Stranger Danger

Fear makes strangers of people who would be friends.

Shirley MacLaine

Boots and Bee Photography - By Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – By Brittany Graham

“My dog is aggressive towards strangers.

“My dog is fearful.”

“My dog is skittish.”

I hear these phrases constantly.  Some dogs are goofy, fun-loving balls of affection who have never met a stranger.  Then we have dogs who have what I call a healthy sense of self-preservation.  My Orion used to be like that.

No, Orion wasn’t abused, which is a common misconception with dogs such as these.  As humans we try to rationalize and explain behavior.  It must have a cause!  Something precise that has caused our dogs to be wary of the world.

But the world doesn’t work like that.  For example, my daughter, River, is the most fun-loving, outgoing creature I have ever met.  She explained to the pizza delivery guy a few days ago that if he ever encountered a monster, she’d protect him.  She then gave him a hug.  River is the equivalent of a pittie:  the life of the party who thrives on any type of human interaction.

My son Eric is completely different.  He’s more circumspect.  He has wonderful social manners, but it takes him a long time to warm up to someone and feel comfortable.  He needs to feel out a situation before he participates in it.

Neither of my kids have been abused.  Both have been raised exactly the same way.  We accept that kids can have different personalities, but we don’t allow much wiggle room for our canine companions.  They have to be exuberant balls of fun, just desperate for human interaction, regardless of with whom, in order for the to be healthy, happy dogs.  But just as not all humans are of that caliber (I certainly am not), not all dogs need to fit into the one-size-fits-all mould of “dog behavior”.

Orion, who took a few weeks to warm up to my husband, now thoroughly enjoys any attention he can get from him.

Orion, who took a few weeks to warm up to my husband, now thoroughly enjoys any attention he can get from him.

 

Orion, for instance, is a lot more wary and aloof than a lot of dogs. As a matter of fact, when I first met Orion, he bit me.  Completely not his fault:  he didn’t know me, and I had thrust my hand inside his carrier to retrieve him, as he had gotten caught in the back of it somehow.  Any creature with a lick of sense (especially one weighing 5 lbs.) would do the same thing!  It doesn’t mean he’s damaged, it means he has an healthy sense of self-preservation.

Gradually I built up Orion’s trust in me.  I started by not yelling, kicking, hitting or otherwise abusing the dog.  Common sense, right?  The longer I went without kicking Orion, he figured the more likely it was that I wasn’t going to start.  But then we moved beyond that.  There’s a difference between a friend and a protector.  I was to become both.  I needed to Pilot Orion.  In other words, I needed to not only answer all of his tough questions (such as, “Is that person a threat?” and, “Should I be afraid?”), but I had to get him to trust me enough to forgo his own determination of a situation and accept my answer.

Teaching a new trick can help build trust.  You're working together as a team with a common goal: communication. Boots and Bee Photography - By Brittany Graham

Teaching a new trick can help build trust. You’re working together as a team with a common goal: communication.
Boots and Bee Photography – By Brittany Graham

Look at it like this:  What if I told you to sell everything you own and invest a certain stock?  Your reaction would probably be, Why on earth should I listen to you and do something so potentially catastrophic?! You’d be crazy to just listen to me regarding such a decision.  However, what if I started off with small suggestions, such as putting $5 towards something.  You take a look at my situation, which seems financially comfortable, and decide to take the $5 plunge.  That $5 turns into $10.  Your faith in my decisions is boosted.  I give you another suggestion, you take it, and make more money, or, at the very least, don’t lose any.  Pretty soon you’re actively looking to me for suggestions.

That’s how it works with dogs.  You have to give them a reason why your answers to their questions are better than what they can come up with.  That’s what Piloting is all about.  Now obviously you can answer their questions with force, and with pain and anger, but that’s losing the most important part of the Piloting equation:  trust.  So how do you get a dog to trust you? Easy! Put them in very simple situations that require only a very small leap of faith, and then gradually up the ante.

I recently boarded the world’s most adorable Labradoodle, Cody, in my home due to his owner’s injury and anticipated long convalescence.  How did I get him accustomed to me, and used to my answering his questions?  I started with agility. Teaching him to jump over a yardstick placed directly on the floor.  Then adding stimulation: placing one end on a soup can, raising it just a bit.  Then the next side is raised.  Pretty soon Cody is trusting me enough to go bounding back and forth across the “jump”.  If I had started out with the jump raised all the way…well, that’s a bit of a stretch.  He didn’t know me very well, and that’s an awful lot to ask of a dog.  But by adding gradual amounts of stimulation to the situation, raising it slowly, I was able to expand his level of comfort with my decisions until eventually he trusts my answers more than he trusts his own.  That is what Piloting is all about.

So how do we put this in play with regard to stranger danger?  Well, we need to start with the fact that it is okay that your dog is wary of strangers.  We aren’t trying to change who your dog fundamentally is.  But we can indeed broaden their horizons a bit.  Get your dog to trust your answers with the small things, like walking by the man on the other side of the street.  Answer their questions as you are walking, and make sure you are Pilot during the walk.  Don’t just drag your dog along past the stranger – that’s forcing them past a point, not answering their questions.  It may take a bit of mental fortitude on your part to make it past the first person, but if you are Pilot, take your time, and keep your patience, you will do it.  Remember, this is difficult for your dog: this is the first time you are Piloting them past a perceived danger.  It is a huge leap of faith on their part and should be treated as such.  Just because you realize that the other person isn’t a threat doesn’t mean they do.  But if you get them past the first person, answering their questions all the while, the second person is easier to get by, then the third, and so on.  Pretty soon your dog is looking for your answers rather than coming up with their own.

Orion is still wary of strangers.  I allow him to be.  Unless I don’t.  That’s the beauty of Piloting.  If you don’t abuse the position, you can ask your dog to do marvelous things.  Orion and I worked on his stranger danger, gradually upping the ante each time.  First he had to walk calmly by strangers, which is difficult when you barley reach someone’s ankles – no wonder everything looked like a threat!  (You try walking among a herd of elephants without being apprehensive, and then you’ll understand what a small dog can feel like on the sidewalk.)

Next we worked on strangers approaching. They would ask to pet my dog, and I would let them…in a very controlled way.  I would pick him up and present him rear first.  If Orion would ask a question, such as “Can I make them stop petting me?”, I would answer his question by very gently tapping him on the derriere with all five fingers, similar to the way one taps out an email on a computer:  no harder.  It’s not about pain, it’s about getting him to refocus on me and the answer I was giving him.

Trust is integral.  If I’m asking Orion to trust my judgment about someone, it’s up to me to keep him safe and make wise judgments.  So if the individual who wants to pet Orion seems very hyper or is giving off a lot of negative energy, my answer is no.  My first duty is to my dog, not to social graces.  It’s up to me to put Orion in situations where he can thrive, not situations that test his faith in me to beyond capacity.  I also don’t force Orion to take affection without a good reason.  I don’t make him be pet just for the sake of being pet. Affection has to be mutual.  My goal was to make sure he was acclimated to being touched by anyone, just in case circumstances arose where he needed to be (vet, boarding, etc.).  I still make him accept being pet, but only for one of two reasons: he truly wants to be pet by that person, or I need to work on his accepting touch to keep him from backsliding into not accepting touch from a human.

As Orion accepted being pet by strangers, he was always given a reward.  For Orion, food doesn’t do much, but calm gentle praise certainly did.  He wanted to know he was on the right track, and I most definitely assured him of it.  Answer his questions, give positive when he chooses to accept the answer.  Wash rinse repeat.

Orion is still wary of strangers, but rather than immediately cowering in fear or lashing out when someone decides to pet him, he takes a different approach now.  He looks at me.  He expects me to answer his questions.  Sometimes he has to accept that he will be pet, but since I’ve always protected him during the petting, he isn’t afraid anymore.  Now he’s the dog who will warm up to a stranger after a bit, and actually “ask” to be pet – something that I never thought would happen.

Orion and Cody.  It took a little Piloting to get Orion to accept my answers and Cody, namely that Cody wasn't a threat.

Orion and Cody. It took a little Piloting to get Orion to accept my answers and Cody, namely that Cody wasn’t a threat.

Orion has come a long way from that frightened little creature he once was.  Yes, I have put a lot of effort into Piloting him and answering his questions, but it’s always easier to be the one answering questions than the one who has to take a leap of faith.  That’s why I’ll always strive to be worthy of the Pilot position and never shake his faith through ego or vanity or putting him in situations that we haven’t worked towards yet.  I’ve earned his trust, and it’s up to me to make sure I don’t abuse it.

Boots and Bee Photography - By Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography - By Brittany Graham

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog training in Cleveland, Ohio

Dogma

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

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

“Because I work”, was her reply.

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

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

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

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

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

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

or Shepherd, or Akita...

or Shepherd, or Akita…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Brittany Graham Photography

– Brittany Graham Photography

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

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

Why do we do that with dogs?

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

ruby

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

To this:

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

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

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

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

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

Boots and Bee Photography

Boots and Bee Photography

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

Keep calm and pilot on

 

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

Stay

Stay just a little bit longer
Please please please please please tell me that you’re gonna
- The Four Seasons

 

Boots and Bee Photography - by Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham

So you’ve worked hard at recall with your dog.  Now what?  How about the “stay” command?

If you go about it like most people do, you’ll put your dog into a sit, slowly back off of them, saying “stay, stay, stay”, then crouch down, and call them, giving them a treat when they get to you. Um, yeah…

bush_doing_it_wrong_1

 

Remember, you’re trying to catch a behavior and reward it with positive reinforcement.  So let’s start at the very beginning.  A very good place to start.

indeed

Remember the three steps to working with a dog:

  1. Control Yourself.  Don’t be angry, don’t be frustrated.  Be calm.  If you can’t be calm, be gone and try again later.
  2. Control the Situation.  Don’t add energy to a situation you don’t already have control of.
  3. Add Stimulation and Answer Questions.  “Can I get up yet?”. Not yet, Fido.

Okay, now, you’re ready to go.  Or stay.  Whatever.

We will be using positive reinforcement in this situation because we are asking a dog to do something human: learn a new language.  Of course your dog already knows how to stay.  So does an elephant, or any other animal. What we are teaching Fido how to do is link a word with a behavior.  Any word will do, be it “stay” or “Bananarama”.  The trick is to link it to the precise behavior you want.

So let’s take another look at what you did. You started off well, putting your dog in a sitting, calm position.  You then calmly repeated the word “stay, stay, stay”, as you slowly backed off your dog, adding as little energy as you could, making sure you “nailed” your dog to that spot with your eyes and your finger as you back away from your dog.

Listen to your Uncle Sam.  He's got it right.

Listen to your Uncle Sam. He’s got it right.

And then you derailed the whole thing by calling your dog and rewarding him when he came to you, telling him he was “Good stay!  You’re such a good boy…good stay Fido, good stay”.  Um,

521e4-whatitmeans

You’re trying to catch the behavior of “stay”, not “come”.  Now your dog is confused.  Stay and come have become entwined.  Remember, one word for one action.  ”Come” means moving towards you.  ”Stay” means not moving at all.  But you just mixed them up for your dog.

Great.  Total protonic reversal. Nice one.

Great. Total protonic reversal. Nice one.

So instead of calling them, after you’ve taken a few steps away from them, as you’re repeating “stay, stay, stay” ad nauseum, simply start moving towards them again, finger out Uncle Sam-style.  When you get to them, calmly give them a reward.  Your dog should not have moved a single muscle, staying glued to the floor the entire time.  That’s how you catch a behavior.

So, you did it once or twice, merely taking a few steps away from your dog, and remaining in eyesight the entire time.  You’ve controlled the present situation (as in Step 2 outlined above).  Now you’re ready to add more stimulation:  stay command out of sight.

So you put your dog in a sit, Uncle Sam him, and then leave the room, go outside, and take a jog around the block and, yeah…

youre-doing-it-wrong

Of course your dog didn’t stay!  You added too much stimulation.  Take baby steps…progress, not perfection.  The first time you go out of the line of vision of your dog (maybe around a corner for just an instant), you will still be repeating the word “stay”, calmly, over and over again.  You will only pop out of sight for just a brief moment.  Your dog stays as you walk back. You reward.  All is right with the universe.

Gradually add more and more to the amount of time you disappear from sight.  Gradually repeat “stay” less and less.  If the first time you repeated it 15 times during the exercise, the next time, try for 14.  If Fido gets up, go back to 15 times for the next round, and then try 14 again.  And then 12.  And pretty soon you’re down to once or twice.

So how long does it take until your dog “gets” it?

Well, look at it like this.  I’m currently learning Spanish.  Ten minutes after I do one of my language exercises, I can remember almost 100% of the vocabulary words  Two hours later, maybe 90%.  The next day, 50%.  That’s why I practice a lot  Your dog is learning not only a new language, but a new way of communicating.  Dogs aren’t based on vocal communications like we are.  They don’t understand inflection or tonality.

No, but you're learning now!

They are based on body language.  So cut them some slack, and don’t get angry when they’re being “stubborn”.  They’re doing the best they can learning an entirely different form of communication.  Give them some help:  frequent micro-training sessions of less than a minute.  Praise and rewards for getting it right.  And the well-earned gift of your patience.  Because that’s were true staying power comes from.

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

 

Personally Speaking

I am a great believer in found families and I’m not a great believer in blood.

Joss Whedon

Puppies-at-a-pet-shop-in--001

A few weeks ago I was chatting online with a friend of mine.  He wanted to know what I thought about a certain “breed”of designer dog.  His wife wanted one for the family, and she had fallen in love with a friend’s new puppy, and they wanted one, too.  He told me that the puppy was from a well-respected “breeder”.  They got the information on a breeder website….as in, “We breed schoodles, morkies and shih-poos…”.  As soon as I saw that, flags went up.  This wasn’t a breeder – this was a puppy mill.

I tried to explain to him that respectable breeders didn’t advertise online.  Nor did they specialize in more than one breed, let alone claim to be breeders of dogs that aren’t even a breed.  Unfortunately, it all fell on deaf ears.  They proceeded to purchase a puppy.  I don’t believe they even set foot in a shelter.  Rather than rescuing a new family member, they attempted to purchase a designer label.  But at what cost?

Puppy Mills

We all know the horror behind-the-scenes of a puppy mill.  We’ve seen the numerous dogs who were rescued.  I’ve worked with dogs who were saved from years spent in a tiny 2′x2′ crate, giving birth to litter after litter in squalid conditions.  These dogs are no more than livestock, there as a commodity, conditions be damned.  Each one of those viable puppies is worth between $800-$1000.  Unfortunately, those chasing after the supposed prestige that comes with having a purebred dog usually don’t want to pay purebred prices.  So they buy a knockoff.  Unfortunately, just like knockoff Prada, someone always pays the price, usually behind the scenes.  Child labor in sweatshops or abused and neglected animals. Both victims of the “designer” label.

ipj53

 

If you buy from a real breeder, you should feel as if you are applying for the CIA.  Background checks may be involved.  These are their lives’ work!  A breeder’s dogs are more like a family dog/work of art/live’s mission all rolled into one.  They will never let ou pick a dog from their litter – they interview you to find out which one of their puppies’ personalities will fit best in your household.  In other words, they have dogs, not investments. They aren’t a money making device!  Breeders typically don’t breed their dogs more than a handful of times in the dogs entire life!  According to Animal Rescue Corps., dogs in a mill have a much different schedule:

“Females are bred repeatedly, usually twice a year, every year, until they can no longer produce puppies. This is incredibly stressful on their bodies but they are viewed as moneymaking machines, as disposable property, not as individuals with inherent worth. Female dogs are commonly bred before it is safe to do so because the earlier they start, the more puppies they will produce in a lifetime. Puppy mill breeding dogs are often given hormones and steroids to try and increase the number of puppies they produce. These drugs can cause extreme pain and serious side effects – all in an attempt to increase the number of puppies for profit.”

But at least you got your cute puppy.

Designer Puppies

I just got a new niece. Her mother is Chinese, and her father is a mix of Finnish and Irish.  The baby is beautiful.  However, I am intelligent enough to know that she is one of a kind. I can’t recreate her, no matter how hard I try, even with parents of the same ancestry.  She will always be unique, from her looks to her personality.  My own children don’t even look like they’re related to each other, and their personalities are about as polar as they can be.

River and Eric at their favorite ice-cream shop.

River and Eric.  Or as my husband and I call them, Machete and The Professor.

So why are you trying to recreate your neighbor’s adorable puppy, who happens to be a something-poo?  Your inability to realize that you can’t recreate a living being is disturbing to me.  I can understand having a type…. I personally prefer Am-Staffs (or pitties). I also love Shepherds.

Yes, Orion.  Papillons too.

Yes, Orion. Papillons too.

But here’s the thing:  I can rattle off why I love those breeds:  I love how fun-loving and goofy pitties are.  How they are desperate to have a rollicking good time and want nothing more than a good snuggle, followed by more fun.  I love how Shepherds are always so desperate to learn something new, and how absurdly stoic they can be.  I love how Papillions are such lively little creatures who are really too big on the inside for those tiny little bodies.  I love how they are just as rugged of a dog as a Coonhound or a Lab.  I understand that each dog in a specific breed will always have its own personality, it generally falls within a certain area.  If you’re going with a purebred, finding out breed standard for that specific breed is a very good start to having a wonderful companion rather than a chore, or even worse, an owner surrender to the local shelter.

In other words, I love these dogs based on more than how I think they look. When I asked my friend why they were heading towards the designer “breed” they had in mind, the response was, “he’s cute”.  Seriously, they’re basing living the next 10-15 years with a dog on nothing more than “he’s cute”.  Temperament is merely an afterthought.  As is exercise requirements and how much Piloting the dog will need.  It is imperative to come up with a list of wants vs. needs when choosing a new dog, whether it be from a shelter or a breeder!

Remember that a mutt (which is what your designer dog is) is a dog that can not be reliably bred to have a certain standard.  In other words, if I were breeding Golden Retrievers, I can with a high degree of certainty state that the next litter will contain pups who will grow to be a certain size, with a very predictable temperament (fun, easy going, eager to please, and friendly).  Same with Poodles:  I can reliably breed very intelligent and active dogs of a certain “look” who, while easy to train, want to know why they should be listening to you and not following their own orders.  (For that reason, I generally steer families with small children away from poodles.)  Now, let’s breed a Golden and a Poodle together.  What do you get?  Just about any mix of all these traits.  Anywhere from a dog who looks exactly like a Golden but acts just like a Poodle (and vice versa), to a complete blending of the two looks and temperaments.  In other words, a mutt.

Mutts are awesome, but just like every other dog, they must be judged on an individual basis before you decide to buy/adopt. Judge the dog on who they are, not what they appear to be.

You Blew Your Chance to Save A Life

Seriously, Robin.  Don't be a douche.

Seriously, Robin. Don’t be a douche.

Let’s not forget the biggest reason to adopt rather than shop. Or rather the 2.7 million reasons to adopt.  That’s the number of dogs and cats euthanized each year.  Yeah, sure, you can argue that you can only rescue one,and what’s “one” in the face of such a large number?

"Just one" is the most important number Boise can think of.  He only has a 1/600 chance of making it alive out any shelter.  Check out Boise, who's up for adoption, at the Cuyahoga County Animal Shelter.
“Just one” is the most important number this little guy can think of. He hopes it’s his, because as a pittie, he only has a 1/600 chance of making it alive out any shelter.

To be truthful, I had high hopes of convincing my friend not to shop for a puppy, especially not from a place that hit every single hallmark for being a puppy mill. I’d like to say this hasn’t changed how I view my friend, but there are only so many matted, filthy dogs I can help rehabilitate before it becomes personal.  Only so many dogs I can work with who are afraid of everything, who’ve never been outside their breeding box in the 2, 3 or even 8 years they’ve been on this planet, before I become judgmental and angry, even with longtime friends.  There’s a finite number to the dogs I can say goodbye to, and take them for their last long walk and few moments of fetch, before their time is up before it gets personal.

Yes.  It is personal.

Keep calm and pilot on

 

 

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

 

Friends Forever, or Choosing a Shelter Dog

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.
- Ben Franklin

dog-shelter

So you’ve decided to add a pet to the family.  You’ve determined that adopting is the best way to go. Now what?  Shelter? APL?  What do you do?  First come up with your list of wants vs. needs.   Ever walk into a car dealership to buy a car, but have no idea what you want?  Manual, stick? SUV or sedan?  Nope?  Didn’t think so.  And bear this in mind: most people put more thought into precisely what they want in a car than what they want in a dog, yet they will swap cars every 5-6 years, whereas a dog will last upwards of 13 years!

That's highly illogical
That’s highly illogical

Decide if you want to go through a shelter or a city/county kennel.

Shelters are sometimes able to foster their dogs, meaning you would be able to see the dogs in a normal home environment, or at the very least, not terrified and acting contrary to their nature in a kennel. (Let’s face it, those places can be very scary.) Remember, those aren’t other dogs or pack member in those kennels…those are other predators. They don’t know those other dogs, and haven’t bonded with them.  Think about how you’d be acting on your first day if you were sent to prison. Yeah.

Good times were had by all

Good times were had by all

Understand that dogs currently residing in shelters are only exhibiting a fraction of their true personalities.  Just like humans, some dogs adjust to these situations a little easier than others.  Things to look for:

  • Dogs who come to the front of the cage may be less fearful in general, but again this is a unique situation.  If someone were to judge my disposition based solely on watching me drive across the Valley View Bridge, well….let’s just say it wouldn’t be accurate.
  • Dogs who calmly come up to you in a slightly submissive fashion (ears slightly down, body in a slight letter “S” rather than an ultra-submissive or ultra-hyper fashion.  Dogs with wiggle-butts are great (looking at you pitties!).
  • Dogs who have been there for a amount of time I consider the “sweet spot”.  A dog who just comes into the shelter is going to be traumatized (What is this place? What’s all this noise? Who are these people?!).  Let them have an adjustment period of a day or two.  After a bit, they’ll know that, while the kennel is scary, it’s not mind-blowingly terrifying anymore.  You’re more apt to get a read on their real personality.
  • But remember what being in a cage for a while can do to a dog.  Dogs who have been there a while can get cabin fever.  This is not a natural state for the dogs, but remember, they’ve been isolated and scared for a while now.  It takes a toll on the psyche.  Yes, these dogs can indeed still make great pets, but be realistic: this will be a forever dog, not the dog you adopt because he’s been there so looooong!  Stick to your “shopping list”.
  • Ask the employees, but don’t be persuaded into taking a dog.  A good kennel worker will indeed get attached to the animals.  They can give you great information on which dogs may be best for your situation.  Unfortunately, that attachment may cause them to inadvertently try to talk you into a dog.  If you’re not “feeling” that dog, move on.  Remember, you brought your list of wants and needs.  Share it with the workers and let them know you are indeed sticking to the list.
Here's cage No. 666.  This guy is my favorite.  Don't let him fool you, he'll be fine once you get him home.

Here’s cage No. 666. This guy is my favorite. Don’t let him fool you, he’ll be fine once you get him home.

Unfortunately, there is no magical formula for adopting a dog from a kennel.  If there were, odds are kennel wouldn’t be needed anymore because every dog would fit into their new home perfectly.  Go with your gut.  Make a rational decision, not an impulsive one.  And then take the necessary steps to make the transition from kennel to home as smooth as possible.  Keep them as best friends forever.

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

 

Home

Be grateful for the home you have, knowing that at this moment, all you have is all you need.

 - Sarah Ban Breathnach

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

So you’ve done your research and done a good job of it.  I’ve made an educated decision about which dog you’d like to adopt, and there he sits in the backseat of your car, on your way home.  You’ve got the the dog food, the vet appointment is set up, and perhaps you’ve even made an appointment with a dog trainer to get off on the right paw foot.

So now what do you do?

Here’s a step by step on how to acclimate your dog to their new home. It’s all about stages and not overwhelming a dog at any point.

1) On the way home, in the car, give your new family member plenty of time to sniff you. Give him a positive (a tiny reward or at least some praise and petting) every time.  What you are doing is linking your smell to a positive.  You’re a good thing.  That will translate later when he’s in a house that smells like, well, you.

Scent is a very important thing for humans.  We bond through scent.  We cradle babies by our armpits so they can smell us and be relaxed.  We hug for the same reason – sharing scent.  How often has a crying baby been brought in to snuggle with mom, and then, without nursing or anything, instantly falls asleep?  They smell mom and feel soothed.

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

For a dog, nothing smells safer than pack.  Pack is like a security blanket, and the bigger that blanket is, the better it smells.  You are the dog’s new pack.  Familiarize him with the scent as much as you can.  Providing a lot of positive combined with your scent makes it a very comforting thing for new pooch needs.

2) Take your dog immediately into a quite, secluded area of the house.  If you’ve set a crate up for them, put them in the crate and just quietly hang out by them for a while, again, equating your scent with the safety of the crate.  The crate isn’t a bad thing, it’s their “bedroom”.  A place that is safe and entirely theirs.  Allow them to become familiar with it immediately.

3) Give frequent potty breaks.  A lot of shelters will say that a dog is housebroken because the dog never messed in their cage.  While they aren’t lying, the dog may not be housebroken.  A lot of dogs will not eliminate in their cage or crate.  Start off on the right foot immediately by following the basic rules for housebreaking, outlined here.

Don’t get upset if your dog marks in the house.  This can be quite normal for the first day.  A lot of dogs will do it once or twice, and then never do it again.  They are merely adding their own scent to the house, often as a way to self soothe.

4) Put yourself in the Pilot position.  I say over and over again that Piloting is a huge piggy bank, and whomever has the most money wins the position.  Start adding money to your bank immediately, before your dog has any chance to add money to their bank.  Don’t allow them to jump on you.  Don’t allow them to demand your attention (a dog version of “may I please be pet” should always be expected).   Start answering their questions now.  They’re going to want to know the rules of the house, so be kind enough to give them the answers.  Some answers are “yes” and some are “no”.  Read here to find out how to give it to them.

5) Take them for a (calm) walk.  No, not in the Metroparks, or downtown.  Try your backyard.  Somewhere that still sorta smells like pack, but will still require a leash (yes, even if your yard is fenced in).  You are adding even more money to your Piloting piggy bank.  If you need some help with leash walking, read this series on how to do it without drama.  Remember to praise and reward for any potty activity that takes place outside.

6) Put your dog on a leash and walk them around your house, allowing them to sniff and smell.  They are familiarizing themselves with the area, and it feels safer to explore if their Pilot/New Best Friend is doing it with them.  Remember, though, a lot of dogs have never been acclimated to living in a house.  Some may not know the rules.  They’re dogs not humans, so be prepared for some crazy behavior, such as jumping on tables or counters to investigate, etc. You have them on a leash so you can easily answer their question, which is, “Is this acceptable?”  Um….no, Fido.  Not in the slightest.

Do not allow your dog full run of the house immediately.  Start with small areas, and has your trust in them grows, go ahead and add areas of freedom for them.  Baby gates are integral for this.

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

7) Bedtime.  Ah…this can be the hard part.  You’ve set yourself up as Pilot, your dog is (mostly) acclimated to the house.  But now comes the scary part…being alone all night.  If you want your dog to sleep in bed with you, go for it.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  However, if the dog is to sleep elsewhere, you have to help them prep for this.  The worst thing you can do is try to pop the pup in the cage for the night without any prep work.

You are going to do a crash course in separation anxiety.  The first time he’s alone in his crate shouldn’t be for 8 hours while you’re (trying) to sleep.  Put him in the crate for five minutes, leave the room, come back and let him out.  Now try for 15 minutes.  You are creating normalcy out of being alone in the crate. Pop him in and out of the crate all day, focusing on longer and longer periods of time.   Think of it as dress rehearsal for the big show.  Trust me, you’ll thank me for this when it’s bed time.  For a more detailed description on separation anxiety, read this article.

Wash, rinse repeat.  Some dogs take 5 minutes to feel comfortable in new home.  Other take a little longer.  Take your time.  Don’t rush them.  They’re worth the wait.

im234ages

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

Brittany Graham Photography

Double Trouble

“Everything in moderation…including moderation.”  - Ben Franklin

So you’ve got one dog you’re having problems with.  Maybe Fido is hyper.  Maybe Fido is bored.  Usually Fido just won’t listen to you. You’re at your wit’s end trying to cope with this dog.  And then you stumble upon a wonderful idea….a second dog!  The logic seems sound – another dog will help with the separation anxiety.  It will help wear your first dog out.  Perhaps things will be easier with another dog to keep your first dog occupied.  It’s like communism – it only looks good on paper.

The same goes for multiple dogs.

The same goes for multiple dogs.

I have indeed seen quite a few instances where a second dog helped out tremendously with keeping the first dog occupied/not alone/stable. But only if your first dog is successfully Piloted.

Let me put it this way: suppose you have a child who is giving you no end of trouble.  They are constantly getting bad grades, not doing homework, and talking back all the time.  Would your solution be a second child?  Of course not.  You’d try to work with the issues you first child is having and then, perhaps, once those are sorted out, have a second child.  The same goes for your dog.

Once you have your dog successfully Piloted, a second dog may be a good idea, but only if your first dog is getting the Piloting, Activity and Work that they need. Only when you are consistently answering all of your dog’s questions.  Yes, it may take a lot of work, but you’re doing it, and you’ve got your dog at a pretty good place.  Now is a good time to consider a second dog to help you out.  Adding a second dog doesn’t negate your need to Pilot either of them.  You still must answer both of their questions, but instead of bringing in more chaos, you are controlling the situation before adding stimulation.

You’ll have an adjustment period where you have to answer questions for two dogs, which may initially be tougher, but keeping things running smoothly and answering questions as they arise is so much easier than trying to untangle a mess that a lack of Piloting creates.

Adding another dog isn’t like adding more sugar in your sugar bowl.  It’s more like adding another book to your library.  What kind of book are we talking here?  Dr. Suess?  James Joyce?  Are you looking for an adventure book?  Perhaps a self help or maybe Sci-Fi?  There are so many books to choose from!  Dogs have personalities, so you aren’t adding a dog so much as a new flavor to your pack.  You are trying to create a recipe of personalities, and just like those chocolate raspberry bacon mint cookies you saw on Pinterest may take some …uh, getting used to, some flavors are simply more difficult to palate when combined than others.

When choosing a new dog, don’t forget to make a checklist of wants vs. needs, but this time you are going to be taking into consideration your current dog’s personality.  It’s a balancing act.  Your dog has a lot of energy, perhaps another dog with a lot of energy will wear your Fido out, but it may also create a situation where all these guys want to do is play, including in the house (which is where your Piloting skills need to come in).  If you have a dog who has separation anxiety, getting another dog who is prone to it as well won’t help -you want a calming influence, not a partner in destruction (remember, separation anxiety isn’t about being left home alone so much as being left without a Pilot). Feel out your potential new dog’s personality, and consider how it will mesh with your current dog.

I personally have two dogs:  Sparta and Orion.  Sparta is slow, steady, calm and has no separation anxiety.  She does, however, have dog reactivity.  Orion is fast, hyper and has separation anxiety.  The two balance each other perfectly.  Sparta relies on Orion to give the alerts (which he never does).  Sparta has a calming effect on Orion.  However, both are Piloted by me.

 If your dog is depressed, due to the passing of another pack member, allow them time to grieve.   Dogs do indeed mourn, so don’t turn around the next day and get a new dog.  Your dog may have lost their Pilot (yes, you may be their Pilot as well, but there is a pecking order).  First make sure you have strengthened your bond with your current dog, and then consider adding to your pack.

When working with dogs, always remember to start with calm.  Only then can you add stimulation (or in this case, another canine).  If you start while you’re in a good place with your current dog, adding a dog will be a very rewarding (and entertaining!) experience.

Keep calm and pilot on

Time Out

All punishment is mischief; all punishment in itself is evil.

Jeremy Bentham

Brittany Graham Photography
Brittany Graham Photography

So you’ve just caught your new puppy chewing on something in appropriate.  Or perhaps you’ve just cleaned up yet another mess on the floor that your Dachshund has left for you.  Maybe your Beagle won’t stop barking.  Whatever the behavior, I’m noticing a trend among how to handle the situation, and I hate it.

Put the dog in a time out.

You are punishing your dog by putting them “jail”.  For a crime they don’t even realize they committed!  Remember, you are asking your dog to be a human.  To insinuate themselves in a human world with human things and behaviors.  And you are punishing them for failing to be human.  

Is it symbolic?
Is it symbolic?

Ask yourself why you’re putting your dog in a time-out.  Is it so they know what they did was bad?  But was it?

Dogs are incapable of being bad.  There is no such thing.  They know love, devotion and happiness.  They know fear, hunger and pain.  However, they have no concept of bad.  Something is either accepted or it isn’t. It’s an unemotional answer to an unemotional question.  So rather than punish your dog for asking a question, such as “Can I chew on this?”, why not just answer their question?  And then be done with it.

For example, the puppy who is chewing on something inappropriate, simply use your body language to “claim” whatever it is they are engaged with, (as in, “No, you may not have that”).  Once they accept the answer, you are done  Now, in the case of a puppy, they will probably go right back to the thing that is verboten.  Puppies have the attention span of a Bartlett pear – that’s why they’re called “puppies” instead of “adult dogs”.  Answer their question again using the body language. Once they accept the answer, immediately remove the item.  Take your G.I. Joes and go home, in other words. You’ve now removed their opportunity to ask the question again, which would force you to answer the question.  Again.  Ad nauseam.

Your puppy is still going to want to have something to do, so let’s give them something appropriate.  This is a great opportunity to show them exactly what will earn them some positive attention.  Pick a toy and engage them with it for a bit (ie, play with it), and then let them have it.  If they start chewing on it, reward them with some positive attention.

Engage with your pup
Engage with your pup to get them interest in a more appropriate item
Allow them to play on their own
Give them a chance to go it alone.

 

Now for some positive
Give positive reinforcement for their ability to occupy themselves with an appropriate toy.

Tip: when I have a dog under 12 months in the house, I only keep 1/3 of all toys out for them.  The rest are kept away.  I then rotate the toys every 3-4 hours.  Result – everything old is new again, and nothing inappropriate gets chewed. 

Now, that’s not to say I have never locked my dogs up.  Sparta gets sent to her mudroom.  But it’s not to punish her.  It’s so I don’t punish her.  Remember that part where you take your G.I. Joes and go home?  Well, if Sparta is barking out the window (let’s face it, the weather has warmed up and there is a lot of activity outside for the first time in a while), then I will answer her question (“Can I bark?”) using my body language.  Once she accepts the answer, I take my G.I. Joes and go home.  In this instance, I know Sparta’s limitations – that’s why I’m her Pilot.  Rather than giving her negative body language for every threat person who walks by our house, I simply remove her from the situation. I let her calm down a bit so I don’t have to give her negatives.

That’s different than simply sending her there because she’s barking. I answered her question before putting her in her mudroom, rather than avoiding the question she’s asking.  In a little bit, I’m going to let her back out.  When I’m prepared to answer her questions again.  I’ve controlled the situation before adding more stimulation, as outlined here. If I simply try to blunder my way through it, continuously answering her questions without a break, I’m going to lose my temper.

Yeah...you realize nobody likes you when you're angry.
Yeah…you realize nobody likes you when you’re angry.

So instead of Hulking it out, I’m going to give myself a time out by removing Sparta from the situation.

...and that it's okay to take a break!
…and that it’s okay to take a break!

While we’re both chilling in separate areas from the house, I’ll give her something to do. Maybe a bone.  Maybe a Kong.  After a bit, I’m calmed down, and she isn’t as focused on the people outside.  She may eventually ask again about the people outside, but I’m in a better frame of mind to answer her questions unemotionally, which leads to a better experience for all of us.

Which is more my cup of  tea
Which is more my cup of tea

So before you send your dog to time-out, ask yourself a few questions:

1) Am I doing it to punish?  If so, rethink.  Dogs don’t need punishment.  They need answers.

2) Have I answered my dog’s question?  If you’ve already answered your dog’s question, and are removing them from the situation to prevent Hulking out on them, you have my blessing.

Bear in mind the more often you answer your dog’s questions unemotionally, the less likely they are to ask them again. We Pilot our dogs by infusing them with our own calm.   Now when someone is walking in front of our house, Sparta merely whines a little.  That’s it.  No, it didn’t happen overnight, but it definitely didn’t take a Hulk to make it happen.

Keep calm and pilot on

 

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

What to Expect

“We’ll be Friends Forever, won’t we, Pooh?” asked Piglet.
“Even longer,” Pooh answered.

- A.A. Milne

Porter_0030Brittany Graham Photography

 

I have a lot of people ask me about getting a dog.  I try to answer their questions as best I can, but it’s not always easy.

What kind of dog? The canine kind.

Are certain breeds aggressive? Really?

How do I pick out the right dog? You do your research,  and then do your best.

Along the way, however, I realized that there needed to be some kind of “Doggie Code”, or “Doggie Commandments”.  Something. Not quite an instruction manual, but something to cover the blank spots between Piloting your dog and feeding your dog.  I guess more along the lines of What to Expect When You’re Expecting….a dog.

Yeah....dogs.  Definitely should have gotten a dog.

Yeah….dogs. Definitely should have gotten a dog.

So without further ado, here we go.

You’re going to fall in love with every dog at the shelter and feel guilty as hell for not rescuing all of them.

I know.  I’ve been there.  I walked out of a shelter 18 years ago with Darwin almost sobbing because there were other dogs there scheduled to be euthanized later in the week.  But here’s the thing: I saved one.  If we all saved just one, what a difference.  Each according to their ability, and that’s exactly what I did.  Darwin has since crossed that damn Rainbow Bridge, and I’ve added Sparta and Orion.  I did the best I could within my means. The problem is that those flippin’ dogs are like potato chips.  Once you open the bag, you never want to stop.  Keeping the mindset of “within your means” implies both mental and physical.  Remember, those terrible animal hoarding situations all start out somewhere.

New, from Fi-Do-Lay!  Mmmm... goes great with Separation Anxiety brand dip!

New, from Fi-Do-Lay! Mmmm… goes great with Separation Anxiety brand dip!

The honeymoon phase doesn’t last forever.

I wouldn’t have a job if it were all sunshine and lollipops forever.  You really didn’t think it would last….did you?

I guarantee it isn't a candlelit dinner.

I guarantee it isn’t a candlelit dinner.

Your dog is going to do something stupid.  Take up barking. Attempt to digest revolting things, and then void the attempt…right on your pillow. Get sprayed by a skunk.  Just remember, you adopted a dog, not a human.  Dogs don’t do things to get back at you, or to punish you.  They have separation anxiety.  They have boredom.  They have needs for activity.  They will ask questions, and need to be Piloted. Address these situations when they come up, or it’s going to be merry hell for the next 13 years.

You’re going to think of them as human…don’t.

Yeah, Darwin and I would hang out on the couch together and watch tv.  I’d talk to him, offering my opinion about what was on.  Asking him if that dress made my butt look fat.  I’d tell him about my boy troubles, my car troubles or my leaky faucet.  He was my date for many parties, and three weddings. In short, I treated him like a human…until I didn’t.  I was always his Pilot first and foremost. I tell my clients that once you give your dog the Piloting, Activity and Work that your dog requires, you can do whatever you want.  Ignore them (but really, why?).  Talk to them.  Dress them up (Darwin worked a bowtie like a Chippendale).   Do whatever you want.  Give them their needs as a dog, and only then can you treat them like a human.

Treat me like a dog or there'll be hell toupee!

Treat me like a dog or there’ll be hell toupee!

They are not an impulse purchase.

I had a frenemy in my 20′s.  She adopted a dog after her boyfriend broke up with her. She even named the dog “Re-bound”.  Yeah.  It worked out exactly as you thought it would, with my helping her find a new home for the poor dog after she “moved on”.  Your dog isn’t there to take the place of something. Or fill some hole in your heart.  And contrary to popular belief, it won’t enlarge any body parts by their bad-assedness.

Contact your doctor if you try to compensate for more than four hours.

Contact your doctor if your attempt to compensate lasts more than four hours.

They will absolutely break your heart…but only once.

The ultimate paradox is that the only creature who loves you more than they love themselves, who would give their life for you (so long as no vacuum cleaners are involved) will actually destroy your life when they do finally find their end.  If it’s one year or 12 (like I had with my Darwin), it’s always too soon.  Do yourself a favor. Have a plan.  Don’t wait until Fido develops cancer to try to figure out when it’s time to say goodbye.  You will not be logical.  You will be emotional, like I was.  Truthfully, I should have taken Darwin to that Rainbow Bridge months before I actually did.  By trying not to betray him, I absolutely did.  I was emotional.  It took someone who was removed from the situation to show me how sick Darwin actually was.

Whomever painted this is either the most compassionate animal lover or an absolute masochist towards humans.  Crying yet?

Whomever painted this is either the most compassionate animal lover or an absolute masochist towards humans. Crying yet?

I take a lot of pics of Sparta and Orion.  I can easily compare how they are now vs. how they were at this time last year.  Facebook helps with that.  So does Instagram.  Have a hashtag with your dog’s name (for ease of reference), and start taking pics, and then compare them.  If your dog is diagnosed with something wretched, take a pic every week.  Compare them to the previous week. Do right by your dog. Do the heavy lifting so they don’t have to.  You’ll still be traumatized when they go, but you will know you made the best decision you could, with all the information necessary for such an action.

   s

My very first pic of Darwin, circa 1996

And then get ready to do it all again.  Because you will.

Darwin's last pic.

Darwin’s last pic.

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

Why Dogs Should Be Thought of as Food

Eating is not merely a material pleasure. Eating well gives a spectacular joy to life and contributes immensely to goodwill and happy companionship. It is of great importance to the morale.

Elsa Schiaparelli

file4511240703908Dogs as food. Still with me?  Wondering if I’ve gone off the deep end?  Hear me out. Let me spell out the lessons I learned as a child, and am currently teaching my children, about food. I guarantee that by the end of this blog, I will have you thinking of dogs as food.  Trust me.

Make Sure Your Eyes Aren’t Bigger Than Your Stomach

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Take only what you can eat.  If only people treated dogs the same way.  I personally have a problem with this. If I were talking about food, I’d be an over eater.  If we were talking about animals, specifically dogs, I’d be an animal hoarder.  Because I know I can save this one.  I know I can get this one a home.  But they’re going to euthanize him! What’s one more?  I had to set hard, fast limits.  Two dogs, two cats.  As quoth the raven: nevermore.  Bring home only what you can care for.

Don’t Throw Food Away/Don’t Waste Food

images (2)

I see this all the time.  You think you want to eat that second piece of meatloaf, but then halfway through, decide you didn’t really want it at all.  So it gets dumped into the garbage.  Sound familiar?  You thought you wanted that adorable little puppy. The designer dog that looked so cute. Only now it’s full grown, and well, just not as cute/fun/well-behaved as you originally thought.  So you throw it away. Off to the dumpster shelter it goes, where depending upon the dog’s breed, it can have as little as a 1 in 600 chance of making it out alive.  So make sure you really want it before you take it.

Don’t Toy With Your Food

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It’s not a toy.  Your mashed potatoes aren’t Play-Doh.  Your peas aren’t marbles.  Your dog isn’t here for your amusement.  Yes, play with your dog.  Romp with your dog. Have fun with your dog.  But if only one of you is playing/romping/having fun, then you are doing it wrong.  Your dog is not meant to endure every last whim that comes upon you or your children.  I’ll never forget when I was about 4 years old, my much, much older (had to point it out) cousin Diane came over with her boyfriend and his dog, a huge beast of a Lab.  Probably the largest dog I’d ever seen.  Someone commented that the dog was large enough to ride.  I took it literally, so I tried.  And got a smack up the side of my head.  Lesson learned.  Don’t ride dogs.

There Are People Starving

SoupKitchen

We should respect food because there isn’t always enough to go around.  We were all taught this as children.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if dogs and food had the same universal availability?  Plenty to go around, no one left wanting, but nobody taking it for granted.  The more readily available something is, the less something is worth.  Water, for instance.  I live right on Lake Erie, so water is something I’ve never had to consider.  It’s just there.  But that’s not how the rest of the world may think of it.  We have too many dogs, not enough homes. Therefore, less value is placed on the individual dog because, well, we can always get another.  Dogs shouldn’t be squandered anymore than food.

Now stop and think about some of the best quotes about food:

There is no sincerer love than the love of food.
- George Bernard Shaw

 

Food is our common ground, a universal experience.
- James Beard

 

Food is your body’s fuel. Without fuel, your body wants to shut down.
- Ken Hill

 

Now substitute the word “food” for “dog”. I think, perhaps, you’ve finally seen my point of view.  Dogs are indeed the most important food.  The food of the soul.

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