Saturday, September 24, 2011

Dominance vs Leadership

I thought I'd share with you this recent email sent to my staff:

Hey everyone,

In my new found quest at being more opened minded to the people who I used to call "crazy positive only people" I came across this article (shared by Sara Beth). The truth is, what we try to teach here in our training classes is leadership not dominance (you'll see the distinction made in the article). Though in our classes we do use discipline we are really teaching owners things they can use throughout the day (working for food, waiting at doorways, walking beside you, etc.) that help them establish leadership not dominance.

In this article you'll hear her give examples of the crazy negative things she had trainers tell her (hold the choke chain tight till they pass out, omg!) That's dominance, that's someone that has taken the use of discipline way too far. You'll agree that some of the things she mentions we would never tell a client to do or do to a pet ourselves. Yes, I've been weaning off the choke chain (really haven't used one in quite some time). It's nice having my couple of private clients to be my "experiment" as well as my foster dog (I don't use them for my dogs, even Hester). Does this mean that I don't discipline? Absolutely not. However, I think what I do is leadership and not the dominance as she describes. Would I have a dog lay down when in trouble? Yes, when I think it appropriate, but not as often as I see some people and for the reasons they do it. We had a fight recently even in our very well-balanced home. Kenzie jumped Bailey. Our best guess (because we saw this happen once before) is that Bailey corrected Jazzi for being in her face. At that, Kenzie jumped in at Bailey. It's tough to see something like that. At that moment I separated them and in an effort to calm myself, Kenzie and Bailey, I got Kenzie and Bailey to the ground (on their sides), we all stayed that way for a little bit. Then I carried Kenzie, without saying a word, to the other room and put her in a crate.

This situation breaks my heart. Bailey and Kenzie have been friends for years, however Kenzie reacted on a very primal level (doesn't matter if they are "friends). So to see Kenzie taking advantage of Bailey's aging (that's what I'm thinking is one aspect) it's hard to understand. I love Kenzie but at the same time I was so hurt and disappointed that she could do that to another dog that I love. What Kenzie did was dominance, plain and simple and I believe, like she says in the article, dominance plays a major role in dogs' relationships with each other. However, my response to the situation was leadership. In the past I've had the mentality of "I HAVE to win this fight!!" anytime a dog disobeyed, especially showing aggression towards me. Where has that gotten me? It's gotten me a handful of scars. Did winning those situations miraculously fix the dogs? No. I came out on the worse end. Hester has taught me a lot about dealing with an aggressive dog. I've learned alternative ways to establish "leadership" and make sure she knows she can't get away with anything negative towards me. It works. Will Hester still bite me if pushed...absolutely. However, I've really won. I've figured out a way to get an "aggressive" dog to comply to my commands, to not growl when she normally would and let me take her toys and treats away. No matter how I achieved it, she respects me and obliges when I ask her to do something. That's success.

Anyway, I am hoping that you guys can begin to think about this a bit more, maybe even modifying how you approach training certain dogs. If I, the enforcer of discipline, can learn to adjust my methods then I believe anyone can : ) I'm very glad many of you will be taking my staff class. This will give you a peek into my new thoughts on training the behaviors you want. If you have questions or comments about this article or my email please "reply all" if you feel others could benefit from it. It's a great way to get the conversation started.



Monday, August 29, 2011

The Lucky Seven

I didn't intend to leave animal control with 7 new fosters, but on this particular day something just wouldn't let me leave them.

We stopped by to visit a dog we had seen on the website. When we got there that dog wasn't available for viewing. We decided to walk around and see who else was there. As we walked around we wrote down the pen numbers of dogs that we were interested in. We took the numbers back to the animal control officer to get more details.

Normally when we do this we find that some of them have applications, some have rescues coming to get them and others have a little bit more time. On this day every single dog we asked about was scheduled to be killed in the morning. It was 30 minutes till closing time. These dogs were going to die.

I'm sure you know that tons of dogs get killed at animal control every year. What you might not know is that sweet, loving, cute, adorable, submissive, "highly adoptable" dogs being killed all the time. Every dog we asked about we knew would make great pets. They didn't have behavior problems. They didn't have medical issues. They didn't have emotional baggage that would make a transition into a new family lots of work.

Three stubby legged, scruffy terrier brothers played in their pen together as if nothing was wrong. They wrestled and wrestled and was actually a bit reluctant to come out of their pen to me. They didn't know they should want to come to me. How would they? We named these boys Skully, Rugby and Xander.

Another was a young blond small girl dog. She looked like a puppy but she was actually full grown. She looked at us and give the most heart wrenching howl. It wasn't loud or obnoxious, or was like a plea for help. Then we find out the reason for her howl. She had come in with a puppy. They were immediately separated. The puppy had been adopted and the mom was left to die. When we got her out to meet her she was the calmest sweetest little dog ever. She was very scared and just wanted us to love her. She would have crawled right into our pockets if she could have. We named her Piper.

A miniature Labrador? One puppy looked just like an adult lab but only in miniature. She was so tiny. She wasn't much of a puppy. Since she is already about 9-10 months old she doesn't have much growing to do. She gave us a submissive wiggle through the glass window. When I went in to get her she too was scared to leave. That breaks your heart. I wish they could understand English as I tell them it's their lucky day. This one we named Jade.

Through one window was a little border collie mix puppy. People always are looking for dogs like her to adopt. Not this time I guess. She was curious and happy when we brought her out. She's a sweet little thing that we now call Paisley.

Last was an owner surrender. They owned her for 3 months before turning into animal control. She was there 5 days passed her kill date. She looked just like a doberman/whippet mix, too adorable. Looked like a little skeleton. She was bouncy and bongy. She's an athletic little girl. We named her Jazzi.

Why are dogs like these being killed? It just isn't fair. I know I can't change everything but I was determined to save the lives of the 7 dogs on our list that day.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Pawtropolis's 10 year anniversary is coming up December 1st. We are going to have a huge countdown; specials every month, prize drawings and end with a big celebration dinner. We also have the goal to raise $10,000 for Helping Paws Rescue. We know this is crazy but we just had to try. Thanks

Friday, March 25, 2011

Making a smart decision when getting your new pet...and my thoughts on the "doodle craze".

Hey Everyone, we had a situation come up recently with an employee looking to get a dog that made me realize that many people do not truly understand my thoughts on breeding. Some people think I am 100% against it, some people think I'm not as long as they are purebred. Because of this staff member as well as several other incidences lately I wanted to take a minute to explain my thoughts on breeding and give you recommendations if you are in search for another dog.

Who should be breeding? I do like how certain breeds were bred for certain jobs. It amazes me to watch a border collie herding sheep or a bloodhound doing scent work or a husky pulling a sled. When they do these activities you can tell how much they enjoy it, they are born with a certain set of skills that if honed can lead to amazing working dogs. Dog breeding is a huge genetic experiment really. You can see how in a short period of time breeds can morph into other breeds and other sizes. The fact that humans have bred many breeds specifically for the purpose of serving the human race, I'm fine with, because ultimately it solidifies this strong relationship that humans and dogs have.

There is a very specific standard for each breed. AKC is very strict about it. They are strict not only about the looks, but also the build (can they do what they were bred for), and the health of the dogs. They want to see only the healthiest and finest "specimens" of the breed continue their genetic line. You may know that I've had 3 Dalmatians and absolutely adore the breed. However even I am not even close to being knowledgeable enough to even think of breeding Dalmatians. It takes years and years of research, following different breed lines, confirmation showing, etc. It takes someone truly dedicated to the endeavor.

People aren't knowledgeable about the breeds and/or don't know whether their dogs meet the breed standards. So now you have someone with a purebred dog. The first problem that I see is that many people assume that because their dog is purebred it meets the requirements necessary to breed. Maybe they want a "daughter" because their dog is so great. Maybe they have friends who say they want a puppy. Whatever the reason, they want to breed their purebred dog. Mrs. Akin shared this Spay/Neuter Chart with me. I thought it was brilliant. It puts into a graph what I try to verbally explain to people. Take a look. It makes for a great reference. Susan Tinch brought up the added box to put at the end which would read, "Are you willing to take back every puppy produced no matter how old?"

One of the recent incidences that has brought about this document has to do with someone buying a Dalmatian puppy. It came from someone that meets the very description of a backyard breeder. Each of their Dalmatians has one blue eye. Blue eyes are a major fault in Dalmatians. There is a very strong link between blue eyes and deafness in Dalmatians. Also, they had "patches" that are also major faults. Not only did they not confirm appearance wise to breed standard but they were passing on genes that specifically lead to deafness. I feel very confident that there will be deaf puppies in their lines. It's not all about looks. Reputable breeders do lots of testing and screening to rule out any problems that are common in that particular breed. If a dog doesn't pass, they immediately get the dog altered.

If you go by this chart it is very easy to see who should be breeding their dogs and who shouldn't be. There is only a small percentage of the population that can say "yes" to all the questions. If you can show me that, then you'll have my support to breed. (I still may not throw you a party but I won't think you're being irresponsible.) People think that the reason there are so many unwanted dogs is because of stray dogs or large scale puppy mills. The truth is I feel the main reason we have this problem is from backyard breeders. A backyard breeder is someone that breeds simply because they have a purebred dog and not for the reasons the chart suggests.

Where do people get their dogs from and what could be wrong with it? Here are some examples of some of the ways people obtain their purebred dogs. I will put the issues with each along side.

1. A newspaper/online/flyer ad: You can go ahead and guess that these breeders are either large scale breeding operations or backyard breeders. Reputable breeders (that breed because of the chart) generally have a waiting list for their puppies. They have extensive applications and would never think of putting an ad in a paper. You look for them, they don't seek the buyer.

2. Pet Store: Here's a tough one. I know many people who have bought from a pet store. They go in and see these pitiful puppy faces in the tiniest of cages, perhaps the puppies been there months and now the store is marking the puppy down like a used car. The person can't take looking at it and buys the puppy so they can save them from that situation. I know exactly how this feels and is the very reason I cannot step foot into a store that sells dogs/cats. These puppies came from breeders who could care less where their puppies go. They don't care if a horrible person buys them and tortures them, they don't care if someone buys them and chains them in the backyard. They don't care if the person puts them in a small cage and breeds them over and over just to make money. If a breeder does not care what happens to their puppies that is the #1 sign that you should run the other way. If you purchase this puppy, yes you are changing this puppy's life, but you are telling the pet store and the breeder that, yes, they should keep doing it because "look people are buying them." You saved the puppy but you condemned it's mom to more years of breeding.

3. Friend, family member, acquaintance: Okay, so you know these people. They are loving people, their pets are spoiled rotten. Yes, they decided to breed their dog but it's just one litter and they have homes lined up already. No problem with that right? Unfortunately...yes. Who knows what will happen to the puppies. What if not all the puppy families get their dogs spayed or neutered. If not neutered then what if that dog goes and accidentally impregnates another neighborhood dog. She has puppies and her puppies have puppies, etc. What if the girl puppy doesn't get spayed and, oops, the neighbor dog got in. She has puppies and then those puppies have puppies. When you look at the fact that one unspayed female could be the cause of 343 more dogs within a year and a half it's easy to start seeing the negative effect every decision can make on the number of dogs killed every year in shelters.

You want a dog, what do you do? How do you do it right? Okay so you've decided to get a dog. First you need to decide if you want a purebred dog or a mixed breed. If you want a purebred ask yourself why. Is it because the dogs are cool looking? Perhaps your family has always had that breed? Maybe someone has allergies and you need a specific kind of coat? Maybe like me you like to do competitive obedience with AKC and know if your rescued purebred is spayed/neutered they will allow you to apply for a number and compete. However, now they allow mixed breeds which is great. They have a program called AKC Canine Partners that helps you register your wonderful lovable mutt. Take a look here:

Maybe after these questions you say, yes, I still want a purebred dog.

-You CAN rescue purebred dogs. My Dalmatian and last Dalmatian, Chihuahua and Standard Poodle are rescues. No, you cannot get immediate gratification of getting a pup when you want it. It takes patience, constant searching of rescue sites, getting your name out to purebred rescue groups, etc. But the reward is great. Not only are you helping a dog find a home but you can also use your dog to educate others about rescuing.

-You buy from a breeder. Let us help. Of the people who breed their dogs only about 5% (I'm guessing) are reputable breeders. You have to be armed with as much information as you can obtain, do your research, know what you're looking for, know what to ask, etc. If you don't know we can help. Ask them the questions listed on this chart about the parents. Buying from a breeder can be done responsibly.

Puggle, Doodle, Cockapoo, Matipoo, Yorkipoo, shihpoo.....all just a bunch of poo.

I can't begin to describe the sadness I have at the ever increasing popularity of doodles. I'll use doodles as an example but this is for any mutt that they are passing off as a "designer breed."


1. These breeders CANNOT say that their dogs match the criteria of the chart.

2. They are NOT breeding to meet AKC breed standards. They are purposefully breeding mixes. The only reason to do this isn't to "better an AKC breed" it is to make money, a profit. Period, no matter what they tell you.

3. These dogs are not more hypoallergenic. I don't care what a vet, breeder or doctor says (yes, I'm making that strong of a stance) NO dog is hypoallergenic. Yes, some dogs shed a considerably less amount of pet fur and dander. So someone with a mild pet allergy can tolerate certain fur types (like poodles, Maltese, Shih Tzu, etc.). However, if someone is highly allergic to dogs it doesn't matter the breed or coat type. And if allergies was your main reason for purchasing this type of mix that is a wrong theory. If you mix in a different breed like a golden or Labrador, then you've just mixed in a breed that has a higher amount of pet dander. If that is what you are going for then a purebred would be the best option.

4. "But I like the qualities of both breeds." Did you know that 85% of what dogs will turn out to be has to do with how owners raises them? That's why I have an amazing little Chihuahua that doesn't bark constantly or bite. You can ruin any breed just like you can make any breed or mix amazing. It has more to do with you. Yes, specific breeds come with specific traits, but it doesn't determine overall temperament as much as you think.

Take a look at this website: These people have over 80 dogs on their property (I'm basing off of someone's firsthand experience of going there.) They are mixing this poodle with this lab, this cocker spaniel with that poodle, etc, etc. No regards for AKC standards whatsoever. No screening of buyers. This person went to their place because they said they would give her a puppy for free. When she got there they gave her 4 dogs for free because they needed to "get rid of them" they were getting too old to sale and the new batch of puppies were on the way. Look at how they have sales as if they are products to be purchased. I do not know these people personally, not have I been to their facility. I am not picking on them. I am only using them as an example at what is happening out there. If someone didn't know any better they might think their website looks great, all the info seems great. What you don't know is that you are supporting someone that is adding to the number of dogs being put down every day.

Josh Loposer wrote an article after interviewing the originator of the labradoodle, Wally Conron. Mr. Conron says he has massive regrets about his role in the doodle craze. An excerpt from the article is at the bottom of this blog post.

I posted this message as my Facebook status one day: "One of the reasons there are so many unwanted dogs is that even educated people that loves dogs and would never do anything to hurt them still make bad decisions when getting their own pets. If I can't get through to them then I can't get through to anyone. It's a never ending battle that gets more depressing every day."

If any of my friends, family or clients own one of the "designer breeds" I am referring to, I am in no way trying to make anyone feel bad or defensive but since you know me I'm sure you already know that. I know many people may have strong feelings as to why a particular mixed breed is right for them and that is totally okay. My goal is simply to share my feelings, make it clear how I feel about it and hopefully educate people about buying dogs and how important the decision is about where to get your pet. Maybe someone out there is considering buying a new pet and had never thought of these things before. That's what I've seen happen in my life recently. That's when it dawned on me that I've never shared this before and that many people simply still do not know. I am here to help; we have a ton of resources we can share. If we can all spread this message to our friends and family then maybe we can make a difference. As I remind myself: A difference one pet at a time.

Thank you for listening, Amanda

Portion of Article by Josh Loposer, published May 6th 2010.

Is your mixed-breed a mistake of monumental proportions, or the crowning achievement of thousands of years of thoughtful selective breeding?

Despite millions of labradoodle owners across the planet who are convinced their pups are the greatest thing since sliced bread, the man credited with pioneering the breed has massive regrets about his involvement in the "oodle" craze. "I don't regret the dog, not for the purpose I bred it for," Wally Conron tells Paw Nation, "I regret all the people who got on the bandwagon willy-nilly. People who are breeding poodle crosses for the money, who have no concern for parentage."

How was Conron to know that by crossing one of his kennel's best Labs with a standard poodle, he would unwittingly spark an international trend that would spawn the schnoodle, the groodle, the roodle and countless other similar designer breeds? In 1988, service-dog trainer Conron received a letter from a woman in Hawaii who needed a seeing-eye dog that wouldn't shed, because her husband was highly allergic. At that time, no one had ever bred a Labrador retriever with an allergy-friendly standard poodle, at least not on purpose.

Now, only 22 years later, labradoodles have their own Facebook pages. Labradoodle enthusiasts, along with other groups of "oodle" owners, are even vying to have the breed recognized as an official breed by the Kennel Council. So why is Conron so ashamed of his own creation? Like many others, he feels that the labradoodle trend started a gold rush for unscrupulous backyard breeders with no knowledge of proper dog breeding. "One of our litters had 10 pups in it and only three were actually allergy-free," says Conron. "Let's face it: they're a crossbreed. You never know what you're going to get. It's a bit like buying a pig in a poke, yet people all over are charging more for labradoodles than purebreds."

Two years ago, it was even rumored that President Obama was considering bringing a labradoodle home to the White House. (Of course, he chose a Portuguese water dog instead). "I actually wrote him a letter that said to be careful and check the parents," Conron explains. "I never heard back."

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Awww...there's just nothing like a puppy. Helping Paws Rescue gets lots of puppies, however we often try to avoid it unless someone can take the puppy home. This means we haven't had a little puppy in a long time.

We recently got two puppies, one of which wasn't eating too well so I wanted to take her home myself to observe her health. Her name is Reese but she doesn't know it. I don't really know her as Reese either. She's too little to have a identity, I mean she's just 5 weeks old. But she does. Right now she is a mixture of scared, hungry, tired, cranky, curious, playful and trusting.

Puppies are new life. They are full of possibilities. They depend so much on us humans as they will their entire life. We hold their fate in our hands. Will Reese be loved forever? Or will she live in an outside pen; will she be chained up; will she wander until she meets a death too quick? These are all the possibilities that face each puppy ever born. Each promising fresh slate waiting for us humans to decide their fate. They so depend on us. We made them depend on us.

Reese is a lucky one. She will be loved. She will find a family that will love her forever thanks to Helping Paws Rescue. But looking at her I can't help but think of all the others. All the others....

Reese is love. She is innocence. She is a little sparkle in a person's day. I hold her close to my face as I walk her outside. Hoping she'll always recognize my smell. I smile as she runs through the freshly cut grass which is still tall for her. My heart beams as she embraces life, as she rubs her belly on the ground and barks. (Still so small that her barks are adorable.) I cringe when she keeps me up all night. I love watching her curl in the warm towel.

Awww....puppies. Thank you God for puppies.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


My dogs don't bark all the time and if something does get their attention it's usually pretty easy to get them to stop. However our one problem area....when someone's at the door.

I know that many people like it when their dogs alert them when someone's at the house, but not me. It can be quite startling having 5 dogs suddenly start barking all at once. I honestly don't need their help, I can hear the doorbell perfectly well without them alerting me to it. Most of the time it's the neighbor's young daughter coming for an afternoon visit. Nothing to be alarmed about. Nothing scary. So to's a problem.

It's funny; sometimes as I'm watching a movie or tv show and it's someone's house and their doorbell rings. Guess what? No barking. Just the peaceful ring of the little bell. Awww wouldn't that be nice? Instead if I know someone is coming over I'm on edge waiting in anticipation to work with the girls and their chorus of noise. I also know that this isn't very welcoming to my visitors. They know and expect barking but still I dream of them being able to walk in with my girls laying on the floor calmly enjoying their company. We get there, but only after about 15 minutes of visitor excitement.

My plan of action is to assign them a place to go when the bell rings. I send them to stand and wait on the living room rug. A task they easily accomplish. Even new fosters catch on pretty quickly. But do they do this quietly? No. So I still have to say, "Enough!" to quiet them. Sometimes it may be several "enoughs" and a mean look on my face that lets them know, "mom is really serious." They know I will follow through if they don't. (Follow through simply means I'll go all the way to them and grab their collar firmly and say enough or something like that.)

Then once they are settled and I greet my now terrified visitor I slowly allow them to come and greet, sometimes one at a time, sometimes all of them. When I give the release command I normally get one good back-talking bark. Bailey has actually been known to growl at the person while holding a toy in her mouth which she is bringing to give to the visitor. This is an example of how ingrained this behavior is. It is so ingrained that I can stand with the door wide open. The dogs can clearly see me. I ring the bell...they bark. I ring again...they bark. Again, they see that it is me just standing there ringing the bell...but still they bark. It takes a good 5-6 rings before they are aware enough to stifle their barks. Silly dogs.

My dogs are fantastic, so well-behaved, I love them so much. I wish I could just let go of this frustration and realize it's okay for them to bark then. As long as they listen to my commands and eventually settle, then it's okay. So that's my plan. I'll continue to send them to the rug, say "enough", ring the door bell at weird times to desensitize them and work on my patience. After all if I wanted a quiet house when the bell rings then why did I get a dog in the first place : ).

Monday, January 4, 2010

Inside my head...

Inside my head around 6pm on January 2nd:

Ugh, another 1 and a half hours till I get home, traffic is horrible. Why did I go this way? I never go this way. Oooh, a dead dog on the side of the highway. Poor thing didn't have a chance on this busy road.

(Listening to talk radio a few more miles.)

Oh no, what's that?! It's a dog! Walking right here on 75? Are you kidding me? I can't get over I'm in the far left lane. Traffic is too bad...too fast.

(I pass by.)

What do I do? Do I turn around? That's stupid by the time I get there he'll be gone.

(Why I was thinking the dog was a "him" I'm not sure.)

He was headed towards the exit ramp, maybe he'll walk off the highway. But then again, even if he does it's still a busy road with lots of traffic. Look. The next exit is another 2 miles, ugh. It's not my job to save every dog. It's cold out there. I'm going to Athens.....

I can't. I'll get to Athens and not get that dog out of my head. It IS my job. That's what I'm here for. It IS my job. Fine, I'll turn around. He won't be there but I'll turn around.

(Drive two miles, get off the highway, get back on the highway, drive 2 miles again, get off the highway and head to get back on the highway on the ramp he was walking near.)

I don't see him. I don't see him. What's that? Oh God, it's a pile of black. Did he get hit? What IS that? I can't tell, got to keep moving there is traffic behind me. Great, now I won't know if that was him or not. Great, this is awful. Wait! There he is, to the right of the exit ramp still walking near the highway. Stop. Not too quickly there are tons of cars right behind me. Stop quickly, pull to the left, the right is too bumpy. Grab a leash; got it. Okay, careful. Wait for all the cars to go by. Please, please stop walking towards traffic. Please don't get hit in front of me.

(Traffic clears enough for me to run by.)

He's scared. Of course he's scare. I knew he wouldn't come to me. Stop walking. Just wait. Kneel down, talk to him. "Hey sweetie, what are doing here? Come here, come here." He's looking at me. He wants to come but he's scared. The more high pitched I talk the more he can't control the wag of his tail. He's coming. I can't believe it. He's coming! His head is low, ears back, tail tucked but wagging. He's being submissive. He's sweet and he's a he. Definitely a he. Closer...closer...closer...don't move too quick with the leash or he'll run. Gotcha! The leash is on. I breathe... I breathe and then my eyes water. This is what was meant to happen. I was meant to turn around. He was meant to come with me.

Meet Traveler....