Buster – Don’t Eat the Vet!

Biting, nipping, mouthing, growling, snapping.

You little alligator you!

What on earth is going on?

All of these behaviors are really just a dog being a dog. It is one of a dog’s ways of communicating with other dogs. Most of the time it means the dog is anxious, nervous and feeling that it is threatened.

Buster has found this works to give him the safe space he feels he needs.

In order to deal with this I am including him in some group work with different dogs from my pack. Unfortunately sometimes when we remove a dog from its siblings early in life we also remove a chunk of their education. So dogs coming through rescue who may have been somewhat isolated or purebred dogs who are removed from the litter at 7 or 8 weeks do not have some of the skills they need.

This is the first lesson of a progressive systematic desensitization program to help Buster cope calmly with touch, hugs, restraint, paw holding, nail clipping, grooming and more.

Here is a lesson by Professor Marcus the Pit Bull.

Buster – The Leash, Friend or Foe?

Learning his ABC’s

Q. Why do dogs pull on the leash? 

a) Because they don’t like feeling restrained?

b) Because they think they know where they are going?

c) Because they think that if they pull you they will get there faster?

d) Because they have learned that when they pull your arm is like elastic?

e) Because when they pull they get closer to where the interesting smells are?

f) So they get to where they want to be?

All of the above!

Leash, Friend or Foe?

Jaz the German Shepherd, proudly leash walking in a great “heel” position with her owner.

The leash is your friend.

It should feel like an umbilical cord hanging in the breeze connecting you and your loved one. You can communicate through the leash in ways that will amaze you.

Most people communicate through the leash as if they are dancing in the dark. They are doing the waltz and their dog is doing the mosh-pit special! Someone is going to get their toes trodden on. They have no idea. Train the dog so both he and you are dancing the same dance, it feels awesome!

Your goal.

The goal is to train your dog so that the leash is superfluous. The law says that you should leash your dog so that is nearly always a good idea. If you are using the leash for restraint, guidance or worst of all physical punishment then you failed to do the training necessary for success. Using the leash can be the cue for your dog to understand that calm, serene and attentive behavior is now expected.

Q. Why do dogs pull on the leash? 

A. Because they don’t like feeling restrained?

With most animals there is something called an opposition reflex, when you push them they push back, when you pull them back they brace and restrain and if they can they will pull forward.

How to train a dog to pull on a leash

That is how you teach a dog to pull on leash, put them in a harness and restrain them gently, you can observe the balance change, leaning forward slightly as their muscles tension. Gradually at first you will feel them pulling forwards, restrain them a little harder and they will pull a little harder. If you repeat this the dog will brace into a pulling posture and over a short period you can see that he will become stronger. Almost like the world strong man competitions where they are pulling trucks. When my Yellow Labrador, Teddy, (also known as Boss Dog) was younger he was a very powerful dog and could pull a Range Rover when he was in harness.

Leash Aggression

The other challenge, a not insignificant point, is that when the dog tensions into the leash or harness, that to another dog even hundreds of feet away, the posture they assume feels, on a primal level, predatorial and aggressive.

They are not seen to be calm and stable but have their weight forward of their balance point. Even subtle movements, fractions of an inch, are very apparent to dogs who are experts at reading body language and predicting what is going to happen next.

This is a survival mechanism honed over thousands of years, sometimes you are the predator, sometimes the prey. This sets up tension between the two dogs which escalates into postures and voice reactions and leads to “leash aggression” descriptions by the owners.

Owners frequently report that the dog is charming in an off leash scenario with almost all dogs and yet when he is on leash he turns into the Tasmanian Devil. What if the factor is not the leash, it is the owners tension in restraining the dog and causing this reactivity? Maybe?

Walking on a slack leash

Curiously, Restraining their dog on a leash is the way most people try to train their dog to walk on a slack leash. Interspersed with jerks on the leash, barking at the dog “Heel, HEEl, BUSTER HEEEL!” and copious amounts of swearing. Then in frustration spending hundreds of dollars in the pet store buying anything and sometimes everything that promises “no pull”!

Doomed to failure?

Ya think?

Here is a clip of Buster on his first loose leash walking training session, the goal is for him to be able to do this in places of high distraction, reliably.

At the moment I set him up for success as much as I can so that I can find the correct behavior, add a verbal label when he is actually doing the correct behavior and reward him. You will hear a click at the end as he managed to do several strides consecutively, positioned well and attending to me on a slack leash. This click is to mark the correct behavior and is attached to a reward that will arrive shortly.

You will notice I am wearing a waist-leash, in fact I have one leash that fits exactly around my waist and his normal leash attached to that. Look for the action, it is a game, Buster loves games, I am the center of his attention for a lot of the time here. This is very early in his training but you can see he has potential to extend the duration of this behavior without once using the leash or collar for anything other than stopping him running off into the road or after a squirrel. (He is only five months old!)

Buster – Equipment choices and the role of exercise in effective dog training

Buster is safe, relaxed, content and in the shade. He is protected from people who want to invade his personal space and pet him. Almost like being in a crate or den. He can be easily restrained but is not being restrained. (Note the slack leash) Down stay works in a cafe, restaurant or at a friend’s house. In the house or on the patio. Safe, not invading people’s personal space by jumping up or begging for food. Good Boy, Buster!

So now I have Buster in a safe environment (see Buster – setting up for success)

What equipment do I need to take him through kindergarten?

Buy the store – not!

I have decided not to give you a list of stuff to go out and buy, over the next few weeks I will introduce equipment that will help and support our goal of having Buster be the best dog he can be and explain as I am going along what, why and how to use each one. You can then choose whether you focus on that particular behavior and think the equipment will help you achieve your goal. Bear in mind that I am an acknowledged equipment junkie and have, over a period of many years, literally bought every new piece of equipment with every promise of making life easier, the dog smarter, and taking away my clients pain in the most effective way possible. I have come to the conclusion after spending thousands of dollars that if you learn the basic principles of how dogs learn and you apply them diligently you will get the results you deserve. All you really need is a leash, a collar and a piece of rope (and even those are not absolutely essential if you are stuck shipwrecked on a desert island with a dog). All the rest is profit for the pet stores.

Profit is not a dirty word. It makes the world go around. When I spend money in a pet store and they make a profit they stay in business, provide better service, they add stock, something that I might really need will be on the shelf instead of having to order it. They are happy, I like being around happy people. They employ people, employment is good, it gives people a sense of purpose and then they have money to spend as well. This is why I like to spend in the local stores, the currency stays in the neighborhood and we all profit from that in the end. It is healthy for the community.

If you really think that the right way to teach your dog not to pull on the leash is to tie his elbows together with some kind of harness for the rest of his life then I don’t think you will be reading this blog trying to learn something new.

Regardless of what the all night channel tells you!

Those six-pack abs for guys, those overnight wrinkle reducing creams for ladies, or vice versa, are hallucinations!

There are no short cuts, magic leashes, magic collars or magic sprays or lotions.

Here is a clue, train the dog to walk on a slack leash! Then you don’t even need a leash!

Learning is faster and easier for everyone, human and dog, when you reduce anxiety.

The first few days I am going to take Buster out in public and evaluate his performance, his behaviors and his personality. I am not going to correct him at all. I don’t want to be part of the problem. It would be totally unfair to be trying to correct him for doing something that comes naturally, or that he has already learned, when I have not taught him what it is I do want him to do. I watch him very closely all the time, looking for subtle clues and not so subtle clues that will give me accurate information about his wants and needs. This evaluation gives me the structure and detail for his training program to address his sensitivities. Each dog is different. The basic training of tricks is simple but unless I address his individual emotional stressors he will never be all he can be. The anxiety would also make the training harder, slower and certainly more stressful than necessary. This would cause frustration and tension for both of us, but more importantly it would rely on my presence ( my authority, skill and experience) for him to perform the behaviors and would not transfer easily to his family. That is not learning what we want him to learn. I hate it when that happens, learning is faster and easier for everyone, human and dog, when you reduce anxiety. I truly would like to (metaphorically) tattoo that on your forehead so you see it every morning in the mirror. (Did I say that out loud? 🙂 )

Before I take Buster out for training in public I let him play and wrestle and “get his kinks out” so that he is not wound up like a top when we leave the house.

Here is a short clip of Buster and Jumping Jack Flash having a little work out. Jack is teaching Buster that he is not as important as he used to think, demoting him by gently controlling the play. Humphrey and Ted are parenting, they are the playground supervisors, there to see fair play.

Buster – Setting up for success in the home

Buster is at an age where he thinks he is pretty important, and the next few months he is going to push boundaries.

Wait there quietly, I just need to pop in to the bakery.

It is NOT personal!

It is just what dogs do.

Up to now everyone adores him and caters to his every whim. When he jumps up or nips “he is just being a puppy”. The adult dog ( 12 years old and with epilepsy) in the home as well as the family forgive him for almost anything. However at about five and a half months this stops being cute and starts being a royal pain in the a***. People often become increasingly frustrated as the dog gets bigger and “he’s not just a puppy, he’s a big dog now”.

A lot of dogs don’t make it to their first birthday before they end up in the shelter.

So if you have a dog from a shelter who is, shall we say, between nine months old and eighteen months old then there is a good chance the owners gave up on him for one or more of the behaviors I mentioned in my last post (Buster goes to school).

Just being a dog.

First Things First

The first thing I will do when he arrives in my home is restrict his access to things that might get him into trouble.

So whatever the problem:

Management prevents accidents

“Use management to prevent repetition of the unwanted behavior”

This does not mean that you have to restrict him for life! It means that in order to prevent the behavior becoming a lifetime habit, he has to stop practicing! Then you find a way of training an alternative.

So here is an example:

A pug that I know loves to go into the bathroom whenever the door is inadvertently left ajar and take the tissues out of the waste basket. I will call them tissues because this is a family show, but use your imagination. The owners wanted to know if I would just train him not to do that. Sure, we can do that. But, here’s a thought, why not pop down to Target and get a waste bin with a closing lid on it? Alternatively how about putting self closing hinges on the bathroom door so it always closes automatically. Or a door frame gate? That is management. Set him up for success. That way instead of being rewarded by your attention when he pulls out the tissues and shreds them around the house and you chase after him barking (you know you sound as if you are barking right?) you get to praise and reward him for lazing on his dog bed chewing on an appropriate chew toy.

Safety First

So before Buster arrived I installed a couple of Dog Gates across the doorways into the kitchen, separating the home into smaller manageable areas where he can be closely supervised. For smaller puppies it is really worth setting up a large wire crate and a den style crate inside, because it has a tray style floor and keeps the puppies safe and the mess somewhat contained.

Magic and Grk in the kitchen. A large pen with a roof keeps them safe if I want to go to the grocery store. The smaller crate inside gives them a snuggly space where they feel protected if they are anxious or feeling overwhelmed by the family and the family room or just want to sleep. Their hidey-hole. The door on the small crate is open during the day. The door on the large pen is open while I am present and supervising. They have free run of the kitchen while I am present so that I can praise and reward appropriate behavior and alert them to inappropriate behavior. (Counter-surfing or chewing the linoleum, for example)

The position of the crates in the photograph is deliberate, the dogs feel more content in a corner of a room in preference to an open space or the center of the room.

The goal is total freedom, the fastest and most effective way to get there is carefully structured supervision, education and attention.

Do not give the new dog the run of the house. It is a recipe for disaster!

It is impossible to supervise the dog when you can’t see him so you will spend your time “finding evidence” which is very frustrating and impossible to go back and correct or educate.

Slow is Fast

Introduce him slowly, when he is successful in the first area, gradually expand his area of freedom and his responsibility. The key word is gradually!  The goal is to set him up for success so that you can catch him doing right and praise and reward the behavior.

The purpose is not isolation or separation, that would be punishment. The purpose is for me to spend significant periods of time around Buster, but he is not the center of my attention 100% of the time. For example when I am writing this blog I want him present in the room so that he does not get into trouble out of my sight. He also learns that he can be calm as I am calm. He has structured time when he can play and have fun at my instigation and it is a good idea to do that before I ask for a calm “downtime”.

Dog Gates

There are a number Dog Gates available from pet stores but the most effective, strongest and least ugly I have found are at http://www.orvis.com. They have a wooden one which is wonderful:

Wood Door Frame Gate

My favorite doorway gate!


However if you have rabid chewers they also have a wrought iron one:

Wrought Iron Door Frame Gate

Alternative door frame gate


Buster goes to school


This is Buster, he is not a rescued dog. But I guarantee that he could be just the same as any rescued dog. He is 5 months old and because he is so young he has not had very much experience in the world. In another home he could easily have ended up in the shelter.

It does not really matter whether your rescued dog is 5 months or 5 years old. I know dogs 5 years old who have had the life experience of a five month old puppy. They are taken home, make mistakes and are gradually banished to the back yard and then ignored for most of the time.

Here is my plan. I am going to document a short term training plan where I am going to provide this dog with the Foundation Training that he requires to live happily at home. You may find there are some ideas and clues which will help you bring your newly adopted dog in to your home happily and safely.

Buster is a little shy with the general public and can consequently be a little timid around new people both out in the street and new people who arrive in the home. His fear has meant that he has started testing people by voice and body posture and starting to scare his family as he pushes harder and harder. He barks when his family bring friends around to the house and charges and has nipped at several people including children in the home. It is not unusual for a herding breed and I am sure that this will ring some bells for many people with rescued dogs. His family are disappointed that Buster is not Lassie yet, and the seven year old boy has been bitten a couple of times, and is now becoming fearful of Buster. There is a four year old, a seven year old and a nine year old child in the family and mom has her hands full. She has been exercising him for two hours a day on leash but dare not take him anywhere off leash that is not completely and securely fenced as his recall is non existent. His house training is improving but he is not trustworthy without constant supervision. He seems to just not get it. He stops squats and pees as if he just cant help it and once the flow is going interrupting it is almost impossible!

Fortunately they have the wisdom to get expert help and were referred to me by a previous client.

I have known people drop their dog off at the shelter for less.

Here is the thing, he is just a puppy. People get puppies because they are so cute, they look like Beanie Babies and the kids want one. Somehow forgetting to factor in the time, effort, commitment and knowledge it takes to raise one. However this dog could be any rescued dog ( or most family dogs, rescued or not) of any age. Not house-trained? Check. Barks and rushes at the UPS man? Check. Herds the young children and especially their friends when they come visiting? Check. Digs up the back yard? Tears out the irrigation? Check and Check. Chews childrens toys, baseball bats, baseball helmets, basketballs, bicycle tires, dads MG when it gets locked in the garage? Check. Pulls on leash? Check. Bites the hand that feeds it? Check! Bites the hand that doesn’t feed it? Check! Jumps up? Check!  Bites clothing? Check! Steals food off the counter? Check!

Just being a dog.

So here is what I do. I take Buster into my home. I give Buster a structure to his day. I work him with other dogs whose skills I am familiar with and they parent him and teach him some manners and social skills. I teach Buster what is ok and what is not ok. I give him a Basic Foundation in obedience training, with voice commands, hand signals and whistles. Then I take Buster back to the family and show them how to achieve the same thing at home. Following on from that Buster will come back to me for Advanced training and probably some Refresher Training when he comes to the cabin for Camp and his family go on vacation. Meanwhile I video and send updates to the owners so they can see what he is up to. The first session is two weeks residential. You can follow along here.

Steroids and eight legs?

You know, I was thinking today about Trinity and how dog rescue is not always the stuff you expect. We all have stories about abused dogs and chained dogs and stuff but get a load of this.

Trinity is a Yellow Labrador-ish.

A seeing eye dog?
What were they thinking?

When she crossed my radar Trinity was being surrendered by her owner.

Not much weird about that, you say, happens all the time.

This owner adored Trinity and was her constant companion 24/7. She was in tears as she explained her predicament, so before you rush to judge her, here is Trinity’s story.

Unfortunately she has a skin infection, inflammation, redness almost all over the body and in her armpits, belly and groin, black staining.

The vet had diagnosed atopic dermatitis.

Atopic Dermatitis is an allergic skin disease, atopy is defined as a hypersensitivity reaction, dermatitis means inflammation of the skin, a bit like eczema, brought on by seasonal pollen and other airborne allergens.

The vet had prescribed and the owner had treated her with various meds, antibiotics and such and there seemed to be little or no improvement.

Next on the agenda he recommended starting Trinity on Atopica (cyclosporin) a systemic immunosuppressant, and suggested to the distraught owner that with environmental allergies there is often a genetic component and, just like a person who has hay fever for example, Trinity may be susceptible and on this medication for life.

Now here is the thing, Trinity was a seeing eye dog and her owner was blind and on a limited income. Atopica has just come down in price but is still a premium prescription and is $6 + each pill on the internet, probably more at your friendly neighborhood vet!

For an 80lb dog, two pills a day for thirty days then maybe a reduced maintenance dosage for the rest of her life. Not easy to find $360 a month extra!

She had only had Trinity for six months. Trinity started showing signs and being treated within a week of her arriving from the Non Profit supplier in the mid west.

Trinity arrived as a “trained dog”.

As a dog trainer I have a strong opinion about the standard that I would require to place a dog as a seeing eye dog and Trinity, while a delightful personality, would not have made it, or even been on the selection choice!

“Goofy”, “Distracted” and “Hilarious” were the first words that come to mind, not a problem for your average family dog but I would have thought a definite liability for a seeing eye dog.

Apparently she had been a donated dog as a puppy and raised in a woman’s prison as a rehabilitation project for the inmates.

Not what I would have prescribed as a normal and varied upbringing for a well-adjusted dog. (Or person, but that is a whole other soapbox!)

The weird thing is that the supplying non-profit would not consider supporting the owner with the ever-increasing veterinary fees or the medications or even, get this, talk to the vet on the telephone!

In fact what they did was offer to supply a replacement dog and told the upset owner:

“If you bring Trinity back to the center she would be euthanised.”

Now even if she kept Trinity, found a way to pay for the meds and the meds worked to suppress the skin reaction it was impossible to treat her and leave the seeing eye body harness off, and the build up of bacteria on the harness could easily prevent the healing.

So this poor girl was so upset, Trinity was her first seeing eye dog and she bonded so quickly to her that it was heart wrenching to think of this future.

Anyway, long story short, we worked out a plan and the girl went back to the midwest to collect her new dog which, it turns out, is an awesome, calm, kind and wonderful seeing eye dog and a perfect match emotionally and physically.

Guess who ended up with Trinity?

Yup, yours truly.


People ask me that all the time and honestly if I have to explain it to you then you probably wouldn’t understand. The closest I can get is that I can, I am physically capable and I have a gift, knowledge and experience that I can use. I want to, I feel a moral responsibility to help another person or animal when I can relieve suffering and most of all:

Because she deserves better!

She did not choose this life, humans bred her, moved her, used her and now discard her.

She does not deserve to die.

I believe and feel very strongly that we have a moral responsibility to do everything in our power to give her the best life she can have and never give up!

Someone do something!

Well apparently that someone is me.

So the first thing in dog rescue, this applies to every dog I meet, is don’t assume anything. Don’t believe anything you hear is truth. It might be or it might not be. Stay open to learning and test and prove your hypotheses.

Start from today.

How can I take the dog from where it is today to where I want it to be?

Mentally, physically and emotionally.

Was it possible that the owner was not as consistent with medications, or bathing?

It did occur to me that if the reaction was stress related then could it be that the responsibility of being a seeing eye dog did not match Trinity’s personality so that every day was stressful?

Might it be food related? There are some allergic reactions to food that result in inflammation. Sometimes people change food or give poor quality treats. Allergic reactions are often not isolated, people get hay fever and asthma, sometimes have skin irritation from grass or weeds, the immune system is a complex and fascinating topic to study.

Was it possible that a slight modification, a trial with an alternative antibiotic, might resolve the issues? We spent several weeks starting from scratch ( ha ha rescue joke) both with the diagnosis and the medications.

Trinity undergoing emotional therapy – whatever the problem but especially where the immune system is concerned, always reduce stress as a priority

We had scraping skin tests routinely and found a combination of both bacterial infections and yeast infections, both of which were recurring and were consistent with the initial diagnosis of allergies causing the inflammation and the bacterial and yeast were both secondary infections. After eight weeks of tests and trials where we changed her diet to test for food allergies and carefully following the prescribed protocol we saw improvements with antibiotics, antifungal and prednisone, an anti-inflammatory steroid, but it seemed that as soon as we faded the medications the inflammation returned. Next on the agenda was seven core skin samples for examination for a type of skin cancer. Nope, not that.

So off we went to the consultant dermatologist for a visit.

More tests, more reviews of treatment protocols, and a guardedly optimistic prognosis, maybe it was not allergies!

It turns out that what probably happened was she arrived on the west coast with a stress related increase in her skin population of demodectic mites. These are mites that live in the hair follicles and the sebaceous glands and have eight legs.

Many vets believe that all dogs have small numbers of these mites residing in the skin and that having a few mites is common – it is when immune related or nutritional or environmental stresses impact the dog that mite infestations blossom.

This population is normally present and in a healthy animal maintains a balance where the effects of their presence are not visible. When there is an outbreak, which often happens in the stress of a shelter environment, most frequently the effects are very visible. The dog loses all or most of its hair, the skin goes crusty or scaly and they resemble burn victims because the skin literally oozes.  This is a relatively easy diagnosis, however in Trinity’s case it was a very low-level infection, enough to cause the secondary infections but not enough to be easily diagnosed. After several further months of treatment, antibiotics and antifungal to control the secondary infections and an intense systemic insecticide every day until the skin tests were clear. It took a while but eventually we had the all clear.

During this process as part of the rehabilitation we always pay special attention to her emotional and physical well-being.

Exercise, companionship, play, runs on the beach, it all helps Trinity’s immune system strengthen and her health return into balance.

This is the takeaway for me, get to the root cause. The root cause in this instance was stress, then demodex, then bacterial and yeast infections on the skin. Treating the secondary infections made it look as if we were making progress. Treating with steroid immunosuppressants was a really bad idea because the whole balance at the skin level was being disturbed and it made it worse! If she had been put on cyclosporin is it possible that the symptoms would have subsided somewhat? Yes quite possible, but she would have been on it for life! Whenever you taper her off there would likely have been a recurrence of the inflammation. Normally the immune system destroys new colonies of demodex, by suppressing the immune response, the natural defense mechanism was unable to react and the colony exploded. The secondary infections clouded the issue.

IVERMECTIN IS CONTRA INDICATED FOR USE IN COLLIES, BORDER COLLIES, AUSSIES, GERMAN SHEPHERDS, McNAB, OLD ENGLISH SHEEPDOGS and other similar breeds. Check for MDR1 gene mutations in mixed breeds resembling any of these breeds. There is a test available.

The other thing is that Ivermectin, the insecticide, is quite powerful at the concentration necessary to treat demodex and it is imperative that you test your dog for heartworm prior to starting the treatment. The concentration could easily cause death in a heartworm positive dog. Fortunately Trinity tolerated it quite well. However it is imperative that the duration of treatment extends well past the cessation of inflammation. The first portion of the population of demodex to die would be the weaker ones, the less resistant. You really don’t want to be killing only the weaker ones and leaving the stronger, more resistant ones to repopulate the skin! There is no back up plan! You need to get every last one in one continuous treatment!!!

Trinity is now adopted and happy and healthy in her forever home. The icing on the cake is she was adopted by the original vet and his family. ( I struggled a bit with that one, it seemed a bit weird at first but it is a good deal for Trinity) So Trinity has her own personal vet for life!

Another winner!

Thanks for reading!

Got Lassie?

Most dogs who come through shelters are at least somewhat neglected, socially, physically and spiritually in their previous life.

They may have been stray, living on the streets living off what they could scavenge from trash bins and dumpsters if they were lucky, trying to catch voles, lizards and eating horse poop if they were not.

” Before”
Ellie came in from a rescued scenario and this is how she was living. She will probably always be somewhat shy but after some rehabilitation Ellie is now in her forever home and feels loved, goes on hikes in the Sierras off leash and enjoys playing with friends at the beach

So one of the things you may find is a certain possessiveness over food, toys or treats. This sometimes makes it unwise initially to be using food as a reward in training, you really don’t want to be refreshing those behaviors on a daily basis while the dog is anxious in its new environment. This is especially important if you have other animals or children in the home and food scraps are a factor in your daily life.

As the dog becomes calmer and starts to be sure of its food being available at the same time every day, preferably twice a day, then the neediness will fade in most dogs. It might then be appropriate to undertake a structured and supervised desensitization and counterconditioning program to change the habit. Whatever you do, do NOT start working the dog by teasing it with food too soon in the rehabilitation process. Giving it and taking it away. You might read somewhere that this will make the dog better. What it will do is get you or your children bitten! Food sensitivity is a huge trigger in dog bites and fights, ignore it at your peril.

If they were not scarred when they arrived, many dogs are traumatized by spending a couple of hours, days or weeks in a shelter. It is well known in shelters that the reason we kill so many is that the environment is so toxic most dogs go kennel crazy within three weeks anyway and can be labelled un adoptable.

Please don’t overwhelm the dog!

When your shelter dog arrives the biggest gift you can give is calmness, a loving environment and some rest and recuperation.

A consistent structure , timetable of regular exercise, feeding and settle down time will help the dog heal.

Some simple rules, timing of meals and quality of food will often see the dog looking completely different within a week or three.

Sometimes it takes longer, much longer, but it is imperative that you allow nature to do the healing. Remember that your expectations are not relevant to the process, in fact unrealistic expectations can sabotage the healing process. Healing is what needs to happen first.

If a dog is feeling scared, insecure and emotionally or physically injured, it is really hard for them to behave normally. They may be reactive or closed down.

Most of the behavior issues are anxiety related. Reduce the anxiety first, then wait. The behaviors will probably fade.

If the behavior persists then it may have become a habit. Habits can be modified with appropriate training. However if you try to modify a behavior using training but the behavior is the result of anxiety that is still present, first of all you will probably not be successful. You may see some initial change, the novelty value of the new attention, but the cause of the behavior, the anxiety, is still there and you will almost always get very strong regression as the anxiety re asserts itself.

Most of these behaviors are rewarding for the dog in some way, whether you like it or not or whether you believe it or not.

Future blog: How to teach your dog to say “Timmy is down the well”

After rehabilitation, you can see the spring in her step as she is on her way to become all she can be. Ellie is now in her forever home.

Common Sense for Adopting a Rescued or Shelter Dog

This blog aims to educate, inform and entertain!

Many people come across habits and behaviors in their newly adopted dog that concern or frustrate them and they just don’t know where to turn. Their expectations are not met, patience runs out and the dog goes back. I want to change that. The dogs can’t speak, so I aim to be the voice that says give them a chance to be the best dog they can be and this is how you do it!

My goal is to help new families and their newly adopted dogs get sticky!

So sticky that they become part of the family and their new home is their forever home.

I will share my experiences of rescuing and fostering shelter dogs in my own home, works in progress, on their way to their forever home.

Kato, named after the manservant in Inspector Cluseau’s epic film The Pink Panther who hides and jumps out of closets!

Clemmy teaches Kato and Jack
The importance of exercise and play
in a healthy dog.
Kato is from Silver Springs, NV.
Jack is from Shafter, CA.

Death Row dogs.

All my shelter dogs are shelter rejects, they were considered unadoptable and were all on the daily kill list, most of them on their last day. One or two on their last hour on this earth.

Their crimes varied from being homeless, to just being old, from being wild, to just being big and black or even just because they resemble a less popular breed.

Although labelled “unadoptable” by the shelter, and I will have more to say about that in due course, none of them are “bad” dogs or “dangerous” dogs.

Mostly they were just being dogs and we failed them.

I tell you this not to impress you, but to impress upon you that whatever the behaviors that are troubling you and your rescued dog I have already seen worse, sometimes much worse, and have turned the dog around.

500,000 dogs a year are killed in the name of humane society protocol just here in California. One every minute. Day and night. Every day, every month, every year.

It is just not right.

It is my opinion that we humans have a moral obligation to find a better way of living where dogs are not disposable just because they may be temporarily socially inconvenient or not quite perfect yet.

Dog Training and behavior specialist.

I will cover topics that come up repeatedly in my dog training and behavior modification programs (www.witsenddogtraining.com).

I am fortunate in that I also meet dogs every day in my dog training business. I take dogs into my home to quickly resolve behavior concerns in a matter of days. I also deal one on one with behavior issues, visiting clients in their home, evaluating behaviors and observing family dynamics in action. I know what works and how even with the best of intentions people can sometimes, unwittingly, sabotage their own success. I specialize in behavior modification, not just telling you what to do but showing you personally the what, why and how of behavior change. You will see the change.

I am passionate about rescuing shelter dogs and giving them a second chance.

If I can share my knowledge and help you have a successful adoption I can make a difference in your life and the life of your dog. I like feeling I am making a difference.

In my experience most shelters are so overwhelmed by the volume of dogs that they rarely have time to hold your hand as you start on your journey with a new shelter dog.

I intend to bridge that gap.

Because of my experience I think of it as common sense, but clearly a lot of these things are just not part of most peoples life experiences.

For the dog’s sake and yours ASK ME

Ask me any questions at any time, add comments or criticism, suggest a topic you would like covered. I want to make a difference, I want to make the dogs sticky and set everyone up for success.

Beware! I can be opinionated, sometimes feel angry and frustrated and have a reputation for being blunt. Just like some of my dogs!

You will hear my truth, I might not sugar coat it but what you hear will work.

Most of the problems I see are not dog problems, the dog is just being a dog trying to make its way in an alien culture!

Yes, I am talking about you, your home and family!

To a dog who may have never been allowed in the house, fed intermittently, never taken out in public, taught what a leash was, or had children over to the house, kept in a cage in the yard, never thrown a ball or fetched a stick or run off leash along the beach in and out of the water, you might just as well be aliens!