A Pocket Full of Prosciutto and A Prayer

A Pocket Full of Prosciutto and A Prayer


Smitty is a two year old Shih-Tzu whom I rescued back in July.  I happily put him in my car where he proceeded to try and jump out the window. He refused to acknowledge my existence or my treats. My intuition told me that he would be a flight risk.  I thought that I was getting a sweet little guy like my Glitch, whom I rescued and has never required a leash.

Never assume. Smitty was not happy about being in a new home. I may have been projecting some human emotion onto him, but he sat by my front door day after and I felt he just wanted to go home. He had lived with an elderly human who was hospitalized and the family brought him to a shelter.

Day one: Smitty backs out of his collar and dashes off into the woods behind my house. I took off with the speed of a twenty year old, crashing through the trees into my neighbors’ yard like a neighborhood creeper. Fortunately Smitty stopped to enjoy a bite of deer poop and I was able to tackle him which did nothing to help endear him to me.

He did not trust me. It was in his eyes. He owed my nothing and I knew that I had my work cut out for me. He additionally had a very nasty resource guarding issue and he loved to chew boots and bras to the point of complete destruction.

My main concern was losing him. Out came the long line and a nice shiny lime green body harness. I have hiked with every one of my dogs off leash in the woods for the last 15 years. Clearly this would not be the case with Smitty. Long lines are a pain in the butt! They tangle, get caught on everything and as I am clumsy they tend to trip me up. This was not convenient nor much fun; but whoever said training dogs was easy? It takes time, patience, consistency and often times doing things the hard way. I mean hard for the humans. I would never dream of making it hard on the dog. They are doing the best they can to try and make it in our human world. Given that Smitty had little use for me, to start our relationship off without kindness and compassion would have ensured I would be undermining the long term relationship I sought for my dog.

And so for six months Smitty walked the line. We had success, and failure. We would start over. He was a determined little cuss and one time he saw a deer and tried to chew through his line. We started over. I dropped the line one day to test him and off he went. Again I took off with the sprint of a 20 year old and was able to grab the line. We started over. We saw success, we failed, over and over. I did begin to notice that Smitty would wiggle when I came home, he started following me into the bathroom (a sure fire sign of love). He would trade my bra for a treat. He would hang out with us to watch tv as opposed to hiding in his bed. And slowly but surely he started to respond to come when called on his long line.

Today with a pocket full of prosciutto and a prayer, I let Smitty off leash. We went out to the woods behind my house (I figured if he did take off he might find his way home). He raced up and down the hills with Glitch and Poke. And he came to me every time for a treat and huge dose of Jolly Dog Talk. And this is why I choose time, love and training over convenient.

Rage Against The Machine

I speak of the rage against what dog training is becoming; a machine. I only know of this title as a band that my son used to listen too, but always found the name of the band intriguing.

I often times hear a client tell me their dog flunked basic obedience…Really? I would suggest that your trainer failed you and your dog. After all, why are we really in a training class? Do you plan to attend Westminster? Are you going to the Nationals with your dog? Probably not.

When I teach a class with eight dogs we have one goal uppermost in our minds. Is your dog safe? Does your dog bite humans or attack other dogs? No? Hooray you and your dog graduate basic obedience.

If a trainer fails a dog in class the likelihood that that person will attend another class is about 0%. And now we have an at risk dog because their human has probably not learned how to manage their dog when they are scared, stressed or over threshold. Most people that flunked class have never even heard those terms, they only know their dog could not hold a down stay beside the dog that was eyeballing them. Would you lie down on the floor with a dog that was eyeballing you? The expectations that we place on so many dogs in the name of training is out of proportion with what the dog is capable of in many instances.

I recently had a long term client tell me the best thing that she had done… She went to the local buzz trainer, I am using the term buzz as it is not a shock at all just a little buzz that gets their attention. “It doesn’t hurt at all” so I am told. Anyhow, she was very proud that her dog could heal, go to place and sit every time. She then told me, the dog still goes nuts and acts aggressive every time someone enters the home. Hence the rage.

I am an opinionated bitch (yes I said it) and oftentimes cannot hold my tongue and get myself into trouble. I am oftentimes not well liked. I realize that, but I have no control when it comes to dogs that are put at risk because we cannot take the time to get to the underlying issue of behavior and choose to look for a quick fix.

There are days my heart hurts so much I want to sell the business and move to the beach. Then a Charlie shows up in class. Charlie never sat, rarely looked at his human when asked and pretty much looked like he was doing whatever he wanted. I saw a dog that was terrified of other dogs and none too sure of the human race either. Okay Charlie, you can just hang out for the next four weeks and we will take care of you. Guess what? At the end of the four weeks, Charlie pranced around that class like a boss. He greeted other dogs, wagged at humans and mom said he is not going crazy on walks anymore when he sees other dogs.

And so next week I will start another round of classes with eight new dogs with very different personalities and we will do what we need to do to help that dog feel a little success. He or She will receive their diploma and applause from everyone because that dog did the best they could and this Trainer would never dream of flunking him.

Karen Quillen

Spring 2015 Newsletter

Spring 2015 Newsletter

The spring newsletter will give you tips on controlling fleas and ticks naturally, our new reservation and cancellation policy for boarding and tips from Karen about leash manners.

Click on the images below to view a larger image of the newsletter or you may click here for a pdf version.

Spring2015Newsletter           Spring2015Newsletter2

Summer Newsletter

Summer Newsletter

The summer newsletter includes an introduction to Dr. Marlice Vonck, tips on how to help your dog the beat the heat and information on services provided by All Things Pawssible, such as Bed & Biscuit, Fidos After Five and our ride service.

Click on the images below to view a larger image of the newsletter or you may click here for a pdf version.

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Our Belgian Malinois’ Shocking Behavior

We rescued our Belgian Malinois about ten years ago. She had been bred for Homeland Security, flunked out and was sent to Henrico Police Dept. flunked out and landed in Fluvanna SPCA.

At first she seemed fairly normal for a Malinois and we felt pretty fortunate. She listened well, we treated her with yummy things and she responded happily.

Little by little we started to see odd behaviors. When the garbage truck was backing up she would start panting heavily, pacing, shaking severely and throwing herself against us. We saw the same behavior if the smoke alarm went off. One spring evening there was the lovely sound of Peep Frogs coming through the window. Sage started exhibiting these behaviors.

Suddenly I started putting it together. All of these things had one thing in common, a beeping sound. It is common knowledge that Military and Police Dogs are trained with shock collars. Initially they will give a warning beep, if the dog does not respond they are shocked until they do. It makes no difference as to the length of time it takes them to figure it out. They are shocked until they do. The theory behind this is: When the shock stops they are positively reinforced.

We have had Sage for ten years in which time she has never been shocked. Our poor dog has never forgotten the sound which means pain will be delivered. We try our best to comfort her by redirecting her to something truly positive such as a cookie or her ball but until the sound stops she remains a tormented dog.

For those of you out there who might be tempted by the promise of “Off Leash” training, you will not be introducing your dog to a lifetime of freedom; you will have chained them to a lifetime of fear, uncertainty and pain.

We have leash laws for a reason. It keeps them safe and it keeps others safe. If your dog will not come to you when called, you have not trained them enough. There are plenty of safe places for your dog to play off leash.  Keep the leash on and teach your dog that you will keep them safe.