Saturday Snicker: Another Daddy Nappy Noodle

Rugby is the original snuggle pup.  He absolutely is!  For years, all of my previous dogs have been dogs who enjoyed being affectionate with me, but Rugby takes it to a whole new level!  He’s a Velcro dog, and he just can’t get close enough when he wants a snuggle or a nap….or more often than not…..a “snuggle nap.”  He’s great at multi-tasking naps with snuggles, and those are his very favorite types of naps!  He enjoys a good pretzel nap if a snuggle nap is not readily available, but if he can find a snuggle buddy, he’s all in!

Over the recent holiday, Michael was home for the afternoon, and he loves sneaking in an afternoon nap when he can.  He’s always enjoyed naps on the floor, where the surface is hard, and his back can get a good flat surface.

You can just imagine the delight that Rugby feels when he sees his Daddy settle on the floor for a nice afternoon nap! He comes running….all four paws excitedly headed toward the object of his good fortune.

I was able to capture this recent nappy noodle in its various stages, and so I present that photo montage to you….for your giggling pleasure on an otherwise boring Saturday!!  Enjoy a Saturday snicker from Rugby James!

This was the moment that Michael had laid down and Rugby climbed into his favorite spot!!


He was looking a bit pensive, because he knew that I was lurking with my camera phone!


He tolerated the first close up photo….


But quickly let me know how he really felt about this photo shoot! Rugby often pouts when he realizes that I’m taking photos, and those ears tell me how he really feels about it!


As he settled into his nap, he got into one of his favorite napping positions, a tight curl with his snoot poked down into his fluffy tail.  He always enjoys using his Daddy’s legs or bum as his pillow for propping up his head!


Before long, he morphed into a sprawled nap, working into his “sunny side up” position!


When Rugby gets into a deeper sleep, he often opens his mouth, and since he’s lacking most of his front teeth, I’m always treated to a little bit of a tongue out photo, which I absolutely love!!

These are the sweet moments that I always cherish so much with Rugby.  He’s really such a dear little dog, and it’s such a blessing to me to share this side of him with the world!


Aggression….the Unwelcome House Guest

Special Note:  This post contains some mild graphic photos and descriptions of a recent dog bite that I received.

I work with all kinds of dogs….various breeds, ages, temperaments, backgrounds, etc.  Some dogs are friendly and happy to see me, and others….not so much!  I’ve been training dogs since 1983, and working with aggressive dogs since 2008.  In all that time, I’ve only been bitten twice.  I use very safe measures when working with edgy, or aggressive dogs.  But this past week, I encountered a really dangerous dog, and that’s the subject of this post….to educate my readers about what made this situation more serious than other aggressive dogs I see.

Earlier in the week, I had the misfortune to be on the receiving end of a 70 pound dog’s teeth being sunk into my leg.  Zero fun.  Naturally, since it’s June,  and since the dog had no prior bite history, I was wearing shorts, so I had no protection at all between skin and teeth.

This was at the hospital, right after they had cleaned up the bite.

Prior to training any dog, I do an evaluation.  I’m asking behavioral questions and observing the dog in his home where he’s comfortable and relaxed.  This also helps me watch the interactions between dog and owner, and I can learn a lot through simple observation.

When I evaluate dogs who are aggressive  with humans, I insist that they be leashed so that I can safely move and not be attacked.  Typically, I want the dog back from the door and at a safe distance from me so that I can I observe the dog’s behavior and arousal levels from a safe distance as I come in and conduct the evaluation.

Note the stiff body language, forward ears, fixated stare…..all aggressive body language!

Some dog owners are very understanding and have no issue doing that.  Others make it clearly known that they think I’m being overly concerned, especially when their dog has no bite history.  Some dogs do well being leashed, and others not so much.  The owners of the “not so much” dogs generally aren’t very happy leashing their dogs because they know that their dogs are likely to produce even worse behavior, which I completely understand!  However, that leash and a careful owner are the only things keeping me safe, and whether or not an owner likes my methods, they do have a responsibility to keep me safe as a guest in their home.

The dog who bit me this week had no bite history.  He was a physically healthy two year old dog in very good condition.   He had been to his vet the previous week for a complete physical including a blood work up to determine if there was any medical reason for his behavior.  He was given a clean bill of health, meaning that the vet could determine no medical reason for the dog to be behaving in an aggressive manner.  That’s a great place to start with any type of aggression….a medical work up!

This dog is likely close to the size of the dog who bit me. Look at the size of that open mouth! Large dogs pack a BIG punch when they bite!  The surface area of my bite is roughly 3″ x 4″….a very large area of my outer calf!

Two weeks earlier, he had nipped the pants legs of two males who came into the home, but responded well to them through the duration of their visit in the home.  He had never shown aversive behavior toward women, so his owner felt very confident that he would be completely fine with me.  He had no problem leashing his dog and was very compliant about keeping me safe during the evaluation.

As I came into the house, I heard minimal barking, and observed a small mount of piloerection (fur standing up on his shoulders and or back and rump) from the dog. He did pull hard to sniff me, but didn’t lunge or growl in any way. Comparing him to other dogs that I’ve evaluated who are aggressive to strangers in the home, I felt as if he was very calm at the door to be perfectly honest.

His owner let him come over to sniff, which didn’t make me very comfortable, but the dog wasn’t sending any super strong danger signals, and because he had no bite history and was early in his aggressive behavior, I felt as if he would likely be fine.  However, I should not have allowed the dog to get near me, because the piloerection was only at the shoulders and the base of his tail, which can be an indicator of a dog who is unpredictable and aggressive, which this dog later proved to be!

He sniffed me over as all dogs do.  He was polite, no muzzle punches or hard pokes.  Very typical, gentle sniffing.  He even licked my legs and hand very sweetly.  He did some minor gentle biting on my fingers as many dogs will do, but again, it was really pretty polite given the dog.  Looking back, the hand nibbles may have been the dog sending me a signal that he was thinking about a bite, and he was trying to intimidate…or testing the waters but deciding to wait for a more opportune moment.

As we walked through the house, we left the foyer and proceeded through the living room and into the kitchen, the dog was ahead of me.  I always send the dog ahead, so that I know where he is.  To stay safe with aggressive dogs, I try to always know where the dog is at all times.  He stopped at one point and looked back at me with a hard stare as if to challenge my walking into his space. I stopped and froze, waiting for his owner to call his dog to come along, and waiting to see the dog’s response to that nudge on the leash.  He quickly and easily complied with his owner’s direction, which is very good.  Many dogs do not want to break a fixated stare, and the hard eye will continue.  The dog was very compliant, and his body language was calm and relaxed as he went into the kitchen.

Great example of a hard eye and fixated stare. When dogs do this, it’s almost as if they are looking right through you.

As I came into the kitchen, I set my briefcase on a chair in their breakfast nook and got out my evaluation binder and pencil.  The dog was calm and relaxed, watching me without a hard stare or any negative body language.  His owner was talking to him, and offered some quick pets and ear rubs to reassure his dog.  I focused on writing some quick notes about the dog’s behavior at the front door.

At the moment of the bite, I was standing at the table in their breakfast nook, writing notes, not moving, not talking, looking right at the table and quietly writing.  I may have slightly shifted my weight from one foot to the next in the direction of the dog and his owner.  That’s it.  If I moved at all, it was very subtle, and nothing that would have been threatening or have startled the dog in any way.  The bite came within thirty seconds after his owner had sat down and petted him.

I thought the owner had his dog right at his side and I was positioned far enough away that the dog couldn’t get to me.  As a result, I was focused on my writing and I was not looking at the dog or even in his general direction.  I had some sense of where he was from my peripheral vision, but I thought I was safer than I actually was.  Hard lesson learned in a painful way.

Next thing I knew, I felt a quick little lick, a fairly gentle muzzle bump against my left leg and then boom! He gave me a quick, hard, and very sneaky bite and released his grip. One or two seconds from start to finish.  There was no time to back away and prevent the bite, as it came immediately after the lick and nudge.  After the bite, as I quickly jumped back, I instinctively grabbed my briefcase to create a protective barrier between myself and the dog in case he came back for more.

I can’t tell you what the dog was doing right after the bite.  I didn’t see him to know what his body language or facial expressions were like! His owner didn’t even realize that he had bitten me!  When I jumped and said, “Woah!!  Darn!!”  The dog’s owner asked if he had nipped at me!  He was as surprised as I was when I said, “No, your dog just bit me, and I’m bleeding all over your floor!!  Instead of looking at the dog, I was honestly focused on the streams of blood running down my leg and starting to pool on the floor at my foot, and trying to figure out what supplies I would need to get that stopped!

There were rivers of blood running down my leg creating a pool of blood at my foot about 10″ in diameter. I went to the hospital wearing a garbage bag so that I didn’t bleed all over the owner’s car!
After the nursing staff had cleaned me up. That sock was white when I put it on earlier in the day. It was about 85% bloodsoaked and I squished when I walked!

This is a very important post for me to write, because this dog was absolutely a seriously dangerous dog and his owner never knew it!  Clearly, the owner had noticed a negative shift in his dog’s behavior and that’s why I was there to evaluate him, but this situation was honestly far more dangerous than many aggressive dogs that I evaluate.  Here’s why:

  • This dog bit while completely unprovoked.  I did nothing at all to create a venue that would have made the dog startle and react, or feel threatened in any way.
  • There was absolutely no warning at all, aside from a small nose bump.  He didn’t growl, posture, snarl, or give me any obvious indication that he was going to bite me.  He was Ninja-like….and sneaky!
  • He had already received me into his home, although it’s definitely debatable about how comfortable he was having me there.  With stranger aggression, most aggressive dogs will bite right at the door.  This dog greeted me fairly well at the door, but seemed to wait for a chance to offer a hard bite when he felt that it would be more opportune.
  • Dogs who are stealthy and sneaky pose a much higher bite risk because they are unpredictable.  When there are unknown triggers, it’s impossible to moderate the dog’s behavior, and an owner is left with a very dangerous dog who is honestly more liability than asset.

At at a recent vet visit with Rugby, one of the vet techs who often helps treat Rugby said something I really liked!  She said, “Rugby is an honest dog.  You always know where you stand with him, and he always tells you if you’re crossing a line with him.  He gives you time to back off.”  That really made me smile, because I completely agree!

Rugby is an edgy dog to be sure.  He absolutely is.  But he has pretty clear triggers, and for the most part, he will give a clear warning that he’s uncomfortable.  That’s an honest dog.  He clearly doesn’t want to bite, and he’s willing to wait to see if the humans understand his position and respond accordingly.  That’s fair.

Rugby will often “Resource guard.” Note the paw over his treasure, his lowered head and strong eye. If anyone continues to approach, the head will get lower, his eye harder, and he will growl an ugly growl. Never approach a dog who is guarding a treasure of any kind!!

The dog who bit me was sneaky.  Unpredictable.  He did a bait and switch with me, letting me think he was okay with me, when instead, he was simply waiting for a more opportune moment to strike.  Those are the dogs that I honestly don’t feel safe training at all, bite history or not.  I never feel safe with them.  And honestly, those are dogs that are not likely to work through their aggressive behavior to ever be trusted.  Ever.

So how are dangerous dogs like this created?  That’s always challenging to know.  It’s generally a lot of things all coming together like a perfect storm!

  • The first consideration is the genetic makeup of the dog.  Nurture will never trump  nature, and if there’s a history of  aggressive behavior in parents, grandparents, siblings, etc. there’s a good likelihood that there’s a wacky aggressive gene in the DNA.  That’s something that simply can’t be fixed, and unfortunately, with rescue dogs who are mixed breeds, an owner is taking a chance with any rescue where backgrounds and breeding is unknown.  This should really, really be a very critical decision when someone is choosing a dominant, aggressive breed who is large and has the potential to really do some damage with his bite.
  • Right along with the genetic makeup of the dog is the early development of the puppy.  Diet is critical to healthy brain development, which will also include the dog’s ability to reason and think well.  Puppies who are abandoned, or who have gone without food for an extended time, have a poor diet, etc., are at a higher risk for incorrect brain development, and that can have far reaching effects years after the puppy grows up.
  • The next consideration is the physical health of the dog.  Dogs who don’t feel well are likely to be aggressive.  Ear infections, sore teeth, injuries, etc., can cause a dog to become very  dangerous in their responses to humans because they are simply trying to protect themselves and their space.  Their aggression can be unpredictable if owners don’t know that they aren’t feeling well.  Generally once the medical reason is cleared up, these dogs can be retrained to respond in a kind way.  The exception could be for dogs who are chronically ill, especially as young puppies, where their opinions about life are formed.   Some dogs are more able to process and forgive and trust again, while others simply can’t make that leap.
  • Lack of socializing dogs is huge!  HUGE!!  Did I mention that socialization is huge?  Think people, places, and things, when you are socializing your dog.  You want your dog to see all kinds of people, dogs, places and things, both animate and inanimate.  Ideally this starts as soon as you bring a new puppy or dog home, and continues well into adulthood.  Socializing your puppy teaches him how the world works, and exposes him to potentially scary things so that he learns not to be afraid of them.
  • Lack of training is also HUGE!!  Big.  Enormous!!  I wish all dogs could receive basic training, but large dogs, especially dominant aggressive breeds should be professionally trained at least to an intermediate level.  Puppies are so enthusiastic about training, and generally compliant, happy students.  In adolescence, dogs often start to throw their weight around as they begin to wear their big dog pants!  That’s most often when I see aggressive behavior rear its ugly head. When those dogs have had strong prior training, adolescence is a speed bump or small hurdle to get over.  We train right through it, most generally, and in a very short time, that dog is right back on track.  When aggressive adolescent dogs have never had any prior, professional training, it’s much more difficult to train through the aggression, and the odds go way down in terms of a dog successfully working through the aggressive behavior. (This is based upon my own experience in working with dogs)
This dog is guarding a bone. Note the “C” shape to his snarl. He has a hard eye, and is making a big display with his teeth to tell an approaching human or animal to back off!!

Sadly, for the dog that bit me, his life ended that afternoon.  His owner agreed that his dog was simply too dangerous to the public, and shortly after the bite, he was euthanized by his vet.

While my heart just broke for the family, I applaud the owner for making the choice that he did.  His dog was indeed a very  dangerous dog, and I honestly do not believe that training would have modified his behavior to the point where he would ever have been safe to the public.  It took courage to make the decision that the owner did, and as the recipient  of his solo bite, I can tell you that I felt a huge sense of relief knowing that this dog would not be biting anyone else….especially a child!

Don’t let this happen to your own dog!  Many, many times, aggression can be prevented.  Don’t wait!!  If your dog is exhibiting any questionable behavior, please consult a professional positive reinforcement dog trainer or behaviorist to get help immediately. Please remember that this dog went from nipping to a full bite in only two weeks time, so waiting may end up causing injury to a friend, family member, child, or another dog!  Once a dog is biting, there are very few options available, and bites often end up costing a dog his life!  Aggression does not go away by itself, so waiting will never make things better.  And just in case you aren’t quite sure….here’s another photo to remind you that aggression is not anything at all to play around with.  I’ve missed about a full week of work nursing this injury.  My physical injuries are healing up nicely, but my heart will never forget that this bite cost a dog his life.  I’ll have more than one kind of scar to carry through life as a result of this bite, and that’s not anything I wish for anyone else!

Two days after the original bite.




Saturday Snicker: Oh the Things You Can Hide in One Small Dog Bed!

This first photo looks like one small dog spilling out of a dog bed right?  You’re partly right!  Rugby takes anything he really values, right to his bed.  It’s something that I always find so very endearing about him!  Any new toy, any special snack, his very favorite old toys….he always takes them to his bed!  He has four beds at home, in different areas of the house, and he generally takes his treasures to the bed that’s closest to me!

He’s honestly my little shadow at home, and never wants to be very far away from me.  I know that some of this behavior is a result of his anxiety, but some of it, is because Rugby is a little dog who really loves to snuggle, and he always wants to be as close to me as he can possibly get!

He often plops right down on his bed, and when I walked into the bedroom, I saw one small dog on his bed, and a green piggie on the floor next to him.

He decided that he might really need his little piggie in his bed with him, which isn’t at all unusual!  I’m very accustomed to waking up to Rugby rolling over on one of his piggies, and said piggie grunting a loud complaint about Rugby squishing him in the middle of the night!

I decided to snap some photos, just to see if I could get anything cute, and Rugby offered his best opinion about the “pupparazzi” spoiling his moment with his green piggie!!

I was actually excited, because I don’t think I’ve ever captured a really good “tongue out” photo of Rugby!  Once he sees that I’m going to take a photo, he flattens his ears and stops smiling.  I generally bribe him with treats to get cute expressions on his face and pretty ears.

After the photos, he decided he didn’t want to stick around for more “pupparazzi” moments, so he got up from his bed and walked a few steps and sat down to look at me.  I love this little face and those two eyes of his that peak out at me through all of the fluffy speckled fur that frames his face.  He has such sincere eyes, and they study my face with such depth and emotion.  I just love that about Rugby.  I really do.

And after I had petted him, and told him again, how much I loved him, I looked back at his dog bed, and saw a big surprise!!

He had been laying on an orange piggie and his supper dish as well as half an elephant!  How he can fit all of those things in the smallest of his dog beds is a mystery to me!  It honestly never, ever seems to be a bother to him, and he doesn’t skip a beat!

These are the little moments that I treasure in my day to day life with Rugby James.  I think all dog owners can relate to the little quirky things that make our dogs unique and special to us.  I hope this post has brought a smile to your faces, and I hope it will make your treasure your own dogs or remember a special moment in time with them.

Much love from Rugby James and Mama Sally.


Thursday Training Tip: Re-visit Your Basics From Time to Time

Mama Sally:

Lately, what I’ve noticed with Rugby James, is that he’s started slacking on some of his basics.  Yes.  I said it.  A dog trainer has a dog who is a slacker.  In basic work even.  Oh my.  I’m just keeping it real!  Rugby still responds well to his basic work, but he’s just gotten a little slower and a bit sloppier with his responses, and his real life applications aren’t as sharp as I would like them to be.

You don’t have to use a clicker, but I find Rugby’s focus and attention is better, and he learns things more quickly when I use one.

Well, here’s the truth:  All skills need to be polished, don’t they?  If we don’t practice any skill, over time, doesn’t it get a bit rusty?  I played the flute coming up as a kid, but I haven’t  picked it up to play in probably thirty years or more.  Am I going to have the same skill level?  Absolutely not!  I haven’t practiced.  I’m not even sure I still remember how to read music anymore, to be perfectly honest with you.

If we want to see our dogs performing consistently well, we need to keep things polished up from time to time and practice all learned skills so that our dogs will stay sharp and quickly responsive.  Thankfully, Rugby is not a robot!  He doesn’t respond as a robot.  He’s a thinking, feeling, expressive dog who can choose to comply with work or not.  And if I want him to comply, I need to practice, and I also need to make practice fun so that he will want to participate with me.

Once your dog hears, “Come”, at the moment your dog looks at you….he is making the decision to either come or ignore you!

We tend to think that once our dogs learn a skill, it’s a permanent addition to them….much like putting a collar around their necks.  When we fit a collar and buckle it, we never give it another thought.  We think of it being permanently attached to our dogs.

On the other hand, I think behaviors are a bit more fluid….they are alive, and change and grow right along with our dogs.  In order to maintain those good habits and skills, we need to keep our dogs thinking and working!  It’s always a good time to revisit basic skills, as well as work on new skills to keep our dogs from getting bored with their work.

This past week, I’ve started putting the polish on some basics with Rugby, and I’m finding that he and I are both enjoying that.  Rugby typically likes any and all sorts of work and I rarely wait until his behavior gets off in a ditch before I work to correct it.  I start after he’s gotten sloppy a time or two, because then it’s not much work to sharpen things up again.  In just a few days, he’s back on track and working at his best performance levels.

Training your dog to “Place” is a great way to have control with your dog inside your home…especially when they are rowdy dogs!

I’ve noticed that as Rugby is aging, he has less patience in work when it comes to learning new things, so he seems to be very happy to work on his known skills.  Rugby has never been a poster dog for impulse control.  In Rugby’s world, those two things are mutually exclusive terms!  My huge battle with him for nine years has been teaching him to slow down and think through a task!

Rugby is one emotional dog, and he has rarely been able to cognitively attack tasks initially.  He frustrates super easily, and he’s ridiculously food motivated, so when I’m trying to teach something new, he often just completely melts down with frustrated barking and barking and barking.  *sigh*  Once he melts down…sometimes several melt downs….then he can often start the cognitive process to think through what he needs to change and adjust to get what he wants.  His first response is always emotional.

I had hoped that going back to focus on the basics would boost his confidence and allow me to see a more patient side of Rugby come to the surface.  He doesn’t have to think very hard on the basics, so he’s able to perform them quickly and get a great, fast reward of some kind.  I do think that in revisiting his basics, he’s enjoyed being able to get quick rewards for known tasks.  Rugby is all about cutting right to the chase and getting that tidbit of food!

He’s known basic commands for nine years now, and he really is very rock solid on them.  I rarely “have” to offer treats to him, but I know that intermittent food rewards are the best way to win Rugby’s heart and keep him working hard.  It’s just important to remember that practice makes perfect, and all skills need to be practiced to keep our skill levels high….dogs included!  Let’s see what Rugby has to say about this subject!

Rugby James:

Well, lately the Mama has been working on fings what I already knows.  It seems silly to me, on account of I already knows how to do this stuff, but there’s snacks in it for me, and sum good play, and lotsa good pets, so I go along wif her!

Sumtimes we works inside the house, where there isn’t nuffing to distract me, and sumtimes we works outside in the back yard where there is varmints, and smells and sounds what can distract me.  Sumtimes we works in the back yard when our neighbor is out working on his car, on account of he does that wif friends, and they talks and laffs a big much what usually gets me into a big barking jag!  When all of the neighbors is away at work, the Mama and me works right in front of the house just a lil bit, on account of that is super scary to me!  The Mama calls it “stretching me out of my comfort zone” only I doesn’t know what that is.  Mostly I fink it means scary.

Because I gets very excited wif food rewards, the Mama mostly uses dog kibbles, and she usually trains about firty minutes after I has had a meal.  She always lets my breakfast or supper settle a bit in my tummy before she does any training.  And mostly, I’m not as hungry, so I’m a lil bit more patient wif her, and I works a lil bit better.  She saves the real exciting treats for times when we is working on very hard stuff….like don’t bark at the blender, or when the neighbor dogs is barking outside and I likesa give them my two cents!

I like to use treats that break easily so that Rugby is getting dime sized bites. Your dog only needs a taste…not a 12 course meal!

We works on basic command fings, like Sit/Stay, Down/Stay, Come When Called, Place, Get It, Leave It, Watch Me, and we does old tricks what I has done for a long time too.  When we works on a short leash, I hasta do the fing a few times before I getsa kibble or lotsa petting.  The Mama is a really good encourager, so she always uses those sweet words wif a soft sweet sound, she smiles, and she squints up her eyes a lil bit too.  I always gets encouraged a big much, and once in a while, the Mama gives me “jackpots” of kibbles, what is free or five of them, one at a time, really fast!  I does lubs me sum jackpots!!

Make sure you balance new things while you’re training the basics. Dogs love to learn new things all the time!!

We always works on new fings too, but I has really been lubbing sum extra work on stuff that I already know.  It makes me feel extra smart on account of I can do fings really fast and I doesn’t hasta fink very hard.  After we does a few of the basics, the Mama always frows in sumping new for me to mix it up a bit sos I doesn’t get all bored, and I likes that a lot.  And, she knows I’m smart, so she doesn’t make me do stuff a billion times in a row.  She has me do sumping I knows well free or four times and that’s it.  Then we getsa move onto sumping else.  She starts wif a lil handful of kibbles, and once that lil handful is gone, we don’t work anymore, so it usually goes really fast, and I likes that!  We just repeats it at different times during the day, and not all at once, so I like getting lil snacks froughout the whole day!

You might fink that your dogger won’t like doing stuff he already knows, but hopefully, you’ll try sum of these ideas, and see that he’s gonna be all in on the fun!  This kinda stuff is how you and your dogger will learn how to be a team, and we’re all about teamwork at my house!!

Building a great relationship with your dog is what training is all about!