What to Expect

“We’ll be Friends Forever, won’t we, Pooh?” asked Piglet.
“Even longer,” Pooh answered.

- A.A. Milne

Porter_0030Brittany Graham Photography


I have a lot of people ask me about getting a dog.  I try to answer their questions as best I can, but it’s not always easy.

What kind of dog? The canine kind.

Are certain breeds aggressive? Really?

How do I pick out the right dog? You do your research,  and then do your best.

Along the way, however, I realized that there needed to be some kind of “Doggie Code”, or “Doggie Commandments”.  Something. Not quite an instruction manual, but something to cover the blank spots between Piloting your dog and feeding your dog.  I guess more along the lines of What to Expect When You’re Expecting….a dog.

Yeah....dogs.  Definitely should have gotten a dog.

Yeah….dogs. Definitely should have gotten a dog.

So without further ado, here we go.

You’re going to fall in love with every dog at the shelter and feel guilty as hell for not rescuing all of them.

I know.  I’ve been there.  I walked out of a shelter 18 years ago with Darwin almost sobbing because there were other dogs there scheduled to be euthanized later in the week.  But here’s the thing: I saved one.  If we all saved just one, what a difference.  Each according to their ability, and that’s exactly what I did.  Darwin has since crossed that damn Rainbow Bridge, and I’ve added Sparta and Orion.  I did the best I could within my means. The problem is that those flippin’ dogs are like potato chips.  Once you open the bag, you never want to stop.  Keeping the mindset of “within your means” implies both mental and physical.  Remember, those terrible animal hoarding situations all start out somewhere.

New, from Fi-Do-Lay!  Mmmm... goes great with Separation Anxiety brand dip!

New, from Fi-Do-Lay! Mmmm… goes great with Separation Anxiety brand dip!

The honeymoon phase doesn’t last forever.

I wouldn’t have a job if it were all sunshine and lollipops forever.  You really didn’t think it would last….did you?

I guarantee it isn't a candlelit dinner.

I guarantee it isn’t a candlelit dinner.

Your dog is going to do something stupid.  Take up barking. Attempt to digest revolting things, and then void the attempt…right on your pillow. Get sprayed by a skunk.  Just remember, you adopted a dog, not a human.  Dogs don’t do things to get back at you, or to punish you.  They have separation anxiety.  They have boredom.  They have needs for activity.  They will ask questions, and need to be Piloted. Address these situations when they come up, or it’s going to be merry hell for the next 13 years.

You’re going to think of them as human…don’t.

Yeah, Darwin and I would hang out on the couch together and watch tv.  I’d talk to him, offering my opinion about what was on.  Asking him if that dress made my butt look fat.  I’d tell him about my boy troubles, my car troubles or my leaky faucet.  He was my date for many parties, and three weddings. In short, I treated him like a human…until I didn’t.  I was always his Pilot first and foremost. I tell my clients that once you give your dog the Piloting, Activity and Work that your dog requires, you can do whatever you want.  Ignore them (but really, why?).  Talk to them.  Dress them up (Darwin worked a bowtie like a Chippendale).   Do whatever you want.  Give them their needs as a dog, and only then can you treat them like a human.

Treat me like a dog or there'll be hell toupee!

Treat me like a dog or there’ll be hell toupee!

They are not an impulse purchase.

I had a frenemy in my 20′s.  She adopted a dog after her boyfriend broke up with her. She even named the dog “Re-bound”.  Yeah.  It worked out exactly as you thought it would, with my helping her find a new home for the poor dog after she “moved on”.  Your dog isn’t there to take the place of something. Or fill some hole in your heart.  And contrary to popular belief, it won’t enlarge any body parts by their bad-assedness.

Contact your doctor if you try to compensate for more than four hours.

Contact your doctor if your attempt to compensate lasts more than four hours.

They will absolutely break your heart…but only once.

The ultimate paradox is that the only creature who loves you more than they love themselves, who would give their life for you (so long as no vacuum cleaners are involved) will actually destroy your life when they do finally find their end.  If it’s one year or 12 (like I had with my Darwin), it’s always too soon.  Do yourself a favor. Have a plan.  Don’t wait until Fido develops cancer to try to figure out when it’s time to say goodbye.  You will not be logical.  You will be emotional, like I was.  Truthfully, I should have taken Darwin to that Rainbow Bridge months before I actually did.  By trying not to betray him, I absolutely did.  I was emotional.  It took someone who was removed from the situation to show me how sick Darwin actually was.

Whomever painted this is either the most compassionate animal lover or an absolute masochist towards humans.  Crying yet?

Whomever painted this is either the most compassionate animal lover or an absolute masochist towards humans. Crying yet?

I take a lot of pics of Sparta and Orion.  I can easily compare how they are now vs. how they were at this time last year.  Facebook helps with that.  So does Instagram.  Have a hashtag with your dog’s name (for ease of reference), and start taking pics, and then compare them.  If your dog is diagnosed with something wretched, take a pic every week.  Compare them to the previous week. Do right by your dog. Do the heavy lifting so they don’t have to.  You’ll still be traumatized when they go, but you will know you made the best decision you could, with all the information necessary for such an action.


My very first pic of Darwin, circa 1996

And then get ready to do it all again.  Because you will.

Darwin's last pic.

Darwin’s last pic.

Keep calm and pilot onKerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

Goodnight Moon


 We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars – Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere’s Fan

A dog is quite honestly the loveliest thing in the world. I know this. I do. And yet, sometimes, I forget. I forget the amount of joy and kindness that they exude. I try not to take these things for granted, but somehow, when I’m reminded of their remarkableness, I realize that I had been taking this amazing species for granted.

I don’t do well with winter. I get mopey and lack my usual excitement for things. I pump the Vitamin D and try and stay active. It’s just, without that sun and warmth I turn into a shell version of myself. So, when I find things that make me happy, I hang onto them pretty tight. Last night though, I got taken by surprise about what I tend to do every night. It came as an epiphany. I finally noticed what the last thing is that I do before I fall asleep.

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

As I laid in bed, I let the usual running thoughts start. However, lately I’ve really tried to control those. So, I started to listen to Porter’s breathing. He had already done his nightly ritual if his big cleansing breath. And I, of course, had copied him. But as I struggled to fall asleep I found I could hear his breathing pattern as he had slipped into his dreams.

His breaths were nothing short of adorable. I matched my breaths to his and pictured all the happiness that he brings me. All the pets that he wants so badly, the way he will drop everything when he sees my car pull up, the way he gives gentle kisses when I’m feeling sad, and the way he chose us, and most definitely, not the other way around.

I thought about all these things and started to feel myself drift off. And then I realized what was happening. I was smiling. I was falling asleep while smiling because of all the pure bliss my dog brings into my life. How many people can actually say they fall asleep while smiling? I realized then, that I am so lucky and grateful to have animals that love unconditionally in my life.

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

My goal is to notice the little things that bring me joy. And also to notice my body’s natural reaction to these things.

I had a tough session this morning, more on that later. So today, I will be taking full advantage of Porter’s love of pets and his unconditional love of me. And I will make sure to notice, that at the end of the day, my dog makes me smile as I fall asleep. How much better can it get than that?

Keep calm and pilot on

Danika Migliore
Darwin Dogs, LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, OH

Friends Forever, or Choosing a Shelter Dog

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.
- Ben Franklin


So you’ve decided to add a pet to the family.  You’ve determined that adopting is the best way to go. Now what?  Shelter? APL?  What do you do?  First come up with your list of wants vs. needs.   Ever walk into a car dealership to buy a car, but have no idea what you want?  Manual, stick? SUV or sedan?  Nope?  Didn’t think so.  And bear this in mind: most people put more thought into precisely what they want in a car than what they want in a dog, yet they will swap cars every 5-6 years, whereas a dog will last upwards of 13 years!

That's highly illogical
That’s highly illogical

Decide if you want to go through a shelter or a city/county kennel.

Shelters are sometimes able to foster their dogs, meaning you would be able to see the dogs in a normal home environment, or at the very least, not terrified and acting contrary to their nature in a kennel. (Let’s face it, those places can be very scary.) Remember, those aren’t other dogs or pack member in those kennels…those are other predators. They don’t know those other dogs, and haven’t bonded with them.  Think about how you’d be acting on your first day if you were sent to prison. Yeah.

Good times were had by all

Good times were had by all

Understand that dogs currently residing in shelters are only exhibiting a fraction of their true personalities.  Just like humans, some dogs adjust to these situations a little easier than others.  Things to look for:

  • Dogs who come to the front of the cage may be less fearful in general, but again this is a unique situation.  If someone were to judge my disposition based solely on watching me drive across the Valley View Bridge, well….let’s just say it wouldn’t be accurate.
  • Dogs who calmly come up to you in a slightly submissive fashion (ears slightly down, body in a slight letter “S” rather than an ultra-submissive or ultra-hyper fashion.  Dogs with wiggle-butts are great (looking at you pitties!).
  • Dogs who have been there for a amount of time I consider the “sweet spot”.  A dog who just comes into the shelter is going to be traumatized (What is this place? What’s all this noise? Who are these people?!).  Let them have an adjustment period of a day or two.  After a bit, they’ll know that, while the kennel is scary, it’s not mind-blowingly terrifying anymore.  You’re more apt to get a read on their real personality.
  • But remember what being in a cage for a while can do to a dog.  Dogs who have been there a while can get cabin fever.  This is not a natural state for the dogs, but remember, they’ve been isolated and scared for a while now.  It takes a toll on the psyche.  Yes, these dogs can indeed still make great pets, but be realistic: this will be a forever dog, not the dog you adopt because he’s been there so looooong!  Stick to your “shopping list”.
  • Ask the employees, but don’t be persuaded into taking a dog.  A good kennel worker will indeed get attached to the animals.  They can give you great information on which dogs may be best for your situation.  Unfortunately, that attachment may cause them to inadvertently try to talk you into a dog.  If you’re not “feeling” that dog, move on.  Remember, you brought your list of wants and needs.  Share it with the workers and let them know you are indeed sticking to the list.
Here's cage No. 666.  This guy is my favorite.  Don't let him fool you, he'll be fine once you get him home.

Here’s cage No. 666. This guy is my favorite. Don’t let him fool you, he’ll be fine once you get him home.

Unfortunately, there is no magical formula for adopting a dog from a kennel.  If there were, odds are kennel wouldn’t be needed anymore because every dog would fit into their new home perfectly.  Go with your gut.  Make a rational decision, not an impulsive one.  And then take the necessary steps to make the transition from kennel to home as smooth as possible.  Keep them as best friends forever.

Keep calm and pilot onKerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio


Behavior Tolerated

Behavior is the mirror in which everyone shows their image.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Brittany Graham Photography

There’s a story my husband likes to tell about our son, Eric. When Eric was about 2 1/2, he decided to try a little experiment on me.  Now, I should point out that Eric has always been an easy child.  Decadently so.  We never had the “terrible two’s” with him.  I can count on one hand how many tantrums that child has thrown in his 9 years on this planet.  However, from the very beginning, Eric has been a very analytical child, always asking questions and silently filing away the answers for future reference.  So, like all other children, it was only natural that he start experimenting and testing How Things Worked.

My husband and I were in the kitchen where Eric toddled up to me. He called my name, and I looked down at him.  ”Momma, we-cree peas?”, which was Eric-speak at the time for “May I please have some whipped cream?”.  I answered him in the negative, whereupon I returned my attention to the groceries I was putting away.  According to Michael, who was watching this exchange, Eric looked pensive for a moment, and then had an idea light across his face.  Eric then whacked me on my derriere and immediately looked up with a smile on his face, as if to say, “That should do the trick”.  Without a pause, I spun around, snatched is arm and pirouetted him around so I could give him a thwack on his diaper-clad bum, and then sent him on his way.  He essentially shrugged as if to say, “Well, apparently that’s not how I’m supposed to do it”, and toddled off to go play with his Megablocks.  The incident was never repeated.

Michael and I met when Eric was almost a year old, and were married six months later.  Michael had never been around small any children growing up.  He said it was at that moment he realized that even though Eric couldn’t communicate very well verbally, he was still “pulling levers” and “flipping switches” to find out how his world worked, and that day Eric discovered that smacking Mommy will not get you what you want.


Eric teaching his sister to read.  Seriously, how do I deserve that boy?

Why do I bring this up?  What does an anecdote about my son have to do with anything?  Well, let me give you another story, and I’ll bet you can make the correlation.

I don’t have a lot of them, but over the years I have collected a handful of clients who I refer to as The Walking Dead.  From the moment I walk in the door, I know that they won’t follow through with The PAW Method which I show them.  I know they won’t call me with questions afterwards, and for the most part, appear as ancillary accessories to the training session, their body language just screaming “do I really have to be here?”.  And of course they fail miserably before they even start.  So what do these people all of in common?

Horrid children.  For example (identifying details have been changed to protect privacy):

- The clients whose 4-year old child felt the need to scream at the top of his lungs the entire session and throw things the entire time.   The parents kept saying, “What did you say?” because they couldn’t even hear me speak over his screaming, yet never once did anything to stop him.

- The mother of 5 whose youngest daughter (aged 3) looked like Cousin It, because, in the mom’s words, “She won’t let me comb her hair, ever!  Just watch this!”.  The mother then proceeded to grab a brush and try to wield it towards her daughter’s extensively tangled locks, whereupon the daughter shrieked at the mother, “GET AWAY FROM ME! DON’T TOUCH ME!!!!!!” all the while slapping her mother.  ”See, what did I tell you.  She won’t let me brush it.”, said the mom.

- Another family of four with two kids under 3, who were completely ruled by their older son. We actually had to pause our training session for 25 minutes so mom could find a missing Candyland game piece, and then finish up their game all because “she didn’t want to make him sad by not finishing their game before we started our training session”.

These are just some examples.  Interestingly enough, these families all had one thing in common with regard to their dog: the main complaint about their dog is that their dog Just Won’t Listen.  Unruly behavior.  Biting and nipping. Jumping so hard on family members that bruises were left behind.  In general bullying behavior.  Kinda like what their kids were doing to them as well. I make a lot of comparisons between kids and dogs, such as in this article. That’s because there really isn’t too much of a difference.

Essentially, if I walk into your house, and you have atrocious brats, I know you will have an atrocious dog.  Let’s face it:   a kid is the same species!  At least you can communicate precisely with a child verbally!  If you can’t Pilot a child of your own species, how do you expect to Pilot another species entirely?!

Now, before you get all angry and indignant, I do realize the difference between circumstances and accept behavior.  For instance, I did have a toddler last week who mid-session threw a tantrum. The mother deftly apologized, excused herself, addressed the situation, and then we continued.  Color me impressed.  That is what Piloting is all about.  Accept that negative behavior will happen.  Your kids aren’t perfect.  You aren’t perfect.  Things happen.  It’s how, or sometimes if, you address these situations that matter.  The negative behavior isn’t the thing that can be labeled “good” or “bad” in these situations…it’s your reactions to these situations that’s all-important.

When Eric tried to thwap me on the behind to get some whipped cream, I didn’t blame him for that at all!  It was his right to find out what is allowed and what is not; what works and what doesn’t. Just as it’s my right to give him the answer: no.  I wasn’t angry (personally, I actually was impressed). I didn’t create drama. I simply answered his question.  He wasn’t a bad child (I hate that notion!) he just asked a question that required a negative answer.  The same goes for your dog: your dog is not bad.  End of story. 

Obviously it’s not always easy.  With Eric it is.  Now, let me introduce you to my 7-year old daughter, River.

 Is this the face of a traumatized, recently-inoculated almost-kindergartner?

This pic sums up River

River keeps me on my toes.  Whereas Eric is content to be Piloted simply because someone wants to Pilot him, River is not. She wants to know what makes you a better Pilot of a situation than her, and that’s her right  Eric is a German Shepherd.  Amazingly stoic. Obedient. He wants to prove he can do anything you tell him to do.  Perfectly.  Thrives on a job well done.  He’s completely Type A, and I love him for it.  River is a Pittie.  Fun-loving. Extremely sensitive.  Not necessarily looking for trouble, but doesn’t run away from it either.  She’s completely Type B, and I love her for it.  Is either bad?  Of course not.  They each have their individual natures.  But it’s still up to me to Pilot them. Is it easy? No.  But it’s totally worth it.

So when I walk into a house and there is chaos going on with the children, I do my best to manage the situation.  I figure that these people called me for help with their dog, and I’m damn well going to give them everything I’ve got to help them.  Unfortunately, that usually includes Piloting their kids for them.  I usually hear, “Do you train kids as well?”  I just smile.  Once I leave, their kids are none of my business. That’s up to them how if they want to Pilot their children.

Dogs and children are the same.  They are both just looking for someone to help them get through this crazy world safely.  They are looking for someone to give them answers to both the easy questions and the harder questions.  You’re not always going to do it perfectly, or gracefully, but someone’s got to do it, and, well, you’re the adult with opposable thumbs.

Last summer I had what turned out to be one of my favorite clients ever.  (Fortunately, my favorite clients tend to drastically outnumber The Walking Dead).  This was a family of four; three girls and one boy, all roughly 8-14 years old.  They were loud.  They were rambunctious.  They were fun!  I understand that kids are called kids because, well, they aren’t mature enough to be adults.  So did their parents.  When things got a little overboard, the parents corrected the kids.  They also encouraged them, and worked together as a team with two Pilots (mom and dad). And guess what?  Neither of the Pilots were underage!  The adults were in control of the situation, and the children thrived because of it.

Now, this family had called me because of a rambunctious dog. Again, I understand.  Just because you are absolutely nailing the parenting thing doesn’t mean it’s easy to understand dogs.  So we did our training session.  I live within a mile of that family, and frequently see the kids walking the dog.  Yes, they aren’t doing it perfectly. But here’s the thing:  they are doing it.  I have personally witnessed the middle daughter walking the dog with a Herculean Piloting effort.  The dog is young, and was being, well, …young.  A 10-year old Piloted the dog, answering questions over and over.  The girl stopped for a moment, took a deep breath, and then continued. She answered the same question the dog was asking a few more times, until the dog accepted the answer, and then continued on her way.  She may have been angry or frustrated, but she didn’t show it.  She never lost her composure.

All I could think of was that girl was going to make a great parent some day.

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

Helpful Hints for Your Dog’s Dry Skin


Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

Happiness is having a scratch for every itch – Ogden Nash

You know those Head & Shoulders commercials where the dashing man in the black suit has to brush the dandruff off his shoulders?

Or the girl, who’s at a fancy restaurant dinner, is suddenly pretending that she dropped her napkin so that she can scratch her scalp on the corner of the table?

Well, if there was one for dogs, mine would be the star. Porter, as you know, is all black. And his skin is very sensitive. So sensitive, that when we first got him we had to condition his skin to get used to wearing a collar. His neck would be rubbed raw just from simply having it on for more than a few hours.

So, when the winter hits, all bets are off. He doesn’t end up looking like a black dog, because now he has patches of dusty white where his skin is too dry. He gets itchy and uncomfortable.

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

This isn’t anything new to us. Most of us have a hard time with dry skin in the winter. It itches, it hurts, it cracks and it’s zero fun.

So here are a few tips on how to help your pup’s skin this winter if you’re facing the issue of dry skin:

Good Quality Shampoo

If your dog goes to the dog park or decides he needs to roll around in the mud (we’re hoping that it’s mud …we’re going to go with that it was just mud) you may feel the need to give him a bath after his lovely adventures. If you do, make sure you’re using a good quality dog shampoo. Check to see if it will help moisturize the skin. If you’re not into spending a lot of money on dog shampoo, Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Shampoo works well too and won’t dry out the skin too much.

Grab a Humidifier

So, we’re going to pretend this is for your dog, but really it’s for both of you. You can find reasonably priced humidifiers online. We have ours set up in the bedroom where Porter sleeps with us at night. This helps put some moisture back into the air and will help your skin out along with your dog’s. 2 for 1 deal!

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

Olive Oil

You can give your dog some Olive Oil with his food 2 to 3 times a week. Start with about a ¼ of a teaspoon at first to slowly introduce your dog to this new additive. You can slowly increase it and if you have a large dog you can get up to 1 tablespoon of Olive Oil. Don’t start out with a lot first. Go slowly and then gradually increase it. When you can start to see the difference, then just stick with that amount.

Coconut Oil

Coconut Oil has the same premise as Olive Oil, but it has some added benefits. It helps with digestion and it could help prevent diseases down the line. Most importantly though, if you ask Porter, the best benefit is that it tastes amazing. When first giving Coconut Oil to your dog, start with a very small amount with their food. I started with less than ¼ of a tspn for Porter. I slowly worked my way up to ¼ tspn and now we’re at about 1 tspn. Which for him is plenty.

Again, start off slow so that you can make sure their stomach is okay with the new additive. Every dog is different. If there seems to be an issue, then stop using either of the Oils.

You can add this to their food 2 to 3 times a week just like the Olive Oil. Now, a disclaimer for all of you who haven’t tried Coconut Oil yet: It’s a solid. You can add it to your dog’s food as a solid if you’d like or melt it down to a liquid.

You can also use the Coconut Oil on your dry skin too. Just rub it in! Another 2 for 1 deal!


Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

If you’re using enrichment feeders during meal time for your dog, first of all you’re awesome, secondly you can either drizzle the Oil over the food before it goes into your enrichment feeder of choice, or you can pull a small amount of food out of the enrichment feeder and let them eat that on their own with the new additive. The rest of the food would be in the enrichment feeder. You could even be an awesome owner and let them eat the small batch of food with the Oil on it as a little treat or snack.

If you have any more tips or helpful hints please feel free to share! These are just some of the things I have taken advantage of to help out Porter. If your dog’s skin is extremely dry and they seem to be in any discomfort then it’s time for a vet visit. Use your best judgement!

Keep calm and pilot on

Danika Migliore
Darwin Dogs, LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, OH

Chew on THIS

   Satan knows that youth is the springtime of life when all things are new and young people are most vulnerable.

  – Ezra Taft Benson

My name is Izzy, I love to chew paper. I love when mom puts a fresh roll out. I will probably chew this note if mom doesn't get it away from me.

My name is Izzy, I love to chew paper. I love when mom puts a fresh roll out. I will probably chew this note if mom doesn’t get it away from me.

Most of the dogs entering a shelter are under a 18 months old.  The majority of these dogs are owner surrenders.  There’s a reason for this:  juvenile and adolescent dogs can be notoriously difficult to manage without a plan.  They chew, they bark, they can be downright disobedient.  As I recently posted, there is a reason for this.  It is an important change they are going through.  But that doesn’t mean you have to enjoy it, or stand idly by while your life is turned to chaos by the dog version of Miley Cyrus.

If you don't know what this is, consider yourself very, very fortunate.

If you don’t know what this is, consider yourself very, very fortunate.

For me, the chewing was the most annoying aspect of my dogs’ adolescent phase.  It was non-stop!  Entering the phase accepting that some things will get destroyed is the best mindset.  Nobody gets out of adolescents unscathed.  However, the amount of destruction and frustration can be lessened.

How To Mitigate the Chewing Damage

You must answer your dog’s question.  Help your dog choose proper things to aggress upon!  So you leave the room for 30 seconds to use the loo, and your dog is chewing on your favorite shoes.  They are asking a question:  “Is this appropriate to chew on?”  Of course the answer is “No”.  So give them the answer in a way they understand, using the PAW Method.  Do not yell (although you’ll want to).  Do not punish (although you’ll really want to).  Simply claim the item they are chewing on until they are no longer engaged.

So you’ve told them “No” for that object, but there’s still that mass of “chew” that needs to be done by your dog!  Once you’ve claimed the inappropriate object, offer them something appropriate to chew on!  Nyla bones, peanut butter Kongs, raw marrow bones from the butcher (my dog’s personal favorite), deer antlers.  There are so many options out there now for dogs!  (I personally stay away from rawhide…to many intestinal issues have arisen).  You have now replaced the inappropriate with the appropriate.Resist the urge to do the bait and switch, your shoes for the Kong.  You must answer their question about the current, inappropriate chew article (your shoes) before giving them the appropriate chew object (Kong).

Now take it a step further.  You leave the room for 30 seconds, you come back, and your dog is chewing….their Kong!   This is a huge moment that should not be wasted.  Give them some positive reinforcement:  Touch, Talk, Treat!  

Catch that moment to reward wise choices!

Catch that moment to reward wise choices!

Rotating your dog’s chew toys helps tremendously:  have a variety of choices out at all times for them, but the more frequently you take some out of reach and replace them with toys they have seen in a bit, the better.   My dogs only have about 1/3 of all of their toys available to them.  Every few days I swap them out.  That which was old is new (and interesting) again. When I had Cody as a foster, I would swap out the toys every few hours.

Adolescence is tough, more so than when they were puppies. Your dog is capable of massive amounts of energy.  They have the size and the speed now.  Invest in a good whiskey, a good sense of humor, and a good plan of action, and you will get through this.

E=MC2   The equation for how much damage your dog will be doing during their "precious" teenage phase.

E=MC2 The equation for how much damage your dog will be doing during their “precious” teenage phase.



Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio



Why Dogs Should Be Thought of as Food

Eating is not merely a material pleasure. Eating well gives a spectacular joy to life and contributes immensely to goodwill and happy companionship. It is of great importance to the morale.

Elsa Schiaparelli

file4511240703908Dogs as food. Still with me?  Wondering if I’ve gone off the deep end?  Hear me out. Let me spell out the lessons I learned as a child, and am currently teaching my children, about food. I guarantee that by the end of this blog, I will have you thinking of dogs as food.  Trust me.

Make Sure Your Eyes Aren’t Bigger Than Your Stomach


Take only what you can eat.  If only people treated dogs the same way.  I personally have a problem with this. If I were talking about food, I’d be an over eater.  If we were talking about animals, specifically dogs, I’d be an animal hoarder.  Because I know I can save this one.  I know I can get this one a home.  But they’re going to euthanize him! What’s one more?  I had to set hard, fast limits.  Two dogs, two cats.  As quoth the raven: nevermore.  Bring home only what you can care for.

Don’t Throw Food Away/Don’t Waste Food

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I see this all the time.  You think you want to eat that second piece of meatloaf, but then halfway through, decide you didn’t really want it at all.  So it gets dumped into the garbage.  Sound familiar?  You thought you wanted that adorable little puppy. The designer dog that looked so cute. Only now it’s full grown, and well, just not as cute/fun/well-behaved as you originally thought.  So you throw it away. Off to the dumpster shelter it goes, where depending upon the dog’s breed, it can have as little as a 1 in 600 chance of making it out alive.  So make sure you really want it before you take it.

Don’t Toy With Your Food


It’s not a toy.  Your mashed potatoes aren’t Play-Doh.  Your peas aren’t marbles.  Your dog isn’t here for your amusement.  Yes, play with your dog.  Romp with your dog. Have fun with your dog.  But if only one of you is playing/romping/having fun, then you are doing it wrong.  Your dog is not meant to endure every last whim that comes upon you or your children.  I’ll never forget when I was about 4 years old, my much, much older (had to point it out) cousin Diane came over with her boyfriend and his dog, a huge beast of a Lab.  Probably the largest dog I’d ever seen.  Someone commented that the dog was large enough to ride.  I took it literally, so I tried.  And got a smack up the side of my head.  Lesson learned.  Don’t ride dogs.

There Are People Starving


We should respect food because there isn’t always enough to go around.  We were all taught this as children.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if dogs and food had the same universal availability?  Plenty to go around, no one left wanting, but nobody taking it for granted.  The more readily available something is, the less something is worth.  Water, for instance.  I live right on Lake Erie, so water is something I’ve never had to consider.  It’s just there.  But that’s not how the rest of the world may think of it.  We have too many dogs, not enough homes. Therefore, less value is placed on the individual dog because, well, we can always get another.  Dogs shouldn’t be squandered anymore than food.

Now stop and think about some of the best quotes about food:

There is no sincerer love than the love of food.
- George Bernard Shaw


Food is our common ground, a universal experience.
- James Beard


Food is your body’s fuel. Without fuel, your body wants to shut down.
- Ken Hill


Now substitute the word “food” for “dog”. I think, perhaps, you’ve finally seen my point of view.  Dogs are indeed the most important food.  The food of the soul.

Keep calm and pilot onKerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio



 “There are no bad pictures; that’s just how your face looks sometimes.”  – Abraham Lincoln

I recently went to a wedding where they had this great photo booth set up. The pictures came out amazing. It was funny to see how people just kind of let loose in a photo booth. No inhibitions. No perfect pose. Just simple goofing around and having fun.

When I found out that a photographer had chosen 12 rescue dogs to put in a photo booth I could not click on the link fast enough. Dogs are hilarious. We know that. They’re goofballs. Even the ones that try and pretend their stoic and mature do things that just make us laugh.

 - The Humane Society of Utah

– The Humane Society of Utah

Quite simply, dogs are. They just are. They are themselves completely and absolutely. We may pose our dogs in certain ways, and of course in many pictures of adoptable dogs their posed by cats or on a couch to show the personalities of the dogs. However, I feel as though these pictures this photographer was able to capture in the photo booth are exactly who these dogs are.

So, click here to enjoy some pictures that capture who these adoptable dogs are and feel free to laugh. This might be a great new tactic for rescues around the country.

Keep calm and pilot on

Danika Migliore
Darwin Dogs, LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, OH

Evolution of Dogs – Is the Concept of Purebreds Wrong?

The more you find out about the world, the more opportunities there are to laugh at it.

 - Bill Nye

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

Confession:  I’ve always had a pretty big crush on Bill Nye.  I mean, he’s smart, funny, and knows his way around a bow tie.  I think I can honestly call myself a Nye Girl.  Nye-list?  I kinda A-Nye-hillated that one, but I think you catch my point: I wouldn’t kick him out of the lab for eating crackers.
Hey Bill....I got my ion you

Hey Bill….I got my ion you

You can imagine how thrilled I was over this little tidbit of his that I recently discovered regarding dog breeds, and origins of dogs.  I’ts a short little piece, but the concepts introduced, when you put it all together at the end, is pretty amazing.  I’ll admit, at first I wasn’t quite on board with what he was saying, but he tied it all up nicely with, well, a bow.  Enjoy!

Keep calm and pilot onKerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio


Married to the Mob

Love doesn’t make the world go ’round. Love is what makes the ride worthwhile.

Franklin P. Jones

[Editor's note:  My husband, Michael came up to me the other day as I was writing a blog post.  He asked what I was doing, and I told him.  He mentioned that he should write a blog post for me about what it's like being married to a dog trainer.  Of course I jumped at the chance!  So, I present to you, Michael's take on what it's like being married to someone who trains dogs]

I guess Orion is my Co-Pilot

I guess Orion is my Co-Pilot

I ran into one of my co-workers in the kitchen the other day. “I see you like Darwin Dogs on Facebook too! We hired Darwin Dogs a few weeks ago. Did you hire them too?”

I see it coming before I answer. “No,” I replied. “I’m Kerry’s husband.”

My co-worker began to laugh. “Does she Pilot you when she wants the dishes done? Does she do that thing she does to the dogs when you do something she doesn’t like? Does she give you a ‘negative’?” It kept up like this for quite a while. It was clear my co-worker was enjoying himself.

Of course, the answer is “No”, the reality far more pedestrian — we’re a normal married couple who treat one another like any other married couple. That is to say, we fight sometimes, get along most of the time, and love one another dearly. However, there are probably a few key ways in which my household differs from others:

1. We don’t tolerate bad behavior from our kids, or our dogs.

I think one of the key insights in having a well-behaved dog is to think of them as children, at least in a sense. When you see your children behaving badly, you correct the behavior.

However, when a dog starts jumping on most people, they think, “Ahh, that’s just a dog being a dog.” When a dog jumps on one of us, we immediately think of a small child yelling, “gimme gimme gimme”, and react appropriately.

Along those lines:

2. My dogs are the best behaved dogs I’ve ever met.

This is one of the perks of being married to a dog trainer. Frankly, I can be (and have been) a bit lazy about working with our dogs. I could chalk it up to having a full-time job (I work in technology), or the importance of the division of labor and specialization and all that, but the truth is more simple – I know my wife will do it and will do a better job than I will ever do, so I let her have at. In fairness, guess which of us sets up this blog and maintains the webpage?

Kerry thinks this is her girl, Sparta.  Kerry is wrong.  She's secretly MY Sparta.

Kerry thinks this is her girl, Sparta. Kerry is wrong. She’s secretly MY Sparta.

3. I hear a lot about dog problems

It has given me a lot of insight into dogs, and the typical types of problems dog owners have. One interesting thing I’ve noticed is that nearly every owner thinks his or her problems are unique – everything from submissive urination, “aggressive” dogs (which are normally anything but) to simple poor leash-walking. My wife deals with the same problems over and over, which helps her to be better at her job. If she saw something new every single session, she wouldn’t be nearly as good as she is. Which brings me to:

4. My wife is *damn* good at what she does

Of course I’d probably say that even if it weren’t true, but I’ve been fortunate enough to accompany my wife on a few training gigs (somebody needs to stand outside in the winter and pretend to be the postal delivery person), and I’m amazed at just how well she does her job. While my wife is training dogs, she is really doing something far more involved – training humans how to interact with their dogs in a way the dogs will understand. My wife takes her role very seriously. Often, my wife is all that stands between the would-be dog owner, and either a well-adjusted dog, or a one-way trip to the shelter.

5. My wife has a demanding job

Though you might not realize it, her job is full-time. Beyond the training, there is the blog to maintain, calls to make & return, text messages to answer, volunteer work, market research — the list is nearly endless. The home visits themselves are really just the tip of a vast iceberg.


Orion took a little while to warm up to me at first, but after some patience, was soon rewarded with a happy-puppy dance every morning and a lap dog to enjoy my coffee with.

While most of the things I’ve listed are positive, there are also drawbacks to being married to a dog trainer – we usually have more dogs than I’d prefer running around the house at any given moment, there are dog treats stuck in our washing machine, and my wife is required to work odd hours.  And of course initially when I’d ask her what her training schedule looked like on a particular day, my heart would skip a beat when she would casually throw out: “I have an aggressive Shepherd mix at 10, and then a puppy session from 1-3.”  Now I realize that aggressive dogs are typically just scared, and I know that Kerry finds the puppy sessions more exhausting. Fun, but exhausting.

Wait....who's dog is this?!

Wait….who’s dog is this?!  KERRY?!  DID WE GET ANOTHER DOG?!

Part of me does still get a kick out of people’s reactions when they hear what my wife does for a living.  I love watching her get all excited answering questions about their own dogs, which invariably happens when they discover her profession.  I’m proud of the volunteer and charity work Kerry does, and how she stands up for what she believes is right.  But if I were to sum up Kerry in one word, that word would of course be “Pilot”.  Someone who can calmly take the controls if necessary.  Someone who is confident enough to know when someone else should fly the plane.  Someone who knows their limitations, but tries every day to stretch those limitations.  Kerry is someone who inspires me to do the same.

Keep calm and pilot on


Michael Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio