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.


Diagnosis and Treatment of Dementia in Dogs


At the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants conference in April I attended a seminar on Canine Cognitive Dysfunction presented by Dr. Rachel Malamed. Dr. Rachel Malamed is a Veterinary Behaviorist with the passion and understanding to improve the lives of pets and their human companions. After obtaining her veterinary degree (DVM), Dr. Rachel completed a three-year clinical behavioral medicine residency at the University of California, Davis and became board certified by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists. Dr. Rachel is one of a limited group of Veterinary Behaviorists; there are fewer than 60 board certified practitioners in the country.


Dogs can show signs of dementia as early as 8 years old. In order to diagnosis your dog Dr. Malamed recommends that every dog over the age of 8 have a wellness exam twice a year. Also, she suggests that owners watch closely for the following changes and take your dog to your veterinarian if you notice any of these changes in your older dog:

  • Disorientation
  • Social Interaction changes – suddenly aggressive with a life long cat friend, etc.
  • Sleep/Wake cycle is reversed or changed dramatically
  • House soling in a potty trained dog or in your dog’s bed
  • Activity – either a decrease or an increase that is very noticeable
  • Anxiety – pacing, barking, paw chewing
  • Sudden aggression towards people or other animals

According to Dr. Malamed treatment and early intervention is the best way to slow the process. Dementia is progressive so you can’t stop it but you can slow the process. Studies do show that humans get a much more advanced dementia than dogs. Further studies into canine dementia may give humans with dementia hope in the future.

There are quite a few options available for actual treatment of dementia. Check with your veterinarian for options that are right for you dog.

Breed Matters


Several of my clients have recently tested their dogs DNA using The Wisdom Panel.  As a trainer I do see the personality and behavioral effects that different breed types have on dogs although these personality and behavioral effects do not always follow the breed 100% of the time.  For example I have seen aggressive golden retrievers, labs who hate water, and border collies who are couch potatoes.  However, since our visual accuracy is only correct 25% of the time when determining breeds in mixed breed dogs this test can be of great help to both owners and trainers. They can answer questions such as: Why does my dog nip at my kids? Why does my dog prefer to be with humans than other dogs? Why is my dog still bouncing off the ceiling after a 2 hour walk?  Why does my dog insist on bringing me gophers, squirrels, etc.?

These tests also help in determining if dog owners need to have their dogs tested for MDR1 or Multi-Drug Resistance 1. MRD1 is a genetic mutation. Some dogs, particularly herding breeds or mixed-breed dogs with herding breed ancestry have a mutation in the MDR1 gene that makes them defective in their ability to limit the absorption and distribution of many drugs. These dogs are also slower to eliminate drugs from the body that are transported by P-glycoprotein. As a result, dogs with the MDR1-mutation may have severe adverse reactions to some common drugs, so it is important to test your dog and share your results with your veterinarian.

In the end I think if taken with a grain of salt The Wisdom Panel is worth the money and should be considered by owners of mixed breed dogs.  You will build a better understanding of your dog and form a deeper connection.

Snake Aversion Training WITH Shock


I have been a loyal subscriber to The Whole Dog Journal since 2012.  Usually the articles that they print are well researched and contain great information.  Unfortunately, I was alarmed and disappointed by the article “Snake Aversion Without Shock” in the May 2015 issue. The article states how dead snakes, remote controlled snakes and snakes that are not rattlers can all be used to train your dog to avoid snakes by allowing the dog to make a choice.  I believe that the editor Nancy Kerns allowed her personal preferences to come into play with allowing this article instead of relying on the science of how dogs think and learn.  As one of my clients put it so eloquently “While humans might have a chance at taking this kind of conceptual training into the real world, dogs have so much more sensory  awareness and are wired for input for what is real, not representational.  Silly humans.”

I am a positive reinforcement trainer.  I am clicker savvy and strongly believe that in order to train our dogs we need to connect with our dogs.  We also need to understand dog body language and how dogs think and learn.  When it comes to basic obedience commands, if we communicate clearly with our dogs, understand and are aware of the distractions around us and work with those our dogs will respond to us.  I do not recommend the use of choke collars, pinch collars or shock collars for basic commands or common behavioral issues.  My only exception is when the situation could result in death to the dog and then the dog should not have the option to make the choice.  Dogs do what works and they follow instinct. If you train a dog utilizing a dead rattler with a shock collar your dog will avoid dead rattlers but the first time they see a real rattler they will engage with it.  If you teach them to leave a Python alone utilizing a shock collar they will but since rattlers smell different they will engage the rattler.  And a remote controlled snake, well let’s just say our dogs are much smarter than that!  Erik of Natural Solutions Rattlesnake Aversion Training in Southern California states “the use of non-venomous or fake snakes as “stand-ins,” is only marginally effective at best.”

The article also discussed dogs that attack rattlesnakes instead of avoiding them following shock training.  Yes, unfortunately this can occur as a result of trainers who shock dogs at the highest level instead of taking into account the needs of each individual dog and starting at a low level shock.  Again quoting Erik of Natural Solutions “* I would also like to note that all dogs “choose” the level of intensity used with the collar during our training. The level is slowly increased until the dog responds, and under most conditions will not be elevated beyond that intensity. Good timing is far more important than a strong level of correction. We do not believe in “shutting dogs down,” but instead believe in working within the dog’s individual needs.” Therefore, selecting a trainer that is knowledgeable and humane is essential to ensure that your dog is trained to avoid rattlesnakes.  Trainers are not regulated so do your homework, this is your beloved dog make sure that you hire a trainer who is qualified and humane.

Dogs should have choices in life however playing with a rattlesnake should not be one of them.  If  a rattlesnake is encountered I want my dogs to bolt away as quickly as possible and not stop to consider their options.  The only way to ensure their safety in my professional opinion is through training with a humane qualified trainer who uses shock collars and live rattlesnakes that are humanely muzzled and native to your area.

Know the Signs of Heat Stroke!


It is getting warm out there and soon it will just be HOT!  Remember our dogs are prone to heatstroke and it is your job to know the signs and get them the help they need immediately.  Also, keep in mind that when we walk on the pavement we have shoes on and our dogs do not.  Check the pavement if it is too hot for your hand it is too hot for your dog.  Keep them safe and healthy this Summer and seek veterinary attention immediately if your dog shows any of these signs.

  • Panting
  • Dehydration
  • Excessive drooling (ptyalism)
  • Increased body temperature – above 103° F (39° C)
  • Reddened gums and moist tissues of the body
  • Production of only small amounts of urine or no urine
  • Sudden (acute) kidney failure
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Irregular heart beats
  • Shock
  • Stoppage of the heart and breathing (cardiopulmonary arrest)
  • Fluid build-up in the lungs; sudden breathing distress (tachypnea)
  • Blood-clotting disorder(s)
  • Vomiting blood (hematemesis)
  • Passage of blood in the bowel movement or stool
  • Black, tarry stools
  • Small, pinpoint areas of bleeding
  • Generalized (systemic) inflammatory response syndrome
  • Disease characterized by the breakdown of red-muscle tissue
  • Death of liver cells
  • Changes in mental status
  • Seizures
  • Muscle tremors
  • Wobbly, incoordinated or drunken gait or movement (ataxia)
  • Unconsciousness in which the dog cannot be stimulated to be awakened

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.