Pawsibilities NY

Training Philosophy

Undercover at Your Local Dog Walking Company

 The true story of one dog trainer’s experience while working as the manager for a local dog walking service.  

Towards the end of 2015 I began managing a dog walking company; both to help this company, as well as to fill up my days, leaving evenings and weekends open to private lesson clients.  The company had been in a business for just over one year when I was brought on as their New York City manager.  It took this company three weeks to decide to hire me; the hiring process seemed very thorough.  After I was invited to join the team, I still had to wait over two weeks to begin, all of which seemed normal to me.  I only ended up working for this company for 6 weeks, after which I got an email telling me they could no longer afford to pay me, and that they would no longer need my services.  Needless to say this was extremely unprofessional, and not at all like the experiences I have had while working for any number of other reputable pet services companies in New York.  I had no way to confront this complete lack of professionalism, so I am writing this blog to caution dog owners out there!

Things I knew about this company BEFORE I started working for them:

On Yelp this company has 10 reviews and a 4.5 star rating, with all 5 star ratings except one 2 star.  There were 10 reviews that were not suggested, but those were all 5 star good reviews, and 2 removed, one 5 star, one 2 star, so in all the reviews there were only 2 negative reviews.

On Thumbtack they have 10, 5-star reviews.

This company received an A on Angie’s List with 5 reviews.

…You can see I did my research.

This company offers GPS tracked dog walks, and if you visit their site, it explains a very extensive hiring process for their dog walkers.  The process described on their website states that each walker goes through a face to face interview as well as a background check.

They were offering me a very reasonable Salary.

Their pricing was consistent with other local services.

Things I learned about this company DURING the hiring process:

The company is owned by three people, none of whom reside in, or anywhere near New York State, let alone New York City.

…A major red flag.

Things I found out about this company AFTER I started working for them:

Their “Extensive” Hiring Process:

The first step is to fill out a questionnaire-style application, which did request a photo, a resume and two references.

Next was a short video interview; there were 10 preset questions given to the applicant and they had one minute to record each answer.  I suppose this is what they meant by “face-to-face” interview because at no time did any of the three owners, who were all out of state, or even myself, meet with or interview any dog walker we hired.  I don’t remember hiring too many while I worked for them as I had very high standards for who I would hire.  

As for the references, a simple text message from any two references simply stating the person was good, was all it took for this company to begin to bring them on board.

There were never any background checks conducted on any dog walker who was hired in the entire 6 weeks I worked for this company.  There were walkers hired by some of the owners during this time.  

The person’s ACTUAL experience with dogs was of very little importance.

If the company received an inquiry for a dog walker in a certain area where they do not have a walker who can take the client, they go through the applications to specifically hire a person who will take this client, as the most important factor in the hiring process. Their experience really had very little to do with their being hired.

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Their “Training” process:

So by now you are probably wondering what sort of process the person goes through before they come into your home and take your dog….

The newly hired person is required to complete two online courses.  The first is to help them to understand how to use the GPS tracking app on their phone while on walks, and the lesson actually instructs the walker to report that the dog has gone #1 and #2 (no matter what).….It might have been a typo, but I did bring it to the owners’ attention and it was not changed….

The second online course is about dog behavior, to some extent. It was definitely copied off of a Cesar Milan website.  It instructs your dog walker to physically correct your dog if he or she barks while on the walk.  There are many other horrifying things in this very brief lesson plan, that takes about 10 minutes to read through slowly, but there is not any proof the walker actually took this course, it is very easy to just click through it and make it look like you read it.

As a new client you would have the right to meet with your dog walker, but please keep in mind, you are still meeting him or her before any other company employee has.  You are inviting this person into your home, who has perhaps been hired because he or she lives across the street from you, and applied at just the right time.  Very little else about this person remains important to the company as long as they can pair you with a walker and start getting paid!

And Finally The Incidents:

Within the first few days of starting with the company there was an incident with a dog walker who had been with the company before I started.  He went for a meet and greet with a rescue puppy who was brand new to the city, and quite fearful.  When the walker put the leash on the dog’s collar he didn’t attach it to the metal loop, and instead hooked it around the cloth of the collar itself.  The owner was concerned and corrected him, he emailed me to let me know and I told him that I would go over proper leash and harness skills with the walker, but the owners of the company never approved this meeting.  The next day the owner purchased a harness for the dog, and the walker did not use it properly.  The dog got out of the harness and was loose, luckily only in the hallway of the building, but it could have been far worse.

The next incident occurred about a week later.  A walker wrote in that while she was walking one of the dogs, he lunged at a lady and made contact with her clothes, possibly tearing her pant leg.  She was leaving the building where the dog lived and was quite upset.  The walker had no idea how to hold the dog back or handle the situation, and called in hysterical about being yelled at, meanwhile she did not address her handling, or should I say mishandling of the dog, and situation in general.  Nothing was further required of her, in fact I asked some questions to find out more about the situation, and I was chastised for being too hard on the dog walker.  I explained that all I was trying to do was understand if this situation might happen again and if it might, then we need to figure out a way to be sure the dog, the walker, and the public are all kept safe.  I was told to be nicer to the walkers because we don’t want to lose her.

Finally the last incident… Right before Christmas I see an email come in after business hours that one of the dogs bit a child while out for a walk with one of our walkers.  Again due to the walker’s lack of common sense, dog experience and professionalism, as she describes it, she basically just hurried away from the father who was helping his child, and disappeared around the corner, she only let us know because she was very proud of herself for not telling the owner anything happened at all!  She said over and over that we shouldn’t worry at all because she didn’t let the dog’s owner know.  I was, of course horrified, as I am not even certain this company double checks that their client’s dogs are vaccinated.  Also it is important that an owner know information like this, it definitely should not be kept a secret.  These things can happen even with the best of dog walkers, but the owner needs to know!

So What Did I Do About All of This?

During this six weeks, I constantly tried to work with the three owners to improve their hiring process as well as change their training process entirely.

I urged them to have an on-site training portion before any walker was released to walk any client’s dog.  I explained how irresponsible it was that their walkers did not go through any formal training.  I re-worked their hiring application, to be more thorough, and I did this on my own time.

I re-wrote the entire training course, explaining why Cesar Milan’s techniques are not only non-scientific, but also there was a lot of questionable advise, including teaching the walkers to poke the dogs when they misbehave.  I explained that this is very unsafe, and a good way to get their dog walkers bitten!  I did all of this on my own time.

Their hiring requirements had been a person commit to 2 months and to give 1 week notice.  I explained that every other pet company I have ever worked for or with requires at least six months as turn over is very hard for animals, as well as at least 2 weeks notice, some even 1 month’s notice, as again, training a new a person to handle animals is sensitive when handled properly.  I also explained the walkers should be bonded at the very least, and that the company could have the walkers pay for their own bonding, only to receive a bonus in the amount of the bonding once they have stayed for 6 months.  None of this was implemented and still has not been.

I asked if it would be ok for me to just show up to shadow walkers throughout their day to be sure they are where they say they are, this request was never responded to.

I insisted all owners be made aware of all incidents as they were reported to us, most especially those where people were bitten.

I offered my dog training experience to ensure they have a thorough training process for their walkers, as well as offering more classes so dog walkers could advance their status and take on more difficult dogs.  Believe it or not, right when I left, this company was beginning to have a separate section for more difficult dogs, and the client was to pay more for a “more experienced” walker, but please keep in mind, there is NO determination making these walkers any more experienced.  Even if they work for this company for a long time, they receive no training, so if they were doing something incorrectly on day 1, they likely are still doing it!  The owners have never met these walkers, have never offered to further their training, but will still up what you pay so you think you are getting a more experienced dog walker.

…And What About those Reviews?

After I received an email telling me they could no longer pay me, I went and re-checked some of those reviews.  With the exception of any negative review and maybe 2 others on yelp, they were all written by the dog walkers who work for the company, they are all completely fabricated, each and every review is one either a current or former employee of the company.

So What does all of this Mean?

I am saddened and scared for the dogs who will continue to be walked by this company.  I was appalled by so many things that were wrong with their process and complete lack of concern for the safety of their client’s dogs, and even homes.  But I wanted to stay because I felt like they were open to changing.  They did try to take some of my suggestions, but again they were far away and working other jobs on the side.  I really would have liked to stay to have the opportunity to help improve their services, both for the personal success, as well as for the safety of the dogs!  I am disappointed I did not get the chance.

Please be careful!  At this point, there are many dog walking companies throughout the country that are popping up and follow this, sort of match-making structure.  The problem is, instead of grabbing a coffee with someone who you aren’t attracted to, this person is matched with you and goes into your home, while you are not there, and takes your dog out.  The fact is, this is not the kind of thing that can be left to a simple algorithm.

You shouldn’t only interview your dog walker, you should interview your dog walking company.  Find out about where they are, and how often they meet with their walkers.  Ask questions like their employment requirements, and employee retainability.

Watch out for catchy things that don’t really mean much!  GPS tracking is nice, but it isn’t worth as much as a good dog walker, and besides if it is very important to you, you can always download an app with your own dog walker for this.  Be ware of FAQs sections that claim to say everything you want to hear, this is your dog, speak to someone and have them tell you over the phone, if not in person about their employees and services.  If dog walkers are shown on their website, then inquire to be sure those walkers actually still work for the company and that this section is updated.  This shows they know their walkers will be around long enough for this to be worth while.  If they have a section of walkers filled with employees who no longer work for them, this is a red flag.

Finally use common sense, and your gut feeling, not to mention a good referral!  If a dog walking company doesn’t even have a managerial employee in the same state as their dog walkers, this might mean they have other questionable business practices, don’t let your dog be a victim of their unprofessionalism and lack of care!  Ask for proof of things such as bonding and insurance, remember this person will possibly have keys, and definitely have access to your home.  In my opinion, the best way to hire a dog walker is through the referral of a trusted friend or family member.  If you know someone who has had a positive experience with a dog walker, over a prolonged period of time, this is truly the best way to choose!  If you are really uncertain, ask your vet r even your dog trainer to help you find an appropriate dog walker.  As a trainer I am always happy to help my clients find the best dog walker for their needs.  Obedience Training

In closing, I’m want to say that I am sad that I was not able elicit the necessary and positive change this company needs, but I am also glad to have further understanding of this industry that I can offer to help my clients make the best choices.  As a dog trainer I have worked with day care companies, dog walking companies, therapy dog groups, shelters and training groups.  I feel that by doing so I an offer my clients the best advice in choosing the right care for their pet.     As a positive dog trainer there is very little that saddens me more than a dog being punished unnecessarily or harshly, but one thing that does upset me more than this is when a dog is harmed, or even killed, due to the negligence of an unprofessional, and inexperienced pet care company.  I wish I could have done more for this company, but at this point, I wish yo do more for the pet owners out their who might fall victim to their delinquency.

By in Training Philosophy 0

City Dog Living

City Dog LivingI was born and raised in New York City. I have had dogs here for my entire life. I also have parents who moved to Long Island with our dogs and I saw how different life was. City dog living is quite different from suburb living and it goes a lot further than just not having a yard.

House training is extremely different and difficult. Trying to get a puppy from his crate, out the door, down the hall, to the elevator and then outside can really cause a lot of extra accidents. I recommend carrying the puppy from when he comes out of his crate until he is outside on the sidewalk. If you have a large breed dog and the puppy grows too big to carry before you are finished house training, then I recommend being sure to have a strong “sit” cue and anytime you can’t be briskly walking, then have your pup sit. Most dogs will not go to the bathroom while sitting.

The whole addition of an elevator to a dog’s life is quite a lot. Without proper socialization, an elevator can be an extremely scary place for a dog. Strange people and other dogs are going to come into a very tight space and be enclosed, or even trapped that way, everyday, every time they have to go for a walk. It can be extremely scary for a lot of dogs; let’s face it some people are afraid of elevators.

City Dog LivingDon’t break leash laws! Even if you think your dog is great, when you are in an on-leash area, keep your dog on leash because it makes for unequal playing ground if your dog can be off leash while all others are on. I liken it to you having to attend a dinner party and be the only person wearing handcuffs; it simply would not be as fun. Your dog relinquishes a lot of control to you while on leash, and it is unsettling for a lot of dogs to encounter a dog off leash while they are on; show respect for your neighbors and obey leash laws!

Don’t leave your dog tied up outside of stores: there are just too many people and other dogs who will pass, it really puts your dog at risk. There are people who will also steal your dog. These people either take them and use them as bait dogs in illegal dog fighting rings, or flip your dog, and sell it, far away, for a lot of money.

Your dog doesn’t need to like every dog! In the city you will see a lot of dogs, don’t just let your dog run up to greet every single one, even if she is friendly. A lot of other dogs aren’t or are in training, and you could be undoing a lot of hard work. Instead teach your dog to sit to greet, it is like saying “please can I go play?” And it gives you time to ask the other dog owner if his dog is friendly. If he says “yes,” you can release the sit and let the dogs play. If he says “no,” then respect that and move on. In my opinion you should thank him for being honest because it isn’t easy to admit your dog isn’t that friendly, but it is the safe and responsible thing to do!

Barking is something that threatens my clients homes at times; in city dog living we need to end barking yesterday! I understand the urgency when I go to help people with their barking dogs, but it is important to remember dogs bark; and while it is hard to find a place that it is appropriate in the city; it is crucial to find time to let your dog be a dog.

If you live in the city and are considering getting a dog or puppy it is important to plan time to socialize that dog to the city. If your vet doesn’t want him walking on the ground, don’t just keep him in your apartment. You have until he is 16 weeks old to socialize him to the sounds, sights and smells of the city. If you are adopting an older dog it will be a good idea to be sure the dog has walked on a busy city sidewalk comfortably. If the dog has lived his life in a rural, quiet setting, he might never get used to city streets, he might be too scared to walk down the street, and eventually even leave your apartment! It is very sad, but I have seen exactly this many times. The adjustment from quiet life to city life is a transition not all dogs can make.

The last thing I am going to say might sounds silly, but pick up your dog’s poop! Come on people, he’s your dog, clean up after him! I know we have all forgotten a bag once or twice, but make a conscience effort to clean up the mess your dog leaves behind. I am an animal lover to the core, and I don’t get grossed out very easily, but even I don’t want to step in dog poop! Also a huge pet peeve of mine; snow doesn’t dissolve poop! If your dog poops on the snow banks on the curb, you still have to pick it up.

I know that there is a stereotype that people in cities aren’t as friendly, but let’s do our best to show that this isn’t true for the dog community! There are a lot more of us in a smaller space, so perhaps we all have to be a bit more courteous, but dogs are incredibly social creatures and if you live in a city with a dog there are a lot of opportunities to socialize, play and train together; take advantage!

By in Training Philosophy 0

I Am a Treat Trainer

I Am a Treat TrainerWhen I was 11 my dream came true! I was in the car with my father, who is an orthopedist, so he had a cell phone, before I knew anyone else had one, but it was huge and you could always hear both sides of the conversation. Our family’s dear friend, the late Howard S. Kessler D.V.M. called my father to let him know that he had gotten his parents a corgi puppy as a gift, but they had decided after their last dog had passed, they wanted to travel. They were not eager to keep the pup if another home could be found. I couldn’t control myself, I was screaming at the top of my lungs that I was getting a Corgi puppy! A true dream come true for an 11 year old equestrian!

“Max” came to us less than a week later. He was perfect in my eyes in every way! He was a four month old Pembroke Welsh Corgi, he was fawn and white with a perfect lucky thumb print on the top of his head. I loved him from the moment I laid eyes on him! My mother told me if I wanted a dog I had to train (thank goodness she did!) So she took me to the book store and we picked out a dog training book. To this day i wish I knew exactly which one, but it was 1993, and the majority of people were training their dogs using choke chains. Somehow amongst all the other books we found one book that was a lure-reward book, and we weren’t even looking for it! We honestly just picked it because it wasn’t very long and had a lot of pictures showing how to train a dog to do specific things, while the other books were written descriptions.

I trained Max all his basic commands using his food and our bond was quite strong. He used to sleep back to back in bed with me, and I woke up every morning to walk him before I went to school. I loved him with all my heart, he was my best friend. Even though I loved him so, I still did stupid things; I was kid! I definitely put him in his crate when I was mad at him, and he definitely did not think of it as a happy place. I also thought a fun game was to chase him around my mother’s bed barking at him. I always thought he thought this was a lot of fun, but looking back I do realize it was probably quite stressful for him.

I know Max had his behavioral issues, but I can say as an educated dog trainer and behaviorist that his issues all stemmed from our lack of knowledge and using punishment as an easy solution. Unfortunately these choices had negative fall out, for example, even once Max was older and it would have been a lot easier to transport him to and from the vet in his crate, but he hated it, and it only caused more stress. Thank goodness he never had a serious injury and had to be confined. Don’t get me wrong, Max was a great dog with much more going for him, than against, but I just want to point out that our decisions on punishment had a lasting affect throughout his life, long after we used his crate for punishment.

Today I truly believe that part of the reason I am a dog trainer, besides Max, is that book. I love animals and always have, I think if I had tried training Max using forceable methods it would have upset me terribly, and I doubt he would have ever learned his commands, or I would be doing this today! There is nothing like the relationship that I built with that dog, and this is why today, I am a treat trainer; and when I work with my clients, I work to make them treat trainers too!

Too many people now a-days believe their dog is trying to “dominate” them, or they need to show him who is boss. I was 11 years old when I trained my dog, not only would it be very wrong for me to have ever tried alpha rolling Max, but it would have been incredibly dangerous. Even if you are an adult, why would you want to risk something that could potentially result in pain for both you and your dog?

Some people might think that treat training doesn’t stick with dogs, or it is an easy way out, but I can honestly say that using treats effectively is the same thing as using punishment effectively; without the negative fall out. If you train with treats properly you can, and should fade them to become sporadic life rewards as your dog knows the behaviors you are looking for. I can’t even say how many times I have seen people who use a prong collar for their dog’s entire life, or complain that their dog only behaves with their shock collar on. This is the same problem as a dog who only responds when you have food in your hands, it means training, or punishment has been used ineffectively. The difference is if you use treats ineffectively, the most serious risk you run is an obese dog, and while this not something that should be ignored it is far less serious than when punishment is misused. When punishment is misused you can teach your dog to hate children, other dogs or even their own leash. Negative associations can happen in one trial, all it takes is one choke chain jerk in the presence of a child to forever change your dog’s mind about children.

I am a treat trainer because it is a scientific fact that we can change a dog’s conditioned emotional response using food. We can follow something your dog finds unpleasant with his favorite things and hopefully through counter conditioning we can make this thing less unpleasant. So you can try your choke chains first, and then I can tell you to prepare yourself for a lifetime of treats at the ready to counter condition anything you have trained your dog to hate with your leash jerks. But that sounds like an awful lot of work! Perhaps trying the treats first isn’t so bad?

I am a treat trainer who believes that sometimes punishment is necessary, but I will say that punishment is never necessary for something you have not trained and proofed with your dog! This means that it is not ok to jerk your dog on a prong collar for pulling on leash, if you have never even taught him that you want him to walk by your side. I will never say that the use of painful punishment is necessary, so I will never condone the use of a prong collar, but sometimes punishment is necessary. Punishment should never be harmful or scary, and if you have to use the punishment more that a few times, it isn’t working. The definition of punishment is to lessen behavior, so if the behavior isn’t decreasing, than your punishment isn’t working, it is that simple. Even if you are shocking your dog every time he does something wrong, and he keeps doing it, the punishment is not effective, and really cannot be classified as punishment, it is really harassment.

I am a treat trainer who has a rescue dog who could be described as not that food motivated. Guess what? I can still find things that she is excited about! I have to be more creative than some other dog owners, but I can certainly find things she is eager to work for, such as bacon. You don’t need to jump to bacon if your dog will take treats but the point is there will be a point where your dog is hungry enough, and the reward is good enough to strike his fancy.

I am a treat trainer who has used to treats to train dogs to sit, down, stand, look, stay, come, leave it, drop it, take it, find it, heel, speak, quiet, hand target, retrieve, give paw, high five, roll over, play dead, on your side, stick ‘em up, bow, crawl, ride a skateboard, put his head in a person’s lap, walk with a wheelchair, alert a deaf owner to doorbells, and other alarms, signal a visually impaired person to safety, stay home alone comfortably, get used to his crate, not bark at the doorbell, walk nicely on leash, not be shy or anxious about strangers, to get along with other animals such as cats, to adjust to a new baby, or get used to a wobbly and unpredictable toddler, not to chase squirrels, or bark at traffic, and even counter act aggression against people, children and other animals.

I am a treat trainer and nothing will ever change my mind about that!

“But It’s Working…”

“But It’s Working…”

I have found that a lot of dog owners try a lot of different things to get desired behaviors. Let’s face it, we all try to figure things out for ourselves, so we might turn to a friend who’s dog behaves in a manner more like what we had hoped for when we got a dog, or you might turn to the fun exciting world of the internet search. Either way you you will likely find answers that either don’t apply to your dog, or sound good to you, but in reality aren’t actually changing the behavior.

All dogs are different; and even if your good friend’s dog did once bark when guests came in, and he was able to correct this behavior; it does not mean the method used will work for your dog, or even if it does work, it could have negative side effects. You should be very weary of quick fixes and short cuts, as they might end up causing more undesirable behaviors in place of the old one.

It is important to consider that your dog is highly intelligent and if she is behaving in a way that seems unruly, dangerous or even just annoying to you, it is important to think about what result you would like to have if you confront the problem. Are you only looking to stop an unwanted behavior, or do you actually want to confront the reason the problem exists and change your dog’s feelings about it, so that her emotions behind the behavior can also change.

“Suppressed behavior is not changed behavior…” Victoria Stilwell

If your dog barks while you are not home, your goal might only be to make your dog be quiet while you are not home, you might not even consider the deeper anxiety that is causing this barking, and you might go to the pet store and buy a citronella collar, or other anti-bark device. In some cases you might even get the result you were looking for; you put the collar on your dog and go off to work, and you don’t hear any barking, and you don’t come home to any complaints. Unfortunately you have not dealt with the core of the behavior; the anxiety, and you have now added a tool that sprays or punishes your dog while you aren’t home, you are only adding to this anxiety. If you are lucky it might end here, and you might think that anti bark device or collar really works, and now you might become that neighbor or person who freely recommends these tools. But for a lot of people this is not where this will end. Because you are not addressing the issue, the anxiety could lead to far worse things. The two specific examples I see most often will be dogs who become so anxious from this that they simply cannot hold their bowels or bladder, and as soon as you leave they go to the bathroom all over the house, crate and/or safe area. The other example I see a lot will be a dog who looks for items to chew in place of the barking and to help ease the anxiety. These dogs not only cause great damage to household items, moldings and walls, but they are also at great risk to swallow foreign objects and have an obstruction that can end up needing surgery.

If your dog pulls on leash and you go into a pet store and pick up a big strong prong collar and think to yourself; “this will work!” Then you begin to walk your dog on the collar and every time she pulls you jerk that prong collar and like magic she seems to fall right back into place by your side… for a little while, maybe 3 steps before she is out in front again, and you jerk her back and think “this is working!” I encourage you to realize that if that collar were actually training your dog to walk by your side, you should only need to use it for a few days, but if it translates to a lifetime of wearing the prong collar, it is not changing your dog’s behavior and it is basically just harassment.

While training dogs people use one or more of the four quadrants of operant conditioning: Positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive punishment and negative punishment. The first thing to learn is that the positive and negative in these quadrants don’t apply to good and bad, but instead to adding and taking away. Reinforcement is something likely to increase behavior, while the definition of punishment is to lessen behavior. If you are using the prong collar to stop your dog from pulling, you are trying to use the prong as punishment to lessen the behavior of pulling. If everyday you wake up and have to put that collar on that dog and jerk that leash back 5, 10, 15 times while on your walk, every walk; you are not lessening the behavior of pulling. Your punishment is not working, so you should seriously consider a different method. If you want to use punishment based methods with your dog, then at least understand them; understand that if it is working the punisher should be able to be faded and the behavior should cease; otherwise it is not working; plain and simple.

Another thing to consider about punishment is the negative fall out that can come with it. Even if you are still convinced your prong collar jerks are working, you have to be very careful about what those “corrections” might accompany, and how that might change the way your dog feels about certain things. If your dog gets jerked on the prong while a child approaches him on the street, it might only take two or three times before your dog thinks the child approaching is what causes the jerk on the prong collar, and thus she might no longer like children, she might even be afraid of children now if she is afraid of the pain of the prong being accompanied with their presence, and this could result in an aggressive outburst one day. Remember punishment lessens behavior, so if your dog happily runs up to a child and punished by your prong, she will stop happily approaching children.

If your dog is showing undesirable behaviors it is important first go see your vet, and explain the problems you have been seeing. Dogs can have pain, tooth aches, or even hypothyroidism which all can be contributing to their behavior. It isn’t fair to implement any training plan unless the dog is healthy!

It is also important to look at the big picture, if your dog is acting up, don’t just stop the behavior, but get to the core of the reason for the behavior, because if you do you can change the emotions behind the behavior so it doesn’t return or manifest is more difficult ways. If you find yourself using short cuts, or methods you have learned about from a friend of friend, and you think to yourself; “but it’s working…” I encourage you to strongly consider if it is actually working for your dog!

The Importance of Choosing a Certified Dog Trainer

There are a lot of professions that exist with no formal training or certification required, and dog training is one of them.  There are several that surprise me; as a horseback rider I am often surprised there is no formal certification, or anything really, needed to call yourself a horseback riding coach, or trainer.  This profession may involve you putting someone’s 10 year old child onto a two-ton animal, and you could have no formal training or education what-so-ever.  It is a scary thought, but the same is true for therapists, and many other professions that could easily cause a great deal of emotional and physical harm and pain to the client, when mishandled.  I can’t say how often I encounter this in my own profession; dogs who have worked someone who is under-qualified and uneducated.  Not to mention, I hear of several trainers who are dishonest about their qualifications, and, consequently they have made behaviors much worse.

There are several certification boards for dog training, and the one or ones that should be important to you, depend on the kind of training you need or want.  There are also different affiliations trainers can have, that aren’t certifications, but instead show that a trainer has been accepted to participate with certain dog training groups and organizations.  These can also be helpful to let you know if a trainer keeps up with other current trainers, and education.

The first certification that is helpful to most dog owners seeking a trainer is the CCPDT; the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers.  They do offer two certifications, the CPDT: Certified Pet Dog Trainer, and the CBCC: the Certified Behavior Consultant-Canine.  These each have two sub sets, the KA and the KSA the KA is the Knowledge Assessed, meaning to earn this you had to, among other things, take a written test.  The KSA is the Knowledge and Skills Assessed, meaning that you have completed the KA requirements, and also sent in videos of your dog training to be analyzed by a grading committee.

The next certification that is helpful if you are seeking training for behavior modification is the IAABC: The International Association for Animal Behavior Consultants.  This certification requires a long application and essay testing portion.  This requires knowledge of the science of how dogs learn, and how best to modify behaviors such aggression, fear and anxiety.  The certification process require a certain amount of hours wokring specifically on behavioral cases, as well as 5 written case studies.  If you are looking to work on something a bit more serious than obedience; this is an important certification.

Another great option is the VSPDT: Victoria Stilwell’s Positively Dog Trainer.  This is a great certification because you can be sure you are working with a licensed, insured company that will only employ force-free, pain-free, positive methods.  Victoria’s certification requires proof of insurance, 8 references, training videos, and an interview with Victoria Stilwell.  There are are other reputable trainers who offer certifications for people who complete training work shops with them, and various other requirements.  Some of these include Karen Pryor training certifications, Pat Miller certifications, and even the SPCA of San Francisco has a very reputable program for dog trainers.   Some of these are very specific to a technique, such as grisha Stewart’s CBATI: Certified Behavior Adjustment Training Instructor, which would be a very helpful certificaion if you are struggling with leash reactivity, or fear and anxiety issues.  All of these are a bit more specific, but show that the trainer is continue his or her education inna responsible manner!

Some of the group affiliations that can be helpful for your dog trainer to have include being an AKC CGC: American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen Evaluator, as well as the PPG: Pet Professionals Guild Professional Member.  These have less strong stipulations to join, as far as testing, but still show a dog trainer who is participating in the community and is likely to be more up to date on the newest training methods and learning theory.  PPG is very strict to only allow force free trainers into their group so it is a great resource to find trainers, groomers, vets and boarding.

APDT Professional Member: The APDT is the Association for Professional Dog Trainers, is a group that tries to bring professional dog trainers together.  Since there is no one required certification, there are so many others that are reputable, and responsible.  To be a professional member of the APDT one must hold his or her CPDT.  The APDT has also compiled this list of the different certifications: http://apdt.com/petowners/choose/certifications.aspx.

Be Cautious of certifications that are given from dog training schools. It is important to look into the methods that are taught at these schools.  A certification could be given to a person for punishment, non-science based, old methods, and these are the exact certifications to avoid.  Most of the time a certification such as “Master Dog Trainer” is not a person who will employ the most up-to-date, force-free methods to train your dog, but instead will be a punishment-based trainer.  These are the people who often still believe that your sweet old King Charles Spaniel is sleeping on your couch because he is trying to dominate you, when really it is simply because there is no other comfortable spot!  We really do know better these days… well some of us do!  Certifications should have clickable links to follow so the trainer is easily showing you where that certification comes from.  If it says the trainer is certified in the bio, but there is no higher certification board listed, be very cautious of this!

So what does all this mean?  This means that if you choose a person from one of these many well respected certification boards, you are getting someone who is held to a higher standard.  These certifications all require continuing education units, so you know that the trainer you are working with is pursuing his or her education, knowledge and skills.  With something as serious and important as the well being and training of your dog, you shouldn’t trust just anyone.  Don’t be afraid to ask someone for his or her credentials before entrusting them with your beloved pet.  I hope this helps you to choose wisely!

What Is Science Based Dog Training?

When I say “science based” dog training I mean that the training is based on the study of the dog, it’s behaviors, and how it learns. Something can be considered scientific if it is directly observable. Directly observable means that we can see something happen with our own eyes, and recreate this scenario to see again and again. If you ever studied psychology, then a lot of the concepts below will sound familiar.

Classical Conditioning

Ivan Pavlov was the first person to say that classical conditioning applies to animals as well as humans. An unconditional stimulus produces an unconditional response, and a conditioned stimulus produces a conditioned response. The classic example of Pavlov’s dog; he experimented with dogs by pairing a bell with tasty meat powder. Since the meat powder would cause the dogs to salivate in anticipation of the meat, he would ring a bell just before the addition of the meat powder, and guess what? The dogs eventually salivated at the sound of the bell without the pairing of the good smelling meat powder. In the beginning it is easy to understand why the dog is salivating; meat powder tastes good! But it is a learned response for the dog to salivate at the sound of the bell. The pairing of a unconditioned or neutral stimuli (the bell) with something we already have a conditioned response to; food that smells good, so we salivate; we can teach the neutral stimuli to have the same response, the bell to cause us to salivate.

Operant Conditioning

Operant conditioning is a concept that was developed by B.F. Skinner. As the father of operant conditioning, Skinner introduced the concept of reinforcement: a behavior that is reinforced increases in frequency, while a behavior that is not, decreases.

The Four Quadrants

The four quadrants of operant conditioning refers to Positive Reinforcement (+R), Negative Reinforcement (-R), Positive Punishment (+P), Negative Punishment (-P). The first important thing to understand is that the positive and negative do not refer to good and bad, but instead addition and subtraction, or removal. Reinforcement is something that is going to increase the likelihood of a behavior, while punishment will the decrease the likelihood of a behavior.

Positive Reinforcement is the addition of something that is likely to increase a desired behavior. A great example is feeding a treat if your dog sits; the addition of the food reward increases the likelihood that your dog will sit again.

Negative Reinforcement is the removal of something that will increase a desired behavior. A great example of negative reinforcement is the beeping seat belts in cars now; the beeping is removed, or stops, as soon as you buckle your seat belt, so you are more likely to buckle your seat belt increase in desired behavior) to subtract the annoying beeping.

Positive Punishment is the addition of something that will lessen an undesired behavior. If you shock a dog for barking, this is positive punishment; you are adding the shock to lessen the undesired behavior of barking.

Negative Punishment is the removal of something that will decrease a behavior. If your dog jumps up on you and you turn your back, this is negative punishment. You are removing yourself, and your attention to decrease the behavior of jumping.

We often use more than one quadrant. Even a lot of the above examples use more that one quadrant as the entire situation is playing out. The seat belt is a good example because at it’s onset: the moment the alarm begins to beep at you for not buckling your seat belt, this is positive punishment, as it continues to beep, the only way to stop it is by buckling your seat belt, it moves to negative reinforcement. A similar example is using a shock collar to train a dog to come when called; you call your dog to come, and if she does not, you begin to press the button on your remote which elicits a shock. The addition of the shock to lessen the behavior of not coming right away; positive punishment, but as your hold the button down, until your dog begins to come to you, this switches to negative reinforcement. The shock only stops, or is removed, when the behavior of coming to you is happening to increase the likelihood of this behavior. I have found that there are humane, non-painful or scary ways to use three out of the four quadrants; but I see no place for positive punishment!

Counter Conditioning

Counter conditioning is used to change one’s condition response to a stimuli. By pairing stimuli that evoke opposite responses we can change the negative response to become positive. For example, if your dog hates having her nails clipped, and as soon as she sees the nail trimmer she runs and hides; then the nail trimmer already elicits a negative response. But if your dog absolutely LOVES roast beef, and anytime you even touch the roast beef bag in the fridge, she comes running as fast as she can, then roast beef elicits a positive response. If we remember the good follows the bad, we can help our dog to change their response. So if the good is roast beef and the bad is the nail trimmer, we want to show our dog the nail trimmer and then follow it with some tasty roast beef. If we can do this enough and with good enough timing we can teach our dog that the nail trimmer means we are going to go to the fridge and get roast beef, then we can change our dg’s response to the nail trimmer to be her response to roast beef!

Desensitization

The basic definition of desensitization is to make less sensitive. We can desensitize a dog to something by exposing her to a stimuli in a very non threatening manner. So perhaps we want to desensitize our dog to strollers. We might start byt having a toy stroller for a doll, very far away from the dog. We have made the stimuli smaller and farther away. Little by little as the dog gets used to the small stroller at a far distance, we might work to slowly move the stroller closer. We want to continue exposure as long a fear response is not triggered. Once the dog is used to the small doll stroller near her, we might try a larger stroller, but we would likely add the distance back and start with the large stroller far away. Again the idea is to avoid a fear response being triggered. Usually desensitization and counter conditioning are used together to help dogs overcome many fears and behavioral issues that result.

Primary vs. secondary Reinforcers

If you are going to understand the four quadrants, and understand that we apply at least one of the quadrants when we are working to change behaviors, it is important to understand the difference between primary and secondary reinforcers. Primary reinforcers are those things we need biologically; food, drink and sex. Secondary, or learned reinforcers through association, such as money and praise. If you are working to truly change a response and see the desired response only, you need to use primary reinforcers in your dog training. This means using food! Your praise and affection are wonderful, but they are secondary reinforcers and may not be strong enough when the behavior problem is deeply embedded. If you hope to make changes while counter conditioning you will also need to use primary reinforces.

I hope this has shown you that there is a lot of thought, study and preparation that goes along with science based dog training. It is not just a catchy phrase, but instead tells you that the trainer you have chosen, understands your dogs behavior in a way that has been studied, and tested. Science based dog trainers do not take their methods from TV shows, or because they “have had dogs their entire life…” It is a personal choice, and you should do what is best for you, but if you were facing a traumatic experience and you wanted to best recover, would you go to a life coach, or a psychiatrist?

Are Some Dogs Just Dumb?

Are Some Dogs Just Dumb?

No.

Seriously, I hear this question a lot from clients, and friends who have dogs, and I am ready to weigh in with my opinion on “dumb dogs.”

If you ask people to name the smartest dog breeds they will often say a Border Collie, or an Australian Shepherd, and if I asked you to name the dumbest dogs you might say a Bassett Hound or an Afghan.  Right away can anyone tell some similarities between these answers?  The two “smartest” dogs are in the herding group, while the two “dumbest” breeds are hounds… Interesting…  I think we could be onto something here!

When we try to measure the intelligence of a dog, we can only do so by exposing them to exercises we have people do to test human intelligence.  We can only test how intelligent they are in relation to us.  Humans are pretty inept when it comes to scent tracking.  We don’t use smells to learn or to communicate; we do use words, gestures and body language.  Dogs have 44 times the amount of scent receptors that humans have.  That is an average dog, not even specifically a hound.

So what if we could more easily communicate, and even be more aware of scents?  Would we perhaps then find a Basset to be the smartest dog?  Have we ever stopped to think about the reason training might be failing?  Because to even waste a moment worrying the animal might just be dumb, is a complete waste of time.  Instead step away from the animal and look at yourself, and the training program.

Are you training a scent hound using visual and verbal cues only?  Perhaps if you step away and think of how to train the scent hound using his strengths; scent, you might get a lot further, a lot faster!

We even test humans to see what kind of “learners” we are, but yet we rarely stop to think of the type of learners our dogs are.  Since the communication barrier is already a bigger factor between humans and dogs, it would seem that trying to figure out what motivates your dog, and how he can most easily learn something, will greatly improve the training experience for you both.

Today we do have a tool to help us figure this out!  Dognition is a great website that offers brain games and exercises to help you to better understand the way your dog learns.

https://www.dognition.com

I grew up with a Corgi, I have mentioned him a lot before; he was certainly a reason I become a dog trainer.  If you ask me, he was simply brilliant.  One of the smartest dogs I have met to this day.  Max learned language (words) so easily, and he remebered them!  People’s names, places we were going and specific foods; he knew it all!  Now that I am a trainer I fully understand why he was a brilliant addition to our family; we’re talkers! -especially to our animals!  I am the chatterbox of the family, and I talked to Max a lot.  So he learned language, he was a herding dog, and it came a little easier to him, than some other breeds, but again all of this amounts to a family dog who we viewed as simply brilliant.

If people could easily emit smells, as communication just as we do words, then perhaps my Corgi would have seemed quite dumb, and we would have preferred the Afghan as our family pet, but it is just the way humans work.  We can’t easily create and present different smells, but we know lots of words!

In conclusion, I will again say that I do not believe there are dumb dogs, especially not specific breeds that are dumber.  I believe humans are limited in their ability to communicate and train dogs, and so some are more difficult for us, but this is no fault of the dog, and it certainly is not the sign of unintelligence.  If you are reading this thinking your dog is the exception, and he is truly dumb, then I challenge you!  Learn about your dog!  Understand his breed, if he is a mutt, then research several breeds that seem like they could make up your dog.  Find out what he was bred for, and what the breeds strengths are, and use them in your training.  Another great option is to join Dognition to help you learn more about your dog.  If you live in the New York City area, and want professional help with this, please feel free to contact us!

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Why You Should Rescue a Dog!

There are several ways to get that dream dog that you have always been looking for. You could go to a breeder, a pet store, a rescue group or shelter. So what’s the difference, and how do you choose?

Breeders are just like any other business, some are really great and responsible, while others are completely negligent and unprofessional. There are some general rules to follow when choosing a breeder. The breeder should let you meet the pup’s mother or parents if possible, the breeder shouldn’t be eager to ship their puppy to you via plane, and they should be familiar with basic handling and socialization techniques for new born puppies. The truth is if you are set on getting your dog from a breeder; do your research! Don’t conform to a set of rules, that may or may not apply to your exact situation. Instead understand the breed you are buying, and the health issues the breed can have, and speak to people who have dogs from that breeder. Ask about the health issues, and if there have been behavioral issues. Talking to other owners will be the best way to find a good breeder, but this blog is about adopting!

You can of course walk into a pet store one day, and walk out with a puppy on the same day. This is probably the only circumstance that allows for this, which should be causing you to question why, right away. Pet stores are not a place to get a puppy. Breeders, or puppy mills who provide these puppies are not concerned with their long term health or behavior, they are breeding for sheer numbers. Also while you might end up with a happy and healthy dog from a pet store; you must stop to realize that your happy, healthy pup’s parents’ are stuck living in horrific conditions, and are forced to over breed while being given little or no exposure to sun, grass or anything of comfort. There really is no excuse for walking into a pet store and buying a dog, it supports an industry of abuse, mistreatment, and cruelty, plain and simple. Websites that sell puppies are also most often puppy mills. This is not to say if your breeder has a website she is breeding in this manner, but if you can directly purchase a puppy from a site with no background information, and only payment required; this is a puppy mill situation. If you can only bring yourself to get a dog from a pet store, then don’t get a dog!

Today there are so many dogs out there that need homes, I am not going to bore you with numbers and statistics, but no matter what state you live in, I can assure you that each and every day, dogs are euthanized simply for lack of space, and not due to health or behavioral issues. Pounds are over run with owner surrenders, and strays, and if a dog stays long enough, his time will eventually come. Many states have no-kill shelters, but a lot of these places cannot take owner surrenders so instead they are pulling dogs from the pounds, which means some dogs don’t make it from the pound to the no-kill shelter. These are the facts, and if you don’t believe me than you should google your local animal control center, and you will see.

Today people can adopt pretty much any dog from a shelter or rescue group. If you don’t set time constraints, and instead choose what you want in a dog, and spend time looking for it: you will find it! My biggest piece of advice is to not be in a rush! Think about how long it takes to have a baby, we don’t just go into a store one day and impulse buy a baby, so we shouldn’t do this with a dog.

I am tired of hearing that someone wants a purebred dog, or a puppy so they had to go to pet store. Worse than that, when people say they went to a pet store because their building doesn’t allow dogs-it won’t be long before this doesn’t work out, and this pet store pup become a pound pup. If you live in a building that doesn’t allow dogs, and you have to have a dog, then move, because this is the kind of sacrifice you need to be willing to make if you are going to properly care for and love a dog for his entire life.

If you spend the time looking you can find any dog, any breed, any age available for adoption, and while it might take longer, the pay off will be well worth it! If you need help finding a dog, reach out to some local dog trainers; a lot of us have options to help you find the right dog for you that are less expensive than full training lessons. Also there are several great websites out there that help compile all the local rescue dogs in your area. My husband and I found our dog on petfinder.com and she is the perfect addition to our family. Petfinder allows you to search for dogs in your area, and set the criteria you want as far as age, gender, size and breed.

If you can’t rescue a dog, there are often lots of ways to help shelters. Check your local shelters to see if they ever need volunteers, foster parents, or even transport drivers to take a dog from the shelter to his new home. In New York City there are several shelters that are part of The Mayor’s Alliance and they often need help will all sorts of different things, from book keeping to web site updating. I started out helping Manhattan’s Bideawee shelter with photographs for their website, and it took me all the way to becoming a dog trainer! There are a lot of dogs out there in need, so even if adopting is not right for you, there are likely many ways you can help these dogs.

If you are thinking about getting a dog and live in the New York City area, we offer dog and family pairing consultations as well as discounted training for all rescue dogs. If you are fostering a dog and need help with him, we also offer discounted training for foster parents, as well as Skype sessions for people in need out of state. Please contact us today for any help or advice!

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Your Dog Is No Different!

Most of us have made mistakes in our lives. Most of us have broken the rules, either because we wanted to, or because we didn’t understand them. Who hasn’t become stressed and snapped at someone they love? And sometimes it is great to run into an old friend, but sometimes we all like to be left alone. We can all have moments when we are frustrated, tired, or just not the best versions of ourselves, and your dog is no different!

We expect our dogs to come into our world and be better behaved, happier, and friendlier than we ever could be. We expect them to never break the rules, without even being taught them. We expect that they never make mistakes, and if they do, we interpret it as dominance. We would likely view the person interpreting the rules in his own way as the class clown, rather than the “alpha male.” Your dog is no different.

Teach your dog the rules in your world! This means actual training; reinforcing certain behaviors, and pairing them with cues that are easy to remember and maintain. You don’t have to teach a bunch of tricks, but you should have some communication that your dog understands to help him do the right thing. It is really unfair to think of a prong collar or choke chain as a training tool; it is a punishment tool. Some of you might be offended by the use of the word punishment in these circumstances and you might want to replace it with something like “correction,” but scientifically if you are using the tool to lessen a behavior; it is punishment, PERIOD. If you use one of these tools and tighten the choke or prong when your dog does something wrong, it is like your dog is playing a game of hot and cold, but when his behavior is cold, he is punished with pain. Can you imagine playing that game as a child and walking in the wrong direction only to be shocked or pronged? I don’t think you would want to play the game very long! In fact you might sit down on the floor and not want to move: your dog is no different.

Imagine you are starting a new job, and you go in for your first day, and your boss completely ignores you. You might ask a few questions, but no answers or instructions are given. You decide you will turn on your computer. It boots, and you click on an internet browser window; your boss walks up behind you, and smacks you on the back of the head, and says “no!” She then returns to her seat and continues ignoring you. Next you open a text document and begin to type a list of questions for later. You type three questions out and begin to type the fourth when your boss is standing behind you again, and, smack! “NO!” She returns to what she was doing. What is your next move? Do you continue to try different things at your job that might result in another smack? Do you quit and walk out? Do you sit paralyzed at your desk for fear of what could happen next? All would be normal responses for a human: your dog is no different.

If you haven’t taught your dog to walk without pulling, but instead you let him begin to pull and then, BAM! You jerk him back with a prong or choke collar; it is the same as the boss in the above analogy. Your dog has no idea why this harsh correction happened, and depending on the dog his response could be to continue to try different behaviors, he could turn and snap at you so you drop the leash and he can run off, or he could just sit down and refuse to move out of fear of what could happen. It is not a constructive way for you to learn: your dog is no different.

If you would prefer that on your first day at a new job your boss shows you what is expected of you, and then rewards you with raises and promotions for your successes, and exceeding expectations; then teach your dog this way! Show your dog that you want him to walk beside you, and reward him for doing so. You will not only find that he learns what is expected of him quite quickly, but it will also build a stronger relationship of trust and understanding. We all know what it is like to work for someone we hate, but hopefully we also all know what it is like to work for someone we respect, and I think if you reflect on the boss you liked, you will remember a relationship of learning, trust and consistency: your dog is no different!

Dogs move into our homes and we behave in very inconsistent and unpredictable ways, and many dogs do just fine. We can punish them, jerk choke chains, pinch prong collars, shock them, smack them, lock them in bathrooms and crates for hours, and when you come home your dog will still wag his tail and be happy to see you. Your dog lives life to fullest, and loves with all his heart. Your dog forgives instantly, doesn’t judge you, or hold grudges. This is why dogs are different!

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BSL: What It Is, and Why It Is Wrong

BSL stands for Breed Specific Legislation, and in short the best way to describe this concept is: people’s feeble way to address vicious dogs, without actually doing so in any logical, or even statistical way. It allows governments to go after specific breeds as a target for dog bite incidents in that area. The problem is we are blaming the wrong end of the leash! Any dog can be vicious, and this is more often than not, caused by human error, but certainly not limited to any one kind of dog, or even a sub category of dogs considered to vicous.

BSL goes after several breeds, but let’s face it the real “witches” in this witch hunt are the pit bulls. Further this makes BSL even more unfair because the group of dogs that fall into this “pit bull” category are actually several different types of dogs who may even be mixed, but the Center for Disease Control compares the incident of pit bull related dog bites to specific breeds. For example the Husky and Malamute are considered separately, but in the case of a the pit bull, two dogs who were this similar would both qualify, so really the group comparison is not a fair and accurate comparison. The proof should even be in their name; we capitalize the names of specific breeds, such as Doberman Pinscher, but we do not capitalize pit bull. The best reasoning I can give for this is that it would almost be like capitalizing the word “mutt.”

A few things I want to clear up right here and now: pit bulls jaws do not lock! Some say the pit bull’s jaw is as strong a crocodile, also not true. Now a few truths: The city of Denver has euthanized 4,000 pit bulls since 1989. These dogs were not temperament tested, or involved in any incidents, they simply were pit bulls living in Denver, taken from their loving homes, where most of them were companion animals-family pets! Now I am sorry, you don’t have to like pit bulls, and you can even be afraid of them, but this is plain wrong. In case you don’t believe me, check the statistics because Denver County has the highest incidents of dog bites resulting in hospitalization in the years between 1995 and 2010, and the breed that topped this dog bite list: The Golden Retriever! Who is the true danger here; these dogs to humans, or vice versa!

The media is shaping our opinions in a similar way that plane crashes scare us more than car crashes. To me the way the media reports on a pit bull dog bite is similar to a very heinous plane crash, whereas other dog bites by breeds such as Cocker Spaniels are reported on more in a fashion of a small car crash. The headlines involving pit bulls more often include the dog’s breed, whereas when it is any breed other than pit bull the headline usually reads “dog bite.” The word “attack” is very often used in conjunction with pit bull stories. Don’t let the media determine how you feel about these dogs, meet a few for yourself and see what you actually think, because if you think you are scared of pit bulls, after you meet one, I bet you will be pleasantly surprised!

Please don’t just take my word for it! Educate yourself about pit bulls, especially if you are fearful, because fear leads to irrationality, not only in people, but in dogs too, this is one of the reasons as a trainer I push so hard for dogs to be socialized and see lots of people and things, so they will know what they are, and not be afraid. The same applies to the knee jerk reaction of people towards pit bulls, perhaps if they educated themselves about these dogs, they would not be so fearful and want to be so aggressive towards them. I highly recommend taking an hour and half of your time and watch Libby Sherrill’s Beyond the Myth: http://www.beyondthemythmovie.com

You may be thinking that this doesn’t affect you. You might have read this whole blog thinking pit bulls are fine with you, but you will never have one, so it doesn’t really matter. Well it should matter to everyone! If it starts with pit bulls today where will it end? BSL is already spreading to Rottweilers, Huskies, Great Danes, and more, so don’t just sit back and think it cannot affect you because before we know it there will be more banned breeds than allowed. If we continue to think the problem is with a specific breed, and not in our own handling, training, socialization and treatment of that dog, the problem of vicious and dangerous dogs will continue to exist. The question is which breed the law makers will target next, will it be your dog?