Aggression Begets Aggression

A new study proves something that dog professionals have known for years:  people who attempt to dominate, are more likely to to elicit aggressive behaviors from their dogs.  While this isn’t exactly “news” to those of us who’re involved in the art of training positively, it will definitely rate as news to some.  And in either case is worth noting.

If You’re Aggressive, Your Dog Will Be Too, Says Veterinary Study

ScienceDaily (Feb. 18, 2009) — In a new, year-long University of Pennsylvania survey of dog owners who use confrontational or aversive methods to train aggressive pets, veterinary researchers have found that most of these animals will continue to be aggressive unless training techniques are modified

The full story can be found here:


Michael Vick’s Dogs – The Road to Recovery

This is the kind of dog news that makes me so happy there are advocates for the American Pit Bull Terrier. The wonderful dogs in this story wouldn’t have had a chance without them. There were so very many people working to have them all put to sleep, believing they’d never be rehabilitated… yet here they are. Ready to try again, to love someone fully and completely as only a dog can.

As a trainer and behavior expert, I can’t say enough good things about the American Pit Bull Terrier – and this article really has nailed it on the head. A fabulous read.


There are the perky, high-energy sorts like Lucas, all wagging tails and let’s-go-play vivaciousness. There are the runners like Curly, who never saw a fence line or dirt trail they couldn’t wear down. And there are the divas like Georgia, who go on publicity junkets and stay at the Beverly Hilton, wearing rhinestone-studded collars and hot pink tank tops that say “Biscuits are a girl’s best friend.” They could be your dog, your neighbor’s, even one of those you see in a magazine being doted on by a celebrity owner. These, though, are Michael Vick’s dogs. Fourteen months after some experts left them for dead – in fact, said they should die – they are alive and thriving at the Best Friends Animal Society in the rocky red hills of Utah, rewriting the book about what pit bulls really are and what they can be….”

Read the full article at:

Teen Works to Make Debarking Illegal

A fifteen year old boy is working to have a bill passed that would make surgical debarking illegal. I know debarking is one of those hot button topics for many, but I have to admit, I see this as a good thing. I see debarked dogs at the shows all season long, and often there is reason behind their attempts to vocalize… It’s up to their families to find that reason and work with the dog. While a difficult nuisance behavior to deal with, recreational barking can be trained away from. It takes a lot of dedication, and watchfulness, but it can be done. And if the sound of a dog vocalizing is a mind-numbing pain for some, perhaps they should consider that before adding a dog (especially of a breed known for being highly “talkative”) to the family.

Teen files bill to make vocal surgery illegal
Putting a bite into debarking
By Laurel J. Sweet

Needham High freshman Jordan Star doesn’t claim he can talk to the animals, but as the surprise driving force behind a bill to outlaw the surgical silencing of dogs and cats, the teen is doing a fine job speaking on their behalf.
“To take a voice away from an animal is morally wrong,” Star, 15, said of convenience devocalization, the removal of a pet’s vocal cords so Fido and Fluffy are seen, not heard.
Star tackled the topic after encountering a dog who’d been debarked, then abandoned.
“It was just horrible,” he said of the dog’s struggle to get his attention. “It was just like a hoarse, wheezy cough. In a shelter, all they are is a mutilated animal, which makes them harder to adopt.”
Under his proposed law, to which Democratic House Majority Whip Lida E. Harkins and Republican Sen. Scott P. Brown have signed on as sponsors, devocalization would be illegal in Massachusetts unless a veterinarian licensed in this state certified for a town clerk or, in Boston, the police commissioner, that the operation was a medical necessity.  Anyone breaking the law would face up to five years in state prison and a mental-health evaluation. If enacted, it will be known as Logan’s Law for a debarked Belgian sheepdog Gayle Fitzpatrick, founder of Friends of the Plymouth Pound, and her husband Tom adopted from Texas.
“The reaction of people whenever he was outside was, ‘Does your dog have laryngitis?’ I tried to explain he had no voice box and people were pretty horrified by that,” Fitzpatrick said. “We always said to him, ‘We hear you,’ because he tried so hard to bark.”
The MSPCA-Angell Animal Medical Center refuses to perform non-medical devocalization, saying, “The responsible owner is willing to socialize and train a pet that is vocalizing excessively.”
Vera Wilkinson of The Cooperative Dog is a Chestnut Hill certified trainer, who heads the dog division of the International Association of Behavior Consultants.
“You have to get to the root of the problem. If the dog is barking, the dog is barking for a reason,” Wilkinson said.  “There’s a lack of understanding between people and dogs that leads to conflict, and unfortunately the dog often pays the price.

Full story can be found at

Is This a Hint?

Not too long ago I was sitting on the couch in the living room with my baby girl Lily-Ann.  She was having a bit of quiet time.  She was by my side, my arm around her, her head on one of my legs, having a nice cuddle

Normally I insist Roo stay in which ever room I happen to be in.  She’s an adolescent Chihuahua, and as such, is prone to mischief.  However, this afternoon I was rather lax.  I was enjoying the cuddle time with Lily, and so allowed Roo to wander a bit.

Roo had been out of my sight for a couple of minutes – it really hadn’t been long or I’d have called her.  She was being nice and quiet, which should have been my first tip-off.  Whenever a toddler or puppy is out of sight and quiet, a person should ALWAYS check in on them.

Well, Roo came bounding into the living room where Lily-Ann and I were cuddled up.   She pounced onto the side of my lap that was unoccupied, and dropped my clicker on my leg.  Think she was hinting at something?

So, our tiny “she-chi” had to get my treat bag from off the counter in the kitchen, then fish the clicker out of the pocket before bringing it to me.  Smart little bugger.  Obviously our ten minutes of clicker time earlier this afternoon hadn’t been enough.  Little fart cracks me up.

After inspecting the counter and the treat bag, which was then resting on the floor.  I have no idea how she got up at it.  Dinky little thing is a half a foot at the shoulder (guessing), and there are no chairs or stools near by.  Yet there’s the treat bag on the floor.  Sans clicker.

Guess I should go cut up some more treats.  😉

Itty Bits & Nico’s Necklaces

Itty Bits - a new etsy shop

Itty Bits - a new etsy shop

I’d like to take a moment to invite you to my new etsy shop.  Eventually it will host a plethora of products for babies, toddlers, and small dogs – your itty bitty family members.  Currently there are six listings for Nico’s Necklaces.

Nico’s Necklaces are something I’ve been working on for some time.  I started a few years ago working with leather and beads, while pretty, the leather had safety limitations.  Then, a couple months before Nico (my heart dog) passed on, I struck upon the idea of using elastic cord.  It worked perfectly!  Beautiful, and safe!  Unfortunately Nico never got the opportunity to wear the finished version.  He left for the Rainbow Bridge while I was working on his.  You can read Nico’s story at  I named the necklaces, designed to allow small dogs to safely wear tags without fear of getting caught and choking, after Nico – as he was the reason I designed them in the first place.

I do hope you’ll stop by Itty Bits and have a look around.  Nico’s Necklaces were born out of a need for a safe way to identify small dogs, and born out of my love for my own Chihuahua and heart dog.  I’m proud to finally be able to offer them to you.

The Worlds First COMMERCIALLY Cloned Canine

Well…  we all knew it would happen, it was just a matter of when.  When was November 18, 2008.  Today, Lancey (who arrived in the US on January 25th) is with his family – who paid to have him cloned from their previous canine companion.  The family said they chose to clone their original dog because he was the “most human” dog they’d ever shared their lives with.

As a behavior buff there’s a lot I could choose to say about their reasoning, but I always try to find something nice to say.  😉  So…  I’m glad the family is happy with their new puppy.

You can read the whole story here:

Continuing with Sit… two steps forward, one step back

Training sessions like today are why I always remind my students not to get too wrapped up in how their dog is coming along (in regards to the training). Things may be going along better than you could have hoped, and then it feels like you’re going backwards. Not every dog learns everything at the same pace as every other dog, and like us, dogs have off days too. It’s important not to get frustrated. No matter how things are going, stay upbeat, and just have fun being with your dog.

As you know, things were going swimmingly with Roo. Her first training sessions exceeded my expectations. She’s such a quick learner, and I love working with her. She’s a total hoot.

It’s been a few days since I was last able to devote some real time to working with Roo. I’d been busy with Green Party business (planning and hosting an Energy Policy Forum) that finally wrapped up last night. I was so happy to have some time to really work with my wee girl again.

Today we had a major set back. Roo was so giddy and happy to be clicking with me, that she had next to no focus. She was jumping all over the place, couldn’t hold a sit for more than a moment, spent half her time sniffing the ground. It would have been really easy to get frustrated or fed-up… but you know what? This wasn’t her fault. I hadn’t given her as much time from me as she needed, so she had all sorts of pent up energy. So we put away the clicker, and just had a crazy game of Chihuahua-style wrestling (and a whole lot of laughs).

Roo needed a chance to just be a goofy puppy with me. One-on-one. With nothing else competing for my attention. It was a good reminder for me. It’s easy to get caught up with how well your dog is doing when everything seems to be going right… but the whole reason we do any of this is because of how wonderful it is to spend time with our furry family members. Sometimes one step back can be a lot more fun than another step forward.