D is for Dedication

Tiptoe with Two Dogs
Dedication is putting your camera on a tripod in front of fields of tulips, setting the timer to take 10 photos after 10 seconds, then running through the mud with two large dogs to pose. Do this 10 times or so, and you might end up with one photo where both dogs are looking at the camera.

You might also end up with dirty jeans, mud soaked through your socks, and a car interior in need of detailing, but it’s so worth it.

Here are some outtakes.

Dedication also is a commitment to give your dogs the best life you can, to nurture their good qualities and help them through their challenges. We’ll talk more about that on Monday, when E stands for Every Day.

For more about my journey to discovering the benefits of positive reinforcement, read my book, Bark and Lunge!


B is for Baseball Caps

Baseball caps?

What does that have to do with positive training — or dogs, for that matter?

Baseball caps are great accessories between hair washes. They also keep the sun out of my eyes and add an extra layer of SPF protection.

Even more useful in the Pacific Northwest, they keep the rain out of my eyes. I like to wear them when I go on boats or into the woods for work, though that results in rather close quarters between my camera and the brim of the hat, especially when the pop-up flash enters the equation.

The past several months, my collection of caps has gotten a lot of use during dog walks. In addition to giving raindrops a platform to bounce off a few inches from my face, the brim shields my eyes from the headlamp I wear after dark to illuminate the street and assist in poop pickup. The hat itself cushions my forehead from the lamp as well.


Most importantly, they make me happy.

Here’s an assortment of images of me wearing baseball caps with my beloved babies.


For more about my journey to discovering the benefits of positive reinforcement, read my book, Bark and Lunge!

Heart Like a Dog


Also, join the fun in the Thursday Barks and Bytes Blog Hop, hosted by 2 Brown Dawgs and Heart Like a Dog.

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A to Z Challenge 2015

Leo shows Mia how to jump a tree

Leo shows Mia how to jump a tree

Last year’s A to Z Challenge was so stimulating and fun, I’m doing it again. I didn’t establish a particular theme last year, but because this is a dog blog, of course all my posts followed that theme.

This year, my theme is POSITIVE ONLY. Not only will I focus on the positive reinforcement training relationship I have with my dogs, but I will strive for each of my Alphabet words to be positive too. So you won’t see posts called Force-Free, or Why prong collars are bad, because those topics focus on the negative.

Daily posts are subject to change, but here’s what I’ve brainstormed so far:

A – All-positive
B – Baseball cap
C – Cheese, or the C’mon cue
D – Dedication
E – Every Day
F – Fun
H – Harness
R – Reinforcement

Other ideas will come to me, probably while I’m walking my dogs, every day, while I wear a baseball cap and they wear harnesses, feeding them cheese for positive reinforcement, dedicated to having fun.

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal.

H is for Hit By a Flying Wolf

Here’s a book recommendation brought to you by the letter H.

Hit by a Flying Wolf by Nicole Wilde


Yesterday, I quoted from Nicole Wilde’s blog post about growling. As a follow-up to that and my post on the Evolution of Dogs and Wolves, I decided H-day was a good opportunity to tell you about her latest book.

Since Wilde is a dog behavior expert, and I screwed up so many things with our first dog, I didn’t expect Hit by a Flying Wolf to so closely echo my own experiences. How reassuring to learn that an expert has struggled with a dog as much as I have!

The first half of the book contains stories about four of the dogs Wilde has lived with, and the second half concerns wolf rescue. The first dog, a long-haired German shepherd, had the same fear of high-pitched noises that Mia has. Mojo, Wilde’s “soul dog,” was the crossover dog who helped her learn that positive reinforcement training is more effective than using old-fashioned choke collars.

I have a special affinity for Bodhi, who came from a shelter and shared my dog Leo’s penchant for doing things like “grabbing a trailing hand and chomping down, or jumping up in front of me and placing teeth around my arm, exerting a disturbing amount of pressure.” Bodhi’s story hit home the most for me, because it illustrates how much dedication is needed sometimes to get through to a troubled dog, and shows that it’s worth it.

A major highlight of this book are the color photographs. I read a lot of books about dogs, and it bums me out when the photos are grainy and black and white, or worse, when there are no photos at all. I want to see the dogs! Wilde is an accomplished photographer. Not only are the animals described vividly in prose, but the images of the dogs and wolves also are stunning.

I learned about the risks of keeping wolfdogs as pets from Ceiridwen Terrill’s Part Wild. Terrill’s story was heartbreaking, but Hit by a Flying Wolf demonstrates how wolves and wolfdogs can be safely contained and cared for after living in a home hasn’t worked out for them. While not an endorsement of keeping wolves as pets, Wilde’s stories about the wolves are touching, suspenseful, and entertaining.

H is for Hit by a Flying Wolf


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D is for Dominance

I’m so encouraged that Bark and Lunge has received the following endorsement:

Bark and Lunge is worth reading slowly for the details and for the joy of it. The book recognizes the inappropriate use of simple dominance theory, which is so common and so wrong for dogs. Many dog owners will recognize some of the questions they have, and now, will have some answers.
— Professor Alan M. Beck, Director of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond, College of Veterinary Medicine, Purdue University

Oh no! Mia's on my pillow! She's trying to dominate me!

Oh no! Mia’s on my pillow! She’s trying to dominate me!

It’s almost absurd that I had to learn about Dominance Theory the hard way.

At least as far back as 2001, Dr. Ian Dunbar wrote in Before and After Getting Your Puppy:

If you physically force and dominate your puppy, he won’t respect you. He may heed your commands — grudgingly and fearfully — but he certainly won’t respect you. More likely, your dog will grow to resent you. …

Push-pull, leash-jerk, grab-and-shake, alpha rollover, and domination techniques are now considered ineffective, besides being adversarial and unpleasant. These out-of-date methods are now, thank goodness, by and large a thing of the past.

Dunbar, by the way, is a veterinarian and has a PhD in animal behavior. Cesar Millan, despite being the founder of something he called the Dog Psychology Center, does not have a degree in psychology. So forgive me if I refuse to accept this diagnosis on his website:

Dog aggression stems from the dog’s frustration and dominance. The dog’s frustration comes from a lack of dog exercise, and the dog’s dominance comes from a lack of calm-assertive leadership.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. (The aggression/dominance connection, anyway. I do agree that frustration often can be alleviated by increased exercise.)

Victoria Stilwell, another dog walker turned trainer turned television personality, advocates for science-based dog training. In her book Train Your Dog Positively, she writes:

Unfortunately for dogs, a dominance-related misdiagnosis of their behavior problems usually leads to the worst-case scenario: traditionally prescribed behavior-modification techniques usually include punishment, intimidation, fear — precisely the opposite of what dogs really need to overcome most behavioral issues.

This is why so many trainers and behaviorists take issue with the Dominance Theory. It prescribes owner dominance as the treatment for dog aggression because it misdiagnoses the cause as the dog’s desire to dominate the human. In truth, most dog aggression is caused by fear. When you treat a dog’s fear by trying to dominate the dog, the prognosis is more fear. More aggression.

D is for Dominance. Don’t Do it.

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