Money in the Bank

The lack of money is the root of all evil.

Mark Twain

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

So many clients call me and to complain about their dogs:  their dog is “bad”.  Their dog doesn’t ever calm down.  Their dog just won’t listen.  My usual answer is, “Why should they?”.

Dogs need three things to live well and comfortably in the human world – Piloting, Activity and Work.  Humans want two things from a dog – Love and Affection.  Do you see how our human wants don’t always match up to human wants?  To get what we want (Love and Affection), we need to give the dogs what the need (Piloting, Activity and Work).  It’s truly that simple.

Activity and Work are pretty simple: keep Fido moving and keep Fido thinking.  The Piloting is the one that can be a little confusing….if you overthink it.  The Pilot is the one who answers everyone’s questions, from “Can I eat that?” to “Is that other dog a threat?”.  The more you answer you dogs questions, the easier it becomes to Pilot your dog.  Piloting is like a big piggy bank – whoever has the most money is the Pilot.

Your dog doesn't want to be Pilot.

Your dog doesn’t want to be Pilot.

So for example, if I drop some food on the floor, Orion, when I first got him, would run straight at it trying to grab it.  However, the moment he became engaged with it (staring at it, moving towards it, etc.), I would simply stand up straight, pretend he was a lot taller and that I was trying to hit him with my belly button, and invade his personal space.  Simply keep him backed off from the food until I could pick it up.    (Hint: you aren’t looking to back your dog off into the next county – just give yourself and/or the food on the floor some personal space so you have room to operate/pick it up).  And no, he doesn’t get it. It’s mine.  This isn’t a trick “Wait until I pick it up, and then you can have it.”  It’s mine.

The more often I claimed the food on the ground, the less often I had to do it.  Now when food hits the floor, Orion watches it land, and immediately looks to me.  That’s because each time I answered the question, I took a little bit of money out of his Piloting Piggy Bank.  The more money I have in my bank (and the less he has in his), the easier it is to answer Orion’s questions. While I was in the process of emptying out Orion’s bank completely (which took about 2 months), I could still answer all of his questions, but he didn’t necessarily accept the answers immediately.  The harder the question is, the more money you must have in your bank to answer it.

For example, when Sparta was about a year, she tore her ACL.  Up until that point, I had been taking out money from her Piloting Piggy Bank, and had just about emptied it.  Small, simple withdrawals, by answering her easy questions.  Anything from, “Are we done walking yet?” to “Can I jump on Grandma?”.   All of these questions were answered, and once she accepted the answer, it took money from her piggy bank and deposited it right into my account.  After such a long time of answering her questions, I had quite a bit of money in my bank account.  Sparta had almost none.

Which was good, because I was about to need all that money.

In order to find out how bad the torn ACL was, the vet put Sparta on the table (quite a feat as she’s a 100lb dog).  He laid her on her side, and started yanking at the afflicted leg, trying to ascertain how bad the injury was.  Of course it hurt Sparta.  She immediately popped up, with a big question:

“Can I make him stop hurting me?”

Wow….that’s a question no parent (dog mom or otherwise) ever wants to be forced to answer.  Unfortunately, I had to.  I gave Sparta the negative body language and let her know the answer.

“No you may not.”

Such a difficult answer.  I needed every last penny in my piggy bank to answer it.  But I did, and Sparta accepted the answer with minimal difficulty.  The vet was able to conclude his exam in under 30 seconds, and Sparta was set on a rehabilitation plan, and recovered completely.

So if you’re just starting out Piloting your dog, don’t get frustrated.  Most dogs don’t willingly hand over every cent in their Piloting Piggy Banks the first day you start Piloting them.  Keep at it. If you get frustrated, take a break. But be the calm, benevolent Pilot who has the answers and isn’t afraid to give them.  In other words, give them what they need, and then take as much love and affection as you want.

 Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

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

Photo Finished

Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.

- Gertrude Stein

I get it.  You’ve just had the cutest baby in the whole world, just like everyone else. You want to document as much of your child’s first years as possible via pictures and videos.  Especially with your first baby: your dog.  But here’s where I revoke your parent card, because obviously you aren’t using it:




Dog’s options: Allow child to break spine, or bite and get put down for being “aggressive”. After all, the child is only playing!

Let’s put our kid in a dominant position on top of the dog, let her choke the dog, and watch the fun ensue. Of course the resulting bite is because pits are vicious and should learn to have a little fun!


Would you allow this child to do this to his other siblings? Didn’t think so.


Hope nobody rings your doorbell/walks by your house with another dog/says “treat”/startles your dog while your baby is perched precariously atop the poor beast

Um, anyone else notice a problem here?  Not cute, not funny, not responsible.

3r31oyBy using your dog as a prop, what are you teaching your child about animals?  Children learn from example.  If you are treating your dog as a photo embellishment for your precious child, then that’s how your child is going to see them.  Another toy to play with.  You’ve missed one of the most important lessons having a pet can teach a child:  empathy.  Respect for the pain that another animal can endure, and not being the one who inflicts it!  Animals are sometimes the only sibling some children have, and we all know that siblings are how practice  being a socialized adult.  One who doesn’t treat other humans like toys.  Who understand respect for others.  In other words, someone who isn’t an award-winning Christian Bale character.

Pretty sure his mom has pics of him sitting on the dog somewhere

Pretty sure his mom has pics of him sitting on the dog somewhere

Your child isn’t cute.  They are being trained to be irresponsible pet owners.  Just like you.  No, I don’t want to see another pic of an “adorable” toddler choking some poor dog who’s body language is practically screaming, “Make him stop! I don’t want to bite him but I will if you don’t make him stop!”.   They’re called kids for a reason: because they aren’t mature enough to make rational decisions.  That’s where you come in.  Teach you kid how to respect animals.  Read about it here.  (Coincidentally enough, when searching for the post to link to, I used the search term “respect” and found it.)

Yes, kids can be physical with their dogs: in an appropriate manner.  It’s up to you to intervene on the dog’s behalf if there’s trouble.

Two bored-looking dogs, and a child who is calm.  Good, safe combo

Two bored-looking dogs, and a child who is calm. Good, safe combo

Calm child. Calm, relaxed body language from the dog. The dog even appears to be reciprocating.

Calm child. Calm, relaxed body language from the dog. The dog even appears to be reciprocating.

Teach your children to respect dogs/animals.  How to cuddle without constricting.  How to give gentle hugs and snuggles that allow an animal to escape if needs be.  Most importantly, supervise. Kids and dogs.  Pilot them both.

Now grow up and get your kid some real toys.

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

5 Items to Help You Travel with Your Dog

The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page – Augustine of Hippo

Traveling with your pup can be such a great way to experience new adventures and places together. Whether it’s driving and staying with family or doing an outdoor vacation, your options are endless. But, sometimes traveling can be stressful as well. So here are my top 5 items to bring when I travel with Porter.
collapsible crate

  1. Crate

Porter feels safest when he’s in his crate. He doesn’t have to worry about anything else but his little area, so when traveling to new places that can be overwhelming, I always make sure he has his crate available to him. If it’s somewhere brand new and he could be staying alone for some time, I will bring his regular hard top crate. If he’ll only be in there for sleeping, or is familiar with where we are going, I will bring his collapsible crate. Both help him feel safe and secure in unfamiliar territory.


2. His Favorite Toys

I will bring 2-3 of his favorite toys with him. However, I won’t put them all out at once. He gets one at a time, that way when another one comes out it’s new and exciting! It also makes him feel at home and gives him something to do. He loves his chew bone and this helps him get rid of any frustration or anxiety.

His favorite blanket

His favorite blanket

3. Blanket

I will make sure to bring a few blankets that smell like home and him. This will make him feel more at home and will allow him to relax more. If he’s in a strange place with all brand new smells, that can become overwhelming and create anxiety. However, if he can find some items that smell like him and home he will be more comfortable and quicker to accept his new surroundings.


He especially loves his blanket and his bed at the same time

He especially loves his blanket and his bed at the same time

4. His Bed

I always make sure to bring one of his beds with us as well. If we’re going on a longer road trip, I will put it in the back seat with him to make sure he has a comfy place to sleep. He loves his beds and I know by bringing them along  he wil feel more at home. Bringing small items that smell familiar and are comfortable will make his transition easier.


5. Benadryl

Don’t underestimate the power of being prepared for the unexpected. Car sickness, anxiety and bee stings can all be helped with Benadryl. When we travel, I always make sure that I have some on me just in case there’s an emergency of some sort. It’s better to be over prepared then be caught by surprise. Make sure you call your vet to see what kind of dosage is good for your dog.

What are your favorite items to bring along when you travel with your pup?

Keep calm and pilot on

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

Just Because

“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.” 
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

I’ll never forget a conversation I had several years ago with a friend who happens to be a (great) vet.  She was asking me about the “come” command, and what my thoughts were about having a special “come” command, or an emergency recall.  A special word that means “come”, no matter what? Did I have a command like that?

“Yes”, I replied.  ”The word is “come”‘.

I have a lot of people who ask me why their dogs won’t come when they’re called.  My usual reply?  ”Why should they?”, which is always followed with some type of justification on the owner’s part.

  • Because I called them.
  • Because I’m their owner.
  • Because I’m their pack leader.

Just “because” isn’t an answer.  It’s a polka.

Hey, I'm Slovak.  What did you expect?

Your dog needs a reason to come when called, and there’s only one reason a dog will come when you call them.  That reason is you have more money is your Piloting Piggy Bank.  You simply must have more money in your piggy bank than your dog does.  Claiming to be Pilot or Leader doesn’t mean much unless you actually are.  I can claim to be Queen of the Scots, but unless I have something to back up that claim, well…Here, I’ll let Bruce explain.

So, to that end, I present to you How To Attain (Near) Total Recall.  Notice the caveat in there?  ”Near” Total Recall.  Because we are dealing with living, breathing animals, not machines who are programmed to respond a specific way to specific sets of stimuli.  No dog will ever have 100% recall.  So let’s do this.  Let’s get Fido to (Near) Total Recall.

 Oh, "Rekall, Rekall, Rekall." You thinking of going there?

Oh, “Recall, Recall, Recall.” You thinking of going there?

A few simple rules about (Near) Total Recall.

1. Remember the three steps to working with your dog:

  • Control Yourself.  Are you angry? Rushed?  Annoyed?  If so, it’s not going to work.  Calm is the only way to get what you want, and that goes for the “come” command, too.  Take a break and listen to the polka music again.  Nobody can be in a bad mood while listening to a polka!
  •  Control the Situation.  In other words, don’t start working on recall when your dog is chasing the mailman down the street.  Start in a controlled environment, say….your living room!
  • Add Stimulation (“Come”).  Let’s get ready to rumble!

2. You MUST use positive reinforcement.  In other words, “COME HERE!!!!” will never work.

Yeah, I always preferred Liu Kang anyway.  He was the only one who didn't seem to be on a roid rage.

Yeah, I always preferred Liu Kang anyway. He was the only one who didn’t seem to be on a roid rage.

Start in your living room, with your dog not too far from you. Make your body into slight letter “S”.  The object is that you don’t look intimidating, but rather, inviting.   Call them.  Remember you are teaching your dog a new language, so repetition is integral.  One word only.  In our house, it’s “come”.  In your house it could be “Pajammas” for all I care, just so long as you are repeating it over and over again. Pat your leg consistently to give them something to focus on,.   Hopefully, they will start walking to you.  The moment they get to you, they get high value positive reinforcement.  If your dog is food motivated, give them a treat.  If they are praise motivated, praise them heartily.  If they are love-bugs, give them a thorough belly/back scratch.  In a perfect world, you will be doing all three.  This is called Touch, Talk, Treat.  You are creating a Pavlovian response by linking these three things.  Pretty soon, you don’t need all three!  The Touch and Talk can take the place of the Treat.  That way you don’t need to rely on treats all the time to get your dog to come when you call.

Now that your dog came when you called, try it again, from farther away.  Pat your leg, move into an “S” shape, and start calling them.  Uh oh.  This time they’ve decided to ignore you. What do you do?

1) If you are home alone, quietly stand up, walk towards your dog, take them by the collar and start gently tugging (not dragging!) them to where you called them, repeating “come, come, come” the entire time.  Once you get to where you originally called them, they still get Touch,Talk,Treat.  There is absolutely no punishment, ever.

2) If someone is with you, have them retrieve the dog to where you are.  The person bringing you the dog should merely act as a disembodied hand that is bringing your dog to you. You will still be saying “come, come, come” over and over, and yes, they still get Touch, Talk, Treat when they get to you.

Practice this a few times. Pretty soon your dog will come bounding over to you to get their treat.  Now it’s time to start weaning them from the treats.  Now it’s 9/10 times they get the treat.  Then 7/10 times.  Soon it’s 1/30 times.  No matter what, they still get lavish praise and affection when they get to you.  Call them from all areas of the house so they actually have to find where you are.  Get them accustomed to actively looking for you when they hear they are being called.

Now you’re ready for outside.  But there’s a trick to it.  Yes, it’s easy to get your dog to come in the house, but outside they’re, well, loose!  Even in an enclosed back yard it can be difficult to catch a dog who won’t come.  That’s why I use a cotton clothesline initially.  About 20 feet will do.  Tie a big knot about every 2-3 feet along the line, and then attach it to your dog’s collar.  Now let them outside. When you call them, and they won’t come, remember, they’re dragging 20 feet of rope behind them.  Simply step on the rope (the knot will catch on your foot), and you can tug them along two towards you, calling them the entire time. And yes, they still get Touch, Talk, Treat when they get t you.

So you’ve been working at it outside, and your dog has (Near) Total Recall outside. Now you’re ready to lose the clothesline, but if you just instantly take it off, your dog may figure out that they’re completely free again.  Instead, gradually start cutting the clothesline smaller and smaller until there’s nothing left.  Your dog will never know the instant where you can’t catch them anymore.

What does it take?  Effort.  I loathe the people who tell me this doesn’t work, and when I ask them how long they’ve been at it, “Oh, at least 2 days now!”  You are training a dog to be human.  To respond to human speech, and to trust that you make a better Pilot than they do.  To this day, I still work at the come command with my dogs, even thought they attained (Near) Total Recall a long time ago. Work at it, because the first time you call your dog and this happens:


…it will all be worth it.

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


Surviving a “Teenage” Dog


- Me, at 14 years old


I got Orion when he was 6 months, which, if you read my blog posts, you already know is the worst age for a dog.  For dogs, it’s the equivalent of a 14 year old girl.  Lots of eye-rolling.  Even more stomping of feet.  You know the drill.  Dogs go through adolescence as well.  And just like with humans, it’s the time where they start to figure out where they belong in society/pack, and to do that, they test boundaries.

The drama

The drama

So I inherited Orion, this little ball of energy, at the worst possible age.  I skipped right over the adorable, fluffy stage, and went straight into-the-mouth-of-hell stage.  And oh, wow did he show it. Orion was never a bad dog.  The thought of a dog as bad is ridiculous.  Orion was a perfectly normal, adolescent dog.  His problem was that he sucked at being a human. Even for a teenager.

On top of Orion hitting puberty was the fact that he was a nervous bundle of energy.  No, his previous owner hadn’t abused him (quite the opposite, actually).  It is just Orion’s nature to be skittish and hyper.  He is a dog who would be ripe for anxiety-driven destructiveness and maybe even biting if not properly Piloted. His teenage “years” were still very trying, but we had our coping mechanisms in place.

1)  Exorcise Exercise Those Demons.  

200 (1)

Most dogs will have problems behaving without adequate exercise, but adolescent dogs in particular need extra activity.  And no, going for a walk around the block doesn’t cut it.  If you’re not tired, your dog isn’t tired.  Even when you are tired, your dog is most likely still ready to go for more exercise.  A walk is mandatory, just so our dog don’t remain insulated, but there are easy ways to get them the exercise they need beyond running yourself into the ground.  Read here for some tips.

2) Take Your G.I. Joes and Go Home.  In other words, know when, and how, to end a stand-off.  Don’t get sucked into a never-ending vortex of behavior.  With Orion, it had to do with the cat.  He was obsessed with “torturing” my cat Echo.  Yes, every time he would do it, I would answer his question (“Can I chase the cat?”  No.)  but wow…at that age they will “ask” over and over and over (and over).  So, how many times to I have to answer him?  One more time.

And then “take your G.I. Joe’s and go home.”

What this means is that I answer his question about the cat once more.  He accepts it (even though I know it will only be for a moment), and then during that moment, I engage him in something else.  That way I don’t have to answer the question anymore because he isn’t asking it.  If he “asks” a question, I must answer it (no bribing him away from the question with treats or whatnot).  However, once he accepts the answer, it is perfectly okay to remove his ability to ask the question anymore.  You can put him in his crate for a bit (usually so you don’t go insane). Give him a little “snack” of exercise, such as a quick round of agility.  Or give him something to occupy himself, such as a kong or even an ice cube.  Anything to keep him from asking the question again.

3)  Work Like A Dog.  Remember, adolescence is a time of learning and exploring.  Is your dog getting enough mental exercise?  Most of the tricks and commands Orion learned was during his adolescent period, and he learned fast.  And always wanted more.  So he uses enrichment feeders exclusively for food.  He learned stupid tricks that still make me laugh (such as using Sparta for an agility course), he learned the  basics (heeling off leash, long distance stay, etc.).  All of these things were taught when his mind was most willing to learn: adolescence.

4) Enforce Calm.  You’ve set them up for success with the exercise and the mental work.  Now you can get what you want – calm.  To get the calm you desire, make sure you are giving them positive reinforcement (petting, affection, treats., etc.) at the appropriate times.  So for instance, if your dog is acting hyper, jumping on you, or “slapping” you with their paw, that is not a good time to give them affection.  Don’t encourage behaviors you don’t actually want.  ”Answer” their question using negative body language.  If when they are calm, you can then reward them.

5) Potty Problems.  For a lot of dogs, puberty can start up problems you thought you had already handled: housebreaking.  No, your dog isn’t suddenly “unhousebroken”.  What happens is your dog is making a bid to become Pilot. How do they do that?  By marking.

Aim high.

Aim high.

Piloting your dog, and using the techniques outlined above, will help with the marking.  Spaying and neutering your dog will help, ahem,…eliminate the odds that they will take up this unsavory behavior.  Basically, if you are Pilot, you have the right to mark things as yours.  The more you Pilot your dog, and answer their questions, the less likely they are to try to claim things. For more information about how to handle this problem, read this article.

6) Keep A Sense of Humor.   Perhaps this should have been first, because it’s the most important.  Your dog isn’t out to get you.  Your dog isn’t “getting back at you”. Your dog is too busy being, well, a dog to concern themselves about how to get even.  Laugh when you can.  Answer your dog’s questions about what is acceptable and what isn’t, but don’t hold a grudge.  As Shakespeare said, “This, too, shall pass”.

Remember, this is just a phase with your dog, but just like human teenagers, how you react to your dog’s adolescence can have a bearing on who they are as an adult.  Enforce your rules with a kind, benevolent (but firm) leadership, and you will have a wonderful adult dog.  But most of all, enjoy the ride, because in the scheme of things, our dogs, though so precious to us, are with us for all too short a time.  Don’t waste any of that precious time wishing to skip to the next age, because every adolescent dog will eventually become a wizened, old dog with a muzzle full of gray sooner than you wish.

Keep calm and pilot on


Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

5 Ways to Keep Your Dog Cool This Summer



And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer. – F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Since Spring has been so amazing enough to give us some hot weather it’s time to make sure our four legged friends don’t overheat. Since there’s been no time for any of us to adjust to the hotter temperatures it’s just as important to make sure our pups are staying hydrated and cool. Here are 5 things to help your pup stay cool this summer:

Don't worry, he didn't have to wait long.

Don’t worry, he didn’t have to wait long.

1. Ice cubes

This is a great treat for your dog that helps them stay cool and get some more water in them. Every once in a while throughout the day, I’ll make Porter do a trick (hey, nothing’s for free here) and I’ll give him an ice cube as his treat. No calories and keeps him cool.


2. Bandanas

Bandanas can be a great help for you and your pup during the summer! You can soak them in water and tie them around your dog’s neck. It will help keep them cool. If you can time it right, you can even stick it in the freezer for a little. Not so it gets hard, but just a little frosty to help keep your dog even cooler.

dog bowl

3. Water, Water, Water

Make sure water is always accessible for your pup. If you are planning on a hike or on traveling, you can find super reasonable collapsible dog bowls just about anywhere. Make sure you’re keeping your pup hydrated enough.


4. Ice treat

You can buy large ice molds that will be even more enticing for your dog. You can even freeze veggies and treats inside so they get a surprise. This is a great way to keep them occupied as well.


5. Sprinkler

Not every dog will like this, however many dogs I have met love running through a sprinkler. It sounds silly and like you’ll get some great Facebook posts out of it, so run with it! They’ll have so much fun running in and out of it. They’ll be getting some much needed exercise as well as staying cool. Not much more you can ask for!

Remember, spring and summer are all about having fun and new adventures! But make sure everyone is staying safe, hydrated and cool enough throughout it!

Keep calm and pilot on

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

An Open Letter to Lakewood City Council

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

Nelson Mandela

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

To the Members of Lakewood City Council:

Ah… the Lakewood BSL. I realize this has been discussed at length already during city council meetings.  But rather than quoting statistics and information that you’ve already heard, which, while still very important, can only be heard so many times, I’d much rather offer solutions.

As our council members, your job is difficult.  You must weigh public opinion against the legality of certain issues, add a measure of your own different viewpoints, and combine it with a dash of funding issues.  I realize that can be a very difficult job – tedious at best. When you passed legislation in 2008 to enact a BSL, I realize that this was not done on a malicious basis, but rather, prior to when all  pertinent statistics and information were made available about pit bulls.  I do believe it was passed to try to protect our citizens, our law enforcement officers, and our domestic pets.

Unfortunately, the BSL solution was for the wrong problem.  As you’ve heard previously, pities are not the problem.  You all have heard where they rank in bites, and it’s pretty low. In my entire career of working with dogs, I’ve never been attacked by one.  I wish I could say the same for every breed.  Rather, the problem is in the ill-considered actions of owners.  Whether it be through negligence or ignorance, I put forth that we address the situation at the source: education.

Prohibition didn’t work, and therefore ended with the 21st Amendment.  However, it didn’t end without a plan: education about responsible use of alcohol.  In 1935, AA was founded.  Legal drinking age was established to make sure alcohol was used in a responsible manner.  Education became the weapon of choice, and it’s been working ever since.

I am asking that the same tact be taken with regard to the BSL.  Let’s educate our citizens of Lakewood, starting with issues revolving around issues such as retractable leashes.  Let’s educate about the body language that a dog can give before they are forced to attack.  Provide information on how to prevent dog aggression, (or what is actually happening - defensive reactions, - which can be addressed). Help our community fix the entire dog-bite issue, and not just ban one specific breed, leaving a gap of ignorance around the actual problem.

I work with and educate humans on how to be little more dog-responsible every day, and I see the results of education.  Therefore, I propose regular, free general-safety seminars to be offered to the citizens of Lakewood. I would be happy to present these seminars in conjunction with other professionals, if so chosen, as well as spearheading a general resource of safety etiquette and knowledge as it pertains to dogs.

Our Lakewood Police Department undergoes a rigorous amount of training with canine situations, and in speaking with Lt. Warner recently, I discovered what an amazing track record our police have with dogs, and using force as a last resort.  I firmly believe that stellar record comes from good cops being given good information.  Now I ask that our citizens be given the same opportunity for learning.

Lakewood has a wonderful library.  We have the Beck Center!  I first handedly know about our schools, including our special education department, which has made my children thrive!  Rather than deviating from Lakewood’s path of education, tolerance and non-discrimination by retaining the BSL, let’s be a shining example to other cities, not only by removing BSL, but offering a plan in its place to keep our citizens and their dogs safe.

Thank you for your consideration of this matter.

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


I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.

Mahatma Gandhi


Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

Sun Tzu, the master of strategy and war, was born in ancient China, roughly 544 BC. He has been the messiah of many a general and businessman, as his tactics and philosophies are still in use today.  He was described as a very genial and merciful man…off the field.  On the battlefield, however, he had only one objective: win.

Sun Tzu.  The most badass general ever to wear a skirt.

Sun Tzu. The most badass general ever to wear a skirt while contemplating the world’s largest blunt.

There is a story about him that goes something like this:

Sun Tzu was tested by the  King Helü of Wu, and ordered him to train a harem of 200 concubines, turning them into soldiers. Sun Tzu put them in two groups, naming the king’s favorites as the company commanders. Sun Tzu then commanded the concubines to face right – but they just giggled.  In response, Sun Tzu said that a general, (himself) was responsible for ensuring that soldiers understood the commands given to them. Then, he reiterated the command, and again the concubines giggled. Sun Tzu then ordered the execution of the king’s two favored concubines, to the king’s protests. He explained that if the general’s soldiers understood their commands but did not obey, it was the fault of the officers. Sun Tzu also said that, once a general was appointed, it was his duty to carry out his mission, even if the king protested. After both concubines were killed, new officers were chosen to replace them. Afterwards, both companies, now well aware of the costs of further frivolity, performed their maneuvers flawlessly.(1)

Apparently the ends justified the means.  Or maybe not.

There is no argument that shock collars work.  Of course it works.  You are causing an animal intense pain to keep them from a behavior.  Whether or not it works has never been the question.  Whether or not we should use such extreme measures has been the real question.

Just an average day with your typical Shock Jock.

Just an average day with your typical Shock Jock style trainer.

I found this video below on Your Good Dog’s Facebook page.

Owner Shannon Duffy’s comment perfectly sums up exactly how I feel about it as well.

Although I do not agree with the method I do understand why some of my friends use shock collars to help dogs exist in situations where failure would most likely cost their lives.

What is 100% unacceptable is using these collars for basic obedience training. Please watch this video. Every time this PUPPY (they start at 4 months) shakes his head he is being delivered a shock. Watch when he lies down and rubs his face trying to either ease the pain from the shocks of remove the collar. This is unacceptable for training a dog to do what amounts to circus tricks.

To my friends (there are quite a few) that are now using this method to train I beg of you to see that this is inhumane. If you do not feel that it is then put a collar around your neck and you take the same level shock every time that you shock the dog. And not just the one time “I held it in my hand and it’s not so bad” shock but every time, same level. I guarantee you learn better training methods.

What do you think?

I had a very difficult time getting through the video, and I hope you did, too.  Here at Darwin Dogs, we firmly believe in balance.  Not every question your dog asks can be answered with a treat.  However, I feel that only a very, very small number of questions can be answered with pain, but I still can’t think of a legitimate one.   If pain is your first response, to a puppy’s questions, then perhaps you need to rethink your tactics.  If you’re looking for devotion through pain, well…wrong movie.

Fifty Shades of Jabba-style

Fifty Shades of Jabba

So I urge you, if someone suggests using an instrument of pain, such as a shock collar or a prong collar on your dog, tell them you already know how that ends.  Shockingly.


Keep calm and pilot on


Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio


  1.  Bradford 2000, pp. 134–135.

Turning Down the Noise


Quiet is peace. Tranquility. Quiet is turning down the volume knob on life. Silence is pushing the off button. Shutting it down. All of it – Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

These past few months I’ve been faced with the problem of a running mind. Thoughts everywhere. Some about the past, questions about what I could have done better, worrying about the future and figuring out where I want to be in my life. I’ve been feeling a little uneasy and have found myself questioning and question and questioning. As you know, this can wreak havoc on your mind.

So, last week I made an intention for the day. I told myself, “today you will have an adventure with Porter”. Now, I didn’t put any stipulations on this adventure. We didn’t have to try something brand new, we didn’t have to travel multiple hours to get there and we didn’t have to complete some amazing feat. The adventure could be anything. We just needed to do it together.

We set out for the Metroparks, because let’s be honest, you can always have an adventure there! We started off on our walk and I noticed how the ground covering was coming in. Bright green with yellow flowers everywhere. It was absolutely stunning. And then I saw a little path.

Our view during our walk through the Metroparks

Our view during our walk through the Metroparks

Normally if it’s just Porter and I, I will only stay on paths where other people are. Just a habit I picked up to stay on the side of caution. But that day I looked at Porter and remembered my intention. Adventure. We needed to go on an adventure together. So, we took the path.

The path put us in between beautiful ground covering, trees and the river. As we walked, it was silent except for the birds calling out to each other. I looked at Porter and he was smiling. And I noticed both of our energies immediately come down.

Lots of times we can learn things from our dogs. But sometimes, we need to learn things together. We both walked through the woods silently. You could barely hear either of us moving along the earth and stepping over logs. We were quiet. Silent. Just like I needed my mind to be.

Porter doing some agility in nature!

Porter doing some agility in nature!

We walked and we climbed and we sat by the river. And we were both soundless. Yet, I feel like I’ve never bonded more with Porter on a walk before.

Playtime is great. Playing fetch, throwing the Frisbee, running around the yard. That’s all amazing. But sometimes, it’s necessary to take some time for some quiet adventures with your dog.


There doesn’t need to be mountains of stimulation and noise for your dog to have fun. Your dog will have fun as long as you’re on those adventures together. Sometimes, to calm both of you down it’s necessary to go somewhere quiet where you can get your Activity in.

So put out an intention for the day for you and your dog. And know that your dog is always reacting to your energy. Try a quiet path early in the morning and start your day off calm with your pup. It will help both of you mentally and physically.

Keep calm and pilot on

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

Hack Job

Many of the qualities that come so effortlessly to dogs – loyalty, devotion, selflessness, unflagging optimism, unqualified love – can be elusive to humans.

John Grogan

Who is better looking?

Who is better looking?

I don’t like my daughter’s ears.  They stick out at a weird angle.  Plus, she doesn’t look like other girls her age, and I want to maintain the standard.  So she’s going in for surgery.  They’re just going to cut a little bit off the top and around the sides. She’s young, so she doesn’t need any anesthetic.  She’ll recover quickly and then be happy that she looks like every other little girl now.

I seriously hope that most of you are considering reporting me to Child Services for those comments.  Now, I want you to take the words “daughter” and “girl” and substitute it with “dog” and “puppy”. Where’s the difference?

I have long maintained that tail docking and ear docking were among the more cruel and inhumane practices we subject our animals to, and that’s saying something.  The background for cropping and docking is solid, though.  Dogs were used for fighting, war, and protection:  we didn’t want to give their adversary anything to hold on to or get a grip on.  Fair enough.  Dogs were used for herding or hunting in scrubby, brushy areas: tails were docked to prevent the tails from getting caught in briers and brambles and sometimes literally getting ripped off.  Um, again, fair enough.  A couple hundred years ago, people thought that removing a dog’s tail would prevent rabies.  Wrong, but okay, at least you’re trying.

So, tell me, why is your dog’s tail missing?  Hopefully because your dog was born that way.  Sometimes trauma, like my own Darwin, who got his tail caught in a door when he was about 10 (one of the most horrific injuries I’ve ever seen, and requiring a massive amount of Piloting from me during the emergency vet trip (see here for how to act during such a trip).  There’s always my “favorite” reason: happy tail syndrome.  Dogs with long, bony tails who, through their exuberance for life, keep breaking their tails over and over again against walls and corners.  Yes, please dock those tails – those dogs are causing themselves injuries.

Other than that, though, I’m very hard pressed to come up with a good reason to dock a dog’s tail.  Even more hard pressed to find a good reason to crop ears.  England has banned the practice for more than 20 years.  Maybe for good reason.  People who have their dogs cropped typically point out that it’s AKC standard.  Funny, that’s the same excuse my children try to use for their bad behavior:  someone else gets to do it.  You’re really going to site the AKC as a bastion of putting pet health over “showiness”?  That’s like asking the folks at Project Runway to sponsor a project on helping girls cope with their body image.

When did THIS become fashion?

When did THIS become fashion?

Let me put it plain and simple:  docking isn’t for the health of the dog.  Docking isn’t to make the dog feel more comfortable.  Docking is putting your dog through painful surgery to remove their flesh and bone merely so you can have, what is in your mind, a better looking dog.  End of story.  Pure bred or not.  The excuse of “it’s breed standard” is thin at best.  If you wouldn’t subject your child to a similar surgery, why would you do it to your pet?

I see plenty of AKC dogs in my profession.  Most of them have been chopped up.  Whenever I see a Dane with scars on their ears, or a Boxer who is missing pieces, my hear immediately goes out to them.  I’m sorry we’ve done this to you.  We make a promise to these pets to love and care for them for the rest of their lives, and the first thing we do is go make them look better?  We love dogs for their ability to see through what we may look like, what disabilities we may have, and love us for what we are.  Isn’t it about time we give them the same level of dedication?

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, OHio