As dog lovers, we all want to believe that every dog we meet is a happy and well-adjusted dog that loves to be petted and played with! We also want to think that our dog will get along with every dog it meets because it is socially well adjusted. Unfortunately that is nowhere near the truth!

Case in Point:
My dog and I were enjoying our walk several weeks ago when we came in contact with an elderly gentleman who was walking his two little dachshunds. Its was one of those peaceful scenes that would make a great painting.Stranger danger

As we got closer to them, the dogs both exploded into a volley of uncontrollable barking and began lunging in our direction. In itself, this is not that uncommon. But this time it raised some concerns with me. That was because just a few houses away from us were several small children playing in the front yard. They looked to be between 4-7 years of age.

With their tails tucked and the hair on the back of their necks standing straight up, these two dogs were showing me signs of fear aggression. They were obviously very uncomfortable and warning us to back away. The owner was apologetic. I assured him that I understood the situation and we moved back and across the street to help defuse it.

We held our position for a minute or two and watched them move down the street. As they did, I noticed that the man also crossed the street to make more distance between himself and the kids. I was glad to see that he was aware of the possible issues at hand.

My concern became confirmed as I saw one of the kids run to the curb as the two dogs began to pass by. I held my breath for a few seconds, but relaxed when I heard the child ask if she could pet the dogs.

The man thanked the little girl for asking but told her that his dogs were not used to being around kids so she better not approach them. Needless to say I was very impressed with both the child and the dog owner.

After giving the man a minute to make his way down the street, we continued down the street. Sure enough, the girl asked me if she could pet my dog. So I put my dog in a “sit” and told her it was OK to come over. I took the opportunity to praise her for “asking” before she approached us.

Just then the little girl’s mom came out of the house and asked what was going on. I explained the situation and told the mom that I was very impressed with her little girl. After talking with the mom for a few minutes I found out that the family had just gotten a new Yorkie from the shelter last week and that she is teaching the kids about dogs. I told her about “A Better Dog 4U” and told them if they needed any Dog Training Tips I would be more than happy to help them if they wanted it. Then we continued on our way.

For many years we have made a very big deal of teaching our kids about the dangers of talking to strangers. Tehe fact of the matter is that not all dangerous strangers are humans! It’s also very important to teach our children about the dangers of approaching dogs, cats and other animals that they don’t know.

Many thousands of dog bites can be prevented and the lives of thousands of good dogs could be saved every years if teachers, parents and dog owners would just take just a few moments to instruct kids they know about these dangers.

It’s up to all of us to keep our loved ones safe. The human ones … and our pets!

Why You Should Never HIT Your Dog!

All dogs misbehave from time to time. When this happens it is very tempting to correct the bad behavior with a swat on the butt, or another handy place on your dog’s body. But you should never discipline your dog in this way.

Spanking or other physical corrections can be confusing or frustrating to your dog.

If your dog is acting out, or not following your instructions, you need to ask yourself “WHY” this is happening. Some of the reasons why may be:

1). The dog does not understand the dog training.
2). Something in the environment may have the dog over stimulated or distracted.
3). Doing what you asked may cause the dog pain or fear.
4). The training has not been proofed enough.

Dogs are not vindictive and do not intentionally disobey. Spanking or hitting your dog can cause the dog to become hand-shy or fearful of you. If your dog becomes fearful, it can cause the dog to lash out and bite you or someone else nearby.

Hitting your dog will never teach him the desired behavior.

Dogs will only listen to you if they trust you and respect you. If you break that trust your dog is never going to listen to you. Instead of hitting, take a step back and figure out why the dog isn’t listening to you. If you can’t figure it out, contact a local training or ask your veterinarian for advice.

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Reasons Why Talking to Your Dog Is Important in Training

I’ll be the first to admit that I talk out loud to my dog.

It is well known that talking to newborn babies in a kind and reassuring voice improves bonding between the parent and child. Much less know is that people who talk their dogs tend to have a much stronger bond with their dogs than those owners who don’t.

A lot of people talk to their dogs, but I’m not talking about all of those words like “Get Back Here,””No No No, Not in the House,” and “Leave The Cat Alone.” I’m talking about the same types of conversations you might have with that baby or even your best friend.

OK, I’ll give you that it can be a bit embarrassing when you get caught talking to your dog about your new boss, or the argument you had with your spouse last night. For this reason you may want to use a “filter” when you talk to your dog in public. Maybe save the juicy stuff for when you are behind closed doors.

Here are several good reasons we should all have daily conversations with our dogs.

Researchers have proven that dogs understand a lot of what we say by using cognitive association. Without understanding all of our words, dogs are capable of reading our body language and the tone of our voice in order to determine our state of mind at that moment in time.

It has also been suggested that the sounds we make help to develop an emotional feeling long before words have any meaning to them. This means that dogs read us by our body language and tone before they hear the words we speak.

– While all dogs are as different as all humans, it is a known fact that most dogs can understand as many as several hundred words.

During training an average dog is training to recognize as few as eight words and as many as one hundred depending on the kind and amount of tasks it is being train to complete. Most of this training is done through word association. We teach the dog to realize that when it hears a sound that sounds like “Sit” it needs to put its butt on the ground in order to get a reward.

Most of us also know that there are a few words that we must S-P-E-L-L O-U-T in order to keep the dog from associating the sound of it to something that it knows and understands. Dogs are capable of understanding long strings of words if they are repeating often enough. I have actually taught all of my dogs the phrase, “Don’t You Make Me Come Over There.”

– As we mentioned earlier, dogs read our body language and our tone of voice.

While there are other ways to relate to your dog, people who take the time to regularly talk to their dogs tend to have a stronger bond with them. That bond enforces trust and respect between the dog and the human.

Being closely bonded with your dog will make training easier because the dog will trust that you are asking it to do something it needs to know to please you.  They see it as being mutually beneficial.

– There is an old saying: “If you have a dog you have a workout buddy, a best friend and a therapist all rolled into one.” That’s actually a lot closer to the truth than you might think.

While it is normal to contemplate issues and problems, talking to your dog can help you verbalize them which can help you work them out much quicker.

Talking to dogs is proven to help children too. There are programs that provide dogs to children who have reading and speaking problems. Dogs help them because they are a non-judgmental friend and companion who is only there to listen.

Talking to dogs also helps the elderly reconnect and stay active when they are on their own or in retirement or nursing facilities. Animals of all kinds have also been shown to have the ability to open the lines of communication from children with autism who have been previously unwilling to interact with family and caregivers.

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Question and Answer Time.

ImageIn and effort to help make the lives of dogs and humans better we’d like to offer you any help you might need.

Do you have any questions, comments …. or even some good answers about dogs, dog training, healthcare & maintanence of dogs?

Post them here and if we can’t give you an answer, we’ll find some who can!

Patchs and Neka Playing


This is a video of Patchs and Neka playing. It was taken in my back yard in June 2009. This kind of play session happened 2-3 time per day, everyday! And they both looked forward to some rough-housing to burn off their extra energy.

If you read my past few posts you will remember that Neka was a “basket case” when I got her. The Rescue I got her from told me that she was so anti-social that she would never be able to be around other dogs, and would have to be the “only” dog in the household. They also had concerns about her being around kids and men as she seamed to be very fearful.

This video was taken almost 22 months after I got Neka. By this time I had worked with her for hundreds of hours. Both alone and in controlled situations with people and with other dogs. She was pretty well over her fear issues and had been well socialized. She had learned that dogs and humans were her friends and she loved to play with other dogs and loved to be around people, especially little kids.

When this video was taken Patchs had been living with us for about 2 months and it was like they had been best buddies for ever. They bonded almost instantly! In the 3+ years they were together they only had one little issue and it was over a treat that fell on the floor. The whole thing lasted about 2 seconds because I was right there to stop it as it started! (Patchs started it).

Socializing dogs correctly is the key. With these two, it took me almost a full month of backyard playtimes to make sure that they were cool with each other in every situation before I agreed to bring Patchs into our home!

Socializing is not rocket science. It is just a matter of being aware of the dog’s personality and body language, and then being able to control situations before they get out of hand. This comes by bonding with the dog as soon as you can. Being able to stop play sessions like this one when I saw things starting to “heat up” kept them from playing to rough or going to far. A simple “Enough” followed by “Lay Down” given to each dog was like pushing the “restart” button.

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Paying it Forward – Update

Back in October of 2012 I had a chance to work with two very nice young ladies. They are hungry for knowledge about dogs and I shared quite a bite of it with them. The sisters, then 5 and 10 years old, both love dogs, but the 5 YO was afraid of bigger dogs. Patchs is a bit “high strung” and that didn’t help.

By Best Friend Patchs


UPDATE: Patchs and I spent a few hours per week playing with the girls and the girls got to safety interact with Patchs in a fenced-in area.

I spent most of my time working with the 5 YO because she clearly needed to learn that the dog would not hurt her. I showed her that by just looking at the dog  she could see what the dog was thinking and what it was going to do. Then I showed her how to use her voice and her body to control Patchs.

After about one month, she was no longer afraid of Patchs, and in fact, she started to play fetch and even started playing “chase” with her. Everytime we walk in that neighborhood, Patchs would turn into their driveway. Patchs had a new friend! Even better, every time we would see the little girl she asked us if we could stop to play for a few minutes. I get a big “Warm Feeling” in my heart every time when we get ready to leave because, she asks us, “WHEN are going to come back again!”

As I’ve said before, it’s very rewarding to “pay it forward”. Mentor kids about dogs is exciting for me because I get to watch them learn and when they “get it” their eyes get wide and a big smile spreads across their faces. It’s very cool to see that look when they realize that they can communicate with an animal in a completely natural way.

Teaching kids to properly treat animals (with love and respect) at an early age will build good character that will serve them in all areas of later life. We as adults have a responsibility to give the children in our little corner of the world all of the tools they will need to become not only great pet owners, but responsible members of society.

Teaching them to work with nature (not against it) will help a lot.

Paying It Forward Continues – Teaching Our Kids to Respect Dogs

The Iowa Dog Trust is ALL about teaching our young people about the correct way to interact with dogs.

Yesterday I had a chance to work with two very nice young ladies. They are hungry for knowledge about dogs and I am more than happy to share mine with them.

The sisters, 5 years old, and 10 years old, both love dogs. The 10 YO wants her own dog in the worst way, but mom and dad want to wait until the 5 YO is older and more comfortable around them. (I applaud them for their wisdom).

Patchs and I spent a few hours yesterday playing with the girls and the girls got to safety interact with Patchs in a fenced-in area. I talked with them about using their voice to control dogs, taught them some basic commands, and showed them some basics of how to read a dog’s body language. Patchs and I will be dropping by again this afternoon for a little “refresher”.

It is very rewarding to me to “pay it forward” and I love to mentor kids about dogs. It is exciting to watch them as they learn and it is a great feeling when the “get it” and realize that they can communicate with an animal in a respectful and natural way.

I feel that it is extreemly important to teach kids how to properly treat animals, (and other humans for that matter) with love and respect at the earliest possible age. We have a responsiblity to give them all of the tools they need to become not only great pet owners, but responsible members of society. Teaching them to work with nature (not against it) will help them in all areas of later life.

Guard Dog on Duty

The following story was told to me by one of my friends in a Facebook Group. I thought you guys would like to read about a REAL Guard Dog. Thanks for sharing it Ann, I always enjoy your literary style!

My Audrey is a wonderful guard dog.

This morning I saw her sniffing the air… then her ears perked up. She can smell and hear thieves a mile away.

As they came closer, she began nudging my elbow… closer still, she grabbed the sleeve of my shirt and tugged. When I didn’t seem to understand that this was an emergency, she began barking… “Thieves are coming! Thieves are coming! THIEVES!!!!”

I could hear nothing, and it is still dark, so I could see nothing.

She persisted, barking louder and more fiercely as yellow lights came down the road.

Finally, I could see them. They stopped right in front of our house, causing Audrey to go WILD, spinning in circles, screaming at them, but it didn’t deter them. They took our trash anyway.

Supporting and Encouraging Our Loved Ones

Why would someone tell somebody else, “There’s no way you will ever be able to get that done!” Or, What makes you think you can do that, you don’t have any clue!”

OK, I know you’ve heard me say this before, but it STILL amazes me how unsupportive some people are. Even those who claim to be “On Our Side”, like our friends and family are guilty of it.

Sure, sometimes we need to be “poked and prodded” into action, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about someone being told that they might as well give up or not waste the time trying.

The Details:

A concerned dog owner contacted me. This person is having problems with a very fearful dog. He is afraid of everything. They have been working with the dog for many months but have not been able to find anything that helps.

They went on to say that both friends and family members have suggested that they get rid of the dog (send it to a shelter) and let someone else worry about it! The problem with that is, that most shelters are already stretched to the limit and a dog with fear issues would more than likely be put down to make more room for more adoptable dogs.

My response was to spend as much time reading about the problem and the possible solutions. I also suggested that they find a local trainer that specializes in fear issues. I also offered any help I could give as I have more than a passing knowledge in these matters.

My point was to encourage and praise the owner for not giving up on the dog. We do give up on a family member when they have behavioral issues. Why would we do it to a family pet!

What You Should Know Before Adopting a Special Needs Dog

We all know what is meant by the term “Special Needs Dog” means, Right?

For those who may think they know, but aren’t really sure; A “special needs” dog is any dog that requires help or assistance doing the things that all other dogs can do without help. Like their human counterparts, “special needs” dogs may have physical or mental disabilities.

Caring for a “special needs” dog can be a daunting task if you are not prepared and knowledgeable about the disability that that particular dog has. “Special Needs” can cover a wide range of issues. It may be something simple like an amputation or something as difficult as mental issues that make the dog afraid of everything including it’s own shadow. 

Dogs with physical disabilities can live perfectly happy lives if they have the right owners. Most of these dogs need no special medications, but do require an owner that can fore see potential barriers and issues before they become a problem.

Many people see physical disabilities in a dog as a sign of a broken and unfixable pet. This isn’t the case. Nor is it true that a dog with a medical or mental issue is any less of a good pet. If anything, these dogs are usually much more affectionate and appreciative of the care they get.

The only thing you must remember is that they will require extra care and supervision to keep them safe and happy. Some “special needs” dogs require medications, a special diet, or a piece of equipment to allow them to get around. This will often equate to spending more money, so people who are thinking about taking on a “special needs” dog need to keep these things in mind.

While “special needs dogs” are usually thought of as dogs that require help because of a physical or mental issue, many dogs that are rescued have been neglected or abused. These dogs can have emotional scars that require special attention.

A few years ago I adopted Neka, a 2 year-old German Shepherd. She was dumped on a gravel road in the country and left for dead at a very young age. After many months on her own she was captured by a local shelter, nursed back to health and was taught the basics. Unfortunately the staff and volunteers were spread much to thin, and Neka still suffered from a lack of socialization and a fear of sudden noises, thunderstorms, strangers and yes, other dogs.

With lots of patience, 24 hour a day positive guidance and only reward based training, it took several months to get her to relax and to fully trust me. It took her about a year to feel at ease around unfamiliar humans. But surprisingly, she made friends with four of the neighbor dogs very quickly. As soon as she learned that they weren’t going to attack her and steal her food, that is.  Before she passed away last year of a sudden illness, she was a happy and well-adjusted dog and was perfectly comfortable in almost every situation she was asked to be a part of.

Adopting a “special needs” dog is similar to adopting a regular dog, but there are a few additional things to consider. Instead of just jumping in to it, you really must think about all of the circumstances surrounding the dog’s needs. The worst thing that you can do is to take on a dog that you are not prepared to care for. It doesn’t help you or the dog if you are forced to return or surrender the dog you’ve just adopted.

If you’re thinking about adopting a “special needs” or older dog, there are a few things you need to ask yourself, including:

1.) What are the additional financial costs? Medications, treatments or a special diet may be required. Dogs with mobility issues may need therapy or more frequent vet visits or surgeries. Older dogs will need to have their teeth cleaned more often and may need more surgeries for health issues.

2.) Can I accommodate the dogs needs? As a caregiver, you’ll need to make sure you are available to meet the needs of a “special needs” dog. Medications may need to be given several time per day or they may need to be let outside. It’s your responsibility to find a way to address them before introducing the dog into your home.

3.) How will the dog fit in with the rest of the family? Animals with emotional issues may feel overwhelmed with young children or other dogs. They may panic and try to attack someone if there is a lot of frantic activity in the house. Additionally, introducing a new dog into your home when you already have pets can be a challenge. Before you adopt, inquire about any conditions the dog may not be able to tolerate. Some shelters and rescues allow you a short-term “fostering” period to make sure the dog would be comfortable living in your home. They vary in length from an overnight stay to a few days.


Special needs dogs and older dogs everywhere need homes. Thousands die every day just because they don’t have a home to go to, so you won’t need to look very far to find one to adopt. You might want to consider these places:

1.) Local humane shelters. Almost every animal shelter from coast to coast is filled to capacity. Sadly those animals that have been there the longest, are the oldest or need special care are never adopted.

2.) Breed-specific rescue groups. If you are interested in adopting a specific breed, the chances are very good that there is a rescue group that would be happy to place a dog in your home.

3.) National Pet databases. There are thousands of groups that take in stray and abandoned pets all over the world. When they are checked by a veterinarian, immunized and spayed or neutered, they are placed for adoption in a searchable online database by breed, age, size, gender and special needs. is by far the largest and is able to match up people with the ideal pet.

4.) Become a Foster. Fostering is a great way to help a dog in need when you can’t afford to do it. Volunteering to foster a dog in need can help take some pressure off of the shelter or rescue group. Your efforts will help the dog adapt, learn and become more socialized before it is suitable for permanent adoption. Have you ever adopted a special needs or older pet? Tell us about your experiences.

Have you ever adopted a special needs or older pet? Tell us about your experiences.