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Posts tagged ‘pit bull dogs’

One Weekend in Maine…

We had a blizzard this weekend. How about you?

Three feet of snow in 24 hours + hurricane-force winds = six foot high snow drifts.

It was awesome. The dogs can tell it better than I can, so here’s Boogie and Birdie (and one snow ninja):

Day One: We dig out. Note: for perspective, the snow ninja is almost  6 and half feet tall.

Day One: We dig out. Note: for perspective, the snow ninja is almost 6 and half feet tall.

Boogie's first bathroom run during the blizzard

Boogie’s first bathroom run during the blizzard

Because of the winds, there were huge snow drifts and bare spots where the grass was showing.

Because of the winds, there were huge snow drifts and bare spots where the grass was showing. Boogie headed towards the nearest patch of grass.

Snow Face.

Snow Face.

Slow Motion Shake Down

Slow Motion Shake Down

Day Two: The sun comes out. Birdie smells the air.

Day Two: The sun comes out. Birdie smells the air. She is sad to report that it does not smell like peanut butter or pepperoni. She heads back to the house.

Boogie channels his inner bunny rabbit to hop through the snow drifts.

Boogie channels his inner bunny rabbit to hop through the snow drifts.

Where's Boogie?




Birdie returns for a quick flight around the yard. Flap those ears Bird!

Super Bird Dog!

Did someone call for a Super Bird?

That's my girl!

That’s my girl.

Boogie digs digging

Boogie digs…digging

Boogie dives in!

Boogie gets ready to go in face first.

But what he really wants is to play catch. Here's Boogie waiting for me to throw some snow.

The only thing he loves more than digging is playing catch. Here’s Boogie waiting for me to throw some snow.

Eye on the prize.

Eye on the prize.

boogie jumping

Going for it.



And then it was time to go inside and warm up...

…and then it was time to go inside for a nap.

For me, playing with the dogs is the best part of snow days.  I hope that those of you who got stuck in the blizzard were  safe and able to have some fun too.

Wishing all of you a warm, play-filled week! 

Money Talks: Do You Support Companies That Discriminate?

I just broke up with my auto insurance carrier.

For years (long before I had dogs), I’ve been a happy Progressive customer – good rates, good customer service, no complaints. Until this year when I bought a house. Because we have a dog that is a pit bull , we planned in advance to get our home owners insurance through State Farm because they have a great reputation within the pit bull community.

When I contacted State Farm for a quote, I told them what kind of dogs we have. They didn’t care. All they wanted to know was if they had a bite history. Our dogs don’t, so we had no problems.

Boogie has a history of moping. State Farm didn't mind.

Boogie has a history of moping. State Farm didn’t mind.

Then, when it came time to renew my auto insurance, it got me thinking: I’d like to bundle my home and auto insurance. Does Progressive offer home owners insurance and, if so, would they insure my dogs, regardless of their breed?  I asked Progressive for a home insurance quote and found out that they do insure pit bulls, but only if I’m willing to pay a hefty “dangerous dog breed” fee.  Uh, no thanks.

Now, I appreciate that Progressive at least offers the possibility of home insurance for families with pit bulls (and other “dangerous dogs” like, Dobermans, Rotties, Chows, etc.), because there are many companies that flat-out do not. Many families are forced to give up their pets because they cannot find insurance that covers certain breeds or mixed breed dogs. So, in areas where there are no other options, at least Progressive offers families (the ones who are able to pay a few hundred extra bucks) an option.

But still. It’s a discriminatory fee. It punishes many dog-owning families, particularly lower-income ones who cannot afford to pay hundreds of dollars extra each year, just because of how their dog looks. No fair.

Luckily, I do have options that don’t penalize me for choosing to love a little Boogie. And so, despite the fact that State Farm’s auto insurance cost a little bit more than Progressive’s policy, I dumped Progressive and bundled up over at State Farm. I could have kept Progressive as my auto insurance and State Farm as my home owners insurance.  I could have kept seeing both companies, juggling my affairs with two different agents, but I’m just not that kind of gal. I want a committed relationship where my agent accepts me for who I really am: a dog lover. An all-dogs lover.

State Farm at an Indy Pit Crew Event

State Farm at an Indy Pit Crew Event:

I’d rather give ALL my money to a company that chooses not to discriminate. Money talks.

Of course, Progressive wanted to know why I left, so here’s what I wrote them:

“I left Progressive for only one reason: while shopping for home owners insurance, I discovered that your company considers my dog to be a “dangerous breed” and would charge me an additional fee in order to cover him. My dog is not dangerous and doesn’t have a bite history. Therefore, I took all of my business to State Farm, which does not discriminate against dogs based on how they look or their breed. Instead, they are only concerned with actual behavior and treat every dog as an individual. I was very happy with Progressive and would have loved to continue giving you my business – both auto and home – but I cannot patronize businesses with discriminatory practices, fees, or penalties. If you ever change policies and evaluate dogs based on their behavior, not their looks, I’d be happy to return.”

I haven’t heard back, but I’m not waiting by the phone at night. Breakups, right?

What about you? Does your insurance company discriminate? There are so many dogs affected by insurance discrimination: Chows, GSDs, Rotties, Dobermans, Akitas, Mastiffs, Great Danes, Boxers, Huskies, and many more. Are you giving your hard-earned bucks to an insurance company that discriminates against dogs based on what they look like? As a dog lover, how do you feel about supporting a company that would deny a certified therapy dog coverage because they’re a Rottweiler or an Akita? Or one that makes assumptions about my dog’s behavior just because of how he looks?

As dog lovers, we have to stick together. It’s the only way we can influence profit-driven businesses to stop discriminating against dogs based solely on how they look. To be honest, we also have to stick together to fight Breed Discriminatory Legislation in our local governments (how can we expect businesses not to discriminate, when certain governments are doing so?), but letting your wallets talk in the private sector is a step we can all take too. There really is no excuse for businesses not to treat all dogs fairly. State Farm is doing well financially, so insuring all these families with “dangerous dogs” isn’t ruining them. Why can’t other companies follow in their fair, profitable footsteps?

Please know that insurance is no small thing for many dog lovers. Housing is a major issue for lots of families. There are people who can’t find home owner’s insurance and have to give up their beloved family dogs. There are landlords that want to rent to all dogs, but their insurance companies don’t allow them to be fair. There are SO MANY renters that can’t find housing because of this issue and many wind up giving up their dogs.Those dogs don’t always survive being surrendered to a shelter. And, even if they did, is that really the best use of our animal shelters? As a refugee camp for dogs who are loved, wanted, and well cared for, but weren’t insurable just because of how they look?  Uh, a million times no.

So, I’m asking you, my fellow dog lovers: if your auto policy or any other insurance policy is up for renewal soon, would you consider taking your business to an insurance company that does not discriminate? Will you put your money where your heart is and stand with me and Boogie? I know it’s a pain in the tush to switch. It took me way longer than I care to admit to stop being lazy and do the right thing for my own family. But maybe, like me, you’ll one day feel compelled to deal with the temporary inconvenience of switching so that you can align your spending with your ethics.

And if you’re looking, you do have options. Here are some companies (it may vary from state to state) that are helping families stay together: State Farm, Farmers (see update below), USAA, and Travelers are a few.  There’s even this company with a pit bull on their website and a list from Bad Rap with options nationwide.

Why not get a quote from one of these and then reward them for treating all dogs and families fairly by giving them your business?

You’d be Boogie’s hero.


Update 2/12/13: Farmers has changed their policy regarding pit bulls, Rottweilers, and wolf-hybrid dogs. More on that here.  As of this date, the change is only in CA, however all families with Farmers insurance would be smart to look for an alternative to Farmers home owners insurance now. Additionally  I reached out to State Farm and today they confirmed that they are not following Farmers lead and will continue not to discriminate against dogs based on breed. 

It’s Not How They’re Raised, It’s How Dogs are Managed That Matters Most

How many times have you heard someone say about a dog, “It’s all how they’re raised”?  Probably a lot. If you own a pit bull dog, probably a lot more.

I hear pit bull advocates saying it all the time, as a way to defend our dogs. I hear other saying it as a flippant remark about dogs in general.  This phrase gets tossed around all the time, but no one seems to be aware of what they’re really saying….and how damaging it can be.

This saying does have a kernel of truth  in it, of course, but “how they’re raised” is just one of the factors that contributes to who our dogs are. It’s not the whole story. 

When people believe that “It’s All How They’re Raised”, there are some real-life consequences for the dogs. So we need to check ourselves. 

Here are a few ways our words hurt:

People refuse to adopt adult dogs. This idea, that how they’re raised determines who a dog is, makes adopting out adult and senior dogs a real challenge. Why would adopters take a chance on an adult dog, who has been raised by someone else, when they could adopt a puppy and raise it “right” themselves? Some folks really believe this. Seriously, shelter workers are constantly confronted by this way of thinking. It stinks.

Shelters won’t place victims of cruelty up for adoption. If a dog has survived an abusive or neglectful situation, such as dog fighting, animal hoarding, puppy mills, etc., then it is known they were “raised wrong”. Some organizations use this as proof that the dogs aren’t safe or fit to be adopted out.The same thing goes for dogs that are suspected of surviving these situations. If the assumption is made that a dog with cropped ears has been fought, that assumption of their past may wind up costing the dog his life if policies dictate that fight bust dogs are not adoptable because they were obviously “raised wrong.”

Responsible dog owners feel like failures. People who have raised their dogs since puppyhood beat themselves up when they’ve done everything right, but despite their very best efforts, their dogs still have behavioral issues. I hear from a lot of you through DINOS because you feel ashamed and guilty about your dog’s issues, despite having raised your dogs right. Let me just say it now: it’s not all how a dog is raised that matters. You guys have to stop beating yourselves up (even if you’re a dog trainer).

Here’s the reality – dogs are who they are due to many factors: training, breeding, socialization, management, genetics, and environment. All of these things influence who our dogs are.

A dog’s past is a chapter, but it’s never the whole story. Let me show you:

“Raised Wrong”

Some dogs, neglected and abused their entire lives, are well-adjusted, social dogs. Anyone who has worked in rescue has met countless dogs who were not raised in the best circumstances, but despite this lack of early socialization or care (or worse) they turn out to be safe, family dogs. Many of us share our homes with dogs that were raised in less than ideal conditions, but are still wonderful pets.

One example of this scenario are the dogs rescued from fight busts or hoarding situations. Despite terrible beginnings, many of these victims of cruelty are ready to leave the past behind and enjoy family life. They may need training and structure to get used to living with a family in a house (what dog doesn’t?), but some of them are able to adjust to family life with relative ease. Their past didn’t help them do this, you dig?

Meet Jagger, the handsomest dog on earth! Visit his Facebook page to meet this sweet boy.

Meet Jagger, the handsomest dog on earth! Visit his Facebook page to meet this sweet boy.

“Raised Right”

Some dogs, purchased from responsible breeders and socialized properly from puppyhood, still wind up with behavioral problems. Many responsible dog owners, who have raised their dogs since they were puppies and did everything right, still find themselves with dogs who have a variety of behavioral issues. These dogs were “raised right”, but are still struggling, sometimes due to genetics.

One example of this is illustrated in an article written by a dog trainer who shared her problems with her own dog. Despite her very best professional efforts to train and socialize him, aka raise him right, he has significant behavior issues which may be caused by a medical condition. It’s not how he was raised that’s causing the problem. Read it here.

Puppies. It's not just how you raise them.

Puppies. It’s not just how you raise them.

In both of these cases, the common denominator that is actually determining the success of these dogs as family pets and their safety in the community isn’t how the dogs were raised: it’s responsible management.

Whether they were raised “right” or raised “wrong” in the past, no matter what behavioral problems a dog does or doesn’t have, when owners recognize their dog’s individual needs and provide them the right care and management tools, dogs have a chance to succeed in our crazy world.

More Present, Less Past

So, it’s not “how they’re raised” (what happened in the past) but rather, “how they’re managed” (what’s happening in the present) that needs to be our focus, if our goal is to help our dogs and  also create safe communities for us all to enjoy.

We can look to their past for clues and guidance, of course. I don’t mean ignore it all together. But we do more for our dogs when we look at them right now, without the haze of a bad (or good) past fogging up our thoughts.  Who are they right now? What do they need to succeed today?

Whoever they are, dogs always exists and act in the context of human beings. They don’t live in a vacuum. They live with us. We need to recognize dogs as individuals, then determine what they need from us in order to succeed in the world.

What this means is that when dogs are properly managed by a human, a dog with or without behavior problems has the opportunity to be a safe, family dog. Dogs may need a variety of management tools, depending on what behavioral issues (if any) they have.  Beyond training, various management tools might include: space management (crates, gates, etc.), muzzles, leashes, fences, proper supervision, etc. I’d also include medication in this category, if it’s necessary. When these tools are used, owners are setting dogs up to be successful.

This also means that any dog that is not managed properly can be a nuisance to the community or a danger to others. We see this often in the case of dogs that are running loose in neighborhoods. The dogs may be friendly (or not), but by allowing them to roam the streets or chase other dogs, their owners are setting these dogs up to get into trouble. They are not managing them. They are setting them up to fail.

side note:  This is why I’m such a stickler for obeying leash laws. It’s a management tool.  I just wish the laws were enforced.

leash sign


I think that dogs are only as successful and safe as humans set them up to be – no matter what their past may be. When a dog gets in trouble or acts dangerously, somewhere along the line, a person has failed to make the right choice. But that’s not the same as “how they were raised”.

How they’re raised may be one factor that influences dogs, but it doesn’t determine the whole being of a dog. Perpetuating this idea only winds up hurting dogs with less than perfect pasts and shaming people who own dogs they’ve had since puppyhood.

The truth is that it’s how we currently manage dogs that determines how any dog interacts with the world. When we focus on managing them in the present, based on their individual needs, we can set dogs up for success despite what may have happened to them in the past.

So can we trash “its all how they’re raised” once and for all? It’s such a drag for dogs and their owners.

Let’s replace it with the truth:

It’s all how they’re managed. Dogs are only as successful as we set them up to be.

PDF version here: It’s Not How They’re Raised

Yellow, But Not Mellow

Author’s Note: I am not responsible for the Yellow Ribbon campaign and it’s not officially associated with DINOS™ or Notes From a Dog Walker.  If you’d like to learn more, here’s the source of the project and the newer Yellow Dog project. Those hard-working folks deserve all the credit – not moi!

While I was away on vacation the other week, I got about ten thousand (give or take a few) emails and Facebook posts about this image:


To say that folks are excited about the color coded system is an understatment – social media is bubbling over with dog  owners who have raided craft stores for yards of yellow ribbon. I’m expecting to start seeing dogs wrapped completely in yellow, waddling down the street like little sunshine colored mummies!

For those of you who missed it, I weighed in on this topic the other month when I wrote about color systems in Color Me DINOS and here’s the short version of what I said:

I think color coded systems are a MUST HAVE for any closed group: dog walking clubs, sporting events, camps, etc. Any place where everyone is on the same page and fully understands what the colors signify. Many groups, like Chicago SocialBulls use a fun combo of bandanas and various flair, to help dog walkers communicate with each other. It’s very effective in a closed group. I totally recommend it.

When it comes to using the color system in public, I say go for it, but with some concerns (see below).

I have no doubt it will help some people  communicate with some strangers while they’re walking down the street. I’m thinking in particular of dogs with medical conditions, like my pal Taz who has epilepsy and needs space from other dogs to avoid having cluster seizures. A color system that can help Taz get the space he needs? Super awesome.

I’d really love to see this work, so I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer, but I do have a few concerns about the color system. Humor me:

1. This won’t do much, if anything, to help us communicate with dog owners that just don’t care. That includes people who ignore leash laws or let their dogs wander loose, people who let their dogs charge into our yards, people who think that our dogs will learn to like other dogs if they just meet their friendly dogs, people who ignore the “Do Not Pet” patches on Service Dog vests, the people who don’t listen to us say “No” now..and others. That’s a pretty big group.

2. This only works if people can see the yellow flag (and know what it means). So if they’re walking up from behind and can’t see the leash, it’s not going to help. Oh and some folks just won’t get it. My friend, who does not have a DINOS, saw this poster and commented that it looks like a poop bag is tied to the leash.

3. So, that means that the color system should be viewed as just one tool in a larger toolbox. If you’ve got a yellow tie on your dog’s leash, don’t assume the people around you can see it, know what it means, and/or care. So we still need to be proactive and on our toes. We can’t rely on a yellow flag to do the work for us. It might work sometimes, it might not. Ultimately, we are responsible for our dogs.

4. Which brings me to liability issues. I’m not sure if it’s the pit bull owner in me  – the one that is extremely wary of publicly declaring my dog might be “dangerous” in some way – but the language in these Yellow Dog posters worries me. If I were behind the Yellow Dog campaigns (some people think it is me, but I can’t take any credit – this isn’t officially associated with DINOS in any way), I’d run my language and messaging by a lawyer. Before I put a yellow ribbon on my dog, I’d want to be 100% sure I’m not making myself liable or seen as negligent if my dog gets into an altercation. (side note: can we please take the pit bull off of this poster? They have a hard enough time as it is. They don’t need to be the face of this campaign).

5. Finally, just because a dog doesn’t have a yellow ribbon on, doesn’t mean he deserves to have strange dogs up in his grill. Which means all of us still have to be polite, respectful, and responsible. Focus on the people. They’re the problem, not the dogs. People need to be responsible for their dogs. People need to learn that they should always ASK before they approach or allow their dogs to approach another dog. The only way to really ensure that everyone gets to safely enjoy public spaces is for people to take responsibility for our dogs and ourselves. You know the drill:

  • Control your dogs, on leash and off leash, at all times.
  • Always ask permission before you or your dogs approach an unfamiliar dog.
  • Wait for an answer.
  • If the answer is no, allow others the space to pass.

No matter what’s hanging off a dog’s leash, if we all controlled our dogs and took a second to politely ask if we can approach, rather than assuming it’s ok, we’d all be doing each other a world of good.

I hope the yellow ribbon campaign is a big help to those of you that decide to try it out. Please let me know what your experiences are, if you do, ok?

In the meantime, I’m going to keep working with my friends at Design Lab (the folks who brought you the DINOS logo) on a complimentary project: we’re creating a poster that reminds people to always ASK, before approaching an unfamiliar dog. Hopefully, between the color coding and a campaign that encourages responsibility and respect for others, all of us with DINOS will get a little relief!

For more info on the yellow dog campaign, see the original source here!

Happy Boogie Day!

Today is Boogie’s Gotcha Day aka the day we adopted him. Well, sort of.

Today is actually the day when I went in to work on my day off,  back when I worked at the shelter, and said, “It’s my birthday, so my husband told me I could bring home any dog I wanted. And I pick Stoli.”  And then I loaded this worried little pit bull into my car and took him home to “foster” for a while. That was four years ago.

Here he is on his first day at home with what I would soon discover is the thing that makes him feel most safe in the world: a ball.

Ball = I’m OK

Back then, Boogie was really afraid of everything: cell phones, cameras, coffee cups, people dancing, the cats, strangers, other dogs…you get the drill. Despite all that, he was (still is) the sweetest, most handsome little man in the world.

And even though he turned out to be a DINOS , Boogie is such an easy dog in all the ways that matter most to us. He didn’t need to be potty trained. He’s gentle with our older dog Birdie. He’s not destructive and doesn’t mind being left home alone. He sweet on our three cats. He’s a couch potato, so he doesn’t need a lot of exercise (even as a youngster). And he’s happy to hang out on his bed, chewing a bone and entertaining himself all evening. All he asks is that we play ball with him for a little while every day.

I know a good deal when I see one, so we stopped “fostering” him and adopted Boogie that fall. Our little gang has been complete ever since.

Boogie is a really happy dog at home. The world he lives in is on the small side, but he’s got Birdie, three cats, and the two of us to love on him every day. Plus two pet sitters that think he’s the bees knees, a gang of friends from all over the East Coast and a Grandma who looks forward to coming to stay with him. Plus lots of naps:

Here’s the thing. One of the reasons we’re all so happy is because Boogie’s world is purposely small.

To be honest, I don’t do a lot of training with Boogie anymore, though there is stuff we’re working on. I’m kind of a slacker and I don’t really enjoy training dogs (I’ll do it, I’d just rather be doing something else). For example, we’re not constantly working on his leash reactivity, like we used to when we lived in a city together. The first couple of years, we got all of our exercise by walking on leash, so leash skills were a priority. But this summer we bought Boogie a two acre yard, so he can chase balls until the sun sets.

We live in the middle of nowhere now. Walks are for pleasure and we can choose when and where we want to go. They’re no longer a part of our daily exercise (that’s where a flirt pole comes in). So I’ve slacked on his leash skills. Yep, that means I’m a dog walker that doesn’t walk my dog every day.

I have no doubt that if I put in more effort, he would be less leash reactive, but on a day-to-day basis, everything is working for our family. I think that’s important for all us: find out what works for you and your dog, so that everyone is enjoying life and each other’s company. Then don’t feel bad about it if it’s not exactly the same as what the next person is doing. Is your dog safe and happy? Is everyone around your dog safe and happy? Then you’re doing something right. Plus, happy people tend to keep their dogs.

Do what you need to do to set your dog up to succeed at his own pace and try not to make yourself miserable either. That might look different depending on your individual dog or the environment you live in. For Boogie, that means he hangs out at home some days, while we take Birdie on more public adventures.  For other dogs, it might mean lots of training classes and regular walks with a social club. Figure out what works for you and your dog.

I don’t have anything to brag about – no titles or certifications. Except that we’re all really happy together and Boogie isn’t stressed out. It’s a simple life for our little man and it works for all of us. And that feels like a success to me.

But just in case you think we lock Boogie in a closet all day: even though we keep things simple at home, it doesn’t mean we don’t have fun together or try new things! We just got back from our summer vacation in the woods.

Last summer we taught Boogie how to swim. He was very scared of the water, but he went in because we were there to cheer him on and…his ball was in the water.  No ball will ever be left behind on Boogie’s watch!

This year, he got really brave and learned to jump off a dock. He was so scared and made such crazy crying noises as he watched his ball float away (it sounded like he had a rubber chicken stuck in his throat), that I thought the entire town was going to call animal control to help him.

Finally, he put his front paws on the top rung of the dock’s ladder and plopped into the lake like a little hippo bull. Next thing we knew, he was running and JUMPING off the dock, faster than we could even throw the ball.

Not every day is a dock diving day for us, but we make small steps, at our own pace, each week in the right direction. These days coffee cups, cameras, and overnight guests don’t scare Boogie. He’s almost five years old now and he’s a good boy. He makes me so happy.

Happy Gotcha Day Boogie. You’ll always be my very best birthday present.

Stuff Your Dogs Should Wear If…

I like to put stuff on dogs. I try to find real, legit reasons to put stuff on them, but sometimes, I just like to wrap dogs in towels and put their paws in my husband’s Doc Martins. So sue me. One of my favorite stuff-on-a-dog site is Trotterpup. Please enjoy it here.

All silliness aside, there are some really helpful things to put on your dogs.

So, in no particular order, here’s a list of  Stuff Your Dog Should Wear If…

They have a lot of energy: Backpack

If your dog is high energy and healthy enough to carry some weight, consider a backpack. Wearing a properly fitted backpack, loaded with a couple of soup cans (and by soup, I might mean beer), will help your uber energetic dog work twice as hard on the same stretch of terrain. That means you don’t have to work any harder, but your dog does. Nifty, eh? If you have one of those never, ever tired pups, the added weight will help them burn more steam and tire them out faster during your regular walks. Make sure to start off slow – introduce the backpack first, then add the weight gradually and top out at 25-30% of their body weight. Backpacks are also helpful: if your dog is calmer when they’re wearing their “working” gear, for turning your dog into a sherpa on hikes, and for carrying around litters of hitchhiking kittens.

They need a confidence boost: Thundershirt


If your dog is afraid of thunderstorms then a Thundershirt makes a lot of sense, no? But these slim-cut tops are also good for helping dogs feel more secure, which makes them helpful for some reactive, anxious, and fearful dogs. So don’t keep the shirt on hold for storms and fireworks, go on and bust it out for daily dog walks too. Thundershirts are also helpful: if your dog needs some help during vet visits, for dogs that need barf bags during car trips, and for creating a svelte silhouette for dogs who are self-conscious about their pooch.

They need skin protection: T-shirt

If your dog sunburns easily, try covering them with a t-shirt (in addition to dog sunscreen) to give them some extra skin protection. Or if your dog has environmental allergies, consider putting them in a t-shirt for their trips outside. When you go back inside, take off their t-shirt and you’re taking off the pollen or whatever else they’re allergic to with the shirt (wipe them down with a damp cloth too). If your dog is really itchy or has a skin infection, try putting them in a t-shirt to protect their skin from their teeth or nails. Healing skin needs air too, so be sure to take it off and let them be nudists on the regular. T-shirts are also helpful for: telling people to back off, covering up big nips on mama dogs, and hiding a bad hair day.

They are your co-pilot: Doggles

If your dog likes to hang their head out of your car window, Doggles will protect their eyes from flying debris. That pretty much sums it up. Doggles are also helpful for: dogs that ride in side cars, dogs that are blind and walk into things (it protect their eyeballs), and for any dog that likes attracting a lot of attention at stop lights.

They are scratching themselves raw: Baby Socks

If your dog has bad allergies and they’re scratching themselves to pieces, try covering their paws with baby socks. Allergies can take a really long time to sort out (both the cause and the solution) and dogs who are itchy will sometimes scratch their skin into ribbons, causing secondary skin infections. Try covering their paws with baby socks (size 0-3 months with sticky tread on the bottom usually works), then secure the socks to their ankles with no-stick vet tape. They’ll still scratch, but their covered nails won’t cause so much damage. Baby Socks are also helpful for: dogs that chew their paws, broken toe nails that are healing, and for dogs that can’t stop reenacting that scene from Risky Business.

They just had surgery: Pro Collars

pro collar

If you have a dog that is recovering from surgery, the vet may send you home with the plastic e-cone of shame, but most dogs can’t stand them. It messes with their peripheral vision, scrapes against things, and freaks them out in general. Plus, it’s cheap plastic that probably smells and feels yucky. If your dog will need to wear a cone for a bit, like after ACL surgery, buy a Pro Collar. It looks like a hemorrhoid cushion or a neck rest for travelling (are those the same things?) but it works. The best part is that your dogs can still see in every direction, they can pick up toys and food, and it’s comfy for them to rest their heads on while they sleep. For dogs that are afraid of a regular cone, this is much less scary. Pro Collars are also helpful for: dogs that have rashes they shouldn’t be licking, little dogs that squeeze through fences, and dogs with hemorrhoids who need a soft cushion to sit on.

They need to get adopted:  Tutu

Peaches the Pit Bull Photo Credit: Keith Kendrick

If  you have a foster dog or a shelter dog that isn’t getting a lot of interest from adopters, put a tutu on them and take them out on the town. Ridiculous though it may be, that dog is about to get more attention in one walk than it has in a month of “adopt me” vest outings. Be sure to bring business cards with your dog’s photo and info to hand out to anyone who stops to swoon over your pup. Yes, this is for boy dogs too (who cares about gender? this is about getting attention!). Tutus are also helpful for: dogs in parades, dogs doing humane education work with kids, and dogs that dream of starring in the Black Swan remake.


And that’s not all! There are muzzles, wigs, boots, sweaters, and plenty of other stuff dogs can wear.  I already feel a Stuff Dogs Should Wear If (Part 2) coming on…

What stuff does your dog wear? I want to see photos of them wearing their favorite stuff, so post photos over on the DINOS Facebook page for me to squeal at. Please?!


The Flirt Pole: Dog Toy or Life Changer?

I’m headed out for a week of pet sitting in a neighborhood that’s overflowing with loose, sometimes aggressive dogs. I’m not worried. Here’s what I’m packing:

Why the flirt poles? Because in addition to driving out of the neighborhood to walk in a safer area, I also want a fun way to exercise the dogs I’m caring for…without having to leave their fenced in yard. Sometimes walks just aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. I know you feel me on this.

Guys, I want you to meet your new BFF. Introducing the The Flirt Pole:



flirt pole


The flirt pole is what you’ve all been waiting for. It’s a an easy DIY toy (that you can also buy for under $30 bucks, if you hate making stuff). It not only helps your dog work on their basic manners and impulse control, but it also gives them a rockin’ workout in just a few minutes.

And you hardly have to do a thing.

This is a great way to physically and mentally challenge your dogs, without leaving home.

Wanna know more about this magic pole?

Let’s do this in lists…ready?

How a Flirt Pole Works:

You drag the toy on the ground in a circle, they chase and tug, with rules.

Think Giant Cat Toy.

Why you want to use a Flirt Pole:

1. It totally and completely exhausts dogs in record time. But it doesn’t exhaust you.

2. You can use it as a fun way to practice the following commands: sit, down, look, wait, take it, leave it, drop it.

3. You’ll be working your dog’s rile/recovery skills. That means they’ll get to practice listening to you when they’re in a state of high arousal (chasing and tugging) and learn to cool off quick (drop it and lie down) when you say so. Handy for reactive dogs who are working on impulse control.

4. You can tire out your dog at home, before going on a walk, so they’re more relaxed.

5. You can tire out your dog at home, instead of going on a walk, so you’re more relaxed.

6. You can make a small flirt pole (half the regular size) and use it inside the house, if you don’t have a yard.

7. You can trick your cats into thinking they’ve shrunk, by telling them it’s their regular chase-it toy.

How to make a Flirt Pole:

1. For a medium to large size dog, buy a 4-6 foot long 3/4″ PVC pipe, 10-15 feet of rope, and a dog toy.

2. Thread the rope through the pipe and tie a knot at either end of the pipe, to keep rope from sliding in and out.

3. Tie a toy to the end of the rope.

4. Optional: buy fun colored electrical tape (finally an excuse to buy lime green tape!) and wrap the pvc pipe so it’s all fancy schmancy pants.


flirt pole meme


Where to Buy a Flirt Pole, if DIY isn’t your thing:

1. Outward Hound makes a lightweight one (a good option for smaller dogs or smaller yards):

2. Squishy Face Studio makes an awesome flirt pole:


Flirt Pole Rules You Will Use:

1. Dog must lie down, look at you, leave the toy alone, and wait for you to release them, before playing.

2. When you tell them to “take it”, then they get to chase.

3. After a few passbys, reward them by allowing them to catch the toy.

4. Let them tug until you tell them to “drop it”.

5. Have them lie back down and wait until they are calm. Then start again.

6. Change direction every once in a while, so your dog isn’t always running one way.

7. If the dog grabs the toy before you say “take it” or is mouthy or jumping on you: take a time out and/or start over.


When to skip the Flirt Pole:

1. If your dog has bad joints or injuries that could be aggravated by quick changes of direction and jumping.

2. If your dog doesn’t know the following cues: wait, take it, leave it, drop it. Practice with treats first, then a tug toy, then move on to the flirt pole.

3. If you do not know the dog well. It’s not safe to rev up an unfamilar dog. While this is one of my all time fave tools for shelter dogs (it tires them out so fast!), they must know basic commands and you need to have a relationship with the dog, before getting them super psyched. Establish a working bond first – make sure you’re communicating with each other – then start off slow.

4. If this overstimulates your dog to the point that they can’t calm down after. You know your dogs. If this isn’t a good fit for them, just pass.

5. If your dog thinks it’s dumb. Some dogs just don’t dig it.

Everything I know about flirt poles, I learned from Pit Ed Camp hosted by the badasses at BAD RAP. If you learned something here, it’s because of them, so feel free to click on over there and donate some scrills to support their work.

In fact, here’s Tim from BAD RAP showing you exactly how to boogie down with the flirt pole:

Training Video: Flirt Pole Basics from on Vimeo.


Are you using a flirt pole at home? Tell me about it!


Boom Chicka Boom Boom

I’ve had the pleasure of spending the last couple of days getting to know the squishest gal at Animal Farm Foundation. We went for a walk together this morning and though she’s still working on her dog-dog skills (she’s a DINOS while she’s in training, but is fast improving), she was a pleasure to go exploring with on a sunny Spring day. And did I mention this monkey is up for adoption?

Meet Chicka Boom!


How can you not fall in love with that face?



She’s ready to spend summer with a family. Scoop this sweet mama up, will you?


Just get in touch with the folks at Animal Farm Foundation (they’re in the Hudson Valley region of NY State) and go meet her:

p.s. Anyone going to the New England Federation of Humane Societies conference this weekend? I am! You can catch me on Sunday at the Animal Farm Foundation table and on Monday, where I’ll be listening in on the AFF and Bad Rap seminars. Stop by and give me a Team DINOS Solidarity fist bump, ok?


Photo Caption Contest Winners!

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

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

Here’s the photo:

And the winners are…


Lisa Anderson

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

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




Amy Houselog Turner

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

“DINOS: Dogs In Need Of Silliness!”


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


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

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

Big Red Ball: A Love Story

Throughout the years, there has only been one toy Boogie hasn’t eventually destroyed. Today we’re sad to report that this toy, the Almost Indestructible Ball, is no longer available at most stores.  We’re tipping our forties in its honor.

Luckily,  he doesn’t need a new one just yet, since they last Boogie a few years, but one day it’ll be so beat up that he’ll need a replacement. Sigh. Then we’ll have to go in search of a new lover ball.

There’s the front runner: the Jolly Ball (just make sure you get the one without the handle: Boogie ate that right off). And a couple of others to try, like the Boomer Ball (good enough for hippos at the zoo!) and a new Indestructible Ball. But it won’t be the same to Boogie.

He’s feeling kind of blue about this, so he wrote a poem.


Ode to My Big Red Ball

By Boogie “The Nudge” Dolce


Today it snowed.

Mom will release you

from your Home Depot Bucket.

The one with the lid

I cannot get off.


They hide you from me because

I forget to poop when you are near me.

No matter how long I am outside

I don’t go.

I would never leave your side

To make a stinky number two.


There you are

Big Red Ball!



My chest bumps you along the ground.


I slam you into the deck.


I crack you against the trees.



My paws try to pull you closer,

then they spaz

out of control,

Pushing you away.

I didn’t mean it –

Come back!


Mom calls me inside,

I cannot hear her

over my love for thee.

You make me squeal

like a crazy chicken-piglet.



I want to lie down and

chew you into pieces so bad.

But you taught me the meaning of

Tough love.

My Almost Indestructible Ball.