Sunday, April 26, 2009


Winston is an Australian Terrier. He is a rescue with some big anxiety issues. Fortunately, he has a new family who love him very much and are working hard - through positive dog training methods and behavior modification - to create a happy and stable life for him. His family includes Napoleon the Yorkie, his mom and dad, and a few feline friends (well, we hope to make them his friends :). He is also becoming a jeep-dog, the reason he can sometimes be seen wearing doggles. Winston is here to remind everyone that dogs, like people, need to take a break, go to the park, hang out with friends, and learn how to relax. And hydrate, please.

Cody Finds the Cookie

Dogs get bored. Bored dogs get in trouble. Be creative and invent fun games for them. There are many versions of the "find it" game. This one involved hiding a freeze-dried liver treat under a towel and telling Miss Cody to find.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Diabetic Alert Dog Workshop

Join me at a three-day workshop in Oxford, Mississippi in June that will focus on what it takes to choose, train, and maintain a diabetic alert dog. I'll be there along with trainers from around the country. Attendees will have the opportunity to connect with other families and get input from multiple dog trainers. If you are considering a diabetic alert dog for a family member, this is the best investment in time and money you'll ever make. For more information, contact me or Rachel Thornton, the mother of a wonderful 15-year-old diabetic with her own service dog.

Beware! If you are considering buying a fully trained diabetic alert dog, there are very bad people out there running scams that will take your money and break your heart.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Leash Walking

Sometimes it's all about the gear. One of the best solutions for dogs who pull is a front-connecting body harness. The best on the market are the Halti and the Sensation.

The key to success with both of these harnesses is that the leash is attached to a ring on the chest. Why is that important? Because it's the dog's center of gravity. Uses? These harnesses are great for small people with big dogs, dogs with neck injuries, and dogs for whom nothing else works (including head harnesses like gentle leaders).

A body harness does not replace proper dog training. If you do not have a positive dog trainer in your life, contact me or find one in your geographic area through the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Happy Birthday, Murphy

I want to stop for a moment and honor Murphy on this, his fourth birthday.

Murphy and I met on the day he was born. His mama required a Caesarian section and the breeder was kind enough to let me know when it was time to take her to the vet for the procedure. I was in the room when 10 perfect, beautiful chocolate Labs were born. There were seven girls and three boys. I got the pick of the litter.

Fast forward six weeks. I was in a large room at the breeder’s with other people looking to pick a puppy. Murphy’s mama and daddy were both there, hanging out, greeting people, taking care of the pups. The three male puppies were separated from their sisters so I could pick mine. One of the three wandered over to me, sat and my feet and looked up at me. I picked him up, cuddled him in my lap, and he fell asleep. Murphy picked me.

I chose Murphy with the fervent hope that the sweetness and gentleness of his parents would be passed on. I wanted this Lab to be my therapy dog. It became clear when Murphy was a few months old that his temperament was just what I had hoped for. I trained him using positive reinforcement methods and a clicker. He learned quickly. He learned to love to learn.

Murphy became a registered therapy dog at a year-and-a-half. We are a Delta Society Pet Partner team. Murphy brings joy to many people, simply by being in their space. I awake to him everyday, go home to him every night. And I love him more than life.

Thank you, Murphy.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Kat Simons from Lite 98 Needs Your Help

Lite 98's Kat Simons is a HUGE animal lover. Help her provide much needed assistance to local animal rescue and support groups. Drop off pet supply donations during the month of April at various locations around the Richmond area.

Here's a list of items needed for dogs and cats. Some items can be used, like the leash you no longer use for Fido or the collar Fluffy outgrew. Be generous folks. In times of economic downturn, domestic animals suffer greatly.
  • Dry or wet food
  • Collars and leashes
  • Treats
  • Flea supplies
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Old towels and sheets
  • Beds
  • Gerber baby food (turkey and chicken)
  • Brushes
  • Shampoo
  • Bowls
  • Toys

Thank you for supporting local animal rescue groups!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Nigerian Puppy Scam Resurfaces

This story appeared in Healthy & Green Living.

The puppy scam is subtle; a cute (really cute, adorably cute) puppy needs a home–it is much more believable than $25 million dollars waiting in your account. In the puppy scam, classified ads are placed in newspapers and online. They promise a free puppy, as long as the victim agrees to pay for shipping–the story usually involves someone who has moved or is moving or resides in another country. In the latest crop of puppy scams, the dog owner is said to reside in Africa. In some cases he says he is an American, serving in the Peace Corps. He promises to send the dog once the victim sends anywhere from $200 to $500 to pay for shipping. Usually there is another request for more money, explaining there were some complications clearing customs. Lots of cute pictures of the said puppy are sent, and once the money wire has been picked up, the puppy-giver disappears.

In order to avoid these types of scams, Phonebusters offers this advice:

  • Know whom you are dealing with–independently confirm your seller’s name, street, address, and telephone number.
  • Resist pressure to “act now.” If an offer sounds to good to be true it usually is.
  • If the buyer wants to use a service you have not heard of, be sure to check it out to be sure it is reliable–check its Web site, call its customer service hotline, and read its terms of agreement and privacy policy. If you do not feel comfortable with the service, do not use it.

According to Consumer Affairs, even better advice is to never buy a puppy from anyone other than a local breeder. Shipping a puppy is cruel and inhumane in itself. Buying an animal via the Internet virtually ensures that you are supporting puppy mills. The best place to get a pet is the local pound or shelter!

Learn more on the ASPCA's website.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Dog Fighting News

This was posted yesterday and is, in my opinion, great news for the dog community. Best Friends and HSUS rock!

Best Friends Animal Society and The Humane Society of the United States announced that a summit meeting held this week in Las Vegas to discuss the disposition of dogs seized from dogfighting operations has led to a coalition of groups working together to help the canine victims of organized violence.

Among the outcomes of the meeting:
  • The HSUS has a new policy of recommending that all dogs seized from fighting operations be professionally evaluated, according to agreed upon standards, to determine whether they are suitable candidates for adoption. Dogs deemed suitable for placement should be offered as appropriate to adopters or to approved rescue organizations. The HSUS will update its law enforcement training manual and other materials to reflect this change in policy.
  • The groups agree that all dogs should be treated as individuals, and they are the true victims of this organized crime. They also agree to support law enforcement and animal control agencies when decisions must be made regarding the dogs deemed unsuitable for adoption and in cases when rescue organizations and adopters are unable, within a reasonable timeframe, to accept dogs from such raids that have been offered for adoption.
  • The organizations will form a working group to develop future protocols for cooperation in addressing the needs of dogs seized in raids, such as how to assist with the housing of fighting dogs, how to conduct professional evaluations, and how to screen potential adopters.

The summit was convened to address the matter of dogs seized as a result of cruelty investigations.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Meet Ian Dunbar

The following article from Dog Time News will introduce you to my favorite trainer, Ian Dunbar. Enjoy.

Chances are you've heard of Cesar Millan, Hollywood's famous dog whisperer. In recent years, he's taken the world by storm, starring in National Geographic Channel's Dog Whisperer and putting out a variety of training books and DVDs. Millan's philosophy? We, as humans, must act as dominant pack leaders; our dogs should behave as submissive followers.

Chances are you haven't heard of Ian Dunbar, soft-spoken Northern California behaviorist. Rather than physical corrections and alpha rollovers, Dunbar advocates a trusting, less subservient relationship, treating dogs as companions and family members. Dunbar's training methods don't make for dramatic television, but watching him quietly train—without so much as wagging a finger—is riveting to anyone who has ever tried to teach their dog anything.

A different approach
Ian Dunbar has been winning over dogs, dog owners, and dog trainer for years with his accessible, effective positive-reinforcement approach. Talk with the most respected names in the dog training world and you discover Dunbar's impact is unparalleled.

"His contribution to this field is immeasurable," says Patricia McConnell, author of The Other End of the Leash, co-host of NPR's Calling All Pets, and founder of Dog's Best Friend Training. "Ian Dunbar created an entirely new perspective about dog training. He deserves tremendous credit for teaching us to be loving with our dogs and to have fun with the training."

Let's not get physical
Dunbar's hands-off, reward-based approach stands in contrast to Millan's dominance-based philosophy and physical corrections. He emphasizes that communicating with your dog is far more satisfying than dominating your dog and stresses that even children can use his positive reinforcement methods to become able trainers.

"Ian carried the torch for lure-and-reward training," says Sue Sternberg, founder and owner of Rondout Valley Animals for Adoption in upstate New York and author of Great Dog Adoptions: A Guide for Shelters and Successful Dog Adoptions. "He converted an entire generation of yank 'em, crank 'em dog trainers into better communicators."

Doctor, teacher, trainer
Raised on a farm in England, Dunbar's connection with animals formed early and undeniably. After attending the Royal Veterinary School in London, he earned his Ph.D. in animal behavior at the University of California, Berkeley, merging—what at the time were—two very discrete aspects of animal study: medicine and behavior.

For him the pairing was natural—and long overdue. "People don't bite their hairdressers or the ob-gyns," says Dunbar. "But biting's an issue for vets, so it's in our best interest to know a bit about behavior."

He moved to Berkeley in 1971 and later taught a dog behavior course, which was the first time he realized how hungry dog owners were to understand their own pets. Discouraged that he couldn't find a training course for his own young puppy, he started a school, Sirius Dog Training in 1981. (With 19 locations, it's become one of the country's biggest training centers.) Dog training was changed forever.

Groundbreaking ideas
He didn't know it at the time, but Dunbar introduced a concept so revolutionary he's credited with launching what is now commonly regarded as the modern era in dog training: Train puppies before six months of age—off leash (the way they live at home)—and use rewards rather than punishment to teach proper behavior.

Today, the notion that very young puppies can not only be trained, socialized, and handled, but that doing so actually prevents most problem behaviors from developing, is a founding truth of modern dog training.

"Ian Dunbar understood that problems up front lead to problems down the road and he pounded the podium talking about early socialization and enrichment," days Nicholas Dodman, author of The Well-Adjusted Dog: Dr. Dodman's Seven Steps to Lifelong Health and Happiness for Your Best Friend (Houghton Mifflin, 2008) and Professor, Section Head, and Program Director of Animal Behavior Department of Clinical Sciences at Tufts' Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.

The soundness of Dunbar's methods garnered worldwide attention and his techniques were embraced by trainers everywhere. In 1993 he founded the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, an international organization devoted to promoting human-canine relationships based on trust and respect. Along the way, he's written six dog training books and hosted the popular British television series Dogs with Dunbar.

Different methods for different dogs
At this point it's worth asking: With so much experience, and the respect and veneration of so many of the field's most renowned figures, why is Dunbar still relatively unknown and Cesar Millan a household name?

"Cesar works with aggressive dogs, and that's sexy these days," says Patricia McConnell. "But Ian's methods are successful for the average dog owner. What's more, they have been used by professionals for years to successfully treat serious aggression problems. And, they're fun."
With more families than ever bringing dogs into their homes, and more dog trainers embracing Dunbar's accessible, family-friendly techniques, 2008 may well mark the year that the "dominance mentality" takes a back seat to the reward-based training, which promotes understanding and living peacefully with one's pets.

"The biggest development in the world of dog training is that people are actually training their dogs, and the popularity of Cesar may be responsible for that," says Claudia Kawczynska, editor of Bark magazine. "But the fact is, people are enjoying training more and the amazing bond that develops through training, and that move toward positive reinforcement started with Ian Dunbar."

Note: Read anything by Dunbar and you won't be disappointed. An absolute must if a puppy is in your future: Before and After You Get Your Puppy.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Recognizing Fear in Fido

Fear is a normal emotion that allows animals to respond to a threat. Fear prepares the animal for running away or fighting something they think is dangerous. Most dogs are accustomed to normal situations like traffic, household noises, being approached by strangers, etc. Some dogs, however, experience fear over things that are not really dangerous and that do not put them at risk of injury.

Dogs who are fearful have a difficult time adjusting to new situations and people. As dogs get more fearful they can become aggressive to cope with their fear. You can help build your fearful dog's confidence.

When dogs are fearful they may:

  • Run away
  • Keep a low posture
  • Tremble
  • Keep their ears back or flattened
  • Lick their muzzle repeatedly
  • Have dilated pupils
  • Tuck their tail between their legs
  • Bark at a person or dog while backing away

If this sounds like your dog, contact me for an in-home evaluation. Behavior modification combined with solid obedience skills and a dose of self-confidence has turned many a fearful dog around.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Therapy Dog Tips

New to therapy dog work? Here are a few things to remember for your next visit:
  • If either you or your dog is not feeling well, cancel the visit.
  • Be on time.
  • Have your contact/escort's name and phone number with you.
  • Make sure your dog is clean, brushed, nails trimmed and filed. Remember - the elderly have paper thin skin that tears easily.
  • Some facilities require your dog to be bathed within 24 hours of your visit. Make sure you know the rules.
  • Dress appropriately – no open sandals, shorts, etc. Khakis or BDUs work well along with a golf shirt or dress shirt.
  • Turn off your cell phone before entering facility.
  • Give your dog a potty break before entering facility. Always carry poop bags just in case.
  • Carry a second leash in case anyone wants to “walk” your dog.
  • Have fresh, cool water available for your dog after the visit.

More information is available when you join my group on Facebook.

Woofs & wags!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Meet Ellwood

Say hello to Ellwood, the extremely handsome harlequin Great Dane. He is seen here with his human parents Lawrence and Mary. This was a training session at a local mall last weekend. Ellwood is a sweetheart ... but he's kinda big. So are working on leash handling skills.

Walking your dog properly on leash – whether he weighs 2 pounds or 200 pounds – is a skill all dog owners should hone.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

April is Pet First Aid Awareness Month

This is the time to think about what to do if your dog is injured or has a medical emergency.