One day when Nekayah and I were at the mall a boy in a wheel chair, a paraplegic, saw Nekayah across the court. He was obviously excited, 1) to see a dog, 2) to see a dog at the mall. Nekayah was wearing her service jacked (being a certified hearing impaired service dog) and when doing so would not interact. I could tell the boy wanted to interact with Nekayah. I thought, because Nekayah is also certified as a therapy dog, I can remove her jacket and let the boy enjoy Nekayah attention. I went to the mother and told her Nekayah is a therapy dog and if she wouldn’t mind I would take time with her son. She was thrilled that someone would give such attention to her handicapped child. Nekayah scooted gently up to his motorized chair, laid her head in his lap, and he petted and petted her with tears in his eyes. Nekayah very gently licked his hands and his cheek. He petted Nekayah in a very uncoordinated manner, but trained as she is, Nekayah never minded. Nekayah, like Jerry’s, Pooh, (A gorgeous black Great Dane)  brings joy into not only Linda’s and my life, but also the lives of others. I would encourage anyone to complete the TDI certification and let your dog bring joy to others as well.

Chronicles of Nekayah -NEKAYAH AND ROBERT


Nekayah makes several visits a week to those in nursing homes and rehabilitation centers. Many of her visits are routine. People anticipate her arrival. Some residents know her schedule and wait near the entryway. Nekayah knows she is working and does not get excited, so I have no concern for her jumping or accidentally hurting a patient. When Nekayah approaches a sitting patient, whether the person is in a wheelchair or regular chair, she sits and gently scoots forward then lays her head in the persons lap. We really work together as a team in that she is allowed to process what is needed and looks to me to make sure all is well. As we have worked together we have come to fully trust each other.

This last week we visited a man who is unable to be in a regular bed. “Robert” who is about 45 years old, has to sleep on a floor mattress as he will climb over rails and hurt himself. He is unable to speak, very seldom interacts and does not participate in therapy. He just lays and eats. I have visited this facility for nearly a year and “Robert” has never responded to my visit. But this day was different, and neither the staff nor I know why. We asked “Robert” if he would like to see Nekayah. “Robert” did not respond. I sat on the floor near “Robert” and rubbed his shoulder. I would like to think that helped calm “Robert” and Nekayah picked up on “Robert’s” calmness. She moved over by me and without sniffing or exploring this figure she laid her body near “Robert”. “Robert” seemed to process this thing lying next to him. He reached out to explore Nekayah who is lying there without moving, even when he examined her head. “Robert” now more relaxed, smiled as though he felt positive about Nekayah being near. Very gently Nekayah reached to lick “Robert’s” cheek. She licked one time as if she was seeking permission to have contact. The staff person and I just waited to see what would happen next as “Robert” normally rejected contact. “Robert” laid there and looked directly into Nekayah’s face. It seemed they communicated in their own way. “Robert” moved his head ever so slightly toward Nekayah who responded by snuggling her head in his neck. In a jerking, uncoordinated movement “Robert” stroked her head and Nekayah continued licking “Robert’s” cheek. Nekayah understood that his “slaps” were really pets and responded affectionately. Nekayah knows only friendly hands. What happened next shocked the staff person. “Robert” made a thumbs-up gesture to the staff person then fell back into his unresponsive state. The staff person then made the comment that that was a very significant response and may reveal an in to whatever is locked inside of “Robert.”

I often wonder, does Nekayah or other therapy dogs know what they do? I can tell Nekayah senses a fulfillment in her therapy work. But does she have any idea the positive affect she has on a person? She gets a lot of treats, but she doesn’t seem to do what she does just for treats. I can’t even pride myself in her good training. She just does what she does, makes a difference, and goes on to whatever we do next. She is a true catalyst, changing her surroundings, but remaining the same herself.

Linda and I believe God has allowed us to have one of those one-in-a-million dogs. Nekayah is not only a proficient wonderful hearing-impaired service dog, but her reputation is growing as a gifted animal able to bring vestiges of healing to those who are emotionally impaired. She is truly a therapy dog.


As a behavioral consultant a large number of my calls have to do with aggression. Often the first thing a person tells me on contact is, “My dog is aggressive. Can you help me?” Of course this kind of introduction requires a lot of questions. Sometimes, when I am asking my questions, the person will ask, “Why all these questions? It’s aggression.” These people think aggression is a catch-all term. If I ask, “What does this aggression look like?” the person doubts my abilities. “What do you mean? Don’t you know what aggression looks like?” One concerned mother called me, “My dog has become aggressive and I think I will have to put him down.” Let’s not move so fast. Tell me what happened.” My 2 year old child poked him in the eye and he turned and with a bark he snapped at her face.” Did he touch her face?” “No, he missed.” “What happened next?” “He went to his bed and laid down.” This dog had never before or after the incident been aggressive. He is gentle, affectionate, and very submissive to family and visitors. I first tried to explain that dogs don’t miss. The dog was very specific in his expression of pain and intrusiveness. I tried to tell her that her dog is NOT aggressive. He reacted to something the mother should have been managing. The fact that he “missed” tells me he made a statement, and was not aggressive.

We have to remember, dogs are animals. They are not humans in fur. Dogs are another species with its own language and culture that demands our understanding if we will get interrelate. It is this that a good trainer/behaviorist grasps. Before I address the subject of aggression I want my reader to comprehend this. The dog is the only animal (including humans) we do not allow or tolerate aggressive or even irritable behaviors. We spend hundreds of dollars to be sure our pet is placid in temperament, and gentle in behavior. Think how incredible this is. This “perfect behavior” expectation sets our dogs up for failure, and when they breach our expectation thousands land in a shelter, of which many are met with an untimely and unnecessary euthanasia.

Quite honestly, if someone did to me what some people do to a dog, I would respond with more than bite. And how I responded would be information of how I felt about it. And that is just what a dog’s behavior is, information. It is information about how the dog feels about something. What I, as a behavioral consultant, must do is help interpret that information. Because dogs do not lie (as different from humans) and is honest in its behavior, there are not “bad” behaviors.

Their behavior is just that, a behavior. I work hard to attach that behavior to something the dog is perceiving or misperceiving. I bring these together and either change the dog’s reaction or remove the “thing.” This latter is called management.

Example: My granddaughter was home for the holidays and brought with her, Turner, a wonderful Boarder mix. One day he would not come into the fireplace room. He would look around the kitchen table and bark vigorously. He was giving to me information. I looked around to see what might be different. There was a plastic bag on a table. I touched it and he ran in fear. I moved it to another location in the room, his behavior was the same. I removed the bag altogether, I think to a closet. Matter resolved. I was managing the environment for him. My dogs didn’t react. They didn’t even give notice. I could have “made” Turner come into the room. I could have scolded or berated him. Some would have punished him. But, the matter was very simple, remove the object, change the behavior. Management is us taking responsibility and making the environment such that our dog is secure.

I guess some would have considered Turner’s behavior, aggressive. But not in the least. So to help people learn to interpret a dog’s behavior in this regard, I want to address this issue of aggression. Misunderstanding a dog’s behavior in this regard never ends well for the dog.

Example: I was testifying in court in a dog case. The plaintiff’s attorney asked, “Mr. Turner, wouldn’t you agree, if a dog has a person cornered on the porch barking and showing its teeth, that that dog is aggressive?” I answered, “No.” That answer caused him to be upset because he thought for certain I would say, “Yes,” thereby supporting his clients claim. I told the judge I was not trying to be argumentative, but if the person mistreated the dog then the dog was pushed to become reactive. There is a difference. For me, the antecedent was important.

I helped bring understanding to this dog’s behavior. Thankfully, the judge listened to me and the dog’s life was saved.

I try to help people understand, when we talk about aggression, we are talking about a broad sort of behaviors. Because a dog shows an aggressive behavior does not mean the dog is aggressive.

I am not denying the fact that because of a person putting terrible things in a dog’s history that the dog becomes an aggressive dog, and that dog is beyond anyone’s help. For the safety of everyone there may be no other option for the dog, it must be put down. But please understand, unless the dog has a mental disorder, such as caused by rabies, almost always it is due to the mistreatment of humans.

Most all the time, before a dog follows through on its threat of aggression, there is a hierarchy of behaviors. I most clearly see these “warnings” when I behaviorally test dogs in a shelter. Some of the warnings are as follows.


>Whale eye


>Muzzle punch



I know people say, “He bit me out of the blue.” What they mean is, “I didn’t see or heed the signs he gave before he bit.” Dogs do not want to bite. They try to avoid getting to that level. The problem is that people do not know the language of dogs. Some lowest level signs, and I don’t mean in importance, are,

>Increased blinking

>Lip licking

>Head turning/averting gaze

> Trying to leave

>Ground/floor sniffing

>Tail tucking

These are not 1,2,3,4. One has to recognize what the dog is saying. Here is when the dog “Bites out of the blue.” When the dog shows any of these avoidance behaviors and the owner punishes the dog, the owner is taking that warning out of the dog’s “warning bag.” When this happens, the dog jumps over the warning signs and goes straight to the bite. All the time the dog is talking, trying to negotiate the situation. Most bites could be averted if only we would listen. When I work with a dog, if I get bitten (to now I have not been) I would consider it my fault, not the dog’s. I would correct me, not the dog.

When I get a call that a dog has displayed aggressive behaviors I ask these questions.

>What was the situation?

>Who was it the dog was aggressive toward?

>When did it happen?

>Where did it happen?

>What was going on in the environment?

>What happened just before?

>What happened right after?

>How was the dog involved?

>What happened to the dog?

>What stopped the behavior?

>What did you do immediately after?

I have to know the answer to these questions to find the trigger to the dog’s behavior. If I am not accurate in my evaluation and assessment I do a disservice to both the dog and the family. The answers to these questions are important for me to determine the type of aggressive behavior the dog displayed and what therapy to apply. I have to uncover the purpose (different from the cause) of the behavior. What did the dog accomplish? With this information I can then determine the type of aggression I am dealing with. Here are a few different types of aggressive behaviors.


Most aggressive behaviors fall into this category. Fear can elicit some crazy behaviors of us humans. If a dog is afraid he goes into a fight or flight mode. If there is nowhere for the dog to go, he will choose the fight response. If the scary thing will not go away, the dog may make the first move and attack (Defensive Aggression). The dog will try to leave or make the scary thing leave, but if the scary thing doesn’t leave and the dog can’t leave, the dog feels it has no other option.


This is the dog, for whatever reason, feels it has to guard what it has. You see this aggression with food. Someone gets close while the dog is eating the dog may lower its head and will freeze, he will display whale eye (you see the whites), his tail will go down. He may or may not give a low growl and if you keep coming closer, he will snap at you. He may or may not bite, but he is emphatic, “Move away.”

He may do the same thing with a toy. The dog is afraid of losing whatever it is. The dog may lock his paws over it, freeze, and whale eye, all again saying, “Back off.” If one does not respect the dog, it will bite.


Animals have a territory. If another animal transgresses that it is inviting a conflict. Our dogs can develop this same behavior. It may be toward other animals or people, or both. The dog learns that barking or growling makes that thing go away, and develops from there.


Many people, including trainers, classify this. Personally, I do not subscribe to the dominance theory. A trainer friend, Dave Thatcher, says, “I don’t believe the dog wakes up this morning and says, I think I’ll dominate Betty, or Bob, or Fido today.” I know Wolves have a hierarchy, but dogs are not Wolves. We need to be careful about making comparisons with Wolves. It is easy to find relationships where there are none. My view on this means also, I do not buy into the “dog experts” who teach that we must be the “leader of the pack” or “that you must dominate your dog.” This teaching leads a lot of people to create conflicts with their dog. Again, in this battle, the dog always loses.


If your dog is sick or injured and you try to move or pick him up, he may bite. This does not mean he is aggressive. If you have a gash and someone touches the proud flesh, you too will react. We have hands, dogs do not. Dogs have mouths and uses it for a variety of purposes. If this happens, never correct the dog. He is communicating the best he can. Hear him and leave him alone.

These are the basic forms of aggression displayed by dogs. These can be broken down into a longer list of the types of dog aggression. But the big question owners have is, “Can these behaviors be treated?” YES. It will take a professional trainer, preferable Force-Free, or/and a Veterinary Behaviorist. What an owner does not want to bring in is a “trainer” that uses aversive methods. Punishment elicits further aggression. But yes, these are treatable.


Your dog’s situation may require medication therapy. However, medication therapy must always be with behavioral modification. Medication alone does not modify behavior. A professional needs to be involved.  Your Vet is a part of the team.

In rare cases of these mentioned may have progressed too far and other sad alternatives turned to. If you think this is the case, please involve a professional. I know professionals cost money, but when you chose that dog you chose to take care of and advocate for that dog. Don’t bail out on that dog because he gets sick or develops some unwanted behaviors. For most of us our dog is like our children. They are our responsibility. Your dog trusts you and looks to you for food, wellbeing, shelter, and safety.

Lastly, know this, your dog, if experiencing any of these, DOES NOT ENJOY being in this state of fear and aggression. I hope some of this is helpful to you and to your dog. You are his only advocate.


I know this is a late article for this winter season. It is prompted as I look outside and watch the blowing snow. Also, as I drive in this weather I see the dogs chained outside, shivering in the cold. Some have dog houses, some don’t.

Our dogs have a doggy door. They can go out and come in at will. Of course, for Dexter, our Great Pyrenees, he is in Pyrenees heaven. He loves to lay in the deep snow and the blowing wind. Every now and then I toss a treat to him to let him know he’s okay. I called Dexter in the other day. He came to the door and sat down. I called him in again, he just sat there staring at me. I realized he was asking to stay outside. Of course I relented. Nekayah, our Catahoula, would rather be inside. Much of her staying inside is because she is a Service Dog and feels she is always on duty. In our Animal Care Board, of which I am Vice-president, it was reported to us that one of our citizens found their pet frozen.

It seems to me that the most untrained pet owner would have common sense. I know, that is expecting a lot, but anyone should be able to look at their pet, look outside, and draw an intelligent conclusion. Now, is your pet a St. Bernard, then it’s a no brainer, he will love this weather. But if your pet is a Toy Poodle, use your brain. These decisions not only need to be made in the winter time, but also in the summer. Which I will write about separate from this.

*When Fido goes outside to go potty accompany Fido or watch Fido through the window. If he is having a hard time walking the chill factor may be the problem. Don’t give him time to get frost bite. Frost bite for small dogs, or dogs that are accustomed to the inside, can happen more quickly than we think.

*For our dogs we keep a heated water bowl outside, as well as their water dish inside. We purchased our one-gallon, heated water bowl at Rural King for about $14.00. At Pet Smart the same item costs $34 to $45.00. It is important that they have “water,” not ice in their water bowl. Snow and ice are not adequate for their thirst.

*For those outside dogs, feed them extra. It takes a lot of energy for your dog to keep a proper body temperature.

*We generally have a large towel near our back door, especially for Dexter. A Pyrenees will lay in the snow, in a storm, until covered with snow. He loves walking through his doggy door and shake from head to tail. If you have even seen this you know it looks like a snow storm in the house. We tolerate this, just as he tolerates human things from us, i.e. hugs. Our towel helps us a bit if we can toss it over him. But, we make sure he is dried off as best we can, including his paws. This helps us in two ways. First, we are able to prevent tracking in. Second, if he has any cuts or splitting of his paws, we are able to find it and treat it early.  Remember, salt to melt ice can irritate paw pads. We also have a soft, long runner from their door. This can save yelling at your dog when he is just being a dog.

*We comb Dexter out when the “snow balls” melt. This helps maintains his insulation.

*Leaving your dog in the car in the winter time can be as dangerous as doing so in the summer. People do not realize that carbon monoxide can get inside of a running car, which is fatal. If the dog is in the car for a long time with the engine shut off, it can freeze.

*Allowing your dog to be in the garage or the repair shop is also not a good idea. Antifreeze is often on the floor. Ethylene glycol smells good and is sweet. A dog (or cat) will lick it from the floor, but it is lethal. Thousands of dogs die each year as a result. Ethylene glycol effects the brain, liver, and kidneys. If you think your pet got into some get it to a vet right away.

*We live near Ball State University. Not far from our house, on campus, is a beautiful, large pond. I need to be careful when walking my dogs. The pond can look like it is ice covered. This can be deceiving. If I would let my dogs venture out on it and fall through. Of course you would never venture out on it with your dog? Oh yes, many have done this and they went through the ice with their dog. Save you and your dog and don’t be foolish.

Well, those are some of my ideas to keep in mind for my Dexter and Nekayah. I think these might be some good thoughts for you and your pet also. If you see something different or out of the norm for your pet make an appointment with your vet. They can get sick just as we can. Y Dexter has some arthritis in his left shoulder. In this cold weather it gets worse. I make sure I have some pain medicine and anti-inflammatory for him to help keep it manageable.

Let’s keep our pets safe and comfortable.


Christmas is past as is the New Year. Friends and family have gone to their respective homes, and your house is now back to “normal. The chaos is now ordered, those threatening and/or tempting packages have been opened, the tree is taken down, those dangerous electrical cords are rolled up and put away, and those foods, that could be dangerous, are eaten or placed in safe places. These are just a few of the things that lead animal consultants to discourage bringing home pets for Christmas.

There are so many things during the holidays that can begin a new pet’s life, in your home, that begins its life with high stress and fear. When an animal begins its living in a high stress environment behavioral issues develop later, and oftentimes sooner.

Perhaps some took my advice and rather than bring a pet home for Christmas, you wrapped up a plush toy, with a note promising a pet after Christmas, and gave that as a gift. Now, after the holidays are past, you can fulfill that promise as a family activity. You may have done your research and decided what you kind of pet you are going to want. You may love Mastiffs, but if you are in a two bedroom home or apartment, that would not work well. Be sure the family is on the same page. Remember, you will have this pet for a long time and the decision deserves being well thought out. You now know if you are going to get a puppy, an older dog, or a dog that has special needs. Each of these require planning.

After you have made your decision, the first thing you will do is pet-safe your home. On your hands and knees crawl through your house and see what your pet will see. Protect those electrical cords and close off the fireplace. Decide where your feeding area will be. Choose your pet food wisely. Don’t buy the cheapest food on the market. Read the labels, talk to a nutritionist, and buy a food that is best for your dog, not your wallet. Do your homework and decide where you will take your pet for medical care. Visit various veterinarian clinics. Schedule your new pet’s needed shots.

Having those concerns out of the way turn your attention to bringing your new pet home. If it is a puppy I strongly suggest you to have a crate for it. The crate will provide a safe place for puppy. Decide where the crate will be placed. I suggest it be placed in a family area. The crate will also provide a base from which you will house train puppy. I would use a crate from your dog no matter what its age may be. You can purchase a medium sized crate or large crate so Fido has plenty of room. These often come with a divider so you can begin with a smaller space and enlarge it as puppy grows. Place bedding in the crate that has been used by family members. Have toys and treats in the crate. Place bite size treats (I recommend boiled chicken, not kibble) from the door to the crate. Plan to make this new home the best place in the world from the start. You are now ready to bring puppy home.

You must remember, from the moment you pick puppy up you begin its training. Watch for car sickness on the trip home. Too much handling in the car may cause puppy to get sick. This is all new and puppy may be stressed. Where you place puppy in the car is often the place he will now ride in the car.

When you get home put puppy on the ground to see if it has potty needs. Open the door and place puppy at the line of treats and let puppy follow the treats into his crate. Take puppy outside again to the area you most want it to go potty. You may play, outside, with him until he relieves himself. This is the beginning of you house training.

What is important regarding the crate is, 1. All good things go in the crate. I suggest you feed puppy in the crate. 2. If puppy is in the crate no one should bother him. Until puppy is housetrained the crate door is shut if he is in the crate. Do not remove him from the crate unless he is calm. Housetraining and crate training are for another article. I am here just addressing bringing puppy home.

This article is short and basic. Other trainers would expand this. I fully realize this is not comprehensive. But I do trust these thoughts are helpful to my readers. If I can be of further or specific help feel free to contact me.

I trust your pet is that one in a million.