Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Rest In Peace Sweet Fay

We are very sad to announce that Fay from the Missouri raid this year has died. She had been undergoing surgeries to correct her mouth where much of her lips had been missing. This had presented a myriad of health issues for Fay.


Fay underwent her second surgery and all went very well. Unfortunately after the surgery she went into cardiac arrest. All appropriate percautions had been taken prior to the surgery by the vet and truly nothing could have prevented this tragic event. There is no blame here, well, except toward the people who used her for dog fighting that ravaged her little body.
Thank you to Gale at MuttsNStuff for your love, care and peace you gave to this beautiful angel. Thank you Dr. Marcy for you love and help you gave this wonderful girl. Thank you to HSMO for giving this sweet dog a chance. She touched the hearts and souls of many and will truly be missed.

Animal abuse such as dogfighting, neglect and needless lack of simply caring for the animals that God made US in charge of needs to stop....now. The obvious evidence of abuse that Fay showed along with her courage in spite of it MUST give us a concept of what real courage and humanity is. It's sadly ironic to me that in this case as with many others it's the animal showing the human how they should be.

Rest in peace beautiful Fay,you will forever be in our hearts




Marthina McClay, CPDT
Animal Behavior College Mentor Trainer
Certified Tester/Observer for Therapy Dogs, Inc.
AKC Certified CGC Evaluator
www.ourpack.org
www.dogtrainingforpeople.com

Monday, December 28, 2009

Life's Peachy for Peachy




Peachy came to us from an abuse case in Georgia. She was saved by a fantastic woman that we've blogged about before named Gloria Wheatley from Washington Wilkes County Animal Shelter. Here's the blog that we did on her story. Peachy's Blog

Julie and Tom are great folks with two young kids who came to us wanting a dog. They were interested in Peachy so they came to our Sunday class to see her and let her interact with their children. I explained that Peachy was very young and needed lots of training and structure. Further I told them that having young kids can make this even harder, especially when both people are working full time jobs. Young kids love to goof around and have fun with the dogs which is great and we want that but it can really undo training sometimes if children and dogs are not well managed.

Being that Julie and Tom already had a dog that was 11 years old they knew how to handle dogs very well. Instead of losing interest these wonderful people said, "great, we'll come to class without a dog and learn." Hmmmm, there they were every week in class with their Starbuck's coffee asking all the smart questions and soaking up everything they could about Pit Bulls and dog training.

Eventually they began handling Peachy in class. They were awesome with her. Peachy tuned right into them and was so willing to please them. Julie and Tom learned so much and did so well that we decided to let them take her home for a foster to adopt period.

Peachy now comes to class so well behaved and better than ever. They have done a fantastic job with her. Julie and Tom's kids are excellent with Peachy as well.

Their adoption has been finalized and they get free CGC certification and training for Peachy for the rest of her life. They still come to class, rain or shine every week and offer to help Our Pack in any way they can. They really already have helped Our Pack AND the breed so much by being such great people with their girl and their children. If all owners were like this the world would be a better place for all dogs.

Dogs of all breeds need to be researched before bringing them into one's home. Estimation of the work involved needs to be assessed and finding the right match is so important. Taking time to learn about a breed is great but learning about the individual dog you are about to adopt is essential.

Here's Peachy with her human brother now living the Peachy life. This right here is why we do this work.




Marthina McClay, CPDT
Animal Behavior College Mentor Trainer
Certified Tester/Observer for Therapy Dogs, Inc.
AKC Certified CGC Evaluator
www.ourpack.org
www.dogtrainingforpeople.com

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Michael Vick gets an award???

Interview with Michael Vick here: http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=389x7309186

Leo

Interview here with Leo - formerly owned by Michael Vick:

Interviewer: Tell us, Leo, what is your life like now after all you've been through?

Leo: Well, I feel loved and I have a job that I feel I was born to do. Before, I didn't have this job or such a feeling of self worth.

Interviewer: Leo, many people feel that you have courage. You won an award called the Animals are Kind to People Award. Do you feel it took courage to achieve this after everything you've been through?

Leo: Yes, I feel that many dogs would have such a tough time living the life I once lived. They wouldn't be able to handle and endure what I have. I did bounce back and I don't hold any grudges against anyone. I'm just simply proud of who and what I am now.

Interviewer: Leo, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today. We are proud of you and hope that life just continues to go better for you now that you've achieved so many goals and have gotten back into the swing of things.

Leo: Thanks so much for taking the time and caring enough to interview me.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Dog Safety Tips

Our Pack training class

Sunday morning we had our usual training class. Then we had a play date with a couple of dogs that have played together many times. All were having fun.

Then one dog stopped playing, vomited and collapsed. After vomiting she laid down and literally would not get up. It was warmer than normal and in fact I was sweating a bit, so we thought she was overheated. There was a little wading pool so we splashed her with some water which seemed to help. We noticed her gums were extremely pale.

She started to come around a bit after splashing her with water. She was rushed to an emergency vet and was kept for several hours for observation. By the time she got to the vet she had come out of her collapse quite a bit. She's doing fine now and all back to normal. It turned out that it was most likely a bee sting or spider bite. So watch out for those buggers. Dogs don't tolerate bee stings and some bug bites very well.

The reason for this blog is the vet told us all something that we didn't know. If a dog is overheated, his gums are bright red. If he's in shock, as was this case, then the gums are pale.

Either way we were told that splashing the water on her saved the day as the water would get adrenaline going to aid in circulation for shock and if she had had heat stroke this would have cooled her off. However, I found this info empowering so immediate first aid may be more effective.

Marthina McClay, CPDT Animal Behavior College Mentor Trainer
Certified Tester/Observer for Therapy Dogs Inc.
AKC Certified CGC Evaluator

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Denver Post Column on Breed ID Study Misses the Point

Scary. This Denver Post article makes the point of not banning breeds that have been ID'd the 'eye ball' way BUT "needlessly killing....". Gaw, do we need to needlessly kill ANY breed? There is NO aggressive BREED! Not! Are they saying if they WERE Pit Bulls then it wouldn't be needless?

Read the article here:http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_14005785#ixzz0ZqP9mhIm

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Pit Bull introductions

Here's a little update on our MO dog, Jakob, from his foster person. This is what we like to see. Lots of intros and very well-managed play before getting to this point. We make sure that play sessions aren't rude free-for-alls. These guys have picked up good habits from each other and have taken cues from their wonderful foster people too.

Pit Bull intros.
Video by Phil Boucher

Monday, December 14, 2009

Beautiful Video of the Missouri Bust Dogs

Here's a wonderful video of the Missouri dogs. One of my favorite photos of all time is of our Stella being cuddled by Gale. Stella.....innocence. Beautiful photography by Lynn Terry.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Educate, Educate, Educate

Rescue, rescue, rescue. All well and good, but without education, we'll be rescuing till the cows come home, and then maybe we'll have to work on them too!

Today I talked to a woman from a major publication about doing an article on Our Pack and our former Michael Vick dog, Leo.

Here is Leo educating.

I can't say which publication, the article is not through editing yet and won't be out until March. But during our conversation she told me that she had always thought Pit Bulls were those "bad" dogs. She said that before she talked to me, this is what she thought but that she has completely changed her opinion about the dogs after our discussions and looking at the articles on our web site.

I have realized that the media has been "educating" our public on the Pit Bull breed. Well, ok, not "educate" - but 'ya know. One reason Our Pack rescues out-of-state dogs is that it's an opportunity to educate the world about how wonderful these dogs can be. I see that the media NEEDs to be educated so they in turn can educate their audiences with the correct information.

I'm hoping with all my heart, after hearing what this woman had to say, that this is happening.......REAL education. She writes for many, many publications and there is an opportunity to change perceptions. Ok, lots of work to do, but I hope things are getting better.

Likewise, I see wonderful pics of people and their Pit Bulls on our Facebook page, and this is education in and of itself. I would like to thank all of you who post your pics, and share your thoughts and stories about your dogs as family members. This IS true education, as it's not preaching, it's just showing the world the truth.

Our bust dogs are showing the world the truth, which is why we do this work. When you guys speak out on our blogs or Facebook page, you show your support for the dogs. Thanks everyone for your support and help in educating the right way about this breed.

I hope we can keep up the good work and keep telling our positive stories of our loyal, faithful companions. I don't see many other channels to help the breed. Also, I think if we are willing to learn from our dogs we can go far.

Marthina McClay, CPDT
Animal Behavior College Mentor Trainer
Certified Tester/Observer for Therapy Dogs, Inc.
AKC Certified CGC Evaluator

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Teddy Kiriakidis, Ronald Creach, Michael Morgan, Robert Hackman plead guilty to dog fighting

By Mike Garrity

KSDK -- Four eastern Missouri men have been sentenced for federal crimes involving dog fighting.

The convictions resulted from the largest coordinated multistate raids on dog fighting in U.S. history.

Teddy Kiriakidis, 50, of Leasburg, and Ronald Creach, 34, of Leslie, were sentenced Tuesday to 18 months in federal prison.

Thirty-eight-year-old Michael Morgan of Hannibal and 56-year-old Robert Hackman of Foley each were sentenced to one year in prison.

Each man pleaded guilty to conspiracy.

Read the full article here.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Professor Dexter on Good Manners

Dexter's Corner

"Will he ever play with other dogs?"

That's a question I get asked many times as a canine behavior counselor. Sometimes dogs just don't like other dogs. This can happen with any dog of any breed.

Some people may want their dogs to love all other dogs, but their dog may not want that. Usually this is something that can be very easily managed, unless it's really inappropriate and over-the-top aggression that is not Pit Bull or other breed-temperament correct.

Good leash manners classes really help, as do daily walks in environments on-leash that help desensitize the dog to other dogs while on leash. The dog can at least learn to have good manners around other dogs while on leash and do very well.

It is normal for dogs to vary greatly in their reactions, good or bad, to other dogs. If a dog doesn't like other dogs, this doesn't make him a bad dog at all. Usually these guys are really, really super with people.

Here at Our Pack, we see dogs as individuals, not lumped into a category. Some dogs really like other dogs. Some of these come from fight busts. Others that don't like other dogs may come from a shelter or be someone's pet. OR, dogs from fight busts can be very sensitive to other dogs. Whether from a bust or a shelter or a home, this varies. So making an assessment first is key.

Many times we see a gray area where the dog is not aggressive but not particularly skilled, either. This is true of many dogs that have come from abuse or neglect cases. They didn't get a chance to go to puppy-to-puppy "social school", and so they never learned to greet, play, interact and interpret communication signals from other dogs. This is where their environment has sort of created a malnourished soul, if you will. Genetics may influence behavior as well.

Many dogs are great at teaching these dogs the right way to communicate, in fact we're often better at it than people. It's in them to do the right thing, and a nice balanced dog is the perfect one to bring it out.

Here's Hailey after working with Jakob for a while...well, I think he did pretty well after some instruction. At first, he didn't know what the heck to do.




Hailey and Jakob were slowly introduced and set up for success. They got to know each other gradually, and we guided their interactions so the dogs were encouraged to play with each other appropriately and reinforced for that. (Click here to learn more about dog-to-dog intros.)

Note: All play sessions should be supervised with all dogs of all breeds. Remember to separate animals when you leave as well. Call a professional if you are having problems.

Professor Dexter
Expert in Dog Behavior Challenges
Shelter Volunteer
Well Loved Family Member

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Order Your Our Pack 2010 Calendar!

The Our Pack calendar is here just in time for the holidays! Order one for yourself and one for a friend, they make great gifts! We'd like to give a big thanks to the photographers who donated their time to take these gorgeous photos. To order just click on the calendar image below:




Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Another Missouri Raid Dog Comes Home to Our Pack


Remember this photo of the dogs being taken from the yard during the large Missouri dog fighting raid? This girl you see here is being carried out to safety.

Here's Tracey Cutler when she was on site where the Missouri bust dogs have been staying. With her is Stella, beautiful Stella. Celebrate her arrival with us, she's a good girl.

We're so happy to see so many of these wonderful dogs getting out and into rescue.....look for updates on Stella.
Thanks to HSMO and Gale at Mutts-n-Stuff for their assistance in helping us get our wonderful girl!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Can Former Fight Dogs Be Friends?

At one time, Leo, the former Michael Vick dog, was grouped in with dogs that were called the "most dangerous dogs in America" Here he is with another "dangerous" dog, Belinda from the Humane Society of Missouri fight bust. Can they be friends? You decide:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Skeldon says he will step down Dec. 31

Konop wants him dismissed immediately

Lucas County Dog Warden Tom Skeldon has submitted a letter of resignation, effective Jan. 31, but Commissioner Ben Konop wants the warden to leave his office immediately."I am not comfortable with him as our dog warden for even another day," Mr. Konop announced at a Thursday afternoon news conference.

Read the rest of the article here.

It's Not You, It's Me

Those of you who read this blog regularly are familiar with my efforts to help my leash reactive dog, Bear, stay calmer on walks, especially when he spots other dogs. Bear has made so much progress that I thought I would give an update in the hopes that my experience might be helpful to others who are struggling with this challenge.

Our Pack leash reactive class.

Earlier this summer, I was taking Bear to Our Pack’s Sunday leash reactivity class. I have three young dogs, and walking them all together is a challenge, especially when one or more of them is leash reactive. Bear was doing well in class, but on walks around our neighborhood he was still getting pretty spun up. He makes this funny squeal when he gets excited or nervous, which would turn to barking and lunging whenever a strange dog got too close.

So I took Bear to see Marthina for a private consultation with her Pit Bull ambassadors, Hailey and Professor Dexter. He did great there too - making me look like an overwrought, anxious owner who was blowing this all WAY out of proportion. He laughed at me all the way home.

Marthina kindly advised me to just walk Bear alone for a while, without my other dogs, to continue building his confidence.

Well, a couple of months ago, I had knee surgery and couldn’t walk my dogs at all anymore, so I hired someone to come in the mornings to exercise them. Once my knee got a little better, I took Marthina’s advice and started taking Bear out for a second, short walk around the block in the afternoons, just the two of us. Well, it’s funny, the knee surgery meant that I had to walk REALLY slowly at first, which actually helped us both to relax a lot more. I think that before, I had been prone at times to taking those grim, “Grab the leashes, stare straight ahead, you are all going to behave!” death march walks with my dogs. You know the kind, where you keep walking a little faster and a little faster, just to “technically” stay out in front of your dog? You know who you are!

Now, with my bum knee, Bear and I would just sort of amble (limp) along, stopping often to rest and sniff the rose bushes. But I also took the opportunity to continue to work on his leash skills, giving him lots of treats and positive rewards for coming back to my side. I did this every time a dog barked inside a house or behind a fence we were passing, or when a squirrel ran across the road, a cyclist went by and, of course, when we saw other dogs. I went through a LOT of treats. But in the space of a few short weeks, our walks, and Bear’s leash skills, have vastly improved. We have gotten to the point where he will walk on a very loose leash without pulling, even as we pass by other dogs. Even excited, barking dogs.

I hadn’t realized, though, how much progress we’d really made until a recent afternoon. We were walking around the block and I was daydreaming a bit, not really paying attention, when a dog in a neighbor’s yard suddenly rushed the fence and erupted in furious barking. I nearly jumped out of my skin, then

Bear in Our Pack's class.

quickly recovered, only to see Bear, standing calmly at my side, looking up at me as if to say, “Well, where’s my treat??” He reacted better than I did! Amazing. I think the combination of me relaxing and providing TRUE consistency (we go every single day, even for just ten minutes) did wonders.

Bear still has his moments, but it is just awesome to see his progress. Our little daily walks have really helped us bond. I can see his trust in me growing every day, and more importantly, I’ve learned to trust him, too.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Welcoming Committiee for Missouri Bust Girl

Here's some of the Our Pack crew giving a warm good morning welcome to Belinda our newest girl from the Missouri raid.

Thank you to Gale from Mutts and Stuff for driving our girl to the airport. She arrived safe and sound!

Also, in this article I wanted to correct the fact that Jakob is living with Anna Morey Seekamp, an Our Pack volunteer and trainer. He is going to be fostered by her until he's adopted. She and I will be working together on his therapy training. In the article it states that Jakob is living with me. Easy to misunderstand being that Leo lives with me. Happy Endings
Thank you Anna for all your good work!!

Marthina

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Our Pack welcomes Belinda!

Humane Society of Missouri Releases Another Fight Bust Dog to Our Pack

Our Pack has had the pleasure of working with Humane Society of Missouri for the second time here recently. Our girl Zoe, who's now a therapy dog (seen here in this pic with her wonderfull person who addoped her) came from the Stoddard County MO raid in 2007. She's well and happpy because the good folks at HSMO gave these dogs a chance at a new life.

Well, this weekend we will be getting our second dog, Belinda, who from the HSMO fight bust, the largest dog fighting raid in US history. I just want to thank the HSMO from the bottom of my heart, along with Tracey Cutler and the Our Pack crew, for all that they've done for these wonderful dogs. We've included a video of Debbie Hill and Tim Rickey talking about the dogs they've helped. These are truly amazing people. We thank you and our dogs thank you!! This video made me cry!

You can see the video here:
http://video.ap.org/?f=AP&pid=tRL6Lc3vYrnPjT3R2CCU7gCiRkfznQeL

Or visit our Facebook page to view it here:
http://www.facebook.com/#/pages/Our-Pack-Inc/151810632362?ref=mf

Marthina

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Rehabilitated


I get asked this question all the time. "Can dogs that have been abused by humans that fight them really be rehabilitated?" Hmmmm, well, I don't think the word is rehabilitated, I think it's more like we put the dogs that have been abused by humans in fighting rings in an environment where they can now go back to what they previously were or could have been without the abuse. In other words, the animal abusers put the dogs in a position to be defensive. It's not that there is a desire to fight in the dogs but a feeling of being threathened and a need to defend themselves. So any compulsion to defend themselves is due to having been put in a life threatening situation over and over and over. This is not a desire to fight. Having to have to do something for survival is different than a desire to do it for the fun of it. Humans are very different people during a war vs when they are at home comfortably watching TV for instance.
Humans make the dogs by setting up an environment that either places the dog in a winning-by-good-behavior position or he sets up an environment that places him in a "winning"-by-bad-behavior position. We allow the dog to go back to what he would naturally be in an environment that is condusive to survival on his terms.
Yes, they do have their own core temperaments and yes, genetics plays a role but that's actually another discussion apart from this one.
I'm not talking about just taking a dog from a raid and plunking him down somewhere where no one has a clue either. I'm talking about taking a dog and placing him in an environment where he learns that all is well and there's good leadership and wonderful things happen when he does the right thing. Again, he becomes what he already would have been if he wasn't threatened and forced to do and be something else.
Sometimes dogs are too damaged from abuse and they get "stuck". Then it's difficult to help them and that is something we always have to face. This is why it is so important to just assess first on an individual basis. Maybe some dogs aren't going to do well with dogs coming from these situations. However, as a trainer of all breeds I've seen this happen with many, many breeds up through maturity coming from many different situations.
So here we have Jakob who came from the largest dog fighting raid in US history. On his intake report it said that he did have scars but we don't let that be the brunt of our assessment. We go futher and see how he is with other dogs. We started out working with my dogs.
To sum it up we did long crate intros, walking side by side, meeting through a gate and in general just went slow with my dogs. This sends the message that these dogs here are cool. No one's going to do anything scary here.
The first dog to meet Jakob on leash with no barrier was Dexter. Jakob was, uh,hum, you know like, "uh, what are we going to do now?" Of course Dex knew what to do right away as he could see that Jakob was unsure of what he was suppose to be doing. He's met dogs that have been abused before many times and could see the lack of confidence that Jakob had in his own skills.
Jakob was willing to please and to listen to us. He was actually even willing to do whatever it was Dexter wanted as well. So when he could see that Dexter was not going to do anything but just some good ole fashioned canine fun stuff he was a bit lost but willing to go along or at least try.
When there was some interaction Jakob had no clue as to what to do at first. It was like his arsenal of doggie play behaviors was simply empty. Dexter continued to show him what to do and Jakob started to get the idea. I cheat at this for sure. My dogs do most of the work!
After this initial interaction with Dexter Jakob went to Tinkerbell's house for fostering. Tinkerbell has been there, done that. She was in big trouble at the shelter a few years ago because she was loud and very rude on a leash around other dogs. So we got her out of the shelter and we started to work with her.......well, obviously she's now helping other dogs that are in similar situations she's been in.
Tinkerbell has shown Jakob how to do a play bow, a little flip in the air that's quite catchy for any dog trying to get attention and to respect the anti-humping laws! This is all with his foster person's help.
Now that Jakob's a bit more grooved into the rules and regs of canine play (of course this is still very controlled and monitored by Anna his foster person) he's allowed to go a step further and even play a bit of tug with Tinkerbell. The game has rules and is very controlled by Anna, i.e. the dogs release the tug when she says to and they can have it back when she says they can. Fun and safe!
So please join us in congratulating Jakob on getting back to life and most of all back to who he really is! See picture of the "real" Jakob!
Note: This is one account of one dog in one situation. All assessments are going to be different for different dogs. Additionally, all dogs depending on outcome of assessment will require individual protocols.
Marthina McClay, CPDT

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

New Lives: Stories of Rescued Dogs Helping, Healing and Giving Hope

Our Leo will have his own chapter in this fabulous book available starting next week! It's called:


The book talks about dogs being rescued and then giving back. This is exactly what Leo, formerly one of Michael Vick's dogs, has done. Even though people didn't always give him the best, he gave the best back to people.

Please check out and/or purchase this heartwarming book about the many dogs that have been rescued and give back to their communities. You can purchase it here:
http://www.3blackdogs.org/Home_Page.html

I'd like to thank Joanne Wannon for a wonderful job in recounting Leo's life and showing the world what a truly wonderful soul he is.

We're teaching at-risk kids positive reinforcement.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Our Pack featured in SFGate.com column

Earlier this week, we gave you a preview of some material that Christie Keith wrote for her PetConnections.com blog that came out of an interview with Our Pack. This week, she published the main story in a terrific piece featured in her "Your Whole Pet" column on SFGate.com called:

Michael Vick's unpaid dues: Why dog advocates aren't moving on

We here at Our Pack understand that the Michael Vick case has received a lot of space in this blog, and elsewhere in the rescue community. We know that most of our readers are already aware (and abhor) what Vick did to his dogs at Bad Newz Kennels.

However, as Christie points out in her column, much of the general public still are not aware of the full details of this case, which is why we think, for the sake of all the dogs that didn't survive, it still deserves mention here.

Let us know what you think.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Dexter's Corner

Hello, I'm Professor Dexter. I used to be a professor in bug chemistry, but now I'm a professor in canine communication. Because my person rescues dogs, I was exposed at a very early age to all sorts of personality types – in dogs that is. At well over 3 years of age, I am now a canine counselor.

I have seen many, many troubled dogs come to us that later did very well because my sister and I taught them better canine communication skills. I have found that many dog problems stem from an inability to communicate with each other the right way. Sometimes we simply misunderstand each others’ body signals (which is mostly what we go by). When this happens, everyone gets upset, really for no reason at all. Then, when the humans step in and they don't understand what's going on, it can get even worse. Sometimes humans think dogs are so much like themselves!

Dogs really are professors of sorts. They learn, then teach, learn, then teach. They teach for the purpose of survival and that survival is for all involved, not just for one. I learned from my older sister Hailey, with her gray muzzle, because she had to teach other rescue dogs lessons and learned from those lessons herself. Now I'm teaching my little sister, Posie, proper dog-to-dog skills. She's still in the "positive experience only allowed" mode because, at a year and a half, she's still young. She has to build up her skills and have a fair amount of confidence to do a job like mine and work with the tough guys. My person says that we've all taught her about us.

I like being a professor/counselor. I like helping dogs that are insecure. They're usually the really loud, barking, growling, lunging dogs that make a big dramatic display. They are also the type most often misunderstood by the humans. Humans usually think these dogs want to fight and are aggressive. But usually they're just trying to AVOID a fight. Funny, huh? I just completely ignore the noisy, dramatic show. Showing them the side of my face makes it clear that I don't care if they're loud and trying to get me to go away. I'm not afraid of them because it's all just BS anyway, and after they're done with that business, I reward them with play for stopping that behavior. This also shows them the proper way to greet, instead of using gaudy distancing type behaviors that only drive away potential friends.

I have helped shy dogs because I'm not pushy and I don't HAVE to play with anyone, because I myself am very secure in how I feel. I let them come to me and I give them their space, and use special signals to show I'm not threatening. I have a very well formed and structured pack, so I'm cool. Our people are careful to make sure we are guided correctly too. But some dogs don't have that, because the humans that took care of them in the past didn't understand that early play, socialization and guidance are like food to a young dog. Without these things, it's like there's a malnourishment of the canine spirit. Some horrible people go a step further and actually do the opposite, and get their dogs to communicate the wrong way on purpose so fights start. Then, of course, one can't help it, you're stuck and sort of forced now to defend yoursel. It’s sad when that happens to dogs because it goes against our grain. When those guys come to us, I see right away that they never wanted to be in a fight at all. Most of them are so happy to see that, at our place, we do fun stuff where everyone wins.

The dogs begin to realize that there's a lot of confidence to be gained from other dogs, especially in a pack sense, and they really start to feel better. I see tails rise out of butts, heads come up even with or above the shoulders, and sometimes maybe even for the first time in their life, a smile.

Now I see Leo doing it. A dog my person took into rescue recently got really noisy while on his leash around Leo. Leo used to live with Michael Vick, so you can imagine that when he first came to us, he was initially a little sensitive around this sort of behavior....poor guy. Anyway, this new dog was barking and lunging at Leo while Leo was on his leash. Lo and behold, there was Leo, looking just like me, calm, still and turning his head so the insecure dog could see the side of his face. He told the dog, "I know how you feel but you're wrong, I'm just here, doing nothing, so it's ok and all will be well....when you're calm we'll meet." I was so proud of Leo. And the new dog will learn too. See how it works? We've worked with many dogs that are now helping other dogs.

My person says to please pardon the anthropomorphism (making dogs sound like people) but sometimes we have to explain things to dogs in dog language, like what I do for a living. Other times we have to explain things to humans in human language, like what my person does for a living.

Thanks for listening to my story. I may be starting a column somewhere called "Dexter's Corner" or "Dear Dexter," so that I can answer your questions and concerns about canine behavior. I hope you’ll find it useful.

Dr. Dexter
Expert in Dog Behavior Challenges
Shelter Volunteer
Well Loved Family Member

Newsweek Article Featuring Our Friends Mary Harwelik and Tia Torres

Take a moment to read this article about Pit Bulls in Newsweek, and share your views:

The Pit-Bull Problem
America's most-maligned dog wants to be sweet and docile, but well-meaning humans mess it all up.
By Joan Raymond | Newsweek Web Exclusive
Oct 30, 2009

http://www.newsweek.com/id/220497/page/1

Also, let us know what you think of the show Pit Bulls and Parolees. The first episode aired Friday:

Friday, October 30, 2009

SFGate Columnist Blogs About Leo

Recently we spoke with Christie Keith, the online pet-care columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle's web site, for an upcoming column she is writing for SFGate.com. Today, she posted a blog on the PetConnection.com blog about Leo, our former Michael Vick dog turned therapy dog, that includes some material that didn't quite fit with the article, but that she wanted to share:

Leo the Pit Bull ambassador.

What a dog can do that Michael Vick can’t
By Christie Keith
October 30, 2009

I know you’re all jealous of my life. Don’t try to hide it. Jetting from one exotic location to another, mingling with the pretty people, entre to the most exclusive events, access to the power brokers… who wouldn’t envy me?

Perhaps anyone who could have been a fly on the wall when I had to stop an interview in mid-stream yesterday to unwind all the Borzoi hair from the base of the keys on my keyboard. Two years of accumulation meant I’d hit critical mass and lost the “S” and the shift keys.

Fortunately I was interviewing someone who is as much a dog person as they come, Marthina McClay of Our Pack, the rescue group that turned ex-Vick dog Leo into a therapy dog.

Read the rest of Christie's blog post here.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

There are NO Dangerous Breeds!

Yes, sometimes there are dangerous dogs, people, cats, birds for God's sake, but a dangerous breed?? Even if you're not any sort of advocate for animals this is only simple logic.

According to this article from the San Diego News Network:

"In January of this year, the United States Army enacted a new policy banning all dogs with “a predisposition toward aggressive or dangerous behavior.” The specific breeds cited included all species of pit bulls, Rottweilers, and wolf/canid hybrids. The Air Force quickly followed suit, as did the U.S. Navy, implementing the same base-policy regulations.

Closer to home, at Camp Pendleton, residents now have to deal with the new rules. In August, the United States Marine Corps joined the other branches of the Armed Forces in instituting its “anti-pit bull policy.”

This to me is like saying a couple of Catholics robbed a house, so let's ban all Catholics! What? And btw, how the hell do you tell a Catholic from a Buddhist just by looking? This is just dangerous thinking....period.

See the full article here and give us your thoughts:
http://www.sdnn.com/sandiego/2009-10-28/local-county-news/marines-could-lose-family-members-after-camp-pendleton-bans-pit-bulls

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Pit Bull By Any Other Name...

During our Pit Bull Leash Manners class this week, a woman came up and asked why her "Pit Bull" was somewhat leery of strangers. I looked at her dog and he was NOT a Pit Bull at all, but what looked like a very large American Bulldog mix.

Of course, no matter how much of an expert one might be, it can be very hard to tell a dog's breed from looks alone. Dogs that come from shelters are often mistakenly labeled as one breed or another. Based on temperament, which is what I like to go by, this dog seemed more like a guardian type of breed than a Pit Bull. The shelter that the woman got him from called him a Pit Bull, the neighbors called him a Pit Bull, and she called him a Pit Bull. But honestly, I'm not sure that he had any Pit Bull in him at all.

A Pit Bull's temperament makes them effusive with strangers, not leery of them. They are generally 30-65 lbs, not 100-150 lbs. Of course, any dog, purebred or not, can have temperament or conformation problems that aren't correct for their breed. The problem is that many different dogs that look somewhat similar are all lumped into the "Pit Bull" bucket. And when these dogs have fear issues with strangers or don't do well with people, it reinforces an incorrect and negative stereotype that is inconsistent with the temperament of true Pit Bulls. It's like a bad case of mistaken identity in a bank robbery.

Temperament is the way to go when judging a dog's behavior. A wiggly butted boy that will walk up to practically anyone and give kisses is more likely to be a Pit Bull. A dog that is more reserved or leery of strangers is probably more of a guardian type — and this behavior is actually correct for their breed. I'm not saying that one is bad and one is good. I'm saying that one often gets confused with the other, and too often it's the Pit Bull name that's used to describe dogs that are NOT Pit Bulls at all.

Many of our readers already know this, and those of us who work in animal welfare with Pit Bulls have known it for eons. BUT sometimes we need to just reiterate that HEY, this is a problem for Pit Bulls. If a dog bites someone because he's stressed and uncomfortable, and his breed is jotted down as a Pit Bull in the newspaper, the shelter euthanasia (and reason for) statistics go up, and the conditioning effect on the public continues that these dogs are not good with people. The sad irony is that they are one of the best breeds with people.

I would like dogs to be judged based on WHO they are, NOT by what they look like, and in fight bust cases on WHO they are, not WHERE they came from. I think it's best to judge dogs on an individual basis. We keep saying this again and again, but after class I realized that it NEEDS to be said again and again, like a McDonald's commercial. I guess there's a reason they don't just play commercials one or two times.

— Marthina McClay, CPDT

Friday, October 23, 2009

Chris Rock to Lose Pryor Role Over Dog-Fighting Comments?

From contactmusic.com: The animal-loving widow of RICHARD PRYOR banned CHRIS ROCK from portraying the late comedy icon on the big screen after he made a joke about dog fighting, according to reports.

Richard Pryor/AP photo

The Head of State star was among the frontrunners to land the main role in a new Pryor biopic, but he allegedly lost the part after jokingly defending shamed American football star Michael Vick, who recently served time for running an illegal dog-fighting ring.

During a recent appearance on U.S. TV's The Jay Leno Show, Rock said, "What the hell did Michael Vick do? Pitbulls ain't (sic) even real dogs! Dogs have never been good to black people!"

The quip offended Pryor's wife Jennifer, who serves as the director of animal rescue group Pryor's Planet, and she made sure Rock's throwaway comments cost him the movie job.

Read the article here.

Missouri Fight Bust Dogs Up for Adoption

The Humane Society of Missouri is trying to spread the word that, following the biggest dog-fighting ring bust in U.S. history this summer, some of more than 500 pit bulls rescued in the raid are now up for adoption. More than 100 puppies were born after they were confiscated .

As you all know, Jakob, pictured here, has already been released to Our Pack's care. Vice President of Operations Debbie Hill says 19 of the dogs have been adopted out, and as the court awards custody of more of them to the Humane Society, more homes will be sought. Sadly, she says, some had to be euthanized. Hill says adopting these dogs out spreads a message about an illegal industry most people don’t know is so prevalent. She says it’s amazing how after being so mistreated, the dogs are so people-friendly. Some, like Jakob, are even finding a new purpose in life as therapy dogs.

For more information on the rescue operation and to help, click here.

Read the rest of the article here.

See videos and pictures of Jakob on our Facebook page.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Poem From Leo

Please don't put your face up to mine.
I tell dogs this all the time.
They don't listen and they don't care,
could it be because their owners aren't aware?
I'm a dog, a dog has a code,
not to greet in a face to face mode.
It's scary when a dog on a leash goes to the end.
It's not that I'm mean, I'm social and like to have a friend..
People then say, "oh he's aggressive, look he snapped",
But how is this wrong when it was the other dog making ME feel trapped?
Please respect other dogs and don't walk your dog up to their face,
then this world for dogs, will be a happier place.

By Leo
Poet
Therapy Dog
Pit Bull Ambassador (hence the poem)
Best Loved Family Companion

Monday, October 19, 2009

Welcome to California Jakob!

Our Pack's Christina welcome's Jakob to his new home!

Friday, October 16, 2009

More Pics of Jakob

Many thanks to Lynn Terry Photography for these beautiful pics of Jakob, the former fight bust dog that was released by the Humane Society of Missouri into Our Pack's care this week.

Jakob was rescued by HSMO earlier this year, and spent several months waiting for his forfeiture proceedings to be settled in federal court. Now, Jakob is coming to Our Pack and looking forward to starting his training in a new career as a therapy dog!

You can see the entire album of pics on our Facebook page here.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Jakob, Already Moving Forward

Check out the great photo of Jakob, the former fight bust dog, with cruelty investigator Kyle Held at the Humane Society of Missouri yesterday. The photo, by AP photographer Jeff Roberson, ran in the Missourian.

Click here to see it full size.

Jakob
Photo by AP Photo/ Jeff Roberson

Thanks to All

We want to give a special shout-out to all of the rescue organizations that have been working so hard to care for the dogs from the Humane Society of Missouri bust. There was some great press coverage of the release of some of the dogs yesterday at HSMO, including Our Pack's Jakob, but there were lots of folks involved behind the scenes as well. And, of course, the dogs themselves deserve their own shout-out, including Fay, pictured here.

The full list of dogs released to these organizations includes:

FAY: received by Mutts-n-Stuff, a St. Louis-based bully breed rescue group

ELI: received by Mutts-n-Stuff on behalf of New Hope Pit Bull Rescue in Goose Creek, South Carolina

CARLOS, JUNIOR and KALI: received by Broken Hearts, Mended Souls Rescue based in Missouri

JAKOB, to be received here in California by Our Pack
.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Humane Society of Missouri Dog Released to Our Pack

Jakob is coming to California!

We are thrilled to finally be able to announce that Jakob, one of the dogs seized in Humane Society of Missouri fight bust, the largest dog fighting bust in U.S. history, has been released into Our Pack's care.

Jakob looking optimistic about his new future.

Jakob is one of three dogs that will be rescued by Our Pack from the more than 500 dogs seized in the multi-state raid coordinated. The remaining two dogs are still being held at HSMO while they await the results of forfeiture proceedings in federal court. Like Leo, the former Michael Vick dog, Jakob will be trained by Our Pack for a new career in therapy work.

Associated Press reporter Cheryl Wittenauer was on hand today at HSMO for Jakob's release. You can read her article here: http://www.mercurynews.com/news/ci_13562726.

As soon as we saw pictures of Jakob, we knew he was special, and our first impressions have been confirmed by our good friends Gale Frey of Mutts-n-Stuff and Our Pack's Tracey Cutler. They have been on the ground in Missouri working tirelessly to care for and evaluate these dogs.

Jakob looking happy at his release.

Therapy dogs are trained in basic manners, then provide affection and comfort to people in need in hospitals, retirement homes, schools and similar situations. Although Jakob comes from an abuse case, we’ve seen time and again these dogs are cut out for therapy work and we think he is a great candidate for this kind of work. The most important characteristic of a therapy dog is temperament, and as we know, Pit Bulls have loving, affectionate natures that often make them perfect for this kind of job.

This is not the first time that Our Pack and Mutts-n-Stuff have teamed up to train former fight bust dogs for therapy work. In 2008, Our Pack trained Leo, a dog rescued in the infamous Michael Vick case. Despite his rough start at Bad Newz Kennels, Leo blossomed under Our Pack's care and received his therapy certification in just five weeks. His work earned Leo headlines in national media outlets, including the Washington Post, MSNBC.com, Animal Planet’s “Animal Witness: The Michael Vick Case” and many others. See Leo’s story here.

Our Pack and Mutts-n-Stuff also worked on a HSMO bust case in Stoddard County in 2007. Gale Frey, founder of Mutts-n-Stuff, trained some of the dogs from the Stoddard case to be therapy dogs, and has been helping with the evaluation of Jakob and other dogs held at HSMO in this more recent case.. “The dogs from these cases are so resilient and wonderful to work with,” says Gale. “We’re thrilled to be helping to find them new and loving homes.”

Mercury News Columnist Purdy on Vick

San Jose Mercury News columnist Mark Purdy devoted his column this morning to the upcoming Oakland/Philadelphia game this weekend. The focus of the column is a follow-up on some of the dogs from the Michael Vick case, and includes a nice mention of our very own Leo and his new career as a therapy dog.

Former Vick dog Leo in his new career as a therapy dog.

In the column, Purdy wonders:

"Crowds in Philadelphia have been largely supportive of his comeback. But what about this weekend? How will he fare with the public here in the animal-rights-intensive Bay Area?"

In addition to animal lovers, I'm thinking Oakland fans probably have a good answer for that one too. Read the article here:

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fay Released to Mutts-n-Stuff

We've received news that Fay, one of the dogs taken from the Missouri dog fighting bust, will be going to Mutts-n-Stuff. Better yet, she'll be the new spokesgirl for Phoenix House, a place where dogs from these abuse cases can go to decompress, get training and socialization, and find new homes. Gale Frey, founder of Mutts-n-Stuff, has plans to start Phoenix House right away. Congrats to Gale and Fay. Here's to a bright future for both!

Our Pack crew

Friday, October 9, 2009

Sometimes Training is About Doing Nothing

Sometimes the impression is made that dog training is all about getting your dog to jump through a hoop, offer a paw shake or perform an instant "sit" on command. It's easy to get caught up in the idea that, in order for it to be "training", the dog must be constantly moving around and doing something.


Of course, it is very important to train your dog to be able to live happily with you, and these behaviors can help replace behaviors you don't like. They can also be used to help your dog cope in certain situations. But sometimes, it's good training or conditioning to just do nothing.



In my work, I often encounter dogs that may be obedient, but that are not well-adjusted, balanced or happy dogs. There's a big difference to me in a dog that has been taught to sit on cue, but doesn't like being around other dogs, or even people, because they make him nervous. Other dogs are very well-adjusted, confident and love to greet people by jumping up, and simply lack training.



For example, a client came to see me about her dog, which reacts around other dogs on leashed walks. Her dog is okay with other dogs after a slow introduction (I think it is normal for dogs to go slow getting to know each other, see our article on dog intros here.), but while walking on leash, he exhibits an intense reactivity to other dogs. (For more information on leash reactivity, click here.) Her dog has been to our classes, and she has worked on distraction techniques and has made a lot of progress. But sometimes, it's best to just do nothing.


If your dog isn't even listening to your cues because he's too worked up, then it's best to just let him get comfortable IN that scenario, i.e. on leash, in the street, or on a walk with another dog. You can take the pressure OFF of your dog by letting him know he doesn't have to meet the other dog, react the "right" way around the dog, or perform some command. Just let him get used to the idea that there is a dog somewhere around and it's okay. There is NO pressure, no "you have to say hi to this other nice dog," or "you have to sit and look at me, and you can't do anything else." Many dogs, in fact, "do something else," such as sniffing the grass, in order to cope with this sort of experience.


When the pressure is off to meet and greet, or to do something else, the dog will generally relax, especially if she's a comfortable distance from the other dog. It's important to make sure that you don't push your dog too far, too fast. If your dog is comfortable a block away from another dog, let her have that. Then work in baby steps until she can comfortably be closer to the other dog. Don't push it to the point where she becomes very uncomfortable. Of course, you would still provide leadership to let her know that she doesn't have to worry, and that you have everything under control.



We work with dogs that come from abuse cases, and sometimes it's helpful to just let the dog know that, wherever he is, he's safe and all is okay. This is not so much "training" as it is "conditioning", and sometimes one is more helpful than the other, depending on the dog and the situation. In our work, we do a lot of conditioning or counter-conditioning, and letting the dog know that all is well.


-- Marthina McClay, CPDT

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tackle Vick Campaign

In the rescue world, feelings are obviously still running high over Michael Vick's return to the NFL.

With the Oakland Raiders scheduled to play Philadelphia on October 18th, Concerned Dog Owners of California has kicked off a potentially controversial campaign to help Oakland area shelters this weekend. According to the CDOC web site, the rescue group will give 5 bags of food to Oakland shelters for every time Vick is tackled during the game. CDOC is encouraging people to donate to the campaign, and says it will match the First $1500 pledged.

What do you think about the campaign? We want to get readers' thoughts this time instead of just stating our opinion.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Our Pack Featured in New Issue of Bay Woof

The new October issue of Bay Woof includes a training article from Our Pack in the Good Dog column! The photos are from our Sunday Pit Bull training class.

Of Love and Leadership

By Marthina McClay, CPDT

There is no question that love is a wonderful thing to give our dogs, and giving it is great therapy for us humans, too. In fact, in our organization's work with rescued Pit Bulls, we have seen that, despite their false fearsome reputation, they often make excellent therapy dogs. Why? Temperamentally correct Pit Bulls have a strong love of humans; they love being touched by people, even people they don't know. They can easily tolerate the unsteady touch of a patient who has had a stroke, an elderly person using a cane or walker, or a child learning how to pet and interact with animals for the first time. In a temperamentally correct Pit Bull, the people-loving nature is already present, and the dog mostly needs to be trained in basic good manners such as sitting instead of jumping, waiting to go through doorways, and greeting people calmly.

Read the full article here.

New Michael Vick Nike Comnmercial

Check out this clip from the Jimmy Kimmel Live show. The "commercial" at the end is hilarious.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Update on Miss Georgia From Georgia


Georgia from Georgia.

Georgia is a wonderful girl who first came to us from a fight bust in Georgia.

Since then, she's been making a career out of being given lots of love, good routine structure and some fabulous beach fun by her new person, Noelle.


By looking at her, you can tell she didn't start out with the best life, but now she's flourishing under the best care of all. Here she is sunbathing on the beach. She seems so appreciative of all that she has now and most of all we appreciate what she brings to us. Georgia is a wonderful soul!

Thanks to Noelle for all your good work with Georgia.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tracey Reports from Missouri

Just checking in to say hello to Our Pack and all of my friends back home!

Today was good, even though we were short of help for most of the day. Winging the clean up, two daily feedings, constant moving of dogs from one crate to another, or just holding and attending to those who needed

Fay

(AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Dawn Majors)

a small break from their crate, along with minor emergencies here and there. One fellow and I managed to get through forty-two dogs at least twice in the matter of 10.5 hours. In addition, we were able to leave each of our beloved new friends a clean Kong filled with peanut butter to end their day with, until our return tomorrow morning.

The usual shift for this endeavor has been 4-5 days, maybe one week. I did not know that my commitment to a 15-day work week would be utterly exhausting, both physically and mentally draining. I have been told by other volunteers that a two-week stint was considered quite unusual, although a number of volunteers have promised to come back again, or were here on their second visit upon my arrival.

I must say that the volunteers who have come to help these dogs because of their love for animals—in particular to help those who have been so unfairly mistreated, abused and misaligned—are saints in my book. The HSMO staff are also incredible, putting in hours upon hours of time to assist these dogs who have been “rescued” from a cruel, cruel life in the hands of people whose souls remain unfathomable to me and others.

When my co-workers and I grab a quick bite to eat at lunchtime, we often fantasize about what we would like to do to the people who have done the atrocious things we have witnessed to the dogs in our care. I won’t dive into the details on that...BUT, I will share with you what it means to each one of us who has the unique opportunity to work with these dogs: The look that each dog gives you as you open that gate first thing in the morning, and make the long walk down the center of that kennel floor. These dogs know their friends are here, we are the excitement of their day, we ROCK their world and they show it by barking, jumping and looking for some acknowledgment, just to say "I’m here and I’m happy you’re here too!"

At first it was a little overwhelming, forty-two dogs begging for your attention, barking loudly and some jumping with enough force to slide their crate away from their original tied-down location. But, ya get used to it. You get used to the non-stop barking, the smell of urine, the smell of poop and your poop-stained clothing, the never-ending cleaning and the constant noise. As I like to say: Barking, Poop, Barking, Poop, Clean, Barking, Poop, Poop, Poop, Clean, Barking, etc.

What you surely don’t get used to is seeing a dog that has no lips and is missing part of her mouth and nose, but who still wags her tail every time you pass by her crate, looking at you with such loving eyes and complete trust. This dog has been severely damaged on the outside, as shown by the front teeth protruding out from her mouth because she has no lips to cover them, but who is just looking for a little love and companionship from a friendly face. She goes by the name of Fay(e).

The picture shown here was taken by the Associated Press, you can read the article by AP reporter Cheryl Wittenauer here:

http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory?id=8585112#

I take care of Fay(e) and watch her everyday as I pass by her crate or walk her down the aisle for a little jaunt to our special seat, where she can give me her warm hugs and kisses, a little toothy, maybe, but oh so gentle! Fay(e) is at first shocking to look at, then she becomes just another warm Pit Bull “kisser and lover." She reminds me that I can do whatever it takes to get the job done and to keep on going regardless of my circumstances, just like her! I love Fay(e) and I love all those tenacious Pitties that keep on going no matter what, and wiggle their butts while they do it, regardless!

Thanks,
Tracey Tate Cutler

Monday, September 28, 2009

Pit Bull Pile Up

We never tire of watching these goofy kids at play. Don't you just love Hailey's oh-so-patient expression?

Friday, September 25, 2009

One Size Does Not Fit All

Many dog training web sites, books and trainers seem to take a “one size fits all” approach to training and behavior counseling. In my experience, focusing on a single method or approach is limiting because the same approach doesn’t always work for all dogs. It would certainly be easier to say, “I always do this,” or “I always do that,” when it comes to training, but the reality is often more complex.

For example, I might talk in a different tone to a sassy, willful dog than I would to a dog that’s shy or fearful. If a dog lacks confidence, I might start by putting the dog in different settings using slow, baby steps, before he becomes fearful of that setting, while giving lots of positive rewards for being calm and relaxed.

For more confident dogs that tend to be “full of themselves,” more structure and leadership is often needed. For example, you dog might like to jump up on you as soon as you sit down on the couch or a chair. Instead of just letting her fly up in your face and then punishing with a verbal correction, you can ask your dog to sit first. Be sure to time the command BEFORE she jumps. Keep her at a distance from the couch or chair, wait for a bit, then invite her to come up. This adds structure in a positive way, without punishment or much correction.

This technique may or may not be effective with your particular dog. Sometimes you have to try a few different approaches before you find one that works for your particular dog. At Our Pack, we often work with shelter dogs and dogs that come from abuse cases, and sometimes we have to think outside the box or we may not be able to help them. We may need to be firmer and stricter with one dog, while another might require a more lenient approach. Whatever approach you use, it’s always better to set the dog up to behave appropriately and reward that behavior than it is to wait for the dog to do it wrong and then try to correct it.

A particular technique should be used as long as it works, increases confidence and continues to build a bond, not after it stops working or breaks the bond between the dog and his person. For example, we had a fight bust dog who came to Our Pack very shut down and worried about everything around her—people, sounds, objects, you name it. We were able to bring her around using confidence-building techniques, including a soft, reassuring voice and gradual introductions to the stimuli that made her nervous. Within a short time, she became very confident and even somewhat sassy! At that point, she needed firmer direction and more structure.

Leo, the dog who came to us from the Michael Vick case, presented a different challenge. He was initially like a bull in a china shop when it came to manners. “A couch? What’s that? You mean I can't just land in your lap at anytime? Huh?” He didn’t have a confidence problem, he had a manners problem. “Give me a kiss!” Splam!

Leo sharing his toys.

There are so many dogs out there to save and they all have different circumstances, backgrounds and experiences that have shaped their behavior. To expect each one of them to respond alike to a single training approach just doesn’t work. (Of course, we would never condone using physical pain, force or any method that creates fear in a dog, as that is just abuse.) I like to solicit the willingness of the dog to work with me.

Each of these dogs are individuals, and each has taught me so much, especially about resiliency. Dogs are truly amazing creatures, and one of the wonderful traits I see in Pit Bulls is how resilient and forgiving these dogs can be. They have given me what amounts to a college education, not only in training but in the way I look at life. If you treat your dog as an individual, and adjust your training to his or her behavior, you will both get more out of it and you’ll have a lot more fun learning from each other!

Marthina McClay, CPDT

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Best Thing About Dogs

They love you, they don't hold grudges, they don't hate, and they do their best to create peace whenever possible. They're about loving you and having a good time and best of all, like Posie here, they love to show their bellies! Of course, her cute freckles are just a bonus.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Update from Missouri

Hello everyone! This is Smiley King Elvis in Missouri to fill you in on the happenings at the bunker. My mom, Gale, came home and had me in stitches. Tracey with Our Pack is here in St. Louis, and she and mom were instant friends. That is Tracey's picture at the left. Talk about two peas in a pod...I cannot wait to meet Tracey, too!

Tracey spent her first day in awe of the bunker. I cannot say much because of the gag order, but I can tell you they had a blast and enjoyed the day. She was warmly received and put instantly to work cleaning kennels and hugging dogs. Tracey was in heaven and in her element - behaviorist dreamland.

My mom met Tracey, and you know how loving my mom is, she took Tracey right under her paws (or is it wing for humans?). They had a blast working with the dogs, documenting personalities and sharing wonderful treats with the dogs. It must have been awesome. I am so proud of both of them.

Here is Tracey pictured with her own dog, Missy. Tracey says, "It was a very rewarding day on location in Missouri working with the bust dogs. I love the people at the Humane Society Missouri. HSMO will welcome volunteers who will clean, and give hugs and kisses."


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Our Pack Traveling to Missouri to Help in Fight Bust Case

Our Pack's Tracey Cutler is traveling to the Humane Society of Missouri this week to help out with the dogs from the recent fight bust case. She will be there until October 3rd. The Our Pack team has been assisting with rescue efforts as well, and we are so very glad to have a chance to help these dogs.

There is a gag order in place as the dogs await the results of forfeiture proceedings, so we can't give specifics on any dogs until we get the go-ahead from HSMO. We are very aware how important it is both to HSMO's effort and for the dogs themselves not to jump the gun and to respect the legal process, so we are awaiting the results of the proceedings. These are completely separate from the guilty criminal verdicts that were announced yesterday. Tracey will keep us updated on what we're allowed to share, so stayed tuned.

What we can say is that Our Pack will be taking some dogs from this case, and we just can't wait to work with them in our program. There will be training, structure, good positive leadership and lots of cuddles and love for the dogs. Meanwhile my dogs are waiting, sunning themselves. Wish the MO dogs good luck!

Congrats to our Friends at Mutts-n-Stuff!

A big shout-out to our friends at Mutts-n-Stuff, who announced today that they are building a new halfway house, called Phoenix House, that will provide safe haven for dogs rescued in fight bust cases. The facility is named for Phoenix, a a dog previously rescued my Mutts-n-Stuff, and is being built on land donated by a previous adopter. It will serve as a halfway house for dogs rescued in fight busts after they are released from their court cases.

The dogs in the cases are held as evidence until they are no longer needed by the courts, then they're released, often with no where to go. Suitable foster homes aren't always immediately available, and the dogs often require time to learn basic manners.

Our Pack is partnering with Mutts-n-Stuff on the HSMO fight bust case. Gale Frey, dear friend and founder of the rescue group, has been one of the people working with HSMO to help care for the dogs. Congratulations Gale!

Get the details about Phoenix House here: