Touch of Grey

Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.
– Mark Twain

Boots and Bee Photography - By Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – By Brittany Graham

I just got home from my third puppy session this week.  I’m exhausted.  Puppies are the worst.  Don’t get me wrong… I love puppies!  They’re adorable, entertaining and so stinkin’ cute!  I guess I just like other people’s puppies. Personally, I wil most likely never own a puppy again, because under that exterior lies an un-housebroken, hyper, destructive little beastie.

It's all fun and games until someone chews a shoe.

It’s all fun and games until someone chews a shoe.

Puppy sessions are easy in the sense that I know I won’t have to deal with aggressive behavior (usually).  I know I can hang out on the floor with the little demon angel and play while I work with the owners.  I also like knowing that people are getting of on the right start with a puppy by having it trained and knowing how to avoid problems in the future with a little effort starting now.  But let’s face it:  puppies are just…exhausting.

The PAW Method is rooted in the belief that dogs can ask questions:  “Can I eat this?”  ”Can we play now?”  ”Can we cuddle?” and that it’s up to you to answer their questions in a way they understand and doesn’t require force nor bribery.  You Pilot them to answer their questions, which puts “money” in your Piloting Piggy Bank.  The more “money” you have, the easier it is to Pilot your dog.  Which brings us to puppies.

Puppies don’t have a lot of money in their own piggy banks, so it’s not tremendously difficult to get that money out.  It’s just constant.  Like furry little toddlers, they scamper around asking questions about everything (integral to their learning, but highly annoying). And just like toddlers, they’ll ask a question, accept the answer only to immediately ask The Same Question.

How about now?

How about now?

So yeah, puppies have very little “money” in their Piloting Piggy Bank, but even when you Pilot it out of them, they can refill it faster than you can say, “But how about now?”.

Of course, in the words of Shakespeare, “This too, shall pass.”  Puppies grow out of their little toddler stage, they being to gain some sanity, and you don’t have to watch them like a weeping angel.

tennant

Or you’ll poop in the hallway AGAIN.

So puppies are adorable, but they are so much work!

“But I wanted to get my kids a puppy for the holidays/their birthday”, you may say.  That’s all fine and dandy but are you ready for the work that a puppy entails?  The work that your children say they will help you with but in reality won’t?  Didn’t think so.  So consider this: adopt a senior dog.

Now I know you want that whole Hallmark moment of a puppy in a box with a bow, and the accompanying chorus of “awwww…”.  But there are many reasons why the better choice may be a senior dog.

.

1) Senior Dogs Aren’t Usually “Old”.

I know…it doesn’t make sense.  But remember, a lot of dogs are considered seniors at just 5 years old.  For a smaller dog whose life expectancy can be around 15 years…., well, let’s just say that would make me more of a senior citizen than that dog!

2) Senior Dogs are Usually Housebroken.

Obviously this is not always the case, and even housebroken adults can have a few accidents in a new house during their adjustment period.  But that’s a far cry from a puppy who goes every two hours, yet somehow still leaves you looking for paper towels and cleaner.

3) Senior Dogs Have “Been There” and “Done That”.

Yes, it’s totes adorbs to take your new puppy on their first adventure to the park.  To the pet store.  To the vet…but after the 1,224th “new adventure”, the constant questions and wrangling of a quick-as-lightening puppy can get tedious as they find new and innovative ways to get into trouble.  Your senior dog?  He’s already been to the park numerous times, and is more interested in your company during the hike, rather than investigating that hornets’ nest nestled near that tree.

senior 1

4) Senior Dogs Can Focus.

Remember how organized and rational your thoughts were as a child?  Remember how you could focus on anyth-….hey wanna ride bikes?!  Yeah, me neither.  Older dogs aren’t wrestling with their need to explore Everything All At Once.   Meaning it’s often easier to teach an old dog new tricks, rather than working with your kinetic little puppy who…wait….where did the puppy wander off to now?!

5) Senior Dogs Have Little Hope of Finding Homes

shelters

Let’s face it: everyone wants “this year’s model”.  Grey isn’t cherished and revered anymore.  Puppies fly out of shelters, while the senior dogs look on, not knowing that they most likely won’t ever see the inside of a home again.  Simply giving a senior dog the chance to love, and be loved, when everyone else overlooked them…well, isn’t that the greatest gift of all?

So re-think what it means to bring a new best friend into your home and into your children’s lives.  While I will always love my puppy sessions, it’s truly the sessions with the “new” old dog that I cherish.  Because the love I see in the eyes of a senior dog, that kind of love only grows greater with age.

marcella

Marcella, is a super sweet, friendly senior available through Cuyahoga County Animal Shelter. She’s 8 years 3 months 9 days old. Just right!

 

5 years 2 months 19 days

Canberra looks like he’d make the perfect hiking companion at 5 years 2 months 19 days.  What a face!  He is available through Cuyahoga County Animal Shelter.

Gucci is 7 years 2 months into looking for a forever home.  Sweet companion, he's available through Cleveland APL

Gucci is 7 years 2 months into looking for a forever home. Sweet companion, he’s available through Cleveland APL

Delilah is a 15 year old former beauty queen who wonders why she all alone.  She is available through Cleveland APL.

Delilah is a 15 year old former beauty queen who wonders why she all alone. She is available through Cleveland APL.

 

Sanctuary for Senior Dogs is truly a beacon of hope for dogs who have been "thrown away" by owners because they are "outdated"  Please consider a donation to their worthy endeavor.

Sanctuary for Senior Dogs is truly a beacon of hope for dogs who have been “thrown away” by owners because they are “outdated” Please consider a donation to their worthy endeavor.

As Garcia sang:
Oh well a Touch Of Grey
Kind of suits you anyway
That was all I had to say 
It’s all right…

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

The Complete, Unabridged Set of Dog Rules

The young man knows the rules, but the old man knows the exceptions.
- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Boots and Bee Photography - by Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham

“Is it okay that my dog is on the couch?”

“Can we play tug with a rope toy? Or is that wrong?”

“We’re using puppy pads.  Is that bad?”

Questions like these from my clients make me crazy.  No, not because they are asking me questions, but because somehow they got it in their head that there are hard and fast rules to “dogging”.  They get a dog, and the first thing they want to know is what the rules are.  All. The. Rules.

winterBecause obviously, if something isn’t complicated and supremely structured, it doesn’t work.  The more rules, the better you’re doing, right?  After all, t’s been working for the DMV.

We must be cautious.

We must be cautious.

So obviously, rules suck.  Unless you’re a dog owner, and then you want the rules.  All the rules.  Well, you want ‘em?  You got ‘em.

Before I tell you the rules, let’s review the steps to working with a dog, in any capacity.  Whether stopping the barking, teaching them to sit, or maybe something a little more intricate.

Everything starts with these steps:

1) Control Yourself. 

Controlling yourself means you are calm (even if only on the outside).  You are using confident body language (stand up straight!).  You are not yelling, or even talking.  In other words, you are NOT Corky Romano.

Don’t be a Corky.

2) Control the Situation.

Meaning if you can’t stuff 10 pounds of dirt in a 5 pound bag, why are you trying to stuff 15?  Stop, take a look at the current situation.  For example, if someone is at the door, but your dog is there barking, jumping, and, well, being Corky Romano, do you have control of the situation?  No!  Then don’t add any stimulation (such as opening the door) until you have control. Answer your dog’s question about the door, and then move forward when you have control. Reboot if necessary.  Wash, rinse, repeat.

Okay, now that you know the playing field (controlling yourself and controlling the situation), now for the rules.

I use a mix of negative and positive.  The same way you do throughout your life.  I asked my husband it was raining outside  He said “no”.  That’s a negative  My daughter asked if she could go to a friends house. I said “yes”.  That’s a positive.  Think of it as a game of “hot or cold”. We call this Piloting your dog.

Rules of When to Use Negatives

1) When you don’t like what your dog is doing.  Yes, seriously…it’s that easy.  Ask yourself if you like the behavior your dog is giving (barking, jumping, or just laying against the fridge that you are trying to open), and if you don’t like it, give them a negative.  Remember your dog isn’t bad.  Dogs are incapable of being bad.  They are perfect… for a dog.  They just happen to suck at being human.

And guess what?  You probably don’t make a very good dog.

So let’s jettison the whole “Good/Bad” thing…and the gun.  You’re answering questions for your dog, not deciding if the questions make your dog “good” or “bad”.

2) When your dog is “yo-bitching” you.  Now there’s an interesting term:  ”yo-bitching“.  What does that mean?  It’s when a dog slaps you with their paw.  Or jumps on you.  Or pushes you out of the way.  It’s the human equivalent of saying, “Yo, Bitch, gimme a cookie.” Or “Yo, Bitch, that’s my chair”.  Vulgar?  Absolutely.  Acceptable?  Never.  You wouldn’t accept a human addressing you like that, so don’t accept that from a dog.  Dog’s are perfectly capable of using polite, “May-I-Please” body language.  Start to demand and expect it at all times.

On to the positives!

1) The come command/recall.  Positive, people.  Give your dog a good reason to come when you call.

2) When you are asking your dog to be human.  Think about what one dog will tell another dog.  Things like, “Go away”, or “Let’s play” or even “That’s mine”.  But dogs don’t teach each other English (“Sit”, for example). They don’t housebreak each other.  So if one dog can’t teach it to another dog, and you’re asking your dog to be a little bit human, you must use positives.

3) Calm.  This is the most important, most overlook opportunity for positives.  I want calm to be a like a lottery ticket:  You have to play to win (you’re probably not going to win), but unless you have a ticket, you definitely aren’t going to win.  That ticket is calm.  The more your dog has the “calm ticket” the more likely he is to win.  So if he’s calm, give him a gentle positive.  Anything from chilling out on the floor, to trying his best to be calm at the vet.  Reward the effort.  Progress, not perfection.

So there you have it.  That’s all the rules.  When to give positive and when to give negative.  Everything you ever needed to know about how to work with your dog.

But I didn’t address your questions from earlier?

“Is it okay that my dog is on the couch?”

“Can we play tug with a rope toy? Or is that wrong?”

“We’re using puppy pads.  Is that bad?”

Yes, I did!  About the couch, think about the negatives.  Do you like what your dog is doing on the couch?  No?  Then give him a negative.  Don’t care that he’s on the couch?  Well, then, neither do I, as long as he isn’t “yo bitching” you.

Playing tug with a rope toy?  Cool!  I love a good, rough game of tug.  My husband doesn’t.  I encourage it.  My husband negates it.  Remember, ask yourself if you like the behavior, and if the answer is “yes”, go for it.  If the answer is “no”, then negate it.  Just make sure that you have your limits adhered to.  My Sparta is allowed to really go at it with me when we wrestle…until she isn’t  When I feel things have escalated too much, I simply give her a negative, and she stops.

Puppy pads?  If it works for you, it works for me.

In short, nobody should be telling you how to enjoy your dog.  My dogs are allowed to beg from the table, as I frequently give them a small amount of table scraps.  But once I’m done with them, they are given a negative, and they know to stop begging and stay away from me while I eat.

My dogs, like yours, are only here for my enjoyment.  They make life easier, and so much sunnier!  Don’t let a book full of rules tell you how you should be enjoying their company.  Make sure you are indeed enjoying your dog, and not merely tolerating their behavior.  If you don’t like their behavior (say, getting up on the couch), it’s up to you to answer your dog’s question (“Can I sleep up here?”), and set your own rules of how to enjoy your dog.  The rules will differ from house to house, but the enjoyment will be constant.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m about to snuggle in bed with my dogs while I share my snack of cheese and crackers with them. I’m tired from all that rope-tug I played with Sparta.

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

 

Dogma

Fanaticism comes from any form of chosen blindness accompanying the pursuit of a single dogma.  - John Berger

mollyI was with a friend and her friend the other day, and we (of course) started talking about dogs.  My friend’s friend, who we will call Donna, was talking about a dog she has.  Or rather, about the judgment she receives from many different sources about her even owning a dog.  I don’t know Donna well, and have only met her twice, so I instinctively braced myself for the barrage of atrocities she must be visiting upon said dog.  With anger already rising, I asked her why she shouldn’t own a dog.

“Because I work”, was her reply.

I thought I didn’t hear her correctly.  I verified this answer.  Yes, she was being judged for not being a stay-at-home dog mom.

Now, let’s get a little bit more in-depth.  Certainly that couldn’t be the end of it.  Perhaps she was in a position, say such as a nurse or fireman, who wasn’t home for extended hours during the day, and hadn’t made proper arrangements for the dog’s care during those hours.

Nope.  Bankers hours. She owns an older, very low energy dog, who she happens to leave home alone while she works during the day.

I see this type of judgment much more than I care to.  Someone isn’t able to give all the luxuries to their pet that others can.  Such as having a someone home most of the day.  Being able to afford a more expensive, premium brand of food.  Using a low-cost clinic rather than the up-town vet.  Perhaps we need to go over a few things here.  Some uncomfortable truths.

1. Your world can’t revolve around your dog.

Sure, it would be lovely if you were able to stay home and cater to your dog’s every whim.  I know I would have a blast with 4 walks a day, 2 sessions of agility and 1 marathon grooming session every day.

or Shepherd, or Akita...

or Shepherd, or Akita…

But the reality is I work.  Bigger reality is that part of the money I earn by working goes for the care of my dog.  In other words, if I am unable to work, my dog is unable to eat, go to the vet, etc.  I’m the first to admit that due to the hours I work, and my ability to make my own schedule, I have enormous flexibility with my pets’ care.  Other don’t. They are doing the best they can with what they have.  So when one of my clients nervously admits that their dog is crated for 8-9 hours a day while they work, I say “Good for you!”.  Not because of the length of time their dog is crated, but because that dog isn’t in a shelter, kennel, or worse.  They are patiently waiting to be spoiled rotten when their owner comes home after a long day of work, ready to give hugs and kisses to them to ease the stress of their human’s day.  Dogs still love their owner, and aren’t angry. Instead, they are grateful for what they have: a home, a human, food, shelter, and above all, love.

2. A good home isn’t about income, fenced in yard, or how clean your house is.

I am the proud parent of two human children, two cats, and two dogs.  My human children I was allowed to have and raise without any input from anyone.  As long as I didn’t neglect nor abuse them, people just roll their eyes when you do/don’t allow too much/too little screen time.  When you do/don’t feed organic food.  When you do/don’t have viola lessons 2x week per kid.

The reality is that we are much more judgment about who is allowed to have a pet.  Which is ridiculous.

According to the SPCA, “Each year, approximately 2.7 million animals are euthanized (1.2 million dogs and 1.4 million cats).”

Let me repeat that number for you:  2.7 million animals are euthanized 

And you’re worried that I don’t have a fenced-in yard?  That the dog will be home alone for too long during the day?  What that translates to is a dog is better off dead than in a home where he will be crated 8 hours a day.  Maybe not Rex that’s currently up for adoption, but Rex is taking up a spot that Cooper needs.  See, Cooper is scheduled to be euthanized tomorrow due to overcrowding at a local shelter.  You can neither create nor destroy matter, which means we can not just will another open kennel in a shelter.  There’s only so much room on the Ark, and not everyone is going to make it.  Cooper won’t make it because Rex still hasn’t found the perfect home.

Some disillusionment needs to happen.  There is no such thing as a perfect home.  Even if there were, we don’t have time to find the perfect home.  There are too many animals dying.  We can’t wait to adopt animals out to the perfect home; we are doing triage.  And the longer Rex sits waiting for that mythical “perfect home” the more dogs will die as a result.

In order for a home to be perfect, there has to be love, and an ability to care for an animal, which means food, shelter, water and exercise.  So Agatha, the potential adopter is 83 years old ad wants to adopt a 1-year old mixed breed named Finn.  Yes. Most likely Agatha will be dead before Finn is even 8 years old, but guess what?  Finn will be dead by this time next week if she doesn’t adopt him.  Even in the worst case scenario, where after Agatha has gone and nobody steps up to take Finn, who is subsequently euthanized, Finn will have had a great life.  Shorter than it should have been, but so much longer and fulfilling than one week at a shelter before being euthanized.  Agatha has also opened up a cage for another dog by adopting Finn.

And Finn helped Agatha live longer, more independently.  It’s a virtuous cycle.  Funny how love works.

- Brittany Graham Photography

– Brittany Graham Photography

3. That’s the wrong breed of dog for you.

Nobody has ever told me that my children are the wrong breed for me.  That my daughter has too much Viking-Finnish blood from her father for me to handle.  Or that since my son’s background is completely unknown (as he’s adopted), I shouldn’t take a risk on him.

Why do we do that with dogs?

I thought we had come to a point in our society where we stopped looking at what a person is, but rather who that person is.  We’re not perfect, but we’re getting there, I guess.  Slower than I like, but we’re picking up speed.  It’s a beautiful thing to watch, too.  From this:

ruby

Ruby Bridges, entering William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans on November 14, 1960 with armed guards.

To this:

I don't care if you do/don't like him personally.  Our first black president was born 1 year after six-year old Ruby bravely stood up to end segregation.

I really don’t care if you want him impeached or if you want him for a third term; our first black president was born 1 year after little Ruby bravely stood up to end segregation.

We are growing as a society to look past ethnicity…to even embrace our differences in culture, religion and gender.  But somehow that ends when it comes to adopting out a dog.

We look at what a dog is (boxer, pittie/chihuahua) rather than who a dog is (friendly/shy/in-between).  When we judge a dog by its breed, rather than its character, we all lose.  Dogs languish in cages because Akitas are hard to handle (maybe… if you’re talking about handling all that fur…).  Pitties are aggressive (about as aggressive as a human…meaning they are each unique but vastly non-hostile).  Mastiffs drool (okay, got me there *shudder*).

If I can handle my little Viking child, let’s at least give the family of four a chance to pick out their own dog regardless of breed, and respect that they probably know more about their situation in life and ability to care for a dog than you do. By all means, give any facts or information you have on the individual dog to the family, or perhaps known health issues (prevalence of hip dysplasia, etc) but let them process the information and make a decision.

Boots and Bee Photography

Boots and Bee Photography

So back to my acquaintance, Donna, and the horrible, wretched life she is imposing by leaving her dog home alone for 8-9 hours per day, as well as all of you who actually work for a living:  You’re doing just fine.  You’re doing the best you can with what you’ve got, and you should never apologize for it, nor should you be made to feel like a villain.  Donna, you are an incredible mother to your dog.  The best dog mom or “dog-ma” there is, just like all of us who are working with what we’ve been given.  And nailing it.

Keep calm and pilot on

 

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

I’ll Just Call Him a Companion Animal

Here at Darwin Dogs, we love guest blog posts!  We firmly believe in sharing information, and that education is meant to be shared and utilized by us all.  Regan Brown’s thoughts on  companion animals is one such example.  

You can’t fake quality any more than you can fake a good meal.

- William S. Burroughs

Boots and Bee Photography - by Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham

Mental health care is slowly gaining ground in Western society. People are more able to openly receive the treatment they need without fear of judgment from others. Of course, we haven’t hit the point of acceptance we as a society should. People who struggle with their mental health are too often accused of faking their symptoms or lying to get what they want. One of the hottest topics for the ongoing debate about mental health care is companion animals.

A companion animal is defined as a pet that provides some form of health benefit for their owner. As these animals are considered a “prescription” of sorts, they are granted legal rights other pets may not have. For example, a companion animal has the right to live with the owner, regardless of the residence’s policies.

If you have a pet and have attempted to move to a rental home, you may have considered exploiting this companion animal policy. If you think this is an acceptable action, continue reading.

People who legitimately use a companion animal have a health concern. Most often, that concern is related to mental health though animals can certainly benefit physical health as well. These animals provide stress reduction in people with anxiety, depression, and other common mental health problems. Dog in particular are known to reduce depression, encourage physical fitness, and provide comfort when their owner is having an episode. In short, these pets are needed for the overall wellbeing of their owners.

 

Boots and Bee Photography - By Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – By Brittany Graham

Now let’s say you own a dog that, of course, you enjoy and would like to live with. You call up your doctor and easily acquire a tentative diagnosis for depression or anxiety which is all you need to provide your pet companion animal status. You laugh about how easy it was to work the system and spread the word to your friends.

A few of your friends in similar situations also decide to get their pets companion animal status. Then they tell their friends, pleased with this new trick. Suddenly hundreds of pets are now considered “companion animal” when in actuality their owners have no health issues whatsoever and have merely decided to utilize a law to their benefit.

A woman who suffers from severe anxiety and chronic panic attacks shows up to an apartment manager’s office, clutching a companion animal letter. Her dog stays close to her side, occasionally offering up a comforting nudge or lick. Simply entering the office and greeting a stranger already has her chest tight and palms sweaty but the presence of the dog beside her keeps her steady. The manager scoffs and accuses the woman trying to get her dog into a pet-free apartment with no good reason. The manager knows this because he’s dealt with “people like her” before.

You recline in your new apartment just a few doors down from the manager’s office. Your lease was signed a few months ago with a companion animal letter attached. You wear a smug grin for having finagled your way into this beautiful, pet-free apartment alongside your “companion animal”. He lies out on the floor, fast asleep, offering you no comfort, no depression relief, and is unlikely to spring to your side if you were to have a panic attack.

Meanwhile, outside your building, the woman and her dog have just stepped over the threshold. She drops down into a hunched ball, trying to slow her rapid breathing. Her dog puts his paws on her back, the pressure working to control the panic attack induced by the manager’s harsh, unsympathetic response to her condition. She will go on to repeat this process again and again with several other apartment managers, because all of them have seen too many people like you.

When people take advantage of progressive laws that allow a person to tend to their mental health, suddenly those with genuine illnesses cannot be taken seriously. If you spoke to five people who claimed to have anxiety and one who actually had it, how likely are you to believe that one person? Not very.

Before you abuse a policy for personal gain, take a moment to consider how your actions affect those the policy was put in place for. Don’t call your dog a companion animal just to put an apartment manager in a legal bind. Take some extra time and find a pet-friendly alternative because you have the luxury of living life without mental illness.

Boots and Bee Photography - by Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham

Regan Brown is a content writer and pet parent with a vested interest in social issues. She spends most of her time crocheting and keeping Thistle, her Chihuahua’s, Instagram up to date but plans to pursue a Master’s in Heritage Tourism. With her Bachelor’s in Anthropology complete, she and her dog are currently in the process of becoming world travelers.

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

 

 

I Can’t Keep Him Anymore

You and I will meet again, When we’re least expecting it, One day in some far off place, I will recognize your face, I won’t say goodbye my friend, For you and I will meet again.

Tom Petty
2-12-14(2)

An open letter to my dog’s new caretaker.  Not every relationship is forever.

I’d like to introduce you to my dog Darwin.  He’s a great dog.  I just can’t keep him here.  I know you’ll do a better job of caring for him, and I know he’ll be happy with you. I really don’t want to say goodbye to him, but I guess I must.  As I said, I can’t keep him here.

Before you take him, there are a few things I’d like you to know about my best friend.  I’ll never meet you before you take him, so I thought I’d write them out for you.  Please pay attention, these are important:

1) Never, ever, EVER leave him unleashed near any amount of water.  That goes for anything from the size of Lake Erie to that rut in the middle of your lawn that sometimes fills with water when it rains.  He will wallow in it like a pig.

2-12-14

Actually, scratch what I just wrote.  Some of my favorites memories of Darwin are of him wallowing in the mud, with a silly smile on his face, tail wagging.  Enjoy those times, too.  If you can’t find the humor in those moments, you don’t deserve my dog.

2) Darwin’s not as fast as he used to be.  He doesn’t get up to greet me anymore when I come home from work.  He still wags his tail when he sees me, but he has an embarrassed look on his face.  One that says, “I love you, Lady, but I’m afraid I might need some help getting up to greet you properly”.  Don’t make him get up…if he’s comfortable, and you make him get up to greet you, you don’t deserve him.  I’d ask for him back, but as I said, I can’t keep him here.

3)  Darwin has a sneaky sense of smell (it’s one of the few senses that haven’t failed him).  He can’t hear me unless I’m close to him, but damn!  That dog can smell a pill in an entire jar of peanut butter.  Mercifully, you won’t have the same problems with needing to give him pills.  But I’m sure he’d still love the peanut butter.

4) Affection.  Darwin is part Lab, part Care Bear.  Make sure you let him know you love him.  His favorite spot is behind his left ear, but recently he loves having his sides scratched.  He’s too old to get at them himself – his legs are so arthritic now, he can only give those areas a perfunctory swipe before he gives up.  Help the old guy out won’t you?

Darwin and Pirate

5) Let him know I love him.  Tell him every day that I didn’t want to give him up.  That I fought tooth and nail for him.  That I fought long after I should have stopped.  Because he’s ready to go with you now.  I can see that.  Like I said, I can’t keep him here.  It isn’t right for me to keep him here.  I know he’ll be fine with you, but it’s so scary for me to watch him cross that bridge, knowing it only goes in one direction.  Just let him know that I’ll be there for him, and that he’s still my boy.

Take care of him.  Tell him I love him.  But most importantly, tell him I’ll be coming for him when I can’t stay here anymore either.  You may have to care for him until I join him, but he’s always going to be my dog.

Darwin's last pic.

I lost my best friend, Darwin, in 2007, after ten years with him.  He was a rescue, roughly 1.5 years old when I adopted him, and I cherished every moment with him, even when marriage, babies and work made those moments not quite as frequent as they used to be.  It’s been almost ten years since I lost him, and I still am amazed at how training a client’s Lab, who happens to look a bit like Darwin, will make me teary-eyed, or how hearing the song “Atomic Dog”, which all my friends dubbed “his” song, will make me long for a hike with D-Dog.  But above all, I’m grateful to have had him in my life.  

darwin

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

3 Options for the Traveling Pet Parent

From time to time, Darwin Dogs loves the chance to post articles written by third parties.  One chance came a few weeks ago when Paige Johnson contacted us, asking about submitting an article for us.  As we have a big travel weekend coming up for Labor Day, here are some thoughts for those of us who prefer to travel with a companion.  Interested in submitting an article to be published?  Submit your ideas to kerry.stack@darwindogs.org.

Boots and Bee Photography - by Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham

Owning a pet has been shown to enrich lives, reducing the risk of disease and lengthening the lifespan of their owners. Having a loving animal to come home to can make a world of difference in your daily life. Unfortunately, our furry friends can make it difficult to travel. However, being a pet parent shouldn’t stop you from going on vacation. Here are a few options you have for making your vacation stress free for both you and your pet.

Freelance Pet Sitters

If you would rather your dog stay in the comfort of their own home, you might consider hiring a freelance pet sitter. Rover.com is a great place for seeking an at-home sitter for your pet. The site can put you in touch with someone to provide your pet an overnight stay, either in your home or the sitter’s, daily check-ins, and even walking. Rates vary depending on the individual, and the site customizes the results based on the sitter’s proximity to your home.

Boarding Facilities

Pet boarding facilities have been spreading at a rapid pace as our lives become busier and busier. These facilities vary widely in their prices and practices and should be researched thoroughly before you entrust one with your pet.

Good boarding facilities will allow a walkthrough of the facilities. You should check for cleanliness and daily routines within the facility to ensure your pet will not be trapped in a small space for the duration of your trip. There should be playtime, interaction with the staff and other dogs, access to an outside play space. Reading the reviews of a boarding facility is also a great idea to ensure your pet will be well cared for.

Take Them with You

A dog with all its vaccines and a microchip can travel almost anywhere. Of course, this means you need to plan your trips far in advance but being able to take your dog with you makes it all worth it. If your pet is going to be around water, double check that any pool chemicals and other cleaning supplies are properly stored so that your curious pet can’t nose his way into trouble.

If your dog is too big to fly in the airplane cabin with you, permitting them to fly in the cargo hold is not an acceptable option. Pets die every year as a result of airline negligence. Though some flights boast pet-friendly options, this does not always guarantee your pet’s safety. For large dogs, it is safer to stick to locations within driving distance.

Though owning a pet can restrict your freedom to travel, there is always a way to make things work. Regardless of what you opt to do, it is always possible for both you and your pet to enjoy your vacation.

Paige Johnson is a self-described fitness “nerd.” She possesses a love for strength training. In addition to weight-lifting, she is a yoga enthusiast, avid cyclist, and loves exploring hiking trails with her dogs. She enjoys writing about health and fitness for LearnFit.org.

Image via Pixabay by rafibh

 

Depth Perception

 “We are all animals of this planet. We are all creatures. And nonhuman animals experience pain sensations just like we do. They too are strong, intelligent, industrious, mobile, and evolutional[...]And like us, they are surviving. Like us they also seek their own comfort rather than discomfort. And like us they express degrees of emotion. In short like us, they are alive.” – Joaquin Phoenix

Pic courtesy of The Mandarin Duck

Pic courtesy of The Mandarin Duck

My mom hated cats when I was growing up.  She would never harm one, but she claimed they were creepy and sneaky.  And it totally grossed her out the way they would come slinking up around your legs, like a snake coiling around a tree branch, eyeing its prize. My mom was never raised around cats.  Dogs, sure.  But there was never a cat in her house when she was a child.

One day, when I was 15, my mom accompanied me to the stables where we boarded our horses so I could work on some horsemanship skills.  She usually didn’t come with me, but today she did.  Inside one of the empty stalls was one of the many barn cats.  And in the corner of that stall, was a mewling mess of adorableness – she had given birth to her kittens!  I showed mom, and she mumbled something about them being cute.

The next time she accompanied me to the stables, the kittens were about 6 weeks old and a patchwork quilt of tabby, calico and gray fun.  I watched them and laughed as they scampered about the stall.  My mom stopped to look, too, staying for a few minutes before moving on.  I noticed that one of the kittens hung back under the feed bin, and every once in a while, one of the larger kittens would come and terrorize the little calico, who happened to be a runt.  My protective nature took over.  I rushed inside and seized the tiny little calico and brought her outside to spend time with me while the horses were in paddock.  I showed her to my mom, and mentioned how the other cats were picking on her.  My mom gave her a little rub on the head.  The kitten sat down on the picnic table we were sitting at, and looked up.  With those eyes.  You know the look I’m talking about.

The Look

The Look

“But mom”, I wailed, “If we leave her here she could die!”  The little kitten played along gamely, vogue her best pathetic “If You Leave Me Here I Could Die” look.  My mother caved. I named her Belle, and she lived with me for the next 15 years of her life, until the day I had to let her go. She went with dignity, as she had gone through her life.  My mom sobbed the day I had to had say goodbye to Belle.  For something had happened.  Belle had charmed her.  About a week after I brought her home, Belle started winding herself around my mother’s legs in hope of some canned food, or at least a cuddle.  And my mother would respond!  My mom mentioned she never realized cats could be actual loving, sweet companions.  Who could blame her?  She’d never been around one.

I’m proud of my mother because she was able to open her mind that something could be more than what it was perceived to be.  She entertained the notion that she may be wrong about a preconception she had, and more importantly, was willing to change.  Since I moved out with Belle, she has had 7 cats, all of whom have lived to a ripe old age.  Two are still with her.

So what am I doing writing about cats on a dog post?  Animals are animals.  All are able to feel pain, fear and abandonment.  Those feelings were the reason my mother took Belle in to begin with: not because she liked Belle, or even liked cats.  It was because my mother was capable of understanding an animal’s need for safety, and my mother was able to reach past her distaste to help an animal in need, even one she didn’t particularly care for.  In the process, she found a new trove of love and companionship she didn’t realize existed before:  cats.

This doesn’t happen to cats alone.  In some societies where dogs are considered vermin, people are changing.  My friend, Jocelyn, writes a blog a blog about love, family and relationships in China, including AMWF (Asian male/Western female) love called Speaking of China. 洋媳妇谈中国.  Obviously there are going to be some cultural differences in a marriage such as Jocelyn’s.  Finding common ground and understanding can be difficult.  But “if you open up your mind, maybe I can open up mine” is the only way to go about it.  This includes the concept of what deserves compassion.

Jocelyn recently referenced a story a peer had written:  The Day I Changed my Chinese Parents-in-law. Minds can be changed, even in a small village in China.  A family who once looked at dogs as vermin can accept that maybe they were wrong.  And look at the rewards they get:  love, kisses and the companionship that only a dog can give you.  A true, loyal friend.

Jocelyn herself even mentions a similar situation with her in-laws:

“They weren’t always kind to dogs either, but now that John and I helped raise their newest dog Snoopy (who we’ve socialized to be a very loving and affectionate dog), I think everyone in the house has fallen in love with Snoopy!”

 

 

Jocelyn's husband, Jun, and their dog Snoopy.  Where Jocelyn is living in rural China, most people keep dogs to protect their property.  Having a dog as a companion is unusual, but gaining popularity.  Photo courtesy of Speaking of China

Jocelyn’s husband, Jun, and their dog Snoopy. Where Jocelyn is living in rural China, most people keep dogs to protect their property. Having a dog as a companion is unusual, but gaining popularity. Photo courtesy of Speaking of China

I’m not asking you to change your mind about an entire species, as these people all did.  This blog is (supposed) to be about dogs.  If you’re here, you already love dogs.  Spread the word about what humanity means.  Be an example of education, the same way Belle educated my mom about what a cat can really mean to a human. Don’t assume that because you love animals and care about their welfare that everyone does.  Some people have never been around a dog or a cat, and therefore have no commonality with them.  Without shared experiences and memories to draw from, it’s hard to make a connection, and without a connection, there is no empathy.  Help share that empathy.   After all, that’s the greatest gift of all:  finding love and companionship where you never realized it could exist before.

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.

 ds

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

The Accepted Way of Doing Things

Progress, not perfection. – Anon.

Boots and Bee Photography - by Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham

I had a session with the cutest Golden Retriever named Ivy a few weeks ago.  Like most other 10-month old Golden Retrievers, she was a bundle of energy.  I gave her owners some ideas on how to manage all that, uh…let’s call it “enthusiasm for life”, which included Ivy wearing a backpack.  Ivy’s owner loved the idea, and mentioned that she’s seen a dog walking around the neighborhood with a backpack on.  I told her it was probably one of the dogs I’d worked with, since I love dogs wearing backpacks like a Kardashian loves to pimp a scandal.

FullSizeRender-1

She described the dog as a smaller shepherd with a petite woman walking it.  I knew immediately who she was talking about.  I asked my client how they looked while walking. “Amazingly composed”, she said. “They pass by other dogs or people, and the dog is just completely focused on his owner.”

This thrilled me beyond all belief, because after getting a few more details, I became convinced I knew who it was.  A dog named Oscar who I had the pleasure of working with  a few times.  Oscar was adopted as a puppy by the most wonderful, caring owners you can imagine.  He was raised in a loving household, where he was never hit nor yelled at, but was treated with respect.

He unfortunately developed dog reactivity.

There’s that myth circulating that it’s all about “how the dog is raised”.  I have experienced first-hand, puppies who were “raised properly”, who were socialized young, who were given love, affection and respectful boundaries, but still developed food aggression, dog reactivity, separation anxiety…the list goes on.  Yes, it is completely realistic to expect that a dog who was abused might become aggressive.  It’s understandable that a dog who never had boundaries set as a puppy might take to bing food reactive or have resource guarding issues.  But the majority of dogs who develop these scary issues weren’t abused. They weren’t bait dogs.  They are dogs who have their own distinct personalities, and who have determined that their behavior is correct.  And they are right.

Dogs are great at being dogs.  The problem is that they really suck at being human.

So back to Oscar and his owner, Lynn.  Knowing that Lynn had worked so hard with Oscar on his dog-reactivity issues, I was thrilled to hear Ivy’s mom talking about how well he was traveling all around Lakewood with his little backpack on, ignoring other dogs.  I sent Oscar’s mom a message that night, passing along what had been said about her walking skills with Oscar.

“Oh, that wasn’t us”, she replied.  ”We don’t walk him anymore.  His reactivity got too stressful to deal with.”

dean molly who

I was crushed.  Lynn had been doing so well last time I talked with her!  Oscar had a few extra one-on-one sessions to work specifically with his dog-reactivity, and Lynn had absolutely nailed it.  Yes, he required copious amounts of Piloting when passing by another dog, but they were able to do it. Together.  I was devastated to hear that they didn’t do those walks anymore.

But then I had a horseback riding lesson today, and my perspective changed.  As I’ve mentioned previously, I took up riding originally to learn how to learn again, it being a very, very long time since I took up dog training.  I needed to feel how my clients felt, learning a new concept.  For me, horses.  For them, dogs.

During my last lesson, Jessica (my riding instructor) mentioned that my lesson horse, Bounce, was having some difficulty accepting the bit.  Usually, Bounce was so eager to get to riding that she would just crank her neck forward and eagerly snap at the bit.

Recently, though, Bounce had been refusing the bit.  She wouldn’t take it for me at all, and Jessica was having a somewhat of a problem as well.  Finally, Jessica decided to do something different. There’s a “right” way and a “wrong” way to have a horse take a bit.  Usually, you get them into what looks like almost a headlock, with a hand over their ears, and slip the bit right into their mouth.  That’s The Accepted Way Of Doing Things (“AWODT”).

bridle

But Bounce wasn’t accepting it.

Jessica took the bridle.  ”Hang on, let me try something”, she suggested.  Jessica offered the bridle to Bounce in what she referred to as the lazy way.  Bounce immediately Hungry Hippo-ed the bit.  I asked Jessica to take the bridle off and let me try.  Again, Bounce was eager to have the thing on so we could start our lesson.  It wasn’t the AWODT, but apparently the lazy way worked.  Rather than a long, drawn out battle of wills, by simply changing direction, we got to the same place we originally tried to go: the bit was in Bounce’s mouth.

Having AWODT is always a good thing.  Always mounting a horse on the left, always making sure your dog is calm before setting down food, etc., creates a ritual, and helps keep things normalized when sometimes they aren’t.  But horses and dogs aren’t one size fits all, just as humans aren’t.  It’s important to know when to deviate from a set path, even if that path is the AWODT.

Jessica realized that with Bounce.  Lynn realized that with Oscar.

Lynn wasn’t saying she gave up on Oscar.  She decided that the “We’re going to have fun whether we like it or not” walks just weren’t working.  Yes, she was able to Pilot Oscar past other dogs.  Yes, Oscar trusted her to do it, but each and every dog was considered such a threat to Oscar that the amount of Piloting necessary was a tremendous stress to Lynn. In other words, she did it, and then knew when to stop.

Oscar is still getting plenty of exercise (with an older canine sister and a dog “cousin”, if you will).  Oscar isn’t a youngster anymore himself, and is well into middle-aged for a dog, so he doesn’t require a huge amount of activity anymore.  He was never going to be that dog who relished walking through a crowd on the busy streets of Lakewood.  Yes, he could do it, but why?  Fundamentalists will be extremely up-in-arms over a dog who isn’t walked regularly, just as I was initially.  How dare she stop walking her dog!  But no living being should be boxed into doing something just because that’s how it’s always been done.  Oscar is still getting the Piloting, Activity and Work that he needs.  He’s getting the love and affection he wants.  So where was my problem?

In the future, I will always bridle a horse in the correct way: pseudo headlock style.  But if for some reason, the horse won’t accept the bit, I will think of Bounce and remember that the Accepted Way Of Doing Things isn’t about a regimen of uniformity and correctness.  It’s about looking out for an animal’s best interest and making them feel safe, secure and Piloted, which usually looks the same way each time.  But sometimes it just looks a little different than the AWODT.

Thank you, Bounce and Oscar, for teaching me that lesson.

Boots and Bee Photography by Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography by Brittany Graham

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

Pit Stop

I originally wrote this post about 6 months ago, but after a recent trip to a local pet store out in the Pennsylvania area while on vacation, I thought it prudent to post it again, as I witnessed another dog fight right in front of me.  It was two small, mixed dogs, and it ended quickly and without bloodshed, but make no mistake: it was real and very violent.  I ask you to read this article before traveling to any pet store.  

“Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.”

― Sherrilyn Kenyon

A pit bull attacked another dog on Wednesday. The incident happened at a PetSmart in Georgia.  Frankly, I’m not surprised that the pit attacked.  Because he’s a pit?  No, don’t be stupid.  Because he’s a dog.

Breaking down the situation, here’s what happened according to Fox 5:

Mitch Philpott, 66, of Newnan, said he had headed down an aisle where the Pit Bull and its owner had been looking at merchandise.  Philpott said he asked the owner if her dog was okay and proceeded to pass her and the dog.  He said the Pitt Bull grabbed his Great Dane by the head and ear and bit him several times.

 

In a police report FOX 5 obtained, the Pitt Bull owner, Suzanne Peterson, told officers that she gave Philpott a verbal warning that she was not sure how her dog would respond to his dog and to stay away please.  The report quotes her as saying that Philpott continued anyway and said, “it’s okay, their tails are wagging.”  Philpott told Fox Five he never said that to the woman.

So who is wrong in this incident?  Both humans.  I’m not saying that the incident was deserved by anyone (let alone the dogs), but it was brought about by selfish owners.

Let’s take a step back here and dissect the scenario.  No, I really don’t care who said what and who did and did not control their dog.  However, it should be pointed out that this was obviously a fear-based “stay away from me” rather than an attack.  If it were an attack, there would have been actual serious damage, if not death, to either dogs or owners.  But I stand by my accusation that both owners were selfish.  Why?

Take a look at the average pet store where you can bring in your dog.  Narrow aisles for dogs to pass closely by each other.  You may say that the aisles are wider than grocery store aisles, but I can also say that Bill Cosby (who allegedly raped unconscious women he drugged) isn’t quite as bad as Jared Fogle (who allegedly raped conscious children).  It doesn’t matter.  Neither is a good choice for a dinner date.

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I think we can all agree that given a choice between the two, Cosby and Fogle, the answer is a resounding neither.  The same goes for aisles that are too narrow, or an aisle that is a little less too narrow.  The answer is neither.

Compound that with extreme stimulation.  Your dog isn’t happily going shopping with you for doggie supplies, as you’ve fooled yourself into selfishly thinking. Your dog is in a confined area with a lot of food and treats that they may resource guard, or have to be on the defensive against other resourcing guarding dogs.  And by the way, that other dog isn’t just another dog.  It’s another dog who is just as overstimulated as every other dog in the place.  Some are resource guarding. Some are desperately trying to guard themselves and their owners (as I believe was the case with the pit).  Others are too goofy to know this is a horrible situation and act all kinds of crazy, thereby increasing the (negative) energy of all the other dogs.

Remember, that idiot jacking his dog up in the car before he even gets into the store will be sharing close quarter aisle space with your dog.  Add to it the fact that the dog is under no semblance of control once they are in the store (the owner is following the dog around at the end of the leash like a moronic cow).

I will not bring my dogs into pet stores for this very reason.  There are many frightened, hyper, out of control bundles of energy in there.  And that’s just the people.  By being selfish and getting that “I Brought My Beloved Pup Into The Store” high that people so desperately want, we are actively ignoring all the warning signs of a dangerous situation, and blithely moving forward.  YOU are the adult human.  YOU are the one with opposable thumbs.  YOU are the one who should be realizing that this is a dangerous situation.  Even if your dog is very chill and well behaved and you Pilot the hell out of them….where is your guarantee that every other person in there is the same way? You don’t have one.  Suck it up. Find other ways to get that rush of “I Spoiled My Dog Today” high that you are so desperately seeking.

“Oh, but Fifi loves it so much!!!”

And I loved cutting class when I was in high school.  Believe me, that was not the answer my parents gave my principal when I was caught: “But she loves cutting class so much!”.

Yeah, I got grounded 6 months with another 6 month probation.

Yeah, I got grounded 6 months with another 6 month probation.

And now I’m grateful for their harsh punishment.  It helped turn me into a functional adult.

Point is, parenting, whether it be a dog or a human, involves tough choices.  Yes, it’s not always fun, and it most definitely involves handing down decisions that you’d rather not, but that’s why you’re the adult. That’s why you have the opposable thumbs.  Because you’re the one who is supposed to use rational thought rather than emotional reactions. So I blame anyone who subjects their dogs to this situation. I don’t care that Rover, a Lab who is 14 years old, loves going and has never bit anyone in his life.  Don’t do it.  The same way I don’t drive my kids around without their seat belts buckled.  ”Well, we’ve never gotten into an accident yet, I’m a careful driver, and my kids are well behaved.”  It’s just as stupid and reckless.  Yes, I can control my kids, my behavior, and perhaps even my car, but I can’t control situations around those things.

Finally, I blame PetSmart, Petco and all those other big box stores that allow pets into their store.  Simply to raise revenue and profit, they cater to the irresponsible people who bring their pets in, thereby putting the animals at risk.  Yes, the owners should know better than to bring them in, but I’ve already established that the owners are not always in the right frame of mind, and (if I’m going to be generous here), misinformed and didn’t know better.  Know who else operates on the same basis as these pet stores?

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A dog was put in a tough situation.  He was uncomfortable. He was nervous, and scared.  And he reacted the way a dog (or human) can be expected to react when pushed beyond their limits.  The real story isn’t about a dog who defended himself from attacked another dog.  This story is not about pits being aggressive, nor is about pits in general.  This is about failure.  Dogs being failed by their owners, and being failed by the very stores who are designed to benefit them.  All to boost their profitability.

End it now. Don’t bring you dog into such a situation.  If you want that “I Spoiled My Dog” rush, spend more time with them. Teach them agility. Teach them a trick.  Pilot them. Give them what the need, and stop trying to buy the wag of your dog’s tail. Earn it.

Keep calm and pilot on

 

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio