Animal Control holds random drawing for unspayed Pit Bull puppy

READ the full story below the video (sorry for the vertical video in the beginning)

Almost Almost two weeks ago, Chako found out about a 5-6 week old singleton Pit Bull puppy turned into the Yuba County Animal control. We contacted Yuba, at first requesting to pull the puppy into rescue so that we could ensure the puppy received adequate socialization during her critical formative weeks. There’s a LOT of literature out there discussing just how critical weeks 5-10 are for puppies, and puppies removed from their littermates and mothers so early, without competent intervention, often face serious behavioral issues later. The shelter refused to release the puppy to us. They said a lot of people had expressed interest, so they expected she’d be adopted. This shelter does not:

  • spay or neuter dogs prior to release;
  • screen adopters;
  • follow up to ensure intact dogs they release are later spayed or neutered.

In response, we offered to foster the puppy for two weeks to give her proper socialization and get her out of isolation from her small kennel. We explained we would foster for the shelter and return her at 8 weeks to be adopted. If she didn’t get adopted, then we’d consider pulling her, if they wished (and we’d also make sure she was spayed). We explained our temporarily fostering her would open up a kennel, at the very least, but the sheriff’s representative stated they have no problem with kennel space (which is unusual for public shelters). The shelter refused to release her to a temporary foster home, stating she was getting adequate care and explaining they intended to hold a drawing to see who gets the puppy. We’ve copied the relevant portion of Captain Long’s email below where he explains they’ll hold a drawing for the puppy.


I just talked to our Animal Care Technician. This puppy will be available next Wednesday at 8:30 am when we open for business.  We have also told the same thing to the other three citizens who expressed interest in adopting this puppy. If more than one person shows up at 8:30, we wait for a few minutes and we have a drawing as to who gets the puppy….

Thanks, Alan Long 

When 8:30 a.m. came, in order to prevent an unspayed Pit Bull puppy from being randomly given out to whoever put his or her name into the drawing, several Chako volunteers woke up bright and early to participate in the drawing. We walked into the public lobby and asked to see the puppy and, sure enough, their adoption process involved holding a drawing. They also adopted the puppy intact to the random winner. While we were there, George, one of the shelter staff, explained they had to euthanize a deaf dog just the other day due to lack of kennel space.

In the video, you can hear the shelter representative stating that the puppy is “very mouthy.” Bite inhibition is one of the things 6-8 week old puppies learn by interacting with other dogs. This puppy, alone in a kennel, had no chance to learn bite inhibition. Thankfully, the puppy is now in a Chako foster home where we’re working hard to ensure she has lots of positive experiences with other dogs and people. We hope to make up for the weeks she spent in isolation in the shelter kennel.

Ask Yuba County to change its practices by emailing the Sheriff at sdurfor@CO.YUBA.CA.US.

Accept the Dog You Have….

This blog post is about accepting your dog for who he or she is, or put in more dog-fancy terms, working within the confines of your dog’s genetically-influenced temperament.

You may hear that, when it comes to dog behavior, “It’s all about how you raise them.” While that is a lovely idea, it isn’t entirely true. Yes, upbringing, socialization and training all have a significant affect on a dog’s behavior, but there’s more to the story. In fact, most of a dog’s behavior is determined by genetics, which is why canines as a species engage in many common behaviors (such as play bows, barking, and rolling in icky stuff on the ground).

But beyond basic dog behavior, an individual dog’s personality will be heavily influenced by genetics, and it’s important for the average pet dog owner to realize this. Competition obedience or sporting dog people already know this, which is why serious competition people start with a dog that has the right temperament for the specific sport of interest. Also, keep in mind that the different breeds were developed to emphasize different behaviors (i.e., herding breeds tend to herd and retrievers tend to, well, retrieve). Of course, there are always many exceptions. Not all Border Collies herd and not all Labs retrieve, but breed is often a factor in a dog’s behavior.

Unfortunately, a dog’s innate personality doesn’t always quite mesh with his or her owner’s. Sometimes, we start out wanting one kind of dog and end up with a different dog. The temptation many experience is to try to force the dog you have into being the dog you want.

Believe me, I know what it means to have a dog that is not quite the dog you thought you were getting when you brought her home. Well over a decade ago, I was looking for a medium energy, middle-of-the-road dog to make a versatile therapy / show dog. I thought that was the puppy I took home. After I got her home, I realized she was actually the offspring of Mighty Mouse and the Tasmanian Devil…on speed. Oh, and she wouldn’t tolerate any attitude from other dogs, either.

I wanted to show her. I wanted to do therapy work with her. I spent many, many hours every week training her. We did okay, but it took a lot of work for both of us, and she just wasn’t very happy in the show ring.

Then, finally, I realized we’d both have more fun if I just pounded my head into the wall every day for an hour instead of carting her around to shows and asking her to act like a calm, refined, little girl. It wasn’t fair to her, and the whole idea of participating in activities with her was so that both of us could have fun!

So, I gave up on those ideas. I spayed her and started training her in flyball and agility, initially only to get her out and expend her energy. We moved on to Schutzhund, and she even tried her paws at Dock Diving. I wasn’t interested in winning ribbons. I was just interested in doing things that we could both enjoy and that, most importantly, would be a good outlet for her almost inexhaustible energy.


My crazy little dog doing what she loves.

We did start to win ribbons, and I began to have more fun. I also learned a lot more about dogs, dog training, and what having a healthy relationship with your dog actually means.

You and your dog will be happiest if you realize who your dog is, at a very fundamental, genetic level. Do you have a high energy dog that loves to play ball, catch frisbees, and play tug of war? Don’t try to turn that dog into a couch potato. Trying do so is unfair to your dog (and she’ll never be a couch potato, anyway).

On the other hand, if you have a mellow, somewhat shy, low energy dog that easily gets overwhelmed in crowds, even though you’ve tried to gently acclimate your dog to public chaos, don’t insist on forcing your dog to be that super-duper competition flyball or dock diving dog or go with you to the fireworks display. You’re just going to end up tormenting your dog on a regular basis.

This advice seems common sense enough, but I’m constantly surprised by how many pet dog owners actually do insist on making the dog they have into the dog they want, even when the two things are very far apart.

For example, many people have to deal with dog aggressive dogs. Sometimes, dogs just don’t like other dogs, and that temperament quality may be a result of genetics rather than having gone through a bad experience. Dogs that are genetically predisposed to being dog aggressive will always be predisposed to being dog aggressive until scientists figure out a way to isolate and change all the genes involved in influencing that behavior.

That’s not going to happen anytime soon, I promise you.

Dog owners dealing with dog aggression should definitely train their dogs and work to manage that behavior. Absolutely. It is completely possible to train a dog to behave around other dogs. What is not okay, as a dog owner, is to insist that your dog aggressive dog be a social butterfly with other dogs. It is not okay to force your dog into having encounters with unfamiliar dogs at dog parks, or when out and about at walks. It is not okay to put a shock collar on your dog so that you can force your dog to interact with other dogs without reacting.

It is also not okay to take your genetically-prone-to-anxiety dog and force him or her to attend the band parade with you so you can hear the drummers and trumpeters and watch the horse-drawn carriages roll by.

Dogs, like children, can blossom in the right environment, and like children, they all grow up a little differently, even when raised in similar environments. Appreciate your dog for who he is, and use training and gentle socialization to help your dog reach his or her fullest potential. You will both be a lot happier in the long run.

Avoid Tragedies in the Home Involving Dogs

On Sunday, another tragedy befall a family. Their dog killed their two-and-a-half-month old baby. R.I.P. little one. We’re saddened to hear that a child who barely started life won’t have the chance to grow up.

Of course, this wasn’t a Pit Bull, which should be evident because the breed isn’t mentioned until the very end of the article. When people say they hear “only about Pit Bulls attacking people” remind them it’s because Pit Bull usually makes it into the headline. Other breeds don’t. These editorial decisions by media agencies lead to a perception that only Pit Bulls (and possibly Rottweilers) attack and that other breeds of dog are generally safe.

We cannot imagine how devastated and broken the family feels right now. Unfortunately, this case serves as a painful reminder not to judge any dog by its breed. Don’t judge a dog to be “safe” or “dangerous” based on breed.

More importantly, as dog owners, quickly address and intervene if your dog exhibits aggression toward people. Seek the help of a qualified professional. Never turn a blind eye when a dog exhibits inappropriate aggression toward people. Aggression toward people includes behaviors that many pet owners tolerate, such as barking and growling at strangers, snapping when people approach a food bowl, growling when a family member sits on the couch next to the dog, and of course, acting unfriendly or overly stimulated toward children. It’s also important to not only closely supervise interactions between family pets and children, but to teach both pets and children what types of interactions are appropriate.

These tragedies don’t happen often, but when they do, it’s almost certain the dog had exhibited problematic behaviors prior to the terrible incident. Absent a sudden medical condition that arises, dogs that attack and seriously injure people almost always exhibit aggressive or fearful behaviors prior to doing so. Be aware of your dog’s behavior and take steps to appropriately deal with problematic behavior. By doing so, you will make your home a safer place all around (both for your human and non-human family members).

Read the full news article online:


The Truth About Shock Collars

Shock collars, or”electronic training collars” as they are also euphemistically called, are still prevalent in many training circles despite the modern emphasis on positive, reward-based methods to modify dog behavior. However, there is a great deal of confusion surrounding the use of shock collars, and all sides are confused–including many people who use them and opponents who want them banned.

Shock collars work by delivering a low-level shock to a dog. (FYI, there are electronic collars that rely on vibrations instead of shocks or have vibration-only options.) Most shock collars allow the intensity of the shock to be adjusted to fit the dog’s specific tolerance level. All this sounds quite harmless, and indeed, shock collars do not physically harm an animal (though if left on too long, the metal contacts can cause horrible hot spots on a dog’s neck). However, many studies have shown that shock collars and other training methods that rely heavily on correction cause stress in dogs and can even provoke aggression. (See our previous blog post on the science behind dog training or this post by Dr. Sophia Yin).

With studies showing that dogs subjected to regular shock training experience greater fear and anxiety, why then, do so many trainers still rely on shock collars? The answer is simple. Shock collars often produce results–or at least they appear to in that they can suppress undesired behaviors and make a dog comply with commands.

I speak not just from book knowledge but actual experience. In my approximately 30 years of dog training experience, I’ve spent years trying out various training techniques, from clicker training to bridge-and-target to punitive-based methods. Decades ago, I even used shock collars and occasionally showed others how to use them. I met with trainers who are very well known for being extremely experienced with how to properly use shock collars (even traveling to Las Vegas to meet with a well known shock collar trainer there to learn how to properly use this tool).

Today,  I do not generally recommend the use of shock collars because I’ve seen first-hand the harm they can do, especially in unskilled hands. That is not to say they may not have a use. For example, if one is working a high drive hunting dog off leash, and the shock collar is a safety device used to recall the dog in a highly distracting environment where the dog’s life may be in danger, then yes, having a remote connection to a dog you can’t keep on leash out in the wilderness may very well make good sense. In addition, sometimes shock collars can be used to extinguish other behaviors that could cost a dog his life. Because these devices do have a narrow range of legitimate uses, I don’t believe they should be banned.

I do, however, believe that most pet owners who use them to extinguish undesired behaviors or competition dog people who use them to get a robotic, technically-perfect dog that will retrieve and heel with precision are very likely mistreating their dogs.

There is no reason to use a shock collar to get extra points at a competition. When people use a shock collar for that purpose, they are really using it to satisfy their own egos or pocket books. Ideally, competition activities should be fun for both the handler and the dog. For breeders, competition is meant to showcase dogs that have a natural propensity to perform specific work. Shock collars make competition less enjoyable for dogs and don’t showcase a dog’s natural propensities (after all, if you’re shocking a dog to force it to retrieve, release an object, or heel with precision, then presumably you weren’t able to get those results without shocking the dog).

As for pet dog owners, many times these owners turn to shock collars to stop a dog from pulling on leash, breaking stays, or being reactive to dogs or people. The worst thing to use a shock collar for, however, is to extinguish that type of reactivity, especially fear-based aggression. Using a shock collar does not eliminate the underlying reason the dog is reacting. So, a dog that reacts out of fear of other dogs or people is still afraid after having its external behavior modified through repeated shocks. It simply isn’t engaging in the vocal behaviors that cause him to be shocked.

What that means is that the dog’s cues to others about how he or she is feeling are suppressed. Worse, often dogs begin to associate the presence of the thing they are afraid of with the shock, so they become even more fearful and anxious about those things, but they can’t adequately show that they’re anxious or fearful. Their natural propensities to engage in behaviors designed to communicate “keep your distance!” (i.e., barking, growling) are suppressed.

And then, someday, that suppressed dog may be brought so over his emotional threshold (but it will look like he’s being calm and quiet when really he’s just trying to avoid a shock) that he won’t be able to help reacting. That’s when he’ll “just suddenly snap with no warning.” Then, most likely, the unfortunate dog will be deemed legally dangerous and euthanized.

Sadly, the dog was giving warnings before, but the owner just shocked the warnings right out of him. Society won’t thank those owners, and neither will the dog.

Shock collars are the most easily misused training device in existence. In order to be effective, an owner’s timing must be precise and the shock appropriate to the dog’s temperament (high enough to modify the behavior but not much higher than that). Misuse of the shock collar can easily, as I’ve shown, make a dog’s behavior worse. However, it’s almost impossible to do training harm to your dog using positive, reward-based methods, even when your timing stinks (in that case, the training may just be ineffective rather than outright harmful).

If you find yourself consulting a trainer who often relies on shock collars or is quick to recommend them, please find another trainer.

How to Properly Socialize Puppies

I get many questions on how to properly socialize puppies, and the topic is important enough to discuss in detail. In addition, as part of my work with Chako Pit Bull Rescue, I see many puppies pulled from shelters that have a few strikes against them in the socialization department, especially those that were placed in isolation due to medical issues.

Many people underestimate the role proper socialization plays in a dog’s development. It is really important–and I mean really– to ensure that young puppies are regularly exposed to different and new things. They should frequently walk on different surfaces and be exposed to various sights, sounds, and noises every day, multiple times a day.

The prime socialization period for a puppy occurs during the first three or four months of her life. During this time, the puppy’s brain is developing rapidly and, as such, she’s learning about the world very quickly. However, there are complications to properly socializing puppies. It’s not as easy as thrusting them into different environments and hoping for the best.

For instance, puppies are incredibly vulnerable to picking up potentially fatal diseases. Parvo, for example, is quite prevalent in the environment and highly contagious, especially to puppies. A puppy’s immune system isn’t really fully mature until about four to six months (and, in some cases, a year). That is why puppies need a series of vaccinations every few weeks.

So, you shouldn’t just take your puppy to a park and let him or her romp around. Because of this immunity issue, many people keep their puppies isolated at home for the first four months. Unfortunately, isolation is one of the worst things for puppies. Puppies need stimulation. Their brains need to explore and learn about the world, not just about your house and backyard.

Additionally, some puppies go through what is called a “fear stage.” This is a period of time during the puppy’s development where things that scare them may impact them later on, either affecting them throughout their lives or resurfacing after they mature. In addition, some puppies go through a fear stage where suddenly things that were familiar to them become slightly scary, and they act unusually timid. A puppy may go through one, two, or no fear stages during his first 4-5 months.

Regardless of whether a puppy goes through any fear stages, puppies are particularly susceptible to having negative experiences carry life-long consequences. Of course, how negative those consequences are and what triggers a puppy’s fear will vary based on the puppy’s own genetic makeup. Some puppies are naturally more confident, resilient and brave. Other puppies are intrinsically more cautious, timid, and less resilient.

So, how do you properly socialize your puppy without risking death or lifelong phobias? Use the following guidelines:


Take your puppy out with you, but not to places where other dogs frequent. For example, hang outside a department store, on cement, and let your puppy take in the sights and sounds of the parking lot. Make sure your puppy is enjoying the experience. If your puppy seems uncertain, relocate to a calmer environment where there’s less stimulation. Always have lots of treats with you and, yes, please do let people (not other dogs) gently say “hello” to your puppy. Even puppies with medical issues, like Spunky Brewster shown below, need as much stimulation and enrichment as possible (Spunky was adopted through Chako Pit Bull Rescue; she’s shown below on one of her outings).


When planning outings with your puppy, time them around your puppy’s vaccination schedule. A vaccination isn’t really effective until about five days after delivered, and for puppies, vaccination effectiveness only lasts a few weeks. Five to twelve days after your puppy’s vaccination is the best time to take your puppy out to new public places, and you should take your puppy out somewhere new at least once every other day during this period.

Weigh the risks and benefits of every outing. To me, personally, the lifelong risk to a puppy of being too isolated during his first four months outweighs the slight risks of contracting a disease (assuming you are careful where you take your puppy).

Keep in mind that puppies under 8-9 weeks of age may not benefit at all from vaccinations (because maternal antibodies may inactivate the vaccine), so take EXTRA care with very young puppies; it’s best not to let them on the ground in public. You can, however, hold them and let them take in the sights and sounds.

If you take your puppy someplace a little riskier disease-wise (for example, to a friend’s yard for a BBQ, take a large thick blanket and an ex-pen. Spread the blanket on the ground outside, preferably on cement, and place the ex-pen on top of the blanket to hold it down flat). Never let your puppy walk around where other dogs frequently potty, and if you see droppings from other dogs, keep your puppy well away from the area.

Take your puppy to pet stores, but let him or her ride in the cart. If you’re really paranoid, you can put a blanket in the cart or wipe it down (note, alcohol wipes don’t kill the Parvo virus, but the likelihood of your puppy getting parvo from the inside of a shopping cart is slim).

Ensuring Positive Experiences with Other Dogs

Do not let dogs you don’t know interact with your puppy. You don’t know the vaccination or temperament history of the dog. Disease aside, having an unfamiliar dog bite your puppy is a great way to give your puppy a negative experience that could set him up to distrust dogs well into maturity.

Do set up supervised play dates between your puppy and other dogs or puppies that you know to be safe, properly vaccinated, and who will interact well with your puppy and help reinforce proper dog manners in your puppy. Be careful about letting your dog interact with other puppies unless you are reasonably sure her puppy playmates are free from disease (especially Parvo). Keep in mind that puppies can have the Parvo virus for days without showing symptoms. If setting up playdates between two puppies, it’s best to make sure both puppies receive baths prior to their interaction (you may gain a slight benefit in reducing the risk of one puppy contracting a disease or parasite from the other puppy).


Obstacle Courses and Puzzle Games

Set up little obstacle courses for your puppy. Lay an ex pen down flat and place tempting treats on it to encourage your puppy to walk over it. Lay a shower curtain down so your puppy walks on that new surface. Get your puppy used to walking on hard surfaces, soft surfaces, smooth surfaces, and rough surfaces. Let them work puzzle toys. Hide treats in boxes and let them push the box around or rip it up to get the treat.


Give your puppy different toys to play with–LOTS of different toys. Toys that are soft, hard, fuzzy, smooth, squeak, crinkle, etc.


Acclimate your puppy to things he or she is likely to encounter throughout life. Get your puppy used to riding in the car, safely of course. Take your puppy to your vet’s office every once in a while, but not for an exam (keep her off the floor). Just ask the staff to give her treats and say hello quickly so she doesn’t always associate the vet’s office with getting stabbed, poked, or prodded (make sure to ask your vet’s office in advance about the best times to drop by). It’s best to do this before the first time your dog will need to be stabbed with a needle at the vet’s office. You want the puppy’s first experience at the vet’s office to be fun.

Also, get your puppy used to grooming. Gently touch his feet and ears frequently. Teach him to enjoy handling by making it a positive experience (using high value treats can help).

Overcoming Fear

If your puppy finds something scary or overwhelming, try to make the scary thing seem fun and happy, but if need be, end the outing or the encounter. Never force your puppy to interact with or approach something she finds scary (but a little gentle encouragement can help).
Puppies gain confidence by overcoming challenges or fear (so gentle encouragement to approach something a puppy is slightly wary of, combined with lots of praise and treats, can help your puppy build confidence).

Incorporate mini exercises into your puppy’s life to expose him to knew things and teach him how to overcome insecurity. For example, two or three times over the course of a couple months, open an umbrella you don’t care about, set it on the ground, and toss treats at it. Let your puppy explore.

If you have an older dog, it’s great to use the older dog to show the younger dog the ropes. For example, if your puppy is afraid of a big ball, and your older dogs thinks the big ball is just great, let the older dog go up to the big ball. Play with the older dog and the big ball. Make it seem like the most fun in the entire world. Your puppy is watching and learning, and odds are, your puppy will then decide the big ball is something that’s not going to eat him, and he’ll really want in on the fun. Monkey see, monkey do. Dogs do learn by observing.

In short, give your puppy at least one positive new experience every day for the first four months of his life. Carefully supervise your pup’s interactions and reactions to ensure your puppy isn’t too overwhelmed. By providing positive, new, and different experiences on a regular basis, you will set your puppy up for a lifetime of being better able to handle strange and potentially stressful encounters later in life.