Unlikely therapy dogs

Super Bowl pillow

Leo has known this little girl since he was a puppy. When he sees her, he runs right up to her wheelchair and she pats him on the head like there’s no tomorrow. Here, he’s letting her use him as a pillow.

This lovely lady’s daughter saw Mia one day at Rob’s work. She invited us to visit her 90-year-old mother, whose German shepherd had been one of the great joys of her life … 40 years ago! We were happy to oblige.

BlogPaws Wordless Wednesday Blog HopThis post is part of the Blog Paws Wordless Wednesday Blog Hop! Be sure to visit some of the other participating blogs!

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Speaking up for positive training

Several of us in the positive training community were distressed a few months ago when a company that sells shock collars courted dog bloggers to convince them of the virtues of aversive training. It felt like we were backsliding. Were these methods coming back into style?

I’m happy to tell you that at least one organization is moving in the other direction. Amazing Pet Expos, which has put on nearly 100 events across the country since 2009, is now an all-positive event.

In 2013, Sheila Rilenge, president of show development for the expo, announced:

… we made a major change this year by prohibiting companies and trainers who use aversive techniques from participating in our event. Trainers or behaviorists (or any other type of exhibitor), may no longer sell or demonstrate pinch collars, choke collars, heavy chain collars/leads or electric/shock collars at the (St. Louis) Pet Expo; this also includes invisible fence products. We also won’t tolerate Alpha rolls, hard neck or body ‘pokes’ and leash jerks.

I met Sheila last year at BarkWorld, and upon hearing their policy, knew I wanted to participate. On Feb. 21, I will take the stage at the SoCal Pet Expo at 1:45 to speak about positive training.

My Pet Naturally

Reading at My Pet … Naturally in Los Angeles


For this installment of the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop, I’d like to share a bit of my presentation for the SoCal Pet Expo… except I haven’t prepared it yet.

Since Bark and Lunge came out last summer, I’ve had four readings where I talked about aversive training, the damage it did to my dog, and why I now advocate for force-free training. I tailored my speech for each group: at the Humane Society and Village Books, I spoke about my first failures with chain and prong collars and the realization that the “corrections” were exacerbating Isis’s reactivity to other dogs. At My Pet … Naturally in Los Angeles, I sprinkled in a bit of our experience with raw feeding. My most recent reading was at Sunny Lane, one of my positive trainers’ facilities, where I read the first scene that took place there.

The SoCal Pet Expo will be the first audience that isn’t there specifically to see me. I only have 30 minutes. I’ll have to introduce myself and explain that I’m not a dog professional, just a regular ol’ dog guardian. (I hope no one walks away at that point, thinking “Why should I listen to what this chick has to say?”) At my other events, I’ve started out by reading the prologue from my book, then skipped ahead to some training scenes. This time, maybe I won’t read at all, but instead summarize the overall experience and lessons learned.

I remember how inspiring Victoria Stilwell was at BarkWorld 2013. Here’s an article about her talk there a few years earlier. That’s what I’m going for. I may not have a TV show, or an accent, and I won’t be wearing boots, because I’ll also be standing at a booth the rest of the day. But I know I can match her passion.

Positive TrainingFebruary is Responsible Pet Owners Month, and this is part of the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop, hosted by Cascadian Nomads, Tenacious Little Terrier, and My Rubicon Days. You’re invited to share your posts about how responsibility relates to training, or any other positive training topic!

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Free book!

Hi gang,

Just a quick post to let you know that Bark and Lunge is free on Kindle through Feb 3. I hope you’ll check it out, if you haven’t already. As a thank you to anyone who helps spread the word on social media, if you post about Bark and Lunge’s Kindle promotion and link to me on TwitterFacebook, Pinterest, or Instagram, you will be entered into a random drawing for a FREE Bark and Lunge T-shirt.


Bark and Lunge T-shirt

You can also buy the paperback version of Bark and Lunge at these independent stores:

Village Books, 1200 11th Street, Bellingham, WA 98225, (360) 671-2626
My Pet Naturally, 12001 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90064, (310) 477-3030

Your local bookstore can order it for you too. Just ask! 

(and Go Seahawks!!)

Walking Shelter Dogs: Year in Review

About a year ago, I was surfing the Pet Ads thinking about adding a pit bull to my collection. Charmed by a photo of a brindle boy named Hugo at a nearby Humane Society, the synapses connected and I signed up to volunteer walking shelter dogs.

I’ve walked lots of dogs during the past year (see all their pictures here), and pretty much fantasize about adopting each one. As I work my way up the mile-long trail, I imagine how they would fit in with Mia and Leo. I tend to call all girl dogs “Princess” and all boy dogs “Buddy,” but sometimes I think of what I might rename them if they were mine. One sweet Dutch shepherd didn’t have a name on her kennel, but on our walk she became Heidi. At the time, the shelter was having a promotion where you could pay $5 to name a dog. I got quite excited about naming her, but it turned out she’d already been named Arlene. By my next visit, she’d been adopted.

I make an effort to walk dogs that have been there a while, not the easy dogs that everyone loves to walk. Those dogs get adopted quickly anyway. A lot of the dogs I walk can only go to homes with no other pets, which is a problem, because most experienced dog owners already have dogs, and the dogs that can’t be around other dogs often have other challenges requiring an experienced owner.

Whenever I hear of one of the dogs getting adopted, I note it in my Facebook album. Unfortunately, I don’t hear about every adoption, and even more unfortunately, not every dog is adoptable. The first dog who broke my heart was Maverick. I could tell he was losing it. After our walks, he wouldn’t let me leave his kennel. I’d go in with him to take off his harness, and he jumped and grabbed my arm in his mouth and blocked the door, trying to make a break for it as I attempted to exit. I wasn’t surprised to hear that he bit a staffer and had to be moved to the old building. What happens there we don’t like to talk about, but that’s the reality of dog rescue. Not every dog can be saved. Some dogs go “kennel crazy,” becoming less and less adoptable the longer they’re confined to the kennel.



Part of me wanted to say, Wait, wait, I’ll take Maverick. But I didn’t even know if Maverick was house-trained. He lifted his leg and peed in the corners of the shelter halls as I walked him outside. I hadn’t been able to clicker-train him to sit. I had to stand on his leash to keep him from jumping up and head-butting me. He also sat in my lap and kissed my face. I loved him.

But animal rescues have a responsibility not to adopt out dogs who might be dangerous. A woman in Tacoma has come under fire for her efforts to save all the dogs.

That’s something I’ve had to come to terms with. A few other dogs I’ve loved have gone to the old building. Some of them I think I could have adopted if I didn’t already have dogs. The other day as I walked a one-year-old girl they’re calling Sassafras but I’ve decided to call Kiki, a song started running through my head: Katy Perry’s The One that Got Away.

In another life, I would be your girl.


In another life, I could save them all.

The good news is that most of them do find wonderful homes. I’d pretty much lost hope for a heeler mix named Evan, who bounced off the walls of his kennel when I walked by, and a Lab-Dane named Clarkson, who’d been returned twice and had been there almost a year. Evan and Clarkson both got adopted on the same day in September.

So I will not lose hope again. There is a home for every dog!

Walking shelter dogs is one small thing that I can do every week to make a difference in the lives of homeless pets. It hurts too much to think of all the dogs that don’t find homes, and sometimes I feel guilty because I can only walk, at most, three or four dogs each time I volunteer. I can’t bear to look at the big picture, so I think of the Starfish Story, and know that I made a difference that day for those three or four dogs.

It made a difference for that one.

Blog the ChangeThis post is part of the Blog the Change for Animals Blog Hop.

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