Posts Tagged ‘dogs’

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.



This post is sharing a unique challenge and advocacy solution for Blog The Change for Animals.

Laboratory Beagles looking at grass for the first time!

Something special is happening in Hollywood on Sunday, July 24. Better than celebrity sightings. A rescue adoption day. But not just any rescue. This one is The Beagle Adoption Day.

Perhaps you remember the press and viral video of several scared Beagles, rescued from an animal laboratory by Beagle Freedom Project, walked on grass for the first time after being caged all their lives?

(The original video has been removed for legal purposes–the second rescue video is at the end of this post, which includes a set of new Beagles experiencing greenery for the first time ever.)

Sure, I’d heard horrific stories about animal testing for all sorts of products, from makeup to dog food, but seeing these debarked and muscle-atrophied Beagle cuties not have a clue as to what to do when confronted with space outside their cages, I had to do find out more.


And they’re out, loving the new smells!

Who’s making a change for animals?

Turns out, Shannon Keith, a Los Angeles Animal Rights Attorney and documentary filmmaker, got a call in December 2010 about nine Beagles who were being retired from a laboratory–and she had less than two days to pick them up. As the founder of the non-profit,  ARME (Animal Rescue, Media & Education), which rescues homeless animals and focuses on educational initiatives, Shannon decided to act–and brought the first of that lab’s Beagles to freedom.

Wanting to do more for throw-away dogs, she started Beagle Freedom Project. “Working directly with laboratories, the Beagle Freedom Project is able to remove the retired Beagles so they can be placed in loving homes. All rescues are done legally with the cooperation of the facility.” She adds that labs offer almost zero chance of freedom. “They decide whether to free the dogs at last minute and we have about 48 hours to get there.”

These Beagles were lucky. The lab had completed testing (for cosmetic, household and pharmaceutical compounds) and agreed to

Shannon (l) & volunteer Jill Ryther taking rescued Beagles for a ride in another first for the dogs

release the animals to Shannon rather than euthanize them. In general, however, when labs are done with the dogs, they’re killed. Plain and simple. The American Association For Laboratory Animal Science says that the animals “must be euthanized to obtain tissue for pathological evaluation and for use in in-vitro testing. Most often, they’re killed because they’re of no use to the laboratories.”

Shannon says that the Beagle Freedom Project is  building relationships with different facilities. It has proven extremely difficult, as most of these place do not want us to rescue the dogs–it’s easier to kill them. However, we are not giving up! We plan to save as many as we can.”


Testing lab’s dirty little secrets

Let’s back up a bit. Why are dogs in laboratories in the first place? They’re often used in biomedical research, testing, and education. You may have used common products, such as toothpaste, shampoo, soap, dog chow–you name it–that were tested on dogs. The Humane Society of the United States claims dogs are also commonly used as models for human diseases in cardiology, endocrinology, bone and joint studies, drugs, poisons, and other research that tends to be highly invasive. Beagles are mostly used because they’re considered gentle and easy to handle. And, these Beagles are “purpose-bred” in the U.S., which means class A breeders are licensed by the USDA to sell animals for research purposes–often at $800 per dog.

According to a recent article and U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics, 70,000 dogs are being used in approximately 1,260 USDA-registered laboratory facilities annually, with appropriations for these laboratories somewhere in the $22,000,000 range.

But why don’t we know these facts? Shannon offers this explanation. “Companies that test keep it a secret. The facilities that test keep it as secret as they can, even though you are paying for it with your taxes. QUESTION where your money goes and what you buy and educate yourself before you buy something. Boycott products tested on animals. Write to those companies and tell them you will not purchase their products anymore until they stop the testing. The FDA does not require companies to test cosmetics or products on animals, but companies still do it to create a legal shield and because they are lazy.”


Cruelty-free living guides

Furthermore, Shannon says, “we are working on our own cruelty-free living guide to give to people so they can make informed choices, instead of purchasing products that might be tested on animals. We are making a comprehensive one that will be updated monthly online.” (In the meantime, here is a good guide of corporations that do test their products on animals, and those that don’t.) “This is part of a larger campaign for us. Of course, we love saving the individual dogs, yet this is about education and awareness and getting people to know and understand who their purchases impact, and to make a different choice. These companies thrive on sales. If people stop buying, then we will see fewer animals being abused.”

One of Shannon’s favorite things is getting responses from people “who hear about us, who did not know animal testing existed and throw away all of their animal-tested products.”

Are you in? That’s what I’m going to do for today’s “Be the Change”–making sure my household is entirely cruelty-free.


The importance of July 24th’s freedom adoption day

One of the many adoptable Beagles

Adoptions! Please come–or at least take a look at the adoptable Beagles from Beagle Freedom Project
When: Sunday, July 24th from 11am-3pm
Where: Healthy Spot in West Hollywood, 8525 Santa Monica Blvd. West Hollywood, CA 90069

Shannon indicates that it’s important that these dogs be seen by the general public so we can learn from them. “It’s one thing to tell people about the horrors of animal testing, but when they see their faces, they cannot help but listen and take it in. We also want to find perfect homes for these dogs.”

And yet, even though there are multiple applications for each dog, Beagle Freedom Project has to be “extremely careful about where we place them,” Shannon emphasizes. “These dogs are not like any other. They need special attention, they need constant companionship from another dog or dogs, so that they can learn how to be dogs, and they also need constant human companionship to learn about love and trust.”

Some common post-adoption issues  in the dogs include possible housetraining setbacks, cautiousness in new environments, separation anxiety, car sickness, and the often seasonal or environmental allergies, depending on the tests to which they were subjected in the labs.

“People need to be willing to put in 100% and to deal with issues they may never have expected from a dog… They are just learning how to WALK. Their muscles are atrophied. They do not know the different between right and wrong. They cannot communicate

Pick me!

vocally because they have been de-barked.” (Many lab dogs are debarked so they won’t bother the technicians or other animals at night.)

The dogs don’t go home on adoption day. The potential adopters, after filling out an application, is rigorously screened. If all works out, the adopter signs not only pays an adoption fee and signs a tight contract, they must sign a supplement to be an ambassador for the cause.

That means adopters “must tell everyone they meet about their newly adopted Beagle, where he/she came from, and why it is so important to boycott certain products.”

Are you that special person?

The promised video!

Here’s the video I promised earlier. Get out your hankies!

Beagles running free–and look who’s up for adoption

Follow the Beagle Freedom Project

Twitter: @BeagleFreedom


Facebook causes page:

Shannon Keith lives with three dogs and one cat. Chula, her 9-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback mix, was skin and bones and about to “pop a litter” when Shannon brought her home–the next day, Chula had 11 puppies. Amazingly, Keith found them all homes. Her Doxie/Chihuahua mix Samantha is also a pound puppy. Oliver, an American Staffordshire Terrier, had been left in a box with his umbilical cord. Grampa, the most recent rescue of the pack, is an 18-year-old black cat from a hoarding situation.

Here we are, halfway through our Never Shock a Puppy campaign. Our blogging coalition is continuing to cover the behavior issues that are frustrating for dog owners–yet solvable with humane, positive-reinforcement techniques. Find out about our campaign prizes at the end of this post!

This week, we cover barking–one of the more troublesome behaviors for my clients.

Barking–Natural Behavior

We all think it’s annoying to hear a dog bark for more than a few minutes; I know I get frustrated when my dogs do it! But barking is a dog’s way of expressing herself… just as all beings have their way of communicating. Birds sing, frogs croak, people talk–you name it. Dogs communicate through whining, howling, barking. And often, pet owners unintentionally train their dog to bark. Have you  let Fido out when he’s whining in his a crate? Do you open your front door when Fluffy barks? How about barking with him by shouting “Quiet” when he’s on a barking jaunt? Your behavior often influences how your dog will react.

And of course, if someone walks by your house, yard–well hey, in a dog’s mind, barking works to make that person go away! Especially if the person has the nerve to be walking another dog. Bark=offending being leaves. Since I live on open space and on a corner lot, there are lots of distractions. So, not only did I build a kind of double-fence, I also clap my hands and say “who wants a treat?” My dogs, although they hesitate for a few seconds, usually decide that high-value treats (chicken, turkey, roast beef, cheese) seem better than the distraction.

Barking Classifications

Not all barking is the same. As also mentioned in today’s Never Shock a Puppy blog post, the infamous Turid Rugaas, in her insightful book Barking: The Sound of a Language, lists six major barking types:

  • Excitement
  • Warning
  • Fear
  • Guard
  • Frustration
  • Learned

I’m not going to cover all of these, as others in our coalition will present their tips. But for me, two of the more difficult barking issues: Frustration barking and barking at squirrels (or any critters) that tease a dog when he’s outside.

Frustration Barking

Most people want help with their dog’s frustration barking–sounding hours on end in the yard or house while the owner is away. It’s heartbreaking to hear, as the desperation and frustration comes through in those repeating and static-sounding barks. Leaving your pooch in the yard means he has nothing to do. Bored. Even if you provide toys and a doggy door, will he use them? Why have a dog if you don’t interact? Take him with you! Give him a job! You’ll both get exercise! Even if it’s just a ride in the car, hanging out in the house, walking around the block. When you’re not home, have a dogwalker take him on a hike. Bring him to doggy daycare, or have a neighbor drop by. Mental games, such as Nina Ottoson’s toys or dog treat dispensing puzzles, are great fun for you both!

Some trainers like the citronella collar as a way to humanely discourage your dog from barking. It does work effectively for many barkers! My dogs Frisbee and Luna, however, figured out a way to twist the collar so that it doesn’t spray when they “shout” out. And I also didn’t like that they had to smell like citronella, a scent they hate, even when they were behaving nicely.

Squirrels–A Dog’s Nemesis

If you have herding or prey-driven dogs, they’re hard-wired to go after critters–I’m sure you’ve heard yours go crazy when squirrels are out in force, teasing from fence lines or trees. Although you can use “leave it” or other attention-getting methods when you’re home, what happens when you’re gone? My dogs have a fixation; it’s a struggle to keep them quiet when squirrels abound. How can you get a dog to stop that fixation?

If you’re into doing some research and reading, consider the Premack Principal. It’s based on scientific studies showing that a low probability behavior or reinforcement is the opportunity for Lassie to exchange a less-valued activity for a more valued one. In real life, that means: “Eat your brussels sprouts and you’ll get cake!”

Leslie McDevitt discusses the principle in Control Unleashed (great book on behavior modification!), and Jean Donaldson shows how this works for squirrel-obsessed dogs in Oh Behave! Dogs from Pavlov to Premack to Pinker.

However, what if you’re not into doing all that homework? Reading is one thing, action is another! Why not just get rid of the squirrel nuisance? My neighbor, who said “my fence is a squirrel highway!” rigged up a cool device–PVC pipe strung together and hung at the top of her fence.  That way, the squirrels roll off and learn not to even venture onto the fence! It works like a charm–I haven’t heard her dogs squirrel bark for awhile now!

Prizes Galore!

This week, we’re giving out the second of our five prize packages to those who comment on the Never Shock a Puppy site. If you’re a first-time dog owner, you’ll get extra credit! Here’s what you can win:

We Need Your Donations Today!

As you’ve read in previous weeks, we’re raising money for the Humane Society of Boulder Valley‘s upcoming No-Choke Challenge, commencing in November. Every $5 helps! Just click the donation button on the donation widget on the right side of this post to get started!

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