Considerations for the City Dog

Considerations for the City Dog
Considerations for the City Dog is available now!


10 Minutes


"The Petfinder Loophole," and why we need to define reputable rescues in the same way we define reputable breeders.

For more information, visit my post on #HandsOnFirst , why it's important, and what we can all do to support responsible rescue groups and shelters.

If you agree with #HandsOnFirst, please share this to help dog owners find reputable facilities in which to acquire their new pets.


Car Talk Two-Fer

A very special +Car Talk double feature!

Dr. Sip Siperstein and I were asked to tackle dogs and cars....

...and vomit.

So yes, it's a two-fer, but it's also pretty gross. Got to take the good with the bad, right?

This will TOTALLY make sense if you read the posts! 

Here is our piece on preventing puppy puke, and here is our piece on how to clean it if preventative measures fail!

If you like it, feel free to share. If you have suggestions for future posts, visit the CarTalk FIDO Blog Website!




While putting together a presentation for the Massachusetts Veterinary Technician's Association to promote the book, I stumbled onto something. 

Dog trainers, veterinarians, technicians, and every dog owner in the city has seen an influx of behaviorally unsound and sick dogs. Even The Boston Globe pointed out this issue in 2013:  - I referenced this very piece in the book. Everyone knows someone who got their dog off a truck in Connecticut, New Hampshire, or other state. Go around your office today and ask where people got their dogs - my bet is at least 25-30% were picked up out of state. 

That's because there is a law on the books (has been in MA since 2005) that states:

"all dogs coming into the state must be quarantined until behaviorally and physically sound for adoption." 

To get around this law, because with every law there is a loophole, thousands of dogs are trucked in to CT and other places for  new pet owners to pick up their dog. 

Not every dog is a mess. Many do great here - but many do not. Of the 85 dogs I've seen privately in 2 years, 67 have been trucked. Half have needed behavior modification medication and/or behavior plans in addition to a standard training regimen. This seemed high to me. 

So I looked on PetFinder. 

If you put in a search for dogs on Petfinder, and limit your search to 100 miles of Somerville, MA with no other restrictions (size, sex, house-trained, etc), you get ~4,000 dogs. That seems really high to me, but we are in a metropolitan area. If you click on the first dog, currently a dog from Blues Angels, it says the rescue is in Somerville MA----but if you click through to the rescue site, the dog is in Houston, TX. 

What's the big deal?

So say you are a client looking for a dog and you think you can go down and meet it. You click on a dog from Blues Angels in Somerville, MA - a shelter/rescue that we now know does not exist in Somerville, but the client doesn't know that. They pay for the dog, the rescue talks them into driving to CT to pick it up, and now the rescue has moved a dog that hasn't had behavior testing, or passed any standardized veterinary care and has gone through a traumatic transport. When I see that dog, a few weeks later, and it's unable to adjust to the city, the owners are frustrated, and the rescue won't take responsibility, everyone is frustrated. Veterinarians are seeing cases of dog flu related to unsafe transport, other highly contagious illnesses, and parasitic illnesses like rocky mountain spotted fever (a tick borne illness indigenous to the south, but we're seeing more cases here because of sick dogs being shipped).

The most extreme case in recent history was dog that needed all of his teeth removed, expensive parasite treatment, and treatment for pneumonia as soon as he got off the truck. This dog's new owner spent well over $1,000 immediately after transport. When I saw them a week after getting the dog, I recommended behavior modification medication and a more expensive specialist because the poor guy was very likely a former puppy mill stud. He jumped off a sofa and broke his leg because he didn't know that where the couch ended there was a significant drop. He was sold as a dog from Georgia who would be a "lovely family pet. He can walk on leash, doesn't bark, and is a low-key pomeranian." The dog peed on everything in sight (including the other dog), barked incessantly, and walking on a leash? Um...nope. Utter panic as soon as he was tethered. Did the rescue step up? No. The rescue was in Georgia the onus fell on the owners to pay for all of this. They were awesome and committed to this dog so he could experience love, but what would you go through with a dog like this? 

Now, imagine you're a dog owner with an undersocialized, sick dog in Somerville. The onus is now on the owner to pay for behavior consultations, behavior modification medication, and veterinary care - sometimes over $1,000 to save a dog. A dog they were promised is "a healthy, happy pet." 

The same thing happens for 10 out of 15 dogs on that first page. 

There is no way to meet the dog first. I've reached out to some of these rescues flying under the radar. None of them acknowledge they are operating illegally. They just send me an application, tell me how many dogs they have sent North and ask if I want the dog shipped through a particular shipping service.

In my opinion, this is as bad as the puppy mill industry. The dogs I see, the ones with problems - 67 out of 85 - when evaluated, present with similar issues to those from puppy mills: 

-Clinically undersocialized
-Few (if any) coping skills
-Issues with crates
-Fear of strangers
-Fear of loud noises / any noises
- Awkward social behavior 
- Reactivity to other dogs, strangers, or outside stimuli
- Constant Stress

When I contacted PetFinder on three documented occasions from February 28th of this year to May 24th, I was either met with "there is no restrictions to who can adopt these pets," - which is false. MA has a law as to who can adopt these pets without quarantine; or met with no response. 

Today I went to Twitter to say "Hey - look! A thing!" and they said they'd look into it. I bet if this starts to get more attention, the rescues would find a way to skirt the law, but it might be harder. We HAVE to start talking about this, and praising the good rescues and shelters who are making sure the dogs are safe, sound, and well-suited to their families. If they aren't, then they have resources available to help, or even take the dog back. Dogs can be a fifteen year commitment. If you don't have support, success can be harder. Particularly for #CityDogs. 

When contacting individual rescues skirting the law, they were all "individual / independent rescuers saving dogs." While I'm sure some are great at what they do, I can say given the number of dogs I'm seeing fail here in cities from well-intending rescues and well-intending dog owners saving dogs from terrible conditions, the behavior evaluations are failing. We have to do better. We have to put our hands on these dogs prior to adoption, and cease the culture of picking dogs up from out of state. Rescues can still send dogs to brick-and-mortar shelters here so people can see the dogs first, which is always advised. 

While one hot day does not indicate global warming, a trend in a direction does. This is that trend. 
67 of 85. 
That's quite the trend. 

Additionally, the website has Al-One Dog Rescue using "Sommerville, MA" to get around the loophole. If they can't spell the name of the town they are fake-operating in, it's probably a good indication that they aren't really here.

Canada is talking about the US rescue dogs that are behaviorally unsound shipped to them. We need to talk about this in the Northeast because we are all seeing it.

As a result of this, I'm starting a new campaign: #HandsOnFirst to promote people putting their hands on dogs prior to adoption, prior to purchase, prior to rescue. This goes for rescue, shelters or well-bred dogs. We can still ship and rescue dogs - as long as they are going to a reputable foster or a brick and mortar shelter prior to adoption. 

But this system as it stands now is wickedly broken. 

Also, so no one can say I hate rescue, every pet I've owned as an adult (except for a snail and fish - those were presents from my dad to my daughter!) were rescue. We are looking for a new rescue dog, and I'm seeing it's VERY difficult to find a rescue dog that is here for us to see in person because of the dogs flying under the radar that I can't meet first. We will likely always rescue in this home, though that is a conversation between me, my husband and my daughter. Local dogs are getting overlooked in favor of these more exotic rescues from the South, from Puerto Rico, from Iraq, from Afghanistan and now...Thailand and Korea (food dogs that are now being shipped as pet dogs in urban centers.) Yes, they all need help, but we need to sort this out so we don't make this worse.

I don't hate rescue - I really, really, really don't. I don't like unethical rescue, and I don't like seeing 2/3's of my students struggling and getting in over their heads because they wanted to save a dog. 

 This is on the verge of being a huge story. I know it. If you talk with Vets, Technicians, Certified Dog Behaviorists (, rescues who are doing a good job, rescues who are skirting the law, and certified dog trainers ( / / - there is a lot here to unwind. 

There is a lot to say for puppy mills, irresponsible breeders and the like - but that is getting attention. I think this is something that needs focus, too, because the more people get burned by rescue, the fewer people there will be to rescue. We owe it to these families and their dogs to do better and come up with solutions. This is a start, but #HandsOnFirst is all I got as a solitary person trying to do the right thing for dogs. This is a way we can put responsible breeders, responsible shelters and responsible rescues at the forefront without starting an argument of rescues vs. purebred dogs, which doesn't help anyone. 

And no, just putting your hands on a dog does not indicate that this will be a match made in heaven - three of my toughest cases were all local dogs. That said, at least the family could meet the dogs first, and have a broad idea what they were getting into prior to bringing the dog into their home. They could bring a certified trainer to assess the dog prior to adoption. One of the owners actually wanted the tough case, and she's a superstar who is in a good place to take on these tough cases. But for a family who is looking for a sturdy, well-adjusted family pet, getting a dog sight-unseen is not unlike signing a pre-nup after meeting some dude on





Mario Dog

I'd like to think that when dogs are just wandering around, or reacting to things we can't see, they are really playing an intricate imaginary game of Super Mario Bros.

My universe makes so much more sense now!



It's alive...ALIVE!!!!

Today is the day! Considerations for the City Dog is now live!

For now, the hard copy (paperback!) is available through CreateSpace  and with one-click on Amazon. There does seem to be a small glitch in Amazon where the Kindle version doesn't link to the hard copy, but the hard copy links to the Kindle version, but I will alert Amazon today.

If e-Books are more your style, Considerations is available for Kindle and the Kindle App (free app on iPad and Android tablets!) by clicking here. I'm working on a Nook version.

The e-Book has clickable links for fitting martingale collars, dozens of clickable resources, as well as YouTube videos for finding trainers, behaviorists, and veterinary behavior specialists. The photos are bigger and in full color in the e-Book version...but the physical book is a physical book.

Whatever your preferences, Considerations promises to help dog owners in urban environments navigate the new normal of living in cities with high-drive dog breeds or sensitive rescue dogs from around the globe.

If you read this book, please share your opinions of Considerations for the City Dog in Amazon, Goodreads and CreateSpace to help me get this book in the hands of urban dog owners around the country. Also, please consider sharing on the social media platform of your liking!

Thanks for the support. This book is for all my students and their dogs. Without them, Considerations would not exist.

- M3
#dogs #citydogs #doglovers #dogsareawesome #dogtraining #veterinarians #petlovers #dogbooks

Car Talk: Dogs in Cars

Dr. Siperstein and I are at it again! This time on +Car Talk  we tackled the obligatory subject of #Dogs in cars. How hot is too hot? What will happen if your dog is found in a hot car? What can you do if you see a dog in a hot car?

Check our or post on Car Talk, here!


Why Breed Specific Legislation Failed in Ireland

I talk a bit about #BSL in the book (Breed Specific Legislation: why BSL really doesn't work, but there are things that DO work to prevent dog bites) - and it looks like there is actual data to back up what science based dog trainers have been saying for years.
The worst bite that happened to me was a 9 pound devil cat. 
For my students, the worst was an Irish Setter that bit his own owner. This was after the Setter's owner, after ignoring my instruction to hold his leash, let go of the leash and the dog rocketed towards a Bull mastiff in my class. The shrinking violet Bull Mastiff took the abuse. When the owner pulled his dog off, the setter turned and took a chunk out of his own owners arm.
The mastiff could have been in a muzzle, and the Irish setter still would have bit his owner because the problem isn't breed - it's (in this case) an owner who wouldn't listen to instruction; it's genetics; it's environment; it's failure to read body language; it's so much more than "this breed will attack you."
To say that I haven't ever met a Pit bull or a bully breed who was angry is incorrect - I recommended one last year for euthanasia due to dangerous activity - an assertion that was backed up by three other professional outfits. The only three other dogs I recommended for euthanasia for aggression in 10 years? A shih tsu (couldn't be managed/nothing was working) , and a pug (neurological issues relating to aggression and stress).
And eventually, Sadie.
A Border collie. Neuro, age, pain, which led to aggression.
Though I recommended Rocco be euthanized, he wasn't my client, so that doesn't count. 
One Pit bull type dog literally saved me (I was 8 months pregnant) when another dog (unknown) charged out of an open door and attacked two dogs I was walking. The third dog, a Pit who was being fostered by the owner of the other two dogs I was walking, put herself between me, the two smaller dogs, and bit the attacking dog. She held on to his ear/skull until Animal control, and the police, got there. This dog, no joke, saved the two snack-sized pups, likely saved me from getting bit, or falling over, and wouldn't let anything happen to me (and later, Aislyn). Minnie was a superstar, and I'll never forget that day. She didn't bite, release, bite, release. She literally held him in place until help arrived. That stranger dog was not going to hurt us, and she was going to make sure of it.
BSL doesn't work. It never worked. And now there is more about it. 

The Huffington Post just wrote a piece on why BSL failed in Ireland - bites INCREASED under BSL. Science based dog trainers have been saying this for years, and now there is actual data to start putting the final nail in the coffin for mandatory muzzle orders on dogs who have a certain phenotype. 


5 Days!

Just five more days before "Considerations for the City Dog" is a real-life book!

Use #CityDog for your chance to win a copy of the paperback, which will be out in two weeks. The Kindle version goes live on June 1st!

- M3
#Dogs, #PositiveReinforcement, #DogTraining, #DogBehavior, #LoveDogs, #UrbanHounds  


Considerations for the City Dog: Excerpt - "Bet"

Chapter 16: A Note on Back Yards, pg. 152 
Considerations for the City Dog 

"Cocoa mulch is used as organic mulch with a more pleasant scent to humans but the same chemicals in dark chocolate are found in some brands of cocoa mulch. Caffeine and theobromine are the chemicals that are responsible for toxicity. Though it’s possible for a dog to get sick, most dogs leave the mulch alone. However, I’d personally lean on the safe-side and not use cocoa mulch in areas where dogs have access. I’ve worked with dogs that have eaten rocks, chocolate, goose poop, their own poop, and other dogs’ poop. I wouldn’t ever bet against the temptation of a dog eating something he shouldn’t."
Posted by Considerations for the City Dog on Thursday, May 21, 2015



Chapter List for "Considerations for the City Dog"

Some more big news!

Here is the CHAPTER LIST for the upcoming book for city dogs!

(Melissa Mullen of Melissa Mullen Photography

For any dog in the city, for any professional who needs to know HOW to refer a dog to another professional, for any student who needs help in the city with their dogs, this book will make you look at dogs and the pet-industry with new eyes. We have specific kinds of stress in the city, stress that just simply doesn't exist in quite the same fashion as in rural environments. That stress affects us, our dogs, and the way we treat problem behaviors. Urban dogs have been ignored for far too long, and it's time that a resource exists for city dog owners.

There is just 12 days left before this book is available. If you think that city dogs need a place on the book shelf, please feel free to share Considerations for the City Dog and tell your friends. You can pre-order the Kindle Version here!