K9 Cops Weigh In On Staying Cool on CarTalk

When I first joined the +Car Talk blogging team, there was one piece I knew immediately that I'd want to write.

Thanks to a fantastic effort by local friends, the Taunton Police Department, my blogging partner Sip, and the CarTalk team, it's finally a reality! 

K9Blitz and his heat-safe ride (Image via Twitter: @TauntonPDK9)
Thank you to K9 Blitz, Patrolman Swartz, and the Taunton Police Department. 
Sure, we talk all the time about leaving dogs in hot cars and all the reasons it's a very bad, terrible, no good idea. However, there is a demographic that absolutely MUST leave their dogs in cars every day. How do K9 Officers keep their partners cool? How do they pimp out their rides? What is the cost of keeping a car cool (and safe!) enough for the 4-legged pups in blue?

Here is that piece. 


"Considerations" on DogCastRadio!

I'd have to say in all seriousness, my interview with Julie Hill of DogCastRadio (one of my favorite podcasts about life with dogs) is the highlight of writing this book, and my profession. We had a lovely conversation where I think we both learned interesting things that both the UK and the US are facing in terms of acquiring pet dogs.

In the UK, they have a program called #WheresMum - an attempt to educate potential owners about puppy mill scams where less-reputable breeding operations will sell puppies under the guise of "the mom died at birth. It's so sad. She needs you to save her." As you might guess, this poses many ethical problems of feeding into the puppy mill industry to well-intentioned dog owners who are trying to save dogs.

Over here, I'm trying to get #HandsOnFirst to take off - my attempt to educate potential dog owners to meet dogs (rescues or pure-bred puppies) and know what a reputable facility looks like. Trucking dogs outside of state lines is a huge problem here in MA (for more about this issue, see my presentation for the Massachusetts Veterinary Technicians Association). 

And then, at the very end, my 3-year-old figured out how to turn on the keyboard and amplifier to play her version of "outro music" which had all three of us in stitches.

Julie is a professional through-and-through, and I really wish we could have met in person to enjoy an appropriate beverage. She's lovely, funny, and really takes an interest in all things "dog," .... and cheeky-toddler!

So thank you, Julie, for the conversation and the opportunity! When you come Stateside, I owe you a beverage of your choice :)

Enjoy the interview (and the conversation about dogs and fireworks) right here. 


Interview with Somerville Scout

Yesterday I met Emily Cassel, the managing editor of Somerville Scout.
considerations for the city dog
This little guy was roaming the streets of Somerville at Porchfest earlier this year.
Photo by Emily Cassel.

We had a lovely chat about dogs, the book, and life in an urban environment with pups while we were sipping on iced coffee. All while my toddler slept! Life is good.

Here is our interview about the book, #HandsOnFirst and everything #CityDog!

(I admit - though it's a very sweet interview, I teared up because she included my girl, Sadie at the very end :) )

#CityDogs #UrbanHounds #LifeWithDogs 


Two Free Presentations!

There are two chances to see my free presentation on keeping our urban pets happier! Bring questions, comments, and save some room for snacks. 



Our 48 Hours as Pitbull Owners

If you read anything I've ever written, please let it be this.

We need to talk about the real families that are affected by #BSL (breed specific legislation) and breed discrimination. Though we weren't looking for a Pitbull, we ended up with one and had to return her after 48 hours.

I wrote about the unfairness of BSL in the very first chapter of Considerations for the City Dog, but this was the first time we had first hand experience with it. I was able to document our story - a story that is very common - over at 2 Dog Treats.

If you adopt Jasmine at the ARL, she knows sit, drop it, and come.
She pulls like an ox, but is sensitive. Use a Freedom Harness (sz. M).

Please share the 2 Dogs Treats post, and support banning breed specific legislation.

Help us reach out to the insurance companies that will drop home owners insurance if a "Pitbull" (or mix) is on the premises.

Please share this so families with well adjusted dogs of any kind (bully or otherwise) can adopt children without having to give up their dogs first (a lawyer friend told me of that being an actual, horrible, real-life thing).


Where's Melissa?

I've had some people ask where I'll be discussing Considerations for the City Dog.
Here is an updated schedule through the end of the year.

August 7th:
Interviewing with Dog Cast Radio in the UK! I'll be discussing Considerations for the City Dog and #HandsOnFirst. I don't know yet when it will air, but stay tuned.

August 27th:
Somerville Library WEST BRANCH (Davis Square)
Books and #HandsOnFirst Tees on sale ($16.00 book / $25.00 both)
Refreshments served

September 3rd: 
New England Dog Training Club's OPEN HOUSE
(for registered current students of NEDTC and families only).
Book signing table, free pet first aid presentation for registered students, and more dog-related stuff presented by our talented NEDTC staff.

September 14th:
Something's brewing for this date. Stay tuned!

September 24th:
Somerville Library EAST BRANCH (Broadway)
Books and #HandsOnFirst Tees on sale ($16.00 book / $25.00 both)
Refreshments served

December 28th:
Pet Professional Guild
"The Petfinder Loophole and #HandsOnFirst"
Free webinar *info and login to come soon

If you are interested in having me come talk about the book, dogs, puppies, #HandsOnFirst, responsible rescue / responsible breeding, how to acquire a dog for the city, please contact me here.


Interesting Topic: Warning Signs?

A few days ago, a student of mine posted to a reactive dogs group on Facebook. She said her dog sometimes freaks out, and sometimes doesn't (which is true for this dog, like many other dogs in this area) but it's much harder when her dog is on leash (say, in the woods) and an off leash dog charges up.

I told her to use a sleeve on the leash that announces her dog needs space and say clearly 'Call Your Dog. Not Friendly.' I then posted a link to the Dogs In Need Of Space store that advocates using these type of tools to help dog owners advocate for their dogs space in public places, particularly those that have leash laws/recall laws in place.

This group does not approve of these types of signs, equipment or other "announcements" that a dog might react poorly.

The only reason it's not allowed here is because in some places, if you have warning 'clothing' on your dog and then he/she bites or aggresses someone, your warning will be seen as an admission that you knew he/she was dangerous and you'll thus have greater liability.
I feel like this is akin to me not using sunscreen because it's telling the sun, "I'm of northern European descent, so if I still get burned, which I very likely will, I'm more liable because I used sunscreen." Sound silly?

I didn't get into it on that particular group because they had a rule and I did violate it by posting what I did. I figured they had already gone through this banter a dozen or more so times before, so anything I was going to chime in with would be useless. However, if there are rules in place that dogs must be under voice control at all times if off leash, and IF that dog isn't under voice control, runs up to my dog who needs space, and there is an incident, then the dog who charges my leashed dog should be the liable party.

The working theory: the charging dogs' owner did not obey the posted / assumed laws of "must be under voice control."

So let's air this out. What do you think? What do you do? If it were me (and it was!) I put Sadie in a head collar, a scarf that said "I Need Space" and blaze orange everything marked with "I Need Space." I would call out "Not Friendly!" to everyone who had a dog coming near us, and most would thank me for mentioning it. I would avoid the busier dog areas and busier times of day. I feel this saved her from many unnecessary altercations.

When dogs DID charge in (which happened, but infrequently) she was able to tolerate it because she trusted I would advocate for her space. This was a significant improvement compared to her previous behavior:

Bark. Lunge. Snap. Bark. Lunge. Snap. 

Lather, Rinse. Repeat. 

Any legal beagles wish to chime in?

Dog trainers - what do you tell your students? I don't want this to be used in a court of law or any of my students to jump in here and say "Melissa said it's cool!" but I think it's a worthwhile discussion IF we can keep it civil (which you guys usually do!)

That said, this group seemed to be perfectly fine with using spray deterrent with very little warning, which I think might be a bigger issue. I do agree using spray shield on a charging dog, but I think having warning signs on a dog first can give another owner a little opportunity to get their dog back before it resorts to spray shield?

I'm in the Boston area, too, and I have no trouble getting people to understand that my dog needs space. The ones who insist on allowing their dogs to approach me when I am clearly in an area where a leash or voice control law applies gets told once to recall their dog, or I will respond with a spray deterrent (Spray Shield). Special leashes and vests are a liability if you are even involved in a court case. However, muzzles can be used for purposed other than aggression, such as for dogs with pica, or dogs that like sticks a bit too much, or who tend to eat acorns or mushrooms and get sick. Special leashes and vests are a liability if you are even involved in a court case. However, muzzles can be used for purposed other than aggression, such as for dogs with pica, or dogs that like sticks a bit too much, or who tend to eat acorns or mushrooms and get sick.

Any takers? I'm really not trying to start an argument. I just thought it was interesting food-for-thought.



Every part of Considerations for the City Dog is centered around the word "advocate."

Finding professionals that do the same. 

Educating yourself and others so you know how to find these professionals, certifications, and what makes them a cut above the rest. This goes for breeders, rescues, shelters, groomers, doggie daycare providers, veterinarians, dog trainers, behaviorists, and veterinary behaviorists. 

Today I dropped off some bookmarks at local animal hospitals and grooming facilities. These bookmarks have the back blurb of the book on them and #HandsOnFirst on the back. 

It's important to consider the spark for Considerations was the dog attack on Halloween night in which a bull mastiff attacked a female German shepherd, and nearly killed her 6'3" owner. This attack was in my city. I sat through the hearing where terminology like "aggression," "territory," "redirected aggression," and bunk theories like "alpha" were used in a grossly inappropriate manner. I tried to speak in the hearing. I tried to advocate for my city and the dogs I love here.

I failed.

I wrote a book.

That is evident in the promotional material. 

It's also important to note that this is a true story. Real people and dogs were involved in a horror story in this city. Everyone lived, but the wounds, though physically healed, are still visible.

Though the book isn't at all about the case, it is noted that it motivated me to write the book. The case, which was public, is noted in the introduction. The only time I mention the name of the attacking dog is here on this blog, using resources (like the Somerville Journal and The Patch). His name is not mentioned in the body of the book (though it comes up twice in the acknowledgements.)

I want to say thank you as well to the local animal hospital (unnamed for privacy - that ISN'T part of the news story) that stood up for their client. The vet doesn't deserve anyone showing up at his door going off about the case, and the staff doesn't deserve that either. The client deserves peace in getting her dog medical care without side-eyed glances. The animal hospital - one that I've always highly recommended, remains at the top of my list of recommended hospitals as a result of what I write next. 

The staff said that this is an important book, but the party who owns the attacking dog is their client. Though his name isn't on the materials, there aren't too many dogs who have got publicity for what he did just a couple of years ago (thankfully). It would make the owner uncomfortable to have this material facing her while waiting for her dogs nail trim, or vaccines. 

The case that sparked Considerations for the City Dog is real. There are real people who have dogs in this book, stories in this book, and sadly - tragedy in this book. But there are happy stories, success stories, and helpful hints, too. There are corrections on terminology that is misunderstood in today's dog-culture, which I think can go a long way to helping people truly advocate for their dogs. Do you know what a behaviorist is? Can you define it? Can you do the same for socialization? The manner in which I use socialization is very different than what most of my students think socialization is, though we all use the term regularly. The same for behaviorist and other terms (like territorial aggression). Veterinarians can read it and know exactly how to refer to a trainer or behaviorist. A trainer can read this and know how to find good dog walkers and vets, and vice-versa. A client can read this and help their dog. 

As much as I wish that these bookmarks were all over the Metro-Boston area, three cheers to the hospital that stood up for their client. You're what I'm writing about in this book - the good ones, and how to find them. How to find a good veterinarian, chapter 5 - these guys.

If it were your hospital, you'd want that advocacy. I know I would. 


Book Signing This Saturday: Riverdog, Somerville MA

Hi everyone!

 I'll be doing a book signing of "Considerations for the City Dog" at Riverdog in Somerville this Saturday! The event is from 10am - 2pm.

 There will be wine and beer, but only after 12 because we have boundaries :)

 Peter and Priscilla have always supported me and my training since they opened their doors. I'm happy to be able to have my first real book-signing in my home town, the town that inspired Considerations.  You might even recognize many of the dogs in the book since many of them are 'Villans, too!

 So come on down and say hi! I'll have a few books on hand to purchase, and if you have your own already, bring it with you! We'll hang out and talk-dog for the morning!

Display at Riverdog. Thanks for the love!

- M3


Two AMAZING Events: Purina Dog Challenge and Pet Palooza!

I'm so excited for this. If my brother wasn't getting married this weekend, I'd drop everything else and go to this event. 

On Friday, July 10th & Saturday, July 11th, the Purina Pro Plan Incredible Dog Challenge will make its first visit to Boston, taking place at Joe Moakley Park from 11a.m. – 4p.m.  This event brings together top canine athletes from Boston and the surrounding Northeast region, to compete in a kind-of canine "Olympics” and features a variety of events---dog diving, freestyle flying disc, head-to-head weave poles, Jack Russell hurdle racing and agility.

This is the Eastern Regional event, so the competition will be elite, will be fun, and will wow the crowd! 

This event is totally free! This is a one-of-a-kind event that is perfect for dog lovers, families or people who are just looking for something fun to do that is off the beaten path.

You know how much I love and support canine sports, particularly for urban dogs who need outlets. Let this event inspire you to do something fun with your dog. If you can't make this event (or want to try what you see!) come to the Pet Palooza at Assembly Square on August 1st & 2nd Maybe what you practice at Pet Palooza can get you ready for Purina Dog Challenge 2016! Get involved, get inspired, and play with your dog!