Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Link to Paradise

"Dogs are our link to paradise. They don't know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring--it was peace." - Milan Kundera

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Tug With Our Pack Alumni

One nice thing about adopting from a Pit Bull rescue such as Our Pack and many others like it is that you get to know like minded folk that also have Pit Bulls. In this pic you see some Our Pack Pit Bulls having a tug of a time.

We believe in continually socializing your dog with dogs that have good chemistry with your dog. Chemistry is a big thing between dogs. It's just like with people. Sometimes you just don't hit if off right away with someone. Maybe you can't even say why or put your finger on it, something just doesn't feel warm and fuzzy with that person. It's the same with all dogs.

Things also go much better when the humans act as leaders and manage things properly, especially when dogs are first introduced. First impressions are everything! See

The dogs in this pic have had long term play with each other and know each other well as well as mind their manners while playing. They also have great chemistry with each other.

Note that some dogs don't do well with tug and it's a good idea to not allow this game on the very first date. Through our advanced exercises at our Pit Bull Leash Manners class we teach you how to help your dog to be more under control while playing tug. Sometimes this is all that's needed is an installation of an "off and on switch". However, remember that some dogs like to play this game with their owners only. That's cool too. Huh, you don't even want to see me when I'm losing a game of Scrabble!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

My Pit Bull Saved My Life

This story came from one of our adopters who is also a fan our Our Pack. This story is about Ben. He's a regestered therapy dog. He helps people every day but this time he saved a life.
Ben the life saver......
Last night I was making tomato soup from scratch and was heating up olive oil in a pot.
I started cutting onions and just wanted to check up on the recipe on line....that's when I lost track of time. All of a sudden Ben nudged me with his nose, initially very gently but since I ignored it he did it stronger and stronger. At that moment I realized what had happened: because of my stuffed up nose (I have a bad cold) I didn't smell the oil that was about to burst into flames - the whole house was full of smoke!

So Ben actually saved my life - or at least the pot - since the oil was so hot it was about to go up into flames.
It was clear he was going to spend the night with us in our bed!
I love my dog he's smart and full of love.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Happy Friday

Enjoy Friday and the weekend with a good friend. They mean so much!

BSL Baby Steps

"It's time to end breed discrimination in Ohio

Judge Goulding wrote, "a more uniform, practical, and humane method of regulating dogs, which both preserves the safety of the public and focuses on the dangers and misdeeds of irresponsible dog owners, would seem preferable to the status quo".
Indeed. "

Read the full article here: Toledo Judge Strikes Down Pit Bull Restrictions

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Lessons From a Wise Old Soul

You might remember Georgia, she came from a dog fighting case out of Georgia. This poor girl has a piece of her lip missing from the trauma she's experience and many scars. However, she's just the best spirited and the most loving girl anyone could ever meet. She just a wise old soul and has taught us so much. We love her so dearly.
Georgia's now also teaching kids. Our Pack's Mike Scott and Tracey Cutler took Georgia to a mentoring program at a local school for 13 year olds. They discussed some of the myths about Pit Bulls. They discussed resonsibility issues surrounding dogs in general. If you look in the gallery you'll see one young gentleman learning positive reinforcement training with Georgia. The kids had tons of wonderful questions about Georgia and dogs as a whole.
Georgia showed the kids how to be forgiving and what unconditional love is. The kids loved how friendly and cuddly she was and of course she soaked up the kid stuff like a sponge.

Our hope with this school program is that it will prevent future animal abuse
by letting the dogs teach the kids that they are loving and sentient creatures and it's up to humans to care for them. Georgia taught the kids this in her own soft, loving, special way.....thanks Georgia!

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

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Pit Bulls and Chihuahuas

There's usually a new dog fad about every decade or so, and it looks like the Chi dogs are in....well, in the shelters for sure.

We've always said that breed is not the issue, and in fact, dogs are not the issue. People are.

It's not always just irresponsibility and a no-care attitude. That is a factor, but we always hammer that one into the ground, right? It's often just an education point. As a dog trainer by trade and a Chi mix owner with a multi-dog Pit Bull home, I see how people can get tripped up, and it's not their fault. Fun and cute movies show movie stars (won't mention names) carrying the cute little chi goobers in their purses wearing the latest Coach doggie T. This can make it hard for some folks to resist going out and getting one of these little characters right away.

In the movies, things always look easy. Dog companionship is rewarding and wonderful, but it is also hard work. Vet visits, providing good food, and daily quality time spent with our loved ones are all essential to a well-balanced dog.

Chi dogs are not accessories. They are beings that feel and need care like any dog. They have their breed traits, but do need to be seen as individual dogs, as does any dog of any breed. We have faced this issue over and over (I'm getting old), with German Shepherds (well, when I was young - there were other "fad" breeds before that), then with Dobermans, which I remember quite well, and the Rotties, then Pit Bulls. Could it now be the Chihuahua's turn?
I'm already seeing the bad reputation that Chis are getting. Again, popular dog, lots of breeding - and often irresponsible breeding at that - and uneducated owners unprepared for what's involved in properly caring for a dog. And there is your recipe for lots of dogs ending up in shelters.

Chihuahuas are great, loving and loyal dogs. I've often made my own jokes about my Chi about how bitchy she is and how scared of her our Pit Bulls used to get. Am I facilitating the bad image that Chis might end up with? I hope not.

As with any dog, Chi dogs need lots of socialization with lots of people early on, lots of dog play and good training. When this happens, things usually turn out great. But when the movies tell us that it's just so easy to get a cute dog, and you don't have to do much and all will be well, owners can be lulled into a false idea that you don't have to do much work at all to care for these dogs. After all, they're really small, right? Then, of course, there are lots of them to choose from, because many breeders will take advantage of the popularity opportunity.

Many dogs can have issues. Chi dogs can sometimes enjoy barking. There are ways to manage and work with this, but Paris Hilton (oops) hasn't sent any instruction on how to do this, so there goes our Chi to the shelter. Then, the dog gets blamed...

Hmmm, where have I heard this story before?

Above is a cute video with a Chi and a Pit Bull playing. This shows how any breed that has been well-socialized with good management and leadership at home, with effective and fun training classes, can set all dogs up for the best chance at success. We do know that genetics play a role, but that's another article.

- Marthina

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

We Love People Who Love Dogs

Gale Frey, founder of Mutts-n-Stuff, with Stella

In this photo is Gale Frey with Mutts-n-Stuff holding our beautiful Stella who came from the very large Missouri dog fighting raid last summer.The photo was taken at the location where the dogs were held after being rescued. By the look on Stella's face, you can see she probably had gone through some tough times throughout her entire life. Poor girl. You can also see how much Gale loves this girl. Beautiful.

Stella is a happy, confident camper in our house with our dogs, us, etc. Stella also loves to meet people she doesn't know and wants to get snuggles from everyone. She's a very happy girl over all. However, one horrible thing about neglect is just that - neglect. Coming from these situations we see dogs that may get little to no exposure to new surroundings, TV sets, furniture in a home, car alarms, clickers, tea pots, microwaves, cars, cars even just sitting parked on the street. Stella even got worried when she squeaked a squeaky toy accidentally. She walked away from it very slowly as though she hurt it. Initially when I would walk her on the street she would literally panic. It was like landing on another planet for her.

But there's been so much progress. She walked out of the house on her leash today with her tail wagging, knowing she was going on a walk. She continued to wag her tail. There were only a few spots of "oh, what's that?" for her. This tells me that recovery is possible for her and that's what we're looking for, recovery. Just walking every day and positive exposure does wonders. These dogs are quite amazing. Of course, every dog progresses at his or her own rate.

Dog fighters do NOT want anyone to find their dogs. The dogs are very often hidden from normal environments, like being able to live inside of a home, seeing cars on the street, playing with toys etc. This is most likely why it can be hard for them to adjust initially to a new environment. To me, this is just another part of the horrible abuse that goes on in these situations.

We feel it's important to give these dogs a chance, so back to Gale in the photo. She helped us get our beautiful Stella and has helped many dogs in tough situations. Thank you, Gale!

Gale is also building Phoenix House which is a house for dogs that come from abuse cases like Stella's. At Phoenix House, the dogs will have a place to get exposure to normal life in a positive, controlled fashion. This way, many, many more dogs can be helped.

For more info on Phoenix House and how you can help or donate go to

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Healing Power of Dogs

If you follow our blogs and Facebook page you know that we often play videos of dogs goofing around, play biting and generally being energetic and having fun.

We have also shown dogs just doing nothing and being calm. This is equally important in many instances with dogs.

Dogs that come from abuse situations or situations where they were neglected often have no play skills and other dogs show them how to play properly. Play is important in a pack as it adds levity and continues to build trust.

Relaxation and a sense of calm is extremely important as it also shows that dogs can just be around each other without having to be anxious, over excited, entertained or just plain ole working off boredom.

Dogs will show each other how to relax as well as how to play. Dogs are pack animals so they will do what other dogs are doing often in a group. If it's working for one to be barking then well, heck, it'll work for everyone right?

Luckily dogs that are balanced can show other dogs that all is well. They can demonstrate a sense of calm for others to emulate. Sometimes we can get the opposite where an anxious dog can make another dog anxious but generally if a dog is very balanced and the humans hanging around are providing good leadership and management the balanced dog will often even it all out.

Here's a video of Posie spooning with Stella who came from the Missouri case this summer. Let me know if you guys can see how she is saying "relax, all is well, just chill, lets just lay here and have some peace" and Stella is doing it and feeling the benefit of just hanging out, not doing anything but being peaceful and relaxed.

It breaks my heart that humans sometimes seem more broken to me that they are so willing to hurt an animal that has this incredible capability that many humans have finally lost for whatever reason...their own pain....? Who knows. If we were like this though, I think the world would be a better place......right? Peace.

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

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Leo and Me

I wanted to annouce that I have officially adopted Leo. I know many people thought that I already had but he has been an Our Pack dog all this time (of course all the time knowing that he's my lil soulmate). I have never felt like he belonged anywhere else. Whenever I'd imagine him in another home or if someone was interested in him it was sort of a kick in the stomach. I thought it was just "something I had to get through" happens in rescue right?
One day there was a trailer on TV for the rerun of Animal Witness: The Michael Vick Case. There was a shot where there is a dog that I'm sure is Leo (it could have been another that looks like him but I KNOW his body movements so well now) that was on a catchpole being put into the AC truck. I had a twinge inside like, "oh no, wait, that's my dog, don't hurt him!" I know he was being taken to safety at that time but to just see him on that awful property made me cringe so bad inside. I thought to myself I just never, ever want anything bad, painful, scary or neglectful to happen to him again. He IS my boy!
It's funny because a little over 2 years ago when he first came to me he acted like a monkey at a banquet I thought, "what the heck was I thinking?"
Leo was work as he came to us jumping on us to get attention with bad manners. He didn't know what a couch was and he acted like a big overgrown kid with shorts that were too big showing up on the short yellow bus and chocolate ice cream spilled all over his shirt. But heck, he wanted to have a good time.
Training, training, training for good manners because when you're a therapy dog you can't put ONE paw up on anyone one. There's IV's in a patient's arm, injured patients etc. Leo was certifed as a therapy dog in 5 weeks to be around hospitals, rest homes, wheelchairs, fire alarms and people who don't always know how to pet right. He wanted to please so much and do the right thing it was tear jerking to me that he could be this way after all he'd seen and experienced. Even after 5 weeks he still had things to get over and desensitize to. After time it all seemed to get better for him. Still I wonder what he dreams about when I hear sounds of a nightmare.
He didn't necessarily trust my dogs initially but over time he realized that this was a place of love, leadership and stucture (aka "no jumping") and that I would manage things safely for him not unsafely. All of the above changed so much for him AND me. Since the beginning Leo has taught me about unconditional love, sharing, patience, a zest for life, more about canine behavior, and the most admirable of all courage and a willingness to forgive no matter what and to go on and serve a community that needs it. Now, that's what it is, Leo and Me.......

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

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Training and Socializing, Food for the Canine Soul

A student sent a video of the social we have sometimes after after the Sunday Leash Manners class.

We think it's a great combo to have 2-3 days a week of good, positive interactions with other appropriate dogs that have been introduced properly, along with a good training class to help teach your dog control around other dogs while leashed. This has been a very successful recipe.

Some dogs don't like other dogs, even with heavy and positive socialization throughout their lives. Usually this is very manageable with a good training class to teach your dog to focus on you and not other dogs while on leash. Some dogs like some dogs and not others. Many dogs don't like dogs of the same sex - some are ok with if the chemistry is right. Again, manageable.

All canines need slow intros, as they can sometimes be offended by rushed-up, face-to-face meetings, so first impressions are everything when two dogs meet. A good start can help send off a good relationship. Again, even with proper intros it's a no go for some and they just want to be with their people folk.

Here's a video of the class sent by Alzbeta and Nigel of their dog Abby playing with Posie, Hanna, Bella, Texas and Dexter. Hope I didn't leave anyone out. Thanks guys for sending this. Abby did great on her first date!

Pit Bull Church

Phil with Bree (left) and Jakob (right).

This is Phil with his dog Bree. He and his wife Christine adopted Bree from Our Pack last year. They are now fostering Jakob from the large Missouri fighting bust. Phil and Christine have been model dog folk by coming to our Leash Manners classes on Sundays long after their adoption was final. Bree's manners have shaped up nicely.

Jakob came without any structure or any sort of training. Coming from and abuse case he was also very undersocialized and lacked the security of structure that most dogs would normally have. Poor guy. This can often make a dog feel insecure about his environment. Without positive leadership there's no guidance and without guidance it's harder for dogs to know what the right thing to do is.

Phil has been working with Jakob everyday, walking him and using the techniques used at our Sunday morning Leash Manners class otherwise known as Pit Bull Church. Jakob has come along way and is learning the rules of the house from his foster people and is learning better play skills from Bree. This gives him more confidence as he can interact, know what to do and be a part of things.

Pit Bull people love our Sunday morning classes. Folks can come and talk about dog stuff, share toy bargains, recipes and sometimes good gossip.

I know we show a lot of videos of our dogs playing, being silly or laying around. Training is actually a big key to dogs getting to that place of knowing what the rules are, having good manners with each other at home and focusing on you while ignoroing other dogs outside when on leash.

Thank you to Phil and Christine for the good work you're doing with both of these lucky, lucky dogs. We appreciate that you have not only helped to save our beautiful Bree (formerly Miss Bubbles) but also our sweet Jakob.

If anyone would like more info on the classes contact us at

Friday, January 1, 2010

Increased Penalties for Dog Fighting in California

In this article there has been an increase in the penalties for watching a dog fight.
Stella from the large Missouri dog fighting raid seen in this pic fabulously blending in with the pack wants to know what your views are on these new penalties.
Do you think someone should spend time in jail or be fined for watching a dog fight?

Thoughtful and Happy New Year

This year brought a lot of work with Pit Bulls for us now that so many orgs are giving dogs from dog fighting abuse raids a chance at life. The world has had a chance to see what these wonderful dogs are all about being on such visible platforms. These dogs were always wonderful though and most of us doing Pit Bull rescue, education or canine behavioral counsling of some sort knew this way before the high profile cases in the last two years.
A new day has come for Pit Bulls and there really is so much to appreciate and be happy about. Our dogs have shown us courage, unconditional love and a humanity that they themselves did not receive. I think if I could just maintain the same attitude that they have I would probably get a lot more done!
Our dogs are now more and more being judged as individuals as they should be and there's so much to look forward to ringing in the new year. There's more work to do but in my opinion often focusing on what's positive and right begets more positivity and rightness while doing the tough work. The dogs show us everyday their positive attitudes in the worst ever situations.
So I'm going to cuddle up on my couch with my professional snugglers and appreciate the heck out them, give them all a kiss at midnight and look forward to another year of helping the dogs to be seen as what they are. I hope you all do the same!
I think this photo shows thoughtful reflection and appreciation. I'd like to thank one of our friends Christina for sending in this wonderful photo of her son and his "BFF".
Happy New Year!