Sunday, August 30, 2009

Coming Home to a Calm Dog

When you come home to your dog is she jumping on you with excitement? Does it take a while for her to calm down?

This is not an uncommon problem. As a trainer I don’t believe, as some do, that dogs that do this in this setting are acting dominant. I actually think they are trying to give appeasement gestures such as licking your face, hence, the jumping up. They really aren’t trying to take over your life or your bank account or anything. They simply haven'nt seen you in a while and want to connect with you.

We as Pit Bull lovers know how much our dogs love human folk and want to connect as well. We are so happy to see our dogs when we get home that we tend to show a lot of excitement toward them. We greet them in a very happy and high-pitched voice. This is fine, except that it also tends to overexcite your dog. Therefore, your dog has learned to get excited about your arrival from YOU.

Dogs don’t’ react to each other the way we do after being apart for a time. We teach our dogs to be excited when we come home because we are excited. Your dog learns that this is the way she’s supposed to be when you come in the door. The remedy is to come in the door and completely ignore your dog. Don’t give attention to your dog when she is jumping and being excited. Go put your keys down. Look at your mail. Don’t give any eye contact. Don’t talk to your dog yet. Don’t stand still in front of your dog. Walk through the house somewhat briskly. If your dog jumps on you, turn and walk away in the opposite direction.

Please don’t be concerned that your dog’s feelings will be hurt. They won’t. Your dog will not think that you don’t love her. She’s not going to be thinking, “How come he’s not saying hi to me, doesn’t he love me anymore?”

When you first start to ignore this behavior in your dog, she might act more excited and jump even more. This is called an extinction burst. A behavior goes extinct or stops if it’s not reinforced. Before it goes extinct, there is a burst of that behavior. You see the catsup bottle is almost empty and you shake it to get some catsup out. Nothing comes out. So you shake it even harder and faster to see if something happens. Nothing does, and you stop. Similarly, your dog may jump more when you first begin to ignore her. If none of these things work to get your attention, she will soon calm down. When your dog has quieted down, then you can say hello. Pet her in a calm fashion so as not to get her excited again. If she does get excited when you start to pet her, just ignore her again until she’s quiet. When she’s calm, give her attention. It’s as simple as that. You may have to do this many times before this become routine for your dog. Especially if this behavior has previous been reinforced even unintentionally.

Marthina McClay, CPDT

Saturday, August 29, 2009

More on Breed Profiling

Here's an article about a dog that was thrown off of a bridge and lived only to be greeted with profiling and prejudice, not based on actions but based on breed. No proof of any ill temperament, just judged by breed. Ugh.

Photo: Scott Utterback, The Courier-Journal, Scott Utterback / AP

It's funny that a proven animal abuser is allowed to go out and be an example to young people before he has proven his remorse for his actions. But a Pit Bull that hasn't even done anything can't live in a dwelling based on his breed??? Not his actions only?

I don't get it.....

Yes, Your Couch Can Be a Spring Board Too.

Here's Dexter, Hailey, Posie and oh, Leo is just quietly chewing his bone while the others are goofin' around on the weekend. Please note that some dogs don't have a good time with tug. Most do under good supervision. It helps if the two dogs know each other well and are comfortable with each first before playing a good game of tug. Enjoy!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Vick's Victims

Commentary from Francis Battista
Cofounder of Best Friends Animal Society

I wanted to share this well-written and very appropriate commentary from Francis Battista. I agree with Francis and I feel that Michael Vick has not proven that he's changed before being accepted as a player for the Eagles. I don't feel that he's walked the walk yet and he's being prematurely accepted.


I don't think Vick should just skip along onto the playing field without a solid thought about what he's really done or some sort of real proof of atonement for these acts of violence. As Francis points out in his commentary, some of the Vick dogs are still recovering from what happened to them. Not all of the dogs have come out of this completely unscathed. I can't help but think of that while Vick throws the ball around.

The dogs know the impact of what's happened and through them, so do we. Here's the link to Battista's article:

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Never Turn Your Back

I wanted to share a recent experience that is probably familiar to anyone who has a leash reactive dog. As a student in Our Pack’s training class, we are told to practice our techniques in other areas to generalize the training so that our dogs don't just get used to the class setting. So we practice around the neighborhood, at the park, and anywhere we can walk safely.

In this spirit, I recently took my dog for a walk on a local trail to practice. As you can see, he is not a Pit Bull. He is a big, fuzzy retriever mix who is still learning how to behave on the leash, and he benefits greatly from the classes. On the trail, I kept him on a short leash, and was using high-value treats to keep his attention focused on me, just like we do in class. Things were going well, and we had passed several dogs without incident. Then, I spotted a young girl coming from the opposite direction with a large, husky type dog wandering back and forth across the trail in front of her at the end of its leash. This is the kind of thing that makes my dog nervous, so I decided to play it safe and pull off to the side to wait until they had gone by, rather than pass too close to the oncoming dog. We got as far off the trail as we were able, and I put my dog into a sit, facing him to block his view of the trail and the other dog, and got him focused on me. I was doling out the treats and he was responding well. I was really proud of him!

Suddenly he barked and lunged forward. I heard a gasp from behind me, and turned around to see the young girl pulling her dog back across the trail, looking horrified. While I was facing my dog, the girl had allowed the husky to cross the trail and approach from behind my back to “greet” my dog, in spite of what I thought were my obvious attempts to avoid them. The husky’s nose was just reaching forward to touch my dog’s when he finally decided he’d had all he could take and snapped at him. I jumped a mile and yelled something we won’t print here, and the poor young girl at the other end of the husky’s leash backed away, dragging her dog with her.

Bear, retriever mix, takes the Our Pack training class.

I learned a valuable lesson that day. Yes, the husky’s owner shouldn’t have allowed her dog to approach like that, but the handler was a young girl, she didn’t know any better. I turned my back on the other dog, focused on my own dog, and trusted that my actions would let the other owner know not to approach. I guessed wrong. And as you can see from the pic, my dog isn't a Pit Bull. He is a big, fluffy retriever mix, which the husky’s owner no doubt assumed would love to meet her dog!

What’s the lesson here? If your dog is leash reactive, you must practice "defensive dog walking". Similar to driving a car, you look all around from one side of the road to the other confidently. We are responsible for our dog as well as others' dogs. What should you do in this situation? It’s okay to stop to get control of your dog, but face the other dog, with your dog beside and behind you. Use your body language to take charge. If your tries to come forward, block him or her with your body, keep a firm hold on the leash, and claim your space, calmly and confidently. Let them know in no uncertain terms that they should keep their distance. Don’t be shy! And don’t assume the other dog’s owner knows what to do, regardless of how obvious you think the situation may be. YOU are responsible for your dog, and that includes protecting your dog from unwanted advances by other dogs and their well-meaning handlers.

RIP, Jasmine

Our hearts go out to sweet Jasmine, her family, and our friends at Recycled Love. Jasmine was recently killed in an automobile accident.

Many of you will never forget Jasmine gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated and, in the process, becoming an ambassador for Pit Bulls everywhere.

We remember her with love.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Souls That Heal

In rescue, we try never to forget that we're dealing with sentient, feeling beings.

The dogs we take in from local shelters, as well as the dogs from across the country that have suffered in abusive situations, give us what amounts to a huge college education. We learn so much from all of our dogs. They teach us that hope is inside of you, not outside. That hope is something you have to try out first, test, see if it's there and then go for it. They teach us that life is precious, not something to waste or destroy. They also teach us that optimism and hope is a state of mind, and can prevail even in the worst of circumstances. Wise ole souls, these dogs!

It's amazing to me how resilient our beloved dogs are. Whenever I find myself griping and bitching about something, I look at what some of our dogs have been through and I suddenly feel like such a wimp. If I could only be more like them....hmmm.

Our bust dogs, as well as our shelter dogs, generally change according to their environment. They don't hold grudges, go on Oprah and whine about how they just can't go on anymore. They say, "Hey, look where I am, I just knew life could be great!"

Sometimes, some of our dogs can be hurt and damaged, and have a hard time swinging back into life in a hurry. Sometimes they need the extra mile, and they need someone to hold out hope, throw them a lifeline that holds them up long enough to get them there. It's worth the stretch, the reward is like heaven. Seeing a dog smile for the first time, seeing his eyes light up because he gets to snuggle, to love and be loved, is giving AND getting the world for both human and dog!

We are still helping to coordinate rescue for the very large recent HSMO bust. I just know, as we've already seen, that there are those sentient feeling beings there with hope that they will get a spot in a foster home so that their souls can begin to heal. The miracle in this work is that our souls begin to heal when theirs do.

Please look around and see if you have a spot for dog from this bust and contact, or

Happy healing!


Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday Pit Bull Fun

Who's exercising who here??

Just a reminder to get out and have some fun with your best friends this weekend!

See Our Pack at Pet Food Express!

Our Pack representatives will be at Pet Food Express in Palo Alto this Sunday afternoon from 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm. Stop by our table to chat. We’ll have Pit Bull education materials, information on how to foster a dog, and more. Hope to see you there!

Palo Alto Pet Food Express
3910 Middlefield Road
Palo Alto, CA 94303
(Next to Piazza's Market)
(650) 856-6666

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Can my dog be a therapy dog?

By now, you are all familiar with the story of Leo, the former Michael Vick dog, as well as the other lovable Pit Bulls we’ve trained to do therapy work. We've gotten a lot of people asking us, just what does it take for a dog to become a therapy dog? Here are the answers to some of the most common questions:

What are the key traits you look for in a therapy dog?
We look for dogs that exhibit people-friendly traits. Therapy dogs like to be connected to humans, even humans with canes, wheelchairs or humans who limp walk funny and pet them in an awkward fashion. Their love of people overrides any natural reticence they may have toward all kinds of people in situations they may not have encountered before.

How did you know Leo was cut out for therapy work?
I knew Leo would be good for this for all of the above reasons. When I first saw Leo, I could see that he had been in a kennel for a while. He had no manners and he wanted to just bounce around and be a big untrained goofball. However, although he was a goof, he was also very people-connected and affectionate. He was just rude about it. So if your dog is from a shelter, or like Leo who lived in a kennel and is from an abusive past, your dog might still be a good candidate for therapy work. All dogs are individuals, so assessment of the dog, rather than their past, is key.

What are some of the things a dog has to do to pass the therapy certification test?
Key tests are designed to reveal whether or not your dog is happy to be touched by people, all kinds of people. Then he or she must tolerate – or be socialized to if needed – wheelchairs, canes, people walking around with equipment like IVs, elevators, stairs, slippery type floors, etc.

What kind of training should I focus on to start?
One of the most important things is to train your dog never to jump up on people. For instance, Leo goes to a can cer treatment facility, where patients have IVs inserted in their arms. Leo knows never to jump up or put his paw up on the patient's arm. Even if your dog is a jumper, this can be taught! If you'd seen our little caveman, Leo, when we first got him, you’d believe it. He hadn’t been taught any manners whatsoever! The Canine Good Citizen course and test is a good way to train your dog to learn basic manners.

Who certifies therapy dogs?
Therapy Dogs Incorporated. They have fair but tough testing. In the first part of the testing, there is an exam that's very similar to the Canine Good Citizen test. Then, your dog must be tested three different times, on different days, and two of those evaluations MUST be done in a medical facility.

So take your goofy love bug Pit Bull on the road and share his love of humans with people who could use a pick me up. For more information on how to train your Pit Bull to be a therapy dog, email us at

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Is Vick Really Sorry?

For those of you who may have missed (some probably intentionally) the Michael Vick interview on 60 Minutes this past Sunday, not everyone believes his words of remorse. Check out this article by Phil Taylor in this week's issue of Sports Illustrated:

"I don't believe Michael Vick. In fact, while watching his 60 Minutes interview on Sunday, I pretty much thought he was full of it."

We agree and salute all the quiet heroes whose actions speak louder than words. Like Leo, the former Vick dog who is happily working today as a therapy dog.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Those Darn Pit Bulls!!

Just wanted to share this great little video to bring some more smiles to a Sunday Morning.

This is ohhh so familiar (Hailey)

Happy Sunday everyone!


Friday, August 14, 2009

Posie Playtime

I think we need some Happy distractions now.
How bout Posie playing with her squeeky?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Vick, Unbelievable

Well, we knew it was only a matter of time. But knowing it doesn't make it any easier to swallow: The Philadelphia Eagles have signed convicted dog abuser Michael Vick to their team.

ESPN reports that the first year of the deal is for $1.6 million deal with an option for the second year at $5.2 million.

Vick pleaded guilty to his crime only after his three co-defendants told of how he participated in the killing of dogs that didn't perform well in test fights by shooting, hanging, drowning or slamming them to the ground.

Our respect goes to Leo, the former Vick dog who turned his life around to become a therapy dog.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Our Pack Joins Other Rescues to Help in HSMO Case

A press release went out on the wires this morning announcing that Our Pack, along with several other rescue groups nationwide, is working with the Humane Society of Missouri to care for and eventually receive some of the more than 400 dogs rescued in connection with the largest dog fighting raid in U.S. history.

We are so thrilled to have been invited by HSMO to do our part and help rescue some of the dogs in this case, and are looking forward to helping place and train some of these dogs to join Leo in his therapy work.

We need FOSTER HOMES to take these dogs in while we work with them! If you are interested in fostering a dog, please see our foster page or email us at

Rescue groups involved in the effort include:

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Pit Bull’s Owner Indicted After Dog Thrown From Brooklyn Rooftop

Unfortunately, the media doesn't report and sensationalize enough stories like these, where the dog is the victim:

By Ryan Thompson, Brooklyn Daily Eagle

JAY STREET — A Red Hook teenager was indicted Monday for allegedly throwing his dog off the roof of a six-story building in Brooklyn. Fabian Henderson, 19, is charged with aggravated cruelty to animals, criminal trespass and overdriving, torturing and injuring animals. If convicted, he could face two years in prison — or perhaps even four years in prison if sentences were to run consecutive.

New Training Article: Love & Leadership

There is no question that love is a wonderful thing to give our dogs, and giving it is great therapy for us humans as well. But dogs need more than love from us. In order to be balanced, healthy and happy, they need leadership.

Read about some of the key differences between Love & Leadership, and learn how you can provide a healthy balance of both to your dog.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Now THESE are some bad 'ole pit bulls!

Can you ID a pit bull?

Here is a fun little test to take to see if you can identify the pit bull. Only one of the 25 dogs pictured is a true American Pit Bull Terrier. As most of you know, many other breeds are often confused with pit bulls, and misidentified in media reports of dog bite incidents. Send this test to your family and friends, they may find it very enlightening! To take the quiz, go to:

The pic here is of our own Bubbles, whose adoption is pending. I must say I think she looks quite endearing!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Missouri Bust Update

I assume you all have heard about the biggest dog fighting bust in US history on July 8th by our friends at Humane Society of Missouri. Over four hundred of my brothers and sisters have been rescued from the horrid life of dog fighting. I am so happy that my friends at HSMO have freed my brothers and sisters but what happens now?
Right now they are in a secret bunker safe from the bad people. The dogs have to be held for at least 40 days until the court hearing.
I, Smiley King the dog you see in the pic above with my special Pooh Bear, went through this process myself and it was scary at first being in a new place but my friends at HSMO made me feel at home right away. In the meantime, my brothers and sisters from this bust are experiencing their first toys, peanut butter, friendly hugs and kisses from humans, and fresh bedding. I wish I could talk to them to let them know their lives made a major change for the good and they will never have to fight again.
My foster mom, Gale Frey who founded MuttsNStuff is on the move to find foster homes for the dogs. She's also been on site helping the MO dogs. I've been in touch with my sister Zoe, who went to Our Pack from the same 2007 Stoddard County Mo bust that I came from. After arriving at Our Pack she went to school to become a therapist. Zoe's been asking Our Pack to ask for foster homes too.
Well heck, Zoe got adopted into an awesome home, they have toys, Kongs, balls and all the stuff that makes life wonderful! I know this is possible for all my buds out here too! Everyone should have a Pooh Bear, very comforting.

I heard that after the big bust other abused dogs outside of this case here were surrendered because their enslavers felt the heat of the FBI and HSMO. Since these dogs were owner surrenders they were able to go into rescue. But hudreds of my brothers and sisters are still waiting. Right now, I have a picture of an FBI agent and HSMO Investigator on my dog crate wall. They are my heros.

I will send everyone updates as I know them about the Missouri Bust Dogs. They are safe in a secret place waiting for our a laws to release them to rescue. What a sight it must be having over 400 pits in one place, where I used to be! I'm so lucky to be here, with my bear and my friends. Thank you again HSMO for helping us. Your are my heros.

Thanks for listening,
Smiley King

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Shelters and Rescue Across the Country Saving Lives

Check out this new article from our friends at Best Friends Animal Society about Gloria Wheatley, the woman we recently blogged about at Washington Wilkes Animal Shelter in Georgia. The article mentions Beauty (now Georgia) who came to Our Pack from their shelter.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Pit Bull Profiling at It's Worst

Notice the title of this article in The Herald. Then notice the actual breed of dog this story is about. While this sells news, it sells the dogs short. Not OK!! This is profiling at it's worst:

Update: Boy needs 60 stitches after pit bull bite
HERMITAGE -- A 32-year-old Hermitage woman faces charges of endangering the welfare of a child and reckless endangerment after her 1 1/2-year-old Rottweiller named “Cruz” bit a Farrell boy July 15 at her apartment in the Orange Village apartment complex, police said.

April Hughes of 400 Orange Drive, Apartment 2, was also cited with harboring a dangerous dog because this is the ninth time Cruz has bitten someone, police said.

Police allege Ms. Hughes left the boy alone with the dog in the apartment and he was attacked. The boy needed 60 stitches for a head wound, police said.

Shown in the pic here are Georgia, a REAL pit bull and an abuse case, playing with her new friend, Jane.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Good Life

Hey everyone, here's a little something just for fun to help cheer you through the week!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Is Your Dog Leash Reactive?

Leash reactivity is a common issue with all dogs, and is often confused with aggression. (Not sure if your dog is leash reactive? Check out our Leash Reactivity page). Leash reactivity can be reduced using positive training and socialization techniques. Check out these recent photos from our Sunday training class:

Many of these dogs came into class with no leash skills, and look at them now! You’ll see pit bulls (and other breeds, the class is becoming very popular!) learning to walk together calmly, focus on their owners and relax around other dogs. The class is run by Our Pack's certified trainers and is held outside every Sunday, where we can simulate real-world situations. Best of all, it's free for Our Pack adopters, foster families and volunteers. For more information, email