The Problem with Pit Bull Propaganda


Recently, two children were killed by family Pit Bulls, and the mother of these children was seriously mauled while trying to protect her children. ( This case is causing many to question the safety of Pit Bulls, and is clashing with the propaganda for Pit Bulls that portrays these dogs as safe cuddle-bugs, perfect for every single household in America.

Pit Bull propaganda has been on the rise in the past 10 years and has purposefully created the misconception that Pit Bulls are no different than other dog breeds. Pit Bull advocates would have you believe that a dog’s breeding and genetics play absolutely NO role in how they turn out, it is all about how the dog is raised and treated, and that any and all aggressive behaviors are the result of improper rearing and handling of the dog ( Even more disturbingly, some try to deny what Pit Bulls were originally bred to do. This misinformation is irresponsible and dangerous, as now thousands of ignorant people own Pit Bulls and are completely unaware that they are indeed different from your average dog, until said dog acts aggressively without any provocation.

Recently, I watched a video by “The Dodo” about Pit Bulls ( In this video, the first point that is made is that Pits are no more aggressive than other dogs. This is a blatant lie. I have never seen people try to deny the instincts of other breeds. No one tries to say that Rottweilers and Irish Setters have the same temperament when raised the same. No one goes and buys a French Bulldog and tries to train it to herd. No one buys a Saluki and expects it to point at game like a Pointer. No one tries to make the argument that all dogs are inherently the same, except for Pit Bull advocates.

It is important that other dog lovers make the point that Pits are not like other dogs, as the lies being spread about them are leading people to adopt and buy Pit Bulls under the guise that they are no different from Labradors and Golden Retrievers. In this article, we will look at some of the misconceptions about Pit Bulls, and we will also look at what makes Pit Bulls different from other dogs.

Pit Bull Origins:

The ancestors of the Pit Bull were bull baiting dogs. This bull baiting history is where these dogs obtained their desire to bite and hold (Dog: The Definitive Guide for Dog Owners). When bull baiting became illegal, these bull dogs were crossed with terriers to compete in the sport of ratting. Eventually, they began to breed the dogs to fight other dogs as well ( Pit Bull descend from dogs which were selectively bred to be extremely aggressive with other animals, and illegal fighting still takes place today.

There is a misconception that all Pit Bulls that were human aggressive were destroyed or “culled” ( Yet, writings by some of the old-time breeders of fighting Pit Bulls prove this to be incorrect. This pdf from has information on this topic, and from the authors research, it seems that “man biters” were commonly bred:

Currently, there are several breeds which descend from these bull baiting ancestors. These dog breeds include but are not limited to the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Bull Terrier (Am Staffs), the Bull Terrier, and the American Bully. All of these breeds fall under the Pit Bull dog type and carry many of the same genes and tendencies.

“It’s All How You Raise Them”

This is one of the worst lies fed to unsuspecting would-be dog parents. People are told this in order to encourage them to take on dogs they are ill-equipped to handle. Herding breeds herd. Scent hounds perpetually have their noses to the ground. Labs and Golden Retrievers love retrieving and are drawn to water. No one denies that these behaviors are from years of careful selective breeding. One can fine tune the dog’s abilities with training, but the drive is in his genetic makeup. Many people don’t want to accept the fact that aggression can be bred into dogs in the same way these other behaviors are selected for. Proper rearing, early socialization, and training are important for any dog, but these interventions cannot erase breed-specific behaviors. Some dogs are more inherently aggressive than others, and Pit Bulls as a group were uniquely selected to be extremely dog aggressive.

Pits Behave Differently When They Attack:

This goes back to genetics and is the biggest reason Pit Bulls are so dangerous. Pit Bulls tend to behave differently when they attack compared to other dogs. They bite, hold, shake, and will not let go. Even Pro-Pit websites recognize this, and recommend owners have a break stick on hand to break up fights (

Just because a Pit likes dogs he has met or lives with, does not change the fact that he may one day meet a dog and decide to attack it. It also doesn’t mean the dog will never develop aggression to dogs which it has been fine with for years. The attack will seem unpredictable, because Pit Bulls were selectively bred to not show normal signs of aggression ( The American Kennel Club even notes that even well socialized American Staffordshire Bull Terriers can become dog aggressive at any point in their lives: “It must be noted that dog aggression can develop even in well-socialized Am Staffs; an Am Staff should never under any circumstances be left alone with other dogs.” (

Most breeds of dog stop fighting when the other dog shows submission. If that does not work, they at least stop when severe, painful stimulus is applied. Pits just do not respond the way most dog breeds do. They were bred to have what dog fighters describe as “game.” The term is used to describe the trait of the dog not giving up, even when experiencing excruciating pain. If you Google the phrase “game dogs pit bulls,” you can find sites and forums where dog fighters congregate and discuss dogs with this trait. It is highly valued and praised in this sick community of animal abusers. It is something that is bred into the dogs, not trained.  More disturbingly, these same “game bred” Pit Bulls can and do end up in shelters, and then are adopted out to people, all under the guise of being “just like other dogs.”

Backyard Breeder Issues:

For some reason, Pit Bulls and Bully breeds have seen a surge of popularity in the past 10 years or so. I am not sure what the cause of this is. Generally, when a breed has a huge boost in numbers, there is a clear reason. Rin Tin Tin caused everyone to want a German Shepherd. Lassie saved the day every week on TV, and many families wanted a collie. Recently, shelters saw a significant increase in huskies because people wanted wolves as seen in Game of Thrones. Every time breeds have great jumps in number like this, it is largely due to people breeding dogs irresponsibly, dogs with poor temperaments who shouldn’t be bred, and the result is a mix of some dogs who make great pets and others with anxiety, aggression, and fear issues. In addition to Pit Bulls having poor foundational genetics geared toward aggression, they are also being bred by the worst of people who are breeding dogs with the worst temperaments. This is creating a large group of unadoptable, dangerous dogs who end up in shelters in large numbers because they develop issues ignorant owners can’t handle, and honestly, the best of owners would be unable to handle many of these dogs. Worsening the situation are no kill shelters, which refuse to euthanize unadoptable dogs, and instead let these animals suffer in small cages for years.

But Other Dogs are Aggressive Too!

Yes, this is absolutely true. Dog breeds such as Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Shar-pei, and Akitas are all more prone to be aggressive to people and other dogs. The difference is, there is no lobby of people trying to fool unsuspecting soon-to-be dog owners on the temperament of these breeds. No on tries to say Shar-pei are just like Labs and love every dog they meet. No one tries to sell Akitas as the perfect “nanny” for little kids. No one says Rottweilers make perfect pets for first time owners. But those kinds of lies are told all the time about Pit Bulls, and the propaganda is causing the death of pets and people.

The “Nanny Dog” Fantasy:

No, Pit Bulls were never ever nanny dogs. There is no such thing as a “nanny dog.” Dogs cannot babysit children. I honestly do not know where this stupid myth got its start, but selecting for traits suitable for a child’s playmate does not result in the Pit Bull. It only takes a little common sense to realize that a dog that bites, holds, and shakes when it attacks is NOT a good dog for kids. An animal bred to chase and kill other creatures that squeak is not the best playmate for little creatures that run and make funny noises. An animal with an incredibly strong desire to finish attacking and ignore all sense of pain has absolutely no place in a household with children.

If someone wants a good dog for young kids, they should buy a puppy such as a Golden Retriever, Standard Poodle, Irish Setter, etc. from a reliable breeder. The puppy should be socialized and trained extensively from a young age, and the children should be taught to be respectful of the animal. Rescuing an adult is still an option, as long as the dog’s background is known. For children younger than 12, the more you know of the dog’s past and the more control you have over its personality and behavior, the better. Socialize early, obedience train it, and teach children to be kind and gentle with all animals. And always supervise kids and pets.

What People Should Know before Getting a Pit Bull:

People thinking of adopting a Pit Bull need to understand the fact that these dogs are not hardwired like many other breeds. They were originally designed to be aggressive, to attack without warning, to ignore normal canine signals of submission, and to fight until the bitter end.

These are not appropriate dogs for children. It is my opinion that they should not be kept in the same house with other dogs, especially if the other dogs are small. Like most terriers, other small pets, like cats, are also a big no-no. If they do share a home with other dogs or cats, they should be separated while not supervised. These dogs should NEVER be off leash where they can meet dogs they do not know, nor where they will meet strangers.

Owners of these dogs should educate themselves on break sticks and have a way to choke one of these dogs off if they do bite someone or something and will not let go. Do not depend on pepper spray to break up a fight between these dogs. Amazon reviews abound with people saying pepper spray does no work to break up fights between Pit Bulls (although if a Pit Bull is approaching, it may prevent a fight from starting).

As a side note, fair warning to people adopting from a shelter. If you do not want a Pit Bull, do not trust the shelter to tell you what the dog’s heritage is. Shelters lie about dog breeds all the time to make their dogs more adoptable. Look for yourself. If it looks like a Pit Bull, it’s a Pit Bull.


Pit Bulls and their ancestors were selectively bred for generations to be more aggressive than the average dog. These dogs were selected for a tenacity that causes them to continue to fight even when experiencing excruciating pain. These dogs are unique and that when they do bite, they tend to bite, hold, and shake which causes extreme damage. Pit Bulls therefore can be particularly dangerous to other pets and children, as their bite style produces horrible injuries, and they additionally continue to fight when most dogs would stop. These dogs also have an unpredictable nature, and can appear fine with other people and pets for years before they attack. For these reasons, these dogs are not suitable for the average household, and they are certainly not suitable as a pet for children.

Dog Culture is Out of Control: Dog Culture in America

Dog Culture: Bad for Dogs and for People

No, I am not talking about puppy culture, which is utilized by many to help socialize puppies from a young age. The topic being discussed here is dog culture, which is a craze that is taking the USA by storm.

What is Dog Culture:

In simplest terms, dog culture is the elevation of dogs past the status of pet. I would say it is the treating of dogs as humans, but many people treat their dogs better than they do other humans even within their own family. Dog owners of today anthropomorphize their canine friends in a way that goes beyond simply treating them with love and respect. In this post, we will discuss examples of dog culture and why dog culture is detrimental to people and dogs.

Examples of Dog Culture:

Sometimes examples work better than definitions. So, here I will describe what I consider to be examples of dog culture:

  • People referencing their dog as their son/daughter. Dogs are dogs, this type of talk is just weird.
  • People petitioning for a dog that brutally attacked a person to NOT be euthanized (this excludes dogs that attack in defense of their family). A dog that mauls someone needs to be euthanized.
  • People taking their dogs to places that are specifically labeled “No dogs allowed.” (excluding true service dogs from this). Some places are not appropriate areas for dogs, such as grocery stores. Also, some people do not like dogs, and they have the right to go to establishments where dogs are not permitted and expect to not see dogs when in these areas.
  • People ignoring leash laws. This hurts dogs and people. I have lost count of the number of times myself and my dogs have been harassed by dogs whose owners could not be bothered to keep their dogs leashed in areas with clear cut leash laws. Also, the unleashed dogs are at risk of being injured. Letting dogs loose in leash restricted zones is never a good idea.
  • People believing any discipline of a dog is abuse. Many want useful tools, such as choke chains, prong collars, and electric collars to be outlawed, as they see any corrective tools as inherently abusive.
  • People taking their dogs everywhere with them, including friend/family homes without asking permission. People assume everyone likes dogs and everyone will be happy to have their dog around. This isn’t the case, and people shouldn’t force their dogs upon others.
  • People espousing “No bad dogs, only bad owners!” While dogs have no concept of morals and cannot do something with evil intent, some dogs are extremely aggressive and cannot be rehabilitated, even with good rearing and training.
  • People becoming angry when a dog that is not adoptable is euthanized. Some dogs are not adoptable and should be euthanized to stop them from languishing for years in a shelter. Some animal activists want to “save” every dog, even if this means sentencing the dog to a life of imprisonment in a shelter.

Negative Effects of Dog Culture:

Ironically, there are many negative impacts of dog culture on dogs themselves. Ultimately, people treat their dogs like little humans not for the benefit of the dog, but for their own benefit. A dog knows he is a dog, he does not think he is a human, and he will be happiest when treated like a dog. So many dogs today are neurotic and uncontrolled, and they are not the happier for it. Many dogs are anxiety ridden messes as the result of the way they are treated in today’s world. So many owners never discipline their dogs, never walk them, and never train them.

Take the lack of exercise and discipline that most dogs experience. People refuse to use something such a prong collar to teach their dog to walk on a loose leash, because that would be “cruel.” But, because their dog pulls on the lead, they do not walk the dog, and consequently one of the dog’s key needs to move daily is never met.

Another example is people leaving their dogs off leash in areas with leash laws. The owners feel that “my dog is a sweetheart who needs some time to run free.” Said dog then gets hit by a car when she takes off after a squirrel, or she gets in a fight with another dog who does not want to play.

People anthropomorphize their dogs, and since people like hugs, dogs must as well. Then, people are surprised when their sweet little Mr. Fluffer Doo’s disfigures their grandchild’s face who tried to hug the dog. When in truth, most dogs do not like being hugged, and even dogs that enjoy being hugged by their owners will see this same action as threatening from another person.

Often, owners ignore the fact that dogs are predators. People espouse that dogs are the purest of pure creatures who would never hurt anyone or anything, and then they are shocked when their dog kills the neighbor’s cat, or when their dog bred for generations to chase and kill small animals that squeak mauls a Chihuahua.

A troubling trend is the abundance of “emotional support animals,” or ESA for short, popping up everywhere. People drag their dogs everywhere and state they are “emotional support dogs,” because people can’t stand the thought of going places without their little pal. I have seen many “ESA” dogs out and about; I have yet to see one who was well adjusted, confident, and well socialized. Most of them look terrified to be hauled around to unfamiliar places, and most would be much more comfortable being at home.

              One of the worst examples of dog culture is people rallying around dogs that have attacked humans, demanding that these animals be rehabilitated instead of euthanized. Shelters have also begun hiding aggressive dog’s history under the guise of their being “no bad dogs, only bad owners.” The idea that every aggressive dog can be rehabilitated is unrealistic and dangerous to the public. I wish every dog could be saved, and that all issues could be resolved with training, but the fact it some dogs cannot be rehabilitated, and turning such dogs out to the general public is a recipe for disaster.

              This also creates issues for shelter dogs. As more and more aggressive dogs that should be euthanized are adopted out to unsuspecting people, more people are going to be attacked and disfigured by these dogs. Overall, I foresee this as making people afraid to adopt from shelters and rescues, which will prevent nice dogs that would make excellent pets from finding forever homes. Even if they are able to find a home, their stay in the shelter may affect their personalities, as extended confinement is detrimental to all creatures. (

              Another trend, as mentioned above, are emotional support dogs. Because people take their untrained dogs out and label them as emotional support animals, people are being injured by dogs who are being allowed places that are supposed to be reserved for humans and actual service dogs. (See:, and True service dogs have been attacked by ESA dogs, and once a service dog is attacked, they may never be able to work again, leaving their owner who has a true disability without the support they need to live their daily life.

Dogs are man’s best friend, but they are dogs, not people. Dogs are loyal and loving, but they are simple creatures who thrive on rules and consistency, not on being treated like little humans.

It can be easy to forget that dogs are dogs.

What Has Caused Dog Culture?

I can only speculate on this, but I think this probably started because of more people becoming concerned with animal welfare and animal rights. Fifty years ago, it was not uncommon for people to have a dog that they kept tied up all day and night on an 8-foot chain with little to no interaction or activity. People began to see the cruelty in this – and rightfully so! – and people began pushing for dogs to be brought into the home and treated like family. Now, the pendulum has swung the opposite extreme, and people think dogs should be treated as humans.

Also, I wonder if people waiting longer and longer to have children has impacted this. The natural desire to have kids is present whether people have them or not, and a dog serves as a pretty good surrogate for a real human child.

I believe part of this phenomenon also stems from the fact that people are more removed from nature than ever, and thus they just don’t see animals as animals anymore. Many kids are raised with cartoons depicting dogs being police officers and having human like reasoning skills and emotions. Now, I do not have a problem with this, or in teaching kids to respect all life forms, from humans to spiders. But there has to be a balance. The issue is that these same kids may never see a cat decapitate a bird, or see their dog catch, kill, and eat a squirrel. But, given half a chance, most dogs and cats will do both of those activities with gleeful joy and will never experience one bit of remorse for ending the poor bird or squirrel’s life. They are predators, it comes naturally to them.


I am not sure how to end this, other than to say DON’T be a part of dog culture! Love your pets, treat them well, but remember at the end of the day they are dogs, plain and simple, and they want to be treated like dogs, not like little people. Your dog will thank you for it!

Help, My Dog Has Megaesophagus!

My Dog is Regurgitating Food!

My mom’s dog, Oscar, who passed away at the beginning of 2021, lived the last few months of his life with megaesophagus. We were able to keep weight on Oscar and help him feel his best with this disease. In this post, I am going to discuss what megaesophagus is, its causes, treatment, and what we did for Oscar.

Regurgitation, Not Vomiting:

While not the most pleasant topic, it is important to differentiate between regurgitation and vomiting. This was one of the major issues we had when determining what was wrong with Oscar. We initially just thought he was vomiting his food, and this seemed more likely because of Oscar’s kidney disease. It took us several weeks before we realized that Oscar’s food wasn’t even reaching his stomach; instead, his food was sitting in his esophagus. Oscar wasn’t retching or making any of the normal motions dogs make before they vomit, he would simply get a confused look on his face walk away from us, and all the food will come back up. This would occur within minutes of eating his meals.


Most of the time, the cause of megaesophagus is unknown. This was true in Oscar’s case. Some dogs are born with megaesophagus, and others, like Oscar, develop it later in life. Sometimes, it is caused by another disorder, such as: myasthenia gravis, cancer, Addison’s disease, etc. It is important to treat an underlying cause, if present, as a component to handling the dog’s condition.


Once we figured out that Oscar was regurgitating food, and not vomiting, we were pretty sure of his megaesophagus diagnosis. Still, we got an X ray to visualize the dilation of his esophagus and confirm the diagnosis. X rays seem to be the most common diagnostic tool used for this disease. As stated above, since certain conditions can cause megaesophagus, it is important to do blood tests to rule out any of these other causes, such as myasthenia gravis or Addison’s disease.


One of the most common complications associated with this disorder is aspiration pneumonia. Because the dog regurgitates food so often, it creates a situation where they are very likely to end up with some food particles in their lungs. This is potentially life threatening, so it is important to firstly, make sure you are doing everything you can to stop the dog from regurgitating food, and secondly, taking your dog to the vet at the first signs that they may have aspiration pneumonia.

Signs of aspiration pneumonia include (

  • Coughing
  • Irregular breathing
  • Runny nose
  • Dehydration
  • Loss of appetite
  • High fever
  • Nasal whistling
  • Difficulty exercising
  • Lethargy


Treatment for megaesophagus consists of figuring out what food consistency is easiest for the dog to consume, and keeping the dog upright for 20 to 30 minutes after meals. From my research, most people recommend either feeding food in a small meatball form or grinding the food down to gruel. Also, dogs with megaesophagus tend to do better with three to four meals a day as opposed to one or two meals. Medications for an underlying cause are imperative if a cause of the disorder is determined.

Keeping the dog upright after meals can be one of the trickiest aspects. Many dogs do not like being kept upright while eating, as it’s an unnatural position for them. If the dog is small, he could be held by the owner for 20 to 30 minutes; this is what we did for Oscar while we awaited his Bailey chair ( After ordering and receiving the Bailey chair, Oscar still required supervision while he ate his meals and while sitting in the Bailey chair, as he would try to hop out of the chair if left alone even for a second.

In Oscar’s case, we discovered that grinding his food down and mixing it with beef broth seemed to help him the most. Oscar was on a prescription kidney food for his renal failure. While I cooked fresh food for Lady when she developed kidney disease, Oscar was not able to get the fresh food down with his megaesophagus, so we switched over to the commercial prescription diet. We would grind his kibble, grind his canned food, mix them together, and add enough beef broth to make the mixture very liquidy.

While many dogs with megaesophagus seem to do best with four meals a day, for Oscar, a four meal a day regimen did not work well. Oscar actually did better with three meals a day; breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

In addition to the above steps, Oscar’s veterinarian also prescribed sildenafil to help treat his condition. This medication really did help reduce the number of times Oscar regurgitated his meals, and I would recommend anyone caring for a dog with megaesophagus to give this medicine a try.

There is alot of trial and error when figuring out what works.

Oscar would make quite a mess at mealtimes, so we started putting a bib on him to make clean-up easier.


Many of the articles I have read talking about this condition say that the prognosis for megaesophagus tends to be poor. Still, it is possible to find stories of many dogs living long, happy lives with this disorder. The most notable story is Gremlin’s. Gremlin was diagnosed with megaesophagus at one year of age. His devoted owner has helped him cope with his condition, and he did very well with his condition. I am not sure if Gremlin is still alive, but he certainly lived beyond the one year the veterinarians predicted he would live. Included here is an article talking about his story.


In summary, if your dog is showing signs of megaesophagus, you need to get an accurate diagnosis. Generally, an x-ray will show if megaesophagus is present. Blood tests will likely be needed to determine if an underlying cause is present.

For treatment, your dog will need

  • A chair to stay upright. Bailey Chairs work well for this:
  • 3 – 4 small meals a day.
  • Sildenafil, if it helps.
  • Food needs to be either fed as “meatballs” or as a gruel, whatever works best for your dog.
  • Treatment of underlying cause, if present (ie, Addison’s disease)

Remember to monitor for signs of aspiration pneumonia, and keep close track of your dog’s weight to assure they are getting enough calories.


Oscars megaesophagus was difficult to manage, but it was very, very rewarding to see him be able to keep his meals down. He was able to maintain his weight, which was very surprising to us, considering he had megaesophagus and kidney disease, both diseases that cause weight loss. Oscar lived several months with his megaesophagus diagnosis, and passed away unexpectedly in his sleep. Initially, I was worried that he possibly died of aspiration pneumonia, but from reviewing what symptoms are present with this complication, I do not think his passing was in any way related to megaesophagus or pneumonia. Oscar was approximately 15 years old when he passed away, and he was able to live out his last few months very happily even with the diagnosis of megaesophagus.

Pit Bulls in Shelters: The Pit Bull Problem in the USA

Pit Bulls in Shelters: The Pit Bull Problem in the USA

Currently in the United States, pit bulls make up a considerable portion of the dogs in shelters. Some estimates put the number at 40% to 60%, but I have seen statistics as low as 20%. While accurate numbers are hard to come by, one only needs to look at adoptable animal listings in their area to discover that most pounds and shelters have many, many pit bulls in their kennels looking for homes.

What is a Pit Bull?

The pit bull is a group of dog types originally descended from the crossing of bull-baiting dogs and terriers. ( Currently, there are a few dogs within this family of breeds, including the American Staffordshire terrier, which is recognized by the American Kennel Club, the American bully, the American pit bull terrier, and the Staffordshire bull terrier. All of these breeds come from the same original stock, and all are muscular, tenacious dogs with a propensity to animal aggression. Many argue as to whether or not the above dogs should all be considered pit bulls. I think it is reasonable to class all as pit bulls, in the same way the Malinois, the Laekenois, the Tervuren, and Groenendael are all called Belgian Shepherds, even as the Malinois is being moved more toward a schutzhund and police dog and other varieties are being bred for other tasks such as the show ring.

US Pit Bull Population and Shelter Population:

I have seen many different numbers on what percentage of the US dog population is made up of pit bulls. The most commonly stated number is 6% (,of%20the%20country’s%20canine%20population.) It must be recognized that this source is adamantly anti-pit bull, but with this being said, even pro-pit websites seem to use this statistic (,the%20breed%20is%20quite%20broad.) Still, I wonder if the number of pit-bulls is higher than this, simply because I tend to see A LOT of this type of dog. Anti-pit bull activists have interest in reporting a low number for the total pit bull population, as then the number of attacks become more significant. Still, there is a huge variety of dogs in the USA, and most are not pit bulls, but I suspect the number may be closer to 8 – 9%, especially in certain regions of the country.

An article by the ASPCA from 2014 states that the dog most commonly relinquished to shelters was the pit bull type dog. ( This lines up with my own experience when searching for a new dog. I started off my search by looking at shelters, only to discover that the vast majority of shelter dogs are pit bulls. The shelter I adopted Raina from 12 years ago, is now entirely made up of pit bulls, when at the time of her adoption I don’t remember even one pit bull being on the shelter’s floor.

When researching for this article, I decided to look at Petfinder’s listings. Now, these numbers need to be taken with a grain of salt: shelters seem woefully inadequate at labeling their dogs correctly. For example, I saw several German Shepherd pups labeled as Pumi mixes, and several pit bulls labeled as Affenpinscher crosses. Shelters commonly list pit bull type dogs as lab mixes or just plain old mixed breeds. Additionally, the numbers are not mutually exclusive of one another: if a dog is listed as a golden retriever pit bull mix, I believe it would register in both categories. Even with these things considered, the number of dogs labeled as “pit bull terriers” on Petfinder’s site (looking nationwide) is staggering. The website lists 17,434 pit bulls as up for adoption. Compare this to Labrador Retrievers, which make up 14,320 of the dogs registered on Petfinder as up for adoption. Considering the fact that Labrador retrievers are the most popular breed in the United States (, one would suspect they would make up the biggest percentage of dogs in shelters if no other factors were at play.

In summary, I think accurate numbers on the total population of pit bulls are incredibly hard to ascertain, but what we can know is that they are not a rare type of dog by any means, and that pit-bull type dogs find themselves in shelters at a higher rate than many other popular breeds of dog.  

Why Do Pit Bulls End up in Shelters and Pounds?

There are many, many reasons as to why pit bulls are so commonly found in shelters. Here, I will give some of the reasons I have come across, along with some of my own theories.


Many apartment complexes do not allow pit bulls, along with a myriad of other breeds, including Cane Corso’s, Rottweilers, and German Shepherds. ( As such, when people move, they might be forced to give up their dog. Still, Rottweilers in 2020 ranked at number 8 in popularity by the AKC (, and my simple Petfinder search only showed 1,261 available Rottweilers being up for adoption. German Shepherds are the 3rd most popular breed by the same AKC source, and my Petfinder search produced 5,963 homeless GSDs. So, by no means are Rottweilers and German Shepherds rare breeds, but they are not finding themselves in need of a homes to the same extent that pit bull type dogs are. From this, I really doubt housing breed restrictions are the sole reason pit bulls are ending up in shelters as such high rates.

No-Kill Shelters:

There was a time when any pit bull type dog that entered a shelter or pound was basically guaranteed a death sentence. I could not find the article, but several months ago I read a piece in which a shelter worker talked about how in days gone by, pit bulls that entered shelters were automatically euthanized. Now, with the no-kill movement, this doesn’t happen. Pit bulls may seem to be more common in shelters simply because they are not being killed on sight. There are obviously good outcomes from this, as more friendly, adoptable dogs are being saved. I talk a little bit more about the problems with this below.

Irresponsible Owners and Misconceptions of the Pit Bull Type Dog:

This is largely based on my own readings and observations, but I believe the biggest reason pit bulls find themselves homeless is because of irresponsible owners and misconceptions about these types of dogs. Many stupid, ignorant people buy and indiscriminately breed this dog type. These people are not looking to better the breed, they are looking to make a quick buck. Consequently, the pups have the worst genetic package possible. Unsuspecting dog lovers, who are uneducated on breed traits, buy these pups to give them a good life. These owners think breed characteristics are non-existent, and they don’t have the foggiest clue on how to handle a dominant, strong breed like the pit bull. The dog grows into a monster, due to poor bloodlines and poor rearing, and ends up in the shelter system.

The misconception that a dog’s personality and temperament is completely dependent on rearing and environmental factors is one I often see touted by well-meaning dog lovers, most often when talking about pit bulls. While this sounds nice, it is totally inaccurate. If this were true, we wouldn’t even have dog breeds, we would simply have a basic, domesticated dog that could be trained to do anything. There would be no Labradors bred for seeing-eye dogs, no bloodhounds bred for search and rescue work, no Border Collies for herding sheep. One could just take a husky and train it to herd livestock, or take a Golden Retriever and train it for protection work. Faced with these scenarios, it become obvious that breed traits do exist, and the argument that they do not is a silly and ridiculous proposition.  

Pit bulls were selectively bred for aggression for generations, plain and simple. The ancestors of the pit bull were bull baiting dogs. This bull baiting history is where these dogs obtained their desire to bite and hold (Dog: The Definitive Guide for Dog Owners). When bull baiting became illegal, these bull dogs were crossed with terriers to compete in the sport of ratting. Eventually, they began to breed the dogs to fight other dogs as well ( As such, pit bulls tend to be more aggressive than breeds such as the Golden Retriever. With this, it is understandable why so many people who may be able to properly raise and train a Golden Retriever may be completely unable to handle a pit bull or related breed. Even well-bred pit bulls, American Staffordshire Terriers (Am Staff), can become dog aggressive at any point in their life, as noted on the AKC website:

It must be noted that dog aggression can develop even in well-socialized Am Staffs; an AmStaff should never under any circumstances be left alone with other dogs. (

Considering even well bred pit bulls should be expected to develop some sort of aggression, one can imagine the bad outcomes when poor breeding practices are in place.

The indiscriminate breeding of these dogs is a huge issue. It is estimated that 80% of pet dogs in the US are spayed or neutered (’s%20estimated%20that%2080%20percent,branded%20an%20irresponsible%20dog%20owner.), but many suspect that the number of pit bulls that are spayed and neutered to be much lower. It seems many pit bull owners are reluctant to spay and neuter their animals, even when the service is free ( Some estimates put pit bull spay and neuter rates at as low as 25% ( I don’t know what the accurate number on the spay and neuter rates for pit bulls is, but I assume it is lower than the rates at which other dogs are spayed and neutered, simply because so many of these dogs are ending up in shelters. This trend certainly does not represent responsible, well-controlled, limited breeding practices common in many other breeds.

Indiscriminate breeding can be an issue in any breed of dog, but is especially bad for pit bulls. When collies saw a surge in popularity, poorly bred dogs were known to be aggressive and nippy. The same thing happened with German Shepherds and Cocker Spaniels during different time periods. Each of these breeds was bred for a variety of tasks, not just aggression. In the case of pit bulls, aggression was the desired trait. Take this foundation and add current poor breeding practices to the mix, and what one is left with is a disaster. This disaster is being seen in the flooding of shelters with pit bulls and pit bull mixes. These dogs often have a variety of behavioral problems from bad breeding and bad rearing combined.

To top it off, the worst offenders are not being euthanized, but instead “rehabilitated” because of the no kill movement (  Frankly, I believe too many aggressive dogs, pit bulls and unrelated mixes, are passing through the shelter system and being sent to live in unsuspecting homes when they should be humanely euthanized. These dogs are returned when bad behaviors rear their heads, and the cycle that should have never started goes on and on. Good pit bulls with good temperaments should be placed in loving homes with owners who know how to handle dominant breeds. Pit bulls, or any dog for that matter, with serious behavioral issues should be humanely euthanized and never adopted to the public.


The state of shelter pit bulls is a very sad one. Too many of these dogs are being produced by irresponsible people and are being sold to individuals who cannot handle a strong dog with aggressive tendencies such as the pit bull terrier. The only way this problem ends is with people spaying and neutering their pit bulls, and people who are not prepared to handle this type of dog not buying them in the first place. Along with this, shelters need to euthanize dogs with serious behavioral issues so more healthy, stable dogs can be adopted out.

Which Sport Dog Food is Best?

Which Sport Dog Food is Best?

In recent years, many sport dog food formulations have become very popular. These products generally boast a higher percentage of protein and fat when compared to the average dry dog food. The most recognized brands that create these products include Purina Pro-Plan, Eukanuba, and Victor. Several other lesser-known brands also have sport formulas, including Kinetic and Inukshuk. This post will look at these products, looking closely at Pro-Plan, Eukanuba, and Victor, and touching on some of the rarer sport products on the market. While some of the companies have canned products in addition to their kibble lines, we will be focusing on the kibble varieties only for this post.

Purina Pro-Plan Sport:

Pro-Plan Sport dog foods are probably the most well known of all the high protein, high fat commercial diets available for dogs. Pro-Plan is owned by Purina, which is owned by Nestle. Nestle is the biggest food company, not just in the USA, but in the world.1 Nestle acquired Purina in 2001.2 Purina Pro-Plan first came on the market in the 1980s, but Purina had been in the pet food market decades before this.As such, they have a reputation as a long-standing, established producer of pet foods.

Many pet owners like that Pro-Plan is produced by such a huge corporation, as large corporations can spend more on product testing when compared to small companies. Also, Pro-Plan is widely available, so it is easy to find when traveling. While perusing dog forums, I found that owners often state that Pro-Plan Sport is the only food that keeps weight on their dogs during the most intense portions of the season.

Purina boasts on its website to be the only brand to fuel 95 of the top 100 show dogs.3 I believe that this is largely due to marketing. Years ago, as I sat and watched dog conformation shows on animal planet, it was Eukanuba that was considered the best of the best, the food fed most to champions. There must have been a shift in advertising, as Eukanuba is not nearly as promoted at dog shows as it once was. While it is a decent dog food, I really believe that so many people feed Pro-Plan because of marketing, but that is my opinion.

Some more holistic minded people view Pro-Plan as one of the worst dog foods on the market, since it contains corn, corn-gluten meal, and by-products. I don’t like that they use corn-gluten meal in their products, but I don’t have a problem with Purina using by-products in their formulas (see this post where I discuss by-products). Corn-gluten meal is a plant protein concentrate, and plant proteins are not as bioavailable to dogs as animal protein sources. Still, Pro-Plan appears to have a decent amount of meat used in its Sport line.

It seems that many Pro-Plan Sport foods have actually went through feeding trials to assure that these products meet the needs of puppies, as opposed to simply meeting minimum requirements per the AAFCO. This is a plus for many owners, especially owners of large breed dogs, since nutritional deficiencies in these animals can have devastating effects on skeletal development. Many pet food companies have not done such feeding trials, so it is noteworthy that Purina spent money to conduct this research.

The Pro-Plan Sport line features meat as the first ingredient, along with poultry by-product meal as the meat concentrate in the food. Another plus is beef fat being used as the main source of animal fat in the products. Most of the formulas are 30/20 (with 30% crude protein and 20% crude fat), but they have a few which are 27/17 (the small bites recipe and the turkey and barley diet), and one which is 26/16.

Overall, here are the Pros and Cons of this brand of sport dog food.


  • Established company with plenty of research behind their formulas.
  • Widely available at pet food stores, so easy to find when traveling.
  • Many formulas, making it easy to rotate between protein sources.
  • It appears that all Pro-Plan Sport foods are formulated for all life stages.
  • Feeding trials were used for many of the formulas.
  • Meat is the first ingredient.
  • Beef fat is used as the source of fat. Animal fats are always superior to plant oils.


  • Corn-gluten meal is in most Pro-Plan Sport formulas (The turkey and barley formula does not have this ingredient)
  • Multi-national corporation produces this food. If the buyer likes supporting smaller companies, this is a huge drawback.
  • By-products: Some people prefer foods without by-products. Most of the Pro-Plan Sport diets have by-products (The turkey and barley formula does not have by-products)

My Experience with Pro-Plan Sport:

Maple’s breeder feeds her dog’s Pro-Plan Sport, so that is what I started Maple out on upon bringing her home. I was using the chicken and rice formula per the breeder’s instructions. Maple’s system did not agree with this food, and she would throw up regularly after eating it. I switched her over to another brand, and she had fewer vomiting episodes. In Maple’s case, I think it was a combination of the food and her having a sensitive tummy, as she stills throws up occasionally. In addition to this, some of the dog owners in her puppy class said their dogs do well on Pro-Plan Sport overall, but that their dogs had issues with the chicken and rice formula like Maple did. As such, I would recommend trying one of the other Pro-Plan Sport varieties if someone wanted to give this food a try.

Link to website:


Eukanuba is another brand with a long-established reputation. Eukanuba is owned by Mars Petcare, the same parent company that produces Pedigree, Royal Canin, Iams, Nutro, Cesar, and other brands of pet products.4 Mars is also the owner of Banfield Pet Hospitals,4 something of which I was unaware of prior to writing this post. Before being acquired by Mars, Eukanuba was owned by Procter and Gamble. The food was originally created by Paul Iams, the same person who started Iams pet food.5 If memory serves me correctly, Eukanuba used to be the king of dog foods, considered the best of the best. Pro-Plan has now taken this place, but Eukanuba is still well known and respected in the dog community.

All of the performance products available through Eukanuba use chicken by-product meal as their chief and only source of animal protein, and for all but the 21/13 formula, it is the first ingredient. These products use wheat gluten and corn-gluten meal, which are plant protein concentrates. All of the formulas use chicken fat as the chief source of fat. There is a 21/13 formula, a 26/16 diet, a 30/20 diet, and a 30/28 product. Many of Eukanuba’s non-performance foods also contain egg as well as fresh chicken, and it is disappointing that the performance lines do not have these beneficial ingredients.

The Pros and Cons of this food are as follows:


  • Established company with long history of research in pet nutrition.
  • Chicken fat is used as the main source of fat.


  • Corn-gluten meal is included in the formulas.
  • Wheat gluten is in several of the formulas.
  • Chicken by-product meal is the only animal protein source in these foods. While I think by-products can be beneficial in dog food, I like to see non animal by-products and/or meals used as well.
  • Multi-national corporation produces this food. If the buyer likes supporting smaller companies, this is a huge drawback.
  • By-products: Some people prefer foods without by-products.

My experience with Eukanuba:

While not specific to the Performance line, something odd I discovered about Eukanuba’s puppy food is that it gave Maple a fishy odor. She loved the food and was doing well on it, but I didn’t appreciate her fishy smell! When perusing dog food forums, a few others noted that their dogs developed a slight odor when fed Eukanuba’s foods. This is odd to me, as I give my dogs fish oil, but only ever noticed a fishy smell in Maple while she was eating the medium breed puppy food. For this reason, and the lack of availability of this food in my area, I stopped feeding her Eukanuba puppy.

Link to Website:


Victor Pet foods is based out of Mt. Pleasant, Texas. The parent company to Victor Pet food is Mid America Pet Food. In addition to Victor, Mid America Pet Food produces Eagle Mountain Pet Food, Wayne Feeds, and Nature’s Logic.6 The food is carried by many independent pet food stores, as well as Tractor Supply Company.

One of the really nice things about this line of products is that the company shows you how much of the protein is coming from animal protein sources. This information is readily available on the front of all Victor’s packages. In addition to this, a complete breakdown of the nutrients in the food is available on the companies website. Victor’s website states that most of their ingredients are sourced in their home state of Texas, but they do not specifically address whether or not they source some of their ingredients from other countries.

From their classic line, Hi-Pro Plus and High Energy are both suitable for active dogs, with Hi-Pro Plus also being suitable for growing puppies (excluding growth of large breeds). Their Grain Free Active Dog and Puppy formula is for dogs of all life stages, including growth of large size dogs. High Pro-Plus is a 30/20 formula, High Energy is 24/20, and Grain Free Active Dog and Puppy is 33/16.

All of Victor’s products marketed for active dogs use beef meal as the first ingredient. Other common ingredients in Victor’s products include chicken meal, chicken fat, and blood meal. Victor’s grain free options include peas and sweet potatoes, and the grains commonly used in the grain inclusive formulas are sorghum and millet. From my research, is appears that none of Victor’s foods contain corn, wheat, or soy. Also, the company does not list animal by-products on their ingredient labels.


  • Variety of animal proteins used in formulas.
  • Chicken fat is chief source of fat.
  • No corn, wheat, or soy. Grains used are gluten free.
  • Reasonable Price compared to many higher-end dog foods.
  • Texas based company.


  • No mention of organ meats.
  • No fresh meats, only meat meals. Some people prefer foods with fresh meats.
  • Grain free formulas appear to be high in peas, which may be problematic.

My Experience with Victor:

I tried Victor High-Pro Plus on Raina and Maple. Raina gobbled it right up, and her sensitive digestive system did pretty well on it, though it seems like the food might be a little low on the fiber side, as her stools were very small while feeding this food. This is great for many dogs, but Raina seems to feel best with a little more fiber in her diet. Maple did well on it, no stomach upset, but she really didn’t care for the taste of this food.

Link to website:

Other, Lesser-Known Sport Foods:

Here are some lesser-known brands that have formulas geared toward active dogs. I have never fed any of these brands, but they are probably worth looking into for people who need to feed their dogs sport formulas. These foods are not widely carried in pet food stores, so ordering the products might be the only option. I have not fed either of these brands to my dogs, so I don’t have any first hand experience with them.

Kinetic Dog Food:

This is a brand of dog food I stumbled upon while researching for this post. As far as I can tell, this is a privately owned company based out of Cincinnati, Ohio, with the parent company being 3-Amigos Nutrition Group. Their products contain chicken by-products, but do not contain corn, wheat, or soy. It appears all formulas contain chicken meal, menhaden fish meal, and egg. The grains used include rice and sorghum. Kinetic has formulas suitable for adult dogs and a diet for puppies. The food is made in the US, but it sources some of the supplements in the food from other countries, as many companies do. The food is worth a try for those who don’t like corn, wheat, and soy, but like the use of chicken by-products.

Link to the website:

Inukshuk Dog Food:

This food is produced by Corey Nutrition Company and is based out of New Brunswick, Canada. The company boasts of 40 years of producing quality products. The food is specifically geared to fuel the high needs of sled dogs in the bitter cold of Northern Canada. Their highest fat formula would probably be inappropriate for any dogs but sled dogs working tirelessly in freezing conditions, but their 26/16 formula is suitable for a wide range of dogs. Most of the diets feature chicken meal, herring meal, chicken fat, herring oil, and chicken liver, while the marine diet has no chicken. No by-products are used by this company. Three of the four Inukshuk formulas do contain wheat and corn, but it does not appear to have plant protein concentrates, so I personally would not see this as problematic unless the dog has allergies to these ingredients. The marine formula is free of corn, wheat, chicken, and soy.

I cannot find any information on this food meeting AAFCO standards, but since this is a Canadian company, this is understandable.

An additional bonus to appreciate about this food is the fact that all of Inukshuk’s formulas are GMO-free, which is important to many consumers.

Link to website:

So, Which One is Best:

With dog food, it really comes down to what you are looking for in the product. Here, I will give my final thoughts on the products discussed.

Pro-Plan leads the pack in animal feeding trials, scientific studies, advertising, and I feel availability. It is also nice that they have a variety of formulas, making it easy for owners to rotate protein sources. The feeding trials that back Pro-Plan Sport really set this food apart, as most foods are only formulated to meet AAFCO standards, but Purina actually ran feeding trials. Since this food is suitable for all life stages, including growth of large breed dogs, it would be very convenient for owners with multiple dogs of multiple ages.

Based upon ingredients alone, Inukshuk stands out the most, as it contains chicken meal, herring meal, and chicken liver. Liver is so nutrient dense; I feel it should be a part of any dog’s diet. When by-products are not included, I feel it is important for the pet food manufacturer to assure some organ meats are contained in the food. It is impressive that Inukshuk can boast only using non-GMO ingredients, and it is also refreshing that this food does not contain plant-protein concentrates. Since I have never fed this product to my pets, I cannot personally attest to how dogs do on it, but I think I am going to order some just to try it out on Raina and Maple.

Victor is a good quality product based in Texas. From what I have seen, it is one of the only higher-end dog food brands to still have a reasonable price tag. It also has decent availability, and good quality ingredients. I wish that the food contained some fresh meats, as I personally have found my picky dogs prefer foods with fresh meat listed first.

Kinetic dog food is notable for not using soy, corn, or wheat, while still using chicken by-products, making it a good option for people who want to feed a diet that contains by-products but that avoids corn, wheat, and soy. This is something I haven’t seen before in a product, and I think I will have to buy a bag to see what my little pack thinks of it. The downside is that all recipes rely on chicken, so this isn’t an option for dogs who don’t tolerate chicken well.

The Eukanuba Performance line is a little bit of a let-down honestly (just going off of ingredients). I have always liked that Iams and Eukanuba generally use a combination of fresh meat and chicken by-product meal as their protein sources, along with including egg in many of their formulas. Their Performance line only uses chicken by-product meal for animal protein. Based upon ingredients alone, I would try the other Sport foods listed in this article before trying Eukanuba’s Performance.

There are many types of dog food on the market today, and this is just a sampling of some of the available sport dog foods. Stay informed and do what works.



Puppy Blues with an Australian Shepherd Puppy:

For anyone who has ever endeavored to raise a puppy and has been fortunate enough to not experience the puppy blues, I applaud you. With Maple, I had a very serious case of the puppy blues! Maple is a typical puppy: bouncy, bitey, and bad, and after having well-behaved adult dogs for over ten years, I was not mentally prepared for how much work Maple is. I have had her for a little over 2 months now, and my puppy blues are basically gone. Here, I am going to talk about what the puppy blues are, what I experienced, and most importantly talk about the fact that the puppy blues do go away!

What are the Puppy Blues?

The puppy blues refer to the feelings of guilt, regret, dismay, depression, frustration, and sleep deprivation that come along with having a new puppy. Many people (like me) aren’t even sure they like their new family member. Puppies are baby animals with no impulse control and razor sharp needles for teeth who explore the world by biting everything. As such, many people become overwhelmed when a new puppy comes into the home, and experience many of the emotions listed above.

Don’t feel guilty about having some of these thoughts! Puppies are a ton of work. The day you bring your puppy home, your whole world changes, and that shift can make anyone feel down.

When Maple came home, I was surprised at how stressed and frustrated I was over the situation. I have cared for dogs for 15 years and have been through many ups and downs with them. Lady and Oscar had health conditions in their later years, and close to the end Lady required around the clock care. While giving her this care was tasking emotionally, I never felt frustrated with her. Being that I had cared for Lady, along with other sick pets over the years, I felt I was ready for the commitment of raising a puppy. It was shocking to experience feelings of wanted to get away from Maple. She was my new pet, and I had waited so long to get her, but once I had her I was always waiting for her to take a nap so I could just step away for a minute. I felt so guilty, why didn’t I like being around my own puppy?!

 I personally feel the hardest part of dealing with a new puppy’s antics is the fact that the bond isn’t established. Caring for a pet with tons of needs is easy when there is a deep love between owner and dog. But with a new puppy, it can be hard to bond. It is hard to love something who bites your hand each time you try to pet it but cries when you walk away. Some people might instantly bond with their new puppy, I just didn’t. Looking back, it took time to bond to most of my pets; the bond only instantly happened for me with Raina. So, if you feel as if you don’t like your new puppy, don’t worry, you are not a terrible human being! Bonding takes time, and it takes some people longer than others.

Bringing Home Maple:

As stated above, I was shocked by how much Maple May bites. Raina was the rare pup who never mouthed or chewed anything other than her toys. Also, I was not prepared to handle a puppy who didn’t know when she needed a nap. Maple gets overly-tired, and when that happens, she is impossible to deal with. For the first week, I had no idea why she would get into fits of chasing me, jumping on me, and biting my clothes and hands hard enough to tear and break skin. Then, I read a little bit of other people’s experiences, and discovered that she was probably not sleeping enough. Sure enough, next time she got in “alligator mode,” I popped her in her crate, and after five minutes of throwing a hissy fit, she crashed and slept for over an hour.

For the first month, I really didn’t like Maple. I know that sounds horrible, but it is not as bad as it sounds. I felt protective of her and I would have done anything for her if she was sick. In short, I didn’t dislike her, but I did not like being around her.

Does it get Better?

Yes! Maple is by no means a well-behaved dog yet, but I am not nearly as stressed as I was the first week she came home. While she has improved in some areas, the biggest change is that I am bonded to her now. I love her, and I am happy she is in my life.

As for how long it can take, it just depends on the owner and the puppy. I had Maple for over a month before one day I was playing with her and I realized I was actually playing with her because I enjoyed her company. Prior to this, I was counting down the minutes I spent interacting with her, ready for her to need to be put down for a nap.

Tips to Help it get Better:

  • Don’t compare your puppy to previous pets! This puppy is an individual, it’s not fair to expect them to be something they are not.
  • Forced naps! These are a life saver. Many puppies should only be up for an hour or two at a time, and then they should be taking a nap. Remember, puppies should be sleeping 14 – 18 hours a day.
  • Remember your puppy is just a baby. When I get really annoyed with Maple, I remind myself that she is just a puppy and that she hasn’t been on this planet very long. It really isn’t fair to expect a puppy to behave when they don’t even know what behaving is. When puppies bite, whine, and poop on the rug they are not being bad, they are just being puppies. It is up to us to teach them how to live in our world, and learning for them takes time.
  • Google “puppy blues” and read about what other people struggle with. It really helps to go on dog forums and read other people talk about the hard parts of bringing home a new dog.
  • Get away from you new dog. Remember to take time to get out a bit. Even leaving the house for an hour or two helped me so much. If you can, have a friend come over and spend time with the puppy while you take a break. Most people love puppies, so it is a win-win situation.
  • Crate Train. Once your puppy is crate trained, they are much easier to put down for a nap. When the puppy is in his/her crate, you can step away from them without worry that they will get into something bad.
  • Training classes. Puppy kindergarten is a great place to see that there is no such thing as a perfect puppy, and that you are not a failure of a pet parent. Most people in puppy school will be going through the same things you are, and not feeling alone is very powerful for changing your mood and emotions.

I hope these tips help. Adding a puppy to your life can be really difficult, but also incredibly rewarding. Stick it out, put the work in, take breaks, and someday your bad puppy will turn into a great dog!

Zignature Dog Food Review:

Zignature is a brand of dog food that is often sold in small, holistic pet food stores. The brand has a variety of kibbles and most of their foods seem to be limited ingredient diets, with only one source of animal protein being used in each. While this can be good for dogs with dietary restrictions, this brand has a couple of issues that may make it less than ideal for most dogs.

Lack of Animal Fats:

One of the biggest issues I have with this brand is the lack of concentrated animal fats. Currently, there is a huge emphasis on making sure the main source of protein in a dog’s diet comes from animal sources, but sadly such an emphasis on animal sourced fats seems to be missing in the dog food community. All of Zignature’s foods seem to be formulated with plant oils, chiefly sunflower oil. I believe their reason behind this is that they want to make their formulas with limited ingredients for dogs with food allergies. Many of the animal fats commonly used in dog food, such as chicken fat or beef fat, may present an issue for dogs with food allergies. For dogs with food allergies, these restrictions may be permissible, but if the dog has no issues, other commercial diets that list a specific, named animal fat are probably a better choice. Dogs in nature do not eat plant oils, they consume the fat from the animals they prey upon. Plant oils are unsaturated, but dogs are designed to consume saturated fats. The makers of Zignature pet food do not seem to understand this, as they boast on their website that their duck formula is low in saturated fats.

NOTE: Something to keep in mind is that per AAFCO definitions, when fresh meat or poultry is listed, fat may be included, not just muscle meat. This means there is most likely some animal fat present in Zignature’s foods, but there are plant oils in place of where a specific, concentrated animal fat is often listed on other pet food labels.

Beyond the issue of what a dog is designed to eat, from my research there seems to be issues inherent to plant oils. While I have not found research specifically comparing the effects of feeding plant oils to dogs vs feeding animal fats, research has been done to determine if humans should be consuming plant oils ( In the linked pdf, the authors discuss the benefits of saturated fats and the dangers of plant oils. While this article is written with human health in mind, I believe it is fair to assume that if humans, who are omnivores, have issues with plant oils, dogs would as well, as canines are closer to being carnivores.

 From the above linked article, it can be seen that plant oils are generally high in omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids are required by the body, but in limited amounts, and can be obtained from animal sources such as chicken fat. These fatty acids, when consumed in excess, create an inflammatory environment within the tissues and organs. Research also suggests that high levels of omega-6 fatty acids can predispose one to depressed immune function, cancer, and weight gain. In short, too much omega-6 can lead to inflammation, and inflammation in the body is detrimental.

With this said, it must be noted that Zignature uses flaxseed in their formulas as well. I assume this is to add omega-3 fatty acids to the diet. Omega-3 fatty acids have an anti-inflammatory effect and help balance out the effects of omega-6 fatty acids. But, to get omega-3 fatty acids from flaxseed oil, dogs need to convert the flaxseed oil in their body to a useable form, and dogs are not very efficient at this conversion ( For this reason, it is beneficial for dogs to get omega-3 fats from more bioavailable forms, such as fish oil. I assume Zignature avoids the use of fish oil in many of their formulas to keep the ingredients limited. This once again shows that this food should only be fed if the dog has severe dietary restrictions.

Overall, the sources of fat in Zignature’s line of kibbles are not ideal for dogs.

Heavy Use of Peas and other Legumes in Grain Free Varieties:

Peas and legumes have been tied to cardiomyopathy in dogs. There is an excellent article discussing the connection between legumes in food and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs, which I will link here ( In short, issues have been found with limited ingredient diets, diets that rely on lamb as their main protein source, and diets that use lots of legumes in their foods. All of Zignature’s grain free foods are loaded with peas and other legumes.

Besides the DCM issue, foods with lots of legumes can contain less meat and still boast a high crude protein content on the label because of the high protein content in legumes. Even though Zignature’s diets all have animal ingredients listed first, these animal proteins are then followed by a whole host of legumes in their grain free line. Together, these legumes probably add up to a kibble that has more legumes than meat and derives some of its listed protein content from plants.

This protein boosting effect seems likely in Zignature’s grain-free foods, as they have some grain-inclusive formulas which can be used for comparison. For instance, we can look at Zignature’s grain-free turkey formula, which has a crude protein content of 32% (, whereas their grain-inclusive turkey formula has a crude protein content of 28% ( Both formulas have turkey and turkey meal listed as the first two ingredients and principle sources of animal protein, but the legume rich grain-free variety has a higher crude protein content. Still, the grain-inclusive variety still has a good amount of protein, which is reassuring.

Pros and Cons of Zignature Dog Foods:

Here is a quick overview of all the issues discussed in depth above.


  • All of the formulas appear to only use one source of animal protein in each formulation, which can be helpful if the dog has allergies to certain meats.
  • The first ingredient in all formulas seems to be a named meat followed by a named meat meal.
  • All formulas seem to have a decent amount of protein, even considering the protein boosting effects of the legumes included.


  • No concentrated animal fats used, reducing the saturated fats available to the dog.
  • Plant oils high in omega-6 fatty acids appear to be the main source of fat in the food.
  • Flaxseed oil is used instead of fish oil; this is an issue as fish oil is more easily digested by the dog.
  • Many formulas rely heavily on legumes, which has been linked to cardiomyopathy.
  • Crude protein amounts on the grain free formulas may be unreliable since the foods use so many legumes, which are high in plant proteins, which are not as usable to dogs as protein from meats.  


Zignature is not a food I would recommend to someone who wants to feed the best diet possible to their dog. While it may be suitable for dogs with severe food allergies, there is no reason to feed this limited ingredient diet to dogs without dietary restrictions. The reliance on legumes in their grain free varieties along with plant oils being used as the chief source of fat in all of their foods make this a brand less than ideal for most dogs.

Zignature is the not the only food that uses plant oils in place of animal fats and loads up on legumes. Many brands that can be found in holistic and big chain stores also have these issues, such as Natural Balance and several of Taste of the Wild’s varieties of dog food. Sadly, to uninformed customers who have only been told to avoid corn and by-products in pet food, these brands seem like quality products. When choosing a commercial diet for your dog, look for brands that use named meats, limits the number of legumes, and use named animal fats. Your dog will thank you.

Maple May Where Did your Tail Go? The Docking of Australian Shepherd Tails.

So far, every single family member and friend to meet Maple has had the same question: “Where is her tail?” or my personal favorite, “Does she get a tail?” For anyone who doesn’t know, most Australian Shepherds do not have a natural bobtail, but are instead docked. Docking is performed on puppies when they are under 5 days old. Many common dog breeds are docked, including Dobermans, Rottweilers, Brittany Spaniels, Poodles, German Pointers, Schnauzers, Cocker Spaniels, Airedale terriers and others. There are many arguments on the ethics of docking and why docking is performed. In today’s post, we will look at why Aussies are docked while other herding breeds are not, the process of docking, whether or not docking is painful for the pups, and why docking is done in working dogs and pets.

Why are Aussies Docked but Border Collies are Not?

Australian Shepherds have been historically docked, with the argument being that Aussies are prone to injuring their tails while herding cattle. Some ask the question why Border Collies, a breed often seen as similar to Aussies, are not docked as well. The answer given to this is that Border Collies herd differently than Aussies and Border Collies are sheep dogs, no cattle dogs. It is easy to find videos of Border Collies herding sheep and Aussies herding cattle, and the difference is very apparent. Aussies get very close to the stock and nip the heels, whereas Border Collies mostly herd with their strong eye. As such, comparing the two is akin to comparing apples and oranges.

Still, Australian Cattle Dogs are not docked, so it would seem a dog can be a cattle dog without being at a great risk of injuring their tail. It could be that their herding styles differ enough that they are not at risk for the same kind of injuries. The difference in herding styles between Border Collies and Aussies is apparent to me just from watching a couple of videos, but I don’t know enough of working cattle dogs to see a great difference in the Australian Cattle Dogs and Australian Shepherds herd stock.

Process of Docking:

Docking is performed at under 5 days of age. One of two methods can be used: either a constriction band is placed to cut off blood supply, or a scalpel is used to remove the tail. When the former method is used, the tail falls off after a few days of the band being in place. Generally no pain medication is used because the puppies are so young when the procedure is done that use of local anesthetics would be dangerous. This differs from older dogs, as when an older puppy or adult dog requires tail amputation general anesthetic is required.

Does Docking Hurt:

Many argue that docking does not hurt puppies, as their nervous systems are not fully developed. I have watched videos of puppies being docked online, and let me tell you, the pups definitely seem to feel their little tails being chopped off. So, even if studies say their nervous systems are not developed enough for the puppy to feel anything, I wouldn’t believe them.

Often, I have read the argument made that because docked puppies quickly go back to nursing, they are not in pain from the procedure. I don’t take this as evidence that the puppy doesn’t feel anything, only that it is likely momentary pain. An adult dog with a fully developed tail would most probably be in much more pain than a 1 day old puppy, because the nervous system of an adult dog is fully developed. Still, this does not mean that the puppy feels no pain at all, but it only that they feel less pain than an adult dog or older puppy would with the same procedure.

In summary, as far as I can tell, yes, docking hurts. While it does hurt, the pain seems to be momentary, much like circumcision for a baby boy. Whether or not this momentary pain is justifiable will be discussed next.

For Working Dogs:

There studies on working breeds that show that dogs who are traditionally docked are at greater risk of sustaining injuries to their tails when undocked ( Still, others argue that working dogs are not at a greater risk of injury to their tails ( In addition to these more scholarly sources, simply perusing dog forums it is easy to find people speaking of their working dogs’ tails being injured in the field, so tail injuries do happen.

An interesting note is that some argue that docking of dogs was not originally done to prevent injury in working dogs, but instead to signify that the dog was a working dog. If the dog was a working dog, the person did not have to pay taxes on their dog, so owners would dock them to avoid additional taxes ( I have never been able to find a good source to decipher if this is true or not.

Since tail injuries in an adult dog can be so detrimental, to me it seems reasonable to dock working dogs’ tails if they work in such a way that they are at a higher risk than the average dog of sustaining a tail injury.

For Pets and Show Dogs:

For pets and show dogs, docking is cosmetic. Many in the dog show community are adamant that the docking of dogs is not harmful. From the Australian Shepherd Club of America’s (ASCA) website:

“The Australian Shepherd Club of America will not condone the policy of any individual, group, or proposed legislation which restricts the practice of tail docking or removal of dewclaws for cosmetic or health reasons. We find this policy to be a detriment to the welfare of the Australian Shepherd breed as a whole and an infringement on the rights of the owners, breeders, trainers, and exhibitors of all domesticated animals.”

While laws against docking would most definitely infringe on the rights of owners, breeders, trainers, and exhibitors who want docked dogs, I do not see how ending the practice of tail docking for pets and show dogs would be detrimental to Australian Shepherds. However, many breeders who show their Aussies also compete in herding trials with them, and many still work their dogs on their farms. In these cases, it makes sense to dock the dogs. Since breeders do not know which pups they will keep when they are only 5 days old, all pups from these litters would need to be docked in these situations.

When it comes to infringing on the rights of owners, I don’t know why the ASCA doesn’t allow for dogs with tails to be shown. If they really wanted owners of the breed to have the most freedom to choose what to do with their dogs, they would allow Aussies with tails to compete in conformation events. I believe their hard stance on the issue is most likely in retaliation to animal rights groups like PETA who want to end the docking of all dogs for any and all reasons.

My Opinion:

Docking is not a painless procedure, but for true working dogs the benefits of docking outweigh the pain the puppy feels when the procedure is performed. I do not support legislation that outright bans docking, but I believe the breed clubs of all docked dogs, including the Australian Shepherd Club of America, should rewrite their breed standard definition so breeders who do not wish to work their dogs have the option of leaving their tails intact while still being able to show their dogs in conformation. There is no point in cutting off a dog’s tail if the dog is going to be a pet or show dog.

By-Products in Dog Food: The Good and the Bad

For over a decade, by-products have gotten a bad rap in the pet food community. Some of this dislike of pet foods that contain by-products is backed behind the reasoning that foods that contain by-products often contain other unsavory ingredients as well. Many owners hate the idea of their beloved pet eating anything less than the best. Since by-products are by definition parts of the animal that people typically don’t eat, they are seen as inferior. But do by-products deserve this reputation? In this post, we will look at the definitions of various by-products, the pros, and the cons of these controversial ingredients.

For additional information on choosing a good commercial food, check out my post here that addresses more important things to keep in mind.

Definitions of ingredients:

Here are some of the definitions from the AAFCO’s website, which is the body responsible for establishing definitions for the ingredients used in pet foods. I am going to include some definitions other than just those for by-products, because I think the extra information is important for consumers to know.

So, first we will look at meat by-products:

  • Meat by-products is the non-rendered, clean parts, other than meat, derived from slaughtered mammals. It includes, but is not limited to, lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, livers, blood, bone, partially de-fatted low temperature fatty tissue, and stomachs and intestines freed of their contents. It does not include hair, horns, teeth and hoofs. It shall be suitable for use in animal feed. If it bears a name descriptive of its kind, it must correspond thereto.”
    To put it another way, it is most of the parts of the animal other than the muscle tissue, including the internal organs and bones. It includes some of the parts people eat (such as livers, kidneys and tripe), but also parts that are not typically consumed by humans in the US. Some by-products, like udders and lungs are not deemed “edible” by USDA for human consumption, but they can be perfectly safe and nutritious for animals not inclined to be swayed by the unappealing nature of these parts of animals. As with “meat,” unless the by-products are derived from cattle, pigs, sheep or goats, the species must be identified.”

So, meat by-products must come from slaughtered mammals, and the source must be named unless the by-products are from cattle, pigs, sheep, or goats. It must be suitable for animal feed; here, it is important to note that animal feed standards are not the same as the standards for what humans can eat. Animal feed standards are lower, which I will talk about briefly later in this post.

Next, we will see what poultry by-products means:

  • “Poultry By-Products must consist of non-rendered clean parts of carcasses of slaughtered poultry such as heads, feet, viscera, free from fecal content and foreign matter except in such trace amounts as might occur unavoidably in good factory practice. If the product bears a name descriptive of its kind, it must correspond thereto.”
    Similar to “meat by-products,” it is most of the parts of the bird that would not be part of a raw, dressed whole carcass. That may include the giblets (heart, gizzard and liver) but also other internal organs, heads and feet.

Poultry by-products must be from slaughtered animals as well, and contains all the parts that people typically don’t eat of chickens and turkeys and other poultry. It doesn’t contain muscle meat.

The note of meat by-products and poultry by-products being from slaughtered animals is important, because animals that died from other reasons can legally be used in pet foods. When meat comes from a slaughtered animal, that is more reassuring, as most of us wouldn’t feel comfortable feeding out dog an animal that died from unknown reasons.

Next, we will look at by-product meals and other meat meals. Meals are produced when the original animal parts used go through the process of rendering. During rendering, the “materials are subject to heat and pressure, removing most of the water and fat and leaving primarily protein and minerals. You will notice that the term “meal” is used in all cases; because, in addition to cooking, the products are ground to form uniform sized particles.” ( So, this is a concentrated form of the ingredient listed basically. Some people prefer meals, as they typically mean the food has higher levels of animals protein. A drawback to meals is the fact that it means the food is even more highly processed then when fresh meat is used.

Taking a look at meat meal…

  • “Meat Meal is the rendered product from mammal tissues, exclusive of any added blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices. It shall not contain extraneous materials not provided for by this definition. …. {the definition goes on to include the required mineral specifications and required nutrient guarantees}….. If the product bears a name descriptive of its kind, composition or origin it must correspond thereto.”

    The rendering process is designed to destroy disease-causing bacteria, leaving an ingredient high in protein that while unappetizing to people appeals to the carnivore’s palate. Unlike “meat” and “meat by-products,” this ingredient may be from mammals other than cattle, pigs, sheep or goats without further description. However, a manufacturer may designate a species if appropriate (such as “beef meal” if only from cattle).”

The fact that this ingredient can contain animals other than cattle, pigs, sheep, or goats is something I really don’t like. I want to have an idea of what my dog is eating. Also, there is absolutely no specification that the animals used had to be slaughtered, so they could have died for any reason and be listed under this ingredient.

Similar to this, terms such as meat and bone meal and animal by-product meal are not specific enough for me, and the list of possible animals included by such terms is not available on the AAFCO’s website. For this reason, I don’t like these ingredients and I try not to give my dogs foods that use such ingredients.

Another common ingredient is poultry by-product meal:

  • “Poultry By-Product Meal consists of the ground, rendered clean parts of the carcasses of slaughtered poultry such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs and intestines, exclusive of feathers except in such amounts as might occur unavoidably in good processing practices.….{the definition goes on to include the required mineral specifications and required nutrient guarantees}….. If the product bears a name descriptive of its kind, it must correspond thereto.”
    Essentially the same as “poultry by-products,” but in rendered form so most of the water and fat has been removed to make a concentrated protein/mineral ingredient.

This is, as the AAFCO surmises, basically a concentrated form of poultry by-products. I like that it must be sourced from slaughtered poultry, for the reasons listed above.

Benefits of By-Products:

In nature, dogs would not only eat the muscle meat of an animal; instead, they would eat the heads, brains, internal organs and the like. I think much dislike and distrust of by-products comes from people humanizing their dogs and not wanting them to eat anything that they themselves would not eat. I personally used to deem any by-products and completely unacceptable in pet food, but I have softened my stance since I learned of the many nutrients that can be found in organs that simply are not found in high quantities in muscle meat. Liver, for example, is rich in B-vitamins, vitamin A, and iron. Bones contain minerals such as phosphorus and calcium, and calcium is not found in muscle meat to any great level, although there is likely a difference in the digestibility of raw, fresh bone and bone that has been cooked to oblivion in pet food.

Negatives of By-Products:

By-products are basically everything but the muscle tissue, and muscle tissue is a good source of nutrition for dogs, so a food should preferably have both. Also, I have read many point out that while by-products specify that feathers and fur should not be included, unless unavoidable by good manufacturing processes, how could a manufacturer remove these parts on 1000s of animals being brought in to be use in pet food. This I feel is a good point, so I would just assume by-products have these parts. Personally, I don’t see issue with by-products as long as the source is named.

It is important to note that when an ingredient such as “chicken” is listed, it is not limited to muscle meat. Instead, it can refer to muscle meat, skin, and bones. So, it is important to keep in mind that even when “chicken” is on the label, it is probably not referring to muscle meat alone, which is what most people think when they hear “chicken.”

Animal Feed Standards vs. Human Food Standards:

An excellent article on this matter can be found on Susan Thixton’s website, Truth About Pet Food, which I will link here: (,%E2%80%9CServing%20size%20approximately%E2%80%A6%E2%80%9D)&text=’Protein’%20and%20’fat’,%25%20fat%20(or%20more). In short, human food must pass USDA inspection and must be approved to be “human edible.” Meat used in pet food does not require USDA inspection, and just because a pet food states that their ingredients come from USDA inspected facilities does not mean the meat is fit for human consumption. The meat could have been deemed unfit for human consumption, and that is why it ended up in the pet food. Country of origin information is not required to be made available to the buyer of pet food; this is required for human food. Human food ingredient information must be free to the public, whereas to obtain the complete list of definitions for pet food ingredients one would need to pay over $100 to the AAFCO to receive their “official” publication.

There are more differences, and I highly recommend her website for people who want to stay up-to-date on pet food information. I don’t agree with all of her conclusions about what and how animals should be fed, but there is a wealth of information available on her site and she has done an amazing amount of research into pet foods which is commendable.

Pet food is the end of line place that parts not fit for human consumption end up. This is economical, and it does put the parts to good use. Whether this is ethical is an argument for another post, and Susan Thixton talks extensively about it on her site. I feel the main issue is that people assume if there is not by-products, than the meat or poultry is the same quality as the meat and poultry they buy for themselves, but this is not the case and consumers should be aware of this.

Foods that Contain By-Products:

There are many, many foods that contain by-products. I only know of one that specifies that some of the by-products used are organ meats alone, and this is Bil-Jac’s dog kibble. Several of their kibbles have decent ingredients, with some of these ingredients being organ meats. But, this brand sadly utilizes BHA to preserve it’s kibble line, and this preservative is thought to have a estrogenic effect in the body. ( This isn’t a huge concern to me if the dog is only getting the occasional treat with this preservative, but I don’t feel comfortable feeding foods preserved with this day in and day out.

Most of the big name pet foods, such a Purina, Eukanuba, Iam’s, and Hills use by-products liberally in their foods. Iam’s and Eukanuba also seem to use decent amounts of meat in several of their formulas. Purina pro-plan also tends to use a combination of a named meat and by-products, as does Hills, but it seems to me that Iams and Eukanuba have more animal products on the ingredient label than either of the other brands.

I try to avoid these companies when I can for my dogs, because I prefer to support smaller companies, not large multi-national corporations. Thankfully, my dogs have always done better on brands like Fromm, Victor, and Wellness. But, I do have a cat who vomits any food other than one type of Fancy Feast canned food and Iam’s adult formula with chicken dry food. At the end of the day, you have to feed what your pet will eat and do well on.

So, my take aways…

  • Don’t think that just because a food does not have by-products means they are using only ingredients fit for human consumption. With the vast majority of pet foods, the ingredients are in the pet food because they didn’t make the cut for human food. If you only want human grade ingredients used, you need to either feed a food such as Honest Kitchen or Open Farm, or prepare your pet’s food at home.
  • I want to see a non-by-product, specific named meat listed before any by-products.
  • I personally in theory don’t have a problem with by-products being in the pet food, as long as the source is specifically named (such as beef by-products or chicken by-products).
  • In reality, since none of the brands I trust use by-products, I don’t typically feed foods to my dogs that contain by-products. But, if a brand I like, such as Wellness or Fromm produced a food with specifically named by-products, preferably organ meat being named in particular, I would happily purchase and feed the food to my dogs.
  • If I was going to feed one of the big name brands to my dogs, it would probably be one of Iam’s or Eukanuba’s lines, or possibly one of the Purina Pro-Plan Sport lines (most of the pro-plan products have too much corn-gluten for my liking). But, my dogs have always done better on smaller company’s foods or fresh diets.
  • I add liver and giblets to my dogs’ food when feeding commercial products, so they get the benefits of organ meats, or I mix in canned foods that have liver on the label. Organ meats are so nutrient dense, they should be a part of any diet as long as their is not a specific medical issue prohibiting their use.

Everyone has to feed their dog what they feel comfortable with and what the dog does well on. Stay informed and do what works!

Raina approves of the food in her toy

The Koehler Method: Should I use it on my Puppy?

The Koehler method of dog training has been used for many, many years to train a great number of dogs. It has fallen out of favor in recent years because of its dependence on corrections and complete avoidance of food and toys in training. While effective, this method is largely thought of as cruel and inhumane by today’s standards.

In this post, I will discuss what motivates the dog with this method, whether correction-based training is effective or not, and my personal tips for someone who wants to use the Koehler Method. I will not be using this method on my new pup Maple. While I will use corrections when necessary, I like using food and toys in training, and I think dogs enjoy their training more this way as well.

What is the Dog Working For?

Many, many people who support correction-based training do so under the premise that the dog should work for the relationship and love for his master, not for food or toys. Let me make this clear… when using this method, the dog is obeying to avoid the correction, not purely because he loves his person so much. Sure, he might like getting petted for a job well done, but if that were enough the choke chain and leash wouldn’t be needed. When dogs are trained with food or toys, they are also working for that reward, not purely because they love their handler. From my own experience, with time some dogs do work for the owner purely for the joy of working with their person after being trained on food and toys, but most will still want the occasional treat or game for motivation.

Does the Koehler Method Work Better for Some Dogs than Others?

I think correction-based methods work better on some breeds than others. This type of training will probably completely destroy certain dog’s self-esteem. Personally, I theorize that many more dogs probably would do poorly with this form of training in today’s world than the dogs of fifty years ago, simply because dogs are probably being bred who respond well to positive reinforcement as opposed to corrections-based methods. A Belgium Shepherd that comes from a long line of dogs bred, raised, and trained for personal protection – where dogs are often trained with corrections – is a very different animal from a Cocker Spaniel that comes from a long line of house pets. But, this is just my theory.

Also, puppies tend to respond better to positive motivation, and because they are so young and immature, it is important not to expect too much from them.

Is the Correction-based Training more Effective than Positive Reinforcement?

This is purely my opinion, but I would say in some cases, yes. With the Koehler Method, the dog will be trained within 13 weeks to the point of off-leash obedience (at least, this is the claim). Typically what I have noticed is that trainers who set hard and fast timelines of when a dog will reach a certain point use tons of force and corrections in their training to reach these results, whether they are using the Koehler Method or electric collars. Koehler’s method does not take into account different breeds in the claim of off-leash obedience in a relatively short period of time. Most positive trainers recognize that some breeds are harder if not impossible to train to be reliable off-leash with positive methods. These breeds include sighthounds, scent hounds, and huskies. Amusingly enough, these same people say that positive methods are just as effective if not more effective than correction-based training such as Koehler’s method.

Does this make it better? I would say it depends upon what you want and how the dog handles the training. I used an electric collar (but not the Koehler Method) to train my dog, Lady, to be reliable off-leash. She was stubborn, confident, and took corrections pretty well. Training her not to run off was imperative, as she was an escape artist when we first brought her home, and she would bolt through doors and try to get out of her collar. After training with the e-collar, she was able to enjoy being off lead in the yard and when I took her to woods near our home without leash restrictions, and we were able to enjoy the peace of her not taking off every chance she got. Lady additionally was not food or toy motivated, so training was always a challenge.

With Raina, I didn’t feel comfortable with the amount of force that would probably have been required to get her trained to an off-leash recall, because her prey drive is even stronger than Lady’s, and she is scared of loud noises. To get her to a point where she would listen in the occurrence of a scary sound was something that would probably require a huge amount of force, and I feel would have damaged my relationship with her, as she took corrections more to heart than Lady ever did. Also, Raina does not actively try to back out of her collar or bolt through doors. So, for me I am ok with her only being off-leash in fenced in areas. Also, Raina doesn’t have the same desire to be off leash in an un-fenced area the same way Lady did, so the trade off isn’t worth it to either of us.

Take into consideration how you think your dog would respond to heavy handed training, and if you are comfortable with using such force, possibly at the cost of your relationship with the dog. Also keep in mind the dog’s safety. If a dog is at risk of being hurt or killed because of their behavior, more corrections and force may be warranted. Generally, when raising a puppy, positive training can be used since you can avoid severe problem behaviors that often necessitate lots of corrections, but every dog is different.

You Think you need to use the Koehler Method?

If you want to use the Koehler Method, I would at least have these suggestions.

  • Make sure the dog preforms the behavior without a correction before adding corrections. It simply isn’t fair to the dog to be corrected for not doing something when they don’t understand what is being asked of them.
  • If you have to use the choke chain extensively (ie. If the corrections are not having much of an impact), please try a prong collar. Prong collars do less damage to the dog’s neck muscles than a choke chain, and I have heard some state that they do less damage than even a regular flat collar, due to the way pressure is evenly distributed across the dog’s neck. But remember, the correction needed on a prong is much, much less than what is required with a choke chain, so start with extremely light pressure on the leash when using a prong until you discover what the minimum correction is to get your dog’s attention.
  • Don’t use the method expecting a quick fix. This method, like any training method, requires one to spend considerable time working with the dog. On, the author notes that the owner must be prepared to spend 45 to 75 minutes per day on training. The site states that it will take 10 to 13 weeks of consistent training to get the desired results. No matter what training method you use, you are going to have to put the time into your dog if you want results.
  • If you just got the dog, take some time to bond with him/her first. I can’t help but feel that one shouldn’t start off the relationship with their dog by correcting them constantly. It just doesn’t seem like a good way to build a bond. I would recommend taking 2 weeks or so getting to know the dog first before starting this type of training. Obviously don’t let the dog be a brat for 2 weeks, but don’t start obedience training with this method right away before the relationship has had time to be established.
  • Wait until the dog is 6 months old. This is Koehler’s recommendation as well. Don’t use this method on young pups! While some dogs may be mature enough at a younger age, err on the side of caution here. Also, beyond the mental maturity of the dog, a young pup’s neck is more likely to be hurt when he is younger than 6 months.
  • If you want to do competitive obedience, this probably isn’t the best method for you and your dog. Today, obedience competitions seek for dogs to be intently staring at their owners during many of the exercises such as the heel. In my personal experience, this level of focus does not happen in dogs trained purely with corrections.
  • If you have a tiny breed, I would recommend against this method. Most tiny breeds have delicate necks, choke chains and possibly prongs are not likely to be safe. When in doubt, ask your vet.
  • DO NOT use Koehler’s recommendations to fix different behavioral problems. Koehler recommended very cruel methods of ending behavioral problems such as digging and barking. Do not use these methods, there is no reason to use them, and these will most certainly destroy or severely hurt your relationship with your dog and would be absolutely abusive to any dog or puppy.

For more information on the Koehler Method, check out my post here, where I discuss some of the controversial aspects of this method.

Thanks for reading!

Always take into consideration your dog’s individual personality. Different methods work for different dogs and different situations.