Fostering Love

Last night I lost the world, and gained the universe – C. Joybell C.

It would be too expensive

I wouldn’t be able to say goodbye

I would cry too much

I’d get too attached

My own dogs would feel neglected

What do I really have to offer?

These are all reasons I’ve heard for not becoming a dog foster parent. Sure, it’s not for everyone. But, you may be selling yourself short. It may be exactly for you.


I would be heartbroken saying goodbye

Sure, you’d be heartbroken. But, at the same time you’re the reason why this dog has an amazing new home. He gets to live out the rest of his life getting pets, running happily, and not worrying about where his next meal is coming from. You made that happen. It’s okay to be sad and realize that you’d be sad. But, have you ever thought about the feeling of satisfaction and happiness you would get from seeing your foster dog with their forever family finally?

Sadness is not a weakness. It’s not something terrible. It means we are human and embrace our emotions. Sadness means we can feel happiness. And when your pup finds their forever home, you’ll feel both. But you helped create all the happiness that both your foster dog and their new family is feeling. That’s you. All you.

It would be too expensive

Not necessarily. Many rescue organizations will cover the cost of any and all necessities that the dog needs, including vet care. Sure, you may have to replace a shoe or two, but hey, in the big scheme of things, not that big of a deal.  Many organizations also have a great network of volunteers. This  means if you’re going on vacation or need help getting your foster dog to the vet, other volunteers are more than willing to step up and help out. You’ve now entered the amazing community of Animal Rescuers.

This is Mindy! She's located at the Cuyahoga County Animal Shelter! She's looking for a forever home, but a foster home would be nice too!

This is Mindy! She’s located at the Cuyahoga County Animal Shelter! She’s looking for a forever home, but a foster home would be nice too!

My own dogs would feel neglected

Nope. I doubt it. When choosing a foster dog for your home, it’s a careful process. Rescue organizations will make sure that both dogs are compatible. And then guess what – your dog has a new best friend that he gets to play with. And your dog is now more tired than he was before. Jackpot. It will help your own dog with socialization skills and their activity level.

You Are an Asset

Any time you can get any type of dog with individuals that know how to communicate with them (your Piloting at work) the dog will flourish. Homes that are using the PAW method are incredibly valuable for dogs that are looking for forever homes. You’re helping a dog worry only about being a dog. Which means your foster dog will have an even higher chance of being adopted.

Foster homes are a huge asset to rescues. They provide an opportunity to see what a dog’s personality is truly like. There are dogs in the shelters that shut down, cower in the corner, however, the minute you get them outside it’s as if they’re a completely different dog.

More foster homes means more dogs being saved. Whether you’re a foster for a small rescue, or a large shelter, you’re saving 2 lives the minute you foster one. You’re helping to save your own foster dog’s life as well as the next dog they’re able to pull in because you’ve freed up a space. It’s a pretty amazing cycle.

Dogs that are in foster homes get more exposure to potential adopters as well.  Between friends and family, as well as walks to the park, events and even just posting your foster’s pictures on social media, you’re creating more opportunities for this rescue dog to be adopted. There’s not as much exposure when dogs are in a shelter as there is when they can get out on the town and strut their stuff!

Here's ChooChoo! Also at the CCAS. Maybe a future foster?

Here’s ChooChoo! Also at the CCAS. Maybe a future foster?

Is it hard? You betcha. Is it worth it? More than you can imagine.

Here’s an article on whether fostering is right for you.

If you feel like this is something you’d want to do, reach out to local organizations like The Cuyahoga County Shelter. Heck, we might even have some opportunities for you soon, so keep an eye out….

Keep calm and pilot on

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


No Other Option

When something scares us our first response is to run, very fast, in the opposite direction. The second response is actually much harder. It’s where you ignore every instinct and instead of running you stay and fight. – Dance Academy

scaredFight or flight?  Lady or the Tiger?  Both may be good choices…both may end the same way: badly.  It’s a choice your dog is always making.  For some dogs, the choice is difficult.  We label these dogs as “aggressive” or “dog reactive”.  Let’s take a look at what goes through the mind of a dog-reactive or aggressive dog.

Technically speaking, there is more than fight or flight. 

  • Ignore:  Right now, Sparta is ignoring the yarn I have on my coffee table.  It is of no interest to her.
  • Accept:  Orion was originally engaged with said yarn.  I answered his question (“Can I play with it?”), and he’s accepted the answer (“No.”) and is drifting off to the “Ignore” category, which is right where I want him in relation to my yarn stash.
  • Avoid:  Pixel, my kitten, thinks I’m stupid.  He thinks he can get at the yarn if he goes around the coffee table, where he thinks I can’t see him.  He doesn’t want a direct confrontation, but he’s not quite ready to give up.

Accept, followed closely by Ignore, are generally the places you want your dog to hang out.  The path to those places is sometimes paved with Avoid (sometimes you have to answer their questions more than once).  But where does it all start?  You guessed it:  Fight or Flight.

‘Shall we fight or shall we fly? Good Sir Richard, tell us now, For to fight is but to die!’ – Tennyson

Flight is typically any animals first choice.  It’s the one that keeps them alive.  You may call it cowardly, but it’s actually rather rational:  live to procreate another day.  Pass along those flight genes, and you’ve got Natural Selection working in your favor.

Look at it like this:  a dog decides to kill a mouse, for no apparent reason.  The mouse, though losing the battle, manages to nip the dog on the muzzle, giving him a small wound.  Mouse is then promptly turned into lunch.  That wound festers, and the dog dies.   That’s a small case scenario.  Imagine the life span of a dog who decides to fight with everything.  Other dogs. Larger prey.  Just for the heck of it.  Pretty short.
Welcome to Fight Club. – Tyler Durden
There are very few reasons why a dog would choose Fight over Flight.   Typically, those revolve around resources (they need to eat or you’re trying to take what they need to eat), breeding (Hey! That’s my potential mate!), or defending their young or pack (don’t get too close to my family!).  Typically, the need to eat and the need to defend their young/pack are the strongest motivators of Fight.
Imagine what it would take for you to become aggressive and decide to Fight.  What if someone broke in your house, would you shoot them?  What if they were taking family heirlooms? What if they started up the steps towards where your children were sleeping?  What is your breaking point, in other words.  We all have it.  Some would have pulled the trigger with the first provocation.  Others would only wait until they were certain they or their loved ones were in mortal danger.  Dogs are the same way:  we all perceive the same scenario as a different threat level, and will respond with violence when that level has been breached.
“So if every healthy animal would choose flight over fight, why is my dog reacting to other dogs/people aggressively?”
 Because you’ve removed options.  They no longer have the option for Flight; they’re only left with Fight!  You have them on a leash. You have them in a crate.  Heck, you have them surrounded by the walls of your house!  Their option to run away is gone!  Ever notice how some dogs are crazy-reactive to other dogs when you take them for a walk on a leash, but at the dog park they’re fine?
For some dogs, even if you take them to a field and have them off leash, they still may be aggressive.  Why?  Because now they have pack to defend.  Meaning you.  You’ve made it abundantly clear that you aren’t going anywhere.  They can’t move you.  Again, their only option is to defend you.  Their young/pack.
 Now take a look at your “aggressive” dog.  Are you seeing things a little differently now?  That other dog walking right towards you isn’t a cute little Golden Retriever.  It’s another predator.  Heading straight towards you.  Your dog starts to give “back off” body language.  The other dog doesn’t back off because they’re tethered to a leash as well.  Your dog realizes their warning is unheeded, and therefore decides to step up their game to all-out aggressive mode. A simple miscommunication between owners and their dogs has resulted in at least one dog being tagged as “aggressive”.
So, what is the answer? The answer is the answer!  Let me explain.
That scenario with the other dog coming towards you?  Your dog is actually asking a question:  “Is that other dog going to hurt us?”.  When that question isn’t answered, it can escalate to another question, “Should I back him off?”.  Obviously the answers are “No” and “No”.  To successfully work with dog-reactivity:
- Control yourself.  If you are angry, tense, upset, yelling…basically anything other than bored and calm, your dog will pick up on it.  It’s okay to feel angry, upset, nervous.  Just don’t show it.  Take a deep breath, and release those clenched muscles (take a look at your arms…I guarantee they’re clenched).
- Control the situation.  You can not add stimulation to a situation you’ve already lost control of.  So, your dog regularly pulls you on a leash…how do you think it’s going to play out when you add the stimulation of another dog?!  Get control of the current situation.  Work with your dog on leash skills.  (If you need some help, read Danika’s 3-part post on leash walking 101.)  Gradually add stimulation as you can handle it.  Hint: Don’t try walking past the dog park on the first day you’re working with dog reactivity.  Remember, we’re looking for progress, not perfection!
- Answer the question. “Is that other dog going to kill us?”
“No, Fido, it isn’t.”  The more often you answer these questions successfully, the easier it will be to answer the next question and the next.  You are building up trust.  To answer a dog’s question, read about the PAW Method here.  Remember, your dog will be asking questions with body language.  Answer as soon as you see them asking!
Stiff tail, alert expression, standing on their toes.  We refer to this as "Meerkating" or "Prairie Dogging It".  I don't know what the question is this dog is asking, but the answer is "no".

Stiff tail, alert expression, standing on their toes. We refer to this as “Meerkat-ing” or “Prairie Dogging It”. I don’t know what the question is this dog is asking, but the answer is “no”.

Again, stiff tail, "Meerkatting", body shaped like a letter "T", wrinkled or furrowed brow.  This dog is asking a question.

Again, stiff tail, “Meerkatting”, body shaped like a letter “T”, wrinkled or furrowed brow. This dog is asking a question.

More meerkatting by the inventors of the sport.

More meerkatting by the inventors of the sport.

Finally, you don’t always have to know what the question is to answer it.  Sometimes you won’t be able to identify what your dog is concerned about.  That’s fine – just answer “no”.
Congratulations!  You have successfully Piloted your dog.
Teach them to trust you.  Trust for a dog means trusting you not to do crazy things, like, oh, …get angry because they are legitimately frightened.  Remember, they aren’t doing it because they are bad.  They are doing it because they are scared.  Let them know that yes, you see that dog, too, but you will protect them.  You will answer their questions.  You will Pilot them so they don’t have to be afraid any more.
And remember:
Keep calm and pilot on
Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio



All the world’s indeed a stage. And we are merely players. Performers and portrayers. Each another’s audience. Outside the gilded cage
~Rush (adapted from William Shakespeare)

Recently I was lucky enough to meet a fellow dog trainer by the name of Shannon, owner of Your Good Dog training.  Seeing how dedicated he is to not only his dog, but his clients’, as well as his general demeanor regarding training, I asked him to write a blog post.  Please give his Facebook page a view. Our thanks to Shannon for his post!



What is it about human nature that makes people want to attach themselves to a tragedy? When I hear a story of animal abuse on the news I feel badly for what those involved have gone through but I know that the rescuing agency will give them the immediate care and love that they need. I also know these animals will not spend one second beyond the date they become available in a shelter. When a dog is abandoned and left to starve after the owner vacates an apartment and it ends up at local animal control the staff and volunteers will give it all the love it deserves but when it moves to the adoption floor she is just another furry little face. However put her story on the news and here come the adoption request by the truckloads. Got a story about a Pit Bull caring for a half blind Chihuahua? The request come in by literal tens of thousands. What happens to all those loving homes when they don’t get the famous dogs? “I’m sorry but you did not get the dog that was on the news but we have many more…. hello? hello?”

Most of the millions of dogs in the nation’s rescues, shelters and pounds do not have huge tragic stories. Most are just dogs. Just dogs whose worst crime was having a previous owner who did not take the time to teach them to coexist in our human world, just dogs who got old, just dogs who ran off. Every dog pulled from a pound has at least one story, the one about the day they were rescued. If you need to have a dog with a bigger story then make one up. Dogs are the best secret keepers.

Our dog Karma comes with one heck of a story. I’m not sure of the exact details (begin sappy Sarah McLaughlin song *here*). She was found running down the road dragging a chain that was padlocked to her. She has a BB embedded in her leg. She has monster sized anxiety that she struggles to overcome. We are her third, and final, family. I knew none of this when I pulled her. Well, except the anxiety part. I saw that she would not survive in that environment and brought her home. While her story is one that if properly marketed would get a lot of people wanting to rescue her it is not any more or less sad than that of the dog that had what would appear to be a great life. The dog that had a family, a big yard, kids, toys, everything except attention and leadership. The dog that now finds itself in the pound because “we just don’t have time for it” (yes, I have heard those exact words referring to a dog being surrendered: “it”). The story of the beagle that is surrendered because “she’s hard to walk” (yep, also real) is as heartbreaking to me as the Pit Bull that was rescued from a multi-state dog fighting ring. I have worked with both and at the end of the day each is simply a loving animal in need of a person. Dogs live in the now, they couldn’t care less what happened to us before we showed up at the pound. We should extend the same courtesy to them. The story that got you to the shelter is nowhere near as good as the one you could bring home!

 Shannon Duffy is the owner of Your Good Dog, a dog training company that services the Akron and surrounding areas. Shannon has always had a love of animals and discovered his passion for training while volunteering with shelter dogs. He volunteers with Pay it Forward for Pets, Summit County Animal Control, the HSUS on the Disaster Animal Recovery Team and One of a Kind Pets. The focus of his volunteer work is the evaluation and training of the dogs that are considered to be difficult. His training methods are fun and rewarding for the dogs, the clients and himself. At home he has an awesome dog named Karma who is a rescued Pit Bull that sometimes helps on training sessions.


Keep calm and pilot on


Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

Placebo In Effect

It hurts doesn’t it? Your hopes dashed, your dreams down the toilet. And your fate is sitting right besides you. – Rounders


Some things just boggle the mind with how evil they are.  Fake charities.  Moms shaving their kids bald and passing them off as cancer patients.  Dogs being passed off as service animals who don’t even know the basic commands.

For a lot of people, service dogs represent a link between the world and a human who may be isolated either mentally, emotionally or physically.  That service animal is a door.  No, I’ve never seen a perfect service animal (hence the word “animal” instead of “machine”).  But typically these dogs are like the Special Forces of the dog world.  Meaning they’ve been through boot camp, Special Forces training and have had real world experiences (or at least the dog equivalent).  They are cherry-picked animals who were chosen because of their ability to handle public scenarios, because they don’t panic easily, and because they flat out can do the job.

Then something like this comes up:  A family has a child who needs help from a service animal. They save thousands of dollars to pay for the dog, holding fundraisers, benefits and drives to help cover the cost of the dog.  They finally receive their canine lifeline, and…he isn’t even housebroken.  He’s destructive. He can’t even do basic things that most dogs are taught in the first few months of living in a house.

You know that door to the outside world?  The one that some person has been waiting for?  Who has spent thousands of dollars on?  What if it’s locked.  Nobody has the key, and nobody ever will.

A recent article from Dogster described it perfectly:

But the point is that even in the best of circumstances, people who are trying to cope with illness or disability are already struggling against a stacked deck. You need an exquisite degree of sadism to not only deliberately exploit that pain and desperation, but add to it for nothing more than a quick buck.

Aside from trying to cope with whatever physical, mental or emotional challenges these dogs are supposed to help alleviate, they are actually making the problem worse!  Fake service dogs usually make you think of someone who can’t bear to be away from their little Princess, and therefore decide to call them a service dog and take them everywhere (even though poor little Princess isn’t mentally equipped herself to deal with the stressful situation these dogs are put through). That’s bad for so many reasons.

Companies selling fake service dogs though?  That’s a new low.  That’s like a pharmacy selling placebos…and charging you full price.  Oh, and there’s still side effects to this placebo.  Just no alleviation of symptoms. That’ll be $10,000 plus your hopes and dreams.

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

You and Your Dog: The Similarities are Uncanny

Like attracts like. The type of person and energy you put out there, are the type of people and energy you’ll attract into your life – My Mother

There are those times where you’re walking down the street and you think to yourself Oh look at that dog! And then you start to scan up to the owner and you think Wow, the owner looks just like their dog! We’ve all had those moments, and then I’m sure all of you have had the  thought of Do I look like my dog? For those of you who have sleek Greyhounds and beautiful Border Collies, it might not be that big of a deal, those of us who have funny looking mutts? It’s a little more of a concern.

Who's showing who?

Who’s showing who?

You’ve seen pictures of Porter. He’s a goofy looking dog. I love him because he’s goofy looking. Sometimes I try and see the similarities between us. And although I’m not at the point of wanting to admit that we look alike, we do have some of the same tendencies.

-          If you mess with our food, we will not always be the nicest

-          We both can sleep through an alarm like it’s our job

-          We love blankets. Love them. Can’t get enough.

And the biggest thing we have in common is….

-          We’re both dog reactive!

And now you’re all thinking, well you don’t get aggressive with dogs, you love dogs! Being dog reactive doesn’t mean you’re aggressive. It means that you are at a more alert and hypersensitive state when another dog is around.

Take this for an example:

I’ll be doing some shopping and all of a sudden I hear a jingling sound. My immediate reaction is to stop what I’m doing and find out where that sound is coming from because it’s OBVIOUSLY a dog collar. And then there’s the serious disappointment when it’s just someone getting their keys out of their bag.

Or another example:

I’m not really allowed to drive many places. If Tall Guy is going with me, he drives. Why? Because if I see a dog walking on the side of the road it takes all of my willpower not to stare at it as we go by. Safety first.

I think the tongue is where the resemblance is the strongest....

I think the tongue is where the resemblance is the strongest….

I’m dog reactive. There’s no way around it. So, guess what? If I’m on a walk with Porter, I have to be extra aware of the energy I’m portraying to him. He’s going to get excited if there’s another dog nearby, which means I can’t. I have to make sure I stay calm and bored and don’t let my own excitement take over. The minute I do, is the minute that Porter can sense an increase of energy, which he will only try and match. He’ll immediately feel that there is a reason for him to get overexcited about the dog heading our way. So, it’s important I can keep my own dog reactivity in check as well as Porter’s.

 The running joke with my friend is that if Ryan Gossling was walking his dog towards me, I'd only notice the dog.

The running joke with my friend is that if Ryan Gossling was walking his dog towards me, I’d only notice the dog.

Be aware of the personality traits that you share with your dog. The good and the bad. But pay close attention to how your personality traits can affect your dog’s reaction to situations. If you’re both uncomfortable when trucks race by you while you’re on the sidewalk, recognize that and work on calming yourself before that situation appears.

So, I’m working on my own dog reactivity issues daily, but I can’t help it that they’re just so fluffy, and cute, and adorable!

Keep calm and pilot on

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

…With Little Help From My Friends

Going to try with a little help from my friends
  – Billy Shears/The Beatles

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

On August 2, 2014 something extraordinary happened in Illinois: three third graders changed the law.  Brooke Martin, Claire Hackmann and Maddie O’Dell, after reading a book about two kids rescuing a dog from a puppy mill, decided to take action and change the world, even if just a little bit, for the better.

They contacted local politicians, and even did some lobbying in their own school.  End result?  Doubled penalties for animal abuse.  This is beautiful on so many levels, from the children learning about something terrible and deciding to do something about it, to the adults actually taking to heart the kids’ message.  Frequently adults pooh-pooh children.  Sometimes they remind us of some of the more important messages of all: change for the better.

If this trio, who still don’t have all their adult teeth yet, can achieve this lofty goal, what can we as adults do?  “Like” and re-post on Facebook?  Awesome, but that’s not a lot.  Let’s get real.  Let’s get our hands dirty.

Go to your local shelter and volunteer.  Write a letter (yes, and honest-to-God, pen-and paper letter!) to your congressman.  Demand protection for our animals.  What about starting a kibble kitchen in your neighbourhood? There are so many ways we can help.

So let’s take a cue from these lovely ladies.  Don’t worry about how big a job may be, or how difficult a problem is to overcome. Start chipping away at it.  These girls did.  So can you. Do you have any ideas to share about how to help the animals in your community?  Post them in the comment section below!

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

Blood(less) Sport

Did perpetual happiness in the Garden of Eden maybe get so boring that eating the apple was justified?

  – Chuck Palahniuk

I think this bored dog is making me sympathetically bored!

I think this bored dog is making me sympathetically bored!

I’ve frequently stated the importance of all three components of the PAW Method (Piloting, Activity and Work).  Keep answering their questions, keep ‘em moving, and keep ‘em thinking.    Pretty simple, yet some people completely gloss of Work.  Your dog needs to think, or, more accurately, your dog needs stress.  Yes, stress!  You add stress to your own life every day!  Stress isn’t a bad thing – when you eliminate it yourself, you create self confidence.  When a child puts together a puzzle.  When you beat a video game.  When my husband beats me at Scrabble (okay…let’s not get unrealistic here).  Basically, any stressful situation you put yourself in that you are able to manage and control, or beat, yourself = self confidence.

Now I want you to think about what a dog’s life is meant to be like.  Hunting their own food.  Those teeth aren’t there for looks, you know.  For that matter, neither is their sense of smell, their powerful chest, their keen hearing…you get the drift.  Like the famous Jurassic Park quote:  T-Rex doesn’t want to be fed, he wants to hunt!  So does your dog.  It’s about time you let them.

Obviously the most perfect way for a dog to get the mental work they need is to let them live in the wild.  It’s also the easiest way for Natural Selection to take over and get your dog killed. So, on to the second easiest way:  enrichment feeding.

I personally work for every meal I consume: I train dogs!  That Guy works (he’s a professional Geek).  Even my kids have to work (setting the table, doing dishes, going to school, etc.).  We all contribute to the basic survival of this house.  It’s about time your dogs do as well.  Contributing is what makes us family.  It’s what makes dogs Pack.

I’ve gathered a list of some of my favorite enrichment toys.  There is no such thing as a free meal for my dogs; I expect them to hunt their own food…in a cruel-free, bloodless sort of homogenized way.   (Note: enrichment feeding is not a good choice for dogs with severe food aggression.)

Northmate Interactive Slow Pet Feeder

Northmate Interactive Slow Pet FeederDisclaimer:  I have never personally used this toy.  One of my clients brought it out during a training session.  I had never seen or heard of it before.  Initially I thought it was the dumbest thing I’d ever seen.  I mean, it’s just a mat!  I stopped rolling my eyes when she fed her dog with it, though.  Her dog (French Bulldog named Mimi) absolutely adored the thing!  She rooted around through the cones searching for where the food was hiding. I immediately changed my opinion.  I loved it!  Definitely wonderful for slowing your dog down (looking at you, the bloat-prone Labs) and provided quite a bit of mental stimulation. You can buy it here.  Do yourself a favor…buy the large size, regardless of the size of your dog.  PROS:  it’s immobile.  No searching for where your dog left their toy.  . CONS: Though it looked exceptionally promising, I haven’t thoroughly tested it out yet with my own critters.

Kong Wobbler

Kong Wobbler Small2If I’ve trained with you, you’ve seen this before.  It’s durable (I bring it to countless sessions with Rotties, Pitties, etc.) and relatively cheap.  The largest size holds over 3 cups of food, and while it doesn’t require a lot of brains to use, it does require persistence, which is good for all dogs from laid back Mastiffs to hyper JRT’s.  Some dogs don’t like it brand new (let’s face it, it smells like plastic, not food!).  I simply wipe the inside only with peanut butter, and then wipe it all back out.  It leave a PB scent without the risk of mold.  Bon appetit!  You can get your own here.  PROS:  While it can travel, it doesn’t lend itself to rolling very far.  It’s also the easiest to fill/set up.  Most importantly, it’s one of the few toys that’s durable enough for the heavy hitters: Pitties, Rotties, Mastiffs, etc.  CONS:  Some dogs are initially terrified of it.  Okay, maybe it was only my dog.  She tapped it with her paw, it swung backwards, and then swung forward at her, or in Sparta’s words, “It freaking attacked me – I barely made it out with my life!!!!!”   We worked through her fear of the small plastic toy, and it’s now part of Sparta’s regular feeding regime, and she likes it.

Busy Buddies Twist ‘n Feed

busy buddies twist n feedAh…the Busy Buddies Twist ‘n Feed.  Again, if you’ve trained with me, you’ve seen this.  It’s basically two pieces that can be unscrewed or tightened to make it as easy or difficult as you decide.  This is Orion’s favorite toy, as it is small enough for him to manipulate without overwhelming him. It’s also pretty durable.  It comes in many different sizes, the largest of which holds about a cup or more of food.  Get it here.   PROS: It can be used with wet food or a raw diet as well. Simply smear the food on one of the halves, screw the top down as far as you want, and have at.  It’s also dishwasher safe (top shelf).  CONS: Some dogs find this tremendously easy (JRT’s and Border Collies). Doesn’t hold a tremendous amount of food (it takes three fill-ups per meal for Sparta).

Busy Buddies Kibble Nibble

eastereggPaws down, Sparta’s favorite choice. Mine as well.  The bottom half hold 3 cups of food, the perfect amount for my behemoth of a dog.  It doesn’t roll too far, and is easily managed by my timid dog.  Also, it doesn’t spray food everywhere like some enrichment toys can.  It comes in different sizes, and is dishwasher safe. Safe for most dogs.  PROS: Perfect for larger breed dogs who require larger servings per meal. Get yours here. CONS: The toy is extremely difficult as-is.  We snip the plastic “claws” from the top and bottom holes, making it easier for the food to come out. The top can also be a bit difficult to thread to the bottom.  Of course I’m talking at 5:30 a.m. when I wake up, so, uh…it could be me.

Even Orion has to use an enrichment feeder.  Brittany Graham Photography

Even Orion has to use an enrichment feeder. Brittany Graham Photography

One toy is good.  Two is better.  Three is awesome.  You get the idea.  But if your dog only works one of these toys, that’s fine.  Just get them thinking. Let them hunt.  NOTE: Do not leave these toys out at all times.  Feeding time is feeding time.  It’s not an hours-long Roman feast.  Eat now or forever hold your peace (or at least until the next meal).  Sparta gets 20 minutes to eat.  I put the food down, go do something else, come back and pick up the toy.  Usually she’s done.  However, if she’s still trying to bat it around, I’ll give her more time with it.  If she’s ignoring it, I pick it up and we’re done with that meal.  She doesn’t always finish all of the food, but she has plenty of time to eat as much as she wants.

I hope I don’t need to state this, but water should be available 24/7.  A dog can go three days without water.  They can go 3+/- weeks without food.  I don’t mess with water.

Now, some of you may state that your dog won’t work the toys.  Um, yes they will.  Given proper incentive (hunger), they will.  There’s nothing wrong with hunger…it drives us.  Offer the enrichment toys during the regular feeding times.  If they won’t work with the toy, pick it up after 20 minutes.  No, you aren’t starving your dog.  Now, if they can’t work the toy, that’s different.  For example, Sparta being afraid of the Kong Wobbler.  There’s no way I was going to force her to work with something she was terrified of.  So we worked through it together.  If your dog can’t figure it out, or is afraid of it, help them, make it easier, or get another toy.  If they won’t work it, oh well.  Try again next feeding.  Don’t cave in and give them their food in the bowl.

Remember, the object is to make them think.  Work is a natural part of any animal’s life, including yours!  Mental workouts keep us sharp and able to handle real problems.  Give your dog the opportunity to flex their mental muscle.  You may be surprised at your dog’s adeptness with the feeders.

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

Meeting James Franco

One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation. – Arthur Ashe

So, I’m going to admit it – I tend to get a little high strung sometimes when it comes to Porter. This is only because I want him to behave in an acceptable manner and I desperately want to be the best Pilot I can be for him. But, it sometimes means I stress out a little more than I should. I have all the tools to set him up for success, and sometimes I just forget that.

Friends of ours have recently added a Border Collie puppy to their family. Now, if anyone can handle a Border Collie’s energy and everlasting mind, it’s these owners. They are diligent about getting him the PAW that he needs.

The James Franco Selfie!

The James Franco Selfie!

For a while now, we have been trying to set up a play date for their dog (James Franco) and Porter. When the time finally came I became nervous. I did not want Porter to be a total jerk. Deep down, I knew he’d be fine, but the apprehensions of Will he be aggressive towards the dog? Will he have an issue with the dog being male?  Swirled around in my mind. However, I knew what I needed to do to make it successful. Here’s a previous a blog post about Puppy Play Dates.

Here are some of the steps I took this day:

-          We went for a walk in the neighborhood beforehand. I walked Porter up and down the driveway to the house we were visiting a few times as well to make it become more familiar.

-          When I felt as though I had control over Porter, I had James Franco and his owners join me on a walk. At first James Franco walked behind Porter and then we switched. Eventually when I felt comfortable with their interactions on the walk, we walked them side by side.

-          When entering the fenced in back yard, I had James Franco enter first and then Porter after that.

When we released the dogs from their leashes, it was the most anti-climactic event ever. I braced myself for immediate chasing, barking, all out craziness. What I saw was two dogs, walking around the yard, giving each other space, and sniffing different trees. It was bizarre at first. But then I realized that no, that’s what happens when you have 2 Pilots introduce dogs.


James Franco and Porter having some play time

Eventually they both became comfortable with each other to play. There was running, rolling, jumping… but it was all controlled. James Franco became more comfortable playing with other dogs and eventually learned the infamous play bow. Both dogs were having a great time, but were still being respectful of each other and their Pilots by listening to our commands.

You know how to handle these situations, even the hard ones. It’s just trusting in yourself to make sure you can go through with it without getting yourself worked up.

Keep calm and pilot on

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

Standardized Test

Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.

  – Dr Ian Malcom; Jurassic Park

Breathe much?

Breathe much?

Two and a half years ago, something amazing happened at the Crufts dog show:  the Best of Breed winning Pekingese and Bulldog and were both sent home the first day, eliminating them from competition.  They were found by vets on site to be so grossly distorted through selective breeding that it was determined they were not able to have lives as normal, healthy dogs.

Many dog lovers pumped their fists in the air in triumph.  As a society, we’ve finally started to accept perfection is a stupid endeavour, and that beauty comes in many forms. Women no longer cram themselves into corsets.  Models have freckles, and can have three square meals a day!  How wonderful!

Dogs, on the other hand, are still being genetically manipulated in a macabre Dr. Moreau fashion.   Not being able to breathe takes second place to an adorable smooshed-in face.  Back problems aren’t a breeders problem, so breed ‘em long and low.  It’s sick and grotesque. And the AKC is celebrating these deformities!

I’ve long maintained that the AKC is a culprit in over-population (AKC doesn’t follow up to make sure that the dogs you’ve registered aren’t participating in a puppy mill.  Just pay the fee, and you’re good to go with your registered purebred!).  The AKC is also aiding and abetting in what can only be described as Frankenstein-eque practices.  Giving awards to those who can most grotesquely twist a dog’s features like origami.

For example, the bulldog. As a breed, you’d be hard-pressed to find a dog more impishly lovable.  A sweet, stubborn disposition.  All trapped in a body that can’t procreate without medical intervention.  That alone should tell you something is wrong.  The fact that an animal who has been so twisted by breeders that they can’t even give birth safely, but can still win an award for the best conformation, tells you everything that is sick and twisted in dog shows.

The Science of Dogs blog recently did an article giving examples of how various dogs have changed in 100 years of selective breeding.  Over the course of one hundred years , dogs who were athletic, healthy breeds have become sick, gasping ghosts of themselves.  Compared side-to-side, one couldn’t be blamed for mistakenly thinking these dogs had been exposed to a high level of radiation and mutated.

Obviously not all breeders are to blame.  Some breeders take a look at a specific breed and say to themselves, “I love that dog!  But I bet I can make it healthier, better, happier!”.  To those breeders, thank you!  You are maintaining the standard of lovely dogs I hope we never lose!  To the other, more selfish, revolting “breeders”:  learn to love dogs.

Take a look below and you’ll see some pretty drastic differences in dogs in just 100 years.

selective-dog-breeding-7 selective-dog-breeding-6 selective-dog-breeding-1 selective-dog-breeding-2 selective-dog-breeding-3 selective-dog-breeding-4 selective-dog-breeding-5

Time to put an end to these disgusting practices.  Time for the AKC to stand up for true breed standards.


Keep calm and pilot on


Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio



Doggedly Devoted

“With my last breath, I’ll exhale my love for you. I hope it’s a cold day, so you can see what you meant to me.
”  – Jarod Kintz

Three year old Karina is expected to make a full recovery after spending 11 days in the Siberian Wilderness.  Her dog is the hero of the story.  Picture: SakhaPress

Three year old Karina is expected to make a full recovery after spending 11 days in the Siberian Wilderness. Her dog is the hero of the story. Picture: SakhaPress

When I was a child of about 5, my mom took my younger brother (aged 2.5), and my older brother (aged 7) and I hiking.  She let my older brother and I climb some not-too-steep cliffs by the river while she held my younger brother’s hand at the bottom.  Halfway up, a man appear from behind a boulder and tried to get me to come with him.  My mother couldn’t release my younger brother’s hand (he was by the river!) but she could see that her older two children were in terrible danger.  She threatened to the man to leave us alone or she would release our dog, Pebbles, from her leash.  The man kept creeping forward, so she released our dog.

Pebbles immediately scaled the slope and boulders, and herded my brother and I down the cliff, nipping at our heels as we went, and snapping at the man and backing him off every time he’d come closer. We made it safely to the ground, whereupon our mother whisked us home and called the police.  They found the man right were he had popped out at us.  He had a little nest set up with blankets, food, etc.  He also had a warrant out for his arrest for molesting a little girl.

I’d hate to think of what could have happened if Pebbles hadn’t been there.  I think of my poor mother, and the abject terror she must have felt.  Leaving her young son to rescue her older two could have resulted in his drowning.  Leaving us to fend for ourselves at the top could have ended in tragedy as well.  How much hope did she place in Pebbles, desperately trying anything to get out of the situation.  And Pebbles came through.

I forgot to mention, Pebbles weighed in at roughly 20 lbs., and Aussie mix.  A typical shelter rescue.

This story here tells of a similar story.  A little girl lost in the Siberia wilderness, saved by her dog.  Nobody even knew the dog was trying to help.  There’s a reason dogs are named “Fido”…it means “Faithful” in Latin.

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