Sunday, March 3, 2019

Buddy's story by Chelsie Blaine

I would like to thank Chelsie Blaine, a friend, I admire very much for being a guest writer on my blog.What she has to say here is so well written and resonates with my beliefs very much.
I am thankful to have her story to share. I believe this message should be shared everywhere, it is so important, it could save a life.

Chelsie is a staff member and dog trainer at Muskegon Humane.
Shown here are her personal pack she has adopted in to her home. 




Buddy’s Story
Written by Chelsie Blaine, CPDT-KA, PMCT-1
Navigating the world of dog training can be confusing at best; a quick Google search will yield a head spinning amount of results, with no shortage of conflicting information and ideas on the best way to go about it. To add to the confusion, the dog training industry is completely unregulated. Anyone can start a business and call themselves a dog trainer- or even a behaviorist- regardless of their skills and education level, or lack thereof, with no repercussions. One would hope that when enlisting the services of someone with the title of ‘professional’ they could trust that their pet is in safe hands. Dog owners can easily find themselves in the hands of an unqualified person using antiquated training methods on their dog, and it can have devastating consequences.
A dog very near and dear to my heart, Buddy, a dog that I fostered was the unfortunate victim of a painful training device still used and on the market today; a shock collar. Buddy was adopted from MHS in 2016 by a wonderful family. They loved, cherished, and spoiled him- he was a part of the family! We received many pictures of Buddy enjoying his new life and happy updates about how great Buddy was. He did bark and sometimes growl at unfamiliar people, but this was something they knew he struggled with and wanted to work on with him.
Buddy’s family found a trainer to help them with his behavior, and in their next update reported how well he was doing. We didn’t hear from them again until a few short months ago when I took the phone call that made my hear sink- Buddy had bitten someone quite seriously. 
His family was completely caught off guard- he had been doing so well! And the bite, his owner said, was ‘completely unprovoked’. Those words, “completely unprovoked’, immediately trigger my mind to ask more questions. More often than not, this is not the case. It may appear that way from the human point of view, but from the dog’s perspective something very bad or scary was going on that warranted the bite.
Through the conversation, I learned that the trainer they hired not only advised that they stop using all treats and rewards for any training at all, but that a shock collar was also used to correct him for barking and growling at strangers.  After 6 months, they thought the problem was solved- he no longer barked and growled at strangers. So when he “went nuts”, charged out of the house, and latched on to the leg of an unsuspecting pedestrian they were completely stunned. What on earth could cause him to do that?
The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior states, “When used effectively, punishment can suppress the behavior of fearful or aggressive animals, but it may not change the association underlying the behavior problem. For instance, if the animal is aggressive due to fear, then the use of force to stop the fearful reactions will make the dog more fearful while at the same time suppressing or masking the outward signs of fear. Once it can no longer suppress its fear, the animal may suddenly act with heightened aggression and with fewer warning signs of impending aggression. In other words, it may now attack with no warning.” (AVSAB Position Statement: The Use of Punishment for Behavior Modification in Animals).
 So, applying this information we know that what likely happened is that they had suppressed Buddy’s behavior; using the shock collar did not change his underlying stress around strange people. By treating his aggressive behavior as ‘being bad’ or ‘misbehaving’ rather than what it truly was- an attempt to communicate that he was uncomfortable- they unintentionally strengthened his negative association. He was able to mask his outward behavior for a period of time to avoid the painful shock, but when it became too difficult handle he reacted with heightened aggression. This is one of the unfortunate behavioral side effects that can come with using aversives to correct a behavior problem.
While Buddy’s story is one of the more extreme cases of what can happen as a result of the use of force in training, it is the reality of what can happen. The majority of dogs will go their entire lives without ever biting anyone, regardless of what training methods are used. For a portion of dogs, punishment works; but that does not mean it comes without consequence. The more common scenario is that the dog will ‘behave’ out of fear of being punished. The end result may be a well behaved, model canine citizen, but it comes at the cost of a diminished relationship with the dog and a reduced quality of life.
Without regulation or universally accepted industry standards, how do you make the best, most humane choice for your furry best friend when it comes to training? Jean Donaldson, respected behavior professional and author, suggests asking these three questions before hiring a trainer: “What will happen to my dog if he gets it right? What will happen to my dog if he gets it wrong? Are there any less invasive alternatives to what you propose?”- make sure you are comfortable with their answers.  Any ethical and professional trainer should not make you feel pressured, have your dog’s comfort and safety as a priority, and be able to explain to you exactly how and why the methods they advice work.
Seek out a trainer who utilizes force-free training methods. Force-free training focuses on a combination of positive reinforcement (the dog gets it right, we reward him- the behavior increases), management (preventing the dog from practicing unwanted behaviors), and negative punishment (the dog gets it wrong, we with hold the reward- the behavior decreases). Force-free training strengthens your bond with your dog, promotes active learning, and best of all- it can be fun! Use caution if the trainer practices traditional training methods, as they often utilize force. This can cause the dog to shut down to avoid corrections, have unintended behavioral side effects- such as increased fearful or aggressive behavior, and it does not teach the dog what we would like to him do instead.
Certifications and memberships to professional organizations are also good indicators that they are committed to continued education and the most modern, science based training techniques. Two reputable websites to start your search for a trainer are The Certification Counsel for Professional Dog Trainers ( and The Pet Professional Guild (
I hope that by sharing his story, I can prevent this tragic situation from happening to other dogs. We owe it not only to our dogs, but to our communities to make humane choices when it comes to training options for our dogs. Buddy is an unfortunate example of how our choices affect not only our dog’s wellbeing, but the safety of others in the community as well. Until we have the needed changes and regulations made in the industry, it is imperative to be your dogs best advocate and do your research when selecting a trainer and training equipment.
American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior. 2007. AVSAB Position Statement The Use of Punishment for Behavior Modification in Animals.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Healthy food can be "thy medicine."

Grandpuppy Cash

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

― Hippocrates

Recently my beautiful Grand puppy Cash was very ill. She started losing weight, coat became dull and muscles became weak. She is only 7 years old and all of a sudden she couldn't even make it up the stairs by herself. We knew something was terribly wrong! A lot of my work is done from home, so Cash came to stay with me for a week. I took her to my veterinarians, that I adore, and had tests done. 
I believe as wonderful as my veterinarians are, they are they only have so many hours in the day that has to be shared between clients. I also believe that every veterinarian cannot specialize in every area, such as nutrition, supplements, etc. I think one of the things I love about my veterinarians is they have an open mind and do not condemn me for doing my own homework. I am very holistic, and they are very respectful of my beliefs. I believe every being is different, we have to be our pets’ advocates and it is our responsibility to research. We have to decide what is going to be the best route for our beliefs and for their individual specific symptoms. Indian Shamans (healers), would come stay at your house and observe every aspect of your everyday life, before they would decide the best route to take. You cannot find a medical professional with that kind of time on their hands.. We have to put in that time.
The tests ruled out some things with Cash's condition, and it gave us the tools to find the best route for her. I have studied nutrition, but I also contacted nutrition experts, many friends, one a canine nutritionist. I went through the book, Canine Nutrigenomics from Dr. Dodd's, also a nutrition guru.
Cash had been on a lot of antibiotics in the past from chronic UTIs. She was also on a dehydrated food that when she ate too fast my daughter added less water thinking it would keep it thicker for her. We believe the combination of a compromised colon that was not able to absorb nutrients and a food not being properly hydrated, was causing her to basically starve. Antibiotics can wreak such havoc on the colon! My veterinarians prescribed vitamin B shots. We started her on some very good digestive enzymes, raw goat's milk, a different food, pumpkin, bone broth and more.
I am thankful, Cash is getting stronger and better every day! I believe it is due to the veterinarians, whole food, proper nutrition and the army of people with knowledge that I accessed, a lot of reading, and love sent to her by so many!
My friend Paula and I have written here in the past about the ever-important subject of nutrition. I urge you, to do your own research, be your pets advocate. Even if something is not wrong with your pet now, nutrition is the best preventative and important factor in life.
It disgusts me the things that FDA allows and if you get me on my soapbox I will go on and on. So instead I would like to offer you a few facts.

Dog Food Advisor states, according to the pet food industry , Official Publication, American Association of Feed Control Officials, “Generic meat meal can be legally made from road kill, dead, diseased or dying farm animals — even euthanized cats and dogs.”

 “FDA testing found pentobarbital in Nutro dog food ,Ol Roy dog food,Trailblazer dog food, Dad’s dog food,Weiss Value dog food,Super G dog food, Richfood dog food,Pet Essentials dog food, America’s Choice dog food, Ken-L-Ration Gravy Train dog food,Heinz Kibbles n Bits, Kibble Select dog food, Champ Chunx ,ProPlan dog food, Reward dog food” 

I would like to ask you to think on this, could you survive on dry cereal your whole life? Possibly, but would you thrive? 
I highly recommend  home cooking,ONLY after you research the proper ways(if you do it without research and unbalanced you can do more harm than good)
Learn to formulate through a course and or reading:

The book, Canine Nutrigenomics from Dr. Dodd's.

If you don't want to homecook please PLEASE DO HOMEWORK and RESEARCH. Where is your meat source from? Go to stores like Must Love Dogs in Grand Haven MI where the owner is a canine nutritionist and can advise you. 
Some good dog food names to look for,in my opinion are: Stella and Chewy, Answers, Zignature, and  Dr Harvey's.
I suggest adding some whole foods,raw goats milk, bone broth or at the very least water to hydrate the kibble so it is more readily absorbed and easier on the kidneys.Adding 5 minute boiled eggs, blueberries, steamed broccoli in the food processor and/or a no salt added sardine to  kibble. A good digestive enzyme like "Carna 4" added to your dogs food can help them absorb more of the nutrients they need to stay healthy. Some healthy treats your dog will beg for more of are : dehydrated organs and homemade goodies with blueberries, tart cherry juice, coconut oil, coconut flour, eggs and cinnamon. Remember to introduce new foods slowly so the digestive system can adjust. A body needs time to adjust to a new food , just like humans can not transition from junk food to all salads without a digestive adjustment.

We all need whole foods to keep our bodies functioning optimally, and our furry friends are no exception. 

Healthy food can be "thy medicine."

My dog Odin and grandpuppy Cash friends Odin is so thankful his buddy is better.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

What kind a difference do you want to make?

Ashley Perry and Wade Marrs
Photo credit Kim Perry

 “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”
― Jane Goodall

A fitting quote from a true inspirational hero of mine, to start a piece that includes two other inspirational people I admire so much. Ashley Perry and Iditarod Musher, Wade Marrs. I recently had the privilege of speaking once again with Ashley and her amazing, supportive, sweet mother, Kim Perry. I was also very fortunate enough to have the incredible opportunity to speak to Wade Marrs on the phone.

About a year and a half ago, I wrote about a courageous 14 year old young lady, Ashley Perry, from Anchorage, Alaska. Read more about Ashley here :

Ashley is a bright ray of sunshine to speak to. She inspires my heart. I named a shelter reading program at Muskegon Humane after her because she is the perfect roll model.  Ashley has Turner's syndrome,  and every three weeks has to go into the hospital for the day to receive IVIG infusions that have side affects that resemble chemo. That doesn't stop Ashley, no, not one bit! She has accomplished more and given back, than most adults have even begun to.

In the past year and half Ashley has supported many charities. She has expanded the reading program to 20+ shelters all over the WORLD, including Australia and Canada. Not only expanded it, but on her own, she also emails flyers to schools in the area so the word is circulated. 
Ashley reading to a new friend at a shelter

Reading to dogs in shelters allows children to spend time with the dogs in a loving, innocent non judging manner. This helps a very scared dog or anti-social dog become more adoptable and less likely to be returned. There is a video circulating from this reading program where a shelter had a lot of high energy and barking going on with the dogs, and as the child sat and read, the dogs all quieted and settled down like magic.

It seems that inspiration is also like magic. If you read my link above, you can read about Ashley's friendship with Iditarod Musher Wade Marrs and how they inspire each other to push harder into greatness.

I asked Wade if he had a message for our youth, our future leaders. He replied, "You can achieve your dream." As a child he was happily strapped on a dog sled by his uncle. He states,
"As a kid I dreamed of being a dog musher. I was able to achieve my goal by keeping focused on that. Ashley has the same kind of perseverance."

If you know me I am an animal lover like no other, but have occasionally been asked how can I support the Iditarod and find it so inspiring? I personally see only people who care extremely about their dogs and run their lives around the dogs not vice versa. I see courage and they inspire me!  There are going to be bad seeds in every group that give others a bad name. I have cringed watching people at obedience trials show cruelty. I find for the most part if you spend your whole life competing in a sport with your dog you most likely enjoy it.  When I asked Wade this question, he had a reply that I felt was so well said.  "You can't push a rope, they have to want to do what they are doing. I do it because I love to spend time with my dogs, the sport is just a bonus."

Wade helps to support Ashley, in every way, she calls him her brother. He talks about how much she inspires him and he helps her on spreading the word and being a spokesman for Turner's Syndrome Awareness. He has had a meet and greet, and provides rides at his kennel for others who have the Syndrome. He supports Ashley and would hope that you spread the word about her reading program and Turner's Syndrome Awareness. To find out more about hosting a reading program please contact Or locally

Ashley is helping Wade get the word out about his tours. where he gets to do what he loves best,  "spend time with his dogs in the woods."

Ashley and Wade true friends making a difference
Photo credit Kim Perry