Dog Safety - Flight or Fight Response


"We’ve all heard the term fight or flight. But what does that mean when we’re talking about our pets? Failure to understand this instinct can make pet owners feel helpless when their dog experiences stress. Fight or flight is a survival instinct, humans have it, dogs have it. On a physiological level, the body reacts to stress, hormones are released that cause the heart rate to increase, blood pressure increases, pupils dilate and several other physical changes happen to make the dog ready to run for its life or, fight for it. It’s important to understand how to identify if your dog is experiencing these levels of stress because if we don’t react appropriately, or if we have unfair expectations, we can inadvertently put our dogs in danger. Its important to understand that anything that causes stress to your dog, can trigger this response. All dogs have a threshold for how much stress they can handle and if we don’t effectively manage the situations our dogs are in, we can easily overwhelm them. First and foremost, know your dog, pay attention, advocate for them. This can mean telling strangers they cannot pet your dog, this can mean avoiding on leash interactions with strange dogs, this can mean that we don’t bring our dog to a family dinner so everyone can meet them, sometimes it means we walk a different route because of road work and heavy machinery. Understanding what your dog finds stressful is the 1st step in avoiding potential disaster. We need to understand what’s happening and how to deal with it when it does. When a dog experiences high levels of stress they often try to bolt, they may try to escape their collar or harness, hide in a corner, sometimes they become vocal and shriek, tuck their tail, shake, urinate, defecate. Logic dictates that if we want to improve our dog's association with stressors, we should create a positive association right? Well, unfortunately when a dog has reached that level of stress, they will not accept rewards. Tasty treats, human affection, toys, baby talk. In your dog's mind, their life is at risk, and none of those things can change that. We need to remove the stressor, or we need to remove the dog from the situation. The dog needs to metabolize their hormones and allow their body to go back to normal functioning before we can ask them to accept rewards or listen to our commands. It’s also important to understand that in this state of mind, calling their name often results in an increased flight response. Dogs rarely recognize their family in their panicked state. 

It is recommended that you work with a professional if you wish to work on your dog's stress response because we don’t want to overwhelm the dog or cause a worsened reaction. But there’s still a lot you can do to prevent things from getting worse and to keep your dog safe. If you have an insecure dog, or even if you don’t, a properly fitted martingale collar is one of the most effective ways to prevent a dog from bolting under sudden stress. Face harnesses, body harnesses and flat collars can be slipped off the dog if they pull out backwards. If you don’t know how your dog will do in a particular situation,  take extra precautions or leave your dog at home". 

- @completek9care

SOS Success Story: Carlton Banks

You know those stories that get your heart all warm and fuzzy and make you go “AWW!" Here’s one.

Carlton Banks was with us for two years, patiently waiting for his furever family. We knew the day would come, and spoiler alert: we were right!!! SOS posted about Carlton Banks back in December, reminding the community about the pups who have been in foster care for a long time and shouldn’t be forgotten amidst the influx of new dogs. Well, Moe and Jenna saw the post and fell in love with Carlton right then and there. (How could you not though, #amiright?) When they met him, they knew he was just the weirdo they needed to complete their family. They’re now living happily ever after. Like , right now. Probably cuddling. (Hi Carlton!)

Some highlights from the proud new parents? Carlton is smart, energetic, and a huge people-lover. And dog-lover. Ok, he’s just a big ol’ love ball. Another Save Our Scruff happy ending for the books.

Training 101: The Do’s and Don’ts of Rewarding

We know, it’s hard to not spoil your scruffs with everything under the rainbow. After all, you love them. You want them to know how much you love them. Or maybe, you just really want them to stop barking at every dog, human and leaf that crosses their path and you think a yummy treat might do the trick. But before you throw them a bone (or toy, or treat, or kiss) – here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. THINK POSITIVE: Don’t reward your dog for stopping a negative behavior, only reward the positive. Think about it this way: You’re not going to reward a child for NOT coloring on the walls. Dogs are linear in their thinking; they see things strictly in terms of cause and effect. So if you give it a cookie to stop barking, it might serve as a temporary disruption but it won’t stop the behavior indefinitely. In fact, your dog will just end up associating that bad behavior with getting a cookie so you’ll be in for a rough ride.
  2. REWARD ATTENTIVELY: If you’re ever wondering why on EARTH your dog won’t sit" for that dog treat, maybe you’re not really speaking their language. Currency matters, and we each have different things that get us going. While Sparky might prefer the tasty cookie or dog treat, your four-legged child might respond more positively to affection or other social motivators. A good girl" can be even more valuable than a scrumptious treat for some dogs, so pay attention to what makes your scruff respond most effectively.
  3.  FOOD DOES NOT CURE FEAR: It happens all the time. Dog is scared of ‘x’. Human gives dog food to coax them out of anxious emotional state from ‘x’. Result: Dog is still scared of ‘x’ (but belly is slightly more full). Conditioning a dog to act differently, or to stop being scared of something, is totally different from rewarding. You can’t change your dog’s emotional state with food, you can only effectively do so by exhibiting repetitive, assuring, calm behavior that will then rub off on your dog. You’ll save a lot of time, energy and dog treats by doing it this way – we promise!

How Donors Fuel the SOS Engine

Everyone knows that Save our Scruff is a charity (duh!). But there are so many types of charitable organizations, so where does SOS fall on the spectrum?

One important thing to know is that SOS doesn’t receive any financial support from federal or local government agencies. This means that we rely 100% on contributions from all of you. So when we say that we couldn’t do what we do without you, we mean it. Literally.

We’ve enabled the adoption almost 1000 dogs since we first began, decreased pet overpopulation with the successful spaying and neutering of hundreds of animals internationally, built a strong and compassionate animal-loving community that spans the world, and have implemented a variety of initiatives to improve the welfare of dogs through education and advocacy. We’re not saying this to toot our own horn, but to toot YOURS.

There are so many ways that our community donates to SOS, and we wanted to shed some light on the different ways you continue to make a difference. Of course, financial donations play a huge role, but like Jessie J says, it’s not ALL about the money.

1. Volunteering

Donating Your Time

We have a large network of volunteers currently signed up with SOS, and they are really what make our world go round. These superstars are involved in all that we do:


Save Our Scruff operates exclusively through a foster home system. This means that the number of dogs that we can rescue is directly related to the number of foster volunteers who are willing to offer their time, love and homes to our pups so that they can be adopted out to their furever families. Real life superheroes do exist.


These volunteers use their driving skills for a good cause by helping pups get to where they need to be, delivering supplies and medication, and doing airport pick-ups and drop-offs among other things. Four-legged passengers are the best kind of passengers, just sayin'.


Helping out at events and fundraisers, walking dogs on their lunch hours, taking photos, selling merch — the list goes on and on.  We don’t want to be biased but our volunteers can really do it all!

We are so incredibly lucky to have these members of the community donating their time and scruff-loving hearts to the SOS cause. Is it possible to be in love with hundreds of people simultaneously? If you want to join us, read more about volunteering here.

2. Resources

Donating Supplies

Do you have any supplies lying around that your dog doesn’t use? We know some scruffs who would be very, very interested! Martingale collars, allergy sensitive food, puppy food, toys, dog beds, blankets, crates -- we are always in need of these supplies for our dogs.

Email with any questions.

3. Financial Support

Donating Money

Financial donations enable everything that we do at SOS. But wait, ‘everything’ is a pretty vague term. Here’s a breakdown of some of the main costs for SOS pups:


Routine check-ups, medicine, exams, surgeries -- these funds help us get each dog’s health to where it needs to be.

Since many of our pups are rescued from difficult pasts, they often don’t have the cleanest bill of health when we take them in. It takes time, money and some serious TLC to get them fit as a fiddle.


Due to the nature of our work with international rescues, we have to get the dogs from their respective countries to Toronto. As cute as they are, this still comes with a price tag. Donations enable us to turn these dogs into four-legged jet setters.



Yes, all dogs are angels, but some just need a bit of work to let their true angel side shine. Donations for training enable us to make A+ students out of our scruffs, helping them become even more irresistible to prospective adopters.

The possibilities are endless, and every amount makes a difference. Donate here.

How can I improve my dog’s separation anxiety?

First things first:
“Separation anxiety” is one of those overused terms whose definition has gotten blurred along the way. True separation anxiety is actually a mental disorder that is extremely rare, while most of us use the word more casually to describe unfavorable behaviors rather than a state of mind.

That being said, before you start tearing your hair out and making enemies of your neighbors, here are some tips to help your dog grow out of these behaviors.

1. Talk it out

No, we aren’t referring to the “I wuv you wittle baby” talk. In fact, this type of talk can often increase the anxiety and excitement of our four-legged friends. Rather, a great way to build self-regulation is to teach your dog simple verbal commands (sit, down, stay), and then gradually get them to obey these commands for longer and longer. Self-control and the ability to calm down aren’t natural skills for dogs, so it’s up to us to teach them. If you stay calm and consistent in your enforcing of these commands, you are actively helping your dog de-escalate their anxious behaviors in the meantime. When you see they’re able to hold commands for longer periods of time, this is a great sign that they’re learning how to manage their excitement, which will pay off big time when you leave them alone.

2. Stimulate!

A lot of these negative behaviors are a result of boredom and restlessness. I mean come on, have you ever gotten bored sitting around at home alone with nobody to talk to and nothing to do? SNOREFEST. It’s really important to stimulate your dog both physically and mentally before you leave them alone, as this will help keep them calm. If they aren’t stimulated, they will take all their energy out while you’re away, and that can make for some ugly results.

3. Make a date with the crate

Crates are a great choice for several reasons. Not only do they serve as a great self-regulation tool, but they also prevent dogs from consuming anything harmful while we’re away and prevent them from causing any (heart-breaking) damage to our belongings. When used effectively, a crate can serve as a great tool to teach your dog how to calm down. That being said, it’s important to note the difference between containment and crate training. Simply locking your dog in a particular section of your house is not conducive to encouraging them to calm down. A crate, on the other hand, can act as a sort of den for your dog, allowing them to associate a particular place with a sense of calm and relaxation.

4. Bonds and boundaries

From the day that you adopt your scruff, whether they’re a puppy or a senior citizen, you need to build a relationship of trust and control. This means a commitment to enforcing rules and following through on your commands, whether they be ‘sit’, ‘fetch’ or ‘stay’. Always remember that our dogs take their cues from us, and the relationship you build with them will determine how they act when you leave them alone.

Hot Dogs! Tips for keeping your pups cool in the heat

Bottoms up

Dogs actually cool from the legs up, so don’t only spray their head and back with water, spray their paws and stomach if you really want to cool them down.

Know the signs

If your dog is acting lethargic, or you see excessive panting, heavy drooling and bloodshot eyes, these are all signs of dehydration. Another way you can test dehydration is by gently lifting a section of your dog’s skin. If the skin takes longer than usual to fall back in its place, this is a sign of severe dehydration.

Hydrate, hydrate and hydrate some more

Older and overweight dogs are more at risk of overheating and dehydration, so just be sure to know the demands of your specific pup. Take plenty of water breaks, or even have your dog carry their own water on their backs to keep themselves cool.

Timing is everything

Walking your dog in the cooler temperature of the mornings  and evenings is an easy way to avoid the risk of overheating.

Let diggers be diggers

This is a dog’s clever way of keeping cool, so if you can, try and find a dig-safe area in the shade if possible. (Just make sure it’s not a neighbour’s lawn because Mrs. Jones won’t find that very cute.)

The 5 Biggest Myths about Dog Adoption


Dog adoption is too expensive

Real Talk: You have to pay an adoption fee for rescue dogs, and being the parent to any pup will require consistent funding and financial investment. Myth: Rescues end up costing more money than dogs from a breeder. When you think about the health care that rescues are provided before being adopted out, the fee ain’t so bad at all.

Take SOS for example – scruffs are given general health exams, up-to-date vaccines, heartworm treatment and blood work if required, not to mention they’re spayed and neutered once they reach the 6-month mark. If you buy a four-legged pal from a breeder or pet store, you not only have to pay for the dog, you must then pay these additional medical expenses out of pocket.  When you consider this, along with the priceless reward that comes with saving a life, we think the choice is obvious.


I won’t find the dog I want

First and foremost, SOS doesn’t discriminate against dogs, and we think that’s a hella awesome way to live because ALL puppers deserve a lifetime of cuddles. That being said, since we do rescue dogs regardless of their breed, age or size –  

you’ll see that we have adoptables from all colors of the dog rainbow. (Yes, we know dog rainbows aren’t real, but we can still dream.) We’ve had puppies and purebred dogs, mixed breeds and everything in between.


You can’t teach an old dog new tricks

Okay, this one is a total myth! (For dogs at least, not so sure about their human counterparts.) But seriously, ALL dogs have the capacity to learn. They simply require regular mental and physical stimulation. This goes for the puppies as well as the senior pets out there!

With consistent obedience training and a few doses of patience, we can coach our four-legged pals into doing all sorts of things while improving their behavioural habits. Before you know it, your dog will be speaking Spanish and playing the piano. 


The process is too difficult

Application forms, interviews, reference calls, oh my! While you can’t walk in and buy a rescue like you can with a breeder or at a pet store, the reasons behind the process make it all worth it. Fit is everything, and each and every step allows us to make successful bonds that will last at lifetime.

Let it be known that adoption is certainly not easy, and requires tons of work on the adopter’s part. But the extra efforts put into the adoption process allow for more happiness in the long run.


Rescues come with too much baggage

When it comes to adoption, people have a tendency to focus on the sad stories and negative histories, often concluding that these dogs aren’t fixable and can’t be “normal” pets. The truth is that all dogs have unique personalities — that’s what we love about them! (That and their fluffiness.)

If you purchase a puppy from a breeder or pet store, you can never be sure how well that pup might fit into your lifestyle. Rescues, on the other hand, have been vetted and tended to before the adoption process, so you can be sure that you choose the yin to your yang. Some rescues certainly do have difficult histories, but it’s a total myth that difficult pasts mean a difficult future. While a rescue’s background may sometimes introduce challenges along the way, the resulting gratitude will be unlike anything you’ve ever felt. Trust us.

Tips for Walking a Nervous Dog

1. Position,

position, position!

The most important thing to be sure of is that your dog is either beside you, or slightly behind you. Shy & nervous dogs have the tendency to pull to wherever they feel is safe, and this is often ahead of us. The problem here? If we allow them to forge ahead, they are first to deal with any potential dangers in front of them. This becomes too much to handle, and it can actually increase their reactivity. If they’re beside or behind us, we become the barrier between our pup and the rest of the world. They can then relax, unwind and enjoy their walk as doggos should!

2. The importance of properly-fitted tools

Our scruffs need our guidance, and if they aren’t wearing properly-fitted collars, it becomes harder to help them improve.  We strongly suggest using martingale collars, because they give owners more control and reduce the chance of unpredictable situations. With these collars, dogs will only feel release from the pressure when they move forward.  With enough walks, their mentality will change from a feeling of panic about what’s ahead, to a sense of relief as they step forward.  (But remember – if your collar is making your dog choke, adjust your technique!)

3. Who's the boss?

Contrary to what Hallmark has taught us – don’t stop to let them smell the roses. With smelling comes eating, and with eating comes a number of possible health risks. (We’re looking at you, poop-eating dogs!) It’s important that you dictate the walk, and not the other way around. If you notice that your dog has their nose down a lot, then choose a spot to stop for a pee break on your terms.

4. Bribe-free zone

Leave the steak at home! The biggest mistake you can make is to try and coerce or bribe your dog with treats. This will only work to reinforce their reactive behaviour, and won’t actually correct it. With proper leash work, the release of walking forward will serve as their reward, and they will actively conquer their fears. Go super-doggies go!

5. Save the socializing for another time

Walks are for walking. This goes for all dogs, nervous and confident! When you let dogs stop to meet other dogs on a walk, this sets up the expectation that you will continue to stop for other dogs going forward. If your pup happens to greet another dog who is aggressive, this will increase their own reactivity and risk making them even more nervous and skittish.

Springtime Tips for Scruff Parents

We did it! Winter is (finally) over. 

We can now fully enjoy those outdoor bonding sessions with our furry children, but there are a few things to keep in mind as the temperature climbs:

1. Those mean greens

Many of us attempt to channel our green thumbs as the weather warms, but plants are like magnets for dogs, so be sure to consult a plant guide to see which plants are toxic. You can get started here

2. Seasonal allergies?

Yes, even our four-legged friends can develop allergies during the springtime. In dogs, such allergies often manifest themselves in skin problems, so keep an eye out for changes and contact your vet with any concerns.

3. Matters of the Heart

With warmer weather comes mosquitoes, and they can transmit heartworm disease. Spring is a great time to give your scruff their heartworm preventatives and have them checked by your local vet.

4. Earth Day Fun

Okay, so this isn’t so much of a tip as it is a (super) cute idea. For Earth Day, why not go on a hike, donate some old dog toys to a local shelter, or visit a new dog park in Toronto? We’re sure your scruff, and the planet, will totally love it

So You Want a Doggo?

When thinking about getting a dog, think about the following things: - Am I able to commit to this animal through the bad times and the good?
- If I travel long-term, will my dog come with me?
- If I change jobs, can I continue to support a lifestyle with a dog?
- If I have a child, will I be willing to work with both child and dog to build a balanced relationship?
- If my dog starts to show new signs of behaviour that I “didn’t sign up for” will I take responsibility that it may be due to my relationship with them and work productively to improve it?

Animals, let alone dogs, are a big commitment. As a dog rescue, we hope you are their furever and will work with them in new circumstances that arise. Please consider these scenarios before choosing to add to your family. Every circumstance is different and we do our best not to judge, we just ask that you set yourself up to be aware of what may come to be. 
As a side note to that: To all of our adopters, consider yourself a community member. Reach out to us if you have questions, notice unfavourable changes, are seeing changes in your life or need support in some way. Although we may not have to say what you want to hear.. we are here for you and we are dedicated to providing aid to you and your Scruff in some way or another. We do our best to be open and do learn and grow from every new adventure that arises! Never hesitate to reach-out to 


Friends, supporters, community members. We have like… over 25K followers now. Awesome, right? That’s 25K people who are interested in dog advocacy and gaining the education to be better dog lovers. Okay and some of you like seeing cute dog photos/videos. Got it. 

Well, we thought it was a perfect day to ask for your help. ZAKI has been with SOS for 1 year now and we are saying to ourselves… WHY?!. Yes, Zaki has particular needs, but so does every dog we have. SO. We are asking for you to take #sosaction today by doing your share by helping Zaki find a home. Please like, share, tag, comment, forward, this post. Please also offer to print and hang a poster of Zaki somewhere in your community so that we can get much needed attention out to finding him a home. To do so, please email for the poster. Please also add his picture to your Instagram Story, FB Story, and anywhere else that your community can see. The more eyes on this dog, the better opportunity that he can find a furever home. Please tag, hashtag, and promote SOS on your pages as this will help bring all of these posts together so that we can create a Zaki movement. 

BTW the last time we did this, we found a home for a dog we had for 2 years. The adopters saw his post on a friends IG story. SO yes, you can be responsible for Zaki’s furever home. Now. 

Here are the top 5 reasons to adopt Zaki (noted by his Foster):
1) He LOVES his pull toy but he's so weak that you have to let him win. He freaks out whenever he pulls it away and throws it around the house for ages. 
2) His recall is AMAZING. We Have a big garden and he'll always come right to us when his name is called. 
3) He's the cuddliest guy on earth- he will climb into anyone's lap and sleep there even though he's way too big. He will also plop himself down on someone's face just to be as close to them as possible. 
4) He knows he isn't allowed on the couch but has found some "loopholes" like climbing on someone who's sitting on the couch-he won't touch the actual sofa or make eye contact with you while he does it. He thinks he's very sneaky.
5) He also loves other dogs! Although he barks on leash he’s an angel off!

The dreaded F-word… Fleas!

Just when Scruff Alum Canelo thought spring was here, the weather pulled a fast one on him! While we patiently wait for warmer weather, we teamed up with our Scruff Social Partners @healthypetsio to get ahead of the game with some spring wellness tips starting with the dreaded F-word… Fleas. These little buggers are a nuisance to you and your pup but they can also transmit diseases and parasites like tapeworm, heartworm and typhus. The most important thing you can do to ensure your pet will not become a flea circus is to stop them in the first place by using a medicated flea preventative!

But what to do if your pet already has fleas? No need to panic - it’s a relatively easy fix that won’t break the bank. You should speak to your vet, or if you are in a rush to get those pesky guys off, you can connect with a professional online through @healthypetsio to discuss which products work best for you and your pup. In some cases, treating your home will also be necessary. If this happens It’s important to check with a professional before spraying your home with any kind of chemical to ensure they are safe for everyone in the area and the environment :) Here’s to a flea-free spring!

Learn from Shaggy's Progress! Boundaries are Key!

SHAGGY came to us legit trying to eat our fingers for the food in our hands. Now, over time and with proper human leadership, he has built respect for humans as WE decide when he gets to eat and that is understood. When we give dogs the control, they take on the leader position and you will see that come out in ways you may not like. For example, guarding toys or the couch, being leash reactive, barking at the front door or in the back yard. When we tell the dog through training that WE are in control, they will listen and you will see it in your day to day lives. Your dog is not “bad” because it is reactive or protective, it doesn’t know any better and has no been set up for success. Giving your dog free range of the house, letting your dog eat from is bowl throughout the day, letting it bark at the window... these are things that give your dog the perspective it needs to see that they DO NOT NEED YOU and instead must use their instincts to figure out “pet” life. Work on bonding with your animal in ways it views a respectful relationship. Hand feed, have them at your side on walks (NO RETRACTABLE), don’t allow them straight on the furniture but give them permission to go on the furniture when you allow but that also means off when you say too! This is not always easy or simple, especially in comparison to allowing your dog to do what it pleases. But your relationship with your dog will change significantly for the better. Want your dog to be better with strangers, less reactive to dogs, less protective? Enforce boundaries. You will see a difference. We need to stop blaming our dogs for being “bad” and instead look at our RELATIONSHIP with our animal and fix it.g post content.