The Dog Merchants: A Must Read

Last year, I wrote Considerations for the City Dog. There was one statistic that stuck out in that book for many readers:

"14,000 rescue dogs were legally brought into the state (of Massachusetts), according to the Boston Globe."

This statistic is referring to the truckloads of dogs that are brought to rescues and shelters in Massachusetts that follow state law:

"All dogs coming into the state for rescue must remain quarantined until proven behaviorally and physically sound for adoption"
 -Emergency Law put in place in MA in 2005 to combat sick & behaviorally unsound dogs coming into the Commonwealth. 
Yet, thousands more dogs are illegally brought into the Commonwealth by way of parking vans of dogs outside of state borders. These dogs are passed off trucks to families who paid for them online but never met them before pick-up day at a Motel 6. Unsurprisingly, when these dogs go directly to families, some issues are more likely to occur than going through groups not ducking the legal system.

The reporter who wrote the Globe piece I referenced in Considerations is Kim Kavin. She is an investigative journalist who has been one of the few who has been diving into the challenging discussions behaviorists, dog trainers and veterinarians have been having for decades in the Northeast.

Kavin continues her journalistic journey in her book, "The Dog Merchants" which is available today.

I was fortunate enough to have received a copy of this book before the official release date. I couldn't put it down. There was a constant hum reading this book of "dogs are considered a product to someone in this line of acquisition" and that disconnect between our beloved family pets being considered a movable product was jarring.

Jarring, but true.
Someone said this was the Omnivore's Dilemma for dogs, and I couldn't agree more.

While I don't see my dog as a product, and you don't see your dog as a product, people out there do. Dogs are sold at dog auctions to shady breeders and shady rescuers alike to make money. And while you might not have that dog that was sold at auction, chances are someone you know has a descendant of one of these dogs. Or a dog bought at a dog auction and sold through rescue in an unethical way.

For profit.

And that's a really, really hard thing to look at without cringing.

She lays out the entire business of moving dogs - rescues, shelters, breeders. She shows what works, what doesn't work, the similarities between forces, and the impact televised dog events (like Westminster) have on the health of our dogs. What I like most about it is that there are terrible people out there that do terrible things to dogs, and there are well-intentioned people out there who are trying to help but are misguided. While this is upsetting, there are many things that we as consumers can do to make it better for ALL dogs.

As I've been saying for years: It's not rescue-vs-breeder. Good dogs come from rescue, good dogs come from breeders. It's finding *ethical* means of acquiring dogs regardless of rescue or breeder. Kavin hits this point home again and again and again, and I love her for it.

I wish this book didn't have to be written, but it did and it's the tip of the iceberg vs. the Titanic. Selling dogs is a huge business and I'm relieved that more people like Kavin are pointing to the elephant in the room. Click-n-Ship culture is getting a wake up call. A wake-up call that is going to start screaming until we all listen.

Kavin's book is that wake-up call.

Melissa McCue-McGrath, CPDT-KA
Co-Training Director of New England Dog Training Club (oldest AKC Obedience Club in the US)
Author of Considerations for the City Dog


Moving Day: Looking for Your Input

Since 2006, I have been writing all my stuff here at blogger. Mostly I blogged here because it was free and I couldn't code (as many of us could relate to in the early 2000’s!)

Like the high-waist, acid-washed jeans & Jordache combo many of us sported in the 80’s, all things must grow up or risk  not being taken seriously. So over the next few months, I will move all the relevant MuttStuff blogs over to my new website.

Yes, there was an entire generation that thought this whole thing was a "good idea."

A big-girl website.

One that I actually paid for and have up to present my dog training services, writing, books, and hopefully (if I can figure it out!) a version of this blog.

I hope to move all "the good stuff" over to the new website. That said, I'd love your help!

What were your favorite blogs? What did you find useful on this blog from 2006-present? I'm not going to kill this blog - but I do want to pull the best stuff and move it to the new site, and keep blogging over there. It's time. I'm a grown-up.
(My daughter frequently says "I'm a big girl" and promptly puts in her binky. I sort of feel like that when I talk about blogging on a big-girl website.)

So if you'd be a peach and put in your favorite, most helpful, or even just something that tickled you that I should make sure to migrate to the new website, it would be incredibly helpful.

OH, right, the new website. It's here. Feel free to check it out give feedback. Good or bad. I just want to make sure that everything looks nice, works, and is intuitive. If there is something you'd like to see, or something that isn't working, I'd love to hear about it.

Thanks in advance, you guys. As always, you're the best!


What DO City Dogs Need To Know?

A few weeks ago, I wrapped up my 5 part series with @2DogsTreats where we covered the elements in dog training necessary for living in an urban setting. Here they are in full with some funnies to get you in the mood for a little pup training! 

1. Name recognition (it sounds totally basic, but what do you want your dog to DO when you say his name? If "ignore me completely" isn't your answer, then check this out.)

2. Leave it (or affectionately called The Chicken Bone Command)

3. Wait 

4. Come (not "Come, please come - come back, *#&$^!!!! He's Friendly!)

"I'm not even going to try. Come back when you're ready, Sparky."

5. Heel.  (I might be playing favorites, but I really like how this one turned out.)

If you're so inclined, feel free to work on one or more of these elements for homework! 

- M3


Notably Missing From The Cesar Millan Investigation "Reporting"

There is a post going around my Facebook feed (which is admittedly 85% dog

(Reporting varies, stating the ear was "nipped and bled," all the way through to "bit a chunk of the ear off". I can't find a reputable source on  severity of the pig's injury.)
In all the reporting of this story, there is one thing that absolutely has to be addressed that's gone on for far too long. This is the thing that would perhaps quell some of the discussion of if Mr. Millan is "abusing animals" or if he's "God's gift to canine kind." The one thing that needs to be addressed is this:

Any and all reporting on Cesar Millan needs to stop referring to him as a
"self-taught behaviorist".

In the dog industry, a behaviorist is someone who:
  • Has received a certification from a science based group, usually after presenting 1500+ hours of dog behavior documentation and taking a lengthy exam going over stress signals, medication, anatomy, physiology, tools, and teaching ability.
  • Has a PhD in an animal related field (like zoology)
  • Is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine who is accredited as a veterinary behaviorist through the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists.  There are only around 75 certified behaviorists through the ACVB, and Mr. Millan's name is not on the list.

The news outlets reporting on this really need to ask questions and educate the public about the following:

  • What is a behaviorist?
  • How do I find a reputable one?

By explaining what a behaviorist does and who a behaviorist is, we can avoid the tired argument of if Cesar helps dogs or not. Instead of a really emotional argument based on ambiguity, there are terms that should be defined in the reporting, and that might help clear some things up regarding Mr. Millan.

In short, Mr. Millan can call himself a behaviorist.
I can call myself an astronaut.
Neither are true.

And here is a link to Considerations for the City Dog- a book that dedicates an entire chapter explaining the differences of these professionals.

In short, if you are looking for behavior help, look for credentials and know what your behavior professional had to do before earning the  "Behavior Consultant", "Applied Animal Behaviorist" or "Veterinary Behaviorist" title before hiring. Do your due diligence for your dog's sake. If someone calls himself or herself a behaviorist, ask what they did to earn the title, and who gave them the credentials.

Good luck,



What's Next?

You might remember a few months ago when there was a hilarious snafu with the US Postal Service that accidentally sent the woman I look up to the most in this industry a box of dental supplies with my name attached instead of a copy of the book I wrote. 

It could have been SOOOOO much worse than dental supplies....

Well, snafu aside, this entire experience led to a rather wonderful email back and forth between me and Dr. Patricia McConnell where we discussed in great detail some of the specific things that make living in a city different for dog owners compared to rural settings. It was really a wonderful conversation and without the Internet, might never have happened.

Thanks, Al Gore! 

She ended up writing a fantastic piece on her vantage point as an animal behaviorist from Wisconsin visiting New York City, and included some of the snippets of our back-and-forth.

(I might have swooned, but I did keep it totally cool. I think.) 

184989c8a499a6130bf5005552e314b2.jpg (236×240)
Me. Trying to "keep cool."

What came out of it was a question she asked in our conversation. A simple question, one that seemed so freakin' obvious, but after being in the city for so long it just never occurred to me to look at things from this particular angle. Her question was this: 

"Do you have a section in it that includes a hierarchy of skills for city dogs? I looked, couldn’t find it anywhere. What you said below is SO valuable! Did I miss it in the book somewhere? The only (minor) critique I’d make of the book is that I can’t find that much info that really is about ‘city dogs’ versus suburban ones. Again, it’s GREAT info, but I couldn’t find city-specific info as much as I wanted it. (ie, broken glass every where.. I NEVER would have thought of that…) Just asking, and possibly a thought for its eventual reprinting?"

Duh! Commands! City Dog Commands.
So my friends at 2 Dogs Treats gave me the latitude to address exactly that question. "What IS the hierarchy of urban dog commands?"

In the coming weeks, I'll be cross posting from the 2 Dogs Treats Blog the urban dog commands hierarchy, and ways to teach these skills. They are longer posts, often with videos and humor. I hope they can help you out. 

And yes, I'll do an eventual 2nd edition of "Considerations for the City Dog" because...my hero suggested it :)

(No longer keeping it cool. That's the last time I'll mention it, I swear. SQUEEE!)

 Seriously - all of you who read, recommended, reviewed or even helped create Considerations for the City Dog,thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thanks to you, we got up to 25 reviews on Amazon, which means that Amazon *should* start recommending Considerations for other readers who are searching books in the same category!

That doesn't mean you shouldn't review if you haven't. Amazon has tiers of how they promote books to other readers, so the more reviews the better.  If you're so inclined it only takes a moment to review on Amazon and Goodreads and it helps more than any single thing (aside from picketing outside of publishing houses changing "City Dogs Rule!")

While you're at it, review a few of your favorite books, especially if they are written by indie or "self" published authors as they don't have the long arm of a PR firm or publishing house to help get the word out. I put "self" in quotes because I think it's the biggest misnomer in the book industry. It took a team of 15 to get Considerations for the City Dog up to snuff, and bless their hearts, they all volunteered because they believed in me or the concept of the book. If there is a book you love and believe in and you know it's by an indie or "self-published" author, consider giving a quick review so they can perhaps reach that magic number. For all of you who reviewed or recommend in any way:

Thank you :) 



Winterizing Your Pup

2 Dogs Treats just posted "Winterizing Your Pup" which covers coats, booties and the question I get asked more than any other during the winter months...

"Does musher's wax work?" 

(hint: it depends!)

So go over to 2 Dogs Treats and check out "Winterizing Your Pup"!



Thoughts on Having a New Dog

We got a new dog over the winter break. After 7 months of looking (and even having a dog in the home), we found our unicorn dog. 

Our daughter named him "Captain Love", and while it sounds suspiciously like a 1970's porn star, we thought her rationale for the name was pretty sweet.

"Mommy? We should name him Captain Love."
"Why, kiddo?"
"We could call him Captain for a nickname, but his real name is Love. Because I love him." 

For obvious reasons, we will not be yelling "Captain Love, Come!" at the dog park. We just call him "Captain." Though he strikes me more of a Gilligan than a Captain, this will certainly be a story that will be told a million times. 

We just call him Captain.

In the last week of having a dog, it made me appreciate so many things that I took for granted with Sadie and Zeppelin. For starters, both of them eventually learned to walk on a leash past distractions and could give attention with a single call of their name. Let's just say with Captain, we have a long way to go (though he does strike me as an eager and fast learner). I think his parents were a "Distracta-hound" and "Adora-mutt", but that's just my hunch. 

Other things that I've relearned after 15 months of not having a dog live with us:
  • I forgot what 6am looked like because I was sleeping.
  • Ooh, warm puppy couch cuddles are the best! 
  • Wait...Buddy, what are you chewing on? No, not the CELL PHONE! 
  • Now that we have a natural predator in the home again, I've relearned where all the kitty hiding spots are located. 
  • Frito Feet. 
  • We are all aware of how reactive Sadie was to noises, and are so thrilled that the heater, mailman, trucks, neighbors and pretty much any city noise seems to go unnoticed by our hound. Gone are the days where we had to make sure Sadie was out of the house when the heater kicked on, lest we had a shaking puppy.
  • That said, because I started off always reacting to Sadie's reactivity, I felt like I was one step behind. We're taking a lot of preventative measures with Captain, and it seems to be paying off in spades so far. Dogs barking outside? Look buddy - puzzle toys! 
  • Oh, right - I have to move the cat box where he can't help himself to kitty crunchies....
This list will undoubtedly get longer as we navigate living with a dog again, this time with a toddler. For now, it's nice to curl up with a baby on one side, and a dog on the other, and enjoy the comfort of the couch on this very cold winter day. 



Woof Meow Show

A little shameless self promotion:

Over Thanksgiving break, I had the privilege of meeting Don Hanson and Kate Dutra at Green Acres Kennel in Bangor, Maine. I've been a fan of their radio show for quite some time and was flattered when they asked if I'd like to participate in their radio show.

We started talking, and ended up taking a deep-dive on the rescue industry. As a result, we ended up recording enough material for two full episodes, the first of which airs tomorrow night on The Voice of Maine radio stations (WVOM-103.9FM-Bangor, WVOM-1450AM-Rockland & WVQM 101.3FM-Augusta)

The podcast version will be available Sunday night at 9pm on your favorite Podcasting App or Magical Podcastery Technological Appy Thing (tm). 

Part 2 will air on Christmas weekend! Perfect for all your travel plans! 

Thank you so much to Don and Kate for the invitation and for the conversation - we'll have to do it again because I'm quite sure we could have talked for days! If you're in Maine, these are great people who love, care about, and know dogs. Support them and listen to their show - they are really great! 


Ho, Ho, No!

We've all heard that pets don't make the best gifts for the holidays. Slate has a fantastic article on the matter.

Veterinarians, dog trainers, behaviorists, shelter employees and rescue groups never advise dogs as Christmas gifts because many of them end up in the shelters 3-6 months later when they are adolescent dogs. Many of them also come from breeders-of-ill-repute (puppy mills). Good breeders never produce puppies for Christmas Morning.

Shelters and reputable breeders are our biggest word-of-mouth against Christmas puppies and educating against the practice, and providing alternatives.

So why on EARTH is a Maine shelter delivering puppies to homes on Christmas morning?!?

I'm really sad to see the Coastal Humane Society of Maine get on the Christmas Puppy bandwagon - they will even deliver the puppies to the door on Christmas morning. They are looking for drivers to deliver the dogs (many of which just had a traumatic transport from the South to Maine) to people's homes on Christmas morning. Some of which might end up back in the shelter in June. 

Yes, it looks good on paper: kids wake up and see a new dog, and it's really exciting for everyone, until the puppy needs training classes, or eats all the new toys the kids just opened. 

After the excitement of the holidays are over, many Christmas pets go back to the shelter. 
If someone is committing to bringing a dog home, keeping it in a shelter for an extra week so a family can be surprised by the dog seems really unfair to the dog frown emoticon

I see what they are trying to do - but I think this is a huge miss. 

  • Instead, the shelter should put a program together to prevent dogs coming back to their shelter
  • Encourage families to come and volunteer their time socializing the puppies (or go down to the shelter as a family unit later in the day)
  • Have a local artist paint holiday ornaments of the dogs in the shelter, and the money for the ornaments can go back to support the shelter. 
  • Related: The ornament could be a "we will get a dog in the new year, but we are all going to meet the dog" placeholder present.
  • Buy a round of dog training classes and give that as a gift - then in the weeks after the holidays, the family can go meet dogs from reputable sources. 
  • Can't have a dog but want one? Donate to your local shelter. 
  • Not sure if your kids would be responsible enough for a dog? Go as a family to walk dogs at the shelter once a week. If they aren't into it after a month, then you've dodged a bullet (and helped some dogs get some exercise!) If they continue to look forward to dog walking day, you can consider foster-to-adopt through the shelter. 
Regardless, if you are considering getting a pet, don't use Christmas as an excuse. You can prep the family on Christmas and build excitement by buying classes or a promissory note for your dog-to-be, but from dog trainers, shelter employees and rescue advocates everywhere - please:

 Exnay on the Ristmas Cay Uppy Pay.

 Lastly, you can always do this, instead:

Happy holidays,


Car Talk: Holiday Travel Tips

Sip and I shouldn't be in charge of advice.
This is the one where Sip and I use the terms "ass-plosion" and "flirt pole" in the same breath as "grandma."

Writing for +Car Talk is really, really fun! Here is our post on Holiday Travel. Enjoy!