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

Porter’s Holiday


Boots and Bee Photography - by Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham

The key to a self-fulfilled life lies in consistent selfless deeds – Edmond Mbiaka

Well, it’s that time of year again. The holidays are here, which means lots of family visiting, lots of visits to stores and for some, lots of traveling. I’m one of those people that travels for the holidays. I travel home to New England and then from there tour all of New England to see the family.

There’s lots of air travel and car travel involved. It’s a hectic time with not lots of structure or knowing when I’ll be able to be home next. Which means, Porter doesn’t come with me. This isn’t because I don’t want him there. Trust me, as I’m writing this post, I am dreading dropping him off at sleep away camp. Not because I think he’ll have a bad time, or misbehave, or not get enough exercise. No, I’m dreading it because I’m selfish and will miss him terribly. But again, this is one of those times where I need to let go of my own selfish feelings and do what’s best for him.

Boots and Bee Photography - by Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham

Why is sleep away camp better for him than coming with me during the holidays? Well, here are a few reasons:

Schedule? What schedule?

Although Porter is great at going with the flow, when there’s no routine or structure away from where he (or any dog) is comfortable it can be stressful. Also, sometimes my own schedule when I’m home stresses me out. And guess who is going to pick up on that immediately? At sleep away camp he has a normal routine. He’s comfortable there and has his toys and blankets that smell like home. He’ll know what to expect day to day which will make him relax and cut down on any unnecessary anxiety.

No Travel

Porter’s a little too big to travel under my seat on a plane. Yes, I’ve totally looked into it. And quite honestly, a 9 hour car ride is tough on him and me. It’s not worth it. He gets bored and with only him and I it’s tough when it comes to taking breaks. It’s a long drive and not fun for either of us. He’ll do it if I ask him to. But, I try not to put him in that position too often. By him staying here, he doesn’t have to be cooped up in a small space for a long time.

A picture that was sent to me from Porter's sleep away camp! He loves it there!

A picture that was sent to me from Porter’s sleep away camp! He loves it there!

Activity Levels

While on holiday, I can’t guarantee how much activity I’ll be able to give him. My schedule will be all over the place and I can’t guarantee where we will be when. Which means, his normal activity levels will suffer. This can create more anxiety and the feeling of just being pent up. Now, I know at sleep away camp he gets out several times a day and gets to run around until he tires himself out. Which is what he would prefer any other day of the week. So, why not this week?

Less Stressful Situations

If he came home with me, he’d have to travel from house to house with so many new people, locations and situations he’s not used to. This can be very stressful. I don’t want to add more unnecessary stress in his life if I don’t have to. And keep in mind, in those stressful situations I have to make sure I’m Piloting 100% of the time. And I can’t guarantee that. So, it’s not fair to put him in those situations if there’s another great option available.

Porter beyond tired after a week of playing with new friends

Porter beyond tired after a week of playing with new friends

Yes, I’ll feel guilty and wish he was coming with me. But guess what? Those are my selfish feelings. So, I’ll drop him off without drama (because seriously, this is the best option so why get dramatic about the drop off and create more anxiety), give him a quick pat, and know that this is the best decision for both of us. And I’ll know it’s the right decision the minute I get the first picture of him running around with 7 of his new best friends.

Keep calm and pilot on

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

5 Suggestions to Make Boarding Easy

Boots and Bee Photography - By Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – By Brittany Graham

The scariest thing about distance is that you don’t know whether they’ll miss you or forget you - Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook


For some owners, leaving your dog’s care in someone else’s hands can be nerve racking. I mean you spend most of your day caring for your pup and now you’re expecting someone else to do just as good of a job. But hey! We all need to go on vacations. It doesn’t make you a bad owner! Here are a few steps to making your dog’s boarding experience a little bit easier for the both of you.

1. Vaccines!

To avoid any extra stress, make sure your dog is up to date on all of his vaccines and fecal samples. Wherever you are leaving your dog SHOULD have guidelines on what vaccines are needed and how recent they should have had a fecal sample tested. If you’re planning on boarding your dog in the future, most places require a Bordatella shot. Have all this taken care of ahead of time so there’s no surprises the day of.

2. Pack the Necessities

Talk to your boarding place and see what items you can bring for your dog. Now, remember you don’t need to bring the whole house in order for him to feel comfortable. If you’re allowed, bring 1 or 2 of his favorite toys and a blanket or towel that smells like him or you. The smell will make him feel more comfortable immediately and the toys will make him feel like he’s at home as well. Keep it simple. You don’t need to bring anything. And make sure you’re not giving Fido you’re $200 blanket from your bed. Any cheap blanket that smells like your household will be just fine.

Boots and Bee Photography - By Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – By Brittany Graham

 3. Get some Exercise

Before leaving for “sleep away camp”, take your dog for a walk. Make it a little bit longer than it usually is if you can. When your dog gets to his new home for the week, he will be a little excited and anxious as it is a new place. Any extra energy you can get out of him before hand is helpful. Even when you get to your destination if you feel like Fido is a little too wound up, take him for a walk. Never underestimate the power of getting out any excess energy.

 4. Don’t Make it a Production

When you’re leaving your dog, don’t make it this dramatic affair. The more normal you act, the more normal your dog will act. If you make a huge scene, your dog is going to feed off of that energy and become very anxious. We don’t want that. We want this to be a seamless transition. To just a quick pat goodbye and you’re out the door. Your dog knows you love him. It’s going to be okay.

Boots and Bee Photography - By Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – By Brittany Graham

 5. Don’t Make it a Production

Nope, not a typo. I just mean don’t make it a production when you come back for your dog either. When you pick your dog up, if you act like you just got back from climbing Everest or your dog just survived months of hiking the Appalachian Trail, your dog is going to start to become anxious, hyper and worried again. We want the boarding place to be a place where your dog has fun and enjoys going. So don’t make it a huge deal. It’s not. Your dog had fun, you had fun just in separate places.

Make sure you do your research on boarding places. Ask for suggestions from friends, other dog owners or your vet. Read reviews and even take some time to visit the place before you send your dog. But trust me, most of these places keep your dog so busy they won’t even notice you’re gone. And when you’re dog comes back, he’ll be so exhausted he’ll sleep for days straight.

Keep calm and pilot on

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



Easy Rider

    It is better to travel well than to arrive.




Summer!  Road trips to the beach! Travel to the park!  Go! Go! Go!  If you’re like me, once the weather breaks, you want to be outside doing, well, …something. Sparta, Orion and I love hiking once the weather breaks (technically, Sparta likes hiking before the weather breaks – Orion and I are too delicate).  Part of the fun, though, is discovering new areas to hike.  We live in Lakewood, and are very familiar with the trails around the Rocky River Reservation, but several times a week we will travel to a new locale:  Hinkley Reservation to hike Whipps Ledges.  Down south to Strongsville to hike Royalview.  In Vermilion, there is a great lagoon.  All of these trips require a car ride.

Sparta and Orion are perfect little angels in the car.  But most dogs aren’t just born that way.  Sparta sits in the back seat, her usual stoic look upon her face, waiting for her next orders.  Orion sits in the passenger seat next to me, excited about our destination, but trying (and usually succeeding) to contain himself. 

So, how did I get my little companions to do so well in the car?

Piloting. There is no substitution, no harnesses, herbal remedies, or restraints that will help your dog relax in the car.  Piloting is the only thing that can take a dog who is hyper in the car and turn them into a road warrior.

You and your dog - Road Warriors

You and your dog – Road Warriors

Let’s take a few examples of bad behaviors in the car and address how to Pilot your dog through them:

  1. Hyper dog, who jumps back and forth between the seats and never seems to calm down.  A couple issues with this dog:  energy and possibly anxiousness.  All dogs have questions that need to be answered.  This dog’s questions are pretty simple:Are we there yet?  Can I be in the front seat now?  Can I drive?   All of these are answered with a simple, gentle negative.As mentioned previously in the PAW Method, you need to control your situation before adding stimulation.  In other words, don’t start trying to Pilot the situation while flying down the highway at 65 mph.  Start simply.  Put your dog in the car, start your car, and hang out in your driveway.  If pooch starts acting hyper, simply use your body language and/or your negative command to address their question:  Can I be hyper?  Obviously the answer is no!   Angle your body as best you can so you are facing them, and them stare them down.  You may have to gently tap them on the ribs with your fingers to gain their attention (read: not discipline, you are merely getting them to focus).  The moment they care calm, give them a rewards (Touch, Talk, Treat).  Give a treat, gentle praise, and a gentle pet to reward.  Quickly you won’t need the treat anymore.  If you dog won’t accept the treat, that’s fine.  Still offer, and still give the Touch and the Talk.
    Remember, the object isn't to restrain them, it's to answer their questions.

    Remember, the object isn’t to restrain them, it’s to answer their questions.

    Stop the car and get your dog out once they are calm.  You should never let your dog out while they are hyper.  Remember, we are practicing calm – nothing fun ever happens unless they are calm first.  Keep practicing this in your driveway.  It is essentially the same as crate training: we want our dogs to become accustomed to the car.  It’s a normal, every day thing.  A “no energy” zone.

    After you have mastered the driveway, enlist someone’s help to start driving. Anywhere is fine…just start moving.  Every time your dog even gives a hint of energy, give them that gentle negative.  If necessary, you can even stop the car until they’ve calmed down. Keep at it. Travel by car isn’t always achieved overnight.

  2. Anxious, worried, terrified dog.  This dog is truly a sad sight to see.  They are scared.  They look like a small child in the queue for the world’s largest roller coaster:  convinced they aren’t going to make it.  Resist the urge to comfort.  Remember, if everything is good, fine, and safe, why would you feel the need to confirm that?  You don’t walk around your house reassuring them that it’s safe, right?  Do the same thing in the car.  If they seem to be doing a little better, you can offer them calm, gentle positives.  Don’t try to soothe them with words:  you are rewarding them for relaxing, not trying to bribe them into relaxing.
  3. Car sick dog.  This usually occurs in puppies under 1 year, as their inner ear has not quite developed yet, giving them a frequent feeling of vertigo.  Unfortunately, the best thing to do is ride it out. Orion reliably got sick in the car, every single time, until just after his 1st birthday.  If your dog is older and still getting sick, it could be that you have a dog who is actually anxious in the car.  Pilot him.  He will calm down.  You can also ask your vet what you can give your dog to help their stomach while traveling.
Boots & Bee Photography - by Brittany Graham

Boots & Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham

Keep at it.  Don’t give up.  You will have the perfect traveling companion. You just have to help them realize that there are indeed rules for them in the car.

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


4 Lessons Learned on Vacation with Porter

 - Brittany Graham Photography

– Brittany Graham Photography

 It is in the compelling zest of high adventure and of victory, and in creative action, that man finds his supreme joys – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Recently, I went on a weekend vacation with Porter and Tall Guy. We ventured down to Hocking Hills for a weekend hiking and hanging out in a cabin. The trails were gorgeous and it was a great feeling to have Porter along for the trip. I loved every minute of it. Below are my 4 lessons learned on my vacation with Porter:

1. Don’t forget the Basics

When we started off on our road trip I was surprised at Porter’s behavior. Normally on long road trips he settles down within the first 30 min and snoozes until we get to our final destination. But, an hour and a half into the drive he was still pacey, panting and whining. We decided to stop for a quick break and I got him out of the car. There was a ledge in the parking lot so I made him jump up and down from the ledge multiple times to wear out some energy. The minute we got back in the car he was all smiles and laid down. I forgot the golden rule: Activity before a road trip. Because he’s always so good in the car I forgot why he’s so good in the car. Because I work him before we start! So, get some Activity in before you start in on your road trip.

2. Embrace the Victories

Porter and I encountered more dogs on our vacation than we usually see in a month. This can be stressful for a dog reactive dog and their owner. I started to feel discouraged when Porter would act in a way I didn’t think was acceptable. But, then I remembered to embrace the small victories. Like that time I was standing on a rock edge and a dog lunged at Porter through my legs snarling and growling and Porter did nothing. He just stood there still as could be. I guess we can call that a huge victory, not a small one. None the less, pay attention to the positives.


 3. Know When to Say Enough

Piloting your dog through situations is key. However, Piloting can be exhausting and you need to make sure you’re listening to both your body and your dog. On our second day we did an 8.5 mile hike. It was hot, tiring, and amazing. However, towards the end of the hike I could feel that I was exhausted and starting to get a little irritable around the larger less mannered crowds.

I looked at Porter and I could tell he had slight signs of stress. That’s how I knew it was time to go. I was exhausted and he was exhausted. I could keep Piloting him, but I was going to miss a signal or a sign. Just like when I missed the little kid reach out and grab for him. Luckily enough he paid attention to me and I was able to get him through the situation. But it was time to go because I was no longer on my game. Don’t push it. When it’s time to go home, go home.

 4. Prepare for the Unexpected

Remember that time I wrote a blog post about the 5 Items to take with you on Vacation with your dog? Remember that time I said to bring Benadryl? Yeah… I wasn’t joking.

Our second night on vacation I see an epic battle between Porter and a bee. Ok, not so much an epic battle as much as a bee landed on Porter’s nose, he intelligently tried to eat it and it stung him. As I realized what happened I was already moving towards the Benadryl I had packed. Porter’s nose swelled up a little but within an hour the swelling had subsided since I was able to give him the medication. It’s better to have it and not use it than not have it and need it.


A tired pup after a fun vacation!

A tired pup after a fun vacation!

Going on vacations with your dog can be so rewarding. It’s a great way to bond and have new and exciting adventures together. Have fun with it! Take advantage of one of the best friendships you will ever have!

Keep calm and pilot on

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

5 Items to Help You Travel with Your Dog

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

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

  1. Crate

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


2. His Favorite Toys

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

His favorite blanket

His favorite blanket

3. Blanket

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


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

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

4. His Bed

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


5. Benadryl

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

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

Keep calm and pilot on

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

Cure that Boredom!

As soon as I saw you, I knew an adventure was going to happen – Winnie the Pooh


I’m sure we’ve all had that feeling once or twice of:

“Fido, let’s do something super awesome today!”

And then, you have no idea what to do and you end up doing the same walk you’ve done for the past few weeks.

Sometimes, we just need a little inspiration to get our dogs out and about with us! New adventures can be a great bonding experience and a great way to get some PAW into your pups life.

Let’s be honest, the same walk and routine can be boring for both you and your pup. There are times where we need more excitement! Something that after we tell someone what we did this weekend they say “that’s awesome! Sounds like a fun weekend!”

Adventures, adventures, adventures. They shouldn’t stop just because we have a dog. They should only just be beginning!


So, here are 50 adventures to take advantage of with your pup in the Northern Ohio area. Some things are seasonal, so you may have to wait to do all 50 until the summer! But get a head start on it now!

Heck, this might be a good New Year’s Resolution. Set a goal!

I will do 25 things off this list with my dog in the New Year.

Sounds like fun for everyone to me. If you do end up doing any of these activities send us pictures! Post them on our FB page! We’d love to be part of your adventures.

Ready… set… GO!

Keep calm and pilot on

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

Holiday Vacations

“Did you know that there are over three hundred words for love in canine?” – Gabrielle Zevin, Elsewhere


Porter sporting his holiday bandana… about as dressed up as he gets.


All of my family lives in CT. Holiday season is always crazy for me. There’s a lot of traveling and not much sleep. It’s crazy and hectic, but worth it, so I can spend the holidays with the people I love. Which, brings me to why I feel so guilty a few days before I leave: Porter doesn’t come with me.

As you can tell by now, I’m pretty no nonsense with my dog. Sure, he wears a bandana every once in a while, and he’ll also wear a coat if it’s too cold out, but I’m not the type to dress him up because “he’s my little boy”.

If he gets hurt, I don’t baby him.

I don’t cry when I leave him somewhere.

I don’t rearrange my day for him.

However, leaving him on the holidays makes me feel like the biggest jerk and the worst dog owner there is.


Okay, so he has his days where he likes to dress up like a Russian Grandmother…. it’s totally normal

I brought him home one holiday season. It was a 9 hour drive both ways. Although he was amazing on both legs of the trip, he wasn’t happy. It was stressful to be in one place that long without the option of getting some activity.

We then found our preferred boarding place. He loves it. He can’t get out of the car fast enough.

(Here’s some tips on how to say goodbye properly)

Every time there’s a holiday I start to feel guilty again. We spend the holidays with the people we love, and well, I love Porter, so shouldn’t he come with me?

I looked into if he could fit on my flight this time. Not because I actually thought bringing him on a flight would be a good idea, but because I just needed to know my options. If I could somehow shrink his legs, make him less anxious, and suddenly make him okay being cramped in a small place for hours we’d be all set!

Ok, so not the greatest option. Then I started thinking about how the holidays can get stressful. What would make Porter’s holiday the least stressful? What would be his ideal holiday?

-          Room to run

-          Hours and hours of outside time

-          Other dogs to play with (although dog reactive, he’s mostly dog reactive in the Mom, can I play with him now?? Pleeeasssseeee??? way now. See, Piloting does work!)

-          Food

-          People to give him tons of pets and attention

The easiest way to make his holiday come true is to make sure he’s not at mine. I can’t offer him those options when I’m running to visit relative after relative.

A picture that was sent to me from Porter's sleep away camp! He loves it there!

A picture that was sent to me from Porter’s sleep away camp! He loves it there!

We need to start reevaluating how we measure our love for our dogs. Some people measure it by how much time you spend with them, sacrificing lots of things to make sure you’re together. But guess what, sometimes loving your dog is making the decision that’s best for them in a logical and rational way. We need to let the judgments of other people stop clouding our mind. We have to learn to think with our hearts and minds instead of thinking just with our heads.

Same goes for Piloting. We learn to say no to our dogs because we think with our hearts and our minds. Sure, we’d love to give our dogs nothing but happiness…. But although they think that chocolate would make them happy, we know better.

Porter beyond tired after a week of playing with new friends

Porter beyond tired after a week of playing with new friends

Never feel guilty for making the decision that your dog must stay somewhere else for the holiday. Whether it be at a boarding setting, a friend’s house, or through Make the decision that will make the holidays the least stressful for you and your four legged friend. Start thinking with your heart and your mind.

Keep calm and pilot on

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

A Journey Through the Jungle

Friends show their love in times of trouble, not in happiness – Euripides
 Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

Sometimes it takes years to build friendships. It can take a while for someone to warm up to you. Even dogs. It’s normal for us to have to work at gaining their trust and loyalty. And other times, all it takes is one Swedish meatball to gain the heart of an extraordinary and determined animal.

Deep in the jungle of Ecuador a Swedish team of extreme athletes were taking a rest in the Amazon jungle. They were participating in a 430 mile race that covered all terrains: mud, water, jungle, mountains. During their short rest, they opened a can of Swedish meatballs. And out came a four legged, ragged, wide eyed stray dog. They offered a meatball to the dog and expected him to cower back into the cover of the jungle. However, that’s not what happened.

They named the dog Arthur. Arthur means noble and courageous and he earned his name that journey. Through mud, water, jungle and mountains Arthur stayed with his team. Because that’s what they were. A team.

Here you can read the article about Arthur and his journey across Ecuador and the Amazon jungle. It will make you smile, it will warm your heart and it will make you run to the nearest Ikea, grab some meatballs and wait to see if you can find a new best friend. I’ll meet you there.

Keep calm and pilot on

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

Meeting James Franco

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

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

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

The James Franco Selfie!

The James Franco Selfie!

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

Here are some of the steps I took this day:

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

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

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

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


James Franco and Porter having some play time

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

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

Keep calm and pilot on

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