"Bark 'n' Scratch"

Volume III - Issue 21:  July 22, 2005
Published by:
Christopher Aust, Master Trainer

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In Today's Issue ...

=>  Just Visiting? Please Subscribe Here.  ->
=>  Christopher's Drool
=>  Doggie Love
=>  Quote of the Week
=>  Recommended Stuff
=>  If the President Were a Dog ...

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Christopher's Drool

Hey Everybody,

In my last edition of B-n-S, I spoke about Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) and more particularly, alternatives that would address the real issue involved. I asked for every ones thoughts on my ideas and also asked for suggestions. I would like to thank all who responded.

There were only two people who supported BSL outright, but I was not surprised because their reasons were based on hype and not fact. What did rather surprise me is the number of people who didn't like certain suggestions like mandatory spay/neuter of rescues or severe penalties for owner irresponsibility.

The one comment I got more than any other was, “It's not fair to punish a dog owner if the dog bolts by them, out the door, when the owner wasn't ready for it.”

Unfortunately, I have to disagree with this and I will tell you why.

In the years I have been doing this, I have dealt with bolting behavior dozens of times. I can't think of even one time where the owner hadn't been dealing with the behavior unsuccessfully for several months, if not years. My question is, why didn't the owner address this issue within days of it occurring the first time?

Bolting is a serious issue and a severe detriment to public safety. Dogs that bolt can be killed by a car or cause a car to swerve, killing someone else. They could startle a child and bite the child out fear, or be injured or killed by a stray. The sad part about this is it is a behavior that it is easy to correct/modify. All owners have to do is address the issue when it first becomes apparent.

Personally, I believe owning a dog is a privilege that comes with responsibility. It's kind of like driving a car. Just about anyone can go out and get a driver's license, however, it is a privilege that comes with responsibility. If you don't live up to those responsibilities, then there are consequences. Why should owning a dog be any different?

I truly believe all of you are the cream of the crop when it comes to being dog owners. If you weren't, you wouldn't be online looking for information to make life with your furkid better. Now, what we need to do is let our elected officials know they need to focus on the real problem - owner responsibility.

I mentioned SB 861, which California is trying to get passed. This is a change in the current statute that will allow local municipalities to enact BSL. Now, many of you may think because you don't live in California, you don't have to worry. Nothing could be further from the truth.

California seems to be a catalyst when it comes to questionable legislation. Once a law is passed here, other States tend to follow suit. If you don't live in California and don't want it in your back yard next, then write to the legislators in California and voice your concerns.

I am going to lay off harping on this issue for the next few issues. I do highly recommend you all go over and join the yahoo group called The Animal Council. The owner of the group is doing a fantastic job bringing updates on BSL and has many links for you to explore and learn more.

On a lighter note ...

This week's feature article is a bit light hearted but one I have had a lot of fun writing because it is one of those things I am betting all of us have wondered before. It's really not about training, more about understanding and perception. I think you'll like it.

Keep those letters and suggestions coming. They are greatly appreciated.

Okay, that's it for now. I'm outta here!



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Doggie Love

Have you ever been sitting there looking at your dog and wondered whether your dogs really loved you or if they were just using you for doggie treats? I know I have, but it has always been a passing thought I never bothered to seriously explore. I guess I just thought, (with the arrogance of a human) “How could they not love me?” That line of thinking would certainly explain some of my past relationships with people. ;)

What prompted this inner-dialogue was an article I read on the subject. The articles were based on science and some common sense, but, to be honest, few were overly convincing one way or the other. However, I will present the arguments and then put my own demented little spin on it.

Believing that dogs experience emotion in the same way as humans has long been a subject for debate. Unfortunately, since they can't come out and speak to us directly. However, there have been some conclusive studies that indicate they very well may.

What We Know

We know that all mammals have a pleasure center in the brain that is stimulated by dopamine, which regulates feelings of happiness in the individual. For instance, if your dog loves a particular toy they like to play with or a favorite treat, dopamine is released in the brain of the dog making them happy. Since humans and dogs have a similar chemistry, some have concluded dogs do experience emotions in the same way.

No Emotions

Now, according to Fred Metzger who was a guest lecturer at Penn State University…

“Dogs probably don't feel love in the typical way that humans do. Dogs make investments in human beings because it works for them. They stand something to gain from putting so-called emotions out there. The more “cute factor” they give us, the more we feel like they love us. This makes it more likely that we will give them more attention, food, treats and outdoor access –all based on how much of a show they put on for us.”

He goes on to say, “If we moved our dogs to our neighbor's house and that neighbor gave the dog as much as we gave them, and in the same motivational forms, I believe our dog would adapt to the new life and would become as loyal to the neighbor as they were to us.”

The Flip Side

Others like to compare the love that dogs have to that a parent feels for their child, in that it is unconditional. As a parent myself, I know that even when one of the kids is being their most obnoxious and intolerable, I still love them more than anyone else in the world even if I don't necessarily like them at the moment.

Dr. Jane Goodall's research indicates animals have emotions. “From a behavioral perspective, it only makes sense that animals would experience emotions.” She notes that, “Social animals must be able to read other animals in their society and must be able to maintain social bonds.”

Trying to Decide

For the most part, all of the different articles I read were based on the personal theories of the writer. I could see the point of certain aspects of each of the theories I read but couldn't find anything that convinced me in one way or the other. Additionally, I could find no concrete scientific evidence to make me decide either.

I decided the only way to determine exactly what I thought was to look at a life of experience with dogs and simply come up with my own theory. While it may seem like an easy thing to decide, I wanted to make sure I really thought it out rather than shoot from the hip.

To All the Dogs I've Loved Before

As I sat back and thought about this matter, I realized I have had a ton of dogs over the years. It was hard to try to remember how each of them acted so I decided to go with the ones that have left the biggest impact on me.


When I was five, I had a Sheltie named, of course, Lassie. She would sit by the door and wait for me to get home from school each day and was my constant companion. I wasn't responsible for feeding, exercising or training her. We were just buddies who enjoyed sitting on the floor and watching cartoons together.

Everyone in the family loved her and she loved them too, but Lassie and I had a special connection I think. I don't think it was based on any type of pay-off, just a mutual appreciation for each other and little more.


When I lived in England, I got a one-year-old German Shepard named Bob. (I know, I'm not real creative when it comes to naming dogs.) Bob was a year old when I got him from a local rescue in Bury St. Edmunds. He was still a bit of a puppy but rather subdued as far as his personality went. I don't think it was because he was abused by his previous owner; it was just his personality.

I started to train him in agility but, while he could do the obstacles, he didn't seem to enjoy it much. He preferred a nice walk or to go jogging with me over other forms of exercise so we stopped doing the course.

He was protective of the family, particularly the kids, but in a non-aggressive way. Whenever someone he didn't know was around, he made a point of keeping himself between the wife and kids and the stranger. He wouldn't growl or even “eye ball” the stranger. He simply made himself a barrier.

While I was in England, my doctor found a rather large tumor on my tailbone that left me in the hospital for several weeks. I remember my wife telling me Bob was acting funny and I just figured he was missing me. When I was released from the hospital, I discovered I was right.

I was bed-ridden for couple of weeks after coming home and Bob was on the job. He didn't sit by my side but he would come tearing upstairs to check on me any time he heard a sound he didn't recognize or if I called out for something. Once he was sure everything was okay, he would give me a little kiss and head back downstairs. While he was more attentive than he normally would be, usually content with a little pat on the head, it was obvious he was glad I was home.

Bob was a wonderful companion who asked for little and or nothing. He was happy to just be near by the family and truly seemed to miss family members when they were absent. Even when he passed, he did it very subdued and kept the family his first priority to the very end. It was a very sad day.


Ben was my partner for about eight months and was a Belgian Malinois. He was dual certified in patrol (bite work) and narcotic detection. He was one of the best drug dogs I have ever seen and we seized quite a lot of dope together. In fact, he loved looking for dope more than anything else in the world.

Unfortunately, if ever there was a dog that suffered some sort of physiological social disorder, it was Ben. When I was first assigned to him, he was a serious handler biter. Not something a handler likes in a partner. Fortunately, he was predictable. Whenever he was getting nervous his back leg would shake in and out like Elvis on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Ben had to be treated with a very soft hand. I believe this is because he had been handled roughly by a previous handler. Fortunately, within a few weeks, we were working well together.

We were eventually sent to Texas to work for a few months with U.S Customs on the Mexican border. When we returned from this assignment, I was promoted to trainer/supervisor and had to pass him on to a new handler.

When Ben's new handler started with him, Ben shut down. He didn't want to do the obstacle course, bite work or even look for drugs. He would just sit there unless he saw me. Then he would pull to get to me and would even try to bite the new handler if I didn't come up or if the handler wouldn't drop the leash.

I don't think it is because I am some special dog guru. I think it was because I was the first person who ever allowed him to bond at his own rate without being over-bearing. It could also be that I was the first handler that showed him any love. Eventually, Ben bonded to his new handler and began to work like the drug finding machine he was but he still always rubbed up against me lovingly when I came out to train.

Mei zhu (pronounced May-Ju)

Mei is my Chongqing dog that arrived from China when she was six months old. We had several things to overcome upon her arrival. First, her previous diet was terrible and then there was the language barrier. Additionally, she wasn't used to the affection we give our dogs here in the Western world.

The language issue was easy to work through because the breed is so intelligent. It only took one time for her to understand English commands and respond to them consistently. The food was no big deal either because she is an absolute chow-hound. If it's in her bowl, she will eat it.

I decided to not push her when it came to affection. I have done this in the past and usually a dog will come around in a week or two. After a couple of days, once she figured out what was going on, she became a “love” monger.

While she loves to play outside, a trip to the park or even a ride in the boat, her favorite thing is the affection she gets from the family. She isn't particular when it comes to which family member she gets it from, she simply enjoys being close to us. When it comes to other people - while she is very friendly, she doesn't seem to desire the level of affection from them that she does from us.

There was a poodle named Gypsy, a Papillon named Angel and another German Shepard named Harvey. I saw many similar characteristics in these dogs that I did in Ben, Bob, Lassie and Mei zhu. I was having a problem making a decision on just where I stood on the whole “love” issue.

When I got to this point in the article I suffered a writers block. I paced the floor as I always do when I am stumped. I know I was feeling as though I wanted to say that our dogs do love us when we take care of them and show them love too. But, as I have often said, we will never truly know what a dog is thinking until they can tell us in English themselves. Eventually, I ended up going and sitting on the couch.

When I sat down, I began to think about the dogs mentioned here. Lassie would wait by the door for me to come home from school with no more expectation than to receive my love. Bob showed his love by protecting the family and attending to me when I was ill. Ben's affection was shown through his undying devotion, even when he was no longer mine.

As I was sitting there thinking, I looked over at Mei who was engaged in what I can only describe as a serious butt licking session. When she noticed me looking at her, she immediately got up, came over and attempted to kiss me in what I believe was an attempt to share her prize. If that ain't love, then I don't know what is.

This article may be republished using the following attribution statement:
Copyright ©2004 Christopher Aust, Master Dog Trainer & Creator:
The Natural Cooperative Training System (NCTS) for Dogs
The Instinctual Development System (IDS) for Puppies
Subscribe to the BARK 'n' SCRATCH Newsletter: subscribe@Master-Dog-Training.com
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Quote of the Week

Did you ever notice when you blow in a dog's face he gets mad at you? But when you take him in a car he sticks his head out the window.

~ Steve Bluestone ~

Mail Bag


re the bsl, I thought the most veritable point, the last:

 7. Passage of vicious dog legislation based on the actions of the dog and not the breed itself. Severe penalties for individuals who knowingly harbor a dog they know exhibits vicious propensities without taking actions to address the behavior and safeguard the public.


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Joke of the Week

10 Ways the USA Would Be Different If the President Were a Dog

10. Doggy door on oval office

9. At press conferences, instead of "Mr. President," reporters would shout, "Here fella!"

8. Goodbye Whitewater scandal, hello toilet bowl water scandal

7. Washington Monument replaced with hundred-story fire hydrant

6. U.S. might have more coherent foreign policy

5. Public enemy #1: That neutering jerk, Bob Barker

4. Secret service and CIA dispatched to catch that little chuck wagon

3. Country really run by dog's smarter poodle wife

2. Here's your new national anthem: (videotape of dog barking Christmas jingle)

1. 1. One word: sausage-gate

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Thank You For Reading!  Have a Terrific Week!

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The Legal Mumbo-Jumbo

The BARK 'n' SCRATCH Newsletter is published by Christopher Aust Copyright © 2005 All rights reserved. No portion of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted without the express written consent of the publisher or contributors.

We accept no responsibility for your use of any contributed information contained herein. All of the information presented in BARK 'n' SCRATCH is published in good faith. Any comments stated in this newsletter are strictly the opinion of the writer or publisher.

We reserve the right to edit and make suitable for publication, if necessary, any articles published in this newsletter. We reserve the right to publish all reader comments, including the name of the writer.

Christopher Aust, Master Dog Trainer & Creator:
The Natural Cooperative Training System (NCTS) for Dogs
The Instinctual Development System (IDS) for Puppies

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