Considerations for the City Dog: The Commandments of Working With a Service Provider

I worked with groomers, daycare providers, dog walkers, overnight care providers, animal control, and vets to come up with this cheat-sheet for working with a service provider. This can be found in my book, Considerations for the City Dog, out this spring. 

The Commandments of Working with a Service Provider:

      You should work in partnership with us, just as you should with your kids’ teachers and coaches. Yes, we are being paid, but in order for the relationship to work and your dog’s safety ensured, you have to work with us every step of the way.
      You need to share everything, everything, about your dogs with your provider, including that Sparky had French fries the night before, and that he once got away from you and disappeared for a week.
      You need to have reasonable expectations of what a professional can accomplish in the limited time we spend with dogs. A trainer can only get so far if you aren’t putting in the time to work with your dog after a class. A dog walker can give your dog a nice little outing, but your dog might still need to run with you when you get home. A groomer can only do a light trim if you are also brushing at home- otherwise, it’s “shave and a haircut-two bits!” A vet can only diagnose and give you a plan - it’s up to you to follow the plan.
      If you are going to frequent dog parks and other dog recreation areas, you need to learn what constitutes healthy (and unhealthy) dog play. “Just let them work it out” works in some cases, but not all cases. If you want to study on your own, pick up Patricia McConnell’s book on safe play[1] or look at Dr. Sophia Yin’s website on safe dog park etiquette[2] so you know when to intervene, when not to intervene, and how to diffuse a situation safely. You can also talk with qualified, certified trainers to help you.
      You need to know about common illness that spread when dogs play in groups, like giardia, coccidia, papilloma and kennel cough. You should be aware of the symptoms of these common ailments, recognize them, know how to prevent them, see a vet for diagnosis, get treatment when applicable, and report them to your provider.
       See a vet if your dog has diarrhea, signs of any skin infection, an ear infection, limping, and coughing. We are all dog service providers, but we are not all medical professionals, so please, please, please see your vet for any ailment. (I personally can’t tell you how many times I’ve told students “he’s limping. I think it might be his knee, but you need to go to the vet” only to have it be the shoulder, the neck, a toe, and in one really bizarre case, an ear infection.) We can only tell you that something’s wrong, but the vet can tell you what is wrong and how to fix it. We are all part of the same team. Put another way - while Tom Brady is a great quarterback, he’s not going to be an effective lineman. If you are not sure if it’s serious, call the animal hospital and ask if your pet should be seen.
      If your dog has diarrhea, please don’t bring it to the park, daycare, or participate in group activities.
      The same goes for pink-eye...
      ...and puppy warts.
      If you are calling a service provider into your home for help, please tell us in advance if the dog is going to jump on us, run away from us, bark at us, or try to eat us. It’s just a nice thing to know walking in.
      You need to be willing to call the Animal Control Officer when a situation arises that poses a threat to other dogs and owners. Additionally, you need to know what information to get from another owner if your own dog gets attacked, or is the attacking dog. Fear of quarantine is not justification to avoid calling animal control. You should have this number in your phone. When in doubt, call. 

Thanks so very much to Pat Dains of On the Run, a dog playgroup service in Somerville MA for helping me with this list!

[1] Patricia McConnell, Off-Leash Dog Play: A Complete Guide to Safety and Fun! (C&R Publishing, 2008).

[2] Sophia Yin, "Dog Park Etiquette: Rules to Help Dogs Get Along," August 23, 2012 (http://drsophiayin.com/blog/entry/dog-park-etiquette-rules).


Looking for Photos for "Considerations for the City Dog" Book

Hey guys!

With your help, I got almost 200 photo submissions! I'm totally and completely floored by that number. I thought I'd get 30, max. The photos came as far as Washington State and California and as locally as my own back yard. This truly is wonderful and I can't wait to share all of these urban dogs with the world.

With that said, there are still a few holes in the book that need to be filled so I'm reaching out for a few specific shots.

  • Photos of dogs walking in head collars and harnesses.
  • Photos of dogs up to typical antics to drive us nuts (chewing our stuff, jumping on people, pooping in the living room....
  • Dogs using a variety of puzzle toys and other types of mental stimulation (finding something, in a dog training class, working for a CGC, using their brain to accomplish a task) 
  • Dock Diving Dogs 
  • Flyball
  • Earth Dog

If you have any of these things, I'd love to include them in the book! As always, thanks so much!



This Photo: I Love This Dog And His Spirit

This photo came through last week.

The quality of the photo is blurry so it's not going to cut it for the book. However, the story that came with it, and how far the story came made me want to commend this dog for being a trooper!

Here is the story and the photo:

Picture of my best buddy Ty. 
He is a twelve year old Black Lab/Chow mix. 

We are in the city of Olympia WA and he is at the vet getting laser treatment for his hips. He is wearing the Doggles to protect his eyes from the lasers. 
Best wishes with your city dog book! 

Thanks for sharing, Tonya! Ty gets the "What A Trooper" award!
You're doing good, champ - I wish you a speedy recovery!



Awesome Submissions!

Hi Everyone!

 I'm getting some spectacular submissions for Considerations for the City Dog!  As mentioned, this project would not exist if it wasn't for the amazing dogs and owners of my community (and communities everywhere that support positive reinforcement training). I just wanted to share some of the submissions I've received so far. I still am going through all of the photos, and will need every single day until March 15th to make some really tough decisions, but I'm LOVING all of the dogs, and all of the support for this book!

Milo at sunset

Lilah saying hi!

My buddy, Karl Barx, kayaking down the Charles River

Missy Greyhound by Tammi Searle

Mr. Moose, the Pug, playing chase with his buddy in the snow (at least SOMEONE is enjoying all of this snow!)

Keep these submissions coming! This is so much fun! For all that have submitted already, thank you! For those who want to contribute, you have until the 15th of this month. 

All the best!

 Melissa McCue-McGrath, CPDT-KA
Considerations for the City Dog 


It's Nice To Have A Pup In The House Again

We are dog sitting my friend Ollie for the weekend. It's the first time we've had a dog in the home since the passing of Sadie in August. It's actually really nice, but there are a few things to adjust to.

You may remember seeing Ollie before. We demo disc in the area. She's the only flying Boston terrier I've ever met. She's a Border collie in a Boston terrier body. If you don't believe me, she was even highlighted as my teammate in PBS's Design Squad a few months ago.

Pro: All of our dishes have been pre-rinsed before the dishwasher.
Con: We haven't seen our cats in 26 hours.
Oh, wait. There they are. If you look carefully, there are two up there.

Pro: Super warm feet at night. She's a snuggler - she crawls under all the blankets, and lays on my feet. Plus, if she farts, we can't smell it. Double bonus!

Con: She's so cold. Poor thing. It was -20 degrees the last few days in good ol' Boston. She was cold because as a Boston terrier, she has ZERO insulation.

I wanted to  help.
I found our greyhounds old snood. 
It was a little large.

I'm not sure if Ollie is really pissed off, or if that's just her face.

It made me think of this gem, which we can all relate to.

#BostonTerrierProblems #UnderbiteOfAwesome #FaceOfSadness

Stay warm everyone. Spring will come.....someday.




This is awesome.

I'm over Kickstarter for so many reasons but every now and again a project catches my eye. However, this one slipped through the cracks and I do love this particular little app-to-be. Yes, I'm biased - my friend Michelle is the brainchild, but I promise, it's not why I love it.


I love it because this will help all dog owners find dog friendly EVERYTHING! Hiking, dog friendly hotels, restaurants, good trainers, good vets, and encourages people to get active with their dogs. I love everything about it, including the owner. 

 Even if you can't contribute, think of every time you have left home with your dog and needed to find a dog run, or a vet. Think of that time you moved across the country and needed an "in" for a dog walker or find the quietest hiking trails. If this is you, then all I'm asking is that you share this. Contribute if you like, because that's the best way to help, but at the very least share this so more people know about this app for local dogs and traveling mutts alike. 

Even Boston Magazine agrees, which is really pretty sweet. 

 Either way, get outside and love life with your dog! 



Photo Submissions for "Considerations for the City Dog"

Hi everyone!

Dogwise conducted a poll at APDT in 2012, and it turns out, there is a need for books focusing on urban dogs specifically. Conveniently enough, I also noticed a need for books for urban dog owners and wrote an inclusive book addressing the topics that are absent from the bookshelf.

With the book coming out soon, I'm now looking for photos of my students dogs, or urban dogs in general, to include in the final 206 page manuscript. I'm really excited about this!

If you have photos of your dogs in the city, forlornly looking outside waiting for someone to come home, enjoying city life, wearing a head collar or other type of walking equipment, running off leash, playing disc, dock diving, flyball, CGC testing, playing with a playgroup or outside on a dog walk...you know, all the things that you do daily with your dogs, I'm taking submissions until February 15th!
Put your name, your dogs name, breed if known, age of dog, activity and town and email it to MuttStuff (at) Gmail (daht) com

I can't chose every photo, but I'm just looking to add some things to make it more interesting - and not all Sadie, Zeppelin and Lyric! This started off as a book for the community, and now I"m looking for the community to be a part of it! 

If your photo is selected, I'll let you know by March 15th.

Here are some links to the book previews so far. Keep in mind that these are just rough drafts and not edited with the fine-tooth comb they are subject to for publication.

Breeder v. Rescue (Chapter 2 Excerpt) 

Lastly, if anyone has a GOOD photo of a prong collar and a choke chain, I need to replace the photos that I have in the walking equipment chapter. They were place holders but with this going out soon, I want to make sure everything is on the up-and-up. Of course, photo credit where photo credit is due. I'm still a staunch advocate against the use of prongs and chokes, but do state in the book that people can use these tools effectively and with great results if they know what they are doing and how they are using the tool. I work at a club where some of our competition students use prong collars - their dogs are happy and are working hard, but the handlers are also using a lot of positive reinforcement techniques. So if you submit photos of prongs and chokes, know that I'm not an advocate, but I do try to talk about them in a way that helps people make an informed decision about the use of the devices.  
Thanks so much, Team MuttStuff. Feel free to share so urban dogs can finally be represented in dog owner books.
If you want to stay updated on the book specifically (when it comes out, the photos that were selected, etc) you can get an email every time a new post comes out, follow me on Twitter (MuttStuff) or on Facebook (search for MuttStuff). I'm looking to get a mail list going so if you'd like to be included, drop me a note and I'll add you to the list (no spam here - just book  and blog updates! I promise!) If you submit a photo, I'll add you to the email list so you can follow the book!


Considerations for the City Dog: Breeders v. Rescue

Another blurb from Considerations for the City Dog.
This chapter, more than any other, is likely going to draw the most controversy, but this is what we are seeing in cities. Something needs to be done. So much so that NPR's Morning Edition was talking about the rescue issue that I'm writing about in the book. I'm really happy more attention is put on the subject, but until something is done on both sides of the coin, it's rather useless. 

There are significant issues with both breeders and rescue groups as a whole. Breeders must do a better job of breeding out diseases and personality flaws when breeding for family life, instead of breeding to a standard that encourages excessive deformities in many of our dog breeds. The AKC and breed groups can consult with reputable veterinarians to ensure the dogs that are being promoted as “healthy” are actually healthy specimens. Better yet, ethical veterinarians could judge the breed rings to prevent dogs like overweight Labradors, German shepherds with knocking knees, or Pekingeses who can’t walk without overheating from winning the trophy designating “best bred dog." Potential owners need to know that just because a dog is registered with the AKC, that the dog might not be a healthy specimen. Just because I register my car does not make me a safe driver.
On the other hand, shelters need to do a better job of conducting honest behavioral and physical evaluations in addition to breed classifications on every dog to ensure that when a dog is placed, it’s going to be a successful placement. Rescue groups must deny truck adoptions at gas stations to get around state loopholes which are placing near-feral dogs in homes that are not suitable for these sensitive pups, many of which are failing in the cities in which they are placed.
Regardless, it’s up to you to do your homework. There are great breeders and great shelters but you just have to know what you’re looking for.

Let’s do this....

 Chapter 2: Breeder v. Rescue
 Melissa McCue-McGrath, CPDT-KA


Richard Juang, Attorney for...Dogs?

Well, not quite. But sort of. 

My dear friend Richard has been a long-time supporter of Muttstuff.
Perhaps the longest. 
He also happens to be a lawyer. 

He really rallied with  me last year during the Rocco case, and has always had a place in his very large heart for people who want to help animals and their humans.

The people who work with animals need a place to work with animals (like a rental unit). They need insurance. They need bonding. They need, for all intents and purposes, a lawyer who doesn't suck. I will say that I'm very lucky to know several awesome lawyers, but none are doing quite what Richard is seeking to do. 

When Richard said he was going to start exploring using his trade for good (including LGBT issues, non-profit and animal related industries) I couldn't have been happier or more proud. 

This is directly from Richard: 

"I'm able to provide nonprofits and small business with what I'm calling an organizational counsel package. Basically, I can provide many of the services of an in-house, on-staff attorney, without the overhead costs of having a full-time attorney on payroll.  

The Organizational Counsel Service can be found here:
A routine package could, for example, include all of the following:
Legal compliance review and oversight of putting fixes in place;
Review and application for relevant business licenses if needed;
Contract review and drafting;
Review of insurance coverage (no sane business person wants to read a 200 page insurance coverage contract!);
Review of compliance with employment laws;
Provision of anti-discrimination and anti-harassment training to staff and management;
Providing internal investigations, as needed.

 As you know, I have a special love of animals and animal-related groups and businesses and so I am happy to discuss a wide range of options that fit small organizations' budgets."

If you are a business owner who works in the animal industry, happen to be in the Boston area and would like to see what options are available to you, go to the website, call him directly 617-861-1401 or email rmjuang@juanglaw.com. Alternatively, you can touch base with me and I'll get you in touch directly.

I can't be more supportive of this! 



Dog Trainer Emergency Kit

Today, I raided the dog's emergency kit to splint what I now suspect is a broken toe (or at the very least, a really, really badly sprained situation in the "This Little Piggy Had None" toe).

In this emergency kit was splinting equipment, tape, soft wrap, gauze, Neosporin, and un-expired peroxide. 

None of these things existed in our human emergency kit.