Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Certified Trainer Rings in on Rescue Dogs

Some people have reservations about adopting a dog because they are concerned it might be un-trainable or won't bond with them. Today I caught up with a highly experienced dog trainer out of Central Ohio to go beyond these myths. Guy Kantak, "The K9 Guy," is a Certified Professional Trainer (CPT) and a member of both the National K-9 Dog Trainers Association and International Association of Canine Professionals. Here's what he has to say:

HTB: Guy, I know you've got some adopted dogs of your own. When you got your first dogs, what drove you to adopt instead of buy?

GK: Both my wife and I have a long history of adoptees in our families, my parents had a rescue dog in our home before I was born. We've had such great experiences with rescues, and are so overwhelmed by the number of great dogs needing homes, that we are very committed to supporting and adopting from shelters.

HTB: Some people are hesitant to adopt dogs because they think adopted dogs will be more difficult to train. What is your experience?

GK: As a professional trainer I have a deep appreciation that every dog is unique. Some dogs can be more difficult to train than others, but it is not dependent on whether the dog is from a rescue or from a breeder. Individual personalities are a much more critical factor here! My own preference is to adopt a 6-12 month old dog with a developed personality that I can assess to be certain he will fit in well in our home. You can watch one of my adopted dogs doing some training work on my website. Everything you see him doing on that page he learned in less than six weeks.

HTB: People also sometimes believe that adopting older dogs is a bad idea because they won't bond with you as much. Please share your thoughts on that.

GK: Dogs never forget people they've met, but they are very adaptable creatures who will form new ties if their environment changes. I've worked with older dogs, that for various reasons have had to go into new living environments. They all adjust and bond with their new family. Older dogs are often more calm, already house trained, and less easily distracted which can hasten any training the new owner desires.

HTB: Why is it important for someone who has adopted a dog to hire a trainer? I've heard people say, "I don't want to hire a trainer because my dog won't even listen to me. How is he going to listen to someone else?" What do you say to people with concerns like this.

GK: A good trainer will work with more dogs each week than most people will live with during their lifetime. If a dog is not "listening" to an owner, it's because it doesn't care to listen or is confused. In either case, working with a certified professional trainer can help an owner develop effective communication with their dog while helping the dog to understand its role in the home. This makes everyone (dog and owner) much happier! Because dogs are not people and they do not think as we do, hiring a trainer is no different than taking a course to learn a foreign language.

HTB: For anyone with a rescued dog who is looking for a trainer, how do they evaluate which trainer to use? What should they look for?

GK: That's a great question.... My recommendation would be to either call or meet with prospective trainers and interview them. Some questions to consider would include:

Are they certified? By what agency?
What are their professional affiliations and background?
Is the trainer easy to talk with and easy to understand?
Can the trainer demonstrate a dog they have trained, especially one from a rescue?
What methods do they use? Trainers experienced using multiple training methods ( vs. only one method) will be able to provide more options to owners in reaching their desired goals.
How many dogs do they work with annually, and what is their experience pertinent to your desired goals.
You should also inquire about fees, and ask for some measure of client satisfaction.

I'm affiliated with the National K9 Dog Trainer's Association and the International Association of Canine Professionals. Both have websites with trainer locators where owners can find a local trainer by inputting their zip code:


I would recommend those web pages as a good starting point in finding a local trainer.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Dogs Deserve Freedom

Emily is a volunteer at her local Humane Society and an animal advocate, using her Dogs Deserve Freedom blog to share her thoughts and ideas on how we better live in harmony with dogs. She's another shining example of a person using her talents and skills to support dog rescue. I hope you'll be inspired to do the same!

HTB: What was the inspiration to start your blog, "Dogs Deserve Freedom?"

Emily: I began blogging on "Dogs Deserve Freedom" on October 15, 2008 because I needed an outlet for my frustrations. I had just finished rehabbing the most gorgeous dog I have ever met and was exceedingly frustrated that people judged her by her looks. She was (at best guess) a Rottweiler/Thai Ridgeback mix who had not had a great start in life (being tied up to a tree for the first year and then taken to the pound by canine control will do that to a dog). She didn't trust anyone and would snarl at people/dogs/anything if they pushed her too far too fast. Unfortunately, this bought her an extended stay at the pound and the discussion was begun about possible euthanasia. I took her in and after a few months of extensive rehab/retraining she ended up the most friendly, well rounded, happy go lucky dog ever.

HTB: What is the philosophy behind "Dogs Deserve Freedom?"

Emily: I wrote a few blog posts about this. To read the full explanation, check out my post Dogs Deserve Freedom - Say What? or read my first post.

Here's a summary... Dogs Deserve Freedom means that all dogs deserve:

- freedom to live without the need for crates, leashes and other training 'tools'
- freedom to live without fear and anxiety
- freedom to be outside without the need for fences or other containment items
- freedom to interact and play with animals, children, adults, etc without the impulse or need to bully or do harm
- freedom to be a valued member of a family enjoying the love and companionship freely given within the boundaries of this relationship

The beliefs that spur my theories and thoughts are:

- I believe in Crate Training
- I believe that dogs should be able to function on leash without harming themselves, their owners, or other people/dogs.
- I believe you should be able to trust your dog to interact safely with children/other animals/adults in any situation
- I believe that breeders should breed responsibly and that BackYardBreeders (BYB) are making more problems by helping us fill our shelters with poorly bred dogs
- I believe you should be able to take your dog to a restaurant and your dog should be well enough trained to take a nap under your table without begging for food or bothering anyone around

It is the responsibility of dog owners to train their dogs properly in order to fulfill these needs.

HTB: What do you hope to accomplish with your blog?

Emily: Mainly, I want to raise awareness. I am a big advocate for the shelter dog, and I hate puppy mills as well as back yard breeders, with a vengence. If I can convince one person to adopt instead of buying a dog or "saving it" from the pet store, I've done a good job.

I want people to know that they don't have to donate all their food money in order to make a difference. I want them to know that even if they spent one hour per week volunteering at a shelter or charity, then they have helped. Many rescues and shelters are SCREAMING for volunteers. I want the dog walkers to know that if they went and took one dog out for an hour long walk once a week, that they would change the outlook of that dog. What most people don't get is that it's not a matter of how many dogs can you walk in the 60 minute time frame, it's the quality of the time you have spent.

In the next year, I want to show people the fun things they can do with their dogs when they are properly trained. I believe this is likely where the blog will go, so stay tuned!

HTB: Tell us three things that everyone should know about proper dog care:

Emily: Proper dog care should include three key elements:

- Adequate nutrition (see your veterinarian for details)
- Thorough training (both soft skills and obedience)
- Spay / Neuter

Since I know you will probably ask ... am I against breeding? No. If your dog is worthy breeding stock, than by all means. That means the dog is purebred, registered, has NO genetic malformations, has healthy parentage (no genetic malformations), has no history of crazy temperaments in the entire litter, has earned it with championships (could be obedience, agility, herding, conformation, etc.), is not aggressive in any way/shape/form and there is a need for the breed. That means there shouldn't be over 1,000 unwanted dogs in rescue of that particular breed (did you know that the Labrador Retriever is over 20,000! That's not including the dogs that have been subdivided into "Black Labrador Retriever, Yellow Labrador Retriever and Chocolate Labrador Retriever).

Monday, December 14, 2009

Rescuing Dogs from Poor Nutrition

Lynda Wood is an animal advocate and founder of The Waggary Pampered Paws Dog Treats. She’s got a great blog featuring adoptable dogs and dog adoption news, and has been kind enough to share her experience with dog rescue. This interview shares great advice about pet food and treats towards the end, so be sure to read the whole thing!

HTB: Lynda, I understand that you became involved with dog rescue as a teen. How did that come about?

LW: It certainly wasn’t from a lack of things to do :) I was a student and I had three part-time jobs already, but that’s all they were to me: jobs. They weren’t my passion. I had always toyed with the idea of maybe becoming a vet one day, or at least a vet’s assistant, so volunteering at my local humane society seemed like a great way to start helping animals in some capacity right away.

I began volunteering on weekends along with several others my age, and by about week three I was the only one left. Scraping hardened dog food off kennel walls and hosing down dirty kennel floors is not glamorous work, but I loved it. Anything I could do to make the dogs’ environment better while they were at the shelter, that’s what I wanted to do. Eventually I began going out on rescue calls with the shelter attendants, and also tagging along with the dog catcher as he made his rounds.

Rescue work, I learned very quickly, is not easy work. You see things you never want to see, and it changes you. You begin to look at the world in a different way, and there were days that my heart felt so heavy from being such an up-close witness to the cruelty humans can inflict on helpless animals. But none of that ever compared to the pure joy that came with the unconditional love these dogs gave in return. Their ability to forgive and trust in mankind again was inspiring to me, and every time a family came into the shelter and found the perfect dog for them, I experienced such a deep sense of satisfaction. It made all the heartache and hard work worth it.

HTB: What advice would you give teenagers who are interested in getting involved with dog rescue?

LW: Do it! It’s hard work, and there will be times when you feel as if your heart is breaking, but it will also prove to be some of the best, most satisfying work you ever do. Dogs give us so much and there is such personal reward in giving back to them.

There is no job, no kind gesture, and no amount of time spent, that is too small. Cleaning up a dog’s living quarters, taking him or her for a walk, offering a gentle hand or throwing a ball—these are all things that make a difference. Some of these dogs have rarely heard a kind word or felt a loving human touch. As many of the homeless dogs as there are starving for proper nutrition, there are those starving for a single moment of attention meant just for them.

Don’t stop at volunteering at your local human society either. There are numerous dog rescue organizations popping up every day as dog lovers do their best to combat the growing need for care and shelter of the neglected, abused, and abandoned. Most of these rescue organizations are run by volunteers so every helping hand is an important one, and very much appreciated.

No matter how much you give to dog rescue, you will get more out of it than you could ever imagine.

HTB: Your love of dogs has led you to start Pampered Paws Dog Treats. What makes your treats special? Where can people get them?

LW: Well I never did become a vet, but I did work at a veterinarian hospital, and what I saw there on a daily basis proved to be the catalyst for Pampered Paws Dog Treats. Young dogs, very young dogs, were being diagnosed with cancer. Allergies and chronic ear infections were being treated in alarming numbers. There was clearly something going on, and even my own dog Toby, a miniature poodle, was suffering from undiagnosed seizures. These seizures were becoming so frequent, and so severe, that I felt it was only a matter of time before I would have to make the painful decision to have him put down. It broke my heart as he was my best little buddy, but watching him suffer was beyond painful.

In the midst of that, I adopted my German Shepherd, Temperance. The breeder was retiring her from the show ring due to an injury, and it was through this breeder that I first became interested in nutrition. She only feeds her dogs natural food, and all it took was a little investigative research on my part before the horrors of what really goes into commercial pet food were revealed to me, and had me switching over to the same diet.

I did my research, spoke to professionals, and within weeks of transferring my two dogs, as well as my daughter’s dog, over to a natural diet, Toby’s seizures began to lessen in frequency and severity. I didn’t even make the connection at first; I was just so happy to see him thriving as he was. I kept researching, kept learning all that I could, and that learning led me to looking into what was in the treats I gave my dogs, and ultimately finding healthy alternatives to the preservative-packed options that are out there. The most fun alternative turned out to be baking my own dog cookies, which my dogs were very happy about. They went crazy over these treats and when I began sharing them with family and friends who have dogs, and their dogs loved them like mine did, I decided to share them even further by creating Pampered Paws Dog Treats.

What makes Pampered Paws Dog Treats the most special is probably what they don’t have in them, more so than what they do. There are actually very few ingredients in my dog treats, but those that I use are all of the highest quality, organic whenever possible, and healthy. What Pampered Paws Dog Treats don’t have is added salt or sugar, no artificial colors, and they don’t have any of the harmful preservatives that allow commercial dog treats to sit on the store shelves for months, sometimes even years at a time. They are also baked fresh, by hand, in my home kitchen with the same care I use when baking for my own dogs. For me, every cookie is a representation of the importance of proper nutrition, the care that goes into that, and something every dog deserves.

There will be a more permanent Waggery website in the future, but for now
Pampered Paws Dog Treats are available on-line at http://thewaggery.ecrater.com/

If anyone has any questions, or if they’d like to talk with me about a dog with special needs (like allergies), they can also email me at thewaggery@gmail.com

HTB: What are the three top things people should know about pet food and treats?

LW: Well, firstly, pet food manufacturing is a multi-billion dollar industry that is basically self-regulated. There is no one outside of themselves holding them accountable, and as Ann N. Martin writes in her book Food Pets Die For – Shocking Facts About Pet Food:

. . . there are many deplorable ingredients that legally can be used in pet foods as sources of protein—in particular, euthanized cats and dogs, diseased cattle and horses, road kill, dead zoo animals, and meat not fit for human consumption. In addition, fiber sources in many foods are composed of the leftovers from the food chain, including beet pulp, the residue of sugar beets, peanut hulls, and even sawdust sweepings from the floor of the rendering plant!

Secondly, preservatives that are known toxins are used to prevent the fatty contents of pet food from becoming rancid. The main three to watch out for (and completely stay away from) are BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole), BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) and Ethoxyquin.

Wendell Belfield, D.V.M. writes of his concerns in a letter to the Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM):

“Chemicals such as BHA and BHT, which can initiate birth defects, and damage to liver and kidneys are commonly used preservatives.”

And Animal Protection Institute (API), a nonprofit advocacy organization, states in a 1996 report:

“Ethoxyquin has been associated with immune deficiency syndrome, leukemia, blindness, skin, stomach, spleen and liver cancer in companion animals.”

Pet food companies will often times state that they do not add these particular substances to their foods, however what they won’t tell consumers is the fact that the meat suppliers they use may well have added one or more of these preservatives before shipping those raw materials to the pet food company. If this is the case, the pet food company does not have to list that on their ingredient label; they need only list those ingredients they knowingly added themselves.

Thirdly, just because a commercial dog food or treat is labeled “veterinarian approved” does not mean it is healthy. I hold great admiration and respect for veterinarians. I love, love, love my vet, who is also a personal friend, but they don’t teach animal nutrition at veterinarian school. The basis of their nutritional instruction comes from what pet food company representatives have to say, which is why so many vets will caution against using anything but commercially prepared dog food and dog treats. They really are advising you how they see best, but it’s up to you, as a responsible dog owner, to do your own research and make the best educated decision for your beloved friend based on what you believe is best for them.

As for the decision I made, I am very happy to be able to say that since putting my dogs on a natural diet, and feeding them only Pampered Paws Dog Treats, they are all shining examples of health and vitality, and Toby has not had a single seizure since. It’s been two years now and he is healthier than he has ever been. I have also rescued a Boston Terrier in the last year, one that was suffering from horrible skin allergies and whose future looked to be filled with medications that included steroids. Fortunately I’ve been able to control her allergies with diet alone, and her itchy, painful skin is now a thing of the past.

For me, having happy, healthy dogs is what matters most. It’s the best recipe for life :)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Like Santa's Elves

(Lowrey, lovingly wrapping our Holiday Gift Sets as we scrambled to get all of our orders filled)

This post is a departure from our usual advocacy posts, but I thought you might be interested in seeing what goes on behind the scenes at Happy Tails Books when our books arrive from the printer, and pre-orders need to be filled.

Every time we publish a book, we allow customers to pre-order it as it's being printed. This helps cover the cost of printing, and it works out great for our customers because we offer either $2.00 off per book or a double donation to rescue. When the books finally arrive, I ship the orders immediately.

The volume of orders I need to ship is usually manageable, but this time around we had Pit Bull book orders, Labrador book orders, and Dachshund book back orders to fill, resulting in about 500 books needing to be shipped. The pressure was on not only because of the high volume of books, but also because it's almost Christmas and we knew we had to ship the books the moment they arrived.

And ship them we did! The books didn't come until 2pm, only leaving us 3.5 hours to pack orders and get them to the post office. Luckily, my co-editor, Lowrey, drove up to help (about an hour drive in questionable weather), and my parents lent a hand. We really did feel like Santa's workshop! My dad could pass for Santa, I could easily be mistaken for an elf, and Bill was our reindeer. (Which reindeer was the nervous one? That was Bill.)

It was a stretch, but at 5:05 all of the books had found their way to the post office. The total number of packages we sent was about 200. I'm crossing my fingers that everything arrives quickly, will you cross yours with me? We really did our best!

I've placed a "rush delivery" option on all of our books now, so procrastinators can still get books in time for the holidays. If I'm talking about you, please place your order soon!

Now that we've got our massive mailing out of the way, I'm refocusing on our upcoming breeds for 2010. We base our book order largely on rescue group enthusiasm, and so far the Boxer folks are really stepping up! I believe we'll be doing Boxers first, then German Shepherds and Pugs. I'm still trying to get a Chihuahua book together, but it has been surprisingly difficult to collect enough stories. Weird. Please help by encouraging your friends and family with rescued dogs to send over a story. Who knows, it might end up in a book!

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Healing Art of Pet Parenthood

Out of the 250 stories of adopted dogs I've edited so far, I would estimate that at least a quarter of them involve a dog who had cancer. It is so common, and information about how to best care for a pet with cancer is so conflicting. Today I caught up with holistic pet care advocate, Nadine M. Rosin, to discuss cancer in pets and her book, The Healing Art of Pet Parenthood.

HTB: Tell us about The Healing Art of Pet Parenthood. Who should read your book? What do you expect he/she will take away from it?

NMR: The Healing Art of Pet Parenthood is a true story about the human-animal bond, healing cancer holistically, senior canine care, and an empowering new take on the grieving process when a beloved animal passes away. It reads like a novel and has an underlying 3-fold mission:

~Helping pet parents realize we may be unconsciously contributing to the skyrocketing increase of cancer in our pets by unknowingly creating highly toxic environments in our homes
~Providing comfort, camaraderie, and validation for pet parents experiencing the devastating loss of a beloved pet
~Helping to remove the words, “It’s just a dog/cat” from the lips of non pet parents everywhere

One of my favorite emails from a reader was a woman whose grown sons just couldn’t understand the grief she was going through after her beloved Bichon passed away. After reading my book, which she said gave her incredible comfort and insight, she had Amazon ship a copy to each of her sons. She told them that if they promised to read it, and still didn’t understand “why she wasn’t over it yet,” she’d never mention the dog again. Well, it turns out the boys loved the book AND apologized profusely to their mom for having been so insensitive. They ended up providing her great solace.

HTB: Buttons is the dog featured in your book. Did you have dogs before Buttons? What made Buttons so special?

NMR: I have had dogs all my life and have dearly loved them all. Buttons, was my heart-dog. When she was eight-years-old, she was diagnosed with cancer and given six weeks to live without chemo, radiation, and amputation. After much soul-searching (described in book), I decided to completely forgo the prescribed treatment and instead, implement a completely holistic approach: one of cleansing and strengthening the body so it could heal itself, rather than one of squelching the symptoms and fighting the cancer. Four months later, Buttons was cancer-free and she thrived for an additional 11 years. Hers was a story I had to share with other pet parents.

HTB: What is some advice you give to people who have pets that are faced with a severe illness, like cancer?

NMR: My advice is to educate yourself BEFORE getting the diagnosis of a serious disease. Our pets metabolize everything so much faster than we do, they are like the canaries in the coal mine. The household chemicals we expose them (and ourselves) to might take 30 years to show up as disease in our bodies but only five years in theirs. Just because something is sold in the grocery (or health food!) store doesn’t mean it’s safe after years of exposure. Do a little online research about the unbelievably toxic ingredients in major brands of fabric softener, dryer sheets, and air fresheners to name a few. I have some listings and safer alternatives on my blog.

HTB: What are the top three things people can eliminate from their homes to give themselves, and their pets, the best chance at a healthy life? Is there anything they should add to their homes?

NMR: A holistic approach means looking at everything: food, water, treats, chews, cleaning products, flea poisons, medications, etc. Since the book has been published, I have started offering holistic consultations to help people look at everything harmful they may be unknowingly exposing their sweet animals to. I do this on an offering basis so that no pet or pet parent is left behind because of inability to pay. That information can also be found on my blog. In addition, our pets are extremely sensitive to emotion, so eliminating any constant stress or negativity in one’s household is vital to a healthy environment.

HTB: What are your thoughts on adopted an older dog vs. a puppy?

NMR: What I know is that for every dog rescued, there is at least one human rescued in return. Older dogs have so much to teach us. Buttons lived to be 19. With a conscious approach to home environment and care, most dogs can live healthy lives into their 20’s.

To learn more about Nadine M. Rosin and The Healing Art of Pet Parenthood, visit http://www.thehealingartofpetparenthood.com/Home.html.