Pittie Party

  “When we pity ourselves all we see is ourselves. When we have problems, all we see are our problems and that’s all what we love of talking about. We don’t see the good things in our lives.” 
― Ann Marie Aguilar

Yesterday I was at an event at our local Pet People for Bandanas for Banned Breeds.  I was sick with a pretty impressive upper respiratory infection.  I wasn’t exactly moping, but I wasn’t really chipper. Okay, fine… I was crabby and cranky.  Then in walked a pit bull.  With three legs.  Who was trying to act like it had 6 legs and wings, and failing miserably at everything except garnering love and smiles from everyone who crossed his path.

Doppleganger of my friend from Pet People.

Doppelganger of my friend from Pet People.

So yeah, I got out of my little funk, put a smile on my face, and got on with my day, feeling lucky to have all of my limbs (and a small upper respiratory infection), and a dose of reality from a beautiful dog.  There are some dogs I only meet for a few minutes, maybe seconds, who I will never forget: Bubbachuck the terrier, who at 16 years old, was carried outside and around the block by his 85 year old owner twice a day so he could get a “walk” is one of many.  My little tri-pod friend from Pet People is another.
So yes, today is Monday.  Maybe you need a little smile.  Maybe you just need to see someone less fortunate than you happy and smiling.  If so, I’ve got a link for you.  It certainly worked for me.  Thank you for the smile, Duncan.

World famous and inspirational Duncan Lou Who the two legged boxer puppy goes to the beach for the first time, along with Mane ( who was featured in Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair and The Shake Book ) , Rou, Ducky and Miso. Duncan was born with severely deformed rear legs that had to be removed. He has a wheel chair, but can’t stand to use it. So we let him be free and just walk on his two legs. There is some slow motion in this video, but NONE of the video has been sped up, this gives you an idea of how fast Duncan really is.
Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

Potty Problems

  Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing.

  – William James

Um....yeah.  You're doing it wrong

Um….yeah. You’re doing it wrong

So you’ve taken the plunge.  You’ve gone to the local shelter and adopted an adult dog  who seems to fit your lifestyle perfectly.  Sweet disposition - check.  Good with your children – check.  Housebroken - check?

The shelter may have told you that your new dog is housebroken, typically what that means is the dog didn’t soil his/her cage frequently.  But here’s the rub: dogs won’t usually soil the space they are confined to.  Also, there’s more to housebreaking than just letting them know that the unsavory happens outside.  There are a bunch of nuances attached. For example, they may know that they can go outside, but that’s different than being forbidding from going inside ever.

Dogs also urinate and defecate for reasons entirely unrelated to actually having to go.  As previously discussed, dogs have an incredible sense of smell.  To them it’s probably their most important sense.  Compare it to how humans use sight: it’s that important to them.  So they do send signals and communicate occasionally using scent.  Urine can be used to claim things (you know That Dog who pees on everything).  They use it to send up a white flag of surrender, showing that they are not dominant at all  (this is usually done belly-up while trying to submit).  They do it because they are too excited (piddling).  Finally, they do it to self-soothe.  Nothing smells more like safety than your own scent.  It can be a combination of these reasons as well. Frankly, the reason doesn’t matter.  You pretty much handle the situation in the same way.

First, you must be Pilot.  If a dog has a calm, confident, benign Pilot, they are less likely to claim things because they belong to you.  They are less likely to need to self-soothe because they have Pilot to guide them through scary situations. The Pilot can “claim” their energy when they are winding themselves up to the point of almost piddling, and soothe them so they can calm themselves down. Piloting isn’t just a momentary thing…it’s an all the time thing.  So by Piloting the walk, you are putting money in your Piloting Piggy Bank for the next time Rover considers claiming your child’s bed. By claiming the door and guests when they arrive, you are helping your dog feel calm, and averting the piddling.  So in essence, by Piloting your dog in every day situations, you are actually helping to housebreak him.

Photo courtesy of Brittany Graham Photography

Photo courtesy of Brittany Graham Photography

But, down to the nitty gritty, how does your dog learn to only go to the bathroom outside, because even if we eliminate (ha!) all of the other variables, they still have to answer the call of nature. A couple of simple steps.  Your dog’s age will play a huge role in how long it takes to housebreak them.  A puppy can take a lot longer than an adult dog over 1 year (generally speaking, anyway).  But here are the steps no matter the age:

  1. Control yourself.  As with anything else, anger, rage, feeling the need to punish….none of these help, and in fact, will make the issue worse.
  2. Control your environment.  In other words, unless you can actually have eyes on your dog, put them in a contained environment.  A cage or crate will do just fine (your dog should have just enough room to stand up comfortably and turn around to adjust their position).  Sparta was trained to a specific mudroom (hey, she’s huge!).  We simply put up a baby gate.  You can also use a “monk lead” so your dog isn’t quarantined for their entire life.  Take the latch end of the leash, slip it through the hand part.  Now put the leash on like a belt and attach the latch to your dogs collar.  You’ve just created a hands-free leash.  Wear your dog around the house!  Your dog can bond with you, interact with you, but you don’t have to worry about him going off and doing his business in an unsatisfactory manner.
  3. Teach him that going outside is good!  Take your dog outside, to the same spot, frequently.  Eventually, they are going to have to do 1 or 2.  The entire time they are eliminating, repeat a word over and over (potty, potty,potty, potty,potty, potty)You are naming a behavior.  When they cease with their elimination, you cease with the word, replacing it immediately with Touch, Talk, Treat (praise, coupled with a gentle pet and a treat).  Pretty soon your dog will eliminate on command when you say Potty.

Some nits some of my clients have asked me about:

My dog will only go to the bathroom in the basement when nobody is home. Why?

Your dog is very submissive and/or nervous.  Remember, a dog’s defecation can be used in conjunction with claiming things.  If your dog is choosing to go where it absolutely can not be mistaken for his claiming something.  Dogs like that will choose to go wherever there is the least amount of competing scent: the basement, a rarely used dining room, etc.  They don’t want to cause a rift by covering your scent with theirs.  Keep calm and Pilot on.

My dog will go on my child’s bed!  How do I stop this?!

I see this a lot with adolescent dogs who are trying to find their pack order.  I saw this with Orion.  For a period of about a month, he would try to go on everyone’s bed (think about it…it’s the place that smells the most strongly of us).  Except mine.  He would try to pee on my husband’s side of the bed.  The kid’s bed.  You get the drift.  Since I had poured so much Piloting into Orion in every other instance of his life, he never bothered to try to challenge me.  We resolved this by my claiming the children’s rooms, and bed and my husband claiming our bed, by using the negative body language. We also kept Orion either on a lead attached to us or in his crate during this very trying time.  The behavior ceased with just a little time and a lot of patience.

Keep at it.  Keep a sense of humor.  And realize, just like with potty training children, accidents happen.

Photo courtesy of Brittany Graham Photography

Photo courtesy of Brittany Graham Photography

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

Dog Law

Yesterday, I wrote a post about an experience I had with an off-leash dog which could have ended tragically.  Fortunately, it didn’t.  However, owners of larger dogs, particularly Pit Bulls, frequently feel they are singled out and held to higher standards than smaller dogs.  If a fight breaks out, obviously the larger dog was picking on the smaller dog.  That’s not always, or even usually, the case.  Dog fights start before any movement occurs.  A dog’s posturing towards another dog is designed in certain situations to read as: Come at me.

This is the image I get in my head whenever I see a Jack Russell standing its ground against a larger (often uninterested) dog.

This is the image I get in my head whenever I see a Jack Russell standing its ground against a larger (often uninterested) dog.

No matter the situation, though, it’s always your job as Pilot to control the situation.  So even if that little Jack Russell is out for your Doberman’s blood, and vocalizing it as well, it’s up to you to control your Dobie.  Obviously, just like me, you aren’t perfect.  You aren’t always going to respond perfectly.  Indeed, there is only so much you can do when an off-leash small dog comes charging at your larger one. But just because a situation seems hopeless doesn’t mean you stop Piloting.  You still Pilot.  You still do your best.  Don’t ever give up just because the situation seems too much to handle. Because that’s what Pilot’s do.

Yes, I did just quote Galaxy Quest, thank you.

Yes, I did just quote Galaxy Quest, thank you.

There are things you can do to prevent catastrophe as well as manage a catastrophic event.  BadRap.Org has written up a wonderful list of Dog Owner Rights that perfectly mirrors my sentiments.  It includes such things as carrying your cell phone to document behaviors on walks (you know, like that annoying off-leash dog on the corner of your house), as well as how to handle false complaints.  Give it a read.  Practice what it preaches.  It may well prevent a tragedy.


Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio


Big Little Problem

A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way. —John Maxwell

A large dog owner's biggest fear.

A large dog owner’s biggest fear.

A couple years ago I was working with a foster of mine, Daisy.  Daisy was a small Boston/Beagle mix (annoying, hyper, but sweet little girl).  We were touching up on her leash manners in a local park in hopes of attracting the right adopter for her. She was doing beautifully. I had even brought my two small children with us to add to the natural chaos of things. She ignored them, and kept trucking along, slack leashed, right by my side.


All of a sudden, behind me, I hear the unmistakeable “jangle” sound of a dog running right at us. Here comes this Pomeranian mix, obviously coming to make sure that we were up to his par. He had decided (as was his right), that this was HIS park, and HE was going to determine who was acceptable. Not only was he on a retractable leash, but the owner wasn’t even holding on to the business end of the leash!  He was literally dragging it several feet behind him.

He pushed right up to Daisy, who, at only 15 pounds, had previously (gently) dominated my 100 lb. Rottie.  I hadn’t had too much opportunity yet to work with Daisy in socialization and manners outside of our pack, though.  There wasn’t much I could do as the Pom came charging towards us.  The two dogs went nose-to-nose before I could block the Pom.  The Pom gave exceptionally dominant body language.  Daisy pretty much rolled her eyes and started to walk with me again.  The Pom then dashed after my 5 year old who was a few feet from us.  Daisy let out a low growl.  I used my body language to “claim” my son.  The Pom took a few steps back from him.  By this time, his owner finally caught up to us.  Not a word was said to us by way of apology. She never made eye contact.  She merely had a dopey half-smile pasted to her lips, and for lack of a better description, a bovine look on her face.  She was clueless to the situation she had just placed her dog in.  She merely followed, like cattle, wherever her dog led her.

Her Pom soon found other quarry and ran after a jogger, still dragging his leash behind him.  Relieved that this scenario had played out with my foster, Daisy, instead of Sparta (who would have taken serious offense at a Pom trying to claim HER little boy), we shrugged it off and continued, with me positively radiant at Daisy’s behavior.

We walked on again for about another 5 minutes, when lo and behold, who comes running up to us again, retractable still dragging behind him, owner about 1/8 mile behind following.  Our Pom friend was at it again.  This time I was ANGRY.  I picked up the leash, walked Daisy and the Pom back to his moronic owner.  When I approached her, she still had that insipid smile pasted to her lips, eyes only on her dog.  I handed her the leash.

“This is the end you hold”, I said.  I was rewarded with an interesting variation on a famous swear word. I merely smiled and walked away.  She held on to the leash the rest of her walk, though.  Score one…okay, maybe 1/2 point.

Small dog syndrome usually has nothing to do with the dog.

Small dog syndrome usually has nothing to do with the dog.

A couple years ago a similar situation played out in more tragic way.  BadRap.org describes the scene as follows:

A Palo Alto pit bull owner found herself in the headlines when her dog fatally injured a small dog during a routine on-leash walk. This tragedy played out in the media as a vicious pit bull attack on an innocent victim. The pit owner swears up and down that, although she called out several warnings to keep a distance, the small dog owner willingly, unwittingly, marched her tiny pet right within the reach of the offending dog, and right into a train wreck – so to speak.

While we’ll never really know exactly how/why this tragedy played out the way it did, many large dog owners are using the opportunity to confess: Poorly managed small dogs scare the crap out of us. Somewhere along the way, we seem to have shifted to a new society that thinks all dogs should be chummy with all other canines. The problem is, Mother Nature doesn’t agree. She’s written some pretty tough laws about predator/prey relationships, and try as we might to rebel against her motherly wisdom, she keeps reminding us that a dog is STILL a dog – That is, an animal with teeth and some 10,000 years of hardwired instincts; Hardly a small and saintly mini-human. Denial of this nuts and bolts reality has created a very untidy epidemic of dog owners who insist on rushed nose-to-nose greetings and forced kisses between pets that are strangers to each other, including the small dogs that look like prey and large dogs that might agree that they look like prey. Talk about setting our dogs up to fail!

Dogs are dogs.  As I’ve mentioned many times, dogs are binary.  Everything is “yes” or “no” to them.  Frequently the question is, “Is this other dog pack?”, as some strange dog comes running up.  No.  The next question is so very important:  ”Is this non-pack dog a threat?”  Well, that depends upon your point of view.  I always answer my dogs in a negative.  No, it isn’t a threat.  I put on a really good show, and they believe me, and will allow another dog to rudely come up from behind and sniff their derriere. However, truly, I don’t know if they are a threat.  All I do know is that if a Pom, weighing less than 10 lbs., comes up dominantly towards my 100 lb. Sparta, or threatens one of my children, unless I put on an Academy Award winning performance, she will answer “yes, this is a threat”.  And then Sparta will do what any dog does: defend her pack.  She will injure, and probably kill a dog that size for threatening her pack (just as I would kill any human who tried to injure my children).  Problem is, Sparta weighs 10 x as much as that Pom.  That automatically makes her the villain in this scenario. No matter that Sparta was on a leash.  No matter that I asked the owner to remove their dog, or at least pick up their leash.

Tomorrow’s blog will continue with the “Dealing with Offleash Dogs” theme.  Check back for ways to protect yourself and your pooch from nuisance dogs tomorrow!


Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio


Forgiving and Forgetting

   All beings tremble before violence. 
All fear death, all love life. See 
yourself in others. Then whom can 
you hurt? What harm can you do?
 – Buddha


On April 25, 2007, one of the most high-profile animal abuse cases became public knowledge.  Michael Vick’s property in Surry County, Virginia, was found to be operating a dog fighting ring.  Vick was formally charged in July 2007 and served less than two years in prison.

Now he’s been picked up by the Jets.  This isn’t sitting well with quite a few of us, including some of the more….enthusiastic football fans.  The Jets’ Facebook page is telling a very interesting story.

“JETS fan for 28 years. My father almost 60 years. We will not watch or support the team in any way this season,” wrote Amanda Sozio Bajek .

“He electrocuted dogs in a bathtub for fun. I’m supposed to root for this guy?” posted Ryan Breslin. “As ashamed as I’ve ever been to be a Jets fan and that’s saying something.”

It appears that fans aren’t quite ready to forgive and forget.  How could they?  Anyone who has read any information about the actual activities Vick engaged with can not support him without shedding their own humanity.  Most people know he was engaged in “dog fighting”.  For the majority of individuals, that conjures up images of two dogs, of similar size and strength, duking it out to the death while spectators watch and place wagers.  Revolting, but …possibly forgivable?  Maybe.  But what really happens is so gruesome, I wonder at anyone’s capacity for forgiveness, let alone thrusting said perpetrator into the lime lite of fortune and fame.

Dog fighting is gruesome at best.  Vick facilitated the worst.  He would hang, drown, shoot, bash their brains repeatedly into the ground until dead, and, perhaps most heinously, electrocute dogs in his swimming pool by attaching jumper cables to their ears prior to tossing them in (his pool had claw marks all around it from dogs desperately trying to escape their torturous death).  He repeatedly threw family pets into the pit to watch them get savaged by his fighting dogs.  He took a dog as loving and docile as a pit bull, and through pain and torture, deprivation and isolation, convinced them that fighting was their only option.

A small dog that made it out of Vick's torture-inflicting Bad Newz Kennels. He has since been adopted after being seized during the raid.

A small dog that made it out of Vick’s torture-inflicting Bad Newz Kennels. He has since been adopted after being seized during the raid.

Recently a story came into the news about a woman who had neglected her Boxer to the point it was found wandering the streets, just skin and bones, with frostbite on its nose.  This poor dog has since succumbed to her injuries.  Outrage at the treatment of this wretched animal was immediate and tidal.  The owner was found, and rally’s are being planned around her first court date.  She will serve jail time (thankfully the case is too high-profile to allow anything less).  She most likely will have a very difficult time getting a job after jail, as she will probably be blacklisted from most jobs based upon what she did.

Michael Vick tortured dogs in the most sick, sadistic ways possible, over a span of many, many years.  Hundreds of dogs.  He has now signed a contract with a major NFL team.  I think that’s more of a reflection upon the NFL.

No.  I won’t be able to forgive.  The sad things is, most of the dogs he tortured, if they are still living, probably would.  I’m only human.


Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

Do Dogs Bully?

Q: Can you talk about dog dominance. I have 2 dogs, the younger is a male Lab mix, the older is a female boxer pitbull mix. Every time I buy them toys the male has to take her toy and they end up playing aggressively. I don’t know what to do anymore because I don’t want them playing with other dogs like that. Every toy becomes a tug of war. I even make sure I get 2 of the same toy, same color, scent, and style. Also every time he sees her after they go potty or even just while they are playing he’s always jumping and nipping her and barking a lot. Any suggestions?

A: How dogs play in the pack is entirely up to them (with some exceptions). If your pit is ok with this behavior from your Lab, then the behavior is acceptable. Your male may try to play with other dogs like this, but they will soon correct him and let him know what is acceptable, as I’m sure your pit will do eventually. It’s just your pit has a very high tolerance, which is fine. Some dogs don’t, which is also fine. You can not define the pack order beneath you. It is the next in line’s right to take the resources if they want them (toys included). As far as their playing tug, that is a very important game to them. Your pit is teaching your Lab how to kill prey. All these games they are playing is practice for the hunt.

Just because you cannot define the pack order (excepting that you come in at top) doesn’t mean you have to always allow this. Suppose they decide to engage in this behavior during a dinner party. Or you’re trying to watch tv. Or you truly want your pit to have something and your Lab to leave it alone. Then it becomes unacceptable. You need to calmly “tell” them to stop without adding energy. Meaning, don’t yell, don’t shout, don’t even talk. This is where the PAW Method comes into play.  Get between them, facing your Lab (since he’s probably instigating). Standing up straight, walk into your dog until he backs away and disengages their from your pit and/or her toy.  You are “claiming” her. Repeat as necessary (this could take a few tries). You essentially need to give your dogs body language that conveys that you are leader, you recognize they are asking if they can play, but your answer is “no”. It might take a little bit, but keep at it, and it will work.

Separation Anxiety

  Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.

 - Khalil Gibran

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

Separation anxiety is a very real, very terrifying thing for a dog. Dogs are pack animals – they are meant to be together all the time. Separation from pack can mean death. We have to work hard to manage the situation for them to make it less scary, and for separation to become a normal thing.
To start with, have a specific area where you put your dog when you leave; a crate is a lovely place.  My Sparta is too large for a crate: she’s baby-gated in a mudroom, which serves the same purpose. Start putting him in the area during the day for anywhere from 5 minutes to 5 hours. Get him used to be in that area during normal hours (when you are home).  Remember, pack separating is not normal, so putting him in there only at bedtime (when your pack separates) only makes it that much more abnormal.
When you want to take him out of the crate, only remove him when he is calm; no barking, jumping, whining, etc. This will take a lot of patience at first. When you walk towards the area to release him, don’t talk to him. Act as normal and nonchalant as possible. If he starts to become anxious, turn your back to him. Keep your back to him until he calms down. You are trying to catch the behavior you want (calmness) so every time he’s calm, reward him by facing him and walking closer. Excitement means you turn and maybe even walk away briefly.
You are trying to catch a moment:  calm.  If your is barking and carrying on at a decibel 11, wait until they are down to a 8 before moving forward.  If they start to pick up steam again, stop moving towards them, or even turn around an walk away.  You are looking for progress, not perfection.When he’s finally calm and you have let him out, don’t pet him or make this situation abnormal. You don’t pet him after you walk out of the bathroom, do you? Act the same way. A few minutes after you release him, you can interact, but you don’t want him to associate his being released with any kind of excitement, such as petting or praise.Keep doing this, but add to the “drama”. Put him in there, walk out the front door, drive around the block and come back. Again, the only time he’s allowed out is when he’s quiet. Keep at it, and hopefully he will be calm in there again. The worst thing you can do is to try to reassure him. Act as you would in any other normal situation.

Positive reinforcement can be added as well. When the dog is calm in their crate, casually walk up and offer a treat. Do not make eye contact, nor should you interact at this point. It’s merely helping the dog realize that sometimes good things happen in the crate as well, but only when they are calm. Petting and sometimes even eye contact, can increase a dog’s energy.  You are asking a lot of them…don’t make it harder on them by adding energy!
Under no circumstances should the treat be given to calm the dog down…the treat is there to reinforce behavior that the dog has already done: calmed themselves down.  However, if your dog is already calm, feel free to give them an “extended” treat, as I call them:  peanut butter filled Kong, marrow bone, antler, etc.  Something that will take them a while to get through and keep them occupied.
Remember, you are trying to make something that, for some dogs, is truly terrifying, into something that is normal.  That takes work, practice and calm.  Stick with it.  You will see results, and more importantly, your dog will not feel such despair when you’re gone.
Keep calm and pilot on
Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

Finding the Rainbow Bridge


If tomorrow starts without me, and I’m not there to see,
If the sun should rise and find your eyes all filled with tears for me;
I wish so much you wouldn’t cry the way you did today,
while thinking of the many things we didn’t get to say.
I know how much you care for me, and how much I care for you,
and each time that you think of me I know you’ll miss me too;

But when tomorrow starts without me, please try to understand,
that an angel came and called my name and took me by the hand,
and said my place was ready in heaven far above,
and that I’d have to leave behind all those I dearly love.

But as I turned to walk away, a tear fell from my eye,
for all life, I’d always thought I didn’t want to die.
I had so much to live for and so much yet to do.
it seemed almost impossible that I was leaving you.
I thought of all the love we shared and all the fun we had.
If I could relive yesterday, I thought, just for a while,
I’d say goodbye and hug you and maybe see you smile.

Darwin circa 2005

Darwin circa 2005

I recently had a client ask me how they would know when it’s time to help their dog Buddy cross the Rainbow Bridge.  As you know, I’m always preaching the PAW Method. The biggest part of that is Piloting. You are Buddy’s pilot to the very end. You will be strong and help Buddy when the time comes. He is relying on you to make a decision, but remember, he doesn’t need a perfect decision. He doesn’t expect you to be infallible. So the answer is, there is no correct time. You are trying to balance your need for Buddy with Buddy’s quality of life. There is no precise moment when the scales tip, and suddenly Buddy’s life is too painful to justify not leading him to the Rainbow Bridge.Points to consider:

-You may find that everyone feels free to tell you what to do, but the responsibility for this choice is yours. This can be more difficult when a couple disagrees, but it can still weigh heavily on a single person.

-Your veterinarian is trained to save lives. That’s what they do, and that’s why you go to them. But all they can do is delay, not prevent. No veterinarian should make you feel guilty for choosing not to pursue treatment, even if you can afford it.

-If your veterinarian is advising euthanasia and you’re reluctant, closely examine your own motives and see if they’re for your benefit or the dog’s.

-People often say, “You’ll know when it’s time.” In many cases that’s true, but not always.  I say this from personal experience.

-Choosing euthanasia is not “playing God” any more than providing medical treatment to save a life is.

-Euthanasia ensures that you’ll be able to be with your dog at the moment he passes so he’s not alone. However, you don’t have to be there with him. If you feel you cannot remain calm, it’s sometimes best for your dog that you not be there.  It’s okay to say your goodbyes at home and have a someone who isn’t as emotionally distraught take Buddy for the final vet visit.  Remember, he’s going to mirror your emotions, and if you are having a hard time controlling your emotions in a scary place like the vet’s office, he’s going to feel that.  Don’t let anyone judge if you should or should not be present:  that’s up to you.-Most people believe it’s better to euthanize your dog a day too early rather than a day too late.

I went through all of this with Darwin many years ago. I wish I could say something to make it all better, but the truth is, I can’t. If you are already at this stage where you are asking me when you know it’s time to put down a dog, it’s most likely that you are already there. You are only now trying to cope with the acceptance aspect. Don’t deny Buddy his right to a dignified ending. He’ll still be there for you until the day you are reunited at that Rainbow Bridge.

So take a picture with him (you’ll want it later). Compare it with the pictures of him from a year ago, and you’ll see the difference and how much help he is requiring from you. Give it to him that help. You know he would love you enough to do the same for you. That’s what dogs do…put their humans before their own needs. Now be a dog, and put his needs before yours. At that point, he will give you his final gift: his gratitude for being the best Pilot you could have been for him.

This is the last picture I have of Darwin (2009).  We said goodbye a few days later.  I still miss my boy to this day.

This is the last picture I have of Darwin (2009). We said goodbye a few days later. I still miss my boy to this day.

Keep calm and pilot on


Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio


Like it or not, the world evolves, priorities change and so do you.
- Marilu Henner

Save all the animals….I would if I could. I don’t think anyone could ever accuse me of not feeling compassion for animals.  I do all I can to help them.  Including knowing when one may need to put down.

Consider this:  a child in Phoenix was recently severely mauled by a dog. Kevin, a 4-year old boy, was outside playing with some other children in a neighbor’s backyard.  That neighbor’s dog was tied outside.  Kevin simply reached down to pick up a bone near the dog, and the dog mauled him.  As in, lifetime facial disfigurement, surgery and rehabilitation for years to come kind of mauling.

Dog Mauling

Blame is being placed everywhere, from the babysitter, to Mickey’s owners who left him outside, to the dog, even to the child(!) – but nobody has thought of where the real blame should be placed:  perhaps nowhere.  Perhaps this was just a freak accident. No indication was given if Mickey had attacked anyone before.  No information as to how Mickey was treated: as an outdoor dog or a beloved family member.   That being said, while food aggression can happen with any dog, loved or not, it is prevalent among dogs who are treated ill.

So here’s the status so far:  animal control has taken Mickey (the family willingly surrendered him).  Mickey is scheduled to be euthanized.  I firmly feel euthanasia should always be a last-resort, but I do believe this may be necessary with Mickey.  While I do believe he may be able to be rehabilitated, and I do feel that with proper training and work, Mickey could indeed adoptable, there are a few glitches:

  1. Even after rehabilitation, any dog that has ever shown food aggression/resource guarding (as in this case) must be very closely monitored, especially around children.  I’ve seen too many instances of owners who became lax around their now-well-behaved dog, and it’s usually children who get bitten, reminding the dog’s owners that resource-guarding is something you manage,not cure. This wasn’t just a growl when you took a treat away from Mickey; this was a full-on mauling of a child.
  2. Rehabilitation takes time, money, and let’s face it, space…a place that has room for Mickey.  It’s all about the numbers.  In the time and space that you could (possibly) rehabilitate Mickey, how many other dogs have been euthanized for no other reason than they existed?  Is Mickey, who, let’s face it, is already a felon among dogs, worth so much that we would let him displace the care that other, safer dogs could have?  I don’t think so.

In a perfect world, every dog has a home, and every dog that is exhibiting dangerous behaviors would get the help they need, or at the very least, a safe place to spend the rest of their lives.  But this is the real world.  Mickey, I’m sorry for what’s happened to you, and what’s going to happen.  You are indeed a victim.  However, there is a 4-year old boy named Kevin who will never be the same again.  His mother will never see the handsome man her little boy was supposed to grow up to be.  Right now all she can see is the scars that will disfigure his face.  The pain of future surgeries and physical therapy.

There is currently a campaign going to save Mickey.  So far donations are in excess of $5,000 – for a dog who, through no fault of his own, is untrustworthy and unsafe.  Imagine if that money was spent towards something more powerful:  free, public dog safety classes in Phoenix.  Education.  Mickey is just a rallying point now.  He’s become a pawn in the “I’m okay, you’re okay” crowd of dog worshipers who never ask themselves if the end truly justifies the means.  No, I don’t want Mickey to die.  I want him to live.  But I also know that there aren’t funds and space enough for Mickey in this non-perfect world.

One other thing:  Mickey is a pit bull.  I didn’t state this until the end because I am truly a believe in “Blame the Deed, Not the Breed”.  This was a deed.  Done by a dog.  While I don’t believe “blame” is correct here, consequences happen because of a deed.  I’m sorry, Mickey.  You truly don’t deserve this, but this is where I have to believe hard that there is such a thing as a Rainbow Bridge.  Because you aren’t an old, beloved dog dying of natural causes.  You are a young dog who probably hasn’t had much of a life.

Kevin (remember?  The 4-year old child who was mauled?) also has had a campaign set up for him, and is accepting donations.

I for, one, am sending my money to Kevin.  The human who can be helped.  You can donate as well here.

More information on the attack can be found here.

Keep calm and pilot on


Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

Such a Pill

“She handed him a glass of water and two Aleve gelcaps. “They’re anti-inflammatories. They will dull the pain a little bit and keep down swelling and redness. Swallow the pills, don’t chew.”

“Well, I thought I’d stick them into my nose and impersonate a walrus, but if you insist, I’ll swallow them.” 
― Ilona Andrews, On the Edge   


Heartworm, flea meds, prescriptions….we’ve all been there.  Trying to get a pill down your dog’s throat is no easy feat.  Nevermind that they will eat “kitty box crunchies” and frequently dine out of the trash, they will NOT be allowing that pill to pass their lips.  Forget the “in the piece of cheese”….they know better.


Believe me, I’m not going to tell you there is a fool-proof way of getting a pill down your dog’s gullet, but I can tell you this hasn’t failed with any dogs I’ve had to pill.

Materials needed:  
Peanut Butter (yeah, I know you’ve tried it with peanut butter before  - give this method a chance)
Appropriately-sized spoon

1) Get a decent-sized dollop of PB on just the edge of your spoon and nestle the pill snugly into the PB.  Orion’s spoon is obviously a lot smaller than Sparta’s spoon.  Get one that can fit between your dog’s canine teeth (the sharp pointy ones up top)

Note that the pills are on the very edge of the spoon

Note that the pills are on the very edge of the spoon

2) Gently pry open your dog’s mouth by hooking your thumb into their mouth toward the back, right where the upper and lower jaws meet.

Opening Orion's mouth.  Do not gag your dog...your finger should not go past their teeth.

Opening Orion’s mouth. Do not gag your dog…your finger should not go past their teeth.

3) Gently slide the PB across the roof of their mouth.  The PB should be scraped off by their upper teeth and be trapped behind them.  Your dog cannot spit it out because it is stuck on the roof of their mouth: their only option is to swallow it.


Gently scraping the pill and the PB against the back of Sparta’s upper row of teeth.

Once more with Sparta

Once more with Sparta

Mission completion.

My previous dog, Darwin, was a clever sort of fellow, and I actually had to use crunchy PB with him.  This method worked like a charm on him as well, though.  What is your method for pilling your dog?


Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio