Tag Archives: pit bull

10 Ways to Be a Powerful Pitbull Ambassador

Every pit bull on the street who’s greeted with a smile instead of a flinch marks progress. When pits are adopted into new homes, or legislation is passed in their favor, lives are saved. Here are tips on helping your community say no to stereotypes and yes to action.

1. Say It Ain’t So

You know all the myths – pit bulls are vicious, trained to fight, dangerous around children… Need help setting the record straight? Bad Rap, an organization devoted to improving the breed’s reputation, provides excellent in-depth responses to these major myths and more on their website: http://www.badrap.org/monster-myths.

2. Tell, and Show

Since pits are often misunderstood as unsafe to have in the home, use visuals to promote pits as the wonderful family companions they are. Start by sharing Bad Rap’s slideshow of vintage photos — one powerful image after another displaying a history of families with their beloved pit bull pets.



3. On Their Best Behavior

Well-trained, well-socialized dogs make the best pit bull ambassadors, as they show even the most skeptical adopters how well-behaved the breed can be! Learn valuable training skills from this Canine Communications webinar series presented by ASPCA behavior experts Trish McMillan Loehr and Heather Mohan-Gibbons.


4. Network, Network, Network! Want to give your pits an extra push? Take a page from one agency’s book — they created a Facebook page just for their bully breeds: Pit Bull Ambassadors of Hillsborough County Animal Services. The photo and caption below are an example of successful storytelling that educates. The image is oh so sweet, the story is engaging, and HCAS emphasizes the positive relationship that pits can have with other dogs.



“This pair is something else… they didn’t come in together, and are in no way related, but to watch the two of them together is like watching Forrest and Jenny, Peas and Carrots, Lucy and Desi, and all those other famous couples or things that go together like one.” -HCAS.

5. Seize the Day— National Pit Bull Awareness Day that is, coming up on October 27. A few ideas on building a bully buzz:


Whatever you plan, don’t forget to alert the media!

6. Put On Your Creative Marketing Hat Nothing is too out-of-the-box when trying to capture the public’s attention. For inspiration, take a look at the pit bull promotions we gathered here on Shelters’ Edge. Pick-a-PITunia campaign from Seattle Humane Society — Never underestimate the power of a pun.”


7. Get Them in Therapy What better way to promote the breed’s lovebug potential than certifying them as therapy dogs? Staff or volunteers can show off your pits’ TLC skills in places like schools, hospitals and nursing homes.


8. Enlist Your Lobbyists Have you rallied supporters who want to end breed-specific legislation in all forms? Awesome – next step is to give them specific action to take. CheckStopBSL.org to find out  if legislation is pending in your state.  The good news – a number of states have already prohibited BSL!

9. Hold an Event in Their Honor Invite your community to say “we love bullies” loud and proud by putting on an awareness event. It can be an adoption event, a fundraiser – anything goes, as long as your pits are the stars of the show!


10. Grab Your Virtual Megaphone 2-4-6-8, get online and educate! Here are some great resources devoted to improving the pit’s rep and spreading the word:


P.S. #11 – Want to get the ball rolling on promoting your pits? Share this blog post! Do you have pit bull ambassadors at your agency? Let us know what they’re up to in the comment box.

10 Surprising And Secret Ways Your Dog Says ‘I Love You’

I have always fantasized about having the same powers as Doctor Dolittle — mostly because knowing exactly what animals are thinking and feeling would be some really valuable information to have.

For instance, why does my dog bark at the vacuum cleaner or hide in a corner whenever the lightest bit of rain starts to fall?

I don’t think I’ll ever know the answers to those questions, but thanks to new developments in the science of dog communication, I now know whether or not my dog loves me.

Much like studies that have found that dogs have certain “powers” or enhanced physical senses, scientists have also uncovered that because dogs and humans have been so deeply intertwined through history, dogs have developed unique ways to expressing their love for humans.

The signs are very subtle and they’re not always obvious, but as we break down in this exclusive, all you need to know are the tiny signs that prove your dog’s love for you…
1. Staring directly into your eyes.


On a 60 Minutes segment, Anderson Cooper met with Brian Hare, a well-known dog expert, to discuss how dogs express love. According to Hare, when your dog looks you in the eye, he is “hugging you with his eyes.”

When a dog looks at you while the two of you are playing with one another or just cuddling, oxytocin is released. It’s the same hormone that helps new mothers bond with their babies. If you want to test this out with your dog, don’t go home and a have a staring contest with your pooch. He will sense something is off, and look away because he feels awkward.

Instead, try to naturally maintain eye contact with him during your normal routines and see how he responds.
2. Yawning when you yawn.


Yawning is contagious. But did you know this impulse isn’t limited to just humans?

Dogs, because they’ve been bred to read humans, also yawn when someone they love yawns.

A study found that when humans echo another’s yawn, it’s because they’re empathetic, like sympathy pains. It’s impossible to measure if dogs are empathetic, but it’s possible that a dog yawning the same time as a human happens because the dog has bonded with that person.

The study also found that dogs were more likely to yawn when their owners yawned, as opposed to a stranger.
3. Leaning on you.


The song “Lean on Me” is all about offering support and dogs crave that same kind of security.

Sometimes a dog will lean on a human because he is anxious, wants you to do something, or take him somewhere. But leaning is also a symbol of affection.

Even if your dog is leaning on you out of pure nervousness, he is still doing it because he thinks of you as someone who can protect him and keep him safe.
4. Cuddling with you after a meal.


In his book, How Dogs Love Us, Gregory Berns, if your dog cuddles with your after eating, it’s a strong sign that they do indeed love you.

Most dogs lovers (or even people who don’t like dogs) know that pups are motivated by food. But according to Berns, once a dog eats all its food, his next action can signify what’s most important to him besides eating.

Sometimes your dog may have to do his “business” right after a meal, but watch how he reacts in the morning and at night. If he’s snuggling up with you after one of these meals, then there’s some definite puppy love on his end.
5. Lifting and wiggling eyebrows.


We think we can read a dog by its tail, but its facial expressions are a way more powerful indicator.
In a recent study in Japan, dogs were introduced to their parent, a stranger, a dog toy, and an item they didn’t like.

When seeing their parent, the dogs immediately lifted their eyebrows (especially their left), and when they saw a stranger there was a lot less facial movement, except for movement of the right brow.

Yet, when they saw an item they knew and had bonded with, the dogs shifted their left ear back. But if it was an item they didn’t like, their right ear shifted. According to the study, this suggests the dog is more reserved when they are engaging someone they don’t know or something they disapprove of.
6. Watching you leave calmly.


Some people think that if a dog panics when they leave that it’s a sign that they love them.

That’s not necessarily true, according to Gregory Berns.

If your dog panics when you leave, it’s more of a sign that they have separation anxiety than that they love you.

If a dog goes into his crate or is accepting of you leaving, i.e. they’re calm when you leave, it means your dog loves and trusts you and is confident that you will return.
7. Freaking out when you return.


We all feel special when we come home and we’re greeted by our dog with his tail wagging, a favorite toy in tow, and he’s jumping all over the place like a crazy kangaroo.

And it’s a good thing we like it, because it’s a very distinctive way a dog shows you his love for you — and it’s love in its truest form.
8. Sleeping in your room.

Another way to figure out whether your dog loves you is observing where he likes to sleep.

It’s part of a big controversy, but if your dog wants to sleep in your bed — even if you don’t allow it — he definitely loves you.

According to Gregory Berns, if a dog wants to sleep on your bed, it’s a good test of his loyalty because he doesn’t want to be separated from the pack.
9. Bringing you his favorite toy.


If your pup brings you his favorite, most coveted toy, it doesn’t just mean your dog wants to play.

Although wanting to play with you is a sign of affection in itself, when your dog brings you his favorite ball, it may also mean he thinks of you as his pack leader.

Because of this, he wants to please you by offering you his finest possession, be it a squeaky toy or well-worn Frisbee. He thinks you’ll like it as much as he does, and as they say: “sharing is caring!”

10. Enjoying your love.


Do you love your dog? According to Gregory Berns, dogs can actually innately sense whether or not you love them.

So if you don’t love them, you’re not getting it back in return!

How does your beloved pup most often show you their love? Let us know in the comments below!

Please SHARE if you believe dogs truly are man’s best friend!

6 Unintended Consequences of Breed-Specific Legislation (BSL)


When people think of Breed-Specific Legislation they think of pit bulls. However, many BSLs have included American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Bull Terriers, Rottweilers, American Bulldogs,Mastiffs, Dalmatians, Chow Chows, German Shepherds,Doberman Pinschers and any other mix or dogs who look similar to these breeds. In some instances breed bans have also prohibited dogs of a certain weight or stature. 

Although BSL may appear, on the outside, to be protecting public safety, many BSL opponents including: The American Medical Veterinary Association(AVMA), The American Kennel Club, The Westminster Kennel ClubThe National Centers for Disease Controlamong othersargue that BSL is not effective for many reasons. Below are 6 reasons, backed by research, why Breed Specific Legislation does more harm than good:

Along with this, the American Veterinary Medical Association has noted that there has been no evidence collected to date which clearly shows that one particular breed is more likely to harm someone than another. It is because of this they argue, that when it comes to identifying dogs which could potentially pose a threat to others, clues should be drawn from the dogs individual behavior as opposed to appearance.

1. Accurately identifying breeds is extremely difficult

In case study after case study, people inaccurately identify breeds. In fact, in a recent report from Dr. Victoria Boith in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Scienceshowed that adoption agencies 87.5% of the time inaccurately identify breeds who pass through their organization. With statistics like this and the rise of mixed breeds, many professional organizations and researchers have deemed visual identification of dogs as ineffective. They argue that if a person is unable to accurately identify a breed, how are they able to label them as dangerous? 

It is also important to note that the term ‘pit-bull’ does not classify a particular breed, but rather a group of dogs that the media or society considers to be a pit bull. This means that it can change from place to place and person to person, making it an ineffective way to categorize potentially dangerous dogs. In fact most kennel clubs around the world do not recognize pit-bulls as a specific breed.


2. Humans are to blame for dangerous dogs
A study by the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC)found that 84% of dogs that harmed individuals were the result of negligent ownership. These dogs were mistreated, were tethered or confined, or were allowed to play with children without adult supervision. The report also stated that 78% of the dogs in these instances were trained to guard, fight, make their human handler appear more ‘tough’, or were subjected to inhumane breeding. In this case it is not fair, they argue, to compare these dogs those owned by responsible people. The study found that most dogs which are kept in a loving, residential environment were not likely to be harmful to others. Breed-Specific Legislation in this case punishes even those who have properly trained and take good care of their dogs.

3. Dogs go into hiding to avoid detection
Since loving owners do not want to give away pets that may be identified under the breed-ban, they ‘hide’ them. Although this may seem like an effective method to avoid detection, it often leads to the dogs being subjected to less than ideal circumstances. Some of these harmful consequences include: restricted outdoor exercise, limited veterinarian care and not being properly licensed or microchipped. In this case BSL is deemed as ineffective as the health consequences experienced by these dogs, far outweigh the likelihood that they will be a threat or harmful towards an individual.

4. Rebels will just switch to another non-outlawed breed
People who are committed to owning dogs for dangerous purposes, like dog-fighting and other criminal activities, will work around the breed-ban by just switching to a non-outlawed breed. After all, it’s not the breed, it’s the provided environment and training (or lack thereof) that makes any dog potentially dangerous. Bull-Terriers are considered part of the BSL in some states.


5. Some of these dogs play an important role in the community
Many dogs who fall under the BSL have both throughout history and in current times played an important role in their community. These dogs have acted as therapy dogs, assistance dogs, search and rescue dogs, police dogs, or drug detection dogs. In this case, removing these dogs from their beneficial community roles, poses far more consequences than benefits. Along with this it will also create difficulties for those with disabilities, who want to travel with their ‘breed-banned’ service dog, as since each state has their own regulations, service dog teams may restricted from certain areas all together.

6. BSL creates a shift away from proper enforcement and is extremely costly
Enforcing dog license and leash laws, animal-fighting laws, promoting spaying and neutering and other similar regulations, is important to public safety, regardless of the breed. When BSL is in place, limited resources are used to focus only on banned breeds, as opposed to regulating all pets and animals as a whole. BSL is also extremely costly and requires a large portion of tax payers dollars.

It is clear to see that BSL is not only difficult to implement, but is also ineffective in increasing public safety. Those concerned about the potential threat of dogs to humans, should focus on community education as a way of reducing these concerns. Like we have learned countless times throughout history with humans, appearance should not be used as a prerequisite of determining behavior, but rather be judged on a case to case basis.

To learn more, check out these links:

Whatever your opinion of “pit bulls” no one can deny their image has been tarnished, especially in recent years. From unscrupulous owners, to poorly researched media, the dogs that we call pit bulls have received less than fair treatment. Breed-Specific Legislation (BSL) is an attempt to ban specific breeds deemed likely to be dangerous or harmful. However, time and time again it’s been proven to be less than accurate, expensive to enforce and unfair to responsible owners.

More Than Fancy Words

As a dog trainer, I put a lot of effort into reframing key principles of animal learning for clients, avoiding the use of technical jargon. They’re looking for help with their dogs, not a lecture on applied behavior analysis or Pavlovian conditioning. Some are naturally curious, self-selecting to further learning; but most are happy to have concerns resolved without the heavy science discussion. I respect that their time is finite, so I need to be effective and efficient in my communication and skills, while ensuring I’m using best practices based in evidence. It’s not lost on me that I’m only able to do this having acquired a comprehensive education concentrated in known scientific principles, not in spite of it. This learning, for me, is an ethical and professional obligation – a pursuit that is ongoing, official directive or not. I hope for the sake of dogs and their owners that the law eventually requires testing in scientific literacy and related professional competency. That some don’t share that view should be troubling to consumers.

While I wouldn’t expect the average dog owner to be fluent or even decidedly interested in the science of animal learning and behavior, I do expect that of professional dog trainers. Yes, clients sometimes hold misconceptions – so long as adherence to them isn’t compromising the dog’s welfare or their own safety, that’s okay – and who can blame them? It’s a brutal chore for the dog owning public to navigate the sea of misinformation available out there. This is the unfortunate consequence of an unregulated industry, where no formal education or licensing is required to become a dog trainer – an industry densely populated with self-professed “canine behavior experts,” who not only lack education in valid animal learning, they are still relying on (and disseminating) outdated constructs of dominance hierarchies to define the behavior of dogs. If that isn’t preposterous enough, there are animal welfare groups, TV producers, and even some veterinarians endorsing some of these folks. Many are still promulgating the idea that it’s all just a matter of opinion. That it’s merely philosophical. It is not. The data has been in for too long, and there is far too much of it to plausibly deny.


I do my best to accept that without professional sanctions, people won’t always find their way to the current science to inform their work with dogs. Many have never even heard of the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (“AVSAB”), let alone read their position statement on the use of aversives in dog training – a position logically shaped by the mountain of evidence amassed in this field through peer-reviewed studies. For some it’s a choice to ignore the science; and so long as there’s no professional mandate, they’ll continue unapologetically to collect money for exploiting pain and fear in dogs and are unaccountable for any damage they cause. It’s stunningly reckless, but calling attention to it is considered taboo simply because the science is currently ahead of the law.

What other industry demands professional courtesy be extended to those perpetuating long debunked pseudo science? No reputable trainer who has stayed current on valid developments in the field is still talking about “pack leadership” or “energy”; and they certainly aren’t employing prong, choke, and shock collars. If you’re a dog owner looking for a professional trainer, the likelihood you end up with one of these folks is still sadly very high. As transparency isn’t required, you may not even know what they are doing to your dog. There’s no consumer protection.

Imagine an unregulated medical field, where the practice of individual doctors needn’t be informed by the current science, and your gallbladder needs to be removed. If you’re lucky, you’ll get the surgeon who stays up to date with scientific advancements and performs a laparoscopic procedure: a few tiny incisions, a micro camera, and a monitor. It’s low-risk for side effects, minimally invasive, and can even be done on an outpatient basis. If you aren’t so lucky, you might get a traditionalist or that person’s apprentice (who needs med school if you can just attend a few seminars and shadow a doc?) who will excise the old fashioned way: the surgery is significantly more invasive, requiring deep incision from stem to sternum, higher risk of bleeding and infection, a recovery period nearly four times longer, the placement of drains to rid your body of pus and fluids, and a higher mortality rate.


Or imagine an unregulated legal profession, and you’ve found yourself in need of an attorney. If you’re lucky, you’ll get the practitioner who attended law school and passed the state bar exam. If not so lucky, you’ll get an avid viewer of Law & Order or Matlock. Sounds silly, but that’s the reality unique to dog training. You need a license to practice professionally as a plumber or a hairdresser and everything in between; but anyone can be a dog trainer and charge consumers real money to treat serious behavior issues, many using outdated methods known to actually increase fear and aggression in dogs. There is zero oversight and no qualifications necessary, and there are plenty of people in this industry hoping it stays that way.


A recent blog being circulated via social media bemoaning the increasingly academic nature of dog training started with the telling of a conversation between the author and a training colleague who asked what operant conditioning is. His response to her explanation was, “Why can’t you just train the damn dog?” This question became a mantra throughout, the author insisting it really didn’t matter if these professional dog trainers knew the “fancy words” or what they meant (just to “feel legitimate in conversations with other trainers”), so long as they got results. In fact, the pressure to learn it was deemed offensive because that meant losing valuable time. This author is not alone. The suggestion that science is unnecessary in dog training isn’t new, but the implied integrity in the dismissal of it is, and it’s popping up a lot lately. Surely, that’s not the optimal direction for this already disastrous industry to trend.

Willful ignorance may be a prevalent reality, but it’s hardly a virtue. Tolerating the subjugation of the very act of learning so that some can continue to ply their trade in tradition or stumble along blindly without so much as a hint of intellectual curiosity is a magnificent failure of professional standards. It’s not outrageous enough that dog trainers aren’t required to accurately understand how dogs learn and what drives behavior, scientific illiteracy in this field is now to be repackaged as noble? I’m under no delusions that this problem is specific to practitioners in any one camp, either. It’s a critical industry fail that spans philosophical divides. While it’s currently legal to profit in practice uneducated, shouldn’t we at least draw the line at the glorification of that? At what point is professional courtesy to all simply perpetuating violations against dogs and their owners as industry standard?


Because the act of learning and staying current in important developments in your field isn’t for the sake of sounding smart; it’s purpose is in understanding what you are doing. It’s about professional ethics, forming quality standards of care, and personal integrity. It’s been two decades that we’ve had the actual experts in the behavioral sciences practically spoon feeding dog professionals the necessary understanding and technology to work credibly and humanely with man’s best friend. It’s been available to anyone interested in learning it. Consumers are catching on, in spite of attempts by so many in the industry to obfuscate it, as are veterinary professionals and quite a number of animal welfare advocates. For dog trainers, the imminent reality is this:

If you need operant conditioning explained to you, you probably shouldn’t be charging people money to train their dogs.
If you don’t know the difference between operant and classical conditioning, you shouldn’t be charging people money to train their dogs.
If you don’t understand the simultaneous relationship between operant and classical conditioning – that dogs are making important, innately persuasive associations impacting their quality of life as they learn behaviors – you shouldn’t be charging people money to train their dogs.
If you don’t understand that operant and classical conditioning aren’t manmade constructs, but are naturally occurring phenomena we manipulate and long ago assigned language (language you should have in your vernacular as a dog training professional), you shouldn’t be charging people money to train their dogs.
If you haven’t read the AVSAB position statement on the use of aversives in dog training; or, if after running your methodology up the flagpole with said position statement you find yourself in opposition to those guidelines, you shouldn’t be charging people money to train their dogs.
Finally, if your primary concern about the dog training industry is that it has become “too academic,” you might consider finding a career for which you have an intellectual appetite. These aren’t inanimate objects we are talking about; they are living, thinking, sentient animals – animals that live in the homes and communities of people. If accurately understanding them as a species or learning how your interactions with them impact their behavior and their welfare is of such little interest to you, please stop charging people money to train their dogs.

Your reaction to knowing there is valid science to inform your work shouldn’t be one of disregard. It shouldn’t cause you to feel that your livelihood is threatened or to dig your heels in stubbornly in protest. It’s good news! As with any professional industry, staying current in it – not denying or dismissing it – lends to your professional credibility. There is nothing admirable or beneficial about willful ignorance. Hasn’t the time for it to be professionally tolerated in dog training just about run its course?

By Lisa Skavienski | June 6th, 2016

About the Author: Lisa Skavienski

Lisa Skavienski, CTC, is a graduate of The Academy for Dog Trainers. Lisa lives in Rochester, NY, with her partner, Kevin, and their bevy of dogs, most of whom are stubby. Lisa is involved in the rescue community in her area with a primary focus on community outreach; and she is committed to making the world a better place for dogs and their humans through reward-based training.