Analysis of Dog Attack in Anaheim


Please note that I am not placing blame on any of the parties involved in this attack. I am solely making observations and interpretations based on the footage and my experience as a canine behaviorist. I am thankful that the mother and child were okay and I hope that this little boy does not grow up with a fear of dogs due to this incident.

Initially both dogs are exhibiting play behaviors with the child. The mother seems at ease as if perhaps these dogs have played with the child before. That information is unknown to me. Then the little boy falls which excites the black dog and sets off trigger number one for him. Trigger number two is set off when the mother picks up the little boy and is swinging him around with his legs dangling down. Trigger stacking commonly occurs with dogs. What this means is that if you are terrified of spiders and one walks in front of you and then one drops out of the sky your fear is going to be uncontrollable. If you were just faced with the one on the floor your fear would be more manageable. In this case if the little boy had gotten back up without the mom picking him up and swinging him around (to get him away from the dogs) the second trigger may not have gone off for the dog. Again, not blaming the mom she is not a canine behaviorist and in the heat of the moment was protecting her child the best way she knew how. After that the trigger stacking just continued with collar grabs and releases, fast movement, swinging of the child, fast body movements, etc. Once the dogs were ignited whether it started out as play or not the situation took a turn for the worse and the only option left was to shield the child just as she did in the video and wait for help.

What could you do if you found yourself in a similar situation?

Try not to pick up your child or small dog, that often incites a reaction in dogs. If you have to pick them up pick them up by leaning to the side not head on with the dog. Try not to swing your body back and forth, less movement is better.

There was a pickup truck in the driveway. If you were to pick up your child put them in the back of the truck and tell them to lay down and be still. Then walk into the dogs and firmly tell them to go home with very little movement from your arms.  This could also be done with your child behind you.

If this does not diffuse the dogs become a turtle with your body acting as shell over the top of your child and your hands clasped behind your neck. You need help to arrive at this point you are not going to get the dogs away from you. This mother did this as it escalated in the video.

I have received several emails regarding this attack and that is why I am addressing it in this newsletter. The mother did what she had to in the heat of the moment and I’m so glad they will be okay. It is good to know what you might do in a similar situation that we hope never happens but if it does you will be prepared.


Keeping Children Safe Around Dogs

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The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates half of all children 12 years-of-age and under have been bitten by a dog. Seventy nine percent of fatal dog attacks are on children. Over eighty seven percent of dog bite fatalities involving children occurred when the child was left unsupervised with a dog or the child wandered off to the location of the dog.  Even small breeds such as Dachshunds and Pomeranians have attacked children resulting in fatalities.

Scary statistics so let’s get real!  Often times as a canine behaviorist my private sessions with clients and dogs take place in public places.  If a dog is aggressive every precaution is taken to ensure the safety of the public through the use of a muzzle. This last weekend I was working with a German Shepherd with fear aggression issues at a public location.  Despite the fact that the dog was muzzled I had parents allowing children to approach the dog.  One was a crawling infant and the parents kept bringing the child closer and closer to crawl to the dog while we moved further and further away.  We had to tell them that the dog was not friendly and to please stop approaching us.  Then we had two little boys start to approach the dog while the mother watched.  Again, we backed up waiting for the mother to respond but to no avail.  She had to be told to stop allowing her children to pursue the dog.  The dog was wearing a highly visible muzzle, and yet the parents were allowing their children to pursue the dog.  It was mind boggling.

I have also done sessions with dogs that have never been exposed to children so they are wary of them.  This is not uncommon since many dogs are wary of infants and toddlers because they move quickly and are unpredictable and frankly they smell like food.  So you can have the friendliest dog in the world approached by a toddler and have the dog react defensively which could result in a bite.

The picture above shows my 4 year old with our dog and I took this picture to show where the mouth of a large dog comes when a toddler approaches a dog.   I don’t know about you but I don’t want my toddler approaching a dog no matter how friendly the owner says the dog is when my toddler’s face is right at bite level.

Teach your children to respect dogs and give them space. Teach your children not to corner dogs or pursue dogs.  Have them admire them from a distance.  My toddler knows most of the breeds now due to my profession and we enjoy sitting at the park watching the dogs go by as we identify them.  She loves dogs and has a healthy appreciation for them.  I know too many adults who were bitten as children by dogs and never recovered emotionally.  A dog bite to a child is deadly to the dog and if not deadly to the child will leave deep emotional scars for the rest of their life.  Please keep kids safe by teaching them to keep safe boundaries when it comes to all dogs. Together we can reduce dog bite statistics.

Meet & Greets


If you have been following my blogs, newsletters and facebook page you know that one of the biggest training issues I work with is leash reactivity with dogs.  In order to try and prevent this issue on my end as a trainer I have introduced controlled meet and greets into my Basic Obedience classes.  These meet and greets primarily help my clients to read and understand canine body language.  They also build confidence in the owners and confidence in the dogs so we have win-win situation when it comes to the real world.  I always control the approaching dog and the meet and greet is very controlled and safe at all times.  After I go over the body language of each dog with all of my class.  In this way I am doing my part to create a better world for our dogs.

I always remind clients to keep in mind that not all dogs will like each other and as humans we cannot get upset at them for that unless we can honestly say that we like all people.  So respect yours dogs boundaries and keep everyone safe.

A few weeks ago in class I did a meet and greet with a leash reactive dog that I have been working with privately.  He did okay when he was paired with the puppies in the class.  Next he was paired with a teenage dog and this was one of those time I wish I had, had a video camera rolling.  Frankie was the reactive dog and he went up to Max and stopped and sniffed clearly saying I’m not going any closer to you.  Max who is usually exuberant for meet and greets stayed back and gave Frankie his space.  Then Frankie looked at me and said I’m done.  No growls, no lunging just two dogs having a conversation and the humans understanding and letting the dog go their separate ways.  It was amazing and reminded me why I love this job so much.

Come on out and join us on Wednesday nights for ourbasic class and learn all about dog body language.  Together we can and will make all dogs feel secure by giving each individual dog what they need.

Save the Lizards!


Yesterday I wrote about Lyme Disease and how to protect yourself and your canine companions since it has been discovered that the ticks in my hometown of Yucaipa, California are carrying the bacteria that causes Lyme Disease.  The CDC believes that 300,000 cases of Lyme disease occur a year nationwide.  It is hard to pinpoint exact numbers since they believe many of these cases are undiagnosed or even misdiagnosed.  However, they are clear that in the Northeast and Northern Midwest states that up to 30% of the deer ticks carry the bacteria that is known to cause Lyme disease.  Also there is a 96% occurrence rate of Lyme in 13 states and California is not among those states because we have a natural vaccine program occurring.  Bring in the lizards!

It turns out that nymphal ticks favorite host is our common western fence lizard, which has a protein in its blood that kills the bacterium responsible for Lyme.  This results in few adults ticks growing up to be Lyme carriers.  A limited study also concluded that reducing the population of lizards appeared to reduce tick populations because the ticks did not take to other hosts as readily.  However, scientists have warned that messing with mother nature’s population of lizards could results in the ticks adapting to a new host and thriving without eliminating Lyme.

So in theory you now have two ways to prevent ticks on your dog.  You can either buy a Preventic collar or you can duct tape lizards all over them.  I myself prefer the Preventic collar but the options are available. Most importantly let’s celebrate our western fence lizards and save the lizards!

For the Love of Ticks

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Hey look this is really cool a tick is crawling on your dog, and another and another!  When you work in the veterinary field as I did for 6 years you find that everyone has something that fascinates them.  For one of my coworkers it was abscesses the messier the better and for me it was ticks.  I loved them so much that I was known as the tick plucker anytime a dog came in I was assigned the task of tick removal.  When I left the veterinary industry my souvenir was the fattest tick I ever plucked preserved in formaldehyde (pictured above).  I love my tick and he has a permanent place on my bookshelf.

As much as I enjoy watching and plucking ticks I do not like the fact that they carry Lyme Disease and pose a health threat to animals and humans alike.  On January 29th 4 miles north of my hometown of Yucaipa, California two adult western black legged- ticks were collected that carried the bacteria for Lyme Disease.  This is the first finding since 1991 and that is very scary for an avid hiker like myself that not only hikes but hikes with my dog on single track trails in high brush.

The Mosquito and Vector Control Division suggest the following to protect humans from ticks:

— Avoid areas where ticks are known to occur.

— Stay in the middle of trails and avoid grassy areas, contact with logs, tree trunks and fallen branches or tree limbs in forests.

— Use a repellent registered for use against ticks. Repellents with DEET are effective and can be applied to the skin. Repellents with permethrin should be applied only to clothing.Be especially careful when applying to children.

— Thoroughly check yourself and others for ticks during, immediately after, and up to three days after activities in tick-infested areas.

— Shower immediately after engaging in outdoor activities where ticks live.

— Keep grass along trails, buildings and camping areas mown.

� If you find a tick attached to your skin:

— Grasp tick with tweezers or a tissue, (never with your bare hands) as close to your skin as possible.

— Firmly pull the tick from the skin. Do not jerk, twist or unscrew the tick.

— Do not attempt to remove by burning with a cigarette or by applying Vaseline, kerosene, etc.

— Wash your hands and the bite site with soap and water after removing the tick. Apply an antiseptic to the bite area.

— Save the tick for identification. Contact the Mosquito and Vector Control Program, which will determine whether the tick is a species capable of transmitting Lyme disease.

— Consult your physician if the tick cannot be removed or part of it is left in the skin, or if you develop a rash or flu-like symptoms within 30 days of a tick bite.

But what about your dog?  Can dogs get Lyme Disease? Yes dogs can and young dogs appear to be more susceptible to the disease than older dogs according to petMD. So protecting your dog is essential and below are a few tips to gets your started:

-When hiking with your dog keep them on a leash so they are not bounding through the brush where ticks are prevalent.

– When you get home thoroughly groom your dog and remove any ticks that you find.

-Use a preventative.  I highly recommend the Preventic Collars which can be purchased on Amazon.  I have found over the years that Frontline stops fleas but seems to do nothing for the ticks.  You can use the Preventic collars in combination with your other flea preventative.

-A Lyme Disease vaccine is available for dogs but it is generally not recommended for the following reasons according to UC Davis:

Canine Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme) Vaccine

The incidence of Lyme disease in California is currently considered extremely low. Furthermore, use of the vaccine even in endemic areas (such as the east coast of the US) has been controversial because of anecdotal reports of vaccine-associated adverse events. Most infected dogs show no clinical signs, and the majority of dogs contracting Lyme disease respond to treatment with antimicrobials. Furthermore, prophylaxis may be effectively achieved by preventing exposure to the tick vector. If travel to endemic areas (ie the east coast) is anticipated, vaccination with the Lyme subunit or OspC/OspA-containing bivalent bacterin vaccine could be considered, followed by boosters at intervals in line with risk of exposure. The UC Davis VMTH does not stock the Lyme vaccine or recommend it for use in dogs residing solely in northern California.

Yes I love the ticks but not on me and not on my dog I just like to admire the little creatures.  But most people do not share this love.  We can all agree on one thing however and that is keeping you and your dog’s tick free should be your top priority.

Trail Tales


Our local trails are gorgeous right now.  So many wildflowers.  Yukon and I enjoy the Redlands Conservancy trails, Crafton Hills Open Space conservancy trails, Wildlands Conservancy trails, and Wildwood State Park.

All of these trails are shared by hikers, runners, cyclists, horseback riders and dogs.  Please remember to keep your dog on a leash at all times on these trails.  It is not only for the safety of your dog but for the safety of others especially those on horseback.  Yukon and I encountered a young horse on trail recently that had never seen a dog.  It was wonderful they both stopped and studied each other.  Then I had him sit and the horses proceeded past.  Also, dogs that are on leash often react differently then they would if they were off leash so when an off leash dog approaches an on leash dog they may become reactive because they are tethered to a leash and haven no control over the situation.  I advise all my clients to carry spray shield, a citronella based spray to protect you and your dog on trail.  The other dangers of off leash dogs include rattlesnakes in the brush. They are awake and on trail.   Also, remember water for you and your dog.  I just discovered that Zukes makes a dog treat for dogs on trail, I’m going to order them and I’ll let you know what Yukon thinks of them in a future newsletter.

Enjoy those wildflowers and time in nature with your dog.



Tear out the grass and put in drought tolerant plants to use less water from our precious planet.  That was the easy part!  The hard part was finding plants and ground coverage that were safe for our dogs.

First step was to find a ground cover. BEWARE of mulch that is treated with weed killers, it is toxic to your dogs. Our dog Shiloh developed Lupus from weed killer so we don’t use it anywhere in our  backyard including weed and feed for grass.  There was only one kind of mulch we found that was not toxic and that was all natural tree bark from Lowe’s. However, if your dog likes to eat mulch than mulch may not be the right ground coverage for you.  We also covered part of the area with rocks.  This is great as long as your dog does not eat rocks.  My husband has a dog growing up that had to have some pretty extensive dental work done because of his love of rocks.

Next we had to find some drought tolerant and dog safe plants.  We spent several hours at Lowe’s ruling plants out based on toxicity. Many plants are listed as toxic to dogs but you must read further to not only know how they affect dogs but also what part of the plant is toxic.  You must also know your dog.  For example, tulip bulbs are toxic so we planted them in pots because our dogs don’t eat plants out of pots.  We avoided Sago palms and Birds of Paradise.  Our tree is a Sweet Broom.  We also found Blue Arrow Rush which is a pretty ornamental grass that is non toxic to dogs.  We also put in flowers but were very cautious to avoid flowers such as Sweet Peas which can cause seizure and death in dogs.  We did plant Geraniums which are toxic but again we placed them in pots.  Our dogs have also never eaten our plants so part of the process is deciding what is right for your yard based on your particular dog or if you are considering getting another dog in the future. When I come out to clients’ homes for puppy training the first thing I do is a walk through of the property pointing out potential dangers including plants.  I also provide my clients with a list of toxic plants.

So much to consider and where do you start if you are considering dogscaping? Start by printing out the ASPCA toxic and non-toxic plant listand then have fun, be creative and be dog safe.

Luckily my garden is in what the former owners used as a dog run.  It is full sun so we would never have imagined placing a dog back there but it makes for a great garden that is safe from the dogs.  Looking forward to our herbs, asparagus, tomatoes, and peppers this Spring and our Mammoth Sunflowers this Summer.  Happy planting the dog safe way!