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Ask AKC
with Lisa Peterson
Lisa Peterson
Lisa Peterson with her Norwegian Elkhound Jinx.

AKC's Pick of the Litter podcast
Thanks for writing about our new podcast, AKC's Pick of the Litter – where we bring you canine culture, dog people, and news you can use.

In this month’s podcast, we learn about holiday travel tips from Canine Good Citizen® Director Mary Burch, talk to breed experts at AKC Meet the Breeds® and we spend some time with Rin Tin Tin: The Life and The Legend author Susan Orlean discovering her favorite breed!

Listen to the podcast.


Ask AKC with Lisa Peterson

Dear Lisa: I have a 4-year old Boston Terrier that has decided to be a very picky eater. We feed her a half cup of dry food in the morning and half cup in the evenings. She will miss several meals because she spills her food and turns away. We have tried several different kinds of food but it still doesn’t work. Can you give us some advice as to what direction we need to take to get her to eat? – Not Eating Eagerly.

Dear Not Eating: Just to rule out any health concerns that might cause your pet not to eat, I would take her to your vet for an exam to see if there are any medical reasons that after 4 years your dog has decided to be a picky eater. Since you feed dry kibble, it might be something as simple as a toothache that is putting her off her feed.

Once the vet has given her a clean bill of health, start to look for other triggers, such as stress, that might cause her not to eat. Sometimes when pets are stressed they will go off their food. I hope she is still drinking water, since water is more critical than food and while they can go up to a week without food they can’t go much longer than 4 days without water.

Tracking Triggers
The secret to getting her to eat might not be in what you are feeding her but in discovering possible new stressful situations in her life that have caused this new behavior. For the next week keep a journal of her activities to see if there are situations that appear to be stressful to her. Is there a new dog in your family? Did some recent frightening episode happen to her? By keeping track of her reactions it will help you develop an action plan to discover and reduce these situations and build her confidence up through positive reinforcement exercises, such as obedience training or teaching her new tricks. Many times owners inadvertently change food too often which also might cause her to be picky. I would stick to one food, let her have it for 10 minutes and then remove it until the next feeding time. This in conjunction with finding any stressful triggers should have her eating on schedule in no time.


Dear Lisa: I was wondering what temperature is too cold for a dog to be outside in winter?– Bundling Up Bowser

Dear Bundling Up: I typically don’t like to keep my Nordic dogs outside in their fenced in yard for longer than 30 minutes at a time when the temperature starts to go below 20 degrees in winter. But my dogs are house dogs and other working sled dogs in the Arctic, for example, live outdoors for much longer periods of time. If you have a smooth coated-breed or toy dog I would shorten that time frame considerable even if going for a walk. Dogs, like humans, do not tolerate significant variation of body temperature. On average, a dog’s normal body temperature is 101.5 degrees F. Small dogs may have a slightly lower temperatures and large dogs slightly higher. Because of this inability to handle wide swings in their body temperatures, dogs have wonderful internal mechanisms that keep their body at the correct temperature at all times, regardless of the air temperature.

A dog's coat keeps them both cool in hot weather and warm in cool weather. Plus, certain breeds were developed to withstand colder temperatures, such as double-coated Nordic breeds with their extra insulation from the freezing temperatures. The dog uses the panting mechanism to rid his body of excess heat in summer and in winter to keep heat in.

Panting 101
When panting a dog breathes in air through his nose, where it picks up moisture from tissue (i.e. a wet nose). The moisture then captures the heat generated from the body and it is exhaled through the mouth. This rids the body of the excess heat, thereby, keeping the body at a normal temperature. The faster and more shallow the panting, the more heat the dog is trying to release from his body. In the reverse, if the dog wishes not to lose body heat, like in cold weather, he breathes in air through his nose and also exhales through his nose to hold the body heat in.


Lisa Peterson, a long-time owner/breeder/handler of Norwegian Elkhounds, is the AKC Director of Communications. If you have a question, send it to Lisa at askakc@akc.org and she may select it for a future column. Due to the high volume of questions we cannot offer individual responses. Read previous columns here.