“Dog Town”, Another Barking Great Read

DogTown: Tales of Rescue, Rehabilitation, and Redemption Stefan Bechtel


The BlurbA national rescue organization with more than 200,000 members, DogTown is the area where dogs live at the nation’s largest companion animal sanctuary run by Best Friends Animal Society. This informative, inspiring book presents representative stories of dogs considered unadoptable by other shelters. They come from many backgrounds: some were abandoned; some prowled the streets as strays; others suffer from mysterious illnesses, serious injuries, or antisocial behaviors that discourage potential adopters. But good fortune led them to Best Friends and the dedicated people devoted to helping them recover and find welcoming homes.

These compelling, winningly illustrated true stories, each uniquely moving and inspirational, draw upon the experience of veterinarians, trainers, and volunteers to probe a range of tough, touching cases that evoke both the joy and the occasional but inevitable heartbreak that accompanies this work. Each chapter follows a dog from the first day at Dogtown until he ultimately finds (or doesn’t find) a permanent new home, focusing both on the relationship between the dog and the Dogtown staff and on the latest discoveries about animal health and behavior. We learn how dogs process information, how trauma affects their behavior, and how people can help them overcome their problems. In the end, we come to see that there are no “bad dogs” and that with patience, care, and compassion, people can help dogs to heal.

What I Thought:

Sometimes I avoid dog books because I become upset when reading of an animal’s suffering and the cruel things people can do to them. However, I’m happy to report that this isn’t one of those books that focus’ on the suffering – it rather focus’s on the dog’s recovery and it’s “happily ever after”. It is filled with life affirming moments both from the actions of the wonderful staff and the dogs themselves. Even when dealing with a death there is great solace that the dog found its way to a place where it could experience happiness, comfort and a fulfilled life.

After reading this I too want to pack up and head to DogTown to not only help out in caring for the animals, but to also meet the amazing, dedicated people who care for them.


Phoebe’s Effectiveness Summary:

Issue Addressed: Rescue Dogs, Various Behavioural Issues

Tool(s) Used: Book Resource

Cost: I got the kindle edition from amazon.com for $5.79

Ease of Implementation: Not applicable. Though there were some really great tips in the book, these are aimed more at dog owners and inspiring them when things are tough, as opposed to a “how-to” guide.

Phoebe’s Effectiveness Rating: 5/5. Effective mainly because it inspired me to carry on and realise that there honestly is a light at the end of the tunnel and that with time and effort I just know we’ll get there – she’s already made so much progress!


Have you read the Dogtown book, or seen the TV series? What do you think of it?

What is the Canine Good Citizen Test?

What is this Canine Good Citizen (CGC) stuff, anyway? Regular readers of the blog will know that as part of our hard work with Phoebe to overcome her fears and reactivity, we’ve been completing some of the Canine Good Citizen Tests. You can read about how well she did at the Bronze CGC Test in 2013, as well as the Silver CGC Test in 2014.

In the posts I tried to give as full a description of the test as possible, but words still don’t paint as great a picture as an actual video. This great YouTube clip shows exactly what the Bronze Level Canine Good Citizen entails for those who are interested in learning more about the test.


As you can see, the tests are all quite simple, but require that your dog and you have a great bond and that he listens to you, with understanding of expectations. When you see each item you can also see where each of these would become useful in everyday situations, like walking with sudden noises in a street, getting a veterinary / groomers examination etc – which is after all the main aim of the test.

For a dog like Phoebe to pass these simple, yet important requirements has made me so proud of her. With her unknown history and various reactivity and fear based issues these tests have made identifying goals and progress so much easier for us on our journey to recovery. We’re even busy practicing for the Gold Level CGC!

This test is one that I highly recommend that every owner should do – whether formally through an accredited tester, or even at home by reading the tests and practicing them all whenever you get the chance. Both you and your dog will be happier for the quality time spent working together!

Phoebe’s Effectiveness Summary:

Issue Addressed: Obedience, Focus

Tool(s) Used: Obedience Training and Behavioural Training

Cost: Moderate

Ease of Implementation: Moderate

Phoebe’s Effectiveness Rating: 5/5. To read the full “effectiveness” review you can refer back to the posts on achieving the Bronze and Silver Certifications I wrote up about Phoebe.


So what do you think? Can you see the effectiveness of a qualification like this?

Blogtober Day 28: Any advice for future / present dog owners?

10 canine commandments

Phoebe says:

I won’t harp on about the obvious parts of being a dog owner (or Pet Parent as my Mom puts it), as I’m just going to go ahead and assume that everyone knows that food, vet checks, water etc are the basic essentials. My advice is more about become a parent to a Rescue Dog, as this is my own experience.

My top things for you to consider are:

  1. Know that rescue/shelter dogs are all capable of loving and being loved. You may need a little more patience with us in the beginning, but we’re just as full of love as the next dog!
  2. Understand that it may take time for us to be 100% comfortable in our new surroundings and relationships. We can’t tell you about everything that happened in our past to make us scared and fearful, but if you’re kind, patient and observant you’ll soon see what we are trying to tell you and what we need help with.
  3. Get professional help when you aren’t sure what is wrong with us. Remember that a single visit to a Vet, Behaviourist or Trainer could easily solve most problems in no time!


Cooper says:

I’m not usually one to give advice, but I think some important things for you to remember when getting a new (adopted) dog are:

  1. Don’t be afraid of adopting a rescue or shelter dog. It’s true that many shelter and rescue dogs have long and sad histories, but I think this is a big problem that created a stereotype of us by many well meaning rescue organisations. Some dogs are perfectly fine, puppies are a clean slate, and sometimes we end up in kennels because our owners got very ill, passed away, or had to move unexpectedly – many of us know love and a warm house, so being in shelter is scary for us, but being in a home again is second nature! Take me for instance – I’m not going to pretend I’m perfect (but who is?!), but I’ve known love and protection so I’m not scared, I just have a few dog greeting issues because I missed out on proper socialisation!
  2. Think long and hard if you are ready for the challenges that a new dog may present. Take the ability for them to socialise with other dogs, cats and children into account, and be ready to either work with a behaviourist to solve them, or take other measures to keep everyone involved safe and secure.
  3. Spay and neuter. Seriously. Unless you area registered breeder and have homes for all the puppies you are breeding, there’s no reason to overpopulate!


Mom says:


  1. Good for the Body: The obvious. Most of our dogs are cooped up in our yards with no access to the outside world. They also need to stretch their legs and get a gulp of fresh air!
  2. Good for the Mind: A bored dog is a destructive and “naughty” dog. Keeping their brain exercised comes not only from physical activity, but also from puzzle toys such as muffin pan games and Kongs.
  3. Good for the Soul: Some dogs have very real afflictions that cause them to feel more than just bored or “blue”. Examples of these are severe anxiety and Separation Anxiety. A good walk can help the dog tremendously.


You can view the complete Blogtober Challenge here

Blogtober Day 24: Any plans on having kids?


Phoebe says:

No. Nope. Niet. Nee. Nada. Definitely not. And besides, I’m a rescue dog so the first place that took us in made sure we were all spayed and neutered. And I’m happy they did – being a Mom has never been on my to do list!


Cooper says:

No way Jose! Luckily I was neutered at a young age, so I have never, and will never be responsible for more puppies running about…. Even if I know how handsome they would be if they had my genes! 😉