Archive for the ‘Temple Grandin’ Category

Dog Grooming Terminology…and the State of the Industry

July 17, 2015
This is a Maltese I groomed in a puppy trim. They do not  grow like this .naturally. they need haircuts.

This is a Maltese I groomed in a puppy trim. They do not grow like this .naturally. they need haircuts.

Should dog groomers be licensed?  If so—who makes the rules?

In case you didn’t know from reading past blog posts, I  generally work as an independent contractor.  Often, taxes are taken out of my paycheck (& I feel this is a good thing, as I pay less per cent FICA—or Social Security), but my hours are not regular, and often I don’t know what I am doing day-to-day.  Doe a very long time, grooming terminology was pretty standard.  If I made a mistake—it was leaving a dog’s hair too long—and it could always be cut shorter.

Often I’ve had employers/contractors lie to me about how booked they are and how much work I can expect (and how much income I can expect to make).  This has been happening much more often in the past 10 years as  the hobbyists/fanciers who originally owned dog businesses retire, and the  ‘slack’ is taken up by people  who just want to own a pet business (who are not groomers), or  people being taught at dog grooming schools—who think they really know how to groom.

Some DO know how to groom—at least they can  scissor evenly. But do they know the nuances of the breeds?  Or,  that if you clip a double coated dog you might cause clipper alopecia? How about that it’s not how much suds you get —but the agitation of active ingredients of shampoo against the dog’s hair?  Do they know that neither hair—nor water—in the dogs ears cause ear infections, but it  is  a synergy of  bacteria, yeast, and stress that  are the cause of most ear infections?  Ah, no.  Nor do these newbies know anything about animal behavior. They are not fanciers from way back who  took delight in communicating with their pet dogs. Many I have met decided to groom  because they didn’t know what else to do with their lives and they ‘loved dogs’, or (more recently) a dog groomer  injured their dog, so they decided they’d do it better….yet…

These newer groomers (who’ve been taught  in the past 10 or so years), who  claim they  run  their businesses so they are safe, or are better at  styling, or do a better job brushing dogs—-do they really offer a better outcome in terms of safety  for dogs or quality of work?

I recently worked for a very skilled groomer who  graduated from a grooming school and never worked for anyone but herself.  That was a red flag to me, because we learn so much from each other.   Upon graduating grooming school, she immediately bought a mobile  grooming van, and was successful.  I’ve had several mobile groomers tell me their clients are not so concerned about styling.  They are  concerned about convenience only. It so happened that this particular groomer I was working for  was very conscientious.  However, she thought that everyone who ever learned to groom learned the same terminology, the same methods, the same styling  practices, but worse, now that she was in a shop (rather than in the van), it was safe to allow all the dogs to run loose in the shop.  It was not safe, for  individual dogs, and  this was for many reasons.  In any case, she thought we should be licensed as it would be safer for  dogs. Really?

Her dog was  killed when it hung itself  jumping out of the tub…and although she has signs that say: DO NOT LEAVE DOGS IN TUB UNATTENDED, her bather regularly does this.   The owner is too busy to notice.   So, she allows  two practices  that are not safe for  pet dogs.

This business owner complained about how much shampoo her groomers were using.  It could be very irritating  to a dog’s skin to use concentrated shampoo…but she was not making sure the shampoo was being diluted to the ration the manufacturer suggested.  I  guess that as long as the groomers made the dogs look good, it was not enough of an issue to  solve.

When I  was taught to groom dog…every dog was a poodle.  Maybe  one out of 50 dogs a miniature Schnauzer or a Cocker Spaniel.  We never saw Maltese or Yorkies, and there were no Shih Tzu or Bichons because they were not yet recognized breeds by the AKC.  So how did we learn these  other breeds?  By either apprenticing with hobby breeders or professional AKC handlers, or going to grooming seminars which the kennel clubs held.

There were no ‘bath & tidy’ groomings, but what started happening was that dog groomers offered the service of a bath which included the ‘tidy’: which was—for every shop I ever worked in…besides the bath—the ears and nails, the sanitary trim (including hair in pads of feet), and scissoring up to  first joint:  the hock or pastern!  Now, they are calling any  ‘off’ breed  grooming—which—in the past—you would never use a clipper blade on the body (unless the owner specifically asked)—-a bath & tidy.  For us old timers—this was a full  Golden Retriever (or Collie, or Pekingese) grooming.  I was rudely told  that I didn’t know how to groom because of how I interpreted instructions!

So, how are we going to legislate this?  If the shop owner discounts how unsafe it is to allow a pack of dogs—a new mix  of dogs —including intact dogs—every day—that doesn’t know each other, to socialize, but they are not licensed as a dog daycare center—-so nobody is actively watching  dogs to make sure nobody is bullying another dog,  or checking to make sure  the dogs socializing are inoculated against kennel cough (or don’t  have  giardia or other type of parasite ), is YOUR PET any safer than if the  shop and groomers are  licensed?  As an aside—best practice in dog daycare is :  no intact dogs, and  one ‘handler’ for every 12 dogs. In Illinois,  15 dogs per handler  are allowed…but the law is not enforced.

Who should set the guidelines to license groomers?  The veterinarians,  who’ve mandated that dogs should get a rabies shot every year (when their immunity is probably good for  at least  five, if not 10 years)? The veterinarians who suggest putting a harness on a dog so he doesn’t suffer a collapsed trachea rather than telling the owner to teach the dog not to pull on the  leash?  Groomers who are politically connected, but may not be able to tell a Lhasa Apso from a Shih Tzu, or a Welsh Terrier from a Lakeland?

I worry about all this.  I was told I was not a good groomer  because I didn’t know a ‘bath & tidy’ on a Golden Retriever was actually really a full groom.   I was accused  of not  cleaning a Portuguese Water Dog’s ears out (after a breeder told me to NOT pull all the hair out as it night irritate the ears more than leaving some hair in), and for not  deshedding a nervous dog who clearly was flight shedding…because the instructions did NOT include a deshedding treatment.  I can’t tell you how many groomers have laughed at me about this (not believing that it happens frequently)!

I worked  briefly for a groomer who tethered all dogs to grooming tables, which resulted in  a lot of  anxiety, pooping, and  leash chewing. She discounted that dogs  are stressed when tethered, and she just didn’t want to buy more crates. In addition, she sold  harnesses, so  dogs could pull their owners around.  No collars, only harnesses (not realizing that after this cute fluffy dog dies the owner will have had enough of a dog being in charge of them, but thinking there is no alternative, and not getting another dog.

Maybe I shouldn’t worry.   One groomer whom I respect  said that designer dogs are a fad (but will ethical hobby breeders…breeding for the betterment of their breeds, be able to maintain a gene pool?).  That as dogs get injured in poorly run shops, those shops will go out of business.  I wish I could be so optimistic.

If Not us, Then Who?

December 12, 2014


Me doing a grooming demonstration for the North Central maltese Rescue annual gathering in southern Wisconsin. This is the largest gathering of Maltese fanciers in the country!

Me doing a grooming demonstration for the North Central maltese Rescue annual gathering in southern Wisconsin. This is the largest gathering of Maltese fanciers in the country!

I keep writing about the pet industry being in a sorry state: so lacking in integrity, defending  inhumane  breeders (breeding pets as livestock), selling  useless or  dangerous products.  I know that there are people who agree with me.  How many who agree with me are willing to  do something about it?  How many actually spend time talking with pet owners?

I subscribe to all the free pet industry magazines:  Pet Business, PetAge, and Pet Industry News.  For years I subscribed to  The Gazette (Purebred dogs, the AKC magazine) which I learned so much from, from so many different  fanciers who wrote about  what they were learning about dogs.  Now that it is no longer in print, it is much more difficult to get information about specific breeds of dogs  if you don’t subscribe to all the Facebook feeds.

Keep in mind, that were it not for hobbyists and fanciers, there would be no  grain free dog food industry.  It wasn’t  veterinarians who  promoted  grain free foods, and  most pet store retailers were  bemused by the requests.  It was  hobby breeders suggesting to their puppy buyers, and to people they were meeting at dog training classes  and performance events  talking about  the ear infections and foot licking might be related to corn or wheat sensitivities.

When I was a teenager, I worked briefly for  Afghan Hound breeder Fredric Mark Alderman. He had quick, phenomenal success with the Akaba dogs he got from Lois Boardman. His kennel name was Dynasty. He had a waiting list of people wanting  his dogs, and he had a policy: you want a Dynasty Afghan Hound, but have no experience with the breed, you spend a day grooming with him.  He didn’t want to hear that  you didn’t enjoy brushing or bathing a dog, that you didn’t know the equipment you’d need or how much time it would take up.  If that’s how you felt at the end of an afternoon with him, no harm, no foul…you didn’t get an Afghan.    Not  one other breeder in the Afghan Hound Club of Greater Chicago did what he did.  So many of theirs ended up neglected or abused.  Not the dogs Fred bred.  I knew breeders in other breeds who had similar policies. Arlene Fenney, who bred Bearded Collies in the Chicago area, insisted that all her pet buyers buy a portable grooming table.

A blog I posted a couple of years ago “The Irony of the Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier,”  got an enormous amount of attention recently, going  from  possibly 1 viewing a week to well over 200.  I suspect a  fancier  found it, and  then sent the link to other fanciers—but I didn’t get  one comment:  I suspect they all understand why the breed got popular, and then declined in popularity.    I will address more of that in the future.

I am addressing this  topic of information in the pet industry  because of what I am dealing with  now.

I recently worked for a dog business, as many people know, owned by a business woman who thinks she is a dog lover, but who has never trained a dog, nor actually worked cleaning or  observing a playgroup in her own kennel.  She had a vision of how large she wanted her facility to appear, and how much she wanted to make, and, once again, trusted  people who  were taking her money, instead of people who knew dogs. She has asked me to never mention the name of the business in my blog because she claims I say too much negative.  If it weren’t the truth, I wouldn’t spend the time. You can’t make this stuff up.

We have had, in the 3 years since I worked for her, a 98% change in staff.   When we parted,  I had been with her longer than any other employee.  2 others who worked in the kennel had been there almost two years.  They quit within a couple of weeks after I left. With such a high turnover, organizational memory is lost.  So, new staff are constantly  doing new procedures,. reinventing the wheel,  or screwing up and having to address screw ups. The owner moved into what looks like a beautiful building  where the floors are shiny and dangerous to both humans and dogs, many dogs are afraid to walk on it. Temple Grandin addressed this in Animals in Translation, but of course, neither the owner or manager have read anything she’s written. They are business people.  The electricity is  set up in such a way that there is not enough where it is needed, and too much available where it is not.

In any case, as a groomer, who loves dogs, and loves being with the dogs, I  want my clients to be happy with their dogs. Unfortunately, for about a decade, the  pet industry—meaning retail sellers—have been bamboozling people into buying  harnesses for their dogs..and Flexi leashes.  Everyone  pays for a Flexi.  It’s hard enough to control your dogs with a harness and  six foot leash.  Harnesses are designed so the dog will not be restrained when pulling you.  I’ve addressed this before.  In any case, I am trying to get my clients to switch to Martingale collars.  This is what sighthound people  use, and more  and more hobbyists are switching from buckle collars to  Martingales because you really DO get more control—without hurting the dog!

So, I spend a lot of time talking to  my clients about their relationship with their dogs.  And I’ve gotten several good clients to switch to  Martingales over the last several months.  I’ve mentioned this to the owner and the manager.  Blah blah Blah.  Now, there is a nice looking retail space.  What do they sell?   Fancy Dog cookies.  Dog beds (at least 4 dozen in inventory).  Dog coats and toys.  NO  collars. None.  My clients—OUR CLIENTS are going elsewhere for collars.

I showed a client who owns a pet consulting business my MillerForge Curved Slicker brush,  She thought it was  amazing, it is.  I get them from   The business owner  could sell those, too…but she selling dog cookies….or rather, there is a nice display, they are not selling (nor are the dog beds).

I show my clients how to brush their dogs. This is something the breeder (yes, that includes the idiot backyard breeders who constantly post on Craigslist in every city—people who claim they are NOT breeders!) should show them how to do.  If not the breeder—all these shelters and rescues that also want good homes for  the dogs they adopt out, should   address brushing, feeding, a care schedule, what shots will cost in the future—but not a one does.  You bond with your dog  by grooming it.  These people disrespect  hobby breeders—or they throw them in with the lot of puppy mills.  You could not call Fred Alderman irresponsible.  He  was and is not breeding the dogs that wind up in shelters.

Whatever. It is up to groomers to address all these things.  Grooming, nutrition, finding a good veterinarian,  good websites and YouTube videos on dog care—particularly training.  It is up to us to  sell THE FEATURES OF THE EQUIPMENT WE USE.  The sales  clerks and managers at all these pet stores are not going to sell the dog owning public what they need.

The hobby breeders are telling the puppy buyers to return to them for grooming as so few  pet groomers have the experience or talent to groom their breeds.  I can’t blame them.  However, it is those hobby breeders who actually got our pet grooming industry started.  All those designer dogs that the puppy mills and backyard breeders are putting out  won’t keep us afloat for so many reasons, including  being poorly bred and having genetic issues, and the owners  coming to the understanding that  that fluffy fantasy puppy wasn’t as much fun to take care of as they hoped, or was way more expensive than they dreamed (I  went from having Afghan Hounds to Whippets partly because of time commitment,and partly expense).  What am I saying?  We have to  be in touch with and more friendly with hobby breeders breeding for the betterment of their breeds.  We have to join more kennel clubs.  We have to work with the  organizations that say they want permanent homes for all pets.If the business owners really cared, they  would  be more holistic about addressing  dog car to every  dog owner who walked through the dog.  They are not, and it is up to us.

The Armchair Activist, Revisited.

September 5, 2014

In the early 1980s, I met a very interesting woman named Margaret Asproyerakas.   We had been recruited —as volunteer organizers, to recruit other activist to  protest at several Regional  Primate Centers.  We were protesting cruel treatment of animals,and, in our case, the experiments of Harry Harlow (& in fact, they keep replicating these horrible ‘experiments’) but the movement  brought together a disparate group of people with  varying concerns:  treatment of animals in zoos, circuses, rodeos,  factory farms, animals being bred for fur,  people concerned about the environment and habitat loss, animals being captured (and bred) for the pet trade,  the steel jaw leg-hold trap used by hunters, and  product (and medical drug) testing on animals.  In the end, we got about 5000 people to each of the regional primate  centers to protest.  Hardly successful at all, but  it at least got us in contact with each other, so we could help each other.

Remember, this was the early 1980s.  Before the internet.  Successes?  It  became gauche to wear fur, many companies stopped testing products on animals and started promoting themselves as ‘cruelty free’.  Zoos started  addressing  the stress of their  inmates, and finally, in 2014, many zoos are no longer keeping elephants if they can’t keep a social  group.

No, we haven’t affected Sea World or the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, and puppies  are still being bred like livestock.  People in developed countries are more aware, however, and we  don’t seem to be as radical as we once appeared to be.  I remember in the early 1990s, I was on public transportation, and I had a button that said  “Dolphin Safe Tuna” on my bag that Starkist was handing out.  Someone asked me, “Do you think it’s really Dolphin safe?”    “I am not sure”  I replied, ” But  this is a response to is all the regular folks, housewives, kids, just people, contacting the company.  We made an impact. They know it is an important issue to us.”

Margaret had an idea for a brochure. It would be printed on an 8.5 x 11 ” piece of paper, on both sides, that could be folded over and stapled together.  It was just 12 little pages. Now,  this was the days before laptop computers as well, so I suggested that we get all the ideas together and type them out, and then put them together.  Margaret did copy right it (1984), but she wanted it to be simple enough for any animal welfare group to copy.

The first page—the cover, was a little cartoon of a bird, a dog, and a cat  around an armchair, with some  copy that   said: “Animal rights activists disable pirate whaling ships, liberate animals from laboratories, disrupt annual baby seal hunts, airlift burros from the Grand Canyon…as much as we may want to help, there may be no way for us to participate in these forms of activism. So…presenting ARMCHAIR ACTIVIST  Easy, inexpensive, close-to-home ways to make a positive difference for animals.”

We left page 2 blank, so any group could copy the brochure and  put information about themselves on that page.  On actual page 1, we started our ideas.  We called it “A penny for your thoughts”: We suggested contacting local animal shelters to find out what they felt was important, and learn from the national groups what  their issues were—and to write letters.  We encouraged  people to write their elected officials as well. These days, it is so easy to email, but back then, we encouraged the sending of  postcards—especially if you were writing the head of a company,  With a postcard, not only did you NOT have to look for an envelope, it forced you to be concise, and every one from the people in the mail room to the CEO’s  secretary would see it and be affected.  This had a huge impact on so many companies.  It still does.  Now we also have and The  petition site—and  it is so much easier.

We told people to put their 2c in, and when they saw something to say something:

to zoos with  jail like ‘habitats; circuses  which promoted unnatural behaviors and very confined housing;  rodeos;  street fairs that offered pony rides and petting zoos, or allowed  giving away of pet animals;  carriage horses—having to work in terrible heat and cold, in very stressful traffic conditions (I mean, how  romantic is that?), cattle trucks;  live poultry markets; dogs tied up outside stores or left in  parked cars (always an issue…still…), pet shops;  school science classes that demanded experimentation on live animals, including frogs and guinea pigs; initiation rites (swallowing goldfish).

We asked people to check hardware stores to  request they not sell steel jaw leg-hold traps, or glue traps  for mice.  We encouraged people to keep prestamped postcards to  write to sponsors of TV shows that  made light of animal suffering.  We protested  sweepstakes that gave away fur coats ( how many of you  remember Bob Barker on The Price is Right?  Not only would he not be a party to giving  away furs, he ended the show by saying, “Please spay or neuter your pet!”  That became part of Drew Carey’s  contract with the show as well).

We asked people to monitor the classified ads in the Sunday papers and call  people who  offered free puppies and kittens (these days, I would ask you to flag the idiots  who post on Craigslist—they post in pets , farm & garden, & general for sale).  Free pets generally end up either being neglected or  tortured…still. The person who won’t go to an animal shelter & pay the fee—which  generally includes shots & neutering, will also balk at paying for veterinary care and even  dog food.

We encouraged people to watch the editorial pages of local papers, and challenge inaccurate information.  Keep in mind  that many localities in the US still ban Pit Bulls—when  Pits are not the problem—the owners are ( see Malcolm Gladwell’s essay, “Troublemakers”).

We encouraged people to SPREAD THE WORD:  to ask local clergy to address compassion towards animals, or offer to speak to your own congregation, or  boy or girl scouts, or a classroom.  Some newspapers allow people to  post free personal ads, and we encouraged people to  advise pet owners to spay or neuter their pets.  We asked people to order  brochures on these topics , or make up their own, and post them on public bulletin boards. We encouraged  people to  volunteer their time and talents, either directly working with animals or offering to do administrative, book keeping, or fundraising  help for animal shelters .We encouraged  people to make donations-in-kind (shelters always need  towels, blankets, paper towels,  pet toys, collars and leashes…and can sell whatever they don’t use).

We encouraged people to make crafts, design t-shirts and bumper stickers, and offer to pay for these things. These days,  many people may not be able to permanently keep a pet, but they might help with fostering.  In Chicago, we have volunteers  who play with and even train many  ‘court case dogs’.  These are dogs taken as evidence when  a defendant  doesn’t want to sign over, so the dog is in the city pound as long as the case is active.  Continuances can go on for years.  That’s a terribly long time for a formerly pet dog  to sit in what should be a temporary boarding situation.  Very stressful. We got court permission to exercise these dogs and prepared them for a life  in a home if a judge decided a defendant could not get his dog back.

Margaret’s book was a forerunner to the very popular 50 things you can do to save the earth.  We didn’t address recycling in our brochure, or keeping the size of your birth family small if you decided to have children, but those are 2 more things you can do if you want to help animals.  Recycle your material trash, compost of veggies scraps, cut your  meat (animal) intake and go vegetarian—start 2 days a week.  Go go the Greater Good Animal Rescue site & sign up to do the daily clicks to fund shelters and projects.  It costs nothing.

Now, with social media, more  people are aware of all these ways of changing what is wrong.  I hope you will copy this and share this with friends when they tell you they wish they could ‘do something’.

Dog Harnesses and Flexis

August 15, 2014

I have written  in the past about how  awful prong collars are for the average dog.  People keep commenting on the blog and  keep telling me THAT IF THEY ARE USED CORRECTLY….blah blah blah—when the whole blog was about them NOT being used correctly.  Now opinion is swinging the other way:  instead of  over controlling dogs, people are  putting their dogs into harnesses because they don’t want to hurt the dog’s throat!

The pet industry uses the word ‘trending’ to describe  the phenomenon (I can’t think of any other  description), of the craze for harnesses.  Awful, You can not control a dog if he is sweating a harness of any sort:  they are designed for the dog to pull you.

Only guide dogs and sled dogs—dog which have been trained to work, and make decisions on their own—should be wearing  harnesses. They are designed for the dog to NOT suffer any pain upon the pressure of leading you around.  Premier ‘no-pull’ harnesses—where the dog  has to turn around  and face you if he pulls too much?  Dog is still in charge, and isn’t getting any social cue from the handler.  I have to keep reminding  dog owners/stewards/guardians/pet parents that dog ownership is not a democracy.  If you aren’t in charge, your dog will be in charge, and that sets up a terrible dynamic.  Domestic dogs were bred to accept leadership from humans.  When you don’t take control, you force the dog to make a decision—a decision a pet dog is not prepared to make.  He pulls, but he has no idea where he is going.  He could pull you across a busy street,  into the path of a bicycle, or to an unfriendly dog.  In any case, you can’t control the  dog unless he is so small you can pick him up.  With  Flexis—the retractable leashes, you have even less control.

This is so dangerous.  I was at an event today where I saw about a dozen dogs—-only 2 of which were wearing buckle collars.  All the rest were on harnesses…leading their owners around.  Of course, at least  four of these dogs were  French Bulldogs (talk about  trending…).  The owners didn’t have a clue.

This didn’t bother  me until about the past  three or four years.  The reason it does bother me is that so many people dump inconvenient dogs.  They always indicate some sort of lifestyle change where the dog no longer fits into their life…and they lie. They lie about the dog being a good house dog.  The dog is spoiled, and very confused, and if the dog does find a new owner,  if that new owner doesn’t take  behavior shaping very seriously, we have another  out of control dog on our hands.

What’s better?  Either a buckle collar or martingale, on a  six foot leather (the best) or nylon (acceptable) leash—and teaching  the dog  to not pull by standing still and  pulling the dog back, or  walking in the opposite direction.  True—some dogs won’t  ‘get it’.  There are brain damaged dogs.  Most dog will get it, however, if you are consistent.

Who Knows More? Veterinarian or Groomer?Dog Behavior 101

June 27, 2014

In  order to be able to groom dog, you have to be able to handle the dog. You have to have the attitude that you are in charge.  You have to know how to get control of the dog without injuring the dog, frightening the dog. You getting the dog to trust you. Everything goes more smoothly when the dog trusts the handler.  This means the handler has to have confidence, because the dogs all pick up on body language.

My brother had just gotten his veterinary degree, but he still didn’t have his license, so I asked him to help me in the shop, bathing dogs.  He asked me how I knew the dog wouldn’t bite me.  I told him I could read the dog’s body language.  “Oh,”  he responded.  “They don’t teach us about that in veterinary school..”

Funny?  Ah, no, They all seem to be afraid that every dog is going to bite them.  Unless they  have been very involved with pet animals, they seem to not trust them.  They also  don’t know any better.  I have volunteered with  people trained to be veterinary technicians who have apparently been taught to  put a dog in  his most vulnerable position to cut his nails. Why why why?

Veterinarians also don’t know that  blindness & deafness are color linked.  You don’t breed a ‘merle’ (marbled coated) dog to another merle, as this color is linked to congenital blindness and deafness.    This includes harlequin ( small black spots on a white dog) patterns in Danes and Dalmations.   The black & tan color pattern is also linked to deafness in many breeds.

Most veterinarians are trained as agricultural vets:  to work with farm animals, They’ve been taught that these animals  can endure a lot of pain, and the idea of respecting them  has never been broached in an academic setting.  In this day and age,  I think this is shameful, but  again, if a veterinarian is not a hobbyist or fancier, chances are he stopped learning   when he got his diploma.

About 20 years ago, right about the time that people started using the internet, , people who owned dogs  that had chronic  yeast infections in their ears, and  other skin issues including  foot licking, started to address diet.
By trial and error, they  started feeding  grain-free (no corn, wheat, or soy) to their dogs.  They also started experimenting with protein sources. A result is the  grain free and variable protein dog food industry.  This did not come about because veterinarians suggested this to  dog food manufacturers.  In fact, they pretty much dismissed the  hobbyists and fanciers who  wanted this addressed.   These hobbyists and fanciers , who met at ‘performance’ (obedience, rally, agility, field trials, and even conformation dog shows) shared information.

We hobbyists and fanciers have also been behind using sodium free shampoos for dogs with sensitive skin.  Oatmeal shampoos may be effective, but if sodium is exacerbating the  itchiness—it is NOT helping!  Yet, veterinarians are still  ignoring this fact!

Veterinarians are telling people to use harnesses for dogs with trachea  problems (rather than wide martingales—or—-training the dog to not pull), totally ignoring  the fact that people do not have control of their dogs. This is dangerous. They  ignore the fact that people are using  prong collars and are still not in control of their dogs.  They  don’t advise pet owners of their responsibility to test for genetic defects before they breed their dogs.

Yet, when we groomers address these issues, they  discount us.  The justification is always that they have  doctorate degrees, and I may have only been a high school graduate!

This is why I always suggest that  hobbyists/fanciers  really question their veterinarian—to find out if the  doctor they trust is on the ‘same page’ as they are.

Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals, by Charles Darwin, is actually one of the first books I read on  animal behavior, but there  are now so many good books:  anything by Temple Grandin, Brian Kilcommon, Pat McConnell.  There areb so many good books and websites on dog training and understanding dogs.  There is no excuse for  working with animals and not learning how   to understand them.


YOU make public policy.

July 19, 2013

I’m an activist. Not a great one, not very visible, but  I figure , I live in America, I pay taxes,  and  our elected officials are supposed to represent ME and my views.  Now,  some of our elected officials think we elect THEIR views…so you have to elect the person who holds the views you hold.  That means doing a bit of research…but I digress.

You really have to ‘organize’ and get with people who hold similar views…to make progress.  However, I know that  the subtle things you do make an impact.

Over  30 years ago, I  worked with 0thers on a campaign called ‘Mobilization for Animals’. This was in about 1983. Our immediate mission was shutting down regional primate centers (affiliated with universities) which housed animals undergoing very painful, inhumane experiments.  We also addressed how zoos were run, circuses,  the wearing of fur, how farm animals were treated, taking of habitat, product testing on animals,hunting, steel jaw traps  the breeding of pet animals like livestock.if  an animal was being exploited,we  ‘vowed’ to  address these issues.
We didn’t immediately get the primate centers shut down, but here’s what we did do:

Wearing of fur became very …gauche.We changed the  public mindset.

Circuses & zoos  started reforming, developing better habitats,not keeping animals  if they could not provide stress-free environments, ans most small circuses shut down. Circe De Soleil—with no animals,became very popular.

Product testing—now cruelty free products have major market share for  virtually all consumable products.

Exploitation of animals…we still have a long way to go, as so many are still abused for  food and entertainment, but  Temple Grandin was able to get  humane slaughter houses built.

Recycling— due to the cost of  importing raw materials, and the  cost of  siting landfills, more Americans are comfortable using  products made from recycled materials than they were  30 years ago…thus creating jobs and saving habitat for wildlife. However, we have to remain vigilant.

Puppy mills…that is, people breeding pet dogs as livestock  just to sell as a product—we have a very long way to go on this one. witness then many pet shops in malls, selling over priced, physically ill pets to  very rich, impulsive idiots who haven’t a clue about how they are going to take care of the puppy, but trust the sellers.

I was asked by a friend to join the board of a NEW recycling center in my area.  We needed an entity to collect   recyclable waste, and a means to promote the idea.
this was in 1985 or so.  Now, most people are recycling something.

In  1990, I was  riding public transportation to school, and a fellow passenger commented on the ‘Dolphin Safe Tuna’ pin (handed out by Starkist at a rally)  that I had on my bag. “Do you really think it is dolphin safe?”  he asked. I said, “I’m not sure, but the  point is that people like you and me contacted them, wrote them letters (this was before the internet) & told them we were concerned, and they are responding to the public, They know we are watching.”

And that’s the point. Now, with the internet, it is easier to make an impact.  I really applaud all the petition sites…because it is a form of reverse marketing back to the  entities—be they politicians or corporations—that really have so much influence over us.  In just a few days time, we can really influence those that put forth a bad idea that  we, regular folks, care about what they are doing.

There are many books on organizing for political or social change, but  2 very good ones are “Made to Stick,” by the Heath brothers, and “The Tipping Point,” by Malcolm Gladwell.

Please join  Facebook, and you will be forwarded all sorts of petitions,a nd  some of them have a great impact.

Why I am not in Mourning

January 11, 2013

Bop & Daz 010 (Small)Anyone who has been through a lingering illness with a loved one  can probably relate.  You start mourning when you  start experiencing the decline, and know the inevitable outcome,   that’s when it starts.  Yet, you know you have to be strong and live through it.

My old dog died last week. I euthanized him because he was in pain.  He was 15, and had been going downhill. He was a walking skeleton as he had lost what little body mass he had.  People would comment about him on the street:  “Is he sick?” “Why don’t you feed him?”  ‘You are abusing that dog!”  Oh yeah.   And I’d explain that he was 15 years old…and he was fine.

He was fine because  he was still interested in life.  He loved going for a walk and sniffing around and seeing the sites (he was a Saluki…a sighthound) no matter what the weather.  He enjoyed treats.  He  just wanted to be around his people (not a cuddler….a Saluki).

Since about the age of 13, he had been going down hill, losing muscle mass, sleeping more, and being very very picky about his food, but the last  about three months were the worst…for me. He was interested in life, but his body was failing.

Temple Grandin , the famous animal physiologist (for whom the book, “
An Anthropologist on Mars” was named) wrote that  animals feel pain, but it just doesn’t bother them that much (up to a point).  Dazzle clearly had trouble  getting up and down—hips and knees, but I knew my dog.

In fact,  when  people ask how they can tell  IT’S TIME, I have told them:

  1. When the dog constantly ends up walking into a corner & just standing there;
  2. When he stops eating;
  3. When he shows signs of pain.

& that was it.  Dazzle  went for a walk after leaping down the stairs for the umpteenth time, was limping, but came up the stairs and ate dinner. Then, he fell.  He had been falling, and sometimes, he had trouble getting up on a slick floor, but after I got him up, the last time,  he could no longer support his own weight.  I helped him to lay down  on his bed, but when I got him up to go out to urinate, he screamed out in pain, and  I had to hold him up.  There would be no going back.

Yes, heartbreaking that a dog so interested in life could have his body fail him.  But it was not a shock.  We all want our dogs to die at home, in their sleep. We have the capacity  to not let them suffer.  & that is why I am not in mourning.  I miss him terribly. He was the best dog ever, but we had a good life together, and the way to honor that is to get myself together and either get another dog or help animals in distress.

Book Review: Look Me in te Eye, by John Elder Robison

November 17, 2011

There was an old joke that  people used to tell, about a couple who had a child, and the child never learned to talk. The  parents asked the doctor, and the doctor said he’ll talk when he was ready.  One day, during dinner, the child said “The soup is too salty.”  The parents were overjoyed that the child talked, and asked him why he didn’t talk, and the child said, “Things were fine until now.”  Funny?

Not if you are the parent of a child with autism or Aspergers.  Thanks to Temple Grandin, there is more publicity about  the autism spectrum.  Aspergians (like me, & the author of this book) are high functioning, and this is not a disease.  It is a personality type.

I learned about  this about  9 years ago, when I read Temple Grandin’s Thinking in Pictures.  I  then asked several clients who were psychologists, and they laughed and said, “Yep, this is you.”

A ‘fellow Aspergian’ gave me this book. The author happens to be the brother of Augusten Burroughs, who wrote the classic, Running With Scissors.   Their parents had serious mental problems, adding to their  complications.   Robison is a lucid writer, and he goes into  the cogent details of why he & Augusten have different surnames, and  how he coped with being different.  He was not ‘diagnosed’ until he was an adult.  Then, suddenly,  all the troubles he had fitting in(to society on The Wrong Planet) fell into place, and he was able to start dealing with people.

He’s had a remarkably  interesting life, being a road engineer for KISS, inventing games for Mattel, and finding his way.

If you  know someone who seems very intelligent, but has no social skills,  get this book.  It was just published in 2007 and has been through several printings. I am sure you can get it on Amazon if your local bookstore can’t order it.

The Falacy that Prong Collars are Humane

April 15, 2011

This is the  4th or 5th time I am updating this. Please read carefully.  I think  I’ve clarified my own thinking on this. However…I have not changed my mind!

They are legal, and  probably the top selling style of dog collar in the USA:  the ‘prong’ , ‘spike’ , or ‘pinch’ collar.  You know what I am talking about:  the  martingale collar of links that can be removed or added,  where the  spikes  poke into the dog’s neck if he pulls.

In 40 years of dog training (admittedly, I have only put obedience titles on 2 dogs), I’ve only seen the collar used properly once:  on an out of control Malamute—& even then, it was not effective.  The dog had been  behavior shaped to pull his owner around, and she could not control the dog—& even the prongs poking into his neck  did not slow him down.  There is a reason  this did not work, and I will explain.

Think about it & look at the collar:  it is designed to PINCH the dog all around his neck. Why would you do this to your dog?  & then, why would you deny it hurts?  Yet people do deny it hurts.  IT WAS DESIGNED TO HURT.  That’s the only reason to use it:  to hurt the dog enough that if he  tries to pull you,  the pain will slow him down.  I’ve even had people defend this, saying—-veterinarians have said it does not harm the dog.  So—what’s the pount of doing it if you don’t want to hurt your dog into submission?

Yet—we’ve all seen those dogs wearing the prong collars who still pull their owners in spite of the pain.  The reasons are probably two:    1: According to Temple Grandin, in her book, Animals in Translation, it hurts, but not enough to bother the dog.  2: The dog might be trying to get away from the ‘pain’, so he pulls harder.

So—- people retort that the dog is NOT being hurt. Well, not enough to slow him down!  So, what’s the point?  Why not  just  put a buckle collar on the dog  and get his attention to follow a treat he likes, and TRAIN HIM TO NOT PULL BY USING THE CLICKER /TREAT METHOD?  What are we missing here?

Prong collars are not only illogical—they send   a message to anyone that sees you walking a dog with such a collar that you can’t control the dog.  Worse, you are too stupid or lazy to train the dog to not pull you!

I work in boarding kennels where lot of  out of control dogs are boarded.  I have been injured.  However, because we don’t have time to fit a  prong collar to each & every dog, we just use  slips or choke chains.  I would prefer Martingale style combos—but these places are owned by NON-DOG business people!    I am not defending the use of chokes as regular day-to-day collars, but  we can’t risk a dog slipping out & running. I have trained dogs using properly fitting choke chains—and if you  think they are not humane…here’s the deal:  you can train a dog quickly not to pull. I have ‘trained’ dogs in less than 2 minutes to NOT pull me using a choke or slip. They ‘get it’.   You just stand still.   I don’t like using a  choke or slip, but  free spirit dog  owners who  give their dogs over  for care to someone  the dog does not know, and has no  idea of what is expected of him leave us no choice. A slip is  “1 size fits all’.  BUT THERE IS A MORE HUMANE METHOD!   I have recently used this method to  train a dog with a martingale. The  trainers I work with suggested moving backwards, and the dog will learn to not forge ahead. You just have to be the boss of the dog.  I have to do this, or I am going to be injured.   What this means to me is  being in control.  I wouldn’t have to  do this if so many idiots  didn’t walk their dogs on either prong collars or harnesses.   These days, however, on my own dogs,  I use  nylon Martingale collars.  I am also walking backwards a lot.

What bugs me more than the prong collar on an untrained dog, is the prong collar with a flexi!  Totally incomprehensible.

I am not fond of harnesses, either. I would use a  Halti or ‘head harness’ before I’d put a harness on any of my dogs. Harnesses were designed to  allow dogs to pull you without pain—which is why sled dogs  & guide dogs wear harnesses. Why would you want to  train any dog that it is ok to lead you around?   Yeah, I’ve heard it:  the collapsed trachea.   so, TRAIN THE DOG to follow a cookie, use a wide greyhound type flat buckle collar or head harness, and  don’t allow the dog to pull.  Not only  this, but  putting a dog in a position of leading an owner may make a dog even more insecure , or more aggressive than he would be otherwise .

For some reason, most American dog owners still think they are buying Lassie, or have some sort of  idea in their heads that training a dog requires magic.  It just requires patience and persistence….and the idea in your own mind that you are a leader.

Because Americans don’t take   responsibility for controlling their dogs, there are breed bans and dog restrictions all over. Out of control dogs are dangerous.  No doubt.  But hurting your dog is not the solution.

For all of you who don’t want to be swayed by the facts:, abd you might want to check this out as well:

Was Michael Burry on the ‘Wrong Planet’?

July 7, 2010

This  blog is kind of going to be all over the place.  I am addressing Aspergers Syndrome again and  how difficult it is  to connect with people.

We with Aspergers tend to be obsessive about our interests.  Mine was and has been dogs.    I learned a lot of breed standards.  I learned  a lot about the unique features of specific dog breeds, including disqualifying faults. Later, I became obsessive about learning about Africa (still a major interest).

Several years ago, when I had my own grooming business  away from my house, a prospective client called and started asking me questions. We had a bit of a discussion, & she said (I am not joking) , “You are so nice!  I’ve tried talking to other dog groomers and they are so rude!”  Guilty.  I am rude—or actually, direct–too.  I said to the woman, “We’re dog people, not people people.”

But you know, non-dog people  who don’t do the actual labor—the bosses who hire us—want people who are good with customers, not necessarily good groomers.  I wish I could put up a sign that says, “I have Aspergers. Please bear with me.”

I didn’t realize this until I read Tempel Grandin’s book, “Thinking in Pictures.” It was a good description of ME.

I majored in anthropology because I wanted to learn how normal humans behave.   A lot of good it did me!

Year passed.  Several months ago, a client who has a Ph.D. in psychology, and who has taught at the college level, asked me if I had ever checked out   I hadn’t.  It’s a great site for information on Autism and Aspergers.  We may all be depressed, or frustrated, or anxious—but we are not psychotic or dimwitted.

Writer/former  trader Michael Lewis has recently published a book called The Big Short, and an excerpt was published in the April 2010 issue of Vanity Fair magazine.  In the article, he profiles Michael Burry.  Even if you are not  interested in financial trading, or the recent economic meltdown, if you want  a good read, you have to check this out.  In fact,  check out Michael Burry on Wikipedia and then check out the article.

Now, for all you people who  may not believe we are afflicted (if that is the word for a personality type) because we haven’t been specifically diagnosed by a psychologist…I want to remind you all that psychologists are not scientists. Their degrees are in the arts (M.A.—not M.S.)  They are the foxes watching the henhouse.  Like lawyers—they have arranged society in America—along with lawyers—to get credibility from politicians.  Many practicing psychologists—especially clinical psychologists—have serious mental/psychological disorders.  Because they are the ones in charge of the rules, it is very hard to out them.

As for psychiatrists….remember, they are M.D.s  first  They can prescribe drugs. They may not have an intense understanding of psychology or cultural anthropology & social dynamics.  For the most part, however, the drugs are developed by biochemists, not physicians. The  psychiatrists rely on the  marketing of the drug companies to  decide if a drug is effective.  Years ago, an internist had me try Prozac.  He didn’t promise anything.  He just told me that it had worked for many of his depressed patients.  He told me it might take several weeks to work.  In 3 days, it was like a curtain had been lifted.  No counseling. No mumbo-jumbo.  I didn’t spend thousands of dollars I didn’t have on sessions.  Just a seratonin re-uptake inhibitor.

So here’s Michael Burry  learning he has Aspergers.  Because of his Aspergers—and his fixation on learning, he became a billionaire.  He didn’t do anything  extraordinary.  He just used common sense and focused on what was happening.  His obsession happened to be the stock market.  And  that led him to  trading, and hedging, and the rest is history.