Friday, December 18, 2009


So Christmas is almost here, and Marvin found his forever home last week with a lovely couple called Jen and Michael in Hoboken. How I cried when he left though! They've very sweetly kept me up to date and it sounds like they are all in love with each other which is such a nice Christmas story for Marvin, and for them!
He is such a good little puppy, and even the scavenging waned somewhat by the time he left. No surprise – when he arrived he was just 15 pounds, but when Jen and Michael took him to the vets this week they reported Marv now weighs a whopping 46 pounds! He is going to be a big one!
Talking of big ones, Maria, Wilson's now owner emailed some photos of him. I barely recognised him he has grown so big! And Maria and her family have also adopted another puppy rottweiler called Rocky who is about the same size Wilson was when he was adopted. They look like best buddies. 
Here is a photo of Peanut. I fostered her last Christmas, and is actually how I ended up meeting Lee Charles Kelley. She was the most popular gal on the block, but she had the energy for six dogs when outside so I took her to see Lee when he was giving out training tips at Whiskers Pet Store.
Her owner of a year now, Angela, in Brooklyn dropped me an email this week to say how she couldn't have wished for a better dog than Peanut, and photo of Peanut looking very pleased with some shoes she had just eaten! Ahh, what is it with dogs and shoes? I lost two pairs to Marvin. Thank God it's Christmas.

Friday, November 13, 2009


Marvin is still with us! There has been only one interested couple in him so far, and sadly they decided a puppy was too much responsibility for them right now. He didn't portray himself in his best light, bless him, as he would not stop humping their legs. Oh Marvin!! But it's a pleasure (if sometimes exhausting) to have him here still. He barely puppy bites now and instead loves to lick which just goes to show again that there is no need to reprimand your puppy for biting - they will just stop!
In housetraining, I still can't get Marv to go more than three hours without peeing, but now at least he walks to the door and sits there so I have a clear sign of when he needs to go.
His best friends are now dogs, particularly Violet, a french bull dog who lives in the block opposite. Marvin simply cannot wait to get in the dog park and wrestle with big dogs and small, and yet he is never too boisterous. I trust him entirely and I'm so proud when I see how well-behaved he is compared with other puppies in the park. 
Not that Marvin is without issues. Here he is in the photo looking so happy! That's because he just snaffled himself a wonderfully large discarded pizza crust. Oh the scavenging! and the resulting upset tummy! On the short block to the dog run, Marvin keeps his nose to the ground ready to hoover up anything edible (or seemingly edible), and it's a tremendous effort trying to stop him. East ninth street seems to be the dumping ground for chicken bones, rice dishes and pizza crusts, and at the moment, all those tasty morsels are cleverly hidden from my view by piles of leaves.
I know Marvin is fed enough that he is not scavenging because he is hungry, but rather because he is anxious and needs to bite or chew something to calm his nerves, and I blame myself for not being more sensitive when he arrived. After all, before coming here I would guess the only walk Marvin had been taken on was when he was walked to the shelter gates and left there.
In hindsight I should have taken treats out in those first few days and toys for him to sink his teeth into on the way to the park to help him overcome those fears. To further aggravate the matter, my natural reaction when I see him lunge for a scrap is to jerk him away. I'm pretty sure this has only added to his anxiety. It certainly isn't helping.
So under Lee's advice, I'm going try and not pull him away from the scraps if I see them, but simply stop in my tracks so he cannot get to them, and then entice him back to me for a treat. The aim being that, when he sees a scrap, he will look to me first. I'm also going to look for a toy that resembles a stick that he can carry in his mouth. A ball I fear would roll into the road if he dropped it. I think having something in his mouth will really calm his nerves. I noticed if he picks up a leaf in his mouth, he can get all the way to the park without scavenging, so I think that is the solution in the short term, short of becoming a street cleaner!
I also think he needs his confidence building up some more still. When things get hectic in the dog run, he runs away to dig a hole - a clear sign of nervous energy needed to be let out.
But Marvin and me have some time to work on this. Sadly Posh Pets Rescue adoptions have completely dried up with Thanksgiving approaching and no one has expressed an interest in him in over a week which is unheard of for a Lab mix puppy as cute as Marvin. I'm sure the right family is out there waiting for him though, and when they come to see him, hopefully I'll be able to show them what a confident and happy little walker he is. It'll be up to him to control his humping urges though!

Monday, November 2, 2009


Almost a week on and Marvin is doing great! The humping has calmed down, and only now on very excitable occasions might he accidentally pee inside. He's a gentle and happy soul who does what he is told to do with a wagging tail. He plays with his toys, fetches balls, won't jump on the sofa or bed (unless we go out..), and chews only what he should (okay.. I lost a pair of training shoes to him on day two, but..), and he's very warm and friendly with people on the street.
He's a little unsure at the dog run still but has been in a couple of situations where he has happily wrestled nicely with another dog of his size. Unfortunately this morning a shitzu got out of bed the wrong side and took her mood out on Marvin, so that has set us back today, but he's definitely getting there. And he so loves the outdoors, I can take him anywhere. Here we are in Stuyvesant Town on Halloween.
He's still a little thinner than I would like, even though he is getting three mugs of puppy food, a breast of chicken and countless organic doggie treats and cheese cubes a day. I've bought some doggy fish oils to go in his food now as I noticed his coat is quite dry. Puppies cost a pretty penny!
I received an email today from a lobbying/rescue group in California that is actually pushing for pet owners to be granted tax exemptions on part of their annual pet-related outgoings. Because of the recession, an increasing number of pet owners have surrendered their animals as they simply cannot afford them. California's shelter numbers are up 12% since the end of 2007, for example.The ASPCA estimates the number of dogs and cats to be dropped off at shelters to have been as many as 8 million in 2008, and only 25% to 50% of those animals end up rehomed.
The HAPPY Bill would allow pet owners to deduct up to $3,500 of pet-related expenses a year from their tax returns and may help to keep owners and their pets together when the going gets tough. Here's the website:

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Marvin has arrived! An adorable energetic little ball of hormones with an uncontrollable bladder to boot, we named him Marvin after Marvin the Martian as he looks so alien with his webbed-like paws, bat ears and turned-up nose. 
Marvin is four-months old, with maybe some labrador retriever in him, but certainly some sort of staffordshire terrier. He's a beautiful chocolate colour and has big doleful eyes so is certain to be adopted soon. 
Marvin was left tied up to the gates of the Brooklyn Shelter so I don't know what his background is (other than possibly coming from outer space!). I'd guess he was kept somewhere confined. He likes to sleep in a different room on his own, and initially dragged his treats into the bathroom to chew. His nails are very long too which suggests he hasn't been outside a lot. It's interesting to compare him to Sammy and illustrates what damage a few months can do. While Sammy at 11-months had never been outside and even with a week of gentle coaxing was still no better, Marvin, just seven months younger, was nervous the first few times but now will run down the stairs into the yard and cannot wait to get out and explore – so much so we've had to put a gate up!He's a little on the skinny side and is more excitable than a less stressed dog would be but I am hopeful that Marvin hasn't been physically abused. He's a little handshy but will bound up to everyone he meets on the street to say hi and seems very happy!. He loves playing and chasing balls and is already much more cuddly after just two days. He's also more sure of himself in the dogrun than Wilson was at 3.5 months, although still runs for cover if play gets too much. It's so interesting looking at the differences between the two. Wilson was all about chewing trouser legs. Marvin is all about chewing hands!
Having only been neutered on Tuesday, Marvin is a bundle of hormones still and is having to be pulled off legs constantly! I gather this is usually the case for up to two weeks after neutering. And can only be aggravated by the amount of stress he has had recently.
But boy can Marvin pee! He's a constant hose - mainly because he gets excited about EVERYTHING! Infact, he's just peed again so I'd better go clean up!

Monday, October 26, 2009


So Sammy left on Saturday. It was heartbreaking putting him into the van where he joined another rescue dog, Chance, who was also heading to the Sanctuary. Chance suffered from terrible separation anxiety and had to be with other dogs.
Poor Sammy looked so scared as we piled him into his crate although we tried to do it as calmly and happily as we could muster so as not to scare him further. He's still on his journey and will be arriving in Florida tomorrow, so I look forward to hearing how he is. I miss his big old mush face and I still feel sad that with just the right environment and time, Sammy could have found his way to finding a wonderful family. 
The charity event for Posh Pets Rescue at the Boat Basin was Saturday afternoon, and despite the rain, people came with their adopted dogs and foster dogs. It was comforting to hear stories of success. A lot of these dogs have come a long way. Eli, here dressed as Michael Jackson for the costume competition, has gone from being rescued to becoming famous! He was adopted by Karen Biehl as a puppy having had a prior series of owners, and became the face of the Milkbone puppy boxes. He's now quite a celebrity in New York and has appeared on fashion runways and has had a few cameos in films. He even has his own website! 
In total, the event raised $7,500. That equates to almost a year's worth of emergency overnight boarding fees as dogs await a foster or permanent home. Or it could send seven dogs that are unadoptable to the sanctuary. It's a small amount of money but it will help many dogs. 
After the emotional time of having Sammy, and having thoroughly scrubbed the floors after his departure, we decided to take a break from fostering. But we always say that. Sure enough, Linda called today from the shelter with a four-month old Labrador puppy in need of an urgent home.....What could we say? He's being neutered tomorrow and will be with us by Wednesday. With Halloween next weekend, and inspired by Eli and the other dogs in outfits from Saturday, I'm already wondering if maybe I should get him a costume....

Thursday, October 22, 2009


I suppose it was inevitable that at some stage during the fostering process we would have a dog that needed rehabilitating to such a degree that in the end we would be defeated. And in the case of Sammy, foster number 13, it is sadly the case. Sammy is an 11-month Staffordshire/ Ridgeback mix with big gangly legs and lots of goofy kisses. He arrived at the shelter at five months of age with two other puppies having been taken out of a dog-fighting ring where they had been used as bait. The two other puppies were sadly beyond help having been so psychologically damaged from their ordeal and were put to sleep, but Sammy passed his tests with flying colours. He was cleaned up and transferred to a boarders where he was socialised with dogs, but, for whatever reason, remained there for six months. About three weeks ago, he started to lose a scary amount of weight – presumably from depression – so I agreed to have him come stay with us to fatten him up and introduce him to family life.
When I met him at the boarders he bounded over and jumped up and I had the highest hopes that we would be able to fix up this big oaf with love and get him ready to be adopted with time. But having spent his whole short life in a crate had taken its toll. The first day with us he was at a loss. Our tiny New York apartment must have seemed enormous and bewildering to him, and reflections of himself in the mirror, window and even oven door sent him into fits of barking. Sammy had also never had a bed before, so every bed was regarded as a bathroom, and the thought of lying down and settling was beyond him. But these are hurdles that one expects from traumatised dogs, and not ones that cannot be fixed with time and love. After a few days, he was soon a permanent fixture on his comfortable bed where he could rest his bony body.
But his fear beyond the apartment increased over the week. Sammy refused to go outside. Here he is in the photo remaining very firmly on our door step but venturing no further even with the aid of chicken, toys and excited voices.  For the past week we have been carrying him out onto the streets where his fear increases tenfold. The happy  and calm dog he has now managed to become in the apartment is gone in the big wide world. He is terrified of people, noises and is even a little fearful of other dogs now. He cannot bear to be too far from the front door and we have had to come up with all sorts of schemes like carrying him several blocks away so he becomes disoriented just to be able to let him relieve himself and then run home for exercise.
As he has started to unwind, his fears have become more pronounced. Men are terrifying to him. As are any visitors to the apartment. I have used exercises from Lee Charles Kelley and Kevin Behan to try and help him but it became clear that our set up here was not enough. Sammy needs a foster family with a big yard somewhere quiet, with perhaps some other dogs so he can take his time becoming acclimatised to being outdoors. Above all Sammy needs probably months of training before he can be adoptable. Rushing him into being on the streets would be detrimental to him. It is just too much for him to take in so soon, and it became clear that even with all the love in the world, staying with us in our three-storey high apartment in a busy part of the city is not going to help him. Without exercise he will become bored and frustrated.
But fosters with a yard, and the time to let him learn slowly do not come easy in New York City. And trainers who can give months to a rescue dog cost more money than a charity can afford. After much deliberation with Posh Pets Rescue, the hard decision was made to transfer Sammy to a sanctuary in Florida where he can live out his long life ahead of him cared for professionally and with a big field to play in with other dogs.
As wonderful as the sanctuary is and for all its good work, it is so sad to have to give up on a dog that has so much love to give to those he feels comfortable with. Sammy will greet me every morning by jumping up to kiss me on the nose and tell me it is time for breakfast. He loves to lounge on my lap while  I'm working and he loves to play tug and has even started to fetch balls. It's heartbreaking to think that with just a few months and money he would probably be ready to be with a family.
On a positive note, I like to think that his time with us has helped him deal a little better with space. We've also fed him up so that he has put on several pounds which will provide a cushion for the long and stressful journey he is about to take down to Florida.
While it is not an ideal situation, it is a relief that places like the sanctuary exist so that dogs who are rescued but who cannot be placed with a family, will still receive love, food and places to play. They are a true blessing.
And he has managed to have one final New York adventure! Today he escaped the vets, and after two hours with police on motorbikes and in cars he was tracked down on the FDR highway on the east side of Manhattan! He has now been renamed Sammy FDR.
He leaves us Saturday when Posh Pets Rescue holds its annual fundraiser. Let's hope that enough money is raised so that other dogs like Sammy will be able to have the training and environment they need to overcome their fears.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Wilson got adopted today. I'm sad to see him go but the family that has adopted him is so wonderful I can only be happy for them and him. The couple live in New Jersey with a big yard, and have four children between 5 and 12 who showered him with affection when they came to visit. He will be in heaven with grass to roll in, and children to play with. And talk about devotion - the family says they will take him on every holiday. Their last dog, also a rottweiler at 170 pounds! who passed away a few weeks back, would sit on the sofa with them, pillow under his head, and blanket on top. They have puppy neighbours too, so it is everything I could have wished for for the little guy. From the streets of Harlem on his own three weeks ago, Wilson now has a huge loving family. A very happy tale. 
I wanted to share something I read recently in a book called 59 seconds by Professor Richard Wiseman. Those with dogs know only too well the benefits of having a canine friend but Professor Wiseman has researched scientific evidence to prove that having a dog is truly good for us. Karen Allen of the University of New York at Buffalo assembled a group of city stockbrokers suffering from hypertension and randomly divided them into two groups – one of which was given a dog to look after. After six months, the blood pressure of those that were assigned dogs was significantly lower than the group without. Dogs also proved more effective in alleviating mental stress than one of the most commonly used drugs to treat hypertension. 
Wiseman goes on to discuss several theories as to why this may be. Arguments being that the exercise associated with walking dogs have a physical and psychological benefit. Another is that dogs act as the ultimate "non-judgmental friend" like a devoted therapist. An alternative is that touching and stroking a dog has a calming benefit. But the biggest argument made is that dogs make people sociable - by talking with other dog owners in the park, or being stopped by strangers on the street who want to pet your dog. Says Wiseman: "As spending time with other people is a major source of happiness and health, dogs' inadvertent but effective ability to bring people together plays a major role in promoting the well-being of their owners". So there we have it. As proven by scientists, we should all have a dog in our lives.
Here's a photo of me with Brian - foster number 1 – an old chihuahua that had been set upon by rats. That was a year and a half ago. Am I less stressed now than pre-Brian? Hmm, I'm not so sure. But I do have a lot more friends.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


So Wilson is still with us, getting bigger by the day. A potential adopter is due to come in about 10 days so fingers crossed for him. It will be a heart-wrench to let him go. He's a real Mummy's boy. 
Fortunately he was house-trained within just a few days. I wonder if that was from his previous owner. In part I like to think it was down to having him on a schedule. The rule of thumb being: the number of months is the number of hours they can hold their bladders – so I've made sure he goes outside every three and a half hours and gets lots of praise when he does his business outside, and no water is left out past 8pm. Now he's confident enough to run down the stairs and go in the yard when he needs to - sorry neighbours!
I was fortunate to go on a training session with Lee Charles Kelley for a cute little yorkie puppy who had some separation anxiety. It became clear how important it is for puppies and dogs to play with toys. This little yorkie was not into toys at all so when he became stressed that his owner had left the room, he had nowhere to turn to to relieve that anxiety. Wilson, happily, is keen to sink his teeth into anything and I make sure he has lots of gentle tug of war and fetch. When he whines when I eat, it is only a few moments before he runs off to grab a toy to chew to relieve his energy, and on walks when he gets a bit daunted, I take a toy for him to chew on on the way. Encouraging dogs to play with toys takes time. Using treats as playthings, or even using the natural things that dogs choose to play with like paper or shoes can help put them on the path towards playing with toys. Fingers are still not preferable, and it seems the bitter apple spray on hands and feet has made Wilson learn that he needs to look elsewhere for something to chew. Fortunately he leaves the furniture alone, although socks and trousers are fair game (when they're lying around – not when they're being worn!)
Anyway, we are off to the dog park, where I am happy to say Wilson is becoming more confident. He had to spend a few days at a boarders in Massachussetts - The Woof and Whisker Inn - where the owners kept him in their home and he could play outside all day with doggy daycare clients. It's done him the world of good being around dogs so much, and it's so nice to see him becoming more comfortable with his doggy peers. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


After a long summer away from the city, it's nice to be finally back on east ninth street. What's even nicer is that foster number 12 has arrived – a three/four-month rottweiler mix weighing in already at 27 pounds, named Wilson after my favourite House character and the basketball that is a loyal companion to Tom Hanks when he is stranded on a desert island.
Wilson arrived two days ago, having been found wandering the streets of Harlem, and is a little handshy and nervous around dogs.
I spent some time talking about puppy training with Lee Charles Kelley and have started some gentle socialising exercises to help him get over his nerves.
We're spending an hour or so in the dog run which he was initially very tentative about. One tip is to move a step away from him every time he tries to sit on my feet or hide between my legs so that he gradually becomes more comfortable with feeling on his own in the run. He runs for cover under the nearest bench though when dogs seems a little too interested in him. It takes a lot of will-power not to try and comfort him when he's scared, but lots of "good boy!" and little by little he'll find his feet there rather than becoming over-reliant on an owner.
One tip for getting him acclimatized to all those hands that keep coming his way to pet him is to put some butter on your palm and let him lick it off. Then, putting a treat in a closed fist and smearing butter on the knuckles, he is learning that licking the outside of the hand gets the treat inside. Hopefully this will prepare him.
I also took Wilson out today to Stuyvesant Town where there are lots of children so he can become comfortable with little legs running past him and seeing a human at eye level. He passed with flying colours, letting children gently pet him without the usual puppy biting.
Above all, I'm trying to follow the natural dog training methods that mean not inhibiting his puppy bite (as with Daisy) and allowing him to explore a little on his own without fussing over him. He's a little independent anyway so fingers crossed he is going to grow up to be brave and well-adjusted rather than suffering from separation anxiety down the line.
Oh, and we also tried water today! Making every new experience positive is the best thing to do for a puppy. Skateboards, bikes, squirrels, cats and showers all become chances for playtime or treats and lots of praise. Bless him, he jumped into the shower to join me on his own accord. He's going to be a 120 pound heartbreaker when he grows up!
Here is a blog by Trisha Selbach who is raising her puppy purely as per Kevin Behan's natural dog training book.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Rose came to stay for a few days a month ago. About nine years' old, Rose it seems had been owned by an elderly person who perhaps passed away which is how she wound up at the shelter. The first two nights she lay by my front door as if waiting for her owner to walk in. She was clearly quite shell-shocked, the poor thing, but by day three Rose was wagging her tail and she even slept a little closer to my bedroom so she could keep one eye on me and one on the door. Such a pretty little thing, Rose was snapped up by a lovely couple on the Upper West Side after only a week - a happy story!
A tentative link perhaps, but I wanted to talk a bit today about names and using them. All too often we start to use our dog's name willy-nilly. The perception has always been that we must use their name to get their attention. Well, that's wrong. We can get their attention simply by picking up a toy, opening the fridge, coming home.. This perception has led to over-use of a name. For an example, see how confusing this must be to a dog. "Rose, come!", "Rose, stay!" Rose, sit!" "Rose, down!" Oh dear, no wonder our dogs start to ignore their names. It's a useless command to them. The other problem is that it is all to easy to blurt out "Rose, NO!" or use the name when reprimanding a dog. You should know by now, that reprimanding is not something I agree with anyway, but it is even more important to NEVER use a dog's name when correcting. Far better to use words like "Off!", "Drop!", "Quiet!". In training, try to use a dog's name, ONLY when you think they will respond and it is for something positive b) use it infrequently.  Like with commands, if you keep on repeating the name or word, the dog will become immune to it, and c) try and use it only with "Come!" in training so, "Rose, come!" – after all, what we want nine times out of ten is for our dog, upon hearing its name, is to focus on us and come to us. I'm not saying don't use it when you're playing and rubbing ears or whatever it is your dog likes - that's not training time. Use it with feeding, and treats and all the things that will make your dog associate his or her name with wanting to be with you. By the way, did you know that last year the most popular names in North America for dogs were Buddy, Max, Daisy, Jack and Lucy. And in the UK (my home country) they were Molly, Alfie, Max, Barney and Poppy. Seems we all want to give our dogs human names. Personally, I like Andrew.. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


It is hard to know what to feel about the decision by New York's housing authority to ban its residents from owning pitbulls, dobermans or rottweilers, or dogs that are over 25 pounds. 
On the one hand it will only encourage the belief that these breeds are to be feared. 
The breeds such as pitbulls have a very bad reputation, largely as in the past they were trained to be aggressive. Dobermans and Rottweilers likewise. The key word is "trained". Any of those breeds, and indeed any dog at all, if brought up well, and trained correctly should not display any signs of aggression. 
Aggression itself is kind of a funny term. For dogs, aggression is driven from fear - be that of people, dogs or even sounds or experiences that they have not been introduced to slowly. Ever seen a dog try to attack a bicycle or skateboard? It is no different to a dog lunging for another dog, in the sense that in both examples the behaviour is driven by fear. Bring up a dog to be well-adjusted and confident, and you will have a dog that is not aggressive. This goes against certain dog training philosophies that imply a fearless, confident dog is one that needs to be dominated or he/she will become uncontrollable or aggressive. Shouting at your dog or bullying him into obedience actually instils fear in a dog – and fear leads to aggression!  
In Kevin Behan's book, Natural Dog Training, he points out in the conclusion: "Biting, as well as the other countless behavioural problems that send 10 million dogs to their doom each year, is completely avoidable. No matter what the temperament of the dog may be, genetics doesn't mean that a behaviour is predetermined. All dogs can adapt to any environment if their wildness is acknowledged, appreciated, and then channeled into expressions of freedom that are appropriate." Pitbulls, dobermans and rottweilers are high energy dogs which is why they are easy to train to be aggressive. Suppress their energy and add cruelty and that energy will explode through their teeth. use that energy to exercise them, play, train them, and let them be loved and you'll never have a dog that bites! 
When it comes to aggressive dogs, owners of pitbulls, dobermans and rottweilers may like to look at the following ranking of aggressive dogs and have a laugh. Certainly the 25 pound limit will not help in this case! 
Not that I am supporting the study! As I mention, dogs brought up correctly will not be aggressive!
We were lucky enough to foster Nelly, a lovable pit-mix from Posh Pets last October. One of the soppiest, loopiest dogs I have met who brought joy to everyone she came across, and was by far the most popular gal in the pub. She was obedient but outgoing. Luckily her confidence had not been knocked out of her! Nelly was just over one year old, and was due to be euthanised when we took her on.  Here she is in the photo doing what she loved best – chasing leaves and hoovering them up! She now lives in New Jersey with a loving couple where she rules the roost! 
There is so much more to write about aggression and helping dogs overcome their fears, but Rose my new foster looks like she needs a cuddle...

Saturday, April 25, 2009


So Daisy happily left this morning with new owner, Lauren. A sad day for me though as she was such a pleasure to have around, and was making me quite popular in the block because of her happy spirit and wiggly backside! It's been five hours and I miss her like mad. It's one of the cons to fostering – having to give them up, and I don't think I'll ever get used to them going. But each dog teaches me something new about dogs, and about me. One of the many things I learned from Daisy is the importance of not inhibiting a puppy's biting habits. Daisy loved to nibble on fingers, and at eight months, she had adult teeth so could nibble quite hard! The biggest fear of a dog owner is having a dog that turns out to be aggressive. So they try to prevent puppy biting believing if they don't, then the puppy will grow up to think biting is correct and will sink his or her teeth into postmen, neighbours, other dogs or children. Such thinking is understandable, but is incorrect. Indeed, preventing a puppy from biting can lead to a dog that bites in later life. Lolly was foster dog number 6, a five-year old Shepherd mix. That's her in the photo. At first glance, Lolly was an extremely calm dog. She ate gently from your hand so was popular with children and their parents. She never jumped up, never chewed furniture, and would stand obediently by you to be petted. What Lolly could not do, however, was bite anything. She would not chew toys, would not fetch balls, would never play tug of war. Lolly had been so severely reprimanded for biting as a puppy, that she would not even bite her food. Lolly licked her dinner up.
So Lolly was far from calm. She was completely confused. Lolly would bark uncontrollably at moving objects such as trucks, vans, bikes, or skateboards. In New York city you can imagine how stressful taking her on walks could be! With other dogs she was unpredictable. She generally did not want to play with them, but would be the first to run into a dog fight to try and sink her teeth into a neck. In one sad case Lolly actually caused damage to a small dog while at a boarders. While I adored Lolly for all her foibles, it took more than three months before someone else felt that way. Now she lives in Connecticut with a loving family and is beginning to fetch balls.
So how does Lolly's behaviour connect to the fact she had not been allowed to bite as a puppy? As we are all aware, dogs used to hunt for food, and pull their prey down by biting.  By sinking their jaws into prey, dogs relieved all the tension that had built up during the hunt. So when dogs feel emotion, be that excitement or fear, then their natural instinct is to sink their teeth into something to relieve the stress that emotion causes. If you have seen a dog gnawing on a bone or chewing on their favourite toy, you will have noticed the glazed look of sheer bliss not dissimilar to how humans appear when getting a relaxing massage. 
While evolution has changed the dog from a human hunting companion to a pet, it has not taken away their desire to relieve stress by chewing and biting.  If they are not allowed to do so, where does all that stress go? In Lolly's case, it went inside and ended up in unpredictable outbursts of biting, snapping or barking. Had she known she could relieve that tension through chewing on a ball, or pulling a tug toy then she would have been able to be calmer in times of heightened emotion, and would have known when she should use her teeth and when she shouldn't. 
I'm always amazed by owners that shout at their dogs, but the training books out there are so confusing and often aggressive in their methods, that I can understand why owners think it the right course of action. I've seen some terrible advice for preventing puppy bites such as shaking the puppy by its collar, shouting No! at the puppy, pushing in the puppy's cheeks so it bites itself, holding the puppy's muzzle.. Would anyone expect a child to grow up to be normal if they were treated so sternly?
With puppies, patience is the key, and hopefully after my ten days with Daisy I've learned to be more patient. If you bring your puppy up calmly and with love, with plenty of play time and toys for stimulus, then it will not matter if they bite on your fingers for a few months. They honestly will grow out of it. Just replace your fingers with a toy if it bothers you, or let them nibble you and if they nibble too hard, yelp Owww! Puppies are learning what they can and cannot bite and how hard they can use their teeth. Through biting they bond with their group, and begin to understand their surroundings. They like to explore with their mouths! Let them do it! An excellent resource on puppy biting is a blog by trainer Lee Charles Kelley, my dog mentor! Here is a link to his blog on puppy biting and what to do about it. 


Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Daisy arrived last night – a beautiful 8-month mutt from Posh Pets Rescue, a rescue organisation here in New York. She makes foster number 7 and is the youngest we have had. You cannot tell from the photo but Daisy has some terrible injuries. She had some chemical burns and lost hair on her neck and parts of her back. She is also blind in one eye so bumps into things quite easily! And did I mention her bad back leg? But she seems unaffected in the sense that she is so happy and wriggly and loves people and other dogs. She also seems very well trained in that she sits down when she wants food, and has learned how to play and fetch. Shame she is not house-trained though! But she is worth the kitchen roll. Photographing her was harder than some of our fosters because she is such a wriggler. This is all I could muster from about 50 photos that wasn't blurred, or had her looking deranged!