Six Words

Lassie went home today. I am thinking of the famous story about Hemingway, in which he challenged his writer friends to write the shortest story possible. All agreed that he won. Here's what he wrote: For Sale. Baby Shoes. Never Worn. Since then, summarizing one's life in six words has become something of a parlor game. I have done so for Lassie, summarizing what she means to me in six words, and I think it would bring pleasure and comfort to everyone who reads this blog if you were inspired to do the same for your own special dog, and to share them, if you would, for us all to read. Here's for my Lassie: French Vanilla. Ice Cream. Summer Day. Off you go dear Lassie, my god how I loved you. Read More

Why Dogs are More Afraid of Men

Clients often tell me that their rescue dog must have been "beaten by a man" when the dog was younger, because the dog is afraid of men and not woman. However, people in the training and behavior field know that almost all shy dogs are more afraid of men than women, even if men have been nothing but kind to them their entire lives. We've always speculated that it had something to do with the way men walked (more assertively?) or their bigger chests, larger jaws, and/or deeper voices. But we've never really known for sure what it was--perhaps it is related to scent: obviously men smell different than woman, and it could be that just 'maleness' is more intimidating. A recent study reported in Scientific American Mind might have shed some light on this topic. (Actually, I read it and jumped Read More


I haven't written much about Lassie lately, because I didn't want the blog to turn into a soap opera, but things have changed so much that it feels only right give you an update. She hasn't been doing well. After her ALT values were slightly elevated about a month ago, we did an ultrasound and her liver looked clear. We did a bile acid assay, which was slightly elevated, but not enough to make a biopsy seem worth the intrusion for a 16 year old dog. She's gone up and down since then (some vomiting, urinating in the house, but only erratically), and was scheduled for more tests today. But on Thursday she went into free fall. Vomiting, no appetite, looked truly miserable. Tests showed her ALT (a sign of cell death in the liver) to be off the charts. Subsequent tests with an internal Read More

The Right Dog

We've been in a conversation about helping others (and ourselves) if and when we get frustrated by our dogs. It's been a great one, thanks for all your comments. I thought of something important that I haven't mentioned yet, and I thought it deserved it's own forum. It seems to me that an important part of whether a dog frustrates someone is based on whether their personalities match. Look at all the comments on earlier posts that said ".... and then I got THIS dog...". Lassie and Willie are wonderful dogs for me. I'm a bit of a Border Collie myself: I like the cold, I hate hot, humid weather, love working sheep, love working, and am so sound sensitive that I'd rather starve than eat in a noisy restaurant. Granted, I wish that every once in a while I could yell "naughty words" without Read More

Helping Owners with the Inevitable

Our discussion about how people handle being frustrated by their dogs brought out so many interesting points, and it got me to thinking: First off, the more we know about dogs, the less frustrated we get. Frustration comes from an inability to affect the world around us, and once we understand who dogs are and how they learn, our ability to influence them increases significantly. As I think about it, the comparison of my frustration levels now and 25 years ago is like night and day. Right now, there are really only two things that Will or Lassie do that have pushed my buttons in the last six months--Will's relentless stalking of Sushi, and Lassie's tendency to get under foot when I'm moving around the kitchen. My frustration with Will was a classic case of an inability to influence the Read More