This Jailhouse absolutely rocks !!!

Hoss chillin at the Ranch

We have had lots of people asking us about the Jaildogs programme this last couple of days, as so many of you saw mention of it on the messages on our facebook page and also saw pictures of Hoss and Hank, the two dogs we’ll be working with here at the ranch.
I thought I would just give you some brief details so that you can understand why, when we were asked, we literally jumped at the chance to be involved in this worthwhile programme.
Quite simply, the jaildogs programme is the absolute win win situation for behaviour modification for both humans and canines. Inmates at the jail are carefully screened before they can enter the programme to ensure their suitability to work with the animals, and those allowed to be a part of it then work with dogs that are pulled from Gwinnett Animal Control, learning to care for them, train them, feed them and live with them side by side.
Those of you who understand the concept of hospital therapy dogs and the benefit this has on patients will already grasp the importance of this programme and how life changing it can be; in this case, however, its even more important, because we are not just talking about reducing stress levels and providing a focus of calm love and companionship at the hospital. The jaildogs programme is literally about saving lives in a very direct and immediate way.
Because of overcrowding and the sheer numbers of dogs being given up or left to go stray, Animal Control simply cannot house them all and so many have to be euthanised, which sadly encompasses even good dogs. Its a situation that cant be helped while people dont bother to spay and neuter their dogs, train them or build good fences [bit of a soap box issue of mine..].
‘Jaildogs’ picks dogs that show potential and removes them from Animal Control to be entered into the programme at the jail, where they have one inmate as full time handler and then two back up handlers. The dogs get a lovely comfy bed to sleep on in a warm caring environment, good food and treats, and are trained every day for hours, to make them highly adoptable. They work with different handlers in case prisoners get moved or go home, but also so that it gives them exposure to being well behaved for lots of different handlers, a huge plus for a dog that will be rehomed.
Local trainers generously give up their time to get involved in this programme and show the inmates how to handle the dogs’ training in a calm, positive way.
Those of you who adopted dogs during times of stress in your life know only too well the incredible benefits of doing so; the unconditional love and support is a lifesaver for so many people…for the inmates, they learn new skills, get to work and live with someone who is never going to judge them, care what theyve done, only what they DO and how they care, and for the dogs they get to be worked on by the most focused handlers in the world..people who live, eat, breathe and sleep the positive nurturing of their charges.
What an amazing programme, and its happening right here on your doorstep.
Like most things, the jaildogs programme needs funds to survive and succeed so please, if you can, make a donation to them…go to for details of how to donate using Paypal. It doesnt matter how small your donation is, every little helps..

No more room at the Inn for Desperate Dogs

Noodle our “s**t eating Schnauzer Lab mix rescue one of 7 who have joined our family

Here is something I wanted to share on “The Dogs Honest Truth” that I posted on our Facebook yesterday – if you enjoy my blog and would like to see what we do at Desperate Dogs on a daily basis please go to and support our help of local rescues and shelters by Liking us – thanks and hope you enjoy   
“As many of you will know, Pete and I do not buy each other a ‘big’ Christmas present, and haven’t for the last five years; instead, our big gift to each other is to take on a dog that has no chance of being adopted due to illness, behavioural problems or whatever, and fix it, get it vetted, and either get it adopted out to a great home, or adopt it ourselves.
This year, due to having seven dogs now, [dear Ava was the last one..] and no room at the Inn for anymore ‘keepers,’ we have decided to broaden our gift to the rescues locally.
From now until Christmas day, to mark what should truly be the month of giving, we have decided to donate a cup of dog food to local rescue/shelter organisations for every new ‘like’ that we get on our facebook page.
The reason we have linked this gift to ‘likes’ is because Desperate Dogs is as much an ethos, a philosophy, as it is a business. We like to share information to everyone who needs it, not just those who can afford to hire me to come and do a behavioural consultation, or send their dogs here for a vacation; thus the more people that like us, the more people will have access to the newsfeed, the status updates and the blog.
I cannot tell you the amount of people who have decided to throw away the vile pinch collar after reading our ‘rehab’ blog, or the amount of people who have decided to cook fresh food for their dogs as a result of reading how easy it is on the status update.
The recent adoption successes of dogs that we have posted on this page are also testament to the power of shared information and the community spirit that I feel is so powerful among the DD family.
Thats why we want to do this…
Lastly, YOU will get a say in where the food goes..if you have a favourite dog rescue locally that do great work and are struggling to make ends meet, please tell us. The ones who get mentioned the most will be the main beneficiaries of the food.
I do hope you will join with us and embrace this effort by getting as many friends and family, dog owners or those just involved with dogs that you know locally or further afield, to like us on Facebook, so that we can make a nice big difference to local rescues this year.
God bless you all and enjoy this wonderful season of goodwill….x”

The Desperate Dogs guide to the Dog Park

Maddie and Hudson playing under the close eye of Aunty Pen

I often get asked my opinion on dog parks and Im going to put it right out there and say ‘Apart from very well run and organized dog parks, Im not keen!’
I think they are a fantastic idea for people who have well trained dogs to give them a great off leash run and let them socialise, but unfortunately, too many people see a dog park not as a canine socialisation opportunity, but as one for the humans!
Many is the time I have parked up outside a dog park, debating whether or not to go in, and seen humans in groups, standing around chatting; I have seen people texting while their dogs play roughly and wrestle each other to the ground, no one paying any attention to the behaviour so dangerously escalating in front of them; I have seen dogs being chased by large groups of dogs, the ‘chase-ee’ looking so terrified, and where was his owner? In the corner checking her emails on her phone! Ugh!
A couple of months ago, friend and client Sandy Armstrong told me about a regular problem at her local dog park, whereby owners drop their dog off, completely unattended, and then go for a run in the park themselves, coming back an hour or so later to pick the dog up, unaware of the chaos that the unaccompanied dog might have perpetrated in their absence. Sandy, and a bunch of other clients of mine, have taken to meeting at the dog park at the same time early on a saturday morning so that they can have the place more to themselves and enjoy some well policed constructive play with their little group of dogs, and keep an eye out for anyone looking to dump their dog off for an hour or two, firmly telling them that this is not allowed.
In this scenario, I think dog parks are fantastic; sharp eyed owners with well trained dogs making sure that everyone has a good time and plays appropriately. There are very few owners like Sandy and her group, though, Im sad to say……
Here at the ranch, it is a little like a dog park, acres of off leash running and the dogs playing for hours and hours in the meadow all together. There is one difference, however….a leader!
Its incredibly important in any situation that is new or challenging to the canine that he or she has adequate leadership that they can trust and depend on. Those of you who have been to the ranch will know that my mantra is cool, calm, confident, firm but always benevolent leadership. Its what I practise every day here at the ranch, whether we have two guests or twenty in the field. My right hand “man” Freddie, leads the canines in the same way, letting them know what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. Between the team of five of us [myself, my husband, and canine supervisors Freddie Levi and Ava] there can be no misunderstandings as to what is acceptable and what is not. Because we speak dog here and never ask the canines to go against their natural behavioural traits, they ‘get it’ very quickly, so everyones on the same page.
Obviously, my big stock in trade is to be able to read dog body language, and thus be able to pre empt certain situations from becoming problematic. The dogs are under no illusion as to who leads the pack and all do as they are guided, because to not do so will lead to either emotional or physical isolation. We use time outs here at the ranch for any dog that doesnt heed warnings and whom we think might endanger or frighten another dog during play. They dont last long [dogs forget the reasons behind time outs very quickly so we impose a three minute max on them] but theyre very effective and, because dogs learn vicariously, offer an excellent learning opportunity for the entire pack at large not just the dog in question.
In the picture that accompanies this blog, you will see me, with eyebrows fully knitted [I WILL have a lifestyle lift one of these days, I swear!] as I intently watch the antics of two very physical dogs playing and having fun. In this scenario, I am not in the least bit concerned about them fighting with each other, both are well known to me and know the ropes here; I am more concerned about the energy increase that might lead to other dogs, who are new to the ranch, getting hyped up. A few seconds after this shot was taken, I had my husband grab a huge stick and toss it into the woods which served as a great diversion for all of the dogs, as they all went running off after it. Problem averted, energy dissipated and everyone back on the same level as they hunt for the stick.
Here’s a few do’s and don’ts for the dog park, DD style!
At the dog park, I suggest you go fully prepared, not just with treats, but with confidence!  If you re not confident, she wont be confident! One of my clients, Ellen, was not confident about going to the dog park and so I suggested she go early Saturday morning and asked Sandy and Kimberley, another DD dog mum, to keep an eye out for her and be her support on that first visit, which she readily agreed to do. The confidence of having someone else there made all the difference to Ellen and her dog had a great time, building everyones confidence for the next visit.
Walk with your dog! Owners that keep moving in the dog park have dogs that keep moving along with them.. dogs follow action, remember…if you want your dog to have fun but mind you, keep moving so that he always has to have one eye on you, and will gravitate to your area. More problems happen when humans cluster standing around face to face because dogs misread the body language of that behaviour. More about that in later blogs…
Keep a leash strapped to you at all times so that you can reclaim your dog in an instant.
Don’t allow your dog to be victimised during play…its no fun to be chased by fifteen dogs for any but the most confident bombproof dog. If you see this happening, call your dog to you with a treat and impose a time out. Be prepared to go outside the gates if necessary, but PLEASE dont do nothing!
Don’t be afraid to tell other owners that their dog is not playing appropriately…you don’t have to have a fight over it, but you can easily make something up and tell that owner that your dog injures easily or has been attacked at a dog park before but that you want them to continue play so could he please keep an eye on his dog? Most people don’t want to be jerks and so will comply plus Im pretty sure God forgives white lies in this instance…..
Know your dogs’ limitations… don’t ask her to take on more than she can handle and always leave before she gets overtired and starts to make poor decisions.
Introduce the dog park gradually to your dog…if your dog is not socialised, its unfair to her to stay for two hours on her first visit as shes not equipped to do so yet. Subsequent visits can be longer, but keep first visits short as she gets used to it.
Be your dogs’ advocate at all times, but especially at the dog park….

Bentley gets some Thanksgiving relief

Goldendoodle Bentley relaxing at the Ranch

I wanted to share this with you today, not because I want the world to think we are amazing at the DD Ranch but because over the last few months I have been inundated with guests with severe allergies. While I always suggest working with your Vet sometimes a change of environment can be very beneficial for your dog. Young Bentley arrived for his five day stay bleeding and raw accompanied by a mother who was beyond distraught. I wanted to share this with you because sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel is not so far away. 

“I am not sure that this testimonial will give enough thanks and praise to Penny and her facility.  My sweet, 2 year old Goldendoodle has been suffering for two years.  He has terrible allergies and has bitten all the hair off his paws, his legs and some of his under carriage.  He spends his days biting and being uncomfortable.  We have tried everything, gone through 3 vets and spent upwards of $5000.00 trying to “fix” him.  When making our vacation plans I knew I could not kennel our dog.  He thinks he is a person and enjoys constant love and attention.  Desperate Dogs was the answer to my prayers.  He would be loved, cared for, have tons of outside time and other dogs to play with.  I never imagined that he would come back with a new lease on life, thanks to Penny.  I dropped Bentley off on Wednesday morning.  He was raw, bleeding on his paws and very uncomfortable.  He had a bad attack the night before.  Even Penny, with all her experience, cringed at the sight of his paws/legs.  I did not bring any of the countless medications that he has tried, or his $82.00 a bag food that the vet promised would help him.  I did not bring the steroid shots that the doctor said would desensitize him or the huge bottle of Zyrtec, so he could take his 6 pills a day.  I dropped him off hoping that Penny and her new approach would at least keep him content since everything I was trying was not working.  We had a wonderful vacation and thanks to the Facebook pictures, we got the keep up with Bentley on his “vacation”.  It was great seeing the daily pictures of the dogs playing out in the meadow.  I picked Bentley up 5 days later.  He had hair on his paws!!  Actual hair that was about an inch long.  He obviously had not bitten at his paws for days.  I started to cry.  I was happy but at the same time how could I bring home my precious baby so that he could itch all over again.  He was healthier at Penny’s ranch.  Penny talked with me about what she did, Cedar Oil, a change in food and lots of exercise.  She believes that if a dog is healthy on the inside, with a strong immune system, the dog should be able to work out its own issues without medication/chemicals/steroids.  She gave me all the information I needed to continue his new program and I left full of information.  I was hopeful that these changes would help him at home, in our environment, where some allergen (yes he has been tested, those tests are $$ and inconclusive) had been plaguing him for two years.  I stopped on the way home to pick up the new food, that was much cheaper than many of the brands we had tried.  I purchased the Cedar oil online, the second I walked in the door.  He has been home for about 30 hours.  He did not bite himself once on the 25 minute car ride home.  He used to bite himself nonstop in the car.  He has bitten at his paws once or twice since leaving.  It is a night and day difference though.  He is, of course, exhausted from 5 fun-filled days with Penny and the other dogs.  I am sure he is missing Penny’s home cooked dinner (she makes them a people food dinner that I am getting the recipe for).  He is happy to be home with our family and I can honestly say that bringing Bentley to Desperate Dogs was the best decision I have made for him in his entire two years.  Penny changed his life in FIVE DAYS!  We plan on using them whenever we are out of town and even every now and then for a little doggy daycare.  Bentley does not have other dogs at home to play with and he certainly does not have 5 acres of woods to run around in.  It is like Disney for dogs.  Thank you Penny… for your calls when you knew I was worried, your wisdom, your love for my dog, your patience with me and most of all for probably saving my dogs life.” Shana Smith

Happy Thanksgiving from all at Desperate Dogs

Happy Thanksgiving from Aunty Pen and the Annies

Tomorrow is a special day here in America..we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in England but I love the tradition of taking a day in the year to gather with those we love and offer thanks for the wonderful blessings we have in our life.
Thinking about the holiday and how pure the sentiment behind it is, makes me ponder on our own blessings every year, and honestly, every year they just seem to get greater and greater.

I am so thankful to have this job and the DD family, who provide us with so much happiness, laughter, enthusiasm and impetus to go further and be better. Pete and I adore you all, you make us so happy and we treasure the time we spend with you, either at the Ranch or on this page.
It might sound tacky to call you our DD family but to us you are…we feel as involved in your lives as you do in ours, trust me. Every Sunday night, I wait for the pictures of Harley Purcell and his sister Evey to be texted through to me, because their mum knows I adore the fact that Harley is obsessed with Americas Funniest videos. It cracks me up and makes my weekend.
While I may roll my eyes and grumble like an old goat, I secretly adore seeing Dauber Haupt being dressed up like Elvis or Max Roberts with his ridiculous pyjamas on…I love it, I really do.
I’m thankful for Luke Whitleys mum who, after reading my blog last week, turned me on to great gluten free bread and made turkey, cranberry sauce, pork stuffing and mayo sandwiches [heaven!] a go for me this thursday night. Jamie…I love you for that.
I’m thankful for Maddie Olsen’s tongue [hilarious] Eleanors ear [cooky and yet awesome] Dot Goodrich’s love [and man, do I love her back!] Anna Bananas zany ever increasing number of spots [totally whack for a five year old dog, but okay…!] Hudson Williams cuddles [nothing like a young red nose pitt when you want to snuggle] Bentley Anderson’s handsome good looks that light my day when hes at the ranch [I love me a shepherd] Solo’s transformation that continues to amaze and please me, Khloe Horne who this year has become my new BFF, Karma’s mojo, a joy for all of us to see it coming out…Maverick’s snaggle tooth [hes such a chimp], Doak’s dancing [yes, this blue weim can actually dance]…Siri’s batman face.. Toby Martin’s time in the swimming pool…Lady Wilt’s bark when she thinks Im giving her a treat..Bella Lee who is infectious with her joy….the list is endless.
We may work long hours, but honestly, we get up every morning happy to spend the day with your precious babies and we are beyond grateful for the trust you put in us every day.
With this holiday being all about giving thanks, while you’re eating turkey with your families and counting your blessings, Pete and I are counting you all as our blessings and are thinking how lucky and thankful we are to be sharing this life with you.
Have a wonderful day tomorrow, please drive safely and save a huge chunk of turkey for your four legged friends.x

The Importance of Being Earnest

Not just the name of one of my favourite plays…the importance of being earnest can never be over emphasised!
Those of you who know me personally know that I have a very low tolerance level for bullshit…not the nicest way to define my feelings perhaps but in all honesty, and thats what this is all about, being honest, its the way I speak. I sugar coat nothing with my clients; I never make promises I cant keep and dont ever ask me if something makes you look fat, cos Ill tell ya!
Having worked with dogs for so many years, my human sensibilities and manners have been dulled and my ability to cope with the affectations of some humans has completely diminished.
I like honesty. I like all the layers peeled back and the facts laid bare, even if sometimes the truth is uncomfortable…and it s a quality I revere in dogs above all else. Never met a dog who told a lie like a human could!
Some time ago, I was asked by a local dog trainer for some help with her dog, who was aggressive towards other dogs; she had hoped he would be great as a dog to use in her business to help socialise other dogs, but instead he had attacked, with serious consequences, several other dogs and she needed to get a handle on his problem because he was on his last chance.
I had never met this trainer, I had heard of her, but had no idea of her personality, lifestyle etc, so I asked her, as I do all of my behaviour clients, to write me a full story of the dogs life, what he eats, what he does for exercise, how he interacts with people, where he sleeps etc…a full ‘fact find’ and an honest one, is the key to a succesful behavioural consultation.
She was very frank in her ‘fact find’ but I couldnt see anything  on paper that would make this dog so nervous that he would be aggressive [remember..all aggression stems from fear on varying levels]..I was really perplexed and eagerly awaited our meeting here at the ranch so I could meet this dog whose behavior didnt add up. He ate well, had plenty of exercise that was wonderfully breed specific, had been well trained and spent so much time with his family it was awesome..all the ingredients of a perfect dog, surely?
When she arrived at the ranch, the answer hit me as soon as we met…the lady micromanaged every move this dog made from jumping out of the car to having his leash taken off and running in the meadow. As we watched him run, she found it impossible to stop talking to him and kept up a steady stream of commands throughout the whole first half hour, after which point, I sat her down and told her to stop talking.
 She was dumbfounded!
 I didnt pull any punches at all, and told her that if I were her dog I would be suicidal because he was never given any option to make his own decisions, thus never given any confidence to grow in himself and learn to make good decisions.
Control is a great thing to have over a dog, but we forget so often that they are free thinking, carefree creatures with a sensible mind of their own and a keen sense of logic if allowed to develop it. Dogs learn experientially like humans do, and need to make a few mistakes from time to time, so they can grow from them.
We started to work on some exercises with her not talking at all, and showing him what she wanted by ‘guiding’ him with body language as opposed to full control and verbal commands. I wanted her to focus on the depth of the relationship she had built over the years with this dog and let that shine, instead of her words being center stage. At first, he didnt quite know how to handle it, but she persevered, at first with small triumphs, and then, over the summer when they travelled with their dog, they saw some amazing results. Two months later, she emailed me and told me that her dog had just hiked and romped with his 200th new ‘friend’ with no worries and no ill effects. Previous to this, he had not played with other dogs without fighting since he was a puppy.
Now, the reason for me telling you this is not because you’ll think Im the cats whiskers [although, of course, I SO am!] but its because what caused this to happen was the truth being told. She later shared with me that when she relayed my findings and thoughts to her husband he smiled and told her that yes, she talks too much; he clearly hadnt wanted to hurt her feelings by telling her before.
Of course the truth hurts sometimes, and it mostly offends the crap out of people, but in my world, where people come to me looking for reasons why their dog is aggressive or so fearful that they are self mutilating, or have such severe separation anxiety that they are running through plate glass windows, if I dont tell the honest truth [which is why I called this blog ‘The Dogs Honest Truth] then things don’t get fixed, and dogs get sent to the gallows. In the business of dog rehabilitation, honesty is life or death.
I am proud to say therefore that I have offended many people in my time; people who although I have warned them up front that my manner is brusque and yet honest, have afterwards told others that they actually did want me to soften the blow a little if I thought they needed to change their ways to fix their dog. In each case, though, they have been galvanised by my supposed rudeness to change and thus, save their dogs.
Honesty, my friends, in all things…please. Even if it hurts a little.

Feed your dog well and avoid him being a Desperate Dog

Nelson helps Aunty Pen in the kitchen

I love good food as much, if not a teensy bit more than the next person and I try to eat really well; I always make sure I get at least three vegetables and two fruits in to my diet every day and rarely eat fried food. I gave up chocolate [I was eating rather a lot of it!] back in February and try to eat as little refined sugar in any form as I can. Before we start polishing my halo, I have to tell you that my manin weakness is bread. I love it. I drive to Wholefoods on occasion [45 minutes] just to get a loaf of their provincial french style bread and at night I dream of toast with cream cheese and marmite for breakfast.
The problem is, bread absolutely kills me. When I eat it, my joints hurt, the  backs of my knees feel like Ive run a marathon, my body swells up like a balloon and my fingers look like pork sausages any German burgermeister would be proud to serve! As a child, I used to be able to eat all the bread I wanted and it never affected me, but those days are gone.
My sister, who does almost exactly the same job as me over in England, eats about fifteen loaves a day, consumes all the cake she wants and yet still is a size 4 and never gets joint pain from eating wheat.
Where is this going, Pen? You might ask….do we really need to know about your wheat allergy?
Well, I wanted to make the point that what suits one person doesn’t suit another, and the same goes for your dog. Every day I hear people say…” I don’t know why Fido is scratching/has loose stool/has a dull coat etc, I feed him a really good food, its organic”, or ” The guy at the pet food store said this is great for dogs with allergies”.
The real question must be, “Is this food good for MY dog?”
Every dog, every breed ,has unique needs nutritionally as well as behaviourally, what suits one doesnt necessarily suit another. I have two dogs in at the moment who are slightly nervous, I would normally be feeding them turkey as it is a wonderful calming food and increases the levels of L-tryptophan in the brain, but neither of them can stomach turkey, one doesn’t like it, the other gets a very loose stool from it. Thus, we are serving other forms of protein to these two dogs, one is eating organic free range eggs and cottage cheese, fish and some beef; the other is eating wild caught cod, cheese, salmon and free range chicken breast. Its of absolute importance that both of these dogs get a meat, fish or dairy protein every day as these foods promote the production of the hormone serotonin, which acts as a neurotransmitter between the brain and the digestive system, helping to increase calm, narrow blood vessels and improve sleep.
When I have clients calling me telling me that their dog is off their food and they are concerned, I look first at the breed, next at the dog’s energy output and also at the breed ‘practices’ of the dogs in recent years. While that may sound ridiculous, I have come across more coeliac German Shepherds than any other breed and its a problem that has become more and more prevalent in recent years due to inbreeding, which has not only messed up in some cases the hips of this fine breed, but the digestive process as well. [Im not a vet, but I honestly don’t need to be one to know what I experience with these dogs, day in, day out, year after year]. I have also found some German shepherds to be less tolerant of larger quantities of leafy greens, which we love to include in the food here as part of our commitment to increase levels of freshly derived Vitamin C where possible. But not all of them……so we just can’t generalise. I know huskies who adore oily fish as the mainstay of their food, but others who cant tolerate it and it gives them diahorrea.
Two of my dogs, Noodle and Ava, are both highly allergic to fish; one scratches like a mad thing if she eats it, the other has a very painful bowel movement 24 hours after ingesting fish. I like them to get their Omega 3’s because of the cardiovascular and cognitive function benefits, so in both cases for them we use flax seed.
A very regular client of mine who stays with us months out of every year, does very well with larger amounts of carbs…the general rule of thumb is that dogs should not eat a lot of carbs as their bodies are designed to metabolise protein more efficiently, but in his case, he gets more energy, less stress and more fluidity of movement if he has rice in his food bowl. It goes against the grain, but it works for him…
The general message here is to think about food as not just something that you dump in your dogs bowl every day, let it be a life giving, energy whizzing, calm promoting, tasty experience that acts as the medecine it should be for your dogs body. Really think about your dogs’ reaction to their food…does it give them freedom of movement? Does it make them lethargic? Does it make their stool loose? Does it help strengthen their immune system?
One mans’ food is another man’s poison, so dont take the word of someone who doesn’t know your dog or understand your lifestyle; watch your dogs’ reaction to the food and base your choices on that. I enjoy cooking for my dogs, and for my clients, it epitomizes the family and ‘relationship first’ ethos we have here at Desperate Dogs and makes me feel warm and nurturing, and makes the dogs happy.
Pay a little attention, be your dogs’ best advocate and reap the rewards every time.