Breed Standards: Creating Prejudices in Dog Training

Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible.     

Maya Angelou

We all have prejudices.  Those who claim they aren’t prejudice at all strike me as imbeciles, unwilling or incapable of introspection. Prejudice can take so many forms, the most obvious being in regards to race, gender or sexual orientation with humans, but there are so many different forms.


I’m prejudice against the home made frosting you make.  I don’t even need to taste it to know my mom’s/grandma’s/great grandma’s cake frosting is the best (I’ve even included it at the bottom of this post so you can agree and change the error of your icing-ways).

I think I can honestly say that I’m not prejudiced against people based upon their ethnicity (having so many different ethnic groups making up my DNA, it would be pretty hard for me to be prejudiced based upon a person’s ethnicity or religion). But I’ll admit that I’m prejudice against certain people in other capacities. I realize that the skewed beliefs I hold against these people are stupid and lacking merit, and I’m working hard to eradicate them, but sometime you’ve been “educated” too thoroughly to stop the knee-jerk reaction and let go of those ignorant beliefs, regardless of how hard you try to rid yourself of dysfunctional thinking.  But I realize I’m not perfect, and that my job is to try to do better every day, and to make sure my children aren’t poisoned by ignorant thinking. So far, so good.

But as this is a blog devoted to dog training, dog life, and just the joy that is the canine world, I completely digress.

So let’s talk about something we all tend to ignore:  prejudice of breeds.  The obvious prejudice would be pitbulls.  We’ve created entire sets of laws devoted to the prejudice of one little block-headed dog.  It perplexes me.  I hear the same tired adages from the same group of ignorant people:  pitbulls are dangerous.

To which I reply, “No shit!”

Of course they are dangers: they’re predators!  Every single dog I’ve ever worked with is potentially dangerous!  If it has teeth and can move faster than I can, it’s dangerous!


Yes, even this little doll-faced munchkin can be dangerous.


We tend to focus so much on which breeds are dangerous that we lose focus on which dogs are dangerous.  We banter around the term “breed” like it’s a make, model and year of a car.



But a car is a machine.  A dog is not, and regardless of how carefully a dog is bred, there is still plenty of room for deviation within that breed.  But we are still fed the same bullshit that Golden Retrievers are the perfect family dogs, Chihuahuas are lap sharks, and Rotties require “special training/handlers”.

We all know that’s just a bunch of Benedryl Cramplesnutch


(side note: Buttercup Candysnack fans, click here.  You’re welcome.)

I’ve worked with quite a few aggressive “family dogs”, and lost count of the Rotties who should be therapy dogs. By judging a dog based exclusively upon the breed, you are missing the potential of the dog.  Work with the dog, not the breed.  Focus on Fido, not the fact that he’s a rare Blue Ridged Appalachian Banjo Dog.


Most times, when booking a session, I don’t even ask what breed of dog you have, because the operative word here is “dog”.  I want to meet Fifi, Ollie, Peaches and Brutus. And they are so much more than just a Chihuahua, Doodle, Spaniel and Shepherd.  They are individuals, not brands of merchandise.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, there are a few breeds of dogs that I am prejudiced against.  Remember, I’m only human, and I’m working every day towards being better.  No, I’m not going to tell you which three breeds of dog I’m prejudiced against because prejudice is stupid. I know I’m being stupid, I accept it, and I refuse to spread stupidity around like a crop duster full of ignorance.


And every single time I work with one of the three (rare) breeds that I’m prejudiced against, I’m reminded again how stupid and misguided my apprehensions were about the dog, and each time I have less and less prejudice against those three.  There used to be four breeds I was prejudiced against, but I finally learned better and accepted new information upon which to make my decisions.  Facts win (eventually).

So I have an idea: rather than referring to purebred dogs as “breeds”, let’ refer to them as “families”.  Because there are a bit of similarities between families and we can acknowledge that.  But we always treat the individuals within the family as, well…individuals. It’s fair to say that a Weasley family member will probably have red hair. But you’re willing to accept deviations without a second thought.


Nobody is surprised when they meet my daughter, who at 12 is already 5’6″, because I’m 6″ tall, and my mother was 5’8″. Family tradition of tall women.


But with family, we allow for deviation from the norm.  My son is actually a little smaller than normal.  And besides, “normal” is just a setting on a washing machine.

That’s not to say that there aren’t certain concerns within a family that may need to be addressed.  Epilepsy seems to travel in my family, as well as asthma.  And we have a high number of ADHD and some autism swimming laps around the family gene pool. But I’m not automatically going to assume that any child born into my family will have ADHD. It’s a case-by-case basis. Similarly, learn about the medical conditions your dog may be prone to, but don’t automatically assume that your Mastiff will have cherry eye, or that your GSD will have bad hips.

A lot of people are commenting about what breed of dog they’d like to get, and with very little deviation, they are picking out dogs based upon their experience with one single dog.

“My best friend ‘adopted’ a Gaggledoodle from a local breeder, and I just love that dog, so I’m going to go to a ‘breeder’ and get a Gaggledoodle, too!”


1) Your friend did not ‘adopt’ a dog from a breeder.  Best case is they bought a dog from a backyard breeder.  Worse (and most likely), they are supporting puppy mill industry.

2) You can’t recreate the same exact puppy as your friend’s dog just because they’re the same breed!  They are individuals, not lines of code that can be rewritten to create a carbon copy of an original.

Judging a dog by their breed first, you’re falling into the trap of prejudice.  Judge the dog by who they are.  Let your dog tell you whether or not they like to play fetch. If they are scared of other dogs, or if they actually prefer to be lazy rather than hyper. I’ve come to accept that my training sessions are so much more productive when I’m not battling against preconceived ideas of how a Pug should act, but focusing on Bailey, the individual dog in front of me.

Learn about your dog and you’ll be well on your way to building a healthy partnership with Fido, Fifi, and Peaches.  Communicate and train with the dog you have, not the breed you bought.  Plenty of Labs hate water.  I’ve met some seriously lazy Border Collies.  And most pit bulls are more interested in belly rubs and treats than murdering anyone.

trash panda

Now, as promised, here is the recipe for the best tasting custard frosting you will ever have, courtesy of my grandma.  My mom wrote out a cookbook of family recipes for me when I was 5 years old, starting in 1982, and this was in it.  Thanks, Mom!

1 cup milk
3 heaping Tbsp flour
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla
Whisk together milk & flour in a saucepan over low-medium heat to create custard base. Careful, as it will burn.  Once thickened (almost to the point of runny mashed potatoes), remove from heat and allow to cool completely.
Beat together powdered sugar and butter until fluffy.  Add the milk/flour mixture until well incorporated.  Add vanilla.
Skip the cake and eat this shit straight from the bowl while binge watching The Witcher.  Toss a coin. No regrets.

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio


Southpark Mall Supports Puppy Mill Brokers Despite Evidence

Greed is the inventor of injustice as well as the current enforcer.

- Julian Casablancas


We all know cash is king, and easy money is the best money.  Let’s face it, corporations’ sole reason for existing is to make more money.  But at what cost?  When does the search for more money become inexcusable due to the swath of destruction of innocents that lay in its wake?  In other words, is the enrichment of corporations and businesses acceptable if the cost is the  health and safety of innocent animals?

Over the past three years, Darwin Dogs has been picketing Southpark Mall over their support of puppy mills by allowing Pick of the Litter and Petland continue their practices in the mall.  Council meetings have been attended by those horrified by what goes on in the mall.  So what information has come to light recently?  And more importantly, why is Southpark Mall’s management ignoring this information, even at the cost of risking their shopper’s health and safety? Is animal abuse really acceptable in return for a better bottom line?  Read the disturbing evidence for yourself.

 1) Strongsville Animal Control Officer, Chuck McCleary, had visited Tom Collins 22 times in the past year.

Exactly what has  McCleary been inspecting? The recent photo of the very sick husky above was taken by me, personally, on Sept.20, 2019, and posted to Darwin Dogs’ Facebook platform.  In a series of Facebook posts, as well as PM’s, McCleary reached out to inform me that the dog in the picture “is by itself, in its own cage not on display on oral antibiotics.”  That dog looked about as far from “by itself” as the dog could possibly get. IMG_47952) City of Strongsville’s own ordinance states that is an individually is criminally liable if they

“Keep animals… in an enclosure without wholesome exercise and change of air” *


“Whoever violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree. In addition, the court may order the offender to forfeit the animal or livestock and may provide for its disposition including, but not limited to, the sale of the animal or livestock.” *

To put it bluntly, Tom Collins’ puppies, as well as his breeding cats, never see the light of day once he acquirers them.  They are never taken out of their pens for healthy exercise.  So every day that his puppy mill store has been operating, he has violated Strongsville law, and McCLeary would have seen this all 22 times he inspected in the last year.  As a matter of fact,he may have seen the same exact animals in the same exact cages over the past year.


c. 2018 Pick of the Litter

c. 2018 Pick of the Litter

Why is this happening? The account of one person I spoke with may shed some light on this.  Speaking with her, she informed me that,  “Chuck McCleary flat out told me he is a friend of Tom’s when called because he had a dog for sale in the store with a note on it saying it was found in the parking lot of the mall that day.”  The individual I spoke with was an employee at the mall at the time, which was a bit over a year ago. The mall employee went on further to state that, “The warden chewed me out for calling him and that he wasn’t going to do anything to Tom, and they’ve been friends for a long time, and as far as he was concerned, Tom was doing it a favor.”

I have asked McCleary if he is indeed friends with Tom Collins; he denied any such relationship.  

3) Falsification of vaccination records/medical history **  Kaylin, a local animal advocate as well as a vet tech, recently adopted a puppy from Pick of the Litter, against her better judgment, based solely on the fact of how far in distress one of the puppies looked.  She adopted her puppy on July 14, 2018.  Having a vet tech background, Kaylin knew that the puppy was only 6-8 weeks old on the day of adoption.  POTL told her the puppy was 4 months old.  Kaylin knew better, as her puppy had absolutely no adult teeth in her mouth. To make matters worse, Kaylin was told by the employees to give the puppy crushed Fruit Loops on top of her dry food, as the puppy was hypoglycemic.  And if she didn’t, her puppy may go in and out of consciousness.

Puppy being sold at Pick of the Litter in Strongsville.  He looks to have significant hydrocephalus.  c 2018

Puppy being sold at Pick of the Litter in Strongsville. He looks to have significant hydrocephalus.  c. 2018

In Kaylin’s own words, “Well, also coming from a vet tech background, that does happen when you take a dog away from their mother too early and they aren’t getting the nutrients they need from the [mother's] milk.  If you have to do that, you supplement with some kind of simple syrup, like a Karo syrup, not Fruit Loops. That’s going to cost her in the long run.” And unfortunately, Kaylin has had plenty of problems with her Pick of the Litter puppy.  “Allergies, and things of that nature”, she stated, “Probably because her immune system didn’t get to be fully developed.”

But that was just the start of Kaylin’s problems with her puppy. remember, according to POTL, her puppy was 4 months old, born in March 2018.  Kaylin believed her puppy to be 6-8 weeks of age, born on or about May 19-31 and her vet confirmed it.  That made the vaccination records POTL provided to Kaylin with her new pup extremely disturbing:


“The records I have from Pick of the Litter for this dog are, some of the vaccine records written in.  Working in a vet clinic myself, you take the lot number sticker off the vial, and you put it on the record for if there is any recall or any issue.  Three of these are handwritten in.  There’s no lot numbers. “

Even more disturbing evidence presented itself on the vaccination records, as Kaylin explained.  The dates POTL has stated for the vaccinations of Kaylin’s puppy were before the puppy was even born.  According to Kaylin (a vet tech) and Kaylin’s own veterinarian, the puppy was born some time between May 19-31.  According to POTL, the puppy’s first shots were given on:

- April 21 (4 weeks before the puppy’s birth)
- May 3 (2 weeks before the puppy’s birth)
- May 20 (the week of birth)
- May 25 (the week of birth)


Parvo and distemper are both very contagious, deadly infections, for which this puppy was never properly vaccinated against.  During the Oct. 1 council meeting, Tom Collins stated, “I know the difference between a four week old puppy and an eight week old puppy.  A lot of vet techs know everything and they don’t know everything.  I’ve been in the business for 35 years.” *

As Kaylin puts it, though,  ”This is just a blatant, falsified record of my puppy.”

Falsifying health records is a very serious thing, especially if you are supplying your store with puppies from unethical breeders.  Evidence was given that the sick husky puppy photographed above, as well as puppies in the store, had been dosed with “metro” (Metronidazole), due to diarrhea.  Metronidazole is used to treat:

Animal Control Officer McCleary even stated in a comment that, according to his inspection at the beginning of October this year, “…this dog came from the breeder this way, and was going to be put to sleep”.  He further states that, “…in reality it was saved [by POTL] from euthanasia by the breeder”.

Yet Tom Collins vehemently denies being involved with unethical breeders and puppy mills.

Southpark Mall is allowing these infected puppies in their establishment and allowing children to come in contact with them right before heading to the food court to eat. Evidence has also shown that Tom Collins falsifies his vaccination records, so who knows what else your children may pick up while there.  But enjoy Southpark’s indoor trick-or-treat event on Sunday, October 27!  Candy and parasites for everyone!

What about all the bite instances we’ve been hearing about?  It’s the most disturbing and gruesome story I’ve heard so far (and that’s saying a lot).   I spoke personally with the witness, Ken, and here’s what he had to say.

Date of incident Aug 17, 2019

A puppy was kenneled in fish tank with other different dogs from a different litter. Puppy was in a 50-100 gallon fish tank. At least 7-8 dogs in there with him. I asked why he was in there, and an employee said that puppy (pittie) was in there b/c of the bite. A little kid was touching the puppy, and child was unsupervised, and there were no employees around. At least three employees were working that day, but nobody was with the public in the store, which was crowded. Dog jumped up and nipped the child. Employee told me that if nobody bought it, they would try to give it back to the breeder, and otherwise they would “put it down”.  If the breeder didn’t take it back or if nobody bought it, it would be euthanized. I tried to find a home a home for the dog, but couldn’t.

POTL tried to sell the dog to Ken for $750 initially. Half an hour later, the employee said that the breeder didn’t want it and Ken could have the puppy for $30 . Ken tried to find a way to take the dog home, or find someone to take it, but he couldn’t as he has a newborn, and nobody else he contacted could take it.

The last image ever seen of the brindle pittie before he disappeared.  Alone and scared, tightly packed in with other dogs, all for the crime of being born a puppy mill dog.

The last images ever seen of the brindle pittie before he disappeared. Alone and scared, tightly packed in a fishtank with other puppies, all for the crime of being born a puppy mill dog.


We can only guess what eventually happened to the the poor pittie in the photo. By law, the puppy should have been micro-chipped within 24 hours of his arrival at POTL.  Most likely, it wasn’t so we will never know.

But what about the individuals who are allowing this to continue?  Let’s face it, money talks.  Unfortunately, the puppy mill dogs and cats that Tom Collins deals with are unable to speak for themselves.It’s time we stand for those who have no voice. Learn more here.

Contact Southpark Mall, and demand to know why they allow puppy mill brokers and pet stores selling puppy mill dogs to do business within their mall. Let them know publicly, via reviews, that we will not do business at establishments that allow for animal abuse. Let them know via Facebook that you won’t stand for this mistreatment of animals. Or call/send a letter:

Southpark Mall c/o Starwood Retail Managers 500 SouthPark Center Strongsville, OH 44136 (440) 238-9199

Join us at our next protest.  You can find out when we are protesting next on the Darwin Dogs Facebook page. So in short, protests bring a lot of attention to situations like Tom Collins and Pick of the Litter, but at the end of the day, not all of us are willing/able/crazy enough to protest outside in all kinds of weather.  The way to shut these establishments down can be as simple as one phone call.  One email.  One review.  Let them know this won’t be tolerated anymore, and that we demand better. And we will fight for it. -  For more information on puppies and puppy mills, read this. – For information about AKC and breeding practices, read this. – For information on why puppies suck anyway and you should adopt an older dog instead, read this.


Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

* See Sections 618.05(a)&(c) of Strongsville Code **See Strongsville City Council minutes for meeting dated Oct. 1, 2018, available here