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.


Trail Magic for PCT Through Hikers

Tashi with PCT hikers

Tashi & PCT Hikers at The Town Baker

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Yukon waiting for hikers on the PCT

The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is 2,650 miles long and usually takes hikers about 5 months to complete it.  Northbound hikers usually start in mid-April to early May while southbound hikers start in late June through early July.  The failure rate is high, about 50% will not complete the journey.  For those who do it is an incredible achievement with a lifetime full of memories.

May 6th, 2015 I was hiking in Wrightwood, CA with my hiking body Yukon (Shepherd Mix).  Yukon is a rescue who came from the streets where we are pretty sure he had no contact with humans, to the shelter at about one year of age, to a rescue and then to me.  When I first met him he would not come to me, he was terrified.  He refused to even walk on a leash and all my dreams of him being a hiking dog seemed to disappear.  A year later with positive training and lots of controlled socialization he has become my hiking buddy.  He gets so excited when I start putting my hiking shoes on, and if I put them on in my closet he whines at the door convinced that I might go up through the attic and escape without taking him. When it comes to attention from people he is still outside of his comfort zone when they first approach but allows people to pet him and talk to him.  Afterwards he has to pull on the leash for about 30 seconds to shake off all of the adrenaline rush he gets and then he fall back beside me.  I always watch his body language during greetings and do what is best for him.  I have him continue greetings because I never want him to become fear aggressive and he does actually like people, especially if they have treats but because of his past he is always wary.

On our hike we encountered 25+ through hikers including a hiker that we gave a ride too heading into town for food and supplies.  Yukon was the highlight for the hikers.  Many stopped and asked if they could pet him saying how much they missed their own pets at home. The hiker who hitched a ride with us scratched Yukon’s head on the ride, he was so tired from our 8 mile hike that he appeared to love the head scratching.  I have another friend that lives in the town of Idyllwild, CA which is also a haven for through hikers complete with The Town Baker that is owned and operated by former through hikers who moved to Idyllwild and started the café after completion of the PCT.  Tashi’s mom meets hikers at the post office where they pick up supplies or at the The Town Baker with her dog Tashi. Many of the hiker want to pet her missing their pets back home.  It is so heartwarming that dogs can be a part of the PCT through hikers trail magic.

Do you have a dog that loves to hike and is sociable with people? You could take them on the trails or into the towns to meet the PCT thru hikers from April through about September.  This is such a great service for both the people and the dogs.  Perhaps the PCT therapy dog team will be a future endeavor.

Good luck to all of the through hikers and enjoy the journey.

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.

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.

The Art of Falconry and How it Relates to Dog Training


A few weeks ago my family and I attended the Renaissance Fair and had the pleasure of watching two of the falconry shows by a non profit organization.  They had a red tailed hawk, a Eurasian Eagle Owl, a Lanner Falcon, a Vulture, and 3 Harris Hawks.  Falconry like dog training is an art that requires hours of training, devotion, finesse, skill and most importantly positive training.  As the falconer stated “we will never force the birds to do something we do not want them too all of our training involves positive reinforcement.  This became evident during the shows.  For the first show they showed us their latest edition, a red tailed hawk.  He was still connected to a line because he had not yet been trained not to leave.  However, he still chose when and where he wanted to fly for the treats.  Next up was the owl and during the first show the owl screeched at them and refused to exit the kennel.  Later in the day when we returned he had decided to entertain and flew over our heads for lots of treats.  During the first show they also experimented by allowing all 3 Harris Hawks out and it was hilarious towards the end when they wanted them to go back to their house the birds were flying everywhere but in their house, the falconers were well trained providing treats every step of the way.  All ended well with all birds accounted for and happily treated.

After the shows I could not help but think how this all related to dog training except that our dogs can’t fly away, but they can run!  Dogs like these birds are very intelligent and they base their decisions on what works.  If I go back into the kennel the treats stop. If I Iand on that perch I get a treat.  If I fly up into the tree the audience laughs (okay may be pushing it a bit on that one) but you get the point.  If the falconers did not use positive reinforcement they would never be able to get these bird to do anything.  That is the same with our dogs.  Bonds and trust are key to dog training and if you don’t build that through positive reinforcement your will not be able to count on your dog when you need them to listen to you.  Also, sometimes dogs just don’t listen because they are dogs.  For example in the outtakes on the movie “Against the Wild” the husky makes a mad dash through the woods and the trainers are seen chasing him.  My well trained dog Yukon became a two legged walking dog when we met up with the volunteer crews on the Vivian Creek Trail and they were sawing a tree and throwing the debris down the side of the mountain.  He thought they were critters and he was going to get them no matter what his silly owner said or requested.  In both of these cases dogs were being dogs.  Just like the birds were being birds.  Especially when the vulture steals peoples food during the show who do not put it away.

I think that dog trainers and owners could learn a lot from falconers.  Mainly I think we could learn that our dogs make mistakes, they do what works, and we have to be patient and build a strong bond with them and understand each dog like each bird is different.

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.