Michael Vick dogs teach dog owners a lesson

For anyone needing a glimmer of hope or words of inspiration that would give some kind of sign that says, “Yes, you can
fix your dog problem!”  look no further than the Parade Magazine in Sunday’s Houston Chronicle.

I’m talking about the story of the Rescue and Redemption of Michael Vick’s dogs, written by Jim Gorant. It brought a smile  to my face and, okay, I might have gotten a little misty eyed (as well) depending on who you talk to at my house).

This way of teaching and communicating to our dogs is nothing new to my clients  They have heard me lay out my program to rehabilitate their dogs that have an array of problems – everything from aggression, fear, house soiling, separation anxiety and much more.

Here’s a just part of the article about a Pitt bull dog named Jonny who was accepted into a regular guy’s home (I think he was a manager of a car dealership) meaning he had no special
dog training or behavioral expertise himself; although, he has fostered a number of Pitt bulls in the past.

Jonny, the dog,  is now a Therapy dog that helps kids improve their reading when the kids read to him. Here’s an excerpt

“Jonny was one of the unsocialized-but-happy crowd of  Vick dogs, which is how he ended up with Cohen, who had a pit bull of his own and had previously fostered six others as a volunteer for the rescue group BAD RAP (Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pitbulls).

“The first step was to let him unwind his kennel stress,” Cohen says, referring to the jitters that follow dogs out of long-term confinement.

He countered Jonny’s anxiety with quiet time and “the rut,” as he calls it. “Dogs love a schedule,” he explains. “They love knowing that the same things are going to happen at the same times every day. Once they have that consistency, they can relax.”

Cohen put Jonny on a firm program of walks, feedings, playtime, and relaxation, which helped relieve his insecurity and fear, emotions that can drive canine misbehavior

“A big part of it is building trust,” Zawistowski says, “teaching them that the world is not out to get them.” Within 10 days, Jonny embraced his routine and began to relax.

Cohen then started working on basic training. Dogs raised like Vick’s react excessively to external stimuli. If they see a bird they want to chase, they chase it.

Learning even the simplest command forces them to tune into their internal monitor, especially when the command is paired with rewards such as food or affection.

Suddenly the dog has to make a choice. “Do I do what I want or wait and do what has been asked? Good things happen to me when I wait rather than simply following my impulses.”

Teaching a dog like Jonny to sit is essentially retraining the way he thinks, according to Dr. Randy Lockwood, the ASPCA’s senior vice president for anticruelty initiatives.”

My Point:?—– For those of you concerned about your own dog who has a far better life in your home now than any one of the Vick dogs, let this be your inspiration, your glimmer of hope that great things can be accomplished for and by those with time, patience and a good plan of action.

Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are with the teacher of your children. And remember, “Opportunity Barks!” (just ask Jonny!)

P.S. You can read the whole story here: http:/

Review: Aggressive Dog

Aggressive dog trainingHi, I’m Meg Malone and my dogs are Shadow and Blue.  I called Jim Burwell because I was having problems with my dog Shadow, he was showing aggression.

Shadow nipped at the little 2 yr old next door and also showed aggression towards a teenage boy down the street.  So I called Jim to help me out with my dog’s behavior. She also had some bad fence aggression, barking a lot and digging in the yard.

Jim  came and we started implementing the strategies that he advised which included lots of structure for my dog, walking my dog and other strategies. All were easy to implement.

 Even in working just the first week I saw improvement in my dog.  Her attitidue, and bad behaviors were changing. This change will take continued work on my part. They are doing great – so much better that I know this works when I work the plan.

I am extremely pleased and my dogs are doing great!  I highly recommend Jim Burwell’s training program

Review: aggressive dog


We’re Beth and Ted Harper and we have  2 yr old doxen named Gumbeaux.  We were having problems with his aggression and barking when people came to the house.  We were unable to take him on walks because he wouldn’t walk and he was viciously aggressive when we encountered other people on the walk.

Through Jim’s help we have been able to drastically improve these things.  We can now have people come into our home, we can now take him on walks and we’ve learned a lot of tricks to help us for training dogs.  And we will call Jim again if we should have any other problems.

Aggressive Dog Behavior: How to turn it around

Aggressive dog behavior happens. Many dog owners who never thought their dog would become aggressive are startled, confused and sometimes afraid when their dog acts aggressive towards them. There are close to 20 types of dog aggression that have been identified, but all can have potentially serious consequences. If left unchecked, it can lead to biting and worse. If your dog seems to be in conflict with you over who controls the environment and/or things in the environment, he may have developed territorial aggression or possessive aggression. With territorial aggression, the dog usually defines the territory and defends it vigorously.  It could be the yard or the house – all as defined by the dog.   These dogs seem to have little, to no tolerance, for people invading their space. You try to pet the dog and he may snap or bite And with possessive aggression it could be the space the dog is occupying in any given moment or an item like a shoe, a toy or his food bowl. The best time for dogs to learn their boundaries and what is acceptable behavior in and around the home is when they are puppies. When older dogs are adopted, the best time to start is the day you bring them home.  How you define your relationship is critical to a problem-free life with your puppy or dog. Creating a great partnership means providing the right kind of structure that allows your companion to develop a strong sense of place in his relationship with you as a follower – free of emotional stress and therefore greatly diminishing any or all behavioral problems. Dogs are pretty selfish critters and always want to know, “what’s in it for me?”  They are constantly thinking, “If I do this, what will I get?” Work this to your advantage by creating daily working opportunities for your dog to “earn all the things he gets from you.”  Obedience commands like sit, down and come is a great way to teach him how to get all the things he wants; food, toys, walks with you, games with you and affection from you. He’ll love you even more. Starting behavioral training and most importantly leadership role with your dog when they are puppies is the ideal and critical time to do this. When they are young, puppies are easily desensitized to being petted and you can correct nipping and biting problems by redirecting them to perform other commands such as sit. Once a dog is older, dealing with territorial aggression is a more difficult process – because you have learned behavior to turn around. If you did not provide boundaries and leadership with your puppy or dog from the beginning and you now have issues – don’t give up. The most important thing you have to understand is that dogs are very simple creatures – we complicate them. There are simple things to do to show your dog in a truly positive, non harmful or aggressive way that you are the leader and everything is on your terms—-not his. Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are the teacher of your children. And remember, Opportunity Barks!

Dogs Biting People – Look Beyond the Obvious

dog-biting-personThe call came from an old client.  Her dog had bitten and attacked her best friend.  The dog knew this person, knew her very well.  My client and her best friend live in the same complex and spend lots of time together with their dogs.  The friend is ok, but my client is devastated and feels betrayed by the dog attack on her friend.  She immediately called me for help.

I looked at my records on this client and saw that her dog was a leader type, strong personality and required consistent structure and boundary reinforcement.  In other words, the dog needed to truly understand who the “parent” was and the dog needed to respect boundaries and earn what he got.  When we first did dog behavior training with her and her dog, she was extremely good about practicing leadership with her dog.

Once I got to the house I quickly found that leadership and boundaries had been instead, very very relaxed for some time.  The owners had not been working on obedience commands with the dog in a long time.  The dog had been allowed to fence line bark, bark at the windows, food was left down all the time, free access to furniture, the dog charged up and down the stairs in front of the owner.  Most of this allows the dog to rehearse, on a daily basis, territorial aggression that is very likely to surface in another context.  Which, is exactly what happened.

Here is what spurred the dog attack.  My client’s friend reached down to pick up a banana peel that the dog had plucked from the trash moments earlier.  The dog decided that it was his and lunged to bite and proceeded to aggressively chase the friend until refuge could be safely taken behind a door.  It was over in literally 1-2 scary minutes until the dog could be crated.

Aggressive situations such as this can be avoided by providing adequate structure for dogs by keeping them on a learn-to-earn program of simple sits and downs for everything.  Being consistent with your structure for the majority of your dog’s life may be required.  Don’t fall asleep at the wheel.  I applaud my client for stepping up to the plate and assuming responsibility for the dog’s actions instead of immediately thinking the dog was beyond salvage.  I always try to help clients look beyond the obvious and see what part  their actions or in-actions have in the dog’s behavior.  It’s usually a large percent of the problem.

Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are the teacher of your children.  And remember, “Opportunity Barks!”

Jim Burwell, founder

Jim Burwell’s Petiquette

Aggression In Your Dog

Dog Problems – Denial or Procrastination

To this day, I will never understand why people will wait until dog problems get to a point of frustration, panic or pain (emotion or physical) to seek help on understanding and fixing the problem.  Some people it seems, at least from my experience, stay in denial or put up with a myriad of dog issues that cause unnecessary stress in their lives.  Waiting longer to address problems, in many cases, means it takes longer to fix problems.  Unless an owner is 100% committed to the task at hand, the fix can be extremely frustrating.

Aggression In Your Dog

That’s why so many dogs and pups get sent back to the breeder, the shelter or the ultimate final alternative!

I counseled a client with a 4 month old male pup that was already growling and biting at the owner’s hand when the owner tried to remove him from the couch and he also snaps when touched on his backside.

Now since they have had dogs before, they are insisting he will not become aggressive.  Is it denial?

Guess we’ll see as the pup continues to mature.