Pegasus Project

Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.

Bil Keane



I stumbled across a beautiful thing today.  An all-white puppy.  Beautiful little girl named Pegasus.  She had been rescued from an irresponsible breeder.  All the other puppies in her litter died. She was not expected to live very long either.  So the man who rescued her did a beautiful thing.  But we’ll get to that in a moment.

That beautiful white coat?  It’s the result of homozygous merle allele.

200 (5)It’s the gene that causes the merle coat (that marble-ish looking coat that breeds such as Aussies and Great Danes sometimes have).  It’s a dominant gene, meaning you only need one out of two genes to be merle.  

No, not THAT Merle

No, not that Merle.



That’s the one we’re talking about.  You see that double capital “M”?  That’s a bad thing.  A very bad thing, actually.  It’s responsible for for puppies with the double “M” to be deaf and blind.  Breeding two merles together is the epitome of irresponsible breeding.  It just isn’t done.  It’s a backyard breeding/puppy mill type practice.

So back to Pegasus.  Her double merle, combined with other health issues, led everyone to believe she wouldn’t be around long.  Her litter mates had all died.  So her new owner, Dave Meinert, decided to document her growing up.  In his words:

When I rescued Pegasus, I was told she wouldn’t live too long so I set about filming her every day…
This is an uplifting time-lapse filmed over 6 months about the life of my great dane puppy.

The result is beauty out of the ashes.

The Pegasus Project from Dave Meinert on Vimeo.

Keep calm and pilot on


Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

Pride and Prejudice and Blue Jays

“Angry people are not always wise.”
― Jane AustenPride and Prejudice


Yes.  It’s a baby blue jay.  I’ll explain in a bit about this particular little monstrosity, but suffice it to say I hate blue jays.  It all stems from several years ago when I was out back working in my garden.  I heard a commotion of cheeps and chirps from a bunch of sparrows.  I looked over my fence into my neighbor’s yard, and found a blue jay in the midst of pecking to death a small sparrow while the other sparrows attempted to dissuade the vicious beast.  I immediately ran into my neighbors yard to try to save the star-crossed sparrow, but was too late.  Thus started my immediate hatred of blue jays.  I deemed them wretched, murderous and vile creatures.

Yes, this strong opinion was based upon one incident with one jay.  However, the incident was so violent that I was, for a long time, unable to erase it from my mind, and thus painted all jays with the same brush.

Well, today I came home after dropping my kids off to school and heard a commotion in the dining room.  There in the corner were two dogs and a cat of mine, all very interested in something.  I heard squawking.  Yup….somehow a blue jay fledgling had gotten into my house.

I quickly grabbed the agitated and frightened creature and secured its safety from the (not so effective) predators in my house.  A frantic text to a vet friend of mine, combined with some quick internet research led me to the conclusion that the best place for it was outside where (hopefully) the mother would be able to find it. Apparently jays spend about a week on the ground once out of the nest, but before they can fly.  They hop about learning the ropes of life on the outside.

So here I sit in my window seat, with the baby jay placed outside where I can monitor it.  He’s since moved to the safety of one of my flower pots, where he’s been contentedly snoozing for the past 20 minutes or so.  I will continue to monitor him for another hour or so.  I hear his mother looking, but she still hasn’t found him.  I’ll keep him safe until she does.

So what does this have to do with dogs?  Nothing?  Perhaps everything.  Or maybe just one dog.

See, a few days ago a boy was killed by dog, possibly a pit bull (though not confirmed).  I will not defend the actions of this dog. I do not believe this dog should be saved nor should rehabilitation be attempted.  I think it killed a boy.  I think that no mother should ever suffer the trauma of losing a child, especially in such a fashion.  However, this was not a pit bull attack, it was a dog attack.  I think that’s what needs to be focused on.

How can this be prevented in the future?  Banning pit bulls?  Hasn’t worked for most cities.  What about education?  Stringent requirements on spaying and neutering (it greatly decreases the chances of aggression).  Leash laws and swift action for dogs deemed vicious by their action, not by their breed.

So was this dog a pit bull?  I don’t know, and I don’t care.  It was a dog.  Dog is a dog is a dog is a dog.  In my estimation, breed doesn’t enter into the discussion. Education does.  Empathy does.  This was a terrible tragedy, a senseless death of a child from a vicious dog.  Yes, details may emerge – perhaps the dog was being baited by the child. Perhaps the dog was abused.  But perhaps doesn’t bring this child back.  And perhaps the dog was a pittie/wasn’t a pittie doesn’t change the fact that this was a vicious attack perpetrated by a single dog, not a breed of dogs.

So I’ll sit here and monitor this baby bird, putting aside my distaste for blue jays (which was based on one incident in my almost 40 years on this planet).  After all, mom had a nest nearby, and never once attacked me.  Perhaps I need to put aside my prejudice and realize that the action of the one doest not dictate the mindset of the many.  Because if mama doesn’t find her baby soon, it looks as if I may have to foster that which I (up until 2 hours ago) hated based solely on an incident from many years ago.  I think Austen put it well when she stated:

“What is right to be done cannot be done too soon.”

I think dissolving prejudices falls into that category nicely.

UPDATE:  I kept an eye on Don Rickles for a few hours while he was outside to see if the momma bird would come back.  Unfortunately, he hung out on a potted plant, refusing to move, and looking like he was falling asleep (which is a bad sign).  Even worse, he didn’t eliminate for a couple hours, meaning momma wasn’t feeding him.  So off we rushed to the Lake Erie Science and Nature Center.  A wildlife rehabilitation center is there, and one of the specialists took a look at Don Rickles.  He noted that poor Don had a puncture on his chest under his wing (probably caused by a cat).  He said in typical situations, the bird would be sent home with me to be left outside so the mom can finish up her job of taking care of him.  However, the nature of the bite necessitated some antibiotics.  So I left the poor little guy there to receive the care he needed.  I was told to call in a week to check in on him if I wished, but I was not expecting good news.

I was pleasantly surprised by this update.

Yup!  That's Don Rickles!

Yup! That’s Don Rickles!

Little man is doing well, and has even made some new friends!  It would appear that he’s on his way to complete rehabilitation!

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio


The First Day


Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

Home is the nicest word there is – Laura Ingalls Wilder

Do you remember your first day of school? Or your first day on the job? Or how about the first day you brought your rescue pup home?

When we first brought Porter home, it was exciting and nerve racking. However, the minute he entered the apartment, he saw the blankets we had bought him and went straight for them. He laid down and looked up at us as if to say “Why did it take you so long to find me?”.

That first day is magical for us. But how about for them? How amazing it must be for them to be in a home and feel love. For some pups, it’s the most kindness and comfort they’ve received so far.

Here are some pictures of a few rescue animal’s first days home. They’re not all dogs, but hey, we don’t discriminate.

What was your pup’s first day home like?

Keep calm and pilot on

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

Money in the Bank

The lack of money is the root of all evil.

Mark Twain

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

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

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

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

Your dog doesn't want to be Pilot.

Your dog doesn’t want to be Pilot.

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

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

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

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

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

“Can I make him stop hurting me?”

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

“No you may not.”

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

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

 Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

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

Photo Finished

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

- Gertrude Stein

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




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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now grow up and get your kid some real toys.

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

5 Items to Help You Travel with Your Dog

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

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

  1. Crate

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


2. His Favorite Toys

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

His favorite blanket

His favorite blanket

3. Blanket

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


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

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

4. His Bed

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


5. Benadryl

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

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

Keep calm and pilot on

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

5 Ways to Keep Your Dog Cool This Summer



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

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

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

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

1. Ice cubes

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


2. Bandanas

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

dog bowl

3. Water, Water, Water

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


4. Ice treat

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


5. Sprinkler

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

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

Keep calm and pilot on

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


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

Mahatma Gandhi


Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

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

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

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

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

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

Apparently the ends justified the means.  Or maybe not.

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

Just an average day with your typical Shock Jock.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think?

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

Fifty Shades of Jabba-style

Fifty Shades of Jabba

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


Keep calm and pilot on


Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio


  1.  Bradford 2000, pp. 134–135.

Turning Down the Noise


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

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

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

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

Our view during our walk through the Metroparks

Our view during our walk through the Metroparks

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

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

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

Porter doing some agility in nature!

Porter doing some agility in nature!

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

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


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

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

Keep calm and pilot on

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

Hack Job

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

John Grogan

Who is better looking?

Who is better looking?

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

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

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

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

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

When did THIS become fashion?

When did THIS become fashion?

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

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

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, OHio