score an A+ in Dog Ownership with AskVet

If you need more help training your dog, AskVet has you covered. Our AskVet veterinarians can assist you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from our convenient vet app. Whether you need training tips or dog owner advice, you can get the answers you need without even making an appointment. 



  1. American Psychological Association. Smarter Than You Think: Renowned Canine Researcher Puts Dogs’ Intelligence on Par with 2-year-old Human. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2009/08/dogs-think
  2. American Kennel Club. Teach Your Puppy These 5 Basic Cues. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/teach-your-puppy-these-5-basic-commands/


What Are the Friendliest Dog Breeds?

Young woman with her cute Jack Russell Terrier at home

Are you and your family looking to bring a new pup into your home? With so many breeds out there, choosing the best dog for your family calls for a moment of reflection. There are a lot of factors to consider when bringing an animal into your life, and knowing the temperament of your future family pet is helpful before taking the plunge. 

Each dog breed is unique, and some are more easy-going and sociable than others. For instance, if you have kids, your breed of choice might differ from someone who lives independently. That’s why we’ve rounded up a list of some of the world’s friendliest dog breeds to make your decision an easy one. 

The Top 10 Friendliest Breeds

Domesticated thousands of years ago, there’s a reason why dogs were coined “Man’s Best Friend.” Consider what it is that you are looking for out of your dog. Are you looking for a hiking partner? A dog that will help “nanny” your kids? A dog that can accompany you to any outing or party happily? Depending on what it is that you want out of this companionship, there is likely a breed that fits the bill.

Read on to learn more about ten of our favorite breeds, each well-known for their friendly nature. 

1. Golden Retriever 

Quite possibly known as one of the friendliest dog breeds, Golden Retrievers are fantastic dogs. Happy-go-lucky and great with children, this popular dog breed aims to please and will give you and your loved ones unconditional love all day long. It’s no wonder these dogs are so popular they’re even able to socialize with other household pets. 

The Golden Retriever is a fun-loving dog that will bring a smile to your face daily. They love to play fetch, go on long walks, and watch their human siblings play soccer from the sidelines. They will always accept pets and cuddles. This breed is a working dog in nature — they are frequently seen working as guide dogs, water rescue team members, and hunting dogs.

This family-oriented breed will make it easy to fall in love with them. As long as you go over animal etiquette, they will gladly spend their days playing dress-up with your little ones! 

2. Pembroke Welsh Corgi

There’s a reason the Queen of England collects Corgis like she collects monochrome outfits. Tiny with larger-than-life personalities, Corgis are a dwarf breed with shortened legs. They are a family-friendly dog breed that needs lots of attention and love from people. One plus to this breed is that they tend to not bark very much, so you won’t have to worry about complaints from your neighbors. 

Now, it’s important to be prepared for their big personalities. As friendly as they are, they are stubborn little dogs who have a knack for defiance. Without guidance, your pooch may start calling the shots; after all, they were originally bred to be high-energy herding dogs.

If you dedicate your time to training, they can make excellent companions for your family… just don’t be surprised when they decide to stop walking midway across the crosswalk and you’re left carrying them home.

3. Pug 

Known for their frog-like faces and curly pig-like tails, Pugs are a popular dog for families with young children. Pugs are an endless source of entertainment, so get ready to laugh. Couch potatoes by nature; they make excellent lap dogs and are able to hang out all day.

This companion dog is known for their personability, with a goofy little smile plastered on their faces most of the time. The pug is a large dog in a small body type of situation.The only downside to this breed is their health problems. Because of their flat noses, Pugs have a hard time breathing. But if you prefer Netflix marathons to actual marathons, a Pug might be the perfect small dog for you and your family.

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4. Labrador Retriever 

Loyal as they come, Labs are the ultimate go-to for any new dog parent. Always positive and down for whatever, your Labrador Retriever will be your new best friend. Bred to be companions, Labs are well-known for their loving personalities and gentle demeanor. This friendly breed is super athletic and is always ready to hit the trails or join you on your camping adventures. 

You can recognize a Lab by their intense wiggle as they run to greet you, their need to lick every surface of your body, and the big smile that they seem to never get rid of. These dogs might give the happiest greetings of all breeds. If you go to the bathroom and come out, it’s like you are a new person to them, and you deserve the best “hello.” 

Labrador Retrievers are extremely excited and happy dogs, so make sure that you work on calming down and finding their zen — otherwise, you’ll find yourself pulling them off of unsuspecting guests as your lab tries to jump up and give them a big ol’ kiss. When they get a lot of exercise during the day, they are more than happy to snuggle up and chill.

5. Boxer

Although typically thought of as aloof and distant because of their stature, Boxers are considered one of the sweetest breeds. They are eager to meet new people and show them some love.

These big-eyed, droopy-lipped dogs just want to be your friend. However, Boxers can get too overexcited and jump on new friends, pushing them to the ground. For this reason, it’s a good idea to start training your Boxer from an early age. 

Boxers have a lot of energy. It’s vital that they get enough exercise so that when it’s time to relax, they are more than willing.

Playing fetch and working on learning new commands is one way to focus their energy, but they love to be the center of attention. Come playtime, and the whole family can watch this natural clown in their true element.

6. Collie 

Collies aren’t just famous in the movies — they also make an amazing family dog. They are a beautiful and intelligent dog breed with soft long coats. Lassie made this breed a favorite in the United States. Collies were originally bred as herding dogs and are known to stick by their owners with fierce loyalty. They do tend to have a lot of energy, so make sure you and your family are prepared for a lot of outdoor time before bringing this breed home. 

These dogs thrive when they have a task to complete. This is one way to involve them with your family. You can bring them to the park, on hikes, to the playground, or camping, and they will keep an eye on the kids. They are great at alerting you when they feel necessary, giving you a sense of ease when out and about with the family.

7. Poodle 

Do you want a dog but suffer from allergies? A poodle might be the best dog breed for you. A favorite among people with dander sensitivity, poodles come in a range of three sizes and are one of the friendlier breeds out there. Another positive factor of owning a standard poodle is that these types of dogs don’t shed, so you won’t have to constantly worry about vacuuming. 

Poodles are very intelligent and love to impress their owners. This means they will want to spend hours by your side, learning new tricks and showing off for treats. You will find a best friend in a poodle, no matter what size!

8. Boston Terrier 

Bite-sized and packed with energy, Boston Terriers have a ton of personality and are a favorite among people of all ages. This breed is extremely playful and will make you laugh with their goofy antics. Keep in mind that Boston Terriers can become so attached to their owners that they develop separation anxiety. For this reason, it’s essential to establish boundaries with your new Boston Terrier puppy. 

If you are someone looking to add a sidekick to your family, this small dog breed is a perfect option. They are easily adaptable and can do well in a variety of settings. They don’t need a large yard, but they still love a good game of tug-of-war. They might give you some crazy eyes before doing zoomies around your living room, and they will keep you entertained.

9. Border Collie 

The original sheepdog, Border Collies, are famous all over the world. They are one of the easiest dogs to train and are very energetic. These dogs are also agile and fiercely loyal to their owners.

The one downside to this breed is their boundless energy and constant need to exercise. Because of this, they don’t make fantastic dogs for people without backyards or space for them to run around.

These dogs focus their energy into the things they love but might be a tad wary about strangers and new experiences. They will shower their families with love and loyalty but might be a bit more reserved around people they don’t know.

First-time Border Collie parents should be aware this breed requires constant mental stimulation and engagement. Dog sports and training competitions are where this doggy genius shines.

Once they warm up to strangers, they will be just as affectionate as they are with you. If you want a dog that is dedicated to you and a bit more watchful, the Border Collie is a great option.

10. Great Dane 

Due to their size, Great Danes come off as intimidating, but that couldn’t be further from the truth — they’re gentle giants. As loving as dog breeds come, this breed will capture your heart. Great Danes are protective and loyal to their families and are particularly tender with young children. 

Great Danes will surprise you with their gentle nature, but you’ll become accustomed to how wonderful of a pet they can be. These dogs also don’t require too much exercise because they are much happier lying on the couch or in the sun. You might need to buy an entirely new couch to accommodate this large and chill pet!

What’s the Deal With Pitbulls?

The term “Pitbull” is often used as an umbrella term in the United States to describe a certain breed of dog that comes from the Terrier line: the American Pitbull Terrier, American Bully, American BullDog, and Staffordshire Bull Terriers. Pitbulls have gotten a bad reputation over the years due to their perceived aggression. Because of this stereotype, people tend to avoid this breed of dog. 

There are differing opinions on whether Pitbulls are unfriendly by nature or are raised to be aggressive guard dogs. Like with all breed types, how you raise and treat an animal will impact their personality.

Pitbulls are known to be friendly dogs when they are cared for properly. They are loyal to their families and seriously love a good cuddle. In fact, in the early 1900s, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier was called a “nanny dog and loved by many (including notables like Helen Keller and Theodore Roosevelt).

Due to the controversy, many people shy away from pits, although, in recent years, they have become a more popular dog choice. These dogs aren’t for everyone — they are strong and energetic dogs, but if you have the time and commitment towards breaking down stereotypes and giving your Pitbull a beautiful life, you’ll be amazed at how much love they have to give. 

AskVet: We’re Here for You

Regardless of which fluffy family member you choose to bring home, we at AskVet are here for you. Whether you want to consult a veterinarian or looking for dog behavior training tips, our digital platform is chock-full of resources. We offer a safe online space where you can get expert advice and create a customized pet plan for your new best friend

Join the AskVet community and reap the benefits of 24/7 support. Having someone there to ask questions and formulate a training plan makes it easier to give your pet the life they deserve. All dogs thrive off of structure, and with AskVet, you can rest easy knowing that AskVet is here to help.


Pug Dog Breed Information | AKC

Dog Allergen Levels In Homes With Hypoallergenic Compared With Nonhypoallergenic Dogs | NCBI

Separation Anxiety | ASPCA

Everything You Need to Know About The Staffordshire Bull Terrier | Veternarians.org

What are the Easiest Dogs to Train?

German Shepherd Dog is running close up

Your pup already scores high marks for cuteness, wags, and heart-melting. But how does he fare when it comes to sit and stay? Don’t worry, you’ve got this. Training your dog as a puppy will help you create a bond and minimize unwanted behavior. Potty training and sitting on command may seem not quite as fun as tricks like shake and roll over. However, these skills make all the difference later on—especially at the dog park. 

That being said, there are certain breeds that are easier to train than others. That’s why we’ve rounded up a list of the easiest dogs to train.1  From big to small dogs, check out our comprehensive guide to learn more about the easiest dog breeds to train for you. 

Easiest Big Dogs to Train

Though it may seem more challenging to train larger dogs, there are plenty of breeds that take to obedience dog training like they were born for it. Here are four breeds that can make dog training a walk in the park. 

#1 German Shepard

German shepherds are the go-to dog breed as a service dog and guard dog. Due to their intelligence and obedient nature, this working dog breed is popular worldwide. They’re also incredibly loving and can be giant goofballs when presented with their favorite chew toy. 

The one catch with a German Shepherd dog is that because of their tendency to be overprotective, it’s important to train them as puppies. That way, they can channel their incredible energy into this intelligent dog breed’s best qualities. 

#2 Labrador Retriever 

Ask a dog trainer what words come to mind when they think of a labrador retriever. Chances are they’ll say “loving,” “easygoing,” and “so cute.” These traits make labrador retrievers an incredibly popular family pet worldwide and one of the easiest dogs to train. 

When it comes to training, they’re also stars. Labrador retrievers respond well to direction and learn tricks easily. Why? This breed is extremely food motivated. Sit? Stay? Shake? Yup, there’s almost nothing a lab won’t do for a yummy treat, so make sure to have a stash nearby when training dogs. Just keep the lid on tight, labs are notorious gluttons and mischief-makers. 

#3 Border Collie 

One of the smartest dog breeds out there, border collies were literally bred to obey commands. Just ask generations of Scottish shepherds who have relied on this herding breed to herd sheep. Intelligent beyond belief, border collies excel when it comes to following hand gestures and sounds such as whistling. These dogs are extremely quick learners, so it’s best to start their training early as puppies. 

#4 Doberman Pinscher 

Dobermans make excellent watchdogs and are surprisingly loving and affectionate—unless they feel threatened. Extremely protective of their dog owner, these dogs will go to the ends of the earth to keep their family and home safe. This is why it’s essential to start their training early to make sure they learn proper obedience. 

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Easiest Small Dogs to Train

Smarties sometimes come in small (adorable) packages—this is especially the case for the small dog breeds. These four breeds respond well to direction and love learning new tricks. Just make sure to always keep some treats on hand—positive reinforcement is perfect for your canine friend. 

#1 Miniature Schnauzer 

These wiry-haired dogs are spunky and playful by nature. When trained well, they can become stalwart watch dogs. Miniature schnauzers are known to be stubborn and suspicious of strangers, so make sure to properly train your schnauzer as a puppy. Proper discipline is essential starting early on and will make your relationship with your puppy so much better. 

#2 Poodle

Though on the list of small dog breeds, poodles come in all shapes and sizes. Poodles are a strong choice for anyone who wants an easygoing and lovable animal that’s straightforward to train. Sharp as a whip, poodles need plenty of mental stimulation. Challenging games are a favorite of this intelligent dog breed—you’ll be amazed by their ability to pick up new tricks. And to top it all off, these types of dogs don’t shed

#3 Papillon

Named for their butterfly-like ears, it’s easy to see why papillons are a favorite among dog-owners worldwide. A prime example of a toy dog, the papillon is highly energetic and playful. Misleadingly delicate, these doggies are very athletic. They aim to please and do well with agility tricks, such as obstacle courses and hurdles. You’ll be surprised by your papillon’s ability to keep up with bigger dogs. 

#4 Border Terrier

Border terriers are one of the most low-key dogs around. Their calm and affectionate nature makes them one of the easiest dogs to train. A favorite among people everywhere, border terriers thrive in obedience training and love to work. They also do extremely well with obstacle courses and mazes.

What Are the Most Difficult Dogs To Train?

You’re probably wondering what dogs are the most difficult to train. The truth of the matter is, any breed is difficult if not trained correctly or if the training is started after bad habits have already been developed. So really, it depends on the dog. 

In general, dogs with stubborn personalities and a lack of listening skills are a lot more difficult to train. Make sure to research various breeds before picking out your new pet, it’ll make a world of difference down the road for every dog owner. 

Here are a few breeds that are known to be a little bit more challenging to train:

  • Alaskan malamute
  • Basset hound
  • Shar pei
  • Beagles
  • Chow Chow
  • Mastiff
  • Greyhound

Trust Your Pup with AskVet

It can be tough training dogs, and you’ll undoubtedly have a lot of questions and concerns when you bring your new dog home for the first time. That’s where we come in. 

At AskVet, we are here to help you make the transition into training your new puppy an easy one. Our community of fellow dog owners and certified veterinarians is here to support you on your dog behavior training journey. Whether you need tips on how to make your puppy come on command or stop running after squirrels, help is just a click away. 



  1. American Kennel Club. 13 of the Most Trainable Dogs.  https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/lifestyle/13-of-the-most-trainable-breeds/


How to Understand Dog Body Language

Although we often talk to them, dogs don’t necessarily talk back to us, or do they? Yes, actually they do! Dogs do indeed express a wide range of emotions through a well-developed method of body language. They use their bodies to effectively communicate with each other and other animal species, humans included! 

Using different sounds, facial expressions, eye and body movements, ear positioning, posture, fur and tail position (and sometimes even emitting smells!) dogs communicate very effectively with each other, and us too … maybe it is US that are just not understanding THEM sometimes? 

 Veterinarians and animal behaviorists learn the “language of dog” pretty quickly in order to find out what might be hurting our pups or causing them to be fearful. Sometimes we analyze dog body language to figure out what might be provoking certain behaviors that pet owners can’t quite figure out. Better yet, we use these clues to devise plans for what we can do to help our dogs live a confident, happy life with you–their favorite person. 

The Benefits of Understanding Dog Language to Prevent Human Injury

It is extremely important for pet parents to try to get to know their dog’s body language accurately–not only to make their dog confident and comfortable, but also to protect any vulnerable humans that their dog may encounter. In this way, understanding dog body language is essential to creating a peaceful and harmonious mixed-species household!  

The ability to detect when your dog is not feeling comfortable will also assist with early medical intervention in times of illness. For example, if your dog normally loves scratches on his back but you notice fearful behavior when you start petting that area, it may indicate they are experiencing pain. 

By reading the body language of both your own dog and others you may encounter, you can also protect other humans and animals when a dog is showing signs of being nervous, fearful, or potentially aggressive. In this way, you can be a hero who helps avoid a confrontation!

While the brain and actions of a pup can still be perplexing at times, the following are some descriptions that pet parents can recognize to help decipher what your pup may be trying to say. After all, since we can’t educate dogs on how to speak OUR language, it is up to humans to learn how to speak theirs. While perusing these descriptions, you may realize that you actually do speak a little “dog” without even knowing it, as the years of bonding with your pup have already taught you a lot about their likes and dislikes!

Common Body Language of Dogs


Dogs that are feeling relaxed and approachable show that they are calm and happy about your presence through their body posture and expressions.

Head, Eyes, Ears: The head will be up with eyes, ears, and facial expressions all in a soft, natural, and relaxed position.

Facial Expressions, Mouth: The mouth will be open and the tongue exposed, almost like they are grinning at you! 

Body Position and Tail: Their weight will be evenly distributed on all 4 paws (or comfortably laying down), with the tail wagging in a relaxed and natural position. 

This dog is telling those around that they are not feeling threatened by anything at that moment. Still use caution if approaching this dog, especially if they are unfamiliar to you. Be on the lookout for changes in their facial expression and body position because even if they are not feeling threatened, changes in the surroundings could alter their mood.           


Many of us easily recognize a dog that is feeling playful and ready to have a good time! 

Head, Eyes, Ears: The ears are usually up or perked forward, with pupils dilated and eyes focusing on their potential playmate.

Facial Expressions, Mouth: The mouth is usually open, tongue out, and they may be egging you on with a toy in their mouth or at their feet.

Body Position and Tail: They may take a crouching position with their front end, and lower their chest to the ground with elbows bent, rear end in the air,  and with the tail up and probably wagging.

This position may be followed by a run or leap as well as some playful barking. Excited jumping around indicates playfulness and his willingness to bring you into the fun!

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A dog that is alert and interested in something, like a squirrel in the yard or some friends walking by on the sidewalk outside, will be laser focused with his body very still, sizing up the situation.

Head, Eyes, Ears: The head will be up and alert, ears pricking forward, eyes will be wide.

Facial Expressions, Mouth: The mouth will be closed, lips relaxed, and very still.

Body Position and Tail: They will be standing very straight and tall, sometimes leaning forward slightly, and the tail may be sticking out horizontally and gently wagging.

This dog is interested, focused, and assessing whether a threat is present, and if action needs to be taken, like bolting towards that squirrel if given the opportunity!     



This dog is perceiving a threat, like a postal worker “invading their territory” by approaching their front door. In response to the perceived threat, he shows that he is feeling aggressive, dominant, and confident in his position protecting the house. 

Head, Eyes, Ears: The ears are forward and spread slightly, and pupils are dilated, eyes holding a firm stare at the “enemy.” 

Facial Expressions, Mouth: The face may show wrinkles in the forehead and nose, with the lips curled, showing their teeth as potential weapons, sometimes with an open mouth. This dog may be growling and/or barking as a warning as well.

Body Position and Tail: The tail is raised, stiff, and bristled, the fur on his upper and lower back (“hackles”) are raised. Their body is stiff, and they are standing on all 4 legs evenly, leaning forward to express dominance and the willingness to move forward.

This dog is telling everyone that he will act aggressively if he feels his turf is being threatened. When dogs are in the dominant/aggressive state, they are highly stimulated and may attack or bite — not just their target, but anything closeby — when they are feeling this level of arousal. Use extreme caution around this dog and if you are noticing this unwanted behavior in your pup, check out our blog for what to do with an aggressive dog.


When a dog is fearful of something, like a new visitor into the home, they may also respond with aggression in order to protect themselves against a perceived threat. This dog is not submitting to the threat, but instead sending a warning that they are scared but willing to defend themselves by responding to a conflict with a bite or aggressive behavior. 

Head, Eyes, Ears: The head will be lower and bowed down a little, ears will be back, and pupils dilated and focused on the threat. 

Facial Expressions, Mouth: The face will have wrinkles at the nose, and the lips may be curled showing some teeth. They may be growling a warning as well. 

Body Position and Tail: They will face the individual that is the perceived threat, tuck their tail between their legs, and raise the hackles over their upper and lower back. Their body will be lowered and muscles tight and stiff.

Fearful dogs may also release their anal glands (small sacs that contain a fishy-smelling fluid, located under the skin on the left and right of the anus). This dog is feeling threatened and scared but also sending the message that he is willing to bite if he feels provoked, so use extreme caution if you see these signs.  


Fearful/Stressed But Submissive

Some dogs that are fearful will actually not respond with aggression, and instead will offer signs of submission. They want to avoid conflict with individuals that they feel are threatening to them. Unfortunately, veterinarians tend to see this body language often, as dogs can be quite nervous during their exams — but we do our best to ease their fears with slow, gentle handling and lots of snacks! 

Head, Eyes, Ears: The ears will be back, and eye contact will be brief and indirect with the dog choosing not to look at the source of the stress directly, in hopes to avoid confrontation. Often, you will notice the dog physically turns his head away from someone trying to interact with them–like a child–in hopes of avoiding a stressful situation.

Facial Expressions, Mouth: They may be panting, licking at the air, their lips, or the face of the threat (dog or human), and they may also yawn (dogs may yawn due to stress, not because they are tired!). 

Body Position and Tail: They will tuck their tail down, and maybe slightly wag it, lower their body and cower. Their front paw may be raised, and their body may be slightly crouched and leaning back.

The fishy-smelling anal glands may be released here too, since they are nervous. A dog exhibiting this body position is feeling very anxious and uncomfortable. He is telling those around him that he is feeling nervous about his surroundings but not wanting to be aggressive.


Extreme Fear/Submission

Occasionally, you will meet a dog that is very submissive, meaning that they do not want to be perceived as a threat or aggressor in any way to a person or dog. As a person (even a well-loved pet parent) or dog approaches, they may possibly urinate a small puddle and this action is called “submissive urination”.

Head, Eyes, Ears: The eyes will be squinting, and ears back and flat.

Facial Expressions, Mouth: The mouth will stay closed. 

Body Position and Tail: As they are approached, they will cower and then lay down and roll to their back with their head outstretched, exposing the stomach, chest and neck. They may tuck their tail between their legs.

It may look like they are inviting you in for a belly rub, but instead, these submissive dogs are indicating to the other animal that they willingly accept their low social status and are surrendering themselves in hopes of avoiding conflict and physical confrontation.

Sometimes some of the above fearful and aggressive messages can be followed by a bite or attack if the threat crosses over the threshold of that dog. Dogs rarely bite or attack unprovoked, and understanding the visible “warning signs” that dogs communicate can keep both dogs and humans safe. Children are especially vulnerable to altercations with dogs, as they want to snuggle every dog they see and often are oblivious to the warning signs that dogs are trying to communicate. That’s where YOU come in as the doggie translator!

If a dog is showing aggression toward humans, even if he is a young puppy, it is extremely important to seek the opinion of a veterinarian. By performing a physical exam and discussing the pup’s behavior with you, your veterinarian can identify any physical problems that may be contributing to the aggressive behavior. Ultimately, your veterinarian can assess if the behavior problems you are seeing in the home need the intervention of a canine mental health professional (board-certified veterinary behaviorist) or simply a reputable dog trainer. 

What if the worst-case scenario happens, and a dog bites a person? Dog bites should be followed up with appropriate medical attention and reported to animal control as required by local state and county regulations. Unfortunately, the consequences of biting a human are much more severe when the dog is not appropriately vaccinated for rabies–so make sure your pooch is up-to-date on his boosters, just in case!  

Better Communication, Happier Team!

Just when you thought that dogs don’t talk, take a moment and watch your buddy react to sights while walking down the street and meeting friends at the dog park. Watch his body position and facial expressions when you coax him into the lobby of the vet clinic versus him pulling you into PetSmart. You’ll probably recognize some of those postures, ear, and tail positions that we described earlier, and now you know what your pup has been telling you for so many years! Understanding how dogs communicate is an important part of responsible dog ownership and will help provide a happier, safer, and more comfortable life for you and your dog together!

Our AskVet Veterinarians are available to discuss all of your pet’s behavioral needs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Whether you have an immediate need or are looking to improve your pet’s overall wellbeing, just sign into your account and one of our friendly and knowledgeable veterinary experts will attend to your needs, no appointment required!


Written by:

Alexa Waltz, DVM
Dr. Waltz was raised near the beaches of Southern California but has spent her adult life living all over the beautiful United States while serving in the military and as a military spouse. She left California for the first time to pursue a career as a veterinarian at Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine and graduated as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in 2006. She was accepted into the US Army Health Professionals Scholarship Program during vet school and upon graduation spent her military years as a veterinarian in San Diego working for the US Marine Corps and US Navy Military Working Dog programs as well as caring for pets of service members. After her military service, she became a civilian veterinarian and continued as a small animal general practitioner at clinics in California, Rhode Island, Colorado, and Maryland. Dr Waltz loves to see her “in person” patients just as much as communicating with and assisting pet parents virtually on AskVet. Dr Waltz is also a Mom to 3 humans, 2 guinea pigs, and 1 Australian Shepherd and in her spare time she loves traveling, adventures, exercising, and doing just about anything out in nature!

What to do with an Aggressive Dog

Humans and dogs have been coexisting together for thousands of years, and the amount of love, joy and support that dogs contribute to society is undeniable. However, aggressive behavior leading to dog bites is a serious matter not to be taken lightly. Education and awareness are the key tools for dog lovers (and every other human!) to prevent a tragedy.

So, if we love and depend on each other so much, what causes a dog to bite a human?  How can we tell if a dog is feeling uncomfortable or aggressive? What should you do if you recognize aggressive behavior in your dog? How do we protect children and educate them about dogs? Let’s explore how the brain of a dog works in order to answer these questions …

Dog Aggression and Biting

Puppy Socialization

A common misconception is that aggressive dogs were “abused” as puppies, explaining their fearful, unbalanced, protective, and unpredictable behavior. Although there are certainly very sad cases of dog abuse or abandonment causing lasting mental health problems, abuse is not actually the origin of most episodes of human-directed dog aggression. 

Instead, puppy socialization, specifically the lack of puppy socialization between the ages of 3-14 weeks, will often dictate how a dog is able to process and cope with his surroundings as an adult. At a young age, your puppy’s brain is developing and soaking up knowledge about what to expect throughout his life. They are learning what is considered “safe,” and what is considered “unsafe.” Puppies that are lacking socialization and basic obedience and dog training are less likely to have the coping skills needed to manage their fear in varying situations. Once a dog is fearful, it is normal and natural for him to use aggression to communicate his feelings and go into protection-mode.

So, what can you do? If you are raising a puppy, make sure to expose him in a positive way (with plenty of treats!) to varied experiences, sights, and sounds. This includes walking on different surfaces, being close to different types of vehicles, other dogs and animals, and a meeting variety of people and children. See our article on “Things You Need for a Puppy” for more tips. Taking the time to socialize your puppy at a young age means he will become a confident, happy companion for you and your family.

Crate training and basic behavior training for puppies will also help them learn how to calm themselves and to look to their pet parent for direction and comfort in times of uncertainty.

 How Dogs Express Irritation and Fear

In order to understand how dog bites and fights happen, deciphering how dogs communicate is key. Dogs rarely bite without first being provoked, and dogs indeed give signals to us that they are feeling upset. We know that dogs speak a different language than humans do—and it is our responsibility to learn how to “speak dog” and understand what our canine companions are telling us!

What clues do dogs give that they are feeling fearful and uncomfortable? It turns out that dogs use very recognizable forms of body language to tell other dogs, humans and other species how they are feeling. Dogs use different sounds, facial expressions, eye and body movements, ear positioning, posture, fur and tail position to communicate how they are feeling. We just need to be able to recognize these clues! 

Dominant/Aggressive: A dog who is feeling dominant and aggressive in a situation will have their ears forward, pupils dilated, with eyes holding a firm stare at the “enemy.” Their face may show wrinkles in the forehead and nose, with the lips curled to show their teeth as potential weapons, sometimes with an open mouth. This dog may be growling and/or barking as a warning as well. The tail is raised, stiff, and bristled, the fur on his upper and lower back (“hackles”) are raised.  This dog is telling everyone that he will act aggressively if he feels his turf is being threatened. When dogs are in the dominant/aggressive state, they are highly stimulated and may attack or bite at ANYTHING that draws their attention — use extreme caution around this dog. 

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Fearful/Aggressive: Fear aggression is likely the most common cause of dog bites—simply because we humans are not very skilled at recognizing fear in our dogs. The result? A dog tells us in subtle ways that he is feeling fearful, and as these subtle signs are ignored, the dog feels he has no choice but to “go big or go home” to protect himself—resulting in a bite.

A dog who is fearful will hold his head lower and bowed down a little, and he may be holding his ears back. You might notice his pupils are dilated and focused on the “threat” he is perceiving. His face will have wrinkles at the nose, and the lips may be curled showing some teeth. He may also be growling a warning as well. A fearful dog will sometimes face the individual that is the perceived threat, tuck their tail between their legs, and raise the hackles over their upper and lower back. Their body will be lowered and muscles tight and stiff. 

Alternatively, a fearful dog may turn his head away from the object causing him to be scared, and move his eyes to keep tabs on what is going on—you can see the whites of the dog’s eyes in this situation, called “whale eye.” If you see a dog with a whale eye, be mindful that this dog is feeling threatened and scared. The next step for him to protect himself is to attack if he feels provoked, so use extreme caution if you see these signs.

Situations That Commonly Cause Aggression

Just like us, dogs have feelings, fears, and the instinct to protect themselves from what they perceive as threats. Each dog has her own boundaries, and it is our job as pet owners to prevent those boundaries from being disrespected. One of the most difficult conundrums associated with protecting our dogs from fearful situations: many times, dogs and humans do not even see eye to eye on what constitutes a “threat”! This is where learning dog body language is key to understanding your dog’s needs. 

For example: We see our friends coming over to hang out at the house as a great way to spend the day–and some dogs may see the situation as unpredictable strangers invading their turf, possibly to harm them. 

Another example: We see a sweet child who loves to hug and love on dogs–and some dogs see it as an unpredictable animal who is invading their personal space, and potentially may hurt them. 

Not all dogs will react the same way to the same situation, of course! It is the pet parent’s responsibility to read their dog’s body language and gauge the safety of a given situation. If your dog feels uncomfortable, it is essential to alert the humans involved and remove your dog from the situation for the collective safety and security of dogs, humans, and other animals. It is also important for children to learn that not all dogs love to be pet and hugged, and to always ask the dog’s owner for permission to approach a dog and also where the dog likes to receive scratches. 

Common Situations Leading to Dog Bites

It is also important to recognize situations that are inherently more likely to lead to an uncomfortable dog and an unwanted dog bite. Here are some common situations where dogs can potentially become aggressive if they are pushed beyond their threshold:

–   Dog parks where emotions are heightened, and dogs are unleashed

–   Children approaching, petting, or hugging them

–   Taking away a prized toy, food item, or food bowl (resource guarding)

–   Other dogs or animals approaching

–   “Protecting” their home territory from passers-by on the street, or delivery/postal workers

–   Unfamiliar visitors into the home

–   At unfamiliar locations like the veterinary clinic, grooming salon, or boarding facility

–   Petting or touching them while eating

–   Protecting an injured body part, or if they are feeling pain

–   Sudden movements around them (especially children) 

–   Protecting body parts that they do not like handled (especially if a child is pulling ears, petting their fur in the wrong direction, touching paws, pulling the tail, etc) 

–   Redirected aggression towards something nearby when the stimulus is out of reach

–   Male or female competition (especially male dogs that are not neutered)

–   Frustration from being restricted

–   The instinctive prey drive (especially towards smaller animals)

–   Overexcitement

–   Older dogs, and senior dogs with cognitive decline (dementia)

A Word About Dog Breeds and Aggressive Behavior

We’ve all been pretty conditioned to recognize certain types of dogs as the “dangerous breeds.” The classic image of Pitbulls, Rottweilers, and German Shepherds is that these dogs were bred to protect humans, and therefore all members of the breed are aggressive and not worthy of our trust. Sometimes certain breeds are even “banned” from living in certain places. However, those stereotypes are just that and these dogs continue to endure the stigma. 

The reality is that any dog– no matter the breed– can become fearful, irritated, uncomfortable, and territorial — and potentially become aggressive and bite. 

Shih Tzus, Terriers, Shelties, Labs, Bulldogs, Yorkies, Cocker Spaniels, Chihuahuas (especially chihuahuas!), Dachshunds … these breeds might not be the typical “poster dogs” for aggressive behavior, but are certainly responsible for their share of dog bites. 

Here are the position statements that animal groups in the United States take in regards to breed bans, breed aggression, and blanket labeling or some dog breeds as “dangerous”. 

American Veterinary Medical Association “Dog bite statistics are not really statistics, and they do not give an accurate picture of dogs that bite. Invariably the numbers will show that dogs from popular large breeds are a problem. This should be expected, because big dogs can physically do more damage if they do bite, and any popular breed has more individuals that could bite. Dogs from small breeds also bite and are capable of causing severe injury. There are several reasons why it is not possible to calculate a bite rate for a breed or to compare rates between breeds.”

“Statistics on fatalities and injuries caused by dogs cannot be responsibly used to document the ‘dangerousness’ of a particular breed, relative to other breeds, for several reasons.”

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior “Any dog may bite, regardless of the dog’s size or sex, or reported breed or mix of breeds. The AVSAB’s position is that such legislation—often called breed-specific legislation (BSL)—is ineffective, and can lead to a false sense of community safety as well as welfare concerns for dogs identified (often incorrectly) as belonging to specific breeds.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention The CDC recommends against using breed as a factor in dog-bite prevention policy and states: “Any dog of any breed has the potential to bite.”

The bottom line: EVERY dog has boundaries (just like people!), and ANY dog can bite when their personal threshold for fear or pain is exceeded. 

What if Your Dog Shows Aggression?

First of all, well done for recognizing that your dog is exhibiting some problematic behavior and needs help. We all love our dogs so deeply that it can be very difficult for pet parents to acknowledge that their beloved pooch may be dealing with some real mental health issues. However, the sooner that aggression is noted, and treatment or rehabilitation is initiated, the better the possible outcome. This is especially true for puppies: play-biting can be cute when they are small, but your cute puppy will soon be an adult who also thinks using his mouth on people is okay, and at that point it is much more difficult to curb the issue.  

Visit Your Veterinarian First

If you witness aggressive behavior and biting by your dog, take note of the context surrounding the incident, who was involved, how people around your dog reacted, and how your dog acted throughout the event. 

Your veterinarian should be the next stop for a physical exam to check for any painful conditions that might have led to your dog’s aggression, diagnostic blood and urine testing to assess internal baseline body functions, and an in-depth discussion about the situation. Your veterinarian will ask what may prompt your dog to act aggressive, fearful, or stimulated to bite (videos of incidents are invaluable!). 

Just like in people, some dogs suffer from anxiety, especially in new unfamiliar situations. Your veterinarian can determine if your dog’s anxiety may serve as an underlying cause. If anxiety is determined to be a contributing factor, medications to calm your pup may be prescribed.  Training with desensitization and counterconditioning techniques are often beneficial to calm your dog’s fears and help him learn to regulate his emotions in certain situations. 

Medications are not meant to sedate dogs or change personalities, but instead to calm dogs with anxiety enough so that they can learn how to cope with their emotions and form a positive view of something that was previously very scary to them. Some will benefit from a referral to a Board-Certified Veterinary Behaviorist for a thorough evaluation and treatment plan to help your dog.

Avoid the Stimulus

Avoiding situations that will stoke your dog’s fear and potential aggressive tendencies can be an effective way to control the issue. Just do not put your dog in a situation where he may feel fearful and become aggressive. For example, if your dog is aggressive towards other dogs—simply keeping your dog away from other dogs can almost entirely eliminate the issue. 

If your pup is scared of new people, make sure to discourage people from approaching and petting her while out on walks, and don’t bring her out into crowded, unpredictable public spaces. Crate-training her and utilizing the crate to secure your dog in her “safe space” prior to visitors entering your home is another simple, effective tool to prevent stressful situations. 

Basket Muzzles

In some situations, avoiding the stimulus may not be possible. For dogs encountering known stressful triggers, basket muzzles can be literal lifesavers! When used properly and appropriately, basket muzzles are an excellent way to protect both people AND your dog from a dog bite situation. (Note: Nylon muzzles are not recommended because they do not allow the dog to pant and are not secure.)

You can train your dog to wear a basket muzzle happily and associate the muzzle with positivity and yummy treats. See “The Muzzle Up Projectfor a step-by-step guide, complete with videos, to train your dog to wear a basket muzzle with zero stress. 

Using your dog’s basket muzzle in situations where she is known to bite can make both you and your pup more relaxed and confident that no injuries will occur. Consulting your vet for advice on use, type, and fit will ensure that your dog is comfortable and safe while wearing her new “outfit.”

We understand the stigma you may feel from others if your dog is wearing a muzzle. Try to keep in mind that for anyone who understands dog behavior, a basket muzzle is the sign of a responsible pet owner! Situations in which your dog bites need to be avoided, and the safety of others is paramount. 

Knowing that your dog will react aggressively in a situation requires the pet parent to be an extremely responsible and observant caretaker in order to protect everyone they may encounter with their dog. A professional evaluation by your  veterinarian and a licensed dog trainer/veterinary behaviorist is always recommended to maximize safety.

When a Dog Bites a Human

Since we share our world with dogs, it is very important that we recognize how other dogs are responding when approaching them on the street, in a dog park, in a home, or inside a building. If a dog’s warnings to “stay away” are ignored, she may be pushed beyond her threshold and feel the need to become aggressive and bite. Dogs rarely bite or attack unprovoked, and understanding the visible “warning signs” that dogs communicate can keep both dogs and humans safe. Children are especially vulnerable to altercations with dogs, as they want to snuggle every dog they see and often are oblivious to the warning signs that dogs are trying to communicate.

What if the worst-case scenario happens, and a dog bites a person? Dog bites should be followed up with appropriate medical attention and reported to animal control as required by local county and state regulations. Unfortunately, the consequences of biting a human are much more severe when the dog is not appropriately vaccinated for rabies–so make sure your pooch is up-to-date on his boosters, just in case!  

Keeping the Peace

Dogs have been wonderful human companions for thousands of years and our relationship is mutually beneficial. Sometimes though, people may not realize when a dog may be feeling threatened or provoked, nor do they understand the dog’s body language, sometimes resulting in an aggressive encounter. Dog bites are common and serious, can be severe, and happen very quickly–so avoidance of these situations is our greatest tool in preventing them. 

By socializing your puppy at a young age, you can prevent a great deal of future mental distress and fear. If your dog is exhibiting fearfulness in certain situations, train him to wear a basket muzzle, and seek veterinary guidance on how to desensitize him to triggers—reminding him that the world is a happy place! Avoid stressful situations for your dog when it is practical, and communicate with other humans about your dog’s personal boundaries. 

As a pet parent, it is important to know your dog’s comfort level with different situations and act accordingly to keep everyone safe. Enlisting the help of your veterinarian or a Veterinary Behaviorist and licensed certified trainer can help give your dog the help she needs, and the best chance to modify her behavior and live peacefully in your home and society.

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A Dog’s Fear of Fireworks

Oh, say can you see…a dog who is terrified of fireworks? It’s that time of year again: humans celebrate our independence, and many of our dogs (and cats!) cower, tremble, and even destroy household items if they are terrorized by the loud random noises accompanying human celebrations. 

At AskVet, we’re here to help you prepare for this noisy season! It’s best to have a plan ahead of the holiday and start to help your pet become accustomed to seeking a safe space in times of distress, decrease the noise he or she is hearing from outside, and obtain any needed medications or supplements from your family veterinarian. 

Tips for What You Can Do at Home:

  • Create a Safe Space for Your Pet—Every pet needs a spot to escape to where they can feel more secure. When avoiding the noises of fireworks or thunderstorms, that space is best if it is dark, quiet, and away from any windows. Bonus points if there are noise-cancelling features involved, such as lots of clothes (think of your cat seeking refuge deep within a walk-in closet!) or thicker walls (like a bathroom). Train your pet to “go to your safe space” and reward them with their favorite treat—or even a MORE special treat that only comes out during storms/fireworks! By prepping your pet to be in their safe space before anything scary happens, you can have your pooch or kitty ready BEFORE you expect the neighborhood noise to begin. This safe area should always be open and available to your pet, even when you aren’t home.
  • Reduce the Noise—Although you can’t control how crazy your neighbors get with the banging and booming, you CAN control the noise that reaches your pet—to a certain extent, anyway! Try putting a white noise machine near your pet’s safe space, or turn a nearby TV on low volume, or even play some classical music through a nearby speaker. Mutt Muffs are a doggie earmuff device to reduce the noise, but will require training (using lots of treats!) to get your pup used to wearing them BEFORE the 4th of July. 
  • Comforting Your Pet—If your pet seems to derive comfort and exhibits calm behavior from seeking out contact with you, then please continue to comfort them! If, however, your soothing words and scratches only seem to make your pet more anxious, it’s best if you distract them with a favorite long-lasting treat in their safe space.
  • Long-Lasting Toys and Treats—There are many different long-lasting treats, toys and puzzles on the market today. Figure out your pet’s favorite BEFORE the fourth—and then bring it to them in their safe space before you anticipate the fireworks to begin. This way, your pet’s brain is focused on something positive and distracting before and during the scary event. We like the Licki Mat and Kong’s various long-lasting treats and stuffers. 

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Consult Your Veterinarian:

  • If your pet is terrified enough to urinate, defecate, or destroy household objects in their quest to escape scary noises, then he or she will almost certainly benefit from some pharmaceutical help from your family veterinarian. 
  • Some supplements can be used to “turn down the dial” on your pet’s anxiety and make it more difficult for them to reach the terror threshold—but supplements require several weeks of daily use to take effect. Different options that your veterinarian may recommend include Zylkene and Solliquin. A special food called “Calm” from Royal Canin also accomplishes the same goal, too. 
  • Ask your veterinarian if happy pheromones (chemical signals between animals that humans cannot smell) may help your pet. For cats, a product called Feliway is available in diffusers and sprays (perfect for their safe space!). For dogs, a product called Adaptil is effective and available in diffuser, spray, and collar formulations! 
  • Ask your veterinarian if short-acting anxiety medications or sedatives may be an option for your pet. For best results, these medications need to be administered one to three hours BEFORE anything scary starts, so make sure you understand your veterinarian’s instructions and follow them exactly. 
  • Make sure your pet is MICROCHIPPED before the holiday! Did you know that July 4th is the most common day of the year for pets to run away and go missing? A microchip is essential to reunite you with your beloved pet in case the worst happens and he or she escapes!

Whether you are celebrating at home or going out on the town to enjoy the Fourth of July show, we hope these tips save your pet from a scary evening of bangs and booms! Our AskVet team is here to help you navigate the stresses of an anxious pet. Please reach out to chat with us and our veterinary team 24 hours a day, 7 days a week! 


Written by:

Allison Ward, DVM
Dr. Allison Ward grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. and started working in veterinary hospitals when she was 14 years old. After graduating from veterinary school in 2011, she completed a small animal rotating internship in New Jersey, followed by a neurology/neurosurgery internship in Miami. After completing this advanced training, Dr. Ward then moved on to general small animal practice. Dr. Ward’s professional interests include feline medicine, neurology, and pain management. Her passion for educating pet owners carries over into her work with AskVet, and she loves being able to help pets and their parents at all times of the day (and night!). She currently resides in sunny south Florida with her two cats, Larry and George.