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The Never Ending Rainy Day

It’s been raining for, like, a hundred years straight here in Maine (ok, ok two weeks) and I. am. going. crazy.

Between playing ball with Boogie in our mud pit of a back yard, coaxing Birdie to please, pretty please, stop pretending she’s a camel and go to the bathroom already, and all the soggy dog walks I’ve been doing every afternoon, I’ve lost my mind.

And I’ve decided this is my future:

patio park

That’s right. I want a Patio Park.

Not only do I want one, but my rain-induced insanity is making me think that buying a van, throwing one of these inside, and offering up a mobile, door-to-door, covered potty break station is exactly what the pet industry needs and I’m the gal to do it.


I know that’s bonkers. But I kinda wish I could do that today, this millionth day of rain.

p.s. This actually might be handy for city-DINOS. Or is that the soggy mush in my head talking?

Be Polite. It Could Save an Epileptic Dog’s Life.

DINOS touches on all kinds of issues, but mostly it’s all about this idea: Some dogs need space, so it would be awesome if everyone had control of their dogs, obeyed leash laws, and always asked permission before allowing themselves or their dogs to approach unfamiliar dogs.

That not-so-complicated idea can be boiled down even further to this really, really simple idea: Please be polite, respectful, and responsible.

I heart boundaries tee

Got Boundaries?

Regardless of why a dog may need space (there are so many reasons: health, medical, occupational, and behavioral) the only thing most of us want is the opportunity – the right – to choose whether or not our dogs will interact with other dogs or people.

We’re reasonable about this. We’re upholding our end of the bargain by responsibly managing our dogs and getting out of the way. We know we can’t always control our surroundings and we don’t expect others to go out of their way to avoid us. But it stinks when our ability to choose what’s best for our dogs is taken from us. That happens when someone is breaking the leash law or can’t/won’t control their dogs (on leash or off).

For many of us there are serious consequences when our ability to choose who our dogs interact with is taken away from us.

I recently heard from a reader named Mary:

“I just wanted to thank you for making people aware of this. My dog has epilepsy and while people’s ‘dogs are friendly’ they can kill my dog.

Certain scents cause him to go into cluster seizures that take a dosage of Valium to wake him up. Just smelling the medication put on the back of a dog’s neck used for heart worm/fleas can cause a horrible reaction.

I’m sick of having to run away or protect my 100lb dog from these very hyperactive dogs. If we wanted to encounter off leash dogs, we would simply go to a park. It’s so very frustrating…If people would just ask before approaching and not unleash their dogs to meet us, I would be so happy. It seems so simple right? We all deserve respect.”

Please help me stay healthy. Ask permission before approaching.

This blew me away.  Taz is a DINOS because he has epilepsy and he needs space to stay healthy. You would never be able to tell, just by looking at him. But you can help keep him safe just by being polite.

The thing is, Mary purposely walks Taz in areas that have leash laws, but still encounters off leash dogs who run up to her dog and can compromise his health. She’s not going to off-leash areas or dog parks. Mary doesn’t want to ruin anyone’s good time with their dogs.

She just wants to be able to walk her teddy bear of a dog in public, without fear that someone else will break the law and let their uncontrolled dog (friendly though they may be) run up to her dog and possibly cause a reaction that could kill him.

She’s not asking for much, but she’d really appreciate it if we were all polite, respectful, and responsible.

We can do that right? We can obey leash laws, control our dogs, and remember to ask permission before we allow ourselves or our dogs to approach an unfamiliar dog, can’t we? We teach children to ask permission before approaching a strange dog. Why can’t adults do the same?

I think we owe it to each other to do so. In this wacky world, a leash and a few polite words go pretty far in keeping us all safe and comfortable in public places. Accidents happen, of course, but we can at least try to be respectful of one another.


Download on Flickr:

And it’s not just those of us with DINOS that wish dog owners would be more courteous. Senior citizens, children, and people afraid of dogs – they all have a right to use public spaces without fear of being chased or jumped on by dogs that are out of their owner’s control (on leash or off).

But this blog is about dogs, so back to them.

Taz is a reminder that you may not be able to tell just by looking at a dog if they’re epileptic or recently became blind or if that puppy will be a Seeing Eye dog one day. Or maybe they’re just having a tough day and need space for a few minutes.

When we assume that another dog will be ok if we allow our loose dog to chase after them or we let our leashed dog pull us over to say “hi”, we’re making a judgment call without all the facts. And in doing so we are taking away that other person’s right to choose what’s best for their dogs.

It’s impossible to know what’s going on in someone else’s world just by looking at them and their dogs. That’s why we need to remind dog owners to take responsibility for themselves and their actions all the time, around ALL dogs.

Doing so allows all of us to be part of a community that treats everyone – two and four legged – with respect.

It starts with obeying the law, having control over our dogs, and asking, “Can we meet your dog?”, then listening to the response in case the answer is “Sorry, but no.”

Just good old-fashioned manners. A bit of politeness towards a stranger and you could save a dog’s life.


You can help pass along this reminder with the Ask First poster and handout. Trainers, vets, shelters – these resources are free. Please pass them along to your clients and the public!


(2013 Note: Yes, yellow ribbons  are now one way to signal that a dog needs space, but not everyone will understand what it means or be able to see it or stop disregarding leash laws. For long lasting changes, we can focus on educating the public about being respectful and responsible for their actions all the time, around all dogs.)


How to Score a Dog Bite: The Joggers and Bikers Edition

Hi there. You look really fit. All tan and muscle-y and stuff. Oh, it’s because you’re a jogger. You look like a long distance kind of dude. And you’re a cyclist too? Well aren’t you the picture of health.

What was that? I’m sorry, I don’t think I heard you right. Did you just say you really want to get bit by a dog?

You did. Um, you know that’s crazy right? No one likes dog bites. They kinda hurt. Ok, ok. You really want to get bit, huh?

Well, since you asked…

So You Wanna Get Bit By a Dog: The Joggers and Bikers Edition

If you really want to get bit by a dog while you’re jogging:

Scout out a narrow trail, filled with pedestrians and dog walkers. With no audible warning, sprint up behind a dog, passing it so closely that your personal gust o’ running wind parts their fur.

The surprised dog, startled by a total stranger rushing them from behind, will likely be one of the following: scared, threatened, excited, or spun around and confused.

You’ve increased your chances of getting bit. Well done. If you aren’t too busy bleeding, don’t forget to check over your shoulder. You may not have scored that dog bite you’re bent on getting, but you’ll get a good chuckle at the dog walker who is now struggling to calm her startled dog. Score!

Did you see me scare the crap out of that dog? High five bro!

Not into doing it from behind? Try sprinting at a strange dog head on! When you spy a dog strolling on leash, pick up your pace and run right at the dog. Most dogs will think you’re coming to hurt them, hurt their human, or play with them.

Either way, you’ve got their attention now! Bravo. Look forward to lunging and barking. Fingers crossed for that dog bite you’re obsessed with getting.

Like riding bikes? Why not do it on a crowded sidewalk or walking trail, filled with pedestrians and dogs? There’s nothing that screams, “I want a dog bite!” like speeding past a dog who has no room to escape you and your hot wheels.

For extra points, scream at the dog walker for not getting out of your way. What do they think they’re doing walking on that sidewalk? They should stay out in the road with the cars….where it’s safe!

Obviously, I’m kidding here. Don’t ever do this stuff. Stop it right now.

For real: Can we talk about how crazy it can be negotiating bikes and joggers with our dogs?

They way they charge at our dogs is like some special brand of stupid. They’re just begging for a dog bite.

And I happen to know that they can’t stand us either. I love checking the search terms that people plug in to find my blog. I’ve gotten a bunch of search terms that go something like this: ‘”I hate dogs while I’m jogging” and “I want to run over dog walkers with my bike and then back up and do it again, while ringing my dumb bell.”

Ok, not the second one so much, but I do see the first one a lot – joggers don’t like dealing with our dogs any more than we like dealing with joggers.

If we’re both miserable, why can’t we call it a truce and end this perpetual Fight Club we’re in with each other?

Here’s what I propose:

Joggers: if you see a dog, go wide. Do not run directly into, up to, or past a strange dog. Exit the sidewalk and run in the street. For like 10 feet. Then you can get back on. No biggie. If you’re trapped on the path, slow down and walk. I can hear you guys now: “Walk?! I’m a runner!” Fine.

At the very least, say something clear and understandable from a distance, like “INCOMING JOGGER BOMB ON YOUR LEFT!” or whatever you think will be the best way to alert a dog walker that you are coming up from behind and they need to move over. Please don’t heavy breathe a polite, quiet, “excuse me”, at the exact same time you’re passing us. That doesn’t give us enough time to react. I’m usually thinking about my next snack while I’m dog walking. Please give me enough time to snap out of my cupcake cloud and move over.

That’s all we want, really. The chance to move out of your way. Cuz we like our space.

And if you run with your dog, keep them close to you. Don’t let them run right up to, squeeze by, or surprise strange dogs.

Bikers: Get off the sidewalks. Period. Unless you’re in elementary school, it’s time to suck it up and ride in the streets. It’s just not fair that pedestrians have to contend with bikers on sidewalks. Especially on crowded city streets. This actually has nothing to do with dogs. I’m saying this for all of us: dog walkers, senior citizens, children, people who dislike being run over.

If you think it’s too dangerous to ride in the streets (I feel you on this, by the way – I was terrified to ride my bike in the city), take the subway. And don’t you dare give me lip if I’m in your way and don’t move over fast enough. These aren’t called bikewalks.

The City of Evanston gets it. Those people look really happy.

Dog walkers: We need to behave too. Don’t let your dogs lunge at or jump on joggers and bikers, if you can help it (meaning – you weren’t caught completely off guard). If they’re giving you space, be thankful and control your dogs. Keep your dogs on leash. Retract your flexi leads.  At home, contain your dogs in your yards by fence or lead, so that they can’t chase people.  Get off the phone and take off the headphones, so you can hear what’s going on around you. Be good, responsible dog owners.

That’s not so bad, is it?

No one wants to get bit. No one wants their dogs to bite someone. Instead of creating the prefect storm for a dog bite: charging and startling an unfamiliar dog, let’s work together to set dogs and humans who like to sweat in public up for success. We can do it – this whole being polite and giving each other space thing – I just know it.

(p.s. I know you guys know this already, but don’t be silly about what you read here. That stuff in the beginning was a joke. You will not hold the author of this blog responsible for any incidents related to the materials published here. assumes no liability or responsibility for your actions.)

Talking TACT

I just got back from a great weekend at the New England Federation of Humane Societies Conference where I had the chance to spend a couple of days learning about better ways to support the pets and people in our communities. As a bonus, I also got to attend a TACT seminar!

TACT, which stands for Touch Associated Clicker Training, is a behavior modification program for fearful dogs. Created by Julie Robitaille and Emma Parsons (author of Click to Calm, Healing the Aggressive Dog), TACT is, in their words:

TACT, Touch Associated Clicker Training creatively combines the science and art of learning theory, clicker training and massage therapy. This unique approach is used specifically to rehabilitate and prevent shy, fearful, reactive, and aggressive behavior in dogs and puppies utilizing positive training methods.

TACT utilizes a ritualized protocol designed with safety, structure and predictability.  TACT develops confidence and coping skills while changing the emotional response in fearful dogs.  TACT incorporates a detailed home management and real world exposure control program for owners to follow to coincide with their training protocol.

The seminar was geared towards working with dogs that are very fearful around humans (not other dogs). My understanding is that this program has been formulated for dogs that are specifically reactive to people.

Julie kicked things off with an introduction to TACT and how she incorporates ritualized protocols that are safe, structured, and super predictable. In each of the four learning stages, the individual dog’s triggers are broken down into the tiniest parts and the dogs are carefully and slowly exposed to their triggers. Through the counter conditioning process, TACT works to desensitize dogs to their fear of people, ultimately changing their emotional response.

Julie showed us some videos of her clients, that I wish I could show you. The early sessions began in an enclosed room with just the handler, the dog, and Julie. Each time they met, throughout each stage of progress, the same protocols and routines were utilized in order create and maintain predictable patterns.

So, the very simplified version of this might be: if a dog is reactive towards large men walking at 15 feet away, TACT starts with a small woman sitting in a chair at 20 feet away.  The work begins with the dog behind a visual barrier and just listening to the strange woman’s voice. Then, for example, the dog is brought out to see the woman and as long as the dog is calm and comfortable, the next step might be the woman turning her head to look at the dog, then turning away. It’s Baby Step Central.

The dogs are rewarded throughout this process by clicking and treating whenever they offer up certain foundation behaviors, such as looking at the person (similar to LAT), checking out novel items,  or eventually allowing brief touch.

Julie shared that through her work as a massage therapist she realized predictable patterns, more than anything else, reduced fear in the dogs she was working with. That realization was a game changing moment for her. So TACT is intentionally very ritualized and predictable. The predictability the dogs encounter through TACT, coupled with a positive outcome each time, helps calm the dogs and shapes their emotional response from fear to calm and confident around unfamiliar people they encounter.

There are many terrific counter conditioning protocols out there, but what makes TACT particularly unique is the addition of therapeutic touch. Julie shared a quote at the beginning of her talk: “When I first began my massage therapy practice I knew I would be massaging the body, the mind and spirit but I had no idea I would be massaging behavior.” Her work as a massage therapist helped her to discover that therapeutic touch was changing her client’s behavior even after the massage work was over. So she incorporated this into TACT’s training methodology.

As Julie pointed out, touch is subjective, so we have to let our dogs choose if they want to be touched. In TACT the dogs are eventually touched by Julie, through slow, measured steps and, if the dogs actively seek out more touch, she moves on to therapeutic body work.

Dogs are gradually exposed to new people and environments, so they can begin to generalize what they’ve learned. But in each stage, the ritualized protocol work is repeated (the dog moves through it faster), so that they know what to expect.

The method itself isn’t complicated, but Julie made it clear that TACT takes time, effort, commitment, and hard work. She very wisely reminded the group that the work isn’t determined by what you want – it’s shaped by what the dog needs and that often means we have to slow way down, taking small steps that will add up to success over time.

Oh and there’s still NO CURE.

No matter how much progress you make, there’s no “cure” for reactivity or aggression. Julie pointed out that there are two crucial comments to TACT: Management and Training. In order for TACT to be successful (or any other program, in my opinion) you need to always be doing both.

You can go to her website to learn more about the specifics of TACT (since I’m not a trainer, I’m not fluent in training-ese and she can tell you more than I can).  You can also order her DVD and workbook package from Clean Run, so you can learn the steps in detail. From what I understand Julie and Emma are the only two certified TACT professionals (though a TACT certification program is coming soon) and they’re both in Massachusetts, so if you’re in their area, it might be worth doing private sessions with them.


After listing to the presentation, I’d say that TACT could be of real help for some of your dogs, especially if you have the time and are committed to doing the work. It’s not a quick fix and you must have people who you trust to help you with the ritualized work.

I’m not exactly sure how I would implement this in the hustle and bustle of a shelter environment, but this would be a great program for anyone fostering a fearful dog. As for my own DINOS, Boogie, he’s more reactive with dogs than people (strangers scare him, but only briefly and he’s gotten much better over the years), so I’m not planning on trying TACT at home. But if your dog is aggressive or reactive towards humans, this is worth checking out.

Whether or not TACT is right for your dogs, Julie did have some good management ideas and tips that all of your dogs can benefit from:

Create a Safe Space in your house. Visitors to the house can be a really stressful (potentially dangerous) time for your dogs, so create a safe space in your home for your dog. Ideally this would be a separate room with a door you can close. When guests come over, have your dog go to their safe space BEFORE your guests arrive (not when the doorbell rings). Turn on soft music or a white noise machine and let them relax in their safe place.

To get them ready for this new routine, teach your dog to go their safe space and get comfortable. Have them stay in the their new safe space for up to 20 minutes before you release them. Practice this often, so that when your guests do visit, your dog is already comfortable with this set up.

Home should be Fun! Our dogs are often stressed and uncomfortable out in the real world. Make your home a safe, fun environment for your dogs by taking a look at their environment. If they’re sound sensitive, invest in a white noise machine to block out the sounds. If they’re visually overstimulated, cover windows that they perch near. Most importantly, spend time on enrichment that stimulates them mentally, so they can drain down their batteries, through puzzles, interactive toys, etc.

Real World Management Since people are everywhere (don’t we know it!), management will always play a big role in living with a fearful or reactive dog. Julie recommends:

Always use a leash, even if your dog has an awesome recalltraining_vest_sm

Desensitize your dog to a muzzle, so if they ever need it, they’re comfortable wearing one.

Practice the “Let’s Go” command, so you can make quick getaways

Drive around to look for less crowded public places to walk your dogs

Have your dog wear a vest that tells people they are training.

What I really appreciated about the seminar is that Julie recognizes the incredible emotional toll that living with a reactive dog can have on their people. It’s stressful and frustrating and sometimes sad. Julie gets this – she’s been there – and developed the TACT Caregivers Fatigue Program. If you’re feeling burned out or at the end of your rope, I highly recommend you check this out. There are support groups online and if you’re in the Massachusetts area, there’s even an in-person support group, both are run by Anne Lindsay, a professional counselor.

Overall, a really positive seminar and I hope that those of you with dogs that are reactive to people will check it out to see if it might be a good match for your dogs.

Have any of you tried TACT?  What are your thoughts on the program? Let me know!

Treat Yo Self: The Dog Edition

Yesterday we took our dog Birdie for a long walk. We left Boogie at home.

We did this because Birdie is easy to walk and Boogie can sometimes be a challenge. So we played ball with Boogie in the yard, to exercise him and make him happy, then we roped up the Bird and headed out for a stroll around town.

We encountered a loose dog, a pissed off dog that was tied up in front of his house and barking expletives at us, a gang of off leash kids running to church (Easter morning), and a million other things that would have been a challenge if we had been with Boogie.

We would have had to manage him around the kids, because that would have scared him, the off leash dogs would have forced us to do u-turns, and the cursing pooch would have required some finesse to pass without a return F-bomb from Boogie. A lot of work.

But he was at home and we had Birdie instead. Birdie is not phased by much of anything, so neither were we. It was…relaxing.

Every single dog I walk is reactive. All day, every day, I’m on guard while I dog walk. So once in a while, I like to take a walk with Birdie and try to remember what it’s like to walk a non-reactive dog. Whenever I do, I’m always struck by how incredibly easy it is!

It also helps me to understand the “others” – you know – the MDIFs. Some of them really have NO idea what we’re dealing with – and that’s why they never really get why we’re running in the ocean to escape their dogs.

But that’s not why I’m writing this. I’m writing this because I want to tell you that it’s totally ok to leave your dog at home sometimes. It’s ok to take your easy dog for a walk or to the pet store or to the strip club and leave your more challenging dog at home some times.

Look, we all need a break. Working with our dogs can be really exhausting, sometimes scary (if you encounter a lot of loose dogs), and can suck all the fun out of having a dog. So it’s cool to take a day off, you feel me?

I used to feel bad about doing this. It always had to be both dogs or nothing. But then I got over it and I’m way happier. Judging by some of your emails and Facebook comments, a lot of you feel really guilty about doing this sort of thing.

So, if it helps, I hereby declare: It’s ok to Treat. Yo. Self.


Choosing to go for an easy, relaxing walk with your other dog or leaving both dogs at home, so you can take your time browsing for that perfect cable knit sweater at the dog boutique or whatever it is that you want to do and not be stressed – doing those things doesn’t make you a bad dog owner.

Want to know a secret? Your dogs told me they sleep the whole time you’re out sneaking around behind their backs. Mostly, they’re sniffing for crumbs, napping, licking their paws and leaving wet spots on your side of the couch, and napping.  They are not writing in their journals about how abandoned or rejected they feel when you leave them behind. Promise.

Seriously, your dogs love you. They’re really psyched that you love them so much. They really appreciate the food and soft bed and fun toys and the training you’ve been doing with them. They think you’re the bees knees, even when you’re picking up another dog’s poop. And they really want you to be happy. Happy people keep their dogs.

You guys are working hard. Really hard. Please don’t feel guilty or naughty for taking a break.

So go on and Treat. Yo. Self.

Look, even the kids at Parks and Recreation have your back:

Photo Caption Contest Winners!

Thanks to everyone who played the caption game over on Facebook this week!

For those of you that missed it, we asked Team DINOS to submit their best captions for a chance to win Dog Flags.

Here’s the photo:

And the winners are…


Lisa Anderson

Lisa won with the most “likes” for her caption:

“Mom always told me if I kept making this face, it would freeze like this!!”




Amy Houselog Turner

Amy won because Boogie (aka Judge’s choice) loved her caption:

“DINOS: Dogs In Need Of Silliness!”


Lisa and Amy please email Kristin, the founder of Dog Flags, to claim your prize at: (You’ll be able to pick the Dog Flag of your choice and they’ll ship it directly to you!)


Thanks for a fun contest everyone and a huge high five to

Dog Flags and Melody Pet Photography for making it all possible!

Dog Walking Social Groups

Those of us with DINOS™ definitely want our space, but that doesn’t mean we never want our dogs to enjoy the company of other dogs. We simply want or need more structured socialization opportunities where we can count on other dog owners to respect our space.

This is especially true for reactive dogs who are learning to stay calm around other dogs.

If you’ve ever been in a reactive dog training class, you know that one of the best ways to increase your dog’s skills around other dogs is to practice, practice, practice. But that can be really hard to do once class is over and you no longer have a set time and place to meet up with other responsible families who are working on their dog’s leash skills.

That’s where dog walking social groups can really come in handy.

If you have a reactive dog and you’ve laid down the foundation for your leash work in a group class, a great way to continue working on your skills and exposing your dogs to other canine pals, is to join a dog walking group.

These groups are a terrific opportunity for any dog, reactive or not, to socialize with canine pals. Contrary to popular beliefs, off leash play isn’t the only game in town when it comes to socialization.  Side by side walks on leash and training classes are social activities for your dog too!

So whether you have a dog that is a social butterfly, but prefers calmer, on-leash socializing (like a senior dog) or a dog who needs exercise in a more controlled environment than a dog park (like a dog recovering from an injury), groups walks might be the perfect fit for you.

Before joining a group, you need to do two things:

Know your dog and their limitations. These groups aren’t every dog’s cup of kibble.

Know the rules of the club. Every group is different.

Many of dog walking groups listed here follow the rule that dogs do NOT interact during the hikes or walks and openly encourage DINOS to attend their events. But please check first. Some groups allow more interactions between dogs and might not be the right fit for your pup. You’ll also need to know if your dog is up for the challenge of being around a potentially large group of dogs. You may need to start small and work up to joining this type of social outing.

If you’re looking for a dog walking group to join, take a peek at the listed below.

Note that many of the groups listed are pit bull groups, but don’t let that stop you from signing up! The overwhelming majority of them welcome all dog breeds to join in the fun and benefit from the structured group walk dynamic. Founded as way to socialize and exercise their pooches, these groups serve the dual purpose of educating the public about these misunderstood dogs. Pit bull peeps rock my world. Just sayin.


Chicago Sociabulls Chicago, IL

Contented Canine Palm City, FL (boarding facility that also organizes group walks – check for upcoming events)

Country Haven Kennels Mount Holly, NJ (boarding facility that also organizes group walks 2x per week)

Dog Walk Corpus Christi Corpus Christi, TX

Edmonton Dog Enthusiasts Edmonton, AB Canada

Hikeabull South Bay area, CA

Lead the Ways Canine Community Bensalem PA

Lucas County Pit Crew Toledo, OH (rescue with monthly walks – see calendar)

Pack Walk with Willow and Friends Central Gulf Coast area, FL

Pit Crew Dog Walkers San Diego, CA

Philadelphia, Walk That Dog Philly PA

Portland Pit Bull Parade Portland, OR

Postitive Pittie Pack Hoboken, NJ

San Antonio Nature Hounds San Antonio,TX

SCRRAP Sonoma County, CA (check Facebook for upcoming Bully Walks)

SociaBull Monterey, CA area

StubbyDog Trekkers Saratoga, CA

Sussex County Dog Walking Group Branchville NJ


Pack Walk Zurich in Switzerland (dogs are off leash – not recommended for DINOS)

Social Walks der Hundephilosophin  in Germany

And if you know of a group not mentioned here, please let me know in the comments below, so I can add them in!

StubbyDog Trekkers in California

Want to start a new group?

Take a look at some of the blog posts, listed below, for helpful tips and photos. It’s also worth visiting each one of the groups listed above, because almost all of them detail their rules right on their homepage. Each group is a little different, but you’ll see a lot of overlapping ideas and guidelines to incorporate in your new group.

To sum it up, here are the highlights:

  • Dogs don’t interact with each other.
  • Flat, standard issue leashes required. No flexis.
  • One dog per person.
  • Dogs with reactivity, aggression, or in some cases, new dogs, wear red bandanas, so that the group members know to give those dogs extra space.
  • There are two people present without dogs. One at the front of the group and the other at the back. They are able to support the dog walking pairs with training, watch out for loose dogs, and provide an extra set of hands (personally, I’ve held a lot of dog leashes while people tie their shoes!).
  • The two group leaders use walkie talkies to communicate, if the group is large and spread out (like on a hike).
  • The group leaders carry tools such as Direct Stop, for safety.
  • In densely populated areas, the number of dogs is limited and must sign up in  advance.
  • Groups use or Facebook pages as a way for member to communicate with each other about upcoming events.
  • And may I suggest handing these pocket sized educational cards out to people you pass?

More on starting a group – a guest post from Hikeabull

Tips for city groups from Two Pitties in the City

Tools to use: Hikeabull’s walkie talkies and Two Pitties on leashes and collars and StubbyPuddin tips on equipment

If you’re looking for people to join your new group, I highly recommend contacting a trainer to see if they have clients that might benefit from this kind of outing. Even better,  join or contact a dog reactivity class and then, after the course is over, have the group continue meeting. They’ll have similar skills, an understanding of each other’s needs, and a motivation to keep on coming, so they can practice. Feel free to post about your new group on the DINOS Facebook page too.

How many of you belong to a group or are planning on starting one? Let me know in the comments and on Facebook!

Happy trails everyone!

SIDE NOTE: I’ve heard from a few of you who would like permission to use “DINOS” in your new dog walking group’s name. I think that’s super cool!  You’re welcome to use “DINOS” and/or “Dogs in Need of Space” in your tag line or description section of your group’s website, so the public knows that DINOS are welcome. DINOS is trademarked (which means it cannot be used for commercial purposes), so using it this way, instead of in your group’s name, would allow you to create a group logo or merchandise without any issues. If you have any questions, please contact me directly at: for more information. Thanks!

Photo Caption Contest + Dog Flags Giveaway

Wouldn’t it be nice if, just by looking at a dog, you could know a little more about their social needs? Our friends over at Dog Flags think so! In case you haven’t seen them yet, their handy flags are a great way for dog owners to communicate with each other via a color coded system.

Many of us with DINOS might choose this flag (which slips over a leash) or bandana:

Or this one:

There are other flags too: for special needs, friendly, and shy dogs. You can see the whole bunch here.

And guess what? You could win one for your dog!

Dog Flags has generously offered to give away Flags to two lucky Team DINOS members, so I’m excited to announce…

The very first DINOS Photo Caption contest!

You have not one, but two chances at winning. Here’s how:

Join us over on Facebook and comment on the photo below with your best caption.

You have between now and Friday the 23rd at 5pm EST to enter a caption.

On the 24th TWO winners will be announced:

– the caption with the most “likes” on Facebook


– one entry chosen by me and Boogie

Both winners will receive a Dog Flag of their choice!

Here’s the photo:

Head on over to Facebook and let the caption writing begin!

And a huge THANK YOU to Melody Pet Photography for lending us this awesome, caption-worthy photograph!

Pocket Sized DINOS™ Handouts

UPDATE  10/1/12: Cafe Press is stocking business cards again, so you can now purchase mini-handouts (if the whole DIY Flickr option isn’t your jammy jam).  Find the cards here.

Remember that time when you were walking your DINOS and you noticed a woman and her dog walking straight at you? Remember how you looked around, wondering if there was someone behind you, but there wasn’t, so you realized she was coming for YOU? Remember how she had a big smile on her face as her goofy dog dragged her towards you at an alarmingly fast pace?

And how you had to scramble to get out of the way, but she kept calling “Wait, my dog is friendly!” and “My dog just wants to say hi!” as she chased you across the park? And then, sick of hiding behind trees, you turned around and said, “My dog needs space. Here’s a card that explains everything. See ya!” and then you skipped home smiling because, for once, you didn’t waste any time trying to explain your DINOS to a stranger? Remember that time?

Now those cards exist!

I whipped up a teeny tiny, business card size version of the DINOS Manifesto.  It’s available to all of you to download for free and print at home. Yippee!

All you have to do is go to the new Team DINOS Flickr page and you’ll see two images: DINOS Cards Front and DINOS Cards Back.

Download both images (choose “original” size), then print them out (double-sided style) on a regular sheet of paper or, better yet, business card paper. Viola! You have a pocket-size handout to give out to MDIFs you meet on your walks.

(p.s. If you’re like me and, while you’re with your DINOS, you can’t get close enough to a strange dog to hand these to the other person, feel free to stick them in mail boxes or leave a bunch at the local park.)

Here’s the text on the back:

(note: The text might look blurry here, but when you print it out, the words are clear)

If you live in an area without leash laws or if you use the term “lead” instead of “leash”, here’s a version for you.

And here’s the logo on the front:

Nifty, eh?

I know there’s much more we’d all like to say, but that’s all I could cram onto a business card in a regular size font!  If you’d like to share the full length version, check out the DINOS handouts.

I hope you find these helpful as you spread the word that DINOS are GOOD dogs, they just need space!

(And special thanks to Team DINOS member Nadia B. for giving me the loving push I needed to finally get these suckers out into the world!)

High Value Treats for DINOS

Finding a treat that your DINOS™ is willing to work for, especially around distractions, can be tough. The “sure thing” treat that one dog finds rewarding, might get the cold shoulder from the next dog.

Back when I helped out at reactive dog training classes, we’d do taste tests to see which treats the dogs were willing to pass up vs. gobble down. We found that freeze-dried raw treats were consistently a bigger hit than soft training treats and often more popular than fresh chicken or cheese.

I like to use Stella and Chewy’s Freeze Dried Raw patties (broken into little pieces) when I know I need to bust out the big guns to help Boogie get through a potentially stressful moment. I never give him those treats at any other time, so they retain their novelty. That works for Boogie, but I know that every dog is different, so I called on Team DINOS for a list of their favorite high value treats.

If you’re still searching for that magic treat that your dog will love or you want to try something new, here are some great ideas from the team:

Brandi C.  Squeeze cheese!

Krissii F.  Tennis balls!

Stephanie F. Lickety Sticks!

Barbara L.  Chicken breast – she prefers the prepackaged kind – or string cheese.

Laurelin S.  Cheese (string or cream), buffalo liver or sweet potato!

Jo J. Bread and butter; dismembered natural gummy bears; bonito flakes.

Paula K.  My dogs’ favorites have turned out to be thinly sliced hotdogs microwaved until they are curly and crispy!  And for dogs not motivated by food: I had a dog in one of my classes who was not food motivated, so I asked the dog’s owner what was the dog gaga for at home and he answered “the feather duster”. I said, bring it in, and the dog worked for the chance to maul that duster ( it was pink, and the owner was a former Marine)!

True Dog  Tricky Trainers Salmon Flavor Cloud Star Treats, Buddy Biscuits Lamb flavor Treats, Bil-Jac Liver flavor, wet dog or cat food in a small dish, couple licks as a reward.

Marie N.  Freeze dried chicken. It’s like crack to her.

Alexis B.  Red Barn! And the number-one-trumps-everything-on-this-earth thing is carnivore diet from the zoo – my husband works at the zoo and sometimes brings this home, it is mostly raw horse meat which is apparently more delicious than anything else on earth.

natural blance logs

Pia R.  Freeze Dried Chicken!

Julia KLane Liver Brownies from the Liver Lady in Woodstock, IL!Karen C.  Any food. Especially roast chicken, string cheese, bacon.

Judy M.  Diced Natural Balance food logs!

Star F.  Natural Balance food rolls are always a big hit.

Deb M.  Try a fox tail tied to a 2- 2 1/2 ft length of clothesline. Stick it in your back pocket and haul out for a quick rewarding game of tug. Training your dog to be both food and toy motivated is the best!

Noelle B.  For Brewster, if anything is going to get his attention, hot dogs will. But not even that works with a really intense distraction. Other things that work most, but not all the time, are chicken, cheese, and Zuke’s Mini Naturals.

Stacy S. ‎Riddick’s Treats (bison liver treats are like crack to them)

Marge R.  I hate to say it (and I blame my friend Eileen) – sausage, egg and cheese biscuit. What can I say? He gets to choose what is most reinforcing.

orbee ball

Bev R.  Anything that squeaks for my girl. Anything they can tug on for both, especially anything that resembles a flirt pole type thing, tug toys, Orbee ball, but food…nothing..they just are not food motivated.

Sheri-Lyn P.  Chicken every time!

Sadie B.  Some dogs are reluctant to eat when there are distractions or they are stressed. In these situations I would work with very high value food (cheese, etc), toys or even environmental rewards (although that is more difficult to employ practically). My girl finds it aversive to have to stop and eat a treat when belting round an agility course, so a retrieve or game of tug is our reward of choice then the fun doesn’t have to stop!

Laurie W.  Canine Carry Outs! Easy to find and inexpensive.

Kristel S.  Frozen meatballs, pieces of roasted chicken or salmon-flavored Zukes are Murphy’s favorites:-)

Johnny H.  The Disc (frisbee) is my dogs highest value distraction. I don’t have them lying around the house, so he never gets them to play with. At 5pm every day, he knows it’s time for him to go to work. I don’t even need the disc now to use it as a distraction trigger. There is nothing that can redirect his brain over the disc – not a dog or dog altercation, motorbike, squeek toy – nothing brings him out of disc mode until I say “mine now” and put it away.

Elisabet N.  Freeze dried beef liver, and cat food.

Juli T.  Walking – Casey is so uninterested in food that when we are anywhere more interesting than our living room, not even nice smelly pepperoni or peanut butter will get her attention. Moving – preferably at a fast pace – is her reward.

Kristen B.  Toby is all about cut up Natural Balance rolls. He chooses them over one of his typical favorite treats of peanut butter.

Rebecca C.  Squeaky tennis ball for one dog. Target\Archer Farms chicken, spinach sausage does wonders for my other dog.

Angelina W. Vienna sausages!

Dawn F.  Cut up hot dogs and string cheese!

Jackie D.  Home-dried liver, smoked cheese, barbecue chicken, liver sausage…

Jennifer N. Only in extreme situations and VERY TINY bits: Lay’s Stax potato chips! It’s the most insane reaction I’ve ever seen. Even for just a tiny speck of chip, Jacks will focus so hard on it he sees or hears nothing else. Even if he can just smell it, he’s completely focused. Mia isn’t food motivated at all, but anything that squeaks is her addiction…

Jennifer B.  Shady Brook cooked turkey meatballs..doggy crack!

Jenifer R. My dog who used to be HIGHLY leash reactive would turn himself inside out for Gorgonzola if he could!

Linda E. My three porties will eat anything put in front of them! They like Natural Balance in the tubes and it’s relatively easy to use. Their favorite is the one I make from scratch and is super simple: Put the six ingredients (2 cups spelt flour, 1-2 cups Quick Oats or Regular Oatmeal, 1/2 tsp salt (optional), 1tsp baking POWDER, 1 can sardines & 1-3 Tbsp Asian Fish Sauce (optional)+ a little olive oil) into the food processor, grind/ pulse, spread 1/4 to 1/2″ on a cookie sheet, heavily oiled with olive oil & bake. Slow bake @ 300 degrees for 30-40 minutes. I use a pizza cutter to score the treats to size, flip them over & bake for another 30-40 minutes until crisp. Much healthier and less costly! I do the sardines first, with some olive oil to make a paste, then add the dry ingredients. I’m a huge user of go tubes filled with premium duck or rabbit canned dog food. Very easy to use, carry and  doggies just lick it up! These have worked the best for me in the dog to dog aggression area!

Susan C.  Any food.

Brooke P.  Definitely cheese. Cookies also keep my Pom occupied with chewing, rather than reacting while we’re passing tough triggers. He’s a very slow chewer, so it works out. By the time he finishes his cookie, the trigger is long gone.

Ann W.  Peanut Butter. I fill one of the little Tupperware midgies, put the lid on, and when I need to get past some other dogs on the trail, I pull the lid off and let my dog lick at it until we’re past.

Ashley C.  Deli rare roast beef and/or a squeeze tube of liver paste.

Rebecca A.  I’m lucky my reactive guy is both toy and food motivated. He goes absolutely nuts for any toy with a squeaker, so I have a small Wubba Kong that we can tug on past any distraction. But if I need a calmer response (so as not to trigger another dog with his energy while tugging) — it is banana chips, believe it or not!

kong wubba

Ann W.  Livercake with garlic.

Marion B.  I make my own liver and bacon brownies. Yuck!! But I can get back flips for them.

Laurie M.  Baby food meat, dehydrated mini hamburger pieces, roasted and frozen beef roast or chicken breast.

Virginia J.  I know it’s not right, but cat treats are the only thing she is wild for.

K9Capers dog day center  Blueberries and celery!

Suzanne K.  Diced cooked chicken breast for reactive class, Merrick lamb filet treats for our daily walks at the park.

Cheryl C.  Steak – when we are going to a new event/new place I grill up steak the night before.

Jen R.  Boiled and diced beef heart does it every time for mine.

Lisa V.  I know sometimes we have to go to extremes to find what our DINOS will work for. In one of our reactive dog classes the only thing their dog would work for was butter! Yikes! My girl LOVES Trader Joe’s turkey meatballs and her tiny squeaky soccer ball. She will do ANYTHING for that soccer ball!

Jennie M.  My pup has had a hard time concentrating in class lately, but today she worked for biscuits. People biscuits with butter that is…put on when they are hot, so it is all melted in! I baked them this morning. As long as it works, I will bake! Hot dogs and cheese work well also.

Laura P.  If she’s really distracted (or scared) it has to be something she needs to lick. Liverwurst or canned food in a squeeze tube, Cheese or Kong liver squeeze cans, meat-based baby food licked right out of the jar.

Elana B.  Diced chicken gizzards. I nuke the package for about 10 minutes and then dice them into training treat size. Way cheaper than anything from PetSmart or PetCo and not made in China!

Nic F.  Any type of food!

Shoshannah F.  Cheese!Jenifer R.  Cheese! Any kind but the stinkier the better.

Katie G.  Dehydrated beef lung!

Helen W.  Bozi Dinos will ignore every scary thing if he is busy playing tug or squeaky hedgehog games with me (on lead) just to be sure. He also loves roast chicken, steak and bacon.

Nancy B. Boiled chicken cut up into small pieces is the highest value treat. Hot dogs second.


I hope that gives all of you some new ideas to try on your walks or in your training classes.

If you have favorites that weren’t mentioned here, let me know in the comments section or on Facebook!