Archive for July, 2008

AKC Finally Takes Action in Denver

This just in from AKC:
      (more than a little overdue….)

AKC Represents Dog Owners in Challenge to Denver Breed Ban


[Wednesday, July 30, 2008]


The American Kennel Club® (AKC®) will be joining Karen R. Breslin of the Progressive Law Center, LLC of Lakewood, Colorado and the Washington D.C. office of Kaye Scholer LLP in representing dog-owning plaintiffs Sonya Dias and others who are asserting that the Denver ordinance banning pit bulls within the city limits is unconstitutional.

In March the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, where the plaintiffs’ 2007 lawsuit was originally filed, dismissed the suit without granting a hearing. A brief is being filed today in the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit asking to reverse that court’s decision and grant the plaintiffs/appellants a hearing on the unconstitutionality of the Denver breed ban. The original lawsuit stated Dias and the other owners were forced to move out of Denver with their dogs because of the ban which they asserted was a violation of, among other things, their constitutional rights.

The Denver ordinance bans ownership or possession of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Bull Terrier and the American Pit Bull Terrier and/or any dog with a majority of physical traits of one or more of these breeds within the city or county of Denver. Since 2005, as a result of this ordinance, several hundred dogs within the city limits had been euthanized.

The AKC supports reasonable, enforceable, non-discriminatory laws to govern the ownership of dogs. The AKC believes that dog owners should be responsible for their dogs. We support laws that: establish a fair process by which specific dogs are identified as “dangerous” based on stated, measurable actions; impose appropriate penalties on irresponsible owners; and establish a well-defined method for dealing with dogs proven to be dangerous. We believe that, if necessary, dogs proven to be “dangerous” may need to be humanely destroyed. The AKC strongly opposes any legislation that determines a dog to be “dangerous” based on specific breeds or phenotypic classes of dogs.

July 31, 2008 at 10:45 pm 1 comment

So.. What IS it Worth?

In today’s Albert Lea, MN Tribune Tim Engstrom wonders:

But if you are the owner of a trained dog, don’t you sometimes feel society gives little reward to you for the time and money you invested in obedience school? Don’t you wish the graduation certificate could function as a permission slip to bring your dog in stores or at least more stores than at present? Or even into government buildings and places such as trains, bus stations and shopping malls?

Today, we as dog owners find ourselves in an untenable situation.  At the same time that the number of dogs living in our country has dramatically increased (by approximately a million animals a year since 2000 according to the Pet Food Institute) the number of places we are allowed to take them has dropped precipitously.

The current politically correct, obsessively all-inclusive environment is the root of the problem.  When we reward everyone who just shows up, we cheapen the achievements of those who did much more.  Worse yet, we also create a society where extrinsic rewards are the focus.  Unlike the fleeting rush we get from extrinsic rewards (like money and ribbons,) intrinsic rewards (like the feeling of achievement one gets when hard work is rewarded) give us a deeper, long-lasting sense of accomplishment.  And since they  are internal (self-rewarding) rather than external (must be given by others) intrinsic rewards are available at any time and in any place.

We have come to expect the extrinsic rewards of instant gratification’s drive-through speed and convenience in nearly aspect of our lives.  And in a world obsessed with instant gratification – programs that emphasize (correctly) that training your dog is a lifetime pursuit are not likely to thrive….

This politically correct, all-inclusive, one-size-fits-all view of the world is – in reality – utterly intolerant of true diversity.  It’s not politically correct to allow some people to have more rights to public access with their dogs simply because they are responsible pet owners who train, socialize and clean up after their pets.  Current ‘wisdom’ says that we simply must reduce access privileges to meet the limitations of the lowest common denominator – those who can’t be bothered.

So, bit by bit and piece by piece, the rights of responsible pet owners everywhere are stolen chipped away by entitlement-driven, feel-good pet owners who put more effort into choosing a pair of shoes than in making the decision to take an innocent life into their hands.  And for some reason – we sit back and let them do it.

Your dog, your rights.  What are they worth to you?

July 31, 2008 at 5:37 am 2 comments

Why Zombies Make Great Dog Trainers

The only completely consistent people are the dead.
Aldous Huxley

The perfect dog trainer?

Consistency is a key factor in dog training. Dogs crave consistency – a consistent world is a predictable one.  The problem, as Huxley noted, is that humans don’t seem to be programmed for consistency.

Some days I think that the only thing the typical pet owner is consistent at – is being inconsistent.

I hound my students endlessly about this. 

The thing is, if you don’t make the effort to give your dog consistent input on his behavior – good or bad – he’ll look elsewhere for that information.  And he’ll find it.

Many dog owners get frustrated when their dog doesn’t obey a command.  They nag the dog a bit, get frustrated and give up – “too busy” to follow up with enforcing their command.  The problem is made even worse when the various members of the household have differing ideas about what is or is not important for the dog to learn. 

Most of these mistakes are insidiously subtle in nature.  Normal humans are not programmed to notice that Billy lets Fido jump up on him all the time; gramma has a fit every time he jumps up on her and Susie thinks it’s fine for the dog to jump up as long as she’s not wearing good clothes.  The problem is that your dog is hard-wired to notice and remember these things.  Keeping track of that kind of information is how he makes sense of his world.

Inconsistent behavior is confusing to a dog.  It takes your dog time to understand the concept that he must obey commands and have good manners in a wide variety of situations.  Our dogs need our help to learn to generalize – and in many cases our actions are (albeit unwittingly) proving to be more hindrance than help.

Many dog owners get into the unfortunate habit of giving their dog a command when they aren’t in a position to enforce that command.  When this happens too often, the dog, being a brilliantly observant student, learns that listening to his owner and obeying him is optional.  This is probably not the lesson you want your dog to learn – but if you consistently put him in a situation where he is not required to obey your commands, you are doing a zombie’s very effective job of teaching him just that. 

You must have a plan in place to enforce each command before you give it.  Especially in the early stages of proofing behaviors.  It’s simple to teach a dog to sit for praise or for a treat.  It’s much more difficult to teach him to sit calmly for long periods of time, in strange places around distractions.  If you don’t have a plan and you aren’t consistent, you’ll never achieve that goal.  And the cold, hard truth is that when this happens, you are failing to be the kind of owner your dog deserves.

Consistent behavior creates habits and habitual behavior is very strongly retained.  Your training program and your day-to-day interaction with your dog should be one and the same so together they can form the basis for the manners your dog lives by instead of a set of tricks he performs on command.

— And no, consistent training absolutely will not turn your dog into a mindless zombie.  Zombie infection is a tick-borne disease, not the result of effective training. —

July 29, 2008 at 11:39 pm Leave a comment

Dogs and Logs

bff Audrey and I drove up to Stillwater, MN today (Sunday) to catch the finals of the Dogs and Logs DockDog World Championships.  My friend Sue Meyer and her 9-year-old German Shorthair Pointer Tanner of Team MyTDog, qualified in the Big Air competition, so we’d come to cheer them on in the finals.

Sue and Tanner in front of loggers doing ‘the creation of adam’
Sadly, they didn’t make the finals (results are available here).  This is Tanner’s last year competing and even if he and Sue weren’t friends of ours, we’d have been rooting for him.  He’s a beautiful, sweet-natured, athletic, highly-disciplined dog.  Just my type.
Audrey and I enjoyed the event even more than we thought we would.  The folks who put this event together did an absolutely fantastic job.  The DockDogs events (big air, extreme vertical and the new speed retrieve event) were interspersed with the Stihl Ironjack World Championship events (chop, saw, climb, axethrow, crosscut, boom run), which kept the action moving at a pace that left us unable unwilling to leave our seats.
Here are a few pics of the event, taken with my pocket digital.  Sorry for the so-so quality.
 Blast off!
Acrophobics need not apply
Hang time
 They all stayed dry!
The logging championship was, I must say, as entertaining to watch as the dockdogs competition.  The men competing were incredible athletes – strong, quick and agile with amazing endurance.  I think it was the fellow who won the overall world championship who, in his acceptance speech – thanked his orthopedic surgeon and chiropracter.  Yup.  Considering the fact that these guys climb high, run fast, walk on water — and do most of it with very sharp things in their hands — that made perfect sense.
The dogs who took honors in the DockDogs finals didn’t make speeches.  They mostly just grinned and cavorted at their owner’s feet while they accepted the trophies.  I had the distinct impression that, lovely as they were, those trophies meant nothing to the dogs.  They were just there to enjoy the journey — and were therefore winners, every one of them.

July 28, 2008 at 6:25 am Leave a comment

New in Books

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

I don’t read much fiction, so I tend to be pretty darn choosy about what I do read.  David Wroblewski’s The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is proving to be well worth my time.  It’s a fascinating book that weaves bits of Skakespeare’s Hamlet, Jean Craighead George’s My Side of the Mountain, Scott and Fuller’s Genetics and the Social Behavior of the Dog  and Vicki Hearne’s Animal Happiness into a coming of age tale set in a kennel in rural Wisconsin during the 1970’s.  I’m thrilled to report that the book avoids the quirky adorableness, purely positive political correctness and glorification of indulgent dog owners who act as mere spectators in their pet’s lives – that far too many of the dog-related novels written today have tortured me with.

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is most definately not a feel-good story, and at 576 pages it isn’t a quick, easy read.  But it does provide a fascinating look into the lives of rural Wisconsin and the lives of dog breeders and trainers.  The kennel and training routines depicted in this book are some of the most authentic and insightful depictions of this life I’ve read in a work of fiction.

As many of the reviewers on have noted, I agree that (as good as it is) the book could have been much improved by a more thorough editing.  But, unlike most of those reviewers, I wasn’t put off by the long, detailed descriptions of the Sawtelle’s day-to-day activities with their dogs.  I found them fascinating.  It’s obvious that Wroblewski is well-read on the subject of dogs.  I’d love the chance to sit down and chat with him.

UPDATE July 27, 2008:  This interview with Wroblewski was just published in today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune.  It just reinforced that gut feeling that I’d like him.

Dog Behavior, Evolution and Cognition

Eotvos University in Budapest, Hungary is the Mecca of canine ethological studies today.  The work being done there is brilliant and ground-breaking.  So, of course, this new book by Adam Miklosi, the head of the school’s Department of Ethology was a must read for me.

From the author:

Until now, the study of dogs was hindered by the view that they represent an ‘artificial’ species, but by accepting that dogs are adapted to their niche, as are other ‘natural’ species, comparative investigations can be put into new light.

From a review in Current Biology:

Whether one is a behavioral geneticist, a population biologist, a psychologist, an anthropologist or just a dog lover, one cannot help but wonder about the lives of dogs and our lives together with them. But even though Darwin began the Origin of Species with examples of dog domestication, and Pavlov’s dogs were the first to reveal to us classical conditioning, until now there has been no place to obtain answers to questions such as these that are based on rigorous scientific research.

Adam Miklosi’s new book aims to fill this gap and will be a landmark contribution to the study of animal behavior, evolution and cognition. Over the past decade there has been an explosion of interest in dogs and it is this work that Miklosi uses to provide us with the first modern scholarly review of all there is to know about dogs — and the first review of scientific research on dogs since Scott and Fuller’s pioneering book Genetics and Social Behavior of Dogs published in 1974.

Miklosi himself has been at the center of the surge in research interest on dogs over the past decade. So there is no one in a better position to write the first modern review of dog behavior, cognition and evolution. He has played a leading role in the work of the largest research laboratory working exclusively on dog behavior and cognition, at Eotvos University in Budapest, Hungary. In many ways this book is also a tribute to the hard work of his colleagues. Miklosi and his team have published scores of empirical papers on all aspects of dog behavior and cognition that test phylogenetic, ontogenetic, and even functional explanations of behavior. 

The book is organized into eleven chapters. The first two summarize the history of canine research and discuss conceptual and methodological issues related to the study of behavior. Each of the next eight chapters has a theme: dogs in human society; dogs in comparison to other canids; genetic versus archaeological evidence of domestication; the perceptual world of the dog; physical and environmental cognition in dogs; canine social cognition; behavioral development; and temperament and personality in dogs.

Also from Current Biology:

This new book is a testament to the bright future of research on dogs. Miklosi has made the case for how important the dog is becoming in the study of animal psychology. The days of dogs being considered artificially created animals for use in conditioning studies have given way to the recognition of the dog’s rich social life requiring it to adapt to the most complex primate of all. With the increasing costs and ethical dilemma often created by keeping nonhuman primates in laboratories, dogs may provide a particularly attractive option in the future for psychologists interested in studying the cognitive processes in nonhuman animals (pet dogs are recruited for non-invasive research as in studies of humans). Miklosi’s new book will be a central fixture in all future work on dogs, as it will be the first place that students and experts alike will go to review unfamiliar topics or search for new research ideas. And it is not just researchers who will benefit. The book will be essential reading for all those using dogs as helpers for the handicapped, assistants to law enforcement, or just those who want to understand their best friend a little better.

If you are a dog lover or a student of animal behavior – you NEED this book.

A Dog In Hand: Teaching Your Puppy to Think

This book written by George Gates, DVM is a lovely little guide to using pressure/release touch to control and calm your pet.  Temple Grandin writes:

As a person with autism, I can relate to Dr. Gates’s use of hand pressure to calm and train puppies.  Pressure applied to large areas of my body induced relaxation.  These methods work because they imitate the natural behavior of a mother dog teaching her pups.

This insightful book contains an abundance of practical information on puppy behavior.  The use of these methods will help prevent future behavior problems in adult dogs.

In this surprisingly short and simple book, Dr. Gates writes about the way that modern society has become removed from nature and animal husbandry – and the impact this has had on pets and pet owners.  He talks about the difference between love and respect, and discusses why just rewarding good behavior and ignoring bad may feel good, but it won’t instill respect — or show a young animal that you really care about it.

Along with several good examples of how to use touch to restrain, settle and calm your pet, there are a lot of little gems of wisdom in the book.  Gates says:  “The easiest thing in the world is to say yes; there is never resistance to yes, while there is always resistance to no.”  And, “If a puppy is allowed to do any and every thing he wants to do and no one says no, how will he believe that any one cares what happens to him?”

Limits and boundaries may not be the current fad in dog training – but they’re a vital part of raising any youngster (human or canine) to be a functioning part of society. 

It is perfectly natural for young animals to resist authority, and perfectly natural for their elders to require them to submit to authority.  Their resistance is driven by a need to learn the trust and respect they need to acquire necessary skills of self-control.  Imposing our will on them gently but firmly, teaches young creatures how to control their excitement and anxiety through trust and respect.  And it is a vital part of any partnership.

July 27, 2008 at 12:56 am 2 comments

Summer Safety Links

Its a busy Friday.  I have dogs to train, contractors to meet and I need to go make some final selections for the kitchen project.  Since it’s also the height of summer, it seems like a good time to post links to blogs with summertime safety information.

Gus gives Ghillie CPR - note his excellent form!

Gus gives Ghillie CPR - note his excellent form!

This post from GunDogDoc has excellent information on recognizing treating heatstroke.  While you’re there, look around a bit.  Dr. Joe Spoo has an excellent new blog.  We’re regular visitors.

FrogDogBlog – appropriately (since Carol breeds French Bulldogs) – has another very good post a couple of very good posts on the importance of not being a complete and utter moron when comes to leaving pets in hot cars. 

Luisa over at Lassie Get Help has a couple of very good posts on the dangers posed by foxtails. 

Pat the Terrierman wrote this little gem on dogs and porcupines. 

This is our post about tornados and thunder storm safety, written back in May.

And last, but not least, this important article from our Dr. Marty Becker at PetConnection on how to recognize an emergency – something EVERY pet owner needs to know.

Have a safe weekend!

July 25, 2008 at 9:08 pm Leave a comment

Why I Hate Flexi-Leads

Thanks to my friend Jill who inspired this.

The flexi-lead or retractable leash, is a tool that is enormously popular with dog owners — and hated by many dog trainers.

When a client shows up at my place with one, I tell them that they’ll have to give it up while they’re working with me.  When they ask why, I give them a few of the top eight reasons why I hate flexi-leads:


Because of the dozens of times I’ve been in big box pet stores and seen Fido in aisle two urinating on products, ‘shop-lifting’ treats or snarking at customers and their dogs – while his owner stands utterly clueless in aisle three chatting with a friend. Or the hundreds of times I’ve been accosted in parks and on sidewalks by a lunging beast who’s owner either grins inanely at me (as if I think this is fun) or pointedly avoids eye contact (after all, she can’t interfere with her dog’s fun).

Flexi-leads lend many owners a false sense of security. They assume that simply being attached to their dog is an adequate substitute for paying attention to it. This typically leads to a pattern where the owner (securely attached to his dog) ignores the dog as it repeatedly engages in inappropriate, self-rewarding behavior thereby allowing the dog to train himself to behave badly in nearly every situation when he is out in public.


Because the flexi-lead appears to have been specifically – and nearly perfectly – designed to teach dogs to pull. Dog pulls – dog gets REWARDED with more space and freedom. Dog stops pulling and dog gets PUNISHED by leash and collar pulling back on him.

This represents the most nearly flawless schedule of reward and punishment seen in the dog training world as the leash is NEVER loose in between the dog pulling on the leash/owner and the leash pulling back on the dog.Unless you are a skilled dog trainer (or [gasp!]) use an electronic training collar), it is impossible to teach a dog to walk politely on a loose leash using a flexi-lead.


Because freedom is something that should be earned, not given. Would you give your car keys to a 14-year-old child so he could ‘enjoy his freedom’?  Would you let the same child go “say hi” to the stranger he met on an interweb chat room because the stranger (or the guy with him) assured you that, “It’s OK, I’m friendly”?  Of course not (I hope).

There’s a reason toddlers stay in play pens, young children play outdoors when supervised and preteens get their first tastes of freedom only when their parents have a very good idea of where they’ll be, who they’ll be with and what they’ll be doing. — It gives them a chance to learn rules and boundaries while they mature so that they can make good decisions on their own when the proper time comes.

Letting a dog that hasn’t yet been given proper guidance and training on the rules and boundaries for the society it lives in doesn’t make sense either – and it’s confusing for the dog.


Because it puts the handler in a position of constantly being reactive instead of proactive on the walk. The dog is given nearly unlimited freedom – until he annoys or worries the owner – then the owner reacts to the dog by taking space back from him (or trying to).  If the dog is regularly allowed to take all the initiative on the walk and never has to earn the freedom of space to explore, he’ll never appreciate it.  He’ll see it as his God-given right.

A dog that thinks that he makes decisions AND that he is entitled to unlimited space and freedom is a dog that will never recognize his owner as a leader. He is therefore much more likely to challenge the owner for freedom (and other resources) and to resent the owner when he doesn’t get it.


And we haven’t even gotten to the safety issues yet.  Dog owners don’t seem to be aware that there is danger associated with the use of this tool — even though the manufacturer makes a point of informing uses of this in the packaging and on their website.

Dangers include burns on human and canine body parts when the cord or webbing of the lead gets wrapped around body parts.  When this happens (and it happens a lot), at best you have a nasty tangle of line wrapped around an excited dog.  In a less fortunate situation a two- or four-legger will trip and fall or the line or get a rope burn.  The worse case scenario is amputation or strangulation.  Not things any sane person wants to risk.

In Which Zip tries (unsuccessfully) to kill Audie


Other dangers include potential hazards to a dog who has moved ten to twenty-five feet beyond an unattentive owner.  Being hit by a car, attacked by another dog, smacked or pepper-sprayed by a person who doesn’t welcome his advances or eating something toxic without his owner realizing it are just a few of the ugly possibilities.


And then there are those pesky leash laws.  Most of them specify that a dog be on a leash that is six-feet or less in length.  Most flexi-leads, when fully extended (as they usually are) won’t comply. Leash laws also typically require that the dog be “under control” and, all too often, this is not the case when an owner substitutes physical attachment for control (see number 1).


Then there are those gawd-awful, awkward handles on the dratted things.  Even if you are a conscientious dog owner who pays attention to your dog, it can be darn near impossible to take control of him with a hand brake from 15-feet away.  And – if you drop the handle as your dog bolts away, he may run even faster as he is startled by the sound of the hard plastic handle bouncing along behind him.

For more information on flexi-leads see: Glock or Flexi – Which Would You Rather Carry

July 25, 2008 at 12:32 am 29 comments

And They Weren’t Even Drunk…

When we took a recent trip with the dogs to Texas to attend a seminar, we stayed in an Austin area hotel for five days.  While we were there, I was shocked to see that the rudest, dirtiest, most obnoxious guests there were adult men and women travelling with their children.  Some of the children seemed embarrassed by their parents behavior – I don’t blame them.  During our visit, several high school baseball teams were also staying at the hotel.  The players were, without exception, quiet and considerate neighbors.

I was surprised by this.  I grew up in a small, rural, Midwestern town in the 1960’s.  Manners were drilled into me.  Though I’ve moved around a lot, I’ve spent most of my life living in the upper Midwest where common courtesy is an integral part of culture.  I expect adult people to behave well.

So much for expectations.

I received a post on an on-line dog email list the other day that described nightmarish problems at a hotel that hosted a large agility trial.  The names of the club, the hotel and other identifying information have been removed to protect the club as it pursues the offenders. Since they are seeking to deal with this on their own, I’ll not tarnish their name publicly.

I wish I did have the names, postal addresses, home phone numbers and email addresses of the morons who did this offending parties.  I’d be more than happy to post those for public ridicule. 

Here’s an excerpt from the letter:

After a fantastic 4 day trial that the club felt was an absolute success, we received notification late last week that, due to the actions of some of our competitors over the trial weekend, the *hotel* in *city*
will no longer accept dogs during our club’s agility trials. The incomprehensible actions of some of the competitors staying there, as cited by the hotel, include:

1. Dogs swimming in the pool even after the owners were asked to remove all dogs from the pool. This resulted in the hotel having to close to pool for re-treatment and cleaning at considerable cost.

2. Dogs being allowed in the breakfast area even after owners were asked to please remove all dogs.

3. The carpeting in several rooms being ruined and having to be professionally cleaned after finding puddles of dog urine and feces after our competitors left, again at considerable cost.

There were other complaints cited by the hotel as well, but the club realizes it cannot answer for individual guest rudeness to hotel employees.

As a trial secretary, this repulses me. But, more over, as a competitor and frequent traveler myself, this angers me. With hotel prices continually on the rise and $100 non-refundable dog deposits becoming more and more frequent, I find it quite objectionable that anyone in conjunction with an agility event should behave in this manner. This is an extremely poor reflection on a sport that we all love and sets every single competitor and trial-giving club in a bad light. It’s embarrassing and those who committed these acts are the types of competitor that this sport does not need.

This situation is beyond embarrassing.  It is criminal.  Literally.  Also from the letter:

Other clubs in the past have let these infractions drop. *Club* is not willing to do so. The club will work closely with the AKC, the *hotel* their team of legal experts and, if necessary, local authorities to insure those responsible for the infractions are punished to the full extent available to us. We will take any measures necessary to identify the individuals responsible. You should all be aware that the hotel industry holds the person who signed for the room responsible for any damage to the room. We will soon be receiving information from the *hotel* detailing which rooms had to be professionally cleaned and the names of the individuals under whose name the room was booked. It should also be noted that very well placed video cameras may give some indication and identification of those persons involved in the swimming pool and breakfast area incidents.

I urge anyone who stayed at the *hotel* who has knowledge of or who was involved in any of the above incidents to contact me immediately.  Full disclosure on the part of those involved, or who think they may have been involved, will bear considerable weight when deciding how to best handle those found to be in violation. All of those who were not involved and who come forward with any helpful information will remain anonymous. Should it be found that you were involved and did not step forward, I can assure you that the club will impose the maximum penalty allowed by both AKC and local authorities. Enough is enough. Just as we must play by the rules on the course, we must also adhere to the rules elsewhere during events.

Enough is indeed enough.  Not only do we have to deal with AR activists working tirelessly with media hacks and politicians to take away our rights as dog owners – irresponsible dog owners – out of greed, laziness, selfishness and lame ignorance feed the frenzy by flaunting their disrespect for society in a very public way.

It sounds like the commotion at the trial hotel was a lot like what you’d expect to see if a group of drunken frat boys or rugby players had stayed there – but these weren’t drunken kids, they were a group consisting mostly of sober, adult women with jobs and families.

I had recently begun to wonder if the emphasis of fun and frenzy over anything else in some agility circles would lead to problems in the sport.  This situation certainly points to a need for competitors to learn more than a few things about responsibility, ethics and plain old-fashioned manners.  If this kind of behavior becomes the norm – all breeds of dogs could eventually end up being banned.

Another thing I’d like to point out is that an out-of-control, barking, reactive dog who races around in a mindless frenzy is not a dog who is having a good time.  I mean seriously, would you watch an over-tired toddler amped up on Mountain Dew and Cakesters run amok through the mall and remark how sweet and happy he looks?  I think not.  Yet people often look at a dog behaving in a similar way and gush about what fun he’s having.

A barking, leaping dog dog amped up on adrenaline is a lot like a poorly-behaved toddler throwing a tantrum.  He doesn’t enjoy the behavior any more than the people around him do – he just hasn’t developed the self-control to deal with the situation he’s in yet – and he needs help from his human companion to learn it.  Think about it, do you see Olympic athletes amp themselves up into a frenzy before they compete?

Agility is fun.  It should be fun.  But fun should never trump responsibility.  I hope that the disrespectful people involved in this situation are caught and prosecuted and/or sued and that it serves as a warning to those who consider behaving this way in the future.

July 23, 2008 at 4:45 pm 3 comments

A Tireless Minority

Hat tip to Sharon who alerted me to the July-August Edition of the Spaniel Journal, that features an article by Loretta Baughn titled “Setting Brush Fires.”  The lead-in is this excellent quote from Samuel Adams:

“It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds.”

This country was founded by an irate, tireless minority who fought to earn freedom of religion, freedom of speech and to be free from the tyranny of taxation without representation – among other things. 

Regrettably, the tireless minority that fights today is one that seeks to restrict – and even take away – many of our freedoms.  As Ms. Baughan pointed out:

The phenomenon is not exclusive to Wisconsin.  “Brush fires” are being set across the country in states, cities and towns – from sea to shining sea.  The animal rights activists will point to a dog authorities might have confiscated in a raid of a sub-standard breeder with its fur all matted and dirty then scream the state has a “puppy mill” problem.  I hate to see any animal needlessly suffer, but just by virtue that the authorities DID raid and confiscate dogs from a sub-standard breeder raising them in filth is PROOF that current laws work.

There are laws on the books regulating animal cruelty, livestock handling,animals in research, commercial breeding, pet waste, noise, zoning, limit laws – and more.  Many of these laws could be improved, but when arrests occur, the media quick to jump on the animal rights bandwagon publicizing the plight of abused animals – but slow to the point of refusing – to report the fact that arrests can demonstrate that laws are working?

When a person is severly bitten by a dog, the incident spreads through the media like, well – like a brush fire.  But the press never tells us when the dog involved in the incident was (as in most cases) an unlicensed, untrained dog with a previous history of aggression that was allowed, illegally – to run at large.  The reports of most of the dog bite incidents published in local news over the last year noted that the dog had a previous history of aggression but they almost never went on to point out that the dog’s owner was therefore already breaking an existing law by putting the dog into the situation where the bite occured.

According to Minnesota State Law (Statutes 347.50-54) “Dangerous dog” means any dog that has: 
(1) without provocation, inflicted substantial bodily harm on a human being on public or private property;
(2) killed a domestic animal without provocation while off the owner’s property; or
(3) been found to be potentially dangerous, and after the owner has notice that the dog is potentially dangerous, the dog aggressively bites, attacks, or endangers the safety of humans or domestic animals.

Among other requirements, the owner must register a dangerous dog with the state.  He must obtain a $50,000 surety bond or liability insurance payable to any person injured by the dog.  He must keep the dog in a secure enclosure with warning signs.  When the dog is outside the enclosure it must be leashed, muzzled and under the physical restraint of a responsible person.  Enforcing these restrictions would have prevented nearly every severe dog bite incident that occurred in this state in the last few years.

Yet the media (spurred on by a tireless, vocal minority of animal rights activists) continues to call for more laws instead of lobbying for better enforcement of existing laws; and members of the public, who have been conditioned to believe the media without question; agree to give up a little bit of their freedom to save babies from dogs bites and puppies from greedy millers.

Folks, we’re standing at the edge of a steep and terrifyingly slippery slope. 

Vicious dog attacks.  The plight of mill dogs.  Dogs being euthanized or warehoused, in shelters.  Dog poop in parks.  Animal hoarders.  Cruel people who torture dogs and other animals.  Stories about these law breakers are being fed to the media directly from the spoon of the animal rights movement.  The law breakers are portrayed as representing the norm, instead of the exception — and the story sells.  Meanwhile, the thousands millions of stories that could be written about sweet-natured pitbulls, conscientious dog breeders, skilled dog trainers, caring rescue groups and responsible pet owners only rarely make the news.

The AR minority is trying to use lurid charges of animal abuse directed at the minority of farmers, hunters, fishermen, breeders and pet owners who break laws and commit cruel acts to end all use of animals in society.  False and unsubstantiated allegations of animal abuse to raise funds are routinely used by these groups to attract media attention and amass support from naive, uninformed citizens who are led to believe that their donations will be used directly to save abandoned and abused animals.

Their true goal is not to help animals.  HSUS doesn’t operate shelters and PETA kills nearly every animal they take in.  The animal rights movement hurts us – and it hurts our pets.  And it will keep doing so as long as citizens mindlessly swallow the AR media hype they’re fed and continue to contribute financial and tacit support to this cruel, tireless minority.

July 22, 2008 at 1:26 am 5 comments

Street Dogs of South Central

According to a press release from their myspace page “Street Dogs of South Central” is:

A nature documentary about the stray dogs that survive the streets of South Central Los Angeles, ‘Street Dogs’ follows the story of Elsie– a mother struggling to raise her litter of puppies in a harsh urban environment. 85 minutes running time. Coming to a theater near you in 2008.

The trailer – shown below – is both riveting and heartbreaking. 

As a trainer of dogs and student of dog behavior, I can’t wait to see the film.  The chance to see footage of feral dogs in their own environment is not something I’ll pass up.  Surfing around, I found that the film will be released by Lionsgate, the same group that released the controversial, disturbing — and fascinating documentary “Grizzly Man.”

“Grizzly Man” chronicles the life and death of bear enthusiast Timothy Treadwell. The film includes fiilm shot by Treadwell before he and his girlfriend were killed and partially eaten by a bear in 2003.  I enjoyed the film because it showed incredible footage of bears and other northern wildlife in their native habitat – and because it didn’t romanticize Treadwell – who, frankly – was a charming, fascinating dimwit that did nearly everything he could to get himself killed.

I hope that “Street Dogs” suceeds as well as “Grizzly Man” did at presenting an unglamorized portrayal of the subjects of the documentary.  But because Animal Planet is also involved, I’ll have to wait to see.  

Have I mentioned that I hate Animal Planet?  You know, the group that either hypes adrenaline-junkie “grab the venomous snake before it KILLS you” trash or panders to AR extremists in promoting the “every dog who has visible ribs, spends time unsupervised in the yard or otherwise lives in a way that *I* don’t approve of is abused and MUST be seized” party line.  Or should I just rant about anthropomorphic crap like “Meerkat Manor” that encourages naive urbanites to see animals as small furry people who live in communities just like our own.

Oh…  Just considering the possibility that “Street Dogs” could get polluted that way scares the dog poo out of me.  Please doG – let this turn out to be a good thing.  For us — and for dogs.

July 20, 2008 at 3:26 am 14 comments

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