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Posts tagged ‘pit bull dogs’

Now Taking Questions!

Well, hello there stranger. Is it OK if I join you?

It’s been a long, long time since we last saw each other.

I’m sorry I didn’t write, but I want you to know that I think about you all the time.

It’s just that with the job and the other job and the job on top of that and the grad school and the old dog peeing on everything, I haven’t been able to think of anything to write during my five minutes of free time that I spend lying on the floor.

I’m embarrassed to admit that it was me who sent you that random text in January. You know, the one that said: SEND ALL THE COOKIES.

Can we just forget about that? Thanks, you’re a real friend.

Anywho, we’ve got some serious some catching up to do, don’t we?

First things first:

Imagine that a professional dog trainer, a veterinary behaviorist, a social worker, and a dog walker all offered to answer your most pressing questions about living with a reactive, fearful, aggressive, or just plain old weird dog.

What would you ask them?

I want to know. Tell me in the comments section.

Here’s why: I’m interviewing some pros for the upcoming DINOS online mini-class that I’ll be offering later this year and I want to make sure I ask them what you want to know.

I’m creating this class to help you guys feel less stressed, more connected to your dogs, and more empowered with good info. Plus you’ll have private discussion boards to talk with each other. Wheee!

The DINOS class isn’t a dog training class, although the info will pair nicely with any dog training you might be doing.

The class will include, among other things, a few recorded interviews with professionals who really understand the challenges you’re facing and have good advice we all need to hear.

So you tell me what questions you have for a: professional dog trainer, social worker who runs a support group for people who live with dogs who have behavior issues, and veterinary behaviorist.

I’ll choose a few of your questions to ask when I sit down to talk with them!

Speaking of questions…

And now for my most favorite thing ever: I’m answering the questions I get through my search results. I haven’t done this in years, but I love it and I wanted another round.

Here’s how it works:

When you type words into a search engine, like Google, results will pop up. If you click on a blog that came up in those search results, then the writer of the blog will see the exact words (the search terms) that you typed into the search engine, which led you to their blog post. Bloggers get a whole long list of the “search term results” that led people to their site.

These search terms crack me up. Sometimes they make me sad. And lots of times they’re good questions that deserve to be answered!

Without further ado, here’s a lightening round of search term Q+A:

 

“List of names for a pit bull dog”

Hoagie

Francis

Snack Pack

Prince Harry

Grandma

Bagel

Garbanzo Bean

Tushie

 

What can I say, I like carbs and old people. And rear ends.

 

pit bull in car

I don’t care what you call me, as long as you call me! Ba dump bump ching!

 

 

“Dog licking its balls”

To clarify, are you looking for photos or advice? Or is that you’re so stressed out by that awful slurping noise, which distracts you while you try to write important emails, that you were looking for an online support group? Help me to help you. Also, here’s the best ball licking cartoon out there.

 

“Why my dog doesn’t stand up for himself.”

Because he’s waiting for you to do it.

 

“Is it bad to let a dog dictate its life to you?”

It depends. Do you have an app to record them telling you their life story or will you have to take the dictation by hand? Because I can’t write as fast as my dog talks, so it would be a bad call for me personally. But maybe you’re a court stenographer, in which case you have the necessary skills to record your dog’s epic stories of relentless ball licking and how they learned to stand up for themselves when other dogs made fun of them for being named Tushie.

 

 

“I am a dog owner in Ireland but hate people with multiple dogs that are not kept on leashes and cant control them.”

Matching! Except I’m in America. Let’s be pen pals!

 

 

“tradmil for dog practice and make metirial Punjab”

Terrific! I’ll see you at 7.

Wait, huh?

Did your dog tell you to write that?

 

I sure do miss you guys. Remember, tell me what you want me to ask the smart kids when I interview them. Put those questions right in the comments for me to read!

Oh, and if you want to be the first to know when the DINOS class will run, please sign up for updates here! I’ll only email you about class info…no spam, ever.

 

 

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Beyond Daily Dog Walks: Uba’s Story

We do it every day (or at least we’re told we should be doing it every day), but do you ever stop to think about why we walk our dogs and if it’s really benefiting them?

As a professional dog walker, I can come up with tons of good reasons to take dogs for daily walks: for exercise, to go to the bathroom, to train them and teach them leash manners, to help them socialize with other dogs and people, to expose them to new things and environments, and to spend time enjoying their company.

But the truth is, for some dogs, going on walks isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. And if that’s the case, there are lots of ways to meet the varying needs of dogs beyond the typical daily walk.

Last year at the BAD RAP Rescue Jam, I had the chance to meet Letti de Little, owner of former Vick dog, Uba. Word on the street was that her little survivor was a card carrying member of Team DINOS and wasn’t a big fan of going for walks in public.

I talked with Letti about how she fully supports Uba’s needs, without relying on a daily dog walking routine. These two are a great example of how thinking outside of the box (or walk in this case) might benefit some dogs. I think y’all will dig our conversation!

 

Jessica: Can you tell everyone a little bit about yourself and Uba?

Letti: Uba is one of the dogs rescued from football player Michael Vick’s dog fighting operation in 2007. He was quite young when seized, probably under six months old, and he was held in custody in a small kennel with no enrichment from April until October 2007. He did not have bedding, toys, walks or any of the other stimulation that is so important in a young dog’s development.

It was assumed while he was in custody that he and all the other dogs rescued in the Vick case would be euthanized once the case was over, as was the general rule for dogs rescued from fighting operations at the time.

Luckily, the Federal investigators, the prosecutors, and the judge in the case were willing to explore the option of saving the dogs and Uba and his extended family were given a chance at real life.

uba letti

When he arrived in California he showed everyone that he was a huge character. He had a very vertical approach to the world and would jump around rather than walk or run. After a wind storm he decided to collect the fallen sticks from the yard and fill his crate up with branches and twigs. Later he learned to unlatch crates and he would let himself out and then break in to other dog’s crates so he could borrow their toys.

Balancing out all this silly, ridiculous behavior were his worries about the big world. At home he was a party boy, but out in the world he was very anxious and would ‘pancake’ – shut down, freeze and be unable to recover.

I had been a BAD RAP volunteer for about a year and a half when the Vick dogs were evaluated for placement and I offered to foster one of the dogs. As soon as I met Uba I knew I’d keep him and I’m so glad I did.

I’ve learned so much from my funny, energetic, intelligent, sweet and worried little dude. I’ve fostered at least ten dogs and he is the highest energy dog I have ever lived with. It’s not always easy to meet his needs while keeping up with my sometimes demanding career, but we’ve muddled through it and I think we have done OK.


What were those early dog walks like for him? And why did you choose to stop taking him for traditional daily walks?

Uba made it clear from the start that he needed a lot of exercise. As a city dwelling dog owner my answer to that was lots of long walks.

Uba really didn’t have much of an idea about leash walking, let alone cars, buses, pedestrians and all the other sites and sounds of city living. He accepted some things, like garbage trucks, without question. Other city events, like groups of pedestrians, made him collapse in fear.

We would go on long walks and he would enjoy the parts of the walks in quiet and natural areas, but would shut down and ‘pancake’ in busy areas. Living in San Francisco, most parks are full of off leash dogs, and, although he’s not particularly dog reactive, it was difficult to find places to walk him where he was comfortable and we wouldn’t be accosted by MDIFs.

[Note from Jessica: MDIF stands for people who shout “My Dog is Friendly!” and let their dogs approach yours without permission. How rude! You can read more about them here.]

I used to have a roommate who is a psychologist working with combat veterans and she noted that his physical reaction on walks was very similar to her patients suffering from PTSD. Uba scans for trouble, shakes, and can’t focus on anything other than his fear. Once Uba is triggered into his scary place there is no talking him out of it. He won’t take treats or toys; even super high value treats like steak don’t distract him from his fear.

uba

I moved to Oakland after about three years with Uba, and my neighborhood is still pretty urban, although I have a much bigger back yard than in San Francisco. He had a hard time adjusting to the neighborhood and did not enjoy his walks at all.

After much debate and discussion with BAD RAP’s Tim Racer, I decided that we should re-set and not go for neighborhood walks for a month. We still went on weekend walks in places he enjoyed, where there is nature and limited MDIFs, but I didn’t make him go into the neighborhood at all.

In that month I found that he became more relaxed and our relationship improved when I wasn’t making him face his worst fears every day.


Instead of dog walks, how do you provide Uba with exercise, enrichment, socialization, and time outside?

Since Uba was so energetic as a youngster I started using a dog treadmill for exercise soon after he came to me. The first time I put him on the Grand Carpet Mill he was hooked. I didn’t have to teach him what to do, he just hopped on, let me hook up his harness and he ran as fast as he could with a huge smile on his face.

I also use a flirt pole and a spring pole. The flirt pole is nice as it can also give an opportunity for working on impulse control (not Uba’s strong suit) and other basic training. I have a spring pole set up near my treadmill and some days Uba runs to that instead of the treadmill when its time to work out. The tugging lets him use different muscles and makes him just as tired. He gets really excited when I say “treadmill” or “spring pole”, just like some dogs get excited when you pick up their leash.

Uba has always loved training and learning, so I have tried a few different activities with him. Vick dog Audie’s owner, Linda Chwistek, introduced me to K9 Nose Work as it was just developing as a sport and Uba loves it.

Nose work has built Uba’s confidence like nothing else. Before nose work, new environments and new people were very difficult and Uba would shake and pancake to avoid the new experience. Now, Uba can walk in to a new place and he wants to see if he can find a target odor, even if that’s not at all why we’re there. We take nose work classes at least once a week and he loves seeing all his friends as much as he loves searching.

uba and jamie

For socialization I have almost constantly fostered well-matched playmates for Uba and many of them have also been rescued from dog fighting busts. We stay in touch with former foster dogs and other friends he’s made along the way and meet in his comfortable spaces for walks and have play dates at home. Uba sometimes accompanies me to the BAD RAP Pit Ed training classes I teach to “supervise” and see his human friends (including his number one hero, Tim).


There’s a lot of pressure on dog owners to walk their dogs every day. Do you have any advice for dog owners who may be feeling like these walks aren’t benefiting their dogs?

We all need down time. I don’t feel like going out and facing the world every single day, and neither do some dogs.

I think we should be focusing on “all dogs need regular exercise” instead of “dogs should be walked daily”.

Yes! That’s really well said Letti! 

Exercise is not opening the back door and letting your dog wander the yard, though. If you’re not walking your dog you need to consider how to keep yourself and your dog engaged in a healthy and happy relationship. If she loves fetch, that’s wonderful, but make sure you play other games too. Take that hour you would be walking and spend it with your dog – not on the phone or computer – but actively engaging with your dog. Learn a new trick or find a new game to play.

Remember that mental stimulation can be just as tiring as physical exercise, so find ways to combine both and see how pleased your dog is. Training classes of any kind are great ways to get your dog exercise, mental stimulation and socialization opportunities while working on useful and fun skills.


On the flip side, there are lots of dogs that could really benefit from more walks! But because they’re reactive or are lacking in basic manners, their owners avoid walking them.

You work with families like this in your training classes. Is there a difference between what they’re experiencing and what you experienced with Uba? Any advice for these folks to help them feel more comfortable walking their dogs?

I should be clear that Uba is not particularly dog reactive. He is a DINOS because I want to protect him from bad experiences that could make his phobias even worse or push him to be reactive. He collapses in fear rather than screaming at the end of his leash.

If your dog lacks manners, get to a training class! If you are too far from training classes or can’t afford them, You Tube has some great resources and examples of how to work on leash skills. Or hire a trainer for one on one help. I truly believe that any dog can be well mannered in public if their owner puts in the time and effort and effectively manages the situations the dog is in.

If the dog simply needs to get out for exercise right now, do some research and find places that are safe to walk. Be willing to take a short drive to your walking places if needed. Think outside the box about where to walk and try different routes. Just walking on a different side of the street can dramatically change the walk for your dog. Your neighborhood may be packed with challenges for your dog, but what about other areas nearby? What about the outside perimeter of a public park, golf course or a cemetery? Is there a downtown business district that’s super quiet on the weekend?

I advise people to stop worrying about what other people think. You are your dog’s only advocate. Speak up and protect your dog from MDIFs and mean people. If you encounter people who criticize you for something you’re doing or not doing, shrug it off. Don’t worry if your dog doesn’t conform to some general theory of what dogs should be and help your dog be the best dog she can be. So what if that means walks at midnight or running on a treadmill?

I also highly recommend nose work classes as therapy for the dogs and as a place to find solidarity with other owners of DINOS.


How’s Uba doing today?

Uba is still not a big fan of neighborhood walks. He will go with me once in a while and enjoy himself, but I don’t force the issue. More often we’ll hop in the car and drive to a cemetery that allows leashed dogs or one of the parks where leashes are required.

This means that in the winter when it’s dark after work he really only gets walked on weekends. During the week we go to nose work class, run on the treadmill and play at home.

He is getting a little calmer now that he’s eight, but he’s still more energetic than most dogs half his age, and I think he gets a good amount of exercise, is appropriately mentally challenged and gets out to see his friends regularly.

uba walk

We still have little moments of victory over his worry – just this morning we went on a very pleasant neighborhood walk. He sniffed things, peed on a million things and worked through his “oh shit!!” moments. I think he enjoyed it.

Earlier on, I came to realize that in my desire to have a walking companion I was ignoring Uba’s needs. I have learned to respect what my dog is telling me and now I really accept Uba for who he is and not who I’d like him to be. We are both happier and more relaxed and our relationship is much more fun for both of us.


Great advice Letti and thank you for sharing Uba with us!

 

 

On Ambassadors and Advocating For (Your) Pit Bull Dogs

Here’s some stuff I’ve been thinking about lately:

1. Why is it so hard to find the perfect black hoodie? You know, not too baggy, not too tight, not too lightweight, not too heavy.

2. What is Terminus and how will I survive waiting another year for the new season of The Walking Dead to come out on dvd? No spoilers or I’ll stalk you when I turn.

3. What gets in the way of responsible people making smart choices for their dogs?

 

Since this isn’t a blog about zombies (yet), let’s look at #3:

We already know that it’s our job to stand up for our dogs and be assertive in protecting our dog’s physical and mental health, as well as the safety of those around them. Right?

We know that what gets in the way of us doing that is we often don’t want to be perceived as rude or “bitchy.” Not sure what I’m talking about? See one of my most popular posts of all time: Stop Caring What Others Think and Stand Up For Your Dogs.

But in addition to the regular worries about what other people think about us when we are standing up for our dogs, there’s this other thing that affects a really big group of dog owners that I love dearly and belong to myself. I’m talking about my pit bull peeps.

Many people who own pit bull dogs are concerned about how our dog’s behavior (or our own actions) will influence public opinion about all the other dogs out there that look like ours. It’s not just internal pressure. We’re generally encouraged to make our dogs into “ambassadors.” But here’s the thing:

Wanting your dog to be an ambassador can sometimes get in the way of you being a good advocate (for your actual dog).

 

For those of you who get to go about your daily business without ever spending a second thinking about your dog being an ambassador, please let me explain what that means:

Those of us who share our lives with pit bulls would love to bust stereotypes and change minds about our misunderstood dogs. We know that a positive, real-life interaction with our nice dogs can go a long way in undoing the myths that surround pit bulls. So we’re extra sensitive to how our dog’s behavior in public might either mistakenly confirm peoples’ fears or cause them to have a change of heart about pit bulls. We work hard for the latter. Every time we leave the house.

There’s a lot of pressure on our dogs to be “ambassadors” for all the other pit bulls and that’s a heavy load for the average dog to bear, because guess what?

Pit bulls are just dogs.

And dogs aren’t pre-programmed ambassador robots.

Dogs are, well, dogs. Even the very best behaved dog – no matter what their shape, size, breed, or political orientation – have boundaries that need to be respected. For example, few dogs (even very social ones) enjoy rude, uninvited greetings from out of control dogs and grabby kids.

The point is to say that even dogs that are excellent ambassadors still have needs. It’s our job to pay attention to them and speak up when they need us to, so they stay healthy and safe. We’re our dog’s everyday advocates.

And yet: our desire to change public perceptions of our dogs sometimes means that we ignore what our dogs need, because we’re afraid that if we speak up, that other people will think our dogs aren’t friendly or that we’re mean and that will reflect badly on all the other pit bulls out there.

Look, if you’re ever feeling icky about speaking up for your dog, here’s the deal:

Never put your desire to change public perceptions of pit bulls before your own dog’s needs.

 

Don’t do anything that will cause them to have a training set back or damage their own social tolerance of other dogs or make them uncomfortable or allow them to get hurt because you’re hesitant to speak up for their needs for fear that it will give people a bad impression of pit bulls.

That’s not your problem. Your dog’s needs come first.

problem

 

If your dog seems uncomfortable meeting a new person or dog or is uneasy at an event, please walk away. Don’t stick around because you want people to meet your nice dog and have an a-ha moment about pit bulls.

When someone wants to just “say hi!” but it’s not a good match for your dog, don’t agree to it because you’re afraid the other person will think that all pit bull dogs and their owners are unfriendly if you say “no thanks”.

It’s awesome when our well behaved, outgoing pit bulls are enjoying themselves in public and change some opinions in the process. I love when that happens and I’m super grateful to all the pit bull owners out there who are making a real difference through their public appearances and awards, therapy dog work, sporting events, and parade dance parties.

But our desire to have our dogs be ambassadors should never come at our dogs’ expense. All dogs, even UN World Happiness Ambassadogs have boundaries and emotions that need to be respected. Never put the needs of the “movement” before advocating for your individual dog’s needs, ok?

And for those of you who have pit bulls that you know are not “ambassadors” because they’re reactive, fearful, anxious, or whatever other common dog behavior issue you may be dealing with, listen up.

Please don’t hide at home because you’re afraid that if your dog has a meltdown on a walk that it will make people think bad things about pit bulls. Go on and walk them in public (if that’s what works for them) and practice their training, just like any other dog owner would do. Don’t deny your dog a chance to work on their leash skills or do some counter conditioning work because you’re afraid of showing the world a not-perfect pit bull.

You are not responsible for everyone else’s opinions about pit bulls.

You are responsible for properly managing and training your dog, as well as protecting their well-being. Just like all the other dog owners out there.

 

Focus on that. Do right by your dog and you do us all proud.

Side bar: If you need to muzzle your dog, just do it. Don’t get hung up on what other people will think about pit bulls because your dog is wearing one.

It took me a minute to be ok with the fact that Boogie, my sensitive, sometimes leash reactive, and fearful pit bull, was not going to be an ambassador. But I realized life is hard enough for him. I didn’t need to put any more pressure on Boogie by asking him to represent every other dog that looks like him.

boogie sun

Sweet Boogie seen here impressing the wilderness beyond the porch with his polite behavior.

 

My job is to be Boogie’s advocate. That means that sometimes people will shout out “Can my dog/kid say hi? Is your dog friendly?” and I have to say “No! Sorry!” and I’m dying a little because I want to say is:

“My dog is so sweet and he lives with another dog and three cats peacefully, but strange dogs and random kids scare him, so he needs his personal space respected. But please don’t think that pit bulls are aggressive or mean because my dog can’t say hi to you guys right now. He’s only representing Boogie. It has nothing to do with his breed. Thanks! Also, do you like the Walking Dead? Do you know what Terminus is? Wait, wait, don’t tell me!”

But there’s no time to say that, so I just say “No!” And I let them think whatever they’re going to think about my dog. Or make whatever generalizations they’ll make about pit bulls and short women with New Jersey accents, because we hustled to get away.

Just in case you’re wondering, I’m not saying you shouldn’t train your dog and help give them the skills they need to be better behaved or more comfortable out in the world. Or that you shouldn’t want your pit bull to be an ambassador. By all means, help them learn how to navigate the world with grace and if you can, change some hearts and minds along the way if they’re comfortable doing so.

But I am saying:

It’s not fair when our desire to make a good impression or change public opinion comes at the expense of our own dog’s needs or their safety.

 

When we do that we wind up setting up our dogs to, at best, have a rotten time, and at worst, force them to make a choice that could get them in a lot of trouble.

Being a good advocate for pit bulls (and all other dogs) means that we make choices based on what our individual dogs need to succeed in our crazy world. Even if that means leaving our advocacy work at our desks when we take our dogs for a walk. Your dog is counting on you to stand up for them, not just on the big issues, but in life’s everyday occurrences. Be your pit bull’s hero and advocate for them first.

 

 

 

Roots, Rescue, and The Jam: Lessons from BAD RAP

The other week I got to attend BAD RAP’s 2nd Annual Rescue Jam in Oakland, CA. The Jam was the JAMMIEST. 

It was one hot weekend, filled with good people, powerful presentations, and complex questions about rescue work. We covered legal issues and contracts, the rising epidemic of hoarding and failed rescues, effective advocacy and community building, harm reduction as a model for pet owner support, media training, and so much more.  I’m taking some time to process it, so expect to hear more from me about these topics in the coming months.

Anywhoozle, I was there for two reasons. One was to talk about Compassion Fatigue and the non-negotiable self-care all rescue and shelter workers need to engage in pronto. I’ll cover that in a separate post.

photo credit: Maggie McDowell

BAD RAP Rescue Jam | photo credit: Maggie McDowell

 

The other reason I was invited to the Jam was to talk about my project DINOS: Dogs in Need of Space.

And so, my first DINOS PowerPoint was born. It was heavy on the silly and filled with cartoons (is it just me or does anyone else believe that single panel cartoonists are the truthsayers of our day?). I got to read My Dog is Friendly: A Public Service Announcement out loud which was super fun – we all shouted “My Dog is Friendly!” together a bunch of times. Very cathartic.

After that, I told the rescue groups about the message of DINOS and what they could do to support us. Specifically, I asked that, as animal care experts, they share dog walking safety tips with their community and adopters, so that being respectful of a dog’s need for space becomes common knowledge.

I also told them that you guys are AWESOME.

Team DINOS is one of the smartest, most compassionate, respectful, and helpful online communities in the whole interwebz. I shared that it’s my privilege to be able to crowd source Team DINOS and curate the knowledge that you’ve earned the hard way, so that others (like their adopters) can benefit from what you’ve been through.

photo credit: Maggie McDowell

Me at the Jam (am I giving myself a fist bump here? perhaps.) | photo credit: Maggie McDowell

 

It was a good time all around and I met tons of inspiring people from all over the country. There were lots of Team DINOS members at the Jam and meeting them in person was super cool for a Maine-based hermit like me.

Fact: It was a huge honor to speak at a BAD RAP event.

 

Gang, these guys are my teachers. Over the years, Donna and Tim (co-founders of BAD RAP) have had a tremendous influence on the work that I do. Truth is, I’m not sure that DINOS would exist without BAD RAP. For serious.

So it was a real trip to be in their house, sharing what I know and my message, when so much of it is rooted in BAD RAP’s work!

Let me explain how they’ve influenced what I do. Here are a few things I’ve learned from BAD RAP:

A dog’s social tolerance of other dogs is a fluid thing. Their dog tolerance level information was a light bulb learning moment for me years ago – giving me the language to explain what I had been experiencing as dog walker. They taught me how to better understand and talk about the individual social needs of dogs and the important role we have in protecting our dogs from rude, rushed dog-dog greetings. They taught me to stand up for my dogs.

Learning how to walk politely on leash can be a matter of life and death for many dogs. Their Pit Ed classes, where they run multiple dog training classes at the same time (we’re talking 60+ dogs/handlers!) are a joy to watch.  Many of the dogs attending class are reactive shelter dogs who have not yet been adopted and are there to learn the leash manners they desperately need, so that they can make it out of crowded, urban shelters alive. The volunteer handlers are dedicated to changing the outcome for these dogs in the limited amount of time they have to make a difference for the dogs. This taught me that smoothing out reactive leash behaviors can be the difference between leaving the shelter through the front or the back door.

Working with reactive dogs can be super fun. By watching and participating in these classes, I learned to find the joy in working with a variety of reactive dogs – especially the large, strong, and fearless ones. BAD RAP taught me how to appreciate their sass. To be fully present to the dogs and mindful of my own body as I moved with them. To reward the dogs generously with treats and praise. To not let my own fears of looking stupid prevent me from engaging and being enthusiastic with the dogs. To brush it off quickly when I bomb and keep trying. They taught me how to build better relationships (complete with soulful eye contact) with the naughty clowns dogs in my life.

Positive, long lasting, meaningful change doesn’t grow out of polarized, judgmental, either-or thinking. Five years ago I attended a BAD RAP community event serving low income families who, if judged by the standards of many of us in animal welfare, would not be considered ideal dog owners. Rather than chastise them, I saw how BAD RAP chose to connect and collaborate with the crowds of people lined up for help. They met them respectfully, as equals, offering care for beloved family pets without conditions. They taught me to look for the common ground – the love we all have for our dogs – even if it that love looks different on the outside. And to celebrate what people are already doing right, while offering assistance. Through their continuing owner support work, they’ve taught me the power of compassionate action and a positive approach with people (in real life and online).

BR will be out this weekend in Oakland making their corner of the world a better place.

BR will be out this weekend in Oakland making their corner of the world a better place for families who love their dogs.

 

BAD RAP has most definitely shaped my work. They’ve helped me to think about the big picture issues, but also to remember the needs of the people and dogs who are right in front of me.

Donna and Tim have been doing this hard work for a long time and are generous about sharing what they know. Getting to spend time with BAD RAP isn’t just fun, it’s an education in the history of our field for newbies like me who have only been around 2, 5, or 10 years.

I find it kind of odd – disorienting, really – to be in a business where there is so little discussion of our lineage as animal welfare workers: the origins of our field, the people who have stood before us, and the mistakes and subsequent hard lessons that have been learned along the way. I wonder if we’d be stronger and more effective as a community if we saw more clearly whose shoulders we were standing on, whose footsteps we follow in, and the work we are building upon every time we rise up to push for more change.

The deeper the roots, the stronger the tree, you know?

I consider BAD RAP to be a significant part of my lineage as an animal care worker and educator. I’m still working to understand the paradoxes and profound truths of our work with dogs and people. It’s a slow and winding road, this education. But BAD RAP makes the journey all the richer for being ahead of me.

So here’s a cheers to BR for all the lessons and the laughs. And to all the work they’ve inspired me and so many others to do. I know that 70+ people left the Jam last week excited to make a difference for pets and people back in their hometowns. We’re all mighty lucky to have these compassionate, smart rescuers among us. Thanks to all of you!

 

Up next: Compassion Fatigue at the Jam and an announcement…

 

 

I’m Busy, You Win! [A Special Offer From Fit For A Pit]

Hiya! It’s been a while, huh?

Here’s the scoop: I’m juggling 2 bazillion projects this year (some of which you’ll be hearing about soon) and I’m so overwhelmed this summer that it’s a tiny miracle that I’m able to wrangle enough brain cells to write this at all.

Quick story: I donated blood the other week and during the rigorous interview to make sure I was safe to give up a pint of blood, I got so confused that the tech and I started joking that I was going to be turned away from donating because I was just too dumb. Really, my brain is that compromised from multitasking related-stress. Don’t worry. In the end they took me and my befuddled blood. And I enjoyed getting to lie down for a few minutes. Plus, free cookies! I highly recommend donating blood if you need a break from work.

Here’s the thing, stuff is only getting busier for the next two months, so despite the fact that I’m dying to write stuff here, I just CAN’T. Grad school, presentations for work, dog #2 in physical rehab (yep, it’s Boogie this time – more on that later), and a sorta secret project will do that to a gal.

These days I’m working at finding the positive – noticing the pear, if you will-  so I want to tell you what I CAN do:

Give you stuff!

 

That’s right. To celebrate my inability to write a substantial blog post, I’ve got a deal just for you! I’ve been feeling bad about not hanging out here with you guys, so I asked my friend Heather who own Fit For A Pit if she could hook y’all up with a deal. Heather, Champion of Generosity that she is, said “Hells Yeah I can do that!” and thus the DINOS discount was born.

 

fit for pit

This dog is super psyched that you’re getting a sweet deal.

 

Shop for anything your heart desires over at Fit For A Pit and:

Take $10 off any purchase of $20+ now through July 31st!*

All you have to do is use the coupon code: DINOS  

*Limit one per customer (because we don’t want to put Heather out of business)

 

Despite the name of her store, Fit For a Pit carries stuff that ALL dogs love. But if you do happen to have a blocky-headed, chesty, bull of a dog, they carry products that fit. My dog Birdie – not a pit bull – can’t fit into anything because she’s really busty (she got that from me), but that’s no problemo here!

Let’s do some window shopping together, before you head over to grab your discounted loot, ok? Here are just a few of my favorite products that Fit For a Pit carries:

 

The Flirt Pole (read my blog on them here):

 

flirt_pole_4__82304.1394318267.1280.1280

Dog Tees – that really fit:

fit for a pit tees

Goughnuts and other durable toys (read my blog on them here):

GoughNuts_01

 

Books from Patricia McConnell and Ken Foster (I like him):

good dog

And everyone’s favorite dog walking accessory Spray Shield! (I mention that one all the time):

spray-shield

 

There’s tons more cool, high quality stuff, like Doggles, backpacks, Chilly Dog sweaters, sunscreen, and even the Freedom No-Pull Harness. You can take $10 off on all of this stuff! Frankly the chance to get a flirt pole on the cheap or restock your Spray Shield at a discount is enough to head on over there and get clickin’, ammirite?

Heather carries just about everything I’ve been sharing with you all these years, so I’m genuinely happy to be connecting all of you to her store. You may be wondering, savvy consumers that you all are, is this an affiliate partnership? Why yes it is smarty! If you’re counting, I now have two affiliate partnerships: this one and Your End of the Lead.

When Heather started accepting affiliates, I asked to join her program. I want to shop from a small family business like Heather’s (instead of big anonymous drone-loving Amazon) when I can and I’m happier when I can link to small businesses here too. Heather has been involved in dog rescue for years and goes out of her way to support animal welfare groups, so I’m super proud to be working with her and supporting her business.

If you use the links in this blog to visit the store, I make a buck or two. But guess what, if you’re not into that, you can visit the store without using my links and you still get the $10 off with the DINOS code. Wheee!

Wait, a sec….now what was I talking about?  I believe that we will win! Where are my pants?

Oh yeah, you guys get $10 off this month. Say what?! That’s really generous of you Heather. Thanks pal!

 

But hold on, that’s not all. Next week come on back to look for a secret giveaway here on the blog. One of you is going to win one of my favorite new products…

Okay okay, you beat the secret giveaway right out of me: it’s a hands-free belt from Squishy Face. Next week I’ll share my experience testing the belt out on my dog walks and you can enter to win one!

See, life is good for you guys when I feel guilty about not writing anything new. My loss (of sanity) is your gain. Hip hip hooray!

 

Meet My Cat Sitter: He’s a Good Boy

Mr. Dog Walker and I are off for our summer vacation! We’re taking Boogie and Birdie with us, but we’re leaving our cats at home. Have I ever mentioned that we have three stooges?

Well we do. Gus, Gizmo, and Penelope (pronounced Peenaloupe, like cantaloupe) round out our crew. They don’t travel well, so the stooges hold down the fort with the help of our cat sitter:

tuna the pit bull

Santa and Tuna seriously want you to have a Merry Christmas


No, not Santa. That would be crazy.

Our cat sitter is the other dude: Tuna. Every summer Tuna comes to stay at our house and keeps our cats company. We let Tuna bring his mom with him (my friend Karen) so that he doesn’t have to leave her home alone all week while he’s at our house.

Tuna is also a tour guide.

Tuna and Us

Tuna takes photos with tourists (for five bucks).

He recently took me and the husband to all of the lighthouses in our area. Tour guide Tuna is excellent at his job. We highly recommend him if you’re ever in Maine and need someone to show you around.

When I asked Tuna what he wanted the world to know about him, he answered modestly, “Please tell them that I’m a good boy.” This is true. Tuna is a good boy. I love this kid.

Well, I’m hitting the road soon and won’t have the internet for a spell, so forgive me if some of your comments don’t get approved in the next week. Please tell me how handsome Tuna is anyway, ok?

And with that, I’ll leave you all with 2013’s hit song of the summer (all the kids are rocking out to it while they cruise the strip): I’m a Dog.

[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/AYOUtQsC.x?p=1 width=”720″ height=”433″]

Searching for Answers: Pit Bull T-Shirts, French Bulldog Woes, and More Poop

The other week I decided to start giving search terms (one of my fave parts of blogging) their moment in the sun. If you missed it, here’s how this is gonna work.

Short version: you search for stuff on Google and a blog pops up in the search results. If you click on the post, then the writer of the blog will see the search terms you used to find their blog in the “search term results” of their blog’s back end.

The search terms are some funny stuff. And don’t worry – it’s anonymous. I’ll never know who searched “cannot commit to children and pets” and wound up on my blog. Not that I don’t have my suspicions. 

Anywhoozle, here are some goodies from the latest batch of search terms. Enjoy!

“Are there t-shirts designed to fit pit bulls?”

Aw yeah! Are there any other dogs on the planet that look better in clothes than pit bulls? This (clearly biased) lady thinks not. The fine folks over at Fit for a Pit agree and they know just how to cut a tee to fit our dogs. Behold:

fit for a pit tees

see all the tees here


p.s. I bet they’ll let you buy one of these sweet tees even if you don’t have a pit bull.



“Are French Bulldogs easy to train off lead?”

“We rescued a 2 year old French Bulldog. He beats up all dogs that come to our home. Can his behavior be corrected?”

“Do French Bulldogs have cellphone aggression?”

“My French Bulldog chokes on his own bile”

I like to imagine that all of these searches are coming from the same family and they’ve got one French Bulldog that’s driving them nuts.

Considering I’ve never written about French Bulldogs before I have no idea why this poor family winds up on my blog every time they search for answers about this piece of work dog of theirs. But they keep landing here, so allow me to take a swing at this:

1. “Are French Bulldogs easy to train off lead?” Depends. How good a trainer are you? No matter what breed your dog may be, just know that it’ll take time to build up a reliable recall (even if you’re a pro and your dog is made of genius) which is a key factor in allowing a dog off lead. And even if they have a great recall, always obey leash laws. No excuses.

2. “We rescued a 2 year old French Bulldog. He beats up all dogs that come to our home. Can his behavior be corrected?” Yes, you can stop bringing strange dogs into his home. Unless your house is a bus stop for hobo dogs and you are required by contract to let them wait for the bus in your living room. Then you might want to work with a trainer to help your dog feel more comfortable with all these hobo dogs entering his home. He may never like itthat’s ok and normal – but perhaps you can help him cope a bit better by giving him some new skills with the help of a professional trainer. In the meantime, manage him and the other dog by crating/gating/leashing, so everyone is safe and your dog can’t rehearse that naughty hooligan behavior.

3. “Do French Bulldogs have cellphone aggression?” Do French Bulldogs work in retail? If so, yes. They hate it when people talk on the phone while they’re trying to ring them up. But, if your dog isn’t in customer service, maybe he’s just freaked out by your Bell Biv DeVoe ring tone? (Get your BBD fix here.) One thing I know for sure: hating mobile devices isn’t a breed thing.

4. “My French Bulldog chokes on his own bile” Poor kid. He’s so worked up from all the hobo dogs talking on their cell phones while he’s busy working on his off leash recall, it’s no wonder he’s puking up his guts.

I hope your vet can help. That sounds like it’s no fun at all.


Final thoughts for this family (or any one else that thought their dog’s breed would make them immune to dog problems): French Bulldogs are hella cute. Hella hella hella cute. So lots of humans snatch up one of these four-legged smashed-faced yummy dumplings because it’s pretty much impossible to resist these dogs. If you put a French Bulldog in front of me right now, I’d stuff it down my shirt and run.

But – hold on a sec, I’m getting up on my soapbox – no matter how cute or where you got them from, French Bulldogs are still dogs. They need training, management, and responsible ownership like any other dog. They’re also just as susceptible to regular dog problems, like leash reactivity, aggression, fear, and general in-need-of-basic-training glitches as any other dog.

That’s because there is NO breed on the planet that you can buy or rescue that will behave perfectly all the time and requires no effort on your part. It turns out that when you get a dog, costume changes are only like 1% of the real day-to-day shit. OK, maybe 3%. No matter what breed or mix your dog is, be prepared to train, manage, and help your dog succeed. Even if they’re hella cute, dogs still need you to do the work. It’s a partnership with a living being after all.

I have no idea if that rant applies to the specific family searching for help with their Frenchy, but I wanted to throw it in for good measure. Now on to the poop.


“Turkeys with wet dark poop”

This is what I get for putting “turkey” and “poop” in the same blog post. I have no one to blame but myself for this one. And now I’m starting to feel obligated to get educated on turkey care. Is there a Dancing with Turkeys book I should be reading? The Way of the Gobble?


That’s it for this week folks. I’ll see you on the back end of the blog!

 

Pit Bulls and Puppies: Ken Foster and Traer Scott in Maine

Mainers we’ve got some special guests coming to town that you don’t want to miss!

This Saturday, May 11th, authors Ken Foster and Traer Scott will be holding a book signing at Fetch* in Portland from 1-3pm.

Be there.

Ken will be signing his most amazing book I’m a Good Dog: Pit Bulls, America’s Most Beautiful (and Misunderstood) Pet. Who should read this book? Anyone who loves pit bulls or knows someone who lives with one or is curious about the hype and even people that really don’t like them.

If you love pit bulls, this book will lift you up. If you are confused or afraid of them, it will help you to see them differently. You’ll begin to understand why so many people choose to share their lives with pit bulls and why we love them deeply.

It’s the kind of book that animal shelter workers and advocates have been giving to all their friends and family members for the past five months saying, “Please read this. This is why I do what I do!”

No matter who reads it, I double dog dare you not to close the book with a giant grin on your face.

So, yeah, I’m kind of psyched that Ken’s in town.

I'm a good dog


Ken also wrote my favorite dog book of all time, the award-winning memoir The Dogs Who Found Me. Oh, and he’s the founder of the Sula Foundation which promotes responsible pit bull ownership. He lives in New Orleans with his dogs and makes the rocking pit bull t-shirts (my fave is the Saints tee).

That’s the pit bulls, now here are the puppies:

Traer will be signing her latest book is Newborn Puppies: Dogs In Their First Three Weeks. It’s an up-close  look at various breeds and mixes of puppies all between 1-21 days old. Squee!!

newborn puppies


Traer is an award winning photographer and the author of several books on dogs including the bestseller Shelter Dogs. Full disclosure: I once burst into sad, but hopeful tears in the middle of Borders while reading Shelter Dogs. Traer’s photos are gorgeous and profoundly moving. Her photographs have been featured in National Geographic, Life, People, O, and many other publications. She lives in Rhode Island with her husband, daughter and pit bull (oops, we’re back to pit bulls!).

So stop by the event at Fetch this weekend and pick up two books that will make your heart happy. And if your mom is a dog lover, may I suggest both books make excellent last minute Mother’s Day gifts? Have these two sign their books to your momma!

I’ll be there, hanging out like the book nerd/dog geek groupie that I am.

And if you need one more reason to stop by, I hear there is a certain silver fox named Sargent that will be stopping by the store as part of his search to find the family of his dreams.


Here are the ‘tails:

Portland Maine

Fetch* 195 Commercial Street

Saturday May 11th

1pm-3pm


Oh and if you’re in the Boston area, you can catch Ken and Traer the following day, May 12th, at Fish and Bone with Lilly the Hero Pit Bull!

And double oh! If you’re not lucky enough to be in Northern New England this weekend, just buy the books online and have yourself a happy-fest read-a-thon when they arrive in at your house.

* Fetch has been renamed “The Fish & Bone”. Same store, same location, same ownership, new name! 

Maine: Take a Stand Against Discrimination and Support L.D. 1192

I live in Maine and right now we have the chance to put an end to insurance discrimination based on a dog’s breed or breed mix. Will you help?

I’m asking all of my Maine dog-loving friends to take a moment to reach out and voice your support for this bill. If you own a pit bull, Doberman, German Shepherd, Rottie, Mastiff, Great Dane, Chow, Akita, or any other dog that’s been denied coverage, now’s your chance to stand up for the fair treatment of your dogs.

If you do not own a dog that’s been targeted, I hope that you will stand up for our families. We’re your friends and neighbors and we’re being unfairly discriminated against. Stand up for the dogs that are in our shelter system simply because their families couldn’t find an insurance company that would treat them fairly. There are so many dogs in our shelters that are safe, loved family dogs, but are homeless because families are forced to surrender them due to housing discrimination (largely due to insurance discrimination). Stand up for every dog that has been unfairly discriminated against because of the way they look, NOT based on their actual behavior or the behavior of their owners.

I’ve written about insurance discrimination before. It’s a serious issue for many responsible, dog-owning families.

Maine has the opportunity to become on the most fair, progressive states in the country when it comes to animals – help us get there!

Please support L.D. 1192- An Act Prohibiting Property Insurance Discrimination Based on Breed of Dog 
http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/bills_126th/billtexts/HP083601.asp

This bill prohibits the refusal to issue or the cancellation or nonrenewal of a property insurance policy or an increase in the premium for the policy solely on the basis of a policyholder’s ownership of a certain breed of dog. The restrictions do not apply if a dog has been designated as a dangerous dog in accordance with state law.

Please support this bill by attending the public hearing on Thursday, April 25, 2013 1:00 PM, Cross Building, Room 220 

If you cannot attend – please submit written testimony to the committee members:
http://www.maine.gov/legis/house/jt_com/ifs.htm

Mailing Address: Committee on Insurance and Financial Services
c/o Legislative Information
100 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333

Here’s what I wrote to each committee member (copy it, if you’d like!):

Dear ____

I’m writing to ask that you support L.D. 1192 in order to prevent insurance companies from discriminating against dog owners. Insurance discrimination creates undue hardship on responsible dog owners, such as myself, and on our animal shelter system which must bear the burden of caring for dogs that are safe, loved, and wanted by their families, but cannot remain in their homes due to discriminatory insurance practices.

Research proves that dog behavior cannot accurately be predicted based on breed alone. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) exhaustive review of dog bite studies conducted in North America and elsewhere has concluded that separate regulation of “pit bull” dogs [or other breeds labeled “dangerous”] is not a basis for dog bite prevention. “Serious bites occur due to a range of factors,” conclude these authors.

Source: http://www.animalfarmfoundation.org/files/Community_approach_to_dog_bite_prevention.pdf

Please tell insurance companies that making sweeping restrictions and cancellations based only on a dog’s breed – rather than assessing an individual dog’s risk factor – is not a welcome business practice in the great state of Maine. Every dog must be evaluated for coverage based on their individual behavior and their owner’s behavior.

Please pass LD 1192 and support the fair treatment of all Maine families.

Thank you for your time,

_____

Here are the email addresses:
rodwhittemore@gmail.com,
dick@dickwoodbury.com,
RepSharon.Treat@legislature.maine.gov,
henry.beck@gmail.com,
RepTerry.Morrison@legislature.maine.gov,
RepJanice.Cooper@legislature.maine.gov,
RepJane.Pringle@legislature.maine.gov,
RepJoyce.Fitzpatrick@legislature.maine.gov,
RepMichael.McClellan@legislature.maine.gov,
RepRay.Wallace@legislature.maine.gov,
RepPeter.Doak@legislature.maine.gov,
RepPaulette.Beaudoin@legislature.maine.gov,
molly.gallant@legislature.maine.gov




Boogie and I thank you for standing up for us and families like ours!

boogie

Playing Tuba with My Dog and Other Stuff I Keep Meaning To Do

Hi! It’s been kind of quiet over here the past few weeks, huh?

I want to write, but I’ve been busy doing cool stuff: going to Austin, Texas and not so cool stuff: hanging out in airports for two days because a freak winter storm cancelled my connecting flight home and gross stuff: getting a cold.

I hate having my hermit-esque routine turned upside down, so it took me a while to get my act together. I’m back.

 

And now, here’s what I keep meaning to write about, in no particular order:

 

Fences: wood ones, metal ones, redundant ones, invisible ones, and ones with gates that fly open unexpectedly.

Leash Laws: enforcement, funding, and why there’s always a cop outside my house (hint: it has nothing to do with dogs).

Dog Nails: how much I hate to cut them, heaven-sent painkillers, and the trouble with posting photos of your dogs on the interwebz

Good Adoptions: stuff I learned from Birdie the Dog. About her adoption. Not about her new hobby: finding dead baby birds.

Relaxation Protocol: am I the only one that actually enjoys doing this? Judging by other blogs: yes, I am.

 

Plus much, much more!

I want to hang out with these two.

Also, I want to hang out with these two.

 

Now all I need to get this done is an extra day in my week and a butler to deal with the self-generating hair balls that take over my house every 36 hours. And one million dollars (just in case the Universe is taking requests today).

Stay tuned. I’m on this!