Decoding dog behavior


Ever looked at your dog and thought, She’s grinning at me? It turns out she is. Like humans, a dog “smiles” when it’s content. The muscles in the body are relaxed, which you’ll notice most by observing the face: instead of clenching its teeth together, the dog lets its mouth hang open. The tongue is relaxed and hangs loosely, so that it’s visible over the front of its teeth. The eyes are soft and the ears are straight. Bottom line: When you see your dog smile, she’s content, and you should be, too.

Growling With More Teeth Visible Than Gums

When a dog growls, he’s letting you know that he’s uncomfortable. He’s either scared or trying to show dominance. Look at his mouth to determine which is the case. If it’s open in a C shape—displaying lots of teeth and little gums—he’s essentially showing his weapons. The dog is sending a clear message: “I’m the boss around here. Back off, give me space.” You can defuse the situation by doing just that: Give him room by backing away slowly.

Growling With a Lot of Visible Gums

If a growling dog’s mouth has an elongated shape with a good deal of the gums visible (it looks as if you “took the corners of the mouth and pulled back”), your dog is probably frightened and prepared to defend himself. His ears may also be flattened. A growling, fearful dog is often more dangerous than a dog showing dominance, because his survival instinct is to lash out. While backing away from a scared dog is your best option, it may indicate weakness to the dog. If he charges, stand still, keep your arms folded and make no eye contact (stare up at the sky, for example). Under no circumstances should you turn your back on the dog.

Standing Tall

In general, someone who wants to tell the world, “I’m in charge!” will try to make himself as big as possible. The same holds true for dogs. A dog with a taste for power will stand “very tall with legs quite straight” and its body will be tensed to allow for maximum height. The dog may also raise its tail over its body like a flag to make certain that no one fails to notice him.

On Its Back

If a dominant animal goes high, it makes sense that a frightened one goes low. A scared dog will lower its body and drop its tail. If it’s extremely anxious, it will roll onto its back, displaying its belly and throat. A dog who adopts this pose is essentially announcing, “I’m just a wee puppy, don’t kill me.” If your dog is this distressed, make sure you—and anyone else nearby—slowly back away until she calms down.


Cat clawing away at your patience? Follow the 3 Ds

1. DETER scratching with unpleasant tape and sprays. First, you need to make the areas you don’t want your cat to scratch less inviting. The upholstered corners of couches and chairs are a scratching magnet, but you can make them less appealing by applying an herbal spray deterrent like No-Scratch or a double-sided tape like Sticky Paws. Herbal sprays replace the territorial “markers” left behind after scratching with an unpleasant scent to discourage repeat scratching. Sticky Strips reduce scratching another way. Cats’ paws are extremely sensitive to touch, having evolved to detect the slightest vibrations of prey rustling through leaves and brush. This acute sensitivity makes “sticky” surfaces exceptionally annoying, and cats will avoid scratching any place so uninviting. Both options are nearly invisible to the human eye or nose, yet they yield clearly visible results.

2. DISPLACE where your cat scratches. If your feline doesn’t have a special scratching spot to call her own, it’s no wonder she claims the upholstery and wood of your furniture for her instinctive behavior. If you provide more appealing alternatives – like posts, furniture, or boards – you’ll soon find your cat preferring to scratch elsewhere.


◦ If your cat can’t resist the soft sides of your couch or the nap of your best rug, choose a carpeted cat tree or perch.

◦ Sisal, the rough and tough marine-grade rope that scratches back, is yet another feline favorite for many clawers. Try a vertical post or tree.

No matter what tempting option you provide to replace your own furniture, a pinch or spray of catnip on the new scratching area will further encourage her to seek it out.

3. DULL your cat’s claws to reduce damage. Trimming your cat’s nails as part of her regular grooming routine is one of the most effective ways to blunt the damage scratching can cause. Use a veterinary-quality clipper, gently squeezing each paw to expose the retractable claws. For cats who resist handling, try wrapping her in a soft towel for safe restraint. Another way to dull claws is by sheathing them with Soft Claws Nail Caps which glue on easily, last 4-6 weeks, and won’t interfere with normal claw retraction. These little miracles take the edge off scratching behavior and help prevent injury to both your furniture and your family.

If your nerves and furniture are frayed by nuisance scratching behavior, remember the 3 D’s to curb the problem. Don’t hesitate to demonstrate to your copycat how to use her new scratching furniture, and reward with plenty of praise and treats when she follows your good example.







Fun in the sun – local dog beach location and rules

What better place to take your dog to on a hot day than to the beach? Here are some tips to prevent problems:

Del Mar is famous for its status as a very dog friendly city. In addition to having great access to Del Mar’s pristine parks and beaches, plus most shops, hotels and al fresco restaurants, these lucky dogs have their very own beach! Del Mar Dog Beach – also known as North Beach to locals – is a recreational paradise beloved by owners and their four-legged friends.

Del Mar CA has fostered their pet-friendly traditions since incorporation in 1959. Nine months of the year, dogs are allowed along the entire two plus mile stretch of beach in addition to the city’s two major parks, Seagrove Park and Powerhouse Park.

While many residents and visitors enjoy all areas of the beach with their dogs, the most popular location for owners to bring their canines is the North Beach area. 
North Beach, affectionately called “Dog Beach” by dog owners, is located north of 29th Street and stretches nearly one half mile to the Solana Beach border, just minutes from the Amtrak train station and the Del Mar Racetrack.  This striking beach is made up of 2.5 miles of sand and coastal bluffs, starting from the south at Carmel Valley Road (which is the boundary to San Diego) and going north to the river mouth of the San Dieguito River.

While laws restrict access to half of the Del Mar beach during the summer months, North Beach remains open to leashed dogs (six foot leash maximum.) 
Please see below for more details on visiting Del Mar’s Dog Beach.

Del Mar Dog Beach Rules & Tips

Del Mar Dog Beach Parking: Park on the street and remember to pay your meter diligently – or buy a $4 all-day pass from the little pay-and-display-your-ticket box at the top of Camino del Mar, just before Villa de la Valle. If you continue south past the bridge to 29th St. and beyond, you’ll find free parking on both sides of the street, though it does get crowded on the weekends.

Out-of-control doggie behavior is prohibited. Del Mar lifeguards enforce the rules and will write you a ticket. This is a very respectable pet-owning crowd. The beach is low-key with few incidents.

Most owners use the city-supplied clean-up mitts, but it’s still a good idea to watch your step. There are people restrooms, too, in the form of portable toilets. Owners must pick up after dogs at all times.

There is a natural boundary at the south end of dog beach – the San Dieguito Rivermouth flows into the sea and usually it is anywhere from 25 to 50 feet across, depending on the season and rainfall, so its fairly easy for the City to contain the dogs.

Del Mar Dog Beach: Leash Laws (the leash must be no longer than 6 ft.–please be aware that longer leashes are prohibited)

North Beach area (29th Street to Solana Beach border) 
Dogs must be leashed June 15th through Labor Day
. Dogs able to run under voice control of owner from the day after Labor Day through June 14th.

Main Beach area (northern end of Powerhouse Park to 29th Street) 
Dogs not allowed June 15th through Labor Day
. Dogs allowed leashed from the day after Labor Day through June 14th.

South Beach area (Powerhouse Park south to Torrey Pines border at 6th Street)
 Dogs must be leashed year-round.

For further information, please contact City of Del Mar Lifeguards at (858) 755-1556.


What is the Difference between a Veterinary Hospital and a Vaccine Clinic?

Throughout the United States, we are seeing more and more vaccine clinics opening in communities. This has created some confusion for pet owners. “My veterinary hospital charges twice as much, what is the difference?” The answer to this question is extremely important, as there is a BIG difference in the services provided.

You Get What You Pay For

When your pet is seen at a veterinary hospital, your dog or cat will receive a complete medical exam. Your vet will check for any abnormalities of the ears, eyes, nose, mouth, teeth, skin, lymph nodes, and internal organs. Once a thorough health check is completed, the veterinarian will determine the best vaccine protocol for your pet. Some animals do not need all vaccines while others may need “special inoculations” depending on travel plans or other factors. When you take your pet to a vaccine clinic, your pet will receive vaccines. That is it. If the veterinarian has time, they may take a quick look at the animal’s general condition.

But my dog is healthy, why does he need a full exam?

It is natural instinct for ALL animals (including your beloved pet) to mask pain and illness the best they can. While your dog may appear completely healthy, he may be hiding pain from arthritis, or even a bad tooth. It is true that young, active pets are less likely to have underlying disease, but it is still possible. You must then ask yourself, is it worth the risk?

What can my vet find that I can’t see for myself?

  • Ear infections: You may be able to see signs of an ear infection, but only your veterinarian can tell by looking with a special instrument (otoscope) deep into the ear canal.
  • Eye problems: Your veterinarian looks at the various chambers of your pet’s eyes to detect cataracts, diseases of the retina and other disorders that cannot be seen just by looking at your dog.
  • Heart Murmurs: Dogs of all ages can develop a heart murmur – some puppies can even be born with them. Only your veterinarian is able to detect this when a complete exam is performed.
  • Internal organs: Your vet will palpate your pet’s belly to feel for any abnormalities of organs such as: liver, kidneys, intestines, spleen and bladder.

Vaccine clinics are very helpful for people who are unable to afford the costs of a full service Veterinary Hospital. These clinics serve community pets by providing vaccines at a price such that owners can at least inoculate their pets when they wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.

All Creatures Hospital is a full service Veterinary Clinic that offers a wide variety of services to keep your pets happy and healthy.