Adding an Australian Shepherd Puppy to a House with Other Pets

Adding an Australian Shepherd Puppy to a House with Other Pets:

It has been over 10 years since I have raised a puppy, and Maple, my new Australian Shepherd puppy, is only the second puppy I have ever owned. All of my previous dogs other than her and Raina came to me as adults. As stated in an earlier post, Maple is very different from how Raina was as a puppy. Raina was a very easy puppy, and Maple is quite the handful. Here are my experiences so far with introductions and how I plan to deal with some issues I am currently experiencing with Maple, along with things I wish I would have been aware of before bringing her home.

Maple and the Cats:

While Maple is my first Australian Shepherd puppy, she is not my first herding-type dog. Lady was a herding mix, and she adjusted to life with our cats very well, but like Maple’s interactions with the cats so far, it wasn’t always smooth sailing. Maple wants to chase the cats in the worst way, and I think this is an important point to make. Much of what I read of Aussies said that they do well with cats for the most part, but I really think it depends on the dog and the cat. I think Maple would be doing well with a neutral cat, but Tiger, the elderly calico, goes out of her way to get in Maple’s face, and then swat and hiss at her, so it has been tricky to teach Maple to leave her be. Here is what I have been doing and what I plan to do:

  • Management: this is honestly the biggest part. Maple is just starting to seem to have some impulse control development at 15 weeks of age, so up to this point when Maple is out, Tiger is away, and when Maple is in the crate Tiger has free run of the house. Thankfully, Tiger is not as active as she once was, so she sleeps most of the day anyway. She has a bedroom that is her room that the puppy is not allowed to enter. This is SO important for other pets in the house, especially older cats and dogs.
  • Teaching “leave it:” This is going reasonably well with using a toy as the object Maple must leave. I have mostly been doing this motivationally up to this point, and I have avoided using it when the cat is present simply because I think Maple does not have enough self-control to comply.
  • When Maple matures a little, I am going to introduce leash corrections to enforce the “leave it” command. I plan on using a prong collar when she is old enough to wear one.

While it has been tricky dealing with Maple’s desire to chase cats, Lady was also very insistent on chasing every new cat that came to live in my home, and she learned to leave our cats alone. Almost in the same way, Raina wants to chase cats she doesn’t know, but she is very good with the cats of the house, and is friends with one of them. So at this point, I think the combo of Maple being a herding dog and being an immature puppy is making things difficult, but I am confident she will learn the rules of the house. Still, I would recommend people wanting to add an Aussie to the family to be aware that they WILL try to chase cats, and potential owners must be ready to manage the environment and make sure their cat has a safe space to escape to that is completely off-limits to the pup.

Maple and Raina:

Maple wants desperately to play with Raina, and she flat out ignores Raina’s growls to back off. This means that in addition to managing Maple’s access to the cats, her access to Raina is also managed. Here is what I have been doing so far:

  • When Raina is around Maple, I give Maple a high value chew, and this keeps her pretty occupied most of the time. As with all things, when Maple is overly tired this really doesn’t work, and at that point the only thing that will calm her down is a forced nap.
  • This is something else to keep in mind when introducing a puppy into a home with an older dog. Raina is 12, and she really doesn’t want to put up with an annoying pup in her face. It is imperative the older dog can escape the puppy. Raina likes going in the basement, and the puppy doesn’t go down there. I know, it might seem weird, but between the de-humidifier and other appliances down there, there is plenty of white noise to block out noises such as gun fire, fireworks, and thunder, and Raina has many noise phobias, so the basement is a place she goes on her own. Also, my room is a favorite of Raina’s, and the puppy doesn’t go in there. These escapes are so important.
  • Along with Raina’s own space, I also spend time with Raina without the puppy around so she knows she is still my best bud. I was originally planning to walk Raina everyday, just her and me, but the slipped disc stopped that until a couple days ago when the vet gave her the ok to go on short walks again.
  • Raina always comes first. When I get home, I greet Raina first, and I have visitors do the same. I feed Raina first and put her out to potty first.
    • Note: with going out to potty, I would take them out at nearly the same time early on since Maple had a bit of a weak bladder. Now that she is a little better at holding it even when excited, she stays in her crate while Raina goes in the yard when I get home from outings, except for first thing in the morning. At that time, I wake up earlier than when I just had Raina, and Raina likes sleeping in, so for this trip, Maple technically goes out first most mornings, but Raina has no objections.
  • When I take Maple out for socialization, I give Raina a food stuffed toy or chew-type treat to keep her busy.  
Make sure you spend plenty of time with your other pets when introducing a new puppy.

Something important to keep in mind is that your older dog may suddenly become very needy when a new dog is introduced. I felt comfortable introducing a puppy to the mix largely because Raina has been very independent most of her life. I often joke she is like a cat that needs a daily walk. Sure, she would previously want to walk, want to play a bit, and want some petting, but she was always the kind of dog that would get up and walk off if petted for more than a minute or two. Raina is rarely cuddly, preferring instead to simply be around me, but she has never needed to be in my lap. Since bringing home Maple, Raina has become very needy, and she constantly gets in my face and wants lots of attention. So, even if you have an independent dog, expect their needs to escalate when bringing home a new puppy of any breed.

Overall, Maple is making improvements from her first week home, but we still have a long way to go. Don’t let your pup be obnoxious to your other pets, and make sure all pets have safe spaces to escape. This stands true for any puppy, but can be extra important when raising a head-strong Australian Shepherd pup!

Behavioral Euthanasia: When it’s the Only Option Left

In this post, I am not going to tell anyone if they should or should not euthanize their dog for aggression issues. I am going to share the story of my hound dog, Cooper, who I had to euthanize due to his aggression toward members of my family. I hope this post will help someone else facing this difficult decision.

Cooper’s Story:

Ever since I was a child, I loved hound dogs. I love pretty much every type of dog, whether it be a mutt or a purebred, but I was always strongly drawn to the hound group when the conformation shows would come on the TV on Animal Planet. I would watch all the dog shows on Saturday mornings, first with my dog Lady, and then with Lady and Raina. When the hound group would run around the ring, I was continually enthralled. I know they might not seem special to some, but I just love the floppy ears and jowls on hound dogs, their silly baying sound, and their desire to forever have their nose to the ground.

When I was 13, I remember seeing a large stray hound running through our yard, and I remember secretly hoping I could keep him. Now, growing up loose dogs often would come through the neighborhood, but they rarely stayed long. I already had 2 dogs, but I couldn’t help but want this one too. As the months rolled by, he started to hang about the neighborhood more and more, and it became obvious he didn’t have an owner looking for him. It just so happened that when I would take Lady and Raina on their daily walks, he started to follow along, and he eventually let me pet him.

As the time went by, this dog, who I named Cooper, began to stay in our yard or the neighbor’s yard and wait for me to come outside. We started putting food out for him beyond the normal scraps my parents would toss out for the critters. My parents really didn’t want another dog, as we already had a couple along with several house and outdoor cats. Then one day, after months of Cooper following me, Lady, and Raina around, Cooper bolted in our house when he heard a firework go off… Cooper was scared of loud noises, as we discovered that day. After that, Cooper became one of our official dogs. We got him a license, he walked with me on a leash, and he slept in our kitchen on a large white comforter.

For the first several months, Cooper was a good dog. He was pretty quiet for a hound, he never tried to bolt outdoors, and he was housetrained relatively quickly. He walked well on leash, he was super chill at the vet’s office, and he left our cats alone. He got along well with our other dogs… well, Raina didn’t like him, but she is picky about who she likes. The worst thing he did was stealing and destroying shoes, but putting those away was an easy fix. Also, he loved to counter surf, but putting food away stopped this. Overall, he was a good boy, and I was very excited to have another dog.

Slowly, traits of Cooper’s personality began to show that we were not originally aware of. He began to growl at certain visitors. This was easily fixed, though, as we simply put him outside when company came over. This went on for quite a while, until one day Cooper began growling at my mother. As the months went by, he also began growling at my brother. These instances came out of nowhere; my family wasn’t mean to Cooper, and he almost seemed to be in a trance when aggressive. Eventually, he lunged at my brother, and we had him humanely euthanized nearly 3 years after he joined our house.

What We Did:

Prior to making the hard decision to put Cooper to sleep, we tried to work on Cooper’s issues. We would have my mom give Cooper his meals and special treats. We took him to obedience school, hoping the trainer would have some advice, which he really didn’t. I tried making sure we had clear rules, so Cooper would know we were the leaders in the house. He was never aggressive with me. I could take away his favorite bone or toy, put my hands in his bowl while he ate, and pretty much do anything to him, and he would simply wag his tail at me and wiggle about like a puppy. When he would growl at others and I would scold him, he would seem confused, like he didn’t know why he was acting out in the first place. Knowing when Cooper was going to become aggressive was impossible, as the incidents were random. Sometimes, he was perfectly fine, and other times it was like he just switched into a different dog. My mom would say he was like having Jekyll and Hyde in the house.

Cooper and his pal, Oscar.

What Caused Cooper’s Issues?

I will never know the answer to this question. Perhaps he was abused, or maybe he was just born with an unstable temperament. He did come to us with shotgun pellets under his skin, a piece missing from he ear, arthritis in his elbow, and he was blind in one eye, so I have always speculated that he was mistreated prior to joining our house. Whatever the cause was, there was no clear way to modify his behavior and make him into a trustworthy dog.

Making Hard Decisions:

The choice to euthanize a dog for aggression issues is not an easy one. While it might seem like a clear-cut decision from the outside, it is incredibly difficult to put an animal down, especially an animal that is physically sound. Cooper was approximately 6 years old when we put him down, and he didn’t have any major health concerns, but emotionally he wasn’t stable.

Despite Cooper growling at my mom, even she felt bad about having to euthanize him. When he was calm and well-behaved, which was most of the time, she would just say, “Why can’t he always be like this?” For anyone who has/had a dog with random aggressive outbursts, this is the question, but we can’t talk to dogs and ask them why they do what they do, and frankly, I think that dogs with this type of random aggression don’t know why they act out. Some dogs have specific fears, such as men with beards or hats, or strangers. But what causes a dog to go after people he lives with day in and day out who are never mean to him?

Many people who we talked to about the situation had opinions on what we should do. Some people said my brother should find his own place after Cooper lunged at him. So, apparently to some people, kids should be kicked out of the house when a dog is going after them even though the person didn’t do anything to warrant the dog’s aggression. Also, apparently the growling at my mother was a non-issue to these individuals as well. One person in particular thought we should take him to the dog pound or a shelter instead of euthanizing him, as this person believed a dog should never be put to sleep for non-medical reasons. This to me seems much crueler, as this would put someone else in the position to adopt and grow to love Cooper, only for his aggressive tendencies to surface after the bond had been formed.

No one we spoke with suggested euthanizing him. Every book and article I could find said that “any dog can be trained.” Concluding that euthanasia was the only option was extremely difficult, and I felt like a complete failure to my dog, and that I was betraying his trust. That is why I am making this post. Hopefully, someone in my same position will read about Cooper, and find some comfort in the fact that they are not alone, that euthanizing a pet for aggression does not make them a bad person, and that sometimes training, love, and structure isn’t enough. If your or your loved ones’ safety is at risk, hard decisions need to be made to keep you and your family safe, and sometimes that means euthanizing a dog who becomes aggressive for no reason.


I will not sugar-coat this: the guilt after putting Cooper down was terrible. It was hard to even properly grieve losing him, because I felt I didn’t have the right to grieve since I was the one who made the decision to put Cooper down. I had nightmares for a long time after euthanizing Cooper. Possibly worst of all, is that I felt guilty about being relieved that I didn’t have to worry about him hurting my mom or my brother. I felt guilty that I was more relaxed without the tension in the house of Cooper making life hell for my family.


Yes, I regret that my wonderful dog needed to be euthanized for aggression, but I do not regret my decision, as it was the right one. I am so thankful I didn’t dump him in a shelter and not disclose his aggressive tendencies for someone else to go through the same hurt I did. It was incredibly painful to be there when Cooper was put to sleep by our vet, but I am thankful I was there with him in his final moments. I am thankful that Cooper never actually bit anyone. I do regret not euthanizing him sooner, as it was wrong for my mom and brother to have to live for over a year with a dog that would randomly growl at them for simply walking about in their own home. It also wasn’t fair to Cooper, as he had to be in a crate whenever I wasn’t around to make sure he didn’t follow up his growling by biting someone. I regret that I couldn’t change his behavior, but I also don’t think anyone could have helped him. For reasons I will never know, Cooper was mentally broken, and sometimes, training can’t solve the problem.

I still miss Cooper and will always be thankful for my time with him. Like all my wonderful dogs, I learned so much about love, loyalty, and devotion from him. Unlike my other dogs, from his life I learned the painful lesson that some issues cannot be fixed, and the right thing to do is often the hardest. I hope his story can help someone else facing the decision to euthanize their aggressive dog. While nothing takes away the pain of losing a devoted pet, hopefully Cooper’s story can ease someone’s guilt who has to part with their dog for the same reasons.

Life with Maple: Raising an Australian Shepherd Puppy

Life with Maple:

Everybody’s first days and weeks with their puppy are going to be a little different, as every puppy is unique. Here is my experience with my Australian Shepherd puppy, Maple, up to 15 weeks of age.

First day:

We picked up Maple and had a 3-hour drive with her home. She did very well with the car ride and slept most of the way. Upon coming home, she met Raina. Their interaction was uneventful. Raina really did not have much interest in the pup, and when she did initiate play Maple got spooked and rolled over! The cats seemed confused by her, but not very effected.

The biggest issue on the first day was peeing. Maple did NOT want to pee! I took her outside multiple times, but she just didn’t want to go. Little Maple May finally went late in the afternoon. She also wasn’t very hungry, but she ate a little and finally drank some water. She did not like being left alone, and seemed quite upset that her littermates were no longer with her. She did very well sleeping through the first night. Overall, she seemed overwhelmed in her new situation.

First week:

I was planning to document how each day went individually, but Maple is quite the handful, so that did not happen! Also complicating matters is the fact that my older dog, Raina, developed a pinched nerve this week. So, between Raina not feeling well and the Maple being extremely exuberant, this first week was challenging to say the least.

As an Australian Shepherd, Maple is VERY mouthy. Prior to bringing her home, I read about how mouthy Australian Shepherd puppies can be, but I was taken aback by just how much this puppy likes to bite. Her worst moments are first thing in the morning. It is as if she recharges all night and awakens a tiny alligator, ready to grab whatever and whoever is in her path. The spray bottle helps somewhat, but when she is really in the zone the best solution has been putting her in her playpen crate (the play pen didn’t work for long, she learned how to climb the sides).

Also, she despises being left alone, but this can be pretty typical for an 8 – 9-week-old puppy. Thankfully, she is progressing well with her crate training, and is slowly getting used to being on her own from time to time. Relatively quickly she seemed to understand that when I take her outside, she needs to pee, but she still does not completely understand that she shouldn’t pee in the house, so housetraining is a work in progress.

People say that these dogs need both mental stimulation and physical exercise. This is absolutely the case! Maple needs lots of playtime, but she behaves and settles the best if she also gets mental stimulation in addition to physical exercise.

Week 2 and 3:

Maple’s personality has come out more and more. She is very strong willed, and constantly wants to go after the cat, Tiger, as well as Raina. True to being a puppy, in particular an Australian Shepherd puppy, Maple still likes to mouth, bite, and nip. Of particular trouble is that Raina still is having issues with her back, and she does not like being confined, but confining her is necessary so she heals. Rotating time with the puppy and with Raina has been challenging, but making matters easier is the fact that Maple is crate trained, and will sleep in her crate now for at least an hour at a time without issue.

Forced naps are an absolute necessity! Maple gets very, very bitey and uncontrollable when she gets too tired, and she doesn’t know if she needs to sleep.

15 weeks old!

Maple is now 15 weeks old! Time has gone by pretty quickly, and she has grown considerably in the past several weeks. She is probably about 22 – 23 pounds, and is very strong even though she is only about half of her adult size. She will let me know when she needs outside, and she hasn’t had an accident in at least two weeks, but I watch her closely and don’t leave her in fully carpeted areas unattended, so I am not sure if she would hold her bladder if she had access to carpet. She started puppy kindergarten last week and had her second lesson today. Currently, she knows sit, down, stay, shake, and come, but she is not completely reliable with any of these, as she is just a pup and her attention span isn’t the best.


  • She was crate-trained at around 10/11 weeks.
  • Between 13/14 weeks she was able to sleep through the night.


  • Maple doesn’t like to sit still… ever. She was vomiting many of her meals, mostly because she would eat and run around if given the opportunity. Now, I keep her in the crate for at least 15 minutes after feeding, and this seems to stop her from throwing up her dinner.
  • Always wanting to get Raina: I have discovered that if she is involved with gnawing on a spiral bully stick, she will leave Raina alone. Other than that, I have used gates to keep them apart, or should I say, keep Raina safely away. Raina likes to walk right over and stand where Maple’s tether reaches, and then she gets upset if Maple pounces her. Maple doesn’t seem to get that a bark and growl mean, “leave me be.”
  • Maple’s mouthiness has been tough, but she has slowly but surely been improving.

Comparisons to other dogs:

Even owning dogs for the past 15 years, I was not prepared for just how much work an 8-week-old Australian Shepherd puppy would be. Raina came to me as a puppy, but she was already 12 weeks old, and I am starting to realize just how much of a difference there is between an 8-week-old and a 12-week-old puppy. Raina, I now believe, was also and exceptionally calm puppy. She did not mouth at people or try to destroy the furniture. She never had any issues with being put in a play pen, and if Raina was told not to do something once, she stopped and never tried it again. She went after the broom one time, I told her no, gave a pop on the leash, and that was the end of that. Raina also had an exceptionally long attention span; from a very young age she would focus on training for 20 – 30 minutes at a time. Unlike this, Maple is a typical pup, 5 – 10 minutes is her maximum limit. One issue I did have with Raina was the fact that she was very difficult to house break. Raina just didn’t seem to understand not to potty in the house, but other than that, she was a very easy puppy.


Maple is a bit leery of new situations and people. She comfortably sits in a crate when visiting stores, but was initially nervous to walk about on the ground. With more exposure and trips, she has become more confident with this. New people are hit or miss; she is chill with some people but tries to avoid others. Overall, she does not run up to new people, but upon second meeting she will get excited to see familiar, friendly faces. This is an area she is similar to Raina in, as Raina also has always preferred her family, and has never been super eager to meet new people. Unlike Raina, she has done pretty well with loud noises thus far, as we had some bad thunderstorms shortly after bringing her home, and she really didn’t seem fazed. She doesn’t like the vacuum cleaner, so we are still working on that. Car rides have gone very well so far, with her only becoming car sick once, and she is always happy to get in the car, where she sits calmly or sleeps in her crate.

I can’t speak to how helpful the crate has been for car rides, as well as socialization. I took her over a family get together, and Maple seemed a bit overwhelmed. I brought her crate with us, and she quietly settled in there and took a nap when she had enough of the new people and dog. This is just one of the many benefits to using a crate, as once trained to it the dog will generally see it as a safe space.

What I have learned:

A puppy will be a puppy, don’t expect too much from them, they haven’t been on the planet long, and they don’t know their place in this world yet! This was a hard thing for me to get used to after having nothing but adult dogs for over 10 years, and having extremely well behaved dogs for the past 8 years. I was getting frustrated with Maple, and I had to take a step back and realize that she is just doing the things that the vast majority of puppies do. Don’t take their biting personally, and when they really act up, it is probably because they need a nap.

“Adopt Don’t Shop” is Bad for Dogs

The Adopt Don’t Shop Myth:

“Adopt Don’t Shop” has been the slogan of many rescue organizations for the past several years. While it seems that many people initially understood this as a stand against puppy mills and backyard breeders, in recent years it seems that many animal lovers have started to see all breeders are horrible people. Currently, a whole slew of pet lovers see buying from breeders as morally objectionable. In this article, the issue will be addressed as to why this slogan is damaging, and how the inevitable result of such thinking is the destruction of generations of selective breeding. At its core, the “Adopt Don’t Shop” movement seeks to cause the extinction of the domesticated dog.  

This post is not meant to dissuade anyone from adopting from a pound, rescue, or shelter. I love my current rescues pets, and every other rescued pet I have ever owned. At the writing of this post, I have never bought from a breeder. This article is not meant to deter people from adopting a dog; rather, it seeks to shed light on the idea that no one should buy from breeders, and that all breeders should stop producing dogs.

Origins of Adopt Don’t Shop:

The “Adopt Don’t Shop” slogan began in 1984 in Los Angeles by Chris DeRose. The organization named Last Chance For Animals had the goal of exposing the exploitation of animals. ( The mission statement of Last Chance for Animals is as follows:

“Last Chance for Animals (LCA) is an international, non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating animal exploitation through education, investigations, legislation, and media attention.  LCA believes that animals are highly sentient creatures who exist for their own reasons independent of their service to humans; they should not be made to suffer for the latter.  LCA opposes the use of animals in food and clothing production, scientific experimentation, and entertainment and promotes a cruelty-free lifestyle and the ascription of rights to non-human beings.” (

This certainly sounds nice to the unsuspecting person. Most animal lovers would say that they do not want animals to be exploited. Most people who have dogs, cats, and other creatures would agree that their critters are sentient. While not as intelligent as people, animals have feelings and emotions, and are able to form close bonds with their people and animal friends. So, most unsuspecting people would see nothing wrong with this mission statement and could easily get behind the adopt don’t shop movement. But what most people do not realize is what these groups mean when they say, “Adopt don’t shop.”

The Real Goal Behind Adopt Don’t Shop:

Language such as “eliminating animal exploitation” is largely derived from PETA (people for the ethical treatment of animals). This language is code for ending any human interaction with animals, including pet ownership. Here is quote from their website:

“In a perfect world, all animals would be free from human interference and free to live their lives the way nature intended. They would be part of the ecological web of life, as they were before humans domesticated them. But the world that we live in is far from perfect, and domestic cats and dogs are not capable of surviving on their own, so it is our responsibility to take the best possible care of these animals. Please be assured that PETA does not oppose kind people who share their lives and homes with animal companions whom they love, treat well, and care for properly.” (

PETA members see a perfect world as one in which no one owns pets. To get to this point PETA wants the reproduction of any and all dogs to stop. While they do not mind people taking care of the existing domesticated dogs, they seek to cause the domesticated dog, and any domesticated animal, to go extinct.

 If everyone stopped breeding their dogs and if everyone sterilized every single dog, domesticated dogs would be extinct, and this is PETA’s goal, and likely the goal of any organization that states they wish to end “animal exploitation.” Many of the groups that tout the “Adopt don’t Shop” message are probably unaware of the origins of the phrase, or the end goal of such thinking, but any website that also makes statement on “animal exploitation” is probably seeking to stop pet ownership all together.

Dog ownership is not exploitation of dogs.

The Case for Breeders:

 The amazing diversity in dog breeds is a great accomplishment of mankind. We have designed these creatures to herd instead of kill, retriever instead of tear and destroy, and to choose the companionship of humans as opposed to their own kind. Selective breeding has created a variety of dogs, with Generations of selective breeding have produced what truly is “man’s best friend.”

 Dogs are not wonderful companions by accident. As is obvious, breeding needs to be done selectively to produce such wonderful dogs. It does not take long for dogs to become “undomesticated.” One only needs to look at the problems of street dogs in countries such as India, Russia, Mexico, and Romania to have this point proven to them. Even the United States has its issues with wild street dogs attacking humans on occasion ( It takes much work to create and maintain dogs that can perform specific tasks, whether that task be working in therapy, search and rescue, protection, and simply being good companions.

 One of the simplest and most enlightening statements I ever heard was in a video created by a breeder of Cane Corsos. In the video, she states the obvious truth that if no one breeds a certain breed for a 10-year period, that breed goes extinct ( While a PETA activist would be happy about such an extinction, I believe the vast majority of pet owners would not be ok with the dog breeds they love and adore being completely gone in 10 years. Yet, this is the inevitable result if every breeder stopped breeding.

Ethical Breeders are Not the Problem:

Even if every ethical breeder stopped breeding tomorrow, puppy mills would still be breeding puppies as would backyard breeders. Frankly, PETA’s goal of ending pet ownership is a pipe dream on their part. People will never stop seeking out dogs as pets, and consequently, puppy mills and backyard breeders will never stop breeding. These people will keep producing dogs with a myriad of health problems and poor temperaments. The resultant dog population left after the ending of responsible breeding would be an extremely unhealthy group of dogs with behavioral issues. Perhaps then PETA could see their hopes come to life, as no one would want these creatures in the end, and people would possibly stop taking in dogs all together. But, as a dog lover, I hope PETA and its members never accomplish their objective of destroying the domesticated dog and other domesticated animals.  


If you choose to be anti-reputable breeder, that is your decision. Everyone is free to hold their own beliefs. But, a person touting such beliefs needs to be aware of the consequences of such actions. If you truly believe all dog ownership is a form of animal exploitation, you need to be willing to state that you also believe we should not own dogs, or any animal for that matter. A person against breeding dogs needs to realize that their stance would destroy the domesticated dog, all dog breeds, and end pet ownership if taken to its logical conclusion.

Dog Rescues Supporting Puppy Mills:

Where and How are “Dog Rescues” Getting their Dogs?

The demand for dogs has been on the rise in recent years. In particular, the desire for rescued dogs has risen. This, I believe, is largely because of the “Adopt don’t Shop” movement. It is a beautiful thing to give a homeless animal a nice, warm place to live. Well-meaning individuals will go to great lengths to adopt their new friend and save the dog from a life of misery or euthanasia. But what if rescues aren’t really rescuing their dogs? Sadly, many “rescues” are fronts for puppy mill dogs.

Rescues are Buying from Auctions:

Several news reports have come out in recent years exposing the buying of dogs from auctions and selling them as “rescued dogs.” PETA (I have my issues with PETA, but they are good for certain things) discusses this issue. Rescues go to the auctions done by the puppy mills, and buy the dogs with money that is being donated by individuals who want to do a good thing ( Many of the puppy millers brag that they can makes quite a bit of money selling to these rescue organizations. Rescues argue that they are saving the dogs and stopping them from being bred more. The rescues state that in this way, they are hurting the puppy mills bottom line (

              The problem is, the puppy millers are still making money. The idea that the rescue is saving dogs because they are cutting into the number of breeding dogs the puppy mill has is ludicrous. Selling a mill dog here and there will not cut into the number of puppies that a mill will sell, as they will never just sell all of their adults at auction. Some mills are specifically breeding dogs with the purpose of selling to rescues ( These “rescues” are doing absolutely nothing in the long run to put an end to the needless suffering created by puppy mills. Mills are making money off the deal, and rescues are getting a fresh supply of sad faces to sell to people who are trying to do a good thing by giving a shelter dog a home.

Rescuing a shelter pet is a wonderful act. Make sure you are adopting from reputable sources.

Why are Rescues Buying Dogs from Auction?  

Some may argue that the rescues believe they are doing a good thing. I tend to disagree. I believe these groups have found a lucrative way to make money off soft-hearted individuals looking to save a life. The demand for dogs keeps increasing, and while there is an idea that we have a pet overpopulation problem, I do not believe there is an actual dog overpopulation problem in many states. Particularly in many northern states, there is in reality a shortage of dogs. Southern states have been shipping dogs in their shelters up north to meet this demand. ( Also, some recues have begun importing dogs from other countries ( If we really had a horrible pet overpopulation problem, we would not be able to ship dogs in from other countries.

As we have successfully put a dent in the pet over population problem with spay and neuter programs, rescues simply are running out of homeless pets. No homeless pets, and the rescues cannot keep their doors open. I personally feel that some rescues are putting their own interests at the forefront of their mission, instead of the interests of the dogs they claim to care about.

California Legislation:

              As a note, I see these fake rescue organizations becoming more common if and when more states enact legislation that stops dogs and cats from being sold in pet stores. In 2017, California became the first state in the U.S. to ban the sale of puppy mill dogs in pet stores ( The legislation has been heralded as being a major step to putting an end to puppy mills. This law will supposedly stop the abuse of dogs in this way by ending the financial incentive to breed dogs on a large scale. Being that there is already a problem of fake rescues popping up, I really do not see such legislation being effective, and if anything, this legislation will only encourage this trend of rescue organizations buying from auctions.


              Most rescues are not buying their dogs from auctions. Most shelters and rescues are doing all they can to help homeless animals who would otherwise be left on the streets to fend for themselves. Yet, there are rescues who are perpetuating the continuation of suffering by buying their dogs from puppy mills. I foresee this becoming more common as more states put laws to stop the selling of puppies in pet stores and other venues. These businesses will find a way to continue making money, and this will likely be through selling dogs to shelters. The need to buy from reputable breeders has been emphasized for years in the dog community. Sadly, as unethical practices continue in rescues, the same care and research needs to be done when adopting from rescues and shelters.

              To ethically get a dog, ask pet loving friends and family about shelters they know about and with which they have experience. It may be best to avoid ones that specifically state that they do “puppy mill rescues,” unless you can verify that the rescue is actually working to have puppy mills shut down, not acting as a source of the puppy millers revenue. One could even volunteer at a shelter to determine if the shelter is really saving animals or in the business of money making. Also, consider reputable breeders as a way to get a puppy, or as a source of rescue dogs as well. Many breeders are active in breed rescues, and they can help sort out the good from the bad. Also, talk to friends and family about the reality of puppy mills and pet stores. Legislation will never stop ignorance, but education can. Many people believe Craigslist, Pet Stores, and websites such as Lancaster Puppies are great sources of dogs. The only way puppy mills will ever stop breeding is if and when people refuse to buy from them in any way, shape, or form.

Don’t Feed your Dog Evanger’s Dog Food!

Don’t Feed your Dog Evanger’s Dog Food!

Evanger’s products are often sold in pet food stores in the section that includes better brands. The labels of this brand are certainly assuring, as the company markets their products as being made from high quality meats and as being very nutritious. But not so many years ago, the company experienced investigations and recalls that proved the products to be anything but healthful for dogs.

Are Recalls to be Expected?

Many brands have recalls at some point or another, often these recalls are for reasons such as E. coli or Salmonella being present on the food. Such contaminants aren’t good since the owners’ handling the food can become sick from these organisms, but many feel that dogs with healthy immune systems may eat them without any issues (these are animals that can bury something and dig it up and eat it three days later often without any issues).

Preferably, a company would never have any recalls because their foods would never have any problems, but even companies with good safety standards can have mess ups. Even a company as dedicated to producing quality pet food as the Honest Kitchen had a recall in 2013 over concerns of Salmonella contamination (

Some recalls should have never happened in the first place and, in my own opinion, are unforgivable. This is the case with Evanger’s dog food, which has had to recall lots of food more than once because of pentobarbital contamination. Pentobarbital is a barbiturate that is used in large doses to euthanize animals. The FDA requires that any pet food contaminated with this substance be pulled from the market.

Recalls of Evanger’s Due to Pentobarbital Contamination:


Company integrity is important to assure products are safe and healthful for our pets.

As a barbiturate, pentobarbital can produce adverse effects in animals that consume it. This was the case when 5 dogs from the same house all became sick after eating an affected Evanger’s product. The dogs developed neurological problems after being fed the food, and one of the dogs needed to be euthanized because of complications from the tainted food. This led to the contents of the can that was fed to the dogs to be tested for pentobarbital, which lead to further investigation. ( Here is the list of pentobarbital contaminations that were caught in 2017 (from the FDA’s website

Evanger’s False Claims about USDA Approved Ingredients:

Evanger’s proudly stated that their meats came from USDA approved sources. Yet the FDA found this to be completely false. Here is a portion of the FDA article from February 17, 2017:

In its recent press release announcing a limited product recall, Evanger’s Dog and Cat Food Company, Inc. stated that the beef for its Hunk of Beef product came from a “USDA approved” supplier. However, the FDA reviewed a bill of lading from Evanger’s supplier of “Inedible Hand Deboned Beef – For Pet Food Use Only. Not Fit For Human Consumption” and determined that the supplier’s facility does not have a grant of inspection from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. The meat products from this supplier do not bear the USDA inspection mark and would not be considered human grade.

In this same archived record, the report goes on to say that even though the contaminated dog food was advertised as “beef,” the product was found to also contain pork and equine. These amounts were under 2%, but none-the-less, the product was not all beef as advertised.

Evanger’s was dishonest on the account of advertising their product as being higher quality than it actually was, as well as not being honest about what meats were in their product.


Sadly, Evanger’s products are still surprisingly found in pet supply stores that tend to only sell higher quality pet foods. Evanger’s has been blatantly dishonest in the advertising of their products and has produced products that are unsafe for dogs. As stated above, certain recalls are to be expected at some point or another for even reputable brands, but false advertisement and the production of products that contain pentobarbital is intolerable. Evanger’s might promote themselves as a company that produces good quality pet foods, but informed consumers should not be fooled by the marketing tactics of a company that has proven from their actions that they are not concerned for the well being of pets.

Referenced articles:

Are Euthanized Pets Really in Commercial Dog Food?

Are Euthanized Pets Really in Commercial Dog Food?

A big question among many dog owners when they begin to research dog food ingredients is whether or not euthanized dogs and cats end up in pet food. The thought is disgusting to most people, as loving pet owners want to make sure they are only feeding their pets good quality foods; this does not include euthanized pets. While some sources are adamant that deceased pets are not in dog and cat food, others are just as passionate in their belief that some pet foods do contain such unsavory ingredients.

In this article, we will look at why some people believe that unspecific terms, such as meat meal, lead owners to believe that dogs and cats may be present in a pet food. We will also look at pentobarbital and why it is concerning if present in pet food.


If you want to give your dog the best commercial food possible, be sure to read the ingredient label, as many foods can have ambiguous meanings.

Who Determines what Ingredients on the Pet Food Label Mean?

First off, it is important to know who is responsible for setting standards for pet foods. Several different organizations have a hand in the world of pet food.

  • Definitions:
    • The job of defining pet food ingredients primarily rests in the hands of the AAFCO (Associations of American Feed Control Officials). On their website, the AAFCO states that the “AAFCO is a private non-profit corporation featuring a process for defining ingredients used in animal feed and pet food…”( While the AAFCO performs this task, it does not regulate pet food. Pet food manufacturers either choose to follow AAFCO guidelines or they choose not to (I have never come across a pet food that didn’t choose to follow their guidelines).
  • Regulations:
    • The agencies responsible for the regulation of pet foods are the FDA and local and state agencies. With this being said, the FDA’s website acknowledges that the “FDA and local and state agencies all play a role in regulating pet food and participate in the AAFCO”( Both organizations have separate rolls, but both work together to help determine the safety of pet foods for pets and the owners handling the pet food.
  • The speaker for the companies:
    • Another player to be aware of in the world of pet foods is The Pet Food Institute (PFI). On the about section of their website, the PFI states that they are the voice of pet food makers, as has been the case for about 60 years.

So, the AAFCO defines pet food ingredients, the FDA regulates pet foods, and the PFI is the voice of pet food manufacturers.

What Ingredients are in Question?

Obviously, no pet food on the market lists dog and cat on its ingredient panel. Pet food manufacturers want owners to believe that they make their foods with only the best ingredients (and many manufacturers really do use quality ingredients). Yet, there are many ingredients present in pet foods that are extremely vague in there meaning. Terms such as meat and bone meal, animal by-product meal, meat meal, and meat by-products are all items that appear on many pet food labels, and are all items that can mean a range of things. Directly from the AAFCO’s website (, hear is the definition of the above mentioned ingredients:

  • Meat is the clean flesh derived from slaughtered mammals and is limited to that part of the striate muscle which is skeletal or that part which is found in the tongue, in the diaphragm, in the heart or in the esophagus; with or without the accompanying and overlying fat and portions of the skin, sinew, nerve, and blood vessels which normally accompany the flesh. It shall be suitable for animal food. If it bears a name descriptive of its kind, it must correspond thereto.”
  • 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.”
  • 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.”
  • Animal By-Product Meal is the rendered product from mammal tissues, exclusive of any added 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. This ingredient definition is intended to cover those individual rendered animal tissues that cannot meet the criteria as set forth elsewhere in this section. This ingredient is not intended to be used to label a mixture of animal tissue products.”
  • Meat and Bone Meal is the rendered product from mammal tissues, including bone, 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.”

Some have made the argument that terms such as meat meal, animal by-product meal, and meat and bone meal do not specify what type of animals are part of the rendering process (if confused on what rendering means, don’t worry, we talk about that below). The terms meat and meat by-products specify that the animals used are slaughtered mammals, which would rule out euthanized pets, but meat meal, animal by-product meal, and meat and bone meal do not specify that the animals used were slaughtered, leaving the possibility open that some animals that died by other means are part of the finished rendered product. The argument is that since the ingredient definitions are not specific enough, they could include dead dogs and cats in some cases.

As an interesting aside, the PFI talks about the definitions of pet foods on their website. When talking about AAFCO ingredient definitions, the PFI states “The AAFCO approves strict ingredient definitions, which are then published in the AAFCO Official Publication (OP). These definitions can be highly specific!” ( I think it is interesting that they specify and emphasize how specific definitions for pet food ingredients can be, but they don’t put the same emphasis on how completely vague others are.

What is Rendering and What do Rendering Plants have to do with Pet Food?

If you are unfamiliar with the term rendering, here is a definition from North Dakota State University’s website: “Rendering is the process of converting animal carcasses to pathogen-free, useful byproducts such a feed protein. In the process of rendering, the carcasses are exposed to high temperatures (about 130 C or 265 F) using pressurized steam to ensure destruction of most pathogens.”

Anytime an “meal” is listed on an ingredient panel, it means that the said ingredient was the product of rendering. This isn’t necessarily bad, as long as the meal is specified, such as chicken or beef meal. It is concerning when the rendered products are not specific.

While rendering is a way to create a concentrated protein source, the rendering process is also used to get rid of slaughterhouse waste products, animals unfit for human consumptions, and dogs and cats euthanized by animal shelters. In her book Food Pets Die For: Shocking Facts about Pet Food, Ann Martin talks in depth about the whole process. In her investigation of what goes into pet food, she found that the possibility exists that euthanized dogs and cats may end up in pet food. All the details contained in her book are beyond the scope of this post, but I would recommend the book for those interested in what really goes into pet food (just don’t follow the recipes at the end of the book, they will NOT provide balanced nutrition for your dog).

Pentobarbital: Does it Suggest that Euthanized Dogs and Cats are in Pet Food?

As many pet parents know, pet foods are often recalled for a variety of reasons. One of the reasons pet foods are sometimes recalled is because of pentobarbital being present in products (Example: In 2018 the FDA recalled pet foods produced by the J.M. Smucker Company. Smucker produces several pet food products, including Gravy Train and Skippy. ( Pentobarbital is a drug used to euthanize animals. While horses and cattle are sometimes euthanized with this drug, many take the high levels that are sometimes found in pet foods as evidence that dogs and cats, which are very often euthanized with pentobarbital, are ending up in pet food.

It must be stated that anytime pentobarbital is detected in pet food, the FDA pulls the affected product from the market. The drug is not affected by rendering or other production steps in the making of pet food (, and being that the drug is used to euthanize animals, you can imagine that it is not an inert substance. Even though the FDA recognizes that food containing pentobarbital must be pulled from the market, it is concerning that the drug ends up in pet food in the first place, and that there may be instances when the FDA doesn’t catch contaminated batches.

Has the FDA Investigated the Possibility of Dead Pets being in Pet Food?

In 2002, the FDA released a report on research that the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) conducted to look into pentobarbital being present in dog food. The researches also investigated whether or not the amount of pentobarbital present in the food could be dangerous to dogs that consume the food. When checked for traces of pentobarbital, the researches did find that the some of the foods did have the drug, yet the CVM also determined that adverse effects of the low doses shouldn’t pose a problem.

Tests were also done that supposedly could detect dog and cat DNA in the foods as well: these tests showed no dog or cat DNA present. Interestingly, I have read some question how DNA of dogs or cats would be detectable after the extreme heat and processing that pet food goes through.

Referenced study:

Final Thoughts:

Personally, I am not completely sure whether I believe that dog foods contain the contents of deceased pets. Still, I only feed foods that use specifically listed ingredients, such as chicken, beef, pork or lamb. Also, I buy from companies that I trust and avoid companies that have bad track records (i.e. Evangers, any cheap, low quality products such as Pedigree, Ol’Roy, etc.). While the FDA found the levels of pentobarbital that can be present in pet food to be unlikely to cause adverse effects, I would rather my dog not eat any of the stuff. Thus, it is important to keep up to date on recalls so pet owners are aware of reported contamination, and it is equally important to feed reputable brands that choose quality ingredients for their foods.


Food Pets Die For: Shocking Facts about Pet Food by Ann N. Martin

What to Look for in a Commercial Dog Food

Commercial Diets:

Most dog owners choose to feed their pets a commercial diet. If you are choosing a commercial diet to feed your dog, it is important to make your decision with care, as your dog’s foundation for a healthy life is largely based on the food that nourishes his body.

Many dogs do well on properly formulated, nutrient dense commercial dog foods. Make sure you only feed products that will benefit your dog’s health and well being.

Basics when Feeding Commercial Dog Foods:

Commercial diets really can’t be beat in the category of convenience. Many owners enjoy the peace of mind in knowing that all the nutrients that their dog needs to thrive should be included in his kibble, canned, dehydrated, or frozen food. When choosing a commercial product, it is important to keep a few things in mind that will be discussed below.

Commercial products on the market that are labeled to follow AAFCO guidelines must contain the the recommended amounts of protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals for the stated life stage. With this being said, foods that meet the basic requirements established by the AAFCO can vary greatly in their quality. Some things to help direct what food to choose are the following:

  • Pick a food appropriate for your dog’s life stage:
    • Puppies needs are different in several respects from an adult dogs needs. Growing puppies need more fat, protein, calcium (but not too much!), and phosphorus than adult dogs do. There are also all life stage products, which can be fed to puppies, adults, and senior citizen canines.
    • Large and giant breed puppies have even more unique requirements to prevent them from growing too quickly all at once (see Because of their special requirements, large breed pups really should be fed a food that is specifically labeled for them.
  • Look for products that use plenty of high-quality, specific animal products:
    • Better brands use specifically named meats. For example, a better brand will have chicken, turkey, or duck listed instead of a general term such as poultry. Also avoid foods that use generic terms such as meat, meat meal, or animal fat. These terms are too general and give very little information about what is actually in the food. Instead, opt for products that list beef, pork, or lamb.
    • By-products can contain very beneficial ingredients such as organ meats, but they can also contain hair, hooves, and feathers, none of which are of significant nutritional value to your dog. If the food does specify that the by-products are organ meats, it is probably okay to feed since organs are very high in nutrients. Also, if a food has muscle meats listed in combination with some by-products, this may be ok as well. For more information on by-products, check out my post discussing this issue further.
    • A general rule of thumb is to only pick foods that have a specific animal protein listed first. While this does by no means assure that the food is meat based, it is usually a good way to quickly weed out  extremely low quality foods.
    • An easy to remember tip is to look for at least two of the first five ingredients in a kibble to be high quality animal products. The thought behind this is that the first five ingredients make up the bulk of what is in the bag. Thus, the more animal products in the first five ingredients, the better the food.
      • Some argue that the ingredients leading to the first major fat source make up the bulk of the food. While this may be accurate, I feel that the first five ingredient rule is a little easier to remember and is also pretty reliable.
  • Be careful about what grain free food you choose:
    • In recent years, grain free foods have gotten a bad reputation because of connections made between them and dilated cardiomyopathy. Grains don’t protect a dog against this condition, but it does seem that feeding grain free foods may be tied to an increase in incidence of this disease. While many hypotheses have been made as to the cause of this, no one is quite sure what the connection is.
    • For quite some time, I was feeding my one dog a mixture of fresh food, canned food, and grain free kibble. After a while, I noticed that he was constantly bloated and seemed more sluggish, despite having no obvious issues on exam and having normal blood work from the vet. After stopping the grain-free food, the bloating and excess gas went away. If you are feeding your dog a grain-free food and he seems exceptionally gassy, trying a food with grains or one without legumes may solve the problem. It seems that the legumes often used in grain-free foods can contribute to excess gas.
  • Avoid foods that contain wheat or corn gluten:
    • Wheat and corn gluten can inflate the protein content on the package, allowing the manufacturer to get away with not putting as much animal protein in the food. Dogs can’t digest protein from plant sources as efficiently as they can from animal sources, so even though the protein percentage may seem high, its not protein that the dogs body can effectively use. If a food otherwise has many animal sources of protein listed, these ingredients may not be as big of an issue.
  • Add fresh foods when possible:
    • Fresh foods are a wonderful addition to a commercial diet. My article Dog Food on a Budget addresses how to add fresh food to a diet that is primarily commercial food.
  • A note about special health concerns:
    • Dogs with unique health conditions often benefit from foods specifically geared for them. Hills, Purina, and Royal Canin have all been in the business of making prescription foods for many years now. Recently, Blue Buffalo also created their own prescription line.
    • Prescription diets often won’t line up with the guidelines above, because specific health conditions require unique adjustments.
    • Many argue that many of the prescription products are made up of low quality ingredients. I understand this argument and I wish the prescription diets used better ingredients than many of them do. With this being said, if a dog has a specific disease that requires treatment in the form of diet modifications, those modifications need to be made. This can be often done with fresh, homemade foods. If a fresh diet isn’t a possibility, a prescription diet will still be better than a non-prescription diet in many cases.

Pay attention to recalls:

If possible, pay attention to recalls on whatever commercial foods you choose to feed. Some companies will email you recall information if you get on their email list, and this can be very helpful. Often times, recalls are for things such as E. coli or Salmonella contamination. Such contamination is often more dangerous for the people handling the foods than it is for the pet, but it is still important to be aware of such problems as dogs can become sick from such infections, particularly dogs with underlying health concerns. More seriously, pet foods may need to be recalled over nutrient content issues. Several companies have had recalls in the past because of toxic levels of vitamin D being present in their products, and the infamous 2007 recall saw pet foods containing ingredients laced with poison; such issues can causes severe illness in pets and can even lead to death.

The following websites frequently cover pet food recalls:


Choosing the appropriate food to feed your best friend is one of the most important things to assure a long, happy life. By following the above tips, you can feel confident in your choice of food for your best friend.

The Koehler Method: Dog Training or Dog Abuse?

Who was William Koehler?

William Koehler was a dog trainer for over 50 years. During his career, Koehler trained dogs for the army, Walt Disney Studios, and wrote 6 books on the subject of dog training. While he passed away in 1993, his training methods are still used by many today. Koehler’s techniques are effective, or else he would have not been so successful in his career. Although Koehler’s method works, it is criticized by many for its excessive use of force and harsh corrections.

The Koehler Method:

The Koehler method of dog training relies heavily on the use of the leash and choke chain. I have not read all of Koehler’s books, but I have read The Koehler Method of Dog Training. In the introduction, this trainer makes it very clear that he is not a fan of using treats in training, which he refers to as the “tid-bit training technique.” He does encourage the owner to profusely praise the dog when the dog obeys so the dog knows he has done well.

Koehler emphasizes early on in his book that most dogs do not want to do as they are told just to please their masters; rather, they need to be taught the consequences of not obeying. It is true that most dogs don’t want to do as they are told simply to please their masters, but there are ways of teaching behaviors that use motivations that are meaningful to dogs.

One issue for people with puppies who wish to use this method is that Koehler recommends beginning training once the pup is at least 6 months of age. Since most people get new puppies when they are around 8 to 10 weeks of age, waiting this long wastes a whole lot of valuable time that could be used to introduce the puppy to training.

This method of dog training begins with teaching the dog to be attentive to the owner on a long line. Basically, you have the dog on a long line, and you move about. If the dog is not paying attention, they end up getting checked by the long line. This attentiveness training sets the foundation for the basic obedience commands.

The basic obedience commands are taught through use of the leash and by manipulating the dog into position. As stated above, no food rewards are used, even when teaching new behaviors. Excessive force is recommended when ‘necessary.’ For instance, if a dog is reluctant to sit, Koehler advises training with the dog next to a fence to avoid the dog’s ability to struggle. Then, he recommends that the owner “put a lot of downward pressure on the rear and sufficient upward pressure on the leash to make his breathing quite a chore. Don’t ease up until he weakens and sits.” (The Koehler Method of Dog Training). Needless to say, it is much kinder and just as effective to teach a reluctant dog the sit command with a food lure or through clicker training.

When teaching the down command, Koehler once again uses lots of force and corrections. For dogs that don’t want to lay down on command, he recommends being in front of the dog, so if the dog doesn’t obey a correction can be given. If the command is given and the dog doesn’t listen, but moves to the down when the owner gets into the position to issue a leash correction, he states that this should be corrected as well, as the dog obviously is trying to avoid the correction without obeying as soon as the command is given. Sadly, he fails to consider the real possibility that the poor dog simply hasn’t learned the word ‘down’ yet but recognizes when he gets a harsh correction and is trying to avoid the pain. This theme of harshly correcting the dog before the owner is certain that the dog knows what commands mean is seen throughout the book and is unfair to the dog. Why should a dog be corrected for not obeying a command when the dog didn’t know what the command meant in the first place?

Controversial Aspects of the Koehler Method:

Koehler’s training requires the use of either a choke chain or a prong collar (he seems to prefer choke chains). Both collars are considered inhumane by many. Choke chains in particular can damage a dog’s windpipe, but people who quickly snap the leash and release the pressure, which is recommended by most trainers who use a choke chain, may limit damage to the windpipe. I had also previously read that lifelong use of a choke chain can damage the muscle on a dog’s neck, and I believe this was when the collar was correctly used. So while damage to the windpipe may be avoided by correctly using the collar, muscle damage can still result. Prong collars and choke chains both provide uncomfortable (possibly painful) stimulus to train the dog, and some people are against the use of any such tactics when handling dogs. Personally, I think that prong collars and choke chains can be very useful, particularly the prong collar, but I don’t like the way Koehler uses them.

The use of the choke chain is not the most controversial aspect of Koehler’s method. When training the recall, Koehler recommends a throw chain, which is flung at the dog when he does not come on command. But this is not the only time this trainer suggests physically punishing a dog into behaving. For dogs that bark when left alone, Koehler recommends beating the dog with a leather belt. If a dog is difficult to housebreak he advises taking the dog to the place where the accident happened and smacking the dog while holding his face at the mess.

One of the most disturbing recommendations of Koehler is when he advises owners to dunk their dog’s head in water to break him of digging holes. Koehler states that if a dog digs a hole, that the owner should fill the hole with water, take the dog over to the hole, and dunk his head in the water and hold him there until the dog really feels that he is about to drown. Needless to say, I don’t know many people who would feel comfortable doing this to any living creature, let alone a beloved dog.

When justifying his methods of correcting bad behaviors, Koehler mentions that often times if the dog does not learn to stop doing the said behavior, euthanasia is the only option left. While behavior problems can result in a dog being given up to a shelter or put to sleep, there are many gentler methods that won’t damage the relationship between dog and owner that are very effective. Koehler ignores this, and offers his harsh punishments as the only alternative.

Overall Thoughts on the Koehler Method:

Corrections can be very useful when training a dog. I have used electric collars, prong collars, and other forms of correction when training my dogs. The trouble with Koehler’s method of training is its over reliance of corrections and the use of abusive measures for many problem behaviors. All the training techniques revolve around some sort of physical punishment, whether that be the use of a throw chain, choke chain, or a leather belt. While such forceful methods can be VERY effective, they can also be very damaging to the dog, and can create problem behaviors in the dog, such as fear and aggression. For dogs with behavioral issues, Koehler’s solutions are nothing more than animal abuse. Many effective, humane techniques of dog training exist, but they are not to be found in the Koehler method.

With this said, I do want to mention that I think Koehler was doing what he thought best. Several of the recommendations in his book for dogs with severe behavioral issues are abusive, but I believe he thought his solutions were the best way to prevent dogs form being killed over training issues. So while I do whole-heartedly disagree with many of the methods, I think he did his best to save dogs from being abandoned or killed for behavioral problems. Today, we have better ways and more options in training, so no one should have to resort to such harsh tactics.

There are many ways to train a dog. The Koehler Method may be effective, but it can also damage the bond with one’s beloved pet.

Koehler’s book is an interesting read for anyone who wishes to see just how far dog training has come, but not the book I would recommend as a “how-to” manual to produce a well adjusted, happy dog.

If you enjoyed this post, please check out: The Koehler Method: Should I use it on my Puppy?, where we further delve into the Koehler Method. 


The Koehler Method of Dog Training

Epulis Tumors in Dogs

Epulides in Dogs:

What is This Thing in my Dog’s Mouth?

Dogs can develop odd growths on any part of their bodies, and this includes the mouth. Epulides are (usually) benign, rather common growths that you can find in your dog’s mouth. Despite this, the growths can still create many problems for your dog, and it is important to take your pet to see a vet if you discover an abnormality of any sort in his mouth.

What Dogs are Most Likely to Get These?

Older dogs over the age of seven are also more prone to developing these as opposed to younger dogs. These tumors form in response to gum inflammation and trauma, which would lead one to believe that dogs with poor oral hygiene are affected more. Genetic predisposition can also play a large roll, as brachycephalic breeds are more likely to develop these, especially boxers. The shape of a brachycephalic dog’s jaw can allow for trauma to the gum to occur from misaligned teeth, and this is a likely cause of the increased incidence of theses breeds. A dog may develop only one or many of these tumors.

It is important to note that while brachycephalic dogs may be more likely to develop these, epulides can pop up in any dog’s mouth. My dog developed one, and she is not brachycephalic, and she has received good dental care since puppyhood.

Signs and Symptoms of Epulides:

The most obvious sign of an epulide is seeing one in the dog’s mouth. These tumors can cause many other signs though, including facial deformation, decrease in activity, bad breath, drooling, enlargement of the lymph nodes, bleeding from the mouth, difficulty eating, etc. The first sign my dog exhibited was repeatedly opening and closing her mouth as if she had something stuck to a tooth, but I didn’t discover it until she yawned one day when I was petting her.

When examining a dog with an epulis, the veterinarian will try to look at and may feel the growth. X-rays are helpful to see how large the tumor is and will also help the vet determine what kind of mass is present, but the only way to be sure of the type of growth is with biopsy.

Types of Epulides:

There are three types of Epulides that a dog may develop, and the only way to be sure what type an affected dog has is through biopsy.

Fibromatous epulis: This type of epulis often resembles a mushroom, as is grows as a tumor on a stalk. It can also be seen without a stalk. (

Peripheral odontogenic fibroma: These are very similar to fibromatous epulides, but these tumors have in osteoid matrix. While these can be more attached to the underlying bone, they normally don’t invade the bone of the dog’s jaw. (

Acanthomatous ameloblastoma: These are technically benign growths yet they are often described as have behaving “cancer-like.” This is because these tumors will invade the bone in the dog’s jaw. While it will not spread throughout the dog’s body, this invasion of the surrounding bone can be very damaging. While fibromatous epulides and peripheral odontogenic fibromas normally have smooth surfaces, acanthomatous ameloblastomas may be rougher in appearance and are often ulcerated. (

Treatment for Epulides:

Treatment for epulides is surgical removal. It is better to remove these growths when they are small to avoid them causing undo discomfort to the dog. If the epulis is an acanthomatous ameloblastoma, part of the surrounding jaw may also need to be removed if the growth has invaded the bone. Sometimes radiation is done if the mass can’t be removed, but this is not the treatment of choice.

Thankfully, tumors don’t usually come back as long as the entire tumor has been successfully removed.

If you are very lucky, your dog may take care of the problem herself. Raina had an appointment to surgically remove her tumor, but about a week before her appointment, I noticed the tumor was no longer in her mouth. She must have done some home surgery and bit it off herself. I took her to the vet just to make sure it was completely gone, and Raina was able to skip that surgery!


Certain types of dogs are more likely to develop epulides than others, but any dog can end up with one. While only one of the three varieties of this tumor is likely to invade the surrounding bone, all of these tumors should be removed if possible so they can be correctly diagnosed. Prompt removal also prevents an epulis from becoming so large that it causes the dog unnecessary stress and discomfort, as even a small one can be very bothersome to a dog and large ones can interfere with eating, drinking, and stop the dog from closing his mouth.


Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook, 4th Edition