Definition of a “Good Shelter”

On our social media we will share shelter dogs and cats that are in “red alert” – in danger of being euthanized. Many shelters will add details about the dog/cat with a “euth date” listed so you know what kind of timeframe the dog or cat has before the vet or certified euthanasia tech shows up to put it to sleep. (NOTE: If you think those posts are too heartbreaking, then you should see the email blasts we rescues get. There’s a group out of New York that writes boldly the euth date and the words “to be destroyed.” First time I saw that a few years ago it took my breath…because that’s EXACTLY the term that should be used. “Euthanized” is such a palatable word, “destroyed” is more accurate, I think.)

When I share these animals, I ask our fans to share with others so a rescue or home might be open to taking it in. Oftentimes, in response, I will have comments from the virtue signaling public – things like, “That’s awful! That shelter needs to be closed down! That baby needs a home, not killed!”

And you will see me reply with something like this:

“Good shelters share the animals that aren’t going to make it out alive in hopes that they can be saved by rescues or an adopter. Bad shelters won’t say a word and euthanize them because they don’t want to put forth the effort, never giving the animal a chance to be saved.”

And that’s basically the definition of a good shelter – shelters who try. I’ll elaborate more for those virtue signaling, cross-posting “Karens” who don’t foster, don’t transport across the states when we need it (click here to see a typical run sheet for those who might be so inclined), don’t donate towards medical bills, or at the very least don’t share the post but instead blab all over it so their friends can see what a big heart they have.

Listen, Karen…. Our shelters are full because people refuse to get their animals fixed. I set up at a dog event this past Labor Day weekend and just about every animal there was intact. People swear they’re a dog whisperer and think they have total control over their intact dog. I sit there listening to this while the dog is choking itself on the leash or it’s peeing all over my booth, and I’m thinking, “sure, your dog is under control, you can’t even walk it on a loose leash or catch it before it hikes its leg. Come on, Felicia, stop kidding yourself.” And if Felicia wants to keep kidding herself, I have a photo that popped up the other day on social media that I must share so you can understand how crafty animals can get when they succumb to their hormones.

dogs mating through fence

That would be two dogs mating through a fence. Ah yes, the female “safe inside a fenced-in yard” backed her fanny up to the fence and welcomed the male who was happy to oblige. They mate through crates. And without the human knowing anything ever happened. (Don’t get me started on cats.)

DID YOU KNOW? That a freshly neutered male dog can still get an intact female dog pregnant a few weeks after it is neutered? I was bawled out on Facebook by some dog people a few weeks ago for not knowing this. I know someone this has happened to, and so did everyone else on that thread. I’m still currently researching this (there’s not much research on it, actually), but here’s an article showing research on sperm being stored in a female’s reproductive tract, for dogs it’s up to 9 days. If it can be stored in a female’s reproductive tract, it is definitely staying alive in the male’s reproductive system until it is flushed. Proof is what human vasectomy patients are told – not to have sex for several weeks until they are healed AND clear of sperm. So to be clear, “no testicles” does not mean “instantly sterile.” How many shelters and rescues adopt out freshly neutered male dogs? A lot of them! (OMG.) They still have hormones, they will still seek out a dog in heat, they can still reproduce. Let that sink in for a minute.

The result of dogs and mother nature outsmarting us humans is a social media post like this one here:

dumb dog breeder

The people who need to be blamed for the shelter dogs being euthanized isn’t the shelter staff that works like mad to try and save the animals in their facility (nights and weekends networking them off the clock without being paid), but it’s fools like these dog owners in that photo that cause most of the issues (and then get desperate to get rid of the puppies and hand them over to individuals that probably shouldn’t be trusted driving a car let alone being in charge of a living creature). Mother Nature can’t be controlled or outsmarted. She will always win/find a way, and she will enjoy the victory lap while you’re baffled over her mad skill. In the end, it’s not Felicia that’s holding the dogs she’s created as they breathe their last breath in the shelter; it’s the shelter staff who carry that heartbreak around with them. But Felicia doesn’t care about anyone but herself, nor does she care that YOUR tax dollars are paying for her indiscretions – if you look closer, it’s a common thread across many aspects of Felicia’s life. People like Felicia are amoebas – a below-average hedonist who is motivated just enough to move away from mild discomfort.

If you would like to see the typical shelter list of dogs the Felicias in my area are creating (and not taking back if the owner can’t keep them), this is the ongoing/current list of dogs at the Louisville, KY animal control facility (every shelter across the country looks like this): Current Dogs at Louisville Metro Animal Services

To recap – good shelters network their dogs. It is an unrelenting battle to keep the runs open for the next surrendered or stray animal. It takes the effort of several people to network a single dog to open up one dog run at a shelter – it’s maddening. Take this situation for instance; look how much effort and money it will take to save/find adopters for this many animals (and just one person created this chaos): Lexington, KY Rescue Seeks Help

Over the years I have had several people who were making out their will ask me what shelter is good so they can leave a legacy donation. Aside from what I wrote above, here’s the list I give them.

Good shelters:

  • Have a lengthy list of pre-approved rescues (home visit completed to ensure they’re not hoarders) that they call upon if they are full or if they get in an animal that won’t do well in the shelter environment. (Rescues should be in contact with the shelters regularly seeing what they can do to help, that is the #1 reason for a rescue’s existence. This ideally is a welcomed symbiotic relationship.)
  • Have a behavior assessment program and are honest (to the best of their ability) with the public and rescues about an animal’s temperament and reason for surrender. (NOTE: No one should mislead anyone about a dangerous dog, rescues included. This should be common sense, but sometimes shelters sugar-coat to keep from killing. That is completely unfair and goes against the #1 reason for a shelter’s existence = to keep the public safe.)
  • Have an extensive volunteer program where dogs get walked, are shown at adoption events, or taken out for a day on the town. They also have “approved” kitten/puppy foster homes at the ready so they don’t catch disease in the shelter and die needlessly. You know Felicia (above puppy photo) isn’t vaccinating her pups before she gets rid of them and a parvo outbreak is very likely to happen.
  • Have programs like “train to adopt” where the dogs are learning things like manners and obedience to help mitigate their chances of being returned to the shelter for an undesirable behavior. (Humane Society of Missouri wins best shelter hands-down on this bullet point. Outstanding work, I’ve seen it with my own eyes during a seminar I attended at their St. Louis facility.)
  • Have cat adoption displays at the local pet stores and have volunteers that clean/feed/check on them on a regular basis. 
  • Help people get their animals fixed when they can’t afford it, even when the spay/neuter voucher doesn’t cover the full surgery – they find a way. If the stars line up correctly and Felicia finally does decide to get her dog spayed, we need to make sure it happens.
  • Come in during Thanksgiving and Christmas to take care of the animals in their facility (vs putting them down so they don’t have to come in).
  • When they have open runs, are willing to help take the pressure off other area shelters who are in dire “red alert” (at risk of euthanizing because they’re so full and no open runs/cages) by taking in some of their animals. Also, good shelters who have been helped will give a shoutout to the other shelter who helped them and not imply they did it on their own. There’s no shame in needing help, it happens to everyone.
  • When an animal is lost/found, they are shared on social media in hopes of returning the animal to the owner asap. Shelters should NEVER not scan an animal for a chip or go against a stray hold period and euthanize it before the owner has a chance to find it. It happens, sadly. That’s the worst. I know too many people that this has happened to.

That’s a lot of criteria, much of it is asking people to burn a ton of energy to help the animals in our communities. Your shelter staff makes minimum wage or just above that, so it truly is a calling. I hope the Karens of this world take all of this into consideration next time she shreds them on social media. Hey Karen, try fostering when they’re full; there’s no reason why you’re not part of the solution, too.

And as always, PLEASE spay and neuter your pets! If you or a Felicia in your life needs help, don’t hesitate to send us a message or email!


“I thought my dog knew I was the Alpha…”

I’m not a professional dog trainer, but I’m a constant student of dog behavior. I’ve learned something from each and every trainer I’ve hired and seminar/workshop/camp I attended since 2002. With this blog, I want readers to learn what I have learned as the “average pet owner,” and I want to inspire those who are willing to examine themselves and the relationships they have with the dogs (personal or fosters) in their care. With this blog entry specifically I’m covering the topic of being Alpha.

Everyone thinks they’re an Alpha. 

If you’re from this area and involved with the dog community, you’re already aware that I predicted a dog bite last year. I blew my lid because I saw it coming for months and nothing was done. People kept sending me screenshots – some commiserating with the dog, some hoping I would say something (a few people in rescue can actually read a dog, that’s a relief). If you want to know the absolute truth, I knew it was going to happen when the photo of the dog was first sent to me, I saw the stress in his body. When I saw him in public last summer, he looked troubled. As the dog continued living in the home with 8 other untrained dogs, nine months had passed and the growling, challenging, and threats increased. The dog’s thyroid was tested – it was normal. If you go back and look at the series of events, it’s painfully obvious to those who know dog behavior that the dog kept saying he was uncomfortable, and his stress went completely ignored. He’s not a “bad dog” because he warned his owner for months that he was going to bite but didn’t, and that makes him honest, IMO. I mean, how much closer can a dog get to saying, “I don’t like this!” He’s a strong dog with a very high IQ who doesn’t tolerate B.S. The stress, pressure, anxiety, and misunderstanding this dog endured was way above his threshold.  

So, this past New Years the stressed dog sent his owner to the hospital. He bit the owner so hard that they had to X-ray their arm to see if any bones were broken. I’m sure it was terrifying, no doubt. He wanted to make sure that the owner was put in their place; it worked, and all of the other dogs watched it happen. “He’s calm now,” was their response. That’s only because he won. Those well-versed in aggression will say that bite was personal to that dog, and once it gets personal then the risk of another bite increases drastically. Even after I informed the owner that this was going to happen months before (so it wouldn’t get to this point), that the owner (and the dog) needed structure/management through the instruction of a trainer who specializes in dogs with aggression (preferably a trainer who would show the owner what kind of an owner they need to be to own this dog, not just focus on obedience). Instead, the owner did nothing to ease his stress and kept on with business as usual. Finally, when the bite did occur, the owner said they had no idea why it happened. I was floored. At one point the owner said they thought he understood that they were the Alpha. I shake my head. The outburst of aggression was blamed on an assumed seizure, a bad batch of preventative, or someone snooping around the property therefore assuming the dog was being protective. (If the dog was being protective, then why did he bite the owner who he was supposed to be protecting?) The owner doesn’t see their role in this bite at all.

The key to this entire situation (and others like it) is “what happened right before the bite?” Any dog professional that receives a bite can explain why it happened. In hindsight, they would examine the trigger stacking (click here for info), or Sam would explain to the owner how things escalated on the Predatorial Arch as presented in this video. Overall, the dog wouldn’t bite an owner it respected. And that comes down to whether the owner is a true dominant (mischaracterized as Alpha).

What is an Alpha or “Dominant”?

This all reminds me of an argument I got into with a high school classmate’s younger brother years ago. I pointed out that there is a lack of “true alphas” (meaning “true dominants”) in our society. He came at me thinking it was absurd that I would encourage the overbearing primate-like behavior that would beat the ever-living crud out of people in their social group to gain the top position. It surprised me to hear that he thought that was the definition. In all my education from working with dogs, that’s not what I was taught at all, which I explained to him and he still refused to believe. I’m surprised to hear there are many people who think this is the definition based on hearsay – it’s not based on reality. Before we go further, here’s a link that you MUST watch:

Click here to watch this 15 minute video for the definition of “Alpha Male” from the man who coined the term when relating to the primates.

If you didn’t watch that video, the rest of this blog won’t make sense. Go back and make sure you watch it before reading on.

Isn’t that incredible?! “But primates are different from wolves, and wolves are the ancestors to our pet dogs.” Okay, let’s look at what happens to an Alpha wolf – based on my classmate’s younger brother’s definition – that field biologists deemed aggressive: Alpha Wolf video that you must watch!

The confusion is the difference between the concept of “dominant” and “domineering.” After watching those two videos, do you see the difference? This is the key component to dog behavior that I learned from Sam Malatesta 14+ years ago. You will not hear this from any other trainer – they all just focus on technique and desensitization. In my opinion, there are 3 components to dog training (I call it the Training Trinity):

  1. The pure positive approach where the dog is patiently assessed and then worked through the behavior (conditioning/counter-conditioning).
  2. The balanced/aversive trainers who teach the dog the concept of “yes” as well as “no” so the dog can see clear boundaries.
  3. Sam’s role of changing the owner/handler into what the dog needs before any training happens. The dog’s needs come before the handler’s self-importance.

Option 1 and 2 are completely useless if you don’t have option 3 in order, believe me (this is what I look for in adopters. I don’t care if they taught a dog to sit, I want to see what kind of person they are.) Seminar to seminar, student by student, Sam has been undoing this misconceived definition since the idea of “being Alpha to your dog” caught on like wildfire in our society from a famous TV show dog behaviorist. In order to lead a dog, or anyone for that matter, one has to be “truly dominant” (not “domineering”).

To oversimplify it in a way that it made sense to me (yes, I realize this is not the textbook definition)…

Alpha = “The top position of the hierarchy.”

True Dominance = “The nature of the person that sits righteously at the top.”

Dog trainers just get this stuff, it’s like they were born with the right temperament to train assertive dogs. For those of us who aren’t trainers, the best way I know how to get people to grasp the feeling of dominance is to ask them to describe a person they’ve met socially or worked with that, when they enter the room, people stop what they’re doing to willingly listen to what they have to say or pay attention. To you the reader – think of someone you’ve worked with, someone you looked up to (mentor) that could always gain attention without saying a word or demanding the spotlight; they just got it based on who they were. If you could run down a list of qualities that you like about this person, what would they be?

I was curious how many people were walking around with the same misconception – do people believe what my classmate’s younger brother’s definition of “alpha” was, or were they aware of Frans de Waal’s thoroughly researched opinion on Chimpanzees? Women usually described an Alpha as someone that was overall “nurturing” or a peacemaker (which I thought was interesting). Men, on the other hand, were very quick to answer this question (and boldly so!) They knew precisely the attributes and instantly started firing them off. Their list of attributes of a true dominant are:

  • Structured
  • Confident
  • Mastery (of their field)
  • Trains/mentors others
  • Motivates
  • Willing and able
  • Disciplines appropriately and fairly
  • Reciprocal respect
  • Honest
  • Takes responsibility
  • Openness
  • Seeks knowledge (growth)
  • Forbearance
  • Warrior/hero
  • Calculating
  • Physically fit (takes care of himself/herself)
  • Someone who is able to force himself/herself to do what he/she doesn’t want to do.
  • Does what is right (according to their belief system) regardless of consequences.
  • Accepts consequences of all actions, good/bad/unfair, and keeps moving forward.
  • Doesn’t really fear anything (from a societal pressure perspective).
  • A man/woman who harnesses the darkness to move towards the light.

NOTE: I did get a few men that got upset over the question (similar to my classmate’s younger brother’s reaction). I was intrigued by that. One guy said the concept of “Alpha”-ism as applied to human behavior, “is a pathological and social fetish.” Wow. I have a feeling he struggles with the ladies. Any woman out there find that kind of response attractive? I certainly don’t. I can tell you now an assertive dog wouldn’t follow a guy like that, and a confident woman would never associate with him, either. But I digress.

Without mentioning my research for this blog, I randomly texted Sam Malatesta asking him to describe his idea of what a “true dominant” human looks like, here are the attributes he texted back (keep in mind he’s always seated in the mindset of a confident dog because he doesn’t own easy dogs):

  • Patient
  • Assertive
  • In control
  • Allows subordinates to serve
  • Outs the subordinates in their capacity or ability
  • Will act when defied and conversely reward willingly as appropriate
  • Has no use for those who are not an asset
  • Isn’t afraid to walk alone
  • Everything you touch must be better for it
  • Those who challenge know there are consequences and will have to prove their worth
  • Would never strip someone/something of its ability to think.

Men from around the world, different walks of life, from different generations, all had a similar opinion. That was wild to uncover!

Looking at that list from a dog training perspective, I definitely have my downfalls as a dog trainer/rehabilitator. Sam constantly has to remind me to be patient. Additionally helpful, Sam has coined the “Scale of Dominance” so we humans can better understand it from a dog’s perspective (vs. the human understanding above). I asked him to write a bit on the topic (below in red) so people could better understand this concept. He starts with having the dog owner ask themselves these three questions:

“Let’s start with three questions I ask all my students…




Scale of Dominance : (Stable or Volatile )

The scale of dominance is a template for evaluating your dog and yourself as to whom we are expected to be in our dog’s eyes. In essence, using this scale allows us to evaluate ourselves and stay one or two steps above our dog’s level of dominance. This template breeds stability in the handler-dog relationship. In many situations, we note a dog who acts volatile and unpredictable, therefore compromising stability. Then, equally so, the handler shows the same symptoms. This is quite common. Let’s look at the scale first.

Do you Know What your dog knows: Evaluate yourself in all situations; are you level or unpredictably volatile?

Human Scale:

5) Strong, assertive, calm. Dominant enforcer –  Instills correction (after earning the right to correct through relationship building and training) in a confidant manner and seldom has to repeat themselves. Commanding presence; “Nothing happens unless I say so.”

4) Firm, assertive, speaks once and the task is completed, i.e. you say “come” and the dog responds immediately, or “leave it” an the dog ignores things without repetition.

3) Level and calm – offers guidance and doesn’t allow failure.

2) Over-corrects if cornered or threatened. Fears losing control – resents dog’s behavior. 

1) Fearfully submissive (handlers fear what dog will do next). Afraid to correct behavior, suffers guilt if correction is carried out. Uses appeasement to gain affection and seeks it as well. This is a needy owner.

0) Looks for easy, immediate solutions for self-gratification. Just like an omega wolf, snatches food and then over-seeks affection from its pack members. This person’s life is governed by their dog and its issues as opposed to solving the issues by seeing how they are created and teaching the dog to fit into their life. Dogs don’t recall or stay on the property, that is the first indicator of a 0 that I look for.

Dog Scale:

5) Focused, self-assured, does not look for trouble. Will address and solve the issue with corrective aggression when pushed or intruded upon. This dog controls its owner and other dogs in its presence. Submissive dogs tend to bow down and submissive owners tend to get corrected (bitten or growled at) by this dog.

4) Bold and confident, in your face without aggression. Holds its ground when threatened. Does not engage into dog fights nor prey on small children. Has good level of drive and focus.

3) Level dog. Not aggressive or overly hyper. Driven – nice balance of prey and defense drive. Does not react at all. Analyzes and comes up with positive end result (this is the dog I strive to have and the ideal dog).

2) Fear aggressive. Shows signs of hesitation and when cornered will bite. Is a back stabber – bites from behind. You could pet this dog and then all of a sudden it bites. This dog engages in fighting. As a puppy it was forced to submit. Trouble with focus. Misconceived by many as being dominant. This dog is usually found in homes with multiple dogs or over-coddling. Has submissive type owners.

1) Fearfully-/overly-submissive. Could bite however could also show affection. Dog suffers from a confused state of needing affection and appeasing. Will tend to bully puppies and pin them. Tends to jump on children or avoid them completely. Shows high anxiety in some situations and calm in another. Barks at nothing. Overreacts and then withdraws. Likes to hide under tables. Also found in homes with multiple, ungoverned dogs and owners who overly seek affection. 

0) Totally fearful, withdraws. Submissively urinates or defecates. It is usually a target of aggression from other dogs and is pinned/mounted quite often as an adult. Panics when confronted even on leash. Shows no aggression, however could possible harm children due to its low self-esteem. Tends to pick at food or possesses things and runs off.

The 0 to 2 rankings are where our problems lie for both dog and human simply because owners act in the same manner. I wouldn’t trust a 0 through 2 dog with children. If you have a 3 dog, you need to be a 4 human. If you have a 2 dog, you need to be a 3 human. And if you have a 4 dog, you need to be a 5 human. The problem is many people have dogs that are 4s, and most owners – those who stay in the positive reenforcement “infantile” stage (not moving out of the food drive stage) – present themselves as 2s when things are quiet but 0 to 1 when there is controversy/triggers. It takes strength, perseverance, and courage to build a dog and raise them out of the lower rankings to a 3 (the goal) based on who they are (the 3 questions above). Destruction of a dog is created with appeasement, entitlement, and submission of the owner/handler.”

©Malatesta, Sam (2017) One With Dog: Whelping Box Theory. Manuscript in preparation.


Photo of Sam I took of his three German Shepherds during a seminar. There was no “place” command, they settle on their own, never leave his side, and don’t interfere. How do you suppose he got them to that level of existence?

The owner’s dog mentioned at the beginning, as I said earlier, is a strong dog with a very high IQ who doesn’t tolerate B.S., as well he fairly warned them for several months that he wasn’t happy before he bit. On dog scale of dominance, where do you think he ranks? After reading the human scale of dominance, do you think the owner ranks higher or lower than him? If he out-ranks the owner, that’s not a good match and there will be conflict in their relationship. (Where do you think the men rank that got upset over me pitching the true dominance question?)

Most seasoned, professional dog trainers, if they don’t agree with Sam’s Scale of Dominance, will agree with this for dog owners:

A true dominant…

  • Reads their dog and themselves honestly.
  • Meets the dog’s mental, physical, and emotional needs.
  • If they don’t know what they’re doing (and is honest about that), they’ll hire a qualified professional that can help them to understand.
  • Is relentless in their pursuit to learn.
  • If a trainer is hired, they DO THEIR HOMEWORK. The dog isn’t going to learn to sit or down (mere tricks) then give up its autonomy – that has to be earned. How do you earn that? Develop a relationship. How do you develop a relationship? Do your homework, build muscle memory, learn how the dog thinks, understand what stresses it and work through it. Only then will you be seen as a “dominant” to your dog.
  • Your dog’s sanity is important. Helping it overcome stress, fear, etc. is your priority. If you’re going to shrug it off and expect the dog to pull out of it on its own, you need to question whether or not you should be a dog owner. Get a goldfish.

As far as rescues go and the foster dogs in their care, the definition of rescue is similar to the old Boy Scout rule by Robert Baden-Powell, “leave the dog better than you found it.” My dogs aren’t growling or fighting over any kind of resource like a juicy bone, bed space, food, toys, etc. I slowly integrate each dog into my home. After the dog adjusts to a schedule, I work on manners, space respect, leash skills, obedience while their mind and body recovers from their previous life.

If the dogs’ lives are at risk from chaos in a foster home, or if the foster dogs live closed in a room or held prisoner in a cage because of behavior that’s gone unaddressed, self-examination is in order immediately. Dog owners and rescue foster homes who pull the dog out of chaos and on to a better life mentally and physically are the ones who need to be commended. Those who are actively doing so are the ones I send adopters to (I will not send adopters to rescues who have poorly assessed dogs – or worse, poorly managed foster homes creating disastrous results).

When someone says, “I thought my dog knew I was alpha,” and the dog’s behavior says otherwise, not all is lost – you can learn the skillset to make your dog a #3 and you can be a schooled #4. It’s not going to be easy because it’s basically calling on you to change your personality, so be prepared. As Carl Jung says, “That which you most need will be found where you least want to look.” A true dominant would accept the challenge.



The Lifecycle of the Typical American “Pet” Dog

Before you read this, watch these videos all the way through on this link:

Must watch dog video, click here

In a few weeks it’ll be 2019. We just recently landed a probe on Mars that is sending back images of the Red Planet. Humankind sounds pretty advanced, impressive. What I can’t help but think about when I see news stories of scientific discoveries is how backwards we’re going in something as basic as our pet ownership. We can put a probe on Mars, but then we have lost or ability to read a dog. How is it that it’s getting worse as the years move on?

When someone calls/emails/texts/private messages me about their dog, 9 times out of 10 they’re in a conundrum regarding behavior. They’re contacting a rescue about the dog, not a dog trainer (a real hands-on solution with proven results), so you can already feel the question that’s lingering in the air — “can you take my dog?”

And here’s the earth-shattering question I ask all of them…

“Why did you get a dog?”

People mentally trip over that question (they expect me to talk about what’s wrong with the dog). It takes a while to walk them through to the core reason. They start with, “I wanted to give a dog a good home.” That might be true, but that’s not really the in-depth answer.

Historically, dogs were bred for a specific purpose. My Grandfather used to raise English SettersGurdenAndRed for hunting. That’s what dogs were for back in those days – whether it be hunting, herding, protection, flock guardians, clearing the property of destructive/disease-spreading vermin, they had a function; the dog filled in the gaps/completed tasks that were beyond the human’s limited ability. (Pictured is my Great-Grandfather, he’s the Elmer Fudd-looking guy on the Left. My Grandfather’s Setter, Lady, is down front. She single-handedly put a lot of food on their table.) People still use dogs for those purposes today, but that’s not who I’m talking about in this blog – because those dog owners are atypical. I’m talking about the common household American “pet” dog.

In today’s society, the God’s honest truth as to why most Americans get a dog is that dog owners want that unconditional, unquestioning, undying love and all-accepting devotion to the absolute bitter end regardless of how disgusting we are as a human race. We want something that’s addicted to us, seeking out that oxytocin high. It’s like living with that thinking, breathing, kissing, scientifically-proven “social media ‘like/thumbs up’ high” on 4 legs with plushy fur that’s so tangible that you can hug it.

You want something that listens better than your husband.

You want something that doesn’t nag you like your wife.

You want something that loves and needs you more than your kids do.

And you want to know another dirty human secret? We don’t want to earn that kind of relationship; we want instant glory. And, in return, we could not possibly care any less if our dog is happy, content, secure, healthy, stress-free, mentally sound based on its true needs (matched to its unique personality) vs what we think it needs. (Not to get political, but you wanna know why American kids are shooting up the schools? Same. Exact. Thing.)

As Americans we need to ask – what kind of torture are we putting our dogs through? What is the typical lifecycle that the average American dog endures? “Well, I can put up with a lot from a dog.” That kind of idea doesn’t make you a wonderful, patient, loving, ideal pet owner – what makes you wonderful is fixing what is bothering the dog in the first place and having the courage to really examine it. Let’s start with puppyhood. (I encourage you to click on each of the blue links so you fully understand each point.)

You get the puppy…

  • You get a puppy at 6 weeks of age, well before the state law of 8 weeks, and it doesn’t have those two extra weeks with its mother to learn bite inhibition and overall confidence.  It grows into a socially backwards dog that reacts poorly to every bit of stimuli that it encounters. The chances of it eventually getting dumped at a shelter have increased already.
  • You can’t decide which puppy to get, or you feel sorry for the situation they’re in (i.e. puppy mill, hoarder, screwball rescue foster home, etc.), so you get two. What could go wrong – it’ll have a playmate, right? And from the same litter. FACT: Never would the world-famous master dog trainers or the world champion dog handlers ever buy two puppies from the same litter. And they know what they’re doing. Don’t believe me? Google it – “Littermate Syndrome”. Any breeder that allows you to buy two puppies at the same time is an asshat. (And if you don’t get them fixed, they WILL mate. Mother nature always wins – even humans commit incest and we’re supposed to be the superior species.)
  • You get the puppy home. You’re getting ready to go to sleep but you can’t handle it crying/keeping you awake so you bring it into bed with you. You never crate train it and teach it to be comfortable in its own skin, setting it up for separation anxiety to the nth degree. (This is the #1 thing I have to fix with almost every foster dog that comes into our program.)
  • You take your puppy everywhere when you first get it – to the pet store, to the ballpark, have a party and expose tons of people to it. You don’t realize you’re setting your puppy up for reactivity when it gets older. Here’s a great video of Tyler Muto explaining how that happens, fast-forward to 34:27 through: Leash Reactivity
  • You leave the kids unsupervised with the dog. Or worse, you sit there and videotape the interaction for your social media page. They pick it up, throw it, choke it, hit it, lay on it, pin it down, drag it around on a leash, pull its hair, ride it like a horse, scream at it, stick their hands in the food bowl, rip the toys out of the dog’s mouth, etc. The puppy/dog spends the rest of its life either being completely on edge at all times, becoming a fear-biter or resource guarder, or it ends up submissively peeing at the sight/sound of new stimuli. The variety of residual behaviors land the dog in a belly band (for the submissive peeing), locked in a laundry room, or stuck outside in a pen or on a chain/tie-out because no one wants to constantly clean up after it or get bit. (The photo at the heading of this blog IS reality. I’ve seen it happen with my own eyes, more times than I can count.) Or worse, the dog finally gets sick of its space being invaded by a child and it does this: Dog – Sinner or Saint?  (dog was euthanized instead of finding it a home without kids. It was a Patron Saint of All Dogs up until that point, though, right?)
  • Your kids are allergic to cats therefore you get a short-coated dog thinking it will be fine. Turns out the kid is allergic to dogs, too. You try shaving the dog’s already short coat (yes, people shave French Bulldogs, Labs, etc. – dogs aren’t allowed to even have fur anymore), turns out the shaving doesn’t work. The dog is dumped at the shelter/rescue or worse – it lives the rest of its life outside (remember it has shaved fur) with maybe 5 minutes of human interaction a day during feeding time. And if it ever does come in, it goes into a crate in the basement or kept in the garage away from the family.
  • Or, you already know your kids are allergic to dogs, so you get a non-shedding breed thinking that will be okay because “that’s what people say.” (People don’t tell you dogs also have saliva and dander that are allergy triggers.) You want something small, a lap dog that you can carry around or put in a purse/backpack thing, which only means a terrier type dog. But the terrier breeds typically don’t tolerate young children very well because they’re fast-moving, clumsy, and they squeal loudly – kids acting/sounding like what the dog is originally bred to kill. When the baby turns 12 months and starts walking, that’s when the biting begins, and the phone calls to me happen. I ask, “is the baby around a year old?” They say yes and ask how did I know? It’s not because I’m psychic.
  • You get a puppy for your 3-/4-yr-old child for Christmas and proudly proclaim on social media that the child will be taking care of it since it’s their dog. Even though the child isn’t old enough to wipe his/her own butt by themselves, they’re going to be able to handle the full responsibility of feeding the dog, brushing the dog, taking it out to potty, etc. Eventually the mother has a rescue come get the dog since they’re done dealing with it, and you can imagine the crushing heartbreak that child endures. We’re talking honest to God sobbing with their face in their hands. They will never forget this moment as long as they live. Parents – this Christmas you need to think, “do I get my child a puppy or a broken heart?” Believe me when we rescuers tell you the latter is far worse than just the survivable disappointment of “not getting a puppy from Santa this year”.
  • You get a puppy right after you get married as a way to try out your/your spouses parenting skills. The moment the baby comes, you can’t handle the stress of a newborn baby AND a dog, so you throw the dog outside. Or you just assume the dog won’t accept the new baby (even though there are trainers who can help you with successfully adjusting a dog to a new baby) and sell it to the first person who comes along on Craig’s List. Our great-grandparents had 10-12 kids, and they had dogs. But today we get pregnant with our first kid and dump the Shih Tzu because we can’t handle the responsibility of both. (There is no way we can survive a zombie apocalypse, I’m here to tell you.)
  • The number one case I run into is people get a puppy for the kids when they are little, and as they grow they get heavily involved in sports, dance, cheerleading, music, etc. The dog is alone during the work day, then it’s left alone all evening because its humans are at practice or competition just about 7 days a week, then it’s alone at night while the humans sleep (and if the kid is on some kind of traveling team/group, you’re not home all weekend long.) Alone, alone, alone. It waits and waits for them to come home. And when the humans are home, the dog still lives its life as a prisoner locked in a crate or laundry room – it was too much of a hassle to be worked with this whole time so it can achieve being left loose in the house safely. When you try to do anything with the dog it falls apart mentally because you set it up so that it can’t handle anything in life – it’s even scared of cars driving past on a serene walk around the neighborhood. It can’t find the joy in the simple things such as “going bye-bye” like a normal dog. I’ve seen some so scared that going on a hike in the woods with zero stimuli would make them just sit there and try to disappear, afraid of the grass, not wanting to use their nose/sniff around and explore nature. In the past few decades we’ve single-handedly deprogrammed dogs from having the instincts and desires of their wolf ancestors, all because we’re lazy and hold them prisoner. Then one day you decide to find a new family for the dog because “you don’t have time for it anymore” (aka = you just don’t want to deal with it anymore) – and the new family does the exact same thing (or worse, it’s sold to a dog flipper).
  • You buy a puppy for your 90-yr-old mother/grandmother because you don’t want her to be lonely. She accepts the dog because she doesn’t feel like arguing. She also doesn’t tell you what a hassle it is to deal with a puppy day in and day out. She can’t afford the vetting or grooming on a fixed income (often she worries about paying for her own medicines vs buying dog food), nor can she drive it to the groomer or vet let along get it in the car by herself. You don’t bother to help her with that because you’re busy with your own life. Since she came from a generation that didn’t complain, you would never know how put out she is from dealing with things like house-training, cleaning up after a dog, can’t brush it or pick it up because of arthritis, or merely getting up from a sitting or reclined position to let the dog out. You don’t see it for yourself since you hardly visit. The guilt you feel is why you got her the puppy in the first place. Seniors don’t want a puppy, they want to see their family, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. And when you decide it’s time to put your mother/grandmother in a nursing home, you don’t take the dog into your home and let it visit her. Instead, you call a rescue to come get it, and we are the ones who sit there with her and let her cry, hugging the dog as she knows she’s being sent on to her very last stage of life (there’s more to it than just letting go of the dog. You’ll see when you get to that point. We all will.) While in rescue, the dog’s mind is blown because it hasn’t been socialized, hasn’t been walked at all, has to learn how to potty outside vs using potty pads (because grandma felt too bad to get up), and is used to being owned by someone who sleeps a lot. Takes a while to get a dog like this used to being a dog.

So the dog is an adult…

  • The Great Dane or Great Pyrenees puppy you got ended up being too big. [Hands down my all-time favorite “most silly” reason for dumping a dog.] It gets stuck outside because no one has time to train it now that it’s too big to handle (when it could have been taught as it was growing. People tend to teach these dogs to put their front paws up on their shoulders to show off how big they are, then they get mad that the dog jumps on them or their guests when they don’t ask for it. SMH.)
  • The herding breed puppy you got is now nipping the kids in a fury and scaring them, or getting out to chase cars. And when it blows its coat twice a year, the hair gets in the food. It’s just too much of a bother anymore.
  • The Husky or Beagle puppy you got has now developed all of its motor skills and can’t stay inside the non-fenced yard. Animal Control keeps picking them up and you keep getting fined for having a dog at large. You’re furious at the dog. Aggravated by the notorious breed-specific behavior, you call the breed-specific rescue to find out they have a waiting list of dogs a mile long exactly like yours (some “with papers”) trying to get in so they, too, can be rehomed for the same reasons. They have so many in rescue that they have dogs in boarding facilities. Turns out there are zillions of people who don’t do their research.
  • The German Shepherd, Border Collie, or Boxer puppy you got now has entirely too much energy for your sedentary lifestyle, and out of its boredom has learned to unlock doors, escape the crate or jump the fence to get into serious mischief. (I’ll never forget one time at the vet office running into the sedentary woman pulling an oxygen tank in one hand and in the other holding her 1.5-yr-old Border Collie on leash who had on a gentle leader/prong collar combo. She was there to get its prozac increased. The dog was driving her crazy with its energy. No aggression, no OCD behaviors, just too much energy. The city shelter adopted this dog to her. I’m still dumbstruck over that one.)
  • You never worked with your dog on being handled. You take it to the groomer and expect it to be stress free. Groomers are hands down the best dog behaviorists in the world (in my opinion – don’t believe me? Try shaving around a crazed dogs butthole and report back to me), and they have all kinds of ways of cooling a dog down on a groom table. But if you don’t do the work at home leading up to the appointments, it is going to be a life of mental torture for your dog. It’ll poop on the way to the groomer or in the lobby (or worse, on the table). Good groomers will tell you what to work on at home to make THE DOG’S time at the groomer easier ON THE DOG so the fear is lessened. Lazy dog owners get offended by that. I have a feeling these are the same people who think it’s a school teacher’s job to teach their kids how to sit still in class, have self-control, empathy, etc etc. (God has a sense of humor and made these people the most fertile in society, creating generation after generation of irrational people. It’s one of those phenomenons that cannot be explained.stressed dog
  • You thought you’d save some money and decide to train your dog on your own. You have no clue what you’re doing and get frustrated. prong collar looseYou buy a training tool and use it incorrectly, making the dog worse. For this photo, I am sitting at the vet’s waiting room next to some kids who have some bully breeds sporting some poorly fitted training collars. The prong collars are so loose the dogs’ heads slip out of them, they run around the packed waiting room and jump on other dogs. Of course I can’t keep quiet – I ask them what trainer they’re using. They drop the name of a trainer that I know well enough to know that they’re lying, because I know without a doubt that if that trainer saw the ill-fitted collars on these dogs those kids would be told to take a hike. There’s a science behind all training techniques, whether you agree with that technique or not. You have to be very careful with this. Hire a professional.
  • You give up on training and get the dog a harness so it doesn’t pull. At first it doesn’t pull. But as time goes by it builds those muscles. Ever heard of CrossFit for humans? You know how they put humans in those resistance harness and have them pull something heavy behind them? Why do they do that? To build muscle. Dogs build the same muscles. They’ll pull you even harder. And often they’re out front. You better pray a cat doesn’t run across the street or you’re not jumped by a loose dog. Just train your dog to walk on a leash, y’all. And don’t get me started on Flexi leads (nothing screams “my dog isn’t trained” like a retractable leash. Once saw a kid almost get his head cut off by one when an untrained Doodle went berserk.)
  • You got a dog knowing full well your landlord wouldn’t allow it. You snuck it into the apartment. It started out fine as a puppy, but now that it’s an adult and acting up, they found out about it through a complaint. The dog has to find a new home by this weekend. Landlord gets trashed on social media by knee-jerk animal rights activists for having rules set in place that you agreed to when you signed the contract/moved in. Someone suggests you get a fake service dog vest and a note from a doctor so the landlord can’t evict either of you…
  • You make your dog into a fake service dog. It’s not mentally capable of handling stimuli at all. The temperament is borderline dangerous and a possible threat to society. The stress you’re about to cram down its throat will cause health issues and shorten its life. All it takes is one snarling lunge and it makes the public second-guess all the certified service dogs and the owners/handlers who have put years of money, proper handling, and hard work into a dog that was born with actual sound, appropriate temperament for such a role – a dog they TRULY need to get through day to day life when you just don’t want to get kicked out of your apartment.
  • You leave your untrained dog outside loose/free and allow it to chase deer, run the neighborhood with the other dogs. And because you live in the country, it’s okay. Neighbors will just have to get over it. It doesn’t come back because you haven’t trained it to recall. It gets hit by a car or the neighbor threatens to shoot it for chasing/spooking their livestock/horses or killing their chickens. And yet somehow the neighbor is the a-hole. (Leash laws, people. LEASH. LAWS. Yes, out in the rural part of the county. Yes, they apply to even you.)
  • You have a Doodle. You NEVER brush it. I’m not talking occasionally dragging the slicker brush along the surface of the coat – I’m saying metal comb all the way down to the skin to ensure there are no mats. You take it all brillo-pad-matted to the groomer (“every 6 months whether it needs it or not” because “it’s over $100 to groom a dog you paid $3,000 for”) and they have to shave the coat all the way down as seen in this photo here. You get furious at the outcome and leave a 1-star review on the groomer’s social media or Yelp because, “THEY SHAVED MY DOG BALD!!” Doodle mattedNo, YOU didn’t brush your dog. And the asinine breeder you got it from should have made it crystal clear to you the strenuous coat upkeep before you purchased a puppy from them. There is no excuse for this – and “getting caught in the rain this morning” or “your dog falling off the back seat on the way over because someone slammed on their brakes in front of you” will NOT mat a dog’s fur in minutes. Own up to laziness and tip your groomer. (I have met only one Doodle that has a full coat and isn’t matted – Maggie. She and her owners are the “golden unicorn” dog/pet owner combo. I tell them that every time I see them.)
  • You sign your dog up for a board-to-train for a few weeks. When you get the dog back, you don’t do your homework at home. At all. You cut it loose in the home and behave exactly the way you did before you sent it off to training, no boundaries, no rules followed, nothing. Actually, you think that since it spent a few weeks with someone, it’s 100% bombproof. Some dogs even get worse because they feel more vulnerable after they’ve felt secure and now feel insecure in your home (the reason for the training in the first place.) How long does it take to train a service dog or K9 Unit dog? A few years. You think your dog will be perfect in a few weeks, like turning on a light switch. A dog is not a light switch, you have to continue the training EXACTLY the way the trainer told you. Life is now different for you when the dog comes back. You pay that kind of money, you better be in it to win it.
  • You never crate train your dog, so when it goes to the vet it has a meltdown when it’s put in the run or the fiberglass cage bank. It’s ripping out stitches, bloodying its nose on the bars, pooping and stepping in it, just spiraling out of control. Office staff can’t hear themselves think, the dog is making all the other animals in the clinic nervous. The panic continues overnight as vet techs try to come up with ideas to keep your dog comfortable and safe from self-mutilation. They don’t get paid enough. You give them a 1-star review because your dog’s eyes were all bloodshot when you picked it up, “it must have been squeezed or something.”
  • You never crate trained your dog. It’s had full run of the house at all times. But when you go on vacation, you put it in a boarding facility where it will be crated, secluded into a small room, or put in a run. It won’t be able to handle the drastic change of scenery. It stops eating. It gets diarrhea. I don’t care if Jesus Christ himself was running the boarding facility, there’s nothing that can calm your dog down. You give the boarding facility a 1-star review because your dog is freaked out and smells like feces/urine when you get it home. (Hire an in-home pet sitter.)
  • You hire an in-home pet-sitter. Pet sitters, as well as trainers and groomers, can take on or fire any client if the dog is dangerous or a threat unto itself (destructive separation anxiety). They carry insurance policies but they would prefer not to file a claim and have their rates go up (they’re small business owners and already pay outrageous taxes), so they play it as safe as possible. And they most definitely will not risk serious injury to themselves that would end their ability to hold any kind of job (or in the worst case, death.) Instead of giving a 1-star review to a pet-sitting company, try hiring a trainer that can work you through the behaviors that keeps your dog from living a stress-free life.
  • You get a brachycephalic breed and you let it get fat, or spoil it rotten to where it has separation anxiety. Because it’s a low-key dog you don’t bother to crate train it let alone obedience train it. After all, “they’re just a big lug!” You drop it off at the groomer and it has a panic attack every time – you know this and do nothing about it. The dog already can’t breathe, and with the added weight bearing down on its malformed body, the anxiety attack it has causes it to suffocate. The groomer calls you and tells you to come get it, they don’t want to be sued. You leave a 1-star review on the groomer’s social media/Yelp saying your dog was unfairly denied service.
  • You take your dog to the dog park and it gets mentally/physically damaged. You keep taking it to the dog park even though it hides under the picnic tables or gets behind your legs. “Get out there! Go on, play!” READ. YOUR. DOG. It doesn’t want to be there!
  • You put it on electronic fence and don’t think about the risks involved.
  • You put it on a tie-out by itself for hours with no protection/supervision, in essence pinning the dog down so it can’t defend itself if it had to (making it a target to free-roaming dogs or other stimuli). It just marinates in that stress, causing all kinds of behavior issues that are a struggle to fix. It can’t be walked because it acts on leash exactly like it does on a tie-out. Or worse, it hangs itself as it jumps over barrier or wraps it around something so tight making the item fall/strangle the dog.

You get an adult shelter or rescue dog…

  • No one knows the dog’s history. You don’t even know if you have the dog’s age correct, or breed mix for that matter. But you’re going to instantly integrate it into a household of established dogs because you’ve watched enough dog trainers on TV or YouTube. At first you’re lucky it was just occasional humping, possibly just a growl in passing or mild piloerection. But that one time you drop a potato chip on the ground, bend down to get it, and simultaneously a dog fight breaks out…you end up having to get stitches. The new dog is returned to the shelter with a bite history on its record. That never ends well. Instant integration is the worst stress for a dog, whether they show it or not, whether you want to admit it or not. (I know rescues who do this in the foster home and dogs are killed/euthanized from the outcome.) Dogs need a minute to even figure out what door they’re supposed to go out for potty breaks, where their food is and how often/when they’re going to eat, where they can find a safe spot to truly rest/be safe, and then get an idea of who in the heck YOU are. Even if there was no bite, just mere sabre-rattling amongst the dogs, you go ahead and put the dog in the bed with you that night along with an established dog(s) and hope for the best. A dog fight is in your future, or you’re personally going to receive the onslaught of redirection and get hurt. All of which could be avoided if you just give the dog a damn minute to breathe by setting up a crate routine and taking it super slow on the introductions. But no, you want this dog to instantly replace the dog you just lost because you’re so brokenhearted. And that’s completely unfair.
  • You feel sorry for the thin dog you adopted, let it get fat and its life deteriorates in every way, shape and form. You brag about how fat/big the dog is like it’s a testimony of how much you can love something.
  • You see a dog on Petfinder that is marked as “no kids.” You’re a newlywed couple, 23-yrs-old, got a good-paying job, got a house with a fenced-in yard, you’re ready. I reply to your application that the dog is marked “no kids” (and stated it clearly in the bio) because it has been severely damaged by kids in the previous home and will bite them (perfectly fine with everyone else, kids are a big fat no). Your reply back, “but we don’t have kids!” I reply back, “well, not yet.” You reply back, “I don’t understand why we can’t adopt this dog.  This is ridiculous! We’re qualified to own this dog per your description.” I reply back, “do you plan on having sex? Because that’s how children get here, often by surprise, and I’ll get the dog back after your child has been bitten. It’s my job to put this dog in a home where everyone will succeed.” (Okay, this entry doesn’t really fit this blog because the dog wasn’t placed in that situation, it’s just entertaining how self-absorbed people are and outrageous the potential devastation would be for that dog if I didn’t utilize discernment in my placements – some rescues would haphazardly adopt the dog out at Petsmart just to get it out of their house and get the adoption fee (over and over again). Oy. But this is a true story. I’ve got tons and tons of them.)
  • You get a dog because you’re in a troubled relationship with your significant other. You think a dog will fix everything instead of getting relationship counseling. Some dogs have worked miracles, but none are this good. You have an inkling that the relationship is on the outs, the dog is the last ditch effort. When the dog doesn’t cure all, those in the relationship go their separate ways, and the dog gets surrendered back to the shelter/rescue. The breakup is bad enough – returning the dog is excruciating. Be smart about this if you’re in this situation. Get real help, don’t heap that kind of pressure on an animal whose life hangs in the balance.
  • You’re in college and get a dog. You’re working, going to school, studying, going out with friends, dating around, etc. etc. etc…. Dog gets dumped on the mother when you move in with a boyfriend whose dog doesn’t like your dog, or when you move into an apartment that doesn’t allow dogs. And then you say, according to your latest social media post, you got a new puppy. Your mother still has your last dog. But wait a minute – I thought you couldn’t have a dog in this apartment? Hmmm… (Then rescues are criticized for not adopting dogs out to people under 25. Your frontal lobe hasn’t been developed, sweetie. We’ve all been young and dumb, that’s why we set these rules. That’s why no one rents cars to people under 25, and this is a living creature. Yes, I get that there are young adults who can handle dogs, you are a freak of nature because your parents raised you right. Take that as a compliment.)

Let’s say the dog makes it in a household to reach a ripe old age…

  • You don’t think that what ails them could be fixed or at least made more tolerable. “They’re just old.” Yep, they’re money pits on 4 legs the older they get. (So are we, by the way.) Supplements, an orthopedic dog bed, more frequent/appropriate/easier/quick grooming cuts so it’s not as stressful on their old body/mind when left at the groomer or carrying around a coat/long toenails that prevents proper mobility. Also, it would be a good idea to go the extra mile by hiring a pet-sitter instead of dumping them at the boarding facility when you travel for work or go on vacation (concrete floor is hard on the joints) making them feel vulnerable while you jet-set around living your life. They wait for you – you are all they have.
  • The old dog you got in college isn’t active enough for the kids you have now, so you dump it at the shelter so you can get a new puppy. [I am here to tell you that this type of person has no soul; they’re not human at all. They’re a beast. It would make you sick to know how many people are out there who are like this. Left in the arms of a stranger to be euthanized. You. Suck.]
  • After all they’ve endured (this entire list above), you can’t bring yourself to sit with them as they take their last breath (according to this article, vets say they look for you after you leave the room.). “It’s too hard.” Or maybe you’re too cheap to give them the dignity of “going out on a high” (as a friend of mine says) and prefer the dog to die on its own. We’re all going to die, and what you do with your dog will be what happens to you in your final moments. That’s how karma works, my friend.


So why did you get a dog? Or, being that Christmas is right around the corner, why are you getting a Christmas puppy? Have you thought long and hard through the next 10-18 years of your life as to what kind of changes you might run into that could possibly end up causing behavior issues in the dog you’re getting or situations that might cause you to surrender your dog? Do you have a schedule/set up that works well for the dog? Have you picked out a trainer to help you along in your journey with your dog? (See our website for a list of trainers we suggest.)

For the people who are finding themselves in this position often, here’s a quote from Thomas Jefferson that I just love: “If you want something you have never had, you must be willing to do something you have never done.” Train your dog. Not the next dog you get; train THIS dog. Figure out what it is that you’re doing wrong and correct it.

Ask yourself honestly – Are you prepared to be your dog’s defender/caretaker through life? Are you going to be on the same team? Are you really going to listen/care about its emotional state? This is crucial. As Temple Grandin says in her book Animals in Translation, “The single worst thing you can do to an animal emotionally is to make it feel afraid. Fear is so bad for animals I think it’s worse than pain…You almost have to work with animals to see what a terrible emotion fear is for them. Even an animal who’s completely alone and giving full expression to severe pain acts less incapacitated than an animal who’s scared half out of his wits. Animals in terrible pain can still function; they can function so well they can act as if nothing in the world is wrong. An animal in a state of panic can’t function at all.” (pages 189-190) People go wild over alleged dog abuse or some training concepts (use of correction), but you never see them get as angry over someone keeping a dog locked in a state of fear from lack of socialization and training. Temple contributes our inability to grasp this to the different levels of frontal lobe functioning between dogs and humans. We have got to stop seeing what we want to see and start seeing the world through the dog’s eyes. We must work them through their issues and be on their side. Hire the qualified professionals to teach you how to help your dog through any fears it may have. (See our website for a list of trainers we suggest.) Otherwise – DON’T GET A DOG. The dogs in shelters are dumped by those who easily give up and the backyard breeders who willy nilly sell puppies to them (it’s not the high-end breeders doing this, check out this link here to see what a proper breeder requires you to do in order to get one of his pups.) Go watch that very first video again and ask yourself who failed those dogs?

If you’re on the fence about getting a dog, or if this blog has freaked you out (good, that’s exactly how you should approach dog ownership), have you considered maybe fostering a dog if you are currently in a situation where you don’t know which direction your life is going to go? You’d save a life and learn a lot about yourself, a win-win. Take a tough one, hire a trainer, learn from it. The difficult dogs make you good and teach you a lot, then get the dog of your dreams when you’re ready.

Getting a dog should not be an easy decision. It’s a lot like having children – both are fully dependent on you. That’s a lot of pressure to take on, make certain you’re ready for the challenge.

If you’re currently struggling with a dog (or dogs), please contact a qualified trainer in your area. (See our website for a list of trainers we suggest.) Many people have overcome the same situation you’re in, it just takes effort and dedication. Carve that time out of your day, take this moment in life to learn something brand-new. If the trainer says it’s you, believe them, don’t just brush that off – a chance to grow in character is an opportunity that needs to be welcomed with open arms. Later on you will look back and laugh about the silly stuff you used to do, I promise, I’ve bee there countless times myself.

“No Dogs Allowed”

I’m going to use the story of the Big Four Bridge to bring home the point of this blog entry. This is an old story but the lesson behind it still rings true today. Five years ago dogs were banned from the Big Four Bridge (a pedestrian bridge that opened up in Louisville, Kentucky). Here are a few articles:

Residents weigh in on Big Four pet ban – WDRB

Animals banned from Big Four Bridge – WLKY

When the bridge opened, everyone was so excited. My parents went down there and took a stroll. Shortly afterwards my mom called and gave me the scoop on the poop – “It’s not the quantity of the dog poop. It’s the quality of the dog poop. It’s puddles of diarrhea that pet owners can’t pick up with a bag, so they leave it. And it’s everywhere. People are too busy looking at the view and step right in it.” Now you can see why they were power-washing it off.

Here’s the problem with the typical American dog (not all, but a decent majority of dogs) – often the only time it is taken in a car anywhere is usually to the vet, the groomer, to a boarding facility; what the dog experiences at the end of that “go bye-bye” trip is not exactly loads of fun.

“Nuh-uh! I sometimes take my dog to get ice cream or to the park!” In a dog’s mind, a routine visit to the groomer or vet is burned into the dog’s brain (expectation) more than the occasional trip to the park.

  • Ask any groomer how often they clean up poop from stressed dogs. They will tell you it’s pretty well part of the job.
  • Ask any veterinarian or vet tech how often a dog poops in the walkway, lobby or exam room and they will say daily.
  • Ask any dog trainer how often a dog will poop on the floor at their facility, they will tell you it’s expected. They have a bucket/mop at the ready. As one trainer explained it to me, dogs who need training and haven’t been socialized all that well, once they walk in their front door and all the scents/visuals/audibles hit them, their bowels start moving. (The point of training is to get the dog beyond this stress.)
  • Ask any boarding facility that watches a non-crate/non-kennel-trained dog that has full run of the quiet house and then suddenly has to exist between the walls of the assigned, loud containment area for its safety – and without their owners for the 10 days they’re gone on vacation – and loose stools will be expected from the stress (sometimes you can use the word “explosive” to describe the scene. I’ve seen the photos, whew.)

So if you don’t take your dog anywhere except for those 4 places above, and you haven’t worked with the dog on its anxiety (go to a trainer a few times and then quit), taking it to something like a expansive bridge that’s a 2 mile walk round trip (exercise also gets the gut moving) is going to end up with a poo.

“That’s weird, he/she pooped before we left the house!” Doesn’t matter, stress always wins.

You often will not see my foster dogs at rescue events because they haven’t yet been fully acclimated to stimuli and situations (other rescues bring dogs that have loose stool right around their booth space. Ugh. Poor dog.) Eventually my fosters will come with me and you will find them sleeping soundly on the ground or in the crate at the back of my booth. They weren’t like that when I got them, but with some work they can achieve peace of mind. As one jewelry vendor sitting next to me last year said, “I didn’t know you had a dog in your booth. He’s so quiet!” (This was Neil.) If and when they poop, and what the poop looks like, tells me about the dog’s state of mind.


Dogs are being banned from places not because our communities are becoming unfair dog-hating Nazis. Dogs are being banned because dog owners cannot understand nor read their dog’s behavior, they don’t desensitize or train their dog, and some people just don’t care and expect the dog to adapt.

It is entirely possible a food change is what is causing diarrhea, or a food allergy or other physical ailment (IBD), but people need to also take into account the seriousness of mental stress on a dog’s GI tract. (And if the dog is sick or going through a food change, please don’t take it out into public. How many more layers of stress will you pile on before it’s considered cruel? Good grief.)

POMH foster dogs are adopted out with the peace they can achieve from training and coupled with the use of a crate. I was able to take Roger to a week-long training workshop in Buffalo, NY, he didn’t make a peep the entire week when he was crated in the room with other dogs he didn’t know. The following month I transported him to Canada to meet his adopters part way, even the border guard looking at him crated in the back of our SUV was met with silence/security/no reaction. When Roger’s adopters drove him home, he slept soundly crated in their car, the serenity transferred. A dog who was dumped 3 times because of his stress/behavior, and a dog who was so full of stress when he was picked up from the shelter that there were puddles of diarrhea in his run,  was put on a path to a stabilized life where he can enjoy seeing the world, and he’s an easy dog to take places. He is now a joy to be around. He’s yet to have diarrhea from stress. That is the ultimate gift you can give a dog. This is the life all pet owners should provide for their dog, but sadly that’s not the case.

The media spin is that dogs should be allowed to go anywhere and do anything, life is “just so unfair for pet owners.” As a dog lover, I can’t disagree more because for me it’s impossible to overlook the stress it causes them and the property destruction it leaves behind. IMO, nothing is more upsetting than seeing a dog overcome with stress and the owner is just oblivious. More dog bans are in our future the more selfish society becomes (just look at the cracking down of the service/therapy dog industry). Think before you drag your dog out somewhere. Instead of joining the campaign to “allow dogs onto the bridge,” try campaigning for the mental fortitude of dogs everywhere. If you have a dog that stresses, there are plenty of good trainers out there that can help you train your dog to overcome it – don’t wait, give them a call – you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.






VLOG: How To Trim Dog Toenails

People constantly ask me to do their dog’s toenails for them. If they know I’m coming for a visit, they save it for me. “I can’t do it,” they say. Yes you can. At one point I didn’t know how to do them either, but I learned. You can, too! Here’s a video I put together to take the fear out of nail trimming.


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. Read this story here: 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


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