The Most Terrifying Day of the Year – Happy 4th of July!


An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

- Benjamin Franklin


When I was a kid, my grandma had a dog named Patches.  He was the sweetest beagle ever.  A bit stoic for a beagle, he wasn’t really into playing much, but he was a solid companion.  He was one of those dogs who never did anything wrong – he was trustworthy both in and out of the house.  He never needed a leash, and he didn’t have a fenced-in yard.  Didn’t matter; he never even thought about leaving the yard.

I’ll never forget Fourth of July when I was 11 years old.  Patches would have been roughly 13 at that point.  A senior most definitely, but a healthy, sprightly old man.  Most of my  mom’s side of the family was spending the holiday at my grandma’s house:  at least 18 of my 22 cousins, plus aunts uncles – it was a kid heaven.  At dusk the adults started to light some fireworks.  We had a great time.  We headed home around 10:00.  Traffic was unusually heavy on the street where my grandma lived.  It took us a while to navigate.  When we got home, we found out why.

Patches had been hit and killed by a car.

The dog who had always been so stoic, truly a Pilot of a dog, had been frightened by the fireworks and run into the street.  Nobody had bothered to check to see where he was because the dog had never left his boundary in his entire life!  Not to chase squirrels (he stopped at the perimeter), not when guests came (he met them at the driveway).  Never.  Of course if we had realized he was terrified, we would have taken measures to ensure his comfort and safety.

Sparta and Orion have a fenced-in yard.  They will be spending the 4th in their crate, with soft music playing (I almost always have music on in my house, so this will seem normal, if not a bit louder, to them).  My pets’ safety is all on me.  It’s my job to make sure they are happy and healthy.  Things that may not seem scary to me may be terrifying to them, so even though they’ve never shown any signs of fear in the past from fireworks or thunderstorms, I’m still going to make sure they are contained.  It’s my job as Pilot.

Fourth of July is the busiest day for animal wardens.  Dogs (and cats) become scared and run off.  Some never return.  Take some precautions to avoid tragedy:

  • Exhaust your dog before nightfall.  Exercise creates a natural state that make your dog want to sleep.  Help them to sleep through the scary parts.
  • Secure your dog in their crate.  For added security, a blanket can be placed over the crate (it will insulate some of the noise).  Just make sure that the dog is comfortable, and not overheated if you add a blanket, and always leave a few inches of the crate uncovered for ventilation.
  • Make sure your dog has their tags on, and consider microchipping. It could be their ticket home.
  • If your dog is terrified, Pilot them.  You can’t soothe them.  They are legitimately frightened, and speaking to them in a high, whiney, “soothing” voice is counterproductive.  They need a Pilot, not another source of stress.  Read how to accomplish this here.
  • If your dog needs to eliminate, take them outside on a leash.
  • Ask your vet about medication if your dog has a history of reacting badly.  I’m against casual medication of dogs because they are “too hyper” or “anxious” during normal situations.  Those dogs need Piloting.  This is not a normal situation.  Before I get on an airplane, I have drink.  A strong one (or two).  I’m terrified of heights, and it takes the edge off.  That’s all you’re looking to do:  take the edge off of a truly terrifying and abnormal situation.  Again, consult your vet.  Do not self-medicate.

I do miss Patches, though it’s 25 years later.  He was a good dog.  Perhaps he would have lived only a few more months before succumbing to old age.  Perhaps he would have lived a few more years.  Regardless, his life was cut short due to ignorance.  I now know better.  I will Pilot my dogs through the Fourth of July.

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

Garden Party

Oh, tiptoe from the garden
By the garden of the willow tree
And tiptoe through the tulips with me

- Tiny Tim

Sparta helping out by mowing the lawn.

Sparta helping out by mowing the lawn.

I love to garden.  Step into my yard and there are stone pathways leading to flowering beds of hollyhocks, roses and honeysuckle.  I have hundreds of flowers, and even tore up some of my front yard to add more beds.  My grass is green, too.

And I have two dogs.  One of whom weighs more than 100 lbs.

How do I do it?  Well, having a dogs doesn’t preclude you from having a lawn and garden.  It merely means you have to make smarter choices.

The article below taken from Modern Dog has some excellent thoughts on how to keep your thumb green and your feet in the grass.

Think having a beautiful backyard and a dog are diametrically opposed? Think again. We spoke with Stephen Westcott-Gratton, senior horticultural editor at Canadian Gardening, who had much to say on the subject, especially since recently celebrating his English Springer Spaniel puppy Worcester’s first birthday. Both dog and garden are thriving.

Training a puppy to behave well in a garden was actually easier than Westcott-Gratton expected, which was a relief to all concerned.

“It’s kind of like having young kids,” he says. “You have to train your dog the same way you train your children never to put anything in their mouths.” Save for a few exceptions when this doesn’t work (Worcester just can’t stay away from Westcott-Gratton’s maple keys), educating your pup is the best way to protect both your dog from your garden, and your garden from the dog.


For many gardeners, a rippling, emerald-green swath of lawn is the showpiece of their horticultural expertise. Much tearing of hair and wails of lamentation are spent over the discovery of a blemish in this perfection. But Fido has to “go” somewhere.

Heavily fertilized lawns are already receiving near-maximum levels of nitrogen (nitrogen is good for grasses in the correct dosage, hence it’s presence in fertilizer and the lush ring that often surrounds urine-burnt patches). Avoid over-fertilizing to protect your lawn from the additional nitrogen in your dog’s urine pushing it past the tipping point.

To avoid brown patches throughout the lawn, train (or retrain) your dog to go in a specified area. This isn’t difficult to do, but will require supervised bathroom breaks until your dog is reliably choosing to relieve himself in the desired area. Consider planting a hardy, urine-resistant ground covering, such as clover, in the designated potty area, and concealing it with shrubs or taller ornamental grasses to make a screen, or reseed with a more pee-proof variety of grass, such as perennial ryegrasses and fescues.

Other solutions include immediately watering the spot to dilute the urine or employing a kid- and pet-safe product such as Dogonit ( that rejuvenates existing burnt-out spots. Sprinkling lime or gypsum in the affected area speeds up the recovery of existing grass, or new growth if you’ve reseeded, by neutralizing the acidity of the affected area. Encouraging your dog to drink more will help dilute the urine and decrease the risk of lawn burn.

The notion that it is just female dogs’ urine that causes the burnt-out patches in the lawn is a myth. Both male and female dogs’ urine will create brown or yellow patches due to the high nitrogen content in their urine. Our guess is this myth got off the ground, so to speak, because female dogs squat to pee, concentrating their urine in one place, while male dogs tend to lift a leg in a number of locations, spreading around the damage.

Full article


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