Dog Parks – aka “Pawshank Redemption”?

If you’ve never been to a dog park, I want you to do something. The very first warm day (when it reaches into the 70’s), I want you to go to your area’s most popular dog park, around 7pm if it’s a weeknight or 1pm if it’s a weekend, by yourself (no dog, just you), and sit for about an hour. Get your phone ready to take some video. When a dog fight breaks out (not if but when), send it to our FB page via messenger. I’ll add them to the bottom of this page.

Matt Duffy, one of my top 5 dog training mentors, asked me last year if I would help give a rescue’s input during a talk at the new dog park in New Albany, IN. I was thrilled that he thought of me (he has lots of rescues he could choose from), but I kindly declined. I get what they’re trying to do; get the community involved/educated and get dogs outside doing things other than being stuck living between the 4 walls of a house. But I’ve seen too much. I am so glad Matt is reaching out/teaching people about dog park etiquette and dog behavior, someone has to (probably the only dog park that has asked a master dog trainer to educate park goers, that I know of). But still, I won’t do it. I will be one less person to push the dog park agenda. With this blog, you’ll see why.

First I have to say – what boggles my mind is how the average dog owner/consumer/animal rights activist will demonize the use of an electronic fence (read my last blog on electronic fencing here), or any kind of punishment training tool, all because of the damage it can do to a dog. Then they turn around and embrace the use of a dog park almost to the point of it morphing a person into some kind of free-loving hippie dog guru/whisperer if they frequent one. Like, you’re the best, most lovable dog mom/dad if you go to a dog park. To me, it’s stunning to the point of hilarity. This once again is a long blog, but it’s a critical, detailed topic to cover so I’m leaving no stone unturned. And I start with completely humiliating myself on my own zealotous dog park ignorance.

I don’t know how, but I completely forgot to add this to my list of zealotous/crazy dog people topics people fight about. Well, actually, there’s no fight, it’s honestly one sided where one side says “YAY! Dog parks are awesome!” (90% of dog owners) and the other side just keeps their mouth shut (10% of dog owners). If my saying that makes your hackles stand up, I can prove it with one question – “Do you know of any professional dog trainers/handlers/enthusiasts that go to dog parks?” The answer to that is no. None do. You will never see a show dog there. You will never see agility dogs there. You’ll never see tracking dogs there. You’ll never see highly trained service dogs there (you might see fake service dogs there. There’s a topic to add to my blog list.) No decent, educated, seasoned dog owner/handler would be caught dead taking their dog to the dog park, and this blog will tell you why. I know Matt does these dog park talks, and I haven’t asked him this but I can assume he doesn’t take his IPO Czech GSD to the dog park allowing all those strange dogs randomly coming up to Occam to sniff his butt, trying to dominate him, circling him to see what he’s made of. (I’m laughing just thinking about it. Occam is one badass dog.) I mean, people with off-leash trained dogs don’t need a dog park….they have the whole world for their dog to experience/explore, amen?

Going way back, when we got Jaxon (our Doberman) as an older puppy, he was poorly socialized. The vet told us to take him to the dog park to help him come out of his shell. Lots of vets say that, I’ve come to realize. So we took him to Mt. Airy Dog Park in Cincinnati, Ohio. It’s a nicely designed dog park with picnic tables, lots of trees/shade, access to fresh water, doggie pools, etc. It’s not the park that’s to blame, it’s the people that go there.

After we would leave the dog park (usually on a weekend), by Monday/Tuesday Jaxon would sometimes come down with conjunctivitis. At this point I had switched vets, this new vet had show/titled Rotties, so she was a seasoned dog handler (she falls within the 10% mentioned above). The vet asked where Jaxon had been to have this raging double eye infection. I tell her he was at the dog park. She informed me right then how disgusting dog parks are, how other dogs could have parasites he could pick up and how they’re not kept up on vaccinations, etc. Read this article here if you don’t believe me. The grass was pummeled in the middle and it was all dirt. So if the people don’t pick up their dog’s poop (and they don’t), and the rain “washes it down” and/or the dogs trample it over time, that dust is actually poop dust. Dogs get running at the dog park, dust goes flying, it gets in Jaxon’s eyes, and then the eye infection would set up. Not every time, but definitely 50% of the time. (FYI, you’re also breathing it in, wanted to make sure I mention that. Yum.) I kept the eye ointment on hand to clear it up. But the other vet told me how good dog parks are, and now this one is giving me the look of judgement. “But he’s good and tired after a long run at the dog park, and we meet all these nice dog people….how could it be bad?” Like all crazy dog park lovers, I couldn’t be convinced, even though that was the only place he had ever been in his entire existence that junked up his eyes.

The worst part is, every time we went to the dog park, we’d see a dog fight. One time we went, there was a Great Dane pulverizing every dog that approached it, owner stood aside and did nothing. Jaxon, who only knew kitchen sits and silly tricks like playing dead, had no recall or space respect (this was before I met my trainer, Sam. When Sam reads this, he may never speak to me again or deny we’ve ever met.) He approached the angry Great Dane to sniff its butt out of curiosity, and because I had no recall, Jaxon refused to listen to me (remember the Invisible Fence story of Jaxon making his own house rules in the front yard? Here’s another environment where that behavior transfers), and the Dane landed Jaxon on his back. His back/spine was scraped by a huge tree root that was poking out of the ground. The Great Dane owner would not leave the park, so we went home.

Dogs similar to that Dane aren’t few and far between like one would think. Steve went with me one time and was sitting on top of a picnic table when a stealthily-moving Rottweiler went under the table and poked his head out between Steve’s legs. Out of instinct, Steve goes to pet the dog with a “hey, buddy” and the owner quickly warns, “don’t touch his head.” Steve doesn’t move an inch, waits for the dog to leave his crotch area, and then whispers to me, “why would you bring a dog like that to a dog park?” Everyone just takes everyone else’s word for it that their dog is under control, is nice, is trained, is social. You just assume “because all dogs like me” or “my dog is nice to his dog buddy at home or the friend’s dog that comes over on occasion” that all dogs in a random mixture at a fenced-in dog park will get along. We, completely forgetting that they’re animals, expect them to uncharacteristically act and reason like humans at all times (when humans act far worse than dogs ever well, just look at social media and turn on the news. Am I right?)

On yet another visit to the dog park, some lady brought McDonald’s into the park, sat down at a picnic table to eat it. All dogs hear the crinkle sack and come running, a fight almost breaks out. The lady also had with her a young kid, who was sharing the French fries. I can’t remember the kid’s age but she was eye-level to the dogs, so 5 years old or younger. All the dogs were swarming, jockeying for position to get a French fry. She finally stood up to eat her food which helped some, but oh man….she got lucky. Again, you think it’s a one time thing, but check out what someone just posted this past summer on Mt Airy’s public FB page (I grabbed the comments for your review as well):

Dog Park don't bring food to the dog park

I saved the worst story for last. I talked my boss’s wife, Barb, into going to the Mt. Airy dog park. They had a lovely Chocolate Lab named Chloe (she and Jaxon got along pretty well). When we got there, Chloe would not come out from under the picnic table. I took that as thinking she was “shy, needed to be pulled out of her shell” like the first vet said about Jaxon. What Chloe was saying was, “and why are we here? This place is insane.” We were there maybe 15 minutes and we see some guy arrive with two Bull Terriers (the “Spuds MacKenzie” dog. There’s a Gen-X term for ya). Both dogs had on a spiked dog collar, and so did the owner. The dogs were building in aggression, almost dragging the owner on leash, as they were approaching the double-gated entrance. Barb looks at me like “that’s not good.” The guy walks in, cuts the dogs loose, they slowly trot around casing the joint. The guy picked a spot to stand, the dogs stood with him unmoving like they were waiting for something (most dogs sniff around and check the place out, pee here, poop there, but they were doing none of that). Then some lady with a grey miniature poodle put a leash on the poodle (tail was tucked the entire time it was in the park), said goodbye to the people she was talking to, started for the gate to leave, and the two Bull Terriers jumped that dog. One grabbed the poodle by the throat and would not let go. The poodle owner, screaming, started hitting the Bull Terrier in the head, which made the dog clamp down harder. I’ll never forget the look in that Bull Terrier’s eyes – looked identical to a human eating the richest piece of chocolate, staring off into the horizon as it got so high that it reached Nirvana. It was taking the beating like it was being petted and told “good boy”. Owner. Did. Nothing. Finally, when the Bull Terrier was satisfied that the life had left the poodle’s body, he released it down onto the dirt. Poodle owner picks up its limp body, cradled it in her arms, turned around and looked at everyone in the park while she scream-cried, all so surreal to her that this just happened to her baby. Finally someone yells, “GET TO THE VET NOW!! GO!!” She broke out of her daze and took off running with her poodle’s limp body bouncing with every step through the gate to her car. Bull Terrier owner stood there like nothing happened. Barb looks at me and said, “yeah, this is a lot of fun.” Bull Terrier owner would not leave, even after being told (boldly) by everyone in the park it was against the rules to have an aggressive dog at the park. So we left, along with everyone else that valued their dog’s life. That was the last time I ever went to that park.

The very first time I met Sam Malatesta was during his seminar in Cincinnati, November 2004. He tells a story of a poodle puppy that got attacked pretty closely to the one described above. And when the people put the poodle on the picnic table to examine it, the group of dogs yanked it off the table and finished the job. I sat there with my jaw in my lap. I mean, he’s Canadian, I thought it was just Americans that were airheads. He asked the group what a typical dog park looks like. Everyone took turns answering the common setup – people standing in the middle of the park, dogs circling the people in a swarm. Sam said, “do you know what that looks like from nature’s perspective?” Here’s his answer….

“OMG” is right. My hair stood up on the back of my neck. And these were seasoned rescue/shelter people in attendance, their response was the same. They all sat there in silence, Sam pausing for a moment in order to let it sink in. NO dog trainer has ever put it that way. Makes you question whether all the other dog trainers and veterinarians truly know dog behavior if they can’t reason like that, yeah? (Side note: Went to a Sue Sternberg seminar in St. Louis in 2011 where she talked about the act of putting 3 dogs in a play yard together, two will always band together and pick on the third. She proved it with research videos she had taken in her own shelter environment. Her advice to rescues and shelters was to allow dogs into the play yards in pairs and not trios to avoid bullying, because dogs are going to do it, it’s in their nature to single out the weakest among them. Imagine an entire park full of dogs and the madness that ensues based on Sue’s philosophy.)

Fast forward to spring 2007 when my husband was sent to Irvine, California for a 6-month work project. Jaxon and I joined him. Irvine is the town of “Perfect” they talk about in the Walgreens commercials – clean, neat, organized, truly perfect. Not a whole lot of open space to run your dog around unless you drive up to the mountains, and at the time there were many reports of mountain lions being suspected of attacking dogs – with Jaxon being a lover and not a fighter, I had to come up with a plan B to help him work out his energy. There are dog parks all over the expansive Los Angeles region, and I assumed that since it was California, a state that allows dogs into open air malls (saw a Mini Schnauzer in the shoe department in Nordstrom while the owner was trying on shoes, talk about a double-take), and this is the land of the peace-loving hippies I so admire, AND this is the land of Cesar Milan, therefore they’re all really dog savvy, right? They’re not anything like the midwest. Or the Canadian dog park mauling story Sam told. So I head down to Central Bark dog park in Irvine during the work day (when dog parks are usually empty) with Jaxon in tow to check it out and make sure.

Fantastic park, clean, somehow it still had a decent amount of grass (being warm year round helps), so Jaxon wouldn’t get eye infections like he did years prior. They had two separate areas; one for large dogs, one for small dogs. I thought that maybe this new separate setup might help prevent the Bull Terrier/Poodle disaster I saw in Mt. Airy dog park. I check out the park, go back to our apartment. Steve gets done for the day and I told him, “let’s go down to the dog park and take photos of a dog fight.” He asked why I would do such a ridiculous thing, I said at the time it would be for a blog (ta-da! Here it is, 11 years later!) I was going to add one detail to this blog, and that’s “what happens to dogs when they’re on leash in a dog park”. People always throw a fit about that (even Cesar Milan), also in the screenshot above, and Jaxon had been through training for a over a year now, so let’s see what happens and document it.

I sit down on the bench around the people congregating in the middle (you know, the buffalo herd.) I had Steve take Jaxon all the way up front far from where all the dogs were running around and start doing long-line work (practicing recall, stay, etc.) A Boston Terrier came up, owner nowhere to be found, and starts tugging on the long training lead.


The energy that came from that caused a stir, Jaxon gets nervous, Steve tells him to butt out and let him handle it (something Sam was teaching us to do at the time.) Steve tries to coax the Boston Terrier off the leash to no avail. Finally Steve drops the leash, the tug game over, the Boston Terrier drops the leash also and looks up at Steve, gave him a dirty look, then walked away. The lady in the olive-colored jacket standing to my left (see photos below) said referring to Steve, “that guy is a moron.” (Yeah, as they say around the south, “them’s fightin’ words, sweetheart.”) I choked down my knee-jerk reaction of turning her every which way but loose, and instead I asked her, “oh? Why do you say that?” She said, “you NEVER bring a dog into a dog park on leash.” Why is that? Why do people think dog parks are super awesome, but if you bring a dog into a dog park on a leash then they’re as good as dead? They’re a target (because dogs are a target on leash because they’re stressed when on leash? My dog wasn’t stressed on leash until a darn Boston Terrier was dangling from it!) So, the people that swear dog parks are the ultimate land of doggie love and connection, they get upset when someone brings a dog into a huge dog area to train it? NO, WE WANT YOU TO BRING YOUR JERK OF A DOG IN HERE, CUT IT LOOSE, DON’T TEACH IT RECALL AROUND OTHER DOGS, AND HOPE FOR THE BEST! That’s what they’re really saying. “All dogs are saints!!” Really? If that’s true, then Steve should be able to do some recall training on leash in a dog park, and dogs should just sit on the side and applaud instead of wanting to kill him or aim for a weakness.

A short time later, some woman brings in a small black dog. She carries it in, passes up the small dog yard because no one was in it (HELLO?! THAT’S THE PERFECT SETTING! YOU HAVE IT ALL TO YOURSELF, ZERO RISK OF DOG FIGHTS! Ugh….people….), and puts it on the ground of the dog park for larger dogs where we were. The dog was shivering with fear. Steve, who stopped the training/leash experiment and came over to stand next to me, looks over at the scared little dog, then whips his head over to me and says, “that dog’s a gonner.” It maybe took 15 minutes? A whole 15 minutes and things get stirred up. Here we go. The “buffalo” were busy talking, the Husky gets the party started (no, it’s never the Pit Bulls, y’all….it’s ALWAYS the Huskies. “Not my husky because it’s a sweetheart!” Oh I’m sure it is. Can you recall it off of something or tell it to butt out/leave it and it listen to you? Probably not. Which proves my point.) Here’s the series of events captured in photos.


Here, let me zoom in so you can see this little dog’s face….



“Well, POMH Rescue….I go to dog parks all the time, and I’ve never seen a dog fight.”

Here, let me post some YouTube videos of dogs being saintly….


This one is my absolute favorite – a dog’s eye view of a dog fight after it steals a ball from another dog and runs off with it.


There are so many videos on the internet of dog fights, and they were all caught on film by accident or directly right after to out someone on social media. Imagine now, if you will, all the fights that weren’t caught on tape? Lots and lots and lots and lots.

When I went to California, I realized that all dog owners and all dogs are the same, doesn’t matter where they live. Fights are going to happen. Humans all around the world think dogs are social creatures when they’re only social within their own pack (and people aren’t social, why do we assume dogs are? Do you enjoy talking to the “close talker” in your office that can’t respect your space at work? Or do you make every attempt to avoid them and get frustrated when they find you?)

There were things I noticed about dog parks that fascinated me, though. Dogs are racial. Beagles will always find other Beagles, and start running/barking, kicking in their hunting instinct. It’s crazy to see when they do that. Fluffy dogs gravitate to fluffy dogs. Short-haired dogs gravitate to other short-haired dogs (Jaxon would hang with Boxers, other Dobermans, and Weimaraners). Not all the time, but most of the time. Sounds crazy, but pay close attention if you go to one. I’m not talking about a Rottie following a submissive boxer around, that’s not “choosing to hang out” with another dog, it’s seeking an opportunity. I’m saying a dog actually being comfortable with another dog, it’s usually one that looks similar to them. Check out these photos.

DSC_0213 2DSC_0218 2

When I noticed that about dogs, I said to Steve, “It’s like a prison yard. New prisoners coming in and out, everyone being forced to pick a group that represents their own kind, getting punked at the gate to see who the new victim is going to pack up with. It’s almost like a Pawshank Redemption.” Think about that – the dogs stand at the fence and watch dogs come in. Here’s a photo I took at Mt Airy.

Dog park waiting at the fence for new meat

Those dogs at the fence are going to run all the way to the entrance and wait for that dog to come into the park and get all up in their stuff. Compare a dog entering a dog park:

To this scene in the movie:


“It’s not the same.”

Wrong, it’s exactly the same, except humans don’t sniff crotches.

What do professionals (who have the guts to) say about dog parks (whether you agree with their training technique or not, these people work with it on a daily basis)?

Read this article (with videos) from Leerburg’s website:

How about this article:

Another great article:

And another great article (and confession much like mine):

Peter Caine:

Sue Sternberg:

Cesar Millan:


People are going to go to dog parks anyway. You can give them all the rules/etiquette in the world, they won’t follow it. Gandhi or Jesus himself could come down and tell people how dangerous these places are, and these desperate dog owners wouldn’t believe them. What it all comes down to is this….TRAIN YOUR DOG TO HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH YOU SO THAT IT DOESN’T WANT TO RUN OFF AT ANY GIVEN MOMENT, THAT WAY IT CAN EXPERIENCE THE WORLD! Don’t just limit the dog to your house and the boxed-in prison yard of a dog park. Just you and the dog – the dog truly doesn’t need any more friends than you. And if you need friends, the dog park isn’t really the best place to find people who have their act together emotionally/mentally, just watch this and you’ll catch my drift (LOL! Looks like fun!):


As bad as dog parks were back then, I haven’t been to one since smart phones really caught on. While searching for photos on the internet, I found this one of a bunch of buffalo with their noses stuck in their cell phones (do you think they’re watching their dogs?):

Screen Shot 2018-01-04 at 4.40.23 PM

Are you really going to trust a total stranger with a completely untrained, disrespectful dog with the life of your dog? Not me, man – I’ve seen my fair share. I’m lucky that Jaxon was a forgiving dog. I’m even more lucky that Sam had helped me train Jaxon to be a sound, 100% solidly off-leash trained ambassador dog to the foster dogs in my rescue – that was not the dog park that did that for Jaxon, it was my relationship I built with him and earning his trust (after I destroyed it with my own needs/wants). My advice…join a dog training club; meet people who have their dog’s emotional/physical best interest in mind. You know they take care of their dog’s health, and they have good leash skills as well as the same training knowledge that you do. What you will get is a group of dogs that your dog can trust and get used to over time, that is the best “social outing” a dog can get. Many of my fellow students of Sam’s training camps are my closest friends, they populate my speed dial list on my phone. Contact your local kennel club, or do a search on the internet for any variety of dog training groups in your area/region. A good group of savvy dog owners is worth the drive if you have to travel an hour out of your way to find one. Be around people who are dedicated to doing right by their dog – because where your dog is concerned, it can “get busy living, or get busy dying.” It’s your choice.


Electronic Pet Containment – The Battle Rages On

We live in some heated times here in the United States, if you haven’t noticed (an understatement). It doesn’t take much for Americans to be at each other’s throat. You want to start a fight on social media, it’s pretty easy to do. Pick any topic – politics, religious beliefs, stances on taking a knee at football games, the list goes on. But as a dog person, I’ve never seen more outright bashing of another human than when it comes to topics concerning dogs. These are the most zealotous of zealots. Top 10 topics that cause arguments between dog zealots are:

  1. Type of training technique (equipment used)
  2. What you feed your dog (raw vs. kibble)
  3. Type of heartworm treatment to use
  4. Ways to go about vaccinating your pet
  5. Crate or no crate
  6. Breeders vs rescues
  7. Spay/neuter or keep the dog intact
  8. Grooming techniques/styles
  9. Which flea/tick preventative to choose (holistic, topical, oral)
  10. Pet containment

This blog entry tackles the last one – pet containment, focusing on electronic fence systems. Everyone has an opinion about this, and this is mine based on personal experience. This is what I learned and how I learned it. I’m writing this because there are rescues who refuse to adopt out to people who have electronic fence containment systems, forcing potential adopters to go to breeders to get their next dog. Another side of the issue, anyone who is a member of their local pet “lost and found” page will see how many dogs that are found with their electronic fence collar still on them. What in the world is going on with this topic that we can’t get the truth communicated to the consumers and get dogs on a path to a safe, successful life? I’ll tell you why…it’s the dog version of the “Peyton Manning vs Tom Brady” conflict, and no one wants to touch it with a 10′ pole because of the blowback they’ll get. I’m going to break it down for you in this very detailed blog so that people can better educate themselves when considering any form of containment for their pet.

Let me start off by saying “no form of pet containment is perfect.”

  • People have fences and yet dogs still dig a hole under them and get out, or they learn to jump/climb over it, or someone leaves the gate open and they take off.
  • People have a complete, structurally fenced-in backyard as required by some rescues and the dog gets out the front door when company comes to visit, the kids don’t shut the door all the way when they go in or out, or the dog darts out between a person’s legs as they’re bringing in the groceries (no threshold control taught).
  • Even if you live in the middle of a 300 acre farm, your dog will still run off.
  • Dogs break through electronic fence because the battery in the collar is dead, or the power goes out, or the collar somehow comes off, or they build up enough nerve/or panic enough to run through it.
  • Dogs slip off their tie-out or pull the anchor out of the ground. Some dogs left on a tie-out have jumped over an object and hung themselves.
  • Dogs escape (dig under/go over) outdoor kennels.
  • Dogs slip out of collars and harnesses.
  • Owners accidentally drop the leash and the dog takes off down the street with leash in tow or with the big-honkin’ plastic flexi-leash “handle” apparatus bouncing off the pavement (making the dog run faster to get away from it as it hurls/retracting through the air towards the dog’s neck/face, scared to death).

All dogs can escape from each of these situations and get hit by a car/killed. Can we just end the superiority argument right here with one phrase: “JUST TRAIN YOUR DOG TO RECALL AND HAVE A RELATIONSHIP TO WHERE IT DOESN’T WANT TO BOLT AWAY FROM YOU AT ANY GIVEN MOMENT.” But if you refuse to do that (because you’d rather spend your time watching Netflix) and still need pet containment to establish a false sense of security, then read on.

First, I’d like to point you to Temple Grandin’s take on electronic fence. Keep in mind her book Animals in Translation was first published in 2005 (a fantastic book, by the way), so she is referring to the old style of electronic fence systems: Temple Grandin’s opinion on electronic fence systems

Many years ago when we got Jaxon (our Doberman), we lived in a neighborhood that didn’t allow fences. Jaxon was our first dog, it was our first house. Our house was situated on a very large, baseball diamond-shaped lot at the end of a cul-de-sac, it was private and awesome. The property line at the back wasn’t a straight, easy line across the back, it came to a point in a “V” – left side of the point was a wooded nature preserve, the right side was a huge berm surrounded by trees that had on the other side of it what turned out to be a very busy road back to a popular 800 acre park.

No fence allowed + dingy young Doberman + green dog owner + busy road back to massive park = Invisible Fence purchase.

The Invisible Fence installer/instructor we had was wonderful. He knew exactly how to set a dog up for success using Invisible Fence. After some assessment, he found the static correction level that was ideal for Jaxon (it’s not one level for all dogs. Back then there wasn’t as many levels as there are now, and Jaxon’s was on the low end. Tough dogs like Labs would be higher.) He suggested planting trees or installing flower gardens around the boundary so that Jaxon could easily see them as a marker to know when to stop/not go any further. He was honest with us when he said it would take a few weeks to teach Jaxon the fence – you can’t just throw the dog out there and expect it to figure it out. That means a few weeks of me actively walking Jaxon on a long line around the backyard, approaching the flags and saying, “NO!”, pulling/recalling him away from it and giving him a treat/praise for backing away from the flags. (They’ve changed this training technique – it has a far more positive approach now.) This teaches the dog that when they hear the tone, they are to get out of that area and go into the safe zone. People assume the dog just gets shocked, boom, done, but in fact a properly trained dog to the fence allows the dog to avoid a correction. Of the 4 years we lived at that property with Invisible Fence, Jaxon only got through it once (he got spooked over something and we still can’t figure out what it was. Steve swears it had to have been a Sasquatch.) This isn’t quite the instruction we received, but you get the idea: Introduce Dog To Fence Boundary

So here’s the part the militant animal rights activists are waiting for…

The Pitfalls of Electronic Fence

  • The worst feature of electronic fence, regardless of the brand, is it doesn’t keep things out of your yard. Your dog is NOT protected. Anything can come in and mess with, tease, kill, or steal your dog. Here are a few stories:
    • A German Shepherd owner called me horribly upset. They kept their GSD outside on their electronic fence while they were at work during the day (I know, I know…we’ll get to the Dos and Don’ts of electronic fence in a minute). Neighbor’s Chihuahua was running loose in the neighborhood and came into the GSD’s yard, charged the dog, GSD won. The Chihuahua was killed. The Chihuahua owner, knowing full well the animal control ordinances and leash laws (and like many people we all know, somehow he thinks he is above said laws), was furious and talked openly about suing. Chihuahua owner started a grassroots effort with other neighbors to spread rumors and get them on their side to go after the GSD owner (or at the very least turn them against them socially). The GSD owner whose dog never left their property and was obeying pet containment laws was demonized. Kinda hard to live in a neighborhood after something like that happens, would you agree?
    • Dog thieves wait for you to put your $2,500 English Bulldog puppy or $1,500 Labradoodle puppy outside on electronic fence so they can easily run up to your unfenced/zero obstacle yard and swipe your dog, sell it on CL or a FB yardsale group. (See my Dog Flipper blog if you want to be horrified.)
    • Watch this video (excuse the language) and tell me how insulting it is to the two brown dogs that reside on this property when the black and white dog freely takes a dump (totally “in their face” marking) in their own territory. Can you blame them for their reaction? Would you like it if your neighbor came over and destroyed your master bath with their BMs on a daily basis?
    • Check out this article where a dog was attacked by a deer: Wheaten Terrier mix on electronic fence attacked by deer


  •  All the research on dog aggression/anxiety (read Temple’s book segment if you haven’t already) and overall poor behavior, and not one trainer or vet behaviorist asks if your dog has electronic fence in the front yard. What do the majority of electronic fence owners do? Put the line all the way up to the sidewalk where stimuli goes directly past, i.e. people walking dogs, children on scooters/bikes/skateboards, joggers moving quickly, trash guys stop to (loudly) collect trash at the curb, mailman puts mail in the mailbox, etc. (I have to take a minute to say – I feel so bad for mail carriers that have to put a package on the front porch of a house with a dog on electronic fence in the front yard. Every time I see that, I stop and watch how they handle it. These are the world’s true canine behaviorists. Did you know that the mail/package delivery drivers are educated on how to handle this exact situation? Ask any UPS, FedEx, USPS, DHL delivery person you know if they have a dog bite story – believe me, what comes out of their mouth will give you a whole new perspective on what they deal with on the job.) I was the typical electronic fence customer and had it in my front yard to maximize Jaxon’s use of my yard, and Jaxon was going ape. That’s when I met my training mentor, Sam (who hates electronic fences because it’s yet another tool for lazy people to not develop a proper relationship with their dog), and at the start of our training said, “IF you’re going to use electronic fence, never put it in the front yard. Have the guy come out and pull it back from the street to where it only allows Jaxon to stay in the backyard. And ask yourself why you would want your dog to live in a constant state of anxiety?” Jaxon adored hiding behind bushes and then darting out and barking his head off at people walking around the neighborhood for exercise; one person in particular, a very pregnant woman who Jaxon almost scared so bad she darn near went into labor right there in the cul-de-sac. It was awful, and being a green dog owner I couldn’t stop him from doing it. This creates an ingrained aggressive/anxious response to stimuli, and typically the owner is never outside to control the dog and therefore the dog is making their own house rules. Here I was struggling at the start of training with Sam because I was telling Jaxon that suddenly his house rules didn’t apply. Rerouting the Invisible Fence wasn’t too tough – I had to retrain him, set up the flags again, removing every other one for weeks (left one or two in the landscaping so he never forgot it had been shifted back), until he finally learned the new boundary. So he was punking people out in the front yard, what kind of behavior do you think he was doing when I took him for a walk? Exact same. He always had anxiety in training class, then I pulled the Invisible Fence line back to the backyard and it made a notable difference in his behavior/stress levels. I know there are pro-electronic fence dog owners out there thinking this is ridiculous, but next time you’re out walking around your neighborhood with your dog, watch closely which neighbor dogs are the ones that your personal dog alerts to/doesn’t trust when you approach their house. Your dog already knows the front yards that have electronic fence. (The neighbor dogs I dog-sit/walk approach with caution the same exact yards that my dogs/fosters do!) You’ll see your dog start to look at that front yard a few houses down as if to say, “is that crazy dog outside today?” And if they are outside, notice how they are going from side to side, barking their fool head off, chest puffed out, daring your “Red Rover To Come Over” that electronic fence line. Here is a blog written by a dog walker, my experiences have been identical.  (Note: these yards are excellent training grounds if you’re working on your dog’s reactivity to aggressive dogs. If your dog can sail past one of these dogs on electronic fence with zero reaction and total focus on you/their handler, you can pass the CGC. Caution: The building of anxiety could very well cause the dog to dart through it in an adrenaline rush and bite, so use caution.) Examples of electronic fence stress/anxiety:
    • This guy (who is probably the nicest guy in the world for all we know) is showing how well his electronic fence works with his GSDs. But look at the face/body language of both dogs. Listen to the sounds they’re making. What happens if he keeps teasing them by petting the cat (prey in these dogs’ eyes) and then the cat crosses the electronic fence line? Mincemeat, guaranteed. By the way, a stray cat knew exactly where Jaxon’s Invisible Fence boundary was and would sit outside of it and groom itself, just to tease him. That didn’t help his opinions of cats, and made his anxiousness go through the roof.
    • Dogs are territorial animals, but the breeds that are exceptionally keen to their territory (like Jaxon who was a Doberman) have a particularly wild time on electronic fence in the front yard:


  • No battery backup on some brands if there’s a power outage. Dogs are keenly aware of their surroundings and know when there’s a power outage. I was in a Walgreens close to my house one day after a thunderstorm. Evidently I had just missed some commotion and the cashiers were laughing at something. I asked what got them so tickled, and they said, “there are these two Labradors that live in the neighborhood directly behind our store that are on electronic fence. When the power goes out, they instantly know it, and we can expect them to waltz through our automatic doors any minute. The moment they come in they are soooo happy to see us! It’s like they say, ‘power is out, time to go to Walgreens!'” The owners are lucky they typically head over to Walgreens instead of crossing the dangerous highway that runs right along the store.


For this article, I interviewed Carol, the franchise owner of Invisible Fence in Southern Indiana. It was a fascinating phone call. She caught me up on the latest technology that Invisible Fence has to offer. (Feel free to call them anytime if you have questions.) The Invisible Fence brand of electronic fencing is expensive, and there’s a good reason why that is – you get what you pay for. Here are a few points that will help those anti-electronic fence people better understand the concept of pet containment (and if you’re considering electronic pet containment, this is a good foundation to begin your research).

Invisible Fence brand of electronic fencing:

  • Come out and interview you and your dog. If your dog is aggressive, or if you aren’t going to train your dog to the product, then you don’t get their product installed. They will not set a dog up for failure, nor will they put the public at risk. Not all dogs/owners pass their test for installation (much like we rescues don’t just adopt a dog to any home, we match the dog to the adopter to ensure success.) But pretty much anyone can buy the electronic fencing at the store without a care if the dog is dangerous and without training the dog to it at all/hope the dog figures it out on its own. 
  • Come out and train you and your dog. Back in the day we got 2 sessions, now you get 3-5 sessions with a trainer. They start by using a trash can (something the dog should be avoiding) and start the boundary/communication process with that, then transfer it to the yard. If that sounds too complex (it’s really not), there are options available where you can have the trainer take the dog out into the yard and train it for you if you don’t think you can train the dog yourself. They keep coming out and make sure it works. The technology tells them when your dog tests the boundary so they can track it and use that information in the training. There’s a warranty, they are invested in making sure it works. If you buy the electronic fence products at the store, you do not get any of these features. You get what you pay for.
  • Spend a lot of time working with you and your dog. Many years ago when Jaxon was trained to Invisible Fence, there were only a few hundred combinations of warning beeps/static corrections. Today there are thousands of combinations that can be tailored to the dog. The trainer finds the correct level to set your dog (often starts out low, and over time will come out and adjust the level if needed), versus the dog owner with the cheap store-bought, self-installed electronic fencing that only has a handful of settings (in my research I’ve found products ranging from 5 levels of correction to 99 levels). When it comes to the store-bought versions, desperate owners crank the correction up to the highest level and don’t care what kind of damage they do to the dog. (Which is why electronic fencing is illegal in some countries.)
  • Years ago, if the dog got out, it couldn’t get back in. That feature has been fixed so the dog can cross back into its yard no problem. This is not the case for the store-bought electronic fencing (which is why you see so many dogs running loose with pet containment collars on them.)
  • Invisible Fence has battery backup in the case of a power outage. Others do not.


Electronic Fence Dos and Don’ts

  1. Do NOT just throw the dog out there with some flags and expect it to figure it out. They NEED TRAINING to understand the boundary. Otherwise you will get dogs too afraid to leave the porch, as seen in this dog trainer’s break/fix video where he has to rehab a poorly trained electronic fence dog (note: I’m not condoning his training technique AT ALL, wow): Electronic Fence Gone Bad
  2. Do NOT put electronic fence in the front yard. Just encircle the back yard away from stimuli to allow your dog to use the front yard as the buffer zone to anything that might overstimulate it.
  3. Do NOT leave your dog outside on electronic fence while you’re gone, ever. Just like leaving it on a tie-out in a wide-open yard, anything can happen to it.
  4. DO keep an eye on your dog while it’s outside on electronic fence. Never trust that your back yard is perfectly safe from anything coming in to harm your dog (as you read the stories above).
  5. DO plant flower gardens, trees, bushes around the boundaries so your dog can easily see the property line. This plays a huge factor in making the training a success. Dogs do think, “don’t go past that bush, okay got it.”
  6. Do NOT install electronic fence if you have an aggressive dog. You are begging for a catastrophe.
  7. Do NOT install electronic fence if your dogs are intact. Heat cycles draw in dogs from all over, and if your intact female dog is out there alone, what do you think is going to happen….she’ll blow a rape whistle and you’ll come running? Wrong, they’re animals, they’re designed to reproduce, you have to be smarter than the hormones. Or get your dog fixed.
  8. DO make sure you go with a product that has some kind of power backup in case there’s a power outage.
  9. If your dog chews through collars, then electronic fencing probably isn’t going to work for you since the collar has to stay on them.
  10. DO make sure you get into a solid routine and install batteries/charge batteries for the collar unit on a regular basis.


Do I adopt out to homes with electronic fence? It all depends on the dog, and it definitely depends on the adopter’s intelligence, competence, and property setup/design. I have them walk me through how they will train the dog to their yard . As well, it helps if the foster dog has electronic fence knowledge from their previous home. I’ve rejected many adopters with electronic fence (as I will probably get angry emails now that I wrote this saying, “HEY! You rejected my application but then you go and write this!”), but I have adopted a handful of dogs out to homes that have the perfect setup/design where the dog will be successful and safe.

Electronic fence isn’t perfect pet containment. But that’s because nothing is. The only thing that might be closest to perfect is a structured, solid privacy fence coupled with Invisible Fence to make sure fence jumpers/climbers/diggers can’t get out, but people who go to those lengths and spend that kind of money to protect their dog are few and far between. And still, that would probably not keep in the high-drive working dogs like the gun dog breeds, or dogs in heat that are determined to seek out a mate. People typically settle for tie-out, electronic fence, taking the dog out on a leash, or just have the dog use pee pads to avoid letting them outside at all (ugh, don’t get me started). And reality is, less than 1% of dog owners train their dog beyond the “kitchen sits” (which isn’t training, I call that a trick – that’s not muscle memory or considered “relationship building” at all; the dog is just performing a quick little task). In a perfect world, all dog owners would have turn-on-a-dime recall with their dogs, but unfortunately that’s not the world we live in. If the majority of dog owners are just going to do the bare minimum with our dogs, you need to know the facts.  And if you’re a rescue that’s going to deny a good, skilled adopter the adoption of a dog that needs a home, you need to educate yourself as to why.

Definition of a Good Animal Rescue

Working our booth at Hippie Fest last weekend, we had some college-age shoppers enter our booth. One gal told me when she gets out of college, she wants to start her very own animal rescue just like I did, then she asked for advice. I didn’t know where to begin. For a few seconds I studied her young, happy, smiling face full of hope and love for mankind. (I remember those days.)  Do I tell her the truth or do I sugarcoat it? The very first thing that popped into my mind was the strong desire to warn her about the crazies she’ll run into. It’s not the animals, it’s the people. It’s not just the dirtbags in society who do awful things to dogs or complicate the lives of animals; it’s also other rescue people that will completely wear you out with their drama, worry you to death with their lack of knowledge or resources or self-control, or some who will make you question your Creator.

Let me just say that I’m not perfect by any means (I laugh even typing that out). I’ve failed, and learned from it, and sometimes I’ve had to repeat the lesson until I understood it. I’ve lost my cool with people. I’ve been overwhelmed with the stress of it all. I’ve been working to save animals since 1999, and throughout that time I’ve wanted to quit many, many, many times. It took me a long time to learn there’s only so much I can do, and that it’s okay to say no. I’m in no way an expert, but I’ve been taught by the best. I’ve been discouraged by the worst. I do the best I can with what I’ve got. But along the way, man…I’ve seen things that people wouldn’t believe even if I had photos or video of it (and fellow witnesses who refuse to come forward.) People want me to write a book on how great rescue is, and I am telling you this is not something you want to spend your spare time in the evening reading about (and definitely not before you go to sleep at night.) Here are just a few examples:

  • There are rescues that take money out of their donation jars and put it in their pocket. Or their PayPal account. Or they feed donated dog food to their personal dogs (or allow family/friends to feed donated dog food to personal dogs). Or they sell donated dog food. Yes, 501(c)(3) rescues. Yes, it’s illegal/unethical. No, they’re not following GAAP guidelines. No, they have no clue what GAAP stands for yet started a federally recognized non-profit and getting away with it. To turn them in, you need proof. They hide their activities, paperwork is missing, etc. (You see the dilemma.)
  • Someone from another rescue contacts me about a dog on death row. I let them know that I don’t have room but before I could say I’ll share it with others that might have room, I get told, “well, then this dog is going to DIE. [*click*]” And apparently that’s 100% my fault (forget the fact that she waits to the very last minute to tell me). Never does this person share the dogs I have in my program to help me make room, or help me raise money or share events. (I’ve sent adopters to her. I’ve taken in homeless dogs she’s referred to me when I did have room.)
  • I’ve seen “rescuers” who had their lower legs completely chewed up to their knees with flea bites – a dead giveaway as to the condition of their dogs’ living conditions and health status. (I have a 1 star review on POMH Rescue’s Facebook page from such a rescuer.)
  • I’ve denied a borderline hoarder access to set up at a rescue event, they spread it all over social media that the event should be boycotted, and she threatened to bring all of her foster animals and dump them in the street for me to have to deal with/find homes for.
  • I’ve seen rescues who have so many dogs that the animals are stacked in cages. Or have heard rescuers say they have so many dogs in crates that they can’t get around to letting them go out to the bathroom, let alone work with behavior.
  • How many times have I seen a rescue take in a dog that has mild behavior issues (easily fixed with some work/established routine) and make the dog so crazy or get so fat/unhealthy over time that the dog would never be adoptable….countless. The old Girl Scout rule is the dog is to leave you better than when you found it.
  • I’ve seen a rescue director driving around in a truck with dogs completely loose/barking through the windows/acting so batty in the back to the point where I swore a dog fight would break out any minute. No crates. No training. Total chaos. Never will I send an adopter to this person. (I’m still stunned by that one. What would happen if she got in a wreck?)
  • I’ve sat on the set waiting to go live on a morning news program with another rescue who struggled to get their completely untrained, stressed-out foster dog under control, and in response to the behavior spanked the dog like it was a child to get it to calm down. Camera guys and the news anchor looked at each other like, “what in the heck?” I wanted to die. Right then and there, kill me please.
  • There are rescuers that don’t believe in crates, cut their dogs loose in their house as a free-for-all, free feeding, letting dogs “work it out amongst themselves”, and rush dogs to the vet to get them stitched up because of the dog fights that have happened. Rescue dollars paying for injuries sustained in the rescue foster home instead of the injuries/diseases they arrived with that were acquired from their previous life of abuse/neglect.
  • Sitting at an outdoor fundraiser event, I’ve bumped into a health department employee that asked about another rescue. I knew exactly what rescue they were going to say because I’ve personally smelled the individual. The health department person looked at me like I was psychic. No, my nose just works.
  • I’ve been stuck in the middle between an adopter driving 4 hours from St. Louis, and a foster person from Tennessee I was going to meet to transport the dog the rest of the way to the adopter…and at the last minute the foster decided to keep the dog. Adopter already purchased all the pet supplies, never expecting the foster to back out of the adoption. I had no clue what to say to the adopter. There’s nothing you can say to that. Oh, and some time later, the foster home dumps that dog to get another. Another dog they adopted (“failed foster”) from the rescue was also put up for adoption again. That’s at least two personal dogs that I know of that they got rid of. Yes, they’re still fostering for another rescue. Boggles the mind.
  • I’ve transported a dog from Cincinnati to Louisville so the adopter’s co-worker could pick it up and drive it to St. Louis. The dog was going to be a companion to a young child. The adoption contract said the dog was only a few years old and in great health. The dog was actually a senior, at some point had suffered from a broken leg (no notation whatsoever on the vet records or x-ray taken), and its teeth were rotting out of its head because no dental had been completed. But it was a pure bred dog, so big bucks were coming their way via the adoption fee. Again, I didn’t know what to say when I handed the dog off to the co-worker.
  • I’ve had adopters of other rescues’ dogs contact me privately asking for training advice or what trainer they should use because the dog they adopted was completely whack, not matching their petfinder bio whatsoever. Reading the bio, the rescue had stated the dog was a “sweet dog” that is house trained (can we stop using the word “sweet,” amen?) The dog, a yellow Labrador, was terrified of things like the refrigerator door opening, all four legs splayed out on the kitchen floor like it had never been in a house in its life, it wasn’t just the floor it was afraid of because it belly-crawled throughout the house like a puppy mill dog. The well-known rescue had adopted out an outdoor/kennel dog to an indoor home without knowing a damn thing about it. No leash skills, no “wanna go outside” phrases that most dogs know, nothing. Same rescue adopted out a dog that got horribly sick with kennel cough (because it wasn’t vetted until the last minute even though it was in rescue for several weeks, dog had 1-2 day old fresh stitches from the spay, it had picked up kennel cough at the vet – no vet records came with the dog to know if it had its vaccines, only a rabies tag). When called to ask for reimbursement of the vet bills or to receive a refund of the adoption donation, the rescue director ripped the adopter a new one for not asking them to mail them some meds (dog was horribly sick, needed to be seen by a vet immediately, couldn’t wait for the mail) and threatened the adopter with their attorney.
  • One winter all my foster spots were full, so I found a rescue to take an older Schnauzer whose senior owner had died. The dog was used to being in a quiet setting. The rescue president said they’d take it, they had room, and asked me to drive it to Cincinnati. No problem. At the last minute she asked me to transport the dog to a boarding facility (instead of a foster home). I explained the dog would deteriorate in boarding, thanked her for her offering to help it, and searched around for another rescue to take it (and found a very good one). The rescue president went off on me, started harassing me with non-stop emails throughout the day, complete with posts to my FB page, telling people I was a dog flipper, and finally phone calls started happening. She wouldn’t stop until she was threatened with calling the authorities. All because I stood up for the dog’s needs, and all she heard was, “no, you can’t have this dog.” She lied about having room for it, and the dog would have lived out its life in the boarding facility, stressed to the max. I still have the VM she left on my cell phone – I play it at parties.
  • Got a message from a friend who asked if I knew a certain very well-known rescuer. This is a rescuer that brags about numbers (how many dogs they “save” because they’re awesome). I ask why, they said a family member adopted a dog from this rescue, and the dog has bitten everyone in the household (some severely). One bite to an elderly person in the household sent them to the hospital, very scary situation. How did the rescuer not know this dog’s temperament?
  • I got a text message from another rescue director telling me about a Schnauzer they had pulled and it was fighting with the foster home’s personal dog. “Can you foster it for me?” I respond, “No, but I can reimburse you for all the vetting you have in that dog, have you sign it over so I can take it into my program, train it, and place it with a home that fits its needs.” I heard nothing back. Hope that dog turned out okay. Can’t worry about it because it’ll make you crazy.
  • I’ve watched so many knock-down, drag-out fights on FB between “rescuers” that it makes me just shake my head. It’s so absurd you have to laugh. Like this precious exchange here:

Rescue Drama copy

I’m sure I’m going to catch 7 kinds of heck just making fun of that cat fight. (She sounds like a hair puller, doesn’t she?) Since people lack emotional intelligence and self control, those of us who are big fans of situational comedy can’t let it go without poking fun at it. I’m sharing it to prove my point….some rescuers are just crazy.

I work alone for a reason. I don’t allow others to foster for me because I just don’t trust anyone if the well-known, big rescues have foster homes like those listed above. No, I don’t think I’m a special-meshal person who deserves some kind of award. I just want to help the animals, or help people who are truly and honestly helping the animals (and not seeking hero worship). I’m a solutions person. When something is broke, fix it – those are the people I want to hang out with. “The dog needs a home,” so let’s make that happen. If the dog needs to get somewhere, let’s drive it. What I take in, I take on. I don’t move my foster dogs to Canada or Chicago if I can’t place them fast enough. It doesn’t make me Wonder Woman, it simply builds experience and endurance, and I learn a lot about myself in the process. Believe me when I say I’ve wanted to give up on a dog (several times). I’ve cried in front of my vet, I’ve cried in front of the dog trainers I use (awkward, but you can’t help it). But as my mentor, Sam Malatesta said, “the tough dogs make you good.” Why be like all the other “number-bragging rescues” who grab the easy, young, healthy, “sweet” dogs/puppies and adopt them out to the first person who comes along at Petsmart? The tough dogs teach me, and in turn I can teach others what I’ve learned (you know, the adopters that get duped and don’t want to give up on a dog that – if they returned it – would live its life out in a pen/crate because it has challenging behavior. Boy did that rescue luck out in finding that golden adopter who is up for a challenge.) That’s just the path I’ve taken.

The good news is….

I’m honestly not the only rescue out there that’s trying hard to do their best by the dog and the adopter. There are many very good groups that are skilled at matching a properly vetted/assessed dog with the right home and have a successful adoption. It’s maddening to sort through the crazies and find people who can really read a dog and be honest about its behavior/health challenges (they all have challenges, even dogs from breeders, even if you got them as a puppy – genetics play a huge role). How do you know which rescue to choose?

So what are the characteristics of a GOOD animal rescue?

  1. They’re a registered non-profit. As discussed in my “dog flipper” blog post, some groups are acting as rescues but are truly dog/cat flippers selling animals for profit. You can find out if the non-profit is registered by searching for their name/city on the state’s Secretary of State website under the “business entity search” at the very least, or by searching the IRS’s EO Select Check search tool. Some are very smooth, so before adopting do a quick search just to make sure.
  2. Good rescues won’t have a problem with you coming to their house or facility. Or, if they have you come to their property, ask to use their bathroom so you can see the inside of the building/house. Just like you would interviewing a backyard breeder, there’s no reason they would deny you access to their bathroom (for crying out loud) or coming in to sit down on the couch and spend time with the dog you’re there to see/adopt. If the place is an absolute disaster with dogs in stacked cages, a yard completely bald/no grass because they can’t keep their property up from the quantity of dogs they have, property/house/animals/foster person’s body smelling so bad that it chokes you, and animals covered in fleas/hair loss, PLEASE contact the police and report them (police will contact animal control). There is absolutely zero reason for a dog’s mental and physical health to deteriorate from being in rescue.
  3. If you meet a foster at a location for an adoption because of the distance, take a whiff. Seriously, smell them, smell their vehicle. If the smell is so bad that it knocks you over, you have got to report them to the rescue director. If the director thinks it’s okay, then contact the health department in the foster’s area with as many details as possible to have them stop by and check it out. Chances are probably good that they already know the person and are due to pay a visit.
  4. There should be a trial period for the dog you’ve adopted to where if it doesn’t work out, they’ll take the dog back. Or, if the dog gets sick, they’ll cover vet bills during the trial period. No adopter should ever get a lawyer called on them for vetting a dog and asking for reimbursement for treatment (unbelievable!!)
  5. There is no reason for a rescue to never return your email, phone call, FB message, text, or any other mode of communication. I can’t tell you all the times I’ve tried to direct people to a breed-specific rescue that absolutely never acknowledged their existence. I don’t care if you work 40-60 hours per week (if you’re working that much, should you even be doing rescue?), get someone in the group to answer the email/calls/FB messages and posts, another person to process the applications and do reference checks, another person to do home visits. (I do all of that work myself. Every bit. Including the fundraising. And the creation of things to sell as fundraisers. Me. All of it.) If they have several fosters in the rescue and no one has time to reply, that’s never a good sign. The adopters wait and wait, for months sometimes, then finally throw out there that they’re going to a breeder. And you can’t blame them if they’re being treated like that by a rescue. Breeders have no problem whatsoever getting back to people, I hope rescues are keenly aware of that.
  6. Good rescues are flat-out honest about behavior and health issues. They don’t lie about age, if anything they round up (there’s no harm in saying the dog is older than what it is, it would be the first dog to live to be 25.) If you’ve been doing rescue for a long time, you can read a dog within minutes on health and behavior. There are some behaviors that somehow blossom in adoptive homes (like getting into the trash if the foster home has step cans with a lid to prevent that, or getting into the pantry and dragging a sack of potatoes around the house – that was Smokey, a tiny dog, had no idea he had that much strength), but it should never be so drastic that the dog is trying to kill every human it encounters after the rescue said it was “sweet.”
  7. A foster home should be able to answer direct questions about a dog they’re fostering, i.e. if it’s potty trained. If they say “I don’t know,” oh my gosh… How do you not know? What in the heck is going on in your house, dude?  Too many piles of poop or puddles of pee to know which dog did it? Or is the dog living in an outdoor pen (has no clue to put potty outside, just soils its area)? If so, the adopter deserves to know this so they can make an informed decision as to whether they have the time/energy to adapt a dog to a home environment. There are some rescues that pull dogs on Wed, vet them on Thursday, and have them at adoption events on Saturday. Even if the rescuer is pretty good at reading a dog, there is no way a rescue can know about the dog’s behavior in just a few days, especially if it’s had surgery (brings a dog down a notch). The “numbers game” rescues who want to crank out dogs typically do this, and it’s perfectly legal, but they should be honest with you and tell you they just got the dog and know nothing about it. Side Note: It’s entirely possible the dog could still break with some kind of disease at your house after you adopt it because the rescue didn’t do a quarantine period and they’re adopting it out too fast to know a health history. (I personally feel that’s super dirty to do that to adopters.)
  8. You should get to see vet records beforehand if you want to make sure you’re getting a decently healthy animal. Or allow the adopter to talk to the vet about the pet’s health record. An adoption contract should be signed. The animal should come with a decent amount of paperwork to prove that this dog or cat was cared for while in rescue. They should have their vaccines, spayed or neutered, bathed, toenails trimmed, and free of fleas/ticks and wormed. You shouldn’t ever feel like you’re saving a dog from a rescue, it should already be saved. I’ve taken dogs to adopters and had to bathe the dog (twice because it was so nasty), trim its nails, put on a new collar and throw the nasty collar it had on in the garbage. Ridiculous.
  9. Ask the foster home, “what do you like about this dog?” They should be able to tell you the best and worst qualities about it. If they just sit there, blinking, trying to think, you’re in for a wild card that could turn out to be anything. There’s no such thing as too many questions – everyone involved should want it to be the right fit. If the rescue gets perturbed by your questions, move on. With a bad attitude like that, they won’t help you after the adoption, either.
  10. That’s the last point – helping after the adoption. I always welcome updates, photos (I share the photos so FB fans and supporters can enjoy them, too), celebrations (getting the dog’s CGC), and training/behavior/health questions from my adopters. I even want to hear when it’s time for the dog to cross the bridge (ugh, so heartbreaking.) Rescues that don’t respond to stuff like that, sheesh. Really, how uncool can a rescue be? I know my dogs inside and out, I want to help where I can. If I’m invited to say goodbye or sit with them as they pass, I’ll do it – I consider that an honor to be a part of such a private moment. Otherwise, what are you doing this for?

There’s a famous dog quote from Max V. Stephanitz that says, “Show me your dog and I will tell you what manner of man you are.” If I were to apply that to the rescue world, I’d change it to, “show my your foster dogs and your return rate, and I’ll tell you what level of rescuer you are.” I’ll probably catch flack from this blog (if people actually read it, haha), but hopefully it makes both adopters and rescuers think. Who are you doing it for? The dog, or your ego? When it’s all said and done, the dog and adopter should be satisfied. That’s how you save not only the current dogs, but the shelter dogs that end up in rescue years from now when an adopter chooses to adopt again.

“How Much?” Dog Flippers; How to spot them and how to turn them in.

It’s the long, drawn-out 4th of July week (seems to last two ungodly weeks anymore), so it is the perfect time to post this blog. Currently, with dogs running scared from what seems to be an endless supply of fireworks, this is prime time for dog flippers to kick into gear and “make them some money.” If your pure-bred dog is currently out running loose, you have very good reason to worry. Be vigilant in searching for your dog, do everything you can to get it back. Don’t ever assume it will find its way back home.

Rescuers and shelter staff all know the reality that I’m about to share. We’ve preached it so often that people think we’re nuts. I’m here to set you straight on that in one blog entry. “Maybe people just don’t know?” If that’s the case, then you can’t unknow what you’re about to read/view. So please share this with a friend/co-worker/family member/neighbor that thinks their dog running loose is perfectly fine. Or, share it with pet owners that live in or around areas of town where crime typically occurs, or those living on property that’s easily accessible to the highway (for a quick getaway) so they can be aware. These people watch every detail of your life if they want to steal your dog, they even know your routine of when you let your dogs out so they can reach over the fence and grab it.

What is a “dog flipper” (or “cat flipper”)?

Ah, the mighty scumbag/trash that we like to call “dog flippers.” It’s a special kind of human being. These are people that take free dogs (or cats) off social media or steal them out of yards and sell them to absolutely anyone for any kind of profit. Now, I know it’s unfair to stereotype, however…like my high school Psychology teacher stated, stereotypes exist because often they’re true (not 100% of the time, but most of the time). I can tell a lot by a social media profile, or how they comment on a thread, which alerts me whether someone is a true pet owner, or a dog flipper. The typical comment a dog flipper makes on a thread about a dog being rehomed is “how much?” A true pet owner would say something like, “awww, so cute! I’ve always wanted a [fill in breed/mix here]! Is it still available?” Or “is it good with kids/cats/other dogs/etc.?” The phrase “how much” is cold, kind of like the dog flipper’s soul. I’ve seen them write it on shelter dog photos (where actual pet owners would write, “what is your adoption fee? What are your hours?”) If you don’t believe me, sit back and watch. When you see someone type “how much?”, then go look at their profile and see how many “dogs for sale in such-n-such county” or yard sale pages of which they are members. If not members of any social media groups, then Craig’s List is the best way to hide their activity as seen in this story. I could go on and on with Craig’s List horror stories that I’ve experience, but this blog is already too long.

There are two types of dog flippers.

TYPE 1:  The Cold-Blooded Dog Flipper

There is a sub-level, or “underbelly” as I call it, to our culture that most people have no clue exists. The common American goes to work, returns home, makes dinner for their family, runs the kids to practice or a game, comes home and goes to bed. While you’re out doing your every day routine, there is some seriously sick stuff going on around you that you would not believe. First responders like police, EMS, firefighters, Animal Control Officers (ACO), and those in the field of social work are keenly aware of this lower level of humanity. (All would agree that none of these people should have pets, let alone children.) Many ACOs will tell you the horrors of what humans can do to animals because animals are considered property. Every ACO I meet, I tell them they have to write a book, people wouldn’t believe what they have to endure. Hollywood couldn’t make this stuff up, even the most creative mind can’t imagine anything this sick and twisted. (This is the part where I push “free vasectomies and tubal ligations for anyone that wants one. Send me the bill.”)

Simply put, if this type of person can grab your little mini Aussiedoodle and sell it online for $2,000 “without papers” because “they are moving and can’t keep it” (total lie), they are going to do it without a moment’s hesitation. This type of person has zero moral compass. It has nothing to do with any specific demographic – it has everything to do with how much evil a human body can hold. Some people are just brimming with it.

This segment of our society is where the devil dwells. Corrupt, lazy, selfish people who hand down their wickedness to their children who grow up to do the exact same thing, generation after generation. I understand “it takes all kinds,” but these are people in our society that are as useless as an ashtray on a motorcycle – they don’t contribute anything but destruction and greed, and ultimately make money off of stealing your pet, or buying your pet for $50 and selling it for $150. Drug addictions often add fuel to the fire of their efforts. You’d be surprised to know that these are people that went to school with you. Or, they’re somewhere in your family tree. Boy, can they hide it.

You can count on the fact that these people exist. It’s all over the rescue feeds on social media. Here is a screen shot of one that was shared just the other night:

Screen Shot 2017-07-06 at 7.35.33 AM

And if your dog is intact, they’ll probably breed it. Oh yeah, they will, and not get it any vet care the entire time if it struggles during the pregnancy/whelping because they don’t want to get caught nor do they have the money (which is why they’re stealing it in the first place). You think because you love/cherish your Yorkie or Maltipoo and spoil it, then that means someone else who swipes it while it’s running stray will think it’s cute and love it, too? Wrong. They only love the money they can get from your dog, that’s it. Do you think the guy who swiped the Great Dane is going to love/cherish this dog the rest of its life? The conditions it will live in until it’s sold (or bred), no telling what that’s going to be. I imagine this owner is sick beyond belief (I know I would be).

I went to school with a gal who had someone in a van circling their street. Finally she confronted them and they said they wanted to breed to her Dachshund. She informed them that he’s fixed, and then they left. No, they were going to steal him and sell him, her presence foiled their plan. People get dogs stolen out of yards all the time and sold, and at the time she didn’t have a fenced-in yard so the pickins was easy. People pass your dogs out on underground fence in the front yard by the street and see dollar signs. YOU HAVE GOT TO PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR DOGS!

If you suspect your dog has been stolen from your yard (someone has seen a car circling your street/subdivision), and you have a secure fence that was undisturbed and no evidence of the dog getting out, do not hesitate to call the police. I spoke with my county Sheriff and he said to tell people reading this blog that if you don’t call, they can’t start a case file on the crime. The woman with the stolen Great Dane did exactly right and called the police immediately. It’s a good bet that people who go so far as to push someone down and steal their dog probably have a record, and you’ve got to report them so they can be stopped. (I asked the Sheriff if it would be bothering the police with a matter such as this, and he said, “no –  we can’t help you if you don’t call us.”)

Who do they sell your dog/cat to, you might ask?

Absolutely anyone with the cash in hand (always cash, always out in a parking lot.) What kind of people are out there who have been denied adoption by rescues/shelters yet still think they need a pet? You’ve heard the extreme stories of the idiot guy who throws a kitten on the grill or people who throw animals out the window of a moving car? (The latter happens constantly, by the way. Saw a kitten brought into the vet after someone witnessed it being thrown out a car window on I-65 in broad daylight. The gal jumped off the first exit and went back to try and find it around the guardrail. The skin on its bottom jaw completely degloved, infection set up quickly, they had to euthanize it, kitten finder devastated. Countless stories like this. Not every animal gets a press release sent to the media. But I digress.) Shelters and rescues do the best they can to place a dog in a suitable home with a responsible pet owner. Rescues are a little pickier because they do home visits, shelters have to go on instinct. If a shelter denies someone adoption (because they’re threatening to beat their wife in the shelter’s foyer before they even get back to see the animals up for adoption), then guess where these wackos go to get a pet. Yep, flippers.

If you have a mutt, don’t think it’s safe, either. Even if you have the ugliest mutt around, they can be stolen to be sold to dog dealers who sell to research labs. Here’s a link to a video if you’d like to see a documentary on Class B kennels. Warning: it’s very graphic. Start at 33:15 to bypass the awful content and listen to the undercover video. If you think it’s no big deal to let your dog run loose, you need to force yourself to watch it so that you will understand the gravity of the situation. Pay close attention to the flea market setup where he was selling his dog to the broker. For more information about testing on dogs, click this link (know that I’m not a PETA fan, they’re as deadly as those conducting these experiments, as you can see in this article here. They need to have their non-profit status revoked, in my opinion.)

Sidenote: If a flipper gets tired of trying to sell your dog, they could just give it away for free just to unload their inventory. Or if they have the right breed/temperament of dog, they could still sell it for a minimal fee to a dog fighter. You might have heard people say, “dog fighters pour over Craig’s List or FB groups looking for free dogs/cats to use as bait.” If you think dog fighting doesn’t happen in your area, you are fooled. Check out the documentary titled “Off The Chain” that can be rented for $3 by clicking here. ( <– You will need to mentally prepare yourself to watch that documentary. I wasn’t, I thought I’ve seen everything – my reaction was either to cry or vomit, possibly both.) If you’re in Louisville, you probably remember this story. Or you might want to look up the definition of “trunking.” The ASPCA says dog fighting has really taken off in the past few years, and I would have no doubt it’s because of the advancement of technology. Additionally, if you have a “territorial” type breed/mix, it could be swiped just for this purpose.

(Note: The dog dealers selling to research facilities and dog fighters are precisely why you never post a pet for free online. This is also why I despise the “free adoption weekends” that some shelters put on – these people are such smooth liars. You’d think if you could manipulate people that well then they could get a real job and pay some taxes.)

Cats and kittens aren’t safe from flippers, either. Check out this exchange someone posted on a FB group as a warning to anyone who might be rehoming kittens (if she would have gotten her cat fixed, she wouldn’t have to worry about placing kittens. Contact us, we can help you get your cat fixed!!! But again I digress.)


kitten flipper copy

Again, as these people go to sell your pet you handed them, they don’t care about the type of person that purchases your dog/cat. Rescues do home visits, it’s one of our requirements. We receive all kinds of hell for it, believe me. I was once publicly humiliated for requiring a home visit for Layla, the people projected that – before I even considered them for a home visit – they would probably get denied because of the condition of their property (something about a weedeater not being used. Wha? I swear, people say the craziest things.) My response was basically their anxiety over a possible home visit was enough to deny the adoption. And Layla needed a home with attention to detail and self-disclipline (which she got the best of both worlds with her eventual/current adopter). We get to come into a potential adopter’s home and make sure they don’t have a meth lab in the basement. We don’t expect people to be perfect; we simply expect them to be sane and care for their pet, medically and emotionally. If a person is found unfit to own a pet, they will be denied. Let me reiterate the point I made above, people who are denied can go and get any dog/cat for sale online knowing full well they can get away with all kinds of sick stuff. Like this case here: Take a wild guess how that dog ended up in that condition? (How do you like humanity now? Are you sick yet?) Reputable rescues make sure they’re putting a dog in a home that will love it like it deserves. We’re pretty good at sniffing out liars; the good liars we’ve encountered have sharpened our instincts.

TYPE 2: Dog Flippers Acting As Rescues

Animal rescuers find themselves unknowingly rubbing elbows with these flippers out in public or social media because sometimes they slyly portray themselves as rescuers and ask for an “adoption fee” with their dogs/cats, too. However, their “fee” covers absolutely nothing – you get a hardly vetted or completely unvetted animal who is often very sick, infested with parasites, and/or have behavior issues they’ve uncaringly passed on to your home and family. It gives rescue a bad name, some of us work way too hard to be associated with these weasels of the pet world.

“So how do I make sure I’m adopting from a real rescue and not a flipper?”

It’s dumbfounding how skilled dog flippers are at pulling off appearing to be a rescue, or a “savior of dogs/cats”. A previous adopter experienced this firsthand. Here’s the story.

Adopter finds a dog online that she was interested in adopting. Because I can translate bios, people often send me a link to a dog they’re considering and ask me what I think. I give them feedback as to what they should ask the rescue/foster home and walk them through the decision if the dog would be a good fit for their home or not. In this specific situation, this adopter had recently adopted an adult puppy mill breeder from a rescue in New York that didn’t do much work with it (argh!) The adopter had been in contact with me on how I rehab the breeder dogs, coached her on how to train him, and she got fantastic results rather quickly (took her about 3 months of work). She wanted another dog to help pull the puppy mill dog the rest of the way out of his shell (since they tend to come to life around other dogs, or “borrow another dog’s energy” as I call it.) I told her she’d want a confident, happy dog with strong nerve that has no problem going forward to meet strangers. That’s kind of a hard dog to find in rescue (often rescue foster homes keep these dogs for themselves, sadly not offering them up to the public). If there is one actually posted online, they’re usually already adopted and the listing hasn’t been updated. It was really hard finding the right dog for this family.

One day she sends me this listing on Petfinder of a cute little mix-breed designer dog. The dog was available. They could see it immediately. Wow, that’s shocking. The whole family makes the trip to WV to see the dog with their puppy mill rescue dog joining them for the meet and greet. They video the dog with their puppy mill dog, seemed to be okay. On the ride home they texted me updates how the dog was doing in the car. Out of curiosity (because I had a weird feeling), I asked how much the adoption fee was. She texted back, “$450.” In the name of all things holy… have got to be kidding me. Nope, totally serious. She takes a picture of the “adoption contract” and sends it to me. And I start googling. (Watch and learn, kids…)

First, I go to their FB page. Hardly any activity. They had very few likes. Very few reviews. Red flag #1.

Second, I find their website. It’s basically one page, a website they created themselves, and at the bottom the gal said she had moved back home to Maryland. I text the adopter, “it says they’re based out of Maryland. And you went to West Virginia to get this dog?” She texts back that she was under the impression that the home she was at was THE rescue HQ. Huh. Dog flippers usually get busted in one state, move to another and set up shop again. What’s interesting about this “rescue” website is how they mentioned that they couldn’t believe how many pure bred dogs are in shelters in their area. Somehow they’ve finagled their animal control into allowing them to pull dogs from their facility.

Every non-profit should at the very least have an EIN number (Employer Identification Number) to be considered a non-profit corporation. Click here to see what POMH Rescue’s looks like. Otherwise, they’re an animal flipper making money (for-profit) and doing so illegally (they’re supposed to collect sales tax on dogs AND report their earnings to their state and IRS as income tax.) I look at the name on the adoption contract, the website, and the Facebook page and do a business entity search on Maryland’s Secretary of State’s website. Nothing. I do a business entity search on West Virginia’s Secretary of State’s website. Nothing. If a rescue has accrued $15,000 gross receipts over an average of 3 years ($5,000/yr on average), they’re required to file for their 501(c)(3). So, if you’re asking $450 adoption fees, you’re going to reach that $15,000/yr rather quickly. I go and search for the “rescue” on the IRS’s Exempt Organizations Select Check search of non-profits to see if they were listed. This “rescue” is absolutely nowhere to be found. Red flag #2.

I text my findings to the adopter. She’s instantly sick to her stomach. The good news is, she had the amount she paid on the “adoption contract” and the flipper’s signature. I told her she needs to hold on to that as evidence, call the attorney general’s office to report them to their state’s fraud department as well as the IRS. I also spoke with my county sheriff about this and he said to absolutely call the sheriff in your county if you ever see any kind of illegal behavior going on, this would qualify. If you don’t call them, they can’t investigate.

Report them to the IRS by going here: IRS tax fraud form

To report tax fraud to the state in which they’re living, do a search for “tax fraud” via the state’s Attorney General’s website.

The adopter went on and reported her. She tells me the same “rescuer” had a Standard Poodle they were adopting out for $800 and had someone coming to “adopt it” (buy it) that afternoon. That’s $1,250 tax free income in one day. How long does it take you to make that kind of money? When you finally earn that amount, how much do you actually get to take home after taxes (taxes that flippers are not paying)? And when people get that greedy and sneaky, the animal’s wellbeing is the last thing on their mind. They don’t care where the pet goes after that.

The pet world is a billion-dollar industry, and that’s based on the dollars that are come by honestly. There is no telling how much money these scumbags are making tax-free/under the table. When society gets lazy and disposable, your pets are at risk. Always, always, always be vigilant and keep and eye on your pet, keep your pets on leash if you don’t have a fence, do whatever it takes to keep your pet contained in your yard (it’s the law, anyway). We live in a sick world of scumbag opportunists, that is the reality all pet owners have to face.

You can take steps to keeping your pets safe. Being out with them is always a good idea (on leash), you can also get outdoor surveillance cameras for your home relatively cheap ($100-$200 at Walmart) to ward off dog flippers, and MICROCHIP YOUR PET! There are countless stories online about stolen dogs returned to owners. Collars and I.D. tags can be removed, microchip is where it’s at. You can contact your local shelter and get your pet microchipped for fairly cheap.

If you or someone you know has lost your pet from the fireworks, here are some steps to follow to help find it faster:

lost pet


“If your dog is fat, you’re not getting enough exercise.” ~ Unknown

People have been waiting for me to start this blog for a while. I haven’t jumped into it because I think blogs are pretentious. And since I’m a nobody, why would anyone want to hear what I have to say? However, a high school classmate told me I’m “the George Carlin of rescue,” mostly because people think my outrage is funny (my humor doesn’t even deserve to breathe the same air as George Carlin, he was quite the master of reason and comedic frustration). People crack up at my rants and keep asking me to write something, so here it is. I’ve gone back and forth regarding the very first topic that should have the honor of launching this blog. Surprisingly, the topic I’m picking isn’t rescue related. I’m going with the thing that makes me the most furious…..FAT DOGS.

You want to see me lose my ever-loving mind, waddle a fat dog out in front of me and tell me that you love it. That situation makes me speechless (ask around, I’m never at a loss for words, just look at the length of this blog – so, to witness me stunned silent, it’s a sight to see and an opportunity to behold).

And it’s not just one or two people posting photos on Facebook, or the occasional person I bump into at the vet where I find a fat dog – it’s absolutely everywhere. It’s everybody. It’s people that should know better…and do it anyway. I’ve seen a nurse with a Master’s degree (who is studying to become a Nurse Practitioner) with a free-fed Schnauzer that was so fat that its nub was buried in its plump rump. You could barely see it wag its tail! I bring her dog’s excessive weight to her attention. In a shocked response, she says to me, “she’s SOLID!” and pats the dog on the side. Sounded like someone was patting the tree trunk of a 150-yr-old Oak tree. “Yeah, solid FAT,” was my response (angered at the fact that this dog is probably going to be diagnosed with Diabetes soon, a common Schnauzer ailment if they’re obese, ending their life entirely way too soon).

I’ve had friends text me pictures of fat dogs, and pretty much everyone makes sure to point out a fat dog if they’re in my presence just to see my reaction. I’m hard on my adopters if they allow a POMH alumni dog to get fat, the ones that have will tell you that they got a lecture (and slimmed down their dog). I will stop someone in their tracks and praise them for a proper-weight dog, it’s such a beautiful and rare thing that I can’t help myself when I finally see one. If I died tomorrow, people who have known me will go through life and think of me with each fat dog that crosses their path by saying, “if Lauren was here, she’d die!” I’ve at least taught a few people to identify it, that’s why I’m writing about it; so others can be aware and change their dog’s life for the better.

The thing that I’ve noticed over the years of doing rescue is that people will go wild over a Facebook post of a skin and bones dog that was picked up by animal control. Rescues who take in the starved dog raise all kinds of sick money from the fury that arises from the community. Where are those same people when they see a dog that’s morbidly obese? It takes empathy to feel sorry for the skinny dog. The morbidly obese dogs, no one feels empathy for it. They think it’s cute, loved, etc. People have actually been proud of it, like it’s evidence of how well they can love something. A dog that can barely move or breathe is proof that they’re a good-natured person. Where does this idea come from? I have tried making sense of that but I can’t find the reasoning behind it at all. Countless times I’ve taken in fat dogs, showing the video of them struggling to exist, then thin them down to a fit weight eliciting applause from my Facebook followers. They see a depressed, fat dog turn into an energetic, fit, happy dog. Yet, for some reason people can’t step outside of themselves, examine their own dog’s weight, and give them the same gift of a fit existence. I just shake my head. If I can do it, anybody can do it.

Like I’ve said before on my website, I’ve known Sam Malatesta since November 2004. I’ll never forget that November seminar – it completely changed the way I look at a dog. And like most seminars given by gifted dog behaviorists, once you know it, you can’t un-know it. You’re haunted for the rest of your life with this newfound knowledge. He was then, and is to this day, the ONLY dog trainer I’ve encountered (and I’ve attended/watched countless seminars, classes, youtube channels, week long training camps, and online courses) that talks seriously and directly about fat dogs. Sam is a drive-based trainer and stresses how important the food drive is to a dog.

The food drive, if this is the first time you’ve heard this term, is the foundation of a dog/handler relationship. The professionals all use food drive to some degree, whether it’s treats during training in the beginning, or the feeding routine; just about every great trainer I’ve met is in control of it, their dogs have intense focus, and they are well-adjusted, peppy dogs. Here’s a video that I just love watching that perfectly demonstrates food drive with a young dog: Dog Training With Food Drive

Sam taught me all about the fat dog. How a fat dog doesn’t need you. How fat dogs most certainly don’t look at you like the Doberman in that video above. Look how happy that Dobe is working for the handler! If the dog is fat, and is free-fed (no feeding routine, just a full bowl at all times so the dog can graze when it wants), they don’t perform like that. Their “affect” (the experience of feeling or emotion, in this case intensely involved with the stimuli/handler) isn’t even in the same ballpark. Moreover, if the fat dog got out/ran off, what reason would it have to come back? There is no feeding schedule that makes it return home at dinner time, no sound of a bowl being filled with food to make it salivate and come running (or stick close). As well, it has enough fat on its body to last it a few weeks with drinking water out of puddles and streams it encounters on its journey across the landscape. You can’t train fat dogs because they’re “full” – no treat you have to offer is going to make them fully engage. I’ve seen fat dogs roll around a piece of hotdog in their mouth and spit it on the floor. And if they kinda/sorta sit for a treat, they’re not that eager – they’re basically sitting there to get it because what else do they have to do? I’ve had fat dogs come into rescue that were completely embittered by their physical “fat prison” in which they’re incarcerated. They can’t move as fast as other dogs, and they know it; sometimes that makes a dog so insecure that they turn aggressive or reactive. Worst of all, the fat body shortens a dog’s life with diabetes, pancreatitis, tearing ligaments, and suffering with spine issues and pain (fat Dachshund owners should be ashamed of themselves – anything with a long back is guaranteed spine issues when the dog is overweight). But….we love them, right?

A recent article posted about fat dogs/cats in America: 1 in 3 Pets are Overweight

With all that said, I want everyone to consider this: If we know better than to have a fat dog, then why do we continue to do it?

I have criticized fat dog owners for years. I can count on one hand how many people who have actually slimmed their dog down. One of them is a gal named Beth, who did a fantastic job slimming her dogs down to a fit weight (with one dog in particular, a senior Airedale at that, she had to hire a trainer because it had newfound energy that was unmanageable. Outstanding!) Now that she’s slimmed her Airdale down by about 23 lbs and her toy poodle down from 7.8 to 5 lbs (that doesn’t sound like a lot, but that’s over 1/3 of its body weight. Think about that…what would it be like for YOU to lose/gain 1/3 of your body weight), I had to ask her what it was like for her to go through it all. She said it was very hard emotionally. I asked her specifically what made it hard, and here’s her response:

“Here’s where my mind use to be. If my dog wanted food I wanted her to have all she wanted because she loved food. Never facing the fact that I was slowly killing her. When she struggled to stand from a sitting position and struggled more from a lying position I would think she needed to lose weight as if she could calculate the appropriate food intake. Free feeding was my way of giving my dog food whenever she wanted it.

As I began reading your posts on making dogs fat (therefore creating health problems, decreasing activity, and sending them to an early grave), I began to think about my responsibility as a dog owner. No longer could I say I loved my dog if I was creating health problems and destroying her ability to walk and run. I saw the truth in your statements describing a happy, healthy, well mannered dog with boundaries. My dog was so far from happy, healthy and well mannered that I was ashamed of myself. I’m working diligently to love my dog completely.”

Below are before and after photos of Madison. Look at how far apart her front feet are to hold herself up in the first photo, and take note of the size of her head compared to her body. Photo on the right is the new Madison showing off her waist and proportional head size. That’s 23 lbs of fat between those two photos – hard to imagine that she has lost the weight comparable to the weight of an average human toddler. (How many of you out there would like to lose 23 lbs? We can send you to Beth’s house!)


Putting a dog on a diet usually means two things – 1) the dog gets more exercise and 2) the dog gets fed less. The “15 minute rule” applies so there’s no free-feeding, an appropriate food routine is established (where you put the bowl of food on the floor, dog has 15 minutes to eat it, then pick it up after 15 minutes). So twice a day, 15 minutes, that’s it. That’s the food drive. It doesn’t sound hard, so I’m curious as to why it would be emotionally hard for our culture to implement?

This is the part that can send you down the rabbit hole.

Listening to a Joe Rogan podcast guest starring Robert Sapolsky (Standford University professor, neuroendocrinologist, and author) while I was landscaping, it hit me. Before you go any further, listen to it yourself here (the whole interview is fascinating but it starts at the point to which I’m referring. If you really want your mind blown, start from the beginning): Joe Rogan Interviews Prof. Robert Sapolsky

I’m not a scientist, doctor, or vet. However, I want to see if maybe this might make sense to those who can’t bring themselves to drop the excess weight off of their dogs. If someone has made a comment to you about how fat your dog is, think about this long and hard, and be honest with yourself as a human being.

Oxytocin is the “cuddle hormone” that moms get after giving birth to a baby (a common mammal thing). Research states, like Sapolsky mentions in the interview above, that humans and dogs get high on Oxytocin when one looks into the other’s eyes. Note that this does not happen in wolves (who just give off Oxytocin at birth, not by a gaze.) So it’s crossing species, as Sapolsky points out. You don’t think maybe that might be a weakness in our fat dog epidemic?

What increases Oxytocin in humans? Go down this list and consider the feeling each of these items give you:

– Hanging out, laughing with your friends
– Watching your favorite band play live
– Getting an invigorating massage
– Singing
– Dancing
– Seeing a 4 star movie
– The rush of emotions you got when your child was born
– Hugging
– Giving away money
– Showing pets affection

Those are Oxytocin highs. It is a powerful feeling. It’s so powerful that Oxytocin can help relieve withdrawl symptoms from narcotics or alcohol. It’s so powerful that it can increase the social skills of people with Autism (another function of the Autism service dogs).

Are people driven to get the Oxytocin high? There’s research on social media and the way it affects the brain, that people do in fact get a high from using it (from a variety of “feel good” hormones). We all know a “selfie addict.” Next time you go out in public, look around at all the people staring at their phones (a new term called “Phubbing” – phone snubbing)…it’s super rude to do that to the people at your dinner table, the very people who hugging or looking into their eyes will give you an Oxytocin high, but your face is in your phone. You can let your mind wander about this topic; science has just recently caught on to how influential this specific hormone actually is. So one has to consider, hearing all this and looking at the list above, notice the last entry – “showing pets affection.” If Oxytocin wires your child, lover, or pet to your reward system in your brain, and so does social media, what are your chances of getting your dog down to a fit weight once you realize how our culture can’t control our social media attraction? So, I’m wondering if the amount of anguish you would endure by cutting off all access to social media would also be equivalent to putting your dog on a diet? Prepare for it to be that much of a lifestyle change. The correlation of the two would make for some fascinating research.

You can see why people say “it’s so hard.” One could also say some people project their food needs/addiction onto the dog (over-identification) and having to divide the two – your food need versus their food need – could be what makes this tough. The dog will be completely fine, I assure you – they’re far more resilient than we are. After all, you don’t see dogs on Dr. Phil crying and throwing a tantrum when all the sugary foods are removed from the house.

“You made me feel bad, now how do I put my dog on a diet?”

Body Condition Chart

Check out this chart and see which one describes your dog and confirm where your dog is on the scale. First doggie diet step you take is make sure your dog doesn’t have a thyroid problem. Consult your vet and ask them the steps you need to take in order to bring your pet’s weight down. They will look at you like you’re from Mars – nobody makes appointments to put their dog on a diet plan. You will probably be the first person, or one of a few, who has done so in their entire vet career. You’ll need to give your vet a minute to pick himself/herself up off the floor. Note: if your dog is fat according to this chart (can’t feel the dog’s ribs) and your vet says the dog is fine, you need to find a new vet. You are going to a vet that wants to make money off of prescription diet dog food and insulin injections, they do not care about you or your pet’s wellbeing.

Your dog is either one of two types of fat dogs:

1) The Grazer: These are the dogs that will flip the bowl, bury it in their dog bed or couch cushions, or just take a mouthful and sprinkle it all over the floor and leave it for later. For these dogs, I implement the 15 minute rule – if the dog doesn’t eat it in 15 minutes, I pick it up or whatever is left over and save it for the next meal. It can take dogs on average 3 days to understand what’s going on and get into the routine, and I’ve had one really fat dog take almost 2 weeks to get into the routine. For additional information, check out Pat Miller’s book entry here: 15 Minute Feeding Routine. Remove all treats temporarily, you really have to measure the dog’s actual intake of ALL food. Make note of how much food the dog is actually eating each day, subtract what is left over in the bowl that they refuse to eat/leave behind, and you should be able to find the correct amount (if the dog is always leaving food in the bowl, you’re probably feeding too much.)

2) The Gobbler: These are the dogs that do eat every tidbit you give them, cramming it in their gut (so nobody else gets it), shockingly have no problem following the 15 minute rule, and yet are still fat. The way I put this type of dog on a diet is, I ask the person surrendering the dog how much food the dog has been fed on a regular basis (because clearly that’s too much), and I cut it back by 1/4. So if the fat dog is getting 1 cup 2x day, I give it 3/4 cup 2x day. That’s where you start (cutting back too much could make the dog “hangry”.) If you have a really small dog, counting out 10 pieces of kibble less out of the scoop before you pour it in the bowl will have a great effect. It doesn’t seem like it, but 10 pieces of kibble off of what you actually measure can sometimes be monumental.

I don’t train fat dogs until their food drive is up (they won’t do it anyway, they can barely move. It would be hard on their body if you did have them do obedience.) In the meantime, I walk the dog short distances in ideal weather (fat dogs can easily overheat, be very careful) and closely monitor the weight loss and see how the dog is doing.

Quality of the dog food is also essential since the low-end dog food contains carbs like corn (used to fatten up livestock, hello) and will put pounds on your dog at an alarming rate. Switching to a limited ingredient food is the secret (or possibly raw eventually, but do your research and go very slowly. How much diarrhea can you handle is the question. “Dogs don’t get diarrhea from raw!” Yeah, well a few of mine did. Not all dogs are the same.) You do not need the insane-protein-laden dog food for active dogs (remember, yours is fat, let’s be honest about the lifestyle you’ve currently got going for it. This is not a hunting dog or herding dog that runs for 6 hours a day, it’s a pet. A fat pet.) Just a nice, mid-level dog food to switch to is all you need. Not the “diet” dog food, just feed it less and exercise it more (the same is true with people who diet properly – eating healthy and exercise = results.) Some people add green beans until the dog’s stomach shrinks a bit (The Gobbler dogs), that’s okay. I’ve personally only had to do that a few times but for just a couple of weeks.

Getting your dog on the right path to weight loss takes a mild amount of effort, and shouldn’t be difficult except for the emotional stuff you go through. Several months from now, the difference will be amazing. When you go on vacation, your dog will eat when it’s boarded, keeping its immune system elevated so it doesn’t become sick, as well keeping the dog’s stress level down because it has a familiar feeding routine. If a dog is kept at the vet for injury or illness, the functioning feeding routine can help it recover quickly.

If you need more proof that dog diets work and benefits everyone/everything surrounding the effort, just watch this video: Fat Dog/Human Journey

For those who know their dog is fat and yet don’t get the dog’s weight under control, I have no words for them. I do have this graphic that sums up their mentality (in my opinion):

misery movie

I’d love to hear from anyone out there that hunkers down and decides to give their dog the best life it can have. Email, FB message, or post on our FB wall your success stories so we can celebrate with you!

Blog at

Up ↑