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The Ultimate Dog Lover’s Guide in Westchester County

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Photos courtesy of Adobe Stock unless otherwise noted

To know them is to love them, so here’s everything you need to know about loving your four-legged friends right in the 914.

By Cristiana Caruso and Michelle Gillan Larkin

Dogs have held the distinction of “man’s best friend” for probably as long as they’ve been domesticated, which genetic studies indicate is anywhere between 20,000 and 40,000 years — in human years! Affectionate, playful, and deeply loyal, dogs give as much joy and comfort to their human companions as humans give to them (plus a whole lot of unconditional love). And when they are paired with the right partner, fed the proper foods, and rewarded with an extra-special treat every now and then, it’s truly a dog’s life for all involved.

here, doggy!

Photo by New Africa/ Adobe Stock

Dogs have held the distinction of “man’s best friend” for probably as long as they’ve been domesticated, which genetic studies indicate is anywhere between 20,000 and 40,000 years — in human years! Affectionate, playful, and deeply loyal, dogs give as much joy and comfort to their human companions as humans give to them (plus a whole lot of unconditional love). And when they are paired with the right partner, fed the proper foods, and rewarded with an extra-special treat every now and then, it’s truly a dog’s life for all involved.

People & Pooch Pairing

Consider your situation and lifestyle before picking your pet.

Big, Happy Families

Busy, lively, and often noisy households, with one, two, or more kids, call for a dog that is equally active and playful but also patient and gentle. The breed of the moment in Westchester that happens to fit this bill is a doodle, such as a golden-doodle, Labradoodle, Bernedoodle, or Cavoodle, more commonly called a Cavapoo.

Labradoodle

Labradoodle

Robert Kornfeld (dogcommander.com), a master trainer who’s worked with hundreds of Westchester’s woofers over his 32-year career, likes how Cavapoos tend to go with the family flow. “They have a lot of energy,” he says. “They also have no direction but they’re easy to train.”

Trainer Matt Sellecchia, owner of Paws and Play Pet Resort & Training Center (pawsandplaypetresort.com) in Tuckahoe, points out that purebred retrievers, like Labs and goldens, also meld nicely with families, as do Bernese mountain dogs. “These breeds are really great with kids,” he says.

Bernese Mountain Dog

Bernese Mountain Dog

For that highly active family that plays together and with their four-legged pal(s), local trainer Kate McCue Schwartz of Kate’s Canine’s (katescanines.net) suggests a purebred Australian shepherd. “They’re family oriented, super loyal, incredibly smart, extremely athletic, and easy to train.” In addition to exercise, she notes, they require mental stimulation and challenges. “They need a good, solid game of fetch, more than just a romp in the yard,” and would even enjoy agility training with dog parents or siblings that are so inclined.

For moderately active households, a medium-energy hound, like a beagle, is a natural fit. “They’re fun, smart, super stubborn but great for a family,” says McCue Schwartz. “They need the moderate basics like a good routine and walking schedule.” And since they’ve been bred to hunt out on their own, they tend to be independent but still loyal. “All dogs are loyal,” she says.

Beagle

Beagle

In addition, Kornfeld likes the Lagotto Romagnolo (Italian water dog), which is known for being lovable and active.

City Slickers & Apartment Dwellers

For those who live in small spaces, with not much room to roam, indoors or out, Kornfeld recommends steering clear of any kind of bird dog or working dog, as they long to be outside, playing ’til the cows come home. “A cocker spaniel that is not of the hunting line, but rather the show line, is good” in an apartment or urban, downtown setting, he says. “They’re more laid-back.”

Sellecchia believes a bulldog, particularly a French bulldog, is a good fit, too. “They’re pretty content lying around most of the day.”

French Bulldog

French Bulldog

Joggers & Hikers

Workout and exercise junkies require a breed that can keep pace with them, and Kornfeld recommends a deep-chested dog, like a Doberman, Rottweiler, German shepherd, or German shorthaired pointer. “They have big heart and lung capacities,” he explains. “They need to be exercised, or they will get destructive and chew everything in your house.”

German Shepherd

German Shepherd

Sellecchia seconds the German shepherd selection for several reasons: “They love the stimulation and the exercise; they have strong bonds with their owners; and they have a great on/off switch: They can get up and go for a run and then just come home and chill right out.” (That said, Sellecchia’s three-and-a-half-year-old German shepherd, Hill, is what he calls “the laziest German shepherd you’ll ever meet.”)

In addition, Sellecchia suggests herding or hunting breeds, like a Labrador retriever or a Weimaraner. “They like to have a job to do,” he says, which translates to a perfect running partner or a reliable hiking buddy.

Weimaraner

Weimaraner

Senior Citizens & Mobility Challenged

“The number-one dog for an older, less-active person is a Cavalier King Charles spaniel,” says Sellecchia. “They’re laid-back, easygoing, and I’ve never met one with an aggressive bone in their body.” Plus, they don’t demand all that much exercise, and their smaller size makes them relatively easy to handle. Other small breeds he suggests: toy poodles, Cavapoos, and shih tzus.

Cavalier King Charles

Cavalier King Charles

Shih Tzu

Shih Tzu

Kornfeld recommends a broad-chested dog, like a French bulldog, because they have what he calls a “personality of patience,” which he explains like this: “You don’t train them; you negotiate with them.” He also says they’re very laid-back and quite “couch potato-ish.”

Special-Needs Individuals

For children and adults with special needs, the perfect dog is one who likes to be around people and enjoys being stroked and petted, says Sellecchia. He suggests the cuddle-craving Cavalier King Charles spaniel or an ever-affectionate, small and gentle Bichon Frise.

Bichon Frise

Bichon Frise

On the flipside, McCue Schwartz leans toward a larger dog, like a well-bred golden retriever or Lab, particularly for a child with autism. “They have a gentle, mild demeaner; they’re social, and they have a high threshold of tolerance,” she says, putting them in the best position to handle a tantrum, sudden outburst, or even an inadvertent hit.

Labrador Retriever

Labrador Retriever

Workaholics

Even the most easygoing, laid-back dog still craves human attention, so for individuals who spend 12 hours a day away from home, the advice of trainers is simple yet resounding: The best breed of dog for those who are away from home a lot is called… a cat. Like Sellecchia says: “Just get a cat.”

Paws and Play Pet Resort & Training Center

Paws and Play Pet Resort & Training Center. Photo by Frederick Charles, provided by Paws and Play Pet Resort & Training Center.

Doggie Dining Don’ts

Dogs and people metabolize food differently, meaning that a handful of everyday human food items are toxic, and even deadly, to many canines. Here are some you should withhold from your dog:

Grapes & Raisins

If a dog ingests even half of a grape or just one little raisin, call the vet immediately. “We don’t fully understand the toxic dose in grapes,” says Dr. Alyssa DeLucci, with the Veterinary Emergency Group in White Plains, who explains such “doses” vary across grapes grown in different regions, “and how often do we know exactly where our grapes come from?”

doggie dining don'ts

Chocolate

It’s well known that dogs and Hershey bars don’t mix, but it turns out, size and type of chocolate matters when choosing between the hitting the panic button or allowing common sense to prevail. “If your 70-pound Lab eats half a brownie or a small chocolate chip cookie, he’ll likely have stomach upset but probably won’t die,” says DeLucci, who recommends an immediate call to the vet, regardless. In addition, dark chocolate, cocoa powder, and unsweetened baker’s chocolate are much more toxic than sweetened chocolate (e.g., milk, white).

doggie dining don'ts

Sugar-free Gum

The main ingredient is xylitol, and one chew can be fatal. “Gum makers don’t reveal how much of this chemical compound is in the gum,” says DeLucci, so it’s not possible to exercise common sense, like in the case of a big dog and a nibble of brownie. If your dog gets into your sugarless-gum stash, get in the car immediately and call the vet on the way.

doggie dining don'ts

Garlic

Whether it’s a whole clove, chopped, or powdered, “garlic in any form is absolutely toxic for dogs,” says Allan Katz, who trained at the Culinary Institute of America but played a lead role in the creation of Good Reasons (goodreasons.com) dog treats, manufactured in North Salem. “Garlic is the worst of all the alliums, but the others — leeks, onions, scallions — are toxic, too.”

doggie dining don'ts

Doggie Dining Do’s

While veterinarians across the board believe dog food is the best food, they agree that most fruits and vegetables are nice treats — in moderation. “Fruits and vegetables should be no more than 10 percent of their diet,” says Katz, who cautions that seeds and pits must be removed.

doggie dining do's

While nuts are a no-no, peanuts and peanut butter are acceptable treats in moderation. As Katz says: “A peanut is actually a legume.”

doggie dining do's

 

Eggs are A-OK once in a while, so long as they’re cooked. The same goes for low-fat, white-meat chicken, turkey, salmon, and lean beef. “I’m okay with it as dog-food toppers but not as a main meal,” says DeLucci, who notes that dogs can’t metabolize fat (or salt, for that matter) the way people can. Plus, be sure to remove all bones that can “splinter in a dog’s digestive tract,” says Katz.

doggie dining do's

doggie dining do's

Treat ’em Right!

There may be many scrumptious snacks that are not safe for your best buddy, but that doesn’t he has to be left out of the party. Woof Gang Bakery & Grooming (woofgangbakery.com), the Rye branch of a larger national chain, has a one-of-a-kind treat that satisfies your pup’s sweet tooth and jazzes up any puppy playdate. It’s a cake that is actually entirely human-grade (in case you get a little curious), and it brings a new layer of luxury to the term “fur baby.”

If your pooch is watching her waistline, All Paws Gourmet (allpawsgourmetpetstore.com), also in Rye, has several food-themed chew toys — including Grrrona Extra and Starbarks Coffee — so Fido never has FOMO over any food festivities.

Related: 10 Great Westchester Dog Parks Your Pets Will Love

Ranger Von Der Schrotmuhle is a West German shepherd who digs agility competition

Ranger Von Der Schrotmuhle is a West German shepherd who digs agility competition. Haley Freeman, provided by Good Reasons Dog Treats.

Westchester’s Working Dogs

While some pups may enjoy a simple “dog’s life” — basking in the sun, sleeping the day away, rising only to eat and go for walks — it is believed that all dogs wish to have a purpose. This holds especially true for the county’s working dogs, including law enforcement K9s, like Trooper (below), and service dogs that can be cuddly companions to special-needs kids.

The Kids and Canines Learning Together Program, a school outreach initiative from BluePath Service Dogs (bluepathservicedogs.org), is tapping into the healing properties of dogs through its partnership with the Rye City School District.

The nonprofit (based in Hopewell Junction), which provides autism service dogs offering safety, companionship, and opportunities for independence, recently launched another partnership, with the Rye Police Department, which includes biweekly school visits from officers and BluePath dogs.

Together, the dogs learn how to adjust to the sights and sounds of a classroom as part of their journeys to full-fledged service dogs, and the children are soothed by the dogs’ presence and calming effect. In addition, the police officers involved gain experience with special-needs children and invaluable firsthand tips on how to tailor their actions for these young people.

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