We are Here 


No, my dog is not injured.This is Oreo relaxing in the sun. RELAXING. That’s a hard thing for reactive dogs to do. Many reactive dogs have lots of anxiety and find it hard to relax, especially in places where there are lots of stimulus. 

This picture was taken in our front yard. Across from us (but not pictured), are 2 dogs and 2 people outside in the yard across the street. At first, Oreo would bark and had trouble relaxing, even though they weren’t close. However, over time and with good treats and toys she lazily ignores them. 

My message is that we are still here. Not just me, but everyone who has or have had a reactive dog. Although we might not post as often, we know what you are going through if you have a reactive dog. 

Last weekend I missed my cousins wedding. It was 5 hours away but i still would’ve enjoyed it. The reason I didn’t go was because Oreo can only trust my sister and parents. I only trust them with her too. Family told me to get a friend of neighbor to let her out and feed her. To a reactive dog parent it just isn’t that simple. Just training her to be okay with them may take weeks.

Could I have paid a dog sitter? Yes, however, she/he would’ve had to come weeks ahead of time for visits and would be paid each time. Having a reactive dog isn’t always about missing out on things. 

Yes, we have to carry around treats, toys, and turn around and go all the way around the block when you were 20 feet from home because of a dog coming your way. We also get a lot. 

We get a deeper emotional attachment, an understanding that we are family and have to protect our dogs from things that scare them into reacting. We work hard and build a bond with our dogs and learn more than we ever wanted to possibly know about training and dog psychology. 

My advice is this: if you are desperately trying to find a way to help your dog and you’re in the panic stage-stop and breath. Read some blogs and training books, but know that not all of them are true or helpful. Find a positive trainer. It might be expensive but it’s totally worth it. Read “Scaredy Dog” by Ali Brown. It started Oreo on her rehabilitation and I was lucky enough to have the author as a trainer. Don’t give up on your pup and find a group of people to chat with- there are reactive dog groups everywhere. Trust your gut-if a trainer or someone tells you to do something with your dog and you think it’s wrong-don’t do it. I once had a friend try to convince me to use a shock collar. I didn’t. Find a positive trainer and remembe, we are still here.

Do you remember thinking THAT? Reactive Dogs Need MORE LOVE!

Do you remember that moment when seeing a dog lunging, barking, and baring teeth thinking, “Oh my gosh, that is a horrible dog! Why doesn’t the owner yell at it or train it better? What a bad dog!” Do you remember thinking THAT? Okay, well the thoughts might not have been exactly that, but I remember hurrying my dog away while giving sidelong glances at the owner of a reactive dog passing by. At the time I didn’t know what “reactive” meant or that “reactive” was even a term to describe dogs.

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What is a reactive dog? Well a reactive dog isn’t a dog who barks a lot, or a jumping kangaroo dog. Reactivity is seen when a dog overreacts to something. When a dog is scared they hide, bark, lunge, snarl, etc. If you’ve heard of flight or fight, this is where it takes place. A reactive dog will TAKE ACTION. It won’t stay frozen. You may see it freeze for a few seconds, but it will quickly decide whether to run & hide or try to scare away whatever it is truly scared of.

Before Oreo I had a childhood dog that lived 18 long years with me. I loved Snowy, the white-highland terrier. She was was stubborn as all heck and loved playing a good game of chase when we were 10 years old around the neighborhood for hours. She was your average behaved terrier, one with little behavioral problems who you could trust around many people. Did she bark? Sure. Did she overreact and seem to “lose it”? No.

When my husband and I decided to get a puppy, we didn’t think we’d have a lifetime of training ahead of us. We, like the average dog owner, thought we would take her to a few classes and she would be well-behaved. Do you remember thinking THAT? Well, how wrong we were indeed. As a puppy I tried to give Oreo many experiences with other dogs, training, and people. As a teacher and person, I am someone who “follows the rules” to the best of my ability. Being a good dog owner, I pleaded with my husband to take a walk with Oreo before we went shopping at the mall when she was 9 months old. That walk changed everything. A few weeks after that walk Oreo started showing signs of being reactive. See on that same walk, the walk I thought I had to take her on, she got attacked by another dog.

Oreo when we first got her

Oreo when we first got her

A week or so after the attack we took Oreo back to the vet to get checked out again. I remember sitting in the waiting room with her & instead of her cowering on my lap or on the floor next to me, she was now wildly lunging, barking, & snapping at a passing dog. When we got into the area where the vet examines Oreo, she snarled and hid under the chair, not wanting to be touched. This was very unlike her, a shy, but easygoing, sweet tempered dog. At puppy training she was recommended as a therapy dog.

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Things definitely changed.

Those were the first signs and as they progressed to an event I call the “culminating one” (I’ll save that for another post), I knew I needed to do something. We called in a local trainer, who came into our home and Oreo was very calm & great. However, outside in the neighborhood she cowered, then barked and lunged at dogs in other apartments. He told us a few tricks and went home.

He didn’t seem concerned, but I WAS. I now have at least 20 or more publications & books on reactive dogs and training. I can’t thank Ali Brown enough & her training & book (Scaredy Dog!) which turned my life & saved Oreo’s life. I remember thinking dogs like Oreo were bad. Those dogs couldn’t be lovable, they must be like that all the time, unlovable. How wrong was I? I believe reactive dogs need MORE LOVE because they are afraid, because they do need self-confidence. Does this mean hugging them? HECK NO!!  What I mean is attention, training, doing things fun for them, building confidence, and spending time with them helping them learn ways to cope with the scary world around them.

It’s been a long rode, from thinking dogs were bad, misbehaved, to really seeing what is going on inside a dog & its’ emotions. As humans and dog owners we must ask ourselves WHY a dog does certain things & how we can help them. We must give our reactive dogs MORE LOVE because boy do they need it!!

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As reactive dog parents, we need to ask ourselves questions constantly that many other people don’t even take a second to think about.

  • Should I take my dog to the party?
  • How can I avoid that dog/person/bike/etc as I’m walking so that my dog doesn’t get over threshold?
  • How can I bring my dog to the vet without causing too much stress?
  • What will I do with my dog when I have people over?
  • Should I consider anxiety medicine for my canine?
  • Do I need window film so my dog doesn’t bark out the window all day?
  • What do I have to cover the car windows so my dog doesn’t lose it?
  • Did I remember dog treats on my walk?

The questions could go on forever and we are always asking them. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as any dog owner will ask and remind themselves of various things from time to time. However, we are often on high alert for things that stress out our dog, especially when there is change or they are outside their normal environment. I wanted to take a minute to thank all of the pet parents out there dealing with reactive dogs. It definitely isn’t easy and we are very stressed at times, but remember you are saving a dog’s life, your dog. You are taking the time to train your dog or manage the surroundings so your dog can have a happy life, even if your dog doesn’t get to go with you everywhere.

Sometimes we forget to appreciate all of the work we do until someone points it out. Recently I was at the vet and got an amazing compliment. My vet told me how amazing of a job we (my husband and I) have done with Oreo. She said it’s made such a difference and Oreo doesn’t need to be muzzled or anything during her vet exam. Furthermore, she told me without us, she knows Oreo would’ve been dead in another family and we have saved her life.

Life is crazy and there’s always things to worry & stress about, but little reminders of why we do what we do (help reactive dogs) make it all worth it. Okay, the dog kisses, happy wagging tails, and smiles also help! 10371611_10202676837374547_1549858418175138866_n

Should We Care?

Should we are what other people think of our dogs? Only minutes ago I was sitting on my porch while Oreo lounged in the spring-growing grass towards a neighbors dog that appeared from behind a car. The neighbors were taking their dog for a walk and emerged from behind their car with their dog on leash. I wasn’t expecting this, didn’t hear them as I was engrossed working on typing for a book I’m working on and of course Oreo lost it. Her threshold was over and there was no time to call her to attention or tempt her with treats. My laptop rolled off of my lap as I scrambled to pull her back on the leash.

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At this point I knew I couldn’t bring her into the house since she weighs too much for me to drag her in, plus they nearly passed our house. “Attack dog huh?” was the question the neighbor asked through the loud barking as they passed. I was too entangled with my job of keeping my dog in control to answer. When the neighbor’s dog finally was out of sight I the barking stopped and Oreo did a few paces around then laid back down into her casual spot. “No, we don’t want that, ” I heard from the neighbor. I have no idea what they were talking about, but for some reason I think I know. The neighbor is due any day now, and they have been talking about putting a large wooden fence up (which I would love, then we could get a fence and save some money by connecting it!). I can only guess perhaps she was saying she wouldn’t want her child attacked (who would?).

Oreo was scared. She’s reactive, so she reacts. I failed in my job to get her attention before she reached her threshold. However, I’m not going to pine about it-there was nothing I could have done, animals and people always appear from behind objects, which Oreo reacts to the worst. She does not like surprises, especially big scary surprises that remind of her of the attack from her past.

So why did I care what the neighbors thought? Well I automatically felt embarrassed because I thought I looked like a fool as I scrambled to hold onto my dog. I grew up with a mother who definitely cares what people think. I don’t usually care too much, but with Oreo I am more protective. I wish people could see how caring, kind, and loving this dog is. She is all kisses and cuddling inside (with the occasional leave me alone stare or warning if she is sleeping). However, I know people who are knowledgeable about reactive dogs know exactly how I feel. I highly recommend a reactive dog class that is positive. Not only do you learn how to give your dog courage, manage, and train your dog, but you also find companionship and comfort knowing you are not the only one and people do understand.

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Do You Watch or Take Action?

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What do you do when you see someone using hurtful training techniques, being rough with a dog, or harming a dog? Or do you take action??

This question came to my mine while at my sister’s house and witnessing inappropriate behavior toward a neighbor’s dog. We walked up to get my sister’s dogs from the neighbors who were watching them. They just adopted a female black lab who is around 6 months old. She is what you picture a typical black lab-full of never-ending energy. As soon as we walked up the hill to their house the dog bolted right towards us, jumping and snapping at our fingers. I decided to ask for a sit, however, the dog doesn’t seem to know what sit means. So, I decide to turn my body so the dog doesn’t get any attention from me for jumping like a jack-rabbit.

This is where I cringe. The neighbor-we’ll call him “Bob”. Bob runs over and starts yelling at the dog “NO!! BAD DOG” and grabs her collar and yanks her hard to the side. As soon as Bob lets go of her collar she goes right back to jumping on us to greet us. Of course this is where I curse myself, I should’ve had treats in my pocket as I usually do. As the dog jumps on us Bob grabs her skim behind her neck and reprimands her with harsh words and a tug of the skin. Bob then lays her on the ground and holds her dog for a minute covering her muzzle. (Ahh! At this moment I want to push him off the dog and scream at the top of my lungs). Luckily, he let go before I could push him.

My question to you is what would you do in this situation?

A. Punch the guy and tell him he’s a jerk
B. Educate him on dominance and tell him about positive training
C. Run the other way
D. Offer to help with training

Although some of the answer choices are silly, we run a fine line telling someone else how to treat their dog. You don’t want to scream or sound like you are scolding them, otherwise they will shut down towards positive training and never know the error of their ways. However, you don’t want to let the training (if you would call it that—I’d call it ABUSE) go on. What I decided to do was ask him about training and he mentioned he needed some help, so I offered to help him and told him a little bit about positive training and starting with some education on rewards instead of punishments. Next time I see him I’m heading over there with my clicker and treats to hopefully transform their thoughts on “training” and what is right and what is wrong. Unfortunately, many of the people in the rural area up there see nothing wrong with holding their dogs down and following some outdated and abusive trainers tactics-that’s where he learned them from. Surprisingly enough you wouldn’t guess his profession–he’s a minister!!! I sure hope a minister would find much more pleasure giving the dog rewards instead of using hurtful methods of punishment.

When I’ve seen people using choke collars I want to run up to them and tell them the damage they are doing to their dog and how horrible it is…it’s so hard to stand by and watch people abuse their dogs like that. What do you do?

Have you ever encountered someone hurting their dog with negative punishments? What did you do??

Sizzling Summer Reminders

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With record high temperatures hitting the west coast and a heat wave here on the east coast, it’s important to remember some safety tips in summer for your pooch.

Heat Concerns

I know my dog loves to lay in the sun. My old dog loved to lay on the hot pavement. These can cause major health problems. Long periods of sun exposure can cause overheating, skin cancer, and other health issues.

1. Find some shade for your dog to lay in!!

2. If you are hanging outside for a while with your dog, provide a bowl of water.

3. A small swim pool could be fun and a great way for your dog to cool off!

4. Don’t leave your dog outside in a dog house-it will overheat and trap hot air.

It gets very hot outside. I read somewhere that you should take your shoes off on a hot day and leave your feet on the pavement for a few seconds. If your feet burn, your dog’s feet will burn…don’t take them out on the asphalt or pavement then.

5. Take your dog for a walk in the early morning or evening, when it is cooler.

6. DON’T LEAVE YOUR DOG IN THE CAR!!

7. Since dogs are outside more often in the summer, make sure your dog has some kind of tick/flea preventative.

8. Keep your dog away from poisonous flowers/plants and chemically treated lawns.

9. Know the signs of heatstroke:

Early Signs:
-Heavy panting
-Bright red tongue and gums
-Fast breathing
-Having trouble balancing

Advanced Signs:
-Shock
-White/Blue gums
-Lethargy
-Uncontrollable urination or defecation
-Noisy breathing

Hopefully you have a fun and safe summer with these tips, but if you are worried your dog may have heatstroke you should do the following steps…
If your dog has signs of advanced heatstroke-take them to the vet immediately.
If your dog shows early signs try to cool your dog down:
-Give them ice chips to chew
-Hose them with cool water
-Apply ice packs to the groin area
When your dog’s temperature is between 100-102, stop trying to cool your dog down, they are stabilized.

Go Ahead, Treat Adults Like Children (They Just Don’t Get it!)

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Speak up for your pup because sometimes people don’t get the message!

It came to my attention this past weekend that I needed to treat my mom like a child when it comes to dogs.

Did I like treating her like a kid, repeating the same thing to her many times to ensure she would listen? No, absolutely not. Was it necessary? Definitely!

Many times we don’t always say what is on our mind when it comes to our dogs. We worry about what people might think of us, if they will be mad, laugh, or get upset with us if we do or say things that don’t seem “normal”. For example, this past weekend my parents were watching Oreo. My brother and sister-in-law were stopping over for a few minutes. I told my mom to put her in the bedroom when they came over. “It’s just Den and Lila, she’ll be fine,” was my mother’s response. “No, she won’t be fine. Please put her in the bedroom, it’s better to be safe than sorry,” I replied. “Oh come on Jess, don’t be ridiculous…” The conversation continued like this until I basically had to annoy her and get her to comply. Yes, she was doing us a favor watching the dog, but Oreo is a bite risk if left around strangers (she doesn’t see them much at all). I called the night before my brother was coming over to remind her. Did she get angry? YES! She told me not to treat her like a child, that she knows. I tried to explain why I reminded her, yet she didn’t quite understand.

That’s the point, PEOPLE DON’T HAVE TO UNDERSTAND. We need to stick up for our dogs and for what makes them comfortable or uncomfortable. They don’t have a voice, so we need to speak for them.

If I didn’t speak up to my mom Oreo could’ve easily bitten or had a bad experience that couldn’t worsened her reactivity. Maybe she would have been fine with them, but why risk it?

Sometimes we have to treat other people like children, beacause they just don’t get it. People who aren’t associated with dog training or have had a reactive/scared dog just don’t get it. What’s worse is that they don’t believe you. When you tell people your dog will NOT be okay in a certain situation you are most likely met with the comment, “Oh well she’ll be okay, don’t worry, it’ll be fine.” This is where you have to be your dogs’ protector. You can protect your pup many ways, but one of the most powerful ways is to speak up even if you feel uncomfortable. Trust me, things will work out better and after you have stuck up for your dog (even if you’ve offended someone) you will feel better and so will your dog.

So go ahead, treat someone like a child if they don’t understand. Stand up for your dog!

During an Attack

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Today I’m going to cover what to do if you or your dog are attacked by another dog. Even if you believe it will never happen to you or your pup, you should still be ready in an emergency.

Before the dog attacks:

-Keep your eyes open on walks, scanning the area for stray or loose dogs. If you see one, head in the opposite direction.

-Do not run. If a dog is frozen in place looking at you and you decide to run, you lose. The dog will be more excited and definitely run after you. However, if the dog is already running towards you and you are close to your home or something that will help you, then running is the way to go.

When the dog is running towards you or stops and stares at you:

-Try commanding the dog into a sit or down.

-Make yourself really big. Outstretch your arms, get on your toes and yell for the dog to go home or stay.

When the dog is attacking or about to attack:
-Find a car-take your dog and yourself and stand on top of a car. This will give you shelter from a dog or at least an advantage since you are higher than the dog, and it’s unlikely (but definitely not impossible) that the dog will follow you.

-Take out that umbrella, pepper spray, or stun baton and use it if the dog is aggressively approaching (growling, tense stance, snarling, barking). Don’t wait until it’s too late-use the weapon BEFORE the dog latches onto you or your pup. Also, if I were you and you are considering buying pepper spray-either get dog pepper spray or bear pepper spray. You may wonder why bear spray? Let’s face it-all dogs aren’t the same and if you have a big strong dog in front of you, you want the best to protect yourself and your dog.

-If a dog attacks, it is advised that you curl up in a ball and play dead. However, if you are with your pup you can bet 9 out of 10 times the dog will be going after your pup first, not you. You need to defend yourself. Find a stick or something nearby to pick up and make yourself scary.

-The stick or something else like a bat, umbrella, yard stick-anything can come in handy when the dog is on you. You can use these to put between yourself or your dog-and the attacking dog. You could use your coat-take it off roll it up and shove it in the dog’s mouth.

-This is a personal choice-but if the dog is attacking you or your dog-I would personally offer my arm. I know it sounds horrible, but I’d rather have one arm attacked than my stomach, head, legs, or my pup. I will still have an arm and two legs to fight back. DO NOT pull your arm from the dog, it will only make it worse and rip your arm apart.

-If worst case scenario the dog is attacking you-it’s on you-go for the eyes try to poke it’s eyes or go for its throat by trying to choke it so it will stop attacking you.

-It may be unlikely depending where you are, but if there is a hose nearby or water-spray the dog in the face-they will be surprised and most likely stop attacking.

If the dog is attacking your puppy:
-Choke the dog. Get behind the dog and put your arm around the dog’s neck to choke it until it lets go. It may sound violent, but the attack itself is violent, and some dogs do NOT want to release, even if you are punching them. Believe me, from first hand experience punching a dog in the face, head or body usually does not work.

-Lift the back or front legs from the dog to unbalance the dog-you may surprise it and it will release. However, be prepared, it may turn on you.

-Use a break stick-something to wedge in the dog’s mouth to open it. Straddle the dog and lock your legs around the dog’s hips. Pull the dog by the collar to raise its’ head. Put the breaking stick in the opening of the dog’s mouth where the molar gap is located. Try to get it at least 1/2 inch to 2 inches inside the dog’s mouth. Turn the stick like a motorcycle handle. This will cause the dog to bite on the stick and release your pup or yourself from its’ grip.

The most effective thing is to always be aware of your surroundings on the walk. However, most times dog attacks are surprises. Usually dogs get out of an open gate, broken door, or are running free in a yard. Always take a walking stick, pepper spray, stun baton, umbrella, or something with you in case of an attack. Always be prepared. It isn’t hard to carry something with you, or just put some pepper spray in your pocket. Best to ALWAYS BE PREPARED.

Local Dog Attack

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This is the picture of a local dog that was recently attacked and the story has been reported in the media. Oreo, (not my Oreo) is a cockapoo who was attacked and severely injured just last month.

A loving dog parent and family’s worst nightmare. A dog attack.

Oreo the cockapoo was outside with Tammie Jesberger’s father-Bill Tittel. He was taking her for walk around noon in a nice neighborhood. As they walked to the top of the road he saw two pit bulls. Before he knew what was happening, the larger one attacked Oreo and went right for her throat. Bill hit the dog and managed to get the pit bull off of Oreo after pulling out its’ front legs. Oreo was released and Bill yelled for Oreo to go home, but Oreo wouldn’t leave his side.

Bill had to get Oreo home, but knew he couldn’t let go of the pit bull’s front legs or it would go right for Oreo again. He decided to keep holding the dog’s front legs and it used its’ back legs to walk so he could try to get Oreo home. The dog tried to lunge at him and Oreo but he used a strong voice saying, “DON’T YOU DARE!” Tittel being an older gentlemen, dragged the dog as far as he could, trying to get his own dog home. He yelled out for help, but none came and he collapsed after using all of his strength to protect his dog.

Bill’s daughter Tammie heard the commotion and tried to get the pit bull off of Oreo (which again had a deadly grip on her throat after Bill collapsed). Bill scraped up the strength to get up and ran for a shovel and hit the dog with it, but its’ lock was holding. The pit bull dragged Oreo into the bushes shaking her like a rag doll.

Tammie remembered something she saw on Animal Planet about wrestling alligators and grabbed a Christmas decoration and took the stake from it and pried the pit bull’s mouth open. The pit bull released Oreo. Tammie grabbed Oreo and rushed inside, with the pitbull barking and lunging-leaving bloody paw prints and scrapes on the front door. Tammie wrapped Oreo in a towel and called 911. The police came and the dog tried attacking officers who shot the dog. The entire attack lasted over 40 minutes.

Oreo had extensive injuries including a broken jaw and ripped open throat. The owner of the pit bull is paying penalties for not having the pit bull on leash or contained in the yard. He is also paying thousands of dollars for Oreo’s vet bills. Oreo has been to the vet many times for surgeries and is physically recovering. Tammie reports that Oreo is very nervous and wakes up every night crying from nightmares. Tammie and her father say that we can’t even imagine the terror and what they lived through.

Unfortunately many people do and can imagine the terror with the rates of dog attacks increasing. I wished after Oreo (my Oreo) was attacked that NO ONE else would ever have to go through that nightmare, but it happens every single day. My former coworker on facebook just posted her new puppy was attacked by another dog and now has a broken jaw. People let their dogs wander the neighborhood or have doors that don’t close securely. Dogs escape fences and people approach unfriendly dogs. Even a friendly dog can attack for many reasons. That’s why we always need to be prepared. I am not trying to scare or disgust you (although I’m sure the article does). I am trying to make it clear that dog attacks can, will, and do happen anywhere and frequently. In the next few articles posted, I will discuss how to protect yourself, your dog, and the both of you from the nightmare of a dog attack. I will also address what to do if you or your dog gets attacked legally, reporting it, and the after effects from a dog attack, including ways to help your dog be brave again.

Deferring to You Part 2

Deferring to You-Part 2

Walks with your dog are supposed to be enjoyable, but if you have a reactive dog they can quickly turn into a nightmare. Dogs that are scared of the world can find walks overwhelming and may likely “freeze” and not move. They can also lash out and snarl, growl, bark, and lunge. There’s a solution for this-deferring to you!

Tasty treats are essential especially when you start out. First you must identify what triggers your dog (what makes them lunge, bark, etc). Make a list of everything that sets them up and try to be specific. If it’s other dogs what kind of dogs? Male dogs, white dogs, long haired dogs, barking dogs? Same thing with people-is your dog just afraid of children, adults, or people with hats? Now we work with some classical conditioning to get your dog to defer to you.

Every time your dog notices something scary (from a distance where they don’t react, just look), start feeding them those yummy treats. When the something disappears, stop feeding them the treats. This is conditioning them to expect treats when that scary thing shows up-thus…deferring to you-looking at you! Treats + scary thing=not so scary thing anymore! As an added bonus every time they see the scary thing they will look at you-you will become giver of treats (you should be already but hey, backup isnt’ so bad). This will help build your relationship and they will see you as something positive (as hopefully do they already, but sometimes we can be scary if your dog is very afraid of the world). Soon you will find on walks your dog is more attuned to you and looks at you when a scary thing is nearby.