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

The Little Things

  “Judge me by my size, do you?”
Yoda – The Empire Strikes Back

10385367_10204184623834452_9168845168471881616_nConfession:  I’ve always been afraid of small dogs.  Not necessarily afraid of them…more like afraid to be around them.  Or more importantly, on top of them.  I’m about as graceful as a giraffe on roller skates, so the little ones always put me on edge a bit.  I knew deep down that they were just like every other dog, and I could see how they responded just as quickly to a bit of Piloting as the large dogs did, but still, they looked so…delicate.  Even if I were working with a dog deemed “aggressive“, if it was a Chihuahua running up to me Cujo-style, it instantly put me on edge, more so than even a Rottie or other large dog.

Then a couple of years ago it became more and more apparent that I needed a “bait” dog.  A dog that could help me out with the dog-reactive dogs.  It had to be a dog that was friendly, but aloof unless given permission to be pet.  A dog who wasn’t dog reactive, and would trust me completely.  The dog needed to be intelligent, healthy, and above all, non-threatening in looks.  Enter all 5 lbs. of Orion.

I hear you have a job opening?

I hear you have a job opening?

Growing up I did indeed have a small-ish dog named Pebbles.  She was a 20-ish lb Aussie mix we got from a shelter when I was in preschool.  But there’s a difference between a small-ish dog and a tiny dog.  Or is there? And so I present:

The Little Things That Make Little Dogs Great.

1) They can go anywhere with you.  Easily.

Sparta desperately trying to fit into the mudroom she loves so much.

Sparta desperately trying to fit into the mudroom she loves so much.

As I discovered after trading in a minivan for an Elantra, size can indeed matter…and bigger is not necessarily better.  While all 100 lbs. of Sparta fit nicely in my van, the same doesn’t hold true for my new car.  Not so much now.  Actually, Sparta doesn’t fit anywhere nicely.  A small dog doesn’t have the space problems that a larger dog can. Yes, I know what you’re going to say: a Great Dane is a better apartment dog than a Jack Russel (and you’re right), but if your floor plan only has 700 square feet, you’re taking a pretty big chunk out that with a Dane.  Any dog who is given the appropriate amount of exercise is good in an apartment.  Unfortunately, you can’t exercise the size out of a large dog.

2) They aren’t big eaters.

They're really only about a mouthful.  Wait....that's not what I mean.

They’re really only about a mouthful. Wait….that’s not what I mean.

The cost of feeding a small dog is drastically less than a larger dog.  For example, Orion eats between 1/4 – 1/2 cup of food per day, depending on how hard we hike.  Sparta, on the other hand, eats anywhere between 5-7 cups per day.  A Mastiff can eat up to 10 cups per day.  The cost of keeping a smaller dog is significantly less.

3) People aren’t as easily spooked by a small dog.

Awwwww....he's so cute!

Awwwww….he’s so cute!

Now, if you’ve been around dogs enough, you know very well that the little Yorkie is just as likely to bite you as the German Shepherd, but a lot of people don’t see it that way.  They see small dog, they automatically think of it as a friendly happy puppy.  So much that landlords typically don’t discriminate against any small dogs.  Ergo, it’s easier to get an apartment that allows dogs.

4) It’s easy(ish) to travel with a small dog.

I'll bet I could fit him in there....easily

I’ll bet I could fit him in there….easily

On a recent flight to Austin, someone brought a small schnauzer on board the plane in a carry-on.  The little darling easily fit on is owner’s lap for the entire duration of the flight instead of being regulated to the cargo hold.

5) Life span. 

photo 4(2)Smaller dogs live longer than larger dogs.  Orion’s projected life expectancy is 13-15 years.  Sparta’s is about 10-12.  Sad but true.

6) No counter surfing.

Brittany Graham Photography

Guess which one of us can reach the counter? Brittany Graham Photography

I’m all about training your dogs, but isn’t it nice when an issue isn’t even on your radar?  Sparta had to be trained to leave things on the counter alone.  Orion thinks the counter is Mt. Everest.

7) Eliminating the negative.

Eric, age 8, on poop patrol

Eric, age 8, on poop patrol

Ever clean up after a 100 lb dog?  Exactly.

8) Easier to manage.

Size never takes the place of training, but when dealing with difficult dogs, obviously a smaller dog is easier from a safety standpoint.

Size never takes the place of training, but when dealing with difficult dogs, obviously a smaller dog is easier from a safety standpoint.

Okay, a dog who is behaving aggressively needs to have the situation addressed, no matter the size.  But let’s face it: if tiny little Fifi the toy poodle decides she wants a piece of the mailman walking by, odds are she isn’t strong enough to literally drag you across oncoming traffic to get to him.

9)  Portable.

This is where Orion hangs out in the car. Passenger side on the floor.  His little den.

This is where Orion hangs out in the car. Passenger side on the floor. His little den.

When Darwin was a senior, I had a tremendously difficult time transporting him. Getting him into the car turned into an ordeal simply because of his size.  Smaller dogs are so much easier to care for as they age, requiring less muscle.  Similarly, on a hike, if Sparta gets tired, we have to stop and rest.  Orion, on the other hand, is easily portable.  Not that I’ve ever seen Orion get tired.

10) They’re dogs.

My ,majestic Papillon.

My ,majestic Papillon.

I mean, isn’t that what it all boils down to?  Dog is a dog is a dog is a dog.  They’re just like every other dog.

Sure I’ve stepped on Orion and tripped over him, but not very often.  Orion is a lot tougher than he looks: he has chased deer away from us, he has caught many a chipmunk in my yard, and he has remained courageous when helping me rehabilitate a dog-reactive dog who outweighs him by 90+ lbs.  I do indeed wrestle with him.  He hikes with me for miles and miles, never tiring. He has mettle. He truly is a mascot for Darwin Dogs.

Treating a dog like a dog.  What a novel concept! I treat Orion just like Sparta, and guess what:  both are well-adjusted, wonderful, polite dogs.  Small dog syndrome is indeed a real thing, but it’s something that we humans have created in our small dogs by treating them differently.   We don’t cipher out humans based on size. Danika is roughly 12 inches shorter than me (I’m 6ft tall)… but if you test our mettle, it’s neck-and-neck.  She and I are capable of doing the same things. Our clients don’t say they prefer me because I’m bigger than Danika.  I see people in shelters a lot looking for a new dog, but eliminating a certain dog from the running because they’re “too small” or a “sissy dog”.  Usually it’s a man, and usually I stand right next to them, look down towards them, and ask if that makes them a sissy man in comparison to me.  They usually turn red and walk away.

Small dogs, big dogs…  let’s just remember the best part: dog.

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry 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

Feast

In a gentle way, you can shake the world.

Mahatma Gandhi

 

My majestic Papillon, Orion

My majestic Papillon, Orion

Dogs are a great mystery.  They work magic in everyday situations: they console silently. They entertain. They are faithful. They are, in short, amazing creatures.

There’s a story about when my husband and I were first dating.  He stopped by my house for the first time, and Darwin ran up to greet him.  My husband reached down and made a huge fuss about my dog.  As I was walking into the other room to grab my purse before leaving, I called out to him, “Don’t try to get in good with me through my dog.”

My absolutely handsome dog, might I add.

My absolutely handsome dog, might I add.

Years later, we laugh about that.  My husband admits that yes, he was trying to “get in good” with me through my dog, but he also did like Darwin – a lot.  And if I’m honest with myself, I know that no matter how wonderful my husband is, if he hadn’t liked loved Darwin, I would not have married him.

I recently stumbled upon a short by Disney.  It perfectly captures the various roles of a dog - in seven minutes.  Watching this made me think of Darwin, and how hard it must have been for him.  See, Darwin and I were best friends. He slept in bed with me. He shared all my adventures (he was my date to two separate weddings). He was my therapist and my personal trainer. He was my binge-watching X-files partner. How difficult it must have been for him to have someone else move into those roles.  My husband is 6ft., as am I.  There was no room in the bed for all three of us, so I bought Darwin a nice, comfy bed for the floor.  Kids came, meaning he was no longer my personal trainer – we were relegated to our daily walk, not our everyday rambling jaunts.  But Darwin took it in stride.  Because he loved me.  Life may change, but not our bond.  Circumstances may differ, but not our devotion.  And even though he went over the Rainbow Bridge many years ago, he’s still my boy.

Darwin's last pic.

Darwin’s last pic.

So when I saw this animated short, aptly entitled “Feast”, it instantly brought a smile to my face, because that was Darwin.

Keep calm and pilot onKerry 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

The Power of Experience

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything – George Bernard Shaw

Remember those days, where posters of your favorite movie star or boy band covered the walls of your room? It basically looked like a teeny bopper version of a stalker’s basement. Or remember when you would see your favorite movie star or boy band on tv or on a magazine, you would squeal and go on and on about how amazing they were and all their great qualities?

These guys used to cover my walls

These guys used to cover my walls

Well, my poor parents had to go through that stage with me twice. Once, when I was an actual teeny bopper. And once when I was older and found out that pitbulls had stolen my heart. Anytime one was on tv I would stop and stare after letting out a slightly embarrassing sound that I hadn’t used since my ‘NSync days.

If we saw a pitbull on the street, I would come close to drooling. I had pictures of them on my desktop background and I was constantly sharing facts and videos of them.

When this first started my parents didn’t seem to fully understand what was happening. They, like most people, hadn’t had much contact with any pitbulls. In fact, pretty much none. I was the only one that had met and interacted with bully breeds out of my family.

 Brittany Graham Photography


Brittany Graham Photography

At first, my parents would ask about certain traits that many people haven’t been around pitbulls or haven’t been able to gain enough information about the breed (I use the term breed loosely, because as we know, they’re just a mix) ask:.

Aren’t they aggressive?

Their jaws lock don’t they?

Don’t you think they’re kind of funny-looking?

Why aren’t they allowed in certain apartment complexes and towns?

This was my opportunity to educate! I would share the knowledge that I had gained about them every time the opportunity came up. My parents would just nod and smile. I never knew what they were thinking really. It was kind of like my teeny bopper days, they accepted it but didn’t fully understand. But that was okay with me. I went on oohing and aahhing over every pitbull I came across.

When Vesta came into my life (she’s the reason that I want BSL to end), I could tell they were hesitant again. But, they were supportive and went with it.

Vest as an adorable little puppy

Vest as an adorable little puppy

Vesta was a lovebug. As they would come to visit, I could see my parents warming up to her more and more. They saw how happy she made me. They also saw how sweet she was. She had an amount of devotion towards me that was extraordinary. She knew what my next move was going to be before I did. She knew how to make me feel comfortable and how to cheer me up. She also knew how to make everyone around her laugh and that endeared her to them. They were able to see the dog she was and not just the breed.

It’s hard to connect or change your mind about something or someone if you’ve never interacted with that individual or animal. You’re only able to go off of facts or stories that other people have told you. It’s not the same thing as experiencing it yourself. And sometimes, those that are able to change others minds can do it without even knowing.

The other day, I was home visiting when a neighbor was talking about a new dog in the neighborhood. It was a pitbull and they relayed concerns and incorrect facts about pitbulls. I took a deep breath to start in on my arguments and all of a sudden my parents piped in:

“They’re very loyal dogs you know”

“They’re not what the media makes them out to be”

“I saw him the other day, just standing there, wagging his tail with a big smile on his face. Looked like a great dog.”

I took a step back and just realized, the individuals that had never understood my pitbull obsession were standing up for my pitbull obsession. They were able to rely on experiences that they had had with the breed and help others appreciate these misunderstood dogs.

Vesta and I playing around

Vesta and I playing around

This is why the Pittie Parade is so important. It’s a chance for individuals to encounter well behaved and gentle dogs that they might not have met in any other circumstance. They get to meet the wiggly butts and goofy smiles that pitties so lovingly posses. That’s what it takes to changing minds. No yelling, no screaming, no yelling out facts over and over. It takes someone to say, “hey, this dog is really sweet” for some changes to start to take place.

If we can change just one mind, we’ve succeeded. If we can change more? Well, that could create some more loving homes and arms for wiggly butts and goofy smiles everywhere.

Keep calm and pilot on

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

 

Flower Power

Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them – A.A. Milne

There’s a lot of reasons I like SNL. I love the talent, the laughs and the thought that anything can happen when they’re on stage. But, what I love most is seeing the guest stars show a different side to themselves.

Seeing tough guy Robert DeNiro singing with Kermit the Frog warmed my heart and makes you realize he’s just another person. In fact, he kinda makes you want to hug him without fear.

Live From New York….

Watching the dead pan Christopher Walken ask for more cowbell made you see a side of him that probably made your sides hurt from laughing.

Then there’s the time that Peyton Manning showed us he had a goofy side when he danced like a crazy man in the locker room with Will Forte.

Break it down Peyton…

Sometimes, it takes us seeing someone in a different light for us to truly understand what they’re like. It causes us to reevaluate our current feelings of someone and change them.

That’s exactly what photographer Sophie Gamand is trying to do. She’s a pitbull advocate and is using her skill as a photographer to help people see these dogs in a different light than they’re used to. Sometimes, it takes an artistic and different approach to change minds. Even if it’s just one person’s mind it’s worth it. Check out her take on pitbulls here. The pictures are beautiful, soft and invoke a sense of peace and calm. Just like pitbulls.

Sometimes, the louder you raise your voice, the less people listen. It’s coming up with peaceful and creative approaches to changing others’ minds that is the most efficient way to make a difference.

 Keep calm and pilot on

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

10 Ways to Help Your Local Shelter

Porter, adopted from Multiple Breed Rescue in Elyria, OH Brittany Graham Photography

Porter, adopted from Multiple Breed Rescue in Elyria, OH
Brittany Graham Photography

 The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well – Ralph Waldo Emerson

We’re all animal lovers. Really, why would you be reading this blog if you weren’t? So, I’m guessing we all want to do our part to help. Here’s a list of 10 things you can do to help out your local rescue or shelter. Not all require a lot of time or money. So, take a look, pick a rescue/shelter and get helping!

 1.Volunteer Your Time

So, we’ll start with the obvious ones. You know how it’s a new year and we all made some of those resolution things? Well, maybe one of yours was to volunteer more. So, GO OUT AND DO IT! Visit your local shelter or rescue’s website and see what requirements they have for volunteers. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to foster, it could just mean you get to go in and walk and play with pups and cats. Which, in my book, is pretty fantastic.

2. Adopt!

Another obvious option. If you have thought about adopting and have made your list on what you’re looking for in a new family member and have come to the conclusion that right now is a good time for a new addition, make sure you’re adopting! This doesn’t mean you have to go to the first shelter you find on an internet search. There are a ton of options in the Cleveland area alone as well as some great rescues out there. Take some time to look around and find what feels right for you and your family.

Sadie, adopted from the Cleveland APL

Sadie, adopted from the Cleveland APL

3. Spread the Word

Talk your local shelters and rescues up! If you have a friend that mentions that they’re looking into adding a dog or cat to their family, make sure you mention the adoption option! Talk about all the great best friends that come out of shelters and rescues.

You can also spread the word without ever leaving your house or getting dressed! Seriously! Follow your local shelters and rescues on Facebook and share those dogs that are looking for new homes. You never know who is going to see a dog and fall in love instantly. It could be a friend of a friend of a cousin, or it could be your next door neighbor. But share away! This is so helpful for shelters and gets those dogs’ and cats’ faces out there to be seen by their potential new family.

4. Amazon Wish List

Many times shelters and rescues have Amazon Wish Lists. It’s this great little place on Amazon where local shelters and rescues can add the items that they need to run a great temporary home for these dogs and cats. Items can range from toys and treats, to GPS’s. It’s a great way to have the items sent straight to the shelter and they’re getting exactly what they want. Again, this option is great if you don’t want to leave the house or get dressed. Click here to see The Cuyahoga County’s Amazon Wish List.

 Brittany Graham Photography

Pete and Tank, adopted from the Cleveland APLBrittany Graham Photography 

5. Amazon Smile

This is a great little tool as well and doesn’t cost you any money! Seriously! So, you know how you end up ordering a bunch of things from Amazon? Some needed, some not so much, but all seemed so necessary at the time of purchase? Well, if you join Amazon Smile, 0.5% of your purchase total can go towards a charity of your choice! I’m serious! Next time you sign into Amazon, go ahead and do a search for Amazon Smile. All you have to do is sign up and pick which charity you want to donate to! A lot of local rescues and shelters are on the list. It’s a great way for them to get some extra donations and you to feel better about those impulse buys!

6. WoofTrax

This is a great little App for your phone. Since you’re all giving your dogs the PAW that they need, that means that you’re also going for lots of walks with your dog. Well, this little handy app will actually donate to a rescue or shelter of your choice for every mile you walk with your dog! Just start the app on the beginning of your walk and it will record the distance that you and your pup have covered. Now, the amount they donate changes as the money that they donate comes from sponsors, advertisers and investors, however, anything will help!

Don’t have a dog? Guess what- you can still walk and help your shelter/rescue of choice! There is as Walk for Cassie option which allows you to walk on your own and still counts your mileage towards a donation. It’s a great idea and the more people walking for your shelter/rescue the better. So spread the word!

You can download the app by visiting their site here.

Bowie, adopted from Berea Animal Rescue Friends Brittany Graham Photography

Bowie, adopted from Berea Animal Rescue Friends
Brittany Graham Photography

7. Start a Donation Drive

This doesn’t have to be anything extravagant. Set up a box at work or with your friends and ask people to donate some pet items. Treats, toys, collars, leashes, blankets…. Quite honestly the list is endless. Then, take a trip out to your local rescue or shelter and donate all the items you’ve collected. They’ll be beyond grateful and you’ll feel good about the situation as well.

8. Show Your Gratitude

Quite simply – say thank you. If you see a volunteer say thank you. Tell them how much you appreciate the work they do. This can be in person, a letter or a Facebook review. Let them know the community is behind them and what they do touches all of our lives.

Molly, adopted from Muttley Crew Brittany Graham Photography

Molly, adopted from Muttley Crew
Brittany Graham Photography

9. Throw a Benefit Party

This doesn’t have to be as crazy as you might think. Seriously. You know that Super Bowl party you just had? What if you asked everyone to donate $5 when they walked in the door for your favorite local rescue or shelter. So, invite everyone over for a get together and tell your friends you’ll provide some food and that you’re collecting donations and why. At the end of the night, tally the money up and write out a check to the rescue/shelter you’ve chosen. You had a great time, your friends had a great time, and the shelter will be so thankful.

10. Show off your own Rescue Dog

Have a rescue dog? Show him off! Whenever someone says how cute he is or how well behaved she is tell them about where you adopted them from! They can be an ambassador just like you can!

Keep calm and pilot on

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