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

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



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

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

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

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


Keep calm and pilot on


Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

Placebo In Effect

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


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

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

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

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

A recent article from Dogster described it perfectly:

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

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

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

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

You and Your Dog: The Similarities are Uncanny

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

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

Who's showing who?

Who’s showing who?

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

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

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

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

And the biggest thing we have in common is….

-          We’re both dog reactive!

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

Take this for an example:

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

Or another example:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep calm and pilot on

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

…With Little Help From My Friends

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

Photo courtesy of kindnessblog.com

Photo courtesy of kindnessblog.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blood(less) Sport

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

  – Chuck Palahniuk

I think this bored dog is making me sympathetically bored!

I think this bored dog is making me sympathetically bored!

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

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

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

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

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

Northmate Interactive Slow Pet Feeder

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

Kong Wobbler

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

Busy Buddies Twist ‘n Feed

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

Busy Buddies Kibble Nibble

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meeting James Franco

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

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

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

The James Franco Selfie!

The James Franco Selfie!

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

Here are some of the steps I took this day:

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

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

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

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


James Franco and Porter having some play time

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

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

Keep calm and pilot on

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

Doggedly Devoted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For a Pit’s Sake

Dogs never bite me – Just humans – Marilyn Monroe

Here's Lacey! She's a sweet pittie that was rescued by her amazing owners. You can follow her and her adventures on Instagram: lacey_the_apbt - Brittany Graham Photography

Here’s Lacey! She’s a sweet pittie that was rescued by her amazing owners. You can follow her and her adventures on Instagram: lacey.and.lincoln
- Brittany Graham Photography

At Darwin Dogs we are proud supporters of pit bulls. We have our Bandanas for Banned Breeds campaign and we have a special place in our hearts for wiggly butts and sloppy grins. Now, if you’re reading this you most likely have strong opinions about pit bulls.

If you’re the type of person that differs from our opinion, that’s fine. I would hope you would read on and give this article a chance to educate and maybe make you question your beliefs and feelings you have towards America’s Dog. We don’t expect you to change your mind, just maybe open up a little space to try and understand where we’re coming from.

If you’re the type of person that agrees with us, then I hope you read on as well. Your mind is already made up and we’re happy to have you on our side. However, this article is another push, another reminder, as to why it’s so important for us to keep supporting our cause.

As described in this article, a dog who is a mutt, let’s say a lab/pitbull mix, is only a mutt until he bites someone. Then he’s labeled a pit bull. A spaniel that bites is only just a dog. But if a pit bull bites then it is more than a dog, it is a pit.

We all have our own pit stories. This article is yet another supporter, another owner of a pit. Is it biased? Well, obviously. He gets to come home to a wiggle butt every night. How could it not be biased? But, it also raises some great points. And quite honestly, you’re never going to find someone that is completely indifferent to the pit bull. Deep down, everyone has their own feelings towards them.  So click here for an article that’s worth every second of your time.

Keep calm and pilot on

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

Adventure Time

The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure – Joseph Campbell

New adventures can be a little challenging with Porter. It takes a lot to Pilot him and make him focus. However, this doesn’t stop me from taking him to experience new things. If it did, he’d never get better at new situations. I’m just careful in when and where I decide to go. Because let’s be honest, adventures are way more fun with your pup.

Porter Beach3

The other day, we took Porter to the dog beach. Now, since we know he can be a total jerk in new situations (and by jerk I mean he just gets way too overexcited), there are some precautions we take before bringing him somewhere new:

-          Walk him before. We made sure that he got some exercise before getting in the car to go to the beach. It drains out some excess energy and gets him in the mentality that he must pay attention.

-          We go to these new places when it’s not amateur hour. We chose to go to the dog beach on a week day and in the morning. There’s a lesser chance for people out there for sure. If you don’t have any days off to spare, trying going early in the morning on the weekends. Unless it’s a farmer’s market, you’ll be sure to hit less people anywhere you’re planning on going.

-          The walk to whatever location that we’re going must be a good walk. I am much stricter when we are walking towards a new location. Here are some walking tips. If it takes me 15 minutes to do a normal 5 minute walk, then so be it. In the long run, it’ll help your dog focus on you and be in a more calm state of mind.

-          I act calm and collected. I enjoy nothing more than the beach (even if it is on a lake). I am the most relaxed when I’m by a body of water. This worked in my advantage on our beach adventure. Since the water calms and relaxes me, I portray that energy to Porter. It’s no big deal that we’re there. My energy isn’t excitable so he feels there’s nothing to be excited about either. So find your “beach” mentality when you’re taking your dog somewhere new.

-          Try and seek out an area at the new adventure location where you and your dog can regroup. Find an area where there are less people, dogs, distractions so you can regain your dog’s focus. Even if it’s just for a few seconds, every little bit will help.

-          Always pay attention and know when it’s time to leave. In our case, our fun beach adventure was interrupted by 3 large dogs running down the stairs with no leashes or owners in sight. There was lots of barking and commotion which only brings Porter’s energy level up. That’s when I knew it was time to leave. There was no one Piloting those dogs, so it’s in my best interest to remove mine from that situation. There are times and places to accept challenges, however, if you’re feeling frustrated, tired, or feel like this is too much for your dog to handle, then it’s time to leave.

Porter Beach2

Don’t let the fact that you have a reactive dog stop you from going on adventures. Just be aware of your dog’s limitations and take some precautions to ensure that it will be a success. You got a dog so you could share the world with them, so make sure you’re doing it!

Keep calm and pilot on

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

Absolutely Fetching

Stop trying to make fetch happen! It’s not going to happen!

-Regina George


I really miss having a “fetch” dog.  Growing up, the family dog (for 16+ years!) was a small Border Collie mix named Pebbles.  She was great, and always up for a game of fetch.  The simple routine of the game can clear your mind; the rhythm of it distracting you away from the stresses of the day.  After all, how can one be stressed when you see how exuberant a small tennis ball can make a dog.

Pebbles was a polite fetch dog:  she never played coy with the ball, making you chase her down for it.  Nor was she so unladylike as to defile the ball with copious amounts of saliva (bleh!).  She would gently place it in your hand, an patiently wait for you to throw it again.  Meaning she stared you down.  Border Collie style.

Now, if you haven’t been introduced to the Border Collie stare, let me break it down for you.  Imagine you meet someone who hasn’t eaten in about 3 days.  Now, secure them to a chair and bring out a nice, juicy steak.  Or a cheesecake.  Anything, really.  Proceed to eat it in front of them.  The look they give you?  Yeah, that’s a Border Collie stare.  It’s incredible…provided you aren’t in the receiving end of it.  Then it’s a little unnerving.

It's like Medusa and the Eye of Sauron rolled up into a tidy little black & white furball.

It’s like Medusa and the Eye of Sauron rolled up into a tidy little black & white furball.

Border Collies are well-known players of fetch.  Or frisbees.  Or dock diving, sheep herding, bomb-sniffing, agility running….come to think of it, there isn’t much these dogs can’t do.  Except be bored.

Border Collies aren’t for everyone; although I guess the same can be said for about every breed.  BC’s have a distinct distaste for inactivity.  These animals were bred to run.  And herd.  And chase.  And most importantly….to think.

Pebbles knew 5 commands that we specifically taught her: sit, stay, come, no, and down.  Everything else she picked up through osmosis.  Seriously.  The dog knew at least 75-100 words.  Bowl, eat, walk.  She knew everybody’s names, including family and friends.  She knew at Christmas that she got her own stocking, and would patiently wait until we asked her what Santa brought her, whereupon she’d bring us her present.

The most impressive (to me, at least), was when we introduced cats into her life.  She was about 12 already when we got the first catThe cat would frequently try sneaking out of the house, and would sometimes manage to do so. So we would send Pebbles outside to herd the cat back into the house (which she would do with amazing grace, speed and joy).  We didn’t teach her how to do it.  It was like every other word/command/action she did: it seemed she came pre-programmed with this knowledge.

As I said, Pebbles was a great dog, but looking back, I realize how much effort that took for her.  As a border collie, she needed massive amounts of Activity and Work.  You can’t just breed a dog for athleticism and intelligence and then leave it bored and lazy. That’s a recipe for disaster.  My brothers and I would play fetch with her.  When friends came over to play baseball in the field behind our house, Pebbles was permanent outfielder (we used a tennis ball).  She caught one of my hits once on a fly, causing me to be the third out, and making me lose the game.  It took me days to forgive her.

Border Collies are difficult if you’re not all in, or if you don’t understand how all-consuming their need for Activity and Work can be.  Quite a few BC’s are in shelters because too many parents saw Babe, and decided they needed a dog like Rex and Fly, completely forgetting that these dogs were working dogs…not pampered pets who are content to chill on couches watching Lassie re-runs all day.  Dogs like that become destructive when left to deal with excess amounts of energy.


Fortunately, there are breed-specific rescues who specialize in dogs like these.  I recently found Great Lakes Border Collie Rescue. I loved looking at the pics of the beautiful dogs awaiting their forever homes, reminiscing about Pebbles, and what a great companion she was.  I do have some extra tennis balls in the house…unused and unloved.  Perhaps I can come up with a fetching solution.


Driver's foster mom reports that he is a "gem of a dog." She also says that he is "All Border Collie," so his forever home better be prepared to play a little fetch. Or a lot of fetch.

Driver, available for adoption here. Driver’s foster mom reports that he is a “gem of a dog.” She also says that he is “All Border Collie,” so his forever home better be prepared to play a little fetch. Or a lot of fetch.


Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio