All posts by jgodsy

Peeling Away the Layers

It is not uncommon for dogs who have been shuffled around from one home to another or from animal shelter to animal shelter to learn to emotionally encase themselves in “protective layers.”  Dogs in this situation are not ever given the opportunity to develop healthy relationships within a pack because the members of their pack are in a constant state of change.  This continual change of family be it canine or human, leaves the dog with nothing with which to stay grounded.  So the dog first adds for example, a layer of fear from the unknown, then covers it with a layer of frustration, and may top it off with a layer of emotional toughness or aggression.  This is not unlike the emotional shift made by many humans while doing hard time in our prison systems.


Many of these dogs enter into their new homes and bring these protective layers with them.  Why not? After all, how are they to know that this home is any more permanent than any of the others have been?

I recently had a consultation session with a dog who was very typical of one who has been “tossed around” a lot in her life.  She had been adopted out and returned to the shelter at least three times, maybe more, most likely for the same reasons.  God knows what her life consisted of before she entered the shelter in the first place.  She was actually a very gentle, sweet and loving dog with people.   She was eager to please. She was calm and quiet in the house.  Everything was wonderful in her life, that is… until she saw another dog.  ANY other dog.  Then she would fly into a frenzied rage.

This dog’s owners recognized the need to exercise their new dog.  But every time they would take her out a dramatic scene would unfold.  It was embarrassing and worrisome.  And several times the dog was somehow able to get away from her owners.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see how dangerous this situation was for everyone involved.

Watching this dog while in the rage stage was a bit sad to me.  There was so much pent up energy behind the tantrums.   Because of a lack of consistent leadership in her life, and poor socialization with other dogs, she went straight into charge and kill mode.  Naturally we didn’t allow this, which only added to her frustration.  She was quite dramatic and VERY loud.  If I said that she “made a scene” I would be grossly understating the situation.

A dog like this takes more time to rehabilitate, because there are multiple layers that need to be peeled away and they each must be removed one at a time.  Often when we finally get that first layer removed, we reveal another layer of undesirable behaviors that lies just beneath.  The analogy I use for this situation is the removal of wallpaper in a room.  We buy a house.  We like the house very much but severely dislike the cabbage rose wallpaper in the bedroom.  So we scrape and scrape, slowly revealing ugly purple striped wallpaper beneath it.   We scrape and scrape away the purple stripes only to find a “lovely” orange paisley.   Finally under the final layer lies the actual wall.  And this wall can now be painted any new color that we want.  Remember that each layer of wallpaper was applied by a person at some point in the house’s history.  So each layer must also be removed by a person with a better vision of what that room can be.

My own rescue border collie Kip was much like this when he first came to us.  I knew that time and correct practice were on my side.  And sure enough, with each layer that I was able to peel away on Kip, more trouble was there to greet me.   Finally when the last of Kip’s protective layers had been carefully removed, a softer, sweeter dog was just underneath.  The emotional shell was finally gone.  I had unveiled a wonderful, sweet natured little dog that is who Kip was really born to be. But….it took time, and a whole lot of wallpaper scraping!


An owner who is blessed with the virtues of tenacity and patience is best going to achieve the results they desire when dealing with dogs who are encased in protective layers.  But the rewards are great for those who see it through.

Follow The Leader

It is safe to say that most of the canine clients I see have one thing in common.   Their well meaning owners have somehow overlooked their dog’s need for clear leadership, often confusing “love” with leniency.  This has left their dogs in a frustrated, confused state.   A frustrated and confused dog can become anxious or aggressive, and can even become a dog with poor self esteem.

When I mention the concept of leadership to owners, they often know that this is what is missing.  But they are reluctant to apply leadership to the relationship with their dog because they have the wrong idea of what leading a dog is all about.   In the minds of many, leadership has a negative connotation attached to it.   I’m not sure how this idea has come to be so misunderstood.


If you think about it, we all have leaders in our lives.   And it starts from the bottom up.   Each household has a leader.   It is ideal if this leader is an adult (although this is not always the case).   From there, we go to work where we often report to a boss.   He or she then reports to a boss and so on.    Even corporate CEO’s have leaders that they must submit to.    That is what our legal system is all about.   Our legal system is in place to keep order. And there is a hierarchy involved there too.

Good leadership is essential to keeping order in any group of social animals.   Many people practice this when it comes to their kids and co-workers, but somehow derail when it comes to their dog.   Why would we allow our dogs to do things that are not in their best interest if we don’t allow it for our children?

If you think about leaders that you have had in your own life, you can quickly see that some are more effective than others.   A boss who nervously hovers is a headache to work for and can cause low confidence levels in those who report to them.   A boss who is short tempered is uncomfortable to be around and can be difficult to trust.   It is the boss who possesses a calm confidence that inspires the people who report to them to aspire to greater things.   This is what most of us would choose to deal with every day.    Strong, flexible, upbeat, fair, positive and fully committed are all characteristics that most of us respond best to in our leaders.

So how can we take this idea and apply it to our dogs?


I think that many people underestimate what wonderful things their dogs are capable of.   I am often amazed at the array of bad behaviors that are accepted by their owners.   I am disappointed to say that for the average pet owner the high bar is set amazingly low.   It is my belief that almost any dog can be a well mannered member of our society.   Now, I did say “almost any” in that last statement.   Each person reading this is wondering if their own poorly behaved pet would qualify in that “almost any” category.   I can tell you here, that this is likely not the case.   The “almost any ” sector of the dog population are those unfortunate animals who posses chemical imbalances which are often genetic.   These dogs are the exception.

Before we can create changes in our dog’s behaviors we first must be able to visualize what kind of dog we would like our four legged friend to be.   It is important to set goals and to be sure that these goals are realistic for your specific dog.   For example, will your timid dog, who was totally unsocialized  as a puppy and was once nearly feral, ever run enthusiastically up to every human they greet?    Will your severely dog aggressive dog ever want to be best friends with every other dog they meet?   Perhaps these goals are a bit lofty.  But there is no reason that a timid dog can’t become comfortable in the presence of other people, and there is no reason that a severely dog aggressive dog can’t be calm and under control while other dogs are around him. If we can’t visualize it, and BELIEVE it, than we almost certainly can’t create it.   But these things are not achievable without good leadership.

As humans, emotions often control our words and actions.   Unfortunately, our emotions only impede progress when dealing with our dogs.   An effective pack leader uses good common sense and a pragmatic approach when trouble arises.    They give their dog structure and guidance.  They expect certain good behaviors and are willing to teach the dog not only what these behaviors are but how to achieve them.  They also teach the dog that this way of being is in the dog’s best interest… and is non-optional.

How does your dog perceive you?   Are you a leader or a follower?   Do you expect enough from your dog?    Do you have appropriate expectations of what your dog is capable of?   Are you consistent in your expectations?   Are you fair in achieving them?   These are all things to think about when trying to achieve leadership with your canine friend.

A New Beginning

Bailey’s Story

I often mention how inspiring it is to meet the kind of people who are so committed to their dogs that they choose to work through big problems rather than throwing in the towel (and throwing away the dog). These special people continually give me hope that a better human/dog future is on the horizon for all of us.

Steve and Lisa are the kind of people who love life, and enthusiastically embrace the challenges that come with it. I asked Steve to write a short story about his early experiences with his new best friend Bailey.


An injured, pregnant stray dog walked onto the property of a married couple who loved dogs. This special couple was already involved with an animal adoption agency called Furry Kids Refuge. The stray dog delivered seven puppies.  The foster parents took wonderful care of the mother dog and all seven puppies. The dog’s pictures were posted on the Furry Kid’s website. When my wife and I saw the picture of a beautiful red haired female, we knew we had to visit to see if we could be her new forever home.

We met “Ramona” and she was lovely. We cleared the “adoption process” and had our new dog home within one week.  The first week we spent with our newly renamed Bailey was wonderful! However, on the eighth day at our house things quickly began to deteriorate.  Bailey would growl and bark and charge at our 18 year old son (who previously had complained that she was too nice and wouldn’t scare off any intruders). She began to also charge at every visitor who came to our house. We endured this behavior for just two days. By that time we were ready to return Bailey to Furry Kids Refuge. We simply could not own a dog that wanted to bite everyone that entered our house.   But Bailey was so good to my wife and me that we decided we just HAD to try to do something that would allow us to keep her. So we contacted Furry Kids Refuge and explained the situation. We were advised we could return Bailey but they suggested we contact a dog trainer that they recommended. We had never dealt with a dog trainer before but we were more than willing to try that if it meant we could keep our new dog.

We contacted the trainer (Joni Johnson-Godsy) via e-mail. Joni gave me a call the day she received my e-mail and agreed to meet with us that very night! Joni said this behavior needed to be addressed immediately! My wife and I were very nervous about our chances of a trainer being able to do anything with this suddenly vicious dog. Would our dog bite her? Could Bailey be trained? Could WE be trained? What could we do to protect our son and visitors? Would we be able to keep Bailey?   If  so,  how long would it take to get her back to being a loving dog?  So many questions needed answers.

Joni arrived at our home and stayed for over three hours.  During that time she gave us instructions on how to deal with specific behavioral issues.  Bailey immediately started responding to our new ways of correcting her. My wife and I learned how to think like “the alpha dog” (a term I had never heard of before). We were instructed on how to “take our house back” from Bailey. We learned the right way to walk a dog. We learned how to keep the dog from jumping on us. We were educated on how to stop Bailey from hitting the door when she wanted in. We discussed how to turn Bailey into a loving dog.

During Joni’s visit Lisa and I learned that our once passive dog had turned into an aggressive dog because of the way I pampered her and let her have the run of the house the first week we had her. As it turned out, nearly everything I did during the first week with Bailey was NOT the right thing to do with a new dog. Ground rules should have been established from Day One.  I was ignorant on how to handle a new dog but Joni gave me an education on the right way to do things. Joni shared her considerable knowledge of dogs with us and she did this without making us feel less then intelligent (even though we were not prepared to own a new dog).

Near the end of the session, tears formed in my eyes as I came to the realization that we now had a fighting chance to keep our new pet. Joni let us know that with some additional work, Bailey could end up being a wonderful dog.

A few months have passed since that training session and I am very proud to report that Bailey has been transformed into an incredibly loving dog and companion. My son is no longer afraid of her and our visitors are no longer worried about dealing with “Cujo Jr”.

This could not have happened without the assistance of a good trainer/ behaviorist. We are thankful that Furry Kids Refuge referred us to Joni. We are better educated and therefore are better dog owners now.

I strongly recommend speaking with a behaviorist before you bring your new dog home. By being proactive and learning about dogs before you bring them home, you can save yourself a lot of time and trouble. We thought we could handle a new dog on our own but we learned at least in the case of Bailey that we were sadly mistaken. But Joni came through and everything worked out for all involved.”


Steve & Lisa


On a side note, Steve gives me an awful lot of credit here, but it was HE AND LISA who rose to the challenge, hung in there and did the daily training that brought Bailey around. During their session with me they listened, they got it, and then THEY MADE IT HAPPEN! I am so proud of them and am forever grateful to have met such special people!

Waiting For the Sun to Shine


The cement floors were cold.   The walls seemed close and damp.  All was quiet in the corridor.   Suddenly a door opened allowing a shaft of light to shoot through it.   The surrounding air erupted with the desperate excited barking of other lost souls like Dakota.   Echoes rippled down the corridor in waves of anticipation.   A small group of people strolled by stopping at each kennel, peeking excitedly in.  They would occasionally chat and giggle. Then they would draw back and move on.  Dakota would never see them again.

Days became weeks which became months.   Finally those months sprawled into a whole new calendar year, and then into yet another.   The routine was somehow always the same…strange faces briefly peeking in and then moving away, never to be seen again.   Only the dogs kenneled on both sides of him would change.   Dakota waited in the cold, damp corridor.  He waited for the sun to shine.


Rays of sunshine can come in unexpected forms.    A husband and wife had lost a dear elderly canine friend and were looking for a new one.   Dakota’s bright, pretty face caught their eye on an Internet web site.   He had no way of knowing that the sun was finally about to shine on him and that his luck was about to change…forever… Or was it…?

I got a call from a man one cold afternoon.   His voice was soft, gentle and full of compassion.   He had expressed concerns about his dog’s behavior.   He and his wife had had this dog for about a year.   The dog had become increasingly aggressive towards guests in their home.   The dog’s name was Dakota.   He told me that his dog would leap up into the air and punch the guest in the chest with his front feet, sometimes knocking them over.   While in mid jump Dakota’s nose would bump the face of the “intruder”.    This had been escalating in intensity for a long time. Finally the dog injured someone.

John and his wife Carolyn are very compassionate people.   They wanted to be sure when they brought Dakota home that his life would now be nothing but wonderful and full of love.   They were unaware that a lack of structure and rules in his new home would give Dakota power that he would later use in inappropriate ways. Dakota promptly took over the house.

John and Carolyn were at odds over what to do about their problem.   It was clear that things could not continue as they were, but neither one of them could stand the thought of sending Dakota back to the shelter.   If he were to be returned there, he was surely doomed.    They were skeptical about hiring a dog professional but knew that things needed to change.   “There are so many trainers out there, how do I know if I have hired a GOOD trainer?” John asked me over the phone.

It is my firm belief when it comes to improving a dog’s inappropriate behaviors, that the best results come when the dog’s owners and the trainer are aligned and work well together as a team.    John and I were on the same page from the start.   Our phone conversation made that evident to both of us.

When I first met Dakota, I was struck by his power and intensity.   It was clear to me that he did not trust people that he didn’t know.   He used his great power and focus to frighten people so that they would give him a wide birth.   If that didn’t work, he went into offense mode and jumped at them. This dog was a classic combination of dominance and fear.   If left unaddressed, that combination can become very dangerous.

The first thing we needed to do was have John and Carolyn take charge of their house again.   They learned simple ways of reclaiming what once was theirs.    Dakota responded beautifully.   As it turns out, he is a brilliantly intelligent and very willing dog.


The next challenge, and one that would take much longer to achieve was to help Dakota learn that people who are strangers to him can be trusted.   Trust must be earned with time, patience and correct practice.   With new leadership skills, his owners took control and taught him that their friends can be his friends too.   Dakota was especially suspicious of men.    So my husband helped in his rehabilitation.   We used our ace in the hole, Dakota’s love of food (especially CHEESE).   We kept the situation very controlled.   His owners always remained the source of power…and the source of the cheese.   Dakota learned that a stranger walking by meant cheese for him!   That’s not so bad after all!   We made sure that this “stranger” never looked at or addressed Dakota in any way.   Dakota’s focus changed from that of fear and aggression to curiosity in this once scary stranger.

One of the biggest transformations that I saw, and the one I am most amazed, impressed and proud of was the transformation in Carolyn throughout Dakota’s rehabilitation process.   When I first met the couple, she was the one who was almost ready to throw in the towel. She was frustrated, worried about the safety of their family and friends, and had little hope for their future with Dakota. She was clearly at her wits end.   Due to John’s shoulder surgery during all of this, it was Carolyn who did the majority of Dakota’s training.   Carolyn rose to the occasion and then some, and together they both blossomed like beautiful flowers.

Today Dakota has a bright future.   And he is going to share it with two very special people!   What a lucky fellow he is to have been adopted by two people who are so committed to him, people who were willing to seek help and learn the skills needed to give him that wonderful life he is so deserving of.


In One Ear and Out the Other

Some of the most common comments that I hear from clients are “My dog only listens to me when he wants to.”    Or “My dog has selective hearing. Or even “My dog doesn’t listen, he has a really bad stubborn streak…”


It may surprise you to know that the reason most dogs don’t listen to their owners is because the owners have actually inadvertently taught their dogs to not listen to them. How does this happen?

First we have to understand that humans communicate with spoken language. Dogs do not. Dogs naturally communicate with each other using different body postures and energy. When is the last time you have seen two dogs chit-chatting with each other in spoken English? If you have ever seen this, then perhaps it is time for a visit to a mental health specialist!

So now that we’ve established that dogs and humans speak in two different languages, it is logical that translation of language must me made to bridge that gap.

It is important to remember that our dogs can’t help what they don’t know. So anger or inappropriate corrections on a dog who doesn’t listen is not only unfair, but cruel. If we expect a dog to respond to our spoken words, It is our responsibility to first teach them our language. Just because WE know what “sit” means doesn’t mean that a dog does.

Each word (command) needs to be taught separately. Dogs learn best when things are kept simple. It is a matter of association from spoken word to action. In other words, when you say “sit”, gently put the dog into a sitting position. Once the dog is in that position, give him LOTS of praise and a special treat. Now, this is really basic stuff. Most dog owners generally know how to teach the beginnings of commands like this (sit, down, stay, come etc).

So why does a dog who has been taught these basic commands still not listen? The answer is simple. Because the owner has continually given commands and not backed them up with consistent action.


Many people report that their dogs only come to them “when the dog wants to.” These owners instruct their dogs to come while off a leash. The dog doesn’t respond because he does not have a firm understanding of the what the word “come” actually means. So the owner calls him again thinking that the dog is just ignoring him or being stubborn. Still the dog doesn’t come. After calling the dog over and over, the owner becomes frustrated and angry. Now negative emotions impact the situation and the dog has no desire to approach that mad, frustrated person over there. And the person is powerless to see the action through because the dog is in a situation where he will not be caught. A person who repeats a command over and over in a situation where the dog does not have to respond to them soon becomes background noise. Dogs simply don’t listen to background noise. To be fair, neither do we!


The most important thing in teaching a dog to listen to you is to be absolutely certain that you are not background noise to him. Give commands only when you are able to see them through with action. Most dogs who don’t come to their owners off leash, don’t come reliably ON leash. While on a leash, will your dog come to you on a dime every time you call him even when there are huge distractions nearby? Will he come on leash when called as a squirrel runs by? How about a deer? What if a little kid rides by on his bicycle with a big juicy hamburger in his hand? It is not a fair expectation to think your dog will come to you reliably off leash until he has learned to ignore all of the interesting things going on around him and come to you every time when called on leash. All of these distractions need to be taught to the dog while you have complete control of his actions. Not only do we need to teach a dog what our words mean, but also that our words always mean something.

I have a saying when it comes to training dogs to be responsive…”Say what you mean. Mean what you say.” It really is as simple as that.

A Matter of Give and Take

Our dogs give so much to us. They help to lower our blood pressure as we relax and stroke their furry heads. They listen empathetically to our endless chatter.   They calm us by simply being there for us during the assorted moods we experience throughout the day. There is little doubt that creating the domestic dog is one of the best things that man has ever done.


I could go on and on here about the virtues of our great friend the dog. But what about us? What kind of friend are we to them? We do obvious things like feed them. We give them shelter and in most cases love and kindness. We pet their soft fur. Some of us even walk them…at least once in awhile…

Many of us live very hectic lifestyles.     We go to work in the mornings and come home in the early evening.    We may run a few essential errands on the way home.    We are tired and strung out from a stressful day.   We then prepare a meal for the family. When the meal is done and the dishes are cleaned up we collapse onto the couch with a good book or a TV remote. We are exhausted. …Sound like you…?

Meanwhile, our dogs have waited patiently all day for our arrival home. They have seen only the walls inside of our house or the inner lining of the fence to their yard. They have gone nowhere. They have done nothing. When we finally arrive home they are happy to simply receive the pat we give them on the head or the rub behind their ears. But is this really a fair exchange?

It is against the natural heritage of a dog to be sedentary. It is also unnatural for them to be stationary. Dogs who are left to become feral find other dogs in the same situation and form packs. These packs move all about, often traveling several miles during a single day. They may develop a kind of “home territory” but this area is very large and the pack members explore it constantly. Wolves travel dozens of miles in a day in search of food. This activity stimulates their minds and tires their bodies. This is nature. This is the reality of what is necessary for all of the canine species to be well adjusted and stable.

So how do we work the natural needs of our dogs into our busy lives? Below I will list some ideas that are fun for both dog and owner and are achievable even by busy people.

Walking. All dogs need this kind of exercise. It is a common misconception that only big dogs need exercise. Chihuahuas, Yorkies, Maltese, small terriers, etc. come from the same natural heritage as big dogs. Regular long walks are essential for all dogs to maintain a stable state of mind. A good walk not only gives the dog much needed exercise, but gives him a change of scenery as well.   And let’s face it…it is good for us too.


Fetch. Many dogs love toys. Most have a natural chase instinct but the majority don’t have a natural instinct to return the toy for another throw. Of the many dogs I’ve had over the years, only one had a “natural retrieve”, that is a natural inclination to return the toy to me. The rest of my dogs were taught to return the toy. This game is a fast paced way of burning excess energy in the dog. “Fetch” is a wonderful activity for the couch potato owner, but is not a substitute for a good long walk.


Dog Agility. This activity is exploding in popularity. Agility classes are springing up everywhere. A dog must be somewhat sociable with other dogs to take part in a class situation. Agility is especially effective for hyper active dogs who need something to do. It can also boost the confidence of shy dogs. It is important when seeking out an agility class to do some research. Only classes with instructors who use positive training methods should be considered.


Agility includes fun activities for your dog such as jumping over obstacles, running through tunnels and climbing on assorted objects.  It is fast paced and FUN!


Off Leash Parks: These are places where dogs can be let off leash to run with other dogs. These areas are often fenced. Again, only dogs with good social skills should attend such places.

Cycling: For very active dogs this can be a fun activity. A dog needs to be trained where to position himself in relation to the bicycle. Keep in mind while cycling with your dog that he is exerting more energy than you, the cyclist. One should be constantly aware of the dogs basic body temperature and energy level while taking part in this activity.


Roller Blading: Big, fast dogs love this. It is important to have control over the dog in public before this can be done safely. Control is achieved in training during the walk.

Swimming: For those with a lake, pond  or private pool nearby, swimming can be the ultimate way to expend energy in your dog. I especially like this one because my black long-coated border collies over heat so easily in warm weather. Cool water prevents this and allows the exercise to continue on long after other forms of activity have to be stopped. A dog who has just spent time in the water is a tired and happy dog afterward! Even dogs who don’t like to swim often enjoy wading in the shallows.


It is important to realize that a change in scenery is an important factor in any form of exercise. The more places you take your dog, the bigger his world will be. Dogs who are exposed to a wide variety of situations are often more well adjusted animals than those who are continually left at home. So do right by your canine buddy and get out there….and have some FUN with him!     Make this a regular part of your lives together.

The Predator Within

As we look at our cuddly dogs who shower us with kisses in the morning, fling themselves upside down for tummy rubs and contently curl up at our feet as we tap away at our computer key boards, it can be difficult to imagine them as “cold blooded killers”. But we often don’t have to look very far to see the heritage of predator in them. Just throw a toy, walk your dog by a squirrel, or have a cat quickly run past and the “animal” inside of Fido will quickly appear.


Like all carnivores, the eyes of a dog are positioned on the front of his head. This is very different from prey animals like deer, rabbits, squirrels and even birds, which have eyes on the sides of their heads so they can see not only what is in front of them, but also what is following behind. A predator must see only what is in front of him, and be able to lock focus and follow quick movement which is what leads him in a chase. People too, are social predators and are very effected by movement. Just look out a window at any scene. It will be the moving objects that attract your eye.

In some dogs this predatory legacy is more prominent than in others. Certain breeds were created upon the very fundamentals of this principle for the benefit of man. Terrier breeds were bred to hunt quick moving vermin that live under ground. It is very difficult to encourage a Jack Russel Terrier to ignore that mouse in the house! Some of the hound breeds too, are especially attracted to movement for this same reason. Herding breeds are bred to notice even the slightest muscle twitch on a cow or sheep so they can control that movement. So a car zooming by on a road or a pet cat running through a house is to them quite “chase worthy”. Guard breeds are bred to notice the slightest movements of human strangers, so they can be at the ready when trouble arises.

It is important when adopting a new dog to take a close look at the other animals you may already have in your house. Not all dogs have strong prey drive. And some dogs just like a good chase. It is the dog who is in true predator mode that can be dangerous to the small animals who already reside in your home. These are also the dogs that are typically the most difficult to rehabilitate. Finding an appropriate balance between your animals during adoption can save a lot of heartache for you later on.


The good news is that many dogs can be trained to leave your other furry little pets alone. Dogs who like to chase movement, but are not wanting to kill as the end product can be most easily modified. This starts with good leadership by you, the pack leader. It is imperative that your dog first views you as Commander and Chief if you are to be successful in modifying this behavior. We can often distract a “chase oriented” dog away from the family cat with a toy or food reward that is better or more fun than chasing that cat.. We can redirect his attention onto something more to our liking by controlling the situation with the dog on a leash. It is important to give a special “reward” for a dog who is learning to ignore the fast movement of the “prey” animal.

It is our responsibility as humans to manage our animals correctly and ensure safety for everyone under our care. In most cases, it is when defined leadership within a home is in question that chaos occurs.

Enormous Courage in a Small Package


There is no doubt that one of the most rewarding parts of working with troubled dogs is getting to know the wonderful people who are so committed to them. I am continually inspired by people who love their dogs enough to not give up on them despite the tough work and the time it can take to bring these dogs to a more balanced place.

It can be scary to have a total stranger come into your home, especially when you are there alone. I met a young lady who was willing to take that chance because she loved her troubled dog enough to seek help for her. She had me into her home as the first step on their way to a better life together. We had a nice chat. I knew right away that there was something special about Amy.

Karma is a yellow lab. She does not fit the stereotype of what most people think of when a big happy yellow dog comes to mind. You see, Karma finds other members of her own species to be repulsive…VERY repulsive. To Karma, dogs were fight worthy whether right next to her or two blocks away. Her devoted owner Amy walked her regularly despite the wounds that were often inflicted on her when Karma had a tantrum and redirected her aggressions onto the nearest thing…Amy’s arm. Somehow this diminutive young woman had found a way to tap in on BIG inner courage and continued to walk Karma anyway. After all, the young dog needed exercise…


When I first met Amy, I was struck by her honesty.   I could sense  inner struggle as she tried her best to balance her courage with the harsh realities that had become so much a part of her troubled dog’s life. It was imperative that the first thing we had to stop was the redirection of Karma’s wrath onto Amy’s body. So we set out on a walk in the light misting rain.

Karma had no problem showing off her problem right away. It was important for us to gain her respect from the get go. But first we had to make Karma learn that she was not out there by herself to do what ever she wanted. We had to bring her back down to earth and realize that not only was she with us, but that we were the ones running the show. Giving her our strongest inner energy helped a great deal.

We took Karma around the neighborhood and found dogs in yards to practice by. With some repetition Karma did show improvement, although the old way of being had become habit. And we all know that practice makes perfect…even when that practice is the very behavior that we don’t want. With correct practice Amy found an inner strength that she had not yet known.  She remained somewhat haunted by past experiences but was ready, willing and able to work through that.  Karma behaved better for me, as I brought a new and different energy into her life and Karma took me more seriously. But Amy made significant progress in a very short time. I was so very proud of her.

During Karma’s rehabilitation, Amy recognized that she is a very intelligent dog and has begun to teach her some tricks. This is a VERY good idea, as it will stimulate that bright mind. And it will also strengthen their bond. It sounds like they are both enjoying it too.

Today I get occasional reports from Amy. Karma has come a looooong way. Some of her issues remain, but in a diluted fashion and Amy is now in control. Her body has not felt the bite of redirection since my visit. They continue to walk often and work on things. How I admire Amy’s courage and tenacity.


My hat is off to you Amy, and I am very inspired by your spirit.   Keep on walking!….

Helping to Heal a Troubled Heart


Everything that we experience in life has unexpected lessons attached to it.   When border collie Kip came into my life, he was wild, confused, detached and aggressive.  My husband wanted to get our next dog from a rescue group and the timing seemed right.  I’ve had border collies for nearly twenty years and wished to have yet another one.   There was something about Kip that attracted both of us.  So…we decided to give him a new home.    What a WILD ride awaited us!…


I will be honest here and say that there were times in the beginning when I wondered what in the world we had done.  Kip had been a stray.  He was bone skinny, reeked of skunk spray and had no interest in being a part of any group, especially a human one.  He was horrified of cars, moving or not, and was torn between running from them or chasing them. Inside the house, he was on a mission to destroy everyting from the inside out.  He lunged at anything that moved and tried to control this movement with his teeth.


Kip’s body told of a sad history.  He is missing an ear, torn clean off in an apparent attack at some point in his past.  There is a notch out of the “good” ear and scar tissue all down the back of his neck under his fluffy white ruff.  Clearly he had been in a great battle at some point early in his life and likely was not the victor.  The physical scars were easy to see at a glance, but the emotional scars were more lasting and much more difficult to deal with.   Indeed I had a challenge ahead of me.   But this challenge taught me not only some new techniques in dealing with dogs, but also a special empathy for those dog owners out there who desperately wish to improve behaviors in their own dogs.

Over time, with daily practice, training and loads of patience, Kip slowly began to evolve into a more and more balanced dog.  His tantrums were further and further apart, gradually decreasing in intensity.  In time, they were gone altogether as if melted away with a late spring snow.   His eyes are now soft and loving.   His spirit has found a more peaceful way of being.  It has been a long, tough journey that he and I have traveled together.   I wouldn’t change a day of it.


(Above)  Kip looking alert and happy.    He has blossomed into a wonderfully sweet and good natured boy.

(Below) Kip relaxes in the cool shade under the deck.  His mind and spirit are calm, relaxed and trusting.


Dogs, much like people never stop growing and changing.  Today for the first time Kip joined Wager and I on a behavior call to help out a dog in need.   This dog struggles to get along with those of her own species.  There was a day when Kip was like that.   Today he has reminded me of what is possible when love meets knowledge, patience and correct practice.   It was a magical day for my Kippy;  a day in which he said “thank you” to me for our work together.   I am proud to have been a part of his healing process.

…Thank you little fellow for needing me so and for the gift of insight that you have given to me.  What a wonderful little teacher you are.



I decided to add a web log to my site to have a place where I can post things of interest to people who love dogs.  I will add things as the inspiration hits me and hope that the entries are helpful and maybe even inspirational to those who are working to improve the behaviors of their beloved four legged friends.

I’ll start by introducing my dog Wager, whose image was used as the header at the top of this web log.

Wager often joins me on my behavior consultation trips and is a terrific help in rehabilitating dogs who are not fond of their own species.  His “steady Eddie” personality seems to have a calming effect on most dogs who meet him.   He sees the world through rose colored glasses and has never met a stranger.  We humans could learn quite a lot from such an optimistic and accepting point of view!

I acquired Wager as a puppy from a breeder nine years ago.  He was a very successful show dog and later developed a love for camera work, modeling for a wide variety of products over the years and he even filmed a TV commercial and nailed it on the first take.  He is happiest when he is with his person, who luckily is ME, and he loves to be out and about, experiencing the wide wonders of the world.   How lucky I am to have such a wonderful and loyal friend in my life!