Shared Blog Post – Cats Domesticated Themselves, Ancient DNA Shows – from National Geographic

This June 19th article from National Geographic reports “In a new comprehensive study of the spread of domesticated cats, DNA analysis suggests that cats lived for thousands of years alongside humans before they were domesticated. During that time, their genes have changed little from those of wildcats, apart from picking up one recent tweak: the distinctive stripes and dots of the tabby cat.” –

Pet Nutrition – Zignature Limited Ingredient Dog Food

Green Acres Kennel Shop is pleased to offer Zignature Dog Foods; nutrition formulated with limited ingredients.

< Updated 3JUL17 >

You might want to consider Zignature if:

  • Your dog has allergy issues like skin sensitivity, itchiness, and stinky ears
  • Your dog is overweight
  • Your dog is diabetic
  • Your dog has the scoots and needs more fiber
  • You want to be able to be able to easily rotate your dog’s diet among various protein’s
  • You want a dog food with a frequent buyer program
  • You want to feed your dog both dry and canned food
  • You are currently feeding; California Natural, Canidae Pure, Natural Balance, or Merrick Limited Ingredient dog food

Allergy Issues – What Makes Zignature Different

Food allergies or intolerances are a serious problem with some dogs and are usually triggered by the protein source. Zignature does not use chicken in any form (chicken, chicken meal, chicken fat, or eggs), in any of its diets because consumers are concerned that dogs are becoming allergic to chicken due to the overuse of chicken in dog foods. It is a fact that chicken has been the predominant protein and fat source used in dog foods for many years. Another reason Zignature refuses to use chicken is the reality that most of the chicken that ends up in dog food comes from large commercial farms where the chickens are raised using significant amounts of antibiotics and hormones. By avoiding the use of chicken, Zignature is protecting your dog from overexposure to antibiotics and hormones.

Dogs with allergy or food intolerance issues need a limited ingredient diet, in fact, the fewer ingredients in their food, the better it is for them. With Zignature, the first two ingredients are ALWAYS protein: animal protein from a single source backed by the same protein in the form of a meal. Zignature offers a wide variety of protein sources; Catfish, Duck, Kangaroo, Lamb, Pork, Salmon, Trout, Turkey, Venison, and Whitefish.

Weight Management – What Makes Zignature Different

Like humans, dogs have a weight problem. Approximately 50% of all dogs are overweight, and about 1 out of 500 dogs are affected with Diabetes.

Zignature is one of the only grain free dog foods that does not use high caloric carbohydrates with a high glycemic index in their foods. You will not find potato, tapioca, corn, or wheat in any Zignature formula. Instead, Zignature uses low glycemic legumes such as whole Chickpeas which promote stable blood sugar and provide valuable dietary fiber. This means that Zignature diets have a low glycemic index, making them an ideal choice for dogs that are overweight or that have been diagnosed with diabetes.

Zignature formulas are one of the few dog foods that have been certified by the Glycemic Research Institute as being a “Certified Low Glycemic Canine Food.” The Glycemic Rating for several Zignature formulas is noted below.

Formula Glycemic Rating
Zignature Turkey 9.8
Zignature Lamb 10.4
Zignature Trout 10.6
Zignature Kangaroo 11.9
Zignature Duck 12.0
Zignature Whitefish 12.1
Zignature Zssential 12.5

Zignature uses Garden Peas and Chickpeas/Garbanzo Beans as Low Glycemic binders in their dry food formulas. The advantages of those ingredients are noted below.

Garden Peas (15 on the Glycemic Index)

Peas are a great source of Vitamins B, C, and A, fiber, and vitamin K. Peas are one of the few plants that can use nitrogen from the air which helps to reduce the amount of chemical fertilizers used by farmers.

Chickpea or Garbanzo Beans (33 on the Glycemic Index)

Chickpeas are a grain-free, gluten-free starch source. This nutritious ingredient is made from a leguminous plant – Garbanzos – Chickpeas contain vitamin C, A, E, D and K, riboflavin, niacin. pantothenic acid and B vitamins.

Itchiness – What Makes Zignature Different

Many dogs do not itch because of allergies but because of yeast infections. Symptoms of excess yeast can include; ear infections, skin infections, paw irritability, and odor. A contributing factor to Candida yeast infections is the high carbohydrate content of dry dog foods. Potato, Tapioca, and Gluten are all high in sugar, a food source for the yeast infecting your dog. Zignature uses carbohydrates like Garden Peas and Chickpeas which have a low glycemic index, which means they contain less sugar to feed the yeast.

Protein Sources and Levels – What Makes Zignature Different

Your dog is a carnivore, and that means they need and benefit from high-quality protein in their diet. Zignature has a higher percentage of meat protein than many other dog foods.

Formula Percent Protein
Catfish 32%
Duck 27%
Kangaroo 26%
Lamb 28%
Pork 31%
Salmon 29%
Trout 30%
Turkey 31%
Venison 27%
Whitefish 29%
Zssential 32%

Ingredients – What Makes Zignature Different

  • Zignature is one of the only grain free dog foods without potato, tapioca, chicken, chicken fat, or eggs.
  • The first two ingredients in every Zignature formula are ALWAYS protein: animal protein backed by the same protein source as a meal
  • All dry kibbles need to use non-protein and fat sources to bind their food. Zignature uses peas, chickpeas, alfalfa mean, blueberries, carrots, cranberries and flax seed to bind their kibble.
  • Antioxidant-rich fruits & vegetables:
    • Cranberries: Powerful antioxidants, natural acidic properties that may support urinary tract health.
    • Blueberries: “Super foods for Dogs” Dogs with blueberries in their diet have been known to have lower fat cholesterol and triglycerides.
    • Carrots: A great source of necessary vitamins, minerals, and carotenoids to help support immune and digestive health. May also support proper skin and eye health.
  • Flax Seed: Contains higher levels of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) than fish oil, and contains omega-6 fatty acids. Flax seed oil has been used for years to maintain a healthy skin and coat in pets.
  • Alfalfa: One of the richest mineral foods on earth, promotes proper digestion and fresh breath.
  • Sunflower oil: This oil is exceptionally high in Linolenic an omega-3 fatty acid and helps dry skin and promotes a healthy coat.

Fiber and the “scoots” – What Makes Zignature Different

Zignature is higher in fiber, 4.5% to 6.5%, depending on the formula, than most dog foods. The increased level of fiber makes for healthier anal glands, and more importantly, a higher fiber percentage helps to clean out the colon, reduce toxins and helps keep our dogs regular. Zignature uses higher quality sources of fiber (alfalfa meal and flaxseed), as opposed to some food companies that use powdered cellulose (sawdust) or peanut hulls.

Physiologically Tuned™ Diet – What Makes Zignature Different

Zignature describes their food as being Physiologically Tuned™. What that means is this; meat or fish is always the first ingredient, and they do not use troublesome staples such as Chicken, Corn, Wheat, Soy, and Potatoes. “The result is optimal hypo-allergenic, low glycemic nutrition. We build on this natural foundation by adding vital supplements such as antioxidants, essential fatty acids and a complete spectrum of vitamins and minerals for holistic pet food that goes beyond nature to become your pet’s signature food for life.”

Dietary Rotation – What Makes Zignature Different

Green Acres has been discussing the benefits of rotating your dog’s food for many years. Quite simply, if you have a healthy dog and change protein sources on a regular basis, your dog is less likely to become sensitized to a protein and develop a food intolerance. Zignature makes dietary rotation easy with their vast selection of protein sources; Catfish, Duck, Kangaroo, Lamb, Pork, Salmon, Trout, Turkey, Venison, and Whitefish.

Canned Food – What Makes Zignature Different

If you wish to feed your dog canned food or canned food plus dry food, Zignature has a matching canned formula. Zignature canned foods never use any gums (Carrageenan, Guar Gum, Locust Bean Gum) in their canned formulas. These gums can contribute to inflammation and irritable bowel disease.

Frequent Buyer Program – What Makes Zignature Different

Green Acres Kennel Shop is pleased to offer a frequent buyer program for Zignature. We keep track of your purchases in the store, and when you have purchased twelve bags of Zignature, you will qualify for a free bag.

What Users of Zignature are saying on Facebook

John Steph Real

LOVE your food! These are photos of Myles’ transformation on your diet. Now my other five dogs are on your food and I am seeing results as well! Look at it in a large format,you can see the reduction of staining in 4 months!

For more customer reviews of Zignature, visit the Zignature testimonial page at

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog (

Pet Nutrition – What Should I Feed My Pet?

Pet Nutrition: Some Myths and Facts – Part 1 – My story with Gus

Pet Nutrition: Some Myths and Facts – Part 2 – In the Spring 2017 issue of Maine DOG Magazine, Coming here soon! –

Pet Nutrition: Some Myths and Facts – Part 3 – Look for this article in the Summer 2017 issue of Maine DOG Magazine, Coming here soon! –

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show (

Podcast – Zignature Limited Ingredient Pet Food

Podcast – Pet Nutrition with Dr. Richard Patton

Podcast – Pet Fooled – A Look Inside A Questionable Industry with Kohl Harrington


©19JUN17, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
<Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

RECALL – Loving Pets Voluntarily Recalls Limited Lot Numbers of Air-Puffed Dog Treats Because of Possible Salmonella Health Risk

Select lots of Loving Pets Barksters™, Loving Pets Puffsters™, Whole Hearted™ have been voluntarily recalled by Loving Pets of Cranbury, NJ because of the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella. Specific lot numbers are noted below.

Per the FDA recall notice:


Salmonella can affect animals eating the products and there is risk to humans from handling contaminated pet products, especially if they have not thoroughly washed their hands after having contact with the products or any surfaces exposed to these products.”

“Healthy people infected with Salmonella should monitor themselves for some or all of the following symptoms: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping and fever. Rarely, Salmonella can result in more serious ailments, including arterial infections, endocarditis, arthritis, muscle pain, eye irritation, and urinary tract symptoms. Consumers exhibiting these signs after having contact with this product should contact their healthcare providers.”

“Pets with Salmonella infections may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. Some pets will have only decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain. Infected but otherwise healthy pets can be carriers and infect other animals or humans. If your pet has consumed the recalled product and has these symptoms, please contact your veterinarian.”

The lot numbers included are:

Loving Pets Barksters™

  • Item #5700 Sweet Potato and Chicken UPC 842982057005 – Lot # 021619
  • Item #5705 Brown Rice and Chicken UPC 842982057050 – Lot 021419

Loving Pets Puffsters™ Snack Chips

  • Item #5100 Apple and Chicken UPC 842982051003 – Lot 051219, 112118, 112918, 012719, 012519, 013019
  • Item #5110 Banana and Chicken UPC 842982051102 – Lot 112218, 112818, 112918, 013119
  • Item #5120 Sweet Potato and Chicken UPC 842982051201 – Lot 112818, 020119
  • Item #5130 Cranberry and Chicken UPC 842982051300 – Lot 020319, 112918, 020219

Whole Hearted™

  • Item #2570314 Chicken and Apple Puff Treats UPC 800443220696 – Lot 121418, 121918, 122318, 010419, 010619, 010519


Podcast – Summer Seasonal Pet Tips (2017)

<Click to listen to podcast>

Kate and Don discuss a variety of pet tips directly related to summer and the increasing temperature. They start off the show discussing how the heat and the sun can adversely affect our pets and how to keep your pet cool. They discuss what to consider when leaving your dog in the car during the summer months and why shaving a dogs fur to keep them cool is usually a bad idea. Then they switch to water safety, followed by talking about how to deal with bug bites, stings, ticks, heartworm, fleas, and seasonal allergies like those caused by tree and grass pollens. Then they move to chemicals like lawn fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, insecticides, rodenticides and all sorts of other “…cides” that are routinely used in our environment to kill something we do not like. Natural products, like Cedarcide, a safe product for tick control are also discussed. Next, they discuss the gatherings of friends and family that occur in the summer and how that may negatively affect your pet. Lastly, they talk about the pros and cons of traveling and vacationing with pets including steps you can take to make the experience more fun than exasperating.

For more information on these topics, check out Don’s blog (www.words-woofs-meows) and the post entitled Summer Pet Care Tips –

You can hear The Woof Meow Show on The Pulse AM620, WZON, and WKIT HD3 at 9 AM on Saturday. If you are not near a radio, listen on your computer at or your smartphone or tablet with the free WZON 620 AM app. A podcast of the show is typically posted immediately after the show and can be downloaded at and the Apple iTunes store.

<Click to listen to podcast>


©2017, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
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Podcast – Health and Wellness – Eileen Anderson Remember Me? – Loving and Caring for a Dog with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

<Click to Listen to Podcast>

Kate and Don talk with author Eileen Anderson about her book Remember Me – Loving and Caring for a Dog with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction. Like the author, Don and Kate have both lived with older dogs that developed cognitive dysfunction or what is often generically referred to as doggie dementia. No matter how old your dog is, we encourage you to tune into this show, so you are better prepared to recognize signs that your older dog needs some help.

<Click to Listen to Podcast>

To Learn More

Website – AND

©11JUN17, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
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RECALL – United Pet Group Voluntary Recalls Multiple Brands of Rawhide Chew Products

Rawhide chews marketed under the names American Beefhide, Digest-eeze, Healthy Hide, and Good ‘n’ Fun have been voluntarily recalled due to possible chemical contamination with a quaternary ammonium compound mixture as a processing aid in the manufacturing of rawhide chews. The primary complaint received from consumers was that the affected product had an unpleasant odor. Diarrhea and vomiting were also reported.

Exposure to quaternary ammonium compounds through direct ingestion may cause the following symptoms in dogs: reduced appetite, and gastric irritation including diarrhea and vomiting. These symptoms may require treatment by a veterinarian depending on severity.


Podcast – Health and Wellness – Herbs for Pets with Joyce Belcher of Pet Wellness Blends

<Click to Listen to Podcast>

Kate, and Don interview Joyce Belcher, a Certified Herbalist specializing in work with animals. Joyce is also the owner of Herbs for Life, Inc., of York Maine, which is a small batch manufacturer of handcrafted Organic Pet Supplements for Horses, Dogs and Cats marketed as Pet Wellness Blends™ and Veterinary Botanicals™.

<Click to Listen to Podcast>

To Contact Joyce

Herbs for Life, Inc.
162 State Rd Unit B
Kittery, ME 03904

Phone: 207-451-7093  800-510-9597

Shop Direct: 207-361-7468

Fax: 207-430-3098

Shop Hours: Tuesday-Friday 9:30 to 4:30 (Closed Saturday-Sunday-Monday)



FaceBook Page

©10JUN17, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
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Dangerous Dogs! – What Shelters, Rescues, Prospective Adopters, and Owners Need to Know

< Versions these articles were published in the MAY 2017 and JUNE 2017
Issues of Downeast Dog News>

<Updated 11JUN17>

These articles have been updated since they were published in the Downeast Dog News. I have added material at the end which discusses an incident which occurred in Virginia Beach, VA on June 1st where a 91-year-old woman was attacked and killed by a newly adopted rescue dog with a previous bite history.

What defines a dangerous dog? – Part 1

Last July I wrote the first of three columns addressing dog bites and fatalities after a seven-year-old boy died as a result of an attack by a dog. For the past few weeks, the news and social media have been abuzz with a rescue dog from the Waterville area (Dakota) that has attacked and killed a dog. This dog was scheduled for euthanasia, has been pardoned by the Governor, then the court reinstated the euthanasia order, and now this case has been appealed to a higher court, which means a final disposition of this case may not happen until this fall.

Dakota’s case has been emotionally charged, and I think it will be to the benefit of all dogs and dog lovers if we look at this case objectively. This is my attempt to do so.

So what defines a dangerous dog? Title 7, Section 3907, 12-D of the Maine statutes defines a dangerous dog as –  “Dangerous dog” means a dog or wolf hybrid that bites an individual or a domesticated animal who is not trespassing on the dog or wolf hybrid owner’s or keeper’s premises at the time of the bite or a dog or wolf hybrid that causes a reasonable and prudent person who is not on the dog or wolf hybrid owner’s or keeper’s premises and is acting in a reasonable and nonaggressive manner to fear imminent bodily injury by assaulting or threatening to assault that individual or individual’s domestic animal. “Dangerous dog” does not include a dog certified by the State and used for law enforcement use. “Dangerous dog” does not include a dog or wolf hybrid that bites or threatens to assault an individual who is on the dog or wolf hybrid owner’s or keeper’s premises if the dog or wolf hybrid has no prior history of assault and was provoked by the individual immediately prior to the bite or threatened assault.” [Emphasis added]

The definition above makes it clear that if a dog bites a person or a domesticated animal they meet Maine’s legal criteria of being a “dangerous dog.” In fact, based on the above definition the mere act of exhibiting threatening behavior, without actually biting, would meet the definition of being dangerous. While the law does not specifically address whether or not a dog that kills a person or a domesticated animal is dangerous; it seems that the logical conclusion would be that a dog that kills is extremely dangerous.

The legal community and canine behavior professionals have been using a bite scale developed by Dr. Ian Dunbar for many years. The scale is an objective assessment of the severity of dog bites based on an evaluation of wound pathology. It starts off with Level 1, which is described as “Fearful, aggressive, or obnoxious behavior but no skin-contact by teeth. [Emphasis added]” The Dunbar bite scale is very similar to Maine law which declares that a dog that is threatening may be considered as dangerous.

Dr. Dunbar rates the prognosis of rehabilitating a dog with a Level 1 to Level 2 bite as good and a level 3 bite as fair. However, Dr. Dunbar states that a dog exhibiting a Level 4 bite (a single bite with at least one puncture) is dangerous with a poor prognosis for rehabilitation. Dogs that have bitten at Level 5 (multiple bites and severe mutilation) through Level 6 (the victim is killed) are considered to be dangerous by Dr. Dunbar and have a dire prognosis for rehabilitation. I believe Maine’s law on dangerous dogs could be improved by incorporating Dr. Dunbar’s bite scale.

In this article from 2012, the late Dr. Sophia Yin describes her approach to evaluating dog bites based on Dr. Dunbar’s bite scale. –


If the court finds that a dog is dangerous as defined above, the law dictates that the court shall impose a fine and:

  • Order the dog confined in a secure enclosure except as provided in paragraph C or subsection 8. For the purposes of this paragraph, “secure enclosure” means a fence or structure of at least 6 feet in height forming or making an enclosure suitable to prevent the entry of young children and suitable to confine a dangerous dog in conjunction with other measures that may be taken by the owner or keeper, such as tethering the dangerous dog. The secure enclosure must be locked, be designed with secure top, bottom and sides and be designed to prevent the animal from escaping from the enclosure. The court shall specify the length of the period of confinement and may order permanent confinement; [2011, c. 82, §1 (AMD).]”
  • “Order the dog to be euthanized if it has killed, maimed or inflicted serious bodily injury upon a person or has a history of a prior assault or a prior finding by the court of being a dangerous dog; or [2011, c. 82, §1 (AMD).]”
  • “Order the dog to be securely muzzled, restricted by a tether not more than 3 feet in length with a minimum tensile strength of 300 pounds and under the direct control of the dog’s owner or keeper whenever the dog is off the owner’s or keeper’s premises. [2011, c. 82, §1 (NEW).]”
  • The court may also choose to order restitution to the injured parties.

I love dogs and hate to see a dog lose its life to natural causes or state-mandated euthanasia; however, I also hate to see a person or another animal attacked and even possibly killed by a dog. The fact is not all dogs that exhibit aggression can be rehabilitated and are safe to be rehomed. We need to have equal concern for the community at large as we do for any individual dog.

This case leaves me with questions for which I do not have an answer. If Dakota is released, who will be legally, financially and morally liable for any future aggression by Dakota? The courts, the Governor, those who have evaluated Dakota and insist he will be safe in the future, Dakota’s owner, or all of the above?

Next month I will delve into this issue further, discussing the obligations those that rehome a dangerous dog and the responsibilities of someone who adopts a dangerous dog.

Dangerous Dogs – Part 2

Responsibilities of Shelters/Rescues, Prospective Dog Owners, and Dog Owners

Last month I discussed the definition of a dangerous dog as defined by Maine state law. I also described the bite scale developed my Dr. Ian Dunbar. I use the Dunbar bite scale when assessing the severity of a bite as do other canine behavior consultants and attorneys. As I indicated last month, per Maine law and Dr. Dunbar’s bite scale, a dog that merely threatens can be considered dangerous and can be classified as a dangerous dog.


I appreciate the effort made by shelters and rescues to find homeless and wonderful dogs a new forever home; however, I believe that first and foremost, shelters and rescues have a responsibility to act in the best interest of their local community. That means:

  • Management and all employees and volunteers responsible for adoptions have been trained on Dr. Dunbar’s bite levels as well as Maine state law covering dangerous dogs.
  • They have, and they follow, detailed written policies on the adoption of dogs with a bite history that indicate when and why they will adopt and when and why they will not adopt.
  • They provide full disclosure of any bite history or behavioral issues with any dog they adopt. They NEVER fail to disclose information, such as a bite history, in an attempt to make a dog more adoptable.
  • If a dog in their care has bitten at level 3 or greater, they will not make that dog available for adoption until they have the dog evaluated by a veterinarian, with behavioral experience, that is independent of their organization. Additionally, they will consider having these dogs evaluated by a dog behavior consultant credentialed by; the Animal Behavior Society (ABS), the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC), or the Pet Professional Accreditation Board (PPAB).
  • If they adopt dogs with a Level 3 or higher bite, they will counsel the adopters before the adoption and provide them with all the information necessary to keep them, their family, and the community safe. This includes making sure that the adopter understands their legal liability for keeping a dangerous dog.
  • They have a written return policy which clearly indicates that an adopter can return a dog at any time, for any reason, with no questions asked.
  • They will have policies in place that support the AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines and will not use or refer to dog behavior consultants or dog trainers that use aversive training techniques and tools.
  • They have a euthanasia policy that clearly indicates that despite their best wishes not all dogs can be successfully rehabilitated and rehomed and that there are times when euthanasia is not only the safest option for the community but is also the most humane and kind option for the dog.

Potential Dog Owners & Dog Owners

Most people who are looking for a dog to bring into their family are looking for a well-mannered companion. They are not looking for a dog that could be a potential threat to their family or their neighbors. That is why adopting a dog or keeping a dog with a known bite history requires careful consideration. It is not a decision that should be made lightly because living with such a dog will require a great deal of work and also involves a certain level of unknown risk.

Potential Dog Owners

If you are thinking about adopting a dog with a bite history or other significant behavioral issues, I suggest that before you commit to the adoption/purchase that you do the following:

  • Consult with your veterinarian and get their advice and input on how well they believe this dog, and its issues will fit into your family and environment. If you do not have a veterinarian because this is your first dog or the first dog in a long time, keep looking for a dog without a bite history or behavioral baggage. There are many dogs looking for homes that are not biters and that do not have behavioral issues, being patient and taking the time to find a better fit, makes sense, especially if this is your first dog.
  • Consult with a dog behavior consultant credentialed by; the Animal Behavior Society (ABS), the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC), or the Pet Professional Accreditation Board (PPAB). Bite issues and most behavioral problems do not resolve on their own or through training. Taking the time to seek advice from a professional canine behavior consultant before you commit to an adoption is like taking a used car to an independent mechanic for an evaluation before you purchase the car. Taking this step may save you a great deal of time, money, and grief.
  • If you have kids, elderly parents, or other animals in your home and on your property, keep looking, a dog with a bite history is not the dog for you.
  • Make sure all the adults in the home support the decision to get this dog. No one should be forced to live in a home where he or she is afraid of the dog and is concerned about being bitten.
  • Make sure that you have a written document from the shelter/rescue that states that you can return a dog at any time, for any reason, with no questions asked.
Dog Owners

If you already have a dangerous dog read my April column “Help! My Dog is Aggressive, Reactive, Fearful, Anxious, etc. – What do I do?” –

My Story with Aggression & a Serious Bite

By definition, I have owned and lived with a “dangerous dog,” Shortly after our Golden Retriever Tikken turned three she began to show aggression towards other dogs. In the summer of 2000, she attacked and severely injured our Pekinese, Crystal. We immediately sought veterinary advice and began treating Tikken. Over the next three years we worked with our local veterinarian, the veterinary behavior team at Tufts University, applied behaviorist Patricia McConnell, and with homeopathic veterinarian Dr. Judy Herman. We eventually helped Tikken through this ordeal, but it was only after extensive treatment and three plus years of close supervision. We had ten wonderful years together after Tikken’s full recovery, but that came after three very tense and stressful years. While living with a dog with a severe bite history can be done, it requires a level of financial and emotional commitment that is not something everyone will be able to undertake.  FMI –


Since I wrote part 2 of this column in May, a tragic and fatal incident occurred on June 1st in Virginia Beach, VA when a 90-year-old woman was attacked by a dog that had just been adopted by the family from the Forever Home Rehabilitation Center. The news media indicated that the woman underwent surgery including the amputation of an arm, before dying from her injuries. <>. Apparently the dog had bitten a child multiple times in a previous home. The rescue had allegedly “rehabilitated” the dog before placing it.

When asked to comment, the Forever Home Rehabilitation Center released this statement: “We send out our deepest condolences to the Patterson family who adopted Blue. Blue went through our 3 month board and train program, and was a favorite amongst all of the staff members and volunteers. Blue loved other dogs, and didn’t know a stranger. He never showed any aggression while at our facility, and passed his final evaluation with flying colors before being adopted out to the Patterson family.[Emphasis Added] Trainers spent yesterday morning checking over Blue’s new home and going over training with Blue’s new owner. There were 2 other dogs in Blue’s new home, who Blue immediately bonded with. We do not know what events transpired in the moments before this tragedy occurred with Blue’s owners mother, and none of us could have ever predicted this horrible event. We are devastated for the Patterson family and our thoughts and prayers go out to them.” I have placed part of the above statement in bold because it demonstrates that a behavioral evaluation is not a guarantee that a dog will be safe. Unfortunately, some shelters and rescues do not emphasize that an assessment or evaluation is only a snapshot of that dog’s behavior at that moment in time. Satisfactorily passing an “evaluation” does NOT guarantee the dog is safe, especially if they have a history of dangerous behavior involving multiple bites.

It has been alleged that the Forever Home Rehabilitation Center routinely uses remote shock collars and other aversive training techniques as part of their “rehabilitation” program. This is despite the fact that leading authorities on canine behavior such as the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, and the Pet Professional Guild all have specific position statements explicitly recommending against the use of aversives for training or behavior modification under any circumstances but especially for treating aggression, as these aversive techniques often cause aggression

Experts in the canine behavior and dog training community have been reacting to this attack.

Dr. Ilana Reisner, a veterinarian board-certified in behavioral medicine, wrote an excellent analysis on her Facebook page ( Dr. Reisner made several key points, and I would encourage you to read her entire post; however, since not everyone uses Facebook I wanted to highlight the following:

“1. The incident itself could have been an episode of impulsive, disinhibited, affective defensive aggression, or it could have been an example of toggle-switch predatory behavior. Vigorous shaking is intended to kill the victim, but that does not always imply that the attack started as a predatory event. Aggression is common, biting is common, but the character of aggression in this episode is not at all common. [Emphasis added]

“4. The Forever Home Rehabilitation Center, which I have never visited, freely posts pictures of its use of remote shock collars and prong/pinch collars. The website description uses terms linked to Cesar Millan, such as “rehabilitation”, “our pack”, “balanced”, and “calm, relaxed”. Without knowing more about the details of their dog management and training, it is reasonable to assume that they train with a generous amount of punishment through shock and perhaps flooding, two of Millan’s well-known tools. Such handling is associated with defensive aggression, fear, arousal, stress and learned helplessness. Blue’s experience at the Center, which might have included long-term suppression (through shock or other corrections) might have contributed to the attack. Three months is certainly long enough to alter brain chemistry in a predisposed individual. [Emphasis added]

5. In my opinion and experience, it may be unrealistic or just impossible to “rehabilitate” all aggressive dogs to the point of “calm, relaxed” behavior. This is a euphemism for learned helplessness or being shut down. Even shut down dogs can be switched back on.” [Emphasis added]

Temperament testing – whatever that means for each facility or rescue – cannot prevent or predict explosive, disinhibited aggression. Unfortunate, but true. It can’t reliably predict even inhibited, “appropriate” aggression such as one-bite resource guarding in the long-term. [Emphasis added]

I believe the shock collar training and “rehabilitation” might have contributed to the behavior. The training methods apparently used in such facilities are likely to do harm. However, I do not believe the attack resulted from the removal of the shock collar. It might not have interrupted the attack even if it was still on. [Emphasis added]

Lisa Mullinax of 4Paws University has posted an excellent article on her blog entitled Bad Rescue Hurts Dogs < >. I completely agree with t her article and would encourage you to read it in its entirety, especially if you are part of a shelter or rescue. The gist of Lisa’s article is that not all rescues and shelters are as knowledgeable about canine behavior as they would have you believe, and as a result, they end up placing dangerous dogs in inappropriate homes.

In her article The Perils of Placing Marginal Dogs Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC) Trish McMillan Loehr discusses her philosophy that “…that shelters should be where people come to get the best dogs, not to become expert trainers or to have their bank accounts drained.” < >

Almost every canine professional I know has a horror story to tell, in some cases many more than one, about the placement of a dangerous dog with severe aggression issues. Sadly, when this occurs, those adopters are unlikely to seek out a rescue dog again. That hurts those dogs without behavioral issues and shelters and rescues that are doing things well and trying to find forever homes for those dogs.

In conclusion, please understand that not all dangerous dogs can be rehabilitated and made safe. Shelters and rescues need to be responsible members of the community in which they rescue and rehome dogs and should err on the side of safety. If a shelter or rescue has knowledge to suggest that there is any probability of a dog being dangerous, then they should be prepared to accept full legal and financial responsibility for placing a dog that they knew was dangerous or suspected might be dangerous.


Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog (

Dog Behavior – Dog Bite Fatalities & Dog Bites – Parts 1, 2, and 3

Dog Bites – Dr. Sophia Yin – Canine Bite Levels

Reward Based Training versus Aversives

Help! My Dog is Aggressive, Reactive, Fearful, Anxious, etc. – What do I do?

Tikken – Vaccines, Aggression & Homeopathy

Adopting A Pet – Finding the Right Dog for You and Your Family


Other websites, blogs and Facebook

Woman in her 90s dies after Pit Bull attack in Virginia Beach

Was It Just a Little Bite or More? Evaluating Bite Levels in Dogs –

Dr. Ian Dunbar’s Dog Bite Scale (Official Authorized Version) –

Bad Rescue Hurts Dogs

Dr. Ilana Reisner on June 1st Dog Attack in Virginia Beach, FL

The Perils of Placing Marginal Dogs

Rescue Decisions: The Dog, or the Community?

Rescue Group Best Practices Guide

2015 American Animal Hospital Association Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines –

The Guiding Principles of the Pet Professional Guild –

The Pet Professional Guild Position Statement on the Use of Pet Correction Devices –

The Pet Professional Guild Position Statement on the Use of Choke and Prong Collars –

The Pet Professional Guild Position Statement on the Use of Shock In Animal Training –

The Pet Professional Guild Position Statement on the Use of Dominance Theory in Animal Training –

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) Position Statement on the Use of Dominance Theory in Behavior Modification of Animals –

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) Position Statement on The Use of Punishment for Behavior Modification in Animals –

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show (


Podcast – Dog Bites and Fatalities with Janis Bradley (Updated 15AUG16)

Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – Green Acres Kennel Shop’s “Pet-Friendly” Philosophy

Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – The Pet Professional Guild and Force-Free Pet Care with Niki Tudge

Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – Fear-Free Veterinary Visits with Dr. Dave Cloutier from Veazie Veterinary Clinic

Pet Behavior, Vets & The AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines – Dr. Dave Cloutier – Veazie Veterinary Clinic

Finding the Right Dog for You and Your Family – Part 1

Finding the Right Dog for You and Your Family – Part 2

Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at Don also writes about pets at his blog:

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