Mother is a Verb

Happy Mother’s Day! 

Violet (in the purple fleece) had just had emergency surgery. She was exhausted. One pup had gone home to his new home. The other two were still with us.  It was strongly recommended that we wean the pups and keep Violet separate from them. She was having none of it!

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Cesar Millan, I submit

“blind focus on dominance condemns you to a combative, emotionally dull relationship”~ Caen Elegans
Well said.

Science and Dogs

Is it possible, at certain moments we cannot imagine, a horse can add its sufferings together -- the non-stop jerks and jabs that are its daily life -- and turn them into grief?”  Equus: A Play in Two Acts  By Peter Shaffer Equus: A Play in Two Acts
By Peter Shaffer

Cesar, you once wrote: “When I learned how to be calm-submissive to my wife, it improved my marriage 100 percent!” But you are now divorced.

Did your recipe for an “improved” marriage lead to its eventual breakdown? Were you resentful about being submissive? Was your wife looking for a partner and not a prisoner to guard? Did you act out to regain a feeling of control? Did Ilusión grow tired of dominating you into good behavior? I don’t know. I’m pretty sure it didn’t help.

It’s hard to understand why you think we must make our dogs “submissive” Why is it even desirable?

I wouldn’t write “submissive” on my résumé. And I wouldn’t hire someone who did. Coaches don’t brag about their submissive players, military officers don’t want submissive soldiers and managers don’t go out…

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Why I’m Not a “Force Free” Trainer

When I first started to read this I thought: ‘this is semantics’ — reading on I concluded that Sara makes an excellent point.

I recently had a client grill me before joining my class. He understood that my method is reward-based but was very concerned about the use of force, he did not believe in prongs, shock, and other compulsion tools and methods.

I have witnessed that same man yank, scold and even slap his dog in the face with his leash in moments of frustration. Guiding him to be more gentle proved to be very difficult because he did not perceive himself to be using force, after all the dog was on a harness or a martingale collar.

The dog was more responsive to me and every other handler in the class than he was to his owner. The owner concluded that the walk about exercises we were doing to help the dogs come under stimulus control while out in public were not helpful to his dog because the dog was too distracted and would not respond to his cues. The dog did however, respond with minimal latency, when I offered the cues. He could not see that his dog was under stimulus control with a high rate of reward and a gentle attitude. For the dog the handler was like a poisoned cue.

Paws Abilities

Force free. It sounds great, doesn’t it? Of course dog training should be force free! Yet when a recent client asked if I was a force free trainer, I said I wasn’t. My client was taken aback, as many of my blog readers probably are. Let me explain.


I have several issues with the idea of labeling the training that Paws Abilities offers as “force free.” My biggest problem with the label is that it says nothing about what we actually do. Focusing on negatives like this is one of the biggest advertising gimmicks of all time. “No corn, wheat, or soy!” the dog food package proclaims. Yet, reading the label shows that there’s enough barley, rice, and oatmeal in the food that dogs who have issues with carbs are still going to react negatively. “Sugar free – No Sugar Crash!” the 5-hour Energy drink shouts, saying nothing about…

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To the Owner(s) of the GSD residing at…

“I am writing this to you because your dog scared me out of my wits on Saturday morning and he really scared my own dog when he charged at her from across the street.  The man that came after the dog asserted that the dog was ok and I answered that my dog was not.

In an effort to be very clear let me say that I am a professional dog trainer and I work at a local shelter in the behavior department.  I observe and evaluate dog behavior on a daily basis.  My dog lives with other dogs and cats.  She has dog friends as well.  However, she is very fearful in new situations and nervous around unknown dogs.  I take precautions with her like keeping her on a leash during walks and avoiding situations that may frighten her. 

This is what I observed on Saturday:  While I have no doubt that your dog is a great dog and ‘ok’ in other contexts he was not ‘ok’ during our encounter.  He bolted into the street – he could have been hit by a car! His approach was neither friendly nor playful.  He charged.  My dog is fearful of unknown dogs, so when she is approached like that she offer signals like a tucked tail, a crouch, ears back and a lip lick to ask the other dog to slow down or back away.  Your dog ignored her and stood tall over her, sniffing, tail high.  She then snarked at him as a further warning to back away.  Instead, he retaliated with his own snark and continued to stand tall, and put his head over her face.  She lunged and air snapped, another warning to back away.  He did not and they tussled.  If either of them had the intention of harming the other they would have, so my concern isn’t about that.  If my dog was loose she simply would have fled; I did not try to leave because I did not want your dog to give chase or end up in the street again.  As we walk past his house on a regular basis I suspect he may have been protecting his turf.  He is entitled to do that, just as my dog is permitted to ask a rude dog to behave more appropriately.  As I will continue to take my dog on daily walks I am hoping that you will consider managing the situation so that your dog can not get loose and perhaps you can train your dog to respond to a recall.

This is precisely why we have leash laws in Buffalo.  Laws that apparently don’t apply to you and your dog. Why?  I noticed you have a small child in your house.   Why would you NOT want your dog, that child and other people and animals to feel safe, to be safe?  If I was frightened by your dog’s charge can you imagine how someone who does not know dogs the way I do would feel if they were on the receiving end of that charge?

I am very sad for my dog.  This is a set back for her.  Learning to trust strange dogs is not easy for her and now she has had an experience that might make it even more difficult.  How do I show her that that walking down our block is not scary?  I am worried for your dog.  He could have been hit by a car!!!  Most of all I wish that I could just take my dog on a walk and not have to worry about your cluelessness.

I wish I could actually write this in a letter to you and mail it.  I am not comfortable with that.  I can only hope that you got as scared as I did and will take the necessary precautions so that neither of us has to be that scared again.”

Until next time.