Archive for the ‘dog resources’ Category

Today is Petfinder‘s 15th birthday–and they’re asking all of us to spread the word about adoptable pets for Adopt the Internet Day!

My choice? Lacey, a beautiful tri-colored 2-year-old Border Collie, who is listed on Petfinder from one of my favorite adoption places, Western Border Collie Rescue.

OK, you all know that I adopted a fearful Border Collie that I found on Petfinder in 2002–a fearful dog is always challenging, yet rewarding. That’s why I picked Lacey as my Adopt the Internet dog–in the right home, she’ll blossom!

Lacey’s Story

Lacey in January snowlight

Lacey’s story isn’t that different from many pets up for adoption, but it’s still important. Her amazing foster mom gave us this account.

In November 2009, an Eagle Colorado animal shelter worker contacted Western Border Collie Rescue about two very scared Border Collies: Cotton, Lacey’s mom, and Lacey, the last pup left in her litter. Cotton’s owner was moving (how many times do we hear that?) and he didn’t want the burden.  Lacey was only 3 months old.  Both Lacey and her mom spent 3 months at the shelter before Western Border Collie Rescue sprang them and placed the two fearful dogs in a foster home.

Then, a sad turn. Cotton became very sick.  Vet testing revealed that she was suffering from Immune Mediated Polyarthritis, a serious joint disease.  The rescue decided that Cotton and Lacey be separated so that Cotton could work on getting better and Lacey could learn how to become more confident in a new environment.

Luckily for Cotton, her new foster mom decided to adopt Cotton. But Lacey was not so lucky. For the first 3 months in her foster home, Lacey shut down and hid as far away as possible when people would come near. Her daily routine was staying away from open spaces, sticking close to walls, hiding under tables or huddling in corners. Scared, unable to cope.

Lacey And Other Dogs

But, Lacey’s foster mom soon realized that Lacey felt safe when she was around other dogs–she was comfortable with them. No matter

Lacey showing off her one headlight

what size, breed, color or age, if there was another dog around, Lacey seemed happy romping, wrestling, running at the speed of light, chasing–you name it, if there’s a dog around, she’s up for anything!

Lacey’s Progress with Humans

Lacey asks for human attention in her own special way. Her foster mom says that, maybe two or three times a night during TV-watching time, Lacey “sneaks up, get real close,” and then put her head down on the nearest lap. Once Lacey gets about 5 seconds of petting, she sneaks away.

The good news is, Lacey is starting to show signs of trust in her foster mom’s friends and some family members–HUGE steps from the scared little dog in the corner.  Her foster mom recounts another milestone: 1 year, 1 month and 12 days after arrival, Lacey mastered the cue “sit!”  To

Ready to play!

her foster mom, that was a sign “that Lacey could do what any other dog can do.”

Lacey’s Hope

Lacey came to her foster home on December 4, 2009–it’s the only real home she has ever known.  She will probably never be a bomb-proof, totally confident, happy go-lucky dog.  She might always be afraid of new situations and may never want more than 5 seconds of attention at a time. She needs a family who wants her for who she is. The family will need patience, training, and the ability to understand that small steps are really huge steps in this little girl’s life.

For example, her foster mom is thrilled that Lacey chooses to sleep with her every now and then. The most important things that Lacey needs in her life, according to her foster mom, “are humans that will accept her for who she is, love her even when it seems she doesn’t want it, give her a home with at least one other dog, provide a warm bed in a quiet corner to rest her head, and maybe a few romps in the snow in the winter and a few splashes in a river or lake in the summer. Is that too much to ask?”

No, it’s not! To find out more about Lacey, see her Petfinder profile. And if you’re interested in adopting her, I’ll pay half of her adoption fee!


The barking begins every morning at around 6 a.m. in my cozy Louisville, Colorado neighborhood, alerting that dog owners are leaving for work. However, one voice is not heard: Duke, Dan Antaya’s Pit Bull mix. Because of a Louisville city ordinance passed in 2006, Duke was banished from Antaya’s home and is living with friends in a city where Pit Bulls are legal.

Duke’s speckled face

“The struggle to find housing where Duke, my other dog Tyler, and I could live together started about a year ago when I relocated to Colorado.  I was finally able to find something about 6 months ago, but even though the property owners had no issue,” the house was in Louisville, says Antaya, who owns K9 Consulting Services, a Longmont, Colorado dog training company. He also runs the Pit Bull Advocacy and Education program (more about that later).

“Now that the lease is up, I am  unable to find housing again, partially due to both dogs weighing more than 50 lbs. but very much related to the type of dog Duke is, and the amount of cities in Colorado enforcing breed bans, we may have to leave the state.”

Does Banning Pit Bulls Make Sense?

Breed Specific Legislation, or BSL, is well-known and controversial, as described in this For Pit’s Sake blog post.  We’ve all heard the pro and con arguments to allowing certain breeds into a city. And there are setbacks even in cities that allow the breed.

How Do Breed Bans Affect Individuals And Cities?

For Antaya, “BSL affects me in the sense that I must live apart from my dog due to the city ordinance, and also prevents me from taking him to other cities that ban the breed. I fear of having him seized just for passing through to get to another location.” Besides that, many great pit bull owners don’t have the opportunity to show what good citizens their dogs are in cities in which they are banned. Thus, people tend to shun those breeds.

Why? One reason, according to the National Canine Research Council:

“While serious attacks by dogs are very rare, the intense media coverage that may accompany such an incident can mislead the public and/or lawmakers into imagining that dogs pose a significant threat to the community.  Sensationalized publicity, combined with a lack of understanding of the infrequency of dog attacks, and of their causes, has resulted in reactive and uniformed policies directed against certain types of dogs.  In no other American city has this dynamic played itself out more tragically than in Denver” and other Colorado breed ban areas.

The problems often arise as with any other breed (which, by the way, have dog bite histories, according to the Canine Research Council) when an owner is irresponsible and lets their dogs run outside without supervision, and when they don’t train their dogs to be good citizens.

Duke’s Story

Antaya says that Duke’s story with him began when “one of the rescue organizations I was with in Arizona took Duke out of the county kill shelter.”

Duke playing in the snow

Duke could only go to a few shelters in Colorado because of the numerous Colorado breed bans. Duke landed in the Longmont Humane Society, where Antaya works as an adoption counselor. “Duke was considered a problem dog at 3 months. Because I was overwhelmed with my current fosters,  he had to wait for 2 months before I could work with him.”

After Antaya’s training, “not only did he become a model dog, he became a perfect ambassador for Bully Breeds.” Antaya adopted Duke after fostering him for only 4 days. “While I have formed a bond with the many fosters I had prior to him, he met all the criteria I had for a possible addition to the family. I realized his potential very early on.”

The Longmont Humane Society takes a majority of Pit Bull mixes in Colorado. “Due to the breed bans in Denver, Aurora and Louisville, we see a majority of the Pit Bulls or Pit Bull mixes in the area that are being surrendered or caught by Animal Control.  They, unfortunately, are the slowest to get adopted.  When I watch visitors walk past the kennels, they seem to migrate to the other breeds and barely glance in the run with a Pit Bull in it. Longmont Humane offers a training class just for Pit Bulls called P.I.T.S.T.O.P.  There is a lot of interest in that program from current Bully Breed owners.”

Pit Bull Advocacy and Education

Because of dogs such as Duke, Antaya started his Pit Bull Advocacy and Education program after walking a Pit Bull “and seeing someone cross the street when they saw us coming.” Antaya also saw so many pit bulls in shelters, and realized “people have so many misconceptions about the breed. If they were educated, perhaps the adoption rate of pit bulls would go up.”

Something needed to be done, he says. “My approach is much more from an educational standpoint.  I don’t preach to anyone from a soapbox.  I have found that most critics of this breed have never even had a personal experience with one. Once I introduce some people to Duke and other Pit Bulls, they start to realize that these dogs are not what they perceived them to be. In addition to participating in various dog-specific events, I consider everywhere I go to be an opportunity to educate people about the breed. Sometimes it is an indirect approach, such as teaching children general dog safety and care while using a pit bull in the demonstration. I am currently working on an anti dog-fighting campaign geared towards children in high risk areas as well as a few other educational programs.”

What’s The Future For Pit Bulls?

Tough one. Antaya thinks “we are a far cry from Pit Bulls being an accepted breed as long as the media and cities who enforce breed bans continue to drive negative and incorrect information into the minds of the general public.  For the states/cities who are enacting Dangerous Dog Ordinances instead of Breed Bans and the large groups of responsible owners, I have high praise for them. Hopefully this will be a growing trend and the Pit Bull will again become America’s dog.” You can find out more of Antaya’s thoughts on the Pit Bull Advocacy and Education Facebook page.

BAD RAP On Bark Out Loud!

BAD RAP, an organization that rehabilitated the Michael Vick dogs, is dedicated to training and rehabilitating pit bulls, particularly from federal abuse cases. The organization’s Tim Racer and Donna Reynolds joins Bark Out Loud to chat tonight, discussing these issues and what you can do to help overturn the myths about pit bulls. Listen to their insightful podcast here:

You think your dog is doing something adorable, so you encourage her to continue that behavior. But later you discover that it’s not so cute after all. Then what? I see this a lot with clients, but I’ve also made these kinds of mistakes with my dogs. Whoops!

I was discussing this on Twitter with Sonia Singh, a fellow pet blogger and marketing director for in Phoenix, AZ. As an advocate for the large dog lifestyle, she said she’s inadvertently trained her pup Nala to “follow her bliss”– until Sonia discovered that Nala’s bliss was not what she intended! I asked Sonia to share her experiences to help assure dog owners that there are ways to turn things around! Her bio appears at the end of her post.


Training a dog is complex. There are times we train our dog exactly what we want, then there are times we accidentally teach them something we weren’t exactly hoping for. I accidentally trained my dog Nala two things that at the time seemed cute, but ended up with not-so-cute results.

Nala, the former leash chewer

The first mistake

I trained Nala to chew her leash.

Here’s how it happened. One day, I clipped her leash on her collar to go for a walk. She picked up the handle and started walking towards the door with it. It was as if she was taking herself for a walk – very cute. I thought it would be funny to teach her to walk herself. Each time she picked up the leash in her mouth, I praised her. Then she took it a step further, and that’s where it went wrong.

I clipped the leash to her collar one evening, opened the door and, realizing it was chillier than I expected, shut the door and grabbed a jacket. By the time I got back to the door and reached for the leash, I couldn’t find it. Then I saw it – barely four inches of it dangling from her collar. The rest was missing. She had chewed it right off in under 30 seconds. Between being encouraged to pick it up and needing to release excited energy, Nala picked up her leash like I taught her – then chewed it. We went through at least three more leashes before I was able to break her of the habit. She still picks up her leash on occasion, but I haven’t been forced to buy a new leash in over a year.

The second mistake

We trained Nala to growl inappropriately. This had much worse consequences, and we’re still trying to fix it.

When Nala was a puppy, she didn’t make a sound. No growling, barking, whining, nothing. Her dad thought it would be fun to see our little puppy growl, so he started growling at her during play, hoping she would growl back. I warned him that was a bad idea, but when it started working I had to admit – it was adorable to see such a tiny ball of love act so ferocious.

Ferocious Nala

As she grew, her growl became less adorable and sounded more menacing. Her underbite grew too, making her look like she’s constantly baring her teeth. Suddenly, nobody at the dog park saw her as friendly: she would run up to a dog to play, but to the dog and its owner it looked like a dog running towards them, growling and baring its teeth. They would respond accordingly, and Nala was confused about why dogs snarled at her when all she wanted to do was play. Yes, that’s right: she growled to play but didn’t take growling as play when other dogs did it to her. She took it as an aggressive gesture from them, and that’s how they meant it.

Unlike the accidental leash chewing I taught her, the growling has had more serious effects and had a chain of consequences. Other dogs responded to Nala as if she’s acting aggressively and in turn, she developed a fear of some other dogs. That means she became reactive on a leash during walks and  was unable to play at the dog park without a scuffle.


We stopped going to the dog park, and at home, we stop play immediately when she growls, so she now growls during play only when she’s overly excited. We’ve been working on “leave it” as we walk so she learns not to respond to every dog that walks by. It’s working: she now growls during play only when she’s really excited and is much calmer on a leash now, and for the most part walks casually by other dogs. She sometimes turns her head, but that’s it. It’s taken some work, but Nala has made huge strides.

Everybody makes training mistakes from time to time. Sometimes it’s not a serious mistake, like our leash mishap; sometimes, the consequences are more dire. The good news is, our efforts are paying off. The earlier you catch the inappropriate behavior, the easier it will be to fix.


Sonia Singh is the Marketing Director and a blogger for specializes in large dog supplies, such as these raised dog bowls for large dogs. They also provide the education and tools that more fully involve big dogs in owners’ everyday lives. As a large dog owner, Sonia understand the questions and issues that come up with big dogs. You can read more of Sonia’s  writing on’s Big Dog Blog, which features practical tips and personal stories on life with big dogs. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.


In Wednesday’s Part I of our Separation Anxiety interview series, canine behavior specialist Nicole Wilde, author of  Don’t Leave Me! Step-by-Step Help for Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety, described what separation anxiety really is, the causes, and how you can tell if your dog has it.

Yesterday’s Part II of the series described ways to manage your dog’s anxiety when you leave and how to build your dog’s confidence.

In today’s post, Nicole explores whether pharmalogical intervention is a good idea for dogs with separation anxiety, when it may be appropriate, and offers some alternative therapies that you may want to try before going down the pharma road.



As an aside, I searched for statistics regarding drug intervention for dogs with separation anxiety. Several pharmaceutical industries that make the medications reported their own statistical findings, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the governing body that approves drugs for animals, found some of the clinical trials and advertising misleading. Although the companies in question have revised their numbers, the curative results of their original statements still perpetuate throughout the web and were even cited at a recent veterinary conference I attended (the companies that reported the claims did not return my calls for comment).

Thus, do your own research to see if pharmaceutical intervention is right for your pup’s separation anxiety. Let us know through the comments section after this post if you’ve tried any therapies, holistic or prescription, that works and what you are doing to help your pooch worry less and enjoy life more!

OK, on to Nicole’s interview!


When is pharmacological intervention appropriate?

Some behaviorists seem to prescribe drugs for just about every behavior problem, even when the issue could be solved with behavior modification alone. Others in the profession believe that drugs can be extremely dangerous to dogs, and would never suggest their use to a dog owner regardless

Luna contemplating her drug and holistic choices

of the behavior issue involved. In my opinion, the most helpful approach lies somewhere in between.

Drugs can be of great assistance in certain circumstances. When a dog’s issues are so extreme that he is injuring himself, or is in such emotional turmoil that behavior modification would be impossible without getting that “foot in the door” that medication can provide, drugs can be a kindness as well as a benefit. Using appropriate pharmacology can, in some cases, make the difference between the dog remaining in the home and being surrendered to the shelter—potentially a life or death decision. Medicating the dog allows for the stress levels of the owner to be lowered as well; this too can tip the scales in favor of the dog keeping his home.

Unfortunately, many owners turn to drugging their dogs as a replacement for dealing with the emotional distress that is causing the problematic symptoms. It’s all too tempting to simply toss pills at a problem! If the dog is calm, after all, the problem must be solved …Well, perhaps it is for the person. But using drugs as a quick fix is bound to have behavioral repercussions down the line, because it is only masking the underlying issues.

Another thing that must be considered with any drug is the potential side effects, especially with long-term use. Owners must be informed consumers so that they decide whether the potential risks are acceptable. Although I absolutely believe that drugs have their place, I prefer natural alternatives whenever possible. There are two nutraceuticals discussed in my book—alpha-casozepine and L-theanine—that have helped many of my clients’ dogs. The former is a peptide derived from a milk protein, and the latter is an amino acid. Both come in easy to administer formulations, and do not carry the worrisome side effects of manufactured drugs. Although they may not work in every case or be appropriate for every dog, in many cases these natural substances are very effective, and are certainly worth a try.


How about alternative therapies? Do they really work?

Buzz can attest that T-shirts often calm a dog with SA

One alternative tool I like is DAP, which is short for Dog Appeasing Pheromone. It chemically mimics the pheromones that are given off by a lactating female dog, which is comforting not only to puppies, but to adult dogs as well. It looks like a plug-in air freshener (but you won’t smell anything), and also a spray form. I know many trainers who use the spray in their training rooms before group classes, and they report that the dogs are much calmer. Used for dogs with separation issues, DAP can take the edge off, and make moderate anxiety less so. One caution, though: do not use DAP if you have birds around, as birds have very sensitive respiratory systems.


Another thing that can be helpful is calming music. Playing soothing, classical music can help, but there is also a product called “Through a Dog’s Ear” that has music that is psychoacoustically designed to calm dogs. I’ve seen it work well with many of my clients’ dogs. They relax, and many will actually go to sleep!

Whether it’s one of the two above-mentioned tools or one of the others discussed in the “Cool Tools” section of the book, it’s important to keep in mind that one thing will not work for every dog. But because these therapies and products won’t cause harm and may well help, they are certainly worth trying.


Can all dogs be treated for SA, or are there cases when SA is too severe? What do you recommend at that point?

It’s likely that the vast majority of dogs with separation issues can improve to a great extent, but there are some cases that can be an extreme challenge. The problem is not only that the dog’s emotional distress is so strong, but also that dealing with the issue and living with it 24/7 takes a huge emotional toll on the owner. It is unfortunate but understandable that people might not be willing to work with this type of issue long-term. I strongly suggest that owners work with a canine behavior specialist before they give up; it may be that something the professional comes up with is the one thing that makes all the difference. But in cases where the issue cannot be resolved and the owner can no longer deal with it, rehoming the dog with someone such as an elderly or infirm person who is at home the majority of the time can be a good option.


What is the one take-away that you hope people will take away from your book?

In addition to readers getting lots of helpful, specific tips and techniques to try, I hope they come away with the willingness to be patient and to remain compassionate. It can sometimes feel like a long road to rehabilitation—believe me, I know! But you will and your dog will both be much less stressed in the end—and your dog is worth it.


Part I of this interview series: Nicole discusses the definitions, causes, how we can help the suffering dog, and clues about separation anxiety with adopting a dog.

Part II of this interview series: Nicole offers advice about how to help your dog feel safer and calmer through management techniques and protocols, discusses the crate controversy, and provides tips and suggestions for building your dog’s confidence.


Nicole Wilde is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) and internationally recognized author and lecturer. Her nine books include So You Want to be a Dog Trainer, Help for Your Fearful Dog, and Don’t Leave Me! Step-by-Step Help for Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety. In addition to working with dogs, Nicole has worked with wolves and wolfdogs for over fifteen years and is considered an expert in the field.

Nicole is on the Advisory Board of the Companion Animal Sciences Institute, the educational branch for the International Institute for Applied Companion Animal Behavior, and an Advisory Board member for the Association of Animal Behavior Professionals. Nicole writes an Ask the Expert column for Modern Dog Magazine, and blogs for Dog Star Daily, Victoria Stilwell’s Positively Expert blog, and her own site, Wilde About Dogs. You can find Nicole on Facebook at Nicole Wilde, Author and on Twitter at @NicoleWilde.

In yesterday’s Part I of our Separation Anxiety interview series, canine behavior specialist Nicole Wilde, author of  Don’t Leave Me! Step-by-Step Help for Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety, described what separation anxiety really is, the causes, and how you can tell if your dog has it.

Today’s discussion continues, as Nicole talks about innovative ways to manage your dog’s anxiety when you leave, including calming techniques, the crate controversy, and how to build your dog’s confidence. Try using these tips and tricks, and let us know of other techniques that helped you and your pooch become happier in the comments section of this post.


If you have a dog with SA, what are the first three things you would do to help make your dog calmer when you leave?

  1. Leave your dog with something super-enticing to chew on that will take a while to eat, such as a frozen, stuffed Kong.

    Kongs can help relieve anxiety (photo: Oakley Originals)

    [Here are some frozen Kong stuffing recipes from Doggie Stylish]

  2. Leave something with your scent on it; this can be very comforting to your dog.
  3. Practice the protocols outlined in my book. Where you start will depend on whether your dog is comfortable being separated from you physically and/or visually, or is fine with you actually leaving for very short periods. Whatever your starting point, you will proceed gradually in small increments so your dog feels comfortable.




Your book mentions some great SA management tips and plans. What are your favorites?

Because you can’t leave your dog alone during the behavior modification period other than when you’re working on the protocol, you’ve got to get creative with management. You can take your dog with you to do errands, and some dogs are actually fine when left in the car because they know their person always returns quickly. You could have a friend or pet sitter stay with your dog, or arrange for play dates.

If you’ve got somewhere you have to be for a few hours and are truly stuck, you can always take your dog to the groomer—obviously this is not to be used too often, but you’ll know your dog is somewhere safe and is with people. It’s a bit too detailed to go into here, but in the book I also outline sneaky ways you can make your dog think you’re still in the house when you’re not!






Crating for SA seems to be controversial in many dog circles, but your book recommends it in some cases. What are the determining factors?

Luna prefers her crate when she’s home alone

It’s absolutely true that some dogs with separation anxiety should not be crated. This includes dogs with issues at the more severe end of the spectrum, the ones who are likely to injure themselves trying to break out of the crate, or self-mutilate. But if a dog has a mild case of SA, is accustomed to a crate, and already regards it as a safe place, it can be a good option for an Alone Zone. One benefit of crating is that it can help certain dogs who would otherwise continually pace, allowing emotional arousal to increase.

With any “controversial” subject, rather than have a knee-jerk reaction to it or, on the other hand, accept the traditional wisdom about it as truth, it is important to subjectively consider whether it will work for a particular dog. Head halters, for example, are a tool that some trainers love, while others abhor them. But the truth is that they can be wonderful tools for some dogs, while being totally inappropriate for others. Crating can be a perfectly good management solution for a dog with separation anxiety, depending on the individual dog. The important thing is crating not be overused to the point where it causes distress.




Many people get frustrated when their dog doesn’t “snap out of” the SA behavior quickly, and can’t fathom that SA can be ongoing. What would you recommend for these people when they can’t or won’t implement a rehabilitation plan?

Believe me, I understand the frustration! For those who can’t or are not willing to work a separation anxiety protocol, there are some “quick fixes” that can be tried. I’ve mentioned some of these in an answer below. In extreme cases of separation anxiety where medication is warranted it can be helpful, but it’s important to understand that, even then, behavior modification will be necessary. In some cases of Isolation Distress, getting another dog will solve the problem instantly—but unless you are sure, don’t get a second dog specifically for that purpose. You might just end up with two dogs with separation issues!


What are a few fun ways to build your dog’s confidence?

Training, especially clicker training, teaches dogs to think for themselves. Rather than simply performing behaviors by rote, the dog learns to figure out what makes you click (and therefore treat), and will begin to offer behaviors. It’s a great confidence booster! Puzzle toys that challenge your dog’s mind are quite useful in this regard as well. I particularly like the Nina Ottoson toys, as they offer varying degrees of difficulty.

Sierra playing with Tornado, a Nina Ottenson toy



What about dog sports?

Treibball builds confidence

Dog sports are also excellent for building canine confidence. Agility and K9 Nosework come to mind, but even something like urban mushing (where your dog pulls you on a scooter) can boost confidence.

And, of course, we now have the new sport of Treibball, where dogs “herd” giant balls into goals, like a game of soccer!

The important thing is to figure out which confidence-building activities work for your particular dog.





Part I of this interview series: Nicole discusses the definitions, causes, how we can help the suffering dog, and clues about separation anxiety with adopting a dog.


Part III of this interview series: Nicole explores whether pharmacological intervention is a good idea, what therapies may be appropriate, and alternatives that might work instead.


Nicole Wilde is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) and internationally recognized author and lecturer. Her nine books include So You Want to be a Dog Trainer, Help for Your Fearful Dog, and Don’t Leave Me! Step-by-Step Help for Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety. In addition to working with dogs, Nicole has worked with wolves and wolfdogs for over fifteen years and is considered an expert in the field.

Nicole is on the Advisory Board of the Companion Animal Sciences Institute, the educational branch for the International Institute for Applied Companion Animal Behavior, and an Advisory Board member for the Association of Animal Behavior Professionals. Nicole writes an Ask the Expert column for Modern Dog Magazine, and blogs for Dog Star Daily, Victoria Stilwell’s Positively Expert blog, and her own site, Wilde About Dogs. You can find Nicole on Facebook at Nicole Wilde, Author and on Twitter at @NicoleWilde.

Subscribe To This Blog!
Blog the Change

Never Shock a Puppy badge big