Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween has gone to the dogs!

Kaya adopted at age 8, casts her spell!

In honor of my favorite holiday, I thought I would share with you some of my favorite pictures of what else? Cute dogs who are totally annoyed to be in costume!

I am not a big fan of dressing up dogs on a day to day basis. I think it blurs the lines between human and K9 just a bit too much, but on Halloween, all bets are off!

You have my permission on this one night a year to embarrass your dog in front of the neighborhood. (Just keep the costumes safe please!)

Enjoy...and Happy Halloween!

The Dog Diva

Bandit, adopted from the SPCA at age 7.

Bandit is such a good sport!

Buddy, an SPCA therapy dog, is ready for a night on the town!

Jackson, an SPCA Pet Visitation dog, poses for Mickey!

Kepa, adopted from Orange County Animal Services.

Yes, that is our good sport Bandit dressed in Disney Princess attire!

Wanda the pumpkin. Adopted by her heart worm foster mom!

Have a happy and safe Halloween and remember to keep the candy for yourselves! No chocolate for Fido!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sit! Stay! Good dog!

Now that we've learned a little something about why obedience training is so important, and what tools we will need to accomplish it, we need to begin with the actual training!

Before starting your session, make sure that the dog has had some play time and does not need to use the rest room! Next, get your face and voice in check. After thousands of years of domestication, dogs have become experts on human emotions so make sure you face and voice fit the situation. The three main voices are as follows: Command Voice, Correction Voice and Praise Voice. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard people using a high soft pitch tone when ASKING a dog to sit for them. Guess what? It didn't work so well! We call these behaviors commands for a reason and we are TELLING the dog what to do not asking them. This voice should be firm and some what low. (Sometimes I call it the "mom" or "wife" know the one, the one that makes you feel compelled to complete whatever action is being 'requested' of you!) During this time your face should remain flat.

For your correction voice it is important to remember that there is no need to yell. Dogs can hear really well. They may not act like they hear you but they do, it's called selective hearing. ;)
I make a 'buzzer' type noise and say "EH EH!" I find that this generally stops them in their tracks pretty well. They know they've done something they were not supposed to. Your face should look stern and serious.

The praise voice is the one we all know and love. It's the high pitched baby talk that just seems to spring involuntarily from our lips when we see a K9 cutie. The more excited you can get, the more reinforcing the praise will be. Make sure you face is light and happy. (On a side note, dogs know when you're fooling them, so keep it genuine!)

Commands can be divided into 5 categories; direction, correction, modification, release and praise. Direction commands tell the dog what to do, correction commands tell the dog to discontinue specific behaviors, modifications are qualitative and instruct a dog HOW to preform a task, release words allow a dog to discontinue a behavior after successfully completing it and praise is always given when a command is followed.

OK, let's start with the basics: Sit, Down and stay. After your dog learns these you can move on to more challenging behaviors and 'fun' tricks.

SIT: The dog sits on his or her bottom with head held erect and front legs and paws straight.

To lure your dog into this position, allow them to sniff a yummy treat that you are holding in your hand. Slowly move the treat back and over their heads. The dog should follow the treat back, ending up in a sit. This works! There is NO need to physically manipulate the dog into any position! If the dog backs up when you try this, simply find a wall or corner to work with so that the dog wont have anywhere to go. Sometimes dog will try to jump up for the treat, if this happens you are most likely holding the treat too high. Ty holding it closer to the dogs head. Sit is the simplest of tasks and can be learned in as little as five to ten minutes!

Sit is the 'gateway' command that leads to all others. After your dog has mastered sit, they can now learn stay and down.

Let's start with stay. To teach your dog stay, first place them in the sit position. This command will present a new challenge for your dog, as up until now he or she has been immediately rewarded after preforming the sit behavior. Reduce distractions during the initial training to help your dog focus, gradually adding them back in as your dog improves.

Use the word stay as long as the hand signal. (A flat hand held outward in front of the body.) Wait only a few seconds before rewarding your dog. This will be a slow process! Take your time and do it right. Little by little you can start to increase time and distance. If your dog breaks their stay, say NO or EH EH and start over. You may use a release command of "Alright" to tell your dog when the stay is over, and allow them to come receive their reward.

Down: All four feet/legs are on the ground along with the stomach, while the head is held erect.

Again, as with sit, there will be no need to physically move your dog into this position. We will be using the lure method once more.

Have your dog sit for you, then let them smell a yummy treat that is held in your hand. Take the treat and move it slowly down from the dogs nose to their front paws and then out, away from their bodies. (Like a giant L). The dog should follow the treat all the way down to the floor. When the do, reward them with the treat from your hand.

Sometimes a dog will lift their rear ends off the ground in order to get to the treat. If this happens slow down even further and get them super focused on the treat in your hand. You may also try to lure them under a bridge that you make with your leg, by squatting and extending one leg out.

Another funny thing these furry comedians do is to stretch our there necks as far as possible in a vain attempt to reach the treat, while refusing to leave their sit position. It's as if they just can't figure out how to reach that yummy treat! When this happens I simply break the treat up into the tiniest pieces possible and reward the dog for each step. Example: The dog stretches his neck toward the treat. OK, he's trying, so I'll give him a little something. However, next time, he will have to give me a little more to receive a reward. Let's say he moves one paw out on his next try. Great! He can have another little piece of treat. This continues until he gets all the way into a down position. By rewarding him little by little on the way, you encourage your dog to keep trying not give up!

After down is mastered you can begin work on down-stay. This is much more difficult for a dog than sit-stay. A down-stay is a very submissive and vulnerable position for a dog, so be patient and go slow. This is taught in the same way as sit stay was.

Come back next time for Heel/Wait with automatic sit and then it's on to the 'fun stuff'!

Monday, October 26, 2009

"He's a Wonderful Dog...but..."

Many dog parents are unsure of how to teach their dogs some manners. Unfortunately these folks sometimes resort to yelling, hitting, banishing or even giving up their dog. What these people desperately need is a lesson in obedience training. But where to turn? Now days it seems as if there is a doggy training business in every neighborhood. Plus there are your big chains and national corporations. How does one pick a system that will work for them and for their dog? Obedience training would be a breeze if we spoke K9 or dogs spoke human, but alas, it is not so. Dogs have their own attitudes, mindsets and body language; and they can be stubborn, dominant, submissive or fearful all of which can make them more of a challenge to train.

I recommend searching for an obedience instructor based on experience. In my career I have come across way to many individuals with little to no experience advertising themselves as dog trainers. (One woman actually put 24 years of dog ownership on her flyer as her one and only form of expertise.) Research their backgrounds. Do they have formal education and training? How much hands on experience do they have? How long have they been in the business? And do they have referrals?

Organized and structured classes are great, especially for young dogs, or dogs with out any specific problems or issues. This also allows you dog opportunities to socialize in a controlled environment. For dogs with more 'ingrained" problem behaviors or challenges, an in home instructor may be the way to go. Remember, no matter which course you choose the instructor/trainer should be teaching YOU to train your dog, not training the dogs themselves.

This is the only way the regimen will work and the outcome will remain a success.
To begin the training process, you will first need the correct tools: a simple nylon collar (fitted properly), a 4-6 foot nylon leash, training treats, a training pouch, patience, consistency and a sense of humor! Consistency is the number one rule in dog training, but close behind that is the idea that training should be fun! Include praise, treats, petting and play in every session. You and your dog should both look forward to your training time together.
Also, encourage all family members to participate to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that the dog is not receiving mixed signals. Don't forget to include the kids!
Most reputable trainers utilize a process called Positive Reinforcement. This means adding a valued stimulus to your dogs environment to help encourage a desired behavior to occur more frequently in the future. In other words, if your dog gets a treat (valued stimulus) every time they sit (desired behavior) they are more likely to sit again, in the hopes of receiving more treats! It's simple really; reward what you WANT your dog to do and ignore the rest!
It is important to remember that we NEVER yell or strike dogs during the training process. It is cruel and simply unnecessary. The goal is to have your dog love and respect you, not fear you; fear based training is antiquated and ineffective.
So, what SHOULD your dog know? Well, every dog seems to be expected to know how to: not jump, sit, lie down, stay, heel and come when called. This may shock you, but dogs are not born knowing how to do these things! We must show them.
How you ask? Stay tuned for my next installment for the answer to that and much more!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Mmmm....your shoes taste good!

Dogs Chew...period. Sorry everyone, but it's a fact of doggy life. Chewing is a natural behavior that releases stress, relieves boredom and just plain feels good.

Where your dog is on their journey through life plays a part in just how much they will want to chew. Puppies begin around the time of teething. As soon as this occurs make sure to let your dog know what is appropriate to chew on (chew toys, KONGS, nylabones etc...) and what is not. (Rugs, furniture, shoes or even your wall!)

Because chewing relieves boredom, keeps the dog occupied, and relieves stress, it is likely to be a repeated occurrence as it is self re-enforcing.

So, how do we tell doggy where, when and how to chew? The best medicine is exercise. A tired dog is a happy dog; plus a sleeping dog can't chew up the banister!

If your dog has a 'chewing problem' always supervise them while in the house, and confine them to a crate or small room along with KONGS, bedding and water, when you cannot. Dog proofing your house is also strongly advised. If you don't want your dog to chew it, get it off the ground! Don't complain that your dog eats your shoes when you are the one that leaves the closet door open every day!

Make sure you have a variety of chew toys for your dog to choose from, (at least 20) and rotate them so that your dog does not get bored.

If you come upon your dog chewing on something inappropriate interrupt them with loud noise or vocalization and re-direct them to an appropriate item. Remember you can never punish your dog after the fact. If you come home to find your couch pillows destroyed, it is too late to discipline your dog.

A dog is a dog, and they will always find a way to amuse themselves. It is our job to give them plenty of (acceptable) things to do!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bark! Woof! ....grumble.....boof!.......Shhhh!

Excessive barking can be one of the most challenging problems owners face. This behavior usually not only annoys the owners, but the owners friends and neighbors as well. All of which makes it very important to correct your out spoken doggies unnecessary vocalizations ASAP.
It is important to remember that barking is a dogs natural reaction to changes in their environment. Please allow your dog to indulge in a few reasonable barks before redirecting their attention. What is reasonable you ask? Well, a few barks at strangers passing by, other animals or loud noises are pretty common for most dogs. And what constitutes as not reasonable? That's simple, when it annoys your neighbors.
So what to do if your dog is an "unreasonable" barker? First you must answer the question: Why is your dog barking? Some dogs bark out of sheer boredom. The answer could be as simple as a change of scenery for the dog, or a few puzzle toys left out or hidden to keep Fido busy while you're gone.
If your dog seems to bark at everything they hear or see, sensory isolation might be the cure. Put your dog in a kitchen, laundry room or bathroom (with little or no windows, and not along a common wall,) along with their crate or bed. Try turning on some classical music before heading out to help muffle outside noises.
(Remember to always confine your dog to a room using a baby gate, and not a closed door, so that your dog does not feel trapped and panic.)
For more severe barking problems the owner must do a bit of sleuthing. Leave the house as usual, then sneak back and watch the dog from a hidden spot. When the dog begins to bark, make a brief and distracting noise to change the dogs point of attention. Repeat if and when the dogs barks again. Wait for the dog to settle, then leave.
If the this method does not work, the owner may also try entering the house with a loud NO BARK every time leaving calmly again. Repeat. Please make sure you have the patience this method requires before attempting to carry it out!

If your dog barks while you are at home, you may have a bossy dog! If you have a bossy dog (BARK let me out! BARK I want dinner! BARK let me in! etc...) then your task is relatively simple. Let your dog know that they are not the boss, YOU are! Make your dog work for everything they want. Your dog should sit (or preform another behavior from their repertoire) before receiving anything form you.

If your dog barks while you are at home, but is not a bossy dog, you may have a suspicious dog. These noisy pups take a bit more work and commitment. As odd as this might seem, the way to quite these pooches is to actually teach them to 'speak' on command. At the same time, teaching them to be "quiet" on command as well. In other words, you name the behavior in order to control it.
Your first task is to find something that triggers the barking. For example, if your dog barks when some one knocks on the door, he will most likely be fooled (most dogs are) by a knocking on almost any hard surface. Knock a few times and when he barks say "speak speak!" and tell him he is a good dog. Then show him a tasty treat to distract him while saying "quiet" and asking him to sit to receive his reward. Repeat. When your dog has mastered this, congratulations! You have now shifted your dogs focus from the distraction to you!
I recommend setting up some trial runs with friends and neighbors. Go slow and be patient, and as always, try, try again.
It is also important to remember to allow your dog their 'acceptable' barks; About 3-5 should be sufficient, before asking them to be quiet.
Remember that barking is a normal response for all dogs to a stimulus in their environment. You should never leave an excessive barker outside un-attended. (For your neighbors sake!)

In addition, did you know that barking can relive tension in dogs? It also drives away strangers and serves as a way of communication for the species. Most dog owners want their dogs to bark if they hear some one at the window, or see a person enter the yard. Dogs are natural warning devices, however it is important that they know when to stop, and do so when asked.

Hopefully with these helpful hints and tips you and your dog can live in world of civilized conversations!

Monday, October 19, 2009

One Small Vick-tory

Today I am a proud member of the Raider Nation. When I heard that convicted dog fighter Mike Vick's first road game as an Eagle after his full reinstatement, would be against MY team...I must admit, I was worried.

Let's face it, the Oakland Raiders haven't had much to be proud of over the last few years, and Philadelphia is a team playing near the top of their game. So yes, I will admit my confidence least at first.

I have always been an 'against all odds' sort of girl, always pulling for the underdog. (Hey, maybe that's why I'm such a great Raiders fan!)

Being a native of the Bay Area, I know how progressive they can be when it comes to animals, so I wondered if finally, there might be legitimate protests. In fact, former Raider player Jarrod Cooper started his own non-profit organization to support pit bull rights and awareness in the Oakland Area, called Code 597. (I was lucky enough to meet him at the 2008 HSUS convention, see pic below.) The answer to my question............sort of.

Sadly, only about 30 people actually showed up to stand outside of the coliseum to hold signs. Only proving to the NFL that it made the right decision in bringing Vick back. As Howie Long, former Raider himself, put it: As long as the cheers inside the stadium drown out the protesters outside, the NFL will support Mike Vick.

There was one very nice touch however, thanks to Bad Rap. (Bay Area Dog-lovers Responsible About Pits). They hired a small prop plane to fly over the stadium trailing a banner witch read: Dog Fighter Go Home; this caused Vick to head to the locker room amongst a chorus of 'barking' from the stands.

Now, there will be nay-sayers who refer to these individuals as "animal rights activists" but I don't think that name quite fits. Unfortunately it has been tainted by people who throw red paint on fur coats. Bad Rap and the others that showed their support for their cause, are more classy than that. In fact, Bad Rap had actually invited Vick to come to their facility where they have been caring for some of his former "Bad Newz" dogs. They wanted him to see their rehabilitation, and to view them as the caring, playful, kind and loving dogs that they are today. Vick, however declined. So, they went in another direction. Making their views known, in a peaceful and tactful way. Good job Bad Rap, I applaud you as always.

Maybe these small stunts actually affected the Eagles psyche because in the end, they played horribly. Or maybe they gave Oakland the fire they needed to win. Or maybe it's just karma.

Whatever happened yesterday on that field, I'm glad it did. An Oakland Raider Vick-tory 13-9.

Mike Vick and the rest of his team were forced to leave the stadium and town with their tails between their legs.

Welcome to GET OUT!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Your Baby, the Newest Pack Member

I see it time and time again. Dogs being relinquished to a shelter because their owners had a baby. This always boggles my mind. First thing, wasn't this dog their "baby" at one point in their lives? Plus, children LOVE dogs, and finally...they had NINE months to prepare the dog for baby's arrival. It's not like this was un-expected and one day out of no-where the stork knocked on their door and said "Guess what? You're parents!"
Dogs generally have no issues what-so-ever adjusting to life with baby; all it takes is a little bit of training, which should start right after that important phone call to the soon to be grandparents.

Introducing baby, the newest pack member, actually starts long before the baby is actually born. First and foremost, if your dog is not yet properly obedience trained, (shame on you!) now is the time to do it! Your dog must always comply with your verbal commands, and curb any play biting or mouthing behavior right away. Do you have any friends or relatives with young infants in the house? Bring your dog over for a 'sniff' date. Bring plenty of extra yummy and special treats such as freeze dried liver, chicken or beef hot dogs. Keep your dog on a leash, and make sure to keep all dog/baby interactions completely positive! Offer treats, toys and love whenever your dog is near a baby and behaving. If your dog does not behave, simply remove him or her from the room in a calm and quiet manner and try again later.

Begin child proofing your dog by handling him or her all over. Your child will most likely pull on doggy's tail and ears, and pinch, poke and push! Get your dog ready now! Always praise and give treats to your dog while going through these exercises. Make sure that hands are welcome in and around your dog's food bowl. Do this by dropping hand fulls of dinner one at a time into the bowl as your dog eats.

Get your dog accustomed to the nursery. Teach your dog to lie down quietly in the baby's room, and praise them lavishly for doing so! (You may want to purchase a special mat for them in that room so they know exactly where they are allowed to be.)

Make sure you have a plan for you dog for when you have to go to the hospital. Preferably one that keeps the dog in the home, where there will be the least amount of change to the dog's routine.

After baby is born, but about a day before you come home from the hospital, send some one to the house with on of baby's blankets. Allow the dog to sniff the blanket thoroughly but do NOT allow him or her to play with it! Your dog will remember the scent and recognize your baby when you bring them home. When you and your baby do arrive home, have some one other than yourself carry baby and greet your dog as you normally would. Put your dog on a leash for the first few encounters with the baby, but allow your dog to sniff the baby. Always pair these interactions with yummy treats and lots of praise.
Your dog will start to associate the baby's presence with good and positive feelings. If the dog does do something inappropriate, calmly remove yourself and the baby and try again later.

Remember to ALWAYS praise your dog for ALL appropriate behavior, including when they are doing NOTHING at all! Be patient and persistent. Remember to always remain calm, if you get excited, so might your dog!

Do NOT exclude or ignore your dog. This is one of the biggest mistakes that people make, and it is unfortunately sometimes recommended by the family doctor! Your dog and your baby must have the opportunity to bond, so as long as your dog is behaving, allow him or her to be a part of all baby activities. Give your dog a treat when the baby cries, when you change the baby and when you feed the baby. You will find your dog will start looking forward to these activities, and even enjoy 'helping' with them.

Remember to ALWAYS monitor all interactions between your dog and your child. Period.

This all may take time so be patient and consistent throughout the process and your dog will adjust to the new situation.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A New Friend

When you make the life saving decision to adopt a new furry friend, you have great expectations...unfortunately, sometimes things don't go quite as what?

Remember; when you adopt a pet you are making a promise to them to provide them with food, water, shelter, training and companionship. Your new pet is more than willing to hold up their side of the bargain by providing you with unconditional love!

Strains are sometimes put on the relationship when human expectations differ from reality. One must remember that any dog has the potential to become an ideal companion under the right circumstances. You must ask yourself what those circumstances might be, and then begin to implement them.

It is important to remember to build your bond with your new dog and always LOVE the dog you HAVE not the one one you wish you did! Once your pet enters your home it becomes your responsibility to deal with their behavior, whatever it may be. If the dog is yours, so then is the responsibility.

When looking for a new furry family member, ask yourself these simple questions: What do you want out of your relationship with your dog? What do you see you and your dog doing together? And are you ready for the responsibility?

Dogs, like us, are a combination of nature and nurture. Every dog has a behavior potential that can be shaped by consistent and positive training. Dogs are incredibly resilient; they can begin to adjust to a new life TODAY, no matter what their past might have held. Adjustment periods can be tough, but the end result is always worth the effort!

If your dog just isn't meeting your expectations.....adjust them! Make it a point to seriously tackle each problem. Begin obedience classes and have the whole family participate. Learn to shape what is desired rather than punish what is not. Obedience training has a settling effect on a dog and gives you an opportunity to bond and re-direct focus. Take time to touch your new dog all over. (Feet, ears, teeth, tail, paws...) This will make trips to the groomer and veterinarian easier for everyone! Also do this while your new dog eats to help prevent any food aggression issues.

If you are bringing your new friend into a household with a resident dog, make sure to introduce the two on neutral ground. Go for a walk! Do NOT walk he dogs right up to one another nose to nose, a side by side walk will encourage companionship and tire them out! When the get back home they will be too pooped to start any trouble.

Remember to dog-proof your home. (Especially important with puppies!) Walk around your house and yard and move anything you do not want the dog to get a hold of. If you do not want your new dog in certain rooms of the house, purchase baby gates to block their way. Remember it is YOUR responsibility to keep your dog away from things you do not want destroyed or that might be harmful to them.

If you will be crate training your dog, make sure to purchase a crate that is just large enough for the dog to stand up and turn around in; no more, no less. If you are buying a crate for your puppy to grow into, you can block off part of it with cement blocks. Stainless steel water and food bowls are recommended as they can not be torn up and ingested. Also, be sure to look for durable bedding; hard to chew up and easy to clean will make your life much easier!

You will want to purchase a simple 4-6 foot nylon leash with collar. No flexi-leads, harnesses or pinch collars will be necessary with proper training. You'll want some toys as well. Get a nice variety and then rotate them every month so your dog doesn't get bored. KONG toys are wonderful for dogs who chew and can be stuffed with anything from peanut butter and cream cheese to wet food and bananas! (You can freeze them to keep your pooch busy for a longer period of time!) Now your job will be to teach your dog what is appropriate to chew on vs. what isn't. (ex: the TV remote, your shoes and your sofa!)

Select a high quality food with little or no preservatives. If you can't pronounce most if not all of the ingredients, don't buy it! If your new dog has been eating a different food than the one you plan on feeding them, remember to gradually mix the new food in with the old, then wean them off the old and onto the new. A drastic change in diet can really upset a dogs stomach. Don't allow your new dog to become a picky eater! Feed them their food at set times. When they are hungry, they'll eat! Do not leave food down for longer that 20 minutes; after that pick it up. Also, refrain from 'free feeding' your dog. It can lead to obesity and makes it difficult for you to monitor their eating habits.

Make an appointment for your new dog at your veterinarian about two weeks after they've joined your household.

Make sure the entire family understands the 'doggy' rules and that there is a clear consensus of what behaviors are to be reinforced and which ones will not.

If all of this sounds like a lot of work, it's because it is! But life with out dogs is not much of a life at all......(in my opinion anyway!)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Pit Bull Education 6

Welcome all to the final instalment of my pit bull education blog series! I hope everyone has enjoyed the journey as much as I have.

I'm going to start of this section with some numbers: 28,955, 81.9, 1,235 and 85.5. What do these mean? Let me tell you; every year the American Temperament Test is given to thousands of dogs representing every breed imaginable. Last year they tested a total of 28,955 dogs. The dogs go through a series of tests that measure temperament, disposition and more. The average score for all breeds (out of 100) was 81.9. 1,235 of the dogs tested were American Pit Bull Terriers or American Staffordshire Terriers; their average score was 85.5, HIGHER than the over all combined average! (This score also places them above the ever popular Golden Retriever.) You can check out how your favorite breed tested (including mixed breeds) by going to

As promised, we will now discuss proper training techniques for you and your pit bull.

First lets go over positive vs. negative re-enforcement and punishment. Let's try not to think of positive equating to good and negative to bad; instead think of them as + and - signs. Positive means that you are adding something to the dogs environment while negative means that you are taking something away.

I train using positive re-enforcement. I simply reward desired behavior and ignore any un-desired ones. Simple as that. Remember it is very important to tell you dog when he/she is doing something RIGHT, even if it's nothing at all. We tend to spend a lot of time telling our doggies what they CAN'T do and not enough time letting them know what is acceptable.

There is a lot of talk out there about establishing yourself as the 'dominant' or 'alpha' in your house hold, and while this is true, you do NOT have to challenge or force your dog into submission in any way to achieve this status. There is a popular TV personality, who will remain nameless, who often preforms 'alpha roll-overs' on dogs. Many times this person ends up getting bit by the dog, which I assume is why there is a "Do not attempt this at home" warning at the beginning of each episode.

There is actually a very simple and non-confrontational way to establish leadership in a house hold, and it's called the Nothing in Life is Free method. First let me start by saying that dogs are natural born followers, not leaders. (If every dog were born to lead, they would never survive in a pack society.) However, that being said, they need a leader and they need structure, therefore if a clear 'alpha' is not established they will reluctantly take on the role.

The Nothing in Life is Free method bridges the gap between human and K9 communication, and it is quite simplistic. Basically, every time your dog wants anything, they must first 'work' for you. Ex: If you dog wants to go outside, he/she must first sit and wait while you open the door and then release them to go out side. This must be done for everything including going for walks, getting treats, eating dinner, playing and even before receiving affection. It may not seem like a big deal when your dog brings you a toy and you in turn begin to play with him/her, but what really took place was your dog demanded that you play with them at that moment did. So, they must be in charge right?

Other things you can do when dealing with a more severe case, include mixing your dogs food with your hands. This will leave your scent on the food, and in dog world, leaders eat first. You can also buy two bowls that look exactly alike. One for the dog to use and one for you. Put some cereal in the clean bowl and have your dog sit and watch you while you eat it. Then give your dog their bowl with the dog food in it. What your dog just saw was you eating first and it sends a clear message. If a dog knows who the pack leader is, he can relax; being a leader is stressful on dogs, always having to worry about resources and protection! Whew! They are much happier leaving those hard jobs to some one else, namely, you.

So, after reading all of this, you wonder: "What can I do?" Well, the easiest thing you can do is to spread the word by passing all 6 blogs around to all of your friends, neighbors and relatives and encouraging them to do the same. If you are the proud parent of a pit bull, I would highly recommend having your dog CGC certified. The CGC (Canine Good Citizen) is a nationally recognized certificate issued by the AKC. (American Kennel Club) It is a 10 item basic temperament/obedience test that takes about 20-30 minutes to complete. You can go to the AKC's web site to search for evaluators/trainers in your area, and to view the items on the test. A pit bull with a CGC is truly a beautiful thing. In some cases, rental agencies and insurance companies that would normally turn the breed away, will make exceptions for dogs who have earned their CGC certificate. It is a huge step forward to having your dog become a true ambassador of the breed.

If you only take one thing away from all of this, please remember: Pit Bulls are just dogs; four legs, two eyes, one heart.
They are not monsters who are going to creep into your house at night and eat your children.
In fact, let me put it this way.....
Pit bulls are responsible on average, for 2 deaths a year.
Fifty people a year die after drowning in 5 gallons of water.
150 people die every year when a coconut falls on their head! Therefore you are more likely to be killed by a palm tree, than a pit bull!
320 people die in their bathtubs every year, but we never hear talk about banning them!
The sad reality is that with the millions of pits euthanized in shelters across the country (and world!) a pit is half a million times more likely to be killed by a human, than the other way around...

Thanks for spread the word...!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Pit Bull Education 5

Well, here we are; we have arrived at the topic of dog fighting. It is not my favorite subject, but one cannot have a discussion about pit bulls and not bring this to here we go: The real American Pit Bull is 100% opposed to dog fighting. Dog fighting is a disgusting, heinous human endeavor, an abusive act perpetrated against dogdom, and there is NEVER any excuse for dog fighting.

The HSUS offers a $5000 reward for reporting dog fighting in your area. (Must lead to arrest/conviction) 202-452-1100, call it, make a difference.

To help you identify possible offenders, here is a list of what to look for; signs of cruelty include: Scars, (on males the scars will mostly be on their heads, faces and chests, on the females look for them on their backs.) Cropped ears and tails on the males, sharpened teeth on the males and no teeth on the females, and over bred females.
Some paraphernalia to look for include: home made treadmills, (dogs are often made to run on these for hours at a time, while a bait animal hags in front of them), rape racks, (can't have those females fighting back...), a break stick, (usually the end of a shovels' wooden handle, this is used to pry and hold open the dogs mouth for fileing or removing teeth), and indoor/outdoor carpet. This last one generally makes up the floor of the dog fight ring. It serves two major purposes. One being that you can see the blood on it, and this is a means of 'scoring'. The second being that it can be picked up and taken away quickly, leaving no evidence. Dog fighters actually hold drills to see how fast they can pick up their ring and get out before authorities arrive.
Other paraphernalia includes: small bait animals, pain medication/veterinary supplies, (this one always surprises see fights don't always end in death, and these animals are very valuable to the people who fight them, they make them a lot of money, so when the fight is called, they will preform crude veterinary procedures on their dogs to attempt to save them or 'fix them up', remember that these people have no veterinary training!) steroids, small files and long knotted ropes on springs are also on the list. The last item is hung from a tree, and the dog then jumps, bites and hangs.
Dog fighting is a FELONY in ALL 50 STATES! In 24 states it is a felony to be a spectator, spectating is illegal in the remaining states except for Montana and Hawaii. In those two states you are not breaking any laws by witnessing a dog fight. (Hopefully they will get on board soon!)
At the beginning of this post I commented on the 'real' pit bull, so what is a real pit bull?
The real American Pit Bull terrier is human friendly, has strength, confidence and a zest for life. They are intelligent, trainable, determined and have a great sense of humour. They are all in all a great dog. I am in no way suggesting that everyone go out and adopt a pit today, (although that would be nice!) as the breed is not for everyone. My biggest hope is to see prejudices dropped and minds and hearts opened, and I will strive toward this goal every day of my life. With your help, we can make a difference, so please pass my blog on to all of your friends and family and help me spread the truth!
Thanks again for reading! Next time in Pit Bull Education 6 we will go over some training tips, and the conclusion of my pit bull education series.....

Monday, October 5, 2009

Pit Bull Education 4

Welcome back! Today we will discuss two topics of which I am very passionate about. Pit Bulls in the Media and BSL. Pit bulls are often the topic of sensationalist 'news' coverage. You hear the word 'attack' thrown around, only to discover after viewing the segment that it wasn't an attack at all. The sad reality is that fear sells, plain and simple. Think about the Swine flu reports of recent, or about 8 years ago when you couldn't find duct tape or plastic wrap at the store because we were all buying it for our windows to protect us against an impending terror attack. Again, fear sells, it gets you to turn on the TV, pick up that magazine or read that article. Local news stations here in the South love hurricane season because they enjoy their highest ratings of the year during that time.
But I digress. The fact remains that people routinely sight media coverage as 'proof' that pit bulls are more dangerous than other dogs. This is extremely frightening because of the ever looming threat of BSL. For those of you who aren't aware, BSL stands for Breed Specific Legislation. Breed Bans.
A breed ban makes it illegal to own, harbor, train, breed, transport or sell the breed named in the ban. Many breed bans or restrictions do exist, though two of the strictest in this country are Miami/Dade County Florida and Denver Colorado. And most (those included) target Pit Bulls. There are different ways bans can go. There can be an all out ban which would state something to the affect of: As of January 1st 2010, Pit Bulls are banned within the city limits, no exceptions. This means that if you are a pit bull parent, you may have your dog until December 31st 2009 because the next day you will be in violation of the law, and animal control has the authority to come to your home, ticket you, take your dog and euthanize it. And there is nothing you can do about it. Think about it, and entire breed of dog, rounded up and killed just for being born. Sound familiar?
This is the way things are in places where breed bans exist. Your dog has done nothing wrong, your dog is a good dog and part of your family, but will be killed if found. And who you ask, is to determine weather or not your dog is a pit bull? The answer to that is the animal control officer who makes the seizure. The same folks who have trouble identifying the breed from the poster in Pit Bull Education 3. So it is one person's opinion on weather or not your dog sort of kind of could be a pit bull type looking dog. And this decision means life or death. See the problem yet?
Some places decide to 'grandfather in' existing pits, meaning that if you've owned your dog before January 1st 2010 you are OK, but any pit acquired thereafter would be considered illegal.
So, does BSL work? The answer is no. Ten days after the pit bull ban went into effect in Denver a little girl was killed by two Husky dogs . All BSL does is punish good dogs and good dog owners. It does not deter dog fighting either. Dog fighting is illegal already, and the people participating in it could care less. Do you really think that they are going to care if the dogs themselves are now also illegal? And even if their dogs are seized, what's to stop them from choosing another breed? Then are we going to ban that dog as well? Where does it end? I don't know about you but I don't like the idea of the government telling me what dog I can and can not have in my own home.
Here is a real life example of how flawed the BSL system can be: Ontario Canada has a breed ban on pit bulls. One day, a woman was sitting in her home when she heard the doorbell ring. Upon answering it, she discovered an animal control officer who handed her a ticket and asked to see her dog. When she asked why, he informed her that she owned an illegal breed of dog and that he was there to seize him for destruction. The woman's husband came into the room and asked the man to come back with a warrant. Meanwhile the couple dug around their files for the dogs paper work, you see, their dog was a registered pure bred Labrador retriever! Of course they were able to prove this and keep their dog, but what about those of us who have adopted or rescued? Or own mixed breeds? We are at the mercy of an opinion.
So, what can be done? What is affective? Enforcing our already existing dangerous dog laws for one, a mandatory spay neuter ordinance for pits (all dogs really) unless the owners pay for a breeding licence for another. Southern California made it illegal for ex cons or known/suspected gang members to own a pit bull. And of course education and.....RESPONSIBLE OWNERSHIP! (Do you see a theme yet? ;)
Make sure you stay up to date on any BSL proposed legislation in your area, and write your representatives to tell them you DO NOT WANT BSL where you live!

The media plays a huge roll in influencing the way people vote, so when BSL comes up in their community, they think back on all of the negative press and vote in favor of it. Think about it, when is the last time you heard a GOOD story reported about a pit bull? And do you really think pits are the only dogs involved in dog bites? Please read on:
August 18 2007, a Lab mix attacked a 70 year old man, sending him to the hospital in critical condition. Police officers arrived at the scene and the dog was shot after charging the officers. This incident was reported in ONE article in the local paper.
August 19th 2007, a 16 month old boy received FATAL head and neck injuries after being attacked by a mixed breed dog. This incident was reported TWO times by the local paper only.
August 21st 2007, a 59 year old woman was attacked in her home by two pit bulls and was hospitalized with severe injuries.
OK, are you ready for this???
This attack was reported in over two hundred and thirty articles in national and international newspapers, as well as major television news networks such as CNN, MSNBC and FOX.

The plight of the pit bull is an up-hill battle indeed.

Thanks for reading and hopefully learning, and please come back next time when we discuss dog fighting in Pit Bull Education 5!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Pit Bull Education 3

I have a small quiz for you to start off this blog. Now don't get upset, this will be fun I promise! Go to: and find the pit bull. (Or look at the photo on the left.) There is only one, and all of the dogs are pure breeds who's photos have been taken from breeder websites, and therefore should be an accurate representation of the breed. Take your time, I'll wait............................
Think you know? It's number 16. Yep, that's right 16. Don't feel bad if you didn't guess right, I have given this quiz to shelter staff and volunteers and they guess wrong too. So what does this tell us about dog bites or attacks? Do you think it's possible that maybe the person being attacked or an eye witness might have seen one of the other dogs listed here, or a mix there of? Of course it is. But they always seem to report the dog to be what? A pit bull. More on this and what it means for bite statistics later...
Right now I would like to talk about a subject that is very near and dear to my heart: Responsible Ownership. Being a responsible pet owner is important no matter what breed of dog you have, but it is especially critical for pit bull parents.
How about another little game to help get my point across? Let's play a little Fact or Fiction! OK here we go: Fact or Fiction: Pit Bulls have locking Jaws...................Fiction! There is no special mechanism that allows a pit bull to lock their jaws.
Fact or Fiction: A Pit Bull's biting power measures in at 1000psi...........................Fiction! It's more like 350, witch is actually LESS than a German Shepherd and Rottweiler.
Fact or Fiction: Pit Bulls are time bombs that turn on their owners.............................Fiction! No SPAYED or NEUTERED FAMILY pit bull has ever attacked anyone.
Fact or Fiction: Pit Bulls attack without warning...................................Fiction! All dogs give us the signs we just fail to read them.
OK last one: Pit Bulls are more dangerous than other dogs.............................Fiction! Any dog is only as dangerous as their owners allow them to be.
Alright, now onto the aforementined bite statistics. Basically, they are completely un-reliable. As mentioned above, the victim ID's the breed. We've already exposed how accurate that is, and just to illustrate my point further, let me share this story with you: A friend of mine, who is a wonderful pit bull daddy and fire fighter, was called out to a dog bite one day during his shift. The victim said that the dog that bit him was a pit bull that lived in a house down the block. When my friend arrived at the home, he found the dog to be a pure bred German Shepherd! If the breeds are left un-verified they unfairly get reported as pit bulls. It is also important to remember that there is no national dog bite database and only REPORTED bites are recorded by the CDC. So what about all the other bites out there like provoked bites such as when the poodle bites her groomer? Or what about the kid who gets bit by the dog at the end of a chain whom he's provoked every day on his way home from school? Is it really the dogs fault? Shouldn't the blame lie elsewhere like on the dog's owner for chaining him or the kid's parents for not teaching him how to treat dog? Or the kid himself?
Remember that people can make numbers say anything they want, and one should always ask questions. For example: What percentage of dogs in the given community are pit bulls? And what percentage DON'T bite? (If the percentage of pits in a community is high it would follow that they would be involved in more bites, but this does not mean that they are more dangerous. Think of it this way, is a Ford Focus more crash-prone than a Bentley, or is it just that there are more Focus's on the road?)
Enforcement of dog bite laws is yet another thing that is lacking. Each city/county can decide for themselves how to handle these situations. Some have severe penalties and others little to none. Most punish the dogs and do little in the way of disciplining the owners who allowed the incident to occur. If we simply enforced leash laws with stiff financial penalties, dog bite numbers would drop dramatically. How many dog bites occur ON leash? Not many. So start handing out hefty tickets like candy. (Hitting people in their pocket books will tend to get their attention!)
In the end, it always seems to come back to one theme.....responsibility.
Please join me next time as we cover BLS and Pit Bulls in the media!