Bark and Lunge: Saving My Dog from Training Mistakes

(updated Nov. 2015)

A memoir


On sale now!

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Bark and Lunge has received three national book awards:

Indie Excellence Award and Sponsor’s Choice Award, the USA Best Book Award, and a Gold Medal and 5-star review from Readers’ Favorite.

Buy the eBook from Amazon, Kobo, Nook, or Google Play.

Buy the paperback from IndieBoundAmazon or Barnes and Noble. Your local bookstore can order it for you too.


5-day dog photo challenge

Forest Poodles challenged me to a 5-day dog photo challenge, and I accepted, deciding to challenge myself to get a few more pics of my pups using a nice DSLR camera, instead of relying on my phone. Since things are slow at work this time of year, I’ve hardly used my good camera at all for what feels like months.

Here are the highlights.

BlogPaws Wordless Wednesday Blog Hop

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Natural remedies for dog anxiety

Isis was on Prozac when she died. We’d just increased her dosage.

While I don’t think that caused her sudden death from bleeding near the heart, I have a bad association with it. I don’t even know if it worked. The night before she died, Isis cowered under a table shaking.

Ergo, I hesitate to give Prozac to Mia for her anxiety, which is relatively minor compared to Isis’s.

dog park_5

Is it though? Mia destroyed all the doors in our house. Isis just chewed on couches.

For the most part, Mia is triggered by very specific noises: 1) Beeping from the oven timer, ring timer (in martial arts videos), smoke detector. 2) Clicking from our security cameras.

She shakes and tries to crawl on our laps.

On other occasions, seemingly unrelated to environmental clicking and beeping, she whines. We call it squeaking and whistling. Sometimes she does this in the middle of the night for an hour straight.


I asked my vet if there’s something we could give her occasionally for anxiety (although I don’t know how I’m supposed to predict when she’s going to have an episode). The vet tech mentioned Zylkène, a natural product, derived from casein, a protein in milk. I guess it’s supposed to be calming like a momma dog’s milk? As you can tell from the link, this is a UK product. It is extremely expensive. About $60 for a two-week supply for a dog Mia’s size.

What the hell, I ordered some. It’s a powder inside capsules you can open and sprinkle in food. Apparently it tastes good enough for her to eat without additional flavor-enhancement. I tried to stretch it out by giving her only half the dosage and noticed no change. Then I gave her the correct dose until I ran out. Two weeks isn’t really a long enough study length for statistically significant findings, but she did have a late-night squeak and whistle attack after we ran out. And I don’t think she had one while she was taking it.

I tried to find it for a cheaper price and stumbled upon Composure, which contains colostrum, a form of milk produced by the mammary glands of mammals in late pregnancy. It was an eighth of the price. During this time, I won the rafflecopter from Rubicon Days for PL 360 Anxiety Relief, which contains chamomile and tryptophan.

PL 360Both of these are chewables that Mia ate easily… neither had any noticeable effect. So I reordered the Zylkène.

Last week, we had a violent windstorm overnight. I was kept awake by the rattling of the gate outside. Mia started whining. She’d had Zylkène with her breakfast. I gave her two of the PL 360 and she immediately quieted. The change was so drastic, I actually leaned over her bed and poked her to make sure the anxiety relief pills hadn’t instantly killed her.

The next night she squeaked again and I gave her two more PL 360 and she went right to sleep. So maybe I’ll be reordering those after all. Thanks, Rubicon Days!



This post is part of the Positive Pet Training blog hop, hosted by Cascadian Nomads, Rubicon Days & Tenacious Little Terrier.

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6 ways to beat the winter blues

Last week I started experiencing some pretty textbook symptoms of the winter blues. After cheering myself up by buying not one but two new winter coats, I shared

Mental Health Tip #1: Retail Therapy.

The next day, I decided that watching Making a Murderer is doing nothing to help anyone’s Seasonal Affective Disorder, so that became

Mental Health Tip #2: Stop watching Making a Murderer.

Turns out, I was just getting started.

Mental Health Tip #3: Float.

Full disclosure: We tried this the first time Saturday. I didn’t care for it. The water felt cold and I got bored, but Rob liked it.

Mental Health Tip #4: Color.

Put a bird on it

My advice to a FB friend (Hi, Cinthia!) interested in getting started: Adult coloring books are awesome because it completely does not matter how it turns out. I had an art teacher when I was little who said “There’s no such thing as a mistake,” which is bullshit in real life and real art. But grownup coloring books? No one’s going to judge. Or even see it unless you Instagram it. You can go outside the lines, use the wrong color… it does not matter. And if you get a book you like, it’ll look cool no matter what you do.

Mental Health Tip #5: Sing Along.

I like showtunes, but that doesn’t mean you have to. I’ve been listening to Hamilton, Broadway’s hottest show. Find your jam.


Mental Health Tip #6: Walk in the Rain, or the Snow, and if possible, on a Beach with Dogs.

How do you stay sane during the dark months, friends?

BlogPaws Wordless Wednesday Blog HopOnce again, a few extra words this Wordless Wednesday.

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That stupid Pack Leader myth

Who's the boss?

Who’s the boss?

The dog world is having the hardest time freeing itself from the pervasive myth of Dominance Theory. Not even positive trainers get it right all the time. The first reward-based training class I took began like this:

The trainer explained that all our dogs’ problems began at home. “Does this sound familiar to anyone? Your dog free-feeds, meaning he eats whenever he wants. The bowl is always full.”


“He can go outside whenever he wants, through a doggie door…”

Not at our house.

“There are toys all over the place. He decides when to play, with what, and gets your attention with a nudge or a bark or a whine.”


“Maybe your dog nudges you with his nose. ‘Hey, I’m here. Look how cute I am.’ And you play with him.”


This was a problem, according to that trainer, because our dog thought she was the boss of us. The trainer went on to forbid us to allow our dogs on the furniture, a mandate Rob and I couldn’t stick to for 24 hours.

To my great disappointment, I recently read a similar scene in a book called Fetching by Kiera Stewart:

Corny is asking him questions. “What kind of rules do you have for her?”

“Rules?” Mr. Dewey looks confused. “Well, I’d prefer of course, that she’d go outside to relieve herself.”

I know Corny doesn’t like that answer.

“And is she allowed to jump on the furniture?”

He laughs. “Allowed? Well, I don’t allow it really, but she has her own mind about that. But then she’s not a shedder, so it’s not too big of a problem.”

Mr. Dewey doesn’t know it, but he’s failing this interview. Miserably.

“How much exercise is she getting?”

He looks down again. “Well, I used to take her on walks, but now she’s gotten a lot more difficult to manage.”

F, Mr. Dewey. F. You have officially earned an F on this interview. Even I can see that.

“Mealtimes? When are they?”

“Well, I just feed her when she’s hungry. She gets a little antsy if she has to wait.” He chuckles a little, but I notice his fingers go up to his lip scar.

I sort of wish I could stop him from talking now. It’s like watching a train wreck happen. Thankfully, Corny stops questioning him. “The problem,” she says, “is that Kisses thinks she’s in charge.

“… Look, I know you love your dog. But right now Kisses is in charge, and as bossy as she may get sometimes, she doesn’t really want all that responsibility. Someone’s got to be a pack leader – and if you won’t take over that role, Kisses will, whether she wants to or not. It’s instinct.”

No! It’s not instinct! Dogs do not think they are the bosses of us!

Let me interject that I’ve quit more books than I’ve finished lately. Notably, The Dog Master, which I was really looking forward to, because it was written by the author of A Dog’s Purpose and is about the domestication of the first dog, something I requested someone write a book about. I just didn’t buy the relationship between man and dog in the early pages and gave up on it.

Once it became clear that Fetching, a young adult book published by Disney, was using Cesar Millan as its reference text, you’d think I’d quit this one too, wouldn’t you?

Not yet. I’m still intrigued by the synopsis: Olivia has just about had it with the popular kids at school… If only Olivia’s classmates were more like the adorable dogs she helps her grandmother train—poorly behaved, but improvable. Wait…what if her tormentors’ behavior actually could be modified using the same type of training that works on dogs?

Olivia and her friends start innocuously enough by changing their body language to “train” their classmates, and I’m pretty sure the book won’t endorse using shock collars on people.

What’s frustrating though, is that no matter how positive the rest of the training methods are, readers are going to walk away thinking dogs need their people to be Pack Leaders.

I again quote from Victoria Stilwell’s book, Train Your Dog Positively:

The irony is that to believe dogs see us as their pack leaders actually requires that we first anthropomorphize dogs by assuming they share our human concern regarding rank and what others think of us.

… the entire concept that we must assert our claim to the throne of pack leader before our dogs is based on a mirage. For the sake of argument, though, let’s say that dogs are completely motivated by a burning desire to become pack leader over their human counterparts. At some point in this theoretical exercise we must necessarily decide to disregard the simple truth – that dogs are well aware that we are not, in fact, dogs.

… It is time, therefore, to finally retire the term pack leader – especially when it refers to humans interacting with dogs. Domestic dogs don’t live in true packs, and even if they did, we, as a different species, wouldn’t be a part of them.

Positive TrainingThis post is part of the Positive Pet Training blog hop, hosted by Cascadian Nomads, Rubicon Days & Tenacious Little Terrier.

This month’s theme is National Train Your Dog Month. To learn more about my journey to understanding Positive Training, read my book Bark and Lunge, winner of three national book awards.

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