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.

Summer2014Newsletter     Summer2014Newsletter2

Pups on Prozac? Something’s out of Whack

Pups on Prozac? Something’s out of Whack

Recently, a young couple came to class with their nine month old large mixed breed dog. He appeared to be a little fearful, unsure of himself, and in conflict with what he wanted and needed. I asked the couple a few questions about him and they expressed to me that he had just started Prozac. What? I was a little taken aback and I asked them why. “He is an anxious dog and he had a rough start as a pup”. Well, yes he is a little anxious, but he has never had an ounce of training. They had never had him evaluated by a trainer or behaviorist. He was simply put on Prozac.

When I grew up I had never heard of a dog on Prozac but then again none of my friends were on Prozac either. Dogs back then played with us outside all day. Yes, kids played outside not on I Pads. Dogs ate table scraps, bones, meat and sometimes we even snuck them our ice cream cones. They all lived very long lives.

We were vaccinated once when we were children. Why are we vaccinating our dogs every year? Why are we warned of bones, scraps, meat, canned food and the dreaded “human food”. Have you ever read the ingredients on a bag of kibble? The crappiest ones start with corn, wheat, soy etc. I would call that human food at its’ worst and yet we are told that is what is best for them.

Our dogs got flea baths every week and for some reason my grandmother swore on bacon grease between the paws for flea remedies. I am not sure how that worked without the dogs licking it off. My point is that we did not over vaccinate, inundate with toxic flea and tick medications or feed them expensive prescription diets. And they were never put on Prozac.

Perhaps it is time that we look at the causes for the behaviors and not look for a magic cure in the form of a pill. Do I believe that in an extreme case that medicine can be helpful? Yes. But not every dog who exhibits a little neurotic behavior needs medication.

Maybe they just need a little guidance and time with their humans: this does not include leash walks with you chatting on your cell phone, trips to the dog park with you on your cell phone and your latte’ or throwing a ball incessantly for half an hour to get the energy out.

It means being present, teaching, guiding and trying to love the dog for who she is. It means seeing that they get a species appropriate diet. It means that they are not over medicated, over vaccinated and undersocialized. And most important, it means that they are allowed to be a dog: dogs hunt, chew, dig, eat dead smelly things and hump pillows for fun. This does not mean they are crazy, they are a dog. Medications can have side effects that worsen behavior. See link below.