this is a page for

Monthly Archives: February 2015

Five conclusive reasons why rescue dogs make the best pets

images (1)I hear a lot of talk about shelter dogs being damaged goods. I wholeheartedly disagree. Of my five dogs, each of them is a rescue.  Two are from shelters, one is from a rescue, one is from another person and on was thrown out of a truck. Out of all of these dogs, only one could have potentially been called damaged goods. I don’t know what this dog endured but he had large scars on his body and he was emaciated. Here’s five reasons why Shelter dogs make great pets.




1.    Shelter dogs are NOT damaged goods

Dogs end up at the shelter for various reasons. Many of the reasons are due of no fault of their own. There are so many ways dogs end up at the shelter. I don’t plan to cover them all here. The dogs with serious behavior issues are usually put down. That is a sad fact of shelter dogs. Some of them are visibly scared and withdrawn.  You would be too if you were thrown in jail at no fault of your own and every other cell was full of yelling people. One thing I am certain of, the dog you see in the shelter will not be the same dog you see when you get them home. That is a good thing.


images (4)


2.    You Save not just one but two lives

When you take that dog out of the shelter you make room for another. Approximately 7.6 million pets make it into a shelter on average per year, 2.7 million are adopted, 2.7 million are killed. Those are some sobering statistics.




3.    Most are healthy when they leave the shelter

Shelter dogs are screened, given shots, neutered or and microchipped before they leave. The screening will not catch all issues but most are pretty healthy. Unfortunately, most shelters will just kill dogs that have more severe issue they will not spend the time and money fixing.


images (2)4. They are inexpensive

Have you ever priced a pure breed dog from a breeder? They want a crazy amount of money for a dog. If you insist on getting a purebred, you can save yourself a substantial amount of money by going to the shelter or contacting a breed specific rescue.


images (5)

5.  If potty training is not your thing, you are in luck

Puppies sure are cute but they are feeding, peeing and pooping machines. The roughest time in raising a dog is from puppyhood to adolescence. You can save yourself and your carpets by getting a dog a year or two old at a shelter. If you are lucky, your adoptee may even know a few other tricks as well.


images (3)
Let’s get out of here!




The bottom line is, you are doing a valiant thing by adopting a shelter dog. You are now a hero to a very deserving dog. Rescue dogs are amazing dogs. They are grateful to be rescued and will pay your rescue fees tenfold in love. I don’t know many people who won’t say their rescue dog actually saved their life.

A warning against NSAID’s

Last week, my oldest and largest dog suddenly stopped eating. The morning went as normal. He ate and took is medication. By evening, he did not want to eat. For a 130-pound dog that loves his food, this was highly unusual. He threw up a couple of times during the course of the night, which in itself is not alarming.


The next morning, he still did not want to eat. I went to work and called his vet. I love my vet but his wife is his receptionist and she just cannot multitask. It shuts her down. The phone went to voicemail so I called the emergency vet. Since my dog also has seizure disorder, I could not get his medicine down him. The tech told me I had to get him to the vet sooner than later.


When I finally got my vet on the phone, I was told to bring him in and drop him off. I could not get away so I called my trusty neighbor. I am blessed with the best neighbor anyone could possibly ask for. They loaded him into my truck and dropped him at the vet.


The prognosis became progressively worse from there. He had diarrhea mixed with pure blood. Emergency measures were implemented to include IV’s of antibiotics and hydration. He was going to have to stay the night. My vet asked what if anything was different for him the past few days. The only thing I could point to was that I have given him two NSAID’s the prior two days because his back had been causing him pain.


One night’s stay turned into two. The only improvements seen were because of the drastic measures taken by the vet. He is a quirky, old dog set in his ways. He will not relieve himself on lead because he likes to wander. He also loves his bed and his routine. Since he barely eating on the second day the vet felt he might do better at home.


Once he was home, the difference was obvious. His stomach was still a mess but I was able to get him to take his pills. Small successes are a huge victory when you have a sick animal. Slowly, day-by-day, he got better. Today, a week later, he is back to his normal self. It has been a tough week for my old man. I had no idea a couple of anti-inflammatories would nearly kill him.


Now for a few facts:

  • Veterinary NSAIDs may be associated with gastrointestinal ulcers, perforations, and bleeding. (This in not a rare side effect. It is a common one.)
  • Other side effects include kidney disease, liver disease, immune diseases, neurologic issues, and behavioral problems. (These are more rare.)
  • Finally, as with steroids, many NSAIDs destroy cartilage.


That’s quite a list. I am going to stay away from NSAID. I love my dogs too much to ever put one through that again.


Part two of insights from a professional dog trainer

Mixed breeds or pure breeds? Do you have a preference? Is there such a thing as an inherently dangerous breed?


Tommy Grammer is back to  answer questions regarding breed.  I have five mixed breed dogs. Due to behavior issues I decided to DNA test one of my dogs. I was so far off on my assumption that I decided to test all of them. Getting the results was a lot of fun but also very informative.  I researched the breeds and found the generalizations of character to be pretty accurate.  These insights helped with training and understanding my dogs. Now, on to the interview.
If you have comments or questions, please post them below.


What is the most common breed you are contacted to deal with?

I work with a lot of German Shepherds. I have owned German Shepherds for the past 15 years so I know them really well. I also have pictures and videos of me working with my German Shepherds on my websites which probably led German shepherd owners to me. It is also a high maintenance breed that needs consistent training.


Do you believe breed plays a role in behavior issues?

Absolutely. If I am doing a lesson with a pure bred puppy, I always inform the owner of potential behavior problems and training challenges that the breed has. Your herding breeds need a lot of human socialization due to their naturally protective and territorial nature. Hounds follow their noses and need special attention to off leash recall training. Cocker spaniels are notorious resource guarders. Yorkies require more diligence with house training. Labs and Goldens tend to have problems jumping on people due to their affectionate and exuberant nature. Pit bulls often find dog parks overwhelming and need a lot of early dog to dog socialization. Mastiff breeds are going to be suspicious of people walking onto the property and need training to ensure unwanted aggressive behavior doesn’t occur. Most behavioral issues with pure breeds generally stem from lack of seeing potential problems ahead of time and a lack of understanding of the breed.

Pure breed dogs were bred for specific reasons centuries ago. Many owners do not take into account what the dog was originally used for when deciding on the type of dog they are getting ready to purchase. Today we own dogs that were originally bred to hunt, herd and guard livestock, kill rodents, guard large estates, and do a lot of other jobs. The majority of these dogs are not performing the function they were bred for. When these dogs are not provided alternative activities to compensate, you are going to have a bored dog with a lot of pent-up energy which is not a good combination. This is one reason why mixed dogs often make great companion dogs as these breed traits are often toned down.


What is your opinion on the demonization of specific breeds over the decades?

I think demonization as you put it occurs when specific breeds get a lot of attention in the media for aggressive behavior toward humans.

Breeds that get a bad rap for aggressive behavior usually have two things in common. They are strong powerful dogs and there is a sudden surge in irresponsible breeding practices which puts dogs into the hands of irresponsible owners. German Shepherds, Dobermans, Rottweilers, and Pit Bulls have all been labeled as inherently dangerous dogs by some people at one time or another.

Today we know that the most controversy revolves around the Pit Bull. I often get calls from potential clients that ask me right off the bat “Do you work with Pit Bulls?” This question always surprises me. After all, I am a dog trainer and pit bulls are dogs. I am more empathetic when I hear the bogus information they have heard from either their neighbor or in some cases from a self-proclaimed dog trainer. I want to make it clear to the uniformed that Pit bulls do not have natural aggressive tendencies toward humans. I have been handling bite cases for the past 12 years and I can tell you definitively that Pit Bulls do not make up the majority of cases. I do deal with a lot of dog to dog aggression cases with pit bulls, but dog to human aggression is very different and unrelated.

The problem that I see with the arguments over breeds such as pits is that it is rare to find honest discussions. On one side, you have people claiming Pit Bulls are extremely dangerous toward humans, which is ridiculous and unfounded. Most of the time when bites to humans do occur with Pits, it is because the dog was failed by the owner either through abusive handling, poor socialization, or lack of basic management protocols. The media is also often biased in their reporting on this breed.

Then on the other side of the argument, you have people shouting how amazing Pit Bulls are and try to promote ownership of the breed. Both of these arguments are not going to help the situation.

The fact is, there are way too many Pit Bulls being bred and when you have irresponsible inexperienced dog owners wanting to buy one to prove a point or think that it is going to be easy to own big powerful dogs, you run into problems. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy working with pits and have met lots of awesome owners that work with their dogs and have great relationships with them, but Pits are not for everybody. We need Pit Bull breeding to decline and responsible ownership to increase.

The same goes for other powerful breeds. I love German Shepherds, but I often tell people that I wouldn’t recommend buying a German Shepherd. Not because I think they are bad dogs, rather I don’t think that the person’s situation or experience level is a good fit for the dog.

In all honesty, if it wasn’t for breed specific legislation, I would rather people think that a breed is more dangerous than it really is, if it would curb popularity. It doesn’t bother me at all when I walk my friendly 95lb black German shepherd down the street and people jump out of the way. When people ask me if German Shepherds are dangerous, I don’t say “No”. I say, “They can be”. And I would say that they are more likely to bite a stranger walking onto an owner’s property than a golden retriever. When we are honest about characteristics that certain breeds have, we can hopefully start eliminating ownership from people that have no business buying these types of dogs. Then biting incidences would start to decline.

If you could look into your crystal ball, what breed do you think will be demonized next?

If there is a breed that is destined for this type of ridicule, it will probably be a breed that suddenly becomes very popular and has the ability to inflict a lot of damage with its bite. I really think this issue has to do with overpopulation of the wrong breed that is the result of poor breeding practices.

If breeds such as Cane Corsos, Dogo Argenitnos, Presa Canarios, or Anatolian Shepherds become abundant and start finding their ways into the hands of irresponsible owners, then watch out.

A Chihuahua could start biting 3 times the amount a people a year of all other dogs combined and we still would not demonize them. We would probably make lots of jokes, but it wouldn’t be of too much concern because it is just not as scary when they are aggressive due to the lack of serious damage they can inflict on a human. Also, a Chihuahua biting the neighbor isn’t going to get as much play in the media as a Rottweiler or a Pit Bull. It will probably even go unreported.


If there was one thing you wish all dog owners knew what would it be?

Well, I think that most owners get the most important thing right which is they love their dogs and would do anything for them.

If I had to pick one thing that I wish dog owners knew in regards to training, I would say once you truly learn to observe your actions from your dog’s perspective, everything starts to become clear. The ability to make this mental shift in thinking is what separates a dog trainer from a dog owner. And anyone can learn to do this with practice.


Tommy Grammer is a certified professional dog trainer who owns the Evergreen School For Dogs, which is dog training school in Washington State. He also runs an online video dog training website:

Insights From A Professional Dog Trainer

Part of being a responsible pet owner is dealing with behavior issues promptly and with skill.  For some that means reaching out to an educated and experienced trainer.


I was one of those people.  I have worked through most of my issues with the guidance of a skilled trainer, Tommy Grammer.  Reflecting on my training experiences I found I had some new questions.
In this post, Tommy Grammer answers some of those questions.  This will be a two-part post with the second half posting next week. I hope you enjoy this interview and comment with your ideas and feedback.


What is the most common training issue you are contacted for?

I get a lot of calls from people who just want to learn how to teach their dog basic commands and basic house manners. The most common problematic behavior that I get called for is barking at other dogs on leash or aggressive behavior towards other dogs.


Do you get more calls from women or men requesting training?

Definitely women. I would say that it is around 70 percent women who reach out for training. If there is a man in the household with the woman such as a husband or boyfriend, then they usually are involved with the training, but overall it seems that women are predominantly the ones who handle the initial contact and scheduling and take a bigger role in the training process.


Do you believe gender plays a role in dog handling and subsequently a need for training?

The dog training industry is dominated by women. I would estimate that women make up 70-80 percent of the total professional trainers. Women are much more likely to pursue a career in dog training.

As far as men and women without a lot of training experience, I would say there are some gender patterns that relate to handling that occasionally do pop up.

Often men are better at stopping behavior that has to do with respect for personal space. For instance, I frequently observe dogs that will not jump on or mouth the man as much as the woman in the household. I then see that often women have a better ability to motivate dogs to do things for them. For instance, coming when called is often a behavior that I see dogs perform better for the woman than the man in the same household. Some of this probably has to do with tone inflection, as deeper tones are better for stopping behavior and higher pitch tones can excite and motivate dogs.

Either way, the best handler is going to be the one with an open mind and a willingness to learn how to become a better handler or trainer.


What is your opinion on the highly referenced hierarchy of wolf packs as it relates to the domesticated canine?

First off, it is important to know that the studies that stated wolves live by a strict linear hierarchy system were done by observing wolves that were living in captivity in a zoo rather than in the wild. This means limited resources and limited mating opportunities which are going to lead to various exaggerated and abnormal behaviors that you may not see in the wild.

I am no wolf expert, but I do know dogs and I can tell you that dogs do not live by a strict linear hierarchy system where one dog is the Alpha and reigns supreme over the other members in the household.

Now, domesticated dogs will however display social dominance toward each other over resources and I think this is where the confusion occurs. For instance, you may witness one dog push another dog off of their food bowl during meal time. This doesn’t mean that this dog is the alpha dog in the household and controls all of the other dog’s behavior. It just means that most of the time, this dog views feeding as a resource that is valuable enough to attempt to take it away from the other dog.

The same dog that pushes one dog off a food bowl, may not dare try to take a toy away from the same dog that will relinquish its food. In referencing the hierarchy system in this example, you would have to say dog 1 is the alpha during feeding time and dog 2 is alpha when they have the toy. The concept of the linear hierarchy system will break down over and over again among domesticated dogs. Dogs display dominance toward each other depending on the context and specific resource rather than being decided by an overall ranking system.

Regardless of how dogs display social dominance with each other, it doesn’t matter as we are not dogs. We are not competing over resources such as food and mating partners with our dogs. And if a dog ever does show possessive behavior over food or objects, we just show them that there is no point in competing for that resource. Telling someone to be “More Alpha” does not give anyone specific instructions on how to fix behavior problems. Striving to be a better trainer is far superior to attempting to act like an Alpha (whatever that means).

Some people are attracted to thinking that they should attempt to act like dogs do when they display dominant behavior toward other dogs. They will cherry pick all sorts of behaviors that dogs often display. Some people recommend standing over your dog, growling at your dog, staring down your dog, pinning down your dog, eating before your dog, etc.

What you will not hear, is anyone recommending humping your dog, urinating over top of your dog’s pee, or putting your dog’s muzzle inside your mouth. These are also behaviors that dogs display toward each other all of the time, but we would think these actions would be ridiculous.


Has there ever been a dog you felt you could not reach?

I am asked this question a lot. People are always curious if there is a dog that can’t be trained. I have seen some pretty nasty aggressive cases over the years and I have saved a lot of dogs from being giving up by their owner. The majority of dogs that my wife Corday and I have adopted in the past were dogs that were given up or had multiple bite histories and had nowhere to go and would have been euthanized. Reaching, understanding, and training dogs with special needs is always about setting realistic expectations for the dog and finding owners that can handle dogs that may be more difficult to manage. I would think that I know how to reach most dogs through training, but there have been dogs that I was unable to help.

I can remember vividly every dog that I have been called in to help make a decision to euthanize the dog either at a shelter or an owner’s dog. This is the darker side of dog training and shelter work. The problem arises when these dogs that had a bad start in life have nowhere to go because there are only a handful of people in the community that can handle these types of dogs. Dog savvy people who work at shelters and rescues usually already have adopted as many dogs as they can handle and simply don’t have enough room for these dogs. Shelters can’t adopt these dogs out to the public as they pose a danger in the hands of the inexperienced. It is sad that we call a dog, man’s best friend and fail so many of them.


Tommy Grammer is a certified professional dog trainer who owns the Evergreen School For Dogs, which is dog training school in Washington State. He also runs an online video dog training website: