Dog Harnesses: Why You Should Use One & How to Pick the Right One for Your Dog

Kaylie Belcourt

Is your dog a leash monster? Does your dog walk you instead of you walking your dog? Are you leash training? Do you have a dog who you take on walks? In all of these scenarios, a harness is a much better choice than walking with leash attached to a flat collar.

Walking with a harness distributes pressure from pulling over more of the body as opposed to concentrated pressure on your dog’s neck when walking with a leash and flat collar – which can damage your dog’s throat and neck, cause tracheal collapse or even protruding eyeballs. In addition to being physically safer, using a harness gives the walker more control over the dog, especially for reactive dogs or dogs who jump or pull, and are the best choice for breeds that are prone to respiratory problems (Boxers, Pugs, Bulldogs, Yorkshire Terriers, etc.) since restriction to the neck has been decreased. Another added bonus of harness walking is that, in most cases, the leash clips to onto the harness at a point on the dog’s back, so there is less chance of the leash getting tangled in the dog’s legs and yours!

When choosing a harness for your dog, consider their size and strength, their current leash skills, as well as the overall comfort and preference for both human and dog.

There are three types of harnesses to choose from:

Front clip– Provides the best control. With the leash connecting at the chest, a front clip harness provides the greatest amount control in steering or turning your dog right around. Wherever a dog’s head goes, the body will follow. Front clip harnesses do tend to tangle a bit easier.

Back clip– The most popular choice. Back clip harnesses are easy to put on and use, however they don’t provide the best control if your dog is reactive or has not learned how to properly walk on leash.

Dual/Multi-clip– This style is becoming very popular because it provides the advantages of the both the front and back clip harnesses. Some styles have more than two clips as well as a handle to provide extra control. (Multi-clip bonus: small dogs can quickly and easily become pup suitcases, or pupcases, and that’s always entertaining.) While they tend to  be on the more on the expensive side, this is a worthwhile investment if you are leash training and can transition to an every day walker buy securing one leash to only the back clip.

Once you’ve decided on a clip style, consider how the harness goes on and off your dog. There are two options:  

Overhead- This one goes over the dog’s head and usually has fasteners at the neck and torso. If you have a patient dog who doesn’t mind things in their face, this will work just fine.

Step in- This one is a bit easier as your dog literally steps into the harness, typically just one fastener at the torso.

Fit your dog before you purchase and leave the store. A too small harness will be uncomfortable, painful and restricting; too big and your pup will slip right out. Many local pet stores, like Homes Alive, Bone & Biscuit, Tailblazers, or PetValu, have trained and educated staff who can help ensure you choose the right harness for your dog.

Once you have chosen the right harness, you will need to adjust and fit it to your dog. The straps should be snug against the body, but not tight, with just enough space to fit two fingers between the harness and your dog.

Now, who’s ready for walkies?!?! Huh?? Who’s ready for walkies!?!


Zoe’s is committed to being 100% force free. We strongly advise against the use of choke, shock, and prong collars. All of these aversive items will cause pain and damage to your pet, usually to the trachea or esophagus, sometimes to the skin and fur.

When it’s Too Cold to Walk: Indoor Enrichment Ideas for your Dog

by Lindsay Herrick-Somerset 

With the winter months comes snow, ice, cold, and, this year, a Polar Vortex. Winter can be challenging for any dog owner, especially if you have smaller breeds or any short coat breed dog that does not do well in the cold. It is even more challenging when temperatures drop so low that potty breaks are met with looks of “I have to pee in this?? You can’t be serious.”

So, how can you keep your dogs active when the temperature drastically drops?

Doggy Daycare

While it’s not the cheapest of options, if you have a dog that needs to burn off energy and does not do well in the cold weather, daycare is the best thing. Not sure how to choose the right doggy daycare, one really important thing to look at is if they are a member of the Alberta Force Free Alliance (as Zoe’s is also a member of and a strong advocate for force free training).

Unfortunately, the indoor dog park here in Edmonton closed last year. I know that was a very popular option for a lot of dog owners in the city as it was a warm and safe place to take your dog.

What if you live somewhere where doggy daycare is not available (such as a small town)? Then what?

Canine Enrichment Activities

Do you just hand feed your dogs treats? Or just put their food in a bowl?

There are now many options for canine enrichment where your dogs need to work at getting their treats or food out.

One the best options is putting a treat, peanut butter (100% natural peanut butter only) or some of their raw food in a Kong and let them work at trying to clean it out. A great challenge (and great if you have a teething puppy), is to throw it in the freezer before hand and then give it them.

Along the same line of a Kong is a Tumbler toy where you put a treat in it and your dog needs to roll it around to get the treat out. It keeps Max busy and frustrated for hours at a time (especially if you put in a treat that is hard to get out).

Another great canine enrichment option are Snuffle Mats.

So what can you put in a snuffle mat? Anything you want (except raw food because that would be a gross mess). If you feed kibble, you can put their kibble in there or you can hide some treats in there for them to dig around and find.

If you do feed a raw diet, you can also use a Slow Feeder bowl and then your dogs will need to work at getting their food out (which also works well if your dog eats their food way too fast).

The great thing is that there are many different options and games you can get for your dog from your local pet store to keep them entertained in the cold, long winter months.

While none of these options are going to replace taking your dog out for a walk, they will help your dog burn off some energy which in return, will help you keep your sanity.


Pot and Pooches

By Kim Barrett

With legalization on the horizon, pot talk is everywhere.  In addition to the effects legalization will have on people, there has also  been much discussion about the risks posed dogs to our doggy family. In a recent Facebook post, Tamarack Veterinary Clinic discussed the high occurrences of marijuana overdoses in Edmonton dogs. Coupled with increasing usage of cannabis oil in pets, vets expect recreational legalization to raise the instances of overdoses in pets even more.

As is the case in Colorado. A recent study in the state found cases of marijuana toxicity in dogs quadrupled after pot was legalized in the state. Once legalized, people have a tendency to be less careful about safety and storage. Edibles – particularly cookies, brownies, and candies – can be quite enticing to dogs. Dogs are superstars at quickly stealing food before their owner notices. (This is much less common with cats and they tend to be pickier eaters.)

What does ingestion or overdose look like in dogs? Decreased balance, “drunken sailor” walking, weakness, incontinence, disorientation, tremors and more depending on the amount eaten. In some cases it may cause seizures, coma or even death.

Pot can cause a dog to become ill very quickly as they are extremely sensitive to even small doses. If your pet ingests marijuana, bring them to the vet immediately and be honest. The more honest you are about what the animal ate, how much and when, the more your vet can help your pet. Veterinarians report that owners sometimes don’t want to admit what their dog ate due to the legality of the substance, but they need to know. The more information they have in a timely manner, the more successful they can be in combating toxicity.

Remember, dogs are very similar to toddlers. As pet parents it is our responsibility to keep our homes safe for them. Like cleaners, medications and other dangerous substances, always be mindful of keeping marijuana in a safe, non-accessible place.

Dogs overdosing on marijuana, veterinarian warns;…/no…/marijuana-pets-nova-scotia-1.4467036

Hold onto your butts: Don’t let dogs get stoned on your leftover weed;

Marijuana making more dogs sick, veterinarians say;…

Feature Foster: Tink Hunt

Hi! Tink here!

I’ve been in foster care for a long time.  A VERY long time: 398 days and counting. Can you believe it? I can’t. My foster family can’t figure it out either. Sure, I am very shy and unsure when I first meet someone, which can be a tad off-putting, but once I get to know you I’m the sweetest little loaf you ever did meet. 

Just loafing around….

While I’m hanging out, waiting for my forever family to find me, I thought I’d write a little something about myself. When things don’t come you, you have to go out and find it. Amiright?!

I’ve come a long way since Zoe’s took me in. I used to be quite, uh…..unpleasant. You see, when I was much younger, I was declawed. Over the years, my paws became severely arthritic which caused me a lot of pain. The pain made me exceptionally grumpy.

If you didn’t know, declawing is a pretty awful thing to do to a cat. It’s sort of like having your fingers snipped off at the first knuckle and having to walk around on those nubs the rest of your life. Let me show you.

This is an x-ray of normal cat paw:

These are x-rays of my paws:

OUCH, right??

Thanks to the dedicated Zoe’s Cat Team and my fabulously amazing foster family, I’ve gone from crank pot to cuddle monster.


I just love love. Wherever you are, I want to be.

With the right pain medication and a home that I feel safe in, I am finally able to settle down and let my sweetness take centre stage again. All I want is love and affection!

Oh, did that “pain medication” thing freak you out? Don’t worry, it’s easy peasy! Just one squirt in my food twice a day. That’s it! Mealtime is my favourite time of day so you don’t have to fret about me not taking my medication. The cost is small; only $40 a month to fill my prescription.

I feel great now that I’m not in constant pain, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still have my moments. Every once in a while new humans will come to my foster pawrents’ house and it’s very confusing for me. I get excited to meet them but then remember that I don’t have claws to defend myself if they happen to be terrible, awful people. I can get scared and a little sassy. My foster pawrents tell their visitors to politely ignore me and let me come to them. When I feel comfortable, I’ll check them out.

I will likely have trust issues for the rest of my life. As long as you respect my boundaries, we’ll get along just fine.

You can look, but don’t touch!

Despite my trust issues, I love hard with every ounce of my fluffy floofy feline being. I want to soak up every drop of attention you have to give. I come running for pets and cuddles at the slightest invitation, and I’ll always figure out a way to snuggle up to you, even if it seems like kind of a silly position to be in. PSA: I don’t believe in privacy amongst best friends. If you’re in the bathroom, you’d better believe I’ll be waiting outside the door for you. Sometimes I’ll even nap on the bath mat while my foster mom is in the tub. I don’t mind at all!

My foster pawrents say that I deserve the perfect home, and I can’t disagree. I am quite special.

If you’re looking for a cuddly pal with a whole lotta love to give and you’ve got a calm home with a warm laps for me to curl up on, this gal is your gal!

Are we the purrfect match? Fill out an application and find out!

PS: My adoption fee is only $25, which is crazy! I’m totally priceless.

First Aid…..for Pets!


By: Kim Barrett

Your dog starts choking on a toy…
Your cat jumps on a hot burner on the stove…
Your dog gets a bad bite on his head while visiting the dog park…
Your cat suddenly collapses and is not breathing…
While out for a walk your dog has a seizure…

If you found yourself and your pet in one of these situations, would you know what to do?

It is quite distressing for many of us to imagine such scary situations, let alone live through it. These situations are not planned and how you are able to respond can save your pet’s life. It’s quite obvious that you need to seek immediate medical attention from a vet but what do you do until you get there? How can you dress a wound to prevent further blood loss or cope with shock? What if you are camping in a remote area and nowhere near a vet?

The motto of Scouts “Be Prepared” is fitting advice.

Emergency situations require quick thinking and fast action. The best way to avoid panic or ‘freezing’ in any situation is to be educated and prepared. Many people are trained to provide first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to humans, but have you learned these skills for your pets?

The Edmonton Humane Society offers a pet first aid course facilitated by Walks N Wags. The 10-hour course covers everything from CPR for animals to bandaging and splinting to preventative medicine.

This past November, I attended the pet first aid course. The instructor, Leah Daoust, has had a wide range of experiences working with animals and handling medical emergencies. She was very open to answering questions and covered the material in a clear and understandable way.

This certificate course provided an opportunity to learn and practice CPR for cats and dogs and how to treat a choking animal. We practiced dressing wounds on different body parts as well as how to deal with foreign objects, such as a porcupine needle or a fishing hook. We also learned how to make a splint for broken bones and what to do if your animal is impaled with something. Leah covered wide range of medical conditions, including showing videos of an animal having a seizure and one experiencing bloat so we could see the reality of the condition on a live animal. Lastly, we learned how to assemble first aid kits and the three important places to keep them: home, car, with you.

I now feel much more confident in my ability to deal with emergency situations involving animals.

In-person training with a qualified instructor and opportunities to practice is best way to learn, however, there are many resources online for learning about first aid for pets.

Consider making learning pet first aid a goal for 2018!

Pets and Domestic Abuse

By: Kim Barrett

Most of us would probably describe our home as our sanctuary. After a long day of work or errands, coming home gives us an opportunity to destress, relax and recharge our batteries for the next day. While household activities can also keep us quite busy, overall home is a welcoming refuge. For some people, however, this is not the reality. Home is not a peaceful or safe space.

So many harrowing stories have appeared in the media about violence against women and sexual assaults. Unfortunately, Edmonton is no stranger to violence. The Edmonton police service reported 8715 events of domestic abuse in 2016. Most cases go unreported so this number is a gross underestimate of the current situation in our community.

Domestic abuse is defined as use of physical or sexual force, actual or threatened, in an intimate relationship. It may include a single act of violence or a number of acts forming a pattern of abuse through the use of assaultive and controlling behaviour. The pattern of abuse may be physical, emotional, psychological, sexual, stalking, or threats to harm children, other family members, pets, and property. Holidays can be a stressful, hectic time for many families and many organizations see an increase in number of people accessing domestic abuse services around New Years.

A 2012 study in Alberta showed more than half of abused women who have animals reported that they delayed leaving because of their animal. An abuser seeks power and control by inflicting suffering on others. A pet may be used essentially as a hostage. Thirty-six percent of abused women with animals reported that their abuser threatened or harmed their animals. In cases that involved children as well as threatened animals, 85% of women reported that the children witnessed the threat or harm to the animal.

The Alberta SPCA Pet Safe Keeping program is designed to help people in domestic abuse situations. People who are experiencing domestic violence and who need to escape their situation can contact the program to have their pets cared for temporarily. Once accepted into the program the pet can also access veterinary care.

The Companion Animal Welfare Society (CAWS) is another organization committed to helping people keep their beloved animal companions during times of transition.

We can help access or navigate these resources in the community. If spaces are not available, We may be able to assist or connect with other local rescues to ensure that help is found.

In September,  Zoe’s aided a mother and children fleeing a domestic abuse situation. While the woman was seeking safety for herself and her children, Zoe’s temporarily took care of the family’s five cats. Once the family was settled in a safe space, they were able to bring their cats to their new home. Not only was the  family relieved to be able to keep their pets safe, they were grateful to have them back. Few things compare to the love and comfort from a pet during difficult times.

For more information on the Alberta Pet Safekeeping Program, contact the Alberta SPCA at 780-447-3600 ext. 3750, call 211 and inquire at any domestic violence agency in the greater Edmonton area.

To report domestic violence, call 911 (in an emergency) or the Edmonton Police Complaint line at 780-423-4567 (#377 from a mobile device in the Edmonton area).

To talk confidentially with a social worker, call the City of Edmonton Assessment and Short-Term Counselling at 780-496-4777

For information on resources in Edmonton and across the province, call the Family Violence Info Line toll-free at 310-1818. Help is available in 170 languages, 24/7.

Edmonton Police Services. Domestic Abuse 2017.…/Family…/DomesticViolence.aspx

Inside the Cruelty Connection: The Role of Animals in Decision-Making by Domestic Violence Victims in Rural Alberta. Dr. Donna Crawford and Dr. Veronika Clarke. 2012.…/publications/InsideTheCrueltyC…

The Holiday Spike in Domestic Abuse. Mattie Quinn. 2014.…/the-holiday-spike-in-…/383995/

Winter’s Evil Sisters: Hypothermia & Frostbite

By: Kim Barrett

Welcome to another cold Albertan Winter.

While it may be nice for us to sit by the fireplace, enjoying the hockey game and some hot cocoa, it’s tough to realize that many people and animals have no escape from the cold. Our winters can be relentless and our furry friends in the community are in danger when temperatures drop.

It was one of those relentlessly cold days late last month when Zoe’s co-director, Sasha, happened to find little three-month-old Mary Jane Ravena while she was working in one Zoe’s outreach communities. Sheer luck in being spotted by our Zoe’s rescue ranger saved Mary Jane’s life, she was nearly frozen. Immediately after her rescue, and thawing out in a warm car, Mary Jane climbed on her rescuers, giving kisses of gratitude and appreciation.

The day Mary Jane was found it was -25 degrees celsius with the wind chill.

Like people, animals can become hypothermic or frostbitten without adequate shelter and warmth. Hypothermia is the lowering of our core body temperature and has many symptoms. Animals more likely to be affected by hypothermia are those that are small, very young, very old and those with shorter coats. (Since Mary Jane was so small and young, she was at great risk for hypothermia.) Animals with hypothermia will be cold to touch and have a body temperature of less than 37 degrees celsius. Initially, they will shiver, but as the hypothermia becomes worse, the shivering will dissipate. The animal will feel very stiff and have a lack of energy or lethargy which will lead to unconsciousness if not treated. Immediate first aid can save lives.

Frostbite is the freezing of tissues after longer exposure to the cold and often goes along with hypothermia.  Cats and kittens are very likely to have the tips of their ears and paw pads affected. In dogs, you may see the tail, feet, ears, scrotum and teats being affected. You may also notice ice crystals or scaling of the skin. The skin may look white and waxy or even develop fluid filled blisters. Thawing frozen body parts is an extremely painful process and may need to be done under sedation by a vet. You need to carefully handle the animal and warm them up slowly. Try not to rub the body part with frostbite or burst any blisters the animal may have. The animal needs immediate veterinary care.

If you find an animal in this state, bring it inside immediately to prevent further heat loss. If the pet is wet, dry them the best you can. You can use your own body heat to warm an animal along with blankets, towels, or hot water bottles. It’s important to treat animals for shock so keep them quiet and encourage rest. A veterinary examination should be completed as soon as possible.

Luckily Mary Jane was found in time, but many others are not so lucky. Especially as the number of unowned, stray, and homeless cats grows yearly.

This year has been especially hard on Edmonton and area rescues as the number of animals needing care, the large majority being cats and kittens, has hit record numbers. Zoe’s currently has over 110 cats and kittens in foster homes with a growing waiting list and new requests daily. We hit 180 cats and kittens over the summer months. We have been stretched so financially thin that we have had to turn away many requests, too many. It breaks all our hearts to say no.

Vetting for cats and kittens is approximately $300 for straight forward cases without any medical concerns. Our adoption fees do not cover this.

How can you help? Make a donation!

There is no better holiday gift than the gift of vetting. Donate as a gift and you will receive a link to a printable postcard you can give to the recipient. You can also volunteer, collect bottles in your office or purchase food, litter, or supplies for our fosters…every bit counts. Every bit makes a difference.

Manual of Small Animal Emergency and Critical Care Medicine. Douglass K. Macintire; Kenneth J. Drobatz; Steve C. Haskins; William D. Saxon. Wiley-Blackwell, USA. 2012

Human Foods and Your Pets

By Lauren Erhardt

High-quality pet food is always the best choice for your pets, however, there are some human foods that are safe for your cats or dogs:

  • Cooked lean meat, eggs, and fish
  • Cheese
  • Whole grains
  • Fruits and vegetables (without seeds or pits)
  • Cooked rice or pasta

Be cautious about feeding your cats or dogs dairy products as they can be lactose intolerant. 

Toxic foods for dogs and cats:

  • Xylitol, an artificial sweetener found in sugar-free gum and candy 
  • Avocado (contains a toxin called a persin)
  • Alcohol
  • Onions, chives, and garlic (can lead to anemia)
  • Coffee, tea, and other caffeine (more potent and poisonous)
  • Grapes and raisins (can cause acute kidney injury and a lack of urine production)
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Chocolate (due to the toxin theobromine)
  • Fat trimmings and bones (can cause pancreatitis and potential digestive tract injuries)
  • Fruit seeds/ pits (contain poisons)
  • Raw eggs, meat, or fish (can contain bacteria such as salmonella or E. coli)
  • Sugary foods and drinks
  • Yeast dough (intestinal blockages)
  • Raw potatoes (contain the poison solanine)
  • Your medicine

While dogs can eat peanut butter (check the ingredients for xylitol), it is not recommended for cats.

If your pet does happen to eat something it shouldn’t, please contact your veterinarian or any of the contact numbers below:

Pet Poison Helpline: 1-800-213-6680 (

Animal Poison Control Center: 1-888-426-4435 (

Emergency 24-hour Vets in Edmonton:

Guardian Veterinary Centre
Address: 5620 99 St NW, Edmonton, AB T6E 1V2
Phone: (780) 436-5880

Address: 12831 97 St NW, Edmonton, AB T5E 4C2
Phone:(780) 423-9111

Zoe’s Annual Compost Fundraiser!

It’s that time of year again!! (Though you wouldn’t know it to look outside…)

Preorders will be accepted until Friday, May 12 at 5 pm. There will be a limited amount of compost available for purchase on site.

Happy growing!

Brachycephalic Syndrome in Dogs

by Lauren Erhardt

Brachycephalic: short headed

You may wonder why some dogs such as Pekingese, English bulldogs, French bulldogs, Pugs and Boston Terriers pant and snore a lot.  Additionally, if you’re thinking of adopting one of these kinds of dogs you may wish to be aware of genetic issues so you can give them the kind of care and attention they need.  These issues are caused by Brachycephalic Syndrome which causes obstructive breathing due to the shape of the head, muzzle or throat.  In short, these dogs have shortened skulls compared to other breeds.  When dogs are selectively bred to produce a flat “cute” face, genetic issues like these may result.  Dogs with longer muzzles will have  fewer issues because they can breathe easier.   

Problems suffered by Pugs due to Brachycephalic Syndrome:

  • Serious breathing difficulties
  • High blood pressure (info link)
  • Fainting or collapsing due to a lack of oxygen
  • Highly disrupted sleep
  • Excessive flatulence due to excessive gulping and swallowing of air to try to overcome their breathing difficulties

More information:                      

If you have a dog with this syndrome, you should always check with your vet, however, some steps you can take to help make him/her more comfortable include ensuring your dog is not overweight as this can exacerbate the symptoms,  and not over exercising your dog.