Finn’s story


FinnAdoptMe2Last Summer, I brought home one of the most beautiful Border Collies I had ever met. His last owner surrendered him to an animal control knowing that all owner surrender animals were to be put down first. He had the most amazing and focused brown eyes but he also came with variety of behavioral issues. When I evaluated him a week prior I had  concerns and I already had another foster dog that was returned by a previous adopter. I asked if anyone else in the rescue world would be willing to take this dog — knowing that he would be a long term project. Nobody stepped up…and I didn’t blame them. If I were reading my plea, I wasn’t sure if I would have taken him either. When you take a dog like him, you are not only faced with a long term responsibilities and commitment but you are also closing the door to other dying dogs in shelters — that are more adoptable. This is why I don’t like evaluating dogs at a high kill shelter. After meeting a dog and being told that his life/death was in my hands, how could I leave him behind and get him killed? I went through the same thing before. And just look at this face. How could I have? So while I had concerns, I still took him home. I named him “Finn”. Continue reading

Brody – Coming soon

This post is mainly focusing on his behaviors and training progress, written specifically for other rescuers and his future family. His “available for adoption” post is now on my photography blog. I will list his issues into different categories so that you don’t have to read the entire post to find topics that might interest you. He is available for adoption through

History (pre-rescue)

Brody was picked up by an animal control in mid January. He was limping when the rescue got him, possibly due to the way he was captured by a catch pole. At the shelter, he was nervous but supposedly warmed up to shelter workers after a while. During the two weeks when he stayed with a temporary foster, he lived outside in a climate controlled area. I was told that he was “respectful” with other dogs and was nervous about going into his kennel. photo Continue reading

Fear of bridge


About a month ago, we decided to explore a little bit further on our bike trail. Someone we chatted on the trail told me that there was a better area for the dogs on the other side of the bridge shown in the picture. As we passed under this bridge, something happened above us. A large vehicle caused loud noises and they startled both of us. Jazzy ran back to where we came from and she kept her distance. I didn’t want her to leave our usual trail feeling negatively, so we stayed on the trail for a while. She got some treats and played ball for a bit and we left the trail on a positive note.

Continue reading

“Who is that?” – What to do when you meet a loose dog

489About a week ago, we encountered another loose dog in my neighborhood on the way to our trail. If my other “methods” can’t get rid of a stray dog, and if I’m comfortable with the way the other dog approaches, I usually drop my dog’s leash and let them briefly greet. This large stray did not have a collar on and he immediately barked and lunged at me very fearfully. Luckily I had my bike that day. The dog was afraid of me, probably more of the bike. I did not like the way he fixated on Jazzy. I told her to stay behind me and the bike and I tried to body block the dog using the bike as a “shield”. He did not care about the food and ball I throw for him. The only thing he cared about was getting to my dog. I  gradually and calmly pressured the dog to back away with my bike while I kept Jazzy behind me. (I have to thank Patricia McConnell for teaching us the “body block” and “stay behind”) The whole thing lasted about 5 minutes, we moved in, the dog stepped back. I looked away a little, the dog moved back into our space. I felt like we were sheep herding. This time a Border Collie is getting herded and my bike is my shepherd’s crook. While all this was going on, there were two adults looking over their fence. They were shouting “shoo shoo” at the dog but not coming out to help us. But I guess they can call someone IF anything goes terribly wrong. I eventually got the dog to back away enough for Jazzy to escape. Then I heard the audience clapping. I never go there without my bike ever since.

Continue reading

Using “play” to train

This post was intended for dog owners with a high energy, destructive and young dogTug Many of you know how I much I like using food to train. Dogs must eat to live, why not use it to get behaviors? But I LOVE using toys to train dogs even more. If you ever worked with working dogs, you understand how exhilarating it is to use toys to get behaviors you want. There is a whole another level of focus you can get when you use play as reward. Well trained search dogs look for a missing person for hours not just because they love people.

Continue reading

Off switch through classical/operant conditioning – Scent, sound taste & vision

I’d like to thank you to those who messaged me or left kind comments on my last post. I appreciate any feedback as it lets me know that people care about what I share. People come to me for training questions when they hit their roadblocks. When I do, I come to my blog and journals as I’m not good at asking for help. It helps a great deal when I get encouragement and support. So Thank you…


(This post was written for dog owners with a high energy, destructive or a young dog)

Here’s Finn again. In addition to his food guarding and many other issues, he also came with over-the-top-off-the-wall energy. On a scale of 1-10 I rated him above 20.

Continue reading

Training gear for pet dog training

stickRecently I got in trouble for expressing my personal opinion on choke chains in a less diplomatic way. I know there are trainers who express their beliefs and opinions more aggressively but that’s just not my personality. I don’t know what has gotten into me that day. I learned two lessons from that incident. Continue reading

Discouraged and frustrated…(with a fear of leash update)

(This post was written for dog owners with: a nervous, defensive dog with behavior issues)

IMG_8311[1]This is not much of a training post, except for the leash training update at the end since my last post. This is going to be my venting session to whomever feels like listening. If you are a rescue person and have fostered dogs with behavior problems, I’m sure you can relate a little.

Continue reading

Fear of leash – Snarling, snapping and tapping out

(This post was written for dog owners of a dog that’s afraid of leashes and restrains)

My current foster is afraid of being leashed. He gets defensive and snaps when you approach him the “wrong way”, especially around his head, neck, paws and his rear end. He trusts me more now but he still gets nervous with leashes at times. There are many ways to manage the fear of leashes or you can counter-condition it to a point the dog feels no fear at all. fear of leash Continue reading

BC Stares – Diffusing Signals (aka Calming Signals)


(This post was written for dog owners who is interested in dog-dog communication)

BC Stare

If you have a Border Collie, you are probably familiar with the BC stares. The stare that is intense enough to control a herd of sheep can also be observed between dogs, and sometimes create tension between them. My poor lab grew up around Border Collies (the high drive ones) and I’d say he’s pretty BC savvy. He is excellent at avoiding conflict and redirecting tension, including the current foster who is very much into staring. I’m used to quirky BCs but this foster occasionally creeps me out! I sometimes catch two locked eyes staring and he would continue to stare until I interrupt him. He does not stare to create conflict or to control, it’s usually an precursor to playing in his quirky way. If the other dog is not used to this kind of stare, it can be taken the wrong way.

Continue reading