Always a good dog 🐶❤️

Lessons learned from a dog never have to go away even when you don’t have one. During this time of sheltering in place and staying home, my time around dogs is socially distant. This has me reflecting on how dogs are still able to positively influence me from six feet away. I’ve been impressed by their work. I’ve also been thinking back to my big adopted dog from the San Francisco SPCA.

Best advice ever: Set your dog up for success!

One of the best pieces of advice the SPCA gave us was the notion that to help our new family member and dog flourish, we should try to set her up for success. This perspective struck me as both simple and brilliant, easy to remember, and you can apply it to everything. Each time I engaged with her, whether taking her for a walk or asking her to watch the house while I went out on an errand, I applied this philosophy.

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Good job puppy!

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Helen Woodward Animal Center Offering FREE Online Separation Anxiety Course for Your Dog

It’s time to start working on helping our dogs be prepared to spend time alone again as sheltering in place orders are lifted, and many more people return to work.

We love our furry family members and thanks to the wonderful people at the Helen Woodward Animal Center, you can learn how to avoid the pitfalls of separation anxiety with your dog from this FREE online course!

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Academy For Dog Trainers #HarnessTheLove Campaign

This week the Academy For Dog Trainers (ADT) launched Harness The Love, an educational campaign promoting the benefits of no-pull harnesses for our dogs. Most dogs don't instinctually walk easily by your side without some sort of instruction. Teaching a dog to walk with you rather than pull you down the street takes practice, commitment, and training. Having the proper tools can make all the difference and save you both frustration.

Many dogs need little to no training for a no-pull harness to work.

An immediate benefit from choosing a no-pull harness for any dog is that pulling decreases when they find themselves turned around toward their person away from whatever their destination was. I wish we'd discovered no-pull harnesses when we first had our big Shepherd Husky. You can see below that she wore only a regular harness.

I know that if we had started her with a no-pull harness, we could have avoided many frustrating moments on our walks.

Healthy Choice

I have seen people yank their dog by the collar sharply enough to cause them to cough and gag. No-pull harnesses do not put pressure on dogs' necks and throats. That's an important benefit because our best buddies can be harmed (their windpipe) from improper use of collars.

Watch Loose Leash Walking with Hazel and Lori!


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ADT are big fans of the Freedom Harness, the Easy Walk Harness and the Sense-ation Harness but there are many options to choose from. See a full list of front-clip harnesses on the Harness The Love page on their website.

Learn more about the Academy For Dog Trainers, the Harness The Love campaign!

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SF SPCA Launches No Prong Educational Campaign

My view is that if you use a prong collar on a dog, you are sadly missing out on everything. Your relationship with your dog isn't based on love, trust, fellowship. If you want to experience the best of being with a dog, why would you use a tool that causes pain?

As you can see from the photo, it wasn't long after we adopted our big husky shepherd that we switched from a nylon collar to a harness, because it enhanced our relationship.


Once again, the San Francisco SPCA, where we found our wonderful dog, is taking the lead in helping dogs (Remember this video?) and our relationship with them with the launch of this educational campaign, What's Wrong With The Prong:

June 21, 2016 – The San Francisco SPCA has launched a campaign to educate the public about the harm caused by prong collars. Prong collars are designed to inflict pain and discomfort and can cause serious physical, behavioral, and emotional damage.

“We continue to regularly see prong collars on dogs throughout San Francisco,” said Dr. Jennifer Scarlett, co-president at the San Francisco SPCA. “Most owners don’t want to hurt their dogs – they want to do the right thing. There’s a huge need for community education.”

The SF SPCA Veterinary Hospitals treat prong collar injuries, which range from skin irritation and punctures to spinal cord problems. Prongs can easily damage a dog’s delicate neck area. The protective layers of the skin on the under portion of a dog’s neck, where the prongs of the collar are designed to pinch, are 3x thinner than those of human skin.

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Teaching a dog basic manners doesn't have to be through aggressive techniques

Dogs need manners. All dogs need to understand basic commands for their own safety, whether they live in the city or country. Our front door faced the street. One of the first commands we taught our new dog was "wait", to prevent her from dashing out after another dog, or the man in brown into the busy avenue and possibly a car.

I believe strongly in reward-based training. It was clear from the start our dog responded to positivity more than aggression or dominance. Her strong desire to be with us, and her obvious delight when she pleased us was mutually rewarding.

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"It is more parsimonious to interpret dogs’ behaviour as if they were simply trying to maintain access to essential resources, perhaps the most important being, uniquely for this species, access to one or more human attachment figures."

As my friend Debbie Jacobs ( reminds us regularly, dog training is a unregulated industry. Therefore, I was glad to read the Psychology Today article, "Dominance" in Dogs-Again, by John Bradshaw, Ph.D.

In addition to the wonderful quote above, Dr. Bradshaw explains clearly why, in my view, we do a great disservice to dogs, writing:

“So it is suggested that Dominance Theory, when applied to dog training, may serve as a self-reinforcing hypothesis: by using physical force, the owner elicits an aggressive response from the dog, which in turn is interpreted as a sign of dominance; alpha-rolls and other forms of physical confrontation may actually increase the risk of an aggressive responses from the dog”.

The dogs of today don't need to be dominated to learn how to be a wonderful companion. At a minimum, dogs want companionship, even the street dogs of Turkey I met wanted access to humans in a comfortable format.

Teaching a dog basic manners doesn't have to be through aggressive techniques. We can do better. Positive reward-based training allows you to show a dog why it's worth it to listen and learn from you. It worked for us.

- Sharon Castellanos

What about you, do you trust the accuracy of Dr. Bradshaw's canine science?

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SF SPCA Behavior & Training Team Hosts Yappy Hours at Indoor Dog Park

On March 4th, the San Francisco SPCA Behavior & Training team began holding Yappy Hours on Wednesdays and Saturdays at their Mission campus indoor dog park! Come see the adoptable dogs mingle and play...who knows, you may find your new furever friend!

Come hang out with small dogs on Wednesdays, and big dogs on Saturdays! See flyer below for more details.



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Just because she's pretty doesn't mean this dog wants your attention

It may come as a surprise to you but some dogs aren't interested in being the center of attention. Reactive dogs like Teddy need their space. When she's ready, she'll seek you out.

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For a dog lover, it can be hard on your feelings when you're turned down by a pretty dog, but since spending time with Teddy here, when she decides you're okay by her, and you are allowed to give her a scratch or two on the butt -- it felt like winning a prize! Being allowed to give Teddy some affectionate attention was a wonderful sensation the first time, and many years later, the excitement hasn't diminished.

Have you ever had a reactive dog offer you their affection, or the chance to make physical contact with them? How did it feel?  


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Who else needs a really fun dog toy that you can make yourself?

What a great project and fun dog toy! This video was circulating on Facebook last month. They are calling it a bottle game in the video. Not only does the dog toy look simple to put together, the materials look easily sourced. Everyone with a dog who enjoys puzzles and treats will love this.

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Photography and agility training turn rescued dog into Instagram star

Like many dog people most of the photos on my Instagram account are of Cleo, and our life in San Francisco. If you scroll through the photos from three years ago, you'll be able to see how Cleo has gone from long walks in different neighborhoods to a senior dog who prefers naps and cuddles.

Meet Niner, the Instagram Star. This has to be one of my favorite stories. According to SF Weekly, Niner was an abandoned dog who not only found his forever family in Jaymi Heimbuch, but with her help along with training from the SPCA, Niner found he has a very special talent.

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Can a blended rescue dog become an AKC National Champion?

My dog Cleo is a big part of why I started Grouchy Puppy four years ago. She showed me that dog adoption is worth the risk. Cleo is my first blended dog, and has since convinced me that you don't have to be a pure bred dog to be smart and cute. A rescue dog can give fearlessly and influence positively. I'm forever grateful to the San Francisco SPCA because they saw Cleo's potential at a shelter. They gave us a chance to have this wonderful life with her, and gave this dog a chance to be the ambassador and success story that she is today.

Roo the rescue and new role model

Roo the rescue dog is a new local success story that began at the SF SPCA. Her tale will make you cheer and cry at the same time. This previously abandoned dog is the first rescue mix to become a national agility champion!?! How did she go from rambunctious pup running loose near the Excelsior District to the 2013 AKC National Agility Champion? Read this amazing San Francisco story to find out how Stacey Campbell, SF SPCA dog trainer, and longtime volunteer trainer for Muttville Senior Dog Rescue, sees Roo's potential and guides her all the way to the top! Enjoy this wonderfully inspirational story, it reminds me a little of National Velvet. Roo along with Stacey's loving dedication is why I believe in the power of the human animal bond, adoption, and blended dogs.


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How to protect your dog from bad animal behavior professionals

Who doesn't want the best for their family? Billions of dollars annually swirl around the pet care industry. We love our dogs and include them as family members. It's easy to see why more dog-related businesses are started each year. 

Miss Basic Obedience Class Graduate - SFSPCA 2005

I know that my big dog in the city needed a few skills to successfully navigate life here. When we adopted her from the San Francisco SPCA, Cleo's adoption fees included a series of basic obedience training classes. It was during one of these valuable sessions that I learned about the fabulous Jean Donaldson, founder of The Academy of Dog Trainers. Recently on Facebook one of Jean's students, Cory Cordes, wrote a post that immediately caught my eye.

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UCLA's Hospital Therapy Dogs Showcased in New PBS Documentary

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Via Newswise

Newswise — Several four-legged volunteers with the People-Animal Connection (PAC) program at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and their human counterparts will star in an upcoming episode of the PBS television show, “Shelter Me: Let’s Go Home,” premiering in April.

The docu-series celebrates shelter pets with positive and uplifting stories about people's lives being improved when they adopt a shelter pet. The show followed a handful of human/dog teams with UCLA’s animal-assisted therapy PAC program as they volunteered at the hospital. All of the dogs featured were adopted from shelters and now help people by bringing comfort to patients and their families, as well as joy to the doctors and nurses.

Read the full story

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Dog adoption tales: You can't hit undo but you can make it better

Looking back at the first few months with our adopted dog, I can see so many mistakes we made. Mistakes that I would love to do over, or hit the undo button on. Sadly, my time machine is broken so instead it is better that I forgive myself, and be grateful that my dog loves and trusts me today.

I've mentioned here before that I grew up with a mother who was a dog trainer in the 1970s and 80s. She trained our dogs, winning lots of ribbons, plates and crystal bowls at dog shows. She also trained a lot of other people's dogs privately and in groups. When we adopted our dog, I knew from my childhood experiences the importance of crate training. I knew how much our dogs loved theirs. I used to play hide and seek in them, or take my afternoon nap in one with Tasha or Shadow. Our dogs used them as sanctuaries from us kids, and as safe havens when we traveled to dog shows.

Why didn't I do a better job at crate training my dog Cleo?

The day we sold the dog crate

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Game Time or Old Dog Seeks Tricks

My dog is gradually losing her eyesight. She's an older dog so it isn't a shock, but it is an adjustment to both of us. Cleo is constantly relearning her routes, and relearning distances between objects and her nose. During her navigation, she is learning to listen to our guiding words. Probably due to her arthritis, and I'd like to think her canine wisdom, she takes a slower pace now. No more racing wildly down the hall towards the front door.

With her senior years here, we are finding new ways to play. She was never one to play much fetch, so getting a ball with a bell inside isn't necessary. Her squeaky toys are still fun, but not as often. We searched around for ways to play, and keep her brain stimulated, that were fun for her personality but also safe. We created our own version of a favorite childhood game, but modified for old, slow, half-blind dogs, who are loved like crazy.


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Cleo captures "the flag" during Hide and Seek

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