Question & Answer

An amusing staged shot entitled "The Usual Suspects".

Click on the subject below:




Health care:

Q) My dog has a bite [or other kind of] wound - what do I do for it? Do I need to take the dog to the vet?

A) Taking your dog to a veterinary is generally a good move. But it is not always necessary if you have access to basic medical equipment and drugs. I reserve vet care only for those things which I absolutely cannot do myself like x-rays and surgery. Bite wounds, even when they look rather severe, are treatable at home unless they involve severe, unstoppable bleeding or cases of severe laceration where internal organs or structures protrude from the wound. The toughest thing to get past is the blood - it looks scary! However, bleeding can generally be stopped by direct pressure applied continuously for several minutes. (Continuously does not mean looking at it every 30 seconds!) Unless you dog is actually pouring blood out, as from a vein or artery, you should be OK. Dogs are tough animals, and Mother Nature heals injuries better than you might think.

First, calm yourself - then your dog. Second, put the dog in your shower or bath and clean off the wound with warm water. If you have a spray nozzle, use it. It is important to get ALL dirt or hair out of the wound. Don't be hesitant to gently spray directly into the wound if that is needed for cleaning. Getting the wound clean is very important. Second, while the dog is still in the tub or shower, apply direct pressure with a clean towel or cloth if bleeding is heavy. Again, direct pressure does not mean taking the cloth off every 30 seconds to look at it! It means leaving it there for at least three minutes or until the bleeding settles down. If the wound is minor, and the bleeding is minor, put the dog in a crate (YES! I did say crate!) or in a quiet, confined place and leave him alone. If the dog got the stuffing beat out of him by the other dog, place the crate in a warm place and keep your eye on him.

What about sutures? I rarely if ever use sutures and I'll tell you why - chances are the dog will remove them within minutes of their application anyway. I consider sutures unnecessary, even for myself, and I've had some horrendous rips in my flesh over the years. Believe me when I say the body will heal itself nicely. Will a gaping wound heal? You bet. Actually, a gaping wound heals better than a puncture or thin slice, as it less likely to get seriously infected. In my opinion a wound left open and kept clean heals best. LET THE DOG LICK IT! Cones and such only keep the dog from keeping the wound clean. Yes, it will take longer to heal, but it WILL stay clean. However, there is nothing wrong with sutures if you keep a VERY close eye on the wound for infection - its just a matter of preference.

With a very clean, very cleansed wound such as this one, "super glue" can be used
to affix the wound edges together. Dry the wound as best you can (after cleaning)
and then apply glue to the edges. Hold wound edges together one minute. Leave a
small opening at the lower end of the wound for drainage and to insert a curved tip
syringe if cleansing is needed. Some wounds over moving parts will not hold together
with glue. The glue did not hold on this particular wound as it was located on the point
of the shoulder, a very mobile location. However the wound healed up very nicely by itself.

As to aftercare of the wound, flush it twice every twenty-four hours for three days with hydrogen peroxide. Don't use the peroxide too often after that, as it actually inhibits wound closure, however, nothing beats it for cleaning out a wound, especially if pus is present. I like to put the peroxide in a curve tip syringe. It is important to clip any hair you can away for the wound. DO NOT PUT A BANDAGE ON THE WOUND! EVER! Veterinarians will scream that you need to wrap everything, but I'm here to tell you that if you wrap that wound up in gauze I GUARANTEE you it will get infected. Let the dog lick it and keep it clean. Wounds need air and they need you to keep the scab off of it the first week (yukky but necessary!) The last time I stupidly let a vet talk me into putting a wrap on a dog (after Erin Fay decided to let Maulie take the end of one of her toes off) the vet warned and warned me NOT TO TAKE THE BANDAGE OFF! So, against my better judgment, I left it on and gave the antibiotics. Within 4 days poor Erin had a 104 degree fever and when I removed the wrap to see what we would see, the foot was swollen to three times normal size and badly infected... Believe me, I don't EVER let a vet talk me into bandages now. Poor Erin! (She recovered just fine after I took the bandage off, let her chew off the stitches and lick it clean...)

So, keep an eye on the wound, keep it clean, let the dog lick it, it may take slightly longer to heal, however it will heal. If the dog can't reach the wound, you must keep it clean by taking the scab off and applying a small amount of diluted peroxide. CAUTION: If you live in an area with flies KEEP THE DOG INSIDE AND AWAY FROM FLIES WHILE IT HEALS.

As to antibiotics, I put the dogs on Cephlexin 500mg twice a day. No matter what. If, after two days, I smell or see signs of infection I switch to Amoxi 500 mg twice a day. You never know which will work. It just depends on which bug gets in there. Don't hesitate to use antibiotics if ANY sign of infection begins, however. And please! NO HOLISTIC NONSENSE if infection sets in! Get antibiotics and get them fast!

Q) My dog got bitten by another dog and there is a lot of bruising under the skin (dark red marks) but no puncture wound. The area looks swollen, what should I do?

A) Injuries which do damage under the skin are often very tricky. The danger here is septic shock (poisoning to the blood system) caused by lack of circulation in the area due to the swelling. Circulation allows the toxins caused by the trauma to be removed from the area. When there is severe swelling, the toxins build up, and a dog can die rather quickly. With under skin bruising and injury, closely monitor the dog's temperature. Strong antibiotics are a must in this situation. If fever is not quickly reduced, take the dog to the vet - you may need surgery to actually open the area.

Swelling is often caused by edema - fluid under the skin.
This dog had no serious lacerations, however he had serious
swelling due to tissue trauma. While not as scary looking as
lacerations, this kind of injury can still pose a severe threat
to the dog's health if not treated appropriately.

Q) Do you use "cones" on your dogs?

A) Absolutely not. Just a fetish I have, and certainly in some cases they may be called for. I just find that vets tend to cover their butts by slapping a cone on dogs for every little thing. I simply find that the frustration, confusion and anxiety caused by the cone (not to mention the fact the dog can't eat or drink properly) hampers the recovery period. Recently one dog I know of had a cone put on at the vet clinic. The dog's drool ran down into the cone (it was a golden retriever) and ended up badly burning the dog's neck.

Q) What health issues do pit bulls have? Is it true that "game bred" dogs have a low incidence of hip dysplasia?

A) Pit bulls appear to have developed some natural immunity to diseases such as parvo, distemper, corona, etc. When you consider that this is a breed which has historically never been "coddled", in fact has developed in conditions of downright neglect, it is not surprising that those dogs which had superior immune systems tended to live and reproduce. I have found my dogs to be above average in their ability to fight off virus. What I am not sure is how much of this is because my dogs have a very high exposure level to disease at the shelter where I work. Two recent rescue pups arrived at the same time. One arrived with pneumonia, the other developed corona. Both were VERY sick little pups, but pulled through quickly with no vet care. The pneumonia girl got 250 mg of cephlexan and the corona boy got fluids and no food for 48 hours while his stomach was sorting itself out. (He did NOT want to eat anyway!) Fluids are EXTREMELY important to sick dogs, so if you do not know how to give fluids it is very important to get your sick dog to a vet.

There are very specific considerations for closely inbred lines. I am familiar with the Patrick line, which suffers from auto-immune deficiencies disease and mange. Inability to resist Demedex mange is genetic, and inbred lines (as well as pit bulls in general) tend to suffer from this, usually around 4 to 6 months of age. It can be cured with Ivomec.

As to hip dysplasia - don't ever fool yourself that "game" dogs have a low incidence of it. There is a huge difference between TESTING for HD and ASSUMING that a dog which can beat up another dog (who may very well be even more dysplastic!) is sound. If someone does NOT ACTUALLY X-RAY they CANNOT tell you ANYTHING about the incidence of dysplasia in their dogs... My rescue cane corso won Working Group and reserve Best in Show at a rare breed show with the judge commenting that he had "the best movement at the show". This same dog has NO HIPS, he x-rayed severely dysplastic from 11 months on. He was euthanised at six years of age due to this dysplasia. YOU CANNOT TELL BY LOOKING. My sorrell dog Dirk, runs and moves in a manner that would guarantee to the experienced eye that he is severely dysplastic. He x-rays ok. Bottom line - you can't tell by looking, you must x-ray.

If you look at many "game" dogs, they are extremely unsound. Bowed legs, straight rears, weak backs, eastie-westie, however they win because dog fighting primarily tests a dog's desire to continue aggression. There is no "quality check" that assures the dog is matched against a dog which is sound. His opponents could be a heartworm ridden, dysplastic, etc., but if he beats three like that he is a "champion". For a "champion" fighting dog, it can simply be a matter of beating three dogs worse than himself.

Q) My dog was playing hard with another dog and came up lame. He holds his leg up in the air, and when he tries to walk on it, it crumples and doesn't support him. Is that a torn cruciate?

A) Torn cruciates rarely cause an inability of the dog to support himself on the injured leg. They will be sore, especially right after getting up from rest and after exercise. The injury you describe sounds like a torn hamstring. This is the big, strong tendon which runs down the back of a dog's leg. It is very noticeable where the dog's leg is very thin right above the hock. It is the strong, rope feeling thing on the back of the dog's leg. When this is completely torn, it will no longer be taut. This is a crippling injury and surgical repair is iffy at best. The tendon must be restretched, and sewn with very fine suture material, than the dog must be kept COMPLETELY still for months. Chances for additional injury are great. When Fletcher, pictured below, suffered a complete tear of his hamstring after having a "midair" with another dog while playing, these were the two positions he would assume. The leg obviously had lost all ability to be used for support. After discussing it with the vet I decided to simply have the leg amputated. It was the best decision, for sure, as Fletch was up and acting like the fool he is in FOUR days! I simply could not force him to sit in a crate for months. I know he is probably glad I made this decision as well, as he doesn't even seem to notice the leg is gone! Also, the two procedures cost about the same.

Here is poor Fletcher right after the "midair" which
completely severed his hamstring. The uplifted leg
indicates pain.

The obvious loss of support on this leg shows that the hamstring
tendon, visible here above his hock, is torn away. Kinda looks like
an AKC show German Shepherd, doesn't he? Fletch has since had
the leg amputated and is fully recovered. You'd never know he was
missing a leg.

Fletcher, the 3 legged wonder!



Q) I want to condition my dog. I've heard putting heavy chains around their necks will help build up their neck strength. Some people even make coats with weights built into them. Does this work?

A) To be really honest, those methods are a sure sign of a very novice owner and you would be well advised to disregard any advice on conditioning they give you.. As any physical anthropologist can tell you, excessive work leaves a telltale mark on the body's structure; and most often a detrimental one. In the case of heavy collars and chains, especially those worn about the neck, the unnatural downward pressure causes damage to the animal's spinal column and nerves. Light resistance used in training is very beneficial, however long term use of heavy weight only tears the animal's structure down. A heavy chain, such as that pictured below, will, in short order, apply so much pressure downward upon the spinal column as to actually displace the vertebra, causing pain and permanent nerve and bone damage. Weighted coats often are designed in such as way that they put stress on the spine, tweaking it and causing the kinds of problems you and I would get chiropractic help for.

The very best way to condition a dog is to walk it daily with SLIGHT resistance, such as letting it pull you, or a light tire behind. Increasing the distance, not the weight, will give you the best results. In reality, the heavy chains and locks seen on many dogs is a sad statement about the owner's lack of knowledge and regard for the health of his/her animal.

A fast and easy way to cause permanent damage to your
dog's spine (not to mention making you look like an idiot!)

Q) I've heard that a dog should never be allowed to get its feet off the ground while doing springpole. Dog fighters say the dog could too easily be injured. Is this true?

A) A dog can be injured doing springpole. It can be injured doing anything it enjoys. Dogs have been killed playing fetch with a tennis ball. Bulldogs are tough and rugged animals, designed to grip and hang on no matter what a bull does to try and knock them off... A springpole is a very mild version of this. If a dog gets seriously hurt while playing on one, I suspect the dog was not sound enough to earn the name "bulldog". I have been springpoling dogs in the manner pictured below for over 16 years now, with only a couple cases of dislocated and broken tails (all on the same dog and all quickly healed). I guess you have to ask yourself: would I keep my kids from playing football at school because they might get hurt. Life's too short to worry about things like that!

Bandog Erin Fay, WDS, doing what she loves best.

Q) Follow up question - somebody once told me that letting a pup hang like that pictured below could injure its mouth. Can it?

A) Nope. You might lose a few puppy teeth along the way. Obviously baby puppies, like the one shown here at 4 1/2 weeks of age, should only be lifted for a second or two. You could, of course, harm them if you let them drop. The point is not to "hang" the puppy up there, but simply to familiarize the pup with the movements of the springpole.

Springpole training started early for Dirk!

Q) Is a treadmill evidence of dog fighting? Do people besides dogfighters have them?

A) The only evidence of dog fighting is someone caught fighting dogs... Some jurisdictions have passed "intent" laws which use treadmills as evidence of fighting in association with other evidence. I have two myself, have for years, and obviously, I have no interest whatsoever in dog fighting. In this climate (rainy) or in climates which get large amounts of snow in the winter, a treadmill is a wonderful idea. Almost everyone I know who has pit bulls, and who do not fight them, have treadmills. I even suggested to the San Francisco SPCA that they get a treadmill for their long-term inmates and they did. Seattle Animal Control recently added a treadmill to their Long-Term dog program for the enjoyment of their canine inmates.

Bandog Pride, now owned by Heather Ringwood, running her treadmill.
She loves it! This mill is from Grand Carpet Mills.

Q) My dog won't run the treadmill - what do I do?

A common complaint! Some dogs take to it instantly, and some don't. I've had both kinds. The main thing is to have patience and not make it an unpleasant experience for your dog because of your excitement to get him/her running it! First, make sure your treadmill turns easily. Carpet mills must have a coating of spray silicone to work properly. Next work the dog for ONLY A FEW MOMENTS AT A TIME AT FIRST! Don't be a goof and hook the dog up and expect him to run for 5 minutes the first time, even if he does like it. The point is to be a good handler and MAKE the dog love it. That means keeping him wanting more. If the dog is frightened of it, or reluctant to move, simply stand in front and offer him a FAVORITE toy or bit of food. Not a toy he kinda likes - a toy he will DIE FOR! The chances are high that if you have the kind of dog who is so laid back he/she has no real drive for a toy or food, he/she may very well never enjoy the treadmill. Dogs with really high prey drive seem to enjoy it the most.

Each session hook the dog up, bait it with the toy or food, get a good solid 30 or 45 seconds of running and then STOP! Reward the dog and then put him/her up! Each week add 30 seconds to the time. On my Grand Carpet Mill mills, my dogs run flat out for 5 minutes in the off season, 8 minutes when they are good shape. I won't let them do more. They come off the mill covered in saliva and panting hard. They hit the wading pool and lay in it. They are happy and exhausted. I use the treadmill strictly as a "get your yah-yah's out" device, not so much as a conditioning device, so I don't want to keep the dog trotting up there for a half an hour. I don't have that kind of time! Slat mills are much, much easier for the dogs to run, consequently they dog must run longer to get the same work out.




Q) There are so many training methods out there - which one is best?

For myself, marker training is the only way to go. After 25+ years of training, and over 60 titles, once I found pure positive training I never looked back. In matters of reliability, precision and just plain fun, it can't be touched. Marker training forces a person to understand how their dog learns and thinks - and I find that the most challenging and fascinating part of training. Any idiot can batter a dog into a sit or a down position - but are you smart enough to figure out how to make the dog want to sit or down, quickly, reliably - without ever touching the dog?!

The most common methods of dog training are:

  • Marker Training (also called Clicker Training, and Positive Reinforcement)
  • "Kick and Click"
  • Jerk and Release
  • Punishment Training (Shock collar or "e-collar" training.)

Marker Training is most commonly called clicker training, because many trainers use a small hand held clicker to "mark" the behaviors they wish to reinforce. A clicker is not necessary, anything can be used as a marker, most commonly the voice, such as the word "Yes!". Marker training is based on positive reinforcement; the dog is rewarded for correct responses, and incorrect responses are ignored. This is not the method for a control freak! The teacher has to have great reserves of patience and insight into how their dog thinks and reacts. There are many articles which outline marker training available, several are listed on the links page under training. Of all the training methods, marker training is often the least understood, and the dog owner searching out a trainer must research well to find a trainer who has long experience with the method and has titled dogs using the method.

For myself, after 25 years in dog training, the greatest reward for me in finding the PURE positive method, was the fact that I learned as much (if not more) than my dog. When you remove physical manipulation from the training scenario, and suddenly must find "nonviolent" ways to get 100% compliance from your dog, believe me, you learn a thing or two about dog behavior. If you don't, you will not succeed as a positive reinforcement trainer. This is definitely a "thinking person's" method, relying on brains, not brawn.

Marker training done right produces a happy worker who is not afraid to try new things. Marker trained dogs will "throw out" behaviors, trying to earn reinforcement, making it much easier to teach new things. The dog looks to the handler as the "giver of all good" and his attention will rarely wander to "more interesting" things while working.

"Kick and Click" is my own tongue in cheek name for the hybrid half positive, half negative method used by many who attempt the marker method but fall short of understanding pure positive training. This method involves positive reinforcement in the form of rewarding correct responses, but only after the dog has been physically manipulated into position by a negative (pushing, jerking). For example, a dog becomes distracted and gets up from a "sit-stay" command. The trainer jerks the dog back into position, waits a moment, then "clicks" the dog and rewards it.

Jerk and Release is by far the most common method of dog training, being easy to master with almost no understanding of dog behavior. Even when praise or food are given as a reward, it must be remembered at the basis of this training is simply "do it or else..." This method has its roots in the early US army training methods. An easy to teach, no thought necessary method was needed to train army dog handlers (many of whom had no experience with dogs what so ever) how to train dogs - quickly! Since drilling worked for the soldiers, it was assumed drilling would work for the dogs, and, to a point, it does. This is the reason that the German shepherd became the most popular breed for K-9 Corp use. At one time the Doberman was considered the superior dog, and during W.W.II was the "official" dog of the US Marine Corp. However, Dobermans are sensitive, highly intelligent and not nearly as "forgiving' of clumsy mistakes often made by novice trainers. It was easier to find a different breed which could handle the crude jerk and release method than to change the method to fit the Doberman, so Dobermans were replaced by the less sensitive and less demanding shepherd. This method lends itself to obedience classes, where students and dogs drill in groups, and indeed many early trainers boasted army dog training experience.

Certainly many dogs have been trained successfully with the jerk and release method. It works. A dog will submit in order to avoid painful correction. However, jerk and release trained dogs are often hesitant to try new things, fearful of making a wrong move and earning themselves a correction. Jerk and release training is a crude (albeit effective) method, which has lost favor among top trainers recently.

Punishment Training. Punishment training is based on the simple premise that an animal will perform a behavior in order to avoid or shut off painful stimuli. Example: when training the retrieve, electric shock is applied until the dog opens its mouth and takes the dumbbell. Shock is sometimes replaced with painfully pinching the ear or jerking on a pinch collar. When teaching the recall, the shock is applied if the dog is moving in any direction but toward the handler. Moving toward the handler stops the pain. The cessation of the pain is the reward. Shock collars (the new, "sanitized" name for those who don't want to call a spade a spade is "e-collar") are not new. Today's models feature things like five levels of continuous "stimulation" as well as short bursts of shock.

Shock collars and other methods of punishment training must be looked upon as the crudest and least sophisticated of methods available to trainers. Punishment training is easy - a shock collar makes anyone a "trainer". However, punishment training also ruins more dogs than any other method. There are professional bird dog trainers who specialize in salvaging dogs ruined by punishment training. Shock/punishment trained dogs often exhibit bizarre avoidance behaviors such as spinning on the retrieve, nervous, jerky motions and a stressed body language while working (tail down and mouth pulled back). Those who use shock to train their dogs will argue that those who don't simply don't understand the method, however, the basic principle of positive reinforcement versus negative reinforcement and/or punishment are easily grasped. The truth is, shock collar trainers exhibit a lack of patience, knowledge of dog behavior and empathy which I find appalling.

Pete the Pup was an UKC registered pit bull (they registered him later with
the AKC as a "Staffordshire terrier" to promote the AKC's acceptance of the
pit bull into its ranks. There were several "Petes" during the Little Rascals
series. This is the second "Pete".



Nutrition and feeding:

Q) What do I feed my dogs?

Over the years I've fed a large variety of foods. At this time I feed Cosco Performance dry mixed with either milk, raw egg or raw hamburger (for taste more than anything) to all dogs of all ages. I have found that sedate house dogs may have trouble with really high protein levels (such as Eukanuba's Performance) and may lick or chew their feet if fed too "hot" a food. You need to realistically evaluate your dog's activity level. If they sit around most of the day, they do not need, nor will they benefit from, a high protein diet. If you stick them in a shipping crate all day, and then feed a "hot" diet on top of it, you will really have problems. Fat is what fuels a dog. If you are feeding a diet with a very low fat percent (like less than 12%) and don't want to change your feed, you will need to supplement with veggie oil. Fat is actually more important to the canine athlete than protein. To be honest, dogs do well on just about any decent food that has at least a 20/15 protein/fat percent ratio. I like the Cosco Performance because the dogs like it, it only takes 2 cups a day to feed an average (50 pound) pit bull, and they have far less stool than with cheaper dog foods.

When you look at a bag of dog food, look at 3 things: what is the main ingredient? Is it corn? Well, I got news for you - dogs aren't chickens, they don't eat grain. Look at their teeth - those are not the teeth of a corn eater! Don't base your dog's diet on corn. Second, look at the protein level. Sedate house dogs should get somewhere between 15 and 20, dogs which are worked hard DAILY should do well on anything from 20 to 30 percent. Third, look at the fat content. Fat is important - it is what runs the dog. There are some highly touted dog foods out there, like Solid Gold, which have an 8% fat content. This is FAR too low. Please do not feed your dog any food with less than a 12% fat content.

If your dogs are outside in cold weather, you will need to increase their fat intake without necessarily increasing their protein intake. You can do this buy adding fatty hamburger (raw) or veggie oil to the food. One tablespoon per day is a good amount.

A nursing bitch needs extra nutrition. Examples of good suppliments for the
pregnant and nursing bitch are: cottage cheese, whole milk, eggs, raw beef,
chicken and liver. Fed well, a bitch will not loose any weight during the whelping
and nursing process.

Q) Do you feed table scraps?

Absolutely! Around here it is share and share alike. Pizza, Mystic Mints, chocolate milk, you name it. Do they get diarrhea? No. Does the chocolate hurt them? No. Has any dog I have ever owned ever been to the vet for something I gave it to eat? No. Life's too short not to share with your best buddy! Common sense is the word.

Q) Do you feed bones?

Yes! I feed out about $60 worth the knuckle bones each month. I feed them raw, and generally frozen. I have NEVER had a problem with a dog eating a bone, however, I have had all kinds of problems and dangers with raw hides and chew toys. I have had to have dogs opened up to remove chew toys, etc, that get stuck in the intestines. Cooked bones are dangerous, as they splinter. Bones are a great source of fat, and sure keep them happy for hours!

Q) How often do you feed?

A) I feed twice a day in this manner: In the morning I throw handfuls of dry food in a scatter pattern where the dogs are kept. This gives them opportunity to search for the food. The dogs love to sniff around and look for it, and it sure gives them something to do. In the evening when everyone comes in, they get a nice warm meal.

Q) What do you think about this "BARF" raw diet thing?

A) I feed my dogs lots of raw meat. I own sheep, and when one is culled, the dogs get to eat the carcass. However, feeding a BALANCED raw diet is VERY time consuming and very expensive. It is not practical for those with numerous dogs. My dogs do well on Cosco Kirkland brand dog food, with raw food on the side. If you have the time and money to feed pure raw meat, more power to you. (By the way, my dogs DO NOT eat the stomach content of the animals they kill.)

Butchie eating "raw".




Q) Is chaining better than a kennel?

A) Not really. It depends on the kennel. My dogs personally prefer their cable runs to their kennels. The reason? Who wants to be confined to a smaller area, which has cement for a floor when you could be out rolling in the grass, digging in the dirt, and lying in the warm sun with a 40' to 60' diameter to play in? The average dog kennel is 6 x 12, not much space so who can blame the dogs? I know where I would rather be. On a chain or cable a dog gets much more room to move about. The only reason a kennel is better is for security reasons. You can lock a kennel (and should). My kennels are always locked when the dogs are in them. Because someone is always here, I am not as concerned about security, however in high crime areas, all kennels should be locked, and even in "nice" areas, locked kennels keep your dogs safe from intrusion by wandering children. I have seen a very well intentioned but misguided effort recently by humane groups to ban chaining or cabling as "cruel". In a biazarre bit of reasoning, they consider keeping a dog in a shipping crate to be "kinder"! Poor dogs - so misunderstood by those who would "help" them!

Q) Which is better, a cable or a chain?

I like cables because they don't wreck the yard as much, and are lighter for the dog. I have had slightly more problems with cables failing than chains, but I still stick with the cables.

This is one of my "outer" dog houses. The "real" dog house is inside, but this outer
box (8'x8'x4' ) offers extra protection from sun and wind. In the winter a burlap sack
is hung over the opening, as well as on the dog house itself. The "deck" is inexpensive
and keeps the mud down. Shade trees (even in this climate!) are essential. This
40' x 50' kennel courtesy of a grant by Animal Farm Foundation.

Q) Is a dog house enough protection from the sun?

A) NO! A dog house, no matter how well "insulated" they are suppose to be, becomes very hot in direct sun light. A dog can even die in one, in some climates. Nothing is more pathetic than pictures of pit bulls suffering in "dog men's" yards, sitting out on a chain with a metal barrel or crummy wooden dog house as the only protection from the sun. Think about a metal barrel sitting in the sun. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize how hot that would be. Images of dogs kept by unthinking owners like that are what make chaining seem so pathetic to the public. One nice thing about a kennel, at least with a kennel you can put a roof and sides on it, giving the dog an extra layer of shade. On a chain, a little thought must be put into it, for if a tree is used for shade, it is important to make sure the dog doesn't get tangled around it. A VERY common call that animal control officers respond to are people who have chained a dog, for instance, under a carport, and the dog gets tangled around the pillars. Or dogs which get tangled around the TV dish, garbage cans, bikes, and other yard stuff. LOOK at the area where the dog will be, remove anything that the dog could get around.

What's wrong with this picture? Everything! The complete idiot who houses his dog in
this way has, either intentionally or unintentionally, done just about everything wrong.
First, the dog house is metal, the worse material possible. It heats up intolerably in
summer, and is deadly cold in winter. Second, the dog house is raised, allowing cold air
to circulate underneath, causing the "shelter" to be even colder than necessary. Third,
the "shelter" has no bedding or door flap, so the dog has no ability to conserve its body
heat, which means this shelter is no shelter at all. Fourth, the chain is far too short and
far too heavy for this dog. Dying of exposure is a tragically far too common death in "dog
men's" yards. One has to wonder why dogs they supposedly value so much are treated with
such disregard. Sarona Motorhead, for one, froze to death in a situation similar to this.
Instead of "toughening" up a dog, conditions such as this wear a dog down quickly.

Q) Do chains need to be as large as some huge ones I have seen in dog books? The dogs look so uncomfortable; can a smallish dog like a pit bull break a chain made to haul logs?

No, they can't. Many times dogs are put on huge chains because the owner thinks it looks cool. Some think it builds the dog's neck muscles when in fact the dog tends to move less, so it gets even less conditioning than if it had a more appropriate sized chain. Some dogs "run" the chain, meaning they are very busy and hyper, running all day long. (These dogs just go crazy when stuck in a crate). "Runners" are hard on chains, and may need slightly heavier chains and hardware than a more sedate dog. The chain itself is hardly ever the thing that breaks - it is usually the snap or swivel. Oversized chains say more about the mentality of the owner than the strength of the dog..

Why chaining gets a bad name: dogs chained in trashy areas become entangled.
Like anything else in life, a little thought must be given to your dog's comfort
and safety whatever method you use to contain your dog.

Q) How do I hotwire A Yard:

A) Dogs can jump! While pit bulls are not the worse escape artists in the dog world, (my vote would go to huskies!) most can clear a 6' board fence easily. The best way to secure your yard is with the use of a 'hot wire". These are electric fence chargers used traditionally by farmers to keep stock in pastures. They come in many sizes and strengths. The best ones to use just plug into the wall, though they must be protected from weather. I plug mine in under an overhang or porch. After you have hung the charger where it will be dry, pound an 8' metal stake into the ground nearby. This is the "ground". One wire goes from the charger to the ground. Without a ground, the charger will not work.

Next take 6" plastic insulators and attach them to the fence. They can either be stuck on the fence or metal posts or nailed to the wooden posts. Position them 6" from the ground, sticking straight out. This will keep the dog from digging out. THE GROUND UNDER THE WIRE MUST BE KEPT BARE. Grass growing up and touching the wire will short it out. I use RoundUp or similar long term vegetation killer for this purpose. Now place the 6" insulators along the top of the fence, angled in. This will keep the dog from jumping. If your fence is short, say, 4 or 5 feet, remember a dog can touch the wire as it jumps over, and not be shocked. The same reason a bird can sit on a hot wire and not feel a thing. The animal must be touching something grounded and the wire, to feel a shock
Electric shock is VERY frightening to your dog. The first time they try and escape and hit the fence they will think their world has ended. Some dogs are tougher than others. A few will shrug it off, but if it is strong enough, they won't be back. Some dogs will scream and scream, running in a panic. (Now you see why I am not keen on electric shock collars as a learning tool - at least here the dog has the ultimate say about whether or not he gets shocked - not some bozo with his finger on the button.)

Most dogs will only hit the fence once or twice and then will never go near the fence again - which is the point. This thing saves dog's lives. I don't even turn my fence on anymore, the dogs remember. If all the thousands of people who dump dogs at the shelter because they can't figure out how to keep the dog home would do this, their dogs would be saved. This is simple and inexpensive. The whole set up, charger, wire and insulator should not cost you more than $70. Please monitor your dog until the first time he has hit the fence. This is important in case he panics.

Q) What do you think of "Underground Fencing?"

A) Oh, if I had a dollar for every "invisible type fence" collar that came in on dogs at the dog pound! I could retire! PLEASE do not invest in this rather poor idea. These barrier "fences" don't work for the following reasons:

  • They WILL NOT contain high drive dogs
  • They do not keep kids, the UPS man, other dogs, etc., out of your yard
  • They fail with alarming regularity
  • Dogs can chase something over the fence then they can't get home

    I have been involved in court cases where people were getting sued over the actions of their dogs when these "fences" failed to keep the dogs confined. Some jurisdictions do not legally consider them confinement, and I don't know of one jurisdiction that considers them proper containment once a dog has been declared dangerous.




Aggression issues:

Q) Does springpole make a dog mean? I mean, doesn't jumping and biting at something bring out its vicious nature? I've heard its not a good idea to even let a dog play tug-a-war with its owner, is this true too?

A) Almost all bulldogs posses a strongly developed gripping drive dating back to their use as hunter's and butcher's dogs and later as bull and bear baiting animals. The desire to hunt and grip large animals, or even to fight another dog has no relation to the desire to bite the owner or other humans. Powerful hunting, baiting and fighting dogs obviously had to be tractable enough to handle when they were highly aroused, and this is one reason why a sound pit bulldog is one of the safest of dogs around people and children - even when highly aroused. Why? Pit bulls (good ones) have an extremely well developed sense of distinction, meaning they distinguish quickly and accurately between prey and non-prey. A pit bull, fighting for its life in a pit, badly damaged, in shock and in severe pain, will rarely lash out at the human handlers within easy reach.

Games of tug-a-war, springpole, or other useful outlets for prey drive will not ever cause aggression problems in a sound pit bull. However, due to the recent fad cycle of popularity with the bull breeds, far too many people are producing pups with no concern for proper temperament. Far too many unsound and atypical pit bulls have been produced, resulting in tragic loss of human life when these dogs find their way into the hands of irresponsible owners. The beauty of a sound pit bull is that you don't have to make excuses for the dog - no "she doesn't like men" or "he was abused as a pup so he growls a little" or other nonsense. As long as people make excuses for poor temperament, and continue to produce unsound pups and place them with the public there will continue to be incidents which reflect (unfairly) on all bulldogs. For more information on springpoles, click here.

Here Bandog Grip, SchH I, WDS, launches for her springpole. This is as submissive and
compliant a dog as ever lived, who has never even thought of being dominant or
aggressive toward her friends or family. Even though schutzhund and ring sport
trained, she is a friendly, tractable dog with strangers.

Q) Does chaining a dog make it mean?

A) I hear this every day, and though to me the answer is obvious, I can see why people could come to this conclusion. No, confining a dog to an appropriate chain (one longer than 12 feet) DOES NOT make a dog mean. Actually, if anything in a dog's environment was going to "make it mean" (change its basic nature) it would be something like long-term crating, which cruelly confines the dog to a small, cramped space. Where the myth of a chain making a dog vicious came from is the simple fact that most, if not all vicious dogs are chained, so when people see vicious dog after vicious dog on a chain, they begin to think, 'hey, the chain must be what is making them mean.' As I have become rather tired of hearing this from people who either let their poor dogs run free (till they get killed by a car) or stick them in a small kennel, I ask these people, 'hey, if chaining a dog makes it mean, how do you explain the dozen friendly dogs in my yard? How do you explain the thousands of friendly dogs confined by cables or chains all over the state?' They can't explain that, of course. I follow it up with "did you know that by far the majority of bites to humans occur from loose running dogs, not chained dogs?

Q) Does a pit bull have a "locking jaw" and more powerful jaw strength than any other breed?

A) Dr. I. Lehr Brisbin of the University of Georgia, and expert in the field, states:"To the best of our knowledge, there are no published scientific studies that would allow any meaningful comparison to be made of the biting power of various breeds of dogs. There are, moreover, compelling technical reasons why such data describing biting power in terms of "pounds per square inch" can never be collected in a meaningful way. All figures describing biting power in such terms can be traced to either unfounded rumour or, in some cases, to newspaper articles with no foundation in factual data." And, "The few studies which have been conducted of the structure of the skulls, mandibles and teeth of pit bulls show that, in proportion to their size, their jaw structure and thus its inferred functional morphology, is no different than that of any breed of dog. There is absolutely no evidence for the existence of any kind of 'locking mechanism' unique to the structure of the jaw and/or teeth of the American Pit Bull Terrier."


Where to turn:

Q) I can no longer keep my pit bull. My local shelter destroys them. I'm afraid of what kind of people may get him/her if I advertise in the paper. What can I do?

A) Obviously the very first thing to do is try and find a way to keep your dog. The facts are harsh - the chances of finding an appropriate home for your unwanted pit bull are extremely slim. There are just too many unwanted dogs out there. If you are moving, suck up and work harder to find a place where your companion can go. (If you are in the military and moving, kick yourself in the ass for getting a dog in the first place...) After nearly two decades in animal control, watching people dump their pets everyday, I know that in almost all cases the people could have kept their pets had they really wanted to.

If you are sure there is no way to keep the dog, contact local pit bull rescues. The internet is the best way to find these. Do not give your dog to an all-breed "no-kill" shelter. So called "no-kills" are often nothing more than doggy warehouses, where your pet will linger in confusion and misery, often for months and even years! Better the dog be euthanized. It's a sad fact that many owners will abandon their dog to an unknown fate rather than face the unpleasant task of euthanisia. This is a case of thinking more of themselves than of the dog.

Bottom line, if you are try and place the dog yourself, please take the following steps for your dog's safety.

  • Screen all potential adopters by visiting their home.
  • Maker sure that if they rent, their homeowner's allows pit bulls, and that their landlord will not object to a dog.
  • Ask for their vet's name, and check with the vet.
  • Run their name by the local animal control to check for past problems.
  • Ask them where their last pets are? What became of them? This will tell you a lot about how a person cares for their animals.

If you cannot place the dog yourself, use the internet to locate a reputable pit bull rescue. Screen the rescue! Make sure they:

  • Alter all pets before placement
  • Charge a reasonable adoption fee
  • Do homechecks
  • Have been around at least a year and are known (in a good way) by the local animal control.

Pit Bull Rescue Central is a great resource for those trying to place a dog.



How to find a dog or pup:

Q) Where is the best place to find my next pit bull dog or pup?

A) Check your local animal shelter. Then check Pit Bull Rescue Central and to see if there are any rescue organizations in your area. Chances are there are a couple dozen pit bulls in need right in your area!



How to raise your pup:

Q) I want to train this pup I just got. What is the best method?

A) The following is a short article I wrote on choosing between traditional "punishment" based training and positive "marker" training. I hope it helps in choosing how to bring up your pup.

Positive Reinforcement versus Punishment; The Light and Dark Side of the "Force".

A commercial for an upcoming new Star Wars movie got me to thinking about the similarities between Lucas' fictional portrayal of the "light" and "dark" sides of "the Force" and the use of the "light" and "dark" side of reinforcement - the "force" in dog training. Just as Luke Skywalker had to choose between "good" and "evil", so too, the dog trainer has to choose between positive and negative techniques in training.

When beginning to teach a dog, the most basic decision made is choosing which foundation upon to base the working relationship. The trainer's relationship with the dog will be, quite simply, friendly or adversarial. Without doubt the single biggest misunderstanding about positive methods is the belief that the trainer has no real control over the dog, and yet nothing could be further from the truth. Positive trainers teach obedience by using intellect not physical force, shaping the dog's behavior without physically manipulating the animal. They reward correct responses and even incorrect but good-hearted attempts to respond correctly. Incorrect responses act to "turn off" the trainer, ending the fun. The method does take a certain amount of intelligence, a very healthy sense of self, and patience - something not all trainers posses. Adversarial trainers, on the other hand, use physical force, shaping the dog's behavior by physical or vocal intimidation, rewarding correct responses with praise, food or the cessation of a negative reinforcer such as electric shocks, leash jerks or ear pinches. This method fosters a "do it or else" attitude which causes the dog some stress when faced with learning new tasks - a mistake may very well earn the dog an unpleasant correction. One of the most obvious differences between positive trained dogs and force-trained dogs occurs when the dog is unsure of what to do. The positive trained dogs will start to "throw out" behaviors, sitting, downing, coming to heel, happily trying different things to see which one will earn a reward. Force trained dogs will freeze up when unsure of what to do - better to shut down than to risk a wrong response - and the resulting correction.

In training, you require an animal to set aside its personal agenda (scratching, eating, sniffing, running about) and respond to your commands in a prompt and reliable fashion. Marine mammal trainers have led the way in positive training methods, in part because the animals they work with are simply too large, and in most cases too fierce, to physically intimidate. Imagine putting a prong collar on a leopard seal - an animal which stands taller than a man and has a mouth full of nasty teeth to back up an even nastier temperament. How are you going to "force" this animal to perform various complex feats? Believe me, faced with this challenge (as are marine mammal trainers) you will quickly learn to use your brain and leave your brawn at home. You have to be patient and smarter than the animal being trained. Another common myth concerning positive training (and one I was guilty of believing until I actually started doing pure positive) is that it only works on "soft" and compliant animals. Remember - this is a method developed for and with large, aggressive animals which have no innate desire to please humans. Should it not work just as well if not better on our domesticated and willing dogs, no matter how "fierce"? The answer is yes.

Many criticize positive methods as letting the dog "get away" with bad behavior. There is a clear distinction between teaching a behavior and handling a discipline situation around the house. Consider: my father didn't brook nonsense, however, as a natural "alpha" he did not have to resort to physical violence to control us kids. He earned our complete respect first, then, when teaching us something, say driving, he could be patient, kind and provide an environment which enhanced our learning experience.

The foundation you choose can be one which produces a positive attitude toward the "work", and a willingness to try new things, knowing that even if they are wrong they will not experience a sudden and frightening "correction" for their efforts. On the other hand, how often have we watched "jerk" trainers waiting eagerly for their dog to make a mistake so they can jerk (or shock) his head off? Even "setting up" the dog so that it can "learn" via a harsh correction? Adversarial? You bet. The choice is yours. I find it difficult to understand how anyone can consider setting up their dog in order to be able to administer physical correction, a "sport". Its not how I want to spend my weekend!

Sadly, there has been a sudden surge in the use of electric shock as a means of attempting to "teach" dogs. Why is this happening? Human perception of canine companionship is rapidly changing. Gone are the days of the "buddy" dog who padded after us, sharing our lives and being treated as a member of the family. In today's hectic, disconnected and often selfish world, the dog is now often forced to spend its days (and nights) stuck in a shipping crate. In sporting dog circles young dogs are often encouraged to be uncontrollable idiots because owners are afraid to crush "drive". For many, the dog has become a piece of sports equipment, taken out, used, and put back in its crate or kennel - no longer a family member or companion. In this sad environment it is easy to see how the use of sharpened prong collars and even electric shock - long a staple of torture procedures - can be justified in the minds of some.

How often have I heard that if one is a "serious" trainer, one cannot hope to go to "The Nationals" (any kind) unless one uses extreme force? And yet real professionals such as Mr. Wehle of the world famous Elhew pointers states that when a dog needs force to do its job it has not been bred right for the work - not matter how well it does the work. He should know, his dogs have won every championship available. Wehle's dogs are held in such high regard that they are all but considered a separate breed of dog from mere "mortal" pointers! In a sport long dominated by extreme force methods, Mr. Wehle wrote one of the first and still popular books on positive bird dog training - based on having dogs correctly bred for the work. This should certainly give one pause for thought before purchasing a pup from any dog of any breed that must be compelled to work through force training methods.

Force training is an easy no-brainer, and thus is now used in a tragic number of areas in dog training. Recently a high ranking schutzhund official who gives seminars on the "proper" use of shock collars presided over the shocking of a female Rottweiler on the tracking field. As a last desperate attempt to escape the unrelenting torture, this bitch turned and attacked her handler, and was, of course, euthanized. I knew the dog and had worked her - she was a gentle and willing animal. Shock, instead of skill, is used by many in the obedience, schutzhund, ring sport and perhaps most sadly, even in weight pulling competitions.

But what of the handlers who argue that their dogs are "hard", and simply will not respond nor respect them without the use of pain? This problem leads back to the beginning of the relationship - and the foundation which was built at that time. Was the foundation built on the word "No!" and a swat or jerk? If so, obviously the punishment "arms race" will have no where to go but up. These dogs are systematically desensitized to punishment, to both the physical pain as well as the disapproval of their owner. Learning to blow off the "leader" is just that - learned - not a function of genetics.

For those handlers who have systematically built up resistance in their dogs, the road to improvement is long and hard. It can be done, but is entirely dependent upon the handler, not the dog, having a change of heart. The relationship between dog and teacher MUST cease to be adversarial. Sadly, not all handlers are eager to make this change. We have all seen those people who seem to get enjoyment out of "bossing" a dog around - control freaks who see nothing wrong in using pain and punishment as a means of relating with their "best friend". For these folks all the positive trainer can do is be a positive role model, showing them that it is not a case of their dog being "hard", it is simple a case of their lack of knowledge of the principals of teaching. I find it very interesting that I know not one person who, having learned positive techniques, EVER went back to negative.

Getting a new pup is a fun time. We are filled with dreams of a "great" new dog… If a new pup is in your future, may I suggest you spend some time on-line looking at "positive" training sites, marine mammal training sites, and hook up with a QUALIFIED local "marker" or "clicker" trainer. They may or may not use a clicker, it is just a term that means they use positive reinforcement to "mark" correct behaviors. I myself use the word "yes" instead of a clicker. It takes a pretty big paradigm shift for some to stop viewing their pup as an advisory who is "stubborn", "hard", "dominant" or any other of the words so often used to describe dogs which fail to pick up on lessons poorly taught. But for those who make the change successfully, the journey will be worth it. And after all, the journey REALLY is more important than the destination.

What do I do when...?

Q) I was walking my dog and the neighbors dog came out and menaced us. What should I do?

A) In the "good old days" people didn't get excited about dogs "working things out". It seems that nowadays a dog owner must look to the legal system if they are to protect their dog. If a pit bull is involved in a fight in the street, even if it is attacked while on lead, it can no longer be assumed that the law will deal with them fairly. For this reason, I recommend firm action on a "first strike" basis.

First, call animal control with the address of the menacing dog. Be friendly, calm and firm. Insist that you want to know all your legal options to make sure that these irresponsible dog owners keep their dog on their property. In almost all jurisdictions it is illegal for a dog to come out into a public street and menace. Push. Keep calling. Turn in paper work. Seem harsh? What do you think would happen if it was your dog that had rushed out in the street? Fight fire with fire, I say. DO NOT attempt to take matters into your own hands. That only makes you look bad, and YOU can end up getting in trouble. The point here is to send a strong message that you WILL be able to walk down your street unmolested.



Who should I support?

Q) I would like to support a cause which helps pit bulls. I can't do rescue and am not sure how to fight BSL, but perhaps I can support those who do. How do I know I am supporting a "worthy" cause?

A) You are wise to be cautious. Not is all what it seems in the world of animal welfare! Below is my list of organizations which I have respect for and feel should be supported:

The following are those organizations which, because of their anti-pit bull (and in some cases anti-dog) actions, do not deserve your support.

  • PETA
  • "Animal People" Magazine
  • Discover and Animal Planet Channels
  • American, United and Continental Airlines
  • Northshore Animal League
  • Michigan Humane Society


Legal questions:

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