Tag Archive: puppy mill dogs

A LIfe Cut Too Short

I never met him but his story is all too familiar to me. Ralphie, a sweet Basset Hound, was rescued from years in a cage as a breeding stud in a puppy mill. He finally found his freedom and was adopted by Dana Mania, a dedicated volunteer with Tri-State Basset Hound Rescue. After living with and being loved by Dana, her husband and many other canine friends for just two short years, Ralphie passed away last week. It isn’t fair, to suffer for so many years then to finally find freedom and love, only to die once he knew what it was to be loved. It’s a bitter pill for Dana to swallow and so difficult to accept. Our hearts go out to her, for all she did for Ralphie to help him to adjust and for loving him despite his typical puppy mill dog quirks. 

She’s not the alone. Steve Jackson and his wife adopted Camille from Delaware Valley Golden Retriever Rescue in 2007 and renamed her Callie. Callie had been a very psychologically damaged dog from her years of captivity in what must have been the worst of the worst puppy mill. But through the love and patience of first her foster mom, Dawn, then finding her forever home with the Jacksons, Callie flourished and was enjoying her freedom. Cancer struck and she was gone only a year after being adopted. Like Ralphie, Callie only knew freedom and love for a very short time. 

Callie Jackson

I could give many more heartbreakingly similar examples like Ralphie and Callie. Why do these dogs so often die soon after being released from their lives as prisoners in puppy mills when they now have so much to live for?  It’s likely due to several factors:

–          Stress

–          Poor genetics (It’s a known fact that puppy mill operators don’t care about the health history of their breeding stock)

–          Inadequate nutrition

–          Lack of veterinary care (poor dental hygiene may lead to many health problems)

–          No exercise

All of these issues are bound to take a toll on the dogs’ bodies. Additionally, the adjustment to living in a brand new world – a house with people, strange noises, etc. – is also stressful like a prisoner trying to adjust to life on the outside after living in a small world for so long. Change, even if we perceive it as better, can still cause stress. 

Stories like these renew my anger at the fact that puppy mills are still so prevalent, and that so many people remain unaware of where their puppies are coming from. I met a man the other day who proudly told me that his daughter bought a rare breed of dog, a Husky mixed with a Chihuahua (?!??!) and she paid $1500 for this “special breed”.  Without hesitation, I shook my head and told him that it was a shame that she spent that kind of money for a mutt that she could have found in a shelter for $100 adoption fee. 

I’ve said it before and I’ll keep on saying it, people do more research on what kind of TV to buy than the dog who will be sharing their lives. It’s time to educate people – in honor of the Ralphies and Callies and other dogs who are locked in cages making puppies for people who don’t know where they come from.


Helping Animals is Not a Competition

While marketing my book, I optimistically sent emails and letters to people and organizations, large and small, involved with animal welfare. I received some very nice, helpful replies and promotion of the book. But I was pretty stunned at the lack of response from quite a few places and people whom I thought would be very supportive. Even some Facebook pages which purport to help animals and the message to stop puppy mills have turned a deaf ear. Why? I wonder if they more interested in promoting their own agendas than someone else’s?

That is so sad because one basic law of the universe is abundance. If these organizations and people won’t pass along someone else’s message that would help the animals, then they are missing out on another law of the universe, attraction: You get back what you give out.

First of all, as we know, there are more than enough animals who need all of our help.  Sadly, an overwhelming abundance.  The animals need as many of us as possible to pitch in and work together.  And secondly, understanding the law of abundance also means that there will be enough money, foster homes, etc. for organizations to help the animals. If you believe.  If you are following the laws of abundance and attraction. If they are only following their own agendas and not truly in it for the animals, that philosophy may come back to bite them. (Sorry for the pun!)

Although we have never met in person, I am so grateful to know Carol Bradley, author of Saving Gracie. Her book traces the story of a dog rescued from a puppy mill in Pennsylvania to her adoptive home. I am happy to say that Carol’s book and mine are the foremost books about puppy mills. But what’s even better still is that Carol and I promote each other’s books. I have done reviews of Saving Gracie and had Gracie and her adopter on a TV show that I host.  And Carol has sent people my way. I can’t tell you how happy that makes me feel when I receive an email from someone that Carol has referred to me. Cooperation for the sake of the animals.

If you are affiliated with any groups who may benefit from Puppy Mill Dogs SPEAK! and Saving Gracie, I kindly ask you to crosspost this message. There are so many people who still are unaware of the problems of puppy mills and lots of adopters who need help with these wonderful rescued dogs.  Thank you!

Too Many Ideas!

I need your help.  Now that my first book, Puppy Mill Dogs SPEAK!, has been published and is doing well, I’ve started another book. And another. And another.  Yes, I guess you could say that I have A. D. D. with three books in the works!  But I’m jazzed about all of them yet I know I need to focus my attention on only one.  Can you help me by giving me some input?

I’ve written about eight chapters of a mystery novel set in a locale where there are a lot of puppy mills. Intrigue involving breeders, shelter workers and law enforcement. Friends tell me that this book could be even more effective in teaching people about puppy mills than my other book.  I like that idea. My writers group has read it and said it was good. But writing a novel is a whole new genre for me and I’m finding it quite challenging.

I’ve also been working on a book to sell as a companion to my first DVD, Successful Dog Makeovers, which gives advice on typical problem behaviors of rescued dogs such as attention seeking, barking, leash pulling, counter-surfing, etc.  There are a few things in the DVD that I wish I had done differently and the book would give me the opportunity to clarify and do it better. I know that there are a lot of good dog training books on the market but mine targets shelters and rescues.  Do you think it would sell? After my experiences with trying to market Puppy Mill Dogs SPEAK! to various rescue groups, I found that some thought that they already knew all about how to rehabilitate mill dogs and didn’t need the information. Is that the prevailing attitude about all dog behavior?

And finally, I feel I’m being guided to write about the path that I’ve taken to help the animals. For those of you who know about how I came to work with the animals, they have been amazing teachers to me and I’d love to share this spiritual journey that I’m sure others who work with animals can relate to. This topic was the reason I started this blog in the first place. Although I’ve been posting a lot about dog behavior recently, I feel I need to be true to my original goal and share these insights.

The dilemma of being a writer is balancing staying true to what’s in your heart versus thinking about what will sell the best. I’m trying to go with my heart but it’s tough when your says “write all three!”

Will you be so kind to give me your feedback on what you would want to read?  I will write all three but hopefully one at a time! Thank you for your honest feedback.

In the previous post on February 28 discussing how to train your dog to come, I talked about what not to do when your dog comes to you. I always tell people that teaching a dog to come is easy, but getting your dog to do it reliably is the challenging part. Today, let’s go over how to teach your dog to “come” and then in Part III, I’ll review some games that we can play with our dogs to reinforce “come” and make it a happy event.  As we know, training needs to be fun for everyone – your dog and you! 

First, think of an object that your dog really loves, something that will motivate him to come to you: a particular kind of treat or even a toy. Since most dogs are motivated by food, it’s best to use small bite-sized treats like cheese or canned chicken. I like using something that your dog is not accustomed to eating and it smells really enticing. But if your dog is not food-motivated, a toy is a great option if your dog has a favorite like a ball or a retriever roll. With this treat/toy in your hand, hold it in front of your dog so he can see it/smell it. Once you get your dog’s attention, take a few steps backwards and say the word “come” to your dog in a happy, upbeat tone.  When your dog follows you, give the treat/toy to your dog and praise him happily.  Remember, when your dog comes to you, it must always be an enormously happy event!  Hugs and kisses are good things too but only if your dog really likes that. 

Continue practicing luring your dog to you in this manner with a treat or a toy by walking backwards and rewarding your dog, and gradually increase the distance that you walk backwards. You will be able to see if your dog is responding to you obviously if he comes to you. If so, then you can move on to more advanced work.  Put your dog into a “stay” and walk away – not too far, maybe just a few feet. Call your dog by saying “come” happily. (Your tone of voice is sooooo vital.  No dog is going to want to come to someone who is screeching or clearly unhappy.)  When your dog comes to you, give him the treat or the toy. Some trainers also like to give dogs a “jackpot” of treats when the dog comes to you.  By doing this, you are really showing the dog that coming to you is wonderful!

Important: If your dog does not come to you, do not scold him. I don’t even like to do an “Aw, try again.” We only want to reward your dog for doing good things, not call attention to when he doesn’t do it properly.  

It’s best to begin training your dog to “come” when there are no distractions.  Inside your home with no other dogs, people or kids around is ideal. As your dog becomes more reliable with coming to you inside the house, you can then take the training outside where there are usually more distractions (smells, sounds, etc.). Always use a leash when outside doing training work for “come.” I like to use a long, 30-foot cotton leash for this training so that you can gradually increase the distance between you and your dog.   Allow your dog to walk around and sniff to his heart’s desire while on this leash. Then call your dog to come. Make it happy and enticing. You might even want to run away from your dog and slap your thighs to make it more of a game. If your dog comes to you, great! Give him treats, toys, praise and hugs. If your dog ignores you, take the leash and as you say “come” again, guide the dog back to you. Don’t yank, just gently bring your dog back. 

Practice, practice, practice!!!  And be the person that your dog can’t resist coming to. Those are the keys to a dog who will come every time he’s called.  Next time, some games to play to reinforce your dog’s reliable recall.

Dog Training Tip of the Week – Leave It

Someone recently asked me how to stop their dog from chasing the neighbor’s chickens who like to escape their fence and come into her yard. My response was two-fold: have a talk with your neighbor to fix the fence and teach your dog how to “leave it.” I think she wanted a quick fix which you will not get from “leave it.” It takes practice, practice, practice but the results are well worth it.

Does your dog dive to grab something that drops on the floor? Like to eat tasty morsels off of the ground during walks?  Chase the cat?!  All of these issues and more can be stopped by using ”leave it.”

“Leave it” must be distinguished from “drop it” which is used for when the dog already has something in his mouth. “Leave it” tells the dog not to pick up the object. I’ll address “drop it” in a future post.

Teaching “leave it” is pretty simple but getting the dog to respond to the cue can be very challenging, especially if the dog really, really wants the object (like the chickens!). It’s best to begin teaching your dog to “leave it” with something that is not extremely enticing. I use a small cube of cheese or a treat. While holding your dog, drop the cheese or treat just out of your dog’s reach and say the cue, “leave it!” Immediately praise your dog as you hold your dog back from getting the treat. Your dog’s reward for not going for the treat is your praise, so you must make sure you are very exuberant. And do not give your dog the treat.  (Be sure you are not jerking your dog by the leash or the collar. Many old-school dog trainers still train this way.)  Most dogs will struggle to try to get the treat. Continue practicing and you know you are making progress when your dog is not struggling as much. Within a few minutes of practicing, most dogs will stop struggling and look up to you for the praise.  This is the breakthrough moment that you know your dog is learning the cue!

Gradually move the treat closer and closer to your dog as you say “leave it” and praise when your dog does not go for the treat. Work up to being able to place the treat directly in front of your dog, say “leave it” and your dog won’t try to get it. And you can impress your friends if you practice enough to be able to place the treat on your dog’s paw, tell him to “leave it” wait several seconds or longer, and then give him the “okay!” cue that says he can now take the treat. Very cool!

As your dog responds consistently to your “leave it” cue, you can practice using even more desirable treats or objects.

Some trainers like to use their foot to cover the treat when the dog tries to go for it, simultaneously saying “leave it.” This strategy works well but must be phased out or else you will find yourself out for a walk and if your dog tries to dive for the deer poop, you really don’t want to have to cover that with your foot!

The uses for “leave It” are as many and creative as you are. I like to advise people to tell dogs who are counter surfers to “leave it” or if your dog is tempted to steal food or other objects off of tables. People with small children can tell their dogs not to touch the children’s toys or other items. At least once a week, I drop one of my supplements on the floor and get to practice “leave it” with my dog! Practice, practice!

Goodbye for Now, Mr.Vick

Sorry Philadelphians, I’m not an Eagles fan. I couldn’t wait for them to be eliminated and I cheered last night when I heard they lost to the Packers. And it was for one reason alone – Michael Vick. Since September I have had to endure the endless pictures of his face or seeing him interviewed on the news day-after-day. Blogs and articles were written with opinions on why we should forgive him for his beyond-heinous treatment of the dogs at his Bad Newz Kennels.  The most self-righteous among us preached that Vick deserved a second chance like anyone else. Even President Obama called the Eagles’ owner to congratulate him on giving Vick the opportunity to redeem himself. I could not get away from the media coverage of this man.

Okay, everyone deserves forgiveness and a second chance. But my reason for being glad that the season is simple: I can’t stand to see Vick’s face. The sight of him makes me physically ill because I can’t forget the faces of the dogs he tortured. I see Vick’s face and I get flashes of bloody dogs with parts of their faces ripped off. I can’t help it. In my profession, on a weekly basis I see animals coming into shelters who have suffered abuses caused by dog fighting, intentional burns and other signs of intentional trauma. We look upon the people who did these things to the animals as morally corrupt individuals.  And they are.  But 99.99999% of them do not have multi-million dollar careers and will not be made into media heroes. Thank goodness. 

Let’s imagine that a star football player abuses a child, serves his time and wants to return to the NFL. Would he be welcomed back and even voted as MVP? Could parents stand to look at HIM?  Highly unlikely.  Why does it have to be different for someone who tortured and killed dogs?  The way someone treats an animal is a direct reflection of their character. My love for animals is as deep as a parent’s love for their child. You can argue forever that an animal is not a child – but no amount of persuasion will change what’s in my heart.  I was born with a passion to help animals.

Let’s face it; money and prestige are more important in our society than moral character. When will we learn to start making stars out of people who achieve greatness for their compassion and lives of good works?

Dog Training Tip of the Week – Jumping

I met an adorable Pit Bull the other day. She was sweet and gentle with soft, loving eyes. She had the typical Pit personality – she just wanted to be loved. So when a woman approached her, she jumped up to be petted. Her owner yanked hard on her leash and screamed “DOWN!”  I jumped, the dog flinched in fear. I was horrified.  But sadly, this technique is still being taught by dog trainers. There is a better, more humane and more effective way to teach dogs not to jump on people.

First, let’s analyze why using the word “down” or “off” and yanking the dog is counter-intuitive. With this method, you give the dog instructions to “get off” after the dog has jumped. You’re simply teaching the dog to get off, not to stop jumping! The yanking and the shouting could also cause some sensitive, timid dogs to become fearful of people because they will associate  this punishment with meeting people.

Instead, there’s a better way. It’s important to understand that dogs jump on people in order to get their attention. At a young age, many dogs will quickly learn that when they jump, they indeed get the attention. And so the behavior is reinforced. When dog trainers teach owners to push the dog and say “off” when their dogs jump on them, this also reinforces the jumping – because the dog is getting attention! Even though our human way of thinking tells us that the dog should understand that he’s being reprimanded, the dog really sees it as attention.

The solution? When your dog jumps on you, completely ignore him. No physical contact, no talking and even no eye contact. Walk away from the dog, then after a few seconds ask your dog to sit and reward the dog with affection. Lots of it. The dog will quickly learn that he only gets attention when he is not jumping. But in order for this method to be effective, you must be 100% consistent and not “forget” and go back to saying “off” and pushing the dog away.  Dogs are quick studies and will do what works for them.  And everyone the dog comes into contact with must practice this method consistently too.  It’s not easy; it takes time and patience. But the rewards are a well-trained, happy dog.

I may have said all of this better in an article I wrote several years ago in a newspaper pet behavior column:  Off!  I hope this information helps.  Next week, why teaching your dog “leave it” is so valuable.

Christmas Sweaters

In the 80’s, sequined Christmas sweaters and sweatshirts and turtlenecks with holiday motifs became very fashionable. I had a large collection and I have to admit, I’ve kept most of them. Each year, I lovingly hand-wash them and wrap them in tissue paper then store them in a cedar chest. They will probably be wearable forever. Is that a good or bad thing?

A lot of people my age and older still think these holiday clothes are fun. Is this a sign of old age?? I will continue to wear them. Selectively. Family parties, casual lunches with friends, Christmas shopping. But I made the mistake of wearing a long-time favorite – a black sweater adorned with beaded snowmen, snowflakes, candles and other ornaments – to a holiday party where many 20-somethings were in attendance. They made fun of me! I was surprised at their reaction; I had never been met with such ridicule. Here I thought that I was being fun and festive. After all, the stores still sell fleece and sweatshirts with holiday designs.  Okay, well, you may not see many beaded sweaters anymore…  That you wear over stirrup pants…  I was not embarrassed to wear the sweater and I cherish it. After all, isn’t it the season when tacky is acceptable?

Take outside house decorations, for instance. I drive by some houses and stop to look with amazement at the mish-mosh of lights – small twinkles in white and multi-colors mixed with larger C9’s and a sprinkling of the newer LEDs thrown in. Oh yeah, and then there’s the blinking lights and the chaser lights. To me, that’s tackier than my beaded sweater. At least the neighbors don’t have to look out their windows and get blinded by my sweater.

I’ve always been a fan of modest, elegant decorations outside. A white candle in each window (no orange lights allowed), white twinkle lights carefully strewn on the bushes (and no blinking either), and a wreath on the door illuminated by a spotlight. Beautiful or boring? I guess if everyone decorated just like that, it would be dull. 

And the same goes for clothes. Forget what the fashionistas on the 10 Biggest Fashion Mistakes have to say.  I’m wearing my holly turtleneck underneath my red fleece pullover with Santa saying Ho, Ho, Ho! And don’t forget the socks with reindeer on them.

It’s not enough for me to write and publish a book about puppy mills.  I need to do more. I recently joined YES! on Prop B which is trying to pass a ballot initiative, The Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act, that will improve the lives of dogs in commercial breeding operations in Missouri. Specifically, the measure will require large-scale dog breeding operations to provide each breeding dog under their care with the basics of humane animal care. Missouri has more than 1,500 puppy mill operations, and it is estimated that they supply more than 30% of puppies sold in pet stores.

Right now, dogs are suffering in cramped, filthy cages without veterinary care or protection from inclement weather. But you can help change it. Even if you don’t live in Missouri, you can make your voice heard. If lobby organizations from other states such as the Animal Owners of Texas, Virginia Federation of Dog Breeders and Owners, and the Ohio Professional Dog Breeders Association can try to influence this vote, then so can we – the concerned animal lovers around this country.

Will you join me by signing up for the campaign? Please go to http://www.missourifordogs.com  Thank you!


Christmas is 10 weeks from today. The stores are already stocked and I saw an ad on TV promoting layaway for Christmas shopping. Like a child, I still get excited at the thought of the upcoming holiday season.  When I walked through a store yesterday and saw the TV ad, the old feelings came over me and I wanted more.  It’s a great feeling.  But is it too soon?

I’m not alone when I say that I love the Christmas season: the songs, the decorations, the movies and TV specials, the parties, gifts, making cookies, and being with family and friends. In just about three weeks, some radio stations will begin to play Christmas music – for the past few years, they started the first week of November.  A jolt of joy hits me when I hear the songs and I will listen with glee, singing along with the old favorites. Then by the first of December, the novelty has worn off and I’m tired of the songs. The anticipation was gone and Christmas was still weeks away!  When Christmas arrived, it wasn’t special.

When I was a small child, my parents held to the tradition that no decorations were put up until Christmas Eve after the kids had gone to bed. My parents stayed up all night putting up the tree, wrapping gifts and decorating. We could hardly contain ourselves from the anticipation.  We awoke on Christmas morning to see the wonder of Christmas. It was magical and memorable (but tough on the parents!). We enjoyed the tree, the songs, the gifts and decorations for the two weeks after Christmas, up until the Epiphany on January 6. I loved those times and cherish the memories.

Anticipation has been lost in our society. The thought of getting something makes the experience much more gratifying.  I think that savoring the sweet anticipation of Christmas can apply to other areas of our lives: wait a while before buying the lastest gadget or tech device or special outfit, and even for sex with a new partner.  Remember the feelings of longing before a first kiss? Yum!!  Our society has evolved to instant gratification, partly because of our (previously) thriving economy and partly because of the genius of marketers who understand the psychology of human desire. Is it possible that instant gratification has led to boredom in our lives? When we always get what we want right away, it leaves us wanting more. And it takes that much more to satisfy us.

My house is currently decorated with pumpkins and mums and the scent of apple cinnamon candles fills the house. I love the way it looks but after “feeling Christmas” yesterday, my thoughts drift to changing my candles to pine and replacing the mums with poinsettias.  Stop, I say!  Enjoy now! I want to enjoy the moments of the fall season, Halloween and Thanksgiving. I take a vow to you, my readers. I will enjoy one season, one holiday at a time. I won’t switch my candles to Christmas Wreath Pine nor will I listen to Christmas music before Thanksgiving. And when the ABC Family Channel shows Christmas movies during their “Countdown to 25 Days of Christmas,” I will record them and watch them in December as Christmas draws near. (Any bets that one of these years, we’ll be seeing Countdown to 25 Days to 25 Days to 25 Days of Christmas in September?!)  I’m sending an email to the ABC Family Channel – bring back Christmas shows and movies in December!  What do Mary Poppins and Harry Potter have to do with Christmas??

Does anyone else know what I mean? Are you willing to delay Christmas until at least the day after Thanksgiving?