Dog or Human?

One of the biggest mistakes people make with their dogs is treating them as humans or assuming that dogs need the same emotional requirements as humans.

Generally this happens because people do not understand the nature of a pack. As most of you know, dogs are pack animals. Pack animals need one thing more than anything else.


Affection vs. Leadership

Because dogs are pack animals they are comfortable following. When a dog receives too much affection and not enough leadership the dog’s world becomes unbalanced.

I often look at the bands some people wear around their wrists with the letters WWJD (What Would Jesus Do). My idea is to wear a wrist band that says WWDD (What Would a Dog Do). Every time you are in a situation with your dog you are not sure about you can look down at your wrist and consider:

1. Dogs don’t give dogs too much affection.

When a dog receives too much affection without boundaries, this is a sign of weakness from the pack leader.

2. A dog will not behave because they love you.

A dog will do what you say because they respect you. Being a consistent, firm pack leader is what the dog is looking for. Once you fulfill the dog’s needs, they are comfortable and more content to live their lives among your pack.

3. If you won’t do it, they will

Understand that if you are not acting as the pack leader, out of pure instinct a dog will attempt to fill the role. This is where the bad behavior comes in.

4. Don’t feel sorry for your dog

Dogs live in the now, not the past and not the future. Dogs are very simple creatures. Feeling pity on a dog is a wasted emotion that only serves to confuse a dog again by showing weakness. Your dog knows you are unhappy but does not know why. If we show weakness we are only going to feed whatever else is wrong with the dog and create an even more unstable situation.

5. Don’t get mad at your dog

Anger is another wasted emotion on a dog. When you get angry you lose control. When you lost control your dog will again see this as a weakness. You will never make a point out of anger. Take a breath. Nothing your dog does is personal. If your dog is acting out of negative behavior consider where it’s coming from. It may be time to smack yourself with that newspaper.

6. A dog is not a child.

I make this statement however the raising of a child should be almost the same as a dog. They need the same things.


The key is the right balance.

Be fair to your dog. Be a stable pack leader. If you don’t know how, seek help. Understand pack leadership and give your dog what he desires. You will both be much happier.

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How to avoid being bitten by a dog

There are nearly 75 million dogs in the USA alone.

A survey by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta (“CDC”) concluded that dogs bite nearly 2% of the U.S. population — more than 4.7 million people annually. (Sacks JJ, Kresnow M, Houston B. Dog bites: how big a problem? Injury Prev 1996;2:52-4.)

Almost 800,000 bites per year — one out of every 6 — are serious enough to require medical attention. (Weiss HB, Friedman D, Coben JH. Incidence of dog bite injuries treated in emergency departments. JAMA 1998;279:51-53.)

These are only a few of the statistics. How reliable are statistics? In some States, even a scratch from an untrained puppy if reported, can be considered a dog bite. A law is only as strong as the person creating it. One must also consider what the situation of the bite really is. Did the dog in question bite a veterinarian out of fear of being handled? Did someone reach under the bed for the dog or attempt to grab a dog as they ran out the door? How many people have an out of control puppy that jumps on children and issues a “play” bite? All of these, if reported, are considered dog bites. The one thing all of these laws do have in common is the skin must be broken. How broken in the case of a scratch is another issue.

Child playing with puppy

I have read many articles over the years and almost all of them recommend that you “put your hand out” to a dog that you don’t know. In my opinion, this is not a means to introduction, rather if the dog is aggressive, you are giving them five fingers to choose from. If you feel compelled to do this, at least ball your fist and give them the back of your hand so if they do bite, it will be more difficult for them to grab a chunk of skin.

dog biting hand

What you really need to know is how to recognize the difference between a “safe” dog and a dog that may pose a threat. I meet new dogs almost on a daily basis and I never reach toward a dog in any manner. I make an evaluation of the dog and I take my time doing this. Many times the highest chance you have of getting bit follows the words from the owner “he won’t bite”.

Dog looking up

There are different kinds of aggression. Don’t assume that a dog protecting his home, property or owner is a dangerous dog. This is a dog who feels he is doing his job. However when a dog is showing any signs of aggression and they are not working, there is no reason to try to make up to a dog like this.

Refer to post “What tale does the tail tell you” to find out more about reading a dog.

If you find yourself in a situation with a stray dog that you feel may be a danger, there are steps that must be taken to ensure you get out unscathed.

1. If you see a dog stray while walking, keep an eye on the dog. Make sure they hear you coming. A cough or clearing your throat is all the sound you will need. Most dogs will not approach. It’s true that they are as unsure about you as you them.

2. However if they do approach, stop. Do not keep walking. Stay still. This means don’t move your hands or body.

3. Speak softly and quietly to the dog.

4. If the dog begins to move around you, be sure you move around slowly with the dog. Do not let the dog get behind you. You are much stronger to the dog facing head on. Do not look the dog in the eye, this can be confrontational.

5. I understand it’s very difficult to not run or move away quickly when you feel threatened by a dog. However this is exactly what they are looking for. Most dogs will not attack a person if you remain stationary.

6. Slowly back away from the dog never turning your back. If the dog begins to move toward you again, stop. When you can, move away until you are out of harms way.

Aggressive dog

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Going Raw

Many people have questions about feeding their dogs raw foods. I hear a lot of myths about what is good and not good for your dog. Let’s get down to the real truth about feeding a raw diet to your dogs.

Dogs live longer because they eat commercial dog foods

Many breeds are actually living shorter lives since the creation of processed food.

Feeding raw diets make a dog more aggressive

Some dogs show a higher tenancy for predatory behavior. People would rather blame lack of training and control on diet. Many dogs that eat commercial dog foods still hunt and even kill small animals. As a matter of fact, many people report that once the dog is put on a raw diet they actually calm down because they are receiving a better diet.

Veterinarians are experts on pet nutrition

Most veterinary schools only provide a few hours on pet nutrition. However some veterinarians chose to learn more about nutrition since food is of basic importance to a dog’s health. Others rely on pet food companies to tell them what is appropriate.

Raw diets are not nutritionally balanced

Raw foods contain the exact amount of proteins, vitamins, fats, minerals and enzymes a dog requires for optimal health.

Raw foods contain health risks to humans

Yes. Raw foods contain bacteria, however if you handle preparation and cleaning the same way you would preparing any other meats, there is no worry.

Raw food is too expensive and too much trouble

Yes. Pouring kibble in a bowl is easy. However most of the commercial dog foods on the market that are reasonably priced contain grains and other products that are not healthy for your dog. Buying high quality dog foods IF they are available are very expensive. Even high quality foods are not going to show the benefits of feeding a raw diet.

Two bowls, one raw and one kibble

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Dog stays by the side of its injured friend after tsunami

Just like Hurricane Katrina , the tsunami in Japan left thousand of dogs without home or owner. This video that was shared with me this morning is an account of a Brittany Spaniel standing by his partner who appears to be an English Setter. The Setter has been injured however the Brittany is standing fast by his friend.

Here is an English translation of the voiceover exchange between the two reporters in the clip (translation courtesy of Toshiyuki Kitamura):

We are in Arahama area. Looks like there is a dog. There is a dog. He looks tired and dirty. He must have been caught in the tsunami. He looks very dirty.

He has a collar. He must be someone’s pet. He has a silver collar. He is shaking. He seems very afraid.

Oh, there is another dog. I wonder if he is dead.


Right there. There is another dog right next to the one sitting down. He is not moving. I wonder. I wonder if he is alright.

The dog is protecting him.

Yes. He is protecting the dog. That is why he did not want us to approach them. He was trying to keep us at bay.

I can’t watch this. This is a very difficult to watch.

Oh. Look. He is moving. He is alive. I am so happy to see that he is alive.

Yes! Yes! He is alive.

He looks to be weakened. We need to them to be rescued soon. We really want them rescued soon.

Oh good. He’s getting up.

It is amazing how they survived the tremendous earthquake and tsunami. It’s just amazing that they survived through this all.

Update: [ UPDATE: March 16, 2011 –CNN is reporting that both dogs received medical attention. The injured dog is currently at a veteranarian getting care and the loyal dog friend is at a shelter. In summary of the mens’ conversation in Japanese: at first the two thought the injured dog was dead. They immediately called a vet for assistance for both dogs. The men say they wish they had brought food to give the dogs. We will continue to follow any updates on this story and the status of the injured dog who is reportedly still weak. – Global Animal]

How To Help & Donate To Japan’s Lost and Injured Pets (including Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support, which is the organization that rescued these two dogs):


Pets Left Behind

Back in my days as an animal shelter manager few things saddened me more than a pet being dropped off at the shelter because of the death of an owner.

Some people don’t like to think about it, but it’s a reality. What happens to your pets if you are involved in an accident or worse?

What to do:

The best thing you can do now is make arrangements for an “in case of emergency”.
There are two scenarios.

First is a person who will help care for your pets if you become sick or for some reason cannot care for your pets.

The second is who will take your pets in the case of your death.

After you decide who you would like to share this responsibility, talk to them. Even though you may have friends or relatives that like your pets, caring for them and being responsible may be another matter.

Ways to prepare:

Leaving instructions in a will is mandatory but may not be enough.

Depending on where you live, you may have to seek further advice of an attorney. Leaving keys with this emergency person is a must in case they need to get in your house to get to your animals. I know areas of the world that when someone dies the police will “seal” your property and unless you have legal documentation that states this person can enter your property your emergency person cannot get to your animals. This may only take a day or two but imagine how confusing this can be for the animals. Not to mention if the animals are confined in the house.

Leave instructions. Here are some ideas of what would be needed:

Feeding schedules
Care instructions
Allergies or medications
Special needs
Locations and phone number of veterinarian

Another good idea is take your animals to your emergency person’s house. Visit several times or even let your pets spend a night or two. This would make the transition for not only the animals but also the emergency person much easier. If there are already animals in the home, make sure everyone gets along.

If your animal has certain behavioral issues, make sure everyone is aware of these issues and how to deal with them. Loosing an owner can be devastating to some pets and this will make the transition much easier.

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Hoofin’ it with your dog

The benefits of walking

* All the photographs in the article were taken on one walk with a client. All but the last picture are just some of the stray dogs encountered on this walk. Mind you, we may run in to more strays living in Panama than you would in your part of the world. Both of her dogs (also shown in last photo) were dog aggressive before she started walking.

Are you thinking “Why should I walk my dog when he runs around all day?”

In this article I want to discuss a few of the reasons why you should walk your dog. You won’t believe the benefits. And no, obedience training is not always enough.

Maintaining control of your dog:

I tell people in my training classes, you either have control of your dog or you do not. “Control” does not mean you are a tyrant; it simply means you live in harmony with your dog under all circumstances. Many people tell me they have control of their dog unless it’s distracted or unless it doesn’t feel like it…the reasons go on and on.

Rules of walking:

Don’t let your dog pull on the leash; your dog should remain by your side when walking. This teaches the dog to walk with you instead of on his own out in front of you. Allowing a dog to walk in front of you tells the dog he is in charge of the walk, not you.

I also tell people in my training classes that a walk should be a walk. Not a sniff, not a zig-zag otherwise known as “coursing”. This means if you have to walk in the middle of the street to make it easier for you to keep your dog’s nose up, you do so. Yes, your dog can go potty or investigate on a walk, but only when you allow him to.

Walk with purpose. Head up, shoulders straight, relaxed. The more confident you are on the walk the better your dog will behave.

Slack in the leash; do you know that when you allow your dog to keep a tension in the leash you are actually encouraging the dog to pull ahead? Keeping slack in the leash will teach the dog to stay with you and not pull. If your dog begins to pull, you can use a treat or a pop on the leash to remind the dog he will be walking with no tension.

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What tale does the tail tell you?

I received a video today on my “bravodoberman” facebook page. As I was watching it I laughed to myself when I noticed the brown Doberman near the end of the video. Notice this dog wagging his tail as he attacks the “bad guy”. Many people think a dog only wags his tail to show signs of friendliness. As you can see in this video this dog clearly “likes” this bad guy, in the same way I like a good cut of steak.

The tail of a dog can tell you many things about how a dog is feeling but it may not always be what you think. Learning what a tail is telling you can be a valuable tool when evaluating the intentions of a dog.

There are two key ways to read what a dog is feeling. These would be his ears and his tail. Each dog has their own unique way of expressing themselves but certain stances are the same in all dogs.

Aggression and wagging tails

A raised tail wagging slowly usually means this dog is aggressive and dominant. If that tail stops wagging and you see the head lower and the ears go flat, the next sound will be growling. At this point if something doesn’t happen to change this dog’s intention, this action would be followed by a strike. It is also possible for the dog to go straight to a strike especially when he is challenging another dog.

The Doberman in this video is an excellent example of a strong, dominant dog with clear intention. If he had more of a tail, you would see it standing tall. This dog’s tail is wagging furiously because the dog is very stimulated.

Bottom line; don’t trust the wagging tail of a dog that you are not familiar with. Be cautious and patient. Give the dog time to make a next move to show you what his intentions are. Could save you from a very bad situation.

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What do dogs see?

When I look at a dog I always look in to the eyes first. You can tell a lot about a dog through his eyes and expression. They say the eyes are the “window to the soul”. I have always wondered what a dog sees when they look back at me.

As a child, I was always told a dog sees in black and white. I never believed it. How could an animal with such acute hearing and other senses see only black and white? Well, they have come to realize this is not true.


Dogs can definitely see in color but where humans have “trichromatic vision”, dogs have “dichromatic vision”. This means we see the entire spectrum of the rainbow and a dog only sees yellows, blues and shades of gray. Yes it is a form of color blindness, so keep this in mind when you buy a red toy for your dog and wonder why he may run by the toy instead of seeing it right away.

However, these findings conflict with an earlier study performed by Rosengren (1969) in which dogs (three female Cocker Spaniels) were ostensibly trained to discriminate between red, blue, green and yellow hues. She also claims that these dogs could distinguish these various colors from gray samples of different values.


One big difference between dog and human vision is dogs lack a fovea. The fovea is made up of cones and cells and gives us the ability to see detail. Instead, many dogs have an area in the retina called a visual streak and central area which is thought to enhance binocular vision, acuity and horizontal scanning. However the visual streak is more pronounced in some dogs than others. So, the better visual streak in a dog the better hunters they are. This may be the difference between a dog that wants to be outside looking up trees for squirrels while other dogs are happy sitting in you lap staring at you.

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How to pick your new best friend (Part two)

Adopting a Dog and Avoiding Disaster Part Two of Two

Temperament testing

Performing a temperament test is not difficult. I highly recommend you take the time for this.

In the last post we discussed some of the steps toward avoiding mistakes when picking a dog from a shelter. Here is the next step.

Once you have found a dog that you are interested in there are a series of tests you can preform that will let you know if this dog may truly be right for you.

Approach the kennel:

You are looking for a dog that greets you in a friendly, outgoing manner. Avoid any signs of aggression, shyness or a dog that ignores you.

Next ask the shelter staff for a quiet area to take the dog. If you have a choice of an indoor area this would be preferred.

Ignore the dog

Once there, ignore the dog for a minute or two and watch his behavior. What you are looking for is a dog that approaches you. Jumping can be corrected later. Dogs that ignore you are of concern. A dog that shows any signs of shyness may be a dog that you want to avoid. At this stage a dog that shows any sign of aggression would definitely be avoided considering you are doing nothing at this point to provoke or intimidate the dog.

Make eye contact

After a couple of minutes bend down slightly in front of the dog and make eye contact. What you are looking for is a dog that approaches you. What you are concerned with is a dog that moves away or shows any signs of aggression including barking at you.

Pet the dog

Approach the dog if he is not already near you and grasp his collar. Gently pet the dog several times on the back beginning at his neck all the way to his tail. Pause a few seconds in between. Does he enjoy this or does he become uncomfortable? This test will show you how much physical contact the dog has had and how much he will tolerate.

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How to pick your new best friend (Part one)

Adopting a Dog and Avoiding Disaster: Part One of Two

Making the decision to add a dog to your life is and should be a major decision. There are many things to consider.

Most people who make the decision to rescue a dog from a shelter are well-intentioned. However many people adopt the wrong dog for the wrong reason and find themselves in a situation they cannot handle. This is one of the leading causes of high return rates at shelters. Lets talk about some of the mistakes that are often made when choosing a dog.

Going in with a plan:

When you have made a decision to adopt a dog you should sit down a make a plan. Write down what your requirements are for your lifestyle.

*Are you looking for a puppy or an adult?

You may be interested in finding an older dog that will already be house trained or you may be interested in raising a dog from puppy-hood.

*Is the size of a dog an issue?

A small dog or a dog that doesn’t require a lot of exercise may do better if you live in an apartment or don’t have a large yard. You may be looking for a bigger dog for home protection or may prefer larger breeds.

*Have you considered the costs involved in a large dog vs. a small dog?

Smaller dogs are more economical. However this may not be an issue.

*Are you looking for a low energy dog or high energy dog?

You may be an active person that is looking for a dog that can keep up with your active lifestyle.

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