It’s never too late to start working with pets


By Jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind

Have you always wanted to work with pets? Do you spend the last part of August wondering where the summer went and if there’s still time to make those big life changes you had planned to implement around Memorial Day? Well, I have some good news for you – it’s never too late to plan for that career change! Here are a few good ways to get your paws wet before jumping into the deep end.

Educate yourself.  With the growing popularity of online education, it’s easier than ever to get a good basic foundation in fields as diverse as canine behavior, business administration and equine husbandry. Check out resources like FetchFind, the U.S. Small Business Administration, and Coursera.

Become a volunteer. Volunteering at a local shelter or animal advocacy group is probably the single best way to prepare yourself for a career working with animals. You’ll receive hands on experience, and see if you really enjoy the work. At large shelters, you can volunteer in areas such as dog and cat care, veterinary clinic, marketing, fostering and public relations. Advocacy groups often need researchers, marketers and lawyers, so if you already have those skills you can gain valuable industry-specific experience.

Apply for an internship. If you want to take a more formal approach to learning about the pet industry from the ground up, considering applying for an internship. Many established companies as well as small startups offer both paid and unpaid internships in areas from dog training to social media. One of the great things about internships is that if you like the company, you’ve already got an “in” for a regular job. And, at the very least, you will have gained a portfolio of skills, contacts and references that can help you later on.


Dip your toe into the wonderful world of online education with a subscription to FetchFind Monthly Pro or one of our standalone courses, such as Canine Evolution & Ethology or Canine Development: From Birth to Old Age. 


Always be innovating: 8 things we loved at P3

By Lynda Lobo, CPDT-KA

We had an awesome, productive time at the first Progressive Pet Products (P3) show in Chicago this week. This is the short list of the stuff we loved:

mine_food_mat_720The Original Mine Pet Platter  
What we loved about it: This product looks like a cutting board upon first glance… and in some ways it is! Especially awesome for people who feed their pets homemade, canned or raw, the Mine Pet Platter serves as a prep and feeding tool. The crevices and texture keeps food from spilling on the floor and creates a mind game for pets. The material is recyclable, sustainable, super tough and made in the USA. The platter is designed to replicate the way canines and felines would naturally and instinctively eat in the wild. Dogs will slow down and enjoy the puzzle of the meal, and cats love to lick at their food while the flat surface avoids whisker fatigue. We were blown away by the quality and extensive research that went into this brand new product!

surfProject Blue Collar 
What we loved about it: We all have rescue pets, we love rescue stories and everyone loves to share their rescue story. Project Blue Collar gets that. Not only are the collars and leashes super cute, but they donate one for every purchase. After talking to the incredible Carole Feeny and Kristin Waters for mere minutes, it was obvious how deeply they care about animals and their cause. Surf (my dog! pictured right) is loving his new swag! Pretty soon every FetchFind office dog will be sporting an adorable “I AM A RESCUE” collar!

furrfighters_720 Furrfighters LLC 
What we loved about it: Created and developed by firefighters, Furrfighters is highly effective fur remover modeled after the very gloves these heroes use on the job. We thoroughly tested these on carpet, car seats, pillows and – ready for this? – fleece. It passed all the tests! Furrfighters comes as a glove or a pocket-size. They’re biodegradable and contain no plastic or stickiness. We also loved the fact that James Rimoshytus and his crew brought 3 bags of dog fur and their fabulous east coast accents.

TW028-2TTwigo Pet ID Tags 
What we loved about it: Soft, flexible and stylish, Twigo Pet Tags are made of a durable and safe silicone, and they come in a variety of colors and styles. Here’s the best thing: use the special pen included with your tag to customize the information however you like! After you write your information on the tag, simply boil to seal it permanently and you’re good to go! Twigo also makes covers for metal tags so your information stays intact. No more jingling!

3d_box_sdwCheckUp Kit 
What we loved about it: When we saw this in the New Products area, it looked like regular litter with glass beads on top. When we touched the beads we realized it was water! This kit features hydrophobic (aka impenetrable-by-liquid) litter that keeps liquid right on the top so it can easily be collected by the included dropper. The testing strips allow you to monitor your pet’s health at home via easy, non-invasive urine collection. There’s a kit specific to dogs as well. Use as directed by your vet to avoid unnecessary trips to the clinic!

What we loved about it: Has your pet ever eaten something questionable? Have you rushed to the emergency vet only to find out what your pet got into at 4AM wasn’t toxic after all? WhiskerDocs is the first ever 24-hour pet help line available via phone, email or live chat. Log on with the app or computer and you’ll be connected to a vet tech or veterinarian to help you figure out if you need to seek veterinary attention or not. You can also browse their extensive library of pet health information and store your own veterinary information. If you do need to get help for your pet, you’ll be directed to a local facility that can help. We love this necessary and innovative new service!

social_snacks_Social Snacks  
What we loved about it: Video is such an effective and important engagement tool for businesses, and it’s becoming an indispensable part of any successful company. Not sure how to incorporate video into your social media marketing plan? Social Snacks will do all the work for you! By subscribing to Social Snacks, you get 5 snack-sized, pet-related videos to post on your own social network EVERY WEEK. Simply add your logo and/or a call to action at the end, and you’ll get all the credit for the inevitable likes, comments and shares. You’re sure to see a huge social media boost. So easy!

WiPINWomen in the Pet Industry Network
What we loved about it: Women face very different challenges across many industries, and the pet industry is no exception. No one understands that more than Women in the Pet Industry Network and their founder, Shawna Schuh. Membership gets you valuable resources, industry discounts, leadership development, extensive networking and more! Our favorite thing about WIPIN is their commitment to keeping their membership valuable and offering unique benefits to members that evolve right along with the industry. Jamie Migdal (our CEO) has been a member of WIPIN for years and we just adore them!

And last but not least, Candace D’Agnolo of Dogaholics gave FetchFind a shout out as a Recommended Resource during her presentation!

candace 3

The top 10 dog breeds (and why I love them)


By Sarah Gaziano, CPDT-KA

One of my favorite pastimes as a proud, card-carrying dog geek is playing “Guess the Breed”.* Since National Dog Day is coming up on August 26, I thought I’d give you a rundown of the top ten most popular dog breeds in the United States (as determined by the American Kennel Club).


Rottie#10 – Rottweiler (Working Group)

I love Rotties. I love the look, the size, and the interesting history. Most people associate this breed with junkyard guard dogs, but they were originally bred as herding dogs in Germany (they got the idea from the Romans). Rottweilers later went on to work as guard dogs for our military and police departments around the county. Very distinguished, and so very handsome.


Frenchie#9 – French Bulldog (Non-sporting Group)

Who doesn’t love a good Frenchie? With their adorable face and squatty stature, it’s no wonder they are one of the most popular breeds on the list. In fact, French Bulldogs are also known as clown dogs, generally because they tend to be playful and silly. Plus – look at them! They became their own breed after bull baiting was retired as a sport and people wanted a smaller version of a Bulldog as a companion.  Also – cutest puppies ever. EVER.


Boxer#8 – Boxer (Working Group)

This is another breed with an irresistibly adorable mug – it’s not surprising to see them so high on the list. Originally bred to hunt large game like deer, boar, and bear, the current boxer tends to be fairly active, strong, and driven. They generally need daily exercise and are excellent problem solvers. I love to give a puzzle toy to a Boxer and let them work it out for themselves. It’s a great way to feed them their meals and keep their brains busy.


Poodle#7 – Poodle (Non-sporting and Toy Groups)

The poodle is one of my absolute favorite breeds, not least because they tend to be total smartypants pups, regardless of size. Most people think that the poodle is French, but they are actually German in origin. Poodle or Puddeln, in German, means “to splash in water”. They were originally bred as water retrievers, which is also where that traditional Poodle cut you sometimes see comes from. It is designed to keep their joints warm in the water.


Yorkie#6 – Yorkshire Terrier (Toy Group)

Terriers have been bred to hunt pests and burrowing animals, and the Yorkie is no different. This small breed was originally bred to hunt rats in clothing mills, but has since become a really popular pet, landing them in the toy group and number six on this list. Yorkies usually become very attached to their people and are quite trainable. They have Big Dog personalities in Toy Dog packages.


Beagle#5 – Beagle (Hound Group)

I personally think there is nothing cuter than a Beagle puppy. A popular dog with families, Beagles are used to hunt in groups, so they tend to be friendly with other dogs as well as people. They love to use their noses and can be relentless hunters (and eaters, which is why you see quite a few – ahem – stout beagles out there). Their adorable floppy ears also help to capture scents and waft them to their super-sniffers.


Bulldog#4 – English Bulldog (Non-sporting Group)

These compact, heavy, short dogs used to be determined, powerful and ferocious bull baiters – hence the name. They’re now companion dogs, but they retain their ancestral tenacity and energy, so they tend to be happy go lucky and playful. They don’t need a lot of exercise and make great apartment dogs.



golden#3 – Golden Retriever (Sporting Group)

As a dog trainer, I can say that there is nothing better than a healthy Golden Retriever. My favorite thing about them is their “soft mouth”. Since their main job is to bring back animals without damaging them in any way, they have gentle mouths, which also makes them ideal as pets. They are generally everything one wants in a family pet, so it’s not surprising to see them this high on the list.


GSD#2 – German Shepherd (Herding Group)

A lot of people are surprised to learn that these guys are actually in the Herding group. We usually don’t think of them as being farm dogs, but German Shepherds were originally bred to herd sheep. They make a great, devoted partners and do amazing work for the police and military.


Lab#1 – Labrador Retriever (Sporting Group)

And the #1 dog breed in the United States is…the LABRADOR RETRIEVER!  Though, reallyl, this isn’t much of a surprise because they’ve been the top ranking breed for the last 25 years. Labs were bred as gun dogs (meaning the hunter shoots and the dog retrieves),  and in the field they often waiting patiently for hours in small spaces like boats with other dogs. Their patience and tolerance make labs great family pets, service and therapy dogs, and search & rescue teammates.



The official National Dog Day is August 26. The unofficial National Dog Day is every day at FetchFind; to learn more about dogs of every shape, color, and size, check out FetchFind Monthly Pro. 





It’s tough to practice what you preach

Chester is a champion sleeper.
Chester is a champion sleeper.

By Bill Mayeroff

If I’ve learned nothing else in my time as a FetchFind Academy student, it’s that consistence is paramount in dog training. If you’re not consistent with the rules, your dog will never learn them.

While I’ve extolled the virtues and advantages of consistence when people have asked me questions about dog behavior, it’s quite another thing to put that consistence into practice with your own dog. But it’s something I’ve recently had to learn to do. And I can tell you, it’s not easy.

Not long ago, my dog Chester had his annual leptospirosis booster shot. That night, he didn’t eat his dinner. He didn’t eat his breakfast the next morning. I wasn’t tremendously concerned, honestly. I’d read that the lepto shot can cause upset stomach and decreased appetite for about a day. So skipping two meals didn’t worry me.

But when he didn’t eat dinner that night or breakfast the following morning, I got a bit concerned. Chester’s always loved eating, so this new behavior was a bit alarming. But he wasn’t acting sick. He was eating treats, going to the bathroom normally, he had his energy. He just wasn’t eating his dry food.

So I did what I thought was the right thing – I decided to try something new.

And that was my mistake.

He ate the new food I got him for dinner that night. He really seemed to like it. So I tried it again the following morning. He ate about half of it and then stopped. Refused to take another bite. But again, through the course of the day, he ate treats normally. He drank plenty of water. He clearly wasn’t sick.

So that night, I made another mistake – I tried yet another food. And guess what? He ate it. So once again, I gave him the new food the following morning and this time, he didn’t touch it. Same thing at dinner.

Now I was really getting concerned. So I left a message for his vet and the next morning (after again not eating his breakfast), I took him to her. She examined him and told me that medically, he seemed fine (and had, in fact, GAINED weight). And then she said something I hadn’t thought of, though with my training, I probably should have.

She told me she thought his not eating was behavioral. And that I had most likely reinforced it.

By giving him new food when he wasn’t eating, I had inadvertently taught him that by not eating, he’d get some new and exciting food. The solution, she said, was tough love. If he doesn’t eat his regular food, he doesn’t eat. She also told me not to give him any treats or extra things because he needed to be hungry enough to make the choice to eat what I put in front of him.

It wouldn’t be easy, she said. She told me she’d seen healthy dogs be stubborn enough to go up to five days before eating. And with Chester being a healthy dog, she said she was comfortable with letting him go that long if that’s what it took and as long as he was drinking water and otherwise acting normally. If he didn’t eat in that time, she said, I’d bring him back to her.

As I write this, it’s day two of not eating. Chester seems fine. He’s still acting normally, drinking water and using the bathroom. This whole tough love thing seems to be tougher on me than on him. I just want to throw treats at him, do whatever I have to to get him to eat. But I have to turn on my trainer brain. I created a bad behavior in my dog and now I have to fix it. 

By the way, in case you’re concerned about what happens if he doesn’t eat within five days, the vet did offer a secondary theory. If I bring him back, she said, she’s going to test his thyroid (among a few other things), as a messed up thyroid can cause a dog to gain weight while still decreasing appetite. 

Anyway, my point is this: No matter how much you study, no matter how much you think you know about dogs and how they operate, when it comes to applying those things to your own dog, it’s hard. 

And there’s no shame in that. 

Even trainers get emotional and worried when it comes to their own dogs and that can keep us from applying what we know in the ways we might tell other people to apply it to their dogs. So don’t worry. Whether you’re a trainer or just a novice dog owner, when it comes to training your dog, at some point, you’re going to screw up. 

And as long as you learn from it, that’s ok. 


Look at these two handsome gents.

After five years as a newspaper reporter in western Illinois and two more as a freelancer in Chicago, Bill’s life has gone to the dogs in the best way possible. These days, Bill lives in Chicago with his terrier mix, Chester, and works at a small, no-kill animal shelter while he studies to be a professional dog trainer at FetchFind Academy. Bill also blogs about his two favorite things – dogs and beer – at Pints and Pups. 

Pet tech: apps and gear I’m loving right now

dogBy Jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind

You all know how I love my tech stuff, and it makes me super-happy to see the increasing intersection between the pet industry and technology. Some of the stuff I’m really digging right now are below:

Be prepared for emergencies with this Red Cross Pet First Aid app. It’s like having a vet tech in your pocket. I recommend this to everyone who works with pets for a living. For Android and iOS.

Make sure your pet gets fed (and even medicated) on schedule with an electronic pet feeder. I think this is a much better solution than free-grazing your pets if you’re gone a lot during the day.

No more toilet water! This isn’t high-tech, but if you have a face-licking dog who loves drinking out of that bowl when you’re not looking, or a cat that only drinks from a running faucet, a water fountain is just the thing!

If you want to adopt a pet, check out Woof App. Mark Wade, CEO and Founder, created this fun and elegant app that allows you to search across multiples shelters and rescues, as well as sort by breed, gender, age, size range, and behavior notes. For Android and iOS.

Learn more about the Woof App here. 

If you’re looking to rehome a pet, you can’t go wrong with Pose-a-Pet. Jennifer Whaley, of Fetch Portraits, started this app as a natural extension of her work photographing rescue pets. Pose-a-Pet also helps bring new revenue streams to rescuers through their 50/50 Shelter Share Program. For Android and iOS.

Bonus: listen to my podcast with Jennifer Whaley on Pets Mean Business.

This falls under the category of “I shouldn’t be laughing so hard, but I am”.  I have friends who swear by the Roomba for keeping pet hair and dander to a minimum, but I can’t resist sharing this article about one of the possible pitfalls of automatic vacuuming. Can you say “Poopocalypse”?



What pet tech are you loving these days?





Dog fights: do this, don’t do that


By Nicole Stewart, CPDT-KA

In my last post where I discussed what to do when an off-leash dog comes barreling at you and your on-leash dog, I teased you with the question “What do you do if your worst thought comes to be reality: a dog fight?”

Fights can be scary, human or otherwise. However, much of the time, there is more bluster and posturing than anything else. Even those will often end before you have a chance to take action. They can be over a toy, a bowl, or just a dog drawing boundaries. (If only humans had a good way to do this without offense!)

I’ll tell you a little secret – dogs don’t go around looking for fights.

 All that canine body language that we talk about is actually a thing! It’s the way dogs talk to one another to avoid conflict. Most conflicts have been negotiated one way or the other while the dogs are still many feet apart, before we even thought they noticed one another.

However, when the right set of communication happens, or if one dog is saying one thing and the other just doesn’t have the social graces to listen to the other dog (we know people like that, right?), that is when they will bolster themselves up to fight status.

So, how do we get them apart when they aren’t doing it themselves?

Do this:

  • Grab the aggressor by the hind legs (like they are a wheelbarrow). When you get them apart, get them as far from each other as possible.
  • Get water (a hose is best, but a bucket or cup might suffice) and dump it on their heads.
  • If there’s a broom handle, long board, baby gate, or stick, use it to get in between them and get them disengaged.
  • Got an air horn? Try it.

Don’t do this:

  • Don’t get in between the sharp ends (aka, the teeth).
  • Don’t grab one of the dog’s collars (redirection happens).
  • Don’t yell like a banshee on the loose (though it’s hard not to, and I would be remiss not to admit that I’ve found myself having a horrifying out-of-body experience, looking down on myself ineffectively screaming).

Dogfights are dangerous and getting involved can be as well. Use caution. Even your own dog can redirect a bite on to you in the heat of the moment.

The best tactic is to prevent dogfights by learning about dog body language and pay attention when you are out in public with your dog (not on your cell phone).


Nicole Stewart 250x300Nicole Stewart, CPDT-KA, is the Director of Training at AnimalSense / Paradise4Paws.  She strongly believes that dog training is as much about the people as it is about the dogs. Her favorite place to be is at home with her human family and her steady Clumber Spaniel, Finlay.

This post was originally published in the AnimalSense blog.

Thinking of rescuing a dog? Here are 5 ways to make the process a win-win all around.

Lolly foster

By Paulette Solinski, CPDT-KA

So you’re thinking of rescuing a dog. That is a wonderful idea, but here are some things that may help you with the process.

Do your homework. The most common way to find a dog these days is via the internet. It’s pretty easy to focus on a picture of an adorable dog and go to the shelter planning to take her home. It’s not usually that simple. You want to learn as much as possible about the dog, so be prepared to ask a lot of questions. For example, does this dog have a bite history? Why is she in the shelter? Does she have any known health problems?  These may or may not disqualify a dog in your eyes, but you will be more prepared for what you are getting. (However, it’s never a good idea to get a reactive dog when you have children). If you have time and are a single person or a childless couple you may be interested in a dog who might be more of a project. If you’re looking for a dog that’s had some training, keep looking and wait for her to come along.

Keep an open mind. Sometimes just looking at dogs in person in shelters can help you find your dog soul mate. While you may have practical considerations – maybe your apartment building doesn’t allow dogs over a certain size – be as flexible as possible. You may go in looking for a puppy who is female and white and fluffy but walk out with a 30 pound male beagle mix because when you looked at him he gave you that special look and stole your heart.

Have everyone in the family meet the potential pet, especially the dog currently living with you. Once you have found a dog that you think is suitable for your family, make sure everyone who lives in the house comes together to visit. It’s very important to see how your new dog will interact with the whole family. For dog to dog meetings, someone at the shelter should help you with the introductions, and tell you what to watch for. You want the process to be as peaceful as possible.

Be patient. Once you adopt a dog it may take awhile for the dog to fully settle into your house. It’s estimated that a dog doesn’t become fully at home for about three months. It may take even longer if there’s has been a lot of disruption in the dog’s life. Don’t just open the door and expect perfection. You may have some issues with eliminating inside or chewing things. Your new dog just needs to be shown what to do, so start training your dog. Group classes can be really helpful.

Finally, don’t beat yourself up. Sometimes adoptions don’t work out. While this can be traumatizing for you, if it’s not working and you’ve given it your all, surrendering your dog may be the only solution. Reputable shelters will always accept a dog back, and just because it didn’t work out for you, that doesn’t mean the dog isn’t a great fit for someone else.


What’s it like when you hit the rescue dog jackpot? Click here to find out. 





Why I decided to become a dog trainer

Sunday night. Oh yeah.
This goofball is Chester. He’s part of the reason I want to train dogs.

By Bill Mayeroff

I was never “supposed” to be a dog trainer.

I studied political journalism. I spent my first five years after college as a newspaper reporter covering a host of different beats. After leaving the paper, I came back to Chicago and tried to do journalism in a bunch of different ways. I freelanced. I worked as an editor at two different magazines. I really tried to make it.

But no matter how much I tried, the journalism game kept chewing me up and spitting me out. I wasn’t happy with it anymore. I’d spent so much of my life trying to do one thing and that thing was no longer what I wanted.

One of the jobs I did for extra cash while freelancing was walking dogs. And I realized something: It was perfect. I got to spend my days walking around with some of the coolest dogs in Chicago. I got to get paid for doing that. And it hit me:

Dogs. I had to work with dogs.

I’d never actually WORKED with dogs before. I’d had family dogs my whole life and adopted a dog of my own in late 2011. But I’d never done anything with dogs in a professional capacity.

Now, anyone who’s worked as a dog walker knows that making a living that way is not easy. And I knew that if I just walked dogs, I’d probably get bored after a while. So what to do? 

A friend of mine – a FetchFind alumna, in fact (though it was CanineLink back then) – named Sarah inadvertently provided the answer. She would tell me all the time about the cool things she was learning in her classes and how much she loved training dogs. 

I’d taken my dog, Chester, to obedience classes and knew that it was fun and a great bonding experience for us. But again, I’d never thought about doing it professionally. But the more I thought about it, the more I felt like it was perfect. 

So I picked Sarah’s brain and eventually set up a meeting with the fine folks at FetchFind (alliteration for the win). The day after that meeting, I signed up for my first FetchFind Academy class. 

And as a host of FetchFind people can tell you, I drank the Kool-Aid on day 1.

I felt like I was home. These were people who were taking their love of dogs and truly using it for the benefit of dogs and people alike. That’s what I wanted. And that’s what I’m getting. 

Beyond the people, the work is awesome. A big part of the Academy experience is observing training classes. I was lucky enough that in a couple of the classes I observed, the trainers actually let me participate and help and I discovered that not only was it insanely fun, I also had a knack for it. 

So here I am. I’ve got two classes under my belt and I’m about to start a third. When that class ends, I’ll be a dog trainer. And I can safely say I’m more excited by that prospect than I ever was about being a journalist, even when I was still excited by it. 

A lot of people ask me why I decided to be a dog trainer. When I really think about it, it’s simple: Training dogs makes me happy. It makes me happy in a way I never was in any of my traditional jobs. 

Bottom line: It just feels right. So I think I’ll stick with it. 


Look at these two handsome gents.

After five years as a newspaper reporter in western Illinois and two more as a freelancer in Chicago, Bill’s life has gone to the dogs in the best way possible. These days, Bill lives in Chicago with his terrier mix, Chester, and works at a small, no-kill animal shelter while he studies to be a professional dog trainer at FetchFind Academy. Bill also blogs about his two favorite things – dogs and beer – at Pints and Pups. 

It’s okay – he’s friendly!

Off-leash-dog-300x600By Nicole Stewart, CPDT-KA

As I was walking down the street the other day, I heard this:

“No! Stop your dog! Get your dog! Nooo!”

and then, “I’m sorry! Ralph! Ralph! Come! Ralph! RALPH!”

As I looked up, I saw a pretty friendly-looking Lab running off-leash towards a woman and her on-leash dog. The woman was obviously frightened about this strange dog heading for her dog. The owner of the Lab collected him in time, and the crisis was averted.

  • Was she worried because her dog is not friendly?
  • Was she scared because she didn’t know if the other dog was friendly?
  • Was she simply vigilant because all dogs are required to be on leash?
  • Was her dog hurt? Did she know the other dog? Did she know the other owner?

Does any of that matter?

Yes, of course it does, but the important part is to know how to manage this situation as it occurs. It’s never ideal because the off-leash dog is a wild card, but here are some ideas to keep in your dog walking toolbox:

  • Have good treats with you on the walk and, if needed, throw them at the oncoming dog. There is a good chance that the dog will take interest in the treats and give you a chance to get further away. Distance may decrease the dog’s interest in you, or give the other owner time to get to their dog.
  • Carry a stick or umbrella with you, especially if this happens regularly. Waving the stick or opening the umbrella may stop the dog in their tracks or get them to retreat.
  •  Don’t forget that a dog may be trained to Sit, Down or Stay, and though you never know what they know in this very heightened context, it’s worth a try to stick out your hand, call out “Sit” or “Stay”. They may stop.
  • Don’t run. This may only cause the other dog’s prey drive to kick in.
  •  Try to stay calm. Your dog is only going to feed off your anxiety and that leash not only connects you physically, but emotionally as well.
  • As a last resort – and it’s not ideal – if the strange dog gets to your dog and your dog is of comparable size, you need to drop the leash and let them defend themselves until you can get help. When one dog is on-leash and the other off, the one who is on-leash is severely handicapped at this point. You need to let them use their whole body to communicate and deal with the other dog.

Do you have any other tips or things that you’ve tried when approached by an off-leash dog?


Nicole-Stewart-and-Finlay-220x300Nicole Stewart, CPDT-KA, is the Director of Training at AnimalSense / Paradise4Paws.  She strongly believes that dog training is as much about the people as it is about the dogs. Her favorite place to be is at home with her human family and her steady Clumber Spaniel, Finlay.

This post was previously published on the AnimalSense blog. 

Urban coyotes get protection (of a sort) in Chicago

Dru Bloomfield/

By Lynn Brezina, CPDT-KA

The Chicago City Council recently voted to protect the urban coyote population by not targeting them for trapping or removal. The lead sponsor of the bill, Alderman Brian Hopkins, cited evidence that “… coyotes were rarely aggressive, while serving as predator for rats and geese.” Except in cases where an individual coyote is perceived as posing a threat, Chicago Animal Care and Control will leave them alone.

We have all heard stories about coyotes known to attack, or being suspected of attacks on, family pets. I have heard a number of people express a growing concern about their own safety when coyotes are around. It seems that coyotes have made a rather bad impression on a lot of people.

As a dog trainer, my first two concerns are people and their pet dogs and cats. To that end, I have summarized current urban coyote research and provided a few tips that will help reduce risks for you and your pets where coyotes are concerned.

I am an experienced dog trainer, and I study and specialize in dog behavior. I am not going to hold myself out as a coyote expert for the purpose of this blog, or attempt to address issues that might involve coyote populations in other urban areas. Instead, I will rely on the expertise of the people who have been tracking coyotes in Cook County, Illinois for the past 15 years: the Urban Coyote Research Project, led by Ohio State University biologist Stanley Gehrt.

In a 2015 interview, Gehrt made some points which are pertinent to the safety of our pets and us:

  • Coyotes have adapted well to the Cook County urban environment.
  • Their numbers range from 2,000 to possibly as many as 4,000 individuals.
  • They are having larger litters than they typically have in rural areas.
  • They are living longer (some can live to 12 years of age).
  • The diet of coyotes is primarily mice and voles.
  • The risk to us is low.
  • While across North America there is an average of 3-5 minor bites to humans, there have been no reported bites to humans in Cook County during the period of this study. Coyotes tend to avoid humans.
  • Coyotes are territorial, and their territories do not overlap. Coyotes instinctively seek to eliminate competitors; however, for some reason, coyotes are avoiding dogs.

My advice to you to reduce the risk to you and your pets:

  • Do not feed the coyotes! Feeding coyotes increases the risk of a bite. Not only does this practice attract coyotes, they can become habituated to humans, meaning they are less afraid, and so are more willing to come in closer for that food. Coyotes are doing well on their own. Clearly, they do not need us to feed them.
  • Do not leave your pets unattended outside. This is never a good idea. Besides increasing the risk of a coyote attack, there are numerous other reasons why I would tell you it is unwise to leave pets unattended in the yard.
  • Go about your business. Gehrt advises us to always act dominant to a coyote during an encounter, because that ensures they remain afraid of us. I have had numerous encounters with coyotes, and we both just went on about our business without harm to either side. I would rely on their tendency to avoid us, and not encourage people to threaten or try to run off a coyote. (On the other hand, you don’t want to scream and run away.) In most cases your safest strategy is to remain calm, try to keep your distance, and go on about your business. If you feel you are being threatened, call the police.



Lynn Brezina, CPDT-KA, is the owner of CompanionAbility LLC, a Chicago-based dog training company.  In addition to being an instructor at FetchFind Academy, she is also a behavior consultant at AnimalSense Canine Training & Behavior and a Canine Good Citizen evaluator. She currently shares her home with border collie Fayette, cats Taz and Topaz, guinea pig Cannoli, husband Dave, and daughter Caroline.