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I am so very pleased to announce the publication of my latest book, Leadership in Animal Welfare Organizations: Using Positive Dog Training Philosophies to be Better Leaders.

The huge numbers of homeless animals are depending on us to help them. This means that animal welfare organizations need excellent leaders to ensure that the organizations are operating optimally. Leadership in Animal Welfare Organizations discusses what happens to organizations when managers use outdated management styles which alienate employees, volunteers, donors, and supporters. The book identifies what it means to be a good leader, the role of the board of directors, and reviews how the theories of positive reinforcement dog training can be used as a parallel to understanding the need for updating management skills to be better leaders.

The book is available for purchase in Kindle format and is only $5. Please share with your friends and colleagues. The message of good leadership not only applies to animal welfare organizations; it applies to all organizations. After all, what is an organization but its people?

Purchase here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00I84HTIG

Leadership Book Cover Final 1-31-14

New Workshop

Animals are spiritual beings, no different than humans, made up of the same elements of the Universe as us. It is my mission to speak for the animals and show that they are here as our helpers. Tonight is the beginning of my tour, conducting workshops called Dog Training in the 5th Dimension: What Your Dog Can Teach You…About You. This class is not about teaching your dog how to sit, stay, etc. It’s about you! I am very excited for this new adventure and hope to reach as many people as possible. In the workshop, you will learn that dogs can reflect facets of our personalities and how to recognize what’s happening. If you are at all interested in learning more about yourself and growing, your dog may have something to teach you. And you may learn ways to finally resolve some of your dogs issues too!

Please check my web site for upcoming locations. If you wish to host a workshop, please contact me at chris@chrisshaughness.com. Thank you for being open to new concepts, for the betterment of all.

Is It a Health or a Behavior Issue?

Having been the foster “mom” of eleven dogs, I have encountered my share of behavior issues with them, as well as with my own dogs over the years. When a dog exhibits a behavior problem such as housetraining, aggression, anxiety or other issues, it is always a good idea to rule out a medical problem first. A health issue can masquerade as a behavior problem. And vice versa.

Housetraining issues are a great example. When dogs who have always been reliable with their house manners and then suddenly are having accidents, it is a good indication of something medical going on. The problem could be a urinary tract infection, kidney problems, or even food-related sensitivities. My female Poodle started to urinate in the house when I switched her food. Go figure! Housetraining accidents may also be a related to the onset of diabetes or Cushings disease. Does your dog drink a lot of water? Best to get a vet check.

Has your dog unexpectedly started showing aggression? Of course, aggression is very complicated to diagnose a root cause, however, a medical issue may very well be the source. If a dog is in pain or any discomfort, they are more likely to show it by trying to bite. Please, before blaming the dog for being “mean” and possibly giving up on him, have a vet check him out. I remember many years ago when I was doing temperament testing on dogs at a rescue organization, one dog growled at me when I handled him. Luckily, I noticed that he was having trouble standing on his back leg. The vet checked him and sure enough, he had arthritis. Once he was treated, the growling stopped. He was adopted and is an amazing dog.

But the issue can go the other way, what may look like a medical issue could very well be behavioral. One of my foster dogs was having a lot of housetraining accidents. I noticed that he was drinking water constantly. I tried restricting water and he became very upset, knocking over my water glass, licking the floor, in search of water. So I had him checked by a vet. All tests came out normal. I realized I was dealing with a possible obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Because I didn’t know this dog’s history, it was possible that he had been denied water at one time and now he was afraid that he wouldn’t be able to get access to it. Who knows what else may have been going on in this poor dog’s life before he came to me? But I was glad that I had him checked by a vet. Now I knew that he was healthy and I could then decide on a treatment plan for his behavior.

So before you jump to any conclusions about your dog’s behavior, please be sure to have a vet check him out. The outcome may surprise you.

Educate Children About Puppy Mills

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you probably are well aware of the problems with puppy mills, the irresponsible breeders who house the dogs in poor conditions and have no regard for proper breeding and veterinary practices. Many people are slowly getting the message not to buy puppies from pet stores, from over the Internet, or at so-called farm-raised breeders. But how can we get to the children, the future puppy buyers? Can we rely on their parents to teach them? We need to get in front of kids at an early age to educate them about responsible pet ownership and how to go about finding a puppy from a reputable breeder.

That’s why the Educator Edition of the documentary Uncaged: Second Chances for Puppy Mill Breeder Dogs was developed. Ann Metcalf and I co-produced this film and together, we created the Educator Edition with the intention of finding teachers to show it to their students. The Educator Edition includes a copy of the film and a workbook with lesson plans to educate and instruct students about puppy mills and how to go about finding a reputable breeder. It is recommended for students who are 11 and older. In the Educator Edition, kids will learn:

– define what a puppy mill is;
– list what dogs need to grow, be happy, and become socialized;
– describe the steps to a responsible dog adoption;
– make plans for taking care of a dog;
– identify ways to personally improve how dogs live.

Are you a teacher, know a teacher, or possibly involved with youth groups such as scouts? Any place where children can learn will benefit from this film and the exercises in the lesson plan. Please go to my web site for information on how to order it. Please, if you care about dogs, you will help to educate the future purchasers of puppies. That’s the only way that puppy mills will be eliminated.

Beginning on Monday, February 2, I will be holding a bi-weekly Animal Lightworkers call to focus on sending out love and light to the animals and to individuals and groups locally and around the world. More and more people are realizing the power of love and how we can bring about change to this world just by being the change we want to see. Love attracts more love. If you are actively involved with animal welfare – an employee at a shelter/rescue, a volunteer, or helping in any other way – you may be seeing a lot of criticism, judgment, and hatred directed towards individuals or groups. Social media is often a place for tremendous controversy. This negativity does not help the animals. We need to join together, with love, to be able to give more to the animals. By sending love and light to all who want to help animals, I am hoping to transform that negativity so that we can work together to help more animals. Hatred and anger only attracts more hatred; fighting one another does not help. Darkness cannot survive in the light.

In this biweekly conference call, participants will learn how to bring the light from the Universe into themselves and send it to the animals and people who want to help them. Please spread the word that this call to action is happening. If you truly love animals, they need us to be the love that they embody.

Please join us on Monday, February 2 at 7:30pm (EST). The call-in number is 712-775-7031 and the ID is 372-416-395. I invite you also to join the Meetup group so you can get notifications about future calls: http://www.meetup.com/Conference-Call-to-Send-Love-and-Light-to-Animal-Rescuers/

MLK Quote Hate Cannot Drive Out Hate

One More Dog

Thinking of getting a second, third, fourth dog? Be prepared, your happy household may get turned upset down. Pack dynamics can change very quickly with the addition of a new personality. As a frequent foster mom with my own two dogs, I can personally attest to this, and would not have believed it if I hadn’t experienced it myself.

My dogs are 10-year-old Standard Poodles, Monty and Monet, who I adopted last year. They have very sweet, even temperaments. Monty especially. He’s a docile, happy dog who gets along with everyone. Monet is docile too, however, can be a little bitchy with some other dogs. She can be the “fun police” too, trying to interrupt when other dogs are playing. I have had other foster dogs and even watched friends’ dogs in my home, and Monty and Monet always got along great with them.

Two weeks ago, I agreed to foster Norm, a 9-month-old Basset/Boxer mix. When he arrived, he was so shy and withdrawn. He cowered in the corner most of the first night and ran from me for several days. He spent most of his energy avoiding contact, even with Monty and Monet. But as I worked with Norm and he grew more trusting, his real personality began to emerge. Monty and Norm started to play together. Monty seemed to enjoy the new playmate. Norm often tried to initiate play with Monet as well. True to form, Monet rejected his advances by growling and even chasing him away. I was not surprised by her reaction. But Norm did not take the correction – he continued to try to play with Monet despite her obvious signals.

One morning, Monty and Norm were playing and Monet looked as if she wanted to play too. She followed them around and tried to get in the game. She mimicked their play by nipping at Monty’s back leg. Monty whirled around and went after her. It was not play. She came back at him and in an instant, I had a full blown dogfight on my hands. Monty and Monet had NEVER fought before, always best buddies. Nobody was hurt, thank goodness. I was stunned beyond belief at what I had just seen and very grateful that I had enough sense to keep a close watch in the dogs’ interactions. The presence of a new dog, a different personality, had changed everything.

So if you are considering adding another dog to your household, be prepared for anything. I would suggest you get the name of a highly qualified dog trainer to give advice for introducing a new dog and to help if any issues arise.

People frequently ask me for advice about their dog or their friends’ dogs’ behavior. I don’t mind and I really want to help but it’s not so easy to give accurate information without more details and a first-hand look at the situation. It’s also irresponsible to give advice without more information. Just the other day, a friend emailed me that her friend recently started dating a man and whenever they hug, her dog barks at them. She wanted advice to give her friend. How would you answer this request?

Behavior issues can be complicated and require knowledge not only of dog behavior but more importantly, people behavior. Unless you have education and experience, it can be tempting to give advice without looking further into the situation. In this case of the dog barking at the hugging couple, my first question back to them would be – what do you do when the dog barks at you?  This is such a key question because dogs are usually reacting to our actions. Are they yelling at the dog when he barks? Ignoring him? Giving into him and not hugging??!!   Each one of these scenarios can result in a very different behavior from the dog and different advice from me.

Do you find yourself giving behavior advice to others? Be very careful, for what worked for you and your dog may not be the right solution your friend’s dog. My neighbor has a small but mighty Chihuahua who growls and snaps at other dogs. She was telling me that another neighbor told her to jerk the leash and scream “No!” to the dog. It worked for the neighbor’s dog but obviously wasn’t working for the Chihuahua. She was biting for my dog’s nose as we talked. While I would NEVER give this kind of punitive advice, the reason it worked for the neighbor’s dog was probably due to personality differences in the dogs. Softer, more mild-mannered dogs can be scared into stopping some behaviors while stronger-willed dogs will feed off of punishment and get worse.

Dog behavior and human behavior is not black and white. There are so many factors to consider. It’s a lifelong learning experience with every dog teaching us something new.  It’s humbling yet lots of fun!

Miracles Can Happen at Any Time

I spent much of the last couple of months watching Christmas movies. Yes, I admit it, I’m a sap for anything that has to do with Christmas. Now that the holidays are over, I’m very sad that these movies are no longer playing because I love the messages of hope they give. Many of the movies’ themes are about miracles that happen at Christmastime. Truly the original Christmas, the birth of Jesus, was a miracle. But I believe that miracles can happen anytime, not just during Christmas. So take heart, you don’t have to wait until next Christmas for that miracle you’ve been praying for to happen!

The longer I live, the more I realize that miracles are happening all the time and come to us in the form of other people and even the animals. Miracles don’t have to be big things like parting the Red Sea. They can come as answers to our prayers – large or small – in the form of a phone call from a friend just when you needed to talk to someone, being at the right place at the right time to meet a person who will help you find your next job, having a stranger stop to help you if have car troubles, or money coming in just when you need it most.

Animals play just as much a part in delivering miracles to us. Stories abound of how shelter pets have brought special help to their adopters in the form of healing, therapy, and even guidance. That’s what happened to me with my dogs. Starting with Caper, my first Golden Retriever who led me to a new career of helping the animals, all the way through all of dogs including my foster dogs, they each delivered a miracle of some sort to my life. You just have to be aware and look around for them. They could be leading you into a direction that you never dreamed of.

You too can bring miracles to other people’s lives. Every day places us in positions to help one another. But too many of us are so wrapped up in our own problems that we don’t stop to see the suffering of others in its many disguises. Just a kind word to someone can change someone’s day. I’ll never forget the day I was in a hurry when I stopped in the grocery store to grab a few items. The lines were long, and the cashier in my line was particularly slow. As I approached the cashier, I saw a sign that said she was in training. I could see that she was stressed and upset. My irritation at being held up for so long immediately dissipated. As the trainee rang up my order, I told her that she was doing a great job. She gave me a broad smile and said “thank you.” I felt so good that I was able to make her feel good. This wasn’t a miracle but to her, it might have made a difference. What if she was considering quitting? Who knows what she may have been thinking?

The message of Christmas is that the light and love are here for us always, not just at Christmastime. Be the miracle in someone else’s life!

Goodnight Snoopy and Woodstock

Puppy Mills No More

On December 31 2012, I attended and wrote a blog post on a protest held outside of the We Love Pets pet store in Media, PA. The protesters had been standing on the street outside of this store each weekend for a very long time, holding posters to passersby that this pet store sold puppies from puppy mills. Indeed they did and charged a lot of money for them. People who knew no better spent that money and bought these puppies.

But over the course of time when the protests were occurring, the owner of We Love Pets was beginning to learn the facts of the puppy mill business. The turning point was the day that a puppy died in his arms. From this incident and through the education he was receiving from one very kind and compassionate puppy mill rescuer, the owners of We Love Pets made the very brave decision to convert their store into a 501(c)3 rescue organization this year.

I took the opportunity to visit the store right before Christmas to see for myself what was now going on at We Love Pets. I am very pleased to say that they truly have made the change from selling puppy mill puppies to adopting out dogs and cats who had been in shelters, surrendered by their owners, and from hoarding situations. The pens and cages that housed the animals were remarkably clean and the pets all looked so happy and healthy. I could tell that they were getting good care.

The store was exceptionally crowded with adoptions happening regularly. While I was there, I was so impressed to hear the owners talking with a potential adopter of a German Shepherd. The potential adopter already had a shepherd but he wasn’t neutered. The owners of We Love Pets were steadfast in refusing to adopt the dog to this person unless their dog was neutered. They really understand that irresponsible breeding must be stopped by having pets spayed and neutered.

I have seen the owner of We Love Pets going into an animal shelter many times, pulling out animals of all ages and breeds. I’ve seen many Pit Bulls who had been sitting at the shelter for months with no prospects finally find a home when We Love Pets took them. I recently saw a pair of cats, one of them blind, who came from a shelter and found their forever home through We Love Pets. The list is long of animals that they have helped and I am very impressed to see this happening.

Every pet store that sells puppies from puppy mills needs to take a good, hard look at their ethics and consider following the path that We Love Pets has taken. If all or most pet stores follow suit, maybe we can have a chance at shutting down the large-scale puppy mill operations in this country.

Taking Responsibility

I’ve been racking my brain for creative ways to change this country’s methods of animal sheltering because it does not seem to be working. Every shelter is run independently with no common set of rules and regulations. No solution is coming to me. This week, an incident occurred at my local animal shelter which clarified something, however. It’s not the sheltering system that’s necessarily broken, it’s people’s attitudes about pets that need fixing.

My county’s shelter is open access, or as some individuals like to say it’s a “kill” shelter. No animals are turned away; it’s always full with strays that go unclaimed and owner surrenders for various reasons that are understandable (death of a family member, financial) or completely ludicrous (no time, moving, the pet is old, etc).

This week, a woman surrendered two healthy young dogs to this shelter because she said she was moving and couldn’t take them. She was given no promises that the shelter could find homes for the dogs. At the time, the shelter was very full so they called various rescue groups and other shelters. Surprise, surprise, the “no-kill” shelters couldn’t help because they were full, as were the rescue groups. The shelter called another open access shelter in another county and they offered to help. They took the dogs and several others because this shelter had open space. This action was applauded because good working relationships between shelters is absolutely necessary to help get animals adopted. Sadly, one of the dogs was aggressive at the second shelter, unable to be handled. The shelter made the decision to euthanize the dog.

When the owner found out, she claimed that my county’s shelter promised to keep the dogs for a week and acted as if she was only boarding them there. She started a hate campaign against the shelter and even called the television news. Hate campaigns only drive people away from the shelter that needs help the most. People stop adopting, making an open access shelter even more crowded and the situation more desperate.

The blame here is not the shelter’s in this case and in so many cases where pets are carelessly abandoned. Blaming the shelter for the problem is like blaming someone who mopped up spilled milk. The blame is on the person who spilled it.

Many people in this country are treating pets like technology. They need to have the latest and greatest, and if they get tired of it or can’t afford it, they toss it away. THIS is the change that must happen in our society, not the methods of sheltering. We need to teach people to be accountable for their pets. Don’t buy from pet stores, the Internet, and puppy mills; stop breeding pets indiscriminately; get them spayed and neutered; don’t allow them to run loose; have ID on them; get them properly trained.

So many animals come into crowded shelters and have nowhere to go. One proposed solution is that all shelters declare themselves to be “no-kill” meaning they never kill an animal unless it has severe medical issues. Sounds wonderful, right? Okay, what happens when the no-kill shelters are full which they often are? They accept no more animals. Where do the unwanted animals go if all of the shelters are no-kill and have to turn animals away. People will just dump the animals on the streets to fend for themselves? So much for this solution.

It’s time to stop bashing animal shelters and start turning our efforts to educating people to take responsibility for their actions. Animal control is a community effort, not just the responsibility of the animal shelters. It’s exhausting to be the ones constantly mopping up floors when someone else is always causing the spills.

Are Haters Effective?

I wrote this post last year and sadly, it bears reposting. There are still people out there who haven’t gotten the message. Hate gets us nowhere. People who “shame” other people who are trying to help the animals are only spreading more hate. Love is the answer.

As we know, our country’s system of animal sheltering desperately needs an overhaul but nobody has yet to come up with a viable solution. No kill shelters sound great but all this does is force the animals to go somewhere else – to the streets, to open admission shelters, and to limited admission shelters. Limited admission shelters sound good too, but they are also turning animals away. Open admission shelters, also called kill shelters by some, take the brunt of the problems. All of the animals that are unwanted by owners and other shelters end up there. Because they are often forced to euthanize for space, open admission shelters can be the targets of some people who do and say hateful things to the shelters and their employees.

Haters will post horrible comments and reviews on the shelters’ social media pages, comment on newspaper articles posted on the Internet, and, of course, tell all of their friends how dreadful these shelters are. Is that the solution to stop the killing?

The haters are definitely calling attention to a problem – needless killing in our shelters. They are certainly right about that. But they are turning their venom on the wrong people. When haters post these horrible comments, it drives supporters, adopters, volunteers, foster homes, and donators AWAY from the shelters. So what happens then? More animals need to be euthanized because people have stopped coming in to adopt, foster, and volunteer. Without support, the shelters cannot help as many animals as possible.

Instead, wouldn’t it be nice if the haters turned their wrath to the people who are really the problem? Those who don’t get their pets spayed and neutered, those who recklessly allow their pets to wander loose, those who don’t have identification on their pets, those who think that a pet is dispensable…and on and on. Go and educate people. Go help people find low-cost resources to help them keep their pets. Go lobby apartment complexes to allow pets. Lobby the government to make stricter laws for animal abuse and puppy mills. Turn your anger to something constructive, please.

Hate only generates more hate. If these haters truly love animals, turn that love into something positive. Love attracts more love.