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Posts tagged ‘DINOS’

Your Picks for DINOS-Friendly Veterinarians

Earlier this month on Facebook I asked Team DINOS (that’s you guys):

“Do you have a trusted veterinarian that goes above and beyond to create a positive experience for your fearful, anxious, or aggressive dog? Are they compassionate about your dog’s needs, rather than judgmental? Are they skilled at handling your dogs using low-stress techniques and/or knowledgeable about behavior modification? “

You guys did not disappoint. So many of you shared your faves that it took me a bazillion and half hours to organize, alphabetize, and link your responses. But I finally have a list to share!

I posted the whole thing over on the Dogs in Need of Space website so you can always find it:

vet capture


Go on over and check it out.

But keep this in mind: picking a vet is so, so personal. A vet that comes highly recommended by one DINOS family might turn out not be the best match for your dog. It happened to me.  One person loves a particular vet, the next person hates them. It’s just the way it seems to go. So, the list is a really great reference, but you won’t know if a vet is the right match until you meet with them. Annoying. I know.

Ok, now go and look!



Have Dogs, Will Travel: Vacation Rental Edition

Vacations are the best thing ever. Back in the day Mr. Dog Walker and I used to travel a lot and took some pretty sweet vacations. Lately we’ve been sticking closer to home due to some budget constraints brought on by a mix-up with The Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes. They keep bringing that giant check to places that aren’t my house.

Anyway, that means that for the past few years we’ve skipped the plane rides and rented a cabin here in Maine. That’s turned out to be pretty awesome, because we get to take the dogs with us on our summer vacations and explore our new-ish home state together.

Renting a house is a really great idea if you want to vacation with dogs in general. If you have a reactive dog or a dog that doesn’t like being left at home for any reason, it’s the business.

We’ve rented three different houses with Boogie and Birdie, so I thought I’d share some things that have helped us enjoy our rentals. It’s not a complete list of everything you need to know. It’s just the weird stuff that helps us get our particular vacation groove on:

1. The Secret Password is Secluded: I use VRBO to search for rentals. When I find some that I like, I scour the descriptions and reviews from past renters for certain words: “secluded”, “private”, “in the middle of nowhere”,  or my personal favorite: “I didn’t have to close the blinds or curtains because there was no one around to see me getting undressed.” I immediately throw out any rental with reviews that say stuff like: “super friendly neighbors that drop by”, “the owners are right next door”, or “very dog friendly – everyone nearby had a dog.”

whoa sign

This is the kind of thing I like to see when I rent a place.


2. Lurk it Out: Then I look at the photos listed very closely. Most of the photos of the outside of the house will be strategically staged, so even the most packed-in cabins seem like they’re spaced far away from one another. But in the interior photos of the house, I can sometimes glean a little more info by looking at any windows pictured. Sometimes I spot the neighbors pressing their faces into the kitchen window. Or, more likely, I might spot a building right outside the bathroom window. Maybe it’s just a shed, but maybe it’s the house next door. If I’m still not sure how private the property is, I just ask the owners how close the nearest house is and tell them we’re looking for privacy because we’re hermits with a life threatening allergy to polite chit chat.

(Note: In the comment section a reader reminded me of another way to lurk: satellite maps! Those have been helpful for me in the past too, so check those out. Thanks Sara!)

3. Timing Is Everything: We always book our week at the very end of August/beginning of September. We do this to avoid the crowds, families with kids (they’re back in school by then), and other renters. Some of the places we’ve rented that have been very private were that way because the house next door was unoccupied/closed down for the summer. We’ve also found that by that time of the year (in Maine at least), many houses are empty Monday-Thursday, with just weekend visitors. So even if you have neighbors, it’s just for a couple of days. If you can be flexible about the times you travel, try aiming for shoulder season rentals.

4. Cover Up: After we arrive, we want to make sure we get our security deposit back. So we always pack 4-6 blankets/sheets to drape over all the couches and chairs in the house. Most rentals do not allow dogs on the furniture. I don’t know about you guys, but my dogs live on the furniture at home and it would confuse the pants off of them if they weren’t allowed to get on the furniture while on vacation. So instead of trying to explain it to the dogs or the owners, I just cover everything in sheets and let them sit where they want. At the end of the week, I take off the blankets and viola! No fur.

Also: I remove decorative pillows and throws from couches, etc. and put them in a closet. I take them back out when we go. A sticky roller never hurt either. I roll the place on the way out.

birdie rocks 3

Birdie rocks hard on vacation


5. Home Alone, In Stages: Leaving the dogs in the new house alone for the first time always makes me nervous, so on the first day we don’t really go anywhere. By day two or three, I usually have a pretty good sense of who might stop by (usually the owner or caretaker stops by the first day or so to say hello) and the dogs are settling into a routine. When we leave them alone in the house for the first time, we just do a short trip – like out to lunch – and come back to find out if they’ve had any trouble. By mid-week, we’re leaving them alone in the house all day while we do some major exploring.

Our dogs are comfortable being home alone normally, so this isn’t much of a stretch for them. I’m just making sure the new place doesn’t have any quirks,like ghosts of former vacationers, that might freak them out. But if your dog has accidents or is destructive in your own home, bring a crate.

6. Emergency Strange Dog Plan: Even the most secluded places will usually have a local dog or two that like to stop by to say “hi” to the new renters. This is a problem for us.

Here’s what we do if we spot a loose dog near our rental house: Mr. Dog Walker picks Boogie up and carries him into the house. I walk towards the unfamiliar dog to try to intercept them. Birdie plays mid-fielder. That sounds obvious right?

Here’s the rule that makes this handy: No Discussion. We don’t debate it. We see the dog, Boogie gets picked up and brought in the house. No discussion between us and no discussion with Boogie. Having this quick, no questions asked plan gives us peace of mind. Most of the time the plan is activated for nothing, but a few times it’s saved us from some really sticky situations.

When we’re far from the house, it’s a similar plan. One of us removes Boogie, while the other stays behind with Birdie to deal with the loose dog. This is also helpful in all kinds of random travel moments, like bathroom breaks in unfamiliar areas or even getting on and off a ferry. One person picks up and goes (or just walks the dog away), while the other stays put and handles the other dog. If you’re alone, here are some tips for dealing with loose dogs.

Also, it’s worth noting that a muzzle is a pretty awesome tool to use whenever you’re traveling and can’t be sure of what scenarios your dog might encounter. Ain’t no shame in the muzzle game. Be proud of being proactively safe.

boogie on the rocks

Boogie just wants to hike. He doesn’t want to say “hi” to your dog. It’s his vacation. He can do what he wants.


7. Pack Like a Scout: Finally, every vacation of ours has been made a little easier by packing a lot of extra toys, calming treats, their beds from home, two long tie-outs to use in the yard (there’s never a fence), and a bottle of Hibiclens to clean the inevitable scrapes and bumps that come with hanging out in the Maine woods. Also, booze for me.

Man, now I just want to go on vacation again. Why can’t we work one week a year and go on vacation the other 51? That seems like a way better deal.

How about you? What are some ways you’ve made vacation with your dogs, especially DINOS, a little easier? Share in the comments!

Oh, and here’s a couple more resources that might help you plan a fun dog-friendly trip: Go Pet Friendly! And a great blog with tips on vacationing with a reactive dog.

Peace in the Yard: 7 Ways To Dog Proof Your Fence

Oh sweet, sweet fences.  How much do I love thee? Let me count ways:

  • Fences Keep Dogs Inside. My dogs are off leash, safe, and free to roll in dead stuff without getting tangled in long leads.
  • Fences Keep Others Out. Except for a family of Whistle Pigs and one mole with a grudge, no one is cutting through our yard.
  • Fences Provide Privacy. It is my right as an American to wear my pajamas all day and not have my neighbors see me slob out.


So clearly, fences are rad. They’re awesome management tools. Not only do they keep everyone safely contained, but they also allow you to do all kinds of fun stuff at home in your yard. Playing at home is super handy if you have a DINOS and need a break from walking your dog or you need to exercise them prior to a walk.


As you probably know, there are many different kinds of fences to choose from. Go check ’em out:

Solid Wood

Chain Link

Farm Fence

Iron or Aluminum 

Invisible (I have some thoughts on those)

Vinyl

Plastic (affordable option alert!)

In the end, what you choose will come down to your personal needs in these areas: Privacy, Finances, Function, and Aesthetics.

As soon as we bought out first home last year, we hired some pros to install a fence. We have a few acres, but could only fence in part of the yard. We chose six foot, solid wood fencing for the portion of our yard that faces the street. The rest is six foot, 2”x4” galvanized, no climb, horse farm fencing from RedBrand. The majority of our fence is the wire farm fencing. This allowed us to save a ton of money, but also provides unobstructed views of the rest of our property. This is a good option if neighboring dogs/properties aren’t an issue.

Farm Fence

Boogie’s first time off leash in our newly fenced in yard. It was a good day.

No matter what type of fence you choose (or what you already have, thanks to your landlord or the person who lived there before you), you’ll probably have problems with it. That’s the way life rolls.

Maybe your dogs are fence fighting with the neighbor’s dogs or kids are sticking their hands through the fence and you’ve been finding tiny fingers in your lawn clippings. Or your dog is a jumper, a digger, or a Chris Angel impersonator. Maybe your dog screams at passing skateboarders or the ice cream truck.

Luckily, there are some ways to prevent these common dog-related fence problems (escaping, reacting, being tormented):

1. Landscaping: If you have a dog that is a jumper or likes to patrol the fence line, consider using landscaping as a way to keep your dogs away from the fence. By planting dense shrubs, like Boxwood, along the fence line, you’ll force your dogs to back up, making the jump further (aka harder). And if you have a patroller, the landscaping will make the buffer zone between the fence and your dog a few feet wider, which might help your dog take the day off from guard duty. Just remember to check in between the shrubs on the regular to make sure the dogs haven’t created a secret tunnel to Naughtyville.


2. Bamboo/Reed Rolls, Garden Fencing, and Slats: If you have a chain link fence and you find that your dog is reacting to stuff he sees on the other side of the fence, try zip-tying rolls of reed fencing onto the inside of your chain link fence. It looks nice, it’s cheap, and it’ll give you a lot more privacy (note: it’s not 100% opaque). The reed fencing comes in 4 or 6 foot high panels and can be cut easily. Bamboo looks nicer/is much sturdier, but is also more expensive.

bamboo or reed fencing

Or, you can feed plastic slats through your chain link fence. They even come in “hedge” (!) style. Either option will also stop others from putting their hands/snouts through the fence.

If style isn’t your thing, but function is, you can try a black plastic construction fence as a visual block.

And if you have a fence that your dog is able to stick their head through, but you don’t care about privacy, try adding rolls of garden fencing to your fence to block ‘em in!


3. L-Footer:  If you have a digger, consider an L-Footer. That’s wire fencing laid down against the base of your fence and bent perpendicular (90 degree angle) to it. You know, like an “L”. You can bury this fencing underground, but it doesn’t have to be buried to work. Some people just lay it on top of the grass and maybe add some rocks and garden gnomes to hold down the fort. This site explains it well (and has tons of other great tips). Also see Bad Rap’s rebar tip.

L Footer (source)

L Footer (source)

4. Concrete Footer: If you have a serious digger, consider pouring concrete along the perimeter of the fence line and sinking the bottom of the fence into the concrete before it dries.  It’ll take some work, but this is super effective.

5. Coyote Rollers: If you have a jumper or climber, you can try these rollers, designed to make it impossible for coyotes to get a grip on the top of the fence (the bar spins). Think rolling pins at the top of your fence. You can DIY this with PVC pipe, if you’re handy.

6. Lean-Ins: Another option is to build lean-ins using farm fencing, so that the top of your fence is angled in a bit horizontal to the ground. It’s like adding a little awning of security. Here’s one to check out. It’s like a cat fence, only sturdier.

If your dog is a champion jumper, and none of this is enough, you may have to consider an expanded exercise area that is totally enclosed with a ceiling. Or a Bio-Dome (sans Pauly Shore, since you actually like your dog).

You can score this kit here

You can score this lean-in kit here


7. Redundant fences:  Redundant fences are the jam. I know of more than one family (mine included) whose backyard life got an extreme makeover when they put in one of these babies. So what is a redundant fence exactly?

It’s a fence within a fence. You can put up a secondary, internal fence on just one side of your yard – wherever the problems are occurring – or all four sides. Most people I know have it on just one side of their yard where they share a common fence with a troublesome neighbor, with a busy commercial building or street, or with a damaged or ineffective fence that can’t be changed for some reason (like when you rent or your neighbor owns the fence).

The idea is to manage the situation with a secondary internal fence, set back from the common fence line, thereby preventing your dog from making bad choices, rehearsing behaviors like fence fighting, or escaping easily. Plus it can help speed up training and will prevent other people/dogs from putting your dog in dangerous scenarios.

The redundant fence doesn’t need to be expensive.  We used to rent a house that had a rickety old wood fence that belonged to the next door neighbors. Since we couldn’t do any repairs to the fence, we put up a roll of green plastic fencing about 3 feet back from the common fence line to keep our dogs from poking their heads through the broken fence. We also used a plastic, staked-in-the-ground, corner piece at one point. Could I have trained them not to poke their heads through the broken fence? Sure. But putting up the cheap redundant fence was easy, cheap, fast, always effective, and did I mention easy?

Depending on what issue you’re trying to prevent and your dog’s personal kung-fu skills, the redundant fence may need to be as strong as the outer fence. For some dogs, just having the visual of light pvc fencing will work, for others, they’ll need a solid wood fence to contain them safely.

One more thing about redundant fences: do it. I think people feel funny about a fence inside a fence. It seems silly to have two fences, especially if you just paid to put up the first one! But the families I know that went for it are enjoying their lives again. So if you think it could provide you with some peace at home, just do it.

For more on redundant fences, please check out Puddin’s Training Tips for ideas and some examples. She loves them so much, she wants to start a double fence movement!


BONUS: here are two more ways to keep your dogs inside and safe:

Airlocks: These are perfect for areas without a fence. You’ve probably seen airlocks at your local dog park or boarding facility. These handy gated areas are built in front of your main entrance, so that if the door opens and a dog escapes, they are still contained by the small gated area (the airlock) right outside the door. For some dogs, this may be as simple as adding a sturdy baby gate to the opening of your front porch. In other homes with other dogs, this may mean building a small fenced in area with a locking gate in front of your door. Grisha Stewart’s BAT book has some more tips, including adding a doorbell to the airlock, so that visitors have to wait outside the airlock (instead of at your front door) for you to let them in. We did something similar with our enclosed porch that leads to our front door (see here).

If you have kids, this one addition could mean the difference between being able to keep your dog and surrendering him to the shelter. I can’t tell you how many families brought in dogs to the shelter where I used to work because the dog was always escaping when the kids opened the door. If you have an escape artist or kids that let the dog out, add an airlock.

Airlocks are commonly used at doggy day cares (like this one)

Airlocks are commonly used at doggy day cares (like this one)


Locks: They keep your dogs in and other people out. We have 10’ swinging gates on our fence and after a few bad storms we discovered that the gates would sometimes blow open. We added a second lock (on the inside) to help keep those bad boys shut.

Depending on where you live, it’s not uncommon for people to let themselves into your fenced in yard. Maybe they wanted to cut through your yard and throw empty 40 bottles at your wind chimes (it happens). Whatever the reason, you don’t want people to be able to let themselves into your yard without your permission. So consider adding locks on the inside of your gates. It can be as simple as a big hook and eye.


All that being said, prevention is awesome, but supervision is always super important. Don’t leave your dogs unattended in your yard. Don’t. Especially if they fence fight or are canine Houdinis. Not only can they get into trouble sniffing snakes (I’m looking at you Boogie), but they’re likely to get bored. And bored dogs want to go on adventures. Give them a reason to stay inside the fence by hanging out with them and playing.

Of course, if nothing else, I’m a realist. So I know that most of us do leave our dogs unattended in the yard sometimes (even if it’s just for a minute) and that’s why all the above stuff should be considered. It’s our job to prevent, manage, supervise, and train…

So, training. Duh. Teach your dogs the skills they need to ignore dogs on the other side of the fence, to come when called, and to stop escaping. That’s really important too.

But all in all, training goes a lot faster when you can prevent your dogs from practicing naughty-pants behaviors like door dashing, tunnel crafting, and fence fighting. So no matter how much training you’re planning on doing, the solutions above will support your dog as they learn, keep them and others safe, and will only make things easier for you. And easy is my favorite.

Now go on and get! Hit the local hardware store and: Set your dogs up to succeed!

 

7 ways to dog proof fence

Happy International Assistance Dog Week: How Not to Be a Jerk to Working Dogs

It’s International Canine Assistance Dog Week! In celebration of all the amazing service dogs out there, here are a few basic etiquette tips. Remember, service dogs are DINOS – they need space to do their jobs! When you encounter a working team, please be responsible for your actions and respectful of their space.

Happy International Assistance Dog  Week



If you encounter a service dog and their handler, please keep these tips in mind:

1. Do not touch the dog.

2. Do not let your child touch the dog.

3. Do not let your dog approach the dog. This includes obeying leash laws and having your dogs under your control at all times.

4. If you want to do #1-3, you must ASK FIRST, then wait for their response. Speak directly to the person, not the dog. Treat the human with dignity, please.

5. Respect the handler’s response. If they say “no”, accept this and move on. It’s not personal. You have no idea what the handler is dealing with and they may not be able to safely interact with you or your dogs in that moment. Sometimes handlers will be happy to talk with you about their dogs and other times they won’t be able to do so. Have compassion (they need a service dog for a reason – not just because they’re cute) and allow them to carry on.

6. Do not distract a service dog by whistling, calling out, or offering it a treat. This dog is working and needs to keep his attention on his job. Distracting a service dog can result in the handler getting hurt.

Finally: Never, ever, fake a service dog with your own pet dog. Seriously. Don’t impersonate a service dog team so that you can fly your dog in the cabin or take them into Target with you to shop for sassy t-shirts. It’s ruining things for real service dogs and their people. Don’t exploit someone else’s hardship. It’s just not ok.

international assistance dog week

Purchase this retro-tastic print to raise money for IADW: http://www.cafepress.com/assistancedogweek


Want to learn more?

Please obey leash laws. Leash Laws keep Service Dogs Safe. 

Excellent etiquette tips from Please Don’t Pet Me

Know the Law. The Americans with Disabilities Act and the TWO questions business owners are allowed to ask.

Resources for people with working and assistance dogs: Working Like Dogs

International Assistance Dog Week resources. Celebrate in your community.

Happy Bastille Day: Vive la Ask First!

DINOS PSA poster French

 

Happy Bastille Day!

Let’s start a revolution of respectful, responsible dog ownership.

 

In honor of France’s national holiday on July 14th, here’s the latest in the “Ask First” poster series! Download and print it (for free) from Flickr here. 

You can find all of the Ask First! posters here on the DINOS site. They’re available for free in English, German, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, and now French. There’s even an Ask First! handout to go along with the poster.

Why not print a few out and post them in your local pet store, vet’s office, your training center, or on park bulletin boards? Post them any place you think the public could use a polite reminder that we all have a right to our personal space and appreciate respectful, responsible dog ownership.

Want to know more about these posters and why I chose “Ask First!” as my Public Service Announcement? You can read all about the Ask First campaign here.

You can also purchase high quality prints of the English poster, along with other “Ask First!” gear here on Cafe Press.

DINOS PSA ASK FIRST poster


Vive la revolution!


p.s. thank you to the lovely Elodie for the French translation!


I Was a Teenage Gap Girl

UPDATE: As of October 2013, Amazon has banned all residents of the state of Maine from their affiliate program. It’s a gigantic pissing match between a giant corporation and our state government over the “unconstitutional Maine state tax collection legislation passed by the state legislature and Governor LePage…” (quote from Amazon). So the store still exists, but I no longer earn any commission on the products you purchase there. Fun times, right? Stay tuned for updates!

I want to warn you: This blog post is going to result in a shameless self promotion that may make me wealthy one day. And by wealthy, I mean not rich at all, but more like the kind of woman who owns multiple pairs of flip flops simultaneously, including a pair of “dress” flops. You should stop reading now if that makes you uncomfortable. No hard feelings. Promise.

Before we go any further: I have to tell you about working at the Gap when I was in high school. This was weird, because it was the 90’s and I didn’t look like I worked at the Gap. I dressed like a boy. A boy who alternated between farming (overalls and flannel shirts) and skating (huge jeans and ringer tees) and apprenticing at a funeral home (black, black, black, and Docs), while rapping on the side (puffy vests and Africa medallions – just kidding! I never wore a puffy vest).

But I was a teenager in New Jersey and that means the majority of the jobs available to me were at The Mall. When the Gap offered me five dollars an hour, how could I refuse?

So I worked at the Gap and I was a really, really good salesperson. I sold a lot of clothes because I told people not to buy stuff.

I always gave people my honest opinion about how they looked, which if you’ve ever worked a dressing room, you’ll know means I had to tell people they looked terrible a lot. For those of you who have never worked a dressing room, I’ll just say this: it’s never a bad idea to wear clothes in your actual size, not the size you wish you were or the size you were when you were three.

You might think that I got slapped a lot. Nope! People were tired of corny salesgirls telling them to “just cinch it!” and they appreciated my honesty. When I suggested different clothes, ones that looked good on them, people trusted my opinion.

I genuinely wanted everyone to look nice. Especially all the middle-aged ladies that were going on dates. I really wanted to help them because I thought they were super brave to be out there dating when they were so clearly vulnerable to breaking a hip. Looking back, these women were probably 26. But still. I wanted them to feel fierce (I can say “fierce” because it was the 90’s and RuPaul taught me everything I knew about being a woman).

 

All of my teenage fashion influences, in one photo. (source)

Almost all of my teenage fashion influences are in this photo. (source)


This radical honesty, combined with my drag queen-like dedication to empowering women to look their best, led to loyal customers and many sales. Occasionally, it also led to people not buying anything. This annoyed my managers.

Shockingly, I never got fired. Not even when I showed up to work dressed like Columbo (brown wool pants, crumpled white button down shirt, cigar in my pocket). I’d like to think that was because the corporate offices at the Gap were monitoring my new approach to sales: honesty, empathy, and relationship building. But it was probably because I left for college a few months later, before my managers could come up with a plan to fire me without triggering a law suit (discriminating against an employee for being a Peter Falk impersonator is serious business).

So all of this is to say: I’m not comfortable selling stuff just for the sake of the sale. I have to believe that it’s really looking good on you/making your life a little easier/getting you laid on your date tonight.

And the point of saying that is because: I wanted to tell you that I started an Amazon affiliate store filled with some of the stuff I mention here on my blog, as well as some of the stuff that you’ve told me is awesome, and I hope you’ll check it out some time. I thought it would be helpful to have some of the products I write about all in one place for easy browsing and linking.

 

Notes from a Dog Walker Store


Full (Monty) Disclosure: I earn a little advertising fee when you buy stuff in the store – it’s not so much that I can buy an Airstream, but it’s a little pocket change to go towards paying the bills. The less time I spend rolling pennies, the more time I have to write. Which, after reading this, you may or may not want me to do. (10/7/13: Not anymore. See update at the beginning of the blog).

I feel like I should say, just for the record: affiliates doesn’t change what I write about. I share stuff here that I think will be helpful and that I really like, whether or not it’s for sale in the store. Some of what I mention here is for sale in the store, some of it is for sale in other people’s stores, and some of it is being sold out of the back of a truck by that cousin of yours that no one mentions by name anymore. I like to spread the business around. 

No pressure to visit the store. I just felt like it was self-sabotaging to not even announce that I’d made one. So there:  I made a store

Phew!

p.s. It’s not your hips. No one looks good in a treat pouch. But, wear it anyway, because Supermodel, You Better Work.

Also, I know you want to watch this right now. I just did:





Nose Work: Where Every Dog Is a Winner (Even the Naughty Ones)

Boogie and I just wrapped up a four week Nose Works class. For those of you that are new to Nose Work, here’s what it is, straight from the founders themselves:

“Inspired by working detection dogs, K9 Nose Work is the fun search and scenting activity for virtually all dogs and people. This easy to learn activity and sport builds confidence and focus in many dogs, and provides a safe way to keep dogs fit and healthy through mental and physical exercise.

K9 Nose Work starts with getting your dog excited about using his nose to seek out a favorite toy or treat reward hidden in one of several boxes, expanding the game to entire rooms, exterior areas, and vehicles. As your dog grows more confident with his nose, target odors are introduced, and competition skills are taught.”

Now you know. You can also check out this Bark video to see dogs in action.

Unlike the Nose Works class I took with Birdie, where there were other dogs present in the room, this session was set up for reactive dogs. Each dog had the room all to themselves while they worked.

My camera’s died mid-class, so I only managed to grab a few not-so-great photos (none of Boogie – wah!)

truffle coached

That’s my gal pal Truffle. Her dad is helping her get to the treats she discovered in this closed box.


Now that I’ve taken two basic level Nose Works classes with two very different dogs (one senior, one reactive) and with two very different groups of dogs, I would like to share the following with all of you:

You should do Nose Work with your dogs.

Here’s why:

1. Just about any dog can do it.

2. Just about any human can do it.


Allow me to expand.

Your dog can do Nose Work, even if they are:

  • Ancient
  • Lacking manners
  • Oblivious to recall
  • Reactive
  • Dog aggressive
  • Scared of people
  • Afraid of novel objects or places
  • Recovering from an injury
  • Not that into food
  • Really into food
  • Terrible on leash
  • Bursting with energy
  • Overweight
  • Blind
  • Deaf
  • Missing a limb
  • Missing an eye
  • Missing teeth
  • Missing their favorite episode of New Girl

You can do Nose Work even if you are:

  • A terrible trainer
  • Out of shape
  • Out of cash
  • Uncoordinated
  • Kind of quiet
  • Working with dogs in a shelter
  • Not that into leaving the house
  • Not sure if you even like doing dog stuff

That’s because Nose Work is all about having fun, no skills necessary. 

birdie cone

Birdie hits the wrong end of the cone. No biggie. She’ll figure out that the food is hidden on the other side.


If you have a dog that you’re not able to do too much with – because of any of the reasons listed above – you can do Nose Work.

If you want to build a better bond with your dog, learn more about observing your dog’s body language, and enjoy watching dogs flex their natural abilities, you should check out Nose Works.

Here’s more about why this is the activity anyone can do:


For Nervous Nellie Dogs: Nose Work in a wonderful confidence builder for dogs that are afraid of novel objects and environments. Each week they’re slowly exposed to new things, can investigate at their own pace, and are rewarded for their bravery. Week one Boogie was afraid to put his head in the boxes. By week four Boogie was putting his head in cones, tunnels, bags, and anything else he could sniff around in. Like one of the normals!

For Reactive Dogs: This is an awesome way to let them cut loose in a safe, controlled environment. Those of us with reactive dogs are intimately familiar with feeling like failures. We show up for a class or a walk or a training session and our dogs lose their marbles and we go home stressed and sad. Not at Nose Works. Your dog will succeed at this. And honestly, I just can’t stress how important it is for reactive dog families to have successful, stress-free fun some times. It will bring some joy back into your relationship with your dog and give you a boost so you can face the tougher stuff together.

For Golden Oldies and Disabled Dogs: Nose Work is a way to try something new with your dogs that is physically low impact. They may be a little slower than the young whippersnappers in class, but it doesn’t matter because there’s no losing here. Birdie said it was almost as much fun as falling asleep in her recliner while listening to This American Life. She loved having a Girl’s Night Out with me and eating a lot of treats. Old and disabled dogs deserve to party too. YOLO, right?

For High Energy Dogs: This a great way to burn off that energy without exhausting yourself! It takes a lot of focus for the dogs to do Nose Work and they are tired at the end of class.  Also good if you have trouble finding safe places to exercise your dogs – try adding Nose Works to your toolbox to help tire your dogs out.

For Shelter Dogs: Because shelter dogs are bored and stressed and need to have mental stimulation in order to stay sane while they wait to be discovered by an adopter. Because even if you have very few resources, you can find a volunteer who will hide treats (in the Shelter Director’s office if need be) and cheer on a homeless dog for a minute. Because you don’t need any skills to help the dogs do this, so just go do it. 

For Broke Folks and Hermits:  Even if cash is tight, you hate leaving the house, and/or there’s no place to take a class in your area, you can still do Nose Work. All you need are treats and boxes. Here are some tips for playing at home and some more help. And here are some other ideas for different scent games. 

For People Who are Allergic to Dog Training: Here’s a little secret (just between you and me): I don’t like dog training. I’ll do it because I have to, but I don’t really enjoy it. I’d rather be at the library reading past issues of the New York Times Magazine. What can I say? I love dogs, I love playing with and walking them, but training makes me want to poke my eyes out. But I like Nose Work. Why? Because it’s an “obedience free zone” and your role, as the human part of the team, is to stand back and enjoy watching your dogs work. If they get stuck, you coach them using a happy voice and body movements. When the dogs discover the hide, you have a party to celebrate.  I like coaching. I like cheering on dogs. I like Nose Works.

I bet most of you will too.

So go on and have a little fun with your dogs now, even if you’re struggling with training or behavior issues. Do something you can’t fail at for once. Everyone gets a gold star in Nose Work!


Will you tell me about your experiences with Nose Work in the comments section? Plus, check out these stinky Nose-Work-worthy Tuna Fudge treats you can make at home.

And check out the professional version of Nose Works…meet the Arson Dogs who use their noses to catch the bad guys!

10 Signs The Other Person’s Just Not That Into You (or Your Dog)

It’s Dog Bite Prevention Week again and lots of good lessons about understanding dog body language are being shared. We all need to learn dog body language.  Life would be grand if everyone understood and respected what dogs are trying to tell us.

But have you noticed that some humans pretty much stink at understanding human body language…or even spoken language (aka “language-language”)? Maybe we’re expecting a lot of  those folks to ask that they become fluent in dog body language. For them, we might need to start with some same-species tips. This one is for them:

Hello humans. Many of you love meeting new dogs and people while you’re out walking the dog. That’s neat!

But here’s the thing: some people just aren’t that into meeting you or your dog. It really doesn’t have anything to do with you. You’re awesome. It’s just that some of us prefer solo time when we’re out walking. Not every dog can socialize on walks. Some dogs need a little space to stay safe and healthy and don’t want to be approached.

In other words: there are people who don’t want to say hi, even if you and your dogs are super friendly.

But how will you know who’s down for a jam session with you and your pup? All you have to do is pay attention to the person holding the leash. They’ll let you know.

Here are 10 clues that the other person’s just not that into you or your dog:


Clue #1:  A furrowed brow (also known as the “11”) in between the eyebrows. This indicates annoyance. Or that your brights are on.

Bonus Clue: There are some people who can’t warn you off this way because of Botox. Tricky, right? 

http://www.flickr.com/photos/emerycophoto/3092372870/sizes/o/in/photostream/

Photo credit: Emery Co Photo (Some rights reserved: Share Alike, Attribution)



Clue #2: Eyes that are wide open are a sign of fear or shock. The only time a person is shocked in a good way is when they find money. Are you a bag o’ cash? Then keep on going.

Also, notice the open mouth.

Are words coming out? If so, listen to them. They may be saying something important such as, “Please stop. My dog needs space.”

http://www.flickr.com/photos/chaparral/1217286092/

Photo credit: Chapendra (some rights reserved: attribution, non-commercial)



Clue #3: If you heard words, but are still not sure what they mean, look at their face again. People who are horrified that you’re not listening to them may look like they accidentally got wet cat litter in their mouths.

If you think this expression means, “Let’s get a man-pedi on Friday after work!” you are mistaken.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/seandreilinger/527326068/sizes/o/in/photostream/

Photo credit: Sean Dreilinger (Some rights reserved: share alike, attribution, non-commercial)



Clue #4: Nope. Still not psyched to see you and your dog.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jenna77/458620318/sizes/l/in/photostream/

Photo credit: CapturingJenna (some rights reserved: share alike, attribution, non-commercial)



Clue #5: Words spoken at a normal volume are often misinterpreted. Is that other person making a joke? Is it Opposite Day? No. 

If ignored, many humans will shout. Do you see the fillings in their back molars? This is a sign to retreat. You may compliment them on their dental work, but only from a distance.

Buster Benson: http://www.flickr.com/photos/erikbenson/490822943/sizes/o/in/photostream/

Photo credit: Buster Benson (some rights reserved: share alike, attribution)

 


Clue #6: Still not sure if they want to hang out or not? That’s when a good detective of human body language looks at the person’s hands. 

When a person’s requests are ignored and they feel trapped, some humans may go nuts and start to pull out their hair. Or punch you in the crotch.  

http://www.flickr.com/photos/bcymet/3292063588/

Photo Credit: B. Cymet (some rights reserved: attribution, non-commercial)



Clue #7: Wait, there’s more! Keep looking at their hands. Do you see a palm? If the other person raises their hands, showing a flat open palm, it means “Stop!”

It does not mean “How long is my life line?”

http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevensnodgrass/3570379993/sizes/o/in/photostream/

Photo credit: Steven Snodgrass (some rights reserved: attribution)



Clue #8: Finally, if you’re looking at the back of a person they are now ignoring you. They can still hear you. They aren’t turning around because they don’t wanna. 

If you see a person’s back while they are running away, do not follow them no matter how friendly you and your dog may be. 

Accept that this fleeing human is not your new BFF. 

http://www.flickr.com/photos/thestarmama/69575028/sizes/z/in/photostream/

Photo Credit: StarMama (some rights reserved: attribution)



Clue #9: Let’s put it all together now. This person’s body language says, “Leave me and my dog alone!”

Or possibly, “Do you know who got eliminated on The Voice last night? I’m rooting for Team Shakira!”

credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bo47/6087907898/sizes/l/in/photostream/

Photo Credit: Bo47 (Some rights reserved: share alike, attribution, non-commercial)



Clue #10: Don’t worry nice folks with dogs! There are plenty of people that want to hang with you and your dogs. Like these dudes. This is the loose body language of people who want you to know that they give out free hugs. So bring it on in, nice and close. These are your people.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/peterbaldes/3908166694/sizes/o/in/photostream/

Photo credit: PJ Baldes (some rights reserved: attribution, non-commercial)


Want some real thoughts on how to prevent dog bites and make our communities safe and enjoyable for everyone? Check out my real PSA: Ask First! and learn more about how being respectful and responsible is super cool. Really, all the cool kids are being polite these days.

p.s. If you’d like a little help telling the world that your dog needs space, there are all kinds of nifty items to check out here. 

Stop Caring What Others Think and Stand Up for Your Dogs

It’s almost dog bite prevention week, so I want to talk to you guys about one of the keys to reducing dog bites (as well as making life better for your dogs all around):

You need to stop caring what anyone else thinks about you and your dog.

If you do this, you will free yourself up to make better choices on behalf of your dogs. When you make better choices, you are setting your dogs up for success in our crazy world. And when you do that, they are less likely to get into trouble which they will wind up paying for big time.

Here’s what you need to do:

1. Stand up for your dogs. Be assertive in protecting your dog’s physical and mental health, as well as the safety of those around them. 

2. When you’re not sure if your dog can handle something, always err on the side of caution. Choose management over “I don’t know, so let’s find out!”

Dogs need us to do both of these things more often, so that they don’t feel like they need to take matters into their own hands teeth.

Obviously, dogs need lots of other things from us too: socialization, training, proper management, and a never ending supply of peanut butter that they can roll around in like it’s a canine version of that scene in Indecent Proposal. People also need to learn how to read their dog’s body language,  understand stress and fear, and not screw their dogs up in general. But we’ve covered that before, here and all over the web.

What I’m talking about now doesn’t really have all that much to do with the dogs. It’s about us humans and how uncomfortable many of us are with being forceful, direct, and making unpopular choices that we’re afraid will make people not like us. This is causing some problems for our dogs.

Too often we choose not to speak up for our dogs, even as things take a weird turn. We recognize that our dog is uncomfortable with the hyper kids running circles around them. We suspect that the unfamiliar dog approaching our dog isn’t as friendly as their owner is claiming. We don’t know if our dog is ok with the cleaning lady entering the house while we’re gone. But we allow it anyway.

We allow our desire to be perceived as friendly or nice or easy going to override our own gut instincts or what our dog is trying to tell us. Our desire to be liked – to avoid being seen as unfriendly or rude or “bitchy”  – is powerful stuff.

It’s so powerful, that humans will choose to ignore their own instincts and proceed into potentially dangerous scenarios, just so they don’t make a bad impression.

Gavin de Becker, author of The Gift of Fear, says that unlike other living creatures, humans will sense danger, yet still walk right into it. “You’re in a hallway waiting for an elevator late at night. Elevator door opens, and there’s a guy inside, and he makes you afraid. You don’t know why, you don’t know what it is. Some memory of this building—whatever it may be. And many women will stand there and look at that guy and say, ‘Oh, I don’t want to think like that. I don’t want to be the kind of person who lets the door close in his face. I’ve got to be nice. I don’t want him to think I’m not nice’.” More on that here. 

If we’re willing to walk right into a metal box with a stranger that totally scares us just so we won’t be seen as rude, imagine how difficult it is for many people to be assertive on behalf of their dogs with nice folks at the park, their neighbors, visitors, family, and friends. We’re willing to deny our fear around murderers. It’s no wonder we’re not comfortable speaking up for ourselves around people we pass on a dog walk.

The problem with our discomfort is that dog bites often happen when we are:

1. In denial about our dog’s limitations and/or their behavior issues. To be a good advocate for them, dogs need you to see them as they are, in the present.

2. We know their limits, but we still hesitate to take action.

And the flip side of suspecting or knowing your dog has issues and not speaking up is:

3. When we are in complete denial that our “good” dogs would ever bite someone.

Number 3 is a whole blog in and of itself. This blog is really about the first two points. But I’ll sum up #3 real quick for good measure:

All dogs have the potential to bite. ALL of them. Breed, size, age, zodiac sign – doesn’t matter. Push any dog hard and long enough or in just the right way (You mean it’s not OK for my 2 year old to crawl into my “good” dog’s crate while he’s sleeping?) and they run out of options and will bite. So don’t push any dog’s luck. Don’t allow them to be treated roughly or inappropriately or fail to properly supervise them because they’re such “good dogs.” Your dog needs you to stop thinking they’re a robot with no limits and respect their boundaries. Don’t fool yourself. Your dog will appreciate it if you help them out by setting them up to be good.

When we let dogs bite, the dogs pay for it. They might hurt a person or another dog or get hurt themselves. They might cause your home owner’s insurance to drop you and then you can’t keep your dog. They might be declared dangerous. They might make the news and inflame the public into calling for a ban on all dogs that look like your dog. They might be taken from you and euthanized.

Dog bites aren’t the only consequence, of course. When we don’t step up other not-so-great stuff happens, like we put our dogs into situations that make them stressed and miserable. Or they have a bad experience with another dog and then they become a DINOS. But this post isn’t about dog behavior. It’s about us and our malfunctions.

Sometimes, we have to step out of our comfort zone in order to be effective advocates for our dog’s safety and health. Do not let others pressure you. Stop caring what anyone else thinks and just do what you know is right for your dogs.

Channel your inner Ron Swanson:

ron swanson

Now, I recognize that there are things that happen that are beyond our control. Also, I understand that sometimes we genuinely think we’re making the right choice and it turns out to be the wrong one. And of course, I want you to socialize, train, and do new stuff with your dogs, which means that inevitably there will be goof ups. I get it. That’s life.

What I’m talking about here is when you’re hesitant to do what you know needs to be done or when you’re afraid to err on the side of caution because you think it’ll make you look like a “square.”

So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to give you all permission to stand up for yourselves and your dogs. You have to do it. Your dogs need you to do it.

The next time someone tries to force themselves or their dog onto your dog, you’re going to boldly step in front of your dogs and say “STOP.”  Say it like you mean it. Then drop the mic and walk away.

The next time someone comes over to your house and you’re not sure if your dog will be OK with them, you’re going to put your dog in another room or in their crate or on a leash.  When your friend visits with their little kids or the landscaper needs to use your bathroom or the police* bangs on your door, you’re not going to hold your breath and see what happens.  You’re going to tighten up your core muscles and say, “Please wait while I put my dog away.” When they say, “It’s OK, I love dogs”, you will hold your ground and follow through with the plan.

And the next time you’re at the vet or the groomers and you don’t like the way they’re handling your dog, you’re going to say, “We need to do this another way.”I struggled with this one. But I’m over it now. Same thing goes for trainers. If you don’t like they way a trainer is working with your dog, you’re going to say, “Thanks, but we need something different.”

Yes, the other person may say nasty things to you or about you. They might call you a “bitch.”  I want you to not care. Because in that moment what you really are is your dog’s hero. You just took their well-being into your hands and acted with conviction. You made the right choice and they’re safe because of you. Bravo.

And who cares what people call you?  As my future BFF Tina Fey says, “Bitches get stuff done. Bitch is the new black

Tina Fey

Look, the other person will get over it. They might not even care at all. For them, the discomfort of dealing with hero-you won’t last long. Even if it does, even if your neighbors think you’re kind of stand-offish, it’s not rocking their world.  But for you, the consequences of not standing up for your dogs might be long-lasting and deep-cutting. Set those limits, then don’t give a hoot what anyone thinks about you.

p.s. There are other ways to set limits and not giving a crap what anyone thinks, like: if they need it, walk your dog with a muzzle on. You will get weird looks. But you don’t care, cuz you’re being Safety First.

Hey, I know this is uncomfortable for some of you. But I know you can do it because you love your dogs.

If it helps, I want you to think of me standing next to you, cheering you on as you stand up for your dog’s needs. I’m five feet worth of NJ/Philly-loud-talking-feistyness and I don’t give an eff about saying “No” to anyone if it means making sure my dogs don’t get into trouble or have a bad experience. So picture me there beside you the next time you need a boost. Know that every time you make that tough choice to stand for your up dogs, I’m yelling, “Rock Star!!” just for you.

Now go get ’em Tiger.

* You have the right to secure your dog before letting the police enter your property.  ALWAYS do it.

Want to give this blog to your clients or friends? Here’s a printer-friendly PDF version: Stand Up For Your Dogs

The Secret Life of Dog Catchers

When I came across the book, The Secret Life of Dog Catchers: An Animal Control Officers Passion to Make a Difference, I wasted no time in reaching out to the author Shirley Zindler to ask if she’d like to send me a copy for review. She generously did and when I got it, I gulped the book down in three fast sittings.

cover book

Shirley is an animal control officer in Northern California, and in addition to her demanding job, her family has fostered and rehomed more than 400 dogs. Wow-wee. She blogs for Bark Magazine, has competed in obedience, agility, conformation and lure coursing, and has done pet therapy. Shirley is one busy woman.

Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of knowing and working with a few fantastic Animal Control Officers (ACOs). In addition to their incredible skills (with animals and people), bravery, and professionalism, these good eggs have all had two things in common: endless compassion and a wicked sense of humor. Shirley has both in spades. In her book, she shares stories from the field and her home life that will make you tear up, bust out laughing, get angry and frustrated, and then get inspired. I suspect that Shirley feels all those things in the course of just a single day, judging by her heavy and varied case load.

Through it all – from comical calls in the middle of the night to heart breaking neglect cases and frightening stand-offs with criminals –  Shirley’s stories reveal she’s one of those rare people that can stay positive despite the never-ending challenges that she faces. When the rest of us would be throwing in the towel, Shirley keeps going, and then writes about her experiences so that we get to walk in her capable shoes for a while. You’ll happily go along for the ride as she investigates hoarders, raids a cock fight, rescues wildlife, and works with the coroner’s office.

If you’ve worked as an ACO or in a shelter, this book will be the perfect combination of the surprising and familiar. You’ll see some of your experiences reflected in her validating vignettes.  But whether or not you’ve worked in animal welfare, readers will be rooting for Shirley every time she steps up to the plate, trying to make her corner of the world a better place for animals.

After I finished the book, I was left wishing I could take Shirley out for a margarita. I have no doubt she has so many more great stories to tell!  Since we couldn’t meet for drinks, Shirley was kind enough to answer a few questions for me  about The Secret Life of Dog Catchers and her work:

shirley and her pets

Photo credit: Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat


Jessica: There are a lot of misconceptions about what an ACO does and what they have the power to do. From some of the stories in the book, it’s safe to say much of the public thinks that if a pet is in less than ideal conditions, ACOs can swoop in and remove the animals immediately. What would you like the public to understand about your ability to intervene?

Shirley: I often have to tell the public that I can only enforce the law. I try to educate people, but I can’t make them care for the animal the way the concerned party, or I, want it cared for, only the minimum that the law requires. I do everything I can to make a difference, but I often lose sleep about the things I can’t change.


J: In your work you have to enforce the law and hold owners accountable, yet in many of the stories you write about working to provide resources, education, and support to families who want to do better, but need assistance. How do you determine when it’s the right time to provide education vs. punishment?

Shirley: I almost always try and help if the person is willing to work with me to improve the animals conditions. Many people want to care for their animals, but lack the knowledge or finances to do it right. I can sometimes provide the things they need to make things better. It might be management, training or nutrition advice, help finding a new home or occasionally, money out of my own pocket. I don’t want to seize their animal, I just want them to take better care of it. If the situation is severe, or if the person is unwilling to work with me, then I may seize or prosecute or usually both.

 

J: Have you found that when people know better or have access to affordable resources, they do better?

 

Shirley: Many people do just need educating or help and I’ve seen things greatly improved plenty of times. Some people have no interest in doing anything different, so we use the law where needed to provide compliance.


J: In the book, I was really struck by how the calls you receive often seem to be so subjective: reports of attacks, abuse, and grave injuries often turned out to be really minor, almost comically so – for example, a dog attack turns out to be a loose, but happy Mastiff. Or a dog dying from being hit by a car turns out to be a dog with a broken toe nail found by the road. In many cases the public’s perception of what they’re experiencing doesn’t match reality! How does that have an impact on your work?

Shirley: We get so many calls that are misinterpreted that sometimes we forget how serious a call can actually be! Its important to stay alert to the dangers and to the possibility of serious neglect or abuse.

 

shirley zindler

Pelican rescue: All in a day’s work for Shirley!


J: Leash laws are a hot topic with Team DINOS. Many of us live in communities with leash laws, but they’re not enforced, making it difficult for us to safely walk our dogs in public spaces. Do you have any thoughts on the effectiveness of leash laws?

Shirley: Our leash law fine is around $250, so that gets peoples attention, but we don’t have the staff to patrol every problem area all the time. Our community has lots of great dog parks and one amazing dog beach so I always try and direct the off-leash people there. I will cite people who are repeat offenders, but often verbal warnings and making a show of presence in problem areas is helpful.

I spent many years taking my dogs to dog parks almost daily and had almost no problems. I presently hit an off leash beach several times a month with my four dogs ranging from 18 pounds to 120 pounds. My dogs absolutely love it and its a great way for me to blow of work stress, just watching a bunch of loved dogs running free and playing with each other. My dogs (mostly rescues from bad situations) have always been very well trained and well socialized, but of course some dogs don’t appreciate strange dogs regardless of their history.

I have seen problems with off leash dogs charging up to leashed dogs who are not comfortable with it, and some fights have resulted. I do what I can to get people to follow the law and be more respectful of others, but some just don’t care. And of course many of the dogs are completely out of control and the owners have no idea how to fix it.


J: I’d love to hear your thoughts on dealing with loose dogs. We all run into them while we’re out walking our dogs and it puts gray hairs on our heads! What are some of your tips for safely evading loose dogs? How can we work with our neighbors and ACOs to get folks to properly contain their dogs?

Shirley: As a teen I had two large aggressive dogs run out of their yard as I was passing by and attack my small dog and nearly kill him. Even the owner could barely get his dogs off and it took a long time. They just hung on and pulled from each end. Truly horrifying. There probably wasn’t much I could have done in that case except maybe pepper spray, if I had had it.

Most cases are not nearly so severe but a few times when confronted with a truly aggressive dog I have removed my dogs leashes to use as a weapon, also freeing my dog to do  normal greeting behaviors, or possibly outrun the other dog if needed. I do think it’s important to stay calm and keep a loose lead if at all possible. I often see people getting hysterical and yanking their dog away from an approaching dog, causing an increase in agitation, disruption of normal greeting behaviors, and sometimes resulting in a fight that could have been prevented.

Teaching appropriate behavior to your own dog is helpful too. When a dog is lunging and snarling on leash, it may bring a fight from an off leash dog that might not have happened if the dog was taught to walk calmly. Thankfully my dogs all enjoy meeting new dogs and are very smooth with great social skills so they rarely have issues. I have had dogs in the past that didn’t like being approached by strange dogs, so I’m sensitive to those concerns.

Repeated polite calls to animal control can sometimes be helpful in bringing more enforcement. Sometimes it takes just the right person, timing, luck, or officer to make a difference. Many departments are understaffed and some ACOs have very little training. It’s important to try to work together rather than just berating the department for a lack of response. There are some uncaring ACOs out there, but most are doing the best they can with limited resources. In some cases, we cannot pursue an issue without written statements, but no one is willing to provide them.


J: Your work often brings you into contact with dogs that are terrified and/or injured, which manifests as aggression. How do you stay calm and safely work with dogs in those scenarios?

Shirley: Some of my most rewarding calls are dogs that are aggressing because of fear (or pain, or both), but respond well to cookies and sweet talk. Most aggression is fear based. The dog is afraid so he charges, or even attacks to make you go away.  I have spent my life working with dogs and I have learned something from every single one. I love dogs, and respect them and do everything I can to make things less stressful for them. Dogs are far more predicable than people in most cases. Patience, knowledge and cookies go a long way in this business. For those few dogs who can’t be convinced, I usually have the skills and tools to confine them safely and humanely.  Often once you have a hold of them and haven’t hurt them, they come around anyway.


J: Dog Bite Prevention Week is almost here, do you mind sharing any advice for how the public can avoid dog bites?

Shirley:  Here’s a link to a blog I did last year for Bark Magazine regarding dog bites. I investigate so many preventable dog bites each year and it’s unfortunate that dogs and children most often suffer the consequences of our lack of knowledge or understanding of canine behavior.


shirley after the raid


J: I think many animal welfare workers (myself included) really struggle with compassion fatigue and/or feeling overwhelmed. How do you keep from burning out?

Shirley: I have my days where I can hardly bear the sadness and hurt that people wreak on their fellow people and animals. Dealing with the broken and neglected day after day takes a toll on the heart. Still, I feel like I’m making a difference. The smallest success is so encouraging.

I had some young teen girls call recently about a bird with thread tangled around its leg and then tangled in tree branches. I had one of them hold the bird while I spent about 5 minutes unraveling the thread and then let her release it. It was so great to see how helpful and kind they were, and so rewarding to watch the bird fly away unencumbered. It’s critical in this business to focus on the positive.

I can go a long way on the good stuff: One good rescue, finding someone’s lost pet, removing an animal from a neglectful situation and finding a great home for it, those are the things that keep me going. I could (and sometimes do) torture myself with the ones I can’t help, but it doesn’t do any good and its harmful to me, so I try and focus on the areas where I can make a difference and work really hard on them. It’s helpful to have supportive friends and family. My husband of 22 years does a great job of helping me keep things in perspective and my kids, although pretty much grown, are terrific as well.

I get a lot of joy in fostering needy dogs (along with cats, wildlife and other animals). I’ve taken in dogs with health or behavior issues, moms with underage pups and orphaned pups. I stopped counting at 400 dog and puppy fosters over the last 25 years or so. In all but a very few cases, they have gone on to wonderful homes and lives. A few came back and were re-homed successfully and a very tiny number couldn’t be saved, but I get so much satisfaction from seeing them living the life they deserve.


Thank you Shirley!

Order your copy of the Secret Lives of Of Dog Catchers here and help Shirley reach her goal of selling 1,000 books. When she hits that goal, she’ll donate $500 to the Love Me Fix Me spay/neuter program.  

Shirley shared that several people have also pledged to donate to the program as soon as she reaches her goal, including an additional $1000 donation.  A good read and a good cause! Follow Shirley on Facebook to cheer her on as she reaches her goal.