Think Shelters Don’t Have “Highly Adoptables”? Think Again.

At Woof Connection, the 501(c)3-pending non-profit I am a board member of, we occasionally hear people talk about wanting to adopt, but knowing that a shelter won’t have a hypoallergenic dog/a small dog/a purebred. Erin and I always just shake our heads, because all of the dogs pictured below have been in the rural Animal Control Facility in Buckingham County, VA within the last year.

While we love our Treeing Walker Coonhounds and Pit Bull Type dogs, it’s fun to see something totally different show up every once in a while! Take a gander below and recognize that a dog can end up homeless for any reason – regardless of what breed they may be.

Sweet Rhasta the Schnoodle
Sweet Rhasta the Schnoodle


Wiccy the Chow Chow
Wiccy the Chow Chow
Sylvia the Fluffy
Sylvia the Fluffy

All of these dogs have since been adopted into loving homes!

Happy Memorial Day, everyone. It is a day to respect the sacrifices of the fallen.

Hoarder Dachshunds Get Photos

A recent case of animal hoarding in Waynesboro, VA led to the removal of many Dachshunds and Chihuahuas from an area home. I was lucky enough to meet and photograph several of these dogs. All of them can be viewed at Fostering allows these dogs to adjust to a healthy home environment and sets them up for successful adoptions!





Thursday Theatrical: K9 Nosework

I’ve mentioned before that Edison, one of my current adoptables, is doing K9 Nosework. This is a scent tracking class that is so fun for wearing out dog brains. The best part about it is that it is designed for reactive dogs, so if your dog loves other dogs, great! But if they don’t, you’ll be in a scenario where people understand and automatically accommodate that. Pitlandia recently mentioned a nosework adventure that SecondHandDogs did, which I discovered right after I started my class! We just had our 6-week graduation, and I took a video of one of Edison’s final searches. Right now, the dogs are still searching for food. In another 12 weeks, they will be searching for Birch oil, which is the scent that level one competition requires. SecondHandDogs covers the class methodology pretty well.

Training Tuesday: Capturing

Yesterday I sung Edison’s praises for coming to me car-ride ready. There are definitely things he didn’t come knowing, though. Being a very busy lab-husky mix, sometimes it’s hard for him to settle and take naps while I’m working in the house. I wanted to teach him that laying down on the floor was a more rewarding activity than racing around the house. This is similar to the cue ‘Down’, because the same result is being achieved: laying down!

Enter capturing. Capturing is an amazing training tool that results in behaviors that are very resistant to extinction (extinction = dog no longer performs the behavior after it not getting rewarded for a while). I also love capturing because it’s so easy: essentially, the handler does nothing. All I did was wait for Edison to offer a behavior (in this case, lie down) and then toss him a tasty treat when he did. Chances are, at that point most dogs will get up off the floor to try and see what you’re up to. That’s fine. Don’t encourage them by petting or treating, but don’t try to get the pup to lie down again either. It helps to have something to do while you wait, like cleaning some dishes or flipping through a magazine. Eventually the dog will decide that the treat was a fluke, get bored, and go lay down again. Bam! Another treat.

If you are consistent about tossing a treat every time the dog lays down, you will eventually (after about a week) end up with a dog who spends a lot more time chilling on the floor — just because he wants to! Then, if it’s important to you to have a cue associated with the behavior, you could add one. Another important thing to do at that point is generalization: nobody wants a dog who only lays down in the kitchen!


The above photo was taken at Canine Campus, our favorite training facility in Charlottesville. Edison offered this ‘Down’ on his own, without a cue. He does this frequently, which is so much nicer than having to micromanage his behavior with cues each time!

Monday Musings: On Talents

Most of the bios for my adoptable dogs read pretty similarly. Working on crate training, eats from food toys, enjoys long walks. I try to individualize them as much as I can, but the truth is that most dogs in my house go through a similar learning process.

They learn that whining, crying, and pawing result in nothing; and that being quiet and still leads to a multitude of rewards: chicken scraps, a tossed toy to play with, a bully stick, a quick snuggle. They become accustomed to staying in a crate during the day, because my day job is what enables me to have fosters in the first place. They s-l-o-w-l-y learn that walking right at my side earns the opportunities to sniff that exciting pile of bunny poop.

As similarly as I treat each dog, and as much as they all need to learn, it never fails that there is one unique skill each dog seems to come equipped with. Some are stellar for baths. Others never crowd me in an attempt to get petting. Edison is a dog who was born to ride in the car. The very first night I had him I had a dinner date right after our training class. I could have either took him home and been late or left him in the car (I definitely don’t recommend trying this with a new dog!) I left him curled up in the back seat, and to my surprise my seats were still intact when I got back! He loads up and unloads easily, and even waits for the cue to get out — a very good thing, since he’s much faster than me. He also naps like a champ, even when I’ve been a bad foster mom and not worn him out before a long drive.



What about you? What special talents did your dog arrive with, factory-ready?

The Pitties of Seattle

I write about dogs.

I write about traveling.

I write about dogs while traveling

And I write about dogs I see on trips.

I don’t write about traveling with dogs.

Don’t ask me why.

Too long to be a Haiku, but too un-funny to be a Dr. Seuss imitation, the above is the gist of this post. I spent a week near Seattle, WA traveling for business. On the last day, I got to the airport early, checked by bag, and turned right around to take the train into downtown Seattle to have a look around for a few hours.

The train in Seattle was easy. I don’t use the word easy lightly when it comes to public transportation. Because we had to drive everywhere my whole childhood, I never got used to taking trains/metros/subways/busses/trolleys. In fact, if I am completely honest, they downright terrify me. Usually the lines are coded by color, which is nice … but some of the colors overlap, and not all of them run at the same time, and for busses you have to be on a certain side of the street, and counting every-seven-minutes-starting-from4:50-am is NOT my idea of a good time. There is more, but my palms are starting to sweat. Suffice it to say that public transportation is terrifying and confusing and makes me grumpy and I always end up having to pee.


But not the Seattle train, oh no! It had one route, just one, that goes straight from the airport to downtown. There are stops in between, but you never have to switch trains. Just get off at the last stop, and Bam! There you are, steps from Pikes Place Market. And right away, there were dogs! It wasn’t a weekend, and it was definitely during the work day, so I was surprised to see so many. But there they were.




Of course I stopped in to Pike’s Place Market, as well as a cute antique store a block or so away. Then I stopped into a Starbucks to charge up my phone a little before walking around downtown for another half an hour or so. It was time to head back to the train, and I even made it back to the airport in one piece! I’m as surprised as you are, believe me.