Posts filed under ‘Articles, links’

Bloggers Unite for Pet Rescue & Mall Dogs

Dog Rescue Success
Aargh. I am one day late! Today is July 24th. Via this site:


  • Blog about a Dog Rescue related topic on July 23rd, 2012
  • Add one of the badges below to your blog and help spread the word
  • Donate to a local dog rescue organization
  • Foster a dog
  • Volunteer at a local shelter or rescue organization
  • Share this post across all forms of social media and encourage others to participate!

I could blog about my rescue dog Boogie, but we’ll take a little break from Boogie for now. I want everyone to know about a new documentary film project called MALL DOGS.

The film is by Jessi Badami, whom I met at Clicker Expo last year. We sat next to each other in the Kay Laurence seminar, chatted, exchanged business cards, and kept in touch over the year.

Jessi is amazingly prolific – she writes, she acts, she makes films, she rescues dogs, and she was going to enroll in the Karen Pryor Academy this year but changed her mind and decided to concentrate all her energy instead on making this documentary about Lucky Paws, a very unique and successful pet shelter in Albuquerque, NM, that is located inside a mall.

You can read more about this film on: the website  and on the film’s Kickstarter page.

Watch this video:


In short, MALL DOGS is an uplifting rescue story and I can’t wait to work on it. I will be creating illustrations and animations.

However, the Mall Dogs project can not happen if it doesn’t receive full Kickstarter funding in 30 days! Please donate. You can pledge any amount from as little as one dollar. Higher donations come with bigger and better premiums! Then, please share this blog post, tweet it, facebook it, pin it, do your social media thing.

“Mall Dogs” – Visit the Kickstarter page

Coming soon to Boogie’s blog:

  • My experience of Nicole Wilde’s seminar on “Separation Anxiety” & “Dog-Dog Play”
  • A review of the new “Tough Love” film

July 24, 2012 at 10:06 pm 3 comments

Understanding Doggie Play

I came across a brilliantly written blog post today – Have you heard the one about climate change and dog training?

I like this bit about “balanced dog training” –

What I’m advocating isn’t an all or nothing approach that discourages independent thinking.  What I’m suggesting is that according to the experts in this field, we are many years of work and mountains of evidence beyond having to balance our training philosophies because the real scientists have confirmed ten times over that the new art and science of animal behavior IS the field.

Which led me to another blog post by the same author where she analyzes the way her two dogs play.

we humans manage to anthropomorphize dogs in some of the most absurd and inappropriate ways, and yet don’t give them any credit as a species for possessing the same capacity for advanced social engagement that we do.

This blog post had a link to an very enlightening article in The Bark magazine: Is Your Dog’s Rough Play Appropriate? by Camille Ward & Barbara Smuts.

Coincidentally,  I am attending Nicole Wilde’s seminar on Dog-Dog Play this Sunday. I enrolled for two reasons: (1) I want to be more educated for Boogie’s sake so I understand what’s happening when he plays with another dog (2) I see this as research for my dog drawings.

Boogie rarely has the opportunity to play with another dog. We don’t have fences around here so it’s not safe to let him off-leash to run around with the neighbors’ dogs. Boogie sees his favorite play buddies – Rosie and Popeye- maybe 3 times a year because they live so far away.

A video from our last play date:

Here are some clippings from Is Your Dog’s Rough Play Appropriate? Some of this info is new to me and I find it fascinating:

Our research shows that for many dogs, play fighting is the primary method used to negotiate new relationships and develop lasting friendships. Although play is fun, it also offers serious opportunities to communicate with another dog. In this sense, play is a kind of language. Thus, when we regularly break up what we consider “inappropriate” play, are we doing our dogs a service, or confusing them by constantly butting into their private conversations? Most importantly, how can we tell the difference?

are traditional “no-no’s” like neck biting, rearing up, body-slamming and repeated pinning by one dog ever okay when two dogs are playing? It all depends on the individual dogs and the kind of relationship they have with one another.

This is very interesting –

…play does not necessarily have to be fair or balanced in order for two dogs to want to play with one another. Years ago, scientists proposed a 50/50 rule: for two individuals to engage in play, they must take turns being in the more assertive role. Scientists thought that if one individual was too rough or forceful (e.g., pinning her partner much more often than she was being pinned), the other dog would not want to play. Until our research, this proposition was never empirically tested.

There is an example of a “close canine friendship founded on unorthodox play”:

To this day, their play remains asymmetrical; Sage repeatedly brings down Sam with neck bites and continues to bite Sam’s neck once he is down. Sam wriggles on the ground and flails at Sage with his legs while Sage, growling loudly, keeps biting Sam’s neck. More than once, bystanders have thought the dogs were fighting for real, but Sage’s neck bites never harm Sam, and Sam never stops smiling, even when he’s down. Sometimes, when Sage is done playing but Sam is not, he’ll approach Sage and offer his neck, as though saying, “Here’s my neck; go ahead and pin me.” This move always succeeds; it’s an offer Sage cannot resist.

I am reminded of a little white fluffy girlfriend that Boogie used to play with (who no longer lives on our street). I used to worry that he was pinning her down and chewing on her neck too much. Well, there is so much misinformation about dogs being “dominant” that at the time I interpreted so much NORMAL dog communication as expressions of dominance. I have learned so much since then! Another common belief is that humping = dominance,  when humping is also pretty normal dog behavior associated with anxiety, arousal or social goofiness.

Boogie was off-leash in this very old video…

The article also draws attention to growls and snarly faces…

Play growls have different acoustical properties than growls given as threats, and when researchers played the growls back, dogs distinguished between play growls and growls given in agonistic (i.e., conflicting) contexts. If dogs can distinguish between types of growls in the absence of contextual cues (such as another playing dog), surely they know when a play partner’s growl is just pretend.

…dogs can exhibit nasty faces voluntarily, just as we do when we are only pretending to be mean.

…our studies have shown that dogs are very good at figuring out which dogs they want to play with and how to play well with their friends. Presumably, dogs are better than humans at speaking and understanding dog language. Perhaps it is time to humble ourselves and listen to them.

Also – Elisabeth Weiss: From The Dog’s Point of View 

I am looking forward to the Dog-Dog Play seminar on Sunday.

I will be bringing a sketch pad 🙂

July 18, 2012 at 4:36 am 2 comments

A very simple and awesome explanation of Clicker Training

A while ago, I came across this article: Why Clicker Training on TV would be a ratings disaster.The reasoning is that the process of clicker training  can appear repetitive and boring (click treat click treat click treat… no resistance from dog) compared to the technique of “dominating” a dog to make it do what you want, like on the Dog Whisperer Show. The theory is that a “battle of wills” makes for more interesting TV.

Well, I actually disagree that clicker training on TV would be a ratings disaster. If the trainer is a charismatic presenter, it could totally work. Zak George is a great example.

While I agree that an explanation of Clicker Training (Operant Conditioning) that uses lots of scientific/technical jargon (and presented like a science-lab process) could make audiences glaze over,  I believe it is possible to teach the SCIENCE in a clear, fun way that makes it easier for people to TALK about Clicker Training with normal everyday kid-level conversational language instead of having to use words like “quadrants”. Just my two cents. I am working on it.

Edit to add: Reward-based training without using treats

June 25, 2012 at 5:21 pm 13 comments

Dog Bite Prevention Week

It’s not my favorite week of the year – this is a subject that brings up all kinds of intense emotions. It’s the one week of the year where I worry that the strangers that Boogie has bitten in the past will change their minds, come back to sue me or request to have Boogie euthanized.  Yes, I know I am being paranoid and over-reacting. I am always worried that the percentage of people who have no idea why dogs bite and why it’s unsafe to invade a dog’s personal bubble, who are quick to blame the dog/owner is still way greater than the percentage of people who are educated and compassionate.

Dr. Sophia Yin has a great article about what people do around dogs to get bitten and how things are from the dog’s perspective.

Article: A Time To Take Responsibility For Dog Bites

Dickinson (director of the Sacramento County Animal Care and Regulation) describes one common scenario, “People get bitten because they see a dog they don’t know. It’s not acting aggressive. It’s just kind of walking around. They go up to it and they think the first thing you should do is put their hand out and let the dog sniff your hand.”

This may surprise most people, but even though we are commonly told that we should greet dogs by reaching out, in actuality, this can be very scary, especially if you’re a stranger to the dog.

Dickinson explains, “The dog doesn’t know you’re reaching out in friendship. You’re just coming at them. A lot of times people get nipped that way. It’s just the dog’s way of saying, ‘You’re in my space. Stay away from me. I’m not interested in you right now.'”

Related links:

Dog Bites are preventable…

Help! My Dog Bites!

Dog Bite Prevention Week blog post (last year’s blog post)

And this video, animated by me for Dr. Sophia Yin.

May 24, 2012 at 8:46 pm 5 comments

The Behavioral Revolution

This is fascinating. Excerpts from the Patient Like The Chipmunks DVD which I am tempted to order, but I think this video clip already offers plenty of amazing footage.

After watching this clip, I now fully understand why Operant Conditioning or Clicker Training is sometimes criticized as being too cold, too mechanical or emotionless.  As in the YouTube video above by Bob Bailey, he shows how the Brelands (Animal Behavior Enterprises) successfully trained thousands of animals of different species using  Behavioral Science (vs. old school aversive methods)  such that they could have their animal shows travel around the country, and be coin-operated and fully-automated like Skinner boxes.  There is proof here that direct human contact or interaction is unnecessary and … I don’t know… there’s something a little depressing about the way these animals perform like little robots – repeating the same behaviors over and over again – even if they are all well-paid and treated humanely.

On the other hand, it is exciting to know that anyone can learn these training skills, that there are logical explanations for the whys and hows, and that the methods are always evolving in a more intelligent and humane direction. The nerd in me would love to attend one of Bob Bailey’s chicken training camps and I love this Bob Bailey quote from Sophia Yin’s article “Bells & Whistles” in the current issue of The Bark magazine…

Crafts generally develop over thousands of years and tend to preserve what’s old and what has been done before. Information is passed down in secret from master to apprentice, and the apprentice must never question the master. As a result, when errors are introduced, they tend to be preserved. Another characteristic of a craft is that a change is designed only to solve an immediate problem . Rarely do they look for general principles.

Science on the other hand, is a systematic way of asking questions, a process that eventually weeds out mistakes. It’s guided by principles and data, and researcher’s approaches change and are revised as new information comes to light. As a result, science advances quickly compared to craft.

… which is interesting when considering  Why Dominance Won’t Die.  (…interesting choice of photo)

Related links/good reads:

Keller and Marian Breland Create the Field of Applied Animal Psychology
by Sophia Yin

Dog Whisperer, Horse Whisperer. What is all the Whispering About? by Cindy Ludwig

The Pursuit of Happiness – Is There Room For Emotion in Dog Training? by Jane Killion

Emotionless Training by Sara Reusche, whom I collaborated with on this illustrated guid to Playing With Your Dog:

(click to see it larger/download options)

Speaking of learned behaviors, yesterday Boogie was on his bed next to the heater. His body was awkwardly twisted around because he was trying to lick himself. He accidentally hit the heater with his leg – CLANG! – freaked out, ran to the window and barked.  You know, UNFAMILIAR NOISE –> BARK AT WINDOW. Even if he caused the noise himself.

Another classic example is the time when Boogie ran around the room chasing his ball. In his klutzy excitement, he bumped into my leg and jumped back with a huge yelp like I had kicked him. I threw his ball and all was forgotten.

Never a dull moment around here with my sensitive Boogie! 🙂

April 13, 2012 at 10:07 pm 6 comments


A few weeks ago, Marshall from  Coffee With A Canine invited me to participate in an email interview.

Here we are! –>  Lili Chin and Boogie

March 28, 2012 at 6:43 pm 1 comment

Doggy links and stuff

This blog post has absolutely nothing to do with Boogie.

I suppose by now, most people have seen the Food On My Dog tumblr blog? Tiger the Staffy-Bulldog gets photographed with food on her head. And according to the FAQ, this lucky girl gets to eat most of the food on her head 🙂

Today I found Maddie On Things. Maggie, the coonhound is photographed standing or sitting on fences, rocks, furniture, scooters…  I am so impressed. Of course, I can make Boogie pose on ANYTHING, but not in real life 🙂

And then, I had to order this mug.

Sale ends in only 1 day, at http://www.fab.com

March 14, 2012 at 7:10 pm 4 comments

Good reads – dog behavior-related

The Paws Abilities blog. I have only just found this excellent blog.

Denver Dog Behavior blog   by Michael Curran.

A very interesting article about dog’s eyes and how different breeds see differently.  (via Dr Sophia Yin’s facebook)

Meanwhile, I am recovering from a cat attack. Yep, an extremely fearful aggressive CAT that lunged at Boogie and me. I will spare everyone the most recent photo of my leg which is covered in huge swollen bruises. I am also on antibiotics and still very very relieved that Boogie was not seriously harmed.

I love this photo of Boogie, taken a few days ago.

February 23, 2012 at 4:42 pm 11 comments

The Denver dog bite incident and BAD DOGS

There has been a LOT of internet discussion on this topic already. Everyone should read this article: A Perfect Storm. Also Sophia Yin: When A Kiss Can Get You Bitten  (with my illustrations!)

The whole incident brings up some horrible memories for me,  being the owner of a dog that has bitten people (even before I adopted him), and we’re talking  Level 1,2,3, and 4 bites . I can personally relate to how traumatic it must be for everyone – the person who gets bitten, the dog, and the owners of the dog. The first time that this happens is especially traumatic.

I was fortunate that the person that Boogie had bitten with a Level 4 bite was a dog-lover and did not sue me, and that Boogie does not look like a pit bull.

But I did spend $$$$ as a result of that incident and I remember the emotional trauma I went through  dealing with the authorities who wanted to take Boogie away from me and dump him back in a shelter. I fought really really hard to keep him, claiming as much responsibility as they would let me.  Last thing I wanted was for Boogie to be back at a shelter or rescue. This was a life-changing incident as you can imagine and one that has led to me learning everything I could about dog behavior, and sharing all these illustrations.

The news reports are upsetting because the implication is very clear that the “aggressive dog” is to blame. Max the biter was quarantined for 10 days not for rabies testing as they say (this is not technically possible) but because he had bitten someone and was therefore considered a dangerous criminal. His “crime” was worse because it was to the FACE (as opposed to a foot or hand, I suppose). Never mind that the news anchor was the one who stuck HER face in his face by kissing him on the nose and freaking him out. No doubt her intentions were loving. Most people don’t know how to correctly greet a dog and/or don’t know how to read signs of discomfort in dogs until something bad happens.

What remains so disturbing is that after the storm, there has been no apology  from the Denver News crew – nobody is taking any responsibility here for human errors  and so Max still looks like a good dog gone bad…

“Max has no history of aggression. Max is a gentle, loving, family dog. Max is well-mannered and obedient, and he hardly barks. This incident truly is unfortunate and does not reflect Max’s disposition towards people.” (statement from Max’s owner)

And I suppose things don’t bode well for the breed –

Argentine mastiffs, also known as the Argentine Dogo, are known as big-game hunters and historically have gone after wild boars and pumas. While they are now used as pets, they were bred from a rather violent group of dogs. Because of the dogs’ violent nature, several areas have banned the breed, including Aurora, Colorado. Aurora is the neighbouring city to Denver, where the broadcast took place. The animal is also banned in New York City public housing, and laws in the UK allow police to take the dogs away from their owners and prosecute them.

And so poor Max  has become a dog “with a history of aggression”. Branded a bad dog.


As I was writing this blog post, there was a loud knock on my door, Boogie rushed to the window (the one that isn’t covered) and growled his head off.  The mailman was outside with a package that I had to sign for. I put Boogie in his crate (where he was howling and crying) and stepped outside. Our conversation went something like this:

ME: Sorry for the wait, I was putting my dog in the crate.

MAILMAN: You said that three years ago.

ME: What?

MAILMAN: You really love that dog don’t you?

ME:Yes I do.

MAILMAN: That dog bit me, you know? 

Several years ago, the mailman reached out to pet Boogie and Boogie snapped at him. No skin broken. I started looking for a trainer around this time.

ME:  I know, and I am really sorry. He hasn’t bitten anyone since I started training him.

MAILMAN: Yeah, three years ago you said you were training him. Three years ago.  Why is he still barking at me?

ME: He has not bitten anyone since. As for barking, this isn’t personal. You have to understand – you are the mailman, you are someone who comes and goes… you are not part of the family. And a lot of dogs have a problem with mailmen. There is really nothing personal in this and it’s something I am trying very hard to control. In fact I can’t control everything that my dog does. It’s not easy.

MAILMAN: That dog is a problem.

ME: I know he isn’t the perfect dog and this is why I keep working with him. Did you see I put frosting on the windows?

MAILMAN: It has been three years. I don’t know how you could love a dog like that.

In light of reading about the Denver incident, my own memories being dredged up, the drafting of this blog post, the last thing I needed today was to have someone try to make me feel guilty (in a passive aggressive way) for keeping and loving a “bad dog”, and for putting me on the spot to explain Boogie’s behavior. This  mailman  has had Boogie’s barking explained to him so MANY TIMES before by myself and by dog trainers. (barking is reinforced by mailman leaving etc etc )  He clearly does not want to understand dog behavior, accepts no explanations, hates my dog,  and I really don’t know what else to say.

When the mailman left, I burst into tears. Even though I personally don’t believe Boogie is a bad dog,  and why should I care what other people think, it is still upsetting. I can’t help feeling immense empathy right now for “bad dogs” and the owners of these “bad dogs” everywhere…especially those of us who are trying so  hard to educate ourselves and others.


*Edit to add* This comment from a pet dog behavior specialist (on this FB post about the Denver incident):

One aspect of the video overlooked in most commentaries is the owner’s behavior. The owner held the collar tight,but the dog was on leash. The owner may not be a great reader of canine body language, but he knew his dog was uncomfortable. The owner held the collar tight because he felt his dog had the potential to act out in the situation. Why couldn’t he express this feeling? Because it would require a tacit admission that his dog might act “aggressively.” Dog aggression is taboo, especially from a Dogo Argentino. So the owner pretended his dog was fine, while tightening up on the collar. Now, after the bite, the owner is forced into a defensive position regarding his pet’s behavior, with no lesson learned. Dog owners need to feel more empowered to tell people when their dog is uncomfortable.

So true.

February 14, 2012 at 5:09 am 13 comments

Some video links

I have been SO busy. I had started drafting up a post about The Culture Clash, with some illustrations in mind, but have been swamped with work and deadlines.

Sharing here some YouTube videos I found recently:

From Zak George – a very interesting point about rewarding with PLAY vs rewarding with FOOD, when teaching something very physical. I remember the times I have tried to teach Boogie cues (involving a toy) and he became more interested in running off with the toy or playing tug with it than in receiving food treats.

I have also noticed that when Boogie is barking at somebody outside (that was before I applied the Window Film – see previous blog post), I could more easily redirect his attention with the tennis ball than with food because he was so hyped up.

Article by Casey Lomonaco: When Food Is the Wrong Answer

I like the idea of using play as reinforcement but… still haven’t successfully trained “Drop it” or “Let go” …

And THIS! 🙂

February 4, 2012 at 8:02 pm 10 comments

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