Monthly Archives: April 2019

Don’t Socialize the Dog!


That title is a typo, right? A professional dog trainer would never advocate against socialization, would she? Well, maybe!

The problem isn’t with socialization itself, but with many people’s understanding of socialization. Socialization is vital for proper mental and social development in dogs, and it needs to be offered properly. Mistakes in socialization, even if intentions are good, can backfire and may even produce an overly shy or overly aggressive dog.

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Kindness Is Powerful Award Winners Announced!

After a months-long nomination period, we are honored to announce that the five winners of the inaugural Kindness Is Powerful Awards have been named.

The Kindness Is Powerful Awards are granted to individuals doing heroes’ work on a daily basis without regular recognition or praise on behalf of animals in the rescue world. Nominees were submitted from Victoria’s followers around the world, with winners receiving public recognition via Victoria Stilwell Positively media platforms as well as a donation in their name to a registered animal charity organization of their choosing.

The Kindness Is Powerful Awards are a joint initiative between the Victoria Stilwell Foundation and the Petco Foundation.

Kindness Is Powerful Award Winners:

Rebecca Roy

Rebecca founded Draft Gratitude in 2014 to save draft horses from slaughter and give them a second chance.

“These horses have… earned the right to have a safe retirement, and that’s what we give them,” Rebecca says in a recent article in her local newspaper. “Every single horse down there has a differently personality. They aren’t just a number to me or something that’s used up.”

Rebecca demonstrates her love and caring of these giant horses — that have been loyal and hardworking all their lives doing farm work — by saving and nursing neglected horses to either be adopted out to a loving home, or to stay at the 23-acre farm in sanctuary.

Draft Gratitude’s mission is to:

  • Rescue and rehabilitate unwanted draft horses.
  • Pair adoptable draft horses with approved homes.
  • Educate our community on draft horse care, history, and potential.
  • Depend on the support of the community to fund our life saving work.


Amy Ryan

From Amy’s nominator:  “I know a lot of people in the animal rescue community, but I have yet to meet anyone who exceeds or even approaches Amy’s level of drive in helping animals, especially dogs. She will, without hesitation, take on the most wretched cases, clean them up, get them spayed or neutered, and get them healthy, which unfortunately more often than not, involves treating for heartworms.

“Amy keeps the dogs with foster parents (I am one), takes care of them until they are placed in a forever home, and continues by following up with adopters throughout the dog’s life. Lest you think she only cares for animals, she will not hesitate to help a person in need, once carrying a person in a diabetic coma out of the park. Had she not done so, that person otherwise would have very likely died since no one else was in the park and it was turning dark.”


Rudy Brittain

Rudy volunteers with Tyson’s Chance Animal Foundation and his dedication to the dogs is nothing short of amazing. Rudy makes the 60 mile round trip 6 days a week to walk and socialize 20+ dogs. His kindness, love and patience with the often long term and special needs residents is an inspiration and makes him an integral part of the success of Tyson’s program.

Rudy is so loved by the dogs they know when he has arrived on the premises before he ever enters the building, knowing “Rudy in the house” means a car ride and a romp at the park. Rudy is an inspiration to everyone in our organization and in the local rescue community!


Pam Fischer Horton

Pam has stepped up for animals in virtually every arena that you can imagine. She has volunteered at animal rescues, protested outside of pet stores selling puppy mill dogs, and brought multiple rescue dogs into her own home.

While she slowly rehabilitated Lil Olive, a badly abused Italian greyhound, she expanded her reach into the social media sphere, developing a Facebook page and persona that would attract more than 42,000 followers. Many of those followers — members of what Pam calls her “pack family” — have gotten their first taste of animal-welfare activism via her work.

Pam’s passion for animals and her desire to end puppy mills inspires me everyday. She is also extremely humble about the difference that she makes and cites her beloved puppy mill survivors as her inspiration.


DeLinda McKinney

DeLinda is an amazing person. She works tirelessly to not only raise awareness of the need to rescue animals, she gives her time to volunteer for shelters and animals in need.  She is a powerful voice against animal cruelty and is an advocate for humane training for all animals. The world is a better place for animals because DeLinda is here to fight for them.


Congratulations to all of these worthy award winners!

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What To Do About Canine Flu: Canine Influenza Type A H3N2 & H3N8

As you probably know, there is currently an outbreak of Dog Flu in the South Bay and more recently, a number of cases have cropped up in other areas around the Bay. All dog owners, including myself, are understandably concerned about what they can do to reduce the likelihood that their dogs will be infected. However, there is no need to panic. Although Canine Influenza, or dog flu, is extremely infectious, it usually causes only mild symptoms for a few days to a couple of weeks and the dogs normally make a full recovery despite treatment. Yes, complications from the flu can occasionally be…

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What To Do About Canine Flu: Canine Influenza Type A H3N2 & H3N8

As you probably know, there is currently an outbreak of Dog Flu in the South Bay and more recently, a number of cases have cropped up in other areas around the Bay. All dog owners, including myself, are understandably concerned about what they can do to reduce the likelihood that their dogs will be infected. However, there is no need to panic. Although Canine Influenza, or dog flu, is extremely infectious, it usually causes only mild symptoms for a few days to a couple of weeks and the dogs normally make a full recovery despite treatment. Yes, complications from the flu can occasionally be…

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Your new puppy – 9 steps to get it right from the start

This cute dog needed some guidance

“I wonder if I’ve done the wrong thing … Perhaps I’m not capable of looking after a dog.”

I don’t know exactly what had caused such a devastating loss of confidence in what 30was clearly a capable individual. But Gwen voiced a sentiment I come across from time to time.

Her family had left home at the same time that she retired from a responsible and caring job. She needed something to nurture. She chose a suitable breed of dog for a pet in a quiet household, and named her Tilly.

She’d done her homework. She’d done everything right. But now she had this little individual to care for she was afraid she wouldn’t measure up.

Her worries were all centered on injuring the puppy in some way. She feared letting her off lead in case she got run over. She feared grooming her in case she hurt her. Keen to use only force-free methods of interacting with her dog, she was in danger of becoming an over-indulgent parent.

You can use positive methods of training without relinquishing control.

Acknowledging and rewarding the good does not mean you turn yourself into a doormat!

Teach the owner first!

So my task was not to change any bad things the puppy was doing, but to show Gwen how she could get Tilly to do what she wanted without using force or nagging. Puppies are happy to take direction. They have no wish to rule the world, to take over the household, to hold their owner to ransom – or any of the other things you may hear will happen if you are not heavy-handed. Dogs in general are not stubborn, obstinate, or disobedient, and they don’t “know they’ve done wrong”. Whenever a new puppy-owner tells me “He knows the meaning of NO,” I flinch inwardly, and reply that my dogs don’t! Because I don’t use NO with them.

NO gives your dog no information about what you want him to do – only that you’re cross with him. He will have no idea what has caused your anger, and no way of knowing how to appease you. So having just been told off for jumping up, he may assume he didn’t jump high enough for your liking and try harder!

Gwen’s fears were unfounded and all she needed was some support and to be shown how to do the things that she was anxious and nervous about.

Here’s what Gwen learnt about how to get the best from her new puppy

Kicking through autumn leaves with your dog1. She learnt a new mantra: Reward what you like, Ignore what you don’t like, Manage what you can’t ignore. And found that life instantly became much easier! No longer was she telling Tilly off endlessly for minor transgressions.

2. She learnt, for instance, that a baby gate silently prevented cat-chasing without any need for Gwen to say a word.

3. She got a firm understanding of what house training her puppy entailed, and that any puddles were not the puppy’s fault, but her own – for not paying attention. And there’s a free Housebreaking Cheat sheet for you here which shows you just what Gwen learnt, so you can get your puppy clean and dry in a couple of weeks!

4. She excised NO, Ah-ah, and other such words from her vocabulary.

5. She learnt that blaming this little scrap, who’d only been on the planet a matter of weeks, was pointless – and unfair.

6. She flourished in our calm Puppy Class environment, and enjoyed seeing that the other puppies were very much like hers!

7. We went on walks together to demonstrate that she was perfectly able to let her puppy off-leash safely and call her  back again.

8. She enrolled on a short grooming course at our local Community College to learn how to trim her puppy’s hair and claws without any danger of hurting her.

9. We tidied up one or two things at her home – like when and how to use the crate, and best practices for feeding – to ensure that the puppy didn’t start to take advantage of her fears! Once Gwen knew what was reasonable to ask of Tilly, she was much clearer with her boundaries.

Forming a relationship with a puppy is much like falling in love. 

In the initial euphoria you are afraid that you may do something wrong and it will all come crashing down around you. But as you get to know and trust each other these fears evaporate.

Just as babies and children need structure and boundaries, so do puppies.

It’s absolutely understandable that Gwen had anxieties around this new person she’d
introduced into her life – just as new parents make mistakes, so did she. She had no qualms about consulting a car mechanic when her car wasn’t running properly – rather than asking her aunt or the greengrocer which tyre to kick! So she had the good sense to invite a professional dog trainer to give her the advice she needed to get quick results with her new charge – and not listen to the endless old wives’ tales circulating amongst friends, neighbors, and online.

A year or two have now passed, and Gwen and Tilly have formed a bond that cannot be broken. They delight in each other’s company. They fit each other like a pair of comfy slippers. Here’s what she wrote a little while ago:

“Thank you very much for all the help and support you have given Tilly and myself (mainly myself!). As a first-time dog owner I feel that I have come from having no idea to having some idea of what I need to do to care for her.

I was worried that, as she is such a cute dog, I would let her get away with whatever she wanted. I know now how to set boundaries, and have the confidence to – but to do it kindly.

With your help Tilly has developed into a confident, funny, friendly, well-behaved (usually) and loving little dog. Obviously she is still a “work in progress” as far as recall is concerned and we will find other things to work on in the coming months but I have the confidence to tackle matters as they arise.”Happy Border Terrier recall

I was delighted to receive her letter and see her confidence shining out on the page. And Gwen knows now that when she chose her little dog as her companion she made the very best decision.

To get a look at some of the strategies I taught Gwen, go to and get an 8-email course which goes into all the things you need to be aware of with your new puppy or dog.


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Animal Abuse Type and People's Relationship to the Pet

Who should Fido fear?

As states around the country move to stiffen punishments for animal cruelty, Michigan State University researchers have found a correlation between the types of animal abuse committed and the perpetrator’s relationship to an animal and its owner.

For example, the animal’s owner tends to perpetrate animal-neglect crimes (i.e. withholding food and water). On the other hand, with crimes that involve kicking or stabbing, the suspect is usually an owner’s family member or intimate partner, says Laura Reese, professor of urban and regional planning at Michigan State University.

Reese and Cassie Richard, a master’s of public policy student who now works for the Oregon Commission for the Blind, studied more than 300 animal cruelty police reports in Detroit between 2007 and 2015. They categorized abuse into eight types including dog fighting, shooting, poisoning, stabbing, and neglect.


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My Dog Doesn’t Like Other Dogs: 5 steps to Stop the Barking and Lunging

Romanian sheepdogWe’ve all seen it.

Person and dog are walking along the street.

Dog spots another person or dog and goes ballistic. Barking, lunging, ducking and diving, in a flurry of teeth and claws, looking for all the world as if she wants to eat everyone in her path.

Then we see the poor owner trying to deal with this explosion. Usually he tries to restrain the dog physically, shout at her, maybe yank her around on her leash, before beating a disorderly retreat to lick his social wounds and repair his dignity.

The social pressure to appear to be in control of your group – whether they be people or animals – is very strong.

And if we let it, it will make us act in a way we don’t like, indeed a way which is not like us at all!

This can be doubly hard for men.

Why? Because they are expected to be totally in control. And to ensure by whatever means that that control is not challenged or defied. Inability to stop their dog kicking up trouble is perceived – erroneously – as a sign of weakness. So rationality goes out the window, and they act out of character.

The man who was dandling his baby on his knee an hour before is now yelling and yanking his dog about in a way he would hate to see on video. The question is: Why are people so quick to punish their dog?


But my dog is being defiant!

Let’s backtrack a little and find out first of all why your dog is doing this.

The answer, in the vast majority of cases, is fear.

Not aggression, viciousness, nastiness, defiance, stubbornness – just plain, tail-wetting fear.

It may be that the dog was not sufficiently socialized in the critical early weeks; it may be that she had a bad experience which has colored her perception of strange people or dogs; or it may be that it’s just the way she is.

She’s a delight in the house, brilliant with the kids, but when she’s out she turns into a screaming monster. She sees something that frightens her. She’s on the leash so is unable to flee, so she does her best to look ferocious to repel the invader. She’s shouting “Get away from me! Look – I have teeth! Don’t make me use them!”

None of this is a challenge to your authority! So trying to be the boss is not going to help one bit.

The opposite is true. If your dog sees something that frightens her and then you weigh in and frighten her more, this is going to make matters a lot worse!

Shouting at your young daughter when she shows a fear of spiders is not going to help her overcome her genuine fear of them.

So it is with your dog.

So how can I have a calm walk without all Hell breaking loose?

Jack Russel Terrier alertThe harsh treatment of dogs advocated by some popular TV programs does not sit well with the way you choose to relate to your family. But there’s no need to treat your dog any differently! Once you understand that your dog is afraid, this changes your response entirely. She is no longer to be castigated, rather to be helped to cope with a situation which is terrifying her.

This is where your strength and courage come in. Without fear of what other people may think of you, you’ll be freed to make the right choices to change the dynamic – not just right now, but in the future too.


1. The first thing is to give your dog distance. If the other dog is too close at 30 feet, then get 60 feet away. Think of your little girl and the spider.

2. Let your dog know that she never has to meet a strange person or dog ever again – you will always move her away just as she sees them. Yes – this will turn your previously ordered and linear walk into a bit of a chaotic zigzag, but it will be a calm and peaceful zigzag! This will build her confidence to the extent that this step alone may eventually enable her to pass other dogs without comment.

3. Relax your hands. It’s highly likely (and totally understandable) that whenever you see anything approaching, you tighten the leash in a vice-like grip, tense up, breathe faster, and generally give the appearance of being just as afraid as your dog is! So do the opposite: breathe slowly, lower and relax your hands, say to your dog in a calm voice, “Let’s go!”, and head off in the other direction.

4. Ditch any nasty collars and gadgets promoted for keeping your dog under control. These can only serve to make her more frightened. Imagine putting a straitjacket on your frightened little girl and forcing her to confront the spider! It will magnify the fear immensely. Use a soft collar or harness and a loose lead. No chains. No spikes. No batteries.

5. Reward your dog when she does it right! As soon as you turn away from the impending threat – whether it be 10 feet or 100 feet away – congratulate her warmly on her brilliant self-control! Her lack of stress and distress will be a huge reward in themselves – feeling panicky and afraid is no fun. Always carrying some tasty treats in your pocket will make it crystal clear to her that she has done something that has really pleased you. Dish them out freely when she’s achieved a calm response. Scatter them on the ground for her to hoover up.

Softly, softly, catchee monkey

You are going to make huge strides forward, but you are also going to have setbacks.

See it as a slow progression. Fear is a very strong emotion and doesn’t disappear overnight. You’ll be able to look back in a while and say to yourself, “We couldn’t have walked past that dog a few months ago!”

As you switch from fearing other people’s opinions to focusing on your dog’s needs, you will know that you can make the right choices for your dog’s well being.

A calm dog walk

You already do that with your family. Just forget about macho men on the TV beating up their dogs and treat your dog as you treat your children – with empathy and kindness.

It’s not about control, or showing who’s boss. It’s about ensuring the safety and happiness of everyone in your care.

Now you can have the calm walks that you crave!

And for a four-part email course that will walk you through this, step by step, head over to

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CIV At Dog Shows

It’s nothing to sneeze at, an outbreak of dog flu affecting at least 11 states. After inundating Chicago with flu and bouncing around the country in 2015 into 2016, the H3N2 virus, which arrived from Southeast Asia, took a lower profile. Last month, the virus appeared on radar, and in a big way. The epicenter might have been two dog shows.

Guesstimates are 300 or more dogs have been infected with H3N2, among those approximately 30 to 40 confirmed via diagnostic labs. Also, there are several confirmed fatalities.

States with confirmed H3N2 are currently Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. Some states appear to have only a pawful of sick dogs, others much more. In addition, H3N2 continues to be occurring in California, and many argue that H3N2 is endemic in the Chicago area, which means it may linger in the environment for a very long time.

Dr. Jerry Klein, chief veterinary officer at the America Kennel Club (AKC) says that it seems that initial reports coincided with dog shows in Perry, GA and DeLand, FL. No one will ever likely pinpoint how that happened. However, it’s not surprising to Dr. Cynda Crawford, clinical assistant professor University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, Gainesville “H3N2 is in the environment and could have been brought into the shows in any number of ways. Because there’s no immunity to the virus, which is novel in the U.S., most dogs exposed get the virus.”

Klein happens to be from Chicago, where H3N2 first hit, and he was at ground zero for the outbreak. He suggests what happened at the dog shows was similar. “At first, people assumed it was kennel cough, which is a nuisance but not awful. But just as in Chicago some dogs got significantly sicker. And we began to think about the dog flu pretty quickly.”

And that fallout is happening now. When the dog flu or canine influenza virus (CIV), hits neighborhood boarding or grooming facilities, or local dog parks, the contagious dogs bring the virus back home with them maybe blocks or a few miles away. Because dogs participating at AKC shows often reside states away, the bug has quickly spread.

The response among those in the dog show word has been swift. Over 200 dogs reportedly pulled out of the May 26-29 Blue Ridge Classic Dog Show, near Asheville, NC. And the Kennel Club of Texarkana 50th Anniversary dog show, which was scheduled for June 17-18, has been cancelled.

“Many handlers I know are getting their dogs vaccinated, and waiting the two to four weeks for the booster before working any show,” says Dr. Scott Tritsch of Georgetown, KY. He says he’s currently dealing with a group of 39 sick dogs that presumably have the dog flu. Among the dogs he’s treating are nine two-week old puppies. “Yes, still alive, but not out of the woods quite yet,” he says

Dr. Richard Hawkes of Morehead City, NC noticed that two of his Black Russian Terriers began to cough and run fevers shortly after returning from the Perry dog show. Within just a few days all his 10 dogs were exhibiting similar symptoms. Diagnostic testing confirmed H3N2. Those who exhibit dogs see no reason to test each one when it’s so likely they all have the same thing. It’s one explanation why there’s such a dramatic discrepancy in numbers between the dogs confirmed with H3N2 via a diagnostic lab, and those presumed to have H3N2. Why test them all?

Another explanation for the disparity is the cost of testing. Medically, encouraging the diagnostics is important. Clearly, veterinarians should know specifically what’s going on with an individual dog. Is it canine infectious respiratory disease complex (such as Bordetella or canine para-influenza) or it is canine influenza virus or even a co-infection? It’s also important to get a grasp on what’s happening in a community. However, convincing pet owners of the need to know this information can be challenging since treatment is about the same. And treatment, of course, begins instantly. No one wants to wait for test results to come back.

“I get it,” says Klein. “When income is limited, I’d rather see the client spend dollars on treatment.”

Another issue might be that some exhibitors are afraid or embarrassed to publicly admit their dog has flu, or some who may knowingly, irresponsibly but quietly travel to events with sick dogs. However, Klein maintains these are exceptions. He says that in his experience people are sharing information openly far and wide via social media. In fact, if anything, there may be some exaggeration. Via Klein, the AKC has been what some have described as “uncharacteristically transparent.” From the start, Klein (and therefore the AKC) has collaborated with medical partners, including the American Veterinary Medical Association.

As in Chicago, and all along with H3N2, the virus continues to have an extremely high morbidity – making many exposed dogs sick – and low mortality, as approximately three to five percent die. A low perfect, but not so low if it is your dog. Hawkes lost one of his Black Russian Terriers – though he’s quick to point out that his dog did suffer from additional medical issues.

“It was pretty scary to see my 10 big dogs taken down in a matter dog days,” Hawkes observes.

Scarier is what Dr. Edward Dubovi, director of virology section at the Animal Health Diagnostic Center at Cornell says, “We are sequencing all the time to determine if the H3N2 virus diverges into different clades (almost like sub-strains of flu). If that happens, it doesn’t mean that the vaccine won’t be effective. But it’s something to pay attention to.”

Dubovi says he not surprised by the fast spread because H3N2 because it is more contagious than H3N8, which was the strain of dog flu first identified in Florida back in 2004 after mutating from an equine flu into a dog flu. Also, more dogs get more ill from H3N2, compared to H3N8,

The other problem with H3N2 is that for an influenza virus it’s is quite resilient, and can live on objects like shoes or a veterinarian’s stethoscope and be transported. Also, about 20 percent of infected dogs feel great and never have a single symptom – but remain as infectious as the sick dogs. That is great for those individuals who feel up to chasing squirrels, but their owners have no way to know their dog is contagious.

The good news is that show dogs often don’t intermingle in the community, they likely stay at home or are on the road. However, that’s not always true. And anecdotally, it seems clear, at least some dogs now being diagnosed with H3N2 have never participated in a dog show or associated with show dogs. In at least some communities the virus has apparently spread into the general population. The good news is that – so far – there are no confirmed reports of the flu hitting a shelter or overwhelming a single population (as occurred in Chicago).

Unfortunately, the setting is ripe for a perfect dog flu storm – not only is dog show season ramping up, so is travel season. Even more threatening than dog shows are people about to head for vacations and their dogs will be boarded in spaces more susceptible to CIV transmission than a dog show, particularly when kennels offer dog play groups. Now would be the time to plan, since after an initial dog flu shot, a booster is needed two to four weeks later (then a few days after that for optimal immunity). Also, consider where you are traveling to. If you are traveling to a city with flu, there’s even a greater argument for vaccination.

Crawford says there are only two best methods of protection from CIV. Either dogs are totally anti-socia,l or vaccination. Crawford says if it was up to her, “You vaccinate all the show dogs – absolutely. This is the primary tool, it doesn’t matter if you’re talking people, dogs, horse or pigs. Vaccination is the strategy.”

As an exhibitor himself Hawkes notes that vaccination is a worthy investment, compared to the cost of treating many sick dogs. And, as it turns out, one of his dogs paid the ultimate price.

As for the AKC, they are by all accounts doing all they can possibly do to inform handlers and exhibitors, and have created a hand-out with all the latest information on CIV transmission, symptoms to watch for and best hygiene practices to minimize risk. The notice clearly indicates, “The best protection is vaccination.”

But should the AKC mandate the vaccine for CIV (either for H3N2 specifically or the bivalent vaccine for H3N2 and H3N8)?

Tritsch says, “This is a big deal not only for the dogs in the AKC shows and events, but for the communities the dogs return to.”

Dubovi wonders about the million-dollar question which he concedes requires a crystal ball to answer: Will the outbreak worsen or fizzle out on its own? “I don’t know, but I do know dogs have died – even if it is a small percent.”

Hawkes says, “The AKC needs to push now for all dogs to be vaccinated, and if your dog has been exposed – please don’t show for 30 days. The problem is that people may not know if their dog was exposed.”

Dr. Ronald Schultz, professor of Pathobiological Sciences at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, Madison contributed to the American Animal Hospital Association Canine Vaccination Guidelines and has always spoken out against over-vaccination. He says,
“Dogs at risk should be vaccinated at least yearly with both influenza strains, H3N8 and H3N2, in addition to the other causes of ‘canine cough.”

Klein concludes, “It’s tough. If we close for 30 days – as some have suggested – on day 31 the flu may appear. That really doesn’t seem to be the answer. Certainly, we endorse and encourage people to make their own choices based on all the information we can openly provide. And absolutely discuss this with your own veterinarian. If there’s a human influenza virus in New York City, and you get coveted tickets to a Knicks game or a Lady Gaga concert, do you still go? It’s a personal decision.”

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Boundary Battlefields: Dogs, Yards and Walks

Photo courtesy of Dawn Goehring

Every responsible dog parent who walks their dog(s) in their own neighborhood has a mental list of houses that they strive to avoid. Either because a dog is alone in a fenced in yard barking like a fiend or because a dog is often loose (and unsupervised) in an unfenced or Invisible “Fenced” yard. Either way, this type of scenario can be like a minefield to both the dog and the dog parent, creating far more stress than either is interested in dealing with. Conversely, this is also a minefield to the dog left unsupervised in each described scenario. With these dogs, boundaries are either confusing or non-existent and emotional safety is low.

These situations are enough to make dog parents not walk their dogs at all, which is a tragedy. Environmental enrichment is so important. Walks are not about physical exercise, they are about mental enrichment such as sniffing and information gathering. Sniffing walks will tire your dog out far more than power-walking ever will. Most dogs like to keep up with neighborhood happenings. For more on that, read here.

There are definitely dogs that need to have the option to be taken somewhere quieter and less eventful to be walked so that they can have a better feeling of emotional safety. Dogs that enter the outdoors with the clear look of defensiveness or offensiveness fit in that category. You should know if you have one. And you should be working with a behavior professional to help your dog, if so. But this article is for the dogs that can be comfortably be walked in typical neighborhoods, if normal emotional safety is provided. Know which type of dog you have.

If your dog can do a neighborhood walk, then don’t give up. Just prepare yourself with safety in mind and in addition to teaching your dog that you will handle all of the scary things on a walk, use distance, such as crossing streets, etc. to help your dog ignore the perceived threats and carry some Spray Shield, available here:

Also, here is a great article on what to do if you are approached by a loose dog.

If your dogs are nonchalant about dogs barking at them from inside of yards and you feel safe with the security of the boundary in question, then Rachel, a fantastic dog trainer in Cleveland, has a unique solution. She stops at the place that the barking begins and waits until barking ceases and then moves along. She states that this solution requires initial patience on the human’s part and obviously, you need to feel safe that the dog doing the barking, will not be exiting the yard or that you are stressing your own dog too much. It also needs to be said that you should not deliberately be stressing the barking dog either. But this is a great solution for those who these particular perimeters apply to.

Boundaries are important to dogs. Confusing boundaries don’t provide safety. Neither do a lack of boundaries. For both the dog in the confusing or non-existent boundary and the dog passing by either option, emotional (and often physical) safety is sorely lacking. The dog without borders (dog loose in unfenced yard while unsupervised) is left to create his own safety, creating the need to extend the boundary of his area to be proactive. These dogs often cross the blurry boundary of their yards because they feel that they have to. This creates fear in both the human and the dog passing by such a scenario.  Situations like this can have tragic consequences. All it takes is one time for a dog to leave the yard to ward off (or even attempt to greet) a passing dog. I cannot even count how many times I have heard “He never left the yard before!”. If your neighborhood requires that your dog be leashed, then do everyone a favor and do so.

Many people get Invisible Fences with the mistaken impression that they can allow their dog outside unsupervised at any time. While this may make a rural dog parent’s life easier and the dog in question’s life marginally safer, the pitfalls are more common than you would imagine, from several standpoints. From the point of view of the fearful city or suburban dog inside the IF, he knows that anyone and anything passing by can enter his “safe” area. But he also knows that he cannot exit without repercussions. This places delivery people at a distinct disadvantage when trying to do their job, with an unsupervised, fearful of human strangers, dog in such a yard. For the dog wary dog, “containment” in an IF will result in “fence” running when someone walks by with their own dog. This will then result in a fearful feeling in the passing dog, which has no understanding of what an IF entails and doesn’t realize that the dog threatening their every movement cannot exit his “boundary”. For one take on this type of boundary threat, read here.

Another type of situation that can create a feeling of danger in both parties is when a dog is tied out unsupervised, in front of a house in an active neighborhood. A dog in this situation is left with no place to go, so he will become very proactive about his safety, barking at everything passing by, with the goal that he be left alone. These are the dogs who are most likely to bite if approached. The flight part of the equation has been removed as an option, with fight the only recourse left. Do your dog a favor and if you tie them out to do their business, then supervise this activity to provide emotional safety. If your dog is barking when tied out unsupervised, he is not enjoying his outdoor time. Don’t tell yourself he needs this kind of outdoor alone time. His preference is to be with you. After all, isn’t that why you got a dog?

Boundaries that are blurry don’t always belong to others. I imagine that you got a fenced in yard with the goal of doing your dog a great favor by providing this option for him. And that certainly should be the case. Yet when you are in your own yard with your dog, there are people who want to walk their dogs right up to your fence-line, sure that their dog “wants to say hi” to your dog. It’s also common for a passing human sans dog to want to greet an unsupervised dog in a yard. Dogs like this are especially targeted by children. Your dog, quite normally then feels encroached upon and tells the intruder off.  This can then give the other party the mistaken impression that your dog is aggressive, when that could not be further from the truth. What is really happening here is that a boundary has been crossed. Your dog feels threatened and rightly so.

For the perpetrators of this scenario, your dog doesn’t need or even likely want to say hi to that other dog. Nor do you have the right to bother that dog when you are not a friend. He doesn’t know you and he is not your friend. After all, do you walk up to every human that you see with the goal of greeting them? Or would you walk up to strangers enjoying their own yard recreationally? I didn’t think so.  For more on this subject and those related to it, read here.

And here.

Yet another concerning scenario is when neighbor’s yards abut one another and both parties have dogs. When these dogs do not get along, this creates a huge lack of emotional and even physical safety. Dogs can fight through the fence and if one has a distinct size advantage over the other, there can be tragic consequences. Take these situations seriously and put a plan into action.  For this scenario, if both parties are amenable, then you can devise a signage signal so that you can both have your dogs in your own yards without interference by the neighboring dog.  Cooperation works best but doesn’t always happen. If despite having attempted to talk to your neighbor to try and prevent a repeat performance/create a harmonious agreement, the situation remains status quo, then you are frustrated at best. You have my sympathy but you do still need to make amendments to the situation in order to keep your dog safe and prevent future legal trouble.

The first order of the day is supervise, supervise, supervise! In addition to this most important solution, you have some other options. If you have a chain link fence, you can consider the strips that you glide through the links to provide a barrier for both parties. You also have the option of the roll out bamboo fencing that you can secure to the chain link, if the height is allowable in your neighborhood. Another option is to plant tall shrubbery to block nosy neighbors. One past client of mine had to sadly resort to spending a large sum of money to switch to six foot privacy fencing. It’s unfortunate but her dog’s safety and not having a lawsuit in her future made that the best solution.  Be careful about your signage. It is in yours and your dog’s best interest that you not place a sign on your fence that states “beware of dog”. A better option would be a sign with a benign message such as “dog in yard”. The legalities of the former vary with location but there is never going to be a problem with the latter.

None of these situations are ever going to be ideally dealt with without the cooperation of both sides of the equation but if you are prepared for your part, that certainly makes dealing with the situation without cooperation much easier. It’s important to enjoy the outdoors with your dog. Don’t let other’s inappropriate behavior and actions detract from your time with your dog. You got this!

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Smiling Dog: Honey

Cuddle aficionada, treat enthusiast, charming canine.

At an estimated age of three years, Honey is ready to live her best life. She’s past the puppy stage, past chewing on the next best thing. She’s a young adult now, giving off an air of sophistication and confidence. She knows what she wants in life, and she’s going after it: a forever home.

Honey is currently residing at her local animal shelter, through which she has been able to add some worldly experience to her curriculum vitae. She has met four-leggers from all over the county, has heard many different barks and howls and has even been exposed to feline culture. Her stay has taught her to see things from different perspectives, and she feels she would enrich her new family’s everyday lives with her free-spirited personality.


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