Category Archives: Wine

pet training

Tips for Training Your Dog

January was national train your dog month, and I wish I wrote this at the appropriate time. February is national pet dental health month, but I’d rather talk about training tips. In respect for this month’s theme, brush your pet’s teeth! Dry food is not good for teeth – that’s a myth! There are so many great products out there for dental health, including Dr. Mercola’s dental gel and chews. Check them out. That’s my snippet about national pet dental health month (in a way, you got a two-fer with this one)

I have worked in the pet industry for thirteen years in a variety of occupations including animal hospitals, dog daycares, retail, and grooming facilities. There are different schools of thought when it comes to training, which makes sense because we are all different (animals included) and something that works for me may not necessarily work for you. I can only speak to what I have found successful when communicating with dogs and cats. Consider this the “goal setting” article for your pets, as a follow up from January’s tips for yourself. Just like us, our pets are creatures of habit. If your pet has a habit or behaviors that you wish to alter, I hope these tips will help you do just that.

Dogs are pack animals, and cats tend to be solitary animals, but can and do live in colonies, peacefully. When we adopt or care for them, they look to us to be the pack leader. For me, being a pack leader, or leader of any situation means guidance. Our pets are not objects that we just own, but rather living beings under our care and guidance. Socialization as puppies is important for dogs to learn how to communicate with each other and for future social settings as adults. As humans, it’s our first instinct to back away when our dogs greet each other, but trainers have explained to me that this can be confusing to some dogs because they expect us to lead. If a dog is unsure, nervous or overwhelmed, then miscommunication can result in scuffles. If you stay calm and stay in the group at first, then your dog will follow suit. They feed off our emotions and energy levels. This also applies to one-on-one meetings on or off leash (but always ask first when approaching another dog, if it is okay to do so). I’m sure we’ve all been in a situation where we shorten the leash during an initial meeting, but that tension communicates to your dog that there is something to be alert about, and potentially something bad.

Similarly, if a dog has a high energy level and pulls you up to another dog, that can also be a red flag that may cause the other dog to become defensive. Showing your dog what you expect of them when walking, helps you maintain that calm demeanor during encounters with other dogs. There are harnesses and collars designed for dogs who pull, and aid in training. I believe in rewarding good behavior, such as sitting, walking right next to you with a loose leash, and waiting to go through doors after you. A great way to start working toward these behaviors is to start asking your pup to sit periodically during walks, while you wait to cross the street, if another dog is approaching, and before walking through doorways. This also stimulates them mentally. It keeps them on the toes about paying attention and listening to you when you speak.

From there, you can work up to any other behaviors or tasks you’d like to teach them. You can also practice sitting until you call them from different distances. This way, if you have a dog that barks when someone is at the door you can work on keeping them focused on you, while remaining calm and sitting quietly. Another tool to use for dogs who get excited in certain situations is something that will snap their attention back to you. For some, this can be a clicker, a spray bottle with water in it, or an aerosol can that sprays a puff of air. I have a habit of making random noises with my voice. I usually switch between “shh,” “ahh,” and “na na na” type of sounds. These techniques help bring their attention back to the task at hand, without falling into a distraction.

Just like us, dogs need consistency and routine. Cats too. My cat, Simon, learned “sit” when he was still very young. He’s seven years old now, and still sits when he is waiting for a treat, or his food. He can’t sit still for very long, but he’s got it down. He also has an exercise wheel that he learned to run on by himself within a month of purchasing it. I know how crazy I sound when I tell people how smart Simon is, but he loves learning new tasks. As long as we stick with the same routine, our dogs (and cats) will follow along. The brain is a muscle, so the more we exercise it, the stronger it becomes. Furthermore, with proper nourishment through quality foods can assist in that growth. On the other hand, if our pets have a sensitivity to something, then it’s possible it may affect their behavior. If you think your dog or cat is having symptoms of intolerance to something, we test for over three hundred food and environmental factors with just a simple hair sample.

Of course, reach out to your local trainers if you need assistance with training and behavioral issues. Like I mentioned before, different techniques work for each of us differently. You may find that another way of training fits you and your dog better than what I’ve discussed here. Changing our habits takes time and patience. Let’s set them up for success!

chinese new year blog

Spring Roll Into The New Year MSG Free

Today is the start of the Chinese New Year. This year is the Year of the Pig, which represents luck, overall good fortune, wealth, honesty, general prosperity, symbolizing a hard working, a peace-loving person, a truthful, generous, indulgent, patient, reliable, trusting, sincere, giving, sociable person with a large sense of humor and understanding.

In celebration of the Chinese New Year, most of us may go out and eat Chinese Food. Some popular Chinese foods are Sweet and Sour Pork, Kung Pao Chicken, Ma Po Tofu, Orange Chicken, Wontons, Dumplings, Chow Mein, Spring Rolls, Sesame Chicken, and we can’t forget about the Fried Brown Rice. As these foods are delicious, they may contain multiple additives, flavorings, and preservatives. One of the most common food additive is Monosodium Glutamate. Better known as MSG. MSG is made up mostly of free glutamic acid, or glutamate, an amino acid found naturally in most foods. It’s produced by fermenting molasses, starch, or sugar cane. This fermentation process is like the process used to make wine and yogurt. The primary use is a food additive to enhance the flavor of some foods. (E-621) It has become an important additive for the food industry because it doesn’t compromise flavor if lower quality or less fresh ingredients are used.

Some people may experience adverse effects from consuming MSG. This condition is called the Chinese restaurant syndrome or MSG symptom complex. People may experience symptoms within two hours after eating foods that contain MSG. Symptoms can last a few hours to a couple of days. Common symptoms include:

Their are treatments for common symptoms: Mild symptoms usually don’t require treatment. Taking over-the-counter (OCT) pain relievers may ease your headache. Drinking several glasses of water may help flush the MSG out of your system and shorten the duration of your symptoms.

Evidence indicates that MSG is safe in moderate amounts. If you react adversely to MSG, you should not eat it. The adverse reaction could mean an allergy or intolerance to it. 5Strands Affordable Testing can help determine whether or not you have an intolerance to MSG as it is one of the items tested for under the Food Only and Deluxe testing packages.

If you know that you are intolerant to MSG, you will need to learn to read labels with the list of ingredients. When you eat out at a restaurant, you will need to find out if their food is MSG free. Some may indicate that on the menus, but if they don’t, you will need to ask.

In addition, MSG occurs naturally in certain foods. The foods include potatoes, peas, tomatoes and tomato juice, mushrooms, grapes, grape juice, parmesan cheese, and roquefort cheese.

It is important to know your intolerances so you do not have to cut out healthy foods unnecessarily.

5Strands Affordable Testing is here to help!

goals 2019


Five years ago I made a decision to make real changes in my life. I was inconsistently doing at-home workouts, drinking a lot, and eating poorly. I didn’t have much structure in my life and I wanted to be happier. Since then, I’ve joined a gym (and I actually go), simplified my life by minimizing the amount of physical things I own, and I cook most of my meals with fresh, whole foods. Instead of candy, I eat fruit with sunflower seed butter and hemp seeds. I actively try to live plastic-free and even save my food scraps for composting. I acknowledge that I can be a bit extreme about the habits I’ve developed, and this is in no way pushing you to do any of these specific things. The transformations I’ve made in my life are an example of how goals can be achieved. Everyone makes new year’s resolutions, but not everyone follows through with them. Whatever it is that you want to accomplish, I believe you can develop the discipline to do so with the ideas that I’ve outlined below.

  • Start Slow

This is a very important concept that can be applied to all aspects of our lives. If your goals for 2019 include physical activity, whether you want to take up a new sport, hobby, or you have specific body goals in mind, take it slow! Many people think that the way to meet their goal is with intense workouts right out of the gate. This may be effective for some, but most people will burn out quickly and then decide that they hate working out. That’s why there is always an influx of people joining gyms in the beginning of the year. If you are someone who continues to go, you will see how the crowd dies down as the year goes on. Start out with short and light workouts. Create a baseline for yourself. Then you can build on the frequency, intensity, and quality of your gym time. It will soon turn from a chore to something you look forward to doing!

  • Be Accountable.

Holding yourself accountable to your goals is something that we often do not consider when we initially create our goals. A great way to do this is to form a community of people with similar goals. This may be in a group texts, social media, or a partner! If your new year’s resolution is to be more active, try creating an environment with friends who have like-minded goals. Join a gym, class, or fitness club together. Update each other on your workouts and take progress pictures. Progress does not happen overnight, so having the safety network of others will help keep you motivated. Even if you’re more introverted and prefer to do it alone, document it anyway. Keep a file of progress pictures and journal entries to remind yourself of where you came from and where you are going. Furthermore, if you have a dog then you have an automatic workout partner! Your pup can benefit from the exercise of an extra walk or runs with you. You’ll feel great knowing you are positively impacting the health of your fur baby!

  • Make a plan.

For me, making a plan is the glue for keeping all of my goals together. If you looked in the notes section of my phone, you would find a lot of lists. I plan what I’m buying at the grocery store before I go, and what workouts I want to do at the gym. This keeps my mind on track and prevents distractions, because I know my attention can be derailed very easily. However, sometimes those lists get lost in more lists, so I’ve gone a little old school with my most recent goals. In order to keep myself accountable with my gym routine, I’ve resorted to a paper calendar. When I receive my work schedule, I write it on the calendar and then schedule myself for the gym ahead of time. I also decide which days I will focus on cardio or resistance training. From there, the lists in my phone narrow down my specific workout routines. If you make a plan, then there’s less opportunity for “I don’t have time to work out” excuses!

  • Create a Routine

This point, just like the rest, is going to vary depending on each person. My routine for success is going to be different from yours, but routine nonetheless is key to consistency. One of my best friends sent me a text last week exclaiming how great she’s felt since she created a morning skincare routine. As small and simple as that sounds, it can have a profound effect. Ritual is found everywhere. Ritual can be your morning coffee and news, stretching or meditating before bedtime, or weekly yoga class. We may not be aware of our rituals, but now after reading this you may notice your daily routines a little more, or you may create new ones! I try to begin and end my day with a short meditation, followed by multi-step skincare routine, and a cup of tea. There are nights where I don’t always follow through, because I’m not perfect, but I move on and begin again the next day.

  • Self Care

In my opinion, each of these techniques build on one another. They are stepping stones for the ultimate goal that you’ve created. The order of priority may differ from person to person, but collectively they will help keep you on track. Self care is the cherry on top of it all. Exercise has a profound effect on, not only your physical body, but also on your mental state. I find that if I exercise after work, I have more energy and confidence for the rest of the day. I try to workout four times a week, but if I am physically or mentally tired I take a break. Sometimes a break from the gym can be a day or an entire week. I allow myself to take the time I need for binge-watching shows in pajamas, ordering Thai food, using a face mask, reading a book or just doing nothing. Find what works for you to reset. Trust me, there will be days or weeks you decide not to go to the gym or follow through with your plan, but that does not mean that you failed and you’ll try again next January. It just means you can start over when you’re ready, like on Monday. I recently heard someone say that the beauty of meditation is that you always begin again. It’s that simple. You can always begin again with any goal you’ve established for yourself. Everyday is a new opportunity to do just that.

I know I’ve thrown a lot at you in a short amount of time, but if you break down your goals into these focal points, you will find that you may stop allowing yourself to make excuses. Pay attention to the moments when you hold back and forgive yourself if you break your rules. Listen to your body. Progress is something that is deeply personal. You cannot compare your progress to anyone else’s. Celebrate your progress and yourself for working to improve your life. Focus on the things that are going right and find what works best for you! You may even notice that the more you grow as a person, the more momentum you will have to continue to improve more areas of your life. Most importantly, love yourself, because you have to spend the rest of your life with you!