This blog is a tribute to Belle, and all the dogs who have come before and after. They are my friends, my companions, my teachers and my students. They bring me both joy and heartache, laughter and tears. There is nothing as sweet as the smell of puppy breathe, and nothing as sad as the final goodbye.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Positively Abusive

Positively Abusive

A friend alerted me today to a disturbing video on YouTube. It's been there for a while, though I was happily unaware of it until now. With one click, I stepped into a new definition of abuse: a well known "positive" trainer displaying her female dog's new trick - humping her leg on command.
Anyone can see abuse in an animal that is beaten, starved, mutilated, hung or killed. The Michael Vicks case still looms large as he tries to put his life back together post-prison. That kind of abuse is clear.
But what of the laughing demonstration of a trainer's skill in manipulating an animal into humping her leg on command? Whatever the species, engaging any other being's sexual behavior for your own purposes IS abuse. If this were a child or another human, charges would be filed. If this were a man teaching this to his female dog, there would be outright hysteria. If this were Cesar using humping behavior to prove that any behavior can be trained and put under control, there would probably be a march on National Geographic's headquarters.
This is not a beer drinking moron or senseless stoner armed with a video camera and hell bent on demonstrating their dog's willingness to hump a person. This is a prominent, highly regarded award winning trainer/author's video. When you view her proud presentation on how her dog humps her leg on command, YouTube offers up others similar in content, a motley collection of morons & stoners and humping dogs. The only difference is that the famous trainer has better stimulus control of the behavior than the morons do. Nice company for the trainer someone called, "the most rational voice in dog training today." (It's not attributed, but used to promote her latest DVDs. Perhaps the author of that bon mot has a different definition of "rational" than I do.)
The YouTube video is presented as a demonstration of "how ANY behavior can be captured, reinforced and cemented" -- an arrogant justification of a disrespectful, abusive interaction, though she hastens to assure the viewer "Nobody was hurt" and that she doesn't advocate anybody else doing it. She then adds, "if you don't think it's 'appropriate' then avert your eyes." On that basis, we can merely look away from all abuse in dog training and elsewhere. So simple... no need to protest or write letters or file charges - just look away if you're offended. But we're not quite done with the whole disgusting mess as she smugly adds, "You just had to watch, didn't you?"
For me, yes, I did have to watch. Because in order to criticize, I must actually read, see or hear what it is I am going to comment on. Because when the founder & Director of the San Fransisco SPCA's Academy for Dog Training is the one chuckling that she could get some great obedience out of her dog if she used the humping as a reward, yes, I do have to watch the whole damn thing. I watch in order to convince my disbelieving ears and eyes that the famous Jean Donaldson, award winning author and speaker at this year's conference for the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) is the one I'm watching. (note: corrected 9/2/09 - Jean is no longer a member of APDT; is a speaker for this year's conference)
Jean notes early on in the video : "I have no shame." There's the truth spoken clear.
Jean offers an appalling display of abuse of and disrespect for another being. I find it immensely sad that this is promoted in any way as part of "positive dog training." She prides herself on not using aversion or choke collars. Pity she hasn't learned that respectful training needs to also include the other being's mind, emotions and dignity.
Donaldson is a teacher. And this is an instructional video. When we see how things ought not be, we do have the opportunity to strengthen our resolve about what should be. On that score, this disturbing video teaches all too well.

"Positively Abusive" by Suzanne Clothier

Friday, September 7, 2018

Lab Tie & Tails Gala 2018

We are always happy to support our friends in Ohio for the wonderful work they do

***Thank you to our newest Silver Sponsor for the LabTie & Tails Gala 2018!***
This group of dog lovers on the East Coast has been a wonderful supporter of our work to rescue and rehome Labs in need! 

If you would like to be a sponsor, contact:
Ed at or (419) 885-2471

Sarah at or (330) 725-1393
head over to the Sponsor page on our website:
Multiple sponsorship levels are available!
Thank you!

Details on the LabTie & Tails Gala can be found here:
or here:
Hope to see you on October 6th!
Ticket sales and sponsorships end 9/18/18!

Monday, August 20, 2018

“How To Mess Up A Dog”

By Sean O’Shea

So much of what we see with problem dogs and their behavior, is that people have unintentionally reinforced and encouraged the wrong stuff. And of course, none of us want to intentionally mess up our dogs (even though many of us – including your’s truly have). So here’s a little list of reminders that we’ll call the “don’t do”, or “watch out for” list. Keeping these in mind, and doing your very best to avoid these common dog/owner traps will go a long way towards you having a great relationship, and enjoyable life with your dog.

-Trying to love a badly behaved dog better. (Guaranteed to make a bad dog worse)

-Coddling, nurturing, babying an insecure, nervous dog. (The very best way to deepen insecurity, and to ensure a neurotic mess of a dog)

-Allowing a dog to have constant access to you and your personal space – following you everywhere, jumping in your lap uninvited, always needing to be near. (The perfect recipe for separation anxiety and possessiveness)

-Constantly petting a dog. (The very best way to create a dependent, nervous, entitled, bratty, separation anxiety dog)

-Ignoring bad behavior – jumping, whining, barking, fence fighting, growling etc. – in the hopes it will go away. (It never does, it only gets worse)

-Using your dog to fill emotional gaps in your life. (The most common reason for neurotic, unstable dog behavior)

-Not enforcing rules because they feel bad. (A selfish act that ensures your dog will not have access to the rules and leadership it needs to thrive and be balanced)

-Letting dogs be “dogs” – thinking/rationalizing that growling, protective behavior, resource guarding, reactivity etc. is normal/acceptable. (This excuses unacceptable/unhealthy behavior by calling it “normal” and allows it to continue/increase)

-Being inconsistent. (Teaches dogs rules and boundaries are always negotiable, and ensures they will be negotiated)

-Accidentally rewarding whining/barking/growling by petting/talking to/letting in or out of a door/crate. (Teaches dogs that those behaviors get them what they want, and ensures you’ll see a whole lot more of them)

-Spoiling/allowing bad behavior due to guilt. (Feeling guilty about working long hours/being away from home for long periods and trying to assuage that guilt by spoiling the dog/being permissive/allowing bad behavior to occur to make ourselves feel better. Unfortunately it only makes your dog feel/behave worse)

-Letting stressed, pulling, anxious, worked up dogs meet on-leash. (This is a common scene that can create dog reactivity and even dog fights)

-Letting dogs pull to trees or bushes on walks. (Teaches dogs that pushiness gets them what they want)

-Touching, talking to, “enjoying” a dog who jumps on you. (Reinforces jumping and guarantees more jumping)
-Letting dogs “work it out” on their own (Old school approach to “ socializing” dogs that is a great way for creating dog fights and never ending tension/grudges between dogs that live together)

-Giving treats or petting a growling/barking/anxious/stressed dog to calm and soothe them. (A very common mistake that does the exact opposite of making it better. It always makes the behavior worse, by reinforcing it)

-Sharing only your soft, sweet, loving, affectionate side. (This is akin to only saying yes and cuddling your child, and never saying no or enforcing rules. It leaves dogs feeling alone and unsure about who’s in charge, nervous, anxious, stressed, and out of control – just like it would kids)

-Using tools that allow dogs to ignore you and the tool. (The wrong tools – harnesses, flat collars, flex leases etc – can actually empower the dog to misbehave and disempower you from communicating with your dog)

-Using tools that allow/encourage the dog to behave worse. (See above!)

-Seeing freedom, love, and affection as more vital to your dog’s well-being than structure, rules, guidance. (This is a common mistake, born out of either our desire to nurture, our desire to fulfill ourselves, or not understanding that dogs need guidance and leadership at least as much as they do “love”. It’s also the best way to truly mess up a dog)

-Thinking exercise and activity create calm, relaxed dogs on their own. (This is a huge misconception. exercising a dog to try to make it calm is futile and limited benefit endeavor. The best approach is both exercise AND teaching the dog to be conditioned to be calm through training)

-Wanting to be your dog’s best friend before having become his leader. (Trying to create a healthy relationship through love, play, and friendship without first creating respect, rules, and boundaries is a first-class ticket to problem dog city! First impressions are as important to dogs as they are to people, and trying to fix negative first impressions is just as formidable)

-Thinking dogs just want to please you. (Like all the rest of us, dogs want to please themselves first and foremost. If you’ll look hard enough you’ll see the benefit for them in whatever they’re doing to please you. Understanding this is essential to living well with dogs)

-Not sharing valuable consequences for bad behavior. (The most common way owners allow negative behaviors to continue and flourish! It is only through clear, valuable consequences for their choices and actions that dog behavior changes and improves)

-Being afraid that consequences and discipline will ruin your relationship. (A common misconception. The truth is, the exact opposite; you’ll create a much healthier, respectful, balanced, and enjoyable relationship by sharing clear boundaries and rules consistently. Your dog will be happier and enjoy you far more if you’ll be a good leader)

-Letting love blind you to your dog’s actual needs. (So many of us are so desperate to connect and love and nurture that we’ll forgo sharing what actually makes our dogs happy, balanced, and comfortable. This is a selfish act, based on our needs, not our dogs.)

-Letting your needs blind you to your dog’s actual needs. (So many of us struggle to connect, feel safe, engage in love within the human world, or are just overwhelmed, overworked and lean on our dogs for love, support, nurturing, in a world where we aren’t able to receive the same support and nurturing from our own kind. When our dogs represent so much more than just being our dogs, it can become next to impossible to share the leadership, discipline, structure, rules, and accountability they need to thrive)
Of course there’s always more, but this is a pretty good place to start to get a better handle on you and your dog’s relationship. And if you’re having any issues, chances are awfully good that you’ll find the cause right here in this post.