Dogs rule everything around me

This is Boris, my three year old Dutch Shepherd mix. The all white pit bull mix is my wiggle butt Nina. I created this blog to document their progress using force free training as opposed to the outdated and potentially dangerous method of training called compulsion training. I am also a volunteer for Pitty Love Rescue, a pit bull and pit bull mix rescue in Rochester, NY. Pit bulls and Dutch Shepherds are my passion and I am constantly looking to further expand my education on dogs so that I may find new ways to not only strengthen my bond with Boris and Nina, but to better serve the dogs we rescue. I am currently apprenticing as a trainer at Tails of Success and am working towards the goal of obtaining my degree in Psychology with a masters in Ethology.

Here you can find other posts related to bully breeds, Breed Specific/Discriminatory Legislation (known as BSL or BDL), dog training, and general articles on health and other dog related issues.

Ways you can support pitbulls and Pitty Love Rescue:
Pitty Love Foster Wishlist
Pitty Love Toy Wishlist
Pitty Love Food/Treat Wishlist
Donate to PLR, this money goes to our emergency fund so that we can provide emergency medical services to our dogs!



Trigger Stacking & Stress Hormones

Excellent and simple video on Trigger Stacking. It’s also dad approved! :)

This is a fantastic little video. Though it’s important to keep in mind that, just because there’s no cortisol in the blood, it does not mean there aren’t still after-effects to the cortisol exposure. It can take several days after cortisol has been cleared for brain chemistry and physiology to return to a pre-stress state especially following a very stressful event.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
I'm sorry if this is annoying, don't feel like you should answer! I've heard a good way to train dogs is to mimic pack behaviour and hierachy- which includes nips and stuff (replicated by what could be seen as aggression) I was wondering why its bad?
brindlesandpibbles brindlesandpibbles Said:


No that’s okay it’s a very common misconception (and one that needs to die). 

Firstly, dogs are not wolves. And dogs do not form cohesive packs like wolves do (and dominance-submission relationships are purely based on access to resources btw).

Dogs have diverged significantly from wolves in the last 15,000 years. Ancestral wolves evolved as hunters and now generally live in packs consisting most often of family members (Mech 2000).Pack members cooperate to hunt and to take care of offspring. In a given year, generally only the alpha male and alpha female mate, so that the resources of the entire pack can be focused on their one litter. Dogs, on the other hand, evolved as scavengers rather than hunters (Coppinger and Coppinger 2002). Those who were the least fearful, compared to their human-shy counterparts, were best able to survive off the trash and waste of humans and reproduce in this environment. Currently, free-roaming dogs live in small groups rather than cohesive packs, and in some cases spend much of their time alone (MacDonald and Carr 1995). They do not generally cooperate to hunt or to raise their offspring, and virtually all males and females have the opportunity to mate (Boitani et al. 1995) 

Position Statement on the Use of Dominance Theory in Behavior Modification of Animals; AVSAB

So now that we’ve established that, let’s look at how dogs interact with each other. Dogs have specific behaviours called appeasement behaviours which are designed to diffuse conflict and ask for space. This is because getting into a fight by being overly aggressive is a really really dumb thing to do. Avoiding injury by diffusing conflict is an evolutionary survival mechanism.

Okay. So what has this to do with training?

Dogs don’t want to fight with us for ‘dominance’. Dogs are not interested in rank or hierarchy in the domestic environment. Dominance is about access to resources - you control your dog’s entire life. Their food, their water, their shelter, their happiness - technically you’re already the ‘dominant’ one. If you really want to look at it that way…

The thing is… Dogs know we’re not dogs. Dogs do not see us as dogs. We don’t have tails or ears to mimic their body language and postural positions. So why should we be pushing around, growling, pinning and being a downright bully to our dogs? They don’t see you as another dog. You’re only proving that you’re a scary, unpredictable bully. 

When you apply dominance theory to dogs you insert this really horrible, harmful, egotistic mentality that you need to “be the boss” and you need to be aggressive. You also instantly assume that misbehaviour is an attempt to “outrank” you. Which is so so wrong oh god

Dogs are just trying to cope with the challenges in the domestic environment. Misbehaviour such as jumping up occurs because he/she has been unwittingly reinforced for it rather than taught how to sit when guests come through the door. Not because they’re trying to be dominant.

Aggression is often due to underlying anxiety and fear - when you assume it’s because your dog’s “challenging” you and that makes you want to fight it and show it who’s boss by using confrontational and aversive techniques like hitting, growling, alpha rolling ect. All you’re doing is making that underlying anxiety even worse. You’re giving the dog even more reason to react. And sure you might be able to suppress the growling, lunging and barking if you punish it enough. But you haven’t removed the anxiety, the root of the aggression is still there. That’s when you get learned helpless and shut-down. That’s when you get redirected aggression, when you get bites that occur “out of the blue” because the warning signs were punished and suppressed.

Confrontational techniques are aversive - they work by causing pain and fear. We’ve established that dogs do not see us as other dogs - so no, they do not see it as another dog “nipping” them. They see it as you causing them pain or discomfort, which is scary and confronting. And that might cause them to want to defend themselves against you. It is our responsibility to teach our dogs the right behaviours that will allow them to cope in the domestic environment. To reinforce when they get it right and, when they don’t, ask WHY. Work out the root of the problem, don’t just assume oh he’s trying to get the better of me. Because he’s not. Dogs are so much more mentally and cognitively advanced than people give them credit for. They’re not mindless machines out to achieve world domination. Every behaviour has a purpose - it’s your job to find out what caused it and, if it’s undesirable, how you can fix it.

Sorry that got a bit long and convoluted but I hope I got the point across well enough!

Here’s a couple of links for you that further debunk pack theory:



Elisabet’s tags sort of say it all about this poor puppy, and I wish I could reblog them…

and here’s another no-so-cute picture of the “rescue” this puppy came from, for those who didn’t know about SPBR

33,000 plus notes and hardly any of them know this dog’s sad story.

Damn I knew those puppies looked familiar. Eric Gray is a heartless monster and SPBR was a shit show and a half. So many dogs died because of him and his blatant neglect. 

Seriously, click the link above and take the time to read their stories and the stories of the many other dogs who’s lives he destroyed.


angerinyourbones replied to your post“shit I’m a dope and I’ve been teaching my stays wrong. I’ve been…”
I don’t click to end a behavior a anymore. I also treat during the stay - not at the end.
Would you mind explaining why you do that for…

(via fullpelt)


I’ve been working on some agility basics with Nina to help her build confidence and it’s been going pretty well. This was maybe five minutes in to practicing with the jump. She got this pretty quickly! I also like recording myself when I practice because I’m really bad at communicating with my body where I want my dogs to go. I was able to catch that I was stepping out ever so slightly when Nina would go around the jump. I’d like to continue working with her, who knows maybe even compete at a novice level.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
wait what did cesar milan do wrong? i remember watching him a lot as a kid, he seemed like a nice guy, maybe he did something bad i didnt catch?
brindlesandpibbles brindlesandpibbles Said:


oh god where to start

it’s a long topic because CM is VERY charismatic and /seems/ like a cool dude…but he’s really awful, like seriously seriously awful.

I was brainwashed by his philosophy at one point. It’s still a struggle sometimes to unwrite the impulse to “correct” a dog, but I’ve seen first-hand the damage it can do and I know that science based training is more humane, more effective, and faster.

This is my “why CM is awful” tag (and I just realized I’ve been spelling his last name wrong, whoops?), so there’s a lot of stuff in there. I’ll pull the most applicable posts and link them here.

Long post on how CM’s methods aren’t up to date

Video compilation of CM kicking dogs

Watching videos of him with the sound off can help you see how horrible he really is to the dogs. Watch a clicker trainer with the sound off and you can often still tell when the clicker starts clicking because the dog (or horse or bird or mouse or fish or…) immediately responds and engages in a happy, excited way.

His methods lead to aggression from the dog:

The highest frequency of aggression occurred in response to aversive (or punishing) interventions, even when the intervention was indirect:

• Hitting or kicking the dog (41% of owners reported aggression)
• Growling at the dog (41%)
• Forcing the dog to release an item from its mouth (38%)
• “Alpha roll” (forcing the dog onto its back and holding it down) (31%)
• “Dominance down” (forcing the dog onto its side) (29%)
• Grabbing the jowls or scruff (26%)
• Staring the dog down (staring at the dog until it looks away) (30%)
• Spraying the dog with water pistol or spray bottle (20%)
• Yelling “no” (15%)
• Forced exposure (forcibly exposing the dog to a stimulus – such as tile floors, noise or people – that frightens the dog) (12%)

In contrast, non-aversive methods resulted in much lower frequency of aggressive responses:

• Training the dog to sit for everything it wants (only 2% of owners reported aggression)
• Rewarding the dog for eye contact (2%)
• Food exchange for an item in its mouth instead of forcing the item out (6%)
• Rewarding the dog for “watch me” (0%)

(source) (CM uses 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, a version of 9, and 10 extensively; I’ve never seen him use anything from the non-aversive methods shown here except one time when he threw carrots at a dog and called it positive reinforcement. Not threw them /to/ the dog, purposefully hit the dog with bits of carrot.)

another long post on his bs

His misogyny (in general he is always saying that women can’t be pack leaders because blah blah blah, but here are some specific examples):

Women are the worst offenders in his world. In one of the outtakes included in the four-DVD set of the first season of “Dog Whisperer,” Mr. Millan explains that a woman is “the only species that is wired different from the rest.” And a “woman always applies affection before discipline,” he says. “Man applies discipline then affection, so we’re more psychological than emotional. All animals follow dominant leaders; they don’t follow lovable leaders.”

(source) (By the way, that last bit about animals following dominant leaders instead of lovable leaders is BS - I’ll try to find the source, but there was a study done on feral dogs that found that dogs prefered to follow the “leaders” who had the most friends, not the “leaders” that were most confrontational, like CM’s dominance mess is. Think about it: who’s more popular, the friendly teacher who jokes around with the class, or the hard-ass who doesn’t even allow talking in the halls between classes? Who would you willingly follow?)

Another instance, from a touring show in Victoria, Canada:

…THEN he kicked off the second half after intermission by comparing dogs to women in third world countries. Not even kidding you. You see Lainey, dogs today have too much food and affection. They are fat and loved but they have no discipline and exercise and therefore are unhappy…. women in third world countries, well they have no food and no affection but plenty of discipline and exercise and they are unhappy too. You see? Dogs and women need food, love, discipline and exercise, all FOUR….just imagine if you tried to tell a woman to go to the gym… you have to TRICK them into doing it HAR HAR HAR… just like dogs. The arena went SILENT. This comparison carried on for about 5 minutes while he tried to dig himself out. It didn’t work and he has lost me and I HOPE any other woman in that arena at that point.


I’m here to answer any questions in specific, but in general:

-He promotes ABUSIVE, ineffective, DANGEROUS training
-He is sexist in a very bold, demeaning way
-He refuses to educate himself further in the field of dog training, though he now has the time and resources to do so

Thankfully it seems his fame is winding down; “The Dog Whisperer” is done, his show where families competed to win a rescue dog is done, and his new show where he was doing something with experienced dog trainers is dead before it even started.

If you want some examples of good dog trainers, I recommend checking out:

  • Nando Brown
  • Victoria Stilwell
  • Emily Larlham (Free YouTube videos under username “kikopup”)

The following trainers have wonderful, useful books:

  • Dr. Sophia Yin
  • Dr. Ian Dunbar
  • Susan Clothier (haven’t read them personally but they’re recommended by people whose opinions I trust and value)
  • Dr. Patricia McConnell
  • Jean Donaldson
  • Karen Pryor (I LOVE her book about clicker training.)

For specific issues:

  • Scaredy Dog! Ali Brown (fearful dogs)
  • Feisty Fido, Patricia McConnell (over-excitable dogs, reactive or “aggressive” dogs)
  • I’ll Be Home Soon, Patricia McConnell (separation anxiety)
  • Train Your Dog Like A Pro, Jean Donaldson (basic training)
  • Control Unleashed, Leslie McDevitt (next-level training)

I’ll round this out with my last little anecdote about Opal.

Opal is my family’s German Shepherd. When she was a puppy I was still half-in, half-out of my CM brainwash phase. She began getting nervous and excited around other dogs during her second fear period, and began to bark and lunge at them. Our trainer at the time fitted her with a prong collar and told us how to use it.

It didn’t work. It made her worse. And yet, for a couple years we continued to use it because how else were we supposed to handle this ferocious, out of control dog? My dad, who is both tall and heavy-set, had to sit and hold her around the chest because he couldn’t hold onto the leash when a dog walked by on the other side of the road. She pulled my sisters down and across our entire front yard and down the driveway to get at other dogs. Once when I was walking her, she lunged at a dog in a (luckily) fenced in yard, and the prong collar broke off of her (another reason they’re shit, besides the pain-causing design). That was the turning point for me. I managed to catch her again while she was fence-running with the yard dog, got her home, and researched other ways to stop her from pulling and lunging.

Thank goodness for Victoria Stilwell’s “It’s Me or the Dog.”

After a couple months of focused desensitization/counter-conditioning (making her feel good about other dogs through gradual, at-a-distance exposure coupled with good things happening when she sees other dogs, for the non-training-geek), she was loads better. (Harnesses are brilliant and awesome and I love them.) I was able to attend a dog training class and have her focus on me and learn. By the fourth hour-long session, she was lying on her side (not cued or forced by me!) while the trainer was explaining new exercises - which is big, because that is a very vulnerable pose for a dog and she was in a room with five other dogs, including two mini schnauzer sisters who would often start fights with each other during lessons.

I now can take her running on a popular trail, where we pass dozens of dogs on each trip. She will walk by them and barely turn her head if I give her the “on-by” cue (on a good day. On a bad day I stand between her and the dog and she looks at them as we pass. Still loads better than before!).

We went to the dog park after our run yesterday to get her some water before driving home. The only other occupant was a slightly fearful pointer mix, who wasn’t sure if she wanted to play with Opal or not. Opal, in a complete opposite fashion from when she was younger and we were CM groupies, gave big, obvious “I am not a threat” body language. She approached on a curve, she did lovely loose body language and floppy goofy tail wags, she did play bows when the pointer started to play with her, and when the pointer had had enough and went “BLAARRRARARARRRRGGH” Opal looked away, then calmly walked away. (The pointer did not have the same clear body language as Opal. This happens often with punished dogs - they’re told “No, you can’t growl, no you can’t lunge, no you can’t say “I’m scared” so they bottle up their emotions until it’s all too much and it explodes.)

After that, the pointer started playing with Opal again, chasing Opal as Opal chased a frisbee. Pointer didn’t want Opal to engage with her, so Opal and I played fetch and pointer just ran after Opal wherever she went. It was sad to see the pointer acting as Opal had years ago, but such a contrast between the two was a striking illustration of just how far Opal’s come along once I understood her and started working with her rather than against.





Frisky animals

Except early spay/neuters are very bad for the animals. It interferes with their growth, especially in large breed dogs, and can lead to serious problems including joint issues (such as hip dysplasia) and a vastly increased risk of certain cancers later in life. Ideally animals should not be fixed until they have fully done growing.

A responsible owner should be able to prevent their animal getting pregnant until they are fixed. In fact, in much of continental Europe spay/neutering is extremely rare among pet owners and yet there is zero pet overpopulation problems in those countries because owners are responsible enough to prevent their animals from breeding. There’s even some data to suggest that dogs in these countries also live longer as a result of not being fixed! 

Spay/neutering is not the be all and end all of responsible pet ownership and it’s perfectly possible to keep an intact dog without them breeding. Early spay/neutering is certainly not responsible ownership unless medically necessary and causes far more problems for the individual animal then it prevents. 

can I have a link/source for that information? It’s the frist i’ve ever heard of it in my many years of pet ownership and now I’m really worried because we had a puppy who died of hip dysplasia, which we attributed to her poor breeding (puppy mill rescue) and I hate think it had something to do with her spaying and to accidentally hurt a future animal 

Here’s a couple of links on the subject; 

Health Implications in early Spay and Neuter in Dogs

Routine Neutering Advice May Boost Your Dog’s Risk of Cancer and Joint Disease

Long Term Health Risks and Benefits Associated with Spay / Neuter in Dogs

(via pitsandpastries)


It’s right around that time of year again people, the time of the year where people feel as though their double coated dogs are so hot that they need to be shaved.  While we tend to be hot in the summer, our dogs do NOT react the same way we do to hot temperatures! 
Stated in this article:

Do dogs sweat? Yes, but not like humans. Dogs have two types of sweat glands. One type, called merocrine glands, are in their footpads. They sweat through their footpads. They also have some sweat glands in their nose. Although they help keep the dog cool, very little of their body heat is lost through their footpads. The other type of sweat gland is called apocrine glands, which are over most of their body, but are not to keep the dog cool. Their purpose is to release pheromones, which, to put it simply, makes a dog smell like a dog.

Dogs sweat, but the main cooling function for dogs is panting. The Air is drawn in through their nose. There are folds in the nose that increase the surface area for moisture in the nose to evaporate from, cooling the nose. The air is exhaled through the mouth. The moisture in the air is absorbed and the heated air leaves the dog. Along with this, since the dog’s mouth is open with it’s tongue hanging out, the saliva on the dog’s tongue evaporates cooling the tongue which has a rich blood supply, and so cools the blood which has transported heat from inside the dog’s body.


SO please people, your double coated dog does not need to be shaved! Shaving exposes the dog to the elements and makes the heat worse. Shaving can also cause the hair to not grow back the same, or at all (as the picture above shows), and by then the damage is irreversible.
So don’t take the chance— keep your dog cool by wiping their nose or paws with a cold towel, and keep inside in extreme temperatures, but do not shave! 

(via fullpelt)


The Dangers of “Dominance”: Part 1

By Mary Huntsberry, MA, ACAAB & Nancy Williams, MA, ACAAB, RVT

“Dominance” is the most misunderstood word used to describe dog behavior. It stems from research on captive wolves published in the ’60s and ’70s. While the information may be accurate for the artificial grouping of wolves in captivity, its application to wild wolves and the domesticated dog is outdated.

Despite new research, the concept that wolves and their close relative, the dog, vie for dominance within a pack simply won’t go away. With the notion that an animal is in constant pursuit of obtaining the top position, any aggressive behavior can be misinterpreted as “dominance”. As a result, it makes sense that well-meaning pet owners accept physical force as a way to discipline an animal behaving in a “dominant” manner. After all, that’s what wolves do, right?

Actually, NO, not at all! Most of the time, wolf packs are made up of a breeding male and female, and their offspring. They are related, intact animals that use ritualistic displays to communicate and AVOID AGGRESSION. If there was constant fighting among the pack, there would be no energy to hunt nor motivation to work as a team. Dogs evolved from a wolf-like ancestor to fill a different niche than their wild counterparts. They learned to scavenge and live alongside humans, not compete.                           

"Dominant" behaviors often have other causes:

  • Dogs can exhibit aggression when frightened in a specific situation or upon being approached when afraid. They can also use aggressive threats to protect a resource.
  • The most common cause of aggressive threats from a dog toward another dog or a person is due to fear. It is difficult for people to understand that a frightened dog may behave very aggressively!
  • A person handling a dog roughly by grabbing the dog’s scruff or other physical methods can frighten a dog and result in threatening behavior or a bite to the person. If your dog has growled or threatened a person in any way, please contact your local certified animal behaviorist or veterinary behaviorist. 
  • Spoiling a dog or being a “weak leader” is not a cause of aggressive threats.

This is an important topic that we will revisit in the future. Until then, you can learn more by visiting the website of David Mech, an internationally recognized expert in wolves.

Mary Huntsberry is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist located in Gaithersburg, MD. She and Ms. Williams, located in Manchester, MD, are associates that often work together. Please visit for more information on services and puppy classes. ©2013


We did a little bit of training today at Petsmart while picking up cat collars and tennis balls (we had a gift card). Nina did so well saying hello politely to people and looking at other dogs and cats without reacting. She did so well today she got a stuffed trachea when she got home.




#throwbackthursday to when I got to meet Cheery Garcia, one of the many dogs Michael Vick kept for dog fighting. I still remember that day like it was yesterday- how timid Cherry was at first and how a little patience and a yummy treat got him to open up and plant this kiss right on my face. I teared up a little bit thinking to myself, here’s this dog who’s experienced unspeakable acts of cruelty. He has no reason to ever trust humans ever again and here he is, showing me affection and love. Whoever says these dogs don’t deserve a chance has truly never attempted to open their hearts and see these dogs for what they are: not monsters, but extrordinary dogs looking for a second chance.



The consensus among animal behavior professionals is that the major cause of dog bites to humans is related to failure of owners and dog bite victims to recognize when dogs are fearful and know how to approach and greet dogs appropriately. But what exactly is the correct…